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OpenMarket: May 2007

  • Lackluster Immigration Deal

    May 17, 2007
    Democratic and Republican Senators and the White House have apparently reached a deal on immigration. Since the deal was reached by Senators across the political spectrum -- ranging from liberal Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to conservative John Kyl (R-AZ) -- it stands a good chance of passing the Senate. Too bad it's not a better deal. It primarily serves the interests of Latino advocacy groups, rather than the needs of business or the interests of taxpayers or consumers. That's not surprising, given that the Senate's Democratic leaders gave those special interest groups a veto over any bill they didn't like. The country badly needs more skilled immigrants to maintain the competitiveness of America's high-tech sector. Moreover, skilled immigrants pay much more in taxes to...
  • AEI scholar on implications of trade deal

    May 17, 2007
    AEI's trade expert, Claude Barfield, has written an insightful analysis of the Bipartisan Trade Deal announced last week that incorporates enforceable labor and environment mandates into trade agreements. Others, including many editorial writers, have praised the deal for possibly breaking the logjam on free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, and Korea. (Don't count on it, though.) Barfield focuses on the implications of the labor provisions and notes:
    It is not clear what our promise to abide by the Declaration amounts to—under international law, or in disputes arising from the FTAs. On the one hand, the Declaration was not passed as a binding ILO Convention; on the other hand, in international trade and environmental cases, NGOs and governments have repeatedly—with mixed...
  • This is not energy independence

    May 17, 2007
    Anyone who saw Good Morning America today will at last have been clued in to how the ethanol boondoggle is driving up the price of breakfast. And it's not just the US this affects. As Lester Brown of the World Resources Institute has said:
    Since the United States is the leading exporter of grain, shipping more than Canada, Australia, and Argentina combined, what happens to the U.S. grain crop affects the entire world. With the massive diversion of grain to produce fuel for cars, exports will drop. The world's breadbasket is fast becoming the U.S. fuel tank.
    The food and fuel economies are being merged by the misguided ethanol policies. This means that variations in the price of fuel now also have a direct impact on the price of our foodstuff as well. This makes our economy more petroleum-centric, not less. As the Russian revolutionaries said, Dai Kleb...
  • President Bans Contingency Fees

    May 16, 2007
    The President has just signed an executive order barring federal agencies from hiring trial lawyers on a contingency fee to bring lawsuits. State attorneys general have hired trial lawyers on contingency fees to bring lawsuits demanding hundreds of billions of dollars. In the process, they have gotten defendants to agree to pay billions of dollars to the trial lawyers in exchange for settling those suits. This is described in greater detail in CEI's recent essay on The Nation's Top Ten Worst State Attorneys General. The Executive Order is a good thing for several reasons. First, contingency-fee arrangements are often used by government officials to transfer huge amounts of money to trial lawyers for bringing lawsuits that require little skill...
  • Bush and Dem leaders disappoint on SOX reform -- but mavericks make inroads

    May 16, 2007
    My friend Phil Kerpen rightly takes to task the Congression Democratic leadership in his column on National Review Online for what seems to be their forgetfullness on their pre-election promises to scale back Sarbanes-Oxley. Kindly citing a post of mine in Open Market that appeared in October, Kerpen notes many Democratic statements in support of Sarbox relief, including Pelosi's statement on CNBC two weeks before the election: "I don't think you need the whole package." Chuck Schumer also criticized the excesses of the law in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-wrote a few days before Election 2006. Schumer and New York City's liberal...
  • Trans Fats Banned

    May 16, 2007
    Montgomery County, Maryland, has just banned the use of trans fats in food preparation. Trans fats have been criticized on health grounds, but they apparently lower the cost and lengthen the shelf life of the baked goods in which they are used. Moreover, according to an article in the Atlantic, trans fat "provides flavor and texture that can be hard to replicate without going back to animal fat." So the ban on trans fats may result in increased use of saturated animal fats, which may not be much less unhealthy. Replacement of trans fats with animal fats may have unintended negative side effects for vegetarians and religious minorities who refuse to consume...
  • Death By Regulation on Web Video

    May 16, 2007
    The Hill's Congress Blog features Sam on video today, responding to moves on Capitol Hill (and this week's announcement from the White House) calling for stricter fuel efficiency standards. As the title says, "Alternative Fuel Standards Can Actually Harm People". View it here.
  • We're Gonna Party Like It's 2012

    May 16, 2007
    According to a new announcement from WWF, the governments of the world only have five years left to stave off global catastrophe from climate change. After that, we're finished. This is, of course, welcome news. It means that five years from now, WWF will have no rationale for continuing its activist campaigns related to global warming. After all, it'll be too late. When the calendar reaches 2012 and the nations of the world haven't reduced their carbon footprint to the size of the Stone Age, I hope the alarmist groups will have the courtesy to pack up their press conferences and charity concerts and go back to hating the Japanese for killing whales (or whatever it was they got all emotional about before global...
  • BBC: Global Warming Alarmism Counterproductive

    May 16, 2007
    Fark picks up on this interesting story from the Beeb:
    Alarmist messages about global warming are counter-productive, the head of a leading climate research centre says. Professor Mike Hulme, of the UK's Tyndall Centre, has been conducting research on people's attitudes to media portrayals of a catastrophic future. He says strong messages designed to prompt people to change behaviour only seem to generate apathy.
    So even those most worried about the possibilities of climate change are beginning to realize that the Chicken Little attitude isn't working. Al Gore, call your office.
  • Send Your Underwear to the Undersecretary

    May 16, 2007
    Sam's latest obsession has produced glorious YouTube offspring. Inspired by the current issue of Consumer Reports, he's been drawing our attention to the fact that the new generation of washing machines is having significant performance issues due to having to comply with Department of Energy efficiency regulations. The long version is here, but the video should explain it all.



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