The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Glenn Greenwald - People who don't understand how America works

People who don't understand how America works

The United States Congress openly debated yesterday whether the federal government should begin imprisoning journalists who publish stories containing information which the Bush administration wants to conceal. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing, several Republicans expressly urged that our country start throwing reporters in jail:


The criticism focused on articles in The New York Times concerning a National Security Agency surveillance program and, to a lesser extent, on disclosures in The Washington Post about secret C.I.A. prisons overseas.

Some Republicans on the committee advocated the criminal prosecution of The Times. Their comments partly echoed and partly amplified recent statements by
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Justice Department had the authority to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information. . . .

"I believe the attorney general and the president should use all of the power of existing law to bring criminal charges," said Representative Rick Renzi, Republican of Arizona.


Several members of the Committee pointed out that the U.S. is not a country which imprisons journalists for stories which they publish about controversial government actions:


Democratic members of the committee, while praising the role of the press in informing citizens, responded only indirectly to the comments concerning The Times. Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, said she was disturbed by Mr. Gonzales's statements.

"If anyone here wants to imprison journalists," Ms. Harman said, "I invite them to spend some time in China, Cuba or North Korea and see whether they feel safer."


This was the same Jane Harman who went on Meet the Press on February 12 and strongly implied that she favored prosecution of the Times for informing Americans about the warrantless eavesdropping program, leading many Bush followers to celebrate the fact that the ranking Democrat on the Committee made clear that she advocated prosecution of the Times. But perhaps between then and now, someone explained to Harman that while there are countries that imprison journalists for stories they write about the Government (Harman's examples of China, Cuba and North Korea are good ones), America isn't one of them.

National Review Contributing Editor Jonathan Adler this week wrote a very thorough article in NR explaining what ought not need explanation -- that these increasingly strident calls among "conservatives" to put journalists in jail are squarely contrary to the most fundamental American political values and traditions (emphasis in original):


Such a prosecution would be unprecedented, as the federal government has never criminally prosecuted a journalist for publishing classified information.

We do not mean to minimize the negative diplomatic fallout that Priest’s reporting [about the CIA's "black prisons"] might have caused. It is certainly possible that her stories made it more difficult for the United States to obtain the cooperation of foreign governments in the war on terror. Yet if this is the sort of injury that can trigger liability under the Espionage Act, then many reporters who have disclosed embarrassing, classified information are equally guilty. Just consider all of Bill Gertz’s stories in the Washington Times about the Clinton administration’s national-defense and diplomatic missteps. Were these stories criminal? . . . .

The Founding Fathers understood that a free and independent press is critical to self-governance and to the constitutional order they established. The Constitution states that Congress “shall make no law” abridging the freedom of the press. This mandate is clear and unmistakable. The press should be free to publish news reports without fear that Congress will criminalize those publications.


As one can say for so many core American political principles, the U.S. Government under 42 different Presidents has thrived and defended the nation for 220 years without the need to imprison journalists for the stories they publish, but the Bush administration is the first to claim that it has to dismantle these liberties because it is too weak -- and America is too weak -- to maintain national security unless we radically change the kind of country we are.

And, quite relatedly, we come to this story which claims, based exclusively on anonymous federal law enforcement sources: "Federal investigators say they have evidence that former Chicago street gang member Jose Padilla was a higher ranking member of Al Qaeda than first thought." The entire article is based on the anonymous claims of "federal authorities" -- i.e., those trying to imprison Padilla for life (and just incidentally, why would a newspaper grant anonymity to federal prosecutors to make allegations against a criminal defendant, all in order to publish a one-sided story?).

Among the crowd which has long been ready to string up U.S. citizen Jose Padilla without bothering to even charge him with a crime (literally based exclusively on the President's decree that he is A Terrorist), this story has created a lynching frenzy, somehow increasing the urgency to leave him in a black hole with no due process. Here is what Jeff Goldstein, one of the most intense enemies of American values, oozed out upon reading this story (emphasis added):


Wow. Just, like...wow . . .

Which, Christ, when I think how many earnest people, in advance of having all of the information, agitated on behalf of this guy’s “civil liberties”—civil liberties he had every intention of using to help wage war against the US (which is why we need to have a serious debate on both how it is best, legally, to handle home grown combatants, and how to use the military tribunal process)—I get that same foul taste in my mouth I used to get whenever I’d hear Wesley Clark talk about, well, everything, now that I think about it.


All the Government has to do is utter the words "Al Qaeda" and it's enough, literally, to cause some people to start swooning with glee and open-mouthed wonderment. Needless to say, multiple America-hating commenters at Jeff's blog expressed outrage that the U.S. Government finally charged Padilla with crimes after holding him for 3 1/2 years in solitary confinement based solely on the President's unreviewed accusations.

That's how this group of Bush followers thinks America is supposed to work. If you are a U.S. citizen, the President can unilaterally order you abducted and imprisoned; does not have to charge you with any crime; can block you from speaking with anyone, including a lawyer; can keep you incarcerated indefinitely (meaning forever); and can deny you the right to any judicial review of your imprisonment or any mechanism for challenging the accuracy of the accusations. And oh - while it would be nice if we could preserve all of that abstract lawyer nonsense about the right to a jury trial and all that, we're really scared that Al Qaeda is going to kill us, so we can't.

Here is what Antonin Scalia said in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld in explaining why the Constitution bars the Government from imprisoning U.S. citizens without a trial:


The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive. . . .

The gist of the Due Process Clause, as understood at the founding and since, was to force the Government to follow those common-law procedures traditionally deemed necessary before depriving a person of life, liberty, or property.

When a citizen was deprived of liberty because of alleged criminal conduct, those procedures typically required committal by a magistrate followed by indictment and trial. See, e.g., 2 & 3 Phil. & M., c. 10 (1555); 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1783, p. 661 (1833) (hereinafter Story) (equating “due process of law” with “due presentment or indictment, and being brought in to answer thereto by due process of the common law”). The Due Process Clause “in effect affirms the right of trial according to the process and proceedings of the common law.” Ibid. See also T. Cooley, General Principles of Constitutional Law 224 (1880) (“When life and liberty are in question, there must in every instance be judicial proceedings; and that requirement implies an accusation, a hearing before an impartial tribunal, with proper jurisdiction, and a conviction and judgment before the punishment can be inflicted” (internal quotation marks omitted)).


As Scalia makes so clear -- but shouldn't need to -- if there is any defining American principle, it is that the President can't throw U.S. citizens in jail without charges and a trial. Since the 13th Century Magna Carta, not even the British King could do that. But there are virtually no American political principles left which are not being called into question, if not overtly attacked, by Bush followers. Prohibitions on torture, the right to a jury trial, the obligation of the President to obey the law, the right of the press to publish stories without criminal prosecution -- all of the values which have distinguished this country and defined who we are as a nation for the last two centuries are all being debated and assaulted.

What do you do with people who never learned that American citizens can't be imprisoned by Executive decree and without a trial, or that American journalists aren't imprisoned for stories they write about the Government's conduct? People like this plainly do not embrace, or comprehend, even the most basic principles of what America is.

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/05/people-who-dont-understand-how-america.html

William Pfaff - The Enron Model of Irresponsible Capitalism

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by the International Herald Tribune
The Enron Model of Irresponsible Capitalism
by William Pfaff


PARIS -- The Enron verdicts are one more blow to a new American model of capitalism already heavily criticized for its gross abuse of common-sense moral values.

The American economist Robert Lekachman has written (in the admirable "Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought") that "the ideology of capitalism makes an implicit assertion that inequalities of income and wealth measure, however roughly, the economic contributions of the men and women who embark their energies and resources in the productive process."

The new American economic and corporate model grotesquely departs from such a moral foundation, doing so in a way that suggests damaging ultimate consequences for society.

The usual defense of billion-dollar rewards for executives, for example, is the nihilistic one that the market settles business morality. That is, you get away with what you can.

The theoretical argument is that such rewards for managers are a necessary element in a modern system where creating value for investors generates prosperity for everyone. Wealth "trickles down." The rising tide lifts everyone.

This today is untrue. The globalized corporation identifies labor as usually its largest production cost, and its easiest cost to cut. This means that management regards itself as obliged to restrict to the maximum the "trickling down" of value to workers.

The system of values now governing the American corporation rejects the principle, honored in postwar America and Europe, that business should serve the interests of workers and community (by paying taxes) as well as those of investors and managers.

This new value system is enforced by investor groups and endorsed by business schools, government and most of the economic community, although the idea that companies "are mere collections of assets to be handled with the purpose of maximizing shareholder returns" is criticized by some (in this case, the investor Warren Buffet).

Raw-material and energy costs are hard for corporations to cut. The cost that is vulnerable is the cost of labor. Real wages and benefits can be reduced, and if necessary, the existing labor force replaced.

In the past, this was difficult or impossible because labor was immobile, often in limited supply, and sometimes organized and politically powerful.

For the globalized corporation, the problem of labor costs is simplicity itself. You delocalize, outsource or transfer production offshore to the cheapest labor force available.

In this way, the greatest part of the value created in the corporation is taken away from the domestic labor force and awarded to stockholders and managers.

The overseas worker benefits, up to a point, and only so long as the outsourcing corporation does not relocate to another, cheaper source of labor.

The rest of the gained value trickles (or surges) upward to stockholders and managers. The one thing value no longer does is trickle down to domestic labor.

This nonetheless is celebrated as a progressive step, since the poor country supplying the new labor benefits; the American (or other) consumer benefits because the price of the product falls; and the original labor force is advised to retrain itself so as to obtain new and more sophisticated, high-value jobs in technologically innovative startup industries.

I will not bother to write about how simplistic this argument is. I want to make a point about the structural consequences of the new corporate model's exclusion of labor from receiving its fair share of the corporate value-creation to which it contributes.

The first is that this undermines the domestic market and economy. Henry Ford, after inventing modern industry with the assembly line, invented modern capitalist society by raising his workers' wages in 1914 to an unprecedented $5 a day.

He said that his business depended on his workers being able to buy the cars they were manufacturing. The modern industrial economy has rested on that principle - until now.

The domestic workers whose jobs are exported under the new corporate model cease to be consumers. The new U.S. federal reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, concedes that "a growing portion of the population feels they are not sharing in the benefits" that American industry and trade produce.

The relative decline in the family income of workers during the years of deregulation and globalization has become notorious, to the point that workers in such champions of the new economy as Wal-Mart often depend on federal food stamps to live, and use hospital emergency rooms for basic medical care. No trickle-down there.

A corporate model that deliberately renounces responsibility for the well-being of its workforce hollows out the domestic consumer market and exports value by subsidizing what eventually will become its own competition.

China (and its counterparts) will not indefinitely allow transfer of most of the profits of its manufacturing industry to America. It is demanding much wider technology transfer.

The American economy cannot expect to prosper indefinitely without actually manufacturing or creating anything itself, other than investment value. The obvious eventual result of outsourcing production is the export of America's industry.

© 2006 International Herald Tribune

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0527-26.htm

One Man's Constitutional Crisis

One Man's Constitutional Crisis ...
The New York Times | Editorial

Friday 26 May 2006

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives have achieved an almost unprecedented level of bipartisanship in denouncing the FBI's search of a congressman's office. They talk angrily about the separation of powers and the implications of having an executive branch agency make a foray into a lawmaker's official space. Our first question is where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years.

Time and time again, Congress has played dead when the executive branch refused to provide it with information, answer questions or follow laws that the legislative branch has passed. Currently, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not been the worst offender, is tinkering dangerously with the laws covering domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency. It could end up endorsing a program that the White House won't even fully describe to a vast majority of lawmakers.

Compared with the enormous issues at hand, the matter of Representative William Jefferson is small potatoes. The FBI says that it videotaped the congressman accepting $100,000 to grease the way for some business deals in Africa, and that agents found most of the money in his freezer. The Justice Department obtained a warrant, entered Mr. Jefferson's office and removed files that it says are related to that investigation.

Mr. Jefferson says there are two sides to every story, although he has not yet offered his. That does not make him guilty - indeed, he is yet to be charged. The House leaders demanded that the seized documents be returned, and the White House ordered them sealed for 45 days to buy time.

The FBI is going to have to show some very good reasons for having precipitated this showdown. Federal investigators have managed to prosecute many other officials for corruption over the last 200-odd years without ever barging into Congressional offices in the process. The danger of abuse with this kind of activity is enormous, especially with a president and an attorney general whose grasp for power seems to have no limits. They cannot be trusted to keep legitimate police activity from turning into political persecution. Just yesterday, administration officials were talking about having the FBI interrogate lawmakers in an attempt to find the sources of the Times article disclosing Mr. Bush's domestic spying operation. That would certainly represent a major breach of the separation of powers principle.

The constitutional claims made by the Congressional leadership on the Jefferson case seem overblown. House and Senate members are protected from arrest while going about their official business to shield them from intimidation and meddling by the executive branch in the affairs of state, not to deter law enforcement officials from doing their lawful duty to investigate possible felonies.

But members of Congress who have been politically comatose or complicit as the Bush administration built itself an imperial presidency, immune from the historical powers of the legislative branch, are up in arms. The House Judiciary Committee, which has been in the forefront of the long-running cave-in, has scheduled a hearing that the chairman has titled "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?"

It seems like a phony approach to a real problem.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Rude Pundit - Al Gore - Fuck Yeah

Al Gore - Fuck Yeah
by The Rude Pundit


The Rude Pundit had one question for Al Gore last night when the former Vice President spoke and took part in a panel on his film, An Inconvenient Truth, at the Town Hall in New York City. The audience was asked to scribble its questions, to Gore, calmly horrifying climate scientist James Hansen, producer/cheerleader Laurie David, and just plain creepy producer Lawrence Bender, on cards provided to us. The Rude Pundit scrawled a simply, brief query that Gore wasn't asked by host John Hockenberry, but he knows that Gore has the question, because Hockenberry handed Gore a stack of like-minded ones. The question was this: "Why wouldn't you run for President in 2008?"

Al Gore is our Coriolanus, one of those Shakespeare characters that doesn't get as much attention as your fancy Hamlet or crazy MacBeth. See, Coriolanus was a hero to the Romans, celebrated by the patricians as a warrior, but he couldn't take his place as a leader because he couldn't connect to the plebians of Rome and get them to vote for him. This is not to mention the backstabbing and lies told by those out to sink him. Sent into exile, Coriolanus, humbled, chastened, goes to his former enemies for help. He leads that army into battle and kicks Rome's ass, making it beg for mercy, and becomes a hero to his new home nation.

Last night, Gore was as you've heard, loose, funny, and smart. Goddamn, so fuckin' smart. Every time he opened his mouth to discuss some aspect of melting ice caps or fuel efficiency, you just wanted to weep, thinking, "Jesus Christ, he won. Motherfucker won. He should be our president right now, not that inarticulate, shit-tossing baboon hunched in the ditch next to Tony Blair right now." What Gore does better than anyone in the Democratic Party right now, from Hillary Clinton to Russ Feingold, is articulate liberal issues as moral callings. Not squishy, feel-good sentiments, but deep in the soul, religious, even, moral purposes. Like, you know, Christians are supposed to do.

Essentially, Gore's mission on global warming is rhetorically similar to George Bush's mission in Iraq: revolution now so that the future can be secure. The difference, of course, is that Gore isn't a liar, and he doesn't have to hype the evidence. Gore approaches his subject the way every politician ought to lead: he knows he's right, and he's so right that others are wrong. When Gore was asked about scientists who say that climatic change is just part of ongoing natural cycles, Gore didn't pander, didn't offer that idiotic "well, good people can have differences of opinion" bullshit the Bush administration uses to paper over their lies. No, Gore just said that the questioner was wrong. That the vast scientific consensus says global warming is real and happening. And to believe otherwise is to believe liars. He said scientists who say otherwise are industrial "prostitutes" and "camp followers" (he hesitated before saying that - you knew he wanted to say "whores" or "skanky, disease-ridden bitches").

Gore was often spanked in the press for sounding smart and right about everything. But if you have a problem with someone calling out motherfuckers for fucking their mothers, then perhaps you need to take another look at who's in your bed. You look at Gore now and you can't help but think that perhaps we've moved past the Forrest Gump-ish wisdom of the stupid phase and want the cold comfort of a poindexter telling us what's real. It's been said, and it's true, that Gore is liberated now. He was marginalized and now he's moving back to the center of the national discourse.

The Rude Pundit's not gonna sit here and do reportage on much of the evening. It was, mostly, a recapitulation of the film's ideas, with Hansen there to add gravitas and authority and to scare the shit out of us in the way that global warming is more frightening and more likely than attacks by a hundred bin Ladens. The only thing new was that Gore praised Hillary Clinton's talk on ethanol (Chelsea was in the house). But, to return to the Rude Pundit's question for Gore, a kind of "What do you have to lose" by running for Prez, Hockenberry posed it this way: "What do you say to people who think you are more interested in Powerpoint than in political power?"

Gore joked (earlier he had called politicians "a renewable resource"), and he said he had "no intention" to run for President. Then he turned it around, speaking quietly, which, whenever he does, it's time to listen. He made a statement about the power of the people, of James Madison's "informed electorate," and about the responsibility of citizens to be active participants in the destiny of the nation. For Gore, running for President would give him the wide national platform to even discuss these issues. But more important to him is a politics of engagement, whether in power or not.

And perhaps he's right. For things did not end well for Coriolanus. See, Coriolanus didn't destroy Rome. He made peace, and that pissed off the leader of his new nation, so he had Coriolanus assassinated at his moment of greatest glory. And, god, what blood is spilled along the way.

// posted by Rude One @ 9:30 AM

http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2006/05/al-gore-fuck-yeah-rude-pundit-had-one.html

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Robert Parry - Bush's Enron Lies

Bush's Enron Lies

By Robert Parry
May 26, 2006

Four years ago, when the taboo against calling George W. Bush a liar was even stronger than it is today, the national news media bought into the Bush administration’s spin that the President did nothing to bail out his Enron benefactors, including Kenneth Lay.

Bush supposedly refused to intervene, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Enron had poured into his political coffers. That refusal purportedly showed the high ethical standards that set Bush apart from lesser politicians.

Bush’s defenders will probably reprise that storyline now that former Enron Chairman Lay and former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling stand convicted of conspiracy and fraud in the plundering of the onetime energy-trading giant. But the reality is that the Bush-can’t-be-bought spin was never true.

For instance, the documentary evidence is now clear that in summer 2001 – at the same time Bush’s National Security Council was ignoring warnings about an impending al-Qaeda terrorist attack – NSC adviser Condoleezza Rice was personally overseeing a government-wide task force to pressure India to give Enron as much as $2.3 billion.

Then, even after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when India’s cooperation in the “war on terror” was crucial, the Bush administration kept up its full-court press to get India to pay Enron for a white-elephant power plant that the company had built in Dabhol, India.

The pressure on India went up the chain of command to Vice President Dick Cheney, who personally pushed Enron’s case, and to Bush himself, who planned to lodge a complaint with India’s prime minister. Post-9/11, one senior U.S. bureaucrat warned India that failure to give in to Enron's demands would put into doubt the future functioning of American agencies in India.

The NSC-led Dabhol campaign didn’t end until Nov. 8, 2001, when the Securities and Exchange Commission raided Enron’s offices – and protection of Lay’s interests stopped being political tenable. That afternoon, Bush was sent an e-mail advising him not to raise his planned Dabhol protest with India’s prime minister who was visiting Washington. [For details on the Dabhol case, see below.]

Contrary to the official story, the Bush administration did almost whatever it could to help Enron as the company desperately sought cash to cover mounting losses from its off-the-books partnerships, a bookkeeping black hole that was sucking Enron toward bankruptcy and scandal.

As Enron’s crisis worsened through the first nine months of Bush’s presidency, Lay secured Bush’s help in three key ways:

--Bush personally joined the fight against imposing caps on the soaring price of electricity in California at a time when Enron was artificially driving up the price of electricity by manipulating supply. Bush’s resistance to price caps bought Enron extra time to gouge hundreds of millions of dollars from California’s consumers.

--Bush granted Lay broad influence over the development of the administration’s energy policies, including the choice of key regulators to oversee Enron’s businesses. The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was replaced in 2001 after he began to delve into Enron’s complex derivative-financing schemes.

--Bush had his NSC staff organize that administration-wide task force to pressure India to accommodate Enron’s interests in selling the Dabhol generating plant for as much as $2.3 billion.

Bankruptcy

As Enron’s corporate house of cards collapsed anyway in fall 2001, the toll was devastating. Investors lost tens of billions of dollars; some retirees were financially wiped out; 5,000 Enron employees were laid off. Enron’s accounting tricks also discredited its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen LLP, which was soon closed by government regulators.

But Bush was fortunate that the Enron scandal broke while he was still wrapped in the glow of favorable poll ratings that followed the 9/11 attacks. The Washington news media generally acquiesced to Bush’s insistence that he really wasn’t that close to Enron or Lay, though Lay had earned a Bush nickname: “Kenny Boy.”

The facts, however, suggest a political intimacy between Bush and Enron, especially with the now convicted swindler Ken Lay, dating back at least to Bush's first campaign for Texas governor in 1994.

By the 2000 presidential campaign, Lay was a Pioneer for Bush, raising $100,000. Enron also gave the Republicans $250,000 for the convention in Philadelphia and contributed $1.1 million in soft money to the Republican Party. Not only was Lay a top fund-raiser for the campaign, but he helped out during the recount battle in Florida in November 2000.

Lay and his wife donated $10,000 to Bush’s Florida recount fund that helped pay for Republican lawyers and other expenses. Lay even let Bush operatives use Enron’s corporate jet to fly in reinforcements. After Bush secured his victory, another $300,000 poured in from Enron circles – including $100,000 from Lay and $100,000 from Skilling – for the Bush-Cheney Inaugural Fund.

Yet, after the Enron scandal broke, Bush acted as if he barely knew Lay. On Jan. 11, 2002, Bush told reporters that Lay “was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994” for Texas governor, implying that he had gotten to know Lay as Gov. Richards’ holdover appointee to a Texas business council.

The administration also claimed that it turned down Enron’s bail-out pleas in late October 2001 when Lay sounded out senior Bush officials about overt financial help. By then, however, Enron’s troubles were too advanced – and the public spotlight too intense – for the administration to launch a full-scale rescue mission out in the open.

Yet, before Enron went into its death spiral, the Bush administration did what it could, behind the scenes.

Gathering Storm

The Houston-based energy trader’s financial crisis can be traced back to 2000 when the long-running stock market boom ended. During the boom, Enron had risen through the ranks of Fortune 500 companies to a perch at No. 7.

A leader of the so-called New Economy, Enron expanded beyond its core business interests in natural gas pipelines, branching out into complex commodity trading, which included electricity, broadband capacity and other ethereal items, such as weather futures.

The bursting of the dot-com bubble in March 2000 put pressure on Enron as it did many other companies. Even though Enron’s stock held strong, hitting an all-time high of $90 a share on Aug. 17, 2000, the tumbling market and some risky overseas energy projects left Enron with many poor-performing assets.

To protect its image as a darling of Wall Street – and to prop up its stock value – Enron began shifting more of its losing operations into off-the-books partnerships given names like Raptor and Chewco. Hedges were set up to limit Enron’s potential losses from equity investments, but some hedges were themselves backed by Enron stock, creating the possibility of a spiraling decline if investors lost faith in Enron.

Still, Enron saw a silver lining in the darkening economic clouds of 2000. A prospective George W. Bush victory could speed up Enron’s deregulatory plans for the energy markets. Through energy trading in California alone, Enron stood to earn tens of billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, in summer 2000, the first signs of suspicions arose that Enron was trying to manipulate the California energy market.

An employee with Southern California Edison sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a memo expressing concerns that Enron and other electricity providers to California’s deregulated energy market were gaming the system by cutting off supply and creating phony congestion in the electricity grid to run up energy prices. [See Energy Daily, May 16, 2002]

By December 2000, Enron was implementing plans dubbed “Fat Boy,” “Death Star” and “Get Shorty” to siphon electricity away from areas that needed it most and getting paid for phantom transfers of energy supposedly to relieve transmission-line congestion. [Washington Post, May 7, 2002]

That same month, after a 35-day battle over Florida's vote count, Bush nailed down his presidential victory by getting five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a statewide recount.

Grateful Bush

Once in the White House, a grateful Bush gave Lay a major voice in shaping energy policy and picking personnel. Starting in late February 2001, Lay and other Enron officials took part in at least a half dozen secret meetings to develop Bush’s energy plan.

After one of the Enron meetings, Vice President Cheney's energy task force changed a draft energy proposal to include a provision to boost oil and natural gas production in India. The amendment was so narrow that it apparently was targeted only to help Enron’s troubled Dabhol power plant in India. [Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2002]

Other parts of the Bush energy plan also echoed Enron’s views. Seventeen of the energy plan’s proposals were sought by and benefited Enron, according to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. One proposal called for repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, which hindered Enron’s potential for acquisitions.

Bush also put Enron’s allies inside the federal government. Two top administration officials, Lawrence Lindsey, the White House’s chief economic adviser, and Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, both worked for Enron, Lindsey as a consultant and Zoellick as a paid member of Enron's advisory board.

At least 14 administration officials owned stock in Enron, with Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers and chief political adviser Karl Rove each reporting up to $250,000 worth of Enron stock when they joined the administration.

Lay exerted influence, too, over government regulators already in place. Curtis Hebert Jr., a conservative Republican and ally of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., had been appointed to the FERC during the Clinton administration. Like Bush and Lay, Hebert was a promoter of “free markets,” and Bush elevated him to FERC chairman in January 2001.

But Hebert ran into trouble when he broke ranks with Lay on Enron’s plan to force consolidation of state utilities into four giant regional transmission organizations, or RTOs. By quickly pushing the states into RTOs, Enron and other big energy traders would have much larger markets for their energy sales.

Hebert, who advocated state rights, told the New York Times that he got a call from Lay with a proposed deal. Lay wanted Hebert to support a faster transition to a national retailing structure for electricity. If he did, Enron would back him to keep his job.

The FERC chairman said he was “offended” by the veiled threat. Lay already had demonstrated sway over selection of administration appointees by supplying Bush aides with a list of preferred candidates and personally interviewing a possible FERC nominee.

Lay offered a different account of the phone call. He said Hebert was the one “requesting” Enron's support, though Lay acknowledged that the pair “very possibly” discussed issues involving FERC's authority over the nation’s electricity grids.

Hebert also raised Enron’s ire when he started an investigation in early 2001 into how Enron’s complex derivative financing instruments worked. “One of our problems is that we do not have the expertise to truly unravel the complex arbitrage activities of a company like Enron,” Hebert said. [NYT, May 25, 2001]

At the time, those complex – and deceptive – derivative schemes were concealing Enron’s worsening losses.

Energy Crisis

The California energy crisis also was spinning out of control. Rolling blackouts crisscrossed the state, where the partially deregulated energy market, served by Enron and other traders, had seen electricity prices soar 800 percent in one year.

After taking power, Bush turned a deaf ear to appeals from public officials in California to give the state relief from the soaring costs of energy. He also reined in federal efforts to monitor market manipulations.

As California’s electricity prices continued to soar, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced suspicions that the “free market” was not at work. Rather they saw corporate price-fixing, gouging consumers and endangering California’s economy.

But California’s suspicions mostly were mocked in official Washington as examples of finger-pointing and conspiracy theories. The administration blamed the problem on excessive environmental regulation that discouraged the building of new power plants.

Again, Lay was influencing policy behind the scenes. An April 2001 memo from Lay to Cheney advised the administration to resist price caps.

“The administration should reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps or returning to archaic methods of determining the cost-base of wholesale power,” Lay said. [San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 30, 2002]

Cheney and Bush echoed Lay’s position in their political exchanges with Davis and other Democrats. On April 18, 2001, Cheney told the Los Angeles Times that the Bush administration opposed price caps because they would discourage investment. [L.A. Times, April 19, 2001]

In May 2001, Bush traveled to California on a trip choreographed like a President visiting a disaster area. Only this time, Bush wasn’t promising federal help to a state in need. He was carrying the same message that Lay had sent to Cheney. In effect, Bush was saying: Read my lips. No price caps.

“Price caps do nothing to reduce demand, and they do nothing to increase supply,” Bush said. [L.A. Times, May 30, 2001]

After weeks of standoff, as electricity prices stayed high and began spreading to other Western states, the political showdown ended on June 18, 2001. FERC approved limited price caps, a reversal prompted by Republican fears of a political backlash that could cost them seats in Congress. [L.A. Times, June 19, 2001]

Still, the administration’s rear-guard defense of deregulation had bought Enron and other energy traders precious months to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in trading profits in California.

The imposition of FERC’s limited price caps – and the state’s aggressive conservation efforts – brought the energy crisis under control. That may have been good news for California, but not for Enron. By losing control over its ability to keep electricity prices artificially high, Enron faced new economic pressures.

“There are some hints of a connection [between the price caps and Enron’s collapse], including the billions of dollars in cash that flowed in and out of Enron as the crisis waxed and waned,” the New York Times reported later. [NYT, May 9, 2002]

With the easing of the California energy crisis, Enron’s stock price began to decline, slipping from around $80 early in the year to the high-$40’s. That began to put pressure on the stock hedges tucked inside the off-the-books partnerships.

The Dabhol Battle

In June 2001, the White House went to bat for Enron on another touchy issue, the natural gas power plant that Enron had built in Dabhol, India.

The plant had become something of a white elephant. Its cost of electricity was several times higher than what India was paying other providers, which led to an impasse over unpaid bills. Enron wanted India to pay $250 million for the electricity or buy out Enron’s stake in the plant, worth about $2.3 billion.

These sorts of contract disputes between U.S. companies and foreign governments are normally handled by the Commerce Department or possibly the State Department. But Enron’s Dabhol problem became a priority of Bush’s National Security Council staff.

That level of interest over a contract dispute was almost unprecedented, according to former NSC officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations. The administration’s intervention even involved direct appeals from top U.S. officials.

On June 27, 2001, Cheney personally discussed Enron’s problem with Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India’s opposition Congress Party. “Good news is that the Veep mentioned Enron in his meeting with Sonia Gandhi yesterday,” said one NSC e-mail dated June 28, 2001. (I obtained this and other documents under a Freedom of Information Act request.)

Throughout summer 2001, while intelligence warnings about an expected al-Qaeda terror attack went unheeded, the NSC staff met frequently to coordinate U.S. pressure on India over Enron's plant, drawing in the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., which had committed $360 million in risk insurance to the Dabhol project.

While the NSC held no follow-up meetings on the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence warning entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice organized and led the “Dabhol Working Group.”

The working group sought to broker meetings between Lay and senior Indian officials, including Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During a trip to India, a senior State Department official delivered a “demarche” or official warning to the Indian government, but New Delhi still resisted the U.S. pressure.

Also in the summer of 2001, Enron was consolidating its influence at FERC.

Nora Mead Brownell, a controversial member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, was named as a new FERC commissioner. In support of Brownell’s appointment, Lay called White House aide Karl Rove to say that Brownell “was a strong force in getting the right outcome” in deregulating Pennsylvania’s energy market, according to a July, 17, 2001, letter by Rep. Waxman to the White House counsel.

Then, in August 2001, FERC Chairman Hebert, who had gone along with the California price caps and had ordered the inquiry into Enron’s arbitrage schemes, abruptly resigned only six months into his four-year term. He clearly was forced out, explaining lamely that he desired “to seek other opportunities.”

Bush replaced Hebert with former Texas Public Utilities commissioner Pat Wood III. Lay had included Wood and Brownell on a list of his preferred FERC candidates. [AP, Jan. 31, 2002]

Accounting Scandal

As Lay was flexing his political muscle in Washington, out of public view back in Houston, Enron’s accounting house of cards was shaking. On Aug. 15, 2001, Sherron Watkins, an Enron vice president, warned Lay that accounting irregularities, including the hedges tied to Enron stock, were threatening to undo the corporation.

On Sept. 11, however, the course of George W. Bush’s presidency took a sharp turn, as Islamic terrorists seized four U.S. airliners, crashing two into the World Trade towers at the heart of the U.S. financial markets. Another smashed into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers apparently battled for control.

Bush vowed to retaliate for the attacks by waging a “war on terror,” finally targeting Osama bin Laden and his protectors in Afghanistan, the Taliban government. On the front lines of that new war were Pakistan and India, traditional enemies who were engaged in a brush war over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Despite the New Delhi’s importance in prosecuting the “war on terror,” Enron’s Dabhol power plant remained at the center of U.S. relations with India.

On Sept. 28, more than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the NSC-led Dabhol Working Group prepared “talking points” about the Enron business dispute for Cheney to deliver in a meeting with India’s Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

On Oct. 7, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began with aerial assaults against Taliban targets.Two days later, on Oct. 9, the State Department was again pressing Enron’s case with the Indians.

Undersecretary Alan Larson “raised the Dabhol issue with both FM Singh and NSA Mishra and got a commitment to ‘try’ to get the government energized on this issue prior to the PM’s visit to Washington” in November, an Oct. 23 NSC e-mail said. “Pls give me one/two bullets for the President to use during his meeting with Vajpayee.”

Meanwhile, Enron’s financial situation was collapsing. Its credit rating was cut and its stock was falling. On Oct. 30, 2001, behind closed doors, SEC commissioners approved a formal investigation of Enron’s accounting.

The NSC’s Dabhol Working Group, however, continued to press for India to make concessions to Enron. On Nov. 1, the White House prepared a memo on Dabhol talking points that Bush could raise in his meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee.

On Nov. 6, OPIC President Peter Watson sent a stern warning to Vajpayee’s national security adviser Mishra. “The acute lack of progress in this matter has forced Dabhol to rise to the highest levels of the United States government,” Watson said in a letter. The dispute “could have a negative effect regarding other U.S. agencies and their ability to function in India.”

So, almost two months after 9/11 with the war against Afghanistan still being fought, the Bush administration was threatening India, a key regional power, with a pullout of U.S. agencies from India because it was refusing to meet Enron’s demands for cash.

The Bush administration’s pressure on India over Dabhol did not end until Nov. 8, the day the SEC delivered subpoenas to Enron and the company announced that it was under formal SEC investigation.

That same day, on Nov. 8 at 2:33 p.m., an internal administration e-mail warned that “President Bush can not talk about Dabhol” in his meeting with India’s prime minister.

As Enron slid into scandal and bankruptcy, White House officials stressed that the administration had rebuffed a couple of last-minute overtures for a bail-out from Lay, including one to Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. Those rejections, administration spokesmen claimed, proved the mettle of Bush’s integrity, not letting politics influence policy.

In early 2002, when OPIC officials released documents on the Dabhol Task Force, Bush’s aides dismissed their significance. On Jan. 18, 2002, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the Dabhol effort “not uncommon.”

But the available evidence makes clear that the Dabhol operation – like other energy-related initiatives – represented extraordinary efforts to save Enron. Bush even put Enron’s financial interests at the top of the administration’s agenda with India, though it threatened to complicate relations with a key South Asian power after 9/11.

The White House also appears to have taken to task OPIC officials who released the internal e-mails in a normal response to a Freedom of Information Act request. When I sought more Enron documents under FOIA, a shaken OPIC bureaucrat told me that his agency had been perhaps too cooperative in releasing the earlier records.

All future Enron-related releases from the Bush administration amounted to boilerplate and documents that were already in the public domain.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2006/052506.html

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Derrick Z. Jackson - The War on Free Press

The War on Free Press
By Derrick Z. Jackson
The Boston Globe

Wednesday 24 May 2006

Journalists. Get the rack ready! Our attorney general is coming for us, snarling like a guard dog at Abu Ghraib.

On Sunday, Alberto Gonzales told ABC's "This Week" that he would consider prosecuting reporters who get their hands on classified information and break news about President Bush's terrorist surveillance program. "There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility, " Gonzales said, adding at one point, "We have an obligation to enforce those laws."

Asked more specifically if The New York Times should be prosecuted for its initial story on government surveillance without warrants, Gonzales said, "We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action."

It is almost funny to see Gonzales scour the statutes to harass journalists. This is the same administration that cannot spell the word law if you spot it the "l" and the "a." It has already set the presidential record in claiming the authority to circumvent the law in more than 750 cases.

Gonzales has been a prime cowboy in circling the wagons against the law. He issued the infamous "torture memo" that advised President Bush to throw the Geneva Convention into the trash can for detainees in the war on terror.

Because the war "is not the traditional clash between nations adhering to the laws of war," Gonzales reasoned to Bush, "in my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, script (i.e. advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms and scientific instruments."

We saw where Gonzales's desire to deny a detainee a trip to the commissary to get a candy bar and some gym clothes got us eventually: Abu Ghraib, the symbol of America's abuse of global statutes.

Gonzales was a prime force in other matters to seal off the Bush White House from accountability when he was White House counsel. He helped the administration block and drag its feet on the release of presidential papers from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and the papers of John Roberts as he was being considered for the Supreme Court. Gonzales helped to withhold or delay highly classified documents from the president's own 9/11 Commission and from the Government Accountability Office concerning the energy task force of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Bruce Craig, executive director of the National Coalition for History, called the Bush roadblocks on presidential papers "a disaster for history." Gonzales remains in the lead of this disastrous presidency. A few weeks before it was revealed that the administration's phone-record collecting was domestic as well as international, Gonzales was asked at a House hearing if he thought the administration could monitor domestic calls without warrants. His answer was, "I wouldn't rule it out."

Now, we have the FBI trying to get the papers of the late columnist Jack Anderson. We already knew what low regard Bush had for the press before he got into the Oval Office. On the 2000 presidential campaign, he told Cheney, "There's Adam Clymer - major-league [expletive] from The New York Times." Cheney responded, "Oh yeah, he is, big time."

Six years later, Gonzales's comment, combined with the past, make you wonder when we are going to hear about a Nixonian enemies list. In Richard Nixon's administration, Watergate masterminds actually thought about killing Anderson with LSD, and Attorney General John Mitchell threatened Katharine Graham, the late Washington Post publisher, by saying she would have her breast caught in a wringer.

We have not heard of anything that incredible yet. But there is nothing to suggest that this administration is going to do anything else but sink deeper into secrecy. On Monday, Bush tried to plug the leaks in his plunging popularity over Iraq by saying "Freedom is moving, but it's in incremental steps."

It is impossible to take Bush seriously on that concept when, at home, he is attempting to circumvent Congress and prosecuting one of the most important institutions for free speech. Gonzales told ABC, "I understand very much the role that the press plays in our society, the protection under the First Amendment we want to promote and respect, the right of the press." The actions of Gonzales show how little the Bush administration promotes the rights of the press. With every pronouncement, freedom is disappearing, in incremental steps.



Go to Original

The Internet's Long War
By Dawn Holian
TomPaine.com

Wednesday 24 May 2006

Imagine you're a voter searching the Internet for information about an upcoming election. You go to the candidates' websites, but the videos of their speeches and debates won't load. You log on to an advocacy site that last year had an interesting blog and other interactive tools to help you learn about the candidates and issues - but now it doesn't work properly either. You search for the day's campaign news, but your Internet service provider seems to be steering you to download episodes of Commander in Chief and buy a DVD of The American President.

Far-fetched? Maybe a little. But make no mistake, the telephone and cable companies would like to transform our Internet from a medium that allows people to connect to one another, engage in debate, and learn about the world into little more than a portal to sell goods and transmit television programs, films and games.

And they're likely to get their way unless Congress acts. On Thursday, the House Judiciary will be voting on a key piece of legislation to protect the Internet we know it, an Internet that is in jeopardy because of recent decisions by federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) used to protect "network neutrality" - our right to access any information we want on the Internet. But we lost those protections in August 2005, when the FCC decided to change the way it enforced rules dealing with the Internet. As a consequence, there is now no rule or regulation that will prevent the phone and cable companies from doing what they've said they want to do, charge content providers for the right to be on their Internet pipes and make special deals with some companies to ensure that their sites and services work faster and are easier to find..

The Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 5417) would restore our rights to a free and open Internet. This bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.,and John Conyers, D-Mich., will ensure that anti-trust law covers the actions of the providers of high-speed Internet by specifically banning discriminatory practices that affect our right to access the information we want. The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the bill this Thursday.

Failure to preserve net neutrality now would open the door to allowing Internet service providers to create a two-tiered Internet, with a "fast lane" accessible to only those who can afford to pay the fees to telephone and cable giants. Small businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, political candidates, and local governments would be consigned to the "slow lane." Such a system would stifle the innovation that has brought us Google, eBay, the blogosphere, instant messaging and so much more. If network providers are allowed to control the flow of information, the open and freewheeling nature of the Internet could be lost. For this reason, supporters of net neutrality include not only Common Cause and Consumers Union but also the Christian Coalition and Gun Owners of America.

Why is Common Cause so concerned about a seemingly obscure telecommunications issue? Because we care about the potential of the Internet to spur citizen engagement in their democracy. We know how democratic discourse has benefited from this technological marvel. In 2004, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 63 million Americans went online for political news. An estimated seven million individuals asked for e-mail updates from candidates, and four million donated money online to parties and campaigns. That involvement is only growing.

Millions of citizens access information from advocacy web sites ranging from Amnesty International to the National Rifle Association. And e-activists are transforming the way citizens communicate with their elected officials and have their opinions heard on the most pressing issues of the day.

But this Renaissance will be cut short if access to the Internet is determined by corporations more interested in selling goods and entertainment than in encouraging democratic discourse. The Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act is critical to protecting our digital future.

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Dawn Holian is director of media research and public education at Common Cause.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052406I.shtml

Jim Hightower - Inside Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon

Inside Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon
By Jim Hightower
Hightower Lowdown

Wednesday 24 May 2006

While claiming that they must "secure'" America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world.

In 1928, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that the real threat to American freedom was not from an outside assault, but from the devious manipulations of our own misguided leaders. "The greatest dangers to liberty," he observed, "lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."

Nearly 80 years after Brandeis's warning, the zealots have been brought in from the far-right fringe on the golden chariot of George W, and they've shown that they have no understanding of the essence of America, which includes our hard-won liberties, our rule of law and our system of checked-and-balanced governmental power.

But these men of zeal - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. - are hardly well-meaning. They are deliberately and determinedly striving to impose the AntiAmerica on our own land - an unrecognizable America of supreme executive authority, constant surveillance of the citizenry, secret government and suppression of dissent. Their chief weapon is fear. They feverishly wave the bloody flag of 9/11, shouting that the citizenry must surrender liberties or be attacked again by The Madmen, that we mustn't question authority for this only encourages The Madmen, that all government operations must be cloaked in a dark veil of secrecy to keep The Madmen off balance, and that executive and police power must drastically expand to protect us from The Madmen.

While claiming that they must "secure" America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world. They have been astonishingly successful in a remarkably short time, insidiously taking autocratic step after step, which a compliant Congress and the establishment media have mostly missed, ignored, minimalized or applauded. These two "institutions of vigilance" have failed us. So it is up to "We The People" to assert ourselves against this dangerous rise of authoritarianism in Bush's America.

The Spook Society

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on," George W said with a laugh at Washington's Gridiron dinner in 2001.

If only we'd known then that behind George's snickers, the Bushites were serious. Employing a combination of deceit, defiance, arrogance, flag-waving and secrecy, they have fooled a majority of Congress and the media into accepting the overlay of a "spook society" on our "Land of the Free." The far-reaching extent of their efforts are only now becoming clear.

Last month's installment covered Bush's secret and blatantly illegal directive for the National Security Agency to spy on citizens here at home. This clandestine four-year program of executive eavesdropping - scooping up billions of phone calls and emails sent or received by innocent Americans - has now been getting wide media coverage. But to focus only on this one piece is to miss the more startling reality: the quiet installation inside our country of a massive snoopervision complex, much of it initiated, funded and controlled by Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon.

Since the founding of America, a central tenet of our liberty has been that the military is not to be turned on our own people. Violations of this guiding rule have occurred in the past, but rarely and only temporarily, and when it's been violated, public outcry has forced the reinstatement of the rule.

Bush & Co., however, has not only turned loose the military to spy extensively on the American people, but has also asserted the right to do so in perpetuity. Its claim is that 9/11 turned the homeland into a foreign battlefield, so the nation's historic prohibition against military surveillance of Americans is null and void. And since this war on terrorists has no end ("the long war," Rumsfeld calls it), the Bushites maintain that the Pentagon can engage in domestic spying ad infinitum.

This military intrusion into our privacy has come with a heavy dose of linguistic perversions by top officials. For example, a secret Pentagon memo from Nov. 5, 2001, has now surfaced. In it, the Army's chief intelligence officer insists that while the Pentagon cannot "collect" information on citizens who have no connection to foreign terrorists, it can "receive" such information. "Remember," he wrote with Machiavellian delight, "merely receiving information does not constitute 'collection' Ö [Military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime."

Meanwhile, the ever-sneaky Bushites have quietly been pushing legislation that would compel the FBI and other police agencies to give information that they collect on you and me to the Pentagon, as long as the info is somehow "related" to a foreign intelligence investigation. This does not mean that, to spy on you, the snoops must have cause to think that you are in any way tied to terrorism, but only that they claim their investigation to be vaguely related to some foreign matter - a catchall that sweeps up war protestors, for example.

The legislation has yet to pass, but intelligence watchdogs say that Bush has already implemented it by fiat - Executive Order 13388 appears to authorize the Pentagon to access domestic intelligence files. Also, the military has already created a robust collection system of its own. A new Northern Command, established in Colorado in 2001 to monitor Americans, now employs more intelligence analysts than does the Homeland Security Department. Also, the Marines launched an operation under a 2004 executive order for the "collection, retention and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons," noting that the corps will be "increasingly required to perform domestic missions." And, during the past five years, each of the service branches has created its own domestic snooping enterprises. As Sen. Ron Wyden complained last year, "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [public] hearing."

Total Information Awareness

A nightmare right out of 1984, complete with the ominous, all-seeing name it was given, TIA was the ugly spawn of John Poindexter, the convicted master schemer behind the Iran-Contra scandal in Reagan's White House. George W and

Rummy had snuck him back into the government in 2001, ensconcing him deep inside the Pentagon, where he ran a team to develop TIA's unprecedented and voracious ability to grab every speck of private data on Americans from every public and corporate data bank. The plan was to put it all in a Pentagon supercomputer and mine it to build files on anyone the authorities might deem suspicious.

Luckily, a couple of years ago, this massive invasive madness came to light. The public howled so loudly that Congress rose up and demanded that the program be terminated, and Poindexter was forced to slink away.

But wait - who's that guy in the shadows, and what's he doing? He's Brian Sharkey, Poindexter's close pal who was a key player in the creation of TIA. He now heads a firm that's been getting government contracts to keep pursuing TIA's shadowy projects. In an internal email to TIA's subcontractors, Sharkey gleefully announced: "Fortunately, a new sponsor has come forward that will enable us to continue much of our previous work." He added that the TIA effort would henceforth go by the cryptic code name of "Basketball."

The new "sponsor" of this hoops game is a highly classified outfit called Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) that is housed inside NSA (yes, the very agency that's been running George W's illegal domestic spying program). In a February public hearing, Sen. Wyden asked Bush's director of national security and the head of the FBI a direct question: "We want to know if Mr. Poindexter's programs are going on somewhere else." We don't know, replied our nation's top two snoops. When a reporter asked an NSA spokesman whether TIA had been moved to ARDA, he clammed shut: "We can neither confirm nor deny actual or alleged projects." ARDA itself is now being moved to the national intelligence agency and given a new name: "Disruptive Technology Office." It's hard to follow all of the trick passes of "Basketball," but the bottom line is that TIA was halted in name only, having been stealthily slipped into another agency that has been moved and had its own name changed.

Salute Your Big Brother

Three years ago, the Pentagon set up a new, ultrasecret agency called CIFA, for Counterintelligence Field Activity. Its initial task was to detect terrorist plots against military installations in the United States, but two years ago, a directive from the Pentagon's top ranks ordered CIFA to broaden its scope by creating and maintaining "a domestic law enforcement database." The agency's motto became "Counterintelligence to the Edge."

In May 2003, Rumsfeld's top deputy, "Howling Paul" Wolfowitz, authorized a new snooping operation code-named TALON (Threat And Local Observation Notice). It directed military officers throughout the country to collect raw information about suspicious activities by local people and to feed reports on them into CIFA's humming computers. In its first year alone, TALON's far-flung network of military snoops fed more than 5,000 "local activity" reports into the electronic maw of CIFA.

Nearly everything about CIFA, including its budget, is kept secret, but it is known that the agency has generously spread its budgetary wealth to Pentagon contractors. Northrop Grumman, for example, received funds to develop a CIFA database dubbed "PersonSearch," and Computer Sciences Corp. got a grant for an electronic system to detect and monitor people's "abnormal activities and behaviors." You might say, OK, Hightower, but surely these fine public servants and civic-minded corporations are merely protecting us homelanders by watching known terrorist types with Arab-sounding names and Muslim affiliations. Right?

Uh-uh. Forget about merely needing to defend the rights of Arab-Americans - the Pentagon is invading everyone's liberties. You could ask these folks:

In October 2004, the Broward County Anti-War Coalition was discovered by the ever-alert snoops to be planning a demonstration outside a military recruitment office. The group ended up in the CIFA database, even though the only crime of the 15-20 members who protested was to wave a giant sign proclaiming, "Bush Lied."

In 2004, George Main, head of the Sacramento chapter of Vietnam Veterans for Peace, had organized a small Veterans Day protest in front of a military office. Not only did he and his VVP buddies end up with their names in a TALON report, but he also got a call from his government the night before the protest, pointedly suggesting that he was a threat to national security. "It was very intimidating to have a special agent call out of the ether," George says.

About 10 peace activists who showed up outside Halliburton's Houston headquarters in June 2004 also were reported to CIFA by a TALON team. Why would Halliburton warrant coverage under a program supposedly designed to stave off attacks on military installations? Pentagon officials say that its "force protection" mission now includes its private contractors.

These intrusions into perfectly legitimate First Amendment activities are not isolated mess-ups by a few overzealous military officers. Even the Pentagon concedes that thousands of TALON reports have been filed on totally innocent, nonthreatening civilians and are retained in CIFA's computer banks.

Data Mining

The Pentagon is hardly alone in rummaging through America's vast array of computerized records - collecting, crosschecking, storing, analyzing and monitoring trillions of bits of our personal data, from our credit card transactions and our phone calls to every single internet search we've ever made. The Government Accountability Office reports that 52 federal agencies now operate nearly 200 of these data-mining

programs, building files on anyone that the computers and bureaucrats deem the least bit suspicious. As one privacy expert puts it, "We have lists that are having baby lists at this point. They're spawning faster than rabbits."

The irony is that this mass invasion of our privacy does nothing to make Americans safer. Internet security expert Bruce Schneier points out that these data-mining systems are "so flooded with false alarms" that they're "useless," forcing agents to waste money and time chasing after thousands of innocent people.

Political Enemies

Dick Nixon must be grinning in his grave, for the FBI is now reprising the abusive role it played in tracking down Tricky Dick's infamous enemies list. The FBI's own "terrorist" files show that the agency has again been spying on such nonthreats as peaceful demonstrators at the 2004 political conventions, while also maintaining a "Terrorist Watch" list that includes such groups as "Food Not Bombs," a volunteer group that serves vegetarian meals to homeless people.

Also, in 2002, the FBI's Pittsburgh office spied on a group of "terrorists" operating in a "cell" called the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice. An agency memo warned that the center "holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh." The memo notes that the Merton Center "is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."

Pacifism! Holy J. Edgar Hoover! Forget about terrorists attacks - there are pacifists passing out leaflets in Pittsburgh!

Secret Service

Speaking of disruptive, the newly extended Patriot Act creates a new class of federal felon: the disruptor.

This chilling provision, tucked into the bill in January without a hearing or debate, authorizes the Secret Service "to charge suspects with breaching security or disruptive behavior at National Special Security Events." What is NSSE? An event where the president or other protected official "will be temporarily visiting," such as a public speech, a political rally, an inauguration ball, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or any other event designated by the Secret Service as being of "national significance."

We've seen that simply wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt or having a pro-Democrat bumper sticker is enough to get you branded a disruptor, bounced from a Bush event and thrown in jail. But this provision broadens the reach of Bush's exclusion zones, sanctions the lockdown on free speech and assembly rights, and turns what was a trespassing misdemeanor into a felony. Also, you can be considered a disruptor even if the VIP has not arrived at the NSSE or has already left. Under this provision, not only is the public official protected from "disruptors," but also the NSSE itself becomes the protectee, criminalizing free speech at public events.

UnAmerican

There are a thousand other cuts that the Bushites are making to America's Bill of Rights, the rule of law and separation of powers. Theirs has become, for example, the most secret government in our history, spending billions of tax dollars a year to classify millions of even mundane documents, issuing executive fiats to deny "We The People" access to crucial public information under right-to-know laws, and trying to make it a federal crime not only to leak internal executive information (unless, of course, the White House does the leaking), but also to receive any leaked info.

The Bushites have made unprecedented efforts to silence scientists and dissenters within government. This administration has also launched a sweeping array of "citizen watch" programs with names like Coastal Beacon, CAT Eyes and Eagle Eyes, enlisting individuals and groups to spy on neighbors and report even the most unsubstantiated gossip to authorities. The eerie slogan of these watch programs is "Be our eyes and ears so we can calm your fears."

Using its never-ending war as a bugaboo, the BushCheney regime is asserting that it is entitled to operate as a military presidency. The Madmen hate our freedoms, the Bushites screech, so in order to defeat The Madmen, our freedoms must be suspended - for as long as it takes. Not only is that grotesquely absurd, it is entirely un-American.

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Editor's note: This is the second half of a two-part series from the Hightower Lowdown. Read last month's article here.

Jim Hightower is the author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush (Viking Press). He publishes the monthly Hightower Lowdown; for more information about Jim, visit jimhightower.com.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052406E.shtml

Intelligence Czar Can Waive SEC Rules

Intelligence Czar Can Waive SEC Rules
By Dawn Kopecki

Business Week Online

Now, the White House's top spymaster can cite national security to exempt businesses from reporting requirements


President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.


Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

The timing of Bush's move is intriguing. On the same day the President signed the memo, Porter Goss resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency amid criticism of ineffectiveness and poor morale at the agency. Only six days later, on May 11, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had obtained millions of calling records of ordinary citizens provided by three major U.S. phone companies. Negroponte oversees both the CIA and NSA in his role as the administration's top intelligence official.

FEW ANSWERS. White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said the timing of the May 5 Presidential memo had no significance. "There was nothing specific that prompted this memo," Perino said.

In addition to refusing to explain why Bush decided to delegate this authority to Negroponte, the White House declined to say whether Bush or any other President has ever exercised the authority and allowed a company to avoid standard securities disclosure and accounting requirements. The White House wouldn't comment on whether Negroponte has granted such a waiver, and BusinessWeek so far hasn't identified any companies affected by the provision. Negroponte's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Securities-law experts said they were unfamiliar with the May 5 memo and the underlying Presidential authority at issue. John C. Coffee, a securities-law professor at Columbia University, speculated that defense contractors might want to use such an exemption to mask secret assignments for the Pentagon or CIA. "What you might hide is investments: You've spent umpteen million dollars that comes out of your working capital to build a plant in Iraq," which the government wants to keep secret. "That's the kind of scenario that would be plausible," Coffee said.

AUTHORITY GRANTED. William McLucas, the Securities & Exchange Commission's former enforcement chief, suggested that the ability to conceal financial information in the name of national security could lead some companies "to play fast and loose with their numbers." McLucas, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, added: "It could be that you have a bunch of books and records out there that no one knows about."

The memo Bush signed on May 5, which was published seven days later in the Federal Register, had the unrevealing title "Assignment of Function Relating to Granting of Authority for Issuance of Certain Directives: Memorandum for the Director of National Intelligence." In the document, Bush addressed Negroponte, saying: "I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended."

A trip to the statute books showed that the amended version of the 1934 act states that "with respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States," the President or the head of an Executive Branch agency may exempt companies from certain critical legal obligations. These obligations include keeping accurate "books, records, and accounts" and maintaining "a system of internal accounting controls sufficient" to ensure the propriety of financial transactions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with "generally accepted accounting principles."

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2006/nf20060523_2210.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Joe Conason - Desperate Bush Turns To The National Guard

Desperate Bush Turns
To the National Guard

By: Joe Conason
The New York Observer
Date: 5/22/2006


For a brief moment last month, George W. Bush behaved like a responsible leader instead of a partisan demagogue. On the issue of immigration, which provokes so much demagogic and divisive rhetoric on the right, he followed his better instincts by seeking compromise. He took the risk of alienating his own right-wing base and reached out to John McCain and Ted Kennedy by endorsing a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants.

Then he must have looked at the polls showing that the Republican base is deserting him—and panicked.

The President’s decision to dispatch 6,000 National Guardsmen to the Mexican border, which he announced in a nationally televised speech on Monday night, gives off a sour smell of desperation. Polls published the following day indicated that overwhelming majorities of voters favor sending troops to the southern boundary. Presumably the White House polled to test its own “solution” as well as the President’s message before scheduling his address.

No matter what the polls told Karl Rove about mobilizing the troops, the sad truth for him and his boss is that the public now regards Mr. Bush with a cynical eye. Conservatives no longer trust him on the issue of immigration, while liberals, moderates and independents no longer trust him at all. It is sad, because he once had the opportunity—and the sincere motivation—to lead the nation to a more enlightened policy toward immigrant workers and their families. His welcoming attitude, dating back to his years in Texas, has long been his most admirable quality as a political leader.

If that attitude attracted Hispanic voters to his party, then at least it represented a refreshing change from the “Southern strategy” of racially coded messages and the polarizing anti-immigrant policies of the recent past. Compared with much of the dubious image-making that has suffused his campaigns and his Presidency, Mr. Bush’s friendliness toward the Latino community seemed authentic and rooted in his own experience.

Unfortunately, he has waited too long to lead on this issue, and he has proved so incompetent as President that he lacks credibility. At this late date, sending thousands of troops southward in an effort to appear tough only underscores his failure.

Prospects for immigration reform along the lines proposed by Senators McCain and Kennedy would not be so dim if Mr. Bush hadn’t neglected border security over the past several years. The voters who now express such resentment and fear might have been mollified if the government had done more to restore control over the borders.

While the President boasts about boosting the number of Border Patrol agents by thousands, the truth is that his last budget only provided enough money to add 200 new agents. In Congress, members of both parties have sought increased spending on border security, only to be rebuffed by the administration.

That neglect has opened space for the ugliest elements in American society to reassert their brutality and prejudice. Extreme nativists imagine cruel mass deportations of Latino families, or worse, in order to preserve “white America.” Those lunatics have branded Mr. Bush a “traitor,” and many of his once-fervent right-wing supporters are attacking him bitterly.

On the far-right Web site WorldNetDaily, a columnist who describes himself as a “Christian libertarian” recently explained why he knew that the President is wrong about mass deportations. “If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of six million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society,” he wrote, “it couldn’t possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English and are not integrated into American society.”

Assuming that civilized Americans are not prepared to contemplate a “final solution,” then someday we may realize that massive human migrations require substantial solutions. What we need is a hemispheric development effort to improve wages and social conditions in Mexico and Central America. But there are domestic policies that could also prove effective.

The first step would be to inflict serious penalties on large employers, such as the meatpacking industry, that exploit illegal labor. Make those lawbreakers shoulder the extra fiscal burden of education, health care and law enforcement that falls on cities and towns. The next step would be to break down the barriers to labor organizing in those same industries. Make sure that workers are free and unafraid to join unions, as they are supposed to be in a Western democracy, regardless of their immigration status.

Over time, such measures would change the incentives that currently encourage industry to abuse illegal immigrants and flout the law. Real reform wouldn’t please the lobbyists and corporate political donors, but it might just work.

http://www.observer.com/printpage.asp?iid=12822&ic=Conason

David Sirota - Money plus secrecy equals trouble

Money plus secrecy equals trouble


By David Sirota

May 23, 2006

Money is not a bad thing. And secrecy doesn't have to be, either. But when the two mix, you can bet someone is going to get bilked.

Look no further than Congress' corruption scandals and corporate America's excessive pay packages to know this is the case. Though the situations seem unrelated, they revolve around the confluence of money and secrecy. Lawmakers and executives are making out like bandits while taxpayers and company shareholders are getting ripped off.

In Congress, corruption is emanating from the appropriations committees - the panels overseeing federal spending. Lawmakers there are responsible for "earmarking" federal dollars for specific projects. That powerful privilege to earmark lately has been demonized as the problem. It's not. It's the secrecy that is causing the trouble.

Appropriators are allowed to earmark taxpayer money anonymously, meaning they can direct spending without having to take public responsibility for their actions. Lobbyists, of course, know this, and thus lavish committee members with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in order to get them to anonymously earmark taxpayer dollars to their corporate clients.

This is what former Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California was convicted of - taking bribes from contractors in exchange for using his position on the House Appropriations Committee to move federal dollars to those contractors.

This is why committee members such as Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, Democratic Rep. Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana are under federal investigation. They are accused of trying to quietly use their spending power to move taxpayer cash to campaign contributors and business associates. They may have gotten too careless.

But the problem is clear: Money mixed with secrecy is the real reason most of the pay-to-play scandals ravaging Capitol Hill are coming out of the appropriations committees.

In the corporate world, it is the same thing. Recent headlines document how the CEO of UnitedHealth Group was given $1.6 billion in stock options, the CEO of Pfizer Inc. was given an $83 million pension and the CEO of ExxonMobil Corp. was granted a $400 million retirement package.

The Wall Street Journal subsequently found that companies are quietly footing the bill for their executives' taxes. And USA Today reports that over the last five years, at the 60 worst-performing companies in America in terms of their market value, executives have pocketed $12 billion. All of this has raised a question from shareholders: How have these executives been able to raid company treasuries like this with such little fanfare?

Again, it is money mixed with secrecy. Because of the government's lax disclosure laws, the details of many companies' executive pay packages can be virtually impossible to find in corporate financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, shareholders often have little idea of how much cash their companies' boards of directors are handing over to executives.

Not surprisingly, ending the corruption that is afflicting the political and corporate world means more disclosure.

On Capitol Hill, appropriators must still be able to direct spending. The power of the purse, after all, is vested by the Constitution in the Congress. But lawmakers should not be able to earmark taxpayer money without attaching their names to the projects they are funding.

If we want to end Congress' pay-to-play culture, forcing lawmakers to publicly disclose what projects they are supporting would go a long way toward shaming them into better behavior. They would at least have to worry about being caught when they shower their campaign contributors with federal contracts.

Similarly, Congress must pass legislation sponsored by Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts that would force corporations to better disclose exactly what they are paying their executives and then get those pay packages approved by company owners at annual shareholders' meetings.

The legislation would not strip companies' ability to pay their executives tens of millions of dollars. It only demands more transparency and more power over decisions by shareholders. At the least, owners of companies have a right to know exactly what expenditures are being made in their name.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." In an age in which politics and business both need to be cleansed of corruption, Justice Brandeis' words could not be more timely.

David Sirota, a former spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, is the author of "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government - and How We Take It Back." His e-mail is david@davidsirota.com.

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.secrecy23may23,1,3522074,print.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines&ctrack=1&cset=true

A Restive Base Throws the GOP Off Balance

A Restive Base Throws the GOP Off Balance
Dismay, and hints at rebellion, in the party's conservative core don't bode well for November.

By Janet Hook
LA Times Staff Writer

May 22, 2006

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders, worried that their party's conservative base is demoralized, lean hard on one reed of hope these days: Election day is almost six months away, leaving lots of time to get voters mobilized.

But there already are signs that the surly mood of the party's core supporters is taking a toll around the country — in morale, in fundraising and in early election contests.

In the Rocky Mountains, a registered Republican was so dissatisfied that he wrote a $26,700 check to the Democrats' Senate campaign committee.

In San Diego, Republicans worry that conservatives unhappy with the GOP candidate for a vacant House seat will stay home rather than vote in the June special election.

In Pennsylvania's primary last week, conservative Republicans unseated more than a dozen state legislators, in large part because critics believed the party establishment had abandoned GOP fiscal principles. "It's time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans," said John Eichelberger, a conservative who defeated the state Senate's GOP president.

That is a complaint increasingly heard across the country when conservatives outside Washington talk about the national GOP establishment.

"I voted for President Bush twice, but in my opinion we have no leadership in Washington from the president or the Congress," said Warren H. Ingram Jr., a Missouri libertarian.

Some Republicans are so discouraged by the direction of the country and the record of their party —including the growth of federal spending, turmoil in Iraq, and Bush's immigration policy — that they have begun wondering if Republicans might be better off losing control of Congress.

"Two years in the political wilderness would do us a lot of good," said one Republican member of Congress who asked not to be named because of his heretical view.

The conservative National Review magazine recently pictured an elephant's rear on the cover of an issue headlined "A View of Congress." An article inside lambasting the GOP concluded: "As bad polling piles up, nervous Republicans will ask themselves, Can this Congress be saved? But the question frustrated Republican voters are increasingly asking is, Is it worth saving?"

Such disillusionment is reflected in recent polls showing declining support for Bush and Congress, even among conservatives who have been the most loyal part of the GOP base.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in April found that conservative Republicans' approval of Bush stood at 80% in April — still high, but a sizable 12-point drop from January. Conservatives' approval of Congress dropped to 29% in April, down from 41% in January.

Also worrisome for the GOP are signs that Democratic voters are approaching the midterm elections with more energy than Republicans: The poll found that, by 11 percentage points, Democrats are more likely to express high interest in the campaign.

GOP strategy now is aimed at energizing the party's base, with an agenda packed with conservative crowd-pleasers. After a long delay, Bush last week signed a $70-billion tax cut. The Senate soon will vote on constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and flag burning. Republicans have renewed their push to confirm Bush's conservative judicial nominees.

There are risks in these efforts to appease conservatives: They may alienate swing voters — precisely the voters needed by moderate Republicans, who are the party's most vulnerable incumbents. "A Republican legislative agenda that plays only to the conservative base this year is a [Democratic] dream come true," said Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of moderate Republicans.

The spring offensive may not be enough to energize disillusioned conservatives. Many of them see it as a token gesture. The amendment to ban gay marriage, for example, is not expected to pass.

"We don't believe them anymore," said Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, a Christian conservative group based in Washington. "Bush twice made a big deal out of marriage [in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns]. But once he gets in that big cushy office, you don't hear a peep out of him about marriage."

Despite such views and grim polls, Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Jones argues that GOP candidates will fare well when attention turns to the kinds of policies that Democrats would promote if they won control of Congress. That points to a key element of the Republican strategy to motivate conservatives: Remind them what political life would be like if Democrats took control.

"The party's most faithful supporters remain strong behind Republican candidates across the country," said Jones. "In the fall elections, the true distinction between the two parties will be evident."

Other Republicans are less sanguine. "You cannot ignore the fact that … the Republican base is not energized about this election," said Neil Newhouse, a GOP pollster with several House and Senate clients. "I don't think this election is going to be won based solely on whether we turn out sufficient numbers in our base, but it sure as heck could be lost if we fail on that measure."

Some Republicans say the unhappiness is affecting fundraising. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as of March 31 had raised $56.4 million for the 2005-06 election cycle; its Republican counterpart collected $50.4 million. There are many reasons for that discrepancy, but GOP fundraisers say that the party's malaise is making their job harder.

"You see a sense of apathy," said one fundraiser in a swing state who asked not to be named in order to speak freely. "People are holding back on their checks."

Another party strategist said the impact was acute among small-gift donors, who seem especially riled by Bush's immigration policy.

"It's very difficult to get low-dollar donors to give money when they see the border is not secured and Congress is not taking action on immigration," said this strategist, who also did not want to speak for the record about the party's woes.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at least one wealthy Republican was now supporting Democrats. Although the Republican had voted for Bush, Schumer said, this person gave the maximum allowable, $26,700, to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, telling Schumer, "I see the need for more balance in government." Schumer declined to identify the contributor.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said GOP malaise was also making it harder to round up volunteers for early campaign work, such as collecting petition signatures.

"There is a perceptible difference," said Flake. "People are down on the party."

Sensing an opportunity, Democrats are making unusual efforts to reach out to disaffected Republicans. The Senate campaign committee has launched a program to identify and solicit support from moderate Republicans. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently began airing an ad in four states on Christian and conservative radio stations spotlighting Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security — a proposal that, according to Democratic polls, is very unpopular among fundamentalists.

Republicans say they are not worried about their base defecting to Democrats. The bigger risk is that disillusioned voters will simply not vote. Looming is the lesson of 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress in part because Democratic turnout was down.

It is impossible to predict how the mood today will affect turnout in November, but Democrats find hopeful signs in some early elections, such as the May 2 Indiana primary. In one competitive district, 46,000 Democrats turned out to nominate a challenger to Republican Rep. John Hostettler, compared with 31,000 GOP voters who turned out to support the incumbent, who ran unopposed in his primary.

In the San Diego area's April special election to nominate candidates to complete the term of former GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, 45.8% of registered Democrats turned out to vote, versus 41.6% of registered Republicans, according to Jim Hayes, a political consultant in Burbank.

Some Republicans worry that Cunningham's solidly GOP district may be at risk in the June 6 special election runoff because Brian Bilbray, the Republican nominee, is considered too moderate for party conservatives.

"The numbers are closer than we'd like them to be," said Resnick of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which supports Bilbray. "The base is not quite as motivated to vote."

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he was confident Republicans would be motivated to turn out for the special election and the November elections because Republicans would be drawing clear distinctions between the candidates on the ballot.

"In any competitive House race, the amount of money being spent will be such that voters will know there is a race and they will know there's a choice," he said.

More ominous may be the signs of an anti-incumbent mood popping up around the country. That could hurt both parties, but Republicans have the most to lose because they are in the majority and may bear the brunt of voters' wrath.

In Indiana's Republican primary, a political neophyte defeated the state Senate president, a 36-year veteran who had been criticized for championing a generous health insurance perk for legislators.

A far broader anti-incumbent sweep came in Pennsylvania, where 61 state legislators faced primary challenges last week. At least 17 were defeated; four were Democrats.

The political match that lighted the state's firestorm was a 2005 vote by the Republican-controlled Legislature to increase pay for elected officials by more than 50%. But the rebellion was also fueled by long-standing conservative complaints that GOP legislators had abandoned small-government fiscal principles when they raised taxes and boosted spending even more than Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell had proposed.

Last week's primary results stunned the political establishment.

Although the sweep was driven in part by local political dynamics, analysts said it might be a cautionary tale for Republicans nationwide: Conservative voters are restless and may be ready to strike back.

"It gave us a glimpse of just how angry Republican voters are," said former Rep. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania conservative who backed the insurgency. He now heads the economically conservative Club for Growth advocacy group. "That certainly suggests that Republicans in Washington have a lot to worry about going into the fall elections."

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-gop22may22,0,27809,print.story?coll=la-home-headlines