Fighting for Freedom

I just joined the American Civil Liberties Union. Here's why. Republicans sell fear, and the Democrats are paralyzed by it. And so, as the mid-term election draws near, we have a detainee bill that strips away core American freedoms in the name of unlimited executive power - err, I mean, national security. A couple highlights:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

I am outraged, and saddened. We've long been heading down a path of eroding what makes our country great, in exchange for unearned trust in our failed executive branch. Now we've crossed into a realm where due process of law has been declared inadequate in the persecution of the enemies we've created. Due process is even withheld from American citizens, if the executive so chooses. No president deserves that level of power, least of all the current one.

We recently had dinner with Lori's Republican parents, both of whom used to work for the Pentagon. They said we should just throw everyone out of Congress and start from scratch. Not a bad idea. I think Thomas Jefferson might agree.


This is water boarding

Water boarding isn't "torture lite." It's the real thing. Invented by the Spanish Inquisition -- for use when the rack didn't suffice! -- it was used by the notorious torturers of the Khmer Rouge.

Water boarding is illustrated in a painting at Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo by Jonah Blank.

This is what Congress voted for today. It was bad enough when Bush was violating the Constitution and the Geneva Convention by extra-legally torturing prisoners. But it makes me sick that Congress rubber stamped it!

Sick. Sick. Sick.

Live Boy

Looks like (former) Rep. Foley has been caught with the proverbial live boy. Say hello to Representative Tim Mahoney.

Now, personally, I think 16 year olds are generally mature enough to decide about matters of sex for themselves. (And if you don't agree...tough, they are anyway!) But adults using positions of power over minors is wrong. And there's something just sick about a Congressman hitting on his pages.

And worst of all: the House Republican leadership knew about itfor almost a year. And they did nothing. They hid this information from Democrats. They protected a child predator...apparently because he was a Republican.

At long last, gentlemen, have you no shame?


2008 GOP Convention

For you betting types, here is a list of GOP convention cities where the resulting Presidential nominee has always* lost the national election:

  • Minneapolis (1892): Incumbent Benjamin Harrison was renominated at the Industrial Expo Building, only to be steamrollered by ex-President Grover Cleveland in the general election.
  • Houston (1992): This was the convention where Reagan's farewell address gave us this Ciceronian trifle: "My fondest hope for each one of you — and especially for the young people here — is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism." [America is selfless?!] Pat Buchanan also uttered some curious lines. Anyway, Bush-Quayle was renominated and then defeated by the merest plurality in the popular vote.
  • San Diego (1996): Who can possibly forget the legendary Dole-Kemp ticket that came stumbling out of this one?

Granted, unlike in 1892, Minnesota is now a swing state, and the GOP seems to be taking aggressive steps to keep their unpopular party in office. Stepping onto the hallowed ground of Olson, Humphrey, Mondale, and Wellstone will certainly ignite a bit of heat lightning, won't it? (And now I think the GOP's genuinely afraid of Al Franken!) But a curse is a curse, and this leathery crowd of hopefuls doesn't look much better than that stubby 1892 incumbent.

[*Since the GOP has nominated future Presidents at least once in cities where multiple conventions -- even loser-nominee conventions -- have been held (e.g. the gazillion Chicago conventions, San Francisco left and right, and the two classic Miami Beach meet-ups) the word "always" here applies to the three singularities in GOP convention history.]


Almanac Tonight

Tune in to Almanac on TPT-2 at 7PM. Not only for the Sixth District Congresional Debate, but Mary Lahammer will be doing a piece on all the political blog mayhem from this week. Get a sneak peek on Mary's blog.

By the way, I setup Mary's blog waaaaaay back in Oct 2002 when I worked at TPT. She's been blogging strong for 4 years now - bravo. Now if I could only get them to do something about that ugly navigation bar...


Mark Kennedy Pretends to Take Site Down

Talk about blatant, childish, transparent opportunism. Mark Kennedy is apparently so spooked that he's taken his site down. The internets is crawlin' with krazy kritters - lockdown! Oh, except you can still give him money. I guess that part of the internets is somehow safer than the static, public web pages.

There's only one problem. Mark Kennedy didn't really take down his web site at all, underscoring the fact that this is a lame stunt for a campaign trailing in the polls. DFLSenate has all the details. Here's the short version.

You can still access his other pages. If you hit your "stop" button fast and look at the source, you'll see this:

<!-- remove refresh when kennedy wants to get site back -->
<meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="0;url=http://www.markkennedy06.com/default.aspx" />

I can just imagine the poor Kennedy web staffer rolling their eyes when Kennedy said, "Take my site down! But, you know - don't really take it down." Every page is there but has a little command directing it to the home page. This serves absolutely no security purpose and shows how desparate the Kennedy campaign is to take advantage of the inflated interest in Minnesota cyberpolitick. Really, it's just an extension of Republican fear-mongering. Pathetic.

The Star Tribune is working on a story about online ethics and law, to be published tomorrow. My choice quote, which I hope they use: Stephen Colbert talks about "truthiness" - Internet culture has "sleuthiness."


You are looking at the code behind Scott Howell's so-called "password screen." This is the screen that blogger Noah Kunin used to access a Mark Kennedy ad by typing "Allen." (He was looking for Sen. George Allen ads.)

Guess what. This is not a password screen.

The code above confirms my suspicions. An actual password screen gives the user access to a restricted area. The screen above is simply a redirect to a publicly accessible client web page. So, if you enter "Allen" it takes you to "Allen.html" - a publicly viewable page! That's why this page is completely useless and serves no function. Indeed, with a little research at the Internet Archive you can find client web pages and figure out that they're simply named "client.html".

As they say, developing...

Power Line and MDE: Crazy Liars?

The subject line is in reference to a recent Daily Show piece on how network news - FOX News in particular - tries to get away with inflammatory and unproven accusations with one simple piece of punctuation: The question mark.

For a prime example of such disingenuous, tabloid behavior, see Power Line's Klobuchar Campaign Imploding? Minnesota Democrats Exposed doesn't even bother with that formality, and launches right into juvenile name-calling and false accusations: NOAH KUNIN IS JERK BLOGGER WHO ILLEGALLY VIEWED KENNEDY’S ADS

I've got news for you right-wingers hotly excited over this unfortunate incident: Knowing how to use a web browser is not illegal. Clicking on links in your email is not illegal.

Kennedy vs. The Machine is another culprit: Stolen Not Leaked. If they were brave enough to allow comments, I'd let them know that watching ads on an unsecure web site is most certainly not stealing.


Thaksinomics eats the barrel

I wouldn't call Prime Minister Thaksin the "Thai FDR", but Thaksinomics sure looked like the ol' Keynesian state-sponsored economic resurrection we all know and love as the New Deal. Except that 1997 was not a global depression, Thailand has always been a wobbly tool of realpolitik, and Thaksin's not exactly a political genius. Thus the faintly audible chuckles from Foggy Bottom as he boarded a plane to NYC this week. The coup seemed inevitable, preordained, supported by international capital and soft-focused as a "democratization" move by American media. At last, an uncouth populist stands before the world with his pants round his ankles!

Here are two perspectives on the coup (from opposing ideologies), both all too valid.

From the sapling Kissingers at Oxford Analytica:

While Thaksin's supporters will respond well if they are treated relatively favorably, managing expectations will be a key challenge. Failure to reconcile the aspirations of the elite with those of the poor who supported the ousted premier could swiftly lead to more extreme social and political friction.

From Lenin's Tomb

Well, as with Indonesia and the Phillipines and practically everywhere else that the US has crushed democracy, the American government would presumably like to see a managed process of neoliberal reform, with or without the appearance of democracy. This has been happening anyway, and the decades of corrupt autocracy have ensured that capital has a fairly easy time of it, with sweatshops bringing the dictatorship right down to the local and day to day experience of the Thai working class. The US no longer needs Thailand as much as it did during the Cold War and was therefore unwilling to bail out the country during and after the 1997 crisis. However, they had been banking on a 'free trade' agreement with the regime, and are now hoping that when the military 'restores democracy', it can be resuscitated. The military indicates that it will return to a democracy 'loyal to the King', but the King happens to be bearer of class power that has been revived, supplied and protected by the US government for fifty years. I think that 'free trade' agreement will go ahead in short order.

