Is it a sin for a Christian to be a registered Democrat in America? A Kansas Republican argued in the Orlando Sentinel June 2 that it was a sin to be a Democrat , but Glenn R. Anderson, a high school teacher in Apopka, Fla., replying in the June 10 Sentinel, cited numerous Biblical passages suggesting that if anything it is a sin to register Republican. "After all, polls show most Americans see the GOP as the party of wealth and privilege, and the Bible is replete with warnings of the 'grievous evil' of 'riches being hoarded by their owners' (Eccl. 5:13)," Anderson wrote. "Do wealthy Republicans quake when admonished to 'come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you' (James 5:1)? Do they rethink their opposition to minimum-wage laws and unions when warned to 'behold the pay of laborers who mowed your fields, which has been withheld by you' (James 5:4)? Do Psalms' instructions that a righteous ruler 'will have compassion on the poor and the needy and the lives of the needy he will save ... from oppression and violence' (Psalm 72:13-14) cause regret in their choice of president?
"Or perhaps Republicans, long having thrown up roadblocks to prevent environmental laws, fear judgment when told, 'You shall not pollute the land ... you shall not defile the land' (Num. 35:33-34). Why are there no Republican animal-rights groups when Ecclesiastes declares, 'The fate of the son of man and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies, so dies the other' (Eccl. 3:19)?
"Indeed, the GOP is on the biblical wrong side of many issues, including immigration, taxes, even gun control. Are they not commanded to 'show love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt' (Deut. 10:19)? Is a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans at a time of near recession moral when Romans states, 'You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God. ... render to all what is due to them: tax to whom tax is due' (Romans 13:6-7)? What about the Republican practice of allowing the National Rifle Association to dictate gun policy when Ecclesiastes teaches, 'Wisdom is better than weapons' (Eccl. 9:18)?"
Anderson concluded: "Maybe sin is in turning heartfelt political opinions and philosophies about what is right for America into judgments about the souls of Americans. Gietzen and other ultra-conservatives who demonize their Democratic brothers and sisters should remember that God hates the abomination of those 'who spread strife among brothers' (Prov. 6:19).
"More important, they should realize that we are a democracy, not a theocracy, and what unites us is not a shared system of faith but shared faith in America's system of equality and freedom."
R'S SEEK EARLY TRADE VOTE. Republican leaders hope to get the House to vote on "fast track" trade-negotiating authority during July, the National Journal's CongressDaily reported June 19. Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Philip Crane, R-Ill., introduced a measure to jump-start the bill and the R's hope to secure a majority for the bill before the August recess, sources told the newsletter. Otherwise the trade fight could be delayed until this fall, but preliminary soundings have found greater enthusiasm in some quarters of the R caucus than expected. "We're pretty optimistic that there are a number of people we wouldn't have gotten before that we can get," said a Republican leadership aide. "Some of these members hated Clinton -- they didn't want to give him 'fast track'" in 1997. That year, the legislation lacked support for passage, and the leadership yanked it from the floor. Business lobbyists are expected to mount a grassroots effort in key congressional districts and the Business Roundtable, one of the groups leading the "fast track" push, opposes a call for trade agreements to contain labor or environmental provisions enforceable by sanctions.
The AFL-CIO, affiliated unions, pro-democracy and environmental groups have launched a campaign to defeat Fast Track on Capitol Hill. To oppose HR 2149, Phil Crane's Fast Track bill, phone your Congress member via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to speak with the person who handles trade issues, and explain that you oppose Fast Track and NAFTA expansion without enforceable worker rights and environmental standards. For more information call Global Trade Watch at 202-546-4996 or see www.tradewatch.org.
