Friday, October 08, 2004

Anemic job growth

The new job numbers are out just in time for the second presidential debate tonight and boy are they lousy.
Economists were predicting 150,000 net jobs, which is a poor figure to begin with, but the actual number came in 50,000 short of that. Wall Street reacted to the news by taking a dive.

"I wouldn't want to be in President Bush's shoes," Ken Mayland of ClearView Economics told the Associated Press. "He had better prepare himself for an onslaught . . . The reality is that a 96,000 increase in a work force of a 131 million base is an anemic rise, and is in no way a satisfactory increase."

The Bush administration was naturally full of excuses - hurricanes, high oil prices, etc. - and of course lots of Orwellian doublespeak which has been a regular feature of this administration. Here is Labor Secretary Elaine Chao spinning the new figures: “(They) show the strength and resilience of our economy and that the labor market continues to improve,” she said.

Four years into his administration and we are nearly a million jobs short of where we started which is unprecedented since the time of Herbert Hoover. But look for Bush tonight to tout all these low-paying service jobs that have been ladled out over the past year in place of high-paying manufacturing jobs as evidence that his tax cuts are working.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Newspaper endorsements

From Editor & Publisher here is a running total of presidential newspaper endorsements including circulation figures:

Detroit Free Press (G): 354,581
The Seattle Times (B): 237,303
The Philadelphia Daily News: 139,983
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) (G): 109,592
The Day (London, Conn.) (B): 39,553

Total Daily Circ: 881,012

Las Vegas Review-Journal (B): 170,061
Mobile (Ala.) Register (B): 100,244
The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain: 52,208
Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News (B): 51,105
The Sun (Lowell, Mass.) (B): 50,369
The Courier (Findlay, Ohio) (B): 22,319

Total Daily Circ: 446,306

Update: Bush picked up two more papers today giving him 6 endorsements to Kerry's 5, but he still lags in circulation totals. E& P is also noting how the papers endorsed in 2000 with a (B) for Bush and (G) for Gore, so the big news here is the switch by the Seattle Times.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bush just can't catch a break

Everyday the news gets worse and worse for President Bush.

Take today, for example. First we have news that the U.S. chief weapon’s inspector in Iraq (the one who took over for David Kay, who took over for Hans Blix and the U.N. group) is issuing his final report that not only says there were no stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq when we invaded, but “Saddam Hussein did not vigorously pursue a program to develop weapons of mass destruction after international inspectors left Baghdad in 1998.” No WMDs and no WMD programs. As the
The Associated Press points out, this seriously undercuts the Bush administration’s latest rationale for invading Iraq.

Then we have news that Iran has produced "a few tons" of the gas needed to enrich uranium, confirming that the country has defied international demands and taken a necessary step toward producing nuclear fuel - or nuclear weapons.

Talk about Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time!

Then there was this lovely economic news just a few days ago as a precursor to the job figures that will be released on Friday.

The number of job cuts planned by U.S. employers jumped in September to the highest level in eight months while hiring announcements fell sharply, a job search firm said Tuesday.

Combine this news with this Open Letter to President that was just released by a group of 163 college business and economics professors taking Bush to task for his failed economic policies.

As professors of economics and business, we are concerned that U.S. economic policy has taken a dangerous turn under your stewardship.  Nearly every major economic indicator has deteriorated since you took office in January 2001.  Real GDP growth during your term is the lowest of any presidential term in recent memory.  Total non-farm employment has contracted and the unemployment rate has increased.  Bankruptcies are up sharply, as is our dependence on foreign capital to finance an exploding current account deficit.  All three major stock indexes are lower now than at the time of your inauguration.  The percentage of Americans in poverty has increased, real median income has declined, and income inequality has grown. 

The rest of the letter doesn’t get much more encouraging but go and read the whole thing. It is very informative.

So the only surprising thing at this point in the election is that Bush is not 20 points down in the polls. I chalk this up to the massive amount of corporate money they have amassed and spent during the campaign, the tidal wave of right-wing distortions flowing through our so-called-liberal-media, and the vicious and unfounded attacks on John Kerry by groups such as the Swift Boat Liars for Bush.

But lies and distortions can only do so much to obscure reality and unfortunately for President Bush he just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to the truth of what is really going on.

Checking up on Cheney

From last night's VP debate:

CHENEY: Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false. They know that if you go, for example, to, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton.

I hope that everyone will do as Vice President Cheney requested and check out Go ahead.

Oops. I think he meant, Oh, well.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cheney: Hussein not worth additional U.S. casualties

Here's Dick Cheney’s whopping double backward flip-flop with a triple twist on the Iraq War.

This is what Dick Cheney had to say about the prospects of invading Iraq and overthrowing Hussein in a speech in August 1992. (via Tapped)

"I would guess if we had gone into Iraq I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.

And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq..."

Now the thing to remember here is that immediately before the Gulf War is when Hussein was at his peak of power. His military might was drastically cut by the war and the sanctions that followed. Also, most of the atrocities that are associated with Hussein took place during this period as well. The use of “weapons of mass destruction” against his own people. The mass graves. All of this took place before and immediately after the Gulf War.
So the case for overthrowing Hussein was never stronger than it was then, but Cheney was opposed because it wasn’t worth the additional U.S. casualties.

