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OpenMarket: May 2007

  • Bureaucrash's Blaze of Glory

    May 11, 2007
    When it rains anti-anti-smoking indignation, it pours. In addition to Brooke's press statement, Jason reminds me that Bureaucrash was hot on this MPAA/smoking tip long ago. Last July several crashers headed out to an anti-MPAA protest march where demonstrators demanded an 'R' rating for any film that includes any smoking whatsoever. This week's policy change didn't go quite that far, but we can all spot a slippery slope when we see one. To re-live those heady days, tune into "Operation Tobacco Road" below. Photos here.
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  • These Foolish Things Remind Me of the MPAA

    May 11, 2007
    As Eli informed us this morning, the MPAA has caved into Big (anti-)Tobacco and decided to rate movies that include smoking by adults more harshly than smokeless films. As you might imagine, Brooke is not pleased:
    The MPAA's decision to kowtow to the demands of professional anti-smoking advocates won't do anything to discourage kids from smoking; the Motion Picture Association of America isn't a surrogate parent, and it shouldn't try to be. The only thing this decision will do is make the MPAA's ratings system—trusted by Americans' for nearly 40 years—absolutely meaningless. What's next? A triple-X rating for Fat Albert because it glorifies obesity? An R-rating for the Pirates of the Caribbean because Johnny Depp makes imbibing copious amounts of rum look...
  • More on Unsustainable Policies

    May 11, 2007
    Zimbabwe's likely appointment as head of the UN Sustainable Development Commission (see below) bring to mind a recent Bureaucrash operation. On April 20th, a crowd consisting mostly of African expatriots gathered outside the Zimbabwean Embassy here in Washington to protest Robert Mugabe's bloody misrule of their homeland. The photos are here, and the video is below.

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  • Special interests win with Peru and Panama FTAs

    May 11, 2007
    Yesterday, the Administration and the Democratic leadership made a deal to inject stringent and enforceable labor standards into bilateral agreements with Peru and Panama, which have been signed but need to be ratified by Congress. Orchestrated by US labor unions the inclusion of more extensive labor mandates was pushed by chairman and ranking members of key House and Senate Committees — House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who helped broker the deal for the Administration, said that the agreement represents “a bipartisan consensus on trade” and is a “new trade policy template” in a statement on the USTR...
  • Sustain This

    May 11, 2007
    Iain passes on the only-at-the-UN news that Zimbabwe is about to be made the head of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Happily, this development has aroused some skepticism even among the unfailingly polite apparatchiks in the international diplomatic community:
    Erik Solheim, Norway's international development minister, said some countries still hoped to block the move. "We do not find Zimbabwe the right country to head the CSD for the next period," he said. A US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, has said: "We don't think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of this body." He said development there had "been going in only one direction - and it's backwards".
    They could have also mentioned that...
  • Butt Out!

    May 11, 2007
    The Washington Post reports that the The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will now give higher, more restrictive ratings to films that "that glamorize smoking or … feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context." I don't get it. On balance, it seems that rating standards get less and less tight each year. Films with lots of brutal violence can often get PG or PG-13 ratings. The standards for showing sex gets less and less restrictive all the time. Philip Kaufman's wonderfu 1990 "Henry and June", the first film rated "NC-17", would almost certainly slip by with an "R" today. There's significant academic evidence that exposure to violent media causes violence in real...
  • Hate Crimes Addendum

    May 10, 2007
    In an earlier blog post, I cited the ACLU's recent decision to support the federal hate-crimes bill which recently passed the House. The ACLU is supporting the bill despite the fact that the bill's enactment could lead to the federal government prosecuting someone for a “hate crime” even after they have been found innocent of a similar crime in state court. I noted that that aspect of the hate-crimes bill raises serious double jeopardy issues that ought to concern civil libertarians.
  • Colombia's president gets cold shoulder on the Hill

    May 10, 2007

    Bob Novak's column in the Washington Times (column not online) and elsewhere today tells of the cold shoulder Colombian President Alvaro Uribe received from Democratic leaders when he made the rounds yesterday on Capitol Hill to promote the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

    Novak reported that Uribe was in a state of shock at his reception, and on a television interview his Vice President Francisco Santos threatened to cut ties with the U.S. if his country was rebuffed. Santos said—

    . . . failure to ratify the free-trade agreement would "send a message to the external enemies of the United States" (meaning Venezuela's Chavez) that "this is how America treats its allies." He added that Colombia might "have to re-evaluate its relationship with the United States."...

  • Don't Count Your Cobs Before They're Grown

    May 10, 2007
    Corn growers are riding high these days, as ethanol moves into place as the default alternative fuel for automobiles. Lots of money is pouring into expanding both growing and refining capacity. But not all portents are positive:
    Lurking behind [Archer Daniels Midland]'s gloomy news are doubts about the future of corn ethanol. A growing number of analysts, once bullish on the product, are warning that an oversupply may be coming as soon as this year. On Apr. 27, a Lehman Brothers report projected that production will outstrip demand in the second half of 2007, measuring the domestic thirst for corn ethanol at 420,000 barrels per day but supply at 445,000 barrels a day, mainly because the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to move the product to market.
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  • Typesetting and technology

    May 10, 2007

    Today the BBC's website has an article that caught my eye, “Helvetica at 50.” No, Helvetica's not a movie star or a rock band -- it's a type font and one of the most popular type faces currently used for logos and ad copy.

    The typeface, inspired by the 1896 font Akzidenz Grotesk, was designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 in conjunction with Eduard Hoffmann for the Haas Type Foundry, in Muenchenstein, Switzerland.

    The reason I was interested is part of the history of typesetting. When I started out in book publishing, hot metal type was used with Linotype machines, and a mixture of molten metals, including lead, was poured into forms with the type laid out. The typesetters were skilled and highly paid union...

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