IBI Watch 7/3/11

3 07 2011

IBI Watch 7/3/11


The Cult of No Taxes, No Way, No How, Never  (Got it?)

In Minnesota, we are used to the mantra ‘No New Taxes.’  Our recently replaced governor, Tim Pawlenty, signed a pledge with the Taxpayers’ League to that effect.  Aided by smoke, mirrors, accounting shifts, and propaganda, he by God maintained that pledge during his eight years.  Now of course Minnesota, the state that used to work, is in the national spotlight because of its government shutdown.  The Republican-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor have, you might say, different ideas for what to do.  And at this moment, Congressional Republicans are threatening more or less the same thing, as they hold the debt ceiling hostage – in the process playing chicken with the United States’ international reputation.  Rarely does a situation in a particular state so closely match the national situation.



If you want a bird’s eye view of Minnesota Republican machinations, check this content submitted by a friend.  It’s a posting by her (Democratic) legislator.

“Incredible!  Almost unbelievable!  Now that the Republican requested “cone of silence” on their negotiations with Governor Dayton has been lifted, we find out that they valued their extreme social and anti-worker agenda more than getting a budget deal done.


I actually saw a copy of their demands for a budget deal and it was contingent on the Governor accepting such things as anti-abortion provisions, preventing the use of stem cell research to cure diseases and illnesses, taking away rights of consumers in fraud cases, taking away many teachers rights and even the rights of school boards to bargain some issues with teachers, requiring 15% of state employees to be cut by next biennium,  and taking away workers’ rights under prevailing wage laws.  They even made their budget offer contingent on the Governor agreeing to the Republican drafted redistricting plan for elections, which would have assured Republican control of the legislature for the next 10 years.


Many of those issues which they required the Governor to accept before they would agree to the budget were in bills which the Republicans couldn’t even get passed in their own Republican-controlled legislature.  It is appalling to me that they would make a budget deal to avoid a state shutdown contingent on such things which have almost nothing to do with the budget.”


If you wonder how this can happen – in both St. Paul and Washington – you probably have not met Grover Norquist.  Here are several links to acquaint you with this powerful architect of the modern Republican empire of greed.  These links are a great place to start.




People of a certain age remember a colorful way Lyndon Johnson described the influence he wielded.  Let’s just say that Norquist could be wearing oversized carpenter jeans, and his pockets would be exploding.


Anyone with stomach to listen to the news these days is used to the refrain.  You hear it from Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, plus any quotable Republican Senator or House member.  That is, it is not a good time to raise anyone’s taxes.  You also hear it from Minnesota’s Amy Koch and Kurt Zellers.  The claim is that raising (I call it ‘partially restoring’) taxes on those most able to pay will somehow wreck the economy.  But there is no proof of that dogma.  And even some conservatives will now admit that this is total hogwash.  Check these links.  The last is particularly interesting.  Watch conservative Ben Stein gamely fight to inject common sense into the discussion, despite the illogic and bullying by Laura Ingraham.






It’s clear Republican unanimity will not be easily breached.  After all, their behavior resembles a faith army of sorts, a cult.  The creed is “No new taxes,” and apostasy will be punished.  And many, many working class people across the country support this agenda, wittingly or otherwise.  Fox News helps of course.  Here is a descriptive piece – it analyzes the way the rightist propaganda bullhorn gets inside people’s heads. Let us count the ways.



With our rightist Supreme Court, corporations are more massive and powerful than ever.  Legally, they are people in many ways (though, sadly, a wrongdoing corporation cannot suffer the death penalty!)  Here are some links that look at corporate power and  personhood, and an organization trying to do something about it.  At the second link, a video trailer to a documentary on this topic from a few years back.  If you have not seen it, why not now?






On this topic, I save the best for last.  Our experiment in free-market capitalism is now 30 years old. We have gone a remarkable distance toward building that dystopia. It is easy to see how things are trending.  Lower marginal taxes on the wealthy lead to dramatically increased wealth disparity, and a crisis in government revenue.  Lower effective taxes on corporations lead to greater profits.  Greater corporate power leads to more corporate influence on Congress, enhancing the electoral chances of candidates who favor the wealthy and big corporations.  Those candidates, elected, stifle policy that could benefit the common good.  And on and on.  I have heard quotes from Milton Friedman and his chief acolyte, Alan Greenspan, to the effect that you will only see the real benefits of free markets if all the ‘distortions’ are removed.  Hah!  My take is this – any purist ideology, be it socialism, communism, free-market capitalism, libertarianism, stumbles over reality.  Worth thinking about as we continue to build Ayn Rand’s vision.



Fighting Ignorance (with Laughs Allowed)

The first linked piece here expresses at some length a belief I have long held.  That is, moderate people of faith have a strong common interest with atheists and agnostics.  That is, to fight the ignorance-based initiative that is theocracy.  As for the second, it is one of the last videos of a very funny fellow.  He is not all that funny here, but you see George Carlin’s world view coming through loud and clear.  VERY loud and clear.  And unfortunately it is clear that he gave up on positive change well before he passed on.






Clearer by the Unstable Day – Climate Disruption

The National Weather Service recently updated its ‘normal’ range for daily temperature comparisons.  Read this article to see just how fast things are changing – in exactly the ways climate scientists have predicted.  That is, greater warming in the winter, higher overnight lows, faster change in continental areas far from the ocean.  Hmmm.  Wonder how that happened?  I wonder if someone should tell Exxon Mobil and the Koch Brothers.  Oh, never mind.  Other links are more updates – worth your time for sure.  The fourth link compares skeptics and deniers in a creative new way.  Made me think of a denier whom I highlighted a couple of weeks back.  Heck, let’s link to a different video of this Minnesota legislator.  Mike Jungbauer deserves a new term for his approach – how about ‘smugnorance?’  The chutzpah!  And note the final link, characterized by MSNBC as ‘weird news.’ Sure, lots of yucks there.  Proliferation of jellyfish worldwide, thanks to overfishing and ocean warming.  Blocking nuclear plants.  Hilarious!








Cycling Follies

OK, only the last link is follies, and a political statement to boot.  I am a work commuter on two wheels, and rarely have problems with motorists.  I obey the rules of the road and am hyper-vigilant.  First link – an interesting piece in the Atlantic highlighting America’s most bike-friendly cities.  Next two links track the travails of a NYC cyclist who had a run-in with overzealous cops . . . and decided to rebel, in spectacular pratfall fashion.  Laugh-out-loud funny, in a Curly Stooge sort of way.





The Root of All Environmental Challenges

Sustainability is all the rage.  Finding long-term sources of clean energy, reducing pollution, using resources efficiently are all essential if we are to keep from wrecking the planet that supports us.  But there is a root-cause issue that few will discuss.





Nature – Appreciate, Don’t Ignore

Two parting pieces for you.  The first is an essay on the recent summer solstice.  Second is a story from NPR on nature’s resiliency.  Enjoy.





“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.”
-David Suzuki





Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Mike Kuehn, Lucinda Plaisance, Jeff Syme




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