Monday, June 30, 2008

Cornyn Watch: Losing The Doctors AND Older People Could Prove Terminal For The Senator

By Manifesto Joe

There are two constituencies that right-wing Republicans have generally been able to count on in Texas: doctors and other medical professionals, and people 65 and older. This election year, most of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, have managed to royally piss off both groups.

This is not unimportant for Cornyn, who is facing surprising opposition in his bid for a second term in the Senate. State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, trails Cornyn, but only by single digits in most polls. He's within striking distance of Cornyn.

You Texans out there: Our glorious senator was one of 40 who kept the Senate from reaching the 60 votes needed Thursday night to invoke cloture and end Republican obstruction of a bill to avert the Bush administration's 10.6% cut in Medicare payments, set to go into effect tomorrow. (Sen. Barack Obama showed up and was one of 58 who voted yes; Sen. John McCain was one of two senators who did not vote.)

This bill, to forestall the cuts by 18 months, had passed in the House by a vote of 355-59. Only the most kook-right Republicans there opposed it. But just enough Senate Republicans caved in to the most loathed administration in U.S. history to kill what could have been an easy veto override.

In response, the political committee of the Texas Medical Association has rescinded its support of Cornyn for re-election to the Senate. ("Senator Noriega." I like the sound of it.)

The San Antonio Express-News reported Friday:

Medical association officials said the cut, which is set to take effect July 1, will force them to choose between their finances and their elderly patients.

Cornyn said he voted against the measure because it was a partisan ploy and "election year grandstanding" by Democrats rather than a real effort to solve the problem.

The physicians group began the day criticizing both Cornyn and senior U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for their votes against the bill on Thursday. Association President Dr. Josie R. Williams of Paris said they "chose to protect insurance companies profits instead of protecting our patients’ health."

By the end of the day, the association’s political committee, TEXPAC, had withdrawn its backing of Cornyn, saying its board was "outraged."

"That (planned Medicare cut) will force physicians into an impossible choice: face financial crisis by continuing to see their Medicare patients or protect their practice and cut off those patients," the political committee’s chairman, Dr. Manuel Acosta of El Paso, wrote to Cornyn in a letter made public by the association.

"We expect our elected officials to show leadership and do the right thing," Acosta said. "Absent that, TEXPAC has rescinded our endorsement of your candidacy."

Noriega didn't pick up an endorsement, but the challenger's campaign had a rapid response. The Express-News again:

"Cornyn has failed Texas families again and again - from rejecting health care for children to medicare votes that prioritize big insurance companies over doctors and seniors, to cutting veterans’ benefits and health services," said Noriega spokeswoman Holly Shulman. "Texans are ready for a change from a senator that continues to choose to vote with special interests instead of Texas families."

The Bush administration had threatened a veto because the bill included payment reductions to Medicare Advantage, which some senior citizens use as a private, fee-for-service alternative. Yep -- somebody's profits were being affected. For the Bush administration, it's business as usual.

But in this state, as in others, medical professionals and senior citizens are two groups that show up on Election Day. They also sign checks. Both of our GOP mannequin senators -- Kay Bailey Hutchison also voted no -- may live to regret this vote. But in an election year in which Cornyn is no shoo-in according to the polls, it could cost him everything politically.

Postscript: This is also one vote McCain may wish he hadn't missed.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

'There Will Be Blood' Comes To Iraq

For years, those of us who have argued that the Iraq war is mainly about oil have been dismissed as wild-eyed neo-Marxists, conspiracy theorists and prematurely senile ex-hippies. Tell that to journalism legend Bill Moyers.

Moyers and Michael Winship present a compelling look at the clear motive behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in "It Was Oil, All Along."

For reader-supported Web news service Truthout, Moyers and Winship wrote:

"Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al-Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be ... the bottom line. It is about oil."

Go here to read the entire article. I found the analogy to the film There Will Be Blood intriguing. -- MJ

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin: 1937-2008

He was the Lenny Bruce for a slightly younger generation -- only, I would say, funnier than Lenny, and he lasted much longer than either Bruce or the late great Bill Hicks.

