Jason Leopold and Marc Ash, editor of Truthout.org, stuck their necks out on 5/13 with Leopold's report that Karl Rove had been indicted after a day of negotiation at the offices of Rove's lawyer. After a week, no indictment had been made public, few other news sources had followed up on the story and Rove's lawyer denied that negotiations as Leopold described them had taken place. But as we went to press, Leopold and Ash stood by their story, which, Ash explained, relied on "three independent sources confirming that attorneys for Karl Rove were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13. We know that each source was in a position to know what they were talking about. We know that the office of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald will not confirm, will not deny, will not comment on its investigation or on our report. We know that both Rove's attorney Robert Luskin and Rove's spokesman Mark Corallo have categorically denied all key facts we have set forth. We know we have information that directly contradicts Luskin and Corallo's denials. We know that there were two network news crews outside of the building in Washington, D.C., that houses the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm that represents Karl Rove. We know that the 4th floor of that building (where the Patton Boggs offices are located) was locked down all day Friday and into Saturday night. We know that we have not received a request for a retraction from anyone. And we know that White House spokesman Tony Snow now refuses to discuss Karl Rove -- at all.
"Further -- and again this is 'What We Believe' -- Rove may be turning state's evidence. We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald's investigation may have broadened -- clearly to Cheney -- and according to one 'off the record source' to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation."
Wayne Madsen checked out that Friday's daily calendar for the US District Court in Washington and, at WayneMadsenReport.com (5/20) noted one case called "US v. Sealed" and several more called "Sealed v. Sealed." Tim Grieve at Salon.com (5/22) asked, "Could one of those involve a Rove indictment kept under seal while Rove and Patrick Fitzgerald work out a plea deal or while the Bush administration intervenes to fight off an indictment? Could be, but maybe it's worth noting that a search of the US District Court's database reveals more than a thousand cases with such 'sealed' captions over the past couple of decades."
MORE GOP SEATS IN PLAY: Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll published 5/17. The survey shows 56% saying they would prefer to see Democrats in control of Congress after the elections. Only a third want the GOP to remain in the majority in Congress. Nearly three times as many Americans say they will use the elections to express opposition to the president (30%) than to show support for him (12%). The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks Congressional races, has increased the number of Republican seats viewed as competitive to 36 from 24, as Democrats seem to be in increasingly good shape to pick up seats in bands of districts across Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, as well as districts throughout Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Florida, Amy Walter, an analyst at the report, told the New York Times (5/21). Democrats need to pick up 15 Republican seats to take control.
STUDY: WAL-MART INCREASES POVERTY: Expansion of Wal-Mart stores have pushed an estimated 20,000 families below the poverty line, a study published in the June Social Science Quarterly found. During the last decade, dependence on the food-stamp program nationwide increased by 8%, but counties with Wal-Mart stores saw increases almost twice as large, at 15.3%. Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics at Pennsylvania State University, found that while Wal-Mart employs many people, for most, the hours worked and wages paid do not help these families move out of poverty. Another effect is the closing of "mom and pop" stores following the appearance of a Wal-Mart, which leads to closing of other local businesses that previously supplied local stores, including: wholesalers, transporters, logistics providers, accountants, lawyers and others. The authors encourage community leaders to think about programs and policies in anticipation of helping those displaced by the arrival of the chain.
DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.
"You have no civil liberties if you are dead." -- Sen. Pat Roberts, May 18, 2006, explaining why civil liberties should take a back seat to national security.
CONS QUESTION BUSH: The right is finally starting to discover lapses in George Bush's honesty. David Frum, former Bush speechwriter who once declared the president's honesty beyond reproach, recently wrote at the National Review, "Putting the [National] Guard on the border is a symbolic act. ... But I am afraid that in this case the symbolism is manipulative and deceptive." Jonathan Chait noted in the Los Angeles Times (5/21), "It's funny. I remember when Bush insisted that he wanted to bring the parties together to pass a patients' bill of rights, even as he arm-twisted Republicans who favored such a bill into renouncing it. I remember when he insisted that lower-income workers reaped the biggest share of his tax cuts. I remember when he presented his stem cell position as a way to dramatically expand research opportunities. One could say that misleading rhetoric was the hallmark of Bush's political style. But if you said that two years ago, you were a rabid Bush-hater. Now the immigration debate, which has turned the right against itself, has provoked a kind of right-wing glasnost. Former Bush loyalists are discovering all sorts of unpleasant things about him, and each other." The Wall Street Journal, which favors more open immigration, sadly noted that the party's "restrictionists still aren't satisfied" with Bush's compromise plan. During his immigration speech, Bush asserted that "some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant." National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez angrily retorted, "Do you know anyone who seriously argues such a thing?" Chait noted that when Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank in 2004 detailed how Bush attacks "straw men" time after time, National Review attacked him as "probably the most anti-Bush reporter currently assigned to the White House by a major news organization."
FOX GABBERS FEAR BROWN TIDE: Immigration has caused some right wingers on Fox's cable TV channel to go barking mad. John Gibson had some eugenic advice on Fox's The Big Story on 5/11, urging his viewers to "make more babies," MediaMatters.org reported. The Washington Post reported 5/10 that nearly half of all children under the age of 5 in the US are minorities. Gibson added: "By far, the greatest number [of children under five] are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years, and the majority of the population is Hispanic." Gibson later added: "To put it bluntly, we need more babies."
Bill O'Reilly agrees with Gibson that white people have to confront the "hidden agenda" behind the immigration movement is "the browning of America." In his 4/12 radio show, according to MediaMatters.org, O'Reilly asserted that "there is a movement in this country to wipe out 'white privilege.'" On the 5/1 Radio Factor, O'Reilly alleged that organizers of the 5/1 nationwide pro-immigrant protests have a "hardcore militant agenda of 'You stole our land, you bad gringos,'" and that the organizers seek to "take it back by massive, massive migration into the Southwest.'"
Then, on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor on 5/16, O'Reilly claimed that the New York Times and "many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed." O'Reilly continued: "According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will." O'Reilly's comments came during a discussion of opposition by the Times and others to deploying the National Guard to help secure the border.
TAX ADVISER: House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), in defending $70 bln in tax cuts for the rich, made a stunning claim on the House floor (5/17): "If you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two children, you don't pay any taxes. So you probably, if you don't pay any taxes, you are not going to get a very big tax cut." ThinkProgress.org notes that while someone with a $40,000 salary and a family of four paid little or no federal income taxes last year, Hastert ignored other taxes paid by all Americans -- payroll taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and so on. Payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare, would cost $3,060 (7.65% of $40,000) in federal payroll taxes last year. "Hastert, who earns a hefty $212,010 a year salary, doesn't seem to understand that families across America are facing higher health care costs, mortgage payments, and gas prices," ThinkProgress.org said. "And yes, they also have to pay their taxes."
BUSH RAISES TAX ON TEENS: Tucked into the tax cut legislation that George W. Bush recently signed into law was a major tax increase for American teenagers saving for college. According to David Cay Johnston of the New York Times, the $69 bln tax cut tripled tax rates for teenagers with college savings funds, despite Bush's 1999 pledge to veto any tax increase. Under the new law, teenagers age 14 to 17 with investment income will now be taxed at the same rate as their parents, not at their own rates. Long-term capital gains and dividends that had been taxed at 5% will now be taxed at 15%. Interest that had been taxed at 10% will now be taxed at as much as 35%. The increases, retroactive to the first day of the year, are expected to generate nearly $2.2 bln over 10 years, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
VOODOO ECONOMICS REVISITED: Do tax cuts supercharge the economy? Well, the economy has done well ever since the 2003 tax cuts. But Kevin Drum of WashingtonMonthly.com notes (5/15) that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org) has tracked the difference between the recession of 1990 and the recession of 2001. "Bottom line: the economy got better both times! Once with tax increases and once with tax cuts. As the authors dryly put it, the lesson from this is not that tax increases are great for the economy, but that 'weak recoveries eventually tend to improve, whether there are tax cuts, tax increases, or no tax changes at all.'"
Max Sawicky notes at maxspeak.org that the January 2003 Economic Report of the President, before the tax cuts, predicted employment would grow to 137.9 mln in 2005. Instead, employment in 2005 was 133.5 mln. "Long story short ... the dividends/capital gains tax cuts caused the loss of 4.4 million jobs." If you look up his 5/15 posting you'll find discussions of the relations between federal debt, interest rates, capital stock and GDP.
NSA STAYS PROBE-FREE: First the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility in early May said that it couldn't investigate the role Justice Department lawyers played in the NSA's warrantless spying program because the Bush administration refused to give investigators the necessary security clearances. Now the Federal Communications Commission says it can't investigate the role telephone companies appear to have played in the NSA's telephone database project because the NSA activities are classified. In a letter to Rep. Ed Markey, ranking Democrat on the House Commerce's telecom subcommittee, Kevin J. Martin, the former Bush-Cheney campaign lawyer who chairs the FCC, says we can all rest assured that members of the FCC "take very seriously our charge to faithfully implement the nation's laws, including our authority to investigate potential violations of the Communications Act." However, Martin says, "the classified nature of the NSA's activities" leaves the FCC "unable to investigate" the allegation that the telephone companies violated the act by turning over call records to the NSA. (Salon.com.)
ILLEGAL ALIENS 'SLAVES': Even some Republicans were repulsed when House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., on *Face the Nation* (5/21/06) said people who hire illegal immigrants are "21st century slave masters ... just as immoral as the 19th century slave masters we had to fight a civil war to get rid of." Mark Kilmer at RedState.com called it "a dangerous analogy." At the National Review's website, John Podhoretz saw "insane moral equivalence," John Derbyshire called it "dumb" and Jonah Goldberg observed that the only way it could begin to make sense is if there had been "some sweeping historical episode in which millions of Africans snuck into the country for the 'opportunity' to be slaves." But Matt Yglesias at TalkingPointsMemo.com noted that Sensenbrenner, the House GOP's leader on immigration issues, has been using that line at least since March.
9/11 STORY THAT GOT AWAY: The counterintelligence community was put on alert on the weekend of July 4, 2001, because they were convinced al Qaeda planned an attack, said Judy Miller, who was then a reporter for the *New York Times*. There was celebration when nothing happened that weekend, but Miller recounted a conversation with a source that said "there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone's attention was a conversation between two members of al Qaeda. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the [guided missile destroyer USS] Cole. And one al Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, 'Don't worry; we're planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.'" She discussed the story with her editor, Stephen Engelgerg, at the Times, but he did not think they could publish it without more details and context. Miller's interview with Rory O'Connor and William Scott Malone was reported 5/18 at alternet.org.
BUSH'S POWER SURGE: The Cato Institute has published a report, "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush." TalkLeft.com noted the summary of the libertarian think tank: "Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad ..." That view includes:
a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech -- and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror-- in other words, perhaps forever; and
a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.
The report, available at cato.org or by calling 202-842-3490, concluded, "On the campaign trail in 2000, then-governor Bush typically ended his stump speech with a dramatic flourish: he pantomimed the oath of office. But the oath is more than a political gimmick; for the founding generation it was a solemn pledge, designed to bind the officeholder to the country and the Constitution he serves. Throughout his tenure, President Bush has repeatedly dishonored that pledge. And because of that, he has weakened the constitutional order on which the American way of life depends."
MAYTAG RETIREES FEAR CUTS: It's bad enough for Newton, Iowa, that Whirlpool Corp. bought Maytag to shut down the competitor and put 2,000 workers out of a job. The *Des Moines Register* reported 5/21 that Whirlpool acknowledges that retirement packages for those workers, as well as 1,400 Maytag retirees and 600 surviving spouses, will change -- and not for the better. The $2.6 bln merger of the two appliance manufacturers coincidentally left Whirlpool at least $2.6 bln short of meeting anticipated pension and health-care needs of current and future retirees, according to annual reports of the two companies. As of Dec. 31, 2005, Maytag was $751 million short of meeting the anticipated health care expenses of retirees, and Whirlpool was $701 million short. The health care shortfalls are more worrisome, because, as the Maytag annual report notes: "There are no regulatory requirements" to make up the health care shortfall. Companies have such a requirement with pension benefits, which are ultimately guaranteed by the government's Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. Maytag has a contract with the United Auto Workers union to provide health care to retirees. Court decisions have gone both ways on companies' legal responsibility for the medical care of retirees, said Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center.
DROWNING IN MAINSTREAM: Mitch Landrieu, the Louisiana lieutenant governor, son of a favorite former New Orleans mayor and brother of a US senator, entered the 5/20 runoff election with a famous name, a fundraising advantage and entrees across racial lines that made him the favorite to beat incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin. But Landrieu failed to give residents of the beleaguered city enough of a reason to change leaders. In other words, Harry Shearer wrote at HuffingtonPost.com, Landrieu ran as a "mainstream Democrat." Nagin, a former Republican, won re-election 52-48. In a debate the Wednesday before the election, Shearer wrote, Landrieu was "courteous, in line with New Orleans traditions. But if there was ever a time to put the courtesy aside, this was it. Landrieu's approach reminded me, sitting here in D.C. for the weekend, of nothing so much as Kerry's in 2004: assuming that voters will fill in the blanks, not daring to express the anger that animated his base lest he offend those at the margins."
Chuck Todd wrote at the *National Journal's Hotline* (5/21) that Nagin's victory shows that there are enough Democratic voters in New Orleans to keep the state competitive between the two parties. "Put it this way, Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon is breathing a little easier this morning."
MINE REGS LAG BREAST REGS: After five miners died 5/20 in a Kentucky mine explosion, ABC News asked what was being done to prevent mine deaths. Four and a half months since the Sago, W.V., mine tragedy claimed 12 lives, not much has changed. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who co-sponsored a miner safety bill that is languishing in Congress, is unhappy about it. "When Janet Jackson had her wardrobe [malfunction], it took Congress 40 days to change the law," Miller said. "It's now over 120 days, and Congress hasn't done a damn thing about securing a safer workplace for these miners and for these families," Miller said. Already in 2006, 31 miners have died. That's nine more than all of last year -- in part because more coal is being mined. That means less-experienced miners are working more hours, critics say. Two bills before Congress would increase the amount of emergency oxygen miners have underground, require rescue teams are no more than an hour away from every mine in the country, and dramatically increase fines for mine companies that break the rules. United Mine Workers of America pointed out that Darby Mine Number 1 was a non-union mine, as was the Sago mine. Rep. Miller said that could be significant. "In non-union mines there's a great deal of intimidation that goes on against the workers, because the mine owners do not want to shut down the mines, they do not want to reduce their output," Miller said. "If you suggest that something is as dangerous to do that, you may lose your job, and it's a real problem."
REPUBLICANS WERE RELIEVED to see a Democrat taking the heat from the FBI, which reportedly is closing in on allegations of bribery against Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans. Republicans hope it will undermine Dems' efforts to run on ethics and a "culture of corruption" in the Republican Congress. However, Matt Yglesias noted 5/23 at TalkingPointsMemo.com, there is no serious comparison between Jefferson, who apparently was a corrupt freelancer (if the allegations are true) while Tom DeLay, the key mover-and-shaker in the Republican caucus for many years, helped to build the GOP machine. "Beyond DeLay, the salient point about, say, the Dukester [disgraced former Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-San Diego] is that his cash-for-contracts scheme was in many ways continuous with standard operating procedure for the Republican Party. It was different. But a difference of degree, not of kind. Normally, the cash comes in as campaign contributions or lobbying jobs for yourself and your retainers rather than pocket money or boats. But the public policy auction is happening at all levels. Look at the energy bill, or the farm bill, or the Medicare bill. Legislation is for sale to the highest bidder in all cases. That -- and not the fact that this or that Republican may or may not be under indictment -- is the point. And it connects up with the pattern of executive branch lawlessness and malfeasance. The overall attitude is that the institutions of government are the property of the people who happen to be holding power; power that can be deployed without constraint on behalf of its holders or their paymasters."
IMMIGRATION NUMBERS: According to the US Census, 35.2 mln immigrants (legal and illegal) were living in the US in 2005. That's 12.1% of the total population, the highest percentage since the 14.7% foreign-born population recorded after the last great immigration wave in 1910. Mexico accounts for 31% of all immigrants, with 10.8 mln now living in the US, followed by East Asia, 6.25 mln; Europe, 4.5 mln; the Caribbean, 3.2 mln; Central America, 2.6 mln; South America, 2.2 mln; South Asia, 1.8 mln; Middle East, 1.16 mln; Canada, 674,000; Sub-Saharan Africa, 656,000; others, 1.18 mln. Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2005, there were 10.3 mln school-age children from immigrant families in the US. The Census does not ask respondents if they are legal residents, but Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org) wrote in his "Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005", "It is well established that illegal aliens do respond to government surveys such as the decennial census and the Current Population Survey." Socio-demographic characteristics in the March 2005 Current Population Survey indicate an illegal alien population between 9.6 mln and 9.8 mln last year, with 500,000 to 700,000 entering in the past year.
Illegal immigration has increased since 2000, which also happens to be when the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented.
IMMIGRANT MYTHS: Randolph Capps and Michael Fix of the Urban Institute (urban.org) came up with a list of "Myths and Reality" regarding undocumented immigrants.
Myth #1: Undocumented immigrants come to the US to get welfare. In 2003, over 90% of undocumented men worked -- a rate higher than that for US citizens or legal immigrants Undocumented men are younger, less likely to be in school and less likely to be retired than other men. Moreover, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits.
Myth #2: Undocumented immigrants all crossed the Mexican border. Between 60% and 75% of the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants entered illegally and without inspection -- mostly across the Mexican border. The other 25% to 40% entered legally and subsequently overstayed visas or otherwise violated the terms of their admission.
Myth #3: Undocumented immigrants are all single men. Over 40% of undocumented adults are women, and the majority (54%) of undocumented men live in married couples or other families. Fewer than half of undocumented men are single and unattached.
Myth #4: Most children of the undocumented are unauthorized. In fact, two-thirds of all children with undocumented parents (about 3 million) are US-born citizens who live in mixed-status families.
Myth #5: A large share of schoolchildren are undocumented. Nationally in 2000, only 1.5% of elementary schoolchildren (enrolled in kindergarten through 5th grade) and 3% of secondary children (grades 6-12) were undocumented. Slightly higher shares--5% in elementary and 4% in secondary schools -- had undocumented parents.
Myth #6: Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay the same real estate taxes -- whether they own homes or taxes are passed through to rents -- and the same sales and other consumption taxes as everyone else. The majority of state and local costs of schooling and other services are funded by these taxes. Additionally, the US Social Security Administration has estimated that three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, and that they contribute $6-7 billion in Social Security funds that they will be unable to claim.
BUSH APPROVAL STUCK AT 32%: From the American Research Group poll, released 5/22: "President Bush's job approval ratings are unchanged from April ... 32% of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 61% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 29% approve and 65% disapprove."