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Hate Doesn’t Pay: Anti-LGBTQ Policies Cost States Billions Every Year

January 10, 2018 in Blogs

By Christianna Silva, Newsweek

Discriminating against gay people is more than a social issue.



Discriminating against LGBT people is more than a social issue—according to research from The William Institute at the UCLA School of Law, it’s also an economic issue that costs states billions of dollars every year. The Daily Beast, citing research from The William Institute, shows that refusing to grant rights to the LGBT community costs states… Read the rest of this entry →

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How the Supreme Court Could Empower the GOP Election Hijacking Crew

January 10, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

“Caging” is legalized. Trump re-nominates GOP hit man for federal judge. The Court reviews massive Ohio purge.


January is shaping up to be a big month for Republican vote suppressors—and a bad month for anyone who believes American democracy benefits when more people vote.

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court in New Jersey reversed a 36-year-old court order barring the Republican National Committee from using a voter-ambush technique known as “caging,” which its insiders notoriously used to purge Democrats from voter rolls. GOP operatives would send postcards to voters in blue epicenters. Those returned as undeliverable would then be used by pro-GOP election officials to purge thousands of otherwise legal voters, ignoring a 1993 federal law laying out how to clean up voter rolls. When those citizens showed up to vote, they were told they could not vote; they had to re-register and wait until the next election.

Caging was not the most widely used anti-voter tactic in the GOP voter suppression toolkit. Partisan redistricting and stricter voter ID laws took wider aim at entire statewide populations. But caging has been used in red-run states to undermine voter turnout that could turn a state's political complexion purple or blue. One example was in North Carolina in 2016, when days before the presidential election U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs said a caging scheme run by a longtime North Carolina GOP ally was “insane” and ordered thousands of voters reinstated.

Trump Appoints Caging Operative Federal Judge

This week, one of North Carolina GOP’s top operatives, Thomas Farr, who was part of a notorious 1990 caging scheme targeting 100,000 black voters during Jesse Helms’ re-election effort, was re-nominated by President Trump for federal district court judge in the state. In December, Farr apparently lied about the episode to the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite testimony by ex-Justice Department lawyers who tracked him at that time.

Needless to say, putting a hyper-partisan known voter suppressor on the federal bench in a red-run state that would be purple if the GOP’s voting barriers were removed appalls civil rights groups.   

“A vote to confirm Thomas Farr …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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One Republican's Disastrous Plan Would Make Student Debt an Even Bigger Problem

January 10, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

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You won’t believe where he wants to get the money from.


Rep. Tom Garrett has a crazy new proposal intended to ease the student debt crisis, which appeared on Fox News shortly before the new year. His idea would allow young people to opt to have their student loans erased in exchange for foregoing Social Security payments until later on in life. In other words, he wants young people to sacrifice their future security for temporary relief from a financial burden they shouldn’t be subjected to in the first place. Personal finance experts and progressive activists agree that this plan could do more harm than good. Instead of helping young people jumpstart their future, it’s likely to jeopardize their stability later in life.

The point of Social Security is to provide older and disabled Americans with some financial stability so that they don’t have to work until the day they die. Social Security has kept millions of Americans out of poverty, and is estimated to have reduced the poverty rate among older people from 40 percent to under 10 percent. Economic forces can be wildly unpredictable, and nearly every reputable financial advisor recommends investing in the future for that reason. Even so, plenty of Americans make it to retirement without enough savings.

According to Social Security Works, “Sixty-one million depend on Social Security—more than 1 out of every 6 Americans; just over 3 in 5 seniors depend on Social Security for most of their income, and one-third of seniors rely on it for at virtually all (90% or more) of their income.” Revoking future security on behalf of current debt is like putting a band-aid on a bleeding wound.

As Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, told AlterNet, “Congressman Garrett’s bill …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Fight for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 10, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Martin Luther King Jr. standing with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place in April, 1968. (Credit: Charles Kelly/AP Photo)

On January 15, the entire nation pauses in remembrance of a civil rights hero. At least, that’s the point of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday that takes place on the third Monday of each January. MLK day was designed to honor the activist and minister assassinated in 1968, whose accomplishments have continued to inspire generations of Americans.

But though the holiday now graces the United States’ federal calendar and affects countless offices, schools, businesses, and other public and private spaces, it wasn’t always observed. The fight for a holiday in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s honor was an epic struggle in and of itself—and it continues to face resistance today in the form of competing holidays to leaders of the Confederacy.

King was the first modern private citizen to be honored with a federal holiday, and for many familiar with his non-violent leadership of the civil rights movement, it made sense to celebrate him. But for others, the suggestion that King—a black minister who was vilified during his life and gunned down when he was just 39 years old—deserved a holiday was nothing short of incendiary.

Martin Luther King Jr. standing with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place in April, 1968. (Credit: Charles Kelly/AP Photo)

The first push for a holiday honoring King took place just four days after his assassination. John Conyers, then a Democratic Congressman from Michigan, took to the floor of Congress to insist on a federal holiday in King’s honor. However, the request fell on deaf ears.

One of the few black people in Congress, Conyers had been an active member of the Civil Rights Movement for years. He had visited Selma, Alabama, in support of King and the 1965 Freedom Day, one of several mass voter registration events in which large numbers of African-Americans attempted to register to vote despite local defiance and armed intimidation.

When his first bill failed, Conyers was undaunted. “Conyers would persist year after year, Congress after Congress, in introducing the same bill again and again, gathering co-sponsors along the way, until his persistence finally paid off,” writes historian Don Wolfensberger.

<figure …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How Medieval Churches Used Witch Hunts to Gain More Followers

January 10, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The burning of a witch in Vienna, 1583. (Credit: Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)

The Salem witch trials of the 1690s have an iconic place in American lore. But before the Salem witch hunt, there was the “Great Hunt”: a larger, more prolonged European phenomenon between 1560 and 1630 that led to 80,000 accusations and 40,000 deaths.

Why’d it happen? Well, as with the Salem witch trials, there are a lot of theories. In the past, scholars have suggested that bad weather, decreased income, and weak government could have contributed to the witch trial period in Europe. But according to a new theory, these trials were a way for Catholic and Protestant churches to compete with each other for followers.

In a forthcoming Economic Journal article, economists Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ lay out their argument that the two churches advertised their finesse at persecuting witches as proof that they were the best church to join if you wanted protection from Satan. Witches, after all, were doing the bidding of Satan; so getting rid of them was a way to protect people from him.

“Similar to how contemporary Republican and Democrat candidates focus campaign activity in political battlegrounds … historical Catholic and Protestant officials focused witch-trial activity in confessional battlegrounds during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to attract the loyalty of undecided Christians,” Leeson and Russ write. These “battlegrounds” were places where Protestantism had made inroads, giving Christians a choice about which church they wanted to belong to.

To bolster their point, the authors point out that from about 900 to 1400, the church didn’t want to acknowledge the existence of witches; and consequently, it didn’t try people for witchcraft. In 1258, Pope Alexander IV even prohibited the prosecution of witchcraft. Yet a few centuries later, the church reversed its decision. According to the economists, it was because of the Protestant Reformation.

The burning of a witch in Vienna, 1583. (Credit: Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)

Beginning in 1517, the Reformation split the church into two factions: Catholic and Protestant. Suddenly, these two churches had to compete with each other for followers, and they did so by using the attention-grabbing witch trials as perverse advertisements for their brand.

Leeson and Russ argue that this helps explain why areas where Protestantism spread saw more witch trials than solidly Catholic regions. Germany, where Protestantism began, accounted for 40 percent of these persecutions. Switzerland, France, England, and the Netherlands—all countries where Protestantism spread—accounted for 35 percent. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Trump Keeps Telling the World 'I’m Smart'

January 10, 2018 in Blogs

By Peter Dreier, The American Prospect

The president's bravado masks a myriad of other problems.


Long before he started running for president, Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that he’s both brainy and well-educated. It is one of his most persistent lies.

He did it again on Saturday. In a series of tweets, Trump told the world not only how smart but also how mentally fit he is.

“Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Trump wrote:

Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!

Later in the day he told reporters that “I went to the best colleges, or college,” that he was a “very excellent student” and became “one of the top business people.”

Trump has frequently insisted that he’s smart. But now he’s also defending his mental stability, in response to growing public concerns that his mood swings and impulsiveness reflect psychological impairment. 

Since Trump has become increasingly panicked and unhinged over his fears that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his ties with Russia and his business dealings could end in humiliating impeachment and/or indictment, it may be that Trump’s only way to avoid prison will be to plead mental incompetence.

In the past, Trump’s insistence about his intelligence (he’s called himself a “genius” on more than one occasion) was aimed at his political opponents and the news media, who, he believed, unfairly raised doubts about his mental acuity. In Trump’s view, they were liberal critics who would do anything to discredit him.

But Saturday’s Twitter tantrum was sparked by Michael Wolff’s damaging book Fire and Fury, who reported that “100 percent” of Trump’s closest White House aides question his intelligence and fitness for office. According to Wolff, both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus derided Trump as an “idiot,” chief economic advisor Gary Cohn said that Trump was “dumb as …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Quest to Decipher the Rosetta Stone

January 10, 2018 in History

By Evan Andrews

Thomas Young. (Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)

In July 1799, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s military invasion of Egypt, a group of French soldiers accidentally made a groundbreaking archaeological discovery. While working to strengthen the defenses of a sunbaked fort near the Nile Delta town of Rosetta (modern-day Rashid), they knocked down a wall and unearthed a 44-inch-long, 30-inch-wide chunk of black granodiorite.

It wasn’t unusual for the French troops to stumble upon Egyptian relics, but this particular slab caught the attention of Pierre-Francois Bouchard, the engineer in charge. When, upon closer inspection, he noticed that it was covered in ancient text, he halted demolition and sent word to his superior officer. Experts would soon confirm that the stone contained writing in three different scripts: Greek, demotic, or everyday, Egyptian and hieroglyphics.

Almost immediately, Bonaparte remarked on the stone’s potential. “There appears no doubt that the column which bears the hieroglyphs contains the same inscription as the other two,” he said before the National Institute in Paris that autumn. “Thus, here is a means of acquiring certain information of this, until now, unintelligible language.”

While the French soldiers couldn’t have known it at the time, the “Rosetta Stone” they pulled from the rubble would trigger one of history’s great intellectual odysseys. The meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics had been lost since the dying days of the Roman Empire, but with its triple inscription, the stone offered scholars a chance to decipher the ancient symbols once and for all—making the find the key to this remarkable period in history. Yet it would take decades, and the work of two brilliant scholars, to unlock the stone’s secrets.

Soon after its discovery, the Rosetta Stone was already the subject on international intrigue when British forces seized it in 1801 after defeating the French in Egypt. By then, several casts and copies of its text had been made, allowing researchers across the globe to begin experimenting with potential translations. The first and easiest step, deciphering the Greek text, revealed that the Rosetta Stone contained a relatively mundane Egyptian decree praising the 2nd–century B.C. boy-king Ptolemy V Epiphanes. A rudimentary translation of the demotic text (a script rendering of the everyday Egyptian language) followed shortly thereafter. But when linguists tried to tackle the portions written in hieroglyphics, most were left scratching their heads.

Thomas Young. (Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)

A clear understanding of how the ancient script functioned would ultimately take 20 years …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Ask Huawei about The "Coming" U.S.-China Trade War

January 10, 2018 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

Speculation is rampant that President Trump will soon announce
sanctions against China for its heavy-handed intellectual property
and technology transfer policies, cavalierly thrusting us into a
deleterious trade war. Huawei Technologies has news for these
speculators: For over a decade, Washington and Beijing have been
waging a tit-for-tat technology trade war, which is escalating and
claiming victims as you read.

The latest hostilities occurred Monday when AT&T, poised to
deliver its long-gestating plan to sell smart phones produced by
Chinese technology giant Huawei, instead abruptly announced that it
was aborting that plan. If history is any guide, AT&T likely
was compelled to change course by U.S. policymakers with leverage
to affect the telecom’s fortunes.

China’s technology ambitions, which at times have been
promoted and advertised with brazen disregard for intellectual
property and the norms of international trade and investment, are
increasingly in the crosshairs of U.S. policymakers. Since at least
2006, Beijing has been promoting discriminatory indigenous
innovation policies, which accord preferential treatment to
companies that develop or register their intellectual property in
China. In 2009, the American Chamber of Commerce in China issued a
report that exposed “a web of industrial policies,” as
well as Chinese government plans to build national champions by
“borrowing” Western technology.

More recently, Beijing approved a $160 billion investment to
help close the technology gap between the domestic semiconductor
industry and the world’s cutting-edge firms. The government
also implemented two new laws—the National Security Law and
the Cybersecurity Law—which aim to tighten state control over
information by requiring data and technology used in certain
sectors of the economy to be “secure and controllable.”
U.S. companies are concerned that the Cybersecurity Law’s
vague objectives and ambiguous language grant too much discretion
to Chinese authorities, who could require firms to share source
code and other proprietary information to gain market entry. Forced
technology transfer has been a long-standing complaint of U.S.
companies.

Meanwhile, China’s “Made in China 2025”
initiative, which is Beijing’s roadmap for achieving
technological preeminence, has put U.S. policymakers on the
defensive, causing all Chinese acquisitions of U.S. (or other
foreign) technology companies to be viewed with suspicion. Just
last week, China’s ANT Financial’s bid to acquire U.S.
MoneyGram was rebuked by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the
United States (CFIUS), which has become an increasingly
insurmountable obstacle to technology acquisitions over the past
year.

What does this have to do with Huawei? Well, rather than attempt
to resolve these issues by bringing complaints to the World Trade
Organization, the United States chose to impose de facto bans on
Chinese technology firms and to make it more difficult for Chinese
companies to acquire U.S. technology. Over the years,
Huawei—one of the world’s most …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The GOP's Tax Reform Offers No Relief from the Inflation Tax

January 10, 2018 in Economics

By Brendan Brown

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By: Brendan Brown

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed into law on December 22, 2017 promises no relief from one big tax on income — the inflation tax. Quite the contrary, there are strong grounds to expect this burden to increase as new and unannounced methods of collection evolve further.

In recent years, the Fed’s commitment to the two-percent inflation standard, buttressed by radical experimentation in interest rate manipulation, has created a famine of interest income from which Uncle Sam has been a main gainer. Just look at the dwindling interest bill on government debt. As the Federal deficit to GDP ratio now climbs to a new peacetime record for the US economy in a late boom phase of its business cycle, this partly hidden and widely underestimated form of inflation tax alongside its older forms loom large as potential expedients to tackle crumbling public finances.

The omission of the inflation tax from the whole discussion about the Republican tax cuts may be due partly to the failure of the economic profession to update its analysis of this subject. Yes, it was a popular topic for study during episodes of high inflation in the past including the great hyperinflations of historical folklore. It has suffered some neglect since, even though monetary inflation remains prevalent. Official inflation rates reported over many years of “only or below” two-percent have proved to be a tonic to academic inquiry.

The monetary officials who administer today’s two-percent inflation regime deny that they are tax collection agents. They claim that the interest income famine stems from natural misfortune (dwindling investment opportunity, excess savings) and that two-percent inflation really isn’t that bad given the difficulties of measuring quality improvements. A powerful downward rhythm of prices attributable to globalization and digitalization has allowed them to pursue monetary inflation and levy inflation tax in the new form of interest rate manipulation — all while complaining that “inflation is too low” and winning friends enriched by asset price inflation.

A stellar effort by economists to unmask central bank tax collectors would be a real contribution to capitalism and freedom. They should start with a history of past collections and progress to the identification of new forms. When they arrive at the Republican tax cut, serious economists should reject any notion in the sales propaganda that the architects have succeeded in bringing manna from heaven.

Asset Inflation Leads to Higher Tax Collections

In …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Free State Kansas

January 10, 2018 in Economics

By Chris Calton

Historical Controversies Podcast: Season 2

By: Chris Calton

After the Pottawatomie Massacre, Kansas continued to bleed through the summer of 1856. But as the country reacted to the 1856 election and the Dred Scott decision, the territory turned in favor of the Free State settlers and Kansas looked positioned to enter the country as a free state.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE