Archive for December 12th, 2006|Daily archive page

Nuclear Slip Of The Tongue

After years of official silence on the issue, Israel’s Prime Minister managed to let the nuclear cat out of the bag last night on SAT 1, a German television station. According to Spiegel Online (international version),

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert got himself into trouble by implying for the first time that Israel has nuclear weapons. His indirect admission has overshadowed his visit to Germany and Italy during which he is expected to urge a tougher European response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In an interview with the private SAT1 television network broadcast on Monday, Olmert contrasted Iran’s policy with that of “civilised countries” that possessed nuclear weapons.

Asked if Israel’s alleged nuclear capability weakened the case against Iran’s nuclear program, Olmert said: “Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?” [my emphasis]

Oops.

This has been an open secret for over twenty years. Now the opposition in Israel is making a stink and demanding Olmert’s resignation. Thus the ‘secret’ is out. One opposition member commented “His unfortunate statement in Germany damages 50 years of Israel’s policy of ambiguity.” A statement that does not exactly sound like a non denial-denial.

Of course one wonders if this was a slip or a shot across the Iran’s bow – planned not fumbled. Why? Iran just started the ‘Holocaust’ conference announced this summer. Again from the international version of Spiegel Online.

A two-day “Holocaust conference” kicked off in Tehran on Monday. The government-sponsored event “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision” attracted 67 speakers from 30 countries, including some who have been prosecuted in Europe for casting doubt on the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis.

The conference was inspired by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has already sparked international condemnation for his comments that the Holocaust was a “myth” and that Israel should be “wiped from the map.”

The Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki opened the event saying that the “aim of the conference is not to deny or confirm the Holocuast,” but “to create an opportunity for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust.” These “thinkers” include the French writer Georges Thiel — a convicted Holocaust denier — five anti-Zionist rabbis, and David Duke — a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

I have to wonder if these two events aren’t related. If Israel is letting the world know, in ‘uncertain’ terms that the nukes are there. Despite the denials, it isn’t news to those who follow these things, that Israel has nukes. Indeed Mordechai Vanunu, the former nuclear technician, spent 18 years in prison for revealing the details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the press in 1986. He was finally released in April 2004 but has had many restrictions on where he can live and who he can contact. This has led to clashes with authorities and he has since been re-imprisoned.

Since this information is so sensitive, it is interesting that this Israeli Prime Minister would make this mistake – this week – on German television. The coincidences are almost too much to believe.

Does this have to be a plan and not a stupid mistake. No. People and politicians make mistakes all the time. One only has to harken back to Bush’s “Let Israel kick Hezbollah’s ass’ comment. But this is an interesting slip of the tongue.

One that has nuclear consequences.

Advertisements

The Fat Nazis II – Herman’s Henchmen

Teresa, SAHM aka Kung Fu Goddess (insert appropriate obsequious fawning gesture here – you’ll tell me when I can stop doing this right?),  pointed me to this web page. I won’t even repeat the name here, they don’t need the traffic.

Well if New York is inhabited by Fat Nazis – Trees certainly found the SS. From their article ranting fuming blatantly blathering about the new ban.

In an unprecedented act of legislative hubris and consumer condescension, New York City’s Board of Health and Mental Hygiene banned trans fat from the city’s restaurants last Wednesday. Big-government types across the country have flocked to the nearest microphone in hopes of inspiring copycats (for examples, see here, here, here, here, and here). But fortunately, opinion leaders have fired back, burning up newspaper op-ed and editorial pages with equal parts common-sense and outrage.

They go on to quote all the newspapers and TV coverage (um – well they quote Fox – that’s sort of moving pictures on a small box that is often transmitted by cable which is fairly cool, and well if the TV wasn’t balanced it would fall over – right?) they generated in the last couple of months.  This is pretty good for a lobbying organisation. The quick response of mind bending insanity quickly scattered. Get the spin out quickly before the top stops. Of course the real inanity is in the last paragraph.

The ultimate irony of NYC’s trans fat ban is that it probably won’t make New Yorkers much healthier. This month, a survey of 600 doctors found that less than half (47 percent) think the ban will have a “significant impact on the health of those who eat there.” More than half (53 percent) said they would oppose a federal trans fat prohibition, and 49 percent agreed that the “US government does not have the right to implement such a law.”

The first statistic is probably the reverse side of the survey saying 53 percent say the ban will have “significant impact on the health of those who eat there.”[my emphisis] Probably more would subscribe to the statement that the ban will have an “impact on the health of those who eat there.” (my guess). Then they go from the – um – fat to the fire. No one is actually completely prohibiting trans-fats, they are being LIMITED. There is a fixed amount. Thus 53 percent say of the doctors rightly say that a complete prohabition probably isn’t necessary. And asking doctors whether the federal government has the right to implement a law is like asking the mall Santa if the present will get there on time. They are the wrong people to ask. (Try constitutional lawyers next time guys).

Ick. Ick. Ick. I feel like I just took an oil bath in rancid butter. Bleah! Thanks for the link Trees. It’s good to bath in depravity once in a while.

Meanwhile, give me the Fat Nazis over the brokers of death any day.

Shameless Pandering

OK. I admit it.

I don’t want the squids to take over the world. Therefore:

320263646_bee1ff9a79.jpg

(But PZ is pretty good too – if you like squid.)

Oh. And Phil (Pander, Pander, Pander)

To The Dearly Departed Vlad Shelley

*Sniff, sob* She is gone. Perhaps never to return.

Yes. Ms. Dr. (Former) Rep. Shelley ‘DraculaCunt’ Sekula-Gibbs has completed her onerous term month in the honored office of Congressional representative for Houston’s 22nd district . Both the Houston Chronicle and Wonkette join me in mourning her departure. This eulogy from Wonkette,

Now that the 109th Congress is finally over (having ended with a big, stabby bang) we are forced to confront the sad fact that we’ll never again see Make-Believe Congresswoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on C-Span, where she has made a little home for herself over this last month, babbling at odd hours to an empty chamber on topics ranging from abortions to the first lady of Azerbaijan.

But the Houston Chronicle, staffed by Texans no doubt, is made of sterner stuff. They do not look at a bleak post Holiday/Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza time of Democratic congressional chaos. No. They look to the joys, the honor, the C-Span reruns brought to the fighting 22nd district by Ms. Dr. (Former) Rep. Shelley ‘DraculaCunt’ Sekula-Gibbs.

Beside casting one of the 367 votes in favor of a tax bill that would, among other things, extend the sales-tax deduction on itemized federal income tax returns for Texans and residents of six other states, Sekula-Gibbs leaves a legacy mainly of C-SPAN video.

“District 22 had been without a representative for many months and it was important to have a voice on the floor of the House of Representatives again,” she said.

She indeed held forth on Medicare and immigration (a subject that eluded agreement by Congress) but didn’t confine herself to the major issues of the day. Among her other topics:

  • A welcome to the first lady of Azerbaijan during her visit to Washington.
  • Giving nonprofit athletic organizations immunity from being sued.
  • Declaring the first week in April “Plan Ahead with an Advance Directive Week.”
  • Requiring abortion providers to give women the option of receiving anesthesia for the fetus.

Almost forgotten the sad times. Forgotten those horrific periods of disloyalty when the former DeLay staffers resigned en mass because she allegedly ‘mishandled them.’ I mean, how could they tell the difference to Tom ‘The Hammer’ Delay? I didn’t see any news stories about impalings. (Weak kneed snivelling scoundrels!)

But the bad blood is behind us – on to the future.

Ms. Dr. (Former) Rep. Shelley ‘DraculaCunt’ Sekula-Gibbs – I beg you. Do not despair. Your victims constituents love you. You must return. I mean, this time you might even get your name PRINTED on the ballet. Oh joy. Oh rapturous electoral ecstasy. I bid you not goodbye – but adieu. Until 2008.

I’ll keep the stake warm for you.

Fat Nazis

No. I don’t mean Herman Göring, the fattest Nazi I can imagine.

No I mean those people in New York and other places starting to wage a war on one of the invisible problems with western diets. In an article yesterday, William Saletan talked about the looming ban of trans-fats in New York.

Put your hands in the air, and step away from the cookie.

That’s the message from New York City, where the health department has just ordered the city’s 25,000 restaurants to purge nearly all trans fats from their menus. Restaurant owners are terrified that other cities will follow. In the dough business, like show business, New York leads the way. If you can’t bake it there, you can’t bake it anywhere.

The whole world is engulfed in a war on fat. On one side are health crusaders. On the other side are food sellers and libertarians. Lately, the health costs of obesity have prodded politicians into the war, shifting the balance of power to the crusaders. Still, Americans draw the line at food. You stamped out our cigarettes, you made us wear seat belts, but you’ll get our burgers when you pry them from our cold, dead hands.

At steak stake here are the recipes of approximately 7500 restaurants in New York City. More specifically the regulations won’t completely ban trans-fats, but the amount of trans-fat will be limited. The New York Times coverage from September says a little more about the details of the ban.

The New York prohibition would affect the city’s entire restaurant industry, by far the nation’s largest, from McDonald’s to fashionable bistros to street corner takeouts across the five boroughs.

The city would set a limit of a half-gram of artificial trans fats per serving of any menu item, sharply reducing most customers’ intake. The fats are commonly found in baked goods, like doughnuts and cakes, as well as breads and salad dressing.

Officials said that the typical American diet now contains 5.8 grams of trans fats per day, and that a single five-ounce serving of French fries at many restaurants contained 8 grams of trans fats.

The restaurant owners seem to think that the city is overstepping its bounds. But it’s the lobbyists from the insurance industry that are putting pressure on the politicians to do something. It’s not like the city didn’t ask nicely back in 2005. They tried to retrain restaurant owners. The owners pushed back, the lobbyists pushed harder. The lobbyists are winning. In the Times article one health commissioner, Thomas R. Frieden commented, “Like lead paint, artificial trans fat in food is invisible and dangerous, and it can be replaced.”

Libertarians will claim that people concerned about fats won’t go to fatty restaurants. Let the market decide. This is just the first step on a long war on food. Libertarians want the market to decide. Dear libertarians, the market is deciding. William Saletan gets back to the heart of the issue.

From a libertarian standpoint, the danger is that trans fats, having been targeted because, in some ways, they’re not food, will lay the groundwork for more dietary regulation because, in other ways, they are. Once you’ve banned one kind of fat, it’s easier to tackle another. You start with the argument health crusaders used in Chicago: You’re doing it to help parents protect kids. Then you try the maneuver they used in New York: quantifying now many lives you’ll save. Purging trans fats in New York would save at least 500 lives a year and possibly 1,400, said the health department. That’s more than the number saved by seat belts.

So, what do we have here? Is this a case of ‘You came for my cigarettes and I didn’t say anything, you came for my trans-fats and I didn’t say anything…?” I don’t think so.

This is a case of industrial ‘traditions’ being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21th century. Trans-fats aren’t as necessary as they were 30 years ago when they replaced hydrogenated fats made from liquid oils. One of the big defenders of trans-fats is McDonalds. They claim their French Fries will no longer taste the same. The problem is, after 6 months no one would know. Indeed, as Saletan mentions, McDonalds in Denmark no longer use trans-fats because they are basically illegal in that country of windmills and herring. One wonders if a quiet changeover, simply replacing one fat for another would do the trick. Then do the marketing blitz after the fact – “Look how healthy we are!” Of course after a showy start, McDonalds has slowly been removing healthy items from the menu here in Germany simply because no one bought them. After all, who goes to McDonalds for health food?

Many products are sweetened to improve saleability, done because it is the only way to stay competitive. Whether an all-out ban or simply an increased tax on items using calorific and unhealthy additives to increase sales is the appropriate method is something economists should discuss. New York will be an excellent test case. There are enough people in New York that should trans-fats be one of the major culprits behind heart disease, a change should be noticeable. Then it won’t be the politicians who act first, it will be the lobbyists from the insurance companies. Trying to lower costs while keeping premiums at – well – a premium.

For a strange reason, I have had a lot of health – cholesterol related posts lately. I have repeatedly hammered on the idea of lifestyle change. This is a perfect example of the kind of change I think is necessary. If industry could cut the number of excess calories in prepared foods by 10 percent in 10 years many of the bulging problems in western waistlines would be reduced. I think this is a realistic goal. I also think this is the best method for affecting this type of change.

I feel that the original fat Nazi, Herman Göring, got what was coming to him. (Well not quite, he did manage to avoided his date with the executioner but did ulimately pay for his crimes.) I also feel that the actions of these Fat Nazis need to be successful. Not in banning trans-fats but in changing lifestyles for millions of people, behind the scenes, at the source not the sink. Saving lives and not taking them like the original Nazis did.