A bad country for allergies

Last week at A Better Earth we mentioned Consumer Reports‘ finding that new mandates for energy efficiency have rendered washing machines ineffective and more costly, in part by using lower water temperatures. Now there’s a new study that following environmentalists’ advice to save energy by reducing water temperature results in more allergens such as pollen, dander, and dust mites remaining in clothes. I wonder if many of the newer machines, especially the less expensive ones, get hot enough?

Given the government’s one-two punch in recent years of bad washing machines and ineffective decongestants, I’m happier than ever not to be an allergy sufferer.

[Via New Scientist.]


Smoking ban kills again

My posts from last year about smoking bans being unfair to elderly smokers weren’t taken very seriously, but according to this article they actually have become a real problem in Ontario:

A worker at a Manitoulin Island long-term care home has been charged with criminal negligence causing death in the case of a resident who died after he went out into the cold to smoke…

If Patterson’s death is linked to the fact he went out for a smoke, it would bring under scrutiny the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which became law last year.

The stringent guidelines allowing smoking in long-term care facilities and psychiatric hospitals include creation of ventilated smoking rooms.

But with most facilities deciding not to build them, a situation has arisen where many elderly, frail and often sick long-term smokers who can’t kick their habit have been forced outside – sometimes into the bitter cold – to smoke their cigarettes.

Can’t kick their habit? Maybe they just don’t want to. Regardless of that, it doesn’t look like the care centers are just casually choosing not to build smoking rooms. The anti-smoking law actually makes it really hard for them to do so:

The health ministry says only 1.5 per cent or 10 of the province’s more than 620 long-term care facilities have been given permission to construct the smoking rooms after they met the new standards. Another 16 applications are in the pipeline.

“We fought the (new law) as valiantly as we could,” said Pat Prentice of the Ontario Association of Resident Councils, a group that tried to have less restrictive rules in place for construction of smoking rooms.

Among the group’s fears was that residents would furtively smoke inside buildings – in closets and stairwells – rather than go outside, increasing the possibility of fires.

A significant number of the homes had no smoking policies before the act came into effect. Many with older smoking rooms decided against building new ones because of the associated costs and complications.

Margaret Toni, director of care for Regency Care with 15 long-term care homes in the GTA, said as much as they’d like to build the rooms for residents, they can’t for lack of funds.

Under the law, money for smoking rooms must come from the home’s “accommodation budget” which funds food, general housekeeping, utilities and administration.

The province, which funds all long-term care homes has made no provisions for extra construction money.

One administrator of a downtown long-term care home, where many residents smoke, said a 22-foot-by-16-foot room that meets provincial standards would cost about $180,000.

Another administrator said they had only recently opened and built smoking rooms under the old guidelines, and were wary of investing in the new ones because the rules could just as easily change again.

I’m not going to say that cases like these are the most compelling reason to oppose smoking bans — a general respect for liberty fits that bill — but it’s worth pointing out the unintended consequences these laws create.

Geezers hate the Butt Hutt
Dying for a smoke

[Via H/R]


Kelo: one year later

Though the previous post is much longer than the usual fare offered here, I strongly encourage readers not to skip over it. It presents in considerable detail a case of eminent domain abuse occuring right now in the DC area. It is, unfortunately, just one case of thousands like it occurring in the US this year. Yet this one brings the issue home for me. Having visited the business in person and seen firsthand how it has affected the owners and loyal customers, it really makes me sick. Moreover, this is one case that it may not be too late to stop.

Coincidentally, I posted my entry about Barry’s Magic Shop precisely one year after the infamous Kelo decision that legitimized and encouraged just these sorts of abuses by local governments. The Institute for Justice — where would we be without them? — has marked the anniversary with the release of five publications about eminent domain abuse.

Most notably, Opening the Floodgates documents how the Kelo decision has emboldened local governments and private developers to use force or the threat of force to seize the property of individuals and small businesses. According to IJ’s research,

In just one year since the ruling, local governments pressed forward with more than 117 projects involving the use of eminent domain for private development. Local governments threatened to use eminent domain against more than 5,429 homes, businesses, churches, and other properties if the owners did not agree to sell, and government also filed or authorized at least 354 condemnation actions. These 5,783 properties either threatened or condemned for private development in a single year are more than half the 10,282 in the five years between 1998 and 2002.

If there is one bright side to Kelo, it is that it has raised awareness about eminent domain abuse and instigated nearly universal disdain for the practice. In researching the previous post, I was amazed at how many people made reference in some form or another to the decision. They all resented the Supreme Court for it, rightly blaming it for making the rights to the property where Barry’s is located so much harder to defend.

The IJ publications are available here. I have skimmed them all and plan to revisit some in further detail. The accompanying press release provides a good summary, but everyone should look over Opening the Floodgates. It spans 104 pages, most of which are devoted to documenting, state by state, examples of using eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to another. Legislative Action Since Kelo is also interesting, describing actions by state legislatures to limit eminent domain takings to truly public purposes. (Maryland, alas, did nothing.)

Finally, I learned via Tom Palmer that President Bush issued an executive order yesterday instructing that federal eminent domain takings shall not be used to transfer property to private developers. This isn’t all that enforceable and most of the abuses come from local governments anyway. But still, how often do I get the chance to praise Bush? Nice work, Mr. Prez.


The hurricanes are Bush’s fault!

Let’s get two points out of the way first:

1) I really, really dislike President Bush. When I have the chance to blame him for something, whether it’s massive government deficits or the fact that I haven’t done laundry for a while and woke up this morning to realize I was out of the “good underwear,” I take it.

2) I think my fellow libertarians often fail to engage with the issue of climate change as seriously as they should, even if many of their specific policy critiques are right on.

That said, I’m a bit skeptical of the claims that the powerful storms we’ve seen recently are the product of man-made climate change that must be stopped. They may be, but the rapidity with which the hurricanes were used to score political points in the global warming debate suggests there’s more than hard science involved in headlines like this.

In that light, this BBC analysis of the relationship among tropical storms, global warming, and the media is well worth reading for a balanced view on the subject.

[Link thanks to The Morning News.]


I’ve been memed!

I’m now in Chicago after a nice visit with family in Cincinnati. I’m both proud and ashamed to say that though I was in the city for less than twenty-four hours, I still managed to dine on a large Skyline Chili 3-way, a small 3-way, and three cheese coneys, and also grab a few cans to bring back to Arlington. Sometimes my intestinal fortitude amazes even me.

But enough about my strange obsessions. Tim has passed me the Caesar’s Bath Meme, so now it’s my turn to talk about the thing’s my friends like but that I just don’t understand.

Behold, the Caesar�s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can�t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), �Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.�

Here we go…

Avenue Q: This musical broke new ground for the use of puppets and agressive marketing on Broadway. Many of my friends couldn’t get enough of it. It’s creative and funny at times, but it struck me as awfully pandering.

Chai lattes: I’ve served countless numbers of these things and never drank an entire one myself. Their mass popularity is an enigma to me.

The Magnetic Fields: I think Stephin Merritt’s unusual voice is what carries this group. It’s unique and I can enjoy listening to the group every once in a while, but I’m hearing them far too often lately. OK overall; what bothers me is that the sometimes inane lyrics refuse to be tuned out when sung by Merritt.

Going to the movies: $10 to sit in a dark room and to watch a video? I can do that at home for free! I make it to a movie theater at most a couple times each year.

The Stranger: I read this last spring for a class in which I came to appreciate some wonderful literature I’d overlooked before, but this one fell flat for me. Others think it’s great. In this case, I’m going to assume the fault lies with me, not the book.

Free markets: Yeah, they’re pretty good I guess, but I don’t know why my friends are advocating them all the time. What’s the big deal?

Only kidding about that last one. I now pass the meme on to Court, Chad, Mike, and Glenn Reynolds.