Crude oil prices have reach a record high $62 per barrel. Combined with Time Warner’s worse-than-expected recent earnings stocks dropped today as investors waited uneasily for the government’s latest petroleum inventory report. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $62.40, up 51 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline rose more than a cent to $1.7945 a gallon while heating oil gained a cent to $1.7350 a gallon. As American refineries operate at nearly 100% capacity, prices at the pump may continue to rise due to increased summer demand, pending tropical storms and hurricanes, and increased tensions this week because of Iran’s nuclear threat. Are we learning anything here about the complex, multi-facted dimension of the economy?
“Socially responsible investing is when you take your beliefs and values and apply them to how you invest your money. This is also known as having a ‘double bottom line,’ because not only are you looking for a profitable investment, but also one that meets certain moral criteria and that lets you sleep well at night. Your second bottom line could be moral, religious, or based on whatever Chicken Soup for the Soul principles help guide you through life.”
Acton’s Sam Gregg underscores this last point in a commentary on why Christians should look closer at the ethics behind “ethical” investing.
On this date in 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was killed, shot dead from behind by Jack McCall while playing poker. He held a pair of aces & a pair of 8s, forever giving that combination the nickname “Dead Man’s Hand.”
Poker has come a long way since then, becoming a global multi-million dollar industry. There’s a good discussion over at World Magazine Blog, asking where parents should “draw the line,” given the rising popularity of poker among youth.
This story from CBS’s Morning Show last year profiled a mom who hosts poker nights for her son and his friends. Liz Perry says the kids are “having a great time. They’re …home. They’re not out on the street. They’re all great students great athletes and at night, this is a great way for them to hang out with each other and be with each other.”
Christian responses to gambling, card playing, and other games of chance vary, from the moderately permissive to the prohibitionist. Social conservative groups worry about the effect of gambling on young children. Keith Whyte, who runs the National Council on Problem Gambling, says “for most kids, gambling if they choose to engage in it will not be harmful. But for a percentage, four to six percent of kids will develop a serious gambling problem.” Some advocate greater government regulation and/or prohibition of gambling, saying that to do otherwise is to implicitly endorse the practice.
I would assert that governments should logically first cease the active promotion of gambling (via lotteries) before they take greater measures to restrict or discourage other forms of gambling. I just can’t see a substantive difference between spending money on the Mega Millions jackpot and having a night of poker with friends…except that the former is essentially a regressive tax promoted by the government.
Here’s a view of procreation that doesn’t line up with the UN-sponsored “World Population Day”. In the midst of a discussion about a Jewish tradition mandating that each couple has at least one male and one female childe, Bryan Caplan at EconLog writes,
I’m on the record in favor of having more kids. I believe that, in most cases, both individuals and society would be better off if families had three or four. A lot of people have small families because they are mildly tired when they are young, and fail to consider that as a result they will be very lonely when they’re old. Two grown children is not enough to get a decent quantity of phone calls and grandchildren.
“Congress should not expand the powers of the FCC by giving it a new role to regulate the latest technologies. Instead, lawmakers should direct the FCC to simply resolve issues derived from the past AT&T monopoly and government control of spectrum. And then they should keep the agency from regulating new communication platforms, deferring to the communications marketplace for that job. What’s more, the current static legal classification of different types of communications services needs to be overhauled.”
–from Braden Cox, “Reform FCC — Limit It!” at Tech Central Station
Slate features an article by Henry Blodget, a former securities analyst, which examines the investments of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. In an analysis that has more than you would ever need to know about a person’s finances (and perhaps reads a bit too much into the investments), Blodget writes of Roberts, “His fortune is self-made, which suggests a bias toward self-reliance rather than entitlements and subsidies.” That sounds promising.
HT: Fast Company Now
S. T. Karnick over at The Reform Club comments on a recent suit filed against DuPont over Teflon, claiming that “DuPont lied in a massive attempt to continue selling their product.”
Karnick observes that abuse of the tort system is rampant, in part because “it has been perverted into a proxy for the criminal justice system: a means of punishing supposed wrongdoers through the use of a weaker standard of proof—preponderance of the evidence instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Law professor Ronald J. Rychlak outlines the changes over time to America’s tort law system in his recent book, Trial by Fury: Restoring the Common Good in Tort Litigation. The weakened burdens of proof is one of the trends that Rychlak investigates, in addition to increases in damage awards, the recognition of new torts, and the growth of class action suits.
Rychlak argues for a recovery of the purpose of the tort system. He concludes in light of the changes in tort law, “Effective tort reform, therefore, must return the system to one based on fault and causation, that holds responsible those who caused the damage, makes the injured whole, and does not impose upon the innocent.”
A growing controversy over hidden content in video games – sexually explicit or violent scenes – has led to a call for government regulation and fines. Is that the best way to address this problem? David Phelps calls for greater parental involvement in selecting appropriate video games for children, rather than a turn to the nanny state.
The New York Times reports this morning that “leaders of four of the country’s largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they would boycott this week’s A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention, and officials from two of those unions, the service employees and the Teamsters, said the action was a prelude to their full withdrawal from the federation on Monday.”
The withdrawal is the culmination of a period of dissatisfaction with the direction of big labor in the US. The leaders of the dissedent unions feel that “the federation under the leadership of its president, John J. Sweeney, has been ineffective in halting the decades-long slide of organized labor.” The disagreement is in part over the amount of AFL-CIO money that should go back to the local unions for recruitment.
Some of the dissenters feel that more money should be used for recruiting the next generation of union members, while the AFL-CIO leadership fears the diversion of funds would weaken the national political influence of labor unions.
This schism is occuring despite the efforts of the labor leadership to utilize religious leaders to push union membership. The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the interfaith outreach of the AFL-CIO, which “has hired more than three dozen aspiring ministers, imams, priests and rabbis to spread the gospel of union organizing across the nation this summer.”
This attempt to revitalize a form of the social gospel “seeks to recreate the historic partnership between faith and labor, an alliance that for nearly a century gave union leaders an aura of moral authority — and their cause the stamp of divine righteousness.”
There is some cause for doubt as to the authenticity of the effort, however. After signing up an interested worker, rabbinical student Margie Klein:
was pinning on a yarmulke — “to look more like a rabbi,” she explained — and preparing to march on AlliedBarton.
She read through a letter she had drafted to the firm: “Our traditions tell us that when one of us is poor, we are all impoverished…. When we work hard, we must be given the resources not only to get by, but to live, pray, and dream.”
“It’s a little spiritually cheesy,” she said doubtfully.
Two other interns came by to help; they added a quote from the Book of Micah to make the letter more authoritative. When Klein made her pitch to the exasperated manager at AlliedBarton, the other interns sang the line from Micah in the background: “We’ve got to do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with our God.”