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Republicans Admit Their Tax Plan Is All About Rich Donors

Informed Comment - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:36am

By Peter Certo | (Otherwords.org) | – –

It’s unpopular. It’s expensive. But the donors want it.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that people in “real America” with “real jobs” don’t while away their mortal hours reading about politics. But God help me, if you’ve suffered through any coverage of the Republican tax plan, you’ve probably heard three things.

First, it’ll dramatically slash taxes on corporations and billionaires, raise them for nearly a third of us in the middle class, and blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit.

Second, it’s unpopular. Less than a third of Americans support it, Reuters reports. That’s worse than Trump’s own approval rating, which remains mired in the 30s.

And third, the Republicans who control Congress believe it simply must pass.

In fact, this third point sets the tenor for the entire debate. “Republicans are desperate to rack up a legislative win after a series of embarrassing failures,” TIME observes. “If tax reform doesn’t pass, many in the party fear an all-out revolt in 2018.”

“All of us realize that if we fail on taxes, that’s the end of the Republican Party’s governing majority in 2018,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News recently. In fact, “that’s probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it.”

If the tax giveaway doesn’t pass, adds Utah Republican Mike Lee, “We might as well pack up our tent and go home.”

The thing is, that doesn’t make any sense. Gallup polls have shown over and over that most Americans think rich people and corporations should pay more, not less. Even a majority of Republican voters worry about what this wealth grab will do to the deficit.

If they were looking for a win, then, Republicans would be running against their own plan. So what gives?

Well, New York Republican Chris Collins recently offered a clue: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Ah!

Many voters in Collins’ high-tax district will likely pay more, since the GOP wants to end federal deductions for state and local taxes. But it doesn’t have a lick to do with voters. It has everything to do with the affluent donors who bankroll GOP campaigns.

A similar dynamic played out in the health care debate. GOP leaders trotted out plan after plan that would eliminate coverage for anywhere from 20 to 24 million Americans — plans that never topped the low 20s in public support.

But those plans would have reduced taxes on the wealthy. So they had to pass.

“Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who has been deeply involved in health policy for years, told reporters back home that he could count 10 reasons the new health proposal should not reach the floor,” the New York Times reported back in September, “but that Republicans needed to press ahead regardless.”

When those bills met their righteous demise, elite GOP fundraising took a huge dive. Senate Republicans lost $2 million in planned contributions alone, The Hill noted this summer. Fundraising in those months fell some $5 million below where it had been in the spring.

So there it is, team: Follow the money. It’s no wonder Princeton researchers found a few years ago that rich people matter to Congress, but ordinary folks generally don’t. That’s probably why many of us prefer to tune it out entirely.

It’s also exactly why we do have to pay attention. Especially in those rare moments when members admit exactly what’s going on.

Via Otherwords.org


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Vox: “Republicans admit that ceos and donors really need the tax cut bill to pass — or else”

Palestinians to suspend US ties if PLO office closed

Al Jazeera - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:35am
As US refuses to renew PLO office permit in Washington, officials say they will end contact with Trump administration.

Newspaper headlines: Budget boost for driverless cars and NHS

BBC News - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:34am
Wednesday's Budget will include cash for driverless cars, the NHS and housing, Sunday's papers say.

Palestinians speak out on anniversary of Resolution 242

Al Jazeera - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:30am
It has been 50 years since the UN adopted Resolution 242, calling for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Zimbabweans demand Mugabe's resignation at Harare rally

Al Jazeera - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:27am
Backed by the army and ruling party officials, rare show of public anger in Harare comes days after military takeover.

Militant Buddhism is on the march in South-East Asia; Why Now?

Informed Comment - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:27am

By Peter Lehr | (The Conversation) | – –

Even ten years on, the first mental image that comes to mind with regard to Theravāda Buddhism is that of Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution of August-September 2007: thousands of Buddhist monks peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Yangon, Mandalay, Pakokku, Sittwe and other towns against the ruling military junta. These peaceful monks still exist, although many of them went into hiding, or fled abroad. But the Burmese monks in the headlines today are preaching violence instead of peace, and “firm action” instead of meditation.

It’s not just in Myanmar that this militant Buddhism is on the rise: it’s also surfacing in the other two leading Theravādin countries: Sri Lanka and Thailand. In all three countries, Buddhists make up the vast majority of the population: 70% in Sri Lanka, 88% in Myanmar, and 93% in Thailand. One could be excused for thinking that there is nothing to worry about: with such towering demographic majorities, Buddhists are surely to some extent safe and secure in their respective countries.

