Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi - The New York Times

The Times investigation that dismantles Republican claims about the Benghazi, Libya U.S. Embassy attack.  - GWC

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi - The New York Times: by David Kirkpatrick
BOYISH-LOOKING AMERICAN DIPLOMAT was meeting for the first time with the Islamist leaders of eastern Libya’s most formidable militias.
It was Sept. 9, 2012. Gathered on folding chairs in a banquet hall by the Mediterranean, the Libyans warned of rising threats against Americans from extremists in Benghazi. One militia leader, with a long beard and mismatched military fatigues, mentioned time in exile in Afghanistan. An American guard discreetly touched his gun.
“Since Benghazi isn’t safe, it is better for you to leave now,” Mohamed al-Gharabi, the leader of the Rafallah al-Sehati Brigade, later recalled telling the Americans. “I specifically told the Americans myself that we hoped that they would leave Benghazi as soon as possible.”
Yet as the militiamen snacked on Twinkie-style cakes with their American guests, they also gushed about their gratitude for President Obama’s support in their uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They emphasized that they wanted to build a partnership with the United States, especially in the form of more investment. They specifically asked for Benghazi outlets of McDonald’s and KFC....
,,,BOYISH-LOOKING AMERICAN DIPLOMAT was meeting for the first time with the Islamist leaders of eastern Libya’s most formidable militias.
It was Sept. 9, 2012. Gathered on folding chairs in a banquet hall by the Mediterranean, the Libyans warned of rising threats against Americans from extremists in Benghazi. One militia leader, with a long beard and mismatched military fatigues, mentioned time in exile in Afghanistan. An American guard discreetly touched his gun.
“Since Benghazi isn’t safe, it is better for you to leave now,” Mohamed al-Gharabi, the leader of the Rafallah al-Sehati Brigade, later recalled telling the Americans. “I specifically told the Americans myself that we hoped that they would leave Benghazi as soon as possible.”
Yet as the militiamen snacked on Twinkie-style cakes with their American guests, they also gushed about their gratitude for President Obama’s support in their uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They emphasized that they wanted to build a partnership with the United States, especially in the form of more investment. They specifically asked for Benghazi outlets of McDonald’s and KFC.

'via Blog this'

Monday, December 30, 2013

Poll: Republican Belief In Evolution Has Plummeted In Recent Years

Krisiw4esed2eau2idlqThat 33% of Americans do not "believe" in evolution is proof of how confused people are about the meaning of belief. - gwc

 Poll: Republican Belief In Evolution Has Plummeted In Recent Years:  by Dylan Scott // TPM
 "Belief in evolution among Republicans has dropped more than 10 percentage points since 2009, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. Pew found that 43 percent of Republicans said they believed humans and other living beings had evolved over time, down from 54 percent in 2009. More (48 percent) said they believed all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. The percentages for Democrats and independents were considerably more stable: Democratic belief in evolution went from 64 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2013; independent belief dipped from 67 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2013. Among all American adults, 60 percent said they believe in evolution, according to Pew, and 33 percent do not. The poll surveyed 1,983 Americans ages 18 and older from March 21 to April 8." 'via Blog this'

Life Expectancy: the U.S. falls further behind

If government-run health care systems are inferior why do their beneficiaries live longer than Americans?  Hints: it's not smoking (Europeans smoke more).  It is the American theme that "the government governs best which governs least."  It is anti-tax sentiment - rather than community-mindedness.  That kind of distorted "don't tread on me" thinking fuels efforts to obstruct the ACA, and refusal to accept the expansion of Medicaid by GOP governors. - gwc
life expectancy chart

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Government boats: classic motor lifeboats

This is a wood 36 foot former Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat, photographed recently by Will Van Dorp on Staten Island.
Government Boats 28 | tugster: a waterblog:

'via Blog this'

AIDS in Malawi: Magical thinking of Pentecostals obstructs progress

by Jill Filipovic //Foreign Policy
In addition to stoking fears about witchcraft, Pentecostals, as well as other independent and charismatic churches, have undermined efforts to contain HIV by claiming to have healed congregants and encouraging them to go off of their anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Frances Mwale, a medical assistant and clinician at a rural HIV/AIDS clinic in the Chikwawa district of Malawi, says three of his patients stopped taking their ARVs this year after receiving healing prayers at Pentecostal churches. At Mwale's urging, two of the three restarted their medication, but one won't respond to his inquiries. Just over 10 percent of the adult population of Malawi is HIV-positive.   "One way to bring in new followers is to claim to perform miracles," says Henry Chimbali, spokesman for Malawi's Ministry of Health. "Pentecostal pastors pray for people and tell them they have performed a miracle. This has really affected the adherence to ARVs in this country. Some of those who think they have been cured stay off [their ARVs] so long that when they finally go back on them, it cannot be reversed. These people end up dying."
- See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/20/Angels_and_Demons_Africa_Malawi_witches_HIV?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Flashpoints%20Complete%2010%2F7&utm_campaign=Flashpoints%2012-27-13#sthash.kZ668Ctd.dpuf

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Fordham renounces ASA Call to Boycott Israeli Universities

University Statement | ASA Boycott Vote
December 27, 2013

As a Jesuit university, Fordham has always been devoted to the pursuit of wisdom and learning, a pursuit that is dependent upon and advanced by spirited, principled debate between and among scholars. Therefore, although the University certainly recognizes and reveres the freedom of conscience of the individual scholars who comprise its faculty, it stands resolutely in opposition to the call for the boycott of Israeli universities recently advocated by the members of the American Studies Association. We believe that boycotts of this kind seriously undermine and hinder the efforts of any intellectual community to fulfill its mission in the service of wisdom and learning.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Fordham Unversity

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hobby Lobby Part III-A—Does federal law substantially pressure employers to offer health insurance coverage in violation of religious obligations, even though there is no “Employer Mandate”? Balkinization

Contrary to common impression, the ACA does NOT compel large employers (over 50 full-time) to offer health insurance.  It taxes them about $2,000 per full time employee if they don't.  But IF they do offer a health plan it must conform to ACA requirements.  That includes offering coverage with no co-pay and no deductible for birth control and sterilization.  A group of challengers allege that violates their conscientious objections to at least some forms of birth control, and leaves them with the choice: don't offer a health plan or violate their conscience.  Is that a Hobson's choice that amounts to compulsion?  Martin Lederman address the question of whether the law places a "substantial burden" on religious exercise.  - GWC
Balkinization: <i>Hobby Lobby</i> Part III-A—Does federal law substantially pressure employers to offer health insurance coverage in violation of religious obligations, even though there is no “Employer Mandate”?: 'via Blog this'

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wide renunciation of American Studies Association Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

A wide array of American university presidents has renounced the recent call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the American Studies Association.  Some academics, like Judith Butler a UC Berkeley philosopher, defend the Palestinian movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).  But the American Association of University Professors and a broad array of university and college presidents have deplored the ASA resolution, as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has chronicled.

Personally I am very skeptical of such boycott calls.  As someone interested in the development - and hopefully improvement - of China's legal system I have opted for engagement.  There is certainly much reason to renounce Chinese government policy - its widespread use of executions, for starters and its intolerance of criticism whether at home or abroad (e.g. its blocking of internet access to the New York Times, and threatened refusal to renew visas of Times and Bloomberg reporters; and the incarceration of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo).   
Supporters of the Palestinian boycott movement assert that their protest is directed not at individuals but at "institutions" which represent the Israeli government.  That seems unrealistic to me.  For scholars to exchange views they need the support of their universities and their governments.  I have had the good fortune to go to China four times - thrice supported by the State Department (Fulbright and Rule of Law programs), and the fourth by my school - Fordham.  In each case I was hosted by universities run by the Chinese government and Communist Party.  On every occasion I presented the strengths (and some weaknesses) of our legal system.  In my view such engagement and exchange is the way to go.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Implementing Obamacare in a Red State — Dispatch from North Carolina — NEJM

