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09 Apr 14:50

Florida Trying to Make Microbreweries Sell, Buy Their Own Beer Back from Distributors

by Nick Gillespie

Submitted for your approval via Political Fix Florida: A proposed beer law so freaking stupid that it will make you want to get really drunk.

The legislation worming its way through the Florida state Senate forces microbreweries or other craft beer producers to sell their beer to a distributor and then buy it back before selling it to the thirsty public. Even if the microbrewers have restaurants or on-site bars.

The measure (SB 1714) has so infuriated craft brewers and beer enthusiasts that some on Twitter have christened it with the hashtag “#growlergate.” The Community Affairs committee approved the bill Tuesday.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, was so incensed at the idea of craft brewers having to pay someone else to sell their own product that he likened it to a mobbed-up racket. Latvala has championed the microbrewery cause.

The requirement is similar to paying "protection to 'Vinnie' in New York," he said.

The bill also is favored by the Big Beer lobby, which is feeling the heat from craft beer’s competition.

Ah, there you have it! The Big Beer lobby!

As The Tampa Tribune explains it, this is all part of the notorious and ridiculous three-tier system ushered in after Prohibition.

After the country's failed experiment with Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, states wanted to make sure no one - like mobsters - had monopoly control over booze.

They created a three-level system in which producers, including brewers, could sell only to wholesale distributors. The distributors then would sell to the retailers, and only retailers could sell to consumers. The idea was that nobody in one tier could unduly influence anyone in another, especially on pricing.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargell (R-Lakeland) and, as Political Fix notes, doesn't even require that the beer actually leave a microbrewery's property and then return. It's a pure payoff scheme. The bill also legalizes a 64-ounce "growler," or large jug of beer drawn from a tap. Currently, only 32-ounce and 128-ounce growlers are legal under state law. Because, you know, state legislatures are filled with idiots.

Hat tip: Patrick R. Gibbons

Watch "Beer: An American Revolution—How Microbreweries Promote Choice"

08 Apr 19:15

STUDY: Ability to forgive oneself critical to longer life...

STUDY: Ability to forgive oneself critical to longer life...

(Third column, 18th story, link)

07 Apr 16:21

IRS agent testimony: No progressive groups were targeted, despite claims by Dems and media...

IRS agent testimony: No progressive groups were targeted, despite claims by Dems and media...

(Second column, 1st story, link)
Related stories:
04 Apr 23:17

EPA Proposal Seeks Huge Power Grab over Farmlands

Republican lawmakers joined farmers and land developers to discourage the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from asserting a proposed rule which will increase its regulatory authority over the nation's streams and wetlands. 

"It's the most breathtaking power grab I've seen in a long time,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, (R-PA). In a letter from Toomey and signed by 14 other GOP Senators, they declared that the proposed rule hurts economic activity and oversteps legal bounds. At issue is the federal Clean Water Act, which grants the EPA authority to regulate "U.S. waters."

Two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 restricted the EPA’s ability to regulate isolated ponds or marshes with no direct connection to navigable waterways. The EPA now wants to expand pollution regulations to include the country's so-called "intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands," which are created during wet seasons, or merely after it rains, but are temporary. As Breitbart News contributor Charles Hurt pointed out in one of his recent "Nuclear Option" columns, just having a pond on one’s property can subject landowners to enormous fines by the EPA. Moreover, Hurt asserted that the EPA has its own propensity for polluting our waterways.

The American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the proposed rule will create much uncertainty because it subjects farmers to potential regulation if water pools on their private land after a rainfall. Moreover, it gives the federal government authority over creeks and even ditches that are miles away from "navigable waters." For instance, an intermittent pond formed by rainfall which contained fertilizer or pest control chemicals could be subject to anti-pollution regulations.   

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) introduced appropriations language this week aimed at blocking the rule entirely. Stockman said that farmers can apply for exemptions, but they must engage in a “conversion practice” that complies with Natural Resources Conservation Services standards. “Once the landowner completes the conservation practice or changes the use of his land, he loses his EPA exemption and must now comply with a new, and more complex, set of rules,” Stockman said. "In other words, the only way a farmer or rancher can exempt himself from the EPA rule is to adhere to a mountain of other new federal rules."

The proposed regulation is strongly endorsed by environmental groups and is at the heart of the Obama Administration's strategy for the 2014 midterm elections. President Obama has promised to use his executive “pen” as needed to ram through environmental and climate change protections.


05 Apr 01:26

Google's Discriminatory Leftism

On February 6, Google revealed not only its dramatic bias against conservatism, but against reality. How else to explain an email received by WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah with regard to the Google AdSense policy?

The email announced that AdSense would be cancelling WorldNetDaily’s account thanks to a “policy violation email this morning regarding negative/hate speech particularly with the repeated references to ‘black mobs,’ although I don’t know that this is specifically what it’s limited to.” According to Farah, Google wrote, “The reviewers cited a number articles [sic] with usage of this term specifically and in general asks that no ad code is placed on articles containing hate/anti or sensitive content as this is against Adsense policies and does not provide a good experience for users and advertisers.”

So what, exactly, was WorldNetDaily’s heinous offense? WND reported on the so-called “knockout game” phenomenon in which mobs of black teens attacked white and Jewish passersby in a macho attempt to prove their testosterone-filled bona fides. Google did not reference any specific misuses of the term “black mob,” nor did they identify any articles that actually constituted hate speech. “Just the term ‘black mob’ was disallowed, both within the content of WND stories and any comment left from viewers within the forums on,” Farah explained.

According to Farah, the issue goes beyond simply WorldNetDaily. “[W]e heard from a reliable third-party source,” he stated, “that Google has a list of sites they actively monitor for policy violations. Apparently WND is on that list because other sites with same or similar content are not getting flagged.”

Perhaps most disturbing, Google’s decision to pull WND’s AdSense account did not restrict its scrutiny to the actual written material by WND staffers or writers; it also encompassed the comments section, which on many sites is lightly policed. Such a policy would heavily discourage websites from opening comments at all, stifling speech and shutting down debate and community formation.

It’s no surprise to see Google crack down on particular political viewpoints. Google has long been a leftist company. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of the company, is a heavy supporter of President Obama financially, helping him with campaign advice in 2008 and 2012; Obama reportedly considered him repeatedly for slots within his administration before Schmidt was picked as Obama’s transition advisory board, as well as for a position on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST. Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, received personal training from Schmidt. So did Obama for America Chief Technology Officer Harper Reed and Engineer Mark Trammell.

Even the company’s Google doodles are politically charged. Last Easter, Google featured Cesar Chavez instead of Easter, and has not had an Easter doodle since 2000. The site also has never had a specific Christmas doodle, even though it featured Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, and iconic figure Frank Zamboni (creator of the Zamboni ice machine).

Furthermore, Google is in bed with the Obama administration when it comes to the greatest threat to internet freedom currently on the radar: net neutrality. That policy, under which the government would require “non-discrimination” with regard to bandwidth use for internet service providers, would dramatically regulate the market and prevent entrepreneurial exploitation of comparative advantage by competing internet service providers and websites. Google was in favor of net neutrality; that’s because, as Robert E. Litan and Hal J. Singer wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Absent net neutrality restrictions, entrepreneurs in their garages would devote significant energies trying to topple Google with the next killer application.”

Google was in favor of net neutrality. Until, of course, Google got into the broadband business, at which point it became an opponent of net neutrality, at least for its own purposes, and at which point the Obama administration’s FCC simply ignored enforcement of consumer regulations against GoogleFiber.

But Google’s overall position has not changed. Schmidt still maintains that Google stands for internet freedom, which makes its new take on disapproved political language somewhat unwieldy.

Google is a private company. It has the capacity to utilize its massive power for whatever political agenda it chooses. But for it to pretend to be an advocate for internet freedom while simultaneously disadvantaging messages it finds politically incorrect is deeply hypocritical.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


05 Apr 19:39

The Simple Politics of Tax Simplification

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

George Will writes that “tax simplification would reform politics by shrinking opportunities for transactions between private factions and the political class.  This class confers favors as much with the tax code as with appropriations.  ‘You can drain the swamp,’ says [Sen. Ron] Wyden.  ‘They did it in ’86′” (“A tax reformer’s uphill push,” April 6).

Alas, matters are more complicated.

In 1986 Milton Friedman, along with my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan and many other economists, while applauding the tax simplification enacted that year, pointed out that it was politically feasible only because by the mid-1980s the tax code had become so flooded with fiscal favors dispensed to special-interest groups that there was little room left for politicians to dispense any further such favors.  So politicians drained the swamp.  They did so, however, not to shrink opportunities for them to exchange political favors with private factions, but to make such exchanges once again easy and profitable.  The swamp was drained, in short, only so that it could be refilled with the foul water and stench of interest-group politics.

This reality is no argument against tax simplification, but it does counsel realism about the motives of politicians who seek it and about the permanence of that simplification.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030​​

04 Apr 21:54

Book Review: The Calorie Myth

by Tom Naughton

I began the year with a series of posts explaining why I believe weight loss is mostly about chemistry, not character.  People who insist it’s all about character (usually people who’ve never been fat) are fond of reciting calorie math:  there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, ya see, so if you just shave 500 calories per day from your diet, you’ll lose a pound per week.  Problem solved.  So demonstrate a little character, stop buttering your toast and pour skim milk instead of cream in your coffee, and you can be as thin as Jillian Michaels and the other experts in thermodynamics.

Those of us who spent years as frustrated dieters know it isn’t that simple.  We cut those 500 calories per day from our diets, maybe even drank crappy meal replacements like Slim Fast, lost a little weight, then stalled.  Calorie math just didn’t work as advertised for us.  The more we tried that whole “just eat less and move more” theory, the more it seemed like a myth.

Hmmm, maybe someone should write a book to explain this stuff with a title something like The Calorie Myth …

That is, in fact, the title of Jonathan Bailor’s latest book: The Calorie Myth.  (I’m more than a little fashionably late with my review, by the way.  The book was released in January, but as I’ve explained in my recent posts, I’ve been swamped with work.)

I reviewed Bailor’s book The Smarter Science of Slim back in 2012 and met him on last year’s low-carb cruise, where he gave a presentation about misguided calorie math.  As he explained in that presentation, the usual calories-in/calories-out math assumes your body works like a machine.  But it doesn’t.  Your body works like a body.

In The Calorie Myth, Bailor explains what “works like a body” means, and not surprisingly, it’s about all hormones — a.k.a. chemistry.  Bailor is quite a science wonk, and he cites published research virtually every time he makes a point.  Frankly, I’d buy this book just for the study references. But he’s also a gifted writer, so he takes what is often complex science and explains it simply enough for your Aunt Martha to understand.

I know some people will see the title and assume Bailor either doesn’t understand the laws of thermodynamics or is denying them, so let me say this for thousandth time or so: no one, including Bailor, is claiming that calories don’t count or that a high-quality diet causes calories to magically disappear.  The point is that the quality of the calories you consume has a dramatic effect on what your body decides to do with those calories … store them, burn them, use them for repair and rebuilding, etc.  In other words, the calories-in side of the equation affects the calories-out side of the equation.

For example, here are some quotes from the book about the metabolic effects of semi-starvation diets:

Eating less of a traditional Western diet does not cause long-term fat loss because this approach incorrectly assumes that taking in fewer calories forces our bodies to burn fat. This has been clinically proved to be false.  Eating less does not force us to burn body fat.  It forces us to burn fewer calories…. When our body needs calories and none are around, it is forced to make a decision:  go through all the hassle of converting calories from body fat or just slow down on burning calories.  Given the choice, slowing down wins.

… When we do not provide our body with enough essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals and essential fatty and amino acids) our body goes into starvation mode.  What does our body want more of when it thinks we’re starving?  Stored energy.  What is a great source of stored energy?  Body fat.  So when our body thinks we are starving, does it want to get rid of or hold on to body fat?  It wants to hold on.

… After our body survives starvation, its number one priority is restoring all the body fat it lost and then protecting us from starving in the future.  It does that by storing additional body fat.  Researchers call this “fat super accumulation,” and they believe it is a primary trigger for “relapsing obesity” – also known as yo-yo dieting.

He goes on to cite several studies (both animal and human) in which starvation diets led to slower metabolisms and more fat accumulation over time.

Wait, don’t get depressed just yet.  It isn’t hopeless.  The problem with those starvation diets is that they don’t adjust your set-point – the amount of fat your body is hormonally driven to maintain and will, in fact, fight to maintain.  As Bailor explains:

Long-term fat gain works like this: a person’s hormones go haywire, causing his set-point to rise, and then his body fights to keep him storing more fat…. Most obese people hold a stable weight around their elevated set-point.  Obesity is simply the result of the body defending this elevated weight – but in a very regulated way.  A heavy person’s higher set-point prompts the body to store more fat in just the same way that a thin person’s lower set-point prompts the body to burn more fat.

We all have a set-point – and that’s what determines how slim or stocky we are long-term.  Not calorie counting.

As Bailor points out, what makes the calorie-counting frenzy of the past several decades so ironic is that back in the days when most people were lean, almost nobody knew what a calorie was – and even if they did, it’s not as if there were calories counts listed on food labels.  So why weren’t they fat?  Bailor explains:

The explanation is that up until a few decades ago, we ate foods that maintained our body’s ability to balance calories automatically around a slim set-point weight.  In other words, for the past forty years we’ve been told to eat things that prevent our body from doing what it did for the entirely of human history – stay healthy and fit automatically.

Notice he wrote we’ve been told to eat things, not food.  That’s largely what screwed up so many people’s hormones and in turn their set-points:  the food-like substances that resulted at least in part from anti-fat hysteria and the push to convince everyone to consume more grains and more processed vegetable oils.  So it’s no surprise that Bailor’s prescription for lowering the body’s set-point revolves around food – as in real food.

The diet he recommends isn’t high-fat, but it isn’t low-fat either.  It’s not a low-carb diet, but by virtue of being a real-food diet, it’s not a high-carb diet either.  Rather than focusing on macronutrients, Bailor measures the quality of food by applying his SANE acronym, which looks like this:

  • Satiety – how quickly calories fill us up and how long they keep us full
  • Aggression – how likely calories are to be stored as body fat
  • Nutrition – how many nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals, essentially fatty acids, etc.) the calories provide
  • Efficiency – how many calories can be stored as body fat

The idea is to eat foods that are high in satiety and nutrition, but low in aggression and efficiency.  Those are the SANE foods.  Sugars and refined starches (and food-like products in general) are INSANE foods because they’re not satiating, not nutritious, and easily converted to fat.  Protein is of course high on the SANE scale because it’s satiating and not easily converted to fat.  Nutrient-vegetables are high on the SANE scale because they’re nutritious (duh), not aggressive, and not easily converted to fat.  (I watched Bailor eat on the low-carb cruise.  The man is serious about getting his daily dose of vegetables.)

The meat of the book (pardon the pun) is dedicated to explaining the science of how SANE foods lower our set-points and how INSANE foods raise our set-points and thus make us fatter.  But there are also chapters on why most forms of exercise won’t make us thin, why yo-yo dieting makes us fatter, why anti-fat and anti-cholesterol hysteria don’t hold up to the actual science, and why what Bailor calls smarter exercise (the right kind of progressive resistance training) will improve our health and body composition by building lean muscle mass and triggering positive hormonal changes.  The final section of the book provides an action plan for putting Bailor’s recommendations into practice.

Bailor doesn’t label his plan as paleo specifically, but it’s pretty close, as evidenced by this quote:

The closer a food is to a plant we could gather or an animal we could hunt, the more SANE it is.  And if anything other than cooking or cutting is required between the plant or animal and our stomach, it probably does not belong in our stomach to begin with.

So it’s a real food diet, but at the same time, Bailor and I share the opinion (which we’ve discussed) that perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of good … in other words, don’t freak out if you can’t find or can’t afford local and organic versions of everything you eat:

This point has nothing to do with eating organic versus conventional food.  Until someone discovers a Cheerios tree, a pasta plant or a bread bush, conventional blueberries are more SANE than organic Cheerios, pasta or bread.

Bailor’s writing is simple and direct, his advice is very SANE indeed, and I highly recommend this book.  (I also highly recommend his podcast show.)

NOTE:  As I suspected, Wednesday night’s very impressive lightning storm knocked out our cable service entirely — no signal coming into the house, according to Larry The Cable Guy, which means a crew will have to come out and find the problem.  We were told this will take anywhere between one and seven days.  So I’m posting the review, but won’t be able to read or approve comments without driving somewhere to get an internet connection.

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04 Apr 14:38

Health insurance market closed to most, now what?


As a general rule I try not to discuss Obamacare (officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA) here on The Self-Pay Patient blog. I have plenty of other outlets to share my views on that law, and this blog is supposed to be focused on how self-pay patients can find affordable care, whether they’re uninsured, have a high deductible plan, or have more comprehensive coverage but their insurer won’t cover a particular treatment or provider.

But Obamacare is a central feature of today’s health care system, and it’s just not possible to completely avoid the subject here. So today I want to address one of the problems that Obamacare has created for people wanting to buy health insurance, and what some solutions might be.

The problem is pretty basic – the ‘open enrollment’ period for people to buy health insurance is now over (well there’s still some leeway for people who tried to sign up but couldn’t because of technical difficulties, or who at least claim they tried), meaning that it is effectively impossible for many, perhaps most, people to buy health insurance until the next open enrollment period rolls around (November 15, 2014 thru February 15, 2015). 

A story in the Washington Post this morning explains the problem pretty well:

Health insurance isn’t a year-round thing anymore

WASHINGTON — Here’s more fallout from the health care law: Until now, customers could walk into an insurance office or go online to buy standard health care coverage any time of year. Not anymore.

Many people who didn’t sign up during the government’s open enrollment period that ended Monday will soon find it difficult or impossible to get insured this year, even if they go directly to a private company and money is no object. For some it’s already too late.

With limited exceptions, insurers are refusing to sell to individuals after the enrollment period for and the state marketplaces. They will lock out the young and healthy as well as the sick or injured. Those who want to switch plans also are affected. The next wide-open chance to enroll comes in November for coverage in 2015.

It’s a little-noted consequence of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which requires nearly all Americans to be insured or pay a fine and requires insurers to accept people with health problems.

“I have people that can buy insurance, but the companies shut them down. They won’t take the applications,” insurance broker Steve Bobiak of Frackville, Pa., said…

… eligibility for coverage during 2014 is guaranteed only for people who experience certain qualifying life events, such as losing a job that provided insurance, moving to a new state, getting married, having a baby or losing coverage under a parent’s health plan…

What this means is that anybody who decides that they actually should have health insurance (and I’m an advocate for people having health insurance or anything else that provides protection against major medical expenses) but missed the March 31 open enrollment deadline, will have to wait until med-November to roll around.

