Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Birther' Imbeciles Don't Have Everyone Fooled: They Hate President N****r

By Manifesto Joe

Right-wingers are forever accusing their foes of playing the race card, and thereby crying wolf. But I've been watching the bile being spewed at President Barack Obama for a few years now -- going back to the early days of his 2008 campaign -- and there seems to be no other explanation for all this hatred in the absence of any reasoned discourse.

To phrase it in the most direct way, a lot of people who hate Obama do indeed hate his policies, but what they hate much more is the fact that there's a n****r in the White House.

You'll notice that I'm expurgating that word. Even Richard Pryor and Muhammad Ali weren't doing that in the 1970s. I'm doing it because I respect the fact that, over time, it has become much worse than crude slang. It's an expression of pure, unadulterated hatred for a large group of people.

Bill Clinton was the target of a lot of venom while he was in office, and much of it seemed ridiculous. Remember those bumper stickers with the "C" in Clinton incorporated in a communist hammer and sickle? Hell, I actually knew a couple of misguided people who were avowed communists, and they both thought Clinton was a neoliberal, corporate-friendly jerk.

Obama has governed little different from how Clinton did, and how Hillary would have. The far left doesn't claim him and is more than a little upset with him. But, considering that this is pretty obviously a family man without most of the personal baggage that Bill Clinton had, the attacks on him from the right have been even more ruthless. Race hatred seems to be the only way to explain it.

I don't seem to be alone in this conclusion. Here's a link to a story that appeared after Obama called a news conference to release his long-form birth record.

Now, of course, Donald Trump and others are also questioning Obama's academic record. They are pointing out that he didn't graduate from Columbia University with honors, which means that his cumulative GPA would have been less than 3.3. They are alleging that he could only have gotten into Ivy League schools as an affirmative-action student.

Do these people remember Il Doofus?

I do, and not at all fondly. This is a guy who got into Yale only because of the first, most corrupt affirmative-action program -- the "legacy" one for rich little shits. Bush II was said to have gotten through Yale largely with the help of "gentleman's C's." Then he gets into Harvard Business, where one professor remembered him as a guy who would say something in class quite explicitly and clearly, and then have the nerve to say, just a couple of minutes later, "I didn't say that."

I went to a private college as an undergraduate, someplace about on a par with Occidental College, where Obama went his first two years. I was a straight "B" student most of my first two years -- I didn't go to a good high school, and there seems to be a sort of social grace associated with making "A's" at a tough college that doesn't permit grade inflation. By the time I was a junior I started making the dean's list, but I had made so many "B's" by then that I finished with something over a 3.2 GPA, short of the 3.4 needed to graduate with honors. I can identify very much with a student like Obama probably was.

I would say that, in hindsight, it seems like a terrific investment in human capital that Obama was accepted by Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude. He went on to become a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. All that amounts to one hell of a lot more than Il Doofus ever thought of doing.

And as for Donald Trump -- his daddy was the "self-made" man, not him. "The Donald" got a business degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, then followed daddy into the real estate/developer business. Like all the recent Bushes, Trump is a son of a bitch who, as Texas legend Jim Hightower phrased it, was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

Trump has always been an opportunist. I doubt that he harbors personal malice toward Obama; he's just "capitalizing" on the vast amount of race prejudice that's out there. Living in Red State America, I've seen and heard ample evidence of it. I can remember standing in line to be seated at a restaurant, and hearing some festering redneck who was leaving talking about "Barack Osama" and the like, on the eve of the 2008 election.

I understand exactly what this is all about. It's about President N****r.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Franklin Graham Interview Reminds Me: Maybe It's Time For God Inc. To Start Paying Taxes

By Manifesto Joe

Did I hear somebody mention the First Amendment after reading that title? Here's the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I don't see anything in there about religious organizations of any kind being exempt from paying income taxes, or any other taxes.

For literally generations, the Graham family has been lording it over a multimillion-dollar evangelical and charity empire. International though they are, these organizations enjoy the protections and privileges of U.S. corporations. And -- unfortunately, like two-thirds of American-based corporations -- they pay not 1 cent of federal income tax.

I'll give the old man, Billy Graham, credit for having stayed out of partisan politics for his entire career. He has lived comfortably but not opulently, in contrast to many other televangelists, drawing a fixed salary from his enterprises. Although it has certainly come out, such as in his tapes made with Tricky Dick in the early '70s, that he has right-wing political and cultural views, he was shrewd enough to keep his trap shut publicly on certain topics. In the 1970s, he declined to join Jerry Falwell in the Moral Majority, staying admirably above the political fray.

