Thursday, July 22


"Just how far will desperate Republicans go to trick America into another BushCo victory?"

Do you feel it? Can you smell it in the air? The sensation that the Republican Party, though various tentacles, will stop at absolutely nothing to maintain power in the White House? It's true. It's the feeling that, during the next few months, it's all about to get very shrill, and very surreal, indeed.
So, then, let this be a warning: Get ready. Expect the unexpected. Watch the skies, scrutinize the headlines, dust off your stash of duct tape. Because Karl Rove and the BushCo war hawks and the corporate cronies who run the show aren't about to go down without a screaming, sickening, fiery fight.

And if BushCo has proven anything in the past four violent, budget-gutting, honor-molesting, nearly unbearable years, it's that there ain't no international law that can't be broken, no fear synapse that can't be hammered to death, no fraudulent power tactic that can't be abused. Anything is possible. You have been warned. God bless America.

Wednesday, July 21


Economic recovery tilts toward wealthiest Americans. Duh:

Mr. Maki of J.P. Morgan Chase estimates that in terms of dollars saved, the top 20% of households by income got 77% of the benefit of the 2003 tax cuts, and roughly 50% of the 2001 tax cuts. And of stocks held by households, roughly 75% are owned by the top 20% of those households. That made them prime beneficiaries of last year's stock-market rally, although also big sufferers from the stock carnage from 2000 to 2002.

The affluent also benefit more from stock dividends, on which the federal income-tax rate was cut last year retroactive to the start of 2003. Total dividend payments have risen 11% to $3 billion since the end of 2002, estimates Berkeley's Mr. Saez. Higher-income households also are larger beneficiaries of the surge in corporate earnings, which helps to drive dividend and stock returns. The level of corporate profits has risen 42% since the last recession, which ended in the final quarter of 2001. Wage and salary income is up just 6.3% in that time...

Many economists say the lopsided recovery is now at a critical juncture. The impetus from new tax cuts has largely passed, and the stock market has lost momentum, two factors that could slow the pace of higher-income people's spending in the months ahead. As a result, the time has come for the recovery either to broaden out to more-modest income groups -- or possibly lose momentum.

The late 1990s showed that lower-wage workers benefit when unemployment falls, as the tighter labor market helps underpin wages across income categories. With the job market improving, there is a chance this could happen again, but the outlook is still highly uncertain. Payroll employment has increased by 1.5 million since last August. And some companies that cater to the mass market say they have noticed the turnaround. "We had a terrific Fourth of July weekend," says Wayne Wielgus, a senior vice president at Choice Hotels International Inc., which serves low- and middle-income travelers with brands like EconoLodge and Comfort Inn.

But some economists worry that the early stage of the recovery for low- to middle-income families is being squeezed by continuing pressure on wages and purchasing power. Average hourly earnings have risen at just a 1.9% annual rate since the job market started improving notably last August. Meanwhile, the consumer-price index -- driven by higher food and gasoline prices -- has risen at a 3.3% annual pace. The average worker's purchasing power, in other words, has declined even as more people have been finding jobs since August.

Weekly earnings for production workers and nonsupervisors at service companies, adjusted for inflation, were down 2.6% in June from a year earlier. This slip might be transitory, and it wasn't anywhere near the drops of 5% to 7.5% registered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Still, it was the largest decline since 1991, and it is a shift from the late 1990s and even the 2001 recession, when real wages were increasing.

As a result, after rising last year, the University of Michigan's consumer confidence index for lower-income households is off 12% so far this year. Confidence among the affluent is lower as well, but by a smaller 6.7%.

The recovering job market and an easing of food- and gasoline-price increases could reverse some of today's pressures. But these aren't the only issues hanging over lower-income households. Many are also highly exposed to rising interest rates, says Mark Zandi, chief economist at, because these households were more likely to take out adjustable-rate mortgages to squeeze into an ever-pricier housing market. For those who don't own homes, the chances of buying have become more remote as house prices have soared. "Lower- and middle-income groups are going to remain under significant pressure," Mr. Zandi says.

Many in this group are also getting squeezed as health-care costs rise and companies seek to shift the burden to workers. From 2000 to 2003, employees' average annual out-of-pocket expenses for family medical premiums rose 49% to $2,412, according to an employer survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group in Menlo Park, Calif.

Tuesday, July 20


Okay, so Fox executive Roger Simon sends down to his media troops each day a memo detailing the stories to be covered and the slant they should take. So who sends the memo to the right-wing talk radio yahoos? I ask this because, having listened to Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Darrell Ankarlo for at least a few minutes almost daily since the runup to the Iraq invasion, (I added Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved a couple of months ago) it is patently obvious to me that they're all reading off the same set of talking points.

In fact, it's riotously funny sometimes to switch from channel to channel and hear not only the same subjects being discussed, but the same arguments and the same language used. Oh sure, they have to assert SOME individuality, so they may vary the tone a degree or two here and there -- and they may have a different way of saying, "Hey, don't accuse me of shilling for George Bush! I don't always agree with him. In fact, I vehemently disagreed with his apologizing for the '16 Words in the State of the Union Address.' And now I've been proven right, since Joe Wilson is a lying scumbag and Sandy Berger is obviously the greatest threat to our national security since the sneaky Nips during WWII." A couple days ago I switched channels four times driving home from work and on every channel heard virtually the same program on all four. How can this be "coincidence?"

Worse, it's happening on cable and network news. "Kerry has to talk more about policy and explain how he differs from Bush"????? Ladies and gentlemen, the man has tried; he's delivered important policy speeches completely overlooked by a lazy media a-twitter with the thrill of MAYBE uncovering an "important" scandal like they enjoyed during the Clinton years -- but only if it involves a Democrat. They're more than content to obfuscate or completely bury any negative and REALLY important news about BushCo.

It's maddening to see the right-wing broadcast media shill shamelessly for the Republican Party, but it's downright disheartening to see the same thing happening in mainstream so-called journalism.


From the Children's Defense Fund:

One in six children in the United States continues to live in poverty. One in eight - 9.3 million - children have no health insurance. ... Almost one in ten teens ages 16 to 19 is a school dropout. Eight children and teens die from gunfire in the U.S. each day - one child every three hours.


Today is my birthday. I started out trying to forget it, but people keep reminding me. Even the TV is doing its bit -- celebrating the 35th anniversary of man taking steps on the moon.

I remember that birthday very well. My entire family (even two uncles, two aunts, and their children) was gathered around the television set to oooh and ahhh Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. As I've mentioned before, I come from a military family. You could also say I come from a uber-patriotic family, and one with a sense of history. I was allowed to stay home from school to watch John Glenn's historic orbital flight into space. I was allowed to take my portable TV to college in the fall only because my parents thought it was important that I watch the presidential race of that year (we always stayed up late together on election night to watch the coverage). We always made a big deal out of the Fourth of July. My sisters and I were Girl Scouts. I was Americanism Chairman of the Student Council my junior year in high school and led the Pledge of Allegiance over the P.A. system every day, accompanied by a patriotic quote that I dug up from somewhere in my reading. I was a D.A.R. Americanism essay contest winner. I dated the Air Force Academy freshman class president. My dad gave me a reward for memorizing the Declaration of Independence. We were, and are, an American family.

Today we're a divided family, somewhat like the American people. Half of us are Democrats dismayed, even appalled, by the damage George aWol Bush and his cronies have managed to inflict upon our nation and the world these past almost-four years. Half of us are Republicans, supporting the pResident because he's a "godly" man and opposes abortion, gay rights and talks a tough military talk.

I can't help watching the historical coverage of the moon mission and reflecting on a passage in James Michener's nove The Drifters. A young Norwegian girl is commenting on the moon landing and says to her American friends something like this: Centuries ago Norwegians discovered America. But they had no idea what to do with it and when they came home to Norway they said, "Hey, guess what we found?" And their countrymen said, "So what?" Centuries later Columbus went to America and when he went back to Europe others followed with an idea and something wonderful was born. You Americans are like we Norwegians. Today you go to the moon, but tomorrow we'll say, "So what?" Years from now somebody like the Japanese will go to the moon with an idea, and then we'll see something.

The best things the U.S.A. has contributed to the world are ideas. Ideas are the font from which progress flows. The Republicans controlling their party today have no ideas, and that's why they keep harking back to something they know, like the Cold War. They haven't a clue about the world as it exists today, no ideas for how to confront modern problems, and so demand we roll back the progress of decades. John Kerry and John Edwards, like Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them, are our best chance of rekindling a debate of ideas for the future, ideas that might actually benefit mankind and do honor to our God-given talents, intellect, and humanity.

Kerry's `Quality of Jobs' Argument Gains Wall Street Support

Come on, George, tell us again about the great jobs your tax cuts for the rich have provided. From Bloomberg:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's assertion that the U.S. has been creating mainly low- paying, ``second-rate'' jobs during the past year's expansion is starting to resonate on Wall Street.

``The vast majority of net new jobs created have been in the low-wage sectors of the economy, and income growth has been disappointing,'' David A. Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch & Co., wrote July 9. Lagging incomes may cause ``consumer spending to slow in coming quarters.''

Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York, reached a similar conclusion: ``While there has been some improvement on the hiring front in recent months, the quality of such job-creation has been decidedly sub-par,'' Roach wrote the same day. ``Unless that changes, the risks to a sustainable economic recovery will only intensify.''

Gaining the economists' seal on the idea of sagging job quality may bolster Kerry's challenge to President George W. Bush, who counts Wall Street executives as some of his major campaign fund-raisers. Kerry, a 60-year-old, four-term senator from Massachusetts, has previously based his arguments primarily on data from the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-financed research group in Washington, according to his campaign.

In addition to Roach and Rosenberg, senior economist Benjamin Tal of CIBC World Markets Inc. in Toronto said in an interview that until the past two or three months the bulk of the new jobs created have been in the ``lower-wage'' category. CIBC is one of the 23 primary dealers, or securities firms that trade U.S. government debt securities directly with the Federal Reserve.


Paul Krugman answers the eternal question: "Who would Osama Bin Laden vote for?"

n the original version of "The Manchurian Candidate," Senator John Iselin, whom Chinese agents are plotting to put in the White House, is a right-wing demagogue modeled on Senator Joseph McCarthy. As Roger Ebert wrote, the plan is to "use anticommunist hysteria as a cover for a communist takeover."

The movie doesn't say what Iselin would have done if the plot had succeeded. Presumably, however, he wouldn't have openly turned traitor. Instead, he would have used his position to undermine national security, while posing as America's staunchest defender against communist evil.

So let's imagine an update - not the remake with Denzel Washington, which I haven't seen, but my own version. This time the enemies would be Islamic fanatics, who install as their puppet president a demagogue who poses as the nation's defender against terrorist evildoers.

The Arabian candidate wouldn't openly help terrorists. Instead, he would serve their cause while pretending to be their enemy.

After an attack, he would strike back at the terrorist base, a necessary action to preserve his image of toughness, but botch the follow-up, allowing the terrorist leaders to escape. Once the public's attention shifted, he would systematically squander the military victory: committing too few soldiers, reneging on promises of economic aid. Soon, warlords would once again rule most of the country, the heroin trade would be booming, and terrorist allies would make a comeback.

Meanwhile, he would lead America into a war against a country that posed no imminent threat. He would insinuate, without saying anything literally false, that it was somehow responsible for the terrorist attack. This unnecessary war would alienate our allies and tie down a large part of our military. At the same time, the Arabian candidate would neglect the pursuit of those who attacked us, and do nothing about regimes that really shelter anti-American terrorists and really are building nuclear weapons.

Again, he would take care to squander a military victory. The Arabian candidate and his co-conspirators would block all planning for the war's aftermath; they would arrange for our army to allow looters to destroy much of the country's infrastructure. Then they would disband the defeated regime's army, turning hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers into disgruntled potential insurgents.

After this it would be easy to sabotage the occupied country's reconstruction, simply by failing to spend aid funds or rein in cronyism and corruption. Power outages, overflowing sewage and unemployment would swell the ranks of our enemies.

Who knows? The Arabian candidate might even be able to deprive America of the moral high ground, no mean trick when our enemies are mass murderers, by creating a climate in which U.S. guards torture, humiliate and starve prisoners, most of them innocent or guilty of only petty crimes.

At home, the Arabian candidate would leave the nation vulnerable, doing almost nothing to secure ports, chemical plants and other potential targets. He would stonewall investigations into why the initial terrorist attack succeeded. And by repeatedly issuing vague terror warnings obviously timed to drown out unfavorable political news, his officials would ensure public indifference if and when a real threat is announced.

Last but not least, by blatantly exploiting the terrorist threat for personal political gain, he would undermine the nation's unity in the face of its enemies, sowing suspicion about the government's motives.

O.K., end of conceit. President Bush isn't actually an Al Qaeda mole, with Dick Cheney his controller. Mr. Bush's "war on terror" has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden's hands - while Mr. Bush's supporters, impressed by his tough talk, see him as America's champion against the evildoers.

Last week, Republican officials in Kentucky applauded bumper stickers distributed at G.O.P. offices that read, "Kerry is bin Laden's man/Bush is mine." Administration officials haven't gone that far, but when Tom Ridge offered a specifics-free warning about a terrorist attack timed to "disrupt our democratic process," many people thought he was implying that Al Qaeda wants George Bush to lose. In reality, all infidels probably look alike to the terrorists, but if they do have a preference, nothing in Mr. Bush's record would make them unhappy at the prospect of four more years.

You know what to do. Vote for Kerry-Edwards.