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OpenMarket: December 2007

  • Bond Insurance Scam Unravels

    December 20, 2007
    Earlier, I wrote about the municipal bond insurance scam, in which financially shaky "insurers" receive a fee for "insuring" the bonds of credit-worthy municipalities that are almost certain never to default. The insurers have been aided and abetted by ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's, which give municipal bonds a higher credit rating if they have an insurer, no matter how worthless or unnecessary such "insurance" may be. The ratings agencies give the financially shaky "insurers" the highest possible credit rating of AAA, higher than the financially healthy municipalities they "insure." It's as silly as expecting Bill Gates to get his company's bonds insured by a used-car dealer. Now, ratings agency Standard & Poor's has belatedly recognized that this scam is becoming too obvious...
  • Cross-Platform Synergy from the FCC

    December 18, 2007
    The Federal Communications Commission today scored a victory for freedom of the press. In this case, the freedom to own both a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same city. Let's let FCC Chairman Kevin Martin explain:
    "We cannot ignore the fact that the media marketplace is considerably different than it was when the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban was put in place more than 30 years ago," said Mr. Martin, citing widespread layoffs in the newspaper industry as evidence of financial distress. "Now some of my colleagues have said we're not in the business of [caring about newspapers]. But if we're not in that business, then why do we have rules about what they can and can't own?"
    These rules were always ridiculous, of course, only now the...
  • Christmas Card Arrives 93 Years Late

    December 18, 2007
    We all know the Post Office is a lackadaisical and inefficient behemoth, but I never thought it was this bad!
  • Jumping the British Health Care Queue

    December 18, 2007
    If you're a Brit waiting for care under the National Health Service, relief may be at hand. Reports the Times of London:
    Patients will find it easier to escape NHS queues and head across the Channel for treatment under an EU blueprint for European health tourism to be published tomorrow. It will guarantee that, in most cases, treatment within the European Union will be funded by the taxpayer. The move will open up competiton between the NHS and European health services and is being hailed as a big step towards an open market for public healthcare. Until now, patients who have paid for more efficient treatment in France or Germany without securing prior funding approval have faced court battles to get the NHS to reimburse them. A draft of the EU directive on cross-border...
  • Judicial Hellholes: A Threat to Nevada's Economy

    December 18, 2007
    The American Tort Reform Association has just issued its Judicial Hellholes 2007 report, an annual summary of the nation's most unfair civil court jurisdictions. Disturbingly, among the places it lists is Clark County, home to two million people, the City of Las Vegas, and the vast majority of Nevada residents. ATRA notes that "Clark County has joined the Judicial Hellholes list for the first time. The decks appear to be stacked in favor of local lawyers who reportedly "pay to play" in the county's courts. Judges have been criticized for issuing favorable rulings in cases that benefit friends, campaign contributors or their own financial interests." The fact that Clark County made...
  • Carbon hypocrisy--what does it reveal?

    December 18, 2007
    Al Gore says his high-carbon life-style of private jets, limousines, and four residences--including a mansion that consumers more energy in a month than the average household does in year--does not make him a hypocrite, because he purchases "carbon offsets." Amazing what some guys can say with a straight face. Let's leave aside the question of whether Gore actually pays for those offsets, and whether paying someone else to plant trees that won't mature for decades actually offsets any emissions you produce today. Instead, let's look at the morality of offsetting. If a glutton pays someone else to go on a diet, is he any less a glutton? Can an adulterer offset his sins by paying other people not to cheat on their wives?
  • CEI TV: Chris Horner on Glenn Beck

    December 18, 2007
    Chris gives up the straight story on what happened at those big UN global warming negotiation in Bali last week.

    Binary Data
  • Big Mickey is Watching

    December 17, 2007
    In today's DC Examiner, columnist Melanie Scarborough discusses the implications of a disturbing exchange she witnessed recently.
    While shopping the other day, I was vaguely aware of two little girls playing nearby. They prattled happily until one of them evidently did something her playmate considered unseemly, and I heard a tiny voice warn, “You better stop doing that. The police are watching.” Although I wasn't looking at them, I could deduce that the other child was baffled, because her friend went on to explain that “they have cameras everywhere. They can see everything you do.”
    One needn't be a hardcore libertarian to be disturbed by the prospect of future generations growing up with the expectation of constant official...
  • Fun and Games at the United Nations

    December 17, 2007
    It's nice to work at a place where the budget is no object. That isn't the case at most businesses. Sadly, it isn't the case at many free market think tanks. But it is the case at the United Nations. Reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
    Most of our readers probably wouldn't mind working for an outfit whose budget is slated to expand by 25% next year. But then again, most of our readers don't work for the United Nations. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's proposed "initial" budget for 2008-09 is $4.2 billion, a mere 15% increase over the Secretariat's current budget. Oops, make that $4.8 billion, which includes the "add ons" the Secretary General has already identified. But even that's not the final final figure. The U.N. budget is released piece by piece -- how...
  • A Great Libertarian Artist?

    December 17, 2007
    This past weekend, I watched Juno. It's the best film I've seen this year. (I'm not alone: Roger Ebert also loves it.) The film is just about perfect: funny, smart, well-acted, visually inventive, and well-written. Ellen Page, who plays the title character, will get the great bulk of attention and, most likely, an Oscar nomination. She deserves it. But, in the process, director Jason Reitman likely won't get the credit he deserves. In fact, the film works so well in large part because, as Ebert says, it has no extra scenes. Add that to the film's winning visual style and it's clear that Reitman has proven himself a master of the two things -- style and final cut -- that directors really can control. In the context of this blog,...

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