27 February 2010


Lots of interesting articles in this e mail newsletter, click the header to go to the actual newsletter to read more on each article or participate in actions.

Household Cleaners—A Dirty Secret. Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell stumbled onto a forgotten law that could unlock the mystery of what's in household cleaners—do they cause asthma, nerve damage and other health effects? She's using the law in court to make manufacturers reveal the ingredients, says Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. Read More

Historic Agreement Saves Dazzling Flathead Valley.
An agreement to preserve Canada's remarkable Flathead Valley is having a domino effect in Montana, whose two U.S. senators are now promising legislation to keep federal lands adjacent to the valley free from mining, oil, gas development and coalbed gas extraction. More
"Today's agreement recognizes that nature has no national boundaries."—Conservationist comment on Flathead Valley agreement.

Political Move Threatens Salmon and Jobs.
Tens of thousands of jobs linked to the decline of West Coast salmon have been lost—but big agricultural interests in California are stepping up political efforts that may permanently extinguish salmon runs and the industry they support.

Help Us Protect Public Health From
Toxic Cleaners!Donate now.Earthjustice has gone to court to force chemical companies to come clean about toxics in their household cleaners. Help support our work to protect public health.

In the win column Advances won by Earthjustice and its allies:

Cement Maker To Cut Air Pollution.
After spending a decade in court to reduce air pollution from the nation's cement kilns, Earthjustice cheered news that one of the leading cement manufacturers will cut air pollutants at each of its 13 plants and pay a $5 million fine. Read More
The Stew Around the world of Earthjustice:

Living In A Toxic Cloud Zone.
Snow is still on the ground in many areas of the country. But here at Earthjustice we're already thinking ahead to the next growing season—and trying to make sure EPA does something about the poisonous pesticides that drift from fields and orchards and into the places where rural kids live, learn, and play. Join us in taking action! EPA is listening but we've only got until March 5 to make our voices heard. Read More | Take Action

American Pika.Earthjustice Stands
By Tiny PikaThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has abandoned the climate-change-imperiled pika, but not Earthjustice. After the agency refused to give Endangered Species Act protections to the tiny animal, Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie said a lawsuit challenging the decision is likely. Read More

EPA Announces Coal Ash Rules.
Nearly 15,000 Earthjustice supporters flooded the EPA with demands to quit stalling on coal ash regulations. So many people called the White House that an operator wondered if a radio station was pushing the issue. Now, the EPA says it will announce the rules in April. Read More

Saving Salmon Runs From Runoff
Toxic storm water runoff from buildings, parking lots and streets in the Pacific Northwest is being addressed by Earthjustice because of the harm wrought on salmon streams and rivers. Read what we are doing in Washington State to get counties and even the state highway department to capture and treat the polluted water. Read More and More

Idaho Forests Suffer Off-Road BlitzIdaho's national forest lands are being torn up because of an explosion in off-road vehicle numbers and weak oversight by the U.S. Forest Service. Alarmed by the onslaught , Earthjustice is suing to force the agency to set reasonable limits on motorized traffic. More


Click the header for the story on MOJO. Virginia resident Mohamed Ali Samantar oversaw a reign of terror in Somalia. Will the Supreme Court grant him immunity?

Supporting an alleged war criminal's bid to evade accountability is surely not a popular stance. But when the Supreme Court took up the case of Somali General Mohamed Ali Samantar last fall, an odd coalition of defenders emerged. Among them were the government of Saudi Arabia, various pro-Israel groups, and three former US attorneys general. At stake is whether foreign officials can be sued in US courts for human rights abuses, or whether they are protected by a swath of immunity that shields them from answering for even the most heinous acts. Supporters of Samantar’s position contend that if the Supreme Court rules against him, it could leave officials from Saudi Arabia, Israel, the US, and elsewhere vulnerable to an avalanche of lawsuits. And the case raises major foreign policy questions, particularly as the Obama administration wages an aggressive fight against terrorism around the world.

The case is the first ever to target a member of the brutal regime of Somalia's late dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. Samantar served as his defense minister and later prime minister, and he oversaw the country's armed forces as they engaged in a litany of human rights violations. "He was the dictator's enforcer," says J. Peter Pham, the director of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy's Africa Project. Samantar moved to the US in 1997 and for years has battled a lawsuit by alleged victims of the regime’s abuses—who collectively tell of torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, wanton imprisonment, and the abduction of family members who were never heard from again. Samantar's lawyers argue that he's immune from such suits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), a 1976 law that, with some exceptions, protects countries (and any "agency or instrumentality" of those nations) from being sued in US courts. The high court will consider whether or not Samantar's claim of immunity is valid when it hears oral arguments on March 3. (An attorney for Samantar did not respond to an interview request.)

Samantar’s defenders—along with officials from countries with questionable human rights records—have cause to be anxious about how the Supreme Court rules in this matter. In the past, attempts (unsuccessful thus far) have been made to sue ex-Israeli officials in American courts for their role in military campaigns that caused civilian casualties. The case makes the Saudis tense because of their experiences fending off a spate of lawsuits accusing Saudi officials, nonprofits, and other entities of complicity in the September 11th attacks. These concerns also hit a little closer to home, given, among other things, the Bush administration's controversial interrogation and rendition policies. In 2004, Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained in the US and rendered to Syria, where he alleges he was tortured, sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and other US officials—using one of the same statutes that Samantar was initially taken to court under. The case was dismissed by an appeals court, but earlier this month Arar petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision.

The San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA)—an organization that targets human rights violators and which has won judgments against Haitian death-squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant and other war criminals—first sued Samantar in 2004. The Center represents a handful of plaintiffs who say they or their family members experienced a range of abuses under Siad Barre's rule. One is Bashe Abdi Yousuf, who in November 1981 was seized by agents of Somalia's National Security Service. His interrogators subjected him to a series of brutal tactics, from waterboarding and electric shocks to a painful torture method dubbed "the MiG." It consisted of binding a detainee's hands and feet behind him, and lowering a heavy rock onto his back—a contorted pose that was said to resemble the wings of the Soviet fighter planes flown by Somalia's air corps.

Yousuf's "crime"? He and other professionals in the northwestern city of Hargeisa had founded a volunteer group that raised money to purchase medical supplies and clean the sewage system of the city's general hospital. Yousuf also belonged to the Isaaq clan—the dominant group in Hargeisa and one especially reviled by Siad Barre. Yousuf's philanthropic work and clan status were more than enough for him to be convicted of treason and imprisoned in a 6-by-6-foot cell.

Yousuf was finally freed in May 1989. He fled Somalia and eventually made his way to the US, where he raised a family, began a career in IT, and settled in the Atlanta area. The man he holds responsible for his 8-year nightmare retired comfortably a few hundred miles away, in Fairfax, Virginia.

By some calculations there are as many as a half-million torture survivors living in the US. Meanwhile, the government is aware of an estimated 1,000 serious human rights violators who have also settled here, though the actual number is likely higher. At the heart of the Samantar case, says Pamela Merchant, CJA's executive director and a former federal prosecutor, "is whether a former military officer who comes to live in the United States and seek safe haven here is above the law, or is he going to be required to live under the same laws as everybody else? The issue is whether we're going to be a haven for human rights abusers." If the Supreme Court upholds Samantar's claim of immunity, it would undermine the Torture Victim Protection Act, a 1991 law championed by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) that allows torture survivors to seek legal redress against their victimizers—and which was in part motivated by the gross human rights abuses inflicted on the people of Somalia. "Extending FSIA immunity to foreign government officials responsible for torture would effectively nullify the TVPA," Specter and other members of Congress noted in an amicus brief they filed in the case.

For the Obama administration, the case could have significant foreign policy consequences. The administration filed its own brief in late January rejecting Samantar's argument that he was immune from the lawsuit under the FSIA. But Obama's solicitor general also stated clearly that current and former government officials generally have immunity for their official acts, and the authority to make such determinations resides with the executive branch. On these points, the Obama administration's position was consistent with that of the Bush administration. But the brief also left open the possibility that the Obama White House might not assert immunity for Samantar should the Supreme Court clear the way for the case to move forward.

"They tried to walk a middle road," says John Bellinger III, the Bush administration's top legal adviser to the National Security Council and later the State Department. "They kind of kicked the can down the road, so that you really can't tell what the ultimate view is going to be. They hint that they might be willing for the first time in the US or really in a major decision anywhere to suggest that former government officials don't have immunity for certain actions." He adds, "If I were Samantar, I'd be a little nervous."

The circumstances surrounding Samantar's case are unique. After Siad Barre's regime was overthrown, Somalia descended into chronic lawlessness and fractured into at least three separate territories, including Puntland and Somaliland (whose capital is the city of Hargeisa). When foreign policy experts talk of "failed states," Somalia is exhibit A. The US doesn't formally recognize any administration that speaks on Somalia's behalf or—most importantly for Samantar—that could request immunity for his actions. "This is an individual claiming privilege on behalf of a state that no longer exists," says Pham, who along with other experts on Somalia has filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs. Furthermore, he points out, Samantar has chosen to make his home in the US. "We're not talking about a diplomat coming here for a negotiation and being served with something while they're walking in the door of the West Wing of the White House."

