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Human Progress: Not Inevitable, Uneven, and Indisputable

October 30, 2013 in Economics

By Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary defines progress as “advancement to a further or higher stage, or to further or higher stages successively; growth; development, usually to a better state or condition; improvement… applied especially to manifestations of social and economic change or reform.”

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with bad news, it can sometimes be difficult to think of “progress” and “humanity” in the same sentence. Are there not wars taking place, people going hungry, children at work, women being abused, and mass poverty around the world?

In fact, for most of human history, life was very difficult for most people. People lacked basic medicines and died relatively young. They had no painkillers and people with ailments spent much of their lives in agonizing pain. Entire families lived in bug-infested dwellings that offered neither comfort nor privacy. They worked in the fields from sunrise to sunset, yet hunger and famines were commonplace. Transportation was primitive and most people never traveled beyond their native villages or nearest towns. Ignorance and illiteracy were rife. The “good old days” were, by and large, very bad for the great majority of humankind.

We haven’t achieved utopia, but a new website documents the enormous progress humanity has made, especially over the last two centuries.”

Average global life expectancy at birth hovered around 30 years from the Upper Paleolithic to 1900. Even in the richest countries, like those of Western Europe, life expectancy at the start of the 20th century rarely exceeded 50 years. Incomes were quite stagnant, too. At the beginning of the Christian era, annual incomes per person around the world ranged from $1,073 to $1,431. As late as 1820, average global income was only $1,274 per person. (Angus Maddison, whose income estimates I use here, gives his data in 1990 dollars. I have adjusted Maddison’s figures for inflation.)

Humanity has made enormous progress—especially over the course of the last two centuries. For example, average life expectancy in the world today is 67.9 years. In 2010, global per capita income stood at $13,037—over 10 times what it was two centuries ago.

It is not only income and life expectancy that are improving. Harvard’s Steven Pinker has documented a propitious decline in physical violence. He writes,

Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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An Update on Halbig, and Other Lawsuits that Could Make the Decrepit HealthCare.Gov Look Like a Hiccup

October 30, 2013 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Last week, I discussed the importance of generating additional legal challenges to the IRS’s attempt to tax, borrow, and spend $700 billion, under the rubric of ObamaCare, yet contrary to the clear language of the statute and Congress’ intent. Four lawsuits have already been filed to challenge those illegal taxes and spending. The plaintiffs include two attorneys general, more than a dozen school districts, three private employers and eight individual taxpayers. A ruling for any of these plaintiffs would make the problems with ObamaCare’s decrepit HealthCare.gov web site look like a hiccup.

Last week, there was activity in one of those cases, Halbig v. Sebelius. Tomorrow, there will be hearing on another, King v. Sebelius.

Background

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act directs states to establish health insurance “exchanges,” directs the federal government to establish Exchanges in states that do not, and offers subsidies to certain taxpayers who enroll in qualified health plans “through an Exchange established by the State.” (The subsidies are technically tax credits, though they are tax reduction in name only.) The mere availability of those subsidies triggers penalties against individuals under the law’s individual mandate, while the issuance of such subsidies triggers penalties against employers under its employer mandate. In a final rule purporting to implement the law’s tax-credit rules, the IRS announced it would issue subsidies in all states, even the 34 states that do not have “an Exchange established by the State.”

Legal challenges to the IRS’s attempt to tax, borrow, and spend $700 billion, under the rubric of ObamaCare.”

Jonathan Adler and I explained the problems with that rule in our law-journal article, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.” This Cato Institute study offers a layman’s version of the arguments.

In Halbig v. Sebelius, three private employers and four individual taxpayers have challenged that IRS rule in a federal court in Washington, DC. All seven plaintiffs are located in states that have opted not to establish an Exchange. They allege the IRS’s decision to offer unauthorized subsidies in their states will subject them to financial penalties that Congress did not authorize and force them to take costly steps to avoid those penalties.

Notes on Halbig Oral Arguments

Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman heard oral arguments on the government’s motion to dismiss Halbig, and the plaintiff’s request that the court issue a preliminary injunction against the IRS rule. Here …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Koch Pipeline Spills 400 Barrels Of Crude Oil In Texas

October 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Kiley Kroh, Think Progress

The crude oil spill is the latest in a string of pipeline incidents that have occurred in multiple U.S. states.


17,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from an eight-inch pipeline owned by Koch Pipeline Company on Tuesday, the Railroad Commission of Texas reportedWednesday.

The spill impacted a rural area and two livestock ponds near Smithville and was discovered on a routine aerial inspection, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Details are scarce regarding the cause of the spill and cleanup measures underway but, as UPI reported, “Koch Pipeline Co. said it notified the appropriate federal and state regulators but had no estimated time for repairs. Neither Koch nor the Texas Railroad Commission had a public statement about the incident.”

According to its website, Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc., the company controlled by billionaire petrochemical giants Charles and David Koch. Koch Industries has also come under fire recently for dumping petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands refining, along riverfronts in both Detroit and Chicago.

The crude oil spill is the latest in a string of pipeline incidents that have occurred in multiple U.S. states as oil companies ramp up production and find themselves scrambling to ship their product to refineries. Earlier this month, a pipeline that spewed over 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a North Dakota wheat field went unreported for 11 days until it was discovered by a farmer harvesting his wheat. A subsequent Associated Press investigation found nearly 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” have gone unreported in the state since January 2012 alone.

The unparalleled expansion of oil and gas pipelines throughout the country has exposed serious deficiencies in oversight and regulation of the industry, particularly since choosing the routes of new pipelines and overseeing safety and maintenance is predominantly left up to the individual companies. In September, Jeffrey Weise, head of the Office of Pipeline Safety at the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Is There a Revolution Coming? Americans Finally Realize Global Capitalism Is a Murderous Sham

October 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

Popular revulsion for the ruling elite is nearly universal. Are we going to see an uprising?


 

“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkmanwrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a question of which ideas will capture the public’s imagination.

Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Nurse Diagnosed with Breast Cancer Was Harassed, Refused Treatment and Finally Fired — by her Hospital

October 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

Nurse is suing Kaiser Hospital for demoting her, endangering her life and ultimately firing her after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.


A California nurse has claimed in court that after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and required time off and chemotherapy treatment, her employer, Kaiser Hospital, demoted her, forced her to work through lunch hours to make up for time spent at chemo sessions and assigned her to work in the flu division despite doctors warning her that exposure to flu infection could kill her, Courthouse News reported.

Petra Albert from Los Angeles, CA, has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and affiliates for the merciless abuse and mistreatment she suffered at the hands of her employer whilst working as a nurse.

The claim states: “Before her return, Ms. Albert's doctors warned her that chemotherapy could seriously weaken her immune system and exposure to infections such as the flu could be disastrous or even fatal. Kaiser, however, did not attempt to accommodate Ms. Albert but rather put her in charge of the flu program, putting her health at serious risk.”

Albert, who has 25 years experience working in the nursing field was hired by Kaiser in 2009 as a nurse educator, was promoted within a year for successful performance. However, she was soon diagnosed with breast cancer and required a double mastectomy in 2010. 

Albert alleges that after she returned to work following her reconstructive surgery she received no accommodation, but instead was met with insults, hostility and callous comments about her cancer and forced to return to working 60 hours a week within the same month as surgery.

Moreover, she claims that her supervisor threatened her that if she didn’t quit her job and continued to work for Kaiser, “Ms. Albert would hate her life.”  

In October 2011 after her white blood cells dropped considerably, the nurse took another leave of absence involving more chemotherapy.  This time when she returned to work, she was called to a meeting where she was ridiculed before being forcibly banished to another hospital location. Kaiser subsequently refused any further requests for time-off …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sen. Rand Paul Appears on Fox's Hannity- October 29, 2013

October 30, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Appears on CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett- October 29, 2013

October 30, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Will Dick Cheney be Arrested For War Crimes in Canada?

October 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

Canadians are pushing to have Bush's VP arrested at upcoming visit.


The international group, Lawyers Against War, has urged Canadian authorities to arrest former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes when he arrives at the Toronto Global Forum this week, Huffington Post reported.

The anti-war group wrote a letter to the Attorney General John Gerretsen and Police Chief Bill Blair saying it was their duty to arrest Cheney, “as a person suspected on reasonable grounds of authorizing, counseling, aiding, abetting and failing to prevent torture.”

“Once Richard (Dick) Cheney enters Canada … Canada must ensure that Dick Cheney is either investigated and prosecuted for the indictable offence of torture in Canada or extradited to another country willing and able to do so,” Lawyers Against the War's Gail Davidson  wrote.

Cheney was a “big supporter” of waterboarding and other unlawful interrogation techniques during his vice presidency, in which thousands of people were tortured, kidnapped and assasinated based on his instruction.

Last year, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal convicted Cheney, as well as former U.S. President George W. Bush and six other Bush administration officials in absentia of war crimes including torture and cruelty.

Cheney's visit is likely to spark large protests. In September 2011, he was barricaded during large protests on a visit to Vancouver, where demonstrators blocked him from leaving an exclusive hotel for several hours before police were able to evacuate him.  Subsequently, he cancelled a trip to Toronto in March 2010 citing safety concern, which led to large protests.

 

 

 

Related Stories

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Source: ALTERNET

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DHS and NSA Threaten to Sue Man for Selling "Department of Homeland Stupidity" T-Shirts and Coffee Mugs!

October 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News

Feds are trying to shut down novelty t-shirt salesman over slogans like “The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.”


The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency threatened to sue a novelty store owner who sells “Department of Homeland Stupidity” coffee cups and T-shirts with the slogan: “The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.”

In response, Dan McCall sued the NSA and DHS on constitutional grounds, in Federal Court.

McCall operates the website LibertyManiacs.com. He has (nonparty) Zazzle.com -which prints images provided by customers onto products – print his images onto the items he sells.

McCall has a “virtual storefront” on the Zazzle website, and his own website redirects traffic to Zazzle “so that people wishing to express their own opinions by purchasing and displaying these items may easily do so,” McCall says in the complaint.

But in 2011, the DHS and NSA sent a cease-and-desist order to Zazzle, claiming that McCall's parody images violated laws against the use, mutilation, alteration or impersonation of government seals.

Both agencies threatened to take legal action against Zazzle if it did not remove the offending products from its website, McCall says in his lawsuit.

“In response to the threatening communications from NSA and DHS raising intellectual property claims, Zazzle removed the NSA Spying Parody, the NSA Listens Parody, and the Homeland Stupidity Parody from McCall's Zazzle store,” McCall says in the complaint.

McCall still displays the items on his own website, next to the words: “Get the T-shirts the NSA & DHS Don't Want You to Wear!”

The products are no longer available through Zazzle, but are still being sold through CafePress, another online store, according to McCall's libertymaniacs.com site.

McCall says he has been selling his parody items for years. One of his designs bears the NSA's official seal with the words “Spying on You Since 1952″ below it.

Another modifies the NSA logo to state: “Peeping While You're Sleeping,” with the slogan: “The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.”

A third design replaces the name of the DHS …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Beyond the Obamacare Website Fiasco

October 30, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

When the computer system running your signature legislative achievement is slightly less functional than painting on a cave wall, you know you have a big problem. When that’s actually the good news, you know you have a really big problem.

Obamacare’s computer glitches have reduced the president’s eponymic health-care plan to fodder for late-night TV comedians. But in some ways the president is fortunate that the computer fiasco is obscuring the even bigger and more consequential problems facing the law.

For example, there’s the problem with keeping your current insurance. Despite presidential promises to the contrary — promises that, according to NBC News, the president knew were untrue — millions of Americans are finding out that, even if they like the plans they have now, they are being kicked off because those plans do not meet the requirements of Obamacare.

The software problems of Healthcare.gov obscure much bigger structural disasters.”

Florida Blue, for example, is canceling nearly 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people — about half of its individual business in the state. Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual-market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent. That makes for more than 500,000 people losing their insurance policies in just three states.

In fact, roughly half of the 14 million people who buy insurance on the individual market are likely to lose their current insurance, according to Gerry Kominski, director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. And while most will be shifted to other policies, those new policies are likely to be more expensive.

Meanwhile, in the group market, we are seeing companies begin to drop insurance for their workers. Roughly 160,000 workers at Walgreens are losing their coverage. So are some 20,000 part-time workers at Home Depot, and roughly 15,000 spouses of workers at UPS. Some estimates suggest that as many as 35 million workers could lose their current employer plan. Many will be forced into the exchanges, where insurance will cost them more. (Always assuming, of course, that they can find a way to actually purchase those plans.)

Being forced to change plans means that many Americans will not be able to keep their current doctors. Insurance plans available on the exchanges — and in most states the …read more

Source: OP-EDS