Democratic Underground

2001: The Year in Review - Part One
January 2, 2002
by Smokey Sojac

JANUARY

Pressed by outgoing US President Bill Clinton, the UN security council imposes a new round of sanctions on the Taliban, including an arms embargo, to force the extradition of Osama Bin Laden.

Appointed by his father's appointees on the Supreme Court and without the voters' mandate, Bush is inaugurated amidst the largest protests seen since the end of the Viet Nam war. His closed limo whizzes past hostile crowds to the White House. There are also demonstrations in most major American cities.

The seven Democrats and seven Republicans serving on the Hart-Rudman Commission, which had been put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., to make sweeping strategic recommendations on how the United States could ensure its security in the 21st century, deliver their report to the Bush administration, with 50 unanimously approved recommendations. The commission recommended the formation of a Cabinet-level position to combat terrorism. The proposed National Homeland Security Agency director would have "responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security," according to the commission's executive summary. Other recommendations: U.S. foreign policy should strive to shape an international system in which just grievances can be addressed without violence. Verifiable arms control and nonproliferation efforts must remain a top priority to help persuade states and terrorists to abjure weapons of mass destruction. The development of new transportation security procedures and practices was urged. Said Gary Hart, "We said Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers - that's a quote (from the commission's Phase One Report)." The Bush administration does nothing.

Bush repeals ergonomic safety regulations, which were 10 years in the making. Gregory A. Denier, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the regulation would have prevented 600,000 injuries a year through such changes as better workstation design for chicken de-boners and meat packers. Martha G. Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, an umbrella for 120 groups representing 6 million people, said women suffer many ergonomic injuries from keyboard work and machine cleaning, and called the repeal "a slap in the face of women." "The safety and health of our nation's workforce is a priority for my administration," says Bush.

Bush chooses as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. His less than stellar record as Ford's Secretary of Defense included the unworkable $22 billion Safeguard anti-missile system, which was shut down after 24 hours of operation. Rumsfeld has been pushing for years for another missile defense system. Current price tag is between $60 billion to $100 billion.

Bush chooses as Attorney General John Ashcroft, religious fanatic and life National Rifle Association member with a history of race-baiting. He rose to prominence keeping Kansas City public schools segregated. Missouri voters in November chose a corpse over him. He is one of several Republicans who has supported Southern Partisan, a neo-confederate magazine that runs justifications for slavery and celebrates the assassinations of Lincoln and Martin Luther King; Tim McVeigh was wearing a Southern Partisan T-Shirt when he blew up the Murrah office building in Oklahoma City. Upon taking office, Ashcroft anoints himself with Crisco oil. He refuses to read newspapers or watch televised news, relying on an aide to summarize goings-on.

The scheduled release of 68,000 pages of Reagan era documents is delayed by the incoming administration, which says it wants until March to review them, in violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The papers cover the period when Osama Bin Laden was recruited and trained by the Reagan Administration, as well as the period when arms were being sold secretly in the Middle East to finance the terrorist campaigns of the Contras.

Bush re-imposes a ban on federal funds for overseas groups that perform or advocate abortions, or lobby governments to ease access to abortion. At issue is about $425 million used by overseas organizations in developing countries to promote family planning, nutrition and counseling. He also orders a review of the government's approval of the RU-486 abortion pill.

Bush sends his 28-page "Blueprint for Education Reform" to Congress. While the blueprint includes a voucher program that would take money from failing public schools, nowhere in the document is the word voucher used, because the phrase "school vouchers" draws negative responses from voters. Voters in ten of ten states have rejected voucher plans decisively.

Bush announces more than once that the US economy is already in recession, although it is not.

Bush puts on hold meat safety regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture that call for more stringent testing by plants producing hot dogs, ready-to-eat-meats and cheeses to detect listeria bacteria, which can contaminate processed meat, poultry and dairy products.

According to the BBC, Bush puts a stop to all ongoing FBI investigations of ties between the Bin Laden family and international terrorism. Bush's father and the Bin Ladens are in business together at the Carlyle Group, a private investment house.

Bush announces he is preparing to let California roll back its air pollution requirements on power plants to help the state ease its electricity crisis, despite the fact that California pollution officials said the environmental restrictions had not interfered with power plants operations at maximum capacity.

Bush takes the first weekend after his swearing in off. No president in US history will do less actual work in his first year.

