Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Will the GOP Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory in New Jersey, New York, and Virginia?

The Grand Old Party has been skewered by the voters in the last two general elections. The Democrats regained Congress in 2006 and added the Presidency and substantial majorities in 2008. Republicans at all levels were hammered the past four years, wiping out the steady gains beginning in 1980.

The Democratic victories were due to frustration with Iraq, a culture of Republican corruption, sexual peccadilloes, and out of control spending. Ted Stevens, Jerry Lewis, and Don Young squandered the taxpayers’ money, highlighted by the Bridge to Nowhere, turning off much of the fiscally conservative base of the Party.

The collapse of Wall Street and the ensuing economic collapse guaranteed Senator Obama’s election, indeed, providing the Senator the honor of being the only Democratic candidate for President to win an outright majority of the votes since LBJ in 1964.

President Obama won a mandate.

Pundits were writing off the Republican Party.

And yet, sometimes it’s darkest before the sun comes out.

The tide has turned barely one year later. To paraphrase a Republican theme from a few years ago, the Rising Tide has returned. The President misread his mandate, just as Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in 1994.

Two governorships (New Jersey and Virginia) and a House seat in upstate New York are up for election next week. The GOP is favored to win in New Jersey and Virginia, and no living person can remember when the Republicans did not hold the House seat.

The Republicans though may lose two of the three elections. The open New York seat may flip Democratic because the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, is more liberal than the Democrat, Bill Owens. A third candidate, Douglas Hoffman, is draining support from Scozzafava as he runs on traditional conservative values. Her record includes tax increases, gay rights, pro choice, support for cap and trade, the President’s stimulus plan, and unionization, Most of these positions are anathema to most Republicans, but many could live with some apostasy, but not this combination. That she has been endorsed by ACORN is the final nail in her political campaign.

The problem is that the nominees did not emerge victorious from contested primaries, but rather were selected by party bosses since the vacancy opened up after the November election. Republican leaders in New York have an exemplary record in recent years of losing Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and the New York Senate.

The only polls that count are the actual votes cast on election day, but recent polls show Hoffman pulling ahead of Scozzafava and giving Owens a run for his money. Hoffman has been endorsed by Governors Palin and Pawlenty, former Senators Fred Thompson Rich Santorum, Steve Forbes and Dick Armey.

New Jersey similarly has a three way race for governor. The incumbent, Jon Corzine, is extremely unpopular with voters. He has failed to rein in tax increases, especially property taxes, and government spending. He’s viewed as incompetent and aloof. New Jersey’s fiscal morass is second only to California’s.

Many Republicans are dissatisfied with the GOP nominee, Chris Christy, for failure to spell out how he will change in political culture in Jersey. His campaign is essentially: “I’ve fought corruption in New Jersey, so trust me.”

Voters are in a surly mood; they want specifics and do not trust broad generalities.

The conservative independent, Chris Daggert, has gained enough support in the polls to threaten Christy’s chances of victory.

Virginia seems a clear win for the Republicans. First, Virginia usually elects a candidate from a different party than the President. Hence Robert McDonnell has a clear lead over the Democratic nominee, Creigh Deeds, who has also underperformed in the debates.

The Washington Post has unsuccessfully attempted to Macaca McDonnell. Senator George Allen was seeking reelection in 2004 when he used the slur word for Indians. The Post hammered Allen daily. He lost by less than 9,000 votes.

The Washington Post ignored Senator Biden’s Indian comments during his Presidential election bid: “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a sight Indian accent … I’m not joking.”

McDonnell’s master’s thesis at Regent University two decades ago had some grossly inappropriate statements. He viewed working women and feminists as detrimental to the family. He wrote government policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” He also opposed a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception by unmarried couples.

These words would normally doom the candidate, but in difficult economic times voters vote their pocket book and economic issues. When times are good, they vote social issues.

Tuesday’s the day. The only way the GOP can’t sweep is if the non-Democratic candidates split the Republican vote, resulting in a plurality election for the Democrats.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Will Madison, Wisconsin Post the Scarlet A for Alcoholics

The Madison City Council is considering an ordinance that will ban retailers from selling alcohol to chronic alcoholics whose names have been posted on a “do not serve” list, the “Scarlet Letter A” List. The list will be the equivalent of the Vegas list of cheaters who are banned from the casinos. The list would obviously include photos; else it would be totally ineffective.

The qualifications for the list are simple: be arrested and convicted of a crime while drunk or taken to treatment, a combination six times in the preceding 180 days. That’s heavy drinking! In public!

The city estimates 24-48 drunkards would initially be listed, but probably 100-150 could ultimately qualify.

The list would be distributed to retailers; establishments violating the ordinance would be subject to a $500 fine for the first offense.

The outed alcoholics alcoholics would be given notice and a right to appeal, presumably if they sober up.

As a practical matter, someone would almost immediately post the names on the internet, resulting in a universal, eternal cyberspace Scarlet A.

Clearly the costs of alcohol to America in general and Madison in particular are high.

Madison alone estimates these drunkards cost it millions of dollars annually on police, jails, mental health, detoxification, hospital and other services. They commit numerous, often vicious, crimes, and we always have to worry about drunk drivers and vehicular manslaughter. Panhandling drunks downtown present a poor image of the city.

Madison has also been concerned in recent years with its image as a party town. City officials convinced bars near the University of Wisconsin campus to abandon drink specials, 2 for 1 beers, and discounted liquor on Fridays and Saturdays after 8pm.

A Madison ordinance bans dangerous and disorderly persons from State Street.

Opponents of the plan call it an invasion of privacy. Yet, Scarlet Letters are common with public records, such as posting lists of tax deadbeats and scofflaws. Arrests are a matter of public record. Anyone can compile the information, the publication of which is constitutionally protected.

The Los Angeles Times periodically publishes a list of bars and restaurants cited for health code violations. The most common violations are rodents, roaches, and backup sewage, all to the public shame of the establishments.

Another objection is that the list constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. Green Bay has a similar ordinance, but it only calls for voluntary enforcement by the retailers.

A society which allows states to enforce civil confinement orders against sexual predators upon completion of their prison sentences will not wince about ordering stores to deny alcohol to the chronically intoxicated. Bars and restaurants are already required by Dram Shops to cut off the visibly intoxicated.

Madison would have had an easy, inexpensive solution just a few decades ago to the habitual public drunk. Police would periodically sweep the downtown, toss the drunks into a “paddy wagon,” (supposedly named for drunken Irish) and then let the drunks dry out over night. No booking, muss or fuss, and totally unconstitutional.

Another approach in some urban areas was to “transport” these same drunks across city lines and dump them, literally and figuratively, in an adjoining community. For example, officers in Westchester County might dump their drunks in Da Bronx, and the NYPD officers often returning the favor.

These options are no longer viable. Once the officers apprehend a drunk, they must book him and process him through the criminal justice system.

The proposed ordinance does not attack the root causes of alcoholism, but simply some extreme manifestations.

Indeed, upon close inspection, it is not even intended as a broad attack upon alcoholism, but is directed at public drunks, historically the drunken bums who hung out on Skid Row.

The proposed ordinance does not apply to bars and restaurants. In other words, all the alcoholic has to do is go into one of these establishments, sit on a stool, be served, get sloshed, fall off, and grab a cab home. Or be in a fraternity or sorority!

Perhaps the commercial establishments are so busy and crowded that enforcement of the Scarlet Letter list would be unfeasible, but significantly more drinking occurs in these venues than from the retail outlets.

If so, the real offense is public intoxication by the traditional bums.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sue, Rush, Sue

Rush Limbaugh lost his bid to be a minority owner of a NFL team, the hapless St. Louis Rams.

Rush’s desire was a non-starter as he encountered an outpouring of opposition from civil rights leaders, NFL players, and the Director of the NFL Players Association. Rush was subjected to a series of derisive attacks before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated Rush would be too divisive as a NFL owner.

Current NFL players include an acquitted murderer, a convicted animal abuser, sexual attackers, and spousal abusers. NFL owners have included gamblers and racists, but Rush is too divisive.

After his comments about Donovan McNabb on ESPN, Rush was terminated by ESPN and labeled a racist by some.

Certain statements attributed to Rush reinforced the impression by some that Rush Limbaugh is a racist.

Herein lies the rub.

Rush is a public figure who vigorously competes in the arena of ideas. He does not mince words for those he opposes. Feminists are “Femi-Nazis, environmentalists, “environmental wackos,” and the mainstream media, the “drive by media.” One of the songs he likes to play on his show is “Barack the Magic Negro.” He thrives upon his opponents’ attacks. He has proven over 2 decades that he can dish it out as well as receive. He makes fun of the names of his political opponents. He’s essentially declared war on the Mainstream Media.

Just as he shows the drive byes no mercy, they respond in kind. If he loses his ESPN gig for stating that the media wants Donovan McNabb to succeed because they want a black quarterback to succeed in the NFL, the media echo the sentiment that his is a racist statement. And if he has a prescription drug addiction problem, they exult.

But this is different, for he is being accused of racism, a damaging charge, based upon statements he never made. He must respond to the calumny in a manner that it will not be repeated by the media in future issues.

As we know, if a political lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth.

Rush is alleged to have said: “You know who deserves a posthumous medal of honor? James Earl Jones. We miss you James. Godspeed.”

The second statement is “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back. I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

The quotes are in a 2006 book by Jack Huberman, "101 People Who Are Really Screwing America." Huberman provides a general reference to a source which never used those statements.

Thus, the presumption is that Huberman fabricated the libelous statements.

Public figures normally don’t sue for defamation. The odds of winning are small, and a suit would simply provide more publicity to the defamer.

A public figure has a high burden of proof to win a libel suit. The statements must be made with knowledge of their falsity or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.

A fabricated statement meets that standard.

But the plot thickens. The quotes actually appeared in WikiQuotes months before the Huberman book was published. No reference is provided, but the IP source of the quotes is from a major law firm, Patterson Belknap. We assume the firm is trying to track down the fabricating poster.

Public figures, such as Limbaugh, can respond to defamation through the media, such as press conferences, press releases, and op eds. In Rush’s case, he has three hours to daily fulminate on the air with a live feed in front of his audience of 20,000,000 believers.

That’s not enough though. He must put these defamatory statements to rest for good. Denials and denunciations won’t suffice. Only a definitive legal decision that these statements are false and defamatory will serve to deter media figures from repeating these charges in the future.

This time, preaching to his loyal followers will not suffice. He must appeal to the broader American public, who might otherwise believe these statements.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Go Green: Install a Solar Clothes Dryer

The most significant contribution most of us can individually make to energy conservation and a green economy is to install an outdoor solar clothes line, sometimes also referred to as a “wind energy drying device.”

Sunlight, perhaps aided by a gentle wind, can dry our clothes with a zero carbon footprint. Solar drying can even work in freezing weather. The moisture will freeze, and then the ice will sublimate into the atmosphere.

Electric clothes dryers account for 6% of household electrical consumption. Solar clothes dryers: 0%.

Solar energy through solar panels is still not economically viable after decades of substantial investment, research and development. A popular joke during the energy crisis’ of the 1970’s was that solar energy would never succeed until either the government could tax it or oil companies profit from it.

ARCO abandoned solar energy in 1989 after investing over $200 million in it without ever earning a profit.

Rather than taxing solar energy, the federal and state governments are still providing subsidies through tax credits to solar panel installations.

The solar clothes dryer requires only a small initial investment in the clothes line and clothes pins, with zero maintenance. Replacement costs are also de minimus.

So who could possibly oppose it? Zoning boards and community associations. Hang them out to dry!

The main objection is aesthetics; images of a century ago of clothes lines extended on the front and back porches and strung across streets in tenements.

A “Right to Dry” movement has arisen across America demanding changes in these archaic rules and views.

Some community associations, aka homeowners associations (HOA’s), enforce mindless conformity through the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCR’s) running with the deeds. These agreements are often 30-100 pages long and indecipherable even to lawyers.

Some of the governing boards are run by petty bureaucrats who enforce bans against the American flag, political signs, solar panels, and, until the federal government intervened, satellite dishes.

About 61% of Orange County’s residents in 750,000 residences live in 1400 HOA’s. Fortunately, we are not one of them.

The Right to Dry movement has won several legislative victories. Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Utah and Vermont have legislatively invalidated the CCA covenants.

Colorado, Florida, and Utah have also preempted local zoning restrictions to allow the use of solar clothes dryers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beleaguered New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine Has Unleased a Desperate Fat Attack On His Republican Opponent

Discrimination is not illegal. We are free to discriminate for an almost infinite number of reasons, unless specifically proscribed by law.

We cannot therefore discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnic background, disabilities, and in many states, sexual orientation.

However, one of the most insidious forms of discrimination remains: weight. The overweight often receive the full brunt of discrimination. Whether they are called fat, corpulent, obese, overweight, tubby, or worse, doesn’t matter; they are often treated as pariahs. Better to be bulimic than bloated!

And that brings us to the New Jersey gubernatorial race.

Jon Corzine had risen to the Chair of Goldman Sachs, but was given a $400 million golden parachute in 1999 as he was unceremoniously fired from the company.

He used his fortune to win the open Senate seat in New Jersey, and was elected governor 5 years later, again using his personal fortune to secure the victory.

New Jersey is a notoriously corrupt state; the voters reasoned that with his personal fortune, Corzine was incorruptible.

He was, but the rest of the state government was not. 2009 is so far a normal year with 14 recent indictments of state and local politicians on corruption charges. State residents also face high income taxes, high property taxes, high unemployment, and high budget deficits. Voters are in a surly mood.

The abrasive Governor Corzine is trailing in his reelection bid in the heavily Democratic state to his Republican challenger, Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who earned his reputation by prosecuting corruption in the Land of the Sopranos. Corzine cannot run on his record or competence. He has finally found Christi’s weakness. The challenger is grossly overweight.

Corzine ran an ad the other day, asserting that Christie used his position as a prosecutor to get special favors, such as avoiding tickets. The ad shows the ponderous Christie slowly exiting a SUV as the commentator accuses him of throwing his weight around.

The ad is in utter bad taste, but it’s just politics. Negative campaigning is proven effective. As long as it’s not illegal, anything goes in politics. And even if illegal, many political operatives figure it’s still OK as long as they are not caught.

The ads focusing on Christie’s weight are winning votes for Corzine. Christie’s ten point lead is collapsing, but the election is still his to lose. Unless he finds a way to respond to Corzine’s incessant negative ads, Christie will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

One way for Christie to respond is to remind New Jersey voters of the Governor’s demonstrated double standards.

Governor Corzine’s chauffeur, a state trooper, was speeding 91mph with flashing lights in a 65mph zone. The Governor was severely injured when the car veered out of control. Corzine, riding in the front seat, was not wearing his seat belt.

Emergency vehicles can obviously speed in an emergency, but the only “emergency” was that the Governor was running late to a meeting.

If Governor Corzine wins reelection, and the voters return the Democrats to majority control of both state houses, then New Jersey deserves the consequences.

Stella D'Oro Abandons Da Bronx

“Stella, Stella,” cries out Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on the New York stage. “Stella D’Oro” cries the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, as Da Bronx plant closes down.

Workers chanted “Whose factory? Our factory!” during the New York City Labor Day Parade last month.

The owners heeded the advice of the great New Yorker, Horace Greeley: “Go West, young man, go West.” Stella D-Oro is headed West a century later to a non-union facility in Ashland, Ohio. The 135 union workers in the Bronx will join the growing ranks of unemployed in New York as the industrial base of the City continues to shrink.

Stella, the baker of breadsticks, fudge stars, and biscotti, has been an institution in Da Bronx since 1932.

Stella, always popular on the East Coast, has gone through a series of owners in recent years, including the private equity firm Brynwood Partners. Brynwood asked the union a year ago asked for concessions. Workers were paid $18/hour with full medical coverage, up to ten weeks annually of leave time, and a pension plan. The contract was too sweat for the owners, who wanted to cut salaries to $13 per hour over 5 years, and eliminate the pension plan. The workers were shocked by the demands. Brynwood wanted to measure the workers pay by CVS standards. It also wanted to flip Stella for a profit.

The union workers responded in a traditional manner.

They struck in August 2008 and filed unfair labor practices charges against the company.

That’s fairly typical in labor disputes. A hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board found for the Union and ordered reinstatement and back pay for the workers. That’s also fairly common in labor disputes.

