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  • YouTube on fire with "Cigarette" song

    April 6, 2007
    These days even expressing ambiguity about cigarettes can put you in danger of the anti-smoking thought police. Conversing about the pleasure of smoking or the difficulties of quitting can get you called a shill for tobacco companies. So Canadian singer Jeremy Fisher is at the center of a storm with the video for his song "Cigarette." The song compares relationships and breakups with the pains and pleasure of smoking and trying to quit. It features lines like, "I'll be your cigarette ... Good or bad, I'm just your habit." Fisher, who sings in the lite alternative rock style of Ben Folds, makes the tune infectious. You can't help but tap your foot and sing along. But it's the video itself that's really making YouTube go aflame. It features a dancing cigarette, like those in commercials of old. Needless to say, it's attracting...
  • Is Bad Regulatory Competition Better than No Regulatory Competition?

    April 6, 2007
    I had an interesting conversation about regulatory competition in the context of insurance. A lawyer I was speaking with argued that any regulatory competition structure—even a deeply flawed one—would help move towards a more liberal, less regulated insurance market. He told me that even a “bad” Optional Federal Charter for insurance companies would get things going in the right direction. (OFC would let insurance companies subject under federal regulation and sell the same product throughout the country without worrying about complying with every state regulatory regime.) Although I'm not altogether sold on this position, it does have some solid academic support. The literature on regulatory competition—in particular Dale Murphy's...
  • "Vanity, vanity . . ." Myron Ebell featured in Vanity Fair's "Green Issue"

    April 5, 2007
    It's now at the newstand nearest you — the May 2007 “Green Issue” of Vanity Fair — featuring CEI's own Myron Ebell in an interview and several photos. Check out p. 142 in the print edition (the article about Myron is subscription only on the website) for the column titled “A Convenient Untruth.” (Nudge, nudge — reference to Al Gore's PowerPoint Oscar winner.) Here's what the contents entry says:
    When scientists are united, and even corporate sponsors like ExxonMobil are backing off, how does a global-warming skeptic stay busy? As long as the media calls, Myron Ebell is happy to explain why CO2 is good. Michael Shnayerson catches him in full denial. Photographs by Jonathan Becker.
    Yesterday's heart-throb of the teenyboppers and now assistant Gore Guru, Leo DiCaprio, is the...
  • "Give me land, lots of land . . . "

    April 5, 2007

    An editorial today in the New York Times focused on one of the negative consequences of the corn ethanol boom — a boom fueled by federal government subsidies and tax breaks. The NYT deplores the corn farmers' demand for more cropland to be plowed under from Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program.

    But that's not the only problem with the government's distortion of the market through taxpayer-funded ethanol support. Dennis Avery's monograph for CEI last fall points out some far-reaching consequences of government mandating fuel for food.

  • Foreign Courts Target U.S. Business for Plunder

    April 5, 2007
    The Supreme Court of Canada has just given the green light for British Columbia to force American tobacco companies to pay for smokers' past health care costs, even if the companies didn't themselves sell cigarettes in British Columbia. The companies can now be held retroactively liable in a foreign court for sales of cigarettes by third parties that were lawful at the time they were made. British Columbia is seeking to force the tobacco companies to pay it billions of dollars. The Supreme Court of Canada earlier approved British Columbia's suit against Canadian cigarette companies in a decision that I criticized in the National Post. That decision declared that there is no right to a fair civil trial under Canadian law, despite...
  • Baptists and Bootleggers in the Tropics

    April 5, 2007
    Authoritarian thugs are often puritanical and self-righteous, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is earning his place in the pantheon of dictatorial killjoys, by limiting alcohol sales during Holy Week, a time when people in many Latin American countries take vacation and enjoy having some drinks with family and friends. Naturally, it's created opportunities for bootleggers. As The New York Times reports:
    [W]ith a wink and a nod, some restaurateurs were circumventing the ban by pouring wine into coffee cups. Beer, too, could be consumed in some establishments, albeit discreetly in plastic mugs. Some Caraqueños also told of a vibrant trade in illicit liquor sales in the city's slums after 5 p.m.
    Chavez may have been called many things, but never a Baptist -- though...
  • "Take me out to the partido de beisbol"

    April 4, 2007
    I've posted before on interesting snippets of trade data the Progressive Policy Institute publishes. This week's PPI topic heralds the Opening Day of the baseball season and celebrates the huge number of foreign-born baseball players on major league teams. According to PPI, 192 of the 750 players on this year's Opening Day rosters, or 25.6 percent, were born in other countries. Not surprisingly to baseball fans, the Dominican Republic leads in the number of foreign-born Major League players. Seventy-nine players — or almost one in nine — are from the DR. Baseball is a passion in the DR — nearly 800,000 children take part in organized baseball there — almost 10 percent of its total population of 9.2 million. Take a look at...
  • Apple, EMI Test DRM-Free

    April 4, 2007
    In the wake of the announcement by EMI (along with Apple) that its catalog will now be available on iTunes DRM-free and at twice the bit-rate, many techies and tech market watchers are predicting the end is near from DRM. It's probably true that EMI will reap the benefits of being the only company to drop DRM, for a while. Others will likely follow suit and drop DRM as well. I doubt this will hurt bottom lines as the majority of songs are still distributed via physical media, which has always been DRM-free, with rare root-kit powered exceptions (thanks, Sony)....
  • Koch on Management

    April 4, 2007
    I've been reading Charles Koch's The Science of Success recently. Koch himself, of course, is likely one of the greatest benefactors of the libertarian movement around the country. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I've done work for at least two organizations he has helped to fund.) Anyway, back to the book. A fair amount of it is an interesting, well-written personal account of how Koch Industries applies management principles that a lot of other good management books talk about: clear sense of mission, high ethical standards, and the like. At Koch, these are codified as "Market-Based Management." The book really shines, I think, in its discussion of Human Resources. Koch industries does three things that I think are interesting: 1) When a...
  • The Kelo Five Go Green

    April 4, 2007
    Our very own Chris Horner is in Human Events today on this week's Massachusetts v. EPA SCOTUS decision on the regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act:
    The plaintiffs argued not just unique and demonstrable harm from climate change, but from sea level rise directly attributable to EPA declining to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from new automobiles under the Clean Air Act. The EPA accurately claimed that no such authority is found in a plain reading of the act and -- citing the National Academies of Science -- that the science is quite uncertain. A 5-4 majority -- the “Kelo Five” -- concluded, however, that many factors other than statutory language and admissions of uncertainty are at play in such momentous times as these. They concluded -- without an...

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