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Regulation



All Reason.com articles with the "Regulation" tag.



Published: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:21:11 -0500

 



Searching for Gun Violence Solutions That Don't Collectivize Punishment

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and David French, a senior editor at the conservative National Review, probably differ on most domestic-policy issues. But on one particular gun-control measure, they clearly agree. French wrote about the measure last week, in the wake of the heinous school massacre in Parkland, Florida. McAuliffe pitched the idea with regard to domestic abusers two and a half years ago in a news conference. They're both right. It's called a gun violence restraining order (GVRO), or sometimes a gun violence protective order. It's based on a familiar model: the domestic restraining order. As the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence explains, GVROs "allow families and household members, as well as law enforcement officers, to petition a court to remove a person's access to guns if he or she poses an imminent danger to self or others." The Parkland massacre makes the utility of GVROs excruciatingly obvious. The FBI now concedes that it failed to act on a tip about the shooter from someone who found the shooter's behavior, gun ownership, and social media posts disturbing. But even if the FBI had acted, it might not have been able to prevent the shooting: You can't throw somebody in jail simply for behaving erratically. Sadly, this is not a new story: Seung-Hui Cho exhibited numerous warning signs before committing the massacre at Virginia Tech. The man who killed more than two dozen people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had escaped from a mental facility and tried to carry out death threats, among other red flags. The perpetrator of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando had a long history of troubling behavior and acted so bizarrely in a gun store that the owner said he called the FBI. Friends of the man who killed nine people in a black church in Charleston say he had threatened to shoot up a school the week before. Acquaintances of the man who killed 13 people at Fort Hood said he was a "ticking time bomb" and complained that their superior officers ignored clear warning signs. A Connecticut investigation found that the perpetrator of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School exhibit clear "warning signs" that the school district and others "missed opportunities" to address. Not every mass killer gives off an air of impending menace. The perpetrators of the shootings in San Bernardino and Las Vegas did not telegraph their intentions. But most mass killers often display a clear set of similar warning signs: social isolation, depression, narcissism, resentment, a sudden fascination with firearms, and so on. When an individual raises fears that he might do something horrible, a GVRO gives friends, neighbors, family, and authorities a means of preventing a nightmare. The other advantage of GVROs, as French notes, is that they do not constitute "collective punishment." The vast majority of gun owners in the U.S. will never hurt anyone, so they naturally bristle at the idea that they should be forced to give up their rights because a minuscule percentage of others abuse those rights. (And the percentage truly is minuscule: 73 million Americans own a firearm; 5 million Americans own an AR-15. As the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court has noted, "in 2012, the number of AR- and AK-style weapons manufactured and imported into the United States was more than double the number of Ford F-150 trucks sold, the most commonly sold vehicle in the United States." Yet in 2014 rifles of all types, not just assault-style rifles, accounted for fewer than 250 homicides.) Collective punishment should offend not just gun owners, but any American who believes in individual responsibility and due process. And, in fact, liberals generally abhor the collective-punishment model when it is imposed in other circumstances or on other populations—e.g., on Middle Easterners and Muslims by policies such as the Trump travel ban. For similar reasons, liberals also recoiled against many policies of the Bush administration, such as warrantless wiretapping and suspending the habeas corpus rights of alleged en[...]



San Francisco Man Has Spent 4 Years and $1 Million Trying to Get Approval to Turn His Own Laundromat Into an Apartment Building

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:37:00 -0500

To understand how difficult and expensive it is to build housing in San Francisco, observe the case of Robert Tillman. Tillman owns a single-story laundromat in the city's Mission District. Since 2014, he has been attempting to develop his property into a 75-unit apartment building. The city is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $3,400 a month. So you might think Tillman's project would sail through the permitting process. Instead, the city's labyrinthine process of reviews, regulations, and appeals has dragged on for four years. The project has cost the self-described "accidental developer" nearly $1 million so far, and he hasn't even broken ground yet. "It's taken me longer to get to this point than it took for the United States to win World War II," says Tillman, "and my site is the easiest site in the city to build." In a sane world, it would be easy. No housing is located at the site, so there's no fear that redevelopment will displace any tenants. There are three other coin-operated laundromats within half a mile of Tillman's property, so there is no real concern about lost neighborhood services. Half of the property is a parking lot, so the city won't be losing an aesthetically pleasing landmark. On top of all that, Tillman's lot is a three-minute walk from the 24th Mission Street BART light rail station, a major plus for a city obsessed with "transit-oriented" development. In March 2014, when Tillman first submitted his plans to the San Francisco Planning Department, the initial reaction was positive. Officials were "very much in favor of developing site," Tillman says. The real opposition came from some of the neighbors. A community meeting in January 2016 served as something of a flashpoint. At the meeting, one woman fretted that the tall building would violate the privacy of a nearby public school. Another argued that the project needed to be 100 percent affordable housing. Two representatives from local Latino Cultural District Calle 24 said that even a 100 percent affordable housing project was out of the question, given the proposed height of the development. When Tillman said he saw his project as necessary so people like his daughter could afford to come back and live in the city, one particularly motivated activist said she wished his daughter was killed in a terrorist attack. Nevertheless, Tillman persisted, working with the Planning Department to change the design of his development where necessary and spending tens of thousands more on various impact studies. That includes $6,500 on a wind study, $5,000 on a shadow study, and $189,000 in city fees by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Planning Commission—which oversees the Planning Department and is responsible for approving new developments—continued to push for changes. Parroting many of the Mission activists' concerns, Commissioner Rich Hillis complained that the design was "bulky, and a bit out of character" with the neighborhood, while Commissioner Kathrin Moore said that erecting an 84-foot tall building would be like "plopping a foreign object into this area and not thinking about the consequences." Commissioner Dennis Richards said, "I think a project absolutely belongs here. The question is what kind of project." Thanks to California's state density bonus law, which restricts localities' ability to reject housing developments that reserve a certain percentage of their units for below-market tenants, the Commission was largely prevented from imposing new conditions. After another three-month delay, the Commission voted on November 30, 2017, to approve the project. So that meant Tillman could move forward with construction, right? Of course not. It just set off another round of delays. California's Environmental Quality Act allows anyone to file an environmental appeal within 30 days of a project's approval, requiring local agencies essentially to reevaluate the environmental and community impact evaluations they've already performed. On Janu[...]



