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hat tip to sister mo

Dew Drop Inn


The Dew Drop Inn:
Past, Present and Future?

Robert Offner

Staring out his window onto the reconstructed Magnolia housing development, Roosevelt Randolph can't help but wonder why he's the only one left at 2836 LaSalle Street. "Everybody played here. Irma Thomas, Ray Charles, James Brown. This is a historic place [...] We can't let it go to waste," says Randolph, who's been living at the Dew Drop Inn since 1996, and is the only soul keeping it from complete vacancy.

Kenneth Jackson, owner of the famous nightclub/hotel, hasn't been able to bring the building to code since Katrina. "Katrina kicked the rug out from under my feet and I haven't been able to put it all back together yet," says Jackson.

"I watched them rebuild the whole [Magnolia] project from scratch in just two years. I'm thinking to myself, 'Why can't they do the same thing here?'" says Randolph. Underneath his bedroom is a musical legacy unfathomable to those who might walk by it today.
Dew Drop Inn, 2012 photo

An overhaul is long overdue for the Dew Drop Inn.

In 2010, the Louisiana Landmarks Society named the Dew Drop Inn an endangered New Orleans historical site. That same year the building was declared a historic landmark by the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

Jackson, an employee of New Orleans Public Schools, doesn't have the funding needed to bring the building back. He hasn't given up hope and says it's a matter of finding the right connection to jumpstart the renovation. "My ultimate goal is to get this place to the point where it can do the city some good," he says.

The building has been in Jackson's family since his grandfather, Frank Painia, bought it and, with the help of Painia's brothers, converted it from a grocery store into a nightclub, barber shop, hotel and restaurant in April 1939.

One brother was a cook, one a barber and one served as a handy man to help out around the building. By 1945 the Dew Drop Inn became the ultimate center for leisure in New Orleans. "If you got hungry you could eat, if you got too drunk you could get a room and sleep it off. When you woke up you could get your hair cut and there was also a beautician side of the barber shop, too, where ladies could get their hair done, and not to mention the night club [...] It was just the place to be back in the day," says Jackson.


Session guitar player, singer and local icon Deacon John Moore remembers much more than just music at the Dew Drop. "They had a floor show, they had an exotic dancer, or they had a magician doing magic tricks, a ventriloquist named Calhoun and Society Red," he recalls.

"A lot of these cats don't remember, but I was there when all this stuff was going on. I was there when Esquerita [a pompadoured, heavily made-up pianist whose antic behavior is said to have inspired Little Richard] played in there," says Deacon John.

It was at the Dew Drop that Allen Toussaint discovered Deacon John and hired him to play for all the early Minit Record classics, including "Mother-In-Law," "It's Raining" and "Working in the Coal Mine." He calls himself a "ghost guitar player," meaning he was never credited with being on any of the recordings he made with Toussaint.

The Dew Drop saw its glory days through the 1950s, showcasing the nation's best black performers. "When you performed at the Dew Drop then, you had some status attached to you," says Irma Thomas, who played the venue early in her career.

Since there weren't many black hotels during segregation, Painia put a lot of musicians up at his inn. "The white people thought that we were just something created from hell or something I don't know. They were just scared to death of black people--why, I don't know, 'cause we all bleed red blood and I could never understand that," says Thomas.

Painia did everything he could to keep that type of racial tension away from LaSalle Street. "As a kid I never knew about segregation until you went somewhere other than around here, 'cause it didn't happen around here at all," says Jackson.

Painia wasn't afraid to fight the law. "They actually would come in sometimes with a few paddy wagons and say, 'Come on, everybody, get in, you're all going to jail,' including my grandfather [...] 'Racial mixing' was the actual charge that they faced," explains Jackson.

The Dew Drop environment provided many touring musicians a chance to get to know each other outside of just the gig. "It was such a hub, like a home base-type situation," says Jackson. Musicians would return to the Dew Drop after their other gigs and jam together as late as they wanted.

"They had so many cats hanging out there 'cause they knew if you hung out by the Drop you might luck out on a gig," says Deacon John. With so much talent circulating between the nightclub, the hotel and the restaurant, it was a prime learning environment.

"We had a character who really helped me a lot in terms of performance and dressing and it was a female impersonator, which was Patsy Valdez," Thomas says. Long before Big Freedia, there was Patsy Vidalia. Also known as Valdez or Valdelar, Patsy was the "Toast of New Orleans" and the emcee at the Dew Drop for two decades, hosting the annual gay ball every Halloween. "He gave me a lot of information in terms of the persona on stage--just be yourself and project to your audience, talk to your audience," says Thomas.

The Dew Drop was important for more than just local artists. Robert "Bumps" Blackwell brought Little Richard to the Dew Drop during a session break at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studio, where Richard thumped out his raunchy "Tutti Frutti, good booty" for Blackwell. Blackwell called local songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to listen to the tune and clean up the lyrics for the recording session. They went back to Matassa's and Little Richard cut his first major hit.

According to Jackson, "Little Richard to this day is a supporter because he knows that we are over here trying to get something going and he wants to back us up."

Jackson was too young to attend any of the shows but spent a large portion of his childhood at the Dew Drop helping his family. "I got a chance to know a bulk of the local entertainers: K-Doe, Earl King, Toussaint would pass through here, Fats Domino, Raymond Lewis, Chick Carbo, Chuck Carbo, Smiley Lewis, Guitar Slim [...] You name it, the list just goes on and on," he says.


As Painia's health declined in the late '60s, so did the Dew Drop. "As he got sick, the shows stopped," says Jackson. Frank Painia passed away in 1972 when Jackson was 17 years old.

"He was my grandfather and my dad all rolled into one [...] It's just the respect that I had for him that keeps me here as well as the significance of the history and the legacy of the business," he says.

Before Katrina, the hotel was the only thing keeping the Dew Drop functional. After the storm, Jackson realized much of the building had substantial termite damage, forcing him to tear down walls and take out rooms being used before the storm.

The summer before Katrina, Jackson lost the insurance on the building. "We either had to change the entire roof to one type, which was a problem the insurance company had, or pay this exorbitant premium that we couldn't reach with our income," says Jackson.

Like most issues, money has been the biggest obstacle. The city hasn't provided any type of funding, and Jackson doesn't want to sell the family building off to outside investors interested in restoring it. Glenn Gaines began a restoration project on it, gutting out most of the interior and getting the building structurally sound, but has done little since then.

Harmony Neighborhood Development is working with Jackson on resurrecting the Dew Drop but hasn't made any moves yet. According to Executive Director Una Anderson, they are early in the process.

Before anything can happen, Anderson says they first need a concrete plan. "While it is a historical place, people aren't just going to donate to the history. We need some type of physical representation of what would become of the place and what they would be donating to," she says.

Local gospel singer Jo "Cool" Davis is a huge proponent for bringing back the Dew Drop. Davis wants to see the return of the smaller club scene. "Central City is getting ready to boom," he says. "I would love to see a club like the Dew Drop come back where the musicians can play and then it can bring back your natural raw talent [...] You don't need no big old club. All you need is a nice bathroom, a bandstand and somewhere somebody can hook up."

Davis grew up in Central City near the Dew Drop. Though he was too young to go into the club, he remembers the scene in the '60s, bouncing from club to club around the neighborhood and seeing stars like Ernie K-Doe, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Bobby Marchan.

"I do believe that the Dew Drop will be back, and Kenny, he's getting ready to pass the baton to his daughters," says Davis.

Jackson's ideal recreation of the Dew Drop would be a multipurpose facility. He wants to provide an after-school section where kids can take music lessons, a theater, a place for local musicians to perform, and even a boxing ring in the back. "It really could do so much for the city. If it came back this whole area would be different," says Jackson.

For now, Roosevelt Randolph still stares out his window wondering if anything will happen with his home and Jackson still waits for somebody to give him the boost he needs to get the ball rolling.

Says Jackson, "I'm just down here battling, man, trying to get something going, but I think once it kicks off, it'll take off like wildfire."

Krugman on the Market Dive


A Moveable Glut

Paul Krugman

What caused Friday's stock plunge? What does it mean for the future? Nobody knows, and not much.

Attempts to explain daily stock movements are usually foolish: a real-time survey of the 1987 stock crash found no evidence for any of the rationalizations economists and journalists offered after the fact, finding instead that people were selling because, you guessed it, prices were falling. And the stock market is a terrible guide to the economic future: Paul Samuelson once quipped that the market had predicted nine of the last five recessions, and nothing has changed on that front.

Still, investors are clearly jittery -- with good reason. U.S. economic news has been good though not great lately, but the world as a whole still seems remarkably accident-prone. For seven years and counting we've lived in a global economy that lurches from crisis to crisis: Every time one part of the world finally seems to get back on its feet, another part stumbles. And America can't insulate itself completely from these global woes.

But why does the world economy keep stumbling?

On the surface, we seem to have had a remarkable run of bad luck. First there was the housing bust, and the banking crisis it triggered. Then, just as the worst seemed to be over, Europe went into debt crisis and double-dip recession. Europe eventually achieved a precarious stability and began growing again -- but now we're seeing big problems in China and other emerging markets, which were previously pillars of strength.

But these aren't just a series of unrelated accidents. Instead, what we're seeing is what happens when too much money is chasing too few investment opportunities.

More than a decade ago, Ben Bernanke famously argued that a ballooning U.S. trade deficit was the result, not of domestic factors, but of a "global saving glut": a huge excess of savings over investment in China and other developing nations, driven in part by policy reactions to the Asian crisis of the 1990s, which was flowing to the United States in search of returns. He worried a bit about the fact that the inflow of capital was being channeled, not into business investment, but into housing; obviously he should have worried much more. (Some of us did.) But his suggestion that the U.S. housing boom was in part caused by weakness in foreign economies still looks valid.

Of course, the boom became a bubble, which inflicted immense damage when it burst. Furthermore, that wasn't the end of the story. There was also a flood of capital from Germany and other northern European countries to Spain, Portugal, and Greece. This too turned out to be a bubble, and the bursting of that bubble in 2009-2010 precipitated the euro crisis.

And still the story wasn't over. With America and Europe no longer attractive destinations, the global glut went looking for new bubbles to inflate. It found them in emerging markets, sending currencies like Brazil's real to unsustainable heights. It couldn't last, and now we're in the middle of an emerging-market crisis that reminds some observers of Asia in the 1990s -- remember, where it all started.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

So where does the moving finger of glut go now? Why, back to America, where a fresh inflow of foreign funds has driven the dollar way up, threatening to make our industry uncompetitive again.
Continue reading the main story
Recent Comments
David 55 minutes ago

The savings glut is a direct result of the massive transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. The 1% can only spend so much, and need to...
photonics1 57 minutes ago

As a society, we have to decide that redistribution of the wealth created by the many but inexorably siphoned off by the very few - with...
Alan 1 hour ago

As usual, the one sided comments on Krugman's article dominate.First, none of the commenters acknowledge that when the stock market goes...

See All Comments

What's causing this global glut? Probably a mix of factors. Population growth is slowing worldwide, and for all the hype about the latest technology, it doesn't seem to be creating either surging productivity or a lot of demand for business investment. The ideology of austerity, which has led to unprecedented weakness in government spending, has added to the problem. And low inflation around the world, which means low interest rates even when economies are booming, has reduced the room to cut rates when economies slump.

Whatever the precise mix of causes, what's important now is that policy makers take seriously the possibility, I'd say probability, that excess savings and persistent global weakness is the new normal.

My sense is that there's a deep-seated unwillingness, even among sophisticated officials, to accept this reality. Partly this is about special interests: Wall Street doesn't want to hear that an unstable world requires strong financial regulation, and politicians who want to kill the welfare state don't want to hear that government spending and debt aren't problems in the current environment.

But there's also, I believe, a sort of emotional prejudice against the very notion of global glut. Politicians and technocrats alike want to view themselves as serious people making hard choices -- choices like cutting popular programs and raising interest rates. They don't like being told that we're in a world where seemingly tough-minded policies will actually make things worse. But we are, and they will.

Young Blood as Fountain of Youth


Never Ceases to Amaze


John Oliver: Sex Education



"To say that racial inequality is due to hundreds of years of [slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow and urban apartheid] is merely to recount how one particular form of economic inequality came about."

What were "slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow and urban apartheid if not extreme forms of economic inequality?" historian Seth Ackerman asks in the magazine Jacobin.

Ackerman posed the question after Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton said in a recent Facebook Q&A: "We need to acknowledge some hard truths about race and justice in this country, and one of those hard truths is that racial inequality is not merely a symptom of economic inequality."

To which Ackerman responded: "If racial inequality isn't merely a symptom of economic inequality, what is it a symptom of?"

What was the point of England's colonization of Ireland if not to impose a lucrative "economic inequality" on its victims? Was the urban apartheid of Haussmann's Paris not the "symptom" of nineteenth-century economic inequality?

And what exactly do you think all those African slaves were doing in the American South?

To quote [Columbia University history professor and author] Barbara Fields:

Probably a majority of American historians think of slavery in the United States as primarily a system of race relations -- as though the chief business of slavery were the production of white supremacy rather than the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco. One historian has gone so far as to call slavery 'the ultimate segregator'. He does not ask why Europeans seeking the 'ultimate' method of segregating Africans would go to the trouble and expense of transporting them across the ocean for that purpose, when they could have achieved the same end so much more simply by leaving the Africans in Africa.

No one dreams of analyzing the struggle of the English against the Irish as a problem in race relations, even though the rationale that the English developed for suppressing the 'barbarous' Irish later served nearly word for word as a rationale for suppressing Africans and indigenous American Indians. Nor does anyone dream of analyzing serfdom in Russia as primarily a problem of race relations, even though the Russian nobility invented fictions of their innate, natural superiority over the serfs as preposterous as any devised by American racists.

Some Canadian Facts


Canadian Pride

canadian flag.jpgHere is some interesting info about Canada; some you may know and some you may not. So what do we Canadians Have to be Proud of?

1. Smarties (not sold in the USA)

2. Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp (not sold in the USA)

3. The size of our footballs fields, one less down, and bigger balls.

4. Baseball is Canadian. The 1st game was on June 4, 1838 - Ingersoll, ON

5. Lacrosse is Canadian

6. Hockey is Canadian

7. Basketball is Canadian

8. Apple pie is Canadian

9. Mr. Dress-up beats Mr. Rogers (Now that is impressive)

10. Tim Horton's beats Dunkin' Donuts (Makes the heart swell doesn't it)

11. In the war of 1812, started by America, Canadians pushed the Americans back past their White House. Then we burned it, and most of Washington... We got bored because they ran away. Then, we came home and partied.....Go figure.

12. Canada has the largest French population that never surrendered to Germany.

13. We have the largest English population that never Ever surrendered or withdrew during any war to anyone, anywhere. EVER! (We got clobbered in the odd battle but prevailed in ALL the wars)

14. Our civil war was fought in a bar and lasted a little over an hour.

15. The only person who was arrested in our civil war was an American mercenary, he slept in and missed the whole thing. He showed up just in time to get caught.

16. A Canadian invented Standard Time. (I'm not so sure this was a good thing)

17. The Hudson Bay Company once owned over 10% of the earth's surface and is still around as the world's oldest company.

18. The average dog sled team can kill and devour a full grown human in under 3 minutes. (That's more information than I need!)

19. We know what to do with the parts of a buffalo.

20. We don't marry our kin-folk...

21. We invented ski-doos, jet-skis, Velcro, zippers, insulin, penicillin and the telephone. Also short wave radios which save countless lives each year.

22. We have ALL frozen our tongues to something metal and lived to tell about it.

23. A Canadian created Superman.

24. We have coloured money.


The handles on our beer cases are big enough to fit your hands in with mitts on.

OOOoohhhhh....Canada !!

Oh yeah... And our elections only take one day!

hat tip to pal John

Turntable Embroidery


This animation created using vinyl records is mind blowing

Elliot Schultz designed embroidered animations to be played on a turntable.

World Wide Ice Melt


Capitalism Hits the Fan


Richard Wolff on Capitalism's Destructive Power from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Richard Wolff’s smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism on his first Moyers & Company appearance was so compelling and provocative, we asked him to return. This time, the economics expert dives further into income inequality, analyzing the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty. Wolff also takes questions sent in from around the world by our viewers.

Wolff taught economics for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts and is now visiting professor at The New School University in New York City. His books include Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.

More Greek Austerity BS


Why Greece Should Leave the Eurozone


By Hans-Warner Sinnjuly

MUNICH -- THERE are not many issues on which I agree with my colleagues Paul Krugman and Joseph E. Stiglitz and the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. But one of them is the view that an exit from the eurozone would be advisable for Greece.

Unfortunately for Greece and for Europe, we may now have to live with a third bailout program, in which Greece will receive a rescue package worth 86 billion euros (about $94 billion) in return for additional austerity measures. The new agreement will most likely drag Greece through three more years of a long-lasting, costly experiment that has so far failed miserably.

As of June, the eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund had provided the Greek government and banking system with 344 billion euros ($375 billion) worth of public credit -- nearly double Greece's annual economic output, or about 31,000 euros ($33,000) for each Greek citizen.

One-third of the public credit that has flowed to Greece since 2008 has been used to bail out private creditors; one-third went to finance the Greek current account deficit (the excess of imports and net interest payments to foreigners over exports and transfer payments from abroad); and one-third vaporized by financing the capital flight of Greeks.

The public credit has delayed a Greek bankruptcy, but it has failed to revitalize the Greek economy. To compete, Greece needs a strong devaluation -- a relative decline of its price level. Trying to lower prices and wages in absolute terms (for example, by slashing wages) would be very difficult, as it would bankrupt many debtors and tenants.

It would arguably be better to inflate prices in the rest of the eurozone, as the European Central Bank is trying to do through quantitative easing: purchasing large quantities of bonds to drive down the value of the euro. If the rest of the eurozone posts inflation rates of slightly less than 2 percent, as the E.C.B. hopes, Greece would be competitive after a decade or so, provided that its price level stays put. However, even such a mild form of an "internal devaluation" would be very arduous, as it would require precisely the kind of fiscal restraint that the Greeks rejected in the referendum.

What about the solution favored by leftists: more money for Greece? No doubt, enormous government spending would bring about a Keynesian stimulus and generate some modest internal growth. However, apart from the fact that this money would have to come from other countries' taxpayers, this would be counterproductive, as it would prevent the necessary devaluation of an overpriced economy and keep wages and prices above the competitive level.

Take the case of Ireland. Like Greece, Ireland became too expensive, as interest rates fell sharply during the introduction of the euro. When the bubble burst, in late 2006, no fiscal rescue was available.

The Irish tightened their belts and underwent a drastic internal devaluation by cutting wages, which in turn led to lower prices for Irish goods both in absolute and relative terms. This made the Irish economy competitive again.

Granted, Ireland also received fiscal aid. But that came much later, toward the end of 2010, and when it came, the internal devaluation stopped almost immediately. Twelve of the 13 percentage points of the Irish decline in relative product prices came before that date. Of the eurozone countries hardest hit by the financial crisis, Ireland will be the only one this year to see its G.D.P. surpass its precrisis level.

Greece's devaluation started five years after Ireland's, and by now has reached 9 percent. Analysis by Goldman Sachs researchers suggests that product prices would have to decline by another 13 to 22 percentage points for Greece to be competitive. (Wages in neighboring Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, the latter two being European Union members, are only one-third to one-fifth Greece's level.)

The better alternative is a Grexit accompanied by debt relief, humanitarian aid for the purchase of essential imports and an option for eventual return to the euro. Greece could reintroduce the drachma as the only legal tender. All existing prices, wages, contracts and balance sheets, including internal and external debt, could be converted one-to-one into drachmas, which would immediately decline in value.

The devaluation would induce Greeks to buy domestic rather than imported products. Tourism would get a boost, and capital flight would be reversed. Rich Greeks would return with their money, buy real estate and renovate it, fueling a construction boom. As the trade deficit gradually turned into a surplus, creditors would get some of their money back.

Greece would have the option to return to the eurozone, at a new exchange rate, after carrying out institutional reforms -- such as public recording of land purchases, functioning tax collection, accurate statistical reporting -- and meeting the normal conditions for eurozone membership. It could take five or 10 years.

It is true that Grexit would make it clear that membership in the eurozone is not irrevocable and could expose member countries to speculative attacks. But this is not very likely, as the markets' calm reaction to Greece's capital controls and the "no" vote in the referendum showed. More important, it would lead other countries to adopt more prudent financing and steer clear of the debt trap that caused the bubble in the first place.

Until Europe is turned into a federal state -- as it should become, at some point -- it will not have a currency like the dollar. Until then, what is needed is a "breathing" currency union, with orderly entry and exit options, coupled with an insolvency rule for member states. This would be a better compromise between the goals of avoiding speculative attacks and excessive debt accumulation than the current promise of eternal membership.

Deductive vs Inductive Reasoning


Blood Types


What's Your Type?

O+       1 in 3        37.4%

A+        1 in 3        35.7%

B+        1 in 12        8.5%

AB+     1 in 29        3.4%

O-        1 in 15        6.6%

A-        1 in 16        6.3%

B-        1 in 67        1.5%

AB-     1 in 167        .6%

Compatible Blood Types

O- can receive O-

O+ can receive O+, O-

A- can receive A-, O-

A+ can receive A+, A-, O+, O-

B- can receive B-, O-

B+ can receive B+, B-, O+, O-

AB- can receive AB-, B-, A-, O-

AB+ can receive AB+, AB-, B+, B-, A+,  A-,  O+,  O-

Compatible Plasma Types

O  can receive O, A, B, AB

A  can receive A, AB

B  can receive B, AB

AB  can receive AB

Source: America's Blood Centers

Clearing the Brain Gunk


Amyloid rings and vessels

A batch of new drugs that aim to clear the gunk out of the brains of Alzheimer's patients are providing the best hope yet that it might be possible to slow the disease.

But they're not even close to being a cure, experts said -- and they're also not close to being on the market.

And, researchers admit, the benefits they see amount to numbers on a graph, not anything that patients or their loved ones might notice.

Researchers reported on the trials of three experimental drugs that use immune system weapons called monoclonal antibodies to clear the brain-clogging protein called amyloid.

They think their results show that the drugs might work if they use a high enough dose and if they treat patients in the very early stages of the disease, before their brains are too damaged.

Dr. David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic said he knew headlines would have his patients asking about when they can get the drugs.

"How am I going talk to my patients on Friday?" he said at a news conference. "These results aren't going to lead to something they can get next week. What you are hearing here represents solid advances."

The three drugs being highlighted at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference are called solanezumab, aducanumab and gantenerumab. (The "mab" at the end of the drug name stands for monoclonal antibody). They specifically attack amyloid.

Solanezumab, made by drug giant Lilly, disappointed patients, researchers and investors when it didn't seem to help patients in 2012. But the developers kept studying it, trying to see if it maybe offered a small benefit when given to people early. They compared people who got the drug right away in the trial to those who had been taking placebo - giving the drug to all the patients to see if there might be a difference.

They found one. When they looked at the combined memory and thinking test scores of all the volunteers three years later, those who got the drug early seemed to be doing better. Those who got it later could not seem to catch up. That suggests a small, hard-to-measure benefit.

Food Waste in America


Right Wing Nightmare







Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart-ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too
Well, he may be a fool but he's our fool
If they think they're better than him they're wrong
So I went to the park and I took some paper along
And that's where I made this song

We talk real funny down here
We drink too much and we laugh too loud
We're too dumb to make it in no Northern town
And we're keepin' the niggers down
We got no-necked oilmen from Texas
And good ol' boys from Tennessee
And college men from LSU
Went in dumb - come out dumb too
Hustlin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes
Gettin' drunk every weekend at the barbecues
And they're keepin' the niggers down

We're rednecks, rednecks
And we don't know our ass from a hole in the ground
We're rednecks, we're rednecks
And we're keeping the niggers down

Now your northern nigger's a Negro
You see he's got his dignity
Down here we're too ignorant to realize
That the North has set the nigger free
Yes he's free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he's free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he's free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he's free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he's free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he's free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They're gatherin' 'em up from miles around
Keepin' the niggers down

We're rednecks, we're rednecks
We don't know our ass from a hole in the ground
We're rednecks, we're rednecks
And we're keeping the niggers down
We are keeping the niggers down

...Randy Newman

nyorker.trump.jpgThe New Yorker

The New Yorker explains that the Barry Blitt-drawn cover -- titled "Belly Flop" -- is a reference to Trump's brazen style and impact on the 2016 presidential field.

As Politico points out, Trump's populist, conservative message has potentially helped him siphon away supporters from more conservative candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

And in a race in which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has attempted to gain traction by promising to "tell it like it is," Trump's outspoken, provocative statements on hot issues from immigration to relations with China have dominated countless news cycles and gotten far more attention online.

Further, Trump isn't shying away from a loud fight with his Republican rivals.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) have condemned Trump for his statements about immigrants.

This has only appeared to fuel Trump's fire -- the real-estate magnate has dismissed Bush's entire candidacy and accused Rubio of shifting his position on immigration because of weak poll numbers.

Read more:

Liberals and Wages

Paul Krugman

Hillary Clinton gave her first big economic speech on Monday, and progressives were by and large gratified. For Mrs. Clinton's core message was that the federal government can and should use its influence to push for higher wages.

Conservatives, however -- at least those who could stop chanting "Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!" long enough to pay attention -- seemed bemused. They believe that Ronald Reagan proved that government is the problem, not the solution. So wasn't Mrs. Clinton just reviving defunct "paleoliberalism"? And don't we know that government intervention in markets produces terrible side effects?

No, she wasn't, and no, we don't. In fact, Mrs. Clinton's speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.

Many economists used to think of the labor market as being pretty much like the market for anything else, with the prices of different kinds of labor -- that is, wage rates -- fully determined by supply and demand. So if wages for many workers have stagnated or declined, it must be because demand for their services is falling.

In particular, the conventional wisdom attributed rising inequality to technological change, which was raising the demand for highly educated workers while devaluing blue-collar work. And there was nothing much policy could do to change the trend, other than aiding low-wage workers via subsidies like the earned-income tax credit.

You still see commentators who haven't kept up invoking this story as if it were obviously true. But the case for "skill-biased technological change" as the main driver of wage stagnation has largely fallen apart. Most notably, high levels of education have offered no guarantee of rising incomes -- for example, wages of recent college graduates, adjusted for inflation, have been flat for 15 years.

Meanwhile, our understanding of wage determination has been transformed by an intellectual revolution -- that's not too strong a word -- brought on by a series of remarkable studies of what happens when governments change the minimum wage.

More than two decades ago the economists David Card and Alan Krueger realized that when an individual state raises its minimum wage rate, it in effect performs an experiment on the labor market. Better still, it's an experiment that offers a natural control group: neighboring states that don't raise their minimum wages. Mr. Card and Mr. Krueger applied their insight by looking at what happened to the fast-food sector -- which is where the effects of the minimum wage should be most pronounced -- after New Jersey hiked its minimum wage but Pennsylvania did not.

Until the Card-Krueger study, most economists, myself included, assumed that raising the minimum wage would have a clear negative effect on employment. But they found, if anything, a positive effect. Their result has since been confirmed using data from many episodes. There's just no evidence that raising the minimum wage costs jobs, at least when the starting point is as low as it is in modern America.

How can this be? There are several answers, but the most important is probably that the market for labor isn't like the market for, say, wheat, because workers are people. And because they're people, there are important benefits, even to the employer, from paying them more: better morale, lower turnover, increased productivity. These benefits largely offset the direct effect of higher labor costs, so that raising the minimum wage needn't cost jobs after all.

The direct takeaway from this intellectual revolution is, of course, that we should raise minimum wages. But there are broader implications, too: Once you take what we've learned from minimum-wage studies seriously, you realize that they're not relevant just to the lowest-paid workers.

For employers always face a trade-off between low-wage and higher-wage strategies -- between, say, the traditional Walmart model of paying as little as possible and accepting high turnover and low morale, and the Costco model of higher pay and benefits leading to a more stable work force. And there's every reason to believe that public policy can, in a variety of ways -- including making it easier for workers to organize -- encourage more firms to choose the good-wage strategy.

So there was a lot more behind Hillary's speech than I suspect most commentators realized. And for those trying to play gotcha by pointing out that some of what she said differed from ideas that prevailed when her husband was president, well, many liberals have changed their views in response to new evidence.

It's an interesting experience; conservatives should try it some time.

To me, Ta-Nehisi Coates is an unmitigated literary genius and almost perfect modern Black Voice. Typically, Brooks just doesn't get it.

Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White


David Brooks

Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates,

The last year has been an education for white people. There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.

Your new book, "Between the World and Me," is a great and searing contribution to this public education. It is a mind-altering account of the black male experience. Every conscientious American should read it.


There is a pervasive physicality to your memoir -- the elemental vulnerability of living in a black body in America. Outside African-American nightclubs, you write, "black people controlled nothing, least of all the fate of their bodies, which could be commandeered by the police; which could be erased by the guns, which were so profligate; which could be raped, beaten, jailed."

Written as a letter to your son, you talk about the effects of pervasive fear. "When I was your age the only people I knew were black and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid."

But the disturbing challenge of your book is your rejection of the American dream. My ancestors chose to come here. For them, America was the antidote to the crushing restrictiveness of European life, to the pogroms. For them, the American dream was an uplifting spiritual creed that offered dignity, the chance to rise.

Your ancestors came in chains. In your book the dream of the comfortable suburban life is a "fairy tale." For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus. African-American men are caught in a crushing logic, determined by the past, from which there is no escape.

You write to your son, "Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body -- it is heritage." The innocent world of the dream is actually built on the broken bodies of those kept down below.

If there were no black bodies to oppress, the affluent Dreamers "would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism."

Your definition of "white" is complicated. But you write " 'White America' is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining)." In what is bound to be the most quoted passage from the book, you write that you watched the smoldering towers of 9/11 with a cold heart. At the time you felt the police and firefighters who died "were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could -- with no justification -- shatter my body."

You obviously do not mean that literally today (sometimes in your phrasing you seem determined to be misunderstood). You are illustrating the perspective born of the rage "that burned in me then, animates me now, and will likely leave me on fire for the rest of my days."

I read this all like a slap and a revelation. I suppose the first obligation is to sit with it, to make sure the testimony is respected and sinks in. But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree? Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions? Does a white person have standing to respond?

If I do have standing, I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy's decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.

I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There's a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children's Zone for every K.K.K. -- and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.

In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam. But a dream sullied is not a lie. The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide. It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements. By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you've filled my ears unforgettably

Such Big Eyes We've Got


The world's most powerful radio telescope: the Square Kilometre Array


The SKA, which will be split between sites in Australia and South Africa, will peer back into the 'dark ages' of the universe. No one knows what it will find there

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a huge project designed to sweep away many of the current roadblocks to astronomical progress. These include searching for the first celestial objects to form in the universe, investigating whether we need to develop a new theory of gravity, and looking for the building blocks of life in space.

After the big bang around 13.8bn years ago, the universe was nothing but a vast cosmic ocean of gas. There were no stars or planets. Nothing was shining and astronomers refer to this time as the dark ages. During this time, matter was gradually pulling itself into the first celestial objects, but no one knows what these objects were.

Either the universe lit up with individual stars, which then accumulated into collections called galaxies, or the gas fragmented into galaxy-sized clouds, which each developed an enormous black hole at its centre, and then formed stars.

The SKA will see into the dark ages and map this process taking place. No matter whether it was stars or black holes or a combination of the two, the effect was to rip apart almost every atom in the universe. With SKA, astronomers will see this cosmic cataclysm taking place before their eyes.

Greek Debt is Pure Legerdemain


Grexit or Jubilee? How Greek Debt Can Be Annulled


By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt

This piece first appeared at Web of Debt.

Greece's creditors have finally brought the country to its knees, forcing President Alexis Tsipras to agree to austerity and privatization measures more severe than those overwhelmingly rejected by popular vote a week earlier. No write-down of Greece's debt was included in the deal, although the IMF has warned that the current debt is unsustainable.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis calls the deal "a new Versailles Treaty" and "the politics of humiliation." Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos calls it a "coup d'état" done by "blackmailing the Greek prime minister with collapse of the banks and a complete haircut on deposits."

"Blackmail" is not too strong a word. The European Central Bank has turned off its liquidity tap for Greece's banks, something all banks need, as explained earlier here. All banks are technically insolvent, lending money they don't have. They don't lend their deposits but create deposits when they make loans, as the Bank of England recently confirmed. When the depositors and borrowers come for their money at the same time, the bank must borrow from other banks; and if that liquidity runs dry, the bank turns to the central bank, the lender of last resort empowered to create money at will. Without the central bank's backstop, banks must steal from their depositors with "haircuts" or they will collapse.


Square, Site wide

What did Greece do to deserve this coup d'état? According to former World Bank economist Peter Koenig:

[T]he Greek people, the citizens of a sovereign country . . . have had the audacity to democratically elect a socialist government. Now they have to suffer. They do not conform to the self-imposed rules of the neoliberal empire of unrestricted globalized privatization of public services and public properties from which the elite is maximizing profits - for themselves, of course. It is outright theft of public property.

According to a July 5th article titled "Greece - The One Biggest Lie You're Being Told By The Media," the country did not fail on its own. It was made to fail:

[T]he banks wrecked the Greek government, and then deliberately pushed it into unsustainable debt . . . while revenue-generating public assets were sold off to oligarchs and international corporations.

A Truth Committee convened by the Greek parliament reported in June that a major portion of the country's €320 billion debt is "illegal, illegitimate and odious" and should not be paid.

How to Cut the Debt Without Loss to the Bondholders

The debt cannot be paid and should not be paid, but EU leaders justify their hard line as necessary to save the creditors from having to pay - the European taxpayers, governments, institutions, and banks holding Greek bonds. It is quite possible to grant debt relief, however, without hurting the bondholders. US banks were bailed out by the US Federal Reserve to the tune of more than $16 trillion in virtually interest-free loans, without drawing on taxes. Central banks have a printing press that allows them to create money at will.

The ECB has already embarked on this sort of debt purchasing program. In January, it announced it would purchase 60 billion euros of debt assets per month beginning in March, continuing to at least September 2016, for a total of €1.14 trillion of asset purchases. These assets are being purchased through "quantitative easing" - expanding the monetary base simply with accounting entries on the ECB's books.

The IMF estimates that Greece needs debt relief of €60 billion - a mere one month of the ECB's quantitative easing program. The ECB could solve Greece's problem with a few computer keystrokes. Moreover, in today's deflationary environment, the effect would actually be to stimulate the European economy. As financial writer Richard Duncan observes:

When a central bank prints money and buys a government bond, it is the same thing as cancelling that bond (so long as the central bank does not sell the bond back to the public).

. . . The European Central Bank's plans to create €1.1 trillion over the next 20 months will effectively cancel the combined budget deficits of the Eurozone national governments in both 2015 and 2016, with a considerable amount left over.

Quantitative Easing has only been possible because it has occurred at a time when Globalization is driving down the price of labor and industrial goods. The combination of fiat money and Globalization creates a unique moment in history where the governments of the developed economies can print money on an aggressive scale without causing inflation.

They should take advantage of this once-in-history opportunity to borrow more in order to invest in new industries and technologies, to restructure their economies and to retrain and educate their workforce at the post-graduate level. If they do, they could not only end the global economic crisis, but also ensure that the standard of living in the developed world continues to improve, rather than sinking down to third world levels.

That is how it works for Germany after World War II. According to economist Michael Hudson, the most successful debt jubilee in recent times was gifted to Germany, the country now most opposed to doing the same for Greece. The German Economic Miracle followed massive debt forgiveness by the Allies:

All domestic German debts were annulled, except employer wage debts to their labor force, and basic working balances. Later, in 1953, its international debts were written down.

Why not do the same for the Greeks?




Chasing Pluto

Watch as the New Horizons spacecraft captures our first clear view of Pluto's icy surface.


The Real Way to Cure Addicition


I've been touting this as an intuition for years...here's the consolidation.

The Nativist Disease


Not Like Us

Thomas Egan

They were criminals -- thugs and thieves -- a single ethnic group that filled the jails of big cities. "Scum unloaded on American wharves," one speaker in Philadelphia said of them. Dirty, filthy, foreign. As for their children, they were "utterly ignorant of a place such as school," The New York Herald reported.

Mexicans? No, the Irish of the 1850s, then pouring into Anglo-Saxon America at such a rate that it gave rise to a political party founded in opposition to immigration -- the Know-Nothings. At one point, it was second largest party in the United States, complete with a paramilitary arm called the Wide Awakes.

Nearly 50 years later, as Italians and other southern Europeans left their barren lands for hope in America, a prominent educator and writer, Francis A. Walker, expressed a widely held view of these new arrivals: "They are beaten men from beaten races, representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence."

Donald Trump -- we've found your century. The xenophobes have always been with us, sometimes in power, usually not. It's the mother of all ironies that a nation where all but about 2 percent (the Native Americans) of the population can trace its lineage to some distant land is now going through another of its anti-immigrant moments.

But good news: The 2015 version is a weak strain of the earlier tea. It will flush out those camped in the Republican Party who have long used code words and fabrications to hide their loathing of people who "are not you," in Trump's phrase.

"I salute Donald Trump," said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the first to be flushed, and also one of the jillion candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz wants some of the immigrant-hatred vote, at least 10 percent of the primary audience, that has catapulted Trump to the top tier in polls. The other candidates are afraid of Trump. And Democrats, even the atheists, have become devout believers in a benevolent God, as Trump keeps delivering on their prayers.

It will only get better as Republican primaries move into all-white, anti-immigrant strongholds. Here, you can expect to see clusters of red-faced older men clutching copies of "¡Adios, America! The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole," by the polemicist Ann Coulter. Here's a sample line: "Today's immigrants aren't coming here to breathe free, they are coming to live for free."

Her book has influenced Trump, even as his hotel construction projects benefit from those same immigrants. No matter. If intellectual consistency were threads on Trump's head, he would be as bald as a snow globe. If this keeps up, the 27 percent share of the Latino vote that Republicans got in 2012 will look like a high-water mark.

History is a guide here. The Chinese of the late 19th century were subject to exclusion laws and outright pogroms on the West Coast, and cast as inscrutable opium addicts. The major railroads probably could not have been built without them.

The Irish did make up a majority of people housed in New York's jails -- and the city's mental institution -- at one point. But they also dug the Erie Canal and provided the shovel muscle to remake the city.

The new Know-Nothings have certainly kept fact-checkers busy. Mexicans: They're pouring across a porous border, yes? And with them comes something else -- "tremendous infectious disease," said Trump.

The pouring is actually going the other way. Since 2006, more Mexicans have left the United States than have arrived, according to a Pew Research Center study in 2012. Since 2009, there's been a 50 percent drop in those trying to sneak across the border. A falling birthrate in Mexico, better economic opportunity at home, and economic stagnation in the United States are the contributing factors.

At the same time, President Obama has deported more undocumented immigrants than any of his predecessors. And doctors note that Mexico has a higher vaccination rate against disease than many United States communities.

As for those who want to "live for free," in Coulter's sneer, they better step up the mooching. Poor immigrants are less likely to take advantage of free government help than citizens, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Well, then, if they aren't leeches, Mexicans are still rapists and criminals, as Trump claimed. What about the oft-deported illegal held for murder in San Francisco? That killing looks more like a result of bureaucratic negligence, in part because of San Francisco's inane sanctuary policy, than a reason to go after job-seeking Latinos living in the shadows. Still, in conservative media circles, one murder proves the narrative.

In fact, first-generation immigrants have a much lower crime rate than the overall population. As to the rapists claim, whites accounted for 71 percent of all sexual assaults in 2013, even though they are only 63 percent of the population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Latinos, though 17 percent of the population, committed 9 percent of sex crimes.

In other words, whites are far more likely to meet Trump's description than Latinos. But don't expect to hear that statistic, or any other that sets the record straight, during a presidential debate. Whites make up an overwhelming majority of the Republican primary base. You can insult your audience's intelligence, but not to their face.

To Feel or Not to Feel


Empathy Is Actually a Choice


empathy.choice.jpgONE death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.

You've probably heard this saying before. It is thought to capture an unfortunate truth about empathy: While a single crying child or injured puppy tugs at our heartstrings, large numbers of suffering people, as in epidemics, earthquakes and genocides, do not inspire a comparable reaction.

Studies have repeatedly confirmed this. It's a troubling finding because, as recent research has demonstrated, many of us believe that if more lives are at stake, we will -- and should -- feel more empathy (i.e., vicariously share others' experiences) and do more to help.

Not only does empathy seem to fail when it is needed most, but it also appears to play favorites. Recent studies have shown that our empathy is dampened or constrained when it comes to people of different races, nationalities or creeds. These results suggest that empathy is a limited resource, like a fossil fuel, which we cannot extend indefinitely or to everyone.

What, then, is the relationship between empathy and morality? Traditionally, empathy has been seen as a force for moral good, motivating virtuous deeds. Yet a growing chorus of critics, inspired by findings like those above, depict empathy as a source of moral failure. In the words of the psychologist Paul Bloom, empathy is a "parochial, narrow-minded" emotion -- one that "will have to yield to reason if humanity is to survive."

We disagree.

While we concede that the exercise of empathy is, in practice, often far too limited in scope, we dispute the idea that this shortcoming is inherent, a permanent flaw in the emotion itself. Inspired by a competing body of recent research, we believe that empathy is a choice that we make whether to extend ourselves to others. The "limits" to our empathy are merely apparent, and can change, sometimes drastically, depending on what we want to feel.

Two decades ago, the psychologist Daniel Batson and colleagues conducted a study that showed that if people expected their empathy to cost them significant money or time, they would avoid situations that they believed would trigger it. More recently, one of us, Daryl Cameron, along with the psychologist Keith Payne, conducted an experiment to see if similar motivational factors could explain why we seem more empathetic to single victims than to large numbers of them.

Participants in this study read about either one or eight child refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. Half of the participants were led to expect that they would be asked to make a donation to the refugee or refugees, whereas the other half were not. When there was no financial cost involved in feeling empathy, people felt more empathy for the eight children than for the one child, reversing the usual bias. If insensitivity to mass suffering stemmed from an intrinsic limit to empathy, such financial factors shouldn't have made a difference.

Likewise, in another recent study, the psychologists Karina Schumann, Jamil Zaki and Carol S. Dweck found that when people learned that empathy was a skill that could be improved -- as opposed to a fixed personality trait -- they engaged in more effort to experience empathy for racial groups other than their own. Empathy for people unlike us can be expanded, it seems, just by modifying our views about empathy.

Some kinds of people seem generally less likely to feel empathy for others -- for instance, powerful people. An experiment conducted by one of us, Michael Inzlicht, along with the researchers Jeremy Hogeveen and Sukhvinder Obhi, found that even people temporarily assigned to high-power roles showed brain activity consistent with lower empathy.

But such experimental manipulations surely cannot change a person's underlying empathic capacity; something else must be to blame. And other research suggests that the blame lies with a simple change in motivation: People with a higher sense of power exhibit less empathy because they have less incentive to interact with others.

Even those suffering from so-called empathy deficit disorders like psychopathy and narcissism appear to be capable of empathy when they want to feel it. Research conducted by one of us, William A. Cunningham, along with the psychologist Nathan Arbuckle, found that when dividing money between themselves and others, people with psychopathic tendencies were more charitable when they believed that the others were part of their in-group. Psychopaths and narcissists are able to feel empathy; it's just that they don't typically want to.

Arguments against empathy rely on an outdated view of emotion as a capricious beast that needs to yield to sober reason. Yes, there are many situations in which empathy appears to be limited in its scope, but this is not a deficiency in the emotion itself. In our view, empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be.


Daryl Cameron is an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Iowa. Michael Inzlicht is a professor of psychology, and William A. Cunningham is an associate professor of psychology, both at the University of Toronto.

When Whites Do Right


I was amazed to see this impassioned speech from South Carolina Representative Jenny Horne argue for removal of the Confederate flag from state property.

SC Rep. Jenny Horne:Speech to Take Down the Confederate Flag

The Result:

South Carolina House Votes 90\240 to Remove Confederate Flag From Capitol

Greece: The Economic Canary?


The Greek Crisis Marks 'the Beginning of the Collapse of Capitalism'


Missing from the mainstream debate over the Greek economic crisis is "the damaging role that the endless quest for economic growth plays," writes journalist Jennifer Hinton at The Guardian. "Neither austerity nor government stimulus will ever be able to address the debt crises and recessions of the twenty-first century because what we're dealing with here is an inherent contradiction of capitalism."

Hinton continues:

The issue of austerity versus stimulus is often framed as the entire debate - if you don't support one, you must support the other, because there are no alternatives. This is the same binary debate that has been going on for more than 100 years between the state versus the market. Yet, these dichotomies distract people from thinking about what's really important - the goal of these policies, which is to grow the economy.

The "inherent contradiction of capitalism," Hinton writes:

... comes from the surplus of the system (profit) being taken out of the real economy (the economy of physical goods and services) and put into the financial sector to generate more wealth for people who are already wealthy. This requires the economy to continually grow to compensate for the extraction of profit, which is essentially the extraction of the economy's surplus.

However, this extraction of profit is the same mechanism at the root of soaring levels of inequality. A recent Oxfam report estimates that, by 2016, the richest 1% of the world's population will own more than the other 99%. If the average person is making relatively less every year, or struggling just to maintain the same financial state, they can't afford to buy ever more products and services, so the economy can't grow as it did when we had more financial equality.

Thus capitalism has always carried the seed of its own demise.

We are seeing this self-destruction in Greece. The current Syriza government wants to go back to the negotiating table and create a new bailout agreement that will cut the debt to a more manageable size and reform the public sector in ways that won't affect the most vulnerable. This would still be austerity, albeit a much milder version than that of the past five years. Yanis Varoufakis resigned from his post as Greek finance minister to allow for smoother negotiations between Greece and its European partners in the hope of reaching such an agreement.

Read more, including about "steps [Greece] could take to start paving a new path to prosperity for its people," here.

Personality-driven Death Penalty


The Prosecutor Who Says Louisiana Should 'Kill More People'


cox.jpgSHREVEPORT, La. -- In a much-discussed dissent from the Supreme Court's ruling on lethal injection last week, Justice Stephen G. Breyer laid out the problems, as he saw them, with the death penalty. Among them was "arbitrariness in application," including how simple geography can determine whether someone convicted of murder would be sentenced to death.

"Between 2004 and 2009," Justice Breyer wrote, "just 29 counties (fewer than 1 percent of counties in the country) accounted for approximately half of all death sentences imposed nationwide."

Caddo Parish, here in the northwestern corner of the state, is one of these counties. Within Louisiana, where capital punishment has declined steeply, Caddo has become an outlier, accounting for fewer than 5 percent of the state's death sentences in the early 1980s but nearly half over the past five years. Even on a national level Caddo stands apart. From 2010 to 2014, more people were sentenced to death per capita here than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period.

Robert J. Smith, a law professor at the University of North Carolina whose work was cited in Justice Breyer's dissent, said Caddo illustrated the geographic disparity of capital punishment. But he said this analysis did not go far enough. Caddo, he noted, has bucked the national trend in large part because of one man: Dale Cox.

Mr. Cox, 67, who is the acting district attorney and who secured more than a third of Louisiana's death sentences over the last five years, has lately become one of the country's bluntest spokesmen for the death penalty. He has readily accepted invitations from reporters to explain whether he really meant what he said to The Shreveport Times in March: that capital punishment is primarily and rightly about revenge and that the state needs to "kill more people." Yes, he really meant it.

And he has been willing to recount his personal transformation from an opponent of capital punishment, a belief grounded in his Catholic faith, to one of the more prolific seekers of the death penalty in the nation.
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"Retribution is a valid societal interest," Mr. Cox said on a recent afternoon, in a manner as calm and considered as the hypothetical he would propose was macabre. "What kind of society would say that it's O.K. to kill babies and eat them, and in fact we can have parties where we kill them and eat them, and you're not going to forfeit your life for that? If you've gotten to that point, you're no longer a society."

Mr. Cox later clarified that he had not seen any case involving cannibalism, though he described it as the next logical step given what he at several points called an "increase in savagery."

Mr. Cox's personal evolution not only serves as a window into the criminal justice system in Caddo Parish, Mr. Smith said, but also goes to the heart of the questions raised by Justice Breyer.

"When you start to look underneath the counties and ask, 'Who is actually prosecuting these cases?' you realize in most of the counties, it's one or a limited number of prosecutors," Mr. Smith said. For instance, in the five years since Lynne Abraham left the office of district attorney in Philadelphia, where she had secured 45 death sentences in 19 years, there have been only three death sentences.

"What you've ended up with," Mr. Smith said, "is a personality-driven death penalty."

Mr. Cox's personality has been under scrutiny here since he returned to being a prosecutor after two decades in insurance law. Lawyers who knew him as a congenial and adroit trial lawyer said that in recent years he had become sullen and solitary. They also have described him as becoming increasingly aggressive in the courtroom, in some cases even threatening defense lawyers with criminal contempt for filing opposing motions.



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