Take a look at the following pictures. I tried to think of those macro data series that most closely reflect the average person's experience: the amount of work available (measured as the total hours of labor demanded by firms), the average hourly earnings of workers in the private sector, the amount of overall compensation that individuals receive for their work (thus excluding capital income), and the actual salaries and wages that people earn. All data is expressed in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, and in each decade recession years are excluded. It's quite striking that by each of these measures, the US economy performed quite poorly since 2003. The current economic expansion has simply not delivered the employment or wage growth that people expect from the US economy. So why hasn't Bush gotten credit for the state of the US economy? Actually, I think that he has. And from the GOP's point of view, that's exactly the problem.
Sweeny's trip was paid for by a lobbyist hired by Jack Abramoff, as part of Abramoff's campaign to ensure that apparel producers in the Northern Marianas Islands could continue to call their products 'Made in the USA,' while remaining exempt from federal minimum wage and immigration laws. The human rights abuses that take place as a result of this lawless situation are well-documented and include withholding wages, keeping workers in overcrowded and unsanitary barracks, prohibitions on religious practices, forced prostitution and forced abortions.
After the trip, Sweeney received almost $10,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff and his lobbyist associates. The results:
Within months of returning...Sweeney met separately with Marianas Gov. Fitial and Rudy [the Abramoff lobbyist who arranged the trip] in Washington. Rudy also met with members of Sweeney's staff...Fitial had meetings with Sweeney and his fellow Appropriations Committee member, Doolittle, in Washington on April 8, 2001, to discuss the islands' infrastructure and development needs.
Sweeney initially refused to discuss the trip, but is now admitting that he violated House ethics rules by going on a lobbyist-funded trip.
Congressman King's comments are even more absurd. Last I checked, Manhattan was not on the verge of a civil war and their were no leadership purges going on in the NYPD to try to reign in roving bands of sectarian death squads.
Sweeney and King's comments are symptoms of the greater Republican disease. After 12 years in power in the House, they will say anything, no matter how out of touch with reality, to advance their political agenda. It can't get much clearer that the time for change is now.
The Social Networking website Friendster has teamed up with an interactive advertising company to launch a contest for young people to create their own political ads before the November election.
The contest is reminiscent of MoveOn.org’s pioneering effort in the 2004 election that is still viewable at Bush in 30 Seconds. Yet now there is an exponential increase in the number of people familiar with how to create and upload online video. And Friendster is one of the largest social networking sites with 33 million members.
The contest will reward the top six video creators with prizes, ranging from $2500 to a video iPod. You can see an overview and details of the contest in an advertising trade publication report. You can see the “Get Political” Video contest announcement at the Friendster site, or go right to the video website that is partnering with Friendster to do it.
The videos seem to have a range of quality but are worth browsing to get the zeitgeist forming out there.
The New York Times Week in Review this Sunday had a cover story (on the prospects for Democrats or Republicans becoming the majority party ) that hit hard on two demographic trends that the New Politics Institute has been focusing on for the last year. In fact, NPI fellow Ruy Teixeira was prominently quoted through the piece, and made extended reference to data from his NPI report on The Next Frontier: A New Study of Exurbia. Ruy and NPI have been arguing that exurbia, once considered solid conservative territory, has been changing in a way that opens up much more opportunity for progressives.
Another theme of the piece, and particularly an amazing graphic “How Generation Influences Party,” was how young people today are trending progressive. In fact, the most Democratic voters of all ages are now 21-year-olds. It has dramatically been trending that way since Bill Clinton became president. And the Bush II years have only accelerated the trend.
The graphic also goes back and shows how people who came of voting age in each of the previous Administrations back to FDR’s time identify themselves politically today. Again, you can see that this current crop of young people vote more progressive than any previous generation. The only comparable generations are those who came of age in the FDR/Truman era, and also in the Boomer updraft of the 1960s ands 1970s.
In what it is privately calling it's "firewall" strategy, the Republican National Committee has recently spent close to $4 million in three crucial Senate races — Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee — in the hope of holding Democratic gains to a maximum of five seats. No new RNC money has gone to House races during that time.
Senior Republican leaders have concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, a pivotal state in this year's fierce midterm election battles, is likely to be heading for defeat and are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators, party officials said.
We note only that a firewall is defined as "a physical barrier inside a building or vehicle, designed to limit the spread of fire, heat and structural collapse." Fingers crossed.
Mark Warner's decision to take his hat out of the Presidential ring last week moved the spotlight onto a number of other politicians, none more so than Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Not good news for Mr Bayh, then, to be the subject of a blistering op-ed this morning by Sebastian Mallaby in the Post. Mallaby accuses Bayh of weak support for free trade, picking on his decision to supoort maintenance of a recent steel tarrif. Mallaby's criticism - of commerce department regulations, even more than the Senator - is withering. Nonetheless, we shouldn't forget that Bayh has a solid record in support of free trade, and one with which NDN has differed only rarely.
"We are trying to figure out a way for more Americans to buy into trade, that trade is good for America and good for Joe Six-pack," he says. American workers "need to think that their government and their country is thinking of them too; that it is not just companies that benefit from trade".
To this end, Mr Baucus suggests expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance.....Such programmes would not come cheap: an analysis published by the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think-tank, last year suggested that it would cost $12bn to extend the benefits of TAA to all "displaced" workers who lost their jobs..... Still, given that the cumulative effect of all trade liberalisation since 1945 is estimated at $1,000bn, $12bn a year might be a relatively small price to inoculate the American workforce against infectious protectionism.
TAA, as the piece makes clear, comes with significant short-comings. Nonetheless its reassuring to see ideas being discussed sensibly that can help re-build support for trade, as even the waspish Mallaby would agree.
Iraq is slipping away. News accounts in recent weeks detail a dramatic escalation of random violence, the central authority losing its grip and an overall decline in civil society. America faces very tough choices now, but "stay the course" certainly is not one of them. We need a strong and resolute diplomatic initiative that works to restore order and civil society to Iraq.
What is happening in Iraq is no longer a "war." It is a failed occupation of a nation by a foreign power, and civil society itself is failing there. What is needed now is a significant and sustained diplomatic and political effort led by Bush himself. But of course that would require him and his team to admit what is happening there isn't working.
In the short term the disintegration of Iraq is a much more urgent matter than North Korea exploding a nuclear bomb. But where is Condi, already so compromised by the recent relevations of the July 10th, 2001 meeting, headed this week? Asia. Why? To do anything they can to change the subject from the worsening situation in Iraq.
The front page Post story about Iraq should be read in its entirety to get a sense of how bad things are getting there:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 15 -- Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government roamed roads north of Baghdad, seeking out and attacking Sunni Arab targets Sunday, police and hospital officials said. The violence raised to at least 80 the number of people killed in retaliatory strikes between a Shiite city and a Sunni town separated only by the Tigris River.
The wave of killings around the Shiite city of Balad was the bloodiest in a surge of violence that has claimed at least 110 lives in Iraq since Saturday. The victims included 12 people who were killed in coordinated suicide bombings in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk.
"This has pushed us to the point that we must stop this sectarian government," Ali Hussein al-Jubouri, a Sunni farmer in Duluiyah, said as he searched for the body of a nephew reportedly killed in the violence around Balad.
The slaughter came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday renewed pledges by the Iraqi government to break up the militias, and as al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups declared a new Islamic republic in the western and central parts of the country.
The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.
Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.
By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone. Most of the victims had been shot in the head, he said. Other hospital officials said some of the bodies had holes from electric drills and showed other signs of torture. The majority of the victims were believed to be from Duluiyah.
The hospital received calls from residents who said more bodies were lying in the streets, but workers were unable to pick them up, Haidari said. Witnesses arriving at the hospital also reported seeing bodies in the roads, he said....."
A friend sent me a link to a TPM Muckraker piece from early October that provides further evidence the 9/11 Commission was duped. It points out that this now infamous July, 2001 meeting between Tenet and Rice recently reported by Bob Woodword was first reported in Time Magazine in August of 2002.
Friends, did they not have Lexus-Nexus at the 9/11 Commission?
We've written about Sec. Rice and this meeting here and here. The bottom line is that Senate and House Intelligence Committees need to convene as soon as possible, and certainly no later than during the November Congressional Session, and bring Phillip Zelikow, Sec. Rice and Tenet in and ask them under oath what happened here. Was there an organized effort to erase this meeting from the history books? And who participated? Certainly Zelikow should be first, as he was the Executive Director of the Commission, was present at Tenet's testimony to the Commission (where among other things he shared the presentation he did for Rice at the July 10th mtg), and now works for Rice.
And Rice needs to explain her repeated statements that the government would have taken action if they knew that Al Qaeda might strike in the US. But we now know that the she did know. We know that they knew in early 2001 that the Cole had been struck by Al Qaeda; that their counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke was sounding the alarm; that she and the President were briefed in the summer that Al Qaeda was ready to strike in the US; and that despite all this they did nothing. Why? Why did this Administration do nothing to stop Al Qaeda despite these extraordinary warnings?
Remember the US had already struck Al Qaeda in Afghanistan n 1998. We knew where they lived. Why did Bush and Rice do nothing?
And why should Rice keep her job if she has been repeatedly lying to the American people about a national security matter of this magntitude?
The Governing Party had a terrible, terrible week.
Polls showed a dramatic decline in their standing across the whole nation. The many GOP scandals continued, with a major White House resignation, a Congressional guilty plea, new federal investigations opened into two more Members of Congress, and of course the Foley affair just kept going. North Korea exploded a nuclear bomb and our initial sanctions proposal was soundly rejected by the Russians and Chinese. With the violence in Iraq spinning to yet another awful level, we may have now come to the point of no return there.
Also brewing is a situation a little more complicated, but one that has enormous implications for Bush and his team. The publication of the Woodward book has brought to light a previously unknown CIA briefing of then National Security Advisor Rice on July 10th, 2001. At this briefing the CIA Director explicitly warned Rice that Al Qaeda was preparing to attack. Somehow, this very serious meeting was left out of the 9/11 Commission Report, and has never been mentioned by the Administration. (See more about this story in a previous post.)
Why does this matter? Because the story of the Administration and 9/11 has changed. We now know that they failed to respond to the USS Cole bombing; failed to heed repeated warnings from Dick Clarke; failed to heed repeated warnings from the CIA; failed to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora; and we now know that somehow the 9/11 Commission failed to include this July 10th mtg despite George's Tenet under-oath testimony that it took place.
Tomorrow Sec. Rice goes on Fox News Sunday tomorrow. Think Progress has waged a smart campaign to offer up some questions for her. She of all people has a lot to answer for, for what we now know is that the Administration was amply warned about the Al Qaeda threat; did nothing about it; lied about what they knew for years; and somehow managed to keep some of the most damaging parts of the story from the official inquiry into 9/11 planning.
This is serious stuff. The main architect of this big lie about 9/11 is now the Secretary of State. She has repeatedly lied in public and under oath about the run up to 9/11. One of her current staffers was the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, was present at Tenet's testimony about the July 10th Meeting, and clearly kept it out of the report and from the Members of the Commission.
If she can't be trusted to level with the American people about something of this gravity, how can we trust her to continue with her job? It is time for Secretary Rice to come clean.
At least enough to introduce himself in his new Spanish language radio ad "Creencias" (Believes). "Creencias" is running in and around the city of Providence, which is 30% Hispanic. NDN Hispanic Strategy Center Advisor Maria Cardona praised the effort, calling it "a smart and necessary strategy that more Democrats across the country should follow if we want to win back the House and Senate." With its inclusive and positive message, "Creencias" is the exact opposite of the RNC ad demonizing Hispanics, that was run against Steve Laffey during the Republican Senate primary.