You are browsing the archive for 2014 November 07.

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Do Stores Have Politics? You Can Tell a Lot About How a District Votes by Its Retail Landscape

November 7, 2014 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Forget red and blue states, maybe they should be called Ben & Jerry and Chick-fil-A states.

If you do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you probably live in area more likely to vote Democratic. On the other hand, if you buy your food at Kroger’s, people in your area probably voted Republican in Tuesday’s election. That’s what Time magazine found when it looked at how Congressional districts voted on Tuesday and crossed referenced it with the prevalence of brick and mortar retail chains in those areas.

To create their interactive chart, Time matched some 2 million store locations to how a district voted in this week’s midterm elections. The publication found that certain brands, like Ben & Jerry, American Apparel, Tesla and Trader Joe's were more likely found in Democratic-voting districts, while brands like Cracker Barrel, Dillard’s, and Waffle House had more of a presence in Republican-voting districts.

While at first glance, this might seem more like a red state/blue state map (brands like Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, and Hobby Lobby have more presence in Southern states, for example), there may be a bit of consumer psychology behind it.

Ben & Jerry’s, American Apparel, and Tesla, for example, have been perceived as being companies with a more progressive agenda. Ben & Jerry’s co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are well known for their support of progressive candidates and causes, Tesla founder Elon Musk is a proponent of green-energy technologies, and American Apparel — despite serious sexual-harassment allegations against its founder Dov Charney — has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, gay rights, and sustainability.

Conversely, corporations such as Hobby Lobby, Cracker Barrel, and Chick-fil-A, which are found in more conservatives areas have generated controversy for their respective conservative stances on birth control, racial and sexual orientation discrimination, and same-sex marriage.

Several corporations are so ubiquitous throughout the U.S. political landscape that their presence is somewhat political neutral, at least in this recent election cycle. These retail chains include In-and-Out Burger, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Planet Fitness.

While Time doesn't downplay the correlation among …read more


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Remembering the Fall of the Wall

November 7, 2014 in Economics

The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, marking the collapse of Soviet communism. The failure of the communist system was not merely economic and political; it was a moral failure as well. The anniversary is an appropriate time for stocktaking and for seeking to answer a number of questions associated with this historic event, its aftermath, and its continued influence.

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The Economics Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 7, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


Mises Daily Friday by Ryan McMaken:

Much of the media discussion around the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall will focus on American military politics and the politicians of the time. But to truly understand why the Soviet system in Eastern Europe collapsed, we must look to Mises’s pioneering work on economic planning.

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Afghanistan as Narco-State

November 7, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. government has failed to stop the drug trade at home. Washington also has not created a competent, effective and honest central government in Afghanistan. How effective will Kabul be in limiting opium production when American troops go home?

Not much.

A new report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports that opium production last year was the highest ever, 209,000 hectares, up 36 percent from 2012. The average yield per hectare rose 11 percent over the preceding year. Potential production was up 49 percent.

Drug money permeates the economy. Last year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that opium exports accounted for 14 percent of the country’s GDP.

Unfortunately, explained SIGAR: “The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, sustaining criminal networks, and providing significant financial support for the Taliban and other insurgent groups.”

The Afghan public is cynical. When I visited the country, Afghans called large homes behind high walls lining Kabul streets “poppy palaces.”

Drug production exploded despite $7.6 billion spent by Washington alone to stop cultivation and distribution. All for naught. Unfortunately, noted SIGAR, “the recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts.”

The State Department’s response to SIGAR was a marvel of delusion. Production “is only one indicator of counternarcotics progress.” And “we are making good progress in building the capability of our Afghan partners,” even as cultivation surges.

This is the best case for years of expensive efforts? Even UNODC admitted that the Afghan state is beset by “fragmentation, conflict, patronage, corruption and impunity.” The Pentagon stated that “the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort.” Nevertheless, the State Department said it looked “forward to the new Afghan government assuming a leadership role in this regard.”

Eradication was difficult enough when backed by a strong allied military presence. Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution wrote that early programs were “manipulated by local Afghan strongmen to eliminate drug competition and ethnic/tribal rivals.”

Moreover, the eradication campaign, explained Felbab-Brown, “ignited violent strikes and social protests.” Antagonistic “poppy farmers came to constitute a strong and key base of support for the Taliban.” This discontent enabled the Taliban to rebuild popular support by defending rural farmers. The Senlis Council’s Emmanuel Reinert said eradication was “the single …read more

Source: OP-EDS