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  • Incoming Judiciary chairman to defend privacy rights

    December 13, 2006

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), perhaps more famous for his defense of the Vermont dairy industry and the Northeast Dairy Compact, is incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and says he's going to be a privacy champion. A Reuters headline proclaimed: “Leahy vows to guard privacy rights.”

    It may not be widely known that Sen. Leahy has been a supporter of civil liberties in relation to the war on terrorism for some time and pushed for the creation of a Civil Liberties Board to help strike a balance between security concerns and civil liberties. He...

  • Followup on WSJ letters today

    December 13, 2006

    My favorite quote from the Wall Street Journal Letters today (see Ivan's earlier post) was from Christopher Monckton, former science and technical adviser to former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Lord Monckton wrote re the Rockefeller-Snowe letter to ExxonMobil:

    After a decade of socialism, freedom of speech does not figure in the U.K. constitution. But let me cite the First Amendment to yours: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    I call upon the two senators to live by those noble words.

  • Yet Another Round of Rockefeller-Snowe objection

    December 13, 2006

    Today's Wall Street Journal features several letters to the editor (subscription required) on the paper's editorial on the Rockefeller-Snowe letter to ExxonMobil. Naturally, it is to be expected that at least somebody would write taking exception to the editorial, but the letter by Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch has got to be read to be believed -- because it misses the central point so widely off the mark.

    Piltz simply dismisses the Journal's charge of Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe acting as "bullies" in admonishing ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that disagree with...

  • REACH and the Perils of Precaution

    December 13, 2006

    Today, the European Parliament voted a final time on the new regulation of Europe's chemical industry. With this vote the proposal is almost certain to become law when the European Council of Ministers votes next week.

    Called REACH—which stands for registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals—this legislation is based on the precautionary principle, and it represents the most substantial application of this principle ever. The principle essentially allows regulators to limit the freedom to sell technologies simply because a technology might have adverse impacts. Regulators need not demonstrate any actual harm before taking existing products off the market or to preventing introduction of new ones. They can just do it.

    Imagine a world in which all laws are based on perceived potential for harm. In this world you could be put in jail...

  • Sarbox-Style Regulation: Don't Do It

    December 12, 2006

    New York's increased competition from other world financial centers, such as London and Hong Kong, due to the increased regulatory burden imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley in the United States is becoming a real problem for the Big Apple. Now The Wall Street Journal's John Fund and the Financial Times' Gideon Rachman provide two telling quotes that sharply underscore Wall Street's difficulties.

    Writes Fund:

    "Last year, of the 25 largest initial public offerings in the world, only one took place in America. This year, Hong Kong is likely to end up as the No. 1 market for stock offerings world-wide...

    "Henry Tang, Hong Kong's financial secretary, couldn't be more blunt on the good fortune Sarbanes-...

  • Affordable air travel? How dare you!

    December 12, 2006

    The UK government, which this week doubled air passenger duty to about $20 a flight in a sop to global warming alarmism, wants to go further and impose extra costs on airlines.  So far, British airlines like the flag carrier, British Airways, its rival, Virgin, and the budget champion, Easyjet, had acquiesced, making green-sounding noises about corporate responsibility and so on.  No longer:

    Carriers thought to include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet have walked away from talks on a proposed carbon-offsetting scheme being put together by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)...

    Airline executives are thought to have been concerned that the Government was trying to create a scheme that would treat...

  • More on the Rockefeller-Snowe letter – Rockefeller attacked in home state; he responds

    December 12, 2006

    The Daily Mail (Charleston, WV) on December 5 carried a strong editorial castigating its junior senator, Jay Rockefeller, for his joint letter to ExxonMobil. The editorial defended open debate about “tough questions” and used some tough language about the senators' letter:

    This is arrogant and intolerant speech. It is out of line, especially from a member of the U.S. Senate.

    Global warming and health care are complex policy issues. Before the nation commits Americans to spending trillions to fix either, they want to be sure policymakers have correctly diagnosed the problems and are suggesting the right solutions.The best answers to tough questions emerge from open debate, and all Americans are entitled to take part in it.

    ...
  • It's official -- Vietnam to join WTO

    December 12, 2006

    It's now official — Vietnam notified the World Trade Organization December 12 that it had ratified its WTO membership agreement and will be joining as the 150th member on January 11.
    With its accession to the WTO, Vietnam takes on extensive commitments to open its markets in goods and services.
    On December 9, 2006, the U.S. Senate passed legislation providing for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Vietnam. In commenting on the vote, Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, said in a statement:

    With this strong bipartisan vote, U.S. exporters and service providers will gain...

  • Eco-censorship continued

    December 12, 2006

    Two interesting posts on Roger Pielke Jr's excellent and open-minded Prometheus blog today speak to the subject of my recent New Atlantis essay, "Eco-censorship."  In the first, a Chancellor of a Canadian university is chided for giving "poorly-considered credence to widely discredited extremist opinions such as these."  What discredited extremist opinions?  These:

    And in science there's almost never black and white. We don't know what next week's weather going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me....

  • Rocky-Snowe Road Winds On

    December 12, 2006

    As the controversy over the letter by Senators Rockefeller and Snowe chiding ExxonMobil for its funding of global warming skeptics, The Wall Street Journal, which criticized the letter as an effort to silence critics, weighs in again. This past weekend, on "The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report," editorial board members Paul Gigot, Bret Stephens, and Kimberley Strassel pursued the issue further. Strassel noted the inherent imbalance that government officials enjoy over private actors, while Stephens pointed out how unusual it was for the Senators to single out a specific group -- in this case CEI.

    Gigot: Two United States senators have been caught trying to bully...

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