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  • The Quarter Century

    June 5, 2007
    In celebration of its 25th anniversary, USA Today is creating 25 top 25 lists. (Link goes to the first one.) They make for pretty interesting reading although I'd have some quibbles here and there. While I can't argue with Harry Potter on top of the books list, the books list contains only one serious novel (Cold Mountain) and seems awfully skewed towards more recent work. The technology list, likewise, leaves out some obvious but important inventions like electronic fuel injection. Anyway, well worth reading.
  • Will Jefferson: A Man of Political Convictions?

    June 4, 2007
    It's official - Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) has finally been indicted for bribery and on other related charges. As you might remember, he's the legislator who was found with a suspiciously large block of U.S. currency stored in his freezer (approx. $90,000), and without a non-corrupt explanation for its existence. bribeloc_rs.jpg Despite being stripped of his seat on the Ways & Means Committee, Jefferson is still a member in good standing of the House Democratic Caucus. Nancy Pelosi, of course, reminds us in a press statement today that...
  • SCOTUS On Insurance and Credit Reporting

    June 4, 2007
    A Supreme Court Decision handed down today, Safeco v. Burr, mostly sided with two insurance companies in a dispute over notifications related to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The real question at hand was to what extent insurance companies had to notify policy holders when they offer them rates other than the lowest as a result of credit histories. The Court found that GEICO did not violate the law and that if Safeco did, it did not do so recklessly. This should let insurance companies breathe a little easier when they use credit scores to determine rates and, insofar as allowing the use of more information leads to rates that better reflect risk, it's likely a good thing. But the use of credit scores for insurance in the first place strikes me as a little screwy. Insofar as someone who skips out on a VISA...
  • Banning "Discrimination" That Might Protect Safety

    June 4, 2007
    Politicians love to vote against "discrimination." It makes them feel saintly, even if the law they vote for has unintended consequences, saddles businesses with red tape, and interferes with public safety. Soundbites matter more than sound public policy. Thus, the House of Representatives recently passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007, which will probably sail through the Senate as well. There is little evidence that anyone is being subjected to irrational discrimination based on their genes. Genetic discrimination of any kind is extremely rare. And on rare occasion, genetic discrimination may be rational, such as when genetic testing reveals that a bus driver is prone to seizures that may cause him to crash the bus he is driving. But the House has just voted to ban it in...
  • Chronic Vague Symptom Syndrome: Wi-Fi Edition

    June 4, 2007
    There's more wi-fi scaremongering this week in The Indepedent, which cites an alleged wave of parents and school administrators in the UK who have disconnected wi-fi networks in their homes and schools. The idea that people were actually dropping wi-fi entirely because of phantom health concerns seemed positively eccentric when former CEI analysts Isaac Post and Peter Suderman wrote about it happening at Canada's Lakehead University in March 2006. Now, however, it seems the retreat from technology has become more common. I predict that a maximum of sixth months will pass before a multi-million dollar lawsuit is filed in either the UK or U.S. alleging...
  • Museum Architecture and American Painting

    June 4, 2007
    Much of the best new civic architecture over the past generation has served to house art museums. Structures like I.M. Pei's National Gallery East Building and Santiago Calatrava's spectacular Quadracci Pavilion in Milwaukee have had enormous -- mostly good -- influence on the shape of modern architecture and, in particular, the cities where they sit. (At least one D.C. area shopping mall takes architectural cues from the East Building.) Nominally, art museums build these structures so they can put more on display. And every significant art museum, it's true, has thousands of pieces that aren't on display at any given time. But curators rarely let on that most of the pieces off display are actually textiles, sketches, studies and other items unfit for long-term display....
  • Just What We Need? An Air Car?

    June 4, 2007
    An Indian company has produced a car that runs on compressed air. I'm quite skeptical of its real environmental benefits -- which is I'm sure how it will be marketed -- but this may be a decent "city car" since it can charge off of household current at costs that appear lower than gas. Since it only has a 125 mile range, however, I doubt that there's more than a niche market, particularly in North America.
  • Rachel wrong on NRO and CBS

    June 1, 2007
    Iain's National Review Online piece on Rachel Carson's other legacy -- alarmism as a political tactic -- was also picked up by CBS News online:
    First, identify your cause and the laws you want to see enacted. In the environmentalist's blinkered view of the world, everything is connected linearly, not in the multifaceted manner of the real world. Therefore, in the green' view, the removal of a problem will not cause other, unforeseen, problems... Second, create an apocalyptic scenario... Third, claim there's a threat to children... Fourth, don the mantle of science and dismiss any evidence that contradicts your position... Fifth, use the previous three steps to create a clamor that rules...
  • The Fashion of Optimal Climate Stasis

    June 1, 2007
    Remember global cooling? If you don't, you're not alone; few people do. But the fact that climate hysteria has made a 180-degree turn begs the question: Is any climate change acceptable? That's a point that's not made often enough by climate skeptics. So now NASA administrator Michael Griffin has raised hackles among climate alarmists by making that point on National Public Radio yesterday:
    I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate,...
  • At the Mercy of Regulators

    June 1, 2007
    After a seven-year policy battle, Europe's new chemical law takes effect today. The law is known as REACH—the acronym for the bureaucratic name Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals. The Hayek Institute in Brussels and CEI warned that this law will not only be an expensive drain on Europe and the world economy, it means empowering bureaucrats to deprive consumers and businesses the right to engage in free commerce. Still, as European bureaucrats set up the REACH regulatory agency this week in Helsinki, they are assuring consumers not to panic because we won't feel the effects of this law in the near term. One told the EU observer: "It is a rough guess and it could happen sooner on...

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