CEI Archives - Shopfloor

Circumnetting Civil Justice Reform and Other Legal Things

By | Briefly Legal, General, Health Care | One Comment

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution holds a hearing this Friday on the major piece of civil justice reform legislation this Congress, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which will amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to discourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits. We have more on the legislation at Point of Law.

Bill McCollum, the former attorney general of Florida, argues in The Wall Street Journal for more transparency when state attorneys general hire outside legal counsel on contingency to sue people (mostly businesses) on behalf of the state. From “States and Lawyers’ Fees: Transparency Needed“:

Since the 2007 financial crisis, state attorneys general have stepped up consumer-protection enforcement and are well on their way to displacing federal authorities as the nation’s chief consumer-protection watchdogs.

As the former attorney general of Florida, I understand both the power and potential pitfalls of the job. This increased role and the increased visibility that comes with it mean that attorneys general must (and should) work that much harder to maintain public confidence in the integrity of their office.

The Supreme Court this week denied to hear the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s challenge to the 1998 tobacco settlement based on Congress’ failure to approve the deal as required by the Constitution’s compact clause. From CEI’s news release, “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case Challenging Tobacco Settlement“:

“We regret the court’s decision not to take up a case of major constitutional and policy importance,” said Sam Kazman, CEI General Counsel. “The tobacco settlement imposed a massive national sales tax on cigarettes, without a single elected legislator at any level of government voting for it. This was a major power grab by state attorneys general at the expense of both citizens and our structure of government.”

Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) is lobbying for the Tennessee Justice Association against Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative tort reform proposals. In the cover story for the Tennessee publication, CityView Magazine, he explains his reasoning and argues against damage caps in medical malpractice suits. We appreciated his comments about the misuse of the word “reform”:

I don’t know that there is a rush for tort reform but tort reform has kind of taken on an air of its own and you’re either for it or against it. There is no such thing as finance reform, there is no such thing as health care reform, there is no such thing as tort reform; it is only what is in the bill. It may be reform or it may just be change and not really reform. So everybody thinks all Republicans ought be for tort reform, and that if you’re not a Republican, than you should be against tort reform. I think both of those are fallacious. We ought to look at what’s being proposed.

And two interviews well worth reading

No, the U.S. Supreme Court is Not a Pro-Business Court

By | Briefly Legal, Human Resources | One Comment

In a unanimous decision Monday in Thompson v. North American Stainless (opinion), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee who was fired for cause — performance reasons — could sue his employer under the Title VII of Civil Rights Act, claiming the company discriminated against him for comments made by his fiance. In effect, the court invented a law allowing for third-party claims.

This is a bad decision for business. The National Association of Manufacturers had filed an amicus brief in support of the company, and our Manufacturing Law Center entry explains the consequences of the ruling for business:

A rule that permits third-party retaliation claims would increase even more dramatically retaliation charges, which are the fastest-growing category of charges filed under Title VII, and would put employers in the untenable position of having to speculate about possible relationships an employee may have that could give rise to potential liability each time they contemplate disciplinary or other action against that employee.

This decision should — but won’t — put to rest the much-repeated claim from left-leaning pundits and bloggers that the U.S. Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, is a reactively pro-business court.

Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, made the case at the National Review Online’s Bench Memos blog, “Those Sneaky Corporatist Justices”:

As I explained in my testimony at Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, “allegations that the Roberts Court engages in conservative judicial activism frequently involve a highly selective skewing of the evidence—drastically inflating the supposed importance of cases that fit (or that are distorted to fit) the desired narrative while simply ignoring those that don’t.” Read More

Good Question on EPA Regulation of CO2, but President’s Answer…

By | Energy, Global Warming, Regulations | No Comments

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler’s posed an excellent question at Wednesday’s news conference by President Obama. From the transcript

You said earlier that it was clear that Congress was rejecting the idea of a cap-and-trade program, and that you wouldn’t be able to move forward with that. Looking ahead, do you feel the same way about EPA regulating carbon emissions?  Would you be open to them doing essentially the same thing through an administrative action, or is that off the table, as well?   

The President’s answer included a claim that is just not true

The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction. And I think one of the things that’s very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that, in fact, may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs that — and that put us in a competitive posture around the world. 

Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute refutes the President’s contention in a post at the American Spectator’s blog:

The 5-4 majority in Massachusetts v. EPA — and we know how the Left feel about 5-4 majorities effectively making decisions assigned to the political branches or process (coughBushvGorecough) — held that EPA could determine greenhouse gases are ‘pollutants’ if it chooses to but must ground any such decision in the statute.  Read More

Julian Simon, Lithium, Afghanistan

By | Economy | One Comment

The New York Times prompted a flurry of speculative stories with its recent report, “U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan“:

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world…

Other media outlets rushed to replicate the story, e.g., Associated Press, “Afghan mineral wealth may be at least $3 trillion,” and NPR, “Afghan Mineral Wealth Could Top $1 Trillion.” (Somewhere in that $1 trillion to $3 trillion range.) And the Times looks like it’s going to be riding the story for a while, as in the subsequent report, “Afghanistan Moves Quickly to Tap Newfound Mineral Reserves.”

Except, well, newfound? As Wired reported, “No, the U.S. Didn’t Just ‘Discover’ a $1T Afghan Motherlode

[The] military (and observers of the military) have known about Afghanistan’s mineral riches for years. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Navy concluded in a 2007 report that “Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources,” including ”large quantities of accessible iron and copper [and] abundant deposits of colored stones and gemstones, including emerald, ruby [and] sapphire.”

Not to mention that the $1 trillion figure is — at best — a guesstimate.

Whether it’s new news or old, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth seems to hold so much promise — but only promise, potential and possiblities if the “vast” wealth cannot be developed. Congo’s tremendous resources haven’t done that country much good.

At its annual dinner last night, the Competitive Enterprise Institute honored two Canadians, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, for their diligence in revealing the scientific shortcuts and fraud promoted by global warming researcher-activists — such things as the “hockey stick” claims about warming and later the details in the Climategate e-mail scandals.  The two received the Julian Simon Memorial Award, named after the late economist.

In his acceptance speech, McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, paid tribute to Simon’s ideas in comments that are directly relevant to Afghanistan’s potential.

What [Simon] taught us was that the abundance of resources in a nation is not just an accident of geography or history. Resources are not simply found, they must be developed and put to productive uses through the application of human ingenuity and creativity. Nations that enjoy the benefits of plentiful resources are those that preserve freedom, support entrepreneurship, encourage risk-taking and allow citizens to enjoy the fruits of their own work. In other words, the abundance of resources is a consequence of the ideas a nation lives by.

Afghanistan’s resources may well be vast, its potential great. The question is: Will it preserve freedom, support entrepreneurship, encourage risk-taking and allow citizens to enjoy the fruits of their own work? Will Afghanistan gain the rule of law? If so, more than vast resources, the country may achieve vast wealth — and vast freedom.

The Legislature is the Policymaking Branch of Government

By | Energy, Global Warming, Regulations | One Comment

On the federal level, that’s Congress.

From Forbes.com, from former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “The EPA’s Shocking Power Grab“:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is carrying out one of the biggest power grabs in American history. The agency has positioned itself to regulate fuel economy, set climate policy for the nation and amend the Clean Air Act–powers never delegated to it by Congress. It has done this by declaring greenhouse gas emissions a danger to public health and welfare, in a proceeding known as the “endangerment finding.”

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate will debate and vote on Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval to overturn the endangerment finding. The resolution is absolutely necessary to restore democratic accountability in climate policymaking.

During my days in North Dakota, I was always impressed by the state Senators who resisted the encroachment on their constitutional authority by the executive branch. The lawmakers didn’t have to mention Montesquieu or the Founding Fathers to evoke the separation of powers in making such clear statements of principle as, “The Legislature is the policymaking branch of government.”

You would hope members of Congress would just as jealously guard their own constitutional role in our republic.

A Free-Market Perspective on Manufacturing, R&D

By | General, Innovation | No Comments

Worthwhile column in The Washington Times from Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the free-market-oriented Competitive Enterprise Institute, “More government means less manufacturing“:

The need to deregulate this economy shouts at us: It’s on fire and Rollerblading naked through the Capitol, but Congress doesn’t seem to see it. Basically, you don’t need to tell the grass to grow; you just take the rock off of it.

One big rock on a growing American economy is politically driven research and development (R&D).

Federal science fosters too many conflicts: over public access to data; over the merits of basic versus applied research, government versus industry science; over assignment of intellectual property; and more. For another, politics has trouble balancing trade-offs: When to subsidize nanotechnology? Or biotech? Or fuel cells and the hydrogen economy? Or robotics? Or bioengineered gills so we can live in the oceans? Congress can’t fund them all.

Meanwhile, the science not created by the political reassignment of taxpayer resources remains unseen. It wasn’t the power of tax and dispense that made the United States leapfrog the world’s economies in 100 years.

Crews is skeptical of the America Competes Act, which the National Association of Manufacturers supports.

It’s a useful point of view to consider and serves as a counterpoint to the testimony at last week’s hearing by the House Science Committee, “Science Agencies Can Help Manufacturers Innovate to Remain Competitive, Committee Hears.” The verb “to help” sometimes serves as a euphemism for “to subsidize.”

Manufacturing Innovation, the Science Committee Hearing

By | Innovation, Technology | No Comments

The House Science Committee considers an exciting area of policy — many exciting areas — on Wednesday when it convenes a hearing, “The Future of Manufacturing: What is the Role of the Federal Government in Supporting Innovation by U.S. Manufacturers?” The issue at hand, the comittee says, is the need “for U.S. manufacturers to adopt innovative technologies and processes in order to remain globally competitive, and to determine the appropriate role for the Federal Government in supporting efforts by U.S. manufacturers to innovate.”

Witnesses are:

  • Susan Smyth, Director of Manufacturing, GM R & D, and Chief Scientist for Manufacturing, General Motors Company
  • Len Sauers, Vice President, Global Sustainability, Procter & Gamble
  • Debtosh Chakrabarti, President and Chief Operating Officer, PMC Group Inc.
  • Mark Tuominen, Director, National Nanomanufacturing Network
  • Wayne Crews, Vice President for Policy and Director of Technology Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute

The hearing charter includes a good discussion of manufacturing’s role in the U.S. economy, the importance of innovation, and federal policies intended to support that innovation.


The Climate E-Mail Scandal: Group Think and Bullying

By | Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

From Iain Murray at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate,” a primer on what was revealed when hackers publicized e-mails and other computer data from Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

This may seem obscure, but the science involved is being used to justify the diversion of literally trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels. The CRU is the Pentagon of global warming science, and these documents are its Pentagon Papers.*

Here are the highpoints:

  • First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results.
  • Secondly, scientists on several occasions discussed methods of subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure that skeptical papers had no access to publication.
  • Finally, the scientists worked to circumvent the Freedom of Information process of the United Kingdom.

Jonah Goldberg at National Review’s The Corner adds more context:

One reason this seemed to me like less of a big deal at first was that the individual e-mails — “hide the decline” and so forth — while damning, also seemed open to interpretation. And I still think that’s the case in some instances. But what seems incontrovertible at this point is that the global-warming industry (and it is an industry) is suffused to its core with groupthink and bad faith. For many of us, this is not shocking news. But it is shocking evidence. Proving bad faith and groupthink is very hard to do. But now we have the internal dialog of those afflicted made public (I hope some intrepid reporters are asking other climate institutions whether they are no erasing their files for fear of being similarly exposed). It is clear that the scientists at the CRU were more interested in punishing dissenters and constructing a p.r. campaign than they were in actual science.

It is also an enormous journalistic scandal, Goldberg writes, since the elite press attempts to marginalize and silence critics of the “scientific consensus,” even as governments expand their power, the poor are hurt, and trillions of dollars are spent. Where’s the vaunted journalistic skepticism?

Glenn Reynolds has good links on the topic here.

* Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers? Besides The New York Times, that is? The comparison is apt because the climate communications were stolen but their release served the greater public interest, maybe. But were the e-mails, etc., really stolen? Or hacked? Or released by someone with inside knowledge, a whistleblower? Yeah, a whistleblower! Journalists love a whistleblower.

Celebrate Coal, Celebrate Keeping Warm!

By | Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

Along with the THOUSANDS, THOUSANDS we say!, of anti-coal, anti-affordable-heating-for-Aunt-Luella protesters at the Capitol Power Plant Monday, some pro-prospersity advocates may also show up. From the doughty folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Celebrate Coal! Rally Announced for Monday
Demonstration Will Counter Negative Propaganda of Capitol Power Plant Protesters

A rally to Celebrate Coal! and Keep Energy Affordable will be held in front of the Capitol Power Plant on Monday, March 2nd, from 1 to 3 PM, the Competitive Enterprise Institute announced today.  Celebrate Coal! and Keep Energy Affordable is designed to counter the negative propaganda of Capitol Climate Protection’s protest scheduled for the same time in a park near the Longworth and Rayburn House Office Buildings.

CEI has applied to the U. S. Capitol Police for a permit to hold the rally in front of the Capitol Power Plant on the south side of E Street, S. E., between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue, S. E.  The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police have also been notified that the rally will be held on the north side of E Street if the Capitol Police deny the permit.  The anti-coal protest group, Capitol Climate Protection, has apparently not applied for a permit to protest around the Capitol Power Plant.

“The goal of Celebrate Coal! is to publicize the colossal benefits of coal-fired power and the need for access to affordable energy.  If the anti-coal zealots are allowed to prevail politically, electric rates will skyrocket for most Americans and many jobs will be lost in energy-intensive industries as a result of higher power prices,” said Myron Ebell, Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at CEI and one of the event’s organizers.

Which is exactly right.