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The House of Labor and the Future

So, with the heaving sound of an old tree suddenly splitting apart in a storm, the labor movement is finally breaking up.

On Sunday, leaders of four of the country's largest labor unions announced they would boycott this week's AFL-CIO convention, and officials from two of those unions, SEIU and the Teamsters, withdrew from the Federation on Monday.

The five unions now comprising the Change To Win Coalition (CTWC)--along with SEIU, the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, Laborers, and UNITE HERE--have formed what amounts to a rival federation--whether they all formally leave the AFL-CIO or not, which now seems likely. These unions' collective 5 million membership represents 40 percent of the AFL-CIO's 13 million total. If the mammoth 2.7 million member National Education Association aligns with the effort, CTWC will hold exactly half of all union members in the United States.

The break is the biggest rift in labor since the 1930s, when the CIO split off from the AFL.

The avowed basis of the break is a fundamental disagreement on strategy, often depicted as a choice by the insurgents of organizing over politics. This is misleading. Many of the unions remaining in the federation are every bit as committed as the CTWC group to organizing new union members. And some CTWC unions, particularly SEIU, are keenly aware of the importance of politics in increasing union membership. The fight is really about consolidation and political focus.

SEIU has argued that the current practice of having several unions competing in single industrial sectors--"15 separate organizations in transportation, 15 in construction, 13 in public employment, nine in manufacturing, and so on"--defeats the scaled effort needed to take on business in today's climate. It wants to compel fewer, bigger, more clearly sectorally-based unions, as in northern Europe. And it has argued that labor must find ways to mobilize support outside itself, chiefly through more engagement in state and local politics.

It is hard to argue with any of these claims, though whether CTWC can realize its promise is an open question. Even unions without competition in their declared industries are showing declines in density, as indeed are the new Coalition's own members. And outside SEIU itself, and UNITE HERE in a few cities, few of CTWC's members show much commitment to the community links and coalition work needed to gain greater influence over state and local politics. In all the shifting of positions over the past seven months, as this "coalition of the willing" has been constructed, the present result sometimes seems less the principled conclusion to a principled debate than the final triumph of testosterone over inertia. The latter is largely produced by the fragmented governing structure of the AFL-CIO, which makes it very difficult to undertake bold initiatives.

But so be it. Labor is now split more or less in half. We can look forward to a long and ugly period of dissension in America's most important single progressive movement, facing a ruthless anti-worker Administration intent on its complete destruction.

I don't think this split was necessary, and still think it would have been best for the state of progressive politics if both sides could have worked out a deal on federation reform and leadership transition. (Why didn't the insurgents run a candidate to contest John Sweeney? Why didn't they try to move an agenda from within?)

But I also recognize that in the areas of greatest need for labor--organizing, and political engagement and programs in the states and cities--more effective work needs to be done.

So, while I believe that solidarity in the face of an onslaught is preferable, I respect those who argue that standing together may not make sense if they aren't standing in the right place. And I appreciate the difficulty of changing a troubled organization from within. So I wish the insurgents luck. This country desperately needs a labor movement that is again "the collection of many that speaks for all," that can provide an organized and intelligent moral center to a majoritarian progressive politics--the folks who brought you the weekend, the eight-hour day, and so much else that makes this country (almost) civilized. I just wish we weren't starting this way in reclaiming that.

The Corruption Machine

At a time when the scale of corruption in Congress has risen to obscene heights, the fight to achieve a clean government has heated up–and the good Senator from Wisconsin, Russell Feingold, is admirably spearheading the campaign to usher in a new era.

Feingold, who with John McCain led the fight for passage of campaign finance reform, understands the importance of this fight better than anyone. So, this month, the tough-minded reformer introduced the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act in the Senate (Martin Meehan has similar legislation pending in the House). Once again, Feingold is doing good service to his nation by pushing into the next frontier of reforming lobbying corruption in Washington.

The bill's key provisions are designed to reduce the power of special interests by forcing lobbyists to file disclosure reports quarterly instead of twice a year, prohibiting lobbyists from taking trips with members of Congress and their staffs, and requiring former members of Congress and some senior executive branch officials to wait two years after leaving government service before working as a lobbyist. And, as Feingold told The Hill, the bill would prohibit "lobbyists from giving gifts to members" or staff and require "members and campaigns to reimburse the owners of corporate jets at the charter rate when they use those planes for their official or political travel."

Such a law--and, sadly, in these political times, its chances of passage aren't great--would arrive just barely in the nick of time. The Center for Public Integrity published a must-read study in April showing that lobbyists have spent almost $13 billion since 1998 seeking to influence federal legislation and federal regulations. "Our report reveals that each year since 1998 the amount spent to influence federal lawmakers is double the amount of money spent to elect them," the Center's executive director, Roberta Baskin, pointed out.

Other findings are equally heart-stopping. More than 2,000 lobbyists in Washington had previously held senior government jobs, and in the past six years, "49 out of the 50 top lobbying firms failed to file one or more required forms." According to other reports that the Center recently put out, some 650 foreign companies are lobbying the federal government on issues important to them, and spent more than an estimated $3 billion to influence decision-making at the federal level in 2004.

On the home front, pharmaceutical companies have made their corporate jets available to the likes of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert--and the entire industry has spent more than $750 million on lobbying since 1998, outpacing every other industry. According to USA Today, Big Pharma has 1,274 lobbyists, "more than two for every member of Congress."

But we need to look beyond the numbers, and understand what happened in 1995 when the GOP launched its infamous K Street Project, to really understand why the corruption has metastasized with such velocity. That was the beginning of the push to put "conservative activist Republicans on K Street," as Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist told journalist Elizabeth Drew--a concerted effort to install ideological comrades-in-arms who could steer money to the GOP, promote conservative causes in Washington and keep Republicans in power for years to come. (To learn more about the K Street Project, read my colleague Ari Berman's good piece.)

By 2003, the Republicans had achieved the goal of seizing control of K Street. That year, the Washington Post reported that the GOP had seized "a significant number of the most influential positions at trade associations and government affairs offices and reap[ed] big financial rewards." The Post added that "several top officials at trade associations and corporate offices said privately that Republicans have created a culture in Washington in which companies fear hiring Democrats for top jobs, even if they are the most qualified."

We know that in recent months, lobbyist Jack Abramoff and House Leader Tom DeLay have grabbed the headlines--Abramoff, in part, because he paid for Tom DeLay's trip to London and Scotland in 2000 and stole millions of dollars in fees from his clients; and DeLay, in part, because he repeatedly violated House ethics rules. In fact, from April 1 to June 30, DeLay accepted almost $800,000 in contributions from corporate lobbies ike the telecommunications and real estate industries--a sure sign that the corruption continues unchecked, as the progressive group The Campaign for America's Future has argued.

But it's equally important to remember that the corruption comes not only from DeLay, Abramoff and cronies but also at virtually every level of the Republican-dominated Congress. The Hill, for example, reported a couple weeks ago that congressional staff have become so brazen that they "actively solicit lunches, drinks and other favors from K Street"--acting as if lobbyists are providing them with "their personal expense account." When one Senate aide ran into a lobbyist at the Capital Grille restaurant, he asked the lobbyist to foot the bill.

"The arrogance that brought Republicans into power is arrogance that will take them out of power, and that's what you see more of on the Hill," a Republican corporate lobbyist told The Hill.

Feingold's legislation is an essential step on the road to clean government. Citizens who care about their country's democracy need to fight for organized people against organized money, fighting for a transparent democracy while exposing the DeLay-Abramoff-K Street triangle for the corrupting force it truly is.

Torture and Lies: Who is Accountable?

Congressman Maurice Hinchey had the crowd of more than 900--packed into New York's Ethical Culture Society's sweltering auditorium this beautiful summer Saturday--on its feet.

Hinchey was the second of three speakers at a Town Hall event this afternoon co-sponsored by The Nation and Democrats.com. (He joined former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman--who was brilliant in laying out the legal process available to hold administration officials responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib, as she wrote about in her recent Nation article--and Air America's Randi Rhodes--who alternately made the crowd laugh and wince with her scathing and funny debunking of Administration spin and lies. Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.Com skillfully moderated.)

"Torture and Lies: Who is Accountable?" was the question. Hinchey, who has represented a largely conservative district in upstate New York since 1993, answered unflinchingly. "Never have I seen such an unlawful Administration, one with such arrogance toward the rule of law. Their activities are criminal."

Hinchey spoke passionately and eloquently about the significance of the Downing Street minutes and the need to hold this President and Administration accountable for taking the country to war on the basis of lies.

"We have a monolithic government in Washington," Hinchey told the hushed crowd. "It is a government whose policies have failed, and made the world much more dangerous and made us less secure...It is the responsibility of Congress to oversee the executive branch and when this Administration lied and deceived us, Congress should have held hearings....Therefore, the election of 2006 is one of the most important in our country's history if we're going to maintain this Democratic republic. We need a new Congress and we need to carry out a full and thorough investigation of the Administration....It is up to each of us, every one of us in this hall today to do everything we can, to mobilize all our resources, our friends, our organizations, to to make sure our democracy stands."

The crowd was on its feet, stomping; there were shouts of "Hinchey for President." Like other political leaders who have shown courage and decency in these last months--I think particularly of John Conyers who launched the Downing St. hearings--Hinchey is someone who gives hope that we will take back our country from a Administration which has defiled our democracy.

