“Old crisis creates new leviathan” [Barton Hinkle] Some other things that maybe should happen before Snowden gets prosecuted [Bruce Schneier] “Were they here, my parents might have asked, ‘What happened to America?’” [Nat Hentoff]
Candidate Obama, meet President Obama; on surveillance, you’ll find you have little in common [graphic courtesy Caleb Brown, Cato at Liberty] Don’t say the president wants to be trusted with complete discretion unfettered by the other branches of government; that’s his assassination program, not his surveillance program [Jacob Sullum]
A different view: two leading libertarian legal thinkers, Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein, defend the NSA surveillance program [Chicago Tribune]
What would it take to bring back a Watergate-era spirit of reform? [Jesse Walker]
“As the NSA has made all too clear, unless we update our concept of the Fourth Amendment to fit the realities of the Internet Age, those general warrants [despised by colonists] will be back — on a far larger scale, and in secret.” [Julian Sanchez]
Feds: states must impose extensive disability-rights regime — including obligations to accept students with difficult accommodation needs — on private/religious schools participating in voucher programs [Bagenstos, Disability Law; Ramesh Ponnuru (noting that loading new regulatory burdens onto private and religious schools may not be displeasing to school choice opponents in the administration)] NYC’s famous selective/performance schools obliged to take special ed kids who can’t meet standard entrance or audition requirements [Inside Schools]
Volunteer-led school band survives shutdown attempt by Oregon teachers’ union [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
Chicago: “Teachers union plans to file civil rights suits to stop school closings” [Chicago Tribune]
Newly passed Minnesota “anti-bullying” law will expand state control over local schools [Pioneer Press] Court proceedings over alleged taunting and insults proliferate under New Jersey’s law [Star-Ledger via Reason]
“Graduates, your ambition is the problem” [Roger Pilon on the president's Ohio State commencement address]
His latest. The Reason editor-in-chief has consistently focused on the Benghazi angle that should most concern libertarians, namely the Administration’s scapegoating of speech (I think I’ll go ahead and coin the term “speech-goating.”) Here he focuses on a David Brooks column seemingly intended as a defense of the process that led to the famed Benghazi talking points, but which winds up putting them in a bad light indeed:
…in the absence of a clear narrative, the talking points gravitated toward the least politically problematic story, blaming the anti-Muslim video and the Cairo demonstrations.
Why was it deemed “the least politically problematic” course to spread an untruth, already widely known to be such by many senior officials, that sought to focus public and world anger on private speech, and by implication on our First Amendment protection of free speech about religion?
One should note carefully Ken White’s powerful argument at Popehat that the arrest of filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula wasn’t in fact legally irregular because Nakoula had clearly violated the terms of his supervised release and revocation of his release was par for the course under the circumstances.
Even so, the questions remain. The Administration sent Susan Rice out to five talk shows on the weekend of the attacks, where she pressed the line that outrage about the video fueled the attack. Brooks makes the case that interagency rivalries and secrecy got in the way of telling a fuller story. Maybe so. But why should American free speech be left as the “least politically problematic” thing to blame after a terrorist attack?
Ilya Shapiro and Hans Bader make the case against Obama pick Thomas Perez. Senate Democrats have postponed a committee vote on Perez to May 8 “after Republicans threatened to use a separate hearing to criticize his handling of a whistleblower case.” [HuffPo]
“Who killed gun control?” [David Boaz] Democratic senators from rural states are in touch with public opinion back home. Is that actually sinister? [Jennifer Rubin]
Failed bill applied tough regulations to gun “transfers,” not just sales, and the difference was often not well explained in the press [Kopel via Lynch] The un-empirical debate [Sowell via Lynch]
We’re informed the late Margaret Thatcher was “divisive” in tone. What are we to think of Pres. Obama’s tone on gun bills? [Jacob Sullum; similarly]
Hometown paper: “As lead sponsor in House on gun legislation, Rep. Diana DeGette appears to not understand how they work” [Denver Post, followup in which DeGette digs in deeper]
Argument that making insurance obligatory for gun owners would generate insurer records documenting who owns guns, to which government might in due course demand access [Tom Blumer; related, Alex Pappas/Daily Caller; earlier here, here, here]
The president has some opinions on the subject [TechDirt]:
Obama: A couple years ago we began a process of patent reform. We actually passed some legislation that made progress on some of these issues. But it hasn’t captured all the problems.
The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them. Sometimes these things are challenging. Because we also want to make sure that patents are long enough, and that people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced.
But I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go. What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws.
Further: “Senate Judiciary Committee Hears from Cato on Gun Policy” [Ilya Shapiro, citing contributions by David Kopel, Randy Barnett, etc.] And while Bing’s real-time reaction tracker isn’t a scientific voter survey (though the sample size is large, and there’s a partisan breakdown) it seems I was not alone in being put off by President Obama’s demagogic “they deserve a vote” State of the Union wind-up on gun control. [Mediaite]
And here’s Cato’s response video with scholars Michael Tanner, Julian Sanchez, Alex Nowrasteh, Simon Lester, John Samples, Pat Michaels, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Michael F. Cannon, Jim Harper, Malou Innocent, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Neal McCluskey.
In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron [in the Lago Agrio environmental litigation] in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.
The bribery charge is completely new, and the ghostwriting charge is more sweeping and better substantiated than before.
Since some readers may be having a hard time keeping all the case’s scandals straight, here’s a précis. Chevron has now presented evidence of two distinct, large-scale, ghostwriting frauds which, among other problems, it maintains, taint the Ecuadorian judgment.
Complicating Chevron’s claims of vindication — and opening an avenue for the plaintiff’s camp to argue against giving any credence to the new allegations — the oil company acknowledges that it has made and intends to go on making payments of “living expenses” to the former Ecuadorian judge, now resident with his family in the United States. Read the whole thing here.
Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.
A. “Buried in the middle of the penultimate paragraph.”
Q. “Where, amid a long rant against the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down most recess appointments by the President (“A Court Upholds Republican Chicanery”), would you expect the Times to concede that the practice of holding pro forma sessions to stymie such appointments was pioneered under Democratic Senate rule as a way of restraining President George W. Bush?
No prizes, as distinct from amusement value, in demonstrating what the New York Times thought of the practice back then.
Labor/employment law: the last four years, and the next [Daniel Schwartz series: first, second, interview] “Some Thoughts on the Meaning of a Second Obama Term for Labor and Employment Law” [Paul Secunda]
Dan Mitchell rounds up many of the significant state ballot measures [Cato] California official voter guide is 144 pages long; “As usual, almost all of the proposals being put before voters are bad.” [Josh Barro, Bloomberg; coverage of Prop 37 on genetic labeling here, here, etc.]
And as some readers will recall, I am hoping voters in Maine, Washington and my own state of Maryland vote to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, and that voters in Minnesota reject a constitutional amendment to the opposite effect.
While I’d rate the debate stylistically as a draw (this time Obama actually studied for the test) I’ve a feeling Romney may have made further voter inroads by continuing to emphasize his Massachusetts-moderate side. “Obama just talks the game on ‘assault weapons,’ but I actually got a bill passed” must be the unlikeliest Republican applause line of the evening. And was Romney really bidding to get to the left of Obama on education spending and government-guaranteed contraceptives, to name but two?
Highlights of my Tweets as part of the Cato debate-Tweet team, as usual in reverse chronological order:
Will the Obama administration’s much-publicized restrictions on new coal burning electric plants really crimp the economy of the Midwest? Or, given that the market for new plants appears to have tipped decisively toward natural gas for the foreseeable future, do they amount to a “regulatory nothing-burger?” [Jerry Rogers and Peter Van Doren (Cato), Forbes, via David Henderson]
Get your copy today!My new book tackles the question of why so many bad ideas come from the law schools. "Cutting-edge commentary, hard-hitting, witty, astute." -- Publisher's Weekly. "Excellent... A fine dissection of these strangely powerful institutions" -- Wall Street Journal.