So what changed? Republicans will tell you it was 9/11. But Hussein had nothing to do with it and Al Qaeda was not active in Iraq before the war. So what could have possibly led Cheney to do such an incredible flip-flop if not political expediency?

I hope John Edwards uses this in the debate!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Mushroom clouds and aluminum tubes

"I knew that there was a dispute," she said. "I actually didn't really know the nature of the dispute."

That is how Condoleezza Rice sums up the process by which she determined that Iraq was using aluminum tubes it was acquiring to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. So Rice, Bush’s National Security Advisor, knew there was a dispute among intelligence officials on the matter, but didn’t bother to find out what it was all about.

Instead, Rice went on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002 and warned that we had to invade Iraq or risk a nuclear holocaust:

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But now, as this exhaustive New York Times story details, it was clear long before the start of the Iraq war that those aluminum tubes were intended for use for small artillery rockets, not nuclear centrifuges.

The dispute that Rice refers to involved one junior-level CIA analyst on one side, and all the government’s foremost nuclear experts on the other side.
And yet, the Bush administration championed the shaky and ultimately incorrect analysis of the one junior CIA analyst over all the other expert opinions because it fit neatly with their predetermined conclusions. The case against the tubes for nukes theory was devastating long before the Bush administration latched onto it to lead our country to war. Just read the NYTimes story. The only question that remains is whether the Bush officials were grossly ignorant or grossly deceptive.

As I have noted here before, the Bush administration’s blind adherence to ideology over science is one of the chief reasons why it is imperative that they not be granted four more years to mislead this nation down the wrong path.

Two can play at that game

I was both flummoxed and appalled when I saw this ridiculous story circulating on the Internet via the Drudge Report.
It just shows how desperate the right-wing is to excuse Bush’s pathetic debate performance that they would show pictures of Kerry taking a pen out of his pocket and claim he is getting a “cheat sheet.” I’m sorry, but Kerry is not the one who needs a cheat sheet in these debates.

Now today, I see the liberal bloggers are striking back raising questions
about whether or not Bush was using an earpiece to have his answers fed to him during the debate. Their suspicion centers on a point in the debate where Bush suddenly barked out “Let me finish” when no one was interrupting him.
Digby notes that such a statement is an intimidation tactic that Bush commonly uses to restrain the press. I had noticed it in the interview I did with Bush in 1994 so it is obviously nothing new. But it was strange to hear him say it in the middle of the debate when he still had plenty of time left and no one was trying to cut him off.

Now I think the earpiece thing is kind of a stretch, although I wouldn’t put anything past Karl Rove. But you have to think that if he actually did have help during the debate, it wasn’t very good. Did the person feeding Bush his lines stammer and stutter and repeat themselves as much as Bush did?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Unchallenged assertions

Bush has been back on the campaign trail after getting his clock cleaned in the first round of debates. A new Newsweek poll – the first post-debate poll released – now has Kerry up 49 to 46 after having Bush ahead by 13 points after the Republican convention.

Republican talk radio yakkers have their new marching orders now and are claiming that Bush actually won on substance if not on style, which is simply ridiculous. One local Rush Limbaugh clone was on the other day saying that Bush sounded so much better the day after on the campaign stump than he did during the debates. Well, of course he does. That’s because he doesn’t have someone standing next to him who will counter and knock down each of his flimsy, unsupported arguments. That’s why Rush Limbaugh can sound so authoritative. Because he never has to answer to anyone for his lies and distortions and he never has to defend his statements. If you had Rush Limbaugh on at the same time with Al Franken you would see a much more reserved and deflated blowhard because he couldn’t get away with spouting off so many unchallenged assertions.

A good example is this canard about Kerry voting against funding for the troops. The Bush campaign repeats this charge over and over simply because Kerry voted against the fiscally-irresponsible Republican-version of the funding bill. What they neglect to say is that there was a Democratic version that would have paid for the war by temporarily removing Bush’s tax cuts for those making more than $400,000 per year. This measure failed after Bush threatened to veto it. So you could make the exact same charge against Bush that they are making against Kerry. He threatened to veto funding for our troops after sending them into harms way!

Seriously, what would have happened if Kerry’s no vote on the Republican-backed funding bill had prevailed? Would it have meant that our troops would have gotten no funding? Of course not! The issue was never about whether to fund the troops or even about how much to send. It was about how to pay for it. The Republican plan simply charges the whole thing on the government credit card so that our children and grandchildren will end up paying for it rather than us.

Another example was in a speech today in Columbus, Ohio, where Bush was talking about his plans to privatize Social Security. Bush said "(Kerry)'s decided to put his faith in the wisdom of the government. I will always put my faith in the wisdom of the American people."

Well, that certainly sounds good. Too bad it is complete nonsense. Last I checked, we were still a government of the people, by the people and for the people. What Bush is really saying is that he puts his faith into private corporations which don’t want to be accountable to the government or the American people.

Taking Social Security out of the control of government and handing it over to private entities is essentially taking the control away from the American people. It is a monumentally stupid idea, especially in light of all of the recent corporate scandals and bankruptcies.
Bush should not be allowed to pretend that he is some kind of down home populist while pushing an agenda that is so diametrically opposed to those same ideals.