Vlog-Journalist Josh Wolf, Back Behind Bars

Josh Wolf is back behind bars. I just finished editing this interview with him for AmandaAcrossAmerica.com.

HUFFINGTON POST:A Last Meal with Josh Wolf

If you are a Republican, you may already be a nation builder

Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq is an article that is long overdue. It is the story of one aspect of our difficulties in Iraq - how it came to pass that the transition team under Paul Bremer was shot through with inexperienced, but ideologically pure GOP leaders who subsequently set about the business of turning Iraq into a conservative theme park. This ranks as one of the great un-investigated stories of 2003. The thought of the Bush administration giving ideological litmus tests at a time of desperate need should make you cringe. Competence is a non-partisan commodity. It makes me very sad to read it.

One would hope that Minnesota's own Mark Kennedy and Michelle Bachman, particularly, will be recognized between the lines in this article. They both place much higher value on party allegiance and ideological purity than they do on competence.


Again: No hapeas corpus no freedom

From the department of "Only the Terrorists Have to Worry if we Gut our Consitution" comes this: Canada Falsely Accused Torture Victim.

Arar was traveling on a Canadian passport when he was detained at New York's Kennedy Airport on Sept. 26, 2002, on his way home from vacation in Tunisia.

Arar said U.S. authorities sent him to Syria for interrogation as a suspected member of al-Qaida, a link he denied.

He spent nearly a year in prison in Syria and made detailed allegations after his release in 2003 about extensive interrogation, beatings and whippings with electrical cables.



Alan Fine: Broken Record

After having a chuckle, go check out the first part of Alan Fine on Almanac. Unbelievable.

What's at stake

This is a very moving Op-ed. It's written by a man who was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay by mistake. Whether or not you believe that he is telling the truth, it's hard to deny the central proposition: Habeas Corpus is the root of freedom. Kill it and watch freedom die.

I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America’s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantánamo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.

It was only the country’s centuries-old commitment to allowing habeas corpus challenges that put that mistake right — or began to. In May, on the eve of a court hearing in my case, the military relented, and I was sent to Albania along with four other Uighurs. But 12 of my Uighur brothers remain in Guantánamo today. Will they be stranded there forever?

A related article, U.S. war prisons legal vacuum for 14,000, details some disturbing attributes of the recently exposed network of secret prisons.

Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.


Alan Fine: A Shameful, Divisive Republican Tool

I know it's stating the obvious, but it has to be said.

For the best coverage of Fine and Ellison, visit AHS, MN Publius and James Clay Fuller.

(We really do need to update our blogroll...)


Bush and torture

The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture.

PRESIDENT BUSH rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.

Bush considers himself a wartime president. Unfortunately, it's true. When the strongest moral and ethical leadership is required to navigate the murk, Bush takes the easy low road. Our only hope for ending the war on terror is to lead the world by example. They cut off heads - we don't. They torture- we don't. We are a liberal republic governed by consensus under the rule of law - they aren't. The minute that line is blurred, the war becomes endless and unwinnable. It's unfortunate for us all that Mr. Bush is so taken by his starring role in the death parade that he forgets the country and principles he is supposedly protecting.


Ron Carey's fundraising letter

Minnesota GOP Chair Ron Carey's barely literate, revolting plee for cash entitled, "The Party of Ellison" landed like a flaming bag of dog doo in my Inbox on Wednesday. Mr. Carey wants money so that the GOP can continue practicing the politics of division in Minnesota. His message should be read by people of all political stripes. It should be read aloud in classrooms and discussed. Comprised of half-truths, lies, red herrings and fear mongering, all of the propositions contained in Carey's letter should be examined, held to the light, and allowed to degrade to dust under the judgement of more honest souls than the author.

Let's begin:

1. "This is not your Daddy's DFL anymore." As Republicans, if we lose this year, the Democrats who will run our state will be radical leftists who will say or do anything to impose their beliefs and values upon our state. Hubert Humphrey's DFL Party has been replaced by the Party of Keith Ellison. The stakes have never been higher nor the choice more clear than what we face in November." This sets the tone for the whole letter. This is name calling, something at which the GOP is very adept. You should ask yourself, what does "radical leftist" mean? Does the term have any real connection to the personalities and concepts under discussion? Am I dismissing an idea that serves my best interests because it is named something that I don't like? It is beyond ironic to hear Carey speak of his daddy's DFL when the moderatescions of the Minnesota Republican party have openly repudiated its aims and the aims of the national GOP.

2. "The time has come to take a stand now for our core Republican values: less government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, individual freedom, stronger families, and domestic tranquility through a strong national defense." The idea here is that the GOP still stands for core Republican values. These days, the GOP is the party of big government, decreasing earnings paired with increasing costs of living, vivisecting the constitution to remove personal freedoms in the name of security (and elections), paying lip-service to family values while it soaks in a brine of corruption, paying more lip-service to national defense while exposing our military to foreign boondoggles without the proper equipment. By the way, the national GOP slate, Kennedy, Kline et al have voted the party line like faithful little bootlickers, despite the non-partisan noises they make in campaign season. Bachman would certainly follow suit.

3. The letter goes on to ask the reader to "imagine the consequences of a Wetterling/Kloubachar/Ellison/Rowley/Hatch victory. Carey uses another array of lies and propaganda techniques. In particular, he abuses Ellison not just with his association with Lois Farakahn and for accepting money from an alleged Hamas supporter, but for trying to hide it in the future. I hasten to add that Ellison has openly discussed these issues today. There is no reason to believe that he wouldn't continue to do that in the future.

4.I need your help. Our common-sense message will prevail if I can fund a massive voter education and turnout drive. Right now, I'm significantly short of what we need to put our own version of the Ohio plan into action. Please carefully consider what we have at stake in this election and reach into your pocketbook for one last gift to help our great Republican team in the critical final push. I don't have the union bosses, or the well-heeled celebrities to turn to; I have good Minnesota citizens like you.. The Ohio Plan!!? Yes, give money to the Minnesota GOP so they can emulate Ohio: I guess the MN GOP plans to embezzle rare coins from the state and rig the elections.

One can only hope that people are well and truly exhausted from 8 years of polarization. This letter is from a man and a party who want you scared, unthinking, and uninformed. It is evidence that they, not the democrats, will do anything to maintain the power so rapidly slipping through their fingers.


Seven conservatives who argue for a Democratic victory in November

The Washington Monthly contacted seven conservatives who believe the GOP should get thumped in the mid-term elections. The results, Time For Us To Go: Conservatives on why the GOP should lose in 2006, is a fascinating read. Much of the arguments are the same some on the left (ahem) have been making for years - Bush is a profligate spender, an ideologue to the point of being a trotskyite, and has actively worked to make the constitution weak and the office of the president strong. Conclusion: His ability to ruin the country further must be checked by divided government.

Christopher Buckley: "A more accurate term for Mr. Bush’s political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism."

Bruce Bartlett: "As a conservative who’s interested in the long-term health of both my country and the Republican Party, I have a suggestion for the GOP in 2006: lose."

Joe Scarborough: "This must all be shocking to my Republican friends who still believe our country would be a better place if our party controlled every branch of government as well as every news network, movie studio, and mid-American pulpit. But evidence suggests that divided government may be what Washington needs the most."

William A. Niskanen: "As a life-long Republican and occasional federal official, I must acknowledge a hard truth: I don’t much care how a divided government is next realized. And, in 2006, there’s only one way that’s going to happen."

Bruce Fein: "For the foreseeable future, divided government is the best bet for preserving both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. If Democrats capture the House or Senate in November 2006, the danger created by Bush with a Republican-controlled Congress would be mitigated or eliminated."

Jeffrey Hart: "Successful government by either Democrats or Republicans has always been, above all, realistic. FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan were all reelected by landslides and rank as great presidents who responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it. But ideological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They’ve earned it."

Richard A. Viguerie: "With their record over the past few years, the Big Government Republicans in Washington do not merit the support of conservatives."


GOP primes the dirt pump

The Washington Post exposed GOP plans to drop $50 million on going deeply negative this campaign season. Josh Marshall says the go to guy is Terry Nelson, who has been the hatchet man for quite some time. Get ready for slime.

