ReasonTV Replay: Drew Carey on NAFTA

On the
20th anniversary of the North American Trade Agreement
, it’s a
great time to revisit one of ReasonTV’s earliest productions –
Mexicans and Machines: Drew Carey on NAFTA.

Here is the orginal text from the June 28, 2008 video:

Campaign season is just getting warmed up, but looking
back on the primaries we’ve already seen plenty of the usual fare:
candidates shaking hands, hanging out at diners, and scaring voters
about foreigners who are
taking your jobs.

Sometimes the threat comes from China, Japan, or
outsourcing to India. Today, it’s NAFTA, the North American Free
Trade Agreement-you know, all those Mexicans taking our
jobs.

Senator Barack Obama joins the likes of CNN’s Lou Dobbs
in decrying NAFTA. So many free trade foes fret about cheap foreign
labor, yet they rarely holler about competitors who will work for
far less than any foreigner. Politicians don’t pay much attention
to it, but-from Terminator toIce
Pirates
-Hollywood films have been warning us about humanity’s
inevitable war against the machines.

“Now, think about it,” says Reason.tv host Drew Carey.
“How are we supposed to compete against something that doesn’t get
paid, doesn’t get health insurance, and never goes on
breaks?”

Today, we don’t need human workers to book our travel,
do our banking, or file our taxes. From factory workers to symphony
conductors, countless workers are locked in battle with soulless
job stealers known as computers, websites, and
robots.

“No job is safe from the robot threat!” warns Carey. Of
course, the warning is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There’s
no need to take a sledgehammer to a robot, because, although
technology shakes up the labor market, it ends up giving us higher
living standards as well as more and better job
opportunities.

Like technology, trade gives us more good stuff than
bad-yet Americans are likely to cheer technology and fear trade. No
doubt TV talkers and White House wannabes will keep stoking our
fears of foreigners until voters and viewers stop buying it-or
until robots snag their jobs, too.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/reasontv-replay-nafta
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Guest Post: The Shale Oil Boom is More “Mirage” than “Miracle”

Submitted by Adam Taggart of Peak Prosperity,

Gail Tverberg, is a professional actuary who applies classic risk assessment procedures to global resources: studying issues such as oil & natural gas depletion, water shortages, climate change, etc. She is widely known in the Peak Cheap Oil space for her reports issued across energy websites over the years under the penname "GailTheActuary".

In this week's podcast, Chris asks Gail to assess the merits of the shale oil "revolution". Does it usher in a new Golden Age of American oil independence?

With her actuarial eyeshade firmly in place, Gail quickly begins discounting the underlying economics behind the shale model:

We have to ask: At what price is the oil available? Is this shale oil available because prices are high and in fact, because interest rates are low, as well? Or is it available if it were cheap oil with interest rates at more normal levels?

 

I think what we have is a very peculiar situation where it is available ,but it is available only because of this peculiar financial situation we are in right now with very high oil prices and very low interest rates.

 

 

The shale oil plays are going to be probably much less than a 10-year flash in the pan. They are very dependent on a lot of different things, including low interest rates and the ability to keep borrowing – which could turn around very quickly. Lower oil prices would tend to do the same thing. But even if you hypothesize that we can keep the low interest rates and that the oil price will stay up there, under the best of circumstances, the Barnett data says they probably will not go for very long.

 

You know, when you take how long the payout really is on those wells, I think the companies drilling these plays have been very optimistic as to how long those wells are going to be economic. There was a recent study done saying just that: 10 years or 5 years; but certainly not 40 years.

 

And so these companies put together optimistic financial statements that have the benefit of these extremely low interest rates. They keep adding debt onto debt onto debt. How long can they continue to get more debt to finance this whole operation? It's not a model that anybody who is very sensible would follow.

Similar to many energy experts Chris has interviewed prior, Gail looks at the math and concludes that humans (especially those in the West) have been living on an energy subsidy that is beginning to run out. We have been living outside of our natural budget, and will be forced to live within what remains going forward. As a result, she expect great changes in store for the next several decades: socially, politically and lifestyle-wise.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris's interview with Gail Tverberg (38m:07s):

 

 

A further excerpt:

….