Only in America would you find a major political party dedicated to preventing large numbers of its citizens from having access to affordable health care.  - GWC
Implementing Obamacare in a Red State — Dispatch from North Carolina — NEJM:
Jonathan Oberlander, Ph.D., and Krista Perreira, Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2013; 369:2469-2471December 26, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1314861
North Carolina's decision not to participate in Obamacare has had an enormous impact. An estimated 319,000 uninsured North Carolinians with annual incomes below the federal poverty level ($11,490 for an individual) are ineligible for Medicaid because the state rejected program expansion.4 These low-income people are also ineligible for subsidized coverage in the North Carolina exchange, which leaves them without any new affordable insurance options, even as people with higher incomes are eligible for subsidies through the exchange. In other words, many North Carolinians are actually too poor to qualify for financial assistance to obtain insurance — further testament to the bizarre logic of American health care. Consequently, it is projected that by 2016, North Carolina will have reduced its uninsured population of 1.6 million by only about 400,000.5 Hospitals, doctors, and safety-net clinics will see a higher volume of uninsured patients than they would have seen if the state had expanded Medicaid — an especially problematic outcome for hospitals that had counted on more insured patients to balance out financial pressures from reductions in federal Medicare payments.A higher number of uninsured residents is not the only consequence of North Carolina's Obamacare boycott. North Carolinians are dependent on the federally run insurance exchange, with all the problems that has entailed to date. States rejecting Medicaid expansion still have many residents who are eligible under the ACA for subsidized coverage in the exchanges. But the uninsured must first learn about new coverage options. Yet the North Carolina state government has played virtually no role during the run-up to and early operation of the insurance marketplace. There is no state-organized outreach and enrollment effort, no state campaign to raise awareness about new coverage options, and no state-led drive to cover hard-to-reach populations such as immigrants. Into that void has stepped a loose coalition of community groups, health system stakeholders, and social-service providers. In addition, Enroll America, a nonprofit group working to promote the ACA in states whose governments are not running their own exchanges, has set up shop in North Carolina. It aims to use techniques adapted from the Obama presidential campaign to identify, find, and canvass uninsured persons and connect them to enrollment resources. Enroll America plans to purchase advertising promoting the ACA in North Carolina, something the Obama administration is also doing.In other words, because North Carolina is not organizing health care reform implementation, that task has, by default, fallen to groups outside state government. For all their efforts, such groups lack the resources, authority, coordinating ability, and presence that would have accompanied a state-organized campaign to implement Obamacare. State inaction further devolves responsibility to county public agencies, which may vary in their receptiveness to and capacity for ACA promotion. Moreover, the pro-Obamacare campaign must compete with a robust anti-Obamacare operation led by Republicans and conservative political organizations.

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Benedict - A shadow Pope? Hans Kung //National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Hans Kung, the brilliant German Catholic theologian who has long been a voice independent of the hierarchy, warns that as welcome as are the initiatives of Pope Francis, he still hasn't broken decisively with conservatives.  The attitude of the clerical conservatives, like the Pope Emeritus Benedict, toward Vatican II reforms has been "forget it".  The bastion of the old guard - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Inquisition), long led by Cardinal (now Pope Emeritus) Ratzinger is still in the hands of the reactionaries.  Pope Francis confirmed Ratzinger's choice - Fr. Gerhard Muller - early in his papacy.  Kung details Muller's regressive stance which will - unless he is removed - block needed reforms - GWC

by Father Hans Kung // National Catholic Reporter
All this will meet with wide approval far beyond the Catholic church. [Francis's] undifferentiated rejection of abortion and women's ordination will, however, probably provoke criticism. This is where the dogmatic limits of this pope become apparent. Or is he perhaps under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?  In a long guest contribution in Osservatore Romano (Oct. 23), Müller demonstrated his ultra-conservative stance by corroborating the exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments who, unless they live together as brother and sister (!), are ostensibly in a state of mortal sin on account of the sexual character of their relationship.
As Bishop of Regensburg, Müller, as a clerical hard-liner who provoked numerous conflicts with parish priests and theologians, lay bodies and the Central Committee of German Catholics, was as controversial and unpopular as his brother bishop at Limburg. That Müller, as a loyal supporter and publisher of his collected works, was nevertheless appointed CDF prefect by Papa Ratzinger, surprised people less than the fact that Francis confirmed him in office quite so soon.And worried observers are already asking whether Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is in fact operating as a kind of "shadow Pope" behind the scenes through Müller and Georg Gänswein, [Benedict's] secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, whom he also promoted to archbishop. One remembers how in 1993 Ratzinger as cardinal whistled back the then-bishops of Freiburg (Oskar Saier), Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Walter Kasper) and Mainz (Karl Lehmann) when they suggested a pragmatic solution for the problem of remarried divorcees. It is revealing that the present debate 20 years later was again triggered by the Archbishop of Freiburg, namely Robert Zollitsch, the president of the German bishops' conference. It was Zollitsch who ventured a fresh attempt to rethink pastoral practice as far as remarried divorcees are concerned. And Francis?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What are my preventive care benefits | HealthCare.gov

These are benefits available to all who are covered by ACA policies with NO CO-PAYMENT!  - GWC
What are my preventive care benefits | HealthCare.gov:

Preventive health services for adults

Most health plans must cover a set of preventive services like shots and screening tests at no cost to you. This includes Marketplace private insurance plans.

Preventive care benefits

Preventive care helps you stay healthy. A doctor isn’t someone to see only when you’re sick. Doctors also provide services that help keep you healthy.

Free preventive services

All Marketplace plans and many other plans must cover the following list of preventive services without charging you a copayment or coinsurance. This is true even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible. This applies only when these services are delivered by a network provider.
  1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
  2. Alcohol Misuse screening and counseling
  3. Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease for men and women of certain ages
  4. Blood Pressure screening for all adults
  5. Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  6. Colorectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
  7. Depression screening for adults
  8. Diabetes (Type 2) screening for adults with high blood pressure
  9. Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
  10. HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65, and other ages at increased risk
  11. Immunization vaccines for adults--doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
  12. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counselingfor adults at higher risk
  13. Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk
  14. Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
  'via Blog this'

Stanley Fish - farewell Times Opinionator column

Stanley Fish is someone I agree with more often than not.  He has a farewell Opinionator column in the Times today - after eighteen years.  He has written 300 essays since he got that first call in 1995.  A good run, I'd say. An exemplary "public intellectual".  - GWC

Monday, December 23, 2013

The AK 47 assault rifle - symbol of "people's war"

Mikhail Kalashnikov has died at 94.  He was proud of his invention - the AK 47 assault rifle, according to C.J. Chivers in the Russian general's Times obituary.  During the Vietnam war American soldiers were said to prize the gun over their own M 16's which corroded and malfunctioned while the Kalashnikovs seemed always to fire.  That cemented the Kalashnikov's iconic status as the weapon of choice for guerrilla "national liberation fighters".  The U.S. was deplored for "carpet bombing" by B 52's from high in the sky.   The Kalashnikov was the equalizer, the symbol of "people's war" against colonialists and "neo-colonialists".  Women, Black Panthers, Vietnamese peasants, and guerrillas of every stripe were depicted with the symbol of the war of the weak against the great.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Poor old cod | The Mortal Sea // TLS

Richard Shelton reviews The Mortal Sea by W. Jeffrey Bolster in the TLS
Another laudatory review of W. Jeffrey Bolster's The Mortal Sea - fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail.
Voyages>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·...¸><((((º>: Poor old cod | TLS:
by Richard Shelton
At the time of writing, scientists agree that the numbers of many of the commercially exploited fish and shellfish species in the North Atlantic are at record low levels. Many scientists also point to deleterious structural changes in the ecosystems which support them, changes driven by a combination of excessive fishing effort, high levels of discarding, damage to the seabed and the intensive cultivation of carnivorous fishes such as the Atlantic salmon. So far, attempts at scientifically based regulation have been dogged by the perceived short-term costs of the necessary measures and concerns about the allocation of fishing rights among nations. The realization that intensive fishing has effects that extend far beyond the species targeted has caused some scientists to ask whether the effects of fishing are best understood not in isolation, but within the wider study of predator–prey relations. It is a branch of biological science in which understanding the natural history of the predator is as important as that of its prey. It has long been known that the rate at which a predator can secure sufficient surplus energy to grow to maturity and sustain its reproduction is ultimately linked to the abundance of its prey. Through this “feedback loop”, the prey controls the population size of the predator, the fineness of the control being linked to the complexity of the food web of which both are a part and in association with which both have evolved. Bolster’s fishery-dependent Mi’kmaks and Malacites were subject to just such control through energy acquisition, but once serious commercial fishing by Europeans began, such control as there was became dependent on the rate at which money could be acquired. The greatly increased fishing effort that ensued was exerted not by men alone but by fishing vessels, voracious alien predators even in the days of sail, which, although developing in rapacity through technical innovation, had not evolved alongside their prey.The unit value of a fishery resource is positively linked, like any other good, to its relative scarcity rather than to its abundance. It follows that, in a laissez-faire culture, it can make short- and even medium-term economic sense to continue to build new and more powerful vessels even when their prey populations are reduced. Ultimately, of course, the prey reasserts its control because, as has happened to the cod fishers of the North West Atlantic, no fleet can make money when its target stocks have collapsed. However, such is the complexity of marine ecosystems that the recovery of severely depleted cod populations is taking decades longer than simple theory would suggest. The Mortal Sea is a beautifully written chronicle of what lay before this latest catastrophe and much earlier dire outcomes of poorly regulated fishing. As an authoritatively written natural history of the developing fishing communities of the North West Atlantic, it makes an important contribution to fishery science as well as to social history.
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The Faculty Lounge: Ferguson on Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment

The Faculty Lounge: Ferguson on Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment:
from the Harvard University Press blurb on Inferno - the new book by Robert A. Ferguson
America’s criminal justice system is broken. The United States punishes at a higher per capita rate than any other country in the world. In the last twenty years, incarceration rates have risen 500 percent. Sentences are harsh, prisons are overcrowded, life inside is dangerous, and rehabilitation programs are ineffective. Police and prosecutors operate in the dark shadows of the legal process—sometimes resigning themselves to the status quo, sometimes turning a profit from it. The courts define punishment as “time served,” but that hardly begins to explain the suffering of prisoners.
Looking not only to court records but to works of philosophy, history, and literature for illumination, Robert Ferguson, a distinguished law professor, diagnoses all parts of a now massive, out-of-control punishment regime. He reveals the veiled pleasure behind the impulse to punish (which confuses our thinking about the purpose of punishment), explains why over time all punishment regimes impose greater levels of punishment than originally intended, and traces a disturbing gap between our ability to quantify pain and the precision with which penalties are handed down.
Ferguson turns the spotlight from the debate over legal issues to the real plight of prisoners, addressing not law professionals but the American people. Do we want our prisons to be this way? Or are we unaware, or confused, or indifferent, or misinformed about what is happening? Acknowledging the suffering of prisoners and understanding what punishers do when they punish are the first steps toward a better, more just system.
  'via Blog this'

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted? by Jed S. Rakoff | The New York Review of Books

I have not been pitching for indictments for the bankers who led us over a cliff, just accepting that proof of criminal intent is hard to come by, and blaming it all on the Fed, the GOP, and all who drank the deregulation kool-aid.  But now federal District Judge Jed S. Rakoff has taken the government to task on it.  A former federal prosecutor who once called the mail fraud statute "our stradivarius" is less impressed by the difficulty of proving fraud against the top guys at our major fraudsters financial institutions - you know the names (Chase, Citi, BOA, Merrill, Goldman, Bear, Lehman, Wells, Countrywide, etc.) This is, I suppose the `last call' as the statute of limitations is about to run.  - gwc
The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted? by Jed S. Rakoff | The New York Review of Books:
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope.
Who was to blame? Was it simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking commonly called a “bubble,” of an imprudent but innocent failure to maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally obscured?
If it was the former—if the recession was due, at worst, to a lack of caution—then the criminal law has no role to play in the aftermath. For in all but a few circumstances (not here relevant), the fierce and fiery weapon called criminal prosecution is directed at intentional misconduct, and nothing less. If the Great Recession was in no part the handiwork of intentionally fraudulent practices by high-level executives, then to prosecute such executives criminally would be “scapegoating” of the most shallow and despicable kind.
But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years. Indeed, it would stand in striking contrast to the increased success that federal prosecutors have had over the past fifty years or so in bringing to justice even the highest-level figures who orchestrated mammoth frauds. Thus, in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the “junk bond” bubble that, in many ways, was a precursor of the more recent bubble in mortgage-backed securities, the progenitors of the fraud were all successfully prosecuted, right up to Michael Milken....
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The ACA's subsidy cliff for older buyers | xpostfactoid

There's a fix - but it takes two to tango, and we have no partners on the GOP side of the House and Senate. - gwc
The ACA's subsidy cliff for older buyers | xpostfactoid: by Andrew Sprung
The New York Times quite rightly highlights* the plight of older ACA exchange shoppers who fall over the "subsidy cliff"  -- that is, earn just enough to be ineligible for premium subsides but are subject to high premium prices because they're older. 

'via Blog this'

Coburn Bashes Bipartisanship: We Agree With The 'Status Quo'

Coburn Bashes Bipartisanship: We Agree With The 'Status Quo': by Caitlin MacNeal Talking Points Memo
 "Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on Sunday criticized the narrative that the recent budget deal was a complete bipartisan success since it did nothing to reduce the federal debt. "The reason we're in trouble on deficits and debt is not because we didn't agree, but because we did," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "So the story coming out of Washington is we don't get along. I would dispute that. We get along just fine with the status quo of the government being ineffective and inefficient."" 'via Blog this'

Brian Leiter: Why Tolerate Religion? | Sticker | Zeitschrift für philosophische Literatur

Interesting review of Brian Leiter's new book.

It would be terrible to order me to use a contraceptive because I believe that it is a sin, and will land me in the hell fires for eternity (more or less).

The thou shalt not view of religious doctrine supports an absolutism of religious freedom doctrine that I think is quite wrong.  What we need is more casuistry and less absolutism. 
- gwc
Brian Leiter: Why Tolerate Religion? | Sticker | Zeitschrift für philosophische Literatur:
...Leiter argues that it is legitimate for a liberal state to promote a notion of the good that violates the conscience of some of its members, if it is not the goal of this procedure to violate their conscience or to coerce consciences of minorities beyond what the Harm Principle would licence. Leiter concludes: The no-exemptions approach is “the one most consistent with fairness (given the practicalities of enforcement)” (130-131). Leiter acknowledges that there will always be some people (religious or not) who, based on their conscience, will refuse to comply with general laws. These people might be right or wrong, still that is no argument against No-Exemptions: “Toleration may be a virtue, both in individuals and in states, but its selective application to the conscience of only religious believers is not morally defensible” (133).

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100 Years Ago Congress Flooded Hetch Hetchy - the other Yosemite Valley

Painting of Hetch Hetchy Valley by Albert BierstadtIf the mountain had standing to sue, as Justice William O. Douglas said it should,  what would it say?
Voyages>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·...¸><((((º>: 100 Years Ago Congress Flooded Hetch Hetchy - the other Yosemite Valley: 'via Blog this'

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If our prisons were a country, what would Incarceration Nation look like?

