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11/13/13 – Sen. Rand Paul Questions DHS Nominee Jeh Johnson

November 13, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Asks DHS Nominee Johnson: Do You Think the Fourth Amendment Applies to My Visa Purchases?

November 13, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Rand Paul today attended the nomination hearing of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Sen. Paul asked Mr. Johnson a series of questions regarding the scope of Fourth Amendment protections on American citizens, as well as civil liberties and privacy issues. Below is video of Sen. Paul’s questioning of Mr. Johnson.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL QUESTION DHS NOMINEE JEH JOHNSON

TRANSCRIPT:

PAUL: Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for your testimony.
I was wondering, do you think the Fourth Amendment applies to my Visa purchases?
J. JOHNSON: I don’t have a legal opinion on that, Senator. I think that there may be a privacy interest there, but I don’t have a legal opinion for you right now.

PAUL: I hope you’ll think about it. And I think it’s something we all need to think about. And I think the current Supreme Court law actually probably says no. I think it’s a tragedy, but that’s the way the law has gone.
With my Visa bill, you can tell what books I read, what magazines I read. You can tell whether I go to a psychiatrist — not yet. You can tell what medicines I buy. You can tell virtually everything about my life, because everything I buy I put on my Visa card.
People say, ‘Well, I don’t have any expectation of privacy because it’s a third-party record. I gave it up to someone.’
I think this is a big issue for us, and, frankly, the Administration hasn’t been very supportive of the Fourth Amendment. And we’re going to press these issues.
But I want you to know that we will be watching, and that those of us who believe in the Fourth Amendment will be continuing to watch.
Do you think that a single warrant can apply to millions of records and millions of individuals?
J. JOHNSON: I understand that may be an issue with regard to certain surveillance programs. I don’t have a — I don’t have a legal opinion on that for your, Senator.

PAUL: Pretty important issue. It’s going to be one of the biggest issues, and, hopefully, it’ll get into the Supreme Court.
Do you think that it’s due process to have a court trial where only one side is represented? Do you think that’s due process, where only one side would …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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100 Years Later, Was the Federal Reserve a Good Idea?

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.

Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.

With the Fed in its centennial year, Janet Yellen facing confirmation hearings in the Senate, and questions swirling over whether the Fed will enact “tapering,” many monetary scholars are asking: Was the Fed a good idea?

Not since the Great Inflation of the early 1980s has the Fed been so controversial. Its causal role in the housing boom and bust remains contentious. Other factors aside, the Fed was a poor overseer of the safety and soundness of the financial system. At best, the central bank was a passive bystander during the boom and early stages of the housing bust; it couldn’t even accept that we were in the midst of nationwide housing downturn.

Certainly, the Fed has made many mistakes, but the current era of big government precludes any near-term possibility of abolishing it, as some would hope. However, it can be improved. At a minimum, the Fed needs to be much more rule-bound. Targeting nominal GDP (the dollar value of all goods and services produced in the United States, not adjusted for inflation) would be one such rule. That policy would have the advantage of moving the Fed away from targeting a real variable, like employment.

Monetary policy cannot over the medium- to long-term systematically influence real variables, like the number of jobs created. Even in the short run, monetary policy’s track record is mixed at best. Witness the Fed’s inability to generate a normal economic recovery – especially in employment – despite unconventional monetary policy. In contrast, nominal GDP targeting lets the market determine the composition of output and price changes for a given rate of growth of nominal output. In many versions, nominal GDP growth is targeted at five percent annually, with the expectation that over the long run, real output will grow at a trend rate of three percent and prices at two percent on average.

The big question is whether the Fed has outlived its purpose and competitive banking and a commodity standard should take its place.”

Other scholars support free banking, or banking without a central bank trying to steer the economy, or a return to a gold or alternative commodity standard. These positions overlap, and taken together are perhaps the most viable alternative to central banking.

It’s not just monetary scholars looking for change in the Fed. Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) has offered legislation for a …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Targeting Needles, or Adding More Hay?

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By John Mueller

John Mueller

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) had perhaps “reached too far” in its massive collection of communications data. That is a monumental understatement. From the start of America’s “war on terror”, overreach has been the norm. Recall former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani: “anybody, any one of these security experts, including myself, would have told you on September 11, 2001, we’re looking at dozens and dozens and multi-years of attacks like this.”

The NSA has institutionalized alarmist thinking and is remarkably resistant to counter-information.”

The fears and concerns were plausible extrapolations from the facts then at hand. However, that every “security expert” should hold such erroneous views is fundamentally absurd. It was also an entirely plausible extrapolation from facts then at hand that 9/11 could prove to be an aberration rather than a harbinger. Yet it appears that no one in authority could even imagine that proposition to be true, even though it could have been taken to fit the available information fully as well as the passionately embraced alarmist perspective.

The “dozens and dozens” of 9/11 attacks never happened, of course, and the thousands of trained al-Qaeda operatives intelligence agencies imagined to exist in the US at the time turned out to be zero or exceedingly close to it. Nonetheless, alarmist thinking from the early days has been internalised and institutionalized, and it has proved to be notably resistant to counter-information. As anthropologist Scott Atran puts it, “Perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many.” Central to the process, the NSA has continually expanded its spying efforts, searching for the needle by adding more and more hay.

When asked earlier this year about the NSA’s massive data-gathering programmes, the agency’s head, General Keith Alexander, contended that they were “crucial or critical” in disrupting “dozens” of terrorism plots. He then provided Congress with a list of 54 such cases. Although the list (unsurprisingly) is classified, Senator Patrick Leahy says that the notion that these cases represent disrupted plots is “plainly wrong”. Indeed, “they weren’t all plots and they weren’t all thwarted.”

When operatives at the NSA, sorting through their data collections, uncover leads, they are virtually never productive. At the FBI, reports journalist Garrett Graff, the NSA tips are often called “Pizza Hut” leads because, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Mises U Alum Explains Austrian Econ in ‘The Daily Bell’

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Christine Fard discusses her experiences at Mises University and explains Austrian Economics:

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending Mises University (Mises U) at the Mises Institute, the world-class Austrian School of Economics think tank. It was definitely not easy explaining to family and friends what I was about to embark upon. “Austrian what?” Even the U.S. immigration officer questioned me with seeming disbelief: “An economics conference in Alabama?!” Nevertheless, I arrived and began my journey of discovery. The faculty and staff were welcoming, professors excited to meet and teach and students from across the world ready to learn and engage in intellectual discourse.

Fast-forward to the end of the one-week crash course. What did I learn? Needless to say, an immense amount that, in order to grasp the intricacies fully, would require me to take ‘repeater courses.’ Mind you, I knew next to nothing about Austrian economics prior to Mises U. Broadly speaking, however, I can tell you this – Austrian economics is about the truth and, given common-sense moral values, indirectly about liberty.

Although Austrian economics remains silent on policy and makes no value judgments, we can take the school’s theories and make our own normative assessments. To illustrate, when we look at the Austrian description of production we’ll see an extensive, interlocking structure that elegantly runs itself without a central controller. Adding a central controller only disrupts the process and introduces inefficiency. When applied to government regulation, we can argue the falsity of the proposition that without government regulation in economic activity, the economy itself would erupt into chaos. The markets, in reality, are self-regulating through the participatory behaviour of individuals involved in the process of production and exchange or even through private regulatory bodies.

Read the whole thing.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Mark Thornton On The Scott Horton Show Today

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

Listen in to hear Mark Thornton’s interview with Scott Horton today:

Mark Thornton, Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, discusses life in crony-capitalist America, where Wall Street gets bailouts and interest-free money and Main Street is stuck with Obamacare, food stamps and persistent unemployment.

Duration: 28 minutes

Listen here. 

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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What Asian Pivot?

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Benjamin H. Friedman

The Obama administration’s Asia pivot doesn’t really exist. Like most grand strategic concepts, it is mostly symbolism, a public relations gloss that gives a sense of purpose to disparate military, diplomatic, and economic policies.

The “pivot” (or, as the Obama administration now prefers, “rebalance”) entered the national lexicon late in 2011. The initial focus was military. That November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that the nation had reached a “pivot point” allowing it to “redirect” resources that had been going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia. The administration’s January 2012 defense budget guidance claimed that the Pentagon would “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific and Middle-East regions.”

The Obama administration’s Asia pivot doesn’t really exist.”

Not coincidentally, the United States was then exiting Iraq, beginning Pentagon budget cuts, and slightly reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe. Rhetorically, the pivot put a proactive spin on that, suggesting that U.S. foreign policy activism was not lessening but shifting in focus.

The White House quickly dropped the Middle East from the pivot talk, probably because its inclusion confused matters and threatened the political rewards from exiting that region. Now purely Asian, the pivot had several elements, with the list varying somewhat depending on the official offering it. First, several hundred and eventually 2,500 Marines would be stationed permanently in Darwin, Australia. Second, the 500-strong U.S. military force in the Philippines would grow, possibly by adding air or naval forces. Third, a new U.S. Singapore agreement allowed for the stationing there of four U.S. warships, the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Fourth, the Navy would deploy 60 percent its fleet in the Pacific, rather than 50 percent. Finally the Navy and Air Force have a new joint operating concept, Air-Sea Battle, which is meant to better integrate surveillance and airstrike platforms to attack coastal powers like China.

That is actually less pivot than meets the eye. No Marines are now stationed in Darwin. The first 250 recently left; 1,110 are due in spring, and the total will only reach 2,500 in five years or so. Even that will add only about four percent to U.S. ground forces in the region. And Darwin is on a separate continent, about the same distance from the South China Sea as Washington D.C. is from Greenland. At that distance from trouble spots, it is hard to see what military purpose …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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QE: Malinvestment Is the Major Risk

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By John P. Cochran

Buried in Kevin Warsh’s “Finding Out Where Janet Yellen Stands” in today’s Wall Street Journal, where Warsh “highlights─and then questions─some of the prevailing wisdom at the basis of current Fed policy”, is a short statement which illustrates the growing, but seldom acknowledged, influence of the ideas of Mises and Hayek on current thinking on monetary policy.

In the section where Warsh questions the wisdom of the assertion that absence of higher inflation is license for more and continuing monetary ease, Warsh provides a succinct summary of ABCT and even uses the “m” word (malinvestment):

The most pronounced risk of QE is not an outbreak of hyperinflation. Rather, long periods of free money and subsidized credit are associated with significant capital misallocation and malinvestment—which do not augur well for long-term growth or financial stability.

Warsh also highlights another unintended consequence of Fed policy where Austrian influenced writers have been leading critics of current policy – How Fed induced liquidity spreads to the rest of the world. See Monetary Nationalism and International Economic Stability or How the Fed Causes Booms (Andreas Hoffmann and Gunther Schnabl) and Busts in South America (Nicolás Cachanosky)

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Copyright Protection For Me but Not For Thee

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

Today’s Mises Daily offers an interesting lesson in interest-group politics. Filmmakers weren’t always busy suing little old ladies and children for downloading movies. Indeed, once upon a time, filmmakers were busy claiming that intellectual property laws didn’t apply to the source material for movies:

In 1907, director Sidney Olcott released Ben Hur. The silent film was based upon a novel published about 30 years earlier, a fact to which Olcott happily admitted. However, the filmmakers never received permission from the book’s author to do so. The author’s publisher responded with a lawsuit, insisting that moving pictures based upon copyrighted fiction should be treated under the law as a “stage representation,” thus necessitating the author’s permission for use. The lawsuit was the first of its kind and attempted to clarify at last the industry’s obscure property conflict. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its first ruling two years later: it agreed with the book publisher.

Olcott strongly contested this ruling and made it clear that film was a unique medium on which he spent significant time, money, and energy producing the work regardless of its inspiration. He claimed that his film was “only an ‘exhibition of pictures,’ and not a dramatic performance within the meaning of the copyright law.”[1] Alas, he didn’t convince the court. Many people were disappointed in the ruling’s ambiguity, though, which permitted Olcott’s production of the film but not his presentation of it. In other words, “The court draws a decided distinction between moving pictures on the film and moving pictures projected on screen. It seems that a moving picture film is a photograph” — which could not infringe on a book — “while a projection of the same film may be a dramatization.”

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Fourth Obamacare Shock Wave Is about to Reach Us

November 13, 2013 in Economics

By Jim Powell

Jim Powell

Obamacare is intensifying the doctor shortage — though not in ways that were anticipated.

Everybody seems to have expected that Obamacare would sign up some 30 million people who don’t have health insurance, and they would overwhelm doctors’ offices. But these people — especially the young and healthy whose sky-high Obamacare premiums were supposed to finance everybody else’s subsidies — have stayed away. They know a bad deal when they see one.

Although the young and healthy aren’t going for Obamacare, the doctor shortage is intensifying, because government intervention generally is making it more expensive and difficult for doctors to do their job.

Obamacare is intensifying the doctor shortage — but not in ways that were anticipated.”

Government-run Romneycare — the model used for Obamacare — was enacted in Massachusetts in 2006, and a recent survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that half the state’s primary care practices aren’t accepting new patients. At practices accepting new patients, the average wait to see a family physician is 39 days, and the average wait to see an internal medicine physician is 50 days.

Because so many people in Massachusetts don’t have a doctor, there has been a sharp increase in the number of emergency room visits. Stressed-out emergency room nurses are talking about possible strikes.

Medicare has multiplied the number of people who can’t see a doctor. Medicare reimbursement rates are about 40 percent less than private insurance reimbursement rates. Consequently, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the number of doctors who no longer accept Medicare patients has tripled during the last three years.

Only about half of doctors accept new Medicaid patients, and the number appears to be declining as a consequence of lagging reimbursement rates, long reimbursement delays and high administrative burdens associated with Medicaid patients. Yet Obamacare is rapidly expanding the number of people on Medicaid.

Obamacare reimbursement rates are lower than Medicare. Obamacare has a special disadvantage, too: a 90-day grace period. This means people can buy an Obamacare policy, have costly procedures done and then cancel the policy within 90 days. If the cancellation comes during the first 30 days, the insurer is responsible for trying to collect payment, but after that, doctors are on their own. They would have to spend time and money chasing patients for payments. California Healthline reported that deadbeats “would not receive a fine, a premium rate increase or a …read more

Source: OP-EDS