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  • Scientists disprove Impressionism

    December 11, 2006 12:00 PM

    The term "impressionism" was originally meant as an insult, alleging that painters such as Claude Monet merely slapped a few strokes of paint onto a canvas until they had an "impression" of their subject. Many of the painters agreed, and adopted the soubriquet. How, for instance, did the impressionists tackle colors and sunlight?

    Instead of creating smoothly blended colors, the impressionists placed separate touches of vibrantly contrasting colors directly onto the canvas, sometimes without prior mixing on the palette, and allowed their brushstrokes to retain the liveliness and seeming spontaneity of a sketch. As a result their work appeared unfinished to many viewers, including the critic Leroy. Manet had encouraged this tendency in his paintings of the 1860s, in which he did away with the middle tones that would have eased the transition from lightest light to darkest dark. Instead, Manet set lights directly next to darks to create strikingly stark contrasts.

  • Black marketeers rejoice at UK government plan

    December 11, 2006 11:58 AM

    The UK government is seriously thinking of introducing individual carbon rationing:

    Every citizen would be issued with a carbon "credit card" - to be swiped every time they bought petrol, paid an energy utility bill or booked an airline ticket - under a nationwide carbon rationing scheme that could come into operation within five years, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the environment secretary, David Miliband, and published today. In an interview with the Guardian Mr Miliband said the idea of individual carbon allowances had "a simplicity and beauty that would reward carbon thrift".

    It's hard to think of a crazier plan. The UK has a very small black market in comparison to most countries, but this would almost certainly make it a major part of the economy ("Psst, luv, fancy a gallon of petrol? I've got a couple of under-the-table flights to Majorca as well.") If the rations are tradable, it will amount to a gigantic redistribution of wealth as students and others with no need or desire to use too much carbon sell their rights to families and others with needs to travel, light their homes and so on. Pensioners will surely switch off their heating to save carbon allowances and fall prey to hypothermia. Meanwhile, the authorities will have to police the rationing system, diverting scarce police resources from other crimes. Any politician who is attracted to such a scheme needs his head examined.

    Of all the politicians whose faces would appear on a Big Brother Is Watching You poster, I never suspected it would be the, erm, intellectual Mr Miliband.

  • Cows Are Destroying the Earth

    December 11, 2006 11:55 AM

    And I thought the IPCC Fourth Assessment (see below) was good news. Now I know that we humans really are off the hook when it comes to destroying the earth, the climate and everything. Turns out cows are to blame:

    Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane, or even George Bush: it is the cow.

    A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.

    I haven't taken the time to read through this report yet, so I'm not sure hows cows destroy coral reefs (high impact scuba holidays?), but I'm sure there's a very real connection somewhere. In addition to the litany of "environmental crimes" above, I suspect a few of the more radical cows have been guilty of tree spiking and monkeywrenching at construction sites.

    Vaca

    Now that we know what the real problem is, though, we can look for a solution. I nominate Argentina, legendary land of beef, to take the lead on this one. If they can manage to sacrifice their decadent, tasty, beef-fueled lifestyles in order to save the earth, certainly the rest of us will be inspired to follow.

  • Thanks, UN, for Shrinking My Carbon Footprint by 25%

    December 11, 2006 11:37 AM

    The latest iteration on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report on global warming it being eagerly awaited. While we bide our time, however, the leaks have begun. According to the Telegraph, it contains some bad news for the alarmist crowd:

    Mankind has had less effect on global warming than previously supposed, a United Nations report on climate change will claim next year.

    The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.

    So this means past predictions were flawed and overstated, right?

    Scientists insist that the lower estimates for sea levels and the human impact on global warming are simply a refinement due to better data on how climate works rather than a reduction in the risk posed by global warming.

    Well, technically, yes, but that's still significant. If the weather service predicts it's going to be 90 degrees tomorrow and then tomorrow says 'Oh wait, we were wrong, it's only going to be 70 degrees,' they were still wrong. Sure it was always only going to be 70 degrees - it's not like their corrected prediction changed anything in the atmosphere, but the fact that they got it wrong initially is still a relevant fact when evaluating future claims.

  • Radicals for Capitalism

    December 11, 2006 11:03 AM

    CEI and Fred Smith make appearances in Radicals for Capitalism, the upcoming history of the modern American libertarian movement by Reason Senior Editor and former CEI Warren Brookes Fellow Brian Doherty. The book's release date is February 12, 2007, but here's a taste, on CEI's efforts to break through the public's rational ignorance on public policy issues:

    "Big businessmen, in [Fred] Smith's estimation, are insecure about their position in society, and sucking up to the left offers them more in the way of security and emoluments and feelgoddism than libertarians can offer, even though it is libertarians who often stand up for their interests (though also, when fighting corporate welfare, giveaways, tariffs, and subsidies, often stand against corporate interests). Corporate leaders get no respect for being openly pro-market or pro-prosperity. The left can offer corporations accolades, Hollywood, and an aura of moral respectability beyond just making a good living and providing jobs and wealth.

    "Smith has thought a lot about the various roadblocks on the way to a wider libertarian understanding on the part of the general public. 'People aren't stupid because they are stupid' when it comes to public policy, he insists...Given hoe much any citizen can affect public policy -- very little -- it just doesn't pay for most people to expend their resources learning much about it. Thus 'people are stupid because they are smart.'"

    For more, pre-order the book.

  • Do global warming fears justify protectionism?

    December 10, 2006 7:34 PM

    Ever since the United States decided to push for "sustainable development" concepts to limiit free trade under the Shrimp-Turtle decision (for internal political reason - the traditional Baptist and Bootlegger phenomenon that Bruce Yandle long ago developed), thoughtful proponents of free trade have been aware that the WTO (World Trade Organization) rules were open to a form of pernicious green protectionism. The Shrimp-Turtle Case (see, for example, here ) was a dispute between the United States and several southeastern Asian nations regarding our desire to limit imports of shrimp from these nations. Our "case" was that their shrimp harvesting practices (their "failure" to use TEDs, turtle exclusion devices) were endangering "endangered" sea turtles (absent property rights, everything moves toward the tragedy of the commons) threatening "sustainability" (a factor mentioned in the prologue of the WTO treaty). We lost the case but appealed and the Appelate Board decided that, although the US was wrong on their specific approach, that had they been more creative, based their case more specifically on environmental grounds, they might well have prevailed. Thus, the US is on the record as favorably inclined toward protectionist arguments --when such protectionism can be justified on "sustainable development" or "precautionary principle" grounds.

  • Can Libertarians Become Liberaltarians?

    December 10, 2006 7:34 PM

    Cato's Brink Lindsey in a provocative essay in The New Republic argues that the recent election results argue for a realignment, Democrats, he suggests, should reach out to disaffected libertarians, to find ways of forming “a lasting relationship” with us. Lindsey then spends much of the remainder of the article outlining a fusionist strategy that he hopes might make the liberal/libertarian alliance viable. He calls for an expanded “safety-net” suggesting that a “reasonable” welfare state poses no major problems (in this, of course, he follows the lead of Hayek who also provided considerable scope for the state in the poverty area). He then turns to less contentious issues — alliances to eliminate business subsidies and shift toward consumption taxes. He endorses the “sin tax” approach — less on tobacco and alcohol but rather on energy, the most sinful consumption item to liberals today. Libertarians, he argues, should abandon any hope of shrinking federal spending. Entitlements can't be curbed but they might be curbed and diverted (in part, at least) into private provision avenues. Lindsey is not overly optimistic about the prospects for such a re-alignment, arguing only that pressures are mounting for some movement on some of these issues and that we should be prepared to take advantage of those.

  • Marlo responds to Al Gore

    December 8, 2006 2:39 PM
    CEI's Marlo Lewis' appearance on Oprah's show on Tuesday, Dec. 5, opposite Al Gore was via a taped two-minute segment juxtaposed against Gore's 30-minute plus live appearance.
    While Marlo's riposte was right-on, Gore -- in the studio with Oprah -- discounted Marlo's views with no opportunity for debate. Here's Marlo's response to Gore's statements -- posted on YouTube.
  • Amazingly efficient merger approvals, cont.

    December 8, 2006 12:13 PM

    Congress leaves town today, with just two appropriations bills completed (that can be a good thing!). Agencies aren't going anywhere, but there must be something in the water here preventing the tying up of loose ends. We've spilled lots of ink on the importance of liberalizing telecommunications; the latest iteration is the attempt to finalize the AT&T and BellSouth marriage so that procreation can begin, and there will be many more telecommuncations upheavals in the future communications landscape, and that's a good thing.

    But several times now, the FCC has postponed a vote on the AT&T/BellSouth merger, given disagreements over net neutrality (see one of our many cautions on this concept) and the recusal by Republican Robert McDowell. The remaining two Democrats and two Republicans leave the situation deadlocked, with the stringency of net neutrality provisions--to which AT&T has already (over) generously agreed, in the balance.

    There are two issues here; one problem, as we've often noted (in pubs like "Communications Without Commissions" ) is that FCC gets this bite at the apple in the first place; this merger has already been given the nod by The U.S. Department of Justice and 18 states. Three foreign governments have approved the deal in the name of competition as well; indeed, the real battleground over the telecom and Internet landscape is international--yet another reason why it's crucial that our domestic deals go through to create a competitive stance against our overseas rivals. Indeed, as we note in Forbes, starting from scratch today, we wouldn't create an FCC like the one we have, one with so much redundant veto power.

  • EIA: Fossil fuels will provide same 86% share in 2030

    December 7, 2006 5:14 PM

    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts continuing strong demand for fossil energy. EIA's just-released Annual Energy Outlook 2007 states: “Despite the projected rapid growth of biofuels and other non-hydroelectric renewable energies and the expectation of the first new orders for nuclear power plants in over 25 years, oil, coal, and natural gas are nonetheless projected to provide roughly the same 86 percent share of the total U.S. primary energy supply in 2030 as they did in 2005 absent changes in existing laws and regulations.”

    This is all the more surprising given that EIA also projects ethanol use to grow "from 4 billion gallons in 2005 to 11.2 billion gallons in 2012 and 14.6 billion gallons (about 8 percent of total gasoline consumption by volume) in 2030," and projects real world crude oil prices in 2030 "to reach over $59 per barrel in 2005 dollars, or about $95 per barrel in nominal dollars."
    To view EIA's press release: Click Here; To view the report: Click Here

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