Nanny Government Update
Money and Politician Family Ties
Exploring the intersection of public office with private family interests.
Brought to you by CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Family Ties Highlights
Official Payroll: 19 members have paid 19 family members a total of $6,876,026 from their congressional office payroll
Earmarks: 298 members have earmarked $3,781,697,207 for organizations connected to them or their family members.
Lobbying: 85 family members of 67 members of Congress have worked as federally registered lobbyists, helping out on lobbying contracts worth $1,208,065,382.
Produced and Directed by Tim Delmastro, Written by Jason Spencer
Life is about choice. What we eat, what we read, who we elect; every day we make choices that determine how we want to live.
But what if these choices are just an illusion?
In an era where regulations and red tape rule every industry, where lobby groups and big business wield more influence than ever before, our daily choices have become increasingly limited. And with all our options so deliberately handpicked, are we really making a choice at all?
Sep 24, 2013
Important Information For All Human Eyes. Please Watch This Video.
Sugar, food, sunshine, sitting down – everything fun is now labelled ‘the new tobacco’.
20 MAY 2014
For the past 50 years, the public-health movement has been bashing away at smokers. It’s a filthy, dirty habit and it should be stamped out, they say. Through labels, taxes, lectures and bans, the hoped for ‘end game’ for tobacco seems closer than ever. The self-righteous prohibitionists not only want to inform us of the health risks of the evil weed, but through nudging, cajoling and even outright legal force, they want to stop us from smoking altogether. They know what is good for us, even if we don’t.
But the ambitions of these health wonks – and the politicians who support them – are not restricted to the humble cigarette. No, having figured out how to batter smokers into near submission, they want to apply the same playbook to almost any other form of enjoyment. The quest is on for ‘the new tobacco’. And the candidates are piling up.
The current frontrunner is sugar. Earlier this year, the media gleefully reported on a new campaign – Action on Sugar – which aimed to persuade the food industry to cut down on added sugar and demanded taxes on sugary drinks. ‘SUGAR IS “THE NEW TOBACCO”’, declared the Daily Mail’s front page, quoting a public-health researcher, Professor Simon Capewell. A particularly woeful edition of Channel 4’s current-affairs show, Dispatches, swiftly followed, offering a platform for the anti-sugar crusaders while less-than-subtly implying that those officially charged with providing recommendations for our sugar intake had been bought off by the food industry. The producer of Al Gore’s climate-change polemic, An Inconvenient Truth, Laurie David, has just brought out a new film, Fed Up, repeating the same story of a giant industry – Big Food – killing millions by foisting a deadly product – sugary food – on unsuspecting consumers.
But why stop at sugar? Yesterday, two ‘international groups’ (so important that their existence had previously slipped the world’s attention) received plenty of coverage for demanding that food in general be governed by the same kind of international agreements and local laws currently applied to tobacco. Luke Upchurch at Consumers International told BBC News: ‘We want to avoid a situation like the 1960s, where the tobacco industry [was] saying there is nothing wrong with cigarettes, they are good for our health, and 30 or 40 years later millions have died. If we don’t take action now, we are going to have the same intransigence and foot-dragging in the food industry.’
The ideal candidate for being the ‘new tobacco’ is something common and popular, but apparently deadly, produced by evil fat cats more interested in the bottom line than the lethal effects of their products. Such a narrative combines fears about personal health with conspiracy theories about a world controlled by unseen and unaccountable forces, all blended with a teenage anti-capitalism and a crusading zeal.
Yet the epithet of ‘the new tobacco’ is being applied to lots of other apparent threats to our wellbeing, too. Dr Phil Hammond, writing in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, claimed: ‘For many doctors, sunshine has become the new tobacco.’ This despite the fact that vitamin-D deficiency – caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight – is a rising problem today.