Chris Martenson: Okay. So which comes first, then – low oil prices or low oil supplies leading to higher prices? Which do you see is driving the future here?

Gail Tverberg: I see government problems that are being brought on by oil as being the next step. And the government problems will bring the oil prices down. So as oil prices come down, then that brings the supply down. But it is the government problems that are the intervening step in there. It is the fact that the governments are put in a position where they need to support all of these people who cannot find work, and this is related to the high price of oil. And also, it is supporting promises that we have made over the years.

There is also the debt part of it. We depend on very low interest rates to keep the cost of that debt low right now. But the debt has been escalating since 2008, the federal debt has. And so the government is in a very tight situation, and it is the government problems that have the potential to spill over into the rest of the world situation. And it is through that mechanism that we will see the decline in oil supply. That is the way I see it going.

Chris Martenson: All right, so make sure I have got this: Because the government has taken on a whole lot of debt, it is trying to support a lot of people who are out of work; the economy is basically moribund because of high oil prices, so there is a little self-feedback loop in there. But ultimately, it is going to be the fiscal condition of the government – let’s say the U.S. government?

Gail Tverberg: It is going to be the fiscal condition of the U.S. government, and it is going to be all of the debt outstanding. It is going to be the fact that we cannot keep those interest rates low permanently. We cannot keep this quantitative easing up. And what is going to happen is the interest rates will rise, and that will cause a big problem. Or at least that is one scenario. There are so many different scenarios that could cause a problem. That is just one of them, anyhow.

Chris Martenson: You are talking about all of this leading to a deflationary outcome at some point. The Federal Reserve obviously is working double-overtime to prevent that outcome exactly. A lot of people have staked complete faith that the Fed has this all in hand and will lead to an inflationary outcome, I believe. World bond market prices, equity pricings, resurgence in real estate values, things like that are all collectively telling me that the bet has been made. The Fed will not lose this battle. Do you think they might?

Gail Tverberg: What happens is all of the extra money from the quantitative easing is going into speculation. And it is pumping up the prices of the stock market, the bond market, housing prices, farm prices, you name it. And so it is off in these places where it is not Main Street, it is not doing things that are getting people jobs. And so we have this temporary bubble on assets that cannot stay there if interest rates go up.

Chris Martenson: That is the big “if” in this story. Well, for me, it is a “when” – when interest rates go back up. We have hundreds of years of history on interest rates. And right now, I believe the U.K. or English gilts are at a 400-year low in terms of interest rates. So you might say there is a small chance of reversion to the mean in that story.

Good chance that might happen, and yet, we have this collective bet on such an outcome not happening. People are really hoping for something other. This is, I think, the heart of what you write about a lot – this idea that capital formation is a very different process from printing money. And I have seen otherwise very well-credentialed economists mixing those two things up, using the words interchangeably, that the Fed is basically creating capital. In my mind, capital is something that happens after you have performed some useful economic activity and there is a surplus left over. And then, that capital can be saved and that savings can go back into investment. That loop seems to be pretty well broken, as far as I can tell.

When we look at capital expenditures by corporations, we look at infrastructure spent by the Federal government. Very much a decade of lows. So we are not plowing any of this money back in. It is being used instead for speculation.

But the common story right now says that hey, high asset prices are a cure; they work. High housing prices, prices going up, that creates a wealth effect.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/38WvU3hO6Hg/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Guest Post: The Shale Oil Boom is More "Mirage" than "Miracle"

Submitted by Adam Taggart of Peak Prosperity,

Gail Tverberg, is a professional actuary who applies classic risk assessment procedures to global resources: studying issues such as oil & natural gas depletion, water shortages, climate change, etc. She is widely known in the Peak Cheap Oil space for her reports issued across energy websites over the years under the penname "GailTheActuary".

In this week's podcast, Chris asks Gail to assess the merits of the shale oil "revolution". Does it usher in a new Golden Age of American oil independence?

