May 30, 2008 2:23 PM
As Congressional energy bills make energy (and transportation) progressively more expensive, it's worth recalling that it was cars (and carpooling) that made Martin Luther King's Montgomery bus boycott viable. For many black people in Montgomery, that was the only transportation alternative to the segregated buses that demeaned them. Technological and economic progress was key to breaking down entrenched segregation in the Deep South.
In today's Washington Times, Niger Innis, head of the Congress of Racial Equality, points to the continuing importance of the economic progress made possible by cheap energy, and how Congressional policies that thwart energy production have contributed to spiraling energy costs that disproportionately harm minorities and the poor. As a result of ethanol mandates and subsidies, he notes, "Food prices soar and millions starve" in the Third World (a catastrophe chronicled earlier by African Energy News). Meanwhile, Congress has "locked up" areas where oil drilling could "safely" occur, such "the Outer Continental Shelf" and "Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," cutting domestic oil supply by "20 billion gallons of gasoline annually" and driving up energy prices at the expense of consumers and workers who are laid-off from their jobs.
May 30, 2008 1:55 PM
Texas's Child Protective Services (CPS), which the state supreme court ruled acted illegally in seizing more than 400 children, repeatedly abused children, according to mental health workers that CPS itself invited to observe the children. For example, “A baby was left in a stroller without food and water for 24 hours and ended up in the hospital." “Women were constantly lied to about where their children [were] and when they could see their lawyers and about when they would be reunited with their children.” “The children arrived healthy and happy and left sick and crying.” Others have also alleged child abuse by the Texas CPS.
May 30, 2008 12:49 PM
Last week, I discovered a bizarre requirement for a fingerprint registrty in housing legislation that had just passed the Senate Banking Committee. In an OpenMarket post last Friday, I wrote that the provison had "almost escape[d] without notice."
I am now heartened to write that the database provision has now generated plenty of notice and interest. OpenMarket has gotten over 100,000 hits on this post, and, at last count, 375 concerned readers have posted comments. The post was linked to by the Drudge Report and by Reason magazine's popular blog, "Hit & Run." Also, over at CNET News, savvy tech writer Declan McCullagh dug up some interesting new info on the fingerprint provison in his own story.
The article struck a chord about lost privacy and lost liberties. The legislative origins of the fingerprint provision remain somewhat of a mystery, though McCullagh's CNET story traced much of the language back to an earlier stand-alone bill co-sponsored by 11 Senate Democrats and two Republicans. I have still not been able to find any debate or justification for it, but it seems now that fingerprint requirements are a simplistic way for polticians to argue that they are getting tough about a particular problem, even if it's questionable how much fingerprinting will contibute to solving the problem.
Some commenters were right to note that this is an issue concerning federalism as well as privacy. Through the CNET story, comments on the blog, and e-mails I have received, I learned about other state fingerprint registries of questionable justification for various professions. According to CNET, four states require "mortgage brokers" to be fingerprinted.
May 30, 2008 11:49 AM
Contrary to popular belief, regulators tend to be very clever people. They know the rules of the game, and they know to how to use them to their advantage.
The latest example of bureaucratic perfidy is a recent decision by EU officials to raise tariffs on some high-tech goods from the United States. This doesn't seem like a smart policy at first glance. It will make goods more expensive for European consumers. The tariffs might also be a violation of the Information Technology Agreement. The U.S. is not pleased, and is launching a WTO case.
There are two ingenious ways that revenue-hungry EU regulators are gaming the system.
One is taking advantage of how bureaucratized the WTO is. The current dispute is only in the first step right now, which is a formal consultation between the WTO and the EU. I believe the next step involves a strongly worded letter.
The EU regulators who imposed the tariffs know that the case will take years to decide. Their tariffs — and revenues — will stand untouched until then. They know they can violate free trade agreements almost at will, and years will pass before they'll have to answer for it. Very clever.
The second spark of regulatory intelligence is a creative interpretation of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Under the agreement, computer monitors are duty-free, but televisions are not. So the EU is arguing that people are using larger computer monitors primarily as televisions, and not as computer monitors. That way they can be taxed.
Of course, only the people actually buying and using large computer monitors can say what they're using them for. But the regulators have made a good enough argument to stall the WTO.
