Sunday, February 05, 2006

From the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L Files


C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L (Committee to End the Stupid Sayings of Politicians and Other Obvious Lowlifes) is announcing the inauguration of its Hall of SHAME to be located in the bowels of cyberspace , 100% free of taxpayer funds.

Initial inductees will be CESSPOOL-selected polits who have shown that they will say or do most anything to get elected, or (even worse) "true believers" who actually buy the crap spewing from their mouths.

We are proud to select as our first member, Amazonian Texas Agriculture Commissioner SUSAN COMBS, as fine an example of a government nanny as ever there was. Combs is 6' 2'' of Vassar-educated pompousness and is noted for her take no prisoners attitude with regard to junk food in Texas schools.

When accused of being a "Food Nazi," Combs responded that she preferred to be known as the "food czarina," then condescendingly suggested that her audience was incapable of understanding the difference.

Oh, Susan, we bow to thee, thou most clever and educated mistress. We mere mortals lack thy cerebral capacity and thy work ethic. HAIL! HAIL!

Susan's exploits on behalf of THE CHILDREN (c) are well-documented, including this bit from

Texas Agricultural Commissioner and self-described "Food Czarina" Susan Combs -- famous for using state-level fiats to tell local school boards which foods they can allow and even banning children from sharing their gummy bears -- is robbing Peter and pummeling Paul. The Dallas Morning News reports that Combs has taken the unbelievable step of fining already cash-strapped public schools more than $8,000 for failing, even in small ways, to follow her dictatorial dietary decrees.
For years,
Texas has attempted to remedy a systemic funding problem that has plagued its schools. The issue is so severe that legislators have suggested everything from soda and snack taxes to legalized gambling to bridge the budgetary gap. According to the Morning News, Combs' Draconian regulations -- one of which, a ban on cupcakes, was overturned by the state's legislature -- have only added to the monetary misery:
Wylie, like districts throughout the state, revamped its snack, or "a la carte," offerings this year to follow the complicated new rules. Snack portions are smaller. The beloved curly fires are gone. Consequently, it's been a tough year financially, said Theresa Johnson, the district's director of student nutrition.
As if that weren't enough, Combs is now exceeding normal bureaucratic slaps on the wrist to actually financially punish schools. Among the absurd fines:
The Carlisle School was fined more than $1,000 for selling Crystal Lite (which has only 5 calories per 8 oz. serving).
The Calallen Middle School received a devilish fine of $666 because the bags of Chili Cheese Fritos were too big.
The Bartlett Elementary school was fined more than $2,400 for, among other things, selling fried potato products twice in a week.

A proposed ban on CUPCAKES? Texas, my motherland, you should be ashamed to have someone like this in office.

CESSPOOL gives the great big middle finger salute to MS. COMBS and all other politicians who are out there "doing it for our own good."