The company’s response was atypical. Brynwood sold the bakery to Lance Snacks, a non-union company. Lance announced it was closing the plant and moving production to the Ohio facility. In essence, it was buying the brand names and recipes of Stella without the headaches.

In other words, Lance did not acquire the union agreement or the existing workforce. That too sometimes happens in purchases.

Unfortunately for the proud, loyal union workers, Stella D’Oro has been a dying asset. Nabisco purchased the company for $100 million in 1992. Nabisco’s successor, Kraft, sold it in 2006 to Brynwood for $17 million, and Brynwood in turn sold Stella D’Oro at a loss to Lance.

In a capitalistic economy, either investors receive a return on their capital investment or the investment fails. Even non-profits have to earn a return or rely on gifts to survive. Stella made great products, but not a profit. The Union in theory won the 11 month strike, but it was a pyrrhic victory. Brynwood cut its losses. The owners, and not the workers, own the factory in a capitalistic society.

The sale to Lance was also prompted by union activities. A new wave in labor disputes is to bring outside pressure on the employer, such as through public demonstrations. Last May, 100 striking workers picketed in front of Brynwood’s headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Publicity, acrimony, and unemployment followed. Lance wanted the cookies, but not the acrimony. The workers were left with the short end of the bread sticks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Bureaucracy is Alive and Well in California

Today is Thursday, October 8, 2009. Do you know where your bureaucrats are?

California’s state budget is hemorrhaging; state employees are being laid off, and furloughed. Such obstacles will not slow bureaucrats on their myopic tasks.

California is borrowing $8.4 billion in short term obligations to cover its budget, the third of the fiscal year. Yet the bureaucracy slugs along.

The estimated annual cost for a small business in California to comply with state regulations is $134,122. A moving van costs less.

Fiscal exigencies do not stop the bureaucracy. Three recent examples show how Sacramento and local governments are strangling California.

The state bureaucrats have just told Chinese rice noodle factories that the bureaucrats know how to prepare noodles better than the Chinese, who have only been preparing noodles for thousands of years in Asia and over 150 years in San Francisco. History has proven the safety of the noodles. But the bureaucrats in Sacramento know better.

The traditionalists store the noodles at room temperature for up to 8 hours.

The bureaucrats demand they be stored either at or below 41º or above 140º, either of which will render the noodles undesirable and arguably unedible.

The state inspectors recently shut down part of a San Francisco noodle factory, resulting in nine workers losing their jobs.

The Department of Public Health said it’s a matter of public safety and that ethnic foods are not treated any differently than any other foods.

Unless the legislature changes the law next year, more jobs will be lost.

Flat screen TV’s and Apple are the mainstays of the electronics market today. The California State Energy Commission has placed a bull’s eye on the big screens. It has proposed a regulation that will ban “energy inefficient” large screen TV’s. Sets sold after January 1, 2011 would have to reduce energy consumption by about 33%. Even tougher standards would become effective in 2013. 25% of current big screens and 100% of plasma screens larger than 58 inches would be banned.

The ban would in theory cut consumers’ electrical bills by $8.1 billion over 10 years, and reduce the need for new power plants.

California currently imports 30% of its electricity. As we learnt from the blackouts 6 years ago, California is not receptive to new power plants.

The new TV’s would supposedly save energy, but they may well consume less electricity than the large, e.g. 36," TV’s they would replace.

The argument is that TV’s consume 10% of household electricity and 2% of all of California’s electrical demand.

A greater source of all electrical consumption is spread throughout the residence. Our solid state appliances no longer need time to warm up, unlike the old vacuum tubes. Flip the on button and they are ready to go.

That’s because they’re always on.

Turn off the lights in your residence, and then count the red lights and clocks that remain on. I counted 16 in our house, and that doesn’t include the computer, monitor, and printer which are turned off when not in use.

The problem is often not the TV per se, but the video game consoles hooked up to them. If the California State Energy Commission banned the sale of video game consoles in California, our electricity demand would drop, and hundreds of thousands of parents would cheer.

Another example just occurred a few blocks from my house. Bagel Me is a franchised chain. The neighborhood Bagel Me was doing a land office business, often more than the local Starbucks. The tables with 60 seats were full in the morning with long lines to order.

