‘Racist’ Gandhi statue removed from University of Ghana

Leave a comment

Men removing the Gandhi statue Image copyright Emmanuel Dzivenu/JoyNews

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the famed Indian independence leader, has been removed from a university campus in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

University of Ghana lecturers began a petition for its removal shortly after it was unveiled in 2016 by India’s former President Pranab Mukherjee.

The petition said Gandhi was “racist” and African heroes should be put first.

In the wake of the row, Ghana’s government at the time said the statue would be relocated.

Lecturers and students told the BBC that the statue, originally located at the university’s recreational quadrangle, had been removed on Wednesday.

The university confirmed this, saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was responsible.

Law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei told the BBC: “Having his statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things [his alleged racism], I don’t think we should have his statue on campus.”

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th Century. He is best known for leading non-violent resistance to British colonial rule in India.

However, as a young man he lived and worked in South Africa, and although he has inspired people throughout the world his comments on black Africans have been controversial.

In his early writings he referred to black South Africans as “kaffirs” – a highly offensive racist slur. He also said that Indians were “infinitely superior” to black people.

Lecturers and students at the University of Ghana pose in celebration after statue is removed (12 December 2018) Image copyright Emmanuel Dzivenu/JoyNews
Image caption Lecturers and students celebrated in front of the newly empty plinth after the statue was removed

From the BBC

Posted By The NON-Conformist

Advertisements

The Republican Tax Cuts Were a Political Failure. What Does That Mean for a Party That Agrees on Little Else? The GOP needs a new theory of government.

Leave a comment

When Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of last year, they expected it to be the centerpiece of their midterm campaign. “This was a promise made. This is a promise kept,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said at a news conference celebrating the bill’s passage. “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Judging by last week’s midterm results, Republicans may need to update their résumés.

The tax law permanently cut corporate tax rates and reduced individual income taxes through the middle of the next decade while increasing the deficit by more than $1 trillion. Republicans initially talked it up, tying it to a wave of corporate bonuses for workers. But the party quickly abandoned that argument in congressional races across the country. Polls found support dwindling, even among Republicans, while the already strong opposition increased among Democrats. A Gallup survey found that a majority of Americans said they saw no increase in their take-home pay.

On election day, voters confirmed their feelings. Not only did they hand control of the House to Democrats, many of whom had run against the law, but exit polls conducted by NBC News showed that 45 percent of voters said the tax law had no impact at all on their household finances, while 22 percent said they had been hurt by it. Just 28 percent said it helped.

There are reasons for these feelings: Although the tax cuts have provided a boost to the economy, they have performed more like a short-term, deficit-financed stimulus than a permanent reorientation toward economic growth and higher wages. Republican claims that the law would prove deficit neutral have not come true. And while it is possible to defend most of the individual components of the tax bill—even Obama administration economists argued for a somewhat lower corporate tax rate—it is more difficult to defend soaring deficits, or the decision to treat individual rate cuts as temporary in order to game congressional budget scoring rules.

Yet even if you believe the law on balance was good, or at least good enough, policy, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it was an abject failure as a political gambit—that it failed to connect with a majority of Americans. This presents something of a problem for a party that is united by few other issues and has focused on tax cuts to the exclusion of the rest of a domestic policy agenda. What does the party of tax cuts do when tax cuts no longer sell?

For the moment, at least, the answer turns out to be: Push for more tax cuts.

Even as polling shows that voters were largely indifferent to last year’s tax bill, Republicans have touted dubious follow-ups. House Republicans passed a second round of tax reductions that made the law’s individual rate cuts permanent. As expected, the Senate ignored the bill, but if it passed, it would have increased the original law’s already considerable impact on the deficit. President Donald Trump spent the weeks before the election advertising a new middle-class tax cut that was no more real than the fake Trump steaks he touted on the campaign trail. The Republican Party became enthralled by fantasy tax cuts that would never become law, even as the ones they had already passed were leading them to electoral defeat.

The GOP’s devotion to tax cutting, imaginary or otherwise, is especially notable given that the midterm elections were largely fought on substantive policy grounds. Although Trump’s character and temperament undoubtedly influenced the election, voters were focused on pocketbook issues—jobs, the economy, education, and health care.

Health care, in particular, dominated many races, with Democrats charging that Republicans didn’t support Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions regulations while GOP candidates insisted that they did. In some cases, their claims were defensible in a narrow technical sense, since most Republicans voted for Obamacare repeal bills that kept some but not all of the health law’s pre-existing conditions rules. Even still, their answers were designed to obscure more than to reveal. Republicans obfuscated about their health care ideas because, following the failure of last year’s repeal bill, they don’t really have any.

Yet as it turned out, health care was what voters cared about. CNN’s exit polls found that it was the single most important issue in the election, with 41 percent listing it as their top concern. Health care voters preferred Democrats by a wide margin. It is more than a little ironic that the health law that cost Democrats the House in 2010 probably helped Republicans lose their House majority in 2018.

When the tax law passed year, a senior White House aide contrasted Republicans with Democrats, telling The Daily Beast, “Taxes are our issue. Health care is theirs.” Republicans have almost entirely ceded that policy ground.

To become a vital force in American governance, and to compete in elections that revolve around anything other than immigration or support for the president, Republicans will need to develop clear, easy-to-articulate positions on the array of domestic policy issues that matter most to voters—particularly health care, education, and entitlements—and actually talk about them during campaigns, even, perhaps especially, when the temptation to focus on culture war issues arises.

For Republicans, that will probably mean focusing on reforms that make government programs work more efficiently rather than on new benefits and new programs. It will mean abandoning the current GOP conception of deficit-financed tax cuts as costless handouts to voters in favor of an understanding that taxes are a price we pay for government.

But smart white papers and clever talking points alone won’t be enough. The GOP needs more than a suite of new policy ideas; it needs a general theory of government—an animating idea about what the state is for, what it should do, and how, exactly, it should fund all of those things.

Because if Republicans don’t make an effort, Democrats will. They already are. Not only are the party’s likely 2020 presidential contenders rallying around Medicare for All, whatever that turns out to mean, but they are rolling out big-picture plans to expand a slew of benefits and programs. Republicans have united around opposition to these programs, but have yet to figure out what they stand for instead, which amounts to a defense of the status quo.

Since the Reagan administration, the Republican Party has been in the business of selling tax cuts, but the political effectiveness of that approach now appears to be waning. Which means that McConnell may have inadvertently been right: To compete in today’s most salient political arguments, Republicans will indeed need to find another line of work.

By Peter Suderman/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Fascists Are Coming for Your Social Security and Medicare

Leave a comment

The billionaire fascists are coming for your Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they’re openly bragging about it.

Right after Trump’s election, back in December of 2016, Newt Gingrich openly bragged at the Heritage Foundation that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress were going to “break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” That “model,” of course, created what we today refer to as “the middle class.”

This week Mitch McConnell confirmed Gingrich’s prophecy, using the huge deficits created by Trump’s billionaire tax cuts as an excuse to destroy “entitlement” programs.

“I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it’s a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All,” McConnell told Bloomberg. He added, “[W]e’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”

These programs, along with free public education and progressive taxation, are the core drivers and maintainers of the American middle class. History shows that without a strong middle class, democracy itself collapses, and fascism is the next step down a long and terrible road.

Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been working overtime to kneecap institutions that support the American middle class. And, as any working-class family can tell you, the GOP has had some substantial successes, particularly in shifting both income and political power away from voters and toward billionaires and transnational corporations.

More from Thom Hartmann @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

Report: Russian trolls stoked NFL anthem controversy with more than 12K mostly pro-Trump tweets

Leave a comment

Much of the online discord around NFL player protests was planted by Russian Twitter trolls supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda. (Getty)

Much of the online ire in the wake of a Donald Trump rant against NFL players kneeling during the national anthem was provided courtesy of Russian Twitter trolls, the Wall Street Journal reports.

At a 2017 rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Trump railed against players protesting social justice issues during the national anthem, urging NFL owners to “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.”

NFL protest tweets spiked after Trump speech

That rally took place on Sept. 22. According to the WSJ, 24 Twitter accounts tweeted “VIDEO: Trump SHREDS NFL Anthem Protesters!” on Sept. 23 almost simultaneously.

Thousands of tweets criticizing player protests followed in the ensuing days. Overall, from 2014 through 2018, more than 12,000 tweets from 491 accounts linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency were sent, with most of them critical of protests, according to a Clemson study cited in the WSJ report.

Study: 87 percent of tweets critical of protest message

The study concluded that 87 percent of those tweets had a conservative-leaning message often labeling protesting players as unpatriotic or criticizing the NFL for its handling of the situation. The accounts cited in the report have been shut down by Twitter after a congressional investigation established their link to Internet Research Agency.

“You want to reach your average American, which is clearly their goal?” Clemson associate professor Darren Linvill asked. “Then talk about football.”

Clemson researchers believe that other accounts linked to Internet Research Agency have surfaced to fan the flames of other controversial sports topics like Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign and the U.S. Open tennis final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

By Jason Owens/YahooSports

Posted by The NON-Conformist

It’s Official: 2018 Federal Deficit Largest Since 2012 The federal government spent $790 billion more than it taxed during fiscal year 2018. The deficit is about to get worse. Much worse.

Leave a comment

The federal government finished the 2018 fiscal year—it ended on September 30—a whopping $779 billion in the red, the largest annual budget deficit since 2012.

The current fiscal year is likely to see an even larger deficit, potentially in excess of $1 trillion.

The Treasury Department’s final data for the 2018 fiscal year, released Monday, shows that the deficit was driven by a combination of higher spending and additional borrowing. The latter was necessary to finance the former, of course, though last year’s tax cuts contributed to the widening gap between how much money the federal government takes in and how much it spends.

Tax revenues were flat during 2018 and corporate tax collections fell by $76 billion, Treasury reported.

On it’s own, the fact that American companies were able to keep $76 billion out of the government’s hands is cause for celebration. Those funds will certainly be put to more productive uses because they won’t be funneled to Washington. Trump’s corporate tax cuts brought the United States in line with the rest of the world, thereby increasing U.S. competitiveness in a global market.

But tax cuts without spending cuts are a recipe for disaster. While the Treasury’s data for fiscal year 2018 looks backwards, the trajectory for the future is the bigger story.

The $779 billion deficit for fiscal year 2018 was up 17 percent from the $666 billion deficit recorded in fiscal year 2017. The data show that the deficit is growing faster than the economy as a whole. In 2017, the federal deficit was equal to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but grew to 3.9 percent of GDP in 2018.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, current policies have the United States on course for a $2 trillion deficit before the end of the next decade.

“It’s an unsustainable fiscal course that will lead us to debt overtaking the size of the entire economy in as soon as a decade, and not long after topping all-time highs as a share of the economy not seen since World War II,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for balancing the budget, in a statement.

Driven by old-age entitlements and surfing on a wave of retiring boomers, the federal government will continue to pile on more debt unless serious structural reforms are undertaken. A new analysis from longtime congressional budget aide Brian Riedl, now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank, shows that Social Security and Medicare will run a $100 trillion deficit over the next 30 years. With the country already facing a national debt of more than $20 trillion, massive annual deficits in future years are likely to drive-up the cost of borrowing and cause America’s already astronomical debt to grow at a faster pace, he warns.

That this latest increase in the deficit happened during a period when Republicans had full control of the federal government reveals that they were never very serious about balancing the budget. Even now, they refuse to recognize the problem. Democrats, meanwhile, are promising to spend even more on entitlements, if and when they return to power.

Almost nothing about the current state of affairs in Washington suggests that policy makers are prepared to deal with this looming catastrophe. Today’s news is a reminder that the reckoning is coming, regardless of whether our elected officials are ready for it.

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What is ‘stop-and-frisk’ — and why does President Trump want it to happen in Chicago?

Leave a comment

President Donald Trump said at a police conference on Monday that Chicago should implement a “stop-and-frisk” law to help cut down on crime.

“The crime spree has a terrible blight on that city, and we will do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Florida, according to ABC. “It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it. Stop and frisk.”

But just what is the law — and why do some see it as racist?

And why do others see it as just being tough on crime?

What is stop-and-frisk?

Stop-and-frisk describes a divisive policy in New York City that allowed officers to stop anyone they believed “committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor” if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” The Washington Post wrote.

Some other states have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require people who are detained by police to identify themselves if an officer has reasonable suspicion that they were involved in a crime.

But the law in New York City, first implemented in 1999, gained nationwide attention — and Trump hailed the city as proof that the policy can cut down on crime.

“Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City had a very strong program of ‘stop and frisk,’ and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country,” Trump said Monday, according to ABC. “And I think the safest big city in the country. So it works.”

In New York City, more than 500,000 people were stopped each year from 2008 to 2012 — with more than 5 million stopped since 2002, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

So, did it work in New York City?

It depends on whom you ask, and what you define as “work.”

Supporters of the law will tell you that the stop-and-frisk policy can help take guns off the streets. As reported by Forbes, the New York Police Department said the policy led to the recovery of 770 guns in 2011 alone. That meant a gun was found 1.9 percent of the time during a stop.

And the following year, 715 guns were found in New York City because of the policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. As noted by the outlet, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 18 percent of all guns seized in 2012 in New York City were found during a stop-and-frisk session.

Data also show violent crimes and murders decreased along with the implementation of stop-and-frisk in New York City, according to The Washington Post.

Critics point out that the rate of crime and murder remained level even after a federal judge ruled the city’s specific stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013, according to The Washington Post.

But Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator, argued in The Wall Street Journal that “proactive policing” under the law led to a decrease of murders by nearly 80 percent.

What are the critiques of stop-and-frisk?

Many point to apparent racial profiling in who gets stopped.

In 2011, for example, 685,724 people were stop-and-frisked, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Of those people, 88 percent were found to be innocent. Overall, just 9 percent of those stopped were white, while 53 percent were black and 34 were Hispanic. The 2010 census reported that 33 percent of New York City residents are white, while 26 percent are black and another 26 percent are Hispanic.

Black people make up a majority of those stopped for every year there is data, while white people barely make up 10 percent of those stopped on average. In a report, Jeffrey Fagan, from Columbia Law School, examined police data on stop-and-frisk and found that race has a “marginal influence” on who gets stopped — even when accounting for “the social and economic characteristics” of the area.

Fagan also said there is little evidence that the policy helped prevent crime or reduce murders.

“Anyone who says we know this is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up,” Fagan told The Washington Post in an interview.

Why was New York City’s stop-and-frisk law ruled unconstitutional?

For the same reason as Fagan’s concerns.

Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the law violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, and that the practice was “racially discriminatory” because of the disproportionate numbers of people of color stopped by police because of it, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

After her ruling, the number of police stops of people of color dropped to 18,449 in 2015 — even though that number was just more than 160,000 in 2013, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union.

This is a 96 percent decrease from the height in 2011 of more than 600,000 stops,” Scheindlin wrote in the National Black Law Journal in 2016. “And what has happened with crime statistics in the meantime? They have remained steady!

“The enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley,” she continued.

By Josh Magness/MiamiHerald
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Here’s What Congress Was Doing While You Were Watching the Kavanaugh Circus The passage of tax reform 2.0 blows a huge hole in the budget, and a much-touted opioid bill might just make the crisis worse.

Leave a comment

While much attention was diverted by the political circus surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday and Friday, Congress passed a massive spending bill and another round of tax cuts that will combine to blow an even bigger hole in the federal budget. Lawmakers also found time to pass a bill restricting Americans’ access to prescription painkillers, something that’s likely to force people who are dependent on or addicted to opioids (a distinction seemingly lost on legislators) to seek out more dangerous alternatives.

Let’s start with the spending: Friday’s passage of the House Republican’s so-called Tax Reform 2.0 proposal will likely get heavy rotation in campaign ads over the next five weeks, even though the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. The bill does several things, but the key part of the proposal is the permanent extension of the individual and corporate income tax rate cuts enacted last year. Those lower rates are set to expire after 2025—reverting to their previous levels—but Republicans have been aiming for a permanent extension since before the final votes were cast on last year’s tax bill.

If Republicans still cared about deficits, Tax Reform 2.0 would be a non-starter. Having last year’s tax cuts expire in the middle of the next decade was a maneuver (or a gimmick, if you prefer) designed to limit the impact of tax reform on future deficits and the national debt.

Unsurprisingly, then, extending those tax cuts will add to the deficit. According to an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan number-crunching agency within Congress, the bill will add $631 billion to the deficit over a decade. While the JCT says an extension of the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow by about 0.5 percent in the years immediately after 2025, additional revenue from that growth will cancel out a mere $86 billion of the tax cut’s impact on the deficit. Other analyses of the bill by the left-leaning Tax Policy Center and the right-leaning Tax Foundation make similar estimates about the long-term effect on revenue.

The bottom line? Even when accounting for increased economic growth, Tax Reform 2.0 comes with a price tag of more than $500 billion added to the deficit—an amount future taxpayers will have to cover.

The bill is not without its charms. A proposal to created so-called universal savings accounts would allow Americans to create tax-advantaged savings accounts where they could stash up to $5,000 annually without having to deal with all the restrictions and limitations that come with similarly structured 401(k) and IRA plans now. Encouraging savings—especially savings that are partially sheltered from the tax man—would be a positive step that helps families plan for the future.

But if you needed further evidence that Congress doesn’t give a damn about planning for the country’s future, look no further than the passage this week, in both houses, of a $853 billion spending bill. About $600 million of the spending is directed towards the Pentagon—boosting the military budget to levels not seen since the height of the Iraq War.

The bill is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk. He must sign it before October 1 to avoid a government shutdown, which might be complicated by the lack of funding for his border wall.

The spending bill has raised the ire of the few fiscally conservative Republicans who sit in Congress. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) encouraged Trump not to sign the bill and blasted his fellow lawmakers for being “far worse than the politicians they once derided.”

Justin Amash

This gigantic, wasteful, pathetic spending bill passed the House and Senate. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump said, “I will never sign another bill like this again,” about the last bill like this, the omnibus. He’ll now be put to the test.

$850 BILLION of spending in one year in one bill—and Republican leaders have been bragging to everyone about this massive spending increase. Vote is TODAY. The same Republicans who used to blast GWB’s spendthrift GOP have become far worse than the politicians they once derided.

While the Kavanaugh hearings devolved into partisan acrimony, Congress was also serving up reminders of what happens when nearly everyone agrees. The Tax Reform 2.0 vote went mostly party line, but spending an obscene amount of money was, once again, a bipartisan affair in both the House and Senate.

So, too, was the passage of the Support for Patients and Communities Act, a much-touted bipartisan effort to address the opioid crisis in the most congressional of ways: by throwing money and more prohibition at the problem.

The final version of the bill, which passed the House 393-8 on Friday and now heads to the Senate, will spend about $8 billion on state-run opioid treatment centers and research into non-opioid pain killers. It also beefed up border security in the name of stopping the importation of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other lab-made drugs.

But the bill may unintentionally increase demand for fentanyl and other drugs used by opioid addicts who can’t get a legal fix. Several provisions in the proposal would restrict access to prescription painkillers; other aspects of the legislation would increase penalties for drug manufacturers and doctors deemed to have over-sold and over-prescribed opioids.

As J.J. Rich, a policy analyst for the Reason Foundation (which publishes this blog) notes in the November issue of Reason, previous crackdowns on prescription drugs have actually made the opioid crisis worse.

“It’s clear that the black market has claimed the economy ceded by restrictions on the legal market,” Rich notes, citing Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that pain reliever abuse rates have been flat since 2002. “When government restricts access to something people want, it drives demand to the black market. In this case, as opioids have become increasingly difficult to obtain legally in the last decade, users have switched to “diverted” prescription medications and illicit alternatives, including heroin. And just as Prohibition pushed bootleggers to switch from beer to potent bathtub gin, traffickers are increasingly adulterating their narcotics with potent synthetic opioids such as sufentanil—a substance that can be up to 500 times stronger than morphine.”

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: