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OpenMarket: August 2012

  • Wishful Thinking About Religious Freedom And Gay Marriage

    August 17, 2012 12:38 PM

    One of the reasons that social conservatives oppose gay marriage is the belief that if it is legalized in a state, private institutions, like religious employers, and religious schools, will be forced to treat gay unions the same as heterosexual marriages. The unstated assumption they have is that if they can just block gay marriage, no bossy government official will be able to force them to treat gay unions like straight marriages.

    But this assumption is just wishful thinking: blocking gay marriage solves nothing, because bossy civil-rights bureaucrats and liberal judges (most state judiciaries, and virtually all civil-rights bureaucrats, are liberal) will force them to treat gay couples as if they were married couples, even if gay couples cannot formally get married in the state.  Multiple court rulings and administrative rulings show that this is so, by effectively ordering religious businesses and schools to treat unmarried gay couples as if they were married, under existing state laws and municipal ordinances banning private-sector discrimination against gays.

    I have been one of the most outspoken critics of these rulings restricting religious freedom; and I have repeatedly defended the First Amendment rights of social conservatives to express their views about homosexuality (for example, I have criticized politicians' harassment of Chick-fil-A over its CEO's opposition to same-sex marriage, which was constitutionally protected speech, see here, here, here, and here). And I can tell you that banning gay marriage does not solve this problem, it just causes other problems, such as creating perverse incentives for gays (and occasionally harming heterosexuals).

    Blocking gay marriage (unfairly) prevents committed monogamous gay couples in long-term relationships from accessing useful government benefits limited to legal spouses (while also shielding them, ironically enough, from "marriage penalties" in the tax code and welfare system). It also sometimes results in gay couples in short-term relationships unfairly obtaining certain government benefits available only to those heterosexuals who are married (and thus not in short-term, non-legally-binding relationships), and increases the risk that private institutions will be forced to treat gay couples the same as married heterosexuals even if they are not in a long-term relationship akin to marriage. Banning gay marriage thus reduces incentives for long-term monogamy among gays, even though monogamy is as desirable among gays as among heterosexuals (since it can reduce the incidence of AIDS, and promote family stability, such as households in which gay couples are raising children).

  • Struggle Over Union-Owned Bank Is A Sign Of Union Weakness

    August 17, 2012 11:01 AM

    Shifting deposits to the union-owned Amalgamated Bank has become a leftist cause celebre, as several Democratic and progressive  groups try to be seen as dissociating themselves from the politically incorrect Bank of America. However, as I outline in the Daily Caller,  Amalgamated Bank's recent history, which includes a bitter struggle over its control, muddies the left's portrayal of Amalgamated as an oasis of virtue in the otherwise corrupt world of finance.

    Amalgamated Bank is controlled by a subsidiary of the powerful Service Employees International Union's (SEIU),  which won control over the bank as a result of a protracted union civil war. Stern, a political heavy hitter during his tenure at the helm of SEIU, was the most frequent visitor to the White House for most of the first year of the Obama presidency.

    The struggle over the control of Amalgamated is itself indicative of private sector union's weakness and of the extent to which they are willing to go to preserve their influence.

    The SEIU subsidiary, Workers United, itself broke away from UNITE-HERE, which was itself the result of the 2004 merger of two unions representing workers in two unrelated industries, hospitality and textile manufacturing: the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) and UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, itself the product of a series of textile union mergers).

  • Lastest Junk Science On BPA And Heart Disease

    August 17, 2012 10:18 AM

    Earlier this week, we learned from the wonderful world of junk science that eating egg yolks is as dangerous as smoking. Now we learn that eating canned vegetables will harden your arteries! These stories are hard to believe for good reasons, but they sure do make catchy headlines for news sites and green bloggers.

    Consider just a few. "BPA Now, Heart Disease Later:  The scary new connection between bisphenol A and heart disease," reads a headline on Prevention Magazine's website.  "BPA may boost artery disease risk" reads another headline on But the award for the most amusing "hype-line" on the topic goes to Treehugger: "Link Between BPA and Heart Disease Seen in Urine, New Study Reports." That's a new spin on fortune telling!

    Trace residues of BPA enters the body when we consume food packaged in containers made using the chemical. For example, aluminum/steel cans are lined with BPA-based resins to control development of dangerous pathogens and extend shelf-life. BPA does not accumulate in the body, but instead passes out in urine.

    This study measures the levels of BPA found in urine to assess whether high levels are associated with coronary artery disease. The authors divided 591 patients into three groups based on each individual's degree of coronary artery disease: severe, intermediate, or normal. The researchers found: "BPA exposure was higher in those with severe coronary artery stenoses compared to those with no vessel disease."

  • Today's Links: August 17, 2012

    August 17, 2012 9:49 AM


    ROB COX and RICHARD BEALES: "Since When Does a Huge Hedge Fund Need Subsidies?"
    "Since when does a huge hedge fund need subsidies? Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates, the biggest in the world with $130 billion under management, may get up to $115 million in help from the U.S. state of Connecticut to build a new headquarters. Dalio’s firm, which made him nearly $4 billion last year according to Absolute Return, hardly seems a needy recipient of aid. And on the surface Governor Dannel Malloy has far more pressing priorities. Connecticut recently needed a budget that cut healthcare spending for the poor and tapped funds that had been set aside for other purposes in order to help close a $200 million deficit."

    AMITY SHLAES: "Maine Lobster Tastes Best With Dash of Supply Side"
    "This year’s lobster crop has been enormous, probably because of warmer water temperatures this past winter and spring. For New England lobstermen, supply is now outstripping demand. As a result, lobster processors, most of which are in Canada, are paying very low prices to fishermen -- $2.50 or $3 a pound, compared with the $4 a pound the lobstermen want. That’s hitting Canadian lobstermen hard. Because of regulations that aim to sustain lobster supply -- which seem pretty unnecessary now -- the Canadians are permitted to harvest lobsters for only part of the summer, unlike their U.S. counterparts. They thus need to earn more per pound."

    JACQUI CHENG: "Three Years Later, Deleting Your Photos on Facebook Now Actually Works"
    "We first began investigating Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter in 2009 to see how fast our drunken-escapades-slash-cat-photos disappeared from the Internet after we deleted them from each of the social networks. [...] Though it took mere seconds for Twitter and Flickr to remove the photos from their content delivery networks (CDNs) after deletion from the site, MySpace and Facebook weren't so quick. MySpace got around to deleting the photos from its CDN several months later, but Facebook ended up being the embarrassing holdout."

  • On Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis, And The Folly of National Film Agencies

    August 16, 2012 4:34 PM

    Today in Slate, Aisha Harris explains why the cast of David Cronenberg’s new film Cosmopolis features only one American actor:

    Back in May, David Cronenberg told the French magazine Le Monde that one of the reasons he cast Robert Pattinson as the American lead in his new film Cosmopolis is because the actor is British. If that sounds strange to you, welcome to the world of government-financed films.

    As Cronenberg explained in his interview, Cosmopolis “is a co-production between France and Canada,” and so he was only allowed one American actor (Paul Giamatti, in another role). […]

    Telefilm Canada and its French equivalent, the CNC, typically collaborate on four or five film projects every year. And when they do, such hiring practices are standard. Each film can hire one “lead performer” and one “cameo performer” from a third country.

    So why does Robert Pattinson not count as a "lead performer" from a "third country"?

    Because any actor with an E.U. passport qualifies as a contribution from France. So while any number of European stars were eligible, no Americans—save ones that happen to have an E.U. passport—were.

    It seems that government film agencies are like most government bureaucracies: They insist on regulating activity for the sake of perceived feel-good benefits that don’t pass a smell test.

  • CEI Podcast For August 16, 2012: Drought, Food Prices, And Ethanol

    August 16, 2012 2:19 PM

    Severe drought in the Midwest has driven corn prices to record levels. Policy Analyst Brian McGraw argues that ending the federal government's ethanol mandate could help families who are struggling to pay their heightened grocery bills. Under the mandate, nearly 40 percent of this year's corn crop will be used for fuel instead of food.

  • Regulation And The Setting Sun

    August 16, 2012 1:00 PM

    Agencies are well-equipped for passing regulations, but not for repealing them. This becomes a problem as the years march on, and dusty old rules that don't apply in today's world retain the force of law. One solution: automatic sunsets.

  • My Fox News Interview On GM's Losses To Taxpayers And Obama's Auto Dealer Job Shaft

    August 16, 2012 7:26 AM

    On Tuesday, I was on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” answering Doug McKelway’s questions on the Treasury Department’s upward revision of taxpayers' losses from the auto bailout. Although it was once breathlessly claimed that taxpayers would actually profit, losses are now projected to be $25 billion. A snippet of my interview also ran on "Studio B. with Shepard Smith" that same day.

    During the in-depth interview with Doug, which also was part of a fine story he wrote on Fox News' website, I emphasized another important point I have made in the past few days: that in the bailout, some workers -- notably those in the United Auto Workers -- were more equal than others. In articles in National Review and the Daily Caller, my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Mark Beatty and I point out  how the Obama administration’s “Team Auto” task force put 100,000 auto dealer jobs -- a number approaching the total workforce at GM and Chrysler -- at risk by pushing the auto companies to close more than 2,000 dealerships in a just a few months. By contrast, Mitt Romeny's old private equity firm, Bain Capital, is taking heat for laying off 750 workers at GST Steel eight years after it acquired the company.

  • California's Unconstitutional Proposition 37

    August 16, 2012 7:22 AM

    Writing in the Daily Caller, legal commentator Walter Olson says that California's Proposition 37 is bad policy that will only enrich opportunistic lawyers:

    Prop. 37 on this fall’s California ballot, pleasantly billed as the Right to Know campaign, would require labeling of food with genetically modified (GMO/GE) ingredients. Backers say Europe already has similar rules and there’s no reason California shouldn’t follow suit. And even though health fears about GMO/GE products have been debunked by virtually every scientific authority to look into the matter — from the AMA to the World Health Organization, and including science reporting in such perhaps unexpected venues as Mother Jones and the Huffington Post — voters in a new Pepperdine poll still approve of the idea by a lopsided 69 to 22 percent. After all, how much could it cost just to put labels on foods?

    We may soon find out. California’s fabled Proposition 65, enacted in 1986, requires the labeling of products that expose consumers to substances linked to cancer. That’s a pleasant-sounding idea too, but 26 years later the law has benefited almost no one but litigators. Even as cancer remains just as much of a problem in California as elsewhere, a cadre of lawyers in the state have made many, many tens of millions of dollars filing inadequate-labeling suits against purveyors of such products as candles, fireplace logs, Christmas lights, hammers, billiard cue chalk, matches, grilled chicken, life-saving drugs, brass doorknobs, car exhaust in parking garages, and on and on. (Most of the money in the resulting settlements goes to the lawyers, which is one reason defendants often describe Prop 65 litigation as legalized extortion.)

    Weirdly, it might even reduce the availability of certain non-GMO foods, those currently distributed by middlemen that currently sell mostly GMO foods, and don’t want to establish parallel tracks for GMO and non-GMO foods: “By some estimates, 70 percent of the current American food supply would need a 'contains GMOs' label” under Prop. 37,” notes Olson in the article. Proposition 37's enormous documentation burdens and liability risks will have a large chilling effect on suppliers.

  • Time To Extinguish Flame Retardant Hype

    August 15, 2012 4:15 PM

    Flame retardants are making headlines these days thanks to an "exposé" -- more properly characterized as an unsubstantiated smear campaign -- published as a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune this past spring. The effort has helped Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) build the case for his anti-chemical legislation, which he calls the "Safe Chemicals Act." Supposedly, he and his journalist allies at the Chicago Tribune know better than anyone else -- including scientists and engineers that produce these products -- about what makes a chemical safe or dangerous.

    The Tribune reporters conducted a  little bit of "research" and added some colorful interpretations of their "findings" to render the judgment that flame retardants -- which have been used for decades to reduce fire risks and save lives -- are public enemy number 1. But despite the Tribune's sloppily researched and ideologically motivated series, there isn't much evidence that anyone has suffered significant  adverse health effects  from trace exposures to flame retardants in consumer products.


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