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Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 10:50
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The New York Times editorial board chimes in on how Kansas serves as an ideal test case as to illusory benefits of top-end tax cuts:
The 2012 cuts were among the largest ever enacted by a state, reducing the top tax bracket by 25 percent and eliminating all taxes on business profits that are reported on individual income returns. (No other state has ever eliminated all taxes on these pass-through businesses.) The cuts were arrogantly promoted by Mr. Brownback with the same disproven theory that Republicans have employed for decades: There will be no loss of revenue because of all the economic growth!
“Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” he wrote in 2012. “It will pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, bring tens of thousands of people to Kansas, and help make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business.”
But the growth didn’t show up. Kansas, in fact, was one of only five states to lose employment over the last six months, while the rest of the country was improving. It has been below the national average in job gains for the three and half years Mr. Brownback has been in office. Average earnings in the state are down since 2012, and so is net growth in the number of registered businesses....The evidence of failure is piling up around Mr. Brownback, whose re-election campaign is faltering because of his mistake. Yet he continues to cling to his magical ideology, pleading for more time. “It’s like going through surgery,” he told The Wall Street Journal last month. “It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards.”
But it’s not clear the patient can recover from this surgery — the reserve fund, in fact, is likely to nearly run dry next year. As Kansas has clearly shown, states cannot cut their way to prosperity. They need to use every tool of government to nurture growth, and those tools require money.- And in a similar vein, Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew reports on the growing recognition that Ontario will need some significant revenue increases to avoid the Wynne Libs' plan to sell off and slash public services.

- Meanwhile, Mark Serwotka duly mocks the claim that austerity reflect financial necessity rather than a desire to ensure that a still-expanding pie serves fewer and fewer people. Simon Tremblay-Pepin examines the effect of austerity in Quebec. And PressProgress connects the dots between more active government and happier people.

- Susan Wright discusses Alberta's farce of a climate change strategy - along with the minimal chance that a strong rebuke from the province's Auditor General will result in any change for the better.

- Finally, Dale Smith expands on the vital role played by political parties - and some of the steps needed to make sure they work as they're supposed to:
What people often forget is that parties represent different things in different arenas.  The parliamentary party is a facet that is important in the day-to-day operation of parliament, and serves some of the most crucial functions of all – maintaining confidence.  This is the underlying principle by which our system of Responsible Government operates – that the government of the day has the confidence of the Chamber, so that it can continue to govern.  It maintains confidence by means of arranging its followers into a party that will support it on matters of confidence – things like spending proposals or key government programs and foreign policy decisions.  It also means that the prime minister can continue to advise the Queen or Governor General, because he or she has the confidence of the Chamber.  So you can see why it’s a pretty big deal.
...
(I)n order to fix the problems, they require more engagement from people and not less.  The problem when no more than two percent of the population – one of the lowest rates in the democratic world – are members of a political party at any given time, is that it allows a small number of people within the party to exert undue influence.  This applies for things like policy development, candidate selection and nomination races – you need more people engaged, in order to push back against top-down control and to make themselves heard and to hold the party itself to account.
...
There is, however, a uniting factor in the problems that plague both the parliamentary and electoral party structures, which is the fact that a lack of civic literacy, combined with a lack of responsibility on the part of both voters and MPs, has created a system where everyone walks around going “not my problem.”  Voters don’t want to engage in parties, and MPs don’t want to claim their rights and responsibilities, seemingly more comfortable blaming others for their lack of action (not to mention backbone).  This was confirmed in the recent book The Tragedy of the Commons, which Delacourt also cited, but to a different conclusion.  What is most striking about that book is the way in which the former MPs that were interviewed were concerned with their own self-mythologizing, insisting that they were all outsiders to the system (almost to a single MP), and that the party made them do everything.  Except that each and every one of them could have said no.

What MPs and voters alike need is a crash course in civic literacy, so that they are armed with the knowledge that is necessary to push back against the power structures that have entrenched themselves in the leaders’ offices and party hierarchies.  You don’t like the way the party elite run things?  Ensure that you have a strong enough grassroots to push back.  You don’t like how the leader’s office treats MPs like puppets?  It only takes a handful of MPs to say no, because they can’t all be fired at once without some serious questions being raised.  All it takes is a little effort.  To simply declare that parties are the problem is facile and wrong, and abolishing them just throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Indigenous People, Palestine, and History's Judgments. . . .

kirbycairo - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 10:26
             In 1840 the Comanche chief Buffalo Hump raised a huge party of warriors and began raiding towns in the Republic of Texas. During the raids they killed approximately 30 whites, nearly burned down the entire town of Linnville, stole hundreds of horses, and stole quiet a bit of bullion. The Great Raid of 1840, as it is now called, was one of the largest single raids by an organized ‘war party’ of  Native Americans in the history of Western “settlement.” And the killing and pillaging by the Comanche raiders was widely used as an illustration of Native “brutality” and “savagery” as the process of “settlement” went on through the rest of the 19thcentury.             However, as we know now, the people of the West commonly used such events to characterize the Native Americans as ‘savages,’ and ‘settler’s’ used the argument “we have a right to defend ourselves”” in their process of genocide. Very few people today, except the most racist, would ignore the fact that it was, in fact, the Native Americans who were defending themselves against an ongoing, concerted effort to take all their land and commit what amounted to genocide. We might look back and be saddened by the deaths of ‘average people’ who were just trying to live their lives at the hands Natives, but we are separated from the history enough to understand that what was really going on was genocide and that the relatively few numbers of whites that died in conflicts with the Natives, though sad for those people and their family members, amounted to the very small efforts that the Natives could go to in fighting against the theft of their land and the destruction of their culture. When Western “settlers” massacred Native communities with the claim of “defense” we know that such an argument could only be made by isolating  individual events from the backdrop of land theft and genocide. (Of course, racism against natives is still extremely wide spread and, sadly, even culturally accepted. However, eve those who have a racist, twisted, or radically misinformed view of North American Indigenous peoples, understand that it was, generally speaking, the Natives who were defending themselves, not the other way around.)            But the realization of genocide and White atrocities has taken a long, long time. And we can, sadly, conclude that it was only once the theft of the land was assured that anyone began to listen to the idea that whites had acted atrociously and were, in fact, guilty of the worst kinds of human crimes. And this struggle continues even today as a case can be made that North American Governments continue to be guilty of ongoing crimes against humanity in their treatment of the Indigenous peoples.             However, what I find saddest of all is that we have learned so little from our crimes against the Indigenous population of North America. Today in Palestine, the very same thing is going on. Almost all of the land of the Palestinians has now been taken with the exception of a few, very crowded and isolated areas. Like the Manifest Destiny of the Whites who came to North America, Israel seems bent on taking all the land of Palestine for itself and running the others off or killing them in the process. The Palestinians now live in a series of open-air prison camps and have very few resources at their disposal. Occasionally the Palestinians fight back with their meager resources against the most powerful, per-capita military in the world. And like the White “settlers” of the Old West, Israelis and their apologists claim that they are defending themselves against a “savage” enemy. But just as in the Old West, it is the Palestinians who are, in fact, defending themselves against a much more powerfully armed peoples who are hell-bent on taking all of their land until the Palestinians are little more than a handful of people with nothing to their name and subjugation becomes a really simple matter. It is another genocide, committed with a claim of moral righteousness, and it is no less savage or unjust than the committed against the Indigenous peoples of North America. They don’t want you to look at the “big picture.” They don’t want you to look at the historical facts. They don’t want you to see the maps which illustrated the gradual, but consistent swallowing up of Palestinian land against UN Directives and International Law. Like the White “settlers” of North American, Israel and its apologists want you to look at every effort by the Palestinians in complete isolation so they can mischaracterize it as savagery and characterize themselves as victims simply trying to “defend” themselves. All the while, they continue their illegal settlements, continue talking the land, and continue committing genocide while the West looks the other way.             But if the human race is still here in a couple of hundred years, the destruction of Palestine will be seen as no less a crime than the destruction of the Indigenous cultures of North America. Perhaps more so. And the few of us who speak against it will be like those few Easterners who spoke against the brutal nature of Western Settlement, people on the right side of history at decidedly the wrong time.

Corrupting Civil Society

Northern Reflections - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 06:13

                                                                                  http://buzznigeria.com/


The government has always had the power to revoke an organization's charitable status. But it didn't happen very often; and, Carol Goar writes, the rules were clear:

They siphoned donations into their founders’ own pockets, they provided a front for shadowy groups or they used most of their funds for administration. 
But things changed with the advent of Stephen Harper:

The Conservative government, angered that environmentalists were tying up pipeline projects in the West, tightened the regulation of charities. It required them to provide a detailed account of their political activities, imposed tough penalties on those that spent more than 10 per cent of their funds on advocacy and gave CRA $8 million to conduct a special audit.

The announcement sent a ripple of unease through the non-profit sector, but there was no wholesale panic. Most charities assumed the government would target a handful of prominent environmental organizations and leave the rest alone. That was a reasonable interpretation of the signals Stephen Harper and his colleagues were sending at the time. Joe Oliver, then natural resources minister, had lashed out at “radical environmental groups” for undermining the economy. Former environment minister Peter Kent had accused of them of “laundering offshore funds for inappropriate use.” But over time the scope of the blitz widened. CRA is now auditing churches, human rights organizations, animal welfare groups and anti-poverty coalitions. There are fears the two-year crackdown will be extended, putting non-profit organizations under an indefinite regime of increased surveillance.
The reason was simple. Charities almost invariably are opposed to Harper's agenda. And, like the man he more and more resembles -- Richard Nixon -- Harper has turned to government agencies to harass and dispose of his enemies.

The effect on charities has been devastating. Gareth Kirby writes in a recent paper:

I find that an advocacy chill is affecting charitable organizations that advocate on public policy issues though it varies in intensity and extent from organization to organization. I find that there is evidence in the data that the government is attempting, with some successes, to narrow society’s important policy conversations. Finally I find the data suggest that the current federal government is corrupting Canada’s democratic processes by treating as political enemies these civil-society organizations whose contributions to public policy conversations differ from government priorities.”
That's what Harper is all about: corrupting civil society.

 

Did She Really Say That?

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 05:54
I have a measure of sympathy for Irene Hubar, who reportedly spent over $1 million to refurbish a building in Hamilton's downtown core, only to encounter difficulty in leasing it out to commercial interests. In her view, the problem is with the 'street people' who loiter outside, scaring away potential tenants that she is trying to attract.

However, her outrageous assertion to a city hall task force, which you will hear at the beginning of the following clip, goes far beyond anything a democratic and free society could ever countenance, but it is one, I suspect, that the corporate agenda would wholeheartedly embrace:



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The Con Apocalypse and the Humbling of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 03:35


As you may remember, I was deeply troubled by Stephen Harper's wild diatribe at the Calgary Stampede BBQ almost two weeks ago.

I couldn't decide whether he had inhaled the fumes of his own propaganda, like Rob Ford sucks on a crack pipe.

Or was lying compulsively. Again.

Or whether inflamed by the sight of all those cowboy hats, he had finally gone off the deep end. 
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