Friday, September 28, 2007

On Natural Monopolies: Electric Deregulation Was A Trojan Horse

By Manifesto Joe

The late Molly Ivins once wrote something to the effect that after a service is deregulated, the result is that people often discover why it was regulated in the first place.

For 30 years, the "Priesthood of the Free Market" has been hellbent to sell Americans on the deregulation and privatization of damn near everything. Their progress has been astonishing. Even the Iraq war seems to have been about half outsourced.

After considering the deregulation of the electricity market, I am inclined to look beyond the "true believers" of the free market, and toward those whose only true belief is in maximization of profits, no matter the cost to anyone else. Remember the story of the Trojan Horse?

But the tide may finally be turning. It appears that many officials in states where electricity has been deregulated (about a third have done so) have come to similar conclusions as the late Molly.

The Sept. 21 online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

Support for electric deregulation has dramatically fallen among the nation's utility regulators, with one-third in deregulated states expressing the likelihood of some sort of re-regulation, according to a new survey.

Conducted in conjunction with Standard & Poor's, the telephone survey of 96 state utility regulators also showed a plurality answering "none" when asked which states operate the most successful deregulated market. ...

Tim Morstad, an analyst with AARP-Texas ... said the poll should some as no surprise to anyone who pays a light bill in Texas. ...

"The rest of the country is figuring out what Texas consumers already know, that deregulation fails to deliver lower rates and better service," he said. ...

The survey also found that 43 percent of regulators in states with deregulation say it does not work well, and 37 percent said it does. Moreover, 54 percent of regulators in states with deregulation report that re-regulation is likely.

Texas is far from the only state where ratepayers have seen this kind of deception. This is from an article carried by The Associated Press in April:

BENTON, Ill. --This wasn't supposed to happen with deregulation. Electric bills were supposed to go down. Instead, Ellie Dorchincez can almost see the dollars evaporating every time she turns on the lights or opens the freezer at her small Farm Fresh grocery store.

Her electric bill, which used to be about $800 a month, has jumped to $1,800. ...

The cause of her distress is a common problem: the failure of deregulation to deliver its promise of lower electricity prices. In many states, it's had the opposite effect with sharply higher rates -- 72 percent in Maryland, up to 50 percent in Illinois.

Not one of the 16 states -- plus the District of Columbia -- that have pushed forward with deregulation since the late 1990s can call it a success. In fact, consumers in those states fared worse than residents in states that stuck with a policy of regulating their power industries.

An Associated Press analysis of federal data shows consumers in the 17 deregulated areas paid an average of 30 percent more for power in 2006 than their counterparts in regulated states. That's up from a 24 percent gap in 1990.

The idea was to move from a monopoly situation to robust competition for electric customers, with backers promising potentially lower rates in state after state. ...

But competition, especially for residential and small business customers, rarely emerged. ...

Consumer groups ... say deregulation has had a chance to prove itself. In Texas, for example, competition did develop after rate caps ended -- but the energy prices remained higher.

In Robert Kuttner's now-classic 1998 book Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limitations of Markets, the economist wrote (p. 228):

We regulate some industries because they work more efficiently as monopolies. It would be wasteful and duplicative to have two parallel gas pipelines, two sets of telephone poles, two parallel rail lines, or two electric grids. Neither supplier could cover his costs by running at half-capacity, and both would soon have to raise prices or go out of business. Left alone, one would likely absorb the other. ...

Once we tolerate a monopoly, the producer is no longer subject to the discipline of competition. ... in principle the consumer is free not to buy the product. But in many natural monopolies, such as electricity, water, and transit, the product is a virtual necessity, and consumer demand is fairly inelastic; hence the consumer cannot discipline the monopolist.

Enter those godless socialists, the regulators. But I suspect that by now there are many God-fearing ratepayers in Texas and many other states who wish to God they had those crypto-Marxists back.

I reluctantly stuck with Reliant Energy here in the Lone Star State, in part just to see what they would do after the latest phase of deregulation. You know, like, to test the classical economic theory. Silly me. I went from paying 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 14.5 cents -- and the latter during the worst heat of the Texas summer. I'm certain, of course, that this was just a coincidence. I'm nevertheless switching to a "competitor" -- but not holding my breath for much improvement.

I posted this comment on a great blog, Red Hog Diary, about the health-care issue. But I think it also says a bit about natural monopolies that is salient:

A good incision sometimes works wonders. I'm going to try one.

The crucial thing so many seem to miss, and that populations of every developed country other than the U.S. have eventually understood, is that health care isn't a sector of the economy that is governed by a classical market mechanism. It's mostly what is termed a natural monopoly.

There are circumstances when one can make certain consumer choices. But if you've ever been picked up by an ambulance in what seemed like a life-threatening situation, you're not going to be able to shop around for the best room rates at the hospitals. Not if you want to live. Once you're in a hospital, you have to take it pretty much the way they offer it. It ain't like showing up at a flea market, haggling with the merchants like an Arab trader.

What I see is a fundamental mistake of people trying to apply classical economics to a sector that has never -- ever -- shown the appropriate characteristics for that. The rest of the world understands this. Even if they bitch about the particulars of their government systems, ask yourself why they aren't moving toward any emulation of ours.

Although I digress a bit -- these "thinkers" make the same mistake with utility deregulation. Where I live, under deregulation, I'm paying considerably more for electrical power now. It is another example of a natural monopoly. I can't play off two electrical grids against each other for lower rates, any more than I can do that between hospitals when I'm sick.

And, of course, I'm paying more for health care. Much, much more, outpacing inflation. Every passing year. And more for electricity. And more for medicine ... Get the picture?

I shouldn't leave this subject without noting that there is evidence of considerable chicanery by utility corporations left in charge of the proverbial henhouse. This is from an April 11 article in the online edition of the San Antonio Express-News:

Last week, TXU executives, facing a $210 million state fine for alleged price manipulations in the summer of 2005, threatened to withhold power by shutting down natural-gas-powered electricity plants if the allegations were not dropped.

That's so Enron. That kind of abusive management mentality went out of style with the Enron implosion of 2001. (It did? -- MJ)

The group of investors trying to buy TXU had to scold the TXU executives into withdrawing the threat a few days later. The executives' capitulation indicates that the potential buyers are deciding policy at TXU headquarters these days.

I have no argument whatsoever with market approaches that are genuinely competitive, socially responsible and deliver the goods in the best possible way. Ideally, the relationship between markets and governments is symbiotic: governments providing the infrastructure markets depend on to thrive, and strong markets supplying governments with the tax base they need in order to deliver on their end. Government entities can be maddeningly inefficient, but I've worked for large corporations that seemed to be trying to compete with them on that score.

This is how the prosperous economies of developed countries have really been built -- with a mixed system. (This World Wide Web: courtesy of the government. Look it up.)

As economist Kuttner wrote:

Faith in idealized market structures also has spawned a political jihad intent upon stripping away the community and governmental safeguards against market abuses and imperfections -- safeguards that are essential to the modern American system constructed during the Great Depression and after World War II. In addition, an overtly and proudly selfish ideology finances and propels the drive to cut taxes on the wealthy, punch holes in the social safety net, and "unchain" business from the shackles of regulation and litigation. The conservative catechism castigates those who would "reward need" by supporting public programs for the poor and, at its most radical, even rejects Adam Smith's conviction that the state must provide the bedrock of the educational and physical infrastructure of an industrialized society.

Plainly, utilities are usually natural monopolies, and Americans were ripped off en masse when the "Priesthood" sold so many on electric deregulation.

The corporate Trojan Horse is inside the gates, but it's not too late to drag it back out. It's just a shame that we the people, and more importantly our lawmakers, have to keep "relearning" these hard lessons.

R.I.P., Dear Molly. You saw this coming years ago, and you told us so.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For Aggregate Stupidity, I Think Bush Has Finally Been Outperformed By The President Of Iran

By Manifesto Joe

First, don't get me wrong. I think war with Iran would be a mistake that would make war with Iraq look like a trivial error in comparison. I know about the history of the U.S. and Iran, the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup, the 25-year imposition of the nasty American-backed dictatorship of the Shah, the subsequent "blowback," and so on. I am not ignorant or naive about any of this in the least. Containment -- like we didn't do with Saddam Hussein -- would be the rational response to any future conflict with Iran.

But it's time to say this: The current leader of Iran is either appallingly disingenuous, or a moron. I didn't think it possible that anyone could make Bush look even halfway shrewd in comparison. This cretin does.

He knowingly walked into a Western intellectual ambush at Columbia University on Monday. I won't even get into the issues about his imbecilic questioning of the Holocaust.

This guy actually said, among other things, and with a straight face, that there are no homosexuals in Iran. I understand that the response was derisive laughter.

I can't imagine that he didn't know what to expect. Here's what The New York Times reported:

He said that there were no homosexuals in Iran — not one — and that the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews should not be treated as fact, but theory, and therefore open to debate and more research.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, aired those and other bewildering thoughts in a two-hour verbal contest at Columbia University yesterday, providing some ammunition to people who said there was no point in inviting him to speak. Yet his appearance also offered evidence of why he is widely admired in the developing world for his defiance toward Western, especially American, power.

Well, most certainly the Bush presidency has seriously undermined any American claim to moral authority on the world stage. And when Ahmadinejad talks -- in many parts of the world, people listen.

But, to the bottom line: Even Il Doofus isn't this fucking stupid. At least not publicly. I can't think of any other world leader who could be. If I'm wrong, in terms of pure public ignorance, send me names.

The Associated Press reported:

He provoked derisive laughter by responding to a question about Iran's execution of homosexuals by saying: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country ... I don't know who's told you that we have this."

No, stupidity isn't grounds for a declaration of war. If this were so, we should declare war on ourselves, based on policy of the last several years. And, one thing to consider: If Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson had been given the opportunity to have this much power here, would they have been much different?

But, this is a man here and now, with plenty of convoluted brown matter between his ears. And he has a lot of power. His ideas are silly, but a person in this position in the world can't really be dismissed with such a word. He is yet one more reason to be very, very afraid.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bush Lets Schwarzenfart, Gore Upstage Him At Summit

By Manifesto Joe

I suppose that all heads of state have to make their own decisions about how to spend their international political capital. That's especially true when they have been anointed by God. But it's especially sad when they are being upstaged by a guy named Arnold who had to learn how to stop spitting on his chin during his acting career.

It looks to me like Il Doofus (that's an old one, and not TM'ed. But I do like yours better, Strannix.) decided that he doesn't have to worry about anything that the pedestrian world community is concerned about.

He's not even going to show for the Monday U.N. meeting in Montreal about global warming, or for any other environmental issue raised there. He's got his own little Beltway summit planned for later in the week.

I can understand what the Bush "tactic" is meant to be. For one thing, none of this is popular among the crowd that he moves in. They can't make any serious money this way, like they can drilling for oil in Alaska. Basically, he disregarded the whole Kyoto thing, perhaps at the risk of the planet's future.

This is what the U.S. presidency has come to. It is profoundly sad that the governor of "Kal-ee-fornia," a guy who qualified himself for the job as a champion bodybuilder, popular action-movie star, and Kennedy in-law -- and had to struggle to quell the sidespit on his chin as a Hollywood thespian -- is upstaging Il Doofus in Montreal today. And yet, few seem to notice.

And then, there's Al Gore. He seems to have almost transcended those mundane aspirations for the presidency, as if it were virtually a role for lesser beings. Since Al was swindled out of the presidency by a partisan Supreme Court, the world as a whole has suffered. But he, individually, hasn't. Globally, he seems to be taken all the more seriously now.

Anyway, on to the obligatory excerpt from the Reuters report:

Bush has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that requires 36 industrial nations to cut greenhouse emissions by at least 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

He contends the accord unfairly burdens rich countries while exempting developing countries like China and India and that it will cost U.S. jobs.

Developing countries have said it is unfair to ask them to curb their emissions as their economies grow while industrialized nations have been polluting for decades.

Bush does plan to speak at a two-day Washington meeting at the State Department on Thursday and Friday, a gathering of "major economies" -- the world's biggest global warming contributors -- on energy security and climate change.

The dude who is spitting on his chin seems the more intelligent of the two.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cornyn Watch: Senator Protecting Us From MoveOn Traitors

By Manifesto Joe

It's so damned comforting that Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, took the initiative in guarding our republic from those slimy traitors at He could perhaps have been doing other things, like figuring out how to get U.S. troops out of this quagmire of a civil war in Iraq. But he has his priorities. Defending a man of impeccable truth such as Gen. David Petraeus just had to go on the senator's front burner.

For those who hadn't heard or read, the Senate this week passed a symbolic resolution, 72-25, condemning the "General Betray Us?" ad that MoveOn put in the Sept. 10 edition of The New York Times. Cornyn was the sponsor.

At a time when there are U.S.-sponsored mercenaries killing people in Iraq, a federal investigation into alleged gun-running by the same organization, and a general collapse of the situation there, it's reassuring that the senator is so determinedly standing up for America and supporting our troops -- well, at least those above the rank of full colonel who toe the party line.

I note again that the senator is preparing to stand for re-election next November. How could Texans imagine voting for anyone else, with things going so splendidly?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Legislator Scrapes Texas GOP Off His Boots

By Manifesto Joe

And I hope he gets them a good scrubbing, too. I've been waiting for this to start happening in Texas for quite some time. I've read that it's been happening recently in a few other "red" states, like Kansas: moderate Republicans realizing that, in many regions, the GOP has gone psycho. Texas is one of the classic examples of this pathology.

State Rep. Kirk England of Grand Prairie, a large Dallas suburb, announced Wednesday that he is switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and that he plans to seek re-election as a Dem. He wasn't very upfront about his reasons, but here's what the online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted him as saying:

"After one session in the House, I found that the Republican leadership in Austin had no tolerance for the values and priorities of the folks I represent," England said ...

"I trust the voters in District 106, and I am confident that my friends and neighbors agree that doing what is right is more important than partisan politics," England said. He cited public education, the Children's Health Insurance Program and rising utility rates as key issues.

This is more significant than it may seem. England's father, Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England, is a longtime Republican. There's no particular reason Kirk would have done this unless he somehow found his future as a legislator questionable. It's very unlikely he had some progressive epiphany in recent months.

What happened to him, apparently, can be summarized in one name: Tom Craddick, the Texas House speaker. The Star-Telegram report continued:

Democrats were quick to connect England's switch to ongoing dissatisfaction with House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland. ...

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said England's move is a sign that the Republican Party is losing its grip on Texas. Veasey said Craddick's heavy-handedness is facilitating that shift.

"I think that Craddick has a hard time letting people represent their district," Veasey said. "Kirk understands the changes taking place in that district, and I think Craddick never appreciated that."

I assume that most readers of this blog would be, at most, only vaguely familiar with Tom Craddick. I'll begin by explaining that he's been very tight with former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

And here's a link that provides more.

Anyway, Craddick, a Midland Republican, is a tin-pot Napoleon who has faced challenges within his party. And now, it appears, at least one of the more forward-thinking Republicans (Yes, I know; which ones are those?) is moving on. Not only are the demographics in this state changing rapidly -- we will be majority Hispanic before very long -- a lot of the swing voters may start to recognize what the GOP is really about. And that could end Republican domination of Texas, and of some other states as well.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Overmedicated America And The Grim Reaper

By Manifesto Joe

In August I posted a piece about how the U.S. is slipping in life expectancy compared with many other countries. I included comments and data on deaths from adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs. There are enough of them that this should be a scandal in the medical community, and for the Food and Drug Administration as well.

There are new data available on this, from last week's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, as reported by The Associated Press. AP, citing the article, reported:

Reports of dangerous side effects and deaths from widely used medicines almost tripled between 1998 and 2005, an analysis of U.S. drug data found.

The number of deaths and serious injuries from prescription and over-the-counter drugs climbed from 34,966 to 89,842 during the study of reports to the Food and Drug Administration.

Potent narcotic painkillers including Oxycontin, sold generically as oxycodone, were among 15 drugs most often linked with deaths in the study. Drugs frequently linked with serious nonfatal complications included insulin, the arthritis drugs Vioxx and Remicade, and the antidepressant Paxil.

The report adds to recent criticism of FDA oversight on drug safety, including its handling of serious problems connected with Vioxx, which was removed from the market in 2004.

The authors, Thomas Moore and Michael Cohen of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, and Dr. Curt Furberg of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, urged sweeping legislative and policy reforms.

They reported that the number of deaths from medications nearly tripled in seven years, from 5,519 in 1998 to 15,107 in 2005. The total number of serious complications between January 1998 and December 2005: 467,809.

Not that those statistics are so shocking. A lot more people die in traffic accidents. But when the deaths nearly triple in seven years, this seems a clear indication that there's something awry in the existing system.

And there's an untold part of this story. Within the past three years, I've been hospitalized twice with symptoms that were, in hindsight, clearly medication-induced.

A doctor might accuse me of trying to practice medicine without a license. Well, I certainly want the licensed docs to keep practicing. Maybe someday they'll get it right.

One doesn't have to be very knowledgeable about medicine to see a connection. Both times I was hospitalized, I suspected meds. And lo and behold, when I discontinued the suspected drugs, the symptoms quickly went away! I was exercising regularly and normally again two weeks after each discharge. A connection, ya think?

But in both instances, the only lasting injuries were to my bank balance. In neither case did any doctor so much as acknowledge the relationship of my symptoms to meds, nor did they even try to explore the possibility.

This tells me that data the authors got from the FDA were only the obvious cases of injury and death. There are likely many more cases that go unattributed to drugs, and unreported; and still many more like mine in which the patient, through luck or common sense, escaped permanent harm.

Anyway, the FDA issued the bureaucrat's classic vague response, saying that neither they nor anybody else really knows what is causing the spike in adverse reactions. But if you've been in a doctor's office sometime in the past decade, you've probably been offered a free sample of something. Some are giving them out like Halloween candy. They get these from pharmaceutical salesmen -- who are pushing meds that, because of inadequate FDA scrutiny, have on occasion turned out to be killers.

Fortunately, there's concern about this even on the Republican side of the aisle. The AP report concluded:

Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and frequent FDA critic, said the report is another indication that the FDA's review of drugs already on the market "must be rigorous and timely."

A postscript, somewhat off-subject:
The number of deaths in 2005 attributed to legal medications: 15,107.
The number of deaths in 2005 attributed to illegal use of marijuana: 0

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

General Petraeus' Not-So-Funny Math

A full-page ad that appeared in Monday's New York Times, placed by, offers a concise look at how Gen. David Petraeus distorted the facts about conditions in Iraq since the "surge" began.

Here's the link. This also gives more detailed evidence to support the ad.

-- MJ

Democrats: Don't Just Sit There Like Burros

By Manifesto Joe

I watched most of it on C-Span, and ran a gamut of frustration, embarrassment, disgust, and so on. Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker laid a huge heap of cherry-picked horse manure on two House committees Monday. It must have taken a long time to collect so much, so carefully. And, for the most part, the Democrats from Ike Skelton on down just sat there like burros.

There were polite questions suggesting the original mendacity of the Iraq war (to her credit, there was a nice moment from Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.); notice of discrepancies between Petraeus' statistical depiction of Iraqi sectarian violence and other reports; and a few observations that, like, we've heard all this before, in 2004, 2005, 2006 ...

But the Democrats sitting in on this were, in general, contemptibly passive. Everybody was just too damned polite.

I was especially embarrassed by a questioner from my home state, Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas. It's no secret that Solomon has never been the sharpest pencil in the House box. He got elected sheriff of Nueces County, and then somehow persuaded enough voters that this qualified him to represent the Corpus Christi area in the U.S. House. And he's been there for 24 years. It was painful to watch him try to level any incisive questions at Petraeus.

There were a few flashes of what should have been. The New York Times reported:

One of the few lawmakers to challenge General Petraeus was Representative Robert Wexler, a Democrat from Florida, who accused the commander of “cherry-picking statistics” and “massaging information.” He compared the testimony to that given in a 1967 speech to Congress by Gen. William C. Westmoreland, when he said American forces were making progress and would prevail.

But it was, in general, a limp humiliation.

Buffoon Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman had, as one of his 2006 campaign slogans, the "de-wussification" of the state. I don't think Kinky had his target picked right. The Democratic Party needs his program, immediately.

Democrats, please -- stop sitting there like burros.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cornyn Watch: The Senator And Brain Damage

By Manifesto Joe

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is looking toward a re-election campaign next year, and his office is wasting no time generating schlock for unsuspecting e-mail users across the state. In his latest e-mail, the senator told us what he did on his summer vacation, and a lot of it was military-minded:

"As usual, what I heard was far different from what the national news media reports as conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. While visiting with troops and their families at Fort Bliss, Fort Hood and at the Soldier Appreciation Day in Round Rock, I was repeatedly reassured that morale among our volunteer military is high."

(Here's a link about the spike in the suicide rate among troops deployed in Iraq)

"Our service men and women have a far better grasp on their mission, and our prospects for success, than do some of my Congressional colleagues. The troops say they’re more committed than ever to their mission."

(Well, maybe more than ever are being committed. reported on March 13 that "Nearly a third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who received care from Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2005 were diagnosed with mental health or psychosocial ills, a new study concludes. The study was published in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center."

Back to the senator: "Many Texans also told me they want to be sure we have a winning strategy in Iraq, and they are encouraged by the progress we’re making. ... to abandon the mission before Iraq is secure would allow that country to again (???) become a breeding ground for terrorism. Our focus must remain on the long-term security interest of the United States, and ensuring our enemy doesn’t follow us back home. ..."

Nothing strikes more fear in my heart than the prospect of Sunni insurgents attacking South Padre Island during next year's spring break. Think of those frat boys parking their Jeep Grand Cherokees right on top of IEDs.

But, concerns about homeland security aside, it might be enlightening for the senator to visit a facility at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where many veterans undergo treatment for brain damage suffered in combat. It's being described as an epidemic.

The Associated Press reports today:

Thousands of troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. These blast-caused head injuries are so different from the ones doctors are used to seeing from falls and car crashes that treating them is as much faith as it is science.

"I've been in the field for 20-plus years dealing with TBI. I have a very experienced staff. And they're saying to me, 'We're seeing things we've never seen before,'" said Sandy Schneider, director of Vanderbilt University's brain injury rehabilitation program.

Doctors also are realizing that symptoms overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that both must be treated. Odd as it may seem, brain injury can protect against PTSD by blurring awareness of what happened.

But as memory improves, emotional problems can emerge: One of the first "graduates" of Vanderbilt's program committed suicide three weeks later.

"Of all the ones here, he would not have been the one we would have thought," Schneider said. "They called him the Michelangelo of Fort Campbell" — a guy who planned to go to art school.

The senator's platitudes do not constitute support for, but rather a pathetic insult to, these courageous soldiers. They come back from Iraq dealing with short-term memory loss and emotional scars sustained in a war started on fabrications, and continued on delusions for going on five years.

It's a different kind of brain damage. And, if John Cornyn is an example, it's an epidemic among members of Congress.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Osama Wants Me For A Sunbeam

By Manifesto Joe

We've awaited with bated breath the new Osama bin Laden video, and he's burnished his image. With newly dyed beard, he denounces American-style capitalism, globalism, and those damned subprime mortgages; disingenuously praises Noam Chomsky (who wouldn't last one week free in a country ruled by him); and urges Americans who wish to end the Iraq war to -- embrace Islam. You infidels, you. Go out and buy that prayer rug, post haste. No more Playboy magazines.

Well, there's much wrong there, and it isn't hard to pinpoint. But who's to argue with the promise of 70 willing virgins upon one's death as a martyr? Or with such an example of Islamic virtue as bin Laden?

What's a bit of collateral damage anyway, to you pragmatic American types? It's just a few thousand more damned souls going their ordained way.

As much as we are dealing quite nastily with myriad fools here in this society, it's important to realize that foolishness and evil, of the worst kinds, are very much global phenomena. They can even be a bit worse in some other settings.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What Ron Paul Should Have Said At The Debate

By Manifesto Joe

It's not surprising that a debate under the auspices of Fox News would be hostile turf for the Republicans' sole presidential candidate who opposes the Iraq war. But I think even U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was taken aback by the shivs that were being drawn Wednesday night in New Hampshire.

Being an old night-shift, burned-out journalist, I was stuck at a desk and didn't get to watch the debate live. But I read the accounts, and Paul apparently did an OK job of defending himself. But there's so much more he could have said in rebuttal.

The sharpest exchange of the night may have come not between Paul and one of his rivals, but between Paul and Fox News propagandist Chris Wallace, one of the "questioners." The Associated Press reported that Paul:

... made the case for withdrawing troops. That drew a sharp challenge from Chris Wallace ... who asked whether the United States should take its marching orders from al-Qaida.

"No! We should take our marching orders from our Constitution," Paul shouted back, pointing his pen at Wallace for emphasis. "We should not go to war without a declaration" by Congress.

That was a fair counterpoint, but it could have been much better. Paul may have been taken aback by the impudence of the questioner, who seems to have learned right-wing
distortion tactics at Sean Hannity's knee. And in the heat of debate, sometimes one doesn't think of the right thing to have said until later.

It seems to me he should have said something more like this:

"No, Chris. We should take our marching orders from the American people, who in polls oppose continuation of this war by 65 to 70 percent. But you miss another crucial point.

"Al-Qaida wants the U.S. to stay in Iraq. There's nothing we could do for the next few years that would be more to their advantage. Sure, let's squander tens of billions more dollars, and thousands more American lives, on a civil war that we're inflaming rather than resolving. Let's deplete our military capability to act against terrorists elsewhere in the world, where it might actually count. Let's just flat-out 'break' our armed forces, when you come down to it. Osama bin Laden must be laughing gleefully in whatever hole he's hiding in.

"We're doing damage to our national defense, and to our reputation in the world community, that will take at least a generation to repair. If you want us to take marching orders from al-Qaida, by all means, let's 'stay the course.' "

Just as my own aside to this, it looks increasingly like the U.S. is being led into what amounts to rope-a-dope. Old-time boxing fans, what few of you are left: Remember Ali vs. Foreman, October 1974, the "Rumble in the Jungle?" There's no way a frightening puncher like the 25-year-old George Foreman should have lost that match to a 32-year-old, somewhat over-the-hill Muhammad Ali. But he was overconfident, showed classic hubris -- and lost entirely on tactics.

Not that the geopolitical/military situation is that simple. But I think there's a telling analogy there. If you're wearing yourself out beating on an opponent, and yet he's still there, inviting you in for more, you're probably doing something wrong. It's time to step back and rethink this.