City Orders Businesses to Join Its Police Surveillance System

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:25:00 -0500

City leaders in Saginaw, Michigan, are drafting local shops into the crime-fighting business. The city has ordered local businesses to install video cameras and to turn over footage to the police on demand. Saginaw City Council voted unanimously yesterday to pass an ordinance requiring certain types of businesses (with "characteristics which may tend to increase the risk of criminal activity on their premises") to install a minimum of three surveillance recording cameras. These must be in operation whenever the business is open, and one camera must be positioned to record the face of each person entering or leaving. Not all businesses are covered by the new rules, but if you spend time in Saginaw, you're likely to walk into one of these places. Besides some obvious choices—banks, gun shops, check-cashing businesses—the ordinance covers all hotels, gas stations, pharmacies, cell phone dealers, and places that sell liquor (or allow liquor to be consumed on the premises, like a banquet hall). All these businesses will have a year to install their surveillance systems, subject to approval and inspection by the Saginaw Police Department. Then, if "a crime occurs" involving the business (the ordinance is written very vaguely), the establishment will provide the recording of the incident to the police. If the business resists, police will attempt to get a search warrant. Businesses are required to retain all recordings for at least 30 days; if the police contact them about a crime, they have to retain their recordings of the incident for at least 60 days. Businesses will be subject to inspections of their surveillance systems whenever the chief of police damn well pleases. The new law states the chief or a designee can inspect the system at any "reasonable" time to make sure it's in compliance with the city ordinance, which also seems like a nice way of getting around any demand by a business that police get a warrant to review footage. Police could also use such a demand to access surveillance for purposes other than investigating a crime. You would think that the city of Saginaw, population around 50,000, must be in the midst of a massive crime wave. The opposite is true. While Saginaw's violent crimes historically are far above average, overall crime in the city has dropped significantly over the past decade. As in many other American cities, Saginaw's crime is on the decline and has been for a while. But that's not enough for city leaders who want to force businesses to install (and pay for) equipment that lets the police snoop on folks. A recent beating and robbery of a 65-year-old woman captured on surveillance footage in Saginaw is being used to make the case that video recording devices should be mandatory. Saginaw Police Chief Bob Ruth claims businesses can get compliant surveillance systems for $300–$350. This quote from Ruth, in Michigan Live, has a confounding use of "we," which seems to indicate that Ruth doesn't even recognize that private businesses are not there to do the city's bidding: "I think the extra work that we're doing is far outweighed by the quality of work we're going to get in the end, on the way we'll be able to solve cases. It's really going to help us." [emphasis added] Those who attempt to defy the city's ordinance will face fines for each day they are out of compliance. And eventually they could lose their business licenses. It's not unusual for a city or a police department to attempt to force a business to shell out for surveillance equipment and other costly security demands when violent crime or drug dealing frequently takes place on or near the premises. Officials use "nuisance abatement" procedures and zoning rules to essentially force them to help the police or get shut down. It's less common for a city to make these demands in advance and absent any evidence that a particular business is a crime incubator. Ruth says he's gotten good feedback from business owners for the ordinance. If businesses are all on board, what did the[...]



Congress Has Failed (Yet Again) to Close the Martin Shkreli Loophole

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 15:20:00 -0500

Prescription drug companies sometimes use a legal loophole called "restricted distribution" to undermine their generic competitors. The CREATES Act, sponsored by a transpartisan group of senators, would have curtailed the practice, but last week Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) excluded the bill from the budget agreement. As a result, Americans will continue to pay more than they should for certain prescription drugs. Many Americans are at least vaguely familiar with restricted distribution, thanks to the most infamous pharmaceutical executive to take advantage of it, Martin Shkreli. Shkreli, you may remember, jacked up the price of a drug called Daraprim, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1950s and has been used for decades as a treatment for parasites that infect people with compromised immune systems. The patent for Daraprim expired more than 40 years ago, but it's still the only FDA-approved version of pyrimethamine currently on the market in the U.S., which means it has no generic competitor. (The FDA approved a slightly different formulation of pyrimethamine as a malaria treatment in 1981, but it has since been discontinued.) For a long time, American patients didn't really need a generic version of Daraprim, because it cost around $13.50 per 25 milligram pill and is taken for a short period of time. For immunocompromised adult patients who have the toxoplasmosis parasite, the FDA recommends taking 50 to 75 milligrams of Daraprim a day for up to three weeks, followed by half that dosage for an additional four to five weeks. So at the high end, an adult course of Daraprim therapy for a U.S. patient used to cost around $1,350 total. While that might not seem cheap, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the cost after Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli's company, bought the rights to Daraprim and jacked the price up to $750 per pill in 2015. That move increased the cost of one course of treatment to around $75,000. At that point you might have expected another company to jump in and start offering a generic version of the drug. But Shkreli used a regulatory loophole to keep that from happening. You see, when a generic manufacturer wants to create a cheap version of a branded drug, it has to buy thousands of doses from the manufacturer in order to run comparison tests. Generic manufacturers use the results of these tests to prove to the FDA that their version is identical to the branded drug that the agency has already approved. More often than not, the company that holds the marketing and distribution rights to a branded drug will sell those comparison doses to the generic manufacturer without being obstructionist, because that's the trade-off for receiving a 20-year monopoly by way of a drug patent: The branded manufacturer gets to charge whatever they want for years and years without facing competition, and in exchange for that government-backed monopoly, it's supposed to sell equivalency samples to generic companies. But what if the company is run by an unscrupulous asshole like Martin Shkreli? Then it might opt to put the drug into what's called "restricted distribution," which means no distributor anywhere can sell comparison samples to a generic manufacturer. The FDA originally created the concept of restricted distribution to limit the availability of drugs that might be dangerous. Methadone, for instance, was first approved in the 1940s as a painkiller. In the 1970s, the FDA restricted its availability because regulators didn't want the opioid used for anything other than the treatment of opioid dependence. Even today, methadone can be dispensed only in highly regulated settings and only for one approved reason. In 2007, Congress empowered the FDA to create an entire system of safety controls beyond restricted distribution, and the agency now requires the manufacturers of certain substances to develop Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) to prevent misuse and abuse of potentially prob[...]



Maybe the Government Won’t Screw Up Bitcoin After All

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 08:30:00 -0500

Libertarians generally don't expect much of government regulators. Hearings on the hill about how to approach some new, unregulated activity often boil down to little more than nebulous demands to "do something" and boss people like us around. This is especially pronounced with a revolutionary new technology like bitcoin. For these reasons, a recent testimony by the chairmen of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) before the Senate Banking Committee provided a welcome breath of fresh air to the cryptocurrency community. Rather than rushing to regulate, these policymakers urged restraint and humility towards financial innovation. Last week, the cryptocurrency community breathed a collective sigh of relief as two of the most relevant financial regulatory bodies in the United States signaled an unusual understanding of blockchain technologies and explicitly committed to a "do no harm" approach towards cryptocurrencies. In his remarks before the committee, CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo told the body that "we owe it to this generation to respect their enthusiasm about virtual currencies with a thoughtful and balanced response, not a dismissive one." SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, while more skeptical about certain cryptocurrency applications and fundraising vehicles, nonetheless praised the technology's promise to "facilitate capital formation [and provide] promising investment opportunities." Both men outlined a regulatory path forward that, while still imperfect (as most things are), would be much preferable to many alternatives. Contrary to some people's preconceived notions, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are hardly "unregulated." By virtue of the flexible nature of these technologies—vicariously or simultaneously serving as alternative currencies, payment systems, registries, or even next-generation legal devices—cryptocurrencies touch upon the domain of several regulatory bodies. Thus, a panoply of separate policy guidance documents have emanated from bodies as diverse as the Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Election Commission, and each of the separate states. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If properly constrained, the limited regulatory functions of these dispersed offices could be vastly preferable to the more expansive authorities granted to a hypothetical "Department of Cryptocurrency." The challenge, then, is to ensure that our policies indeed remain properly constrained. The according downside, of course, is that entrepreneurs and cryptocurrency users face regulatory uncertainty as they wait to see how different policymaking bodies will respond. There have been two large sources of regulatory uncertainty in terms of U.S. financial regulations. One of them concerned how the SEC would approach the burgeoning world of "initial coin offerings" (ICOs). An ICO is a kind of cryptocurrency crowdfunding mechanism. In theory, ICOs would provide promising technology projects with seed funding and reward backers with the project's returns—a kind of democratic, distributed venture capital fund. In practice, ICOs have unfortunately boiled down to little more than a wild west of unaccountable projects and outright scams that seemed to flagrantly skirt established SEC securities regulations. Even diehard cypherpunks have recognized the problems that fly-by-night ICO scams generate for novice investors and the community as a whole. Yet many have feared that such shady schemes could generate the pretext for onerous regulations that impose innovation-stifling costs on legitimate cryptocurrency projects as well. No one wants to see fraudulent scams proliferate. But we must ensure that the policies put in place to mitigate those problems don't also ensnare beneficial, value-producing developments. Additionally, many have wondered how the CFTC might approach potential cryptocurrency market price manipulation. While the CFTC does not have [...]



California Food Nannies Shutter Startup for Home Cooks

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 08:00:00 -0500

A dozen or so years ago, as my friend Dave was planning a move from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, he used the need to clean out his fridge before the move as an excuse to offer a half-empty jar of homemade kimchi for sale on Craigslist. While I don't think the kimchi sold, Dave's effort opened my eyes to the seemingly limitless possibilities of homemade online food sales. The truth is that while those possibilities are limited theoretically only by imagination, they very often bump up in the real world against—to paraphrase Waylon Jennings—the limits of what the law will allow. That truth was evident last week, when Bay Area food startup Josephine announced it will close its doors in March. As I described in a Sacramento Bee op-ed in support of Josephine last year, the company launched nearly four years ago with a mission to provide cooks who are typically underrepresented in restaurant leadership—including women and immigrants—with a platform by which to sell home-cooked meals with their neighbors. It's a cool idea. And it worked quite well for a time. That is, as I noted, until local health officials "sent cease-and-desist letters to several Josephine cooks." Josephine responded by trying to work with lawmakers and regulators, pushing a bill in the state legislature that would provide some legal avenue for its cooks. Despite the fact that the bill is now moving through the California legislature, the company decided its passage would be too late for Josephine and its funders. Josephine didn't have to die. The regulations that have made it impossible for the company to operate should have died instead. But its fate mimics that of other similar home-food startups. A similar New York-based startup, Umi Kitchen, flamed out last year after just four months of operations. I wrote an appreciation of Forage Underground Market, the inventive San Francisco food swap that was shuttered by California state and local health authorities, way back in 2012. And I predicted at the time the food underground movement was just beginning to blossom. "From underground supper clubs and street lobstah pushas to nonprofit incubator kitchens like San Francisco's La Cocina and for-profit companies like Washington, D.C.'s Feastly that feature accomplished cooks serving meals in their own homes," I wrote, "entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are helping to re-write societal norms around food provisioning in communities around the country on what would appear to be an unprecedented scale." Since that time, foods made by home cooks have indeed become normalized. For example, every state, save one, now has a cottage food law in place that allows home cooks to prepare and sell certain homemade foods. But cottage food laws typically only allow the sale of so-called "non-potentially hazardous" foods—or foods that are less likely to cause foodborne illnesses. That means foods such as jams, popcorn, fruit pies, spices, teas, and the like are generally allowed, while meat pies and Dave's kimchi, for example, are not. A couple states, led by Wyoming, have adopted food freedom laws, which are far more welcoming toward and permissive of home cooks than are any cottage food laws. Unfortunately, the proposed California law, AB 626, the Homemade Food Operations Act, is, though better than the status quo, still flawed. While the bill would allow sales by home cooks, such as those who've worked with Josephine, the law would still place meal and dollar caps on individual sellers, and require home inspections. Each of those requirements raises the specter of government intrusion into the home. It would also allow cities and counties, working together or separately, to continue to ban food sales under the law. For now, Josephine co-founder Matt Jorgensen told me this week that he and his Josephine colleagues will pour their efforts into the C.O.O.K. Alliance—the acronym stands for "Creating Opportunities, Opening[...]



Legal Limits on Opioid Prescriptions May Increase the Number of Pills Dispensed

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 13:30:00 -0500

Last month Arizona became the 15th state since 2016 to impose a statutory limit on the length of initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain. The rationale for such laws is that shorter prescriptions will mean fewer pills in circulation and less potential for abuse and diversion. But recent research suggests the opposite may be true, because patients tend to get refills when the initial prescription is too short. According to guidelines published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2016, "three days or less will often be sufficient" when doctors prescribe opioids for acute pain, and "more than seven days will rarely be needed." State legislators seem to have taken that recommendation to heart. In 2016 and 2017, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 14 states enacted limits on such prescriptions, ranging from three days (Kentucky) to two weeks (Nevada), with seven days the most common. Arizona picked five days. One obvious problem with such arbitrary limits is that some patients recovering from surgery or injuries will need more than three, five, or seven days of pain medication. That is a problem for those patients, but it is also a problem for politicians trying to prevent nonmedical use. A study published last month by JAMA Surgery found that prescription lengths similar to those mandated by most of these state laws were associated with a higher likelihood of refills for some types of surgery. "While government restrictions often limit the dispensing of opioid prescriptions to 7 days or less," MedPage Today noted, this study suggests that "longer initial opioid prescription lengths following certain surgical procedures may, in fact, limit the need for refills and decrease total opioid use." Harvard surgeon Rebecca Scully and her collaborators looked at prescription data for more than 200,000 patients who took pain medication after surgery, 19 percent of whom received at least one refill. The prescription length associated with the lowest probability of a refill was nine days for general surgery, 13 days for women's health procedures, and 15 days for musculoskeletal procedures. "In practice," Scully et al. conclude, "the optimal length of opioid prescriptions lies between the observed median prescription length and the early nadir," i.e., the point where a refill was least likely. That rule of thumb would make the optimal prescription length four to nine days for general surgery procedures, four to 13 days for women's health procedures, and six to 15 days for musculoskeletal procedures. "Although 7 days appears to be more than adequate for many patients undergoing common general surgery and gynecologic procedures," Scully et al. write, "prescription lengths likely should be extended to 10 days, particularly after common neurosurgical and musculoskeletal procedures, recognizing that as many as 40% of patients may still require 1 refill at a 7-day limit." Some states with prescription limits (including Arizona) make exceptions for postsurgical pain, but the NCSL summary indicates that most do not. A legal limit of seven or fewer days not only interferes with proper patient care; it may increase rather than reduce the number of pills ultimately dispensed.[...]



New Orleans Nixes Plan for Strict Cap on French Quarter Strip Clubs

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 13:15:00 -0500

Amid an outpouring of protests from New Orleans strippers and their supporters, city regulators have opted against a plan to limit the number of French Quarter strip clubs to one per blockface. The plan, proposed by the New Orleans City Council last year, would have capped the number of strip clubs in the area at 14 and prevented any new venues from opening on the same blockface as an existing club. At a public hearing on Tuesday, the City Planning Commission voted in favor of a modified proposal drafted by city planners, who rejected lawmakers' per-block limits and recommended only a "soft cap" of 14 live adult entertainment venues around the Bourbon Steet area (which the city calls the "Vieux Carré Entertainment District"). The proposal leaves open "the possibility of more than 14 venues being allowed to operate so long as any applicant businesses above that number receive conditional-use approval," explains The Times-Picayune. And it "does not outright recommend changes to French Quarter zoning rules related to strip clubs" but "offers up recommendations 'if' the council decides to move forward with enacting changes." The commission explicitly rejected the idea that limiting the number of strip clubs in the area was a good crime-reduction strategy. Any "negative secondary impacts...cannot only be attributed to the concentration of" strip clubs, it stated in a report: Staff believes that the nature of Bourbon Street and particularly the Vieux Carré Entertainment District is in itself a cause for higher crime because of the concentration of entertainment uses including not only [strip clubs] but mostly bars, live performance venues, and live entertainment, and the concentration of visitors drawn to these uses in a small geographic area. Because of this particular characteristic, staff believes that there is nothing inherent to [strip clubs in the district] that causes crime. Writer and dancer Reese Piper, who tweeted live updates from yesterday's hearing, said the room was "packed with dancers," who spoke out against the proposed caps and recent police actions against the clubs. "In New Orleans, women of the night do not go quietly," one speaker told the commission. "What happens in New Orleans matters to citizens everywhere," said Lyn Archer of the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. Speaker with BARE asked for those in crowd who stand with dancers to stand up. Whole room stood up. pic.twitter.com/xB8UyJQLvN — The_GambitLIVE (@The_GambitLIVE) February 6, 2018 No one at yesterday's meeting spoke out in favor of a strip club cap. "In New Orleans, ladies of the night will NOT go quietly into the night!" witnessing stripper power in full force at this CPC meeting pic.twitter.com/bQ3lHvp0vN — Beck (@fictionalbeck) February 6, 2018 But the city HEARD us. They heard us in the streets and at their meetings and it made a difference. They amended their proposal and agreed that "adult entertainment does not increase crime" — Reese Piper (@TheNudeReporter) February 6, 2018 soft victory today with CPC approved recommendations: reducing club numbers by attrition, no limit of one block per block face, holding a soft cap at 14, using a conditional use process to go above 14. No true win until they leave us alone! #LetUsDanceNola — BARE NOLA (@bare_nola) February 7, 2018 It's now up to the New Orleans City Council to decided whether it will incorporate the planning commission's proposal into the city's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.[...]



'Keep Your Tyranny Off Our Titties,' Say New Orleans Strippers

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 08:42:00 -0500

Just in time for Mardi Gras, strippers and their allies have been taking to the New Orleans streets to protest recent police operations at French Quarter strip clubs. The investigations and raids, conducted under the pretense of stopping sex trafficking, have led to the temporary shutdown of eight clubs and are seen by many as part of the city's plans for a more gentrified Bourbon Street. "Fuck the cops and fuck the raids, all we want is to get paid," chanted some protesters last Wednesday, as Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials detailed Mardi Gras preparations at a press conference in the background. The raids—a joint project of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control—took place over a 10-day period in January. They were the result of months of undercover operations in late 2017. New Orleans authorities did not find evidence of underage prostitution or human trafficking, their stated reason for the investigations. The worst they turned up was some dancers offering undercover cops a little more than just a lap dance, and a few instances per club of entertainers baring their breasts or genitals. But this was enough to revoke the businesses' liquor permits, using a law that prohibits alcohol-serving establishments from "permitting any prostitute to frequent the licensed premises or to solicit patrons for prostitution." As of last Friday, four clubs (Scores, Stilettos, Rick's Sporting Saloon, and Rick's Cabaret) had reached resolutions with the state that would allow them to reopen and serve alcohol again pending a several-week suspension and a $5,000–$7,500 fine. But one club, Temptations, will have its liquor permit permanently revoked. The remaining three are scheduled for hearings this week. The closures put a lot of dancers and other club employees out of work during the city's biggest tourism season of the year. Club workers and their allies showed up during a city press conference on January 31 to protest the closures, which they said will hurt them economically and put more people at risk of violence and exploitation. "Chants of 'Let us dance!' drowning out the press conference," tweeted one attendee. The next night, hundreds showed up for a protest that wound through the streets of the French Quarter, chanting things like "Keep your tyranny off our titties" and wielding homemade signs. "You Are Making Us Suffer Not Keeping Us Safe" read one. "I May Strip My Clothes But You Stripped My Rights," said another. Other slogans included "Stop Fucking With Our Livelihood," "Closing Our Clubs Will Only Exacerbate the Sex Trafficking Problem In Our City," "Decriminalize Sex Work Now," "#BourbonStNotSesameSt," and (my personal favorite) "Twerking Class Hero." "Starting on Bourbon Street near numerous still-shuttered clubs, the protest [ended with a rally] where strippers shared stories of the hardships they've faced without work since the raids and denounced what they said is politically motivated enforcement," reported The New Orleans Advocate. They "questioned why the raids were timed at the start of Carnival and argued that a crackdown on 'vice' in the French Quarter is an attack on the business that fuels the city's tourism industry." And they criticized the city for fighting fake sex trafficking at the clubs when there were plenty of sex workers on the streets who could genuinely use some help. "While the protest largely focused on the recent raids, it also touched on other issues, including a planned City Planning Commission hearing next week on whether to cap the number of adult businesses in the Quarter, plus a state ban on strippers under the age of 21 that is being challenged in federal court," the Advocate noted. The City Planning Commission is considering a cap on the number of strip clubs allowed in the French Quarter and ways to[...]



Addicts Use Imodium to Help With Detox. That's a Terrible Reason for the FDA to Make It Harder to Get.

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 14:00:00 -0500

Over-the-counter medicine frees Americans to treat minor health issues without first consulting an expert. For no ailment is this freedom more of a godsend than a pesky case of the runs. You can grab a box of Imodium A-D (or the store brand of the active ingredient, loperamide), walk to the checkout counter, and pay, all without breathing a word about your messy butt to anyone. But now the opioid crisis has driven regulators into absurd fits of caution. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make loperamide less accessible because opioid addicts might abuse it. And some in the health industry argue that you should have to ask a pharmacist and present a government-issued ID to buy the drug, as is currently the case with pseudoephedrine. In a statement published Tuesday, the FDA announced that it "continues to receive reports of serious heart problems and deaths with much higher than the recommended doses of loperamide, primarily among people who are intentionally misusing or abusing the product." In response to these reports, the agency wants loperamide manufacturers to limit the number of doses per package to a few days' worth and to make the pills available only in blister packs rather than bottles. Loperamide is a very, very mild opioid, and like all opioids, it slows down the muscles that send poop through your pipes. But unlike most other opioids, it's doesn't affect other parts of the body unless you take a shit-ton. The maximum therapeutic dose is 16 milligrams in the course of a day; people using it either to get high or to chase away withdrawal symptoms will take more than 100 mg. Doses that high can (but don't often) cause "adverse cardiac events." That's just a mild inconvenience, you might object, if the changes will protect people's hearts. But this week's FDA notice does not say how many people have died or been seriously injured from loperamide overdoses, how many adverse events might be avoided by changing to blister packs, or how much retooling loperamide production facilities will cost manufacturers (and ultimately consumers). These are not small asks. The answer to the first question tells us whether the second two are even worth considering; the second question helps us understand whether the imposition implied by the third is reasonable. Since the FDA isn't being forthcoming, how might we determine how many people are abusing loperamide? A good start would be to look at toxicology and mortality data. Here's the research I found on loperamide abuse published in the last two years: According to a 2016 study of loperamide-related deaths in North Carolina, published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found above-therapeutic levels of loperamide in 21 deceased persons between 2012 and 2016; the drug is said to have played some role in 19 of those cases. In only one case—that of a 21-year-old male who had a history of overdoses—was loperamide the only drug present. A review of New York Poison Control data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services uncovers 22 cases of intentional loperamide abuse between 2008 and 2016; 15 of the patients had a history of opioid abuse. The average daily dose was 358 mg, and the full range was 34 mg (twice the daily recommended maximum) to 1,200 mg (75 times the maximum). The report does not disclose any fatal overdoses. The same study looked at the National Poison Database System and found 179 cases of intentional loperamide abuse from 2008 to 2016. The average loperamide dose across those cases was 196 mg, ranging from 2 mg to 1,200 mg. The paper includes clinical outcomes for 132 of those cases: 66 patients suffered "life-threatening symptoms or residual disability"; four of them died. A 2017 review published in the Journal o[...]



Sadly, America's Not the Freest Country in the World

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 00:15:00 -0500

Is America the world's freest country? Sadly, no. When researchers first started doing detailed international comparisons, the USA came in second or third. This year, however, we ranked 17th. The comparison I cite is the newly released Human Freedom Index, compiled by the Fraser and Cato Institutes. They compared economic freedoms such as freedom to trade, amount of regulations and tax levels, plus personal freedoms such as women's rights and religious freedom. Their new report concludes that the world's freest countries are now: 1. Switzerland. 2. Hong Kong. 3. New Zealand. 4. Ireland. 5. Australia. "The United States used to have one of the freest economies in the world," Index co-author Ian Vasquez says. "It used to be a two, three or four, and then government started to grow [and] spend more." Republicans and Democrats, under Presidents Bush and Obama, voted for increases in spending and regulation. Obama tried to make tax increases sound harmless. "Those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more." The result was that we fell farther from the top of the freedom ranking. Switzerland now takes first place. It has comparatively little regulation, low taxes, a free press and personal freedoms such as same-sex marriage. A good ranking matters, not just because freedom itself is a good thing, but because economic freedom allows people to prosper. Consider the story of Hong Kong, No. 2 on the overall freedom list (but No. 1 in economic freedom). In just 50 years, people in Hong Kong went from being among the poorest in the world to among the richest. Prosperity happened because Hong Kong's government puts few obstacles in the way of trying new things. It took me just a few hours to get legal permission to open a business in Hong Kong. In New York, it took months. In India, I didn't even try—it would have taken years. That's a reason India stays poor. Bureaucrats have the power to review and reject most any new idea. Fewer new ideas get tried. The absolute worst places to live are countries that lack both economic and personal freedom. Those are the places at the bottom of the freedom ranking: 155. Egypt. 156. Yemen. 157. Libya. 158. Venezuela. 159. Syria. (Totalitarian North Korea wasn't ranked because the researchers couldn't get accurate information.) Syria ranked so low mostly because of the war. You aren't free if you worry you might be killed. Second-to-last place Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America. Then socialists promised to spread the wealth. The next three: Libya, Yemen, Egypt—well, the Arab Spring didn't turn out as well as some hoped. On the top of the list, I wasn't surprised to see New Zealand and Australia. They always do well. But Ireland? I associate Ireland with poverty. For 150 years after English rulers caused the Potato Famine, Irish people left Ireland to search for a better life. But Ireland recently changed, says Vasquez. "They reduced taxes... spending, reduced regulations. They opened up to trade." Now people want to live there. You can read the full freedom rankings on the Cato Institute's and Fraser Institute's websites. If you plan to move or start a business in another country, the Freedom Index is a good guide. Greece is beautiful, but it ranks 60th, mostly because the country lacks economic freedom. China got richer, but because personal freedom is so limited, China ranks 130th. How do you summarize a free country? I asked Vasquez. "You can lead your life any way you want as long as you respect the equal rights of others, he answered. You [decide] what job you want to take, what kinds of things you want to do, who you want to marry, what you want to do on your free time, where you want to live." I suggested that countries don't regulate your free time, but Vasquez set me strai[...]



'Booze Equality' Bill Inches Forward for Virginia Craft Distilleries

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500

(image) Virginia has 352 wineries, 262 breweries, and 62 distilleries. The state imposes no limits on how much oenophiles and cerevisaphiles may quaff when they visit a winery or brewery—that's up to the discretion of the folks dispensing the drinks. That is not the case for drinkers who enjoy stronger spirits. In the Cavalier Commonwealth, visitors to distilleries may imbibe a total of only 3 ounces of liquor in some combination of half-ounce tastings and 1½-ounce cocktails.

That's bad, but it's a vast improvement over the situation three years ago, when in-house sipping was limited to one and a half ounces.

Even worse, each distillery must be licensed as an ABC store. This means that distillers have to buy their own product at prices set by the ABC and then send all in-store sales receipts to the ABC Board, which returns the wholesale price back to the distilleries. The Virginia wine tax is $1.51 per gallon and the tax on beer is $0.26 per gallon. The ABC Board marks up the price for liquor sold on-site at distilleries by 69 percent. Once ABC takes its 54 percent cut of the purchase price, it ends up effectively taxing spirits at a rate of $30.88 per gallon.

Distillery lobbyist Curtis Coleburn explains in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "When they sell a $30 bottle of booze at the distillery, about half of that's going to the state." He adds that breweries and wineries pay a dollar or less in taxes when they sell an equivalent amount of alcohol through their tasting rooms.

Earlier this month, Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) introduced a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would establish what he calls "booze equality." Basically, the bill would repeal the ABC's high stealth tax on spirits by allowing distillers keep the profits from their on-site sales and thus put them on a more competitive footing with wineries and breweries. Officials from ABC pointed out in a hearing that this would reduce its take by $1.7 million in fiscal year 2020. Virginia distilleries employed 500 people and brought in more than $7.2 million in 2017, up nearly $1 million in 2016 and $2.2 million in 2015.

Sadly, a bill proposed by Del. Matthew Fariss (R-Campbell) that would have lifted the restrictions on how much distillers could serve visitors on-site appears to be going nowhere. The measure failed, in part, because of opposition from the restaurant lobby, which fears competition in the cocktail-serving business.




Trump is no Deregulator on Immigration

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 16:51:00 -0500

The University of Pennsylvania Regulatory Review has just published my article on how the widespread belief that Trump is a deregulator is contradicted by his immigration policy. The article is part of the Regulatory Review's symposium on "Regulation in the Trump Administration's First Year," which also includes contributions by Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, Texas AG Ken Paxton, and law professors Dan Farber (UC Berkeley), Cary Coglianese (University of Pennsylvania), Richard Pierce (George Washington) and Mark Nevitt (Penn). Here is an excerpt: If there is one thing that most commentators agree on about President Donald J. Trump's economic policies, it is that he promotes deregulation. American Enterprise Institute President Chris DeMuth lauds him for being a "full-spectrum deregulator." Susan Dudley, a leading academic expert on regulation, similarly concludes that Trump has made "undeniable" progress on the deregulation front. Most liberal commentators agree that Trump has been a deregulator, even if they differ from DeMuth and Dudley in their normative evaluation of his actions. But the near-universal belief that Trump is a deregulator is in need of serious revision. His Administration's immigration policies are nothing of the kind. Not only do they increase regulation, but they likely do so far more than Trump's other policies decrease it... The impact is by no means limited to immigrants. American citizens also face substantial costs, both narrowly "economic" and otherwise. American businesses and consumers obviously suffer from losing the productivity of those excluded or deported by the Administration. American citizens also obviously suffer from being cut off from family members who are deported or banned from entering the United States. In addition, expanded efforts to deport undocumented migrants also harm American citizens. Shockingly, the federal government probably detains or deports several thousand American citizens every year, on the assumption that they must be illegal aliens. Once arrested by immigration authorities, these people are "swept into the Kafkaesque nightmare of the immigration system, [where] they are effectively assumed illegal until proven otherwise," as immigration expert Shikha Dalmia puts it.... The article also addresses claims that Trump's immigration policies are just a matter of "enforcing the law" by reducing illegal immigration, an interpretation further belied by his support for legislation that would massively cut legal immigration. There is an interesting synergy between my article and Cary Coglianese's forthcoming contribution to the same symposium, which argues that Trump's deregulatory record elsewhere is not nearly as extensive as it is cracked up to be (I did not have an opportunity to see his essay before completing my own).[...]



Regulations Prevent Some People from Using Google Arts & Culture's Portrait-Matching Feature

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 09:55:00 -0500

Tons of people recently downloaded the Google Arts & Culture app to discover which famous work of art they resembed, filling the internet with side-by-side images of selfies and portraits. While those in Illinois or Texas may be curious if they look like a Rembrandt portrait or Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Google refrained from releasing this portrait-matching feature in those states due to their stringent biometric regulations. While the app itself has existed for a few years and offers additional features, the selfie feature went viral as scores of people began posting their accurate, or sometimes cruelly inaccurate (and hilarious) matches on social media. Using facial recognition technology, the app compares the image of its user to the thousands of famous portrairs housed in its database, offering up a series of "matches," so users can find their artistic dopplegangers. But people whose phones are registered in the state Illinois and Texas discovered they were unable to use this feature (though they could ask their out-of-state relatives to find their matches for them). That's because the app uses biometrics or "biometric identifiers," according to the National Law Review, which include fingerprints, voiceprints, and facial geometry that can be used to identify a specific individual. Illinois in particular has led the forefront in biometric privacy lawsuits and regulations—having passed the illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act ("BIPA") in 2008. While other states like Washington and Texas have passed their own versions of BIPA, Illinois remains the most onerous. As a result of this legislation, companies like Facebook, Shutterfly, and others have all been the target of large class action lawsuits regarding their use of biometric data. Though Google requires users to accept a disclaimer before using the feature that states the app only stores data as it actively seeks for matches, the company feared these security measures may not be enough to satisfy Illinois law. Unlike other states, in Illinois BIPA allows private citizens to sue companies for damages, when typically suits of this nature must be brought by the attorney general of that state. Consequently, this regulation has deprived citizens of Illinois from enjoying other, possibly more useful features and products. Nest—another company specializing in thermostats and home security—declined to sell a doorbell technology that can recognize visitors in the state. According to BIPA and the National Law Review, BIPA is an essential regulation, because unlike Social Security numbers and passwords that can be changed if necessary, biometrics are biologically unique and, when compromised, leave an individual without recourse, making this type of potential identity theft all the more dangerous. But there are tradeoffs. As Matthew Kugler, an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, told The Chicago Tribune, "(Maybe) people would much rather have their selfie feature than this privacy protection. That's something we'll have to see."[...]



E-Cigarettes Can Be Lifesavers

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:01:00 -0500

This week the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) weighed in on the question of whether e-cigarettes are a public health menace or a public health boon. The answer is yes, according to a NASEM report published on Tuesday. The report, which was sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), concludes that "e-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful to health." While that is true in principle, the report gives too much weight to scenarios in which these products could be harmful, even while confirming that they dramatically reduce exposure to toxins and carcinogens for smokers who switch to them. NASEM's advice is important because it will guide the FDA as the agency decides how to regulate the vaping industry, which last year got a four-year reprieve from rules that threatened to drive the vast majority of companies out of business. The demands that the FDA ultimately imposes on manufacturers of vaping equipment and liquids will affect the options available to consumers and their knowledge of them, which in turn will determine the extent to which they take advantage of products that could save their lives. The NASEM report, which is the work of a committee chaired by University of Washington toxicologist David Eaton, acknowledges the harm-reducing potential of e-cigarettes. "E-cigarette aerosol contains fewer numbers and lower levels of most toxicants than smoke from combustible tobacco cigarettes does," Eaton et al. say. "Laboratory tests of e-cigarette ingredients, in vitro toxicological tests, and short-term human studies suggest that e-cigarettes are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes." When people who otherwise would be smoking use e-cigarettes instead, that represents an unambiguous gain from a public health perspective, which seeks to minimize disease and preventable death. "If e-cigarette use by adult smokers leads to long-term abstinence from combustible tobacco cigarettes," the report says, "the benefit to public health could be considerable." But Eaton and his colleagues worry that e-cigarettes also could increase tobacco-related morbidity and mortality if they encourage teenagers to smoke. Depending on how big that effect is, they say, it might even outweigh the benefit from smoking cessation among adults. That concern seems wildly implausible in light of current trends. Cigarette smoking by teenagers has continued to fall despite a surge in experimentation with vaping, and last year it reached the lowest level ever recorded by the Monitoring the Future Study, which began surveying high school students in 1975. Two other factors make it unlikely that significant numbers of teenagers become smokers after getting hooked on nicotine in e-cigarettes. The vast majority of nonsmoking teenagers who vape do so only occasionally, and most of them use nicotine-free e-liquids. Against these facts, the NASEM report cites studies that find teenagers who try vaping are more likely than those who don't to subsequently try smoking. According to Eaton et al., these studies amount to "substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults." As the report acknowledges, however, these observational studies do not distinguish between correlation and causation. They may simply show that teenagers who are inclined to try vaping are also inclined to try smoking. Such research cannot tell us how many of these teenagers become regular smokers or whether they would have experimented with tobacco even if e-cigarettes did not exist. Under the collectivist calculus prescribed by the Family Smo[...]