However, parking is tight. Bagel Me shares the small building with a pre-school. The parking consists of 12 regular spaces and one handicapped spot. The City recently eliminated on-street parking in front of Bagel Me, increasing the parking pinch.

However, a strip mall is across a side street. The 10 store strip mall has 70 parking spots, and is usually only half full, at best. Thus, patrons of the pre-school and Bagel Me often parked in the privately owned strip mall.

The owners complained to the Director of Community Development (the euphemism for code enforcement) for the City of Tustin. The City’s response was to order Bagel Me to cut its seating in half to 30 seats.

The effect was immediate. Prior to the order, the restaurant lacked sufficient parking for the customers. To paraphrase the manager, now there’s insufficient seating for the customers. And soon, there will be no customers. The floor space looks like an empty stage.

Business is down substantially, and the city risks another empty store front.

If the strip mall was unhappy, it had every legal right as a private landowner to post signs stating that parking is limited to customers of the mall, and that violators will be towed. The onus would then be on it for any subsequent ill will. However, it got the city bureaucrats to cripple Bagel Me.

Even if Bagel Me may have exceeded its permitted limits, it should not be penalized for success in a perilous economy by a city bureaucrat.

Orange County, whose economy is based on diversified entrepreneurism, has already lost 15,000 entrepreneurs in this economic crisis. One more is about to bite the dust.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hollywood Mores and the Madness of Roman Polanski

Forget that Roman Polanski sodomized a 13 year old girl. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski plied a 13 year old girl with alcohol and Quaaludes, and then sodomized her – twice. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski sodomized a 13 year old girl after she said no. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski presents a compelling life story. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski survived the Holocaust. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski’s beautiful wife and unborn child were brutally murdered by Charles Manson and his followers. Polanski pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski is an artiste. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski is an artist. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski is an auteur. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski won an Oscar. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski faced 6 felony counts. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski felt 42 days was sufficient punishment for sodomizing a non-consenting 13 year old girl. He fled.

Forget that Roman Polanski fled the United States into the comfort and solace of 15 year old Nastassja Kinski. He pled guilty.

Forget that Roman Polanski entered into a $500,000 settlement with his victim, and then tried to stiff her on the payment.

130 Hollywood luminaries are willing to forget that Roman Polanski is a pedophile who sodomized a non-consenting 13 year old girl, pled guilty, and then fled to Europe. They want mercy for the fleeing felon.

Among the 130 is Woody Allen. Enough said.

Hollywood has its own set of mores and values.

I like to believe that most members of the Hollywood community lead quiet, normal family lives, just like the rest of us, unlike some of their flamboyant colleagues.

Some humans respond poorly to sudden fame, fortune, wealth, and power. Many of these are Hollywood celebrities, who with no discernable talent except to read lines or sing a song, have catapulted to exalted positions of prominence, engage in drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and serial divorces.

Some celebrities engage in the same double standards and hypocrisy as some politicians. Both can sometimes be amoral or immoral.

Whoopi Goldberg’s quote that Roman Polanski’s act did not constitute “rape-rape” illustrates the same definitional ambiguity of President Clinton who claimed that oral sex was not sex. Oral sex and sodomy are sex within the penal code of every jurisdiction.

Thank you Chris Rock for speaking out against Whoopi.

Hollywood, where one of its most hallowed traditions is the casting couch.

Hollywood’s mores are such that drug overdoses are an occupational hazard. Think John Belushi, River Phoenix, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Judy Garland, Dana Plato, Chris Farley, Anna Nicole Smith, not to mention Brian Epstein, Janet Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Moon, Sid Vicious, Ike Turner, Dinah Washington, and DJ AM.

Michael Douglas once made the interesting confession that he “was addicted to sex,” an addiction claim subsequently echoed by David Duchovny.

And some engage in bizarre relationships. Both Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn liked underage women, but neither pled guilty to statutory rape. Michael Jackson may have been a pedophile, but he never pled guilty.

Hollywood, like the academy and media, are politically far to the left of the American people. And yet this time none of the others of the Chattering Class are supporting Roman Polanski. Editorial writers and columnists display no sympathy for the fleeing felon.

Perhaps some of the Hollywood are living in a cocoon divorced from reality, perhaps some are incredibly naïve, and perhaps some are just dim bulbs.

