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Book Review: Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence

January 21, 2019 in Economics

By Ned Mamula, Ann Bridges

Ned Mamula and Ann Bridges

Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral
Independence

By Dr. Ned Mamula & Ann Bridges
Amazon Digital Services LLC, $19.99, 294 pages

What happens when a geologist and an author whose chief interest
is California’s Silicon Valley get together to take a look at
the United States’ dependence on foreign supplies of critical
minerals? The result is a long hard look at how our southern
neighbour failed to take advantage of its mineral resources.
Instead the authors say that the reliance on foreign supply has
created a national security issue.

Groundbreaking! looks first at risk/reward, why minerals matter,
and the U.S. dependence foreign suppliers for critical minerals.
There is a run-down of mineral wealth in the U.S., and how the
country should rediscover that wealth. The book has a running theme
of the role of domestic mineral production as a national security
issue.

There are separate chapters on rare earths, the American uranium
debacle, and the Pebble gold mine in Alaska. Each is packed with
facts, illustrations and tables about its topic.

That is followed by three chapters about how the mineral
industry is undermined, how to take back America’s mineral
future, and a discussion of the growing support for mineral
independence.

Finally there are recommendations, or as the authors call them
“how to disrupt the status quo and win.”

To strengthen national security, the authors recommend keeping
mineral ownership in American hands, re-thinking stockpile
capabilities, and making plans to address potential disruptions in
the supply chains.

In their view mineral independence can be promoted by
streamlining permitting, stepping up the preparation of geological
maps, and finding suitable tax incentives for the domestic mineral
industry.

The federal government has a role to play. It needs to re-fund
the Bureau of Mines and give it a clear, modern mission. Cabinet
Secretaries should oversee executive orders related to critical
minerals, providing modifications and updates as needed. The
government also has an obligation to upgrade environmental
protection acts, account for previous land withdrawals, and create
partnerships with the environmental community.

American citizens, too, need education on the importance of the
mineral industry. Mineral basics should be taught at all
educational levels. Private/public partnerships and collaborations
should be encouraged to teach mining skills. Punitive trade
measures are recommended for countries that condone child labour,
allow unfair labour practices or are negligent in protecting the
environmental.

Lastly the authors recommend creating a groundswell of support
for mining by contacting elected representatives, and encouraging
all industries — not just mining — to take up the
cause.

Ned Mamula is
an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of
Science, Cato Institute. Rare Mettle author Ann Bridges
writes …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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What the Media Got Wrong About Jeff Sessions’s Consent-Decree Rules

January 21, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Just before he left office in November, Attorney General Jeff
Sessions gave his approval to changes in the handling of the
consent decrees by which local and state governments agree under
pressure from the Justice Department to accept court orders
controlling their future behavior.

Critics promptly assailed the move as motivated by a wish to let
brutal police off the hook. “This memo ensures police
departments can operate with impunity,” claimed an ACLU lawyer. The move reflected
Sessions’s “staunch support for law enforcement and his
belief that overzealous civil rights lawyers under the Obama
administration vilified the local police,” said the
New York Times. The departing AG had
“dealt police reform one final blow on his way out the
door,” said HuffPo, while the Cleveland
Plain-Dealer
called the move a “last-minute swipe at
police reform efforts.” Some reports conceded that the new
policy did nothing to upset Obama-era consent decrees that the DOJ
had already reached with police departments in Chicago, Baltimore,
Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. But they stressed that it might make
it harder to obtain such settlements in the future.

In their eagerness to
cast the former attorney general’s move in a bad light, mainstream
outlets missed some of the most salient facts.

If you look at a copy of the order itself, though, you may be struck by
something: Not once in its seven pages does the word
“police” even appear. That’s a clue that the
press missed much of the story.

The debate in policy and legal circles over consent
decrees goes back decades, and has only recently begun to overlap
with the debate over police misconduct. The Justice
Department’s website lists numerous decrees its negotiations have extracted
from state and local governments, few of which have anything to do
with cops. The book that helped crystallize discontent over such
decrees was Ross Sandler’s and David Schoenbrod’s
classic Democracy by Decree in 2003, but their use had
been quite controversial as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Among the
reasons why:

* They let outside critics manage (and micro-manage)
local agencies.
Decrees, which may be hundreds of pages
long, install DOJ (or some other lawsuit-filer) to oversee and
second-guess the operations of the sued city or state, in an
enviable position of power without accountability. The deal often
includes the appointment of a monitor who might even move in to the
subject agency’s offices on a full- or part-time basis.

* They last and last. Having acquired this
valuable power, the feds or other plaintiffs can be leisurely …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Trade Deal China Wants Isn’t Just Bad, It May Be Illegal

January 21, 2019 in Economics

By James Bacchus

James Bacchus

In talks earlier this month, Chinese negotiators reportedly
offered to eliminate their country’s bilateral
trade surplus with the U.S. by buying $1 trillion in American goods
over the next few years. It’s unclear whether they were serious, or
whether U.S. producers could even meet the additional demand. The
biggest problem with such a transactional deal, though, is one no
one’s talking about: It would most likely be illegal.

Buying up $1 trillion in
goods from the U.S. may sound like a juicy offer, but it could
expose Beijing to billions in penalties.

Because China and the U.S. are members of the World Trade
Organization, they each have a legal obligation under the WTO
treaty not to favor imported products from one WTO member over like
imports from any other WTO member. This is the most-favored-nation
rule of nondiscrimination — one of the foundations of the
rule-based world trading system. Any trade advantage granted to a
particular country must be extended immediately and unconditionally
to all other WTO members.

The U.S.-China talks reportedly remain stuck on more difficult issues:
restructuring the Chinese economy to make it more market-oriented
and preventing the theft and forced transfer of intellectual
property. A deal that tackled those challenges most likely wouldn’t
present any WTO-related problems. Presumably, any restructuring by
China of its subsidies, trade licensing requirements and other
market-access restrictions would be done in ways that would benefit
all WTO members alike, not just the U.S.

But, any deal that solely benefits American products and
producers through certain transactions in certain specific sectors
of trade could well violate the WTO treaty. For example, a pledge
by China to increase its imports of soybeans from the U.S. by some
stated annual amount most likely wouldn’t involve increasing the
total amount of Chinese soybean imports or forcing Chinese to
consume more soybeans. Instead, importers would simply shift their
purchases from other countries — say, Brazil — to the
U.S.

Such a deal would give U.S. soybeans a trade advantage over
Brazilian soybeans and would thus be a violation by China of its
most-favored-nation obligation to Brazil. The Brazilians, probably
in concert with other soybean-exporting countries, would surely
take legal action against China in the WTO — and win. An
adverse judgment would confront China with the choice of either
reneging on its deal with the U.S. or facing lawful trade sanctions
authorized by the WTO.

Under such sanctions, China would lose economic benefits that
Brazil and any other complaining countries had previously granted
to it under the WTO treaty, in other sectors of their trade with
China. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Donald Trump Can Call a 'National Emergency,' but That Doesn't Mean He Can Build the Wall

January 21, 2019 in Economics

By Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

President Donald Trump recently said that he will
almost … definitely” resort to
emergency powers to build a wall on the Mexican border if Congress
does not give in to his demands. That might be his way out of this
government shutdown if Democrats, unmoved so far by his televised
address Saturday, continue to hold the line. But it should not get
him that wall.

In order to build it, Trump would need not only funds but also
the power to seize property from unwilling owners through the use
of eminent domain. Allowing him to do so would set a
dangerous precedent and threaten the property rights of thousands
of Americans.

Poorly drafted laws give the president a wide range of easily abused emergency powers. Even if he can
declare a “national emergency,” however, that does not
mean he can use it to pay for and build a wall.

Trump wants to divert
military funds and take private property without congressional
authorization. That’s a dangerous precedent for future
presidents.

Some point to 10 U.S.C. 2808 and 33 U.S.C. 2293 as possible justifications. But Section
2808 states that, during a “national emergency” that
“requires the use of the armed forces,” the president
can reallocate defense funds to “undertake military
construction projects … that are necessary to support such use of
the armed forces.” No threat posed by undocumented
immigration “requires the use of the armed forces,” and
it is hard to see why a wall is “necessary to support such
use.”

In fact, as Yale Law School professor Bruce Ackerman explains, longstanding laws bar the use of
troops for domestic law enforcement (including enforcing
immigration law).

Section 2293 also only applies to a war or
emergency that “requires or may require use of the armed
forces.” Another federal law allows the military to condemn property
for various purposes, such as “fortifications.” But
that only extends to projects for which funding has been
appropriated by Congress.

Arguments that Trump can use disaster relief funds to build the wall are
even more implausible.

The outcome of a legal battle over emergency powers is hard to
predict. Clever administration lawyers may come up with creative
new legal arguments. Too often, courts give presidents undue
deference on security and immigration issues. But judges should
keep in mind the importance of rigorously enforcing legal
constraints on dangerous exercises of emergency powers.

Eminent domain on massive scale to build wall

Even if the president can use emergency powers to get funds,
that does not mean he can seize property by …read more

Source: OP-EDS