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OpenMarket: August 2012

  • Today's Links: August 15, 2012

    August 15, 2012 10:01 AM


    LINDSAY ABRAMS: "Pot May Improve Cognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder"
    "At least one prior study has shown than cannabis might have some positive effects for patients with bipolar disorder, and several others have reported that in patients with schizophrenia, marijuana use is actually associated with an improvement in neurocognitive functioning. While it is still unclear why the psychoactive drug might have this effect on patients with major psychiatric disorders, this study further investigates the association in bipolar disorder patients."

    ADAM KIRSCH: "Gore Vidal’s ‘Burr’ Is Antidote to Tea Party Myths"
    "'Burr' delights in subverting everything we think we know about how the country was built. With his characteristic patrician sarcasm, Vidal casually scraps the enduring notion of American exceptionalism, the idea that our politics, unlike those of the corrupt Old World, are founded on ideals of democratic equality and public virtue. If the Tea Party today looks back to the founders with reverence, 'Burr' suggests, that is only because they did such a good job mythologizing themselves and mesmerizing posterity."

    KATHERINE MANGU-WARD: "The Sad, Wasteful Afterlife of Olympic Venues"
    "Cities spend hundreds of millions of dollars (at least!) attracting the Olympics, preparing for the tourist onslaught, housing athletes and getting people to and fro. But what happens when the hoopla is over? Some cities manage to re-purpose the infrastructure built for the games—Atlanta handed much of its Olympic park over to Georgia Tech, for example. But many, perhaps most, of the building is ultimately left to rot."

  • When Wage Gaps Are Fair

    August 14, 2012 12:29 PM

    When I and my wife first got married, she worked shorter hours than I did, and used her additional time outside the workplace for activities like grocery shopping and preparing dinner. So there was nothing unfair about the fact that her employer paid her less than I was paid. I was getting the benefit of  these activities, not her employer -- a benefit reflected in the fact that I paid most of the rent (while my wife did most of the family consumer spending, using financial contributions from me -- I reimbursed her for three-quarters of each grocery bill).

    My situation was not unusual. On average, women work fewer hours in the workplace than men, and are paid less, although women's purchases apparently account for most of the nation's consumer spending, and women probably consume as much as men. As Ramesh Ponnuru notes at Bloomberg News, although "women earn an average of 77 cents on a man’s dollar,” "part of the gap reflects the fact that women, on average, work fewer hours than men. Among people who work 40 hours a week, according to the Labor Department, women make 87 percent of what men do." Economist Diana "Furchtgott-Roth cites a 2005 study . . . which found that . . . 'There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.' In addition to being more likely to seek part-time work, women are also more likely to have gaps in their employment history and to enter lower-paying fields. . . a 2009 report for the Labor Department, found that these factors account for most of the pay gap."

    As Ponnuru points out, it makes no sense to blame employers for this, since "[t]here is very little that individual employers can do about any of these issues. They can’t make men do more housework, or pick majors for women. Nor can they reasonably be asked to adjust their salary schedules to make up for those choices."

  • In Praise Of Judicial Activism

    August 14, 2012 11:18 AM

    Judicial activism is a dirty word in politics. It shouldn't be. Over at The American Spectator, David Deerson try to rehabilitate a term that has been sorely missing from a passive judiciary.

  • Today's Links: August 14, 2012

    August 14, 2012 10:06 AM


    SALON: "Helen Gurley Brown: A Life in Links"
    "In an undated video, [Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley] Brown talked to Small Business Magazine about her early publishing experiences. 'I knew nothing about business. I knew nothing about magazine editing. All I had was a basic brain and a lot of drive.'"

    RICH LOWRY: "Dems’ big ‘battle of ideas’ is off to a lying start"
    "Democrats believe fervently in the folly of Paul Ryan’s ideas, yet somehow can’t speak about them truthfully. They are confident they can destroy Ryan — not because they think they can win the debate over his proposals on the merits, but because they are certain they can distort those proposals with impunity."

    RICHARD RAHN: "Economic Lessons From the Olympics"
    "Civilization can only advance when individuals are both encouraged and rewarded for excellence. The men and women who designed, built, and succeeded in placing the new SUV-sized rover on Mars receive and deserve our acclaim. The late Steve Jobs is widely admired for creating the world’s most valuable company and for being a genius in product innovation and marketing. [...] The good side of humanity is revealed when we praise and reward such people. The bad side of humanity is shown by those who wish to punish success."

  • Alcohol Regulation Roundup: Dog Days Edition

    August 13, 2012 3:59 PM

    These days in D.C., the mercury regularly rises above the 90-degree mark right along with most of the U.S. As unpleasant as it might be to live on the surface of the sun, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cold one with friends to celebrate as that damnable orb descends below the horizon each evening. Take a look below at the regulatory changes around our sticky nation that could affect the ease and cost of obtaining your preferred poison.

    Alabama: is expecting an influx of new beers in coming weeks thanks to a change in the law that now allows beer to be packaged in bottles as large as 25.4 ounces where previously they were limited to 16 ounces in most of the state.

    Arizona: The new growler laws go into effect this month allowing restaurants to fill the take-home jugs where before only microbreweries and brewpubs were allowed to do this.

    California: Apparently California lawmakers don’t have a whole lot of pressing issues to deal with so they have to get into the business of regulating celebrities signing wine bottles. The State Assembly passed bill 2184 at the end of July which stipulates that 1) Consumers must not be required to buy anything to get an autograph, 2) They don’t have to pay a fee for the autograph, and 3) The store is required to pay for the services needed to carry out the autograph promotions. Where it gets really crazy is that the bill also stipulates that the retailer may advertise the event, but the brand owner may not (i.e., Jacob’s Creek couldn’t put an ad on its website or Facebook page). Also, it states the signing may happen in retailer shops, but not restaurants and that the brand owner may only visit a retail shop twice per year to do autograph sessions. As Tom Wark over at Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog noted,

    These and so many other alcohol regulations not only serve fears that originated 100 years ago and no longer matter, but now only serve to protect the financial interests who have used 100 year old fears to game the system to their own economic interests.

    Also in California: beers aged in used wine barrels are officially still legally considered beer. Last month Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bipartisan bill ensuring that microbreweries don’t have to worry about aging beer in wine/liquor barrels. Some in the industry feared that because the beer derived some of its flavor from the barrels which previously held wine or liquor, that the beer might be considered a distilled spirit by the state, which would require much higher taxes.

  • Supposed "Bipartisan" Consensus Can't Waive Laws Such As Welfare Reform And Its Work Requirements

    August 13, 2012 12:49 PM

    As I've noted before, the Obama administration violated the text, structure, and purpose of the 1996 welfare reform law, in claiming the authority to waive its work requirements, which were specifically designed not to be waivable, in its July 12 HHS memorandum. (Contrary to the administration's claims, that memo did indeed strike at the very heart of welfare reform.)

    One thing that really annoys me as a lawyer is the false suggestion by people like Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution that the Obama administration’s action would have been okay if the administration had merely conferred with congressional Republicans first; and the bizarre claim by the Huffington Post that the administration’s expansion of waivers must be okay because it was supported by people such as Nevada’s Republican governor, giving it a bipartisan basis. (Haskins' statement, and the alleged support of Republican governors, was then cited by The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler to call the administration’s action nothing more than a “process foul and poor coordination with Congress.” Never mind that the administration’s action was greeted with outrage by Republican lawmakers like House Speaker John Boehner, who took issue with the substance of its action, not just the Obama administration’s failure to consult with them.)

    This makes no sense. The Obama administration’s flouting of the 1996 welfare reform law would not have been cured by consulting with Republicans before doing so. Laws cannot be ignored even on a bipartisan basis. A president and his aides can’t ignore a law by consulting with politicians of the opposing party and getting their individual approval to nullify or rewrite the law. Instead, the president has to get both Houses of Congress to formally vote to change the law. In INS v. Chadha (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that a law’s application could not be waived by a single House of Congress, much less individual lawmakers, since that violated the constitutional separation of powers and the constitutional requirements of bicameralism and presentment.

  • Today's Links: August 13, 2012

    August 13, 2012 10:11 AM


    ADAM COHEN: "Is Your Car Being Tracked by a License Plate Scanner?"
    "If you drive through Maryland, the state may be using an automated reader to photograph your license plate — and storing your movements away for future use. Maryland is not alone. ACLU offices in 38 states are looking into how the government is using license plate readers across the country — and what it is doing with the data. The ACLU is already calling the license plate readers 'the next big thing in government tracking.'"

    US NEWS & WORLD REPORT: "Debate Club: Should States Be Able to Collect Sales Tax on Goods Sold Online?"
    "Congress is debating legislation which would require online retailers to collect sales tax. Currently, online sellers are not required to charge their customers a sales tax on items purchased online. Proponents of the Marketplace Fairness Act say online tax rules are outdated, and the spread of Internet sales requires a leveling of the playing field between online retailers and brick-and-mortar businesses. [...] Others argue that it unfairly requires online retailers to become tax collectors, and takes away the power of states to regulate their own sales taxes. States like New Hampshire, which don't collect a sales tax, say forcing retailers to collect sales tax would disrupt their state economy."

    DAVID KRAVETS: "DOJ Won’t Ask Supreme Court to Review Hacking Case"
    "The Justice Department has decided not to ask the Supreme Court to review a controversial federal appeals court decision that said employees may not be prosecuted under a federal anti-hacking statute for simply violating their employer’s computer use policy."

  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week In Regulation

    August 13, 2012 8:32 AM

    68 new rules, from health care to Glasflugel gliders.

  • Yes, Obama Did Gut Welfare Reform

    August 10, 2012 4:54 PM

    Earlier, I wrote about how the Obama administration gutted welfare reform. Now, the New York Times is claiming that the Obama administration did not gut welfare reform or open the door to waiver of its work requirements for welfare recipients. But as journalist Mickey Kaus notes, a passage in the Times' own editorial helps confirm that the Obama administration has indeed opened the door to the evisceration of welfare reform's work requirements. Welfare reform's work requirements, unlike other provisions in the 1996 law, were specifically designed not to be waivable, but the Obama administration has now instead declared that they can be waived, thus violating the 1996 welfare-reform law. As the Times itself noted, the Obama administration's expansion of waivers came in response to a request for waivers by the State of Nevada. Nevada expressly advocated a waiver of the requirement that welfare recipients work. For example, as the Times observed, Nevada suggested that "those families hardest to employ . . . be exempted from the work requirements for six months while officials worked with them to stabilize their households."

    As Kaus notes,

    ***–Here are the exact words in Nevada’s letter:

                  TANF Performance Measures and Possible Waiver Opportunities

                   Exempt the hardest-to-employ population for a period of time (i.e. six months) to allow time for their barriers to be addressed and their household circumstances stabilized; …

    Note that “six months” isn’t an upper limit on the “exempt” period. Could be sixteen months. Note also that the NYT makes it sound as if Nevada might actually be requiring welfare recipients do something during this period–”while officials worked with them.” But the actual Nevada letter doesn’t say anything except that they need “time for their barriers to be addressed.”

    More generally, Nevada proposes a broad, excuse-laden “progression” system in which all recipients with “employment barriers” are given “more time and assistance”–translation, more welfare with fewer obligations to work or train for work or look for work. What are “employment barriers”? They include lack of child care, transportation, drug addiction, “special needs such as clothing and tools,” and lack of “job seeking/retention skills.” Obesity can also be a “barrier.”

  • Bureaucratic Green Chemistry

    August 10, 2012 2:16 PM

    California bureaucrats recently released their proposed regulations implementing the state’s 2009-passed "green chemistry" law. The law supposedly will make life safer for California residents by ensuring that all products are designed to be "green."

    But it is destined to fail -- costing consumers without delivering benefits -- because policymakers foolishly assume that bureaucrats are better situated than business to decide what makes a product safe. It's the same fatal conceit on which the Soviets once based their failed economic policies.

    California's green chemistry initiative goes beyond basic safety regulations. Regulators will impact product formulations and designs by listing both chemicals and products on "concern" lists based on largely political, rather than scientific grounds. Such listings will send signals to consumers and manufacturers to avoid these chemicals and products. In addition, regulators will force some companies to study alternative formulations and redesign products -- even when there is no sound science demonstrating any serious health or safety risks.

    In that case, rather than maintain focus on product performance, affordability, safety, and consumer demand when designing products, manufacturers will be forced to serve the political preferences of the regulators. The final products will be inferior, and ironically, potentially less safe.

    Still, some people argue that we should at least seek substitutes to “be on the safe side.” They forget that every product on the market prevailed because it was the best to perform the job at an acceptable price at the time. Politically driven substitutes will always be inferior.


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