Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prog Rock's Greg Lake Has An Opinion About Punk

Here's the link:

Right here

I always thought the best "punk" rock bands were the ones that came long before there was even a name for the movement. Stones, Kinks, Doors, Who, Stooges, MC5, Flamin' Groovies, etc. The Sex Pistols' one album was a good listen, but the whole thing went downhill quickly after them, with a few exceptions from the likes of Joy Division and The Clash.

There are people who will say that Greg Lake is just a fat 66-year-old man who's bitter because he never got much acclaim. But hey, fat 66-year-olds are entitled to their opinions, too. And ELP, whatever their shortcomings and excesses, were a much better band than most of what I was forced to endure during the '80s and '90s. -- mj

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wal-Mart's Crocodile Tears Don't Hide Its Greed

By Manifesto Joe

I got a little hot under the collar reading a recent story that quoted Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon as saying that if Wal-Mart employees "can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they'll be better. It'll be better for the economy. It'll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they'll continue to advance in their economic life."

This from the CEO of a company that pays its employees an average of $8.90 an hour, and forces many to go on food stamps and rent subsidies and low-income children's health programs such as CHIP. And you, the taxpayer, are subsidizing this company, to the tune of $86 million in California alone.

Here's a link to the article. And here's another link to a story about how much this company's predatory practices are costing the taxpayers.

Even more unfortunately, Wal-Mart isn't the only company that engages in low-wage exploitation of desperate workers. It's a prevalent practice in the fast-food industry. Not long ago McDonald's had to wipe egg (McMuffin?) off its face and alter a website where they had the gall to offer advice on how much its poverty-stricken employees should tip an au pair. It would appear that Ronald isn't the only clown who works for McDonald's.

This chipping away at the American middle class hasn't happened by accident. It is the widespread shortsightedness of Corporate America that is doing this.

Henry Ford, certainly no progressive, at least knew one thing about Economics 101: He paid his workers enough money for them to be able to actually buy the product they were making. This is a simple lesson that appears to be totally lost on 21st-century Corporate America.

Karl Marx was pretty clearly wrong about a lot of things, but I can spot one thing that he did see with great clarity. Amid many bids to reform capitalism, it has a nasty habit of reverting back to its original, primitive form.

Americans, in their stoicism and general acceptance of the so-called free market, will put up with this reversion for a very long time. I don't expect to see this New Gilded Age end while I'm alive, since I'm pushing 58 and have health issues.

But there comes a time, anywhere, when people get desperate enough to just start TAKING what they need. I don't see capitalism as likely to survive into the 22nd century, at least not in its current form. An economy has to be for the many, not just for the few. And that is a lesson that I think Corporate America has long forgotten, and will be forced to relearn just a bit too late.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Obamacare' Is Helping Many It Was Intended To Help

By Manifesto Joe

I had misgivings about Barack Obama from the start -- that's why I voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. I doubted that Obama had the Beltway experience that he needed for an effective White House. In many ways, I'd say that has proved to be true.

But my sympathies are largely with Obama now, especially in some of his worst hours. I think the man's heart is generally in the right place, and he's splattered with mud no matter what he does or doesn't do. Now we even have right-wing crazies who think he should bomb Russia over what Putin is doing in Ukraine. After almost 25 years of no Soviet Union, these maniacs, at long last, really want to do a nuke-athon with Vladimir? And over Ukraine, a former Soviet "republic." Give me a break!

That issue aside, the thing the wingnuts seem intent on taking to November with them is the problems with "Obamacare." Granted, it hasn't gone that well, and no such half-assed solution to the U.S. health care dilemma ever will. But one thing that's becoming clearer -- "Obamacare" is better than nothing, and it is largely helping people it was intended to help.

In particular, the 55- to 64-year-olds of America were being seriously left out in the cold when it came to health insurance. During the Great Recession, our corporate masters were pissing their pants to get rid of people in that demographic group -- the soon-to-be-retirees who comprise the most vulnerable of those in the workforce. I know from experience. The bastards swung the ax at me just before I turned 56.

The particular problem with people of that age, people like me, is that certain health problems start to show up at that age; and, with the years and decades of experience in the chosen fields, people of that age actually expect to be paid. Silly, isn't it?

Anyway, a lot of asses hit the pavement during those years, just at the time when the individuals had saved up for retirement, had health issues that would make insurance no option, but they were too young to retire and too young to qualify for Medicare.

Enter "Obamacare." It was nothing great, but it was better than nothing. Here's a link about how people of our demographic have benefited from this program. Oh, and while we're at it, here's another. I was lucky enough to get a job after 27 weeks of unemployment, but not everyone fitting this description was that fortunate.

Of course, there have been two problems that could have been predicted. In many states, the refusal of Republican governors to expand Medicaid has had the effect of actually increasing the prospective number of uninsured people, even with "Obamacare." Gov. Rick "El Pendejo" Perry of Texas has been one of them. He'll certainly never have to worry about getting health insurance, nor will any of his privileged kin.

The other problem is simply that this is a half-assed solution to a double-cheeked problem. People on the right are saying a lot of moronic things, like that they envision a health insurance system that is strictly private and resembles the mandatory car insurance market. Right, as though a seriously ill person can shop around for insurance like some Arab trader. Single-payer, as distasteful as this is to the right wing, looks more inevitable now than ever before. It would, and ultimately will, solve a great many problems.

In the meantime, for those in the 55 to 64 age group, this has proved better than nothing. We should be thankful for small favors.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.