This is not how the militant monks see things. They are convinced that Buddhism is under siege, and in grave danger of being wiped out. To explain this, they point out that while Muslims or Hindu Tamils (in the case of Sri Lanka) are in the minority in these countries, they enjoy significant support from beyond their national borders.

In Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the notion that a non-Buddhist minority is the vanguard of an imminent invasion is very strong indeed. It is believed that firm action has to be taken to prevent “them” from taking over Buddhist lands and eradicating Buddhism. Basically, the militant monks see their communities as targets of a relentless “holy war”, and see it as their duty, to respond in kind with their own variant of “holy war”.

Justifying violence

The conviction that Buddhism is under threat also allows these leaders to justify the use of violence. Militant monks usually start their argumentation by pointing out that even the Buddha himself showed some understanding for the wars conducted by his benefactor King Pasenadi instead of condemning them. He did still warn him that “killing, you gain your killer, conquering, you gain the one who will conquer you” – the message being that violence begets violence. Even for the Buddha, then, nonviolence was not necessarily an absolute value – a point seized on by many of today’s militant monks. Although they readily concede that an offensive use of violence should never be allowed, they point out that peaceful and nonviolent Buddhist communities still have the right to defend themselves, especially if and when the survival of the religion as such is at stake.

This point of view is dated. As soon as Buddhist-majority states came into being, the monkhood had to find ways to justify violence, including war, especially that perpetrated by their virtuous sovereign against an opponent. Indeed it was by the monarch’s benevolence, and under the law and order he created, that the monastic order was able to survive.

An early example of such a justification comes from the Sinhalese Mahāvamsa (the Great Chronicle): After a battle against a Hindu-Tamil army, Buddhist King Dutugāmunu felt remorse for all the deaths he had caused, and asked senior monks for advice. They basically told him not to worry since he had caused the deaths of only one and a half persons – one who had just converted to Buddhism, and another who had been a Buddhist lay follower. All the rest had just been “unbelievers and men of evil life […], not more to be esteemed than beasts”.

This notable verdict implies that killing is excusable as long as the intention behind it is in the defence of the religion. Not surprisingly, this quote still is used to condone the use of violence – most recently by the Sitagu Sayadaw, an esteemed Burmese monastic leader, in order to justify the current persecution of perceived enemies of both state and religion – in this case, the Rohingya.

Sanctioning the violent actions of one’s ruler or one’s government is one thing; actively inciting lay-followers to commit such acts in defence of the religion is something completely different. Compared to “preachers of hate” from Abrahamic religions, today’s militant monks have a difficult tightrope to walk, since incitement to murder constitutes one of Buddhism’s four disrobing offences (pārājikas) – offences resulting in the automatic expulsion from the monkhood. In September for example, a Thai monk was forced to disrobe because he had publicly demanded that for each monk killed in Thailand’s deep south, a mosque should be torched.

Most militant monks are therefore very careful in avoiding open calls to violence – instead, they attend mass rallies and demonstrations to stoke anti-Muslim sentiments and to preach “passive resistance” or “pro-Buddhist affirmative action”: not buying from Muslims, not selling to Muslims, not fraternising with Muslims, not allowing one’s children to marry Muslims. They leave it to their followers, especially those organised in pro-state vigilante groups or Buddhist militias, to draw the right conclusions.

Although there is anecdotal evidence of armed monks actively taking part in violence, the majority of militant monks shy away from directly becoming involved: again, this would be a grave violation of the monastic code. Ashin Wirathu, a monk and leader of the Burmese anti-Muslim movement, describes this passive role very eloquently: “I am only warning people about Muslims. Consider it like if you had a dog, that would bark at strangers coming to your house – it is to warn you. I am like that dog. I bark.”

The rise of this strain of militant Theravāda Buddhism can be explained in ethnic, social and economic terms, but from the perspective of the militant monks themselves, it’s about religion. It’s not about the control of resources or worldly goods, but a defensive “holy war” or “Dhamma Yudhaya” in response to a perceived aggressive “jihad” against Buddhism that has been waged for centuries, from the destruction of the Buddhist library in Nalanda/Bihar at the end of the 12th century, to the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001.

This somewhat simplistic reading of history, reminiscent of Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, reinforces the militant monks’ belief that now is the time not for peaceful meditation, but for firm action. The Buddha’s warning that violence begets violence seems to have fallen on deaf ears for the time being.

Peter Lehr, Lecturer in Terrorism Studies, University of St Andrews

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

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WATCH: SNL’s ‘Come Back, Barack’ is the R&B slow jam Trump-era America so desperately needs

The Raw Story - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:15am
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Is Saudi King Salman about to be pushed aside by Son?

Informed Comment - Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:13am

TeleSur | – –

Speculation has mounted that the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, will step down and pass the throne to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next week.

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail quoted a source “close to the royal family” by saying that the 81-year-old King Salman plans to abdicate and hand power over to his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, that has recently taken a de facto leadership role in Saudi Arabia.

The source claims that Salman plans to “continue only as a ceremonial figurehead” while “handing over official leadership of the country to his son.”

His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly referred to as “MBS”, already holds key positions within the government and has promised to usher in sweeping changes such as granting more rights to women and returning to a “moderate Islam.”

The source continued to the Daily Mail: “Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week. King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title ‘Custodian of the Holy Shrines.’”

According to reports, this comes as a reaction to recent events in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and recent turmoil in Lebanon.

“MBS is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah,” the Daily Mail source said.

“MBS’s plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he’s hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree.”

“MBS cannot confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,” said the source.

Analysts have suggested that Israel is not willing to engage in a costly war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, especially at the behest of Saudi Arabia.

The report by the Daily Mail hinted that King Salman may be suffering from dementia, which would explain a swift exchange in power while attempting to save face by keeping quiet on the matter.

These statements are unconfirmed and have not been corroborated by Saudi officials.



Related video added by Juan Cole:

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Argentina missing submarine: Satellite signals detected

BBC News - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:57pm
The Argentine naval submarine went missing on Wednesday with 44 crew on board

In Rio de Janeiro, ‘Complete Vulnerability’ as Violence Surges

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:56pm
After a respite that began before the Olympics, Brazil’s showcase city is reeling as ever more neighborhoods fall under the control of drug gangs.

SNL hilariously re-enacts Donald Trump Jr. — and Eric’s — liaison with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:49pm
This week, “Saturday Night Live” opened with a sketch lampooning reports that came to light this week about President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr. and his contacts with WikiLeaks. The sketch opened with Donald Trump, Jr. — played by SNL cast member Mikey Day — m...

Marked for ‘De-escalation,’ Syrian Towns Endure Surge of Attacks

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:44pm
An accord that tried to curb attacks in rebel-held areas has been touted as a crucial step in ending the long civil war. But increasingly, that deal is failing.

Signals Detected From Missing Argentine Submarine as Foreign Navies Join Search

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:34pm
Argentina’s Defense Ministry said Saturday night it had detected seven communication attempts from an Argentine Navy submarine with 44 crew members aboard, raising hopes of a rescue.

Oklahoma Republican pleads guilty to child sex trafficking after getting caught with 17-year-old boy

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 11:13pm
Former Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) pled guilty this week to federal child sex trafficking charges after he was caught in a motel room with an underage boy in March. The Hill reported Saturday that Shortey’s legal team filed paperwork to enter a guilty plea in order to evade three cha...

‘We’re not stupid’: Nuclear general says he would shut down any ‘illegal’ Trump order to attack

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 10:57pm
The top U.S. nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons. Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum...

Gerry Adams, Irish Republican Leader, to Step Down From Sinn Fein

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 10:33pm
After more than 30 years leading the nationalist party, the divisive politician says he will pass the baton next year.

Ohio judge who boasted about sex conquests apologizes if he offended ‘the wonderful women in my life’

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 10:33pm
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Blue states practice the ‘family values’ that red states preach: new survey

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 10:06pm
The New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof reported Saturday on the results of the annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which found that people living in so-called blue states have lower rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and prostitution than their counterparts in conservative states. In a survey of 32...

‘If it’s at Mar-a-Lago, we’re not going’: Charities and socialites shun Trump’s ‘winter White House’

The Raw Story - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 8:55pm
President Donald Trump’s so-called “winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago Resort has lost the vast majority of its charity bookings for the year and Palm Beach’s upper crust have moved on from the once-glamorous mansion and club. According to The Washington Post, even Palm Beach&#8...

Zimbabwe: Mugabe to meet with army chief on his future

BBC News - Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 8:47pm
Zimbabwe's president is to meet army chiefs amid intense pressure for him to quit.
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