October 2, 2012 5:31 PM
The federal regulatory process is a complicated thing. As with any complex body of law, there are loopholes that agencies can exploit.
October 2, 2012 4:02 PM
So now we're down to safe v. healthy. The "safe" approach to riding a bike is to wear a helmet, according to the Nanny Statists in cities from coast to coast. But it turns out a lot of people won't ride bikes if it means buying and wearing a helmet. It also turns out helmets don't actually prevent a lot of injuries. As this story from The New York Times reveals, these days, officials in cities that want to promote bike riding have realized it might be better to accept a little more risk from letting riders go helmet-less than insisting on the helmet and forcing many riders to the sidelines.
October 2, 2012 2:17 PM
This year’s topic is Frederic Bastiat’s famous quote, “The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”
October 2, 2012 10:57 AM
BEN JOHNSON: "Where Does It Come From?"
"[I]n 2012, finding out exactly how, where, and when something was made is more complicated than it has ever been because the production line is increasingly international and decentralized. Most of the things we make and use come cheaper, faster, and farther than ever. Consumers who want to behave responsibly for myriad reasons struggle with this, but so do companies. The problem—and its solution—can be boiled down to one thing: traceability. Traceability is basically accurate accounting in manufacturing—knowing all you can know about the components you’re working with so that you can identify problems and inefficiencies in your production line quickly and fix them before they multiply. And in a world where a company like Apple doesn’t own all the subsidiaries that make parts going into its products, accurate accounting has big implications."
ROBERT MCMILLAN: "Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon"
"Should we build a supercomputer on the moon? It would be a mammoth technical undertaking, but a University of Southern California graduate student thinks there’s a very good reason for doing this: It would help alleviate a coming deep-space network traffic jam that’s had NASA scientists worried for several years now."
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: "The largest payment platform on Earth can reach 2 billion people–so why haven’t you heard of it?"
"When Jana co-founder Nathan Eagle needed to connect to a cell carrier in the developing world, he’d come to meetings with a duffel bag full of cash and say that he wanted to buy airtime. For carriers who were taking on more customers than ever, but struggling with declining revenue per user, it was an irresistible sales pitch. The result, two years later, is that Jana is now the largest payment platform in the world. Eagle describes Jana as an “opt-in mobile network” that pays users to fill out consumer surveys and try products. The company has access to 100% of the users on 237 cell carriers in 101 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America."
October 2, 2012 10:08 AM
Japan is one-upping the U.S. when it comes to draconian copyright enforcement. The BBC reports that an amendment to Japan’s copyright law approved in June goes into effect today. The amendment imposes criminal penalties of up to two years in prison on people who illegally download copyrighted works. This law, of course, aims to deter potential downloaders and to protect the ailing Japanese entertainment industry. Both aspects of this policy -- the targeting of downloaders and the possibility of imprisonment -- raise interesting questions.
Targeting downloaders is difficult, as the U.S. recording industry discovered in the first half of the 2000s. Downloaders number in the millions, making effective identification and prosecution costly, and public sentiment isn’t likely to smile on overzealous industry litigation. It’s much cheaper to sue people who host infringing material or provide services that facilitate file sharing. Plus, if you can take down a file sharing service like Napster, you prevent all of its users from infringing with the service, rather than just stopping one user at a time. This is the strategy rights holders have adopted for the most part in the U.S. The danger of these lawsuits is that they endanger services less directly involved in facilitating infringement, with the ultimate consequences of chilling legitimate uses of the technology and strangling the development of new technologies which stand on shifting legal ground.
October 2, 2012 10:03 AM
The Obama administration's botched Operation Fast and Furious, which provided weapons used in hundreds of crimes and killing sprees in Mexico, was broader than previously thought:
Univision reported that the effort wasn’t just limited to one ATF office in Arizona — it had other operations in Florida and Texas as well. The ATF and Department of Justice lost more weapons than they have so far acknowledged, and those weapons have been tied to even more murders than previously thought — including a massacre of teens and young adults. This report literally showed blood flowing in the streets as a result of Fast and Furious, as ABC News reports:
"On January 30, 2010, a commando of at least 20 hit men parked themselves outside a birthday party. . .Near midnight, the assassins, later identified as hired guns for the Mexican cartel La Linea, broke into a one-story house and opened fire on a gathering of nearly 60 teenagers. Outside, lookouts gunned down a screaming neighbor and several students who had managed to escape. Fourteen young men and women were killed, and 12 more were wounded before the hit men finally fled. Indirectly, the United States government played a role in the massacre by supplying some of the firearms used by the cartel murderers."
Although Operation Fast and Furious occurred entirely under the Obama administration, President Obama has falsely claimed that it began "under the previous administration." In reality, as ABC's Jack Tapper and others have noted, "Fast & Furious started in the fall of 2009, 9 months after President Obama was sworn in." (Prior gun-walking programs existed, but they were completely different, since the government made efforts to track the guns in those earlier programs, and they did not lead to anyone being killed.)
October 2, 2012 9:46 AM
Right now, Washington is one of nine states that does not allow charter schools to compete with the public school system. That could change this November, when Washington residents vote on Initiative 1240.
So why do the backers of Initiative 1240 believe this time is different? Perhaps partly because 1240 is being promoted by a well-funded campaign whose supporters include Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. According to a recent Elway Poll, a polling firm based in Washington state, 47 percent of Washington residents now favor 1240's passage, while 38 oppose.
This change in Washington is also sign of a larger, national effort to increase charter school education. The Obama Administration's "Race to the Top" program includes a charter school initiative. In 2011, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine signed legislation making the state the most recent to authorize the existence of charter schools. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now set to expand the presence of charter schools in Chicago in the wake of the recent teachers strike.
While Washington could possibly become the forty-second state to authorized charter schools, a powerful teachers union has un-surprisingly come out as the leading organization in the state working against the measure. The Washington Education Association’s (WEA) political action website serves as the main campaign against Initiative 1240.
October 2, 2012 9:39 AM
- Groupon settlement rejected on cy pres grounds last week after our objection. The attorneys would have received $2.125 million, the class maybe a twentieth of that.
- I argued the Baby Products case in the Third Circuit, and am cautiously optimistic for a good precedent in a case where the attorneys collected over $14 million and the class was due less than $3 million. Briefing.
- The fairness hearing in Johnson & Johnson has been postponed until October 18. We filed two expert reports demonstrating that the plaintiffs had failed to present Daubert-satisfactory expert evidence in support of a claim that the $0 settlement provided "substantial benefit" to shareholders.
- The Ninth Circuit, relying on opinions from two CCAF victories, struck down a settlement on cy pres grounds in Dennis v. Kellogg September 4, also holding that an attorneys' 38.9% share of a settlement ($2 million in this case) would be "clearly excessive."
- The Center filed with the IRS for stand-alone 501(c)(3) status. I'd like to express tremendous gratitude to everyone at Donors' Trust for all they did to incubate us.
October 1, 2012 1:07 PM
The United National Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Simultaneously, there has been a push for the U.S. to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). Though signed, the treaty was never ratified by the U.S.; and for good reason. LOST redistributes wealth away from developed states, such as the U.S., and discourages innovation and investment.
LOST replaces hundred-year-old sea boundaries for member states, regardless of being a coastal or land-locked state. This can potentially reduce the extent of sovereign territory of the U.S. For example, Niger, a predominately desert country in Sub-Saharan Africa, at least 400 miles away from the nearest ocean coast-line, is allowed the same relative amount of ocean territory as Greenland, the world’s largest island.
LOST also creates a governing board for the ocean, the self-declared Authority. The area outside of states’ sea-boundaries, known as the Area, is to be mined by the Authority-created Enterprise. The Enterprise is a business organ which excavates for the Authority.
At the Authority’s discretion, developed states are to pay dues, and state and private deep-seabed mining companies are to pay “royalties” towards the creation of the Enterprise.
October 1, 2012 10:44 AM
BLAKE HURST: "Organic Illusions"
"A recent study by a group of scientists at Stanford University found that the nutritional benefits of organic food have, to say the least, been oversold. Apres moi, le deluge. A furor has erupted. In our modern-day version of holy wars, we’ve replaced debates about gnosticism and Manichaeism with arguments about the virtues of locally grown versus sustainable versus organic. As with all wars over doctrine, the rhetoric has been fierce."
TRAVIS BROWN: "In 'Live Free or Die' New Hampshire, The U.S. Looks For Tax Leadership"
"In New England, there remains one granite pillar against the tyranny of high tax burdens, found within the spirit of New Hampshire. This November, leadership from the State Legislature will attempt to end the creeping encroachment of the personal income tax applied to gaming winnings and interest from dividends. The New Hampshire Income Tax Amendment, known as CACR (13), would ban all forms of personal income taxes applied to a natural person."
JASON ZENGERIE: "‘The. Polls. Have. Stopped. Making. Any. Sense."
"The 1,072 Ohioans who participated in PPP’s poll were, as is the case with almost every poll taken today, older and whiter than the electorate. As a result, Jensen decided to give more weight to certain respondents’ answers. 'If the whole world was releasing unweighted polls,' he says, 'Mitt Romney would be heading to an easy election.' For instance, although African-Americans accounted for just 7 percent of the respondents to PPP’s poll, Jensen believes—based on census data, past elections, and the current political environment—that black voters will make up 12 percent of the Ohio electorate come November. So Jensen multiplied his African-American respondents’ answers by 1.5."