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OpenMarket: May 2007

  • Bogus Food Stamp Challenge

    May 29, 2007
    You can spend less on food than the poorest food stamp recipients and still enjoy a healthy, low-fat diet rich in vitamins and fiber. That's what a Quaker vegetarian found when he decided to limit his weekly spending on food to $25. That's less than the $32 per person in food stamps that the poorest food stamp recipients receive. The Quaker was able to live well even though he ate only organic food (non-organic food costs 30 to 50 percent less than organic food). Right now, liberal Congressmen are participating in the "Food Stamp Challenge," in which they limit their spending on food to the $21 per week that some food stamp recipients receive in food stamps...
  • The latest, and biggest, form of church shopping

    May 27, 2007
    From India comes a story that shows the interesting ways in which prosperity helps break down some pernicious forms of social oppression. Earlier today, a group of about 50,000 low-caste "untouchables" converted to Buddhism en masse, and not for doctrinal reasons. Reports Reuters:
    About 50,000 Indian low-caste Hindus and nomadic tribespeople converted to Buddhism before a vast crowd on Sunday in the hope of escaping the rigidity of the ancient Hindu caste system and finding a life of dignity... Some of the converts were low-caste Hindus once considered as "untouchables" by the higher castes, but most were members of India's numerous nomadic tribes... These low-caste Hindus, making up about a sixth of India's 1.1 billion people, were once considered "untouchable", performing the most menial and degrading...
  • Today is Rachel Carson's 100th birthday

    May 27, 2007
    And to observe the occasion, CEI's Jeremy Lott and Erin Wildermuth provide a reality check on her legacy in today's Baltimore Sun:
    In 1948, Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was the first non-physician to win in that category - a surprise given the nature of the celebrated discovery. He had found that dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) was an extraordinarily effective pesticide... It was especially effective against malaria. In Sri Lanka, to take one celebrated example, there were 2.8 million reported cases of malaria in 1948. In 1963, after a DDT campaign, the number of cases dropped to 17, with zero reported fatalities - only to rise into the hundreds of thousands again shortly after DDT was...
  • Nigerians Sue Big Tobacco, Seeking Billions

    May 26, 2007
    In 1998, the major tobacco companies reached a deal with 46 state attorneys general. They agreed to pay a whopping $250 billion over 25 years, and more in perpetuity.  In exchange, the states agreed to drop their lawsuits against Big Tobacco and pass statutes that would protect Big Tobacco's market share against their competitors by imposing escrow fees on cigarettes sold by little tobacco companies.  This deal, known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), is being challenged by CEI in a lawsuit in Louisiana. The MSA itself wasn't too bad for Big Tobacco in the short run, since it was structured to allow the tobacco companies to pass on their increased costs on to their customers, smokers.  (Although the tobacco companies did end up paying $14 billion to the trial lawyers under the settlement). But...
  • CEI Dinner in The Washington Post

    May 26, 2007
    The Washington Post's "Names and Faces section cites Christopher Buckley's speech at CEI's 2007 Dinner (scroll down to the last item):
    · Christopher Buckley was in fine form at Thursday night's Competitive Enterprise Institute annual dinner, the Reliable Source's Amy Argetsinger reports. The political satirist and author of "Thank You for Smoking" threw out zingers like "Don't you miss the Cold War? That was so much more fun than this one," "In France elections take 36 days. Not a perfect system -- you still end up with a French president" and "It would be refreshing for once to hear a candidate say, 'You know, I've lived in Washington all my life. I know how it works. I know how...
  • CEI's Dinner in The Washington Times

    May 25, 2007
    In today's Washington Times, Robert Stacy McCain recounts Christopher Buckley's appearance at last night's CEI Dinner.
    "You are my kind of crowd," Mr. Buckley told the crowd of more than 600. "Pro-smoking, pro-drinking, coal-burning." Riffing on CEI's skeptical stance on global warming, he said, "It takes guts, amid all the hysteria, to admit that polar bears love to swim."
  • Malum Prohibitum

    May 25, 2007
    Brooke, I don't think that strip clubs should be shut down and wouldn't currently support any effort to do so. But, hypothetically, yes, I can imagine research findings that would lead me to support doing just that. Also, the programs supported under the Texas laws, best as I understand, aren't designed to catch criminals but are "softer" efforts to help people deal with the trauma of sexual abuse. I think that many libertarians would oppose them. lthough I do think that the "nanny state" has gone much too far, I also believe the State should stop many things simply because of their likely negative consequences. For example, I'd oppose any efforts to end the drug war, allow drunk driving, legalize child pornography, or let individuals own certain types of weapons (i.e. WMDs). On the first item, I'd suspect I'm alone at...
  • Sex! Strippers! Taxes!

    May 24, 2007
    Via fark I've learned that the Texas Senate has voted to impose a $5 tax on entry to strip clubs and other "adult" establishments. The money will fund programs to help victims of sexual abuse. Thanks to these establishments' sleazy nature, it's hard to feel sorry for their owners. And I'm not nearly libertarian enough to think that we should keep the state entirely out of efforts to help sexual abuse victims. But I still don't like the tax. I've spent a good part of my career studying crime and I don't know of any evidence that strip clubs result in sexual abuse simply by virtue of their existence. Unless one can establish such a link, the tax becomes little more than an effort to hit up a politically unpopular group to help a politically popular group. If strip clubs...
  • Federal Hate-Crimes Bill Promotes Double Jeopardy

    May 23, 2007
    Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that many supporters of the federal hate crimes bill want to allow people who have been found innocent of a hate crime in state court to be reprosecuted in federal court. Apparently, this was true of the most prominent supporter of the bill when it was first introduced, the Clinton Administration. Syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum pointed out in 1998 that Janet Reno, Clinton's Attorney General, backed the bill as a way of providing a federal "forum" for prosecution if prosecutors fail to obtain a conviction "in the state court." As Sullum notes, the hate crimes bill exploits a loophole in constitutional protections against double jeopardy, known as the "dual sovereignty" doctrine. The Supreme Court created this...
  • Selling Insurance on the Web

    May 23, 2007
    Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only) features an article about the increasing use of the Web for the sale of insurance policies. I was particularly surprised to see that a recent IBM study showed that only 15 percent of adults would even consider buying an insurance policy directly through a website rather than working through an agent. Another report, however, shows quickly rising online purchases of auto policies. This might signal a shift in insurance markets ahead of regulations. Under current regulations, even a transaction taking place entirely on the Web has to pass through an agent who has passed the agents' exam in the policyholders' state. This makes almost no sense. The agent really doesn't add any value to the transaction. It seems to me, in fact, that insurance is a near-perfect product to sell on the Internet. Nobody...

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