Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Free to Choose

Milton Friedman's PBS TV series "Free to Choose" is available online here . The 1990 series has a fantastic introduction by the Governator ...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Posner on Trans Fats

Judge Posner commented on the trans fat ban in his blog today. His analysis was much more of a cost-benefit analysis than was my look at the issue a few days ago. His conclusions stated "My cost-benefit analysis is, necessarily, highly tentative. However, it inclines me to a sympathetic view of the trans-fats ban. I anticipate strong opposition from libertarians."

I have one quick comment on his analysis. He states that "no one wants his restaurant experience poisoned by having to read a menu that lists beside each item the number of grams of trans fats it contains." He quickly disregards this option while I feel that it may be the best option available.

I do not think that this statement is necessarily true. The presence of trans fat does not have to be so intrusive. Many restaurants do use an asterisk to indicate that something is spicy. Some similar universal symbol could be used for the presence of trans fats. I do not think the precise number of grams needs to be stated on the menu (although it should be available upon request). This will not "poison" the restaurant experience. It will get people thinking about the issue and will cause some change.

Posner's Comments

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reyes for President?

Apparently the in-coming (Democratic) head of the House Intel committee does n't know that Al Qaeda is primarily Sunni. He also appears not to know a great deal about the inner workings of Hezbollah.

Big frickin deal. Good for him. This kind of knowledge is largely irrelevant to his role in Congress. The Intelligence Committe is primarily concerned with oversight and crafting authorizing legislation. One does n't need an encyclopedic knowledge of the various flavors of Islamic thought and the nuanced and finely wrought doctrinal distinctions between them to be effective at oversight, or crafting intelligence legislation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Banning Fat

New York City recently decided to ban the use of trans fats by restaurants in the city. While some have equated this move with the smoking bans being passed around the country, I think that the issue deserves individual treatment.

While the lay person may cite saturated facts as the most dangerous type of fat, the fact is that trans fats are actually more dangerous. Trans fats, commonly found in such foods as margarine, Crisco, potato chips, peanut butter, etc., are made by passing hydrogen through the fact. As a result, the fat can stay in a solid state at room temperature. As one doctor described the effect of the process: "It's not good for body to digest; it's like eating plastic." The FDA even concluded that the recommended daily allowance of trans fats is 0 grams (for comparison, the RDA of saturated fats is around 20 grams). As a result of this, I have avoided trans fats since high school and feel that this has helped improve my health.

Now, the same dangerous side effects can be said of smoking (which I am against banning). However, the case for a ban of trans fats is stronger for three reasons: (1) people unknowingly ingest trans fats; (2) people are not privy to the health problems related to the trans fats; and (3) there are already alternative fats available that do not significantly affect the taste of the food (albeit with a slightly higher cost due to their lower availability at this time). With smoking, everyone is aware of the health issues and individuals consciously make the decision to smoke. At restaurants, trans fats are often used without the customers knowledge. Even if one knows that they are used, few people know about the health concerns related to their ingestion.

While I think that the personal and social cost of trans fats are high and that they ought not to be eaten, I think an all-out ban is too much at this point. One of the reasons that trans fats are used is because they are cheaper and, for the time being, more readily available than comparable fats. By banning their use, the government is forcing a cost on the restaurant. In addition, many companies have complained that transitioning to a substitute fat has been difficult. The individual no longer has the option to make a choice of being cheap food now and paying for it down the road with higher health costs. The problem with the current situation is that individuals are not making informed decisions because they are not aware of the presence of trans fats in their foods. This would be ameliorated by a labeling requirement. Restaurants would be given the option to continue to use trans fats so long as they notified the customers.

The FDA imposed a labeling requirement on groceries that went into effect January 1, 2006. Now, products must state the quantity of trans fats contained in them. While the regulation has its flaws (products can state "0g trans fat" or "trans fat free" even though they contain small amounts of trans fat per serving), it has served to entice companies reduce and eliminate trans fats in their products. For instance, a couple of years ago, few potato chips were made without trans fats. Now many brands are trans fat free. Labeling has also helped raise public awareness of the issue. While the case is stronger for a ban, requiring restaurants to merely notify customers of the presence of trans fats would help serve the same ends as a total ban without the extra costs imposed on business and individual freedom. If someone wants a Big Mac soaked in trans fats, let them have it. It should be their choice so long as they know whats in it.

Breyer vs. Scalia: The Movie

Here's the video of the ACS/FedSoc Breyer/Scalia discussion I blogged about yesterday, available in either full video or just the audio.

Choices and War


It's frustrating that we've lost sight of who has what choices in this war. We didn't choose to fight it. We CAN'T choose NOT to fight it, except by surrendering and converting wholesale to Shariah Strength Islam. ("Peace" activists take note - if "peace" is the absence of fighting, and that "peace" is the ultimate "good," then this is the option for you. Enjoy your gay marriages and nose rings under Shariah. But for my part, I would rather be a free man at war than a slave and a prisoner at peace, as would most Americans. Some things are more important than "peace," and far worse than "war.")

The only choices we have are where, when, and how we fight. We currently control those three factors absolutely - we can set our table anywhere we please, but we have to set it. If we refuse to make a choice, we'll merely be surrendering that choice to our enemies.

After 9/11, we absolutely made the correct choice on the when. It was now, or it was later - and it wasn't going to be cheaper later. After every Jihadist attack prior to 9/11, we kept choosing "later" - and the result was a MORE entrenched enemy with MORE recruits who had seen us run away time after time. Iraq may rally new jihadists to the cause, but no more so than did Somalia, the first WTC attack, Khobar Towers, Beirut, USS Cole, or even our unfinished business in Gulf War I. For some odd reason, we're turning to the same geniuses who kept choosing "later" as the Jihadists grew in strength until they could attack us here at home, and once again, those "realists" are saying "later." What are they waiting for? A dirty bomb in LA?

Indeed, if Iraq is in fact a cause celebre that attracts more fighters, it is only because of the perception that we are losing and on the brink of running again - helped in no small part by the defeatist left and their anti-Bush media enablers who have been declaring "Quagmire!" from the beginning. This report itself is already rallying them on with its hung-headed hand wringing and non-solutions to the cancer of Global Jihad.

The where was tougher - Afghanistan was the obvious choice, but with so many local governments eager and willing to keep supplying our enemies, we couldn't simply stay holed up in Central Asia. You can't win "Whack-A-Mole" with a single mallet. And so our choices were Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. - or the United States. It could be that Iraq wasn't the best option in 2002-3, although I still think it was. Today, we seem intent on choosing the United States, for if we pull back behind our borders with our tails between our legs, that is where we will fight it. Anyone who seriously doubts this, and thinks our enemy will adopt a "live-and-let-live" policy, simply hasn't been paying attention.

But it is the how that is the most crucial. From the start, we have fought hobbled. Afraid of what dictators, Europe (who has abrogated their military responsibility in the world to us while surrendering their cultures at home), or corrupt UN officials might say about us, we refused to shoot looters, refused to fire on mosques that are being used as firing towers, and released detained terrorists who must then be re-captured on the battlefield. We ignored Iran and Syria's active involvement against us. We were RE-active. Against a culture which above all respects strength, we chose to be weak and half-hearted. Worse, that's the AGGRESSIVE half of our government - the rest worked as hard as they could to feed the enemy propaganda, assure them we could not win if only they would be a little more patient...

The American People were right last month to repudiate our tepid how of warfighting (which would change very little even if we followed the Baker-Hamilton report to the letter). Do this for real, or don't do it at all, they said, and as usual, the wisdom of the electorate is worthy of our ear. But unfortunately, we cannot chose to simply not do it at all, which leaves only to DO IT RIGHT. We must unequivocally crush the enemy first, and only then rebuild his cities and governments.

There is no exit strategy but through total victory, no "peace" until every last Jihadist is dead or captured and Islamo-Fascism is as universally repudiated as Nazism. To accept less is to ensure an "Iraq" every ten years or so, each time leaving us weaker and our enemies stronger, until our culture and freedoms are lost to attrition after millions are slaughtered in the name of "pure" Islam both here and abroad. The liberal refrain has been how evil we were to support Afghani mujahadeen or Iraq in the 80s (ignoring the more severe threat at the time from the USSR), and how it led to today's problems. Those same liberals who now demand we adopt the Baker plan have apparently changed their minds, demanding we support Iran and Syria if they'll help up "stabilize" the region. What will they say in 10 years when we're battling a nuclear armed Iran? You guessed it - it'll be Bush's fault for not listening.

Unfortunately, if we adopt the Baker "plan," we choose less - along with the consequences that go with it. And we will have given our remaining choices to our enemy. Be certain they well care far less about UN protocol or NGO admonitions on human rights violations, and that they will not give anything less than their all. It must be admitted that this choice is indeed a path to peace, but not a peace worth having.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Media Alert II (Morning Edition)

Tomorrow morning I'll be on the Sytman & Boze Show on AM 770 KTTH at 7:00 AM to discuss the Watada craziness. Give it a listen!

