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  • A funny picture is worth a thousand Chinese proverbs

    October 24, 2006
    Clods' Letters to Mad, a compendium of the most unintentionally funny letters received by Mad magazine during the 1970s, gives a great—albeit fictional—example of the power of political ridicule, the topic of my new article in The American Spectator online. Clods' Letters' introduction tells the story of a Chinese man whose name was lost to posterity after he paraphrased the Chinese proverb, “A picture is worth a thousand words” into “A funny picture is worth a thousand Chinese proverbs.” The subject of the funny picture? The emperor.
  • The Newest Cell Phone Accessory: Lead Underpants

    October 24, 2006
    A new study out of the UK suggests that mobile phone radiation may be responsible for increased infertility in men. This observed decline in sperm count and motility, of course, has also been linked to obesity, smoking, stress, pollution and endocrine disrupting chemicals, but that needn't stand in the way of roping in yet another culprit. This latest round of worry over the health effects of mobile devices reminds one of Steve Milloy's recent round-up of the top ten junk science stories from the past ten years, including #2, the terrifying phantom risk of cell phone brain cancer.
  • “Socialism or Death”â€â€Is There a Difference?

    October 23, 2006
    “Socialismo o muerte” (“socialism or death”) may be the choice that Fidel Castro has imposed upon Cuba's population for decades, but many Cubans are responding, “Neither.” As The Washington Post reports, Cubans all over the island are resorting to thriving “black market” enterprise—a lot of which would be legal just about anywhere else, with the exception of, say, North Korea. Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia notes:
    The thriving underground economy functions as a pocket of capitalism, prescribed by supply and demand, within the Western Hemisphere's only communist state. Observers say it may be the precursor of a push for a market economy, one that could accelerate after President Fidel Castro dies; on the other hand, they say, the black market may simply be...
  • Ted Kennedy, Hero of Socialist Labor

    October 23, 2006
    More fun news from CNS today: the history of Ted Kennedy's secret plan to conspire with the Soviets to derail Reagan's reelection in 1984! The amusing tale unfolds thusly: Specifically, Kennedy proposed that [Communist Party General Secretary Yuri] Andropov make a direct appeal to the American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized in August and September of 1983, according to the letter. “[Former U.S. Sen. John ] Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan,” [Prof. Paul] Kengor said. “But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders.” In Kennedy's...
  • Going Wobbly at Starbucks

    October 23, 2006
    Ever feel like you're aiding the oppression of workers every time you order a mocha latte at Starbucks? According to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), you should, because the coffee chain is guilty of such brutal offenses against workers as hiring them part-time and paying less-than-premium wages for what is essentially low-skill work. Remember the IWW? Don't feel bad if you don't; it's the ultra-radical union group, also known as Wobblies, that saw its heyday during the 1910s and 1920s. While I was aware of the Wobblies' campaign, I was surprised to see them in D.C., since it's…not Berkeley, from where Shawn Macomber reported on this campaign for Reason Online. He spoke with a concession stand worker at a movie theater the Wobblies were...
  • Politics Nerds Rejoice

    October 23, 2006
    Students at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, have created a very wonky alternative to the season's popular fantasy football leagues: fantasy Congress. As The New York Times reports today, hundreds of people have already joined the fun: Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end. On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www....
  • Big government tattoo artists

    October 23, 2006
    CEI has nothing against tattoos. Some of our staffers proudly sport them. And we generally have a live-and-let-live, libertarian philosophy. But now, in a twist, it seems the tattooed are the ones displaying intolerance. Over at, editor Joseph Farah reports that firms that don't allow employees to sport tattoos or body piercings may now face discrimination “lawsuits from members of a new activist lobby representing the ever-growing population of those into ‘body modification.'” CEI recommends this article even though we don't necessarily agree with all of Mr. Farah's opinions against tattoos. The article reports that some cities in California have vaguely-worded laws prohibiting discrimination “based on appearance and behavior.” A wholesale club was sued was recently sued by a member of...
  • Maybe That's Why the Lacrosse Scandal Disappeared from the News

    October 20, 2006
    Scientists at Duke University and Imperial College London have reportedly developed a cloaking device for solid objects. All of the relevant Romulan and Harry Potter jokes have, naturally, already been made. The military applications are obvious, but I'd like to hear anyone's ideas for civilian, consumer applications. Making your car invisible to vandals? Hiding that pile of unwashed dishes in your sink from party guests? Personally disappearing when activist canvassers come to the door?
  • "The politics of relative position is the egalitarian welfare statist’s new favorite game"

    October 20, 2006
    Cato's Will Wilkinson has an interesting, if slightly econ-jargon filled, article in Policy magazine on egalitarianism, class resentment and "zero-sum positional conflicts." Published by Australia's Centre for Independent Studies, link from Arts & Letters Daily.
  • The Latest Wal-Mart Scandal

    October 20, 2006
    Well, they've gone and done it again. Wal-Mart, that is. Even with all kinds of labor and activist pressure on them to change their ways, they go right on and charge ahead with business as usual. That's right, that shameless corporation created another 8,600 new jobs in October. Will they never learn? Also, for a great, wide-ranging discussion on the economics of Wal-Mart, check out the Econ Talk podcast "Legislators vs. Wal-Mart," with Russ Roberts and his guest, the brilliant Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago.


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