August 27, 2015
The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe has written an article about a North Dakota law aimed at limiting law enforcement use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. He claims that the law was watered down by police interests and corporate lobbyists, and that the weakened protections now authorize law enforcement’s use of non-lethal UAS-mounted weapons:
With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it....
August 18, 2015
On Sunday, August 9, The New York Times ran an editorial, “Protecting Cars from Hackers,” discussing the recent publicized hacking incidents of Fiat Chrysler and Tesla vehicles, with Fiat Chrysler voluntarily recalling 1.4 million vehicles to fix the bug.
As our cars get smarter, we can expect more of these types of incidents. To be sure, there are new risks presented by the rise of smart cars—particularly when automated systems take over driving task...
August 18, 2015
This past Saturday, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled due to an air traffic control software glitch in the Washington, D.C. area. Naturally, #flypocalypse began trending on Twitter. Initially, the Federal Aviation Administration denied reports that their brand-new En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system was responsible. Yesterday, FAA officials admitted ERAM was the culprit.
ERAM is a critical component of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization program. In theory, it offers greatly...
July 16, 2015
Yesterday, July 15, 2015, CEI filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Our suit requests the court enforce its July 15, 2011, decision that found the TSA’s deployment of body scanners in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The 2011 court ordered the TSA to “promptly” open a rulemaking proceeding and produce a final rule. Yesterday was the four-year anniversary of the court order and we still do not have a final rule to evaluate and potentially challenge. In fact, given that TSA has been rolling out body scanners since 2007, they have been violating the APA for eight years.
Other than CEI, petitioners are the National Center for Transgender Equality, The...
June 30, 2015
Today, CEI published my white paper, “Reimagining Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Pro-Market Recommendations for Policy Makers.” In it, I lay out the case for making some small but important changes to federal surface transportation policy.
Traditionally, free market fiscal conservatives have advocated for devolving all federal highway and transit programs to the states. To be sure, we at CEI support this eventual goal. Unfortunately, it is wholly unrealistic at this time. But there are still things that can be done to move closer to this direction. We suggest a strategy of “de facto devolution,” which basically involves keeping federal spending steady while increasing the flexibility of states to fund and finance their own highways. To...
June 23, 2015
Ten years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision upholding the City of New London, Connecticut’s “right” to condemn Connecticut homeowners’ properties, transfer them to a state-created entity called the New London Development Corporation, which would then transfer those properties to a private developer of a planned mixed-use redevelopment project aimed at supporting an adjacent Pfizer research facility. (Land of the free, right?) At issue was the interpretation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause “public use” standard.
The Court relied primarily on three previous cases involving the “public use” standard:
Berman v. Parker (1954)—This case upheld the right of municipalities to declare entire areas blighted, even if the parcel in question isn’t...
May 20, 2015
Joseph Stromberg at Vox.com has an article up arguing that “commuting alone by car” is “associated with obesity, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and general unhappiness” relative to other transportation modes. His solution to unhealthy lengthy commutes is to increase carpooling.
Back in 2012, I argued against another now-Voxxer, Matthew Yglesias, on the supposed health harms of auto commuting. The problem, as Census data make clear, is that other than those who walk to work, people commuting by driving alone generally have the shortest commutes. Those using public transit take on average twice as long to make their commuting journeys as those who drive by themselves....
May 18, 2015
This morning, Amtrak Northeast Regional service was finally reopened following last week’s tragic derailment in Philadelphia that has killed at least eight and injured approximately 200. The tragedy was predictably exploited by cynical politicians, activists, and journalists, who seem to falsely believe that flushing more subsidies down the Amtrak drain would have somehow prevented the accident. It is true the technology at issue would possibly or even likely prevented this specific crash, speeding the deployment of it would dramatically increase costs and very likely reduce overall rail safety.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate and a final report will likely take a year or more to complete, but we know that the...
May 11, 2015
The Tax Foundation today released a new report, “Improving Airport Funding to Meet the Needs of Passengers.” Authored by Tax Foundation economist Alan Cole, the report notes that airport funding and financing in the U.S. is skewed against the users-pay principle and that the passenger facility charge (PFC) represents a welcome alternative to federal airport cross-subsidization schemes.
The PFC is a local user charge that airports can use to fund or finance a narrow class of improvements, as permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The PFC has been capped at a maximum of $4.50 per enplanement since 2000. Inflation has eroded that buying power by about half. CEI, along with airports and other aviation industry stakeholders, supports increasing the cap to $8.50 and then...
May 6, 2015
Colleagues tipped me off to an absurd news story about how the federal government is threatening to punish New York City for its famously gaudy Times Square electronic billboards:
It is known as the “Crossroads of the World,” the “Center of the Universe” and “the Great White Way,” but Times Square could become like the “Black Hole of Calcutta” if the federal government has its way, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.
The feds say many of Times Square’s huge and neon-lit billboards must come down or the city will lose about $90 million in federal highway money.
The edict comes from a 2012 law that makes Times Square an arterial route to the national highway system. And...