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Maine

Nanny state roundup

by Walter Olson on February 12, 2014

  • Sock puppets: U.K. and E.U. governments both fund public advocacy campaigns on paternalism themes, effectively lobbying themselves at taxpayer expense. Sounds kinda familiar [Christopher Snowdon on Institute for Economic Affairs studies]
  • Federal government, in the form of the CDC, wishes your doctor would nag you more about your drinking [Jacob Sullum, more]
  • “$10m look into games and gun violence a bust” [Rob Beschizza; Mike Rose, Gamasutra; related, Scott Shackford]
  • Assumption of risk won a round at the California Supreme Court a year ago in a case on amusement park bumper cars [S.F. Chronicle, ABA Journal, related on Disneyland teacups] J.D. Tuccille on motorcycle risks [Reason]
  • As a country Australia is known for freedom, so why’s it a leader in enacting bans? [Vivienne Crompton, IPA "Freedom Watch"]
  • “Maine’s unwise and unconstitutional ban on disclosing the alcohol content of beers” [Jonathan Adler]
  • FDA mandate on removal of nicotine could benefit head regulator’s former client [Jacob Grier] Glaxo SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson also push bans on e-cigarettes, which compete with their nicotine therapies [Tim Carney] AGs from 24 states (AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, ME, MD, MS, MT, NH, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA) write FDA urging ban on menthol in cigarettes [CSPNet] “Cigarette Sin-Tax Hike Could Boost Black Markets” [Steven Greenhut] Brendan O’Neill on secondhand smoke [Reason]
  • Detroit police blasted for arresting Free Press photographer who filmed arrest with her iPhone [Poynter]
  • “The discomfort of principles” in criminal defense matters [Gideon's Trumpet]
  • House Judiciary panel on overcriminalization and mens rea shows genuinely useful bipartisanship [Jonathan Blanks, Cato] One in four new bills these days to create criminal liability lacks mens rea [Paul Rosenzweig/Alex Adrianson, Heritage]
  • Auburn, Alabama: “Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas” [Reason TV]
  • Film project on overturned Death Row convictions [One for Ten] “Forensics review reveals hair evidence was possibly exaggerated in 27 capital cases” [ABA Journal]
  • Critics of Stand Your Ground seem to be having trouble coming up with examples to back their case [Sullum]
  • Maine: “Hancock County prosecutor admits violating bar rules in sexual assault trial” [Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on July 29, 2013

  • “Farm Free Or Die! Maine Towns Rebel Against Food Rules” [NPR on "food sovereignty" ordinances]
  • “How much sense does it make for Detroit to be worrying people will open restaurants without enough parking?” [@mattyglesias]
  • Report: undercover cop co-wrote anti-McDonald’s leaflet that resulted in famous UK libel suit [Guardian]
  • Quizzed on food policy, post-Bloomberg NYC mayoral hopefuls offer many bad ideas; Republican John Catsimatidis, grocer, proposes regs “that would require new buildings to rent to grocery stores.” [Edible Geography]
  • Spontaneous consumer discontent over labeling? No, lawyer-driven: consortium of law firms has sued more than 30 food cos. in single federal court [WLF]
  • Private GMO labeling a wave of the future? [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “Eight toxic foods: a little chemical education” [Derek Lowe, Corante "Pipeline", schooling BuzzFeed]
  • Obamacare calorie-count display mandate likely to curb menu variety [Liz Thatcher, RCP, earlier]

Food and farm roundup

by Walter Olson on April 10, 2013

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One important reason same-sex marriage won on three state ballots last month is that many Republican voters, especially in affluent suburbs, crossed over to vote in favor of it. I’ve continued to document this phenomenon in a piece in this weekend’s Washington Post “Outlook” section (incorporating precinct-level detail on Minnesota and Maine) as well as in a second Huffington Post piece (with precinct-level detail on Maryland; my earlier HuffPo piece is linked here). Also, this Cato podcast:

One correction on the podcast: I mistakenly said Question 6 carried the two biggest Romney counties in Maryland, but I should have said two of the biggest three.

P.S. Mine was the second-most-popular article on WashingtonPost.com as of early morning Dec. 2.

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Voters in four states will decide same-sex marriage ballot questions on Nov. 6. As many readers know, I’ve been writing actively on the Maryland question, and those interested in catching up on that can follow the links here to find, among other things, my recent interview on the subject with the Arab news service Al-Jazeera, my thoughts on Judge Dennis Jacobs’s decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act), and my reaction to the other side’s “bad for children” contentions.

The Cato Institute has been doing cutting-edge work on the topic for years from a libertarian perspective; some highlights here.

Yet more: Hans Bader on religious liberty and anti-discrimination law [Examiner, CEI] And my letter to the editor in the suburban Maryland Gazette: “Civil society long ago decoupled marriage law from church doctrines.”

