Monthly Archives: June 2013

Are All Those Costly Clean-Air Regulations Doing Much Good Globally?

Having been exposed to principles of physics, we always wondered how much good all that frenzied, costly American regulatory activity aimed at producing clean air, is actually doing. After all, if we work on clean air but other large economies don’t, it follows that their air pollution will spread globally from there to here. Case in point: China.

Here is what the air looks like in Beijing, according to a front page story in today’s Los Angeles Times. So much so that expatriates living there are migrating out to other places. But is that smog moving too?

Diego Azubel / EPA

Today’s  L. A. Times HeadlineAmerican expats fleeing Beijing smog


Follow up. Today’s L.A. Times tis running a piece about Secretary of State Kerry hectoring the Indians about how they should do something about air pollution. Rots of Ruck, Mr. Secretary.

Lowball Watch — Louisiana

It isn’t every day that an appellate court calls a condemnor’s argument in a multi-million dollar case “absurd,” but the Louisiana Court of Appeals did so in Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College v. 1732 Canal Street, Case No. 2012-CA-1370, opinion filed on June 19, 2013.

The Louisiana Court of Appeals just handed down an opinion affirming a trial court’s judgment on a jury award of $9,566,640. The condemnor’s deposit and opinion evidence was $4,500,000. The appellate court characterized the condemnor’s argument as “absurd,” holding that it presented no legal argument that would support the court’s disregard of the jury’s verdict. Condemnor evidently argued that the verdict should not stand because it was too far apart from the parties’ respective contentions, and  therefore condemnor could not calculate how the jury arrived at its conclusion. The  condemnor argued for an award of $4,500,000, and the condemnee for roughly $21.5 million.

The court held that as long as the verdict was within the range of the parties’ opinions, condemor’s argument was not a proper basis for vacating the jury verdict. Condemnor relied on case law in which the verdict was outside the range of value opinions, and therefore, on the facts in this case, it provided no legal basis for condemnor’s legal argument.


A Little Lesson on How the Press Treats People it Likes, as Opposed to People It Doesn’t Like.

Imagine two newsworthy events. Event No. 1  involves a terrorist atrocity in which a bomb is set off in a house of worship, killing three dozen people and wounding 37. Event No. 2 involves the slashing of tires on 38 cars in an ethnic neighborhood.  Now the question before the house is: which of these two stories is more important and more worthy of being prominently reported: the terror bombing of the tire slashing? By our lights, one would think that the slaughter and maiming of scores of people at prayer would be deemed more important and certainly more newsworthy than some slashed tires. Right? Wrong. According to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, it all depends on who is victimized  by these activities in each case.

And so, the New York Times covers the tire-slashing caper in a 16-plus column-inch story, compleat with background, speculations as to who done it, etc. But when it comes the lethal bombing with 37 dead and 57 wounded, mostly students, the Times could spare only 2.5 column inches, giving its readers the bare-bone facts. The same is true of the Los Angeles Times which devotes 36 column inches plus a page-wide headline to the tire slashing, but only a 3.5 column-inch squib to the bombing.

How is that gross disparity of treatment of these events possible, you ask. Easy. The lethal bombing targeted a mosque in Baghdad. The bombers were evidently Arabs (killing other Arabs). In other words, as the Times would have it, no big deal — happens all the time. Ah, but it’s “different” with those tire slashers. They did their dirty work in Israel and the owners of the damaged cars were Arabs. Though no one has taken credit for the tire-slashing, the Times lets it be known that the slashers just had to be a “forbidden” Jewish group whose members presumably finally got tired of being blown up, shot at and stoned with rocks, and decided to strike back.  Do we defend them? Absolutely not. But whether defense-worthy or not, both Times’ treatment of these incidents makes clear the deep-seated journalistic bias at both publications.

No, tire-slashing is bad business. But blowing up praying worshipers by the score is infinitely worse and as such deserving of more journalistic coverage and indignation that displayed by both Times’ coverage of these events.

Read the articles and judge for yourself. The New York Times articles are respectively Myra Noweck and Jodi Rudoren, Vandals Hit Mixed Suburb Of Jerusalem, Wed., June 19, 2013, at p. A12, and MIDDLE EAST:  – Iraq: 37  Killed in Shiite Mosque, at p. A6. You can find the similar Los Angeles Times two-step performance in (a) Bathsheva Sobelman, Village Known for Coexistence Targeted in Israel, L.A. Times, June 19, 2013, and (b) a 3-inch squib about the Baghdad mosque bombing a few pages later: IRAQ: Suicide Blasts at Mosque Kill 34 .

And so it goes.

Decide for yourself: Can you think of another situation where the Times — NY or LA — would treat a lethal bombing of a house of worship with scores of dead and wounded, as less newsworthy and less prominently reported than some tire slashing?


Charging Americans More for Raisins, so Foreigners Can Buy Our [Stolen] Raisins Cheaper.

By now you must be thinking. “Oh no. Not those  damned California Raisins again.” If you do we won’t blame you, but the recent SCOTUS Horne case is stuffed so full of absurdities that it just won’t go away.  To see our take on it; click here. And we just came across another one; something that has escaped the attention of the many taking mavens who have been expostulating on the legal complexities of whether an-out-and-out uncompensated physical seizure of about one-half of a raisin farmer’s crop (47% to be exact) — is a taking within the meaning of the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment. So far, the answer to this oh-so-difficult question that has been in dispute and litigation for some 10 years, and the U.S. Supreme Court just sent the case back to the lower court to decide this excruciatingly difficult question. So we won’t know what the answer is for a few more years. Only in America!

But guess what? It turns out that a big part of the story has been missing from the legal discussions. Here’s how. Assume with us, if only for the sake of argument, that those raisins had been duly stolen from Mr. Horne by Uncle Sam. What would happen to them then? Part one is easy. They — or a part of them — would have been given to schools to provide  lunch to the kiddies, evidently to teach them a basic rule of economics: you steal from A and give to B, thereby providing the latter with a free lunch. Didn’t they teach you that in Econ 101? But what about the rest of those stolen raisins?

An answer to that question is provided in today’s Los Angeles Times. See Robin Abcarian, Raisin Suit’s Legal Wrinkle, L.A. Times, June 19, 2013, at p. A2. Quoth the Times: After their taking, “[t]he [raisin] reserves are doled out for use in federal school lunches or sold at below-market prices overseas.” Emphasis added.

Crazy? Stark raving. The government steals raisins from American farmers in order to reduce market supply and raise prices, and then sells them abroad at artificially depressed, below-market prices. So American raisin consumers get to pay artificially inflated, higher domestic raisin prices, while foreigners get to enjoy our raisins at artificially lowered, below-market prices. Sounds crazy to us.

The “reasoning” behind that crazy scheme goes back to the days of the Great Depression, when farmers complained that they couldn’t get enough for their raisins when they sold them in the open market. Evidently, the idea that they may have been producing too many raisins for the American market never occurred to them. But even so, the Great Depression has been over for a few decades, and maybe it’s time for raisin farmers to be told that they now live in the 21st century and it’s time to grow up.

About Those California Raisins . . .

We seem to recall that years ago Irving Younger (according to our memory) wrote a tongue-in-cheek article proposing that courts should be able to declare statutes invalid on grounds of stupidity. If ever a statute met that criterion of invalidity it’s the one in the brand-new California Raisins case — Horne v. Department of Agriculture that came down from SCOTUS unanimously, yesterday.

What it involved is the feds demanding that a raisin grower-handler turn over 40% of his raisin crops to the feds as a freebie, and failing that, pay some humongous fine — like $400,000. Why would the feds want to do that? Because the theory behind this plain though brazenly uncompensated taking  was the Depression era notion that if you reduce supplies, prices would go up, and removing a bunch of raisins from the market would allow raisin farmers to charge more for their remaining raisins. Let that sink in: it was the Great Depression time; people were literally starving, but Uncle Sam in his, er, wisdom came up with a scheme to reduce food supplies, thereby increasing the prices of remaining food to help out farmers at the expense of consumers who had to stand in soup lines to feed themselves and their children.

Anyway, what is in issue is not even the question whether this scheme is an uncompensated taking, but what hoops must the aggrieved raisin farmer/handler jump through to get a court — any court — to consider the validity of this “regulation” (whether an uncompensated taking) on the merits. Sheesh! Are these people wacko? The feds come along and borrowing the phrasing of highwaymen of yore, say “Your raisins or your money — some $400,000 of it, if you please. Or if you prefer, you can pay the aforementioned 400 grand up front, and then slog through an administrative swamp.” So the aggrieved folks go to court: Surely, they naively believe, those wise, fair minded judges will provide justice. Right? Wrong! It turns out that taken together, those fair-minded geniuses can’t even agree which court has jurisdiction to hear the case.

We are on the road, using an unfamiliar computer, so we will spare ourselves a lot of frustrating hunt-and-pecking, and suggest that you check out the June 10th post of Prof. Ilya Somin on the Volokh Conspiracy which will tell you more about this case than you want to know, although being a serious academic, Prof. Somin says nothing about the stupidity of it all.  Oh well, as the punch line to a great old Jewish joke goes: “So from this Einstein makes a living?” Evidently so. And not just Einstein but a bunch of lawyers of all denominations.

We claim no particular knowledge of federal agricultural regulatory stuff, but it turns out that there are other, similar regulations — after all, the Great Depression ended over a half-century ago, but there are still similar regulatory federal statutes dealing with other produce on the books. So we can’t wait for the aftermath.

Follow up. We urge our readers, especially those with an interest in the “California Raisins” case, to check out the posts of our esteemed colleague Robert Thomas — — dated June 10 and June 11, 2013. His analyses (several) are by far the best and unlike the academic ones provide practical pointers on the impact of Horne on this type of litigation. Also, he points out that Horne punches a large hole through the notion that just compensation is the sole remedy in takings cases. That is a constitutional rule, but there are also statutory remedies that provide for non-monetary, specific remedies, as does Horne itself by holding that a taking claim may be raised as a substantive issue in cases where the feds are doing the suing as well as the taking. Altogether, a nifty write-up — make it write-ups — of the Horne case.

And of course, Mr. Thomas get a big brownie point for repeatedly posting the famous commercial showing the California Dancing Raisins. Finally our kudos to Justice Kagan for observing in oral argument that this case may have dealt with the most outdated statute around. Indeed, except “outdated” seems to us to be rather mild under the circumstances.

Even Beverly Hills Has to Watch Its Money

On May 24, 2013, we noted under our “Lowball Watch” category a case in which the City of Beverly Hills took a parcel of land and presented $135,000 as evidence of value. The jury evidently liked the owner’s testimony better, and awarded $3,435,904.

We are now informed that, faced with that verdict, the city has abandoned the taking, and under California law will now have to pay the owner’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses.

Bubble, Bubble — Hawaii Division

Catch this headline — front page, above the fold — in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 3, 2013. Here is the headline and the subheading. They say it all.

“CONDO MANIA! The nearly 5,000 units planned for the city urban core are expected to meet pent-up demand — or could even fall short.”

Further your affiant sayeth naught.