Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Michael Phelps and Kellogg's

Maybe the best response to Kellogg's decision to rescind its endorsement deal with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps came from Seth Meyers on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The clip is shown above.

Perhaps it isn't too surprising that such a position would come from a company that produced Carlos Gutierrez, a former Kellogg's CEO and chairman of the board who was secretary of commerce under George W. Bush from 2005 until the new administration took over.

Kellogg's was founded in 1906 by William Keith Kellogg, as an extension of work he had done with his brother, John Harvey Kellogg, in promoting "healthy" practices. Those practices were the subject of the 1994 film, "The Road to Wellville" — notably an emphasis on diet, enemas and exercise.

I'm not putting down the virtues of diet or exercise, but the ironies of a company with that background that produces cookies, breakfast cereals and Rice Krispies treats today choosing to punish Phelps for smoking marijuana are not lost on Meyers in his SNL segment. Perhaps that is what happens when a 21st century company is still run by the 19th century mindset that created it.

(John Harvey Kellogg, by the way, also was a crusader against masturbation — but that's another discussion.)

There are many angles to the debate over marijuana, far more than I care to get into in a single blog post. But as one blogger has already observed, so far this year, more people have died in this country from tainted peanut butter than from pot. Marijuana casualties, by the way, are caused by the violence that comes with its illegal status. The substance itself has never killed anyone — which can't be said of the two most prominent legal drugs, alcohol and nicotine, that millions of Americans consume every day.

And, at a time of serious recession (if not depression), it does seem to me that it is time to give some thought to lifting the irrational prohibition of a substance that continues to be used widely in spite of laws against it (and could produce much-needed revenue if legalized, regulated and taxed — not to mention the money that could be saved if cash-strapped law enforcement agencies were freed of the responsibility for chasing otherwise law-abiding citizens instead of pursuing murderers and rapists) — rather than maligning and needlessly punishing someone who has won gold medals for his country at the Olympics.

People who are wiser and more articulate than I am — Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, for example — have been weighing in on what Parker rightly calls the "ludicrous" nature of America's marijuana laws.

Others have been urging boycotts of Kellogg's products and courteous and polite but firm e-mails protesting the decision. I haven't tried calling the company, but the number I have for Kellogg's hotline (800-962-1413) apparently has received so many calls on this issue that it directs callers to a specific extension if they want to comment on the Phelps matter.

E-mails can be sent to media.hotline@kellogg.com.

Frankly, I have to wonder what it says about a country in which more people are concerned about Phelps' personal habits than the salmonella outbreak.

Interestingly, CNN.com's "Quick Vote" asked visitors whether they found Phelps' bong or Alex Rodriguez's steroids use more objectionable — or whether they found both equally objectionable or found neither objectionable. Out of more than 175,000 visitors who voted (as of 11:20 a.m. Eastern today), only 6% said Phelps' bong was more objectionable while 53% found Rodriguez' steroids use more objectionable. Both were equally objectionable, according to 27%, and 14% found neither objectionable.

It's about time the public had a genuine discussion of this issue — and one appears to be occurring at the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire. The paper hasn't posted many articles, but it also has several links for readers to follow. And a dialogue, even a limited one, can only be beneficial.

"Yes, we can" was more than a political slogan, wasn't it? It was a statement that, in America, the people are in charge, not the politicians or the money lenders or the big corporations.

As is frequently the case, much truth is revealed in jest. Watch the Seth Meyers clip, laugh at the absurdity of it all and then speak out. We need more common sense and much less nonsense.

1 comment:

SunflowerPipes said...

So Michael Phelps is a guy who drinks at parties smokes a little gambles on high stakes games of beer pong and is the all time greatest Olympic medal winner he sounds like a pretty cool guy to me. Michael Phelps is an American Hero. He stood tall and made America proud at the Beijing Olympics. This is how he is treated. Michael Phelps did a tremendous amount of work to achive what he did. Who can forget the pride we felt with the each gold medal Phelps won in China, how can we as Americans forget all of those things and hang a man for smoking a glass water pipe at a college party. It is time that we as a country stand up for the rights of the individual, it’s time we stand together with our neighbors and take collective control of our destinies. Write any congressman or a senator; imagine the weight of millions of emails calling for a change in policy. Lets stop them from arresting college kids at partys in America.