Links for 6/30/09

How GE — not a bank — gets bailout money

The costs of Waxman-Markey

The end of selling out?

SCOTUS to decide free speech cases

Jimmy Wales keeps kidnapping off Wikipedia

This is no Depression

Men know what other men find attractive

Carnivores are awesome

Undercover to stop cash tips

Nannies ban coffee gathering

Thyme in a Bottle

Thyme in a Bottle

Farigoule is a delicious liqueur from Provence that I recently came across here in Portland. Its primary flavor comes from the region’s abundant thyme, with a few other herbs added for good measure. It’s a unique, wonderful product: Not too sweet, intriguing flavors, great aroma, and well-balanced at 80 proof. I enjoy it neat, but since that’s a tough sell at the bar I also wanted to highlight it in a mixed drink.

At the same time I was working on a cocktail to enter into Bombay Sapphire’s Inspired Barender contest. Luckily gin is a natural pairing with Farigoule. And Farigoule, with its floral and herbal qualities, fills in well for better known French liqueurs like Chartreuse and St. Germain. Here’s the recipe I’ve submitted for the contest and placed on the Carlyle menu as Thyme in a Bottle, getting great reviews from customers so far:

1 oz Bombay Sapphire
.75 oz Farigoule
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz maraschino liqueur

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. A really nice touch is to lightly toast the thyme to release its aroma before serving. My bar at Carlyle has tea lights on it so it’s easy for me to rest a sprig above a candle while I mix the drink. This fills the area with the scent of thyme and gives the cocktail an extra sensory dimension as the customer sips from it.

A tip of the hat for this drink also goes to Charles Munat, who suggested using Farigoule in a Last Word variation. Though the proportions are different here, that’s essentially what this drink is, with Farigoule standing in for Chartreuse and lemon for lime.

Links for 6/29/09

How ADM and Monsanto profit from Waxman-Markey

How Captain Morgan profits from TARP bailouts

Corruption of the three-tier system

Still not easy to by a six-pack in PA

Victory against Oregon’s mover cartel

Victory against pole dance repression

Bar code turns 35

The self-service city

The graffiti ads deserve

Saletan’s fatal conceit

Ben points me to William Saletan’s article on the FDA bill and asks what I think of it. Obviously Saletan’s far more of a paternalist than I am and thinks he knows best what people should and should not consume. The only reason he wouldn’t ban tobacco is because a black market would develop. The fact that some people want to enjoy it doesn’t even enter into his calculations.

But that aside, his take on the bill is better than most, but still too optimistic. If all we wanted was safer tobacco products we would allow the FDA to approve them based on a straightforward comparison to existing products. Instead the law requires the agency to take the much more paternalist approach of trying to predict whether the gains from safer products would be offset by more people taking up tobacco or fewer people quitting. It’s too early to tell just how this will play out, but it’s a potentially huge hurdle to the creation and marketing of safer cigarettes and alternatives.

I’m also skeptical that the FDA can optimally regulate nicotine yields. Mandating lower yields, as the FDA is now empowered to do, would cause current smokers to light up more frequently or inhale more intensely. They’d be taking in more tar and carcinogens to get the same hit of nicotine, a substance that in itself is basically harmless. The hope would be that lower yields cause fewer new smokers to become dependent and ween some smokers off the drug; I’m not comfortable with the idea of sacrificing smokers’ lives to potentially prevent others from taking up the habit.

Saletan thinks that FDA tobacco regulation will be “rational.” I disagree, and the recent uproar over e-cigarettes is an example of how regulations are more likely to play out. Michael Siegel highlighted the absurdity a couple weeks ago:

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association have supported the legislation, about to be enacted, which asks the FDA to make cigarettes safer by removing certain of the more than 4,000 known constituents in the tobacco smoke.

At the same time, these groups have asked the FDA to ban a product (electronic cigarettes) which has already been developed and which already has eliminated all of the 4,000 known constituents in tobacco smoke, other than the nicotine.

I can’t help it, but this is the ultimate in insanity.

Why would you put your heart and soul into a a piece of legislation that, at very best, will allow the FDA to remove a few of the constituents from cigarette smoke but at the same time, demand that a product which has succeeded in removing all (but nicotine) of these constituents be immediately taken off the market?

E-cigarettes resemble smoking in appearance, threaten the market for patches and gums produced by major drug companies, and give health activist groups a new evil to rail against, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that they are harmful — certainly not more harmful than real cigarettes. In a rational regulatory environment they would not be threatened. What we have instead is a highly politicized regulatory environment, one in which the lobbying arms of drug companies, Big Tobacco, and public health groups will wield the greatest influence. Expecting good regulations to emerge from this process is, well, irrational.

Links for 6/26/09

I, toaster

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Case of the missing frog legs

Overweight in Uganda

Sober in the restaurant industry

How bars rescue high-end restaurants

Interview with Seattle bartender Keith Waldbauer

Eating the Mangalica to save it

The addict in chief?

Covering Obama’s signature of the misguided FDA tobacco bill, columnist Marie Cocco refers to the president as a “poster addict” for the anti-smoking movement:

Obama should be neither annoyed nor embarrassed that he keeps getting asked — about “once every month or so,” he says — about his struggle with cigarettes. He happens to be, hands-down, the best possible spokesman for the new FDA regulation. He should embrace the role.

The president should make public service announcements describing his addiction to cigarettes, which he began smoking as a teenager, and his so-far-failed efforts to completely snuff them out. Because after all, if such a smart, smooth and incontestably successful man is having such trouble quitting, what hope is there for the average American who has no worries about a prying press or the negative aura of a nicotine-stained image?

What hope indeed. Never mind the fact that there are about as many former smokers in the United States (45.9 million) as there are current smokers (45.4 million) according to the CDC. Somehow millions of Americans lacking Obama’s superpowers have managed to kick the habit. So what are we to make of Obama’s continued smoking? Cocco has one explanation:

Recovering his equanimity, the president explained that he’s “95 percent cured” from smoking, doesn’t smoke in front of his family and doesn’t light up every day. In short, he is a closet smoker — just like millions of Americans who are trying to quit, whose families are dismayed that they haven’t, and who risk public opprobrium when they admit they’re still tethered to tobacco.

This is the line political correctness, and perhaps his wife, forces Obama to go along with. Is it any wonder he gets snappy with reporters who keep asking him about his habit? As a famously cool and collected president, this constant portrayal as a weak-willed addict must be terribly grating.

But what if he’s not an addict? He’s reportedly not smoking every day despite having one of the most stressful jobs in the world. When he takes those occasional furtive smoke breaks, is he racked with guilt and shame? Or does he secretly enjoy it, a welcome respite from the demands of being president? Perhaps rather than being a model addict, he is a model of moderation, a man who has successfully reduced his consumption to a level he personally finds appropriate. I don’t pretend to know, but if having a smoke every few days does make him happy, in today’s environment he couldn’t possibly tell us.

Links for 6/25/09

World’s rarest bug, restored; climbing Ball’s Pyramid

Short case against Waxman-Markey

Psychiatry’s excessive prescriptions

Rebranding the abstinence movement for federal funds

Taiwan legalizes prostitution

The $1,500 frisbee (sadly, not really a $1,500 frisbee)

Outdoor smoking ban grates on cafe customers

Conspicuous expression vs conspicuous consumption

Links for 6/24/09

What if de-ccalocholized wine really does produse outocoems similar to War?

The federal “no-rights” list

“… accidents and injuries occur hundreds of times more frequently in academic labs than in industrial ones.”

NYC teachers paid to do nothing

24 reasons to love Texas food

Lancaster, PA, America’s most watched city

TV chef calls for smoking ban exemptions

The coffee shop is in in India

Have cigarette, won’t travel

I was quoted yesterday in Christopher Elliott’s MSNBC travel column, which this week is about the travel industry’s crackdown on smokers. A non-smoker himself, Elliott argues that many anti-smoking policies now go too far in denying accommodation to nearly a quarter of the industry’s clients. It’s a solid piece and I’m glad he’s bringing attention to the issue.

One complaint: At the end he lumps all smokers together as addicts, unnecessarily stigmatizing them as helpless users of tobacco. Many of us smoke only occasionally and because we enjoy it, not because we’re dependent on nicotine. The constant association of smoking and addiction is one reason anti-smoking policies have spiraled out of control without any regard for smokers’ rights or preferences.

Smokers in exile
Taking the LEED on smoking bans

Links for 6/23/09

Tweeted account of life as a New Yorker writer

Tips for academics speaking to press

Mexico considers drug decriminalization

Cereal censorship

Whatever happened to the 5 day pledge?

Bush and Obama’s legal continuity

Visual aesthetic of cocktails vs wine

The cliched stripper book

A post that makes jogging sound interesting

Links for 6/22/09

Interesting privacy case for Seattle-sponsored LGBT club

Why The Economist thrives

Milton Friedman’s prescription for healthcare

Review of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist; buy it here

9/10 restaurants don’t really fail in their first year

Studies add up: Coffee is good for you

100 million-year-old giant sperm

Want to become famous in New Zealand?

Belgian beer cocktails

If you like big Belgian beers but wish they had more alcohol on in them, then 1) you’ve got a problem and 2) will enjoy this guest post from me today on Rob Kasper’s Baltimore Sun beer blog.

Friends don’t let friends blog drunk

As some of you know, I don’t actually write the morning links posts in the morning. I usually write them late at night and post them before going to bed so that they’re available for the East Coast readers waking up 3 hours ahead of me. This isn’t usually a problem, but on Wednesday night I found myself unexpectedly skipping dinner and having a few too many drinks. This didn’t stop me from blogging, so when I got up on Thursday I figured I should check the post to make sure I’d correctly placed it on the sidebar. To my credit, I did. The rest of the post, however, was complete nonsense.

I immediately took it down and corrected it, but then neglected the step necessary to republish it (while sober!). So today you’ve got a double dose of links, the ones currently on the sidebar and the ones that should have been posted yesterday. More importantly, I’m also republishing the original drunken post. This could be my best writing ever and I’d hate to see it lost to posterity. Consider the opening sentence, “What if ccalhochol really does produse outocoems similar to War;”. Really makes you think. Or the final link with its totally off-topic description: “Inside hobos”. Now that’s a compelling headline.

I’m surprised no one called me out on this. You all are quick to argue with the controversial posts, but I ask about ccalhochol produsing outocoems similar to War and not a single one of you comments or emails to tell me I might have been completely wasted when I wrote that? Come on, people, I need you to let me know these things!

Yesterday’s fantastic morning links below the break…
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Links for 6/19/09

Hope for reviving Martian life

Costs of the bailouts visualized

Progressive agenda requires higher taxes on middle class

Risks of cheap geo-engineering

Why Iranian cops wear “Police” jackets

A squall over “squaw”

Caplan on raising one’s social intelligence

Traffic cone monster raises DA’s ire

Portland’s first Restaurant Week is coming soon

Prague bars get a “fourth tap”

Brazilian ban on happy meal toys

Ambivalent bumper stickers

Counter Culture and East Coast coffee

The Washington Post has a great article today about Counter Culture Coffee and the company’s unique business model: No retail stores, no shipping past the East Coast, fully staffed training centers in major markets, and an emphasis on free coffee education for the public. There are other roasters producing comparably great coffees, but I don’t know if any have done more to raise the bar for coffee standards in the areas they serve. Check it out here.

George Will on Tobacco

From today’s Washington Post, why tobacco policy is so scattershot:

Ironies abound. The February expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is supposed to be financed by increased tobacco taxes, so this health care depends on an ample and renewable supply of smokers. State governments, increasingly addicted to tobacco tax revenue, face delicate price calculations: They want to raise their regressive tobacco taxes (smokers are disproportionately low income and poorly educated) to just below where smokers are driven to quit.

Governments cannot loot tobacco companies that do not flourish. In a 1998 settlement, 46 states conspired to seize $206 billion from companies selling legal tobacco products made from a commodity subsidized by the governments that subsidize treatment of tobacco-related illnesses. The dubious premise of the settlement was that smoking costs governments substantial sums. Actually, tobacco is the most heavily taxed consumer good (Rhode Island’s tax is $3.46 per pack) and the accurate actuarial assumptions of public and private pension plans are that premature deaths of smokers will save billions in payments.

Links for 6/18/09

New appreciation for moonshine

Summary of new financial regs

The poetry of journalism

No hard choices in healthcare?

Counter Culture training center opens in NYC

Another victory for Big Tobacco

Why couldn’t they just do this in MN Senate race?