No respect for Life and Earth Environment: <p>Human Bondage to OIL and WAR

Wall Street, CIA and the Global Drug Trade
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NASA Astronauts Throw STUFF in space!
A Chilling Intrusion
Corporate Welfare At Its Worst
Profits and Patriotism
Bush Still Backward On Women's Issues
Introducing A Bill to Rob the Public, Because We Can
Fear Can Turn Us All Into 'Good Germans.' We Must Resist It
Reading the Constitution Through a Corporate Lens

How a disappearing oil field was the answer to one tribe's prayers
Bizarre campaign pays off as US oil giant quits Amazon project

John Vidal Guardian
Monday May 13, 2002

When geologists from US oil giant Oxy found what they believed was one of the largest oil fields in Latin America in 1994, there was jubilation in the company's Los Angeles HQ. Oxy - closely linked to former US presidential candidate Al Gore - was confident enough to tell shareholders there could be 1.4 billion barrels in Colombia's Samore field and a further 900 million barrels in an adjacent area.

More than $100m (68m) of research and seismic studies, said Oxy, pointed to its concession being the country's most promising-ever field, worth up to $50bn over many years.

No one paid much attention to the U'wa, one of the world's remotest, oldest and most spiritual tribes whose ancestral lands lie in the cloud forests and plains of the north-east of the country Oxy wanted to drill. But, following one of the most bizarre campaigns ever waged against a major company, the small tribe has finally sent the $10bn a year Oxy oil company packing.

In a terse statement, Oxy last week said it would now leave the region "for technical reasons" and hand back its 2,000sq km (516,000 acre) concession to the Colombian government. Its test wells, drilled to more than 3,600 metres (12,000ft), discovered only faint traces of gas and water. "We remain confident in the geology. We made an evaluation of the results of the drilling and the investment we've made, and it didn't justify continuing," a spokesman said.

Yesterday the U'wa, who say they have never known war or conflict, were jubilant at Oxy's departure and sent a defiant message to the west. "No one destroys man. Man destroys himself. We want to continue reflecting to avoid the destruction of the world because the U'wa want to continue to live," said a spokesman.

According to independent geologists, it is extremely unusual for a company which has spent so much and been so confident in its science to give up on what was expected to be a blockbuster field after just one attempt. "It is not unusual to find no oil on the first attempt, but you would certainly expect them to keep looking if the prize is so high," said one American geologist who has worked for the company, but asked to remain anonymous.

So where did the oil go? Oxy says it is there beyond doubt in giant quantities, and the U'wa agree. The difference is that the U'wa believe their elected spiritual leaders, the mysterious and secretive "werjayas", physically drove it away from the company's test well site after praying and fasting for many months. In the complex cosmology of the U'wa, the world above the ground is mirrored by one below and oil ("ruiria") is the blood of the earth, the element that sustains the land and lakes and prevents earthquakes.

Mass suicide

The werjayas were so adamant that the world would end if Oxy took the oil that they declared that many in the tribe would commit mass ritual suicide and jump from their sacred Cliff of Death. It was no idle threat, said the werjayas through their Spanish-speaking spokesmen. Five hundred years ago many U'wa had jumped to their death when the conquistadors first came to what is now Colombia. Better to die, said the werjayas, than to see the end of the world. Like several other indigenous groups, the U'wa believe the earth only exists because of them. They say they sing the world into existence every day, keep it in equilibrium and prevent its collapse by the constant reflection and meditation of their werjayas. "Our purpose on earth is only to protect the world," said Roberto Cobaria, a U'wa spokesman. "The world depends on us."

The tribe also commented on the social and political chaos they have observed since they came into contact with the west 40 years ago. "The money king is only an illusion. Capitalism is blind and barbaric. It poisons the water and the air and destroys everything. And to the U'wa, it says that we are crazy - but we want to continue being crazy if it means we can continue to exist on our dear mother earth."

The U'wa have cause to wonder whether their god, Sira, has always been listening. In the past 100 years their lands have been decimated and many of their people have died from western diseases. Since they started opposing Oxy with only the help of a young US environmentalist, Terry Freitas, who visited them in 1996, they have been drawn ever deeper into political dispute with the guerrillas of Farc, who plague the oil industry and regularly kidnap workers and blow up its pipelines, and the government.

Freitas was killed by guerrillas in 1999 after visiting the tribe for a third time but he had done enough to make them environmental heroes.

American human rights and environment groups picked up their case, they were awarded the prestigious 70,000 Goldman prize for the environment, and they seriously embarrassed "environmentalist" Al Gore during his election campaign in 2000. Gore's grandfather worked with Armand Hammer, the founder of Oxy, and Gore Jr is a major individual shareholder.

Many other Amazonian tribes are now fighting oil companies who have flooded into the Amazon basin in search of oil. Many accept money and development but others, like the U'wa, refuse everything the state or the companies offer. But the U'wa triumph may prove short-lived. The state oil company Ecopetrol, which has assumed control of Oxy's exploration block, says it intends to continue looking for oil. One official yesterday said the region was "still attractive" and it may only need to drill a further 800 metres (2,500ft) and invest $10m to find the oil. The U'wa may need to keep praying. Other indigenous groups in Latin America affected by oil

Ecuador

Numerous indigenous groups including the Achuar, Shuar, Huaorani, Quichua, Shiwiar, and Zapara are likely to be affected by oil drilling and pipeline plans. Eleven new oil concessions, many in national parks and protected reserves, will cover 7 million acres of forest. Oxy is planning a heavy crude pipeline.

Peru

Several indigenous peoples who have deliberately had as little to do with the west as possible may be affected by the giant Camisea natural gas project, in the Urubamba, or Sacred Valley, river basin of the remote Peruvian Amazon. Shell and Mobil have withdrawn from the project. Venezuela The Pemon, Akawayo and Karina indigenous groups are fighting to protect their ancestral homelands in the Imataca forest reserve and the Canaima national park where a power line to Brazil and mining and logging concessions are planned.

Bolivia

Many indigenous and environmental groups are trying to intervene in several oil and gas infrastructure projects, including the Bolivia-Brazil pipeline and the Bolivia-Cuiaba pipeline financed by the World Bank.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4412356,00.html

NASA Astronauts Throw SHIT in space!

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Space station out of the firing line

Tim Radford, science editor Saturday May 18, 2002 The Guardian

Nasa officials admitted yesterday that they have been forced to move the International Space Station (ISS) to protect it and its crew of three from a piece of flying junk.

As they did so, a British scientist was warning the world that - in addition to the natural menace of meteorites - 2,000 tonnes of refuse was now circling the planet at 18,000mph.

The ISS weighs 150 tonnes and is bigger than a three bedroom house. Its designers gave it a thicker skin as protection from collisions. Since astronauts began using it in 2000, 28 spacewalks have been carried out. Each time the astronaut has been at risk from shards of metal, ballpoint pens, spanners, bits of glass, camera lens hoods and other objects independently orbiting the earth far faster than a rifle bullet. Richard Crowther, a space scientist at QinetiQ, formerly the defence research agency, reports in the journal Science that comet dust is a permanent danger. But since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, space has become a dumping ground for human hardware.

