Hey all, I'll be busy in meetings for the next few days and may or may not have time to post. Not that there's any shortage of stories to pursue: terrorism in Uzbekistan, the continuing discussion of the White House's evasions and smear campaigns, and much, much more, I'm sure. I think that preliminary March job figures are also due out this week, so let me know about the stuff I miss and I'll be back at it soon.
March 25, 2004
You've gotta give it to Condi Rice: she is the best looking attack dog ever produced by a White House. She's also probably among the smartest, though by many accounts her managerial skills are lacking.
Josh Marshall has a nice write-up on Condi's lofty position as a person who doesn't have to testify in public or under oath, but who can rush to a microphone and declassify documents in an attempt to damage White House critics at will.
Anyone who has ever been young -- which, I suppose, includes everyone -- remembers some shameless whippersnapper who had an older brother, or older sister, or some other sort of protector. And from under the wing or shadow of that protector they'd hurl all manner of taunts and insults and boasts at all the other little kids, confident that none of them could fight back or do anything about it.
Which brings us to Condoleeza Rice.
March 24, 2004
Bush's Lunatic Critics
Here's a great column from Richard Cohen at the Washington Post. It opens:
Pity poor George Bush. For some reason, he has been beset by delusional aides who, once they leave the White House, write books containing lies and exaggerations and -- this is the lowest blow of all -- do not take into account the president's genius and all-around wisdom.
Yeah... More later.
March 23, 2004
Whose house? Waxman's House!
Representative Henry Waxman has just published Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq (pdf). Coming in at 36 pages, it looks to be a pretty authoritative parsing of the misleading statements that took us into a conflict that so far has cost us 586 lives with thousands or tens of thousands injured. Not to mention $150B or so at present, with much more to come.
The report cites 237 misleading statements (meaning: they are considered to have been misleading at the time they were made, as opposed to representing the views of the intelligence services at the time, which may have later turned out to be wrong.) by five administration figures: Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, and of course, Bush himself.
From the report: "On October 7, 2002, three days before the congressional votes on the Iraqi war resolution, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, with 11 misleading statements, the most by any of the five officials in a single appearance." (p. iii, 'Findings'; emphasis mine)
What's interesting is that the report doesn't look into the statements of other noted administration hawks, like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Given the amount of misleading information bandied about prior to, during, and after the invasion (and continuing to this day), I suppose the investigators had to draw a line somewhere.
Give it a glance. More later.
March 19, 2004
Further Collapse of the Clinton World Order
It's like the Bush administration has decided that priorities of the Clinton administration should be allowed to die by neglect.
I'm initiating the International Order Point System, a ten point scale of ineptitude to judge Team Bush by. You can play at home simply by adding the points together. The higher the score, the more screwed up the world is becoming. Points are awarded based on the potential for a real leader to have a) avoided the situation entirely or b) intervened positively to have arrived at a humanitarian resolution.
Cases in point:
Israel and Palestine. They had a nice long of run of things where people weren't being blown up all the time, but that's all over now. Five points for Team Bush straight up because, you know, it's way historic, with three bonus points for a) the international importance of this conflict, b) the 180-degree shift from the status quo of the 1990s, and c) Bush's being hamstrung by the religious right on taking proactive steps to create climate where the two sides can work together.*
*Note: The religious right believes that all of the area called Israel was ceded by God to the Jews, and that any two-state solution is in violation of God's plan, even though a two-state solution is the only conceivable way that a lasting peace can be achieved.
Haiti. Stabilized in 1994 after a coup. It wasn't done perfectly, but it was done with US Marines so some credit is due. Apparently nothing has been done for the past few years. Democratically elected leader in exile. Two points for Team Bush, with one bonus point for this Press Secretary Scott McClellan quote: "We are extremely concerned about the wave of violence spreading through Haiti and we certainly deeply regret the loss of life." (Feb. 11), and one bonus point for the enormous hypocrisy in letting democracy in Haiti crumble while going to war in other nations to "spread democracy." Total: 4
Breaking News: Kosovo! This would be the biggest point-getter because of a) the historical flashpoint that the region has always been; b) the fact that the last war that we definitely won was fought there; and c) the global partnership that developed to foster a functional government in both Serbia and Kosovo, but at the moment I can only award 5 points, with one bonus point for this press quote: "The White House called for an end to violence in Kosovo and said President Bush met with his national security team to monitor the situation." This total of 6 ineptitude points is likely to rise in coming days, however, so Israel and Palestine shouldn't feel too comfortable in that first place position.
What's up with Asia?
Taiwanese President and VP Shot, both are alright and only slightly injured ahead of Taiwanese elections.
South Korea announces that it won't send its troops the region of Iraq that the US has requested, citing excessive pressure from the United States.
March 18, 2004
Cracks in the Alliance?
The writing may be on the wall for European leaders.
If you want to be re-elected, stay away from George W. Bush.
Ivo Daalder, in the American Prospect writes: The role of Spain demonstrates the fragility of relying on a "coalition of the willing." If one member pulls away, the others begin to panic. And in some cases, the coalition becomes less cohesive.
He points out that this is the third world election where a party running against George W. Bush has lost: Germany and South Korea have decided elections largely on the issue of closeness with the current America.
Now, it seems to me that Spain changed governments largely because Jose Maria Aznar was perceived as mishandling the investigation into the Madrid bombing, blaming ETA even when there was growing evidence of al Qaeda or other radical Islamist involvement.
But, to continue Daalder's point, there's this: "Polish President Says Misled About War".
He's talking about pulling Polish troops out earlier than expected.
Coalition of the Misled?
Refuting George W.
At the risk of seeming partisan, I'd like to take a minute to highlight three or four areas that demonstrate the absolute corruption and incompentence of the current US administration. This is a difficult combination to maintain, so it may be that it's all corruption masked behind George W.'s "Aw, shucks" act.
1. Administration corruption.
It is difficult to argue that the Medicare reforms passed last year were anything but a shady deal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution offers this piece on actuary Richard Foster, who allegedly was told that he would be fired if he notified congress that the administration had low-balled the cost estimates.
According to Foster, Medicare administrator Thomas Scully, who rode herd over the legislation for the White House, ordered Foster not to talk to members of Congress without his authorization. If he revealed the high figures, he risked losing his job, according to reports. Foster was barred from giving the real numbers not only to Democrats but also to Republicans such as Rep. Bill Thomas, a Californian who chairs the powerful tax writing Ways and Means Committee.
The purpose of withholding the information, clearly, was to keep lawmakers in the dark. Several Republicans, especially, had expressed reservations about the proposal when the Bush administration told them it would cost $400 billion over 10 years. They might not have given it their votes had they known the real costs. As it happened, the legislation squeaked by in the House in a 220-215 predawn vote.
The New York Times (registration required; apparently using Plastic/Plastic to log in will work) discusses a fax recieved in January but dated June 11, 2003 which marked the price as $551.5 billion over 10 years, not the $400 billion that congress nearly didn't pass.
It appeared to confirm what Ms. Bjorklund [a House Democratic Health Policy aide] and her bosses on the House Ways and Means Committee had long suspected: the actuary, Richard S. Foster, had concluded the legislation would be far more expensive than Congress's $400 billion estimate — and had kept quiet while lawmakers voted on the bill and President Bush signed it into law.
Ms. Bjorklund had been pressing Mr. Foster for his numbers since June. When he refused, telling her he could be fired, she said, she confronted his boss, Thomas A. Scully, then the Medicare administrator. "If Rick Foster gives that to you," Ms. Bjorklund remembered Mr. Scully telling her, "I'll fire him so fast his head will spin." Mr. Scully denies making such threats.
These conversations among three government employees — an obscure Congressional aide, a little-known actuary and a high-level official — remained secret until now, and Ms. Bjorklund still does not know who sent the fax. But Mr. Foster went public last week, and details of his struggle for independence within the Bush administration are now emerging, raising questions about whether the White House intentionally withheld crucial data from lawmakers.
If true, this is clear-cut corruption within the administration. An official was allegedly threatened in order to damaging cost estimates from making their way to the Congress while important legislation was being debated.
And then there's this great story of the Medicare bill:
The House Ethics Committee said Wednesday that it will begin an investigation to determine whether Rep. Nick Smith was offered a bribe to vote for a Medicare bill.
Smith was among several lawmakers lobbied heavily by GOP leaders last November to vote for the measure, which was favored by President Bush. It narrowly passed, but Smith voted against it because he said it was too expensive.
After the vote, Smith told a radio station that Republican colleagues had offered $100,000 in campaign cash for his son, Brad, if he voted for the bill. The younger Smith is running to replace his father, who is retiring.
This is not the administration per se, but it is surrogates among the President's own party who were allegedly using tactics that exceed "hardball" by a pretty decent margin in order to pass Bush's signature domestic legislation (after tax cuts). It's also criminal, and my best hope is that Tom DeLay can be tied to this and then prosecuted.
2. The World is Safer Now
The death toll rose to 201 yesterday as another victim of the Madrid bombings died of injuries. Car bombs are the new rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. No, they're still using RPG's, too, I'm sure, but I can't even keep count of the civillian casualties in Iraq. Fortunately, the blast in Baghdad yesterday that was originally thought to have killed 27 seems to have killed far fewer people, possibly as few as six, which is probably no consolation for the families of those six, but I'm a citizen of the occupying power. I have a different perspective.
Then there are moments when you really get to look into George W. Bush's soul. In this video, we get to watch the President sit with the Dutch Prime Minister, who issues an eloquent call for the world to stand shoulder to shoulder before they begin to take questions from the press. Hang out for the first press question, to President Bush. Watch the smirk and the poorly suppressed grin as he describes the terrorists as killers and murderers. It's truly a weird piece of film.
This is from the man who has pledged to make the world safer by taking the war to the terrorists. Didn't Madrid prove what Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and other terrorist hits have suggested in the last three years: that the terrorists will strike their targets of choice at the time of their choosing?
There was no "chatter" leading up to this event, so it seems that even the president's emphasis on high tech intelligence and wire taps isn't doing the job. We are no safer, we can't protect our allies, and in the nation that would greet us as liberators, civilians die daily in violence that repudiates the military tactics of George W. Bush.
3. Afghanistan is Free
I'm an Army Brat, and I grew up chatting with my father about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. This was dinnertime conversation in my Reagan-era household, and I was well aware of the actions of the CIA and the military to bolster the Mujahadeen to help throw off the Red Army.
Of course, once they did that, we (the good guys) abandoned Afghanistan and left the country a well armed battlefield of radical militias. It is estimated that 50,000 people died from the fighting in Kabul alone between 1992-1996. 400,000 are thought to have died in the country in the 1990s.
This is an atrocity beyond comprehension. The United States used the people of Afghanistan and then threw them aside when our own objectives were reasonably met. 9-11, seen through that lens, is less incomprehensible. We are not the good guys we like to think of ourselves as.
When we began the war against the Taliban, I saw it as an opportunity to really deal with these past wrongs, and to forge a permanent commitment with and to Afghanistan. I was hopeful that George Bush would live up to his rhetoric, and that his radical and liberal war against a brutal theocracy would result in genuine democracy and progress in Afghanistan.
My cynicism sprouts from beliefs like these.
The borders where the boundaries of Afghanistan end thereafter start the limits of non-Afghanistan in all its four dimensions—including Guantanomo Bay. Hence, if an Afghani is in Afghanistan or in the Bay, there is hardly any difference—as the sense of humiliation is similar. The spirit of the ‘non-Geneva Convention’ is in its full fury. For that matter, an Afghani will never forget two years. One was the year 1991 when a former superpower stepped out from it, and the second was the year 2001 when the remaining superpower stepped in.
Reuters reports that the Taliban, reconstituted in the south and east of the country, has just appointed a new chief to lead anti-US operations. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Here's a Kiwi's-eye view of the situation on the ground.
I visited Afghanistan for the first time earlier this year. In a lifetime of making my way through places of upheaval, I had not seen anything like it. Kabul is a glimpse of Dresden post-1945, with contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue. They have no light and heat their apocalyptic fires burn through the night. Hardly a wall stands that does not bear the pock-marks of almost every calibre of weapon. Cars lie upended at roundabouts. Power poles built for a modern fleet of trolley buses are twisted like paperclips. The buses are stacked on top of each other, reminiscent of the pyramids of machines erected by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to mark “Year Zero”.
There is a sense of Year Zero in Afghanistan. My footsteps echoed through the once grand Dilkusha Palace, built in 1910 to a design by a British architect, whose circular staircase and Corinthian columns and stone frescoes of biplanes were celebrated. It is now a cavernous ruin from which reed-thin children emerge like small phantoms, offering yellowing postcards of what it looked like 30 years ago. Beneath the sweep of the staircase were the blood and flesh of two people blown up by a bomb the day before. Who were they? Who planted the bomb? In a country in thrall to warlords, many of them conniving in terrorism, the question itself is surreal.
A hundred metres away, men in blue move stiffly in single file: mine-clearers. Mines are like litter here, killing and maiming, it is calculated, every hour of every day. Opposite what was Kabul's main cinema, today an art deco shell, there is a busy roundabout with posters warning that unexploded cluster bombs — “yellow and from USA” — are in the vicinity. Children play here, chasing each other into the shadows. They are watched by a teenage boy with a stump and part of his face missing.
It goes on. You don't want it to, but it does.
In a series of extraordinary reports, the latest published in July, Human Rights Watch has documented atrocities “committed by gunmen and warlords who were propelled into power by the United States and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001” and who have “essentially hijacked the country”. The report describes army and police troops controlled by the warlords kidnapping villagers with impunity and holding them for ransom in unofficial prisons the widespread rape of women, girls and boys routine extortion, robbery and arbitrary murder. Girls' schools are burned down. “Because the soldiers are targeting women and girls”, the report says, “many are staying indoors, making it impossible for them to attend school [or] go to work”.
In the western city of Herat, for example, women are arrested if they drive they are prohibited from travelling with an unrelated man, even an unrelated taxi driver. If they are caught, they are subjected to a “chastity test”, squandering precious medical services to which, says Human Rights Watch, “women and girls have almost no access, particularly in Herat, where fewer than one per cent of women give birth with a trained attendant”. The death rate of mothers giving birth is the highest in the world, according to UNICEF. Herat is ruled by the warlord Ismail Khan, whom US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld endorsed as “an appealing man... thoughtful, measured and self-confident”.
You should read the full article. Then you should read Nicholas Kristof's Abandoning Afghanistan.
This is our government. Corrupt, lying, and abandoning the some of the weakest, most devestated people on Earth, people we said we would help to rise up after decades of war. This is our government, with a smirking gangster all but chuckling about murderers and their victims. This is our government, and if we elect to keep it in November, we are all complicit in this behavior and all responsible for these crimes.
A Strong Alliance on Iraq
Here's an Aussie take on Spain and the fight against terrorism:
Please...accept that we all want to fight terrorism. Some of us, though, don’t believe we can do so when governed by liars and spinmeisters who we can’t bloody trust and who mow down people we feel we can trust.
The Australians, of course, are another coalition member who had extremely high public sentiment running against involvement in Iraq.
In a democracy, this is a huge problem. Why have the leaders of the free world been unable to convince their populations that Iraq was the right war?
The same article continues, quoting Michigan history professor and Iraq expert Juan Cole:
The Iraq War represents an enormous opportunity cost in the counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda and its constituents. After the Afghanistan War, the Bush administration forgot to ask Congress for any money for Afghanistan reconstruction, and Congress helpfully put in $300 million. This year, the Bush administration will put $1 billion into Afghanistan, an immense country devastated by 25 years of war (for which the US bears some responsibility), in which the Taliban is having a resurgence...
Since the end of the Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda has struck at Mombasa, Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid and elsewhere. Some chatter suggested that Ayman al-Zawahiri himself ordered the hit on Istanbul. The attack on a Spanish cultural center in Casablanca in May of 2003 now appears to have been a harbinger of the horrible Madrid train bombings last week. How much did Spain spend to go after the culprits in Casablanca? How much did Bush dedicate to that effort? How much did they instead invest in military efforts in Iraq?
Instead of dealing with this growing and world-wide threat, the Bush administration cynically took advantage of the American public's anger and fear after September 11 and channeled it against the regime of Saddam Hussein, which had had nothing to do with September 11 and which never could be involved in such a terrorist operation on American soil because its high officers knew exactly the retribution that would be visited on them. Only an asymmetrical organization could think of a September 11, because it has no exact return address...
Happy Iraq War anniversary, everyone.
March 17, 2004
Any comments on the redesign? Like it, hate it, anything? I'm working to expand to my knowledge of HTML so I can personalize it further. The dude over at Fantastically Normal, for instance, has a background which causes me some envy, so know that more changes will be coming, but I am unable to create a timeline more precise than "in coming months"....
Well, it turns out that the number of people prosecuted for taking WTC debris after 9-11 isn't nearly high enough. In a story getting little attention but deserving more, Donald Rumsfeld asked for and received a "shard of metal" from one of the jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center. Is this wrong? Of coure not, Rumsfeld says. By keeping it in his office, he's just keeping it "on display for the Pentagon."
March 16, 2004
Spanish Elections and Other Big News
Alright, busy week this week, but less busy than I was expecting, so time for an entry.
First and foremost, a few words about Sunday's Spanish election results. The Washington Post has a good round-up of European editorials on the topic of the bombing. It also has an editorial, The Spanish Response where wondering whether Europe will withdraw into appeasement or fight terrorism.
On the topic of the bombing in Spain, last Thursday I started crying here in my cube looking at pictures on-line. It was too much like 9-11.
I accept both schools of thought about the election there. The first states that al-Qaida was able to sway an election and that this will encourage similar attacks in the future. I believe this is true.
The second school of thought is that democracy works. 90% of the Spanish public opposed Spain's participation in Operation Middle Eastern Target, and though Aznar and his party had apparently healed many of those wounds, his government's insistence that ETA, the Basque separatist group, was responsible for the blasts eventually cost his successor the government.
I think that's the point on the Democracy Works line of thought: Aznar went against public opinion, damaging his credibility, and then when there was reason to think he was mishandling the events in Madrid, the public turned on him. Democracy works, and governments who are not responsive to the people's wishes should beware.
Except in America, where it is now acceptable to issue propaganda pieces to the media in the normal operation of politics. This story is less ominous to me after listening to NPR cover it on Monday, but no less disturbing. It seems that the White House issues these false news reports with actors playing journalists, as well as straight-up film of, say, a cabinet secretary making a statement about a policy. TV stations are free to use either or none, however, in this age of distorted news budgets and priorities, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that stations might just choose to run the piece and not have to pay an actual reporter or do any work. Would they even label it as an ad? I mean, truth is a wonderful goal, but we live in the most market-oriented society in the history of the planet, and "free stuff" is much easier to explain to shareholders than that other kind of value.
I hereby certify that this blog is accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge, and contains 0% government propaganda.
March 11, 2004
Within the NeoCon Fantasy Land
Salon is running a terrific essay about the Pentagon in the run-up to the war, written by an insider. Karen Kwiatkowski worked at the Pentagon in 2001 and 2002 and provides a fascinating look at the neocon agenda and how intelligence was used by civillian appointees. From the essay:
Staff officers would always request OSP's most current Iraq, WMD and terrorism talking points. On occasion, these weren't available in an approved form and awaited [administrative] approval. The talking points were a series of bulleted statements, written persuasively and in a convincing way, and superficially they seemed reasonable and rational. Saddam Hussein had gassed his neighbors, abused his people, and was continuing in that mode, becoming an imminently dangerous threat to his neighbors and to us -- except that none of his neighbors or Israel felt this was the case. Saddam Hussein had harbored al-Qaida operatives and offered and probably provided them with training facilities -- without mentioning that the suspected facilities were in the U.S./Kurdish-controlled part of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was pursuing and had WMD of the type that could be used by him, in conjunction with al-Qaida and other terrorists, to attack and damage American interests, Americans and America -- except the intelligence didn't really say that. Saddam Hussein had not been seriously weakened by war and sanctions and weekly bombings over the past 12 years, and in fact was plotting to hurt America and support anti-American activities, in part through his carrying on with terrorists -- although here the intelligence said the opposite. His support for the Palestinians and Arafat proved his terrorist connections, and basically, the time to act was now. This was the gist of the talking points, and it remained on message throughout the time I watched the points evolve.
It's pretty long, and pretty damning stuff. Italics are mine.
March 10, 2004
Bush Fights Homelessness
George W. Bush, taking a strong stand against homelessness in America and around the world, has been inviting fundraisers to sleep-overs at the White House. More than 270 such visits have been instigated by Laura and George since they took over the digs in 2001, and it is thought that there have been about that many at Camp David, as well.
Does this sound familiar?
Bush's overnight guest roster is virtually free of celebrities -- pro golfer Ben Crenshaw is the biggest name -- but not of campaign supporters.
At least nine of Bush's biggest fund-raisers appear on the latest list of White House overnight guests, covering June 2002 through December 2003, and-or on the Camp David list, which covers last year. They include:
-Mercer Reynolds, an Ohio financier, former Bush partner in the Texas Rangers baseball team and former ambassador to Switzerland. Reynolds is leading Bush's campaign fund-raising effort. He was a guest at the White House and the Camp David retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.
-Brad Freeman, a venture capitalist who is leading Bush's California fund-raising effort, has raised at least $200,000 for his re-election campaign and is also a major Republican Party fund-raiser. Freeman stayed at the White House.
-Roland Betts, who raised at least $100,000 for Bush in 2000, was a Bush fraternity brother at Yale and a Texas Rangers partner. Betts stayed at the White House and Camp David.
-William DeWitt, a Bush partner in the oil business and Texas Rangers who has raised at least $200,000 for Bush's re-election effort, stayed at the White House.
-James Francis, who headed the Bush campaign's 2000 team of $100,000-and-up volunteer fund-raisers and was a Bush appointee in Texas when Bush was governor. Francis was a White House guest.
-Joseph O'Neill, an oilman and childhood friend who introduced Bush to Laura Bush and raised at least $100,000 for each of Bush's presidential campaigns, stayed at the White House.
-Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and New York Gov. George Pataki, who each raised at least $200,000 for Bush's re-election campaign, were White House guests.
-James Langdon, who raised at least $100,000 for Bush, is a Washington attorney specializing in international oil and gas transactions. Langdon, whose clients include the Russian oil company Lukoil, is a member of Bush's foreign intelligence advisory board and served on Bush's 2000 presidential transition team on energy policy.
Hotels are a lot cheaper.
Roy Moore for President?
Slate has an interesting tidbit, possibly just gossip, but still: Former Alabama Justice Roy Moore may be considering a White House run with the right-wing Constitution party.
Hmm, that would be interesting. Could the religious right destroy the Bush White House? Some would argue that they already have.
All I can really say is: Roy Moore 2004! (It has a nice ring, eh?)
The Vice President's Minder
I think the shocker here is that he's intervened to correct the statements.
From the article:
Mr. Tenet said he planned to call Mr. Cheney's attention to a recent misstatement, in a Jan. 9 interview, when the vice president recommended as "your best source of information" on links between Iraq and Al Qaeda the contents of a disputed memorandum by a senior Pentagon official, Douglas J. Feith.
That memorandum, sent last October to the Senate Intelligence Committee, portrayed what was presented as conclusive evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda, but it was never endorsed by intelligence agencies, who objected to Mr. Feith's findings.
Mr. Tenet said he was not aware of Mr. Cheney's comments in that interview, published in The Rocky Mountain News, until Monday night.
Tenet has apparently corrected White House folks repeatedly, but was a little cagey on characterizing a specific number of times.
Well, having seen what happens to "enemies" of this White House, I can't say that I blame him.
March 5, 2004
Jobs? What Jobs?
Jeeze... Just read this. A whopping 21,000 jobs created in February. Unemployment rate (which is actually at an acceptable rate if you don't include the people who are thought to have given up on looking for a job right now) remains stable at 5.6%.
Job growth in December and January was also revised downward.
The number of non-farm jobs increased by only 21,000 in February, well short of expectations for an increase of 125,000 jobs -- dramatically short of the steady 200,00 to 300,000 per month job creation rate economists consider necessary to produce a recovery in the job market.
The unemployment rate itself held steady at 5.6 percent, with 8.2 million people unemployed. But almost 400,000 people left the job market discouraged. And January's job growth was revised downward from original figures from about 120,000 to 97,000.
A White House spokeswoman said the administration was "disappointed."
I'm surprised they didn't try to say that hiring on farms had shot through the roof.
Well, no worries. One week ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Wal-Mart, Georgia's largest employer is also the largest single employee-recipient of the state child health insurance program PeachCare. That's right, more than 10,000 of the 166,000 children enrolled in PeachCare have a parent who works for Wal-Mart.
Clearly the message here is that we need to be shopping at Wal-Mart more. I mean, not only do we spend our hard earned money buying their cheap plastic crap, but then the state takes our tax dollars to insure their employees. Can I hear a "living wage" from the choir? Ah, thank you.
March 4, 2004
The UnConstitutional Amendment
The Washington Post reports that enough members of the President's party are unmoved by his call to amend the constitution to enshrine discrimination that Sen. Orrin Hatch will "add language" to make it more palatable.
Meanwhile, add Portland, Oregon to the list of queer-lovin', homo-toleratin' cities of America. What a fascinating time to be an American.
I'm forced to wonder if the lack of furor over gay marriage has to do with the recent passing of Sen. Strom Thurmond. He did last June at 180 years or so and had actually led a regiment of Confederate troops during the Civil War. Or something like that.
Anyway, Strom was a segregationist when it was cool to be one (yes, apparently it once was) but later changed his opinions radically when it was cool to do so (better late than never?). He was reportedly the first Senator to employ African Americans in his office, and even fathered a bi-racial child through a domestic employee, though this was only publicly acknowledged after his death.
But when Strom died, the most prominent thing in his obit was that he was a long-time segregationist. Racist. Trent Lott lost the leadership of the Senate by applauding Strom's 1872 run for the White House on a segregationist ticket (I think it was 1948).
Why not amend the Constitution? Because history is on the side of equality and civil rights. Because Tom DeLay and Bill Frist don't want their obits to read "Bigoted Politician Dies (subhead) Long Time Member of Congress Fought for Anti-Gay Amendment".
March 3, 2004
Spreading the $100 Revolution
There's an excellent short essay on Liberal Oasis about spreading the $100 Revolution. That was Howard Dean's (and Joe Trippi's) appeal for two million Americans to give $100 to the campaign to defeat George W. Bush. As we know, Dean and Co., the 'fiscal conservatives' managed to blow $45 million or so, mostly on two races that they lost, but the idea is still valid.
Liberal Oasis encourages everyone to take the $100 Revolution to John Kerry, not just to beat Bush but also to create grassroots money that dilutes the effect of special interest and corporate money. Sounds like a plan to me.
Ending one of the coolest, most seat-of-the-pants political (pre)primaries in modern history, John Kerry is now the de facto Democratic nominee. The NYT reports that Kerry "stands atop a unified Democratic Party." John Edwards will reportedly be ending his campaign in his home state of North Carolina today.
So what happens now? Well, I for one would encourage everyone to visit johnkerry.com and contribute what you can: time, enthusiasm, or money.
For me the situation is like this: last June, after voting the MoveOn.org primary I sat with a friend and asked who she had voted for. To my surprise, she said "Dean." "Me too!" I said, "but I bet it'll be Kerry."
Well, for the MoveOn.org primary, it was not Kerry, thus kicking off months of terrific hair-raising politics. It's been a wonderful nine months for this political junkie, and I have to extend my thanks to all the candidates (including Sharpton and Kucinich, who remain in the race) and to president George W. Bush, who looks less electable every day, which is in keeping with the historical record.
"An odd point of view to say the least."
Typing loudly from Atlanta, GA, since 2003.
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