You are browsing the archive for 2015 February 03.

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Community Groups, Elected Officials, and Patients Raise Major Concerns About New York's Medical Marijuana Program at a Forum in the Bronx

February 3, 2015 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Participants Cite Several Problems with Draft Regulations, Including Barriers for Low Income Patients

New York – Today, elected officials, patients, and more than twenty community groups gathered at Hostos Community College in the Bronx to discuss the proposed regulations for New York’s medical marijuana program. At the end of December, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released more than a hundred pages of draft regulations outlining many features of the proposed program.

February 3, 2015

VOCAL New York | Boom! Health | Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Science, Reason, and Moral Progress

February 3, 2015 in Economics

From the Scientific Revolution through the Enlightenment, reason and science slowly but systematically replaced superstition, dogmatism, and religious authority as the most reliable means of solving social and moral problems. In the new issue of Cato Policy Report, author Michael Shermer explains how it is that we are living in the most moral period in human history. Also in this issue, David Boaz reminds us that too many laws impede enterprise, charity, innovation, and growth.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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If Anyone Needs an Audit, It’s the Federal Reserve

February 3, 2015 in Economics

By Mark A. Calabria

Mark A. Calabria

Last week Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced S. 264, a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, while on day one of the new Congress Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) offered similar legislation, H.R. 24, in the House.  With Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-ky.) as Majority Leader, the prospects of the bill going to the White House are pretty strong.

But auditing the Fed is a topic of bitter debate. Not along party lines, instead pitting government transparency advocates against proponents of Federal Reserve political “independence.” So what is “Audit the Fed” really about?

First of all, yes the Fed is currently subject to a financial audit.  But that’s not what this is about.  In this context, audit means program evaluation.  There are four short provisions under current law that restrict the Government Accountability Office (GAO) from auditing anything related to monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. That includes the deliberations of the Fed’s monetary policy-setting body, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the communications of the FOMC to enact the policy decided upon, and the actual transactions conducted by the New York Fed to carry out the policy.

An on-going GAO audit of the Federal Reserve’s monetary functions is one avenue that could aid that effort or at least help Congress, and the public, more fully understand the actions of the Fed.”

The two “Audit the Fed” bills repeal those four restrictions and ask GAO to complete what is more a programmatic audit than a financial audit and report to Congress on what they find.

When the restrictions were originally added in the 1970s, GAO testified before Congress saying, with regard to the provisions, “[w]e do not see how we can satisfactorily audit the Federal Reserve System without authority to examine the largest single category of financial transactions and assets that it has.”

GAO exists for the very simple reason that no one member of Congress, or their staff, fully understands the functioning of the various government agencies. GAO exists to inform.   As someone who previously staffed the Senate Banking Committee, let me say there are few areas less understood by Congress than monetary policy and macroeconomics. Hence there are few areas more in need of a GAO audit than the Fed.

Subjecting the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy function to a GAO audit in order to educate Congress does not subject the Fed to “short-run political interference” as Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen suggests. Such …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Russian Money Pipeline

February 3, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Which country has the biggest interest in stopping the expansion of the oil and gas industry in Europe and North America? Answer: the Russian Federation is highly dependent — to the tune of several hundred billion dollars — on the export of these commodities, particularly to Europe.

It is rational for the Russians to spend upward of a few hundred million dollars to influence politicians to stop gas and oil projects in those countries, with the goal of limiting supply, and thus protecting the Russian revenue stream. It has been well documented and well reported over the past year (The New York Times has published in-depth articles) that Russian interests have used bribes, coercion and disinformation to get European politicians to prohibit or severely restrict gas and oil fracking in Europe.

There have been allegations and suspicions that the Russians were also putting major money into American environmental organizations to assist them in their efforts to stop the expansion of U.S. gas and oil production, but not much hard evidence — until now. Researchers at the Environmental Policy Alliance, however, have just produced a very solid, well-documented report, which shows how tens of millions of dollars from Russian interests apparently flowed from a dark company in Bermuda through opaque environmental bundlers, including the Sea Change Foundation, into major environmental lobbying organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters. There have been a number of press stories during the past week on Russian support of American environmental groups, including a very detailed description of the money flows, by Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon.

Putin funds environmental groups to block U.S. oil and gas production.”

Both the House and Senate have now passed a bill to allow the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is largely designed to transport heavy crude from the Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries (specifically designed to process heavy crude) along the Gulf coast — in part to substitute for the Venezuelan heavy crude they now refine. The White House said it will veto the pipeline bill, even though its construction can only have a positive jobs, safety and environmental impact (even according to the administration’s own studies). Pipeline or no pipeline, the heavy crude will still be produced by the Canadians and shipped by rail or truck to the United States, China or both …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Rand Paul Joins Sean Hannity on Fox News- February 2, 2015

February 3, 2015 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Wanted: Uber-Ized Education

February 3, 2015 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick, Lindsey Burke

Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke

Following a recent education policy conference, we shared a ride back to the airport. Hailing the driver via the Uber app, we could see his name, face, and rating; we could track his approach on the app’s map, and we paid the fare automatically through the app at ride’s end. In other words, getting to the airport was about as convenient and easy as possible, this side of teleportation. And it cost half a standard taxi fare.

Yet, despite providing a better-quality experience at a lower cost, Uber has had to fight for its very existence. Even as we waited for our driver to arrive, the concierge made it evident that the hotel’s primary relationship was with taxi drivers, and that we should wait on our Uber over there.

This happens when you upset an entrenched monopoly. Across the country, taxi drivers are demanding that the government regulate or even ban Uber and similar ridesharing services. Some cities, like Los Angeles, have banned lower-cost ridesharing services from picking up passengers at the airport, a key source of income for the traditional taxi companies.

It’s time for state lawmakers to open education to the mix-and-match customizability of the Information Age.”

Curtailing Monopolies Means More Satisfaction at Less Cost

That’s unfortunate not only for ride-seekers, but also for drivers. A recent Washington Post report  suggested some reasons for Uber’s growth. Compared to traditional taxi drivers, Uber drivers earn more (up to $30 per hour in New York). They also set their own hours and aren’t subject to the whims of dispatchers. The same technology that let us track our driver’s progress toward pick-up allows Uber chauffeurs to find their customers more efficiently.

The two can even rate one another. The Uber app allows a rider to rate the driver’s service, and importantly, drivers even leave star ratings of their passengers, who are not wont to let a rating drop, for fear it will make their next pick-up request difficult.

Innovation has enabled Uber to create a better experience for both consumer and provider. And nowhere is that kind of innovation more desperately needed than in our K-12 education system. An Uber-ization of education—something that is already beginning to happen—will improve service for students and teachers. Take the example of teacher-led schools.

To Improve, Set People Free to Experiment

In a January 16 Washington Post column, David Osborne wrote that some 70 schools across the country are now “teacher-led” schools. Teachers evaluate one another (and parents and students, in turn, evaluate teachers). Teacher-led committees …read more

Source: OP-EDS