Free Markets, Free People

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NY soda ban: You can always find someone to defend the indefensible

In the case of Michael Bloomberg’s overreach in banning a specific size of soda drink, the defender is some fellow named Lawrence Gostin.  The headline of the article he’s written is “Banning large sodas is legal and smart”.

Really?  Legal and smart?  His defense of the indefensible has him channeling Paul Krugman, or at least emulating him.

As I’ve said before, it’s always wise to check the premise on which someone like this operates.  In this case, the premise is, as you might expect, flawed and the reasoning thin.   It all comes down to a word – “imminent” – and the author’s obvious belief that it is the job of government to save us from ourselves.   You have to dig through the article a bit, but here’s where Gostin’s claim of legality comes from:

Admittedly, the soda ban would have been better coming from the city’s elected legislature, the City Council. But the Board of Health has authority to act in cases where there is an imminent threat to health. Doesn’t the epidemic of obesity count as an imminent threat, with its devastating impact on health, quality of life and mortality? In any event, the Board of Health has authority over the food supply and chronic disease, which is exactly what it has used in this case.

Members of the Board of Health, moreover, are experts in public health, entitled to a degree of deference. The fact that the proposal originated in the mayor’s office does not diminish the board’s authority and duty to protect the public’s health. Many health proposals arise from the executive branch, notably the Affordable Care Act.

Uh, no, obesity doesn’t qualify as an “imminent” threat such that a Board of Health can arbitrarily declare something “banned”.  Why not king size candy bars?  Why not New York cheese cake?  Why not a whole plethora of sugar soaked products?  Well, if you’re paying attention, I’m sure you’ve realized that if this had flown, such bans were likely not far behind.

But back to Gostin.   Here’s his real argument:

First, the ever-expanding portions (think "supersized") are one of the major causes of obesity. When portion sizes are smaller, individuals eat less but feel full. This works, even if a person can take an additional portion. (Most won’t because they are satiated, and it at least makes them think about what they are consuming.) Second, sugar is high in calories, promotes fat storage in the body and is addictive, so people want more. The so-called "war on sugar" is not a culture war, it is a public health imperative backed by science.

So, there is good reason to believe New York’s portion control would work. But why does the city have to prove that it works beyond any doubt? Those who cry "nanny state" in response to almost any modern public health measure (think food, alcohol, firearms, distracted driving) demand a standard of proof that lawmakers don’t have to meet in any other field.

Because we don’t, in his opinion, “demand a standard of proof” from lawmakers in any other field, we shouldn’t, apparently, demand that standard in this field.  After all it is a “public health imperative” which is “backed by science”.  Where have we heard that before (*cough* global warming *cough*)?

So we shouldn’t ask lawmakers to prove that a) obesity is an imminent threat and b) banning large sodas will defeat that threat?  Because that’s certainly the premise.

In fact, we should do precisely the opposite of what Gostin says.  We should demand “a standard of proof” from out lawmakers that requires they prove whatever bill they’re contemplating is in fact necessary.  Want to ban “assault weapons”.  Prove to me that such a ban will “curb gun violence”.  Stats seem to indicate it will have no effect.  The lapse of the previous ban showed no appreciable increase in gun violence and we’ve seen an overall decrease in violence as a whole.

In this case, the ban Gostin tries to defend and contrary to his headline claims, was neither legal or smart.  It was arbitrary and poorly thought out (if it was thought out at all – seems more like it was a capricious act grounded in an inflated belief in the power Mayor Bloomberg thought he had).  And according to a NY state judge, it wasn’t legal either.

Of course Gostin tries a transparently obvious bit of nonsense by blaming the failure on “Big Food” and a compliant judge buying into their arguments.  It is the usual fall back position for someone who has nothing.  And his trump card is to compare the food industry to, you guessed it, the tobacco industry.  “Big” anything to do with business or industry is a liberal boogyman invoked when arguments are weak.  And Gostin’s is about as weak as they come.  His attempt to fob this off on the “usual suspects” is, frankly, laughable.