It's actually remarkable that George Carlin lived to be 71, given his lifestyle in his younger years. And just as amazing is how he got better and better. I'm so cheap that I rarely pay the full price of a new hardback book, but I happily paid it for what was arguably Carlin's crowning achievement as a humorist, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004) That alone earned him his posthumous Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

George's facility with language was far superior to mine, so I'll pay tribute with some quotes from him, courtesy of

Most people are not particularly good at anything.

If someone loves you and they leave and don't come back, it was never meant to be. If someone loves you and they leave and come back, set them on fire.

When evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve.

Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

Heart disease has changed my eating habits, but I still cook bacon for the smell.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of church and state. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.

[March 1997] We use up words like "spiritual" so fast in this culture. Twenty years ago "spiritual" had a distinct meaning. But now there's a lot of jack-off thinkers who just love to talk about the spiritual. And there is a lot of bogus -- is "bogosity" a word? It should be -- a lot of bogosity in these spiritual seekers. So you have to find another way to express it. I just call it "how I fit.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.

I'm not afraid of heights, I'm just afraid of falling from them.

To be intoxicated is to feel sophisticated, but not be able to say it.

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

Don't confuse my point of view with cynicism. The real cynics are the ones who tell you that everything's gonna be all right.

Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established.

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done".

Standing ovations have become far too commonplace. What we need are ovations where the audience members all punch and kick one another.

Thanks, George, for all the laughs, and the wisdom. -- MJ

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reagan: The Great Prevaricator Remembered, Four Years A.R., Part I

By Manifesto Joe

"A White House official who has had to bring large doses of bad news to the president about coming budget deficits recently observed: 'Reagan doesn't understand numbers. Every time the figures point to trouble, Reagan rebuts them with a personal anecdote'" -- Joseph Kraft, The Washington Post, Dec. 29, 1983

This month marked the fourth anniversary of The Great Prevaricator's death -- this morning in right-wing America, this is early in The Year 5 A.R. (After Reagan). In a presidential election year, his memory still surfaces now and then as some kind of standard by which all presidential aspirants are measured.

In a comments thread on a different blog, one commentator referred to Ronald Reagan as, though far from perfect, the last "presentable" president the U.S. has had. I agree to the extent that he was presentable as a sort of mannequin, which is common among Republican politicians. Reagan was the prototype GOP politician, America's First Mannequin. And he governed that way most of the time.

Assessing Reagan as a president, I would give him credit on a few points. Reagan was a turkey-necked chairman of the board who often slept through parts of Cabinet meetings, so he could never be as destructively proactive as George W. Bush. The latter governs like a reverse King Midas (everything he touches turns to feces) who is firmly convinced he can do no wrong. Reagan was afflicted with that same delusional self-assurance, but fortunately, he was so doddering and detached that he didn't do as much damage.

Reagan governed just a shade more from the "center" than Bush, and he didn't get us directly mixed up in foreign adventures for very long. There were Nicaraguas, Grenadas and Lebanons, but thankfully no Iraqs or Vietnams.

And -- he was actually willing to talk with our enemies, eventually to good effect. His friendly relations with Mikhail Gorbachev made his second term, arguably a disaster at home, look much better than it really was. People seemed to forget all about Iran-Contra, the S&L debacle, exploding deficits, burgeoning homelessness and the like.

But, enough of giving Reagan his due. Let's travel back in time, to that ugly era of mullets and old-time collars on hipster men, those "serious hair" sheepdog permanents and floppy ties on yuppie women, and remember Ronnie Reagan as he was: a meaner-spirited version of Elwood P. Dowd.

This man lived in a world of celluloid fantasies -- where facts didn't matter, and where a dude who took the "gut course" in economics at a fourth-rate Illinois college conjured up economic policy that is still ruinously with us now.

Distortions of Jimmy Carter's Record

This material is from Reagan's Reign of Error, by Mark Green and Gail MacColl (1983, rev. 1987), p.43:
"We then went back into negotiations on their [the Soviets'] terms, because Mr. Carter had cancelled the B-1 bomber, delayed the MX, delayed the Trident submarine, delayed the Cruise missile, shut down the ... Minute Man missile production line ..." (Presidential debate, 10/28/80)
The B-1 bomber had been delayed. As for the rest: the Cruise missile and MX were under full-scale development; the Minute Man missile's production line had been shut down because the production schedule had been met; and the first Trident submarine, the USS Ohio, had been launched on April 7, 1979.

