GLOBAL JUSTICE COALITION SIDELINED. The global justice movement may be another victim of "collateral damage" from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As many as 100,000 protesters were expected to gather in Washington, D.C., to confront the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund at their annual meetings at the end of September. The protesters were to be led by some of the same environmental, labor and community activist groups that gained fame by fighting the World Trade Organization to a virtual standstill in Seattle in December 1999 and conducted similar protests at the World Bank/IMF meetings last year. The coalition included the AFL-CIO, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Rainbow Coalition, Feminist Majority and others, with demands such as canceling the debts of poor countries, putting more money into international efforts against AIDS and blocking "fast track" trade-negotiating authority for President Bush, David Moberg noted in a Sept. 21 Salon.com article. But after the carnage in New York and at the Pentagon, the AFL-CIO and the Mobilization for Global Justice coalition called off the protests "out of respect for victims of the tragedy," and the World Bank and IMF called off their meetings. However, labor federation President John Sweeney said the coalition remains steadfast "in our conviction that the policies of the World Bank and the IMF must change if they are to foster a fair and just global economy."
Global justice movement leaders insist that the movement will carry on targeted fights and maintain the diverse coalition for a more politically receptive time, Moberg wrote. "If you're looking in terms of years, we've hit the pause button," said Robert Weissman, co-director of Essential Action, a corporate accountability group founded by Ralph Nader. "At some point we'll turn the pause button off. We won't have all the momentum we had, but the organizing has been deep enough and the broad grass-roots support will still be in place. The objective factors and policies pushing this will still be causing concern among broad segments of the population."
There already have been efforts to link the global justice movement to the terrorists, Moberg noted. Sen. Don Young, R-Alaska, suggested that protesters against globalization might be behind the terror attacks. New Republic editor Peter Beinart argued that the movement is in part "motivated by hatred of the United States" and that critics must choose between being pro-American or aligned with this country's enemies. New York Post columnist Steven Schwarz attacked protesters against corporate globalization, contending that "the distance between breaking the windows of McDonald's to achieve that end and blowing up the World Trade Center is pretty damned narrow."
'FAST TRACK' PROMOTERS SEE OPPORTUNITY. Republicans are tempted to use national security appeals to push through controversial measures, including national missile defense, drilling for oil in the Alaskan national wildlife refuge and "fast track" trade legislation. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., is expected to push for a quick vote on giving Bush "fast track" trade promotion authority, which is resisted by organized labor and environmental groups.
To reach members of Congress at the Capitol call toll-free at 1-800-393-1082 (courtesy of the AFL-CIO) or 202-224-3121. For more information on trade issues call Global Trade Watch at 202-546-4996 or see www.tradewatch.org.
D'S FALL IN LINE. "Despite the swelling rhetoric about the indefatigably democratic nature of the American people, when the House and Senate endorsed the lurch toward war last week the final vote looked more like returns from North Korea than from Nebraska," Marc Cooper wrote in the Sept. 19 LA Weekly. "Five-hundred-nineteen votes for war with one, single lonely vote of dissent. 'I am not convinced that military action will prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States,' said Bay Area Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Representative Lee, successor to the legendary Ron Dellums, may or may not be correct. But her position seems reasonable enough to have merited some debate, if not a deep echo." However, Cooper noted that Dick Gephardt, the Democratic House Minority leader, has become "perhaps the most effective on-air spokesman for the White House (certainly more powerful than the Chief Occupant himself). 'There's no air and there's no light between the President and the Congress, and between the Republican and Democratic Parties,' intoned the courageous Gephardt. 'We stand shoulder to shoulder.'" Just one day before the WTC attack, Cooper noted, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, dubbed the White House's faith in National Missile Defense as "theocratic." Now, congressional Democrats are reported leaning toward approval, though none could argue that such a system would have done anything to block the Sept. 11 attack.
While the D's are feeling patriotic, the Wall Street Journal urged Bush in a Sept. 19 editorial to push his whole conservative domestic agenda because "the bloody attacks have created a unique political moment when Americans of all stars and stripes are uniting behind their president." Drill for oil in the Arctic, speed up the tax cut and even insist on pushing through confirmation of conservative judges, the Journal editorialized. "Democrats in the Senate will hesitate to carry out borkings that clearly undercut Mr. Bush's leadership." Bush, they concluded, should "use the moment to press a broad agenda that he believes is in the national interest."
MORE TAX CUTS IN PLAY. Congress can spend $40 billion on rebuilding sites destroyed by terrorists and fighting the first wave of the war on terrorism by repealing the recently adopted tax cut for the wealthy, US Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said. His proposal would put an estimated $100 billion additional revenue into the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds over the next 10 years. "This means that Congress and the President will be able to spend the additional $40 billion we have just appropriated -- and more if it is called for -- without violating our commitment to preserve Social Security and Medicare," Frank said Sept. 20. "Sadly, our country faces a situation drastically changed from that which existed when Congress enacted President Bush's tax cut proposal. Even before last week's terrible attacks, it was clear that our economy was weaker than we had anticipated, and I believe that appropriate federal spending increases must be part of our counter-cyclical response. And the mass murders unleashed on us by our enemies obviously call for very significant spending increases, for reconstruction, for an assault on these enemies, and for enhanced -- and costly -- security measures immediately and in the future."
Frank said the bill not only will help preserve Social Security and Medicare, but it also would reduce some of the unfairness of the most regressive tax -- the payroll tax. "My bill begins to address the inequity of taxing those who earn $80,400 per year and below on all of their income for Social Security, while those making more than $297,350 are taxed on less than a third of their income," he said.
Republican leaders are resisting any tax cut repeal and instead have been developing a new tax plan, centered around a capital gains tax cut. Some Democrats are floating the idea of extending the advance tax refund of up to $600 to the 35 million Americans who only paid payroll taxes and thus were ineligible for the original tax cut. Franks noted that a progressive tax plan is needed. "I think it is entirely appropriate for some of my colleagues to support a capital gains tax cut at this time, although I differ strongly with them on its merits, and it is especially appropriate for those who differ with that approach to put forward our own proposal. At a time when there is virtual unanimity on the need for more spending by the federal government, it cannot be a breach in national unity to propose tax changes that enhance our common resources, but rather an act of patriotism."
CHINESE WORK TO SUPPLY FLAGS. With flying the flag back in style, factories in China are running nonstop to feed the overwhelming demand in the United States for the Stars and Stripes, John Pomfret reported Sept. 20 in the Washington Post. The Shanghai Mei Li Hua Flags Co. received orders for more than 500,000 flags from customers in the United States in the week after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The Jin Teng Flag Co. in neighboring Zhejiang province reported orders of 600,000. Even with China's National Day fast approaching on Oct. 1, the factories had to stop making Chinese flags so that they could fill US orders. It is unclear what percentage of US flags are made in China, Pomfret wrote.
RADIO CHAIN RED-FLAGS SONGS. Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest chain of radio stations, asked its 1,170 radio stations nationwide to avoid playing 150 songs after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon rather than risk offending its 110 million listeners. The suspect songs range from relatively obvious choices like the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" and Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World" to mysteriously objectionable tunes like "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles, "On Broadway" by the Drifters and "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John. As Neil Strauss of the New York Times noted, some songs on the list are patriotic, like Neil Diamond's "America," while others speak of universal optimism, like Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," and others are emotional but hopeful songs that could help people grieve, like "Imagine" by John Lennon, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens and "A World Without Love" by Peter and Gordon. "Any song by Rage Against the Machine" was listed as questionable, according to the memo. Clear Channel later stated that the list was not a mandate or order to radio programmers, claiming it was "a grass-roots effort that was apparently circulated among program directors." Strauss noted that others in the Clear Channel network, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a list of questionable songs was originally generated by the corporate office, but an overzealous regional executive began contributing suggestions and circulating the list via e-mail, where it continued to grow. Some stations ignored the list, while others, including KYSR (98.7 FM) in Los Angeles had pulled all 150 songs plus a few others from its playlist, Strauss reported.
TRUTH AMONG THE CASUALTIES? When the US goes to war against terrorists, will we once again only hear the stories the government wants to tell us? CNN Correspondent Jamie McIntyre says Pentagon sources have been telling him that secret war plans so far don't include any provision for taking reporters along. "They plan to fight the war and then tell the press and the public how it turned out afterwards," he said, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which recalls the restrictions the US military imposed on the news media during the US actions in the Persian Gulf, Grenada and Panama in the 1980s and 1990s, in "Will Truth Again Be First Casualty?" online at www.public-i.org/story_01_092001.htm.
JOURNOS JOIN THE FIGHT. Station management at Baltimore's WBFF-TV sought to require news and sports anchors, even a weather forecaster, to read messages conveying full support for the Bush administration's efforts against terrorism, the Baltimore Sun reported Sept. 18. Several staffers objected on the grounds that it would undermine their objectivity. As a compromise, the message read by on-air staffers indicated that it came from "station management." More than 60 sister stations nationwide owned by the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. also were running spots declaring support for the efforts of Bush and other government leaders, the Sun reported.
GETTING THE STORY STRAIGHT. After President Bush started getting criticized by some right-wingers for winging Air Force One to secure air bases in Florida and Nebraska on Sept. 11 instead of returning to the White House to show who was in charge at the nation's capital, W's spin crew told reporters the president was raring to go back but the Secret Service wouldn't let him. Then officials released a radar track to the Washington Post that showed the hijacked airliner that smashed into the Pentagon never threatened the White House or Capitol. Radar showed the plane from Dulles International Airport headed toward Washington but veered away toward the Pentagon before entering the restricted air space in the nation's capital, the Associated Press reported Sept. 21. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer insisted that other radar data showed the plane was headed toward the White House.
NUKES COULD BE NEXT TARGET. America's 103 nuclear power reactors are poorly defended from the threat posed by suicide bombers, Matt Bivens wrote in The Nation [see www.thenation.com]. Russian television reported that security services there believe the next target of the terrorists will be an American nuclear facility [see www.nci.org]. Eight years ago, in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, terrorists wrote to the New York Times to warn that nuclear attack would follow. That letter talked of "150 suicide soldiers" who would hit "nuclear targets." There are nuclear power plants outside many urban areas, but Bivens said not much is being done. David Orrik, a former US Navy Seal, until recently ran a program that tested the security at civilian nuclear plants by organizing mock attacks against them. Half of all plants tested failed. The nuclear industry did not enjoy failing, so it got the NRC to gut the program. Instead nuclear power plants will carry out "self-assessments."
USDA URGES SUBSIDY CUTS. The Bush administration Sept. 19 said too much money was supporting big grain and cotton farms and the government should spend more on conservation, food safety and other programs that provide broader benefits to the country. A 120-page report said federal farm subsidies were causing "unintended (and unwanted) consequences" by encouraging overproduction of crops and driving up land rents, raising farm costs. The report said the 175,000 largest farms, which produce most of the nation's food, have household incomes that average more than $135,000. It recommended that the government help farmers and ranchers "when unexpected events beyond their control occur" without causing producers to become dependent on federal support. The USDA report appeared in line with proposals expected to be issued soon by the Senate Agriculture Committee. A House bill would expand subsidy programs for grain and cotton farmers.
The National Farmers Union applauded the general principles of the USDA report and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee proposals in the next farm bill, although NFU President Leland Swenson voiced concern that the USDA failed to address increasing consolidation in agriculture production, processing and retail sectors. The American Corn Growers Association applauded the principals set forth by Senate Democrats but said corn farmers, who have seen corn prices drop 67% over the past 25 years, need a counter-cyclical income safety net. "We need a conservation program, not as a substitute for farm programs, but as a companion to farm programs, which rewards and helps those producers who are already following proper conservation practices and encourages others to do so," said ACGA president Keith Dittrich of Tilden, Neb. "We also need a competition title in the farm bill to insure farmers and ranchers have a choice in who they sell to and buy from -- the free enterprise system requires competition and competition requires competitors, not monopolies. We must also revitalize our rural communities by assuring the essentials and basic needs such as water, sanitation, transportation and energy needs are met." See the ACGA website at acga.org or call 202-835-0330; or the NFU at nfu.org or call 202-554-1600.
LOOK WHO'S TALKING. A spokesman for President Bush on Sept. 17 accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of stealing his country's Sept. 9 election. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush regrets the "severely flawed" election and believes it cannot be internationally recognized because it was not free or fair. "Not only did Alexander Lukashenko, Europe's last dictator, steal the elections from the Belarussian people, for the moment, he also stole their opportunity to return to a path toward democracy and free-market economy," Fleischer said.
BERRIGAN STUCK IN 'SOLITARY'. Peace activist Philip F. Berrigan, imprisoned for an anti-war demonstration at a naval base in Maine, was one of a number of "high-profile" inmates shifted into solitary confinement at a federal penitentiary Sept. 11 when terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Associated Press reported. "Phil's in lockdown," said Elizabeth McAlister, Berrigan's wife. "We don't even know if he's getting mail. We know he's not writing." Berrigan, confined in the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton, Ohio, a low-security prison. Members of Jonah House, the Roman Catholic anti-war community that Berrigan helped found in Baltimore nearly 30 years ago, believe that federal prison authorities also segregated Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist in prison for the killing of two FBI agents in 1975, and Marilyn Buck, convicted of joining a Black Liberation Army robbery of an armored truck during which two police officers and a Brink's guard were killed. Berrigan has about three months to go on a sentence of a year and a day for violation of parole in connection with an anti-war demonstration at a naval base in Maine. McAlister says she made about 15 phone calls to the prison Wednesday before she learned that Berrigan was in segregation.