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The Improbable Prohibition Agents Who Outsmarted Speakeasy Owners

January 16, 2018 in History

By George Pendle

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Isadore Einstein, known as “Izzy” to his friends, was no one’s idea of a G-man. Short, fat with numerous chins and thinning hair, he was so rotund that the great crime writer, Herbert Asbury, described his belly as moving “majestically ahead like the breast of an overfed pouter pigeon.” With his thick round spectacles perched on his nose, Izzy had all the looks of your below-average Joe. But it was precisely this unprepossessing appearance that would make him, and his similarly schlubby friend, Moe Smith, the greatest federal agents of their age.

That age was Prohibition. It’s a period that nearly 100 years on still seems like a fantastical blip in America’s history. From 1919 to 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution declared it illegal to produce, transport or sell alcohol, the result of years of lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It had been thought the decree would instill a more peaceable character onto the nation. However those 14 years saw the United States at its loudest, most violent and perversely, most entertaining. It was Prohibition that made the era roar.

When Prohibition went into effect in January 1919, Izzy Einstein lived on New York’s Lower East Side, struggling to keep his wife and four sons fed on a postal clerk’s salary. Reading in the newspaper that the newly created Prohibition Unit was looking for agents, he went down to the local bureau and applied. As Izzy recounted in his wisecracking memoir, Prohibition Agent No. 1, the bureau chief looked him up and down and told him he “wasn’t the type.”

But Izzy was not easily dissuaded. He argued that looking like an everyman was exactly what was needed in this dry new world. Moreover, although he had no gumshoe experience, Izzy insisted he understood people. He had been a salesman and could mix with people and gain their confidence. The bureau chief bought the argument and Izzy was given a badge and thrust out onto the mean streets of New York to sop up the booze that poured through the city’s speakeasies.

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Izzy’s lack of detective training proved to be something of a boon on his first assignment. In order to get a search warrant agents needed proof that alcohol was being sold on the …read more


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A Powerful Economic Justice Movement Is Brewing, Even in This Dark Time

January 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Frances Moore Lappé, Adam Eichen, AlterNet

An American Democracy Movement is fighting brutal capitalism and the culture of blame.

In this tumultuous world, one thing seems certain: today’s dire threats to our democracy did not arise out of nowhere. Every culture thrives, or not, on whether its core narrative—the causation story we tell ourselves—enhances mutual gain or spurs division. And, the narrative driving today’s unfolding catastrophe feeds the latter.

It begins with a deep distrust of human nature.

Way back in 1651, philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan summed up our nature with the Latin proverb Homohominilupus, “Man is a wolf to his fellow man.” From this thought tradition, now reinforced through much of media and advertising, we absorb the notion that humans are essentially selfish, competitive, and materialistic. Yet, with this dim view of our nature, how can we possibly make society work? The dominant narrative has the answer: Just put self-interest to work.

So, by the end of the 1980s, the notion of a “free market” driven by calculated self-interest had risen to economic gospel. Influenced by 20th-century economists—led, for example, by F.A. Hayek and then Milton Friedman and his “Chicago School”—we’ve come to see the “free market” untethered from human meddling as an almost infallible law. It’s what Ronald Reagan called the “magic” of the “marketplace,” efficiently sorting out winners and losers for the benefit of all.

With help from a handful of billionaire families, this free-market ideology took hold. Since the 1970s, their funding has spread the idea of government-as-problem and market-as-solution through policy think tanks, the media, higher education, and far-right political organizing. The mindset steadily drove into private hands what had long been public goods—from the airwaves to schools to prisons—while simultaneously decimating government’s role in protecting public welfare.

Not surprisingly, trust in government has dropped to historic lows. Only one in five of us now feels such trust, down from roughly three-quarters in the late 50s.

Taking a step back, however, we can see that no market is “free.” While all markets have rules, ours has been increasingly whittled down to just one: Do …read more


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Report: Cash Bail System Hurts Poor and Communities of Color in L.A.

January 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Larry Buhl, Capital and Main

“Many people don’t even have $100 in the bank, so paying 10 percent to a bond agent means that money won’t be going toward rent or food.”

In advance of a legislative battle over reforming California’s cash bail system, a new report shines light on which Los Angeles communities pay the most bail and by how much. The Price for Freedom, published by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, analyzed arrest data from 2012 through 2016. The authors concluded that the money bail system takes a “multi-billion dollar toll that demands tens of millions of dollars annually in cash and assets from some of L.A.’s most economically vulnerable persons, families and communities.”

Using the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s misdemeanor and felony bail schedules, researchers discovered that bail set for more than 374,000 people arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department for misdemeanors and felonies over that five-year period was $19.4 billion.

Bail agents typically charge seven to 10 percent of the total bail; money going to bail bondsmen, whether upfront or through installments, is nonrefundable, even if defendants are found not guilty or have their charges dropped by the prosecutor.

The Bunche Center study also found that the cash bail system disproportionately affects lower income Angelenos and communities of color. During the period covered by the study, black Angelenos paid bond agents $40.7 million in non-refundable fees — 21 percent of total fees paid to bond agents in a population that represents only nine percent of the population. Latinos paid just over $92 million, and whites just under $38 million over the same period. Figures for Asian Americans were unavailable to researchers.

The Bunche Center study is the first comprehensive look into the size and impact of the bail system in the city of Los Angeles. Researchers plan to release a similar report for Los Angeles County in 2018, saying that the numbers they compiled should show lawmakers what’s at stake in the escalating debate over cash bail reform.

Comprehensive legislation to eliminate California’s bail systemfailed in the Legislature this year. Twin bills, Senate Bill …read more


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Liberty, Law and the Market Economy

January 16, 2018 in Economics

By Richard M. Ebeling

Lady Justice

By: Richard M. Ebeling

The history of liberty and prosperity is inseparable from the practice of free enterprise and respect for the rule of law. Both are products of the spirit of classical liberalism. But a correct understanding of free enterprise, the rule of law, and liberalism (rightly understood) is greatly lacking in the world today.

Historically, liberalism is the political philosophy of individual liberty. It proclaims and insists that the individual is to be free to think, speak, and write as he wishes; to believe and worship as he wishes; and to peacefully live his life as he wishes. Another way of saying this is to quote from Lord Acton’s definition: “By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and custom, and opinion.” For this reason, he declared that the securing of liberty “is the highest political end.”

Liberty as the Highest Political End to Serve Others

Lord Acton did not say that liberty is the highest end, but rather the highest political end. In the wider context of a man’s life, political and economic liberty is means to other ends. What ends? Those that give meaning and purpose to his sojourn on earth. Liberalism does not deny that there may be or is one ultimate Truth, or one moral “right,” or one correct conception of “the good” and “the beautiful.”

What liberalism has argued is that even the wisest and best men are mere mortals. They lack God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Mortal men look at and understand the world within the confines of their own imperfect knowledge, from the perspective of their own narrow corner of existence, and with extremely limited mental and physical powers compared to those possessed by the Almighty.

As a result, since no man may claim access to an understanding of man and his world equal to God’s, no man can claim a right to deny any other person the freedom to follow his conscience in finding answers to these profound and ultimate questions. They are so crucial to man’s very being as a spiritual and moral person that they must be removed from the arena of politics and political control. They must be left to the private and personal confines of each man and his conscience.

Political Control Means the Power of Force

The reason for this should be evident. Political control …read more


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19 Foods That Can Fight Sugar Cravings

January 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Helen West, RD, Authority Nutrition

Up to 97% of women and 68% of men report experiencing some sort of food craving, including cravings for sugar.

Sugar cravings are extremely common, especially among women.

In fact, up to 97% of women and 68% of men report experiencing some sort of food craving, including cravings for sugar (1).

Those experiencing a sugar craving feel a strong urge to eat something sweet and can find it difficult to control themselves around food.

This can lead to binge eating or over-consuming calories, sometimes on a regular basis (2).

Luckily, there are things you can do to take the edge off.

Here are 19 foods that can help you fight your sugar cravings.

1. Fruit

When most people feel sugar cravings, they reach for high-fat, high-sugar foods like chocolate (1).

However, swapping out the junk food for some fruit when you feel like something sugary could give you the sweet hit you need and stop your craving in its tracks.

Fruit is naturally sweet but also contains lots of beneficial plant compounds and fiber, allowing you to have your fix and keep it healthy (3).

To make sure it hits the spot, eat fruits that are slightly higher in sugar like mangoes or grapes.

If you’re also hungry, try adding some yogurt to your fruit to make it a more satisfying snack.

SUMMARY: Fruit contains sugar, along with lots of healthy nutrients and plant compounds.

2. Berries

Berries are an excellent, nutritious choice for stopping sugar cravings.

They taste sweet, but their high fiber content means they are actually quite low in sugar.

This could make them a great choice if you think your sugar cravings are linked to habit, rather than hunger. For example, you might crave sweet foods while you’re watching TV.

Additionally, berries are rich in plant compounds and have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

This means they may help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes (456).

SUMMARY: Berries taste sweet, but they are high in fiber and low in sugar. Regularly eating berries may also help reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

3. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is one …read more


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What Caused the Aztec Empire to Fall? Scientists Uncover New Clues

January 16, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Hernando Cortez, Spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico, making contact with native Mexicans. (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

In 1545, an unknown disease struck the Aztec Empire. Those who came down with it might become feverish, start vomiting, and develop blotches on their skin. Most horrific of all, they’d bleed from their eyes, mouth, and nose, then die within a few days.

