Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time To End The Cable TV Rip-Off: This Is Just The First Step

By Manifesto Joe

Hey, channel surfers: Are you tired of 10 different versions of ESPN? Never watch Hallmark TV, or the Jewelry Channel? Hey, guys: Seen enough reruns of Gilligan's Island that even Ginger, or Mary Ann, can't get you interested in one more look?

This week, we in televisionland are getting a rare break from the Federal Communications Commission. This first move was mostly intended to break the back of the spiraling price increases of pay TV, largely heaped on the backs of the poor.

But much more needs to be done: What we need is menu subscription, and we should have had that long ago.

Here's what the FCC is doing. Thousands of contracts for exclusive service rights, provided to apartment buildings, are to be struck down. A blatantly monopolistic practice is being halted.

But much more needs to be done. This action wasn't the result of any strong official concern for the ratepayers. To quote The New York Times:

"It would be a huge victory for Verizon Communications and AT&T, which have challenged the cable industry by offering their own video services. The two phone companies have lobbied aggressively for the provision. They have been supported in their fight by consumer groups, satellite television companies and small rivals to the big cable providers."

This move will bring cable prices down for a lot of people, especially poor folks living in apartment complexes who were being victimized by monopolistic practices. It's an underreported scandal. Continuing to cite the NYT article, lower-income families have seen prices rise at three times the cost of inflation over the past decade. (I know, you can always go back to an antenna. But does that make the clip job OK?)

Back on subject, there's another step that is badly needed. I was astonished to hear that Kevin Martin, FCC chairman, has actually favored this. The NYT also reported:

"Martin has also pressed the cable companies to offer so-called a la carte plans that would permit subscribers to buy individual channels, or groups of channels, at lower rates than they now pay."

Better watch your ass, Kevin. If Cheney hears about the likes of you in the government, you may soon be toast.

I've been unable to see for many years why the "a la carte" concept couldn't have been part of all this very early -- other than, of course, simple greed. And even after the satellite services came on the scene, ostensibly offering some kind of competition, they behaved like monopolistic competitors (check out the British economist Joan Robinson) and offered essentially the same things as the cable providers, with only marginal improvements.

Here's yet one more take on this, excerpted from the Web site Gizmodo:

"Exclusive deals between landlords and cable companies that force tenants to use a specific cable provider are being terminated by the FCC, which hopes the move will spur competition and drive down cable prices. According to the NYT, the move will be a boon for low-income and minority families, who have "seen cable prices rise about three times the rate of inflation over the last decade," as "40 percent of households headed by Hispanics and African-Americans live in" buildings with 50 or more residents. The more cynical take on the FCC's agenda (as opposed to a snowy white heart filled with consumer advocacy) is that it's partially in response to telcos like Verizon and AT&T who've started to offer TV aren't feeling too shiny about being shut out. But if it really does push down prices, it's definitely not a bad thing, whatever inspired the FCC."

We've got at least one more large step to go. Not that this matters all that much in the vast scheme of things. But it's a shame to see legal theft go on for so long.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sen. Roberts' Logic: Bacon Cheeseburgers Don't Make People Obese, People Make People Obese

By Manifesto Joe

The dismal science of economics is governed by a few heaps of sacred cowshit -- Say's "Law" comes to mind -- but also by certain immutable, virtually indisputable, laws. One such principle is that when a product is subsidized, and it becomes cheaper and more plentiful as a result of that subsidy, more people are very likely to buy and consume more of that product.

But one thing I've observed about economic theory is that adherents of the supposed "free market" feel quite free to apply and interpret it according to whim. Right now there's a push to get federal farm policy to stop subsidizing producers of fat- and sugar-laden foods as much, and shift some of that government sugar-daddy action to, you know, fruits, veggies, whole grains and such. All the stuff that's so dull and so goddamned good for us.

And, it's doctors who are helping lead the charge. Nobody in his or her right mind should be ready to accuse them of being hostile to the "free market."

But, we discover, what a rancid affront to the American Heartland! Here was the response from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.:

"I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today. However, blaming the cause on the crops that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets."

Ah, yes -- personal responsibility. Republicans are really big on that -- when they're in the mood. And they're always in the mood if the issue involves poor people.

Here, from McClatchy Newspapers, is the crux of this conflict:

If you’re feeling fat these days, blame Congress.

That’s just what the nation’s doctors are doing, saying that federal lawmakers are responsible for the fact that a salad costs so much more than a Big Mac.

Hoping to produce thinner waistlines, many doctors — including the American Medical Association — want Congress to stop subsidizing the production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not. ...

The debate is intensifying as the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm bill. On Thursday, the agriculture panel approved a bill that would give a record $2 billion for specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. That’s at least four times as much as what Congress provided in the 2002 farm bill.

The 2007 farm bill will determine which food industries get the most help from U.S. taxpayers over the next five years.

"The real scandal in Washington is the farm bill," said Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch program. Companies get rich, and kids get fat."

The effect of the subsidies on prices has been telling:

According to Barnard’s group, agribusiness political action committees have given more than $5 million over the last four election cycles to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. From 1995 to 2004, nearly three-quarters of farm bill agricultural subsidies for food — more than $51 billion — went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops used for cattle and other farm animals.

The group said that in 2005 alone, Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat producer, received $46.6 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity contracts.

Less than half of 1 percent subsidized fruit and vegetable production, the group said. ...

In September, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted that since 1985, the actual price of fruits and vegetables has increased 40 percent, while the price of sugar and fats has declined 14 percent.

Sen. Roberts seems to be trying to adapt the inane anti-gun-control argument to the Agriculture Department's perennial subsidization of fatty, sugary foods.

Bottom line, senator: Yes, a person has to be willing to eat that double-meat bacon cheeseburger. An underprivileged person can always opt for fresh fruit and veggies, to the extent they can afford them. But when you subsidize meat, cheese, and refined flour, you make it possible for fast-food chains to offer these sinful treats at 99-cents plus tax, and advertise them complete with depictions of minorities -- "Eat like a rock star, for $1." I've seen these ads many times. Are we to assume these have no effect?

Yes, senator -- bacon cheeseburgers, left to sit, won't make a person obese. Maybe the dog will eat them, and he or she will bloat up and eventually die.

But you, and the producers you represent, don't aim for them to sit anywhere except in a lot of people's outsized bellies. Are you going to tell me this doesn't make anyone's self-undoing infinitely easier?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A New Feature: Music Can Be Much More Interesting Than Politics

There is something to be said at times for, you know, art for art's sake. And music is the most Dionysian of arts, and so it is perfect for the wee hours of the weekend. At least that's what time it is here, where I'm posting a video of the great Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with the equally great Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan. Paris, 1959. Dig it:

It was called Blues March. They don't do the jams like that now. Maybe someday, again ... -- MJ

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Katrina Vs. Southern California Fires: Bush Is In A No-Win Situation, Right Where He Belongs

By Manifesto Joe

Yeah, I know -- natural disasters aren't supposed to be partisan issues. At least, they weren't until Hurricane Katrina. The lack of immediate response then and there, and the continued lack of relief for the ravaged Gulf Coast region, have been shockingly callous.

The response to the Southern California fires has been a sharp contrast. "You gonna be su-prized at ze help you gonna get," proclaimed Kali-for-nee-a Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I guess you have to be a former Mr. Universe and major action-movie star to be so confident.

Observing at a comfortable distance, I wasn't at all surprised. The only question is whether the Bush administration got on the stick this time because (1) they knew they couldn't afford to botch two major natural disasters in a row, or (2) because San Diego and surrounding areas are mostly white and affluent, in sharp contrast to New Orleans.

I present you two videos, one on each disaster. Judge for yourself.

But wait, there's more:

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

AP Borrows A Page From Right-Wing Nutcase Blogs

By Marc McDonald

Reprinted with permission from

Browsing news stories of the latest carnage from Iraq today, my eye caught this extraordinary sentence buried in an Associated Press report about U.S. forces claiming to have killed 49 militants in a dawn raid in Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite enclave:

"Iraqi police and hospital officials, who often overstate casualties, reported only 15 deaths including three children."

Say what?

This sounds like the sort of wild-eyed, paranoia-fueled conspiracy claim that one normally would find only in the extreme fringe far-right blogosphere.

But that sentence didn't come from Little Green Footballs or Flopping Aces, or any of the other right-wing nutcase blogs that populate the outer fringes of the Web.

It came from the Associated Press.

And, frankly, it's an extraordinary claim--and one that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Note that this AP report isn't claiming that Sunni insurgents, or Shiite militias lie about their casualties. That wouldn't be anything new. In fact, we've heard claims like those before, (as the insurgency and the U.S. military continue their ongoing propaganda wars).

No, this is "Iraqi police and hospital officials," whose casualty claims, AP would have us believe, are no longer to be trusted.

Maybe I've missed it in previous AP coverage, but I don't recall ever seeing this extraordinary claim made in previous AP coverage. It seems like this bold claim would warrant a major, investigative story in and of itself.

There's a couple of major problems with AP's assertion that Iraq police forces and hospitals are liars.

First of all, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. If we're talking about claims made by insurgents, then surely a dose of skepticism is in order (although, from what I've seen, insurgent casualty claims have been no more inaccurate than claims by U.S. military officials over the years in Iraq).

But this latest AP report is disputing the Iraq police and hospitals: a solidly mainstream source if there ever was one. If we can't believe fundamental, basic information released by the major institutions of the Iraq state, then, who, exactly, can we believe? Is AP now making the kooky right-wing blog-like claim that Iraq's own police and hospitals are conspiring against the U.S. military? That's surely what this sounds like.

The second major problem I have with AP's claim is that I really wonder how on earth AP would know if the Iraq hospitals and police were "overstating" casualty figures.

Like I said, this AP report looks like it could've been lifted from the pages of the Web's extremist right-wing nutcase fringe. The latter, after all, are always disputing anything and everything that comes out of Iraq (unless it's spoken by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Rush Limbaugh---a group which, ironically has the worst track record of accurate information on anything Iraq-related).

Ever since 2003, when the Iraq War began turning disastrous (around the time Bush declared "Mission Accomplished"), the right-wing blogosphere has been casting about, looking for a scapegoat to blame for the fiasco. AP has been one of the main targets of the right-wing lunatic fringe, with "controversies" like the Jamil Hussein case. In the latter case, the right-wing nutcases claimed that Hussein, an AP source, didn't exist. When it was later determined that he did, in fact, exist, the right-wingers quietly tiptoed away from the story and dropped the matter.

Despite the fact that the Jamil Hussein "controversy" blew up in their faces and revealed them to be the uninformed Kool-Aid-drinking idiots that they are, the right-wing blogosphere has continued to slam AP repeatedly over "biased" war coverage over the years.

And now, it appears that AP is caving in to the right-wing blogosphere and is giving credence to the sort of wild-eyed paranoid claims that one previously had to scour the nutcase fringe blogs to find.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yes, More Cornyn Watch: The Senator Votes Against Mining Safety

By Manifesto Joe

It may seem as though I'm picking on John Cornyn. If I really were, I would have used his nickname (in certain circles) -- Senator Cornhole -- in the title, not just the lead. I don't want to obsess over this right-wing twit, but he cast a vote last week that was very telling, and really ought to cost him his Senate seat. He was one of four wingnut Senate Republicans who essentially voted against better mining safety.

The other three who kept him company on the tinfoil-hat right were Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. I'm not sure if we have a genuine division line of true crazies on the far right here, given the history of some of the other GOP senators. But in this case, even Inhofe's rather kooky Oklahoma colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn, didn't join him on this one. By the way, Inhofe, in case you didn't know or have forgotten, is the guy who has called the threat of global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He means, like, greater than the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Saddam's WMDs, or Reaganomics?

Onward. The vote was 89 for, 4 against. The measure was to increase the budget of the Mine Safety and Health Administration by $10 million -- from $330 million to $340 million -- to reduce its backlog of coal mine inspections. This was part of the voting on amendments to an appropriations bill (HR 3043) for the Department of Labor and other agencies.

Given the catastrophies that have stricken miners for several years now, this would seem like a no-brainer vote. But when you have no brain, apparently even the no-brainers are too challenging.

I have run onto a

number of links showing the record of the Bush administration on mining safety, and it isn't pretty. I think there would have been more opposing right-wing Republican votes than this if the recent lethal disasters hadn't been as much on the public mind. Only four of these people dared this.

But, this is one more thing to remember about Senator Cornhole: He's not concerned about anybody outside his own socio-economic circle, certainly not grimy miners. And then, there are those ailing kids who can't get health insurance. Senator, I can see that you have neither conscience, nor shame. But are you even worried about being re-elected?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Cornyn Watch Postscript: His Vote Won't Be Needed This Time

By Manifesto Joe

It's aging news by now that the U.S. House failed to override Il Doofus' veto of the SCHIP bill to medically insure children whose families fall through gaps in the social safety net. The vote was 273 for, 156 against, short of the two-thirds needed.

This means that Texas Sen. John Cornyn's vote won't be needed on this matter for a while.

But, don't let anyone forget Cornyn's stand on this bill, which was a highly crucial one for many chronically ill children in Texas. There are people working to see to it that it's remembered next November, when Cornyn stands for re-election.

The Republicans have given the Democrats a live issue here by denying health care to hundreds of thousands of kids in this, Cornyn's home state, alone. I sincerely hope the Democrats will have political sense enough to use this to full advantage.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cornyn Watch: The Texas Senator Is Either A Dupe Or A Liar (Or Perhaps Some Of Both: Maybe It's Not An Either/Or)

By Manifesto Joe

It's informative to get campaign-season e-mails from incumbents running for re-election, especially here in Texas. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Cow Pasture, seems to be trying to establish some new baseline for mendacity.

The junior senator sent something explaining his vote against the majority SCHIP bill, and why he will vote to sustain Il Doofus' veto of it. Here's part of what he had to say:

"Cover Texas Uninsured —- Don’t Raise Taxes on Working Poor/Middle Class. We must seek broader health care solutions to address the high rate of uninsured children in our state. The plan I support covers additional Texas children without raising taxes on lower and middle class families. The majority bill balloons SCHIP by more than 140 percent to potentially include families of four with $83,000 of annual income. It relies on an accounting trick that will guarantee higher taxes, both immediately and again in the future."

So the senator is talking to us about accounting tricks? And about sparing the lower and middle classes of our state from higher taxes? Let's hear, as it was said too many times by an annoying old fart, the other half of the story. Here's something from a site called

Let’s talk about Cornyn’s priorities. At best, he is a hypocrite. At worst, he is a liar.

Cornyn voted against CHIP… twice! Now he is offering down a watered version that is only 1/3 of the funding the bipartisan bill President Bush vetoed.

According to Cornyn’s own website, his bill covers 200,000 Texas children. That sounds great, but the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate would have given insurance to 440,000 children.

The Houston Chronicle has some serious points to consider:

Texas has more uninsured children than any other state; he’s up for re-election; and his Senate teammate, fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, bucked the White House to support the bipartisan package.

Then there’s the fact that the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature’s decision in 2003 to enact cuts that dropped 200,000 children from CHIP coverage still is rippling through the health care system and political landscape. Of the 9.4 million children in America who lack insurance coverage, 1.3 million live in Texas.

Eighteen Senate Republicans broke with the White House, leaving Cornyn among a minority in opposition to the bill, estimated to cover an added 440,000 Texas kids.
Clearly, Cornyn is all talk about making sure our children have the medical coverage they need.

In the same Houston Chronicle article, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, termed the criticism by Cornyn as “either totally wrong or intellectually dishonest.” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, pointed out that 92 percent of the children covered under the bill live in families making less than 200 percent of federal poverty levels, or $41,300 for a family of four.

Stop lying to us Senator. ..."

And then, in general, Cornyn doesn't quite have a record of voting in favor of anything that creates a more equitable tax system. According to the rating of Citizens for Tax Justice, John Cornyn is a complete zero. Nada. Even Crazy Jack McCain rated 50%. And even Chuck Grassley was yet another of the many GOP, CTJ zeros. I don't think I even have to check on Orrin Hatch. Anyway, that's John Cornyn -- a zero minus.

It's pretty dicey talking about a real chance to knock this contemptible bozo off next year, in this "red" state. State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, who happens to be a National Guard veteran of the Afghanistan campaign, is thought to have the best shot. Go, Rick.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

They Really Did Party Down In Veracruz State

I said there was video, and now you finally have it. Vicente Fox's statue eats the dust of the road. And dig what that person does with the statue's severed hand. -- MJ

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mexican Crowd Appears To Party Over Toppled Vicente Fox Statue

By Manifesto Joe

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Bush's amigo from south of the border, is no longer in charge of the henhouse, so to speak. It looks like he's pretty unpopular there now, as he faces a corruption investigation.

Just hours after a statue of Fox was erected in Boca del Rio, Mexico, on Saturday, angry opposition protesters gathered at the site and pelted the statue with eggs. El Fox con juevos. Then they tied a rope around the likeness' neck and pulled it down onto the street, in a scene that recalled the one in 2003 with the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Only this time, it looked like this incident was truly spontaneous, rather than semistaged by the powers that were.

News reports generally described the protesters as "angry." But once the statue was down and on the street, yoke-splattered, those street marauders didn't look angry in the photos taken after that. They appeared downright festive. I can't post the photo for permissions reasons, and although there is supposed to be video, none has been uploaded yet on You Tube. I will try to describe the scene a bit, and

here's a link to a report with the photo.

Some dude with a guitar showed up and was playing a corrido or something over the fallen statue. The people milling at the scene seemed to be enjoying themselves. They had everything except the mariachi band and tall shots of mescal.

Although these were said to be hardcore PRI opponents of Fox, it's still good to know that so many of the Mexican people finally realize that, back in 2000, they made a big mistake. (Now if we can just get some of those Bush 30-percenters up here to admit that they did, too.)

It took a while for people to notice, but Fox's family ranch was strikingly revamped and spiffed up during his six-year term in office. How did this happen? He was once a well-paid Coca-Cola executive, but was reported to have greatly depleted his fortune as he ascended politically, and the family ranch suffered as a result. But, it is said to look pretty good these days.

The improvements were great enough that, last month, the Mexican Congress began an investigation. This report is from the Sept. 28 International Herald Tribune:

If former President Vicente Fox thought his retirement would be peaceful at his ranch, swimming in the pool or strolling by the artificial lake and sumptuous gardens, then events this week have proved him wrong.

Congress started an investigation into his personal finances after a former campaign aide charged that Fox had used campaign money to renovate the ranch. Fox contends that every peso spent on the renovation came from his own pocket, a close adviser, Rob Allyn, said Thursday.

With photographs of the relatively luxurious ranch having recently been published in a magazine, the accusations from Lino Korrodi, the finance chairman for Fox's 2000 campaign, have fueled speculation among politicians about where Fox got the money.

The frenzy has reached a fever pitch in Congress, where members of opposition parties have pushed through a measure to set up a commission to investigate Fox's finances, a move unheard of in Mexico, where former presidents are generally treated with deference. ...

The investigation has put Fox on the defensive. This week, he declared he had nothing to hide from investigators. "He who owes nothing has nothing to fear," he said. On Tuesday, he declared in an open letter that his political enemies were trying to smear him "with false facts and fantastic stories."

"Before Mexico and the Mexicans, and my mother in heaven, I declare I am telling the truth," he wrote.

Questions began to surface about whether Fox had used his position to enrich himself after QuiƩn, a celebrity magazine, published photographs of the newly renovated ranch. It was a ramshackle affair with modest furnishings before he took office.

Fox's ranch is not luxurious compared with the estates of many wealthy and influential Mexicans, but the transformation raised suspicions in a country where power often goes hand in hand with corruption. Other former presidents amassed immense fortunes in office, historians say.

Still, Korrodi's broadside against his former friend and boss pushed members of Congress to demand an inquiry. "It is evident he got rich during his six years in office, in a very shameless and cynical way," Korrodi told the newspaper El Universal last week.

It is clear now that, after 71 years of the PRI, Mexicans turned tragically to a political party actually to the right of the ruling cadre to break the long monopoly of power. After the likely theft of last year's election, it looks like they traded in one bunch of corrupt thugs for another.

So, is this relevant to Americans? More than some of you can imagine. Sorry, Lou Dobbs, but one contemporary reality of North America is that, economically, the U.S. and Mexico have become countries essentially joined at the hip. The cords that have slipped in on both sides are much too strong to be severed now.

I remember all the hope and promise that abounded when Fox took office. The Mexican economy, people were told, would be managed by professionals, and not "politicized." But what happened was that the interests of the nation's stubborn economic elite and the big corporations were faithfully attended to, and without even those brazen handouts to the peasants that the PRI was notorious for around election time. That made it even worse.

It was comparable to what the American South did when they replaced old-style, Uncle Cornpone Dixiecrats with equally corrupt, but tighter-assed Republicans.

And so, the economic exodus to el norte has continued -- not merely unabated, but accelerated. The Mexican economy has continued to stagnate, with the arrogant elite hanging on ever more disdainfully.

