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OpenMarket: November 2007

  • Global Warming Well Down List of Issues, Even for Democrats

    November 26, 2007
    It is often suggested that global warming and/or the environment is becoming more important in deciding how Americans vote. The latest poll figures, from the Washington Post and ABC News, suggest that for Democrats in the crucial state of Iowa, that is far from the case. In a state where ethanol and energy are important issues, too few people to register mentioned global warming as the most important issue in determining their choice of candidate. Taking the top two issues together, 4 percent said the Environment, 3 percent said Energy/Ethanol and 2 percent global warming. There may be some overlap between these groups, so it is impossible to add these up even to 9 percent. And that's the Democrats. Now admittedly, this is from a Midwest state but the figures for environmentally "aware" New...
  • Who cares about "bad" foods?

    November 26, 2007
    Men's Health magazine has released its latest list of what it's editors believe are the "worst" items on chain restaurant menus. Yawn! Unlike, say, the very misleadingly named Center for Science in the Public Interest, I don't think that Men's Health favors any government regulation to prohibit these items or dictate what people should eat. Insofar as it may make some people more aware of their choices, I suppose a list like this can serve a valid function. But, to me, the entire exercise seems a bit pointless. Without exception, nobody would ever confuse these dishes with health food. All involve large portions, many are fried, and just as many are slathered with...
  • Trent Lott Knows Your Name

    November 26, 2007
    Nearly everyone has an opinion about Sen. Trent Lott (who, the Associated Press reports, plans to resign from the Senate today.) My off-the-cuff judgment is that he was and is a skilled political operative with a flexible ideology. Whatever one thinks of his policies, there's no doubt that he was a great player at the game of politics. A fair amount of his success, however, may have to do with his amazing facility (best I've ever witnessed) for remembering names. I met him twice while working as a reporter and then did see him in person again for over six years. When I went to work for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist he greeted me by name on my third day at the office, remembered that I had been a reporter, and asked me what I had been up to. Since Frist happened to be on vacation...
  • Climate Change: My Brother Doesn't Care

    November 26, 2007

    My brother in Denver is very much the everyman. He's blue collar-John Melencamp-middle America, and I value his opinion as a bellwether of the nation's mood.

    On Thanksgiving, my bro gave me an earful. For one, he is sick and tired of “this green bull****.” He manages a catering company, so he deals with a lot of sales people, and he says that every Tom, Dick and Harry is selling the environmental angle. As his only concerns are cost and quality, he finds these green pitches excruciating.

    He also talked about his utility bills, which he says have increased significantly in only the last few years. The increase worried him.

    Curiously, he did not once mention global warming.

    However he did bring up an idea that had been churning about in his head for a while. To stick it to the “green phonies,” my brother wants to establish a “pro-pollution non-profit.”

    ...
  • Trade as a Way Out of Poverty

    November 26, 2007
    Poverty, the horrendous poverty so common in most of the world, can only shock the average Westerner.  But we in the West once were that poor.  Development came, but not without substantial pain and agony. That process is playing itself out today.  India, for instance, is growing, but most of its people remain poor.  They are better off when Westerners buy their goods.  Yet good-hearted attempts to mandate better wages and working conditions risk tossing the most impoverished people out of jobs.
  • Khmer Rouge on Trial

    November 26, 2007
    There's a lot of bad news in the world these days.  A bit of good news is the approach of trials of several leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the unusually brutal, even by communist standards, revolutionaries who seized control of Cambodia in 1975 and murdered 1.7 million people, almost a quarter of the population.  The prison of Tuol Sleng is now a museum.  The most moving exhibit is the simple display of photos of inmates, taken on their arrival to the facility.  Fewer than ten survived their time there.  I reflect on my visit to Tuol Sleng in an article on American Spectator online.
  • Turning Honest Canadians into Queue-Jumpers

    November 26, 2007
    It's enough to make the average Canadian cry.  The decent folk up north fervently defend their health care system from attack.  But, it turns out, the vast majority are willing to do most anything to jump the medical queue.  If paying off their doctor would move them ahead, well, let the favors and money flow!
  • Insurance as Public Service

    November 26, 2007
    "Consumer advocates"--who spend their time demanding that everyone toss money at anyone who "consumes" a product or service, are on the march, this time against insurers.  Apparently they have just discovered the ill effects of Hurricane Andrew in 1992--reduced insurance coverage. Reports the New York Times:
    The storm stunned insurance companies and, after paying out more than $22 billion in claims in inflation-adjusted dollars, they began rewriting policies to protect themselves as much as homeowners. They also developed computer programs intended to limit payouts on claims. As a result, American homeowners are having to make do with much less coverage at steadily rising prices. In Miami and other places along the coast, insurance prices have skyrocketed, deepening the...
  • Killing with Kindness

    November 26, 2007
    Government regulation almost always is biased towards inaction and prohibition.  Making a "mistake" and allowing something to happen will usually get you into far greater trouble than making a "mistake" and not allowing something to happen.  People will see the results of the former, and blame you, but are unlikely to see the consequences, even if far worse, of the latter. So it is with the Food and Drug Administration.  If  one person dies from a "bad" drug, the Luddites, like the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest, will demand that every future drug be subject to twice or thrice as much scrutiny.  Deny approval for a drug, killing thousands, and nothing happens.  The regulatory enthusiasts think that's just peachy-keen, a perfectly acceptable consequence of being extra careful.
  • Chinese Water Torture: The Three Gorges Dam

    November 26, 2007
    There may be no better evidence of change in China than the fact that the government now occasionally admits that problems exist in the country.  No where is this admission more embarrassing than with the Three Gorges Dam, a monstrous, and monstrously controversial, project on the Yangtzee River.  Built at great financial, environmental, and social cost, it is turning out to look a lot like Boston's famed "Big Dig"--a poorly executed disaster waiting to happen. Reports the New York Times:
    Last year, Chinese officials celebrated the completion of the Three Gorges Dam by releasing a list of 10 world records. As in: The Three Gorges is the world's biggest dam, biggest power plant and biggest consumer of dirt, stone, concrete and steel. Ever. Even the project's official tally of...

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