Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who's Bankrupt Now? Thoughts On "How The Right Went Wrong"

By Manifesto Joe

In Time magazine's March 26 cover story, "How the Right Went Wrong," Karen Tumulty began by quoting Ronald Reagan in a sort of "bandwagon" logical fallacy at the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference. "...the other side is virtually bankrupt of ideas. It has nothing more to say, nothing to add to the debate. It has spent its intellectual capital." The core argument: Cons rule; get with it.

The writer seemed to veer even more off the track after that, going into the general gloom among conservatives -- but failing to adequately discuss the many failures of policy and ideas that put the Right in this mood. This kind of obfuscation is common in the Mainstream Media.

I'd like to get this back on the real track. Fast-forward to 2007.

For all but two of the past 26 years, the Republican Party, dominated by its "conservative" wing, has controlled either the executive branch, the legislative branch, or both, of the federal government. In that time:

-- The national debt has grown to over $5 trillion. When Reagan entered office, it was less than $1 trillion. The only balanced budgets, or surpluses, run during the past 26 years were in the final years of the Clinton presidency, when the rich were being taxed somewhat more than they are now, or were in the '80s.

So much for fiscal responsibility.

-- The welfare state has actually grown overall. An Associated Press analysis of government data shows that nearly 1 in 6 Americans relies on some kind of public assistance, the most since the government began the measurements two decades ago.

I can already hear the "cons" muttering, but this didn't happen because of liberals. The 1996 welfare "reform" was mainly a GOP idea. It has indeed cut the welfare rolls, by nearly two-thirds. But when former recipients went to low-wage, no-benefits jobs like those at Wal-Mart, guess what? Applications for food stamps grew, and the number of Medicaid recipients went off the charts. The new, not-so-improved welfare state is basically a huge subsidy for low-paying corporations like Wal-Mart.

More results: Real wages had already been slipping for decades, and the trend accelerated. Could it have been all those low-wage workers pouring into the work force? And all the while, other sets of numbers have been trending up -- consumer debt and corporate profits. Call me paranoid, but sometimes it seems like somebody in a boardroom though all this up.

The problem is, what's generating short-term profits for the few seems to mean long-term misery for many. Census figures show that the number of Americans categorized as severely poor -- not just under the official poverty line -- grew by 26 percent, to 16 million, between 2000 and 2005.

-- For two generations we've heard politicians rant about "law and order," even many Democrats. But the GOP Right Wing got by far the most political capital out of the issue, mainly by promising to lock up drug offenders and throw away the key, and to whittle Death Row down to about a dozen inmates.

I won't dwell on the possibility that some undetermined number of innocent people have been executed. (Although recent DNA-testing breakthroughs give some hint at the number of wrongful convictions.) I'll focus instead on "The Drug War." America had a serious crack cocaine problem in the '80s -- but the approach to drugs in general became shotgun-style, where a rifle was needed. With that, and mandatory sentences, the federal prison population exploded. People were getting hard time for small-amount possession. From 1980 to 2000, the overall U.S. prison population quadrupled, despite a decline in violent crime and property crime since the early '90s. In federal pens, 57 percent were in for drug offenses. The overall U.S. incarcerated population in 2006: 2.2 million. In 2005, 1 out of every 136 Americans was in some kind of jail. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population, and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. (Source of all stats above: Wikipedia.)

Predictably, the taxpayers, even Republicans, got tired of paying for the U.S. being the world's biggest jailer. Here in Texas, Republican state legislators are introducing bills to cut way down on probation revocations, especially for nonviolent offenders. Even in the GOP, "lock 'em up" for damn near anything has become an impractical notion whose time has passed.

-- Tumulty wrote that Reagan "... helped bring about the defeat of what he very undiplomatically christened 'the Evil Empire.' " She apparently buys, at least to some degree, the notion that Reagan presided over a military buildup that "bankrupted" the Soviet Union.

This is one of the most toxic myths that the Right has sold to many as history. When Russian economists have been interviewed about this, their response has often been laughter. Everybody there who could see the big picture knew what the problems were, and they had been serious for many years before Reagan took office. All economic indicators had been declining for years. Life expectancy, down. Absenteeism, alcoholism, infant mortality -- all up alarmingly. (Dartmouth College historians Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth.) It was requiring 25 percent of the Soviet GDP to support their military empire. But military spending, CIA stats show, was very level between 1975 and 1985.