Let Harvey Weinstein and his fellow signers petition Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a veteran of Hollywood mores, into pardoning Roman Polanski.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Fat Tax is Back

The Fat Tax on sodas is rearing its ugly little head again.

A September 16, 2009 article in the New England Journal of Medicine posited the case for reducing the consumption of sugared beverages by taxing them. The proposed tax is one cent per ounce for any beverage with added caloric sweeteners of one gram of sugar per ounce. One of the authors is Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner.

In other words a 20 ounce coke will cost an additional 20 cents, and a six pack of soda 72 cents.

They calculate that the sugar tax/fat tax could generate $14.9 billion in taxes the first year alone with states reaping additional sums, such as California $1.8 billion, Texas $1.2 billion, and New York $937 million.

The politicians are salivating on a sugar high.

Forget the health benefits. The revenues would be manna from Heaven for starved politicians, unleashing a gusher of revenues. They would feed the insatiable appetites of politicians, just like the tobacco settlements a few years ago. The fat taxes might even partially fund the health reform proposals before Congress.

The tax would, of course, be highly regressive, just as most “sin” taxes are regressive.

The authors surveyed the literature, did the math, ran their formulas, crunched the numbers, and reached conclusions.

All wrong! Like a Jack in the box, the bad idea keeps bouncing up.

If the purpose is to channel consumers to diet and natural drinks, then it is ill-advised. A 2005 study reported a correlation between the consumption of diet sodas and weight gain. Indeed, almost all the weight gain was associated with diet sodas.

The theory is that diet versus non-diet sodas is not the issue. The critical constraint is what else is on the plate.

The theory is, of course, the tax will result in at least a reduction of sugar consumption, resulting in lowered body weights and reduced health risks for Americans.

So would increased exercise.

If their theory is correct, then let’s not stop with sodas. Let’s extend the tax to desserts, fast food restaurants, pizzerias, ice cream parlors, bars and taverns.

Let’s look at our basic eating habits, starting with breakfast and skipping to dessert after dinner.

For breakfast, we could start with a Belgium waffle or French toast, covered with Vermont Maple Syrup, ham and Wisconsin cheese, bagels or English muffins with cream cheese, Canadian bacon and eggs, Polish sausage, a Danish or other pastries, and Columbian coffee and cream. Breakfast cereals include Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Froot Loops, and Lucky Charms. Or we could go out to Starbucks or the ubiquitous Cambodian donut shop.

For the main meal, we could eat Mongolian beef, Spanish rice, Hungarian goulash, German bratwurst, Chicago deep dish pizza, Philadelphia cheese steaks, or Swedish meatballs, unless we are a poor student in which case macaroni and cheese or ramen are on the menu. The four basic food groups for freshmen are beer, pizza, burgers, and subs.

We can quench our thirst with California wines, Kentucky bourbon, Old Milwaukee Beer, or Irish coffees.

As we finish with dessert, let us contemplate apple pie with Washington Delicious Apples, ice cream, pie ala mode, cake, New York cheesecake, and a truly decadent sachet torte. How about seconds?

If the problem is excessive intake of sugar, calories, and also salt, then let us peruse a supermarket. Stroll a modern supermarket, walk the aisles, glance the shelves, and toss any proscribed, fatty foods out as well as salty foods, which raise blood pressure and led to consuming additional beverages.

Wait, they’re ubiquitous.

Crackers and cookies; creams and sauces, chips and dips, canned soups and frozen pizzas, frozen dinners, pastries and donuts, pasta, sodas and power drinks, sausages, hot dogs and Idaho potato French fries, salad dressings, candy and gum, and butter.

Check out the deli section. The potato salads, roast beef, pastrami, salami sing a siren cry for consumption.

As we toss the unhealthy foods, we realize no need exists any longer for supermarkets.

How about the family eating out? We can choose from Mac Donalds, Burger King, Wendys, Carl’s Jr., Hardees, Jack in the Box, Rallys, Arby’s, Checkers, Sonic, In and Out, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Little Caesar, KFC, Chick Fil A, A & W, Baskin Robbins, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell.

If Commissioner Farley is serious, he could start by banning the Dove Bar carts from the streets of Manhattan.