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OpenMarket: March 2016

  • Individual Liberty: The Greatest Remedy for Terrorism

    March 31, 2016

    USA Today reports that lines at airports are getting longer and people aren’t signing up for the registered traveler program, TSA PreCheck, in sufficient numbers. Given what happened in Brussels last week, we can expect those lines to get longer and more people to suffer government intrusion into their lives when they want to travel peacefully. This is precisely what should not happen.

    Shortly after the attacks, Sascha Tamm of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation wrote an article (in German) on the universal risks of terrorism and the important implications they have for individual liberty. Tamm...

  • Shady Marketing Claims for "Green" Cleaning Products

    March 30, 2016

    Serena Ng of The Wall Street Journal reports today on the murky world of marketing for “green” and “natural” household products. Ads for these flower-scented and creatively-named brands often claim—or, at least, strongly imply—that they are safer and healthier that mainstream cleaning and deodorizing agents. Such claims are often made even when both products are chemically similar or borderline identical. 

    Ng points out that Nature’s Power laundry detergent, sold proudly by Whole Foods, contains sodium laureth sulfate, which they produce from vegetable oil. Arm & Hammer (owned by the same company, Church & Dwight), makes detergent that also contains sodium laureth sulfate, except in Arm & Hammer’s case, it is made from petroleum. It’s the same chemical compound, but...

  • President Obama Promotes Myth of Excellent Health Care and Education in Cuba

    March 30, 2016

    In his recent remarks in Cuba, President Obama offered glowing praise to institutions in that communist country that did not deserve it. The president called Cuba’s “system of education” an “extraordinary resource” that “values every boy and every girl.”

    But there’s nothing “extraordinary” about Cuba’s educational system. Children are taught by poorly paid teachers in dilapidated schools. Cuba has made less educational progress than most Latin American countries over the last 60 years. According to UNESCO, Cuba had about the same literacy rate as Costa Rica and Chile in 1950 (close to 80 percent). And it has almost the same literacy rate as they do today (close to 100 percent). 

    Meanwhile, Latin American countries...

  • Subway Footlong Sandwich Settlement Now on Appeal

    March 30, 2016

    CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness has appealed the district court’s approval of the Subway Footlong settlement to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

    The saga began in January 2013 when an Australian teenager’s tweet of a not-quite-footlong Subway Footlong sandwich went viral, spawning nine U.S. lawsuits that were eventually centralized in federal court in Milwaukee. 

    After two plus years of wrangling (most of that time just spent negotiating class counsel’s fee award), the plaintiffs and defendants sought to have the court sign off on their proposed agreement. Subway agreed to require franchisees to keep a measuring tool on their premises, require monthly inspectors to inspect five loaves of white and five loaves of wheat bread, and maintain certain other trivial best-baking practices. Although the parties wouldn’t exactly let on, it is a good bet that Subway...

  • Haiku: "No Energy Left"

    March 30, 2016

    Inspired by SunEdison’s near bankruptcy (among other terrible news for the solar power industry) and infused with the spirit of Japanese culture due to the blooming cherry trees here in Washington, D.C., I authored the following Haiku:

    Regulate coal death

    solar power can’t cut it

    no energy left

  • State Legislatures Can Dampen Friedrichs Ruling's Blow to Worker Freedom

    March 29, 2016

    Today, the Supreme Court announced a 4 to 4 spilt decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a decision that keeps alive the Abood precedent that forces non-union members to pay union dues as a condition of employment with state and local governments.

    Government unions had a lot at stake. With the spilt decision, government unions will continue to collect millions of dollars in compulsory dues payments from librarians, bus drivers, teachers, and all sorts of other public employees across the country.

    The plaintiffs, public school teachers from the state of California, argued that forced union dues payments amounted to forced political speech and a violation of their First Amendment rights. In essence, the teachers argued that government unions are inherently...

  • Small Scale Entrepreneurs Are Nothing New

    March 29, 2016

    The rise of the sharing economy and related trends, by which individuals are exercising more control over their work schedules and income flow, garners a lot of praise from free market advocates and the usual panicky horror from anti-capitalists. But in both cases it’s being seen as something new; a revolution by which everyone with a Task Rabbit account now has become a profit-maximizing firm of one for the first time. Today’s busy, app-driven professionals would seem to have little to do with, for example, tenant farmers at the dawn of the 16th Century.

    Yet the forces that have liberated human beings (most of us, at least) from the...

  • House Energy and Environment Notes

    March 29, 2016

    Both chambers of Congress are in recess now, but there were some goings-on in the House last Wednesday that merit mention.

    The first was EPA Gina McCarthy’s two appearances before House subcommittees in order to defend her FY 2017 budget. In the morning, she testified before the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. In the afternoon, she appeared before a joint hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittees on Environment and the Economy and on Energy and Power.

    As well-reported by E&E Daily’s ($) Amanda Reilly,

    ...
  • Senators Urge EPA to Burst RFS Blend Wall

    March 28, 2016

    A bipartisan group of 19 Senators led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is urging EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “back on track”—code for compelling refiners to comply with the program’s increasingly unattainable statutory goals.

    The RFS is a central planning scheme requiring specified volumes of biofuels to be sold in the nation’s motor fuel supply over a 17-year period. Created in 2005 and then expanded in 2007, the quota for total renewable fuels increase from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

    The RFS, however, also authorizes EPA to reduce the annual statutory targets if the administrator determines there is an “inadequate domestic supply.” For example, EPA ...

  • Freedom of Contract at Risk in Carcano v. McCrory

    March 28, 2016

    Virginia’s Dillon rule prevents cities and counties from regulating the employment practices of private businesses. That bars them from setting minimum wages higher than the state or federal minimum wage, or adding new protected classes of employees at businesses’ expense (through anti-bias ordinances). That is good for businesses, promotes freedom of contract, and prevents a confusing patchwork quilt of regulation that varies from city to city and county to county. It is also one reason why Virginia has a better than average business climate.

    North Carolina has now enacted legislation giving businesses the same protection (see, e.g., Section 143-422.2(c)). Unfortunately, it is part of...

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