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The Nanny State



All Reason.com articles with the "The Nanny State" tag.



Published: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 12:08:25 -0500

 



Why Won't the FDA Let Me Shove Chocolate Up My Nose?

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 12:15:00 -0500

(image) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going after a company that makes chocolate you can snort like snuff.

The FDA has sent a warning letter to the makers of Coco Loko, a snortable powder made from cacao, about how they were marketing and labeling their products.

Part of the complaint is stupid nanny-state nonsense. The makers of Coco Loko deliberately market themselves as an alternative to prohibited street drugs. In its complaint, the FDA absurdly complains that marketing Coco Loko as an alternative to drugs encourages the use of illegal drugs:

"As a physician and a parent, I'm deeply troubled by the unlawful marketing of these potentially dangerous products, especially since they are so easily accessible by minors. Encouraging the use of snortable chocolate as an alternative to illegal street drugs is not acceptable—there are very real consequences to snorting any powder, not to mention the societal dangers of promoting drug abuse,"' said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "At a time where drug addiction is threatening the fabric of American society, we must take action when we see efforts that may further fuel illicit drug abuse. We'll continue to vigorously target bad actors that sell unapproved products, including products that contain undeclared drug ingredients."

The FDA also claims that using Coco Loko can trigger vocal cord spasms and exacerbate asthma. And it notes that the product includes taurine and guarana—ingredients common to energy drinks—that have not been evaluated for intranasal consumption.

The FDA further warns that another product by the company—Legal Lean Syrup, a grape-flavored drink with herbal supplements—also contains a drug ingredient, doxylamine, that is not declared on labeling. That's a little bit more of a serious concern, as that drug is an ingredient in over-the-counter sleep aids and consumers might want to know that.

Finally, the FDA objects to either product being sold as "dietary supplements."

It looks like, in the end, the only thing the FDA isn't concerned about is people snorting chocolate. The FDA's response to Coco Loko's manufacturer, Arco Globus Trading, isn't as severe as it could have been, but that's because this hasn't reached the "enforcement" stage yet. The FDA is giving the company 15 days to explain how it's going fix all these problems. It isn't specifically telling the company that these products themselves are illegal...yet.

Nevertheless, the company has shut down its shop on the web, so you cannot buy the stuff online anymore. That will no doubt please fearmongering nannies like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), who started screaming over the summer that the FDA needs to do something about Coco Loco.

Like Gottlieb, Schumer leaned heavily on the complaint that the product was "easily accessible" to minors. As I noted at the time, a container with 10 doses was selling for $20 dollars. That made it fairly expensive, and it seems to me that it's unlikely to actually appeal to children, particularly since they could just buy an energy drink or a candy bar. Or both!

We'll have to wait and see if the company can able to handle all the labeling/marketing issues to the FDA's satisfaction. But I suspect the nannies have won this fight.




As Anniversary of End of Prohibition Nears, State Alcohol Rules Challenged

Sat, 02 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0500

Next week will mark the 84th anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed alcohol Prohibition. The repeal of Prohibition is worth celebrating, even if the amendment was (and remains) a deeply flawed vehicle. The chief flaw with the Amendment is, as I wrote earlier this year, that it "simply shifted much of the power to prohibit and incessantly regulate alcohol from the federal government to the states." States have truly made the most of their teetotalitarian authority for decades, to the detriment of both alcohol producers and—much more so—consumers. Much of the negative impacts of states' approach to alcohol regulation can be tied to what's known as the three-tier system, a Prohibition relic under which states generally prohibit direct alcohol sales from a brewer, vintner, or distiller to a consumer. The three-tier system mandates these alcohol producers first sell to a distributor or retailer—a mandatory middleman—who can then sell to actual drinkers. Laws that require this approach create a host of problems, including, for one, that they drive up consumer costs dramatically and needlessly. States' plenary control over alcohol has been controversial for decades, as this 1987 article in the Journal of Public Health Policy makes clear, noting that "the idea of a government monopoly of a consumer product seems odd and even bizarre[.]" Great arguments in favor of scrapping the dreaded three-tier system are often countered by those who claim doing so will bring about the end of days, or worse. As Jacob Sullum (who's more often than not right) noted in a 2015 piece, the apocalyptic scenarios floated by neo-Prohibitionists often make little sense, and tend to contradict each another. "The current system must be maintained because it makes drinking easier, and it must be maintained because it makes drinking harder," Sullum wrote, characterizing two central and diametrically opposing arguments in favor of maintaining state liquor monopolies. States with some form of liquor monopolies—there are currently seventeen of them—actually have their own lobby group, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. They're big supporters of monopoly "control." For example, the group notes that "citizens of Montgomery County, MD enjoy the many benefits offered by a control jurisdiction." I lived in Montgomery County for several years. At no point did I enjoy the county's monopoly, which restricted my choices. Washington State, where I now live, was the first state to rid itself of the three-tier system, after voters overturned the system in 2011. Not much appears different in Washington State today on its face. Each of the three tiers still exist. But alcohol rules here—enforced by the same government body that also now regulates cannabis in the state—no longer force all producers, distributors, and sellers to work together. They can—and do, in most cases—because they want to. As I've noted previously—as in this 2013 column—state alcohol regulations are generally trending in the right direction. For example, Indiana is currently taking baby steps to legalize Sunday alcohol sales. An Alcohol Code Revision Commission (yes, that's a thing) has proposed allowing some Sunday sales between noon and 8 p.m. The state isn't always the direct beneficiary of monopoly powers. Sometimes the state grants such powers to one powerful segment of the marketplace. But those laws, too, are falling out of favor. Next year, for example, Oklahoma will end a "virtual monopoly" on many sales enjoyed by liquor stores in the state. State alcohol monopolies are by no means a uniquely American problem. Take Canada, where laws often bar residents from bringing alcohol from one province to the next. But those laws, too, are under fire. Canada's highest court is set to hear arguments soon in a case which could spell the end of that ban and serve to rein in provincial alcohol monopolies. Back in Oklahoma, one liquor store owner there says he's "worried about losing a lot of business" [...]



