Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sen. Wendy Davis' Filibuster Derails Texas School Finance Bill, Forces Special Session

By Manifesto Joe

It wasn't exactly a scene out of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Wendy Davis only had to filibuster for an hour and 15 minutes Sunday night, because of Texas Senate rules. But in so doing, she at least temporarily derailed the $4 billion gutting of the state's public education system by stopping the Texas Senate from passing a revenue measure on the next-to-last day of the regular biennial session.

On Monday, the regular session's last day, Republicans had to muster 25 out of 31 Senate votes (80%) to resurrect the bill, and even with their 19-12 majority in that body, they could not. Apparently, everybody goes back to work in special session today.

School officials across the state have been dreading this action by the Legislature. And it will likely come to pass anyway -- the Republicans can come up with simple majorities, most certainly, in both houses. What it will mean is layoffs, layoffs, and more layoffs, in large districts and in small.

On the issue of education, when you confront a Republican with the old bromide, "You get what you pay for," their stock response can be, "No, you don't." (I actually had one say that to me.) To a Republican, the quality of teaching has nothing to do with class size, and the quality of the teacher has nothing to do with how much teachers are paid. A good teacher will work for cans of beans, they "reason," and will be just as effective in a classroom with 40 students as in a classroom with 20.

I suppose this is why we've seen so many good teachers leave the field, one might think. But no, this is not the Republican way of "thinking." Really dedicated professional educators will work for peanuts, they seem to think, and will stay no matter if they have to teach 60 in a classroom.

(At this point, I have an aside question for self-interested followers of Ayn Rand: Who is John Galt, and why does he keep saying these moronic things?)

Anyway, Texas Republicans would have one believe that slashing $4 billion from state spending on education will have no effect on quality. Let's just get rid of the deadbeats, they seem to think, and all will be dandy.

It's not as though Texas was ever very generous toward public education. In a decade, the state slipped from 25th among 50 states in per capita spending on students, down to 37th. That's about to get worse.

As deadlines approached, that's when Davis, a first-term Democrat from Fort Worth, decided to throw a monkey wrench in the works.

Governor Goodhair for president?

And this "unpleasant" development comes just as Rick "Governor Goodhair" Perry tells reporters that, in essence, he's starting to believe his own bullshit press. After Rush Lardbaugh carried on about him so over the air (a mancrush, Rush?), Goodhair told the news media that he's "thinking" of running for president.

Hell, for over a decade, we've been waiting to see whether Goodhair is even capable of governing this state. With a record budget shortfall confronting Texans, all he could do was tell everybody that budget cuts hurt, but hey, things are tough all over. This is from a man who is living in a house that leases for $9,900 a month, and has become suspiciously wealthy during his time as a "public servant."

He even had the chutzpah to say that school district cuts in personnel are "a local decision." Trustees across the state would have laughed out loud at that if they hadn't been so busy deciding where to cut when state funding is dramatically reduced. One school board member did call Perry's comment "comical."

Well, if the Republicans could get Il Doofus "elected," (appointed?) and if Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are actually considered viable prospects for their presidential nominee, then I suppose Karl Rove is probably confident that he could sell an Aggie who pulled a 2.3 GPA majoring in animal husbandry.

Anyway, Davis' filibuster to force a special session comes at a sensitive time.

Now back to Wendy

Davis apparently decided that she couldn't stay on the sidelines while this feasting on seed corn was taking place. This is from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram report:

Rumors had circulated that throughout the day Sunday that Davis had planned to filibuster against the bill, but the Fort Worth senator declined to confirm the reports and avoided contact with reporters.

But shortly after the Texas House passed SB1811, Davis rose to begin assailing the bill, saying it would mark the first time in state history that Texas has failed to fund student population growth.

She also read letters from constituents questioning the cuts and urging lawmakers to dip into the state's Rainy Day Fund to help finance education.

"We are going to permanently reduce funding to public schools in Texas," she said, clutching a microphone as she stood near her desk at the front of the chamber. "I don't think there is anything to celebrate in that."

Here's a link to the entire article.

It will be interesting to see what soon happens to public education in Texas, and especially if Rick Perry decides to toss his hat, or hair, or something, into the presidential ring.

I hope that in the grim years to come, Texans won't forget one courageous senator who decided to lead a likely futile fight against the triumph of ignorance.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Poll Shows Texans Want Services But Don't Want To Pay For Them

By Manifesto Joe

As the Texas Legislature nears the end of its biennial session, an enlightening new poll from The Texas Tribune has been released.

There's one thing for certain that the poll findings suggest: The lawmakers had better avoid any cuts they can in public education. Among Texas voters, there appears to be a remarkable degree of ignorance about the basics of public affairs.

In short, the poll indicates that Texans want services from their state government, but largely don't seem to want to generate new revenue to pay for them.

Here's a link to the poll's particular findings.

Tea Party foolishness on parade

This Texas Legislature is about 2-to-1 Republican, due in large part to Tea Party success in getting right-wingers to the polls last November. The new members are generally against any and all new taxes, and some of the old ones as well. Their solution to the state's record budget shortfall has always been to take a meat ax to state government.

They are not above lies and distortion to achieve this. Here's a link to a previous post of mine showing Young Republican deceit regarding spending on education.

The poll shows that voter intelligence, or lack thereof, lies behind their electoral success. Far more voters in Texas want to deal with the budget shortfall through cuts than through boosting revenue. But when presented with specific areas, such as public education, for such cuts, the poll respondents became very unclear and frequently contradicted themselves.

Texas has never been generous toward its public schools. Here's a link to a story from earlier this year. In short, about a decade ago, Texas was 25th among the 50 states in spending per pupil. It's now 37th. And now, clearly, that's going to get worse.

A frequent right-wing mantra is that you don't solve problems just by throwing money at them. But there seems to be some correlation between education spending and the quality of teaching that emerges.

Scoring No. 1 on the Report Card on American Education, released in 2010, was Vermont (incidentally, the home state of the only avowed socialist in Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders). That state was also No. 1 in percentage of state expenditures on public education, with 36.7% of its budget going there. It makes a difference in quality of teachers, availability of technology and equipment, and in class size, among other factors.

Although one obviously doesn't want to pay needlessly for things, quite often what you get is what you're willing to pay for.

Cutting spending on public education in Texas? This new poll demonstrates that we already have a problem here, as so many likely voters seem to believe that 2 plus 2 can be made to equal 5. For God's sake, we don't need to slash public education -- we clearly already have a deficit in that area!

So, who, then, will pay the new taxes? How about those who have the ability to pay? This state already has one of the most regressive tax structures in America. My wife and I have a very ordinary family income, and yet we pay thousands a year in sales taxes and user fees. How about making some of the big shots, like Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil, pay up?

Where will the corporate scofflaws go?

Another right-wing mantra is that if taxes start going up sharply on big business, they will pull up stakes and head for someplace more hospitable.

And where would that be? Canada? They actually tax their corporations up there. The rates are rather low, but they don't exempt two-thirds of them from paying. Seems that Canadians have figured out that if you want services, you have to pay for them.

Mexico? Would corporate executives want to send their kids to those schools, drive on those roads, and hope that none of their relatives got beheaded by drug-cartel gangsters?

Venezuela? I'm sure that Hugo Chavez would just love for ExxonMobil to relocate its executive suites to Caracas!

What we're witnessing is ignorance on a mass scale, and it goes well beyond Texas' borders. Last night, I got a comment on a post that's a few months old, from a man who has an Internet Tea Party radio show. This was the final paragraph:

Oh and unlike you, I have the balls to post under my own name. Perhaps that comes from knowing that my ideas are corrects and your ideas are nothing more than BS you picked up on MSNBC or from the New York Times. Oh how easily the stupid and naive or fooled by the mainstream media.

This semiliterate man has a radio show? Oh well, I suppose one doesn't have to be able to write and spell coherent English sentences while doing a broadcast. It still gives one pause, though.

It's been said that if you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs. I think that the wait is over.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Donations Show Fox News, WSJ Are Propaganda Wing Of Republican Party

By Manifesto Joe

In case there's still anybody out there who genuinely believes that Fox "News" is "fair and balanced" and that The Wall Street Journal is an evenhanded, objective news source, information is coming out about where and how much Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is donating to political recipients.

News Corp.'s board of directors has decided to come clean about all this and start releasing details about political donations, starting in earnest this summer. But there's already information about where these donations have been going before this. Here's a link to a related story.

What's been happening before now is not exactly shocking to those who understand what Fox, WSJ and the rest of Murdoch's "journalism" holdings have been up to. This is from the aforementioned story:

News Corp., which includes Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal among its holdings, last year contributed $US1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association, which was disclosed, and $US1 million to the US Chamber, which wasn't. The second sum was reported by Politco in October.

Such corporate donations are separate from the contributions made by a company's political action committee, which are regularly disclosed to the FEC.

Unlike their PACs, corporations can't contribute to the political parties, though they can help fund political groups such as the RGA and so-called super PACs. While super PACs can take in unlimited donations, they can't contribute directly to federal candidates. They can explicitly urge voters to support or oppose candidates.

Whither objectivity?

None of this should come as a surprise to anybody with half a brain who has tried to watch Fox "News." It's clear that the complaints about bias at news outlets like CBS and PBS, dating to the Reagan era, were less based on real bias and more based on insufficient bias of the kind that meets with conservative approval.

I would concede that, during the 1980s, I saw a few things on outlets such as CBS News that seemed to me less than objective. But such moments tended to be the exception rather than the rule. When one tries to watch Fox "News" with a "straight face," intellectually speaking, one witnesses a stream of straight news heavily blended with undisguised opinion, without much in the way of labeling or transition. There, it's the rule, not the exception.