Scalia and Breyer, Head to Head

This is just good stuff:
Scalia is charming and, —as ever, —riotously funny. For each time Breyer says his own constitutional approach is "complicated" or "hard," Scalia retorts that his is "easy as pie" and a "piece of cake." And if this debate mirrors a marketplace of ideas, Breyer will make the sale through the earnest personal connection of a Wal-Mart greeter, while Scalia opts for the aloof certainty of the Tiffany's salesman: "Sure, you can buy some other, cheaper constitutional theory, but really. Ew."
A fun look at some good - and illuminating - banter and philosophy behind the bench.

Media Alert

I'll be making my radio debut in a couple hours at 4:00 PM today on the Bryan Suits Show on KVI 570 (AM, of course) to discuss my impressions of the Ehren Watada silliness. Should be fun!


UPDATE: Here's the link for the live feed.

The Watada Report

Well, just came back from the Ehren Watada event. Wow. There are simply no words of invective strong enough to adequately convey an accurate picture of this guy, or of the hippies, socialists, and (I’ll say it) anti-Americans who were there to laud this criminal. Somewhere, members of al Qaeda are laughing. Going in, I strongly suspected he joined planning to desert like this as a political stunt. Having heard him speak, I am now certain of it.

The absurdities of his legal claims have already been discussed on this blog. Indeed – there was really no attempt to refute them at the event (more on that below).

The event was carefully controlled and orchestrated from the beginning. There was no panelist who would be the least bit critical of his actions. There was no opportunity for direct questioning – questions had to be written on a small slip of notecard and passed to the moderator, where they were subsequently censored and/or modified to soften the ball. More on that in a bit. The bottom line is that this was an event supposedly about the courage to state an unpopular point of view, but done in a liberal echo chamber with no opportunity to challenge the speaker.

Said echo chamber was surreal. The aged hippies had come out of the woodwork. Next to me sat a woman with one of those “united socialist” newspapers, printed complete with red ink. She was writing a letter to Watada praising his courage and “real patriotism,” and pledging her support.

[The post continues in the comments section below...]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ignorant Americans?

It is astonishing that hippies like Gwyneth Paltrow can rail against ignorant Americans while at the same time, her political allies in the American academy (very few of which are "capitalistic"), exacerbate what ignorance problem there is with tripe like the University of Washington's new minor in "diversity studies."

If we want to emulate the English, instead of forswearing work and money, perhaps we can start by eradicating these stupid PC majors - I doubt they'd pass the laugh test at Cambridge.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Newt - Destroying the 1st Amendment, or Restoring it For the Sake of Survival?

Last week, Newt Gingrich made headlines by suggesting we needed to rethink our current thinking about what the 1st Amendment does and does not allow in terms of free speech in order to protect ourselves. The expected wailing an gnashing of teeth followed about sacred protections, dissent being patriotic, etc. As usual, Ben Franklin's quote about essential liberties vs. "a little temporary safety" was misquoted and/or used out of context.

But the problem is that while Gingrich's general thrust is correct, the way he posited it was very wrong. Here's what he said:
"Either before we lose a city, or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up [terrorists'] capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech [protections] and to go after people who want to kill us -- to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us."
Gingrich spoke in his piece in terms of "limiting free speech." That's not the argument, in my mind. Worse, putting it in those terms instantly raises the specter of censorship, 1984, etc., making it far less politically viable. Instead, the debate must be what defines "speech" within the meaning of the First Amendment - and what crosses the line into action. It may sound like semantics, but our very lives rest on the distinction.

When a Minneapolis Imam preaches that all good Muslims should rise up and destroy America by force, that is protected. When an American Communist urges college students to violent revolution, that is protected. When an Army officer urges fellow soldiers to ignore lawful orders from their elected civilian leaders, liberals argue it should be protected. What madness or self loathing requires us to suicidally accept such threats to our freedom and indeed, to our very existence?

Such advocacy is not merely speech - it is action. It is no more speech and no less action than Tony Soprano ordering his goon to kill someone, and deserves no more protection.

The kicker is that allowing these verbal threats against our very survival is far from the immutable American tradition. We have recognized throughout the majority of our history that advocating the violent overthrow of the US government - especially in times of war - is outside the bounds of speech, and can and should be proscribed. Where exactly the line is may be fuzzy, but common sense makes clear that an Imam declaring jihad is on the wrong side of that line. As late as 1951 in United States v. Dennis, 341 U.S. 494 (1951), the Supreme Court correctly recognized that the Communist Party was a real threat to this country, and that organizing a party and using its mechanisms to advocate subversion was not and should not be protected. The thought that we were not a free country prior to 1951 is simply absurd. But then, that was back before we chose to lose wars...