Space agencies now routinely track the larger lumps of metal to avoid collisions with the thousands of costly satellites in orbit. But Dr Crowther points out that there are 100,000 objects in orbit too small to be monitored but still powerful enough to burst through any lightweight shielding. "The space debris population now totals more than 2m kilograms within 2,000km of Earth," Dr Crowther says. "A small coin travelling at 10km a second through space will have the same impact energy as a small bus travelling at 100kmh on the ground." The windows of the US space shuttle are changed at intervals because they become scarred by space dust and tiny specks of shattered satellites. Astronauts and cosmonauts now routinely send their rubbish home on supply ships rather than discard it. But the flying waste in space includes some unexpected hazards. One British scientist at the Natural History Museum, studying the skin of a recovered spacecraft, found a trace of urine.

It almost certainly dated from the heroic age of space exploration, when Apollo astronauts would throw bags of what Nasa called "post-nutritive substances" out when required to do a spacewalk.

The bags have gone on whirling around the planet at 18,000mph, another gruesome accident waiting to happen.

A Chilling Intrusion

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by Herbert Foerstel

AN FBI agent visited the Engineering and Physical Sciences Library at the University of Maryland, College Park, in April 1986, asking staff members to report on the reading habits of "anyone with a foreign-sounding name or foreign-sounding accent."

That same day, the agent visited the Chemistry Library, asking again for surveillance and also requesting any records of database searches.

At the University of Maryland, as at most American universities, a large percentage of faculty and students have "foreign-sounding names or foreign-sounding accents."

The FBI's request was both absurd and chilling.

As head of branch libraries at the time, I immediately met with the library staff and informed them of their obligation to maintain the confidentiality of all patron information, including book circulation records and database searches.

I discovered the FBI visits were part of a broader national effort called the Library Awareness Program, which was aimed at information control and surveillance in America's unclassified technical libraries. Such an intrusion on privacy and access to openly published information was a clear violation of our constitutional rights and of library ethics. In response, I wrote a series of articles for library journals, debated the FBI on television, testified before Congress and worked with Del.

Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg of Baltimore to help craft Maryland's library confidentiality law. Today, 48 of our 50 states plus the District of Columbia have laws making it illegal for libraries to release patron information to anyone without a court order. Now, under cover of the USA Patriot Act, passed Oct. 26, the FBI is poised to intrude once more on library confidentiality, this time with an arsenal of surveillance that even our library confidentiality laws may not be able to prevent.

The Patriot Act became law without congressional hearings or even a markup in committee. The act, which originated with Attorney General John Ashcroft, amended federal statutes governing criminal procedure, computer fraud, foreign intelligence, wiretapping and immigration, expanding the authority of the FBI and law enforcement to gain access to business, medical, educational and library records.

It also extended the laws governing wiretaps to Internet and electronic communications, challenging privacy and confidentiality in libraries. The new law replaces the traditional subpoena with a search warrant, which can be executed immediately. Libraries will no longer have the right to "quash" such a warrant. Section 215 of the law concerns access to records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

It overrides state library confidentiality laws, allowing an FBI agent to obtain a search warrant for "any tangible thing," including books, records, floppy disks, data tapes and computers.

It allows the FBI to compel production of library circulation records, Internet use records and registration information without demonstrating "probable cause." The agent can simply express his belief that the desired records may be related to an ongoing investigation related to terrorism or intelligence activities. Librarians served with such a search warrant may not disclose, under penalty of law, the existence of the warrant.

Even the patron cannot be told that he or she is the subject of an FBI investigation. Section 216 extends telephone monitoring laws to include all Internet traffic. Both state and federal law enforcement agencies may obtain an order under this provision, with federal agents able to obtain a nationwide wiretap order. Section 216 is not limited to the investigation of terrorism or foreign intelligence, and officers or agents seeking warrants need only affirm that the information sought is relevant to a criminal investigation.

The recipient of a monitoring order must cooperate fully and may not disclose that communications are being monitored. Libraries that provide Internet and e-mail service to patrons thus become targets of such orders. Section 214 extends the FBI's telephone monitoring authority in FISA investigations to include all Internet traffic. Again, the agent need only claim that the desired records may be related to terrorism or intelligence matters.

There are many other provisions of the Patriot Act that offend librarians because of excessive secrecy or censorship, but what we surely cannot abide is the government's intrusion on library confidentiality. When the public's reading habits and personal communications are subject to government surveillance within the library, the delicate relationship of trust between libraries and their patrons is shattered and the chill on free expression and the right to know may be irrevocable. This is not a partisan issue.

Herbert Foerstel is a retired librarian and author of eight books on First Amendment issues, including Surveillance in the Stacks (Greenwood Press, 1991) and Banned in the USA (Greenwood Press, 1994). He lives in Columbia, MD.

The Export-Import Bank: Corporate Welfare At Its Worst by Rep.

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Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

This country has a $6 trillion national debt, a growing deficit and is borrowing money from the Social Security Trust Fund in order to fund government services.

We can no longer afford to provide over $125 billion every year in corporate welfare - tax breaks, subsidies and other wasteful spending - that goes to some of the largest, most profitable corporations in America.

One of the most egregious forms of corporate welfare can be found at a little known federal agency called the Export-Import Bank, an institution that has a budget of about $1 billion a year and the capability of putting at risk some $15.5 billion in loan guarantees annually.

At a time when the government is under-funding veterans' needs, education, health care, housing and many other vital services, over 80% of the subsidies distributed by the Export-Import Bank goes to Fortune 500 corporations.

Among the companies that receive taxpayer support from the Ex-Im are Enron, Boeing, Halliburton, Mobil Oil, IBM, General Electric, AT&T, Motorola, Lucent Technologies, FedEx, General Motors, Raytheon, and United Technologies.

You name the large multinational corporation, many of which make substantial campaign contributions to both political parties, and they're on the Ex-Im welfare line.

Needless to say, many of these same companies receiving taxpayer support pay exorbitant salaries and benefits to their CEOs.

IBM, for example, gave their former CEO Lou Gerstner over $260 million in stock options while they were lining up for their Ex-Im handouts. The great irony of Ex-Im policy is not just that taxpayer support goes to wealthy and profitable corporations that don't need it, but that in the name of "job creation" a substantial amount of federal funding goes to precisely those corporations that are eliminating hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

In other words, American workers are providing funding to companies that are shutting down the plants in which they work, and are moving them to China, Mexico, Vietnam and wherever else they can find cheap labor.

What a deal!

For example, General Electric has received over $2.5 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees from the Ex-Im Bank. And what was the result? From 1975-1995 GE reduced its workforce from 667,000 to 398,000, a decline of 269,000 jobs. In fact, while taking the Ex-Im Bank subsidies, GE was extremely public about it's "globalization" plans to lay off American workers and move jobs to Third World countries.

Jack Welch, the longtime CEO of GE stated, "Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge." General Motors has received over $500 million in direct loans and loan guarantees from the Export-Import Bank. The result? GM has shrunk its U.S. workforce from 559,000 to 314,000. Motorola has received almost $500 million in direct loans and loan subsidies from the Ex-Im Bank.

The result?

A mere 56 percent of its workforce is now located in the United States. In fact, according to Time Magazine, the top five recipients of Ex-Im subsidies over the past decade have reduced their workforce by 38% - more than a third of a million jobs down the drain. These same five companies have received more than 60 percent of all Export-Import Bank subsidies. Boeing, the leading Ex-Im recipient, has reduced its workforce by more than 100,000 employees over the past ten years.

Here are a few examples of your Ex-Im taxpayer dollars at work: The Export-Import Bank has provided an $18 million loan to help a Chinese steel mill purchase equipment to modernize their plant. This Chinese company has been accused of illegally dumping steel into the U.S. - exacerbating the crisis in our steel industry. Since 1994, the Export-Import Bank has provided $673 million in loans and loan guarantees for projects related to the Enron Corporation, leaving taxpayers exposed to $514 million. The Ex-Im Bank approved a $300 million loan for an Enron-related project in India even though the World Bank repeatedly refused to finance this project because it was "not economically viable."

The Export-Import Bank is subsidizing Boeing aircraft sales to the Chinese military. According to the President of Machinists' Local 751: "Boeing used to make tail sections for the 737 in Wichita, but they moved the work to a military factory in Xian, China.

Is this Boeing's definition of free trade, to have American workers compete with Chinese labor making $50 a month under military discipline?" The Ex-Im Bank insured a $3-million loan to aid General Electric build a factory where Mexican workers will make parts for appliances to export back to the United States. This project is responsible for the loss of 1,500 American jobs in Bloomington, Indiana. And on and on it goes.

The bottom line is that if the Export-Import Bank cannot be reformed so as to become a vehicle for real job creation in the United States, it should be eliminated.

American citizens have better things to do with their money than support an agency that provides welfare for corporations that could care less about American workers.

Editors Note: Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has the best web site of any member of Congress - http://bernie.house.gov/

Gee, Is There a Choice Between Profits and Patriotism?

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by Arianna Huffington

It's official: I've decided to move this column to Bermuda.

But don't worry about getting me a house-warming present because I'm not really going anywhere.

I'll still live in the U.S., earn my living here and enjoy the protection, technology, infrastructure and status of the land of the free and the home of the brave. I'm just changing my business address. Because if I do that, I won't have to pay for those benefits--I'll get them free! It's all perfectly legal. It's what accountants and financial advisors have dubbed "tax-motivated expatriation," which has a nicer ring than "sleazy tax-cheating loophole." It's the latest mega-trend in corporate America, with more and more U.S. companies reincorporating offshore as a way of slashing their tax bills.

You see, Bermuda, along with sparkling water and beautiful pink-sand beaches, also has no income tax. None. Pop that into your Quicken and see how fast it fattens your wallet.

And setting up shop on the sunny island couldn't be easier. A company "moving" to Bermuda doesn't actually have to move. It doesn't even have to have an office or hold any meetings there. It just needs a P.O. box and someone to pick up the mail. Or it could just let the mail pile up and forget about having someone pick it up. There's another cost savings. This kind of paper relocation saved $400million last year for Tyco International, a New Hampshire-based manufacturer. And Ingersoll-Rand, a U.S. company that made the jackhammers that helped chisel Mt. Rushmore, avoids paying a U.S. tax bill of more than $40million a year by slipping into its Bermuda shorts. But the tax savings don't stop there.

Many companies that move to Bermuda also open a corporate beachhead in that Wall Street of the Caribbean--Barbados--where, thanks to the alchemy of modern accounting and a sweetheart tax treaty, profits earned in the U.S. can be shipped abroad and transformed into a tax write-off. And the benefits of this offshore shell game extend well beyond a corporation's bottom line.

Formerly red, white and blue companies now sporting a Bermuda tan are also suddenly and conveniently immune to judgments against them in U.S. courts, less accountable to their shareholders, who are unable to file class-action suits, and freed from a whole host of annoying government regulations. Nobody is sure precisely how much this corporate exodus is costing our government, but the IRS estimates that it's siphoning off at least $70billion each year from the U.S. Treasury. And that number doesn't include the billions in taxes that corporations avoid paying by creating offshore subsidiaries.

Enron, for example, had 881 of them and paid no taxes in four of the last five years.

Even more galling is the fact that many of the same companies that are giving the taxman the brushoff as they shield themselves with their Bermuda ZIP codes think nothing of holding out their hand when Uncle Sam is doling out government contracts. And how's this for irony: Among the more than $1billion in federal contracts held by Accenture, which relocated to Bermuda in 2001, is a five-year deal to redesign the IRS Web site.

I wonder if it will include a special chat room for those who feel no need to pay their fair share. Also showing a flair for self-parody is Tyco International, which established its Bermuda mail drop in 1997 and has taken in $1billion at the public trough over the last year--including $100million for helping provide terror- related emergency response services.

Very post-Sept. 11 patriotic.

But patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, right?

So when forced to choose between patriotism and profits, Tyco quickly charted a course for Bermuda. Kate Barton, an Ernst & Young tax partner, doesn't see any problem with this: "The improvement on earnings is powerful enough that maybe the patriotism issue needs to take a back seat to that." Of course, it's not just tax revenue that's being lost.

Because of convoluted laws that allow profits funneled offshore to be invested in foreign countries without being taxed--as opposed to money that's brought back into the U.S., which is subject to taxes--we're also losing American jobs to cheap-labor havens like China and Mexico.

Unfortunately, this tax dodge is not available to you and me--only to corporations. Just try telling the folks at the IRS that you're planning to relocate to Bermuda and would like to sign up for the zero tax rate and see how long it is before they stop laughing. Despite the billions being lost to these offshore tax havens, however, the Bush administration has shown little ardor for closing the loopholes. On the other hand, it seems very keen on ensuring that those receiving noncorporate welfare work for every dollar they get. The president doesn't want anybody getting a free ride from the government without accepting the responsibility that comes with it. At least anybody who's not a CEO.

Tom DeLay's Axis of Influence Stephen Pizzo, AlterNet May 10, 2002 "It is well known that Enron lavished money and attention on political figures all over the nation's Capitol.

But for an insight into how carefully the company cultivated members of Congress, look no further than its efforts to please Representative Tom DeLay." (The New York Times, Jan 16, 2002)

By the time Enron collapsed, its tentacles had penetrated deep into our federal government.

No investigation into just how deep would be complete without a comprehensive examination of House Majority Whip, Tom DeLay.

