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The Nanny State



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



Published: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 08:40:06 -0500

 



Tobacco Sales Regs Punish Poor People

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:15:00 -0500

Store owner Kamal Saleh was just hit with thousands of dollars in fines.

His crime? He sold three cigars for $8.89. "Too cheap!" say New York City bureaucrats. "The cigars should have cost 11 cents more."

Politicians want you to spend more for tobacco.

They decided this after anti-smoking crusader Dr. Kurt Ribisl told the Centers for Disease Control, "Higher prices will deter children from smoking."

A pit of socialist micromanagers called the New York City Council quickly embraced the idea. "It's also being considered very seriously in a number of jurisdictions in California," Ribisl told me.

When health totalitarians make suggestions, leftist politicians jump.

Ribisl also told the CDC, "Very cheap (tobacco) products should no longer be available." So for my YouTube video this week, I asked him, "Why do you get to decide?!"

"No, I'm not deciding," he insisted. "I'm a person who studies these policies. I'll let the policymakers decide."

OK, I sighed, "Why do the politicians get to decide?"

"Cigarettes are the most lethal product ever introduced," he replied.

That may be true, although few people realize that half the people who smoke do not die from tobacco-related illness.

Fatty foods, swimming pools and cars also kill lots of people. Maybe the health police will raise their prices next.

But so far, it's just tobacco. At Ribisl's urging, New York City adopted price floors and taxes to bring the price of a pack of cigarettes to $13 a pack.

"People still have the ability to buy it, if they so choose," he said.

"Just not poor people," I told him. "You're screwing poor people."

"We see much higher smoking rates among poor people," answered Ribisl. "We need policies that are going to reduce tobacco use among poor people."

I think all people should get to decide for themselves, but Ribisl wants to engineer "a transition toward thinking more about healthy food and beverage."

At the CDC, Ribisl suggested that it should also be government policy to "reduce the number of tobacco stores."

That seems cruel to store owners like Kamal Saleh, but Ribisl said, "We're not interested in putting stores out of business ... They're going to find new products to sell."

Really? How does he know?

New York already has a blizzard of regulations that put little stores out of business.

Tobacco sales regulations alone go on for 47 pages—confusing pages filled with fine print like: "the price floor for any package of cigars that contains more than one cigar and that has been delivered to a retail dealer in a package described by subdivision a of section 17-704 shall be computed by multiplying the number of cigars in the package by $1.75 and adding $6.25 to the total."

The 47 pages are just for tobacco sales. "For food, refrigeration, deliveries and everything else, the administrative code could be thousands of pages," says lawyer Andrew Tilem.

Tilem defends store owners who get fined. Many can barely afford to pay him. Sometimes they pay in "fish and paper plates and tortillas." Those who can't afford to hire a lawyer may just go out of business.

City Council meddlers, who often complain about "big business," don't notice that their own rules make the big businesses bigger.

"The big guy can hire lawyers," says Tilem. "It's the little guy who's trying to pinch his pennies and make a dollar that has the biggest problem."

Playing devil's advocate, I tell him, the government just wants to protect people's health.

"I'm not a smoking advocate," Tilem replied, "but I think in this country ... people have the right to do the wrong thing."

We should.

Watch this week's video:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ooij2haLO-w" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">




Chicago Suburb Cracks Down on Man Trying to Provide Shelter for Homeless

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 15:48:00 -0500

(image) Greg Schiller wanted to help homeless people in his area, so last winter he opened up his garage to them as a place to sleep during cold nights. Then an EMT informed him that he wasn't allowed to house people in his garage.

So this winter, Schiller decided to throw "slumber parties" in his basement during cold nights, offering food, beverages, cots, and movies. Schiller said he didn't permit drugs or alcohol in his residence.

The government of Elgin, Illinois, where Schiller lives, didn't like this idea either.

Police officers and city officials showed up at Schiller's home with a warrant Tuesday and inspected the unfinished basement. They then claimed its ceiling was too low and its windows were too high and too small to exit through them. According to Schiller, they told him to shut down his operation and turn his basement back into storage within 24 hours or they would condemn the house.

"While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community," city spokesperson Molly Center said in a statement, "Mr. Schiller's house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and insufficient exits in the event of a fire."

The Elgin crackdown is a predictable escalation of a nanny-state culture that's popular at all levels of government. Centering government action around safety (from drugs, from Kinder eggs, from sledding, from whatever) invites that action into our personal spaces—even if, as in this case, the result is to make people less safe. Which is more likely: that a homeless man will die in Schiller's basement, or that he'll die sleeping in the cold?

Related: "Feeding the Homeless? There Could Be a Law Against That"




The 10 Worst Helicopter Parenting Moments of 2017

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 07:00:00 -0500

1. MOM TICKETED* FOR TRYING TO GET HER BABY OUT OF THE CAR An Omaha woman taking her niece out of an SUV when the wind blew the door shut and the car locked with her keys and the child inside. The mom, the aunt and two other relatives tried frantically to open the door using a hanger and screwdriver, and when they couldn't, they called 911. The cops arrived, broke the window, and got the child out, safe and sound. Then ticketed mom on "suspicion of child abuse by neglect." 2. DAD FORCED TO INFANTILIZE HIS KIDS Vancouver dad Adrian Crook taught his kids 7, 8, 9 and 11 how to ride the city bus to and from school and that's what they had done, without incident, for the past two years. Then someone reported these "unsupervised" kids to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, which informed Crook that children under 10 years old cannot be unsupervised in or outside the home, for any amount of time. The 11-year-old didn't count as a chaperone. The kids can no longer ride the bus—or even walk to the corner store—without an adult accompanying them. 3. CARTOONIST ORDERED NOT TO DRAW ALIENS WITHOUT LIFE VESTS Cartoonist Nick Confalone released a list of the changes demanded by the "Standards and Practices" lawyers at his television job. These included: "When we first see the aliens waking up on the beach, we should see that they are clearly wearing life jackets." "Please ensure all daredevil tight-ropers are only a few feet off the ground and wearing appropriate safety gear." And "Both characters should be wearing helmets while riding the T-Rex." 4. STUDENTS DENIED ANNUAL D.C. TRIP BY SCAREDY-CAT ADMINISTRATORS The North Ridgeville Academic Center in Ohio cancelled its annual three-day student trip to Washington, D.C. because of the threat of terrorism. Never mind that the terrorists might not know the exact dates and places on the school's itinerary. the students were visiting. "As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority," the principal wrote to parents, "and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy." Not only are the odds of dying in a terrorist attack astronomically low, they are far lower than the odds of dying in a car ride to the school. As one commenter asked, "Are there no math teachers at this school?" 5. NEWSPAPER RUNS "ABDUCTION" STORY THAT MOM MADE UP A Reno mom posted on Facebook she was almost certain she, her husband and kids were about to be kidnapped and sex trafficked, because when they went into the parking garage, there was another car there with four people already in it. One had a device in his ear! The mom added: "Just because it didn't happen to us that night doesn't mean it couldn't happen." Which is technically correct…about everything. Not only was her post was shared thousands of times, the Reno Gazette Journal ran an article about the mom's intuition, accompanied by a map pinpointing where the abduction did not occur. (But could have!) David Finkelor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, reports that not only is snatching young children from their parents in a public place for sex trafficking purposes rare, he has never heard of such a crime. 6. DAD TACKLES MAN TRYING TO HELP HIS TOT When a Good Samaritan noticed a little girl wandering by herself near a softball game in Lakeland, FL, he assumed she was lost and started taking her around, trying to help her find her family. Alerted by bystanders that a stranger was walking toward the playground with his daughter, the dad punched the man out. "What would you do?" the father told NBC affiliate WFLA in a phone interview. "I wanted to kill him!" Even after the police explained the stranger had truly been trying to help, the dad went on social media to say: "So, I guess in Lakeland, you can kidnap a child and get away with it," and called the Samaritan a "child predator." The Samaritan fled town, fearing for his life. 7. NEW APP LETS PARENTS PROGRAM THEIR KIDS [...]



Canada's Food Laws Ban the Best Burgers

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0500

My girlfriend and I spent the Christmas holiday in Vancouver, Canada this year. While there, we visited a bunch of nice sites, saw a good band, and ate some great food. On our last day in the city—Tuesday, which was also Boxing Day—we ate at Joe Forte's, an airy steakhouse just off the city's main tourist avenue, Robson Street. I was craving a hamburger and figured Forte's, which bills itself as a chophouse, was the place to go. My girlfriend ordered a steak sandwich, cooked medium. I ordered the burger, cooked medium. My burger was great in every single way possible except for the fact it wasn't cooked the way I'd requested. And that wasn't because the restaurant erred. Instead—as I was warned after ordering my burger medium—it's due to an awful Canadian law that says all restaurant hamburgers must be cooked until no longer pink. Even my response when our great server asked if we had any food allergies—"Overcooked burgers," I replied—got me no closer to a burger cooked my way. I have no doubt this regulation probably prevents some handful of harmful or even fatal cases of foodborne illness, which can occur if pathogens that may appear in ground beef are not killed off by cooking the beef to an internal temperature of at least 160F. But as a regulation, it's as arbitrary a decision as banning raw animal products such as oysters and sushi, raw produce such as sprouts and melons, and countless other foods that are definitely legal in Canada. In other words, the medium-hamburger ban is both dumb and wrong. With respect to its burgers, then, Canada is very different than the United States, where diners ordering a medium burger might notice a menu warning cautioning against eating some raw or lightly cooked foods. But if one looks past the specifics of that law, they'll notice Canada, just like the United States, has lots of terrible food laws, along with its share of food controversies. For example, I wrote last December about an awful proposal by lawmakers in Montreal to ban new restaurants, in a bid to protect existing ones. And in 2011 I blogged about a Canadian Wheat Board monopoly in Western Canada. When—in the course of writing my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable—I was looking for a foreign analog to an awful USDA enforcement action that forced an exceptional American sausage producer out of business, I found I needed look no further than Canada. Those are just a few of Canada's dumb food laws. I also learned this week about one of its stranger ongoing food controversies, which Canada's Globe and Mail reports was just settled after a decades-long fight. The battle concerns Prosciutto di Parma, the tasty cured Italian meat, and use of the word "Parma" to describe the food in Canada. The Italian term "di Parma" literally translates as "from Parma." When used in conjunction with prosciutto, it refers to prosciutto that's both from Parma and that meets the EU definition of "Prosciutto di Parma," a specifically defined term that's known as a protected designation of origin. The truly mind-numbing 83-page EU protected designation of origin rules for what is and isn't "Prosciutto di Parma," adopted in 1992, include the most tedious minutiae about pig breeds, feeding, slaughter, geographic boundaries, altitude, and the like. They also include nausea-inducing language like this: "The envisaged quantitative programming of protected production has to be integrated in a synergetic way with the qualitative classification requirements already introduced by the protection rules (qualitative analytical parameters that uniquely characterize Parma Ham and the production requirements in pig breeding)." Despite these fastidious and obnoxious EU rules, it turns out it's been illegal for Italian producers of Prosciutto di Parma to refer to their product as "Prosciutto di Parma" in Canada. That's because Canada's Maple Leaf Foods trademarked the term "Parma" in Canada[...]



Judge Overrules State’s Seizure of Child from Couple It Deemed Not Smart Enough to Be Parents

