James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, April 09, 2004

Little Bush of Horrors 3

Oh, where to start? Take a week or so off, and you find that the fetid swamp of Bushism has risen from hip deep to waist deep and that, as always these days, broadcast news outlets and the daily press have ignored most of the slime or are pretending that the stink choking our society really is the fragrance of a rose garden.

I’ll leave Condoleezza Rice alone, since you can’t turn around without bumping into someone who knows exactly how it went and how brilliant or false she was. I watched only a small part of her testimony before the Commission to Obfuscate on 9/11 and my sole observation is that it appeared to me that some members of the commission were more interested in thoughts of Dr. Rice’s physical attributes than in her words -- but that’s just an impression derived from a certain oiliness of demeanor that may be attributable to the presence of TV cameras or simply may be native to the commissioners in question.

So, in no particular order, here are a few things of which you may be unaware:

* The Labor Department’s Bushcheneyrove-inspired overtime pay theft is going to become the law of the land any day now.

That’s the scam under which millions of middle class employees will lose the right to overtime pay because they are “professionals” or “managers.” The purported reason for the rule changes is to assure that low-paid workers do get paid for overtime. But, as you may recall, as soon as the general outline of the rules was in place, the Labor Department began sending out information and conducting classes for employers on how to avoid paying overtime to those selfsame low-pay workers. Under Bushcheneyrove, no government agency may go unpoliticized.

Final drafts of the new pay rules were sent during the first week in April to the Office of Management and the Budget. The White House will decide when the rules become effective – a decision to be made, of course, on the basis of political expediency.

* The Federal Election Commission (FEC), another government body that has been thoroughly politicized by the present administration, is moving under severe pressure from the Republican National Committee to make it difficult, if not impossible, for nonprofit organizations to act as advocates on matters of public policy. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up on this early enough. The period for public comment on the proposed new rules ended April 9, today as I write this.

The Bushies do not believe in free speech for the general population. Under the proposed FEC rules, any nonprofit or public interest organization that takes a public position on any matter of governmental policy could be reclassified as a political committee. That, in turn, would severely limit their ability to raise money and to communicate with their members and the public. They couldn’t, for example, take gifts from corporations, even incorporated nonprofit foundations, nor from unions, nor could they accept more than $5,000 a year from any individual. (Think in terms of Robert Redford and his gifts to environmental-protection organizations.)

So any group that criticizes the president or any member(s) of Congress for positions on, say, civil rights, poverty programs, education (as in school vouchers), disease research funding or poverty programs could be reclassified and, essentially, put out of business.

The idea, obviously, is to silence criticism of the Bushcheneyrove administration and the right-wingers in Congress.

But this is one time when, if they get their way, the rightists might be maiming themselves as well as their foes. The proposed rules would hit the advocates of gun proliferation just as hard as those who fight for gun control, for example. Pat Robertson’s organization could be punished for issuing its “report cards” on members of Congress (religious organizations are so far not exempt from the rules as written) and anti-abortion organizations would be as vulnerable as feminist groups.

As proposed, the new rules would apply to all types of communications, including ads, mailings to members, telephone trees, email campaigns, posters – literally all communications other than one-to-one conversation.

A public hearing is scheduled for April 14 and 15, and the FEC apparently intends to make a decision on the proposed rules by the middle of May. The rules could become effective as early as July – thus stifling public debate during the presidential campaign.

It’s hard to believe that the rules will be put into place. The National Rifle Association, right-wing Christian organizations and many more outfits that the Bushies need would be hit hard. And even our sleepwalking press probably would notice if the rules are applied only to liberal-leaning organizations. It’s also hard to see how the FEC could rewrite the rules to leave rightist organizations untouched while still getting at the perceived enemies of the extreme right.

Still, the Bushies are nothing if not arrogant, they have tamed a sizeable portion of the judicial branch of government, and no one can say that rational thought is a necessary component of all their actions. Hell, it’s possible that Dubya has never in his life had a rational thought.

Stay tuned.

* In 2000, as a candidate, G. W. Bush, said he would stand up and fight OPEC if gas prices rose too high or too rapidly. A president, he said, “ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, “We expect you to open your spigots.’”

As nominal president, G.W. Bush ain’t saying “boo” to OPEC or anybody else in the oil biz – his biz. Any person who actually expected him to do something must not be aware of the close personal ties between the House of Bush and the House of Saud, nor of the fact that the oil industry has contributed more than $3 million to his political coffers since 2000.