Monday, May 25, 2009

Governor Goodhair Saga Continues: Stimulus Millions To Help Fix Up Guv's Mansion

By Manifesto Joe

Lesson of the day from Rick "Governor Goodhair" Perry: We mustn't accept federal stimulus money to help the unemployed -- that's godless socialism. But $11 million to help repair the Governor's Mansion in Austin -- that's civic pride. Any questions, class?

Well, to be honest, it's actually our Legislature's idea. This is from an Associated Press story that ran in papers Friday:

Top budget negotiators said Thursday that a House-Senate committee agreed on the expenditure late Wednesday.

The mansion was set on fire in June by an arsonist who has not been caught. About $10 million in state tax money will also be spent on a renovation, which is expected to cost about $20 million, officials said.

... Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle released a short statement late Thursday: "We are continuing to work with lawmakers on the budget."

... Since the mansion burned, Perry's family has been living in a rented three-story, limestone home with a heated pool, an outdoor cabana and a guest house. The state is paying about $9,900 monthly in rent.

But wait, class -- there's more. The story pointed out that Perry has "railed against federal bailouts and the free-spending, power-hungry ways of Washington."

As usual, the Republican animal talks fiscal responsibility, just so long as YOU are the chump who has to be responsible. As power-lunch partners, these types will tip light for their share and leave you to pick up the check.

Meanwhile, as taxpayer money is ponied up to repair his digs and pay his exorbitant rent, Governor Goodhair stands firm in his decision not to accept hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money to extend benefits for Texas' unemployed. As Texas' chief executive goes for a dip in his heated pool, how many Texans' homes are in the foreclosure process?

And that, class, is our lesson for today in fiscal responsibility, Republican-style.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Governor Goodhair Aide's 'Whorehouse' Remark Is Insulting To Whores

By Manifesto Joe

As Jerry Jeff Walker sang -- "When I get screwed, I like to be kissed." Following is our connection: David Carney, a consultant for Gov. "Goodhair" Rick Perry of Texas, warned against turning the Republican Party into a "whorehouse" with the aim of casting a wider tent for voters. Here's a link to an Associated Press story.

This raised the ire of proper Republican women across the Lone Star State. But another group should be equally pissed: practicing whores.

I confess that, despite macho posturing among fellow Texas men, I passed on any and all opportunities with those practicing the oldest profession, and therefore have no firsthand experience. But I have heard this on good authority: Good ones, the real pros, will kiss you first.

Not so with Republicans. And this remark by Perry's strategist is actually a bigger insult to a group seldom quoted by the mainstream media.

The Iraq war, tax breaks for the rich, overseas tax havens for corporations, Enron, the subprime mortgage debacle, abuse of credit card holders, assaults on civil rights and liberties, incentives for polluters and corporations that export jobs, neglect of returning veterans, whittling away at Medicare and Medicaid ... I never got kissed before any of those mind-boggling travesties.

So, it seems like a worse insult to those hardworking women who are, well, honest enough to be hookers out in the open. They are at least above-board, and I doubt that they would put you at risk for diseases much worse than the ones Republicans have already inflicted upon us.

The standard political response to all this, of course, is that "Governor Goodhair" is in trouble yet again, not long after his infamous secession remark. And this gives plenty of cannon fodder to U.S. Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison, a "moderate" Republican who is almost certain to be his challenger in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.

But I'm honestly concerned about the aspersions cast herein upon the hardworking crack whores of our mean streets. They're a skanky bunch, to be sure. But, to even suggest that the current stalwarts of the Republican Party, especially in this state that spawned the likes of Il Doofus, are a lot better than them? Well, it's a "stretch." (No double-entendre intended -- really!)

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bringing The New Torquemada To Justice

By Manifesto Joe

I confess that I've been a little nonplussed about the Obama administration's lack of aggressiveness in bringing the Bush-era war criminals to justice. The man who seems to present the biggest legal target is the modern Grand Inquisitor himself, Dick "Torquemada" Cheney.

It isn't merely that Cheney is a contemptible, sneering weasel who doesn't know when to give up on his special brand of right-wing whitewash. From the available evidence, it was the "vice president" of the time who is most directly traceable to orders to carry out "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Writing for Truthout, Steve Weissman brought out a few unsavory points about the employment of torture (yeah, let's call it by its honest name):

Cheney's signature success with torture came when the CIA sent al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shayk al-Libi to Egypt, where he "confessed" that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda in chemical weapons. Al-Libi's statement, extracted under torture, was the smoking gun that Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell all used to sell their pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. So, don't tell Cheney that "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" do not work. They damned sure do if your goal is to get the propaganda you want to go to war.

