You are browsing the archive for 2014 July 08.

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Ron Paul on the Hobby Lobby Decision

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Ron Paul writes on the Hobby Lobby decision: 

Hobby Lobby Decision Creates Small Island of Freedom in Ocean of Statism

by Ron Paul

This week, supporters of religious freedom cheered the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. The Court was correct to protect business owners from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by paying for contraceptives. However, the decision was very limited in scope and application.

The Court’s decision only applies to certain types of businesses, for example, “closely-held corporations” that have a “sincere” religious objection to paying for contraceptive coverage. Presumably, federal courts or bureaucrats will determine if a business’s religious objection to the mandate is “sincere” or not and therefore eligible for an opt-out from one Obamacare mandate.

Opponents of the Court’s decision are correct that a religious objection does not justify a special exemption from the Obamacare contraception mandate, but that is because all businesses should be exempt from all federal mandates. Federal laws imposing mandates on private businesses violate the business owners’ rights of property and contract.

Mandated benefits such as those in Obamacare also harm those employees who do not need or want them. Benefit packages resulting from negotiations between employers and employees are much more likely to satisfy both the employer and employee than benefit packages imposed by politicians and bureaucrats.

Opponents of the Court’s decision argue that Obamacare gives employees a “right” to free birth control that trumps the employers’ property rights. This argument confuses rights with desires. Successfully lobbying the government to force someone else to grant your wishes does not magically transform a desire into a “right.”

Redefining rights as desires to be fulfilled by the government also means that the government can modify, limit, or even take away those rights. After all, since your rights are gifts from government, there is no reason why you should object when the government takes away those rights for the common good.

Those who believe Congress can create a right to free contraception that overrides property rights should consider that the government may use that power to create and take away rights in ways they find objectionable. For example, if our rights are gifts from the government, then there is no reason why Congress should not limit our right to privacy by allowing the NSA to monitor our phone calls and Internet use.

The politicization of healthcare benefits is a direct result of government policies that not only encourage people to …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Walter Block: Regulations Contributed To And Worsened The BP Oil Spill

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Walter Block

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Summary By Luis Rivera III:

Many people are under the false impression that the oil spill that occurred in April of 2010 was due to a lack of regulations. One of these individuals is Thomas Frank, a journalist from The Wall Street Journal. In this lecture Walter Block offers a rebuttal to this absurd claim. He sheds light on the fact that the regulations in place at the time prevented drilling or mining at the Alaska Artic National Wildlife Reserve, Oil Sands in Alberta (mining), National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and Shallow Offshore off The Gulf of Mexico. The drilling could have been done in much more shallow water, instead of the 6,000 feet the government forced BP to drill. Common sense dictates that in 20 something feet stopping a leaking would have been much easier. However, the state has no such common sense and the leakage persisted for months causing significant damage to so many.

An example of a law that increased the negative impact of the oil spill is the Jone’s Act. The Jones’ Act as Dr. Block talks about in this lecture actually prevented the experts in the field of cleaning up oil, from helping and thus lessening the devastion. Block, offers a solution, he says allow oceans to be managed with proper incentives and repercussions – allow for oceans to be (“privately”) owned. This erases the problem that comes with the tragedy of the commons which is a direct result of un owned mass (which is not abundant).
Click the link below to see Block’s entire speech on the matter:
Walter Block On The Deep Horizon Oil Spill

Note: Dr. Walter Block is currently working on a book about privatizing the oceans.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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De Coster Explains the Cupcake Bubble

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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There’s the Skyscraper Index, and then there’s the Luxury Cupcakes and Breakfast Cereal Index.  That is, a six-dollar bowl of cereal may be an indicator that easy money is a little too easy to come by. Karen De Coster spots the latest warning signs for high-end cupcakes:

I called the cupcake bubble back in 2009. Post-economic bust, what started rising from the economy’s ashes was a series of economic “successes” whose popularity made no sense in an economy that was awash with bubble-bust carnage. Cupcakes were the most obvious an imminent mishap.

Later on, as cupcake pandemonia took firm hold and media stories gloated about the glory and popularity of those pricey-but-oh-so-special cupcakes, I was writing about the cupcake bubble and what was really driving the bubble madness that created endless malinvestments [ see definition ] in the cupcake business.

Yesterday, it was announced that Crumbs, the New York-based “cupcake empire” was going out of business. Forty-eight stores in ten states went kaput. The day that Crumbs mania hit its high and it was announced that the company was going public, I called it out as a favorable stock short.

I didn’t attack cupcakes because I hate cupcakes – I like an occasional cupcake every now and then. I merely latched onto an absurd fixation that was being fueled by something other than demand and productivity. From 2008 onward, the advent of government stimulus policies along with the Federal Reserve’s fight to keep credit cheap and money plentiful created market distortions that were making even the ridiculous seem profitable and real. Americans developed a strange obsession with enormous, sugar-laden, pricey mounds of sweets all dressed up in toppings and flavors suitable for the most discriminating 5-year-olds, and thus business malinvestments in the cupcake world ensued.

However, I was attacked by cupcake lovers and libertarians alike, the latter who were incensed that I would bring into question any free market activity. As a market anarchist, I am all for the free market investing in and opening up toe-jam restaurants if that is the desire and/or apparent trend. Nonetheless, my criticism would be based in the feasibility of the idea and the ability for the economy to sustain such a market without government monetary policy and interventionism mucking up markets. At the core of Austrian economics is the trade cycle theory that explains why recurring booms and busts occur in an economy. Unsustainable credit expansion and inflation, along with the …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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How Obama Can Fix Immigration without Congress

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

President Obama seems poised to act on immigration, with or without the help of Congress. Last week, he announced that he’s “beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.” Critics have decried this very pledge as illegal. But there are legal executive actions he can take to improve our dysfunctional immigration system now.

Granted, without Congress, Obama’s options are limited. Like making small repairs on a totaled vehicle, he’s left tinkering around the edges of a broken system so long as Congress remains deadlocked. Still, even relatively small fixes could improve the lot of millions of immigrants and smooth out some of the rough patches in our overly restrictive system.

With a Congress that’s afraid to tackle immigration reform, the President can take practical, and legal, steps in the meantime to improve the system as it currently exists.”

For example, Obama could allow some illegal immigrants to apply for green cards through the current immigration system. Currently, unlawful immigrants can’t earn a green card because, in order to apply, they have to leave the country. This then triggers a legal catch-22 that bars them from re-entering.

The president could institute a “parole in place” for unlawful immigrants who are minors, parents or spouses of U.S. citizens – people who are otherwise eligible for green cards – and allow them to apply for green cards without leaving the country. Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy estimates that this reform could legalize 3.5 to 5 million current unauthorized immigrants.

Obama could also pressure federal agencies to repeal the onerous regulations they’ve created that stymie current guest worker visas for lower-skilled immigrants. These administrative rules go beyond what the law requires.

For instance, regulations enacted in 2010 significantly raised the costs for farmers to employ guest workers. The agricultural guest worker visa is theoretically has no cap, but complex regulations imposed by four different federal agencies have stymied the system so much that only 74,192 visas were issued in 2013. According to a special survey conducted in 2011, 59 percent of farmers in Georgia said that the program was too costly, too bureaucratically complex, and unworkable.

One farmer complained that after his wife spent two months filling out the application for guest workers, the government changed the wage rate. Instead of simply amending their application, the farmer said, “we had to start over, and to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Drug Cartels Are Causing a Refugee Crisis

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Officials in the United States might be tempted to view the disturbing surge in young refugees as simply a border security issue. But the problem is far more complex than that — the drug cartels are now major players in Central American countries, driving vulnerable populations northward to the United States to enhance their own profits.

And America’s hardline prohibitionist drug war is only making things worse.

Although the growing power of the cartels is not the only factor accounting for this crisis, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson suggested in congressional testimony that the “push factor” of violence is important.

Drug gangs have gained control of major chunks of Central America, making honest economic activity perilous. Teenagers especially have few options if they are not willing to work for the drug lords. As Caitlin Dickson noted in the Daily Beast, for example, “by making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for its poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, thereby providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business.”

The drug cartels are now major players in Central American countries, driving vulnerable populations northward to the United States to enhance their own profits.”

Since the cartels have seized control of human smuggling routes through Mexico, often charging refugees several thousand dollars for passage, the flood of undocumented immigrants significantly supplements the revenue that the drug gangs have long enjoyed from trafficking in illegal drugs. Would-be immigrants who can’t pay are pressed into service to carry drugs into the United States. And the surge of unaccompanied minors helps distract the already strained U.S. Border Patrol, making it easier for the drug lords to avoid having their products intercepted.

