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The Nanny State

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Published: Mon, 01 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 01 May 2017 00:12:18 -0400


Eating Less Salt Does Not Lower Blood Pressure for Most Americans, Says Yet Another Study

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:10:00 -0400

(image) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that "most Americans should consume less sodium." The CDC asserts, "Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause."

Yet, evidence has been gathering for years that the amount of salt consumed by most Americans is not causing them appreciable harm. A new study that followed more than 2,600 people for 16 years in the Framingham Offspring Study, once again, debunks the Federal nutrition nannies' dire claims about salt. The new results are being reported by at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago.

"We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure," said Boston University School of Medicine lead researcher Lynn Moore. "Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided."

The press release announcing the results noted:

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 micromilligrams* a day for healthy people. For the study, the researchers followed 2,632 men and women ages 30 to 64 years old who were part of the Framingham Offspring Study. The participants had normal blood pressure at the study's start. However, over the next 16 years, the researchers found that the study participants who consumed less than 2500 milligrams of sodium a day had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium.

Other large studies published in the past few years have found what researchers call a J-shaped relationship between sodium and cardiovascular risk--that means people with low-sodium diets (as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and people with a very high sodium intake (above the usual intake of the average American) had higher risks of heart disease. Those with the lowest risk had sodium intakes in the middle, which is the range consumed by most Americans.

"Our new results support these other studies that have questioned the wisdom of low dietary sodium intakes in the general population," said Moore.

The researchers suggest that some subset of Americans may be especially salt sensitive and would benefit from consuming less. Better tests should be devised to identify such people so that the rest of us can consume our sodium in peace. As always folks, if your goal is to protect your health strive for moderation in what you eat and drink.

For more background on the ongoing collapse of dietary puritanism, see my article "The Red Meat, Eggs, Fat and Salt Diet."

*Press release said "grams," but as astute readers noted, it's really micromilligrams**. Fixed. **Haste makes mistakes.

When Laws Become Partisan Weapons

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:01:00 -0400

The political culture war briefly erupted yet again last week when Sarah Palin posted a photo of Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, and herself at the White House, mocking defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's official portrait from her years as first lady. At a guess, the eruption over the White House photo was mission accomplished for President Trump's dinner guests. Whatever their past political and musical accomplishments, the trio seemingly exist now primarily to represent their own political tribe and to provoke the opposition. That's a pretty easy gig given that Americans are not only increasingly alienated from each other's politics, but also from each other's lifestyles and cultural markers. You don't have to look too closely to see a disturbing lesson here in how this empowers the country's dominant political tribes to effortlessly taunt each other by waving cultural flags—or putting the legal screws to lifestyle choices that aren't overtly partisan. "For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party," Pew found last summer. "And today, sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger." Anger? How do you get so angry at your neighbors and beer buddies over how they cast their votes? Except that they're not neighbors, they're not buddies, and many members of America's political tribes don't just think differently, they live differently. In the lead up to the presidential election, The Washington Post reported that surprisingly few Trump supporters knew Clinton voters, and vice versa. That seems bizarre until you read that the newspaper's survey "also found cultural differences between Clinton voters and Trump voters, reflected in their ties to guns, gays and even hybrid vehicles," and that "the separation here seeps into the micro level, down to the particular neighborhoods, schools, churches, restaurants and clubs that tend to attract one brand of partisan and repel the other." This continues a phenomenon noted by Bill Bishop, author of the 2008 book, The Big Sort. "Beginning in 1992, the percentage of people living in landslide counties began an upward, stairstep progression," he wrote of Americans' geographical concentration into like-minded communities. But those ideological migrants didn't necessarily check voter registration records and pick houses in neighborhoods with critical masses of Rs or Ds. Instead, they "were reordering their lives around their values, their tastes, and their beliefs. They were clustering in communities of like-mindedness." As it turns out, a preference for living in open spaces tends to correlate with voting Republican, while Democrats have a marked preference for walkable urban neighborhoods. Hobbies, tastes, memberships, and religious practices also take divergent paths. As people settle into these chosen lifestyles-and-politics package deals, they tend to become more like what they've selected and to associate contrasting choices with the "enemy," according to researchers. "When cultural tastes in turn have a reciprocal effect on personal networks, such divisions are likely to be even further exaggerated, leading to a starkly divided world of latte-sipping liberals and bird-hunting conservatives," Daniel DellaPosta, Yongren Shi, and Michael Macy of Cornell University wrote in "Why Do Liberals Drink Lattes?" a paper published in 2015 in the American Journal of Sociology. Which is why Kid Rock, Nugent, and Palin really have to do little more than show up to get opposing tribe members all upset. They're walking red flags to Team Blue. The other side plays the game, too. Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer can relieve their boredom any given day by posting something to Twitter about abortion or guns. They'll generate the usual social media storm, secure in the knowledge that there's little risk in playing to their ideologically simpatico fans. But taunting opponents is just good clean f[...]

Enforcement Looms of FDA's Menu Labeling Regulations

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

FDA enforcement of its absurd rules governing mandatory calorie menu labeling, passed in 2010 as part of Obamacare, is set to begin on May 5, after years of delays. In 2015, the FDA delayed implementing the rules until December 2016, after the presidential election. At the time, The Hill speculated that a new "Republican president could choose to scrap the rule altogether." That hasn't happened. Yet. But in December 2016 the FDA delayed enforcing the rules until May 5, 2017, which is the deadline that now looms. The FDA interprets its menu-labeling rules as requiring mandatory calorie labeling of most foods sold by "restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, offering for sale substantially the same menu items and offering for sale restaurant-type foods." Owners of more than twenty vending machines must also comply with the rules. The rules would be a disaster. They'll cost at least $1 billion. And if they're grounded in science, that science is shoddy. The purpose of menu-labeling rules in general is to help consumers make smarter (read: lower-calorie) choices. But the very premise that mandatory menu labeling accomplishes this is flawed. Research demonstrates that menu labeling doesn't improve consumer food choices. That's something I first noted here in 2011, and which subsequent reports have also shown (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). So can the rules be stopped? Yes. Congress could act by repealing or amending the menu-labeling rules. Or food sellers whose First Amendment rights would be violated by rules that compel speech for no constitutionally supported reason could ask a court to halt implementation of the rules. Or the FDA could delay the rules from taking effect. Each of these is possible. But how likely are these outcomes? While the clock is ticking, furious efforts are underway to halt the rules. Earlier this year, Congress introduced a bill supported by the American Pizza Community, an advocacy group that includes pizza companies like Domino's and Pizza Hut. The bill, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, would exempt most pizza-delivery companies and delay implementation of the menu-labeling rules by at least two years. A comparable bill passed out of the House last year but died in the Senate. While pizza makers are working in Congress, two other groups that oppose the law, the National Grocers Association and National Association of Convenience Stores, petitioned the FDA this month in an effort to delay or halt implementation of the rules. The petitioners argue compliance with the "unworkable" rules is impossible; that the costs of complying are exorbitant and far exceed FDA estimates; that the FDA exceeded its authority in adopting the rules; that the rules run afoul of the First Amendment; and that the rules are "inconsistent with the [Trump] Administration's agenda to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens on business." Pushing back against these efforts is the voice of the restaurant industry—the National Restaurant Association—a staunch supporter of the FDA menu-labeling rules. That stance might surprise some—if for no other reason than that it's got some basis beyond rent-seeking. "With more and more states adopting their own menu-labeling rules, the National Restaurant Association... sought a shield against this death by 1,000 cuts by pushing for one uniform national menu-labeling rule," I explained in a 2013 column. Will one or more of the aforementioned approaches succeed in stymying the rules from taking effect on May 5? Repeal seems like something Congress won't stomach. Consider that the GOP's ham-fisted attempts to repeal, replace, or rename (or whatever) the Affordable Care Act completely ignored the ACA's menu-labeling provisions. Amending the rules via the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act seems a more likely path. "[T]here's now been so much time and money sunk into the process that none of the major lobbyi[...]

NYC Mayor Encourages Cigarette Smuggling with Plan to Massively Jack Up Prices

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 16:45:00 -0400

Who knew New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was such an open supporter of black markets? Today de Blasio announced that he wants to make smuggling an even more financially lucrative option by jacking up the taxes on packs of cigarettes. Right now the lowest price for a pack of cigarettes in the city is $10.50 a pack. Under his proposal announced today the floor would jump to $13 a pack, the highest in the country. By sheer coincidence (if you are completely ignorant to even the most basic concepts of economics), New York has the highest rate of cigarette smuggling in the country. Though figures are hard to nail down—black markets, being what they are—stats suggest that more than half of all cigarettes are being sold illegally and untaxed in New York. Bootlegging of cigarettes (and alcohol, also highly taxed in New York) costs the state nearly $2 billion in tax revenue each year. Why, de Blasio's plan is almost insidiously libertarian—to deprive the state of tax revenue by pushing more and more people to participate in the black market instead of paying exorbitantly high, market-distorting costs for goods. (Small correction/clarification here: De Blasio isn't raising the taxes on cigarettes because that's actually under the control of the state. These are price controls. I've updated some subsequent sentences to reflect that.) Setting the sarcasm aside now: De Blasio is not, in fact, in favor of black markets and evading taxes. This is not some clever Ron Swanson destroy-the-state-from-within plan. His announcement today is part of a Nanny State plan to try to reduce the number of smokers in the city of New York. That this is a regressive move that makes it harder for poorer New York City residents to buy smokes is, just like soda taxes, partly the point. It's true that you get less of what you tax or punish. It's also true that it gets you black markets, be it drugs, cigarettes, or cheap labor that works for cash. So the logical outcome here is that more poor people who want to continue smoking will continue looking for the cheaper cigarettes that get smuggled into the state. In order to make this plan "work" the way the city wants it to (either people smoke less or pay more) it's going to be necessary to figure out how to increase enforcement of these price minimums. And that is going to ultimately lead to more encounters between New York City's enforcement folks (as in, police) and the possibility that more of de Blasio's citizens are treated the way Eric Garner was treated. If my Twitter feed is an indication, people have not forgotten that just a few years ago, New York police killed Eric Garner because he was uncooperative when they attempted to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. De Blasio is fully on board with the concept of "broken windows" policing, where authorities aggressively attack low-level crime under the (disputed) claim it helps prevent more serious incidents. The combination of policies that encourage the black market and policies that encourage police enforcement of low-level laws creates the framework for yet another Garner to happen down the line. Though we might not know when it happens if nobody's around to catch it on video again. Also not helping matters: The officer responsible for Garner's death had a record of complaints and is still employed by the NYPD, and the city is becoming less and less transparent about police misconduct. It's fun to joke about black markets and the economic illiteracy of public officials like de Blasio, but the potential for this pricing plan to lead to even more official violence directed toward citizens is no laughing matter.[...]

Brickbat: Without a Paddle

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) In Florida, a panel appointed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering whether to recommend that canoes, kayaks, and other water craft that don't require a motor to be licensed.

Brickbat: All You Can Drink

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) France has banned restaurants and other places that sell drinks containing sugar or other sweeteners from offering free refills of those drinks. Some restaurants have already removed or moved their drink fountains, while Five Guys has placed microchips on drink cups that switch off their drink fountains if someone tries to refill a cup. The ban is aimed at fighting obesity.

Brickbat: Don't Touch That!

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Two Washington state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make it illegal even to touch your phone while driving. The bill would also more than double the fine for distracted driving to $350 from $124.

Brickbat: For Your Protection

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A New York law supporters said would protect boxers is killing the sport in the state. The law, passed last year, requires $1 million insurance for each boxer on a card to cover life-threatening brain injuries. Promoters say they can afford that for big championship fights but not for the small, local shows that are the lifeblood of the sport.

Arizona Republicans Demand a Safe Space from 'Social Justice' Classes at Public Colleges

