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  • Carney on Education Pork

    August 24, 2007 9:33 AM

    Today in his Washington Examiner column, our friend and former Brookes Fellow Tim Carney highlights yet another way in which rent-seeking businesses are lining up at the government's (appropriately named) trough: educational pork. As Tim notes, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, "which increases federal influence over local schools, is beginning to look like another slush fund for well-connected industries to tap into rich veins of taxpayer dollars."

    In this case, the software industry, already benefiting from the mandates and federal grants in NCLB, has a bill in both chambers of Congress that would earmark for “technology” federal education grants that previously had been unrestricted grants to local school districts. This pipeline of federal cash could be an urgent matter for the software industry, as more educators are becoming disenchanted with the promise of educational software...

    In all four areas studied — first-grade reading, fourth-grade reading, sixth-grade math and algebra — the study found that the software “did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero.” That's a fancy way of saying these programs didn't do a darned thing, as far as we can tell.

    Kirk Johnson of the Heritage Foundation found similar results in a 2000 study, concluding: “Students with at least weekly computer instruction by well-prepared teachers do not perform any better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test than do students who have less or no computer instruction.”

  • Why do the poor drop out of college?

    August 24, 2007 9:19 AM

    Today's Inside Higher Ed reports on a very interesting study about college costs and drop out rates. According to the study (which costs $5.00) finances are not the major reason that lower-income students drop out of college. So, whatever else they may do, it appears that Democrat's efforts to increase college grants and loans will not significantly increase the number of poor students who complete college degrees.

  • One Light Bulb: $47.00

    August 23, 2007 5:00 PM

    I came home Thursday to find an Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulb in my mailbox. I had ordered it on ebay and paid $47.00 for it. It's a five watt bulb that produces about a much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb that costs about 70 cents to $2 or a 17 Watt compact florescent light bulb (CFL) that costs $5 to $10. A few observations:

    1. I thought I was getting five light bulbs. (My fault for not reading better.) Instead, I got one bulb with five LEDs. So, unlike CFLs--which almost always save money in the long run--I will almost certainly not make my money back with this bulb unless energy prices soar. On the other hand, since it's in a lamp that I leave on almost all night every night, I will realize energy savings rather quickly.

    2. Despite claims to the contrary, the light is actually a little less natural than the light from CFLs. I'm personally a big fan of CFLs and use them for almost everything. It's blueish and looks a little like the light emitted from High Intensity Discharge car headlights. (Not surprising since they use similar technology.)

    3. There's no warm-up time, unlike CFLs, and even brighter incandescent bulbs.

    4. In part because of the bulb design, the light all reflects upwards. It doesn't look nearly as good in a stained glass lamp as the CFL I had it.

    Compact Florescent light bulbs, I feel, have been a lot slower to catch on than they should have been. They're good for the environment and produce real benefits for consumers. LED bulbs, despite the hype, don't seem ready for prime time. If you want to save energy and money, for the moment, buy CFLs.

  • Battered Food Police and the Battle Against Trans Fats

    August 23, 2007 4:58 PM

    The food fascists are every where. It's one thing for New York City to ban trans fats from city restaurants. But for the Great Indiana State Fair to do so is pure sacrilege.

    One might view this as a nod to making a healthier America, except for the fact that the foods served at the fair are decidedly--and thankfully--unhealthy. Reports the New York Times:

    The deep-fried Combo Plate may be a little more healthful this year at the Great Indiana State Fair. So say the fair's leaders, who, taking a step rarely seen in the realm of corn dogs and fried pickles, have banned oils with trans fats from all the fryers that line the grounds here.

    Jeremy Orme's stand is the home of the Combo Plate: a Snickers, two Oreos and a Reese's, all battered and deep-fried.

    The change is only the latest in a string of bans on artificial trans fats. Tied to health problems including heart disease, they have been banished by national restaurant chains, snack brands and New York City, which forbids restaurants to use them in food preparation.

    But this is perhaps the most unlikely locale yet: the nation's classic summer fair, long seen as one final safe haven from the health police.

  • Save the Planet, Reward Your Friends, Get Reelected

    August 23, 2007 3:09 PM

    Is nothing sacred? Congress passes an energy bill in the name of fighting global warming, and what it best accomplishes is passing pork off to campaign supporters of leading legislators. Who would have imagined!?

  • Executive Summary of Peer-reviewed GW Science

    August 23, 2007 3:05 PM

    Marc Morano has compiled a great list of the latest peer-reviewed scientific studies and quotes from scientists against alarmism. I have composed an executive summary from quotes from it for you all:

  • Markets Greener than Green Buidling Lobby

    August 23, 2007 12:37 PM

    According to a story in today's Greenwire, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has conducted a survey showing that people in the real estate industry don't understand the cost-saving benefits of “green building.” Accordingly, the president of the organization concludes: "In order to achieve a step change in energy efficiency in buildings, there is a need for strongly supportive policies and regulatory frameworks."

    Hogwash. If such “green building” was saving money, there would be no need for government regulation and support. It is most likely that real estate professionals shun politically designed “green” building standards because they are foolish or even wasteful. CEI's study on the green building issue shows that, in fact, many of these politically correct standards actually cost far more than green building experts said they would and some are even environmentally questionable.

    Such results should be expected. After all, markets already produce important incentives for legitimate and economically efficient green building practices. That is why people voluntarily buy double-pained insulated windows, install insulation, and upgrade heating systems to save energy. They don't need a government hand out or regulation to make rational decisions. When government makes such decisions we get foolish policies demanding such things as low flush toilets that require multiple flushing or washing machines that cost a bundle but don't get our clothes clean. If the green building lobby gets it's way, expect more foolish policies and less affordable homes.

  • Is the Department of Pre-Regulation Coming Soon?

    August 23, 2007 9:22 AM

    A disturbing development in the UK brings to mind CEI's own dystopian video, from this year's annual dinner. (Thanks to Megan McLaughlin for the news story link.)

  • State attorneys general target social networking sites

    August 23, 2007 9:14 AM

    In the name of protecting teens from online predators, the nation's "worst attorney general" - Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal - is leading a crusade to force social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to verify the age of its users. See today's Wall Street Journal story, "Attorneys General Push To Shield Minors on Web." As if more pestering by state AGs will protect kids from harm!

    I debated Mr. Blumenthal on CNBC's "Street Sense" yesterday. He insisted that he's not seeking a heavy-handed government regulatory solution. Really? So what's the call for legislation all about then? The plans for forcing MySpace et al. to verify the age of its users? And the calls and subpoenas from the AG offices to those sites? Nope, can't see a heavy government hand anywhere.

    Of course, no one wants sex predators targeting teens on the Internet -- on MySpace, Facebook or anywhere else. But what Mr. Blumenthal and his fellow AGs won't acknowledge is that they really can't regulate these sites. If they are able to impose new barriers to joining social networking sites, many users will simply abandon those sites in favor of other sites. That could very well happen, anyway -- MySpace has some 115,000 million members and Facebook some 35 million, according to the WSJ article, but people could tire of those sites in favor of others. Surely government regulation wouldn't be an exciting new feature for users.

  • A Lone Dissident Uncovers the Terrifying Truth Behind Government-Issued Carbon Offsets

    August 22, 2007 5:04 PM

    What with the current mania for carbon offsets, I should have known it would happen eventually. In addition to the already burgeoning crowd of environmental outfits specializing in questionable science and creative economics, the ranks of carbon offset vendors has been joined by...the U.S. government. Thats right, fellow citizens, the U.S. Forest Service is now in the "voluntary" offset business. Just calculate your carbon footprint online and they'll quote you the price for your personalized indulgence, er, offset. My roughly calculated tab comes to $44.40 a year.

    Now that we know the price of our sinful energy consumption, all we have to do is write a check (or donate online!) to the Carbon Capital Fund, and they'll immediately put that money into planting lots of more trees on Forest Service land to act as a carbon sink. Well, that and, um, other stuff:

    This offset program, the Carbon Capital Fund, will link consumers' offset investment to projects on National Forests to sequester additional carbon as well as improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and improve the ecological condition of our National Forests and Grasslands [emphasis added].


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