Friday, October 29, 2010

Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck

... in Right-Wing Radio Duck!

This has a great 1930s right-wing, Liberty League, Father Coughlin feel to it, no?

Thanks to Blue Girl of They Gave Us a Republic for turning many of us on to this.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rand Paul Supporters: Jackbooted Thugs Posing As Libertarians

This video should explain itself.

Any questions, class?

Postscript: I heard during the day that the stomper wants an apology from the woman he was stomping. Did he injure his foot on her head?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Great Wes Montgomery, 1925-1968: 'Bumpin' '

I don't remember whether I've already posted this, but it rates a second time. It's getting to where it's hard to find things that can be embedded, anyway. This was a breakthrough album in 1965, by one of the legends of jazz guitar.

Sweet dreams. -- mj

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

O'Donnell On The First Amendment: This Says A Lot

By Manifesto Joe

I had anticipated that once all these Tea Party candidates for Congress start having to open their mouths and wing it during campaigns, they would be revealed as the rank amateurs they are. As plastic and grubby as professional politicians can be sometimes, politics is a profession better left to professionals.

And who better than Christine O'Donnell of Delaware to commit the biggest faux pas (so far) of the midterm campaign: She questioned that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution separates church and state.

In case you don't believe it, here's a link to a breaking story on this from The Associated Press.

Following are excerpts from the AP report:

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine. ...

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked, a statement that drew laughter from the audience. When (Democratic nominee Chris) Coons returned to the topic a few minutes later, he said her comment "reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is."

Delaware is a pretty blue state, with Vice President Joe Biden hailing from there. It was never likely that O'Donnell would be elected from that state even before this. Now, I suspect that the last nail in the coffin has been driven.

It never bothered me much that O'Donnell was on record as saying that she dabbled in witchcraft while she was in high school. Teenagers will do all manner of stupid things -- especially when they're stoned.

It bothers me a lot more that she doesn't appear to have been paying attention during high school civics class, and now she wants a seat in the U.S. Senate.

And if one of the Tea Party candidates is this ignorant, what might that indicate about the others? Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle, who is challenging Majority Leader Harry Reid, is on record as saying that she does not believe that the United States Constitution mandates the separation of church and state. (From Wikipedia)

By the way, Angle also favors U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, a phase-out of Social Security and Medicare, and abolition of the minimum wage -- 1964 John Birch Society stuff. She also wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Education, a position that even O'Donnell seems to regard as too extreme.

They say you can't fix stupid. One of the regular features on Jay Leno's Tonight Show was Jay going out among the general public and asking tough questions like, "Who was the first U.S. president?" A rather surprising number of people couldn't answer questions like that.

You can't "fix" people like that, and still they have a legal right to vote. So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that Sharron Angle is believed to have a good chance to win the Senate seat in Nevada. In Delaware, I'd say that O'Donnell was already toast. She's just more well-done now.

Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

From Joe's Vault, 9/21/08: This Is One Time I Sincerely Wish I'd Been Wrong

An Era Of Re-Regulation? Progressives Shouldn't Celebrate Too Soon

Sorry that the links didn't copy. You can find them on the original post.

By Manifesto Joe

So, deregulation in America is supposed to have died last week? Not so fast. Laissez faire, historically, is one of those economic notions that's sort of like Jason in those bad splatter movies -- it keeps coming back.

I don't doubt that, no matter which candidate is elected president in November, deregulation will be a somewhat untouchable position for a while, where financial markets are concerned. Until several years pass, and the $700 billion payoff at taxpayers' expense is complete, we won't hear much about it.

But this is a zombie that's a re-animator's dream, having risen from rigor mortis again and again. It's a toxic idea has always served the interests of the moneyed class in most societies. Even after being repeatedly discredited by financial crises such as this one, and many before, it only takes a generation or two to resurrect it with as much "credibility" as ever.

As a one-time college textbook editor, I worked with economists, and found them to be largely a priesthood of ideologues. Their ideas don't have to bear strong resemblance to events of the real world. Among many, if not most of them, the "free market" is a quasi-religion, to be challenged only at the questioning of one's intellect and/or sanity.

Interestingly, most of them, even the "free-market" disciples, agree that the looming $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the U.S. financial system is necessary, though perhaps a necessary evil.

We come back to a condition of humans never liking to admit they are wrong. We also come back to old wisdom that one shouldn't bite the hand that feeds one. Most professional economists have "invested" a big stake in "free-market" theory, and their sources of income -- universities, "think" tanks and such -- generally expect them to maintain a certain ideological purity.

When current events fade into history, don't be surprised if we have a lot of economists, and compliant lawmakers trolling for right-wing votes, who want to start deregulating everything yet again. To broadly paraphrase the poet Santayana, most people do not remember the past, and they are therefore condemned to repeat it.

I'll steal another line, this one paraphrased from Citizen Kane: You're going to need more than one lesson, and you're going to get more than one lesson. In this case, the "you" is the American people.

What happened during the past 30 years was widespread economic amnesia, even among the alleged experts. What was forgotten was people's natural inclination to grow greedy and behave badly when not subject to certain restraints.

It's easy to blame the people who signed on to unsound subprime mortgage loans, who ran up vast credit-card debt, and so forth, if you look at the situation in just one dimension. What about the predatory lenders who offered them all this credit they could never have gotten 30 years ago?

I remember being quite impressed in the spring of 1978, as I approached graduation from college, at being offered my very first gasoline credit card. It was a big deal. "We believe that people about to graduate from college are good credit risks," I was told. Years later I was offered an actual Visa card, and the line of credit was pretty modest.

Now, all you need is a pulse. My 81-year-old mother, in assisted living, is getting solicitations. It would be possible for her to obtain one of these cards and run up a $10,000 tab in a hurry, then default. What would they do? Ruin her credit? Garnish her Social Security check?

The fault ultimately lies with greedy lenders. The great unwashed are always an easy target for blame, but the people in the suits don't have to make such absurdly generous offers to hapless people. This go-round, they approved loans and gave out other credit like it was lunch, with no thought for when the bills came due and they had to actually collect.

A wonderful analogy came from Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer-oriented research group. In a Monday piece from McClatchy Newspapers, she commented on the regulatory lapses:

"The job of regulators is that when the party's in full swing, make sure the partygoers drink responsibly. Instead, they let everyone drink as much as they wanted and then handed them the car keys."

Here's the link to the complete article.

It is important to note that Bush, possibly the Herbert Hoover of this generation and much worse, has nevertheless planted seeds for an eventual revival of the old market mentality. One couldn't expect a mediocre-at-best product of privilege to do otherwise. Here's some of what he had to say, as reported by The Associated Press:

The president favored government intervention even though it opened him up to criticism from financial conservatives who are raising their eyebrows at the pricetag of the bailout plan. "Look, I'm sure there are some of my friends out there saying, `I thought this guy was a market guy. What happened to him?'" Bush said.

"Well, my first instinct wasn't to lay out a huge government plan," he said. "My first instinct was to let the market work until I realized, upon being briefed by the experts, of how significant this problem became."

In other words, this is supposed to be an anomaly, not the logical outcome of unregulated capitalism, even though we've seen it in history over and over. Here's the full AP article about Bush's take on this, if you can stomach it.

It would be desirable in many ways to just let the avaricious fatcats go under amid this excess, but that can't be. There are dogmatic libertarians who actually think Americans could be that stupid, both individually and collectively. But we can't afford that. It comes to a kind of economic blackmail -- the risk is too great for too many people who had nothing to do with the bad decisions on either end of the credit process. So, the fatcats will be bailed out.

The hope, against hope, is that "we won't be fooled again." That they won't be able to sell this bill of goods to the next generation in 20 years, and that our own generations of today won't forget. That the libertarians will finally learn that their naivete assumes marketplace self-policing that neither people nor institutions will ever do.

Maybe, just maybe one day, we'll learn. Keep a close watch on your retirement investments in the meantime. Here's one more thought-provoking link by Steve Fraser that I urge the reader to ponder.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Republican Party Has Become Like Organized Crime

By Manifesto Joe

Yes, this has happened before, sort of. FDR did more to save U.S. capitalism than any president before him, yet he was vilified and perennially embattled for his efforts. That time, the opposition largely failed; but this time, success looks imminent. President Obama has acted similarly, yet he looks to have his majority in the Congress taken by a new Cosa Nostra that among other things takes megabucks from foreign countries. FDR didn't have to face anything quite like this.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which virtually always supports "pro-business" Republican candidates, denies that it is doing anything out of the ordinary. But money is pouring into its coffers from diverse foreign sources. This is from a recent Associated Press article, and here's a link to the entire story.

Questions about the chamber's foreign money were first raised this week by ThinkProgress, a blog of the liberal Center for American Progress. The account pointed to overseas business councils, known as "AmChams," that pay dues that go into the general fund of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. sent a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation.

The sources of the money are corporations as far away as India and Bahrain.

But the chamber, never lacking in preposterous rhetoric, came back with this, according to AP:

(Chamber spokeswoman Tita) Freeman dismissed the claim as the work of a "George Soros-funded, anti-business blog," a reference to the billionaire investor known for his support of liberal causes.

So, multibillionaire George Soros is anti-business? That probably came as a startling revelation to his accountants.

What Soros does have, and what is lacking in a great many wealthy individuals and multinational corporations, is a basic sense of fairness and decency. Soros may actually understand what life is like right now for millions of unemployed Americans, and for millions more who were underemployed before the steep downturn of recent years. Soros had the combination of acumen and good fortune to become a fabulously wealthy person -- but he didn't become a gangster while he was at it.

Organized crime is the only description that seems adequate for this. The Chamber of Commerce and its slush money from foreign sources is just one example of the racket. All these alleged grassroots movements like the Tea Party are being bankrolled with shadow money. Here's a link to an NPR report on the subject. The Koch brothers -- that's a name to remember. This is from NPR:

... Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, has long been rumored to be financed by David Koch, of the family that owns Koch Industries. That's one of the biggest privately held companies in America, and the family has a long history of underwriting conservative causes.

David Koch confirmed the rumors at an AFP convention last fall. "Five years ago my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity. And it's beyond my wildest dreams how the AFP has grown into this enormous organization," David Koch said, according to audio from the online news site The Washington Independent.

And then, to top it all off, our new Cosa Nostra has its own giant TV "news" network. Millions of Americans sit and absorb Fox News' mind-rotting swill day after day, being persuaded to vote against their own interests.

This demagoguery has been seen before. But it's never been bankrolled quite like now. And it's come to this after the U.S. Supreme Court, with its 5-4 right-wing majority, struck down limitations on corporate spending for political campaigns, essentially putting two branches of our government up for sale. (The third one already appears to have been paid for. And the "fourth" one -- well, as I was saying in the previous paragraph ...)

Here's how E.J. Dionne Jr. put it, describing the Supreme Court ruling:

This extraordinary state of affairs was facilitated by the U.S. Supreme Court's scandalous Citizens United decision, which swept away decades of restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections. The Republicans' success in blocking legislation that would at least have required the big spenders to disclose the sources of their money means voters have to operate in the dark.

The American people are about to be complicit in the purchase of one branch of their government by organized crime. The obvious intention is for the rest of the deal to be struck in November 2012.

It gives me sincere pain to describe one of our major political parties this way. But privately, I started calling the Republicans "the party of Satan" back around 1995, when the idiots shut down the federal government out of sheer pig-headedness. (My wife said, "You're going to give Satan a bad name.") Anyway, no skin off their butts -- most of them don't have to live even partially off Social Security or VA pensions.

We need a strong and viable conservative party as one of our two major political parties. Right now, what we have is a bunch of ruthless opportunists who are much too obviously on the payroll. They have made Faustian bargains with a variety of groups -- ranging from Religious Right kooks to the kinds of corporate powers that would, if they could, have people working 80-hour weeks for a dollar an hour, and pay no income tax. (Oh, I forgot -- some of them already have the latter worked out. And we see how well it's worked for the economy.)

What Germany and Japan couldn't do in World War II, the Republicans may soon actually succeed in doing -- with the help of their rich gangster friends. To ironically paraphrase Glenn Beck, I love my country -- and I fear for it.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Only In America: Millionaires Collecting Unemployment

By Manifesto Joe

I do my share of lamenting these days about how the American people seem to have lost their minds. Anger is visible in the country today, but it seems focused on all the wrong things. I keep reading that in less than a month, it's likely that the voters are going to basically hand the country back over to the very people who were mainly behind the current economic debacle.

But now I read that U.S. millionaires, a lot of them, have been collecting unemployment benefits. I hope we have something here that most of us can agree is an outrage. I've noticed that even some conservative websites are unhappy about this news.

Here are the particulars, from Bloomberg News, plus a link to the entire article:

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- After the economy slipped into recession in 2008, millions of Americans received unemployment benefits to make ends meet -- including almost 3,000 millionaires.

According to U.S. Internal Revenue Service data, 2,840 households reporting at least $1 million in income on their tax returns that year also collected a total of $18.6 million in jobless aid. They included 806 taxpayers with incomes over $2 million and 17 with incomes in excess of $10 million. In all, multimillionaires reported receiving $5.2 million in jobless benefits.

Not that $18.6 million amounts to all that much in the vast federal scheme of things, in which annual deficits can reach $1.3 trillion. Hell, the country could cut that deficit by two-thirds if it just forced rich people and big corporations to pay more, or in some cases any, income tax.

But there's a principle involved here. All these people are already doing quite well. If there was ever an area in which means-testing was needed, this seems to be it.

And yes, I understand the argument, as reported in the article, that unemployment benefits are insurance benefits, and therefore means-testing doesn't enter into it.

But let's consider that aspect for a moment. Don't insurance policies often come with certain rules and limitations? Term life expires at age 65, usually. Why doesn't unemployment insurance exclude those with incomes above a certain number?

Of course, this issue has come up before with regard to Social Security as well. What the hell is a multimillionaire doing collecting up to $3,000 a month, or something like that, from Social Security?

The rapid response is that Social Security is social insurance, and again, not subject to means-testing. But consider further: You can spend most of a lifetime paying into that system, but if you die just one day before you become eligible for benefits, you don't collect a cent. Insurance is no guarantee when the insured does not meet certain criteria.

As I understand it, Social Security is set up the way it is so that the better-off in U.S. society will be politically co-opted and willing to support and participate in the system. It's essentially a regressive payroll tax, with workers and employers each paying 6.2% on annual wages up to $106,800. After that cap, nothing is paid and nothing is accrued. It's designed so that everybody who accrues benefits will at least get something if they live long enough to collect.

Unemployment insurance was probably set up with the same considerations in mind among those who wrote the legislation. Everybody gets something, so it's more likely that the well-to-do will take part and offer at least tacit support for the program.

But, it is precisely this "what's in it for me" kind of thinking that will eventually sink this country. The paying of unemployment benefits to millionaires is just one little example of such behavior.

But, from what I've been reading, we're likely to witness a mass example of all this self-centered and misdirected rage on Nov. 2. Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.