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:05:00 -0500

Donald Trump may have won in the presidency in part because of a backlash against the perception of tyrannical political correctness from the left, but progressives are not the only political group seeking to legislate the terms of civilized debate. Case in point, a new bill introduced by two Arizona Republican state legislators—Rep. Bob Thorpe and Rep. Mark Finchem—which would ban courses or events promoting "social justice" or anything focused on the interests of any political or identity group. Thorpe told his primary targets with this bill are a University of Arizona "privilege walk" and a Arizona State University class on "Whiteness and Race Theory": "If you then look at an individual whose ancestors, because of their race, for example, they are linked to people that did something 100 or 200 years ago, that person who's living today has little or no association with what happened 200 years ago," he said. "So let's not have a wedge issue and cause that person to be vilified when they absolutely had nothing to do with some event that happened in the past." Finchem, the bill's co-sponsor, tells, "Pure and simple, this is an anti-discrimination bill" against what he called a "very perverse agenda." Finchem says he believes social justice advocates want to "slice up and dice up all of these people into groups and cater a particular message to each one of them, and all that does is advocate hate." If passed, HB-2120 would affect public primary and high schools, community colleges, and state colleges. The ban would also extend far beyond just curriculum, it also applies to "events and activities" on campus. Schools found in violation would be subject to losing up to 10 percent in state aid. Arizona passed a law to ban a specific Mexican-American studies high school class in 2010, which is now being challenged with a lawsuit filed by students. Section 1 of this is exceptionally broadly-written bill (which even Thorpe has conceded needs to be revised) reads as follows: A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses, or classes, EVENTS OR ACTIVITIES that include DO any of the following: 1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government. 2. Promote DIVISION, resentment OR SOCIAL JUSTICE toward a race, GENDER, RELIGION, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, SOCIAL CLASS or OTHER class of people. 3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. 4. Advocate ethnic solidarity OR ISOLATION BASED ON ETHNICITY, RACE, RELIGION, GENDER OR SOCIAL CLASS instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals. 5. VIOLATE STATE OR FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS. 6. NEGATIVELY TARGET SPECIFIC NATIONALITIES OR COUNTRIES. The clause banning classes or events promoting "the overthrow of the United States government" would probably not be of great benefit to the free speech rights of Second Amendment die-hards who frequently argue that the right to bear arms was always meant as a bulwark against a tyrannical government. If the Arizona Republicans pushing this bill think they can defeat the arguments of their arch-nemesis social justice warriors by fiat, on what principled high ground can they claim to stand when other schools shut down conservative arguments about abortion, guns, or immigration? As I recently wrote at Vox, allowing authorities to legislate what is and what isn't acceptable speech on campus—especially public campuses which are required to respect the First Amendment—is a terrible idea and inevitably comes back to harm whichever party the speech restrictions were designed to protect. The authors of HB-2120 might think they're taking a stand against P.C. culture run amok, but all they're really doing is legitimizing the concept of hiding from challenging ideas rather than confronting them.[...]

England's Creeping Nanny State

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:00:00 -0500

The English, wrote George Orwell in 1941, are characterized by their hatred of interfering officialdom: "The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker," a British colloquialism referring to "a persistently nosy, prying person" or "busybody" The English countryside was once particularly self-reliant, a place where people organized events or sorted out disputes without much recourse to state bodies or rules. No longer. The English countryside today is awash with busybodies and red tape. The organizers of a simple village festival would find themselves occupied with petty form-filling: public liability insurance, risk assessments for the home-made cakes and bouncy castle, criminal records checks for any adult running kids' events. Nosey parkers are in the ascendance, complaining about their neighbors to the authorities who then rush in with punishment slips and rule-books. The more bucolic aspects of village life are becoming controversial and highly regulated. Take church bells. Churches whose bells have tolled for over a century are now being slapped with "noise abatement notices" because their bells are judged too loud. A church bell in Hertfordshire which had rung every 15 minutes for 140 years was silenced, after environmental health officers threatened the church with fines (the bell was recently reinstated, after some locals raised the money for a device to allow it to ring more quietly). The chime at a church on the Isle of Wight was canceled after a noise complaint from a single resident. Even picturesque wildlife has become subject to moaning and state interference. A lady in an Essex village is under threat of a fine and criminal record after complaints about free-roaming peacocks that issued from her farm. The council has issued her with a legal order that requires her to remove the birds by January. At one point the council sent a ranger down to spend a whole day sitting outside her house "monitoring peacock activity." She says birds are basically wild and cannot be caught: "It would be like catching pigeons — they just fly away. I'm worried that the council will send someone to spend 6 weeks trying to catch them, and bill me by the hour." All this interference means that long-established customs are being upset. In the Forest of Dean, in the West of England, sheep have roamed freely for centuries and are an essential part of the local land management. But they were also under threat of criminalization when some locals complained about sheep droppings and the fact that sheep could be heard "baaing loudly" outside their houses. The council set up an "irresponsible shepherding task group," which recommended that sheep be banned from the village and that a warden be employed to monitor straying sheep and fine their owners, at the cost of £28,000 a year. It seems that officialdom is targeting the one defining feature of an area, the thing that gives a place its character: the sound of bells or sheep, or the sight of that most beautiful of birds. This was the case in Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, which is known for the annual cheese-rolling event in which locals run down a steep hill chasing a roll of (Gloucester) cheese. In 2010 the event was canceled on health and safety grounds, although hundreds defied the ban and the event now continues on an unofficial basis. The authorities keep trying to stop them, with the police one year warning cheese makers that they could be sued if anyone is injured chasing their cheese. Orwell said that English culture "centers round things which even when they are communal are not official — the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the "nice cup of tea.'" Now the official world is even poking its nose into the back garden. Councils have ordered people to stop feeding birds in their [...]

Now, More Than Ever, We Need Fake ID

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:01:00 -0500

"Record number of fake ID seizures," New York's government boasted at the end of last year, presenting the Empire State's residents with a (not unfamiliar) holiday-season gift of arrests and petty law enforcement. "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that underage drinking sweeps conducted by DMV investigators in 2016 resulted in the seizure of 862 fraudulent licenses and the arrest of 818 individuals for underage drinking, both single year records." Great going, guv! Your intrepid investigators managed to slap cuffs on bunches of 19-year-olds for sneaking beer two years earlier than politicians would allow. How about some medals for your brave enforcers? This is an old dance. Identification documents don't always present convenient information to prying officials, so there's wide demand for forged and altered documents to bypass legal restrictions and evade monitoring. Now, with restrictions and monitoring a growing threat, more than ever we need fake ID. This year, after years of shifting deadlines on the federal government's effort to create a backdoor national ID card, the TSA began posting signs at airports warning travelers that, as of January 22, 2018, they'll need identification documents compliant with the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, to be allowed to fly. "The REAL ID Act sought to strengthen each step in the process by which people are identified using ID cards," notes the Cato Institute's Jim Harper, "and it would tie state IDs together as a national ID." The scary signs are meant to apply pressure to those states balking at making their driver's licenses compliant with federal requirements—a list including eight states that have flat-out refused to comply, and others that are dragging their feet because of concerns over privacy and meddling from Washington, D.C. "Montanans do not want or need REAL ID," that state's Governor Steve Bullock (D) announced in 2015. "REAL ID raises real concerns about the unnecessary collection of Montanans' personal and private information by the federal government." The feds hope that travelers panicked by the prospect of being turned away at the airport will bring recalcitrant state governments to heel. The move may work—Arizona caved under pressure last year. That's unfortunate because, as Harper points out, "If the United States is to avoid having a national ID, all states should cease implementation of REAL ID." Too few seem willing to follow that advice, so it looks like we're on our way to having that national ID. But as the underage drinkers making Democrat Andrew Cuomo so upset could testify, identification documents are only controlling and restrictive to the extent that they're accurate. If they show birth date different than what reality might reflect, then age limits are less of a concern. If they display names different than those that holders use in their everyday lives, then travel might be undertaken with a modicum of privacy. And if they claim residency status without regard to where somebody was actually born, they expand employment prospects for people looking for opportunity. That last point is especially important as we await the inauguration of a president who vows to build on the current administration's record deportations of illegal immigrants with threats to deport millions more. John Sandweg, the former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calls the scheme "impossible," but any raids and arrests attempting to implement the plan could be incredibly disruptive to people's lives. They could also be brutally damaging to the economy—even as far from the Mexican border as Idaho, where 43 percent of all farm workers are in the country in defiance of the law. Well, they could be, unless people subject to deportation have access to good-quality bogus ID sayi[...]

Calif. Legislator Wants to Expand Teen Driving Curfews to Some Adults

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 12:15:00 -0500

One California state legislator wants to expand the state's apparent desire to treat grown adults like teens by restricting their driving rights. California last year passed legislation increasing the legal age for residents to purchase cigarettes to 21. Now Democratic Assemblyman Jim Frazier of Oakley has introduced legislation to treat adult drivers like they're still teenagers until they reach 21. Frazier has introduced AB 63, which expands California's provisional driver's licensing program to all drivers under 21. What does that mean? We'll let Frazier's bill speak for itself: Existing law, the Brady-Jared Teen Driver Safety Act of 1997, establishes a provisional licensing program and generally requires that a driver's license issued to a person at least 16 years of age but under 18 years of age be issued pursuant to that provisional licensing program. During the first 12 months after issuance of a provisional license, existing law prohibits the licensee from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and transporting passengers who are under 20 years of age, unless he or she is accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver, as specified, or a licensed or certified driving instructor. Existing law provides limited exceptions to these restrictions under which a licensee is authorized to drive under specified circumstances, including a school or school-authorized activity or an employment necessity, and requires the licensee to keep certain supporting documentation in his or her possession. A violation of these provisions is punishable as an infraction. This bill would expand the scope of the provisional licensing program by extending the applicable age range for the program to 16 to under 21 years of age. By expanding the scope of the provisional licensing program, the violation of which constitutes an infraction, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would authorize a licensee who is 18, 19, or 20 years of age to keep in his or her possession a copy of his or her class schedule or work schedule as documentation to satisfy the exceptions for a school or school-authorized activity and employment necessity, respectively, and would provide that a signed statement by a parent or legal guardian is not required if reasonable transportation facilities are inadequate and the operation of a vehicle by a licensee who is 18, 19, or 20 years of age is necessary to transport the licensee or the licensee's immediate family member. The bill would make other technical and conforming changes. The bill would also include specified findings and declarations. The law would put a statewide curfew in place for adult drivers between the ages of 18 to 21 for one year, just like the state has for teens. Adults who fit in this category will have to carry around paperwork to show government officials (police officers) that they have the authority to be driving "after hours" for reasons that the state permits. It's a grotesque violation of the right for adults to travel freely, all for the name of public safety, of course. Frazier cites all sorts of demographic data about young people behind the wheel. From the East Bay Times: Frazier cited research from the Governors Highway Safety Association that found that over the last 10 years improvement in fatal crash rates were better among drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 than among their 18- to 20-year-old counterparts. Additionally, the GHSA found that older teens were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. and attributed this to provisional licensing programs. "Some folks say it is very restrictive to teens and folks who don't have experience driving," Frazier said. "The most restrictive part is the part where they end up in a [...]

A Virginia Legislator's Progressive War on Porn

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 12:00:00 -0500

Del. Robert Marshall and his liberal critics might be appalled by the suggestion that they share anything in common. Marshall ferociously opposes abortion, he co-sponsored Virginia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and he once even tried to prohibit single women from getting pregnant through artificial insemination. But while he and those on the left differ on policy specifics, they share a core assumption. This year the Prince William delegate wants the General Assembly to take a stand against porn. He has drafted a resolution declaring pornography a public health hazard and advocating a "policy change . . . to address the pornography epidemic." The resolution is problematic, and not just because it draws no distinctions between, say, airbrushed Playboy centerfolds and stomach-turning torture porn. It makes a variety of declarations that vary from debatable to patently false—e.g., that pornography "normalizes violence," that it leads to "low self-esteem," that it produces "dissatisfaction in marriage" and has a "detrimental effect on the family unit" and that "overcoming pornography's harms is beyond the capability of the afflicted individual to address alone." Well now. It's true that, thanks to the rise of the Internet, the volume and availability of pornography have grown exponentially. One study in 1998 pegged the dollar value of the "adult content" industry at no more than $1 billion. By 2015, the estimated value had risen to $10 billion in the U.S. and $97 billion worldwide (inflation over that period was 45 percent). If porn were as harmful as Marshall and others contend, then one would expect its attendant harms to have increased as well. Yet just the opposite has happened. For instance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the rate of rape and sexual assault has fallen by more than half since 1995. And at the same time porn has spread, divorce in the U.S. has fallen—and is now at close to a four-decade low. But let's say Marshall is right. For the sake of argument, let's assume erotic material degrades the spirit and erodes the soul and leads to, as his resolution puts it, "emotional and medical illnesses . . . deviant sexual arousal, and . . . difficulty in forming or maintaining intimate relationships." Even assuming all that, the question still remains: Why is this the government's business? Conservatives claim to believe in limited government. Some matters, they say, are best left to other institutions such as the church, social-improvement societies like the Boy Scouts, and nonprofit civic groups. To the extent that porn is a problem, it is a problem for those groups to solve - not the government. Marshall's desire to involve the government with your sexual appetites sounds much like the progressive interest in involving it with your gastronomic appetites. The "food police," as they are sometimes called, have decided that your diet is their concern. They have imposed soda taxes, banned fast-food restaurants in certain locations, and even proposed regulating the aisle placement of products in grocery stores. The FDA is trying to reduce the amount of salt in prepared foods—even though scientists have raised serious doubts about the case against salt. The nation has been subjected to endless hectoring about an "obesity epidemic." First Lady Michelle Obama preaches the virtues of vegetable gardens and their utility in "growing a healthier nation." Marshall compares pornography to cigarettes: "Before smoking was identified as a problem, at least the recognition that it led to certain pathologies was a starting point to put restrictions on it." Likewise, food scolds are drawing frequent comparisons between the sugar industry and big tobacco. But government is n[...]

Brickbat: The Tall Poppy

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A teen in Turin, Italy, whose name wasn't released, was suspended from his school during the previous school year for 10 days after teachers found he had a thriving business bringing snacks and drinks to school to sell to other students. They recently found he was still at it and suspended him for another 15 days. When the story broke of his latest suspension, several companies offered him a job and he got at least one scholarship offer because of his entrepreneurship. In turn, that led about 500 of the school's 1,700 students to stage a protest outside the school, saying the boy should not be rewarded for "illegal" activity and demanding scholarships for themselves.

Calif. to Treat Smart Phones in Cars as Just Slightly Less Dangerous than Loaded Guns

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 11:45:00 -0500

The end of the year brings the whole host of reminders about the new laws that state legislatures have passed through the last term and are finally coming into effect. California is fertile ground for legislative meddling in lives, and the start of every year brings stories about the hundreds of new rules coming into play. January will see new reasons for police to extract money from citizens—I mean, "protect public safety." A new state law makes it illegal to even hold your smart phone while you're driving. The Sacramento Bee (which opens its piece by simply asserting without evidence that "distracted driving has reached dangerous levels") explains AB 1785: The law is designed to stop people from holding their phones for a variety of uses that have become popular in recent years, including checking and posting on Facebook, using Snapchat, scrolling through Spotify or Pandora playlists, typing addresses into the phone's mapping system, or making videos and taking photos. A California Office of Traffic Safety study this year determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes. That's prompted numerous education and enforcement efforts in California aimed at reducing distracted driving. Note the subtle shifting of facts in the second paragraph. More drivers are paying attention to their smartphones, causing distractions. Distractions factor into 80 percent of all crashes. But there is a huge failure there to actually connect smartphone use to an increase in crashes. Crash stats had been going down in recent years but the trend had recently started reversing. A very, very relevant contributor to the shift is that more people are driving more miles as the economy has recovered. That's naturally, statistically going to lead to more collisions. Ed Krayewski looked over the fatal collision stats back in September and found the evidence that phones are making driving more dangerous underwhelming. But politicians see little downside or negative consequence in passing laws that make people feel safer even if they don't, so here we are. The law does allow use of smartphones with voice activation and to touch the phone simply for the purpose of activating or deactivating an app, but the phone must also be placed in a mounted spot inside the car. So anybody sitting there with the smartphone in their lap while having their GPS recite instructions to them is going to be breaking the law, even if they aren't holding it up to their ear or being "distracted" by it. California drivers could face additional fines if they get pulled over even when they aren't using a phone in a way that distracts them simply because it doesn't comply with the very restrictive rules on how the state says you should attach the phone to your car: "either a 7-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side, or a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield to the driver's left." The fine is $20 for the first offense and $50 for each additional offense. If only there weren't some sort of way for police to evaluate and cite people for behavior behind the wheel that is dangerous to others that is not attached to an absurdly overbroad ban on a piece of technology, blaming it for the behavior and not the driver. Maybe something about those who engage in reckless driving habits without regard to others? Something like that? Read more about the new law here and wonder if it'll still apply when we're all using self-driving cars.[...]