Some of the other claims about ‘the new tobacco’ seem, well, bonkers. In January last year, Huffington Post asked: ‘Smoking vs Sitting: Which Is Worse?’ By July,Runners’ World was warning: ‘All the time we spend parked behind a steering wheel, slumped over a keyboard, or kicked back in front of the tube is linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even depression – to the point where experts have labeled this modern-day health epidemic the “sitting disease”.’ In 2011, an article in the Journal of Public Health asked, ‘Are cars the new tobacco?’, suggesting that more needs to be done to restrict driving.
A quick Google search brings up a host of other jostlers for the position of ‘the new tobacco’, including meat, Big Food, tanning salons, alcohol, stress, coal, cellphone and wireless radiation, soda, dairy products, pornography, and confectionery. (I gave up after the first 20 pages of results – ‘the new tobacco’ brought back almost two million results.)
So, there you have it. Tobacco, the king of public-health scares, has spawned a cottage industry of copycat panics about just about everything under the sun (plus the sun itself). But we don’t live in a particularly deadly era – we live longer, healthier lives than ever. What these promiscuous comparisons with tobacco show is just how fearful we have become of even the most trivial health or environmental threat, with academics, campaigners and politicians all willing to play on that fear to further their own ends.
22 Aug 2013
By Warner Todd Huston
A recent guest on PBS Newshour was rather blunt on the campaign against second-hand smoke, saying that there is very little evidence that second-hand smoke is bad for you. Further, he added, the whole campaign against smoking has nothing at all to do with community health or preventing pollution but was initiated strictly as a “nanny state” effort to affect the health of the smoker himself.
The guest, Ronald Bayer of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that as he began to look at the public campaign to eliminate smoking, he found a strange dichotomy among students who wanted the government to have a hands-off policy for hard drugs but at the same time wanted government to come down hard on smoking tobacco.
Bayer said that the attitude made him wonder about the decades-old anti-smoking crusade that many have engaged in, specifically wondering if any of the claims proffered by anti-smokers as reasons to oppose smoking had any truth to them.
He found that many of the common claims against smoking really have little evidence to back them up.
Bayer said that the anti-smoking cabal proffers three main reasons to ban smoking: 1) that smoking is bad for those around the smoker, the so-called second-hand smoke problem; 2) that the litter created by smokers hurts wildlife that accidentally ingest filters; and 3) that people have a right to shield children from even seeing people smoking in public places so as to prevent them from emulating smokers.
Yet, as he looked into these reasons, he said he found little proof that any stand up to scrutiny.
“I discovered the evidence was really weak. The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent. The evidence that fish and birds are dying because of cigarette butts is virtually non-existent. And even the evidence that seeing someone in a park or beach will encourage kids to smoke is extremely weak,” Bayer said.
Bayer then began to find that the campaign to ban smoking really had nothing at all to do with the three main reasons anti-smoking zealots give to end smoking but, instead, had everything to do with trying to change the habit of the smoker for the good of the smoker.
Why are public health officials and their supporters essentially lying to the public about their aims? It has to do with perceptions, Bayer said.
I think it’s because public health officials don’t want to be tarred with the brush of the “nanny state,” of “Big Brother.” In the United States, it’s the same story of the motorcycle helmets. When we tried to impose motorcycle helmet laws in the United States, we made all kinds of arguments about how when a person gets into an accident, they really cost us all money because they have to go to emergency rooms and we have to pay for it. That’s not why we wanted motorcycle helmet laws. We wanted motorcycle helmet laws because we wanted to protect motorcyclists against their stupid behavior. We couldn’t say it, because that sounds like we’re finger wagging.
Ultimately, even though the anti-smoking crusade has been successful in changing habits, Bayer feels that public health officials shouldn’t use the sort of misleading tactics that they are using to end smoking because it hurts their reputations.
My concern is that when public health officials make claims that can’t be backed by the evidence, they run the risk of people saying, “We can’t trust you.” I understand it is probably more effective to say the reason we’re banning smoking in parks and beaches is that we’re protecting you from sidestream smoke, or your kids from looking at something very bad for them or that we’re protecting wildlife. That might be more effective way in the short run of getting these statutes or regulations passed and put into place.
But in the long run, I think, that if people begin to feel that they’re being toyed with, that the evidence is not being presented in a straightforward way, it’s going to backfire. I think the evidence in the arguments made to implement these bans is absent, and in some of the cases, very weak.
In the meantime, the sort of underhanded tactics that Bayer decries are becoming an important new Obama administration tactic as his “nudge squad” begins to look to ways to use misleading rhetoric to cajole Americans into accepting big government solutions to everyday problems.
Interview with Dr. Travis Baggett on tobacco use and other health problems among homeless people.
July 18, 2013
The New England Journal of Medicine.
Supplement to the N Engl J Med 2013; 369:201-204
Dr. Travis Baggett is an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.? Stephen Morrissey, the interviewer, is the Managing Editor of the Journal.
Inside Every Liberal Is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out
Frontpage editors are pleased to announce the winner of our essay contest launched on April 5, 2013: “Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out.”
The winner of the $1,000 first-place prize is N. A. Halkides. Mr. Halkides is a mathematician, systems analyst and freelance writer living in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. His essay, entitled Inside the Progressive Mind, is below.
Frontpage would also like to applaud two runners-up in the competition: Oleg Atbashian and Daniel Greenfield. Each of them will receive $500 for winning second-place and their essays will run consecutively in our following two issues.
Congratulations N.A. Halkides, Oleg Atbashian and Daniel Greenfield!
Inside the Progressive Mind
By N. A. Halkides
The Progressive believes in precisely two things:? his own magnificence and the constructive power of brute force.? In combination, they lead him naturally from the role of pestiferous busybody to brutal dictator.? Where the productive man dreams of the things he might create if only left alone by his fellows, the Progressive dreams of the world he could create if only the lives and property of his fellows were at his disposal.? The roots of his pathology lie in that oldest and most destructive of all human vices, the desire for the power to rule over other men.
As naked power-lust is a rather ugly motive, the Progressive rationalizes his desire to rule as a concern for human welfare, seeing himself as a great humanitarian, far superior morally to the lesser beings who pursue merely “materialist” ends such as their own prosperity and who frequently object to his program for achieving Utopia.? This assumed moral superiority spills over into fields of practical accomplishment, and the Progressive imagines himself capable of allocating resources and even directing entire industries far more efficiently than a free market, often despite not even having any business or scientific experience.? But despite what the Progressive believes about himself, the desire to compel others to obey his orders is what drives him forward.? To satisfy this desire, there is ultimately no limit to what actions he will take, for he respects none of the restrictions on government officials intended to guarantee individual freedom that have been developed and set forth in written or unwritten constitutions.
It is easy to make the mistake of judging Progressivism by its earlier and less-severe manifestations and to conclude that its petty and paternalistic restrictions, for example New York Mayor Michael “The Nanny” Bloomberg’s recent crusade against large-size soda drinks, are simply bothersome annoyances.? In fact the transformation from irritating but superficially benevolent nanny to ruthless dictator not only occurs rather quickly, it is a logical consequence of the Progressive’s zeal to usher in Utopia and of the means he must use to achieve the smallest of his goals – brute force.? We should recognize the following principle:? Once the Progressive is permitted to intrude however slightly into matters that are properly beyond the sphere of government, then all aspects of the individual’s life may be subjected to control.? Once any degree of coercion is permitted, then no level of force is out of bounds.
Let us see how this principle applies to the Bloomberg soda ban.? First, if the government has an interest in regulating the individual’s behavior in the name of assuring his health, no private decision the individual makes which could affect his health is beyond its power to control.? (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the “broccoli” argument that was raised in the court challenge of Obamacare by twenty-six states).? Second, since the government is to be permitted to use force to override the individual’s will, then it may use as much force as necessary to compel his obedience.? The punishment of merchants who refused to obey the Bloomberg ban was to be a $200 fine, which on the surface would probably not be thought of as extreme.? Note, however that this fine would probably have been sufficient to cause most restaurants to toe the line, and if it had proved inadequate there is no reason to believe Bloomberg would not have increased it to the point that no one would risk violating his edict.
If Bloomberg’s soda ban had been upheld (it was set aside by a judge during a rare moment when sanity prevailed in New York), the city could then have logically gone on to fine obese individuals or incarcerate them in “fat farms” where they would be forced to reduce, since nothing in principle would prevent this, and only the degree of public resistance might stand in the way of the ambitious politician determined to bring about these “superior health outcomes” – to use the modern technocrat’s jargon.? What specifically the Progressive attempts to control depends on his personal inclinations and just how far he senses he can push the general public.? Any weakness or lack of determination by the average citizen in resisting the nascent tyrant encourages him to push even further, whereas a determined resistance will often convince him to micro-manage some other aspect of our lives until a more propitious moment arrives to advance his original plan.? But in no case is the Progressive held back by any trace of self-restraint.
Now, packing unwilling citizens off to fat farms is only an example of how the Progressive might begin to move from “soft” to “hard” tyranny.? Do we have any examples in contemporary American politics in which Progressives have actually attempted something this obnoxious to personal liberty?? Consider the following characteristics of a “hard” tyranny such as Nazi Germany, the old Soviet U nion, or Communist China today:
 Press Censorship – all media state controlled and opinions of which the government does not approve become punishable offenses.
 Complete Gun Control – only agents of the state are permitted to possess arms.
 One-Party Rule – this means an enforced hegemony, where if opposition parties are permitted to exist at all they are placed at such an extreme disadvantage they cannot truly challenge the ruling party.
 Control of the Nation’s Economy.
Let’s take these four one at a time and see what, if anything, Progressives have attempted along those specific lines.
 Press Censorship – in 2012, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats proposed gutting the First Amendment by removing its protections from citizens who band together to form corporations. This means that while an individual citizen might still literally get on his soap box and attack the government, publishers of newspapers, magazines, books, and web sites could be shut down by the ruling party.
 Complete Gun Control – while some of the more radical Progressives within the Democrat Party openly call for complete confiscation (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo considered the possibility in the run-up to the State’s infamous SAFE Act), most recognize the political danger that such a stand would put them in, and therefore advocate what they soothingly refer to as “common-sense” regulations meant to get us to the point of confiscation in slow and easy steps.? For example, Barack Obama pretends to believe in the 2nd Amendment, although we may well doubt that his views have changed from his days as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Chicago where he told John Lott that he didn’t believe Americans should be able to own guns.? Mayor Bloomberg himself has recently turned his attention from oversize soft drinks to gun control, confirming the tendency of the Progressive to go from nanny to tyrant.
 One-Party Rule – Progressive Democrats have not moved to officially ban other political parties, but the fact that in many cities and states Republicans can no longer win control of either the legislative or executive branches of government under any foreseeable circumstances is extremely troubling.? A full analysis would be too lengthy to present here, but it appears that in at least some of these places, Democrats have secured a permanent governing majority in every election by means of special favors and income redistribution.? Republicans cannot match Democrats there except by playing the same game and in effect becoming Democrats themselves.? Under such conditions, there is no need to officially ban the GOP.
 Control of the Nation’s Economy – the purpose of Obamacare was plainly to take control of one-sixth of the nation’s economy rather than improve health care or health insurance.? The other major bill the Democrats passed when they had the chance early in Obama’s first term was Dodd-Frank, which increased the Federal Government’s control of the financial sector to a degree unprecedented in our nation’s history.? Given the opportunity, there can be little doubt that Progressive Democrats would bring additional areas of the economy under the control of the government.
Let me reiterate that once government is permitted to use force at all in a given matter, any degree of force is allowed.? Bloomberg’s $200 “big gulp” fine, as noted earlier, may not seem draconian, but turning an innocent citizen into a felon for merely possessing a standard-size gun magazine certainly does.?? We can only guess at what penalties Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Progressives would have imposed on those bold enough to criticize them had they been successful at sweeping away the First Amendment, but as the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act (an earlier attempt to limit free speech) provided for both fines and imprisonment, it is safe to say those penalties would have been quite heavy enough, and that inside every Progressive beats the heart of a true fascist.? And what is perhaps most frightening of all is that in the age of Obama, they’re not even trying very hard to hide it any more.
The Global War On Tobacco Awakens Ghosts Of Prohibition
Are iron-fisted bans on tobacco the best way to reduce smoking? Or will it end up replacing regulated tobacco by counterfeit, dangerous, organized-crime produced cigarettes?
June 8, 2012
By Valentin Petkantchin, LES ECHOS/Worldcrunch
PARIS – American writer Charles Hanson Towne wrote that the American prohibition of alcohol of the 1920s was probably one of the strictest prohibition experiences ever in the Western world, “came upon us like a phantom, swiftly…”? Well, the ghost is back to haunt us again, if you are to believe a report handed over by French Member of Parliament Yves Bur to the Health Minister.
Under the impetus of the World Health Organization and its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, countries across the globe have committed themselves to “denormalize” tobacco use and to punish the tobacco industry. On top of taxes getting higher and higher, a whole battery of regulations is also being implemented. But since the demand for tobacco “refuses” to disappear, prohibition is increasingly being brought forward as the only solution.
In Finland, the goal is to have a “smoke-free” country by 2040, and in Iceland, the idea is to sell tobacco over the counter in pharmacies and to make cigarettes available by prescription only in a few years.
In Asia, the kingdom of Bhutan even took a step further, banning the sale of tobacco altogether in 2004.
Yves Bur’s proposal would lead France on the same path. It includes additional price hikes, a new tax for tobacco companies, but also the introduction of neutral packaging, like in Australia, and the obligation to sell tobacco from under the counter – amongst other measures. Although the ambition is not to make France “smoke-free” yet, like Finland, the consequences of the new policy would be the same. Because whether you have a de jure prohibition like in Bhutan or a de facto one through a policy of “denormalizing” smoking, such policies overlook economic principles and actually make the situation worse.
To ban or not to ban
These policies will not change the reasons why tobacco is in such high demand. Experience – whether in Bhutan or in the United States regarding alcohol – confirms that prohibitive policies do not make the banned product go away.
Neo-prohibitionists tend to ignore the fact that as long as demand exists, there will be opportunities for making profit. “Outlawing” tobacco is paving the way for contraband, which fill in to satisfy demand. No wonder in Bhutan, as a report shows, “because of the ban, the tobacco contraband market is heavily implanted”.
This contraband market is very dynamic and well organized around the world. It represents an estimated 11% of the global market, boosted by high taxation, which represents as much as 80% of the price of a cigarette packet in France. Contraband will be here to substitute legal offer, if prohibitive government measures end up banning the legal sale of tobacco.
And yet, on an illegal market, consumers face a lack of information. Most of the fake cigarettes are low-quality products, sometimes stronger and more dangerous for health. For instance, it has been shown that illegally produced, counterfeit cigarettes have levels of cadmium and lead – heavy metals that are dangerous for the health – from 6.5 to 13.8 times higher than the original brand cigarettes.
Moreover, neo-prohibitionist policies would inevitably worsen the dire state of public finances. On top of deleting fiscal revenue of the legal market (about 13.2 billion euro, and that’s not counting related taxes such business taxes), the measures generate news costs to fight counterfeiters. The general population also risks suffering from a rise in organized crime, violence and corruption.
The existence of a legal tobacco supply is therefore paradoxically the only defense against the side effects of prohibition. Authorities should not forget that in their attempts to end tobacco consumption.
Feb. 9th, 2012
By Eric Peters: Automobiles, Motorcycles, And Libertarian Politics
Mandatory buckle-up laws set the precedent: Even your own body in your own car is no longer your own personal space.
Here’s how it works: The government decides that whatever it is you’re doing is “unsafe” – not specifically in your case, just generally -maybe, might be, could be – then asserts the legal authority to criminalize whatever it is you’re doing. Which means, it asserts the right to arrest you at gunpoint and threaten you implicitly and perhaps explicitly with lethal violence in order to force you to submit and obey. That is, to comply with the order. Failure to do so being sufficient provocation for the unleashing of escalating levels of? violent over-reaction. All the way to the end point of shooting you, if need be.
Now they’re coming for your cigarettes.
A study just released by the CDC (see here) characterizes second-hand smoke as the latest threat to “safety” – and of course, “the children.” It urges what you’d expect: That it be made illegal to smoke in your own car, at least, if “the children” are present and possibly even if they’re not. For as any smoker knows – as anyone who has shopped for used cars knows – any car that has been smoked in retains the essence of the Marlboro Man for years, even decades after the last butt was crumpled in the ashtray. There is no way to objectively tell whether a car was smoked in? last week – or 10 minutes ago. Hence, it is likely that any evidence of smoking –ever – will presently become? sufficient excuse for the police to issue tickets, stop people at gunpoint and perhaps even confiscate their vehicles (as is routinely done when another form of smoke is discovered).
“There is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke,” the CDC study states with authority. Except of course that’s anthead nonsense. Is the CDC really going to claim that, for example, a teenager who buys a used car that was smoked in previously is exposing himself to a measurable danger thereby? Or that if he accepts a ride in an adult’s car – said adult having smoked a cigarette a few hours previously – that the kid has thereby increased his risk of becoming emphysematic or developing lung cancer? It’s absurd.
This isn’t a defense of smoking. It’s a plea for the restoration of sanity. Please, people – how about some perspective – and proportion?
Notice the quasi-religious aspect, too.
You can almost hear the high-pitched sermonizing of these latter day secular Elmer Gantrys. “The car is the only source of exposure for some of these children,” says the CDC’s Brian King. “So if you can reduce the exposure, it’s definitely advantageous for health.”
For liberty (and reasonableness) not so much.
As with the jihad against alcohol – which metastasized from reasonable concern over cavalier attitudes toward drinking and driving into the absurd characterization of any drinking before driving as “drunk” driving -? smoking cigarettes anywhere, anytime, has been demonized as an evil on the order of pederasty that must be extirpated by any means necessary. It is no longer enough that smokers refrain from smoking in public areas. If there is any chance whatever that a non-smoker might catch a whiff, then it becomes a matter of public concern. Hence, smokers are already prohibited from smoking even in their own apartments or condos – and yes, even on the steps of their own porches, too. After all, someone might be exposed to second-hand smoke.
Shortly, you will not even be permitted to smoke in your own vehicle, for the same reasons. Doesn’t matter that you have the windows rolled up – and don’t have kids, for that matter. What about the poor attendant at the parking garage who might be exposed to the dangerous remnants of your anti-social choice to smoke? Or the child who might buy your ex-car three years from now? It’s no exaggeration. It’s depressing reality.
And it’d be comical – if it weren’t so tragic.
Peddling cigs to kids is one thing. Criminalizing adults for “exposing” a kid to a distant whiff of this morning’s Lucky Strike (or last year’s Lucy Strike) is quite another. The erosion of our personal space continues apace – and it will not end until we have no personal space left -? because in the minds of the collectivist thugs who control this country, there is no such thing as “personal” space. Anything you do could – conceivably – affect someone else. It need not be a specific, demonstrable harm – the standard of long-gone America. Just a theoretical “risk” – however vague, non-specific and generalized – will do just fine.? And it is going to become the all-encompassing rationale for total state control within the next 24 months, once Obamacare becomes the duly anointed “constitutional” law of the land. Nothing you do – not your recreations, not your dining habits not even your bedroom activities – will be outside the reach of “interstate commerce” and so, proper subjects for close and careful monitoring by your caring parents in loco in Washington, DC.
I’m at the point of packing my bags. How about you?