Monday, March 11, 2013

Quick Hits: Volume LXVI

-An executive branch of government (in this case, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) takes it upon itself to ban private businesses from selling legal products, only to have the judicial branch slap down said ban. Gee, what a shock.

A state judge today put a cork in City Hall's plans to ban Big Apple restaurants and other venues from selling large sugary drinks -- a bubble-bursting defeat for Mayor Bloomberg, who has made public health a cornerstone of his tenure.

Before the stunning ruling by New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, convenience stores and other places regulated by the city's health department would have been prohibited -- starting tomorrow -- from selling sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces.

Tingling permanently stopped the city from enforcing the ban.

“[The city] is enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations," Judge Tingling ruled.

Bloomberg vowed to appeal. The mayor grew testy when asked if he had wisely spent so much political capital on the soda ban.

“I got to defend my children and you and everybody else and do what’s right to save lives,” he angrily said. “Obesity kills. There’s just no question about it.”

Uh, yeah, and so does heart disease and lung cancer, which can be obtained through years of smoking cigarettes. Are you suddenly going to mandate that convenience stores no longer sell smokes?

Judge Tingling said Bloomberg and the Board of Health overstepped their bounds, to enforce rules that should be established by the legislative bodies.

“The rule would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it,” Tingling wrote. “Such an evisceration has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened drinks.”

Tingling sided with a coalition of store keepers, unions, theater owners and beverage sellers who have been fighting Bloomberg’s ban that was set to go into effect tomorrow.

“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds, and the loopholes inherent in the rule, including but not limited to no limitations on refills, defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule,” Tingling wrote.

Bloomberg said he was completely confident the city will win on appeal.

“We’re going to appeal, we believe the judge’s decision was clearly in error. We will clearly prevail on appeal,” he said. “We think the judge is totally in error and we are very confident we’ll win on appeal.”

This is gearing up to be quite a battle. As they say, "Getcha popcorn!" But if you're in NYC, you may have a limit to the amount of salt and butter you can put on it.


-As I was perusing Twitter during my morning train ride to the office, a certain story caught my eye. It was reported by Prudent Investor via Boston.com (a portal that presents content from the Boston Globe) that NY Times lefty columnist (and renown Keynesian economist) Paul Krugman had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The numbers were staggering, something along the lines of close to $8 million of debt while possessing merely $33,000 in assets.

While many of my fellow conservatives reveled in what appeared to be the pompous Krugman being bitten by schaudenfreude (Larry O'Connor wrote about it at Breibart.com), it almost seemed to be too rich that a self-proclaimed economic guru could be that reckless with his personal finances. There was even a report that Krugman had run up $84,000.00 in one month on an American Express card. I think that should have been the ultimate clue that this story was fabricated.

The Krugman-bankrupt thing, of course, is a joke that comes courtesy of the Daily Currant, a satire site. Not long ago, the Daily Currant made headlines for similar reasons with a different story, as the Washington Post passed along a satirical post that Sarah Palin had signed on as a commentator with Al Jazeera.

Is hoodwinking some sap at a media organization the reigning objective at Daily Currant? Nah, says founder Daniel Barkeley. “The goal is to write satire that’s close to the truth,” says Barkeley, noting that he models his stuff after mockumentaries such as “The Office.” “They hew very close to reality yet they’re supposed to be funny.”

Whatever their intent, Daily Currant definitely seems to be a bipartisan operation when it comes to duping news commentators.


-After four thrilling (and at the same time mercurial) seasons, the Minnesota Vikings traded WR/KR/PR/PITA Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks. Pending a physical (as well as agreement on a contract extension with Harvin), the Seahawks are reported to be sending their 2013 first round pick (25th overall), 2013 seventh rounder and a 2014 third round selection to the Vikings in this deal.


Since a dynamic talent like Harvin just doesn't come around all that often, I was hopeful that whatever unspecified issue he had with the Vikings organization could be resolved. However, the last time he was seen in a Vikings uniform was, ironically enough, week nine at Seattle. He was seen on the sidelines screaming at head coach Leslie Frazier, apparently frustrated with how dismal the Vikings passing game was performing on that particular day. It was also during that game that Harvin suffered a severe ankle injury, one that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

The minute the 2012 regular season ended, speculation abounded that Harvin would hold out the 2013 campaign (the final year of his contract) if he didn't receive a long-term extension. Then in a matter of weeks, said speculation turned into rumors of Harvin demanding a trade. While Vikings GM Rick Spielman repeatedly said he had "no intent" on trading Harvin, it became pretty obvious that this situation was becoming untenable. With the Vikings a relatively young team that made a surprise run to the postseason in 2012, they likely realized they couldn't risk disrupting the team chemistry for a player you had to worry about 165 out of 168 hours every week.

Since the Vikings are now approximately $17 million under the salary cap and have four draft picks amongst the first 83 slots, they are in a good position to make significant enhancements to their roster. One suggested plan of attack is signing free agent WR Greg Jennings and then using their two first round picks for some defensive help. If indeed that happens, I believe the Vikings will have put themselves in a great position to once again make the playoffs in 2013.

While I believe Harvin has made Seattle's offense markedly better as a result of this trade (Vegas oddsmakers now lists the Seahaawks, and the San Francisco 49ers as Super Bowl co-favorites), he has a track record of high profile clashes with every NFL coach for whom he's played. Perhaps a "rah rah" coach like Pete Carroll will serve Harvin better than stoic, no-nonsense guys like Brad Childress and Frazier. Time will tell.

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