You are browsing the archive for 2014 April 11.

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Police Overreach Haunts Southern City: Racial Profiling, Quotas and Secret “Conviction Bonuses”

April 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Spencer Woodman, Salon

How a federal grant incentivized a police department to terrorize its community.


In the late afternoon of Jan. 3, Robin Dean, a 50-year-old county employee, pulled into a Durham, N.C., Burger King parking lot to give a friend a package of frozen chitlins that she had cooked over the holidays. After the transfer was complete, the pair said goodbye and parted ways. Both were subsequently pulled over by Durham Police.

Dean says an officer told her that there was evidence that she had just engaged in an illegal drug transaction, searched her car without her consent, and called for backup. When Dean worried aloud that she had been racially profiled, she says the white officer called her an “idiot,” although the nearly hour-long stop revealed nothing illegal apart from a window-tinting violation that was later dismissed.

In recent years, stories like this have come to epitomize heightened concerns that, as Durham becomes a regional center for sophisticated culture and cuisine, the drug enforcement strategies of its police increasingly assign second-class status to the city’s minority communities. Over the past several months, protesters alleging police misconduct have pummeled the city’s police headquarters with rocks and met tear gas along the usually amiable streets of this city of 240,000.

In seeking to understand the roots of the city’s divisive policing, lawyers at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice were astonished by what a recent round of public records requests produced. Not only was a federal grant subsidizing what they regarded as the most perniciously targeted drug enforcement operations of the department, but the grant — with a key “performance measure” emphasizing police report their sheer volume of arrests — also appeared to be incentivizing the department to raise its overall number of drug arrests, which overwhelmingly affect the city’s black community. SCSJ attorneys add that recently revealed evidence also indicates that the federally funded program included an illegal system of secret payments law enforcement made to witnesses who delivered successful drug prosecutions — another sign, they say, that the city’s policing has flown off the rails.

In a national context, such a discovery is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Did CBS Even Consider Hiring a Woman Before It Pounced on Stephen Colbert?

April 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Ophira Eisenberg, The Guardian

Why, exactly, is all of late night still geared only to satisfy the tastes of my Uncle Jack?


As a child, I would have told you that by 2014 we'd definitely have jet boots, pills for food and a woman hosting a late-night talk show. Instead we have selfies, Xanax and a bunch of white guys.

When it was announced Thursday that Stephen Colbert was set to replace David Letterman, my first reaction was, well, that's a safe choice. I would have thrown a parade if CBS had cast – or even considered – a woman.

I read so many articles and lists all about different hilarious woman whoshould be up for a late-night TV job – myself being on one of them, I'm happy to say, in a story that I posted to Twitter, of course, to which a follower responded, “Not gonna happen”. Can you please unfollow me? I don't need that kind of reality check from someone who volunteered to be my fan.

But I understood what my fan meant: with all of the chatter over the last week since Letterman announced his retirement, even after all the short-lists and opinions, it never seemed like a female comedian was really in the running to be the next host of the Late Show anyway.

Why, exactly, is all of late night still geared only to satisfy the tastes of my Uncle Jack?

Clearly, someone out there thinks that it's just too risky to put a woman behind that desk, that we're not ready yet. I'm not sure who that someone is, because I think the audience is there, so it must be someone powerful – an old-school executive, a nervous sponsor, a lazy senior makeup artist. Or maybe that someone just doesn't want to pay to remodel the host's bathroom.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize CBS is taking a big risk with Stephen Colbert. I know what my Uncle Jack will say when he hears the news: he'll say, “Who?” And it will be tough for me to explain. The only reassuring thing I could tell him is, “He looks like …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Hatred of Islam Creates Strange Bedfellows of Christians and Atheists

April 11, 2014 in Blogs

By CJ Werleman, AlterNet

Atheists shouldn't be singing from the same song sheet as the Christian Right.


Politics is a funny game, for wedge issues often make for strange bedfellows. NSA overreach unites the far left with the far right. Libertarianism unites neo-confederates with black evangelicals. If you’re looking for an even stranger ideological matrimony, try this one on for size: mention the Middle East peace talks, and voila, you have atheists singing from the same song sheet as the Christian Right.

Despite the Palestinians making a sudden about turn to the United Nations, who can blame them, Secretary of State John Kerry is to be applauded for his efforts to bring the peace process back into focus. Not only has he dragged both sides to the negotiating table, he has also attained crucial concessions from both the Palestinians and the Israelis. But any further progress is made difficult while Americans remain in the dark about what is really taking place in the Occupied Territories. The most ignorant include the corporate-owned media, the Christian Right and movement atheism. This ignorance results in a lack of political pressure on the White House, Republican or Democrat, to seek a much-needed two-state solution.

Despite claims by David Silverman, president of the 501(c4) political lobby group American Atheists, atheism does not earn an atheist the title of freethinker. With very few exceptions, movement atheists are not. They’re parrots. Don’t believe me? Ask an atheist to opine on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and he or she will invariably wax lyrical about religious motivated violence, Islamic extremism and suicide bombers. In other words, expect a recital from atheist luminaries Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.

“Islam is an unmitigated evil,” said Dawkins in response to whether or not atheists should support faith-based NGOs in Africa, while simultaneously ignoring the despotic warlords Western secular governments have financed in recent times. On his blog, Sam Harris asks why “nineteen well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives in this world for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors?” With total disregard for geopolitical history, what troubles Muslims living …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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U.N. Report: At-risk Cities Hold Solutions to Climate Change

April 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Smart planning in cities like Miami and Salt Lake City could help save the day.


It is already taking shape as the 21st century urban nightmare: a big storm hits a city like Shanghai, Mumbai, Miami or New York, knocking out power supply and waste treatment plants, washing out entire neighbourhoods and marooning the survivors in a toxic and foul-smelling swamp.

Now the world's leading scientists are suggesting that those same cities in harm's way could help drive solutions to climate change.

A draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), obtained by the Guardian, says smart choices in urban planning and investment in public transport could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially in developing countries.

The draft is due for release in Berlin on Sunday, the third and final instalment of the IPCC's authoritative report on climate change.

“The next two decades present a window of opportunity for urban mitigation as most of the world's urban areas and their infrastructure have yet to be constructed,” the draft said.

Around 1 billion people live in cities and coastal areas at risk of sea-level rise and coastal flooding – and those figures are expected to rise in the coming decades.

Most of the high-risk areas are in Asia, but the US east coast, where the rate of sea level rise is three or four times faster than the global average, is also a “hotspot”, with cities, beaches and wetlands exposed to flooding.

But those at-risk cities also produce a large and growing share of emissions that cause climate change – which makes them central to its solution.

“They are at the frontlines of this issue,” said Seth Schultz, research director for the C40 group of mega-cities taking action on climate change. “And on the whole cities have extraordinarily strong power to deliver on these things.”

Even in America, where Republican governors and members of Congress deny the existence or have rolled back action on climate change, <a target=_blank …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Where's the Outrage About Obscenely High Police Salaries?

April 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Justin Doolittle, Salon

Strangely, those who bash public workers are silent about cops nearing $200,000.


In this era of government austerity, particularly at the state and local levels, the median police salary in the small township of Saddle Brook, New Jersey, is more than $120,000. Virtually the entire force enjoys six-figure annual incomes. In North Brunswick, about an hour down the Garden State Parkway, the median police salary is over $110,000. Francis “Mac” Womack, the Democratic mayor of North Brunswick since 2012, defends this seemingly excessive compensation on the grounds that, while he “can go to sleep at night if we cut a recreation program,” he can’t sleep if his township is “doing without public safety” (the mayor did not specify who, exactly, was advocating a policy of no public safety).

The people who work at or attend recreation programs in North Brunswick must have felt all warm and fuzzy after hearing that. One expects this kind of sentiment from a law-and-order Republican, but this is a Democratic mayor of a blue city, with a relatively low crime rate.

In Suffolk County, New York, where I live, the police unions just secured significant raises for all levels of officers, despite persistent fiscal deficits causing genuinely dangerous recent cuts to social spending. Compensation for Suffolk County cops, already astronomically high by both state and national standards, was apparently insufficient. Now, base pay for sergeants will exceed $160,000 by 2018; detectives will make well over $200,000. These public servants now find themselves in the top 2 percent of the income scale (no doubt this level of pay is necessary in order for them to effectively Protect and Serve™). There was virtually no serious resistance to these raises, which are indefensible on the merits, from either side of the local political class.


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The fact that influential conservatives are reliably silent about the issue of police salaries further illustrates how their austerity agenda is just a cover for ideological warfare. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has spent his entire tenure in office railing about teachers and their nefarious unions - accusing them of “19th century …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Photos from Today’s Inflation Seminar

April 11, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

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Inflation: Causes, Consequences, and Cure. A seminar for High School and College Students

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…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Ten Ways the Income Tax Harms Civil Liberties

April 11, 2014 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

The Internal Revenue Service scandal over the targeting of conservative groups has highlighted the agency’s power to obstruct our political freedoms. Filing taxes every April also drives home how the government reduces our freedom.

Chief Justice John Marshall famously observed in 1819 that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” That’s true of any tax, but the massive federal income tax harms civil liberties much more than is necessary to raise the needed funds.

Congress should pursue major tax reforms that not only unshackle the economy but also expand our civil liberties.”

Some members of Congress have been talking about tax reform. But their efforts so far have been accounting-driven exercises that simply tweak the monstrous code. Instead, Congress should pursue major tax reforms that not only unshackle the economy but also expand our civil liberties.

Here are 10 freedom-crushing aspects of the income tax that policymakers should tackle:

1. Complexity and Ambiguity. Certainty in the law is a bulwark against arbitrary and abusive government. But there is no certainty under the income tax because it has an inherently complex base that is shot full of loopholes. Many studies have found that citizens, tax professionals, and the IRS all commit a large number of errors on their tax calculations. Looking at these studies, Professor David Vance of Rutgers University recently concluded that “the tax code is so complex that it is unconstitutionally vague,” likely violating due process under the Fifth Amendment.

2. Huge Size and Instability. Citizens are required to know the laws and comply with them. Yet federal tax rules are massive in scope and constantly changing. Tax laws, regulations, and related rules span 74,608 pages, according to CCH Inc. The number of pages has more than tripled since President Jimmy Carter called the tax system “a disgrace to the human race.” CCH estimates that there have been almost 5,000 changes to the federal tax code over the last decade.

3. Vertical Inequality. Although equality under the law is a bedrock American principle, the income tax treats citizens very unequally. Vertical inequality means different tax burdens on citizens of different incomes. For example, households earning between $100,000 and $500,000 pay an average income tax rate two and a half times higher than those earning between $50,000 and $100,000. Such inequities violate the spirit of equal protection under the Constitution.

4. Horizontal Inequality. Even people with similar incomes are treated …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Three Things You Don't Know about Money in Politics

April 11, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Many are angry after the Supreme Court’s decision last week in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down the limit on how much someone can contribute in total to all candidates combined. In the current political climate, few things seem to inflame the passions like the ominous specter of “money in politics.” There are also few areas where people are more misinformed. Here are three truths about campaign spending that may calm some nerves.

Campaign spending increases voter knowledge.

Money in politics elicits ire, but rarely does that ire come with understanding.”

This may seem counter-intuitive, but imagine a world where contribution limits to candidates were set at $50, or even $100. It would take a long time to amass enough money to run just a single ad telling voters your name and ideals. Challenging an incumbent under those conditions would be nearly impossible. This is one reason why incumbents tend to like campaign finance laws.

Moreover, many studies have shown that ads increase voter knowledge, interest, and even turnout. One study concluded that “exposure to campaign advertising can produce citizens who are more interested in a given election, have more to say about the candidates, are more familiar with who is running, and are ultimately more likely to vote.”

Money doesn’t buy elections.

Money is important in elections, particularly when challenging an entrenched incumbent with name recognition and media presence. For a House candidate, the first $500,000 or so is absolutely crucial. After that, the returns diminish sharply, and each next dollar spent is worth less than the last.

However, dumping massive amounts of cash into an election certainly does not guarantee victory. Take former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who spent $144 million of her own money only to lose the California gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown. Or conservative donor Sheldon Adelson, who spent $42 million in 2012 backing nine candidates with only one of them winning. Or the Koch brothers, who spent $33.5 million on ads attacking Obama, and we know how that turned out.

True, the higher-spending candidate usually wins the election, but did he/she winbecause of the money? That’s a more difficult question. Donors like to back winners, and they will often give to candidates just because they think they will win. This is especially true when low contribution limits make it difficult for a single donor to make a big difference in the outcome. Rather than giving a small amount to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Science, Scientism and Economics: Machlup v. Rothbard

April 11, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Here’s an even-handed and brief summary and analysis of the recent debate over who has the superior interpretation of Mises: Rothbard or Machlup.

For background:

Joseph Salerno: Mises, Rothbard, and Machlup

David Gordon: Mises and the Diminished A Priori

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars

April 11, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

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Andrew Syrios writes in today’s Mises Daily:

After all, isn’t it true that the most hard-working and intelligent people tend more to go to college? This is not a nature vs. nurture argument, the factors behind these qualities are unrelated to the discussion at hand. If one grants, however, that the more ambitious and talented go to college in greater proportion than their peers, Mrs. Clinton could have just said “the most hard-working and intelligent earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more than their peers.” I think the presses need not be stopped.

For one thing, the Census Bureau estimate includes super-earners such as CEO’s which skew the average upward. Although some, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, didn’t graduate college, most did. This is why it’s better to use the median (the middle number in the data set) than the mean or average. It’s also why Hillary Clinton and other repeaters of this factoid don’t.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE