The much-touted 7.2% increase in gross national product in the third quarter, widely touted as a product of George W. Bush's tax cut for the rich, was said to produce 126,000 jobs in October on top of 125,000 the month before, but that was not enough jobs to keep up with population growth, the Economic Policy Institute noted at is JobWatch website (jobwatch.org). Economist Max Sawicky noted that the job growth was much lower than the White House had promised this year's tax breaks would generate: 510,000 new jobs this year alone, on top of the 228,000 jobs each month that the president's own economists projected would be created even without a tax cut. The US needs 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with new entrants to the labor market.
Jobs are still 2.4 million below the level of March 2001, when the latest recession began, EPI noted. "This post-recession labor slump has now become the first (since the collection of monthly jobs data began in 1939) without a full recovery of jobs within 31 months of the start of a recession. Instead of losing jobs over the last two and a half years, the economy should have added 4.5 million jobs just to keep up with growth in the working-age population. Actual job losses instead of needed job gains have created a total gap of 6.9 million jobs." The labor slump has caused 2.3 million people to give up on finding a job, creating a "missing" labor force that, if added to the 8.8 million officially unemployed, would raise the jobless rate to 7.4%. The weakening labor market has also brought a 1.2% decline in total real wage and salary income over the last two and a half years.
The Associated Press noted that new jobs in October mostly were in lower-paying retail and temporary employment firms, where average weekly earnings are $366 and $318 respectively. The national average paycheck is $521 per week. Also, 1.4 million were only able to find part-time work, up 27% from a year ago. To make ends meet, 7.5 million Americans worked two or more jobs in October, up from 7.3 million a year ago. And the hard-hit manufacturing sector continued to shed jobs, losing 24,000 in October. For blacks, the jobless rate climbed to 11.5% while the rate fell for whites, Hispanics, Asians, men and women.
MARCH TO MIAMI AGAINST 'FREE TRADE.' Tens of thousands of fair-trade advocates are expected to converge on Miami Nov. 20-21 to protest the move to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas that expands the North American Free Trade Agreement to Central and South America. Fearing a repeat of protests that scuttled a World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in 1999, Miami has brought in eight-foot security fences, 2,500 law enforcement officers and rented water cannons to deal with the crowds, but Melodie Malfa of the Lake Worth Global Justice Coalition told the Miami Herald that activists had no choice but to take to the streets. "The only place for us to speak up about the trade agreement is in the streets; we've been locked out of the conversation.'' The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment joined with the United Steel Workers of America and other labor, environmental and community organizations to organize a virtual "March to Miami" which started in Seattle Sept. 26 and moved across the country to show the effects of free trade in our communities. Also organizing teach-ins and mobilizations is the Citizens Trade Campaign, another national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups founded in 1992 during the fight over NAFTA. It believes that international trade and investment are not ends unto themselves, but must be viewed as a means for achieving other societal goals such as economic justice, human rights, healthy communities, and a sound environment. The AFL-CIO hopes to draw at least 20,000 for a Nov. 20 march. See www.marchtomiami.org and www.citizenstrade.org.
PROGRESSIVE POPULIST HONORED. The Progressive Populist once again has been nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award in the category of political coverage. Since 1989 these awards have showcased the best from the independent press in categories ranging from reporting excellence to personal life, cultural and international coverage. We were also finalists in 1998 and 2001. UIPA winners are chosen by the editors of Utne Magazine and will be announced in the January/February issue, but there will also be a Readers Choice Poll for which we earnestly solicit your vote. Go to www.utne.com/uipa to see the nominees and cast your vote for us.
FEDS PRIVATIZE AIRPORT SECURITY AGAIN. The federal Transportation Security Administration has removed government screeners from New Yorkj City's LaGuardia Airport between 11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. and turned security back to private guards hired by airlines, in order to save money, Newsday reported Nov. 7. The 2-year-old security agency faces pressure from Congress to reduce spending.
GOP TRIES TO SHUT DOWN PROBES. Senate Republicans are using a leaked Democratic memo as an excuse to shut down a committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., took the unusual step, the Washington Post reported Nov. 8, after a memo was leaked that outlines a Democratic strategy for exposing contradictions between intelligence reports and George W. Bush's claims about Iraqi weapons programs. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., has been pressing for the panel to look at the White House's role in exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq. Earlier, the White House notified congressional leaders on Nov. 5 it will no longer respond to budget questions from congressional Democrats after House Appropriations Committee members asked how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Dems and congressional scholars said it was highly unusual for the White House to rebuff such questions, although it is consistent with the administration's penchant for secrecy.