Franklin Graham doesn't have quite the same compass. He ran into problems in the past with his right-wing sentiments, and also with his personal greed. This is from Wikipedia:

In 2001, The New York Times criticized Samaritan's Purse for having "blurred the line between church and state", in the way it had distributed publicly funded aid to victims of the El Salvador earthquake. Residents from several villages stated they first had to sit through a half hour prayer meeting before receiving assistance. In a statement, USAID said Samaritan's Purse had not violated federal guidelines, but emphasized the need for the organization to "maintain adequate and sufficient separation" between prayer sessions and publicly funded activities.

In 2003, Samaritan's Purse was widely criticized after its president, Franklin Graham, stated that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion", leading to opposition campaigns by Islamic leaders. Samaritan's Purse responded to accusations of being anti-Islamic by highlighting their long history of non-denominational cooperation and charity work in Baghdad without attempting to preach or proselytize.

Franklin Graham has also been criticized in the United States, for drawing a full-time salary from Samaritan's Purse, while at the same time receiving a full-time salary from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Non-profit experts have doubted that one person can do two full-time jobs leading organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world.

Now, Franklin seems to have really crossed the line when it comes to partisan politics. Following is an interview that aired yesterday on CNN:

You'll have to watch it using the link, because embedding has been disabled on YouTube by request. I couldn't imagine why.

To hit the high points, Franklin Graham said that President Barack Obama is "a nice man" and "a gracious person," but added that, in political terms, our country is in real trouble. He also seemed to indicate that he could support Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and lent some credence to Trump's embrace of "birther" conspiracy theories.

Our country is in trouble because a lot of rich people don't pay taxes

That includes you, Franklin. And your family's enterprises.

This year, I owed a lot more to the IRS than I expected. I've already paid a big chunk of it -- well, big by my standards -- and expect to be until fall paying off all of it. And I'm offended to find out how many entities that bring in megabucks are paying nothing, and even getting refunds.

That includes you, Franklin. And your family's enterprises.

I'd say, in view of the size of the current deficit, that it's time to revisit this notion that religious organizations should be tax-exempt. There are televangelists and megachurch pastors out there who are fabulously wealthy. Why shouldn't they be willing to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's? (Even if it is merely John "Orange Julius" Boehner?)

Churches and the social safety net

Another area that Franklin Graham got into was the social safety net, which he lamented about becoming so secular in the past century. A century ago, he said, if you were jobless and/or had nothing to eat, you went to the local church, and the pastor would help you. Since government has taken this function over, he said, it would take time to retrain all those people of God out there, so that whey would again know how to do all that.

Pardon me here, preacher -- some years back I happened to read a little book called The Jungle, published in 1906, and heavily based on novelist Upton Sinclair's personal experiences from a couple of years before, observing the Chicago slaughterhouses and such up close. It didn't seem as though churches were doing that much for society's poor back in those days.

In fact, about a third of the American people were living in grinding poverty back then. That was one thing that gave rise to a little something called the Progressive Movement, to try to get some things done in the public arena that churches and private charities obviously weren't succeeding in doing.

In addition to churches, I also seem to recall a little institution, common in those days, usually called the county poor house. The destitute would go there for three hots and a cot, in exchange for whatever they could do -- wash dishes, work in the fields if they were able, etc. It was sort of like a minimum-security prison, and it was supported with taxpayer money at the local level.

Unfortunately, it took until the 1930s for the U.S. to do much at the federal level to make up for what wasn't being done for the poor and the elderly. If you go back and read honest accounts of what was happening back then -- food riots, the churches and private charities being overwhelmed with demand, etc. -- then it becomes pretty clear why the federal government did, and had to, step in.

Franklin Graham and his family will never have to rely on Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security for that matter, to eat, clothe and house themselves adequately. It's easy for this sanctimonious little SOB to sit back and pontificate thusly. Neither he nor his will ever have to suffer.

Make the pious little shit pay taxes. Now.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Income Tax Day Special: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (And Pay Next To Nothing)?

By Manifesto Joe

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. Here's Robert Reich on the issue, courtesy of Truthout.

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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Joe's Vault: IRS Tax Gestapo Loves To Pick On Poor People

Originally posted in April 2007.
By Manifesto Joe
"... In 1976, my mother owed $300 in taxes. They were not paid due to the fact that she was diagnosed with cancer and given 12 weeks to live. In May, as she lay dying, two IRS agents showed up at my house where we had moved my mother to take care of her. They told me they were friends and had come to visit. I took them to the room, where they introduced themselves as IRS agents and served her papers to confiscate everything she owned. She was to (sic) weak to sign the paper but did make an X and I signed for her. On that day, they took everything she owned ... even the soda bottles at her place of business! She died within the week. ..."
-- IRS Abuse Report #193, from
Those were supposed to be the bad old days of the IRS. After countless complaints like this, in the late '90s there was a bid to reform the service into something BusinessWeek called, a bit facetiously, a "kinder, gentler IRS." The Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, signed by President Clinton, was gauged to make "significant structural changes in the management and oversight ..." and strengthen and enhance "the rights of and protections applicable to taxpayers ..."
There were a few meaningful changes in the new law. But it didn't take long for the IRS to revert to stonefaced abuse of poor and financially distressed taxpayers -- while ignoring most of the cheating by the rich.
Under the Bush regime, the working poor have come under special attack over their claims of the Earned Income Credit. This is an especially valuable tax credit for people coming off the welfare rolls and into the low-wage job market, because it can bring a refund of all income tax and Social Security tax withheld from their paychecks. The bottom line: This credit is an incentive for welfare recipients to go to work. Wasn't that what the Right-Wingers wanted when they "reformed" welfare in 1996?
But, being a conservative means never having to say you're sorry. In the conservative world, the poor are a sub-species, basically faceless and worthless. If people are poor, then they must be lazy, drink too much and gamble, rent their kids to pedophiles, or such. It most certainly has to be their fault; and if you honestly try to help them, I'm told that they'll spend the money on a console and play Nintendo all day. So, as the thinking on the Right goes, we might as well kick this sort of gutter trash around a whole lot more.
So, this is where the IRS comes in. David Cay Johnson reported in this story, first published by the New York Times on Jan. 10, 2006, that:
Tax refunds sought by hundreds of thousands of poor Americans have been frozen and their returns labeled fraudulent, blocking refunds for years to come, the Internal Revenue Service's taxpayer advocate told Congress today.
The taxpayers, whose average income was $13,000, were not told that they were suspected of fraud, the advocate said in her annual report to Congress. The advocate, Nina Olson, said her staff sampled suspected returns and found that, at most, one in five was questionable.
A computer program selected the returns as part of the questionable refund program run by the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service. In some cases, the criminal division ordered that taxpayers be given no hint that they were suspected of fraud, the report said.
Most of the poor people whose returns the computer flagged as fraudulent were seeking the earned income tax credit, a benefit for the working poor. The credit can return all of the income taxes and Social Security taxes withheld from the paychecks of poor people. Without the credit, many poor people coming off welfare and going to work would receive less money because of taxes taken out of their paychecks and the loss of health benefits, I.R.S. data and other government documents show.
The average refund sought was $3,500, which under the rules for obtaining the credit means that the vast majority of those suspected of fraud were single parents or married couples with children. The maximum benefit for singles is less than $400.
Ms. Olson said the I.R.S. devoted vastly more resources to pursing questionable refunds by the poor, which she said cannot involve more than $9 billion, than to a $100 billion problem with unreported incomes from small businesses that deal only in cash, many of which do not even file tax returns.
Let's forget any discussion of "small" businesses here. And, going into the way the rich and corporate giants get by without paying taxes is a whole different post. There isn't nearly enough room here.
Suffice it to say that some of us know what this is about, from schoolyard memories. It's a lot easier to pick on little kids than to take on the big ones. The IRS is just one of many bully magnets in our society. I haven't got time or space to describe all the others. It is merely one manifestation of a rising bully culture. And conservatives seem to be leading the swagger.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From 1944: 'Jammin' the Blues'

Featuring the great Lester Young on sax and the great Barney Kessel on guitar, among other immortals of the period. Lester's the one with the pork-pie hat who's always got a cigarette going -- it looks like he's going to burn his fingers. (But, having read about Lester, he might not have even realized it.) Barney was the only white dude there, and they kept him in the shadows a lot, sort of a role-reversal.

Dig it, kats.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Death In The Family

I lost someone very close to me Wednesday afternoon. This blog is doing pretty well now, and I'm grateful for all the response. But I'm going to have to take some time off. Sometimes a loss like this clarifies things, makes you realize what's important. I think it's having that effect on me. I enjoy doing this, but I think it's going to be a couple of weeks before I can post again. I thank all you visitors, and please do come back.