Over the next five years, the disease—then called “cocoliztli,” or “pestilence”—killed between seven and 17 million people. Scientists and historians have long wondered what the source of this mysterious epidemic was. Now, a group of researchers may have found the answer: salmonella.

On January 15, 2017, the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution published a study of Salmonella enterica bacteria in the teeth of cocoliztli victims. Most Americans know salmonella as a foodborne illness that you can get if you eat, for example, raw eggs or chicken.

Though S. enterica was the only germ that researchers detected in the victims’ teeth, they do caution that other indetectable pathogens could have been involved, too.

“We cannot say with certainty that S. enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” Kirsten Bos, a molecular paleopathologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and co-author of the recent study, told The Guardian. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.”

Hernando Cortez, Spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico, making contact with native Mexicans. (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

European invaders brought many new and devastating illnesses to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s possible that Spanish invaders brought salmonella to the Aztecs in modern-day Mexico through domesticated animals.

The study doesn’t pinpoint the source of the bacteria, leaving open the possibility that it originated in the Americas. Yet even if the Spanish didn’t bring the bacteria, they likely still played a role in how it affected the Aztec people.

“We know that Europeans very much changed the landscape once they entered the new world,” Bos told NPR. “They introduced new livestock, [and] there was lots of social disruption among the indigenous population which would have increased their susceptibility to infectious disease.”

…read more


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Kamala Harris Blisters 'Racist' Kirstjen Nielsen in Fiery Senate Interrogation

January 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

The Department of Homeland Security chief looked visibly uncomfortable.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) sparred with Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over the president’s racist remarks — and the administration official’s apparent support for those views.

Nielsen said earlier Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the president was simply repeating an observation about hard-working Norwegian immigrants, but Harris said Trump was unfavorably comparing them to African and Haitian immigrants.

“You spoke of them, according to the president, as the people of Norway — well, you know, they work very hard — the inference being the people of the 54 states of Africa and Haiti do not,” Harris said. “That is a fair inference.”

She then blasted Nielsen’s claim under oath that she was not aware that Norway was a majority white nation.

“You run the Department of Homeland Security,” Harris continued, “and when you say you don’t know if Norway is predominantly white when asked by a member of the United States Senate, that causes me concern about your ability to understand the scope of your responsibilities and the impact of your words — much less the policies that you promulgate in that very important department.”

Harris asked Nielsen why she ignored domestic terrorist attacks by white supremacists in her opening remarks about security threats faced by the U.S. — and she said the omission was “deeply troubling.”

“You must understand the inference, the reasonable inference, that the American public is drawing from the words you speak much less the words of the president of the United States,” Harris said.

Nielsen later complained that Harris had unfairly drawn conclusions based on her testimony.

“If you don’t mind, it’s not a fair inference to say that my comments about Norway were in contrast to any other country,” Nielsen said. “What I was describing was the president’s views upon meeting with the prime minister, and what I was quoting was what he was told in meeting with the Norwegian delegation. That’s what he repeated, words that he repeated that I repeated. It was not in contrast. With respect to white supremacy, we expanded our prevention …read more


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The Deadliest Volcanic Eruption in History

January 16, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A view from the craters edge of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. (Credit: Adam Majendie/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted on Sumbawa, an island of modern-day Indonesia. Historians regard it as the volcano eruption with the deadliest known direct impact: roughly 100,000 people died in the immediate aftermath.

But far more died over the next several years, due to secondary effects that spread all over the globe, says Gillen D’Arcy Wood, author of Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World.

“What happened after Tambora is that there was three years of climate change,” he says. “The world got colder, and the weather systems changed completely for three years. And so you had widespread crop failure and starvation all from Asia to the United States to Europe.”

Volcanoes near the equator can cause global weather changes if their eruptions are powerful enough to release gases into the stratosphere. This gas gets trapped since it is too high to be washed away by rain, then travels along the equator and spreads out toward the poles. This decreases the amount of heat that passes through the stratosphere from the sun.

This doesn’t just affect whether you should put on a sweater or not; it has profound effects on the ecosystem you live in. With Tambora’s eruption, cooling temperatures led to decreased rainfall, failed crops, and mass starvation in many parts of the world.

It’s difficult to know how many people died because of starvation conditions, but “the death toll is probably about a million people, at least, in the years afterwards,” Wood says. “If you want to include the fact that Tambora unleashed a global pandemic of cholera … then the death toll goes into tens of millions.”

A view from the craters edge of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. (Credit: Adam Majendie/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cholera already existed before the eruption, but the colder temperatures caused by Tambora’s eruption led to the development of a new strain in the Bay of Bengal. Fewer people had immunity to this new strain of cholera, which then spread throughout the world.

Could there have been volcanoes long ago that caused more deaths than Tambora? Perhaps, but because we have no way of knowing, historians generally agree that Tambora caused the most immediate deaths.

For example, the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia in 1883 is more famous than Tambora because it was a “new media event” that spread around the world through telegrams and photography, Wood says. But this eruption was …read more


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Falling Prices Are a Good Thing

January 16, 2018 in Economics

By Frank Shostak


By: Frank Shostak

There is nothing wrong with declining prices. What signifies industrial market economy under a commodity money such as gold is that prices of goods follow a declining trend.

According to Joseph Salerno,

In fact, historically, the natural tendency in the industrial market economy under a commodity money such as gold has been for general prices to persistently decline as ongoing capital accumulation and advances in industrial techniques led to a continual expansion in the supplies of goods. Thus throughout the nineteenth century and up until the First World War, a mild deflationary trend prevailed in the industrialized nations as rapid growth in the supplies of goods outpaced the gradual growth in the money supply that occurred under the classical gold standard. For example, in the US from 1880 to 1896, the wholesale price level fell by about 30 percent, or by 1.75% per year, while real income rose by about 85 percent, or around 5 percent per year.1

In a free market the rising purchasing power of money, i.e. declining prices, is the mechanism that makes the great variety of goods produced accessible to many people. Obviously, in a free market economy it does not make much sense to be concerned about falling prices.

On this Murray Rothbard wrote,

Improved standards of living come to the public from the fruits of capital investment. Increased productivity tends to lower prices (and costs) and thereby distribute the fruits of free enterprise to all the public, raising the standard of living of all consumers. Forcible propping up of the price level prevents this spread of higher living standards.2

For most economic commentators a general fall in prices is always “bad news” for it generates expectations for further declines in prices and slows down people’s propensity to spend, which in turn undermines investment in plant and machinery. All this sets in motion an economic slump. As the slump further depresses the prices of goods, this intensifies the pace of economic decline. However, does it all make sense?

According to Salerno,

Thus, for example, a mainframe computer sold for $4.7 million in 1970, while today one can purchase a PC that is 20 times faster for …read more


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The Demise of the Jury Trial

January 16, 2018 in Economics

By Jay Schweikert

Jay Schweikert

Imagine you were on trial for your life, but your lawyer
insisted on telling the jury you were guilty.

That’s what happened to Robert McCoy after he was charged with a
triple homicide in Bossier City, La. When the Supreme Court hears
oral arguments in McCoy v. Louisiana on Wednesday, it
will decide whether McCoy deserves a new trial. But it will also
have a chance to vindicate the sanctity of the criminal jury trial

Criminal defense is deeply personal. The assistance of counsel
is invaluable, but it is defendants, not their lawyers, who get to
make fundamental decisions about their cases. The Supreme Court
summed this up in 1975 when
it held
that the Constitution “does not provide merely
that a defense shall be made for the accused; it grants to the
accused personally the right to make his defense.”

With that in mind, the events of McCoy’s case were
shocking. Despite the circumstantial evidence against him, McCoy
maintained innocence and demanded a jury trial, in which the state
would have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But
McCoy’s lawyer thought a better strategy would be to admit
guilt to the jury and hope for leniency. McCoy adamantly opposed
this idea, but his attorney pursued it anyway.

There’s no easy solution
to the problem of coercive plea bargaining, but the least we can do
is not discourage trials even more than we already have.

The plan didn’t work, and McCoy was sentenced to

Louisiana’s main argument for upholding McCoy’s
conviction is that his lawyer’s admission strategy was a
reasonable attempt to save his client’s life. It’s true
that in some capital cases, it may be tactically advantageous to
admit guilt to a jury, with the hope of avoiding the death penalty
at sentencing — just as it may sometimes be prudent to take a
guilty plea, instead of risking a harsher sentence at trial.

But the issue isn’t whether admitting guilt can be
reasonable, it’s whether the defendant gets to make that
decision for himself.

Respect for autonomy is especially important when a defendant
must decide how to weigh the risk of a capital sentence. His
decision may turn on beliefs about death and redemption,
relationships with friends and family, concern for his own
integrity, and inner knowledge of culpability. Some capital
defendants will choose to admit guilt, while others may risk
execution to defend their reputation and preserve any chance of
exoneration. Either way, a lawyer has no business overriding a
client’s informed decision on such momentous questions.

The denigration of McCoy’s autonomy is all the more dire
because the jury trial …read more

Source: OP-EDS