Lookin’ For Work: W’s Shaky Employee Evaluation
Iraq and the War on Terror
Perhaps all wars are based on lies and misunderstanding, but few
have been more blatantly so than this one.
Bush’s reasons for war have been proven false, as no weapons
of mass destruction were found in Iraq and any connection between
Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was dismissed by the 9/11 commission.
Colin Powell testified before the U.N. Security Council about the
need for preemptive war in Iraq using information plagiarized from
a graduate student thesis.
Continued U.S. involvement means ever-increasing casualties, and
withdrawal has very real possibilities of erupting into a civil
war between Shiite and Sunni factions, perhaps even sparking much
larger regional conflict in the Middle East.
According to Antiwar.com, military reports indicate that the Iraqi
war and post-war occupation has killed 887 American troops and
injured 5,104 as of mid July. It’s estimated that between
4,900 to 6,400 Iraqi military personnel and 11,000 to 13,000 Iraqi
civilians have been killed since the war began. These numbers don’t
include those deeply traumatized by serving in such a dangerous
war or tortured and shamed in wartime prisons like Abu Ghraib.
According to Congressional appropriations, the Iraq war and occupation
will cost the United States from $135 to $166 billion. But only
a fraction of this money is going to active military. In fact,
a couple months into the war Bush cut “imminent danger” pay
given to Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force personnel in combat
zones from $225 to $150 a month. Meanwhile, the administration
gave away several billion dollars worth of public funds to Halliburton
in the famous no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq.
- Ben Bush and Mark Osmond
Separation of Church and State
Bush’s first executive order as president created the Office
of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The ultimate goal of
the office is to make federal funding available to religious groups
that provide social services. Currently, religious groups can receive
federal funding if they abide by the same rules — including
civil rights laws — that apply to everybody else. However,
Bush is pushing legislation that would allow religious organizations
that discriminate in their hiring practices to receive federal
If the legislation goes through Congress, religious groups could
hire and fire employees based on church affiliation or sexual orientation
and receive millions of dollars in federal money at the same time.
The ACLU sued the Salvation Army for this very thing in February
2004. If Bush’s legislation were imposed, the Salvation Army’s
conduct would be completely legal.
Perhaps the eeriest display of Bush’s religious vision is
found in his speeches concerning the “war on terror,” which
are often laced with Manichaean overtones that divide reality into
two categories — absolute good and absolute evil.
According to Bush, who named Christ as his favorite political
philosopher, the United States has been called to conquer this
evil. Referring to the successes of America’s war on terror
in a September 2002 speech, Bush paraphrased the Gospel of John, “And
the light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness will not
- Mark Osmond
Civil liberties will likely be a huge part of Bush’s legacy.
The Patriot Act, passed just six weeks after Sept. 11, allows police
to check out what you read and search your house without telling
you, redefines protest as “domestic terrorism,” and
permits the FBI to do away with probable cause. The once-defeated
Patriot II (the Domestic Security Enhancement Act) is currently
being tacked piecemeal onto other bills in Congress.
To the wider world, the government’s apparent willingness
to hold both visitors and citizens as enemy combatants has given
the United States a black eye, while the US-VISIT program’s
appetite for tourists’ fingerprints promises to reduce the
flow of visitors when it goes into effect at the end of 2005. By
the end of next year, American passports could also include a Radio
Frequency Identification chip, which would broadcast personal information
to anyone nearby with the ability to receive it. As the U.K.’s The
Register notes, such chips could inadvertently put people
at risk by drawing attention to them as Americans or Europeans.
Closer to home, three New York artists, Steve Kurts, Beatriz da
Costa and, Steve Barnes have been subpoenaed under the Patriot
Act for an art project misunderstood as a biological weapons lab;
New York City has lifted restrictions, known as the Handschu agreement,
on spying on activists; and the Secret Service intends to shut
down the entire New York City subway when Bush accepts the Republican
nomination this fall.
Don’t travel. Don’t protest. Stay at home. Shop if
- Sarah Groff-Palermo
In 2000, Bush flaunted the “Texas Miracle,” claiming
that Texas schools had lowered dropout rates and narrowed achievement
gaps on tests. Then we found out schools across Houston were fudging
numbers. One school reported a 0.3 percent dropout rate, when closer
to half the student body never received diplomas. Bush appointed
Rod Paige, superintendent in Houston during the cover-up, Secretary
In January 2002, Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, setting
standards for K-12 schools nationally by requiring all subgroups — racial,
ethnic, economic — in every school to reach proficiency in
core areas. But NCLB offers no additional funding to meet these
requirements and allows states to set their own proficiency standards.
Under-performing and non-compliant schools lose federal funds,
encouraging the widespread practice of “teaching the test.” In
an effort to protect federal funding, Texas and Michigan have lowered
Opponents of NCLB include teachers, administrators, students,
parents, and legislatures. Bush has turned a deaf ear to the opposition,
and Paige has referred to opponents as a “coalition of the
whining,” and identified the National Education Association,
the nation’s largest organization of teachers, as a “terrorist
Further, as reductions in college and university budgets have
made 35 percent increases in tuition the norm, low-income students
find it harder to pay for college. Yet Bush’s 2005 budget
proposal refuses to raise the maximum Pell Grant award, slashes
nearly $100 million from the Federal Perkins Loan Program, and
calls for the elimination of LEAP, a need=based education grant
- William Wroblewski
Bush’s Energy Policy Act of 2003 calls for cutbacks in renewable
energy funding and an increase in fossil fuel consumption. Vice
President Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force met with 39 oil
lobbyists and executives while writing the legislation.
President Bush then overturned a Clinton-era federal ruling that
had banned hilltop strip mining. Next, the Bush administration
pandered to corporate timber barons and authored a new forest plan,
called “The Healthy Forests Initiative,” mirrored after
Clinton-era legislation and language Democratic Senator Tom Daschle
slipped into another environmental bill in the summer of 2002.
Daschle’s legal jargon, backed by the Sierra Club and other “green” titans,
allowed logging on American Indian holy land in South Dakota.
Bush’s own forest plan, supported by the majority of Democrats
in the Senate, authorized over $760 million dollars allegedly to
prevent wild fires — by cutting down over 2.5 million acres
of federal forestland by 2012.
Shortly following the forest debacle, Bush began pushing his “Clean
Skies” initiative, which calls for increasing the amount
of harsh chemicals allowed to be legally released by industrial
polluters. The legislation also aims to cut what the government
calls “carbon intensity,” which is a measure of carbon
pollution, by measuring environmental destruction by calculating
economic losses to major industries, instead of looking at scientific
data. The proposed Republican 2005 budget calls for almost $2 billion
in cuts for environmental protection.
- Josh Frank
Jobs & Health Care
Under the Bush administration, the economy has certainly taken
a turn for the worst. What exactly is the damage, you ask? For
starters, the nation has lost 1.7 million jobs over the past two
years after adding 5 million jobs in 1999 and 2000. According to
the U.S. Department of Labor, there are at least 2.5 job seekers
for every job opening. Unemployment is at an eight-year high and
growing — ten million unemployed workers want jobs but cannot
find them. More than 4 million work only part-time because they
cannot get full-time jobs. The country is experiencing the worst
bout of unemployment since the Great Depression.
At the same time, workers who still have health insurance are
paying substantially more for it. Workers’ premium payments
rose 27 percent for single coverage and 16 percent for family coverage
in 2002 and are continuing to increase. According to the Census
Bureau, the number of uninsured rose to over 43.6 million in 2001.
Many employers are discontinuing current health care and retirement
benefits to their employees. Most Americans without insurance — 80
percent — are in working families.
Frighteningly, Bush has no new jobs programs in his budget. His
budget provides no new incentives for employers to pay their workers
a living wage or to provide them with a health plan or a pension.
Bush also opposes raising the minimum wage. Bush has provided companies
with tax breaks for investment in technology while opposing tax
breaks for hiring new workers. Instead, he is asking for more cuts
for the wealthy, and asking congress to make them permanent.
- Alison Parker
One of Bush’s first actions as president was to appoint
an openly gay director of the National AIDS Policy Office. Elected
as a centrist, Bush’s middle-road stance on LGBTQ issues
quickly migrated to the right. In June, Bush refused to observe
Clinton’s federally designated Gay and Lesbian Pride Month,
citing his belief that people’s sexual orientation should
not be politicized. Attorney General John Ashcroft subsequently
attempted to shut down the Department of Justice employee gay pride
observance every year since, marking the first time any federal
agency has banned a gay pride celebration since they began celebrating
it in the mid ‘90s.
An entourage of “firsts” follows the tracks of the
Bush administration. When gay marriage burst onto the national
agenda earlier this year, Bush rallied for an amendment to ban
gay marriages, which would constitutionally limit the rights of
American citizens for the first time since prohibition in the 1920s.
Queers who remembered hearing the Bush of 2000 say, “The
state can do what they want” with respect to gay marriage
are left wondering what happened to that autonomy. In the polarized
election year climate, Bush, abandoned by many centrists, is now
situating his base in the religious right.
To solidify his fundamental base in the electorate, George Bush
appointed Lou Sheldon as his “faith-based advisor.” Not
familiar with the name? According to In These Times, Sheldon
publicly boasted, “Gays and lesbians live perverted, twisted
lives that feed upon the unsuspecting and the innocent.” Surrounding
himself with homophobic advisors like Sheldon and John Ashcroft,
Bush has spun 180 degrees by politicizing gender orientation only
four years after asserting his neutrality.
- Steven Kelly
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