Posts from our progressive community

Trump's Crazy Train Has Already Left the Platform

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 18:45

The Giant Orange Sphincter has spoken. Trump's long promised health care bill now litters the floor of the House of Representatives and Trump knows who to blame - the minority Democrats.  While his Republicans enjoy a hefty majority in the House, as Trump sees it the Democrats sabotaged his vaunted health care bill.

Of course the Repugs were careful to see that the American Health Care Act never came up for a vote lest the American public find out how unpopular it was with Trump's own representatives and it was plenty unpopular.

Trump didn't hesitate to twist Republican arms on the bill. At first he said hold outs would be in for a pounding when they next stood for re-election. Last night he upped the ante warning that, unless the bill passed, he would leave Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, in effect. And so, it seems, he shall.

A bad day all round for the Oval Office. Trump shamelessly bullied Congressional Republicans and they responded by telling him to pound salt. That could be a bad omen for things to come, especially if the Trump/Russia investigation turns against the Cheeto Benito.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 03/24/2017 - 16:14
Chicane - Dandelion

Got Half an Hour? Find Half an Hour.

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 13:06

Jeremy Scahill dissects his homeland's descent into fascism and doesn't spare Obama for his role in it either.

Four or five years ago this was a tough argument to swallow. Back then it was the sort of thing you would hear from Chris Hedges. Today it's a growing chorus of voices echoing Hedges' warning.

Watch Scahill's presentation. It's 26-minutes long but you can watch it in segments.




TrumpCare Gets the Hook

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 12:57

The writing was on the wall when Republican House leader Paul Ryan popped into the White House this morning. He was there to tell Trump that his healthcare bill was going to defeat if it was put to a vote as the Cheeto Benito angrily demanded last night.

Then, with the Capital building literally besieged by cameras and reporters Ryan somehow managed to sneak in undetected. Once he was safely in the House, the American Health Care Act was given the hook. There would be no vote.

What happens next? Anybody's guess. However it's a swift kick in the nuts for the Great Orange Bloat, one he'll have the weekend to fume over. No dumping Obamacare, no giant tax cut for the 0.01%.

Let the tweeting begin.

Henry Giroux Unpacks Trump's "Culture of Cruelty"

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 11:07


Henry Giroux looks beyond the callous brutality of the Republican's American Health Care Act to the larger culture of cruelty being inflicted on America's most vulnerable by Trump and his Congressional accomplices.

For the last 40 years, the United States has pursued a ruthless form of neoliberalism that has stripped economic activity from ethical considerations and social costs.  ...Under the Trump administration, the repressive state and market apparatuses that produced a culture of cruelty in the 19th century have returned with a vengeance, producing new levels of harsh aggression and extreme violence in US society. A culture of cruelty has become the mood of our times—a spectral lack of compassion that hovers over the ruins of democracy.

...The culture of cruelty has a long tradition in this country, mostly inhabiting a ghostly presence that is often denied or downplayed in historical accounts. What is new since the 1980s—and especially evident under Donald Trump’s presidency—is that the culture of cruelty has taken on a sharper edge as it has moved to the center of political power, adopting an unapologetic embrace of nativism, xenophobia and white nationalist ideology, as well as an in-your-face form of racist demagoguery. Evidence of such cruelty has long been visible in earlier calls by Republicans to force poor children who get free school lunches to work for their meals. Such policies are particularly cruel at a time when nearly “half of all children live near close to the poverty line.” Other instances include moving people from welfare to workfare without offering training programs or child care, and the cutting of children’s food stamp benefits for 16 million children in 2014. Another recent example of this culture of cruelty was Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tweeting his support for Geert Wilders, a notorious white supremacist and Islamophobic Dutch politician.
...
The culture of cruelty has become a primary register of the loss of democracy in the United States. The disintegration of democratic commitments offers a perverse index of a country governed by the rich, big corporations and rapacious banks through a consolidating regime of punishment. It also reinforces the workings of a corporate-driven culture whose airwaves are filled with hate, endless spectacles of violence and an ongoing media assault on young people, the poor, Muslims and undocumented immigrants. Vast numbers of individuals are now considered disposable and are relegated to zones of social and moral abandonment.
...

Trump’s 2017 budgetary proposals, many of which were drafted by the hyperconservative Heritage Foundation, will create a degree of imposed hardship and misery that defies any sense of human decency and moral responsibility.

Public policy analyst Robert Reich argues that “the theme that unites all of Trump’s [budget] initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty.” Reich writes:

"His new budget comes down especially hard on the poor—imposing unprecedented cuts in low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.” These cuts come at a time when more American families are in poverty than ever before, including 1 in 5 children. Why is Trump doing this? To pay for the biggest hike in military spending since the 1980s. Yet the U.S. already spends more on its military than the next 7 biggest military budgets put together. His plan to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act will cause 14 million Americans to lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million by 2026. Why is Trump doing this? To bestow $600 billion in tax breaks over the decade to wealthy Americans. This windfall comes at a time when the rich have accumulated more wealth than at any time in the nation’s history."

This is a demolition budget that would inflict unprecedented cruelty, misery and hardship on millions of citizens and residents. Trump’s populist rhetoric collapses under the weight of his efforts to make life even worse for the rural poor, who would have $2.6 billion cut from infrastructure investments largely used for water and sewage improvements as well as federal funds used to provide assistance so they can heat their homes. Roughly $6 billion would be cut from a housing budget that benefits 4.5 million low-income households. Other programs on the cutting block include funds to support Habitat for Humanity, the homeless, energy assistance to the poor, legal aid and a number of antipoverty programs. Trump’s mode of governance is no longer modeled on “The Apprentice.” It now takes its cues from “The Walking Dead.”
...
The $54 billion that Trump seeks to remove from the budgets of 19 agencies designed to help the poor, students, public education, academic research and the arts would instead be used to increase the military budget and build a wall along the Mexican border. The culture of cruelty is on full display here as millions would suffer for the lack of loans, federal aid and basic resources. The winners would be the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the private prison industry and the institutions and personnel needed to expand the police state. What Trump has provided in this budget proposal is a blueprint for eliminating the remnants of the welfare state while transforming American society into a “war-obsessed, survival-of-the fittest dystopia.”
...
The culture of hardness and cruelty is not new to American society, but the current administration aims to deploy it in ways that sap the strength of social relations, moral compassion and collective action, offering in their place a mode of governance that promotes a pageant of suffering and violence. There will, no doubt, be an acceleration of acts of violence under the Trump administration, and the conditions for eliminating this new stage of state violence will mean not only understanding the roots of neofascism in the United States, but also eliminating the economic, political and cultural forces that have produced it. Addressing those forces means more than getting rid of Trump. We must eliminate a more pervasive irrationality in which democracy is equated with unbridled capitalism—a system driven almost exclusively by financial interests and beholden to two political parties that are hardwired to produce and reproduce neoliberal violence.

Wrap Your Mind Around This Idea

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 10:13


We live in a world that's running out of stuff including the stuff that keeps you alive - clean air and fresh water for starters. There is not enough to meet our insatiable and persistently growing demand. The Global Footprint Network that studies these things has worked out that mankind now uses renewable resources (water, air, biomass) at 1.7 times the Earth's replenishment rate, its carrying capacity.

That means we're neck deep in a major resource deficit. The shortfall is visible, tangible, palpable and manifests in countless forms. It's evident in lakes that have dried out, rivers that no longer run to the sea, aquifers that have been rapaciously drained and now stand empty, vast and expanding tracts of deforestation, spreading desertification encroaching on once productive land, even cities. It's evident in increasing contamination and pollution of our waterways observed in algae blooms and oceanic "dead zones." It's evident in loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, the extinction of species terrestrial and aquatic. It's everywhere. You have to close your eyes not to see it.

Keep all of that in mind when you consider that a lot of what we're running out of is consumed, free of charge, by the same industrial sector that has given us so much crap that ends up obsolete or unworkable in such short order. In fact a recent study finds that none of the world's top industries would realize any profit if they had to pay for the resources they consume at no charge.

Coming from a civilization which, for most of its 12,000 year history, enjoyed a bountiful surplus of natural resources, we're not accustomed to seeing those resources in terms of ownership or value. We have to get our minds around the idea that assets are property and, if they don't belong to you personally, they very much belong to your society or, in the case of the atmosphere, to humankind in general. Then understand that your society, with the collusion of your political caste, is getting grievously shortchanged.

