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Why Does the Texas Legislature Believe That Embryos Have a Heartbeat?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/09/2021 - 10:00pm in

Image credit: Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons ____ The Texas statute that went into effect last week is one of many similar...

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The Great Covid Panic: now out!

It’s here, the booklet I am sure you have all been waiting for. The one which Gigi Foster and Michael Baker slaved over for 10 months. It is also on Kindle. It is dedicated to all the victims of the Panic, in poor countries and rich countries. They include our children, the lonely, and the poor.

The short publisher blurb: How to make sense of the astonishing upheaval of Spring 2020 and following? Normal life – in which expected rights and freedoms were taken for granted – came to be replaced by a new society as managed by a medical/ruling elite that promised but failed to deliver virus mitigation, all in the name of public health. Meanwhile, we’ve lost so much of what we once had: travel freedoms, privacy, a democratic presumption of equality, commercial freedoms, and even the access to information portals. Something has gone very wrong.

The longer blurb that our publisher chose for it is over the fold! There is also a website that will tell you where book launches will take place, which bookstores sell it, and who has liked it sofar.

To make sense of it all, the Brownstone Institute is pleased to announce the publication of The Great Covid Panic: What Happened, Why, and What To Do Next, by Paul Frijters, Gigi Foster, and Michael Baker. Combining rigorous scholarship with evocative and accessible prose, the book covers all the issues central to the pandemic and the disastrous policy response, a narrative as comprehensive as it is intellectually devastating. In short, this is THE book the world needs right now.

In the Great Panic of early 2020, nearly every government in the world restricted the movement of its population, disrupted the education of its children, suspended normal individual liberties, hijacked its healthcare system, and in other ways increased its direct control of people’s lives. Attempts to control the new coronavirus in most countries made the number of deaths from both the virus and other health problems rise. Some countries and regions snapped out of the madness in early 2021 or even before. Yet other governments, still in 2021, were ever more fanatically obsessed with control.

Why did 2020 become, so suddenly and so forcefully, a year of global panic over a virus that for most people is barely more dangerous than a standard-issue flu virus? This book reveals how the madness started, what kept it going, and how it might end. This is also a book about stories and experiences, some real and some fictionalized to protect identities. Join Jane the complier, James the decider, and Jasmine the doubter, the three core protagonists of the narrative part of the book. Their experiences illustrate what happened to individuals and through them to whole societies, telling us — if we care to listen — how to avoid a repeat. This literary presentation is mixed with detailed reports of the actual data and deep research that has generally been obscured in the midst of media madness and obfuscation by public-health authority.

“A tour-de-force on how the pandemic response was driven by fear, crowd thinking, big business and a desire for control, rather than by sound public health principles. This is bound to be a classic.” ~ Professor Martin Kulldorff, Harvard Medical School

“When I received the manuscript, I was hooked from the first page and knew then that I would miss a full night’s sleep. I did indeed. My heart raced from beginning to end. As the publisher, I must say that this book is a dream for me, the book I never thought would exist, the book that I believe can change everything.” ~ Jeffrey Tucker, Founder Brownstone Institute.

Zywicki vs Wade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/08/2021 - 3:14pm in


Abortion, Law

Back in the day, we at Crooked Timber had fairly regular exchanges with Todd Zywicki of the Volokh conspiracy group blog (which still exists, now hosted by So, I was interested to learn that he was taking his employer, George Mason University, to court over a requirement to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The factual part of Zywicki’s case is that having had the disease and recovered he is already immune. More interesting is the claim that the requirement violates his right to privacy under the 9th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitutional. I Am Not A Lawyer, but this claim seems almost identical to that used in Roe v Wade, which seems certain to come before the Supreme Court soon. However, Zywicki’s brief does not mention what seems like the most relevant precedent.

My guess is that finding a majority willing to both reaffirm a constitutional right to privacy and second-guess the authorities on pandemic protection will prove too difficult. However, as Zywicki is asking for urgent relief we should find out soon.

Citizen-jury appointments?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/06/2021 - 2:51am in

Dear Troppodillians, lend me your critical eye. I ask you to consider the system of citizen-jury appointments I have in mind, and tell me how the vested interests would try to game it, ie why it would not work and whether the system can be improved. Bear with me as I describe what I have in mind.

Suppose that in 10 years time in Australia, there is a citizen-jury-system for appointments for the entire upper layer of the public sector. One jury, one top position. Politicians would still be in charge of policy and Budgets, but juries would appoint all the top people working in the public sector. The system would hold for all large entities receiving significant state funding:

  • Universities
  • large hospitals
  • heads of Government Departments
  • State Media
  • Arts Councils
  • Statistical Agencies
  • etc.

So every year, hundreds of top-positions would be decided upon by juries. Consider how this would go for, saying, the director of the ABC.

20 random adult citizens are selected from the household register. These 20 are given a budget and a time-frame to appoint a new director of the ABC television broadcaster, who would be appointed for 5 years. This is a civic duty for which they are compensated and get time off work. They get together physically.

There are no ‘minders’ to tell the jury how to do their job. The jury composition is kept secret till the decision. All the jury has to come up with is an appointment, a motivation for the appointed candidate, and an explanation for expenses made. The jury makes their own procedures, find their own outside advice, and decide themselves what matters. They deliberate: what do we expect from a State broadcaster? What kind of person could do this? Where should we look for suitable candidates? How are we going to decide?

There is much to say about the pros of this system: independence, randomness, true democracy, strengthening the public sector versus the politicians, etc.

But I am looking for the dangers: big money and powerful beasts will try to find a way to corrupt the system. How would they do it and what could help to safeguard the system?

Clearing a Path from Prison to the Bar Exam

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/06/2021 - 6:00pm in

Last week, we brought you two stories about Juneteenth from our friends and collaborators at WURD Radio and URL Media. This week, we’re publishing content inspired by the work of another URL outlet, Scalawag, which publishes journalism in pursuit of a more liberated South. This year, Scalawag challenged media outlets to embrace Abolition Week by focusing on alternatives to the deep injustices of the prison system — something we at RTBC report on a lot

Learn more about URL Media in the words of the founders here and here. If we had one wish this Juneteenth, it would be for every RTBC reader to follow and support them in their journey.

As a teenager, Phil Miller dreamt of becoming a CIA field officer — a spy, he says. But incarceration derailed that dream. It seemed to derail any future ones he’d have, too. 

“I was arrested at 19. I was given a 20-year sentence,” says Miller. “I definitely thought my life was over. During those years, you hear you lost all your rights because of your conviction, and there’s a whole world of opportunities that are just closed off to you.” 

The CIA off the table, Miller became a jailhouse lawyer — an incarcerated person who informally helps others challenge their convictions while in prison. It suited him: He had success winning appeals and sentence reductions from inside. Still, he assumed his own sentence had imploded his future, especially the idea of one day taking his law practice beyond the prison walls.

Phil Miller

Miller wasn’t wrong to assume this: The National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction catalogues around 40,000 official restrictions limiting or excluding people with convictions from accessing employment, education and more in the United States. For aspiring lawyers with convictions, the pinnacle of their restriction manifests as the “character and fitness” portion of the Bar Exam, a labyrinthine mandatory background check that often excludes people with criminal records. That is to say, the bar to pass the Bar as someone with a record often feels almost impossibly high.

And yet, Miller might have been wrong about his own future. This year, he’s finishing his first year of law school at the City University of New York, deciding between a specialty in criminal or entertainment law. But, he says, he wouldn’t be where he is without support: at CUNY Law that came from the Formerly Incarcerated Law Students Advocacy Association (FILSAA). Today, a future that once seemed impossible is close within Miller’s grasp. 

FILSAA is part of a growing movement of organizations working to change the overwhelming scrutiny that discourages — and often disqualifies — people with records from pursuing a law degree.

While other organizations work to tackle the barriers to the Bar on a political level, FILSAA works on a deceptively simple level, offering free LSAT training, mentorship and a needed supportive space at school for people with records.

Accustomed to hiding his past, Miller felt not just welcomed by FILSAA, but understood.

“It was like, ‘Oh wow, I can truly be myself among this group of people,’” he says. 

Research backs up FILSAA’s model. Unlocking the Bar, a 2019 study from Stanford Law School, found “concerns about satisfying moral character requirements,” as well as a lack of resources for those with records to navigate the character and fitness assessment, and unequal employment opportunities that “deter interested individuals from applying to law school.” Because people of color are more likely to interact with the legal system, they also bear the disproportionate weight of the problem.

Elsewhere across the country, others doing similar work are also finding success, on both individual and political levels. 

For Roland Acevedo, a solo attorney based in New York City, that means personally prepping people with convictions for the character and fitness process. Acevedo uses his experience having served time to guide others. He estimates he’s worked with around 50 prospective lawyers, “the vast majority” of whom passed the Bar.

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While he understands people’s hesitation and agrees the character and fitness assessment is overly restrictive, he says passing is achievable by relying on a few key principles: candor, consistency and a “non-adversarial” approach that emphasizes growth. 

Dr. James Binnall also mentors prospective lawyers with convictions and claims a nearly perfect success rate, too. Binnall is the co-executive director of the California System-Involved Bar Association, an industry group dedicated to getting more formerly incarcerated people into the legal profession. For him, progress has come through fostering community within the organization and moving the needle statewide. 

Internally, CSIBA’s organization runs a listserv numbering around 200 participants. Those participants get advice and support from each other and CSIBA’s 40 organizational members. Externally, their statewide educational campaigns paired with the Unlock the Bar study have reached the California State Bar, resulting in changes including less adversarial character and fitness conferences for people with convictions, and more consideration of rehabilitation and treatment progress.  

“The [California] Bar is now far more receptive to people with records as a general proposition being admitted,” Binnall summarized.

unlocking the barThe first annual convening of CSIBA at the UCLA School of Law, with James Binnall sitting front center. Photo courtesy James Binnall

Seeing both success and need, more organizations are springing up. At Columbia University, the Paralegal Pathways Initiative, designed to help formerly incarcerated people become paralegals, is in its pilot phase. The National Justice Impacted Bar Association (NJIBA) recently launched a division for current and prospective law students, already counting around 300 members. 

Acevedo says that, with preparation, direct experience can actually help prospective law students stand out in the application process and be an immeasurable benefit should they become lawyers.

“You have one thing other lawyers don’t have,” says Acevedo. “You have instant credibility with a lot of your clients. They understand you’ve taken the journey, and they appreciate the fact that you’ve basically overcome. You can’t un-ring the bell, so you might as well use it to your advantage.”

 Because there is no public disclosure of convictions for prospective lawyers, it’s impossible to say with certainty whether industry representation has grown overall. And funding remains a huge obstacle. While support and community go a long way, many formerly incarcerated people remain restricted by the financial burden of law school.

“It’s really easy to say if you believe in yourself and work hard enough, anything is possible,” says FILSAA co-chair Colby Williams. “But, that’s just not the reality for some people.”

FILSAA’s impact has been small in numbers but deep in value. A mentorship program they organize has four formerly incarcerated participants. Their free LSAT training attracted seven. Thanks to what Williams calls “mythbusting” YouTube videos, they’ve heard this year from 12 currently or formerly incarcerated people expressing interest, two formerly incarcerated students applied to CUNY Law and one has been accepted so far.

Still, FILSAA sees their model as simple and replicable. Virtually any law school could launch a similar concept. But Williams says it’s important to remember the purpose of the work and expertise at hand.

“I think early in the organization it was sort of a catch-all for people… who want to support disenfranchised people,” says Williams. “All that’s great, but it seems like when a formerly incarcerated person has an idea and the other members rally around them, we’ve made the largest strides.”

Phil Miller was one of them. He credits FILSAA with helping him to help others coming from similar situations. 

“A lot of guys come out, they struggle, they stay in the same situation that led to their incarceration, and don’t really aspire to do much more. One of the reasons is because they don’t have the hope or the example that it can be done. That’s definitely the biggest value. Once you realize it’s a possibility, it really inspires and motivates you to achieve it.” 

