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Sunday, December 31, 2017
To the readers in France these past 10 days, thank you for the 14,677 page views!
Total Page Views Outside of America: 251,835
Total Page Views from America: 1,064,548
Total Page Views: 1,316,383
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Let’s compare Churchill to Trump, since it’s become a popular internet meme (by Richard Angelo Sasso)
“As a young man, Churchill actually fought in wars on the frontline, especially in South Africa. He risked his life on a daily basis in the Boer Wars. (Let’s leave aside the actual moral dimensions of that conflict for the time being.) He could have easily avoided frontline service, given his family connections. But he fought for his nation. He risked his own physical life.
“Trump took five deferments so he would not go to Vietnam, including some for bone spurs. His so-called bone spurs have not inhibited his endless golf playing ever since.
“While he was out of power, Churchill desperately warned his country about the Nazi threat.
“Out of power, Trump whined about Obama’s birth certificate. Most recently, he told our country that there were some ‘fine people’ among the Neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville.
“Churchill switched political parties a few times in his life and was never completely trusted by the Tories or by Labor. However, when his time came to become Prime Minister, he worked across political boundaries to form national governments when the nation faced a crisis that held through the war.
“Trump has been relentlessly partisan and has managed to create division within his own party and nation as a whole.
“Churchill led his people through their darkest days. For over a year, he and Britain stood alone against the Fascist-conquered Europe and when England withstood vicious Nazi bombing of civilian centers. He told his people all he could offer was, ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ He gave the British people courage when they faced danger.
“Trump exaggerates the fear of our enemies where there is little risk and exploits tragedies to manipulate fear to advance his political agenda. He said he would 'Make America Great Again' - not by asking for sacrifice and cooperation - but by scapegoating immigrants and refugees in the face of one of the worse refugee crisis of our time, and by coddling billionaires and millionaires with tax cuts.
“Churchill wrote and spoke with brilliance and eloquence. He was said to have deployed the English-language and sent it into battle. After the war was over, he produced a brilliant six-volume history of WWII. He understood the fine art of diplomacy’s nuances. He was awarded a Noble Prize for literature as much for his written work as for the totality of his achievement during humanity’s most challenging times. He faced his critics in parliament and answered them face-to-face articulately and clearly. And when the press hounded him, he accepted it as the price of democratic leadership.
“Trump basically has a ghost-written piece of trash to his credit and string of insulting 140 letter tweets to his critics.
“Churchill often struggled financially to make ends meet. Trump’s greed and bankruptcies are legendary.
“Churchill had one wife whom he loved dearly. Trump has had multiple wives and clearly multiple affairs.
“When he was voted out of office at the end of the war, Churchill left graciously and served his party humbly.
“Let’s hope Trump can at least do that…”
Saturday, December 23, 2017
"The traditional pension seems destined to be an artifact of U.S. labor history"-The Washington Post
“…The notion of pensions — and the idea that companies should set aside money for retirees — didn’t last long. They really caught on in the mid-20th century, but today, except among government employers, the traditional pension seems destined to be an artifact of U.S. labor history.
“The first ones offered by a private company were those handed out by American Express, back when it was a stagecoach delivery service. That was in 1875. The idea didn’t exactly spread like wildfire, but under union pressure in the middle of the last century, many companies adopted a plan.
“By the 1980s, the trend had profoundly reshaped retirement for Americans, with a large majority of full-time workers at medium and large companies getting traditional pension coverage, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“Then corporate America changed: Union membership waned. Executive boards, under pressure from financial raiders, focused more intently on maximizing stock prices. And Americans lived longer, making a pension much more expensive to provide.
“In 1950, a 65-year-old man could be expected to reach age 78, on average. Today, that 65-year-old is expected to live beyond 84. The extended life expectancy means pension plans must pay out substantially longer than they once did.
“In place of pensions, companies and investment advisers urge employees to open retirement accounts. The basic idea is workers will manage their own retirement funds, sometimes with a little help from their employers, sometimes not.
“Once they reach retirement age, those accounts are supposed to supplement whatever Social Security might pay. (Today, Social Security provides only enough for a bare-bones budget, about $14,000 a year on average.)
From “I hope I can quit working in a few years”: A preview of the U.S. without pensions by Peter Whoriskey
What Defined-Benefit Pension Plans Contribute to a State's Economy:
·Defined-benefit pension plans have an economic impact of several hundred billion dollars each year and support several million American workers in their jobs; they contribute over a hundred billion dollars to annual local, state, and federal revenue, while reducing government expenditures; they also provide capital to the financial markets, and they deliver the same level of retirement income as an individual 401(k) type savings account at half the cost as a result of their professional asset management and better long-term investment strategies, particularly during challenging economic times(The National Institute on Retirement Security, NIRS).
·Defined-benefit pension plans are associated with far fewer American households that experience food privation, shelter adversity, and health care hardship and provide a bastion of hope and financial stability for millions of people in this country (NIRS). Instead of attempting to eliminate defined-benefit pension plans, they should be advocated by everyone.
·It is also true that state-funded pension plans are less expensive for Illinois taxpayers than Social Security and that Illinois taxpayers save hundreds of millions of dollars per year by not paying Social Security payroll taxes for 78% of all active employees in the five-State-managed plans.
·Defined-benefit pension plans have an economic impact of over $4 billion in the State of Illinois; their effect on Gross Domestic Product creates $2.38 billion; jobs created as a result of their existence: 30,448 (TRS, 2012).
·Defined-benefit pension plans contribute over $100 billion to annual local, state, and federal revenue in the U.S. and provide capital to financial markets (NIRS, 2012).
Au cours des 30 derniers jours, plus de personnes en France ont lu mon blog qu'aux États-Unis.
In the past 30 days, more people in France have read my blog than in the United States.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: Alzheimer’s Caregivers Still Need Help from Washington to Sustain their Crucial Role
“Preserving Medical Expense Tax Deduction Important Step, Approval of RAISE Act Needed Next:
“NEW YORK (December 21, 2017) — In the wake of sweeping changes to the nation’s tax code, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) President and CEO Charles Fuschillo is urging Washington to take additional steps to aid caregivers assisting those with Alzheimer’s.
“‘The daunting task and financial burden of caring for a community at risk is growing exponentially, and without assistance from Washington individuals performing this task would be faced with the Hobson’s choice of personal bankruptcy or walking away from loved ones,’ Fuschillo said.
“Fuschillo cited the preservation of the medical expense deduction and reduction of the income threshold needed to qualify from 10% to 7.5% for 2017 and 2018 in the recent tax reform legislation as ‘recognition of some of the needs facing family caregivers.’ Nearly 9 million caregivers deducted approximately $87 billion for related healthcare expenses in tax year 2015.
“Fuschillo says for the next step, ‘The Senate must join the House in passing the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act which requires Washington to create a National Family Caregiving Strategy that finally recognizes family caregivers as integral and essential within the nation’s health care safety net. Without these caregivers our society would be hard pressed to preserve and protect the dignity and safety of countless individuals who face Alzheimer’s.’
“‘Alzheimer’s is a crisis that touches every American, and we are encouraged that there is an awareness and appreciation in Washington of this fact. Without a coordinated response to this unfolding national challenge we would be left directionless, isolated from those who can strengthen the collective safety net for family caregivers,’ explained the AFA executive.”
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Americans for Tax Fairness Analysis: GOP tax plan “would give more than 80 percent of tax cuts to the nation's richest one percent while raising taxes on 92 million middle-class families…”
“As opponents continue to raise alarms about the GOP tax plan being pushed by President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers—with the House expected to vote Tuesday afternoon and the Senate later in the day—a new analysis details 13 ways the proposed tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals will negatively impact American families and the U.S. economy while lavishing rewards on corporations and the rich.
“The analysis by American for Tax Fairness (ATF)—a coalition of more than 425 groups that advocate for progressive tax reform—found that the Republicans' plan would give more than 80 percent of tax cuts to the nation's richest one percent while also—among other things—raising taxes on 92 million middle-class families; increasing healthcare premiums; encourage outsourcing of U.S.-based jobs; and limiting deductions for state and local taxes.
“ATF's analysis warns that the GOP's proposed legislation:
- Gives 83% of the tax cuts to the richest 1% by 2027. The richest 1% of taxpayers will get one-fifth (21%) of the tax cuts in 2018, but that grows to 83% by 2027. Their tax cut will average $51,000 in 2018; the bottom 60% of taxpayers will get about a dollar day. [Tax Policy Center (TPC)]
- Raises taxes on 92 million middle-class families by 2027 to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. That is more than one-half (57%) of all households making less than $200,000 a year. 69 million households making less than $100,000 a year would also pay more in taxes after the temporary tax cuts for individuals expire. [TPC]
- Mandates automatic Medicare cuts of at least $25 billion in 2018 and $400 billion over 10 years. In effect, seniors will pay for tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy as automatic spending cuts are triggered because the tax cuts add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Automatic cuts altogether will total $136 billion in 2018 and include reductions in agriculture subsidies, student loans, military retirement and more. [Congressional Budget Office (CBO)]
- Increases health care premiums and leaves 13 million families without health coverage, to raise revenue for tax breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and corporations.
- The plan repeals a key part of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement for individuals to have health coverage if they can afford it. That makes $314 billionavailable for tax cuts. [Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)]
- This will lead to 13 million more people being uninsured and cause a 10% increase in health insurance premiums for people getting insured on the individual market. [CBO]
- Provides a corporate tax rate cut of $1.4 trillion and makes those cuts permanent, but makes tax cuts for individuals and families temporary. [JCT]
- The corporate tax rate is slashed from 35% to 21%, and the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is eliminated.
- The $1.4 trillion corporate-tax-rate cut is nearly equal to the $1.5 trillion by which the whole tax plan increases the national debt, and to the $1.5 trillion cut the Republican budget makes to Medicare ($473 billion) and Medicaid ($1 trillion). [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
- Tax cuts that benefit working families will expire after 2025. However, one individual tax cut made permanent changes the way tax brackets are adjusted for inflation, resulting in growing tax increases over time. [CBPP]
- Adds $1.5 to $2.2 trillion to the national debt, jeopardizing critical services. The plan includes at least $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that are not paid for, such as by closing loopholes used by the wealthy and corporations. [JCT] Because the bill contains several budget gimmicks that obscure the true cost of the tax cuts, the cost could be as much as $2.2 trillion. [CBPP] This will balloon the national debt and further endanger funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education and more.
- Prioritizes the wealthiest taxpayers over working families with children. The plan lowers the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37%, giving more tax cuts to the richest 518,000 households. The GOP chose not to fully adjust changes in the Child Tax Credit so that some 24 million children in working families could fully benefit. Both of these changes would cost roughly the same amount, about $80 billion over 10 years. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), CBPP]
- Prioritizes wealthy business owners and real estate developers like Donald Trump. They get a net $265 billion tax cut from a new 20% deduction for “pass-through” business income combined with a tightening of rules on losses. Applied to the new 37% top individual tax rate, this 20% deduction on business income will drop the top pass-through business tax rate from 39.6% to 29.6%. More than 80% of this tax cut will go to the top 5% in 2019. Trump owns more than 500 pass-throughs. Pass-through owners—which include sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLC’s and S corporations—pay taxes due on their business income on their personal returns at individual rates. [JCT, ITEP]
- Kills American jobs by encouraging outsourcing and profit shifting. The plan creates a territorial tax system, which exempts foreign profits from U.S. taxes. While the plan will tax some of those offshore profits, the effective tax rate will be far below the U.S. rate. U.S. multinationals will have even more tax incentives to outsource more jobs and shift more profits offshore.
- Hands a $400 billion tax cut to offshore tax dodgers. American corporations have $2.6 trillion in profits stashed offshore on which they owe $750 billion in U.S. taxes. Rather than make them pay what they owe, like all the rest of us do, the tax plan will charge them only $339 billion—over a $400 billion discount. Apple will save $44 billion and Microsoft $25 billion, based on their Securities and Exchange Commission tax filings. [ITEP]
- Limits the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), hurting the middle class. The bill caps at $10,000 the amount of state and local property and income or sales taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income. This is one of the reasons that nearly 8 million families will see tax increases in 2018. The impact of this change will be felt especially in the 20 states that claim an average SALT deduction of more than $10,000. Limiting SALT will put pressure on state and local budgets, likely forcing cuts to education, health care, and infrastructure. [TPC, CBPP]
- Lets many wealthy heirs avoid paying the estate tax. The estate tax is substantially weakened, losing $83 billion and allowing very rich families to inherit wealth tax-free. Under current law, the tax only applies to estates worth over $5.5 million per person or $11 million per couple—about 5,500 estates. Under the bill, only estates worth at least $11 million per person or $22 million per couple (about 1,800 estates) would pay the tax. [JCT, TPC, CBPP]
- Enriches President Trump and his family. In addition to cutting the top individual income tax rate and creating a tax break for income from pass-through business entities (of which Trump owns 500), the bill preserves the many existing tax loopholes for real estate investors and even creates a new one. The final bill exempts real estate owners from a provision meant to limit abuse of the new pass-through income deduction” [ITEP].
From Common Dreams, December 19, 2017
Thursday, December 14, 2017
"H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, would make permits to carry a loaded concealed gun issued in one state valid in all other states"-Glenn Kessler
“…All states have statutes authorizing the carrying of handguns in public places for self-defense, but 38 states have various requirements for permits. Only one state, Vermont, does not issue a carry permit, while 11 other states — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — make it optional to apply for a permit. (There are some advantages to getting a permit, such as being allowed to carry in some areas that are off-limits to people without permits.)
“The laws can vary among states. Federal law prohibits people with felony convictions from obtaining guns, as well as persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, or by persons subject to a restraining order involving actual or threatened violence against an intimate partner. Federal domestic abuse law can prohibit current or former spouses, co-parents and current and former co-habitants from possessing guns. If a state makes a stalking crime a felony, that would also be prohibited under federal law. But some states have broader definitions of domestic violence dis-qualifiers, such as boyfriends or girlfriends…
“It’s worth noting that that the large majority of states which don’t issue nonresident permits already have reciprocity agreements to allow carry by visitors with a permit from their home state. A map on reciprocity agreements maintained by the USA Carry website indicates that only eight states — Hawaii, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia do not allow reciprocity with any other states. (Kopel says the map also incorrectly lists Illinois but that it allows carry from four states.)
“Some states, such as Virginia, already honor permits from every state. Other states, such as Colorado, may mostly honor only residential permits (i.e., a Florida permit that has been issued to a Floridian, but not a Florida permit issued to Georgian)…
“[T]he reality is that most states already allow for reciprocity agreements with other states. Federal law also already prohibits violent criminals, abusers and stalkers from having guns; the issue is that some states already have tougher laws than at the federal level that could be overridden by permits from more lenient states. Still, the differences among most states may loom larger in the gun debate than in reality…”
from Pelosi’s claim the House GOP is‘inviting’ violent criminals to carry concealed weapons by Glenn Kessler
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Why you should beware of “more than 240 colleges and universities, almost all in the U.S., got donations from Koch family foundations in 2016”—Alex Kotch, International Business Times
“The foundation of billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is ramping up its ideological higher education donations, smashing last year’s record amount given to colleges and universities. The foundation, along with smaller contributions from two other Koch family foundations, gave over $51 million to higher education institutions in 2016, according to analyzed by International Business Times. Koch donations typically come in the form of multi-year gifts, which support free-market centers [*], courses, professorships, graduate scholarships and lecture series, all with the aim of producing bright, young conservatives to recruit into their political network and like-minded professors to create scholarship that dovetails with the Kochs’ ideology and business interests.
“Koch and his brother David are well known for running a giant oil, chemical and materials conglomerate, Koch Industries, and for leading a vast, conservative political network that rivals either of the two major political parties in size and funding. Lesser known, but crucial to their long-term strategy to bend America toward their small-government ideology, is their considerable funding of higher education.
“The political activities of the Koch brothers have led to increased scrutiny into the family’s university grants in recent years, and students and faculty at several academic institutions have protested proposed donation agreements. In many cases, despite the opposition, universities and their economics departments, eager for an influx of cash, approve the agreements and begin taking yearly installments of hundreds of thousands — and sometimes millions — of dollars… More than 240 colleges and universities, almost all in the U.S., got donations from Koch family foundations in 2016, up from 218 the previous year…
“In her most recent book, , New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer describes a 1976 New York City conference that Charles Koch organized for wealthy libertarians to plot a strategy to take over American politics. In order to broaden their radical conservative movement, Charles Koch advocated a focus on ‘attracting youth’ because ‘this is the group that is open to a radically different social philosophy.’ Koch’s political lieutenant at the time, former John Birch Society member George Pearson, said at the gathering that traditional university gifts would not be sufficient, but funding private institutes on campuses would make it easier for donors to exert more control over hiring decisions and the ideological bent of these centers.
“The ‘,’ a plan devised by Koch and one of his closest lifelong associates, Richard Fink, begins with funding higher education. Next, academic output — or ‘intellectual raw materials’ — moves on to right-wing think tanks funded by Koch and his network, which repackage the scholarship into more relatable policy proposals. Koch-funded political advocacy groups then rally people around these policies and pressure lawmakers to adopt them.
“The strategy appears to be working. Not only are libertarian-minded academics raising their profiles with the help of Koch grants and providing ‘raw materials’ for conservative think tanks to convert into policy proposals but some are rising directly into the halls of government. International Business Times recently identified a host of who have secured posts within the Donald Trump administration this year. Meanwhile, business is booming for the wealthy brothers. and Koch are currently worth a combined $99.2 billion.”
For the complete article, Charles Koch gave $50 million to higher ed in 2016. What did he buy? by Alex Kotch, click here.
*For a Commentary on Global Free Market: a Perspective and Admonition, click here.
Monday, December 11, 2017
“…I am a college English instructor. This is a bad time for my species — and a bad time for the study of English. In academe, we are witnessing an extinction of fields of study once thought essential. I teach at a private university that has just canceled majors in English, religious studies, philosophy, and music. The English major is becoming the useless gentleman [and gentlewoman]…
“In the academic struggle for existence, English has lost. This is not specific to my university; English has been weak for a while now. According to the Modern Language Association, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, English accounted for about 7.5 percent of all bachelor’s degrees granted in the United States. By 2004, the MLA reported, only 3.47 percent of college students earned bachelor’s degrees in English.
“The belletristic tradition is obsolete, and those who once imparted the art of rhetoric now strive to teach basic literacy. English, once a backbone of the university’s structure, has become a little-used organ with only vestigial value — the appendix of academia…
“Times change, and institutions of higher education must change along with them. If no one wants to study a particular field, if it’s not filling a niche, it will die a natural death. This is evolution in action. I have no choice but to accept that the vast majority of students at my university don’t want to major in English. They don’t want what I have to offer. Instead, they want degrees in the health sciences.
“Of course, my students and their worldviews don’t exist in a vacuum. They live in a culture that tells them in every way that STEM fields are where the money’s at and consequently are the only fields worth studying. They want to know — for the return on the gargantuan investment they and their families have made in a college education — that they will be able to get a well-paid job tied directly to their major.
“Once education is viewed as a hoop to be jumped through to get somewhere else, people start assigning value to it in a way that privileges direct connections to prosperity and jobs they can easily see. With no sense that being an English major leads to any job but being an English teacher, students are ‘voting with their feet,’ as my provost said when she canceled the major. Social Darwinism speaks of ‘survival of the fittest,’ a victim-blaming phrase that has been distorted to justify socially constructed imbalances of wealth and power. If you can’t make it, it’s your own fault — or it’s just nature taking its bloody course…
“And not to diminish courses in health sciences, marketing, or communications, but I sometimes think that the most important thinking students do happens in their English classes. I’ve seen light bulbs go off over their heads. I’ve seen the moment when their brains seem to short-circuit — when the possibilities of interpretation, or the interplay of complexities and their implications in a text, are overwhelming. Then they go away and think some more and give me papers full of insight and analysis. I’ve seen English majors born in those classes… [Nevertheless], it’s hard to face one’s own extinction.”
From Facing My Own Extinction by Nina Handler
Saturday, December 9, 2017
“The impending negotiations between the City University of New York’s faculty union and administration may come down to a fundamental question: How much is adjunct labor worth? The union’s answer is $7,000. That’s the minimum pay per three-credit course that it’s seeking for the roughly 14,000 adjuncts it represents — about double the minimum that adjuncts there now earn per course.
“The current pay rate is ‘insulting to adjunct faculty and not commensurate with their experience,’ said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 30,000 faculty and staff members at CUNY. Increasing the pay for adjuncts, who teach more than half of the courses in the nation’s largest urban university system, would, she said, send an important message to students and the part-time faculty…
“The union arrived at the $7,000 figure for adjuncts by reverse-engineering from the wage of a different group of contingent faculty — full-time lecturers. The salary of full-time lecturers at CUNY for a full teaching load of eight courses a year is about $60,000. A part-time adjunct teaching the same number of courses would earn only about $25,000 at the current minimum per-course rate of about $3,200…
“The union also took into consideration the minimum per-course compensation suggested by professional associations like the Modern Language Association — which in 2011-12 recommended $6,800, but is now calling for $10,700.
“Levels of per-course pay that are in line with what CUNY’s union is seeking have cropped up in recent years in cities with similar costs of living — but they have been at private institutions. Three years ago, Tufts University agreed to pay part-time faculty members at least $7,300 per course, and a new contract promises further pay raises.
“And in New York, newly unionized adjuncts at Barnard College can now count on making $7,000 per three-credit course — a 3-percent increase. By the fall of 2021 that figure will increase to $10,000. Barnard makes a point of touting the pay on its human-resource department’s web page, calling the wages ‘among the best in New York City, and among elite, urban colleges and universities nationally.’
“…Faculty and union leaders say the items on the union’s bargaining agenda, especially the per-course minimum, mean CUNY’s governing board, administrators, city and state leaders will need to make a commitment to deeply invest in public education — no matter what…”
from What’s a Fair Wage for Adjuncts? by Audrey Williams June
Audrey Williams June is a senior reporter at The Chronicle for Higher Education who writes about the academic workplace, faculty pay, and work-life balance in academe. Contact her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @chronaudrey.
For 60 articles on this crisis, click here.
Friday, December 8, 2017
“…This is the way of higher education nowadays, the slow and steady fight to save budgets through the ‘’ of colleges and universities across the country. As in other educational contexts, the rise of neoliberal thinking in higher ed – essentially the claim that market values like efficiency, accountability, and bottom-line thinking produce healthy schools and satisfied students – justifies the trimming back of faculty and the use of contingent labor to pick up the slack. Read: adjuncts…
“Yes, it can be argued that all teaching is a labor of love, a point that I will be the first to make. I love this work, because it means I am doing something important, something that has, I hope, a significant impact on the world. Yet I also want to think of myself as more than a low-level laborer in the service of an erstwhile dream of what higher education should be.
“We can poke all the fun we want at people pursuing what seems like a wild dream of being a thinker, writer, and educator for a living. However, all individuals have a right to be compensated for their work. And saying that the budget won’t permit such a change, while an expression of the numbers on a page, also justifies the status quo arrangements that divide the haves from the have-nots on faculties across the country.
“All of us who work in higher ed need to work together to make changes toward a more just arrangement for adjuncts in higher education. It’s time for more love, and less labor, for conditions that are just and compensation that reflects the reality of the work being done. Hierarchies can change and move into new arrangements, so long as there is agreement that justice is a goal that all must share.”
For the complete essay, click here.
For 59 articles on this crisis, click here.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
“The U.S. Senate early Saturday morning narrowly approved major tax legislation roundly opposed by higher education leaders and student groups. The bill, like the House of Representatives' tax plan passed last month, got no public hearings and senators themselves complained they had no opportunity to read the legislation even as last-minute amendments were offered affecting issues like private college endowments and education savings plans.
“The 51-to-49 Senate vote sets up negotiations with House leaders over substantial differences between the two bills. Most in higher education view the House version as substantially more harmful for students and colleges than the Senate bill, but many also have major concerns about the Senate legislation. Both bills would create significant potential new tax burdens for higher education institutions and would, college leaders predict, adversely affect charitable giving and state budgets that support public colleges and universities.
“Senate lawmakers approved multiple amendments Friday to provisions that would affect higher education. One allows taxpayers to deduct only up to $10,000 for state and local property taxes. Previous language eliminated state and local deductions entirely. Even with that change, however, higher education leaders say the cap could put strains on state budgets. The fear is that wealthy taxpayers in states that invest substantially in public colleges and other services will push to cut spending generally, since they will no longer receive a tax break on their state and local payments…”
For the entire article: Senate Passes Tax Bill with Major Implications for Higher Ed by Andrew Kleighbaum.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
“Let us do the work we know how to do, even better and with more determination and community than we have"-Kipp Dawson
“A message -- an appeal -- to members of my generation. On the morning just after the U.S. Senate passed what's being called the ‘tax bill.’ (Those under 60 who are reading this are welcome here, but this is a matter among us elders.)
“We are needed now. And we are being watched. This particular blow from the U.S. rulers hits more of our children/grandchildren more directly here on U.S. soil -- and more immediately -- than most of the others. Which is saying a lot.
“So this morning more of us (look around, look around) are waking up to a more personalized/immediate kind of shock than we have collectively felt since that morning a year ago when the U.S. presidential election results were certain. And right now, more of our -- and our children's -- and our neighbors --households are on the brink of immediate injury. We are being pushed together, all of the victims who might not have recognized any relationship/similarity/even humanity between/among ourselves -- pushed down by the same scoundrels. It's us now, too.
“We are being watched this morning, and today and tomorrow. Just as we watched our elders when tough things happened to our people, our peoples, our planet, in our youth.
“And because some of them did not give in to despair -- did not turn to us and say ‘we're sorry we're giving you such a messed up world’ -- we had beacons, did we not? Because some of them had a sense of history and knew their/our ancestors had stood up to similar/worse/horrendous attacks and had looked them in the face and kept fighting -- because of this, among our elders were people who gave us hope in their continued hope. Models in their resilience. A push away from despair in the resonance of their song. A hand up back to the work that has inspired the lives of those of us lucky enough to have found the battles that have energized and bound us.
“It's our turn now. It's our turn to look into the bewildered/frightened/questioning faces of our younger co-inhabitants of this planet. Not to deny the depths of fear and certainly to join in the anger. But not to apologize. Oh no, not to give any credence to the idea that all we have done to teach/heal/paint/sing/protest/organize/rejoice/create/build/join hands -- that this has been in vain. Because that is just what the ugly powers want us to do.
“Despair and guilt are understandable BUT DANGEROUS. And we know better, do we not.
“Our history -- the struggles of our ancestors and yes, of our generation also -- tell us a story of human beauty and resilience. And never has that story been more important. And who is to tell it best, if not us. We have a big, big job to do. As did those now gone from this planet who did it for us.
“So please. Get up from wherever you landed when you read the news this morning. Pick yourselves/ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start -- not all over -- but start, again.
“Let us do the work we know how to do, even better and with more determination and community than we have.
“Let us be in the places and meetings where our younger sisters/brothers/children are working/studying/organizing and bring this gray hair of ours, these ears, and these memories of our own good work and ups and downs among those who will carry this forward. We will not lead them. But my, oh my, we can give them our support, and my, oh my, can THAT not be a salve now?
“As was the support of our elders when we got knocked down along the way. Right there with you, my beloved older sisters and brothers. Sending you love.
“PS: While we're at it, dear old ones, please, please tell your/our stories. Tell them to younger people who need to know/deserve to know, and who will know better than we how to record them. And tell them before our fading/aging memories lock tight the file cabinets in our brains in which we've stored them, and the locks rust. This is our children's heritage, and, by golly, we have no right to keep it from them (and no reason). We have so much to tell! (And the memories will help us keep going, too, won't they?!).”
Thursday, November 30, 2017
"...The US president’s remarks [on Wednesday November 29] were followed by UN ambassador Nikki Haley saying the ballistic missile launch 'brings us closer to war' at an emergency UN security council meeting, which would end the North Korean regime.
"Trump said in a tweet he had spoken with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about 'the provocative actions of North Korea,' and promised: 'Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!'
"In remarks later on Wednesday at a public event in Missouri, Trump departed from a speech about tax cuts to aim a barb at the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he has previously referred to as 'Little Rocket Man.' 'Little Rocket Man, he is a sick puppy,' the president said.
"Later Wednesday, at the UN, Haley said if war comes as a result of further acts of 'aggression' like the latest launch 'make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed'..." (The Guardian).
“…JUST WAR THEORY offers a series of principles that aim to retain a plausible moral framework for war. From the just war (justum bellum) tradition, theorists distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war (jus ad bellum) from those that govern just and fair conduct in war (jus In bello) and the responsibility and accountability of warring parties after the war (jus post bellum). The three aspects are by no means mutually exclusive, but they offer a set of moral guidelines for waging war that are neither unrestricted nor too restrictive. The problem for ethics involves expounding the guidelines in particular wars or situations.
“The principles of the justice of war are commonly held to be: [1.] Having just cause, [2.] Being a last resort, [3.] Being declared by a proper authority, [4.] Possessing right intention, [5.] Having a reasonable chance of success, and [6.] The end being proportional to the means used.
“One can immediately detect that the principles are not wholly intrinsicist nor consequentialist—they invoke the concerns of both models. Whilst this provides just war theory with the advantage of flexibility, the lack of a strict ethical framework means that the principles themselves are open to broad interpretations. Examining each in turn draws attention to the relevant problems.
“Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the most important condition of jus ad bellum. Most theorists hold that initiating acts of aggression is unjust and gives a group a just cause to defend itself. But unless ‘aggression’ is defined, this proscription is rather open-ended. For example, just cause resulting from an act of aggression can ostensibly be a response to a physical injury (for example, a violation of territory), an insult (an aggression against national honor), a trade embargo (an aggression against economic activity), or even to a neighbor’s prosperity (a violation of social justice).
“The onus is then on the just war theorist to provide a consistent and sound account of what is meant by just cause. Whilst not going into the reasons why the other explanations do not offer a useful condition of just cause, the consensus is that an initiation of physical force is wrong and may justly be resisted. Self-defense against physical aggression, therefore, is putatively the only sufficient reason for just cause. Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as in assisting others against an oppressive government or from another external threat (interventionism). Therefore, it is commonly held that aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate against a wrong already committed (for example, to pursue and punish an aggressor), or to pre-empt an anticipated attack.
“In recent years, the argument for preemption has gained supporters in the West: surely, the argument goes, it is right on consequentialist grounds to strike the first blow if a future war is to be avoided. By acting decisively against a probable aggressor, a powerful message is sent that a nation will defend itself with armed force; thus preemption may provide a deterrent and a more peaceful world. However, critics complain that preemptive strikes are based on conjectured rather than impending aggression and in effect denounce the moral principle that an agent is presumed innocent – posturing and the building up of armaments do not in themselves constitute aggression, just as a man carrying a weapon is not a man using a weapon, Consequentialist critics may also reject preemption on the grounds that it is more likely to destabilize peace, while other realists may complain that a preemptive strike policy is the ploy of a tyrannical or bullying power that justifies other nations to act in their self-interest to neutralize either through alliances or military action – such is the principle behind the ‘balance of power’ politics in which nations constantly renew their alliances and treatises to ensure that not one of them becomes a hegemonic power.
“It is also feared that the policy of preemption slips easily into the machinations of ‘false flag operations’ in which a pretext for war is created by a contrived theatrical or actual stunt – of dressing one’s own soldiers up in the enemy’s uniforms, for instance, and having them attack a military or even civilian target so as to gain political backing for a war. Unfortunately, false flag operations tend to be quite common. Just war theory would reject them as it would reject waging war to defend a leader’s ‘honor’ following an insult. Realists may defend them on grounds of a higher necessity but such moves are likely to fail as being smoke screens for political rather than moral interests.
“War should always be a last resort. This connects intimately with presenting a just cause – all other forms of solution must have been attempted prior to the declaration of war. It has often been recognized that war unleashes forces and powers that soon get beyond the grips of the leaders and generals to control – there is too much ‘fog’ in war, as Clausewitz noted, but that fog is also a moral haze in which truth and trust are early casualties. The resulting damage that war wrecks tends to be very high for most economies and so theorists have advised that war should not be lightly accepted: once unleashed, war is not like a sport that can be quickly stopped at the blow of a whistle (although the Celtic druids supposedly had the power to stop a battle by virtue of their moral standing) and its repercussions last for generations. Holding ‘hawks’ at bay though is a complicated task – the apparent ease by which war may resolve disputes, especially in the eyes of those whose military might is apparently great and victory a certainty, does present war as a low cost option relative to continuing political problems and economic or moral hardship. Yet the just war theorist wishes to underline the need to attempt all other solutions but also to tie the justice of the war to the other principles of jus ad bellum too.
“The notion of proper authority seems to be resolved for most of the theorists, who claim it obviously resides in the sovereign power of the state. But the concept of sovereignty raises a plethora of issues to consider here. If a government is just, i.e., most theorists would accept that the government is accountable and does not rule arbitrarily, then giving the officers of the state the right to declare war is reasonable, so the more removed from a proper and just form a government is, the more reasonable it is that its claim to justifiable political sovereignty disintegrates.
“A historical example can elucidate the problem: when Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940 it set up the Vichy puppet regime. What allegiance did the people of France under its rule owe to its precepts and rules? A Hobbesian rendition of almost absolute allegiance to the state entails that resistance is wrong (so long as the state is not tyrannical and imposes war when it should be the guardian of peace); whereas a Lockean or instrumentalist conception of the state entails that a poorly accountable, inept, or corrupt regime possesses no sovereignty, and the right of declaring war (to defend themselves against the government or from a foreign power) is wholly justifiable. The notion of proper authority therefore requires thinking about what is meant by sovereignty, what is meant by the state, and what is the proper relationship between a people and its government.
“The possession of right intention is ostensibly less problematic. The general thrust of the concept being that a nation waging a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not for reasons of self-interest or aggrandizement. Putatively, a just war cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression. However, ‘right intention’ masks many philosophical problems. According to Kant, possessing good intent constitutes the only condition of moral activity, regardless of the consequences envisioned or caused, and regardless, or even in spite, of any self interest in the action the agent may have. The extreme intrinsicism of Kant can be criticized on various grounds, the most pertinent here being the value of self-interest itself.
“At what point does right intention separate itself from self-interest – is the moral worthiness of intent only gained by acting in favor of one’s neighbor, and if so, what does that imply for moral action – that one should woo one’s neighbor’s spouse to make him/her feel good? Acting with proper intent requires us to think about what is proper and it is not certain that not acting in self-interest is necessarily the proper thing to do.
“On the one hand, if the only method to secure a general peace (something usually held to be good in itself) is to annex a belligerent neighbor's territory, political aggrandizement becomes intimately connected with the proper intention of maintaining the peace for all or the majority. On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to defend an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper intention is to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be deemed too expensive or too difficult to wage; i.e., it is not ultimately in their self-interest to fight the just war. On that account, the realist may counter that national interest is paramount: only if waging war on behalf of freedom is also complemented by the securing of economic or other military interests should a nation commit its troops. The issue of intention raises the concern of practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered before declaring war.
“The next principle is that of reasonable success. This is another necessary condition for waging just war, but again is insufficient by itself. Given just cause and right intention, the just war theory asserts that there must be a reasonable probability of success. The principle of reasonable success is consequentialist in that the costs and benefits of a campaign must be calculated. However, the concept of weighing benefits poses moral as well as practical problems as evinced in the following questions:
“Should one not go to the aid of a people or declare war if there is no conceivable chance of success? Is it right to comply with aggression because the costs of not complying are too prohibitive? Would it be right to crush a weak enemy because it would be marginally costless? Is it not sometimes morally necessary to stand up to a bullying larger force, as the Finns did when Russia invaded in 1940, for the sake of national self-esteem or simple interests of defending land?
“Historically, many nations have overcome the probability of defeat: the fight may seem hopeless, but a charismatic leader or rousing speech can sometimes be enough to stir a people into fighting with all their will. Winston Churchill offered the British nation some of the finest of war's rhetoric when it was threatened with defeat and invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940. For example: ‘Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Commonwealth and its Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.’….And ‘What is our aim? Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.’ (Speeches to Parliament, 1940). However, the thrust of the reasonable success principle emphasizes that human life and economic resources should not be wasted in what would obviously be an uneven match. For a nation threatened by invasion, other forms of retaliation or defense may be available, such as civil disobedience, or even forming alliances with other small nations to equalize the odds.
“The final guide of jus ad bellum is that the desired end should be proportional to the means used. This principle overlaps into the moral guidelines of how a war should be fought, namely the principles of jus In bello. With regards to just cause, a policy of war requires a goal, and that goal must be proportional to the other principles of just cause. Whilst this commonly entails the minimizing of war's destruction, it can also invoke general balance of power considerations.
“For example, if nation A invades a land belonging to the people of nation B, then B has just cause to take the land back. According to the principle of proportionality, B’s counter-attack must not invoke a disproportionate response: it should aim to retrieve its land and not exact further retribution or invade the aggressor’s lands, or in graphic terms it should not retaliate with overwhelming force or nuclear weaponry to resolve a small border dispute. That goal may be tempered with attaining assurances that no further invasion will take place, but for B to invade and annex regions of A is nominally a disproportionate response, unless (controversially) that is the only method for securing guarantees of no future reprisals. For B to invade and annex A, and then to continue to invade neutral neighboring nations on the grounds that their territory would provide a useful defense against other threats and a putative imbalance of power is even more unsustainable.
“On the whole, the principles offered by jus ad bellum are useful guidelines for reviewing the morality of going to war that are not tied to the intrinsicist’s absolutism or consequentialist’s open-endedness. Philosophically, however, they invoke a plethora of problems by either their independent vagueness or by mutually inconsistent results – a properly declared war may involve improper intention or disproportionate ambitions. But war is a complicated issue and the principles are nonetheless a useful starting point for ethical examination and they remain a guide for both statesmen and women and for those who judge political proceedings…”