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  • GAO report needs to hit harder

    December 1, 2006

    A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office sent to the Congressional leadership on November 17, 2006, outlines some key areas where the incoming 110th Congress needs to provide greater oversight.

    The GAO's mission is “to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people.” Thus, the report focuses on efficiency — making the government work better.

    Better, however, would have been more far-reaching recommendations, for instance, in the GAO's look at the U.S. Postal Service:

    • Ensure that the Postal Service maintains services consistent with its standards as it implements changes to reduce costs related to providing postal services.
    • Assess the Postal Service's changes to its mail processing and transportation networks to...
  • Saudis to Sue Tobacco Companies

    December 1, 2006

    The Saudi government is threatening to sue American tobacco companies such as Philip Morris to force them to pay the healthcare costs of Saudi smokers.

    The lawsuit may seem laughably inconsistent with the basic idea of personal responsibility. But the Saudis are just imitating America's own trial lawyers.

    in 1998, American trial lawyers, assisted by 46 state attorneys general, succeeded in getting Big Tobacco to pay $250 billion over 25 years to state governments, supposedly to pay for smokers' healthcare costs, in a backroom deal called the Master Settlement Agreement. (An extra $14 billion was paid to the lawyers. CEI is challenging the settlement in federal court as a violation of the Constitution's Compact Clause).

    Big Tobacco shortsightedly went along because the trial lawyers added a...

  • Supreme Court Considers Whether to Preempt State Bank Red Tape

    November 30, 2006

    On Thursday, November 29, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Watters v. Wachovia Bank, which will decide whether federal law preempts state regulators from compelling many national bank subsidiaries to register with them.

    CEI filed an amicus brief with the Court on behalf of economists and legal scholars in support of the bank, pointing out that state lending regulations and red tape can increase the cost, and reduce the availability, of credit to borrowers.

    The State of Michigan sought to compel a subsidiary of Wachovia, a national bank, to register with it (Wachovia's subsidiary, Wachovia Mortgage, is chartered by the State of North Carolina).

  • 95% of Americans in Favor of Increasing Other People's Charitable Giving

    November 30, 2006

    Quick quiz: what political types are more likely to donate to charity - lefty liberals or crochety conservatives? The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an interesting article on the answer:

    At the outset of his research, [economist Arthur] Brooks had assumed that those who favor a large role for government would be most likely to give to charity. But in fact, the opposite is true.

    Several times throughout the book, Mr. Brooks quotes Mr. Nader, the political activist, who said during his 2000 presidential campaign: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity."

    Mr. Brooks calls it a "bitter irony" that those favoring income redistribution are not doing much redistributing from their own bank accounts — and he blames liberal leaders like Mr. Nader for...

  • For Best Results, Drink Like a Sardinian

    November 30, 2006

    There's more scientific evidence that moderate consumption of red wine is good for you:

    New research from the William Harvey Research Institute and the University of Glasgow shows that red wines from areas of greater longevity in southwest France and Sardinia have higher levels of procyanidins - a type of flavonoid polyphenol with potent protective effects on blood vessels.

    A number of population studies have revealed that moderate drinkers of red wine have less heart disease than non-drinkers. As a result it has become widely accepted that a glass or two of red wine per day is good for your heart.

    The Q & A with one of the researchers also updates our understanding of a previous development in the wine-is-good-for-you literature:...

  • The Global Warming Case--the cataclysm question

    November 30, 2006

    One comment from yesterday's Supreme Court hearing that's getting a lot of press is Justice Scalia's question to the attorney for the petitioning states about the imminence of harm to the states: "I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?"

    The attorney answered: "The harm does not suddenly spring up in the year 2100; it plays out continuously over time."

    I suspect that this exchange will be portrayed, by some, as illustrating the gap between the scientifically uneducated and the scientifically erudite. After all, Justice Scalia himself later noted that he's "not a scientist", whereas counsel for the petitioning states was probably quite familiar with the underlying science.

    But later in the argument that attorney said: "... our harm is imminent in the sense that lighting a fuse on a bomb is imminent harm ...."

    That sounds pretty...

  • Global Warming Hearings & Hurricanes

    November 30, 2006

    Yesterday the Supreme Court heard argument in the global warming case. Today is the last day of the 2006 hurricane season, the quietest in the a decade. Personally, I hope the Supreme Court's ruling in the case ends up being as disappointing to global warming alarmists as this year's hurricane season has been.

    Of course, one quiet hurricane season doesn't disprove the alarmist forecasts. On the other hand, Katrina didn't support those apocalyptic forecasts either, but you didn't see much in the way of forecasting restraint on the part of alarmists last year.

    I'd like to correct a few points that were garbled when I first phoned them in soon after yesterday's court hearing. The post below states that EPA was hammered by some justices "talking about...

  • Those clever Malthusians

    November 29, 2006

    There's an op/ed in the New York Times today that essentially claims that Malthus was right and that Julian Simon just got lucky when he made his famous bet with Paul Ehrlich and his doomsinging colleagues. John Whitehead of the Environmental Economics blog has a perceptive comment:

    Increases in energy prices, with the energy return on investment (EROI -- a new term for me that showed up in the comments section on this blog) falling from 25 to 1 to 15 to 1 over the past 20 years in the oil industry (EROI is 4 to 1 for the Alberta oil sands) used as evidence that the current runup in oil prices is not a blip...

  • Supreme Court grills Massachusetts, EPA in global warming case

    November 29, 2006

    CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman is on-site for two important cases being argued at the U.S. Supreme Court today. He phoned in his quick take on the EPA case:

    The first, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general, trying to force the EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. The AGs aim to have CO2 emissions reduced and thus impede global warming.

    Massachusetts went first. They got a lot of questions on standing from the justices: the states must show specific harm to themselves (from CO2 emissions) and that the harm would be redressed by the relief sought by the states. I don't think Massachusetts did all too well under questioning. They were getting hammered with questions. An old case called SCRAP (United States v....

  • Usual suspects make the list -- environmentalists of all time

    November 29, 2006

    Dr. C.S. Prakash alerted me to yesterday's list in The Guardian of the top environmental campaigners of all time. Not surprisingly, Rachel Carson tops the list, and one of her chief achievements was the eventual banning of DDT. Readers might be interested in John Berlau's DDT article today, which puts that “achievement” in a human context.

    Here's the list of the top twenty. One who really accomplished something that helped save the earth — the people on it — was number 19, Joseph Bazelgette, who realized that “foul water” not foul air was responsible for the cholera epidemics. He devised the...

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