More than 23,000 representatives of private industry are sharing information with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and getting secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does, Matthew Rothschild reported in The Progressive for March (progressive.org). That alarms the ACLU, but Rothschild also reports that a business executive member of InfraGard, claims members have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.

InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm. FBI agents in each state oversee each of the 86 local InfraGard chapters. To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told an InfraGard convention on 8/9/05, when InfraGard had 11,000 members, among other things members could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers,” Rothschild wrote. In 2004, the ACLU warned that InfraGard turned “private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI.” But InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed, Rothschild wrote.

In one case, on 11/1/01, Rothschild reports, the FBI sent out an alert about a potential threat to the bridges of California. Enron was notified, and so, too, was Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley. He notified his brother Gray, the governor of California. “He said his brother talked to him before the FBI,” Steve Maviglio, who was Davis’s press secretary at the time, told Rothschild. “And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, “I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’”

TOO MUCH BIPARTISANSHIP? After former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), David Boren (D-Okla.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and others threatened the country with a plutocratic Michael Bloomberg candidacy if the presidential candidates failed to become more “bipartisan,” Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com noted (1/30) that “bipartisanship” is already rampant in Washington, not rare. “And, in almost every significant case, what ‘bipartisanship’ means in Washington is that enough Democrats join with all of the Republicans to endorse and enact into law Republican policies, with which most Democratic voters disagree. That’s how so-called ‘bipartisanship’ manifests in almost every case.

“Many people, especially partisans, always believe that their own side is compromising too much and that the other side is always winning, so it’s best to consult objective facts in order to know how ‘bipartisanship’ works. Here are the vote breakdowns by party over the last couple years on the most significant and contentious pieces of legislation, particularly (though not only) in the area of national security.

“In almost every case, the proposals that are enacted are ones favored by the White House and supported by all GOP lawmakers, and then Democrats split and enough of them join with Republicans to ensure that the GOP gets what it wants. That’s ‘bipartisanship’ in Washington”:

• To support the new Bush-supported FISA law: GOP 48-0; Dems 12-36.

• To compel redeployment of troops from Iraq: GOP 0-49; Dems 24-21.

• To confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General: GOP 46-0; Dems 7-40.

• To confirm Leslie Southwick as Circuit Court Judge: GOP 49-0; Dems 8-38.

• Kyl-Lieberman Resolution on Iran: GOP 46-2; Dems 30-20.

• To condemn MoveOn.org: GOP 49-0; Dems 23-25.

• The Protect America Act: GOP 44-0; Dems 20-28.

• Declaring English to be the Government’s official language: GOP 48-1; Dems 16-33.

• Military Commissions Act: GOP 53-0; Dems 12-34.

• To renew the Patriot Act: GOP 54-0; Dems 34-10.

• Cloture Vote on Sam Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court: GOP; Dems 18-25.

• Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq: GOP 48-1; Dems 29-22.

“On virtually every major controversial issue — particularly, though not only, ones involving national security and terrorism — the Republicans (including their vaunted mythical moderates and mavericks) vote in almost complete lockstep in favor of the President, the Democratic caucus splits, and the Republicans then get their way on every issue thanks to ‘bipartisan’ support. That’s what ‘bipartisanship’ in Washington means.”

We also note this “bipartisan” anti-consumer legislation in 2005:

• Bankruptcy “reform” cloture: GOP 55-0, Dems 14-30.

• Limit class-action lawsuits in state courts: GOP 53-0; Dems 19-26.

During the 2/12 debate on revision of FISA, the Senate rejected the Dodd/Feingold amendment that would remove telecom immunity from the bill, 31-67 — 20 votes shy of the 50 needed for passage. Eighteen Dems joined all Republicans in voting for immunity: Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb and Lincoln. Barack Obama voted against immunity and Hillary Clinton was the only senator not voting. Thus, the breakdown was: Dems 31-18; GOP 0-49.

McCAIN’S FLIP-FLOPS. John McCain has staked his reputation as a Straight Talker and Principled Maverick, but he has thrown a surprisingly large number of his purported principles under the Straight Talk Express in the past year. Steve Benen noted at thecarpetbaggerreport.com (2/2) that McCain recently said he would vote against his own immigration plan, which was unpopular with the right-wing GOP base. Among other flip-flops:

• McCain used to champion the Law of the Sea convention, even volunteering to testify on the treaty’s behalf before a Senate committee. Now, if the treaty comes to the Senate floor, he’s vowed to vote against it.

• McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants’ kids who graduate from high school. In 2007, to make the far-right base happy, he voted against the bill he had taken the lead on.

• In 2006, McCain sponsored legislation to require grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. In 2007, after receiving “feedback” on the proposal, McCain told far-right activist groups that he now opposes the measure he’d backed.

• McCain used to support major campaign-finance reform measures that bore his name. In June 2007 2006, McCain announced his opposition to a major McCain-Feingold provision.

“It’s one thing to shift with the political winds, and I’ll gladly concede that there are worse qualities in a presidential candidate than changing one’s mind about a policy matter or two,” Benen wrote. “Indeed, McCain has been in Congress for a quarter-century; he’s bound to shift now and then on various issues. But these aren’t just random bills that McCain voted on — these are bills that he personally championed — recently. And now, after McCain sponsored the bills, he’s not even willing to vote for them anymore. And even that wouldn’t be entirely beyond the pale, except one of McCain’s principal selling points is his alleged consistency and willingness to take politically unpopular decisions.”

WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN. In his past State of the Union addresses, President Bush has told the nation of an “axis of evil,” warned against “human-animal hybrids,” and even proposed initiatives to help “keep young people out of gangs.” This year, however, Bush — facing his lame duck status — simply rehashed old proposals. “There were no grand new ideas and even the modest ones seemed like deja vu,” Center for American Progress Action Fund noted (1/29). For example, hours before the president’s speech, the White House excitedly told the media about “Pell Grants for Kids,” Bush’s new $300 mln program for low-income students. But even this initiative was a recycling of previous voucher plans endorsed by Bush. “The fact that Bush used this speech to again call on Congress to pass his older ideas, such as immigration and health care reform, underscores how much he has failed in political endeavors that require more than unilateral action. For a man hoping to have the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, Bush will be fortunate to leave office with higher approval ratings than Richard Nixon.”

BUSH MISLEADS MILITARY FAMILIES. President Bush drew great applause during his State of the Union address when he called on Congress to allow US troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. “Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them,” he said. A week later, however, the Washington Post noted that when Bush submitted his $3.1 tln federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for such an initiative, which government analysts calculate could cost $1 bln to $2 bln annually.

WHITE HOUSE CIVIL LIBERTIES OVERSIGHT GONE. In 2004, upon recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress established the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board “to ensure that concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered” by the president “in the implementation of all laws, regulations, and executive branch policies” related to national security. The board was also charged with determining “whether guidelines designed to appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties are being followed.” But the board was not sworn in until March 2006, due to inaction by the White House and Congress. Now, the board is officially vacant, as the terms of the original members expired on Jan. 30, 2007, but no nominations have been sent to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which must approve appointees for the five vacancies. This leaves the board without any members, even as Congress prepares to give the Bush administration extraordinary powers to wiretap without warrants inside the US, Ryan Singel noted at Wired.com (2/4).

RECORD TURNOUTS TROUBLE FOR DEMS? MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on 2/5 suggested to Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean that he should be concerned about the party’s lack of broad appeal, noting polls showing a large number of “college graduates” and voters of a “high economic and social echelon” voting in the primaries. Matthews added, “I just wonder where regular people are in this.” But Matthews didn’t mention that, according to CNN, “voters are turning out for the Democratic primaries in number[s] that absolutely shatter previous records.” Matthews also failed to mention the record turnout in an earlier discussion on the subject with Tim Russert. (MediaMattrs.org, 2/6)

EXIT POLLS WRONG AGAIN. Michael Sean Winters noted 2/6 at America magazine (americamagazine.org) after Super Tuesday that the media continues to rely on exit polls despite the fact that they seem to be consistently inaccurate: “The problem last night was that the exit polls were way wrong. At about 6:35 p.m., the Huffington Post leaked the exit polls, predicting that Obama would win New Jersey, Arizona and Massachusetts. In fact, he won none of those states. But, the expectations were set. ... [CNN’s] Bill Schneider gave thoughtful analyses from the same exit polls, telling America how women had voted, how Latinos had voted, what issues mattered most. He neglected to say that the polls had failed to get the winning candidate correct. On ABC, Charlie Gibson noted that the exit polls indicated that late-deciding voters had broken towards Clinton by a significant margin, but did not share the bad news about those same polls misjudging entire states.”

’NET COMES OF AGE. Barack Obama owes much of his success to the Internet, Micah Sifry writes at TechPresident.com (2/6). “If it were not for the Internet, and all the campaign- and voter-generated activism that it has enabled, Hillary Clinton would already be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, and Barack Obama or another reform-minded candidate would be trailing badly.” He noted that the Internet also has helped two of the Republican candidates, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, extend their reach.

“From the 1980s forward, the presidential nominating process — what political scientists call ‘the winnowing process’ — has been dominated by two things: the money chase and the big media’s power to frame the primary narrative around the race. On the Democratic side, we’ve seen the same pattern play out every time there has been an open field (i.e., no sitting president running for re-election). One candidate is the favorite of the party’s establishment and its major sources of funding, and one tries to create a reform coalition to dislodge the establishment favorite. That, in broad strokes, is the story of Mondale vs. Hart in 1984, Dukakis vs. Jackson in 1988, Clinton vs Brown in 1992, and Gore vs. Bradley in 2000.

“In 2004, something started to shift, and we saw a semi-outsider candidate powered mainly by small donations, Howard Dean, nearly steal the prize, but then the voters — and the establishment and the money — quickly solidified around John Kerry. The frontloading of the primaries — which has been engineered by a succession of party insiders who have wanted to insure a quick consolidation around a frontrunner (ideally from the establishment) has always given the edge to that better-financed establishment candidate. And certainly once Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire, that was the end of any reform challenge to the frontrunner.”

But no candidate has ever raised $32 mln in a single month until Obama hit that mark this January, Sifry noted, and $28 mln of that was raised online. Clinton, with a more traditional fundraising operation, raised $13.5 mln in January. And 26% of Obama’s money is from people giving less than $200, compared to just 12% of Clinton’s. “There’s also a significant difference in how the two campaigns are doing in attracting and mobilizing volunteers. We don’t have the same kind of hard metrics, but from all kinds of soundings we know that Obama has been deploying huge numbers of paid and unpaid field organizers, and that voter-generated events on his behalf vastly outnumber similar events organized by Clinton supporters.”

PLASTIC GETS PRICIER. While the Federal Reserve has made money cheaper for bankers, many credit card users will have to pay higher interest rates to restore bank profits that are threatened by the the subprime debacle and a slowdown in consumer borrowing. David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times reported (2/10) that hundreds of thousands of Capital One and Bank of America cardholders have been notified in recent months that their interest rates are going up — in some cases to as much as 28% — even though they haven’t been missing payments. Banks “need to raise rates because they can’t raise fees anymore,” David Robertson, publisher of an influential credit card trade publication called the Nilson Report, told Lazarus. “Credit cards are consistently the most profitable retail banking product,” Robertson observed. “The growth is not there anymore. And with a recession coming down the pike, there’s no expectation of more spending by consumers. The industry needs to raise prices to keep profits where they need to be.”

BLUNT BRAGS ABOUT BLOCKING KIDS’ HEALTH. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (2/8), House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) bragged about the “accomplishments” of conservatives in Congress in 2007, including blocking an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which he complained would “expand from a program for poor kids to a ‘program for more kids,’” ThinkProgres.org noted (2/9).

SEEGER DOC ON PBS. After a limited theatrical release last year, and no DVD imminent, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (reviewed in the 12/1/07 TPP) will be aired on PBS’ American Masters series on 2/27. Featuring Bruce Springsteen and other contemporary artists on Seeger’s legacy, this authorized biography of the folk legend was directed by Jim Brown. Check your local listings or PBS. (Mediamatters.org/altercation/, 2/11)

BUSH DEFIES CONGRESSIONAL LIMITS. President Bush declared (1/28) that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill, Charlie Savage reported in the Boston Globe (1/30). Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them. “Provisions of the act ... purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief,” Bush said. “The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”

Democrats took issue with the signing statement. “I reject the notion in his signing statement that he can pick and choose which provisions of this law to execute,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. “His job, under the Constitution, is to faithfully execute the law — every part of it — and I expect him to do just that.” In 2006, the American Bar Association condemned signing statements as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.”

So what are they going to do about it?

CAP TIMES SHIFTS TO ’NET. One of the few progressive daily newspapers remaining in the US, the Madison, Wis., Capital Times, will cut back its newsprint frequency to twice weekly, from six days a week, as it concentrates on its Web site (captimes.com). Beginning 4/30, a news and opinion edition will be published on Wednesdays and a weekly arts, entertainment and culture section on Thursday, distributed with home-delivered Wisconsin State Journal subscriptions and offered free in newspaper racks in the Madison area. As an afternoon newspaper, Capital Times circulation has been declining since 1966, to 17,072. With its new distribution, the Capital Times will have a circulation of more than 80,000. “Moving our resources to the web is the wave of the future,” said Dave Zweifel, the new editor emeritus who will continue to write columns and oversee the paper’s opinion content with Associate Editor John Nichols. Paul Fanlund succeeded Zweifel as editor of the Capital Times, having been executive editor since August 2006.

The late William T. Evjue founded the newspaper in 1917 as a progressive media voice at the height of World War I. In 1948, Evjue reached an agreement with Lee Enterprises, owners of the Wisconsin State Journal, to form Madison Newspapers Inc. to combine advertising, circulation and production departments of the newspapers but ensured two completely independent newsrooms. The Capital Times chose to continue in the afternoon while the State Journal took the morning field and the Sunday newspaper. The Capital Times Co. and Lee Enterprises continue to each own 50% of what today is known as Capital Newspapers, which also owns the Portage Daily Register, Baraboo News-Republic, Beaver Dam Citizen and several weeklies and shoppers in south central Wisconsin.

When Evjue died in 1970, his will directed that the William T. Evjue Charitable Trust hold his controlling stock in the Capital Times and that the proceeds go to The Evjue Foundation, which benefits local cultural, educational and non-profit community projects.

CHECK WELCOME, BUT PULL OUT OF IRAQ. To get the country out of recession, most participants in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted (2/4-6) would rather see the US pull out of Iraq than get economic stimulus checks. Just 19% of those surveyed said they planned to go out and spend the money; 45% said they’d use it to pay bills. And nearly half said what the government really should do is get out of Iraq, as 48% said a pullout would help fix the country’s economic problems “a great deal,” and an additional 20% said it would help at least somewhat. Some 43% said increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs would help a great deal; 36% said cutting taxes.

SEIU ANTES $75M FOR HEALTH CAMPAIGN. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced it would be launching a $75 million election-year campaign on behalf of universal coverage, Jon Chait reports at blogs.tnr.com (2/4). In addition to TV and magazine spots the union plans to finance what sounds like a ground effort, including a rolling publicity tour to stage events across the country, Chait wrote. “As veterans of the 1993-94 Clinton health care fight know, [one reason] that effort failed was the fact that the political pressure came overwhelmingly from one side ... This time, fortunately, it looks like the interest groups in favor of reform are getting an early start ... At a time when all of the fighting over universal coverage has many people (myself included) worried that its prospects are suddenly diminishing, this is a reminder the political pressure for it is only going to get stronger in the coming months.”

PROG LEADERS PLAN ‘TAKE BACK AMERICA.’ With record numbers of Americans voting in primary elections and caucuses, Campaign for America’s Future co-directors Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey today announced that their organization’s 2008 “Take Back America” conference will be held from March 17-19 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference will bring together thousands of progressive activists, bloggers and organizational leaders to launch a major citizen-led campaign to “Take Back America.” For details see ourfuture.org.

N.H. DEM RECOUNT. A re-count of about 40% of the ballots in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary closely tracks the results reported on election night, the Associated Press reported. The Secretary of State’s office finished the partial re-count 1/23 and posted the results on its Web site, www.sos.nh.gov/. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sought the re-count based on Hillary Clinton mostly beating Barack Obama where votes were counted by machine, but mostly losing to him where votes were counted by hand in the 1/8 primary. [See “What really happened in New Hampshire,” 2/15/08 TPP.] Experts said the difference in voting patterns between machine- and hand-counted precincts dates from at least the 2000 Democratic primary, and stems from demographic patterns rather than fraud. Assistant Secretary of State David Scanlan said the state stopped the recount after using up the $27,000 Kucinich paid toward a statewide recount.