In researching this story, it quickly became apparent that Tom DeLay's deep and personal involvement with Enron was not an exception but part of a pattern of controversial relationships that reach back to DeLay's earliest days in Congress.

All these relationships were consistent with a far-right, free-market, anti-regulatory philosophy that DeLay has raised to nearly religious status and upon which he has created a lucrative and ruthless power base. Among other discoveries, we found a startling contrast between the wholesome, born-again, pro-family image DeLay portrays to voters back home in Sugarland, Texas, and the controversial causes and companies he backs in Washington.

A closer examination of Tom DeLay seems particularly important now, not so much because of his Enron entanglements, but because of his pending political promotion. With the announced retirement of House Majority Leader, Dick Army, (R-Tex) Tom DeLay is widely expected to ascend to that important post, making him the second most powerful person in the House of Representatives.

From Bugs to Bureaucrats When Tom DeLay came to Congress in 1984 as the Republican representative from Sugarland, Texas, he was widely dismissed as a lightweight. A quirky little man with squinty eyes and a hayseed drawl, he was quickly tagged with the unflattering description, "that little bug-killer from Texas." But by his second term in office, the former owner of Albo Pest Control had wiped the smirks off those Yankee faces and earned a few more impressive nicknames.

His friends call him "The Hammer," a title he earned for his never-take-no-for-an-answer lobbying style. His enemies, defined as anyone to his political left, had come to know him as both ruthless and effective. They had lots of names for him too: "The Prince of Darkness," "The Exterminator" and "The Meanest Man in Congress." DeLay's critics no longer dismiss him as a joke. His policies and positions on social, environmental and regulatory issues are extreme and far to the right of the mainstream. And, DeLay sees no difference between the personal and the political. Attacking DeLay's policies will elicit the same ruthless counter-attacks as a personal affront.

Nothing like DeLay's laissez-faire policies have been heard in Congress since the earliest days of America's industrial revolution when robber baron industrialists saw cheap labor as an indispensable ingredient for growth. A financial journalist (who asked that his name not be used in this report) described DeLay's free-market policies this way: "If there were a capitalist equivalent of the Taliban, Tom DeLay would lead it.

He has hijacked a kind of Reaganesque free-market rhetoric to turn back the clock on such laws as those protecting workers and the environment, and those that require transparency in business dealing. His policies have enriched and benefited a handful of powerful corporate and political insiders who in turn, have fueled his political machine."

Millions of words have been written over the last decade detailing Tom DeLay's many controversial friends and policies -- most recently his strong ties to Enron. But even the most shocking of these revelations has failed to stop or even slow his rise to power within his party and Congress. Tom DeLay has become the Teflon Don of the radical-right of his party. Undamaged by criticism, legal challenges and ethics complaints, DeLay has only grown bolder over the years.

While few in Congress respect Tom DeLay, most fear him -- and with good reason. Anyone who crosses Tom DeLay quickly learns there is a price to pay. "This whole thing about not kicking someone when he is down is BS -- Not only do you kick him -- you kick him until he passes out -- then beat him over the head with a baseball bat -- then roll him up in an old rug -- and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!!" (E-mail between two Tom DeLay staffers) Reading those words, one would think one were listening in on a pair of John Gotti lieutenants rather than employees of the House Whip.

The message was unmistakably clear -- if you get in The Hammer's way, you get hammered.

Viral Marketing: Spreading the Influence Once safely ensconced as GOP Majority Whip, DeLay and his closest aides began to move their operations outside government -- much the same way Enron moved partnerships offshore. Some things they had planned could lead to ethics problems if conducted out of DeLay's Capitol Hill office.

So, DeLay facilitated the migration of several trusted former aides to key lobbying positions. Outside government, these DeLay lieutenants would be unencumbered by House ethic rules. Inside government, DeLay turned his attention to finding ways to buy the kind of political support on The Hill he could not win with honest debate.

Using so-called "leadership political action committees," DeLay was legally able to launder corporate campaign contributions to individual Republican members of Congress. "(DeLay) is the financial godfather of congressional Republicans, overseeing the collection of nearly $30 million in campaign funds in 1999 alone... The whip -- enforcer of party discipline among 221 House Republicans -- is, in fact, a former pest exterminator who has used his relentless energy, formidable political skill, charm, intelligence and cunning to rise to power." (The Washington Post, May 2001) Buckle Up.

It's a Bumpy Ride In the first installment of this story we will chronicle DeLay's relationship with Enron. From there, we follow the trail back in time to sweatshops in the North Pacific, Indian casinos in Mississippi, South Africa's apartheid government and a mob hit in Miami.

Each story involves DeLay personally or members of his "kitchen cabinet." Taken as a whole, these tales draw a picture of a person whose extremist views on religion, society, business and government place him at the outer fringe of mainstream thought. Part I: Tom Delay and Enron Tom DeLay learned early in his political career that the best way to control people is with favors, particularly money. In 1994 he inaugurated his first "leadership PAC" --Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC).

It was created to raise money which DeLay could then parcel out to House members he wanted to influence. ARMPAC would preach DeLay's anti-regulatory mantra. The money raised would be used to reward those who supported DeLay and punish those who opposed him. Even some Republicans were concerned that the money would be used in ways to steer their party into radical territory. "He's not above using his Whip organization to pursue rolling back EPA and OSHA to the nth degree," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn) at the time. "I think he believes it's a Republican cause." But, DeLay was not swayed by those he viewed as too tied to big government. Nor was he at all concerned how his PAC activities might appear to anyone else. In fact, one of DeLay's most disarming devices is his candor. Rather than try to sugarcoat his policies he revels in embellishing them and confirming his critics' worst fears. "We have a new strategy for regaining the high ground," DeLay said. "We need to raise enough money to tell our story." "Our story" translated to a convergence of DeLay's radical laissez-faire philosophy and the desires of various industries to be freed from any regulations that cost them money.

"DeLay employs a number of vehicles to direct money to candidates: his own reelection campaign fund; his leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority; the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP's House campaign committee; the Restore Our Majority Program, a fund designed to funnel money to endangered incumbents; and in a more indirect way, the Republican Issues Majority Campaign." (Washington Post) Enron Gave DeLay's PAC the Breath of Life Enron hosted ARMPAC's first fundraiser. It was held in Enron's hometown of Houston, Texas and raised $280,000 for DeLay's new leadership PAC. Subsequent disclosures show that Enron and its executives gave early and often. Ken Lay contributed $50,000 to ARMPAC, Enron Vice Chairman, Joseph Sutton, contributed another $25,000.

The full extent of Enron's financial support for DeLay's PAC may never be known since reporting such contributions became mandatory only in 2000. In 1994, DeLay formed "Project Relief" another favorite of Enron. Project Relief represented hundreds of corporations and trade groups seeking regulatory relief of one kind or another. Project Relief (chaired by the father of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates' father) fought for a moratorium on federal regulations and the adoption of risk/benefit measures for future regulations. Adopting a risk/cost formula would mean that if a company could show that complying with an environmental rule would cost them too much, they could dodge it. When the U.S. Senate stopped Project Relief, DeLay vowed to fight on. He lashed out at the Environmental Protection Agency, his least-favorite federal agency. Since his days as a pest exterminator back in Texas, trimming the EPA's powers had become nothing less than a jihad for Tom DeLay.

His language was characteristically intemperate, employing a reference to Nazism commonly used by right-wing militia groups: "The EPA, the Gestapo of government pure and simple, has been one of the major claw hooks that the government maintains on the backs of our constituents." (National Journal, March 2, 1996) No company could be more supportive of that goal than Enron.

The company had already become one of the most notorious polluters in Texas, having received generous "grandfathering" relief under Gov. George W. Bush's administration. But the company had operations and subsidiaries in many states and the EPA was a source of constant irritation. Ken Lay and his wife, Sharon, became regular fixtures on DeLay's FEC disclosures as well as his PACs.

Enron pumped more than half a million dollars into ARMPAC for DeLay to use to reward House members who supported his anti-regulatory agenda. DeLay personally received nearly $29,000 in contributions from Enron and another $18,100 from Enron's accountants, Arthur Andersen. Despite all the talk of The Hammer's powers of persuasion, DeLay's real power flows from his control of ARMPAC money.

In 1997-98 he shoveled over $389,000 to Republican candidates. The next year $879,000 was parceled out by DeLay to compliant Republican candidates. The hammer, it appears, has a golden handle. "I worked harder than anybody else," DeLay told reporters with his usual swagger. " I raised more money than anybody else. I was smarter than anybody else...Once I sink my teeth into something, I don't turn loose until I win."

Enron also helped DeLay move key aides into positions in the private sector where they could further both DeLay and Enron's interests. In 1998 Enron secured a lucrative $750,000 consulting gig for two of DeLay's closest aides. The money would be used for a secret "grassroots" campaign -- spearheaded by Enron -- to deregulate energy markets. The DeLay/Enron scheme began with a meeting at Tom DeLay's Texas home. When Enron lobbyists asked how best to proceed, DeLay noted that Enron could begin by giving his Chief of Staff, Ed Buckham (who at that very moment was forming his own consulting company, the Alexander Strategy Group) and Karl Gallant, a consultant to DeLay's ARMPAC, the contract to manage the campaign.

Both men, members of DeLay's unofficial Kitchen Cabinet, were veterans of stealth political operations. Gallant had recently worked on a propaganda campaign for the tobacco industry and he quickly devised a similar campaign plan for Enron. An outline for the plan was faxed to Tom DeLay's Washington office.

It was printed on Alexander Strategy letterhead complete with Ed Buckham's name in print. The only problem was that Alexander Strategy's CEO was still in the employ of the federal government at the time. Buckham was still serving as Tom DeLay's chief of staff. It was a serious mistake and one they moved quickly to obscure. Gallant said the memo had been just a mock up and that they had used Alexander Strategy stationary by mistake. But, it was clear that Enron had been calling the shots the whole time. "There was a lot of high-level contact between Buckham and Enron," said a source close to the situation. "It was known among the (Whip's staff) that Buckham was trying to maneuver to get a big contract with Enron. I

t made a lot of people uncomfortable, but you would pay if you challenged Buckham." (Roll Call, Feb. 24, 2002) A month later when Buckham finally went off DeLay's federal payroll he was immediately put on the payroll of DeLay's ARMPAC. And Alexander Strategy Group was, as Enron promised, awarded the $750,000 contract to drum up support for electric power deregulation -- a goal that Enron believed would open the $300 billion a year electric markets to Enron. The stealth campaign would operate out of an energy consortium dubbed, "Americans for Affordable Electricity" -- a name that Californians would find bitterly ironic just three years later.

While other energy producers signed onto the campaign, Enron was calling the shots. "We envision an aggressive field force operating under the direction of Enron and capable of engaging the opponents (of deregulation) wherever necessary. Additionally, this would put in place an operation capable of addressing state regulatory and legislative issues of concern to Enron." (From the memo generated on Alexander Strategy Group letterhead) Once funded and in operation Alexander Strategy Group put DeLay's wife, Christine on its payroll.

She reportedly pocketed a net "salary" of $40,000. Christine DeLay is a retired schoolteacher. What she did for her salary is unclear. According to Alexander Strategy Group, she neither lobbied for the company nor did she show up for work there. Why then were they paying her? The company says Alexander Strategies wrote the checks to Christine DeLay as a "bookkeeping convenience" for ARMPAC. Americans for Affordable Electricity's lobbying assault -- directed by Buckham and Gallant -- swung into action. DeLay's legislation to deregulate electric markets quickly earned the nickname, "The Enron Bill" among members of the House.

And DeLay earned another nickname: "Dereg." "The connection (Americans for Affordable Electricity) between DeLay and Enron offers a glimpse into how the Texas lawmaker and the corporate giant combined forces behind closed doors to deliver a bare-knuckled political punch aimed at breaking a legislative logjam frustrating efforts to deregulate the $300 billion-a-year electricity market, a top goal of both Enron and DeLay." (Roll Call, 2002) Enron's leadership of AAE had critics among other member companies who viewed Enron's position on deregulation as too radical.

And, they began to have questions about Buckham and Gallant, who Enron had imposed upon them. A few months into the program the other companies had had enough of Buckham and Gallant's bare-knuckle Enron tactics and fired them. "Hiring them was a mistake," a former AAE member said.

"Enron was the eagle in this fight and the rest of us were geese."

But Gallant and Buckham were DeLay and Enron's men and they were not out of work long. Both men were rehired by Enron directly, Gallant for a total of $200,000 and Buckham $370,000. With all this money flowing to DeLay and his lieutenants, the time had arrived for DeLay to deliver. In 1998, DeLay pushed for energy deregulation legislation virtually crafted for and by Enron.

When DeLay introduced the bill, Ken Lay penned a letter lauding DeLay "for his vision." To drum up support for his bill, DeLay hosted a "power summit" in Houston at which Enron's former CEO, Jeffery Skilling, spoke in support of the measure. "Delay and a cadre of close political advisers operated at the center of an Enron-backed crusade for energy deregulation in the late 1990s." (Ft Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 2002) Despite all this, many in the energy business considered the bill too radical. It later died a quite death in committee.

But Tom DeLay could help Enron in ways that did not require the votes of his colleagues on The Hill. For example, in 1999, Enron lost the bidding for a power plant project in the Mariana Islands -- a U.S. protectorate in the North Pacific. A Japanese company had been awarded the contract. DeLay stepped in and successfully demanded that the bidding be reopened so Enron could get back into the game. The bidding was reopened and Enron got the contract. DeLay had called in some favors from the island's politicians who owned him -- big time.

(More on DeLay's long-standing and controversial ties to the Mariana islands and the Enron power plant deal in the third installment of this report.) Friends to the End DeLay remained a friend to Enron to the end. Late in 2001 he threw his full support behind a bill granting big business, including Enron, a massive tax rebate. With Enron's energy Ponzi nearing collapse, Ken Lay was frantic to get the bill passed and signed into law because it would have ensured Enron a $254 million rebate.

The fact that Enron had paid no taxes in five years did not seem to matter to DeLay. The bill did not pass and Enron collapsed leaving thousands of his Texas constituents unemployed and stripped of their retirement savings.

But DeLay never apologized for his undying support for the energy giant. Instead, DeLay simply said he was "heartbroken" by Enron's bankruptcy -- but not heartbroken enough to return his Enron contributions, as many others in Congress did. And despite the catastrophic meltdown of deregulated Enron, DeLay remains unapologetically committed to the deregulatory crusade that originally drew him to politics. On Tuesday, Part II: DeLay's Judge Dread. Investigative journalist Stephen Pizzo's bestselling book, "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," is now available as an ebook.

Bush Still Backward On Women's Issues

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by Joe Conason

Among the most admirable aspects of George W. Bush's public persona is his respect for the women who work for him. His ease with female leadership at the highest levels of his campaign and in the Oval Office suggests that he is in fact a man of his generation, however often he denigrates the liberal activism that revived the movement for sexual equality.

The recent resignation of Karen Hughes, the most important woman in his political life, displayed the skills that made her so valuable to him as the White House communications czarina. Skepticism was abandoned as the media beatified her (and indirectly her boss) with an aura of familial loyalty and powerful sisterhood. One need not doubt Ms. Hughes' stated concerns about her family or her yearning for her home state to notice that symbolism and personality have, as usual, overwhelmed substance in the gooey tributes to her from the Washington press corps. Aside from her rigid control of the meager, saccharine diet of information doled out to those same admiring journalists, the greatest service Ms.

Hughes has performed for Mr. Bush was to soften the edges of his right-wing agenda. A moderate by contrast with his other advisers, she was among the chief promoters of "compassionate conservatism," a theme to which he returned this week. Her very presence at his side blurred the pious Texan's attraction to the misogynist and patriarchal ideology of the religious right, and to advisers such as Marvin Olasky, who extol the Biblical "submission" of women to their husbands. For the upper-middle-class opinion elite that dominates political discourse in the capital, this bland, unthreatening and very Republican feminism is the only acceptable version of "identity politics." While serving an obvious political need, and catering to the career aspirations of a few well-connected women, it does little or nothing to mitigate policies that injure the female population beyond the Beltway.

Indeed, despite the well-publicized power of Ms. Hughes and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration has eroded rather than advanced the cause of women in government. Among the first actions taken by Mr. Bush after his inauguration was to shut down the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach, thus removing the Presidential imprimatur from its mission of addressing women's problems in federal agencies. When this backward step was criticized, the excuse offered by Ms. Hughes' spokesminions was that the office had "expired at the end of President Clinton's term." They promised that its expiration wouldn't affect the new administration's "outreach" on behalf of women.

The hollowness of that soothing reassurance soon became painfully clear. Whenever they "reached out," the hands of the White House budget managers were holding a big ax. They quietly moved to abolish the 10 regional offices of the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, crippling the department's capacity to enforce female-friendly laws and regulations (despite the presence of a woman as Labor Secretary). By the end of 2001, the hopes of Republican feminists had been thoroughly disappointed. The Brookings Institution's ongoing study of Presidential appointments showed last December that only 26 percent of jobs requiring Senate confirmation-meaning top executive and foreign-service positions -had been awarded to women.

This represented a sharp drop from the Clinton administration, which gave an unprece-dented 46 percent of Senate-confirmed offices to women during its first year. Meanwhile, the male appointees in Mr. Bush's cabinet didn't hesitate to express their hostility to reproductive rights and women's issues. Tommy Thompson, the conservative zealot who runs the Department of Health and Human Services, promulgated a new regulation that extends health coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program to fetuses rather than pregnant women.

A few weeks later, budget director Mitch Daniels struck again, this time attempting to eliminate contraceptive coverage from federal employees' health-insurance plans. This year, the President's budget proposals would damage the interests of women in a variety of other ways, cutting away at day care, after-school programs and student loans. Or perhaps that's the wrong way to put it, since there are women who benefit from Bush policies. They happen to be very wealthy women whose incomes were increased by the tax cut, and very conservative women whose political prominence is enhanced by association with the White House. For most American women, however-whose interests are hardly identical with those of the Republican right-the Bush record hasn't been improved by Karen Hughes and won't be affected by her departure. Another woman may be named to take her place, but that would make about as much difference as Karl Rove putting on a dress.

You may reach Joe Conason via email at: jconason@observer.com.

Introducing A Bill to Rob the Public, Because We Can

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04/12/2002 @ 12:22am HR 9 and Three-Quarters

A BILL To give buckets of tax money to the oil companies, because we can, and because they asked nicely, and because after we retire from Congress we hope to be invited to sit on corporate boards.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SEC. 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Gimme $142 Million Over Five Years Act of 2002". SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND STATEMENT OF POLICY.

Congress finds the following: (1) Oil companies are sitting on enormous piles of cash. Profits for ExxonMobil alone were $15.3 billion in 2001. Last year the industry was sitting on $40 billion; as a July 2001 headline in the Wall Street Journal put it, "Major Oil Companies Struggle to Spend Huge Hoards of Cash." That article observed that in May 2001, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group said it was making about $1.5 million in profit every hour--while already sitting on more than $11 billion in the bank. "It's a big problem," the Journal reported.

(2) Oil companies pay almost no federal taxes. Texaco, for example, reported $3.4 billion in US profits over the three years from 1996 to 1998--and took $304 million in tax rebates for that period. As the US assistant treasury secretary for tax policy testified in 1999 before the Ways and Means Committee: "To give you some idea of the magnitude of tax preferences for this [oil] industry, Mr. Chairman, for the year 1996...75 percent of corporate firms engaged in oil and gas production paid no Federal corporate income tax at all."

(3) Giving more tax dollars to oil companies will not produce more oil. If there were elephantine new fields to be profitably exploited, the oil companies have the cash and desire to do so. Instead, they are counting their money and sighing.

(4) Giving more tax dollars to oil companies does not influence the price of gasoline at the pump. Even very large amounts of US tax largesse do not move the world markets in petroleum.

(5) Oil is a fossil fuel, and therefore both dirty and likely to run out someday. There is not one single responsible person Congress knows of who argues we can continue to burn oil at the rate we do today far into the future.

(6) Money is short for many worthy needs, as always.

(7) Nevertheless, it shall be the sense of the Congress to give oil companies huge fat helpings of your money. We propose, oh, say, $149 million over the next five years--with the understanding that this is just an hors d'oeuvre, and that legislation to follow will continue a long-running and gluttonous binge by the oil and gas industry worthy of Caligula.

