Politics

The Bloomberg Soda Terror begins, and ends

The Bloomberg Soda Terror begins, and ends

Update: A rather curious sort of update, because at the very moment I completed this post, a state judge in New York blocked Bloomberg’s soda ban.  From the Wall Street Journal:

The city is “enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling decided Monday.

The regulations are “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences,” the judge wrote. “The simple reading of the rule leads to the earlier acknowledged uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole….the loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the state purpose of the rule.”

I got the news just as I was preparing to post, but thought it would be best to leave the post itself intact, because (a) I put a lot of work into it, (b) we should never forget that Bloomberg tried to do this, (c) who knows what’s going to happen in the courts? and (d) I think the impulse behind the Soda Ban is alive and well at the national level.  We will  hear more of this.

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It’s zero hour in New York City, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg implements the kind of policy that Rand Paul’s libertarian dorm-room legions (as certain quarters have derided supporters of the Senator’s recent filibuster) used to kick around as an absurd hypothetical example of regulatory over-reach.  We live today in the satirical exaggerations of the 1990s.  From the New York Times:

With one day to go before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks goes into effect across the city, some big-drink lovers, and the places that serve them, vowed defiance. Others accepted it with a shrug. Then there were people like Leonardo Scarpone, the owner of Sanpanino, an Italian sandwich shop in Greenwich Village, who wondered if the small amount of sugar he added to his fresh-squeezed lemonade would push it into forbidden territory.

“I’m kind of worried about it,” he said. “It comes down to the inspector who’s doing the inspection, or the person who answers the question.”

That’s right, folks: a citizen of the United States of America is worried that he’ll be caught and punished by the Drink Police for putting too much sugar in his lemonade.

Other New Yorkers pointed out how this little slice of whimsical tyranny is fairly easy to evade, provided Bloomberg’s subjects are willing to suffer a bit of inconvenience and cost:

“If someone wants it, they’re going to get it,” said Irene Prois, Manhattan Three Decker’s manager, nodding in agreement. She mentioned her boyfriend as an example. “He doesn’t care. He’ll just get a double.”

Michael Jackson, 47, who was having lunch at the Gray’s Papaya in Greenwich Village, said there were few things dearer to his heart than a cold Sprite. “The big size, of course,” he specified on Sunday. “I’m a big guy.”

“I’ll buy a dozen of these,” said Mr. Jackson, 47, pointing to a regular cup. And as he saw it, there was no point in mourning the big sodas: “All I have to do is go to Jersey, or to 7-Eleven.” (The 7-Eleven convenience stores, like supermarkets, are regulated by the state and will still be allowed to sell the Big Gulp and other large drinks.)

Like all efforts by the domineering State to micro-manage the behavior of its citizens, the Soda Ban is nightmarishly complicated.  Doubtless Bloomberg and like-minded compassion commandantes are hoping that fear of running into these tricky rules will frighten citizens into line.  Here’s the New York Times taking a stab at explaining the rules – and remember, these are the rules for selling a completely legal beverage in an American city:

How will it work?

At its most basic — and there are plenty of complications — the new rules mean that food-service establishments in New York City will not be able to sell sodas and other sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Customers may buy as many refills as they want.

What places are excluded?

Large drink containers will still be available at convenience stores and grocery stores — in other words, places that are not regulated by the city’s health department. Places that receive regular health inspections from the city, including street vendors, bowling alleys and restaurants, will all have to abide by the ban. The convenience store 7-Eleven will not, so the Big Gulp will live on.

What drinks are covered?

The new rules are known as the “soda ban,” but many other sugary drinks will be affected: fruit-juice drinks including lemonade, sports drinks like Gatorade, energy drinks, slushies, fruit smoothies, and coffee- and tea-based sweetened drinks. Bubble teas are affected, as are presweetened iced coffees and teas, and possibly even the famous papaya juice at the city’s hot-dog-and-fruit-juice outlets. Of course, there are a few caveats.

What caveats?

For one, drinks that are more than 50 percent milk (or milk substitute) are exempt from the regulations because the city considers milk a valuable source of nutrition — especially compared with soda, which is considered to contain empty calories. Any establishment trying to preserve its drinks under the milk exception must prove its milk content. So far, Starbucks’s pumpkin spice lattes and machiattos are exempt; no word yet on Frappucinos.

What’s the definition of a sugary drink?

The city defines it as a nonalcoholic beverage that is less than 50 percent milk and has been presweetened by the manufacturer or the vendor with sugar or another caloric sweetener, like high fructose corn syrup, honey or agave nectar. To qualify, the beverage must cross a certain caloric threshold: 25 calories per 8 ounces.

What else isn’t affected?

Milkshakes and lattes are safe, because of the milk exception; so are drinks that fall under the caloric threshold, like diet sodas. Fruit smoothies and juices that contain only fruit and fruit juice, with no added sweeteners, are also exempt.

What about beer growlers?

Alcoholic beverages are safe, no matter the size. But that does not mean alcohol drinkers will be completely unaffected: because nightclubs are subject to the regulations, those who can afford bottle service will find that the carafes of sweet mixers like tonic and cranberry juice can no longer be served alongside the Grey Goose.

There’s more, but I’m afraid I’m already skirting the limits of “fair use,” and your eyes are probably starting to glaze over.  I don’t think even Hugo Chavez ever tried micro-managing his subjects’ lives to this degree.  Try to imagine hard-working restaurant owners poring over these regulations with their harried staff, as they nervously eye the end date of the 90-day compliance grace period.

The Mayor is already dispatching swarms of city inspectors “armed with 17-ounce cups” to monitor compliance, as reported by the UK Daily Mail:

Those inspectors will have specially ordered measuring cups to help them enforce the new rule, Deputy Health Commissioner Daniel Kass said in an affidavit recently filed as part of the legal challenge to Bloomberg’s anti-big-soda policy.

‘The measuring cups that we will be issuing … will be able to contain 17 fluid ounces,’ Kass said. 

[...] Inspectors will issue violations when a cup is found to ‘clearly exceed’ 16 ounces ‘when measured in the inspector’s measuring cup,’ he added.

All establishments that receive inspection grades from the Health Department, such as concession stands at movie theaters, ballparks and arenas, will be included on the oversized beverage inspection beat.

Bloomberg, soaring as far over the top as any power-drunk super-villain from the silver screen, cackled that his ban should be imposed across the nation… nay, around the world!  From the New York Daily News:

“Everybody across this country should do it,” said Bloomberg, who has already called for the state to bar sugary soda over 16 ounces in stores.

And, he suggested, the crusade might not even stop there.

“In fact, obesity is a problem around the world,” he said. “It’s getting to be as serious if not more so than smoking.”

He said tough moves are necessary because the obesity epidemic will “bankrupt” the healthcare system – and, he suggested, because fat people can’t do their jobs as well as those in better shape.

He cited an economic hit because of “people who come to work and because they’re overweight just can’t perform as well as people who might be in better shape. Physical activity requires you to be in good shape.”

He’s just trying to save the Noble Poor from a villainous conspiracy to make them fat and broke, as he looks back to better days of yesteryear, when only rich people were fat:

“If you go back to the 20s, you see these pictures of the old robber barons with their big stomachs out there – that was a sign of success,” Bloomberg said.

“Today those people are doing pilates and running in marathons and triathlons and if you look at where obesity is in the country, it tends to be in the people at the lower end of the economic ladder who don’t have the ability to take care of themselves as well, and if anybody will get helped by this, it’s them.”

Sure, he sounds like a lunatic, but he’s actually following the logic of ObamaCare and its “individual mandate” to the ultimate conclusion.  The bodies of the peasantry are now the wholly-owned property of the State, because it is taking on the burden of controlling health care.  Unhealthy decisions must therefore be forbidden; submission to the scientifically designed order imposed by the superior minds of the State is required.  But since the American people retain just enough independence to rebel against the hardcore jackboot stuff, the State will begin exerting its will by making undesirable behavior uncomfortable and expensive, stigmatizing it with elaborate rules that will intimidate large numbers of people into tacit compliance with orders they might refuse, if it given directly.  Once they’re more accustomed to the new order, it will become feasible to issue more overt commands.  The important first step is establishing the core principle that people cannot be trusted to make certain decisions for themselves, or their own children.

Bloomberg evidently draws the line at forcing people to exercise… for now.  I think that’s coming.  In fact, it’s more-or-less inevitable, according to the reasoning behind Bloomberg’s soda ban.  What contributing factor to obesity – that awful drain upon The People’s health care resources – is more powerful than indolence?  And using the individual mandate to compel physical fitness would be a “job creator” for health care facilities across the land.  At the very least, some nice financial incentives for fitness training could be provided.  And just imagine how much leverage all that lovely “wellness” expenditure will give socialists to resist the next round of “austerity” spending cuts!  We might not be able to afford regular cops after the next 2 percent reduction in spending growth, but there will always be money for the Drink Police.

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