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How Doug Jones Brought KKK Church Bombers to Justice

December 13, 2017 in History

By Becky Little

Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963: Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14;  and Cynthia Wesley, 14. (Credit: AP Photo)

In a special election on December 12, 2017, Alabama chose Democrat Doug Jones over Republican and alleged sexual predator Roy Moore. Jones will now head to the U.S. Senate, bringing to a close an election that drew national and international attention—unusual for a state election, but even more so for Alabama.

Much of the media attention on Jones, the first Democrat elected in the state in a quarter century, focused on his role in prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members who had planted a bomb that killed four girls at a black church.

The terrorist attack occurred on September 15, 1963, when a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church was a known meeting place for Civil Rights organizers, and was targeted for that reason. The bomb injured at least 20 people and killed four young girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair.

Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963: Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14. (Credit: AP Photo)

According to Glenn D. Brasher, a history professor at the University of Alabama, the FBI determined that four KKK members had planted the bomb. FBI agents, then led by Director J. Edgar Hoover, knew the attackers’ names, and had even made secret recordings to prove it.

However, “the FBI under Hoover sealed those files away, because J. Edgar Hoover was not exactly a proponent of the civil rights movement,” Brasher says.

By doing this, Hoover ensured that a court could not use them as evidence to prosecute the attackers, making it more difficult to convict. For 14 years after the bombing, none of the men were prosecuted for their crime. The first one to be arrested (and convicted) was Robert Edward Chambliss in 1977—whose trial a young Doug Jones attended when he was in law school.

Chambliss “was prosecuted largely on circumstantial evidence,” Brasher says. “The prosecution didn’t have access to all of the information that the FBI had collected immediately after the attack in the ‘60s.” Nevertheless, the overwhelming circumstantial evidence let to a conviction.

Although Jones was only a boy himself when the bombing happened, the government didn’t release the FBI’s evidence against these men for …read more


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Do Graduate Degrees Produce Value?

December 13, 2017 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein


By: Peter G. Klein

One of the more contentious aspects of the tax reform bill currently going through Congress is a proposal to treat the value of graduate-student tuition waivers as taxable income. In the US most PhD programs charge tuition, like undergraduate programs, but PhD students are typically granted a waiver of tuition along with a modest stipend to cover living expenses. In the early versions of the tax bill, the value of this waiver — which could be $50,000 to $60,000 at a private university — would be classified as taxable income. University officials, graduate student associations, academics, and most journalists have condemned this aspect of the tax plan. As a university professor I have received multiple communications urging me to write my Congressional representatives, speak out publicly, and otherwise fight to defeat this legislation.

As of this writing, it appears the tuition-waiver piece will not be in the final bill, so university officials, the AAUP, the grad student unions, and other graduate-education supporters can rest easy. Maybe all that lobbying paid off.

While I don't support tax increases as a matter of principle, the arguments I heard for defeating the proposal were not very convincing. Most advocates for increased public funding of science, technology, graduate programs, and higher education more generally simply assert that their favorite projects are vital to the well-being of humanity. I saw multiple social media posts and similar items explaining that a PhD student on, say, a $20,000 annual stipend cannot possibly afford the taxes on the value of a $50,000 tuition waiver. “I would never have completed my degree!” say the professors. “I would have to drop out!” say current PhD students. OK, but how is that an argument against the tax bill?

Note that the US tax rules on gifts are complicated. Inheritances are obviously taxable, as are most tangible gifts. For example, if a person earning $20,000 goes on a TV game show and wins a car or a vacation worth $50,000, the prize value is considered taxable income, just like cash. If the winner complains, “But I can't afford the taxes,” many people would reply, “then you shouldn't have gone on the show!” Likewise, one might tell a PhD student, if you can't pay the taxes on your tuition waiver, and can't borrow against your future earnings to pay it, then maybe you should consider another career path. …read more


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From Direct Democracy to Centralization: the Swiss Health Care Experiment

December 13, 2017 in Economics

By Marc Fouradoulas


By: Marc Fouradoulas

The problem of health care

No part of the economy seems as convoluted as the health care sector. It comprises a vast array of services and procedures, and is usually embedded in a complex legal framework, influenced by powerful interest groups and state monopolies. Medical expertise, gained over years of education and training, seemingly invalidates consumer choice. The complexities of health disorders and its terminology further dis-empower the individual from understanding and autonomous decision making.

On the other side, strong emotions act as a driving force, too. The fear of suffering and inaccessible care leads to a demand for safety in the hands of experts who ideally act under a medical ethos. It is probably our deepest fear as humans to become ill and not receive care, to deteriorate, face job loss, or even social exclusion. And of course, in the face of suffering one does not want to be at the mercy of profit-driven experts. Finally, neoclassical economists utilized the arguments of market failure (information asymmetry, uncertainty of outcomes, the principal-agent problem, moral hazard etc.) to claim health care is unsuitable to markets. Demands for government controls soon followed.

A brief history of Swiss health care

And so it has also happened in Switzerland. By the end of the 19th century liability disputes over work related accidents triggered the call for mandatory insurance. The simultaneous introduction of health and accident insurance in its bigger neighbor Germany (under Chancellor Bismarck) in 1884 served as a role model for unions and corporative organizations. In 1914 a people’s referendum led to the introduction of mandatory accident insurance for certain industries. Further, health insurance companies were put under federal supervision and the country’s 26 cantons (or federated states) were given authority to subsidize and organize health care institutions. Apart from subsidizing, however, the government had little say in health care. In fact, 26 different health care systems emerged. Over the 20th century several referendums by social democrats were warded off by a traditional, but fading liberal mindset. The country’s government, the Federal Council, usually advocated individual responsibility and competition as hallmarks of this sector. Finally, in 1994, under the pressure of steadily rising costs and premiums, a slim majority of voters (51.8%) approved a new, more collectivist and interventionist law, leading to a typical “tragedy of the commons” by politically mutualizing most health care expenditures. This was the turning point in Swiss …read more


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"Hey California, Stop Telling Us What to Say at Work!"

December 13, 2017 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

Based on opposition to “crisis pregnancy centers”
— which provide pregnancy-related services with the goal of
helping women make choices other than abortion — the
California legislature passed a law that burdens the centers’
speech. Specifically, the new law requires licensed clinics
“whose primary purpose is providing family planning or
pregnancy-related services” to deliver to each of their
clients the following message: “California has public
programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to
comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved
methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible

The law has an exception for clinics that actually enroll
clients in these public programs, so it targets only businesses
that decline to participate in what is supposed to be a voluntary
state program.

Several crisis pregnancy centers sued to block the law, arguing
that it violates their First Amendment rights by forcing them to
express a message to which they are opposed. But the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected their challenge, holding that
the statute regulates only “professional speech” and
therefore should be reviewed under intermediate First Amendment
scrutiny, a relatively deferential standard.

California’s law burdens speakers’ consciences by forcing them to
promote programs that they morally oppose.

That lower level of scrutiny may well have been
outcome-determinative. The 9th Circuit didn’t reach the
factual question of whether California could have distributed this
message itself, but admitted that “even if it were true that
the state could disseminate this information through other means,
it need not prove that the Act is the least restrictive means
possible” in order to satisfy intermediate scrutiny. Yet
First Amendment restrictions are typically evaluated under the more
rigorous “strict scrutiny” standard of review, with
only certain narrow (and controversial) exceptions, such as for
“commercial” speech.

Accordingly, in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v.
, the Supreme Court will decide whether licensed
professionals can have their speech “commandeered” to
advertise services that the government wishes to promote. The
definition of professional speech that the lower court applied so
it wouldn’t have to hold California’s feet to the full
constitutional fire is dangerously overbroad and requires the
court’s correction.

No one disputes that the speech of licensed professionals can be
legitimately regulated in some circumstances. As relevant here,
regulation of patient-physician speech is justified by the notion
that when doctors speak to their patients, they assume a special
obligation to communicate their expertise fully and truthfully.
These regulations protect patients, who can’t be expected to
have the same specialized knowledge as their medical providers.
Medical doctors can be liable for malpractice if they fail to
convey a diagnosis to a patient, for example, or …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Progressive Push for More Gun Violence

December 13, 2017 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Who ever thought the progressive position on gun violence would
be to encourage more of it?

Yet that’s the paradox in Philadelphia, where on Thursday
the city council will consider a bill to force owners of hundreds
of small corner stores to take down glass partitions that protect
their managers and clerks from being robbed and assaulted.

It’s all being rationalized in the name of social justice.
Watch for the idea to show up in New York, too.

Philadelphia has hundreds of convenience stores known as
“stop and gos.” Some are licensed as restaurants, which
lets them sell beer and shots for consumption on premises, but
means they’re supposed to have 30 seats and serve food.
Critics say many skirt those rules, making most of their money from
beer, cigarettes and packaged snacks. They have drawn fire from
neighborhood-improvement commissions as magnets for petty sidewalk
offenses like loitering and the sale of “loosie”

Philadelphia is
considering a bill to force owners of hundreds of small corner
stores to take down glass partitions that protect their managers
and clerks from being robbed and assaulted.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who’s sponsoring the measure,
calls the establishments “quasi liquor stores” and says
they can stay in business as delis if they stop “masquerading
as restaurants” and operate under a different kind of
license. Otherwise they’ll need to offer customer bathrooms
accessible without walking through a food-preparation area and
— the sticking point — remove physical barriers between
food servers and customers.

Some insist enforcing existing state law would be enough to
shutter or fine the pretend restaurants and nuisance operators. But
on one point, Bass is implacable: “the plexiglass has to come

Here it becomes clear that zoning and liquor control
aren’t the only things on her mind.

“Have you ever been served food at a sit-down restaurant
establishment through a solid barrier? That is not
acceptable.” There’s an “indignity” to it,
she adds, and it happens “only in certain
neighborhoods.” Hence : “No more normalization of
receiving food or drink through a prison-like solitary confinement
window. What message does it send our children? What are we
conditioning them for?”

Well, it sends several messages.

One is a moral that echoes down through the ages: Human beings
threatened with violence have the right to protect themselves.

Another is that no matter how many of your neighbors may be
personally liked and trusted, it takes only a few bad actors for
you to live in a rough neighborhood. Acting as if it isn’t
— or that police will always arrive in time to stop an
assault — is playing pretend.

Predictably, some of the store managers say if their glass …read more

Source: OP-EDS