Bush appoints Ridge, the PA governor who signed execution warrants against Mumia to head the U.S. office of "Homeland Security."

By Monica Moorehead

During his Sept. 20 remarks before Congress, President George W. Bush announced the creation of a new cabinet-level department named the Office of Homeland Security. This post was established to monitor and fight "domestic terrorism" within the U.S. borders in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Homeland Security office may sound like a logical response in light of the tragic loss of thousands of lives. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, the Bush administration wants to seize the opportunity to exploit the genuine grief and fear that masses of people feel right now in order to shore up its repressive state apparatus here and worldwide. This is being done under the guise of super-patriotism--that is, xenophobia and racist chauvinism aimed against non-citizens, especially people of color.

This office will receive $11 billion in federal operating funds. One of its main goals is to consolidate overt and covert repressive organizations like the FBI, CIA, Immigration and Naturalization Service and 40 others into one agency.

Another goal is to severely restrict the civil liberties of the progressive movement--especially the right to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Another 'Gov. Death'

Bush named the current governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, to head up this new office. Bush stated that Ridge would be perfect for the job because he won the Bronze Star for military service during the Vietnam War.

Bush had at one time considered making Ridge his running mate. He withdrew Ridge's name because the more ultra-right Republicans disagreed with Ridge's limited support for abortion rights.

The progressive movement has a totally different view of Ridge. He is the governor who has signed two execution warrants against the world's most famous death-row political prisoner: Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Less than a year after being elected governor, Ridge signed the first death warrant for Abu-Jamal on June 2, 1995. Ridge knew full well that Abu-Jamal's lawyers were filing an appeal before the State Court of Common Pleas at that time.

That warrant set the date for Abu-Jamal's execution as Aug. 17, 1995. An historic demonstration in Philadelphia of 10,000 activists on Aug. 12 forced Ridge to rescind the warrant.

Ridge again scheduled Abu-Jamal to be executed on Dec. 2, 1999. The governor was well aware when signing this death warrant that Abu-Jamal's lawyers were planning to file a writ of habeas corpus before the federal district court.

To say that Ridge is pro-death-penalty is putting it mildly. During his six years as governor, he has put his name to more than 200 death warrants.

He has a reputation for being a "law and order" governor. He has lobbied for longer prison sentences for juvenile defendants, and for the "three strikes you're out" laws. These laws automatically sentence people to life in prison with no chance of parole if they are convicted of three felonies.

Stooge for big business

The mainstream press likes to brag about Ridge coming from a working-class background. But the fact is that Ridge has become a champion of big business.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published a major article on April 27, 1997, that focused on Ridge's business connections. The Inquirer reported that in 1995 Ridge created a Governor's Club board of directors that allowed corporate sponsors within Pennsylvania to donate a minimum amount of $25,000 toward his re-election campaign.

The guaranteed amount pledged was $8.1 million. These businesses received state contracts amounting to a half-billion dollars. And those who gave the largest donations were rewarded with appointments to seats on state boards.

For example, most of the Pennsylvania State Turnpike Commission is composed of business executives who contributed to Ridge's "club." It has been well documented that this commission has a sordid history of promoting racism, sexism and homophobia.

The Inquirer article read in part: "At least 120 of the 228 club members or their businesses receive something from the state: a contract, a loan, a lease, legal work or a seat on a state board. And some are in the business of influencing government: Club members include 20 paid Harrisburg lobbyists. ...

"The club membership reads like a Who's Who in Pennsylvania Business, as befits a governor who ran as pro-business and has called for corporate tax cuts in three straight years. Many members have CEO after their name. The club is mostly male and white. It includes just a half-dozen minorities and eight women."

In 1999, Ridge established the Keystone Opportunity Zone, which handed over 37,000 acres of arable land to establish businesses that are not required to pay local or state taxes. Ridge has come under fire from environmentalist groups for putting profits before preserving the environment.

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