Watching You Eat

Two doctors from the nonprofit Altarum Institute last week took "a page from the Department of Homeland Security playbook" by advocating a body mass index (BMI) "surveillance system," according to the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom.

Surveillance system?

"An electronic registry of children’s personal health information, gathered in order to monitor their weight," says the center. "Here’s our question: Will the FBI start tapping phone conversations any time the words ‘cookies’ and ‘ice cream’ are spoken?"

The center labels the BMI — a simple calculation of height and weight used by Uncle Sam to classify Americans as normal, overweight or obese — as "practically useless," to the extent that "many scientists have suggested abandoning" the index.

After all, ladies, on the BMI scale, even movie hunk Brad Pitt is considered fat.

Shrink Government

Government bureaucrats take note: there’s a new fact-driven, federal employee handbook of sorts (actually, it’s better described as a 450-page guerilla guide to surviving government service) written by U.S. government veteran William B. Parker, titled The Agency Game: Inside the Bureaucratic Jungle.

Mr. Parker, who also worked for a Fortune 15 corporation, divides federal employees into four categories: "Idealists" (those who believe that they and only they can solve society’s problems); "Clock-punchers"  (former idealists who have become cynical and are going through the motions); "Hangers-on" (bureaucrats who have reached their career plateau and are hanging on until retirement; and "Power seekers" (those who will do anything without a shred of concern for the public good).

The book has 250 titled chapters, each enlightening. For example, we read that "Washington boasts the highest concentration of shrinks per capita of any other major U.S. city . . . . One good thing: their benefit package pays the tab."

Round Two

It’s now President Obama‘s and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s turn to deal with an obviously confused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who now suddenly wants into the club after hurling every insult imaginable at the American people and its former president, George W. Bush.

Appearing before the United Nations in 2006, Mr. Chavez accused the United States of "domination, exploitation and pillage of peoples of the world."

And leading Americans in the ransacking, the leftist leader cried, was "the devil."

Mr. Bush, you will recall, didn’t flinch. After all, the potty-mouthed Mr. Chavez had called him a "drunkard" and "donkey" only months before.

Know Thy Enemy

Speaking to the Republican National Lawyers Association annual meeting at the National Press Club on Friday, Christopher C. Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the best-selling book Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed, all but sympathized with Department of Homeland Security concerns made public earlier in the week.

As in "right-wing" extremists whose ideology and anger threatens democracy.

Mr. Horner suggested that if somebody in the audience were to buy a copy of his book at the table outside, then send it to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, she surely would diligently pursue the "global warming" industry.

Urbane Orders?

What’s all this about President Obama wanting to decide where Americans will live?

Such a scenario sounds far-fetched, but Ronald D. Utt, a senior research fellow for economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, draws attention to Mr. Obama’s early opposition to "suburban sprawl," adding his intention to "alter the way Americans live" took a step closer to reality by his creation of an interdepartmental initiative on housing and transportation.

"While some may hope this effort is nothing more than the president’s attempt to use the White House as a bully pulpit to encourage Americans to mimic the urbane lifestyle he experienced in an upscale Chicago neighborhood, the record of past such efforts by the federal government is more troubling," Mr. Utt writes in a background paper.

He recalls 1998, when President Clinton‘s Environmental Protection Agency threatened to withhold transportation funds from Georgia because the Atlanta region did not meet federal air-quality standards. The EPA said it would restore funding once Georgia discouraged single-family detached housing and encouraged public transit use and investment.

Carol Browner headed the EPA when the threat was imposed on Atlanta. Today, she is assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

Fee, Fie, Fiddle-i-o

Speaking of commuters, we had to laugh at Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he and President Obama discussed a vision for high-speed rail in America.

"I’m not sure it’s good or bad," Mr. Biden said, "but my father referred to my many commutes — it exceeded over 7,900, they tell me. He said one day before he died, he said, ‘You know … that is the definition of a misspent adulthood, sitting on a train.’ "

Mr. Biden commuted to Washington by train from his home in Wilmington, Del., during his entire Senate career.

Breaking Up

How unstable might Iraq actually become once President Obama shifts the U.S. focus further east, to Afghanistan?

Pretty unstable, although that might not be such a bad thing.

"Had the Bush administration read the history of Iraq or consulted Arab scholars, it might have more wisely concluded that fractious Iraq was one of the least likely countries in the Middle East to accept a unified, democratic federation from the top down at gunpoint," we read in Ivan Eland‘s new book, Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq.

The author, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, quotes Gareth Stansfield, associate professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, as saying that even under the best-case scenarios, democracy would be harder to achieve in Iraq than other places because of a lack of a democratic political culture and no democratic will.

So instead of a "unified" Iraq, as envisioned by former President Bush, Mr. Eland says don’t be surprised if several autonomous regions controlled by Sunnis, Shi’ites, and perhaps Kurds emerge from a loose Iraqi confederation.

"But the ultimate breakup of Iraq should not be feared if it’s done slowly and peacefully," the scholar stresses.

Quarter-Ton Gipper

The U.S. Capitol Rotunda statue of former President Ronald Reagan will be unveiled June 3 and the entire congressional leadership says it will join former first lady Nancy Reagan for the unveiling.

On the Democratic side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John A. Boehner, have all confirmed their attendance.

The statue will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, composed of statues donated by the 50 states to honor notable persons in each state’s history. The nonprofit Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation led efforts to donate a statue after California state legislators in 2006 unanimously approved a resolution to send a statue of the "Gipper" to the U.S. Capitol.

Artist Chas Fagan of North Carolina sculpted the bronze likeness, which measures 7 feet high and weighs 500 pounds.

‘5’ and Counting

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, is collecting a series of legal bills months after it was disclosed he was "Senate Candidate No. 5" in the arrest documents filed against former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

His campaign paid a lawyer $15,000 in the first quarter of this year, according to documents recently filed with the Federal Election Commission. That comes after a $100,000 payment to the same Chicago lawyer, James Montgomery, in December.

That month, Mr. Jackson outed himself as Candidate 5. According to the arrest documents, an emissary for Candidate 5 promised Mr. Blagojevich that the governor would receive up to $1 million in campaign cash if he appointed Mr. Jackson to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. More recently, it came out that that figure could have been $5 million.

Mr. Jackson has denied any role in offering campaign cash in exchange for being named to the seat, which is now held by Sen. Roland W. Burris.