With her actuarial eyeshade firmly in place, Gail quickly begins discounting the underlying economics behind the shale model:

We have to ask: At what price is the oil available? Is this shale oil available because prices are high and in fact, because interest rates are low, as well? Or is it available if it were cheap oil with interest rates at more normal levels?

 

I think what we have is a very peculiar situation where it is available ,but it is available only because of this peculiar financial situation we are in right now with very high oil prices and very low interest rates.

 

 

The shale oil plays are going to be probably much less than a 10-year flash in the pan. They are very dependent on a lot of different things, including low interest rates and the ability to keep borrowing – which could turn around very quickly. Lower oil prices would tend to do the same thing. But even if you hypothesize that we can keep the low interest rates and that the oil price will stay up there, under the best of circumstances, the Barnett data says they probably will not go for very long.

 

You know, when you take how long the payout really is on those wells, I think the companies drilling these plays have been very optimistic as to how long those wells are going to be economic. There was a recent study done saying just that: 10 years or 5 years; but certainly not 40 years.

 

And so these companies put together optimistic financial statements that have the benefit of these extremely low interest rates. They keep adding debt onto debt onto debt. How long can they continue to get more debt to finance this whole operation? It's not a model that anybody who is very sensible would follow.

Similar to many energy experts Chris has interviewed prior, Gail looks at the math and concludes that humans (especially those in the West) have been living on an energy subsidy that is beginning to run out. We have been living outside of our natural budget, and will be forced to live within what remains going forward. As a result, she expect great changes in store for the next several decades: socially, politically and lifestyle-wise.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris's interview with Gail Tverberg (38m:07s):

 

 

A further excerpt:

….

Chris Martenson: Okay. So which comes first, then – low oil prices or low oil supplies leading to higher prices? Which do you see is driving the future here?

Gail Tverberg: I see government problems that are being brought on by oil as being the next step. And the government problems will bring the oil prices down. So as oil prices come down, then that brings the supply down. But it is the government problems that are the intervening step in there. It is the fact that the governments are put in a position where they need to support all of these people who cannot find work, and this is related to the high price of oil. And also, it is supporting promises that we have made over the years.

There is also the debt part of it. We depend on very low interest rates to keep the cost of that debt low right now. But the debt has been escalating since 2008, the federal debt has. And so the government is in a very tight situation, and it is the government problems that have the potential to spill over into the rest of the world situation. And it is through that mechanism that we will see the decline in oil supply. That is the way I see it going.

Chris Martenson: All right, so make sure I have got this: Because the government has taken on a whole lot of debt, it is trying to support a lot of people who are out of work; the economy is basically moribund because of high oil prices, so there is a little self-feedback loop in there. But ultimately, it is going to be the fiscal condition of the government – let’s say the U.S. government?

Gail Tverberg: It is going to be the fiscal condition of the U.S. government, and it is going to be all of the debt outstanding. It is going to be the fact that we cannot keep those interest rates low permanently. We cannot keep this quantitative easing up. And what is going to happen is the interest rates will rise, and that will cause a big problem. Or at least that is one scenario. There are so many different scenarios that could cause a problem. That is just one of them, anyhow.

Chris Martenson: You are talking about all of this leading to a deflationary outcome at some point. The Federal Reserve obviously is working double-overtime to prevent that outcome exactly. A lot of people have staked complete faith that the Fed has this all in hand and will lead to an inflationary outcome, I believe. World bond market prices, equity pricings, resurgence in real estate values, things like that are all collectively telling me that the bet has been made. The Fed will not lose this battle. Do you think they might?

Gail Tverberg: What happens is all of the extra money from the quantitative easing is going into speculation. And it is pumping up the prices of the stock market, the bond market, housing prices, farm prices, you name it. And so it is off in these places where it is not Main Street, it is not doing things that are getting people jobs. And so we have this temporary bubble on assets that cannot stay there if interest rates go up.

Chris Martenson: That is the big “if” in this story. Well, for me, it is a “when” – when interest rates go back up. We have hundreds of years of history on interest rates. And right now, I believe the U.K. or English gilts are at a 400-year low in terms of interest rates. So you might say there is a small chance of reversion to the mean in that story.