I note this particular “defense” by Gostin simply to point out that there are people out there, people others consider to be rational and intelligent (and, apparently, who can get things published on CNN) that can rationalize curbing you freedoms and liberties through the use of force (law and enforcement) because they actually believe they know what is best for you and have the right to act on that on your behalf.

What we need to do, quickly, is find a way to dissuade the nannies of the world from that belief.  They need to understand that freedom means they’re free to act on what they believe in circumstances like this but they’re not free to decide that others must do it too, because they’ve decided that’s the “smart” thing to do.  Freedom means the right to fail, get fat, do stupid things (that don’t violate the rights of others), etc.  We’re issued one mother in our lives.  And it’s not the state.

~McQ


CNN: 65% disapprove of Obama’s handling of economic issues

The President gets low marks for his handling of the economy, sure to be the primary issue during the 2012 presidential election. The latest CNN Poll delivers the bad news:

But only 34 percent approve of how the president is handling economic issues, with 65 percent saying they disapprove of how he’s handling the economy. Thirty-three percent give him a thumbs up on the budget deficit and 37 percent approving of how he’s dealing with unemployment.

"Two-thirds of Democrats continue to approve of Obama’s economic record, but seven out of ten independents disapprove. Not surprisingly, more than nine out of ten Republicans also disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy,” adds Holland.

The important part of those numbers is found in the second paragraph where “seven out of ten independents disapprove”. As we all know, independents are where elections are won or lost. When you’re down 70% with that group on an issue as important and personal as the economy, you’re in trouble. Also note that only 66% of Democrats are happy with his record on the economy.

While Obama gets higher marks in other areas such as foreign affairs, few think such areas are going to be major factors in how people vote in the upcoming election. When it comes to his record for handling economic issues, the vast majority of the country finds his performance to be subpar.

So the week before a “major jobs speech”, the numbers are in and they’re not good. As I’ve mentioned any number of times, Obama has a problem for the first time in his elected life – he has to run on his record. And to this point his record has a number of "records" in it – record deficits, record debt, record unemployment and now, record discontent.

Turning this around will be no easy feat. Especially before November of next year. So as he pivots yet again to focus on jobs (something he’s supposedly been focused on since the beginning of his presidency), he has some implacable opponents he can’t spin, namely numbers, facts and statistics. And those numbers, facts and statistics translate into the poll numbers like those above.

Finally, despite all his efforts to do so, it appears that his days of being able to blame shift his “inherited” problems to Bush are over. These poll numbers say that the majority of Americans have rejected that and are not pleased with his performance, not Bush’s.

Must be tough to actually finally have to take responsibility for something when you’ve spent your entire life attempting to slip responsibility for anything that was negative.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The “debate”

Consider this an open thread – talk about the debate last night between GOP candidates or whatever.  I’ve got to hit the road.

Conventional wisdom seems to be forming that Romney and Bachman (who announced her candidacy for President at the debate, thereby stealing a lot of the air in the room) were the winners.   Slate’s Joan Walsh, of course, think “American’s lose” regardless of which GOPer won.

I have to wonder where Walsh has been hiding these past 3 years if they think any of those on the stage last night could do a worse job than the present administration.

There’s also the media angle – CNN conducted it, and many have complained that John King spent way too much time on social wedge issues that are the least of our problems now rather than dealing with the economy and foreign policy, etc.

Finally, does anyone really care right now about such debates?   And isn’t it a debate in name only.  It’s a freakin’ Q & A session with the moderator doing the questioning.  I’d actually love to see a debate instead of some news anchor deciding to ask what’s apparently important to him.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


CNN Poll: 67% Unhappy With How Federal Government Works

That isn’t particularly surprising since we recently cited a Gallup poll saying the number was 75%.  Suffice it to say the vast majority of the country doesn’t like how the federal government is doing its job.

What’s even more fascinating though is how CNN chooses to report that:

But the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released Thursday morning, suggests a partisan divide, with 8 out of ten conservative Republicans viewing how the federal government works in a negative way, but nearly 6 out of ten liberal Democrats saying they were enthusiastic or satisfied.