Americans, take note: It really does matter what kind of government they have down there. It affects us very directly, more than ever.

Meanwhile, Mexico: Party down. You all in Boca del Rio have taken one step that Americans seem to lack the juevos to take.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Manifesto Joe's Great Moments In Conservative History, Chapter 5: Sins Of The Grandfather

By Manifesto Joe

This isn't news, but it never hurts to remind progressive blog readers now and then about how the Bush political "dynasty" was built on trashy, crypto-fascist blood money.

Here's one link about old granddad Prescott Bush's business dealings with Nazi Germany.

Here's another about his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow FDR.

And here's yet another on the would-be coup.

When I brought some of these things to the attention of a right-wing friend (now an ex-friend) several years ago, he replied something to the effect that one cannot hold the present-day person responsible for the sins of the fathers, or grandfathers.

Days earlier, I had heard this same person trashing Ted Kennedy by referring to Joe Kennedy Sr.'s alleged connections to bootlegging, his practice of what is now considered insider trading, and his anti-Semitism.

When you wake up in a new world every day, I suppose you don't have to worry about such contradictions. You just turn on the radio and absorb the Rush talking points.

Anyway, I don't hold George W. responsible for anything his granddad did, or may have done. Il Doofus has done plenty on his own that his grandkids will have to live down.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Corporate Welfare Moochers Leeching Off Texans Again

By Manifesto Joe

"No one can do what Countrywide can." Unfortunately, several other companies can, including Vought Aircraft Industries, Texas Instruments, Washington Mutual, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

What these six companies can do, have done or are doing, is lay off workers after taking money from a Texas taxpayer-financed job-creation fund.

The public trough that these corporate hogs have slopped at is officially named the Texas Enterprise Fund, administered by the secretary of state for none other than "Governor Goodhair" himself, Rick Perry.

In 2004, Countrywide Financial Corp. said it was bringing 7,500 jobs to Texas in exchange for $20 million -- in "incentives" -- from the $295 million fund created by the Legislature during its 2003 session. At the time Perry reportedly called the deal "a crowning jewel."

At $20 million in taxpayer money, that was like the company mooched roughly a dollar off every Texan.

And, they didn't even give me the line about running out of gas or needing bus fare to get to the shelter.

Since then, the mortgage crisis has ravaged Countrywide and similar companies. Countrywide has announced plans to lay off up to 12,000 workers -- yes, "countrywide." They won't even tell us yokels in Texas how many they're going to lay off here. They did say that their office in Midland (Bush's "hometown"), employing 100, will be shuttered.

The Associated Press reported that none of the aforementioned companies:

"... has been required to pay money back to the state. Most companies have a multi-year deal allowing them to add jobs gradually as they aim for a target number of jobs by a specified date, regardless of whether they lay off employees along the way."

Advocates of the fund say that the target numbers in the deals keep the companies from gaming the system. AP reports that critics say:

"... that it tends to help big companies that would have come to Texas anyway and that the money serves as a bonus rather than an incentive. They point out that money is paid up front, rather than after jobs are created."

It can be argued that when Countrywide came to Texas three years ago to expand, the corporate officers had no clue about what would happen to the mortgage industry. It can also be argued that in today's economic climate, state and local governments simply have to grease palms this way to bring new jobs and growth to their regions and communities. If they don't, others will.

Although this argument is certainly pragmatic, it also sounds more than a bit like acquiescence to blackmail.

But, after that -- don't turn around and call SCHIP "middle-class welfare" as one Republican lawmaker did (Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana). Don't cry into your single-malt Scotch about about the evils of income redistribution.

When it's done at county and municipal levels, it's usually called "property tax abatement" or a "public-private partnership." I call it a bullshit double standard. You can't have it both ways with some who see this -- calling the less fortunate loafers and spongers, and then lining up with the rest of the corporate oinkers at the public trough.

In 1996, the Republican 104th Congress passed a "welfare reform" measure in which Aid to Families With Dependent Children became an entitlement no longer.

When will our "representatives" do the same with the subsidies that pay for downtown condos and gated communities?

One can only hope that, when it comes to this contemptible double standard, they should enjoy -- it may be much later than they think.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Thought For You Night Owls, About Children

I've sometimes felt that life has jacked me around rather badly. From now on, every time I get to thinking that way, I'm going to remind myself to watch something like this -- MJ: