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How much for a president?
This article is over 20 years, 11 months old
Behind all the glitz of George W Bush's inauguration as US president last weekend lay the dirty hand of big business. The Bush inaugural committee raised over $17 million for the confetti, champagne and hors d'oeuvres that were showered on the guests as the vote-stealer became \"the most powerful man on the planet\".
Issue 1732

Behind all the glitz of George W Bush’s inauguration as US president last weekend lay the dirty hand of big business. The Bush inaugural committee raised over $17 million for the confetti, champagne and hors d’oeuvres that were showered on the guests as the vote-stealer became ‘the most powerful man on the planet’.

The corporations that backed Bush with millions of dollars throughout the campaign have given more to celebrate his presidency. Pharmaceutical and other healthcare corporations gave $1.7 million. This is quite impressive, as the maximum single payment is $100,000.

The drugs industry contributed $4 million to Bush’s campaign. For this, Bush is to halt moves to regulate the costs of patented prescription goods. This means the US poor have to pay more for them.

He will also launch an aggressive fight to ensure that Aids-stricken countries like South Africa cannot produce cheap generic drugs in their own countries to try to save lives.

Oil companies also gave $1 million. Bush wants to open up the protected Alaskan wildlife refuge to exploration and drilling. For anybody who thinks that the Democrats are a lesser evil, the outgoing president, Bill Clinton, raised $33 million, mainly from big corporations, for his inauguration in 1993.

Cash on the line

Britain’s privatised rail network is more dangerous, slower and more expensive than France’s state-owned rail service. The last stretch of the Paris to Marseilles high speed train link was completed last week.

When the line is opened in June it will take three hours to complete the 466-mile journey. A standard return will cost just £58. The 410-mile journey from London to Glasgow takes six hours and 50 minutes, with a standard return costing £175. Rail passengers in Britain are 30 percent more likely to be killed or injured than passengers in France.

Hols haze

Who says the press is hypocritical? Early editions of last Wednesday’s London Evening Standard newspaper, advertised ‘Five city breaks to Lisbon to be won’. On page 25 there was an article exposing ‘the worst drug ghetto in Europe’. This turned out to be Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. They removed the exposé from the paper’s later editions.

It seems you can buy anything on the internet these days-even military hardware. A website is selling off pieces of the F117 Stealth fighter that Serbs shot down over Budjanovci in Yugoslavia in March 1999. ‘You’ll receive a certificate of authenticity with a serial number and a stamp,’ the website says. ‘This is a limited offer and the price is $100 a part.’

Karl’s a hit

Whisper it quietly, but Karl Marx is coming back into fashion in the universities of the US. The new anti-capitalist movement has meant that more students are looking to Marx’s ideas to explain the world.

‘Students are more curious about Marx now than they were before the fall of the Berlin Wall,’ says Paul Thomas, who teaches political science at the University of Berkeley. ‘They often come into class with the impression that somewhere along the way somebody’s pulled the wool over their eyes about this man.’ ‘It’s not hard for students to understand the theory of surplus value or why workers get ripped off,’ John Ehrenberg, chair of the political science department at Long Island University, says.

‘My generation can have its foot in both camps,’ says lecturer Andy Merrifield from Clark University in Massachusetts. ‘We read Capital, but also understand the need to put bricks through Starbucks windows.’

Can’t vote

‘We were defending the democracy of Kuwait.’ This is the excuse that US and British leaders use whenever they are questioned about their war in the Gulf ten years ago. The United Nations used Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to launch an offensive in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed.

The reality of ‘democracy’ in Kuwait does not quite reach the measure of our rulers’ words even today. Kuwait is still dominated by the Al-Sabah family. Only last week Kuwait’s highest court rejected a demand for women to be given the right to vote.

Blue notes

The Tories and New Labour are continually competing with each other over who can claim the moral high ground. But ‘morality’ gets dumped when there is a rich businessman to court. Richard Desmond, the porn baron who now owns the Daily Express and the Daily Star, gave £5,000 to the Tories in 1997.

New Labour cannot criticise the Tories for this. Just before Christmas Tony Blair invited Desmond, a man who has made his fortune by exploiting women in magazines and now on websites, to Downing Street.

Inside the System has found a lifesaver for all the rich businessmen in Edinburgh who are too busy to do their own housework. A new firm, Hectic Life, provides a ‘human filofax’ to take care of tasks like picking up dry cleaning and taking the cat to the vet. Boss Hilary Braidwood admits the firm will target affluent men with enough money to employ a working class woman as their dogsbody.

Things they say

‘Racist expressions towards asylum seekers appear to have become common currency and acceptable in a way which would never be tolerated by any other minority [due to] ill-informed, adverse media coverage.’

‘Housing is not, or should not be, a status symbol, object of consumption, or a source of market power and wealth. It is a place where individuals and families should be able to live and interrelate in mutual happiness.’
MICHAEL MEACHER, Labour environment minister and owner of at least nine homes

‘People like me should not be in the position to rob other people of a home.’
MICHAEL MEACHER, at the 1999 Labour Party conference

‘Britain is close to becoming a full employment society, as defined by the economist John Maynard Keynes.’
KIM HOWELLS, minister for industry

‘Employment fell by 25,000 people in the three months up to November 2000. Unemployment rose by 11,000 in the same period. This means that there are now 1.58 million people who are unemployed.’

‘The much publicised claim that political correctness has driven the police to cut stop and searches is not borne out by the figures. Black people are still five times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.’
PAUL CAVADINO, National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

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