Anyway, Ron Paul hasn't been acquitting himself badly in these debates, but I would take a different tack if I were him. Not that it's very important to me. I obviously want a Democrat to win next year, or I wouldn't be writing on this blog.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ron Paul Neophytes Learn That This Party Is Under Schricht Control

Now I can see why Ron finished third in the Texas straw poll, even with the highly organized effort behind him. -- MJ

Katrina, Anniversary 2: The Worst Damage May Have Been Done After

I keep getting madder every time I see something like this. Not only did they let this city be destroyed, they have stood back and permitted the survivors to die slowly. If there is a Hell, I hope there will be a special place in it for certain people. -- MJ

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fred Thompson Appears To Be The Real 'Winner' Of The Texas GOP Straw Poll

By Manifesto Joe

I happened to be in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on business Saturday, and it wasn't the kind of day I wanted to be in the middle of Cowtown. Some 3,000 Republican activists converged on the city the previous day, giving ironic new meaning to the historic setting of the Old West's "Hell's Half Acre." I don't think Butch and Sundance would have blended in well with this particular "wild" bunch. And I noticed there were some mighty swell motor vehicles taking up all those precious parking spaces -- SUVs, Caddys, Hummers, Lexuses and such.

If you follow the news, as I suspect many of you do, you may know that U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California won the Texas GOP's first "straw poll." This hasn't been a top story, because the frontrunners in the scientific polls all skipped this one. But Fred Thompson, not even an official candidate yet, was certainly the symbolic winner. He came in second. And somebody's favorite son, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of our fair state, finished a disappointing third.

The official count Saturday was: Hunter, 534 votes, for 41 percent of the total; Thompson, 266, for nearly 21 percent; Paul, 217, or 17 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 83; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 78; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 61. It dropped off sharply after that. Arizona Sen. John McCain got 8 votes. I'd say he seemed the biggest loser of the day.

There was scant media attention at the national level, and participation was surprisingly weak in a red state. The Texas Republican Party had projected 2,000 voters; something over 1,200 had the credentials and ultimately did.

This event had only the slightest symbolic significance. Texas' primaries are in March -- too late, some say, for the second most populous state to even figure in the real selection of the nominee. But for Fred Thompson, this has to be great news.

If the former Tennessee senator and sometime TV actor can fare this well among the hardcore activists at a gathering where he didn't even show (Hunter and Paul were there and spoke), he seems to have a lot of momentum before he has even declared. To many Republicans right now, at a seeming nadir for their party, he may appear the most "glamorous" choice in a dull field.

As for Duncan Hunter winning, take it with a grain of salt. These were hardcore activists who were in Fort Worth on Friday and Saturday. If you want to know what that means in this state, here's an excerpt from an old post of mine regarding GOP kooks:

The Texas Republican Party, in its delusional 2004 platform, for example, urges that the IRS be eliminated, along with "income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains, corporate income tax, payroll tax and property tax." The state GOP would also kill "the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the position of Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor." (I guess when you believe that The Rapture is coming soon, who needs a government?)

The comparably deranged 2000 platform calls for America to return to the gold standard and supports "individual teachers' right to teach creation science in Texas public schools." It also calls for the United States to quit the United Nations and re-establish control of the Panama Canal. (It stops short of unleashing Chiang Kai-shek's skeletal remains on mainland China.)

People who showed for this thing are the ones who likely sit on the platform committees, as distinguished from the vaguely conservative, baseball-cap Bubbas out there who elect Republican county commissioners and DAs. The straw poll voters were not casual about politics. They had to have solid credentials as recent GOP convention delegates, at some level.

Certainly for Ron Paul, this had to be a big letdown. The newspapers reported that his backers were organized and tried to come to town in force. On Sixth Street I saw an RV that, aside from the windshield and windows, was totally plastered over with Ron Paul bumper stickers and yard signs. Cindy Sheehan actually came to town and spoke at an anti-war rally, and the only Republican signs at that gathering were toted by Paul's isolationist supporters. But there weren't enough of them there, either.

For whatever it's worth, Thompson scored in Texas on Saturday. He proclaims himself a Reagan-style social and economic conservative. That plays well in this state, even though our working class got just as badly raped by Reaganomics as did proles anywhere else in the U.S. The activists like Fred. And I suspect Bubba will, too. He probably watches his TV show.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.