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.
Does George W. Bush believe it's okay for rich people to avoid paying for taxes? Or does he think that it's just one of those inevitable facts of life that cannot be changed? At one of his "Ask President Bush" events--the faux townhall meetings his campaign arranges--Bush on Monday was talking about tax policy with a businesswoman who had been planted at the event. In fact, he asked her more questions than she asked him. During his exchange with her, he said,
"That's why you've got to be careful about this rhetoric, we're only going to tax the rich. You know who the--the rich in America happen to be the small business owners. That's what that means. Just remember, when you're talking about, oh, we're just going to run up the taxes on a certain number of people -- first of all, real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes. [Laughter.] And the small business owners end up paying a lot of the burden of this taxation."
That sounds like Bush was saying that since real rich people know how to duck the tax man, the government shouldn't bother trying to tax them. Now, how is it that Bush knows so much about these tax-dodgers? And if it is true that across the land rich folks are gaming the system, then why doesn't Bush want to change the tax code so that these citizens do not escape the IRS's net and small business owners obtain specific relief (if they need it)? Bush is arguing that since wealthy individuals know how to avoid paying their full share the government shouldn't even bother having higher rates for millionaires because those rates only end up applying to small business owners. But waitaminute: don't small business owners have accountants as good as those retained by well-heeled individual filers? More importantly, why does Bush think it's funny that "real rich people"--who have benefited the most from his tax cuts--dodge taxes? And if he thinks these taxpayers (or nonpayers) are able to escape the burdens of the higher tax rates, why did he give them massive tax breaks?
Oh, lighten up, I hear Bushbackers saying, it was just a joke. Yeah, leave it to this president to yuk it up about tax avoidance schemes. I suppose if he can laugh about those missing WMDs in Iraq, he can laugh about the rich getting richer at the expense of honest taxpayers. Talk about locker room humor--that is, the locker room at a country club.
After you read this article, check out David Corn's NEW WEBLOG by going to www.davidcorn.com. And see Corn's latest entry on how Rep. Porter Goss, Bush's pick to be CIA chief, went easy on the CIA regarding its big screw-up on Iraq's WMDs.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."
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."
Those patterns are similar to most former presidents. Dwight Eisenhower read nine papers daily, Ronald Reagan was such an avid consumer of newspapers that his ex-wife Jane Wyman complained about his print media obsessions, and Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were known to go through stacks of papers each day. But Kerry's penchant for the papers clearly distinguishes him from the current President Bush.
When asked last fall by Fox News anchor Brit Hume how he gets his news, Bush said he asks an aide, "What's in the newspapers worth worrying about?" The president added that, "I glance at the headlines just to kind of (get) a flavor of what's moving. I rarely the stories..."
Instead of gathering information himself, Bush said he prefers to "get briefed by people who probably read the news themselves" and "people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
Kerry shook his head in disagreement as Bush's comments were recounted to him.
"I can't imagine being president and not reading as much as I can about what people are saying," explained Kerry. "I don't want (information) varnished by staff. I don't want it filtered by staff. I want it the way it is. And I think you get a much better sense of what's going in the country (when you gather information yourself). I think one of the reasons we have some problems today is that we have an administration that's out of touch with the problems of average people. They don't know how people are struggling. They don't know what's happening with health care, employment. They don't know, or they don't care, that's their choice."
As a constant consumer of news, Kerry says he spends a good deal of time thinking about the role of media in a democratic society. And he gets frustrated when television networks fail to live up to the responsibility that should go with a license to use the people's airwaves.
When it was mentioned that many Americans had expressed disappointment with the decision of the nation's broadcast television networks to air only three hours of Democratic convention coverage, Kerry said, "I share the disappointment. We're a democracy, and the strength of our democracy is in the ability of citizens to be informed. If the major media are unwilling to inform -- and simply because there is not a clash or a conflict or something doesn't mean (a convention) is not informative -- I personally think it's a derogation of their responsibility (that goes with using) the broadcast airwaves."
In particular, Kerry said he was upset that the nation's commercial broadcast networks -- including ABC, CBS and NBC -- decided not to air any coverage on the second night of the convention in Boston. That was the night when Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama delivered a much-praised keynote address, Ron Reagan broke ranks with the Republican Party to criticize President Bush's limits on stem-cell research, and Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke about her husband.
"My wife gave a wonderful speech, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, it was a brilliant night," said Kerry. "I think it's very disappointing that the American people, at least the people who watch the networks, missed it. I talked to several of the anchors beforehand but, you know, that's the way they decided. Obviously, I disagreed."
Asked if he thought the decision of the networks to downplay the coverage of the convention sent a signal that told Americans not to take what happened in Boston seriously, Kerry said, "I don't know if its that message or not. I think most Americans are smart enough to understand (that it does matter)."
But Teresa Heinz Kerry, who was seated next to her husband, interrupted him and said, "That is the message, I think. I agree that it hurts."
Concerns about consolidated media, particularly consolidated media that does not see itself as having a responsibility to cover politics seriously and to question those in positions of authority, have been highlighted in recent documentaries such as Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed," a critique of the conservative bias of Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News programs, and Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9-11." Kerry has not yet seen "Fahrenheit 9-11," but he described its success as "remarkable." And he made it clear that he shares the view of those who believe that media consolidation is a significant issue in contemporary America.
If Kerry is elected president, he will be in a position to influence the media landscape. Encouraged by President Bush and lobbyists for the major networks, a Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission sought last year to ease limits on media consolidation at the local and national levels. Kerry, who notes that he voted in the Senate to maintain the controls against consolidation, says he would set a different course by appointing FCC commissioners who are more sympathetic to diversity of ownership, competition and local control. Several days after he sat down for the interview that is recounted here, Kerry amplified the point when he promised a gathering of minority journalists that, "I will appoint people to the FCC, and I will pursue a policy, that tries to have as diverse and broad an ownership as possible."
Distinguishing himself from President Bush, Kerry says, "I'm against the ongoing push for media consolidation. It's contrary to the stronger interests of the country." Diversity of media ownership and content, the candidate explains, "is critical to who we are as a free people. It's critical to our democracy."
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.
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 when 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail or fax him at Sen. Joseph Bruno, 909 LOB, Albany NY 12247 or fax: 518-455-2448.
I sometimes fantasize about being reincarnated as a swing voter in Ohio. After all, the entire convention was designed to seduce about 11 voters in that great state. In Boston, pundits, DNC types and others all seemed to gauge the effectiveness of the day's events through the prism of what someone in a battleground state might have thought. At one of the endless chat 'n'chews on Wednesday, a key member of the DNC Finance Committee told me that after Barack Obama's "a star is born" speech, she had called all her relatives who live in battleground states to get their take on how it had played. She was relieved (and ecstatic) to report that they had loved it.
She didn't need to call relatives after Kerry's speech. Thursday night, MSNBC turned to a small group of Ohio swing voters for their reactions. GOP pollster Frank Luntz--who dons a bipartisan hat as a MSNBC consultant--had equipped these swingers with meters to gauge their views on the speeches' key riffs. Seems that Michael Moore and the swing voters of Ohio may be linked at the hip when it comes to their view of the Saudi royal family. Luntz sheepishly reported that Kerry's attack on Bush's energy policy ("I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation--not the Saudi royal family.") was the group's fave passage of the night. It was "just off the charts" on the vote-o-meter.
Buchanan Voting for Kerry?
Pat Buchanan is by no means your on-the-reservation Republican, but it was striking to hear him say Thursday night on MSNBC's After Hours: "If I did not know this man or his past record, and heard only this speech tonight, I could easily vote for him." Buchanan went on to alert viewers that veterans were being organized to challenge Kerry's version of his war record. "Look forward to the Guns of August."
The Thrust of Kerry's Speech
I liked much of Kerry's speech--what he said about energy independence and healthcare as a right and using money now going to prisons to fund Head Start and Early Start. But I was turned off by his opening line: "My name is John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." As he saluted, I thought of how our politics and policies are already too militarized. I can hear people telling me--come on, lighten up; after all. it's just a convention speech. But in the quest to take back defense and national security, could Dems lose their way? Is militarism the centerpiece of the Democrats' vision for the future? As Tikkun editor Michael Lerner wrote in an astute Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal: "If militarism and toughness are all that either party can offer the country as a vision for the future....many voters may simply not be inspired to vote at all."
With Boston in the books, progressives can now get ready for some serious protesting when the GOP hits the unlikely shores of New York City for its convention, beginning on August 30. There are scores of demonstrations, marches, protests, vigils, concerts, panels, presentations and parties planned in opposition to George Bush's visit and his Administration's reactionary extremism. (Probably the largest single march will take place on August 29.)
Watch this space in the coming days for info on what's planned and click here to check out CounterConvention.Org, a new website designed to facilitate and highlight organizing against this year's Republican National Convention.