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OpenMarket: December 2006

  • Popping with the Popcorn Board

    December 7, 2006
    As I was skimming government agencies' websites for topical issues, a U.S. Department of Agriculture press release today sidetracked me. It seems that the Secretary of Agriculture has named three people to the “Popcorn Board.” It sounds like a fun board to serve on — one of its activities is research “to maintain and expand the popcorn market.” Another is “consumer information activities.” But it doesn't look like popcorn consumers have a role to play on the board — seems like you have to “process and distribute more than 4 million pounds of popcorn” each year. ...
  • Tobacco Scam

    December 7, 2006
    In 1998, the big tobacco companies entered into a $250 billion settlement with trial lawyers and the attorneys general of 46 states. Big Tobacco agreed to pay this vast sum, plus $14 billion extra in lawyers' fees to politically-connected trial lawyers, in exchange for protections against competition from little tobacco companies (which are forced to make escrow payments on every cigarette they sell in competition with Big Tobacco) that are not part of the settlement. To justify giving the trial lawyers this absurd amount of money (and giving the tobacco companies protection against competition that would otherwise violate the antitrust laws), supporters of the settlement claimed it was for a good cause: funding smoking cessation programs. For example, Brooke Masters'...
  • Look Out for Hurricane Fred

    December 7, 2006
    Our fearless leader, Fred Smith, is on the road again, spreading the good news of free markets and limited government. Yesterday he spoke to a student audience at Furman University, hosted by the campus group Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow.
    Fred engaged the audience on "The Politics of Climate Change," and the kids were nice enough to thank him with a lovely framed watercolor of what I assume is the campus and its surrounding area in Greenville, South Carolina. And they say the youth of today have no manners.
  • Regulation Before Occupation

    December 7, 2006
    Several public policy groups are beginning to set up limited operations within the virtual realm called Second Life; lectures, publications, that sort of thing. On a much larger scale, car, shoe and hotel companies are doing business there. But along with budding euphoria over what looks to be the next big online thing, there's a risk that regulators could get in there early and spoil the fun. Already, membership in Second Life is impressive as is the money spent there (over half-a-million over the past 24 hours if their stats are to be believed), but actual member usage as a percentive of members is often relatively low; it'd be easy to mess things up. Adam Thierer, my former partner in crime at the Cato Institute and now senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, has taken an early look at some emerging MMOG regulatory debates via the...
  • Let Them Use Solar

    December 7, 2006
    It's a heart-warming ad, literally. A poverty-striken mother and daughter sit freezing in their unheated home in the dead of winter, trying to warm themselves with a small cooking stove. But then a fuel truck pulls up and a band of smiling deliverymen pile out and fill up the family's oil tank. Now they'll be warm. The tagline, if I remember it correctly from when I saw the tv spot earlier this week, is “low-cost oil for those in need, brought to you by the good people of Venezuela and Citizens Energy.” Now there's been quite a bit of controversy over Hugo Chavez's program to distribute discount-priced oil to the needy in this country. But I've got a question about...
  • Are you now or have you ever been a skeptic?

    December 6, 2006
    From this week's Evans-Novak Political Report:
    Important Bush Administration officials are ready to leave the government rather than undergo two years of hell from Democratic committee chairmen in Congress. Leading the exodus are officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fearing investigation by two chairmen, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.).
    I wonder who might be the Freeborn John to this Star Chamber?
  • Congress votes highest civilian honor to Dr. Norman Borlaug

    December 6, 2006
    Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to award a Congressional Gold Medal — the nation's highest honor -- to Dr. Norman Borlaug, credited with saving a billion lives through increasing crop yields in developing countries. The Senate has already voted for the award, and the legislation now goes to President Bush for his signature. The creator of the “Green Revolution,” Dr. Borlaug, now 92, still continues his research work in Mexico and in Africa. Winner of a 1970 Nobel Prize, he has been credited with saving “more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” Dr. Borlaug also has been an advocate of agricultural biotechnology and its role in helping to feed the poor of the world. CEI was honored to present him with the CEI Prometheus award at its 20th Anniversary dinner...
  • To Play the King

    December 6, 2006
    Prince Charles has decided his staff should bicycle everywhere and that he himself should practice what he preaches, up to a point:
    Although aides have been looking into his catching an ordinary commuter train from Kemble station, near his Highgrove estate, Gloucs, they said yesterday that he was yet to use it. Travelling by public transport would the most environmentally-friendly mode for the prince, who has said it was his desire to reduce carbon emissions — and not his advancing years — that led to his decision to give up playing polo, because time restrictions forced him to catch a helicopter to games. But, inevitably, there are security issues. A first-class carriage would have to be sealed off and guarded. Royal accounts show that it...
  • Does Diversity Mean No Whites?

    December 6, 2006
    On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a minority-oriented school can exclude members of all but one race (Native Hawaiians), even if the school is covered by the civil-rights laws. That decision was issued in Doe v. Kamehameha Schools. It was decided by an 8-to-7 vote (the vote was almost along party lines: all but one of the Democratic appointees were in the majority, while all the Republican appointees dissented). John Rosenberg discusses the decision in a post called "In Paradise, Diversity Means No Whites," at his Discriminations blog. The Ninth Circuit's ruling shows it's risky to give deference to educators on racial matters, as the Ninth Circuit did in its earlier decision in 2005 upholding the Seattle School District's use of race to promote racial...
  • Look out Mars, the Humans Are Coming

    December 6, 2006
    Today NASA released a series of satellite photograps of Mars, which strongly reinforce the theory that there is (or very recently was) liquid water on the planet's surface. This is exciting.
    Water on Mars?
    So, thanks to NASA for taking the photos, but let's look forward now to private investors taking the next step of actually settling Mars. A recent article from The Space Review examines how this could happen:
    If the private sector is to capitalize on Mars from the earliest stages it must start sooner rather than later. There are many nations and...

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