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August 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 10, 2011

  • Maine Supreme Court agrees that not having to show up in court might be reasonable accommodation for plaintiff claiming PTSD disability [Volokh]
  • Guess how much Richard Kreimer, the New Jersey homeless guy, has made in his many lawsuit settlements [Newark Star-Ledger, PoL]
  • Given the problems with business-method patents, you can see why banks would want to dodge them [Felix Salmon]
  • Contempt: “Calling the jailing of a person ‘civil’ doesn’t mean they put curtains on the cell windows.” [Greenfield]
  • “Class Counsel Request $90.8M In Fees In Black Farmers Case” [BLT]
  • Law school accreditation, recusal standards, international law among topics in new issue of Federalist Society’s ABA Watch;
  • Electricity-wise, EPA puts the squeeze on the juice [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; Weston Hicks, AgendaWise; Tatler]

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Fact-checking a Maine Congresswoman: my latest at Cato-at-Liberty.

A little food stand in scenic Damariscotta, Maine calls itself Grill Zilla BBQ, and recently received a letter from trademark lawyers. Even if its owners hadn’t made the mistake of using a green reptile mascot, they would probably have heard from the Japanese conglomerate Toho, which is quite vigorous about policing verbal and visual echoes of its “Godzilla” mark. [Kennebec Journal]

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April 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 15, 2010

  • Naperville, Illinois: psychologist sues homeless man saying she was defamed in his blog [AP]
  • Unusual case from Erie, Pa.: “Girl claims injuries from price scanner” [AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] Judge dismisses complaint for lack of evidence [Erie Times-News]
  • Too true: “Motion Control Advances Mean Future Generations Could Play Outside” [Brian Briggs, BBSpot via Free-Range Kids]
  • Huzzah for Husson: Maine university drops quest to add law school [Bangor Daily News]
  • Town sued over pool drowning of 13 year old boy seeks to add boy’s parents to suit [Ridgewood News, NorthJersey.com]
  • Manhattan judge sanctions Morelli Ratner law firm $6,000 over “spiteful”, “wasteful” lawsuit against former client [NYLJ, January]
  • “Canada is now a land that prosecutes comedians for their jokes.” [Steyn, Maclean's] Ron Coleman’s unkind comment: “I’ve heard their comedians. It’s about time.”
  • “Smokey the Bear’s rules for fire safety also apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.” [David Boaz, Cato at Liberty]

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November 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 20, 2009

  • Judge finds Army Corps of Engineers negligent in Katrina levees suit [WSJ Law Blog, Krauss/PoL]
  • Feds raise the Gibson guitar factory in Nashville on an exotic-woods rap [The Tennessean] Eric Scheie has a few things to say about what turns out to be a remarkably comprehensive federal regulatory scheme on trade in wood enacted with little public discussion as part of the 2008 farm bill [Classical Values]
  • In the mail: Amy Bach’s new book Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, very favorably reviewed by Scott Greenfield not long ago (AmLaw Daily interview with author);
  • Pension tension: link roundup on CALPERS mess [Reynolds]
  • Maine passes very sweeping law banning marketers from collecting or using wide array of information about minors, but state acknowledges that much of the law probably wouldn’t pass constitutional muster and won’t be enforced [Valetk/Law.com, Qualters/NLJ]
  • StationStops, which provides a mobile app for NYC commuter schedules, seems to have survived its legal tussle with New York’s MTA and thanks those who helped call attention to the story, with generous words for a certain “great blog”;
  • Lawsuits cost Chicago taxpayers $136 million last year [Fran Spielman, Sun-Times]
  • Blawg Review #238 is from Joel Rosenberg and bears the title, “Celebrating the International Day of Tolerance … and the NRA’s Birthday” [WindyPundit]

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[Bumped Monday a.m. for readers who missed it over the weekend]

The piece appears in the business section of Saturday’s Times, and it’s a perfectly good one as far as it goes. It starts off with a wooden toy maker in Ogunquit, Maine, who estimates that it would cost him $30,000 to secure testing for the 80 items he makes, using such materials as maple, walnut oil and local beeswax. It touches on the strains between large and small manufacturers, nytimesas well as the thrift-store and vintage-book angles. Overall, it’s really not a bad piece of its sort.

Aside from its timing, that is. The Times has now gotten around to covering some of the harm done by this law ten months after the Washington Post and other media had begun reporting the basic outlines of the story; nine and a half months after a furor had built to national proportions, prompting both members of Congress and the CPSC to hurry out supposed clarifications; nine months after hundreds of bloggers were on the case, the law’s effects on thrift stores were making headlines from coast to coast, and the Times’s continuing failure to report on the law’s effects had commentators noting its “weird blind spot” on the issue; eight and a half months after a deeply clueless Times editorial assailed critics of the law who The Times wakes up“foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses”; seven and a half months after protests by minibike dealers began drawing wide national coverage; seven months after critics rallied on Capitol Hill, and the Washington Post joined in reporting on the law’s dire effects on vintage (pre-1985) kids’ books; and so on to the present.

Okay, so the Times was — well, not a day late and a dollar short, but more like 300 days late and many billions of dollars in overlooked costs short. Still, let’s be grateful: the paper’s news side has now implicitly rebuked the editorial side’s fantastic, ideologically blinkered dismissal of “needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises”. And the Times’s belated acknowledgment of the story can serve as permission for other sectors of the media dependent on Times coverage — including some magazines and network news departments — to acknowledge at last the legitimacy of the story and begin according serious attention to the continuing CPSIA calamity. When they do, they will find much to catch up on. (& welcome Handmade Toy Alliance, Chris Fountain readers)

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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A new Maine law forbids wine tastings that could be witnessed by children. [Free Range Kids] (& welcome Damon Root, Reason “Hit and Run” readers)

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“Acoustic radiation”

by Walter Olson on February 16, 2009

Some opponents of wind turbine farms in Maine say they’re concerned not just about audible noise but “low-frequency noise, so soft you can’t hear it,” from the installations, which they claim is linked to a wide array of health problems, not to mention “the strobe effect created by the sun setting behind the spinning blades, which some say can lead to seizures”. On an anti-turbine website, a New York doctor describes “acoustic radiation” as a mix of “audible sound, infrasound and vibration, in a pulsating character, that appear to trigger serious reported health problems in those families living near wind turbine installations.” State officials in Maine, on the other hand, would prefer to keep the focus on sound levels loud enough to actually be noticed:

The state’s chief medical officer has her doubts about turbine-related health effects. When it comes to potential hazards, “If anything, there’s evidence to put a moratorium on fossil fuels not on wind turbines,” Dr. Dora Ann Mills said Friday.

[Kathryn Skelton, Lewiston Sun-Journal] (& Solicitr, UK)

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John Duncan, once a prominent attorney with the Maine firm of Verrill Dana, was disbarred and faces prison after theft and embezzlement from the law firm, overbilling of clients and tax evasion. “His lawyer, Toby Dilworth, said Duncan had an ‘irrational’ desire to save more, to provide his family with greater financial security,” though over the period in question Duncan’s household had more than a million dollars in assets and an annual income topping a quarter million. (Martha Neil, “Ex-Chair of Prominent Maine Firm Gets 2 Years in Tax Case”, ABA Journal, Sept. 5).

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Thus Helen Bailey, an attorney with the government-funded Disability Rights Center in Augusta, Maine. But things didn’t work out so well in the case of violent schizophrenic William Bruce, who was released from Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta against the recommendations of his doctors but after urgings from patient advocates. Two months later he murdered his mother. The young Bruce, now penitent, is not really on board any more with the corps of public interest lawyers that had swung into action on his behalf:

“They helped me immensely with getting out of the hospital, so I was very happy,” he said. He later added, “The advocates didn’t protect me from myself, unfortunately.” …

While William believes patients deserve some protection, he said he understands his father’s fight to strengthen commitment and treatment laws. That fight took another turn last month, when Ms. Bailey and another attorney filed a lawsuit that could undermine portions of a law Joe [the father] supported. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maine, is directed at the law which makes it easier for hospitals to compel patients to take medication.

“There are times when people should be committed,” William said. “Institutions can really help. Medicine can help.”

“None of this would have happened if I had been medicated.”

(Elizabeth Bernstein and Nathan Koppel, “A Death in the Family”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 16). The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, whose heated response to the article is presumably expected any day now, can be found here.

More: A group called Treatment Advocacy Center is gathering horror stories about “experiences with federally funded Protection & Advocacy attorneys”.

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In a Maine federal case, the court ruled in effect that the book producer occupied a legal status more akin to that of a copy shop than to that of a traditional book publisher. As to the underlying dispute, Eric Goldman writes, “From my outsider’s perspective, it seems obvious that the Sandler and Calcagni families are locked in a cataclysmic downward spiral that will make some lawyers rich and will leave a lot of other people very unhappy for many years.” (Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Jul. 18).

The Kittery, Me.-based Gentle Wind Project “has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit against two former members who wrote articles comparing the self-styled spiritual healing group to a ‘mind control cult.’” (see Aug. 30, 2004). Last year a federal court threw out the group’s lawsuit against Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey, a married couple from Blue Hill, Me. (see Jan. 19, 2006), but the family of project director John Miller refiled the action in state court. Miller “claimed that he could communicate with the ‘spirit world’ [and] said he received designs for ‘healing instruments’ that resembled cards and hockey pucks, and could cure physical and emotional damage caused by illnesses ranging from alcoholism to paralysis.” (Gregory D. Kesich, Portland Press-Herald, Nov. 10).

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