Monday, November 28, 2011

Disgusted With Black Friday And Other Thanksgiving Excesses? Check Out Andy Borowitz

By Manifesto Joe (Well, sort of)

The Walmart pepper-spray incident in California was just one more of many reasons for Americans to feel ashamed about Black Friday. If there is no other reason for us to be embarrassed about being residents of the U.S., this is it.

I can't equal this man's one-liner humor, so I give you Mr. Andy Borowitz!

How to cut a turkey the Republican way: give 1% of your guests 99% of the meat.

Celebrate Thanksgiving the American way: spend money you don't have on Chinese products.

Here's a Thanksgiving diet tip: this year, don't eat like such a fucking pig.

Rick Perry says as President he would pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving and execute an innocent man instead.

BREAKING: US to Deploy Walmart Shoppers in Afghanistan.

The NBA deal is an inspiring story of millionaires finding common ground with billionaires.

BREAKING: FDA Declares Rick Perry a Vegetable.

As Egyptians risk their lives for new government, Americans bravely do the same for new flat screens.

My immigration proposal: we let illegal immigrants stay here but Mexico has to take our presidential candidates.

Besides pepper-spraying protesters and not arresting football coaches, what exactly do campus police do?

China may lead us in math and science, but we are way ahead of them in shitty vampire movies.

Want more? Andy is on Facebook and Twitter!

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Myth Of The Free Market, Part II: Steve Forbes Needs His Cranium Occupied

By Manifesto Joe

Recently, Steve Forbes joined Sarah Palin in saying something to the effect that the Occupy protesters need to go occupy Congress, not Wall Street. According to reports, the one-time Republican presidential candidate said that the protesters need to protest cumbersome regulations that he believes stymie business and seem intended to destroy the financial industry (Huh? Does he mean the one that was so unwisely deregulated during the late 1990s?)

Most of those who know Forbes' history, I'm sure, realize that this is yet another fool who, to paraphrase Jim Hightower's line about George H.W. Bush, was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

Forbes personifies all that is corrupt and twisted about the current system of rigged games, and the privileges that the system's 1% beneficiaries have the absurd nerve to deny that they have.

During his first campaign for president, which fortunately didn't go far, Forbes proposed a flat tax of 17%, and even suggested that the first $33,000 of a family income could go untaxed. That lured in an awful lot of uninquiring minds. I remember talking to a small-business owner who thought Forbes' idea was just wonderful -- until I explained to him what the catch was.

In the Forbes plan, income from dividends and interest, pensions, and capital gains would all be exempt from any and all federal taxation. For the most part, I just described what makes the difference between a very wealthy person and one of more modest means.

My friend hadn't heard that part, and had to back down and say, "You're right." I told him that a modified flat tax probably isn't such a bad idea, at least compared with the convoluted mess we have now. But the Forbes plan clearly wasn't the right one. I recall even Pat Buchanan, nobody's bleeding heart, commenting caustically that Forbes' plan sounded like something the boys in the boardroom would come up with.

What Forbes personifies is ironic -- he's the most dogmatic of "free-market" advocates, yet he represents all about the so-called free market that is, for all practical purposes for the vast majority of people, a joke and a hoax.

The U.S. is a plutocracy, not a democracy or even a republic

I've heard a lot of argument back and forth about whether the U.S. was constitutionally designed to be a "democracy" or a "republic." I'd have to say that it's supposed to have been some of both, or what could be described as a "democratic republic." It was obviously meant to be a "republic" inasmuch as our government is largely representative, divided and subject to certain checks and balances, as opposed to a "direct democracy." There are many democratic features in the system, but our founders seemed to clearly have the concept of the "tyranny of the majority" in mind.

But in 1787, when the Constitution was drafted, the country was largely composed of yeoman farmers and small-business people. Women didn't have the vote, and black people -- well, the proposition that they were even people was often a minority opinion among whites. In much of the nation then, they were property.

Much has changed since those days, some very much for the better, and some very much for the worse. Corporations have attained a supremacy over the economy (not just ours -- the world's) that even the visionaries of the 18th century might not have imagined.

Money is officially considered speech

Two rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have pretty much established plutocracy as our obvious form of government. The first, Buckley v. Valeo, came in 1976. Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on this ruling.

