House of Evil (Part One)
ArtVoice, Feb 28th, 2002
Michael I. Niman
Democracy took a beating in 2000 as three nations saw
politicians attempt to seize power after losing popular elections.
Only one of them, however, succeeded.
In Peru, Alberto Fujimori failed after Peruvians took to the streets,
driving him into exile in Japan. In
Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic also failed under similar circumstances as workers
and students united to prevent him from maintaining power after losing his
nation’s presidential election. Milosevic
is now standing trial for war crimes in The Hague.
Proponents of Democracy were not so lucky in the United States, however,
where George Bush seized the presidency after losing the Florida primary.
The Coup We
Recent disclosures should remove any doubt about who won
and who lost in Florida. Yes, the
statewide media recount shows that if we recounted the votes in 4 counties, as
Al Gore demanded, Bush would have won. This
news was widely reported in the mainstream media, often under the headline,
“Recount Shows Bush Won Florida.” What
was glossed over was the fact that under a full statewide recount taking all
counties into consideration, Gore beat Bush.
Different counting standards allowed for varying margins of victory –
but Gore won under every scenario. He’s
not our president, however, because he, personally, is a loser.
Gore quelled protests and called for restraint at the same
time Republican congressional aides had their little frat boy riot in Florida.
We’ve since learned that Florida Governor Jeb Bush, George W.’s
brother, sent out a directive ordering Florida election officials to remove
people from the voting roles if they were convicted of felonies in other states,
even though to do so would be illegal – but don’t expect any indictment of
Jeb from George W’s Justice Department. Florida
law only bars those who have been convicted of felonies in Florida from voting.
Most of the 50,000 plus people who were removed from the roles were
African Americans, a group whose members voted for Gore over Bush with a nine to
one plurality. We also learned that Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine
Harris was operating under the advisement of a Bush campaign consultant as she
made her every move quelling the vote count in those pivotal weeks after the
Considering the historical anomaly of his ascendancy to the
presidency, many pundits assumed the mandate-less Bush would shy away from
controversy by leading a low-key administration. As soon as he took office, however, he proved them all wrong
– and the wilding began.
First there were his cabinet appointments:
A treasury secretary who comes directly from a post at Alcoa Aluminum and
argues for the total elimination of social security and government support of
health, education and all other social programs.
There’s an Agriculture Secretary who comes from the board of the first
company to introduce genetically modified food to the American marketplace in
the form of a hybrid tomato-flounder (as in the fish) combo which looks and
tastes like a tomato but has a flounder-like resistance to cold weather. Genetically Modified Organisms, buy the way, according to a
Wacky George decree, will now be served at all White House functions.
There’s an Energy Secretary who financed his failed
Senate bid with $700,000 in campaign funds from GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler.
There’s an Interior Secretary who used to be an attorney representing
oil companies on environmental issues, and a Deputy Interior Secretary who is a
former oil and coal industry lobbyist. There’s
a Transportation Secretary who resigned from congress to work for Lockheed
Martin. Before that he received campaign contributions from aircraft
manufacturer Boeing and most of the major US airlines.
Bush’s Labor Secretary served on the Boards of Dole, Clorox and a slew
of health care corporations as well as having strong ties to Bank of America and
Northwest Airlines (the recipient of a recent government bailout which offered
no benefits to laid-off workers). His
Assistant Secretary of Labor, for Mine Safety and Health, is a former mining
Bush gave us a Health and Human Services secretary with
close ties to tobacco giant Phillip Morris. At the same time, Bush cut funding
for the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry – all but
killing the promising multi-billion suit to regain health care costs incurred
caring for dying smokers. His National Security Advisor is a former Chevron
Director with a supertanker named after her.
And finally there’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, long dogged by
accusations of racism. Before
becoming Attorney General he praised Southern Partisan magazine, telling
editors that, "Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got
a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and
[Confederate president Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got
to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect…”
The same magazine reported that KKK leader David Duke represented the
“American ideal,” that slave owners were benevolent care givers concerned
about the “peace and happiness” of their slaves, and that there were no
“Americans” in New York City – only “Italians, Jews and Puerto
The list goes on and on from the cabinet right on down to
judicial appointments of long-time civil rights foes and corporate cronies.
And it’s obscene. With
their boy unable to buy or win the presidential election, the Bushistas knew
their Whitehouse takeover was on shaky ground with reelection uncertain.
Hence, with four years to play, they set out to radically transform the
American social, economic and environmental landscape using a corporate wet
dream as the blueprint for the economy and incorporating a nightmarish
hypocritical fundamentalist stencil for setting social policy. The result has
been 13 months of environmental and economic devastation, which has seen the
economy crash as pollution controls were gutted. Bush’s foreign policy is hell bent on alienating the entire
rest of the world with the possible exceptions of a handful of rouge states such
as Israel and Saudi Arabia. His economic policies are designed to follow
Reagan’s model of starving government coffers through tax cuts to corporations
and the richest Americans, thus forcing cuts in education, social services and
healthcare for the poorest Americans. What
follows this week and next, is the chronology of a nightmare.
It began immediately after the inauguration, which itself
was an odd affair with protestors, despite their invisibility in the mainstream
media, outnumbering spectators and participants. On the 21st of January, 2001, Bush, acting from
the get go as if he had an electoral mandate to change the country, issued a
presidential order cutting funding to all international health organization that
perform abortions or offer counseling to poor women that includes discussion of
the abortion option. The result is both the imposition of Bush’s religious
views upon other cultures, and diminished family planning services in poor
overpopulated countries where those services are most needed.
In March he derailed Korea’s reunification talks and
re-ignited the fuse on the Korean War, angering both North and South Koreans.
Less than a week later he announced he was scrapping his campaign pledge
to actively reduce greenhouse gases. Before the month was over he signed off on
repealing recent workplace ergonomic safety standards, which were enacted after
10 years of research by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As March came to a close, he cut funding for head start and
daycare programs, pediatric training and programs combating child abuse, while
delaying imposing stronger limits on arsenic levels in public drinking water. He
enraged the industrialized world by announcing that the US would not abide by
the Kyoto treaty on global warming, which in Bush’s lexicon is still a
“theory,” and he slashed federal budgets supporting successful community
policing initiatives. He also suspended federal rules barring companies
convicted of criminal activity from doing work for the government.
Finally, on the eve of April Fools Day, he closed the White House Office
for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach.
An Oily Legacy
He began April’s pillage by cutting funding for training
health care workers who work in inner city and poor rural communities, and by
announcing he plans to allow his friends in the oil and natural gas industries
to drill on publicly owned National Park land. Speaking of friends, the chemical
and meat industries combined donated $1,171,000 to the Bush campaign.
Payback came in April when the Bush administration halted the release of
an EPA study linking cancer in humans to consuming animals with dioxin in their
fat. Though this link is widely
known, mum is still the word. Bon
Bush stayed busy, continuing his oily energy policy by
lowering energy efficiency standards on air conditioners, cutting federal
renewable energy research funding by 50%, cutting research into developing fuel
efficient cars by 28%, and eliminating the deadline for auto companies to
develop high mileage prototype vehicles, all while attempting to open up the
ecologically fragile Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration as part of this
nation’s mad dash to deplete the rest of the world’s oil reserves by the end
of the decade.
By the time last summer rolled around, the Bush
administration had eliminated restrictions on test planting genetically modified
organisms, moved to decrease public access to information about the health
effects of chemical plant accidents, argued to de-fund a natural disaster
preparedness program, cut $700 million from a fund to repair public housing,
$500 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and $200 million from
NAFTA era programs to retrain displaced workers. He reversed himself on a
campaign pledge to spend $100 million on rain forest conservation measures. He
cut $39 million from libraries programs, proposed eliminating federal funding
for the Reading is Fundamental literacy program for poor children, eliminated
funding for the “We the People” program which taught school children about
the Bill of Rights, and all but eliminated the White House AIDS office and the
White House Council on Environmental Quality.
He cut over 80% of the funding for the Community Access Program, which provided basic health care for poor Americans who lacked health insurance and eliminated all of the funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program. With the arrogance of a sun belter, he made further cuts into the already miniscule HEAP program, which helps poor people pay winter heating bills. He also cut $60 million from the federal appropriation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America – this despite six photo-op laden campaign visits to such clubs. On the spending side, of course, he proposed a $2 trillion tax cut, with 43% of the booty going to the richest 1% of the country, mostly in the from of estate tax cuts.
To Be Continued
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