Live Chat: Blue America Is Proud To Welcome Back An Old Friend -- Jared Polis (D-CO)

Last year, while many Democrats were failing to draw enough of their former supporters to the polls -- two incumbents, Blue Dogs Betsy Markey and John Salazar, were defeated in districts adjacent to Jared's -- Democrats and independents in CO-2 were anything but disappointed in their freshman Representative. Jared had run on a strongly pro-jobs, pro-family, pro-equality candidate and few freshmen worked as tirelessly as he did to deliver. He was rewarded with a hefty 57% of the vote (148,720 to be exact, over 15,000 more votes than the Democratic performance in the previous midterm).

His latest legislative initiative is H.R. 998, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a widely supported, bipartisan bill that will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Title 9 protections afforded students who are victims of bullying. From Jared's website:

Every day, students who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are subjected to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence, which is harmful to both students and our education system. While civil rights protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, they do not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity and, as a result, LGBT students and parents have often had limited legal recourse for this kind of discrimination.

To address this lack of protection and ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence, the Student Non-Discrimination Act establishes a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and provides victims with meaningful and effective remedies, modeled after Title IX.

When I talked with Jared on the phone yesterday, he reminded me to ask everyone to sign up to get action updates from the Fearless Campaign which will help them develop an effective activist base across the country. Please join us in the comments section below for a free ranging chat with Congressman Polis.

Jared Polis Has A National Security Threat To Address-- Obesity

Even if you're not a TV aficionado you've probably gathered enough from the zeitgeist to know the story of Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, and Huntington, West Virginia, America's most obese city. Celebrity chef goes to the country's fattest town to teach the kids-- and their parents-- about good nutrition; he doesn't get lynched, but most of the people of Huntington aren't interested in his advice. Three months after the show, Jamie returned to Huntington to discover:

• That beleaguered bureaucrat Rhonda was unable to cope with the government-ordered processed food supply that was piling up while the school systems’ various cook staffs used Jamie’s fresh-food recipes. So she instituted “Processed Food Friday” as a way to unload all the excess french fries and chicken nuggets down the gullets of the children. Oh yeah, and Jamie’s bete noire (vache noire?)-- chocolate milk-- is back in the cafeteria hand-out bins.

• Parents, apparently either sick of hearing their kids whine about having to eat veggies at school or sick of Jamie’s British accent honking on about health, started increasing the number of bag-lunches with which they sent their kids to school. Oliver asks one small child to show him the lunch her deeply caring parent prepared so lovingly for her: potato chips and jelly beans. Another kid is eating out of a bag of McDonald’s food. Says Oliver with snorting indignation, “Even makin’ an old-fashioned sandwich is out of fashion now!”

• Also dismaying: Jamie learns that, once Food Revolution began airing on ABC, Alice-- the tough-minded cafeteria cook who was quite sensibly skeptical of Oliver’s promises initially-- got a lot of hate mail from people around the country. Can you believe that? It’s one thing to disagree with a citizen you see on TV, but hate mail?

In the end, what was most admirable about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is that it didn’t try to tidy up the complexities surrounding his simple fresh-is-good message. The people Oliver dealt with were frequently hamstrung by state or federal laws about what could and could not be provided to the school system or served there. And there’s also the problem you don’t have to explain to anyone who’s ever taught in a public school or attended a school-board meeting: As Jamie puts it, “Everyone is obsessed with not upsetting the parents.” The result: a combination of pushiness and spinelessness that ends up, in this case, making the good food program difficult, if not impossible, to implement.

Jared Polis (D-CO) over for a chat today. We ran into him at a friend's house about a month ago and we were fascinated by a bill he had introduced, H.R. 4870, the Healthy School Meals Act. He'll be joining us below, in the comments section, for a discussion of the bill and the ramifications of the obesity epidemic. Epidemic? You bet-- and worse. The Pentagon is complaining that the have an exploding manpower shortage based on obesity and it's actually turning into a serious national security threat.

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