Regular people, just plain working folks
Always stood out in my eyes.
I scorn all those people who drink wine instead
Of eating Frito pies.
A silver lining amid the dismal outpouring of news from Iraq has been the unbroken parade of conservative (and liberal hawk) commentators who now admit--with mea culpas, half-apologies and sour c
Nation readers are likely familiar with the way that New York City has been stonewalling the antiwar coalition United for Peace & Justice's efforts to obtain a legal permit for what will be the biggest rally of the Republican convention week on August 29.
UFP applied for a permit for a rally in Central Park last April. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused, citing concerns for the grass and offered an arid, treeless stretch of the West Side Highway, far from Madison Square Garden, as the only possible alternative. Yesterday, with the convention only three weeks away, United for Peace and Justice insisted it be allowed to protest in Central Park and said it will sue the city for the right to rally there, if necessary.
This insistence has received widespread support from local elected and civic officials, especially since the same space has held events--like an Elton John concert--with far more people than the rally will draw. And it's not unusual for things of this sort to be held in grassy areas. As New York Newsday columnist Ellis Henican asked today in his column: "What do the gardeners in Washington know that the gardeners in Central Park never learned?"
Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend millions to subsidize the RNC, but isn't willing to consider any expense related to a protest. In any event UFPJ has even offered to put up a bond for restoration of the grass, if necessary, but the city won't discuss it.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 75 percent of New Yorkers back the park protest. Even Rupert Murdoch's strongly pro-war New York Post has joined the chorus along with all of New York City's other dailies, in calling on Bloomberg to reverse his decision: "A gaggle of lefty agitators wants to convene in Central Park this summer to give President Bush a little grief. But the Parks Department says no, because they might bend the grass. Well, too bad. 'Keep Off The Grass' appears nowhere in the First Amendment."
UFPJ is asking people to call Bloomberg to politely protest the city's denial of the right to rally in Central Park on August 29. You can email the Mayor by clicking here or call his office at 212-788-3000. It may also help to let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel. His office can be reached at 212-360-1305 or by clicking here.
You can also click here to go to the UFPJ website for updates on this struggle to secure the right to protest, and click here for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City.
A friend in Oregon reports: "I made my biweekly visit to Powell's bookstore in Portland this morning and found more than a dozen new anti-Bush books. The woman at the check-out counter told me that an online newsletter called Hey Bookseller had just sent them information on the plethora of anti-Bush books out there. I couldn't believe what she told me, but she kindly recaptured the newsletter from the trash and wrote down the exact quote: 'By rough count there are some 7,345 anti-Bush books already out or soon to be released.'"
He added: "If all of these books were held by the branch of the Multnomah County Public Library down the street from my offices, which serves all of Northwest Portland, they would constitute one-fifth of their entire collection."
And it's not just books. At a small toy store in Sag Harbor, the owner tells me he just can't keep enough Bush paraphernalia in stock. One of the hottest items: a seven-foot tall, three-dimensional bop-bag with a sand filled base. "Duke it out with the Battling Bush! The stress reliever for any situation." The store is also running rapidly through its stocks of Bush buttons. (Young kids are big buyers, he reports.)
His Top Five Sellers:
*Compassionate Conservatism is an Oxymoron, George Bush is Just a Moron.
*Can You Impeach Someone Who is Never Elected in the First Place?
*Another Bush--another Recession and Another War to Cover it Up.
*The Bush Doctrine: Speak Incoherently and Hit Someone with A Big Stick.
*Gay Marriage Ceremony: $5000. War In Iraq: $87 Billion. Bush Not Getting Re-elected: Priceless.
The Nation has its own Dubya buttons, created by award-winning designer Milton Glaser. The buttons, recently praised in the Washington Post, as "models of simple, but powerful design," have been very popular at marches, protests, and at the recent Democratic Party Convention in Boston. Click here if you want to stock up in time for the GOP convention in New York at the end of this month.
Here's a joke which was circulating among Wall Street traders last Friday: "Fewer jobs were created in the US in the entire month of July than the number of people who will be inside Madison Square Garden for the GOP convention at the end of August."
If the latest jobs report, issued monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is any indication--with only 32,000 new jobs added in July, far below the expectations of most analysts--George W. is squarely on track to share the dubious distinction with Herbert Hoover of being the only president in American history to preside over an economy in which jobs have declined.
Bush needs a monthly average of 380,000 new jobs in July, August and September to claim, before the election, that more jobs have been created than lost during his first term. Right now, it doesn't look like he's going to get anywhere near those numbers. Not only was July the worst month for job growth since last December, according to the BLS, but June's jobs report had to be revised down from its original estimate.
Thus, over the last two months, job growth averaged 55,000 per month, way off the growth pace earlier this year, when monthly employment growth averaged 225,000. Moreover, the weak job market continues to place downward pressure on wage growth, which continues to lag behind inflation.
Meanwhile, Bush may brag that many of the jobs created over the past year have been "in high-growth, high-paying industries," but according to USA Today, "jobs in lower-wage industries and regions are growing at a faster pace than higher-wage jobs." As a result, the job growth that has occurred "is less potent for the economy because the majority of new work isn't accompanied by fat paychecks."
This assessment is shared by the mainstream of the economics community. As Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, was quoted today in the New York Times, "Since employment peaked, we've lost many more higher-paying jobs than lower-paying ones. In recovery, we've created more lower-paying jobs than higher-paying ones."
And with the federal budget on track to grow to a record-breaking $445 billion in fiscal year 2004 (last year the Administration projected the 2004 figure to be $307 billion), and the rolls of people without health insurance increasing by 3.7 million, Bush's economic record should be an easy target--and a winning electoral issue for John Kerry.
John Kerry and George W. Bush, the Democrat and Republican who will compete this November for the presidency, both attended similar New England preparatory schools, both graduated from Yale, and both received advanced degrees from prestigious east coast colleges. But, somewhere along the way, they developed dramatically different reading habits.
Where Bush says he does not read newspapers, Kerry says he cannot get enough of them. And that distinction, Kerry suggested when he sat down with this reporter for a rare extended interview on media issues this week, sums up a radically different vision of how a president should gather and process information they must use to make fundamental decisions about the direction of the nation and the world.
"I read four or five papers a day if I can," said Kerry, when asked about his newspaper reading habits. "It depends obviously on where I am and what I'm doing. I always pick up a local paper in the hotel I'm staying at, or two depending on what the city is. And I try to get the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, papers like that. I try to read as much as I can."
Despite scant notice from the media, a potentially historic bill was recently introduced in Congress by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and George Miller (D-CA). The "Play Fair at the Olympics Act" requires companies under contract with the US Olympic Committee to observe international labor rights standards, including freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively as well as the elimination of child labor and discrimination in the workplace.
This bill could be a major step forward for the Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign and in the global struggle against sweatshop labor. Ensuring that a world-wide event such as the Olympics promote internationally-recognized workplace standards strengthens the struggle to expand and enforce those rights around the globe. As Rep. Miller stated, "Our bill says that no matter where products with the US Olympic logo are made, the fundamental human rights of the workers making those products must be respected. Just as we expect fair play from our Olympic athletes, the Olympic gear our athletes use should be made under fair conditions."
To promote support for the bill (H.R. 4988), organizers from the AFL-CIO and Oxfam America are trying to get the US Olympic Committee on board. Its endorsement could really help push Congress to do the right thing for workers' rights.
Please click here to join Oxfam America's petition to the US Olympic Committee, asking for support for the bill, click here for contact info for your elected rep to write them yourself and click here to read and circulate more info on the International Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign.
Originally formed in 1950, the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) was designed as a "citizen's lobby" to alert the nation to what it saw as the grave menace of Soviet communism. The CPD advocated a "rollback" strategy--a huge military buildup for the purpose of rolling back Communist influence and attaining and maintaining US military supremacy in the world. Bush's preemptive war doctrine has its roots in this "rollback" agenda.
In 1976, the second incarnation of CPD came about when hawks (and hacks) from both parties argued that detente had lulled us into complacency. The group emerged from an organization called Team B, whose aim, according to muckraking columnist Robert Scheer,was to re-evaluate "the [CIA's] own assessment of the Soviet menace, which Team B found too moderate." To the hard-liners, Team B--which was authorized by President Ford and organized by CIA chief George Bush--was a wish fulfilled.
In the eyes of Team B, the CIA was a wobbly organization. (Sound familiar?) Agency experts, it argued, had severely misjudged the Soviets' nuclear capabilities. In 1982, the CPD darkly warned that the US had "become No. 2" to the Soviets in nuclear arms, and "if the United States remains No. 2--US survival would be in jeopardy."
The CPD's ranks were filled with neo-conservative hawks who later occupied high ranking positions in the Reagan Administration. Jeane Kirkpatrick, who served as Reagan's UN representative, was a prominent member of the committee. One typically outspoken member, William Van Cleave, insisted that nuclear war was winnable.
The CPD consistently hyped the Soviet threat and argued that what counted, above all, was Soviet intent, not capabilities. (Sound familiar?) Its key members were quick to engage in redbaiting--they even criticized Reagan for recognizing the authenticity of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. charged in Foreign Affairs magazine, the CPD had made "extravagant and now abundantly disproven claims that the Soviet Union was overtaking the United States in the arms race." In a recent New York Times editorial, the historian John Patrick Diggins pointed out, "Mr. Reagan was also informed [by Team B] that the Soviet Union was preparing for a possible pre-emptive attack on the United States." That position, said Diggins, was an "alarmist" one.(Sound familiar?)
In recent weeks, the CPD has mounted a third campaign. Reconstituted, the organization ran full-page advertisements last month in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal vowing to "raise a unified voice for a policy of national resolve in the War on Terrorism."
The latest CPD crowd is comprised of discredited hawks and hacks: Fellows from the American Enterprise Institute, and board members or fellows of several other rightwing or neocon think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the former Committee to Liberate Iraq and the National Institute for Public Policy. The majority of members, natch, are associated with policy statements by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose founding members in 1997 included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a good number of others associated with the discredited policies of the Bush Administration.
Indeed, it's fair to say that many of the current Committee members have a shameful record in foreign affairs. Take, for example, Henry Cooper, who directed the Pentagon's failed Strategic Defense Initiative in the Reagan years; Ken Adelman, who predicted that invading Iraq would be a "cakewalk" and Frank Gaffney, who in a February 2003 interview, predicted that after the invasion of Iraq was finished, Americans would witness:
"An outpouring of appreciation for [Iraqis] liberation that will make what we saw in Afghanistan recently pale by comparison. You'll see, moreover, evidence in the files and the bunkers that become available to our military--not only of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs and his future ambitions for their use perhaps and for aggression against his neighbors, but also I would be willing to bet evidence of his past complicity with acts of terror against the west which will further vindicate the course of action that this president is courageously embarked upon."
The Committee, in its third incarnation, has gotten off to a rough start. It's managing director, Peter Hannaford, a former Reagan aide, was forced to resign just a few days after the group's big bang relaunch when the New York Sun reported that his PR firm had once represented the interests of Austria's Freedom Party in Washington DC, while the Austrian neo-fascist, Joerg Haider, was the Freedom Party's leader. (Ironically, Haider paid a visit to Saddam Hussein in 2002 as a show of "solidarity" with the Iraqi dictator.)
Our world is defined by grays, but the CPD sees things in black and white: either you're with us, or out to betray us. The CPD is offering Americans a false foreign policy choice in a 9/11 world: appeasement, or escalation. As one leading member--former CIA director James Woolsey--falsely puts it, the battle against radical Islam is "World War IV."
The CPD honorary chair, Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ, Republican), subscribes to a faith-based foreign policy. (He also spearheaded President Bush's national missile defense program, which most experts believe doesn't work.) The other honorary chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, has now fully broken with his former running mate, Al Gore, and become an open and avid supporter of the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war.
The CPD, in the end, is eager to replay old battles in a new era. Islamic terrorism is an occasion for this gang to fight again, the more so as the very nebulousness of the enemy opens up the prospect of endless conflict. But the CPD's discredited leaders deserve to be exposed, shunned and refuted as charlatans. They are more than just a blast from the past, but also a danger to America's future, a chief reason why America is bogged down in Iraq with no exit strategy in sight. America is no longer respected in the world, and if the CPD's extremist ideology prevails here at home, America will remain an object of derision and a terrorist target for years to come.
In his last year in office, President Bill Clinton passed the so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a conservation initiative that protected 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land from commercial logging and road-building. The rule was enacted with widespread public support, generating 1.5 million positive comments from US citizens who praised the effort to protect the last remaining wild forest lands.
On July 12, the Bush Administration reversed its pledge not to dismantle these environmental protections, announcing a wholesale weakening of the rule that puts the fate of our national forests in the hands of state governments.Â
Since it took office, the Bush White House has been quietly undermining the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. But now the President's proposal will openly allow timber, oil, and mining interests to build roads in these last protected areas in order to facilitate logging.
As the Center for American Progress showed recently on its website, this Administration decision has sparked editorial outrage nationwide, suggesting widespread public opposition to this latest assault on the environment. The lead from the Kansas City Star's editorial of July 15 is a representative example: "In another payoff to campaign contributors, the Bush Administration has swept aside federal protections for the nation's forests. The result will be chopped-up forests in many parts of the country, particularly in the West where most untouched forests remain."
Or this from the Louisville Courier-Journal of the same day: "From the people who produced Iraq World--a $100 billion mess that has claimed thousands of lives in a war based on false premises and shoddy planning--now comes Timber World."
The Nation shares this outrage and has joined a coalition of groups--including the Sierra Club and 20/20 Vision--sponsoring a national letter-writing campaign to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Write Bosworth today to make it clear to the Bush Administration that Americans oppose the wholesale destruction of America's last wild forests.
Governor George Pataki's recent veto of the minimum wage bill passed by the New York State Senate was misguided and cruel. His decision sends a clear message: "New York State to working poor: Drop Dead." "The Governor likes to talk about opportunity and rewarding work," said Bertha Lewis, co-chair of the Working Families Party, which led the grassroots fight on the issue, "but with this veto he's shown that he doesn't believe in any of that."
The reasons given by the Pataki Administration for the veto are laughable and often factually wrong. (Go to the WFP website for the facts.) The real reason is politics. As WFP co-chair Dan Cantor points out, "Pataki is playing to the national Republicans and the local Conservatives." After all, "what better way to make yourself known as a tough-guy than to really stick it to low-wage workers. Plus he did it on a day Âwhen Kerry's speech, news of the Yankees' new stadium and the MTA fare hike announcement guaranteed it would get relatively little notice. A real profile in cowardice."
Supporters of the minimum wage--a broad coalition ranging from the Catholic Church to business groups to community activists and labor unions--have vowed to fight for an override. A two-thirds majority is needed in both the Senate and Assembly. The bill passed with votes to spare in both, but this will not be easy, especially in the Senate.
Here's the math. 51 senators voted "Yes" last week for the bill. Supporters of the bill need to hold 42 for an override. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who called the veto an "outrageous slap in the face of thousands of hardworking men and women in our state," says he will recommend that the Assembly override when legislators return to Albany on Monday. If there is resistance to an override, the WFP--along with its allies--plans to organize an all-out grassroots campaign to ensure that it happens.
It will take a little time to figure out what's really happening in Albany. But in the short term please send an email or letter TODAY to Majority Leader Bruno urging him to override the veto. Tell him his electoral future just may depend on it. His email: email@example.com. You can also mail or fax him at Sen. Joseph Bruno, 909 LOB, Albany NY 12247 or fax: 518-455-2448.