Monday, March 28, 2011

Hey, Robert Reich: Why We Need Voters Who Will Get Off Their Asses And Go To The Polls

By Manifesto Joe

Nearly 75 years ago, FDR gave a campaign speech condemning Big Business and its predatory practices in no uncertain terms. Something to recall from history is that he didn't have a hostile House of Representatives or a lot of right-wing Republican governors to face after the midterm elections of 1934.

Economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in an op-ed piece for Truthout, quoted FDR in "Why Governor LePage Can't Erase History, and Why We Need a Fighter in the White House." Here's a link to the entire piece, and following are some quotes:

Big business and Wall Street thought (Labor Secretary Frances) Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.

Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned "business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering."

Big business and Wall Street, he said,

"had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me –- and I welcome their hatred."

Fast forward 75 years.

Well, indeed, let's do exactly that.

Practical politics

FDR, on close examination, wasn't quite what the hardcore left had hoped for in America, either. Granted, he got much more done in his first 100 days than Barack Obama did in nearly two years before taking a "shellacking" at the polls. But in large part, that "shellacking" is precisely the point.

Some 29 million Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 didn't vote in November 2010. Some 19 million McCain voters didn't vote, either, but that left Obama and the Democrats with a deficit of 10 million votes for the midterm election. That was enough to make the difference for the Tea Party. The right-wingers got their base out to vote; the "left," or what there is of it in America, simply didn't.

As a result, Obama now faces a House packed with hardcore right-wingers, enough of them to vote to defund National Public Radio (as though it were a huge contributor to the deficit). He is confronted with right-wing, Tea Party-backed governors all over the country, even in states that he carried comfortably in 2008.

Maine and Wisconsin are two big examples. Obama won those states with something like 56 or 57 percent of the popular vote. In 2010, both states elected Republican governors. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has made busting the state's public employee unions into his life's work. The right wing is touting him as a possible presidential candidate. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage has ordered state workers to take down a mural at the state labor department depicting Maine's labor history. He's also renaming the conference rooms that had been named for American labor leaders and for Frances Perkins, the U.S. labor secretary who in 1933 became the first woman to serve on the president's Cabinet.

How could you not have known what would happen?

Excuse me, 29 million sometimes-voting Americans who voted for Obama in '08: What the hell did you think you were voting for then? And what the hell did you think was going to happen when 29 million of you sat home last November and let the radical, right-wing Republicans win high office across the land? Are you going to tell me that you're surprised that these things are happening?

To answer the first question myself: I, for one who turned out to vote both times, had hoped that I would get something more. Obama hasn't been what I had hoped. He's no FDR. Instead of enlisting people like Frances Perkins, he's surrounded himself with Wall Street-minted characters like Timothy Geithner.

But to Obama's credit, he did get some important things done for ordinary Americans. Thanks to his credit-card reform law, I'm likely to get a lower interest rate on my credit card very soon. As for the "Romneycare" health-care law that he pushed through at the federal level -- I favor single-payer for everyone, so obviously it's not what I'd hoped for. But if he'd decided to go down fighting for the public option (a compromise in itself), we'd have gotten nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip.

Obama isn't an idealist or a radical, and neither was FDR. Both were and are pragmatic, results-oriented politicians, the kind who actually get elected to high office, and sometimes even live to tell about it. And remember that FDR had "supermajorities" in both houses of Congress to put across his program. Obama, even last year, didn't have that in either house. As a pragmatist, he decided that something was better than nothing.

Yes, I've been disappointed. Like movie star and Inside Job narrator Matt Damon said, "I no longer hope for audacity."

But what I did understand is what would happen when radical right-wing Republicans got their money-grubbing paws back on the levers of power. Some won't openly say it, but they want to privatize the Social Security system that FDR and Frances Perkins fought for and made a reality in 1935. It's been the most effective anti-poverty program in the country's history, and now the right wing wants to gut it and put it in the hands of speculators who won't have to rely on it when the time comes.

The assault on organized labor has been going on for decades, and what Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin should be absolutely no surprise. The reactionaries have been telegraphing that punch for many years. The thing that surprises me a bit is how so many "center-left" Americans are now shocked, shocked, that these things are happening, and that the right-wingers actually have the power and votes to get them done.

Why is this so? Because 29 million of you out there sat on your asses last November and didn't vote, in effect handing the country over to them. I sure as hell knew what was going to happen, and that's why I voted. You apparently didn't know, and hence didn't vote?

Obama may well be a Republicrat. But we know now from the Clinton presidency that a centrist Republicrat is better for most Americans than a reactionary, any day. We live in an imperfect republic, and sometimes it's necessary to hold one's nose and vote for the lesser of two evils.

Just remember this in November 2012; and, more importantly, remember this again in November 2014.

Like former Labor Secretary Reich, a lot of people have been disappointed that Obama hasn't shown more fire. But it's a two-way street: It's much harder to be a fighter when so many people are deserting your corner. With more reliable support, he might surprise all of us.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Texas Young Republicans Are Retarded Liars On Teacher-Administrator Ratio

By Manifesto Joe

I believe that it was the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said something like, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts." It would seem that the Texas Young Republican Federation doesn't need facts -- it can just make them up as they go along, and then opine away.

They tried to tell the people of this state that the teacher-to-administrator ratio in Texas has swelled to nearly 1-to-1 (almost one administrator for each classroom teacher). Here's a link to the PR release of this ridiculous right-wing disinformation.

Many people realize that their jobs are at stake as the Legislature considers $9.8 billion in education budget cuts. So, the snot-nosed, trust-fund-suckled Young Republicans should have realized that somebody was going to check up on their "facts."

None other than the Texas Education Agency did just that. Here's the link to that story.

The Young Piss Ants claimed that the teacher-administrator ratio had gone from about 4-to-1, favoring classroom teachers, in Texas in the 1970s to nearly 1-to-1 now. But TEA data show that the actual ratio is now nearly 13-to-1, weighted to the classroom.

Here's how the Young Rethuglicans explained their data:

Kristy Moore, chairwoman of the federation, said the group's statistic includes all nonteaching staffers -- including superintendents, bus drivers and counselors -- who fill "administrative" roles.

So, janitors and bus drivers are now "administrators?" What about crossing guards?

Here's more from that story:

Among those saying the ratio is misleading is Moak, Casey & Associates, an Austin-based school finance consulting firm. The firm notes that the second-largest group of school employees is auxiliary staff, which can include bus drivers and nurses aides.

"I'm not sure why this keeps getting repeated, other than folks trying to beat the drum that schools are overstaffed," said Dan Casey, a partner in the firm.

None of this is shocking, just foolishly predictable. Right-wingers have a nasty habit of "cooking the books" when it comes to their "factual" data.

I recall getting into a strange exchange with some bozo clerking in a cigar store back in the 1990s. He claimed to me that the U.S. had spent "$6 trillion" on welfare in 30 years (since 1965). I told the man that he was misinformed. He went looking for some book, probably by Rush Lardbaugh, to back up his claim. He had a hard time finding the passage -- I think he hadn't actually finished the book and was afraid of losing his place in it. Anyway, I just paid for my smokes and left. The problem with trying to argue with fools is that you may be mistaken for one yourself.

Later, I realized what his bogus "argument" was, because I ran across it again. What his "book" was putting forth was the notion that any and all spending on anything that could be construed as "social welfare spending" at all by the federal government, which would include Social Security and Medicare, would come under the category of "welfare." When I hear someone say "welfare," I think of the specific program called Aid to Families With Dependent Children. He and his "source" were including anything that could be even remotely called "social welfare spending."

The 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill once said something to the effect that, while not all conservatives are stupid people, most stupid people are conservatives. This is how so many common slobs, who have no common interests with the trust-fund babies comprising the Young Republicans, are pathetically demagogued. They read some initial "claim," then don't bother to check the facts in any detail.

What this boils down to is that there are some people who can be believed, and others who can't. The common word for them is liar.

And when they're stupid liars, it seems even worse.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Must Viewing: Jon Stewart Exposes The Lavish Lifestyle Of Teachers

This should be required viewing!

Please watch.

Seems like Michele Bachmann could have used a better-paid high school history teacher, or at least an effective one. She was in Concord, N.H., and told them that they should be proud to be one of the places where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. (That Concord is in Massachusetts.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Governor Goodhair, Moron: Says That Texas Teacher Layoffs Are A Local Problem

By Manifesto Joe

Rick "Governor Goodhair" Perry ran for re-election last year on a platform of no new taxes, and many Texans were gullible enough to buy it, casting 55% of the votes for him. Now we're looking at mass teacher layoffs across the state, and Goodhair has the nerve to say at a press conference that it's "a local decision."

This comes as Texas legislators are considering nearly $10 billion in budget cuts to education. The overall proposal would eliminate up to $31.1 billion in state services over the next two years.

According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Carroll school district Trustee Sue Armstrong described Perry's comments as "comical." She went on:

noting that Carroll has already cut $2 million from its budget, mostly from the central office and via teacher attrition. "The next cuts we're looking at are to our gifted and talented program," Armstrong said.

Goodhair does a lot of talking about jobs. Of course, he's talking out of his ass. For one thing, a new UCLA study shows that Texas extracts more tax money out of its businesses than blue-state California does. Here's the link.

Bear in mind, though, that these taxes are being extracted from middle-class businesses, mostly. Now, he's got the state eating its seed corn so that his very rich friends can be spared any more nasty new taxes -- as though they were paying a lot already. With fewer teachers, less money spent on education, etc., where is this skilled work force going to come from?

Right-wingers would have you believe that merely throwing money at education doesn't improve it. I can tell you firsthand that when it comes to quality of education, money matters. I have a vivid memory of high school biology. We didn't have enough microscopes to serve all the students in the class -- we had to share, and it usually wasn't equal sharing. And the microscopes we had were from about 1948, so even the students who got first dibs at them weren't getting much. My high school graduating class was small -- about 100 -- but I can't remember one, not even one, member of the Class of '74 who ever did well in hard sciences. I didn't even try, because I knew I lacked the background. That's why I ended up a journalist (fool!).

Now Goodhair is going to preside over draconian cuts in education. Of course, his kids and grandkids won't be affected, but millions of young Texans will be. This is what comes of electing to the governorship a right-wing Republican who pulled a 2.3 GPA majoring in animal husbandry at Texas A&M. This stuff gives Aggies a bad name.

Here's the link to the story about Perry's rationalizations.

Well, Texans, I hate to keep saying that I told you so, but I did tell you so. But, of course, this sort of thing is happening all over the country. At least in Wisconsin they have the balls to raise some hell about it. I understand that some Texas teachers are going to Austin this weekend to protest. Good luck -- the Legislature is controlled 2-to-1 by Republicans in a state in which that party is one of the most kook-right of them all. The damage will already be done before you know it.

Just remember that the next time you sit home and don't vote during a midterm election. Even a DINO is usually better than a kook-right, Tea Party Republican. Y'all are fixin' to find that out, the hard way.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Debbie Riddle On Them Illegals: They's Only Good To Mow My Lawn And To Clean My House

By Manifesto Joe

We have a new nominee for most ignorant person in the world: Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball (Houston area). Riddle has introduced a bill in the Texas Legislature that would hit employers of illegal immigrants with heavy penalties. But she makes a very, very large exception -- for "single-family" employers thereof.

In other words, in the world according to Debbie Riddle (a Tea Party fave, by the way), about one-third of the restaurants in Texas would be forced out of business if they were to comply with such a law. But she could go on hiring nannies, gardeners, cooks, ditch-diggers and maids as long as they are employed by a single family.

Riddle should have known that she was setting herself up for "ridicule" here. In the first place, she resembles a cartoon character. There's a picture of her in an outfit that suggests the Texas flag, with white fences and horses and green pastures in the background. She appears to be about a size 6, but one can guess that she can afford plenty of arugula with her salads, and can't remember ever missing a meal involuntarily. She's a blonde who appears to have spent too much time out in the sun. It's taken a bit of a toll.

I don't recall the subject, but Anderson Cooper apparently tore her another one during an interview a short while back. She admittedly wasn't prepared for a grilling from a more-or-less real journalist.

Now, she comes up with this little legislative gem, House Bill 1202. Here's a link to a recent report from the Houston Chronicle.

I could find no biographical information on Riddle, other than that she's listed as a "horse breeder" by profession, and that her husband, Mike, is a lawyer. Oh, and she apparently attended Southwestern University. If that's the one in Georgetown, Texas, I remember it as a private school that's mostly the domain of rich kids.

Anyway, Riddle is being "ridiculed" widely for this stupid bill, which she depicts as a common sense approach to the problem of illegal immigration. A fellow Republican House member, one who happens to be Hispanic, explained that if no such exceptions were made, a pretty substantial portion of the Texas population (and rich 'uns, too, I will add) would go to jail.

I suppose that an "all or nothing" approach to this problem wouldn't be practical. But Riddle's solution is, at the very least, patronizing, and at worst just flat-out racist. Her lawn man and her housekeeper would be OK to stay. (Well, as long as they themselves weren't caught.) Just don't expect your fajitas to be as fast or as cheap the next time you visit a Tex-Mex eatery -- those that are still there. And the cost of car washes and roofing will go through the roof.

It's time to face reality about this. About 1.6 million illegal immigrants currently live in Texas, by one estimate. They are an integral and rather permanent part of the economy. Scholarly studies have indicated that their effect on wages here is very slight, and there are actually some kinds of businesses (car washes and lawn care come to mind) that could not even exist without their cheap labor.

So, where is Riddle coming from? This quote from a 2003 interview with the El Paso Times is a good indication:

"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it's cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It's not a tender heart. It's ripping the heart out of this country."

Well, Debbie, I hate to break this to you, but none of that stuff is free in Moscow, and it never has been free here, either. People have to pay taxes for it -- except, of course, in Debbieland. In Debbieland (2011 America), the rich pay little or no tax, because they are the ones who create jobs -- for maids, gardeners, nannies, housekeepers, lawn men, etc. Preferably, those with brown skin.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.