I think that perhaps it's time that journalism organizations just flat-out disposed of the principle of objectivity. The purpose of it seemed like a noble, albeit unattainable, goal during the 20th century. But when one goes back and examines the newspaper journalism of the late 19th century, there was little or no pretense of objectivity. In fact, many U.S. newspapers were called the "Republican" or the "Democrat," in plain declaration of their party preference. At least you knew beyond much doubt what you were getting when you put your nickel down at the newsstand.

Maybe it's time to dispense with any pretense. Some of the best "real" journalism around right now is being done by Truthout, a Web-based organization that exists on reader donations and makes absolutely no pretense of not being a progressive, muckraking outfit.

What is bugging conservatives so much, from what I've seen as a 33-year veteran of the news business, is that not very many of their ilk go into the field. Most people who go into journalism fit one of these descriptions: (1) People who want to write for a living, but realize that very few make a living from writing. (Yeah, you guessed it. I'm one of those fools.) There aren't very many conservatives in that group. (2) People who, like the generation who went into the field inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, and other crusading journalists who actually had a impact on history, hoped to make a difference. Not many right-wingers there, either. (3) People who wanted to be sportswriters but couldn't get a break in that area. Sorry to be so blunt, but chuckle-heads and jock-sniffers like this are where some of the conservatives in the field come from.

So, generally, the rank and file of schmucks who go into journalism tend to be center-left in their political sentiments. That shouldn't surprise anyone, any more than it should surprise anyone that most people who go into more lucrative fields like banking or accounting tend to be politically conservative.

Since there's such a tempest over politics and its seepage into journalism practices, why should any of us go on pretending? I've always done my best to be "objective" in my regular job, because that's expected of me. I work for the mainstream media, and I know who signs the checks. They expect a certain kind of product, and I try to deliver it for them.

But I've seen a gradual shift in journalism, from subtle bias toward the left, to blatant bias toward the right, with groups like AIM cracking the whip at MSM outlets until they cave and actually start showing a de facto bias toward the right.

Let's all come out of the closet, boys and girls. Then we'll see where the real bias is -- and I'd bet a fair sum of money that it isn't left-leaning.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Texas Republican Crybabies Will Pout While Obama Visits

By Manifesto Joe

This is the state whose governor talked in thinly veiled terms, in 2009, about secession. It's probably at a risk to life and limb that President Barack Obama will come here at all.

He's coming Tuesday to El Paso and Austin, two places where he has actually had good voter support -- but the Republicans will be pouting and reviling him.

It seems that his administration didn't approve federal emergency funds after wildfires burned up a lot of acreage, and more than a few posh vacation homes, in the state. Some ranchers are going to lose money, too, because of the destruction.

It's been bad here, but Obama has had a lot on his plate lately. I'd say, given the devastation and loss of life seen in places like Alabama, that the FEMA money is probably being better spent there. (By the way, I've never heard of Alabama being an especially pro-Obama stronghold, either.)

But Texas Republicans seem to think that Obama has a political vendetta against the state, and that he's taking it out on Texas now, amid scorched earth.

Bear in mind, it's not like he's going to be losing a lot of votes over all this. He wasn't getting Republican votes in Texas anyway, ever, so what's there for him to lose, politically?

Here's a McClatchy newspapers piece on the subject, at this link.

When you've got a brat governor who's talking secession, is it a surprise that Texas isn't high on the federal priority list? But I doubt that this is even the reason for the denial. The federal government is dealing with an enormous deficit right now, and decisions have to be made. With all the untaxed money there is here in this state, I suspect that Texas has plenty of money to deal with this situation, without the help of the federal government at this particular time.

Get over it, Republican crybabies.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Isn't Qualified To Be Dead Until Donald Trump Sees The Death Certificate

By Manifesto Joe

The problem is, how would we know that it wasn't a fake?

I guess that means that "The Donald" and all the rest of us will have to see the bullet-riddled body. But if the face has been shot to pieces, how would we know that Special Forces didn't just dredge up some 6-foot-4, skinny Arab for target practice? How would we know that Osama isn't actually still alive, scarfing hummus and falafel and advising that closet Muslim in the White House?

Well, by now I suspect you get the point of this sarcasm.

Any credit here for Obama?

Barack Obama seemed downright presidential Sunday night while announcing this big score of scores. But will he get any credit? If you watch Fox "News" during the next week, I'll bet that Il Doofus gets much more credit than Obama will. And Bush 43 couldn't get this guy for over seven years -- in fact, Bush diverted U.S. attention away from bin Laden and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with his rogue-nation invasion of Iraq. That cost this country countless billions, some of which should have been focused on a terrorist network that actually attacked us. And according to some estimates, it cost over a million Iraqi lives.

I hope that the American people have sense enough to know that this day should have come much sooner, and likely would have, if the country's priorities hadn't been grotesquely and viciously distorted by ruthless, self-serving people.

This post is going to strike some people as irreverent and brutal. Sometimes honesty has an unfortunate way of sounding like that.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.