Saturday, January 29, 2011

More Among Ample Evidence That Lardbaugh Is A Fool: Speaking Gibberish Chinese

By Manifesto Joe

It's hard to understand how this ridiculous tub of lard can still command an audience of millions, yet Herr Lardbaugh can and does. His latest faux pas was speaking infantile Chinese on the air while the Chinese president was in the country, saying stuff like "ching, chong, chang."

Asian-American legislators called on him to apologize, but Herr Lardbaugh is having none of it. Comic license is his defense, even if his comedy wouldn't even play well to most junior-high audiences.

I can't say I'm a fan of the authoritarian Chinese government, but a guy in Herr Lardbaugh's position in life should show a bit more class than this. Of course, he has no clue thereof.

Here's the link to a post from ThinkProgress. Not only did Lardbaugh decline to apologize, one of his listeners sent several racist death threats to the office of an Asian-American legislator this week.

If it hadn't been clear that Herr Lardbaugh is a political bottom-feeder, playing to the prejudices of the pond scum of the reich-wing, it should be obvious now.

Plus, he stopped being funny decades ago. The act is silly and ancient. You don't do stupid better than anybody else does, Rush. Your remaining audience is trailer trash.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rather Than Raise Taxes On Rich, Texas Republicans Set To Ruin Economy

By Manifesto Joe

This session, the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature is facing a two-year budget shortfall that could run as high as $27 billion. The reaction from Governor Goodhair and the others who are essentially on the corporate payroll has been predictable: slash and burn.

Texas already has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most piss-poor places in the U.S. for social services and other public initiatives. We're already 49th out of 50 states in spending on mental-health services, yet officials in that sector are bracing for marrow-deep cuts. That doesn't make much sense, especially when you consider what just happened earlier this month in Tuscon, Arizona. A bit of mental-health intervention might just have helped that situation some.

Regressive taxation

One of the biggest reasons that state services here are so anorexic is because the revenue base is so narrow. It's estimated that nearly 80% of Texas' revenue comes from sales and excise taxes -- i.e., taxes on poor people and the middle class. And then, the fastest-growing source of revenue in this state is the lottery. That's yet another tax on poorer people, albeit a voluntary one. I've heard it called "a tax on people who are bad at math."

According to one 2009 analysis, Texas is the fifth-worst state in the U.S. for taxes levied on the bottom 20% of earners. And then, since taxes on the upper 80%, and on big corporations, are so low, that bottom 20% gets some of the most feeble social services in the country.

I smell fundamentalist Christians here. The attitude among many of them is that the rich are that way because they are living right. If you're poor, you must be doing something sinful, like drinking and gambling too much, for which God is punishing you. And that fuels the vicious cycle of rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.

All of the above has been going on in Texas for a very long time, even when Democrats were in power. That's not too surprising -- I've met some "Democrats" who seemed more right-wing than some of the Republicans I've encountered here, and that's saying a lot. The GOP state platform that's assembled here every four years reads about like that of the John Birch Society.

But now, the state's entire economy could hang in the balance. Experts are warning that the proposed meat-ax budget cuts, involving as many as 8,000 state employees, could have a very large ripple effect throughout the entire Texas economy.

Governor Goodhair's perennial demagoguery

With Governor Goodhair beginning his 11th year in office, this was predictable. Rick Perry never met a rich dude whom he didn't consider a potential campaign donor. He's all about reverse Robin Hood government, shifting burdens down onto those who can least afford it and openly subsidizing "job-creating" corporations that already rake in unprecedented profits.

Someone with common sense and a minimum of political courage might suggest a state income tax on households with incomes over $100,000. Not Goodhair, who's busy being a demagogue on bogus issues like "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants.

But, the voters here re-elected him last November with 55% of the tally, so the masochism of middle-class Texans seems to be continuing unabated. Bubba gets mad, buys a new gun and joins the Tea Party movement whenever he hears anything about a state income tax, but then quietly and tamely pays higher and higher sales taxes when he visits Walmart.

And last year, he elected Republicans to the state Legislature 2-to-1 over Democrats, something that hasn't happened here since Reconstruction. And then, he's going to be surprised when, in two years, his daily life is that much harder and his money doesn't go as far?

I'm indulging in stereotypes, of course. But it's hard not to picture such things while living amid this degree of stupidity.

I don't need a Ouija board to tell you what's going to happen. The state budget will be slashed dramatically, to the delight of Tea Party Republicans. Then, localities will have to raise property taxes and such to keep from cutting into the bare bones of what they provide. Education, already an obvious problem here, will suffer all the more. A new Associated Press report says:

Analysts say schools would lose $9.8 billion and 100,000 jobs over the next two years. Hospitals and doctors are facing $2.8 billion in Medicaid cuts. And sheriffs are worried about cuts to mental health programs that inmates need.

Texans, brace yourselves for the worst. And, about 55% of you who voted last year pretty much brought it on yourselves.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alabama Governor's Bigoted Remark Shouldn't Surprise Anyone

By Manifesto Joe

Christian exclusivism is certainly nothing new. It's what most "conservative" Christians believe -- that only those who have accepted Christ as their savior will go to Heaven.

So, the only thing that should be surprising about what Gov. Robert Bentley, R-Ala., said in an address on the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday is that a practicing politician said it so openly. And even that should only be mildly surprising, given the atmosphere of bigotry that so pervades American life now.

Here's what the Chicago Tribune reported:

Speaking to a large crowd Monday at Montgomery's Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached — Bentley said that "if you're a Christian and you're saved ... it makes you and me brother and sister," according to a report in the Birmingham News.

"Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters," he added, according to the paper. "So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

By Tuesday, the comments were reverberating beyond Alabama. David Silverman, president of Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists, called the remarks "outrageous."

"He is a governor, not a mullah," Silverman said. "This is a diverse nation with a secular government. If he doesn't like it, he shouldn't be governor."

Atheists weren't the only people who were offended. The Daily Mail (U.K.) later reported:

Today (Wednesday) he was forced to issue an apology for his outburst after a critical letter from Rabbi Jonathan Miller. ...

Rabbi Miller, from Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote that Jews were
"faithful people" who pay their taxes and send children to state schools.

He said in a letter to the Governor: "Our great nation, by law and tradition, provides us with religious freedom. And even though we do not believe exactly alike we ought to see each other with brotherly affection, and as equals in conscience and human worth."

A spokesman for the Hindu American Foundation said the comments on Monday were "intolerant, repulsive and wholly unacceptable."

But they don't appear to be hurting Bentley any among Alabamans. Here's a link to an Associated Press report that pretty much says that most people there agree with what the governor said. Some just think he was unwise to say it openly.

Christian exclusivism, again, is very old doctrine, and certainly not unprecedented among many prominent U.S. politicians. Il Doofus, a Methodist, is said to have professed this belief privately but declined to discuss it openly.

I'm sorry to disappoint some of my agnostic or atheist colleagues on the political left, but I've had a few subjective experiences that have led me to believe that there is a deity. But at 54, I remain unchurched, and one of the main reasons for that is Christian exclusivism. Where I live, that tenet tends to be the rule, not the exception, in Christian churches of almost all kinds.

And it simply defies common sense. A Muslim who has spent his or her entire life in Islamabad is very, very unlikely to be persuaded by any Christian missionary. This person may be more virtuous, by any measure, than a given Christian in Alabama. But he or she is very likely, perhaps almost certain, to cling to the religion in which he or she was raised. That's how the typical human mind works -- and an all-knowing God, if such a being exists, would surely know that.

For another example, suppose that a bright child in Alabama is brought up in a Southern Baptist church, and applies common sense to theological questions. And, this child discovers that there are scores of hypocrites in this church. By the time he or she is a teenager, the person is pretty likely to run away, fast and far, and never, ever go back. Perhaps the person will become a believer again, but not that kind of believer.

To hear it told in most Christian churches in these parts, any such people are surely hellbound. I don't profess to know the mind of God, but I hope those who would say such things are in for some surprises.

Religious exclusivism of any kind betrays yet another habit of the human mind, and a very pernicious one. It's the desire to be part of some "chosen" group. "My group, my community, my church, my political party, everything I belong to is absolutely right, and I am certain beyond a doubt that everybody else is wrong." That's what comes out of the mouths of many people, and it doubtlessly makes them feel better about themselves, that they're special. (Ever hear any of this from conservatives?)

Inclusivism isn't new either, nor is it radical

Even among conservative-to-moderate Christians, there is a differing view. Consider these three statements:

C. S. Lewis - "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him."

John Stott - "I have never been able to conjure up (as some great Evangelical missionaries have) the appalling vision of the millions who are not only perishing but will inevitably perish. On the other hand… I am not and cannot be a universalist. Between these extremes I cherish and hope that the majority of the human race will be saved. And I have a solid biblical basis for this belief."

Billy Graham - "And that's what God is doing today, He's calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven."

Not exactly religious liberals, any of these fellows, let alone radicals. And they are all considered evangelical Christian icons.

But, at long last, no one should really be surprised that a major Republican politician would make such a statement. Even after the apology, something tells me that Bentley's views are unchanged. He was simply being candid about them at an inappropriate moment.

Given the atmosphere of bigotry and intolerance that the American right wing has resurrected, there's nothing shocking here at all.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Decent Thing For Palin To Do Would Be To Retire From Politics

By Manifesto Joe

No, she didn't shoot anything, at least nothing with any more civil rights than a moose has.

But last year she had a map of 20 congressional districts with "crosshairs" over them, and one of them was the district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., now recovering from being gravely wounded by a gunman.

It was already quite evident that Sarah Palin is just too f***ing stupid to be a presidential contender. She was too stupid to have been governor of Alaska, or even the mayor of a town. I considered Il Doofus perhaps the dumbest SOB who ever held the highest office in the land, but even he looks substantially brighter than Klondike Cutie.

I've held off for a few days on posting anything on the Saturday shooting in Tuscon, for a variety of reasons. It's hard to know what to say about a hideous event like this, so I thought it would be good to just let the facts unfold for a few days before commenting.

I have enough of a political bias to admit that I'd anticipated that the suspect would be some sort of Tea Party poster boy. He's pathologically anti-government, but his political profile is like, all over the place. Like some other nut cases I've run across in my time, the suspect apparently could be a Marxist one minute and a Nazi the next.

One thing that's clear, though, is that he was attracted to extremes, and to violence. Although the far right certainly has no patent on extremism, they've cornered the market on it in contemporary America. Just listen to AM radio on any given afternoon.

And politicians like Sarah Palin have been shameless demagogues, ruthlessly exploiting ignorant bigots for their own gain. There have been many offenders, but Palin has been the most high-profile of them, raking in big bucks while cynically promoting herself to Tea Partiers with overactive prostate glands.

With the blood of a federal judge, and nearly that of a once-promising young member of Congress, at hand -- no, not directly on HER hands, but -- I'd still say that in view of Palin's violent rhetoric, it would be proper penance if she would simply go home to Wasilla and stay there.

We've seen a bit too much of this kind of behavior in recent years in America, and much of it was during the midterm election campaign. Giffords was on Palin's "hit list," and she was the target of death threats, vandalism and harassment. Elsewhere, in Kentucky, we saw a Rand Paul supporter stomp on the head of an opposition activist, giving her a concussion. And then, the stupid SOB wanted HER to apologize to him.

Enough with the brown-shirt act. For one thing, the right doesn't have a monopoly on that -- they just have been producing the most obvious examples of it. Other people are quite able to fight back, but they may have a lingering fantasy that there is still a process of civil debate alive in the U.S.

Sarah Palin is the one politician I can think of who has consistently gone beyond the boundaries of any civility. If there's going to be a Judas goat in this thing, she looks like the obvious one.

Go home, Sarah, and stay there.

For one thing, you're far too ignorant to have come this far in life. I have seen one person before who used the word "ravished" instead of "ravaged," like you did in an e-mail or tweet or some such thing to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindall during the oil-spill crisis.

But that person wasn't potentially running for president. The guy I think of who actually did that (at a newspaper I worked for in 1979) was a penis-headed ad salesman who drove a 1960s Volkswagen "bug." It almost got in the paper as a banner Page One headline. ("Storm ravishes county") I had been out all day, and then in the newsroom, writing about storm damage. Then, just before they sent the page, I saw that. It didn't surprise me to have to correct him -- but he clearly couldn't even run his own desk, let alone a small state.

Go home, Sarah. And stay there. You are just too goddamned dumb to be in this arena.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy 100th, Gypsy Rose Lee

By Manifesto Joe

Saturday would have been the 100th birthday of Rose Louise Hovick (1911-1970), better-known by her stage name of Gypsy Rose Lee. Daughter of a certifiably crazy stage mom and sister of the child star who later became actress June Havoc, Rose spent her youth on the Vaudeville road. Along the way, she discovered that audiences responded delightfully to a Burlesque "stripper" who actually talked to them and made jokes rather than just doing the old bump-and-grind.

By 1931, she was a headliner in New York Burlesque theaters. For four years she was a main attraction at the Minsky brothers' famous theaters. By 1936 she was "mainstream" enough to be in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, and a personality on NBC radio. Rose finally hit the wall after going to Hollywood in 1937. She was likely a victim of the "code" back then, as the producers out there wouldn't even let her use her stage name. (They billed her as Louise Hovick.) The movies didn't pan out well, so she returned to New York. By the early 1940s she was a bestselling novelist and playwright, while continuing to do her stage act for as long as she had the body and looks.

Because I was born in 1956, my main awareness of Gypsy Rose was as a comic TV personality in upper middle age, one of those quick wits who was a regular on the daytime game show Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s. I also saw the movie version of Gypsy, the musical based on Rose's famous 1957 memoir. It was much later that I learned more of the story behind this one-of-a-kind showbiz legend, who in the 1930s counted H.L. Mencken among her many fans. She was a much more complex and troubled person in private than her public ever knew.

Here's a link to an NPR piece about a much-reviewed new book, Karen Abbott's American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare — The Life And Times Of Gypsy Rose Lee.

And, you can actually catch a clip of her very sanitized act on YouTube. Here goes:

Something tells me that the routines she did at Minsky's were a lot more risque. (She was arrested at least once.) But even with that in mind, you could see a whole lot more nowadays, 24/7, in any pole-dance joint in Dallas -- and perhaps not be as entertained.

Here's to you, Rose.

(P.S.: For readers expecting more serious and political content here, never fear. There's one like that coming soon, on a subject you can likely guess.)

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Income Disparity Is A Growing Problem

By Manifesto Joe

Socialism for the rich? It looks more and more that way, upon close examination. I remember a job interview (I'm a newspaper journalist) in which the publisher of a medium/small paper talked briefly about competition. "We're all for competition. But not in our particular business. If somebody starts up a paper to compete with us, we're going to do all we can do to beat them and run them out of business."

Fine -- that's the marketplace. You can lose in competition, and the inefficient do. But that points to an inherent contradiction of capitalism. In theory, capitalists laud competition; but in practice, every capitalist wants a monopoly.

But even with that contradiction in mind, the way capitalism is being practiced in America and elsewhere is that many "competitors" are shielded from the rigors of the marketplace. History shows again and again that concentrations of wealth cannot be divorced from political influence: They tend to be parallel. Rich people and giant corporations can afford to hire more and better lobbyists than those who advocate for the poor, labor unions, etc., can ever hope to. It's always been that way, and it probably always will be.

According to journalist David Cay Johnston, over the past 30 or so years, rich people and big corporations have been so lavishly subsidized that they always win. And, subsequently, you, little man and woman, always lose.

Here's a link to articles about Johnston's new book, and to an interview with him.

If you follow the news, it shouldn't be lost on you that cities, counties and states across America are giving subsidies, either in the form of tax breaks or outright payments, to already-rich companies to relocate there, or to expand. What they get in tax breaks, or in flat payments, you have to make up the difference for.

It's reality that a significant number of jobs are generated this way, at least in those localities, as Johnston grants. But the effect on the nation as a whole is nothing short of devastating. The most recent federal deficit figure was $1.3 trillion, a bill we're going to stick future generations with. On the structural deficit, this is the "trickle-up" effect.

Income redistribution doesn't work just one way. The rich are much better at it, and contrary to the prophesy of Karl Marx, history has seemed to be on their side.

The efficiency of the "free market" depends on that which is purely economic functioning independently of political influence. That may have been somewhat possible in Adam Smith's day, but it didn't take long after that for economic power to translate directly into political power. In the halls of Congress or any legislature, money talks; bullshit walks.

How has this affected daily life in the U.S.? Here's another link that illustrates the problem. American workers are vastly more productive than they were in the 1970s, but have gained little in real wages compared to those raking in profits from politically advantageous positions.

So, in practical terms, how can this problem be remedied?

Make the bastards pay

I'm realist enough to know that there's never going to be a real solution to the problem of capitalist success translating directly into political influence. This is one point on which Marx was absolutely correct: There's never going to be any divorce between the two spheres. The only way to address it is to revive the concept of progressive taxation.

There seemed to be a time in America in which many working people more or less understood that capitalism is an insider's game, played with great duplicity. "Traditional" capitalists do plenty of talking about the "free market," but all the while they have Washington and the state capitols overrun with lobbyists seeking all manner of perks. And they get most of them, no matter which major political party is in power. They fare better with Republicans; but Democrats, as we have seen since January 2009, merely talk a better game and usually end up swimming in the same polluted water. Their politicians have to have quid, and plenty of it, to keep their gig going.

Progressive taxation is the only practical answer. Hey, rich guy: You want various governments to subsidize you? Realistically, that's bound to happen. But with that in mind, you must pay commensurately for it, so as to stop shifting the burden down upon those who can least afford to pay.

Let's face the fact that the "free market" is, and has generally always been, a duplicitous sham. The hogs have pretty much always been slopping at the trough, and the biggest ones get the most. It's only when the smaller ones band together that real change is forced upon them.

The people of Dallas-Fort Worth, here in Texas, should be able to see the dilemma quite well. The taxpayers anteed up a pretty penny for Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, subsidizing fabulously wealthy Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in the bargain. What they got this football season was an NFL team that went 6-10, and that was largely because of Jones' mismanagement, if sports columnists are to be believed. The taxpayers didn't get much of a return on their silly investment.

I don't see an end to such nonsense anytime soon. But I'd like to see Jerry's taxes, and those of others like him, raised dramatically, for all the "little people" to settle up for the price of Jerryworld.

I've got a couple more links that more or less address this subject. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was a dissenter in the Senate on the recent Obama compromise on taxes. Here's some of what he had to say on the subject.

Here's more of what Bernie said, courtesy of Truthout. It's pretty astonishing that the American people are still taking it up the keester so happily while ExxonMobil rakes in $19 billion in profits, and not only pays no income tax, but gets back a $156 million refund from the IRS.

Bernie is an avowed socialist, the only one now in Congress, to my knowledge. I'm sorry to disappoint some out there, but I'm not a true-believing socialist, and therefore I don't think there's ever going to be a way to effectively stop big corporations and wealthy campaign contributors from twisting the arms of lawmakers. I'd say that's especially true since our Supreme Court recently struck down limitations on campaign finance.

The only answer is what can be done to wake people up. A political groundswell is the sole solution, and it's got to start soon. The sole reason for optimism here is that once people start really being hit in their pocketbooks, that's when they actually do something. The best time for that was in 1985, but it still may not be too late.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.