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OpenMarket: June 2007

  • Congress Discriminates and Panders at the Same Time

    June 8, 2007
    There's an interesting editorial in the New York Times today about how the military is losing some of its few Arab translators due to the military's blanket ban on gays. (The policy is known as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but it sounds like you don't need to tell many people about your sexual orientation to be kicked out of the military). It costs many thousands of taxpayer dollars to train a translator, and there are extreme shortages of translators for Middle-Eastern languages like Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi. Yet Congress enacted an inflexible ban on gays (somewhat misleadingly referred to as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy) with no exceptions. That has resulted in 58 Arab linguists being kicked out of the military.
  • Can We Deny Amnestied Illegal Aliens Affirmative Action?

    June 8, 2007
    Should illegal aliens and their descendants be eligible to receive racial preferences over other Americans under government affirmative action programs? Black businessman Ward Connerly and other critics of racial preferences are taking out an ad on June 8 in the Washington Times calling on Congress to prevent that. They want Congress to prevent illegal aliens who benefit from the amnesty contained in the Senate immigration deal from seeking racial preferences in the future. Congress probably won't even consider that. But it is surely a good idea. It would promote fairness and save taxpayers money, by reducing the number of people who can demand special preferences based on race. Racial preferences cost a lot of money. For example, consider the rather mild affirmative action ordinance upheld by the California Supreme Court in the 1994 Domar Electric case. It nevertheless...
  • On Thoroughbreds

    June 7, 2007
    Iain, Interesting points. I'm no expert on horse racing but my understanding is that the the races in the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing are. . . .limited to thoroughbreds. I'd assume that the same is so for the British and Irish Triple Crowns. So, by definition, I'd think that no non-thoroughbred has ever won. The values of racehorses remain high and will continue to go up for at least three reasons: First, like all sports, racing has arbitrary rules that change slowly if at all. And one of them is that horses must have specific bloodlines. I'd suspect that we would see little change even if times started getting decidedly worse. It's just the rules of the game. Second, it's likely that thoroughbreds are still the fastest horses around. Last, race horses as "prestige" assets for that multi-...
  • Mea Culpa (Sorta) on Credit Scoring

    June 7, 2007
    No sooner did I post my thoughts about the Supreme Court decision on credit scoring than I got an e-mail from an American Insurance Association staffer with an impressive bibliography of sources showing a correlation between credit scores and risk. I actually knew about one of the he cites and, for whatever reason, it slipped my mind when I was posting. But I still stand by my basic point: use of credit scoring for setting property and casualty insurance premiums seems awfully indirect and, yes, a bit screwy. In a freer market that allowed a broad range of risk factors, I still suspect that we would see it become less important. I agree that it has predictive validity and, since the cost of obtaining credit scores is so low relative to other things, I wouldn't expect it to go away entirely....
  • Government Picks Winners and Losers in Entertainment

    June 7, 2007
    No, the above title isn't a scenario from a dystopian science fiction work, but somethig that is now happening in cities all across America. What U.S. city dweller hasn't heard recently the argument that expensive, taxpayer-funded facilities for professional sports teams will provide an economic boost to the city that ponies up? Thankfully, not everyone is buying that bill of goods. In today's Washington Examiner, concerned Washingtonian Jeffrey Lubbers, in reaction to the D.C.'s proposed $50 million proposal to upgrade the Verizon Center to the benefit of Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, asks that, "Before the District of Columbia Council signs off on another corporate giveaway for a professional sports facility, its members should demand clear...
  • Warmer Winters Are Good for You

    June 7, 2007
    The front page of the Washington Post has an astonishing article by foreign correspondent Doug Struck on the positive - yes, positive - effects of global warming:
    QAQORTOQ, Greenland -- The biggest island in the world is a wind-raked place, gripped by ice over four-fifths of its land, prowled by polar bears, its coastlines choked by drifting icebergs and sea ice. Many of its 56,000 people, who live on the fringes of its giant ice cap, see the effects of global warming -- and cheer it on. "It's good for me," said Ernst Lund, a lanky young man who is one of 51 farmers raising sheep on the southern tip of Greenland. His animals scramble over the cold granite hills of a dramatic fiord,...
  • Greens Gouging Gas Prices up North

    June 7, 2007
    The Canadian Green Party is calling for a $0.12 per liter (about $0.45 per gallon) gas tax to combat the threat of climate change. Party leader Elizabeth May has a rather grand conception of her little tax:
    The environmental challenge is similar to the space race about 50 years ago in which then-president John F. Kennedy said the United States would put a man on the moon, May said. "He couldn't prove it when he said it. He could mobilize the resources, fix the political will, and engage the public's spirit and imagination in a bold, collective venture," she said. "Surely we can do the same thing for purposes of survival."
    Fortunately, I suspect we in the United States will survive without higher gas taxes.
  • USA Today: Full Medical Coverage or Nothing at All?

    June 6, 2007
    A write-up in USA Today by reporter Julie Appleby about health insurance gets some attention from our friends at the Business and Media Institute, including a cite of our very own Hans Bader and his scorecard of the nation's Top 10 Worst State Attorneys General:
    Appleby also turned to two New England Democratic attorneys general that have a predisposition against health insurers. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, recently rated the worst attorney general by Hans Bader of the...
  • Green State of Denial

    June 6, 2007

    John Tierney's excellent article on Rachel Carson's legacy published in yesterday's New York Times is under attack on the comments section of Tierney's blog.  The responses show that Carson's supporters are in a complete state of denial about her legacy and the impacts of discontinuing DDT use.  They--and anyone else who doubts the adverse impacts of halting DDT use--that should check out WHO Malaria Director Kochi's comments on the topic.  Kochi made a plea to environmentalists last fall, asking them to "help save African babies" by advocating DDT use.

    Also take a look at the www.RachelWasWrong.org,...

  • Lost Pants Now Worth Only $13 Million

    June 6, 2007
    Earlier, I wrote about an example of lawsuit abuse under "consumer protection" laws.  D.C. Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson sued a Korean drycleaner couple for more than $65 million for losing his pants and posting signs that say “satisfaction guaranteed” and “same day service.”  He sued under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DCPPA), which allows a plaintiff to demand thousands of dollars in statutory damages and attorneys fees even for conduct that caused no economic loss. Now, however, he has revised his demand for money downward to $54 million from a peak of $67 million. He...

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