Court rules against Bush

We applaud the unanimous decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a policy established by the Bush administration’s chief immigration judge that automatically excluded the public — including family members – from any deportation hearing the Justice Department designates a “special interest case.”

Judge Damon J. Keith used scathing language in the opinion: “Democracies die behind closed doors. When the government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.”

It has been written that the courts read the election returns – or, in this case, the shift in the mood of important sections of public opinion since the tragic events of 9/11. Although Bush’s approval ratings remain high, a growing number of public figures have begun to express opposition to his policies.

Chief among them is the labor movement, where leaders and activists are reacting with increasing anger and outspokenness to Bush’s statements implying that government workers who are union members are somehow in cahoots with Osama bin Ladin. And they are outspoken in their opposition to government threats to use armed force to break the west coast longshore union.

By now virtually every major leader of the African-American people has denounced the administration’s attack on civil liberties, comparing the USA Patriot Act with J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program that targeted Martin Luther King as well as members of the Communist Party.

Before 9/11, campaigns to legalize undocumented immigrants and end the bombing of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, by the US Navy topped the concerns of the Latino population. Both were muted in the aftermath of 9/11 and both have begun to pick up steam as the Service Employees International Union leads a campaign to deliver to Washington in early October a million postcards calling for legalization of immigrants.

There is still a lot of fear and even more confusion and misinformation. But this decision is a welcome tool in the struggle for peace and justice.

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The real way to fight fire

You can always count on George W. Bush to come up with policies that help his corporate buddies.

At another of his carefully stage-managed photo-ops, this one in Oregon, Bush announced a fraudulent plan to “streamline” forest thinning projects.

Bush’s plan would eliminate or weaken important statutes that require environmental review of logging projects and provide for citizen appeals, and would extend the timber industry’s reach into 190 million acres of at-risk federal lands.

Cynically using the fear of forest fires, Bush’s plan would allow the timber industry to expedite destructive logging projects in pristine backcountry areas, including roadless areas, while sacrificing essential safeguards and Americans’ right to a say in the management of our public lands.

The Bush plan would let timber companies take out big trees deep in the forest under the guise of “thinning,” but fire scientists say this would do nothing to reduce fire risk and could actually increase the risk of fires. They say the best way to save lives, save homes and save money is by thinning underbrush and small trees in the community zones around towns and settlements – not logging in the backcountry.

The Bush plan lets timber companies decide where they want to put their efforts. But they make profits by taking out the large mature trees in the deep woods, not by clearing the scrub around populated communities.

Surprise! Under Bush, the Forest Service is now run by a former industry lobbyist. And the forest products industry gave 82 percent of its 2000 elections contributions to Republicans.

The Bush plan will be introduced in September as an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), a staunch friend of the timber industry.

This Bush-Craig plan is a fraud and should be defeated. Instead of giving a green light to corporate greed, the government should make protecting communities from fire the Forest Service’s top priority and have it focus all resources on that mission. Put people before Bush’s CEO pals.

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