All of these problems have been building for years. As the Mexican government stepped up its attacks on the cartels, drug kingpins began moving many of their operations into Central America as early as 2008. Such geographic displacement is a recurring problem with the prohibitionist strategy directed against illegal drugs. Since the drug trade is illegal, its practice in the black market is enormously profitable, and traffickers go to great lengths to maintain their power and market share. Whenever pressure mounts in one arena, they simply relocate to another jurisdiction where the risks and problems are, at least temporarily, less imposing.

Central American countries already had some of the highest homicide rates in the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Rolling Coal: Conservatives Modify Trucks to Spew Toxic Black Smoke to … 'Screw' Obama?

July 8, 2014 in Blogs

By David Edwards, Raw Story

So-called “coal rollers” install smoke stacks and special equipment in their diesel trucks that makes the engine think that it needs more fuel, resulting in plumes of black smoke.


Conservatives who detest President Barack Obama and EPA clean air regulations are modifying their vehicles to purposefully spew black smoke into the atmosphere.

So-called “coal rollers” install smoke stacks and special equipment in their diesel trucks that makes the engine think that it needs more fuel, resulting in plumes of black smoke.

According to Slate’s Dave Weigel, the phenomenon is not new, but it is becoming more popular among conservatives who want to protest the president and his efforts to clean up the environment.

“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” a smoke stack seller in Wisconsin told Weigel. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that.”

“To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger,” he added. “You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

In June, Vocativ reported on the trend of “coal rollers” using their toxic exhaust as revenge against “nature nuffies” who drive environmentally friendly cars, like the Toyota Prius.

“The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” a South Carolina truck owner named Ryan explained. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”

“It’s bad for the environment. That’s definitely true,” he admitted. “And some of the kids that have diesel trucks can look like tools. And you can cause a wreck, but everything else about it is pretty good.”

The Clean Air Task Force estimates that pollutants from diesel vehicles “lead to 21,000 premature deaths each year and create a cancer risk that is seven times greater than the combined risk of all 181 other air toxics tracked by the EPA.”

Watch the video below of a 2013 coal rollin’ rally in Wisconsin.

 

Watch the video below from Newsy. 

Watch the video below from Newsy.

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5 Terrible Life Tips for Women Courtesy of Fox News

July 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet

Fox & Friends offers up groundbreaking advice like “not talking too much” and “keeping your husband happy.”


Whenever Fox decides to feature segments on “women’s issues,” the conversations are usually so appallingly misguided that you almost wish they hadn’t bothered. Yesterday’s episode of Fox & Friends, featuring interviews with author Sylvia Ann Hewlett and the “Princeton Mom,” Susan Patton, was a case in point. Hewlett is the author of Executive Presence, a self-help book for women in the workplace, while Patton is best known for writing a letter to her alma mater urging young women to devote 75 percent of their college careers to finding husbands. With the help of male co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, as well as some handy graphics, the episode produced a litany of advice for young women that could have been ripped from the pages of a 1950s home ec textbook. Here are five of the most egregious examples of Fox-approved tips for women:

1) “Don’t talk too much.”

Over the course of the interview with Hewlett, women are told to “keep their voices down” and avoid “talking too much” no less than four times (twice by Doocy, once by an onscreen graphic, and again by Kilmeade). Call this the anti-Sheryl Sandberg mantra. Instead of asserting their right to actively participate in workplace discussions, women should refrain from “dominating” the conversation and be sure to monitor the volume and tone of their voices. This point was also repeatedly made in the same breath as comments about “presentation” and clothing, as if to say “Got it ladies? You’re supposed to be seen and not heard.”

2) “Dressing well is half the battle.”

Like so many other publications on women in the workplace, Hewlett’s devotes considerable attention to appropriate office attire and how to “fit in with flair.” There’s nothing wrong with offering some basic advice on appearance, but every time Hewlett tried to steer the conversation to other topics covered in the book, like communication and gravitas, the male co-hosts return to physical presentation. Plenty has been written about …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Burgeoning Regulations Threaten Our Humanity

July 8, 2014 in Economics

By Robert Higgs

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Insofar as mainstream economics may be said to make moral-philosophical assumptions, it rests overwhelmingly on a consequentialist-utilitarian foundation. When mainstream economists say that an action is worthwhile, they mean that it is expected to give rise to benefits whose total value exceeds its total cost (that is, the most valued benefit necessarily forgone by virtue of this particular action’s being taken). But nearly always the economists make no attempt to evaluate as part of their benefit-cost calculus any costs that might be incurred as a result of how and by whom the action is taken.

Often they verge on the assumption that benefits and costs exist apart from those who take the action, even though this assumption clashes with the foundational principles of their science. Thus, in benefit-cost calculations, economists often attach a value to certain expected benefits (e.g., the dollar value of lives saved as a result of a safety regulation) and compare this value to the dollar outlays by the government that imposes and enforces the regulation and by the private parties who are compelled to comply with it, often at great private expense.

I cannot recall, however, ever seeing a benefit-cost computation that attaches any cost valuation to the loss of freedom by the regulated parties. It is as if it matters not at all that an action is mandated, as opposed to freely chosen. Freedom itself is, in effect, considered worthless, and hence its loss entails no sacrifice regarded as worthy of receiving weight in the calculation.

On the basis of such procedures, at least in a pro forma sense, countless regulations and laws have been imposed on the public willy-nilly. Apart from the many questions that might be raised even in the context of the usual benefit-cost study, one who values freedom cannot help but be struck by how entire societies have been overwhelmed by suffocating regulations and by how drastically people’s freedoms have been curtailed, all under the presumption that each drop of this deluge constituted a net improvement in social well-being. Insofar as the trampled freedom is concerned, the motto seems to have been: nothing valued, nothing lost.

In a more fundamental sense, the essence of such mainstream benefit-cost calculations boils down to a glorification of the material and the measurable and a complete denial of the spiritual. With such a mentality, rulers justify making each of us a puppet at the end of the strings …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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34 Most Demented Things in the Texas GOP Platform

July 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Guns for all, “corrective” therapy for gays, and the right to nullify federal laws, for starters.


The Texas GOP unveiled its platform recently, and it is one scary, feverish document. As Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker puts it: 

The thing is, the Republican Party of Texas has a dream. Lots of dreams: its platform, unveiled last week, has sixteen thousand words’ worth. The road it maps is anything but royal; these good people, after all, are republicans, albeit with a capital “R.” But the document does lead to the G.O.P.’s unconscious, or part of it: its fearsome, rampaging id.

What is troubling is that, as much as we'd like to, this document can't just be dismissed as coming from some crazy outlier group. This is the official Republican party representing the state from which we got our last Republican president, is bound to run some more, and is one of the biggest states in the Union, with lots of electoral votes. 

Yikes!

Here are 34 other highlights of the 40-page document:

1. On nullification:

• The Texas Legislature should nullify—indeed, “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify”—federal laws it doesn’t like. (Yes, you read that right, Texas Republicans want to be able to ignore or nullify federal laws it does not agree with. Note to Texas, the Supreme Court has shot down every state's attempt to 'nullify' federal laws since 1809. Then again, with today's court, you never know.) 

2. On doing away with most federal agencies:

• When it comes to “unelected bureaucrats”—i.e., pretty much the entire federal work force above the janitorial level—Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.” (There is a long laundry list of federal agencies that the Texas GOP would like to see defunded and abolished, many more than Rick Perry could not remember. But it does start with the EPA, because the right to pollute, and also for the Koch Brothers and others to be able to store dangerous chemicals in secret places and wherever the hell they want to even close to schools and communities, is sacred.

3. On not electing Senators:

• The Seventeenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, be repealed, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sens. Paul and Booker Introduce Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

July 8, 2014 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NY) today introduced sweeping legislation to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system, which has grown increasingly costly over the past four decades. The REDEEM Act will give Americans convicted of non-violent crimes a second chance at the American dream. The legislation will help prevent youthful mistakes from turning into a lifetime of crime and help adults who commit non-violent crimes become more self-reliant and less likely to commit future crimes. ‘The biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our country is a criminal record. Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women in a cycle of poverty and incarceration. Many of these young people could escape this trap if criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if non-violent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment,’ Sen. Paul said. ‘I will work with anyone, from any party, to make a difference for the people of New Jersey and this bipartisan legislation does just that,’ Sen. Booker said. ‘The REDEEM Act will ensure that our tax dollars are being used in smarter, more productive ways. It will also establish much-needed sensible reforms that keep kids out of the adult correctional system, protect their privacy so a youthful mistake can remain a youthful mistake, and help make it less likely that low-level adult offenders re-offend.’ Specifically, the REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act: