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  • Butt Out!

    May 11, 2007
    The Washington Post reports that the The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will now give higher, more restrictive ratings to films that "that glamorize smoking or … feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context." I don't get it. On balance, it seems that rating standards get less and less tight each year. Films with lots of brutal violence can often get PG or PG-13 ratings. The standards for showing sex gets less and less restrictive all the time. Philip Kaufman's wonderfu 1990 "Henry and June", the first film rated "NC-17", would almost certainly slip by with an "R" today. There's significant academic evidence that exposure to violent media causes violence in real...
  • Hate Crimes Addendum

    May 10, 2007
    In an earlier blog post, I cited the ACLU's recent decision to support the federal hate-crimes bill which recently passed the House. The ACLU is supporting the bill despite the fact that the bill's enactment could lead to the federal government prosecuting someone for a “hate crime” even after they have been found innocent of a similar crime in state court. I noted that that aspect of the hate-crimes bill raises serious double jeopardy issues that ought to concern civil libertarians.
  • Colombia's president gets cold shoulder on the Hill

    May 10, 2007

    Bob Novak's column in the Washington Times (column not online) and elsewhere today tells of the cold shoulder Colombian President Alvaro Uribe received from Democratic leaders when he made the rounds yesterday on Capitol Hill to promote the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

    Novak reported that Uribe was in a state of shock at his reception, and on a television interview his Vice President Francisco Santos threatened to cut ties with the U.S. if his country was rebuffed. Santos said—

    . . . failure to ratify the free-trade agreement would "send a message to the external enemies of the United States" (meaning Venezuela's Chavez) that "this is how America treats its allies." He added that Colombia might "have to re-evaluate its relationship with the United States."...

  • Don't Count Your Cobs Before They're Grown

    May 10, 2007
    Corn growers are riding high these days, as ethanol moves into place as the default alternative fuel for automobiles. Lots of money is pouring into expanding both growing and refining capacity. But not all portents are positive:
    Lurking behind [Archer Daniels Midland]'s gloomy news are doubts about the future of corn ethanol. A growing number of analysts, once bullish on the product, are warning that an oversupply may be coming as soon as this year. On Apr. 27, a Lehman Brothers report projected that production will outstrip demand in the second half of 2007, measuring the domestic thirst for corn ethanol at 420,000 barrels per day but supply at 445,000 barrels a day, mainly because the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to move the product to market.
  • Typesetting and technology

    May 10, 2007

    Today the BBC's website has an article that caught my eye, “Helvetica at 50.” No, Helvetica's not a movie star or a rock band -- it's a type font and one of the most popular type faces currently used for logos and ad copy.

    The typeface, inspired by the 1896 font Akzidenz Grotesk, was designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 in conjunction with Eduard Hoffmann for the Haas Type Foundry, in Muenchenstein, Switzerland.

    The reason I was interested is part of the history of typesetting. When I started out in book publishing, hot metal type was used with Linotype machines, and a mixture of molten metals, including lead, was poured into forms with the type laid out. The typesetters were skilled and highly paid union...

  • Opposing Murder = Discrimination, Lawyer Says

    May 9, 2007
    Truth is stranger than fiction.  A restaurant owner told O.J. Simpson to get out of his restaurant, exercising his right not to associate with murderers on his own property.  Simpson's paid mouthpiece and lawyer, Yale Galanter, is now threatening to sue the restaurant and take away its liquor license.  He's claiming that the only reason Simpson could have been kicked out of the restaurant was his race.  After all, no one could possibly object to murder, right?   In Yale Galanter's world, you have to be a racist to dislike a murderer, if the murderer happens to be black.  People like Galanter give the legal profession its bad image. (A California jury found O.J. Simpson liable for murdering two people, including his ex-wife, in a civil case.  Citing clear and convincing evidence of malicious wrongdoing, it...
  • Eliot Spitzer Rebuffed

    May 9, 2007
    In a 3-to-2 decision, New York's intermediate appeals court dismissed most of former New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer's lawsuit against former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso for collecting an enormous $187 million pay package, finding that he did not have standing to raise a number of claims he made in his lawsuit. The majority concluded that New York State's law on nonprofits, by expressly providing certain specified remedies for excessive executive pay, impliedly excluded other sorts of remedies, such as lawsuits by the state attorney general. It rejected the dissent's position that the state attorney general has broad common-law powers to sue over any alleged violation of the law whenever he deems it to be in the public interest. It concluded that such a broad delegation of...
  • The Present State of America's Future

    May 9, 2007
    CEI gets a passing mention today in The Washington Times, but the story in question is really AFF's moment to shine: a profile of the organization and its fearless leader, David Kirby:
    The elegantly decorated room buzzes with young Washingtonians in business attire, chatting amiably beneath a glittering chandelier as they munch on tortilla chips and drink beer from bottles and wine from plastic cups. On New Hampshire Avenue, a short walk from Dupont Circle, a Wednesday evening in April finds an assortment of twenty- and thirtysomethings socializing on the second floor of the Fund for American Studies. It may look like a lot of other Washington parties, but this gathering of young political operatives, government employees, think-tank...
  • UN on biofuels -- implications and tradeoffs

    May 9, 2007
    The United Nations has just published a report that sets out some of the challenges and implications of the widespread production of biofuels. And it's a pretty good effort in asking the right questions and recognizing that there are tradeoffs involved in the push for biofuels. Titled “Sustainable Bioenergy: A Framework for Decision Makers,” the report focuses on the impact of bioenergy development on such issues as food security, the structure of agriculture, trade, foreign exchange balances, and energy security, as well as biodiversity and climate change.
    Yet, nothing human or ecological is straightforward. And so it is with biofuels, perhaps particulary liquid biofuels. Will biofuels push out food crops, raise food prices, and exacerbate food security? Will biofuels create unexpected negative rather...
  • Gas Prices a-Go-Go No More

    May 9, 2007
    Speaking of gas prices, from Wisconsin comes a story that illustrates just how stupid government can be in trying to meddle with prices (or most things for that matter). The state Department of Agriculture has ordered a gas station owner to raise his prices, after he offered discounts to senior citizens and to people supporting youth sports. The department's Trade and Consumer Protection division told BP gas station owner Raj Bhandari that the discounts he offered violated Wisconsin's Unfair Sales Act, which requires stations to sell gas for about 9.2 percent above the wholesale price.


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