Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown (1933-2006)

The Godfather of Soul and the father of funk, James Brown, has gotten up to get down one last time, leaving us to help make the great band in the sky a whole lot funkier.

With a James Brown show previously scheduled for this coming New Years Eve at B.B. King's, seeing my first JB show seemed a possibility. Now, I'm starting to realize there's quite a few artists I need to be seeing sooner than later.

RaggedThots contributor MadScribe adds:
"As a young black male growing up, he wasn't just a musical inspiration, he was a business, entrepreneurial, and even libertarian inspiration.

I couldn't say it any better than his classic song, "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I'll Get It Myself)"
He's already missed. RIP.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Frieden Fries

Meet Dr. Tom Frieden, the man with the power to control the personal lives of New Yorkers. In his short stint as the city's health overlord, Frieden has banned smoking in private dining areas, detained TB patients for refusing treatment, created a monitoring system to track diabetes patients like the endangered Cochabamba Mountain-finch (and, unlike the Mountain-finch, without their knowledge), released dire warnings on the effects of secondhand smoke on pets, enabled health officials to look into the medical records of AIDS patients, banned the use of trans fats, and -- oh yes -- he's just getting warmed up. As profiled in this week's New York Magazine, Frieden is a messianic health missionary who won't quit until mortality, too, is banned. But, unlike Frieden and his co-elitist-in-chief, Mayor Bloomberg, not everyone shares this obsession with living forever ...
This is hard for someone like Frieden to accept. His basic philosophy is that each time a New Yorker dies a premature death from a preventable disease, he has failed. “Whenever he sees anybody smoking in New York City,” his former communications director, Sandra Mullin, told me, “he considers it his fault.” (She also said that several members of the staff were smokers when Frieden took office—he never pressured them to quit, Mullin said, but they all did.)

What Frieden argues is this: With trans fats, it is the restaurants that are giving people no choice. “In a restaurant, it’s not labeled, and there’s no practical way to do it. Nobody goes into a restaurant and says, ‘I’ll have a plate of trans fats.’”

Strictly speaking, yes, nobody does. But they do supersize their orders of French fries. Certainly, from a public-health point of view, we do a pretty lousy job of making our own choices, even when we know which choices are better for us. “Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in New York City,” says Frieden. “Exhorting people to eat less and exercise more is totally ineffectual.”

No, that's why the jackboot of government becomes necessary. Bravo to the piece's author, Dan Halpbern, for taking the rare step of actually considering the implications these precedents have set:

His track record clearly cuts against individual rights in favor of collective safety. As director of the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control in the early nineties, he successfully sought the detention of TB patients who repeatedly failed to adhere to treatment. And in his current position, he has pushed for a surveillance system to report diabetics’ test results as well as changes to New York law that would waive the requirement to obtain written consent before performing an HIV test. The American Civil Liberties Union has also criticized the health commissioner for his proposals to open HIV-positive patients’ medical files to health officials so that their progress may be monitored.

“It’s awfully Orwellian that the health department could get your labs, call you up, call your doctor up. I’m not sure that’s the kind of health system I want,” says Charles King, the president and CEO of Housing Works, the nonprofit organization that provides housing and services to homeless persons living with HIV/aids. King told me he found Frieden to be intractable: “He believes in what he’s doing to the point of arrogance, and as a consequence doesn’t really listen to outside voices.”

This is, of course, a very old fight, a battle over the extent to which government should be able to employ paternalistic policies: Is it acceptable to remove trans fats from restaurants? How about locking up TB patients? If these are the precedents, what would stop the city from, say, making it punishable by a prison term to have sex if you are HIV-positive? To put anyone who comes off a flight from Hong Kong in quarantine? To remove a child from a mother who drank too much wine during pregnancy?

Why not? As I wrote recently, acquiescing to this style of lawmaking necessarily invites totalitarianism.

So what shape will the restaurant industry take once trans-fats are banned? Hopefully something like Chicago's, where restaurateurs are defiant in the face of the Windy City's recent ban on foie gras, as the Chicago Tribune reports:
Chicago's foie gras ban took effect on Aug. 22, and several restaurants rebelled that night by serving the forbidden fatty liver on pizza, soul food, sausages and in other dishes.

Some chefs and restaurateurs promised more of the same--culinary civil disobedience to protest the ordinance--while also collectively suing the city to overturn the ordinance ....

The words "foie gras" actually still appear on Bin 36's dinner menu in a $14 appetizer: "Summer fig, apricot and honey terrine, and a foie gras torchon, on us." The dish includes a sizable, squat cylinder of dense, spreadable foie gras alongside the gelled fruit combination. The restaurant seems to be testing a possible legal loophole that has been much debated: If you can't sell foie gras, can you give it away?
And civil disobedience is breeding creativity:
Foie gras appeared on pizza on Archer Avenue Tuesday, complemented cornbread and catfish at a South Side soul food place, and was stacked on sausages like pats of butter at a gourmet hot dog joint on the North Side.

Chicago's immediate reaction to a city ordinance banning foie gras--the French dish made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese--was to embrace the gray goo like never before, in flights of culinary imagination.

Rhetoric and pate abounded on the first day of the City Council's ban, as restaurateurs and gourmands openly flouted the prohibition--cultured, giddy, goose-liver-fueled acts of defiance.
Like teenagers told not drink booze, the ban is having a perverse effect:
At the same time, many diners tried the dish for the first time, drawn to the outlaw pate out of curiosity or desire to chomp on the wild side.

Some profusely thanked the restaurateurs who served it. Others laughed as they nibbled away, rolling their eyes at Chicago's avant-garde concern for poultry.

The city Department of Public Health delayed enforcement, and even Mayor Richard Daley raised his hands in bewilderment.

"I think it's the silliest law that they've ever passed," he said Tuesday.

Call it the City Council's foie gras faux pas.
And what of the actual taste?
As a host of restaurants thumbed their noses at the ban by hastily introducing the dish, diners joined the revolt just by going out to lunch.

At BJ's Market & Bakery, a soul food restaurant on Stony Island Avenue, a sign placed next to the cash register declared foie gras the special of the day, and those who had it proclaimed it delicious.

"I've had regular liver and it doesn't taste like that. I hate to say it, but it tastes like chicken," said manager Steven Jones, 22. "I tried it and I thought it was pretty good."

At Connie's Pizza on Archer Avenue, employees wedged a foie gras pizza on a table display between a pork cutlet sandwich special and a bucket of Miller Lite bottles.

His table shaking with laughter, 54-year-old Jerry Stout of Naperville pronounced that "it tastes like expensive liverwurst. But I better not say that, they might try to ban that too."

In a "Farewell to Foie Gras" spectacular, Harry Caray's Restaurant on Kinzie Street offered a foie gras on sea scallop appetizer and a foie gras and tenderloin entree. Managing partner Grant DePorter said he considered having the farewell a day earlier--but decided Tuesday made "a bigger statement."
'The Joe Moore'
A less publicized but long-standing protest continued at Hot Doug's, where proprietor Doug Sohn offered three variations of a foie gras-laced sausage despite the prohibition. In April he named the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage (with green apple mustard and goat cheese) "The Joe Moore" in honor of the proposal's sponsor.

Sales have been brisk, Sohn said, and he doesn't plan to stop selling it until more clarity about the law arrives.

The line of customers stretching out the front door of his jammed red-and-yellow store widened his smile.
UPDATE: John Stossel asks, "Why do the health police get to take away my choices?"

UPDATE II: Forgot to include this earlier. Frieden is taking credit for New Yorkers' longer lifespans. The man is a GOD.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Now Less Funny!

Like all "light" and/or "[poison de jour]-free" products -- e.g., Diet Coke, non-trans-fatty KFC, O'Doul's, low-calorie crack-cocaine -- my cubemate, Robert George, reports the new, "nigga-free" Paul Mooney just ain't as good as the real thing. Because Mooney opted to go "nigga-free" post-Michael Richards' Laugh Factory gig, Robert says Richards killed two careers with just one meltdown:
Anyway, I was curious to see what a "nigger-free" Mooney show would seem like. This was his first weekend of performances

Anyone who's seen him before can tell the difference between this Mooney and the man of yore.

As he said, he now just uses "black man" or "African-American." His famed "Nigger Wake-Up Call" routine (the moment when a 'celebrity' or 'buppie" black person suddenly realizes his true status in American society) has been replaced with a sanitized "wake-up call." Take my word for it; it doesn't have the same impact. There are parts that are still quite funny, but it sounds like one's favorite band playing a show where the guitars are slightly out of tune.

But what struck me as most tragic was that Mooney had allowed Michael Richards' "breakdown" (as Mooney refers to it) to emasculate Paul Mooney the wrathful social observer.

The commenter on all these fascinating celebrity shenanigans and their racial subtext was struck dumb when it came to the most blatant use of it publicly in decades. A has-been named Michael Richards killed the beastly Paul Mooney - and it is a tragic loss.

The Perils of Being Young in the USA

Miss USA, Tara Conner, drank despite not being 21. Therefore she is an alcoholic and must enter rehab, FoxReno reports:
Donald Trump has chosen not to fire Miss USA Tara Conner amid reports she has visited bars, though she is not yet 21.

"I've always been a believer in second chances -- Tara is a good person," Trump said in a news conference Tuesday. "Tara is going to be given a second chance."

As part of staying on as Miss USA, Conner has agreed to enter rehab.

Trump said, "Until this morning, I didn't know which way it was going to go." But upon meeting her in his office, he said that he saw her "good heart" and that she "got caught up in the whirlwind that all know as New York."

Conner won the title in April and has been living in New York. Recent media accounts of heavy drinking brought a storm of criticism, since she was underage at the time. She turned 21 on Monday.
From the looks of things, Ms. Conner seems to have reached drinking age. Perhaps the problem, then, is with the drinking age, not Ms. Conner?

Would Have Guessed Wonder Bread

From today's New York Times corrections section:
A chart on Sunday comparing biographical and personal points about Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, two like-minded New York leaders with a warm relationship who could find themselves at odds once Mr. Spitzer is sworn in, misidentified one of Mr. Bloomberg's favorite foods. It is saltines, not sardines.

Oh, Snap!

A letter writer responds to a Washington Post editorial:
The Dec. 11 editorial "Stub It Out," in support of smoking bans in bars and restaurants, signals yet another regrettable step in the rise of the nanny-state. What ever happened to freedom of choice? No one is forced to frequent or work in establishments where patrons smoke. If, as The Post asserts, "there is growing evidence that more people will frequent restaurants and bars when a smoking ban is in place," nonsmoking establishments will proliferate. Hospitality workers will thus have choices, as will patrons, as to whether they wish to expose themselves to secondhand smoke.

Furthermore, The Post's analogy to poisoned food is silly and specious. Surely many people frequent a restaurant to enjoy a cigar after a nice dinner or smoke cigarettes while having a few beers. How many people do you know who go to a restaurant of their own volition to be poisoned?

Yes, we get it: Smoke is not good for you. However, it may not be nearly as harmful as the systematic asphyxiation of the right to exercise free will.



Indeed, I'd say it's far worse.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Funk Doc Funk Blast

Your mother always told you some funk everyday keeps the doctor away.

-- What's better than an enormous arena/skyscraper airdropped into an otherwise tasteful, classic Brooklyn brownstone neighborhood? How about an enormous arena covered 150-feet high, 75-feet long animated signs?

-- In anticipation of Wednesday's possible "final approval" of the Atlantic Yards, The New York Sun offers its opinion that such an outcome would serve as an unbecoming harbinger of the future in urban planning. Read it (unless you're a sissy).

-- In an interview with Senegal-born rapper Akon this month in The Source, a few passages demand closer attention. The writer, Chloe A. Hilliard, observes early on: "To West Africa, whose coasts were used to ship slaves to the New World, he is the first positive international representation of their people in decades." Now maybe I'm wrong and it's just that Hilliard knows little of West African culture (ever heard of Fela Kuti, Ali Farka Toure, or Tony Allen?) or, perhaps, simply suffers some sort of weird obsession with slavery, but it sounds to me like she's trying to start a new coastal beef -- with Africa's west side. Possible future New York Times headline: "Longstanding East Coast/West Coast Rap Feud Ends; former foes vow allegiance against a new enemy: Africa."

On a gloomier note, Hilliard reports:
Kicking off the transcontinental promotional tour for his sophomore album, Konvicted, Akon's engine is currently in overdrive. What would normally have been a publicity push has turned into a media circus. The week prior, Akon appeared on NYC's Hot 97 radio station. During an interview with host Angie Martinez, the singer admitted to practicing polygamy. Mayhem ensued.

"This week I realized just how big I was," says Akon of the media's attack on his lifestyle. "I started getting calls from people in high positions in Africa and the states saying, 'Akon, what are you doing? You can't be that open. You represent millions of people.'" However, not everyone was bothered by his admission. "Understand that after the show, I got a call saying that Hot 97 got over 350 calls from women saying they wanted to learn more about [polygamy]." Having witnessed the power of his words, he now refuses to address any questions about his dating life.
Now, far be it from me to question the fruits of stardom in Africa. As an aspiring rap star, I got dreams, too. But what I really want to know is this: If more than 350 Hot 97 female listeners need to be educated on what polygamy is, maybe it really is time to start asking whether hip-hop has failed the fairer gender? Yes, it's time to wake up.

-- Finally, Greg Gutfield passes on the Huffington Post press release we've all been waiting for:

Human Rights Watch, Moveon.org, ACT-UP, the Huffington Post and David Geffen are proud to present the March to Mecca, a celebration of peace that calls all gay brothers, sisters and people undergoing sex-reassignment to march to the holiest of holy cities, Mecca, the capital city of Saudi Arabia's Makkah province on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2007.

The march, a brainchild of activists and celebrities who acknowledge that more gays are dying from Islamic fundamentalism than from the policies of George W. Bush, will begin 12 noon sharp in Jeddah, the stunning night-life friendly Saudi Arabian city located on the coast of the Red Sea.

"Not marching in these countries, in this era of terror, seems cowardly," says event co-organizer Sharon Stone. "I'm embarrassed to say at social gatherings I even blamed the United States for everything. But I realized it's the radical Muslims - not the US - who want gays dead, and for that I am truly sorry."

Keep reading.

-- P.S. Read Mark Steyn. Civilization demands it.

The Enigma of Prospect Heights

When someone writes the tome on how expansive government is genetically inefficient, there ought to be a chapter on the failed record of intra-bureaucracy communication.

A case in point comes courtesy of New York, where, one might recall, many Brooklyn residents were recently served with condemnation notices courtesy of the Empire State Development Corp. In part, the notice of their properties' impending implosions read:
The Atlantic Yards site is located in the intersection of three major arterials: Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, and 4th Avenue. Despite its location on these major arterials and the presence of ten subway lines and the LIRR Atlantic Terminal across the street and two other subway lines and 11 bus routes in the vicinity, the Atlantic Yards project site has been a center of blight and decay.
For the state to qualify for a legitimate eminent-domain taking under New York's constitution, the affected property owner has to be in the way of a public-works project (new highway) or a blighted area the state proposes to revitalize, and be justly compensated. Hence, ESDC's farcical claim that Prospect Heights is a "center of blight and decay."

Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is proposing a reworking of somewhat controversial 421(a), a tax-abatement program created in the 1970s to spur residential development. Developers receive significant chunks off their property-tax liabilities in exchange for introducing new residential units to the housing market. For areas that are already affluent, a "geographic exclusion area" was created to ensure these tax benefits don't unduly benefit wealthy landowners. The GEA, as 421(a) currently exists, includes Manhattan from 14th Street to 96th Street and the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn.

The program being three decades old, posh neighborhoods now exist in many areas outside the GEA. Consequently, many news stories have described how 421(a) allows people like Natalie Portman, Calvin Klein, and Derek Jeter to save gobs on their property-tax liabilities. While 421(a) is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2007, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed reworking it as a vehicle to generate "affordable housing." Several members of the City Council have pitched their own reform, essentially seeing Bloomberg's "affordable housing" requirement and doubling it. Quinn is currently working to reconcile the differences.

A map of Quinn's proposed Geographic Exclusion Area (green line):
So the area where Forest City Ratner intends to build the Atlantic Yards project is now too developed for tax benefits? (h/t: The Observer's real estate blog.)

Perhaps the city's Economic Development Corp. will reconcile everything with a new motto: "Prospect Heights: a neighborhood of contrasts -- at once both too affluent and too blighted for frivolities like tax benefits and private-property rights." Though how that would attract anyone I'm not sure.

Just in Time for Christmas

A gift idea courtesy of Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.

Friday, December 15, 2006

World's Tallest Man Saves Dolphins

While generally opposed to extraordinary human efforts at saving lesser species from their own stupidity-spawned brushes with death, I suppose the World's Tallest Man does deserve a small amount of credit for using his freakish powers for good, namely saving a couple dolphins and thus improving strained human/dolphin relations. The BBC reports:
The world's tallest man has saved two dolphins by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards.

Mongolian herdsman Bao Xishun was called in after the dolphins swallowed plastic used around their pool at an aquarium in Fushun, north-east China.

Attempts to use instruments failed as the dolphins contracted their stomachs.

Guinness World Records list Mr Bao, 54, as the world's tallest living man at 2.36m (7ft 8.95in).

The mammals had lost their appetite and were suffering depression, aquarium officials said.

The heads of the dolphins were held back and towels wrapped around their teeth so Mr Bao could not be bitten.
(via La Tourbillonette)

"Ernest" Anastasio, Let Down

TheSmokingGun.com reports:
DECEMBER 15--Former Phish frontman Trey Anastasio was arrested early this morning on a driving while intoxicated rap and New York cops found the musician in possession of a variety of medications prescribed to another person. Anastasio, who is pictured in the below mug shot snapped by the Whitehall Police Department, was nabbed at around 3:30 AM following a traffic stop by Patrolman Andrew Mija. He failed field sobriety tests and was found to be carrying Xanax, Percocet, and Hydrocodone. The 42-year-old Anastasio, whose first name is Ernest, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, DWI-drugs, and driving without a license. Whitehall is located in upstate New York, just miles from Vermont, where Phish was spawned.
This isn't the Trey I know. The Trey I know would have also had at least an eight-ball.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Hammer Is Falling ...

... on Brooklyn.

Residents in the Atlantic Yards footprint receive eminent domain condemnation notices. Note the claim that Prospect Heights is a "center of blight and decay." Makes you wonder whether the Empire State Development Corp. even bothered visiting.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asks:
For all those elected officials (for example our Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum whose spokesman said "If eminent domain is part of the project she's not supporting it.") and un-elected ones like ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano, who said eminent domain would not be used for "Atlantic Yards," your notice is below. Now watcha gonna do?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, RIP

A Cold Warrior to her core, Ambassador Kirkpatrick was America's Lady Thatcher.

Her piece "Dicatorships & Double Standards" is what inspired Ronald Reagan to name her U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and is well worth reading.

Barack's Liberalism Problem

Larry Kudlow says the hype surrounding Barack Obama will dampen once Americans get a sense of his liberalism:

Behind the Obama story is a very liberal left voting record. Here are some key votes and positions from Obama:

· Voted against extending the Bush tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

· Voted against permanently repealing the Death Tax. (Called the cuts a "Paris Hilton" tax break for "billionaire heirs and heiresses")

· Voted against CAFTA.

· Voted YES on raising the minimum wage to $7.25 rather than $6.25.

· Opposed the lifting of $0.54 per gallon tariff on cheaper Brazillian ethanol. Said, "ethanol imports are neither necessary nor a practical response to current gasoline prices."

· Voted against the bankruptcy abuse bill.

· Opposes privatizing Social Security

· Voted against drilling in ANWR.

· Voted against confirmation of Sam Alito AND John Roberts as chief justice.

· Voted against extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision.

· Opposed any bans on partial birth abortions.

Is this the liberal left direction Dems really want to go in 2008?

Sure, they took Congress this year by sounding like Republicans on the campaign trail. But Obama would be a rather big u-turn from that centrist strategy.
Outside Obama's objections to Sam Alito, John Roberts, and bans on partial-birth abortions, this is pretty much run-of-the-mill liberalism.

Jill Staneck describes a bigger problem for Obama's pitch to mainstream America:

As a nurse at an Illinois hospital in 1999, I discovered babies were being aborted alive and shelved to die in soiled utility rooms. I discovered

Legislation was presented on the federal level and in various states called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. It stated all live-born babies were guaranteed the same constitutional right to equal protection, whether or not they were wanted.

BAIPA sailed through the U.S. Senate by unanimous vote. Even Sens. Clinton, Kennedy and Kerry agreed a mother's right to "choose" stopped at her baby's delivery.

The bill also passed overwhelmingly in the House. NARAL went neutral on it. Abortion enthusiasts publicly agreed that fighting BAIPA would appear extreme. President Bush signed BAIPA into law in 2002.

But in Illinois, the state version of BAIPA repeatedly failed, thanks in large part to then-state Sen. Barack Obama. It only passed in 2005, after Obama left.

I testified in 2001 and 2002 before a committee of which Obama was a member.

Obama articulately worried that legislation protecting live aborted babies might infringe on women's rights or abortionists' rights. Obama's clinical discourse, his lack of mercy, shocked me. I was naive back then. Obama voted against the measure, twice. It ultimately failed.

In 2003, as chairman of the next Senate committee to which BAIPA was sent, Obama stopped it from even getting a hearing, shelving it to die much like babies were still being shelved to die in Illinois hospitals and abortion clinics.

(As chair of that same committee, Obama once abruptly ended a hearing early, right before Scott and Janet Willis, the parents of six children killed as a result of Illinois' drivers licenses for bribes scandal, were to testify in favor of Choose Life license plate legislation. I was there for that one, too. The Willises had traveled three hours. Reporters filled the room. Obama stalled. He later killed the bill when no one was around.)

UPDATE: The New York Post's Ian Bishop has more.

Banality-Induced Atrophy

Does anyone else find it curious how The New York Times' letters writers almost always express opinions akin to its editorialists'? Take today's, for instance. In response to New York City's recent ban on trans fats, six letters are printed, yet only one objects to the ban. Four are supportive and the last takes a shot at the tobacco industry. Of course, most letters-to-the-editor writers are also readers of the paper, so it's little surprise how closely related their opinions can be. From my own unscientific research, I'd guesstimate the ban's actual support is somewhere near the opposite, with only one in five in favor.

Having worked with letters to the editor for two of the Times' competitors, the general letters policy seems to be this: so long as a letter is coherent, in response to an article that ran in the paper, and reasonably well written, an effort will be made for its publication. If nearly all letter writers are opposed to the issue at hand, the letters section will reflect that. If the issue's evenly divided, the letters section will reflect that, too. Indeed, even in those rare situations where nearly every letter writer is angry with something the paper has done, an entire letters section will be devoted to printing letters from the offended. Just off the top of my head, The Post last did this when Sean Delonas drew a Page Six cartoon making fun of Cory Lidle shortly after his death. Two years ago, The Sun did the same after Andrew Stuttaford made fun of Ayn Rand. The Journal did this after running an editorial critical of conservative bloggers who unearthed a scandal involving CNN's Eason Jordan (which led to his resignation). Luckily, The Times never seems to have this problem.

Three of today's four trans-fat-ban-supporting letters make the same point: that the ban will improve the city's health and consequently lower health-care costs for all. (Which recalls another letters guideline: generally you try avoiding running multiple letters making an identical point.) Sample:

This comes after the welcome ban on smoking in all public places introduced a few years ago, which has undoubtedly given a respite to the lungs of millions of New Yorkers.

A large number of people working in our city depend on food prepared by a cross section of restaurants. This legislation will have a positive impact on their health in the long term as it steers people into healthy eating habits and staying fit.

If prevention is better than cure, as the medical mantra states, this ban, supplemented by proper enforcement by the city, will eventually ease the burden on our increasingly unaffordable health care system.

Atul M. Karnik
Woodside, Queens

The restaurant industry (and the makers of many processed foods) may dismiss the dangers of trans fats, but these fats are responsible for untold sickness and billions of dollars of avoidable health care expenses.

Jack Challem

When such [obesity] problems rise, so do costs. Guess who pays the Medicaid and Medicare bills? Taxpayers. And yes, those of us with private health care plans will undoubtedly face escalating rates.

David Meyerson
New York
Clearly, this is a popular argument. But is it true? If an "affordable" health-care system is to be the objective, why not encourage smoking and trans-fat eating? That way, people will die young and everyone else will enjoy cheaper health care.

If we're to take this argument at face value, agreeing with the value judgement that ranks "affordable" health care above that of civil liberty, three points must be made: 1) those who do not subscribe to the idea of a public (i.e., collectivist) health-care system are being steamrolled; 2) those who do subscribe necessarily endorse statist decision-making (e.g., any proposal that has some claim on creating a healthier society), and 3) the logical conclusion of point #2 is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- totalitarianism.

That might be what four out of six New York Times readers desire, but I seriously hope that's not a representative sample of the city at large.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

News in Funk

Chicago is apparently the new hotbed for hip hop. Intelligent, lyrical hip hop, at that. First, there's Kidz in the Hall, comprised of Ivy grads Naledge and Double O. Their new album "School Was My Hustle" is solid all the way through. Check it.

Then, the other night on Letterman came my introduction to the Windy City's Lupe Fiasco, who is much more popular than Kidz in the Hall but was entirely new to me. He performed a song off his new album "Food & Liquor" featuring soulstress Jill Scott. Also accompanying was a band and -- awesomely -- a string section. In what could, I guess, be described as Chicago skater rap, Lupe's erudite mind (what other rapper references string theory?) comes to bear on tight production provided by the likes of the Neptunes and Kanye.

If Mr. Fiasco's Letterman performance doesn't knock your socks off, there's something wrong with your socks.

Check the second verse, where he brings straight violence to the rap establishment:
Now come on everybody, let's make cocaine cool
We need a few more half naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that's all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?
And where's the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain ...

My only complaint is that this song has just two verses.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Welcome FunkyPundit v. 2.0 Readers!

Who brought the crack?


FunkyPundit v. 3.0 readers

Osama in '08?

I just received this email from a Democratic strategist friend of mine. Has anyone heard anything about this? Apparently Democrats are floating the idea of running Osama as a presidential candidate!?:
He has as much star quality and friendly media coverage as Hillary but, unlike Hillary, he opposed Iraq war from the start. That is a huge advantage.

If he runs -- and I believe he will -- he will quickly establish himself as the only viable alternative to Hillary and will easily win over Iowa’s very liberal, very anti-war caucus-goers.

He is smooth, good looking, and has an interesting life story. Unlike Howard Dean, he is not prone to gaffes. His candidacy will energize minorities and liberals more than any since Robert Kennedy’s.

Assuming no skeletons emerge from his closet (gay trysts), he’ll be competitive in New Hampshire and Nevada and will win overwhelmingly in South Carolina (30% crazy) and Delaware (19% anti-American). The race will be over by early February. True, his past career as the leader of al Qaeda and the mastermind behind 9/11 could hurt him in some hard-core red states, but insiders say that challenge won't be insurmountable.
Sounds like they've thought this one through. Hmm. Osama/Obama in 08?