- No, the federal court ruling in Texas isn’t likely to take down the Affordable Care Act / ObamaCare [Ilya Shapiro]
- Should doctors exhort their patients to vote? Hell, no [Wesley J. Smith]
- “Accutane Litigation Goes Out with a Bang, Not a Whimper” [James Beck, Drug & Device Law] “The Worst Prescription Drug/Medical Device Decisions of 2018” [same; plus the best]
- Proposal for price controls on Medicare Part B might amount to drug reimportation lite [Roger Pilon] Canadian reimportation as shiny object [Beck]
- The European Medicines Agency has approved the powerful new opioid Dsuvia, and FDA head Gottlieb made the right choice in following suit, Sen. Markey and Public Citizen notwithstanding [Jeffrey Singer, Cato]
- “Your doctors didn’t jump out of business; they were pushed. And they were pushed by people way too convinced of their qualifications to redesign the world around them.” [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]
- New, much-anticipated documentary Can We Take a Joke? When Outrage and Comedy Collide [on demand, Greg Lukianoff] More on the fining of comedian Mike Ward by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal [Guardian, earlier]
- “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” [@donaldjtrump Sunday on Twitter] 25 years ago in my stump speech on lawsuit reform I criticized Trump for his use of legal threats to silence critics. More reportage on that history, a familiar topic around here [Frances S. Sellers, Washington Post, earlier here, etc.]
- Eighth Circuit: Nebraska regulators improperly retaliated against financial adviser over (inter alia) his criticism of Obama [Eugene Volokh]
- Nine senators (Boxer, Durbin, Franken, Markey, Reid, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Whitehouse): we demand 22 right-of-center think tanks open their donation records to us [Carolina Journal]
- “Copyright infringer issues bogus DMCA over someone calling him out. Then denies all of it” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- Lawsuit demanding R ratings on films with “tobacco imagery” deserves to be hit with SLAPP sanctions; “suing the MPAA to force censorship raises the stakes.” [WSJ Law Blog, Scott Greenfield]
Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon:
Democratic senators have been assigned conservative nonprofit groups to call out by name on the chamber floor in speeches on Monday and Tuesday criticizing corporations and advocacy groups for opposing Democratic climate policies, internal emails reveal.
…[Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and his allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), have crafted a schedule for floor speeches on Monday and Tuesday that assigns each participating Senator at least one group to go after by name.
Most of the groups have already been targeted by state Democratic officials that have undertaken a coordinated legal campaign against oil giant ExxonMobil since last year. Many were named in subpoenas sent to the company by state attorneys general as part of that effort.
The ringmaster, once again, is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — yes, that Sheldon Whitehouse, whose hometown Providence Journal rightly called out his current campaign to sic the law on improper climate opinion as likely to “have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence.” The leader on the House side is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), also getting to be a familiar name.
One reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow: the proposed concurrent resolution urges right-leaning nonprofits “to cooperate with active or future investigations” of purportedly unlawful opinion-slinging. One of the most junior senators, Gary Peters of Michigan, apparently drew the short straw in the heresy posse and was assigned to attack my own Cato Institute (which publishes this site) at 6:30 this evening.
The senators participating in this appalling exercise besides Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, and Peters, all Democrats, are Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chris Coons of Delaware.
Some early reactions: “All that is lacking are their public confessions” — Ronald Bailey at Reason (whose associated Reason Foundation is among the targets). “‘Assigned’ groups to attack? That sounds like middle school mean girl behavior.” [C.B. on Facebook] Peter Roff at U.S. News on how the Senators can’t (yet) make dissent illegal but can make it costly. And a reminder: the “Exxon Knew” crowd knew Whitehouse’s RICO-for-speech theory was wrong because their own allies had told them, but went ahead anyway.
More, Matt Welch at Reason:
…Since the targets of this shaming exercise are not being afforded the courtesy to rebut the charges in the forum at which they are being smeared, consider this a prebuttal…
This coordinated campaign would be an assault on free speech even if it were not drenched in conspiratorial inaccuracy. Democratic lawmakers, attorneys general, and activists are systematically singling out free-market think tanks for potential criminal prosecution and one-sided disclosure requirements based on the content of the think tanks’ research and commentary. They are literally trying to criminalize dissent. If successful, they will establish as “fraud” or “racketeering” any future think-tank work that runs afoul of political orthodoxy. …
Sadly, this heavy-handed act of government intimidation will likely go as unnoticed as Hillary Clinton’s long track record against free speech. Why? Because generally speaking both the mainstream press and the organized left reserve their First Amendment outrage for politicians they disagree with. Their silence is shameful, and deafening.
[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]
Brokers who advise retirement investors are bracing for more intense regulation under the Labor Department’s new “fiduciary” rule, and some are already planning to reduce the business they do. The rule is also expected to accelerate a shift toward fee-based investment advice, and is welcomed by some fee-based advisors. [Michael Wursthorn, WSJ] Perhaps less expectedly, the rule could trip up large numbers of persons who less obviously fit the role of financial advisor. John Berlau, Forbes:
Experts both for and against the rule I have talked to agree its broad reach could extend to financial media personalities who offer tips to individual audience members, a group that includes not just Ramsey but TV hosts like Suze Orman and Jim Cramer, as well as many other broadcasters who opine on business and investment matters. They would be ensnared by the rule’s broad redefinition of a vast swath of financial professionals as “fiduciaries” and its mandate that these “fiduciaries” only serve the “best interest” of IRA and 401(k) holders.
One insurance agent, Michael Markey, has written that such media personalities need to “be regulated and to be held accountable” by the government for the opinions he dish out, and “hailed the Labor Department rule as ushering a new era in which “entertainers …can no longer evade the pursuit of regulatory oversight.” Prof. Bainbridge wonders whether there might be a First Amendment issue lurking here, as well as an impulse to support regulation that works to handicap one’s competitors.
Another step toward criminalizing advocacy: writing in the Washington Post, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) urges the U.S. Department of Justice to consider filing a racketeering suit against the oil and coal industries for having promoted wrongful thinking on climate change, with the activities of “conservative policy” groups an apparent target of the investigation as well. A trial balloon, or perhaps an effort to prepare the ground for enforcement actions already afoot?
Sen. Whitehouse cites as precedent the long legal war against the tobacco industry. When the federal government took the stance that pro-tobacco advocacy could amount to a legal offense, some of us warned tobacco wouldn’t remain the only or final target. To quote what I wrote in The Rule of Lawyers:
In a drastic step, the agreement ordered the disbanding of the tobacco industry’s former voices in public debate, the Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), with the groups’ files to be turned over to anti-tobacco forces to pick over the once-confidential memos contained therein; furthermore, the agreement attached stringent controls to any newly formed entity that the industry might form intended to influence public discussion of tobacco. In her book on tobacco politics, Up in Smoke, University of Virginia political scientist Martha Derthick writes that these provisions were the first aspect in news reports of the settlement to catch her attention. “When did the governments in the United States get the right to abolish lobbies?” she recalls wondering. “What country am I living in?” Even widely hated interest groups had routinely been allowed to maintain vigorous lobbies and air their views freely in public debate.
By the mid-2000s, calls were being heard, especially in other countries, for making denial of climate change consensus a legally punishable offense or even a “crime against humanity,” while widely known advocate James Hansen had publicly called for show trials of fossil fuel executives. Notwithstanding the tobacco precedent, it had been widely imagined that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution might deter image-conscious officials from pursuing such attacks on their adversaries’ speech. But it has not deterred Sen. Whitehouse.
Law professor Jonathan Adler, by the way, has already pointed out that Sen. Whitehouse’s op-ed “relies on a study that doesn’t show what he (it) claims.” And Sen. Whitehouse, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), has been investigating climate-dissent scholarship in a fishing-expedition investigation that drew a pointed rebuke from then-Cato Institute President John Allison as an “obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like…. you abuse your authority when you attempt to intimidate people who don’t share your political beliefs.”
- Judge Royce Lamberth: EPA “offensively unapologetic” about its failures to comply with FOIA requests [Josh Gerstein/Politico, Washington Post, Courthouse News]
- Cato President and CEO John Allison to Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.): “Your letter of February 25, 2015 is an obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like. … you abuse your authority when you attempt to intimidate people who don’t share your political beliefs.” [Patrick Michaels, Cato; earlier Allison rebuff to intimidating tactics by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)]
- Smithfield Foods questions plaintiffs’ lawyers’ client recruitment methods in North Carolina farm-nuisance suit [Wilmington Star News]
- “Can Market Urbanism Revive U.S. Cities?” [Scott Beyer]
- Addressing sweetheart don’t-force-us-to-regulate consent decrees: “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act” would “require regulatory agencies to give public notice when they learn of a lawsuit that could eventually impose a federal rule” and “[give] outside parties an opportunity to intervene in the court case” [American Action Forum, U.S. Chamber in 2013]
- After nine-year battle, Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service will let Native American pastor use sacred eagle feathers [WSJ via Becket Fund, Kristina Arriaga, Daily Caller, earlier on eagle feathers and the law here, here, etc.]
- “Yes, Gov. Whitman, states may choose which federal laws to implement” [Jonathan Adler]
Four U.S. Senators are hectoring the Golden Globe Awards over stars’ televised use of e-cigarettes. “We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes,” wrote the humorless bossyboots in question, Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), all Democrats. [Reuters] More: Sally Satel (“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything.”)
Speaking of glamor, don’t miss Virginia Postrel’s appearance at Cato next Wednesday to discuss her book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration. You can register here.
- As football helmet makers come under litigation pressure, one company’s label simply advises not playing football [New York Times, ABA Journal]
- D.C. Circuit: Obama administration has broken law by stalling action on Nevada nuclear site [AP/ABC News, In re Aiken County (PDF)]
- Unexpected venue? Writer in National Review suggests legalizing prostitution [Charles Cooke]
- Eight reasons New York City rent is so ridiculously high [Josh Barro]
- “How much is a life worth?” [Kenneth Feinberg profile in National Journal]
- Ed Markey vs. amusement parks [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
- How easy is it to pull real estate deed fraud? You (and the owners of the Empire State Building) might be surprised [Now I Know]
- Tributes to Milton Friedman at 100 [Bryan Caplan, Andrew Coulson/Cato]
- Funny “Chicken Offsets” idea is now live courtesy Ted Frank, more economically sound than most boycotts [earlier on Chick-Fil-A furor here, here, etc.]
- Cass Sunstein, now departing from OIRA, a laissez-faire extremist? Maybe to the oft-quoted Prof. Steinzor [Steve Hayward; earlier here, etc.] “Did he quit, or was he nudged?” [David M. Wagner, cf. also Jonah Goldberg]
- “Truck owner wants DEA to pay up after botched sting” [Houston Chronicle via Radley Balko]
- Vaccine critic’s Texas action: “Andrew Wakefield’s libel suit against Brian Deer: Dismissed!” [Orac/Respectful Insolence, earlier]
- “Nanny state at the playground” [Andrew Sullivan, Cabinet magazine]
- Because criminalizing questions of origin has worked so well for exotic woods: Reps. Ed Markey, Barney Frank seek federal criminal penalties for misstatements on seafood origin [Boston Globe]
“The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (SCA 2010), now before the House of Representatives, is an inappropriate and seriously flawed attempt to make cosmetics safer.” Disregarding considerations of dose and concentration, the bill would require label disclosure of every substance present in an ingredient “at levels above technically feasible detection limits.” Essential oils and herb extracts typically contain 100 or more such substances, some of which, in isolation and at much larger concentrations, would qualify as toxic. And there’s a CPSIA-like requirement that manufacturers test all ingredients before sale. “Most small personal care product businesses will not survive if SCA 2010 passes.” [fragrance specialist Robert Tisserand] The lead sponsors of the proposed Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786) are Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. of CPSIA fame, Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. [Drug Store News] More: Lela Barker, Cosmetics Design.