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Friday, May 23, 2003

Legislative Update: Texans Still Get to Have Their Cake & Eat It Too...
... But Was State Rep. Bonnen Really Prepared to Swallow?

Tony Adragna
Courtney says that the Texas menu labelling bill died with the "quorum busting", but adds this
That bill number (3153) tells me a few things. Since about 3600 pieces of legislation were drafted in this session, this was a bill probably written for constituents, but basically thrown away. Anything Bonnen really wanted passed would have a much earlier number. I checked with Calenders Committee (my former boss is now on it) and they stopped putting new legislation on the calender last week. The next time this bill might come up is in 2005.[emphasis added]
Yeah, I've seen it before: Politician bites off chunks of constituent offered pie, talking up what a great recipe has just been found, passing the recipe around to colleagues in the legislature, and all the while never intending to actually put a fully baked version up for sale.

Just as well, 'cause the whole idea was half-baked to begin with.

Courtney is still concerned, though, about the effects of such items where they do make it onto the menu
So the laws are not there to help consumers, but to set up big chains for a fall in the later lawsuits. All the consumer will get is increased prices for food, no fast food, and a smug group of fat police feeling good because they are saving the American people from fat grams, evil fast food corporations, and ourselves.
Well, I've just gotta quibble with that. See, notwithstanding the impact of such laws on fast foods chains, fast food will still be available, because alongside any public desire toward putting fast food chains out of business [and I believe that the constituency for this is vocal, but a minority] is an even stronger desire for those greasy unhealthy fast foods.

So what if the McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Hot Dog Queens go out of business — there'll still be the local greasy spoons, with their roadside sliders, three egg breakfasts (incudes a short stack, 3pcs link/patty sausage or bacon, toast w/butter & jam, & free refills of coffee — $5 plus tip), etc...

To wit: As I said below, these laws will have impact neither on [removing] what [unhealthy] foods [options] are available to consumers, nor on the choices consumers make. The only thing these laws will do is push consumers to alternate sources, improving business for the small single location establishments at the expense of large chains.

OH, there'll be less convenience with the chains being taken off the menu, but the tradeoff is better food.

And when I say "better", I don't mean "healthier"! I'm an Emeril Lagasse kinda cook — Pork Fat Rules!

Would the Real "Reaganites" Please Stand Up?

Tony Adragna
From The Washington Times
In a memo to hundreds of fellow conservatives, a former Reagan administration official says traditional views are being edged out by a neoconservative "national greatness" ideology that accepts big government and advocates interventionist foreign policy....

[...] Mr. Devine said, so-called "national greatness" conservatism — first articulated in the [William Kristol's neoconservative] Weekly Standard — "replaced limited government as the ideal and filled the pages of journals on the right. ... As a result, today, Reagan mainstream conservatism lacks a public, intellectual voice."[emphasis added]
From a Frontline interview with William Kristol
[...] Kagan and I wrote an article in 1996, trying to lay out this worldview of foreign affairs. We called it "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy." So I would take "neo-Reaganite," "neo-conservative," "hawk," "American imperialist." There are lots of different phrases.[emphasis added]
So, whose foreign policy vision more closely resembles that of Ronald Reagan?

My recollection of the Reagan presidency is that 'twas very much the "national greatness" non-isolationist administration that matches Kristol's "Neo-Reaganite" verbiage [notwithstanding my objection to any assertion that the Reagan team's actions were the right way to pursue the policy]

After all, what was the reason for a 600 ship navy, other than to project power overseas?[the navy I served in during Reagan's presidency]

What was the point of our involvement in Lebanon, other than to intervene in a situation that threatened out national security interest? Ditto Grenada, Central America, the Persian Gulf...

