Walter Olson | All Articles

Walter Olson
Walter Olson
Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
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      Walter Olson

      Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of the forthcoming Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America (Encounter). He edits

Soda ban ruling a devastating defeat for Mayor Bloomberg

10:44 PM 03/11/2013

For all the public irritation over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s high-handed attempt to ban large-size sugary drinks, most New Yorkers were expecting it to pass into effect Tuesday as planned. Although opponents had gone to court in an effort to block the measure, the press had not paid much attention to their challenge.

Sweet savage food marketing at the New York Times

3:43 PM 02/26/2013

Opinions will inevitably differ on which was the silliest single sentence in the very long, very silly screed against food marketing that ran in Sunday's New York Times Magazine ("The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food"). Some will nominate the Times' own breathless summary of Michael Moss's effort: "Inside the hyper-engineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for 'stomach share.'” --- especially since the article's actual contents in no way bear out the loaded term "addiction" or later promises of "insider admissions of guilt" based on "thousands of pages of secret memos."

A streetcar named Big Government: Bidding Ray LaHood goodbye

5:52 PM 01/29/2013

Days after expressing his intent of "sticking around for a while" as a cabinet member in President Obama's second term, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood now says he's departing after all. I'll miss him, at least as a source of good copy. Promoted as the Republican in the Obama cabinet (at least the only one left after the departure of Defense Secretary Robert Gates), the former Illinois Congressman has been a veritable fount of what-was-he-thinking proposals and anti-libertarian policy decisions over the past four years:

A bad disabled-rights treaty

9:23 AM 12/04/2012

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to bring to the Senate floor today the United Nations-drafted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, sometimes labeled the “international ADA,” despite 36 conservative senators’ warning that the lame-duck session is not a suitable time to take up a controversial measure that lawmakers had previously shown no rush about ratifying. In response, treaty advocates have mounted a campaign to depict it as not really controversial at all, among sophisticates at least. According to the Associated Press, supporters of the measure “stressed that it was modeled after the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and required no changes in U.S. law.” Per Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, the treaty is an “innocuous” measure that “requires virtually nothing of the United States.” Milbank charges that critics led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) have been drawn into a stance of “opposing the disabled” (and that certainly does sound awful, doesn’t it?) via the “dark world of U.N. conspiracy theories.”

California’s Prop 37: A feast for lawyers

4:14 PM 08/14/2012

Prop 37 on this fall’s California ballot, pleasantly billed as the Right to Know campaign, would require labeling of food with genetically modified (GMO/GE) ingredients. Backers say Europe already has similar rules and there’s no reason California shouldn’t follow suit. And even though health fears about GMO/GE products have been debunked by virtually every scientific authority to look into the matter --- from the AMA to the World Health Organization, and including science reporting in such perhaps unexpected venues as Mother Jones and the Huffington Post --- voters in a new Pepperdine poll still approve of the idea by a lopsided 69 to 22 percent. After all, how much could it cost just to put labels on foods?

Yankee business go home: FCPA moralism sends a punitive message

5:21 PM 04/25/2012

Are you deeply shocked to learn that getting the permits to build up a huge chain of Mexican superstores almost overnight might require paying off many local officials? You can hardly be as shocked as The New York Times, which over the weekend broke a front-page investigation of how WalMex, Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary, cleared the way for its legendarily successful expansion by funneling $24 million in payments through local fix-it guys called gestores --- widely used by businesses in that country to facilitate business dealings with governments --- and that much of that money wound up in the hands of local officials.

Why the Washington Post is wrong about Stand Your Ground laws

5:11 PM 04/09/2012

The Washington Post has made clear its opposition to --- and persistent misunderstanding of --- the set of self-defense laws known as Stand Your Ground. Its March 29 editorial was headlined "A rise in homicides after ‘Stand Your Ground,’" even though homicides per capita in Florida have dropped, not risen, since that state enacted its law. The editorial claimed that the law "immunizes an individual from criminal charges if he asserts he had a 'reasonable' fear of grave harm." This grossly misstates the law: individuals may assert anything they please, but it is up to legal finders of fact, such as a judge or jury, to ascertain whether a claimed fear was in fact reasonable.

New from Washington: Disabled-employee quotas for federal contractors

1:48 PM 02/29/2012

One of the Obama administration’s most ambitious and far-reaching regulatory initiatives has thus far received very little notice in the press. In December the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) proposed expanding the government’s affirmative action program for federal contractors (a category that includes most of the nation’s biggest companies) to include various new obligations regarding disabled employees. The most notable of these is a new quota (they deny that it is such, of course, and call it merely a “required … hiring goal”) under which disabled employees are to make up at least 7 percent of a contractor’s workforce. A public comments period expired February 21.

A religious clash

4:52 PM 10/05/2011

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, which some are calling the Court's most important religious liberty case in a generation. The case invites the Court to address a question with wide-ranging implications: At what point do anti-discrimination laws unconstitutionally infringe on the right of religious groups to operate in accord with their religious tenets?

Back off. It’s my plate.

4:56 PM 06/03/2011

Yesterday the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the government's new nutritional chart, which you can check out at the suggestively nannyish URLs or ("Please, guv, could you choose my plate? You know best.") It's a sort of segmented cafeteria dish with unequal compartments, slightly larger for "vegetables" and "grains," slightly smaller for "fruits" and "protein," along with a "dairy" circle on the side. A few thoughts:

Distracted while strolling

4:00 PM 02/03/2011

I’m too old to need a crossing guard to look after me at public intersections, and if I did, I wouldn’t pick New York state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) to do the job.