You are browsing the archive for 2014 September 16.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Thornton: ‘US-Russia political tensions will speed up demise of dollar’

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

markrussia

Mark Thornton interviewed on PressTV:

“The political tensions between the United States and Russia has increased or speeded up the process of which nations are doing business between countries instead of dollars and doing it with their local currencies,” Mark Thornton, Senior Fellow at Mises Institute, told Press TV on Wednesday.

“As a result, that puts pressure back on the United States because the United States wants everybody to use dollars in international transactions as well as a reserve currency in their central banks,” the professor at Auburn University added.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

This May Be the Most Absurd Way Fox Has Tried to Scare Older White People

September 16, 2014 in Blogs

By Joan Walsh, Salon

New Fox News paranoia: ISIS at the border!

Beheadings aren’t enough, apparently. Right wing promoters of eternal war have a new way to scare Americans into fighting ISIS: insisting the Islamic terrorists are sneaking into the “homeland” via the dangerous southern border that a feckless President Obama refuses to secure.

This fixation has migrated from the fringe of the fringe over on Breitbart.com, which shamed itself in July with headlines announcing that border officials had found a “Muslim prayer rug” at the Arizona border that turned out to be an Adidas soccer jersey. In August, Breitbart protégé James O’Keefe, the goofball behind the ACORN sting and other dumb stunts to entrap evil liberals, snuck across the border in an ludicrous Osama bin Laden costume, to “prove” America’s worst enemy could penetrate our weak southern flank, even though he’s dead.

If you heard about O’Keefe’s stunt, you probably chuckled darkly (especially if you saw photos.) You chuckled, that is, unless you’re Sen. John McCain. If you’re Sen. John McCain, you used O’Keefe’s stunt to browbeat a top Homeland Security official, Francis Taylor, at last week’s Senate hearing about the ISIS threat.

When Taylor insisted officials “have the intelligence and the capability at our border” to block terrorists from crossing, McCain shot back: “Well you know it’s interesting because a American reporter named James O’Keefe dressed as Osama bin Laden walked across the border at the Rio Grande river undetected. Does something like that concern you?” Taylor said O’Keefe was not “undetected,” and that border officials saw him and his crew, but McCain wasn’t satisfied.

Now it’s a full-blown panic. The Drudge Report’s top headline hypes “ISIS at the border?” even though the New York Times story it links to explains how the U.S. is working hard to debunk this conspiracy, though it can’t work faster than Fox News is hyping it.

Fox and Friends hosted Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter Monday morning, who claimed he’d found “Muslim clothing” and “Koran books” on his side of the border. Painter continued: “So we know that there are Muslims that have come across …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Again, The House Punts on Fiscal Reform

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By Nicole Kaeding

Nicole Kaeding

The House of Representatives is set to vote to keep the federal government’s doors open for the next several months. The plan, however, is a disappointing grab-bag of provisions. Instead of tackling the country’s pending fiscal crisis, the House’s Continuing Resolution (CR) punts, saving much-needed reforms for another day.

According to a released draft, the House’s version will fund the government’s spending until December 11, 2014. This plan will allow members to wrap their current session this week, leave town, and resume campaigning for the November elections.

This would enable Congress to shirk its responsibilities. Federal law says that Congress is to debate and pass 12 bills every year to fund various aspects of the government. These bills force Congress to debate and make the tough decisions about priorities for federal spending. Congress proactively chooses how to responsibly spend taxpayers’ money.

Our spending problem is poised to get much worse.”

The CR combines everything into one bill, allowing members to delegate that task to a simple, self-imposed yes or no vote: yes, you want to fund government operations or no, you don’t want to fund government operations. Irresponsibility masquerades as responsibility; members can champion keeping the lights on, but really they’ve just delayed making tough decisions.

Even worse for taxpayers, this CR does not cut spending. The federal government’s bloated budget is maintained. The CR funds government activities at the same level as fiscal year 2014. While not growing the government is a step in the right direction for Congress, it still is not enough. The federal government simply spends too much money.

Our spending problem is poised to get much worse. Social Security, and the major health care programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), comprise half of all federal spending, costing taxpayers $1.8 billion annually. That is four-and-a-half times the amount of money collected every year in corporate income taxes. These programs are staggering in their size.

And they are growing quickly. According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income individuals, increased 15 percent in fiscal year 2014. The dramatic increase is due to ObamaCare’s large expansion of the program. This is just one aspect of the $2 trillion in new spending on ObamaCare.

The CBO cautions that this is not a one-time occurrence. The entitlement programs will continue to grow, placing immense pressure on the federal …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Schools Acquire Grenade Launchers, MRAPs and Other Military Equipment — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

September 16, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Better safe than sorry is given as reason for police excess.

Saying they never know when a hostage-taker or shooter could strike, more than 20 school districts across the county have been acquiring surplus military equipment from the Pentagon, including armored personnel carriers, high-powered rifles and other weaponry, according to a handful of press accounts.

The school districts and campus security forces range in size from small Saddleback College in southern California, whose nine-member squad received a MRAP—mine resistant ambush protected—vehicle, their college newspaper reported, to Los Angeles Unified School District, which received 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers and one MRAP, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. San Diego’s school district also requested and received an MRAP. In Edinburg, Texas, the district has its own SWAT team, according to The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Texas Appleseed, a legal advocacy group, which tried to conduct a national survey and counted more than 20 districts in eight states taking the free weaponry.  

“It is frankly difficult to imagine how a grenade launcher, or any of these items, could be safely used in any scenario involving schools,” the civil rights groups wrote in a letter to the federal program’s administrators, noting that there’s a big difference between prudent policing and paramilitary excesses. “Taxpayer dollars should be steered away from investments in increased law enforcement and militarization of schools and towards supporting solutions that address the root causes of school safety concerns and provide students with the services and supports they need to succeed.”

“Undoubtedly, Saddleback’s new MRAP will strike fear into the hearts of the countless drug dealers and terrorists that make up the student body at Saddleback,” the Daily Titan, the student paper editorialized. “The campus police officers will also be safer than ever from any stray frisbees or overzealous Greenpeace volunteers. Despite the obvious benefits of having a 38,000-pound war machine on a community college campus, the effectiveness and need for such a vehicle is certainly questionable.”

The schools receive the surplus military weaponry under several federal programs. The Pentagon gives …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Do Incentives Really Matter?

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By Matt McCaffrey

7214510228_fa7685186d_b

The phrase “incentives matter” is ubiquitous in economics, from undergraduate teaching to economic policy debates. The mantra is especially popular in the growing literature targeted at the general public, which I’ve criticized before for its undue focus on incentives (see here and here). My point is that while it’s good to see economic ideas reaching a larger audience, it doesn’t help much if the ideas aren’t sound to begin with. Such is often the case with the concept of incentives.

To answer the question posed in the title, yes, incentives matter, in the sense that individuals have motivations, and it’s important to think about what those motivations are if we want to know how people act in the real world. For example, in the words of Steven Kerr, ignoring incentives often leads to “the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B,” which produces managerial chaos.

Nevertheless, emphasizing incentives too much glosses over several problems: economic laws can make incentives irrelevant; incentives are in any case too narrow a concept to be the defining characteristic of economics; focus on incentives sometimes leads to a paternalistic view of economic policy.

The last point raises some questions concerning how economists view their science, as well as their role as scientists. Consider that ideas about incentives are usually cast in terms of “rewards” and “punishments,” or “nudges” toward “better” decisions. As Levitt and Dubner put it,

People aren’t “good” or “bad.” People are people, and they respond to incentives. They can nearly always be manipulated—for good or ill—if only you find the right levers. (Superfreakonomics, p. 125)

This kind of language highlights a problem in how economists think about motivation—the implication is that incentives are introduced into the decision making process from somewhere outside it. In other words, incentives are imposed or even foisted on the unwitting public, presumably by policy makers. While there is certainly a risk in seeing paternalism lurking around every corner, it’s hard to read the above as a call for free choice and self-determination.

Looking at incentives in this sort of way encourages us not only to think in paternalistic terms, but also to downplay basic ideas about choice. Too much focus on incentives makes it easy to think of economic behavior as merely a passive response to external stimuli, thereby ignoring human beings as …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

Mises on Secession

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By Jeff Deist

memorial

In light of the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, some quotes by Mises are appropriate. Too bad the Scots’ idea of independence is Salmond and the EU, not Wallace and Bruce.

No people and no part of a people shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 34)

It makes no difference where the frontiers of a country are drawn. Nobody has a special material interest in enlarging the territory of the state in which he lives; nobody suffers loss if a part of this area is separated from the state. It is also immaterial whether all parts of the states territory are in direct geographical connection, or whether they are separated by a piece of land belonging to another state. It is of no economic importance whether the country has a frontage on the ocean or not. In such a world the people of every village or district could decide by plebiscite to which state they wanted to belong. (Omnipotent Government, p. 92).

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars. (Liberalism, p. 109).

More great quotes, plus an explanation by Hans Hoppe of “democracy” as understood by Mises, here.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

The Islamic State Will Probably be Defeated, but It’s Not Thanks to President Obama

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By John Mueller

John Mueller

The Islamic State has succeeded in terrifying the world with its vicious and very public strategy in Iraq and Syria. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insists that “the threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated,” while Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), born before World War II, has extravagantly claimed that ISIS is “rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major U.S. city” leaving us “in the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in.”

