childhood obesity and a new store in depot town

I heard a rumor that a clothing store for overweight children was going to be opening in Depot Town soon. I’d never hear of such a thing, so I got online and started searching around. It just so happens that “Entrepreneur” magazine has something relevant in this month’s issue. Here’s a clip:

…While kids hold the key to our future, they also control their parents’ purse strings. American families spend approximately $115.6 billion a year on their children for food, clothing, personal-care items, entertainment and reading materials, according to a 2006 report by Packaged Facts. This figure is expected to increase to $143 billion by 2010. Meanwhile, the buying power of kids themselves now tops $18 billion. Kids may be small in size, but spending by them, around them and for them represents a powerful market opportunity too big to be ignored…

Some of those “powerful market opportunities” apparently revolve around obesity. Here’s a clip from further along in the same article:

…Childhood obesity first started making headlines years ago, but the startling reality of the poor health of today’s youth is still top of mind for most parents. And it should be: Approximately 30.3 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, and 15.3 percent are obese, according to the American Obesity Association, an organization focused on changing public policy and perceptions about obesity. “In the kids’ market over the past three or four years, there has been a tremendous outpouring of concern about childhood obesity from government agencies and parental groups,” says Bob Brown, co-author of the Packaged Facts report. “This huge public health problem has actually created opportunities for [entrepreneurs]”…

Did you hear that? Childhood obesity has created “opportunities” to make money!

There’s gold ‘n them thar fat kids, people!

In the defense of “Entrepreneur” magazine, they don’t launch right from that into “opportunities” that involve keeping kids fat. They don’t say, for instance, “invest in corn syrup and XXL diapers.” The specific “opportunity” they delve into is the children’s exercise market. It seems as though gyms geared toward obese children, and personal trainers that deal exclusively with the happy-meal set, are seeing a great deal of success. I suspect somewhere, however, people are salivating over the prospect of not-so-noble opportunities. [Hmmmm… I wonder if anyone’s thought to open a chain of dialysis centers that caters specifically to kids… It couldn’t cost that much to license a certain heavy-set, curly-tailed cartoon character, could it?]

I didn’t dig too deeply, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there weren’t any franchise opportunities geared directly toward clothing fat kids, at least that I could find. I don’t object to fat kids being clothed, mind you. (I prefer it, actually.) I just find the idea offensive that someone would build a business model on it, and profit from it. It seems to be in bad taste. I suppose peddling clothes to extra-large children isn’t as bad as selling beer, cigarettes, happy meals or porn though. And I do recognize that buying clothes for obese children must be difficult. So, I’m not opposed to stores catering to the trend. The whole thing just leaves me feeling kind of icky.

And it’s not, for the most part, the fault of the kids. They’ve got the cards stacked against them. They, to a large degree, don’t have parents at home, cooking nutritious meals. Both parents, most likely, are working, and the kids are forced to grab food where they can get it (cheap). And it doesn’t help that they’re subjected to insidious and omni-present fast food marketing every minute of their short lives.

I don’t know the point of this post. It’s certainly not to say that people shouldn’t support the new business in Depot Town. And I don’t want to demonize fat kids. (I, after all, was one.) Maybe I’m just angry with myself for sitting here tonight, thinking about the “great market opportunity” that might exist in clothing them. Maybe posting this tonight is my way of ensuring that I don’t start working on a business plan for a new franchise. At any rate, if the rumor is true, and if a “plus sized” kids store is opening in Depot town, I wish them luck. Like it or not, it’s a niche that most likely needs filling in Michigan.

(note: It also occurred to me that this is probably the best news that Shannon Gordon, the proprietor of Gordon’s Five and Dime in Depot Town, could have ever wished for. It’s got to be a candy-sellers wet dream. Hopefully the rumor wasn’t started just to get his hopes up only to be dashed.)

Posted in Local Business, Observations, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

our friends the saudis

I guess all that money the Saudis spent advertising in the U.S. turned out to be a pretty good investment. (And those photos of Bush holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah probably didn’t hurt.) I just read that our government is planning to give them $20 billion in military aid, and there doesn’t seem to be too much public outrage. I would have thought that giving $20 billion in advanced weaponry to the country that gave us 15 of the 19 September 11 terrorists would piss a few people off. After all, we did declare war on a country just because a hint of a connection to 9/11 was inferred.

I guess I’m OK with it, if everyone else is. Sure, they have an abysmal human rights record, treat women like livestock, actively work to foment civil unrest in Iraq, fund madrassas that are matriculating jihadists by the boat-load, all while seeking nuclear weapons, but, in their defense, they do torture people for us when we ask to. I guess it all balances out in the end, right?

I’m not na

Posted in Politics | 14 Comments

24 hour panty people

Listen, can you hear it? It’s the sound of Congressman John Dingell slapping his forehead and saying, “You mean I just left a comment on a panty-merchant’s site?” If I had any credibility in the political arena at all, I’m afraid it’s all gone now that the panty cat is out of the bag… You can read the whole, ugly, career-ending article over at the “Ann Arbor News” site… And then, for God’s sake, buy a pair or two of ypsipanties… As long as I have to suffer through the indignity of being greeted with, “Hey, Pantyman,” when I walk down the street, I might as well be making a few dollars, right?

Posted in Special Projects | 49 Comments

congressman dingell leaves a comment on global warming

To his credit, Congressman Dingell, or one of his staffers, just left a comment in response to my last post. In that post, I suggested that the Congressman could be more aggressive in the fight against global warming, and urged his constituents to join me at his Ypsilanti office on April 6 to ask him to do more.

