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OpenMarket: March 2012

  • Today's Links: March 15, 2012

    March 15, 2012
    OPINION WASHINGTON EXAMINER EDITORIAL: "Institute For Justice Lawsuit Challenges IRS Power Grab" "Last year, the federal tax agency issued a new rule usurping the power to grant or withhold licenses to prepare federal tax returns. [Sabina] Loving and [Elmer] Kilian are two of an estimated 350,000 individuals across America who offer their services to their neighbors during the annual tax season, preparing their federal returns for a small fee. They are independent, self-employed and need to satisfy their customers to earn a living. When it became clear that the IRS rule favored corporate preparers like H&R Block and other special interests like lawyers and accountants, Loving and...
  • Rhode Island’s Tanning Ban Could Backfire

    March 15, 2012

    Last week the Rhode Island Senate approved a measure banning the use of tanning salons for patrons under 18 years old. While I don’t dispute the health risks presented by tanning booths and beds, Rhode Island’s outright ban will not stop motivated teens from getting a tan and the alternate methods could result in greater damage. Furthermore, the decision to tan or not to tan ought to be made between parents and their children.

    While many news reports are claiming that the bill bans patrons under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, the text of the bill (S 2322), which was sponsored...

  • Human Achievement of the Day: “Trekkie” Universal Translator (Almost)

    March 15, 2012
    While not quite the “universal translator” that allowed Star Trek characters to communicate instantly with just about all alien species, Microsoft’s new translation software does bring us another step closer to universal communication. The software, developed by Frank Soong and Rick Rashid, converts the spoken dialogue into another language and replays the translated speech with the voice and inflections of the user. The system was demonstrated last week at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters. It requires an initial one-hour training session for users so that the software can recognize and modify the voice pattern. The hope is that the system will eliminate the misunderstandings that have plagued other translators due to missing inflections and context that communicate complex speech modes, such...
  • Government Persecutes the Innocent, Turns Blind Eye to the Guilty, Rewards Corrupt Business Models

    March 14, 2012
    The federal government spent years persecuting a company lawyer who dutifully uncovered and disclosed wrongdoing by a company employee, as I discuss below. But as The New York Times' Joe Nocera noted yesterday, the government can't be bothered to prosecute anyone at MF Global, which stole vast sums of money entrusted to it by its clients, committing an obvious crime. (MF Global was headed by former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine, a high-profile supporter of the Obama administration.) As Nocera notes, MF Global executives looted their...
  • House Should Reject Senate Highway Bill, Move for Another SAFETEA-LU Extension

    March 14, 2012
    Just before 1pm today, the Senate passed its surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, S. 1813). MAP-21 carries a price tag of $109 billion and would reauthorize federal highway programs for a mere 18 months. It passed 74-22, with principled fiscal conservatives voting "no." Championed by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican Senator Jim Inhofe -- who happily admits he's a big-government big-spender when it comes to infrastructure and national security -- the bill dramatically increases funding levels while failing to make serious, significant reforms to current programs. It also contains some terrible amendments, both germane to transportation and non-germane:
    • Amendment 1818, introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). In another example of our elected officials abusing "national security" powers to serve...
  • Two important appellate briefs filed this week

    March 14, 2012
    • Shareholder derivative suits present interesting conflicts of interest. The suit is purportedly brought on behalf of shareholders, but when the case settles, the corporate defendant—i.e., the plaintiff shareholders—are the ones paying the bill. Thus, if the suit does not actually extract any wealth from directors or officers for their supposed breaches of duty, shareholders are frequently worse off. This is the case in Robert F. Booth Trust v. Crowley, a derivative suit against Sears Holding Corp. where the alleged breach was failure to recognize the risk of Clayton Act litigation. The irony, of course, is that the actual shareholder derivative suit is far more expensive than the possibility of Clayton Act litigation. I objected; the posture is muddied by some procedural issues relating to the Seventh Circuit's intervention requirement, as you can see, but the fundamental...
  • Juvenal Delinquents

    March 14, 2012
    There are more regulatory reform ideas out there than you can shake a stick at. Some, of course, are better than others.
  • Today's Links: March 14, 2012

    March 14, 2012
    OPINION BRADLEY R. SCHILLER: "California, a Bad Bet for Business" "Californians like to dismiss such assessments of the Golden State and instead point to its natural beauty and quality of life. They tend not to worry what people in other states think. But they should. California is no longer the economic miracle it once was. Silicon Valley no longer has a monopoly on high-tech talent and innovation. Hollywood has to compete for movie locations with Utah and Morocco. Real estate investors see better development prospects in states with fewer foreclosed and abandoned homes. And SoCal porn producers know they don't need huge wardrobe containers to move to Nevada." SEN. JOHN CORNYN: "...
  • Human Achievement of the Day: Smart Grocery Cart

    March 14, 2012
    The folks at Chaotic Moon, one of the world’s premiere mobile application studios, have turned their sights to a decidedly more domestic piece of modern technology: the shopping cart. Having already utilized Microsoft Kinect, the motion-sensing device used in Xbox 360, to invent The Board of Awesomeness, Chaotic Moon is now wielding this technology for the benefit of the general consumer. Teaming with organic grocery giant Whole Foods, Chaotic Moon has created a prototype for a grocery cart, known as the Smarter Cart, that not only follows the customer around the store, but also identifies and adds up groceries as they are placed in the...
  • Obamacare Costs More Than Twice As Much As Obama Claimed; Stimulus Creates Debt, Not Jobs

    March 13, 2012
    As Daniel Foster notes, "When it was being debated, Democrats told you ACA [Obamacare] would cost $940 billion over ten years . . . But now . . . the CBO is out with new cost estimates. They ain’t pretty”:
    Today, the CBO released new projections from 2013 extending through 2022, and the results are as critics expected: the ten-year cost of the law’s core provisions to expand health insurance coverage has now ballooned to $1.76 trillion. That’s because we now have estimates for Obamacare’s first nine years of full implementation, rather than the mere six when it was signed into law. Only next year will we get a...

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