No one will notice, because the legislation won't say "A Bill to Steal $149 Million Over the Next Five Years From the American People." Instead, the bills will offer no dollar figure and no explanation, just a bunch of (lobbyist-written?) gibberish. For an illustrative example, turn to page 432 of the 532-page "Securing America's Future Energy Act of 2001"--the House Republican bill HR 4, which was endorsed by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address, and is the starting point for Republican haggling in the Democratic Senate.

There you'll find: SEC. 3309. ALLOWANCE OF ENHANCED RECOVERY CREDIT AGAINST THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX.

(a) IN GENERAL. Subparagraph (B) of section 38(c)(3), as amended by section 3307, is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: ''For taxable years beginning before January 1, 2005, such term includes the credit determined under section 43.''

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. The amendment made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2001.

A chosen few can get that passage translated into English by either the Joint Committee on Taxation or the Office of Management and Budget -- two government bodies that model the cost of every suggested change to the tax code. Luckily for the rest of us, the data of the JTC and OMB have been culled and summarized in "Running on Empty," a dissection of HR 4 by the Green Scissors. You're going to want to know about Green Scissors. It's an umbrella group uniting environmentalists, consumer advocates and taxpayer watchdogs in battle against irrational and environmentally damaging spending. Their annual report for 2002 was released April 11 and can be found at www.greenscissors.org. Check out the 1872 Mining Law we're still using, for example: Under this antique statute, mining companies in 2000 extracted almost $1 billion from public lands without paying a single penny in royalties for the privilege.

(Even the oil companies have to pay royalties when the oil in question is on someone else's land.)

Even worse, Green Scissors says that this dusty old law allows mining companies to buy mineral-rich public lands at 1872 prices. Mining companies able to employ this law can buy real estate worth billions of dollars for just $5 an acre. But back to SEC. 3309 of HR 4. Here's the story: Oil companies get a 15 percent income tax credit for recovering domestic oil as long as they use certain "enhanced recovery" methods--qualifying methods include injecting fluids or gases into the oil reservoir, or using heat to make congealed oil runnier and easier to suck out of the ground. (Why do they get such a credit? Because once upon a time, they asked for it.)

Thanks to this "enhanced recovery credit," oil companies will write off an estimated $2.8 billion--yes, billion--over the next ten years. Remember, oil companies often pay zero tax, or even claim a monster refund, in years of profit and plenty. This is how they do it. When an oil company does pay tax, it often does so thanks to the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)--adopted in 1986 to make sure that loopholes aside, every company with substantial profits antes up at least something to the federal budget. Naturally the AMT bugs Republicans and corporations.

Remember how the Republican-pushed "Economic Stimulus Package" would have given $250 million to Enron?

That's because it was going to gut the AMT.

(Doing so would have also given ChevronTexaco $572 million, Phillips Petroleum $241 million, IBM $1.424 billion, Ford $1 billion, Texas Utilities $608 million, etc.)

Which brings us to SEC 3309 of President Bush's favored energy bill.

Translation: Oil companies can't take all of their "enhanced recovery credit" under the AMT, and they are sulking about that.

SEC 3309 would change that rule -- for four years only -- from 2002 to 2005.

"Running on Empty" reports this would cost taxpayers an estimated $149 million over the next five years. I selected this particular tax break pretty much at random. Believe it or not, it's one of the smallest in HR 4, and, as unencumbered as it is by any discernible logic, it's far from the most repulsive. Under existing laws, Running on Empty--using, remember, the official JTC and OMB data--says the federal government over the next ten years will give oil and gas companies more than $26 billion in subsidies and tax write-offs. This one bill, HR 4, would nearly double that--giving an estimated $21.2 billion in new tax breaks over the next ten years solely to oil and gas companies:

HR 4: "Sec. 3202. Natural gas distribution lines treated as 10-year property." Green Scissors translates: $3.5 billion giveaway. HR 4: "Sec. 3203. Petroleum refining property treated as 7-year property." Translation: $1.32 billion. HR 4: "Sec. 3302. Temporary suspension of limitation based on 65 percent of taxable income and extension of suspension of taxable income limit with respect to marginal production." Translation: $1.11 billion. Et cetera, etc. And that's not even looking at the $5.8 billion Christmas list for coal, or the $2.7 billion for nuclear power. Or at the comparatively paltry sums offered for clean energies. We are a long way from the clarity of bills like HR 9 and three-fourths,

"A BILL to Give Buckets of Tax Money to the Oil Companies, Because We Can."

Until then, we can look to Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the US Public Interest Research Group and a half-dozen other watchdogs driving the Green Scissors campaign

How can a person kill? How can a person torture another? How can anyone kill a child? And why are most of those who commit gruesome crimes men?

http://www.ru.org/92milojevic.html

Fear Can Turn Us All Into 'Good Germans.' We Must Resist It

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by Harley Sorensen

One of life's mysteries, for me, is how masses of people can do the incredibly cruel things they do.

Individual brutality makes a certain amount of sense in that it's limited to one person. But mass brutality?

I think this subject first came to mind after I read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,

A History of Nazi Germany. There was nothing in either book that told me how such a highly civilized and culturally advanced nation as Germany could sink to the level of the Nazis.

"How could that happen?" I wondered.

"What is there about the Germans that allowed them to become the monsters they became? How are they different than the rest of us?" So I spent a month pondering the question.

The answer I came up with satisfied me then, and it satisfies me still: There is nothing different about the World War II Germans. What happened to them could happen to anyone. It could happen to us. We are no better than them.

As Pogo so famously said (about pollution) on Earth Day in 1971: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

I'm reminded of all this now because of the way we Americans blindly follow George W. Bush into battle all over the world.

We're fighting in Afghanistan for sure, probably in Pakistan, in the Philippines, in Colombia, and soon in Iraq if the signals we're hearing mean anything.

I'm sure I've missed other combat zones, and there is good reason to believe we've conducted clandestine operations in Venezuela.

Similarly, our friends and allies in Israel blindly follow the lead of the serial war criminal, Ariel Sharon, by fighting and committing atrocities against their neighbors, the Palestinians. The formula to become a brutish leader, as Jean-Marie Le Pen proved recently in France, is a two-step process.

First, you convince the masses they are in grave danger (Le Pen used immigrants as his boogie man), then you promise to save them.

That's exactly what Hitler did, and it's exactly what Bush and Sharon are doing.

Generally speaking, people who feel fear seem willing to throw away all their morals and principles.

If you don't believe that, go to the airport and watch thousands of otherwise proud people line up like sheep to be publicly humiliated in the name of safety.

