James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Life in the U.S. of Bush; Horrors 4

“I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends...that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”
—Adlai Stevenson

Where to begin? I did a little traveling, then had a minor illness, then someone else got ill, and I’ve been away from the keyboard for weeks. But there was a little time for some reading, some clipping, some printing out of the endless stream of facts about the ongoing campaign of the Bushies to transform the country and, indeed, the world to conform to their extreme vision.

What follows is little more than a list – a small percentage of the items that cover my desk -- gleaned from a variety of sources. Still, I think it’s useful to see the cumulative effects of the Bush crowd’s actions. We tend to see each thing as isolated and fail to note that the Bushies are engaged in an all-out effort to turn the United States into an oligarchy existing only to further the interests of the corporate elite.

* As a candidate in 2000, George Bush promised to use his “political capital” to pressure OPEC should it substantial raise the price of oil, causing gasoline prices to jump.

Yeah, right. We’ve all seen what’s happened to prices over the past three months or so.

Bush said publicly not long ago that he absolutely will not lean on members of the cartel.

Soon after that, it was widely reported around the world that Bush has a deal with the Saudi ruling family to cut oil prices and cause a substantial reduction in gasoline prices a month or so before this fall’s election. The Bushies denied that, but not convincingly in light of the sources of the information.

The Bush family’s close personal ties to the Saudi ruling family have been thoroughly documented in several places, including the best-selling book, “House of Bush, House of Saud,” by Craig Unger. The book shows how dangerous that association is to America, and not only because of gasoline prices.

Bush and crew continue to refer to the Saudis as “our friends.” They’re also sorta cozy with the U.S. (international) oil industry, which has contributed more than $3 million – that we know of -- to the Bush campaign organization since 2000.

Tax legislation pushed by the Bushies brought us huge tax incentives for consumers to purchase SUVs rather than fuel efficient vehicles.

* A while ago, I wrote here that the widespread move to electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail (all manufactured by companies headed by Bush supporters and contributors by the way) was certain to lead to ballot fraud, as well as serious errors.

Thousands of voters in San Diego were prevented from voting in the March 2 California primary election when machines made by Diebold Election Systems malfunctioned.

At the end of March, the registrar of Orange County, Calif., said he was going to certify the results of an extremely close Democratic Party primary election there even though one or more seats on the state’s Democratic Central Committee may be given to the wrong people. A relatively small number of voters were presented with the wrong ballots on their machines and were unable to vote for six open seats on the committee. The voting was so close that one or two candidates may have been cheated of seats they would have won had all voters been able to vote in that portion of the election.

Several other California counties also had problems with the machines.

A report from the California Secretary of State's Office April 20 said Diebold broke the state's election laws by installing uncertified software on machines in four counties. The software had not been tested at the federal level nor certified by the state, as required. And, the report said, Diebold officers lied to state officials about the machines and software. Late installation of untested and unapproved software is one of several problems that have been reported in other states, as well.

The head of Diebold is a personal friend of George W. Bush, one of Bush's most successful fund raisers and is active in the Bush campaign in Ohio, where Diebold is based. He has promised publicly to do whatever it takes to deliver the state to Bush this year.

It is clear that the California screwups are only a hint of much bigger problems that are certain to come if the machines are used throughout the country. As I said in the earlier piece, the machines are incredibly vulnerable to manipulation and hacking. In one test, a teenager managed to hack into a set of machines in a matter of minutes. The Bush crowd, with the help of Congress – including some Republicrats -- has provided government money to encourage their use throughout the country.

However, the primary election mess may have contributed to the downfall of the paperless machines in California. Citizens complaints, demonstrations and official concern led to the study and report, which led Kevin Shelley, California secretary of state, to “decertify” some models of Diebold machines, which means they can't be used in this year's general election. In 10 counties that use other models of touch-screen machine, those machines can be used this fall if the counties also provide paper ballots for voters who demand them. However, the 10 counties also have to meet a number of other conditions, and it's still possible their machines will be banned before November. Shelley's advisory committee also recommended that no new touch-screen machines be used in November unless they have paper verification systems.

After making the decertification announcement April 30, Shelley said of Diebold and its executives that "their performance, their behavior, is despicable."

Diebold, of course, denied the allegations and called Shelley's comments untrue and unfair.

The easily manipulated machines will be used in Florida, Texas, Ohio (home of Diebold) and some other states that appear most vulnerable to fraud. In Maryland, a citizens organization recently sued to prevent use of the state's touch-screen machines until and unless they are altered to provide paper verification of the electronic votes.

* In what may be its most blatant use of the big lie technique to date, the Bush campaign began a couple of weeks ago to run ads in some swing states claiming that Democrat candidate John Kerry voted against appropriations for better armor for U.S. troops in Iraq. The bill to which they refer had little to do with providing troops and their vehicles with better armor.

On the other hand, as also said here weeks ago, the Bush crowd has demonstrated criminal indifference to the safety of the troops in Iraq. About a week ago, as I write this, it was widely reported that the White House, criticized for lack of proper equipment in Iraq, claimed it was allowing commanders in the field to decide what their troops needed.

It was not widely reported that Bush was withholding funding for desperately needed protective equipment for troops and vehicles, but he was. Presumably the White House crowd had other uses for the money, though there’s no indication of how it might be spent. In late April, military commanders went to Congress to beg, citing a $132 million shortfall in money needed for armor for vehicles already in the field, an $879 million shortfall in money needed for troop helmets and a $40 million shortfall for body armor. (Source of those numbers: The Daily Mislead.)

The White House actually cut the number of heavily armored vehicles available to our troops in Iraq, which means more of them are riding in largely unprotected trucks and Humvees.

* On Earth Day 2004, Bush did his usual act, mouthing some blather about protecting wetlands. And his bunch in the White House and Congress continues to fight any and all efforts to protect or restore earth, water and air as though a clean environment is a personal insult to them. Any environmental protection effort seems to goad them to levels of anger and spite that are nothing short of crazy.

Tax incentives for gas guzzlers have already been mentioned.

Recently, the Shrub reversed a 2000 Environmental Protection Agency ruling that mercury is a hazardous substance as defined by the Clean Air Act. The act states that hazardous substances be tightly controlled, and its ruling would have required a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from power plants by 2008. The Bush decision and a piddling alternative the administration offered will continue to allow extremely dangerous mercury emissions to continue for many more years.

Mercury damages the human nervous system, concentrates in certain foods, such as fish. It is especially toxic to children and fetuses, and can affect infants through mothers’ milk. Not all the ties to various disabilities are clear yet, but medical researchers believe many serious health problems now more common than they once were are at least partially attributable to mercury in the environment.

Lobbyists for polluting industries, particularly power companies, actually wrote the language for the new Bush rule. The same industries are, of course, major contributors to Republican campaign funds.

Oh, yes: Like most “environmental” officials under Bush, the head of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation spent his career prior to receiving that appointment as a lobbyist for power companies.

And one more: Bush has been claiming recently that his good intentions for the environment are shown by his support for development of hydrogen-powered automobiles. However, the plan he backs takes money from programs that are reducing the use of fossil fuels and puts it into a plan to refine about 90 percent of the hydrogen from oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Scientists say pollution from producing the fuel cells in that manner would be about as bad as that now caused by using the same fuels as they are used today.

The system would, of course, ensure continued high profitability for fossil fuel companies which, as mentioned, are big contributors to Republicans.

Some of the money for the phony hydrogen fuel program comes from things like shutting down a program to help car manufacturers develop high-mileage vehicles, such as hybrids. What was federal funding for renewable energy and efficiency research also also can be tapped, according to the Bushies.

Here’s one the Bushies lost: The Clinton administration set in motion a rule to require new central air conditioners and heat pumps to be 30 percent more efficient by 2006. The Bush Energy Department tried to roll that back by a third, but a court ruled early this year that the Clinton standard must be met. The Bushies decided not to appeal, presumably fearing the publicity fallout in an election year. Maybe campaign contributions from air conditioner manufacturers aren’t big enough to warrant more of a fight.

That’s enough for now, and I haven’t noticeably reduced the height of the paper piles on my desk and floor.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Newspaper comic predicts Bin Laden ploy

I’ve been absent from here for awhile, but I’m back now for at least a couple of months. Did a little traveling, then came down with a bug. But I’ve been reading, listening, keeping up most of the time.

My local daily newspaper, the StarTribune in Minneapolis, carries an often witty and often biting cartoon called Boondocks, about some sharp-tongued black kids and their views of the world. I don’t know how widely it is distributed, but it’s probably seen throughout most of the country. The Sunday, April 25 strip is ostensibly the strip planned for publication on Oct. 3, 2004, and has two of the kids talking about the newly announced capture of Osama bin Laden.

“Man, who could have POSSIBLY seen this coming?...” says one of the kids.

And that, of course, reminded me: I’m still taking entries for my little contest on exactly that – the timing of the announcement that Bin Laden has been captured.

We have to go with the date of the announcement because it’s entirely possible that the Bushies will withhold the information if the man is taken before the capture will be of peak benefit to them in the election. And to cover such a politically motivated action, they may lie about the date of capture. (Hey, let’s be realistic. They lie about almost everything; very few truths seem to suit them.)

Just click on the email link under “Contact” on the right side of this page, and give me your name, email address and the date you think fits the Bush bunch’s timing on the announcement that bin Laden is in custody.

The prize is small, just a deck of Shareholders Most Wanted playing cards for the three entrants who come closest to the actual date, but think of the prestige! You can tell all your friends that you knew it all along and I’ll testify to that truth.

The cards, by the way, are pretty neat. Each card carries the face and a little information on a different corporate crook, starting with Ken Lay, late of Enron, as the ace of spades.