But despite the hype, President Obama’s limited quest (no boots on the ground and all that) to “degrade and ultimately destroy” this new monster stands a considerable chance of being successful — or, at least, of appearing to be so. In result, he’ll look pretty good.

The Islamic State is set for a fair amount of ‘degradation’ whatever the United States does.”

That would not be because the quest needs necessarily to be brilliantly executed. It’s because the monster, while ugly, scarcely presents anything like the threat now commonly imagined.

report in the New York Times finds that American and foreign intelligence think the Islamic State “poses no immediate threat to the United States.” Some told the paper that they believe “the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians.”

Daniel Benjamin, a top counter-terrorism adviser during Obama’s first term, characterizes the public discussion about the the Islamic State as a “farce,” with “members of the Cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

In a recent Washington Post column, Middle East specialist Ramzy Mardini argues that the Islamic State’s “fundamentals are weak,” that its “extreme ideology, spirit of subjugation and acts of barbarism prevent it from becoming a political venue for the masses,” and that it’s “completely isolated, encircled by enemies.” Already, he notes, the group has begun to fragment “over power, prestige and resources.”

In an upcoming Brookings Institution report, Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro suggest it’s unlikely that the Islamic State will send fighters to the United States to wreak havoc here. They point out that European and American fighters attracted to insurgencies abroad tend to either be killed there (they are among the first picks for suicide missions), or to become disillusioned by infighting in the ranks and other unanticipated miseries. They’re also at risk of arrest by authorities who find them fairly easy to track. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Salt Is Not the Enemy. Guess What Actually Ruins Your Health Instead?

September 16, 2014 in Blogs

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

Salt, we may have done you wrong.

Just the other day I purchased a bag of roasted peanuts, sensing my mouth water in ancipation of the salty goodness. Wrong! I had accidentally bought the unsalted version. Folks, there are few things less tasty than an unsalted peanut, unless it's unsalted grits (yep, I'm southern). The reason I was subjected to such a monstrosity is that for years, the medical profession has been telling us that salt is bad and will cause high blood pressure and other health woes if we don't watch our intake.

But is that really true? A new study in the American Journal of Cardiology was conducted by Saint Luke's cardiologist James O'Keefe of the Mid-America Heart Institute and James DiNicolantonio, also of the Mid-America Heart Institute. The researchers found that sugar, not salt, is the true enemy of heart health.

O'Keefe stated that “the number one demon in our diet that's making us sick and overweight and depressed and unhealthy is sugar, added sugar.” The reason he gave is that sugar makes us hungry all the time and tends to boost our craving for more sweets. “If I could say one of the simple things people can radically do to improve their health is to don't eat anything with added sugar,” O'Keefe said.

So how did salt get fingered as the culprit?

Back in 2001, the National Institutes of Health published an oft-cited study called the DASH-sodium study, which found that participants who consumed less sodium than the control group ended up with lower blood pressure. That study put salt on the hit list for America's dietary guidelines. But it turns out that other studies have failed to produce the same result.

Some experts are now suggesting that cutting back on salt is actually bad for your health. They propose that your body needs sodium, and if it is deprived, the kidney secretes an enzyme called renin that can lead to hypertension. Some studies have found that low sodium levels may actually boost the chance of heart failure. In 2011, Scientific American went full-throttle with …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

WATCH: Jon Stewart Mocks Sen. Lindsay Graham for Saying ISIS Will Kill Every Last One of Us

September 16, 2014 in Blogs

By AlterNet

Stewart makes fun of Sen. Lindsay “We're All Gonna Die” Graham's paranoia fest.

On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart started out the segment by pointing out that 13 years ago Al-Qaeda had made it pretty clear they wanted to attack America: we even got a memo to that effect, Stewart notes. Does ISIS pose a similar threat? Intelligence officials say no. 

Enter Sen. Lindsay Graham, whose nuanced assessment of the threat posed by the group can be summed up as, “We're all gonna die!” 
 
Stewart sends Senior National Security Correspondent Samantha Bee to investigate. Unsurprisingly, she finds Graham terrified of his own reflection. 
 
Watch

 

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

The NCAA Racket

September 16, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

ncaa2

Mises Daily Tuesday by Andrew Syrios:

The NCAA, a quasi-governmental regulatory cartel, prohibits colleges from paying athletes. So colleges employ a variety of schemes to offer unofficial “pay.” Meanwhile, the NCAA ensures there is no functioning job market for athletes at that level, and no competition to which students might go seeking higher pay.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE