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  • Bastiat Lives!

    November 2, 2006
    It's not every day that an award competition ends in a tie, but that's what happened last night at this year's International Policy Network's Bastiat Dinner in New York, where IPN announces the winner of its Frederic Bastiat journalism prize, "to encourage, recognise and reward writers around the world whose published works elucidate the institutions of a free society." This year two writers shared first prize, Tim Harford of the Financial Times, and Jamie Whyte, a freelance writer for his contributions to The Times. Third place went to Rakesh Wadhwa of Nepal's Himalayan Times. Following are some samples of the articles for which they won. In “Trade deficit with a babysitter,” Tim Harford points out the silliness of the very concept of trade deficits. He tells of “Sally” a babysitter he and his wife...
  • New Scientist: Skeptics are Meanies

    November 2, 2006
    The current issue of New Scientist magazine has a truly strange article on the impending release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report (or "assessment"). The logic, such as it is, seems to go like this: scientists and organizations who disagreed with some of the conclusions in the last assessment are preparing to critique this upcoming one in the same way. These criticisms are somehow so threatening that (the author fears) U.S. climate scientists will stop participating in the IPCC review process altogether, leaving the scientific world poorer as a result. Well, you know what they say about global warming policy: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the debate." Except that in this case, the "heat" being generated is so mild, one...
  • Lomborg on the Stern Review: "...selective...flawed...sloppy...one-sided..."

    November 2, 2006
    Our friend Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has an excellent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (subscription only) today taking on the Stern review of the economics of global warming:
    Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of GDP or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure -- $75 billion -- the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world's major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better? We know from economic models that dealing just with malaria could...
  • Trans-Fatty Criminals

    November 2, 2006
    Elizabeth Whelan of ACSH has a great article on National Review Online today about the stupidity of banning trans-fats, as New York City and Chicago have done:
    …the food industry has turned the fear of [trans-fatty acids] into a brilliant marketing strategy — trumpeting the “No Trans-Fats” claim on labels. Unsuspecting customers will conclude from the absence of TFAs that products are healthier — and maybe even think they are reduced in calories — when in fact there are no health benefits. All fats, saturated or not, contain nine calories per gram. There are no caloric savings from replacing TFAs with other fats. On October 30, Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to cash in on the trans-fat mania, announcing — while the hearings were in process — that it was phasing out all use of...
  • So the Government Dictating Broadcast Content is 'Fair'?

    November 2, 2006
    Fans of free expression should hit up a piece in Human Events, by our very own John Berlau, on those misguided souls who are intent on bringing back the “Fairness Doctrine” to broadcast TV and radio. For anyone who wasn't following FCC regulations before 1987 (when it was eliminated), here are the basics:
    The Fairness Doctrine, initiated by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, mandated that radio and television stations “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints” on “vitally important controversial issues.” But since there are contrasting views as to what's “fair,” broadcast stations were left with a few unpleasant options. They could a) provide equal time to overtly liberal and overtly conservative...
  • The Future: Filthy Rich or Stinking Rich?

    November 1, 2006
    The New York Sun has an editorial on the Stern review on the economics of global warming which includes a mention of our very own Iain Murray:
    Given Britons's clime it's easy to see why they would take a dour view of the weather, but even by that standard the Stern Report on global warming is something else. The book-length analysis of the economic ramifications of climate change, prepared by a panel led by a former World Bank economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, is as bleak as any overcast winter day in London. It's only a matter of time before some start trying to use the report as another excuse to criticize the Bush administration for its supposedly insufficient zeal for changing the weather. The marquee conclusion reckons we can devote a total of about 1% of the global economy to cutting greenhouse gas emissions now...
  • The ADA Meets Cyberspace

    November 1, 2006
    BNA is covering the recent district court ruling that Target can be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind:
    In this class action suit—brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—the Court rejected Target's argument that only physical stores were covered by anti-discrimination laws, ruling instead that certain aspects of Target's virtual space—target.com— are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California state law. NFB and University of California Berkeley blind student Bruce Sexton brought the lawsuit, contending that Target's website violates the ADA as well as California anti-discrimination laws by failing to include, among other things, “alt-text”—which screen readers use to vocalize a description of an image to a blind computer user. The plaintiffs allege that...
  • Taking Tobacco to Court

    November 1, 2006
    In case you missed it, the Supremes are tackling a major tobacco/tort reform liability case this week. AP's Mark Sherman has the story:
    The Supreme Court grappled Tuesday with whether to allow a $79.5 million verdict against a cigarette company, a case that business groups are pointing to in asking the justices to clamp down on large damage awards. Mayola Williams was in the crowded courtroom to hear the justices discuss the judgment that an Oregon jury imposed against Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA in connection with the death of her husband, Jesse. A two-pack-a-day smoker of Marlboros for 45 years, Jesse Williams died of lung cancer nine years ago. Mayola Williams followed through on a promise she said she made to her husband and sued Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros,...
  • Turning Free Speech Upside Down

    October 31, 2006
    Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” A similar principle is rooted in the First Amendment, which generally prohibits the government from forcing people to pay for speech with which they disagree. Federal law nevertheless permits states to impose “agency shop” arrangements under which every employee in a unionized workplace, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a compulsory service charge equal in amount to union dues. The Supreme Court rejected non-union employees' challenges to such coerced charges on freedom of association grounds in Railway Employees v. Hanson (1956). But it softened that harsh result by ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), that such compelled charges cannot be used over an...
  • The Sweetest Urban Legend of All

    October 31, 2006
    Keeping the holiday theme going, we now turn to the perennial Halloween boogieman, the anonymous candy poisoner. For decades, parents have been warned to check their kids' candy carefully, lest a cyanide-laced Sugar Daddy make in into junior's mouth. As Iain has taught us, however, the record books are mighty slim when it comes to any children actually being harmed by psychos intent on taking advantage of the candy-giving season:
    Every year, newspapers and television programs warn parents about the "threat' [from poisoning trick-or-treat candy, along] with grave reminders to check apples for razor blades and needles. This year [2003], the Food and Drug Administration has joined in the tale-telling, warning parents to...

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