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 12:20:00 -0500

A holiday happiness story to share: The Oregon couple who had their two children taken away because the state determined they weren't smart enough to be parents has gotten one of them back. As I highlighted in July, Oregon's Department of Health Services put Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler's boys—one 4 years old and one now 10 months old—in foster homes, not because the parents were abusing or neglecting their kids, but because the state determined that they would be poor parents due to their hampered cognitive skills. Fabbrini and Ziegler both have I.Q.s well below average—66 and 72—and their learning struggles were used as justification to take the children away as a preventative measure rather than as a response to actual harm the children had suffered. Right before Christmas, a judge ruled the couple's limited cognitive ability was not enough to declare them unfit parents for their youngest son, Hunter, who was taken from them right after birth. He ordered the child returned to them. As I previously observed, when the Department of Health Services argued that the children should be removed, they presented every common parenting mistake, due to the parents' disabilities, as a potential crisis. The state declared as "parenting deficiencies" things like not washing thoroughly after using the bathroom, not applying sunscreen sufficiently to their child, or giving the child chicken nuggets to eat instead of something healthier. Circuit Judge Bethany Flint took note, when ordering Hunter returned, that these did not appear to be sufficient reasons for the state government to intervene and take somebody's kids away and that "there's no allegation they're not able to meet [Hunter's] basic needs." Samantha Swindler of The Oregonian, who brought this case to light, was there for the latest decision: "I will affectionately remember this case as the 'chicken nugget case,'" Flint said. "I found it difficult to read that these parents tried this thing and tried that thing and then they are advised that instead of chicken nuggets they should have boiled chicken breast, that giving fried foods is a parenting deficiency. That was hard to read." At times, the state argued that Fabbrini and Ziegler asked too many questions, suggesting they didn't know how to parent. At other times, the state implied they didn't ask enough questions, trying to show they didn't understand their cognitive limitations. "They can't win for losing," Flint said. "I think there's a lot of evidence in the record that whenever they do say things they are attacked for them, which could create a culture of silence around the parents as well." Not for nothing was Reason's most popular story of the year about how our paranoia about potential harms to children are leading to really bad public policies. It's even worse for parents with disabilities, physical or cognitive. In many states it is perfectly legal to use an adult's disabilities as a justification for terminating parental rights, even in absence of abuse or neglect. The fight isn't over for the couple. Their other son, Christopher, has some developmental problems, and Flint isn't sure Fabbrini and Ziegler understand that the boy needs more than typical parental TLC. The couple's fight to get Christopher back will continue into January. Still, given a year of outrage-inducing tales of abuse by government officials, it's nice to head into 2018 with at least one piece of good news.[...]



Santa Calls It Quits

Mon, 25 Dec 2017 07:33:00 -0500

*With apologies to the New York Sun.* DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? VIRGINIA O'HANLON. 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET. Virginia, your little friends are right. There used to be a Santa Claus, but not anymore. Oh, he is real, dear girl. He most certainly exists. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. But he has gotten out of the gift-giving game. It all started a few years ago when agents from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration stormed into his workshop, waving a warrant. An elf disgruntled over Santa's decision not to stock decaf in the break room had dropped a dime, and when the agents arrived they found more than a dozen violations of federal rules. Elves were making toys without proper safety equipment. Melted ice on the floor had pooled, creating a slip-and-fall hazard. There was no eye-wash station or Automated External Defibrilator in the facility, let alone an ADA-compliant sign for one... it went on and on. They walloped Santa with more than $70,000 in fines, those inspectors did, and forced him to come up with a remediation plan approved by a court-appointed special master within 60 days. That sort of took the wind out of old Santa's sails, if you know what I mean. He was just getting over that when he was served with a certified, cease-and-desist letter from the lawyers at Mattel, accusing him of copyright infringement. Some of the trains the elves had been making looked too much like Mattel's Thomas the Tank Engine figure (at least so far as Mattel was concerned), and the company threatened to haul Santa into court for theft of intellectual property. He took it pretty hard, I must say. Still, he probably would have let it go eventually if it hadn't been for the incident with the fighter jets. One of Santa's little helpers had, rather unhelpfully, forgotten to file a flight plan with the Federal Aviation Administration. So when radar picked up something that looked like a sleigh being pulled across the sky by eight tiny reindeer, a couple of nervous Nellies at the Pentagon grew concerned. Reindeer and sleighs simply do not fly—that is official Defense Department doctrine, Virginia. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. The Pentagon's little minds grew even more jittery when they calculated that this "sleigh," which they figured was probably Russian or Chinese, was transecting the hemisphere at speeds of roughly 1,800 miles per second. That is more than 3,000 times faster than the maximum speed of the F-15 Strike Eagle, the fastest plane in the U.S. military. So they sent up an entire squadron of F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base to inform Santa that he was violating U.S. air space and bring him down for a frank heart-to-heart. Well, Santa's droll little mouth drew down in a frown, and his knees shook, but not like a bowlful of jelly. More like a handful of maracas. Santa tried to explain that NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, was tracking him already, but they weren't buying it. Inter-service rivalry. You know how it is. After that everybody seemed to pile on. Animal-rights activists tried to sneak a hidden camera into the reindeer stables to catch Santa doing whatever it was he must be doing to poor Rudolph to make his nose glow red. They were soon followed by a bunch of half-naked women from PETA who objected to making reindeer fly at all. The elves thought the demonstration was pretty spiffy, but Mrs. Claus did not approve, not one little bit. Then the social-justice crowd got into the act. They were outraged by the idea of a white Christmas—let alone a straight, white, cisgender male running around the world acting like he was God's gift to[...]