The independent 9/11 Commission has stepped up pressure on the Bush administration to cooperate with its probe. It issued a subpoena to the Pentagon for documents, tapes and transcripts involving the actions of NORAD on the morning of Sept. 11, as the suicide hijackings were being carried out, and it threatened to subpoena the White House for documents Bush received in the days before 9/11, the New York Times reported. Commission members said they are trying to determine how NORAD responded to the first reports of the hijackings and whether the military could have done anything to prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, possibly by using fighter jets to shoot down the passenger planes. They also want access to information about communications between NORAD and Air Force One, on which Bush rode Sept. 11.
TYSON LIABLE FOR FARM POLLUTION. A federal court in Kentucky ruled Nov. 7 that Tyson is responsible for pollution at factory farms after the Sierra Club and local residents sued the food giant for failing to report hazardous releases of ammonia from four animal factories under its supervision in Webster, McClean, and Hopkins counties. The huge chicken production operations pack tens of thousands of chickens into closed buildings. Under both the Superfund law and Community-Right-to-Know laws, which form the basis of the Sierra Club lawsuit, polluters that emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day must report those releases to the federal government and the local community emergency coordinator. Tyson argued that it was not responsible for pollution because its factory farms are run by contractors but US Judge Joseph McKinley ruled that Tyson is "clearly in a position of responsibility and power with respect to each facility ... and has the capacity to prevent and abate the alleged environmental damage."
SILVER LINING IN ELECTION. While the focus was on governors' races in Mississippi and Kentucky that Republicans won, Democrats scored big wins in New Jersey, where they took over the state Senate and padded their majority in the General Assembly, they gained legislative seats in Virginia for the first time in recent memory and they performed well in Pennsylvania, which will be a key race in 2004. In Philadelphia, an election-eve probe of the Democratic incumbent mayor by the Republican US attorney backfired, as it raised memories of similar Reagan-era election-year probes of Democratic officials in Texas, Philly voters re-elected Mayor John Street with a large turnout that also helped Democrats in state judicial races. New York City voters soundly rejected Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal for nonpartisan elections and the progressive/union Working Families Party elected a candidate, Letitia James, in a contested City Council race. Also scoring wins was 21st Century Democrats, which provides grassroots organizing resources for progressive candidates. Of 16 state legislative candidates the group endorsed in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, 63% won their races. In many of these races the margin of victory was slim (for David Thune in Minnesota it came down to 74 votes), and was almost wholly attributed to well-planned and focused field operations. In Virginia, 21st-Century Democrats-endorsed Mark Sickles' opponent was quoted saying, "I just had too tough of a time combating the resources and labor they put into this race."
GREENS SEE LOCAL GAINS. Matt Gonzalez made a runoff in the San Francisco mayor's race and Pennsylvania Greens increased their number of local elected officials from nine to 25 to highlight an advance in several local races around the US on Nov. 4. Altogether, 56 Green candidates were elected in 2003 and Gonzalez's second place showing sets him up for a Dec. 9 runoff election. "Even though we gain the most public attention from presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns, Greens advance most dramatically in city, county, and school board races," said Juscha Robinson, co-chair of the Coordinated Campaign Committee of the Green Party of the US. "That's how we're building our grassroots base, ensuring that the Green Party will continue to grow as a permanent progressive ecological political party." See www.gp.org.
'LIBERAL MEDIA' ILLUSION. Conservatives are crowing about a recent Gallup Poll that found that 45% of the public think the media are "too liberal," vs. 14% who say they're "too conservative" and 39% who said "just about right." But to Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media, it is the same sort of "proof" as the popular belief that 9/11 hijackers were all Iraqis. "In other words, what do you expect people to believe?" he asks in his msnbc.com weblog. "They are instructed over and over by a media that has imbibed the false accusation lesson of their own liberalism -- funded by literally hundreds of billions of dollars in ideological investment-and conservatives end up buying the answer they want from public opinion." After a September 2002 Gallup poll found 47% of Americans questioned believe the media was "too liberal," he noted that millions also believe in ghosts, extra-terrestrial visitations and Osama bin Laden's promise of 72 virgins.
LOOKING FOR PEACE, LOVE AND UNI HEALTH CARE. Dennis Kucinich appears game for unconventional campaigning. According to Chris Suellentrop of Slate.com, when the presidential candidates at a Boston debate were asked what role would a "first lady, first man, or first friend" play in their administrations, Kucinich, a Cleveland congressman who is divorced, said, "As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest or something." He adds that he wants "someone who would not want to just be by my side," but would be a "dynamic outspoken women who was fearless" in her support for peace in the world and universal, single-payer health care. So, "If you're out there, call me." (That's 866-413-3664.)
PROFITEERS FOR HIRE (CONT'D). (From the Institute for Southern Studies): Number of companies that have received contracts for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: 70. Value of of these federal contracts, in billions: $8. Amount the companies have given in campaign contributions to political parties, in millions: $49. Amount they have given to President Bush: $500,000. Percent of companies with employees or board members that have "close ties" to high-level officials: 60. Amount that Halliburton has been paid for a contract to deliver gas to the US Army, in millions: $163. Amount per gallon that Halliburton is charging the Army for gasoline: $2.65. Average amount per gallon that other companies are charging in Iraq: $1.14. See www.southernstudies.org.
'PATRIOT' USED FOR LOCAL PROBE. FBI agents used the anti-terrorist PATRIOT Act to get financial records of Las Vegas politicians who were targeted in a corruption probe. The PATRIOT Act gave feds wide latitude in probing suspected terrorists or money launderers but Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., questioned the use of the act to acquire financial records of targets in a political corruption probe involving city and county officials with no apparent connection to terrorism. Reid expressed concern that PATRIOT misuse could lead to widespread invasion of privacy. He supports the effort to sunset provisions of the law in 2005 to stop overreaching or infringing on civil liberties by law enforcement and the Justice Department. An FBI spokesman told the Las Vegas Sun the act was used appropriately and "clearly within the legal parameters of the statute."
EPA WON'T MONITOR FARM SLUDGE. The Environmental Protection Agency said Oct. 17 that it will not regulate dioxins in sewage sludge used as farm fertilizer, citing new studies indicating that such usage does not pose significant health or environmental risks, the Washington Post reported. Dioxins, highly toxic chemical compounds generated by manufacturing or burning, are known to cause cancer and damage to the neurological and immune systems of humans and animals, according to government and private experts. Land-applied sewage is a major source of dioxin exposure in the US, second only to backyard burning of plastics and other refuse that causes a chemical reaction and sends the toxic substance into the air. The EPA in December 1999 proposed to regulate the land application and surface disposal of sewer sludge. It would have limited dioxins to the toxic equivalent of 300 parts per trillion of the sludge. The Bush EPA jettisoned the proposed rule. Agency officials said the minuscule additional risk posed by sewage sludge did not warrant the cost of imposing new regulations on sewage authorities and treatment plants, which have opposed the additional regulations. Environmentalists were outraged. "The EPA is required by law to protect the public from toxic pollutants like dioxins," said Nancy Stoner, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Clean Water Project (see www.nrdc.org). "This decision shows the agency under this administration has forgotten its mission."
BLONDE POW FETED, BLACK POW STIFFED. While Pvt. Jessica Lynch was the subject of a TV movie, a book, interviews and 80% disability benefits for injuries received in her captivity in Iraq, all former POW Shoshana Johnson got was 30% disability for getting shot in both ankles. While Lynch's injuries are viewed as temporary, allowing her to stay in the Army, Johnson's injuries were classified as permanent, so she was discharged. As Knight Ridder's William Douglas noted, many blacks see a double standard. For her part, Lynch, who served with Johnson in the same 507th Maintenance Co., has said she and Johnson are good friends and she hopes "Shoshana gets 100%" of what she deserves.
SUE HIM. Shortly after the California recall election, a story broke that someone in Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign tried to smear Rhonda Miller, a stuntwoman who accused him of groping her during the filming of Terminator and True Lies. Bodyandsoul.typepad.com noted that someone working for Schwarzenegger told the the press -- falsely -- that she had a long history of arrests for crimes including prostitution and grand larceny. MSNBC's Scarborough Country and a Clear Channel-owned radio station used the Schwarzenegger campaign's charges to attack Miller but LA Weekly reports the lies about Rhonda Miller came from an email from Sean Walsh, Schwarzenegger's spokesman during the campaign. Since then Miller has been unemployed and there have been no apologies from the campaign or Walsh, who remains on Schwarzenegger's transition taff. The statute of limitations has expired for legal action against
BUSH-NAZI DEALS CONTINUED 'TIL 1951. After the seizures in late 1942 of five US enterprises he managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen, Prescott Bush, grandfather of President George W. Bush, failed to divest himself of more than a dozen "enemy national" relationships that continued until as late as 1951, newly-discovered US government documents reveal. John Buchanan and Stacey Michael write in the Nov. 7 New Hampshire Gazette (www.nhgazette.com) that records show Bush and his colleagues, including W. Averill Harriman, routinely attempted to conceal their activities from government investigators. Bush and the Harrimans conducted business after the war with concerns doing business in or moving assets into Switzerland, Panama, Argentina and Brazil -- all critical outposts for the flight of Nazi capital after Germany's surrender in 1945. "The discovery of the Bush-Nazi documents raises new questions about the role of Prescott Bush and his influential business partners in the secret emigration of Nazi war criminals, which allowed them to escape justice in Germany," said Bob Fertik, co-founder of Democrats.com and an amateur "Nazi hunter." "It also raises questions about the importance of Nazi recruits to the CIA in its early years, in what was called Operation Paperclip, and Prescott Bush's role in that dark operation." Fertik and others, including former Justice Department Nazi war crimes prosecutor John Loftus, believe Prescott Bush and the Harrimans should have been tried for treason. They called for a Congressional investigation into the Bush family's Nazi past and its concealment from the American people for 60 years. "The American people have a right to know, in detail, about this hidden chapter of our history," says Loftus, author of The Secret War Against the Jews. For his part, Fertik is pessimistic that a Congressional investigation can thwart the war profiteering of the present Bush White House. "It's impossible to stop it," he says, "when the worst war profiteers are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who operate in secrecy behind the vast powers of the White House."
GORE HITS 'BIG BROTHER' RESPONSE TO 9/11. Al Gore accused George W. Bush of failing to make the country safer after the 9/11 attacks and using the war against terrorism as a pretext to consolidate power. "They have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, 'big brother'-style government -- toward the dangers prophesied by George Orwell in his book '1984' -- than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America,' Gore told a crowd of 3,000 organized by Moveon.org. He brought the crowd to its feet when he called for a repeal of the PATRIOT Act. "It makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at bin Laden," he said. In both cases, Gore said, the administration has "recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger." He also [charged] that there aren't sufficient protections in place for ports, nuclear facilities, chemical plants and other key infrastructure." (Beckley, W.V. Register Herald.)
MORE AMERICANS GO HUNGRY. The USDA reported in October that about 12 million families worried that they couldn't afford to buy food in 2002, marking the third year in a row that the department has reported an increase in the number of households experiencing hunger and worrying about having money to buy food. An estimated 3.8 million families experienced food insecurity to the point where someone in the household was forced to skip meals, an 8.6% increase from 2001. The number of families that are unsure if they can afford to eat increased to 11%, up 5% from 2001. One or more children in an estimated 265,000 families occasionally went hungry last year because either their families couldn't afford to eat or there wasn't enough food at home. In September the Census Bureau reported 34.6 million people were living in poverty last year, a 1.7 million increase from 2001. See the USDA report on hunger at www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr35/
GEORGE I SIGNALS TO BOY GEORGE. Was George Bush Sr. sending a message to his son, the current White House occupant, when he gave his own most treasured award to Sen. Ted Kennedy? Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer thinks so. When the pugnaciously anti-Iraq war Democrat Kennedy was announced for the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, she wrote, "so many jaws dropped all over Washington that usually voluble politicians were only heard swallowing their real thoughts. ...
"Since the current President Bush veered away from the real war against terrorism in Afghanistan and went a-venturing in Iraq, much to his father's dismay, just about everybody close to Washington politics has known of the policy schism between father and son," she continued. People around "Father Bush," traditional internationalist conservatives, would deny any family rift, but with his pursuit of unilateralism (America needs room in the world) and preemption (kill even your perceived enemy before he kills you), "The son seems to have made posturing against his father's accomplishments and beliefs his life's work."
In the Bush Library announcement of the award, Kennedy was praised as a man who "consistently and courageously fought for his principles," and as an "inspiration to all Americans." On Oct. 16 on the Senate floor he spoke at length "On the Administration's Failure to Provide a Realistic, Specific Plan to Bring Stability to Iraq" (see www.populist.com/essays.html for the text). Kennedy accepted the award at the Bush presidential library on the Texas A&M campus on Nov. 7.