Monday, July 26, 2010

Joe's On Vacation: But Check Out The Flamin' Groovies, And Webb Wilder

Joe's taking a little time off. I'm turning 54, and I'm going to try to take a few days off from the whole damned world. Here's some music to keep you all company until I come back in a few days. It's called Slow Death:

That's the 1971 original by the Flamin' Groovies, an old San Francisco band. Sounds a bit like the Stones when they were at their best, and I mean that as a compliment. Webb Wilder did a great cover, which unfortunately I only could find 42 seconds of. The full play of Webb's cover is available on the streaming services and pandora, and on his album Town and Country:

So, why didn't the Flamin' Groovies become big stars? And, for that matter, why isn't 56-year-old Webb Wilder one now?

See you in early August, or perhaps earlier. -- MJ

Monday, July 19, 2010

Manifesto Joe's Great Moments In Conservative History, Chapter 8: Alan Simpson Licks Saddam's Jackboots

By Manifesto Joe

Alan Simpson, whose daddy was a U.S. senator and governor of Wyoming, leaves me in awe with his resourcefulness. He pulled himself up by his own Republican bootstraps to follow in Daddy's footsteps, serving three terms (1979-97) in the U.S. Senate from Wyoming. And his service to We the People endures. He's serving on President Obama's debt commission, and one of his big goals appears to be cutting Social Security, which is there, he says, as part of the effort to take care of "the lesser people."

Before pursuing this, let's take the time machine back to 1990. Bush 41 is president. Bush 43, the future Il Doofus, is a hapless failure in business who is sort of a White House Doberman for Daddy. Snearin' Dick Cheney is secretary of defense. The U.S. just got through pillaging Panama to abduct its unruly head of state, "Pineapple Face" Noriega, formerly of the CIA payroll. Dick Tracy, starring Warren Beatty and Madonna, is in theaters, and David Letterman jokes about how Dick hates it "when Pruneface kids him about Ishtar." Debbie Gibson still has videos running on MTV, and Rick Astley still has a pop music career.

And, Alan Simpson is a U.S. senator, Republican from Wyoming, and a member of a diplomatic mission to Iraq.

According to the senator at that time, Saddam Hussein mainly suffers from a public relations problem. This is what Simpson told Saddam:

"Mr. President, I can see that what you have here isn't really a policy problem; what you have is a public relations problem. You've got a problem with the haughty and pampered press. I know all about that, because I've got problems with the press back home. What you need is you need a good public relations person."

Here's a link to an article about the entire episode of April 12, 1990. I'm sure it will be noted that Simpson was joined by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, in licking the chemical-stained mud off of Saddam Hussein's jackboots. Republicans have no monopoly on foolish behavior -- they just seem to exhibit it disproportionately. And especially toward those nasty reporters.

Fast-forward to 2010. Simpson, now 78 and drawing the hefty pension of a former senator, is co-chairman of Obama's debt commission. And it looks like one of the things he wants to do is cut that nasty Social Security that the "lesser people" rely on.

Thanks to for staying on this papier-mache man.

I fully expected, since we are mostly living longer, that someday we would see the age of Social Security claims raised. It seemed inevitable.

But now, in the "Great Recession," we're seeing a livelihood bubble developing for people ages 50 to 64, and increasingly, those older. Either we can't get Social Security, or the disincentives for taking it early are too great. And, we can't get jobs. For all the erstwhile talk about how much the baby boomers were going to be needed in tomorrow's work force, we now seem quite expendable. I still have the job I had in the '90s, but have seen massive layoffs of co-workers, and worry about my job daily. My wife had to re-enter the work force recently, and found herself lucky to be able to land a part-time job with no benefits.

And now, Simpson's beloved fellow Republicans in the current Senate are filibustering against an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. It's estimated that well over 2 million Americans are now without unemployment benefits, waiting for the job that never comes, and/or waiting for eviction or foreclosure.

This man is, at best, a naive product of a privileged background. At worst, he part of a corrupt elite that has been looting honest working people in the country for generations. We are the people who have been doing the grunt work at demanding jobs all over America so that presumptuous types like him can dine in style while "governing" us.

I have a better idea of something for Simpson to do in his old age: Go back to Iraq, disinter Saddam's rotten corpse, and lick his jackboots some more. That will do far less harm than he seems prepared to do right now to honest working Americans.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Typing This On A Dell Computer Is Evidence: Capitalism Doesn't Regulate Itself

By Manifesto Joe

We Americans are indoctrinated, usually quite effectively, in the notion that capitalism is an ultimately fair, if sometimes unmerciful, economic system. It is supposed to be merciless competition itself that disciplines the market. If you make an unsatisfactory product, your competitors, in theory, eat your lunch, and your company soon goes under.

There are many examples of why this is merely theory, divorced from reality. The latest comes to us from the company that sold me the very computer I am typing this on, Austin, Texas-based Dell.

A recent New York Times article reported that Dell employees knowingly sold millions of defective computers "from 2003 to 2005 to major companies like Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo, institutions like the Mayo Clinic, and small businesses." The University of Texas, in Dell's hometown, was another victim of this corporate malfeasance.

This came out as a result of a 3-year-old lawsuit against the computer giant. "Documents recently unsealed ..." the Times report says, "show that the company's employees were aware that the computers were likely to break. Still, the employees tried to play down the problem to customers and allowed customers to rely on trouble-prone machines, putting their businesses at risk."

To read the full article, go here.

The obvious question is: How the hell is Dell still even in business? The Times article does mention that Dell has been going through harder times in recent years, with complaints of poor customer service (I can attest to that) among other problems. That they would knowingly sell defective machines to companies and institutions big and small seems the most damning thing.

Why are they still operating? Granted, they don't have the market share they used to, and they have a few competitors. But that is a key word -- few.

For 120 years, the U.S. hasn't seen many blatant monopolies in our economy, mostly because the Sherman Antitrust Act more or less outlawed them. Intentional monopolies, such as can still be found in some places among utilities, are an exception.

But better economists understand the very strong presence of oligopolies, and also monopolistic competition, in the contemporary corporate world. "Bigness" is the defining factor here. We've seen it all too well among the banks, some of which are now termed "too big to fail," so they rate bailouts with taxpayer money. But it exists in plenty of other enterprises that don't benefit from such wide-open subsidization. (The subsidies are there -- but often indirectly, so you have to poke around to find where they are. The tax system is a good place to look.)

Dell became so staggeringly big that it could engage in this kind of malfeasance and yet still be in business, years later. Its competitors are few, and they are huge, too. All these folks appreciate a quiet life as much as anyone else. One of the crucial lessons of real competition is that you can lose.

So, Dell has lost market share, but it retains a great deal. It's so big, it almost can't fail. I still get plenty of junk mail from them, and here I sit, typing this on a five-and-a-half year-old Dimension 3000.

The marketplace discipline that competition is supposed to bring may have been very real in Adam Smith's day. There, we're talking about microeconomics at the village smithy and yeoman farmer level -- maybe small manufacturers. But today's enterprises have grown so large, they can get away with astounding things and still pay a very limited price for their misconduct. They still have the profits from the sales of millions of faulty computers; and even the aforementioned lawsuit, yet to come to trial, won't really compensate the victims.

So, what's the alternative? There aren't many good ones. But one thing seems clear. The "free market" model of popular indoctrination looks, in reality, nothing like it does in theory.

Maybe I could go to some bank, get a loan, hire techs to start building good, moderately priced computers, and put these rapacious bastards out of business. Which bank would you suggest? One of those that's "too big to fail?"

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Steele and Palin: Where Do The Republicans Find These Harebrains?

By Manifesto Joe

The day after Independence Day is as good as any to breach this subject: Where the hell are the Republicans finding all these political/historical illiterates to parade before the public in high positions?

Michael Steele

Forget for just a moment what your personal views are regarding the Afghanistan war. I will grant that it's looking more and more like a stupid quagmire that can't be won, but just put that aside for a moment.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was caught on video Thursday, at a fundraiser, saying, "This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in." Here's a link.

Um, where the hell was Michael Steele in 2001, when the (Republican) Bush administration decided to invade Afghanistan? And where the hell was he for seven-plus years after that, while the same administration neglected the pressing problems in Afghanistan while deciding to skin Saddam Hussein's scruffy ass?

This is comparable to a scenario in which some leading Democrat, in 1970, had blamed Richard Nixon for escalating the Vietnam War after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Historically, it is illiterate. Makes absolutely no sense.

So, where did the Republicans find this guy? Well, he's a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and has a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. I always assumed you would have to have a first-rate intellect to have made it that far in life. Silly me.

And youthful error can't explain it, either. The man's 51.

Turns out that Mr. Steele has at least one prominent defender: U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Republican and erstwhile Libertarian from my home state of Texas, where we've seen for countless decades that anybody can conceivably be elected to anything. I can't say I disagree much with Mr. Paul for challenging the wisdom of pursuing what is looking more and more like a futile, stupid war.

But I noticed that Mr. Paul had no comment about the historical absurdity of Mr. Steele's statement. But then, judging from Mr. Paul's views and congressional voting record, I never got the impression that he possesses a sense of the absurd.

Sarah Palin

Youthful error might explain some of this gaffe. Sarah Palin is, quite manifestly, 46 going on 19, at least intellectually. And a very, very shallow 19 at that. I think she's still trying to get that platform speech for the Miss Alaska pageant right.

Her list of gaffes is growing long. But the latest one was a topper -- it was about a Republican hero, and one not himself known for intellectual prowess.

During a recent fundraiser at California State University, Stanislaus, Ms. Palin spoke gushingly about President Reagan being a graduate of Eureka College in California.

Reagan did indeed graduate from Eureka College, in 1932. But it was in Illinois. It was described that he took "the gut course" in economics. Eureka College isn't overly well-regarded, but Ronald Reagan could boast of this: He's the most prominent economist that the college ever produced.

But, of course, it would have been wise for Sarah Palin to check on this before including it in a speech. There is a Eureka, Calif., but there's no college of that name anywhere around there.

By the way, according to Politics Daily, Ms. Palin was paid $75,000 for her speech.

Man. I wish I could be paid that well for f**king up.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.