Linda Chavez-Thompson is nominated as Secretary of Labor. It is discovered that she has been using Guatemalan immigrant Marta Mercado as a house servant for two years, paying her about $14 per week, a total of $1,500 over that span. She withdraws her nomination. Chavez had led the charge against Clinton nominee Zoe Baird, who had hired an illegal immigrant as nanny and paid her prevailing rates. Chavez also is a foe of minimum wage laws. She is replaced by Elaine Chao, wife of Senator Mitch McConnell.

Bush sends his Immediate Helping Hand proposal - a prescription drug plan for seniors - to the Hill. Bush's plan would provide $48 billion to states over four years so they could cover the full cost of drugs for the poorest senior citizens, and part of the cost for those who are slightly better off. Republican Charles Grassley, Senate Finance Chairman, refuses to support Bush's Immediate Helping Hand program, calling it dead before arrival. Some state governments have also refused to support the program, saying that states without wide-ranging medical programs would not benefit because they lack channels to distribute government benefits. Bush backs off the proposal.

Ari Fleisher and other White House officials spread the deliberate lie that outgoing Clinton Administration staffers have vandalized the White House, although no-one is allowed to see the damage, for the good reason that it will turn out to be non-existent. Office Depot donates thousands of dollars of computer keyboards to replace those supposedly damaged. Nutcase Congressman Bob Barr demands a General Accounting Office Investigation.

On January 31, the Fed cuts its rates for the second time within the month to stimulate the economy. It had boosted its rates in May, 2000 to cool down the economy.

Bush tells the New York Times, "Redefining the role of the United States from enablers to keep the peace to enablers to keep the peace from peacekeepers is going to be an assignment."

The first of a series of rolling blackouts cripples California, exacerbated by price-gouging from a variety of Bush campaign contributors, including Enron and El Paso Gas. Bush refuses to impose price controls, despite calls for him to do so, claiming they will not solve the problem. "We are literally in a war with energy companies who are price-gouging us," says CA governor Grey Davis. Bush explains the problem thusly to the New York Times, "The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants." Right wing pundits sneer at the state's "so-called energy crisis" and call for more deregulation. Following passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in December, which shielded Enron's and others' trading activities from regulators, the state will have 38 Stage 3 emergencies - which will end only when federal regulators finally impose price controls in June 2001. At its buccaneering peak, Enron is charging $575 a kilowatt hour, compared to $75 in other states. Duke Energy is charging $3,880 a kilowatt hour; Reliant energy $1,990 a kilowatt hour. Enron is also gouging California on natural gas, charging $12 per million Btu's, compared to $5 per million for the rest of the country. Prior to Bush taking office, the difference in natural gas prices between California and the rest of the country was rarely more than 50 cents per million.

A furnace at the Rouge Steel Plant in Dearborn, MI explodes, injuring two workers.

The tanker "Overseas Chicago" spills oil off the Oahu coast of Hawaii.

In Oregon, nearly 6,000 gallons of thick petroleum spill into the Yaquina River when a tanker truck filled with bunker oil overturns.

About 2,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid stored in a waste holding tank at Hi-Tech Plating spills in Phoenix, AZ.

FEBRUARY

Republican campaign contributors from the oil industry joy-riding in the nuclear submarine USS Greenville ram and sink the 151-foot, 499-ton Japanese research vessel Ehime Maru. Among those killed are four 17-year-old high school fisheries students on their first long voyage at sea. Amidst growing evidence that his Navy and cabinet subordinates are engaged in covering up a crime, Bush responds mainly by calling for prayer. It turns out that one of the campaign contributors was actually at the controls when the sub smashed into the trawler. No criminal charges are filed, but the Navy does announce that from now on civilian joy-riders will be allowed only to observe.

Bush blocks rules meant to make it easier for sick coal miners to receive black lung benefits, despite the fact that he promised to support the same benefits while campaigning. United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts says, "It seems suspect that now, just a few weeks after Mr. Bush took office, we are witnessing a full-scale reversal on the assurance to fight for the immediate implementation of the regulations by the very same government lawyers who made it in the first place."

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Bush cabinet is the wealthiest in US history, averaging $11 million each.

GOP Rep. Charlie Norwood abandons his prior support of a bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights. Although he was an original sponsor of the bill, Norwood fails to sponsor the 2001 bill and does not appear at a press conference to tout the legislation, citing pressure from the White House.

In an interview with USA Today, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card reveals the Bush administration's intention to eliminate the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), created by President Clinton in 1994, and the Office of One America, created by President Clinton in 1997 to improve race relations. The next day, the White House announces it is not closing either office. The Associated Press notes that phones in both offices go unanswered, however.

Senator Jim Jeffords becomes the first Republican to oppose Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut plan.