The Cafeteria Crusader
High noon in Texas: the agriculture chief is making a stand against junk food. Can she win?
Dec. 13, 2004
When schools opened in Texas this fall, some favorites were missing from the cafeteria menus: sodas and candy bars had been banned for grade schoolers; chips and cookies were mini-size. And that perennial favorite, the French fry, was given just one more year before it too will be banned. Howls of protest could be heard from Lubbock to Laredo. And not just from students. Principals complained about being forced to act as "nutrition police."
Teachers said they needed candy to reward students. Parents and kids traded schoolyard rumors about Twinkies being confiscated from lunch boxes. Nearly everyone, addicted to the revenues that vending machines bring in, yelled that there wouldn't be enough money for beloved activities like band camp and choir trips. Angry e-mails poured in to the woman who had imposed the new rules — Texas agriculture commissioner Susan Combs. At 6 ft. 2 in., Combs would stand out in any food fight, but the School Nutrition Association hails her as a pioneer for her groundbreaking junk-food ban, which takes on suppliers such as Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay that count on selling to schools to establish brand loyalty in kids. Like a growing number of youngsters in the U.S., kids in Texas have been getting fatter.
Over a third of all school-age children in the state are overweight or obese, far worse than the national rate of 10% to 15%. By 2040, the costs of treating those kids when they become obese adults is expected to hit $40 billion a year for Texas alone. But hardly anybody seems willing to do much about the problem. Cash-strapped school districts are reluctant to give up their slice of the $104 million that outside food vendors make in the state from the likes of super-size sodas and pizzas each year. Although California was the first state to forbid soft-drink sales at elementary and junior high schools last year, bans on junk food in schools face opposition across the U.S. A bill by Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, to let the Federal Government develop nutrition guidelines for vending-machine food was scuttled by both parties. No other state has a food ban as strict as the one in Texas. Even Mom's home-baked goodies, sold to benefit the school art program or the prom, can't be eaten during school hours.
A fourth-generation Texas cattle rancher, Combs is given to straight talking and no-nonsense solutions. "The stats are so clear, the problem so dire, the financial problems so enormous, can we not address it?" she asks. Her detractors call her the Food Nazi behind her back — to which she replies serenely, "I prefer czarina, not that they'll understand the difference." The sniping about lost revenues from PTA bake sales and vending machines just leaves her exasperated. "Are we going to sell marijuana to build gyms?" she says, relishing the hyperbole. "Well, the health-care consequences of this food are that bad."
A mother of three (her 25-year-old son is a Marine on duty in Iraq), Combs, 59, has been interested in children's issues since she was a young prosecutor in Dallas working child-abuse cases. When she became Texas agriculture commissioner in 1999, she noted the rise in childhood obesity but had the authority to do little besides tout healthy farm products. Her breaking point came, she says, at a school in San Marcos, when the principal explained why the school needed junk food in vending machines as an obese young boy sat right in front of him. "We have food chaos in our schools, with coaches selling food, moms selling food, PTAs selling, Project Graduation, the Kiwanis, and then there's the manufacturers trying to get into the schools to build brand loyalty," she says. One Lubbock grade school, she adds, even rolled carts with candy down the halls to sell to kindergartners. "The whole culture inside our schools is pervaded — invaded — by this marketing of food to the child. We put our financial needs ahead of their best interests," she says. "It's shocking."
But even a lifelong Republican in a Republican state can do only so much. At first Combs couldn't get the Texas legislature to limit vending-machine sales, but in 2003, working behind the scenes with Governor Rick Perry, she got the federally funded breakfast and lunch programs transferred from the Texas education agency to the agriculture department, giving her oversight of the outside vendors. Last March she announced the new policy on junk food, to be implemented when school began in August. Combs has made adjustments over the months since, backing down on a ban on sweets at birthday parties and allowing bake sales — although students can't eat their purchases until the last bell has rung. And while kids can still bring whatever they want for lunch from home--"If you want to send deep-fat-fried Twinkies every day, that's your business," says Combs —no sharing is allowed.
By cracking down on the parent bake sales as well as the corporate vending machines, Combs has avoided a plate-throwing confrontation with big contractors who bristled at the suggestion that their products were making kids fat. Some suppliers of prepared school lunches have even embraced new rules that set a weekly limit on the amount of fat and sugar in the meals. Food-service provider Aramark, for instance, offers popular dishes like penne Alfredo made with less fat. Pizza Hut has reconfigured its school pizza to meet the new fat requirements. Frito-Lay brought in baked chips rather than fried ones and cut portion sizes. Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestle hustled in healthier new offerings too.
Early skeptics, from principals to PTA moms, are coming around to Combs' point of view, but it hasn't been painless. Richardson High School, north of Dallas, had to shut down its profitable Eagle Emporium, which sold candy that paid for VCRs in every room as well as sheet music for the choir. "As sad as I was to lose the money," says former PTA head Pat Epstein, "we don't need to be stuffing our kids with bad food." At Haggar Elementary School in nearby Plano, principal Vicki Aldridge mourned the loss of the Donuts for Dads events, but was pleasantly surprised when parents bought $800 worth of books for the school instead of spending the money on doughnuts and other sweets.
Meanwhile, Combs has urged PTAs to offer healthy alternatives — muffins, fruit or water — at food sales and encouraged teachers to reward kids with coupons redeemable at in-school stores for nonfood prizes. She has a new assignment for herself as well: addressing the state's lack of adequate physical-education programs and the cancellation of recess. "We cram them full of unhealthy food and don't let them expend it," says Combs. "It's a recipe for disaster." Look for a Susan Combs recipe to fix that too.

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