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Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - mer, 03/22/2017 - 10:24
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Katie Allen reports on the growing gap between the privileged few and the working class in the UK. And Frank Elgar highlights how we all pay the price of inequality, even as our governments can't be bothered to rein it in:
For decades, the IMF, OECD, and World Bank have warned governments about its destabilising effects. Last month, the World Economic Forum in Davos reported that inequality constitutes the single greatest threat to the global economy. More than an ageing population. Even more than climate change.

And across academic disciplines, researchers have found that societies with smaller income differences between the rich and poor live longer, healthier lives with less crime, less corruption, and stronger social ties. Children too are happier, healthier, less likely to drop out of school, less likely be bullied, and more likely to move up the social ladder.
Trouble is, the rising inequality not only shortens lifespans and divides communities, it also blinds government to the needs of the most vulnerable. Despite its feel-good rhetoric about fairness and inclusiveness, the federal government seems content to double down on Conservative-era policies that will deepen inequality and send more wealth to the top income strata.

To figure out why this happens, consider this. Public spending serves the common good more than it benefits the rich, whom can probably manage fine with low taxes, private clinics, private schools, no public transit, and so on. When incomes and inequality rise together, as they are in Canada, the rich gains political influence to cut taxes and regulations and keep spending down.

The results are predictable: under-investment in health, education, and other social services, and cash transfers to low-income families, and rising relative poverty. A poor country for rich people. A plutocracy. Or, as the late economist JK Galbraith famously described it, private opulence and public squalor. - Laura McInerney worries about the prospect that publicly-funded education might be stripped down to core subjects, leaving families who can't afford to pay without access to basic extracurricular activities. And of course that looks to be exactly where the Saskatchewan Party is headed.

- The Canadian Labour Congress offers its suggestions for today's federal budget. Paul Wells notes that the Libs' messaging about "middle class" and "innovation" hasn't been matched with any meaningful policy improvements. David MacDonald focuses on the tax loopholes the Libs should be closing rather than maintaining to enrich their donor class, while Canadians for Tax Fairness addresses the tax system as a whole. And the Huffington Post's report on Canada's declining position in the World Happiness Report should be a warning sign as to the need to at least stop falling behind the rest of the world.

- Finally, Paul Taylor's response as to how to manage the unaffordability of prescription drugs signals the need for a national pharmacare program. And Andre Picard writes that the fight against climate change is an essential public health issue.

[Edit: Added link, labels.]

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - mer, 03/22/2017 - 10:08
Here, pointing out that Brad Wall's deficit can be traced primarily (if not entirely) to his unproductive tax slashing - and that even an austerity-laden budget is being designed to make matters worse.

For further reading...
- Jason Warick's series of reports on obvious ways to improve Saskatchewan's fiscal situation can again be found here, here, here and here. And his off-hand reference to the lost tax revenue is from the last of the reports on the lack of a sovereign wealth fund (emphasis added):
Instead of creating a fund, spending ramped up.

Government floated $180 million in loans and grants to build a new football stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, gave nurses a 36 per cent raise, and bought $21 million worth of land for Regina's Global Transportation Hub "not in a financially responsible manner," according to the provincial auditor.

Billions in tax breaks were given to resource, construction, agriculture and other industries. Construction began on controversial projects, including the $235-million children's hospital in Saskatoon, the $1.5-billion carbon capture plant near Estevan, and the $2-billion bypass around Regina.
...More than 100,000 low-income residents have been removed from the tax roll. Overall taxes have been cut by $6.6 billion. - CBC reported here on Wall's attempt to pitch still more income tax cuts as one of the selective "sacrifices" in the new budget. And Sophia Tesfaye offers a recent perspective on Kansas' experience with a combination of tax slashing and austerity.
- Finally, and to what I'm sure will be the disappointment of many, there is not in fact an Maybe next time a band of Harper-style vandals takes power federally.

When John Dean accuses you of a "Cover-up," you've got a real Problem. . .

kirbycairo - mer, 03/22/2017 - 09:15
Few people have as intimate a knowledge of political cover-ups as counselor to Richard Nixon John Dean. If you haven't already seen it, watch as Dean describes the Trump presidency in full-on "cover-up" mode. There is little question in my mind now that Trump has already committed multiple impeachable offences, and that is without even touching collusion with the Russians, something that John Dean seems to think is becoming ever more clear. The only question now is whether the Republicans will choose Party over Country and the Rule of Law. Unfortunately, the answer to that is painfully obvious. Frankly, as cynical as I am, even I didn't think that a democracy like the US (imperfect by any standard but still just about holding on) could unravel this quickly.

The depth of the political crisis in the US can be seen in the effort to push through the so-called "Trump-care" bill. At the moment it looks like it will fail to pass the House, and even if they do get the seven votes or so that they need to swing it, it looks like it is dead on arrival in the Senate. But here's the thing, if Trump-care fails it will not be because Republican lawmakers have rejected it because it will take literally millions of people off of Medicaid, Medicare, and their insurance, but because the most conservative Republicans in the House (the tragically misnamed "Freedom Caucus") think that it gives TO MUCH to the poor, the sick, and the elderly. This is how bad the US political system has become; the party in power is rejecting a conservative, Trump-sponsored bill because it tries to take care of society's most vulnerable. (And, keep in mind, that these Congress Members who are upset because the Republican establishment is trying to care for people, all call themselves devout Christians!)

The real question that is haunting us today is not "will Trump be impeached?" or "will Trump cause a war?" or even "is Trump mentally unstable?" The real question is - how long can a society last hat is actively promoting detached, callousness toward its own vulnerable citizens?

Not Like His Father At All

Politics and its Discontents - mer, 03/22/2017 - 06:11

A few days ago I posted a letter by Star reader Cathy Allen in which she discussed what it would take for her to regain her pride as a Canadian. It was outstanding, and if you haven't read it, click on the link before proceeding.

In yesterday's Star, Randy Gostling of Oshawa offered some of his own thoughts on the subject, contrasting Canada's past leadership with its current incarnation:
Re: What it will take to restore my pride, March 17

On behalf of what I would expect to be thousands of like-minded war babies, I want to sincerely thank Cathy Allen for so eloquently presenting the concerns of “we the forgotten” in the lead letter of March 17.

It’s equally nice to be reminded that much of what is right in this nation today began with Pierre Trudeau and “we the young” who believed in him. But as Ms. Allen suggests, our faith is gone.

I honestly believe Pierre Trudeau’s motivation was essentially a commitment he made to himself to do something special with his life. His son talks as if he has a similar commitment, but instead sings it like a tune while doing the beggar’s waltz for the “bigs” and next to nothing for or about indigenous grievances, refugees escaping the U.S., the environment, unemployed youth, election reform, Bill C-51 vs. constitutional rights, a corrupt Senate, child poverty, housing, child care for single moms or the CRA’s reluctance to enforce laws against or even expose or punish wealthy and corrupt citizens, corporations and banks.

Pierre created Petro-Canada to resist Big Oil, while Justin approves pipelines and further development and transportation (through pristine areas) for some of the dirtiest, most destructive oil on Earth, even as the world is running out of clean air and water. Pierre delivered on promises while Justin chose to simply make them long enough to get elected.

Cathy Allen speaks for many in saying we are disappointed. We miss who and what we were and what our nation used to be. It’s still held in esteem by the world — but it seems because the world has gotten worse, not because we got better.

Like Allen says, at least we’re not American. But that’s not nearly good enough for us or Pierre.Recommend this Post

A Pivotal Moment

Northern Reflections - mer, 03/22/2017 - 06:08

Last week's meeting between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel was -- to put it mildly -- awkward. Joseph Ingram writes:

Take a close look at the body language on display at that press conference. What we saw was not the courteous warmth typical of a first encounter between two world leaders with common interests and similar world views. Rather, we saw what looked like an encounter between a wiser, more confident, more mature leader and a petulant, scornful child. And no handshake. No doubt, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his erstwhile populist allies in France, Germany and Italy were heartened.
As Trump pursues his American First agenda, he diminishes his -- and his country's authority throughout the world:

Already we see the baton of global leadership being pulled from America’s grip. President Trump’s criticism of trade alliances, and his subsequent withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, led Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to suggest that the partnership be resurrected — with China replacing the U.S. as the pact’s lynchpin. The Latin Americans are not far behind him.There is a growing recognition out there that the Trump/Bannon world vision is one of tightly-controlled European nation states, which — along with Russia — could serve as a white Christian bulwark against Islam and the ‘invasion’ of those job-stealing non-white hordes arriving from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In the minds of those now running the White House, the West should be dominated by strong Christian nations — the U.S. and Russia, through their respective spheres of influence — with South Asia dominated by an emerging Hindu-run India, and East Asia by China, tempered in its ambitions by an emboldened Japan.
Which means that Canada has to rethink its role in the world. And, as unnerving as that world is, Canada may have a new place in it:

Because of these developments, Canada — as the United States’ racially and religiously diverse neighbour to the north — finds itself today in a critical geo-strategic position, linked as it is (economically, culturally and militarily) with the U.S., while simultaneously reflecting many of the core liberal democratic values of today’s EU. And if Europe continues to reject alt-right populism, as it has in Austria and the Netherlands (and may well do in France and Italy), President Trump and the U.S. will find themselves even more isolated.

Canada needs to walk a very fine line here. It must balance its economic and security relationship with the United States (one which, in any case, needs to be diversified) with the interests of its partners in Europe, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie. To ensure the long-term survival of our liberal democracy and economic security, Canada must establish a more symmetrical balance — one guided not just by American economic imperatives but equally by the core progressive values it holds. Values like openness and transparency in the electoral process, ensuring the tools for economic success are widely available to all citizens, defending cultural tolerance and diversity and fighting climate change.
This is a pivotal moment. We will have to decide how to handle the pivot.


Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - mar, 03/21/2017 - 19:01
Surrounded cats.

Napolitano Loses FOX Gig

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/21/2017 - 17:00

On FOX they call him "the judge" or at least they did. That's before Andy Napolitano planted in his president's addled mind the notion that Britain's CGHQ spy agency did Obama's bidding and spied on the Trump campaign. Now the judge has been given the hook.

A couple of weeks ago Napolitano said he had it from three sources that Obama went outside the "chain of command" and had the Brits eavesdrop on Trump and his aides during the campaign. The source turns out to be a discredited former CIA analyst who floated the idea on Russia's RT network.

After the story was refuted by the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the British government and its intelligence agency, Trump went into overdrive to cover his lyin' ass:

The US president, when asked about the incident, said that “all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”
Meanwhile former Clinton labour secretary, Robert Reich, reports on his latest visit to Washington where he took the pulse of the government.
1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful – than I’ve ever seen it.

2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.

3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.

4. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.

5. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.

6. The Washington foreign policy establishment – both Republican and Democrat – is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.

7. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.

8. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.

9. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon – unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.

10. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “how did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends – they gave me blank stares.

Making Sense of Yesterday

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/21/2017 - 11:26
Having endured the "Death by a Thousand Cuts" ordeal now known by the name "Watergate" I realize how difficult it can be to make sense of the significance and meaning of yesterday's testimony by FBI director, James Comey, and NSA chief, Admiral Mike Rogers.

This video helps to put those events in perspective.

Shine a Light

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/21/2017 - 09:47

If he hasn't done anything else useful we can thank Donald Trump for finally shining a light on Russia's dirty money.

For years there have been stories about Cyprus and how the Russian oligarchs were using it as a conduit to transmit rubles to the West for laundering.  Still few eyebrows were raised when Trump chose the former vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, Wilbur Ross, as his commerce secretary.

There have been reports about how a mountain of Russian dirty money made its way to giants of the European banking system, troubled Deutsche Bank in particular and Trump's extensive dealings with that bank are well known.

The Guardian reports that dirty money from Russia also flowed into British banks. A follow up piece in today's paper has the head of Britain's National Crime Agency money laundering unit, David Little, claiming that the Russians are not cooperating with their efforts to find out where that money is from.

In an interview with the Guardian, David Little said: “The amount of Russian money coming into the UK is a concern. “One, because of the volume. Two, we don’t know where it is coming from. We don’t have enough cooperation [from the Russian side] to establish that. They won’t tell us whether it comes from the proceeds of crime.”

Detectives have exposed a money laundering scheme, called the “Global Laundromat”, that was run by Russian criminals with links to their government and the former KGB.

Roman Borisovich, a former banker and anti-corruption campaigner, said the British government needed to do more to end offshore secrecy. It should identify the real owners of offshore companies doing business or owning assets in the UK.

“In Russia I have witnessed an entire shadow industry of money laundering engineered by professional financiers and operated by organised criminal groups under the Kremlin’s watchful eye,” he said.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, capital flight out of Russia during the Vladimir Putin years exceeded $1tn, he said. “We have no idea yet how the other $900m got across the Russian border – but rest assured they ended up in the same banks.”

The Con Clown Leadership Scandal Just Got Worse

Montreal Simon - mar, 03/21/2017 - 07:57

In one of my last posts I wrote that the Con leadership race was starting to look like a crime story.

And I suggested that it might be time to call in the police.

Or at the very least the Keystone Cops.

Because that grubby leadership race is becoming more and more farcical.

Read more »

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - mar, 03/21/2017 - 07:26
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jo Littler writes about the illusion of meritocracy, and how it has contributed to the unconscionable spread of inequality:
Over the past few decades, neoliberal meritocracy has been characterised by two key features. First, the sheer scale of its attempt to extend entrepreneurial competition into the nooks and crannies of everyday life. Second, the power it has gathered by drawing from 20th-century movements for equality. Meritocracy has been presented as a means of breaking down established hierarchies of privilege.
The fact is, meritocracy is a myth. Social systems that reward through wealth, and which increase inequality, don’t aid social mobility, and people pass on their privilege to their children. The Conservatives have made this situation far worse by raising the inheritance tax threshold. And their reintroduction of grammar schools would involve using extremely narrow educational measures to divide children and to privilege the already privileged (often with the help of expensive private tutors). As the geographer Danny Dorling has said, it is a system of “educational apartheid”.
It is not hard to see why people find the idea of meritocracy appealing: it carries with it the idea of moving beyond where you start in life, of creative flourishing and fairness. But all the evidence shows it is a smokescreen for inequality. As Trump, May and their supporters attempt to resurrect it, there has never been a better moment to bury meritocracy for ever. - Meanwhile, Luke Harding, Nick Hopkins and Caelainn Barr discuss how anonymous corporate structures facilitate corruption and tax evasion. And Sophia Harris reminds us of the Libs' broken promise to close the stock option loophole.

- Justine Hunter reports on the B.C. Libs' continued exploitation of massive corporate donations to try to cling to power, while David Ball reports on the connection between those donations and industry lobbyists. And Kai Nagata notes that we can add U.S. trophy hunters looking for the opportunity to kill grizzly bears to the list of dubious groups supporting Christy Clark.

- Damian Carrington points out the latest research from the World Meteorological Organisation showing how carbon pollution has pushed our climate into unprecedented extremes. Emily Atkin writes that the corporate-funded climate denial industry is expanding into denying the existence of air pollution in any form. And the CP reports on the latest oil spill into a key waterway near Bragg Creek, AB.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board rightly argues that the Trudeau Libs have done nothing to earn the public's trust when it comes to the federal government's obligations and responsibilities to First Nations - meaning that it's long past time to start funding fair services on reserve.

With A Capital L

Northern Reflections - mar, 03/21/2017 - 06:33

Yesterday was a bad day for Donald Trump. If there was one thing that yesterday's hearing made clear, it is that Trump is a Liar --with a capital L. David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times:

I’ve previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word, because it implies intent and somebody can state an untruth without doing so knowingly. George W. Bush didn’t lie when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Obama didn’t lie when he said people who liked their current health insurance could keep it. They made careless statements that proved false (and they deserved much of the criticism they got).
But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.
The question is, how long will he be able to get away with it? Apparently, he'll be able to avoid accountability for quite awhile. The Republicans on the committee focused on the leaks, no the lies. And Sean Spicer

went before the cameras and lied about the closeness between Trump and various aides who have documented Russian ties. Do you remember Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s campaign, who ran the crucial delegate-counting operation? Spicer said Manafort had a “very limited role” in said campaign.
Lies. With a capital L.

Image: Pinterest

A Circumstantial Noose

Politics and its Discontents - mar, 03/21/2017 - 06:29
In his opening statement before James Comey's testimony yesterday in front of the House Intelligence Committee probing Trump ties to Russia, Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) laid out of all of the circumstantial evidence that has built up so far connecting the Trump campaign to Russian state actors seeking the intervene in the election.

I think you will find his chronology fascinating, leaving little doubt that "something wicked this way came" on the road to Trump's capture of The White House:

Recommend this Post

Donald Trump and the Day of Reckoning

Montreal Simon - mar, 03/21/2017 - 04:47

It was an extraordinary sight, and Donald Trump's day of reckoning.

His worst nightmare coming true.

The FBI director, and the director of the National Security Agency, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, and all but calling Trump a liar.
Read more »

"Remarkable Changes... That Are Challenging the Limits of Our Understanding of the Climate"

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/20/2017 - 23:54

The World Meteorological Organization admits that it's struggling to comprehend the nature and pace of climate change now upon us.

“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

The new WMO assessment also prompted some scientists to criticise Donald Trump. “While the data show an ever increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand,” said Prof Sir Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK’s University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN’s climate science panel.

Our children and grandchildren will look back on the climate deniers and ask how they could have sacrificed the planet for the sake of cheap fossil fuel energy, when the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of a transition to a low-carbon economy,” Watson said.

Ah, Justin, I think that last bit was maybe pointed at you as much as Trump.

Leadership 2017 Links

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 03/20/2017 - 16:32
This and that from the NDP's leadership campaign.

- Among the coverage of the first leadership debate which I hadn't linked before, Karl Nerenberg offers both a ranking and a review. And Yves Engler asks why the first debate largely avoided foreign policy issues - though there's still plenty of campaign left in which to address them.

- Jeremy Nuttall reports on Guy Caron's plan to build the NDP's economic credibility. Althia Raj writes about Sid Ryan's possible candidacy. Dr. Dawg comments on the (overwrought) controversy surrounding Niki Ashton's reference to a Beyoncé lyric, while Jonathon Naylor rightly highlights Ashton's progressive platform and activist focus. And Cheri DiNovo is optimistic that the NDP's new leadership will provide the democratic socialist alternative Canada needs.

- Charlie Angus writes about the importance of a government willing and able to stand up for workers.

- Finally, Alex Boutilier offers a reminder as to the surprising prelude to the current leadership campaign. And Dru Oja Jay discusses the importance of also looking for opportunities to build future leaders for Canada's progressive movement - and ensuring that the NDP is the party which embodies their values.

What Happened Today in Washington

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/20/2017 - 15:39

The House hearings went on for four hours. These two videos should suffice

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 03/20/2017 - 09:02
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Josh Bivens explains why increased fairness would likely lead to improved overall growth for the U.S.' economy:
(O)ne key driver of slow productivity growth in recent years can be fixed: the remaining shortfall between aggregate demand and the economy’s productive potential. Running the economy far below potential for a long time has led to insufficient investment to sustain rapid productivity growth. One way to close this accumulated investment gap is, of course, to simply have fiscal policymakers boost public investment. And this should indeed be a response.

But another crucial response is to ensure that the labor market and wider economy run hot enough to force businesses to boost investment simply to meet growing demand. When this is done, policymakers also need to keep the recovery strong until real wages begin consistently rising. From a policy perspective this means keeping interest rates low and not prematurely raising them due to misguided fears of inflation. The inflationary impact of a pick-up in real wages is likely to be quite muffled by the faster investment and productivity growth that will follow.

As with all macroeconomic predictions, this one about productivity rising to meet wage growth could be wrong. But the downside risk of being wrong is relatively small; a couple of years of above-target price inflation as wages push up costs. Given the many years of below-target inflation, one hesitates to even call this a “downside” of a policy that has the economy going for growth. The downside risk of reining in demand before we even test the virtuous cycle of rising wages leading to rising productivity growth, however, is enormous. The decline in potential output for 2017 between what was forecast in 2007 and what is estimated now is almost $2 trillion. If half of this—$1 trillion—could be clawed back through a policy that runs the economy hot and leads to higher productivity growth, it will be an extraordinarily consequential policy choice.- André Magnan and Annette Aurélie Desmarais examine farmland investment patterns in Saskatchewan and find that outside money is making land unaffordable for residents.

- Jason Warick discusses not only Saskatchewan's missed opportunity to build a sovereign wealth fund, but also the choices which have frittered away a boom - including $6.6 billion in tax cuts which have accomplished nothing useful. And CBC highlights the workers who are now paying the price for Brad Wall's bad governance, while also reporting that Regina is on the hook for millions more than planned to finish the stadium which Wall saw as more important than providing for Saskatchewan's people.

- Meanwhle, the CCPA studies Justin Trudeau's privatization plans while questioning why he's determined to double the price of infrastructure in order to enrich Bay Street. And Emma Gilchrist discusses the long-term costs of Christy Clark's Site C dam boondoggle.

- Finally, Sophia Harris reports on the stock option loophole left open by the Libs, while wondering whether this year's budget will see a sorely needed change toward collecting revenue from the people who can most afford to contribute it.

An Ally Of Ignorance

Politics and its Discontents - lun, 03/20/2017 - 06:48
What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.

- Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4.

Some of the greatest foes of ignorance are knowledge, awareness and critical thinking. Key tools in the cultivation of our humanity, without them we would exist in a perpetual present, lacking any kind of contextual ability with which to resist the the dark forces that constantly threaten. Each of us would be, as Hamlet says, A beast, no more.

A key ally and promoter of ignorance is Donald Trump, whose installment in the White House has provided the means by which the bestial aspect of our collective nature is ascendant, and the things that help define and cultivate our humanity are under grave attack, examples of which are painfully evident in the following:

Recommend this Post

The Koch Party

Northern Reflections - lun, 03/20/2017 - 06:23

When David Koch was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 1980, he and his running mate, Ed Clark, advocated the abolition of public schools, social security and taxation. They garnered one percent of the vote. Koch took the appropriate lesson from the experience. Third parties in the United States are non starters. If you seek political power, you have to capture one of the two major parties. And so, Linda McQuaig writes, Koch and his brother Charles set out to take over the Republican Party:

Operating mostly behind the scenes, and driven by an abiding hatred of government and anything that smacked of distributing wealth more broadly, the Kochs invested massively over the next few decades in creating a vast network of think-tanks, academic programs, front groups, political action groups and campaigns, lobbyists and politicians, as New Yorker writer Jane Mayer documents in her powerful book Dark Money.
With the election of Donald Trump, they have achieved their objective:

Trump's independence may be overstated; his vice president, Mike Pence, has been a major recipient of Koch money and was Charles Koch's first choice for president in 2012. Pence has brought Koch operatives into the White House and shows signs of becoming a Dick Cheney-style puppet master. For that matter, the Kochs are only an impeachment away from having their guy running the free world.

The role of Koch money in shaping Republican politics gets surprisingly little media attention. But it helps explain the otherwise baffling behaviour of Republican politicians scrambling to justify stripping health coverage from their constituents and using the savings to pay for $600 billion worth of tax cuts for the rich. Awkward.

Meanwhile, many Republicans in the "freedom caucus," who've been heavily funded by the Kochs, consider the proposed reform too generous to the disadvantaged.

Who says you can't buy a government?



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