But not everybody buys into the Save-Me-From-The-Evildoers syndrome. To make that point, let me refer to a remarkable e-mail I got last week. It's from a Jewish man. I won't name him, because what he said could cause him trouble. "I am a 'recovering Jew'," he wrote, "one who was born in the U.S. However, through a series of events having mainly to do with

(a) being indoctrinated with 'Jewish values' in religious school, and

(b) traveling to Europe and seeing the concentration camps and then by overreacting and immigrating to Israel, I came to the conclusion that religion itself is responsible for more suffering than I could ever imagine on my own." "The absolute fact of the matter is that I could never reconcile the fact that Jews would call themselves special, while everyone else is different.

Particularly, I could not understand how these people could claim to speak to The Almighty while declaring everyone else as somehow inferior, in that regard at least." "I learned that Jews have a glib way of characterizing and stigmatizing other racial groups (as though being Jewish is a race) by referring to blacks as "schwarzes"or gays as "feygales"or non-Jews as "goyim." In short, my U.S. citizenship and belief in equal rights conflicted with Judaism." "Insofar as Israel is concerned, I wound up on the West Bank in the early '80s, way before the Intifada began.

I remember Jews there referring to the Palestinians as vermin and scum.

The Jews boasted that the Arabs were there to do the hard labor, like construction and cleaning, for little money. Basically, I could not reconcile the fact that these people who proclaimed their distaste for slavery could in fact be the ones perpetrating it on others."

"I left Israel abruptly after only a few years there. I had met Ariel Sharon personally.

He loved to visit the settlement where I lived because that is where his power base is located. His good-old-boy network of Jewish hit men and terrorists who boobie trap Arab cars and do hit-and-run shootouts is located there, and sadly they derive a large portion of their funding from Jewish groups located in the U.S. who receive tax-free status here."

"The beef among Arabs, whether it is Al Queda or Hamas, is that Israel has been labeled a democracy by the U.S., and they have been labeled terrorists. This is not about religion; it is rather about saying what you mean and meaning what you say."

"Sadly, though, the foreign policy of the U.S. is to recognize Israel's right not only to exist but to intimidate the Arabs around them for the sake of putting them on notice that if they ever decide to cut off the oil then Israel will ally itself with the U.S."

"This is a game, and it is sadly a game that has turned Jews into terrorists.

Therefore, I decided not to be Jewish, because I refuse to take part in this blood for oil game. I believe in the right of all people to live in peace, and insofar as that is concerned I have taken this position." What I found most remarkable about this letter is the writer's honesty. Too many American Jews, it seems to me, march in lock step with the hardest of the Israeli hardliners.

It's the fear factor, I believe. They go against their basic decent instincts and support a brutal regime for fear of being criticized or ostracized as traitors. Peer pressure.

You see the same thing with Americans' blind support of Bush's war policies. "If you're not for us, you're against us," Bush said, immediately making sheep out of otherwise hard-nosed, independent-thinking Americans.

Driven by fear, masses of people can do horrible things. Now is a good time to recall the admonition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Roosevelt's warning was about the Great Depression, but the words are appropriate now.

Fear can turn us all into "good Germans."

We must resist it.

We must not let it turn us into sheep.

Harley Sorensen is a freelancer whose work appears on sfgate.com on Mondays

Reading the Constitution Through a Corporate Lens

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by Jeff Milchen

Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2002 by CommonDreams.org

With political dissent under attack as "unpatriotic" and immigrants' rights flouted by the federal government, the American Civil Liberties Union has a vital role to fulfill in defending personal freedoms.

So why is the ACLU now devoting resources to argue that transnational corporations should enjoy Bill of Rights protections?

For years, human rights advocates have investigated and worked to expose horrid working conditions in the Nike Corporation's overseas "sweatshops." Naturally, Nike fought the accusations with a public relations campaign denying the claims and disavowing responsibility for subcontractors' conditions.

Activist Marc Kasky sued the company for fraud under California consumer protection laws for broadcasting misinformation, but his suit was thrown out in state courts, which said Nike's PR was protected "free speech." On appeal of Kasky v Nike Inc. to the California Supreme Court, Nike and the ACLU of Northern California argued that because the company's PR was partially political debate and not purely commercial, it had the "right" to tell its story with full 1st Amendment protection and bore no legal duty to be truthful.

Thankfully, they lost.

On May 2, the Court ruled 4-3 that communication need not be an advertisement to be "commercial speech" with less than paramount protection. The court reinstated Kasky's suit without ruling on the merits of the case, which now will be heard in trial court. The ruling was a victory for the public interest and groups taking on powerful corporations.

But the court should have dismissed Nike's claim altogether with a one-sentence explanation: "Corporations are not people and the Bill of Rights does not apply." The notion that corporations -- entities unmentioned in our Constitution -- should enjoy protections created for living human beings is a concept deserving burial deep in the same dark closet as the legal precedents of slavery and "separate but equal." But unlike our history regarding slavery, our founders got it right.

They despised corporations as they knew them -- as tools to drain wealth from the colonists and enrich the English monarchy. When states began chartering some corporations in the late 1700s, all agreed that corporations were tools to serve the public interest.

We chartered (licensed) corporations because they were a useful tool to gather investment and disperse financial liability in order to provide public goods, such as construction of roads, bridges or canals. Though corporations subsequently were allowed to enter other business realms, for many years state officials ensured they were fully subordinate. State legislatures revoked charters of corporations that exceeded their permitted roles and tightly controlled other aspects of corporate activity. States also forbade corporations to spend money to influence elections, legislation or public opinion. So where did this concept of "corporate free speech" come from? Later generations, lacking firsthand experience of corporate exploitation, were less vigilant about keeping them in check.

States allowed the number, size and scope of corporations to grow rapidly in the 1800s. As corporations grew in wealth, their economic power bestowed political power to their owners. Following the Civil War, corporations rapidly completed the transformation from tools to serve the public to tools for consolidating wealth and power for their owners, culminating in the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Without any explanation for its position, the Court created "corporate personhood," declaring that the 14th Amendment, and hence the Bill of Rights, applied to corporations -- years before most human beings enjoyed its full protection.

So how does this relate to civil rights and Nike? Ultimately, the undeserved privilege and power of corporations comes directly at the expense of our power as individual citizens.

If corporations are calling the shots in our Congress and courts, we are not. Ironically, one dissenting justice in the Nike case wrote that the decision failed to "account for the realities of the modern world-a world in which personal, political and commercial arenas no longer have sharply defined boundaries." You can bet that corporations will continue to try blurring those boundaries to usurp personal freedoms.

So long as we accept such absurdities as "corporate free speech," we preclude the possibility of democracy, for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money. ACLU supporters should demand that it stop promoting corporate "rights" and recognize that greater corporate privilege occupies the space that citizens' rights otherwise would.

The Nike case presents a superb provocation to explore our forgotten history and reclaim some of our tools for keeping capital and corporations subordinate to democracy.

Jeff Milchen directs ReclaimDemocracy.org, a non-profit organization devoted to restoring democratic authority over corporations and realizing self-governance.

See their site for more background on this issue.



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