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OpenMarket: John Berlau

  • Eco-Terrorism -- Not just pipe bombs anymore

    March 5, 2008
    What happened in Washington state is frightening. It is further confirmation of a trend in eco-terrorism I report on in Eco-Freaks. Eco-terrorism is becoming just as sophisticated and elaborate as other forms of terrorism, with terror cells and carefully designed acts of destruction. It can no longer be dismissed as the work of a few nuts. Investigations and convictions from the recent bombings of facilities from ski resorts to research facilities have revealed a vast network that rivals that of other organized...
  • It's not an anti-investor Supreme Court either

    March 3, 2008
    Hans, it's also wrong to refer to this Supreme Court as anti-investor.

    Two weeks ago, as I have noted, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of investors against 401(k) administrators. In a decision that I praised in a blog post and press release, the justices ruled that investors have a right to sue for breaches in individual pension plans.

    But as I noted, the whole dichotomy used by the media of pro-investor or pro-consumer and anti-business is wrong. A frivolous investor suit, although it would favor a few investors or consumers and their attorneys, would harm the majority of investors by increasing costs to the...
  • Supreme Court's LaRue and Stoneridge opinions are both pro-investor

    February 20, 2008
    A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court's decision in Stoneridge v. Scientific-Atlanta was denounced by shareholder activists and much of the media as "anti-investor." Why? Because the 5-3 opinion had limited the rights to sue "secondary actors" in securities fraud cases.

    But today, those same five justices who put together the Stoneridge opinion -- Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts -- joined in the Court's unanimous decision granting individuals in 401(k) plans the right to sue plan administrators. This case, LaRue v. DeWoolf will no doubt be hailed as "pro-investor...
  • The policy side of CPAC

    February 11, 2008
    I can't remember a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that received more media coverage and broke more news events. As fate would have it, political speeches probably scheduled months in advance were affected by the results of the primaries, and particularly the Super Tuesday primaries just two days before the conference began.

    Mitt Romney chose his CPAC speech on Thursday to announce that he was suspending his campaign. That made McCain's speech later that afternoon one of rallying conservative support for the GOP frontrunner, rather than persuading conservatives to support him over other primary candidates. There was much media attention on conservative reaction to McCain's almost-certain clinching of the GOP nomination.

    But overlooked in the media was the broad policy focus of the conference. In CPAC sessions and its exhibitors' booth...
  • Taxis, fares, and branding -- history lesson from Yellow Cab

    February 7, 2008

    Eli, I agree with Michelle on this one. There is no justification for regulating the fares of either taxis or pick-up limousine services.

    What's overlooked, I believe, in cases like this with customers supposedly "captive" to service providers, is the power of branding. Were there no fare regulation, a customer wouldn't necessarily be at the mercy of every unknown cab driver.

    Rather, companies would spring up with visible slogans they would emblazon on their cab. Consumers would know -- from sources ranging from the Internet to word of mouth -- approximately what fares a particular cab company or franchisee would charge when they saw them driving by on the street. It's the same concept that fast-food restaurants and motel chains rely on for...
  • Death of Mortgage Bond Insurers May Be Greatly Exaggerated

    February 5, 2008
    Hans, you are certainly right that the credit rating agencies goofed in giving their highest credit rating to mortgage-backed securities before these new instruments met the test of the market. Now, there is a credit slowdown after the trading market for these securities has frozen up. There were more defaults on mortgages than anticipated, and many investors don't trust the valuation methods the securities firms or the credit rating agencies used in the selling of these securities.

    But what this means for bond insurers is unclear. This is because of the nature of the problem. The primary risk the credit markets are facing are not those of massive defaults (unless the politicians -- from Hank Paulson to Hillary Clinton -- successfully persuades everyone to default with...
  • Romney scores points by bashing enviro regs

    January 25, 2008

    Iain, you're so right that it's not just bad policy, but bad politics, for Republican candidates not to challenge costly regulations aimed at fending off the exaggerated threat of global warming. And as I wrote last week in the American Spectator, Mitt Romney showed in Michigan that bashing costly environmental regulations can still be good politics, as it was for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and congressional GOP candidates in 1994.


    Overlooked in his Michigan victory was the extent to which Romney scored points specifically by attacking regulations that hurt the auto industry, such as the Corporate...

  • Milton Friedman on why Bush's stimulus plan won't work

    January 18, 2008
    After Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke basically said yesterday that making the Bush tax cuts permanent should be off the table for now, in exchange for a Keynesian temporary "stimulus" package of income-boosting "rebates," the Dow Jones Industrial average fell by more than 300 points. (Hat tip to John Tamny of RealClearMarkets.com for making this connection in one of his e-mail alerts). Today Bush formally announced a temporary "stimulus" --again backing away from making permanent his 2001 and 2003 cuts in income, capital gains, and dividend tax rates -- and the stock markets tumbled further.

    It is far from clear we are facing a recession, but we are facing an uncertainty about the economy that is making the market nervous. And part of what is making the market nervous is, ironically, politicians' urge to do "something,"...
  • OpenMarket welcomes RealClearMarkets

    January 14, 2008
    For the past few political seasons, diehard political buffs will frequently visit one site to get the latest info on various races and campaigns: RealClearPoltics.com. The site offers a compendium of original analysis and links to the most informative political stories from various publications.

    This primary season is no exception, but now there's something new. For those of us who also like to follow the market, which itself has had its twists and turns in the news lately, RCP now has a sister site: RealClearMarkets.com. We encourage all OpenMarket readers to check RCM out. It is the same format as RCP: links to variety of views on economic policy (with more than a few statist, as well as free-market, columns included) with penetrating original analysis.

    The editor of RCM is, in fact, a...
  • Jobs numbers in context and the best 'solutions'

    January 4, 2008
    Today's jobs survey points to slowing growth, but we are still far from a recession. And as my CEI colleagues and I have said before, the best things the government can do is remove tax and regulatory impediments to growth, and not make things worse through ill-conceived intervention that could scare away business investment.

    First, a little context about the 5 percent umemployment rate being bandied about. Buried in today's Associated press story is that claims for unemployment benefits rose three-tenths of a percent, from 4.7 percent in November to 5 percent last month.

    But the unemployment rate was consistently above five percent during the first five years of the Clinton administration. (See this 1996 CNN story where 5.6 percent unemployment is described as "low." )

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