You are here

OpenMarket: April 2014

  • Driverless Cars, Innovation, and Regulation: Let's Not Mess it Up

    April 23, 2014 8:11 AM
    CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman about to take a spin in Google's self-driving car. (Photo by Marc Scribner) CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman about to take a spin in Google's self-driving car. (Photo by Marc Scribner)

    For the past several years, I've been writing about highly automated vehicles -- widely referred to as driverless cars -- and the huge potential they have in reducing injuries and deaths (over 30,000 Americans die on the roads every year), improving mobility for the disabled and elderly, reducing the drudgery of commuting, and helping the environment... provided policy makers don't mess it up with onerous laws and regulations (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

  • Pseudoscience and Clickbaiting Results in Beer Fear

    April 22, 2014 2:45 PM

    There’s a lot of pseudoscience about food out there. From genetically modified crops to organic foods to corn syrup, to preservatives, passionate opinions abound, but well-reasoned, well-researched reporting on the issues is scarce. Normally, I selectively address the more egregious offenses and ignore the rest. But once in a while, an article comes along that is so misinformed, so hyperbolic, and so viral that it cannot be ignored. When such an article maligns one of my favorite food items, beer, I am duty-bound to come to its defense.

    Recently, Organics.org turned a post by the blogger Vani Hari, better known as the “Food Babe,” into the worst kind of clickbait with the sky-is-falling headline, “8 Beers That You Should Stop Drinking Immediately,” which has been making the rounds on social media networks. But rather than exposing any dangers in beer, what Hari does reveal is that she does not understand the brewing process, how additives and ingredients function throughout that process, or how the beer industry is regulated.

    The first warning sign that the Food Babe’s information may be dubious is that one of her main sources was the book, Chemicals Additives in Beer, published by the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has a poor record when it comes to being scientifically sound. As food historian Maureen Ogle noted in her rebuttal (which I highly recommend):

    [T]his one fact set off my alarm bells: She [Hari] relied on information from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. If you’ve read Ambitious Brew, you know that I have zero patience with CSPI. For thirty years, that group has railed against the alcohol industry and lobbied for neo-prohibition. As a source of information, it’s untrustworthy, unreliable, and constantly shows a somewhat shocking disregard for science (weird, given the group’s name).

    Moreover, I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere or even a listing that might demonstrate its existence.

  • Victory for Maryland Parents and Consumers: Energy Drink Ban Voted Down

    April 21, 2014 3:55 PM

    A bill that would have banned the sale of energy drinks for minors in Maryland was recently voted down in committee almost unanimously. The bill was introduced after the death of 14-year-old Anais Fournier, which was reportedly linked to the consumption of energy drinks, and several news stories linking energy drinks to an increased number of hospitalizations fueled the panic over energy drinks potential hazards. However, Maryland lawmakers, to their credit, did not rush to legislate on a matter that would affect all Marylanders based on a few anecdotal cases.

    While it’s understandable that parents would want lawmakers to do something to protect their children from potentially hazardous products, legislating based on anecdotal evidence isn’t the answer. In fact, a ban would likely do more harm than good. As Maryland Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Mount Rainier) told me over email, “There may be issues with energy drinks, but I agree that there are limits to how much can and should be done legislatively.”

    On March 15, after hearing the concerns of citizens and business owners in Maryland, the House Economic Matters Committee rejected the bill 22-1. Despite the emotional testimony of the parents of the late Anais Fournier, lawmakers did not seem convinced that a ban was appropriate or that the scientific case against energy drinks is conclusive.

  • Taxable Bitcoins 2: We're Not Gonna Pay it!

    April 21, 2014 1:21 PM

    Reason magazine’s Brian Doherty recently addressed the IRS’s recent announcement that bitcoin transactions are taxable. As I addressed in my last piece, while the IRS may have sought to clarify their taxation process for bitcoins, it has only caused further confusion. I agree with Doherty that this announcement is not detrimental to bitcoin, but there are unresolved issues that need to be considered.

    The plan is for the IRS requires users to self-report their transactions to the IRS; it is easy to see why compliance might be a problem. For a currency based upon subverting government regulations, there will likely be a group of Bitcoin users who choose to avoid payment of taxes to the IRS wherever possible. The question at this point is how likely is it that the IRS will be able to actually enforce taxation on bitcoins.

    This is where the debate gets messy. The block chain, bitcoin’s public ledger, is a record of all transactions that have occurred between bitcoin users. The block chain uses digital wallets as a medium for storing and transferring bitcoins between individuals. It is possible for the IRS to monitor the block chain -- which is publicly available for viewing online -- and discern when a transaction occurs that meets the taxation threshold.

  • CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    April 21, 2014 11:43 AM

    84 new regulations, from stair-climbing wheelchairs to crustacean irradiation.

  • UAW Drops Volkswagen Union Election Appeal

    April 21, 2014 10:27 AM

    Remember when the United Auto Workers lost in a unionization vote at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and filed an appeal to overturn the election results? It was all a charade.

  • The NLRB Shows Union Favoritism

    April 18, 2014 9:48 AM

    Unions have always had special privileges in America, but ever since 1973, when United States v. Enmons exempted them from compliance with the Hobbs Act, unions have received privileges that no one else could even dream of. U.S. v. Enmons held that violence for the cause of “legitimate” union objectives is not counted as extortion. That is an extraordinary privilege to say the least.

  • CEI, Former State Department Officials Defend Freedom of Contract in Supreme Court Case against Argentina

    April 17, 2014 4:11 PM

    [caption id="attachment_74355" align="alignright" width="300"]Argentina President Cristina Kirchner Argentina President Cristina Kirchner[/caption]

    Can a country seeking to welsh on its debts invoke sovereign immunity to evade not just court orders to pay those debts, but also post-judgment discovery aimed at collecting on those judgments? Can it do so to prevent not just discovery directed at it, but also at third-party banks? Most importantly, perhaps, can it do so even though it contractually waived sovereign immunity? The answer is yes, according to Argentina, which is seeking to stiff many of its bondholders. Thankfully, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed with this attack on property and contract rights in a 2012 decision.

    But amazingly enough, the Obama administration has taken Argentina’s side at the Supreme Court. It is joined by the government of France, which has experienced downgrades in its credit rating due to stubbornly-high government spending under Socialist Francois Hollande that consumes well over half of France’s economy. The willingness of the Obama administration to take Argentina’s extreme position is disturbing given that the Second Circuit’s ruling was unanimous.

    CEI and several former State Department officials have filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to uphold the appeals court’s ruling, and reaffirm the availability of the post-judgment discovery needed to protect property and contractual rights. The former State Department officials include counsel of record John Norton Moore, former Counselor on International Law to the Department of State; Robert F. Turner, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs; Abraham D. Sofaer, a former federal judge and former Legal Adviser to the Department of State; Professor Malvina Halberstam, former Counselor on International Law to the State Department; and Davis R. Robinson, former Legal Adviser to the State Department. John Norton Moore, who teaches international law and national-security law at the University of Virginia, was extensively involved in drafting the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) involved in the case. Judge Sofaer was appointed by President Carter to the federal bench in 1979.

  • CEI Podcast for April 17, 2014: Brexit Strategy

    April 17, 2014 10:34 AM

    Iain Murray, CEI's Vice President for Strategy, along with Freedom Association Director Rory Broomfield, won second place Institute for Economic Affairs' Brexit Competition. The goal of the competition is to devise a strategy for Britain's exit from the European Union.

  • Paycheck Protection and Union Dishonesty

    April 16, 2014 9:43 AM

    Paycheck protection and right-to-work are under siege in Missouri’s continuing labor fight.

Pages

Subscribe to OpenMarket: April 2014