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OpenMarket: February 2008

  • Disappointing ESA Developments

    February 29, 2008 5:10 PM

    The new testimony and announcements by DOI/USFWS regarding coming Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings and changes are most interesting.


    First, DOI announced a major change in its barely two-year old critical habitat designation for the Canada Lynx. Critical habitat had been restricted to 2,000 square miles. Now it has been vastly increased to 43,000 square miles.


    Recreation industry and timber industry had lobbied hard and testified on lack of need for such a vast critical habitat designation -- and thought that common sense had won out. These groups feared that the possible occurrence of the lynx might shut down the Northern Rockies Ecosystem. But the DOI critical habitat change underscores how ephemeral any kind of deal with the Feds is. Regardless of what they promise or sign, as soon as there is Green pressure they can -- and seemingly will -- instantly overturn everything.


    A Greenwire story points out that this will not have any effect on private land -- unless of course landowners need "permits on their land." Can you think of any project for building a home, digging an irrigation ditch or drainage ditch, whatever, that doesn't require local, county, state or Federal permits?


    According to another article in Greenwire today, the Bush administration, looking forward to leaving its Green legacy, announced a huge push to decide on 71 listing proposals during the remaining ten months of 2008 and another 21 for 2009.


    USFWS Director Dale Hall, responding to criticism from Greens and media for not having listed more species, stated in Greenwire: "It took us a little bit, but we hope this will get us back on track. We slipped out of the mode."

  • Another Reason to Drink Bottled Water

    February 29, 2008 4:10 PM

    In recent months, environmentalists have been saying that bottled water is wasteful and no healthier than tap. They are helping advance bottled water taxes, bans on bottled water in government offices and at public events, along with a host of other silly anti-bottled water policies. Their advice for those of us who want water on the go: use refillable containers. What they don't advertise is the fact that those bottles can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria—which doesn't sound like a healthier alternative to me! Check this story out. It notes that one toxicologist recommends not only washing bottles regularly (remember washing with soap has environmental impacts too!), but swapping them out "as much as possible" to avoid bacterial build up. Sounds like yet another good reason to simply stick with fresh, convenient, and sanitary bottled water!


  • Election rhetoric: "My opponents are witches, prostitutes and charlatans"

    February 29, 2008 4:10 PM


    Candidates running for POTUS shouldn't whine about being attacked by their opponents. Things look pretty mild in the good ole USA, especially compared with campaign rhetoric in Zimbabwe.


    BBC News reports that Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has launched his reelection campaign by calling his opponents “witches, prostitutes and charlatans,” as well as “traitors and two-headed creatures.” Here's his full quote:


    Let the people's voice thunder across the whole country on 29 March, rejecting and damning once and for all the bootlicking British stooges, the traitors and sell-outs, the political witches and political prostitutes, political charlatans and the two-headed political creatures.


    Mugabe is running on his record for helping the people of Zimbabwe. Under Mugabe's leadership, the annual inflation rate has exceeded 100,000%. And the World Bank says Zimbabwe had the fastest shrinking economy of any country outside a war zone.


    Now that's a record to run on.


  • Virginia Courts Strike Down Taxation Without Representation

    February 29, 2008 4:10 PM

    The Virginia Supreme Court today struck down a state law giving unelected bodies the power to levy taxes in Marshall v. Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Authority. It blocked regional transit authorities from levying taxes to pay for regional transportation projects. (Some of the money is being wasted on pork-barrel projects).


    I earlier criticized the biggest tax imposed by the transit authorities, the regional grantor's tax, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Examiner, noting that it violates the "user-pays" principle, and economic common sense, by making homeowners, not motorists, pay for transportation (Many motorists using Northern Virginia roads are from out-of-state; the grantor's tax applies only to Northern Virginia homeowners, including elderly people who seldom drive).

  • Child-Snatching, Sexual Harassment, and Punitive Damages

    February 29, 2008 1:57 PM

    I have more posts on child-snatching by government agencies, strange sexual harassment rulings, and punitive damages for oil spills, at Point of Law Forum, where I am guest blogging.


  • Strassel on the Dems' "trade tirade"

    February 29, 2008 11:24 AM

    In the Wall Street Journal today (subscription needed), Kimberley A. Strassel's column hits the Democrats' current protectionist stance on trade and points to the party's rebuilding of the world trade system in the 1930s and understanding of the benefits of free trade.


    But, Strassel notes,


    That common sense hasn't matched the temptation to win points with Big Labor or to ride a populist anti-trade wave. Threats to hold trade deals hostage to labor and environmental rules; vows to review existing deals; the bashing of Mexican truck drivers; the mauling of the Chinese currency; complaints about trade enforcement — all of these are today standard Democratic (and increasingly Republican) talking points. The Clinton-Obama threats are a logical conclusion of this, not some surprising beginning.


    Today, she says, “the stakes are arguably higher,” and quotes former Democratic congressman Cal Dooley on how trade today is integrally linked to national security, and it's likely that the Democratic nominee for president will retreat from trade bashing to make the national security argument.


    “. . . it's hard to make nicey-nice with the global community when you are stiffing it on trade,” Strassel wrote. Not only on national security, but on the economy, Democrats need to take a leadership role. She quotes Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar, who is a strong supporter of open trade as well as a Hillary Clinton supporter, that support for trade is “about both the prosperity of the nation, and the prosperity of the Democratic Party.”


    Economic prosperity and national security sound like good arguments for more open trade. Maybe some of those Dems can bring some needed sense to the current posturing on trade issues.


  • Ethanol Subsidies Increase Illegal Immigration? Yes

    February 28, 2008 4:15 PM

    Public policy is rife with unintended consequences. The newest is that soaring food prices caused by ethanol subsidies in the U.S. are causing food prices to skyrocket in Mexico. While this is old information, what's news is how this is contributing to civil disorder and other acts of violence in Mexico.


    Brigadier General Greg Zanetti believes that ethanol subsidies combined with a slowing American economy and continued drug violence on the border could contribute to a massive flow of refugees, not migrants, across the border. Chalk this up to another unintended consequence of bad public policy. A subsidy which is intended to “get us off of our foreign oil addition” (Their words, not mine) and help our national security could cause a flood of refugees across the American border. Perhaps it's time that our government focuses more on this hemisphere than some other ones I could name.


    Ethanol certainly won't power our cars, but it could fuel chaos south of the border.


  • Puff the Magic Dragon

    February 28, 2008 1:55 PM

    More proof that wind power is no panacea for the nation's looming electricity crisis. The wind dropped in Texas, and caused blackouts:


    ERCOT said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.


    In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas.


    ERCOT declares a stage 1 emergency when power reserves fall below 2,300 MW. A stage 2 emergency is called when reserves fall below 1,750 MW.


    At the time of the emergency, ERCOT demand increased from 31,200 MW to a peak of 35,612 MW, about half the total generating capacity in the region, according to the agency's Web site.


    Meanwhile, in Denmark, wind turbines are exploding. Dramatic video (provenance uncertain, so may not be genuine) here. This follows the fatal collapse of a wind tower in Oregon last summer. They also come with environmental costs of their own.


    Now, of course, all energy production comes with risks, but wind power has such a positive image that people think of it as completely safe, environmentally-friendly and reliable. That's not the case.


  • Thank God D-Day Went Better Than E-Day

    February 28, 2008 1:54 PM

    It's E-Day in the UK, a national 'awareness' day backed by major environmental groups and religious organizations, and the BBC, aimed at getting Brits to reduce their electricity use. The motto is "the small things in life can make a big difference."


    With two hours left to go, electricity use is slightly higher than normal.


    Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers' Alliance is live-blogging the event.


  • Ridiculous Lack of Personal Responsibility

    February 28, 2008 1:48 PM

    These days it seems that you can slap the word “addiction” after any activity and escape personal responsibility for poor decision making. Moreover, in some places calling yourself an addict not only earns a free pass from consequences but it also gives you the right to sue other people for not protecting you from yourself. Take for example, Graham Calvert, a greyhound trainer in England is suing his bookmaker for failing to prevent him from losing over 2 million pounds in bad bets.


    [Calvert's] counsel, Anneliese Day, said William Hill had been guilty of "negligent encouragement and inducement" by not acting to curb Calvert's gambling even though he had indicated he wanted them to on at least two occasions.


    Far from doing that, William Hill had sought to encourage Calvert to go on huge betting sprees, breaching their own "self-exclusion" policy, she added


    I feel bad that Calvert's life is a mess, but he shouldn't be allowed to put the blame on anyone but himself. It would be one thing if he was simply suing to clear his debts, but now Calvert has upped the ante by suing for personal damages!


    On Wednesday, Mr Justice Michael Briggs granted the 28-year-old permission to widen his claim…. to include compensation for personal injuries.


    By allowing these litigious shenanigans the UK has opened up a can of worms. Let us hope that the the condition isn't contagious.


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