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OpenMarket: November 2007

  • Massive Bond Rating Scam

    November 29, 2007
    Even the most poorly-run state has less chance of defaulting on its debts than a typical well-run company. That's because states, unfortunately, have the power to tax the living daylights out of their citizens -- a prerogative businesses, which make money off of voluntary transactions, lack. Yet the bond-rating agencies maintain the ridiculous pretense that states and local governments are risky creditors, by giving states low single "A" ratings while giving the municipal-bond-insurance companies that insure the states' bonds a top "AAA" rating, even though some of these companies are in "awful...
  • Bureaucracy Isn't the Answer

    November 29, 2007
    Apparently California attorney General Jerry Brown believes that bureaucracy is the answer to alleged environmental woes. He and ten other state attorney generals have launched a lawsuit against the Bush Administration for trying to cut a little bit of bureaucratic red tape for America's small business. At issue is Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to reduce paperwork for small companies that contribute a total of less than 1 percent of "releases" under the Toxics Release Inventory. Jerry Brown complains in today's in The Los Angeles Times about such changes, whining: "As we swim in this chemical soup that modern society serves up, we certainly have a right to know what we are encountering." What a bunch of bunk! As...
  • Searching for (perfect) safety

    November 28, 2007
    The Financial Times today has a very perceptive article, “Too much safety in America's playrooms,” by Patti Waldmeir. Waldmeir points to the current issue of Chinese toy recalls, and American parents' search for perfect safety:
    Americans will never admit it, but there can be such a thing as too much safety - even when it comes to toys from China. At the best of times, America's attitude to its children borders on saccharine sentimentality (I should know: I have two of them). But after this year's bumper crop of Chinese toy recalls, parental hysteria has hit new levels - with emotion and politics threatening to pollute rational debate on how best to solve the toy crisis.
    Waldmeir notes that in the real world, searching for “perfect safety” has some trade-offs — a point...
  • Paternalism to the Nth Degree

    November 28, 2007
    A new bill proposed in Massachusetts would make it illegal for parents to spank their children. Much of the discussion centers on spanking and how harmful or effective it is. Toddlers don't have the ability to reason as adults can, and they cannot comprehend why certain behavior should be avoided (often for their own safety). Spanking is a visceral tool parents can use to teach their children which actions are unacceptable. This line of reasoning however, neglects the bigger issue at the heart of the debate: Regardless of whether or not spanking a child's gluteus maximus is effective, the government does not have the right to interfere in this matter. Kathleen Wolf, the nurse who penned the bill, cites the fact that domestic violence laws apply to everyone in the house but children. She fails to note federal and state...
  • Dr. Robert Cade, RIP

    November 28, 2007
    At CEI, we like to celebrate inventors, innovators, and those bold souls whose unyielding curiosity help make the world better. Such a person was Dr. Robert Cade, who passed away yesterday. His invention is one so ubiquitous that today it's hard to think of the world without it: Gatorade. Reports The Gainesville Sun:
    Cade, a former professor of nephrology at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, was something of a Renaissance man. When he wasn't concocting the strange brew that would become the world's best-selling sports drink, Cade was reciting the poems of Alfred Tennyson and playing the violin. "He was a man with one of those unique minds," said Dr. Dana Shires, who helped Cade develop Gatorade. Cade, who had long suffered from heart and kidney disease, died at...
  • Thanksgiving Is Racially Insensitive, School District Says

    November 27, 2007
    The Seattle School District says that celebrating Thanksgiving is racially insensitive.  This is the same school district that claimed for several years that "individualism" is a form of "cultural racism," that only whites can be racist, and that planning ahead is a white characteristic that is racist to expect minorities to exhibit.  Those claims were mocked in Supreme Court opinions.  The Seattle Schools now tell parents that Thanksgiving is...
  • Don't blame trade, says Brooks

    November 27, 2007
    Writing from Beijing, New York Times columnist David Brooks in his column today notes how American sentiment is increasingly against trade and globalization and points to reasons why the Dobbsians are wrong. Brooks says that among politicians this trend is also prevalent — different from earlier periods:
    Once there was a bipartisan consensus behind free trade, but that's not true anymore, either. Even Republicans, by a two-to-one majority, believe free trade is bad for America, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Once upon a time, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are rising out of poverty would have been a source of pride and optimism. But if you listen to the presidential candidates, improvements in the developing world are menacing....
  • Plastic: The Environmental Choice

    November 27, 2007
    An interesting article in today's Washington Post highlights the trade-offs and market realities associated with green products. It addresses the packaging challenges faced by organic ice tea maker, Honest Tea. The company employs a variety of measures to keep energy costs and environmental impacts of its packaging low. As a result, Honest Tea comes in plastic bottles. While most people simply assume that plastic packaging is worse than allegedly more recyclable glass when it comes to environmental concerns, this piece shows that even the greenest of companies find plastic is better in many cases. Indeed, it's lighter and easier to transport, which saves energy. Plastic is also cheaper because it takes less energy to make. And, of course, retailers like plastic because it...
  • Hands off Cable, FCC

    November 27, 2007
    The FCC today is going to consider expanding its authority to saddle cable TV with many of the same regulations as broadcast. That, to be concise, is a bad idea. Our very own Wayne Crews expands on why:
    The Federal Communications Commission's potential enlargement of its power is a giant step backward for the entire communications realm, not just cable. Chairman Kevin Martin's job is to safeguard and enlarge economic liberty in the communications sector. His — or someone else's — leadership is needed to roll back outmoded, pre-satellite, pre-Internet era dictates, and abandon the obsession with arbitrary percentages and thresholds. The desperately needed leadership task is to replace archaic political discipline by...
  • Free-market groups fight mortgage nannyism

    November 26, 2007
    As the joke goes, there's good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first? Upon hearing no answer from the readers of Open Market, I'll begin with the bad news. On November 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act" as an answer to mortgage woes. This "absurdly patronizing government-knows-best bill," as my colleague Eli Lehrer called it in a CEI press release, goes beyond the goal of improved disclosure to ban mortgages that are, in the bill's words, "inappropriate" for borrowers. The borrowers, however, would not be deciding what is "inappropriate." That is left for the government to decide after the fact, and to punish lenders through penalties or legal judgments. Needless to say, not only would this limit mortgages choices, it would likely make home loans much...

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