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OpenMarket: February 2007

  • Radicals on TV

    February 9, 2007
    My good friend and fellow radical for capitalism -- and former Warren Brookes Fellow -- Brian Doherty (now with Reason magazine) will discuss his new (freewheeling) history of the libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism, in an hour-long interview on the C-SPAN2 BookTV show, "After Words" this weekend. The interviewer will be CEI adjunct fellow Doug Bandow. The show airs on Saturday, February 10 at 9:00 PM Eastern time, and again on Sunday, February 11 at 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM Eastern time.
  • Dishonest Court Ruling Flouts Law in Dukes v. Wal-Mart

    February 8, 2007
    On February 6, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in a 2-to-1 vote. As AEI scholar Ted Frank notes, the lawsuit is based on bogus statistical evidence, and the court's decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart is permeated by intellectual dishonesty. The class action accuses Wal-Mart of discriminating against a class of more than a million female employees, many of whom have never heard of the lawsuit and few of whom have ever alleged discrimination. The February 6 decision was written by left-wing ideologue Harry Pregerson. Judge Pregerson is most famous for repeatedly defying the U.S. Supreme Court in the Robert Alton Harris case, in...
  • Punitive Damages Can Be Limited

    February 8, 2007
    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just held in the Engquist case that a legislature can limit punitive damages payable to a plaintiff in a pending lawsuit, without violating the Takings Clause. It reasoned that punitive damages are contingent and discretionary, and not a generally applicable right like the right to compensatory damages for an injury. Thus, a legislature can limit them, or require that part of the punitive damages awarded in a case be paid into the state treasury rather than to the plaintiff. This ruling buttresses the constitutionality of tort reform laws that limit punitive damages, which a minority of state courts have declared unconstitutional. In the same case, the court held that although, in general, a citizen can sue under the Equal...
  • Where's The Precautionary Principle When We Need It?

    February 8, 2007
    Today's Wall Street Journal (link for subscribers) has a short piece in the B section noting how a new Bush Administration "clean diesel" fuel mandate may be responsible for stranding school buses full of children in the extreme cold during recent weeks. The new EPA rule requires diesel users (including school buses) to switch to ultra-low-sulfur fuel in order to reduce air pollution. Unfortunately, the low-sulfur stuff also tends to turn from a liquid into a gel more readily in cold temperatures. Don't the nice folks at EPA know that the precautionary principle requires them to "look before they leap" head first into adopting new technologies?
  • The Duke of Wellington, Climatologist

    February 8, 2007
    The growth in air travel is one of the culprits behind the alleged global warming crisis. (See, for example, Cheap Air Travel Adding to Global Warming Woes). Yet while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the forefront of the congressional push to deal with global warming, she's also been pushing for an upgrade in the special military airplane service available exclusively to her. This sort of resembles the Duke of Wellington's view of railroads when they were introduced in Britain in the 1800s: they would, he sniffed, "only encourage the common people to move about needlessly". The Duke, of course, never had much problem moving about, nor much need to justify it to anyone else. Whether technologies upset the aristocracy or...
  • Leading by Example: Carbon Footprint Edition

    February 7, 2007
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a woman so passionate about the cause of global warming that she created a new select committee dedicated exclusively to addressing the issue, is making emissions-related headlines again today. It seems she is demanding formally requesting that the Air Force make one of its full-size passenger jets available to her for her personal travel convenience.

    Coast-to-coast nonstop, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers: The only way to fly! 

    She can't travel commercial because of security reasons, of course, and the more modest plane Hastert used to use might not be able to make it from DC to San Francisco non-stop. It goes...
  • High Corn Prices Flattening the Poor

    February 7, 2007
    Deroy Murdock writes about ethanol in National Review Online today, specifically on the effect on food prices, as the Mexican tortilla crisis illustrates:
    Existing federal laws that mandate ethanol in U.S. gasoline have diverted trainloads of corn from America's food supply-chain to ethanol factories. This boosted U.S. corn prices nearly 80 percent in 2006. That's bad enough if you buy corn on the cob for a weekend barbecue. But it's much worse if you are a poor Mexican surviving on corn tortillas. The price of a kilo (2.2 pounds) of tortillas recently has shot up 55 percent, from 5.5 to 8.5 pesos.
    He also provides a good one-paragraph summary of the pork barrel politics of ethanol, worth passing on to any of your friends who want a quick read on the issue...
  • New Survey: Americans Say No to Energy Diet

    February 7, 2007
    Pollster Michael McKenna just released his latest survey on what Americans think about enviro issues, particularly global warming. Some interesting findings: 1.  Environmental issues as a whole, not just global warming, still rank almost dead last among issues voters are most concerned about. Only 3% of the 1,000 respondents said the environment was the most pressing issue facing the U.S. right now. (The top issues, btw, are Iraq and security. No surprise there.) 2.  On just environmental issues, climate change is the top priority for the voters surveyed. 3.  Despite that, a majority of the respondents do not want the government to intervene with mandated carbon reductions. Fifty-two percent believe advances in technology will solve any problems from global warming. 4.  Unfortunately, the survey found "there may be some misunderstanding or overestimation of the...
  • Global Warming and Hot Air

    February 7, 2007
    Robert Samuelson has a great column on the global warming issue in today's Washington Post. He hits the nail on the head when it comes to the true motivations of politicians, companies that are jumping on the carbon regulation bandwagon, and even fellow columnists. "Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to 'do something' with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior."
  • More on the surveillance society

    February 7, 2007

    While the big telecom firms and some free speech and civil liberties groups may clash over issues like net neutrality, they agree over the fact that "data retention" mandates imposed on ISPs are risky, costly and an invasion of privacy. Demonstrating once again how the opponents and proponents of Internet regulation never seem to divide along party lines, it's not just law-and-order Republicans seeking this new power to access records to allegedly thwart child porn and other crimes; the leading proponent according to CNet is a Democrat. Just this week, major "law and order" legislation bundling several pet projects was introduced. CNet first started promoting the story on the rise of data retention rules, and presents an "ISP snooping timeline" on the story linked here.  


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