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The Deadliest Tornado in U.S. History Blindsided the Midwest in 1925

April 5, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Overturned trains. Timber found miles away from where it had been stored. Trees felled. Fires and close calls. A letter that flew almost 100 miles. On a normal day in the Midwest in 1925, any one of these stories would have been worthy of front-page coverage. But March 18, 1925 was a day like no other the region had ever seen.

That day, a huge outbreak of tornadoes marched across a swath of the Midwest and Southeast. The largest of them all—the deadliest tornado in United States history—laid waste to parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Now known as the Tri-State Tornado, it turned March 18 into a day of gruesome destruction and bizarre survival stories.

It was a rare incident of the most dangerous and destructive type of tornado, and packed newspapers throughout the nation with tales of how nature’s terrifying wrath had uprooted life in sleepy towns with names like Biehle, Murphysboro, and Poseyville—in a time when meteorologists were forbidden from forecasting tornados or even using the word “tornado.”

Sisters Minnie and Rose Hawkins sit amongst the wreckage of their home in Murphysboro, Illinois, in the wake of the 1925 tri-state tornado.

The ban on the word had been in effect since the 1880s, when weather forecasters first began developing methods of predicting tornadoes. At the time, forecasting was in its infancy, and officials worried that meteorologists could not provide adequate forecasts of how a tornado might behave. They also underestimated the public, writes weather historian Marlene Bradford, and felt that telephone operators might panic if they were required to relay news of upcoming storms. “Meteorologists appeared to have reached a consensus that forecasting tornadoes would do more harm than good,” Bradford writes, and the Weather Bureau had an outright ban on the word until 1950.

READ MORE: How the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 Became the Deadliest U.S. Natural Disaster

Nonetheless, such storms were common in the Midwest and on the Great Plains, where thunderstorms and temperature instability feed tornadoes. But though people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were used to storms and tornadoes, they had never seen anything like the storm that developed the afternoon of March 18, 1925.

A small tornado that touched down near Ellington, Missouri …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Mobster Al Capone Ran a Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

April 5, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

America’s most notorious gangster sponsored the charity that served up three hot meals a day to thousands of people in need—no questions asked.

Chicago shivered through a particularly bleak November in 1930. As the U.S. economy plummeted into the Great Depression, thousands of the Windy City’s jobless huddled three times a day in a long line snaking away from a newly opened soup kitchen. With cold hands stuffed into overcoat pockets as empty as their stomachs, the needy shuffled toward the big banner that declared “Free Soup Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.”

The kind-hearted philanthropist who had come to their aid was none other than “Public Enemy Number One,” Al Capone.

Capone certainly made for an unlikely humanitarian. Chicago’s most notorious gangster had built his multi-million-dollar bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operation upon a foundation of extortion, bribes and murders that culminated with the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which he ordered the assassination of seven rivals.

How Prohibition Created the Mafia (TV-PG; 3:50)

READ MORE: See the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 in Color

Many Chicagoans, however, had more pressing concerns than organized crime in the year following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Long lines on American sidewalks had become all-too familiar sights as jittery investors made runs on banks and the unemployed waited for free meals.

In early November 1930, more than 75,000 jobless Chicagoans lined up to register their names. Nearly a third required immediate relief. “The Madison Street hobo type was conspicuously absent from these lines of men,” reported the Chicago Tribune, which noted that many of the unemployed were well-dressed.

A week later the Chicago Tribune reported the surprising news that the mysterious benefactor who had recently rented out a storefront and opened a soup kitchen at 935 South State Street was none other than the city’s king of booze, beer and vice. Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch and dinner to an average of 2,200 Chicagoans every day.

“He couldn’t stand it to see those poor devils starving, and nobody else seemed to be doing much, so the big boy decided to do it himself,” a Capone associate told a Chicago newspaper. Inside the soup kitchen, smiling women in white aprons served up coffee and sweet rolls for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch and soup, coffee and bread for dinner. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Are Supposed "Progressives" so Unable to Foresee Economic Change?

April 5, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

If politicians were companies, they’d regularly fall foul
of the old Trade Descriptions Act (or whatever the EU directive is
called that has presumably superseded it).

Back in 2004, before he was Conservative leader, David Cameron
claimed the public wanted “Ronseal politics.” He was
referring to the advert from the wood-staining company that
declared its product “does exactly what it says on the
tin.”

Progress towards that authenticity goal in political labelling
has been difficult. The Liberal Democrats regularly appear neither
liberal (on economics) nor democratic (on Brexit). Labour party
policy for years seemed more interested in those who didn’t
work than labourers. For better or worse, the Conservative Party
are hardly “conservative” on a range of social and
economic issues either. Now, the past two weeks have shown
defectors from the blues and reds want in on the misleading name
game.

After announcing his resignation from the Conservatives,
Grantham MP Nick Boles declared he would sit as an
“Independent Progressive Conservative.” Progressive, in
common parlance, refers to the “holding or implementing of
new, liberal ideas.” The 11 artists formerly known as
“The Independent Group” – comprising ex-Conservative
and ex-Labour Remainers-in-chief – also have a new moniker. Their
registered party is called Change UK (CUK).

The irony is that on Brexit both Boles and CUK oppose the new
and resist change. In Boles’s case, this manifests in pushing
“Common Market 2.0”, a plan that would see the UK
remain in the single market or customs union upon EU departure. For
CUK, leaving the EU in any shape or form is beyond the pale.
Neither can envisage Britain succeeding using repatriated powers
over tariffs, trade deals, employment laws, environmental
regulation or much else. Implicitly, it’s as if they consider
Britain within the EU as the absolute pinnacle of economic
dynamism.

This is yet another example of what I call the
“progressive economic paradox”. Politicians who fly
under the “progressive” banner are often the groups
least able to envisage an economic future dramatically different
from the present. On economic policy at least, that makes them
often the true conservatives. As a result, the policies they pursue
usually amount to a form of dreary managerialism: moving resources
or regulating perceived problems as if the economy were in static
equilibrium, rather than a dynamic, evolving social system.

Hence, they seek to shoehorn new ventures into existing
regulatory structures, obsess about the distribution of income
rather than its creation, talk up the “threats” to
industries of disruption from abroad or from machines, and worry
incessantly about entrenched dominance in markets where successful
firms have cannibalised rivals. Even their supposed
“novel” ideas, from raising minimum wages further to
taxes on wealth, “clamping down” on tech firms …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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No, Walmart Is Not Evidence That Centrally-Planned Economies Work

April 5, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

It’s fair to say the modern left has schizophrenic views
about Walmart.

Back in 2005, the left-leaning economist and future head of
President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman
wrote a paean to the company. He argued that the big-box chain
supermarket was a “progressive success story,” due to
its role in driving down retail food prices for poor consumers. In
a new Jacobin book, People’s Republic of Walmart,
neo-socialists Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworksi ferociously
disagree, calling Walmart an “execrable, sinister, low-down
dirty villain of a company.”

Believe it or not though, their new book is predicated on
admiration for the company which, if it were a country, would be
roughly the size of Switzerland or Sweden. For Phillips and
Rozworksi’s see Walmart’s success as a sign that modern
socialism can work.

Their argument is essentially this: free-market economists are
wrong to denounce the possibility of economic planning, because
major companies such as Amazon and Walmart plan extensively every
day. They have developed algorithms, tracking tools, logistics and
distribution networks that allow them to react in real time to
changing demands for their products. Nobel prize-winning economist
Friedrich Hayek, then, was wrong to say socialism couldn’t
work because information was inherently decentralised. In fact,
modern technology means information can be acted upon centrally and
swiftly. Planning is easier and more accurate than ever.

The problem, in Phillips and Rozworkski’s view, is that
these planning tools are currently being put to the ends of
generating profits. But what is profitable is not always socially
useful. Rural broadband and solving the problem of antibiotic
resistance are socially needed, but they would not be delivered by
private companies. Therefore, they conclude, what we need is a
planned socialist economy harnessing the techniques of Walmart and
others to socially productive ends.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this line of
reasoning. From the work of Ronald Coase, free market economists
have understood that firms are islands of planning of various sizes
within a sea of markets and that in different sectors, the
efficient scale of organisations varies considerably (especially
over time and depending on technologies).

Most free-market economists acknowledge too that there are
public goods and externality problems inherent in markets (although
these are often overplayed). But it’s difficult to see how
evidence of market failures or corporate success stories translates
into the conclusion that a completely planned, socialist,
non-profit economy is optimal.

The empirical evidence of attempts at central government
planning is clear. So much so that this book tries to skirt over
it. The Soviet Union, it implies, did not fail because of planning,
but authoritarianism which diminished the quality of feedback
information from planning. Chile’s Allende …read more

Source: OP-EDS