Entries from October 2009

Kirk Runs to the Center

October 31st, 2009 at 4:03 pm 2 Comments

By stuff 84175″ target=”_blank”>proposing the “centrist” alternative to the Pelosi healthcare bill, sovaldi sale House Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) appears to be building the foundation on which to present himself as a “pragmatic” conservative in his upcoming run for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.

Demonizing Food Corporations Won’t Make America Thin Again

David Frum October 31st, 2009 at 11:26 am Comments Off

If you were born in the 1960s, really it’s amazing you are alive today at all. You grew up in an era of lethally dangerous cars and driving. For every mile driven in 1965, the odds of being killed were almost five times greater than today — even though modern cars are vastly more powerful and spend more time driving at highway speeds than did the cars of 40 years ago.

Facing the toll on the roadways, experts debated an array of solutions. Should cars be redesigned for greater safety? Or the roads? Should we try to alter driver behavior? Or is the answer to be found in more rapid response to accidents and injuries?

In the end, we did a little of everything. We installed shoulder restraints and airbags in cars. Railroad crossings were reduced. Drunk driving was penalized more heavily. Highway departments got medevac helicopters. Result: not perfect success, but great improvement. 2008 was the safest year on record for driving in the United States, with fatalities dropping almost 10% below 2007 levels.

We should think the same way about the public health problems of overweight and obesity. There is no one single solution — and perfect health is not the policy target.

What we can do is implement individual ideas that will generate incremental progress. For example: Researchers at the University of California find that ninth-grade students are 5.2% more likely to become obese if there is a fast food restaurant located within a 10th of a mile of their school. Move the fast food restaurant even a quarter-mile away, however, and there is no effect on student weight. If this work is correct, it suggests a simple zoning ordinance can make a big difference: no fast food within a quarter-mile of a school building.

Or: Food servings have grown dramatically in recent years. The original Swanson’s TV dinner introduced in 1953 (turkey, gravy, buttered peas and sweet potatoes in case you were wondering) contained only 300 calories.

Food companies have increased portions because the small marginal cost of the additional calories can permit a hefty increase in price. The handful of extra potato in a supersized order of fries added more than a dollar to the price of a small package of McDonald’s French fries. That’s good business.

But the small package of fries contained a reasonable 250 calories, while the super-sized package contained over 600. The good news: In response to negative publicity, McDonald’s is eliminating super-sized fries from its menus in the United States. Greater public awareness can lead to changes in behavior by responsible corporations.

Or: Only about 12% of American elementary school children participate in physical education daily. Once or twice per week is normal. Phys ed has been squeezed as schools try to make time for academic subjects.

Now we are learning that phys ed actually enhances academic performance, especially in girls. Elementary-age girls who spend at least 70 minutes per week in phys ed consistently do better on standardized reading and math tests than girls who spend less than 35 minutes. Girls who spend more time in gym do better still.

As schools absorb this data, the tendency to give short shrift to gym will yield to a new policy of reinventing phys ed to make it more appealing to girls — by, for example, shifting away from the traditional emphasis on competitive sport.

But here’s the one thing that won’t work: turning today’s obesity problem into a morality play in which evil corporations are depicted as exploiting hapless victims. The fabulous productivity of modern agriculture and industry have made food more available than ever before in the history of the world. Human beings, who evolved in conditions of food scarcity, are understandably finding it difficult to adapt to these new conditions of abundance. It will be the work of a generation, maybe two, to teach ourselves how to stay fit when we can no longer rely on our instinct to crave fats and sweets or to gorge when we can because tomorrow we may starve.

Instead of blame, we need to learn — just as we had to learn how to cope with motor cars, alcohol and tobacco, and all the other dangerous pleasures discovered by our inventive minds. With all those products the same intelligence that created the temptation eventually discovered a solution. So it will be with the temptations of overabundant calories as well.

Originally published in the National Post.

Demonizing Food Corporations Won’t Make America Thin Again

David Frum October 31st, 2009 at 10:59 am 8 Comments

My new National Post column joins a symposium on Dr. David Kessler’s new book about American obesity.

Here’s the one thing that won’t work: turning today’s obesity problem into a morality play in which evil corporations are depicted as exploiting hapless victims. The fabulous productivity of modern agriculture and industry have made food more available than ever before in the history of the world. Human beings, who evolved in conditions of food scarcity, are understandably finding it difficult to adapt to these new conditions of abundance. It will be the work of a generation, maybe two, to teach ourselves how to stay fit when we can no longer rely on our instinct to crave fats and sweets or to gorge when we can because tomorrow we may starve.

Read the rest here.

Hillary Oversells Honduran Deal

October 30th, 2009 at 3:11 pm 10 Comments

Several major news outlets reported this morning that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was returning to power. “Deal Reached in Honduras to Restore Ousted President”, read a New York Times headline. “Zelaya Set to Return to Power”, said the Washington Post.

However, experts on Honduras dispute this version of events.

“There seems to be plenty of misreporting on this initially… The [Washington] Post and some other places have reported that Clinton has said that the agreement says that Zelaya will return to power, but this is not accurate as far as I can tell,” said Ian Vasquez, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, in an interview with NewMajority.

“They’re reporting that it’s a done deal. My understanding… is that Congress will have to vote [on his return],” agreed Ray Walser, the Heritage Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America.

According to Walser, media outlets are “hastily reporting a deal which is still far more complex and fragile [than is being said].”

While Manuel Zelaya has told a Honduran radio station that “this [accord] signifies my return to power in the coming days,” the reality is that the agreement only concedes that Congress, in consultation with the Supreme Court, will vote on whether he can return.

It would be very surprising if the very Congress and courts which removed Zelaya from office would now vote to see him return. Indeed, Vasquez tells NewMajority that he “would bet against it.”

“There is a potential that this is really a victory for the Micheletti regime,” said Walser.

The United States and the Organization of American States were threatening not to recognize the outcome of Honduras’ coming elections if Micheletti’s interim government and Zelaya didn’t have agreement in place by Election Day. Now that there is an agreement between the two camps, Hondurans will be able to go to the polls on November 29th with a dramatically reduced fear that the international community will condemn the results.

The misreporting seems to stem from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s desperation for any sort of good news. This morning, Clinton announced that Honduras had overcome its “crisis through negotiation and dialogue.”

Clinton “is in Pakistan, with people blowing up bombs, and trying to lecture [Pakistan] on Al-Qaeda – the last thing on her mind is Honduras… there’s not much good news out there, so she wants a snatch at any little piece of [it],”said Walser.

The fact of the matter is that the situation in Honduras is far from resolved. For Zelaya to resume his former duties, the Supreme Court will need to convene and issue a non-binding ruling on the constitutionality of his return. Following this, Congress would embark on a lengthy debate on the matter, with the possibility of filibusters. As of now, there is nothing resembling a timetable for Zelaya to return to the presidential office.

One thing is certain – if Zelaya somehow manages to engineer a return, it will be a terrible blow to democracy in Honduras.

His return would be “a tragedy for the future of Honduran democracy,” said Abe Greenwald, a Policy Advisor at the Foreign Policy Initiative. “Any time that we step in on behalf of anti-democratic forces, it will come back to bite us in the long run… We’re showing people like Hugo Chavez that we have no interest in defending democracy.”

GOP Fights for Foothold in Big Apple

October 30th, 2009 at 1:18 pm 1 Comment

Running as a Republican for the New York City Council is either a very brave or very foolish thing to do, depending on your point of view. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one citywide, and Democrats control 48 of the 51 Council seats. Republican candidates face a steep uphill climb against negative stereotypes, low name recognition, and scarce campaign resources.

This year, however, there are a number of Republicans who have faced down these challenges to become candidates for the City Council. Among them are first-time candidates like Joshua Goldberg.

Goldberg is running in District 6, which encompasses what some Republicans jokingly refer to as the People’s Republic of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Restoring balance to city government is certainly an element of Goldberg’s candidacy, but the issue that motivates his campaign is term limits. Goldberg puts himself in a tough position by standing against Mayor Michael Bloomberg on this issue. Bloomberg backed the City Council’s 2008 vote to repeal a twice-passed voter referendum that limited elected officials to two terms. Bloomberg is likely to win the third term he is seeking, but Goldberg stands firm on the issue.

“There is a definite backlash, whether you’re for term limits or not,” he says, adding that personally he is against term limits. “But the people have spoken. The fact that it was repealed goes against the sense of fair play.”

Bob Capano, Republican city council candidate in Brooklyn, is concerned with the council’s profligate spending and the taxes and fees that hit small businesses and residents in his community.

“My opponent is part of the problem,” Capano says of Democratic incumbent Vincent Gentile. “He’s been in the cocoon of elected office.”

Gentile has a level of name recognition that Capano admits is one of his biggest challenges, but Capano’s race is one of the most competitive City Council races this year. He ran an unsuccessful race for the area’s state assembly seat in 2008, but he won portions of the assembly district that overlap with his current city council district. “That’s how I knew my message would resonate with voters in the city council race.”

Eric Ulrich has further proof that his own message resonates with voters. After all, he is a rarity in New York City, a Republican incumbent. The 24-year-old became the City Council’s youngest member in February by winning a special election to fill the seat vacated by a local Democrat who had moved on to the state senate.

Ulrich has been busy in the short time he has been in elected office. He has helped spearhead a graffiti clean-up effort and he secured $1 million in funding for libraries in his district.

“Very few of the people accomplish what they set out to do. I did,” says Ulrich. “So I’m asking the voters to give me another shot. You saw what I could do in seven months. Imagine what I can do in four years.”

Liam McCabe, Ulrich’s campaign manager, likens the campaign’s strategy to establishing a beachhead. The wartime analogy is apt for all Republican candidates in New York City.

“We’ve got to change our game. We have to go after traditionally non-conservative, non-Republican groups,” says McCabe “Republican candidates always say ‘we’re not going to go campaign there because they won’t vote for us.’ But there’s a flip side. The people of those communities say ‘we’re not going to vote for you because you’re not coming here.’ You have to keep going back. You lose, but then you lose by a little less. And then eventually, you win.”

Dead Heat in NY-23

October 29th, 2009 at 7:06 pm 15 Comments

A Daily Kos poll released today showed Conservative Doug Hoffman pulling within one point of Democrat Bill Owens in the tightly contested NY-23 congressional race, well within the four point margin of error.

Hoffman holds the support of 32% of respondents polled, while Owens leads slightly with 33%. Dede Scozzafava, the Republican, trails both by a large margin, with only 21% support.

This is a dramatic change from the last Kos poll, released less than a week ago. In less than a week, Hoffman has jumped by nine points, mirrored by a corresponding drop in Scozzafava’s support.

In terms of favorable/unfavorable ratings, Hoffman leads the pack with a score of +15, followed by Owens at +10, and Scozzafava at a dismal -14.

A driving factor in the unpredictability of this race has been the massive amount of money spent and raised in the district.

“People are listening to us now, we’re raising money faster than we can bring it to the bank… we have the momentum,” said Mike Long, chairman of the New York Conservative Party, in an interview with NewMajority.

Siena pollster Steven Greenberg told NewMajority last week that a Hoffman victory was “probably a long shot”, but left room for a chance for him to win.

Greenberg attributed the volatility in polling numbers to negative advertising. “The tenor of the campaign’s negative commercials is turning voters on to the race… It’s clear that it’s easy to spend money in upstate New York,” said Greenberg.

Eyes now turn to the last major poll that will be released before Election Day, put out by the Siena Research Institute. Siena plans to release its final poll this weekend, which could set the tone for all three campaigns going into November 3rd.

“It will come down to the wire,” said Greenberg.

Hoffman Comes Clean

October 29th, 2009 at 3:57 pm 7 Comments

Apparently bad teeth turn voters off – especially in New York’s 23rd congressional district.

Recognizing this, Doug Hoffman has decided to take a page from Ralph Lauren by digitally editing away a physical imperfection. Who needs Crest Whitening Strips when you can photoshop-bleach your teeth?

The difference is obvious when you compare this picture from a recently released campaign ad to the campaign’s official photo of Hoffman:


Also evident is the photoshop magic that reduced some of the redness on his face. Maybe he also used the “blur” function to soften those harsh Republican edges?

One thing is certain – when it comes to his teeth, he’s not coming clean with the voters of New York’s fightin’ 23rd!

Gambling Away the Republican Future?

October 29th, 2009 at 11:42 am 32 Comments

There have recently been positive developments in the Republican Party’s fortunes.  Polls show increased support for conservatism and the GOP, troche conservatives are actively protesting for their beliefs, and Congress is starting to take note.  Republicans have a real chance in 2010 — if they can form a cohesive conservative coalition.

The Republican Party was once the party of limited government and personal responsibility. Unfortunately, the GOP has been pushing libertarian-minded conservatives from the party for some time.  2008 was the worst year ever for the traditional GOP coalition.  The party establishment was openly hostile to Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential run and the big government social conservative wing of the party even called for a plank in the party platform advocating federal internet censorship to stop adults from playing online poker.  In essence, the party told poker players, internet freedom supporters, and limited government conservatives that they are no longer welcome in the GOP.

Poker players and freedom lovers submitted hundreds of comments to the GOP Platform Committee asking them to support internet freedom.  As the Poker Players Alliance has over one million members, this was something to be taken seriously.  The drafters of the platform got the message.  They kept online poker prohibition language out of the platform, stating a desire not to lose these voters in what was shaping up to be a very difficult election year. Unfortunately, the full committee chose to restore it.  Sadly, rather than making conciliatory comments to heal the rift, Family Research Council Vice President Tom McClusky instead further taunted America’s poker players with statements like, “the Pokers Players Alliance showed their hand well too early,” and “the Republican Platform Committee should be proud that they have stood up for the law and families.”  Focus on the Family proudly highlights these statements on its site to this day.

Reaction to the poker plank was quick. Reason magazine took the party to task for advocating big government in their platform, and Sen. John McCain received tens of thousands of letters and phone calls in protest.  Many protests were, as predicted, delivered via the voting booth on Election Day, and 2008 was a year where the GOP could not spare any votes.

One wonders why this rather small but loud minority of social conservatives has this knee-jerk reaction against poker in the first place.  Maybe it’s an anachronistic holdover from the Temperance Movement of the early 1900s, when too many social conservatives unfortunately started using the power of the federal government to achieve conservative goals.  This is a very dangerous thing, as a government powerful enough to give us everything we want is powerful enough to take everything we have.

Rather than wanting a government big and powerful enough to promote traditional values USING big government, perhaps conservatives ought to worry more about protecting traditional values FROM big government. Many conservatives agree. Former House Majority Leader Richard Armey, George Will, Grover Norquist, Walter Williams, and others strongly oppose what Will has termed “Prohibition II.” As President Reagan famously said, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Dick Armey: “Parochial” to Expect Hoffman to Care About His District’s Concerns

David Frum October 29th, 2009 at 11:27 am 11 Comments

From a story in the Oct. 23 Watertown Times:

In a nearly hour-long session [with the paper's editorial board], Mr. Hoffman was unable to articulate clear positions on a number of matters specific to Northern New Yorkers …

Regarding the proposed rooftop highway across the top of the district linking Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Hoffman said only that he was open to studying the idea  ….

Mr. Hoffman had no opinion about winter navigation and widening the St. Lawrence Seaway … He was not familiar with the repercussions of a proposed federal energy marketing agency for the Great Lakes ….

A flustered and ill-at-ease Mr. Hoffman objected to the heated questioning, saying he should have been provided a list of questions he might be asked.

Dick Armey, shepherding Hoffman through the interview, “dismissed regional concerns as ‘parochial’ issues that would not determine the outcome of the election.”

I wonder if Armey ever told voters in his district that their concerns were parochial?

The President Honors the Fallen at Dover

David Frum October 29th, 2009 at 10:20 am 71 Comments

Give the man credit: This was the right thing to do, malady but it cannot have been easy – especially as he is making the decision that may lead to more such sad homecomings.