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  • How Did You Celebrate Earth Day?

    April 23, 2007 10:35 AM

    Iain raises an interesting question over at Planet Gore, and it's a good idea to follow up with it here. Yesterday was Earth Day, celebrated around the world by Hippie and Crunchy Con alike.

    Now, we might not have all celebrated in the same tribal drum-circle kind of way, but we all did something with yesterday's 24 hours. Below, Open Market contributors will be adding their experiences, starting with Iain's. Feel free to email in to with your own stories of what you did on the planet's Special Day:

  • Commercial Broadcast Radio with...No Commercials?

    April 23, 2007 10:05 AM

    The New York Times Business section has an interesting story this morning on how one of Clear Channel's stations in Dallas is eliminating all of its 30 and 60 second commercial spots, because they've finally come to the conclusion that people hate listening to them. To replace that revenue, they're signing up sponsors for hour-long blocks of programming and tasking their DJs with working their products into conversation. Think something like this: "And that was 'Leaving on a Jetplane' by John Denver. You know, when I need to leave on a jet plane, I choose Southwest Airlines, and here's why..."

    This is obviously a response to the popularity of subscription satellite radio and the proliferation of the iPod, though it's really not a new thing. In fact, it's how most early commercial broadcasts used to function. Many 1950s TV shows not only had exclusive sponsors, but sometimes were even named for the sponsor. One show that started as early as 1947 and introduced many big stars to the small screen, Kraft Television Theater, was essentially a wholly owned production of its eponymous sponsor, yet turned out some excellent early TV content. Actors like Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, James Dean, and Rod Steiger all appeared on the show, sandwiched between conveniently placed cooking demonstrations featuring delicious Kraft products.

    Kraft TV logo
  • Africans in DC: Kick Bob Mugabe to the Curb

    April 20, 2007 4:22 PM

    I tagged along with Team Bureaucrash this afternoon while Crasher Mercalic took some great video footage of today's anti-Mugabe rally in front of the Zimbabwean Embassy on New Hampshire Avenue. As it turns out, it wasn't just us here in DC who are fed up with the statist thug. Edinburgh University is being pressured to revoke an honorary doctorate they bestowed on Mugabe 23 years ago, as is the University of Massachusetts, which gave him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1986.

    See the Flickr photos series from the rally here.

  • CEI Alumnus Superstar

    April 20, 2007 3:03 PM

    Former Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow Tim Carney has distinguished himself yet again, this time with a fancy book award. He's the winner of the Laissez Faire Books Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty. That means that his excellent tome on big business rent-seeking, The Big Ripoff, is 2006's best book on liberty. Get your copy (at 36% off!) at the Laissez Faire Books website today.

    Big Ripoff cover
  • The Year's Worst Use of a Figure of Speech by a Bureaucrat?

    April 20, 2007 10:34 AM

    Earlier this week Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the following in describing the allegedly new interest of consumers in vehicle safety:

    "Consumers used to take tepid sips of the safety Kool-Aid and are now gulping it down."

    Ms. Nason was addressing the Society of Automotive Engineers 2007 World Congress.

    Ms. Nason needs to get a better grip on her metaphors. Ever since the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, the primary meaning of the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has been to blindly take poison at the urging of some leader.

    Now it's true that the phrase has some secondary meanings that are more in line with what she probably meant. On the other hand, some NHTSA endeavors have had pretty poisonous effects. Its airbag mandate turned out to be deadly to children, just as the auto industry warned it might be, until it was overhauled. And its fuel economy program, known as CAFE, continues to kill people through its downsizing effect on vehicles.

    So in a sense, consumers need to keep a careful watch on what NHTSA puts in their cupholders.

  • Cranky Geek Against SarbOx

    April 20, 2007 8:40 AM

    John C. Dvorak, long time columnist for PC Magazine and head Crank on Cranky Geeks, a popular podcast, has come out against Sarbanes-Oxley. Dvorak was quick to point out on another popular podcast, Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech, that SarbOx places huge limitations on the silicon valley start-up phenomenon. I later found that Dvorak pointed out the flaws of SarbOx in at least three columns in PC Magazine.

    Rather than growing their companies into successful, independent firms, entrepreneurs are now forced to look to large corporations to buy them out. Growing organically just isn't possible for many start-ups because of the incredible costs associated with the new accounting requirements. So, whether or not SarbOx is stopping corporate malfeasance, it's definitely helping larger corporations pick up small innovators on the cheap.

    For more on SarbOx check out this recent Op-Ed in Investor's Business Daily by John Berlau, director of CEI's Center for Entrepreneurship.

  • Regulated to Death

    April 19, 2007 6:24 PM

    The New York Times has an interesting story on how federal privacy and disability-rights regulations may have helped pave the way for the Virginia Tech massacre by hamstringing school officials ("Laws Limit Options When A Student Is Mentally Ill").

    Overlawyered links to discussions of how federal privacy laws like HIPAA and FERPA may have contributed to the tragedy.

    Professor David Bernstein has opened an interesting comment thread at the Volokh Conspiracy, in which lawyers (including me) cite instances in which disabilities-rights laws have been used to prevent schools from disciplining violent students who have (or claim to have) behavioral or emotional disabilities.

  • I Do

    April 19, 2007 1:33 PM

    Surfing around, I just came upon AT&T's "You Will" advertising campaign from the early 1990s. The ads are well-produced and, almost fifteen years after they aired, I still remember seeing them for the first time.

    I'm amazed by how accurate a vision of today's life they present. Except for using a public video phone--something I suspect will never exist in more than a few niche markets--I've done everything described in the ads and I'd suspect that the overwhelming majority of Americans have too. AT&T got the near future almost perfect. In fact, I think the company didn't go far enough in predicting how many new technologies we would get: there's no mention of pervasive, cheap mobile phone or Internet shopping.

    In what they do predict, however, the ads really missed only one thing: AT&T's company's own survival. AT&T, so accurate about what the future would hold for consumers, couldn't manage to survive as an independent company. SBC (which changed its name to AT&T) ended up with AT&T's telephone and Internet assets while Comcast bought out its cable systems.

    Market economies create innovations. Companies come and go.

  • Capitalizing on Patriotism

    April 19, 2007 1:32 PM

    Finally, I've received some unsolicited commercial email that has nothing to do with Section 419 or natural male enhancement. The flag-waving proprietors of The Patriot Shop have kindly sent me a message reminding me that today is Patriots' Day, the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The good people at the Patriot Shop also, understandably suggest you take the opportunity to purchase some suitably red, white 'n' blue items from them to celebrate the occasion. While they have a fine selection of items, including the ever popular "Annoy a Liberal" coffee mug, I'll stick with Bureaucrash brand swag, available here.

    Gadsen tee
  • Flooded homes vs. stranded fish

    April 19, 2007 1:09 PM

    In the New York Times today, there was a photo of a submerged subdivision near Wayne, N.J. as a consequence of torrential rain and winds from the nor'easter that raged through the Northeast earlier this week. Undoubtedly many of the homes were flooded and household furnishings damaged.

    Right under the photo was another article titled “Fish may be stranded in flooded areas.” Seems that in Connecticut — also hit by bucketing rain —

    . . . environmental officials are concerned that as many as 50,000 of the freshly stocked fish were swept away by the northeaster and might now be swimming in flooded fields and backyards. . . .

    People who find the wayward trout are being asked to pick them up and put them into the nearest permanent body of water. State officials say people who find and keep any of the stranded fish could face a $154 fine — even if they catch the fish with their hands rather than bait and tackle — because fishing season has not yet started.

    Glad to see they have their priorities right.


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