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  • Government Has No First Amendment Right to Discriminate

    December 22, 2006
    In November, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 2, a state constitutional amendment that bans racial preferences in state university admissions and in government contracts and employment. State universities like the University of Michigan are now flouting the will of the voters by claiming that they have a First Amendment right to discriminate based on race, no matter what the Michigan Constitution says. They have now challenged Proposal 2 in court, making the audacious claim they have a First Amendment “right” to use race in admissions. They cite Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), a Supreme Court decision which found a compelling interest in using race in college admissions to promote "diversity," for that claim. The Grutter decision was based partly on concepts of academic freedom that are, in turn, rooted partly in the First Amendment. But the Grutter decision...
  • Scenario planning writ large in the UK

    December 22, 2006
    I came across a UK government site that looks into the future across a range of issues. It's part of the UK's Foresight Program. Herewith a description:
    Foresight, and its associated horizon scanning centre aims to provide challenging visions of the future, to ensure effective strategies now. It does this by providing a core of skills in science-based futures projects and unequalled access to leaders in government, business and science.
    Now, it appears that Foresight's Horizon Scanning Centre has two current scans: The Sigma Scan and the Delta Scan. The Sigma Scan is herewith described on its site:
    The Sigma Scan is a quality assured synthesis of some of the world's best Horizon Scanning sources. It...
  • Subsidies don't work

    December 22, 2006
    A good story in the New York Times about how subsidies to domestic oil and gas producers are a waste of taxpayer dollars:
    Analysts said the meager impact of royalty incentives was not surprising: for oil and gas companies deciding whether to drill in deep water, the potential money involved in royalty incentives is small compared with the money at stake in changes of market prices. Eliminating royalties on oil or gas will save a company 12 to 16 percent on some of its production. But those savings are minuscule compared with the nearly fourfold increase in oil prices from $15 a barrel in 1999 to more than $70 this summer.
    CEI has long opposed federal subsidies to oil and gas companies. As it's Christmas...
  • Farming is big business – with big government handouts

    December 22, 2006
    The Washington Post continued its hard-hitting series attacking farm subsidies today. The article notes that some important counter-forces to the big-bucks farm lobbies are emerging to offer the moral high ground arguments. Yesterday's article pointed out how the biggest share of farm support goes to large-scale farmers, not the small family farm:
    Large family farms, defined as those with revenue of more than $250,000, account for nearly 60 percent of all agricultural production but just 7 percent of all farms. They receive more than 54 percent of government subsidies. And their share of federal payments is growing -- more than doubling over the past decade for the biggest...
  • Farewell to Frank

    December 22, 2006
    Frank Johnson, the Thatcherite journalist and wit, died recently at the tragically early age of 63. It has been a bad year for Thatcherites - we lost Ralph Harris and Milton Friedman as well this year - but John O'Sullivan reminds us of the zeal with which Thatcherites opposed the nanny state in the 1970s in his excellent obituary for Frank in ConservativeHome. A sample:
    No one present when the TUC's Len Murray attended one of Bill Deedes's Telegraph drink parties could have doubted that Frank had digested the full Thatcherite creed. Murray was arguing that the workers in a failing company deserved financial compensation because they had “invested their lives” in it.“I would be a little wary of that argument, Lord Murray,” I said politely, “because if that were so..." ”When the company...
  • TSA -- Unsafe at Any Altitude

    December 21, 2006
    If you're flying this holiday season, once you're on board the plane — after getting through with the stripping of belt and shoes, the unfolding of laptops, the confiscation of liquids, and possible patdowns — you may want to whip out a book the Transportation Security Administration doesn't want you to read. The new book that lays bare the TSA's sorry record at flight security is called Unsafe at Any Altitude. Don't let the sensational title fool you. Being the author of Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health...
  • Making Job Losses Bad Politics

    December 21, 2006
    Yesterday, President Bush announced that he may go along with Congressional Democrats' proposal for an increase in the federal minimum wage, in exchange for some tax and regulatory. Today, I note in The American Spectator that this may not be a politically wise move.
  • Lost in translation? Mais non!

    December 21, 2006
    Today the French newspaper L'Express attacked CEI and other skeptics of catastrophic global warming as “les négationnistes” or “deniers” -- following the low ground captured by Senators Snowe and Rockefeller (see earlier posts on this). It's interesting too that the article needed some serious fact-checking — not only about the science of global warming, but about CEI. L'Express said that CEI is “une organisation de lobbying créée par ExxonMobil.” (Translation: “a lobbying organization created by ExxonMobil”) Mais non! CEI was créée, founded, established -- whatever he did -- by Fred L. Smith, Jr. in 1984 — with no money or involvement by ExxonMobil (having a working spouse was helpful). For its first year, CEI operated from our apartment, with one underpaid...
  • Carbon Trading Enriches the Few (for no global benefit)

    December 21, 2006
    Wonder where all the money the developed world is investing in the developing world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going? To the privileged few, of course:
    Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles. Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan. Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a...
  • Yet more Stern criticism

    December 21, 2006
    David Maddison of the University of Birmingham in the UK adds his voice (PDF link) to the criticisms of the Stern Review, concluding:
    There is much in the Stern report with which one can wholeheartedly agree. Climate change is a problem. Climate policy can be informed by cost benefit analysis. The treatment of uncertainty is of paramount importance and economic instruments have a role to play in cutting carbon emissions. Permitting tropical deforestation is madness. Some of the background material commissioned by Stern is top quality.
    But the review also contains errors, questionable judgement and inconsistencies. Stern moreover misses the opportunity to say some things which needed to be said. There is often insufficient information to discover what Stern and his team have...

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