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OpenMarket: July 2007

  • Don't Believe the Ethanol Hype

    July 31, 2007
    We happy few here at Open Market have really been in tune with the rock journalists of America recently. First Kurt Loder trashes Michael Moore's Sicko, and now Rolling Stone blows the whistle on the ethanol scam:
    As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, "Everything about ethanol is good, good, good." This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the...
  • Just when you thought the Farm Bill couldn't get any worse...

    July 31, 2007

    Over the last several days, my colleagues at CEI have pointed out some of the worst aspects of the Farm Bill -- and it's bad. But now The Wall Street Journal shines a spotlight on a little-noticed aspect of the bill that would make it even worse:

    The overstuffed farm bill now waddling through Congress -- toward a possible veto by President Bush -- has attracted so much waste that everyone with a genuine interest in agriculture is feeling disheartened. Yet the bill has earned unlikely support from the labor union lobby.

    Hmmm. Could this be at all related to a new and unprecedented Davis-Bacon requirement for ethanol construction? Davis-Bacon is the Depression era holdover that forces federal construction contracts to pay a "prevailing union wage" -- determined by the Department of Labor --...

  • The Not-Just-Private-Equity Tax hits shareholders of REITs

    July 31, 2007
    An Associated Press story today on proposed "carried interest" tax hike legislation aimed at soaking private equity had this interesting description of what the proposals would do:
    Congress is debating whether to force companies set up as limited partnerships -- and their managers -- to pay taxes at the same rate as income earned by ordinary Americans.
    But reading the fine print of the press release of main sponsor Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) shows that the House bill would also hike the taxes of plenty of "ordinary Americans" as well -- specifically, the numerous American shareholders in real estate investment trusts, or REITs. The question-and-answer section at the end of Levin's release asks, "Would...
  • More Reasons for DDT Use

    July 31, 2007
    A recent upsurge in Dengue offers a depressing reminder that malaria is not the only serious mosquito-borne disease affecting the world. Dengue—a virus transmitted by mosquito bites—can lead to fever, severe joint pain, internal hemorrhaging, and death for some. This year, many Asian nations—particularly Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam—are suffering from a serious outbreak. Regarding this year's occurrence Kroeger Axel of the Dengue research coordinator for the World Health Organization notes: "We always think next year it will get better, but we always find next year it gets worse … There's a very clear upward trend." The spread of Dengue could eventually affect the United States, as it did in 2001 when there was an outbreak in Hawaii. U.S. public-...
  • Bergman the Hack

    July 31, 2007
    Fran, Obviously, I'm sorry to see that Ingmar Bergman has died. But, beyond some half-praise for his visuals, I can't think of much good to say about his movies. Bergman and, more importantly, the critics who adored him, did more than any other director to harm the reputation of foreign-made films here in the United States. Heavily subsidized by the Swedish state for many of his films, most of what he did was boring, slow moving, and utterly unaware of the nature of the medium. Parts of the Seventh Seal would have worked very well on stage but become preposterous, slow, pretentious on film. Even in his last film, the much acclaimed Fanny and Alexander, he goes way over the top more than once. He rarely got good performances out of his casts either. Only one actor who frequently worked...
  • Chris Horner on Book TV

    July 31, 2007
    Chris recently gave a presentation on his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism) before an eager audience here in Washington. The smart producers at C-SPAN sent a camera along and here is the result (total playing time 32:55).
  • At Last, Competition for Amtrak?

    July 31, 2007
    A small upstart company run by a Colorado multi-millionaire, GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, appears to have broken a major barrier and started providing scheduled, competitive rail service in the United States. While the company also provides "land cruises," (that emphasize sightseeing by train) it also has a few services that would be useful for people looking to go from point a to point b. Although I have no idea if it has a viable business model, its existence seems to show that the death of government-run Amtrak won't mean an end for long-distance rail service in the U.S. A handful of tourist-oriented heritage railroads and at least one other "land cruise" company still operate in the U.S. but, for about 35 years, only Amtrak has provided scheduled point-to-point inter-city service over significant distances. Amtrak also operates most of the...
  • Lott Vindicated?

    July 31, 2007
    Some readers may remember the long-running defamation suit between John "Freedomnomics" Lott and Steven "Freakonomics" Levitt. Defamation suits are rarely settled in the plaintiff's favor, so this (subsrciption required) may be regarded as more than a small victory for Lott:
    John R. Lott Jr.'s defamation lawsuit against a fellow economist, Steven D. Levitt, has provisionally been settled -- but it may yet roar back to life. In documents filed on Friday in federal court, the two parties outlined a settlement that requires Mr. Levitt, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything, to send a letter of clarification to John B. McCall, a retired economist in Texas. ... By some...
  • Reformist Attorneys General Target Abuses

    July 31, 2007
    In recent years, some state attorneys general have used their offices to sponsor lawsuits that redistribute billions of dollars from businesses into the pockets of their trial lawyer cronies. CEI describes this in greater detail in The Nation's Top Ten Worst State Attorneys General. Now this problem has been criticized by reform-minded attorneys general as well. This subject (and CEI's study of the worst state attorneys general) came up for repeated discussion in today's Federalist Society forum, "Reaching Too Far: The Role of State Attorneys General," which featured attorneys general Bob McDonnell of Virginia, John Suthers of Colorado, and J.B. Van Hollen of Wisconsin, as well as former attorney general Don Stenberg of Nebraska. Suthers described how trial lawyers and lobbyists descend like vultures at attorney...
  • State attorneys general in town today to criticize activist colleagues

    July 31, 2007
    The Federalist Society helpfully hosted a panel discussion today on the on-going abuse of power by state attorneys general - otherwise known as attorney general activism. You know, the same group elected officials who brought the tobacco settlement down on us. The $240 billion partnership between the states and Big Tobacco (which CEI is challenging in court). Not that it's the only bogus lawsuit brought on by state AGs and their trial lawyer buddies. Apparently cranberries can be an AG target. Wisconsin's current AG, J.B. Van Hollen, relayed the tale of how his predecessor suited a cranberry grower, alleging that the cranberry bogs were a "public nuissance" under Common Law. The ousted AG in question, Peg Lautenschlager, was on...

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