January 31, 2008 2:14 PM
Altria, the parent company of cigarette-maker Philip Morris, is shutting down its headquarters in New York City and will no longer employ the "vast majority" of its employees there. At the same time, it is spinning off its profitable overseas business to an independent entity (Philip Morris International), to be headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and shifting its U.S. headquarters to Richmond, Virginia.
It is spinning off its overseas operations in order to shield them from lawsuits in the U.S., like the ones that have forced it to pay billions of dollars to state governments, such as Minnesota, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida, and millions of dollars to individual smokers. Continental Europe in general, and Switzerland in particular, have court systems that are less indulgent towards lawsuits than American courts.
It may be moving its domestic operations to Richmond, Virginia for similar reasons. Virginia has a much lower tax burden than New York, has many fewer regulations, and its judges -- both state and federal -- are much less sympathetic towards lawsuits than are judges in New York City, like the notorious Jack Weinstein, the archetypal liberal activist judge, who ends up hearing almost all high profile class-action lawsuits in New York City through manipulation of the the judicial case selection process.
January 31, 2008 11:32 AM
Drudge today links to Jake Tapper's "Political Punch" column at ABC News, where he reports on a speech given by Bill Clinton yesterday in Denver. In it, Bill refers to the question of global warming and economic growth in surprising new terms. Instead of talking about the hundreds of thousands of high-paying green collar jobs we'll supposedly be generating by shunning the cheapest and most reliable energy sources on the planet, he issued a surprising recommendation.
In a long, and interesting speech, [Bill Clinton] characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."
At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? "Slow down our economy"?
We've come a long way from Democratic politicians who merely promised to raise taxes (which would have the effect of slowing growth) now to campaigners who are willing to cut out the middle man and go straight to sabotaging the economy outright. That's what we in politics call progress. You can watch the whole thing here.
January 31, 2008 10:59 AM
The multi-dimensional debate over political correctness at The Smithsonian (everything from exactly how many children Thomas Jefferson fathered to the proper display of the Enola Gay) has another entry: climate science at the Museum of Natural History. From today's Inside the Beltway:
Suffice it to say, the Smithsonian Institution is not buying into the "global warming" hysteria being spread by Al Gore.
While in the District in recent days, professor Jeff Bennett of the Crawford School of Economics and Government at Australian National University toured the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, where he snapped photographs, since forwarded to Inside the Beltway, of two displays that caught his eye — both dealing with climate change and "the Future."
"Initiation of glacial conditions may be triggered by surprisingly rapid climate changes," reads one display. "Therefore, the minor global-cooling trend of recent decades ... is being carefully watched and studied."
Explains the next display: "the period 1890-1945 A.D. was abnormally warm, and there have been signs of cooling in the last few decades."
Perhaps we should organize a field trip to celebrate this unexpected evenhandedness. While we're on the Mall, we can even pick up a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys and score a double victory against the PC enforcers.
January 31, 2008 10:45 AM
Those hilarious Europeans. They are threatening to ban patio heaters. Too big a carbon imprint, it seems. So much for convenience, choice, and individual liberty. Reports the Times of London:
Britain's growing cafÃ© culture and taste for alfresco drinking and dining may be under threat from MEPs who want to ban the patio heater.
A vote in Brussels today is expected to call on the European Commission to abolish the heaters to help to tackle climate change. Such a move could cost the pub and catering trade dear.
Pubs spent about £85 million on patio heaters after the smoking ban was introduced last year. Besides forcing smokers into the cold there is concern that a ban on patio heaters could bring a significant cash loss to pubs, cafÃ©s and restaurants.
The hospitality industry has estimated that if only 10 per cent of Britain's pubs offered outdoor facilities a ban could cost £250 million a year, or as much as £45,000 a year for a single business.
It's so good that America isn't like that. It would be as if Congress banned, oh, light bulbs. ... Oops!
(By the way, whatever does it mean, a British "cafÃ© culture." I love Great Britain, but a British cafÃ© culture??)
January 30, 2008 5:54 PM
C. Boyden Gray, the U.S. Envoy to the European Union, said Tuesday (Jan. 28) that U.S. and EU adoption of carbon "offset" taxes (aka carbon tariffs) is "inevitable" if China, India, and other developing countries refuse to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.
Gray spoke to European-based reporters in a telephone news conference. As reported by Joe Kirwin of BNA (Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.), Gray said the United States and the EU would eventually "have no choice" but to impose carbon tariffs on products from developing countries to remain competitive in the global economy. To illustrate, he cited the import penalty provisions of S. 2191, the climate bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.).
Such talk can only encourage European countries, which are considering a carbon tariff proposal put forward by the European Commission, to restrict trade and impede development in poor countries.
January 30, 2008 2:10 PM
At EconLog, Bryan Caplan sums up succinctly the method whereby President Bush this week was able to sound more predisposed toward a global treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions -- that is, ration carbon-based energy -- without really being so:
If you don't like telling people No, a convenient alternative is setting conditions you know other people won't accept. Then the impasse is their fault, you see.
He cites many liberal Democrats' opposition to trade agreements, which they claim is "qualified," not because they're opposed to liberalized trade per se, but because they think it should be made "fair" through a morass of side agreements and provisions dealing with potential adverse effects from the increased trade.
But turnabout is fair play. In the same State of the Union speech in which Bush advocated approval of trade treaties with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea -- which union-friendly Democrats have stalled claiming the need for such provisions -- Bush offered on climate change policy to "let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases." But..."This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride."
Of course, the chance of this is nil, as India and China unapologetically beckon to the world, "Send us your over-regulated, energy-starved manufacturing." A good name for this is "the 'yeah, but' way of saying No."
January 30, 2008 1:24 PM
Last night, ABC News lavished sympathy on a North Carolina couple whose mortgage payments had risen to just over $2,000 a month, owing to the fact that they had an adjustable rate mortgage whose interest had recently risen from an introductory 9 percent rate to a hefty 14 percent rate.
Math is obviously not something that ABC News journalists understand. The ABC evening news program hosted by Charles Gibson credulously accepted the couple's claim that they were being forced to devote the lion's share of their income to their mortgage payments, even though ABC reported that the couple's annual income was $80,000 -- or about $7,000 per month.
How do you go broke paying $2,000 in mortgage payments on wages of $7,000 per month? I suspect the real reason they had difficulty paying their mortgage was the same reason they presumably had a high interest rate on their mortgage in the first place -- high credit card and other debt resulting from personal irresponsibility. (My mortgage interest rate is 5 percent, because I have excellent credit. Only a rotten credit history, or a complete failure to shop around for the best interest rate, could have led to me paying a 9 percent interest rate).
Yet ABC News depicted them as victims of predatory lending.
January 30, 2008 1:24 PM
The House has overwhelmingly voted to pass the "stimulus" bill I discussed earlier, which would increase the deficit, provide "rebates" that did nothing in past recessions to revise the economy, and give Fannie Mae, which engaged in Enron-style accounting and helped create the housing bubble, broad new lending powers.
Michelle Malkin points out the the Senate version of the "stimulus" bill is even worse than the version passed by the House, containing a lot of welfare, and that even its less controversial components, like extension of jobless benefits, will discourage work and thus result in lower, rather than higher, economic output -- the opposite of a true economic stimulus -- as even a liberal economist conceded.
January 30, 2008 1:24 PM
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's multibillion dollar health care plan was rejected as too expensive by the California State Senate's Health Committee, putting him to the left of even that predominantly Democratic body.
The Schwarzenegger plan would dramatically increase the role of the state in the health care system, relying on tax increases and manipulation of the federal Medicaid system to increase federal subsidies.
Like many proposals to expand states' role in health care, the Schwarzenegger plan probably violated the federal ERISA law through its employer mandates. That doesn't seem to have been a big factor in the State Senate's decision, though.
Nor does the fact that the Schwarzenegger plan would have covered illegal immigrants. That infuriated people on talk radio, but seems to have had little effect on the legislature.
January 29, 2008 5:46 PM
President Bush didn't mention Blanca Gonzalez, the mother of jailed Cuban dissident Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, after all. But the film Shootdown, which I also mentioned in the same post yesterday, is Michael Moynihan at Reason today. The film profiles the blowing out of the sky by Cuban air force MiGs of two planes from the Brothers to the Rescue operation.
An event soon overshadowed by the saga of Elian Gonzales, the attack on the unarmed Brothers to the Rescue planes is now largely forgotten outside Miami. And despite the smokescreen of misinformation presented by Castro and his foreign enablers, the facts of the story are rather straightforward and grimly characteristic of a totalitarian regime.
As three Brothers to the Rescue planes approached Cuban territory, the lead plane, piloted by the group's founder Jose Basulto, briefly breached Cuban airspace. While the planes were searching for refugees in the water, officials in Havana, tipped off by a mole in the Brothers leadership, scrambled Soviet-made MiG fighter planes to knock the planes out of the sky. Basulto's plane managed to escape. When the other two were vaporized by Cuban missiles, both were flying over international waters.