The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs....
check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.)...
The majority of unpriced natural capital costs are from greenhouse gas emissions (38%), followed by water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%), and waste (1%).

So how much is that costing us? Trucost’s headline results are fairly stunning.

First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.
...
Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.

That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.
...
The distance between today’s industrial systems and truly sustainable industrial systems — systems that do not spend down stored natural capital but instead integrate into current energy and material flows — is not one of degree, but one of kind. What’s needed is not just better accounting but a new global industrial system, a new way of providing for human wellbeing, and fast. That means a revolution.
Of course the contrarians will say that, if we priced that natural capital and forced industry to pay, that would be passed along in ever higher prices. Not so fast. That overlooks what would happen to both production and consumption. 
Free resources are freely consumed, subject to availability, and freely squandered. They're free after all. When those resources are priced, when they come with a cost, the competitor that uses them most wisely, with the least waste, has a market advantage.  
Also, when the price increases, consumers will become less tolerant of shoddy manufacture, planned obsolescence and shortened lifespans, products that cannot be repaired or upgraded.  Imagine if your appliances, out of the box, were good for 25 to 30 years. I've been in my current house for about 15-years and I'm already on my third stove. When the first two failed I was outraged to be told that the essential parts were no longer available.
Pricing natural capital is an essential step in transitioning to a steady state economy. It's not a nice idea. It's not an option. If we don't take that leap we won't have an economy. 
If you're interested in this idea of pricing natural capital there are several good books you can find in your library. A good starting point is "Natural Capital and Human Economic Survival," a 1995 book edited by Thomas Prugh and containing essays by Robert Costanza, John Cumberland, Herman Daly, Robert Goodland and Richard Norgaard.  If nothing else you'll discover how we're all getting shortchanged by neoliberal governments. You'll also realize that continuing on with the status quo is not an option. If we don't change, and soon, we will be changed.



Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 03/24/2017 - 09:21
Assorted content to end your week.

- Vicki Nash challenges the claim that unemployment in a precarious economy is generally a matter of choice rather than the absence thereof. And Jia Tolentino argues that we shouldn't pretend there's any value in being forced to work oneself to death:
It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news....
...
At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.- Geoff Leo reports on the Sask Party's plans to make life even more precarious for the worst-off people in Saskatchewan as it looks for excuses to push people off of social assistance, while Adam Hunter takes note of the hundreds of cancer patients left stranded by the sudden demolition of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company. Which means that we can add compassion to humility on the list of attributes sorely lacking in Brad Wall's government.

- Lauren Pelley highlights how many Toronto renters are facing the constant threat of imminent homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing. And Christopher Pollon suggests reining in the capital gains giveaways which favours wealthier homeowners at the expense of those less privileged.

- Laura Bliss offers a reminder that public-private partnerships aren't a free lunch - only a means to pass a higher bill off to future governments. And Gordon Harris comments on the dangers of selling off public assets to pay for privatized infrastructure.

- Finally, Jim Bronskill reports on the Libs' broken promise of improved access to information, while the Star notes how that fits Trudeau's pattern of failing to deliver on core commitments.

Our Last, Best Chance?

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 03/24/2017 - 09:19

Canadians have all the proof they need in our own prime minister that the existing approach to slashing carbon emissions cannot work. Trudeau's hypocrisy is embedded in his drive to accelerate the export and production of the world's most carbon-intensive ersatz petroleum, bitumen, under the laughable premise that more carbon today is the key to a green future - eventually, sometime, maybe. That's sophistry on a scale to rival Trump.

Parents often try to impart to their children the wisdom of not putting off until tomorrow what they can do today. It's a valuable lesson that's immediately discarded as soon as those same kids reach high political office. Once securely installed every challenge becomes a can to be kicked down the road. That includes these lofty greenhouse gas emissions cuts so earnestly promised and then promptly shelved.

Leave it to grownup kids like Trudeau or the leaders of most other parties for that matter and our grandkids face the very real prospect of a living hell on earth.

But the Paris climate agreement reached in the heady closing months of 2015 was never going to be enough, was it? Not really. It was all voluntary, well-intentioned (sort of) pap. The jubilant international press was caught in the moment. Few even noticed the caution of Hans Joachim Schellnhuber that, to work, the deal required nothing less than an "induced implosion" of the global fossil fuel industry. An induced implosion as in effective government intervention to shut down Big Fossil. Sort of the exact opposite of what the Dauphin had in mind for Canadian bitumen.

Trudeau's commitment to the fight against climate change comes down to the induced expansion of bitumen production complete with expanded pipelines to get that civilization killing crap to "tidewater." I'm pretty sure that's not what Schellnhuber had in mind.

Canada's approach to climate change isn't well received abroad either. In fact it's been denounced as fatal to the Paris agreement. Let's be honest. We're going to put paid to any hope of not just Canada but all the signatories achieving the Paris objectives. Can't happen, ain't gonna happen.

All of which means a new idea, one that might truly avert runaway global warming, probably won't stand a chance.

On Thursday (23.03.17), researchers proposed an alternative: a "carbon law" obliging all people, cities, businesses and countries to halve their emissions every 10 years. The idea will be presented to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on Friday.

"It's a much simpler and more ambitious framing, because you have huge emissions cuts in the first 10 years, and then it gets easier in the future to reach the targets," the report's co-author Owen Gaffney told DW.

"A lot of the framing around the carbon challenge right now says we need to get to zero emissions some time after 2050. It's hard to see how that will motivate the kind of action we need right now to decarbonize the global economy."
...

Gaffney says he and his colleagues got the idea for the alternative model in the summer of 2015 while chatting with Johan Falk, director of the Stockholm IOT ignition lab for computer processor maker Intel.

Falk had told them about "Moore's Law" in the IT industry, which accounts for how processors have been doubling their computing power every two years. Neither a natural nor statutory law, this simple rule of thumb has nonetheless been accepted by the industry for the past 50 years, driving disruptive innovation. Industry leaders believed in it - and it became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
...
Currently, no country has plans to halve emissions in the next 10 years - although some small countries plan to come close. The "nationally determined contributions" submitted to the UN by major emitters delay their most significant action until future decades.

Justifying the slow pace, politicians have cautioned that commitments need to be kept realistic, otherwise they are meaningless.

Great idea, truly inspirational, until you realize that we live in a Trump and Trudeau world. Ideas like this Moore's Law notion are and will probably remain non-starters. Saving the world? We're just not into that.

ontario librarians: should the ola support staffless libraries?

we move to canada - ven, 03/24/2017 - 09:11
This week, the Toronto Public Library announced plans to open libraries with no staff. Not just no librarians -- we've seen that in many places -- but no staff whatsoever.

This was bad enough, but we were further horrified to see that the Ontario Library Association, a membership-based organization that is supposed to further the interests of libraries and librarians, seems to support this idea. OLA Executive Director had the chutzpah to re-frame this as "innovative".

If you are a librarian in Ontario, I hope you will provide feedback to the OLA through this petition: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries. Please consider sharing with your own library network.

* * * *


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March 23, 2017

Shelagh Paterson
Executive Director
Ontario Library Association
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Ms. Paterson:

We, the undersigned, are public librarians in the province of Ontario and members of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). We are concerned and disturbed by the OLA’s apparent support for current trends in library staffing that are grossly detrimental to our profession and to the public we serve.

The Toronto Public Library has announced plans to open staffless libraries. This is antithetical to the core values of our profession and to our shared vision of what libraries are and should be.

In a Toronto Star article about this development, you are quoted as saying, “we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts.”

We are deeply disturbed that, rather than advocating for adequate library funding, the OLA would re-define budget cuts as a driver of innovation.

The Star article also quotes you as saying, “I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

A staffless library can never be “a really excellent service.” Librarians and library staff “behind the scenes” of a building devoid of people are not enough. A truly excellent library service is one in which educated, trained professionals offer a wide range of services that support literacy, lifelong learning, and social engagement, and enable communities to thrive.

The OLA’s mission statement states that the organization enables members to “deliver exemplary library and information services throughout Ontario.” A library without librarians – indeed, a library without library staff of any kind – is not an exemplary library, and is indeed not a service of any kind.

Further, the OLA’s vision of an Ontario where everyone is “free to imagine, learn and discover, and recognize and celebrate library and information services as an essential resource for realizing individual aspirations and developing communities” is exactly the opposite of the current trend towards minimal – and now, nonexistent – staffing. A staffless library privileges members of our community who are affluent, information-rich, and technologically literate, and increases social inequality.

We believe the OLA should unequivocally oppose the staffless library.

We believe the OLA should actively advocate for well funded, fully staffed libraries, and should actively promote the value to the community of librarians and other educated, trained library staff.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned Ontario Librarians

Sign here: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries.

Setting The Record Straight

Politics and its Discontents - ven, 03/24/2017 - 06:45


Now that Senator Don Meridith, about whom I have previously posted, has switched lawyers, it is gratifying to see that his cowardly cries of racism as a factor in the calls his dismissal are being put to rest.

Meredith's new lawyer had this to say yesterday:
Disgraced Sen. Don Meredith’s new lawyer says racism doesn’t play into the widespread condemnations of his client’s affair with a teenage girl, after the senator and his previous lawyer claimed he was being treated unfairly in the wake of the sex scandal.

“It’s not my approach, nor is it my opinion, that there is any racial bias or issue here in relation to the matter, or how the Senate has been dealing with it,” Bill Trudell, a Toronto defence lawyer, said in an interview Thursday.While the Senate ethics committee still faces an uphill battle on ejecting him from the Upper Chamber, at least we now have a small victory for truth and a blow to self-serving and morally reprehensible hyperbole.

Recommend this Post

Samantha Bee on Donald Trump's Hard Power Budget

Montreal Simon - ven, 03/24/2017 - 06:18


Well there he was yesterday, sitting behind the wheel of a monster truck, looking like he was about to start mowing down his many enemies, real or imagined.

But the truck wasn't moving, thank goodness. Donald Trump wasn't going anywhere.

And neither is his plan to destroy Obamacare.

President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

So Trump is now giving Republicans an ultimatum, pass my bill today, or ELSE.
Read more »

Incompetence At State

Northern Reflections - ven, 03/24/2017 - 05:49


Rex Tillerson recently told the Journal Review, "“I didn’t want this job, I didn’t seek this job,” but he took it because "“my wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” He may be having second thoughts. Certainly others are. Jonathan Freedland writes that Tillerson's remarks could be read as:

a coded admission that he knows he is not qualified to be secretary of state, that he’s in way over his head – but we shouldn’t blame him, because it wasn’t his idea. On this reading, the secretary of state is, if anything, pointing an accusing finger at his boss: I know I’m rubbish at this, but it’s Trump’s fault for picking me.
Jonathan Malthorpe is more blunt. Tillerson, he writes, is "clueless:"

His priorities so far are to toady to the world’s autocrats (perhaps reflecting the instincts of his boss in the Oval Office), while maintaining Washington’s role as the leader of a 60-year alliance of democracies is well down his list of concerns.

Tillerson’s tour of Asia last week appears to have given China a diplomatic coup and unsettled Washington’s Asian allies. They already had good reason to be twitchy after Trump jettisoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a 12-nation trade and security agreement aimed at containing China’s regional power ambitions — and opined that Japan and South Korea should perhaps get their own nuclear weapons instead of relying on the U.S. for their defence.

And now it has been announced that Tillerson is going to skip a summit of the foreign ministers of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) next month. He wants to be in the U.S. for a planned visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
That Trump would appoint someone who is so clearly unqualified for the job is not surprising. After all, Trump is clearly unqualified to be president. But, when the blind appoint the blind to important positions, disaster waits in the wings:

Trump has just sent a budget proposal to Congress that envisages cutting the State Department’s funding by 30 per cent and slashing other soft-power agencies in a similar way while throwing money at Defense and other armed agencies. This proposed budget won’t survive the process of going through Congress in recognizable form. They never do. But the virgin document speaks volumes about Trump’s view of the world.
It's Trump's vision of the world that's the problem. And, clearly, Tillerson's State Department is not going to champion an alternative universe.

Image: slate.com

The Quebec Bashing Media and the Tempest in a Snowstorm

Montreal Simon - ven, 03/24/2017 - 05:02


It's a classic Canadian story, with some of the good and some of the bad that makes us who we are. And a lot of snow which does the same thing.

And it could have been an uplifting tale about battling and conquering the elements in the Great White North. 

But instead it turned into a horror show, where more than a week later they're still trying to figure out how this could happen.

And to make matters worse, some in the Con media are using what happened as an excuse to bash Quebec and Quebecers again.
Read more »

Trump Plays Hardball on RyanCare

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 18:10

Ever petulant Donaldo Trump has grabbed recalcitrant Congressional Republicans by the pussy.  Either pass the massive tax cut for the rich wrapped in the cadaver of a healthcare bill or he'll leave Obamacare, what literate Americans know as the Affordable Care Act, in place.

The Cheeto Benito is going to town on intransigent Republicans. He first tried to steal their lunch money, threatening to come after holdouts when they next sought re-election. That didn't work so now he's telling them it's his way or the highway.

An interesting situation. If Trump can get Congressional Republicans to knuckle under on a widely unpopular bill such as Paul Ryan's healthcare nightmare, he'll know what it takes to roll them over when and as he chooses.

This Shouldn't Be Your Daily Laugh, But...

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 10:32
This Hour Has 22 Minutes nails it

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 10:20
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- In the wake of a thoroughly disappointing budget day at both the provincial and federal levels, it's worth taking note of Ivan Sigal's view on the importance of building trust - rather than limiting citizens to either fake news or fake policies:
How do we begin to tackle the larger challenges, those beyond simple technological fixes or self-blame? There are no easy solutions for the economic and social inequities that create divisions, and the technological and economic incentives that underpin our current information ecosystem are deeply entrenched. Yet we need to find a way to start serious conversations about these systemic challenges, rather than tinkering with their effects or simply assigning responsibility to the newest players on the field.
...
Confronting our social and economic inequities is even harder. It is the challenge of our time to find the language to conduct honest and frank debate about how we construct our economies and our states, how we apportion benefits, and which values guide us. Building civic communities that are rooted in trust, both online and off, is the ongoing and vital work necessary for public conversations about our collective future.

It is no small irony that the communications systems that we built to support such debate are imperilled, both by those who would explode the social norms of civic discourse for their ideological ends, and through resultant attempts to control extreme or misleading expression. It is easy to find fault with the technologies that facilitate our collective civic life. It is much more difficult to look at our civic life as a whole and determine whether and how it may be failing.- Meanwhile, Tom Parkin pointed out what a genuinely progressive federal budget could have included. Andrew Jackson laments the Libs' choice to go with a stand-pat budget instead. David Macdonald highlights the lack of action to rein in inequality, while Don Pittis points out that there never seems to be a point where Justin Trudeau is willing to follow through on the promise of requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood notes that the Libs are at best taking baby steps in addressing climate change when major strides are needed, while Citizens for Public Justice extends that analysis to poverty as well.

- As for the Saskatchewan budget, Tammy Robert rightly describes it as a bloodbath (even if I disagree with some of her specific takes, particularly as to the need for additional revenue). Murray Mandryk discusses the gross disparity between corporations who will contribute less, and citizens who will face both increased taxes and the slashing of many important services. And Sarath Peiris notes that Brad Wall is inflicting far more pain than necessary because he waited far too long to try to get Saskatchewan's finances under control.

- Alex Hemingway and Iglika Ivanova trace the B.C. Libs' history of tax giveaways to the rich. And Hemingway then points out that their latest budget does nothing but continuing the trend of putting corporations first.

- Among the glaring social issues which have been essential ignored in the latest set of budgets, Daniel Tencer notes that Canada has one of the highest rates of "severe" rental costs in the world. Greg Marchildon and Raisa Deber discuss the need for a more comprehensive system of health promotion and care. And David Jala reports on the broader social problems flowing from poverty.

- Finally, Katie Hyslop highlights how post-secondary students are affected by the spread of increasingly precarious work. And Avvy Go and Chris Buckley write about the importance of strong and effectively-enforced employment laws to reduce racial discrimination in the workplace.

Just A Couple Of Questions

Politics and its Discontents - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 07:04


Given that I have no background in economics, I will leave it to more finely-tuned minds to debate the merits of yesterday's federal budget. However, there are a couple of things that, from my perspective, need to be answered, and they both relate to the Infrastructure Bank the Liberal government is touting.

Introduced in last fall's economic update, the goal of the Bank, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is
to attract private sector dollars at a ratio of $4 to $5 in private funding for every $1 of federal money.While that sounds fine on the surface, the question about the returns that will prompt private investors, including institutional ones, to invest in infrastructure projects the bank will help fund needs to be answered. And it is here that things becoming a tad murky.

In yesterday's budget, Morneau had no real details to provide about it, other than a motherhood statement:
Ottawa has said it wants to leverage every dollar it puts in its infrastructure bank into $4 of investment, the balance kicked in by private-sector investors. The government thus hopes to fund $140 billion in infrastructure projects with an upfront Ottawa investment of just $35 billion.Sound too good to be true? Perhaps it is:
The catch here is that only infrastructure projects with revenue streams will attract private investment. To be sure, that includes a lot of infrastructure, including toll roads and bridges; alternative-energy suppliers that reap revenues from power consumers; and water and transit systems that earn back their cost of capital through mill rates and Metropasses.One can't help but wonder, like the idea to sell off our airports, this is just another neoliberal ploy, thinly disguised, that will redirect revenue from the public to the private domain.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released a study that suggests we will all be paying more for this largess gifting the private sector:
This study finds that private financing of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank could double the cost of infrastructure projects—adding $150 billion or more in additional financing costs on the $140 billion of anticipated investments. It would amount to about $4,000 per Canadian, and about $5 billion more per year (assuming an average 30-year asset life). The higher costs would ultimately mean that less public funding would be available for public services or for additional public infrastructure investments in future years.The full study, which you can obtain here, suggests there is a better way:
There’s no reason the federal government can’t make the Canada Infrastructure Bank a truly Public Infrastructure Bank, with a mandate to provide low-cost loans (or other “innovative financial tools”) for large public infrastructure projects. The federal government already has banks and lending institutions that provide low-cost loans, financing, credit, and loan guarantees for housing, for entrepreneurs and for exporters. So why not also provide low-cost loans and other financing for public infrastructure projects? This bank could be established as a crown corporation with initial capital contributions from the federal government (and perhaps other levels of government) and backed by a federal government guarantee. It could then leverage its assets and borrow directly on financial markets at low rates and then use this capital to invest in new infrastructure projects.

This approach would involve a slightly higher cost of financing than direct federal government borrowing, but it would be considerably below the cost of private finance.And finally, is it simply a coincidence that one of the government's tools for borrowing at ultra-low rates is ending?
The federal government is phasing out the Canada Savings Bond, a popular savings vehicle introduced after The Second World War.

The Liberals’ 2017 budget stated the bond program peaked in the late 1980s and has been in a prolonged decline since.

“The program is no longer a cost-effective source of funds for the government, compared to (other) funding options,” the budget document reads.Perhaps it is naive of me to suggest, but wouldn't paying a higher rate of return on savings bonds that average citizens can benefit from also be a source of much-needed cash for infrastructure?

Just wondering.Recommend this Post

A Small, Cautious Budget

Northern Reflections - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 05:43


Kevin Page writes that yesterday's budget was not a history making event:

From a fiscal vantage point, Budget 2017 was a very small event. There’s about $6 billion in new federal resources cumulatively planned for the next six years. By comparison, Budget 2016 allocated about $11.5 billion in new resources in year one, rising to $14.5 billion in year two.
The Liberals are still going to run deficits, but they're investing in nothing new and nothing big. And there's not much of a plan:

What will we get for the $140 billion addition to our stock of debt over the next 6 years?
We are doubling infrastructure spending over the next ten years. Budget 2017 lays out where this money will go. Still, there is no national needs assessment — no national or sectoral plan. If there is no plan, how can we hold the government to account?

Budget 2017 lays out a strategy to strengthen skills and innovation. It may be a good strategy but it’s not a plan. There are commitments to review existing programs and to work with the provinces to strengthen labour market agreements. This is all good — but why did we not do the spending review before Budget 2017, so that we would have resources to fund new priorities and programs?

Why the caution? The reason, we're told, is that Donald Trump -- ever the disruptor -- hasn't laid out his plan. And, until he does, we are going to tread water.

Like the rest of the world, we're waiting for Donald. But perhaps. like Godot, he'll never show up.

Image: Pinterest

Rona Ambrose, the Budget, and the Scandalous Cons

Montreal Simon - jeu, 03/23/2017 - 04:42


I almost felt sorry for Rona Ambrose yesterday, as she tried to say something intelligent about the Liberal's new budget. 

Only to fail miserably.

And end up looking, once again, like the village idiot.



Claiming that Liberal spending was out of control, and that it was a "nightmare scenario."
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