Recent Articles

War on Drugs: An economic analysis

| March 19, 2015 | Reply

The War on Drugs is terrible for taxpayers and users, because it treats a medical problem as though it were a criminal problem, filling our expensive prisons with millions of non-violent persons, and making violent persons out of non-violent persons. Yet we carry on with this “war.” This article by Benjamin Powell focuses on an economic analysis of the “War,” discussing the many other counterproductive aspects of the war. Here is an excerpt:

Prohibition also creates more problems for non-users. Because it increases the cost for addicts to support their habit, many resort to stealing in order to get their needed high. In a study of the U.S. drug war on Latin America, economist David R. Henderson estimated that if the same mark-ups applied to cocaine as to coffee, which would be roughly accurate with cocaine legalization, then cocaine’s price in the United States would fall by about 97%.[12] If cocaine and other narcotics lost the price premium caused by the drug war, few, if any, addicts would need to resort to crime to afford their habit.

On the supply side of the market, the drug business is violent precisely because it is illegal. Illegal businesses can’t settle disputes in court, so they do so through violence. If drugs were legalized, drug suppliers could settle disputes by turning to courts and arbitrators. One reason that large dealer networks and organized crime outcompete smaller dealers is that they can partially provide their own internal dispute resolution.

When alcohol was prohibited in the early twentieth century, violent criminal gangs catered to the nation’s thirst for alcohol. When Prohibition ended, normal businesses returned to the market and violence subsided.

Economist Jeffery Miron found that both alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition enforcement efforts have increased the homicide rate in the United States. He estimates that the homicide rate is 25-75 percent higher due to prohibition.[13] In short, the violence associated with drugs, both by users to support their habit and by gangs supplying the drugs, is a product of prohibition rather than a rationale for prohibition.

These costs, taken together with the above supply and demand analysis, indicate that the very concerns that animate drug prohibitionists—the harm to users and the violence in society—should cause them to oppose drug prohibition.

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The power of hugs.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

As reported in Scientific American:

“New research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness. This research adds to a large amount of evidence for the positive influence of social support on health.”

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Don’t attempt to become more beautiful.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Don’t attempt to become more beautiful, because it will backfire and make you anxious. This especially happens to women according to a new study. This is contrary to what happens when you aspire to become more intelligence.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University found that women with malleable beliefs about beauty—for instance, believing they could become more beautiful with effort—had a higher risk for appearance-related anxiety and were more likely to base their self-worth on their looks, as compared with those who have fixed beauty beliefs. They were also more likely to express interest in cosmetic surgery. The effects were not found among men.

Whether a malleable belief is beneficial or not may depend on how realistic the pursuit is. Beauty ideals typically presented in media images—young, thin and photoshopped to be flawless—are unattainable for most women.

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Why copyright laws don’t actually protect many content owners

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Sad story here by Alex Wild, nature photographer, who has been a constant victim of infringement despite the existence of copyright laws. How overwhelming is his battle?

For a concise idea of what could go wrong, let me indulge in a list of recent venues where commercial interests have used my work without permission, payment, or even a simple credit:

Billboards, YouTube commercials, pesticide spray labels, website banners, exterminator trucks, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, company logos, eBook covers, trading cards, board games, video game graphics, children’s books, novel covers, app graphics, alt-med dietary supplement labels, press releases, pest control advertisements, crowdfunding promo videos, coupons, fliers, newspaper articles, postage stamps, advertisements for pet ants (yes, that’s a thing), canned food packaging, ant bait product labels, stock photography libraries, and greeting cards.

Yesterday evening, while Googling insect references in popular culture, I discovered that a small Caribbean island helped itself to a photograph I took in 2008. My photo shows a slave-raiding ant, a fascinating species that survives as a parasite on the labor of other ants. But the image had been imprinted on the back of a commemorative one-cent piece. Perhaps symbolically, this is one cent more than I received for my part in bringing the coin to the public.

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Unsurprising new study: homeopathy does not work

| March 14, 2015 | Reply

Here is yet more proof that homeopathy does not work.

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Is NASA’s launch site at risk to go underwater? Science Denying Senator Ted Cruz doesn’t want to know.

| March 13, 2015 | Reply

This is what you get when you empower climate change deniers. Ted Cruz wants NASA to quit gathering data regarding threats to the Earth’s climate. Here’s how NASA Administrator Bolden responded to Cruz:

We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it – and that’s understanding our environment. As Senator Nelson said, it is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live.

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Why internet service in the United States is slow and expensive

| March 13, 2015 | Reply

Why is internet service in the United States is slow and expensive? Gizmodo explains.

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Republicans: Motivated by Fear

| March 11, 2015 | 4 Replies

Randa Morris of Addicting Information examines the root of modern right wing ideology:

We know that conservatives respond strongly to negative stimuli. We know that they are motivated by fear, or what researchers describe as ‘perceived threats’. We know that conservatives are often deeply insecure. Hibbings research also suggests that conservatives view themselves as part of a small group, and that they perceive those outside of the group as a threat to the well being of the group itself. That knowledge goes a long way toward explaining conservatives attitudes toward immigration as well as their hatred of minorities, non Christians and others who fall outside of their elite circle. Going one step further, it seems that there is a belief that everyone outside of the group is a threat to the group itself.

One thing we still don’t know is whether conservatives are born with these tendencies or whether they learn them throughout life. Is it nature or nurture? One thing is for sure, those at the top of the right wing food chain know very well how to exploit their base through fear and negativity. The extreme right wing operates very much like a religious cult. The main job of the cult leaders is to keep the members fearful and distrusting of everyone outside of the group, thus ensuring that they can continue to control the message.

I tend to believe that the right wing media is the cause of the underlying psychology that researchers observe in conservative personalities. Logically speaking, how many people would be afraid of absurd conspiracy theories like Agenda 21 or Obamacare death panels or FEMA camps, if the right wing media didn’t disseminate so many lies? The same goes for just about any of things that conservatives fear, from immigrant children to any form of sane gun control, the conservative media keeps these people afraid at all times.

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Public Justice: CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration

| March 8, 2015 | 1 Reply

Arthur Bryant of Public Justice argues that the CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration.

Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have given banks, credit card companies, and all other lenders a license to steal billions from consumers and small businesses. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has the power to rescind that license. On Tuesday, at a hearing in Newark, the CFPB is expected to announce whether it will do so. If it does what the facts and law require, it must.

In two cases in the past four years, the Supreme Court allowed corporations to charge allegedly illegal fees to millions of consumers and small businesses, net billions, and walk away with the money. The corporations’ form “agreements” barred all lawsuits against the companies, required consumers and small businesses to pursue their claims individually in arbitration, and banned class actions. The court enforced these agreements, even though that meant the companies would never be held accountable.

Sadly, these two cases weren’t anomalies. Far too many lenders cheat and mislead consumers, charging inflated and illegal fees or interest. But the court has given them near-total immunity.

Thankfully, that can be changed – and should be soon. When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, it created the CFPB and required the new agency to study the use of arbitration clauses by lenders. Congress said that the CFPB should prohibit or limit their use if it found that they harm consumers. The evidence proves that forced-arbitration clauses hurt consumers badly.

This issue affects everyone in America.

Here’s the bottom line:

The primary effect of mandatory-arbitration clauses is to suppress claims by consumers, allow corporations to break the law, and prevent our civil justice system from providing injunctive relief (like having debts forgiven or credit records cleared) and compensation to millions of consumers;

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The CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration clauses and rescind the lenders’ license to steal. Consumers are entitled to what is engraved on the front of the Supreme Court – “Equal Justice Under Law” – not what the Supreme Court has given them:

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