Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Video

As I mentioned earlier, Farm Aid is coming to the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ this Friday, and somehow I have a feeling this guy would be there if he could (I posted about Harry Chapin a little while back based on a Courier Times Guest Opinion).

And to remember what he was really all about, here is what you can call his signature song (maybe "Cat's In The Cradle" qualifies also...the solo is performed by Big John Wallace).

Yes, We Still Have Elections

Great news for Admiral Joe in the 7th district U.S. Congressional campaign against "Crazy Curt" Weldon...

Also, for you fine folks in the 7th district supporting Admiral Joe, here are some events to mark on your calendar:

General Wesley Clark -- Today, Friday, September 29. General Wesley Clark will be in town for a rally endorsing Joe at 5:30 PM at American Legion Post 258, 19 E. Baltimore Ave., Clifton Heights 19018. Please attend!

End of Quarter Party -- Saturday, September 30. The Sestak campaign will be celebrating the end of a successful third quarter with close friends and supporters with a pot luck dinner at The Paint Store, 301 E. Baltimore Pike, Media, PA 19063. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m., please bring a dish to share or $25.

Former President Bill Clinton -- Next Thursday, October 5. Former President Bill Clinton, whom Joe had the honor of serving as his Director for Defense Policy, will be visiting the District to show his support for the campaign. For more information, click here:

And to contribute, click here.

And as for Patrick, here are more letters from the Bucks County Courier Times (this is the latest polling information I have - let's keep closing that gap!).

Does Mike Fitzpatrick believe that the ends justifies the means? When questioned about his reckless spending and supporting bills that included "pork barrel" spending (e.g., teapot museums, aquariums and swimming pools), he indicated that he did so in order to get funding for some local transportation projects attached to these bills. He said, "All these projects are important to the district and these are the projects that the local officials asked that I go to Washington to fight for."

So it is OK to waste taxpayers money in order to keep "local officials" happy. What about the struggling families in the district? Our personal property taxes have increased 45 percent while Mr. Fitzpatrick has been in office. As a small business owner, our health care premiums increase 17 percent every year. Our students have had $12.7 billion dollars cut from the student loan program. Our soldiers do not have the proper body armor and tools they need while serving their country in Iraq. Reckless spending and a growing deficit have to be addressed as part of the upcoming election.

It is time for us to support the candidates that will fight for the American families when they go to Washington. It is time for a change. We need to support candidates like Patrick Murphy who support a constitutional amendment to a balanced budget.

Sharon Barr
Bedminster, PA

A Sept. 4 letter, "Clear Choice: For Murphy against Israel" completely misrepresented Congressional Candidate Patrick Murphy's position on Israel and Murphy's words regarding Israel's unconditional right to defend itself.

Murphy said, "I believe that Israel has not only the right, but the obligation to defend itself...Israel is our greatest democratic ally in the Middle East, we need to maintain that...special relationship with Israel."

Discussion of an immediate strike by Israel against Iran (four days before the anticipated cease fire in Lebanon) revealed a stark difference between Murphy, a United States Army captain and paratrooper in the Iraq War, and Mike Fitzpatrick, a career politician who has never worn the uniform. Where war is concerned, Murphy is thoughtful, calm and realistic. Fitzpatrick, alarmingly, would charge into war without consideration of facts on the ground or long-term consequences. Haven't we learned from our mistakes?

Murphy stood with Israel at the Stand With Israel rally at Shir Ami last month as many were condemning Israel. As an American Jew, a Zionist and fiercely pro-Israel, I support Patrick Murphy for Congress.

Miriam Chaloff
Upper Makefield, PA

I believe the reason for the lack of oversight of the Bush administration on the Iraq reconstruction fiasco is a Republican congress that has shown no inclination to hold this administration accountable. Unfortunately, we need to wait two more years to replace this administration.

What we can do this fall is change control of Congress so that at least in the next two years oversight can be implemented.

Replacement of our current Sen. Rick Santorum, who has consistently supported Bush on the mess in Iraq, will be a step in the right direction. So I urge a vote for Bob Casey in November.

In addition, in those swing congressional districts, it is crucial that Democrats replace Republicans. We live in one of those districts and I urge that voters in Bucks County elect Patrick Murphy to replace Mike Fitzpatrick.

I shudder at the thought of another two years of no oversight under a Republican-controlled Congress.

Norman Shachat
Lower Makefield, PA
And as always, to help make that happen by supporting Patrick click here (and click here to contribute - as with Admiral Joe, this is the end of the quarter, so the timing is particularly crucial to help Patrick if you can.)

One more thing - check out "Election Year Mike" here (good stuff...)

Torture Redux

This fine editorial from Randall Balmer, a professor of religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, captures my sentiments perfectly (it appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning).

Where's religious right's outrage now?

Where is the "moral majority" when we need it?

In 1979, Jerry Falwell formed an organization called Moral Majority, part of a larger initiative to register politically conservative evangelicals who would bring their "Christian values" into the public arena. The mobilization of these voters, who became known as the religious right, contributed, perhaps decisively, to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Ever since, the leaders of the religious right have been unsparing in their pronouncements on everything from abortion and welfare reform to Mideast policy and homosexuality.

But on the defining moral issues of our day, the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's use of torture against those it has designated as "enemy combatants," these "voices of morality" are strangely silent.

The war in Iraq claims more than a hundred civilian casualties a day and consumes $250 million daily in taxpayers' money - funds that presumably could go toward rebuilding Iraq or New Orleans, hunger relief in Africa, or the revitalization of public education, especially in neighborhoods mired in poverty. And yet, although the Bush administration led us into war under pretext - the supposed al-Qaeda connection and weapons of mass destruction - leaders of the religious right have yet to question the morality of the war in Iraq.

Christian theologians through the centuries have developed criteria for determining whether or not armed conflict is justified. For instance, is it a defensive war? Have all alternatives been exhausted? Is the use of military force roughly proportional to the provocation? Does military intervention stand a reasonable chance of success? Have measures been taken to protect civilians? I've yet to be convinced that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.

Similarly, the religious right has been silent on the matter of torture, conducted either by American personnel in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay or by proxy in places like Egypt and Syria under a cynical policy known as "extraordinary rendition."

Several months ago, I canvassed eight prominent religious right organizations, including the Moral Majority Coalition, Falwell's group, for their views on torture. My query was straightforward: Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization's position on the use of torture. These are groups that have detailed position papers on everything, including stem-cell research and same-sex unions, yet only two answered my query. Both of them defended the Bush administration's policies on torture. No organization associated with the religious right has yet, to my knowledge, summoned the will to issue a statement of unequivocal opposition to the use of torture.

These are people who claim to be "pro-life" and who profess to hear a "fetal scream." Yet they turn a deaf ear to the very real screams of fully formed human beings who are tortured in our name.

The religious right's indifference toward the ethical issues surrounding war and torture is hardly befitting those who designate themselves the moral arbiters of our society. If my fellow evangelicals aspire to be the conscience of America, they had better liberate themselves from their captivity to the Republican Party and to the morally bankrupt policies of the Bush administration.
(By the way, here is a link to Professor Balmer's book...class move by Brian Tierney and the Repug-friendly ownership of the Inky not to give it a plug.)

After I read Professor Balmer's column, I decided to check and find out the opinion of the major western religions on Dubya's torture bill.

The Holy See and Catholic Online had nothing to say (just a blanket condemnation of turmoil and conflict throughout the world), and neither did the national Presbyterian or Lutheran sites. A liberal Jewish organization posted a message on its site urging people to protest, but somehow I don't think that speaks for any national Jewish organization (I'd love to be wrong on that, though).

So we are all torturers.

How nice.

And legal semantics aside, the type of activity portrayed in this video is now OK (with the blessing of Great White Father And Protector Dubya, of course...the video lasts for 13:08 and it is highly graphic).

And by the way, with all of the furor going on over Dubya's torture bill, it's possible to overlook the fact that the bill to conduct wiretaps on U.S. citizens was passed, along with something called the Iran Freedom Support Act (suffice to say that if someone like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports it, it's trouble).

In the article about Dubya's wiretaps, Ted Kennedy said, "In 40 days, we can put an end to this nonsense."

We should remind ourselves of that every day until November 7th.

Oh, and lest I forget, I should point this out (again from today's Inquirer...Specter is a "maverick" like McCain is a "straight talker"):

Specter's Challenge Is Rejected

True to his reputation as a Republican maverick, Sen. Arlen Specter was out front yesterday defending the right of terror suspects to file court challenges to their detentions.

Only three Republicans sided with Specter as the Senate defeated his proposed amendment, which would have allowed terror suspects to file habeas corpus petitions in court. Specter, a former Philadelphia prosecutor, says the ability to file such pleas is a fundamental legal right and is necessary to uncover abuse.

Others in the GOP caucus said giving terror suspects the right to unlimited appeals would weigh down the federal court system.

"This is a constitutional requirement," Specter said, "and it is fundamental that Congress not legislate contradiction to a constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court."
As the Inquirer noted, even though he was rebuffed, Specter voted in favor of the overall bill anyway.

Update 10/01: Speaking of the Inquirer, Tony Auth nailed it on 9/28.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Torture Roundup

(But just remember - it's OK because "they all look the same" to Trent Lott - are the Iraqis responsible for "all these problems" also?).

From mcjoan at The Daily Kos...

From Hunter at The Daily Kos...

From mcjoan (Harry Reid's statement)...

From mcjoan (the "Gutless Wonder" "Democrats")...

From mcjoan (along with David Corn - this is acceptable for this country now)...

I don't give a shit at this moment if Terrell Owens really was trying to off himself or if Charlie Sheen is going to be the highest-paid sitcom star in history or whether or not the school siege victim was a "great kid" or not or what celebrity is pregnant and/or getting married or who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's dead son was.

We are now a nation of torturers, and our military will face that to a greater degree now than ever before if they are captured.

And the Repugs (and the usual coterie of chicken Democrats) are now the enablers of torture, and I will hate them forever for it.

And we should be lighting up the phones at this moment calling every stinking politician who ostensibly performed the sick, barbaric act of endorsing this pornographic violence in our name.

I was seriously hoping that I would never feel angry, sickened or compelled enough to put up this video - it is as shrill as I get - but unfortunately, it captures some of how I feel at this moment.

It's all disappearing before our eyes, ladies and gentlemen.

Vote on November 7th as if your country depended on it, because it does.

Dissed By The Swiss

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not, but according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, the United States fell from first to sixth place.

Oh, joy.

Were we replaced by India? China? Russia? Burkina Faso? (yes, there is a country by that name).

No. We were done in by (of all people)…The SWISS!

While we were drinking their hot chocolate and keeping time by their watches, it looks like Friedrich and Helga hitched up their lederhosen and decided to give this country a butt-whoopin’.

As this article explains…

“The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy. Business activity in these countries benefits from a well-developed institutional framework, characterized by the rule of law, an efficient judicial system and high levels of transparency and accountability within public institutions. Excellent infrastructure is an additional positive feature of the business environment.

Our indicators point to the rapidly growing importance of higher education and training as engines of productivity growth. Countries that, like the Nordics, are investing heavily in education are likely to see rising levels of income per capita, growing success in reducing poverty and an increasing ability to establish a presence in the global economy,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist and Director of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Network.
As for us…

The United States, previously in first place, continues to enjoy an excellent business environment, efficient markets and is a global centre for technology development. However, its overall competitiveness is threatened by large macroeconomic imbalances, particularly rising levels of public indebtedness associated with repeated fiscal deficits. Its relative ranking remains vulnerable to a possible disorderly adjustment of such imbalances, including historically high trade deficits.
And I would say that this excerpt from this story partly explains why.

A proposal to renew the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, the keystone of (Bush’s “Competitiveness Agenda”), was blocked from the tax-cut package that Republican leaders sent to the White House a few weeks ago. Instead, they promised the provision would be folded into a "trailer" bill later in the year. A plan to allow more highly skilled foreign workers into the country is in limbo, part of the deadlock over immigration. And with fiscal conservatives demanding curbs on spending, the outlook for proposals to increase spending on basic science research as well as math and science education is unclear.
And that was from the Wall Street Journal, a notoriously Repug-friendly publication.

