As population and the job base in the Washington, D.C. area continue to expand, households face a crunch in the price of housing, made worse by the reluctance of local governments to permit residential construction near most of the major employment centers. A unanimous county council in Montgomery County, Md. has now made it slightly easier for homeowners to create in-law units or backyard cottages, but along the way had to face down noisy opposition. I tell the story in a new Cato post.
The Overlawyered comments feature, like a letters to the editor section, is subject to moderation and editing.
All comments are subject to moderation delay. Some never run, and others run in abridged or edited form, as with letters to the editor. If you ever feel that such editing has resulted in misstating your point, please either delete the comment or advise me that you would like it deleted.
People regularly try to turn the comments function here into a general gripe forum over national politics, its issues, parties, and personalities, the shortcomings of the mainstream media, opinions about celebrities, and so forth. That’s not going to happen if I can stop it as moderator.
There are thousands upon thousands of forums that welcome general U.S. political discussions. They offer a place to post to your heart’s content about issues not raised by our posts here.
- Starting in mid-1990s German doctors began writing many more opioid prescriptions. But addiction and overdose rates did not skyrocket. What made Germany different? [Jeffrey Singer, Cato; Jacob Sullum, Reason]
- Will the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Merck v. Albrecht manage to clarify preemption law? [Beck, Drug & Device Law and more; Jonah Knobler, Washington Legal Foundation]
- Money didn’t go into state treasury: “Oklahoma Lawmakers not so Happy About Purdue Pharma Settlement” [Sean Murphy, Insurance Journal, more] “Nevada AG’s old law firm can make up to $350 million on his opioid lawsuit” [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline] “List of firms handling Louisiana’s opioid lawsuit balloons to 17, including politically connected ones” [Sam Karlin, The Advocate] Richard Epstein on opiate litigation [Ricochet]
- National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: “Where Calls for Overturning Bruesewitz v. Wyeth Go Wrong” [Dorit Reiss, Petrie-Flom “Bill of Health”]
- “Drug lawsuit ads are scaring seniors to death” [P. Roosevelt Gilliam III and Susan Peschin, STAT]
- Senate Republicans file bill to fast-track FDA consideration of over-the-counter birth control pill [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
Since an attacker motivated by anti-immigration sentiments killed 22 at an El Paso, Texas Walmart, there has been a cry for new laws against “domestic terrorism.” Most who join in the outcry, however, haven’t begun to think through the implications, especially since these sorts of laws “rarely stay limited to their nominal purpose,” notes Fordham’s John Pfaff in a thread. “Criminal laws will inevitably be written broadly, and that breadth will inevitably mean they will expand their reach.”
I’m really struggling to understand what a “domestic terrorism” law would add.
Here’s the core part of Fed’s international terrorism statute:
Note that everything covered by the statute—murder, kidnapping, etc.—must already be a crime.
There’s nothing new… but real risks: pic.twitter.com/jnSusKkxPC
— John Pfaff (@JohnFPfaff) August 7, 2019
The Patriot Act created special warrants to go after terrorists. Over 11,000 such warrants were issued in 2013:
0.5% were used in terror cases.
80% were used in routine drug cases.https://t.co/ivKTOajBQT
Laws like this always reach farther than we think. https://t.co/7tCUQ9LO4l
— John Pfaff (@JohnFPfaff) August 7, 2019
Conservative commentator Dennis Prager has an op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ restating his claims (made in a lawsuit dismissed last year and re-filed this spring in a new suit) that YouTube restricted his “Prager University” videos owing to anti-conservative bias. These claims of unfair treatment have gotten wide circulation, especially since the popular Prager U. series for the most part presents mainstream conservative views in a calm rather than incendiary tone. In his op-ed, Prager speaks favorably about the enactment of new “laws governing big technology companies” to restrain “their hostility to conservative voices.”
This Mike Masnick thread (language) gives another side to the story. YouTube’s optional “restricted mode,” meant to limit kid viewing, isn’t important or much used (only 1.5% of users enable it). The PragerU shows at issue did have some content about topics like rape, murder, and genocide that might disturb younger children. And many other well-known shows see a larger share of their episodes put into restricted mode. Thus 12% of Prager U. videos have been put in restricted mode, compared with 24% of History Channel videos, 28% of Vox videos and 54% of Daily Show videos. Matthew Feeney at Cato, James Pethokoukis at AEI, and Billy Binion at Reason have more.
One irony I see in this is that conservatives up till recently have tended to favor promoting parental-control modes in social media, or even making them the default, and have accepted the inevitability that the automated algorithms that inevitably drive these modes when applied to large bodies of material may sometimes sweep broadly enough to screen out even some responsible, sober, and fact-based discussions of topics to which parents might not want to expose younger teens.
Having now seen these modes in action, they seem to be having second thoughts.
P.S. “Conservatives have also spent decades opposing any attempt to revive the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to be balanced in their programming on controversial issues. ‘FCC bureaucrats can neither determine what is “fair” nor enforce it,’ the Heritage Foundation said in 1993.” [Margaret Harding McGill and Daniel Lippman, Politico, on reports of new White House executive order]
More: John Samples, Cato (“Dennis Prager, Big-Government Conservative”).
- “We got nailed once because someone barehanded a bag of lettuce without a glove.” Kitchen-eye tales of NYC’s restaurant inspection regime [Saxon Baird, NY Eater]
- Positive reviews for new HUD regs on housing discrimination, affordability, and supply [National Review: Roger Clegg; Salim Furth]
- Sony isn’t making its robot companion dog available in Illinois because its facial recognition features fall under the state’s onerous Biometric Information Privacy Act; an earlier in-state casualty was Google’s “which museum portrait is your selfie like?” service [Megan Wollerton, CNet, earlier here and here] Is there any hope of slowing down the rush of class action suits filed under the law? [Chris Burt, Biometric Update]
- Victory on a-peel: “3rd Circuit rules maker of banana costume is entitled to ‘fruits of its intellectual labor'” [ABA Journal, earlier here, etc.]
- D.C. Circuit “Rips ‘Legal Artifice’ in Kasowitz Firm’s Megabillions Whistleblower Case” [Dan Packel, The American Lawyer; Cory Andrews, WLF]
- Congress passes a law framed as pro-veteran, doesn’t take the time to spell out quite how it works, years later we meet the (presumably unintended) losers in the form of nonprofits that employ blind and deaf workers [Julie Havlak, Carolina Journal, quotes me]
It’s okay for a condo swimming pool to require adult supervision of children, right? Wrong: “familial status” is one of the many bases for protection under housing discrimination law. As a result, “any rule or policy targeting children is likely to trigger a discrimination accusation or a fair housing inquiry.” To defend it against attack, the condo must be prepared to prove that the rule or policy is both based on a “compelling business necessity” and represents the “least restrictive means” to achieve the stated purpose. You’d think safety might be an adequate reason, but in two cases federal courts in California have found otherwise. Some rules might survive if, e.g., they are based on Red Cross guidelines, but putatively improper motives such as reducing noise or crowd control must not enter into any rationale. Also, policies must permit unrelated companions, rather than just parents, to count as the supervision [Matt D. Ober, Washington Post]
Cato event featuring David R. Burton, Richard Hay, Karen Kerrigan, & Diego Zuluaga:
Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed new regimes for small-business beneficial ownership reporting. The aim of such legislation is to eliminate opportunities for money laundering and financial crime. However, the proposals before Congress would place heavy new compliance costs on millions of America’s small businesses while continuing to provide opportunities for bad actors to engage in illicit financial activities. Beneficial ownership reporting would add to an already onerous anti-money-laundering/know-your-customer (AML/ KYC) regulatory burden, cited by community banks as the single most costly financial regulation. Furthermore, international experience with beneficial ownership reporting requirements suggests that it will be difficult to make such requirements work in the United States.
- Seventh Circuit panel rebukes Purdue in important Title IX case [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus] Since federal Dear Colleague letter pressuring them to revamp procedures in favor of accusers, colleges have been sued more than 500 times [Stephanie Gutmann, New York Post] Behind Harvard Title IX investigation of law professor Bruce Hay is a story of trust and betrayal that almost beggars belief [Kera Bolonik, New York] Analyzing student demands at Princeton [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic]
- For research institutions, exposure to False Claims Act liability is more than just a mouse nibble: Duke University will pay $112 million following allegations that it misrepresented progress of rodent studies [U.S. Department of Justice press release]
- Waiting-and-seeing on the Trump campus free speech executive order [from this spring: Eugene Volokh; Heather Mac Donald (“The history of government mission creep and bloat is not reassuring”); FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) statement; Neal McCluskey, Cato; Keith Whittington; Donald Downs, Martin Center; Tyler Cowen]
- Letter from 12 scholars: “Philosophers Should Not Be Sanctioned Over Their Positions on Sex and Gender” [Inside Higher Ed] “Self-Censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science” [Luana Maroja, The Atlantic] U.K.: “Stonewall’s LGBT Guidance is Limiting the Free Speech of Gender Critical Academics” [Kathleen Stock, Quillette; more]
- “Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims.” [satire: Sahil Mahtani, The Spectator (U.K.)]
- Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill passed unanimously by Florida legislature defining as hateful in context of educational civil rights such things as “demonizing, applying a double standard to, or delegitimizing Israel.” Shouldn’t that be more controversial, especially as applied at university level, given that it takes in some kinds of core political speech? [John Haughey, Florida Center Square; Florida Politics: A.G. Gancarski, Scott Powers; Joe Cohn, FIRE]
Legislation in the California assembly aims at heading off the prospect that private colleges and universities will require adjunct professors to begin operating on time card systems:
In recent years, a number of colleges and universities have settled faculty overtime violation lawsuits filed by the same California law firm — lawsuits that even many adjuncts say are frivolous. Stanford University, for example, last year settled for nearly $900,000 in a class-action suit regarding instructors in its continuing studies program. Attorney’s fees accounted for one-third of the settlement, so adjuncts involved were each entitled to a partially taxable $1,417. Kaplan University also settled, according to public documents. Other suits have been settled more quietly. Public institutions in California, whose adjuncts are generally unionized, have not been affected.
Private colleges and universities have responded to the ongoing legal threat by either making or planning to make their adjuncts document all of their working hours on time cards.
Tinker with its details as one will, wage and hour law necessarily proceeds on the premise of regimenting the workplace by the minute. That’s why the time clock is its symbol. [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed]