[Hpn] 3-10 million americans homeless in this country

William Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Mon, 29 Sep 2003 08:23:02 -0400


September 29, 2003

Historian blasts Bush, 'who has thrust us back 100 years'
By FREDERICK MELO
STAFF WRITER
In the 1880s, a group of female activists banded together to advocate for an
unprecedented number of public benefits.
>From parks to libraries and the eight-hour work day, the "urban
progressives," as they were called, envisioned an America where government
outreach spurred social change.
More than a century has passed since women like Jane Adams and Ellen Gates
argued for affordable housing for the poor and universal access to public
education.
But today, in contrast to that progressive agenda, "we have an
administration who has thrust us back 100 years," Blanche Wiesen Cook told
an audience of about 100 people at Wellfleet Public Library last night.
Cook, an acclaimed historian, feminist author and civil libertarian, argues
that "bipartisan silence" has allowed an Orwellian erosion of civil
liberties and a dismantling of basic public services such as schools and
libraries.
"This is the meanest moment in U.S. history since slavery," she said.
Cook, famous for devoting decades to the epic biographies of Dwight D.
Eisenhower and Eleanor Roosevelt, spent a highly charged hour lambasting
Democrats and Republicans alike for the government's tactics in the war on
terrorism.
"We have this president that calls for 'all war, all the time,' nukes
included," she said. "I call him George War Bush."
Titled "The Struggle for Peace and Justice in a State of Siege," her
sometimes scorching, sometimes wryly pointed presentation was sponsored by
the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Calling this the "creepiest moment in U.S. history," Cook took the Bush
administration to task for the mass arrests of hundreds of immigrants and
Muslim-Americans after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"The U.S. didn't used to have folks who were rounded up anonymously, not
told what the charges are ... without the right to a lawyer, without the
right to a trial by jury," she said.
She also blistered Bush for such controversial pieces of legislation as the
USA Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, which give the government broad powers
to wiretap phones, monitor e-mail exchanges and review library transactions.
"This administration has essentially canceled the Freedom of Information
Act," said Cook, who has written about difficulties in obtaining access to
government documents in the post-Sept. 11 climate.
Lamenting the "bipartisan silence," Cook also excoriated Democratic leaders
for not taking a stronger line against the president.
"I don't know who didn't vote for the USA Patriot Act, but I do know nobody
read it," she told the crowd. "I don't know if we can get impeachment, but
we should get a movement going."
Cook noted that while the government has greatly expanded its powers and
personnel to fight the war on terrorism, social programs are in desperate
financial straits. At the City University of New York, where she teaches
history and women's studies, the regular budget has been cut in half over
the last 15 years, forcing the university to eliminate half its full-time
faculty.
"Here we are in the year 2003, with a war against public education and
against public higher education," she said. "All over this country, public
schools are closing."
Similar state and federal cutbacks are evident in the arenas of health care
and housing, at a time when more services are needed, she said. Housing in
particular was an issue dear to the heart of her hero - an orphan, former
first lady and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt.
"There are, in this country, 3 to 10 million homeless Americans," she said.
"It's really a good time to put our history in perspective."

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