Monday, December 26, 2011

Are The Holidays A Bad Time To Remind People That The Iraq War Was A Hideously Bad Idea?

By Manifesto Joe

Tact was never one of my strong suits, so I'm going to go ahead with this. It isn't that the U.S. has never "invaded" another country -- I think the Vietnamese can attest to that. But at least the anti-communist crusade of the later 20th century was a somewhat better reason for that adventure, ill-fated though it clearly was.

This time, it was so transparent, I can't see how the Il Doofus administration got a majority of the Senate, including Sens. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, to more or less vote for this fiasco.

It didn't turn out to be quite as expensive as Vietnam, at least from the U.S. standpoint. There were a lot more amputees and nonfatal casualties, thanks to better medicine and equipment. U.S. deaths numbered less than 4,500, compared with about 58,000 in Vietnam. The proportion of wounded and permanently maimed, relatively weighed, was larger.

But a sad thing is that brown-skinned people don't seem to count in the eyes of many Americans. It's estimated that well over 1.4 million Iraqis died as a result of the war of 2003-2011. And, if you check the news posts of recent days, they are still dying. Apparently it isn't over yet.

I never believed any of the administration's bullshit, not from day one. They had no "weapons of mass destruction" credibly documented, and as it turns out, they never did. The administration basically forced Colin Powell to lie to the U.N. to engineer some kind of credibility for this invasion. And it's not hard to see what the true motives were.

It's certainly true that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, one who largely modeled himself and his methods after Josef Stalin. But, Saddam was being very effectively contained. And, the U.S. has not merely tolerated, but has actually supported, many dictators just as bad. Those despots just happened to be rancid butter on the right side of the bread.

The widespread political ignorance of the American people was largely exposed during this farce. If you went out onto the streets and asked many Americans about this war -- to this day, many would mistakenly say that Saddam was allied with Al Qaeda, that he actually did have "weapons of mass destruction," that he was linked to the 9/11 attacks, and so forth. The Il Doofus administration eventually had to admit that none of the above was true. But the propagandists had worked the damage long before that, and lastingly.

Now, as I understand it, the U.S. has basically put the Iraqi government du jour on notice that no more military intervention is forthcoming. There will be diplomatic missions, but even if Iraq erupts into civil war in coming months -- which looks entirely possible -- no more American troops will be sent in.

The rotten motive for this war is not hard to see, and never really was. If this place hadn't had oil, and lots of it, no one in the Western world would have considered them worth a second thought.

Problem was, how to get it out. Pipelines would get blown up. There were never enough workers to get it out of the fields, anyway. A place with so much turmoil isn't a place that can be a reliable supplier of cheap oil to a dominating Western nation.

So, it turned out to be, as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi phrased it, "a grotesque mistake."

A lot of people thought that Barack Obama, once in the presidency, should have hastened U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. After all, he'd opposed the invasion from the start, to his credit. But Obama apparently felt that he had to take the advice of experienced military minds, and then proceed with a withdrawal slowly. After nearly three years, it has only recently been concluded. (Well, sort of. There are still a hell of a lot of "advisers" there.)

A sad thing for Obama is that, if civil war does indeed erupt in Iraq in coming months, Obama's Republican rivals will probably depict him as weak, that he pulled the troops out too soon, and that he shouldn't have announced a specific timetable. But if he decides to be a "hawk" and send U.S. troops back there, then he'd be a reckless warmonger. You can't win when confronted with fools.

Something I ran into along the way, as a center-left blogger, is the argument that the "surge" worked. What the "surge" appears to have done was to simply drive the Iraqi insurgency into hiding, with them waiting for the U.S. exit, then to re-emerge. Now, absent a U.S. occupation, it looks like they're coming back out. And they were always going to, no matter how long it took. When it's your country, you're usually willing to wait.

I am profoundly sad, not only for those Americans who died in this nasty desert, but also for those who left arms, legs and minds behind in the horrific slaughter. And I have numerically more sorrow for the many, many more Iraqis who died and were exiled, some perhaps never to return.

I am reminded of an old U.S. literary debate between poet and playwright Archibald MacLeish and poet and literary critic Malcolm Cowley.

MacLeish, who served as an officer in World War I, argued that there was a just cause that Americans died for during that war. But looking back, how much difference was there, essentially, between the Britain-France alliance, and the Kaiser's Germany?

Cowley was with the American Field Service during the war. His argument back was, basically, that they (Americans) died for nothing. I fear that he was right.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time For Double-Dipping Governor Goodhair To Play Texas Fold 'Em

By Manifesto Joe

It would appear that his greed overwhelmed everything else, including his own very marginal intellect. Nationally, Gov. Rick "Goodhair" Perry has not only shown himself to be a fool, but a hypocrite as well. He should quit his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, come back home and "lawyer up" for a fight simply to remain in office here in Texas.

