Invisible Hand Episode 20: Interview with Todd Wynn of Cascade Policy Institute

August 8, 2010
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This episode of The Invisible Hand features my recent interview with Todd Wynn, environmental policy analyst and Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute. Today he talks to us about some of the extreme anti-business and anti-freedom policies of the state of Oregon, including laws against dish detergent, plastic bags, and “non-renewable energy.”

Also, here are some of the news stories included in this edition of the podcast:

  • The Pentagon has demanded the “return” of more than 75,000 sensitive military documents that have been released to the press by the whistleblower website Wikileaks. The Associated Press reports that during a press conference on Thursday, Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell insisted that “Wikileaks return immediately to the US government all versions of documents obtained directly or indirectly from the Department of Defense databases or records,” and to cease any future solicitation of such documents from the public.

    Since it is impossible to “return” electronic documents that have been copied by people throughout the world now millions of times, it is thought that the true purpose of this threat is to discourage the further release of a reported 15,000 more documents believed to be held in reserve by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These are assumed to be even more damaging to the government than the ones so far brought to light. Wikileaks has recently uploaded to its server a 1.4 gigabyte encrypted file named “insurance,” 20 times the combined size of the previously-released 75,000 documents. Some theorize that this is the material being held as collateral against possible future recriminations toward Assange from the government.

  • It is unknown whether any of this material is related at all to an alleged batch of classified State Department documents that US Army Private Bradley Manning claims to have given Wikileaks. Manning has also confessed to leaking the now-infamous video of Reuters reporters in Baghdad being killed by US troops, and is being held in a military jail in Virginia on the assumption that these confessions are accurate. On Tuesday a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee called Manning’s alleged crime treason, a capital offense, and said that he should be punished with the death penalty. Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan made the statement on a local talk radio program on WHMI:

  • In a referendum passed by Missouri voters Tuesday, the public overwhelmingly rejected the key component of the health care overhaul passed by both houses of Congress last year. Proposition C, which received a “Yes” vote of 71%, prevents the federal government from forcing Missouri citizens to purchase health insurance under penalty of law. The idea was originally proposed by state Republicans as an amendment to the state constitution, but was switched to a ballot initiative after Democrats threatened a filibuster. Statutes of a similar nature have been passed by legislatures in five states already, and two more will vote on similar state constitutional amendments in November. Also, lawsuits have been filed against the new rules by public officials in over a dozen states who claim that the law is unconstitutional.

    The viewpoint of those who support the new law demanding the universal purchase of insurance was summed up by Kathy Ward, a Missouri nurse who was quoted in an Associated Press article about the recent referendum: “The fact remains”, she said. “People have a right to health care, and they should get it. It helps to make a healthier society.” It is uncertain, though, how forcing an individual to purchase a certain product results in the granting or preservation of any such right.

  • The Financial Times reports that recession-strapped consumers are about to be hit with yet another financial constraint: skyrocketing food prices. Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin shocked world commodities markets when he announced a moratorium on grain exports from Russia for the rest of the year. And although the US Department of Agriculture had actually forecasted a period of deflation for cereals and baking products right now, it looks like those numbers will have to be revised to account for a recent surge in the price of several food staples, including wheat, cocoa, meat, dairy, eggs, and sugar. Coffee prices are expected to jump by about 10%.
  • If you had previously believed the government’s official story that the new security x-ray machines, now in airports and courthouses and commonly called “naked body scanners,” did not permanently store nude images of passengers — well, surprise — they lied. Yes Virginia, they do have naked pictures of your Mom, and you and your kids too. Despite claims last year from the Transportation Security Administration that “scanned images cannot be stored or recorded,” it turns out that not only can they, but in practice, they do. This week, spokesmen from the US Marshalls Service disclosed that a body scanner at a courthouse in Florida has already recorded thousands of these pictures. The same thing has happened with a scanner used at a courthouse in Washington, D.C., and that database of images is now in the possession of the manufacturer.

    This follows the recent accidental disclosure of an internal TSA document which proved that the scanners used at airports store and transmit images for “testing, training, and evaluation purposes.” A lawsuit has been filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seeking an injunction against the federal body scanner program. Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that the scanners will soon be rolling out at every major airport in the country.

  • Good news for the inmates of America’s privately-owned prison-industrial complex: your life may have been ruined by the War on Drugs, but there’s still a place for you in the warm glow of the stage lights. Yes, you too can temporarily trade your orange jumpsuit for tap shoes and a sequined jacket. The cable network Investigation Discovery has announced the development of a new reality show called “Talent Behind Bars,” inspired by American Idol.

    Discovery President Henry Schleiff is quoted by Broadcasting and Cable Magazine as saying ‘The essence of the show is to highlight people who have been convicted of non-violent crimes and misdemeanors … it’s a chance for maybe a little bit of redemption.” A sister program is also being developed by Discovery called “Dancing Behind Bars,” modeled after ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars.”

    The US has the world’s largest prison population per capita, and the vast majority of inmates are non-violent drug offenders. They typically have trouble obtaining things like work, shelter, and credit after their incarceration, which may make the allure of instant riches through superstardom all that more appealing.

  • A twelve-year-old girl in Watsonville, CA has been able to trace the genealogies of all US Presidents except for Martin van Buren back to a Plantagenet monarch of England from the 13th century, King John “Lackland.” The girl, BridgeAnne d’Avignon, conducted the research for a class project at Monte Vista Christian School. This is hardly the first time that the blue-blooded pedigrees of US Presidents have been noted, however. 33 of them can be traced directly back to King Henry II of England, another Plantagenet, and all Presidents, again with the exception of Martin van Buren, can be traced as cousins to one another. This has led to the “most royal candidate” theory of genealogist Harold Brooks-Baker, who claimed that the outcome of any US Presidential election could be predicted by determining which candidate possessed the most august lineage.

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