Monday, June 28, 2010

America, 2010, and America, 1934: How Are We Different?

By Manifesto Joe

The America of 1934 was much worse off than the America of today. But there are some parallels: stubbornly high unemployment, pay cuts, political polarization, a field day for demagogues, a right-wing Supreme Court confronting a liberal Democrat in the Oval Office ... above all, a general feeling among the populace of, "When did my life become a horror movie?"

Today's America has Keynesian economic precedents, and something of a social safety net, with food stamps as the centerpiece. At least few people could actually starve, unlike the situation in '34. And the official unemployment rate is hovering at only around 10 percent. Even if one factors in the underemployment and other differences of today, the job situation of 1934 was certainly worse. There are no bums coming to my door, begging to do whatever work I have here for some food. My mother, who was 7 in 1934, had vivid memories of them. And, beans and cornbread was mostly what my grandmother had to offer a Depression-era tramp. My grandfather was making about a dollar a day.

But one of today's crucial differences, the social safety net -- such as it was at the start of "The Great Recession" -- now seems in peril.

Last week, the extension of unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed failed to clear the Senate. I've created a link. The vote was 57 for, 41 against, with 40 smug Republicans plus Nebraska Blue Dog Ben Nelson blocking the bill. Nearly 1 million jobless Americans will lose their unemployment benefits because the Democrats could not muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened Republican filibuster.

If this had happened in 1934, I would dare say there would have been a lot of people out on the streets all over this country the next day, and quite possibly bloody violence. It's true that Americans were remarkably stoic through 10 miserable years during the Great Depression. But in those days, there was at least enough turbulence to show that people basically knew who their enemies -- and friends -- were. In the America of 2010, at least half the country doesn't seem to get it.

Because of the Senate's inaction, there will be a spike in homelessness and hunger. There will be many more foreclosures and evictions.

There are doubtless some right-wingers who think that unemployment benefits encourage people to remain jobless. I don't think that such people have ever had to try to live on the meager sum that unemployment insurance pays. But even if their notions were so, there are few jobs compared to the number of jobless. This will force many people out of their homes, into shelters, into already-stressed food banks -- and into suicidal despair.

I find it a bit ironic that the one Senate "Democrat" who sided with the Republicans on this is from the very state where a Depression-era food riot occurred. The eruption that took place in 1932 in Lincoln, Nebraska, is now barely a footnote in history. It was one instance in which the stoicism of heartland Americans was finally exhausted.

But, history doesn't exist for many Americans of today. It's interesting to note that one of the most active Communist Party cells in America during the 1930s was in Oklahoma City, capital of what is now one of the nation's most rock-ribbed Republican states, represented by two of the most dimwitted right-wingers in the Senate. Not that being a communist was an especially bright thing, even then -- but it's understandable when you realize what daily life was like for most Oklahomans during the Depression. I lived in that state briefly during the 1980s, and by then, you couldn't tell there had ever been a Dust Bowl. Nobody seemed to remember it.

So, what's the difference between America of 1934 and America today? Back then, people seemed to have a collective memory, at least of sorts. Today, many can't remember back any further than whatever Glenn Beck told them on Fox News yesterday. And, while there were indeed demagogues back then, and right-wing ones -- they seem to have more muscle now.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gulf Spill Notes: A Yacht Named Bob, And A Boob Named Barton

By Manifesto Joe

Joe's been kicking back a bit while recovering from an illness, but surely the faithful few out there knew I wouldn't be gone very long.

So, how can there be any doubt left as to why there are millions of gallons of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico?

BP Chief Executive Tony ("I want my life back") Hayward took a day off Saturday to watch his yacht "Bob" compete in a race. This man is one of the leaders of a huge multinational corporation, and he names his yacht "Bob"? This takes some of the mystery out of the disaster. There were even Republicans, namely Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who were bent out of shape about his little holiday. But it seemed to me that his day off wasn't a bit nonplussing. That he would name his 52-foot yacht "Bob" -- now that says a lot, I think.

A boob named Barton

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, based in Arlington, Texas, is sort of local phenom around these parts. Those of us who don't quite share his corporate-lackey political philosophy have long had to suffer through those silly campaign ads, with his Down's syndrome eyes and knee-jerk right-wing slogans ("We've got to stop librul ideas ...").

But hey, I didn't realize until last week that Oil Can Joe could emerge among House Republicans as one more of those gifts that just keeps on giving. He joins Joe "You Lie" Wilson of South Carolina, fellow Texan Randy "Baby Killer" Neugebauer and Minnesotan Michele (of the countless idiocies) Bachmann in the pantheon of House GOP fecal feet.

There were Republicans who came down on him hard after his "apology" to BP, in which he referred to the $20 billion damages fund extracted by President Obama as a "shakedown" and a "slush fund." Even after his halfhearted apology, there were actually Republicans who were calling on him to resign his committee post.

Don't do it, Joe!

The Democratic Party needs you, especially this November. Your "seat" is Republican-safe, there being so many insular fools residing in that generally suburban middle-class district. You'll be re-elected -- Bachmann may not be, so the Democrats need one more guaranteed buffoon. Stay the course, Joe!

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Atlas Shagged: Colorado Springs Is What Happens When Rich Twits Refuse To Pay Taxes

By Manifesto Joe

The city of Colorado Springs, Colo., has become a microcosm of what happens when those in the community who are prospering are unwilling to pay the taxes needed to fund basic government services.

I visited C.S. way back in 1984, and was blown away by what a beautiful place it was. There were gorgeous plants and flowers everywhere. You could see Pike's Peak through some residents' kitchen windows. There were mild days and cool nights even in August. And, most of all, one was taken by how pristine everything always looked. "This is Heaven!" one resident, a former Texan, told me unabashedly.

But, one other thing I noticed: I had never seen so many extreme right-wingers congregated in one place in my whole life. And, mind you, I'm an almost lifelong Texan.

It was Religious Right Heaven. It was also NORAD ex-military Heaven. When we went to the "hipper" part of the urban area, a place just next door called Manitou Springs, a seemingly cool-looking bookstore had a display case featuring the complete works of Ayn Rand, fiction and nonfiction. (I'm still trying to figure out how one tells those apart.) This place had every kind of extreme right-winger, variously theistic to atheistic, on full display. Even at a sort of dude ranch where we went to see a popular local show combining a traditional chuck-wagon meal and Western music, somebody shoved a right-wing screed in your hands while you ate your ranch beans and got ready to hear the greatest hits of the Sons of the Pioneers. ("Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds ...")

I was absolutely blown away by the physical beauty of the place, the Garden of the Gods, the Cheyenne Mountains ... you name it. But it occurred to me -- this is a place that votes for Reagan something like 4-to-1, or more. The local daily newspaper, the only one competing with the Denver-based papers, was a place where you practically had to pass a Libertarian ideology test to go to work as a journalist there.

Now we know what happens to a place when the locals become pathologically anti-tax. It's a lot like what happened, more gradually, to the state of California in the decades that have followed the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. That place, once the envy of the other 49 states, has become such a hellhole that hardly anybody wants to be the governor. There's not enough money for basic things. I call it "Atlas Shagged."

Courtesy of Truthout, here's an exclusive video of what's happening in this once-pristine city. Last fall a proposed property tax increase was rejected by a margin of almost 2-to-1, and now they can't even afford adequate police protection in this fast-growing city. It's reported that two-thirds of the streetlights are idle, like, out. A merchant was murdered at a place where a city streetlight was nonfunctional.

I went to C.S. 26 years ago as a tourist. I wonder what effect all this is going to have on their tourist trade?

Spread 'em, Atlas.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A New Inductee Into The White Trash Hall Of Fame: S.C. State Sen. Jake Knotts

By Manifesto Joe

This "gaffe" was a most revealing one: Even a person who toes the Tea Party line can be highly suspect if they are not a good old-fashioned, right-thinking (white male Protestant) Murkan.

South Carolina State Sen. Jake Knotts, commenting on a Republican, Tea Party-backed candidate for the gubernatorial nomination who happens to be a female Christian from a Sikh ethnic background, said: "We already got one raghead in the White House; we don't need a raghead in the governor's mansion."

Obviously I live in Texas, so I'm used to encountering such prejudices. The senator wasn't expressing an unusual sentiment, and I understand that it's even more common in South Carolina than it is here.

But it doesn't hurt to bring such malignancies to the surface. Here's a link to the story.

In the category of, sometimes it's better to laugh than to rage or cry

The Onion sometimes doesn't seem to have the quality of writers it used to have, but they got a good laugh out of me with this one. "Gulf of Mexico Inducted Into OPEC."

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Heard It Here Early: Sarah Palin Is A Semiliterate Dunce And Had No Business Even Being Alaska's Governor

By Manifesto Joe

"Gov.Jindal:to avoid ravished coast, build the berms.Ask forgiveness later;Feds are slow to act,local leadership&action can do more for coast"

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tweeted this imbecility Monday evening to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

My source? No, not Keith Olbermann -- although he is the one who most widely publicized this bit of Palin semiliteracy. I cut and pasted this off of a site called I've put a link in here, if your stomach is strong enough to read some of this moronic swill.

How titilating -- that lusty, gushing BP offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is going to "ravish" the Louisiana coast. I want to see that video on The Weather Channel.

And this person got 46 percent of the vote for vice president of the United States? Scary.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.