You are browsing the archive for 2013 April 09.

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4-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots and Kills Police Officer's Wife

April 9, 2013 in Blogs

By Alex Kane, AlterNet



Here’s a perfect example of the dark side of America’s gun culture: a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed the wife of a deputy sheriff in Tennessee. The Associated Press reports that the boy grabbed a loaded gun and killed the wife at a cookout on Saturday.

Daniel Fanning, the deputy, was showing his weapons to a relative in his room. That’s when the toddler, not related to Fanning, picked the gun up and accidentally shot Josephine Fanning, who was 48.

“Split second, we're talking about seconds for that kid to walk in that room unbeknownst to them, grab that gun and it goes off,” Sheriff Robert Bryan told CBS News.

The AP reports that Josephine Fanning was pronounced dead at the scene. Sheriff Bryan told the news outlet  that “the shooting was a terrible accident.”

The gun used in the accident was not the deputy sheriff’s service weapon, which is usually stored in a safe.

 


Tue, 04/09/2013 – 06:44

…read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Let's Not be So Eager for War in Korea

April 9, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

“Welcome to ‘This Week’ — on the edge!”— ABC’s George Stephanopolous practically lunged through my TV screen Sunday morning.

He cut to a clip of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warning of a “real and clear danger” from North Korea, and returned with “is their puzzling young leader spoiling for war? Can President Obama do anything to stop him?”

Then I picked up the Washington Post Outlook section and read “South Korea has already won.” Max Fisher reports that amid the hermit kingdom’s threat to launch a “do-or-die final battle” with the U.S. and South Korea, young South Koreans are more concerned with reality shows, pop girl groups and “bourgeois lifestyle commentary,” including a “month-old debate on regional differences on how to eat sweet and sour pork.”

What gives? Is North Korea a threat or not? It’s easy to get confused. But despite Kim Jong Un’s bluster, the regime is only a threat to the U.S. to the extent that we’ve put ourselves in harm’s way.

What gives? Is North Korea a threat or not?”

After six decades of U.S. forces serving as a “tripwire” designed to deter the DPRK, it’s past time to start bringing our 28,500 troops home.

Two weeks ago, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea published photos of its pudgy young dictator approving a “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan” whose targets included Washington, D.C., San Diego, and, bizarrely, Austin, Texas.

“Thanks, Kim Jong Un, for helping to keep Austin weird,” said the editor of the Austin Business Journal. We “need to treat it as a very real threat,” insisted Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Easy, cowboy. Victor Cha, holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explains that the “No-Dong missile system” (really) “can reach U.S. troops in Korea and Japan” but “the DPRK does not currently possess a deployed missile system that can reach the United States.”

Nor does the regime have miniaturized nukes required to arm its missiles.

On Fox News last week, John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador turned professional uber-hawk, told Greta Van Susteren, “the solution lies in eliminating the regime, which we could try and do through reunifying the peninsula.” After his role in the Iraq debacle, Bolton should really try to think these things through.

In a recent article in the Journal of International Security, “The Collapse of North Korea,” two defense analysts estimate that 260,000 to 400,000 ground force personnel would …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Raising Minimum Wage Will Hurt More than Help

April 9, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Barack Obama wants to give low-wage Americans a raise. Actually, he wants to force other people to give them a raise. It’s a bad idea.

In his State of the Union speech President Obama proposed hiking the minimum wage to $9 an hour, a 24 percent jump.

The problem is, companies must earn more than they spend. Workers must produce more than they are paid. As government raises the minimum wage, it prices people out of the market.

The bulk of economic studies demonstrate that raising the minimum wage destroys jobs.

The minimum wage encourages companies to automate and switch to fewer higher skilled, more productive workers who are worth the higher rate.

The Department of Labor concluded that the first minimum wage in 1938 cost the jobs of 30,000 to 50,000 of the 300,000 workers who had been earning below the new minimum. In 1977 Congress established the Minimum Wage Study Commission, which concluded that the “time-series studies typically find that a ten percent increase in the minimum wage reduces teenage employment by one to three percent.”

It is time to bury this destructive economic panacea.”

A 2007 review by David Neumark and William Wascher found: “The oft-stated assertion that the new minimum wage research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect. Indeed … the preponderance of the evidence points to disemployment effects.”

Minimum wage fans largely ignored academic research until two decades ago when economists David Card and Alan Krueger — now the President’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers — concluded that a recent increase had minimal impact.

However, that rise was modest. Noted businessman Brandon Crocker: “One reason why some have found the data from the 1996-97 more ambiguous is that the minimum wage lagged behind inflation and real wage growth.”

Even Card recently admitted: “Of course, if the minimum was raised really high — and enforced — it would likely be a problem. But at reasonable levels the minimum has negligible effects on overall employment.” Yet the lower the increase, the less likely that it will produce its advertised benefits.

Moreover, the Card/Krueger study has come under sustained fire. Neumark and Wascher used payroll records rather than telephone surveys and reported that the results were “generally consistent with the prediction that raising the minimum wage reduces the demand for low-wage workers.”

When jobs disappear, those with …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Collecting Taxes, Dispensing Fear

April 9, 2013 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Do you think you receive fair value for the money you spend on taxes? The fact is you don’t, because there is excessive corruption in both the way your tax money is collected and in the way it is spent. Many countries are notorious for the tax collectors being “on the take.” At the federal level, it is rare for an Internal Revenue Service agent to put his hand out, but that does not rule out considerable corruption.

The corruption starts with Congress. Members of Congress “buy votes” by handing out “free stuff.” It includes expenditures on programs that few, if any, congressmen would spend their own money on, plus programs that are filled with waste and fraud that go on year after year (e.g., studies have shown that Medicare and Medicaid misspend up to a third of their budgets). Members of Congress also buy campaign contributions by proposing and voting for expenditures that reward certain companies, industries, and unions Solyndra and the General Motors bailout come to mind. This kind of buying of votes and campaign contributions goes on in most democracies. The United States may be the world’s leader in vote and contribution buying through special provisions in the tax code.

It is not hard to figure out why the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, the two tax-writing committees, tend to receive much larger campaign contributions than others who sit on less influential committees.

Intimidation is the coinage of today’s IRS.”

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, there are now 4 million words in the tax code: “Individuals and businesses spend about 6.1 billion hours each year doing their taxes and complying with the tax laws that’s the equivalent of more than 3 million full-time workers.” It is well beyond the ability of any one or even a group of individuals to fully know the tax code and attendant regulations. In addition, all too much of it is imprecise, contradictory, beyond common sense and poorly written. Every presidential candidate promises to reform and simplify the tax code. The only one who made a really serious attempt was Ronald Reagan. As a result, the 1986 reforms had a more positive than negative effect, but everything has gone downhill since then. On average, more than one change is made in the tax code per day.

IRS executives and staffers …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Regulatory Protectionism: A Hidden Threat to Free Trade

April 9, 2013 in Economics

Despite the impressive success of trade liberalization, domestic industries continue to find ways to use the power of government to protect themselves from foreign competition. The practice of using domestic environmental or consumer safety regulation as a way to disguise protectionist policy has become a serious and growing problem in the United States. In a new study, Cato scholars K. William Watson and Sallie James argue that this regulatory protectionism harms the U.S. economy and violates our trade obligations.

…read more
Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Chris Christie & Wisconsin's Scott Walker Are Right-Wing Soul Brothers: What It Means for Unions and Progressives

April 9, 2013 in Blogs

By Don Hazen, AlterNet



Two years ago, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin introduced his falsely-named “budget repair bill.”  In doing so, he transformed himself from an obscure Midwestern Governor to the personification of a nationally-orchestrated, well-funded right-wing movement that was more – much more – than just an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of public service workers. His plan, concocted in quite public collaboration with the Koch brothers, was to gut public sector collective bargaining rights altogether.

The right had a new champion. Having weakened and nearly destroyed the private sector union movement in America over the last 30 years, it was time to hone in on a new target: public sector unions and, in fact, the very idea that a fair society requires a robust public sphere. (Hint: this is true for the non-wealthy, less so for people who can buy their way into private schools, private beaches, private jets and so on…).

As everyone knows, the people of Wisconsin fought back. Madison became our Tahrir Square. It was thrilling to watch, and the entire labor and progressive movement understood how important a battle it was. Tactics included civil disobedience on a scale rarely seen in the U.S. and an ambitious electoral recall of a handful of Republican State Senators and Walker himself. Several Senators lost their seats in the recall, but Walker won. Unfortunately, too many union members themselves voted for Walker, despite an enormous groundswell of progressive labor mobilization in the recall.  Walker's re-election campaign in 2014 will be another “all or nothing” moment for labor and progressive forces as we learn whether Walker-Koch conservatism is here to stay.

Before we get to the 2014 re-match, however, there’s another Governor up for re-election in 2013 who is also in the public eye. I'm referring to the East Coast's own version of Scott Walker. No one would confuse Chris Christie's brash {pugilistic?} demeanor for that of a polite Midwesterner. But when it comes to strict adherence to right-wing ideology, Christie is every bit the match for Scott Walker — and in some cases, even worse. I’m from New Jersey, and it’s astonishing …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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The Real Problem with Education Today? Kids Hate School — and Here's Why

April 9, 2013 in Blogs

By Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet



The following is a Q&A with Peter Gray about his new bookFree to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, which argues that students learn better when they are free to play, explore and teach themselves.

1. Can you explain briefly why you were motivated to write this book? You wrote about your son, who had trouble learning in a traditional school?

I wouldn’t say that my son had trouble learning in a traditional school, certainly not any more so than anyone else.  I would say, rather, that he found that he was not free in school to follow his own interests, ask his own questions, solve problems in his own way, and present his own ideas honestly.  He found it to infringe on his rights as a human being.  Once he finally convinced his mother and me of this, we found a very different school—a school that is really a setting for self-directed learning.  Ultimately, this experience led me to change the direction of my research.  I began to focus on how children educate themselves—largely through free play and exploration—when they are free to do so and are provided with a setting that optimizes their ability to do so.  I wrote the book because I came to believe that we, as a society, are stunting children’s social, emotional, an intellectual development by depriving them of the freedom they need to play and explore.

2. You write in your book that not only is the decline in children’s freedom hindering learning, but also it’s actually increasing psychological, emotional and social disorders in children. Are people seeing this? Are parents seeing this? Why is there not more outrage?

The decline in children’s freedom to play and explore, undirected by adults, has been gradual over the past 50 or 60 years.  This gradual decline has been accompanied by a gradual increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders in children.  Because the change is gradual, people don’t necessarily see it. Yet, over time, the change has been dramatic.  Today, by unchanged measures, the rates of anxiety …read more
Source: ALTERNET