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OpenMarket: January 2007

  • "Daniel" makes it easy for identity thieves

    January 16, 2007
    With Congress focusing a lot of attention on identity theft, sometimes it's important to note that individuals have some responsibility for protecting their personal information.  That hit home this morning as I rode to work on the S2 bus on 16th Street.  Right behind me, a young professional man was on his cell phone, and he was making a credit card purchase. During his one-sided conversation, I learned his Visa credit card number — he repeated it very slowly so listeners could be sure to get it -- the expiration date of his card, his name and the correct spelling, his phone number, his new address — that was repeated too — his zip code, his email address, and his place of employment (the World Bank).  I also learned that he was charging an item for $280.17. No, I didn't get his mother's maiden name....
  • Another Hazardous Rulemaking

    January 12, 2007
    This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied the marketing of yet another wood preservative, meaning consumers will continue to have few choices when it comes to buying wood products for decking, fences, and other outdoor structures. Wood preservatives are the chemicals used to make pressure treated lumber—lumber that is resistant to insects and decay. The ostensive reason for prohibiting the product—acid copper chromate or ACC—was to prevent consumers from suffering allergy-related skin irritations and reduce potential cancer risks for workers. Yet ACC has been used safely for decades. It was once one of the most widely used chemicals for residential uses, and it is still used in industrial applications. The same cannot be said about the alternative products that began wide use in 2004, and which pose serious other problems for consumers (see below). This decision...
  • Rep. Flake gets bumped from Judiciary -- on principle?

    January 12, 2007
    One of the top free market legislators — Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — got kicked off the House Judiciary Committee, even though he had more seniority than some of the other Republicans who were kept on. Rated the most fiscally conservative House member by the National Taxpayers Union, and the top free trader by Cato Institute, Rep. Flake has also been a leader against “earmarks” — lawmakers' pet pork projects that get buried in larger bills. Other papers report that he got dumped because of his stands against the Republicans' immigration and border control measures. He also has taken on warrantless wiretap policy. I'm with the Wall Street...
  • Farm bill -- a focus on energy

    January 12, 2007
    A 2007 farm bill with generous support could run into problems, according to a New York Times article today. But despite possible budget problems, lawmakers and policymakers are anxious to provide generous subsidies for alternative energy sources from crops, such as corn and switchgrass. Already, though, there's some evidence that the proliferation of ethanol plants turning corn into fuel is causing the price of feed to rise significantly. That also translates into higher food prices for consumers. In a CEI monograph published last fall, Dennis Avery predicted that a food or fuel problem was likely, especially with government support for energy programs for alternative fuels.
  • France – prime obstacle for liberalizing agriculture support

    January 12, 2007
    In an opinion piece today in Le Figaro, Drieu Godefridi, director of L'institut Hayek in Brussels, points out that what is halting negotiations on the World Trade Organization's Doha Round is the attitude of French farmers and policymakers — “Libéralisation de l'agriculture: l'obstacle ultime, c'est la France.” Godefridi notes that the poor developing countries of the world are the ones who will suffer because they can't effectively compete in world markets with agriculture heavily subsidized in the rich countries. He brings up the example of New Zealand, which liberalized its own agricultural policies two decades ago and saw its farmers benefiting. (See CEI's example of New Zealand's cutbacks in agricultural...
  • Memo to Sen. Boxer: Be Careful What You Ask For

    January 11, 2007
    If I were Barbara Boxer, the last thing I want to hear on January 30th when Senators trundle down to offer their deep climate thoughts is the following. As her first act as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer has asked for Senators to offer their take on the horrors of global warming and what they, were they the king that they see in the mirror when shaving, would do. Rare are such opportunities. In 500 words someone could do more for the debate than 6 years have done. "Madame Chairman, I suggest we vote on the Kyoto Protocol. I have listened for 6 years to rather heated rhetoric about the purported irresponsibility of President Bush for not signing a treaty that was already signed by Bill Clinton, by those who have yet to suggest we vote on Kyoto; I have heard quite stirring claims against chairmen for holding hearings on an issue, from those who now...
  • Meet Modern Britain: Where Blood, Sweat and Tears Is a 70s Rock Band

    January 9, 2007
    Global warming activists have suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair give up his personal holiday travel around the world, to set an example as a carbon dioxide conscious citizen. Blair has responded by telling them to bugger off. As it turns out, addressing climate change the Blair way won't involve any significant sacrifices for the citizenry, like, say, no longer doing things that cause CO2 emissions. He has cautioned his countrymen not to set "unrealistic targets" in their personal life, adding, "It's like telling people you shouldn't drive anywhere." According to his spokesman, Blair believes that policies that end up "hurting the domestic or the world economy" are the wrong way to go. That's good news for the Brits, of course. How a nation like the UK is going to meet its Kyoto obligations without less...
  • Scharzenegger to order 10% emissions cut; expected to boost ethanol

    January 9, 2007
    Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected today to order California's petroleum refiners and gasoline sellers to reduce the carbon content of the fuels they sell by 10%. Cui bono? Can you spell "ethanol"? Even with this mandate and the 2002 law (AB 1493) imposing CO2 emissions standards on new cars sold in the state, actual CO2 emissions from California's transport sector are likely to grow. Consider the European experience. Due to high motor fuel taxes, Europeans pay roughly twice what Americans pay for gasoline. Yet from 1990 to 2004, EU transport sector CO2 emissions increased almost 26% and are projected under current policies to be 35% above 1990 levels in...
  • A Temporary Reprieve for D.C. Employers and Landlords

    January 9, 2007
    D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams rightly vetoed a bill that would have banned employers from taking applicants' criminal records into account in hiring, and forced landlords to rent to ex-cons, even in units near their own living quarters.  But it was one of his last acts as mayor, and the D.C. Council (which includes the incoming mayor) voted for the bill by a veto-proof 10-to-2 margin.  Moreover, the bill was sponsored by William's predecessor as mayor, Councilman Marion Barry, who himself has a criminal record. The Washington Post has editorialized against the bill, noting that "under the bill a home health-care agency would have to hire someone who had been freed 10 years ago after serving...
  • Drug Industry Gone to the Dogs

    January 9, 2007
    My dog is fat. Obese, even, if the FDA is to be believed. The arrival of my new-born son two years ago has meant fewer and fewer long runs on the weekends for me and the dog, as well as more and more table 'scraps' being hand-fed to the pooch by the boy. Tipping the scales at a whopping 90 pounds (or roughly 20 percent) over his ideal weight, BJ needs some help. Fortunately, last week the FDA approved the very first diet drug for dogs -- a Pfizer product called derlotapide, to be marketed under the trade name Slentrol. The introduction of a prescription-only diet drug for pets says a lot about a country. (It might suggest a thing or two about me personally as well, but let...

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