GRAND-JURY-Sign1By the end of this month, a grand jury is expected to hand down a decision in the case of the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the most frequently considered questions related to the case is, “What exactly is a grand jury?”

Although seemingly shrouded in mystery, grand juries are an essential part of the protections of our liberties within the legal system of the United States. Here is everything you ever needed to know about the grand jury system.

(Note: Most of this information is based on federal grand juries. Grand juries at the state level may have slightly different policies.)

What is a grand jury?

The grand jury is a jury of citizens that determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that a specific person or persons committed it. If the grand jury finds probable cause to exist, then it will return a written statement of the charges called an “indictment.”

After the issuance of an indictment, the case moves to trial where the accused can then defend themselves against the charges brought against them before a petit jury (also called a trial jury).

Why are grand juries important?
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071016_schoen_middleClass_hmed5p.grid-6x2In the latest edition of his monthly newsletter, Economic Prospect, John Teevan offers three keys to cultivating a flourishing middle class, as excerpted below:

  1. Income and Jobs: America looks at jobs and incomes alone and can only explain fading middle class by blaming rich people. We can do better than just focus on money. Isn’t life more than your job and what it will buy? …
  2. Marriage and Family. The middle class would swell and poverty would be decimated if all people were married. The endless single-parent homes are poor almost by definition. It’s practically a rule that you can’t be middle class if you have a child and are not married. Marriage makes it possible to attain other middle class values such as upward mobility, a house…filled with “nice” things, along with pleasant home life, free time, and feeling successful. Whether you ask CNBC’s Larry Kudlow or Rainbow Coalition’s Jesse Jackson they agree: the one thing that would help individuals and the nation with respect to poverty is for most people to get married. Kudlow recently said that, “…marriage gives people a reason to work, a home one hopes is stable, and children for whom two parents feel responsible” (Nov 11,2014 T-U).
  3. Values and Morals. Middle class morals and values may seem like a quaint topic, but you can’t have a middle class without them. At one time the middle class was divided between blue and white collar jobs. What’s crucial is that (a) both collars valued work for income and also as proof of competence and responsibility. (b) The middle class values education. Literacy was essential in 1900, by 1950 it was a high school degree, and now you need at least an Associate’s Degree to have the education needed for joining the middle class. (c) A sense of civic responsibility is another middle class value so that parents are involved in their children’s schooling, local government, church, and other not-for-profits. Shouting NIMBY at a zoning meeting does not count. (d) Decency. Decency didn’t mean that there was no bad behavior but that bad behavior was not considered the norm; decency was the norm, but no longer. You can have an income of $25,000 or 85,000, but without these values you are not middle class. Why do middle class people tend to be decent, moral, educated and civic? Because it makes a real difference to them and their families.

Integrated Justice - front cover (1)Echoing some of the key themes of his latest book, Integrated Justice and Equality: Biblical Wisdom for Those Who Do Good Works, Teevan proceeds to critique the modern tendency to focus only on #1 (income and jobs) to the detriment of family and values/morals.

As Teevan explains, “a robust and even biblical view of life unites work, ethics, and family into a life that thrives and is worth living both at work and home”:

We can’t have a middle class just by juicing incomes; it takes middle class values as lived out in families as well. Is this obsolete thinking? The alternative is to wonder if the middle class itself is obsolete. And what if it is? Then the world will be divided into well-educated high income people and all others who do basic service, construction, transportation, retail and manufacturing. One drawback of our high focus on business and economics is that it is accompanied by the idea that ethics and family are secondary or even optional. A robust and even biblical view of life unites work, ethics, and family into a life that thrives and is worth living both at work and home.

For more of Teevan’s views on inequality and justice, see his book, Integrated Justice and Equality: Biblical Wisdom for Those Who Do Good Works, which is now available from Christian’s Library Press, an imprint of the Acton Institute.

The above excerpt is from Teevan’s monthly email, Economic Prospect, which you can subscribe to by sending him a request.

Taylor-Swift-SpotifyTaylor Swift recently made waves when her record label pulled her entire catalog off Spotify, a popular music streaming service. Fans and critics responded in turn, banging their chests and wailing in solidarity, meming and moaning across the Twitterverse about the plight of the Struggling Artist and the imperialism of mean old Master Spotify.

Yet as an avid and thoroughly satisfied Spotify user, I couldn’t help but think of the wide variety of artists sprinkled across my playlists, a diverse mix of superstars, one-hit-wonders, niche fixtures, and independent nobodies. With such reach and depth, had Spotify really duped and enslaved them all, leaving them brainwashed and helpless lest they rise to the courage, stature, and enlightened futurism of Ms. Swift?

Or could it be that some artists actually benefit from such platforms?

I’ve written elsewhere about the transformative effects of economic freedom on the arts — how unleashing opportunity, innovation, and prosperity has yielded unprecedented amounts of time, training, and resources, all of which can be used to create more art, and do so independently. For musicians, the cost of equipment continues to go down, even as quality goes up, and as artists continue to grab hold of these resources, companies like Spotify are swooping in to service the next step.

Much like Kickstarter and iTunes, Spotify continues to experiment with new ways of empowering artists, helping folks bypass record labels altogether (“the banks,” “the marketing machine,” “the Man”) and connect them more closely with audiences. Countless artists have jumped in. And yes, countless others have opted out, particularly the ones with cash, fans, and sway. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 21, 2014
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Why has Pentecostalism grown so dramatically in Latin America?
David Masci, Pew Research Center

With nearly 300 million followers worldwide, including many in Africa and Latin America, Pentecostalism is now a global phenomenon. But present day Pentecostalism traces its origins to a religious revival movement that began in the early 20th century.

Iraqi prelate raps Muslim silence on atrocities of Islamic State
Catholic World News

Iraq’s leading Catholic prelate has decried the silence of the world’s Islamic leaders in the face of the “barbaric” violence of the Islamic State.

Rabbi Sacks: Family Is Most Humanizing Institution in History
Zenit

Here is the address given Monday by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at the colloquim underway in the Vatican on the complementarity of man and woman. The rabbi’s address was titled “The Family is the Single Most Humanising Institution in History.”

The poor want ‘dignity, not charity,’ pope says
Inés San Martín, Crux

Pope Francis called hunger and malnutrition a cause of scandal on Thursday, and declared that the poor of the world “ask for dignity, not charity.”

ncrWhat is the best way to help the the global poor? One group attempting to bring innovative thinking to that question is PovertyCure, an initiative of the Acton Institute.

PovertyCure brings together an international coalition to encourage entrepreneurial solutions to poverty that are rooted in a Christian understanding of the person, who is created in the image of God. Michael Matheson Miller, the director of PovertyCure, was recently interviewed about the project by the National Catholic Register:

What are some of the basic principles PovertyCure attempts to advance?

At the core of PovertyCure is a vision of the human person created in the image of God with creative capacity. We are not objects, but subjects (or persons) who are capable of making rational decisions and engaging in creative enterprise.
Unfortunately, this vision is missing from much of the activity done to reduce poverty. The poor often become the objects of charitable giving or “humanitarianism,” rather than subjects and protagonists of their own development. When we see poverty, our first reaction is often to ask, “What can I do to help?” This is good, but a better question is: “How can I help people in poverty create prosperity for their families and communities?” This sounds like a simple shift, but it can make a profound difference, because it takes the focus off us and puts it where it belongs: on the people we are trying to help.

Read more . . .

crony-capitalismSometimes the current decisions we make today can affect the options that become available to us in the future time. For example, I may spend less money today in order to be able to spend more at a future point in time, such as during retirement. The name for this economic concept is “intertemporal choice.”

What we expect or desire to happen in the future can affect the choices we make now. While this concept may appear obvious, it can have significant implications when we apply it to certain groups, such as politicians.

Take, for instance, the problem of cronyism. Cronyism is a form of corruption that occurs when an individual or organization colludes with government officials to create legislation or regulations that give them forced benefits they could not have otherwise obtained voluntarily. But such cronyism doesn’t have to occur directly. Intertemporal choices, as economist Bryan Caplan explains, can lead to intertemporal corruption:
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are you my motherNovember 20 was established as Universal Children’s Day in 1954 by the United Nations. The UN has imagined this as a day of building fraternity between children and raising awareness for children’s welfare.

If we really care about children’s welfare, we need to stop pretending. We need to stop pretending that it’s not in the best interest of children to have a mom and a dad who are married and live together.  We need to stop pretending that children are not being daily abused in our own communities via human trafficking. We need to stop pretending that children are things we get because we want them, not human beings who are completely dependent on mature adults to help create the best environment for them. Purposefully and brazenly conceiving children apart from their biological parents is not in the best interest of children, no matter what we adults want. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 20, 2014
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What Tocqueville Can Teach Us About the Culture War
Richard Samuelson, Library of Law and Liberty

In America, civil associations are completely voluntary, and yet they have, or had, a very important civic role. Civil society was a space of liberty, with very few regulations. No one was required to cease drinking, and no one was required to monetarily support a temperance group, or a charity hospital, church, reading club, or fraternal or other charitable organization.

Is There a Link between Childhood Homelessness and Single Parenthood?
Leslie Ford, The Daily Signal

A new report from The National Center on Family Homelessness concludes that “the challenges of single parenting” is one of the serious causes of homelessness. This conclusion makes sense. Single-parenthood drastically increases the likelihood of poverty and the risks of negative outcomes for children.

In defense of sweatshops — they’re often the best and fastest way for the poor to escape poverty
Mark J. Perry, AEIdeas

Closing sweatshops and forcing Western labor and environmental standards down poor people’s throats in the third world does nothing to elevate them out of poverty.

Three Things a Tesla Teaches Us about Stewardship
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The Tesla is becoming an increasingly frequent sight in the area in which I live, as are many other kinds of electric vehicles. Commercially, this technology is relatively new, but despite the political undertones inevitable to any discussion involving environmental technology, it can teach us a lot about our call to stewardship.

What is the connection between private property and conscience rights? “If there is no private property,” says Michael Novak in this week’s Acton Commentary, “there is also no independent leg to stand on in speaking for one’s conscience — and not only one’s individual conscience.”

In Poland and elsewhere, religious communities had inspired and led the nations for hundreds of years. In such places, people were not imprisoned solely in their own individual power, which was little. Sometimes they acted through institutions and associations of their own choosing. Solidarity in Poland, for example, or People Against Violence in Slovakia.

Sometimes they acted through associations and institutions they had been born into, and long been become grateful for. They knew by family history the many ways in which these institutions had nourished, taught, and trained them in the habits of conscience, self-government, and personal responsibility. These institutions had for centuries stood outside the passing follies of the age, and had been the people’s source of independence from the self-centered, decadent, and at times even thuggish “wisdom” of their particular generation.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

doctor bagMy mother, a registered nurse, worked for years for our small town doctor. She would drive around the countryside, going to check on elderly folks or those who didn’t drive. We had a number of people who came to our house regularly for things like allergy shots. She kept their vials of medication, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls and syringes in our kitchen cupboard. The doctor (who was the sort to exchange his services for things like eggs and fresh meat) gave me my kindergarten physical in his living room.

While this might seem like Norman Rockwell, misty-eyed nostalgia, there’s one thing for sure: this doctor and my mom knew their patients really well. They knew their concerns, their histories: not just medical, but in all aspects of their life. Given a choice, isn’t this the kind of medical care most of us would choose for ourselves and our families? (more…)