Pandering of the highest sort was on display last Friday, as President Bush announced that his Administration will "target" Americans who visit Cuba in violation of US laws. In addition to making it much more difficult to visit the country, Bush has instructed the Department of Homeland Security to step up its inspections of travelers and shipments between Cuba and the US. (This is at a time when the department can't even effectively handle security at US ports.)
Bush's policy has nothing to do with our security, or with democratic reforms in Cuba or with common sense. It is designed to win Cuban-American votes and money in the key electoral states of Florida and New Jersey; it is another piece in the "Bashcroft" assault on Americans' civil liberties. It also reveals the power that a handful of unrepresentative reactionary oligarchs in Miami have to restrict the movements of other American citizens.
As Cuba expert Peter Kornbluh told me, "I see this latest Administration act as a sign of its weakness on Cuba, its inability to do much substantive to mollify the hardline crowd in Miami which has been screaming about the fact that intercepted refugees are being repatriated and the Administration is not encouraging hijackers from Cuba, indeed is sending them back...This Administration doesn't want another Mariel boatlift, so it can't ease up on the illegal migration issue. It has little latitude to say it is toughening its stance except to cut back on travel. For domestic political reasons, of course, the White House is curtailing the one thing the US can do to help Cuba evolve--people-to-people contact."
It started with Congress, which in 1998 voted to deny federal financial
aid to students with minor drug convictions like marijuana possession.
Now the use of financial aid as an incentive to cu
Twelve years ago, Harris Wofford made healthcare an issue. Promising to
fight for coverage for all, Wofford scored a surprise victory in a
Pennsylvania Senate race--inspiring speculation that a President named
Bush could be beaten in 1992. Wofford handed the issue to Bill Clinton,
who won the election but lost the war by proposing a plan that offered
more in the way of bureaucracy than a clean break with the existing
for-profit system. Since the Clinton crackup, Democrats have struggled
to reassert the healthcare issue. While the 2004 campaign has yet to
experience a "Wofford moment," Dr. Norman Daniels of the Harvard School
of Public Health says rising numbers of uninsured and underinsured
should move healthcare to the fore as an issue. "The question," he says,
"is whether the new crop of candidates will address it effectively."
Enter Representative Jim McDermott, a physician and the new president of
Americans for Democratic Action, who has taken it on himself to sort
through candidate proposals (www.adaction.org). As McDermott sees it,
the plans of Howard Dean, John Edwards, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt
"are all quite similar--they each combine modest expansions of public
sector programs such as Medicaid and [children's health programs] with
private sector initiatives to encourage employers to provide health
insurance for their employees." While under each of these plans the
government becomes an even greater purchaser of healthcare, McDermott
says that "because most of the new expenditures are through the
fragmented private insurance market, the government will continue to
waste its considerable market power." He's still reviewing Lieberman's
plan, which looks to resemble the others.
In contrast, McDermott notes, Representative Dennis Kucinich offers a
single-payer national healthcare plan based on a bill by Representative
John Conyers, of which McDermott is a co-sponsor. While he sees value in
incremental reforms, McDermott says, "I continue to believe that a
national health care plan, with a government-guaranteed revenue stream
for providers, would be most effective in providing universal coverage
and controlling costs while guaranteeing high quality care." A separate
study of the candidate proposals, done by The Commonwealth Fund
(www.cmwf.org), says Kucinich's plan would cover all Americans, while
those of Lieberman, Dean, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards would leave 9
million to 19 million uninsured. Single-payer backers Al Sharpton and
Carol Moseley Braun have not offered details; Gen. Wesley Clark has yet
to make his views clear.
While McDermott's analysis will please Kucinich backers, his candidate
choice won't. The Congressman just endorsed Dean. Two reasons, he says.
First, "as governor of Vermont, Dean implemented reforms. He got people
covered. One of the problems the Clintons had is that they were starting
without ever having done it. For them, it was theoretical. Experience
helps you avoid big mistakes." Second, "Electability. Dean isn't my
perfect candidate, but I think he can beat Bush. Beating Bush is the
first step toward healthcare reform."
Vice President Dick Cheney has a special interest in this week's Congressional debate on the Bush administration's request for $87 billion to maintain the occupation of Iraq and other military adventures abroad. If approved by the House and Senate in its current form, the proposal would allocate roughly $20 billion to reconstruct Iraq, with most of the rest of the money going to cover the costs of the occupation.
Approval of the $87 billion package would be good news for Cheney, who it is now evident, retains ties to his former employer, the energy and construction conglomerate Halliburton. Halliburton is, of course, a prime benecificary of military and reconstruction expenditures in Iraq.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has already awarded Halliburton's engineering and construction arm, Kellogg, Brown & Root, a no-bid contract to restore Iraq's oil industry. Halliburton parlayed an initial $37.5 million contract to put out oil-field fires into a range of responsibilities that has already run up roughly $1 billion in costs. "War is hell, but it has turned into financial heaven for Halliburton," said Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, who with Representative Henry Waxman, D-California, has led the charge to expose details of Halliburton's dealings in Iraq. "This sweetheart, no-bid contract given to Halliburton spikes up by hundreds of millions of dollars each week. It's outrageous."
Every day brings more evidence that this http://www.thenation.com/directory/view.mhtml?t=000706 "> Administration and its rightwing cronies want to unmake everything good about this country, from Head Start to habeas corpus.
Their aim, as our national affairs correspondent William Greider has argued, seems to be to destroy New Deal programs like Social Security and Medicare, unravel our already frayed social safety net and roll back the hard-earned rights and liberties of the 20th century.
Don't believe me? These goals are clearly laid out in the 2002 Republican Party platform of George W's home state of Texas, which calls for abolishing the income tax, wiping out the social security system, repealing the minimum wage, rescinding US membership in the United Nations, and cancelling the War Powers Act. (Click here for full text of this document.)