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  • The New York Times Gets Chemical Plant Security Wrong

    September 25, 2006
    Why do liberals always assume that the solution to every problem is regulation and yet more regulation? That's the thrust of an editorial in today's New York Times that whines: “Congress still has done nothing to protect Americans from a terrorist attack on chemical plants.” It assumes that Congress has some magical answer to the issue members refuse to employ because of chemical industry lobbying. It also wrongly claims that nothing has been done to protect these plants. Consider the evidence first. All the answers that Congress has considered largely involve growing the federal bureaucracy with needless paperwork and meddling in production processes of which they have no knowledge. Indeed, the chemical plant security issue has mostly been used as an excuse for environmental activists and their allies in Congress to push an environmental agenda to reduce or eliminate the use...
  • Perverse Incentives

    September 25, 2006
    Government is often said to be bedeviled by “unintended consequences.” That doesn't mean that the consequences cannot be foreseen. Two great examples present themselves this week. First, in Boiling Springs Lake, North Carolina, the endangered red cockaded woodpecker has been spotted. As a result, local land-owners have been rushing for the chainsaws to protect their property investments:
    The [Federal Fish and Wildlife Service] issued a map marking 15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building restrictions. Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall to apply for lot-...
  • 'Net Neutrality’ for Credit Cards?

    September 25, 2006

    An op-ed I wrote for last Sunday's Washington Times talked about the battle over the interchange fees that banks and credit card companies charge to retailers. The retailers, including some big chains, are whining about the fees they have to pay and want the government to step in to control how much the card companies charge them. This is another example of the phenomenon described in CEI Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow Tim Carney's book The Big Ripoff, in which businesses lobby for big government when it favors their bottom line. And given the experience in Australia when the government imposed price controls on retailer...

  • Rachel Carson Lied, Millions Died

    September 22, 2006
    We were all happy to see the World Health Organization finally take steps to embrace wider anti-malarial deployment of DDT, but our friend Steve Milloy reminds us it's hardly a moment to break out the champagne: Overlooked in all the hoopla over the announcement, however, is the terrible toll in human lives (tens of millions dead — mostly pregnant women and children under the age of 5), illness (billions sickened) and poverty (more than $1 trillion dollars in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone) caused by the tragic, decades-long ban. Much of this human catastrophe was preventable, so why did it happen? Who is responsible? Should the individuals and activist groups who caused the DDT ban be held accountable in some way? Yes, Steve,...
  • The Bureau is Exactly 37.1973% Incompetent

    September 22, 2006
    You really have to give it to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even when they prove they're pathologically unable to keep track of important computer equipment containing potentially sensitive data on millions of Americans, they're still able to produce exact data on how many they've lost: 672.
  • Lockyer: SUVs Don't Kill People, Car Companies Kill People

    September 21, 2006
    California's attorney general has sued carmakers DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Ford and subsidiaries of Honda, Nissan and Toyota for global warming impacts on the state. Interesting that the state isn't trying to hold individual car owners — the ones who actually drive and produce the emissions at issue — liable for the alleged damage. This suit seems rather reminiscent of the lawsuits first filed by U.S. cities against gun manufacturers in the late 1990s. Critics at the time pointed out, of course, that it's the people who actually shoot the guns who should be held liable for any damage caused by them. Congress was sufficiently alarmed by the prospects, however, to pass the...
  • Sound Suggestion on Social Security Security

    September 20, 2006

    In what, for now at least, seems like good news, the
    president's Identity
    Theft Task Force
    has recommended that the federal government stop forcing
    citizens to reveal their Social Security numbers to officials and for reasons
    that have nothing to do with their Social Security benefits:

    Under the plan, the task force urges the government to
    review the uses of Social Security numbers as employee identification and
    determine ways in which it can conceal or eliminate their use in agency systems
    and paper and electronic forms.

    […]

    The initial recommendations come as the government has
    struggled with high-profile data breaches. At least 10 agencies in recent
    months have reported incidents, which included the loss of a...

  • There Was a Farmer Who Played a Game...

    September 19, 2006
    The National Indian Gaming Commission has recently been getting hot under the collar over a vital matter of native gambling policy - the display elements and parameters of video bingo consoles. Apparently they want (among other things) for the video screen to look more like traditional bingo cards and for the games to be played more slowly. They're just old fashioned like that. Lest you think, however, that these proposed changes are of little importance, listen to this voice of the Casino-American community, Marjorie Mejia, of California's Pomo Indians: “This is serious. This is people's lives at stake here. … It's really termination for my people.” Vulnerable people threatened with termination? In California? Clearly, the Golden State already has...
  • Best Headline of the Day

    September 19, 2006
    Following up on Fred's post, here's an even better headline: “Thai PM cancels U.N. speech after coup” ran the headline in Reuters. It seems that the prime minister of Thailand was in New York at the United Nations, when word came about a coup by the military who took over the government in Bangkok. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra canceled his speech scheduled for 7 p.m. before the General Assembly.
  • Oman Trade Agreement and Protectionism

    September 19, 2006
    Today the Senate approved for the second time the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, another in the now lengthy list of bilaterals. The Oman treaty also marks further outreach through trade with Arabic countries that are considered friendly to the U.S. Earlier FTAs were completed with Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan. Increased trade and investment between the countries could result — and that would be good. But already the protectionist veil of “national security” interests was being spread by Sen. Byron Dorgan, who said in the floor debate that the agreement with...

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