The second ruling was in 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Here's yet another link to a Wikipedia article on this ruling.

The general effect of these rulings, in tandem, was that in America, money is speech, and for all practical purposes, elections can be bought and sold, as though public offices were on the marketplace.

It has, of course, become quite clear to some of us that they are. Obama perhaps thought he could change things, but he ran up against that nasty and hard brick wall that is Corporate America. Wall Street more or less controls both major political parties, and its agents seem to have an awful lot of pull on Obama himself, whether he knows it or not.

Why does the myth of the "free market" persist?

It's very simple: People find this ideology to be very profitable in certain places and circumstances. Supply-side and "free market" theorists can be proved wrong again and again, but as long as some people find this ideology supremely profitable, they will embrace it, without reservations, and can find plenty of economists to rationalize it.

There's a great irony in all this. "Free market" thinkers point to the need for incentives, and the will to power and wealth, as defenses for their viewpoint. Where they go wrong is in thinking that, when you have a lot of people living by this philosophy, an "invisible hand" tends to move self-interest in a socially productive direction, toward competition and hard work that is supposed to ultimately benefit all who live in such a society.

I have felt that "invisible hand" many times. It always felt much more like a fist to me.

The inexorable lure of people toward a position of great wealth and social dominance lays waste to the very thing that is supposed to make this ideology work. Capitalism thrives on competition, yet every capitalist wants a monopoly. The practitioners of the system are generally opportunists who will do what is necessary to establish that arrangement, even if it involves breaking a few rules. And it's especially convenient if they can arrange things in such a way that it's all quite legal and accepted as good and standard business.

And so, Steve Forbes, and Sarah Palin -- the temptation to rig the game so that the supreme competitors can win, over and over, is far too great. That is where lobbyists come in, and where the ultimate codification in favor of the winners happens over and over. The politicians become the "enemy" only when they stubbornly fight in favor of the public interest. More often, they are the stooges and dupes who do the bidding of the fat-cat "winners" such that the public loses much more often than it wins.

The real road to serfdom

We in America have been on it, for over 30 years. Only recently has a genuine grassroots movement emerged in which those brutally marginalized by the system have the nerve to stand up on their hind legs and say no. They finally see that the financial system has been a game rigged in favor of the so-called winners, and against them. They've finally seen that the misbehavior of the financial industry, with its subprime mortgages and derivatives and such, amounts to a tiny minority of privileged people using other people's money in order to rake in more and more money for themselves.

Unfortunately, not enough Americans see this, just yet. When you've got an economy that has doubled in size in 30 years, and yet the wages and salaries of the middle and working classes have stagnated, the purpose of this game should be obvious. But the "winners" have a propaganda apparatus that is unprecedented. There's an entire "news" empire -- no need for me to identify it -- that keeps spooning this bilge out to millions every day.

The first and most important way to fight back is to reject the ideology. It doesn't involve having to embrace "communism," as "they" would have you believe. Just say NO -- stop heeding. Listen, but with a critical mind, and a knowledge that the people who have profited most off this system for 30 years want to keep it going for at least 30 more. That's more than half the battle.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe's Got Computer Issues

I plan to be back in the saddle ASAP. -- mj

Friday, November 11, 2011

Joe Paterno, Jailbird? Even If He's Given Some Benefit Of The Doubt, It Looks Bad

By Manifesto Joe

I admit that I'm not much of a football fan. I actually like traditional boxing better, and preferred it. I'd much rather fight one opponent, of similar weight, at a time. But even among those who are football fans, this looks awful.

Joe Paterno, now pushing 85, is the winningest college FBS Division I football coach. He's been at Penn State for something like 45 or 46 years as the head coach. But from the evidence, he is accused of spending over 13 years covering up for a degenerate assistant who was alleged to have been buggering young boys. To be specific, a graduate assistant coach reported to Paterno that he saw this apparent scumbag in the locker-room shower molesting a boy whom he believed to be 10 years old.

What's perhaps even worse is the reaction to this among students at Penn State. They rioted in Paterno's favor, and even turned over a TV van.

It's pretty disgusting that, in a time when many Americans are suffering horrible deprivations, a bunch of pampered little jackasses are RIOTING in Paterno's favor over something this stupid and negligent. Is football more important than the safety of our children?

In our system, people are innocent until proved guilty, and rightly so. But the evidence in this case is severe, and it looks very much as though some of the woof-woof, jock-sniffing people at Penn State were putting football far above common decency. And that apparently includes a great many of the pampered, drunken students.

Let's get the grand jury going on this, right now.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rick 'Texas Toast' Perry Has Become An Embarrassment To The State

By Manifesto Joe

And that's REALLY saying something, because we've been major-league embarrassed by an assortment of politicians in recent years.

After Il Doofus' incredible 8-year reign, I had become convinced that there is no person so stupid as to not qualify to be the Republican presidential nominee, so I was worried that Governor Goodhair had a real chance. Now it looks like he actually doesn't -- he somehow managed to find where the bottom was.

I'll repeat that I had the sad displeasure of interviewing him at the very dawn of his political career, when he was running for state representative in 1984. I got the very, very distinct impression of a serious bubblehead back then.

I'm very embarrassed that Texans have elected a man this vapid as governor, time after time. You may guess that he would never have even gotten my vote for dogcatcher. I regard my pit bull terrier as marginally smarter, and at least he had the good sense not to run for president.

Perry, somehow, has never lost an election. In the minor leagues, he's been a solid .300 hitter. Fortunately for the country, when he decided to step up and face major league pitching, he has struck out over and over.

Goodhair, just come home and be a bad governor for a few more years. Then just retire to West Texas, and let a Democrat, or at the very least a more competent Republican, be elected guv. You've done enough damage to the image of Texas for one lifetime.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smokin' Joe Frazier, 67, Finally Takes The Count He Never Took As A Brave Champ

Joe was never a very popular champion. He lacked Muhammad Ali's gift of gab, and held much resentment for his archrival. But he was definitely among the 10 best heavyweights of all time, and watching him in his prime was awesome.

Something I didn't know earlier -- one of the keys to Joe's victory in his first match with Ali in 1971 was something he and his corner figured out. Ali had a habit of dropping his right hand before loading up to throw a hard right uppercut. Yank Durham, Joe's chief cornerman, told him to watch for that. After 10 hard rounds in which Ali generally had the edge, in the 11th Frazier threw one of his patented left hooks over Ali's dropped right on one of those occasions.

Ali was seriously staggered, and the fight turned in Joe's favor after that. It happened again early in the 15th and final round. Ali hit the deck for the count of 4 that time. He got up and finished the fight, but by then Joe had made boxing history.

Here's remembering Smokin' Joe.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Somebody Needs To Tell Right-Wingers Like Palin: The Free Market Is A Myth

By Manifesto Joe

What got me thinking about this was the cosmic fool Sarah Palin's recent pronouncements, to a Republican crowd in Florida, about the Occupy protesters.

This fool called the Occupy protesters misguided, in that they are supposed to be just more people seeking a bailout, more people who want to help themselves to other people's money, rather than being what she would prefer -- an Astroturf movement directing their rage at Washington politicians, i.e. Democrats.

Here's a link to a story on this.

According to this dipstick, the protesters shouldn't be blaming "the free market," or "job creators." They should be blaming Obama, Pelosi, et al, for the current morass.

Her imbecilic pronouncements embody all that is delusional about right-wing thinking in America today, and also in many generations past.

What "free market"?

Let's get into this point by point. In the wholesale grocery business, there's a thing called "slotting allowances," through which producers of a food product pay supermarket chains to get more prominent display on the shelves and aisles, etc., for their products. It's common knowledge among those who work in that industry.

It's a sort of legal payola, so that a dominant producer -- let's say, Campbell's soup -- can get much more prominent promotion on any grocery aisle than any of their competitors. Not surprisingly, Campbell's has a very impregnable oligopoly in U.S. soup sales. They have competitors, but they are largely ineffectual. Once an outfit like that gets on top, just try knocking them off.

Tax abatements

In the part of Texas where I live, this is a racket par excellence. The companies getting tax breaks at the local level read like a who's who of area corporations: Bell Helicopter, Radio Shack, General Motors, General Electric, Alcon and In-N-Out Burger. That's just a few.

The game is simple. The local yokels offer tax abatements to corporations to locate in said area. The corporations get competing offers from several locales. If one bunch of yokels doesn't offer a sweeter deal, well, they can just do legal blackmail and say, we'll just locate someplace that will give us MORE, and we'll take all the jobs there! All of them!! Booohooohooohahahaha!

And, guess what: THEY GET IT. ALL OF IT.

And you, John Q. Taxpayer, pay more in local property and sales taxes so that these corporate scofflaws can pay less. And they hire you at minimum wage or little more, and say that this has been their good deed as job creators!

What is the business of lobbyists?

This is something that renders notions of a "free market" nonsense. Or at least it should.

What do lobbyists do for a living? They are in places like Washington and Austin to influence public policy, and in such a way that will help maximize profits for their employers. Sometimes they don't even do it in a subtle way. Twentysomething years ago, chicken magnate Bo Pilgrim created quite a stir in Austin when he showed up passing out checks on the floor of the Texas Senate. At least most of the people on the make are more subtle than that.

Tax breaks, 2011-style

Recent studies have revealed that about two-thirds of U.S. corporations pay no federal income tax. I mean, nothing, zilch, nada. The list reads, again, like a who's who of giant corporations -- ExxonMobil and General Electric come to mind. If someone wants to challenge me on this, the data are out there, and I'll be quite happy to respond.

How have they been able to do this? Short answer -- LOBBYISTS. They employ the very best, and they have been getting results over the past 25 years that have been little short of unbelievable. They own a lot of Washington politicians (please take note that these are just the front people, Sarah Palin) and can make them write a lot of lucrative things into the tax code.

Capitalism's internal contradictions

As a young man, trying to make my way in newspaper journalism, I was interviewed by a typical medium-small publisher, a silly man who had made his way up from being a sports woof-woof. He told me that, "We're all for competition. But when we get a competitor, we do our best to crush them, to run them out of business."

And, of course, they had been frequently successful at doing just that. And obviously, that's something that would be expected of them.

But it points out the basic problem that the entire capitalist system faces sooner or later: Capitalism thrives on competition, yet every capitalist wants a monopoly.

They say they are for competition, but they ultimately want to eliminate competition. And, sadly, they will resort to whatever hideous means are necessary to do just that.

Adam Smith wasn't entirely on their side

Smith was writing in a very different time and place, but there are some selections from his writing that show a very different Smith from the one that the right wing lionizes.

"Our merchants and master manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people."

Where is THAT Adam Smith when you need him?

Quotes from the "GOP," including one from a current presidential hopeful

In 1993, President Bill Clinton's economic plan raised the marginal tax rate on wealthy individuals, and not by a huge amount, by rich folks' standards. I was a taxpayer back then, middle-class, and I noticed little difference in my tax bill. The increase mostly hit the very rich. By the way, it passed in the House by ONE vote. Clinton had a strong Democratic majority in the House, but he couldn't even get all the Democrats to vote for it.

Let's see what Republicans had to say about this:

"We are buying a one-way ticket to a recession." -- Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, 1993. (Gramm, by the way, was an economics professor at Texas A&M before he began his lucrative political career.)

"It'll flatten the economy." -- Sen. William Roth, R-Delaware, 1993. (This is the dude for whom the Roth IRA is named.)

"I believe this will lead to a recession next year. This is the Democrat machine's recession, and each one of them will be held personally accountable." -- U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich, 1993, soon to be House speaker. Well, Newt, we did eventually have a recession. You were just 14 or 15 years off in your prediction.

Of course, you the reader remember quite well what happened during the '90s, after the Clinton economic plan passed by one vote. The U.S. economy collapsed. The national debt quadrupled. Tens of millions of people were thrown out of work.

Oh, wait -- none of that happened, did it? Quite the opposite, if I remember right. I guess I finally awakened from that long national nightmare of peace and prosperity.

How many times do the supply-siders have to be proved wrong?

Apparently it's going to take at least one more time. The polls show a very disheartening trend among many Americans toward delusional nostalgia. One poll indicated that, when asked which past American president people would want back to help guide us through the current crisis, 36% said Ronald Reagan! And only 29% said FDR!

Americans, don't get stuck on stupid. Reagan? You mean the guy who cut the marginal tax rate on rich people down to 28%, and tripled the national debt? Hell, he's one of the major reasons we're in this predicament now!

Part II is coming: The Myth Of The Free Market

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.