 “I’m sure you hear this all the time,” said one email FILSAA received, “but it means everything to learn that there is a team of people at the school who understand the challenges we face as formerly incarcerated people on this journey. Learning about FILSAA has been a game changer.” 

Williams says that their understanding of opportunity’s value keeps FILSAA working.

“Hope is a necessity. It’s like food and air but for whatever it is we call our spirits,” he says. “Finding out there’s something big that you’re able to do, you’re allowed to do, and that other people value you for, that can help you take yourself seriously.”

The post Clearing a Path from Prison to the Bar Exam appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

A Philosopher Helps A Former Prisoner Dig Deep Into His Experiences, Thoughts, and Art

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/05/2021 - 7:00pm in

“I realized I couldn’t be what the officials were expecting of me. You got to put that in your head so they can’t break you. They want to break you. If you’re not broken, they say you’re crazy.”

Those are the words of artist Winfred Rembert, describing his time in prison and being forced to work as part of a chain gang in the late 1960s and early 1970s owing to his involvement in the civil rights movement in Georgia.

[Rembert Winfred, “All Me II” (detail)]

They were told to philosopher Erin Kelly (Tufts), who met Rembert in 2015 while researching a book on criminal justice. She says:

He told me he wanted to share his life story in his own words but needed help writing it. From 2018 to 2020, I visited his home every two weeks or so to interview him. I transcribed and arranged his reflections and then read the pages back to him. Each time we met, we dug deeper into Rembert’s thoughts about what he had lived through.

Rembert died in March, but the gripping stories and moving thoughts he discussed with Kelly will be made available in August as the book, Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South.

An excerpt from the book has been published in The New Yorker. If you read one thing today, make it that.

And oh, the art—glorious.

(Note: This post originally misstated the month in which Rembert died.)

Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 11:50pm in

Lecture with Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College). Respondent: Anand Menon (King’s College London) Convenors: Timothy Garton Ash and Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College). The event was co-sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the Centre for International Studies at DPIR.

Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetic of Transitional Justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/01/2017 - 2:21am in


Politics, Justice, Law

This Postcolonial Writing and Theory Seminar is on 'Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetic of Transitional Justice' with speaker Carrol Clarkson (University of Amsterdam).

The Great Leveler

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/02/2016 - 8:32am in


Blog, Law

ReichIn the last few years the heavyweights of Keynesian economics have rediscovered monopoly power and its alter ego, competition. Joseph Stiglitz has been talking about monopoly. So too has Paul Krugman. Noting that “we don’t talk much about monopoly power these days,” for instance, Krugman argued in 2012 that the conversation needed to change: growing monopoly power was one of only two possible explanations for the striking ongoing decline in labour’s share of U.S. national income as the share going to corporate profits surged – a form of inequality, notably, overshadowed “for the past generation [as] discussions of inequality have focused overwhelmingly not on capital versus labor but on distributional issues between workers.” And more recently still Robert Reich has added his voice to the growing chorus, submitting that checking growing monopoly power is essential to Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.

What, in turn, does political economy have to offer us by way of understanding monopoly and competition and their materiality to capitalist economies? In my new book, The Great Leveler, which addresses this question both theoretically and – through a historical study of the development of the U.K. and U.S. economies from the late-nineteenth century to the present day – empirically, I argue against the two main prevailing political economy “takes” on monopoly. One is provided by the so-called “monopoly capitalism” tradition. Closely associated with the Monthly Review School, this analysis sees Western capitalism as having become more and more monopolistic over time. Capitalism used to be competitive; but by the mid-twentieth century it was no more, and thus the developments discussed by Krugman et al represent a mere continuation of a long-term, linear, seemingly ineluctable trend (e.g. see J. Foster and R. McChesney, The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China). The second tradition is one that, by contrast, largely dismisses monopoly and competition as significant concerns, because monopoly and competition are essentially market-exchange dynamics and what happens in markets is deemed epiphenomenal. The real business of capitalism takes place not in the noisy, surficial sphere of exchange but in Marx’s hidden abode of production (e.g. see B. Fine and A. Murfin, Macroeconomics and Monopoly Capitalism).