(What was that quotation about how a lie can travel so much faster than the truth?)

Green and MacColl, p.65:
"Mr. Carter is acting as if he hasn't been in charge for the past three and a half years; as if someone else was responsible for the largest deficit in American history" (Nationally televised campaign speech, 10/24/80)
Federal deficits totaled $195 billion under Mr. Carter. The latest budget projections [this was 1987] suggest that during Mr. Reagan's six years the deficit will total nearly $1 trillion.

(After the fact, we now know that Reaganomics roughly tripled the total national debt, from about $1 trillion to around $3 trillion.)

Reagan on Nuclear War

Green and MacColl, p.46:
"Those [nuclear weapons] that are carried in ships of one kind or another, or submersibles, you are dealing there with a conventional type of weapon or instrument, and those instruments can be intercepted. They can be recalled." (5/13/82)
Submarine-launched missiles cannot be recalled. If the president thinks differently he may be surprised in a nuclear exchange.

Reagan Quotes Churchill

Green and MacColl, p.60:
"I would like to quote a few words by a very famous and celebrated orator, journalist, soldier, historian, and statesman. People have said he might have made a great actor if he tried that. Winston Churchill. He said, 'The idea that a nation can tax itself into prosperity is one of the crudest delusions which has ever befuddled the human mind.' Now I don't know how that quote happened to catch my eye." (3/9/82)
Neither does anyone else. Reagan's speechwriters "don't know where he got that one from." Nor does the British historian at the Library of Congress; there was no such passage in the Library's extensive collection of Churchill quotations. Ten other books of quotations also failed to provide a clue.

Reagan on Poverty

Green and MacColl, pp.88-89:
"In 20 years, the federal budget increased five-fold and the cost of welfare grew ten-fold. But that didn't help many local governments which lost effective control of their communities. It didn't help small businesses hit by the highest interest rates in a hundred years. It didn't help the working poor and pensioners flattened by double-digit inflation and taxation." (1/14/82)
It probably did. The standard of living has doubled since 1960. Accounting for inflation, per capita disposable income, the average income after taxes, rose, in 1972 dollars, from $2,709 in 1960 to $4,472 in 1980. In 1959, 22.4% of Americans lived below the poverty line. By 1981, that figure had been cut nearly in half.

Green and MacColl, p.92
"The decrease in poverty I referred to earlier started in the 1950s. By the time the full weight of the Great Society programs was felt, economic progress for America's poor had come to a tragic halt."
In 1967, the Field Foundation testified before Congress on hunger in America: "Wherever we went and wherever we looked, we saw children in significant numbers who were hungry and sick." A decade later, the Field team retraced its 1967 steps and found "far fewer grossly malnourished people in this country. ..." They concluded that food stamps and other federal nutrition programs, implemented or inspired by Great Society legislation, had made the difference.

That's all we have time for today. My gratitude to Green and MacColl -- I highly recommend "The Instant Nostalgia Edition" of that book, if it's available. See you next time for more summer Reagan-bashing.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Native Texan Bill Moyers Is Still A National Treasure

This speech on media consolidation by journalism icon Bill Moyers should be required listening/viewing. It was posted on YouTube by videofreepress:

As a bonus for watching, here's something posted by the same folks, with Keith Olbermann narrating Moyers' smackdown of a Bill O'Reilly/Fox News toady:

Sweet dreams. -- MJ

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cornyn Watch: Senator Cornhole Lies To His Constituents

By Manifesto Joe

I'm shocked, shocked to find a politician engaging in deception.

No, not really. But this seems a particularly tawdry case of it, something from the repertoire of the King and the Duke in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Sen. John "Cornhole" Cornyn, R-Texas, is making energy policy a centerpiece of his bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate, and he's playing a shell game with pending legislation.

Sen. Cornhole sends an e-mail "update" to his constituents, usually at his whim, but lately a lot as he campaigns. In his last two he's been talking about energy policy in mendacious ways, and deliberately confusing two separate Senate bills. This is from his latest opus:

... the majority party in Congress has proposed $6.7 trillion climate tax package that could actually raise gas prices by 147 percent. It defies logic that after blocking the American energy production and oil independence, Congress is now pursuing bigger government, more taxes, and higher energy costs with no guarantee of actually improving the climate.

What one discovers upon further examination is that Sen. Cornhole refers to S. 3036, aka America's Climate Security Act. The sponsors are Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va. As liberal as Democrats are reputed to be, I don't think even they are magnanimous enough to include John and Renegade Joe as members of "the majority party."

Going back to Sen. Cornhole's previous e-mail, he lays this alleged Democrat (GOP-ese for the adjective form) tax-spend-and-regulate atrocity on the doorstep of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Here he goes again:

... earlier this month, the Senate actually considered a massive climate tax bill that headed in the exact opposite direction. This massive $6.7 trillion Rube Goldberg scheme proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would undermine our economy and likely lead to $10 per gallon gasoline. It could well eliminate some 330,000 Texas jobs, sending them to places with limited regulation like China and India.

It's never explained where the figures come from. But I suspect that, as a member of the Senate, Master Cornhole can distinguish one bill from another. What Boxer introduced was S. 2191, a separate bill that takes the measures of S. 3036 a bit deeper into enemy territory. But it doesn't appear to be all that radical. Here's part of an article posted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors:

WASHINGTON, May 22 - The nation's mayors are putting forth their full support behind Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer's revised version of the pending Climate Security Act (S.2191), which will enable cities and the country to make systematic reductions nationwide in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

"We commend Chairman Barbara Boxer for her leadership and commitment to this issue," said Conference President Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. "We urge the Senate to pass this crucial piece of legislation that will put us on a path to continue to confront America's climate challenge."

But, let's go back to the Lieberman-Warner bill, S. 3036. I just pulled up Renegade Joe's handy-dandy Web site, and here's what he had to say:

On its own, the America's Climate Security Act (ACSA) is projected to reduce total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 19% below the 2005 level (4% below the 1990 level) in 2020 and by as much as 63% below the 2005 level in 2050. Lieberman and Warner presented their new bill as the core of a new federal program that Congress should pass to avert catastrophic global climate change while enhancing America's energy security.

"With all the irrefutable evidence we now have corroborating that climate change is real, dangerous, and proceeding faster than many scientists predicted, this is the year for Congress to move this critical legislation," said Lieberman. "If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren. Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation."

"In my 28 years in the Senate, I have focused above all on issues of national security, and I see the problem of global climate change as fitting squarely within that focus," said Warner. "Today we introduced a balanced bill. Senator Lieberman and I found a good, sound, starting point that sends a significant signal that the U.S. is serious about taking a leadership role in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions."

Joining Lieberman and Warner in co-sponsoring ACSA are Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

A bunch of crazed socialists, no doubt. Anyway, during a lucid moment in which Sen. Cornhole was talking about the actual bill at hand, he's quoted thusly:

“As we move forward with debate over this mammoth new legislation, there are many unanswered questions that Congress should examine closely. The bill appears to implement a $6.7 trillion program that could undermine economic growth, raise energy costs for American consumers and send jobs overseas to countries such as India and China. We need a thoughtful and serious debate on how to be the best stewards of the environment possible. As we do this, I hope Congress pays heed to the law of unintended consequences, including what impact it might have on the budgets of families in Texas and across the country."

It appears that Sen. Cornhole ran across some Adam Smith during his halcyon days at Trinity University. That so-called law of unintended consequences can be framed as an obstructionist argument against damn near anything, when abused.

And speaking of intellectual dishonesty, let's return to the grade-school variety of it: getting the bills straight. Last week, the one that came before the Senate was the Lieberman-Warner incarnation, S. 3036, and here's what happened, according to Votes in Congress Newspaper Syndicate:

Global climate change
Passed, 74-14
Senators voted to begin debate on a bill ... that would establish a cap-and-trade system to sharply reduce the U.S. share of the greenhouse-gas emissions that help cause global warming and climate change. Democratic leaders later shelved the bill in response to Republican delaying tactics, such as compelling clerks to read the entire 490-page bill aloud.

Well, it was noted that Sen. Cornhole was among the 74 senators who voted to begin debate. As for the other 14, I doubt that there was anything unintended about the consequences.

Maybe one of these days Sen. Cornhole will show his constituents the respect to actually distinguish one bill from another. But I don't think the median of American intelligence will ever compel him to do so. Here's an example of the general public, taken from the lead comments on S. 3036 on WashingtonWatch:

This is OUTRAGEOUS. The Congress must be Stopped and we have to Get Rid of each and every Senator and Congressman. This is SUCIDE for America! Global Warming is a SCAM and Will destroy the Country and make us all Slaves. Americans STAND UP and FIGT BACK. Say NO to this Bill.

Well, it should be no mystery how politicians like Sen. Cornhole manage to have long careers. Against odds, I most profoundly hope that the voters of Texas will see fit to cut this scumbag's career short.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Postscript: It has come to my attention that the Boxer bill, S. 2191, was also voted on last week in one of the goofy ways that the Senate often does. The vote was 48-36 in favor of ending a Republican filibuster against this version, but 60 votes were needed to invoke cloture, so it failed. Cornyn wasn't there for that vote.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cornyn Watch: The Bush Shill Is Now Considered Vulnerable

By Manifesto Joe

Politics in Texas has fallen so much under Republican dominance since 1990 -- that was the last year that Democrats like the late ex-Gov. Ann Richards won statewide elections -- that a lot of people in "blue" states wrote us off as hopeless rednecks long ago.

Not so fast. The demographics in this state are changing; and also, perhaps even some of the traditionally conservative Anglo voters are beginning to wonder about the pendejos they've been habitually electing to high office. Like Bush toady Sen. John Cornyn.

As of last month, Cornyn's little-known Democratic challenger was within 4 percentage points of him, according to Rasmussen Reports.

State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, is a graduate of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, an Afghanistan war veteran as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard, and much more.

It's great news that Texas Democrats have a real chance this year to knock off one of our GOP mannequins in the Senate. Here's a bit of what Cornyn has been busy with lately, representing the vital interests of Texans as he does:

-- Since the ruling in California last month opening the door for gay marriage in the state, Cornyn has been going that extra mile to make sure the miscreants never come to the Lone Star State with such deviant ideas. He's renewed his call for a nationwide ban against same-sex marriages. Yep, that's really going to make a dent in the price of gasoline, and make bread and eggs so much more affordable for decent folk.

-- Speaking of the price of gasoline, here are Sen. Cornhole's thoughts about energy policy, courtesy of his own "Texas Times" e-mail newsletter:

In my view, the solution is straightforward. We need more energy. Government should get out of the way, let the free market work and allow more domestic energy production. This would reduce gas prices even in the near-term, expand job opportunities in Texas — a world energy leader — and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

But earlier this month, the Senate actually considered a massive climate tax bill that headed in the exact opposite direction. This massive $6.7 trillion Rube Goldberg scheme proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would undermine our economy and likely lead to $10 per gallon gasoline. It could well eliminate some 330,000 Texas jobs, sending them to places with limited regulation like China and India.

How can this be explained? After blocking American energy production and oil independence, Congress pursues bigger government, added taxes and higher energy costs—with no guarantee of actually improving the world’s climate.

It is vital that we be the best possible stewards of the environment. Fortunately, improved technology has enabled us to take advantage of America’s own abundant natural resources in an environmentally sensitive way. Yet the U.S. remains the only country in the world that refuses to develop many of its natural resources.

America is aggressively moving from fossil fuels to more diverse energy sources, including wind, nuclear, solar and clean coal. We need all of this supply. The government and private industry are both investing to promote and expedite this transition, and using steps such as increasing vehicle fuel-efficiency standards.

In the short term, however, oil, gas and coal will remain our dominant sources of energy. The free market could provide significant additional supplies—but Congress continues to prevent that.

Say, wasn't the "free market" one of the ways we got here in the first place? Big Oil didn't want alternative energy sources, and resisted them for years. Now they're raking in record profits, and attributing it to the supply-and-demand mechanism of the so-called "free market." (Hey, let's send copies of The Wealth of Nations out to the players in the OPEC cartel.)

And the solution from U.S. Big Oil is to drill on environmentally sensitive lands, and next to national monuments, in national parks, and so forth? Isn't this "free market" approach what we've been doing for decades, and to ill effect? And Sen. Cornhole proposes that we trust such people, yet again?

And, what has been the role of the Iraq war, and how would the "free market" address that?

It's not hard to figure out to whom Cornyn is answering -- lots of Petroleum Clubs and the associated donors -- and that will have to end someday. Eventually it could end in enduring disaster, so the sooner it ends, the better. Getting jerks like Cornhole out of the Senate would be a great start -- with a new Texas senator named Noriega.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Predictably, Senate Panel Turns Wussy On Iraq War Report

By Manifesto Joe

Say it ain't so, Sen. Jay Rockefeller. These pathetic lily livers we call Democrats are going to let the Bush thug-o-crats, in essence, weasel out of this one, too. Nobody goes directly to jail; everybody passes Go. (Some probably collect $100,000.) The Senate Intelligence Committee -- perhaps a contradiction in terms -- gives the Bush hooligans a mild slap on the wrist, and declines to follow up.

Basically, the panel is making a brief media show of this. But in the long run, they're clearly going to let the war criminals skate. Here's the Los Angeles Times "report" on the Senate's "report": Click here.

Il Doofus has always seemed like a person leading some kind of perversely charmed life. After this it seems doubtless that he will skate, even after all the death and suffering he is directly responsible for.

It will now be up to history to hold him somewhat responsible for the human disaster of the Iraq war. I wish him long life, because I hope he is still around to find himself a bigger pariah than Nixon ever could have been.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Breaking News: Bushies Already Sabotaging Obama Plans For Troop Withdrawals

By Manifesto Joe

If Barack Obama wins the presidency in November, he may be stepping into a foreign policy minefield come January, courtesy of the Bush administration. The Independent (U.K.) newspaper reports that it received leaked information of a secret plan being negotiated in Baghdad that would establish 50 U.S. military bases, give the U.S. control of Iraqi airspace and give all American soldiers and contractors legal immunity.

It's finally here -- the Iraq 100 Years War Plan. It doesn't take much imagination to conjure up a more or less permanent insurgency, a permanent state of low-grade warfare. Maybe the neocons will tell us to look on the bright side -- all those unemployed and underemployed young poor and working-class men and women will have three-year contract jobs awaiting them, for decades to come.

The al-Maliki government is reportedly torn, basically opposing the idea but scared shitless that it can't be viable without being propped up by U.S. military force. It shapes up into a no-win situation for most concerned parties: The Independent reports that the terms of the deal that the Bush administration wants "are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq."

This deal would pretty much show the hand of what the Bush junta wanted all along -- a permanent military base in the Middle East, under cover of a puppet government, theoretically forming a bulwark against Iran and eventually giving the U.S. an inside track on all that light sweet crude.

If Obama is elected, he might be forced into the position of deal-breaker. There's a lot of money riding on this one, too.

Fasten your seat belts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thoughts On The Shallow Seventies

By Manifesto Joe

This was a comment I left on Watching Those We Chose, a blog with which I am affiliated, but it was substantial enough that I felt it would be a decent post for my home site. The post there went, just peripherally, into some ways that the Seventies sucked, what with "gas lines, ugly clothes, platform shoes, high gas prices, inflation, recession and disco." Yeah, I hated all that stuff, too. But ... here's the comment:

"Like others, I hated the litany of things y'all mention about the '70s. Having been a child and young adolescent of the '60s who came of age during the '70s, the latter decade was undeniably a letdown. I was one of those disco-loathing tokers who went musically to either fusion jazz or the red meat of the rock era (circa 1964-73). At 22, I found myself oddly out of place in a youth culture suddenly turned shallow with a vengeance. I couldn't relate to punks, either -- that seemed like a rebellion of futile and deliberate ugliness.

"I experienced unemployment and underemployment during the time, was seriously injured in an industrial accident, got mistreated by newly liberated women (they discovered that they, too, could be cads!), and found myself dressing in ways that embarrass me in hindsight.

"But the 2000s have done an amazing thing -- I'm a bit nostalgic for the Shallow Seventies. There are a few things I'd like to have back. To wit:

"Liberal Republicans. Remember Jacob Javits, Clifford Case, Edward Brooke, Mark Hatfield, Pete McCloskey, Richard Schweiker, John Lindsay, Charles Percy, etc? Moderate-to-liberal politicians had a surprisingly strong presence as a minority in the GOP back then.

"A strong decrim movement. I drifted out of the pot-smoking culture many years ago, but had enough experience with it to know that it's more or less no worse over the long haul than Jim Beam. At one point we got some form of decrim in 13 states. In 1979, if you had told the 23-year-old MJ that we would still be stuck on stupid about this ...

"Good Hollywood movies. The decade came in with M*A*S*H and ended with Apocalypse Now. In between, we had The Last Picture Show, The Godfather parts I and II, The Last Detail, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver, Network, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, and so many others. It was arguably the best era Hollywood ever had. Fewer car chases and special effects -- more actual quality. They had scripts!

"An environmental movement, Part I. This was about the time when a significant minority of Americans began to realize that oil is a finite resource, that ozone depletion is a real problem, that pollution actually kills people by inches and that animal species are dying off one by one. We actually had a president, Carter, who installed solar panels in the White House. (Reagan promptly had them taken out.)

"I could go into other things, but suffice it to say that the 2000s have made the '70s look pretty good to me in hindsight. And let me repeat, at the time I utterly detested the '70s."

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Where Are The Liberal Media When You Need Them? Thoughts On Scott McClellan's Spiel

By Manifesto Joe

In the time I have worked in American news media -- 30 years -- we've had to deal with right-wingers' allegations of "liberal bias." It goes on to this day, despite many years of Fox News obviously functioning as the right-wing Republican answer to Soviet state TV. Even if you go back 20 years or more, to a time when some faint whiff of liberal influence on American media might have been evident, it pales in comparison to the partisan bashing one sees on Fox, every hour on the hour.

In his new, much-discussed book, Scott McClellan touches -- just slightly -- on the problem. That being that the right wing had a strategy, and that despite any rational opposition, they made it work.

Scotty only brings it up in the context of the Iraq war, and American news media's absolute failure to hold the Bush administration's propaganda up to proper scrutiny.

I suggest that this reverse bias strategy has been going on a pretty long time, and still is. The strategy was to cry "liberal bias" so often that the great lie would become accepted as truth, a la Joseph Goebbels. As a result, the right seems to have at least their U.S. hard-core 30% in tow, no matter what happens on the world stage.

It's common sense that a profession like journalism will attract more liberals than conservatives. There are some righties who go into the field (with backing from trust funds and inheritances, usually) because they think their influence is needed among these hordes of liberal reprobates in the profession. I have known some like that. But mostly, liberal types are drawn to these jobs. The jobs don't usually pay well as "college required" professions go, so that means you have to have a bigger moral and emotional stake in it than if you were going into, say, banking. One goes into journalism actually hoping to do meaningful work and make the world a slightly better place.

The right's strategy has been to cry "bias" so many times, and to assemble dubious inductive arguments with isolated instances of sloppy journalism, that eventually many people would buy the line. Over decades, they succeeded to a frustrating degree.

But, with Scotty coming forward like this about media cheerleading on the Iraq war, the ruse is beginning to fall apart. I remember the period of 5-6 years ago, and wondering where the hell our Murrows were while Colin Powell was lying to the U.N. Even Bob Woodward seemed to be shilling for the administration during that time. There was a total collapse of the scrutiny, the skepticism, the suspicion that comes with media at its watchdog best. You know, the traits that "liberals" usually bring to it.

The Free Press Action Fund has kept abreast of the reactions to Scotty's book, and there's more there than has been headlined in general:

... he takes it one step further, implicating the mainstream media for its role in "enabling" this propaganda: "The national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House" in spreading the president's case for the war, McClellan writes. The mainstream media didn't live up to its watchdog reputation. "If it had, the country would have been better served.

There's more:

The media's complicity in promoting this war was confirmed Wednesday night by CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin who said that network executives had pushed her not to do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration as the nation readied for war.

"The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation," Yellin told CNN's Anderson Cooper. Here's the video:

This is all very familiar turf for me. I've heard it, from bootlicking editors, in many ways. "These people in your story, they're not OUR people." "We need to stick to the facts of the story." (I thought that's what I had been doing.) "We have advertisers, and we need to think about them." (Hey, that was when they were trying to be half-assed honest.)

Perhaps this has driven one more nail into the coffin of the myth of liberal media bias. If not -- give me a bag of nails, a coffin and a good shovel, and I will gladly finish the job. I can vouch from experience that it is among the most toxic of all political myths.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.