And if that doesn’t make you feel bad, how about those health insurance costs?

Statistics don’t lie when it comes to the money ordinary lower and middle class people can earn today, as reported in the New York Times, Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity:

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

Add to that slower wage growth the rising cost of living and it’s a bad decade to be poor or middle class in America. Let’s change course.

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About time: An open-data approach to Avian Flu

news @ nature.com – Bird flu data liberated – Agreement reached, in principle, to release avian influenza data.:

Researchers studying avian influenza say they have agreed to share data that were previously being kept behind closed doors — a move they hope will speed insights into the virus that threatens to spark a human pandemic.

Astonishing to me that it took this long….

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It’s someone else’s problem, and it’s their fault, too….

Bush Warns It Would Be ‘Disaster’ to Leave Iraq

“We’re not leaving so long as I’m president,” the President said today, leaving the problem of Iraq firmly in the hands of his successor. He also bandied around a lot of psychological and metaphysical ideas, saying our “soul as a nation” and the “psyche of our country” are at risk.

That’s Bushian leadership: State the problem but refuse to provide an answer while making sure any idea offered by the opposition can be spun as a threat to the nation.

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Republicans banking on a win!

CQPolitics.com – House Republicans Invest Big in Preserving Majority:

The generosity of Republican incumbents pushed the party’s House campaign committee to this cycle’s single-month fundraising record for either party, according to reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $12.6 million in July, of which more than $8.6 million was transferred from the campaign committees of individual House Republicans. Campaign finance law does not limit the amount of these transfers.

There’s nothing money can’t buy, so why not invest in this election? Contribute today to the Democratic campaign of our choice to end the one-party state. After all, Republicans clearly see that spending on this election could buy them at least two more years of cronyarchy.

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Retrograde government

Tax Farmers, Mercenaries and Viceroys – New York Times:

Tax farmers, mercenaries and viceroys: why does the Bush administration want to run a modern superpower as if it were a 16th-century monarchy? Maybe people who’ve spent their political careers denouncing government as the root of all evil can’t grasp the idea of governing well. Or maybe it’s cynical politics: privatization provides both an opportunity to evade accountability and a vast source of patronage.

Paul Krugman explains how in so many ways the Bush Administration has devolved government from a modern system to a feudal cronyarchy.

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The one-percent view

Bush Warns That Terrorists Have the Advantage:

“They’ve got to be right one time,” Bush said at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean. “We’ve got to be right 100 percent of the time to protect the American people.”

President Bush has reasserted the one percent doctrine in a remarkably defeatist way. Terrorism works by injecting irrational fear into a society. In our case, the terrorists have an ally because that fear serves the Bush political agenda.

A people that is scared are the most pliant, apparently. Let’s prove that view wrong.

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Turning success into failure, one civil liberty at a time

According to Associated Press reports:

The nation’s chief of homeland security said Sunday that the U.S. should consider reviewing its laws to allow for more electronic surveillance and detention of possible terror suspects, citing last week’s foiled plot.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stopped short of calling for immediate changes, noting there might be constitutional barriers to the type of wide police powers the British had in apprehending suspects in the plot to blow up airliners headed to the U.S.

But Chertoff made clear his belief that wider authority could thwart future attacks at a time when Congress is reviewing the proper scope of the Bush administration’s executive powers for its warrantless eavesdropping program and military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information,” he said. “We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that. It’s not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants.”

Look at that last statement: It’s not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants.” This is a fecklessley opportunistic statement that America needs less civil liberties protection by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The British government conducted human and signals intelligence operations on identified targets. The British Home Secretary said “Most of the work was driven and conducted here in the UK,” which indicates that civil liberties very similar to those in the United States were respected.

The travel patterns of a suspected terrorist reportedly provide the focus that resulted in revelations about as many as 20 plots. In particular, a tip from a source in Pakistan and a meeting in Pakistan identified by British intelligence resulted in the breakthrough, according to the Financial Times:

The arrest in Pakistan of up to three British men allegedly caught meeting local militants was on Friday night being heralded as the key breakthrough that helped foil a suspected terrorist plot to blow up US-bound aircraft, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

In fact, the British and Pakistanis are still monitoring people who may be arrested—suggesting that the FISA Court warrant system here in the United States, which preserve judicial review for secret surveillance is more than adequate to keep up with the speed of events. The British government has reaffirmed the inadmissibility of evidence collected through use of torture, which also provides support for greater, not less, oversight of Guantanamo Bay activity.

Secretary Chertoff ought to stick to using the law to defeat our enemies instead of trying to change the law. As Paul Krugman put it today: We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration’s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.”

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Poll: Does Edwards has what it takes?

John Edwards for president? A straw poll of TNR readers:

So the question to you is: Does John Edwards have a shot at the presidency in 2008?

Yes. He does. So do a lot of people.

For those of you wondering, I have had follow-up contact from the Edwards team after I suggested at Gnomedex they open their campaign to the world. No definite direction yet, but these people are thinking about the right things.

I haven’t decided to support him over other Democrats, but Edwards certainly has some of the intellect and charisma that made Bill Clinton president.

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Listen to the living, not the deatheaters

My good friend Jon, asks on Weblogsky: Who are those four guys and why are their horses glaring at me? adding:

When the Wall Street Journal starts talking Apocalypse, that’s gotta be a bad sign.

And he quotes the Journal:

A passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, is revealing. “I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another’s hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours.”

In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead–hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

This is the new get-tough line from hawks. It’s only true if you assume that religious faith is the only factor in the decision-making of a government. Unfortunately, for those in the faith-based community, reality is very different. Yes, there may be a fanatic in, say, the Iranian government—even a bunch of them—but the people of Iran aren’t anymore interested in death than the average population. They look to government not to deliver them from this world, but to make living possible and tolerable in this world.

The problem, then, is not in the Islamic governments. It’s in the clash of Islamic and Christian fanaticism as they are distributed among governments. On balance, the government of the United States is no less prone to Christian fundamentalism in its decision-making than the Iranian government is prone to deciding what to do based on extreme readings of the Koran.

So, how do you avoid Armageddon when the Wall Street Journal is giving indications it is inevitable? First, you stop listening to policymakers and pundits seeking to justify confrontation alone as the logical response to an illogical opponent. Because the governments of these countries are just that, governments that must answer to their people. Remember, Iran had its last revolution in 1979. The regime is hardly embedded in the culture.

Next, people have to connect and recognize one another as humans, so that the propaganda of all governments will be neutralized. That means folks here and in Iran need to start talking in order to create a story that competes with the messages their governments are sending—I’m confident that, with approximately the same proportion of fanatics in both nations who favor dying for their version of talking to God, people are not interested in seeing the End of the World in their lifetimes.

I’m not arguing that Iran’s government isn’t just crazy enough to want to self-immolate themselves and their people. Plenty of governments have proven themselves capable of that. But in those situations, people have had to rely on their governments for most information about the “enemy.” In this case, there is an opportunity to connect and overcome ignorance through communication. And there’s certainly plenty of time for communication before there is enough nuclear firepower in Iran to immolate the globe or parts of it.

Let’s not be dumb enough to listen to the World War III/Armageddon scenarists without recognizing—at least seeking to recognize—the humanity on the “other side” who can tell their governments to behave responsibly. Our government should recognize the futility of end-of-the-world confrontation, as well.

You know, once when I was young I met Senator Henry Jackson and asked him about the likelihood that the United States and the Soviet Union would engage in a nuclear war. He said he didn’t know whether it would go that far, but he was sure that if it did, he was willing to use nukes. Why, I asked. His answer gave me the creeps, because it was essentially that I was better off dead than red.

Thing is, I was never going to choose to be a communist or supporter of any totalitarian regime, but Jackson wasn’t willing to leave that choice to me. He’d have been happy denying the Soviets the chance to dominate me by turning me to a cinder. Our “leaders” need to recognize that our minds are free only as long as they function and that no battle is lost until there are no minds left to remain free by choice.

And the only way to overcome leaders who wish to decide our fates for us is to connect and lead ourselves.

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