The 67 percent dissatisfaction level is the highest in ABC News/Washington post polling since it peaked at 70 percent in March 1996, in the months after the a federal government shutdown led by Republicans.

So which political party gets blamed for this dissatisfaction? A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicated that nearly half the public said they were angry at both political parties, with 11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.

So assuming, given the first paragraph, that “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” cancel each other out, what is the source of all this dissatisfaction? Well never mentioned are the independents. Obviously this number is being driven primarily by the dissatisfaction of independents who, as any political neophyte knows, are the key to elections.

And I’m sure there are a number of politicians out there who will misinterpret the part which says only “11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.” That’s not good news for either party – they don’t like any of you. See again “Tea Party”. Understand they are only the tip of the iceberg the good ship USS Congress is blithely approaching at full speed.

For the CNN poll, these are the highest dissatisfaction numbers since 1996 when they peaked at 70%.

This is another in a long line of polls which seems to be pointing to a very interesting midterm election season. It’s not going to be exclusively a “throw the Democrats out”. I think we’re going to see more of a “throw the incumbents” out. And I think the driving issue for most of the public – you know the teabagging, unwashed, clueless electorate – is fiscal sanity. They just aren’t seeing it, and they want it and they want it now.

~McQ


Fox News Channel Dominates

I bring this story to your attention because of the questions it raises.  First the story by Steve Krakauer – then the questions:

Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year.

FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.

• FNC grew in double digits in both total viewers and the A25-54 demographic from January 2009. In prime time, it was up 22% in total viewers and 51% in the demo[graphic]. CNN was down 34% and 37% and MSNBC down 26% and 38%. In total day, FNC was up 16% and 28%. CNN was down 34% and 41% and MSNBC down 28% and 39%. Last January all networks performed while with the Inauguration coverage. This month, the big political event was Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, which FNC dominated in the ratings.

Fox News Channel has been a target of a concerted campaign by the White House to discredit it for a year. How well does that strategy seem to be working?

If, as the left likes to claim, FNC is simply a mouthpiece for the Republican party, what do these numbers tell us?

If, as the right contends, MSNBC is a shill for the left, what do its numbers tell us?

Why does FNC dominate the all important 25-54 demographic?

Last – do these numbers really portend anything of political significance, or does FNC just do a more entertaining (and dare I say it, more “fair and balanced”) job of presenting news and opinion?

~McQ


Poll Says Public Beginning to Blame Democrats For Recession

It was inevitable (the party in power always gets blamed – eventually), but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the fact that this perfect storm may crest precisely at the 2010 midterms (although you shouldn”t count out the possibility of Republicans completely blowing the opportunity):

Nearly two years into the recession, opinion about which political party is responsible for the severe economic downturn is shifting, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country’s current economic problems. That’s down 15 points from May, when 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May. Twenty-seven percent now say both parties are responsible for the economic mess.

“The bad news for the Democrats is that the number of Americans who hold the GOP exclusively responsible for the recession has been steadily falling by about two to three points per month,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “At that rate, only a handful of voters will blame the economy on the Republicans by the time next year’s midterm elections roll around.”

I’ll say it again – gridlock is good. It has a tendency to weed out all the extremist garbage and narrows the focus of legislation greatly. It also limits the power of the President, as it should be. So I’m quite pleased with this turn of events. And as you might imagine, the “current economic problems” is code language for “jobs”. No jobs, no peace, and a tough re-election campaign from Democrats next year.

Guess who the Congress is mad at?

It’s the economy, stupid.

As an aside, speaking of tough re-elections next year, John McCain is in a statistical dead heat with a GOP primary opponent next year.

Nice.

~McQ


Quote Of The Day

I‘m sorry, but this bit of hubris is so over the top I don’t even know where to begin:

“I think that we’ve restored America’s standing in the world, and that’s confirmed by polls,” he told CNN’s Ed Henry in a wide-ranging interview this week during his trip to China.

“I think a recent one indicated that around the world, before my election, less than half the people — maybe less than 40 percent of the people — thought that you could count on America to do to the right thing. Now it’s up to 75 percent.”

Or it could be that 75% are pleased that George W. Bush is gone and anyone else is now in office. Or it could mean that 75% like the more humble and apologetic US. Or 75% like the fact that he’s done nothing since he’s been in office but give flowery speeches chase nuclear non-proliferation. Or …

You get the idea. He’s been in office 10 months and hasn’t done a thing but apologize for the US and indulge his narcissism with trips abroad and that has “restored America’s standing in the world”? This reminds me very much of his belief that the US was changed for the better when he was elected and he had a mandate to do whatever he pleased when he took office. How’s that working out? How are those approval polls looking today?

Look, the world is going to love him as long as he sticks to apologies, flowery speeches and such dated issues as nuclear non-proliferation. But if he actually steps up, puts the interests of the US as his first priority (which is his job, by the way) and leads, he’ll be in Bush territory in no time. My guess is he’d rather be popular than respected. We’ll see what our “improved standing” buys us in realpolitik terms down the road.

~McQ


White House Wants Compliant Press

I‘m still wondering what the upside is for the White House in this fight it is picking with Fox News.

We’ve seen Anita Dunn, White House communication’s director take them on, obviously at the behest of and at least with the tacit agreement, one assumes, of the President. After all, he’s been known to complain about Fox and theirs was the only Sunday show on which he refused to appear recently. Now we have David Axelrod throwing out the same nonsense:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that the Fox News Channel is “not really a news station” and that much of the programming is “not really news.”

“I’m not concerned,” Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” when George Stephanopoulos asked about the back-and-forth between the White House and Fox News.

“Mr. [Rupert] Murdoch has a talent for making money, and I understand that their programming is geared toward making money. The only argument [White House communications director] Anita [Dunn] was making is that they’re not really a news station if you watch even — it’s not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming.

Of course what that network covers are things that the other networks would prefer not to cover – the ACORN scandal being the most recent story they attempted to avoid. And Fox has presented the other side on the “health care reform” story – giving Republicans a voice in telling the story that they’re not afforded on the other news networks.

I’m sure this does indeed rankle the White House because Fox, unlike the rest of the media isn’t a compliant lap dog for the administration. It makes waves when it reports the other side.

And I love how Axlerod denigrates “making money” as if CNN and MSNBC are in the charity business – although compared to Fox, they may as well be.

The White House apparently feels it must marginalize Fox for a reason. And the only reason I can come up with is the White House feels it is hurting it’s agenda. To me the most telling remark about Fox came when Dunn said that when President Obama goes on Fox he believes he’s debating the opposition.

I thought that’s what all real journalists considered themselves – the opposition. Now, apparently, journalistic worth is measured by the White House as how compliant you are and how willing you are to carry water for them.

It isn’t Fox that should be ashamed.  It is CNN and MSNBC who, when referring to themselves, should find it more and more difficult to use the terms “news” and “journalism” with a straight face and without turning beet red with embarrassment.

~McQ


Hate To Say “I Told You So”

President Obama’s tapdancing attempt to avoid taking a stand on Iran has come to naught and made him look weak:

The Iranian government, meanwhile, accused the U.S. for the first time of interfering in the postelection dispute. Iran protested to the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. affairs in Iran because the two nations have no diplomatic ties. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Barack Obama stands by his defense of principles such as the right of people to demonstrate.

Even had Barack Obama maintained his silence, this was almost a given. Totalitarianism 101 – seek an external enemy to blame your problems on before you crack down hard internally (although the split in Qom among the mullahs is interesting and adds a new dimension to the story).

And I disagree with the talking heads that calling for free and fair elections is “meddling in the internal affairs of another state” such as Moorhead Kennedy was blathering on about on CNN this morning. That’s not meddling nor is it an attack on a state’s sovereignty – its a call for a state to actually do what they’re claiming they’re doing.

~McQ