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OpenMarket: Regulatory Reform

  • PEOTUS Behavioral Targeted Advertising Adventure

    January 16, 2009
    The prevention of regulation and the Rule of Law pounding its mighty fist within a medium or sector of business is generally something that is lauded around these parts.  On occasion, though, an industry will find that it is possibly pushing the envelope ever so much over the line and chooses to act on its own behalf.  This self-supervision, for the most part, tends to deter government involvement and the creation of legal regulation, which can in many cases be far more costly than self-imposed rules. In December of 2007 the FTC notified the online advertising industry that Behavioral Targeting-style advertising was pushing the boundaries of privacy.  Their letter--entitled "Behavioral Advertising: Moving the Discussion Forward to Possible Self-Regulatory Principles"--should have made it abundantly clear that this was a warning shot and the hammer was about to drop.  The industry,...
  • Telecom Lobbyists in the DTV Henhouse?

    January 16, 2009
    With the election of a new president and new Democratic majorities in Congress, the era of corporate influence is over in Washington, D.C. Or, at least that what I had heard. According to our old friend Tim Carney, I may have been mistaken:
    A telecommunications company has confirmed for this columnist that its vice president for policy—who is also an Obama donor and a former lobbyist—is advising Barack Obama's transition team on telecom policy. Obama's transition team, which has failed to disclose this executive's involvement, happens to have proposed a significant change in telecom policy that will profit that very company, called Clearwire. By pushing to delay the long-scheduled transition of television broadcasting from analog...
  • Regulate First, Think Never?

    January 15, 2009
    Twitter can be very useful. Walter Olson of Overlawyered.com sent out a tweet this morning about an Amazon list of toys that will be affected by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which comes into effect February 10. This new law aims to protect children from the harmful effect of lead in toys, but does so, as usual, in an expensive and ham-fisted way that ignores unintended consequences. Intrigued, I researched further and found a classic tale of regulatory incompetence, but also an excellent example...
  • The Paycheck Fairness Act: Equal Pay Baloney From the Press

    January 14, 2009
    "News" stories on legislation often read like lazy summaries of press releases put out by the bill's sponsors. That's particularly true for so-called "equal pay" legislation, even if it would lead to inequities and frivolous lawsuits. The Gannett News service is claiming that the controversial Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House late last week, simply "elevates the status of gender-based pay discrimination lawsuits to the same level as lawsuits filed by those claiming discrimination based on race, age, or disability." That echoes press releases by the bill's sponsors. But it's not true. The bill would...
  • Ecuador's Mining Law and the 70% WFT

    January 9, 2009
    Ecuador, the only Latin American country that lacks large-scale mining operations, is passing a new mining law that will lift a six-month ban on mining operations. However, a feared windfall tax (WFT) on mining profits — one of the biggest concerns among international investors — is not an issue that is open for debate in the Andean nation. As of this writing, it looks as though applying a WFT on mining profits will be a done deal.

    Chatting with Maria Paula Romo, former VP of the mini Congress, when visiting Ecuador last March 08.

    Chatting with Maria Paula Romo...

  • The Bureaucratic Mind at Work

    January 9, 2009
    In an increasingly rare example of investigative journalism, the UK Times finds a 'ghost bus' designed to spare ministers' blushe. The bus, which is expected to run without passengers, represents an alternative to complying with rules relating to the closing of passenger rail routes. Yet this is no invention of the Labour government. The Conservatives did it as well, as I remember having been in Railways Directorate of the Department of Transport at the time. What it does represent is a rational response to a regulation that imposes tremendous cost. What is most interesting, however, is that this response depends on legislative language that the Department of Transport itself had a hand in drafting. In other words, government is quite happy to allow itself loopholes in its own laws. For the...
  • Short-seller praised by Mass. Democrat at Madoff hearing

    January 8, 2009
    In the House Financial Services Committee hearing Monday on Bernard Madoff's $50 billion alleged Ponzi scheme, some good points were raised by Congress members of both parties. One was particularly relevant: Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, said short-sellers seemed to know about the Madoff fraud and the S.E.C. should have seen it coming. “The short-sellers knew it was coming and they invested in it — how did they know and the S.E.C didn't,” Mr. Lynch asserted. “These short-sellers were able to diagnose it, bet on it and make a killing on it.” Lynch's point was a little unclear. Madoff's company was not publicly traded, and thus couldn't be shorted in the traditional sense. Lynch could have been referring to two related issues though. One is...
  • Change Is Coming, To Benefit Trial Lawyers

    January 8, 2009
    Obama promised change, and it's already happening, at the expense of the poor, consumers, and small business. "Regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children's clothing." That's the result of a law championed by Obama and trial lawyers, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which imposes draconian requirements and penalties on sellers of childrens' toys and clothing. As a result, used clothing stores for poor kids, like Kid to Kid, are going out of business...
  • Massive in Massachusetts

    January 8, 2009
    The people of Massachusetts, who until now have been entirely clueless about the fat content of any food, will finally be set free from their ignorance thanks to the wisdom of Governor Deval Patrick and the other wise and caring officials of the Bay State.
  • Let the Sunstein In

    January 8, 2009

    I was cheered this morning by the news that Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago is to be the next head of OIRA, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. While not someone a libertarian conservative would necessarily appoint, he is possibly the best choice possible that Obama could have made, and his friendship with the President-elect suggests he will have some power. In particular, Prof. Sunstein has been a very strong opponent of the Precautionary Principle, which is the rock upon which many environmental regulatory initiatives are built. He also called CEI's litigation to draw attention to the fatal consequences of CAFE regulation "the principal case involving the issue of health-health tradeoffs."

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