SICK 9/11 RESPONDERS URGE HEALTH CARE. 9/11 responders who were made sick by the toxic air at Ground Zero traveled to Washington to watch the President’s State of the Union Address from the House Gallery and join federal lawmakers and labor leaders in urging Bush to include sufficient funding for unmet 9/11 health needs in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal. The lawmakers, labor leaders, and sick responders also demanded answers from the administration about why the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suddenly decided in December to halt its plans for organizing an important health monitoring and treatment program for Ground Zero workers around the country, and advocated for passage of a comprehensive long-term program to help everyone exposed to 9/11 toxins.

ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR ... Mitt Romney remained a jackass to the end, saying as he withdrew from the Republican presidential race, “If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

CHELSEA’S A TARGET. David Shuster of MSNBC drew the ire of Hillary Clinton and was suspended by the network after he suggested, during a discussion of Chelsea Clinton’s work on her mother’s campaign of that “Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way,” but Sam Boyd of Prospect.org recalled that John McCain “said something far, far worse” in 1998 when he joked in a speech at a Republican fundraiser, “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.” Despite McCain’s hometown paper, the Arizona Republic, and the Associated Press reporting the joke about the president’s daughter, who was 18 at the time, David Corn noted at Salon.com (6/25/98) that national newspapers referred to the controversy over the joke and McCain’s subsequent apology to President Clinton but chose not to relay the joke itself. “[T]he joke revealed more than a mean streak in a man who would be president. It also exposed how the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times play favorites when reporting the foibles of our leading politicians,” Corn noted.

DOROTHY HENNESSEY, R.I.P. Longtime peace and justice activist Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey, OSF, passed away at age 94 in her home convent in Dubuque on 1/24/08. She had been a Franciscan sister for 75 years. Sr. Dorothy gained international notoriety in 2000 for her third nonviolent civil disobedience at School of Americas, Fort Benning, Ga., and her subsequent 2001 trial and six-month imprisonment in Federal Prison in Illinois, when she was 88.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recalled Sister Dorothy’s four decades of activism for peace and justice in Vietnam and Central America, where her brother, Ron, also served as a missionary priest, as well as human rights and nuclear disarmament concerns in this country. She also served an eight-year stint as a senior intern in his Dubuque office. “I will always be grateful to Sister Dorothy for her many years of friendship and counsel,” Harkin said.

In an interview with Sister Dorothy and her sibling, Sister Gwen Hennessey [“Feds crack down on protesting nuns,” 5/15/01 TPP], both noted the contributions that each of us can make, “The more of us who do our part, the more that can be done for the common good. We can make a difference.”

IRAQ-AFGHAN WAR COSTS RISE. The $695.7 bln cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through 2/1 has surpassed the cost of the Vietnam war, Christopher Helleman and Travis Sharp of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation (armscontrolcenter.org) noted. Using data from the Congressional Research Service and Office of Management and Budget, they found that only World War II, which cost $3.2 tln in 2007 dollars, was more expensive.

CHAFEE MOCKS PRO-WAR DEMS. “I find it surprising now, in 2008, how many Democrats are running for president after shirking their constitutional duty to check and balance this president,” former Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) writes in his new memoir. “Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill. They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment,” he wrote in Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President [St. Martin’s Press], due in bookstores 4/1, according to the Providence Journal. Chafee, the only R to vote against the war, had a 63% approval rate when Sheldon Whitehouse beat him in November 2006, but he says his defeat was the result of voters acting logically. “The system works best when power remains in the hands of the voters,” writes Chafee. “I was a casualty of the system working in 2006, and while defeat is never easy, I give the voters credit: They made the connection between electing even popular Republicans at the cost of leaving the Senate in the hands of a leadership they had learned to mistrust.”

DON’T COUNT MANUFACTURING OUT. While US manufacturing has been hit hard by a decade of rapid import growth and job loss, the manufacturing sector remains a vital part of the US economy, supporting 14 mln jobs in 2007, or about 10.1% of total employment, the Economic Policy Institute reported (2/12). Manufacturing industries generated $1.6 tln in GDP in 2006 (12.2% of total US GDP). Because manufacturing firms also use trillions of dollars worth of commodities and services as inputs, the sector is responsible for an even bigger share of total output. US manufacturing had gross output of $4.5 trillion in 2005, and it is by far the most important sector of the US economy in terms of total output (Bureau of Economic Analysis 2008).

Manufacturing plays a large part in the economy in individual states, too, generating 28% of GDP in Indiana in 2006 ($70 bln), and more than 20% in Iowa (21%, $26 bln), Louisiana (21%, $41 bln), and Wisconsin (20.8%, $47 bln). California (9.8%, $169 bln) and Texas (13.1%, $140 bln) each generated more than $100 billion in manufacturing GDP in 2006. (See epi.org Economic Snapshot for 2/12.)

PUTTING SCREWS ON WORKERS. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — a bill authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 — grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in case of a serious health condition, or to care for a new child or sick family member. But the Labor Department recently proposed to add restrictions to the FLMA — provisions benefiting employers and making it more difficult for workers to take advantage of the law. Some of the proposed changes include requiring workers to notify their bosses in advance when taking non-emergency leave, allowing employers to require “fitness-for-duty” evaluations for those who took FMLA time off, requiring employees to obtain medical certifications of their illnesses every year, and allowing businesses to exclude workers who took FMLA time from perfect attendance awards. House, Education, and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) has said that the Labor Department proposal tightening the FMLA “clearly benefits employers at the expense of workers.” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has also criticized the proposals, saying they “will make it more difficult for workers to use this leave when they need it” and “impose burdensome new paperwork requirements on both workers and heath providers.” The *National Journal* notes that, under a new administration, Congress “could do away” with the Labor Department rule change proposals in “early in 2009 under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to withdraw regulations within 60 session days after they are published.” (americanprogressaction.org)

CALIFORNIA LEADS THE WAY: On July 1, 2004, California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) Law went into effect. The law is a 100 percent employee-funded provision that provides workers in that state “with a maximum of six weeks of partial pay [55% of wages up to a maximum of $882 per week] each year while taking time off from work to bond with a newborn baby, newly adopted or foster child, or to care for a seriously ill parent, child, spouse or registered domestic partner.” While five other states have proposed similar bills to provide some form of paid leave, California is currently the only state mandating comprehensive paid family leave. Nearly 85% of California adult residents in every segment of the population support paid family leave, and one survey of California businesses found that more workers returned to their jobs where employers offered leave benefits beyond what is required.

DID RUDY PULL A BIALYSTOCK? Rudy Giuliani’s “Florida Strategy” has been the subject of speculation and the butt of jokes for months, causing David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org to wonder (1/29) if Giuliani and his high-paid strategists really have been that stupid? Or, is it possible that the Florida Strategy has actually worked exactly as planned? “While the rest of the presidential field were trudging through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire, trading rhinoviruses with voters in diners and VFW halls throughout the heartland, Giuliani and his team were leisurely soaking up the rays in sunny Florida, making a few appearances, playing a little golf, and all the while laying claim to the Sunshine State’s winner-take-all primary. While Romney, McCain and Huckabee were emptying their campaign coffers duking it out in Nevada and Michigan and South Carolina, Giuliani apparently spent his $50 million-plus campaign war chest on what …? Sunscreen and greens fees? Two percent of the vote, and a single national delegate? ...” Perhaps taking a lesson from Mel Brooks’ legendary The Producers, “Giuliani realized he could make a helluva lot more money from a presidential flop than he ever could from a respectable run?

“How would the scam work? Simple. Raise tens of millions of dollars while you’re riding high in the national polls, but stay out of the expensive media wars in the early primaries to ‘focus on Florida.’ Then when your Florida strategy inevitably fails, you bow out of the race, having spent all your cash on high-priced ‘consultants’ for, well, who knows what? Once out of the national spotlight, Giuliani and his ‘consultants’ just split the loot and fly off to Rio, just in time for Carnival.

Will Bunch at attytood.com noted (1/31), “I don’t think Rudy is in Rio and I do think he kind of wanted to win, even if he may have figured out before he let on publicly that it wasn’t going to happen. (As you may know, sitting presidents live and travel in style, too — and he surely would have gotten off on the power of the post). But that fact that Giuliani was so caught up in the trappings of wealth and power as a candidate — and didn’t funnel his campaign treasure or his valuable time into the hard work necessary to win — is just one more reason we should thank our lucky stars that this native son of Broadway didn’t produce a long-running show at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2008

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