(Andrew McCarthy has a fantastic historical breakdown of free speech protections and their nexuses with our various conflicts - and brilliantly points out the current risk we face for our indulgence of terrorists. It's also a good review for next week's Free Expression final...)

I don't want a Sedition Act. I don't want people jailed for being critical of the President. The effort to conflate a return to Dennis with American Fascism is intellectually and historically bankrupt. What I do want is to simply return to our senses. Let's RE-recognize that the Constitution is and never was a suicide pact, and that it need not tolerate advocates for its violent destruction in the name of its protection.

The Court Tackles Racism Diversity

"It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race."
- Chief Justice John Roberts, LULAC v. Perry, (concurring)

Yes, it is. And the Court is once again faced with the question of just how sordid it is today as it decides whether a "racial tiebreaker" is Constitutional in determining which high school Seattle students should attend.

It seems to me to be difficult to justify as a "compelling state interest" the idea that a 60-40 racial makeup will provide a significantly different educational experience than 70-30, or even 80-20. And that's really all the school district has. (It's also worth wondering, although less legally germane, why Seattle Schools are spending all this time, money, and effort on minor racial redistribution when the schools themselves are failing so miserably and completely. Do they seriously think this racial window dressing will raise test scores or inprove math skills? Of course, when "diversity" is your unquestioned religious dogma, the real motivations behind the school district's proposed policies become more clear...)

But what's really at stake is the idea of racial preferences, and how hostile the Roberts Court will be towards them. Likely swing voter Justice Kennedy said, "We're not writing just on a very fact-specific issue." (So much for case and controversy limits, eh?) The outcome will determine if we're still willing to be held hostage by fear of being called "racists" as a society by people who ignore the harm racial quotas and preferences have caused, ignore the very real progress we've made as a country on issues of race, and if we're going to finally repudiate the liberal Cult of Victimhood that has been used throughout the past century to justify socialism.

Here's hoping we ignore the likes of Senator Kennedy, accept that segregated lunch counters aren't coming back, and finally recognize that the Prophets of Diversity for its own sake is antithetical to the idea of a color blind Constitution.

Monday, December 04, 2006

How Liberal?

The Volokh Conspiracy is buzzing with debate about whether (little "l") libertarians should jump ship and support the Democratic Party. Prompted by this Cato dispatch, the Volokh bloggers consider whether a liberal-libertarian alliance could do more to advance classical liberal thinking ... and come to an obvious conclusion. To wit, civil liberties would be advanced by punishing the "Party of Lincoln" (yes, at least insofar as the only three presidents to have puportedly suspended habeas have all called themselves "Republicans"). But free markets? Isn't the first thing on the new Congress' agenda a significant hike in the federal minimum wage? We remain as conflicted as ever.

As a matter of practical politics, I'd say the discussion is more important than it might at first seem. While Cato research indicates 13% of voting-age Americans have a libertarian bent, (big "L") Libertarians--all 235,540 of them--commanded but 2% of the vote in the mid-terms.

"Conscience" vs. National Defense - 1st LT Watada's Absurd Excuses

As you may know, Ehren Watada is the commissioned Army officer who has refused to deploy to Iraq as ordered, and now face court martial for missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. His defense against the charge of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer" is based on going out on the anti-war speaking circuit and encouraging other soldiers to refuse to go.

Our esteemed University is putting on a "panel" discussion, starring Lt. Watada himself. From the risible title - "A Matter of Conscience" - you can guess just how diverse this panel will be. The event is this Wednesday at 3:30 - I encourage all to attend.

Fortunately for the country, and UNfortunately for Watada and his ACLU enablers, the law is not on his side. This isn't the first time an activist and/or coward has offered this type of excuse. Adam Ake, a 3L here and a Major in the Army National Guard, has put together a very powerful outline explaining the state of the law in this case for the Military Law Association. With his permission, I've reproduced it in the comments section below. Well worth a read.

To this I can only add these thoughts. If a military member (and a junior one at that) is allowed to make his own judgments on the veracity or even legality of policy made by elected civilians, then those elected civilians no longer have control over the military. That conclusion portends only two outcomes - either the military establishment begins acting on its own and we have a coup, or the military is emasculated and could no longer be counted upon to defend American interests. Make no mistake - Watada's backers are too short sighted to fear the first outcome, while working hard to ensure the second.