As the article notes, there are exceptions. People who lose employer-sponsored coverage, get married, age off of their parents plan, or experience another ‘life event’ will still be able to get new coverage before the next open enrollment period.

But if none of those apply, and someone decides they should get some sort of coverage, what options to they have? Fortunately, there are a number of options, which I’ll run through briefly here.

Health care sharing ministries. These are voluntary, charitable membership organizations whose members agree to share medical bills. They provide protection against major medical expenses similar to insurance. There are five sharing ministries that I know of (I have been told there may be a few small, local sharing ministries, but don’t have any info on those).

Four are open only to practicing Christians: Samaritan MinistriesChristian Healthcare Ministries, Altrua Healthshare, and Christian Care Ministry (CCM operates under the name Medi-Share).  A fifth, Liberty HealthShare, accepts anyone who shares their belief in religious liberty.

Each of these ministries operate entirely outside of Obamacare, and accept new enrollees year-round. They all operate a little differently, but the basic idea is consistent across all of them, with likeminded people sharing medical expenses similar to insurance. Members of three of the five (Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share are exempt from Obamacare’s tax on being uninsured, while Liberty Healthshare is seeking confirmation from the Department of Health & Human Services that their members will enjoy a similar exemption. Altrua appears to have been founded too recently (only 9 years before Obamacare was passed, while the law requires 10 years) to qualify for the exemption.

One other major benefits of health care sharing ministries is that they are typically much, much less expensive than conventional health insurance. I cut my own cost of coverage by about 75% when I joined a ministry.

Short-term health insurance policies. If someone is looking for a policy that will cover them for several months, until the next open-enrollment period, a short-term policy may be just what they’re looking for These policies usually last between 1 and 11 months  and are not regulated under Obamacare. Because of this, they don’t offer the same level of benefits that drive up costs for conventional insurance, meaning they are typically much less expensive. Deductibles are available that are higher than what is allowed with Obamacare-compliant health insurance, leading to further savings.

Short-term policies can typically be renewed at the end of the policy (technically it isn’t a renewal, it’s simply purchasing a brand new policy, which means it won’t cover any conditions that occurred under the previous short-term policy). This shouldn’t be a problem assuming that someone is simply trying to obtain insurance coverage to fill the period until the next open-enrollment occurs.

Alternative insurance products. While not as comprehensive as conventional health insurance, a sharing ministry, or short-term insurance, there are other insurance products that will provide lump-sum payments if you are diagnosed with a major illness like cancer, or have a heart attack or stroke, or have another medical event. These include fixed-benefitcritical illness, accident insurance, and even some life insurance policies. They cost a fraction of what health insurance costs, and by giving you cash directly you aren’t locked in to any particular provider network.

People might also look at what it would take to qualify for one of the ‘life events’ that allows the purchase of a health insurance policy outside of the open enrollment period. While getting married just to get insurance probably isn’t a very good idea, it may be that you live and work in an area where a short move across state lines will allow you to buy insurance without having to uproot yourself from your job, family, and friends.

And of course, as regular readers of The Self-Pay Patient blog know, not having health insurance or even alternative types of coverage is not a complete barrier to getting affordable care. There are numerous ways to get affordable health care and pay bills if a major medical need arises while uninsured, such as medical tourism, medical bill negotiators, patient assistance programs offered by nearly every pharmaceutical company, and several other options.  

It’s unfortunate that Obamacare only allows people to make such an important decision during a limited time frame, but that is how things will work going forward. If for some reason you find yourself in a situation where you missed the open enrollment deadline but still want health insurance or at least some sort of coverage, you do have options that will get you through until the next open enrollment period and perhaps beyond.

04 Apr 16:48

$6 Billion Went Missing...


How much did they pay Hillary, again??

03 Apr 22:17

The Progressive View of the First Ammendment

by admin

I didn't really pay all that much attention to the Supreme Court's election speech case yesterday.   But as I learn the reasoning that is driving the dissent by the four Justices on the Left, I am left deeply worried about the future of speech rights.

I really haven't put much time in understanding how Progressives justify strong speech protections for non-political activity (e.g. pornography) while eschewing them for political speech (in the form of multiple types of limits on the amount and timing of speech one is allowed prior to an election).  Justice Breyer, in writing for the minority in in McCutcheon, lays out what I suppose is the Progressive position.

First up, here is David Bernstein

But how can liberals, who so expansively interpret other constitutional provisions, narrow the First Amendment so that campaign finance no longer gets protection?

Justice Breyer’s dissent today shows the way, as he revives the old Progressive conception of freedom of speech as serving instrumental purposes (which he calls “First Amendment interests”), rather than protecting individual rights or reining in potential government abuses.  And once we identify those “First Amendment interests,” we must limit freedom of speech to ensure that they are advanced.

Thus, Justice Breyer, writes, “Consider at least one reason why the First Amendment protects political speech. Speech does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, political communication seeks to secure government action. A politically oriented ‘marketplace of ideas’ seeks to form a public opinion that can and will influence elected representatives.”  Just to make sure he’s not being too subtle, Breyer goes back to the source, Justice Brandeis, citing his opinion in Whitney for the proposition that freedom of speech is protected because it’s ”essential to effective democracy.”

Further showing off his affinity for the Progressive statism of a century ago (noted by Josh Blackman and me here), Breyer turns constitutional history on its head, by declaring that the purpose of the First Amendment was not to prevent government abuses, but to ensure ”public opinion could be channeled into effective governmental action.”  ...

Breyer adds that “corruption,” by which he means individuals engaging in too much freedom of speech via campaign donations, ”derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie. Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard. Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point.”

This strikes me as both tortured and dangerous.  Once one posits that that there is some ill-defined, un-measurable value like "promotion of positive government action" can be balanced against free speech, then the government gets a nearly unlimited ability to limit speech.

James Taranto also highlights parts of the decision

In making the case for the constitutionality of restrictions on campaign contributions, Breyer advances an instrumental view of the First Amendment. He quotes Justice Louis Brandeis, who in 1927 "wrote that the First Amendment's protection of speech was 'essential to effective democracy,' " and Brandeis's contemporary Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who in 1931 argued that " 'a fundamental principle of our constitutional system' is the 'maintenance of the opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people" (emphasis Breyer's).

After citing Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (!) views on the shortcomings of representative democracy, Breyer quotes James Wilson, one of the Founding Fathers, who argued in a 1792 commentary that the First Amendment's purpose was to establish a "chain of communication between the people, and those, to whom they have committed the exercise of the powers of government." Again quoting Wilson, Breyer elaborates: "This 'chain' would establish the necessary 'communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments' between the people and their representatives, so that public opinion could be channeled into effective governmental action."

And here's how Breyer sums it all up: "Accordingly, the First Amendment advances not only the individual's right to engage in political speech, but also the public's interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters."

What is democratic "order"?  What the hell is "collective" speech?  This is the kind of thing I would expect dictators-masquerading-as-elected-officials to spout as an excuse for suppressing dissent.  After all, doesn't dissent interfere with order?  How can we have collective speech when there are these folks out there disagreeing so much?   Again from Taranto:

It's important to note that when Breyer refers to "collective" rights, what he does not have in mind is individuals exercising their rights by voluntarily collecting themselves into organizations. In fact, the prevailing left-liberal view, most notably with respect to Citizens United v. FEC (2010), is that collections of individuals, at least when they take corporate form, have (or should have) no rights.

The only "collective" that matters to Breyer is the one from which you cannot opt out except by the extreme measure of renouncing your citizenship: "the people" or "the public" as a whole. In Breyer's view, the purpose of the First Amendment is to see that (in Chief Justice Hughes's words) "the will of the people" is done. Individual rights are but a means to that end. To the extent they frustrate it, they ought to be curtailed. You will be assimilated.

03 Apr 06:00

Robots Read News 15

03 Apr 16:21

POLL: 75% Believe Politicians Corrupted; 70% Use Political Power to Hurt Enemies...


I'm kind of sad it's not closer to 100% who believe that politicians are corrupt, but this is probably progress.

POLL: 75% Believe Politicians Corrupted; 70% Use Political Power to Hurt Enemies...

(Second column, 12th story, link)

03 Apr 16:57

FBI Seizes Antiquities First, Asks Questions Later

by Walter Olson

Walter Olson

An extraordinary and disturbing story just out from the Indianapolis Star/USA Today

WALDRON, Ind. — FBI agents Wednesday seized “thousands” of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.

An FBI command vehicle and several tents were spotted at the property in rural Waldron, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

The Rush County man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged.

So if the owner hasn’t been arrested or charged, what’s the basis of the raid? 

Robert A. Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office, would not say at a news conference specifically why the investigation was initiated, but he did say the FBI had information about Miller’s collection and acted on it by deploying its art crime team.

FBI agents are working with art experts and museum curators, and neither they nor Jones would describe a single artifact involved in the investigation, but it is a massive collection. Jones added that cataloging of all of the items found will take longer than “weeks or months.”…

The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.

Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase.

Might be illegal. Or might have been acquired lawfully. They’re not saying! But to satisfy its curiosity the government gets to seize everything and sort through at its leisure over longer than “weeks or months.” 

It doesn’t sound as if the artifacts were in some sort of immediate danger:

In addition to American Indian objects, the collection includes items from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia and New Guinea, he said. …

The objects were not stored to museum standards, Jones said, but it was apparent Miller had made an effort to maintain them well.

I’ve written previously, elsewhere and in this space, about 

the rise of a new “antiquities law” in which museums and private collectors have come under legal pressures to hand over (“repatriate”) ancient artifacts and archaeological finds to governments, Indian tribes and other officially constituted bodies, even when those artifacts have been in legitimate collector hands for 100 or more years with no hint of force or fraud.

Further regulatory regimes covering exotic and endangered animal and plant material make it dangerous to let the feds anywhere near your high-end guitar or other wooden artifact, and will soon make it unlawful to sell or move across state lines your family’s antique ivory-keyed piano (more here).

P.S. Coverage at broadcaster WISH-TV makes the SWAT-like federal occupation of Don and Sandra Miller’s property (an FBI “command center” and “massive tents” now surround the family’s home) seem even more appalling. Locally famous for his collecting, Miller has been anything but secretive about his holdings, which were featured in a four-part series in a local newspaper. 

03 Apr 15:38

Craft Breweries Fight Florida Bills That Benefit Big Distributors

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

As seems to be happening around the country, Florida is enjoying a boom in craft beer breweries that open their doors to the public. These generally informal drinking establishments—think folding chairs and picnic tables—tend to offer draft beer by the pint, flight, or growler, and give customers a chance to try seasonal or less popular beers that may not be available in local bars or stores. Some, such as Jacksonville's Intuition Ale Works, also sell special, limited-run brews—such as its bourbon-barrel aged Underdark—by the bottle. 

But selling bottled or canned beer at breweries would become untenable under a new bill making its way through Florida's legislature. Senate Bill 1714 would force breweries to sell all bottled or canned beer directly to distributors.

If a craft brewery wanted to sell its own beer on site, it would have to buy it back from the distributor with what is typically a 30 to 40 percent mark-up, according to Reuters. This would hold true regardless of whether the beers ever left the brewery.

Craft brewers—defined as those producing under 6 million barrels per year—say the new regulation is being pushed by big, national distributors with political clout. Direct-to-consumer sales from breweries cut into their long-established business as intermediaries. And craft beers account for a growing portion of overall beer sales. According to the Brewer's Association, overall beer sales across the country dropped 2 percent by volume in 2013, while craft beer sales grew by 18 percent. 

Another Florida bill, this one in the House, would end the state's ban on half-gallon growler sales but come with other downsides for craft brewers. Among these: prohibiting guest beers to be sold in brewery taprooms and limiting vendor's licenses to no more than two locations per brewery. It would also prohibit more than 30 percent of beer sold in a brewery's taproom from having been made off-premise, which could hurt businesses that brew beer in more than one facility but only operate one taproom. 

03 Apr 15:56

Citizens United and Turkey

by admin

So now that the Turkish incumbents have been re-elected, the government will allow Twitter to be turned back on in the country.

I think that the vast, vast majority of Americans would agree that this turning off of a communications vehicle several weeks before an election was a pretty transparent dodge to protect incumbent politicians, and that most of us would oppose such steps -- even be outraged by them.

So why the hell was McCain-Feingold's ban on 3rd party ad-based communications 60 days prior to an election any different?   These two steps seem absolutely identical to me, but my guess is most everyone agrees the Turkish actions were bad but the Citizens United decision that overturned the McCain-Feingold restrictions was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

03 Apr 14:41

Will We Ever Accept that Exercise is Often the Best Medicine?

by Mark Sisson

pillsvsexerciseFor years, experts have known that in mild to moderate cases of depression exercise is as effective (or more effective) a treatment as prescription drugs. Yet, here we are in 2014, with still climbing obesity rates and higher than ever numbers of people taking anti-depressants – a 400% jump in the last 20 years.  This past week, exercise as medical therapy got another round of press after The Atlantic highlighted the issue in their thought provoking feature “For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication.” Let me add, however, that we aren’t just missing the boat in terms of depression therapy. Research has shown time and again that exercise offers just as good if not better results for an array of medical conditions. I might be preaching to the choir with the general theme, but let’s go beyond the basic assumptions and home in on the critical underlying messages reflecting why exercise isn’t just the safest and often most effective choice but why it so often remains the least accessed therapy.

Yes, the whole picture is profoundly intuitive to any Primal type (or maybe anyone not sold on the pharmaceutical solution to living). Isn’t it a funny, head-scratching coincidence that basic exercise can prevent – and treat – psychological and physical decline? Who would’ve thought that movement was useful to our bodies – that offering our physical forms the activity they were designed to perform for eons would confer some actual benefit? Still, the actual results themselves are fun if not impressive to read. Consider this…

  • Regular exercise resulted in a 30% remission rate for those with depression who didn’t respond to SSRI medication.
  • Study participants with heart disease who exercised had the same risk of dying as those who took popular drugs such as statins, antiplatelet drugs or ACE Inhibitors.
  • Research subjects with prediabetes who took the array of common prescription medications had the same mortality risk as those who simply exercised.
  • Among study subjects who had experienced stroke, those who exercised had a significantly lower mortality risk than those who took medications such as anticoagulants and antiplatelets.

On the flip side of this coin, of course, are the negatives. We’ve established that exercise confers physical, cognitive and emotional advantages for the prevention and/or treatment of many medical conditions. Add to this equation the question of drawbacks. Does exercise have disadvantages? In all fairness, your hair gets messed up. You’ll likely sweat. You perhaps need to take an extra shower or time the day’s toilette to match your workout schedule. You need to buy a pair of shoes (but then again you can just go barefoot). You’ll need to invest a little time for heavier workouts but perhaps can try to get some of the low level movement in while using a handy-dandy treadmill desk (or, more old school, work a job with heavy manual labor or lots of activity). Then we come upon the whole inertia argument, but in response there are even effective exercise options for the motivationally challenged.

While I’m not trying to minimize the nuisance of smelly armpits or losing an hour on the sofa, let’s take a look now at the potential downsides of pharmaceutical solutions.

  • Side Effects for SSRIs: gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, sleep disturbance, weight gain, sexual dysfunction
  • Side Effects for Statins: memory loss, forgetfulness, confusion, muscle damage, increased risk of diabetes, liver injury
  • Side Effects for Anti-coagulants: excessive bleeding, severe bruising, bloody urine or stool, headache, back pain, chest pain, difficulty breathing
  • Side Effects for ACE-inhibitors: dizziness, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, numbness, fever, joint pain
  • Side Effects for Beta-blockers: diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, rash, blurred vision, muscle cramps, fatigue, headache, depression, confusion, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, low or high blood glucose

The final kicker? A study out just last month showed that more than 20% of older adults being treated for multiple medical conditions are prescribed medications that worsen the symptoms of another condition. In other words, their medications work at odds or in “therapeutic competition” with each other. The more we dig ourselves into the pharmaceutical hole, it appears, the worse (and more ironic) it all gets.

Knowing all of this, why does the obvious solution feel so impossible? Why won’t people accept exercise as a genuine medical option? Why do we tend to go with a pill (at times, an awfully expensive one) rather than a simple, natural behavior change? Why are we individually invested in this choice? Why are we as a culture – or medical establishment – so invested in this approach?

We’ll spend billions of dollars researching which gene “lights up” or which protein levels rise all in the name of better understanding the physiological mechanisms of disease while the solution itself is staring us in the face. Let me back up for a moment and suggest that I’m not arguing that exercise covers any and all medical need. I’m not saying it has the absolute power to cure or prevent any particular person from developing illness in his/her lifetime. Our physiology is inherently complex. People should avail themselves of the broad medical options that allow them to lead the fullest and healthiest lives possible. That said, there’s rarely an instance in which lifestyle choices can’t make a powerful difference either unto themselves or in conjunction with conventional or complementary medical treatments.

The million dollar question in all this, of course, is how do we get people to accept exercise as a treatment? How do we convince doctors to literally prescribe exercise (understanding, of course, that some already do)? How can patients be convinced to avail themselves of the safest, perhaps most effective treatment option? The Atlantic feature chose to address this question from the perspective of psychiatrists. Their answer? To treat it “like real medicine.” For one psychiatrist interviewed, that means addressing it in his appointments with patients as he would a prescription for medication, discussing the details of studies that support the effectiveness of exercise, talking about effective “doses” and intensity levels, emphasizing the importance of consistency by comparing it to a diabetic’s occasional versus regular use of insulin.

It’s a provocative thought. What if doctors talked about exercise as medicine in their sessions? Would it be convincing to the majority of people who walk through their doors? (Would it win you over?) The results, according to doctors in The Atlantic piece, seem mixed. The most difficult factor is the obvious elephant in the living room – that the pill is there ready to be prescribed, whether it’s called “a last resort” or not. Nonetheless, can the rhetoric sway at least some people to take exercise to heart? Will homing in on the technical details of dosage and variety get people to take the usually friendly advice as medical law – and personal treatment plan?

There’s an interesting wrinkle to this that I don’t often see discussed with how we tend to downplay the value of lifestyle interventions. Research into the placebo effect demonstrates that the more costly we believe a certain placebo “medication” is, the higher we rate its “effectiveness” in treating our symptoms. The value we attach to a treatment influences the actual results we think we experience.

This point, in turn, brings up another dimension. While we (rightly) exalt the everyday accessibility of exercise, are we simultaneously downgrading its appeal to those who need it most? Let’s just brainstorm for a minute. What would happen if doctors could prescribe personal training and/or fitness center/class use as they do physical therapy? People often skip physical therapy or bow out before they’ve met their goals, but generally people take advantage of it when a doctor orders it. Would it boost people’s buy-in if we promoted general fitness training and support the same way? Are we kidding ourselves to think we can put the onus solely on the individual when the system so clearly supports the opposite choices?

There’s an interesting cultural dichotomy at work here. I think a lot of ordinary people would bristle at the suggestion that they need a trainer or that this person’s service should cost them in treating their illness. Yet, they think nothing of spending as much or considerably more on medications than they would the guidance (and motivation) of a personal trainer. Simultaneously, there’s an odd fascination with the most extreme representation of the trainer figure as millions watch Jillian Michaels et al. every week in the disturbing entertainment of televised panopticon meets “fat camp.” We’re a confounding, nonsensical populace (collectively speaking)….

On the other end of the “medical speak,” when prescribing exercise is the self-care justification. You deserve to take care of yourself. You deserve to thrive. You deserve to not have to take insulin every day or deal with the complications of statins. Is this line of reasoning any more convincing for people than dosing out activity according to medical study suggestion? My own sense is it depends on the patient.

Either way, it always intrigues me how put out we are by our bodies’ needs. Are we naturally this lazy, or has the culture just gotten to us that we feel so put upon having to exercise ourselves – having to make the effort to pick up our 100 lb gym shoes and walk out that 1000 lb front door to go for a walk? That hour we have to “waste” on fitness could’ve been used for three dozen other, more pressing needs. Why not see a pill as the ultimate “easy button” that allows us to have it all. It’s hard to kick the collective faith in that assumption even if the research suggests a much different picture. Where does medical logic fit in a modern mindset? It’s hard to tell, but the simple Primal perspective as always holds – that we naturally live through our bodies and have the ability to physically and psychologically thrive when we offer ourselves the age-old inputs our genetic blueprints anticipate. Maybe Primal logic’s time has come.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. What thoughts does all this raise for you? Is there any clarity or direction to be found in how to prescribe movement over medicine?

Join Mark Sisson and Friends at the Mohonk Mountain House this June 5-8! Get Your Tickets for PrimalCon New York Today and Finally Meet Your Tribe!

03 Apr 11:50

More Like Jaw-Clenchingly Arrogant

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Here’s a letter to Pacific Standard:

Twenty-seven year old Johnie L. Jones is the first person profiled in your “Top 30 Thinkers Under 30” (April 1).  According to your description, he is among an elite few “social-science wunderkinds,” each of whom boasts a “brawny brain” and “jaw-droppingly impressive” ideas for “addressing society’s toughest challenges.”  And the challenge for Mr. Jones - as he describes it - is to “advance the mission of providing our country with healthy food options.”

Is Mr. Jones an innovative farmer staking his own funds on experiments to improve agricultural yields?  Is he an entrepreneur with a new business plan for reducing the costs of retailing food in poor neighborhoods?  Is he an agronomist testing new varieties of plant seeds that might grow abundantly in poor soil?  Nope.  Nothing like that.  Mr. Jones is a government bureaucrat who aspires to be elected to Congress.  Yawn.

Rather than creatively figuring out how to spend his own money, or money voluntarily entrusted to him, on ways to improve the life of Paul, Mr. Jones’s only idea is the depressingly primitive one of forcing Peter to spend money on ways to improve the life of Paul (or, more accurately, on ways that Mr. Jones merely fancies​ will improve the life of Paul).

So while Mr. Jones might have admirable intentions, there’s nothing remotely new or “brainy” or ”jaw-droppingly impressive” about his ideas.  Quite the opposite.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

“I want power to order people about!” is an idea neither new nor noble.

02 Apr 18:55

FDA Delays Threaten Kid's Life; Parents Plead With White House

by Zenon Evans

Austin Leclaire, 15, and his brother Max, 12, of Vermont, both suffer from a form of muscular dystrophy that leaves them with a life expectancy of 25 years. In 2012, Max began showing signs of improvement while participating in a clinical study with a drug called eteplirsen. Austin didn't qualify for the study, because he is wheelchair-bound. His condition has continually deteriorated: He can barely get himself out of bed or unlock a door. Making matters worse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now effectively blocking Austin's ability to access the drug by delaying its release. So, the Leclaire boys' parents are petitioning the White House.

The Boston Herald reports:

Cambridge-based Sarepta Therapeutics has been testing its [Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy] drug in 12 boys for more than two years and says the results are good, but the FDA has stalled approval until it sees results from a larger trial.


Sarepta spokesman Jim Baker said the company plans to launch a new, larger drug study later this year, with input from the FDA.

The process could take years.

But, "There is no reason in the world for this drug to not be approved. It’s 100 percent safe," Jenn McNary, mother of the Leclaire boys, told the Herald. She isn't alone:

Dr. Jerry Mendell of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who designed the Sarepta drug trial, said eteplirsen is a first-of-its-kind therapy and has shown "superb" results so far.

"I think the product is very good, and I think it deserves to be approved. … It has absolutely no side effects," he said.

Frustrated by the bureaucratic delays, the Leclaire family teamed up with a campaign called "The Race To Say Yes." They filed a "We the People" petition at late in February, hoping to get at least 100,000 signatures in favor of accelerating the approval process for the drug. They met that mark this past Saturday.

Unfortunately, as the Herald notes, the White House has not yet replied.

For more Reason coverage of the FDA stifling progress in medicine, click here or watch the video below:

02 Apr 15:30

Bomber blows self up after forgetting to set watch forward for Daylight Saving Time...

Bomber blows self up after forgetting to set watch forward for Daylight Saving Time...

(Third column, 9th story, link)

02 Apr 14:40

Resistant Starch: Your Questions Answered

by Mark Sisson

potatoes22Last week’s Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch garnered a lot of attention. While the article covered a lot of ground, many of you had lingering questions and concerns about the topic: What is and isn’t resistant starch? How much resistant starch should I be eating? Why is resistant starch good for me? What is resistant starch again?

I don’t blame you; it’s a confusing one that appears, on first glance, to challenge some of the fundamental Primal ideas about food and nutrition.

Today, I’m going to answer as many questions from last week as I can. Hopefully it clears up most of the bigger questions.

Let’s get right to it:

Do the benefits of RS outweigh the negatives of rice, legumes, potatoes, etc.?

Great question.

Rice and potatoes, yes. I’ve already spoken on both those subjects in previous posts, and my basic conclusion is that both rice and potatoes are relatively toxin-free sources of starch that an insulin-sensitive, sufficiently-active individual can likely consume in moderation without ill effect. For both foods, the negative effects come from the carb load they represent, which is simply too high for some people. But by cooking and cooling them, you reduce the carb load, reduce the glucose response, and improve your insulin sensitivity. In essence, any “negatives” are mitigated by the emphasis on resistant starch. If you have trouble with glucose tolerance, and you’re looking to drop weight, you should still exercise caution with these foods and heed the Carb Curve, but preparing them in a way that increases the RS content will only make them less problematic.

One note: potatoes are iffy for people with nightshade intolerance. So there’s that to consider.

Legumes, I’m not sure. I strongly suspect that the health benefits ascribed to legumes are solely due to the prebiotic, RS effects, which interest me but are not the sole province of the legume. But the fact remains that many people simply don’t tolerate legumes very well. It could be that some of the tolerance issues stem from disrupted gut flora and introducing RS will ameliorate your troubles, but who knows? We’re still learning a lot. In the meantime, I’m not too interested in soaking beans. There’s nothing essential about them, so long as we’re getting RS from other sources.

I’m a little confused…how does one go about adding RS in whole food form without doubling or tripling their normal daily carb intake? I can’t see eating 1-2 green bananas and a couple raw potatoes each day, in addition to normal amounts of carbs from veggies and fruit (I usually have one serving of fruit a day– berries, if possible) and still staying under 100-150 carbs. Please, enlighten me!

Believe it or not, you can easily eat green bananas without tripling your digestible carb intake. And that’s the key: you don’t digest these carbs, your gut flora do. An average large banana contains a hair over 30 grams of carbohydrate. If it’s green and totally unripe, the majority of that carbohydrate will be resistant starch that your body does not digest into glucose.

You’ll know you’re getting the good stuff when the banana is crispy and leaves a chalky aftertaste in your mouth. Pleasant, I know. But added to a smoothie, it’s actually quite nice. In fact, here’s a recipe I’ve been playing around with:

  • Cup of milk (coconut, almond, cow, goat, etc)
  • Large green banana, peeled and sliced
  • Quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Quarter teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Half teaspoon of honey (may be unnecessary depending on the sweetness of your bananas)

I assume that the time of day you take RS does not matter?

It shouldn’t. Once you’ve established a healthy population of butyrate-producing gut bugs, they don’t need to be fed at a certain time every day. They’re quite malleable and adaptive, and they’ll also begin feeding on other fermentable fibers in your foods.

What is the reason to supplement RS instead of getting it from food? How much RS is “good enough” and how much real food would meet that amount?

Supplemental RS is just easier, and most of the research in support of it has used supplemental RS-rich powders – so we know it works. But real food probably works even better since it comes with vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols (which have prebiotic effects in their own right), and it most closely resembles the way our early ancestors consumed RS.

Let’s see. If you can work your way up to between 30 and 40 grams of RS, whether from food or from powders, you’ll be in a good place. That’s the dose used in much of the research, and it’s where butyrate production is maximized.

What does that look like in food form?

600 grams of baked, then cooled, potato has around 25 grams. You can even lightly heat the potato after it’s been cooled and retain the RS.

1 large (8 inch) green, fully unripe banana has somewhere between 20-25 grams. A large green plantain has about 50 grams. Not the most palatable, but it’s doable, especially if you slice into discs and dehydrate into chips. A smoothie masks it well, too.

Any idea if heating the potato starch (like using it as a thickening agent in soups/stews) negates its RS function?

Yes, the RS will be completely negated. Sorry. It does make a good thickener, though.

Cooked and cooled rice – as in sushi? Or does the vinegar somehow negate the benefit of the resistant starch?

Yes, cold sushi rice will contain RS. Good sushi restaurants generally keep their rice at room temperature, though, so I’m not sure you’ll get the retrograde RS effect unless you go for grocery store deli case sushi. And hey, I actually like that stuff, so there’s no shame in eating it. Just avoid gas station sushi if you know what’s good for you.

Vinegar shouldn’t affect it either way. Vinegar does reduce the blood glucose response when consumed with carb-rich foods, so it might be a nice supplement in its own right if that’s an effect you’re after.

So that pizza crust recipe has mostly tapioca starch/flour (same) in it. (Also, not Potato Starch–potato flour) If I make the crusts and freeze them and then reheat and eat, would the RS still be usable? Same as the potatoes and rice I would think. So perhaps that is a go on the RS.

I don’t think it works like that. For retrograde RS to form, it has to be in its whole form – potatoes, not potato starch; cassava, not tapioca starch; rice, not rice flour.

Question about “cooked and cooled” – what the heck does that mean? So, I cook it, and cool it. Does that mean I have to eat it cold to get the resistant starch? If I zap my bowl of bean soup and rice that came out of the fridge, when does it lose the resistance to digestion?

Retrograded RS (cooked and cooled) is maintained during subsequent heating. You can even heat it and cool it once again to create even more RS. So you don’t have to eat it cold, though I would advise against re-heating a cooked and cooled RS source into oblivion. Keep the heat relatively low.

Should the carbohydrates from resistant starches (for example, a cooked and cooled potato) still be counted in daily consumption if it is not digested?

Some of it should still be counted, because not all – or even most – of the starch is resistant. Most of it is good old digestible glucose. But you can subtract the 4-5 grams of RS from the 21 grams total starch in every 100 grams of cooked and cooled potato. Not bad, eh?

And remember, it’s not that the 4-5 grams become inert, useless matter passing through your body. They are bioactive, just not with the biology of the host. They turn into fatty acids that fuel your colon and improve your ability to tolerate the digestible glucose you consumed along with them.

Is just eating Pistachio’s (or other seeds) enough RS to do the trick?

Probably not. To hit the 30-40 grams of resistant starch that maximizes benefits in most trials with pistachios would require a lot – of money, of calories, of shelling. 100 grams of roasted pistachios has around 3.5 grams of RS. That may be in the shell, and raw pistachios may have more, but either way it’s not a huge amount. Not bad, not great. The beauty of the less calorically dense RS sources is that they allow a more varied diet. It’s nothing to add a couple tablespoons of potato starch to your diet.

That said, pistachios are potent prebiotics. One recent study found that they increased butyrate-producing bacteria in the colon, outperforming almonds. You should definitely eat pistachios, but I think you should also eat other more concentrated sources of RS.

That’s the beauty of it all: it’s not a competition! We can eat pistachios and other things at the same time without disrupting the effectiveness of either.

Question: would hummus fit the bill as cooked & cooled legumes?

Yes, hummus seems to qualify even though it’s not Primal. According to the PDF from last week’s post, 100 grams of hummus has 4.1 grams of RS. Hummus made from soaked chickpeas will have more than hummus made from canned chickpeas, however.

What would be the best way to gradually incorporate RS into the diet for a person that has gut inflammation with chronic bloating?

You need probiotics. And in your case, I doubt yogurt or even kefir will be sufficient. Try something soil-based, as in the same types of probiotic organisms that Grok was getting on a regular basis simply from living. These are likely the microbes to which our guts are evolutionarily accustomed.

Primal Flora works (worked for me with RS!); it provides a high dose of two specific soil-based strains that have been shown to be helpful in clinical trials. You could also go more broad-spectrum, with more soil-based strains but lower concentrations.

Start really, really, really small with the RS. If you’re going with the unmodified potato starch, start with 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon. It will look like almost nothing. Increase it by 1/4 tsp slowly as comfort allows.

If that doesn’t work – but I imagine it would – and your gut is really compromised, I suggest trying Dr. BG’s gut healing protocol. It involves probiotics, prebiotics, and a number of other, more drastic but potentially necessary steps. The good doc is a bit wild, but in a good way. Just read her stuff at least twice and you’ll figure it out. Reading it out loud seems to help, too. She certainly has a way with language!

Does this mean I can start eating sushi and potato salad??! icon wink

Well, you can choose to eat anything you want, of course. That’s never changed. What this does indicate is that those foods, when cooled, have unique effects, different than if you were to eat a bowl of hot steamed rice or a large baked potato fresh from the oven.

The preponderance of evidence suggests that the potato salad and the cold sushi rice will result in a lower blood glucose response and feed the helpful critters in your gut – both good things. But before you go digging into that store bought potato salad on a regular basis, consider avoiding the seed oils and making your own. I’m a fan of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs, myself. I can rarely be bothered to make my own mayo, although that’s also a good option.

Anyone have a recipe using raw potato starch that can be easily incorporated into a primal/paleo diet (meat, eggs, veges, occasional fruit)? I don’t do smoothies, nor do I do fruit juice or yogurt.

Aside from smoothies, sparkling water is the best vehicle I’ve found for potato starch. The bubbles seem to enhance the dispersal of potato starch granules into the medium, even without a blender. Just a fork or even a quick stir with your index finger is enough to get it completely mixed in.

So what to use? Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch or Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour?

Potato starch seems to be the most reliable way. From reading the comment sections on blogs and posts on various forums, the digestibility of tapioca starch/flour varies from person to person. Many people seem to get elevated blood sugar after taking a tablespoon or two of the tapioca, whereas potato starch is almost invariably indigestible.

Can the potatoes be fried in lard and then cooled? I would rather try a yummy food source then a powder.

A few weeks back, I described my method for foolproof, easy crispy root vegetables. You pre-bake them and store in the fridge. This increases the RS content of the potato. When you’re ready to fry them, simply peel the skin, cut them up into the desired shape (cube, fry, etc), and lightly pan fry them in the fat of your choice. Lard is a great option. Since they’re already cooked, you don’t need a lot of heat or a lengthy cooking time, and the RS is preserved.

If we’re taking probiotics without RS as well – what is happening? The bacteria in the probiotics are starving? But don’t they eat other stuff besides RS? Sorry, I know I sound like a boob, but – I’m still a little confused.

No, the probiotics can still help, by partial colonization. But for the best results, you’ll want to provide food so that the probiotics have more lasting power and can hitch a ride into the colon where they do the most good. Feed the animals; they aren’t bears and it’s not Yellowstone! It can be resistant starch and/or any other prebiotic fiber. The point is to feed them stuff they can eat, thrive on, and ride on.

RS fits the bill.

One more question – how does this need for RS fit into the Grok-lore? What did our Paleo ancestors do that we aren’t doing?

As I’ve written before, wild tubers, roots, and other underground storage organs are frequently highly fibrous with lots of indigestible starch. That’s what Grok would have encountered, not the smooth, starchy goodness of a Russet potato, which had to be selected for by the experienced hands of agrarian tuber breeders.

We can’t all eat dirt-encrusted cattails rich in resistant starch, but we can approximate the effects with modern tools. Taking soil-based probiotics and emphasizing preparation methods that maximize resistant starch content is, by all accounts, an extremely Primal and biologically-appropriate way to emulate one important aspect of our evolutionary metabolic environment.

Any thoughts on the resistant starch found in Quest Bars? Quest Bars contain isomalto-oligosaccharides. The makers claim this is a resistant starch.

It’s not a resistant starch per se, but rather a prebiotic fermentable fiber. Studies indicate that while its consumption does improve constipation and increase production of the short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) propionate and acetate, it does not increase production of the most beneficial SCFA, butyrate.

Is consuming RS the only way to feed our gut?

No, definitely not. Other prebiotic substances matter, like various plant fibers (inulin, pectin), dark chocolate, and even connective tissue (yes, animal fiber - the crunchy gristle and cartilage too many people discard). With a Primal eating plan rich in plants and whole animals (including bones and broth), you should be getting plenty. But resistant starch is an important, unique prebiotic that makes feeding our gut a whole lot easier and more effective.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

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02 Apr 15:25

TX Cops Lobby to Ban Man from Exposing Speed Traps (Nanny of the Month, 3-14)

by Ted Balaker

Mind your hedges because this month the control freaks are abusing the definition of blight in Connecticut, spying on you (all of you!) as you tool around town in Los Angeles, and barring you from warning drivers about speed traps in Texas. Check out Nanny of the Month for March 2014!

Top dishonors come to us from Frisco, Texas, where ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless you're one of Police Chief John Bruce’s officers. In that case, feel free to bust a man for a non-existent offense that, even if were against the law, should call for a ticket, not the whole “cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em” treatment.

Sure, it may not have been technically “against the law” when officers arrested Ron Martin after they spotted him standing in a center median with a sign warning drivers about officers with itchy ticket-writing fingers lying in wait up the road. Good ol’ Chief Bruce can fix all that simply by leaning on his pals in the city council to pass an ordinance that makes what Martin did a fineable offense.

And sure, Chief Bruce has long been irritated by Martin who has volunteered plenty of time giving drivers a friendly heads up, but the chief’s actions definitely have everything to do with safety (says so in the ordinance itself!), and absolutely nothing to do with retaliating against Martin or maintaining a strong stream of traffic-ticket revenue.

1 minute, 41 seconds.

Follow Nanny of the Month on Twitter (@NannyoftheMonth) and submit your nominees for next month!

Nanny of the Month is written Ted Balaker (@tedbalaker) and produced by Balaker and Matt Edwards (@MattChrisEd). Edited by Edwards. Opening graphics by Meredith Bragg.

To watch previous episodes, go here.

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02 Apr 14:30

Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit

by A. Barton Hinkle

“Blacks,” said Mayor Barry Mahool, “should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidents of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.”

Mahool was the mayor of Baltimore who, in 1910, signed into law a racial zoning ordinance. According to Christopher Silver’s The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities, he was also “a nationally recognized member of the ‘social justice’ wing of the Progressive movement.”

The cities employing racial zoning included many Southern ones: Norfolk, Atlanta, Louisville, Birmingham, and more. But they were not limited to the South: Chicago practiced a form of racial zoning, too. San Francisco and other California cities used it to keep Chinese laundries in their place.

Yet the ball really got rolling in Richmond, where a 1911 zoning ordinance made it illegal to sell a house on a majority-white block to a black person, or a house on a majority-black block to a white person.

Even back then, the only color that some people cared about was green. The ordinance was challenged by whites and blacks who wanted to do business with one another. In 1915 it was upheld. “There is no discrimination between the races,” a Richmond court ruled in Hopkins v. City of Richmond, because the law applied to blacks and whites alike. What’s more, the ordinances were written “to do a public good” by keeping “one race from encroaching upon the other. The ordinances are intended to protect each race from harm from the other.”

That justification held for two years, until the Supreme Court struck down racial zoning in Buchanan v. Warley — a case George Mason University law professor David Bernstein has called “one of the most significant civil rights cases decided before the modern civil rights era.” As he wrote at SCOTUSblog back in 2004, the “right at issue” was the “civil right” of property — a right enjoyed equally by both whites and blacks: “ ‘Colored persons,’ Justice [William R.] Day wrote for the court, ‘are citizens of the United States and have the right to purchase property and enjoy and use the same without laws discriminating against them solely on account of color.’ ”

Regrettably, the highest court did not get the last word. No longer able to enforce explicitly racial zoning regulations, many cities used “expulsive” zoning to the same effect, by putting factories in certain neighborhoods to drive blacks out.

They also used other, indirect methods — such as housing betterment. According to Silver, “Richmond’s reform movement produced its own catalog of housing horrors when the Society for the Betterment of Housing Conditions published [a] graphic depiction of the city’s dilapidated black neighborhoods. [The] report made no direct reference to racial zoning as a remedial action but, instead, concentrated on housing codes [and] building regulations.”

Ancient history? Hardly. Progressivism likes to think of government as defending minorities from discrimination by private enterprise. But time and again, history has shown progressive ideas marching in lockstep with racist motives.

In 1954, the Supreme Court allowed the District of Columbia to use eminent domain to eradicate blight. The court’s language was high-toned: “The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive,” it ruled. “The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary.” The victims, however, shared mostly skin tone: The “urban renewal” district to be bulldozed was 97.5 percent black.

In the 2005 eminent domain case Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court allowed government to seize private property for someone else’s ostensibly higher use — condemnation in the name of social progress. Dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that “the fallout from this decision will not be random.” She was right. An Institute for Justice study of 184 eminent domain cases occurring since the 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London found condemnation was used disproportionately against minority property holders.

Another study, in 2009, found “a strong and significant … relationship” between low-density zoning policies and racial segregation. Yet another paper, published last year, found that “over half the difference between levels of segregation in the stringently zoned Boston and lightly zoned Houston metro areas can be explained by zoning regulation alone.”

That would not be news to the Bukharian Jews of New York — immigrants from Central Asia whose voluble architectural tastes offend the more subdued sensibilities of their neighbors in Queens. As Melinda Katz, head of the New York City Council’s land-use committee, complained in 2008, the houses in the area “have a specific aesthetic character” and “a lot of the houses that are [now] going up there are just simply too big. … They are out of character.” Oh, gracious.

To Boris Kandov, head of a Bukharian association, the issue looked rather different: “Why are we in America? Because we’re dreaming of this freedom! We were dreaming to build big house!” (New York to immigrants: Dream on.)

Related concerns are now raising hackles in Fairfax County. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that longtime residents of some neighborhoods have taken to calling or emailing the county’s code-enforcement division with complaints about too many cars in certain driveways and too many people in certain houses. By an amazing coincidence, the objects of the complaints are always immigrants — usually large Asian or Hispanic families. As Tim Cavanaugh observed in Reason three years ago, the attraction of urban planning is that it “allows discrimination but dresses it up as discriminating taste.”

But to the complainers, the issue isn’t race or ethnicity — it’s “quality of life.” You can’t have a bunch of people sharing a house, fixing cars in the yard and so on. It’s out of character with the neighborhood. It causes tensions and creates civil disturbance. And it’s bad for property values. There’s no discrimination in simply wanting the rules enforced, right?

Baltimore’s Barry Mahool would certainly agree.

01 Apr 21:23

It’s official – Chicago experienced the coldest four months ever on record

by Anthony Watts
An over a century-old record falls. The average temperature for December 2013 to March 2014 period in  Chicago was only 22.0°F, 10 degrees below freezing, beating the old record set in the winter of 1903-04. It even beat the harsh … Continue reading →
31 Mar 19:05

Ex-NSA Official Breezily Reveals Details Of NSA Surveillance Capabilities In Iraq

by Mike Masnick
Throughout the whole Ed Snowden ordeal, defenders of the NSA and the surveillance state keep insisting that revealing even the slightest details of the NSA's capabilities help our enemies "win" because they'll learn how to avoid the surveillance. As such, they've been wringing their hands about how any revelation of what the NSA is up to will cause immense damage. Just recently, the NSA pressed hard on the Washington Post not to reveal the name of the country where the NSA is currently recording every single phone call. The Washington Post agreed to withhold this information -- a decision that some have challenged.

However, barely a week later, in a glowing profile by the LA Times of now-retired NSA boss Keith Alexander, his former number two guy at the NSA, Chris Inglis, who also just retired, breezily admits to the depth of the NSA's surveillance capabilities in Iraq, information that prior to this had not been public:
In Iraq, for example, the National Security Agency went from intercepting only about half of enemy signals and taking hours to process them to being able to collect, sort and make available every Iraqi email, text message and phone-location signal in real time, said John "Chris" Inglis, who recently retired as the NSA's top civilian.
The entire article is a weak (and grossly transparent) attempt to recast General Keith Alexander's legacy -- and thus it seems that Inglis, Alexander and the NSA have no problem at all revealing the details of its capabilities in Iraq when the entire purpose in doing so is an attempt to show how good Alexander was for the NSA. Rest assured, however, had the same bit of information come out from one of the reporters with access to the Snowden documents, the NSA and all its defenders would be screaming as loud as possible about how the publication of such information would cost lives and create immense damage to American interests while aiding our enemies. Yet, apparently, it's all fine and dandy to reveal such information... when it's part of the effort to canonize the NSA retired leader.

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31 Mar 19:26

Flying Out of NYC, Gun Owners? Not So Fast. The Locals Want To Bust You and Steal Your Firearms.

by J.D. Tuccille

Gun lock boxesThe tale of a 65-year-old engineer, flying home to Alabama through LaGuardia Airport, and then dragged off in handcuffs after following all of the Transportation Security Administration's extensive rules for getting his .22 pistol from Point A to Point B, features in an Associated Press story.

As it turns out, Mike Connolly was arrested simply because he owned a firearm and was within the grasp of New York City authorities. City officials used the opportunity to mug him and steal his gun.

From Jake Pearson at Associated Press:

Mike Connolly thought he was doing everything by the book after a vacation last fall when he packed his handgun for the flight home from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Following Transportation Security Administration guidelines, the 65-year-old Alabama engineer locked his unloaded Ruger .22 in a hard-sided container, put it in a checked bag, handed it to the ticket agent and told the agent the weapon was inside.

That’s when he was slapped with handcuffs, arrested on a felony weapons possession charge and hauled off to jail.

Such incidents—travelers passing through New York City with locked, unloaded firearms and being arrested just because—are sufficiently common that at least one Queens Attorney maintains a page on his website devoted to his expertise in such matters. According to Martin Kane:

If you have been arrested for possession of a firearm or other weapon at JFK or LaGuardia airports in Queens County, NY, you probably share several traits with almost all of my airport gun arrest clients:

1) You are a law-abiding citizen who is careful to follow the law.

2) You recognize the responsibilities of gun ownership and are careful to handle, store, and transport your handgun in the safest way possible.

3) When you flew to New York, you carefully checked with both your airline and the TSA as to whether it was legal to transport your firearm in your luggage. You also learned and followed the strict requirements such as unloading and segregating ammunition, using a TSA approved lockbox, and submitting a TSA Declaration form.

The Associated Press agrees, saying of the 25 travelers arrested at New York City airports last year, "They were hardly nefarious gun runners. Most were otherwise law-abiding gun-owners who mistakenly thought they had appropriately packed their heat for travel."

For their troubles, if they don't fight, the "offenders" get their charges reduced to non-criminal violations with hundreds of dollars in fines—and city officials steal their guns. That's in addition to the time the travelers spent in jail for trying to do things by the rules.

If they fight, they face felony charges.

Why has New York City become such a trap for gun owners who are trying to follow the rules to get out of the place? Writes Kane, "The short answer is that New York has the toughest gun control laws in the world and does not recognize the legitimacy of any out of state licenses as conveying any rights in New York. To make matters worse, our current mayor has made gun law enforcement a signature issue and accordingly, the Queens District Attorney has set up a separate bureau headed by a high ranking official just for gun cases."

Queens Executive District Attorney Robert J. Masters, who sounds like quite the jerk, puts the blame on the arrestees. "There is, frankly, an element of irresponsibility. They’ve traveled. They realize that licenses are different around the country."

Remember, these travelers were trying to get out of New York City, so there's no pretense of keeping residents safe from (**gasp**) unloaded, locked guns. So licenses may be "different," but this is just a game of gotcha.

Update: And another New York attorney addresses gun-owning travelers busted at airports, and another, and another.

In 2012, the Guns & Patriots newsletter at Human Events called these incidents "shakedowns," noting that travelers who call airlines or LaGuardia to check on legal processes for transporting firearms are given no warning of special restrictions beyond TSA rules at all. They just face arrest once within the grasp of New York City officials.

31 Mar 12:00

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 268 of Armen Alchian’s profound 1976 essay “Problems of Rising Prices,” as it is reprinted in Vol. 1 of The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian (2006) (original emphasis):

The so-called shortage of gasoline and energy in the United States [during the 1970s] was precisely and only such a political attack.  It could not have been brought about more cleverly and deceitfully even if the politically ambitious had explicitly written the script.  Inflate the money stock; when prices rise, impose price controls to correct the situation.  These controls lead to shortages which “require” government intervention to assure appropriate use of the limited supply and to allocate it and even to control and nationalize the production of energy.  The powers of political authorities are increased; the open society is suppressed.

Last night in Chicago I dined with Johan Norberg.  (By the way, if you’ve not yet read Johan’s book In Defense of Global Capitalism, do so.  It’s a masterpiece.)

Johan and I were discussing our introductions to classical liberalism.  My own introduction came in January 1977 when I first saw supply-and-demand analysis in a Principles of Microeconomics course at my alma mater, Nicholls State University.  My professor – Michelle Francois – explained the consequences of government-imposed price ceilings.  Shortages.  Queuing.  Arbitrary and grossly unfair rationing.  Higher costs to consumers of acquiring the goods and services whose money prices are capped by government diktat.  Increased demands for further government intervention.

The Nixonian price controls of the 1970s were not good for much, but they did reveal to those of us who suffered through them the truths of economics much more vividly than those truths might otherwise have been revealed.

29 Mar 01:39

Kansas Legislative Committee Pushes Bill That Would Make It A Felony To File False Complaints Against A Police Officer

by Tim Cushing

How can you tell if an introduced bill is a bad piece of legislation? Well, there are several indicators to look for -- overly broad language, written as a reaction to a recent tragedy -- but when a bill is referred to as the "retaliation bill" by a large majority of the press, the problems are right there on the surface. (h/t to Techdirt reader Rekrul)

The Kansas legislature's Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice recently introduced a bill with some very chilling implications for citizens.

The bill, titled "filing false complaints against a law enforcement officer," was introduced in February by the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice and moved quickly to the Taxation Committee before ending March 13 in the Committee for Transportation and Public Safety Budget. In its one-hour Tuesday hearing, according to the legislative research department, only one person spoke in favor of the bill while eight others, including legislators and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke against it…

According to the bill, a complaint over a law enforcement officer that a department finds to be false "shall be closed immediately and the law enforcement agency shall seek criminal prosecution against the complaint for perjury." All complaints would be submitted with a signed affidavit that included the time, date, place and nature of the offense. Current law requires that law enforcement departments review all complaints, whether anonymous or signed.
This bill, currently stalled, would make it a felony to file a false complaint against a police officer, something that used to be handled via civil litigation. And there would be no option for filing anonymous complaints, which would further discourage the reporting of alleged police misconduct.

In addition, officers would be allowed to view the complaint and any related evidence before making a statement, giving accused officers a chance to craft narratives before issuing statements that might be contradicted by the evidence submitted. The complaint's lack of anonymity would give accused officers the name, address, phone number, etc. of their accuser, something that could easily lead to harassment. (Of course, law enforcement agencies could strip this information before presenting it to the accused officer [the bill contains no stipulation to do so], but how many here believe that would actually happen -- or that the information couldn't be accessed otherwise?)

Also problematic is the fact that the bill stipulates that "no other law enforcement agency" can open an investigation on a complaint if another agency has performed an investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing. This would keep all investigations "in-house," which greatly contributes to the likelihood that complaints will be found false (and subsequently, result in felony charges against the filer). This would prevent agencies like the FBI and DOJ from investigating closed complaints to see if anything was missed or covered up. This stipulation would further insulate police from accountability.

The bill is so bad even the attorney for the local police union (the entity that usually works hard to restore bad cops to their former positions) found the wording somewhat problematic.
The one person who testified in favor of the bill Tuesday was Sean McCauley, an attorney for the Kansas chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Kansas State Troopers Association. While he had reservations about allowing departments to pursue charges for unfounded or minor allegations, local FOP President Sgt. Tyson Meyers did see some value in the bill.

"I'd like to protect officers against false allegations," he said, stating officers can be subject to administrative leave following a complaint or suffer from a tarnished reputation even if the allegation is proved to be false.

"At the same time, we should police our own and have the integrity to monitor our department."
He also added that it was a bad idea to limit complaint investigations to one department, noting that previous investigations by outside agencies had led to the rooting out of bad cops who otherwise would have gone unpunished.

As it stands now, the bill is effectively dead. The coverage of the bill has been universally negative, and after its nearly one-sided showing during its floor appearance, no further discussions on the bill have been scheduled. The question remains as to why such a bill, loaded with negative side effects for the public, was ever introduced, as well as who exactly is behind it. The committee page lists several names, but the bill's sponsor is the committee itself, rather than a certain legislator. Safety in numbers applies to bad legislation, it seems. The bill seeks to out anonymous complainants, but has been shepherded into the public forum by no one in particular.

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28 Mar 20:39

FDA Moves to Stop Sharing Between Beer Makers and Farmers

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

As anyone who's ever brewed their own beer knows, the process leaves a lot of excess ... stuff. This goopy aftermath of the brewing process is known as "spent grain," and it would generally go to waste. But many brewers have developed relationships with farmers, who feed the spent grain to cows and other livestock. It's a win-win: Farmers get cost-effective feed, while brewers cut down on environmental waste and also possibly make some extra cash (or at least save cash by not having to dispose of the spent grain). 

Obviously, this won't do

Under new rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, breweries would be required to dry and package spent grain before it could be given or sold to farmers to use as feed. Both brewers and farmers are upset by the proposal, which they say would pose a big financial burden and also just generally makes no sense.

"The transfer of spent grain ... has been going on for decades," said Jason Perkins, brew master for Allagash Brewing Company. "It is just this kind of perfect, symbiotic relationship between a brewer and a farmer."

According to, spent grain accounts for as much as 85 percent of a brewery's total byproducts. Allagash creates about 10,000 pounds of spent grain each day, according to Perkins, which the brewery donates (free of charge) to a local farmer.

But processing the spent grain would require additional equipment investment and additional labor. If the FDA has its way, brewers are likely to back out of their once-symbiotic relationships with farmers (or at least stop giving away spent grain for free), thereby raising farmers' operational costs. Or they'll see their own costs go up, whether they choose to process the feed for farmers the FDA's way or simply dispose of it (which still costs more than giving it away for free to livestock farmers). Either way, nobody wins under the new proposal. Thanks, FDA! 

28 Mar 17:43

Sixth Grade Whiz Figures Out How to Save the Government Almost $400 Million by Changing Fonts

by Peter Suderman

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did. 

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a science project, he measured how much ink was used in creating enlarged versions of commonly used letters in his teachers' handouts. And then he measured how ink usage would be reduced by using different fonts. 

Printer ink can be quite expensive—almost double the per ounce price of Chanel No. 5 perfume, as Mirchandani tells CNN, which first reported the story

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes. 

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research. 

The task was tougher. But the potential savings were much, much bigger. CNN reports:

With an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion, the government was a much more challenging task than his school science project.

Suvir repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office website and got similar results --change the font, save money.

Using the Government Services Administration's estimated annual cost of ink -- $467 million -- Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% -- or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn't count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir's work as "remarkable." But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO's efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn't seem terribly interested in pursuing them. 

28 Mar 18:00

IPCC admission from new report: ‘no evidence climate change has led to even a single species becoming extinct’

by Anthony Watts
In 2007, the IPCC predicted that rising global temperatures would kill off many species. But in its new report, part of which will be presented next Monday, the UN climate change body backtracks. There is a shortage of evidence, a … Continue reading →