Just remember what the Clinton Administration handed Bush and this bunch in Congress (a legacy of government funding of technical innovation along with fiscal responsibility), and then consider what they did with it.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/28)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

(I’d better make these writeups short if I hope to publish today – Blogger is being particularly cranky at this moment.)


Voter ID. The House passed, 228-196, and sent to the Senate a bill to require photo identification as a condition of voting in federal elections starting in 2008. The bill (HR 4844) also requires that by 2010, voters must show proof of citizenship along with their photos.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.) and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).
If the Repugs really cared about the integrity of our elections, they’d do everything they could to make sure that our voting machines don’t get hacked instead of passing this farce of a bill (which, so far, isn’t standing up to court challenges anyway).

Border tunnels. The House passed, 422-0, and sent to the Senate a bill to require up to 20 years in prison for people convicted of building tunnels for illegal entry into the United States. The bill (HR 4830) also mandates up to 10 years in prison for property owners convicted of authorizing such tunnels on their land.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.
It’s a shame that they didn’t pass a bill mandating 20 years in prison for individuals working for companies that hire these people without doing their due diligence, isn’t it (oh, but we can even think of something like that, because it’s class warfare, right?).

9/11 Commission. Members blocked, 225-195, a Democratic bid for a vote on their bill to enact every 9/11 Commission proposal for securing the United States' international borders. The vote occurred during debate on HR 4830 (above).

A yes vote opposed the Democratic bid.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden and Schwartz.
Dissent against the almighty Repugs is squashed once again.


Oman trade pact. The Senate passed, 62-32, and sent to President Bush a bill (HR 5684) to approve a free-trade accord with the Persian Gulf nation of Oman.

A yes vote was to approve the trade pact.

Voting yes: Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).

Not voting: Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).
It’s hard to determine what is substantively different between this bill that was passed and signed into law and the bill that was passed a couple of months ago, but I hope it addressed the prior concerns that were raised about the possibility of slave labor in Oman (the Dubai Ports World deal blew up with a bang, of course, but this took place with barely a whimper; let’s see if it poses a similar threat).

Past Is Now Prologue

Please allow me to contribute to the left-wing echo chamber as our government now descends into “Amerifascism” with the passage in the House of Bush’s “terrorist detainee bill.”

(Frank Luntz had to come up with that expression, by the way. “Detainee” sounds a bit like someone asked to remove too many articles of clothing before passing through security and boarding a plane. It doesn’t really describe someone subject to methods such as a “belly slap” that doesn’t show physical damage, sleep deprivation, light and dark manipulation, and “water boarding” that simulates drowning.)

Even if this madness had resulted in convictions or acquisition of knowledge to prevent further terrorist attacks (and it hasn’t – if anything, this has had the opposite result), it is still reprehensible on its face because, by denying habeas corpus rights, it violates the legal protection that should be ensured to any alleged terrorist or “enemy combatant” in accordance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (which Bushco can’t arbitrarily ignore when it feels like it).

And by the way, as he does on so many other issues, Patrick Murphy gets it (hat tip to Atrios).

I happened to come across this Wikipedia link about Pierre Vidal-Naquet (pictured), a French historian whose Jewish father was tortured by the Nazis in World War II, though he spoke out against the use of torture by the French army in the Algerian War (1954-1952). I’m mentioning this partly because Trudy Rubin of the Inquirer has compared our invasion of Iraq with this conflict (a colonial power inflicting its will on a Muslim population and dealing with the horrific consequences, though I don’t mean to imply that either side was blameless…the final casualty count when the war was over was approximately 300,000). Vidal-Naquet died in July of this year.

I think one of the reasons why his story is important is that it is a cautionary lesson for us now and especially for those who will inherit the consequences of this present mess and those yet unseen who will come after us. Just because this man had a French name and much of his life had to do with a period that is often relegated to the dustbin of history does not mean that his story is no longer relevant.

For with this precedent, our nation will now feel emboldened to violate the sovereignty of other countries yet again, perhaps to the point where émigrés will arrive on our shores one day whose family members may be victims of our actions, though these émigrés may yet grow up and educate others, perhaps in a college like Vidal-Naquet, as to the violent oppression of their own government (and I’m sure the great grandson or granddaughter of David Horowitz will be around to scream about “liberal bias”).

The pillars of our democracy are being destroyed before our very eyes (and as Atrios pointed out, the three senators who “opposed” this – McCain, Graham, and Warner – ended up marching in lockstep with this in the end).

I will never advocate violence against our government, even in opposition to this, nor do I believe anyone else should who loves this country.

There’s only one way we can do anything about this, and we can sum that up in nine words (and though they are imperfect, they aren’t behind any of this):

For God Sake, Support And Vote For The Democrats!

Update: At least Amnesty International is standing up on this (I'm going to try and find out who the 34 Democratic House Reps are who said torture is OK).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday Video

Farm Aid is coming to the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ this Saturday; that includes Dave Matthews, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and a whole bunch of other great folks including Los Lonely Boys, who performed "Diamonds" from their second album live from Odessa, TX in April.

No College Left Behind

Boy, Margaret Spellings has been busy, hasn’t she? First, one of her underlings is found out in a scheme to heap federal funds on states that dealt with a vendor called Direct Instruction, whose members were on the oversight board of Reading First, part of the No Child Left Behind program.

Now, she’s back with some master plan including a comprehensive database of student information (already raising privacy concerns), and speeding up the process of receiving financial aid.

The part about speeding up the financial aid process sounds nice until you realize 1) this is an election year, and if it weren’t for that, this probably wouldn’t even be coming up, 2) Spellings supposedly cares about this because she’s trying to put her own daughter through college.

Besides, this whole “stop and shop” idea for colleges may sound appealing until you wonder how the colleges are going to be judged under this approach, and also if some arbitrary rating by Spellings or someone else in this woeful administration will have a factor in what kind of loan funding would be available for a prospective student for a given college, or if the “speeding up” process will be applied equally among all schools.

As for how this played among those in “the hallowed halls of academia”…

The United States Student Association liked the news that the federal government planned to simplify, and speed up, the process of getting financial aid. But a prominent faculty voice said the basis of Spellings' agenda is all wrong.

The American Association of University Professors says the emerging vision of higher education is only a marketplace, focused on outcomes and skills. Developing a love of learning and civic virtues, the group says, "are marginalized to the point of irrelevance."
Kate Sabatini and John S. Irons of the Center for American Progress had (I thought) some good ideas on funding Pell Grants through the Student Loan program (something Spellings should consider reading, including this excerpt).

President Bush’s budget for Fiscal Year 2007 will direct approximately $8 billion in net subsidies to private student lenders next year through the government-guaranteed loan program—even though taxpayers will subsidize that program at a rate nearly 4.5 times higher than that of direct loans in 2007, according to the President’s own budget. If 100 percent of loans were disbursed through the direct loan program, the savings could be redirected to the Pell Grant Program to provide up to 1.5 million new grants to students.
And by the way, raising the rate on student loans as of July 1 wasn’t a very bright idea either.

No Census, No Feeling

(I have to work in a Three Stooges reference where I can; it’s appropriate for our government anyway)…

Based on this story as well as the revelations from Jim Nicholson and the VA a few months ago, I hereby propose that no one in the Bush administration should be allowed to use a laptop computer or any device whatsoever that could travel out of an office (or if they do, that the device has no means of any kind to transmit information elsewhere).

An excerpt from the story appears below:

WASHINGTON - More than 1,100 laptop computers have vanished from the Commerce Department since 2001, including nearly 250 from the Census Bureau containing such personal information as names, incomes and Social Security numbers, officials said yesterday.

The disclosure by the department came in response to a request by the House Committee on Government Reform, which this summer asked 17 federal departments to detail any loss of computers holding sensitive personal information.

Of the 10 departments that have responded, the losses at Commerce are "by far the most egregious," said David Marin, staff director for the committee. He said the silence of the remaining seven departments may reflect reluctance to reveal problems of similar magnitude.
Oh, that’s just great. But not to worry; according to Rep. Thomas M. Davis 3d (R., Va.), who chairs the government reform committee and attended the briefing,

"(Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez) has assured me that getting that information is Priority No. 1, and I'm confident he'll get his arms around the problem."
Personally, I’d like to "get my arms around" a new commerce secretary.

And by the way, the Inquirer saw fit to bury this story on page A-13 last Friday (another honored moment for the legacy of Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings).

The Bush Brigade

(I always loved that cover...)

In case anyone missed it (I did – I heard about it later), Andy Rooney commented about this on “60 Minutes” a couple of nights ago.

Do you know how many assistants Dubya has working for him in the White House?

433, that’s how many.

According to Rooney, these people make a total of $28 million (and somehow I cannot imagine that these salaries are being paid by anyone except the U.S. taxpayer). For example, Stuart Girand Baker is the “Director of Lessons Learned” and pulls in $106K (must be nice).

This story appeared in Time a couple of months ago about Blake Gottesman, a guy all of 26 who managed to worm his way into Dubya’s good graces as his “body guy” and “walking mood ring” to the tune of $95,000 a year. For that salary, here are some of Gottesman’s typical duties:

Like his predecessors (?), he's at the President's elbow with a Sharpie pen for autographs. But sharing Bush's love for streamlined systems, he also developed a faster thank-you-note process. Gottesman collects artifacts for a future presidential library, down to the whistles Bush blows to start the White House Easter Egg Roll. Since it's hard for the President to receive mail, Gottesman takes to work the catalogs he receives at home so that when the two have downtime on Air Force One, the President can choose running shoes and fishing gear, which Gottesman then orders online.
No word on whether or not Gottesman “holds it” for Dubya when he has to relieve himself or doubles as Head Fluffer (and Mike Allen reports on this as if there is nothing ridiculous or unseemly going on in any way).

I have no idea whether or not Dubya has a lot of staffers in comparison to other presidential administrations. I suspect that he does, but I don’t have any other data on that.

However, according to Rooney’s article, Bush has two “ethics advisors.” Based on this administration’s sorry performance, I’d say they should start looking for other employment; either they’re not doing their jobs, or their being ignored in as dreadful a manner as we can imagine.

As long as I’m posting on Dubya, I should note this book from a man named John Warner (not the Virginia senator of course – kind of a problematic topic for a kids book, but a good idea).

Also, here’s the latest from Ann Coulter:

Once again, Mr. Bush resorts to fear and lies to try and win an election for his party.

The war in Iraq, despite the fact that it is almost civil war, is going overwhelmingly well.

Afghanistan is a complete democracy, despite the return to car bombings.

We are saving the world from terrorists by letting them come in across the Mexican border uncontrolled.

Another gift from our leaders?
That would be Ann Coulter of Bensalem, PA, who wrote this letter which was published in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning.

Take A Deep Breath, Condi

Maybe, instead of engaging in a hissy fit with the Clintons over which presidential administration had a better record in pursuing Osama bin Laden and waging the fight against global terrorism (a battle she will lose in a heartbeat – it almost doesn’t even deserve a response), our Secretary of State should offer some explanation for this story.

And of course, Madame Secretary is known for her veracity, as we all know.

I’ve always laid the blame for the cover-up of the real respiratory conditions at Ground Zero after 9/11 exclusively at the feet of former EPA director Christine Todd Whitman, and though she is culpable also, I should point out that Rice is blameworthy here at least as much as Whitman or anyone else.

We Can't See The NIE

(Not the whole thing anyway – the initials stand for the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism and al Qaeda in particular.)

So, upon reviewing selected excerpts from the estimate, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick had this to say (no link yet on the story from the Courier Times web site):

While Fitzpatrick said the report has “many conclusions,” he called portions of the report that were leaked to the New York Times “selected and politically motivated leaks.”
Uh, Mikey, your boss (pictured) refused to declassify the estimate and only selected portions were released by Director of National Security John Negroponte (who is a liar going back to the Iran-Contra fiasco, which makes him a perfect fit for the Bush administration). If that isn’t politically motivated, I don’t know what is.

Also, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked to convene a behind-closed-doors meeting of all House members to discuss the entire intelligence analysis. As you may imagine, Pelosi’s requested was defeated, with Mikey casting a vote against it (this is in the story also – I’ll keep looking for a link).

This report, by the way, was issued by all 16 of our intelligence agencies (with the blessing of CIA director Michael Hayden also), though the White House “strongly disagrees with it.”

And by the way, as noted from this SourceWatch link by Josh Marshall,

“…the NIE was only put together when the policy was being sold, not when it was being put together (re: The Hill issue of October 29, 2003 concerning Iraq). So the administration could not have been misled or ill-served by it because it was never used to formulate policy. The administration only used it to sell the policy to a skeptical Congress.

"We know that the Bush administration specifically resisted calling for an NIE until very late in the game because it didn't want the results and findings getting in the way of the policy the administration had already decided on. The reason an NIE was finally pulled together is that Senate Democrats wanted some sense of what the evidence was for all the White House's claims about Iraqi WMD and ties to international terrorism."
Just remember that we’re safer now as a result of the Iraq war, so of course we don’t need to see the NIE.

Sure we are.

Update 9/28: Keep it up, Dubya, you moron - let's see what happens on November 7th.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some Tuesday Funk

Onnie McIntire of the Average White Band celebrated Number 61 yesterday, so here's "School Boy Crush" from the '70s (I also had a couple of pairs of bell-bottoms and did "the bump" back in the day...kind of hard to mess that up, but I managed to do it).

By the way, did you know that these guys were all from Scotland? Go figure.

Good to see "Soul Train" again also...AWB remains one of the all-time-great "crossover" bands.

One more thing - this may reappear later but I'll make sure I delete it; I tried to upload this before from YouTube but it disappeared into the vortex of despair or something. I reported this to the Blogger Helpless page earlier about five days ago and did not receive an answer; as with All Things Blogger, the upload works and then doesn't work, it works and then doesn't work...

Another Milestone

Today is the birthday of Craig Chaquico of Jefferson Starship, so here's "Jane" performed on "Fridays" in 1981 and introduced by Father Guido Sarducci (aka Don Novello, also the author of the great Lazlo Toth books).

I wonder how stoned Grace Slick was at this particular moment (one of the great characters in rock n' roll, though) - kudos to Darrow Igus for remembering the cowbell.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Joe And Bubba Show

I'm sorry to be "putting the bite on everyone" with these posts, but the end of the quarter is a big deal for fundraising. Also, I probably won't be posting tomorrow, so...

There's less than one week to go before September 30, the end of the fundraising quarter! Tied in the polls, tied in fundraising. We plan on exceeding each of those standards in the coming weeks… and ask your help to do so! $25, $50, $100 -- whatever the amount, will help us to finish the quarter on a "will win" note! Please help by contributing today:

Click here

My former boss when I served in the White House, President Clinton, is coming to my home district on October 5th to support my candidacy for Congress because he recognizes the stakes in this election - a need to change Congress for a better America! Please read his comments on this race below!

Our campaign was featured last week in Time Magazine by columnist Joe Klein, who saw: a compelling race, a strong vision for a better tomorrow, and a district ready for change.

Click here to read the article.

But we cannot do it alone. We need your help in the last days before the end of the financial filing deadline! Please contribute today:

Click here

The enthusiasm and excitement for our campaign continue to grow:

Congressman Bob Edgar, who served this district so well as the last Democratic representative to hold this seat, joined us last week to underscore the commitment that we have to take this district in a better direction.

Over 200 people joined us last Monday for a distinguished panel on national security, featuring my former colleagues in the Clinton Administration: Tony Lake, Richard A. Clarke, and Rand Beers. Together we laid out a vision to strengthen our security at home and abroad.

But with the end of the quarter quickly approaching, we must have your help. This is a battleground race that will determine who controls the House! We cannot stop now! Join thousands of others who have shown their commitment to taking our country in a better direction:

Click here

And thank you… again, for your support.


Joe Sestak

P.S. We’ve come far, but we can’t let our efforts go to waste. Help build on our successes by donating today:

Click here

In case you missed it, former President Clinton commented on our race two times in the last week, each in interviews with Fox News:

"There is a House race in Pennsylvania where Curt Weldon, a 20 year veteran, is being opposed by Admiral Joe Sestak, who was a career military man who served in that capacity on my National Security Council staff" (On the Record, Fox News, 9/21).

"We’ve got 9 Iraq war veterans running for House Seats. President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia. A three star admiral who was on my NSC staff — who also fought terror by the way — is running for the seat of Curt Weldon’s in Pennsylvania. We’ve got a huge military presence in this campaign and you can’t let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box that we don’t belong in. That’s their job. Their job is to beat us. But our job is to not let them get away with it and if we don’t we’ll be fine" (Fox News Sunday, Fox News, 9/24).

Yes, even Bill Clinton is watching, because he knows how important this race is for changing the direction our country is headed in!
And if nothing else, the Chris Wallace smack down will bring more attention to "The Big Dog" that hopefully will translate to more exposure and more support for Admiral Joe.

Return Of The "Ragin' Cajun"

I realize, though, that he's been in the background all along (what follows is his latest communication)...

When George W. Bush snuck into office almost six years ago he got a gift from the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court gave him the election. And in the legislative branch, he got a Rubber Stamp Republican Congress to follow his every move and misguided policy like a bunch of stray dogs hoping to get fed.

And did they ever get fed. They got fat and corrupt on contributions from the oil and gas companies, the drug companies lobby, the health care industry, and their fat cat contributors.

And you know who paid the price? You did. You and your kids, actually. Because the damage they've done is going to take a long time to fix. That's why we have to start fixing things now, by electing a Democratic majority to the House of Representatives.

There's nobody better-prepared to get that job done than the hard-working folks at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I can't thank you enough for your activism on behalf of the DCCC this cycle. But, with so little time left, everyday can make or break the outcome on November 7th. The best action you can take today to make a difference is a contribution to the DCCC. Their work is so important that your gift will be matched three-to-one. I'm supporting them, I hope you will, too.

Make a secure online contribution of $35, $50, or more today, and Democratic members of the House will triple it, packing even more punch into your support, and making your money work harder to throw the bums out of Congress on Election Day.

Come November 8th, I don't want to look back and have regrets and hear folks saying "We could have done more."

We need to do everything we can now.

House Democrats know that victory is within reach. They've got the ideas, they've got the candidates, they've got the message - the one thing they need is the resources to compete with Bush's gang. They've promised to match any contribution from now until midnight on September 30th with three of their own. That's a three-to-one match - matching $50 with $150!

Let me try to sum up the last six years in a nutshell:

President Bush's first priority was a tax cut. Next his administration erased our huge surpluses and saddled us with massive budget deficits that are crippling the economy and undermining America's fiscal security. It created such economic havoc that it gave Bush the excuse he needed to try to destroy Medicare and rob the Social Security trust fund.

They followed this up with attacks on the environment, education for our kids, and our basic civil rights. All the while good jobs vanished and they sat back and refused to raise the minimum wage so people could make a decent living.

Then came September 11th, 2001. Then, instead of finishing the job of driving Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and finding Osama bin Laden, President Bush and the Republican Congress invaded Iraq. They misled the public for their reasons for invading. And now we find ourselves in a nightmare of a war with no clear exit strategy.

Every choice they made, every decision they faced, they got it wrong.

We can't change the past but we sure as hell can the change the future and not give this president and his cronies any more chances to do the wrong thing.

And that change begins today with you doing the right thing. The most important step I can ask you to take today is to contribute to the DCCC and give them the vital resources that will be needed in the final days up to Election Day.

Make a secure online contribution of $35, $50 or more today to have it tripled having three times the impact on sweeping the bums out of Congress on Election Day.

Right now, this election could go either way. Here's what that means.

It means that the Republicans will say anything to keep our government in their hands. Because we refuse to sink as low as them, we need to work even harder than they do.

It also means that if we lose this election, we will only have ourselves to blame. This is the opportunity we have waited years for, and shame on us if we don't rise to the occasion.

I know you care deeply about the dangerous direction this country is heading under the leadership of George W. Bush and the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress. And I know you understand that we cannot give this administration and this Congress another minute to push their wacko domestic agenda and botch the job further in Iraq.

But knowing and caring and hoping and praying will not win us the election. The only way we win is to work harder, be tougher, and reach more voters than the Republicans.

So I urge you, as strongly as I am able, to do everything in your power to unseat these rascals and put a Democratic majority in Congress on November 7th. Vote, pester your friends and neighbors to go to the polls on November 7th, and give the most generous contribution that you are able to the DCCC to elect a Democratic majority today.

Make a secure online contribution of $35, $50, or more today to have it tripled having three times the impact on sweeping the bums out of Congress on Election Day.

I don't want to spend another day ashamed of my government. I don't think you do either. Take advantage of the House Democrats matching your dollars with three of their own.

They're showing their commitment. It's time for us to show ours.

James Carville

P.S. -- I'm asking you to step up and exercise the power of your pocketbook before September 30th so your gift can go three times as far. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to give every race everything they need in the sprint to Election Day.

So don't forget. Support the DCCC today and vote on November 7th. Together, we'll not only win, we'll set America in a new, and better, direction.
It comes down to us, everyone (but I know we knew that).

Yep, We Saw It

The latest from Dr. Dean ("Dr. Chuck" and Dick Polman, are you reading this?)...

You can't trust Republicans on national security -- and two things proved it yesterday:

1) In a powerful interview that aired yesterday, President Bill Clinton took on the extremist Republican propaganda about 9/11 -- and Fox News tried to cover up the fact that the Bush administration downgraded terrorism as a priority before September 11th and has failed to eliminate Osama bin Laden since the attacks.

2) An explosive report on the still-classified National Intelligence Estimate states that the "invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks" -- and Republicans have been trying to cover it up.

This is what we're fighting against every day -- an administration covering up of the Bush failure of 9/11 and covering up an honest look at the war in Iraq and the war on terror.

You know that Democrats have a real plan for destroying Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, fixing the mess in Iraq, and really securing us at home.

But we've always had those things -- the problem until now has been our willingness to stand up and fight for them in the face of fear mongering, bullying and intimidation from the other side.

That's why we're going on the offense on national security. The future of our party, and of our country, depends on the ability of Democrats to get a strong national security message out in all 50 states this year. Donate to make it happen and watch President Clinton fight back now:

Here's the meat of the Fox News interview with President Clinton, where he's had enough of the right-wing revisionist history from the propaganda machine:

CLINTON: I'm being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative run in their little Pathway to 9/11, falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report. ... And I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn't do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President Bush's neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn't do enough said I did too much -- same people.

Over a quarter million Americans stood up to ABC and beat back the right-wing Republican 9/11 propaganda that tries to cover up the Bush administration's huge failures to protect America before and after the attacks.

Yesterday Bill Clinton did exactly what Democrats need to do in this election -- to stand up to the right-wing and tell the truth. We will not let the Republicans twist history and distort reality.

We're sick of playing defense against a Republican leadership that uses national security to scare people to win elections. We're not going to be pushed around, spun, and defamed by right-wing extremists and those whom they use to disseminate their propaganda.

Our plan for this election is to go on the offense -- to talk straight about the Republican failures and lay out a clear Democratic plan to take American foreign policy and national security in a better direction.

Watch President Clinton and donate now to Democrats who will fight back:

We have a fundamentally different vision for our security than the Party of Bush. We want a new direction in Iraq, more competent security at home, and the restoration of America's moral leadership in the world.

They failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, and five years after September 11th he still lives to taunt Americans.

They squandered America's moral authority and global leadership by launching a war of choice in Iraq instead of fighting the war on al Qaeda.

The calls of the 9/11 Commission Report and Hurricane Katrina simply did not awaken Republican leaders to our continuing vulnerabilities at home.

We've had enough, and we're going to run an honest campaign about the security of our country. People are smart and ready for real leadership -- will you make a donation right now to help get the message out?

Republicans have won two elections since 9/11 by instilling fear in people, and they're trying to do it again this year.

But it's not going to work. The Bush policies have failed. Iraq is sliding into civil war. Iran and North Korea are more dangerous than they were five and a half years ago. And the Taliban resurgence poses new threats in Afghanistan.

As President Clinton said on Fox News that we have a government "that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq."

People have had enough. This administration cannot be trusted with our security.

Democrats are going to reclaim American leadership with a tough, smart plan to transform failed policies in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world.

We will increase the size of Special Forces to destroy Osama Bin Laden and terrorist networks like al Qaeda. We will implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission proposal to secure America's borders and ports and screen every container. And we will fully man, train, and equip our National Guard and our police, firefighters and other first responders.

Let's get this message out to Americans who need to hear it:

When it comes to national security, the Republicans have not led.

We will.

Thank you,

Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.
Democratic National Committee

P.S. -- Below are a few excerpts from President Clinton's interview. To make a donation to Democrats across the country committed to beating back right-wing propaganda, click here:

Excerpts from President Bill Clinton's interview on Fox News:

"I'm being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative run in their little Pathway to 9/11, falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report. ...

"And I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn't do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President Bush's neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn't do enough said I did too much -- same people. ...

"...I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. ...

"Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq. ...

"And you ask me about terror and al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. ...

"And you've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. ...

"The entire military was against sending Special Forces in to Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter. And no one thought we could do it otherwise, because we could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. ...

"They had three times as much time to deal with it, and nobody ever asks them about it. I think that's strange."
I do too, more than a little bit.

A Most Dreadful Punctuation

While Dubya’s “cringe moment” this week pertains to the most inappropriate reference to a comma that anyone can imagine, I would like to focus instead on an issue that speaks volumes about the human cost of this horrible war in Iraq.

(I could prattle on about the fact that Dubya is an idiot, but what’s the use? We’re stuck with him; he should have long since been impeached, but we don’t have a shot of that unless the Democrats take control of the House, and we have to do whatever it takes to make that happen in the least.)

And by the way, as noted here from an important Matt Stoller post via Atrios about Net Neutrality (the telcos are trying to get what they want by state, so we in PA have to get on the stick and call the people listed in Matt’s post), the Green party candidate for the U.S. Senate, Carl Romanelli, was thrown off the ballot today. This is great news for Mr. Casey Jr., but I’m hearing all kinds of rumblings about Karl Rove planning an October surprise, so I’m not going to start celebrating yet.

Sorry I got “off topic” a bit, but the point of this post is to comment on this USA Today story. This issue is about as dire as you can imagine.

It turns out that there are so many cases of severe head trauma coming out of Iraq that the issue of “living wills” for our troops needs to be addressed. If a battlefield doctor is faced with a situation where one of our wounded people is brain dead, the doctor needs to know how to proceed if the patient is an organ donor. On the one hand, the family would want to see their son or daughter when they return home to try and reach some kind of closure, but on the other hand, if the organs aren’t harvested right away, they couldn’t be used; too much time would have passed by the time the body had returned to this country.

Did you ever imagine we would ever arrive at a point like this?

Do you think our “leaders” ever conceived of the toll upon our men and women in the military and their family and friends from this escapade in Iraq?

Can you imagine being sent off to Iraq, all of 19, 20, or 21 years old, and being advised that you should complete a living will (which by the way, is a good idea for someone that age and older, but not for these reasons) because of the condition you may end up in from your service?

I know many Democrats voted for the Iraq war, but this is overwhelmingly a production of the Repugs. They should be held accountable for this above everyone else. And when the entire Democratic party sees us sweep out those in charge at this moment, they will do what we want and bring our people home for real out of abject fear of suffering the same fate, if for no other reason.

Update 9/26: Leave it to Jack Cafferty to cut through the B.S. on Dubya's stupid remarks.

Vlad's Gas Attack

I seem to recall that Russia was opposed to George W.’s Excellent Adventure In Iraq back when there was still time to prevent the invasion (I think we can state categorically now that that was a consummate act of madness by our ruling cabal), so it’s no surprise that Russian President Vladimir Putin would reject any of Dubya’s stupid overtures asking for Russia to model itself after Iraq (I mean, why would a reasonably industrialized nation suddenly choose a path of ethnic violence and sectarian chaos?).

And as if it were necessary to demonstrate the fact that our relationship with our comrades has deteriorated still further under Dubya, you need go no further than this story.

There are costs to all of us because of the stupidity of our leaders and their pontification in the media, make no mistake. One of them will be, I believe, our quality of life in the context of Russia’s rise as a dominant energy power, since energy costs are so critical to not just our economy, but that of the whole world. And if something involves energy, I guarantee you that it will not escape Bushco’s wary eye, primarily for reason of its own self interest.

This recent article from Asia Times Online is a thorough examination of Russia’s efforts to corner the energy market, with both their actual and planned activities in pursuit of that goal. It includes this quote from Condoleezza Rice:

In April, while visiting Ankara and Athens, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice publicly warned Turkey and Greece about any collaboration with Russia that would facilitate Russia's tight grip on European energy supply. "It is quite clear that one of the [US] concerns is that there could be a monopoly of supply from one source only, from Russia," Rice said.
That’s one of the reasons Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is over in China right now in an effort to strengthen our energy-related ties with that country. And again, referring to the Asia Times Online article, what struck me was the matter-of-factness of the comments by Su Jingxiang, an expert from China's Institute of Contemporary International Relations, more or less telling the U.S. that the way to better energy relations with China is through actual cooperation with countries and not just invading these places and trying to steal their oil.

So it looks like we’re going to be heading off Russia’s march towards energy dominance with the “help” of China, a rather odd replay of the whole “Nixon Goes To China” moment in an effort to prevent global Communist domination (what’s next, an “I Am Not A Crook” moment from Dubya?).

Just remember that Vlad doesn’t mess around (and at least it hasn’t gotten to this point in this country…yet).

Have Pity On The Working Man

(And women of course also, as well as families in general...).

Our 8th district U.S. Congressional representative noted this in a Q&A session with Patrick Murphy about the Iraq war yesterday.

“The economy is in good shape considering the war, September 11th, and two major hurricanes.”
I hate to admit it, but a lot of the macro-level data I see regarding corporate hiring and unemployment in Bucks County bear that out. However, a lot of that data is put out by Bushco’s Department of Labor, so you can be sure that they are going to rig it every way over Sunday. Also, as Paul Craig Roberts and others have pointed out many times, this administration refuses to keep track of jobs lost to offshoring and actually encourages companies as to the tax advantages of this awful practice, so I don’t see how you can get a true picture of what’s going on out there anyway.

This article in The Philadelphia Inquirer by business writer Kevin G. Hall appeared last May.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. economy is strong these days when measured by macro-statistics, but sluggish wage growth, rising gasoline prices and interest rates, and the gloomy background music from the Iraq war are overshadowing the good economic news in the minds of most Americans.

To be sure, corporations are raking in strong profits, which are driving the stock market near its all-time high. Unemployment remains near historic lows. Even a slump in home sales has not significantly slowed consumer spending.

But when pollster Gallup recently surveyed Americans, 64 percent said the economy was getting worse. Only 33 percent described it as good, 40 percent as fair, and 23 percent as poor. And that survey was taken March 13 to 16, before gasoline prices leapt more than 30 cents a gallon to a national average of $2.92. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Pollsters, said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, "are picking up decade-long lows" for citizen views about the White House and Congress, fueled by the unpopular war in Iraq, among other downers. Those views cloud feelings about the economy.

Experts agree that U.S. economic growth is above historic norms. In late April, the Commerce Department reported a sizzling first-quarter annual growth rate of 4.8 percent in the nation's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy. And at 4.7 percent, unemployment hovers near all-time lows.

Despite falling stock prices Thursday and Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed Friday at 11,380.99, not far from its all-time high of 11,722.98 set Jan. 14, 2000. That has lifted millions of U.S. workers' retirement holdings.

So why aren't Americans celebrating?

"It's not showing up in their paychecks the way you'd expect," said Jared Bernstein, chief economist for the liberal Economy Policy Institute in Washington. "The gap between the economy from 40,000 feet and on the ground level just seems to get wider with every new report."

The same week that the GDP numbers came out, the government also reported that worker compensation - pay and benefits - rose in the year's first quarter at an annual rate of 2.4 percent, the slowest rate in seven years. That figure, Bernstein said, suggests that workers' wages are not keeping pace with wage gains during past economic expansions, or even with inflation, which rose 3.4 percent over the year ended in March as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

"The problem is you have faster-growing prices colliding with nominal wage growth that has been pretty unimpressive," he said.

Some on Wall Street agree.

"Only the elite at the upper end of the occupational hierarchy have been spared the pressures of an increasingly brutal wage compression," said Stephen Roach, chief economist for banking giant Morgan Stanley.

In a March analysis for investors, Roach concluded that an increasingly globalized U.S. economy is not a rising tide that lifts all boats. Instead, "the rich are, indeed, getting richer, but the rest of the workforce is not."

A closer look at the composition of the workforce helps explain why many Americans are not cheering all the strong economic news in the headlines.

The Labor Department said in 2004 that 51.6 percent of all workers are concentrated in five job categories with mean-average hourly wages of $15.50 a hour or less. The national mean-average wage was $18. Those are the people most likely to suffer from rising gasoline prices and credit rates.

In fact, two government measures of workers' pay - median weekly earnings and a broader index that adds benefits such as health insurance to compensation - grew more slowly than inflation over the last 12 months, and two other wage indices surpassed inflation only slightly. That suggests that many workers' incomes are either losing ground or barely holding even.

What is behind the tepid wage growth is debatable. Union leaders say companies are retaining more profits at workers' expense. Business leaders say they have been paying more for benefits such as health care and that has stifled wage growth.

Another theory, supported by Morgan Stanley's Roach, is that greater global competition has created a huge supply of workers around the world that effectively keeps the price of U.S. labor closer to international norms.

The chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, Edward Lazear, acknowledged on May 2 that wage growth had lagged, but he said it would soon follow economic growth.

"As the expansion progresses, wages tend to catch up to productivity growth, and eventually the growth rate of wages exceeds that of productivity... . We are moving into that phase," Lazear told the Hudson Institute, a conservative policy-research center. Productivity measures a worker's output per hour. For the last decade, it has outpaced historic norms.

On May 5, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly wages are up 3.8 percent over the last 12 months, supporting Lazear's view that a turn is coming. The bureau also said that average weekly earnings are up 4.1 percent.

The Bush administration, deflecting criticism about sluggish wage growth, is talking up the economy's rebound in job creation, after years of a "jobless recovery," with 32 consecutive months of job growth and 2.5 million net new jobs over the last year.

But there were 143.7 million active workers on payrolls in April, and most of their wages have grown more slowly in recent years than they did during past business cycles.

Martin Regalia, the chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he thought the economy would slow in the second half of this year. Third-quarter growth numbers will be released shortly before November's congressional elections. If they show a significant slowdown, as Regalia and most mainstream economists expect, that could turn voters against the governing Republican Party.

"How do you spin that politically?" Regalia asked. "It's been hard to sell this economy to the general public while it's been very good. How are we going to sell it when it is just good?"
Here is my totally unscientific take on what is happening based on discussions with family members and friends who have changed jobs or sought work (and some of this is partly true regardless of economic conditions any more, I admit):

If you have about 5-7 years of experience in the workforce, this is the economy for you. An employer can pay you a respectable wage and you will be marketable because you have just enough experience so that you don’t have to be trained completely from the ground up in how your profession will match the requirements and “corporate culture” (sorry…I hate that phrase) of your employer. Also, entry level candidates with 1-2 years of experience should be able to get a job doing menial work, but if you get a primo entry level salary, you should count your blessings that it has not been hurt because of offshore competition.

If you have 10 years or more of experience and you are looking for a job, be prepared for what likely will be a minimum 9-month slog through pointless interviews with inane recruiters and other human resources people and clueless hiring managers who will be intimidated by your experience. It is highly possible that you will have to somehow latch onto a contracting job which will likely represent a cut in your former salary and ride that out until it either turns into a salaried position with benefits (and who knows how long that may take) or you find another permanent position elsewhere (and of course, there is no guarantee that any of this will happen – you may find yourself penalized by your extensive education and experience to the point where you may have to explore an entirely new career to maintain your prior earnings because you are now untouchable in your former field).

I’ve attached two links: the first is to this column by Greg Anrig, Jr. of The Century Foundation in which he takes about as clear-eyed of a look at our economy as I’ve ever seen (besides Hall's article) and proposes some changes to the unemployment insurance system, including a wage insurance plan that would lessen the decline in compensation that many workers experience when they take a new job after becoming unemployed; the second is to this CNN article a friend of mine sent to me with some truly horrendous employment termination stories (and I know I only posted on this a few weeks ago anyway - here's the link).

And let us continue to do all we can, by the way, to make sure that, come November 8th, Mike Fitzpatrick will know firsthand what it means to look for a new job.