Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Little Night Music For New Year's Eve

By Manifesto Joe

Jazz has been called "America's classical music." There's been a wealth of material there for over a century, and it actually benefits in many cases from smaller musical combos, more so than Euro-classical usually does.

This video shows four musicians doing quite a bit of justice to a 1966 Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn composition, Mount Harissa. I had never heard these musicians, the Alexandria Kleztet, before; the Ellington album is a late big-band jazz classic (Far East Suite).

By the way: Duke Ellington (1899-1974) hasn't lacked for recognition, obviously; but his frequent collaborator, and a composer by himself of many standards (Take the A Train, for one) is now largely forgotten. Do a Google search for Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967). Great musical genius.


Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cheney Not Merely Evil, He's A Confessed War Criminal

By Manifesto Joe

Now that Christmas is over, so is my brief spirit of holiday forgiveness. Some things are unforgivable. "Vice President" Dick Cheney is one of those things.

It's obscene that this man isn't in prison by now, let alone that he's still in office. It's not a mystery, though. The abilities of, and inclination for, investigation of the executive branch for high crimes and misdemeanors have been greatly diminished.

Cheney has essentially admitted that he lied the U.S. into the Iraq invasion, which resulted in over a million deaths. So he's now a confessed mass murderer.

Here's video of Keith Olbermann on this subject, plus the vicious beating of the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist. (So much for nation-building.)

In this second video, also from Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC, constitutional law Professor Jonathan Turley indicates that not only Cheney, but Il Doofus himself, could perhaps be vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes in their authorization of waterboarding. Cheney has just about flatly confessed:

I'll be blunt. I understand it's going to be hard to get a lot of people excited about bringing this rogues gallery to justice in coming years. Memories are short. Also, the vast majority of people who were victims of these policy decisions were brown-skinned and not Americans.

But, to quote Professor Turley, what has been undermined in the past eight years has to do with who we are, as Americans. The Obama administration should put prosecutions of this kind on a burner, even if it has to be a back one.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Couple Of Laws Might Curb Food Waste At Hospitals, Nursing Homes

By Manifesto Joe

The holiday season is as good a time as any to bring up a little-noticed scandal: the mind-boggling amount of food that is wasted in hospitals and nursing homes. And it's time to raise an angle on this problem that is generally not discussed -- that nutritionists and their staff members simply don't know or care what to serve to sick, old people.

I'm not going to present readers of this post with a lot of stats -- if you've ever had a relative stay in a nursing home, or spent any time in a hospital, you've seen the many untouched trays, three times a day, day after day. The waste must surely amount to billions of dollars over time. And a little legislation might be an answer.

I will present only one statistic, unattributed. It's estimated that about 10 percent of all waste that comes from hospitals is food. Think of how much this adds to the cost of health care in America -- it must be significant.

And it isn't simply that some sick people can't eat much, or that the food is unappetizing (although it often is). Quite often, what the staff brings to individual patients or residents is totally inappropriate.

One relative of mine who has been in nursing homes and hospitals for years is a colostomy patient. In other words, she shits into a bag, in the front, because inflammatory bowel disease made the surgery necessary. She's also lactose-intolerant.

So, what have we seen them bring her over the years? Plates with such offerings as lasagna (with plenty of acidic tomato sauce, and lots of cheese), lightly steamed broccoli, barbecued chicken on the bone with lots of sauce, crispy tacos and other Tex-Mex fare, all manner of raw salads, beans, milk-based pudding -- you get the idea.

It's all very tasty if done well, and also reasonably nutritious. But there's one big problem: She can't eat any of this stuff. She couldn't eat most of it even before she underwent a colostomy.

We supplement her diet, so thankfully she isn't starving. She would be if she had to depend solely on the tender mercies of these institutional kitchens. And there are many sick old people who do have to depend on them. There are alternative trays, substitutions, between-meal snacks and so forth, but often they aren't an improvement in digestion for the infirm. Salami sandwiches and Fritos don't do the job any better for these folks.

Obviously some of this can be written off to human stupidity. Poorly paid staff members simply don't read the diet cards, or don't care anyway. You run across one occasionally who is almost unspeakably stupid ("I didn't know there was milk in cheese.") But much of it rests with a kind of organizational insanity.

The professionals involved, the dietitians, are trained to deliver nutritious food to the old and the sick; but they're sending out food that's mostly appropriate for people with healthy digestive systems. That doesn't serve most of their clientele.

In other words, the stupidity goes all the way to the top, as usual.

My wife and I, both advocates for sick, elderly parents, have been fighting this battle for years, with few if any results. The scrubs just don't get it, no matter how much you point out such obvious imbecility to them.

Regrettably, it's going to take a couple of laws to improve things here.

(1) Dietary standards for the sick and elderly.

It's time to put an end to a "one size fits all" approach to food for people in hospitals and nursing homes. Blenders and food processors are cheap. They would pay for themselves if the infirm got food they wouldn't have to chew and could actually digest.

And the institutions should be liable for malnourishment of people who have special problems such as diabetes, food allergies or lactose intolerance. A couple of class-action lawsuits would probably make those dietary cards required reading.

(2) Recycling requirements. Some food waste from these institutions is inevitable, but why does it all have to go to the landfill?

In my innocent youth, I assumed that all that food that sick and old people didn't eat eventually ended up in barnyard pens, as hog slop. That would make sense. (Sorry, Jewish, Muslim and vegetarian friends -- some of us carnivorous Gentile infidels still eat those filthy animals.)

I don't remember when it was, but I was told that, no, that food just gets tossed. I recall mention of health regulations that require that it be thrown away. How f*****g stupid can society be?

At the very least, this food could be recycled for compost. And in the case of food that obviously hasn't been in contact with anyone's saliva, why the hell couldn't it be ground up and sold, or even given, to pig farmers to feed to their swine? Sounds sort of like a green solution to me.

Contrary to the conception that libertarians and conservatives have about liberals and progressives, many of us have indeed met a rule or a regulation that we didn't like. They are certainly not desirable for their own sake.

But there are times when law is the only instrument to stop insane behavior. We have a couple of examples of that here.

I hope someone in Washington, or in Austin and other state capitals, cares enough about this scandal to file a couple of bills and try to end it.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

RIP, Dock Ellis: 1945-2008

By Manifesto Joe

Former major league pitcher Dock Ellis died Friday at the age of 63. Dock was a one-time All-Star who won 138 games in 12 seasons -- a very good pitcher, but not remembered as a great one. He won't make the Baseball Hall of Fame, not by a long shot.

Even if his career stats had been more impressive, Dock would have had a tough time making the Hall anyway, for one big reason. He's mainly remembered for an evening in June 1970, when he pitched a no-hitter -- high on LSD.

It apparently wasn't premeditated. Dock had a few days off and flew back to his home turf in the Los Angeles area, where he partied insanely with friends, as he was apt to do when off the mound.

In the morning of one of those days, he took a hit of acid. He appears to have lost track of the time, but his girlfriend happened to pick up the morning paper and reminded him: Hey, Dock, aren't you scheduled to pitch tonight in Pittsburgh? (Dock was in the Pirates' starting rotation.)

Oh, shit, he must have said. So Dock was on a plane before long, and made it back to Pittsburgh before the game.

It was described as the ugliest no-hitter ever. Dock didn't tell any sportswriter until years after his retirement that he was blasted on acid, but he admitted to recalling only bits and pieces of the game amid his euphoria. He walked eight batters and hit one with a pitch. (He usually had good control.)

But he said that he focused on that catcher's mitt -- I'll bet it was glowing. Anyway, nobody got a hit, or scored, for the opposing San Diego Padres. Bill Mazeroski and other Pirates teammates made stellar defensive plays. And Willie Stargell hit two home runs. The Pirates won, 2-0, and Dock got his no-hitter, even though he started talking about it in the dugout, which violates a taboo in baseball.

Dock was known for his antics, and for being erratic and combative. He wore curlers to a game once, apparently in response to sportswriters' comments about his changes of hairstyle. He said the gel would help him throw his spitball. He beaned Reggie Jackson once so badly that Reg had to be carried off the field. He chased a heckler in the stands decades before Albert Belle. He threw at a succession of Cincinnati Reds batters before being pulled from the game.

He somehow had a couple of great seasons, and several good ones, but was through at age 34. He was doing booze and coke in frightening amounts, he himself said. In 1980, he went through rehab and reportedly stayed clean thereafter.

But before passing any judgment on Dock, or others of his generation -- pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee once told a reporter that if the commissioner was going to fine all players who smoked pot, "He'd be a very rich man" -- let's fast-forward.

Give me Dock Ellis or Bill Lee over any of the steroid beefcakes who have been setting tainted records in recent years. The older guys were doing what they were doing mainly for pleasure, and largely at the long-term expense of their careers -- not setting juiced-up records.

These guys may have been colorful in the wrong way. But Barry Bonds always came off like a calculated business plan in the form of an athlete. He will be remembered that way, like an automaton.

Yeah, the Babe never did acid. That's probably because it hadn't been discovered yet.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Even Conservatives Should Hurl Shoes: Bush Is A Waste Of Skin

By Manifesto Joe

By now, I'm sure everyone who has a TV set has seen the Iraqi journalist throw his shoes at Il Doofus at the Baghdad news conference. I understand he also called Bush a dog. That seems insulting to canines, known in Western cultures for loyalty and unconditional love. But I also understand that in Arab culture, dogs are ill-regarded, considered unclean animals.

While thinking about what to post about the incident, it occurred to me that a former friend of mine, a staunch Texas-bred conservative, would lament about seeing an A-Rab insult our president. He would lament further about how liberal Democrats are set to take control of most of the federal government. How could this have happened?

I hate to sound like fellow Texan Ross Perot, of whom I am no fan. But to paraphrase him, it's this simple.

Conservatives: You folks blew it. It's that simple.

You blew it when you bet the farm on a man who is, arguably, the most pathetic waste of skin ever to sit in the Oval Office.

Let's forget Il Doofus' penchant for butchering English, his broken Spanish, his prodigal youth, his utter lack of intellectual curiosity, his smirking conceit, and on and on. One can't expect perfection of anyone, and some might even regard Bush's human idiosyncrasies as endearing.

Let's just stick to measurable results. It's hard to think of one sound decision Il Doofus has made in nearly eight years in office. This is a man who cut taxes deeply for the wealthy, threw a few scraps from the table to con the middle class into thinking they were getting something, then pursued a stunningly expensive elective war.

The result is an annual deficit that could approach $1 trillion for his final budget.

This is a "president" who doggedly stuck with the ideology of deregulation, even as a meltdown of subprime mortgages was imminent, and years after the chicanery of Enron and Arthur Andersen was evident. Now the taxpayers are stuck with a financial bailout of shocking proportions, and in the middle of a recession.

Back to the war: It's not hard to understand why millions of Iraqis would loathe Il Doofus. Those millions would not include the estimated million or so who have died as a direct result of Bush's unnecessary war. It's said that dictator Saddam Hussein was responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis. Some sources say that Bush, in his own bungling way, has got Saddam matched there.

"He (Bush) has ruined the Republican brand," lamented one conservative officeholder. Well, it's not completely Bush's fault, although largely. Conservative Republicans have long been known for economic ideologies that reward the wealthy and punish everyone from middle class on down. It's an approach that tends to work only as long as there is general prosperity, and as long as there is a powerful propaganda apparatus to persuade lots of people to vote against their own interests.

The right has also been characterized by a might-makes-right foreign policy that has made the U.S. a target of hate the world over. This went on all through the Cold War, but at least then there was arguably a reason for it, since even paranoids can have enemies. But the entire planet, at least the part that thinks, knows now that Saddam Hussein didn't have shit for WMDs and was being contained. Even the Bushies had to admit at some point that the "intelligence" was bad.

I'll speculate that the "intelligence" was irrelevant to Il Doofus, as any intelligence has generally been. He thought his elective war was going to be easy -- that Iraqis would not be throwing shoes, but rather rose petals at American feet. (And then, there would be all that wonderful oil!)

Even conservatives need to face it. This man has been King Midas in reverse. Everything he touches turns to feces. Even if one considers the limitations of conservative ideology, Bush has pursued some thoughtless sort of "conservatism" so artlessly that he makes the likes of Ronald Reagan look shrewd in comparison.

For those who want to see it again, here's YouTube video of the shoe-throwing incident:

Included is Il Doofus' moronic reaction, consisting mostly of snickering and smirking and stupid jokes.

I'll say it once more: Conservatives, you blew it. Now, from all sides, let the size 10s fly.

Postscript: That journalist is a pretty good pitcher. Too bad that back when Bush was frontman for the Texas Rangers, the team didn't have an extra dude with that much control and velocity.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Over: Chicago Sit-Down Strike, Final Chapter

By Manifesto Joe

They didn't get what they should have -- that would have been their discarded jobs back. But workers at Chicago's Republic Windows & Doors factory have voted to end their sit-in after winning a partial victory. A $1.75 million deal will give them their legal severance and accrued vacation pay.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., helped broker the deal, according to The Associated Press report. For the workers, Gutierrez said, it works out to about $7,000 each.

Here's the news link to this development.

They shoulda done better. But there are times when you gotta take what you can get.

I guess this won't be like the Flint sit-down strike -- but maybe it's a start.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Labor Wins A Round: Bank Of America Oinkers Make Credit Concession

By Manifesto Joe

It ain't over till it's over, but the workers staging a sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors appear to have won a big round in their fight for fair compensation. Bank of America, the financial monolith that got $25 billion of the federal government's financial bailout, appears to have felt the heat.

The Associated Press reports:

A resolution appeared closer Tuesday when BOA announced that it sent a letter to Republic offering to "provide a limited amount of additional loans" to resolve the employee claims.

Here's a link to the entire report.

It's hard to embarrass swinelike people, but seeing that BOA has taken so much bailout money from the taxpayers, it seems to me like they ought to extend Republic's credit enough to for the company to reopen the factory and save 250 jobs.

Instead, BOA oinkers had the audacity to act like they at least partially side with the protesting workers, "expressing concern" that Republic hasn't offered to pay the workers their legal entitlements. Looks like a laughable diversionary tactic to me.

Meanwhile, the sit-in continues. Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Workers Take Over Chicago Factory, Blame Company's Bailed-Out Creditor

By Manifesto Joe

This is an example of why a bailout, any bailout, is fundamentally a no-win situation for the taxpayer.

You may have heard news that workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago occupied the building and began a sit-in after the factory shut down Friday on three days' notice. Last time I checked, they're still there.

The workers say the factory was closed in violation of a law that requires a 60-day notice for a shutdown. They say they won't leave without assurances that they'll get severance and vacation pay.

What you may not have heard is the reason for the abrupt shutdown. The company's creditor, Bank of America, canceled Republic's line of credit. Republic's sales have tumbled in the sour economy, and with no line of credit, CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors," The Associated Press reported.

This is the same Bank of America that got $25 billion of the federal government's $700 billion financial bailout. That's over 3.5% of the total package. And they can't afford to extend a line of credit so that 250 mostly Hispanic wage earners in Chicago can keep their jobs?


The Associated Press also reported that Bank of America, in a statement Saturday, said that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

Exactly for whom, and to whom, is Bank of America, sucking at the federal tit to the tune of $25 billion, responsible and accountable?

It's in the public interest that people can get and hold jobs. These people can't pay taxes when they're in the unemployment line. Since this largess is coming from the taxpayers, we've got a perverse situation of collectivist capitalism for the bankers, and the icy sidewalk for the faceless mass of suckers who put up money for the bailout.


Along with many other people, I held my nose and voiced support for the bailout as a necessary evil. But this case illustrates why taxpayer-funded bailouts end up being no-win situations. It's a sort of blackmail -- the national economy would fall into a downward spiral of Depression proportions if financial institutions the size of Bank of America were allowed to go under. They seem to know this, and their behavior is commensurately unaccountable.

Chicago will easily survive a loss of 250 jobs at Republic. But multiply that scenario across the country, with many hundreds of struggling companies and overextended creditors, and you get a mental picture of what the U.S. economy is

This is an example of why bailouts need to have many strings attached to them, and very sturdy ones. In exchange for that $25 billion, the federal government ought to have pretty much leverage over what Bank of America uses it for. Republic operates at the level of a few million dollars per month, not in the billions like BOA. This is a microcosm of the kind of abuse that the many have endured, at the hands of the few, for decades.


A bright spot is that this incident may become a rallying point for the revival of a union movement in America. Here's more from the AP report:

"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."

Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."

Leah Fried, an organizer with United Electrical Workers, obliquely compared the sit-in to the landmark 1936-37 General Motors sit-down strike in Flint, Mich., which helped unionize the auto industry. (Yeah, I know, there's the automakers bailout. That's another post.)

"We're doing something we haven't done since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," AP quoted Fried as saying. She pointed out that the occupying workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building during the sit-in.

Realistically, the financial bailout is a bitter concoction we're going to have to gulp down. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. And, for a dramatic change from '80s and '90s stupor, a lot of Americans seem to be waking up from virtual date-rape drugs and realizing who's been carrying out the assault on working people for many years.

I hope the 53-46% mandate for Barack Obama was only the beginning. Republic should trigger a reborn union movement in this country. Against the kinds of monolithic entities we now face, like Bank of America, lots of people getting together again is the only chance we have.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Madness That Somehow Perseveres: Austin's Own Roky Erickson

By Manifesto Joe

By the way, it's pronounced "Rock-ee," not "Roak-ee." (His given name was Roger, so I can understand why he lost it.) The singer/guitarist who fronted the Texas late-1960s psychedelic cult band the Thirteenth Floor Elevators has been back on stage in recent years. By all accounts, he still gives a great show for a dude who is diagnosed as schizophrenic and likely did way, way too much acid back in the day. Roky spent long stretches in mental hospitals. He is reported to still need his meds and lots of supervision.

Here are three videos from YouTube:

The more popular California-based psychedelic bands of the '60s had nothing on this one. Groovy, Roky. Your comeback is an inspiration.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.