You are browsing the archive for 2019 January 15.

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How Prohibition Fueled the Rise of the Ku Klux Klan

January 15, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

If you only read . “Prohibition became a way in which that could be enforced in local communities.”

The two major organizations that lobbied for national Prohibition—the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and men’s Anti-Saloon League—blamed Catholic immigrants in the 1910s for the “saloon culture” they felt was plaguing the nation. The League even argued that the U.S. needed to pass a national ban before its demographics changed too much.

READ MORE: ‘Ku Klux Kiddies’: The KKK’s Little-Known Youth Movement

“They believed that if they didn’t push for a constitutional prohibition before the 1920 census, and before congressional districts were reapportioned based on population increase, that they wouldn’t be able to get prohibition because there’d be too many acculturated new citizens who had been immigrants in the previous two decades who would prevent that,” Pegram says.

And indeed, the U.S. did pass it before then. The states ratified the 18th Amendment on January 16th, 1919, and it took effect in 1920. During that decade, the criminal justice system expanded as police disproportionately arrested people who were immigrants, black, poor and working-class. But there were also plenty of Prohibition-supporting white Protestants who thought the law wasn’t doing enough to stop the bootleggers they read about in the tabloids.

That’s where the KKK stepped in. It sold itself to those people as a law enforcement organization that could do what the government couldn’t—put a stop to the Catholic immigrants supposedly violating the law.

Nelson Burroughs, a Bishop, was kidnapped by the KKK in 1924 and help captive for 17 days where he was branded on his chest and forehead while the kidnappers attempted to force Burroughs to renounce the Catholic Church.

“The reason that the Klan was able to basically bring millions of Protestant white evangelical Americans to its ranks in the 1920s is definitely related to the passage of Prohibition and the 18th Amendment,” says Lisa McGirr, a history professor at Harvard University and author of The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.

“Prohibition provided the Klan essentially a kind of new mandate for its anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, white Protestant nationalist mission,” says says. “The Klan often gained a foothold in local communities in the 1920s by arguing that it would clean up communities, it would get rid of bootleggers and moonshiners.”

READ MORE: How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

The Klan began raiding Catholic immigrants’ …read more


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How a Luckily Timed Bathroom Break Saved LBJ's Life During WWII

January 15, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The future president’s break would not only help save his life, but also lead to his earning a Silver Star.

If not for Naval Reserve officer Lyndon Johnson’s sudden need to relieve himself before a bomber flight during World War II, he might never have taken over the Oval Office after John F. Kennedy’s death, and there might never have been a Great Society program, Medicare or an escalation of the Vietnam War. That’s because the future president’s bladder caused him to lose his observer’s seat on the Wabash Cannonball, a B-26 that was shot down by Japanese forces in New Guinea, and to avoid dying with the rest of the crew.

That perverse twist of fate wasn’t Johnson’s only brush with death on that fateful day in June 1942. He ended up joining the crew of another bomber, the Heckling Hare, that was crippled in the middle of the mission by a failed electrical generator, and then had to struggle back to base under withering enemy fire.

Instead of killing him, Johnson’s harrowing experiences that day actually boosted his political fortunes, giving him cachet as a candidate who’d seen combat—if only briefly—and done his duty in the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur controversially awarded Johnson a Silver Star for his experience.

“Johnson was a member of the greatest generation, and it became incredibly important at all levels of politics to account for what you did during World War II,” explains Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. “Fifteen million men were in uniform by the end of World War II, from 18-year-olds to men in their forties. It was hard for a red-blooded American male to say that he didn’t have a military record.”

LBJ Vowed to Enlist

Johnson, at the time a Democratic Congress member from Texas, desperately didn’t want to be one of those men. Back in 1940, he had joined the Naval Reserve, using his connections to obtain a lieutenant commander commission. During an unsuccessful run for the Senate in the fall of 1941, Johnson—an interventionist like President Franklin Roosevelt—promised voters that if the U.S. entered World War II, he would leave his seat and go on active duty. The day after Pearl Harbor, at age 33, he volunteered for active duty.

U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson, …read more


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MLK Was Nearly Stabbed to Death a Decade Before His Assassination

January 15, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

A small crowd gathered around Martin Luther King, Jr. in the shoe section of a Harlem department store on September 20, 1958. They had come to meet the 29-year-old preacher who sat in a roped-off section of Blumstein’s Department Store autographing copies of Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir about the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The Civil Rights leader was signing a book when a 42-year-old African-American woman wearing sequined cat’s eye glasses and a stylish suit slipped past the 20 people in line and approached him. “Are you Martin Luther King?” she asked with a Southern drawl.

“Yes,” replied King.

Without warning, the woman leaned over the desk and plunged a seven-inch penknife into King’s chest with such force that it snapped the handle. Bystanders restrained the woman, Izola Ware Curry, until she could be arrested. “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!” she shouted.

A letter opener protruding from his chest, Martin Luther King, Jr. is shown having another wound treated at W. 123rd St. police station in Harlem after being stabbed at a book signing in 1958.

Amid the chaos and screaming, King remained conscious and calm as a blood stain spread on his white cotton shirt. “That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” he counseled frantic supporters who debated whether to pull out the penknife. Luckily, no one did because it might have proved fatal as the steel tip of the blade rested a fraction of an inch away from King’s aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of his body.

With the knife still lodged in his sternum, King was carried in his chair to an ambulance and rushed to Harlem Hospital. There he received a shock when he again came face-to-face with his attacker, who had been brought there by the police for identification.

It quickly became clear that Curry, a Georgia-born sharecropper’s daughter who had been concealing a loaded pistol in her bra, was mentally ill. During her police interrogation, Curry gave incoherent and conflicting statements and referred to the preacher as either “Arthur King” or “Arthur Luther.” Curry blamed King and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which she accused of conspiring with communists, for placing her under constant surveillance and conspiring to prevent her from holding a steady job.

For …read more


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The Trade Deficit with China Hit a New Record, and That's OK

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

In President Trump’s reckoning, international trade is a
zero-sum game with distinct winners and losers. Exports are Team
America’s points. Imports are the foreign team’s points. The trade
account is the scoreboard, and the deficit on that scoreboard
proves that the home team is losing at trade. Accordingly, the
president considers blocking imports and promoting exports to be
integral to effective trade policymaking.

In 2018, Trump put that theory to the test. For a variety of
reasons, including a desire to reduce the trade deficit, Trump
imposed tariffs on $250 billion of imports from China.

According to the latest official Chinese data, the result was a
record-high bilateral U.S. trade deficit of $323 billion. Oops.
What happened?

The trade deficit is not
a function of trade policy, which is okay because neither is the
U.S. trade deficit a problem to fix. It’s just a benign

First, despite the existence of broadly applied tariffs, the
value of U.S. imports from China still increased by 11.3 percent in
2018. Although one would expect tariffs to raise U.S. prices and
induce consumers, businesses, and the public sector to purchase
less from China, a confluence of factors were at work mitigating
the impact.

For example, the strong U.S. economy, which was occasioned by
meaningful wage growth in 2018, probably offset some of the price
effects of the tariffs. With rising incomes, we can afford higher

Meanwhile, for many U.S. producers whose supply chains run
through China, the short-term costs of finding new sources in other
countries or repatriating production to the United States were
probably too high in most cases to cause a large shift in 2018
consumption patterns. In other words, enduring the tariffs may cost
less than the investments needed to avert them.

Another factor to consider is that a slowing economy in China,
marked by declining domestic prices and a weakening Chinese
currency, may be pushing Chinese export (pre-tariff) prices down,
blunting further the dissuasive effects of Trump’s tariffs. Of
course, the sluggish Chinese economy also helps explain another
major contributor to the rising trade deficit: stagnant U.S.

While U.S. imports from China rose 11.3 percent, U.S. exports to
China, which were subject to comparable, retaliatory Chinese
tariffs, registered a mere 0.7 percent increase. When economies
grow, demand for domestic and imported goods and services tends to
rise. When economies contract, or when growth slows, demand for
both tends to subside. Beyond the slowing Chinese economy, there
are a variety of other explanations for stagnant U.S. export

Among the major U.S. commercial targets of China’s retaliatory
tariffs are industries in the agriculture and energy sectors.
Products such as soya, rice, wheat, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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For an Increasing Number, Soaking the Rich Is Just the Right Thing to Do

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

One motivating factor in my moving to the US was to avoid the
consequences of a class-war fuelled, economically damaging, Jeremy
Corbyn tax agenda. Well, politics is surprising sometimes. The
state of debate in the US this week has left me wondering whether,
on that front, I’d have been better sticking around.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshly elected Democrat
congresswoman from New York, kicked off the political week by
proposing a new income tax rate as high as “60pc to
70pc”. Few of us have any prospect of surpassing the $10m
(£7.8m) threshold she proposes for when it would kick in. But the
response to such a punitive rate, in this supposed land of radical
free enterprise, was muted indifference.

Several top economic commentators, including New York Times
columnist Paul Krugman, emphasised that such high tax rates were
common in the Fifties, when the US grew robustly. He reminded us
too that a group of top economists, including Nobel Prize winner
Peter Diamond, actively recommend 70pc-plus marginal tax rates on
high earners.

Conservative responses, meanwhile, were defensive. Their main
retort centred on how high rates wouldn’t effectively raise
revenue. Few objected in principle to the government taking so much
from anyone’s additional income. Even fewer worried about how
reducing the payoff to entrepreneurship could adversely affect
growth prospects. The respectful tone of disagreement made the
vitriolic debate we saw here over the 50p tax rate all seem rather

In truth, the argument from Krugman that reintroducing 70pc tax
rates in America is not radical entails a major bait-and-switch.
Yes, the US did have very high tax rates on top earners in the
Fifties and early Sixties… in theory. As Phil Magness at the
American Institute for Economic Research has shown, in 1963
official marginal rates exceeded 50pc for those earning $130,000 in
today’s money, rising to 92pc on top earners. But the effective
rates actually paid were substantially lower. A complex system of
deductions, loopholes and workarounds (such as use of
employment-related benefits) lowered people’s actual

Yet the result from economists such as Diamond that 70pc-plus
marginal rates today are optimal presumes that governments can
fully negate such avoidance. Without this assumption, the
“optimal” rate is much lower, and far lower than the
Fifties. These models are also based on a whole host of
questionable economic and philosophical assumptions, including the
idea that governments shouldn’t care about the welfare of the rich
and that the rich will not really respond in their work and savings
decisions. Breach one, or both, of these assumptions and the
supposed “optimal” tax rate falls substantially

The key insight of this literature is actually that, absent
eliminating the ability to “tax …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Failure to Adjust

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Scott Lincicome

Scott Lincicome

A debate has erupted, particularly on the right, in response to
a recent Tucker Carlson monologue on how “Washington
elite” policy choices, in particular international trade
liberalization, have systematically (and perhaps nefariously)
harmed members of America’s working class, dooming them to
lives of drugs, isolation and despair. If this view were assigned
to Carlson and his supporters alone, a few tweets in response would
suffice. It has not, however, remained on Fox News, instead being
promulgated and praised, though refined, by more thoughtful
commentators and analysts. Among those is the University of
Virginia’s Brad Wilcox and the Niskanen Center’s Sam
Hammond in a new essay in The Atlantic called
“What Tucker Carlson Gets Right.”

I tend to agree with this essay’s larger points, having
myself written about the serious, and relatively new,
problems that Americans face when forced to adjust to severe
disruptions, whether they come from trade, technology, culture or
anything else—problems caused or exacerbated by bad
government policies in desperate need of reform. On the specific
issue of trade policy, however, I fear Wilcox and Hammond go far
off course when they target the “elite policy choice”
of liberalized U.S. trade with China for particular scorn. While
Chinese import competition worked out great for America’s
wealthy, they argue, it was a disaster for the working class:

The work of the MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues, in
particular, indicates that dramatic and sudden increases in global
trade with China starting around 2000 affected both men’s
earnings and their marriageability. In their words, “Trade
shocks to manufacturing industries have particularly negative
impacts on the labor market prospects of men and degrade their
marriage-market value along multiple dimensions: diminishing their
relative earnings—particularly at the lower segment of the
distribution—reducing their physical availability in
trade-impacted labor markets, and increasing their participation in
risky and damaging behaviors.” They add that “adverse
shocks to the supply of ‘marriageable’ men reduce the
prevalence of marriage … but raise the fraction of children born
to young and unwed mothers and living in poor single-parent

These intertwined problems, then, were not the fault of a
spontaneous decline in personal virtue. They were the fault
of Washington elites who pursued a naive path of normalized trade
with China that, in a matter of years, gutted millions of
moderately educated workers of their decent-paying jobs, and
without support in the way of adjustment assistance or wage
insurance. Our elites had too much faith in a laissez-faire
ideology that sees labor markets as automatically self-correcting
but, in fact, exacted a terrible toll on scores of working-class
families across the United States
. (emphasis mine)

The “policy choice” here, which I subsequently
confirmed with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why the Great Molasses Flood Was So Deadly

January 15, 2019 in History

By Emily Sohn

When a steel tank full of molasses ruptured in 1919, physics and neglect contributed to make the accident so horrific.

It was like a perfect—if bizarre, terrifying and very sticky—storm.

Around lunchtime on the afternoon of January 15, 1919, a giant tank of molasses burst open in Boston’s North End. More than two million gallons of thick liquid poured out like a tsunami wave, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. The molasses flooded streets, crushed buildings and trapped horses in an event that ultimately killed 21 people and injured 150 more. The smell of molasses lingered for decades.

One hundred years later, analyses have pinpointed a handful of factors that combined to make the disaster so disastrous. Among them: flawed steel, safety oversights, fluctuating air temperatures and the principles of fluid dynamics.

Results were devastating.

“First you kind of laugh at it, then you read about it, and it was just horrible,” says Mark Rossow, a civil engineer and professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, who has written about the molasses flood.

Smashed vehicles and debris sitting in a puddle of molasses on Commercial Street on January 16, 1919, the day after a giant tank in Boston’s North End collapsed, sending a wave of more than two million gallons of molasses. The tank was 58 feet high and 98 feet in diameter. It was used to store molasses which eventually was shipped to a distillery in Cambridge.

View the 5 images of this gallery on the original article

READ MORE: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

In the immediate aftermath, news coverage included speculation about fermentation that produced too much pressure inside the tank. Some blamed anarchists for setting off a bomb. “Explosion Theory Favored by Expert,” reported the Boston Evening Globe. The trial that ensued lasted for years and gathered input from thousands of expert witnesses, producing 20,000 pages of conflicting testimony.

Ultimately, U.S. Industrial Alcohol, the company that owned the tank, was found liable, even as many questions remained about what had actually happened.

Steel Tank Structure Was Flawed

More recent investigations suggest several fundamental problems with the structure of the tank. Designed to hold 2.5 million gallons of liquid, it measured 50 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter. But its steel walls, which ranged from 0.67 inches at the bottom to 0.31 inches at the top, were too thin to support the weight of …read more


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Molasses floods Boston streets

January 15, 2019 in History

By Editors

Fiery hot molasses floods the streets of Boston on this day in 1919, killing 21 people and injuring scores of others. The molasses burst from a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building in the heart of the city.

The United States Industrial Alcohol building was located on Commercial Street near North End Park in Boston. It was close to lunch time on January 15 and Boston was experiencing some unseasonably warm weather as workers were loading freight-train cars within the large building. Next to the workers was a 58-foot-high tank filled with 2.5 million gallons of crude molasses.

Suddenly, the bolts holding the bottom of the tank exploded, shooting out like bullets, and the hot molasses rushed out. An eight-foot-high wave of molasses swept away the freight cars and caved in the building’s doors and windows. The few workers in the building’s cellar had no chance as the liquid poured down and overwhelmed them.

The huge quantity of molasses then flowed into the street outside. It literally knocked over the local firehouse and then pushed over the support beams for the elevated train line. The hot and sticky substance then drowned and burned five workers at the Public Works Department. In all, 21 people and dozens of horses were killed in the flood. It took weeks to clean the molasses from the streets of Boston.

This disaster also produced an epic court battle, as more than 100 lawsuits were filed against the United States Industrial Alcohol Company. After a six-investigation that involved 3,000 witnesses and 45,000 pages of testimony, a special auditor finally determined that the company was at fault because the tank used had not been strong enough to hold the molasses. Nearly $1 million was paid in settlement of the claims.

…read more


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Eager for a House Price Fall? It's Time for a Lesson in Economics

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The British public, a host of commentators on Twitter, and even
some economists seem to think so.

A recent YouGov poll asked Britons whether a 30 per cent fall in
property values after Brexit would be a “bad thing”.
Just 32 per cent of Leavers and 46 per cent of Remainers agreed
that it would be an economic negative.

The majority view here is embodied by former member of the
Monetary Policy Committee, Andrew Sentance.

When Nationwide’s December house price data signalled that
price growth had been the slowest in six years, he tweeted
“contrary to public perception, this is good news. Slower
house price increases help improve affordability ratios, allowing
more first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder.”

What matters is not
whether prices are rising or falling, but whether the cause of that
change makes us better or worse off.

He is not alone. Referring to the recent YouGov survey, one
Brexit expert agreed that “if one claims to want a better
future for our youngsters, one might actually want prices to

This is an increasingly popular sentiment from those worried
about home ownership rates and intergenerational inequity.

And yet, as standalone statements, these views are incredibly

That’s not to say that falling prices are necessarily bad
- but nor are they automatically beneficial.

Back in your first economics class, you are taught that prices
are determined by the interaction of supply and demand. So to
understand whether falling house prices are positive or negative,
we need to know the reason for the change.

Given the problem of housing affordability, it would obviously
be great news if building rates had significantly increased owing
to the release of more land for development. This would boost the
supply of new homes, driving down prices. That would improve
affordability, and be highly likely increase home ownership

But that’s not what the Bank of England had in mind when
modelling what might happen following Brexit. The work about house
prices falling by 35 per cent was not a forecast, but a supposed
“worst-case scenario” if the whole financial system in
the UK gummed up in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

You do not have to believe that such a scenario is likely or
even possible to acknowledge that the hypothetical collapse of
financial confidence is unlikely to have positive results.

In fact, a doomsday financial sector shock would shrink real
incomes. Far from being more accessible, house prices would be
falling precisely because large numbers of people found them even
less affordable than before, leading to a drop in demand.

Worse, the low prices caused by restricted demand would provide
little …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Russia Sure Behaves Strangely for a Country Bent on Conquest

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

It is commonplace for Americans to portray Russia as a dangerous
country with nearly unlimited territorial ambitions. But the facts
simply do not support such an alarmist view. Instead,
Russia’s behavior is more consistent with that of a
beleaguered regional power trying to fend off hostile intrusions
from an American-led NATO.

The self-serving myth of a malignantly aggressive Russia,
however, continues to grow—with potentially dangerous
consequences for European and global peace.

Assertions that Moscow’s behavior pose a serious, even an
existential, threat to Europe and the entire democratic West
surfaced even before Donald Trump became president. They flared up
in 2008 when fighting erupted between Russia and neighboring
Georgia—even though the latter country had initiated the aggression. Senator John McCain
asserted that “it’s very clear that
Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian Empire.”

Its conduct has been
abrasive and aggressive, but there’s no evidence that Moscow
harbors expansionist ambitions.

Such allegations became more pervasive when Moscow annexed
Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 following the
Western-assisted Maidan revolution that overthrew Ukraine’s
elected, pro-Russian government. Ultra-hawkish writer and media
talking head Ralph Peters asserted that Putin had a detailed plan for reclaiming the Russian
empire. “Make no mistake,” Peters warned, “Putin
truly believes he’s entitled to reclaim Ukraine and a great
deal more. In his view, independent capitals from Warsaw (yes,
Warsaw) to Bishkek [the Kyrgyz Republic’s capital] are
integral and natural parts of the Russian imperium. He regards them
as property stolen from its rightful owner: Moscow.” Hillary
Clinton’s rhetoric was even more apocalyptic: Putin’s actions, she
contended, were “what Germany did back in the

Such hyperbole has continued and even increased over the past
five years on both sides of the Atlantic. In a March 2017
interview, Dalia Grybauskaitė, president of Lithuania, stated bluntly: “Russia is a threat not
only to Lithuania but to the whole region and to all of
Europe.” Poland’s foreign minister, Witold
Waszczykowski, was equally alarmist, insisting that Russia’s behavior posed an
“existential threat” even greater than ISIS.

Russia’s conduct has been abrasive and aggressive at
times, but there is no evidence that Moscow harbors expansionist
ambitions remotely comparable to those of Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union. Indeed, the Kremlin’s actions suggest a much
more limited, perhaps even defensive, agenda. As professors Andrei
Shleifer and Daniel Treisman observed in Foreign Affairs, “To
many in the West, Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia seemed to
prove the Kremlin’s land hunger.” But such a conclusion
reflects poor logic: “Kremlin leaders bent on expansion would
surely have ordered troops all the way to Tbilisi to …read more

Source: OP-EDS