Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Salt: The New Tobacco?

By David Bozeman

Debate strategists typically advise against slippery-slope arguments — assigning far-off, outrageous conclusions to your opposition only dilutes the urgency of the moment. Still, one cannot resist guessing how far beyond its stated goal the creeping hand of the Nanny State will reach. Rule of thumb: statists always want more than they're asking for. For instance, once federal and local governments declared war on Big Tobacco, even the most dispassionate observer could tell that Oreos, Twinkies and Big Macs were not far behind.

In 2006, New York City banned transfats, found in many snacks, cakes, pastries and fast foods, and a group of Harvard scientists recently advised the UK that following the lead of New York (and a host of European countries) will save thousand of lives. Even football greats Peyton and Eli Manning, pitchmen for Oreos, were slammed on a healthy living website for "pushing junk food to children," and with the Marlboro Man dead and buried, the do-gooder police are now gunning for Ronald McDonald. Corporate Accountability International recently called for the clown's retirement as a company mascot, for marketing unhealthy, fatty food to children.

Is it just me or are liberals no darn fun (yes, protesting outside a McDonald's is a liberal thing)? This week, the Institute of Medicine urged the FDA to set limits on the amount of salt that restaurants and food manufacturers can add to their products. The IM recommended that the FDA increase staff and funding to implement the changes. You know the drill, it's all in the name of public health, by reducing heart disease and lowering medical costs.

However desirable that goal, the lingering notion remains that every social ill requires a government cure. The IM would argue that 40 years of voluntary efforts to reduce salt content have failed, thus the necessity for government action. But, in fact, for quite some time the public has demanded healthier menus, and even that venue of the killer clown, McDonald's, has responded (though many of us crave the option of the deep-fried apple pie, replaced in the 90s by the baked variety). It is choice, knowledge and competition that promote a healthy population, not the edicts of know-it-all bureaucrats.

Liberals, who have spent the last eight years detailing the cost to our freedom of waging a war on terror, utter barely a peep about the sacrifice of individual autonomy in the name of protecting us from a Super-Size order of fries. True, in a completely laissez-faire society, the irresponsible actions of a few can negatively impact the majority (such as higher medical and insurance rates), but even the strictest of government regulations cannot contain foolhardy behavior. And do we really want Big Brother slapping our friends and neighbors back into line for acting on impulses that, while maybe not healthy, are human and simply make our workaday lives a little more pleasant?

Freedom is the one word seldom mentioned in the communal hand-wringing over public health, with some 'experts' arguing that salt substitutes taste just as good (though most of us junkies remain skeptical). Still, that misses the larger point: there are many of us who don't want healthy Big Macs or french fries or ice cream. We like the taste, we like the decadence and we understand moderation and balance. We just don't want the government kibosh on individual tastes and preferences and we fear that our favorite foods will soon offer about as much zing as the latest alert from the Institute of Medicine , if not the paper it's written on.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

More Where That Came From

Editorial: Republicans Block Financial Takeover, but Need Firm Preconditions for Real Reform

Yesterday, Senate Republicans took a firm stand against the government takeover of the nation's financial sector, as the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to proceed to the bill proposed by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Even Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted against proceeding to the bill, demonstrating bipartisan opposition to its key provisions, provisions that endangered politicians ultimately do not want to be associated with.
The problems with the bill are legion. It grants unlimited authority to the government to take over any company deemed "too risky", and includes the power to levy limitless assessments on financial institutions to finance these government takeovers, which the American people will pay for, all without any vote in Congress. And investors whose assets are wrongly seized would be barred from any judicial review of the government seizure, raising very serious due process property rights concerns.
For now, blocking the Dodd bill is a tactical victory for the American people, but in order to avert another unprecedented expansion of the national government, an honest accounting of the root, government causes of the crisis is absolutely necessary. A proper response must focus upon the government spheres of influence that contributed to the credit bubble that, when it popped, nearly brought the global financial system to its knees, and which may yet bankrupt the Treasury.
In that spirit, Senate Republicans need very firm, non-negotiable preconditions for real financial reform. These must include reining in the government agencies that helped to foster the financial crisis to begin with:

1) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that weakened mortgage underwriting standards and mislabeled high-risk mortgage-backed securities, defrauding investors;
2) the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that lowered down payments on mortgages;
3) the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Reinvestment Act regulations that reduced lending standards and forced banks to give loans to lower-income Americans that could not be repaid; and
4) the Federal Reserve whose ultra-easy money policies and lower-than-justified interest rates that allowed the credit bubble to inflate to catastrophic proportions in the first place.

Fannie and Freddie reform must be the cornerstone of real financial reform. As noted from research by the former Chief Credit Officer of Fannie Mae, Ed Pinto, the losses to the GSE's because of this excessive risk-taking pushed them into bankruptcy. By June 2008, Fannie and Freddie had taken on some $1.835 trillion in higher-risk mortgages and mortgage-backed securities just before they were nationalized. These included high risk loans in whole loan form, most of which, $1.646 trillion, were GSE-issued mortgage-backed securities, and $189 billion of subprime and Alt-A private mortgage-backed securities.

Further, the Dodd bill does nothing to rein in the inherent moral hazard of taxpayer backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with a total of $6.3 trillion in liabilities including $4.7 trillion of mortgage-backed securities. It will do nothing to clear the Federal Reserve's new portfolio of $1.25 trillion of securities it purchased from the GSE's. It therefore brings no clarity at all for how these mortgage bailouts are being paid for. Are they backed by taxpayers? The Federal Reserve? Are they going to be sold off to the private sector?

These important questions must be answered with real financial reform. The American people have to decide if they want a nationalized mortgage sector or not. And they have to be informed — by their elected officials — that to do so will mean bringing some $6.3 trillion in liabilities onto the nation's balance sheet. Americans for Limited Government suspects that if granted the choice, given government's horrendous track record as stewards of credit and lending, the people will opt to bring an end to the bailout. That they will decide that Fannie and Freddie should be sold off piece by piece and put out of business for good.

The American people will support stronger lending standards, greater capital requirements, and to that end, would support the repeal of the Community Reinvestment Act and the HUD regulations that enforced it. The people also support bringing more transparency to the Federal Reserve, and in restricting the use of monetary policy to advance social policies like increasing home ownership for low-income Americans. A monetary policy that was primarily focused on price stability would have never allowed the housing bubble to reach its devastating levels. The people have a right to expect public oversight via the Government Accountability Office at the Federal Reserve, which is currently prohibited.

The Dodd bill does nothing at all to address these root causes of the crisis. It instead proceeds from a mistaken premise: that if Lehman Brothers had been taken over by the government and bailed out, like AIG, Bear Stearns and others, the crisis would not have occurred. That if the bailout had been somehow "managed" better and faster, without the inconvenient, time-consuming votes in Congress, that it could have somehow been averted. That is why Dodd has proposed an unlimited, speedy "resolution" authority with its limitless powers to tax and spend in order to seize any company deemed "too risky."

Ultimately, that is the trouble with the Dodd bill. The American people really do want an end to "too big to fail." They really do want a stop to the bailouts and takeovers, and they understand that the only way to do that is to, well, stop the bailouts and takeovers. Real reform will restore risk to markets and eliminate the moral hazard posed by bailing out investment firms. Real reform must therefore mean that bailed-out firms like AIG, Fannie, Freddie, GM, and Chrysler are all brought off the government's balance sheets. The Dodd bill institutionalizes government bailouts and takeovers — forever.

And Senate Republicans need to just say no. They have to bring non-negotiable reform planks to the table that will eliminate the current bailouts and takeovers, reform the root, government causes of the crisis, and reject the blatant power grab contained in the Dodd bill with unlimited authority to tax and spend without any vote in Congress, and to seize assets without any recourse to federal courts.

Dear Liberty Activist,

Today, ALG President Bill Wilson praised Senate Republicans for blocking the Dodd financial takeover bill yesterday, and said "now is the time for Republicans to establish firm preconditions for real financial reform by reining in the government-run agencies that contributed to the crisis in the first place."
Wilson said he recognized that while agencies will be resistant to reform, that "it is the role of legislators and their sworn duty to rein in the excesses of government when failures of this magnitude occur. The Dodd bill is just a whitewash."
"Legislation that does not address the government causes of the crisis is a sham," Wilson declared.
Wilson said that "What's in the bill is bad enough. It will give the government unlimited authority to seize companies, tax the citizenry and spend money without any vote in Congress. And shareholders whose assets are liquidated will be barred from challenging the theft in a court of law. All of that needs to go."
Wilson continued, "But what's not in the Dodd bill demonstrates that there is little to no will on the part of Senate Democrats to even deal honestly with how the government caused the financial crisis to occur. Republicans can wield the upper hand in this debate by holding the majority to account for covering up for the real villain of the crisis: government.
In an ALG editorial published today, the group calls on the Senate to address and reform five government agencies in any legislation debated: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The editorial cites research by former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae, Ed Pinto, demonstrating that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac weakened mortgage underwriting standards and mislabeled high-risk mortgage-backed securities, defrauding investors; that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lowered down payments on mortgages; and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Reinvestment Act regulations reduced lending standards and forced banks to give loans to lower-income Americans that could not be repaid.
That research was summarized in part in a letter Wilson sent yesterday to the U.S. Senate urging members not to proceed to debate, and to instead "to demand a completely new bill that actually addresses the root, government causes of the crisis" that Pinto outlined.
The ALG editorial also calls upon Senate Republicans to bring transparency via the Government Accountability Office to "the Federal Reserve whose ultra-easy money policies and lower-than-justified interest rates that allowed the credit bubble to inflate to catastrophic proportions in the first place."

According to research by Stanford economics professor John Taylor, "the Fed's target for the federal-funds interest rate was well below what the Taylor rule would call for in 2002-2005. By this measure the interest rate was too low for too long, reducing borrowing costs and accelerating the housing boom."

Wilson concluded that "Senate Republicans have an opportunity to give the American people a detailed account of the government policies that caused the crisis that must be repealed, and the responsible agencies that must be reformed. If they truly want to bring an end to 'too big to fail' they will insist that any legislation must rein in the excessive risk-taking that was mandated by government policy."
For now, Senate Republicans are holding the field of battle. For that to be sustained, they need our help!

Let's keep the pressure on! Tonight, Harry Reid is forcing the Senate to vote to proceed to this bill. Using Capwiz, you can click here to get your Senators' office numbers to call, and here to send an email message to them. We have a chance to beat this thing, so let's stay on message:

This bill does not address the root, government causes of the crisis.

Would give the government unlimited power to seize companies, raise taxes, and spend funds without any Congressional approval.

Leave investors and shareholders with no legal recourse in federal court should their investments be seized by the government.
You are the reinforcements that can help prevent the government takeover of not only the nation's financial system, but prevent unlimited government takeovers of private enterprise and bailouts of so-called "too big to fail" industries.
In today's Liberty Action Report, Senate Republicans need firm preconditions for real financial reform, Obama's agenda-pushing is boundless, and is salt the new tobacco? Plus, FOXNews.com reports that GM borrows from TARP to repay TARP.

Please send your letters to the editor to http://Robert@getliberty.org./ We publish all points of view!
Keep fighting, folks!

For Liberty,
Robert Romano

Senior Editor of ALG News


Malcolm X assassin Thomas Hagan freed from prison

By Peter Stone,

On Feb. 21, 1965, civil rights leader Malcolm X was shot to death at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem during a speaking engagement. Three men were arrested for the crime, but the prime mover in the shooting was Thomas Hagan. Hagan served 44 years for the crime. Previously known as Talmadge Hayer, or Talmadge X Hayer, Thomas Hagan is 69 years old and was granted parole after a dozen requests, and probably a cash advance or two for legal representation.

Assassination of Malcolm X
On that day in 1965, Malcolm X took the podium at the Audubon Ballroom. As he was beginning to address the crowd, a disturbance broke out in the audience. As he, and others, attempted to calm the situation, Thomas Hagan, then Talmadge Hayer, shot him in the chest with a sawed off shotgun at point blank range. Two other men began shooting him with handguns. Malcolm X was shot more than 16 times and was pronounced dead just after arrival at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, at 3:30 p.m. Hagan was arrested at the scene after being severely beaten by the crowd and was the only person who confessed to the crime.

The other gunmen
Two additional persons were arrested, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, now known as Muhammed Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, respectively. Both maintained their innocence, and Hagan has always said they had nothing to do with the crime. Even quick cash into more investigations yielded no results in finding who the other gunmen were. They were both paroled in the mid-1980s.

Shooting over ecumenical split
In 1964, Malcolm X had split from the Nation of Islam, which he had been a member of for a dozen years. The shooting reportedly was due to tensions between himself and leader Elijah Muhammad. Hagan said that had been the inspiration for himself and conspirators to gun him down.

Thomas Hagan repents, is granted 17th attempt at parole
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hagan has expressed regret over the shooting. This was his 17th appeal for parole, which was granted. He is married, has a daughter, and since 1988 has been on work release, working in a fast food restaurant among other endeavors, according to the New York Times. He also earned a Masters in Sociology since his incarceration.

Philly newspaper owners weigh multiple bids before bankruptcy auction set for Today

Philly newspaper bidders prep for Today's auction

PHILADELPHIA — Bidders hoping to enter the auction for Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers are awaiting word if they’re deemed eligible to participate.

Local owners plan to sell the company that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News as part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

Publisher Brian Tierney says Monday he’s pleased that multiple bids came in by Friday’s deadline, given industry woes.

Secured creditors owed more than $300 million say they’re among the bidders.

Creditors lawyer Abid (AH’-bid) Qureshi (kuh-RESH’-ee) says they haven’t heard if the bid is deemed qualified under rules the company established. The company has until 11 a.m. Monday to tell bidders if they’re in or out.

An afternoon court hearing is set for any challenges.

By Maryclaire Dale, AP

Big Newspapers, Big Declines

Overall, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, average weekday newspaper circulation fell about 8.7% for the six month period ending March 31 vs the same period last year. That's the good news, reports Andrew Vanacore from AP.

The bad news is the steeper declines among the big newspapers. For example, during the week average circulation at the WASHINGTON POST fell 13.1%. For USA TODAY, the decline was 13.6%. And for the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE it was nearly 23%.

Yet, some claim that in Manhattan the media scene is unfreezing. Maybe for some such as ex-Gawker editor-in-chief Gabriel Snyder who landed in NEWSWEEK DIGITAL. Where I'm hearing of a pick-up in opportunity in writing is in speechwriting. There are far more ads for that. In business, they are for addresses to employees. In nonprofit, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they are for the leadership. There was even an ad for a speechwriter for a U.S. Senator but it didn't identify the Senator.

New York: Passersby Ignore Dying Homeless Man Stabbed After Saving Woman

Surveillance video shows Hugo Tale-Yax, right, a homeless man, collapsed with stab wounds on a pavement

A heroic homeless man stabbed after saving a New York woman from a knife-wielding attacker lay dying in a pool of blood for more than an hour as nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him.

The New York Post said today some of the passersby paused to stare at Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax last Sunday and others leaned down to look at his face, a shocking surveillance video from the incident revealed.

He jumped to the aid of a woman attacked in the New York borough of Queens at 5.40am (local time) and was stabbed several times in the chest and collapsed as he chased the assailant.

In the wake of the bloodshed, a man came out of a nearby building and chillingly took a mobile phone photo of the victim before leaving.

In several instances, pairs of people gawked at Tale-Yax without doing anything.

Later, another man stopped, leaned over and vigorously shook Tale-Yax's body. After lifting the victim's head and body to reveal a pool of blood, he also walked off.

Not until some 15 minutes after he was shaken by the pedestrian - more than an hour and 20 minutes after the victim collapsed - did firefighters finally arrive and discover that Tale-Yax, 31, was dead.

Firefighters were responding to a 911 call of a non-life-threatening injury at 7.23am when they found his body.

Cops said they received four 911 calls at around the time of the attack reporting a woman screaming, but found nothing. They received no other 911 calls.

"That's unacceptable," said a woman who lives in the building near where Tale-Yax was killed.

"How can you be so heartless? If he's dying, he might've been saved. If you don't want to get involved, call 911 and leave."

Another area resident, Ramon Bellasco, 46, said: "It's no good. They needed to help and call the police. I don't get it."

No arrests were made, and police were unable to identify the woman Tale-Yax was trying to help.

By Ikimulisa Livingston and John Doyle

Source: New York Post

Obama seeks to ‘reconnect…young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women’ for 2010

From the Politico:
The Democratic National Committee this morning released this clip of the president rallying the troops, if rather coolly, for 2010. Obama’s express goal: “reconnecting” with the voters who voted for the first time in 2008, but who may not plan to vote in the lower-profile Congressional elections this year.

Obama speaks with unusual demographic frankness about his coalition in his appeal to “young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again.”

Turning out those so-called “surge” voters — who turned out for the first time to back Obama, but who sat out gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia last year — has become the Democrats’ central pre-occupation for the midterm elections, and the new Democratic effort to nationalize the election around Obama and his agenda mark an attempt to energize those voters.

SideBear: I find this very interesting. First of all many white people voted for Obama in 2008 and I am sure some of them did so was because he was a person of color to eradicate their personal guilt feelings regarding racism. An Obama Presidency was to once and for all bring America into a post-racial society.

As the video suggests is he not appealing to voters along ethic and racial lines? Obama played the race card. Does this not suggest all that 2008 campaign rhetoric coming together as one… was just that rhetoric.

Secondly, has Obama and the Democrats conceded that whites, men, independents and older voters are a lost cause? If so, they are in big trouble. The voters who elected Obama in 2008 are not going to resemble the older more conservative voters who can’t wait until November. The adults are going to take this country back.

The new “N” word for 2010 is NOVEMBER!

US extradites Manuel Noriega to France

The former Panamanian leader, Manuel Noriega, has been extradited to France by the United States after spending more than 20 years in prison there.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a "surrender warrant" after all judicial challenges were resolved. French officials later confirmed he was on board an Air France flight to Paris.

A court in France convicted Noriega in his absence in 1999 for laundering money through French banks, though it says he will be granted a new trial.

The 76-year-old had wanted to be sent back to Panama after finishing his 17-year jail sentence in 2007.

But Noriega's lawyer in Miami, Frank Rubino, said he had not been notified and had only learned of his client's transfer from the media.

"Usually the government has - does things in a more professional manner and respects common courtesy and we're shocked that they didn't," he said. "I'm surprised that they didn't put a black hood over his head and drag him out in the middle of the night," he added.

National Security Adviser Jones Apologizes For Joke About Jewish Merchant

Barack Obama Aide 'Sorry' For Taliban Jewish Merchant Joke -- The Telegraph

One of President Barack Obama's closest aides was forced to apologise for telling a joke about a Taliban militant who was tricked by a Jewish merchant.

The remarks by Gen James Jones, the US National Security Adviser, at a pro-Israel think tank last week were greeted with laughter and applause at the time, but were soon criticised by the Anti-Defamation League as "inappropriate".

"It's stereotypical. Some people believe they need to start a speech with a joke. This was about the worst kind of joke the head of the National Security Council could have told," said Abraham Foxman, ADL chairman, told ABC.

Read more ....

My Comment: I know it is a stupid joke .... and yes .... I know that he has apologized .... hence the case is closed. But if Condoleeza Rice had said such a thing when she was President Bush's National Security Adviser, everyone in the Democrat Party, the media, and every left wing blogger that I know would be demanding her resignation 24/7 .... and all of the apologies in the world would not have made a difference.

But in this case .... this story is being explained away as "a row that is being exploited by Right-wing pro-Israel groups hostile to Gen Jones, who is seen as a main instigator of Washington's pressure on Mr Netanyahu".

Is a double standard at play here .... you betcha.

Update: I do know that Condoleeza Rice is incapable of saying such a "bizarre" joke. She was (and is) a professional who always took her role as a senior official in the U.S. Government seriously .... including being cautious and careful with each and everyone of her public statements.

Breaking News: Parkland grad at Penn found dead

Owen Thomas, star defensive end, discovered in his apartment Monday. No foul play suspected, police say.

Owen Thomas, a Parkland High School graduate and University of Pennsylvania junior and football player, was found dead Monday afternoon at his off-campus apartment in Philadelphia, the university said Monday.

''No foul play is suspected,'' university spokeswoman Lori Doyle said Monday night. She said the cause of death had not yet been determined.

Thomas, 21, was found dead about 2 p.m., Doyle said.

His parents, the Revs. Katherine Brearley and Thomas Thomas of South Whitehall Township, drove to Philadelphia as soon as they were notified, Doyle said.

Thomas, a student at Penn's Wharton School, recently had been chosen a captain of the Quakers team, on which he was a defensive end. He also played defensive end for Parkland.

''It's a devastating loss to the Penn community, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,'' Doyle said.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Thomas was a second-team All- Ivy League player in 2009, recording 29 tackles and finishing second in the league with six sacks. He started all 10 games on Penn's defensive line.

In 2008, he also started all 10 Penn games and recorded 10 tackles, including two solo tackles at Lafayette College in Easton.

The Quakers football team met Monday afternoon with the university's counselors, the team chaplain, the university chaplain and the Penn athletics staff.

At Parkland, Thomas was a three-letter winner and a two-year captain for the Trojans, the Penn Athletics website says. He was a National Honor Society member, a nominee for Lehigh Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholar-athlete award and nominee for the High School Heisman Memorial Trophy.

He was named an all-area and all-league player as a junior and senior. He earned all-league as a tight end and linebacker. He helped lead the Trojans to two conference titles.

Born in Allentown, Thomas was from a family in which football had a prominent role. His older brother, Matt, who graduated from Penn in 2002, also played for the Quakers. Another brother, Morgan, plays for East Stroudsburg University.

Penn has scheduled an information gathering for students and other members of the university community at noon today in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall on campus.

By Frank Warner