January 30 roundup

  • “Battle over stolen diamond-studded golden eagle takes flight as insurer fights order to pay up” [Jason Proctor, CBC]
  • Fentanyl test strips save lives. Feds oppose their distribution [Jeffrey Singer, Cato]
  • D.C. Circuit judicial nominee Neomi Rao (full disclosure: an old friend) “comes under fire for undergraduate writings on sexual assault — though her views from 25 years ago are consistent with today’s statutes and rulings.” [K.C. Johnson, City Journal]
  • One reason the costs of rent control policies get understated: it’s hard to control and account for declines in the quality of apartment services [Richard McKenzie and Dwight Lee, Cato Regulation magazine]
  • Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention video panel on antitrust law transparency with Deb Garza, Hon. Frank Easterbrook (“Always remember that sunlight is full of ultraviolet radiation”), Eric Grannon (incentive problems of “amnesty plus” program; “moral turpitude” provisions, more on which), moderated by Hon. John Nalbandian;
  • Big reason military and health care procurement is so pricey: “scads of less specific programs out there [are] insanely cheaper and more functional, but those programs cannot justify the costs of becoming compliant” [from Tyler Cowen comments]


  • On military and health care being so pricey: years ago I worked at a dept energy lab. Contractors had to comply with so many rules and audits that for contracts less than $30,000 we would get no bidders. Too much overhead.

  • I would not be surprised if the golden eagle theft turned out to be an attempt at insurance fraud. But it does make me want to watch Maltese Falcon again.

  • Re: Compliance

    The drag works on both sides too. While in Air Force acquisition in the 90s, Congress passed a law that all contracts had to have a provision that banned use of fluorocarbons in producing things for the military. We could not sign another contract extension or do anything else until this provision was implemented, which of course generated all the usual overhead of adding another requirement to the contract. (Negotiating position was “Sign this or else.” )

    This affected the contract I was managing and potentially put the contractor in a bind, because we were just about to sign an extension to keep him at work, but suddenly we had about two days to crank through this additional provision on top of all the other stuff going on. This included having the contract generate paper to certify he was not using fluorocarbons to produce his product. We got it done but it required a lot of unneeded “hurry up” and extra paper work on both sides.

    Oh, the contractor’s product that we were buying? Software. Lines of code.

    The law did not allow distinguishing between contracts that produced material objects that might use various chemicals and simply writing lines of code, reports, and such.

    A small example, but it was a lot of grit in the wheels that makes the government contracting process so frustrating and expensive.