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OpenMarket: June 2007

  • Tobacco Settlement Too Greedy and Venal for Even the ABA

    June 13, 2007
    Yesterday, I said that trial lawyers received $14 billion (not million, billion) under the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), in discussing how that lucrative settlement has triggered copycat lawsuits by other countries against the tobacco industry. Apparently, I was off by a billion dollars.  The trial lawyers received $15 billion, not $14 billion, under the MSA, according to the American Bar Association Journal. The American Bar Association (ABA) has seemingly never seen a tort reform proposal it liked, and almost invariably takes positions that enrich lawyers as a class. So it's striking that not even the ABA Journal can bring itself to defend the MSA.  It recently ran an...
  • One Nation Under God, With Elevators for All?

    June 13, 2007

    I acted unlawfully yesterday. In a fit of intemperance, I rode in the Senator-only elevator at the Russell building. In fact, I rode in it twice.

    For all you non-Senators, the elevator itself is ho-hum. Nothing special there: floors, walls, ceiling, buttons, doors. No, the elevator itself was a bore.

    The real excitement is the opening of the doors upon arrival. At that moment, one has no idea whether or not Senator So and So will be waiting impatiently before the doors, unsure why his or her elevator took so long. Indeed, the tension mounts as the doors slowly slide open, and the mind of the non-Senator is still frantically piecing together a viable parry to the Senatorial thrust of “What are you doing in the Senator-only elevator?” I tell you: What a rush. 

    It was, moreover, a premeditated assault upon Congressional privilege. Only hours prior my ascent/descent...

  • EFF Wrong About iTunes Privacy Concerns

    June 13, 2007
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a story published by the Associate Press last week, says that Apple's new DRM-Free tracks available through iTunes are raising new privacy concerns. That's because although DRM (Digital Rights Managment) has been removed from the songs, making it easier to move them between multiple music players and computers, Apple does include customer names and account information in the digital music music files they sell. Privacy advocates claim that by embedding customer names and account info into songs that it exposes to a greater risk of theft of that private information. However, the only way in which only these music files could be copied or otherwise examined would be through illegal file sharing. Attacks on a system that allowed access to music...
  • More Nigerians Sue U.S. Tobacco Companies for Billions

    June 12, 2007
    More states in Nigeria are suing American tobacco companies for billions of dollars. The suit began when one state in Nigeria decided to sue U.S. cigarette manufacturers for $20 billion, claiming they were responsible for Nigerian smokers' sicknesses and health care costs. Now other Nigerian states are seeking to get in on the action, much as states in the United States filed me-too lawsuits against the tobacco companies after Mississippi began suing the tobacco companies. Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with well over 100 million people. It is home to millions of smokers --  and to a lot of underemployed lawyers who lost income when Nigeria's economy collapsed in the 1980s...
  • Are European Roads Safer Than America's?

    June 12, 2007
    Marlo was just on an interview on CNBC where a question was asked about road accident rates. A Greenpeace spokesman said that European roads were much safer than America's, demonstrating that you can have a vehicle fleet of smaller sizes without compromising safety. Marlo admitted that he had no idea of road accident rates. Marlo's answer was much more honest than our friend from Greenpeace's. According to the figures from the International Road Traffic Accident Database, there are indeed many more accidents per head here, but there is virtually no difference per vehicle kilometers traveled: Country/Accidents per 100,000/Accidents per million VKMT/killed per billion VKMT Austria 497/0.50/9.3 Belgium 472/0.52/11.5 France 140/0.15/9.6 Germany 408/0.49/7.8 UK 340/0.40/6.4 Netherlands 166/0.24/7.7 USA 647/0.46/9.4 The...
  • The Victims of Communism Now Have a Memorial - It's About Time

    June 12, 2007
    Picking up on Richard's note on the new Victims of Communism Memorial here in D.C. -- My face is red from enduring the June sun for nearly three hours (security requires people to arrive early), but it was well worth it. My own family, after all, fled a then-newly installed Marxist regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Naturally, I was pleased to hear President Bush list the Sandinistas...
  • 100 Million is Enough

    June 12, 2007
    This morning saw the dedication of the Victims of Communism Memorial here in Washington, D.C. Remarks were given by President Bush and Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Ivan was in attendance, so leave it to him to give a first-hand account.
    The Memorial features a replica of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue erected during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and is dedicated to the roughly 100 million victims of communist regimes around the world. From the extermination of the...
  • Ugandan Official Takes on Greens

    June 12, 2007
    In today's Wall Street Journal Uganda's director of Health Services Sam Zaramba points out the perils of anti-DDT campaigns to his country. He notes: "Misguided environmentalists are killing Africans ... Environmental leaders must join the 21st century, acknowledge the mistakes Carson made, and balance the hypothetical risks of DDT with the real and devastating consequences of malaria. Uganda has demonstrated that, with the proper support, we can conduct model indoor spraying programs and ensure that money is spent wisely, chemicals are handled properly, our program responds promptly to changing conditions, and malaria is brought under control." Amen. Unfortunately, it is more likely that environmental activists will criticize the health minister for taking a stand. With any luck, Dr. Zaramba can continue to make progress fighting malaria in Uganda without the greens'...
  • eHarmony Critics Tone Deaf on 'Discrimination'

    June 11, 2007
    Eli - You make an excellent point about the sexual-orientation discrimination lawsuit against eHarmony. Even if one takes a fairly statist view of public accommodation requirements, I fail to see where the tangible harm in this case arises. The proprietors of eHarmony are in the business of setting up men with women and vice versa. Their much-vaunted "29 dimensions of personality" were created by the site's guru, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, with that specifically in mind. In other words, the site is simply not set up to match same-sex couples. Assumably eHarmony's critics wouldn't take their Mercedes in to get serviced at a Ford dealership...
  • Cigarette "Lights" Class Action Lawsuits Can't Be Pulled Out of State Court

    June 11, 2007
    The Supreme Court has just ruled in Watson v. Philip Morris that the tobacco companies can't pull lawsuits against them out of state court into federal court based on the federal officer statute, which allows federal officers and those who act under their direction to have lawsuits or prosecutions against them removed from state court to federal court. The Supreme Court's ruling involved a lawsuit against Philip Morris for selling "light" cigarettes, which supposedly understate the health risks of smoking. Philip Morris said its labeling of cigarettes is based on testing methods prescribed in minute detail by federal regulators, so it should be able to remove any such lawsuit against it from state court into federal court. The court's ruling is summarized by Ross Runkel's...

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