Jun 13, 2012 / 5:00 am
Paddy Spence is a putz.
Is that harsh? A little over the top perhaps? I am being rather coarse, of course. The word putz is Yiddish for penis after all. Still, it has also been described as meaning someone who is stupid or ignorant; who doesn't pay attention to anything going on, or just makes stupid remarks. And for me that fits because it’s absolutely what I think of Paddy Spence.
Wait. Who is Paddy Spence, you say? Well, I have to go back a little. Once upon a time, there was this soda startup called Zevia. It was founded by a bunch of fizzy-pop-loving grown-ups that couldn’t drink regular soda anymore thanks to all the health problems the over-consumption of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup apparently leads to these days. Their big idea? To make “naturally” delicious “…soda the way it should always have been [made].” Which in this case meant the addition of stevia. And when it comes to stevia-infused Zevia, the man with the plan goes by the name of Mr. Paddy Spence.
Now, for those unaware, stevia is a genus of plant whose extracts are known as steviol glycoside. It can have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, which is pretty cool considering it doesn’t even budge the dial on blood glucose levels. Talk about neat! Finally they could eat the sweet and delete the…….fat-assiness soda provides. Whew! Too many rhymes…..
So Paddy wants to sell a soda pop featuring all that is good and great. Awesome. Good on ya. And for all I know it’s a positively lovely and refreshing drink. But that’s not why he’s a putz. For that we need to add in one diminutive, know-it-all billionaire.
Enter Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and professional finger-wag. Hizzoner’s latest decree for NYC is that any restaurant, food cart, movie theatre-served soft drink sized 16 ounces and above is to be outlawed across the city by March 2013. Those that don't fall into line will be slapped with a fine. Now, the point of all this is for the greater good (natch) – which in this case means decreasing obesity rates and increasing overall public health. In a nutshell, (but not a peanut shell ‘cause those are banned too) it is assumed most folks are too stupid to be trusted with their own food decisions so the mayor and city bureaucracy will do the heavy lifting for you. Leave aside that the measure does not apply to other calorie-heavy drinks such as fruit juices, milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages - this one is about big soda – which as everyone knows is pure evil. But little Zevia isn’t big soda (yet). So even as their larger fizzy drink frenemies rail in opposition to the ban, Zevia decided to start running ads IN SUPPORT of Mayor Bloomberg’s nanny-state dictates. Paging Mr. Putz.
Zevia’s ads were posted in subways around NYC and read in part “We believe the city is right” and “we believe we can stop pouring on the pounds.” Pretty cagey huh? They want on the mayor’s healthy band wagon to maybe score some attention and sales, and ‘cause he’s not shooting right at them it might just work. He’s all mad at sugar, not super stevia. Paddy thinks he’s brilliant on this. What could possibly go wrong with a little promotional side-choosing? One hyphenated word: trans-fats.
You see the supersize soda coda is not Mayor Bloomberg’s first kick at the ban can. He really digs this sort of behavior modification, and one of his earlier arm-twists was back in 2006 when he made New York the nation’s first city to ban artery-clogging trans fats from every restaurant, corner pizzeria and bakery. And that’s all good right? Who could ever want ugly, mucky trans-fats fouling their food? Well…..
Waaaay back before they were declared “evil” trans-fats were hailed – HAILED – as the greatest dietary salvation available to eliminate the health-hell known then as saturated fats. In fact, when partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans-fat) was in its infancy, dietary experts believed they had discovered the perfect replacement for saturated fat. Margarine was a glorified alternative to butter, the makers of packaged cookies, cakes, and crackers ditched the fatty shortening and heart-attack lard in favor of the goodness represented by the miracle of “trans-fats.” Until they eventually found out it wasn’t as good as they thought it was – and maybe even worse.
Which brings me back to Paddy and his “miracle.” While lick-boots Spence is busy shining Bloomberg’s tiny shoes by aping his advertising he better watch his back. The pleasure position stevia enjoys currently could turn fast, and start looking a heckuva lot like trans-fats do today. And by cheering a city-centric dictator on, Paddy Spence is ensuring that the very power he applauds the use of against big soda will be at full-strength when it eventually turns a suspicious eye on him. Couldn’t happen? Why not? Who knows if stevia is gonna stand the test of time? Trans-fats sure thought they would. So did Vioxx, and Olestra. Where are they now?
Soda visionary he may well be, but from where I sit the best description I can muster re: Paddy Spence remains the very same as when I first kicked off this epic rant: putz.
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