FoodPolitik: Trim the budget by cutting radical activism

Richard Berman President, Berman and Company
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The wackiest video of the past two weeks wasn’t one of Charlie Sheen’s maniacal rants. No, the prize goes to the undercover exposé showing senior NPR Officials Gone Wild, a story that broke here at The Daily Caller.

But NPR isn’t the only publicly funded broadcast network showing bias or questionable judgment. This month PBS is showcasing an animal rights activist through a 90-minute special designed to push an anti-meat agenda under the guise of mainstream health advice.

The show, misleadingly named “Kickstart Your Health,” features Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Barnard attempts to convince viewers to shun meat, eggs, cheese, milk, and every other food ingredient that comes from an animal.

What’s left unsaid is that Barnard has strong ties to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Barnard has been a medical advisor to the notorious PETA, and was president of The PETA Foundation. Barnard’s group, the aforementioned PCRM, receives the majority of its money from a single source — a wealthy animal-rights donor in Florida who owns a vegetarian restaurant. And less than 10 percent of the members of this “physicians committee” actually graduated from medical school.

Barnard has called cheese “dairy crack” as if it’s an addictive drug. He’s written that “to give a child animal products is a form of child abuse.” And PCRM makes the ridiculous argument that policy makers “should think of drinking milk the same way we think of smoking cigars.”

Why is PBS showcasing a softer, lab-coated flavor of PETA? How much public funding is being spent to promote an anti-meat, anti-milk agenda? How much money did PBS spend promoting it?

If airwave activism isn’t bad enough, anti-alcohol radicals are seeking to turn government agencies into their own private research labs.

With the backing of anti-alcohol groups, Democratic New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is sponsoring a bill to allocate $60 million over five years to research alcohol-detection technology. The goal of this program, the Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety (DADSS), is to eventually require a breathalyzer or similar devices in every new car.

Breathalyzers in cars, also called ignition interlocks, are generally reserved for people who have been convicted of drunk driving while highly intoxicated, or who have multiple DUIs. That’s entirely reasonable. Interlocks prevent a person from starting their car without taking (and passing) a breath test, and convicted drunk drivers with serious or multiple offenses have earned this device.

DADSS in every car may not come in form of a breathalyzer, but rather intrusive “sniffing” devices planted around the driver’s seat or through devices in the steering wheel that can monitor your blood through your skin.

If that seems like a gross violation of your civil liberties, consider the practical consequences of Big Brother sharing your front seat. One advocate of the DADSS system looked at the best case scenarios and, assuming these devices were accurate 99.7 percent of the time, he reported that there would be 2.7 million misreadings per day, based on how many car trips Americans make.

A “misreading” means that a sober person could be prevented from starting his or her car by these anti-alcohol devices.

Even if these devices were correct 99.9996 percent of the time, there would be almost 4,000 misreadings per day.

No one supports drunk driving — but there’s surely a better way than something akin to a Tom Cruise Minority Report-style “pre-crime” system.

What’s worse — your taxpayer dollars funding the activities of food and beverage radicals, or funding their research for them?

It’s hard to say, but it’s a sober reminder that millions here and there can be slipped into a massive federal budget with seemingly little oversight.

Ideology- and activism-funding appropriations add up. If lawmakers are serious about reducing our budget deficit and our national debt, this is an easy and obvious place to start.

Rick Berman is President of the public affairs firm Berman and Company. He has worked extensively in the food and beverage industries for the past 30 years. To learn more, visit http://www.BermanCo.com.