Saturday, February 26, 2005

Eric Alterman of The Nation has written a book about the four biggest presidential lies about matters of war and peace: Roosevelt misrepresenting the Yalta agreement to disguise the fact that it ceded Eastern Europe to the Soviets, Kennedy hiding the fact that he got the Russians to remove missiles from Cuba by agreeing to take our missiles out of Turkey, Johnson inventing the Gulf of Tonkien incident, and Reagan lying about the Iran-Contra connection. Bush's lies are just a coda in this book, but the review in American Prospect points out that Bush's lies are unique:
Two things distinguish Bush from his predecessors on the subject of lying. First, Bush’s grandest lies have not been about covering up what has already happened but about persuading the public to go along with what he has decided to do but has yet to implement. Tax cuts, Iraq, now Social Security -- each major policy move has been accompanied by a campaign of deception. Lying is not a defensive reaction to a crisis but a carefully crafted strategy. Second, and perhaps most troubling, is that Bush seems unconcerned about getting caught. Indeed, the administration’s damn-the-torpedoes fearlessness is the source of much of its political success. ... Go ahead, these officials seem to be saying, call us a bunch of liars -- we really don’t care.
One of the common threads running through [Alterman's book] is that in case after case, the press went along with whatever the administration told it. Watergate may have temporarily cured reporters of this credulousness, but the remission lasted only so long. When the history of the Bush administration is written, the abject cowardice of the press in confronting an administration that held it in undisguised contempt and lied in its face will be one of the most depressing chapters.

Also depressing is that, when revealed, other presidential lies have had consequences. Not so, it seems, with Bush:
As of yet, not only has neither Bush nor his party paid a price for the lies about Iraq but there is little reason to think they will anytime soon. In no small part, the administration is able to evade consequence for its mendacity because its supporters have adopted a siege mentality, hunkered behind the castle walls of their loyalty to the president. Presented with irrefutable evidence that the war in Iraq was sold on a series of deceptions, many of them simply stick their fingers in their ears and chant, “La la la, I can’t hear you.” . . .
One trembles to contemplate the lesson of the Bush administration’s deceptions: Admit nothing, even when caught; continue to lie, even after the lie has been exposed; define anyone who questions the lie as an enemy of the nation or, failing that, of “the troops.” If your partisans stand firm, ... you can get away with just about anything.

I think one of the reasons Bush hasn't paid for his lies is that Democrats haven't attacked. Sure Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman, and Barbara Boxer have. Howard Dean wasn't shy. But where were the rest of them? Where are they now?
Click here if you're interested in reading the article.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"I'm not a member of any organized political party; I'm a Democrat."
--Will Rogers, Jr.
The downside of being a progressive is that we're all such believers in individual rights that getting us organized is like herding cats. The Republicans, now, they've got that stick-to-the-party-line issue nailed down: you stray, you pay.
Here's the last installment from the Jan.24 issue of The New Republic on "What Democrats Can Learn from the Gingrich Revolution":
It's time for Democrats to adopt George Bush's motto: You're either with us or against us.
Of course, that will require intense party discipline. Here Democrats could learn something from the current House GOP leadership, which last week announced that it was ousting House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher Smith merely because he complained about proposed cuts in veterans spending. By contrast, at virtually the same time, Democrats announced that their new ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee would be Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson--one of the most Republican-friendly Democrats in the House. In 2003, Peterson cast a heretical vote for the GOP prescription-drug bill. He has often failed to pay his caucus dues and has even been the subject of recent party-switching rumors. Democratic leaders gave him the prized committee post anyway, claiming that he had promised to be a "team player" in the future. "Democrats are wimpy about holding each other accountable," grouses one House Democratic leadership aide. "There's always a lot of talk ... but there are no repercussions."
Finally, Democrats should reconsider their parliamentary options. While they enjoy nothing comparable to the filibuster power of senators, Democrats can bring the House to a temporary crawl for a day or so at a time via constant procedural votes. Some Democrats complain that party leaders don't pursue such nettlesome tactics for the simple reason that they're inconvenient. For instance, during the infamous 2003 Medicare vote, which House Republicans staged in the middle of the night, when few reporters were awake to see them browbeat holdout members, some Democrats proposed calling for delaying votes to extend the politically vital debate--which began past midnight on Friday--through the weekend, creating a newsworthy surprise for the media and forcing Republicans to twist arms by the light of day. "But everyone complained about plans, schedules, and plane tickets," says a Democratic staffer. Something similar had happened earlier that year, when Pelosi, responding to a series of particularly egregious GOP diktats, promised to inflict a "week from hell" upon the House. But apparently Pelosi's fellow Democrats weren't so enthusiastic about constant votes at odd hours, and the promised onslaught amounted to just a handful of delays. "The crass reality is that the members' own convenience trumps" such tactics, says the Democratic aide.

Another fly ball dropping at Edmonds's feet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What COULD Democrats be doing in the House? Just telling the truth--over and over. There's no need, like Gingrich, to rely on hyperbole and outright lies. Let me quote the New Republic, Jan. 24, p.20:
If turnabout is fair play, then Democrats should charge ahead on GOP ethics. The list of credible charges against leading Republicans is beginning to look like a Washington version of Tony Soprano's rap sheet. In addition to the Ethics Committee's three recent admonishments of DeLay, there's good reason to think GOP leaders tried to bribe Representative Ned Smith into voting for a Medicare bill in exchange for contributions to his son's House campaign. . . . Other galling episodes have already been forgotten--such as the way GOP Whip Roy Blunt was caught slipping an undebated pro-tobacco provision into a budget bill. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Blunt's son and his wife are both tobacco lobbyists.)
No doubt aware of their vulnerability, Republicans have made it more difficult for Democrats to initiate ethics investigations. A new rule passed last week requires an ethics committee majority to start one, which effectively lets Republicans block future Democratic complaints. "That, in and of itself, is the story," [Chris] Bell says. "The ethics process of the House is what the Democrats should be talking about."
It's true. As Gingrich showed, ethics fights have a critical media dimension. Yet it's a lesson that still seems lost on House Democrats. After three top fund-raisers linked to DeLay were indicted last fall for improper use of corporate campaign donations, for instance, you'd think Democrats would have sprinted for the microphones to fuel the story. But their reaction was curiously muted. A Post story the following day noted that "House Democratic leaders were reluctant to pile on DeLay publicly." Why? Because Democrats--as part of their endless cycle of retooling their message--were unveiling a new legislative agenda that day and hoped to focus press attention on it. Unsurprisingly, the media largely ignored the Democrats' bland manifesto and instead fixated on the DeLay story, yet with precious few quotations from Democrats. Gingrich, of course, would never have taken a day off from prosecuting his case against Wright. If Democrats want to keep Republicans on the defensive, they shouldn't either.
House Democrats have also shown a certain lack of imagintion to ginning up headline-grabbing outrages like the House bank scandal. One Democratic aide, for instance, suggests that his party pounce on the fact that the price tag for a new underground visitors' center at the Capitol has more than doubled to over half a billion dollars. ("No one's overseeing it," he cracks with mock outrage. "It's a veritable Taj Mahal.") Washington Representative Adam Smith concurred. What kind of issue do you think that would be if it was 1992?" Smith asked. "How much would Newt Gingrich be talking about it? How much would Rush Limbaugh be talking about it? We've got to grab those issues and jam them as much as possible." . . .
The same goes for pork-barrel spending. Despite the budget-deficit, Congress--a conservative Republican Congress, remember--set an all-time record last year by spending over $23 billion on pork projects, according to a study by the Heritage Foundation. . . . Yet Democrats rarely attack pork, no doubt because they themselves are implicated.

Imagine watching the Cards on t.v., and seeing Edmonds stand there with his hands at his sides while a fly ball drops in front of him. You'd yell at the t.v., for all the good that would do, right? That's how watching mealy-mouthed Dems feels to me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A recent political cartoon shows the face of a manic looking Dean on an alarm clock. The bells on top clang out the message, "WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! YOU SLEEPY HEADS!! GET UP! GET UP! GET OUTA BED!" A donkey is grumbling under the blanket.
I don't know how much Dean, as DNC chair, can influence congressional Democrats, but much of the base of our party is ready to see some scorched earth tactics in Congress. In the House, especially, Democrats should be more aggressive because, unlike their Senate counterparts, they don't have the tool of the filibuster. What's more, they're up against Tom DeLay and the nastiest tactics in the history of the House. Although the Republicans hold only a 53% majority in the House, they treat Democrats like the invisible man. Huge bills are written behind doors closed to the donkeys, then rammed through as soon as they come back from the printer.
I agree with a January 24 New Republic article that advises House members to take a cue from Newt Gingrich's playbook. Michael Crowley and Ryan Lizza maintain that minority parties can only exert pressure by drastic measures. In the eighties and early nineties, Gingrich waged a take-no-prisoners assault on Democrats that resulted in a GOP House majority in 1994. He fought a long-term, ungentlemanly guerilla campaign, starting with accusations that Speaker Jim Wright was unethical. Years of pounding that message in eventually paid off. Wright was forced to resign over a relatively minor ethical lapse. But Gingrich went after more than individuals; he went after the entire institution. He created confrontation--often out of nothing--because the media loves drama. By constantly playing to the media, he convinced the public that Congress was a toilet that needed to be flushed. With theatrical flair, he emoted about Congressmen who routinely overdrew their accounts at the House-managed bank. Some of those congressmen were Republicans, including even Gingrich himself, but he considered embarrassing his own side worth it if he could thoroughly humiliate Dems. By 1994, the public was so disillusioned about House ethics that they were ready to throw the bums out. Enough incumbents lost to give the GOP a majority.
Today, many of the older House Democrats refuse to lower themselves to Gingrich's crass level. They respect and honor the institution where they serve and wince at boorish behavior. Okay, but they wouldn't have to be as loutish as Newt. They just need to be a little less well-bred and stoke up the fire in their bellies. Think you could help them with that, Howard?
More tomorrow on aggressive resistance.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

I shook my head over this headline about McCain and Clinton: "U.S. senators are upbeat on Iraq despite attacks". Hillary seems to think she has a chance at the presidency in '08. I don't think we need Senator Pollyana in the Oval Office. Even The Associated Press, in quoting Clinton, couldn't resist some unwonted irony.
"The concerted effort to disrupt the elections was an abject failure. Not one polling place was shut down or overrun," Clinton told reporters inside the U.S.-protected Green Zone, a sprawling complex of sandbagged buildings surrounded by blast walls and tanks.
Perhaps the irony wasn't deliberate, but either way, the dark humor wasn't lost on me.
Just when the united Dem front against social security privatization suggests that our side might be stiffening its backbone, Mrs. Clinton decides to publicly pretend that civil war in Iraq is not necessarily imminent. It's difficult to say whether she and other likeminded Dems are wishful thinkers or just afraid of appearing unpatriotic. Supporting social security is obviously patriotic. Democratic congressmen can handle that. But with "Support Our Troops" magnets on every fourth car in the nation, criticizing our presence in Iraq is an iffier proposition. Every American has seen film of military funerals from past wars. A solemn drum cadence marks time as the flag draped over the coffin is folded and handed to the family. Such scenes are part of our national consciousness, so not "supporting the troops" is risky. Supporting them by suggesting that those deaths are wasted and that we ought to bring our soldiers home takes more guts than Mrs. Clinton has. Or maybe she actually believes Iraq isn't a disaster.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Two years ago, I was steamed--about what was obviously going to be a ruinous war in Iraq (well, ruinous except for its promise as a recruiting tool for al Qaida) and about tax cuts we couldn't afford, lavished on the rich. For the first time in my life, I paid keen attention in 2003 as the presidential primaries began warming up. In June, intrigued by a tape someone sent me on the internet of Howard Dean speaking to a small gathering of seniors in Iowa, I investigated his record as governor of Vermont. I was impressed. Among politicians, he is a diamond in a bucket of rhinestones.
Dean comes from old money, but he deepsixed his nascent career on Wall Street to become a doctor--not a society doctor, either, but just a general practitioner in Burlington. He did his residency there and volunteered at a low-income clinic despite the harrowing schedule every resident has. Soon after he went into practice, he began volunteering his time with the local Democratic Party and eventually won a seat in the state legislature. So his schedule was packed: he practiced medicine, worked in the legislature, continued to volunteer at the clinic, and spent time with his wife and two small children. He and Judith bought a modest ranch home where they still live. Eventually, he became governor and held the office for eleven years. He took Vermont from the red ink to black and kept it there. He wanted free health care for Vermonters, but only--only?!--succeeded in getting free health care for those under eighteen. And he still kept as tight a grip on Vermont's checkbook as I do on my own.
Given his gutsy opposition to the war and his record of fiscal responsibility, I decided he was my man, and I became an active supporter. We all know how his run for president ended amidst charges of "angry Howard" and that tempest in a teapot "scream". But Dean's demeanor wasn't angry. He just didn't mince words about being dragged into a war costly in lives, money, and international respect. He said it was cause for outrage, not peevishness. As he watched the nation sink further into debt by an additional $500 billion each year, he was concerned and, yes, angry. Annoyance wasn't going to cut it.
Dean didn't get the nomination, and Kerry didn't win the presidency. So how discouraged are we Deaniacs? We're more determined than ever. Howard Dean has urged all progressives to work to change the political landscape. We plan to do that. Now that he is chairman of the DNC, we have more faith that the Democratic Party will stand for the values we cherish. We have a leader who could have been one of the fat cats, but who chose, his whole life, to help ordinary citizens. That's what Democrats should stand for. Some pundits and elite Democrats worry that Dean will drag us too far from moderate and independent voters. I think he will show moderates and independents what commitment to fairness and equality looks like. Those same elites in our party worry that we'll lose the big corporate donations. Money that amounted to bribes might indeed dry up. We grassroots supporters will have to fill the coffers ourselves. That's all for the good. It will be our party again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Here's the final excerpt from the New York Times article about Andy Stern:
There are, however, painful questions inherent in globalizing the labor movement. At a recent meeting with his executive board, Stern mused out loud about the possibility of conducting a fact-finding mission to India, along with executives from one of the companies outsourcing its jobs there. Perhaps that could be a first step, he thought, toward raising the pay of Indian workers who have inherited American jobs.
Then Stern stopped himself and considered a problem. Sure, there was an obvious logic to unionizing foreign phone operators or machinists: American workers won't be able to compete fairly for jobs until companies have to pay higher wages in countries like China and India. But how would it look to workers in America? How would you avoid the appearance that you were more worried about the guy answering the phone in Bangalore than you were about the guy he replaced in Iowa? John Kerry and other Democrats had been railing against the C.E.O.'s who outsourced American jobs -- and here was Andy Stern, considering joining forces with those very same C.E.O.'s to make sure their Indian workers were making enough money.
''The truth is that as the living standard in China goes up, the living standard in Ohio goes down,'' Stern said. ''What do you do about that? Are we a global union or an American union? This is a hard question for me to answer. Because I'm not comfortable with the living standard here going down. This is a question I think we need to think about going forward, but I don't think that means we should be scared.''
The idea of a global union isn't entirely new. But the concept has never been translated into a formal alliance, and experts who study labor think Stern may be onto something important. I realized during our brief time in Birmingham why Stern seemed ambivalent about whether the A.F.L.-C.I.O. approved his reform plan, or whether his union even stayed in the federation. In a sense, no matter how the conversation is resolved, it is bound to lag a full generation behind the reality of the problem; it is as if the unions are arguing against upgrading from LP's to compact discs while the rest of the world has moved on to digital downloads. Even if the leaders of big labor do kill off half their unions and reorganize the rest, all they will have done, at long last, is create a truly national labor movement -- at exactly the moment that capital has become a more sprawling and more obstinate force than any one nation could hope to contain.

Click here to see the whole article.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Workers of the world, globalize? That's the question broached by the writer of the Times article on Andy Stern.
At first, this global vision sounded a little dreamy to me, as if Stern might have been watching too many ''Superfriends'' reruns. Then he invited me, just before Christmas, on a one-day trip to Birmingham, England. The occasion was a meeting of Britain's reform-minded transportation union. Tony Woodley, the union's general secretary, flashed a broad smile and threw his arm around Stern when Stern arrived, after flying all night, to give the keynote address. Two S.E.I.U. employees were already on hand; it turned out that Stern had dispatched them to London temporarily to help Woodley set up an organizing program.
As we drank coffee backstage, Stern and Woodley told me about the case of First Student, a company that in the last few years had become the largest, most aggressive private school-bus company in the United States. The company had become a target of S.E.I.U. locals in several cities because it wouldn't let its drivers unionize. ''We keep seeing these things about them in the union newsletter,'' Stern said. ''And it starts nibbling at your brain. I said: 'Who are these people, First Student? What's going on here?' And then we do a little research, and we find out what idiots we are. This is a major multinational company. They're 80 percent unionized in the United Kingdom. So we write a letter to the union here, and we say, 'Can you help us?' ''
Woodley sent British bus drivers to Chicago to meet with their American counterparts. Then the American bus drivers went to London, and lobbyists for the British union took them to see members of Parliament. They also held a joint demonstration outside the company's annual meeting. Woodley told me that First Student -- known as First Group in Britain -- was now making a bid for rail contracts there, and his union intended to lobby against it unless the company sat down with its American counterparts in Florida and Illinois.
I asked Woodley, who looks like Rudy Giuliani with more hair, why he would use his own union's political capital to help the S.E.I.U. He nodded quickly, in a way that suggested that there were a lot of people who didn't yet understand this. He explained that it worked both ways; his union was suffering at the hands of multinationals, too, and Stern would be able to return the favor by pressuring American companies doing business in Britain. Moreover, Woodley went on to say, if European companies get used to operating without unions in America, it might be only a matter of time before they tried to export that same mentality back to Europe. ''I don't expect miracles,'' Woodley said. ''I don't expect international solidarity to bring huge companies to their knees overnight. But we've got to do a damn sight more than we're doing.''

Click here to read the entire article.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Andy Stern, head of the SEIU,is creating controversy within the labor movement because his ideas are different from the old school and because he has threatened that if the AFL-CIO doesn't reform by merging its 58 unions into 20 larger unions, he will take his 1.8 SEIU members and leave the federation, effectively destroying it. The New York Times recently published a lengthy article about Stern, from which I'll be excerpting segments the next couple of days. I recommend reading the whole piece, but at least take a look at Stern's take on how to get corporate cooperation:
Having grown up around his father's small-business clients, and having spent much of his adult life at bargaining tables, Stern had learned a few things about the way business works. He came to embrace a philosophy that ran counter to the most basic assumptions of the besieged labor movement: the popular image of greedy corporations that want to treat their workers like slaves, Stern believed, was in most cases just wrong. The truth was that companies in the global age, under intense pressure to lower costs, were simply doing what they thought they had to do to survive, and if you wanted them to behave better, you had to make good behavior viable for them.
Stern's favorite example concerns the more than 10,000 janitors who clean the office buildings in the cities and suburbs of northern New Jersey. Five years ago, only a fraction of them were unionized, and they were making $10 less per hour than their counterparts across the river in Manhattan. Stern and his team say they were convinced from talking to employers in the fast-growing area that the employers didn't like the low wages and poor benefits much more than the union did. Cleaning companies complained that they had trouble retaining workers, and the workers they did keep were less productive. The problem was that for any one company to offer better wages would have been tantamount to an army unilaterally disarming in the middle of a war; cheaper competitors would immediately overrun its business.
The traditional way for a union to attack this problem would be to pick the most vulnerable employer in the market, pressure it to accept a union and then try to expand from there. Instead, Stern set out to organize the entire market at once, which he did by promising employers that the union contract wouldn't kick in unless more than half of them signed it. (Getting the first companies to enter into the agreement took some old-fashioned organizing tactics, including picket lines.) The S.E.I.U. ended up representing close to 70 percent of the janitors in the area, doubling their pay in many cases, from minimum wage to more than $11 an hour. Stern found that by bringing all of the main employers in an industry to the table at one time, rather than one after the other, he was able to effectively regulate an entire market.
Stern talks about giving ''added value'' to employers, some of whom have come to view him, warily, as a partner. At about the time Stern took over the union, his locals in several states were at war with Beverly Health and Rehabilitation Services, an Arkansas-based nursing-home chain. The company complained that cuts in state aid were making it all but impossible to pay workers more while operating their facilities at a profit. Stern and his team proposed an unusual alliance: if Beverly would allow its workers to organize, the S.E.I.U.'s members would use their political clout in state legislatures to deliver more money. It worked. ''I do believe Andy's a stand-up guy,'' says Beverly Health's C.O.O., Dave Devereaux.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Here's the rest of the list of big retail GOP contributors:
MEDIA
Clear Channel Communications $764,318 67%
Chartwell Partners 240,250 81%
Univision 223,450 71%
Salem Communications 214,067 100%
Phillips International 175,000 100%
Bresnan Communications 153,500 98%
Paisano Publications 145,613 100%
Hubbard Broadcasting 125,000 84%
Cinemark USA 121,916 97%
SBS Broadcasting 110,000 98%
Jones Media Networks 84,000 100%
Sinclair Broadcast Group 77,005 95%

CONSUMER PRODUCTS
General Electric 747,386 67%
Accenture 699,357 71%
3M 360,583 80%
Timken 356,709 97%
(Bearings & steel alloy products)
Proctor & Gamble 321,069 79%
Hallmark Cards 287,379 81%
Goodyear 275,000 89%
Dow 227,441 71%
Dupont 168,346 67%
Curves International 163,894 100%
(Fitness and weight loss centers)
Monsanto 160,825 76%
Scotts (Miracle Grow, etc) 137,835 99%
SC Johnson 138,850 87%
(Saran Wrap, Ziploc, Edge & Skintimate shave cream, Off, Raid, Glade, Drano, Shout, Scrubbing Bubbles, Pledge, Fantastik, Vanish Windex, Tempo)
Yancey Brothers 135,050 99%
(nation’s largest Caterpillar dealer)
Eastman Kodak 127,345 67%
Kohler 122,829 96%
(faucets & plumbing fixtures)
Turtle Wax car products 88,800 100%
PPG Industries 83,521 87%
(glass, fiberglass, paints, coatings, chemicals)

FOOD & BEVERAGE COMPANIES
Coca-cola $510,164 71%
Pepsico, Inc. 392,949 68%
Pilgrim’s Pride Poultry 303,826 97%
Dean Foods 276,500 69%
Cargill 232,682 87%
Coors 227,175 82%
Conagra 197,252 82%
General Mills 185,640 72%
Chiquita Brands 175,402 98%
Smithfield Foods 130,920 85%
Nestle 99,500 75%
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts 97,641 75%
Russell Stover Candies 96,800 100%

Friday, February 11, 2005

Thanks to Jeannette Ward for forwarding to me this list of GOP contributors. Since it's fairly lengthy, I'll print half today and the other half tomorrow.
Copied from The Hightower Lowdown (Newsletter), Vol. 7, No. 1, Jan 2005

This list includes “…only those corporations that put up at least $75,000 in the ’04 presidential and congressional elections, with at least two thirds of their money going to Republicans”. Lists of Computer/Telecommunications and Entertainment and Lodging have been omitted from Hightower’s original list.

Corporation & Products Total 2004 % to GOP
Contributions
RESTAURANTS
Outback Steakhouse $501,948 98%
McDonald’s 308,918 80%
Wendy’s 230,600 91%
Darden Restaurants 208,296 91%
(Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones)
Yumi Brands 155,907 83%
(Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s, A&W)
Brinker International 148,500 92%
(Chili’s, Corner Bakery Dafe, On the Border, Maggiano’s Macaroni Grill, Big Bowl Asian Kitchen, Rockfish Seafood Grill)
Pizza Hut Franchisees Assn 125,500 95%
Ilitch Holdings 117,900 79%
(Little Caesars, Johnny Rockets)
Wafflehouse 96,400 99%

SUPERMARKETS
Safeway $146,600 85%
Publix Supermarkets 129,250 97%
Schnuck’s Markets 113,120 100%
Albertsons 111,409 73%
Fresh Express 77,585 97%

RETAIL STORES
Wal-Mart $2,005,516 80%
Home Depot 716,270 94%
Target 314,588 73%
Sears 268,544 76%
Limited Brands 263,370 70%
(The Limited, Bath & Body Works, The White Barn Candle Co., Express, Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel)
Amway/Alticor 238,788 100%
Saks 119,700 95%
Circuit City 117,300 96%
J.C. Penny 105,065 81%
May Department Stores 103,750 89%
(Famous Barr, Filene’s, Foley’s, Hecht’s, Kaufman’s, Lord & Taylor, L.S.Ayres, Marshall Field’s, Meier & Frank, Robinson-May, Strawbridges, The Jones Store, David’s Bridal, After Hours Formal Wear, Priscilla of Boston)

TIMBER
International Paper $453,907 93%
Georgia-Pacific 366,174 73%
Weyerhaeuser 222,860 76%

Monday, February 07, 2005

Robert Reich's latest column in The American Prospect doesn't exactly promise that Bush's Social Security privatization program will bite the dust, but it offers lots of reason to hope so.
President Bush's agenda, as outlined in his State of the Union, is certainly ambitious. You may think that the president's success enacting it depends on how many votes he can round up in Congress. This is the standard way of viewing the political process, but it leaves out a constituency that may play the most important role. I'm talking about Wall Street bond traders.
Remember, the bond traders were the ones who forced Bill Clinton to scale back his ambitious plan for public investments in education and health care. They even turned Clinton into a deficit hawk. I saw it with my own eyes. The same bond traders may force George W. Bush to back down on his plans, too.

Like most people, my eyes glaze over if I'm presented with lots of financial technicalities, and Reich writes over the top of my head a few times, but even I understand that this privatization would be paid for by selling federal government bonds.
All the borrowing will create a deluge of new Treasury securities on the market. This will put extra pressure on interest rates because there's only a limited amount of savings out there to be borrowed -- and it'll push bond prices down.
The White House is telling bond traders not to worry because the extra borrowing will be paid back in 30 to 60 years when Social Security benefits are cut. But that may not convince the bond traders. After all, the extra debt will be added very soon, and it must be repaid. On the other hand, the promise to cut benefits three decades from now is just a promise. Who knows whether it will be kept? Thirty years from now, the politicians who have to impose those painful cuts might just back down.
So watch carefully, folks. If and when bond traders believe the president's plan is likely to pass, the value of Treasury bonds could plunge and interest rates will skyrocket. Mark my words: Even a hint of panic in the bond markets will be enough to kill the president's agenda for good.

The column is short. You can click here if you'd like to read it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

It is not hope that gets people engaged in struggle. It is being engaged in struggle that gives people hope.
Cornel West and Roberto Unger

Friday, February 04, 2005

Here's something a couple of days late but still fun:
Today is Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address. As Air
America Radio pointed out, it is an ironic juxtaposition: "one involves
a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little
intelligence for prognostication and the other involves a groundhog."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

From The Progressive's on-line edition:
Dean from the Ashes

Howard Dean is back.
It looks like it's a done deal that Dean will become the new head of the Democratic National Committee.
Republican operatives are crowing, and the mainstream pundits are cluck-clucking.
They all think Dean's a disaster for the Dems.
But not me.
I think Howard Dean is exactly what the Democrats need.
He's a fighter, first and foremost. He won't sit back and take the punches that Bush and Karl Rove and Tom DeLay are throwing.
He'll give as good as he gets.
Secondly, he'll sharpen the distinction between the two parties. His outspokenness on the Iraq War, at least initially, was tremendously welcome, as his current opposition to Alberto Gonzales.
Plus, Dean believes in the grassroots. He and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, pioneered the Internet-style fundraising that finally allows the Democratic Party to wean itself off the titties of the big donors.
And finally, Dean has demonstrated his ability to excite the base and bring a new generation of activists into the party.
The last thing the Democrats need right now is a gray DLC technician who will whore after the deep pockets.
The Democrats had that with Terry McAuliffe. And look where it got them.
-- Matthew Rothschild

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

An Australian writing for the Sydney Morning Herald is eloquent and biting in his criticism of Bush and the current doings in D.C. Would that a major newspaper in the States had the freedom to print this.
The Empire of Vulgarity
by Mike Carlton
George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804. The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal. Difficult to know what was more repellent: the estimated $US40 million cost of this jamboree (most of it stumped up by Republican fat-cats buying future presidential favours), or the sheer crassness of its excess when American boys are dying in the quagmire of Bush's very own Iraq war. Other wartime presidents sought restraint. Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865 - "with malice toward none, with charity for all" - is the shortest ever. And he had pretty much won the Civil War by that time. In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened his fourth-term speech with the "wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief". He spoke for a couple of eloquent minutes, then went off to a light lunch, his wartime victory almost complete as well. But restraint is not a Dubya word. Learning nothing, the dumbest and nastiest president since the scandalous Warren Harding died in 1923, Bush is now intent on expanding the Iraq war to neighbouring Iran. Condoleezza Rice did admit to the US Senate this week that there had been some "not so good" decisions. But the more I see of her gleaming teeth and her fibreglass helmet of hair and her perky confidence, the more I am convinced that back in the '60s she used to be Cindy Birdsong, up there beside Diana Ross as one of the Supremes of Motown fame. I don't think it's a good idea to let her make a comeback as Secretary of State. The war in Iran is under way already, if we believe Seymour Hersh, the distinguished investigative writer for The New Yorker magazine. Hersh reported this week that clandestine US special forces have been on the ground there, targeting nuclear facilities to be bombed whenever Bush feels the time is ripe. "The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear," he wrote, quoting reliable intelligence sources. "But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership." Naturally, Pentagon flacks rushed out to deny all. But then they did that when Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, and again when he revealed the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A tussle for the truth between Hersh and the Pentagon is no contest. What terrifies me most is the people planning this new war. The CIA professionals have been frozeout: too weak and wimpy for the Bushies. The Defence Secretary, the incompetent Donald Rumsfeld, has seized control, aided by two Pentagon under-secretaries. One is Douglas Feith, a mad-eyed Zionist largely responsible for the post-invasion collapse of order in Iraq, a civilian bureaucrat memorably described by the former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks, as "the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the Earth". The other is army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, whose name also rings a bell. Jerry is a born-again Christian evangelical, a three-star bigot who, in his spare time, stumps the country in full uniform, preaching that America's enemy is Satan, Allah is a false idol, and that George Bush has been ordained by the Lord to rout evil. "He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this," Jerry told a prayer meetin' in Oregon just a while back. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Shop in the Name of Love! For Valentine's Day, don't buy red just because of all those red hearts everywhere - buy blue goodies:

Buyblue link for V Day

LOOKS LIKE DEAN WILL GET THE DNC CHAIR!
The Hill, a newspaper devoted to covering Capitol Hill, reports that the race is "all but over." The particulars of how the infighting is carried on--as reported in the article--confused me at times, but the gist is clear: the power elite want anybody-but-Dean. The ordinary DNC members want Dean, and he is likely to win a clear majority on the first ballot.

LATEST NEWS
Dean looks like a sure thing
By Hans Nichols
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean yesterday took a major step toward securing the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee by grabbing the endorsement of powerful state Democratic leaders.
After the Association of State Democratic Chairmen (ASDC) formally backed Dean, several operatives for rival campaigns said that the former governor’s dominant showing among the key DNC constituency could mean that the race, to be decided on Feb. 12, is all but over.

Click here to read the article. The front page has other articles that might pique your interest.