Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: April 20, 2010

First they took the salt …

Interesting how the Washington Post chooses to begin this article:

The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

Anyone care to guess why the FDA hadn’t planned an “unprecedented effort” before? 

Because until a month or so ago, we could all claim it was none of the government’s business couldn’t we?  But now that they’ve invested themselves with the power to save healthcare in this country by cutting costs – and doing so with “preventive medicine” – where do you suppose this “unprecedented effort” is founded?

If you don’t believe me, read the article.

But for the past 30 years, health officials have grown increasingly alarmed as salt intake has increased with the explosion in processed foods and restaurant meals. Most adults consume about twice the government’s daily recommended limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

Wow … for you that have been paying attention I sarcastically ask, “are you surprised?” Is this not the next logical step in taking over every aspect of your life.

You see, a panel of experts have determined that too much sodium is bad for you. They have tried to play this freedom game with you and have you voluntarily cut your consumption, but you didn’t. So to hell with the charade – since you don’t know what’s good for you and won’t do what is necessary to comply with the experts, they’ll just recommend you be forced to do so.

Are salt rationing cards far behind?

Ironically (and unsurprisingly) much like AGW, the science is not at all settled concerning the harm salt does.

High-salt diets may not increase the risk of death, contrary to long-held medical beliefs, according to investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

They reached their conclusion after examining dietary intake among a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. The Einstein researchers actually observed a significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) associated with lower sodium diets.

Not that the FDA will pause and consider that. In fact, when it says unprecedented, it means unprecedented concerning the level of intrusion it now plans:

The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.

Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.

Yes free people, the government will now decide how much salt can be in a receipe and, they promise, they’ll reduce it so gradually you won’t even notice.  Why?

“We can’t just rely on the individual to do something,” said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. “Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”

You people just aren’t reliable enough to do what the experts expect you to do so … so they’ll just take the choice away.

How do you like them apples, boys and girls?  Now, be a good little prole and shuffle along.  Nothing to see here, nothing to see …



SCOTUS strikes down ban on animal cruelty videos

And it wasn’t even close – 8-1.  The court finding is based in the First Amendment right of free speech.

So – who do you suppose the lone dissenter was?  I would almost bet you won’t guess correctly.  I didn’t.

Anyway, the court found that the law was overly broad and while aimed at outlawing some dispicable videos known as “crush videos” (as an aside, when you read what a crush video is, you will indeed understand that there are some very sick people in this world).  However, the law could also be used to prosecute hunting videos as well. 

The government had argued that “certain categories of speech deserve constitutional protection depends on balancing the value of the speech against its societal costs”.

Writing for the majority Chief Justice John Roberts explains why the court rejected that argument:

“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits,” Roberts wrote. “The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”

Or said another way, the court refused to allow the government to institute arbitrary or “ad hoc” standards that “balance relative social costs and benefits”.  One can, or should be able to see the very slippery slope to where that sort of reasoning leads – and it certainly could lead to serious restrictions of the right to free speech depending on how government deicides to “balance” those costs and benefits in the future.  Remember – the First Amendment is a restriction on government, not the people.  And the court enforced that.

The lone dissenter?  Sam Alito who wrote:

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it most certainly does not protect violent criminal conduct, even if engaged in for expressive purposes.”

The prosecute the criminal for the crime he has filmed for you.  I can think of nothing that stops the law from doing that.  And that has nothing to do with restricting the First Amendment.




Fall election splits GOP Senators – again

Essentially it is the same old process the GOP undergoes each election season – be pragmatic or be principled. And usually, pragmatic wins.

However, it seems, pragmatic hasn’t been to kind to them in the past.  Their brand of pragmatism, the belief that only certain types of Republicans can win in particular parts of America, has yielded a party that has been characterized as “Democrat lite” by many and relegated to minority status in both the House and Senate. It has also left the base dissatisfied and unenergized.

One would think, based on outcome, that perhaps a different approach is called for.  But no, that’s not the case if what the WSJ has to say about current GOP campaign to win seats in the Senate is any indication.  Sen John Cornyn heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he believes in that pragmatic theory:

Mr. Cornyn is no one’s idea of a squishy centrist. He rose through Texas politics in the 1990s as part of a Republican wave pushed by George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, and ascended to the U.S. Senate in 2002, becoming one of its most conservative members. Nevertheless, he believes that in some states a centrist Republican has the best chance of winning.

Sen. Jim DeMint, on the other hand, doesn’t buy into the theory and is running a insurgent campaign to back some anti-establishment candidates (such as Rubio in FL) that cleave more to the principles of conservatism than do the NRSC’s picks. As you might imagine that’s creating a certain bit of tension within Republican Senatorial ranks.

The WSJ entitles this piece on the conflict, “GOP Bid to Reclaim Senate Fuels Fight for Party’s Soul”. They may be more right than they think. In typical political and bureaucratic fashion, the NRSC is trying to direct, based on its premise represented by Cornyn’s belief that “centrist Republicans” are the best way to proceed in some states. But that may be ignoring the historic groundswell of support for less centrist and more conservative (defined as those who believe in a smaller, less intrusive and less costly government) politicians.

As it turns out, if the NRSC can get the egos out of the way, there is a fairly easy way to test the premise. Use the primary system and let the voters decide. It’s safe (it won’t split the vote) and, instead of a top down nominated candidate, you end up with a bottom-up supported candidate who has had the opportunity to develop and deliver his platform to the voters and get an up or down on it. If Cornyn is right, then these states he’s concerned with will pick the more centrist candidate. But if he’s wrong he may be dooming the GOP to losses (or less conservative Senators) it doesn’t have to suffer.

That’s what primaries are for, for heaven sake. Instead of trying to carefully select candidates they think best fit a particular area of the country, the NRSC should be endorsing a full slate of Republican Senatorial candidates from centrist to the conservatives and urging them to run in the primary elections. Mix it up, but get out of the endorsing candidates business (and that includes incumbents – that’s the business of the voters in the state). Challenge the voters – and members of the party in each state – to pick who they believe is appropriate for them. Let the best candidate win. That’s how you build a solid and energized – even excited – party that represents the grass-roots. From the bottom up, not the top down. Top down gets you those who are sitting in the Senate today – and I think the polls tell you how well the people think they represent their interests.

You’d think the GOP might take a lesson from that.



Syria ups the ante, Israel responds

A few days ago I mentioned a story, which first broke in the Arab press and was then verified by Israeli intelligence, that Syria was providing the terrorist group Hezbollah with SCUD missiles.  Obviously there’s only one use for a SCUD and it isn’t defensive.

Syria, as you probably remember, has a huge stockpile of chemical weapons – weapons easily delivered by SCUD.  Hezbollah, financed by Iran, is buying the missiles from Syria and is moving them into south Lebanon.  The 15,000 man UN force there to keep such rearming from happening are apparently useless.  Of course SCUD missiles fired from southern Lebanon can range all of Israel and present a very real threat to the nation.  Syria is also providing advanced anti-aircraft systems to protect the SCUDs and their launchers.

Israel has made it clear that it holds Syria directly responsible for this situation and that any attack by Hezbollah with Syrian weapons will be considered to be an attack by Syria itself.  And, of course, it will be met by Israeli attacks on Syria proper:

“We’ll return Syria to the Stone Age by crippling its power stations, ports, fuel storage and every bit of strategic infrastructure if Hezbollah dare to launch ballistic missiles against us,” said an Israeli minister, who who was speaking off-the-record, last week.

The warning, which was conveyed to Damascus by a third party, was sent to reinforce an earlier signal by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister. “If a war breaks out the Assad dynasty will lose its power and will cease to reign in Syria,” he said earlier this year.

In reality the “Assad dynasty” is much less powerful now than Assad’s father ruled.  Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t the leader his father was and it is feared more radical elements within Syria are pushing for a confrontation with Israel.  It appears they hoped to do that by proxy, but Israel has put them on notice that option is closed.  In the meantime the article notes that Beirut , whose control was tenuous at best, seems to have totally lost control of Hezbollah now.

It is hard to imagine this sort of a capability not being used by extremists such as those in Hezbollah if they actually posses it.  And this situation points out very well why places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria are dangerous to the stability of the world – state sponsors of terrorism can and do provide these extremist groups with the means to arm and train themselves, and – in the case of Syria – access to powerful weapons which have a WMD capability.

“This is the first time that an internationally known terror organisation has been equipped with ballistic missiles,” said the minister.

Israel’s promise to attack Syria should Hezbollah fire SCUDs into Israel is the appropriate way to handle this sort of a situation and is a threat the US should firmly support.

“We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman.

And, as Israelis have in the past, I wouldn’t put it past them if they did a little preemptive SCUD hunting in southern Lebanon if their intel turns some up. It would serve to protect their cities as well as verifying the existence of the missiles in southern Lebanon.   Obviously the UN isn’t up to the job of ensuring they’re kept out.



Quote of the Day – Joe Klein sedition edition

Joe Klein joins Joan Walsh as charter members of “history began on Jan. 2oth 2009″ club:

On the Chris Mathews Show Sunday, I said that some of the right-wing infotainment gasbags–people like Glenn Beck etc.–were nudging up close to the edge of sedition. This has caused a bit of a self-righteous ruckus on the right. Let me be clear: dissent isn’t sedition. Questioning an Administration’s policies isn’t sedition. But questioning an Administration’s legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is.


Heartland Institute’s “Freedom Pub”

Jim Lakely, a former Washington Times journalist who has been a good friend of QandO from the beginning, is now with the Heartland Institute and is the “bartender” and host at the libertarian think-tank’s “Freedom Pub“.  The Pub opened for business yesterday.

As Jim describes it:

It’s friendly place where those who value liberty and honor the Founders’ vision of America can gather together and express themselves.

It’s a group-blog community where you can sign on and have your own page and keep up with others who share your views. I’ve signed up (anything to get the word out) and will probably do some crossposting of QandO posts there.

Give it a look and if you’re so inclined sign up and contribute. If Jim’s in charge, I can promise you it will be a worthwhile endeavor.