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OpenMarket: March 2015

  • Benning Road: The Last Refuge of Streetcar Apologists

    March 19, 2015

    Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex blogger Aaron Wiener has an unintentionally hilarious article on the slow-motion implosion of the D.C. Streetcar. But before I get to Wiener’s piece, let’s recap:

  • Least Transparent Administration Closes Records on Fannie and Freddie

    March 19, 2015

    This Sunshine Week, the administration that swept into office promising to be the “most transparent” in history was just judged by a major news service as least transparent of modern presidencies.

    An analysis by the Associated Pres found that “the Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.” The AP adds that the administration “also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law - but only when it was challenged.”

    But FOIA requests are just the tip of the iceberg for this administration’s secrecy, much of which has nothing to do with...

  • CPSC's Scientific Shenanigans on Phthalates

    March 18, 2015

    Many “stakeholders” have complained about the process through which the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed its proposed rule related to a class of chemicals called phthalates—and rightly so. In particular, the agency’s failure to allow public comment and open peer review of its Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel report (CHAP report) underscore the fact that bureaucrats want to avoid scrutiny that might hold them accountable for rash and unscientific decisions. 

    Designed to make plastics soft and pliable, these chemicals have many valuable uses for making a wide range of products from blood bags, to rain boots and swimming pool liners as well as children’s toys, which are the subject of this regulation. Safely used for decades, activists and regulators are poised to essentially throw away...

  • The Republican Budget and Middle Class Economics

    March 18, 2015

    Yesterday the House Republicans released their “Balanced Budget for a Stronger America” and the Senate Republicans will release their budget proposal today.

    House Republicans would cut $5 trillion over 10 years and get rid of Obamacare. Their main goal is to balance the budget without raising taxes over that 10-year period. I wrote about this in Forbes yesterday.

    Republicans are more likely however to dissipate energy fighting amongst themselves over increased defense spending.

    Obama, by contrast, will respond to the House and Senate Republicans by giving a speech reiterating his “Middle-Class economics” pitch, which, in short means more spending and more...

  • Maine Legislators Try to Bring Right-to-Work to the Northeast

    March 18, 2015
    Last week, Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work (RTW) state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay dues to a union which they may disagree with.
  • In re Online DVD Antitrust Litigation: adverse decision and en banc petition

    March 17, 2015
    You might recall the settlement approval in Online DVD Antitrust Litigation we briefed back in 2012. A district court held that the Wal-Mart $12.03 "gift cards" the settlement awarded weren't "coupons," refused to apply the Class Action Fairness Act, and awarded fees based on the face value of the coupons.

    On February 27, the Ninth Circuit, in a Judge Sidney Thomas opinion, affirmed.

    Wait a second! careful readers exclaim, Didn't you already win that exact issue on appeal?!

    Yep. Appellees made the same arguments about "settlement vouchers" and attorney-fee calculations in Redman v. RadioShack Corp., 768 F.3d 622 (7th Cir. 2014...
  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    March 16, 2015

    An otherwise slow week ended with a bang on Friday, with 27 new regulations, or nearly half the week’s total, covering everything from calorie counts to gas vapors.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 60 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 72 new regulations the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 48 minutes.
    • So far in 2015, 548 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,796 new regulations this year, which would be nearly 1,000 fewer rules than the usual total.
    • Last week, 1,157 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,242 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 13,467 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 68,710 pages.
    • Rules are...
  • Wisconsin Unions Sue to Maintain Coercive Power

    March 13, 2015
    Workers should find the union lawsuit against Wisconsin's recently enacted right-to-work law (RTW) bizarre and, probably, offensive. The argument put forth by unions is that the new law is an unconstitutional taking of property. In other words, unions view a chunk of workers' paychecks as their property even if that worker does not want union representation.
  • CPSC Proposal on Phthalates Likely to Do More Harm than Good

    March 13, 2015

    On Monday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will close the comment period for a proposed rule related to chemicals used to make soft and pliable plastics. While they claim to do this in the name of children’s health, it’s not clear that the rule will do more good than harm.

    The process and the “scientific” review that brings us to this proposed rule has been controversial, to say the least. I detail some of those issues in comments that I will submit on Monday and will post some of that here on Monday as well.

    Unfortunately, not enough attention has focused on the fact that the agency-commissioned study—referred to as the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) report—failed to...

  • Civil Rights Commissioners Oppose Budget Increase for Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights

    March 12, 2015

    On February 26, two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, wrote to the chairmen of the congressional appropriations committees, to warn “against” a “provision of the proposed Obama budget that would increase funding for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (‘OCR’) by 31%.”  

    As the Commissioners observed in their letter, there has been “a disturbing pattern of disregard for the rule of law at OCR. That office has all-...

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