There appears to be an ongoing debate about the legality of Perry drawing $92,000 a year in state retirement pension at the same time that he's still being paid $150,000 a year as sitting governor of Texas. Here's a link to a Texas Tribune story about the legal pros and cons.

However this ends up at the state level, not even Republicans are likely to take him seriously at the national level, ever again. This is a guy who kept retired Texas teachers from being rehired and still draw their retirement benefits. Yet he's drawing enough "retirement" pay to cover most of the rent of the $9,900-a-month digs he's living in while the Texas Governor's Mansion is being restored. (Oh, and he doesn't pay for that, either -- the taxpayers of Texas do.)

And, this is a guy who had the nerve to bogusly compare Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, in a cheap attempt to swindle people in their prime working years out of benefits after they reach retirement age.

To our collective shame (not mine individually), Texas voters had multiple opportunities to turn this vapid opportunist out of office over the past decade. Sadly, they did not do it. Now he is bringing greater infamy to a state that already had Il Doofus (Bush 43) to answer for.

Goodhair, enough is enough. You're all through. Come home and talk to your lawyers. You're likely to need them.

Postscripts on the Republicans

The Republican field is likely to narrow a lot in coming weeks, as I anticipate that Goodhair is going to get trounced in Iowa.

Newt Gingrich, who seemed to emerge as a sort of front-runner for a while, has a talent for self-destruction. He sticks his foot in his mouth about every other time he opens it.

At the most recent debate, Gingrich said something to the effect that Palestinian school textbooks promote terrorism, and that they offer passages that go something like, "If you have 13 Jews, and nine of them are killed, how many Jews are left?"

Researchers looked into this and could find little or nothing to substantiate it. It was, at best, an exaggeration. At worst? ... well, as Mitt Romney phrased it -- "zany."

With Perry and Gingrich likely disposed of, it looks as though Mitt Romney's only real competition in the long haul is going to be -- Ron Paul, Congressman Clueless. This is a 76-year-old man whose answer to the problems of a country that's in the throes of a Second Gilded Age is to steer us passionately back to the legal and economic system that characterized the First Gilded Age, back around 1880. Even Republicans are likely to deem him far too crazy to have the nomination.

Even though Romney isn't beloved among the Republican right wing, it looks like he's going to be what they've got. I think by now it's mostly going to be a question of whom he chooses as a running mate.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Farewell To Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011: He Was Nobody's Bitch

By Manifesto Joe

I seriously disagreed with him more than occasionally, but I have to take my hat off at least briefly to this man. He was a toady to no one.

To his credit, he cut his own intellectual path through life, without regard for what anybody else was thinking. I thought he went seriously wrong after the 9/11 attacks -- I think he got the wrong idea from that. But I can sort of understand what was happening there. He despised all fundamentalist religion, not excepting Islamic extremists from the mix. I'd say he just got a little bit detoured by them, and a bit blinded by their "opponents."

He was always his own man, first and foremost, and I have to respect that. So, Chris, maybe God isn't great. But if God is there, I hope he (or she) cuts you a decent deal. I wish you great debates in what afterlife may be. Absent that -- peace.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Newt 'Boss Hogg' Gingrich And Child-Labor Laws

By Manifesto Joe

The Golf Links

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

-- Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn

Newt "Boss Hogg" Gingrich has a doctorate in history, so he damned sure ought to have known better than to open up this can of worms. During an address at Harvard University last month, Gingrich said that U.S. child labor laws have done "more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. ... It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in ... child laws, which are truly stupid."

Here's a link to a report on Boss Hogg's Harvard address and related issues.

Boss Hogg would essentially kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. His idea would, for example, permit school districts to bust janitors unions by replacing most of them with little kids working part time. A given campus would have an adult "master janitor" in charge of the tykes, and together they would keep the building and the grounds clean.

I might ask whether the adult "master janitor" would be required to have a green card, but I suppose that's a bit irrelevant.

Gingrich coming out for the repeal of certain child-labor laws is pretty significant since he may now be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. It's certainly as significant as Texas Gov. Rick "Goodhair" Perry's bogus comparison of Social Security to a Ponzi scheme.

At a time when millions of Americans are desperate for work, it seems the height of right-wing smugness that Boss Hogg would be coming out with this position now. There aren't enough jobs for adults, yet he would have schools across the country busting the janitors unions and hiring low-wage children to replace them. Someone should remind this "historian" that FDR signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 because during the Great Depression, there were men and women desperate enough to take low-wage jobs that had long been filled by children.

Perhaps if Boss Hogg had ever known that kind of desperation in his whole life, or had known someone who had, his point of view would be different.

Personally, I spent many boring summers growing up in a small South Texas town without work, even after attaining legal age. I was 17 by the time I got my first job. Before then, since there was little to do, I helped my family by tending the vegetable garden, and spent the rest of the time watching TV, playing sandlot baseball with other kids or actually READING BOOKS. The school system I attended was barely adequate, so after some point I may have learned more at home than I did in the classroom.

And, one thing I remember vividly from childhood was an old man who had been put to work in the tobacco fields of North Carolina when he was 7. My mother's parents lived either with or near us until my grandfather died when I was 13.

This old man went to work at age 7 and worked until he was 71. The child-labor issue has much personal resonance with me, because I remember this man so well. He had a good, quick mind. He could add up a column of numbers in his head, like a savant. He was interested in politics and loved to argue, so some relatives speculated that if he'd had a chance, he might have been a good lawyer.

Radio had opened doors for him, and TV even more. He was a loyal listener to the KTRH "All-News Weekend" that originated from Houston, and was a devoted viewer of Walter Cronkite the other days of the week.

Problem was, since he only went to about three weeks of school before being put to work, he never really learned how to read.

Oh, he could handle simple things like traffic signs -- he'd been a great truck driver in his day. And, he learned how to sign his own name to documents and such. But he had to have the newspaper or letters from relatives read to him.

My grandmother, who had been to the sixth grade and qualified as literate, offered to teach him how to read. Apparently out of shame, he never took her up on it. He should have.

In any case, I got to know quite well and firsthand a victim of child labor. It condemned him to a lifetime of toil and relative poverty, and a painful awareness that he never really had much of a chance for anything better.

It's not that what Boss Hogg has in mind is quite as bad as this was -- he's proposing the legalization of part-time work for children in generally nonhazardous jobs. But I find it offensive that he would go public with this especially now, when plenty of grownups out there can't buy a job.

And, I find it offensive on behalf of a tobacco-chewing old man in overalls who would have made a terrific lawyer but never had a chance. Boss Hogg, those laws were passed so that the children of future generations wouldn't have to witness such wasted potential.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rick Perry's Conscience

This is, with permission, a reprint of a post by Burr Deming of Fair and Unbalanced of Nov. 18. It's taken me a while to get around to this, but I felt it was one of the best expositions of the barbaric institution of capital punishment as it is practiced here in the state of Texas. By the way, Mr. Deming's blog is on "Joe's Hot Links" for those who want to read more.

By Burr Deming

The way he had the man killed, and how he acted later, reminded me of a long ago personal experience.

It was decades back. An elderly relative, one I love dearly, was distraught. Her Social Security check had never arrived. What would she do now? So much for her depended on that check.

Her husband was not a popular character within the family. He was pompous, preening, and had a tendency toward self serving untruth. He enjoyed spending money and forgetting to mention it to his wife. He also had a reputation of having sticky fingers.

He was sullen as I reassured her. The check was probably late. But if it was lost or stolen, she only had to report it. These things happened, and there were procedures.

The only people who had anything to worry about would be anyone who might have taken the check from her mailbox. Stolen government checks are always traced, I said, and thieves are dealt with harshly. If the check was lost a replacement check would be issued. If the check had been stolen, a replacement check would be issued and someone would later be caught and go to jail. She could count on it.

Her hard-to-take husband jumped to his feet in anger. How dare I threaten him with jail ! ! !

When wrong is done, it is often guilty action later that points to culprits. "Consciousness of guilt" is used as evidence of guilt. In some states, fleeing the police qualifies. Trying to cover up a crime can as well.

After the now infamous Susan Smith drowned her two infant children in an attempt to overcome difficulties with her boyfriend, her lawyers tried to argue a variation of an insanity defense. She had been abused as a youngster. She had an unstable childhood. She was not conscious that she was doing anything wrong when she trapped her kids in a car and let it go into a lake.

The insanity defense became pretty much impossible because she had lied about the crime. She maintained that a black man, a stranger, had hijacked her automobile with the kids inside. She tried to cover up her guilt. If she was divorced from reality or did not know it was wrong to kill her children, or was oblivious to what she had done, then why invent a story to keep it a secret? She had demonstrated a consciousness of guilt. And so she now resides at Leath Correctional Institution in South Carolina.

Twenty years ago, Cameron Todd Willingham could have tried to plead insanity. He was convicted of burning up his children near Austin Texas. But he tried to make it seem as if he hadn't committed the crime. Outside the burning home, he acted like a crazy man, fighting to get back to his children, crying, begging firefighters to rescue his family. Local forensic analysts, however, concluded the fire had been set deliberately.

Willingham's contrived emotions outside his home were just part of the clumsy coverup, just like the arson itself. He did not even try a defense of insanity. What was the point? He had demonstrated a consciousness of guilt. So instead, he continued, improbably, to maintain his innocence. He was sentenced to death in 1992.

Death sentences take time and, over the years, cracks appeared in the case. It turned out the forensic analysts didn't really know much about science. One outside fire investigator after another questioned the initial conclusions. The evidence did not support the accusation of arson. Finally, one of the biggest reputations got involved. The case attracted the attention of Dr. Gerald Hurst. He was an Austin fire investigator and a scientist in his own right. He worked the case pro bono.

The case quickly became cut-and-dried. The original findings were based on ignorance and superstition. Assumptions about science that were well known to be wrong at the time were presented as fact. It was the fire science equivalent of witchcraft. Completely predictable effects of electrical faults were needlessly termed suspicious, then conclusive. It was outrageous. Dr. Hurst called it junk science. He sent his report directly to the Governor of Texas.

We have a legal system that, at present, puts severe restrictions on death sentence appeals. Guilt or innocence seldom plays a part. It's all procedural. And there were no discernible procedural errors. The courts rely on a final non-judicial appeal. A governor may issue a pardon or commute a sentence if the judicial system is unable to get close to justice.

Indications are Texas Governor Rick Perry took 4 hours less time looking over the Hurst report than the OJ jury took examining the Los Angeles mountain of evidence. Which is to say zero. He didn't take the time to read it at all.

Cameron Todd Willington's last words before his execution in 2004 was to say once again that he was innocent of killing his children.

In the years after the execution, interest began to balloon. The Hurst report began to make the rounds and it looked devastating. Texas, in particular Rick Perry, had ordered an innocent man executed, ignoring obvious evidence that had been placed in the Governor's hands.

In 2009, a review of the case was ordered by the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Renown scientist Dr. Craig Beyler was put in charge. Governor Perry's ofice insisted there was plenty of evidence to indicate the executed man could be guilty. But as he looked into it, Beyler appeared increasingly skeptical about the evidence, the verdict, and the execution.

Two days before the Texas Forensic Science Commission was to meet and consider Beyler's conclusions, Governor Perry moved in. He fired three of the commissioners, and replaced the chairman. The new chairman cancelled the meeting on the execution.

It was Governor Rick Perry's coverup.

Consciousness of guilt.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Herman Cain Candidacy Was An Absurd Joke Anyway -- He's An Ignoramus

By Manifesto Joe

I know I'm supposed to be indignant. If his accusers are telling the truth, Herman Cain has not merely been an adulterer, but a harasser as well. In adultery, at least the other person in the affair is a consenting adult. Victims of harassment have consented to nothing.

But I was always much more concerned, and still am, that an obvious ignoramus like Cain could ever have gotten as far as he did in presidential aspirations. This is a guy who actually said in an interview on the campaign trail, with alarm, that China is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Cain would have been around 18 or 19 at the time that China completed its first successful test of an atomic bomb. They've had the A-bomb for 47 years, and have probably developed some rather sophisticated delivery systems by now.

It's no crime that, as an ordinary citizen/dorkus, Cain missed that little tidbit of information. But for someone aspiring to be president of the U.S., it's downright laughable.

In other words, the big problem there was never Herman Cain's penis. It's his brain. (Or am I being redundant?)

Unfortunately, Mr. Cain was only one of the igmos in the GOP field. There are at least two others surviving among the Republicans' "seven dwarfs," and they will be vying to pick up Cain supporters as the Iowa contest draws nearer. I don't think I need to name them.

Whither the Republicans?

After the Tea Party-backed Republican candidates triumphed so resoundingly in last year's midterm elections, I was seriously worried that the country was in a mood to elect, literally, any bozo the GOP put up against President Obama. Now it looks far less certain. Any major political party that has Newt Gingrich emerging as a frontrunner for the presidential nomination has got to be in serious trouble. They honestly don't seem to know whom the hell to nominate.

Mr. Gingrich is far from the dumbest of the Republican contenders. But he's a longtime political opportunist, and there is considerable evidence that he at least used to be a serial adulterer.

His chief rival appears to be Mitt Romney, who seems to have a squeaky-clean image but has two serious drawbacks: (1) He's a Mormon trying to win over Religious Right types who regard Mormonism as a cult, and (2) Based on his record as governor of Massachusetts, I think he could be expected to govern more as a moderate than as the hard-right ideologue that Tea Party types clearly prefer.

What will happen? My guess is that there will be a long battle through the primaries, with Romney getting the edge. Wall Street wants a winner, not a buffoon, and that small but powerful wing of the party will have its way in the end. Gingrich, who has nothing better to do, would be well-advised to accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket, if Romney will have him.

I would say that's the Republicans' best chance next year. And, looking at the electoral map, they would have to win Florida, Ohio, and one of two key Western states -- either Nevada or Colorado -- to be able to win the presidency.

Six months ago, I feared the worst. Now, I'm more optimistic. Obama's not what I would have liked to see. He's not FDR. Hell, he's not even Truman or LBJ. But looking over the Republican "seven dwarfs," I'm just about ready to be a trusting fool and say for a second time, "Yes, we can!"

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.