Schoolastic dumps orignial Path to 9/11 studyguide

Good for Schoolastic:


“After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues,” said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic. “At the same time, we believe that developing critical thinking and media literacy skills is crucial for students in today’s society in order to participate fully in our democracy and that a program such as ‘The Path to 9/11’ provides a very ‘teachable moment’ for developing these skills at the high school level. We encourage teachers not to shy away from the controversy surrounding the program, but rather to engage their students in meaningful, in-depth discussion.”


ABC throws 9/11 into the gutter

ABCs upcoming miniseries The Path to 9/11 offers an interesting study in the cross-section of politics and entertainment. Corporatist propaganda is alive and well in the USA. We all know that. From product placement in movies and TV shows to the naming of public spaces, we live in a culture of propaganda. This is the era of "Truthiness." If the whole truth will tarnish a reputation or turn the tide of public opinion, why, then a little bit of the truth will do.

One would think that some subjects would be inviolate from spin. One would think that some subjects would be so sensitive and precious that they would be raised on a pedastal of facts and objectively affirmed by all for the benefit of future generations. For Germany and Jews, the Holocaust might be one such subject. For Americans of the early 21st century, I think 9/11 deserves that status.

That's why the mounting evidence that ABC's upcoming Path to 9/11 advances right wing myths is so very sickening. It isn't the fact that a conservative wrote it that bothers me. The point is that 9/11 doesn't have a single thing to do with a partisan outlook - or ought not to. Unfortunately, we do not live in those times.

We live in a time when a major media outlet can promise an objective dramatization of one of the greatest national tragedies in American History, promise to base it on the most extensive factual review that we have available (The 9/11 Commission's Report), and then shamelessly edit or create the record where necessary to support the author's and director's point of view. In this case, they seek to advance the notion that the Clinton administration had "... frequent opportunities ... in the 90s to stop Bin Laden in his tracks -- but lacked the will to do so." Really? Evidence please. Oh. You don't have any? Never mind, we'll just make stuff up. Can you imagine the size of the ego that would do such a thing? Surely, they know what they are doing. Clinton's lawyers sure think so.

In a doubly sickening move, ABC partnered with Scholastic Books to produce and distribute over 100,000 Path to 9/11 companion study guides. These study guides, by definition, are designed to reinforce the patchwork of lies carefully woven in the program. Again, they know what they are doing. This is the art of high propaganda. This study-guide is the syringe that inserts the docutainmentporn as actual history in the minds of America's children. And they care more about the point of view than they do about the child's mind, or the child, or the truth.

But ABC didn't stop there. They exclusively screened the show with conservative audiences, refusing those who may think differently (sounABC sent a letter to right wing media types reassuring them that
The message of the Clinton Admin failures remains fully intact.

Folks-- right, left, middle, red, blue purple -- can we agree? It's wrong to turn our greatest national tragedy into agenda-laden propaganda and distribute it as education. It is shameful, and disgusting, and un-american. If our mothers have raised us right, we know the difference between fact and fiction, right?

By allowing ABC to slime the nation with lies then distribute it as fact, they abuse their power and cheapen us all. Please, I beg you for the sake of our kids, just say no to documtainmentporn.

You can do so here.

Iraq takes control of military from U.S.

This might be a good thing - if it's real. A competent, uncorrupt, well-organized and uninfiltrated Iraqi army would allow most of our troops to come home.

Though it's a step in the right direction, it can be called "gigantic" yet. The Iraqi military isn't the only army competing for control of the country, it is small, infiltrated and ill-prepared.

I am sure that this will form one pillar in the revisionist view of why the US invaded Iraq. We did so, see, to remove Saddam and enable the common Iraqi to take the helm of the good ship Iraq and steer it through the revolutionary mine field towards democracy and freedom. I am sure we will hear Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney trumpet this "success" even as the carnage continues and the war creeps into its fourth year. Even through the haze of lies, exaaggerations and election-cycle puffery - I think it's a good thing or would be if it were real, which remains to be seen.


"I don't want a Congressman who's comfortable"

The Strib comes out in favor of Erlandson in CD5. Across the Great Divide has an eloquent response:

Mike Erlandson knows how to navigate in the swamp. Fine. That's better than getting lost. But I don't want a Congressman who's comfortable. I don't want a Congressman who fits in right away. I don't want a Congressman who knows where to park and who makes the best martinis.

I want Keith Ellison in Congress, a Black, Catholic-raised Minneapolis Muslim fireball who knows street kids and criminals as well as Sam Kaplan and Walter Mondale.

Minneapolis Observer: Strib’s endorsement of Erlandson is a vote for the status quo in Congress
American Hot Sausage: Cancel your subscription to the Star Tribune


Great news for lawyers (and their legions of fans)

Sick of your stagnating wages and the high cost of living? Here's a solution: go to law school. According to the New York Times, base pay for new lawyers is now experiencing an unusual inflation:

The recent round of pay increases began last year, when Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, a litigation firm based in California with offices in New York, decided to increase the base pay for first-year associates to $135,000, which at the time exceeded even the $125,000 starting salary common at many New York firms. A partner, A. William Urquhart, said his firm “hoped bigger firms wouldn’t follow so we could separate ourselves, but they did.”

A few months later, Sullivan & Cromwell, a large law firm with headquarters in New York, raised the base salary for new lawyers by $20,000, to $145,000.

Somehow this strikes me as a misallocation of resources. The article goes on to state that this income inflation will probably not result in increased lawyer fees and hourly rates (y'know, what you and I pay when we need a lawyer), so I guess we can rest assured that an inflationary price/wage spiral will not happen to the venerable Laffey Matrix.

Olbermann gives a remarkable commentary

For all those who missed it, Keith Olbermann's response to Rumsfeld's speech in which he compared Chamberlain's appeasment of Hitler to waning support for the effort in Iraq is absolutely brilliant.

It's brilliant and a far cry from the work-a-day newsporn to which we have sadly grown accustomed.


New Keith Ellison Ad

I went down to the Minnesota State Fair with Keith Ellison's adorable daughter, Amirah, and asked people: "How can we make America better?" Basically, a Minnesota Story-as-campaign ad. Labor Day is the perfect time to unveil this ad, since Keith is the DFL and Labor-endorsed candidate.

Please spread the word! You can embed it in your blog by copying and pasting the code below.

More options: Blip.tv (best quality), YouTube, Google video

UPDATE:How Can We Make America Better? (long version)

Cold Water

The competing reports on the state of American workers just perplex me: herds of Eeyores and Pollyannas juggling the stats to bolster their prediction of doom or grace (or else those bizarre tropes: "hard landing" and "soft landing"). I identify with the Eeyores, mostly because I'm a foe of the Invisible Hand, which is now so given to palming cards and stacking chips (when it isn't busy destroying the sandcastles of the housing market). My new favorite voice of reason is Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture, whose analysis of the new aggregate data gives this:

- The mix of job growth remains skewed toward low-paying industries;

- Weakness is most evident in the retail component -- which has stopped growing;

- Almost one-half of the rise occurred in the health and social assistance category -- generally low-paying jobs;

- Other sectors have not picked up the slack
(Joshua Shapiro, MFR);

- The pace of job creation has slowed dramatically.

2004: 175,000/mo
2005: 165,000/mo
2006: 140,000/mo
Past five months: 119,000/mo
(Steven A. Wood, Insight Economics)

- Manufacturing has lost more than three million jobs since 2000; Conditions remain poor;

- Prior recoveries at this point had created two million manufacturing jobs;

- Unemployment fell to 4.7 from 4.8% due to a large number of adults leaving the labor force (NiLF);

- The two-tiered labor market continues: The top quartile has it good; but for everyone else, the future is worrisome;

- For many workers, real incomes lag inflation;
(Peter Morici, Univ. of Maryland)

- Total labor input is growing very sluggishly in Q3, foreshadowing the continued softness in economic growth.
(Steven A. Wood, Insight Economics)

- The average work week is dropping (by 0.1 hours to 33.8 hours), even as productivity slows.

In other words, the perverse incentives of the gamblers in economic power now have the effect of pressing workers' faces closer to the dirt. Hell, even even Gene Sperling seems to concur with Ben Bernanke (!) about wages: perhaps the new megaprofits can be shaved a bit by passing on productivity gains to the workers, whose wages should (theoretically) increase with productivity.

To me, though, the most obvious sign of economic trouble is that socially responsible investors are now reconsidering their priorities, allowing the inclusion of "sin" stocks (booze and gambling) in their portfolios. Economic growth without sin, is it even possible?


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