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OpenMarket: July 2007

  • Back to Singletary's solar lady

    July 17, 2007

    Eli, in your one cheer for Singletary, it sounds as if you're falling into the risk-benefit, cost-benefit analysis approach to regulation. Yes, I know you are describing voluntary approaches to conserving natural resources. However, I was struck by your conclusion re the woman in Singletary's article who uses solar cookers on her roof.: You wrote: “Still, provided she avoids injury, she does manage to save resources.”

    I would offer that your comment points to one of the problems of measuring “risks” or “costs” when balancing those against “benefits.” Such decisions can easily be biased and selective and not consider trade-offs. In the regulatory realm, of course, they can also be politically...

  • Worthy Pleasure Seekers of the World Unite

    July 17, 2007
    Today the Senate Finance Committee is considering the "Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2007," which, according to James Thorner of the St. Petersburg Times, includes an interesting funding mechanism - raising the federal tax on cigars (currently 4.8 cents) to $10 per cigar. Yes, you read that correctly. Let's see what small-time cigar maker Eric Newman thinks of that idea:
    Eric Newman punches the numbers on his calculator and gapes at the results one more time. It's no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman's family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent. As part...
  • How sweet it is -- for sugar producers

    July 17, 2007

    As the House Agriculture Committee begins debate on the 2007 Farm Bill today, eight public interest groups sent a letter to committee members asking them to reject expansion of the U.S. sugar program and undertake true reform. Ag Committee Chairman, Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), has a Chairman's Mark that would increase the sugar price support program, further restrict sugar imports, and mandate the use of surplus sugar for ethanol.

    The eight groups participate in the Sugar Reform Alliance, founded by CEI, which points to the negative effects of the U.S. sugar program on consumers and taxpayers, the environment, and on poor farmers in...

  • Washington Appeals Decision Striking Down Gun Ban

    July 17, 2007
    Washington, D.C. bans handguns, even when used solely for self-defense. Earlier this year, its gun ban was struck down under the Second Amendment by a federal appeals court --- the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- in Parker v. District of Columbia. Washington is now asking the Supreme Court to review that ruling. Ironically, the law remains in force even after being declared unconstitutional because Washington, D.C., has two parallel court systems that don't hear appeals from each other. The federal courts have declared the ban unconstitutional (in the Parker case), but they...
  • Gigantic Class Action Lawsuit at Death's Door

    July 17, 2007
    Earlier, I wrote about the gigantic class action lawsuit in Schwab v. Philip Morris, in which the tobacco companies are being sued for selling "light" cigarettes. That suit includes 30 million smokers as members of its class of plaintiffs. I wrote about how it could be used to funnel billions of dollars to left-wing groups (rather than those who smoked light cigarettes) under a radical concept known as "fluid recovery." I also explained why it was an abuse of discretion for the trial judge, Jack Weinstein, to certify the case as a class action. Now, Anthony Sebok writes that an appeals court will overturn Judge Weinstein's decision in the case, whose name has changed to McLaughlin v. American Tobacco. Although Sebok is...
  • Plans for the A380

    July 17, 2007
    EADS, the parent of Airbus and the largest heavy industrial company in Europe, yesterday announced that it would no longer have two CEOs and two chairmen but, instead, make do with one of each. For years, EADS, which although publicly traded, is effectively a joint venture between the French and German states, had one French person and one German as its co-chairman and co-CEOs. This, many believe, hampered the company's ability to make good decisions and move forward. I have some doubts as to how much this will solve. By all accounts, the structure itself seemed to work okay for some time. Until this past year, Airbus had led the world in aircraft orders for the better part of a decade and had promised to revolutionize air travel with a...
  • One Step Toward a Tobacco Monopoly

    July 17, 2007
    The New York Times has a story today on the FDA regulation bill, which would place the tobacco industry under FDA regulation. The bill has been amended to permit only two additives to cigarettes that are currently used by the dominant cigarette company, Philip Morris -- specifically, menthol and cloves -- while banning other natural and artificial flavors that other tobacco companies add to their cigarettes as a way of offering a competing product. (Small tobacco companies call the bill the "Philip Morris monopoly bill," since the regulatory costs of being subject to the FDA's jurisdiction would drive many small companies out of business). The bill also would make it harder to offer smokers reduced-risk tobacco products that are less...
  • India Adapts

    July 17, 2007
    Deepak Lal has a typically thoughtful essay in New Delhi's Business-Standard this week. He finds there are many reasons for India to rethink its energy policy, but that global warming is not one of them:
    By contrast, the estimates I made for the Planning Commission in the early 1970s (see Lal: Prices for Planning, HEB, 1980) based on the same methodology as the Stern Review, but with more plausible parameters, yielded a social discount rate of 7 per cent for India. At this discount rate, the present value of Re 1 accruing 75 years from today would be worth nothing, making most of the speculative economic costs and benefits, and the apocalyptic predictions of the Stern Review, irrelevant for India. This does not downgrade the serious current...
  • "We are able to reach less people"--U.N. Food Program

    July 17, 2007
    This pair of articles by Javier Blas and Jenny Wiggins of the Financial Times is of direct relevance to the debate in Washington, D.C. over federal biofuel subsidies and mandates.The director of the U.N.'s World Food Program says rising food prices are already having an impact on the organization's ability to feed the hungry. With donations holding fairly constant, higher prices mean “we are able to reach far less people.” Several factors are at work, but the one of greatest concern is the increased demand for grain,...
  • Why So Shy?

    July 17, 2007
    After Live Earth missed its promised audience of 2 billion by about, oh, 1.9 billion (and that's charitable), one has to wonder how much money it raised. Over a week ago the AP said:
    Live Earth will send proceeds to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit organization chaired by Gore. Figures for the money raised will be available later in the week.
    Anyone seen those figures? Bueller...? Bueller?


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