I'll skip the racial disparities, etc. which Doug Berman nicely summarizes at Sentencing Law & Policy.  Just check out the facts on labor standards.  Think how the Times would cover this story if the administrators of the system were in China. - gwc
If our prisons were a country, what would Incarceration Nation look like? Foreign Policy opinion | OregonLive.com: by Prof. Rosa Brooks/ Georgetown Law School
"WASHINGTON — You already know that the United States locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than 2.4 million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world. A population of 2.4 million is a lot of people -- enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. In the past, the British Empire decided to convert a good chunk of its prison population into a country, sending some 165,000 convicts off to Australia. This isn't an option for the United States, but it suggests an interesting thought experiment: If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?"
Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. Take UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, which employs 8 percent of "work eligible" federal prisoners. Hourly wages offered by UNICOR range from 23 cents an hour -- about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh -- to a princely $1.35 for "premium" prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers. That's a good deal less than the $2 average hourly wage for a manufacturing worker in the Philippines, or the $6 an hour average wage for Mexican manufacturing workers.
Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR's largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR's annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD: In September 2013, for instance, the DOD announced that the Army has awarded UNICOR a "$246,699,217 non-multi-year, no option, firm-fixed-price contract . . . to procure Interceptor Body Armor Outer Tactical Vests for various foreign military sales customers."
This is a great deal for everyone except the population of Incarceration Nation, since they're stuck with forced labor at wage levels that would make many third world employers blush. No one likes to talk about this, of course: "We sell products made by prison labor" isn't the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know -- as an online video promoting UNICOR's call-center services boasts -- prison labor is "the best-kept secret in outsourcing."
Maybe Incarceration Nation really is a foreign country.

'via Blog this'

Mirror of Justice: A disappointing ruling against Notre Dame?

I'm not disappointed.  Rick Garnett is a former Rehnquist clerk, now professor at Notre Dame Law School, with a relentlessly holier than thou tone, who now complains that the District Judge was snarky.  Providing contraceptive coverage does not interfere with Notre Dame's "mission".  Rather Nore Dame's refusal embraces a bad fifty year old papal decision that the overwhelming majority of Catholics wisely ignore. - GWC
Mirror of Justice: A disappointing ruling against Notre Dame:
by Prof. Rick Garnett//Notre Dame Law School
 "Judge Philip Simon has issued an opinion denying the University of Notre Dame's motion for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the so-called contraception-coverage mandate.  Here is the opinion: Download Notre Dame order. In my view, the opinion -- which has an impatient, and at times even snarky tone -- is unsatisfying, in part because it does not engage with appropriately closeness Notre Dame's claims and characterizations regarding the nature of the "burden" that the mandate would impose on its religious exercise, character, and mission.  But, read the whole thing for yourselves, dear readers!  And, join me in hoping for better work by the Seventh Circuit. "

'via Blog this'

The ACA Will Help, Not “Frustrate,” the Middle Class | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy

More annoying ACA coverage from the Times.  Lets get this straight.  If you make $100,000/year $1,000/month for insurance is a lot.  But it is about what the ACA sets 9.5%.  And the ACA helps you - because you can buy a platinum policy with no deductible and a $8,000 max out of pocket per year.  Want the government to do more for you?  Fine.  Support single-payer.  Expand Medicare toage 50.  But don't bitch about the unfairness of the ACA. - gwc The ACA Will Help, Not “Frustrate,” the Middle Class | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy:
by Jared Bernstein
Look, I’m as ready as the next guy to call out the Obama administration for the shoddy rollout of the ACA.  I’m also confident that at the end of the day, as the exchanges become more accessible and as families with incomes below four times poverty get help paying for the coverage they buy there—coverage that for some will be of higher quality than what they had—the reforms will first become more popular, and later become an appreciated, and probably pretty dull, part of the fabric of life in America. One of the problems in getting from here to there is articles like this one in today’s NYT. No question there are people paying more for health care under the ACA, but the examples in here seem awfully cherry-picked to support the headline claim that the new law “Frustrates many in Middle Class.” –First, let’s talk middle-class. The median family income in the US right now is about $62,000. For families of four, like the one featured in the piece, it’s about $80,000. Income eligibility for the subsidies goes up to four times the poverty threshold, or about $94,000 for a family of four, meaning that a median-income family buying coverage on the exchange would be eligible for a subsidy. The family featured in the piece was chosen to be above the subsidy level—their income was $100,000. That’s certainly and fair point and I’m not denying they’re “middle-class.” But the piece should have mentioned the median, or more to the point, the fact that according to Census data, the ratio of income to the the poverty threshold for families in the middle fifth of the income scale is 3.5, again, below the subsidy cutoff of 4. –But what of this “cliff” business on which the piece focuses, i.e., that the family takes a huge hit by not being eligible for the subsidy? As noted, the subsidy cutoff for a family of four is about $94,000 and the family’s contribution is capped at 9.5% of their income, or about $9,000. The Chapman’s, the family featured in the piece, with income of $100,000, may now pay about $12,000 per year for coverage. The piece states: “If they made just a few thousand dollars less a year — below $94,200 — their costs would be cut in half, because a family like theirs could qualify for federal subsidies.” But $9K is not half of $12K, so at least as I read it, they’re exaggerating the cliff effect (h/t, PvDW). –What did they have before? The Chapman’s previous plan, for which they paid $665/month, was cancelled, and as noted, the cheapest plan they could find will cost $1,000. But what did their old plan cover compared to the new plan? My guess, based on the cost and quality of non-group coverage in states with not a lot of competition, is: not much. Any piece like this that compares premium costs before and after the ACA must dig into the quality of the plans, otherwise they’re comparing apples and oranges.
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Harms, Freamon, & Blight, eds., "Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition"

Legal History Blog: New Release: Harms, Freamon, & Blight, eds., "Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition":
New from Yale University Press: Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition, edited byRobert Harms (Yale University), Bernard K. Freamon (Seton Hall Law School), and David W. Blight (Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University). According to the Press:
While the British were able to accomplish abolition in the trans-Atlantic world by the end of the nineteenth century, their efforts paradoxically caused a great increase in legal and illegal slave trading in the western Indian Ocean. Bringing together essays from leading authorities in the field of slavery studies, this comprehensive work offers an original and creative study of slavery and abolition in the Indian Ocean world during this period. Among the topics discussed are the relationship between British imperialism and slavery; Islamic law and slavery; and the bureaucracy of slave trading. 
A blurb:
“The focus on the abolition period marks the volume as unique. It is valuable for that purpose, besides vetting very fine scholarship. I would recommend it to anyone interested in slavery, the Indian Ocean, the Islamic world, and abolition.”—Paul Lovejoy
The Table of Contents hasn't been posted on the Press's website yet, but you can get a peek at it by using the "Look Inside" link on the book's Amazon page

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

ACA: Contraceptives and Women's Health Policy - Kaiser Family Foundation

For some of us responsible use of artificial birth control is an important measure of personal responsibility.  Choosing to have a child enhances the child's health and welfare.  Others draw the line differently - they object to birth control, to Plan B post-intercourse birth control, and even condoms as interference with nature and God's plan.  That is their right.  
But under the Affordable Care Act  certain employers must provide health insurance coverage or pay penalties of $2,000/employee.  ACA compliant plans must include certain preventive services without co-payments or deductibles.  [Sec. 2713] Among these are breast cancer screenings and certain immunizations.   Relying on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human requires that an ACA plan include"[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."

For accessible information on women's health policy issues under the ACA, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation's guide to Women's Health Policy.