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OpenMarket: February 2007

  • 2 + 2 = 5; Coercion = Choice

    February 7, 2007
    After much anticipation, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has introduced the Orwellian-monikered Employee Free Choice Act (H.R.800). The aim of this bill is to facilitate union organizing by essentially doing away with secret ballot elections in organizing campaigns in favor of employees signing union cards. Currently, an employer has to agree to a card-check procedure, but this bill would allow unions to circumvent that requirement. Because cards are signed in public, this exposes workers to high-pressure tactics that secret ballot elections are intended to avoid. For more on this issue, see the section on card-check in part two of my piece, "Big Labor's Agenda for the 110th Congress," which illustrates the kind of strong-...
  • (Not So) Rotten Tomatoes and Sour Grapes

    February 6, 2007
    Sure, everyone's heard that a US Department of Agriculture regulation governs the size of the holes in Swiss Cheese. But, did you know that another reg governs the shape and texture of tomatoes? As the WaPo's Cindy Skrzycki notes today, tomato wholesaler Joseph Procacci bred a new tomato variety that (reputedly) tastes much better than the typical supermarket varieties. The only catch is that it doesn't have a uniformly smooth skin, as USDA regs require. Procacci's tomato is actually sold under the eponymous name UglyRipe, and the photo below shows that's not just boastful marketing....
  • Turkey Trouble

    February 6, 2007
    An avian flu outbreak in the UK has had that country's media in a predictable panic.  The Times' Mick Hume has a rational response:
    True, the Suffolk infection is of the H5N1 strain that can infect humans. But the 164 killed in the developing world lived cheek-by-beak with diseased birds. The poor children who died of bird flu in Turkey had been playing with chicken's heads rather than Heelys. There would be no health risk in eating those Suffolk turkeys, so long as you cooked them first.
    This point reflects Schumpeter's observation:
    It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and...
  • Texas faces gas attack

    February 6, 2007
    If you live in Texas, you'll have heard about how the coal-based energy utilities want to build a lot of new power plants to meet expected demand without massive power cuts, but are facing opposition from environmental activists.  Well, some good investigative reporting from Asher Price of the Austin American-Statesman has uncovered what those on the Left like to call an "astroturf" campaign by Big Gas:
    Masquerading as activists battling coal plants, Big Gas is squaring off against Big Coal in a polished campaign run by a Hollywood ad agency. Natural gas companies, calling themselves the Texas Clean Sky Coalition, have been fighting coal plant proposals with full-page advertisements in the state's major daily newspapers.
    Where's the campaign being run from?  Why,...
  • Rudy Giuliani vs. the Greens

    February 6, 2007
    Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani has all but declared himself a Republican presidential candidate by filing an official "statement of candidacy" and saying he is "in to win." In my new book, Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health, I reveal a surprising fact about Giuliani that so far has been little discussed in national coverage: Giuliani's record as New York mayor of standing up to green groups to take steps to promote prosperity and public health. In Eco-Freaks, I detail Giuliani's tough fight to spray pesticides to curb the spread of the newly-arrived West Nile virus in 1999.
    In a section of Eco-Freaks entitled "Rudy Stands Up to the Greens," I write of Giuliani's actions when...
  • No man can serve, erm, three masters

    February 6, 2007
    Here is a graphical representation of EU energy policy: Translation: Lisbon - the EU require energy to keep its industries running; it has to be affordable to keep those energies competitive Moscow - the EU, thanks to environmental concerns ruling out coal and nuclear, relies on Russia and its President to supply gas Kyoto - the EU, thanks to international pressure, needs to reduce its industrial activity In other words, the EU's energy policy is one where domestic interests are held hostage by international interests.  They term this undesirable situation, 'Fully balanced and integrated.'
  • Huzzah! Auto industry to curb emissions!

    February 6, 2007
    At the cost of 10,000 jobs, but that's a small price to pay for a slight reduction in the rate of global warming.  I'm sure the newly unemployed will sleep well at night knowing that by their children going hungry, they are doing their bit for the planet.
  • WTO's Lamy embraces Gaia

    February 6, 2007
      For those who don't think trade is in trouble and is being used as the big stick to solve all global problems, the World Trade Organization's Director-General, Pascal Lamy, in a speech February 5, gave obeisance to the “Gaia theory” as the approach to incorporate environmental issues into trade negotiation.
    “Gaia” — which means “mother earth” in greek — is traversing a difficult phase: a zone of turbulence. It was as early as 1979 when James Lovelock published his famous work — “Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth” — that we were warned that living matter is not passive, and that the Earth responds to provocation. We learned that the Earth's air, oceans and land surfaces react in the face of threats to their very existence. They fight to defend themselves. Today, as we face environmental...
  • More on the UCS "Interference" Study

    February 5, 2007
    Opinion research guru Bob Lichter has a good dissection of the problem with the Union of Concerned Scientists study on federal interference with science that made headlines last week here. Of particular note are his comments about why even the "absolute" numbers of incidents the study uncovered are suspect:
    There is also a serious problem with the questionnaire itself. Scientists were asked not only about their own experiences but about their perception of others. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that "nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate" certain words. The actual wording was, "I have perceived and others and/or personally experienced the following types of activities affecting climate science:" This...
  • Won't someone please think of the consumer?

    February 5, 2007
    Greg Mankiw notes that President Bush is considering some form of road pricing to reduce congestion. London has a congestion charge which deeply divides opinion. Today, horrifyingly, the administrators of the charge received a letter bomb. CEI actually strongly supports dynamic road pricing (as in, for example, HOT lanes), but recognizes that there are trade-offs involved in all such moves. The key should be that the scheme is based on increased convenience for the consumer, not on convenience for government. The London charge is an example of a badly thought-out scheme that puts the needs of government before the needs of citizens. If any presidential scheme repeats...

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