Fearing 'Terrorism,' Middle School Cancels D.C. Trip

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:15:00 -0500

A middle school in Ohio has cancelled its 3-day student trip to Washington, D.C. Why? Because of terrorism, say school officials.

What the officials don't mention is their own inability to process the idea that just because the world is not perfectly safe does not mean that it is terribly dangerous. Not to mention their misguided sense that adults can control the entire world in all of its complexity simply by clutching kids closer.

As The Washington Post reports:

School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled "if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised," according to the letter sent Nov. 8 by North Ridgeville Academic Center Principal Amy Peck, trip adviser Brittany Cioffoletti and Jim Powell, the school district's superintendent.

"Sadly, we have reached that point," the letter continued. "Since our parent meeting, we have mourned with many across the country at the loss of lives in Las Vegas, Manhattan and Texas. [Recently,] a man was arrested near the White House after he made threats to the lives of our capital's police force. All of these incidents at 'soft targets' and public places have led to our difficult decision to cancel this year's trip . . . As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy."

Is allowing parents to drive their kids to and from school worth the potential for tragedy? Because the number one way that kids die is as car passengers, not as terrorism victims. As one Washington Post commenter asked, "Are there no math teachers at this school?" The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically low. So are the odds of being able to predict where the next "soft target" will be. What if the administrators cancelled the D.C. trip and said, "Instead, we're going someplace really safe: a small church in Texas"? We cannot predict everything that is going to happen.

It is not prudence at work here; it is the feeling that if anything terrible did happen, it would be the school's fault. Many parents can relate to that feeling. As the Post story continues:

"As a superintendent, every time we send kids on these kind of trips, I worry about it the whole time they're gone," [Powell] said. "It's a lot of responsibility."

But worry and responsibility are two different things. Responsibility is what you take to make the variables under your control safer. As superintendent, you put a stop sign in front of the school. You run some fire drills.

But it is not any human's responsibility—or ability—to predict and avoid the rarest and most random of fates.

Nonetheless, when something bad happens to a child outside the home, it is often framed as negligence—Why did the parents allow it?—though if a child falls down the stairs at home, it is usually framed as an accident.

That's why so many people are so scared to let their kids do anything, from playing outside to visiting D.C. They know that if something should go wrong, however unpredictable it may be, they are likely to be blamed.




