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OpenMarket: April 2007

  • The Year's Worst Use of a Figure of Speech by a Bureaucrat?

    April 20, 2007
    Earlier this week Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the following in describing the allegedly new interest of consumers in vehicle safety:
    "Consumers used to take tepid sips of the safety Kool-Aid and are now gulping it down."
    Ms. Nason was addressing the Society of Automotive Engineers 2007 World Congress. Ms. Nason needs to get a better grip on her metaphors. Ever since the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, the primary meaning of the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has been to blindly take poison at the urging of some leader. Now it's true...
  • Cranky Geek Against SarbOx

    April 20, 2007
    John C. Dvorak, long time columnist for PC Magazine and head Crank on Cranky Geeks, a popular podcast, has come out against Sarbanes-Oxley. Dvorak was quick to point out on another popular podcast, Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech, that SarbOx places huge limitations on the silicon valley start-up phenomenon. I later found that Dvorak pointed out the flaws of SarbOx in at least three columns in PC Magazine. Rather than growing their companies into successful, independent firms, entrepreneurs are now forced to look to large corporations to buy them out. Growing organically just isn't possible for many start-ups because of the...
  • Regulated to Death

    April 19, 2007
    The New York Times has an interesting story on how federal privacy and disability-rights regulations may have helped pave the way for the Virginia Tech massacre by hamstringing school officials ("Laws Limit Options When A Student Is Mentally Ill"). Overlawyered links to discussions of how federal privacy laws like HIPAA and FERPA may have contributed to the tragedy. Professor David Bernstein has opened an interesting comment thread at the Volokh Conspiracy, in which lawyers (including me) cite instances in which disabilities-rights laws have been used to prevent...
  • I Do

    April 19, 2007
    Surfing around, I just came upon AT&T's "You Will" advertising campaign from the early 1990s. The ads are well-produced and, almost fifteen years after they aired, I still remember seeing them for the first time. I'm amazed by how accurate a vision of today's life they present. Except for using a public video phone--something I suspect will never exist in more than a few niche markets--I've done everything described in the ads and I'd suspect that the overwhelming majority of Americans have too. AT&T got the near future almost perfect. In fact, I think the company didn't go far enough in predicting how many new technologies we would get: there's no mention of pervasive, cheap mobile phone or Internet shopping. In what they do predict, however, the ads really missed only one thing: AT&T's company's own survival. AT...
  • Capitalizing on Patriotism

    April 19, 2007
    Finally, I've received some unsolicited commercial email that has nothing to do with Section 419 or natural male enhancement. The flag-waving proprietors of The Patriot Shop have kindly sent me a message reminding me that today is Patriots' Day, the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The good people at the Patriot Shop also, understandably suggest you take the opportunity to purchase some suitably red, white 'n' blue items from them to celebrate the occasion. While they have a fine selection of items, including the ever popular "Annoy a...
  • Flooded homes vs. stranded fish

    April 19, 2007

    In the New York Times today, there was a photo of a submerged subdivision near Wayne, N.J. as a consequence of torrential rain and winds from the nor'easter that raged through the Northeast earlier this week. Undoubtedly many of the homes were flooded and household furnishings damaged.

    Right under the photo was another article titled “Fish may be stranded in flooded areas.” Seems that in Connecticut — also hit by bucketing rain —

    . . . environmental officials are concerned that as many as 50,000 of the freshly stocked fish were swept away by the northeaster and might now be swimming in flooded fields and backyards. . . .

    People who find the wayward trout are being asked to pick them up and put them into the...

  • In Antitrust They Trust

    April 19, 2007
    Satellite radio pioneers XM and Sirius are finally going down the long-expected merger path, but not without a fight from the usual suspects. Mel Karmazin and others testified this week before the Senate Commerce Committee, where some members expressed skepticism about the supposedly Goliath-like corporate giant that would result.
    XM Sirius logo mashup
    Our take is here, summarized below:
  • The Collapse of Private Insurance: Part XXVII

    April 18, 2007
    A federal jury verdict yesterday in Lousiana requiring Allstate to pay several million dollars it didn't expect to further underlines the inherent problem with our mixed public/private homeowners' insurance system. Allstate has every reason to contend that everything stems from flooding (covered by government) while homeowners, faced with National Flood Insurance Program coverage that has a $350,000 cap, want to have as much non-flood damage as possible. With a house totally destroyed, it's really just guesswork as to who is right. In this situation, private insurance companies have every reason to cut back on coverage. Louisiana's state government was the state's fourth largest property insurer before Katrina. In the wake of this decision, it may well become the largest.
  • Greening of the Pentagon?

    April 18, 2007
    Eleven former generals have just published a report warning that global warming poses a "serious threat" to U.S. national security" via increased severity and frequency of floods, droughts, hurricanes, and the like, and "acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world." The report calls on Congress and Defense Department to ensure that climate issues are "fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies." There are several problems with this report. The generals uncritically accept the alarmist view that global warming will dramatically increase the severity and frequency of droughts, floods, hurricanes, and disease. This is all very dubious. They also seem blithely unaware that investing significant resources in such highly...
  • China at the U.N. -- on climate change

    April 18, 2007
    In a meeting on Tuesday China told the United Nations Security Council it doesn't have the competence to deal with climate change issues:
    The developing countries believe that the Security Council has neither the professional competence in handling climate change -- nor is it the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals.
    China was responding to the British foreign secretary's call for that body to deal with climate change's effects on peace and security. Developing countries are divided on the issue of the U.N. taking on climate change in the Security Council. While Secretary General...


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