I have the utmost respect for the Congressman as a politician. I think the way he scuttled the idea of a gas tax the other day, for instance, was masterful. (I didn’t agree with it, but I thought that it was brilliant.) I’m glad that we have people with his skill, experience and fierce determination on our side of the aisle. Unfortunately, I think the current situation calls for more than just masterful political cunning. I think that we need to ask him to look beyond the short-term objectives of his most influential backers within the automotive industry, and present the people of America with a long-term vision that we can rally behind. The era of fighting to keep fuel economy standards low, in my opinion, has to end. With all due respect to the Congressman, it isn’t saving jobs, it’s losing them. Just look around. The old Michigan is dying.

Congressman Dingell, you are in a position to help set us on a new path. You have the political capital, the respect, and the ability to do something truly historic (and good for Michigan’s economy) and I’m hopeful that we, your constituents, can help you see that.

Dingell’s proposals are a good first step, but I, and many others in the 15th district, would be happier if they more closely approximated Henry Waxman’s proposed Safe Climate Act, which has been praised by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the League of Conservation Voters, and several other groups that seem to comprehend the serious threat of global warming. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have time for a lot of steps. We need this first one to be significant… The targets of the Safe Climate Act, if you’re unfamiliar with it, are as follows:

“The Safe Climate Act freezes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, at the 2009 levels. Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990. These goals are comparable to emissions reduction goals adopted by many states and called for by leading American companies, small businesses, religious organizations, environmental advocates, and others.”

Now, in the spirit of fairness, here is the letter from Dingell, in its entirety.

First, let me say that there is nothing for me to reconsider on global warming. Unfortunately, judging by your posting, you do not have an accurate understanding of my thinking on global warming. I believe it is a fact, it is being caused by human activity, and we must do something this year to address it. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee I have reported out legislation that will take the first strides in asserting American leadership on this problem. Our bill mandates new efficiency standards for appliances, lighting, buildings, construction, and the electricity grid. Furthermore, it will provide millions of dollars to new research into alternative energy, renewable energy, and new technologies that will help wean us off of burning carbon. This legislation will reduce carbon emissions by 8.6 billion tons; equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars on the road today in America. For those who say this is not enough, I have two comments. First, you are right – this is the beginning of the process, not the end. Second, these numbers are nothing to shake a stick at and I would note that it is dramatically more than what was done in the previous twelve years of Republican leadership.

When Congress returns from its August recess I will shortly thereafter introduce comprehensive economy-wide cap-and-trade legislation that will cut our output of carbon dioxide by as much as 80% by 2050. I understand your concern about fuel economy, it is a concern of mine as well and I support raising CAFE standards in a responsible way (even if some of my detractors want you to believe otherwise). I support legislation that will raise these standards to 35 mpg by 2022. It might not be the splashiest number, but it was chosen with great care and deliberation for the thousands of our family members, friends, and neighbors who work in an auto industry that must compete against competitors that do not have the same health care or pension costs. I believe it will spur the technological solutions that will truly force changes in the cars and trucks we drive. And it takes us forward while protecting American jobs.

I will also be holding town hall meetings on August 7 and 8 specifically about global warming. This is the first time since the Congress began debating the Iraq War that I am having an open forum exclusively devoted to only one subject. I need and want to hear from you, and you need to hear what I am doing, why I am doing it, and how we can work together to solve what I believe will be the moral issue of the 21st Century.

Here are the details of the town hall meetings:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Pioneer High School
Schreiber Auditorium
601 W Stadium Blvd
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
University of Michigan – Dearborn
Social Sciences Building
4901 Evergreen Rd
Dearborn, MI 48124
(Park in visitor’s parking structure across from building)

With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

John D. Dingell
Member of Congress
15th Congressional District, Michigan

The important thing is that all of us in the 15th need to educate ourselves on this issue. We need to step up and accept the responsibility that comes with being in this district. I applaud Dingell for holding these town hall meetings (although I wish the local one was being held at a more accessible time) and I encourage everyone to attend.

Posted in Politics | 13 Comments

show dingell how important global warming is to us on august 6

According to the results of a new bipartisan poll conducted by the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency across 30 congressional districts, there is “overwhelming voter support for the U.S. House to pass fuel efficiency standards at least as strong as those passed by the U.S. Senate in June.” According to their polling data, 84% of people right here in Michigan’s 15th congressional district support legislation that would raise fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2018. In spite of this, however, our Congressman, John Dingell, the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, seems unwilling to propose legislation that would see this happen. I plan to write a hell of a lot more about this in the coming weeks, but, for now, I just wanted to tell those of you who, like me, are Dingell’s constituents, about an upcoming event. In early August, when Dingell returns from D.C., there’s going to be an opportunity in Ypsilanti to reach out and let him know that we’d support him if he took the initiative to lead our country forward in this area.

On Monday, August 6, between noon and 1:00 PM, community members will be gathering at the Congressman’s office to encourage him to help stop global warming. (Dingell’s Ypsilanti offices are at 301 W. Michigan Avenue.) Representatives from Greenpeace will be on hand to deliver over 1,500 messages from Dingell’s constituents and a copy of “An Inconvenient Truth.” (Dingell has said that he has not seen the documentary.) From what I understand, it’s going to be a positive demonstration, during which those assembled will thank Dingell for his years of service, his leadership with regard to the environment in the past, and ask for him to reconsider his current position of global warming. I’m told there will even be cake.

I plan to be there, and I hope that some of you will join me… The future of the world is probably worth a lunch hour, right?

And, when I say “the future of the world” is in our hands, it’s not really hyperbole. John Dingell, in his position as Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, will be the man that crafts our nation’s energy policy, and, as we all know, the United States is the entity steering spaceship Earth right now… So, it really is up to us, the men and women of Michigan’s 15th district, to show John Dingell the way. Global warming has to be dealt with now, and, like it or not, we’re the ones that are going to have to do it. Our children, and everyone else around the world, are counting on us.

Posted in Politics | 19 Comments


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