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Updated: 4 weeks 1 day ago

RAWA hearing falls short on facts – leaves questions on state rights

March 28, 2015, 8:29 AM

From NJ Poker Online:

The two witnesses that helped to actually put a negative spin on RAWA were Parry Aftab and Andrew Moylan. Aftab is an attorney that specializes in Internet Privacy and Security. Moylan is a well known states’ rights advocate.

Moylan chose to focus primarily on the issue of states rights and how they applied to RAWA. He asserted that the bill was an overreach of authority by the federal government and that the bill would restrict states’ rights. Interestingly enough, Moylan is opposed to gambling but his belief in states’ rights allows him to put those oppositions aside.

Testimony to Texas House Energy Resources Committee

March 27, 2015, 4:18 PM

Chairman, members, my name is Josiah Neeley and I am the Texas director of the R Street Institute. R Street is a non-profit, free-market think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., though I am based out of Texas. I’m here today to speak in favor of this necessary legislation.

H.B. 40 and S.B. 1165 clarify that the state has exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of oil and gas regulation, and pre-empts local ordinances that seek to prohibit oil and gas production. The bill allows local regulation of “quality of life” issues related to production, such as noise, traffic, and odors, so long as these are reasonable and do not amount to an effective ban.

The main impetus behind this bill was the recently passed ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation put out on this issue by opponents of fracking. The reality is that fracking has never been found to contaminate groundwater. This is the conclusion not only of academic studies by MIT, but also of government officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey and others.

In fact, the fracking revolution has had substantial environmental benefits, both for Texas and for the nation as a whole. Levels of carbon emissions in the United States are at a 20-year low, and one of the main reasons for that is fracking. Low-priced natural gas has displaced coal as a source of electricity, and since carbon emissions related to natural gas are only around half of those of coal for a given amount of energy produced, the result has been a substantial decline in carbon emissions. Nor is this effect limited to greenhouse gases. Whether we are talking about particulates, sulfates or water usage, the impacts from natural gas are lower than from coal. The market-led movement away from coal power due to fracking has therefore been a major boon to the environment.

Many opponents of this legislation have suggested that it is inconsistent with local control. Ultimately, local governments are creatures of the state. They have only those powers granted to them by the state government, and there are many examples of state law restricting the ability of local entities to regulate in a particular area. The Texas Railroad Commission permits wells, and monitors oil and gas production to ensure compliance with health and safety restrictions.

Local control does not give cities the right to ignore these state regulations if they wish. Nor should it give them the right to pass additional regulations that are inconsistent with state law and policy. Where local ordinances are used to infringe on private property rights, it is appropriate for the state government to step in and defend these rights.

Resisting bureaucracy

March 27, 2015, 12:50 PM

The third time will apparently be the charm for the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” regulations. Having been shot down twice by the courts in earlier attempts to regulate broadband, members of the commission—enterprising bureaucrats that they are—found new legal authority for their power grab.

However one feels about the new rules, it is inarguable that this is not how the founding fathers designed our government to operate. “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,” reads Article I of the Constitution. To prevent its misuse, the awesome power to make laws was split between two chambers. By design, governance requires the diverse representatives of the governed to find consensus.

The first Congress had more than 90 voting members; the current one has 535. The FCC, by contrast, has 5 members, only 3 of whom agreed on the net neutrality rules. That was enough to promulgate 300 pages of regulations that have the effect of law.

The FCC’s action is all the more galling because Congress has been actively debating broadband legislation. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., circulated a draft bill in January.

Of course, the FCC’s action was not a rare instance of unaccountable government. Today’s executive agencies make law as a matter of course, and generate a ton of it. At agencies’ current pace of about 4,000 regulations issued annually, a new federal rule is created roughly every two hours. Lay the 170,000 pages of the Code of Federal Regulations end to end and it would leave a trail of impenetrable text 29.5 miles long.

When one considers Congress enacts perhaps 50 meaningful statutes per year, it becomes plain that the first branch no longer is our nation’s primary lawmaking body. America has morphed into the expert-led state imagined by John Stuart Mill in his 1861 treatise Considerations on Representative Government. Civil servants devise policy and the legislature serves mostly as a pressure valve for the vox populi.

Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to [censure] them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors. This is surely ample power, and security enough for the liberty of the nation.

Mill’s conception is eerily prescient, but rather different from the government the American framers intended. In our constitutional system, agencies are created to execute the laws made by Congress. Toward this end, they are obliged to issue rules clarifying how a law should operate in practice. These rules should not expand the scope of the law as written or establish new powers beyond those explicated in the statute.

Emblematic of the modern administrative state was the Environmental Protection Agency’s “tailoring rule,” which targeted greenhouse gas emissions before it was struck down a year ago by the U.S. Supreme Court for attempting to “bring about an enormous and transformative expansion in EPA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.” Alas, that case was far from an anomaly. According to Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, courts have invalidated more than a dozen regulations in recent years, issued by agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Undoubtedly, the FCC’s net neutrality rules likewise will be challenged in court, contributing to significant economic uncertainty for the broadband industry, major content providers and the peerage market that connects the two.

Congress at long last may be wearying of regulatory overreach. A spate of regulatory reform bills has been introduced recently.

  • Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, proposes that agencies be limited to issuing regulations whose benefits justify their costs and are drafted to “impose the least burden on society.”
  • Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has legislation that would slow the ceaseless growth of the Code of Federal Regulations by imposing seven-year expiration dates (“sunsets”) on some regulations.
  • Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Angus King, I-Maine, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., advocate establishing a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure)-type body, which would solicit public input on bad or outdated regulations and submit a package of proposed repeals to Congress, which would vote to keep or ditch the whole lot. It is an especially promising idea that Democrats will have a hard time opposing aloud.
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Todd Young. R-Ind., have reintroduced the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, which would force congressional votes on economically significant regulations before they take effect. The REINS Act is a serious attempt to reclaim some of Congress’ legislative authority.

Getting the president to sign regulatory reform legislation is a long shot, but Congress is not helpless. The Congressional Review Act empowers Congress to stop a regulation before it takes effect. Any legislator may introduce a short CRA disapproval resolution to kickstart a process that grants Congress 60 days to approve the resolution and send it to the president. If the White House signs the resolution, the rule never takes effect.

The CRA was passed 19 years ago with bipartisan approval, spearheaded by Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., and signed by President Bill Clinton. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supported it, and Carl Levin, D-Mich., a longtime CRA advocate, cheered its enactment: “Now we are in a position to do something ourselves. If a rule goes too far afield from the intent of Congress .  .  . we can stop it. That’s a new day, and one a long time coming.” Unlike the REINS Act, the CRA is standing law and raises no separation of powers anxieties. Justice Stephen Breyer, by the way, gave congressional review a thumbs-up in a 1984 lecture.

A standard complaint about the CRA is that it will never work. A president will always veto bills that kill regulations written by his agencies. That may be true, but there is only one way to find out. Last week, Congress used the CRA against new pro-union regulations issued by the National Labor Relations Board. Presumably Obama will veto the resolution, but no matter. The next two years ought to be a particularly appealing time for Republicans to use the CRA. Any new regulations almost assuredly are the product of the Obama administration. At minimum, using the CRA to protest unwise proposed rules signals to constituents that a legislator is standing up for them, and against a not-very-popular president.

Tempest brewing around California uninsured motorist coverage

March 27, 2015, 10:55 AM

A tempest is brewing around California’s otherwise functional system of uninsured and underinsured automobile insurance. At an informational hearing held in the great Shakespearian tradition of dialogue capped by monologue, California state senators were treated to three hours of testimony by the state’s insurance officialdom, academics and stakeholders.

UM/UIM coverage is designed to offer first-party drivers the same level of coverage that they afford themselves, and no more, in the event that they are involved in an incident with a third-party driver without insurance coverage or without sufficient insurance coverage.

The need for the product is more than academic. Robert Herrell, deputy commissioner and legislative director of the California Department of Insurance, testified that between 9 and 14 percent of California drivers are without insurance. That proportion translates to roughly four million drivers; or, in concrete terms, at least one vehicle at every major intersection.

Against that backdrop, the narratives furnished by the various parties who testified were predicated on fundamentally different assumptions about the public policy role played by UM/UIM. When addressing the central question posed to them by the committee — “does uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage meet consumer needs?” – they cast their analyses from wildly disparate ports.

Proponents of reform see a system shackled by overly onerous fraud-prevention mechanisms and low policy minimums, not raised for decades, which do not reflect the real cost that confront drivers today. The threshold policy analysis was drawn from legislative history and stated inimitably by Robert Peterson, director of the Center for Insurance Law and Regulation at the Santa Clara University School of Law: is the current system sufficient to offer protection to “prudent individuals”?

Professor Peterson illustrated his case for four specific reforms by evincing a terribly unfortunate, if well-named, vessel named “Prudence.” Again and again, in spite of all of her best efforts, and not unlike Prospero’s daughter Miranda, Prudence was subjected to iniquitous outcomes in a series of counterfactual scenarios.

In particular: Prudence was unable to recover from her UM/UIM coverage when the driver that struck her carried liability coverage in the same amount (limit-to-limit trigger); she was unable to access her UM/UIM coverage in a scenario in which a near-miss forced her off of the road (miss-and-run); she was confused and frustrated when she was afforded the difference between her UM/UIM coverage maximum and the third-party insurer payout, instead of her outright coverage maximum (setoff); and she was left without access to her UM/UIM coverage when her settlement did not cross the threshold of the third party’s liability insurance limit (exhaustion).

These arguments for reform are not without merit. In fact, the supporters of the status quo, in at least some of Prudence’s scenarios, likely would concede that, while she is getting the benefit of her bargain with the insurer, she is on the unfortunate side of a larger public policy calculus. That consideration was the basis of their testimony.

While sympathetic to the plight of those who are confused, Hyon Kientzy, a defense attorney and proponent of the status quo, argued that the efficacy of the UM/UIM system is best evaluated on the basis of the system’s overarching affordability and applicability to the majority of cases. Toward that end, while the cost of medical treatment has increased, that fact is rendered largely redundant by a countervailing consideration — the vast majority of UM/UIM claims, around 85 percent, are still below the $15,000 policy minimum.

Proponents of the status quo also urged senators to consider the proposed reforms in light of the auto insurance system as a whole. John Norwood, a longtime legislative advocate and representative of the Insurance Agents and Brokers of California, drew upon considerable institutional memory to remind those present that California’s current UM/UIM system is itself a compromise measure, crafted in 1984 as a conciliatory arrangement amid an escalating auto-insurance affordability crisis.

For their part, the senators on-hand consistently demonstrated interest in educating consumers about the benefits of UM/UIM coverage. While their interest is understandable, it has yet to be seen what further measures are practical, given that UM/UIM coverage already requires conspicuous declination.

What is clear is that, when policymakers consider how and if to proceed with reform, they will need to be keenly aware, as Prospero’s brother Antonio was, that “what’s past is prologue.” Any small reform must be considered in view of the system as a whole, and how it came into its current incarnation.

California, laboring under Proposition 103’s restrictions, has for the past 25 years sat precariously at an inflection point. Increasing the applicability or scope of UM/UIM coverage will, as was conceded by proponents of reform, raise premiums. Who knows what sort of storm that could cause?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

For Uber drivers, one license is good enough

March 27, 2015, 10:12 AM

Michigan has experienced a dynamic economic reinvention over the past five years. Individuals young and old have turned their new ideas, artisanship and creativity into sustainable employment opportunities for themselves and others.

The state’s continued economic improvement reflects the prospects that ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft offer drivers and consumers.

These transportation network companies, or TNCs, allow individuals to summon cars with their smart phones, creating new job opportunities for independent drivers who use the app to connect with potential customers.

Often, the prices of TNC rides are considerably less than taxis. They provide a growing number of drivers the autonomy to use their own cars and the flexibility to set their own schedules, driving when it is convenient for them.

The rise of TNCs has been an excellent opportunity for a growing fleet of new drivers who have turned their personal cars into successful enterprises.

Unfortunately, a couple of overzealous Michigan lawmakers are trying to create barriers that could stall out this new industry.

Citing concerns that ride-sharing is “out of control,” state Sens. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Dale Zorn, R-Ida, have introduced legislation that would require TNC drivers to jump through a number of new regulatory hurdles in order to be active drivers, including a requirement to receive and maintain a Michigan chauffeur’s license.

Currently in order to become a driver for TNCs such as Uber or Lyft, one must possess a valid drivers’ license, pass a background check and have appropriate auto insurance.

A recent Cato study actually found that the requirements to join Uber or Lyft “are often more strict than those imposed on taxi drivers in some of America’s most populous cities.”

In addition to these standards, customers routinely rate drivers. If a driver falls beneath a ratings threshold, they are no longer eligible to provide rides. The continuous feedback instills more consumer confidence than relying on taxi companies to review their drivers. With the incentive of good ratings, many drivers serve water, candy and even let the passenger control the music selection, all while driving their passenger safely to his or her destination.

As long as you have a valid driver’s license, pass a background check and have a safe driving record, there is no reason why further special licensing should be required. The senators’ proposal to require a chauffeur’s license is another example of burdensome occupational licensing that stifle entrepreneurs from bringing their sought-after skills to market. If someone is legally eligible to drive their car in Michigan, why should they be required to get additional permission to drive someone else in their car?

A recent Brookings Institution study examines how the rate of occupational licensing has increased dramatically over the last several years. Currently, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is subjected to occupational licensing. While some licensing in certain highly specialized vocations might make sense, the exponential growth in occupational licensing has been used to keep out competitors and inflate the costs of services to consumers, stifling innovation and suppressing economic opportunity.

It is true that ridesharing presents legitimate questions about auto insurance. However, a number of states already have passed careful legislation and private companies are finding the right balance to address those concerns without eliminating an emerging market. Moreover, the ride-sharing and insurance industries increasingly are finding common ground on these questions.

Instead of implementing regulations that erect yet more impediments to entrepreneurs, lawmakers should be looking for ways to break down bureaucratic barriers for the entire workforce.

Michigan’s economy will only continue to grow if elected officials take their foot off the brakes, ending unneeded licensing requirements and looking for new ways to spur opportunity for all.

Florida Cat Fund cleared to buy $2.2B of reinsurance

March 27, 2015, 10:03 AM

In what counts as excellent news both for Florida taxpayers and the private insurance market, Gov. Rick Scott and the State Board of Administration have approved a request from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to explore transferring up to $2.2 billion in risk back to the private market.

The board’s trustees – comprised of Scott,Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi — gave Cat Fund CEO Jack Nicholson authority to hire a broker and test the waters for what would be the Cat Fund’s first retrocessional plan. The deal could include a combination of traditional and collateral reinsurance, catastrophe bonds and other insurance-linked securities. However, any final deal would still need the board’s formal sign-off, likely at its next meeting April 14.

The approval was welcomed by the Stronger Safer Florida coalition, of which R Street is a member, which issued the following statement:

Stronger Safer Florida commends the State Board of Administration for authorizing the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to seek opportunities to transfer risk away from Floridians and onto the global private reinsurance market. If attractive reinsurance rates exist for Florida, it would be wise for the Cat Fund to act so policyholders are less likely to face hurricane taxes in the event of a future hurricane.

The Cat Fund’s proposal follows similar moves by Florida’s other state-run insurance entity, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which recently announced it is projected to drop to its lowest policy count since it was first created (through the merging of the state’s FAIR plan and coastal pool) in 2002.

Previously reliant almost entirely on the Cat Fund for reinsurance coverage, Citizens has looked to take advantage of attractive market conditions with a significant move toward private reinsurance in recent years. Citizens had $3.1 billion of private coverage in place during the 2014 hurricane season, including the $1.5 billion Everglades Re catastrophe bond, the largest cat-bond issuance in history.

It’s thus a natural fit for the Cat Fund to explore similar territory, particularly since projections show private risk transfer would have either negligible effects on property insurance rates, or at worst, rate increases of less than 1 percent. However, when the Cat Fund previously floated the idea of $1.5 billion in risk transfer last year, the SBA shot that notion down.

The board’s tentative approval came over the objections of some coastal politicians, notably state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who stretched credulity in making the case that moving risk back into the private market constituted “corporate welfare.”

The proposed transfer of billions in risk from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to the private offshore global reinsurance market is nothing more than corporate welfare and would mean higher property insurance rates for Floridians. If CAT Fund Chief Operating Officer Jack Nicholson is permitted to gift $2 billion into the private re-insurance market, the only beneficiaries would be the reinsurers themselves, mostly based in Bermuda.

It would be difficult to overstate just how backward this is. The existence of the Cat Fund itself is the clear corporate welfare in this case, as it is intended to provide coverage to primary insurers at rates below those charged in the private reinsurance market through use of state-granted bonding and assessment authority to finance losses after they’ve occurred.

It’s also clear from his comments that Mr. Artiles has some difficulties understanding the very concept of insurance. The beneficiaries of risk transfer are the people who otherwise would shoulder the burden of that risk – in this case, taxpayers and policyholders throughout the state, who only this month finally finished paying off the hurricane taxes from the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Bermuda reinsurers are no more the beneficiaries of this change than any insurers writing any business anywhere. They’re taking on risk. Whether that risk proves to be fortuitous is something only time will tell. The opportunity to trade a potential large loss for a small but certain one is the reason we buy insurance in the first place.

Of course, given conditions in the ongoing soft market for North American property catastrophe reinsurance, reports indicate that private cover is now actually priced more attractively than even the Cat Fund, prompting some Florida insurers to explore ways to replace Cat Fund coverage with cessions to the private market. Most recently, Heritage P&C announced plans to issue a $150 million cat bond, largely to replace Cat Fund coverage. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts Meyer Shields and William Hawkins project as much as a quarter of the Cat Fund’s $17 billion in coverage ultimately could be replaced with private cover.

SBA Executive Director Ash Williams also this week separately (and, in our view, wisely) rejected a suggestion by Investment Advisory Council Vice Chairman Chuck Cobb that the fund should divert its $13 billion in assets into potentially higher-return – but also higher risk and less liquid – investments. The Cat Fund’s allocations currently largely sit in cash or short-term high-quality instruments. They earned returns of 0.18 percent over the past year an annualized 1.74 percent over the past decade, beating custom benchmarks of 0.03 percent and 1.66 percent, respectively.

The reason for the fund’s allocation “is, if nature goes the wrong way and we get a real blow and we need that money, we’re going to need it then and we’re going to need all of it, not have it tied up somewhere,” Mr. Williams said at the Dec. 8 meeting, according to its minutes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Proponents of online gambling ban serve ‘demon rum’ at House hearing

March 27, 2015, 8:09 AM

From Casino City Times:

Andrew Moylan, who runs the pro states’ rights R Street Institute, and Aftab came to the hearing prepared with facts and arguments about why regulated intrastate online gaming is good for states’ rights and good for consumers. Aftab noted that there were three cases in Nevada where kids managed to play online poker at a regulated site. She also explained in a fair amount of detail how identity verification works. Moylan explained exactly how the assumption that Internet commerce (and other activities) can only be regulated by the federal government “eviscerates” the commerce clause in the Constitution. They upheld the honor of the room.


Online gambling: Rolling the dice on Congress

March 27, 2015, 8:09 AM

From Barron’s:

The bill’s critics talk about the Constitution and benefits of state regulation. Andrew Moylan, executive director of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, cautioned that the bill as currently written sets dangerous precedent “in suggesting that mere use of a communications platform like the Internet subjects all users and all activity to the reach of the federal government, no matter its location or nature.” Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety, a consumer-protection company, said state regulators were doing a great job of keeping children off the sites and curbing traffic to offshore online gambling shops, which have no interest in screening customers. “The best way to protect families and consumers in connection with online gambling is regulating it, not prohibiting it,” she said.

Adelson-backed online gambling bill splits GOP At hearing

March 27, 2015, 7:49 AM

From the Huffington Post:

As with many congressional hearings, the experts who testified at the RAWA session did little to sway the members who attended. They included three witnesses who supported RAWA — John Kindt, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois School of Law; Les Bernal, national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation; and Michael Fagan, an adjunct professor at the Washington University School of Law. Two other witnesses — Andrew Moylan, executive director of the free-market think tank the R Street Institute, and Parry Aftab, executive director of the Internet-safety coalition Wired Safety — opposed RAWA.

Transferring risk is good for Citizens

March 27, 2015, 6:30 AM

Claiming that the purchase of private reinsurance is a “gift” to offshore reinsurers that somehow harms Florida consumers is wrong (“Foes see ‘gift’ to reinsurers in plan for state storm fund.”)

The exposure held by the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund — which threatens to stick everyday Floridians, nonprofits, houses of worship and small businesses with billions of dollars in “hurricane taxes” — is the real problem.

Transferring risk away from taxpayers and onto the private market would mitigate the problem, help to shore up Florida’s finances and flood the state with outside capital — rather than debt after a hurricane. Other states with a government-run insurance fund purchase coverage to protect their taxpayers.

It’s time that the most disaster-prone state did the same.


RAWA hearing sound and fury signifying nothing

March 26, 2015, 5:19 PM

From PokerFuse:

A late addition to the witness list, Andrew Moylan, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at R Street Institute, opposed the bill on the basis that it infringed states’ rights guaranteed by the 10th amendment. Les Bernal, National Director of the Stop Predatory gambling Foundation, opposed all gambling.

Editorial: RAWA hearing short on facts, long on fear

March 26, 2015, 4:57 PM

From PokerNewsDaily:

There were two witnesses that stood against RAWA. Andrew Moylan, the Executive Director at R Street (a libertarian and conservative think tank), evoked memories of the government’s surveillance actions that were exposed by Edward Snowdon. The government is “too large and too powerful,” Moylan stated, and RAWA was an attempt to regulate “all wire or internet transmissions” as he explained his reasons for opposing the bill.

Head of womens health conglomerate unsure how insurance works

March 26, 2015, 4:46 PM

This week marked the fifth anniversary of Obamacare, and while some of us celebrated by spending hours on the phone with an insurance company rectifying a double charge because they can’t keep track of their billing, and Ted Cruz celebrated by availing himself of the system in order to get an inside look at the exchange that’s making everyone’s lives a terrible place, the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, celebrated by reminding America that they now give a ton of money to her organization involuntarily.

This is true now more than ever, as thanks to an “equality” provision in the Affordable Care Act, men and women now pay the same rates for insurance, despite the fact that women, on the whole, cost more to insure, most notably because many of them have working uteruses that produce living children. In return, yes, women can now celebrate the opportunity to pay to care for prostates they don’t have and Viagra prescriptions they probably won’t need, but let’s not get too far from the point in question: ACA was very, very good to Planned Parenthood.

The #ACAIsWorking – thanks to #Obamacare, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in America!

— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) March 23, 2015

Further proof that the #ACAisWorking: gender rating is out – women can’t be charged more than men for the same insurance coverage. — Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) March 23, 2015


If you were wondering whether Richards is getting all teary-eyed because her supposedly non-profit organization is struggling to make ends meet because of the incredibly generous commitment they have to keeping America’s women healthy and happy, well, according to a GAO report released yesterday, in response to questions from Rep. Vicki Hartzler about how much, exactly, Planned Parenthood receives from the American taxpayers, you needen’t worry.

Over the last three years, abortion advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood have sucked down an impressive $1.5 billion in funding from various state and federal sources. A quick scan of the report reveals that PPOA and its affiliates received around $350 million from federal funds and about $1.2 billion from Medicaid, which is covered by federal and state sources. The federal money comes from a mix of sources that include the Title X Family Planning program and the somewhat oddly named Title XX Maternal and Child Health Services program. Thank heavens Cecile Richards is in charge of health care and not the STEM program, because she’d have a hard time convincing anyone that her arithmetic skills are up to par.

But Planned Parenthood and its supporters, who still believe that the clinic chain operates as nothing less than a Magical Ladyparts Castle that saves the lives of millions of women annually, would say that all that money goes to a good place. After all, even I can agree that providing affordable, accessible health care that caters specifically to female needs is a good cause. No one wants to get their annual pap smear at the same free clinic that hands out methadone to homeless junkies.

But the funny thing is, that exact argument demonstrates that the Affordable Care Act’s equality provision is bogus: can someone who presides over a chain of womens’ health clinics designed to handle the needs women have that go above and beyond the normal standard of care for most walk-in facilities really claim that women don’t have a more complex system that requires a more tailored approach? Certainly, Planned Parenthood isn’t doing a lot of pre-natal care, but even they can recognize that they exist precisely because women’s medical needs are different and greater than mens’. Which clearly shows why the insurance “gap” that supposedly “punishes” women is necessary from an insurance standpoint – for an industry that exists specifically to offset the relative costs of medical care. 

And if Planned Parenthood does nothing different than any other medical care provider, why in heavens name do they need that much extra cash?

Celebrating equality, at least in this case, means punishing consumers and taxpayers and co-opting the free market to fit a set of outdated ideals, in the place of helping to find real solutions to the high cost of health care that could actually help women.  

RAWA subcommittee hearing full of dire warnings of evils of online gambling

March 26, 2015, 2:43 PM

From Cards Chat News:

Perhaps the most interesting witness was the one that was added to the hearing between the originally scheduled date earlier this month and the actual hearings on Wednesday. That was Andrew Moylan, executive director of R Street. Moylan is a states’ rights proponent, and attacked RAWA for being an example of federal overreach.

“RAWA contains potentially problematic language that appears not to carve out wholly intrastate activity, as the Wire Act…and UIGEA both do quite clearly,” Moylan said. “From the prospective of federalism, an argument of this nature is problematic, to say the least.”

BBC drops the ball on baseball and smokeless tobacco

March 26, 2015, 2:08 PM

It’s almost baseball season, which means it’s time for anti-tobacco extremists to start grabbing easy headlines. One especially zealous state lawmaker wants to ban smokeless tobacco by players and fans in all California ballparks. It’s all based on smoke and mirrors, as illustrated in a woefully inaccurate recent BBC story on smokeless tobacco and baseball.

The report includes an erroneous claim that baseball stars Tony Gwynn, Curt Schilling and Babe Ruth died from cancers caused by smokeless tobacco.

Neither Gwynn’s nor Schilling’s cancer was related to smokeless products, as I have detailed before here and here. Reporter Nada Tawfik concedes that “doctors say a link between [Gwynn’s salivary] cancer and chewing tobacco cannot be proven.” I have previously noted the absence of a scientific link between smokeless tobacco and this cancer type. As for Schilling, he never said he had mouth cancer and not one of his doctors has supported his statement that smokeless tobacco caused his illness.

The BBC repeated the decades-old myth that Babe Ruth suffered from smokeless tobacco-induced mouth cancer. In truth, Ruth had nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Ruth was a prodigious consumer of cigars and alcohol, but neither are strongly associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (discussed here). He also used smokeless tobacco, which has no link to this cancer type.

Included in the BBC story was a remarkable quote attributed to Dr. Jatin Shah, who runs the Head and Neck Service at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Chewing tobacco, he is reported to have said, is “probably more harmful than smoking.” I emailed Dr. Shah to ask if he had been misquoted. He responded with a comment on South Asian products, but the BBC’s vast audience has been left with the grossly erroneous impression that American smokeless tobacco is more dangerous than cigarettes.

Thus are myths perpetuated and the public health undermined.

RAWA hearing criticised by PPA, anti-igaming claims get airing

March 26, 2015, 8:46 AM

From iGaming Business:

However Parry Aftab, executive director cyber safety advice group WiredSafety, recognised that regulation of online gambling would better protect American consumers, families and problem gamblers; while Andrew Moylan, executive director of R Street Institute, said he opposed RAWA for overstepping state rights.

Hillary now thinks this email thing is hilarious

March 26, 2015, 8:43 AM

If you’re keeping score, based on familiarity with the Clinton playbook, we have now delightfully exited the “pretend nothing is wrong” phase of Hillary Clinton’s private email scandal and we’ve moved into the “joke about it as though it’s funny” phase.

If you recall, this closely mirror’s Bill Clinton’s response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, where, after denying his scandal under oath and then recanting it, embraced his public personal as a lovable, yet kind of creepy oaf, bound to haplessly follow the edicts of his nether regions: “Oh, that’s just Bill!” and “Did someone say Colombian prostitutes?” Hillary is following suit. Fresh off her United Nations press conference, where she revealed her own technological vulnerability, as well as her abject commitment to the feminist principle of always playing too dumb to know what’s going on, she’s confident the situation has been completely resolved. And so, on to the jokes.

“I am well aware that some of you may be a little surprised to see me here tonight,” Clinton said.

“I wanted to spend an evening with a room full of political reporters, I thought to myself: ‘What could possibly go wrong?’”

The former secretary of state told the crowd that she was ready to open up a new era of transparency and divulge all her classified information.

“No more secrecy, no more zone of privacy — after all, what good did that do me,” she announced.

“But first of all, before I go any further, if you’ll look under your chairs you’ll find a simple nondisclosure agreement. My attorneys drew it up. Old habits last.”

Har, har, harrrrrrrr.

In her mind, I’m sure Hillary Clinton was absolutely positive that this spelled the end of her press wrestling. After all, if they can laugh at a quip about an unsigned legal agreement guaranteeing their silence on an issue, they’ve definitely put that little tidbit about sending emails from a private server to other private email addresses during a major administration crisis that resulted in a dead ambassador, so as to avoid the unnecessary involvement of congressional investigators who would no doubt want to know what happened, right?


Fear-mongering testimony overshadows facts at Internet gambling ban hearing

March 26, 2015, 8:34 AM

From PokerNews:

There were two reasonable witnesses in WiredSafety executive director Parry Aftab, who recognizes that regulation of online gambling in the U.S. will better protect American consumers, families and problem gamblers; and R Street Institute executive director Andrew Moylan, who opposes RAWA for overstepping state rights…

…Moylan, a late addition to the panel, indicated that RAWA not only overreached from a federalism perspective in attempting to prohibit intrastate activity but was largely unnecessary.

“If a state wishes to prohibit gambling within its borders, it has the sufficient power to do so and sufficient legal remedies at its disposal,” Moylan said.

RAWA rhetoric sweeps House subcommittee meeting in federal online gambling debate

March 26, 2015, 7:49 AM

From Casino.org:

Next up was Andrew Moylan, executive director and senior fellow at R Street Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank. Moylan was a late addition to the list of witnesses, a concession, perhaps, to criticism of the largely partisan panel.

However, he confusingly stated that he was not particularly knowledgeable about or interested in gambling. Instead, he was here to “articulate a conception of limited government and federalism as it relates to gambling legislation.”

Moylan noted that RAWA and its blanket ban on online gambling was at odds with the principles of federalism and also the “more narrowly targeted language of the original Wire Act and UIGEA.” Both the Wire Act and UIGEA, he said, were enacted to help states in their own law enforcement pursuits.

He also said that RAWA “potentially establishes a dangerous precedent by suggesting that the mere use of a communication platform like the internet subjects all users and all activity to the reach of the federal government, no matter its location or its nature.”

R Street urges caution against expanding the scope of federal government in Judiciary testimony

March 25, 2015, 3:52 PM

WASHINGTON (March 25, 2015) – The Restoring America’s Wire Act (RAWA) would overextend federal reach and usurp states’ rights, the R Street Institute’s Executive Director Andrew Moylan said in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee today.

The legislation expands the 1961 Wire Act to cover all forms of gambling, but goes a step further to prohibit all wire or Internet gambling transmissions, including those conducted over the Internet in states that may have chosen to license and regulate gambling.

Both the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) were written to help states in their own law enforcement pursuits and were circumscribed to cover only genuinely international or interstate activity.

“By appearing to extend its reach to wholly intrastate conduct, RAWA unwisely empowers the federal government,” testified Moylan. “This both impedes upon an area of law that is traditionally reserved for the states, and establishes a dangerous precedent in suggesting that mere use of a communications platform like the Internet subjects all users and all activity to the reach of the federal government, no matter its location or nature.”

Instead, Moylan suggested modifying the language of the RAWA to more closely resemble that of UIEGA, which carefully exempted intrastate payments and those between states with legal gambling.

“If limited government and federalism are to have any meaning in the 21st century and beyond, Congress must exercise restraint in claims of such power and RAWA in its current form is not consistent with that needed restraint,” he said.

Moylan’s full testimony can be found here.