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OpenMarket: July 2007

  • One Cheer for Singletary

    July 16, 2007
    Christine: Like you, I dislike Singletary's hectoring tone but I think that she inadvertently makes a pretty good point: Market prices can provide a good signal about the value of conservation measures. Certain activities labeled as "conservation" measures (e.g. recycling office paper, implementing Kyoto) do not actually save money. In other words, doing them expends more resources than it saves and, thus, we can safely say that they are not conservation measures at all but, rather, efforts to accomplish other goals in the name of environmentalism. On the other hand, "good" conservation measures actually do conserve resources and thus save money. Installing compact florescent light bulbs, recycling aluminum, and replanting trees after a timber harvest all pay for themselves in time....
  • FDA Regulation of Tobacco Opposed

    July 16, 2007
    Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is opposing a bill to place the tobacco industry under the jurisdiction of the FDA. He cites the fact that the bill would make it harder to sell reduced-risk tobacco products. The harm caused by cigarettes comes largely from the smoke and only in small part from the nicotine. Smokeless tobacco provides the same amount of nicotine that tobacco users crave, without the harmful smoke (although smokeless tobacco does pose some increased risk of oral cancer). The FDA regulation bill would expand regulation of smokeless tobacco and also restrict the sale of reduced-risk tobacco products. The bill's sponsors call it the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act." But small tobacco companies call it the "Philip Morris monopoly bill," arguing that it would further entrench the...
  • How's that? Save money by painting yourself green?

    July 16, 2007
    I'm worried about Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post's personal investment columnist. From her, you would expect to hear advice on how to build personal wealth and trim fat from your household budget, right? But in her July 15 column "Conservation Saves More Than the Environment," we get enviro-scolding, instead. For example, Singletary urges Americans to run out and buy water-efficient fixtures and appliances. She cites the EPA to tell us that a family "could" save about $170 per year. Okay, not a fortune but maybe worth a look-see if one is in need of new appliances anyway. Well, how much do her green fixtures and appliances cost? Surely that would be an important consideration -- one would at least want to know how many years it could take to recoup the cost! Oops...
  • What Lending Crisis?

    July 16, 2007
    Inside Higher Ed carries a very interesting article about how Columbia University's Barnard College cut its volume of student loans by 73 percent. According to author (and Inside Higher Ed editor) Scott Jaschick:
    The only real change in policy the college made was to require a conversation. Before Barnard would certify to a lender that a student was enrolled, the college required students or their parents to talk to an aid counselor. If, after that conversation, the family wanted to proceed, Barnard did not stand in the way. But for many families, the talk revealed risks and options they didn't know about.
    As a result, private loan volume fell 73 percent. (The total was only $1 million and, given that Barnard, all told, costs most students...
  • Macomber on Brookes

    July 13, 2007
    At The American Spectator, Shawn Macomber has very good article on Warren Brookes, after whom CEI's journalism fellowship is named. He highlights Brookes's debunking of radical green hokum:
    BROOKES BALKED AT a U.S. Congress "determined to legislatively overturn...rational approach with regulatory absolutism that borders on the occult." He mocked McDonald's ill-advised switch from easily recyclable polystyrene containers to not-so-easily-recycled coated paperboard containers at the behest of a marauding Environmental Defense Fund as "not sound science but ill-informed yuppie-ism." He coolly disassembled the widely accepted, yet "very largely counterproductive" insistence on paper recycling, pointing out paper was a "completely renewable resource...
  • More Controversy About the N-Word

    July 13, 2007
    The Montgomery County Schools are eliminating a lesson plan designed to prepare students to read Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird, saying that it offends parents by using a racial slur -- the N-word -- in order to prepare students to read the book, which contains the word. The elimination reflects the growing national movement to ban the N-word. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that use of the N-word by an instructor was speech protected by the First Amendment in Hardy v. Jefferson Community College (2001). But that hasn't stopped parents from suing to ban books that use the N-word in cases such as ...
  • Just Say No...to The Yes Men

    July 13, 2007
    This week DC played host to the anti-corporate shenanigans of The Yes Men, self-proclaimed "culture jammers" who get off on impersonating corporate and government spokespeople and proceeding to make ridiculous and/or horrifying public statements. The general idea behind culture jamming is to use a mainstream medium to communicate a subversive message. A more specific (and jargon-filled) definition comes to us courtesy of our good friend Wikipedia:
    Culture jamming is the act of transforming mass media to produce commentary about itself, using the original medium's communication method. It is a form of public activism which is generally in opposition to commercialism, and the vectors of corporate image. The aim of culture jamming is to create a contrast between corporate or mass media images and the realities or...
  • We're Gonna Need a Bigger Tablet

    July 13, 2007
    In his column on federal red tape today, National Journal's Jonathan Rauch gives a shout out to Wayne and the most recent edition of his perennial classic, 10,000 Commandments:
    A new report by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank, estimates that federal regulation now costs the economy more than $1.1 trillion a year. Crews also takes note of one data series that points in a contrary direction: The raw number of final rules published in the Federal Register is down since the 1990s; indeed, it has been declining since the 1970s. "But that doesn't tell you about the costs of those rules," he cautions.
    That's in addition to the fine...
  • Government Wisdom

    July 13, 2007
    The House Agriculture Committee's homepage features a message from the chairman that includes this line:
    Every American who eats should recognize the importance of farm and nutrition policy in everyday life.
    Of course, for those Americans who don't eat, such information is irrelevant.
  • Would You Like Some Wood Pulp With That?

    July 13, 2007
    The Associated Press reports that a Chinese bun maker was found out selling buns made of cardboard as a result of a television station's investigation. Here's what I find interesting: Given the recent fate of the head of China's State Food and Drug Administration, the bureaucrats presumably have, ummm, maximum incentives to stop things like this from happening. But they happen anyway. I see two possible interpretations; both are damning to bureaucrats. First, one can assume that the Chinese bureaucracy is so slow on its feet that, even when something like this happens and bureaucrats know that they'll get shot for failing to act, they still don't act. Second,...

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