Upstate N.Y. Town Defeats Anti-Farming Bill

Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0500

Earlier this month, the town of Fort Ann, N.Y. was embroiled in controversy, the result of a local council member's failed attempt to pass a law that could have seriously curtailed small-scale farming in the town. Residents of the agricultural community turned out in droves to fight the proposal, which appears to have grown largely out of an ongoing personal dispute the councilor had with a neighbor. According to public records in Fort Ann, Councilwoman Deborah Witherell first proposed the Ordinance Providing for the Regulation of Small Farm Operations in the Town of Fort Ann at an October 10 board meeting. It specifically singled out the smallest farmers in this agricultural community. Its language appears to be heavily biased toward aesthetic concerns. It sought to restrict livestock to properties larger than one acre. It would have created burdensome requirements for providing "adequate shelter" and corral space for livestock. It would have required "no less than daily" cleaning of all barns and shelters. It created new requirements for site plan approval. It would have imposed heavy fines of up to $3,000. And it would have expressly superseded all prior laws. That includes, at least in part, the town's right-to-farm law, which the council adopted in 2007. In New York State, many cities or towns have their own right-to-farm laws. The purpose of the law in Fort Ann, which bills itself as "an agricultural community," is clear. "In order to maintain a viable farming economy in Fort Ann," reads, in part, the purpose and intent of the law, "it is necessary to limit the circumstances under which farming may be deemed to be a nuisance and to allow agricultural practices inherent to and necessary for the business of farming to proceed and be undertaken free of unreasonable and unwarranted interference or restriction." The public hearing to discuss the proposed ordinance took place on Dec. 11. Callie Ginter, a reporter with The Post-Star who covered last week's board meeting and the events leading up to it, told me by phone this week that the hearing was contentious. "The meeting was raw and real and people were passionate… and weren't going to hold back," Ginter says. That reaction was predictable. In fact, one of Witherell's fellow board members predicted it. "She realizes that people aren't going to be happy about this because Fort Ann is a farming community," reads a November 11 report by Fort Ann Council Supervisor Richard Moore, referring to Witherell and her proposal. "She has already been contacted by [a resident] that he is very upset about this. [He] asked Councilwoman Witherell if this came about because of one person specifically her neighbor. Councilwoman Witherell responded yes but she would be doing this regardless of whether it was a neighbor or not[.]" When reached, neither Witherell nor Moore were willing to comment for this column. The dispute between Witherell and her neighbor that spurred her to introduce the ordinance stems from claims earlier this year by the council member that manure on the neighbor's farm had likely contaminated her well with E. coli. She first sought to involve the New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in the matter. When the DEC balked at getting involved, Witherell sued the neighbor in civil court. The DEC then agreed over the summer to launch an investigation of the well contamination. But the DEC investigation determined no further action was needed. "DEC has been on-site multiple times regarding this complaint and no violations of the [state Environmental Conservation Law] have been documented," said the DEC in a statement emailed to me this week. "DEC will continue to monitor the situation and will act if a violation is documented." While the story of the Fort Ann farming ordinance is a local one, it's also part of a larger story that's played out in cities in towns across the country, in [...]



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

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

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 ca[...]



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[...]



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[...]



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 sh[...]



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.