This NYC Town Hall was just one of 350 events held today, around the country, on the third anniversary of the Downing Street Memo meeting in London. To learn more about what you can do, click here to check out AfterDowningStreet.org and work to take back the Congress from those who refuse to hold hearings into this criminal administration.

CIA Vet's Harsh Retort to Rove's Spinners

I first posted the following on my blog: www.davidcorn.com. If you're obsessed with the Rove scandal, visit that site for more news and analysis.

I've wasted too many hours of my life going on talking head shoutfests with conservatives who pooh-pooh the Plame/CIA leak matter (now known as the Rove scandal), who claim there was little damage done, who say that Valerie Wilson was only a desk jockey and dismiss her undercover status as "light" or "flimsy," who argue that no crime was broken and no wrongdoing occurred, and who are lightning quick to depict the controversy as nothing but a game of politics. These folks are spinning to save Rove and to protect the White House, and they distort, disinform, and dissemble for the team.

Today, the Senate Democratic Policy Council and the Democratic side of the House Government Reform Committee held an unofficial hearing in the Senate Dirksen Office Building, in which former intelligence professionals discussed the Plame/CIA leak, especially its impact on the intelligence community, current officers, and Valerie Wilson. (The Democrats had no choice but to hold such a session because the Republicans in the House and Senate refuse to examine or investigate the leak.) The testimony was not expected to contain many surprises. And the media presence at the hearing was not heavy. But as I watched the proceedings on C-SPAN 3 and saw James Marcinkowski, a former CIA case office and a former prosecutor, testify, I realized his statement was perhaps the most powerful rebuttal of and rebuke to the rightwingers who have been pushing disinformation about the Valerie Wilson case. I wish they all could have been tied to a chair and forced to listen to him. (Ken Mehlman, Tucker Eskew, Clifford May, William Safire--this means you.) Referring to those who have derided Valerie Wilson and belittled the seriousness of this leak, an angry Marcinkowski said, "Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people....Those who take pride in their political ability to divert the issue from the fundamental truth ought to be prepared to take their share of the responsibility for the continuing damage done to our national security." For the spinners engaged in "partisan obfuscation," he has this message: "a true patriot would shut up." As a public service, I am posting below the bulk of his testimony.

Testimony of James Marcinkowski

July 22, 2005

What is important now is not who wins or loses the political battle or who may or may not be indicted; rather, it is a question of how we will go about protecting the citizens of this country in a very dangerous world. The undisputed fact is that we have irreparably damaged our capability to collect human intelligence and thereby significantly diminished our capability to protect the American people.

Understandable to all Americans is a simple, incontrovertible, but damning truth: the United States government exposed the identity of a clandestine officer working for the CIA. This is not just another partisan "dust-up" between political parties. This unprecedented act will have far-reaching consequences for covert operations around the world. Equally disastrous is that from the time of that first damning act, we have continued on a course of self-inflicted wounds by government officials who have refused to take any responsibility, have played hide-and-seek with the truth and engaged in semantic parlor games for more than two years, all at the expense of the safety of the American people. No government official has that right.

For an understanding of what is at stake it is important to understand some fundamental principles. No country or hostile group, from al Qaeda to any drug rings operating in our cities, likes to be infiltrated or spied upon. The CIA, much like any police department in any city, has undercover officers--spies, that use "cover."

To operate under "cover" means you use some ruse to cloak both your identity and your intentions. The degree of cover needed to carry out any operation varies depending on the target of the investigation. A police officer performing "street buys" uses a "light" cover, meaning he or she could pose as something as simple as a drug user, operate only at night and during the day and, believe it or not, have a desk job in the police station. On the other hand, if an attempt were made to infiltrate a crime syndicate, visiting the local police station or drinking with fellow FBI agents after work may be out of the question. In any scenario, your cover, no matter what the degree, provides personal protection and safety. But it does not end there. Cover is also used to protect collection methodology as well as any innocent persons a CIA officer may have regular contact with, such as overseas acquaintances, friends, and even other U.S. government officials.

While cover provides a degree of safety for the case officer, it also provides security for that officer's informants or agents. In most human intelligence operations, the confidentiality of the cover used by a CIA officer and the personal security of the agent or asset is mutually dependent. A case officer cannot be identified as working for the CIA, just as the informant/agent cannot be identified as working for the CIA through the case officer. If an informant or agent is exposed as working for the CIA, there is a good chance that the CIA officer has been identified as well. Similarly, if the CIA officer is exposed, his or her agents or informants are exposed. In all cases, the cover of a case officer ensures not only his or her own personal safety but that of the agents or assets as well.

The exposure of Valerie Plame's cover by the White House is the same as the local chief of police announcing to the media the identity of its undercover drug officers. In both cases, the ability of the officer to operate is destroyed, but there is also an added dimension. An informant in a major sophisticated crime network, or a CIA asset working in a foreign government, if exposed, has a rather good chance of losing more than just their ability to operate.

Any undercover officer, whether in the police department or the CIA, will tell you that the major concern of their informant or agent is their personal safety and that of their family. Cover is safety. If you cannot guarantee that safety in some form or other, the person will not work for you and the source of important information will be lost.

So how is the Valerie Plame incident perceived by any current or potential agent of the CIA? I will guarantee you that if the local police chief identified the names of the department's undercover officers, any half-way sophisticated undercover operation would come to a halt and if he survived that accidental discharge of a weapon in police headquarters, would be asked to retire.

And so the real issues before this Congress and this country today is not partisan politics, not even the loss of secrets. The secrets of Valerie Plame's cover are long gone. What has suffered perhaps irreversible damage is the credibility of our case officers when they try to convince our overseas contact that their safety is of primary importance to us. How are our case officers supposed to build and maintain that confidence when their own government cannot even guarantee the personal protection of the home team? While the loss of secrets in the world of espionage may be damaging, the stealing of the credibility of our CIA officers is unforgivable....

And so we are left with only one fundamental truth, the U.S. government exposed the identity of a covert operative. I am not convinced that the toothpaste can be put back into the tube. Great damage has been done and that damage has been increasing every single day for more than two years. The problem of the refusal to accept responsibility by senior government officials is ongoing and causing greater damage to our national security and our ability to collect human intelligence. But the problem lies not only with government officials but also with the media, commentators and other apologists who have no clue as to the workings of the intelligence community. Think about what we are doing from the perspective of our overseas human intelligence assets or potential assets.

I believe Bob Novak when he credited senior administration officials for the initial leak, or the simple, but not insignificant confirmation of that secret information, as I believe a CIA officer in some far away country will lose an opportunity to recruit an asset that may be of invaluable service to our covert war on terror because "promises of protection" will no longer carry the level of trust they once had.

Each time the leader of a political party opens his mouth in public to deflect responsibility, the word overseas is loud and clear--politics in this country does in fact trump national security.

Each time a distinguished ambassador is ruthlessly attacked for the information he provided, a foreign asset will contemplate why he should risk his life when his information will not be taken seriously.

Each time there is a perceived political "success" in deflecting responsibility by debating or re-debating some minutia, such actions are equally effective in undermining the ability of this country to protect itself against its enemies, because the two are indeed related. Each time the political machine made up of prime-time patriots and partisan ninnies display their ignorance by deriding Valerie Plame as a mere "paper-pusher," or belittling the varying degrees of cover used to protect our officers, or continuing to play partisan politics with our national security, it is a disservice to this country. By ridiculing, for example, the "degree" of cover or the use of post office boxes, you lessen the level of confidence that foreign nationals place in our covert capabilities.

Those who would advocate the "I'm ok, you're ok" politics of non-responsibility, should probably think about the impact of those actions on our foreign agents. Non-responsibility means we don't care. Not caring means a loss of security. A loss of security means a loss of an agent. The loss of an agent means the loss of information. The loss of information means an increase in the risk to the people of the United States.

There is a very serious message here. Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people. Think about whether your partisan obfuscation is creating confidence in the United States in general and the CIA in particular. If not, a true patriot would shut up.

Those who take pride in their political ability to divert the issue from the fundamental truth ought to be prepared to take their share of the responsibility for the continuing damage done to our national security.

When this unprecedented act first occurred, the president could have immediately demanded the resignation of all persons even tangentially involved. Or, at a minimum, he could have suspended the security clearances of these persons and placed them on administrative leave. Such methods are routine with police forces throughout the country. That would have at least sent the right message around the globe, that we take the security of those risking their lives on behalf of the United States seriously. Instead, we have flooded the foreign airwaves with two years of inaction, political rhetoric, ignorance, and partisan bickering. That's the wrong message. In doing so we have not lessened, but increased the threat to the security and safety of the people of the United States.

*******************

IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

Patriot Games

If House Democrats had stuck together in opposition to moves by the Bush administration to reauthorize the worst elements of the Patriot Act, the legislation would have been defeated and a major victory would have been won for civil liberties.

Unfortunately, Democrats did not stick together on Thursday, when the House considered sixteen provisions of the act that are set to expire at the end of the year unless they are reauthorized by Congress.

Following a day-long debate on Thursday, the House voted 257 to 171 to extend, and in some case make permanent, the most controversial provisions of the law that was hastily crafted in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "Now we know the truth. The Patriot Act was never intended as an emergency measure," argued Representative Lynn Woolsey, the California Democrat who has long been an outspoken critic of the law that had its start in former Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department. "It appears the sponsors were always interested in a permanant crackdown on civil liberties."

There was far more opposition in the House this year than was seen in 2001, when the vote for the original version of the Patriot Act was 357-66. But Thursday's House action was a far cry from the vote that should have -- and could have -- been taken to place reasonable limits on the unprecedented powers that the so-called "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001" gives government agents to seize educational, financial and medical records.

Of the 257 votes cast Thursday for the Bush's administration's version of the Patriot Act, 214 came from Republicans, while 43 came from Democrats -- including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, and Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois representative who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Of the 171 votes against the administration's version of the Patriot Act, 156 came from Democrats, 14 from Republicans and one from Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Had the 43 Democrats who voted with the White House and the Republican leadership instead sided with House Democrats and Republicans who were worried about the threat to civil liberties posed by the Patriot Act, the opposition total would have risen to 214 while support for the measure would have fallen to 214.

On a tie vote, the legislation would not have advanced.

That would have been more than just a setback for the White House's draconian approach to civil liberties. It would have dramatically improved prospects for a bipartisan move by members of the Senate to clean up the Patriot Act. On Thursday, as the House was debating the issue, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for legislation that would require greater oversight of the Justice Department's role in implementing the act and that would place new restrictions on surveillance and secret searches.

The Senate is divided on the question, however. The chamber's intelligence committee voted in June for a separate bill that would make all provisions of the Patriot Act permanent and give the FBI additional powers to issue subpoenas without the approval of a judge.

The fight will now play out in the Senate, where Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold -- who cast the sole Senate vote against the original version of the Patriot Act -- is a leading for of blanket reauthorization.

While he is still hopeful about prospects that the Senate can pass a better bill and then negotiate changes in the House legislation, Feingold was disappointed by the failure of the House to address the fundamental civil liberties concerns that have been raised by the Bush administration's approach.

"I joined my Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues yesterday in unanimously passing a consensus, bipartisan bill that significantly improves the most controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act," Feingold explained on Friday. "In the House, unfortunately, the outcome has been disappointing. House leadership refused to allow meaningful amendments to come to a vote on the House floor. While some improvements were incorporated, the end result is still a far cry from what Congress owes the American people – meaningful changes to the Patriot Act that will protect innocent people from government surveillance. The Senate Judiciary Committee took the first step in that direction yesterday morning. It's unfortunate that the House was not willing to join us."

It is doubly unfortunate that the administration won a House endorsement for its approach with the support of 43 Democrats, including several such as Hoyer and Emanuel who hold key leadership positions in a party that is supposed to be at least a little bit more committed to defending civil liberties.

Sweet Victory: Governors Embrace Apollo Alliance

The Apollo Alliance, one of the best progressive ideas of the millennium, gained some important new supporters last week. Six new Democratic governors--Rod Blagojevich (IL), Jim Doyle (WI), Christine Gregoire (WA), Ted Kulongoski (OR), Janet Napolitano (AZ), and Brian Schweitzer (MT)--joined an earlier three--Jennifer Granholm (MI), Ed Rendel (PA), and Bill Richardson (NM)--in embracing the Alliance's goal of achieving sustainable American energy independence within a decade.

In an open letter to President Bush the six newcomers, joined by Richardson, applauded Apollo's efforts and invited Bush to "lead a bold national project" to achieve its aims. The nine governors are all leaders in state-based efforts at energy efficiency and increased use of renewables, the core twin planks of the Apollo program.

That program calls for a national investment of $300 billion over the course of ten years to build the basic production and distribution infrastructure needed for a cleaner energy economy. Less than the estimated costs of the Iraq war (after just two years), the investment would pay for itself many times over. Direct economic benefits would include annual energy savings and improvements in our trade balance of about $200 billion; the creation of some 3 million permanent new jobs; and an added $1 trillion in GDP over ten years.

Given the enormous opportunities for energy savings in cities and renewable energy production in rural areas, Apollo would distribute savings and jobs to two distressed parts of our population. It would also give a kick to US manufacturing, giving companies a good reason to invest in the surging world market for clean energy products and technology. It makes both environmental and economic sense.

The Apollo program is being taken seriously by investors, as it begins to attract significant venture capital. A leading example is the Green Wave initiative, led by CA-Treasurer and Apollo national advisory board member Phil Angelides. Funded by CALPERS and CALSTERS, the leading public employee pension funds in California, Green Wave is investing close to a billion dollars to upgrade energy efficiency in those funds' real estate holdings as well as in other promising clean technology firms. On the real estate side, the internal rate of annual return is upwards of 15 percent annually, making it an extremely attractive investment for institutional investors with comparable holdings.

Apollo is trying to replicate such investments in other states, seeking money from state or municipal bonds, pension funds, or private individual investors. This latest round of gubernatorial endorsements should help, as well as with the rest of Apollo's ambitious state legislative program. Already, state politicians from both parties are beginning to realize that "good jobs through energy independence," the Apollo mantra, sells well with the public. A recent poll by Yale University's Center for Environmental Law & Policy found that an overwhelming 92 percent of American think our dependence on foreign oil is a problem, with 68 percent rating it a "very serious problem"--by far the highest levels of public concern for any of the environmental issues polled.

Apollo has already gained the endorsement of virtually the entire labor movement (including both warring factions at the AFL-CIO), most major environmental groups, a slew of civil rights and community organizations (both urban and rural), and a growing number of business leaders. Now, with more governors coming on board, it may be reaching a critical mass in tipping state legislation, if not yet federal, toward a clean energy future.

The governors' announcement last week was timed to coincide with the naming of members of the Congressional conference committee charged with reconciling the competing House and Senate energy bills. What's important about the announcement is not just the momentum it shows for Apollo, but who it came from.

As we've often argued in this space (and in the Nation's pages), the states may well decide the future of American progressive politics. Next year, 37 governors will be elected in them. These nine "Apollo governors," many of whom face reelection battles in 2006, have just raised the bar on what qualifies as progressive state leadership on economic development and the environment. More power to them.

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing nationvictories@gmail.com.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

Another Activist Judge

In 1999, when he was trying to appeal to the conservative base that would eventually deliver the Republican presidential nomination to him, Candidate George W. Bush said the Supreme Court justices he most admired were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The clear intimation was that, given the opportunity, Bush would nominate someone like Scalia and Thomas-- a conservative judicial activist bent on upsetting established law--to the high court.

More recently, as he has finally been faced with the task of naming a nominee to the Court, President George W. Bush has attempted to sound more moderate and thoughtful, suggesting that "a nominee to that Court must be a person of superb credentials and the highest integrity, a person who will faithfully apply the Constitution and keep our founding promise of equal justice under law." President Bush has said that he prefers nominees who display "respect for the rule of law and for the liberties guaranteed to every citizen" and who "will strictly apply the Constitution and laws, not legislate from the bench."

So which George W. Bush named federal appeals judge John G. Roberts Jr. to fill the opening on the Supreme Court created by the decision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to retire? Is Roberts the Scalia/Thomas clone that Candidate Bush promised or is he the mainstreamer President Bush suggested he was looking for?

Chalk Roberts up as Candidate Bush's pick.

For more than a decade, Scalia and Thomas have campaigned without success to reverse the Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which removed barriers to a woman's right to choose. This is the hottest of the hot-button issues facing the Court. And on it, all indications are that Roberts will be the clone Scalia and Thomas need to complete their machinations.

When he served as principal deputy solicitor general of the United States from 1989 to 1993--under Solicitor General Ken Starr--Roberts filed a 1990 brief with the Supreme Court that declared: "Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. [T]he Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion," argued Roberts, "finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

Never mind that Supreme Court justices selected by presidents of both parties had consistently concluded otherwise. Roberts had a different opinion and he did not hestitate to advance it. As the deputy solicitor general, he argued for a "gag rule" that prevented physicians working with family planning programs that were recipients of federal funding from discussing abortion with their patients. He even went so far as to appear before the Court to argue in support of Operation Rescue during the period when the group's members were aggressively, sometimes violently, blocking access to healthcare clinics that provided abortions.

Roberts was so feverish in his attempts to find a way to overturn Roe that Supreme Court justices openly joked about his over-the-top antics. Once, during an oral argument before the Court, one of the justices asked the deputy solicitor general: "Mr. Roberts, in this case are you asking that Roe v. Wade be overruled?"

Roberts replied, "No, your honor, the issue doesn't even come up."

"Well," the justice responded, "that hasn't prevented the solicitor general from taking that position in prior cases."

The NARAL Pro-Choice America brief on Roberts, which reviews his aggressive advocacy for antichoice positions, is blunt: "If Roberts is confirmed to a lifetime appointment, there is little doubt that he will work to overturn Roe v. Wade."

On this point, NARAL Pro-Choice America is in full agreement with Roberts's old pals at Operation Rescue.

The militant antichoice group was among the first to hail Bush's selection of Roberts to fill the seat being vacated by O'Connor, who was generally a supporter of reproductive rights. "We pray that Roberts will be swiftly confirmed," announced Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

Now, it is said that a President ought to have a great deal of latitude when it comes to making judicial nominations.

