UQ Wire: The Desert of the Real
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The Desert of the Real
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday, 12 November, 2002
Whispers of vote fraud tremble on the wires - companies like Diebold, who make the new voting machines, whose officers are to a man Republican donors and activists, come under suspicion in the aftermath of such a wrenching reversal. How difficult is it to reprogram a machine which leaves no paper trail to say that 2 + 2 = 5? Is it about as difficult as sabotaging the workings of a small corporate jet, perhaps?
Perhaps. Senator Mel Carnahan died in a small plane crash two weeks before the conclusion of his vital race in 2000 against John Ashcroft, who went on to become Attorney General. Paul Wellstone died in a small plane crash two weeks before his all-important election contest for the Senate seat of Minnesota, throwing that race into chaos and ultimately handing the seat to Bush-picked conservative Norm Coleman. No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming to explain these disasters, and on the latter matter of Wellstone, there has been virtual silence from the media and the NTSB investigators. Meanwhile, there have still been no arrests in the anthrax assassination attempts on Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. On this matter, again, the media is silent.
Carnahan-Wellstone-Daschle-Leahy. These should have been the four leading voices against the ideological and political desires of the Bush administration. Two are now dead, and two seem to have been cowed into an acquiescing silence. As a prince of Denmark was once heard to remark, something is out of joint. Questions on these issues, and on the voting irregularities and conflicts of interest surrounding the November 5th elections, must not fall silent. Indeed, they must be bellowed from rooftop and radio.
Simultaneously, though, we must also look to the legislative aftermath of all this. One way or another, we must deal with the conservative freight train of legislation that is ramrodding towards us. A brief look at who will be taking control of the congressional agenda in January proves to be revealing.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is set to take over the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. From this seat, Hatch will be instrumental in setting the agenda for judicial nominations. Hatch is not in favor of legalized abortion, but has stated many times that no judge should be appointed or refused a seat on the bench based on one "litmus test" issue. Hatch believes homosexuality is contrary to Biblical teachings, voted against same-sex marriage, and desires a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag-burning. In 2001 he voted for the loosening of restrictions on the wiretapping of cell phones. He believes the McCain-Feingold bill is unconstitutional. He voted against mandating background checks at gun shows, and against mandating the sale of all guns with trigger locks.
Despite his claim that no litmus test should determine the fate of a judicial nominee, Hatch has made it clear where his desires lay. Indeed, he ran for President in 2000 to take advantage of such an opportunity. A Boston Globe article from June of 1999 entitled, 'Hatch Sees Opportunity,' defines these desires clearly: "One of Hatch's prime reasons for running is that the next president could nominate three Supreme Court justices and a large number of federal judges. While Hatch said he does not believe in litmus tests for judges on issues such as abortion, he has made it clear he prefers conservatives for the bench."
Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma will take the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe is in favor of drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reservation, and voted in favor of preserving a $1.2 billion budget for that purpose. He voted in favor of Gale Norton when she was nominated for Secretary of the Interior. He voted against keeping CAFÉ standards for automobile emissions, and voted in favor of funding to build more roads through forests and fishing habitats. In 1999 he voted in favor of defunding projects to develop renewable and solar energy. In 1997 he voted against the banning of chemical weapons.
Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma will take the chairmanship of the Budget Committee. Nickles in 2001 voted in favor of restricting the rules regarding personal bankruptcy. He voted against funding to aid minority- and women-owned businesses. He voted in favor of limiting punitive damages awards in product liability cases. He is in favor of the immediate deployment of a national missile defense system, and like Inhofe voted against the banning of chemical weapons. In 1996 he voted in favor of spending international development funds on the War on Drugs. He is in favor of oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Preserve, voted against maintaining CAFÉ standards for automobile emissions, and voted to defund projects to develop renewable and solar energy.
Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire will assume the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Gregg voted against spending $448 billion of Bush's massive tax cut on education and debt reduction, but voted in favor of spending $75 million on in-school abstinence programs. He is in favor of allowing prayer in public schools, but against the creation of national education standards. He voted against mandatory background checks at gun shows. He voted against allowing patients to sue their HMOs, and voted against including prescription drugs under Medicare. He voted to repeal Clinton-era rules that safeguard against repetitive-stress injury, and voted in favor of killing an increase in the minimum wage. Gregg is in favor of allowing Social Security funds to be gambled in the stock market.
And there you have it. The legislative future of the next Congress appears quite clear. The despoiling of the Alaskan wildlife preserve and many other precious environmental treasures, the further dumbing-down of national education standards, the degrading of a separation between church and state, the rubber-stamping of any and all war proposals by the Bush administration, and the creation of an activist conservative judiciary are all but guaranteed.
Rather than wallow in despair, those citizens who would see this program blocked and thwarted must take decisive action. The people must knock their knuckles bloody on the doors of those Republican Senators who do not blindly follow the edicts of the Bush administration. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island must be cultivated, as must Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Senator Jeffords of Vermont, who was counting on a Democratic victory to spare him the vengeance of his former GOP comrades, must be protected. If these people can be counseled to vote as Democrats on important environmental, judicial and military issues, the gains made by the GOP on November 5th will be blunted.
As for the rest of it, there is only the watchful eye and the questioning mind. The shades of Carnahan and Wellstone do not rest easily. Serious questions about the manner in which votes were tallied last Tuesday are in the offing. We have much to do, and little light to work with. Like Run-DMC used to say, it's like that, and that's the way it is.
William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. He is the author of two books - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in April 2003 from Pluto Press.