Saturday, October 08, 2005

Taking the Weekend Off

It being a three-day weekend, I thought I'd head out and do some field work, so y'all have a good one, and I'll be back on Monday.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Good News

Statement on September Employment Figures

by Christian E. Weller
October 7, 2005

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its estimates for the employment situation in September. The data used for this report cover the period two weeks after Hurricane Katrina roiled the Gulf Coast, and therefore, should be considered in the context of those extenuating circumstances. Unemployment rose by 0.2 percentage points to 5.1 percent and employment fell by 35,000 jobs, the largest drop since April 2003. In the private sector, employment declined by 66,000 jobs in September – its largest decline since March 2003. The job losses were especially pronounced in retail trade, particularly food and clothing stores, restaurants, and transportation equipment manufacturers, with declines of 88,000, 53,700, and 22,000 jobs, respectively. State-by-state estimates will not be available until October 21, but it is safe to assume that many, if not most job losses were concentrated in the Gulf States hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina.

As today’s figures show, strong labor market protections are imperative to help workers cope with the fall-out from Katrina. While Katrina has certainly had a negative effect on the economy and the labor market, the employment situation was already weak prior to September of this year. Average employment growth had been an abysmally low 0.02 percent per month – about one ninth the average employment growth rate from 1945 to 2001. Since the current business cycle started in March 2001, only seven months showed employment growth that was higher than the average from 1946 to 2001. Due to weak employment growth, it took the labor market 45 months to regain all jobs lost in the recession and the initial stages of the economic recovery. It took even longer – 49 months – for all private sector jobs to reappear.

The employment situation in the areas most affected by Hurricane Katrina was already weaker than in the nation at large before the storm hit. According to the BLS, the average unemployment rate in the areas most affected by the hurricane was 6.0 percent in August, compared to 4.9 percent nationwide.

Amid well-below-average employment growth, it is no surprise that employers felt no pressures to raise wages. In fact, by August 2005, inflation-adjusted weekly earnings were below those of more than four years ago in March 2001, when the current business cycle began. For all of 2005, inflation-adjusted weekly wages declined by 0.8 percent and hourly wages fell by 0.9 percent.

Compared to the nation as a whole, incomes were already substantially lower in the affected Gulf States. In 2004, the last year for which data are available, the typical family income in Mississippi’s impacted areas was $34,925, in New Orleans $31,369, and in Alabama’s affected regions $19,932, compared to $44,684 nationwide. It is also important to keep in mind that these incomes reflect the fact that inflation-adjusted family incomes had not risen for five years in a row.

The labor market fall-out from Hurricane Katrina has thus constituted yet another blow to middle-class families in the Gulf States. For the sake of those impacted by the hurricane and by this prolonged labor slump, it is crucial that labor market protections that will allow them to find good paying jobs remain in place, as a valuable first step toward normalcy and independence. These protections would ensure that people in the Gulf States not only get new jobs, but that those jobs pay decent wages.

The labor market fall-out from Hurricane Katrina constituted a second blow to middle-class families in the affected states. It is crucial to maintain labor market policies that will allow those impacted by the hurricane and the prolonged labor market slump to prosper. This requires not only new jobs, which are likely to be created by the rebuilding efforts, but also that those jobs pay decent wages. The Bush administration’s policy, which has been to waive prevailing wage protections, affirmative action provisions, and minority contractor rules, is exactly the wrong approach. The Associated Press reported this week that only 1.5 percent of the $1.6 billion awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has gone to minority businesses, instead of the 5 percent normally required. Families in the regions hit by Hurricane Katrina need a second chance. Waiving rules that ensure government contract jobs go to those in the Gulf States who need them, and that also ensure those jobs will pay decent wages, are bound to hurt those most in need.

Christian E. Weller is senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

Oh darn, and just when it looked like Bush would finally make up the 3 million jobs he lost, probably right next to the WMDs....

The Poll To Rename Fox News

None of the entries grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me along (or by the balls and threatened me), so I'm putting it up to a poll. Vote early. Vote often. First, I will post the entries, and then please use the voting buttons in the sidebar (scroll down a bit):

Choice Number one:

(Deep throaty male voice)
Oceania News Network
"We report, you comply"
(Sultry virginal female voice)
"Contact us with your 'thoughts' by thinking of our Oceania World Web address @
Eric Blair's Ghost | 10.01.05 - 12:03 pm | #

Choice number 2:

Or maybe GOPhuxUrselfNews?
Sgt. Hulka | Homepage | 10.01.05 - 12:55 pm | #

Choice number 3:

Or FAXNews--the "news" comes in over the fax machines each morning to all the conservative news outlets. Why do you think they are all saying the exact same thing on any given day? (Blame game...blame game...) Did you think it was just spontaneous?
LR | Homepage | 10.02.05 - 9:48 pm | #

Choice Number 4:

POX News
A blight upon journalism.
Avery Davis | 10.03.05 - 2:37 pm | #


Choice Number 5:

Goebbel News Network

Father Tyme | 10.03.05 - 8:36 pm | #


Choice number 6: (slightly altered by editor)

HOaX (News)

Targa | 10.05.05 - 5:43 pm | #


Choice number 7:

Mad TV
Ozer | 10.01.05 - 3:40 pm | #


Honorable Mentions go to:

AMB, Natty phlegmo, sara

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Make Your Own Caption

Damn my evil (45%) mind...tip-o-the-horns to Jesus' General

22 Indictments

Courtesy of my friends at, we have this round up of the hottest rumour in Washington since Judith Miller was released....

EXCLUSIVE: The D.C. rumor mill is thrumming with whispers that 22 indictments are about to be handed down on the outed-CIA agent Valerie Plame case. The last time the wires buzzed this loud — that Tom DeLay would be indicted and would step down from his leadership post in the House — the scuttlebutters got it right.

Can it be a coincidence that the White House appears to be distancing President Bush from embattled aide Karl Rove? “He’s been missing in action at more than one major presidential event,” a member of the White House press corps tells us.

If the word on the street is right a second time, we have a bit of advice for Rove: Go with vertical stripes, they’re way more slimming.

Now admittedly, Radar Magazine is not what I would call an authoritative source, and it's possible they got this story mixed in with the Marine indicted for stealing secrets about the Fillipino government, but there are some interesting events going on in DC now:

1) From Raw Story: President Bush's most trusted adviser, Karl Rove, has been absent from recent White House events, leading those close to a CIA outing case to speculate that he has been told he is the target of an investigation, RAW STORY can confirm.

The buzz on Capitol Hill is that Rove has received what sources called a "target letter," or a letter from the prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson telling him that he is now a target in the investigation. To date, no reporters have been able to confirm this account. One lawyer says that at this point in the investigation it would be more likely any letters would normally be notifications of an indictment.

2) From Reuters: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA operative is expected to signal within days whether he intends to bring indictments in the case, legal sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday.

As a first step, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was expected to notify officials by letter if they have become targets, said the lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Fitzgerald could announce plea agreements, bring indictments, or conclude that no crime was committed. By the end of this month he is expected to wrap up his nearly two-year-old investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

The inquiry has ensnared President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The White House had long maintained that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak but reporters have since named them as sources.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say whether his client had been contacted by Fitzgerald. In the past, Luskin has said that Rove was assured that he was not a target.

Libby's lawyer was not immediately available to comment.

"It's an ongoing investigation and we're fully cooperating," said Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride.

3) The aforementioned release of Judith Miller may have just been a final gesture after the stark realization that her testimony didn't matter, or if it did, it cleared officials higher than those that are liekly to be indicted. Some of these likely indictments include Rove and Libby, of course, but also Mary Matalin, who worked briefly for the Bush administration for both Bush and Cheney simultaneously.

4) The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has the conservatives in the nation apparently frothing. However, two scenarios occur to me: One, that is a staged upset on the part of the right wing to reinforce the notion that Miers is middle-of-the-road.

However, it's also possible that she's being put on the bench in order to shield her from testifying in any trial that could involve an indicted President (to which she was personal counsel, and as such was singlehandedly the person most involved in covering up his AWOL status in the Texas Air National Guard. Sitting justices of the Supreme Court cannot be indicted (they can be impeached), nor can they be subpoenaed, but they may testify of their own free will.

Up until the Paula Jones case, a sitting President could not be indicted, something the right wing went to great pains to cherry pick a judge who would overturn that argument. It may have backfired, big time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Are You Evil?

I am 45% evil.

I could go either way. I have sinned quite a bit but I still have a bit of room for error. My life is a tug of war between good and evil.

Are you evil? find out at

Last Day!

To enter the Rename Fox News contest!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

This German Election Just Gets Weirder

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said on Monday that he would be prepared to step aside in the interest of forming a stable coalition with the conservatives. But his party said it still wanted a third term for him.

Schröder said before a meeting of his Social Democrats that he would accept any decision his party made on whether he should continue to fight conservative rival Angela Merkel to claim a third term as German leader.

"This is not about my prerogatives and absolutely not about me as a person," Schröder told RTL television when asked about his and Merkel's competing claims to the chancellery.

"It is about my party's prerogative for political leadership. I will accept any decision," he said. "I do not want to stand in the way of a development that allows the continuation of the (economic) reforms I initiated and the formation of a stable government in Germany."

The Social Democrats were meeting after the final district in Germany voted against them Sunday in a delayed ballot for the inconclusive general election, widening the conservatives' lead in parliament to four seats.

The vote was expected to have a psychological impact on the parties amid exploratory talks on forming a left-right "grand coalition," last seen in Germany in the late 1960s, and primarily on the question of who should be chancellor.

See previous stories here, here, and here

Essentially, Schroeder, who had a legitimate claim to the chancellor's spot (albeit you had to warp and twist the results a bit to get there) has suddenly decided that a grand coalition with the conservatives is not going to work, after a sort of local run off saw him lose four seats in parliament.

It's going to get interesting, because neither Schroeder nor Merkel has enough seats under control to outright declare themselves chancellor, and their coalition partners have made it so that Schroeder has more seats under his influence, but not what some might call a mandate. They're supposed to meet Wednesday to cobble a coalition, but it's very possible and actually likely they may end up with Merkel running one government and Schroeder running a sort of "shadow government" in absentia.

Stay tuned. This one will affect the US at some point.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New Chief Justice


There's an episode of "Queer Eye For the Straight FReeper" in here somewhere. They had the nerve to pick on Hillary's hair styles?

Institutionalized Poverty

Study Finds Many Children Don't Benefit From Credits

Published: October 2, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - More than a quarter of American children - and half of black children - belong to families too poor to fully qualify for the $1,000-a-year child tax credit, which President Bush signed four years ago and has cited in arguing that his program of sweeping tax cuts helps low-income families, a new study has found.

The numbers come from an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in Washington, and cast light on an important benefit for working families at a time when the hurricane damage in the Gulf Coast has Mr. Bush and others vowing to address poverty and racial division.

With an annual value of $47 billion, the credit is the government's largest children's subsidy and one that has provoked sharp partisan fights. Many conservatives, viewing it solely as a tax cut, want to reserve the credit for families that owe federal income tax. Many liberals, viewing it as a broader children's allowance, want to extend it to poorer workers, who they say need it most.

In 2001, Mr. Bush signed a compromise that extends the credit, in the form of an annual government check, to some working families that earn too little to owe income tax. Still, the study found that the families of 19.5 million children were too poor to receive the full $1,000 benefit. About half get a partial benefit, and half get nothing. More than three-quarters have parents who work.

While 18 percent of white children are in families too poor to claim the full credit, the figure is 50 percent among black children and 47 percent among Hispanics. The credit pays an average of $721 a year to white children, $564 a year to black children and $638 a year to Hispanic children.


Told of the study, which will be published Monday, some conservatives repeated their opposition to making the credit more of an antipoverty program. "This is completely and utterly predictable," said Dan Mitchell, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington research group influential with Capitol Hill Republicans. "People who don't pay taxes don't get a tax cut."

Mr. Mitchell said that low-wage workers received a total of $39 billion a year from a similar program, the earned income tax credit. "It's not like they're not getting any redistribution from the government," he said. "We want less income redistribution, not more."

But Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, expressed surprise at the racial gap. "That's a stunning number," he said, referring to the half of black children who fail to receive the full credit. "I'd find a way to make sure those kids get the money" as part of a broader post-Hurricane Katrina plan, he said.
Listen, when Newt Gingrich is in opposition to the Heritage Foundation, start looking for the Four Horsemen, OK?

Seriously. 19.5 million children left behind, and the best the neo-cons can come up with is blame the victim????????

I'll let the Center for American Progress get in the last word here:
As President Bush reaffirms his commitment to confront poverty in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in Washington, is today releasing a report concluding that the administration has left behind 19.5 million low-income children. These children are too poor to receive the full $1,000 child tax credit Bush signed into law in 2001. Then, Bush declared that his "tax relief is compassionate," but today's study demonstrates that the administration's policies benefit Americans in the top of the income scale and leave out the people who most need the government's help.

FAMILIES ARE TOO POOR TO RECEIVE HELP: The $47 billion child tax credit leaves out families that earn less than $11,000 -- the families who most need the extra $1,000. Families receive $150 for every $1,000 they earn in excess of $11,000, capping out at a maximum tax credit of $1,000. Families earning up to $110,000 can receive the full tax credit. The New York Times notes that "a family with one full-time worker at the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour receives nothing." Len Burman, author of the study, also suggested that more families than the 19.5 million probably receive partial or no credit since "poor and minority families claim tax credits at lower rates [than middle- and upper-income families]." Even more families will likely be ineligible to receive the credit next year as the minimum qualifying income will rise with inflation, leaving out families whose income fails to keep pace.

BLACK, HISPANIC, AND MILITARY FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND AT STAGGERING RATES: Today's study finds that while "18 percent of white children are in families too poor to claim the full credit, the figure is 50 percent among black children and 47 percent among Hispanics. The credit pays an average of $721 a year to white children, $564 a year to black children and $638 a year to Hispanic children." While Bush has called this tax credit "principled," many lawmakers and policy experts, including former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich, see it as anything but principled: "That's a stunning number....I'd find a way to make sure those kids get the money [as part of a broader post-Hurricane Katrina plan]." Additionally, nearly one in five children of active-duty U.S. military families (250,000 of 1.4 million in 2003) were too poor to qualify, and another 750,000 children of military veterans denied the benefit.

ADMINISTRATION BELIEVES LOW-INCOME FAMILIES SHOULD BE APPRECIATIVE:(emphasis added) Bush has touted the child tax credit as proof of the "fairness" of his tax cuts. In 2003, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stated that the child tax credit policy is fair because low-income people may not receive a credit, but they also don't have to pay taxes, whereas "people up the income scale -- even if they get a larger credit, still pay income taxes." Additionally, Fleischer argued that low-income people (who pay no taxes because their incomes are too low) are "very appreciative of the fact that they pay no income taxes in America." If these low-income families are so lucky to be making so little money that they don't qualify to pay income taxes, let's ask members of the Bush administration to trade salaries so that they, too, can receive the benefits of the minimum wage.

BUSH'S TAX CUTS ARE FAIR AND COMPASSIONATE TO MILLIONAIRES: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that households with annual incomes of more than $1 million -- the richest 0.2 percent of the population -- are already receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000. Moreover, these figures do not even include two tax cuts enacted in 2001 that will go into effect starting January 1, 2006. 54 percent of these two new tax cuts will also go to this top 0.2 percent, and 97 percent of the cuts will go to the 3.7 percent of households that have incomes of over $200,000 a year. The rest of the population (96 percent), which has incomes below $200,000, will receive only 3 percent of these tax cuts. The Bush administration needs to drastically change course if it hopes to repair the social and economic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, but so far, $6.1 billion tax relief plan passed last month "will probably benefit investors and businesses long before it benefits victims."

To Those of the Jewish Faith

L'shana Tovah

Speaking of Contests and Fox....

Agitprop has one for the really creative among you, but you have tough competition from Jesus' General

Micah, you got my vote

Yea. Here's a Shock...

Hope this stirs the juices for the Rename Fox News Contest:

Herald-Times quotes former Fox correspondent David Shuster: "[S]ome reporters at Fox would cut corners or steal information from other sources or in some cases, just make things up."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Update On Another Election That Affects America

Below, I wrote extensively about the German elections (which, by the way, look certain to keep Schroeder in power, albeit in a fairly miminal way).

But what about Afghanistan?

Well, as you know, the turnout was enormous, even for a non-American country, but....uh oh....

Monitors Find Significant Fraud in Afghan Elections

Published: October 3, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 2 - Election officials and observers said Sunday that with 80 percent of the ballots counted in Afghanistan's national and provincial elections, they had found significant incidents of fraud.

Whole districts have come under suspicion for ballot box stuffing and proxy voting, said Peter Erben, the chief of the United Nations-assisted Joint Election Management Board. He said ballot boxes from 4 percent of the 26,000 polling places - about 1,000 stations - had been set aside for investigation on suspicion of fraud and other irregularities.

The European Union observer mission said the reports of fraud and possible voter intimidation in places were "worrying." In a statement, the mission said, "While these phenomena do not appear to be nationwide, they are a cause for concern."

Mr. Erben promised strong action and said that if there was a clear indication of fraud, the votes in question would be excluded from the general count. The Election Complaints Commission could also warn, fine and disqualify candidates if there was evidence of tampering, he said.

"We are taking irregularities very seriously," he said.

One of the worst cases has been in Paghman, a district west of Kabul, which is the stronghold of Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, a wartime faction leader and ally of President Hamid Karzai. Ballot boxes from 95 polling stations in Paghman have been set aside for further inspection and 30 to 40 of those had been cleared for counting by Sunday, officials said.

The rest would be excluded from the count because of clear evidence of fraud, said a foreign observer who lacked permission to speak to reporters and asked not be identified.

Mr. Sayyaf is running for a seat in the Wolesi Jirga, or the lower house of Parliament, and is in fourth place with 2,105 votes. Only 20 percent of the results for Kabul have been tabulated so far, but he is nevertheless well placed to win one of the 33 seats in the province.

Mr. Erben said that there were no signs of countrywide efforts to defraud the Afghan people but that there had been local efforts. "I do not believe these irregularities in any way have affected the overall elections, but some of them have surely affected them locally," he said. Voters went to the polls Sept. 18 to choose representatives for Parliament from each province, and for members of provincial councils.

Is Diebold counting the votes?

Contest Extension

After consulting with Team Actor212, I've decided to extend the contest to rename Fox News until Thursday.

(Mostly because the DVD hasn't arrived yet! :-) )

So far, I count up about a dozen entries, so scroll down to this post as well as this post and see if you can top what's there already.

An Appreciation of Mike Piazza

(NOTE: To the FReepers and the strident left out there. I'm well aware of Mike Piazza's political leanings, and that sports is a worthless waste of time. But it's my waste of time, thank you very much :-) )

Sometimes, you don't realize how important someone has been in your life until you assess what they've done and where they've gone. It happens in love. It happens in sports.

I was at the New York Mets final home game yesterday (and I'm a trouble maker of long repute, but more on that later). Mike Piazza was playing the last game of his current contract with the Mets, and likely his last game as a Met.

As I watched the various tributes and highlights on Diamondvision, it occured to me that Piazza had become the baseball version of Rod Stewart: not the most important entertainer, but someone who has marked so many important moments for me, who has added an exclamation point or an accent ague to much of my recent history.

He might not be the first player who comes to my mind, but give it time, and I'll find a moment to reminisce about.

Mike Piazza came to my team, the New York Mets in 1998. The Mets were a horrible mess, had not been in the playoffs in ten years, the World Series in 12. He brought instant credibility, not unlike Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter in the mid-80s.

Suddenly, it became fun to be a Mets fan again. It's a pity the teams he played on subsequently turned out to be so poorly constructed, but the spark was there, and in 1999, and again in 2000, Mike helped this team reach the playoffs and then the World Series.

Oddly, he never seemed to hit The Big One. In 1999, it was another catcher, Todd Pratt, who supplied the fireworks against Arizona. In 2000, Piazza will longer be remembered for being on the receiving end of a bat thrown by Roger Clemens than for anything he hit in the World Series, including the final fly-ball out.

And yet, he always managed to push the team that much farther, that much harder, to get into the spotlight.

He never had the swagger of many New York players, probably as he managed to sneak into the league as the 400th-some-odd player in the draft in his rookie year, but he never lacked for confidence, either. He did his work, did his job and had much to show for it.

I guess his ultimate moment came not in a playoff game, or even a playoff run (although it did start what had the prima facie appearance of yet another Met miracle), but in the first home game at Shea Stadium after September 11, 2001.

September 21, 2001. The Mets took on the Atlanta Braves, and each team gathered on the field ahead of the game and embraced and shook hands, while the fans were still stunned and numbed by events ten days earlier. No amount of consolation or official reassurance could get the city back on its feet. It seemed we went about our business dreading the funereal atmosphere inherent in the wake of the greatest tragedy we could ever imagine.

The Mets, listless and numb as well, having spent days helping out at Ground Zero (and embarassing the heck out of the Yankees organization), played a terrible game and Atlanta had stretched out to a 2-1 lead. It was the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets being what they were and the Braves being who they were, the fans fully expected a loss.

Mike took care of that with one swing, and it was as if the entire stadium had been wired with whoopie cushions: everyone leaped out of their seats and began to cheer wildly, shouts dodging the teardrops on the way out.

Sort of what happened yesterday.

So my voice is gone, my head is killing me, my back is stiff, and while I'm sad, I'm also happy to have seen a great player in his prime playing for the team I adore.

PS...about that "troublemaker" thing....well, see...Mets management and I have serious disagreements about what players belong and what players should stay. In the past, I've had to bite my tongue (since I'm only a fan and hold no sway), but yesterday, I saw an opportunity to cause a little havoc.

During the seventh inning stretch, when they showed Mike Piazza's highlight reel, I started a chant of "One More Year". Piazza has 397 home runs, and I thought the team owed it to the guy to let him get them here, in New York, the city that has embraced this Pennsylvanian as a New Yorker.

I knew the Wilpons had to be there, and as the entire stadium picked up the chant, I knew they had to hear it.

And so did Mike.
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