January 9, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 PM


Target offers year-round online price matching of Amazon, Wal-Mart (Anne D'Innocenzio, 1/09/13, AP)

The nation's second largest discounter behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it will match prices that customers find on identical products at top online retailers, all the time. The online list includes Amazon.com as well as the websites of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Babies R Us.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 PM


John Brennan's extremism and dishonesty rewarded with CIA Director nomination : Obama's top terrorism adviser goes from unconfirmable in 2008 to uncontroversial in 2013, reflecting the Obama legacy (Glenn Greenwald, 1`/07/13, guardian.co.uk)

Prior to President Obama's first inauguration in 2009, a controversy erupted over reports that he intended to appoint John Brennan as CIA director. That controversy, in which I participated, centered around the fact that Brennan, as a Bush-era CIA official, had expressly endorsed Bush's programs of torture (other than waterboarding) and rendition and also was a vocal advocate of immunizing lawbreaking telecoms for their role in the illegal Bush NSA eavesdropping program. As a result, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration, issuing a bitter letter blaming "strong criticism in some quarters prompted by [his] previous service with the" CIA.

This "victory" of forcing Brennan's withdrawal proved somewhat Pyrrhic, as Obama then appointed him as his top counter-terrorism adviser, where he exerted at least as much influence as he would have had as CIA Director, if not more. [...]

Although I actively opposed Brennan's CIA nomination in 2008, I can't quite muster the energy or commitment to do so now. Indeed, the very idea that someone should be disqualified from service in the Obama administration because of involvement in and support for extremist Bush terrorism polices seems quaint and obsolete, given the great continuity between Bush and Obama on these issues. Whereas in 2008 it seemed uncertain in which direction Obama would go, making it important who wielded influence, that issue is now settled: Brennan is merely a symptom of Obama's own extremism in these areas, not a cause. This continuity will continue with or without Brennan because they are, rather obviously, Obama's preferred policies.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Study Finds A Daily Dose Of Peanuts Under Your Tongue Helps Treat Peanut Allergies (Shaunacy Ferro,  01.09.2013, Popular Science)

Peanut-fearers, rejoice -- new research suggests that treatment may be possible for peanut allergies. A study sponsored by National Institutes of Health in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that by exposing people to small amounts of peanut powder every day, they could increase their tolerance.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


If They Would Just Think Anew (PETER FERRARA, 1.9.13, American Spectator)

The new modern entitlements work far better because, instead of old-fashioned, counterproductive, tax and redistribution, they rely on modern capital and labor markets to provide most of the benefits (dramatically reducing future federal spending in the process). They involve pro-growth incentives for the poor to work, and working people to save and invest for retirement, contributing to economic growth and prosperity for all, rather than dragging the economy down through tax and redistribution. Call it the "supply side" safety net.

Conservatives can win promoting such modern, supply-side, entitlement reform, with broad, enthusiastic, majority public support. They may even be able to start enacting some of the reforms in the next four years. But at a minimum, they can start public education and organization now to promote such reform, and lay the groundwork for winning future elections on this basis. And this is how conservatives and Republicans should discuss entitlement reform in the upcoming debt limit/government shutdown battles with President Obama and the Democrats.

...except to those stuck in the First and Second Ways.

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Should We Tax People for Being Annoying? (ADAM DAVIDSON, 1/13/13, NY Times Magazine)

Driving home during the holidays, I found myself trapped in the permanent traffic jam on I-95 near Bridgeport, Conn. In the back seat, my son was screaming. All around, drivers had the menaced, lifeless expressions that people get when they see cars lined up to the horizon. It was enough to make me wish for congestion pricing -- a tax paid by drivers to enter crowded areas at peak times. After all, it costs drivers about $16 to enter central London during working hours. A few years ago, it nearly caught on in New York. And on that drive home, I would have happily paid whatever it cost to persuade some other drivers that it wasn't worth it for them to be on the road.

Instead, we all suffered. Each car added an uncharged burden to every other person. In fact, everyone on the road was doing all sorts of harm to society without paying the cost. I drove about 150 miles that day and emitted, according to E.P.A. data, about 140 pounds of carbon dioxide. My very presence also increased (albeit infinitesimally) the likelihood of a traffic accident, further dependence on foreign oil and the proliferation of urban sprawl. According to an influential study by the I.M.F. economist Ian Parry, my hours on the road cost society around $10. Add up all the cars in all the traffic jams across the country, and it's clear that drivers are costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year that we don't pay for.

This is how economists think, anyway. And that's why a majority of them support some form of Pigovian tax, named after Alfred Pigou, the early-20th-century British economist. Pigou developed the idea of externalities: the things we do that affect others and that the market is unable to price. A negative externality is like the national equivalent of what happens when you go to dinner with three friends and, knowing that you'll pay only a fourth of the bill, decide to order an expensive entree. Pigou argued that there are so many damaging things that we do -- play music too loudly, drive aggressively -- and that we'd probably do less if we had to pay for them. [...]

Republican economists, like Mankiw, normally oppose tax increases, but many support Pigovian taxes because, in some sense, we are already paying them. We pay the tax in the form of the overcrowded roads, higher insurance premiums, smog and global warming. Adding an extra fee at the pump simply makes the cost explicit. Pigou's approach, Mankiw argues, also converts a burden into a benefit. Imposing taxes on income and capital gains, he notes, punishes the work and investment that improve society; taxing negative externalities allows the government to make money while discouraging activity that hurts the overall economy.