Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Is Bernie Sanders Doing This Well?

By Manifesto Joe

At 74 going on 75, he's too old to run for president. He's a rumpled old senator from a small state, and the only avowed socialist in the Congress since Ron Dellums retired. He's an unremarkable speaker with a heavy New York accent. And he's unlikely to win the Democratic nomination for president even if he does well in forthcoming primaries, because the party machinery (soft delegates) has pretty much decided that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee.

So why is Bernie Sanders doing this well? It's simple.

The recovery from The Great Recession didn't reach us all. The two groups that are suffering still are the Twentysomethings saddled with steep college debt and no jobs to pay for it, and the Fiftysomethings and Sixtysomethings who have too much experience and gray hair to be marketable. When Bernie talks about billionaires hiding their wealth, about big banks and megacorporations that take and take, and just keep on taking, the old fart is the only one talking the talk. And for those who aren't sure how they are going to make the next mortgage payment or make enough as a barista to keep from defaulting on the loans, well ... those people are listening.

The leak now known as the Panama Papers is only where the story begins. America's super-rich have been finding offshore tax havens for decades, and more names will surface. A 2014 Senate subcommittee report estimated that $150 billion a year in U.S. tax revenue disappears at offshore havens. Bernie is the only presidential candidate talking about this thievery; he's addressing an issue that nobody else, including Hillary, is talking about. The explanation for this is probably simple -- Bernie isn't getting money from any of the fatcats he's attacking. All the other candidates, including Hillary, are. Bernie's money is mostly coming from the hard-earned paychecks of "little" people.

The biggest reservation I have about the Sanders candidacy is that, even if Bernie were by some miracle to win, he would be unable to act on his rhetoric. "Our lawyers can beat up your lawyers," is likely what Bernie would hear if he were in a position to challenge the big banks. This is perhaps subversive talk, but I think it's going to require a Second American Revolution, i.e. violence, to right the wrongs that have surfaced in recent decades. The super-rich are simply not going to give up all that money and all those privileges without a fight. And they have the means to win a lot of battles.

But there's a long war coming, and the Sanders candidacy and its unexpected success is only an opening salvo. Capitalism as we know it is headed for a crisis -- this economic system simply can't automate and offshore jobs at the current rate and still have a population that can afford to buy the goods that the system is capable of producing. "Say's Law" is bullshit; supply does not always create its own demand. Our society is about to learn this; and sadly, it's probably going to be the hard way.

In any case, as lackluster a politician as he is, Bernie's the only presidential candidate this year who's really talking the talk. With Hillary, Americans are likely to just get Bill Clinton redux. That's better than nothing; but with disaster looming, it's probably just postponement of the inevitable explosion.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

From Joe's Vault, April 2011: Tax Time Again

By Manifesto Joe

In the five years since this post first appeared, I've gotten in trouble with the IRS. Looks like I may end up getting an attorney before this is over. Conservatives may laugh, but hey -- if not for your moronic Iraq War, and your giving zillionaires and big corporations a tax pass, perhaps I wouldn't owe so much.

BTW, I didn't post for a few months, but I've been busy with a little thing called life. One week ago I got out of the hospital after surgery and am recovering at home. I finally have a lot of time on my hands, so I'm back on the blog trail.

Without further ado, this is from April 15, 2011:

The Republicans just don't get it, and it looks like they won't in the foreseeable future. With 40 cents of every federal dollar spent now being borrowed, they want to give yet more tax bonanzas to the rich while essentially abolishing Medicare and Medicaid.

This isn't what Americans voted for in 2008. A lower percentage of them, those who bothered to vote in 2010, voted for such folly whether they knew it or not.

The numbers cry out for a tax hike on the wealthy.

When one talks to earners at the upper-middle level, they are quick to point out the marginal rate of 35%, arguing that with progressive tax brackets, many of them end up paying more than lower earners as a percentage. (That's what comes of a steady mental diet of Fox News. That stuff rots brains.)

Yet such people seem to get amnesia when one points out that just 10 or so years ago, when the marginal rate was 39.6%, the U.S. was running a surplus. This was no accident. Even with the modest Clinton tax hike on the rich that barely passed in 1993, we didn't have the structural deficit we have now.

And the Mainstream Media are quick to obfuscate, talking to selected economists who keep telling the victims that raising taxes on the rich won't be enough. And who owns the MSM? Giant corporations -- and how much income tax do they pay?

Two-thirds of corporations pay no income tax

That's not news -- the first of the stories broke in 2008. Here's a link to one of them.

Although it's not news, many people don't seem to "get it," so it bears repeating, and repeating some more. Most of these "legal persons" are getting a free ride. They use the infrastructure (such as it is now), and have vast resources to fleece ordinary, unsuspecting victims out of many billions, yet they pay nothing.

In case you thought I was joking, here's a link to a more recent story about this, courtesy of Alternet.

In their 1990 book America: What Went Wrong?, investigative journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele cited IRS statistics that show that, in 1959, corporations accounted for 39% of federal tax revenue. By 1989, that was down to 17%. And it's probably gotten worse since then.

Here's a brief roll call of Corporate America's tax slackers:

General Electric -- Last month, The New York Times reported that, in addition to paying no federal income taxes this year, GE, the largest U.S. corporation, is to get a tax credit of $3.2 billion. GE made $14.1 billion in profits in 2010, $5.1 billion of which came from its U.S. operations. The story was conspicuously absent from NBC News, part-owned by General Electric.

Goldman Sachs -- Bloomberg News, in December 2008, reported that Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007. The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, Goldman Sachs said. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said steps by Goldman Sachs and other banks shifting income to countries with lower taxes is cause for concern. "This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs," Doggett said. "With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore."

ExxonMobil -- In March 2010, Forbes magazine reported that the oil giant, "which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS":

Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.

Mother Jones magazine noted that, despite benefiting from corporate welfare in the U.S., Exxon complains about paying high taxes, claiming that it threatens energy innovation research. It was noted at the Wonk Room that big corporations' tax shelter practices similar to Exxon’s shift a $100 billion annual tax burden onto U.S. taxpayers.

This list could grow to tedious proportions. You should get the picture by now.

Let's start sharing some sacrifice

Nobody likes to pay taxes. I owed the IRS far more than I expected to this year, and will probably be until fall paying it all off. But when some common slob like me is paying Uncle Sam more, year after year, than GE is, then there must be something dreadfully wrong with this system.

But alas, our Republican brethren still don't get it. They are promoting the idea of still more tax bonanzas for the wealthy. And, although a corporation enjoys the status of a "legal person" in our psychopathic system, two-thirds of them pay nothing, and even get refunds and billions in corporate welfare on top of that.

The latest news on this was from The Associated Press. It's not just corporations that are the problem. About 45% of U.S. households will pay no income tax at all, thanks to all the breaks that people, especially the super-rich, are getting.

It should be clear, if one looks at the numbers honestly, that our structural deficit has much more to do with what needs to be raised than with what needs to be cut.

Yet, the Republicans persist in their policies of the past 30-plus years, to defecate all over ordinary people while cutting sweet deals for their rich campaign contributors. And the Democrats haven't been very much better. Even President Barack "Change you can believe in" Obama hasn't been nearly candid enough on this issue.

So, what is to be done? Giant corporations and the super-rich clearly have politicians by the balls and have been gaming the system accordingly for the past 30-plus years. What can an ordinary person do?

(1) Stop believing the MSM. They obfuscate, and sometimes outright lie. And that shouldn't be surprising, given that they are generally owned by the very corporations that have been getting a free ride.

(2) Vote in the primaries. This is where people can get real Democrats, not just more corporate lackeys, to be candidates in the general election. The one positive that came out of the 2010 midterm debacle was that now, the Democrats left in Congress are more progressive on these kinds of issues. Ironically, it was largely the "Blue Dogs" and Democrats-in-name-only who went down in defeat to Tea Party challengers.

(3) Vote in the general elections. As frustrating as DINOs can be, and as agonizingly placating as Obama has been, we're better off with them than we are now, with right-wing Republican ideologues writing the agenda. President Clinton, Republicrat though he often was, presided over the last balanced federal budget, and that was largely because he demanded that the rich pay at least a modestly higher percentage of their hefty incomes in taxes. And back then, there was little talk of privatizing Medicare.

(4) General strike. In contemporary America, it will be very hard to float this idea. But if most of the work force in this country were willing to "sick out" just one day, and a few spokespeople made clear to the powers that be that this was an organized protest, it might perk up some ears.

This country is far from broke. The trick is going to be getting the rich slackers who have the bucks to fork some of them over. There are people out there who have it -- but they aren't going to let go of any of it without a fight.

Just pay your taxes today, chumps. Serious training starts tomorrow.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Republican Party Deserves Trump

By Manifesto Joe

It's hard for me to spell his name with the "T." "Rump" is more descriptive.

For nearly 50 years, the Republican Party has leaned on a "Southern strategy," as it was called during Richard Nixon's successful run for the presidency in 1968. That year the choice for rednecks was between Tricky Dick and George Wallace, and a good many chose the latter. But the strategy was articulated, and it had been there already. Recall that Barry Goldwater had his main electoral success in the Deep South, where he won five states in an otherwise disastrous try for the presidency in 1964. The reason was his overt appeal to segregationists with his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

All through the 1970s, '80s, '90s, and onward, the basic thrust of the Republican Party was to lend as much legitimacy as possible to ignorant xenophobes. And so it should come as no surprise to Republicans that the front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination is such a person, and a proven liar at that.

It has been no secret in politics that the Republican Party has been systematically and relentlessly pulled toward the right for decades. Voices of liberalism or even moderation -- former Sens. Jacob Javits, Clifford Case, Edward Brooke, Jim Jeffords and others -- were eliminated from the party, one by one. By 1976, even a stolid tory like Jerry Ford was regarded as a moderate. The current second-place hopeful after Trump, Ted Cruz, won election to the U.S. Senate in Texas by portraying sitting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as a liberal!

Yeah, Dewhurst is about as liberal as Paul von Hindenburg was in comparison to Hitler.

There's no mistaking where Cruz stands on the issues. His Ivy League professors described him as "brilliant," but that may mean that he's simply that much more dangerous. His difference with Rump, er, Trump, is less on policy than on the fact that Trump is in the way of something that Ted Cruz wants. Cruz, however "brilliant," is still an extreme right-winger, and the fact that he's the party's main alternative to Trump speaks volumes about what's happened to the Republican Party.

True, Rump, er, Trump isn't a "genuine" conservative. There's a lot of angry "populism" there; it's been accurately pointed out that he has borrowed his campaign playbook largely from that of George Wallace decades ago, and that the type of "voter" he appeals to is similar. In other words he appeals to ignorant, xenophobic rednecks who don't care how many lies he tells, those who revel in his bigotry, racism, misogyny and bellicose foolishness, and those who are just more likely to punch perceived foes out as one hears more and more comparisons to the 1934 Nuremberg Rallies.

The remaining question in the 2016 contest appears to be whether Rump, er, Trump, can win on the first ballot at the GOP convention. If he can't, he'll tear the Republican Party apart, and these assholes will ultimately have no one to blame but themselves.

I think it was P.T. Barnum who said something to the effect that nobody ever lost a dime underestimating the intelligence of the American people. A conservative friend of mine once advised that I knock on some doors and ask political questions. I would venture that about 70% of the time, I would get somebody too stupid to have bothered with. And I'd have to make sure I didn't knock on the door while "Wheel of Fortune" was on, so as not to disturb the highlight of their day.

These are the people who, in the absence of Rump, er Trump, would be unlikely to even vote. With Trump in the "race," they will turn out. Let's just hope that we're not being coaxed into Nazi-style salutes before it's over.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Though American Interference May Have Created It, ISIS Will Have To Be Destroyed

By Manifesto Joe

The Islamo-fascists of ISIS, I have no doubt, are essentially a creation of Western, and particularly American, interference in the Middle East. I confess to being somewhat "neo-isolationist" to the extent that I regard anti-U.S. "blowback" as the major cause of our troubles in that region now. I am thoroughly sympathetic with President Obama's reluctance to put American "boots on the ground" in the Mideast, especially since most Americans (not me) got suckered into an expensive and needless war there back in 2003.

But the terrorism that we've seen in the past several days has underscored a point that can't be evaded any longer: These ISIS people are madmen who must be annihilated much the same way that German Nazis and their fascist allies had to be smashed during World War II.

War takes a terrible toll on its participants, and it should always be regarded as a last resort. My old man won five Bronze Stars in the Pacific Theater of World War II, and he was never wounded physically, but the toll it took on him psychologically was pretty obvious.

I was one of those obnoxious little kids in the early 1960s who kept asking, "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" The old man would give me his best Gary Cooper impersonation -- "Oh, not much, son."

I didn't realize until decades later, until after he'd died prematurely, that the war was an experience that he really didn't want to talk about. He did tell my mother about at least one incident -- a Japanese soldier who'd been hiding in the jungle came into his tent one night. The Japanese soldier had a bayonet. There was some hand-to-hand. Ultimately my old man took the bayonet away from the Japanese soldier and stabbed him with it.

That sort of experience leaves terrible scars on people, scars that they carry with them long after they come home. I still don't know what most of my Dad's Bronze Stars were for, and at this point I don't want to know.

Having seen what the effect on people can be, I am generally opposed to war. But I'm not a pacifist. Wars, like fistfights, on rare occasions become necessary.

In Germany the Nazis arguably were a direct product of the harshness of the Versailles Treaty. The Allies who came out on top in World War I largely wanted payback, and they made the German people suffer a lot for being on the losing side. Some of the German veterans -- one Adolf Hitler among them -- were unhappy with the terms of defeat. And when they rose again, they did so with an insanity seldom rivaled in human history.

Similarly, I fear that it was American meddling that was instrumental in creating the ISIS fanatics. But they are viciously enslaving those who live under their dominion, and they are destroying antiquities and art that can never be saved or duplicated. Then there is their terrorism. These are, to the point, crazy pieces of shit who will have to be utterly defeated. Until that happens, we won't have the luxury of debating their origins. We are at war. It's sometimes that simple.

Once the Nazis were beaten, the West could analyze what created them. Sadly, no lessons were learned from history that time, and they probably won't be this time. And we're probably going to have to ally the U.S. with some clearly unsavory characters, like Russia's President Puto -- yeah, I know, it's Putin. It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. has held its collective nose in wartime. The Soviets under Stalin were "allies" during World War II.

And I cringe to think of the corporate Republicans who will profit off this war, as they have off others. Too bad we can't send them to the front lines. They always seem so enthused about sending the children of the poor there.

But there are times when fighting simply becomes necessary. This looks like one of them.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Futurists Were Wrong About 2 Big Things: Greed And Stupidity

By Manifesto Joe

I confess to be old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s. The futurists of the time were telling us that by now we Americans would be working 25-hour weeks, with that workload regarded as full time and with the same standard of living, or likely even better.

These bozos got it wrong in a number of very basic ways, but two ways really stand out: (1) greed and (2) human stupidity. Let's consider them one at a time.


The American economy has indeed expanded, and nearly as much as the futurists of the Sixties and Seventies thought it would. I've generally heard estimates that productivity in the U.S. is now roughly a third more than it was in 1980 or so. And yet wages and salaries are generally stagnant, and the old 40-hour week is widely regarded as a schedule for wimps. Most American workers are probably putting in more hours than that, even those who have only one job.

So what happened? It's pretty simple. We're not even talking here about the top 1% -- it's more like the top 0.1%. They raked it in as quickly as it came, and they ushered in a Second Gilded Age.

It's true that not many of us are starving or homeless. I'm certainly not. But a lot of us are having trouble staying current with bills -- I certainly am. And the last time I can even remember getting a cost-of-living raise would have been many years ago. In 2012, I was laid off after not getting a raise for years, then I had to take a pay cut of roughly 17.5% to get a comparable job. I started in this position in January 2013, and I have yet to see a COLA-type raise to this day.

Meanwhile, there's a tiny clan at the top of the U.S. economic pyramid who are prospering as never before. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Discovery Communications CEO David M. Zaslav makes 1,951 times what a median worker for the company makes. And he's just one example. The article went on:

"Chipotle Mexican Grill came in second, with a pay ratio of 1,522, and CVS Health was third with a ratio of 1,192."

It's not unusual for CEOs nowadays to get over 1,000 times what an ordinary worker is paid. Compare that to back in the 1960s, when futurists were cooking up their wrongheaded predictions for the present. Back then, a typical CEO was being paid about 40 times the earnings of an average worker.

And bear in mind that quite often CEOs are paid that way whether they perform successfully for the company or not.

The Great Recession, which began in 2008 and for some of us never ended, was supposed to finish such trends once and for all. There was government intervention in the economy that was supposed to be, for laissez-faire and supply-side economics, the death knell that they so richly deserved long ago. "We are all socialists now," the MSM rag Newsweek magazine boldly declared.

Tell me another one. There's supposed to have been a "recovery" since The Great Recession, but it's invisible in the lives of ordinary people. Nearly all the gains of the "recovery" since 2008 have gone to the very wealthiest people. Yep -- they pulled it on us again, and politicians like President Barack Obama adopted a pseudo-pragmatic stance and let them get away with it.

The corporate mindset, meanwhile, is quite unchanged. For one example, it is now generally considered a no-brainer that corporate "outsourcing" of labor to cheaper workers in foreign countries has been a failure. And yet it goes on. The lower wages look good on paper, and of course, nobody likes to admit to a mistake. And so most of the customer-service calls that Americans make are answered by Kenny from Bangalore.

It's sad to point this out, but the heavy foreign accents are simply a problem. Half the time I am forced to ask Kenny to repeat himself so that I can understand. I have absolutely no problem with Kenny being able to get a job that he might not ordinarily get, but when I have to spend more time on the phone with him and still sometimes not get the answers I need, productivity suffers. At the risk of sounding "nativist," wouldn't it be better just to hire an American, even at a higher wage, so that understanding can be aided? But no, American wages are too high. And so, outsourcing goes on.

The corporate mindset is such that, when you get to the bottom line, money is everything. But there are fundamental contradictions in that mindset -- and that brings us to Karl Marx, the guy so many economists think is obsolete.

Marx was obviously wrong about a lot of things. But I'd say he was dead-on right about a couple of scenarios that are still in play in 21st-century economics. (1) Capitalism thrives on competition, yet every capitalist seeks a monopoly. (2) Capitalism's success depends on consumer spending, but capitalists try to hold down the wages and salaries of consumers, if not eliminate them altogether, whenever possible.

I vividly recall a conversation I had with a higher-level manager when I was interviewing for a position in my late 20s. "We're all for competition, everywhere else. ... But when somebody comes along and tries to compete with us, we're going to crush them!" I often wondered whether that man ever quite understood the irony of his statement. I got the impression that he'd never even thought about it. People with any real depth rarely advance in corporate management.

There are obviously forces at work that have kept those two long-standing contradictions of capitalism from bringing about its downfall. Monopolies can often be destroyed by technological breakthroughs -- look at the dominion of VHS video rental stores in the 1980s, and see where they are now. And somehow people have always made enough money to buy all the newest gadgets, keeping the consumer economy going.

But we have lived to see a time in which technology is so ubiquitous, machines are at last capable of replacing human workers in vast numbers. When Kenny from Bangalore doesn't answer calls for customer service, what you get is usually an automated system. That such systems sometimes malfunction is good news for IT professionals, but as the systems get better, people won't be needed for those jobs, either. We will all eventually have our time of becoming superfluous.

The seeds are relentlessly being planted for some kind of general human rebellion. The first big explosion will probably occur in about 20-30 years, by which time I expect to be either dead or sucking my meals through a straw with the aid of underpaid, overworked and apathetic caregivers.

The Establishment will win that one BIG -- they have the firepower and the technology to drive any such movement underground for at least a generation, a la Tiananmen Square. The losses for the rebels will be staggering; the rebels will be called "terrorists," and there won't be many places on the globe (can you say Global Economy?) to run to and hide by then.

Another 20-30 years will go by. Then what will happen will be something akin to 1789 in France, or 1917 in Russia. Revolutions generally happen a very long time after their seeds have been planted, and their final results (Napoleon and Stalin) have often been highly detestable.

Which brings us to the second "way" in which the optimistic futurists of the Sixties and Seventies were dreadfully wrong.

Human stupidity

This is the thing that can, or should, be counted on for all seasons, in all times and places. Looking back, there were many opportunities that people had in America and elsewhere to put a stop to what I've been describing. But people have sat dozing in the pan like frogs, as the water slowly boils.

In America the turning point in leadership (or lack thereof) was Reagan. In England it was Thatcher. The disease is still rampant in America today, as an ailing, stressed-out lower middle class looks toward a spoiled megalomaniac like Donald Trump as its savior from Mexican rapists and evil hedge-fund tycoons.

One doesn't have to look far to find millions of people constantly voting against their own interests. When you walk into a convenience store and find a $10-an-hour white male clerk chuckling and nodding approvingly as Rush Lardbaugh rails against "feminazis," a person of any intellectual honesty has to recognize that something is wrong.

Conservatives, of course, count on this. I think it was John Stuart Mill who said something to the effect that not all conservatives are stupid people, "but most stupid people are conservatives." The more sheep who can be led, even to slaughter, the better.

So the disease of blaming the wrong people for problems is still alive and well, and will be for a long time, thanks to stupid people. Rebellion will come about only when enough people become so uncomfortable, for long enough, that they won't be able to get the basic things they need to survive. Only then will they wake up and realize who's done this to them. That didn't even happen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

By then, when the televised "revolution" finally comes, it will be too late for some people, including me. That's one big reason I don't blog much anymore.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trump Just Saying What A Lot Of Republicans Really Think

by Manifesto Joe

I don't find it surprising at all that billionaire Donald Trump has pulled out in front of the Republican Klown Kar, with 24% in one recent poll. He's just saying what a lot of Republicans privately think, but seldom say out loud for fear of sounding like ignorant bigots and xenophobes (which, of course, many are).

Trump, whose singular business acumen includes four company bankruptcies, claims that as president he would know how to make America great again. Looking at him I think the trick is to be born rich.

With the recent trip to Laredo, Texas, and the "Hispanics love me" rhetoric, he seems to have taken a page from the playbook of onetime pro wrestler Kinji Shibuya, who made a handsome living playing burly Japanese bad-guy bullies in our homegrown American Theater for the Unwashed. He used "illegal" karate chops in the ring, and such.

"The Mexican people, they love me!" Kinji would exclaim when he would take his rasslin' show to San Antonio back in the 1960s. Hispanics in the auditorium, meanwhile, would be booing loudly and splattering Kinji with beer as he held forth for the cameras. "I eat beans and tortillas every day!" he would bellow.

I suspect that the Donald has been to a Taco Bell drive-thru in his limo, so perhaps that qualifies him as having a unique understanding of Hispanics in America.

Meanwhile, GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz seems to be trying to out-Donald the Donald himself. Calling Mitch McConnell a liar certainly isn't going to get him anywhere in the Senate hierarchy, so the junior Texas U.S. senator appears to be trying to steal the headlines away from Trump.

The Republican Klown Kar seems to grow more crowded each day, but Trump now appears to be the leader in the polls. With all the money and power to be found on that side of the aisle, I suspect that such folks have the means to derail the Donald before he even gets close to the GOP nomination, and I suspect that the Republican establishment will knock off Cruz as well.

But for several more months, it should make for a wonderful show.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"Mad Max": The New Dark Ages Are Here

By Manifesto Joe

I went to the new "Mad Max: Fury Road" movie expecting a masterpiece. It got a 98% "fresh" rating from the Rotten Tomatoes critics, and was shot by the same director who popularized the franchise, the same Australian director (George Miller) who directed "The Road Warrior (1981)," which was indeed a masterpiece.

I have never been more disappointed by a film in my entire life, and I've seen one hell of a lot of movies. It was a mediocre action film, very light on story and very heavy on fiery crashes and vehicle chases.

When a movie like this can get that kind of rating from Rotten Tomatoes and have the word-of-mouth endorsements it had (everybody I know who's under 35 talked about how good it was), we have, I'd say, finally arrived at The New Dark Ages that have been discussed here and there.

This was a two-hour video game, with barely enough story to give it an excuse for being a movie. The stars were attractive enough, but there was virtually no script.

I honestly can't remember when I've seen anything that one could dignify by calling it a movie. "Danny Collins" left theaters here after one scant week -- I've heard that it might have qualified. Didn't get a chance to see it. Would have to have driven 146 miles to see it after it closed here after one short week.

Not that this is anything new -- I was one of very few people who seemed less than enamored of the 1977 "Star Wars" movie, and yet everyone carried on about it as though it were "Citizen Kane." That one movie seemed to usher in the Lucas-Spielberg "whiz bang" school of filmmaking, in which having a credible story and characters took a clear back seat to car chases and stunts.

And yes, I've seen the "Mad Max" reviews that talk about the film's empowerment of women. Having Charlize Theron look intense, get her head shaved and flex her muscles (well, the ones she had left -- the character was a bit of an amputee) doesn't compensate for the lack of a script. I've also seen the comparisons of "Star Wars" with those silly Joseph Campbell mythology arguments in its favor, and that didn't make it seem any less like a Buck Rogers show to me. (Where was Buster Crabbe?) Fun, yes, but a great film?

Ever notice how many movies nowadays are made with comic books as their source material? "Funny-book movies?" I've certainly noticed this, and it seems no accident.

I've long had a cocaine theory about corporate backing of movies. When you get enough middle-aged men in a room with enough cocaine to get everyone high, well ... you get this kind of decision-making.

Standards -- of any kind -- have been undermined so badly that The New Dark Ages are upon us. No wonder there are so many Republicans roaming about.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Jade Helm 15, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Panders To Right-Wing Kooks

By Manifesto Joe

I suppose it should come as no surprise, but Texas' new governor, Greg Abbott, is a politician made up of as much pond scum as his predecessor, Rick "El Pendejo" Perry. Abbott's reaction to Jade Helm 15, the military exercise planned for Texas and other parts of the Southwest, is ample evidence of that.

Abbott put out an announcement that he will have the state National Guard keep an eye on the Jade Helm exercise, an apparent response to kook right-wing Internet rumors that the purpose of the exercise is to take over Texas.

Abbott was supposed to have been a politician made up of better stuff, at least ethically, than El Pendejo. His Democratic opponent last year, former state Sen. Wendy Davis, is a politician who has been haunted by ethics questions, and remains so. Skeptical Democrats were told that Abbott, then state attorney general, was made of better stuff as a person, whether we agreed with him ideologically or not.

Tell me another one. Abbott's reaction to the right-wing mania about Jade Helm 15 appears to be a way for him to hang on to the votes of the Kook Right, yet have an escape valve to disavow them if push comes to shove among the state's "moderate" or mainstream Republicans.

One doesn't win the votes of Texas Republicans, at least not enough of them to win statewide nominations, without the support of the tea party and other Kook Right elements. Ask former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost races to both Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate and Dan Patrick for re-election as lieutenant governor. No sane person is going to mistake Dewhurst for a liberal. Yet that is what Cruz and Patrick, both tea party faves, painted him as. And with electoral success. Cruz is now at work enraging the Republican establishment in the Beltway, and he is running for president. Patrick is busy selling a Religious Right agenda while presiding over the Texas Senate. Dewhurst is out of office, still enjoying his multimillions.

Abbott, we were often told, was going to be different. But how is he holding the state's crazed Republican Party together? In part, by not flat-out telling the tea partiers and others on the Kook Right what raving lunatics they are -- for example, over their demented rumors about Jade Helm.

None of this should come as a surprise. When one reads the state platform of the Texas Republican Party, they advocate just about every extreme right-wing cause, perhaps stopping just short of unleashing Chiang Kai-shek's musty remains on mainland China. This is one of the craziest Republican organizations in the U.S., and that's saying plenty.

Abbott is just one more Texas Republican politician, and a typically ugly one at that. Go ahead and group him in with Cruz, Patrick, and crazed Congressman Louie Gohmert, while we're at it. He's swimming in their water, for sure.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why Do Right-Wingers Lie So Much? The Facts Don't Matter To Them, But Goebbels' Big Lie Does

By Manifesto Joe

It's hard to figure out how to begin this post, because the BS is so deep. One of the problems with the Internet is that any psychopath with a broadband connection can circulate swill all over cyberspace. The U.S. political right wing has developed a specialty in this. They are shameless liars.

One screed that's been traveling about the Web is called "Two States in the Middle of America." The "comparison" is between Illinois (Now Obama's home state, of course) and Oklahoma (home to half-witted climate-change deniers like Sen. James Inhofe). The fallacies run throughout this piece of manure (like manure), but I'll point out a few of them:

(1) The screed alleges that a teacher in Chicago makes an average of $110,000 a year. The real figure is $66,000 a year (Source: Indeed).

(2)"In the last six months, 292 killed (murdered) in Chicago, 221 killed in Iraq; AND Chicago has one of the strictest gun laws in the entire US."
FACT: The Chicago murder rate has dropped since 2000, from 627 that year to 431 in 2011. (Source:

(3) Throughout this screed, it is repeated that regarding problems in Illinois, "Can't blame Republicans; there aren't any." And yet in the "Chicago chain of command," the governor is misidentified. He's Bruce Rauner, a Republican. He defeated Pat Quinn, the incumbent Democrat.

It would take too long to dismantle this screed point by point, but those are some of the fallacies circulated to people via e-mail. Unfortunately, a lot of people are ignorant enough to believe this stuff when it gets in their e-mailbox.

For a good rundown on yet another recent source of right-wing disinformation, check out, the post of 3/19, titled, "Why Rick Santorum's 'Holy War' Sells In SC."

There was a strange tirade directed at Santorum during his appearance at a national security forum in West Columbia, S.C. Virginia Ellisor, a former schoolteacher, was given the microphone to pose a question to the former Pennsylvania senator.

After an intro that was just standard Republican nonsense, she kept going, bellowing into the mic: "Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this communist dictator (Obama) destroy my country? ... He's not a citizen. ...

"Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago, and the three admirals and generals. He has totally destroyed our military. He has fired all the generals and the admirals who said they wouldn't fire on the American people if they ask 'em to do so if he wanted to take the guns away from 'em. This man is a communist dictator. ..."

Santorum, brave soul that he obviously is, didn't bother to correct this clearly demented woman. Instead, he responded that he was not a sitting member of the Senate at the time and could not be held responsible for anything that was not on his watch.

None of this foolishness is anything new. I tried some years ago, quite in vain, to reason with a person I knew who was a Dittohead, Lardbaugh-listening right-winger. He gave me a document that he got off the Internet alleging that Il Doofus (Bush 43) actually won the 2000 popular vote over Gore. I studied this thing and quickly saw that the Michigan popular vote was wrong by millions, and that this was what this horseshit was based on. This person, of course, was far too stupid to notice this.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' propaganda chief, was a great believer in The Big Lie and its power to sway the common rabble. Our own right wing seems to have learned much from the Nazis, and in so many ways. There are plenty of substantive issues that they could be focused on, such as what was on some of Hillary Rodham Clinton's e-mails while she was secretary of state. But those kinds of factual fishing trips aren't enough. They want a whale of a tale, even if it turns out to be a false one.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Republicans Aren't Interested In Governing -- Look At The Iran Letter

By Manifesto Joe

The letter to Iran was signed by 47 Republican senators. Several, I think it was seven, had the good sense to refrain from signing it. But the letter was an attempt to undercut the foreign policy of a sitting president, sent as Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating with Iran over curbs on nuclear weapons.

The 47 GOP senators sent this letter to a nation that has been a longtime U.S. adversary. They were obviously motivated by their contempt for President Barack Obama.

If this traitorous action doesn't demonstrate that the Republican Party of today isn't interested in governing, only in power -- I don't know what could be. It shows an abysmal lack of knowledge about the constitutional powers of the presidency, a president whom members of this group have described as "lawless." And yet these ludicrous hypocrites took it upon themselves to anticipate, and even create, foreign policy after Obama leaves office. They are beneath contempt.

This should demonstrate that the vast majority of the Republican Party's high officeholders are unfit for high office. The Democrats don't seem to have any vastly superior alternatives on hand, but it is unimaginable that 47 Democratic senators would have done anything like this during the lame duck presidency of Il Doofus.

The Republicans are unfit for office, and the American people should let them know this, in no uncertain terms, in November 2016.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hasn't Anybody Heard Of Blowback?

The resilience of the Baghdad government has admittedly surprised me. I didn't expect it to be here by now. One big reason it has survived is that the Islamic State extremists are bigger fools than I thought, as well. They've managed to alienate enough people in the Middle East to ensure that they won't have the success that, say, the communists had in Southeast Asia. I was wrong to compare the Baghdad government to the Saigon government. I admit it.

Plus, the ISIL militants have proved so barbaric in their standard practices that they can't be ignored. It can be argued that they are a direct product of "blowback," of U.S. meddling in the region. But it could be similarly argued that the Nazis were the direct product of the harshness of the Versailles Treaty after World War I. Nazism perhaps could have been avoided, but it ultimately couldn't be ignored. The enormities of Islamic State can't, either.

But what the right wing in America consistently fails to understand is that, to a large degree, this is a Frankenstein monster of our own creation. And it goes back much further than a few years, much further than Il Doofus' decision to invade Iraq, much further than even the Gulf War. When a CIA unit led by Teddy Roosevelt III (Sorry, it was Kermit Roosevelt -- I stand corrected here) overthrew an elected nationalist government in Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah back in power with a "pro-U.S." government, that started us down a slippery slope in the region. Over 60 years later, we've now got a nuclear threat in Iran, and a decidedly "anti-U.S." government that's well-entrenched there. Not to mention clerics who habitually put horns and a tail on all Jews.

At the risk of sounding neo-isolationist, I venture the opinion that the region would generally have been far better off if the U.S. had stayed out, period. I doubt that Islamic State would even exist now if the U.S. had refrained from meddling in the region in the first place. For that matter, the 9/11 attacks might never have happened, among many other unhappy events that perhaps could have been avoided. The radicalization of some elements of Islam are the direct product of Western meddling.

I can't count myself as a big fan of Barack Obama, but I don't think the events of the past 60-plus years are lost on him, and I think he's doing a wise thing so far to confine U.S. involvement to airstrikes and try hard to extricate U.S. ground troops from the region. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a hideous mistake, but sadly the kind of mistake we'd been making in the region for decades. ISIL must be opposed by force, but it's important not to forget the conditions that created them in the first place.
It's a simple point -- when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Postscript: I took a long hiatus from this blog for a variety of reasons. One is still very much with me -- I don't have a day anymore when I don't have to put out some kind of fire, personally or financially. I think the computer issues are at last solved, so I expect to resume posting regularly. For followers of this blog, I apologize, but I have a life, and this blog was one of many things that had to go on the back burner for a while. Thank you for your patience.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'll Be Back -- Vacation, And Computer Issues

A couple of people who follow this blog have contacted me. Let me assure everyone that I'm still alive and intend to post again, but a few things have gotten in the way lately.

1. Life

Believe it or not, even lowly bloggers have lives, and mine has been nothing short of insane for a couple of years now. I haven't forgotten that the blog is here, but I've been so busy with other things that every day of my life lately has been spoken for.

2. Computer issues

There are apparently people in the world who have two things to do: Jack off, and sit behind a computer for 8 hours a day, dreaming up ways to screw up other people's PCs. In a lot of cases the individuals can't really profit in any way from what they are doing, so they aren't even being good thieves. They are just reveling in the act of sabotage. I appear to have become a victim of such people. We have a virus, the "Shockwave" thing, that I can't get rid of. It hijacks and cripples computers. I will probably have to have professional help to get rid of this. Problem is, I can't afford it.

Regardless, I've been watching the Iraq/ISIS situation with interest, and will comment very soon. -- MJ

Friday, June 27, 2014

Put War Criminal Dick Cheney In Jail

I couldn't put this any more eloquently than it's given here:

My sentiments exactly. -- MJ

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Can There Still Be Doubt That Il Doofus' Iraq Invasion Was A Grotesque Mistake?

By Manifesto Joe

Day by day I am reminded of April 1975, when the South Vietnamese "government" was being toppled. President Gerald Ford actually wanted to send U.S. troops back to Vietnam as it became clearer that the South would be unable to survive. Congress, overwhelmingly Democratic after the 1974 midterm elections, said no. Hell no.

This time, a half-Republican Congress seems ambivalent, and President Obama appears to have been bamboozled by the military establishment. As an early opponent of Il Doofus' foolish invasion of Iraq, Obama should know that you can't fix stupid. And among many mistakes Il Doofus made during his abysmal presidency, the Iraq invasion may have been the most imbecilic. That should be clear now.

During the 2002-03 run-up to Il Doofus' folly, I watched in amazement as the American people were misled and lied to again and again. I figured I knew what the motivation was -- oil. Il Doofus and his chief operating officer, The Prince of Darkness, were figuring that they could just send troops in there, have them welcomed as liberators, and then just help themselves to all that cheap oil. Of course, they were dreadfully wrong. What happened was an eight-year war that ended up costing thousands of American lives, ruining tens of thousands more, and killing perhaps over 1 million Iraqis.

Now, three years after U.S. involvement ostensibly ended, we're supposed to be shocked, shocked that Iraq has erupted into sectarian violence, with Sunnis fighting Shiites, etc.? And that the Baghdad "government" could be toppled any day now?

Saddam Hussein was certainly a bad guy, but at least he was the Devil We Knew. His brutal regime was the only glue that held that country together. When he was toppled, the U.S. opened a Pandora's Box that could only end the way it looks like it may end now. Containment of Saddam (as was done with the Soviet Union) would have been the wise thing, but noooo ... Instead, we had to listen to half-baked stories about "weapons of mass destruction."

Il Doofus' adventure in Iraq was a grotesque mistake that will cost Iraqis, plus Americans, for many decades. The U.S. should have left well enough alone in the first place, and renewed involvement now would just compound the error. Let's face it -- we've lost another war. Now let's try not to do this again, ever.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Postscript: It was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who referred to the Iraq war as "a grotesque mistake."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Young Vs. Old: Let's Face Whom The Real Enemy Is

By Manifesto Joe

A recent cover story on the AARP Bulletin focused on the subject of conflict between young and old in America. Other publications, such as the right-wing libertarian "Reason" magazine, would have people believe that the old are ripping off the young. Hey, I want to know where my cut is -- I'm still waiting for all that trickle-down from back in the '80s. (Always felt more like "tinkle-down" to me.)

Anybody who's been unemployed after the age of 50 can tell you that age discrimination is a very real thing in America. If my greed for entitlements is so debilitating to the general economy, and to the young in particular, why am I being pushed toward the door so unceremoniously? At 57, going on 58, death is probably not all that far away, but why am I already being treated like I'm dead? I honestly wouldn't mind retiring now, but I'm too young to get entitlements, and the fucking Republicans are swearing that they are going to repeal "Obamacare," so how am I going to get medical insurance if they have their way?

It's time to confront whom the real enemy is. Corporate capitalism!

Karl Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but I think he was dead-on right about a few. One was the propensity of capitalism, despite repeated attempts at reform, to revert back to its original, primitive, exploitative form. We're seeing it happen now.

The "real enemy" is the plain fact that technology is being used by corporate capitalism to get by with as few living employees as possible, which is probably why our economic "recovery" has been so damned jobless. Every time I try to pay a bill by phone, I'm confronted with an automated system. I often end up having to talk to a real person, but I have to circumvent the automation to have access to one. And that person is usually some poor slob at a phone bank in Bangalore, the cheapest person the outsourcing corporation could get.

I can't see corporate capitalism, in its current form, surviving into the 22nd century. And this has nothing to do with age. Those of us who are over 50 merely expect to be able to collect on a system we've been paying into our whole lives. Those under 30 may resent having to carry us, if you buy the argument of the likes of Texas Gov. Rick "El Pendejo" Perry that Social Security is merely a Ponzi scheme. But there's a hideous irony here. I'm perfectly willing to keep working past 65, if I'm physically able. But can I get a job? Let's go back to the age-discrimination issue again.

After being laid off, I eventually got a job -- after putting out 58 resumes. It took over 6 months, plus the Texas Workforce Commission essentially stealing from me on a legal technicality. I sympathize entirely with the plight of unwanted under-30s. But what is going to happen when you one day become an unwanted over-50?

Let's get down to whom the real enemy is. It's the system, the way it is now. I am well aware that the Soviet model of socialism didn't work, and that the Maoist model fared little better. But the day of change is coming soon. It has to. I don't expect to live to see it -- my generation is too engrossed with the ideological baggage that has brought us to this. But the day of the throw-away workforce will end at some point. When people can no longer buy what they need, they will start taking it. That day is not far off.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.