In fact, wasn't Ronald Reagan a "neocon"?
Irving Kristol, father of the neocons, defined his band of brothers and sisters as "liberals mugged by reality." That reality was the "evil empire" as defined by Ronald Reagan, the leader they championed. The reality extended to a concern for crime and education and what came to be called "family values." A subdivision of the neocons, the "cultural conservatives," were wryly defined as liberals with daughters in junior high.
Sounds to me like "Bush's Base" is confused 'bout who Reagan really was, and that's no fault of the current president...

Iraq Sanctions Watch: Winding Down

Tony Adragna
Finally, the Security Council has agreed to lift sanctions against Iraq — the draft resolution[pdf] passed by a vote of 14 - 0, with Syria abstaining.

So, the Oil For Food program still gets to run for anothr six months. No worries — two important changes act to counter abusive practices. First, funds from sales of Iraqi of "petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas" will as of the date of adoption of the resolution "be deposited into the Development Fund for Iraq." This means that not only will the sale practices be "audited by independent public accountants", but so will the disbursement of those funds. Independent public accounting is the second, and most important change. If there had ever been any transparency, then I doubt the program would have been as fraught with abuse as it apparently is, in which case I'd have no objection to expanding the UN's mandate to cover the entire reconstruction/development effort...

One other item that I noticed is the council's acceptance of the resolution's reliance on the "Hague Regulations of 1907", instead of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1). This might not seem an important point, but for reasons previously stated I think the US correct in its objections to the latter regulations, which blur the distinction between combatants & non-combatants, making it harder to get at the "international humanitarian law" goal of protecting non-combatants. If this point hasn't yet become obvious to the international community, the experiences in Iraq & Afghanistan show just how inadequate is Protocol I.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Super-Sizing Legislative Inanity
or How Addressing America's Obesity Problem Just Moved the Fat Somewhere Else...

Tony Adragna
Glenn Reynolds labels it "NANNY-STATISM". Radley Balko rallies troops 'round the war cry "Remember the A La Mode!". I think it's just another example of Texans needing to make a big production out of a play that's less about public policy than it is about personal choice.

What are we taling about? Read it yourself


78R13162 YDB-D

By: Bonnen H.B. No. 3153

Substitute the following for H.B. No. 3153:

By: Truitt C.S.H.B. No. 3153



relating to notice of nutritional information by a chain
restaurant; providing a criminal penalty.
SECTION 1. Subtitle A, Title 6, Health and Safety Code, is
amended by adding Chapter 442 to read as follows:


Sec. 442.001. DEFINITION. In this chapter, "chain
restaurant" means an establishment operating at eight or more
locations in this state with the same name and under common
ownership that derives 75 percent or more of the establishment's
gross revenue from the sale of food and beverages, not including
alcoholic beverages, for on-premises consumption.

Sec. 442.002. APPLICABILITY. This chapter does not apply
to a hotel or motel, except that this chapter applies to a chain
restaurant at a hotel or motel.

Sec. 442.003. PAMPHLET OF NUTRITIONAL VALUE. (a) A chain
restaurant shall prepare a pamphlet containing a statement of
nutritional value for each food item listed on a menu of the
restaurant. The pamphlet may list the nutritional value for a
complete meal or may separately list each food item and any
associated food product, such as a topping.

(b) The pamphlet must:
(1) contain for each meal or food item:
(A) total calories;
(B) calories from fat;
(C) total fat grams;
(D) milligrams of cholesterol;
(E) milligrams of sodium;
(F) total grams of carbohydrates;
(G) total grams of dietary fiber;
(H) total grams of sugar; and
(I) total grams of protein;
(2) be available to each customer at each restaurant

(3) be printed in a font size not more than one font
size smaller than the smallest font size used to list the food
items; and

(4) be laminated or published in another similar
durable form.

(c) The pamphlet of nutritional value must contain the
following statement at the bottom of each page of the pamphlet that
contains the nutritional value of a meal or food item for which
one-third or more of the total calories are attributable to fat:

(d) The statement required by Subsection (c) must be in a
conspicuous place and be printed in a font size at least one font
size larger than the statement of nutritional value.

(e) A chain restaurant shall have a number of pamphlets
equal to one-third of the number of seats available for customers at
the restaurant. Before taking a customer's order, a person
employed by the restaurant shall inform each customer about the

(f) A chain restaurant that does not seat customers must
have at least one pamphlet available to customers on request.

(g) A chain restaurant offering drive-through service

(1) list on the drive-through menu board the calories
for each food item or meal; and

(2) print at the bottom of the menu board in a font
size at least one font size larger than the font size used to list

Sec. 442.004. CRIMINAL PENALTY. (a) The owner or operator
of a chain restaurant commits an offense if the person violates
Section 442.003.

(b) An owner or operator of a chain restaurant commits an
offense if the person knowingly serves a food item for which a
pamphlet of nutritional value is not made available in accordance
with this chapter.

(c) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor
punishable by:

(1) a fine of not less than $25 or more than $100;
(2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 30
days; or

(3) both fine and confinement.
SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2003.


The bill as introduced by Texas Representative Dennis Bonnen isn't all that different from the above substitute by Representative Vicki Truitt, which has been reported out of the committe.

Now, what really is the point of this silliness? Aren't folks already fully aware of what foods are higher in fat, calories, sodium, etc., than the so-called healthy foods? Is our obesity problem due to people not having enough information to make good choices, so they invariably choose bad? Or, is the problem really that folks know what they should & shouldn't be eating, and how much they actually need to intake, but they simply choose to eat all those fatty, salty, high calories things in large quantities anyway?

Lots of theories try to account for exactly why Americans seem to be more obese than ever, but my favourite is something I read several years ago in a Slate piece by Steven E. Landsburg
Here's one plausible story: The '90s saw the advent of drugs like Pravachol and Lipitor that can dramatically cut your cholesterol and increase your life expectancy. With medical advances like that, who needs to be thin? Of course obesity is still bad for you—but it's not as bad for you as it used to be. The price of obesity (measured in health risks) is down, so rational consumers will choose more of it.
OK, so I'm not really behind the point that people actually choose to be obese. But, the medical advances refered to do take pressure off the need to make healthy choices. And let's face the truth that fast food chains wouldn't be pushing these options if market research didn't reveal that these options are exactly what consumers want.

And consumers do choose the large sized fatty options from menus that include healthier options.

So, what's the point of these laws? If it's to effectively address the health risks of obesity, then it's got to get at changing behavior — using legislation in this way to effect behavioral changes is what's decried as "social engineering". But if this is an attempt at changing behavior, then I'd suggest that somebody have another look at the blueprints — I'm confident that this vehicle is doomed to fail at reaching its goal.

The only real effect I see this legislation having is an adverse one for business — especially the smaller chains that just meet the law's definition of "chain restaurant".

Let's see now: Social engineering and bad for business... AHA! The Texas Dems are at it again!...

Not so fast, folksBonnen & Truitt are Republicans[pdf]

Now y'all know why I reserve my right to object against the motions of members on both sides of the aisle — the code books just keep getting heavier & heavier, and mostly full of stuff that voters oughta be ashamed of their representatives for having even thought of...

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Surely the UN Military Division Has Studied Military History?

Tony Adragna
Picking up on my "Cheese Wrapper Redux", Alan K. Henderson asks in re the UN's Congo presence
Kofi Annan, you've got 600 troops in a war-ravaged town of 350,000. Does the name Custer mean anything to you?
I think Alan is being much too hard on somebody here — from the Custer link
Eleven tribes, number­ing nearly 9,000, had their villages on and in the vicinity of the Little Big Horn. The government expedition consisted of 1,100 men. The strength of the enemy not being known, General Custer was ordered to take his regiment and pursue a trail. He arrived at what was supposed to be the only Indian village on 25 June, and an attack was made by a portion of the regiment numbering fewer than 200 cavalry, while General Custer, with 277 troopers, charged on the village from another direction. Overwhelming numbers met them, and General Custer, with his entire command, was slain.[emphasis added]
Custer was a hard charger who took risks others saw as reckless, and his risk taking eventually caught up with him. But Custer would never have knowingly taken 9:1 odds against his success. The UN, on the other hand, has done exactly that in Rwanda, Srebrenica, and now Congo, only with much worse odds, and to much worse effect.

"UN peace-keeping" is like trying to use the smallest size adhesive bandage to dress a sucking chest wound...

As for "root of the problem": Yes, actually -- that clause is just another stem that shoots forth from what is at its root the UN's consistent refusal to take any kind of effective action to enforce its own resolutions. I noted somewhere once, I think it was in a post in Slate's fray -- responding to an Explainer item -- that when the UNSC says that it's determined to remain "seized" of a matter, that verbiage is ironically apposite: the rat bastards' sphincters tighten right on up to the point of not being able to pass anything worth a shit...

Monday, May 19, 2003

Were the Texas Democrats Justified?

Tony Adragna
I recently refered to the Texas Democrats' "quorum busting" as an "illegal action", and I meant what I said then. Legislators are bound by the Rules of the body to which they are members. Those Rules, along with the Rulings of the body's Parliamentarian and Precedents of the body, make up what is known as Parliamentary Law. Why am I making such a big "legal" question out of what others are describing as "theatrical, but also fully justified."

Well, let's turn this around. Since I've seen the action of these Democrats likened to a "filibuster" — notwithstanding that filibusters aren't allowed in that chamber, but attendance is required — I'll pose a hypothetical involving filibusters and an actual question before the U.S. Senate.

Right now, Senate Democrats are blocking votes on the nominations of two candidates to the Federal Judiciary. The tactic being employed is the filibuster — actually, it's "filibuster light" — which is allowed under Senate rules of debate. Under those rules, debate is not time limited, but may be closed on a question only by unanimous consent — usually agreed to before debate begins — or by the passage of a cloture motion requiring an affirmative vote of 60 senators.

Now, what if the GOP decided to act contra that rule by calling the question over the objections of Democrats? Wouldn't any resulting vote be seen as illegitimate? Of course it would, and properly so.

There's no equivalence between my hypothetical and what the Texas Democrats did, you say? Certainly there is — both scenarios use means outside the rules to get at a prefered end.

'Course, I've never been the type to let process stand in the way of principle if I can be convinced that principle is really what's stake and there's no other way to achieve the end. In this case I'm wholey unconvinced that principle is what Democrats are after, not the partisan politics of incumbent protectionism. Why else haven't I heard Democrats objecting to what happened in New Mexico
A congressional redistricting map that makes Republican Rep. Heather Wilson's Albuquerque-based district more Democratic cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted the plan to the Senate floor over the objections of Republicans who said lawmakers have no business revisiting court-ordered redistricting.

"This just looks like sour grapes after the election," said Sen. Ramsay Gorham, R-Albuquerque.

Wilson defeated Democrat Richard Romero - the state Senate's president pro tem - in November.

The GOP contends there is no legal basis for redoing redistricting and that a lawsuit is likely if the majority-Democrat Legislature passes it and the Democratic governor signs it.
Note the role reversal here. And you want to talk about having a massive impact on the state's congressional delegation, this is it — NM only has three House seats. Notwithstanding that the bill is "Action postponed indefinitely", the move took just as much cajones as that for which the Texas GOP has been, and rightly so, criticized by Democrats.

Yet, I haven't seen a single Democrat take the "principle" stand in objecting to what New Mexico Democrats attempted. Why not? Because the only "principle" in play here is that of incumbent protectionism, both parties playing the game and neither wanting to accept results that go against their interests.

What's really got me looking askance at the Texas Democrats, though, is that the "quorum busting" was totally unnecessary. See, rules of the Texas Senate allow unlimited debate — all the lower house Dems needed to do was let the measure get killed by their colleagues in the upper house...

If you're going to tread on rules, then I'd suggest that it be for something a damned sight more justified than political theatrics...