May 30, 2008 10:13 AM
The Greenlining Institute, which is funded by money diverted from class-action lawsuits brought in the name of consumers, is now lobbying the California legislature to enact an intrusive law that would force charities to report on the race, sex, and sexual orientation of their board members, staffs, and suppliers in the name of "diversity." Thanks to the far-left ideology of California's legislature, the bill, which has already passed the California Assembly on a party-line vote, will likely become law unless Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes it.
I earlier wrote in the Washington Post about how class-action lawsuit “settlements intended to benefit consumers get paid instead to groups that lobby for affirmative action, hate-crimes laws," illegal aliens, "and public funding for abortions.” Some of these same groups are slated to receive taxpayer money under earmarks in federal housing and mortgage-bailout legislation.
May 29, 2008 7:02 PM
The Texas Supreme Court has just affirmed an appeals court ruling that Texas's Child Protective Services (CPS) illegally seized more than 400 children whose parents belong to a strange religious sect. CPS cared poorly for the children it seized. Three children of one couple became ill and had to be hospitalized, while another couple's 2-year-old daughter apparently suffered from "severe dehydration and malnutrition" after being seized. As Jacob Sullum noted in Reason, "There was never any evidence that their parents abused them, but there's plenty that the state did." Unwarranted CPS seizures of children are on the rise nationally. Such seizures often cause children great harm.
May 29, 2008 3:27 PM
Ethanol subsidies are contributing to worldwide hunger. Islamic extremist groups are exploiting that hunger by tying food aid to anti-Western political indoctrination. (Ethanol mandates drive up skyrocketing food prices that result in starvation, riots, and unrest across the Third World, as well as environmental devastation.)
May 29, 2008 10:10 AM
The Supreme Court made up some new laws on Tuesday because it thought they were a good idea, as the Washington Post's editorial today notes.
Some civil rights laws not only ban discrimination, but also retaliation against those who complain about what they perceive to be discrimination. Others just ban discrimination, and say nothing about retaliation.
In two cases it decided on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that civil-rights laws don't even need to mention retaliation to ban it, since retaliation is a kind of discrimination. That's factually untrue -- for example, an employer doesn't have to be a racist to resent an employee who erroneously accuses her of racial discrimination -- and the court's ruling begs the question of why some civil rights laws expressly ban retaliation, not just discrimination. Why did the legislators who wrote those laws bother to separately ban both retaliation and discrimination if retaliation is just a kind of discrimination?
Congress knows how to ban retaliation when it wants to. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers employers with more than 15 employees, expressly bans both discrimination and retaliation. But other laws, such as 42 U.S.C. 1981, which bans racial discrimination and anti-alien discrimination by even the smallest employers or service providers (including your kid's lemonade stand), have language that only bans discrimination, not retaliation.
May 29, 2008 9:05 AM
State Child Protective Services (CPS) are increasingly seizing children from their parents for trivial reasons or over baseless, anonymous allegations, as the Washington Examiner describes today in several related articles. One article discusses how Washington, D.C. continues to treat the Caplans as child-abusers even though "five doctors confirmed that an injury sustained by one of their twin daughters was not caused by abuse," and how an Arlington couple permanently lost custody of their child even though they "had been exonerated by of all neglect charges nine months earlier." Another notes that "California's 2003 Little Hoover Commission Report said up to 70 percent of children in foster care should never have been removed from their homes." Yet another notes that "States receive a $4,000 cash bonus from the federal government for each child adopted, multiplied by the percentage that the state exceeds its adoption goal." (We earlier discussed the calamitous effect such adoption bonuses have had in England. Yesterday, we discussed the illegal seizure of over 400 children in Texas).
May 28, 2008 3:02 PM
Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) illegally seized 465 children from parents in a religious sect based on an anonymous, fabricated allegation by a woman outside the sect pretending to be a member. The state appeals court recently ruled against the seizure of many of those children.
As Jacob Sullum notes, while CPS justified its actions by citing the sect's "pervasive belief system" (which favors early marriage and approves of polygamy), it seized even the children of adult, monogamous married couples, and even some adults mistakenly branded as minors. Even by "the state's current count, underage mothers represent no more than 3 percent of the children it seized."
Many children suffered while in CPS custody: