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OpenMarket: August 2012

  • What The New York Times' Ron Nixon Doesn't Understand About Northeast Corridor Travel

    August 15, 2012 3:14 PM

    In today's New York Times, reporter Ron Nixon has a remarkably misleading article on travel in the Northeast corridor (NEC). Three major distortions stick out:

    1. Nixon regurgitates the Amtrak propaganda that claims 75 percent of travelers take the train between New York and Washington, with 54 percent of travelers between Boston and New York taking the train;
    2. Nixon uncritically repeats the myth that Amtrak suffers from far fewer delays than airline service; and
    3. Nixon fails to bat an eye at Amtrak's ridiculous 2040 ridership projections.

    On the first point, it is important to note -- at which Nixon fails -- that the 75-percent figure refers to air and rail only. On the Northeast Interstate 95 corridor, bus travel accounts for more person trips than Amtrak while driving still accounts for about 80 percent of total passenger travel, according to this Amtrak report. And if Amtrak subsidies were reduced throughout the entire system (meaning NEC Amtrak fares would rise dramatically), rail's mode share would be greatly reduced. Air, bus, and private automobile trips are minimally subsidized.

  • Equal Pay Should Be For Equal Work, Not Unequal Work

    August 15, 2012 10:28 AM

    Yesterday, I criticized the assumption that people should receive equal pay for unequal work, such as requiring the average woman to be paid exactly the same amount as the average man even though the average male employee works more hours than the average female employee. (I am talking here about averages, not generalizing about every individual case; there are obviously male part-time employees, just as there are women who work 80 hours a week.)

    But apparently this point was too subtle for some people. Collin Maessen of Real Sceptic tweeted my blog post, with the preface, "apparently CEI is against regulations that allow women to earn the same wages for the same work as men do." I didn't write about such regulations at all. To me, it's not "the same work" if it's not the same number of hours. Why should a full-time employee be paid as little as a part-time employee? Why should an employee who works 60 hours per week be paid the same as an employee who works 40 hours per week?

  • 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.


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