California Demands Money from Gatorade to Protect Water from Slander

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 12:45:00 -0400

Good news, Californians! Attorney General Xavier Becerra is using your tax dollars to punish the real evildoers: those who would besmirch the good name of water. You might not think anyone would want to destroy water, since we'd all die without it. But you just don't understand the evils of corporate marketing strategies. Becerra does, though, and he has successfully fought off a malicious plot by a sports drink manufacturer to convince children that water is evil by giving out a mobile video game for free. And the world is just a little bit safer. This is not the plot of a bad Saturday morning cartoon from the '80s, people! It's real. In 2012, Gatorade introduced the world to Bolt!, a mobile game starring Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, noted for his sprinting skills. That was what the game was about: Players made Bolt run and pick up gold coins. If players hit a Gatorade logo, he would run even faster. If they hit water, though, he would slow down and lose energy. Now, you might say to yourself, "Well, water would kind of be a threat to a sprinter if he's trying to run." And people with a lengthy history of playing video games might recognize that water is often represented as a threat and a slowing effect to be avoided in any kind of game that involves running or driving very quickly. And in any event, you might think it unlikely that this game would cause anyone to actually stop drinking water. Thank God we have Becerra here to set us straight. This game was actually a marketing conspiracy to turn people—especially children—against water so they'll drink Gatorade instead. Fortunately, we have Becerra here to protect water's good name. Becerra accused Gatorade of false advertising, and he has managed to extract a settlement from the company. His office notes: Gatorade promoted "Bolt!" on social media, drawing in a youthful audience of which more than 70 percent was aged 13 to 24. The app amassed more than 2.3 million downloads and 87 million games played worldwide in 2012 and 2013. The app was also made available on iTunes for a period of time in 2017. "Bolt!" was downloaded an estimated 30,000 times in California. It is no longer available for download. As part of the settlement, Gatorade will be required to pay $300,000, of which $120,000 will be used to fund research or education on water consumption and the nutrition of children and teenagers. In addition, the settlement requires Gatorade to disclose endorser relationships in any social media posts and prohibits the company from advertising its products in media where children under age 12 comprise more than 35 percent of the audience. The settlement also prohibits the company from negatively depicting water in any form of advertisement. The population of California, by the way, is 39 million people. So less than .1 percent of the state's population ever saw this game; most probably never even knew it existed. Guess where the rest of the settlement goes? It goes to Becerra's office. Some cynical people might argue such a mechanism creates a financial incentive for the attorney general's office to exaggerate the nature of a deep-pocketed defendant's misdeeds. What inspired this absurd idea that water needs the government to protect it from defamation? It's all about the nanny state. Gatorade has plenty of sugar in it. The original version has 21 grams of sugar per serving, though there are also low-calorie powder versions with about half that amount. And yes, they do market themselves deliberately as an alternative to water, but also specifically for those involved in athletic activities. So this is another mechanism for the state's health nannies to go on the attack against sugary drinks and try to get money for it. Why bother trying to convince the citizenry to raise taxes on sodas when they can just take the money directly from the corporations? The press release from Becerra's office makes it clear their attack is partly driven by a desire to control children's sugar intak[...]



FDA Pushing Forward with Terrible Menu-Labeling Rules

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 00:01:00 -0400

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the agency will forge ahead with implementing the Obama administration's costly, misguided, pointless, reckless, and potentially unconstitutional menu-labeling rules. "As a doctor, father[,] and the head of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, I believe that everyone is entitled to the information they need to make informed decisions about the food they eat," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement earlier this week. "We serve as the nation's expert on food labeling, which is why Congress entrusted us with the responsibility of crafting predictable, uniform federal standards that will benefit the health of families across America by ensuring access to essential calorie and nutrition information on food and menu labels." I will give Gottlieb that he's a doctor, father, and the head of the FDA. After that, the facts become murky. For example, if the FDA were indeed "the nation's expert on food labeling," as Gottlieb claims, one way the agency might demonstrate that expertise is by not forcing America's food manufacturers to change their food labels every couple years. Nevertheless, Gottlieb's rationale about Americans' nebulous entitlement to information is predictably familiar. It's been trumpeted in recent years by those who support mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods, mandatory "added sugar" labeling, mandatory trans fat labeling, and pretty much every other potential food-labeling requirement under the sun. So what's wrong with mandatory menu labeling? For one, as Politico reported this week in a piece on the FDA's menu labeling plans, there's some debate over its effectiveness. "[E]vidence on whether it works is mixed," Politico notes. "Some studies have found that it helps certain individuals, especially women, eat slightly fewer calories, but others have found no effect." I wish Politico had also reported perhaps the most significant evidence around menu labeling: Its very basis is a ruse. Research has shown mandatory menu labeling doesn't help most people choose to eat fewer calories, and may in fact push people to eat more calories. "Who cares about calories?" asked a 2013 NBC News headline. "Restaurant menu labels don't work, study shows." "[A]t no time did the labels lead to a reduction in the calories of what diners ordered," the New York Times reported in 2015. "Even if people noticed the calorie counts, they did not change their behavior." Estimates of the escalating costs of complying with the FDA rules is another reason to hate the rules. A new study by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), estimates the regulations will cost its members more than $84 million each year. "The way the FDA rule is written makes it virtually impossible for businesses to comply with the regulations even though they will spend billions over the next several years trying to do so," says economist David Zorn, who authored the NACS study. Compliance costs for the entire food industry are estimated to run somewhere north of $300 million per year. Even with all those costs, attempting to comply with the rules may prove futile. As I wrote earlier this summer, complying with these rules may be somewhere between difficult and impossible for many food sellers. Take, for example, pizza-delivery outfits like Domino's. "With 34 million ways to make a pizza, it makes no common sense to require this industry—which already discloses calories voluntarily, for the most part—to attempt to cram this information on menu boards in small storefronts," said Lynn Liddle, who chairs the American Pizza Community, a coalition representing much of the American pizza industry, in an email to me in 2013. If menu labeling is costly, impossible, and ineffective—something I've written time and again—then why doesn't the FDA just scrap the plan altogether? The truth is that the issue is largely out of the agency's hands. Congress passed a law that [...]



San Francisco Bureaucrats Ban Sand at Playgrounds

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:45:00 -0400

(image) Don't bother bringing a plastic shovel when you head to a San Francisco playground with the kids. The city is eliminating sand from all of its local playgrounds.

According to Christin Ayers at KCBS, the city regards sandboxes as unsafe. Connie Chan, a spokesperson for the city's Recreation and Parks Department, claims, "We often face issues such as sharp objects, broken glass, even cat feces in our sandboxes throughout our playgrounds."

Joe Frost, a professor who has written 19 books on play and playgrounds, once had his grad students call up doctors around the country to see if any of them had ever treated a child for a disease or parasite picked up in the sandbox. The result? None of the doctors had ever treated any child for any disease or parasite picked up in a sandbox.

According to KCBS, the city also justifies its no-sand policy on the grounds that, "back in 2015, vandals trashed Delores Park's playground, leaving dozens of bottles strewn in the sand. So Recreation and Parks made a choice to start phasing out all of the city's sandboxes."

But that makes about as much sense as phasing out the city's canine population because one dog bit one city worker.

In reality, sand is more than just fun stuff for kids. It also offers numerous educational benefits. That is why so many preschools have sand tables for the kids to play in.

As Early Childhood News explains:

Why Play in Sand?

There is no right way to use sand. It invites participation; it permits children to make and test hypotheses; it stretches the imagination; it provides a potentially soothing sensory experience; and it is an excellent avenue for children to learn physical, cognitive, and social skills.

Because sand play is open-ended, the child determines the direction and path of his or her own play. This freedom then clears the way for the child to build developmental concepts.

It shouldn't require a thesis on "The Stimulatory Effects of Particulate Matter on Fine Motor Skills" for a city recreation department to realize that sand is a wonderful thing that benefits children of all ages.




New York City Sued Over Unconstitutional Menu-Labeling Law

Sat, 29 Jul 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Earlier this month, several food-industry groups sued New York City in an effort to halt Mayor Bill de Blasio's plans to begin enforcing the city's mandatory menu-labeling law next month. The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Law Center—along with the Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Convenience Stores, and New York Association of Convenience Stores—filed suit on July 14 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The suit argues the city's menu-labeling law—which I wrote about here in May, before the lawsuit—conflicts with a federal menu-labeling law, passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, even though enforcement of the pertinent portion of that federal law has yet to begin. The plaintiffs contend that under the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, New York City's "premature enforcement is preempted by federal law." That conflict is very real. The federal law and New York City law are similar but not identical, something the city admits freely. For example, the federal rules apply to restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide, while the New York City rules apply to restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide. And, as the lawsuit states, implementation of the federal rules has been delayed several times—most recently until May 2018—while New York City's rules are set to take effect next month. These differences matter. When Congress passed the menu-labeling law as part of Obamacare, notes this month's lawsuit, it "prohibit[ed] any state or locality from imposing any food labeling regulation 'that is not identical to'" the federal law. Nevertheless, Mayor de Blasio announced in May that the city would move ahead with enforcing its rules in part due to perceived federal foot-dragging. "We can no longer wait for federal action, and urge other cities to follow our lead," de Blasio said. The mayor's decision to "lead" means the staggering cost of doing business in New York City will rise even more for an estimated 3,000 restaurants there. Restaurateurs have argued the rules present them with "a legal quandary." Complying with menu-labeling laws is high—up to $1,000 for each menu item, according to the lawsuit. But so too are potential fines for noncompliance. In fact, the lawsuit was filed shortly after Mayor de Blasio announced the city would begin later this summer to issue fines of up to $600 for violations of the rules. Costs are very much at the heart of the debate over mandatory menu labeling. As I've explained before, the National Restaurant Association pushed for federal law as a way of avoiding the prohibitive costs of complying with potentially hundreds of local and state menu-labeling laws. In addition to these costs, the very basis of compulsory menu-labeling laws is flawed. While New York City is the scene of compulsory menu labeling's earliest triumph, it's also the site of many of its most public failures. In 2008, the city, under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, became the first in the nation to "to require chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards." The purpose of the law was to help consumers choose lower-calorie options. But subsequent research on the menu-labeling law—see here, here, here, and here, for starters—has shown it to be ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst. Rushing headlong to comply with a federal law that's inherently flawed, still in flux, and which may never take effect—a recent analysis suggests the FDA's delay in implementing the law has called "perhaps its core validity... into public question"—would be foolhardy. But in New York City, the costs of noncompliance with the looming local rules are now an immediate threat. "Plaintiffs' members should not be forced to alter their business models, or be marked as lawbreakers, because of New York City's ill-considered decision to jump ahead of the national regulatory regime," the lawsui[...]



Brickbat: Wasn't This Banned by the Magna Carta?

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Andre Spicer's daughter set up a lemonade stand near their home in London, England. A festival was taking place nearby, so her business was brisk. But about 30 minutes after she set the stand up, four code enforcement officers confronted her and handed her a £150 fine for not having a trading permit.




Shake Your Head at Italy's Crappy New Food Laws

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Italy is home to some of the best and most memorable meals I've ever eaten. I first visited in 1994, after graduating from college, and have returned on several occasions. Some of my fondest memories are of sampling wonderful street food in Milan, drinking and dining al fresco amid the lights at night in Rome, and enjoying the amazing aromas of wonderful cooking foods that practically permeate the country. That's why I'm disheartened to learn that Italy is increasingly cracking down on its food culture—including, specifically, the aforementioned Milanese street food, drinking and dining outdoors in Rome, and the grand aromas of the country's food. Earlier this month, Milan banned food trucks from the city. Also in July, reports The Local, Rome imposed a series of bans on food and alcohol. The Roman law prohibits grocers and other stores from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. and bars people from drinking alcohol from a glass in public at that same time. It also prohibits all alcohol consumption outdoors after midnight, and cuts off all alcohol sales after 2 a.m. Rome has also joined other Italian cities—notably Florence—in prohibiting picnicking at popular historic sites. The first Saturday the alcohol ban was in place, Roman police issued more than three dozen tickets, which cost about $200 a pop. Many Romans are aghast. "It limits our freedom as a business, and our free choice as responsible adults to be able to drink after 2 a.m.," the owners of Redrum, a restaurant and bar, told The Local. "[It is] a curfew which recalls decidedly sad periods of our history." At least one U.S. publication doesn't see the big deal. Food & Wine—a magazine devoted to celebrating some of the specific things Rome has banned: food and wine—apparently doesn't see the big deal with the Roman law. "Truthfully, it doesn't sound like the law should be difficult to abide," writes F&W's Elisabeth Sherman. "You'll still be able to enjoy Rome with respect, and a glass of wine in your hand, at least until two in the morning. By then, you should be in bed anyway." This isn't all Italy's getting wrong. This month, the country's highest court ruled that restaurants that serve frozen food to customers without declaring so on their menus are guilty of civil fraud. A restaurateur who'd disputed the charges was fined more than $2,000. "Even the mere availability of frozen food, if not identified as such on the menu, constitutes attempted commercial fraud," said the ruling. (Canned tomatoes are apparently still acceptable.) In April, the same court ruled, the New York Post reports, that "cooking stinky food—like rich pasta sauces and fish—too close to neighbors" constitutes a crime. The court, in upholding a couple's fine of more than $2,000, declared cooking food that produces aromas which are subjectively "beyond the limits of tolerability" amounts to "olfactory molestation." A creeping food xenophobia also appears to be taking hold in the country. Last year, Florence imposed restrictions on so-called "foreign" food from being sold in the historic city center. Fair Verona barred "ethnic" foods. This year, Venice banned new fast food outlets, focusing in part on kebab shops, in order to preserve Italian "decorum and traditions." Add to these recent crackdowns the country's ban on cultivating GMO crops and the creeping takeover of the food sector by the mafia, and Italy's future as a culinary titan would seem to be in jeopardy. It was only last summer that I wrote here about a new food law Italy had gotten right. In that case, Italy took action to combat food waste by rolling back complex government recordkeeping requirements and rules barring food from being shared. But one good law can't stand up to heaps of awful ones, which seems to be about all that's cooking in Italy these days.[...]



Jilted Dentist Calls CPS on Mom

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 11:45:00 -0400

(image) Melissa Lopez, a resident of Ontario, Canada, took her 10-year-old daughter to the dentist and was informed that the child had a mouthful of cavities. Lopez was told to bring her daughter back in soon to have fillings done.

But Lopez wanted a second opinion so she switched dentists. The second dentist found fewer cavities.

In the meantime, the first dentist reported Lopez to child protective services for possible "oral neglect."

When the authorities investigated, they discovered that Lopez was not an abusive mom but rather a skeptical consumer of dentistry. So the authorities quickly dropped the investigation and closed the case.

Unfortunately, child protective services is refusing to remove the investigation file from the books. According to the CBC:

[T]he file, Lopez claims she was told, is permanent.

"It will always be there, 10, 15, 20 years from now," she said. "I'm red-flagged, I've been marked, and there's no reason for this to have happened."

The agency says it retains files for "accountability." But if the charges were found meritless, why should they remain a permanent part of Lopez's record?

Under Canadian law, individuals may petition to have criminal charges erased from their records starting five months after the charges are withdrawn, dismissed, or the suspect is acquitted. Yet child protective services will mark Lopez for life. As the CBC reports:

Andrea Maenza, communications co-ordinator for the Durham Children's Aid Society, said that [its] protocol is mandated by the Child and Family Services Act.... [She] stressed that there aren't necessarily negative implications from having a permanent case file, since all the information about the interaction is included, including why it was closed.

"An individual can ask for a copy of their record to know exactly what it says," she added.

I wouldn't feel better knowing that I could ask for a file about myself and find it filled with baseless accusations that were eventually cleared. I'd feel better if anyone who asked about me was told, "Sorry, this person doesn't have a record."

As for the dentist, the folks at child protective services say he did the right thing by alerting them to the mom's possible negligence. Never mind the damage done to the mother's reputation.

Something has gone very wrong in the law when an innocent family can be dragged through the mud like this.




Want to Look at Online Porn? The U.K. Gov't Wants to Strip You of Your Privacy

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 16:45:00 -0400

(image) Prime Minister Theresa May's administration wants to demolish British citizens' privacy if they look at pornography online.

That's not what the government saying, but that's exactly what's going to happen. The United Kingdom is tightening its controls on internet porn in an efforit to keep children away. They're doing this by mandating that porn companies collect proof that anybody attempting to visit a site is a legal adult before letting him see so much as a nipple. This could potentially force people to surrender private information—a credit card number, for example—just to get access, let alone download anything.

The authorities plan to get this system in place by next spring. The enforcement looks pretty severe, according to Ars Technica:

Sites that refuse to cooperate face the wrath of earmarked regulator the British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC). It will have the power to dish out fines of up to £250,000 [about $325,000] for non-compliance, cut loose misbehaving porn operators from their payment providers, advertisers, and other ancillary services that they use in the UK, or they could be blocked by ISPs—a method that the government's DCMS parliamentary under-secretary Lord Ashton previously insisted" would be used sparingly."

Ars Technica notes that many of these porn sites are not based in the United Kingdom, and that it's going to be hard to implement a policy that people can't work around. But more importantly: For the sites that are forced into compliance, what could potentially happen to that data if it's breached? This isn't just porn purchases being tracked now. It's porn site visits attached to an identifiable person's name:

"Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK's porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks," argued Open Rights Group director Jim Killock.

"The government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of Web users," he said, adding: "There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification."

Let us not forget that May's government has implemented the Investigatory Powers Act, which requires internet providers store users' online histories for access by various government agencies in crime-fighting efforts.

Let us also not forget that even when granting that adults have the right to look at pornography, the U.K. government demands the authority to decide what sort of sexual practices you are allowed to enjoy. The government nanny is not fond of kinksters who get their jollies off naughty fetishes where people do mean things to each other.

Last year Ars Technica documented just how difficult it will actually be for the U.K. to keep people—even those under the age of 18—from accessing internet porn. Read more about it here.




Chuck Schumer Thinks He Needs to Stop You from Shoving Chocolate Up Your Nose

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Apparently some people are snorting raw chocolate powder like it's snuff. Rather than pointing out that chocolate is so much more fun to eat, meddlesome Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate it. Meet Coko Loko, a snortable raw cacao concoction that also includes caffeine powder and other (perfectly legal) ingredients associated with energy drinks. Given the open and relatively cheap access to these products, it's not exactly clear why anybody would prefer an awkward snuff-influenced delivery system (it's faster, apparently), but that's a marketplace issue. If people want to buy chocolate and snort it up their nose, that's their business. That's not good enough for Schumer. Coco Loko got a recent burst of media publicity, which has prompted Schumer to send a letter to the FDA over the weekend to demand that they do something about people doing things he doesn't want them to. His complaint (via USA Today): "This suspect product has no clear health value," he said in a statement. "I can't think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses." It may be a struggle for us to visualize a child who would rather shove chocolate up his or her nose rather than eat it, but we lack the capacity to see the citizenry as a collection of hapless Ralph Wiggums the way Schumer does. Coko Loko is sold online for about $20 per small container, each of which holds about 10 doses; it is also available in some shops. That price is a pretty clear indicator that kids aren't going to be getting their hands on it easily. They can get 15 Kit Kat bars for that! This is not unlike the absurd belief that kids are going to regularly get their hands on costly marijuana edibles that look like candy. But Schumer's "for the children" complaint is really about his regulatory war on powdered caffeine and the general panic about anything that is connected to energy-drink-like concoctions. Reason's Jacob Sullum has regularly taken note of the exaggerated fearmongering around energy drinks. Caffeine powder on its own can potentially be dangerous. But in the case of Coko Loko, we're dealing with much smaller amounts. Apparently the product's creator got the idea from Europe, where snortable cacao is apparently a thing and has been sold there for a while, according to a Denver Post report. The Post already turned to the FDA to see if it is going to meddle in the sales, even before Schumer started yelling about it. It's not yet clear whether the government is going to try to stop you from putting chocolate up your nose, but it is clear that it believes it has the power to do so if it so chooses. Schumer's miserable need to interfere in your consumption choices doesn't end with caffeine. He frequently uses his powerful position as a senator to call for bans on anything he finds troublesome, from laser pointers to violent video games to virtual currencies. Indeed, his inane insistence on the federal government's role in monitoring what people put into their bodies landed him on Reason's list of enemies of freedom. If you're actually curious about Coko Loko, here's a fellow trying it out on YouTube: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/a08ybhnSt5k" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]



