Andrew Stuttaford, a contributing editor of National Review Online, treats us today to an appalling account of the pathetic efforts of the McDonald’s chain to ward off yet more lawsuits by fat people (and their opportunistic lawyers) who have bought into the theory that it’s capitalist fast-food chains that are responsible for American obesity. The aim of the McDonald’s new program, titled Real Life Choices and so far available only in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut  area, is “to help [people] stay on track with [their] diet regimen and incorporate McDonald’s food without feeling guilty.” As Stuttaford points out, the list of McDonald’s tips, which include standing a lot (perhaps while eating) and using half a packet, not a whole packet, of salad dressing, is “insulting only to those with an IQ above that of a French fry.”

What’s really hilarious about the new program is McDonald’s contortionist-worthy efforts to triangulate between the Atkins-diet contingent that holds that carbohydrates are bad for your waistline and the the liberal health-establishment that holds that carbs are good and it’s red meat and animal fats that are bad. So McDonald’s, as Stuttaford describes, offers two diametrically opposed dieter strategies for dealing with its Chicken McGrill sandwich: hold the mayo if you’re in the health-establishment contingent, and hold the lettuce and tomato if you’re on Atkins.

So who’s right? McDonald’s doesn’t seem to care, as long as it doesn’t get sued. This is the chain that was ordered to pay out millions of dollars a few years ago to a woman who got burnt by some hot McDonald’s coffee because she was dumb enough to drive with the open coffee container between her legs.

The net effect of all the health- and liability-groveling on the part of the fast-food-mongers over the last two decades has been absolutely to ruin junk food. I grew up on McDonald’s because I’m from southern California, where the chain got its start back in the 1950s. Back then, McDonald’s piping hot French fries were the finest on the planet, because they were cooked in the leftover beef tallow from the hamburger-frying operations. This strategy was not only thrifty and thus enviro-friendly, but tasty as well. The milkshakes brimmed with real, similarly animal-fat laden milk. Then, some 20 years ago, McDonald, responding to the health establishment’s plaints, leached the animal fat out of both these signature offerings. Today, the vegetable-oil-cooked fries are, well, okay, and the artificial-ingredient milkshakes loom a little above revolting.

This is a sad state of gustatory affairs, but as Stuttaford points out, it springs from the pervasive current attitude that it’s corporate restaurant chains, not over-indulging individuals, that are to blame for people’s inability to stay slender. The latest breast-beating from McDonald’s is yet another sign that no one dares anymore to let junk food be junk.