The problem was systemic. The Soviets' particular experiment with socialism was a debacle -- a top-heavy, command economy that basically collapsed under its own weight and inflexibility. Yet, many cons argue that Reagan's goofy "Star Wars" initiative was the final blow. With the Soviet economy already so dead in the water, this was like giving Reagan credit for every sunrise that occurred on his watch. If he even hastened their collapse, I doubt that it was by as much as a year.

But the Right has had uncanny success at selling such mendacity to tens of millions of Americans. They've built a hard core of about 30 percent of the electorate that will swallow any such B.S. and lick their lips like it's a fudge brownie.

How did they do this? One must go back in history. Liberal hegenomy in U.S. politics was roughly 1932-1980. At the start of that period, about one-third of Americans lived in poverty. It was more serious then, with no food stamps or Medicaid. By the '70s, poverty had been cut by about two-thirds, down to around 11 percent. By the '50s, union membership peaked at 35 percent. In 1959, corporations paid 39 percent of federal income tax revenue (Barlett and Steele citing IRS stats, 1990. It's a fraction of that now.).

Gradually, progressives and liberals became victims of their own successes, convictions, and coincidences. In the '60s, the Democrats lost the white South by embracing civil rights. In the '70s, demand-pull inflation, fueled in no small way by the OPEC embargo, began plunging the U.S. economy into deep recessions.

And, when people become affluent enough, they forget about G.I. Bills, federal housing loans, Pell Grants and the like that helped them get there. Lower taxes and higher property values become the main concerns. The Democrat becomes a "Reagan Democrat."

Then came the wedge issues: Abortion, affirmative action and gun control drive a bigger "wedge." And finally, the Reagan Democrat, under pressure from his golf buds, becomes a Republican.

And, the Right never has a problem getting money. Starting in the '70s, a network of "think tanks" formed, lavishly financed by Corporate America, to undertake such campaigns as selling "intellectuals" such spurious ideas as the Laffer Curve and utility deregulation. Such ideas eventually "trickle down" to the general public, even if the real money doesn't.

Tumulty talks about "conservatives," not liberals, being victims of their successes. Which triumphs are those? The ones I just reviewed?

The main success I can see is that the "conservative movement" ran one of the most longlasting and successful "cons" on the public in U.S. political history. They have nothing at all to show for 26 years of being more or less in power. Their astonishing talent is for keeping discredited ideas alive:

-- Cutting taxes on the rich and big corporations was supposed to increase revenue and eliminate the deficit by growing the economy. It never happened, even when tried twice.

-- The Clinton economic plan, which passed in 1993 without a single Republican vote, was supposed to wreck the economy. It didn't. (What it did do, eventually, was balance the budget, and even produce a surplus.)

-- We have heard over and over that raising the minimum wage is supposed to set off inflation and increase unemployment. It's been done many times, and It never has.

I won't stoop to Reagan's fallacy of intellectual bankruptcy. It's more like a case of a high-roller who finally goes into debt so deeply that the bank just keeps lending him more money, because if he goes under, the bank does, too.

But fortunately, more voters are deciding he's not the guy to put in charge of the Treasury.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


"Democrats are seeing Karl Rove behind every bush in Washington, D.C. ..."

-- U.S. Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, on the CBS Evening News

No, John. We only see Rove behind one Bush. -- M.J.


There's nothing like a good old-fashioned war to divert public attention away from scandal(s). According to some sources, the Bush administration has one planned, and it may be just a question of when: days, weeks or months.
The Times of India published this report last month:
US preparations for invading Iran are complete: Report
[By] Rashmee Roshan Lal
LONDON: American preparations for invading Iran are complete and a major conventional war with Teheran could begin any day, according to a chilling new report that coincides with leading US Democrat Congressmen's warning to President Bush that he does not have the authority to go to war with Iran.

The report, by authoritative defence expert Dan Plesch, says American military operations for Iran "extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran's military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons."

Plesch, who is known to be well-connected and well-networked at the very highest reaches of the trans-Atlantic political and defence establishment, quoted unnamed British military sources to say that "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad.

He said his sources added that the US has continued this target-Iran strategy ever since, even though the American infantry continues to be bogged down fighting the insurgency in Iraq.

In an assertion that has astonished European capitals, the defence guru claimed that despite the gross failure to re-build post-Saddam Iraq, American hubris extends to plans for a "peaceful" post-invasion "settlement" for Iran. This plan will seek to create a federal nation, an "Iran of the regions", he said.
With the administration embattled with yet another scandal, involving the firing of U.S. attorneys, it's such a convenient time for Big Brother to get us a new, improved enemy, one that even many liberals can hate. After all, that country's leader is a hard-liner who has even denied that the Holocaust took place. He seems more than a bit of a kook -- even more of one than we have in the White House. (You know, the fella who has lots of meaningful dialogues with God, now that he's sober.)
I won't discuss whether such a war, to be fought over Iran's apparent nuclear ambitions, would be justified. I won't go back in time, to 1953, about how the U.S. set itself up for this dilemma by engineering a coup that overthrew a legitimate nationalist government and installed the Shah in power for 25 brutal years, largely because Big Oil coveted Iran's reserves. I won't even go into the usual tedious humanitarian objections to all the civilian carnage that would surely follow such an invasion. Let us assume here as the Right does, just for the sake of argument, that U.S. moral authority is beyond question and that we would have a perfect right to lay waste to large portions of Iran and its people, unless its government backs down on the nukes.
A new military adventure of this kind by the Bush neo-con cabal would have the potential to become a far worse disaster than the Iraq war has been. The problem is, and has been for four years now, that our all-volunteer military is severely overextended. We've already got two wars going, and even the one in Afghanistan now looks far from over. This administration, with its remarkable hubris, did not pick our battles wisely.
Afghanistan, historically, is a very bad place to make war. But toppling the Taliban seemed very much the thing to do at the time, since they were harboring bin Laden and al-Qaida. But then the neo-cons soon got us into an elective war in Iraq, one that at least initially had nothing at all to do with the particular terrorists we were supposed to be hunting. Message to the Right Wing: There was no verifiable link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida; even the administration conceded that, albeit long after the invasion.
To be sure, Saddam was an evil dude. But he was being effectively contained; and toppling him got U.S. troops caught up in a bloody civil war, and actually opened Iraq's borders so that al-Qaida terrorists could enter the country after that.
It's hard to understand how even the most indoctrinated super-patriot fails to see that this was, at the very least, a devastating blunder. And, there's not going to be any good way out of it.
And now we're looking at the possibility of war with Iran. Certainly they don't have the military technology to win, at least not outright. Their infrastructure would likely be demolished quickly.
But consider: This is a country of 70 million, over three times the size of Iraq, with the median age of the male population being 25.4 years, according to the CIA Factbook. And, as the Israelis discovered long ago, women can shoot, too. They can be very lethal rifle soldiers.
That's an awful lot of cannon fodder. Would there be an insurgency? Imagine Iraq, times 3 or 4. And Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite. The Iranians wouldn't likely be fighting each other very much, as the Iraqis are.
It's a bigger country than Iraq in land mass, too, and there's lots of mountains. It would require a huge occupation force. (Hey, young fellas -- ready to get that draft notice from Chickenhawk George?)
And, what will the neighbors think? Iraq has Shiite militias that aren't openly fighting us now. If we invade a Shiite neighbor, do you figure they might? And what about Syria, to name only one Arab country that might be chapped?
Let's think on an even broader scale. Is there a possibility that Israel would get involved on our side, and then attacked? (Not necessarily in that order.) They have nukes, by the way. And hey, I just remembered that Russia and China have nukes, too. Lots of them. And big armies. And they've already warned the U.S. against such military action. We can only hope that they would be loath to get involved in such a bloody mess and would limit themselves to strong condemnations of U.S. actions.
We've got the potential for World War III here, with the entire Mideast as Ground Zero. Surely, one would think, our leaders would be circumspect enough not to get us involved in such a needless Armageddon.
But think again. Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, has written about a group of men who served during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, and also Bush the First in early '90s, as high-level, but not top-level, officials. They were often referred to (reportedly, for one, by then-General Colin Powell) as "the crazies." Name any reckless military action you can imagine from that time, and they were for it.
Guess what? These are the men who have been in charge of Bush policy in the Mideast, for over six years.
And one thing we've seen over and over is that a nasty war, with lots of burning Humvees, bodybags and gutwagons, will be Page One, at least for a good while. In that news budget meeting, the fired U.S. attorneys wouldn't stand a chance. And flag lapel pins will become mandatory. ("Hey, hippie, America's at war. Git a f***ing haircut and join the f***ing Marines!")
I'm not much of a gambler. But if I were, I would bet a modest sum that the U.S., Israel and other allies would eventually win such a protracted, epic war -- but the costs would be almost unimaginable. Envision the United Kingdom in 1946 -- victorious, but in ruins. I would wager further that the U.S. would emerge in a similar condition, and our world "hegenomy" would be ceded to up-and-comers like China, Japan and India. I don't think that's what the neo-cons, or any other "cons" for that matter, had in mind. Believe it or not, Righties, that ain't even what them godless liberals wants.
And by the way, this plan for postwar Iran -- sounds mighty familiar, doesn't it? Our officials seem to be stuck in a mode of: "We're going to make all the same mistakes again. But we're going to make them better this time."
Now back to that Times of India report:
Defence experts said the revelation that America's military planning is advanced and well-calibrated to wipe out chunks of Iran's installations and infrastructure and could lay bare swathes of the country was bound to scare policy makers and diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. ...

Plesch's report claimed the US Army, Navy, Air Force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for "Operation Iranian Freedom". He added that Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerised plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).

He chillingly claimed, "US defence establishment's programme called "Global Strike" means that, without any obvious signal, what was done to Serbia and Lebanon can be done overnight to the whole of Iran." He added saying, "We, and probably the Iranians, would not know about it until after the bombs fell. Forces that hide will suffer the fate of Saddam's armies, once their positions are known." 

Semper fi, y'all.

Friday, March 16, 2007



Are the ides of March finally arriving for Karl Rove? Bush's "turd blossom" has led a charmed life for many years. But with the U.S. attorneys scandal now exploding, can it be that Doughface is about to, at long last, face the long knives?

I will present an excerpt here from a report from the McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau. The reporters were Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor:

"... Allen Weh, the [New Mexico Republican] party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias [for New Mexico] to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

" 'Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?' Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.

" 'He's gone,' Rove said, according to Weh.

" 'I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,' said Weh.

"Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire Iglesias and seven U.S. attorneys in other states was a personnel matter - made without White House intervention. Justice Department officials have said the White House's involvement was limited to approving a list of the U.S. attorneys after the Justice Department made the decision to fire them.

"Rove could not be reached Saturday, and the White House and the Justice Department had no immediate response.

" 'The facts speak for themselves,' Iglesias said, when he was told of Weh's account of his conversation with Rove."

With congressional subpoenas still in the works, it remains to be seen whether anything illegal was done. But what has come out, clearly, was that Iglesias and most of the other fired U.S. attorneys had been getting good job evaluations. They were fired because they weren't being cooperative right-wing Republican political hacks.

Iglesias wasn't bringing the right cases against Democrats, as he apparently learned under pressure from the GOP's U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, both of New Mexico. He was, he says, pressured to bring indictments against certain Democrats in time for the 2006 congressional elections. And he wasn't quite cooperating. (Our Republican moguls, of course, deny it all.)

But, back to Herr Rove. It's too bad that so many are focused on getting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a scummy enough right-winger himself, to step down, and not recognizing who the more experienced and enthusiastic hatchetman is here.

Herr Rove doesn't lack for chutzpah. Like other large rodents, he tries to spit like a puma when cornered. But the sound of him accusing congressional Democrats of playing partisan politics on this issue rises to a new level of absurdity. This sleazy man has built a lucrative career on character assassination, partisan dirty tricks and, arguably, electoral larceny.

Like other large rodents, Herr Rove has a talent for being able to find a secure spot in the woodpile when he needs to hide. But let's hope that this time he can't. And beyond him, the woodpile still needs plenty of cleaning. One can only hope that Scattergun Dick, and then Il Doofus himself, will be outed, too. Senator Leahy -- let's roll that wood. And get the rat poison ready.


Monday, March 5, 2007


C'mon, it was just a joke. I wouldn't say that lesbians are like Ann Coulter. That would be really mean.

Sunday, March 4, 2007



It is hard to figure out how to deal with a public figure as vile as Ann Coulter.

This fetid product of gated-community privilege has spent her adult life spewing contempt at everyone and everything different from the sorority-house milieu that she surely knows too well. This is not unusual in itself.

But what makes Ann different is her nasty gift for perverse self-promotion. She is quite calculating in her use of epithets such as "faggot" and "raghead." She suggests that Timothy McVeigh was wrong only in that he did not target The New York Times. She says perhaps the solution to the Mideast crisis is that we should simply invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert the populace to Christianity. Her ad hominem attacks on political opponents have become ad nauseum, they are so predictable and frequent.

So, how have the mainstream media dealt with the blond hatchet-face? The responses have been wide-ranging. Some outlets have mostly ignored her. Others have gone so far as to call her some kind of American Voltaire -- which shows how decadent our MSM have become. Either way, Ann has trumped her physical opposite, the corpulent, oozing Sultan of Slime, the would-be Court Jester to the Third Reich, Herr Rush Limbaugh. With the miniskirts and the carefully crafted persona of Debutante From Hell, she has stolen Fat Boy's thunder.

How should she be dealt with? It's a tough question. I've got a suggestion. When one chooses to live by the sword, one should die by it. Ann specializes in ad hominem attacks. OK, here goes:

This is an unmarried woman, 45 years old, who has reportedly broken off a number of engagements. When some reporter pointed out that this seemed at odds with her "family values" politics, she dismissed the reporter as "ugly." And, she once commented about how all the pretty girls on college campuses seemed to be the ones she saw in Republican and conservative groups. Does she dig them? Makes you wonder a little, doesn't it? Unmarried at 45, and admiring the young GOP sweeties? (I believe the analogous word for "faggot" is "dyke." Please don't send me to rehab.)

She has enhanced her career by being tall, blond, leggy and skinny. Well, to me she looks skinny enough to be bulimic (Thrown up any veggie burgers lately, Ann?), and her limbs look like toothpicks. She has no cleavage to speak of. She's somewhere between hatchet-faced and horse-faced, and she's got bug eyes. She's a hard-looking woman who won't age well without help from her plastic surgeon.

She's the spawn of affluent people in Connecticut who were able to send Miss Prissy Princess to all the best schools and universities, where she no doubt shared her stuffed toys with her dainty suitemates. She has no firsthand idea how most people have to make it in life. Her mind is a gated community.

Her main talent is for the insult, and that has made her temporarily famous. She will be remembered much the same way Father Coughlin or Joe McCarthy are now. Voltaire has nothing to worry about.

This is a person who will, I forecast, be remembered as a sort of perfumed vermin of our time.

Live by the sword, die by it. Fair enough?


Saturday, March 3, 2007

Manifesto Joe starts doing his own thing

A message to readers of the site beggarscanbechoosers.com: This is Manifesto Joe, an underground writer living in Texas. I was, for over a year, a regular contributor to Marc McDonald's blog. I have decided, since my last post on his blog in November, to launch a blog of my own.

What to expect? This will be a progressive site, but don't expect political correctness or slavish adherence to any party line. I consider it a matter of principle to think independently, even if it puts me at odds with whatever the kneejerk left is saying at the moment.

But don't expect me to express any sympathy for fundamentalist cretins, trust-fund fools, corporate dough-faces, or other such vermin on this blog. I don't regard myself as a "liberal"; that is a word that, in many parts of the world, does not represent my view. I am a progressive and a populist in a traditional American sense, which means that I embrace a more enlightened kind of self-interest. The fatcats think of us, the common slobs, in terms of divide and conquer. If they can get us atomized, working against each other rather than cooperating, forming unions, etc., they win every battle. It's time to turn the tide and win the war.

More later. This is just an opening post.