If, as the old saying goes, it's a recession when your neighbor loses their job but it's a depression when you lose yours, Nathan Newman at nathannewman.org notes that a lot of people have been depressed by the Bush administration, as they have been losing jobs at a rate matched only by the early Reagan years. In the first three years of the Bush presidency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, 8.7% of all adult jobholders, or 11.4 million men and women age 20 or older, lost their jobs. That's nearly equal to the 9% who lost their jobs in the first three years of Reagan. And while many of those who lost their jobs eventually found a new one, 56.9% of those end up earning less in their new jobs. And those getting laid off were not just the usual churn of young or poor folks cycling from job to job. The report found 5.3 million, or 6.3% of everyone who held a job for three years or more, lost their jobs during Bush's tenure -- a percentage higher than the rate for long-term employees during Reagan's first three years.
BLS also reported Aug. 6 that the economy added a paltry 32,000 jobs in July, the smallest gain since December 2003 and well below the 200,000-plus that economists had been expecting. Hiring also was weaker in May and June than previously thought, as the department sliced 61,000 jobs off earlier totals. With the new figures the economy has added an average of 106,000 jobs a month since May, far below the 150,000 new jobs needed each month to keep up with population growth. The Economic Policy Institute noted that the tax cut package that took effect in July 2003 and was projected by the White House to generate 3,978,000 new jobs so far has produced 2,565,000 fewer jobs than promised. Since the Bush recession started in March 2001, 1.2 million jobs have disappeared and Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to show a net loss of jobs during his term.
SEPTEMBER IS SCARE MONTH. The Republican National Convention will be the springboard into an entire month of terrorism scares as the Department of Homeland Security plans to make September "National Preparedness Month." Thismodernworld.com Aug. 8 broke the news that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge plans to announce "National Preparedness Month" on Sept. 9, to coincide with the third anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks (and coincide with Republican convention themes). Ridge chose the Sunday after the Democratic convention to grab headlines with announcement of old al Qaeda threats against banks.
WHITE HOUSE BURNS AL QAEDA SPY. Last year White House officials seeking to retaliate against whistle-blower Joseph Wilson revealed to reporters that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover agent for the CIA. A US attorney is probing that illegal disclosure, which ruined Plame's work in tracking weapons of mass destruction and put her foreign contacts at risk, but that controversy didn't stop the Bush administration from outing a Pakistani double agent who was giving valuable information about al Qaeda terrorists. When Tom Ridge announced that al Qaeda was believed to be targeting financial institutions, a White House official in a briefing to reporters on Aug. 1 revealed that the information came from a recently-arrested man in Pakistan named Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. It turned out that Khan, a 25-year-old computer engineer, had been secretly arrested by Pakistani military intelligence on July 13 and agreed to act as a double agent to help investigators penetrate al Qaeda activities via computer. He was still cooperating when the White House disclosed his identity. "In other words, the Bush administration just blew the cover of one of the most important assets inside al Qaeda that the US has ever had," Middle East expert Juan Cole wrote Aug. 7 at juancole.com. British authorities were forced to arrest 13 members of an al Qaeda cell prematurely, before they had finished gathering the necessary evidence against them via Khan. Another five suspects disappeared when they they heard Khan was in custody.
MORE NIXON PERFIDY. Richard Nixon, whose allies derailed a possible Vietnam peace deal in 1968 to enhance his election chances, also delayed withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam past the 1972 election because he and Henry Kissinger feared it would undercut his re-election, newly released tapes show. In an Aug. 3, 1972, White House conversation with Kissinger, the Associated Press reported Aug. 7, Nixon expressed worry about how his administration would be viewed if South Vietnam fell. "We also have to realize, Henry, that winning an election is terribly important," he said. Kissinger, who in 1971 had argued that the withdrawal would cause political problems, advised Nixon that they could avoid being seen as failures as long as South Vietnam held on for a few years. After beating George McGovern, Nixon agreed in January 1973 to bring the troops home. Saigon fell two years later. See transcripts: www.millercenter.virginia.edu/programs/prp/nixon.
OBAMA GETS AN OPPONENT. Native Marylander Alan Keyes did a somersault into the US Senate race in Illinois after the GOP was unable to find a Republican in the Land of Lincoln to challenge state Sen. Barack Obama. In 2000 Keyes said he would never run outside his own state: "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it." Mike Murphy wrote Aug. 9 in the right-wing *Weekly Standard* that hiring Alan Keyes for the race "is likely to set the already tattered Illinois Republican party back at least another five years. Keyes will be the perfect foil for Obama to campaign against, and the selection of Keyes will seem exactly the shoddy and cynical move that it is." The Republicans should know better." But Josh Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com welcomed Keyes' entry into the race. "In an era of political drama often tilting toward tragedy, comedy isn't always an easy thing to summon from the news. But I'm confident that Keyes will be helping to rectify that problem."
CARMAKERS WANT NATIONAL HEALTH CARE. US carmakers are wondering if the time is right for a national health care plan, Jeffrey McCracken reported Aug. 6 in the *Detroit Free Press*. GM, Ford and the Chrysler Group estimate they spent $9.9 billion in 2003 to provide health care to nearly 2 million workers, retirees and dependents. Overall, the health bills Detroit's three automakers pay are rising from 8% to 12% a year. Carmakers spend more on health care than they do on steel, at GM on average about $1,400 per vehicle vs. $650-$700 for steel per vehicle. Foreign carmakers don't have to pay directly for their national health care, putting US companies at a competitive disadvantage. Larry Denton, CEO of Dura Automotive Systems Inc., said US manufacturers pay 30% more than foreign competitors. "All of us in the industry have a mutual interest in getting this taken care of," said Jim Padilla, chief operating officer at Ford Motor Co. "It's getting to the point where it's unaffordable for all of us to provide health care."
BETRAYAL IN LOUISIANA. Republicans got a real prize when Rep. Rodney Alexander, D-La., who had been assuring Democrats since March that he would stay with the party while he raised funds from Dem partisans, filed for re-election as a Democrat on Aug. 4, then switched his party affiliation a half-hour before the Friday, Aug. 6, filing deadline. His entire D.C. staff quit the following Monday and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee demanded that Alexander return money raised from the Democrats, including $70,000 given by Democratic members of Congress. On Aug. 11, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee weblog, a constituent filed suit to remove Alexander's name from the ballot, based on Louisiana statute that prohibits candidates from amending their ballot qualification in any way once it has been made. Others in Louisiana have been tossed for just this kind of behavior in the past.
FRANKEN BEATS O'REILLY. Al Franken's radio show surged past nemesis Bill O'Reilly in the first quarterly ratings matchup between the two in New York City. Arbitron reported July 20 that the Al Franken Show, airing weekdays on WLIB-AM, attracted more than doubled O'Reilly's The Radio Factor on WOR-AM among listeners aged 25-to-54 -- the group advertisers prize most -- during the hour when the two go head to head in New York. Rush Limbaugh's show on WABC narrowly beat Franken, but the showing refuted pundits who had predicted that the liberal network would not attract a substantial following. The Majority Report, the nightly Air America show co-hosted by Janeane Garofalo, was the top-rated AM program during the 8-11 p.m. time slot. The Air America lineup also made KPOJ the top-rated AM station in Portland, Ore. The liberal network is available on 17 stations nationwide, plus XM and Sirius satellite radio networks and airamericaradio.com.
BOOK REPORTS. These just in: Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, by Jim Hightower [Viking]; Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America, by Garrison Keillor [Viking]; What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank [Metropolitan Books], The I Hate Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice Reader: Behind the Bush Cabal's War on America, edited by Clint Willis [Thunder's Mouth Press]; Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent, edited by Anthony Dunbar; and Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, edited by Char Miller. Also, the documentary film, The Hunting of the President, debuts on DVD and VHS Sept. 1 [Fox Home Entertainment].