BUSH POPULARITY FADING. No wonder the Bush administration ordered the IRS to send out $30 million worth of fliers to tell taxpayers to look forward to the rebates that George W. Bush and Congress will be sending their way. Despite the rebates, Bush's approval ratings continued to slide, to 53% in the New York Times/CBS Poll released June 21, with 34% disapproving. As for the notorious tax cut, 64% said it would have been better spent on Social Security and Medicare, while 57% said Bush's policies favor the rich over the middle class and the poor. In other areas, 46% disapproved of Bush's handling of the environment (vs. 39% who approved), 55% disapproved of his handling of energy, 52% lacked confidence in his ability to handle an international crisis, and 51% trust Senate Democrats more than him making selections for the Supreme Court. Two-thirds favor the Democratic proposal guaranteeing people in HMOs and other managed care plans the right to sue health managers for denying care they needed. Only 49% said Bush could be trusted to keep his word, down from 56% when he took office. Now 56% have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while 46% are favorable toward the R's.
And back to those IRS letters: While, as Molly Ivins notes on page 22, many low-income people are expecting a rebate but won't get a check, neither will they get the letter from the IRS assigning credit (or blame).
SELLING OUT SECURITY. The "principles" President George W. Bush gave his White House Social Security Commission -- all of whom are on record as supporting privatization -- are tantamount to a mandate to privatize the system, says Roger Hickey, co-director of the Institute for America's Future. A broad coalition of unions, consumers, seniors and community groups joined to raise public awareness of the privatization threat. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka led workers and seniors June 18 at a New York City rally in front of the World Trade Center, where Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill met with Wall Street executives, who are planning a $20 million fund to buy TV ads to lay the groundwork for Social Security privatization. Wall Street stands to gain $240 billion from privatization in the first 12 years alone.
AFL-CIO: 'NO TO CORPORATE OUTLAWS'. One of President Bush's first actions was to suspend temporarily "responsible contractor" rules that took into account a corporation's record of complying with laws, including civil rights and workers' rights laws, before awarding government contracts. A broad coalition of groups, including the AFL-CIO, is mobilizing to tell the government to reinstate those rules. "Making compliance with the law part of the test for being a responsible contractor reinforces to companies the importance of making sure they are operating in conformance with our laws. It also helps ensure that the government is awarding contracts to the most responsible, ethical, trustworthy companies," AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson told a meeting of the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FARC) June 18. The coalition has signed on to a newspaper ad asking why corporations shouldn't play by the rules. The FARC is accepting comment on the responsible contractor rules until July 6. To send a message, visit www.corporateoutlaws.org.
MEMOS: OIL COMPANIES CURBED OUTPUT. Even as the Bush administration cites a lack of refineries as a cause of energy shortages, oil industry documents show that five years ago companies were looking for ways to cut refinery output to raise profits. Internal memos involving several major oil companies were released June 14 by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whose office obtained them from a whistleblower. He said the materials did not necessarily reflect any illegal activities but said some of them "sure look very anticompetitive," the Associated Press reported. Wyden turned the material over to the Governmental Affairs Committee, which plans hearings on oil industry practices and energy prices.
Meanwhile, oil companies collected record profits while consumers were drilled at the gas pumps, underscoring the iron grip the companies have over virtually every aspect of the oil market, a Public Citizen analysis showed. In the first three months of this year, profits for the five largest oil companies operating in the US rose nearly 40% over the same period last year, data show. The companies are involved in all facets of the industry, from exploration, production and refining to distribution and retail sales.
In the wake of recent oil company mergers, the five companies -- Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, BP Amoco-Arco, Phillips-Tosco and Marathon -- control more than two-fifths of domestic production, nearly half of the domestic refining and more than three-fifths of the domestic retail market. A copy of Public Citizen's report "No Competition: Oil Industry Mergers Provide Higher Profits, Leave Consumers With Fewer Choices" is available at www.citizen.org.
"Consumers are getting hosed when they go to the gas pumps this summer because a handful of corporations control our oil and gas market," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. "There is no petroleum crisis, so opening up wilderness areas to oil drilling, as the Bush-Cheney energy plan envisions, will do nothing to help consumers. What we are seeing is the predictable result of a monopoly market. It allows the oil companies to artificially control prices."
Solutions include a windfall profits tax, which would dissuade companies from price gouging; stronger federal anti-trust laws to ensure consumers have access to competitive markets; routine investigations of market manipulation; a requirement that oil companies maintain minimum reserves to protect consumers from price volatility; and a federal oil reserve to counteract marketplace price gouging. But a key remedy must also be conservation, particularly improved fuel economy standards for sport utility vehicles, light trucks and cars. Increasing average fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon would save 1.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2010 -- more than double what could be extracted from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if drilling were allowed there. By 2020, a 35-mpg standard would save 4.5 mb/day -- almost as much as the 5 mb/day the US imports from OPEC countries.
CAL SHOULD BECOME BIOFUEL PRODUCER. Many Californians are angered that President George W. Bush refused to provide any short-term relief from high electricity prices caused by interstate suppliers, then denied California's request for a waiver from a federal fuel oxygenate requirement. But David Morris of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance said Bush's decision may well spur California to develop a home-grown transportation fuel industry based on its well-known leadership in biotechnology and bioengineering fields.
California has sufficient corn acreage to supply 50-100 million of the 500-700 million gallons of ethanol it will need to completely replace MTBE, the petroleum-based oxygenate whose use has been limited because it contaminates groundwater. California also has significant quantities of fruit wastes that can produce 100 million or more additional gallons. Organic wastes like tree trimmings, yard waste, rice straw, and other cellulosic resources could allow the state to produce another 400-600 million gallons a year. "Five years from now there could be one or two biorefineries in every California county, producing not only ethanol but higher value biochemicals", says Morris, who coined the term "carbohydrate economy" in the early 1980s to describe an economy that relies on plants rather than fossil fuels as its industrial building blocks. Morris is the author of several books on ethanol and biorefineries, and currently serves on a congressionally mandated council that advises the US Departments of Energy and Agriculture on energy and agricultural policies.
Morris noted that in his home state of Minnesota, 10% of all transportation fuel is produced in-state from agricultural crops. There are 14 biorefineries in Minnesota, and 10 of them are owned by farmers themselves. "As a result a significant amount of the money spent at the pump in Minneapolis stays in the state and benefits rural and farming communities directly," notes Morris. California would use different raw materials for making ethanol, but could have the same large number of production facilities and the same beneficial impact to an agricultural and rural sector that has been in recession for several years.
For more information see www.carbohydrateeconomy.org.
PENTAGON DEPUTY: MAKE WAR, NOT PEACE. US military forces should focus on fighting wars and leave peacekeeping duties to Norway, Canada and other nations with a "long tradition" of carrying out humanitarian missions, the Pentagon's No. 2 official told USA Today. "We want to get the military out of non-military functions," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in an interview published June 19. USå troops have played "an indispensable role in peacekeeping" in the Balkans, but "let's figure out how we can play our part within reason," he said.
Ivo Daalder, an analyst at The Brookings Institution, called Wolfowitz's view "shortsighted." US peacekeepers provide "political reassurance, not military reassurance," he says. "To argue that the military is only for war fighting is to lose sight of the military as a tool in our larger foreign policy. If things go wrong, we have the ability to set things right."
BUSH DISAPPOINTS SERVICES. The Air Force Times editorialized June 18: "Troops who voted for George W. Bush last year because he promised to rescue the military from years of Clinton-era "neglect" may be feeling underwhelmed these days.
"Almost five months after the Bush camp took over, the military seems to be getting no more attention than it got under President Clinton."
The supplemental defense spending request of $5.6 billion fell far short of what the services said they needed and the 2002 budget is not expected to help much, either, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld moves to spend more on weapons systems such as the "Star Wars" missile defense systems.
"Having been led to believe the administration would jump-start the Pentagon with cash and attention, ,service members instead are waking up to a disappointing truth -- help is a lot further off than anyone guessed."
NUNS AMONG 26 SENTENCED FOR PROTEST. Franciscan nuns Dorothy Hennessey, 88, and her younger sister, Gwen, 68, were sentenced to six months each in federal prison -- the maximum possible penalty for their peaceful trespass on the military training facility at Fort Benning formerly known as the School of the Americas [see "Feds crack down on protesting nuns," 5/15/01 PP]. Since 1990 the school (recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) has been targeted by tens of thousands of demonstrators criticizing the school's deadly role in training Latin American military officers, many of whom have later been implicated in atrocities against their own citizens as well as US nationals. The Hennessey sisters were among several thousand who crossed the line last October and got arrested. Two other nuns from different orders -- Elizabeth Anne McKenzie, 71, from the Sisters of St. Joseph and Miriam Spencer, 75, from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace also were slapped with the maximum six months in prison. Of 26 peaceful trespassers sentenced by the judge, 21 got the max, while two got off with a few years probation. One man from Mississippi, Steve Jacobs, received two 6-month sentences.
Dorothy was offered the option of serving her sentence under "motherhouse arrest" in Dubuque, but she declined because she wanted to be treated the same as her 25 co-defendants. Like their fellow convicts, the Hennessey sisters told the National Catholic Reporter, they weren't looking forward to jail, but they planned to make the best of it. Said Dorothy: "If there's time left after we get out we might want to go into prison ministry."
"Just knowing that those two women will be off the street for six months should really make us all sleep better at night, don't you think?," asked Stephanie Salter of the San Francisco Chronicle.
FEDS BACK OFF FROM MEDIA SEIZURE. The US government withdrew a court order directing the Independent Media Center in Seattle to hand over computer server logs and other records pertaining to the IMC's coverage of anti-globalization protests in Quebec City. "Although the court order has been withdrawn," IMC counsel Nancy Chang of the Center for Constitutional Rights said, "the IMC's concerns over the government's ability to use internet technology for surveillance of political activists continue to linger."
At the time of the order's issuance, FBI and Secret Service agents claimed they needed the server logs to assist in an investigation related to documents that had been stolen from Canadian police, then posted anonymously to the IMC website. The agents claimed the posted documents contained details of George Bush's travel itinerary. Bush was at the time attending the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.
Weeks after police in Quebec identified and arrested three suspects in the stolen documents case, IMC reported, the US government neither amended nor withdrew its order against the IMC until June 13, allowing the order to continue absorbing the volunteer organization's personnel and legal resources. The IMC did not comply with the order, which would have involved handing over the individual internet protocol (IP) addresses of over 1.25 million journalists, readers and technical volunteers who accessed the IMC website on April 20 and 21. According to IMC counsel Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "This kind of fishing expedition is another in a long line of overbroad and onerous attempts to chill political speech and activism. Back in 1956, Alabama tried to force the NAACP to give up its membership lists -- but the Supreme Court stopped them. This order to IMC, even without the 'gag,' is a threat to free speech, free association, and privacy."
MAKE SUV'S SAFER. Many of those who were killed and injured in Ford-Firestone SUV crashes didn't have to lose their lives and limbs, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said June 19. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), under constant pressure from auto manufacturers, doesn't require companies to design vehicles in a way that will help people survive rollover crashes. As a result, auto companies that for years have opposed the issuance of key safety standards have seen their customers die needlessly. "Ford and Firestone are learning the hard way that even though they may be able to persuade government regulators not to be tough, safety is what the public wants," said Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator, in written testimony to two House subcommittees investigating the tragedy. "Now they're paying the consequences for not having made safer products." See www.citizen.org.
AG SEC'Y DEFENDS DIVERSITY SKEPTIC. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman defended a nominee for undersecretary for rural development who attributed economic success to lack of ethnic diversity and who favors corporate farm interests. Thomas Dorr, an Iowa farmer picked to oversee rural development at the USDA, observed in 1999 that an economically prosperous area of his state lacked ethnic and religious diversity, but Veneman called him a "visionary thinker'' who is needed "to do some outside-the-box thinking'' about rural development, the Associated Press reported. At a conference at Iowa State University in 1999, Dorr said that three successful Iowa counties were "very nondiverse in their ethnic background and their religious background and there's something there that obviously has enabled them to succeed and to succeed very well.'' That same year the USDA, which long as been plaged with civil rights complaints from farmers and employees, settled a lawsuit with black farmers who claimed they had been systematically discriminated against when they applied for loans and subsidy programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee had not scheduled a hearing on Dorr's nomination. New Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, had not taken a position on Dorr.