Rights under attack

The American Bar Association has joined growing condemnation of the Bush administration’s secret detention of immigrants since Sept. 11. The ABA said the government should disclose the detainees’ names and where they are being held, give them access to lawyers and family members, hold prompt open hearings, and charge them or release them.

A federal judge ordered the government to release the names of more than 1,000 post-Sept. 11 detainees, saying the secrecy policy was “odious” to a democracy. But the Justice Department has appealed that ruling.

The government is also drawing fire for holding several U.S. citizens incommunicado, without any charges or access to attorneys, based on unsupported assertions that they are “enemy combatants,” until whenever the White House decides its “war on terrorism” is over.

The Bush-Ashcroft team is plowing ahead with its Operation TIPS plan to have truck drivers and other working-class folks spy on fellow Americans.

Under cover of “national security,” the Bush administration is threatening to use troops to break a possible longshore strike. The AFL-CIO has rightly said this “undermines the basic civil rights of the labor movement and all American workers.”

Bush is also trying to wipe out the collective bargaining and civil service rights of government workers in the proposed Homeland Security Department. But Bush revealed how cynically he is using the terrorism issue when, in a frantic attempt to show action on the floundering economy, he announced he won’t spend a penny of the $5 billion Congress voted for security measures.

Just as the 1950s anti-communist hysteria targeted the foreign-born and unions, the Bush administration is attacking the rights of immigrants and labor in a divide-and-conquer program to suppress opposition to its radical right pro-corporate agenda.

A few courageous voices in Congress are not enough to stop this assault on democracy. It’s critical to elect a Congress this fall that will fight for our rights and liberties.

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Help working people

A librarian asked a workshop at George W. Bush’s “Economic Summit” in Waco, Tex., how ordinary working people like herself, who struggle to pay their bills, can have confidence in an economy run by billionaires with their “obscene salaries, stock options and bonuses?”

It was a rare moment of truth amid the torrent of lies and deceptions poured out by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their corporate cronies at this Republican election-year lovefest. This summit did not endorse a single real proposal to provide jobs for 10 million unemployed, health care for over 40 million uninsured, retirement security for millions. Instead, it endorsed policies that got us into the mess.

We must begin by attacking the income inequality generated by the “steal from the poor, give to the rich” tax and economic policies of the past 20 years. Put simply, the program must be: “Increase taxes on the rich! Cut taxes on workers and the poor!”

Cancel Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut program that pours $500 billion into the coffers of the richest 1 percent. Use the revenues for human needs programs, starting with prescription drugs and a cradle-to-grave health care system for everyone in the U.S.

Create jobs through a modern-day WPA program to rebuild the nation’s bridges, water mains, schools, recreation centers and public health clinics. Why not provide a federally-funded child-care and senior-care program that pays these workers a living wage? Social Security benefits should be increased to a level that permits retirees to live free from privation.

Bush and his billionaire buddies will scream that the nation can’t afford it. But Social Security and WPA were enacted during the nation’s worst economic depression. If we could afford it then, we can afford it today when the economy generates $12 trillion in Gross Domestic Product. Many billions more could come from deep cuts in Bush’s aggressive Pentagon war budget. It is high time we put “people before profits” by enacting these desperately needed programs.

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