Good chance that might happen, and yet, we have this collective bet on such an outcome not happening. People are really hoping for something other. This is, I think, the heart of what you write about a lot – this idea that capital formation is a very different process from printing money. And I have seen otherwise very well-credentialed economists mixing those two things up, using the words interchangeably, that the Fed is basically creating capital. In my mind, capital is something that happens after you have performed some useful economic activity and there is a surplus left over. And then, that capital can be saved and that savings can go back into investment. That loop seems to be pretty well broken, as far as I can tell.

When we look at capital expenditures by corporations, we look at infrastructure spent by the Federal government. Very much a decade of lows. So we are not plowing any of this money back in. It is being used instead for speculation.

But the common story right now says that hey, high asset prices are a cure; they work. High housing prices, prices going up, that cr
eates a wealth effect.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/38WvU3hO6Hg/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Eyewitness to Fast-Food Strikes: Another Reason to Support REASON!

 

Here’s yet another reason to support Reason during our annual webathon: We’re
out on the streets covering all sorts of events that matter.

Consider last Thursday, when the Service Employees International
Union (SEIU) coordinated “wage strikes” in over 100 cities and
called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for fast-food workers.
Reason TV covered the event held in New York City and filed a
report that you didn’t see on your evening news.

Take a look by clicking above and read the original writeup of
our coverage by going below the fold.

If you appreciate this sort of thing, please consider giving us
a tax-deductible donation. Details on all that here.

Yesterday, Naomi Brockwell and I attended a demonstration
demanding that fast-food restaurants boost their minimum wage to
$15 per hour, or a little more than double the current federal
minimum wage. The strike, which was led by a group
called Fast Food
Forward
 that’s affiliated with the Service Employees International
Union
 (SEIU), was one of more than a 100 similar
demonstrations held in cities across the country.

The New York demonstration had about 150 people, but the number
of actual fast food employees participating in the strike was
small. It was business as usual at every restaurant we dropped
by yesterday morning and, at a McDonald’s restaurant on 23rd
Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, employees behind the
counter said they had heard nothing about a strike.

We caught up with the protesters in front of a Wendy’s in
downtown Brooklyn, where the crowd consisted of union organizers,
fast-food workers, and their sympathizers. An estimated one-third
of the demonstrators were fast-food employees, meaning that less
than one-tenth of 1 percent of New York City’s 57,000 fast-food
workforce participated in the strike.A protester marching near Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. |||

The group was traveling from one fast-food restaurant to
another, before winding up at Foley Square in Manhattan around
1pm.

Multiple strikers told us they had received compensation through
a union strike fund to appear, but declined to say the amount they
were paid.

Artificially doubling wages to $15 an hour would change many
things in the fast food industry, including the easy path it
provides for low-skilled employees to break into the labor market.
Substantially higher wages would mean that existing employees would
be less apt to look for other positions, and senior staffers would
be more inclined to hog shift hours. Franchisees would likely move
more aggressively to replace human service workers with automated
cash registers, which is already
happening
 in European McDonald’s. Evidence of how
artificially boosting wages destroys opportunities for entry level
workers was best documented in a 2006 study by
economists David Neumark and William Wascher, which
was updated in
2013

Shenita Simon, a shift supervisor at KFC, who participated in the strike. |||In interviews, several striking
workers described how it had been relatively easy for them to get a
job in fast-food service. Shenita Simon, who works as a shift
supervisor at KFC, told us that she doesn’t know where else
she would have been able to find a position, because fast food is
the only industry that “will allow you to have minimum
education.” Isaac Wallace, a Burger King employee, described
how he was able to get his job immediately after moving to New York
from Jamaica by simply walking into a Burger King in Brooklyn
and approaching the manager. 

Once the strike moved to Foley Square, organizers from Fast Food
Forward began obstructing our efforts to talk with protesters.

For more on why doubling wages for fast food workers would hurt
entry-level workers, read Nick Gillespie’s “Big
Labor’s Big Mac Attack”
 at The Daily
Beast
.

Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi Brockwell.

About 2.30 minutes.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe
to Reason TV’s
YouTube Channel
to receive automatic updates when new material
goes live.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/eyewitness-to-fast-food-strikes-another
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Ronald Bailey Reviews The Cure in the Code by Peter Huber

RIPFDAWe are at a turning point in
medicine, Peter Huber explains in his new book, The Cure in the
Code
. Knowledge of the individual’s genetic makeup will soon
allow molecular medicine to reach deep inside each of us to cure
most of the maladies that afflict us—and perhaps even slow the rate
at which we age. First we will learn to understand each person’s
genome; then we will learn to craft treatments tailored to his or
her genetic constitution. But it may not be so easy—and not for
purely scientific reasons. Timid regulators at the Food and Drug
Administration stand in the way of dramatic medical progress.
Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey’s review first
appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/ronald-bailey-reviews-the-cure-in-the-co
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The Bitcoin Derivatives Market Has Arrived

Having discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the crypto-currency and noted the extreme volatility of the last few weeks, it seemed only a matter of time before some ambitious entrepreneur tried to monetize the volatility. What better way to “manage the risk” of your virtual currency horde than buying (or selling) options (in a more levered way). Predictious, the Dublin-based prediction market, this week unveiled Bitcoin Option Spreads enabling both long- and short-positions to be constructed on the already extremely volatile ‘asset’. Regulatory clamp-down in 3..2..1…

 

The basic mechanism is the same as every option spread market – a fixed payoff for getting the “bet” correct, in this case 10.

In the case below, the bet was that Bitcoin will (or will not) close at $1400 on Wednesday January 1st at 12:00am,

if you believe it will (close at or above $1400) you “buy” the contract at 3.49 (and should you be proven correct you are paid 10 – thus gaining 6.51, similar to buying a call option)…

if you believe it will not reach $1400, you “sell” the contract at 0.55 (and should you be proven correct you pocket the 0.55 and pay out 0.00 – just like writing a call option)

 

Quite a skew has developed already…

As Predictious notes,

Predictious is now bringing this to the next level by offering a new type of derivative contract: option spreads on the price of Bitcoin. In the past couple of weeks, Bitcoin has been extremely volatile, and it is important for traders to be able to reduce risk, and hedge their Bitcoin position. They can now do so in an easy and cost efficient way by using option spreads.

 

Option spreads are very versatile, while still offering limited risks. A bullish investor can use a vertical spread to benefit from Bitcoin gains, while limiting risks if the price crashes.

 

On the other hand, bearish investors can use them to short Bitcoin. Predictious is currently one of the most reliable way to do so. Since losses are limited with option spreads, investors are not exposed to counterparty risks, like they would be when trading futures on competing services.

 

Aside from Bitcoin traders, miners can also use spreads on the Bitcoin difficulty to reduce risks associated with investing in mining hardware.

 

 

To date, Predictious users have deposited over $300,000 in Bitcoin on the website.

 

Traders are obviously very interested in Bitcoin derivatives, but the number of businesses accepting payments in Bitcoin has surged in the past few months”, said Flavien Charlon, Founder of Pixode, “those businesses have expenses in US Dollar, or Euro, and need to hedge their Bitcoin position. The type of derivatives we are offering will be very useful to them as well”.

 

The bottom-line is that while we can see the ‘use’ of such a market to enabling some lower cost hedging of any wealth one might have gathered in Bitcoin, we suspect – just as in the case of many other assets – that the underlying asset will see its volatility rise as the derivative (and levered) markets becomes the tail that wags the dog.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/n4ZW-GD7ivA/story01.htm Tyler Durden

China October Gold Imports Surge To Second Highest Ever

Overnight, China reported its biggest trade surplus in almost five years, when November net exports hit $33.8 billion, up from $31.1 billion in October, and 50% above the $21.2 billion consensus estimate. This was driven by a surge in exports which rose by 12.7% (more than the 7% expected), while imports rose by a slightly disappointing (5.3% vs Exp. 7.0%). Of course, when it comes to Chinese trade data, the numbers are so notoriously manipulated that even the big banks threw up on them as recently as last year forcing China to admit everything was more or less made up. Regardless, the ongoing influx of US Dollars means that the Chinese FX reserves of $3.66 trillion in Q3 will swell even more. The bigger question is what will China do with the surplus: will it buy more Treasurys – something it hasn’t done in over a year – or invest in alternative commodities.

Such as gold.

According to Hong Kong customs data, in the month of October (with the usual one month delay), China imported 148 total tons of gold in a month in which the price of gold, once again plunged. Curiously, unlike momentum chasers of paper ETF promises to get gold delivery, China continues to BTFD in gold, and the 148 tons of import in the past month was the second highest monthly import ever through Hong Kong, second only to the 224 tons imported in March of 2013. Compared to a year ago, when the price of gold was over 30% higher, China has imported over 200% more than the 48 tons it bought through Hong Kong a year ago. At least someone is grateful for plunging gold prices.

On a net basis, October was also the second busiest month for Chinese gold imports, soaring to a near record 131.2 tons, second only to March’s 136.2 tons, and represents the sixth consecutive month in which China has imported more than 100 tons of gold net of exports.

These numbers of course exclude gold procured in China using other means, such as imports via other venues, as well as internally produced gold.

In total, China’s gross YTD imports now amount to just over 1260 tons, while the net gold imports from Hong Kong are a record 982 tons.

Finally, putting the total number of imports in perspective since our September 2011 post in which we noted that it was now China’s explicit strategy to hoard gold, China has imported a whopping 2380 tons of gold in the past 26 months. Throughout this period the PBOC has never updated its new official holdings number. However, one thing is clear: the more the price of (paper?) gold drops, the more the Chinese purchases of physical gold become. And yes, that is 26 consecutive months of positive (and increasing) gold imports.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/c3kcuBQLOhY/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Donate to Reason! Because it’s Sunday Morning, and Nobody Defends Culture From Culture-War Quite Like Us!

Before we get to the sales pitch here on Day Five of Reason’s
annual webathon—in
which we ask our readers to contribute dollars
or Bitcoins
to the 501(c)3 nonprofit that makes all our libertarian journalism
and commentary possible—a little palate cleanser: 

 

That clip was embedded in an obituary here six weeks back,
titled “How
Lou Reed Inspired Anti-Communist Revolutionaries and the Rest of
Us
.” It was the latest installment in the ongoing Reason genre
of coverage of defending popular or “low” culture against political
attacks from the left and right, and celebrating how the stuff can
liberate the world in ways wholly unintended its creators.

Here’s a great Reason.tv compendium of ridiculous congressional
attacks on culture, as put together by Anthony Fisher:

 

Here’s another classic, “Bollywood vs. Bin Laden: Why radical
Islam fears pop culture,” as anchored by Shikha Dalmia:

 

Partisan/ideological bores tend to treat music, film, art, and
other expressions of culture either instrumentally—judging
a work by how well it satisfies a particular political mission—or
reactionarily, by trying to play defense against a
perceived assault on decent human values. Nick Gillespie correctly
identified the mistaken frameworks, while championing individual
autonomy, all the way back in February
1996
:

The audience has a mind of its own. Individuals sitting
in a theater, or watching television, or listening to a CD don’t
always see and hear things the way they’re “supposed” to. […]

That would be news to most participants in the public debate
over depictions of sex and violence in movies, TV, and music.
Liberals and conservatives are as tight as Beavis and Butt-head in
agreeing that consumers of popular culture–the very people who make
it popular–are little more than tools of the trade. Joe Sixpack and
Sally Baglunch–you and I–aren’t characters in this script. Just
like TV sets or radios, we are dumb receivers that simply transmit
whatever is broadcast to us. We do not look at movie screens;
we are movie screens, and Hollywood merely
projects morality–good, bad, or indifferent–onto us.

True story: In France, this commercial would be censored. |||“We have reached the point
where our popular culture threatens to undermine our character as a
nation,” Bob Dole thundered last summer in denouncing “nightmares
of depravity” and calling for movies that promote “family values.”
“Bob Dole is a dope,” responded actor-director Rob Reiner, a
self-described liberal activist. Fair enough, but it apparently
takes one to know one: “Hollywood should not be making exploitive
violent and exploitive sex films. I think we have a responsibility
[to viewers] not to poison their souls,” continued Reiner, who rose
to prominence playing the role of Meathead on All in the
Family
. […]

Of course, it is hardly surprising that denizens of Washington
and Tinseltown frame the debate so that all interpretive power
resides with would-be government regulators and entertainment
industry types. Clearly, it makes sense for them to conceptualize
popular culture as a top-down affair, one best dealt with by
broadcasters and bureaucrats. This consensus, however, has
implications far beyond the well-worn notion that entertainment
should be properly didactic.

Because it assumes that the viewer, the listener, or the
audience member is a passive receiver of popular culture, this
consensus must inevitably result in calls for regulation by the
government (such as the V-chip, which is part of both the House and
Senate telecommunications bills) or paternalism by producers (“More
and more we’re tending toward all-audience films …that have civic
values in them,” Motion Picture Association of America head Jack
Valenti told the Los Angeles Times). The viewer
simply can’t be trusted to handle difficult, sensitive, ironic
material–or to bring his own interpretation to bear on what he
sees.

The Plastic People of the Universe play at Vaclav Havel's wake. ||| Matt WelchAs we never tire in pointing
out, audiences can frequently surprise you with how they use pop
culture to leverage their own freedom. Whether it’s dirty Czech
rock musicians using the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa to take
a
decisive stand against totalitarians
, anti-Taliban Afghan men

going nuts over Leo DiCaprio
, or rap/metal enthusiasts
fueling the Arab Spring
, American culture bemoaned by political
critics at home can have galvanizing effects abroad.

Once you grant consumers the decency of their own free will in
interpreting cultural works, a whole host of interesting
philosophical and political implications tumble forth. I know not a
small number of people whose introduction to libertarianism came
through this cultural-interpretive portal. It’s one that Reason
works tirelessly at keeping open.

Won’t you please donate to Reason
today? We’re just over $115,000 of the way to our
$150,000 goal
, with donations from
more than 375 readers. Help get us over the top, and thumb our
noses at the cultural
pessimists
always conspiring to keep us less free. Donate to Reason right
the hell now
!

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/donate-to-reason-because-its-sunday-morn
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Terry Michael on Cutting a Deal Over Immigration and Obamacare

HandshakeIf politics is the art of the possible, it’s at
least plausible that reasonable conservatives and moderate liberals
might reach a grand bargain taming the two big policy beasts:
immigration and healthcare. That could happen, writes Terry
Michael, director of the Washington Center for Politics &
Journalism, if Tea Party Republicans decide they dislike Mexicans
less than they despise the Affordable Care Act. And it would
require enough scared moderate liberal Democrats to realize
immigration liberalization is more attractive to swing voters than
illusory healthcare “reform.”

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/terry-michael-on-cutting-a-deal-over-imm
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WTO Reaches Historic Deal on World Trade

no ballyhooThe
annual WTO ministerial conference, held this year in Indonesia, was
scheduled to close on Friday, but closed instead on Saturday with
the trade organization’s first major international agreement.


From Gant Daily:

For the first time in two decades, World Trade
Organization’s (WTO) member economies approved an agreement to
boost global trade, a move that could add $1tn to the world
economy.

Ministers from WTO’s 159-member countries approved on Saturday a
“trade facilitation” accord that will set common customs standards
and ease the flow of goods through borders all over the
globe.

The ministers also made decisions on several issues such as how the
WTO should take action on government food security programs as well
as securing better market access for the world’s least developed
nations to developed economies.

India
put up some resistance
to a deal over some kinds of food
subsidies it wanted to keep, and Cuba threatened to veto it over a
removed reference to the US embargo on the country. India reached a
compromise with the US to deal with food subsidies at a future
meeting and Cuba withdrew its veto threat.

You can read the draft text of the declaration here.
The deal covers only a portion of the issues being negotiated under
the wider Doha round of WTO talks, which started in 2001.

Follow these stories and more at Reason 24/7 and don’t forget you
can e-mail stories to us at 24_7@reason.com and tweet us
at @reason247.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/wto-reaches-historic-deal-on-world-trade
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