Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pink Slime - It's "For the Children"

Take all the scraps and connective tissue left over from slaughtering cows. Throw it in a big vat. Grind thoroughly. Squeeze it through a thin tube and spray it with ammonia hydroxide. (yes, the same stuff that's in that bottle labeled "Ammonia - Do Not Drink" stored under your kitchen sink)

Sound appetizing? I didn't think so. It's banned in the United Kingdom. Even McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell, hardly bellweathers of cullinary excellence, want nothing to do with the stuff anymore, although they have used it in the past.

It's perfectly legal, after all. The U.S. Department of Agriculture first approved it for human consumption in 1994, and according to Beef Products Inc. more than 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S. contains the stuff. Curiously though, a number of grocery chains, including Publix, have recently announced they do not use it, and other meat outlets are running away from it rapidly now that consumers are becoming aware of the issue.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why People Are Irrational About Politics

Author's Note: This is one of those articles almost guaranteed to make you mad, no matter what your political persuasion. I felt the same way reading the essay that forms the backbone of this column. So please read it all the way through before collecting your pitchfork, lighting your torch, and heading off to the comment section to slay the village monster. Thanks.
We've all had political discussions with people who refuse to think rationally about the issue at hand. In the face of overwhelming opinion, they stick religiously to their own, obviously errant, views. And of course, we've never been guilty of such transgressions ourselves, right?

Dr. Michael Huemer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, has some distressing news for all of us. He recently gave an interesting TEDx lecture that I discovered on YouTube. The lecture is a distillation of his paper Why People Are Irrational About Politics.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Prohibition Fails Again

Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime,
It don't prohibit worth a dime,
It's filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we're for it.
-- Franklin P. Adams (1931)

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to a group of Latin American leaders on Monday, demonstrated the brilliance and open-mindedness so typical of current Washington leadership when speaking of drug legalization.
It warrants a discussion. It’s totally legitimate for this to be raised. It’s worth discussing … but there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.
That's the best you've got, Joe? Really? It's worth discussing, but nothing's going to change? That's real progressive of you. Let's look at a few facts, since you've at least admitted that the topic is legitimate and worth discussing, shall we? Here's a nice, concise summary of my position, courtesy of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Drug prohibition has made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, cost the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, made drugs more dangerous, created powerful criminal syndicates, increased violent crime, corrupted law enforcement at all levels, and expanded the size and scope of government.

Emily Miller Wins Another Battle

The war is far from over, but Emily Miller has won her second battle for the Second Amendment in Washington, DC.

As I described in Shall Not Be Infringed?, the Senior Editor of The Washington Times Editorial and Opinion Pages first fought and won a four-month battle to legally possess a hand gun in the District of Columbia. I followed up with DC's Plantation-Like Gun Control, a look at the District's unequal privilege of protection between the politically-connected and the lower classes, including crime statistics and demographics, finally noting "The disadvantaged of the District are legally kept as defenseless as the slaves on Southern plantations."

Now, thanks to Emily's continuing efforts, the first steps toward sanity are on the horizon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Concentrated Benefits, Dispersed Costs

The concepts of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs, when applied to government, or, more specifically, to the creation of legislation, go a long way toward explaining why it is that government always gets bigger, never smaller. When examined in the light of the Cronyism Model of legislation in contrast to the Civics Class Model of legislation, these concepts also go a long way toward explaining why it seems that as government grows bigger, it tends to benefit the citizenry less and the politically-connected One Percent more. Finally, when one understands the full importance of the two concepts taken together, one recognizes the fundamental truth of Thoreaus's statement, "That government is best which governs least."

Even at the simplest level, it's fairly easy to understand why the twin concepts of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs are popular with the legislature, and in many cases, with the citizenry as well. Let's take the case of benefits for the veterans of our armed services as an example almost everyone might support. Only a small fraction of the citizenry ever belongs to the military, and this small group has shown a willingness to step forward and defend the rest of us from barbarians at the gates, so to speak. (Whether those willing to so act have been wisely deployed by their civilian leadership is a topic for another conversation.) In this case, the argument that taking a few pennies from each citizen, and thereby amassing dollars to assure the continued welfare of the much smaller group who fought in their stead becomes an easy sell. Properly packaged, even those paying for the benefit consider the legislation a good deal all around.