Colin Powell makes his first trip to the Middle East and ruins into a firestorm of criticism from Arab allies, who urge the US not to abandon Bill Clinton's peace process. Bush has shut down the peace talks, fired the Middle East special envoys, and supports Ariel Sharon, who has announced that the agreement to give the Palestinians control of the West Bank and the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem is void. The allies also urge him to ease US sanctions on Iraq.

The Guardian reports that Pakistan's interior minister, Moinuddin Haider, who met the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, says the Taliban would consider allowing Islamic scholars to meet abroad to hear evidence against Osama Bin Laden, who is wanted for terrorist acts, and decide his fate. Patrick Clawson, director of research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: "It looks as if [the Taliban] are serious about negotiations over Osama's future. It's significant that they specify which countries the scholars would come from, and say it can be outside Afghanistan. Clearly if it was in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, the US would be delighted." Says Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, "Between the American and the Afghan extreme stances it is possible that the United States and Afghanistan can choose another country where Bin Laden can have a fair trial." The Bush Administration ignores the proposal.

Alan Greenspan tells the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that tax cuts will be no help in staving off a recession. "In other words, if a recession is going to happen -- and I must say to you, it's not happened yet -- it's very unlikely to be affected one way or the other by what tax policy is going to be."

Bush slashes a Clinton Administration program that provides computers and Internet connections to low income and under-served areas in an effort to bridge the digital divide by two-thirds.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans stops the Census Bureau from adjusting the 2000 head count to include the undercounted. Evans says he decided the politically sensitive issue himself. Census numbers will be used for redistricting and the allocation of roughly $200 billion a year in funding for the next ten years. Minority communities, however, were disproportionately under-represented in the 1990 census and are the communities most affected by not using adjusted numbers.

Veteran FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen is arrested and revealed to have been a Russian spy since at least 1985. While actively spying for the Russians, he advised the Reagan Administration on "subversive" groups such as the Grey Panthers, delegates to the 1987 World Congress of Women convention, and anti-nuclear groups.

Bush signs executive orders banning project labor agreements, eliminating the National Partnership Council and taking away job protection for service industry workers contracting with the government; he also reinstates an executive order requiring contractors to post notices about union dues.

Texas legislators are forced to confront a $1 billion shortfall caused by tax cuts under then-governor Bush in 1998.

OMB Director Mitch Daniels announces that some federal programs must be "slowed down this year in order to make room" for President Bush's priorities. Specifically targeted are programs that provide telephone service to rural areas.

EPA Administrator Christine Whitman tells CNN's "Crossfire" that the Bush administration is committed to reduction of a variety of pollutants, including CO2. "There are ways that we can get to a multi-pollutant strategy on energy that would allow for energy and still meet some of these demands and the needs that we need to meet on global warming, " she says. She's wrong, as subsequent events will show.

During his first press conference, Bush dodges questions about budget cuts, tax-cut compromises, presidential pardons and a requirement for FBI polygraph tests.

Racing legend Dale Earnhardt dies after crashing on the final lap of the Daytona 500 while trying to cheat. NASCAR is allowed to perform its own investigation, as Florida stands by passively. It first blames a broken seatbelt, which turns out to be a lie. NASCAR later blames blunt force trauma to the head and neck, which would make Earnhardt the fourth NASCAR fatality from that cause is less than a year. Egged on by the racing association, NASCAR fans launch an angry campaign against the Orlando Sentinel, which has been conducting a six-month-long investigation into NASCAR safety.

At a meeting of the Western Governors' Association, eight out of 11 Western governors, including 5 Republicans and Democrat Gray Davis from California, said they want wholesale prices for electricity capped throughout the region. Attendees said they support a cap that would reimburse suppliers for operating costs and permit profits of 15% to 25% above that amount, according to the Wall Street Journal. The cap would be lifted when enough power is available to create a truly competitive market among the 11 Western states that are electrically interconnected. In the meeting, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham rejects their requests for caps on wholesale energy prices.

A fuel tank that leaked 5,000 gallons into the ground and the sewer system is cleaned up nearly five weeks after an underground fuel pipe from a fuel tank broke. The tank, located in Fond du Loc, Wisconsin, is owned by Purina Mills, Inc. The pipe was shut down a while ago but Purina Mills didn't take any action to clean up what had leaked at the time. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is investigating.

Bush announces he is cancelling the FEMA program "Project Impact," a program that provides money to teach homeowners how to retrofit their homes, saying it had not "proven effective." An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hits the Seattle area the same day. Damage is relatively low due to precautions taken under "Project Impact." When the quake begins, dozens of city, state and local officials are celebrating the program's third anniversary in an 86-year-old brick school turned recreation center in Seattle that had been retrofitted under a city program to survive earthquakes. The building survives with a few cracks.

The Chrisitan Coalition is hit with a bias lawsuit by its black employees, who cntend they were prohibited from entering the front door of the coalition's Capitol Hill-area offices. The employees say they were told to enter the back door but were not given key cards to unlock it, forcing them to pound on the door for entry. Director Roberta Combs made statements that black staffers would wear out an oriental rug in the reception area if allowed to come and go through the front door. Combs also allegedly said "she did not want important people seeing the 'girls' from remittance/data entry in the reception area." A former white employee is also suing Combs, saying he was fired for refusing to eavesdrop on the black employees.

The administration refuses to join 123 nations pledged to ban the use and production of anti-personnel bombs and mines.

In a meeting with Catholic groups, Bush inadvertantly announces over an intercom to the entire White House that the Faith-Based Initiative plan would help them fund their anti-abortion activities. Karl Rove holds secret meetings this month with the Salvation Army offering to let them discriminate legally against gays if they would support the plan.

More than 100 homes are evacuated after a urethane plant in Alabama explodes.

A steam turbine at the Rouge Steel Plant in Dearborn, MI ruptures, killing one worker and injuring another.

At his first White House Rose Garden event, Bush announces, "It's good to see so many friends here in the Rose Garden. This is our first event in this beautiful spot, and it's appropriate we talk about policy that will affect people's lives in a positive way in such a beautiful, beautiful part of our national-really, our national park system, my guess is you would want to call it."

The U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) allows the reopening of a 37-mile section of a refined oil products pipeline that has been closed since a fatal explosion in Washington State in June 1999. The accident spilled more than 200,000 gallons of gasoline that ignited into a fireball. Two 10-year-old boys and a 19-year-old man were killed and the disaster left a swath of destruction along Whatcom Creek.

MARCH

The Bush recession begins.

The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 for controlling global warming is declared "dead" by Bush, who also backs of his campaign promise to regulate power plants for lower CO2 emissions.

The $1 trillion contingency fund Bush has claimed his budget contains turns out to be less than $650 billion, available only by raiding Medicare funds.

On March 20, the Fed makes its third rate cut of the year.

After Colin Powell announces we will continue to support the efforts of South and North Korea to hold talks, as the Clinton administration had done, Bush tells the South Korean premier, Kim Dae Jung, to buzz off, in retaliation for Jung publicly supporting the ABM treaty. Bush says we will not support talks because North Korea is not living up to all its agreements with us. It emerges we have only one agreement with North Korea, and it has been verified they are holding up their end. North Korea cancels peace talks in Seoul.

In an interview with the Denver Post, Bush says that there is room in the nation's national monuments for oil drilling.

Congress votes for Bush-supported legislation that would repeal federal regulations helping workers with repetitive-motion injuries. Under the repealed regulations, employers would have to inform workers about repetitive-motion injuries, provide free access to doctors and pay 90 percent of employees' pay for the first 90 days they missed work because of a work-related repetitive-stress injury. Cashiers, assembly-line workers, meat cutters, fork lift operators, secretaries and computer operators are among the many that are affected by the changes.

The Bush administration rescinds a regulation to update the arsenic standard from 50 ppb to 10 ppb.

The White House rejects a request from the Federal Election Commission for $5.5 million over two years to beef up its Office of Administration. The money would have been used to develop standards that ensure elections are run properly.

Bush announces he is ending the American Bar Association's (ABA) half-century role in vetting nominees for federal judgeships. White House Counsel Al Gonzales notified ABA president Martha Barnett in writing, saying, "In our view, granting any single group such a preferential, quasi official role in the nomination process would be unfair to the other groups that also have strong interests in judicial selection.It would be particularly inappropriate, in our view, to grant preferential, quasi-official role to a group, such as the ABA, that takes public positions on divisive political, legal and social issues that come before the courts." Shortly thereafter, the Administration grants that preferential, quasi-official role to the fringe right wing Federalist Society, headed by Ed "Wedtech" Meese.

Bush scraps the X-33 space plane after five years of research and scales back the International Space Station to pay for his tax cut. NASA now has no replacement for the aging space shuttle fleet and will have to rely on the planes until at least 2012. We have only four space shuttles, and the oldest dates back to 1981.

Claude A. Allen is named Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services. Allen has been criticized as Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources because he said that "abortion was a sticking point" in implementing Virginia's Children's Health Insurance Program. Allen said the federal Health Care Financing Administration, which provides two-thirds of the money for the program, wanted Virginia to allow abortion coverage in instances of rape and incest, rather than just when the life of the mother is endangered.

Bush cuts the Child Care and Development Block Grant by $200 million. In addition, a program designed for child abuse prevention would be cut by eighteen percent, $15.7 million. Bush's budget would completely eliminate a $20 million program dedicated to improving early childhood education and development.

Bush closes the White House Office on Women's Issues and refuses to discuss the closing.

The Bush administration restricts access for women on Medicaid to RU-486, an abortion drug approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

The scheduled release of 68,000 pages of Reagan era documents is delayed by the Enron administration, which says it wants until June 21 to review them, in violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The papers cover the period when Osama Bin Laden was recruited and trained by the Reagan Administration, as well as the period when arms were being sold secretly in the Middle East to finance the terrorist campaigns of the Contras.

Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, who owns more than $100,000 of stock in Intel Corporation, meets with the company's chief executive and two lobbyists as they push for federal approval of a corporate merger. The administration will approve the deal less than two months later, bringing Rove a fat profit..

The Dim Son blocks mechanics at Northwest Airlines from going on strike by ordering a 60-day cooling off period. After hearing that four other major airlines could face potential strikes in coming months, Bush said, "I am concerned about their impact, concerned about what it could mean to this economy and I intend to take the necessary steps to prevent airline strikes from happening this year." President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Sonny Hall said, "Perhaps the most disturbing aspect about the President's remarks today is what some may interpret as a rush to judgment and a simultaneous promise to poison the collective bargaining process."

Swearing in Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, the Dim Son announces, "Ann and I will carry out this equivocal message to the world: Markets must be open."

Bush proposes eliminating the Public Drug Elimination Program, which provided federal money to public housing projects for security officers, alarm systems and after-school activities to prevent drug use. Bush claims that the program has "limited impact" and that "regulatory tools such as eviction are more effective at reducing drug activity in public housing." A program supporter, Rep. John LaFalce (D-N.Y), says Bush's idea would, in effect, tell families trying to raise their children in public housing that "drug dealers are welcomed back" and that combating crime no longer was a priority.

A federal judge rules W.R. Grace must allow access by the EPA to properties it owns in Montana for asbestos clean-up in Libby, MT. The lawsuit was launched in September, 2000 after the worst asbestos contamination in US history was discovered. Grace had told residents repeatedly that asbestos dust was harmless, despite knowledge to the contrary. Grace even ignored workers' requests for showers, which would have allowed them to clean the dust from their bodies and change clothes before returning home to their wives and children. The judge also rules that Grace must spend $2.75 million providing Libby, MT residents with health benefits. More than of Libby's 1,200 residents have died of asbestos-related disease.

During the campaign, Bush responded to complaints he was a puppet of the gun lobby by handing out more than 20,000 gun locks in Texas. The Associated Press discovers that the locks are defective and that a recall is underway.

Bush tells Congress that he will not regulate carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants, breaking his campaign promise.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill admits to moderate senators that Bush's tax cut plan would do too little to boost the economy and asks the senators to use most of the 2001 projected surplus for a larger retroactive tax cut to provide a stimulus..

Bush travels to Atlanta to visit Egleston Children's Healthcare, an Atlanta-area children's hospital. One report says that he "got misty-eyed" as he listened to parents talk about their children's illnesses and the benefits of the children's hospital. He will cut their funding during April.

Bush announces the Community Policing Services Program (COPS), the centerpiece of Clinton's 1994 anti-crime initiative, will be cut by 13 percent because the nation's decrease in violent crime cannot be attributed to the 103,000 extra police officers hired through the program. Violent crime has declined every year since 1994, when COPS and the Brady Bill were enacted. It has been a regular theme on right wing talk shows by blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh since 1994 that the COPS program had not hired the 100,000 new police Bush now says it did.

At a press event after a meeting with Ariel Sharon, Bush tells us, "I assured the prime minister, my administration will work hard to lay the foundation of peace in the Middle-to work with our nations in the Middle East, give peace a chance. Secondly, I told him that our nation will not try to force peace, that we'll facilitate peace and that we will work with those responsible for a peace."

The Florida Legislature passes a law making it a felony to release autopsy photos without a judge's permission. The new law not only forbids copying of autopsy photos and records, but also prevents inspecting the records, hindering thousands of independent investigations of insurance claims, malpractice and murders. The law is specifically aimed at newspaper investigations into the death of Dale Earnhardt.

Disney announces it will lay off 4,000 workers.

Part Two: April, May, June

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