Few in Congress or the mass media have pushed Cheney on this "great success." Fewer still have seen that that Bush and Cheney's illegal use of torture to sell their pre-emptive war in Iraq was probably their single greatest crime. Why the reluctance? Why do so many Americans refuse to see the obvious?

In large part because Congress, the corporate media, and even the general public were to some degree complicit in the crime. Whatever the CIA told Congressional leaders about waterboarding, sensory and sleep deprivation, stress positions, or sending captives to other counties for interrogation, only the mentally challenged had any excuse for not knowing from the public record at the time the rough outlines of how far Bush and Cheney had stepped beyond the law.

To read the entire article, go here.

The implications are far-reaching. It isn't merely a matter of Cheney, Il Doofus & Co. knowingly and deliberately violating the Geneva Conventions. They used evidence extracted from a terrorism suspect as part of the argument to drag the U.S. into one of our most needless and regrettable wars. The Iraqi loss of life has been staggering in proportion, comparable to that of the "pacification" of the Philippines over 100 years ago.

The probable waterboarding of one suspect may have led to slaughter on a mass scale, and robbed the U.S. of any moral authority it may have had, for generations. "We" weren't supposed to be doing this sort of thing -- that was the kind of thing that "we" said made the "bad guys" bad.

It's pretty obvious now that basing a war, at least in part, on the confession of one wretch who was being subjected to prolonged torture was the height of pseudo-pragmatic imbecility. I consider myself a reasonably tough person. But if you waterboarded me enough times, I would probably sign my house and car over to you and confess to the murders of Jonbenet Ramsey and the Lindbergh baby.

There's a rogue's gallery of suspects implicated in this, but the biggest cheese of all seems to be the gangsta that Il Doofus picked to be sort of a de facto president, his chief operating officer, "Torquemada" Cheney.

(An aside: One thing I am very proud of is that I never bought into any of this. I could see Bush becoming a neocon opportunist with his "Axis of Evil" State of the Union speech in January 2002, and I never believed anything the bastards said from that point on. Unfortunately, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and much of the allegedly liberal media did buy into at least some of it. As for me, I was against the Iraq misadventure from the very beginning.)

Sadly, Dick Cheney is likely to be dead of heart failure long before it would be possible for him to serve a day in jail. Obama and Eric Holder don't seem to want to push this, and if they don't change their minds, it will go down as another one of those hideous scandals that litter our history. I mentioned the "pacification" of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. It's estimated that up to 1 million Filipinos died as a result, from fighting, hunger or disease. I learned this from independent reading as an adult. It's not often in history books. We mustn't let this episode of war crime slip into some footnote.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

With Lubbock Vote, Neo-Prohibitionist Movement Seems To Have Finally Passed Out

By Manifesto Joe

Lubbock, Texas, is certainly the biggest "dry" city in Texas (population about 210,000) and perhaps the largest "dry" one in the U.S. If the early returns are accurate, that is about to change. The Associated Press reports that in a local election, Lubbock voters are favoring beer, wine and liquor sales in stores, by 64 percent in early counts.

The city has had a weird system for years. You could get "liquor-by-the-drink" in a bar or restaurant inside the city limits. But there were (and are) no package stores, and you couldn't get a six-pack in a convenience store. The city has the biggest university in that desolate region, Texas Tech, and the students of age there have to go to a "wet" suburb to buy a bottle of wine. (Or a case of beer -- now, doesn't that sound like a bright idea? I'll get to that irony later.)

I grew up in a "dry" town, but one that had smaller towns nearby where miscreants would sell any kind of booze to just about anybody, even 16-year-olds. I don't recall that those in-town conditions stopped anyone from drinking.

My family was religious and generally teetotaling; I recall being about 11 and taking a ride home with a Little League teammate of mine, and seeing an astonishing thing. My buddy's dad, home from his job as an offshore oil-rig roughneck, was behind the wheel and taking swigs of whiskey out of a "fifth" bottle. Little Buddy-roo and I were in the back seat, watching the spectacle of old Ken as he passed this rather large bottle to his bud in the front passenger seat. I'm not sure, but I think they were also chasing with beer.

I was too young to realize that these older dudes were actually risking the lives of little J.T. and me in the back seat. But there wasn't much traffic on small-town streets and semirural roads, and this seemed to be something intrinsic to the local culture. Because liquor couldn't be had just anywhere, these men (and quite a few women) would drive long distances to get it. And, in doing so, they didn't seem to think much about the consequences of driving while consuming, except to evade the local gendarmes. My recollection is that this wasn't hard to do.

Attitudes have changed for the better since 1967, even in Gothic regions like where I grew up. But this drove home a point: Prohibition actually, ironically, encourages binge drinking, and also drunken driving.

On a long-ago vacation, I remember passing through a flat, dry West Texas hamlet on the way to New Mexico. This place had a reported population of about 400; but this was Saturday night, and it looked like some kind of mini-Vegas. Looking around at the local commerce, it wasn't hard to figure out what the attraction was.

They might as well have changed the name of this little place to "Beer." For population, they might as well have put on there: Weekdays, 400. Weekends, 10,000.

A certainty is that these genuine and drugstore cowboys, who had come to town that night in their F-2000 pickup trucks, were unlikely to drive 40 or more miles back home without having had a few brewskis. And just maybe, more than a few. And maybe that was just a chaser for some hard liquor. Being a native of this region, I can tell you, there aren't very many Merlot-sipping men living outside of Highland Park.

I actually saw stranger, more opposite things in New Mexico, like package stores adjoining bars. There, a feller can git half-swacked in the bar, then finish the job by picking up a bottle for a nightcap on the way home! Again, one little blessing is that a lot of roads in this part of the world are straight and not well-traveled.

In Arizona, I saw strange, opposite things as well. You can buy hard liquor in a 7-Eleven until wee hours. It's nearly like that in Louisiana, too. And California is far more lenient than Texas, in some ways.

Then, there are the serious Puritans. I've never been to Utah, but I know someone who lived there. The Mormons are surprisingly tolerant of liquor-drinking miscreants. They just require their liquor stores to look like mini-Leavenworths. They want to make certain that their Jack Mormons feel like sleazy reprobates.

I lived in Oklahoma for a short time, and the package stores there look like low-rent warehouses, with very minimal advertising. You can't buy cold 5 percent beer anywhere in the state legally -- the real stuff has to come from a package store, and you have to chill it yourself. In 7-Eleven, they offer a relic of Prohibition, 3.2 percent beer. (They have that stuff in Colorado, too, but not with as many
other restrictions.) I recall a Lawton, Oklahoma, store clerk giving me a stern moral lecture when I was surprised that I couldn't get real beer in a corner store there -- "You gotta keep yore nose real clean up hyere, Tex ..."

And yet, living in Oklahoma, while I was jogging on residential streets, I don't remember anywhere else where I saw as many empty pint bottles of Wild Turkey littering the gutters. Obviously people were riding around in cars drinking hard liquor, then tossing their empties.

The point is that Prohibition measures, even partial ones, clearly do not work. They just make people drink furtively, and actually encourage them to drive far pieces to get it.

Similar arguments can be framed regarding marijuana, but I'll save that for another post.

Anyway, my hat's off to the folks out in Lubbock, for finally seeing reason. I don't own a real cowboy hat -- I like fedoras and a few variations -- but I'll take those off to the good folks of Lubbock. I might have gone to Texas Tech, but I went to a small Lutheran college instead. Lutherans don't have major problems with beer.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hey, Right-Wing Machos -- The Manassa Mauler Was A New Deal Democrat

I'm really sick of right-wingers acting like they're the ones who invented toughness. Some of the toughest people on this Earth have seen or have been in a lot of fights with hired toughs -- the kind of people they were up against don't usually have to do their own fighting, they can rent it out. Here's an example of one of the world's toughest dudes ever, who was a progressive, pro-union liberal!

On June 24, 1895, the day Jack Dempsey was born, during Grover Cleveland's second term as president, America was still discovering itself. Colorado, which had become the 38th state in 1876, lurched into an uproar of mining booms and busts, miners' strikes and mine owners' brutal and casual slaughters. Photographs survive of private armies maintained supposedly to keep order, and in practice employed to gun down union men. "Three dollars a day," the mine barons said in effect, "for ten hours or twelve. You'll live in our houses, buy in our stores, and do what you're told. If you don't like it, ten immigrants back East are ready to take your job." Touring one deep gold mine, Ulysses S. Grant said, "This is as close to hell as I ever hope to find myself."

Miners who protested for shorter hours, better pay, and safer conditions underground risked their lives up top. One typical private army, the Silver Queen Guards -- employed by the owners of the Silver Queen mines in Georgetown, thirty miles west of Denver -- was better uniformed than the U.S. infantry, and at least as formidably armed. Massacres of union men bloody the pages of history. Dempsey's later populism and passion for social programs such as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal persisted after he became a multimillionaire. He said he never forgot, nor did he want to forget, the ferocity with which the mining barons treated working men and their wives and children.

-- From A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s, by Roger Kahn -- MJ