There’s No Reason To Ban Cellphone Use While Driving

Investors Business Daily:  “A federal agency is calling for a nationwide ban on all cellphone use while driving. Once again, Washington busybodies are exaggerating a problem because it happens to be a behavior they don’t approve of. . . . a 2009 NHTSA study found that 80% of all car wrecks are caused by drivers eating or drinking — not cellphone use — with coffee-guzzling the top offender. Then there’s this. According to federal data, traffic deaths have fallen from 2.1 per 100 million vehicle miles in 1990, when virtually no one had a cellphone, to 1.1 in 2009, when almost everyone does.”

Special Interest Dollars Influencing Judicial Elections

Estate of Denial: The Occupy Wall Street movement is shining a spotlight on how much influence big-money interests have with the White House and Congress.  But people are not talking about how big money is also increasingly getting its way with the courts, which is too bad. It’s a scandal that needs more attention. A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.

A case in point: West Virginia. In 2007, the West Virginia Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, threw out a $50 million damage award against the owner of a coal company. Funny thing: the man who would have had to pay the $50 million had spent $3 million to help elect the justice who cast the deciding vote. The West Virginia ruling was so outrageous that in 2009 the United States Supreme Court overturned it. But that was unusual. In most cases, judges are free to decide cases involving individuals and groups that have paid big money to get them elected. (MORE: Justice on Display: Should Judges Deliberate in Public?)

Obama’s Student Debt Plan Is Hardly “New”

Above The Law:  President Barack Obama really thinks recent graduates are stupid. Seriously, he thinks that graduates out there suffering under crushing debt obligations in an economy where there aren’t enough jobs to go around are so dumb that they don’t even know what they want.

Educational debt has been a big part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Today, President Obama will announce “new” programs to help students in debt. At least, he wants the media to report these programs as “new.” Those who have been paying attention, such as debt-saddled law students, will recognize that there is very little “new” about these programs.

Idaho Vs. Uncle Sam Over Grizzly Bear Killing

LA Times: Reporting from Bonners Ferry, Idaho— To understand the deep rift over federal regulation of endangered species, one only had to sit in the stands of the annual 4-H auction at the Boundary County Fairgrounds here last month, when 14-year-old Jasmine Hill’s handsome pig, Regina, went up for sale.

First, it’s important to know the back story: Jasmine’s father, Jeremy, had been charged by the U.S. Justice Department a few weeks earlier with shooting a grizzly bear — a federally designated threatened species — 40 yards from the back door of the family home at the base of the Selkirk Mountains.

Plenty of people have been charged with illegally killing endangered wolves, bears, caribou and other animals with tenuous footholds in the rugged country in places like northern Idaho.

But this was different. Hill, his neighbors said, was protecting his home and his family. He was doing what any of them might have done. And now a man trying to raise six children out in the woods on a backhoe operator’s earnings was facing up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Legal Protection For Unattractive People?

ABA Journal:  An economics professor is making the case for legal protections against looks-challenged people.

Writing an op-ed for the New York Times, University of Texas professor Daniel Hamermesh cites findings that good-looking people make more money, find higher-earning spouses, and get better mortgage deals. One study shows American workers assessed as being in the bottom seventh in terms of looks earn about $230,000 less in a lifetime than similar workers in the top third of looks.

Hamermesh offers a solution: Protect ugliness with small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could get help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly,” he suggests.

Debt Deal Eliminates Graduate School Loan Subsidies

USA Today:  A federal subsidy that aids graduate students would be eliminated to boost funding for Pell grants that help low-income undergraduates, under the compromise debt-ceiling bill moving through Congress.  That trade-off is one of the few program changes specified in the bill.

The maximum Pell grant of $5,550 would be preserved for an estimated 9 million undergraduates, according to the White House.

To pay for that, graduate students who get federally subsidized loans would see the interest on those loans begin to accrue while they’re still in school, beginning July 1 next year. Currently, that interest doesn’t begin accruing until the students graduate. That saves lots of money for doctoral candidates, medical school students, law students and others in long-term graduate programs.

 

Does the GOP Really Love The 10th Amendment?

Reason.com:  The 10th Amendment to the Constitution is like the skinny teenage girl who blossoms over the summer and suddenly finds herself besieged by suitors. Once ignored, it has found a host of champions among Republican presidential candidates who are competing to show their devotion.

The amendment contains just one sentence: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

It is a bulwark of federalism, which allows states the freedom to adopt different policies reflecting their peculiar circumstances. It was meant as a check on those who would demand uniform practices from one end of America to the other.

Congress Wants To Spy On Your Computer

NY Post:  If Congress had to name laws honestly, it would be called the “Forcing Your Internet Provider to Spy On You Just In Case You’re a Criminal Act of 2011” — a costly, invasive mandate that even the co-author of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), says “runs roughshod over the rights of people who use the Internet.”

But because it’s disguised as the “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act,” the House Judiciary Committee approved it last week by a wide margin — even though it’s got little to do with child porn and won’t do much to protect kids.

The centerpiece of this ill-conceived law is a sweeping requirement that commercial Internet providers retain a one-year log of all the temporary Internet Protocol addresses they assign to their users, along with customer-identification information. The Justice Department says this will help track down child-porn peddlers by linking online activity and real-world identities.  But the government would be able to access that sensitive data for all kinds of investigations, most of which would have nothing to do with child porn.
 

Too Many Federal Criminal Statutes To Count

ABA Journal: Federal criminal statutes have multiplied to such an extent that it has become increasingly difficult to count them.

As a result of the increase, federal prisons now house more than 200,000 inmates, eight times the number 30 years ago, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. And more people are in criminal jeopardy, often unwittingly, since increasingly the new laws do not have an intent requirement.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman tells the Wall Street Journal that the number of federal criminal laws can’t be quantified. Studies have put the number at more than 3,000 and at 4,500.

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