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  • They Know It When They Smell It

    November 27, 2006 11:19 AM

    Here at Open Market, we're big fans of Penn & Teller, particularly their emmy-nominated Showtime program, Bullshit! Our own Angela Logomasini was even a guest on the episode they did on recycling. We are therefore excited to bring you, via Google Video, their episode on environmental hysteria, featuring the now-legendary petition drive to ban dihydrogen monoxide. Thanks to Wayne for passing along.

  • More on the "New" Leadership in Congress

    November 27, 2006 11:01 AM

    Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times takes note today, as we here at Open Market did last week, of the staggering age and, ahem, "experience" of the 110th Congress' new committee chairmen. When returning House Energy & Commerce Committee chair John Dingell was first elected to Congress, for example, the birth of his House colleague Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was still 20 years in the future. Reynolds also diplomatically makes reference to Dingell's hard-earned reputation for being (as Henry Miller has pointed out) imperious and rude as chairman:

    When Rep. John D. Dingell was new to Congress, Buddy Holly ruled the charts, Rosa Parks refused to budge from her seat on a segregated bus and Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied the White House.

    And on Capitol Hill, congressional committee chairmen ruled like feudal lords over federal policy, pursuing pet causes and waging vendettas.

    In time, Dingell became one of the most fearsome.


    For 14 years, Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, presided over the Energy and Commerce Committee. Under his leadership, the panel expanded into an empire that claimed jurisdiction over "everything that moves, burns or is sold" in the United States.

    It was in part because of the reputation of longtime chairmen like Dingell that former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the Republican insurgency that took control of Congress in 1995, imposed term limits for committee chairs, restricting them to three consecutive two-year terms.

  • Antitrust at the Speed of Government

    November 27, 2006 10:09 AM

    Microsoft met a November deadline imposed by EU officials for sharing "interface' and "compatibility' information about its operating system to workgroup server market competitors who want to build for it. Since markets are incapable of something known as a "contract" or a "deal" or consumer rejection of overly exclusive behavior, regulators insist they have a role in helping competitors hitch their wagon by forcing Microsoft to provide a government-approved technical manual.

    The original ruling came in 2004, addressing as well as server software issues. Record fines have been handed down on both counts, as well as a directive that Microsoft sell a version of Windows without Media Player software.

    Now the company seems to have complied with the latest commandment, but we'll just have to wait and see, won't we? The European Commission said (excerpted from the Wall Street Journal) of the new "Handbook":

    In parallel the monitoring trustee will test the documentation in order to verify its accuracy....The commission will decide in due course whether or not Microsoft is in compliance with the obligation to provide complete and accurate technical documentation taking into account comments from the potential licensees and advice from the trustee.

    That's a little hard to translate from bureau-speak, but "in due course" must be really fast!

    The U.S. helped export our reckless antitrust theories to Europe, where EU antitrust activism means getting another run at Microsoft beyond the U.S. border. Our own companies are perched there, exploiting antitrust at every opportunity in order to "compete," even getting to say whether or or not this particular filing by Microsoft is sufficient. What a shame, when we contemplate what competition could look like if everyone didn't have the option of running to court with every stubbed toe.

  • Advice on global warming policy to the EU: airline taxes for all.

    November 22, 2006 3:37 PM

    The European Commission has turned its attention to the substantial greenhouse gas emissions produced by air travel. They want to tax all commercial airline flights in the EU and all coming from and going to the EU. The size of tax being talked about is quite large, but probably not large enough to cut airline travel substantially. That means it would raise lots of revenue for the EU. The national flag carriers are not totally opposed, since as a percentage of the cost of a plane ticket it would raise costs much more for travelers on low-fare carriers such as Ryan Air.

    What I have seen no mention of in the press is all the emissions from private air travel. Apparently, the new proposals would exempt the small jets favored by corporate CEOs, Hollywood stars, and former Vice President Gore. But emissions from private jets are substantial and going up rapidly as more and more CEOs, Hollywood stars, and wealthy environmental activists can afford them and develop a taste for flying in high style. Since the per capita emissions from private air travel are many times higher than for commercial, it seems to me that the European Commission should want to go after private jets first. And since the rich are less sensitive to paying higher prices than working and middle class holiday travelers on tight budgets, they should be able to put really high taxes on private jet passengers and raise lots of revenue without forcing too many of them back onto commercial flights. That should be just fine with the European Commission because the purpose of playing the global warming game is first and foremost about increasing tax revenues rather than cutting emissions--just as it is for most European governments. That is one of the reasons why EU emissions have outpaced U. S. emissions since Kyoto was negotiated in 1997.

  • Dems throw down gauntlet on Andean free trade deals

    November 22, 2006 1:44 PM

    Democratic opponents of free trade — who also happen to be strong union supporters —told U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab on Tuesday they will oppose the U.S. trade deals with Columbia and Peru because the pacts' labor provisions don't go far enough.

    In a letter signed by some powerful Democrats, including in-coming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the policymakers said they want the trade agreements to be renegotiated to include “core” labor provisions. They were also angry that the U.S. planned to sign the free trade agreement (FTA) with Columbia today (which did happen today).

    Columbia's President Uribe had visited U.S. lawmakers last week and reportedly was shaken by the possibility of renegotiating the trade deal.

    Meanwhile, Peru's president had appointed Hernando de Soto as his personal envoy to promote the trade agreement with the U.S.

    What's ironic is that the Columbian FTA includes in the body of the text a complete chapter on labor that includes 11 pages of provisions upholding the principles of the International Labor Organization, providing access for tribunals to ensure enforcement of labor laws, setting up a labor affairs council, and providing funding for “labor capacity building” projects.

  • Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip on Climate Science

    November 22, 2006 1:36 PM

    The global warming debate this week features a furious back-and-forth between our pal Al Gore and Christopher Monckton (a/k/a Viscount Mockton of Brenchley), a former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher. Monckton started with two articles in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this month, which Gore then responded to. The final product is this analysis and defence by Monckton of his original arguments, complete with dozens of references and citations (direct PDF link). It gets a little technical in parts, but it's a great point-by-point refutation of Gore's arguments. Almost as good, I might add, as this one, by our very own Marlo Lewis.

  • Court Ensures Painful Death for Terminally Ill

    November 22, 2006 11:57 AM

    Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to vacate and rehear its Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach decision, which would have required the FDA to justify why it prevents gravely ill people who would otherwise die from obtaining access to drugs that have passed the first stage of the FDA's lengthy approval process. Decisions are usually reversed when they are reheard by the full court.

    Apparently, the specter of terminally ill people being able to access experimental drugs that might save their lives was just too scary for many of the D.C. Circuit judges.

    Perhaps they agreed with the specious arguments of the Washington Post, which editorialized against the D.C. Circuit's original decision in favor of the terminally ill by using the straw-man argument that no one has an affirmative right of access to medical treatment.

    But the patients have never sought a dime of taxpayers' money, much less affirmative assistance from the government. All they seek is the right to obtain treatment, at their own expense, from willing private medical providers.

    But in a feat of Orwellian word play, the Washington Post redefined affirmative access as meaning not being blocked by government interference from obtaining treatment from a willing provider. Under the Post's perverse definition, seeking private medical treatment automatically qualifies as a demand for affirmative access from the government, if government red tape would otherwise prevent such treatment.

    An unstated premise of the Post's editorial is that that a patient's right to live (a right expressly mentioned in the Constitution) should receive less judicial protection against regulation than the right to a partial-birth abortion (which is not mentioned in the Constitution, but which the Post has repeatedly advocated). That is a very bizarre premise.

  • Painted Portraits: The YouTube of the Fifteenth Century

    November 22, 2006 11:46 AM

    German media tycoon and art historian Hubert Burda has a fascinating essay titled "How People See Themselves," about the history of portraiture and what it has meant to be able to visually represent oneself to the rest of the world:

    Nowadays anyone who wants to draw attention to themselves can. The Internet enables us to become multi-media media producers. Since it started up a year ago, over 50 million people have already uploaded personal short videos onto the video platform The portrait which enabled the new middle-classes of the 15th century, following their rise in status, to fulfill their desire for representation, has experienced many changes over the centuries.

    The capitalist impulse which has made services like YouTube possible has, of course, done what countless other technologies have done in the past - taken the priviledges of the wealthy and powerful and made them available to all. And you don't have to be a European billionaire to know that that's a good thing.

    Link from Arts & Letters Daily.

  • Stern's Critical Flaws

    November 22, 2006 10:50 AM

    The Stern Review on the economics of climate change has come in for more criticism from experts in the field. Following Richard Tol, we now have Yale's William Nordhaus (PDF link), who says:

    The Stern Review is a Prime Minister's dream come true. It provides decisive and compelling answers instead of the dreaded conjectures, contingencies, and qualifications. However, a closer look reveals that there is indeed another hand to these answers. The radical revision of the economics of climate change proposed by the Review does not arise from any new economics, science, or modeling. Rather, it depends decisively on the assumption of a near-zero social discount rate. The Review's unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not survive the substitution of discounting assumptions that are consistent with today's market place. So the central questions about global-warming policy — how much, how fast, and how costly — remain open. The Review informs but does not answer these fundamental questions.

    On top of this, we have Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge, who finds (PDF link):

    [T]he conclusion I have reached is that the strong, immediate action on climate change advocated by the authors is an implication of their views on intergenerational equity; it isn't driven so much by the new climatic facts the authors have stressed. In what follows I make clear what I mean by that.


  • Meet the 110th Congress: Everything Old Is New Again

    November 21, 2006 5:32 PM

    Since the midterm election results came in, many a headline writer and pundit has repeated the line about how Americans voted for "new leadership" in Congress. As I mentioned in a post below, one of these "new" leaders is the incoming chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan.

    Dingell, as you'll remember, was first elected to Congress in 1955 to replace his father, who had died in office. That means, by the way, that the seat in question had been in Dingell family hands for approximately 73 continuous years. Another interesting bit of trivia - both Dingell and Strom Thurmond entered Congress within about a year of each other. Strom is gone, but John is with us still.

    Taken in aggregate the not-newness of the "new" Democratic leadership is even more stunning. Harry Reid recently released a list of who the new comittee chairmen in the Senate are going to be for the 110th Congress. By my rough calculation, those 20 men and women have a combined Congressional tenure of approximately 567 years. If you're a big fan of institutional memory that might be a good thing, but new it most certainly is not.


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