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  • Criminals: The New Protected Class

    December 19, 2006
    Employers in Washington, D.C. may soon be banned from considering criminal convictions in hiring, if the criminal's probation or parole officer thinks he has "achieved a degree of rehabilitation," under a bill sponsored by ex-con Marion Barry. Criminals will become a new protected class. The D.C. Council apparently voted unanimously to ban such discrimination against ex-convicts on December 11. If it repeats the vote on December 19, the approval of the ban will be final, according to the December 11 issue of the Legal Times. Civil-rights legislation started out as a way to require that people be judged based on the content of their character, not irrelevant characteristics like race. But now, employers will be prevented from looking at the content of the character of certain criminals. Amazingly, leftist groups like the D.C. Employment Justice Project and the Washington...
  • DDT and Malaria: The Misanthropes Strike Back!

    December 19, 2006
    The recent decision by the World Health Organization to recommend selective indoor spraying to control malaria seemed to signal a recognition on the part of environmentalists that “small” environmental risks could be accepted when the human gains were great. Sigh — it appears that this is not to be. The internet is abuzz with attacks on the WHO reforms, arguing that bed nets are a superior solution, a solution not requiring rethinking the relative risks of DDT. They raise the issue of mosquitoes becoming resistant to DDT — less of a problem than they think since the major impact of DDT is to deter mosquitoes from residing in the sprayed room, not killing them. Not sure how resistant builds up in these cases. Also, bed nets require significant behavioral changes. People must arrange their lives to sleep enclosed, the nets must be cared for (torn nets don't protest), and...
  • But At Least the Egyptians Kept the Operating Costs Down!

    December 19, 2006
    And, yet, another story about the virtues of mass transit, the horrors of the automobile. John Pomfret, a Washington Post journalist, wrote an article this weekend (“L.A. Long Ruled by Cars, Becoming a Transit Leader”). After the dismissive initial comment (less than 7 percent of all trips in L.A. are via transit), he finds wonderful things to say about the L.A. subway. That numerous studies have found that transit ridership in absolute and relative terms is declining, that subways are the least cost-effective means of providing mass transit, and that the impact is very swiftly to provide wealthy people a highly subsidized alternative to driving — no coverage on these points. Subways are cool and economists are just a gloomy lot. Every society seems to experience periods of collective insanity where funds are poured into whatever mega project is currently...
  • Can the Greens Take a Joke?

    December 19, 2006
    Is it my imagination or is there an increasing trend to view the greenies and their fears as chicken littles, whiners, and basically nuts? It has become a standard bit of pop culture dialog to refer to some over-the-top alarmist statement as an “Al Gore moment,” and jokes about global warming are common. But now that trend has penetrated even the comic strips. The Sunday Tank McNamara strip (December 17, 2006) has the basketball commissioner brushing off criticisms of the switch to “synthetic” from “leather” balls. The Commissioner says that switch has “got the animal rights loonies off my back.” But, then, the last panel shows a group of protesters holding up a banner protesting the use of synthetics too. The banner reads: “People for the Ethical Treatment of Hydrocarbons” with the subtitle — “Drilling Desecrates the Sacred Resting Places of our Ancestral...
  • EU trade chief nixes carbon taxes; hails zero tariffs for “green” goods

    December 18, 2006
    Today the European Union's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, rejected carbon border taxes as an approach to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by imposing tariffs on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are not a party the Kyoto Protocol. Mandelson was responding to attempts in the European Commission and by France's prime minister Dominique de Villepin to penalize through trade sanctions countries such as the U.S. that have not signed on to drastically reduce their CO2 emissions. In the EU, de Villepin has said, emission-reduction schemes mean that EU businesses are operating at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis developed countries like the U.S. and rapidly developing countries like China. In his ...
  • Do as I say, not as I do

    December 18, 2006
    Interesting survey of the attitudes of British people towards the environment and their actions on the subject. As seasoned observers will know, the most alarmist news articles on global warming come from the two newspapers The Guardian and The Independent. So what do their readers think and do?
    While climate change concerns are voiced most strongly among the young, Liberal Democrat voters and Guardian/Independent readers, these attitudes are not translated into personal action. The poll showed, for example, that Guardian/Independent readers are no more likely to have taken any specific energy saving actions than tabloid readers, and are actually less likely to have insulated their homes.
    CEI President Fred Smith often talks about the need for...
  • Perhaps if the snowmobiles had been carved from walrus tusks?

    December 18, 2006
    Those with longer memories may remember some hue and cry just over a year ago when various Inuit communities joined with environmental groups to claim that their rights were being violated by global warming. Those with a good sense of the absurd may remember that one of the pieces of evidence advanced for the claim that their ancient way of life was in danger was that, erm, their snowmobiles were dropping through the ice. Now the Organization of American States has dismissed the claim:
    The agency told the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which represents 150,000 people in northern Alaska, Canada, Russia and Greenland, that there was insufficient evidence of harm.
    Another Inconvenient Truth for climate alarmism… [Cross-posted from...
  • Another Stern Rebuke

    December 18, 2006
    Hal Varian of the University of California, Berkeley, joins the ranks of distinguished critics of the Stern Report:
    As these examples illustrate, the choice of an appropriate policy toward global warming depends heavily on how one weighs the costs and benefits it imposes on different generations. The Stern Review chose a particular way to do this, but many other choices could have been examined. Exploring the implications of alternative assumptions is likely to lead to better policy than making a single blanket recommendation. At least at this stage of our understanding, exploration beats exhortation.
    In other words, the Stern Report was deeply unprofessional, as I have been saying...
  • Did he really just say that?

    December 18, 2006
    Daniel Schrag, a Harvard climatologist, is disgusted at the way the democratic process handles his issue. So disgusted, in fact, he issues a veiled threat:
    I am not counting on government, or at least this government, to lead us toward a solution. As our leaders accept the outrageous spectacle I saw the other day as just a normal day in Congress, we will have to take the first step without them.
    Did he really just say that? Because the political process is not going the direction he would like fast enough, has Schrag decided that justifies extra-political, perhaps extra-legal, action? If global warming alarmists decide that the U.S. Constitution does not constrain them, then that really is a catastrophe.
  • They Call It Conservation

    December 18, 2006
    You know all of those enviro activists who are constantly hectoring us about the amount of energy we use (and allegedly waste) here in the profligate United States of America? Well their dreams seem to have come true in western Washington state recently, where hundreds of thousands of residents have been conserving 100% of their usual electricity usage, as their power has been out due to storm damage. This outage, in turn, has caused many residents to turn to unreliable, unsafe alternatives to keep themselves and their families from freezing at night. Those emergency alternatives, including indoor generators and charcoal grills, have been responsible for up to 100 deaths due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. There...

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