Harms in Public Spaces

The Brits are working out a new way to intervene in private lives and in private businesses, this time in an attempt to control “harms” done via (not by, mind you) “online platforms”—social media.

Under the [British] government’s proposal, a new regulator would have the power to require companies to protect users from a number of identified online harms—such as pornography, extremist content, and cyber bullying.

And

[T]he pair talked through the different terms that had been used to describe social media in a legal context, looking for the right analogy. They tried “platform,” “pipe” and “intermediary.” Nothing seemed to fit. Then “we thought of a ‘public space,'” says Ms Woods. “People do different things online. It was just like ‘how do we regulate spaces?'”

Data Transfer and Privacy

The European Union’s Court of Justice had recommended to it by an adviser to the court in a particular case involving Facebook that

Companies, including US tech giants, should be blocked from transferring European users’ data in some cases if they can’t guarantee it will be handled in compliance with European Union privacy laws….

That would seem to include a large number of international companies besides ours. Yet several EU member nations are moving apace to bring Huawei into their communications networks….

Hmm….

An Appeal

Bayer is appealing a District court judgment against it and its Roundup product which has glyphosate as an important ingredient. The judgment is for $25 million, and Bayer thinks it’s a wrong judgment.

The German company’s main argument is that US federal agencies have determined its product is safe and not a carcinogen.

Bayer noted that the

verdict defies both expert regulatory judgment and sound science.

And

Because the EPA has consistently approved the sale of glyphosate without a cancer warning and has stated that including such a warning on the label would render the product misbranded, any state-imposed cancer warning is expressly preempted

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

That’s what French unions are demanding with their strikes against French President Emmanuel Macron’s and French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s plans to streamline, standardize, and otherwise reduce the cost to French taxpayers of France’s byzantine pension system.

Never mind that the pension system consists of 42 different pension plans or that French civil servants insist that they are, somehow, special and so should have special perquisites unavailable to petty private sector workers.

Trains, subways, and buses were still severely curtailed on Friday, and hundreds of domestic and regional flights were canceled. There were no demonstrations on Friday, but unions have warned the strike could last days and become one of the biggest in France in over two decades.

Medicare for All

Simon Johnson, of the MIT Sloan School of Management and an “informal” advisor to Progressive-Democratic Party Presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D, MA) presidential campaign, thinks her Medicare for All scheme is the cat’s meow.  It would, he claims

cut costs by reducing inefficiency, eliminating predatory pricing (for example, for prescription drugs) and using the purchasing power of a single-payer system. Her plan would also constrain the growth rate of underlying medical costs.

Obamacare Premiums

Stephanie Armour noted that Obamacare premiums are expected to be lower in 2020 than they are this year, and she wondered whether that means Obamacare is working, or if there remain problems to be fixed.

The drop doesn’t address the core problem with Obamacare: it’s a government welfare program that mandates coverages at prices independent of the risk being transferred.

Falling premiums? They’re still much too high, as are deductibles (which Armour completely omitted from her article), especially when compared to what would be the case in a free market, and they’re for coverages that aren’t, generally, needed, to boot.

Leverage

Since so many American businesses—Apple, Alphabet, the NBA, to name a few—put their individual fiscal game ahead of American values, especially regarding Hong Kong and its citizens ongoing struggle for their own liberties (which just happen to lie at the core of our values), here are some thoughts on the fiscal value of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.

Since 1997, mainland Chinese companies have raised $335 billion by floating in Hong Kong, tapping a broader range of shareholders than they could onshore.
…since the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to its US equivalent, and the city has no capital controls, a listing there can generate hard currency for foreign takeovers and investments. It would be harder to use a Shanghai stock sale for the same goal.

Secular Authority and Morals

A letter writer in a recent Wall Street Journal‘s Letters to the Editor section, demurred from Attorney General William Barr’s remarks on secularism and religion at the University of Notre Dame’s Law School and de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. The letter’s author wrote,

Our society can teach morality, ethics, civility, self-reliance, and humility without reference to religion or any particular faith. Children can be taught….

Certainly, such principles can be taught.  But how to enforce them? Relying on Government for enforcement means relying on the men who are in Government from time to time, men with views on the legitimacy of those principles and the means of their enforcement that are as variable as those men. And each man’s views will vary over time.

Free Speech and Social Media

Facebook MFWIC Mark Zuckerberg has come out against private enterprise censoring politicians’ speech or the news we citizens choose to consume.

Sort of.

Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which he pushed back, a little, against Progressive-Democratic Party Presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth’s (D, MA) demand that he censor President Donald Trump’s commentary on Facebook.  But he continues to show that he doesn’t take free speech seriously.

He wrote

…a strict First Amendment standard would mean allowing content like terrorist propaganda or bullying.

Red Flag Law in Action

It seems an old veteran in Massachusetts had his legally-owned firearms confiscated by the local police—for no reason at all, other than a waitress chose to call the cops on him after eavesdropping on a part of a private conversation he was having with a friend in her restaurant. The waitress’ uninformed tattling also got him fired from his school-crossing guard job.

While he was at a local diner, [Stephen] Nichols was speaking to a friend about a school resource officer who apparently was constantly leaving his post to go for coffee in the morning.
Nichols said he was worried somebody would come in and “shoot up the school” while the officer was out on one of his coffee runs.