The Great Leveler takes a different tack and makes a different case. Going back primarily to what Marx himself had to say about monopoly and competition, it submits that capitalism always, everywhere, requires both and that the relation between them is actually fundamental rather than tangential to overall capitalist political-economic dynamics. Specifically, capitalism, to remain capitalism, requires not only both monopoly and competition but a sustainable balance between them. Monopoly powers are necessary in order to ensure that capitalism is not too competitive, driving down prices and profits; at the same time, competition is required to stave off the tendencies towards stagnation and rent-seeking associated with excessive monopolisation.

Framed by this conceptualisation, the book argues that some of the major historical periods of instability in the U.K. and U.S. economies can be read in significant measure as manifestations of developing imbalance in this all-important dialectical relationship between monopoly and competition. This was true of the 1890s, when competition was in relative excess; in the period immediately following World War Two, when monopoly powers were ascendant; and in the 1970s, when the pendulum had swung back and, once again, competition was the increasingly dominant force. It is true, too, today.

Which begs, of course, a crucial question: If instability in these periods reflected monopoly-competition imbalance, how was such imbalance corrected or at least muted and thus full-blown crisis averted? I argue that the answer is found in large part in the law, and specifically in the application and effect of two sets of laws that are profoundly implicated in the monopoly-competition relation: competition/antitrust law on the one hand and, on the other, intellectual property (IP) law. Forcefully applied, competition law can and does restore competition where it is in relative deficit; IP law, meanwhile, can and does contribute actively to the assembly of monopoly powers in situations where such powers are thin on the ground. Together, such laws – the law – act as a powerful leveler.

LevelerSo what happened in the relevant historical periods in the United States and the United Kingdom? While there were clearly important differences in historical experience in both political-economic circumstances and legal intervention, The Great Leveler focuses mainly on the commonalities. From the late nineteenth century through to the mid-twentieth century, IP law in both territories was more vigorously applied than competition law – indeed in the U.K. case there was no competition law – and this helped revive monopoly power in relation to competition. For the next three decades, the legal relation was reversed – IP law took a backseat as antitrust enforcement ratcheted up – thus helping to restore competitive conditions in the face of rampant mid-century monopolisation. And from the early 1980s, under the influence in particular of the Chicago School of law and economics, a defanging of competition law was accompanied by the buttressing and heightened application of IP law across the full range of patents, trademark and copyright. Monopoly powers were successfully renewed.

Where, then, do we stand – in the political economies of the United Kingdom and United States – today? The Great Leveler concludes by arguing that the pendulum has swung back once more. Monopoly powers are in relative excess, flushed by three decades of support from beneficial IP laws and unrestrained by largely non-interventionist antitrust authorities.

Plenty of observers, Krugman among them, have recently recognised this surfeit of monopoly and have identified it as problematic – not just for labour, but for capitalism and its stability more broadly. And plenty of commentators, Reich among them, have called accordingly for antitrust to be reinforced and meaningfully reactivated, the orthodoxies of the Chicago School (e.g. that “efficiency” is all and that monopoly can be more efficient than competition) set aside. But this has not happened, and nor has a reining-in of expansive IP laws that demonstrably permit all manner of monopolistic rent-seeking behaviours.

Will the legal scales soon tip again, and come to the rescue of Anglo-American economies currently imbalanced by a paucity of competition? It remains, I argue, an open question. It has happened in the past, specifically in the period after World War Two. But, crucially, the geographies of the economy have changed markedly since then. In those days it made sense to speak, however imperfectly and transiently, of “national economies.” Yet those days are arguably gone, not least where monopoly powers are concerned. The latter don’t tend to crystallise at the national scale any more, except in isolated instances (U.S. cable-based telecommunications, dominated by Comcast, being a great example); they tend to be international, and increasingly so. But competition laws are not. In the absence of a consolidated international antitrust regime, can national laws be mobilised to successfully disempower international, often global corporate accumulations of monopoly power? I may be wrong, but it looks like a tough ask.

Justice Gap Growing - Productivity Commission Report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/01/2015 - 10:51am in