But all indications are that Roberts is not the nominee of President Bush, the man who condemns judges who would "legislate from the bench" and undermine "equal justice for all."

Rather, he is the political pick of Candidate Bush, the man who promised right-wing Republicans that he would give them another Scalia or Thomas. Indeed, Candidate Bush has found a nominee extreme enough to satisfy even Operation Rescue.

Help Defeat Roberts's Nomination

As Reuters was the first to report tonight, President Bush's nominee to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court is conservative appeals court judge John Roberts.

Liberal groups immediately sounded the alarm, citing Roberts' positions in cases involving free speech and religious liberty and especially a brief he co-wrote in 1990 that suggested the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion. ("The court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution," the brief said.)

Moreover, as the Alliance for Justice noted in a report prepared in 2003 after Roberts' last court appointment, he "has a record of hostility to the rights of minorities and women. He has also taken controversial positions in favor of weakening the separation of church and state and limiting the permissible role of the federal courts in protecting the environment. Although Mr. Roberts is indisputably a very capable lawyer, that alone does not qualify him for such a prestigious and critical post."

This is a real in-your-face selection by the president, and the Dems' response remains to be seen. Stalwart senators like Edward Kennedy, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin can be expected to respond in kind but the Senate leader Harry Reid sounded an alarmingly cautious note when he told the New York Times, "The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials." Fortunately this fight should energize some potentially very large segments of society which would be affected by a Court that will threaten the future of legal abortions, affirmative action for minority groups, and other issues that many Americans have long taken for granted.

Watch The Nation online for commentary on John Roberts and watch this space for info on how you can help oppose his ascension to the nation's highest court. And in the meantime, click here to implore your senator to oppose Roberts and click here to check out NARAL Pro-Choice America's Supreme Court Action Kit.

The Alliance for Justice and the People for the American Way are two more important groups working to rally opposition to a nominee far to the right of the judicial mainstream. Check out their websites (here and here) for info on what's expected next and what you can help do about it.

Another great resource for activists is the Moving Ideas Network's Supreme Court Action Guide which features a raft of useful educational and activist links. Click here to check it out.

Rove Scandal: Distractions and Disinformation

I first posted the following on my blog: www.davidcorn.com. If you're obsessed with the Rove scandal, visit that site for more news, analysis, and gripes.

Now that I've been sucked into the right-wing disinformation machine, I am struck by how unrelenting it is. Cliff May posted a dumb column claiming that Joe Wilson told me on background that his wife was an undercover operative and that I was the first person to really out Valerie Wilson (nee Plame). I debunked that nonsense here. But pesky May still sent me email asking me to explain what I had already explained. By not accepting my explanation--and by claiming that what I've written previously is misleading--he is essentially calling me a liar. I take such things personally. (This fellow once asked me if I would be willing to be his partner in a right/left cable-TV face-off. I'm glad it never came to pass.) And there he was again yesterday on CNN expanding his web of fabrication. He said:

You can say what you want about Bob Novak. He has insisted since the beginning that he didn't know she was a secret agent. He just knew she worked at the CIA. Nobody told him that. And if he had known she was secret, he wouldn't have published her name. Now who did publish her name first was David Corn of "The Nation," and he was the first one to say she was a secret agent, and he did that in a conversation with, guess who, with Joe Wilson.

How does one combat repeated silliness of this sort? Who knows what Novak would have done had he been told Valerie Wilson was an undercover officer? And maybe he was told. All we know is that Novak claims the CIA informed him it would prefer if he not name her but did not go ballistic about it. This tale may be true; it may not. (In his own account, Novak still turned down the CIA.) Moreover, Novak did publish her name first. It's right there in the column that prompted the CIA to ask the Justice Department to investigate the White House. CNN anchor Carol Costello should have stopped May and told the audience he was either lying or misspeaking. And May states as a fact that Wilson told me his wife was an undercover officer, even though he has no evidence of this and I have said precisely the opposite. What chutzpah! He doesn't even have an anonymous source to rely on. Is this the sort of journalism he learned when working at The New York Times? Or did he perfect his smear skills when he subsequently served as a spokesperson for the Republican Party? In his absurd article, he at least had the courtesy to present his bogus charge as the product of his own deductive reasoning (as defective as it was). On CNN, he stated as a fact that Wilson had spilled the beans to me about his wife--which is not true.

Having responded fully to his initial piece, I was not going to fuel this sideshow with further comment. But yesterday, I was on a public radio program--Warren Olney's To The Point--discussing the Rove scandal with Byron York, a columnist for the National Review. And as our segment was ending, he piped up and said, Well, Bob Novak didn't really out Valerie Wilson as an undercover official; it was David Corn. The show was ending, and I barely had time to exclaim, "Preposterous," and refer listeners to my website. But this is what happens: one person launches an unfounded smear and then others employ it. The point: I'm now thrown on defense, and, perhaps more importantly, a distraction has been achieved.

Disinformation, distraction--that's the plan, as trouble-causing details emerge from the investigation that threaten Karl Rove and other senior Bush aides. For GOP operatives, it's all-hands-to-the-deck time. And the strategy is to fire whatever ammunition the have, whether it is real or a dud. They want to turn this into a partisan mud-wrestle, realizing that much of the public turns off to such cat-and-dogs nastiness. They try to make the victims the culprits, calling Joe Wilson the biggest liar of all time and making claims about Valerie Wilson that are unsupported by the known facts (e.g., she was no more than a desk jockey). Change the focus to anything but what Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and other White House aides did and whether the White House and the president has covered up for them.

One could spend all day responding to the disinformation and misinformation--and that's their goal. A few days ago, The Washington Times put into circulation a quote from a former CIA officer who once supervised Valerie Wilson and who claimed she wasn't really a covert officer. The newspaper wrote:

A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.

"She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.

"Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren't minding the store here....The agency never changed her cover status."

Mr. Rustmann, who spent 20 of his 24 years in the agency under "nonofficial cover"--also known as a NOC, the same status as the wife of Mr. Wilson--also said that she worked under extremely light cover....

"She was home for such a long time, she went to work every day at Langley, she was in an analytical type job, she was married to a high-profile diplomat with two kids," Mr. Rustmann said. "Most people who knew Valerie and her husband, I think, would have thought that she was an overt CIA employee."

The newspaper didn't emphasize that Rustmann knew nothing about Valerie Wilson's CIA duties after he left the agency in 1990. Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst who went through training with Valerie Wilson at the CIA, told me that "my understanding is that Valerie went undercover after 1990." If that's true, then quotes from Rustmann are rather irrelevant. Yet I saw his remarks scattered across the Internet, as the distracters and disinformationalists look for any stone to hurl. Even The Washington Times partially refuted Rustmann's remarks when it quoted one neighbor of the Wilsons--David Tilloston--who said he did not know she worked at the CIA and thought she was an economist.

So much to disabuse, so little time. Let's turn now to Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer and commentator who was involved in drafting the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. I've had pleasant dealings--professional and social--with her over the years, and many moons ago I was friendly with her daughter, a wonderful photographer. But Toensing sure is doing her duty for her side. Here's a bit from today's Washington Post:

Victoria Toensing, a lawyer and longtime Republican who helped write the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which is at the center of this case, said Bush is now saying what he probably meant to say when the leak investigation was launched. "Of course you are going to be concerned if a law was broken," she said. "But what is it that somebody did wrong if they didn't break the law?"

Toensing has been in Washington long enough to realize that not all wrongdoing in Washington is criminal. But she's now toeing the White House line: only aides convicted of a crime will be fired. (In Washington, when the supertanker White House changes its course, all the tug boats have to follow.) Compare her observation to a portion of a New York Times article published today:

Elaine D. Kaplan, who from 1998 to 2003 was head of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates complaints of prohibited personnel practices, said: "Government employees and officials who are negligent with classified information can lose their jobs for carelessness. They don't have to be convicted of intentionally disseminating the information. Crime has never been the threshold. That's not the standard that applies to rank-and-file federal employees. They can be fired for misconduct well short of a crime."

Much of the attention has (justifiably) been on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. But as Representative Henry Waxman has recently noted, when Rove shared Valerie Wilson's employment status at the CIA--which was classified information--he might have violated Executive Order 12958, which says:

Officers and employees of the United States Government...shall be subject to appropriate sanctions if they knowingly, willfully, or negligently....disclose to unauthorized persons information properly classified.

So the Bush/Toensing standard--leaking classified information that outs a CIA undercover officer and then not coming clean about it is not a firing offense; you're in trouble only if you break the law--is not based in law. Shouldn't she know that?

But truth is not the issue at hand. Winning is. For the right, that means firing up the fog machine and creating as many smokescreens as possible. This comes as no surprise. Still, I find it disheartening. (I can only imagine how Valerie Wilson feels.) Larry Johnson says it's a sign of how desperate the White House and its pals are. He quips, "I love the smell of fear in the morning. It smells like victory." Perhaps. A conservative journalist I know recently emailed to say he was coming to Washington and to ask if I wanted to have drinks with him (which we have occasionally done in the past). I told him I'm in no mood these days. He has yet--as far as I know--not pushed Cliff May's ridiculous Corn-did-it trash. But I need some way to vent my anger and disappointment at folks like May, York and Toensing. This episode is causing Bush's defenders to go to the most ugly extremes. Maybe Larry Johnson is right.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..