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My Cato post is here. I’d wish him bon voyage, but somehow it’s hard to associate him with happy travels.

Update: I’ve now expanded my thoughts into a Daily Caller op-ed.

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s press spokesman describes as “inaccurate” Reuters’ report that his boss endorses a Congressionally enacted national across-the-board ban on cellphone use. (The Newspaper; our earlier posts here and here; Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg View).

More from The Newspaper:

At the same time that the US Department of Transportation is pushing laws to ban in-car cell phone use, it is promoting the “511″ government program that encourages drivers to dial 511 for information on traffic conditions instead of tuning in to a traffic reports on AM radio.

Related: “Communities start to fine for texting and walking” [USA Today]

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January 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 29, 2013

  • In job bias dispute: “Federal Court Says Veganism Might Qualify As A Religion” [Religion Clause]
  • Perennially credulous L.A. Times drops broad hints that Toyota settlement vindicates sudden acceleration theories, others know better [LA Times, NLJ earlier]
  • “Cato Named America’s Most Effective Think Tank Per Dollar Spent” [Dan Mitchell, Nick Rosenkranz]
  • Disappointing: Transportation Sec. LaHood said to be “sticking around for a while” [Roads and Bridges, earlier] That was quick: only hours later, he says he’s leaving after all [WaPo]
  • It became necessary to destroy the sex workers in order to save them [Melissa Gira Grant/Reason]
  • Profile of lefter-than-thou NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman [NY Mag]
  • As rural pub tradition declines, Irish government rejects proposal to ease DUI laws [AP]

Former Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole once suggested raising it to 24, which just goes to show that current Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood isn’t the only one with anti-liberty ideas [Amy Alkon, more]

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Politico quotes me on the latest harebrained idea from the U.S. Department of Transportation, known for Secretary Ray LaHood’s crusade against “distracted driving”:

Olson called the idea that law enforcement would be focused on using spotters perched atop overpasses “creepy” and suggested it turns police officers into “peeping toms.”

“We drive under [overpasses], so it’s not a perfect expectation of privacy; but if we saw someone staring down and hoping to look into our laps, we’d think of them as creepy,” Olson said.

Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which has been out front of the effort to curb distracted driving, scoffed at the notion that there is any expectation of privacy in a car.

Earlier here, etc.

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The federal government should keep its busy hands off local traffic laws — and that goes for bribing states to its will, as well as issuing direct orders. Today the House will debate a measure that would make that point by cutting off a fledgling program that would pay states for doing what “distracted driving” crusader and DoT secretary Ray LaHood lacks the constitutional authority or political capital to do directly. I explain in my new post at Cato at Liberty.

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I’ve got an op-ed in Saturday’s Orange County Register taking exception to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s call for Congressional legislation to ban “talking on a cellphone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country.” Something you might not have known: the feds blame a crash on distraction if a cellphone is so much as “in the presence of the driver at the time of the crash.” (Distracted Driving Summit Press kit (PDF), “Traffic Safety Facts” p. 2, h/t Investor’s Business Daily; earlier here, here, etc.) More: Rob Port, SayAnythingBlog. Update: LaHood spokesman says Reuters overstated his boss’s position.

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April 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 30, 2012

  • Because Washington knows best: “U.S. ban sought on cell phone use while driving” [Reuters, earlier here, here, here, etc.] More here; and LaHood spokesman says Reuters overstated his boss’s position.
  • Janice Brown’s Hettinga opinion: Lithwick can’t abide “starkly ideological” judging of this sort, except of course when she favors it [Root, earlier] At Yale law conclave, legal establishment works itself into hysterical froth over individual mandate case [Michael Greve] And David Bernstein again corrects some Left commentators regarding the standing of child labor under the pre-New Deal Constitution;
  • Latest antiquities battle: Feds, Sotheby’s fight over 1,000-year-old Khmer statue probably removed from Cambodia circa 1960s [VOA, Kent Davis]
  • Sebelius surprised by firestorm over religious (non-) exemption, hadn’t sought written opinions as to whether it was constitutional [Becket, Maguire] Obamanauts misread the views of many Catholics on health care mandate [Potemra, NRO]
  • “20 Years for Standing Her Ground Against a Violent Husband” [Jacob Sullum] How Trayvon Martin story moved through the press [Poynter] And Reuters’ profile of George Zimmerman is full of details one wishes reporters had brought out weeks ago;
  • Coaching accident fraud is bad enough, making off with client funds lends that extra squalid touch [NYLJ]
  • Kip Viscusi, “Does Product Liability Make Us Safer?” [Cato's Regulation magazine, PDF]

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March 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 7, 2012

  • Ray LaHood’s forgotten predecessor: “How One Bureaucrat Almost Succeeded in Banning Car Radios” [Mike Riggs, Reason]
  • “Some Recent Nonsense on Freedom of Religion in the Times” [Paul Horwitz, Prawfs]
  • Choice of Ben Stein as speaker for ABA Tech Show raises eyebrows [Derek Bambauer, InfoLaw]
  • “Oblivion video game ‘Abomb” becomes federal lawsuit” [Abnormal Use]
  • Tort causation: “Probability for thee, mere possibility for me” [David Oliver]
  • Washington state says it won’t pay for “unnecessary” Medicaid ER visits. Can you see the unintended consequences coming? [White Coat]
  • Utah says family can’t fundraise for son’s legal defense without permit [Standard-Examiner via Balko]

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March 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 2, 2012

  • Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who crusades against distracted driving, worsens the problem by honking at motorists he sees using phones [WTOP via Mike Riggs, Reason] Expensive new mandate for back-up cameras in cars may be delayed until after election [Ira Stoll and more, Ann Althouse]
  • With reporter Lee Stranahan, the late Andrew Breitbart shone an investigative spotlight on the USDA’s billion-dollar settlement with lawyers representing black farmers, and there was indeed much to investigate [Big Government]
  • Substance on floor may have been own baby oil: “Oiled Stripper Loses Slip and Fall Lawsuit” [Erik Magraken; B.C., Canada; related on-the-job pole-dance injuries here and here]
  • Honeywell’s new thermostat design deserves high marks, its patent litigation maybe not so much [Farhad Manjoo, Slate]
  • Socialism takes too many evenings: @ChadwickMatlin live-tweets Park Slope Food Co-op meeting [The Awl]
  • Auto bailout a success? Really? [Mickey Kaus, Todd Zywicki, Ted Frank, Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Way to go Maryland: proud of my state for enacting law recognizing same-sex marriage, signed by Gov. O’Malley yesterday [WaPo]

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Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has made “distracted driving” his “signature safety issue,” is putting distance between himself and the NTSB’s call for a sweeping ban. [Reuters, Tina Korbe/Hot Air, earlier here and here]

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It’s basically the same message that leaked out seven months ago. In a new post at Cato at Liberty, I raise some questions about why it took so long to release the study results.

More: Jalopnik, Coyote, Marc Hodak, Rick Woldenberg/AmendTheCPSIA, Dan Fisher/Forbes, Dan Bigman/Forbes (LaHood: “no defect, but we’ll regulate the industry anyway”); Carter Wood/ShopFloor and more, Ted Frank/PoL (class action over loss of resale value continues), New York Times, Leonard Evans/AOL. My March 2010 National Review piece “Exorcising Toyota’s Demons” is here. And welcome readers from Instapundit, Charlie Martin/PJ Tatler, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Roger Donway/Atlas Society, Ira Stoll/Future of Capitalism.

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[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

New York state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is crusading to ban pedestrians’ use of cellphones and other mobile devices while crossing the street. It’s for your own good, you must understand:

“When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in.”

The Daily Caller asked me to write an opinion piece about this proposal so I just did. Excerpt:

Phone use on the street has become near-ubiquitous in recent years, yet over nearly all that time — nationally as in Gotham — pedestrian death rates were falling steadily, just as highway fatalities fell steadily over the years in which “distracted driving” became a big concern.

In the first half of 2010, the national statistics showed a tiny upward blip (0.4 percent), occasioned by a relative handful of fatalities in a few states. Even a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, seems to agree it’s premature to jump to conclusions: “You don’t want to overreact to six months of data,” he told columnist Steve Chapman.

Like others who seek quasi-parental control over adults, Sen. Kruger tends to infantilize his charges. He told the Times: “We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

This drew proper scorn from columnist Chapman: “Actually, you can perform all those functions and dance an Irish jig, even with text messages or rock music bombarding you.” That some ear bud devotees don’t take due caution is no reason to pretend they can’t.

C.S. Lewis, Lily Tomlin and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood all get walk-on parts as well.

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Sacrificing not only passenger convenience, but also important elements of emergency response and crime prevention, to the Government That Knows Best: “Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.” [Daily Caller, earlier] Post-furor update: DOT “currently has no plans” to do this.

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Yes, that’s what Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has actually suggested. Think of what a great idea in emergencies! [Bedard/U.S. News via Radley Balko, Reason "Hit and Run"]

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