James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The amazing success of George W. Bush

There are so many mouths blowing so much hot air about King George's State of the Union speech that if they were all facing east, the continent might shift halfway to the Sandwich Islands, and Alaska and Siberia could be reunited.

For the moment, I'll refrain from joining the chorus, though a couple of issues about which George lied may bring me to eruption before long. A few independent thinkers, such as my friend Lydia Howell in her Tuesday commentary on KFAI radio in the Twin Cities (yes, before the speech was delivered), have gleaned what truth could be found in the situation.

Something you'll notice among the more widely distributed spoutings, is the fact that many of those given license to shill by either the right or left -- otherwise known as "oh, ohs" -- now are openly calling Bush & Co. “incompetent.”

The use of that word to describe our rulers has been growing like sunflowers on the prairies since the November election. Great courage hath our talking heads and syndicated columnists, once they're sure it's safe to be brave.

Increasingly, the mad king is described by professional analysts as “the worst president in American history.” In coming to that conclusion, the brave columnists are only a year or so behind a majority of the citizenry.

And, as usual, the “mainstream” babblers are many degrees off course.

There is another, very different assessment of Bush's presidency that is entirely valid from a certain point of view, and I'm not talking about the views of Pat Robertson or the many right-wing “think tanks” (called that because all independent and/or original thought goes quickly into the tank.)

Most of us believe George W. Bush is both incompetent and a skunk, the center of the most corrupt government ever seen in this country, and probably a war criminal.

However, at the Billionaires' Club, which is where the only public he cares about gathers, George W. Bush is the greatest president ever, a giant equal to the the legendary rulers of history. Next to him, Hannibal was a small-time adventurer and Hadrian a builder of garden walls.

In the place where martinis cost $35, and the members smoke $22 genuine Cohibas after $250 dinners (laws against importing Cuban cigars, like almost all laws, are void in the Billionaires' Club) and Grace, the waitress who's worked the dining room for 37 years, still makes $8.30 an hour, George is a hero, almost a god.

In the view of the people who now own America, Mount Rushmore should be scraped down and the old faces replaced with his smirking image.

He is far from incompetent. He and the rest of the White House crew have done exactly what was wanted and expected of them and much more. They have done it done it smoothly and brilliantly and with a stunning ability to con the dim American public into supporting the very people who are robbing them blind and turning the world into a perpetual battlefield.

It's a mark of their professionalism that Bush and his cohort captains kept from giggling into the television cameras Tuesday evening.

Halliburton Co. -- which we all know as the biggest but far from the only war profiteer – reported a net profit of $2.4 billion in fiscal 2005, up from a reported loss of $1.1 billion in its previous fiscal year.

Anybody who believes those figures show the full extent of the money Dick Cheney's company has sucked out of our pockets is more naïve than young Heidi romping through Alpine fields.

Halliburton has been caught several times flat-out stealing billions – uh, that is, it “can't account” for the missing money -- and was punished by being forced to accept huge bonuses from the Pentagon.

Don't worry; indications are that the profits of Halliburton and other war profiteers will be up substantially for fiscal 2006.

Oil companies were given billions of dollars in tax breaks to encourage them to exploit (and create environmental havoc in) off-shore oil fields, and that despite the fact they already were piling up profits at levels never before seen in history.

A new drug program for Medicare users, now being improved in rather minor ways by the Democratic Congress, was written by and for the giant pharmaceutical companies, guaranteeing them major new profits and assuring older Americans of financial stress and, in many cases, real poverty. Nobody has counted how many people have fallen into the doughnut hole, never again to emerge into solvency.

Most of you know about those things, but there are so many others it would take 20 researchers six weeks to list and briefly summarize the gifts to billionaires and abuses of our citizens and our government in just the last two months, let alone the past six years. The Bush assaults on honesty, decency and democracy continue to come at an astonishing rate – often several a day, almost none reported in the corporate “news media.”

One very recent example: On Jan. 18, as reported by Michelle Chen of The NewStandard, the White House changed a previously existing executive order, to give the president far greater power to control (that is, undermine) federal agencies that enforce health, safety and environmental protections.

Under the new order, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was given substantial new powers to screw with warning labels on medicines and safety standards in work places and a whole lot more.

The Bush-controlled agency can bypass Congressional oversight on things such as enforcement of pollution and public health rules. Among other things, and this is specifically written into the order, it can decide that something that obviously is hurting the public can be ignored because “market forces” eventually will bring about a correction of the problem. You betcha.

Incidentally, the original executive order, the one that didn't go far enough for the billionaires, was issued by Bill Clinton, that icon of the inside-the-Beltway Democrats.

So why the sneak attack on public health and safety now?

You know why. “Industry” wanted the change and demanded it, because regulations aimed at protecting you and me from corporate-caused pain and suffering sometimes negatively affect profits.

Such gifts to the uncaring rich pour like a mountain stream from the Bush White House.

Yet the war remains Bush's biggest success, the achievement that brings billionaires worshipfully to their knees.

The profits are beyond anything ever produced before – and they are likely to go on building for years, despite the opinions of the country's citizens as made clear in the November election, and despite the fact that virtually the entire world is set against us.

(A BBC poll taken within the past few weeks, shows that almost 75 percent of the citizens of the 25 countries surveyed oppose Bush's policies in Iraq, and more than two thirds believe the American presence in the Middle East destabilizes the region.

(In addition to the sanely negative view of the war itself, “the thing that comes up repeatedly is not just anger about Iraq,” said Steven Kull, director of the the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which participated with the BBC in the poll. “The common theme is hypocrisy. The reaction tends to be: 'You were a champion of a certain set of rules. Now you are breaking your own rules, so you are being hypocritical.'” Robert Scheer of Truthdig.com was the author of the report on the poll that I saw.)

This is difficult to comprehend for Americans who have never seen such corrupt and cruel actions on such a scale, but the fact seems clear: In addition to being a totally unnecessary war created for the sake of profit, and despite all the Bush/Cheney yammering about how we must “win,” the mess in Iraq was designed to go on and on, not to end with some sort of “victory.” Endless war means endless profits and an endless “emergency” that requires the strength of an all-powerful president to guide us.

There is much evidence to support that conclusion. The most obvious is this: Before this country invaded Iraq in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld gave orders that no military strategists were to give any thought to planning for a post-war Iraq. Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, recently retired commander of the Army Transportation Corps, said Rumsfeld declared “he would fire the next person” who so much as mentioned the need for a post-war plan.

In fact, Gen. Eric Shineski, Army chief of staff in 2003, got the boot from Rumsfeld after the general told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to “secure” Iraq after the invasion.

There never was an intention of “victory.”

By his own standards, and those of the billionaires, George W. Bush has succeeded beyond anything they could realistically have hoped. They want this success to go on forever.

In that light, think about this:

In October, shortly before the Republicans lost their total control of Congress, they slipped another of their “stealth moves” into law. The action revised the Insurrection Act, which limits, or limited, the president's power to deploy our military within our borders. It was designed to severely limit use of the military for domestic law enforcement.

The changes, sponsored by the ever-so-moderate Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, give the president the power to declare a “public emergency” and use federal troops anywhere in the country, and also to take control of National Guard units without consent of the states' governors in order to “suppress public disorder.”

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in a statement ignored by most or all of the corporate news outfits that the law, signed by Bush on Oct. 17, a few hours after he signed the infamous “Military Commissions Act, will “encourage” the president to declare martial law.

Gee, ya think?

Of course the press ignored more than Leahy. There has been very little – almost no -- notice of the new law in our newspapers or news broadcasts, but then they've given short shrift to the Military Commissions Act. Most Americans don't know it exists, let alone what it does.

I learned of the Warner law, which was hidden in a routine bill on military appropriations and related matters, from a report on Towardfreedom.com forwarded to me by a friend. I later found another, comfirming report in Information Clearing House.

Yup. George & Co. could decide they don't want to leave in January 2009 and simply declare a national emergency and martial law. Now that's success.

Sleep tight tonight.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Needed: A reality spa

As we hunker down to await our insane president's “state of the union” misinformation and lies – coming tomorrow as I write this – I keep thinking that at least three quarters of this country's population needs a month or more in a new kind of spa.

They should have to bathe in, eat and drink nothing but reality 24 hours a day until at least some basic truths seep through the walls of their carefully and willfully constructed ignorance.

No “American Idol,” no football, no “Sex and the City” reruns, no phony meetings in which people pretend that increasing the sales of video games or jeans is vital, that a new round of layoffs will benefit the economy or that paying $20 million in bonuses to a failing corporate chief executive is a good idea.

I have nothing against recreation, mind you. I frequently enjoy movie comedies, mystery novels, baseball games and, not frequently enough, a weekend of fishing. I don't think anyone should have to live always and wholly immersed in the over-abundant dark side of modern life.

But, damn it, if you are to have the rights of citizenship, you should have some knowledge of the real world. A whole lot of folks need a serious shock to the system to get their mental engines started.

It seems clear to me that a majority of Americans now live almost full time in Fantasyland.

Unfortunately, people who should be running branches of Reality Spa are instead encouraging the general ignorance; the corporate “news” media are engaged primarily in obfuscation, operation of sideshows and hiding truth under great piles of crap.

The right wing lords who control television, radio and most of the press benefit greatly from the general ignorance. In addition to “coloring” the news, they frequently flat-out censor it.

Example: Immediately after Mad King George's Jan. 10 speech telling us that he's going to send more young people to die or be maimed in the occupation of Iraq, the Democrats (who only very recently discovered the existence – or the possibility of the existence -- of their spines) offered a substantially different point of view. It was delivered by Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, who gave a very brief talk.

NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox Broadcasting refused to broadcast or even take notice of Durbin's short speech. CNN, MSNBC and, somewhat surprisingly, Fox News did broadcast the talk at some point, though of course the mad king's views got many times the coverage. That, I must acknowledge, is standard. Fox News gave greater priority to its favorite “military analyst,” retired Gen. Thomas McInerney than to Durbin.

Example: Common Cause, which has been fighting hard to prevent further consolidation of news media in the hands of a handful of super rich individuals and corporations, decided early this month to advertise its point of view on high-traffic Web sites. One of the biggest sites, MySpace, told Common Cause that “We won't allow that (ad) to be shown.” Right wing extremist Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns Fox, bought MySpace in 2005.

But to get back to the general ignorance:

As recently as early November of 2004, polls showed that 76 percent of U.S. citizens believed Iraqis were better off at that point than they had been under Saddam Hussein; more than 60 percent believed that “history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq.” Sixty-three percent also believed that Iraq under Saddam was a serious threat to U.S. security and almost the same number believed Saddam had close ties to Al Qaeda. (Harris Poll.)

Just four months ago, as shown by a Zogby International poll, 36 percent of Americans and 58 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans believed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was worth the loss of American lives, and 46 percent of Americans, including 65 percent of Republicans, still believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Even worse, according to the same poll, 55 percent of Americans (66 percent of Republicans) believed that government agents should be allowed to search any of us and our belongings (purses, packages, backpacks, etc.) at any time and any place. About 48 percent (62 percent of Republicans) believed that roadblocks and random searches of personal vehicles are acceptable at any time and place, and 37 percent (56 percent of Republicans) believed the government should be free to monitor any or all telephone conversations at any time. Only slightly fewer approved of random snooping in personal mail.

In plain language: Very large portions of the American public are almost totally ignorant of the rights granted us under the U.S. Constitution. If they are aware of them, they don't understand why such rights were embedded in that document. Obviously, they are willing to give up their, and our, basic rights at any time. Let Mad King George or the even crazier Dick Cheney trump up some phony “emergency” and the numbers willing to forgo the rights of citizenship soars.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of general ignorance.

Ask folks you work with what country has the best health care in the world. Most, if not all, will say the United States.

Ask people around you at a church social what country has the most honest and efficient electoral system in the world. Most will say this country does.

Make up your own questions. What you'll find is an overwhelming belief that in almost every detail, this is “the greatest country in the world.” The people who will tell you that often won't be able to give you any evidence, nor will they know anything at all about any other country – possibly excluding great fishing spots in Canada or great beaches in Mexican resort areas.

Compared with the Americans of 2007, Candide ain't in it.

(Yeah, I know: Who?)
Some folks will be aware that I've been absent from this space for a while. It began with weeks of having house guests, and the usual holiday activities, immediately followed by a miserable and long-lasting bug, followed by the health crisis of another family member.

By then a layoff seemed like a good idea. I've been thinking, reading, doing a bit of research and, of late, writing real letters, not email, to politicians, party functionaries and others who can directly affect our lives. There are several topics I hope to take on soon, including three or four to which I've devoted considerable effort during my absence from this blog. With luck, they'll follow at reasonable intervals.