Dad Beats the Crap Out of Good Samaritan Who Was Trying to Help His Lost Kid

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 11:16:00 -0400

When a man noticed a little girl wandering by herself near a softball game in Lakeland, Florida, he correctly assumed the child was lost. So he tried to help her find her family. But when the girl's father was alerted by bystanders that some stranger was walking towards the playground with his daughter, the father went and punched the man out. The police report is here. As NBC News describes, "the well-intentioned act was mistaken for a kidnapping attempt." You know why? Because far too many people have a sort of movie-plot scenario on infinite-loop in their brains, telling them that children routinely get abducted in public by strangers. "I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do?" the father told NBC affiliate WFLA in a phone interview. "I wanted to kill him!" --Thinking they were stopping a crime, the father and two friends approached the stranger: As his friends took the toddler away, the father punched the good Samaritan "probably five or six times," he told WFLA. "I thought he was trying to take my daughter." Perhaps the father was among the 12 million people who watched Joey Salads' video in which he shows how "easy" it is to steal a child from a park—making it seem like this kind of thing is happening all the time. But the Salads video ignores two key facts: Most people do not steal children. It is the rarest of crimes. The tragic but less exciting truth is that our children are in far more danger from people they know than they are from strangers. To make matters worse, even after the police concluded that this was indeed a Good Samaritan trying to help a lost child, the child's father remained defiant and unapologetic about his violent actions: The father and his friends were not satisfied with the man's explanation or that of the police. "So, I guess in Lakeland, you can kidnap a child and get away with it," the father said to police, local media reported. The police report, local media said, described the father as "increasingly agitated." According to WFLA, other media outlets and police, family members and friends went on social media and shared the man's photo, his Facebook page and his place of business, "calling him a child predator," WFLA said. The Good Samaritan, now fearing for his life, has fled town. Meanwhile, the police are reminding the family that, "accounts of this incident have circulated on social media with false information and speculation. Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held [liable]." The whole incident makes you understand this tragic story from 2002. In England, a man named Clive Peachey saw a lost toddler on the side of the road and considered stopping to pick her up and helping her to find her parents. But he drove on. She was not walking straight, she was tottering, said Mr Peachey. "I kept thinking should I go back? One of the reasons I did not go back is because I thought someone would see me and think I was trying to abduct her." The lost toddler later drowned in a pond. To make the world safer for kids, we need to stop viewing all stranger-child interactions as potential crimes.[...]



The Truth About Seattle's Proposed Soda Tax and its Ilk

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Seattle lawmakers are expected to vote early next week on a citywide soda tax that would add more than $2.50 to the cost of a twelve-pack of soda. The tax would undoubtedly drive consumers—at least those Seattle residents with cars and Costco memberships, including me—to buy more groceries in the city's suburbs. But Seattle's proposed tax is just one cog in the larger misguided, ongoing campaign against soda by lawmakers in this country. After years of defeats, supporters of soda taxes have scored several recent victories and are increasingly on the attack. "There's an awful lot of things that governments could do, but they will only do it and devote money into it if the public demands it," former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week in comments on his self-funded anti-soda agenda. "So increasing awareness among the public of what problems they and their children face is a very big deal." That quote's worth a moment of parsing. In the first sentence, Bloomberg is acknowledging the public is not demanding soda taxes. Rather, he is. In the second sentence, Bloomberg is suggesting American families will only know what problems they and their children are facing if a billionaire like him points these problems out to them and ensures their local government taxes them to make those problems somehow vanish through taxation. But most consumers are smarter than that. Voters in Santa Fe, N.M., for example, overwhelmingly rejected a paternalistic soda tax there last month. Back to Seattle, where I spoke out against the proposed tax in a local NPR appearance in March. (I've also written on the topic here countless times.) Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who proposed the city's tax earlier this year, later expanded it to include diet sodas, which he characterized as a way of, er, fighting white privilege. The mayor's actions came after a racial-equity analysis revealed what most people know already: the soda tax would disproportionately target African American and Latino consumers, who are more likely to drink full-calorie sweetened drinks than are white consumers, who are more likely to drink no- or low-calorie sweetened drinks. "The changes were recommendations that emerged when staff from the mayor's office and the office of Councilmember Tim Burgess studied disparate impacts the tax could have on people with low incomes and on people of color, according to Murray," the Seattle Times reported. "The mayor says he decided to include diet drinks to make the tax more fair, because numbers show more wealthy white people drink diet soda, while minorities drink regular soda," reported MyNorthwest. Despite his efforts, the city council rejected Mayor Murray's proposal to expand the soda tax to include diet drinks, and is expected to vote on the measure next week. Two city council members voted against the bill because "they couldn't support a tax that would disproportionately burden low-income people and people of color." Could Mayor Murray veto the bill for the same reason? He should, even if it's unlikely. If the bill were to become law, an interesting angle to any potential lawsuit might be the racially disparate impact of the tax. Who might sue to overturn a soda tax in the city? Opponents of Seattle's proposed soda tax include the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and a coalition known as Keep Seattle Livable for All. Seattle's best-known soda company also opposes the tax. "I think it targets one industry unnecessarily so," said Jennifer Cue of Jones Soda, a national craft-soda maker based (at least for now) in Seattle. Cue is right. But there are other very good reasons to oppose soda taxes. For example, some city council m[...]



Mandating Menu Labeling is Foolish, Not 'Easy'

Sat, 27 May 2017 08:00:00 -0400

This week, New York City—the first place in America to require chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus—expanded the reach of its menu-labeling law. The city is now "the first municipality to require grocery and convenience stores with more than 15 outlets nationwide to clearly display calorie counts for prepared foods and beverages and have additional nutritional information available upon request," reports New York's Fox 5. "The rules will apply to about 1,500 food retailers." This expansion is a microcosm of a larger, ongoing debate in Washington over the fate of federal menu-labeling rules. In a column last month, I correctly predicted the agency responsible for implementing the rules, the FDA, was likely to delay—once again—implementing enforcement of its menu-labeling rules. The agency delayed enforcing the rules—which were mandated by Congress under 2010's Affordable Care Act—for one year, just days before enforcement was set to begin. I oppose mandatory menu labeling for many reasons. For one: it's ineffective. Research has shown that posting mandatory calorie counts on restaurant menus doesn't help people make better choices. One key sticking point in Washington is whether the federal rules should apply (as they now do in New York City) to grocery and convenience stores, along with pizza chains. This week, the USA Today editorial board weighed in on the issue. Apparently, the USA Today editors have never seen a less intractable problem than devising and complying with menu-labeling rules. "It's not rocket science," the USA Today editors note. It's "so seemingly simple." Isn't it even a little bit difficult? Nope. "[H]ow hard can it be to post a small sign over each offering with a calorie count?" they ask. "Not very." The alleged simplicity of devising and complying with menu-labeling rules is a common argument in support of them. If it's so easy to provide calorie information, then certainly one place that must have figured it out is the Breaking News Café, located inside USA Today's Mclean, Va. headquarters. I called this week to ask. The woman who answered the switchboard at Gannett (USA Today's parent company) at noon on Thursday said she could not connect me with the cafe because she did not have their updated number. But she volunteered to me that she has not seen calorie information during the times she has been in the Breaking News Café. (She then connected me with catering, where the phone rang a few times before I was disconnected.) I did a bit more poking around. While many of the two-dozen or so photos of the cafe show food on sale, I did not see any calorie counts displayed. Maybe this is because the calorie information just isn't there. Or it could be because the information is present but goes unnoticed (which would track with research that most people don't even see calorie counts on menus, hence defeating their very purpose). Or maybe there's a long, sad trail of unanswered internal memos from USA Today's editors demanding calorie counts be displayed at the Breaking News Café. I don't know. (No one responded to my Thursday email to the editorial board.) One thing I do know, though, is that the USA Today editorial gets at least one key fact wrong about menu labeling when it argues the FDA rules place "no burdens on small business, as the law applies only to chains with 20 or more outlets." As I've written time and again, that's not how it actually works. Franchisees—small-businesspeople who own one or more restaurants that USA Today argues should be subject to the rules, such as your local Domino's franchisee—could be forced to comply with the rules. A small businesswoman who owns o[...]