Category Archives: Government Regulation

The Nanny State Comes To Manhattan

New York City, home of some of the best restaurants in the world, is on the verge of becoming the first major city to force all the restaurants in town to stop using trans fats:

The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously yesterday to require the city’s roughly 20,000 restaurants to stop cooking with trans fats, making New York the first major U.S. city to adopt such a ban.

Artificial trans fats in shortening and oils are the most dangerous fats in the modern diet, sending cholesterol up and increasing the risk of heart disease even as they make pie crusts flakier and french fries tastier.

Over the next six to 18 months, cooks in New York’s five boroughs will have to change frying oils, bakers will have to seek out new shortenings, and restaurant-goers may have to say goodbye to crispy cannoli and hello to doughnuts dunked in canola oil as the city moves forward with its latest initiative to make New Yorkers healthier.

Apparently, forcing street-side hot dog vendors to clean the water they cook their food in more than once a year hasn’t occurred to them yet.

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The War On Trans-Fat

Continuing to Think About Police and Police Culture

There has been a significant amount of blogging activity and discussion around “no knock raids“, police culture, Police Militarization, giving the police the benefit of the doubt, and much more.

First, some credit. Radley Balko, The Agitator, has been blogging on this topic for quite a while. He has the best collection of posts on the problems that I have seen, including a Raid Map. It provides details of botched paramilitary police raids over time that Radley has collected. For those of you that think things are okay, this might be eye opening for you.

It seems evident that there is a problem. Innocent citizens die and cops get off with, at most, a slap on the wrist. People don’t trust cops and instead view them with suspicion and distrust. Cops conduct no knock raids on flimsy evidence, use armored vehicles, where every podunk town has a SWAT team and uses them. Then we have, just to make sure everyone realizes that it isn’t the party that’s in power that’s the problem, the BATF and Waco, where Koresh could have easily been taken into custody without the massacre that ensued and where the BATF used para-military playbooks even though they were counter-productive and created a worse situation. I could go on for pages with these sorts of examples, but Radley has already provided them for us. Why don’t we just stipulate that there is a problem.

Let’s define the problem, then. I won’t bother with the conservative definition of the problem, aside from saying that the idea that agents of authority should be automatically respected, that the Drug War is somehow moral and that police should have significant para-military capability is a set of ideas I cannot get on board with. I will point out that the men that founded our country were suspicious of the government and designed our Constitution (as well as the state governments they helped to create) to put boundaries on our government and its agents. While many will try to separate the government and the voluntary agents, saying that those agents are doing their job and the policy is really the problem, I point you to the War Crimes Trials in Germany and Japan after WWII. We established there, as a point of law and morality, that “following orders” is not a reasonable defense.
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Silencing The Church Bells

Fresh off its efforts to efforts to “protect” the homeless, Fairfax County, Virginia is now seeking to silence church bells just in time for Christmas:

Fairfax County officials have issued a ringing non-endorsement of the bells at St. John Neumann’s in Reston, ruling that they must toll within the limits of the county’s noise ordinance or not at all.

The Board of Supervisors asked the zoning staff this year to see whether the law could be amended to accommodate the church, whose bells ring at a volume slightly higher than the 55-decibel maximum permitted in residential areas.

But James P. Zook, director of Fairfax’s Department of Planning and Zoning, recently told the board in a memo that creating an exception for church bells could be constitutionally problematic, leaving the county open to court challenge.

“Localities cannot enact different standards for noise emanating from a place of worship,” Zook said. If Fairfax did that, he said, the new rules would have to apply to “all other types of bells, chimes or carillons.” Zook noted, however, that at least two other cities, Morgantown, W.Va., and Seattle, did make exceptions for church bells.

St. John’s, a Catholic church in south Reston, installed a $50,000 electronic bell system in 2004 as part of a major expansion. When the bells began ringing, in three-minute bursts — three times on weekdays, once on Saturdays and before each of five Sunday Masses, starting at 7:30 a.m. — neighbors complained.

Of course they did.

The War On Trans-Fat

Amid all the other problems affecting America, a Louisville, Kentucky Councilman is proposing that his city declare war on that horrible enemy of freedom, trans-fat:

Amid a national push for healthier food, a Louisville official is proposing to ban the city’s restaurants from using artificial fat.

Metro Councilman Dan Johnson said he plans to file an ordinance that would ban the use of trans fatty acids in food in the city’s 2,600 eateries. Johnson, a Democrat, said the restriction would be in line with the health department’s mission to protect public health.

“They wouldn’t let a restaurant serve rat poison, and I think this is similar to rat poison,” Johnson said. “It’s just a little slower in killing you.”

So are a lot of other substances, does that mean we should ban everything except water ?

Local Government Bans Charitable Meals

Fairfax County, Virginia has told local churches and charities that they must stop donating prepared food to the counties poor residents unless the food was prepared in a county-approved kitchen:

Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen — be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies — unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.

They said the crackdown on home-cooked meals is aimed at preventing food poisoning among homeless people.

But it is infuriating operators of shelters for the homeless and leaders of a coalition of churches that provides shelter and meals to homeless people during the winter. They said the strict standards for food served in the shelters will make it more difficult to serve healthy, hot meals to homeless people. The enforcement also, they said, makes little sense.

“We’re very aware that a number of homeless people eat out of dumpsters, and mom’s pot roast has got to be healthier than that,” said Jim Brigl, chief executive of Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services. “But that doesn’t meet the code.”

That’s right, Fairfax County is effectively saying that they’d rather have a hungry person eating scraps out the dumpster behind TGI Friday’s than eating something you prepared in your own kitchen. Not surprisingly, local churches and shelters are saying that this will make it much more difficult for them to do their job:

“We see the reason for being certified. They want to ensure people’s health and safety,” said the Rev. Keary Kincannon of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County, which will open as a hypothermia shelter for four months starting Friday.

“On the other hand, how much do you have to be a stickler with that?” Kincannon asked. “What’s more important: whether we’re open to have somebody get in out of the cold and get a meal? There’s kind of a balance there.”

The Rev. Judy Fender of Burke United Methodist Church said 50 volunteers had been planning to cook beef stew, pork loin and other nutritious meals in the church kitchen when it hosts the hypothermia shelter Dec. 17 through 23.

But she found out this week that, because the kitchen is not Health Department-approved, it will have to prepare its food elsewhere.

It will be a logistical nightmare, Fender predicted, and is an insult to members who have cooked meals for years in the church kitchen without any problems.

“Why do [they] think that the traditional way of fixing a home-cooked meal is going to poison people off the street?” Fender asked.

Because they’re from the government and they’re here to help.

Update 12/1/06: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, perhaps realizing the stupidity of this proposal, has repealed it.

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