Still, some legal and foreign policy observers fear that any exception to the traditional principles of immunity could have far-reaching implications. A trio of Republican ex-attorneys general—Edwin Meese III, Dick Thornburgh, and William Barr—make this point in a brief they filed with the court: "The rule established in this case, we can expect, will be applied to the United States and its officials by foreign countries." In their view, this case is as much about the immunity of US officials abroad as it is about the immunity of foreign officials here.

Bellinger, the former State Department legal advisor, raised the Obama administration's drone strikes targeting militants overseas to illustrate the dilemma. "If the Obama administration opens this door because they want to find some way to hold Samantar accountable, they may be creating law that may be bad for the Obama administration as it is dropping ever more missiles and bombs on Al Qaeda figures in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia…What's to prevent some foreign court from saying, 'Well, even though ordinarily Leon Panetta or Bob Gates or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama himself would be immune in our courts, why, the United States Supreme Court itself has recognized that there are certain exceptions to immunity?'" He continues, "There's a real, understandable desire and a need to hold people like Samantar accountable, but how do you do it in a way that doesn't do violence to international law?"

But, ask human rights advocates, what about the very real violence visited on Bashe Abdi Yousuf, his co-plaintiffs, and other torture survivors? Siad Barre was never called to account for the atrocities committed in his name—as his regime crumbled around him in 1991, he "drove away in his last working tank and died an old man in his sleep," says Pham, the Somalia expert. Pham believes allowing the dictatorship’s victims their day in court is part of the healing process for a country that has yet to recover from Siad Barre’s reign of terror—and Samantar, he says, is now the highest-ranking surviving member of that regime. "A recognition that a terrible wrong was done, near-genocidal if not genocidal violence…will go a long way for the victims, but also in setting the historical memory right for any future political settlement in Somalia," he says. "I believe there are certain crimes that under international law there is no immunity for, one of which is war crimes. In the case of Samantar, he really should have thought about it carefully before deciding to settle in Fairfax."


February 26, 2010

President Obama's made-for-TV health summit probably didn't change many minds. And it certainly didn't produce any bipartisan breakthroughs on Thursday. But it did clarify some of the biggest differences between Republicans and Democrats.

The 18 Republicans who attended the all-day meeting at Blair House, just across from the White House, were polite, but firm. The bills passed by the Democratic House and Senate last year are simply too big for them, and for the American people, to swallow.

"We've come to the conclusion we don't do comprehensive well," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee. "Our country is too big, too complicated, too decentralized for Washington; a few of us here, just to write a few rules about remaking 17 percent of the economy all at once."
NPR Analysis

But Democrats were just as firm in response. They've tried addressing problems in health care piece by piece.

"The evidence shows that incremental reform not only does less, it costs more," said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.

Democrats say that means that Republicans' ideas like capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, letting small businesses band together to buy insurance, and allowing insurance policies to be sold across state lines, by themselves, wouldn't do enough to address what really ails the health care system.

For their part, Democrats spent a lot of time telling stories about real people with real insurance problems.

Like this one from Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York: "I even had one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true — her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit. You ever believe that in America that's where we would be?"

Republicans, though, like Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, said the Democrats' bill doesn't focus enough on bringing costs down. "A lot of Americans say to me, if you're really interested in controlling costs, maybe you shouldn't be spending $1 trillion on health care, as the Senate and House bills do."

Democrats countered that their bill would actually reduce the deficit. And President Obama made it clear he would not bow to Republican demands that Democrats start over from the beginning.

"We cannot have another yearlong debate about this," Obama said.

Still, after the meeting was over, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl explained why Republicans wouldn't vote for the bill, no matter how many of their ideas are included.

"The whole concept of the bill, with its government mandates, its taxes, its spending and all of the other features of it, are what make it unacceptable to us and to the American people," he said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, said he's not surprised at how little common ground there was to be found.

"I think the Republicans do not believe it's in their best interest to have a health care bill. At least a health care bill that includes everybody."

And Hoyer confirmed what might be the worst-kept secret in Washington: With any prospect of Republican support still nearly zero, Democrats are likely to turn to a short-cut procedure known as budget reconciliation. That will let them pass a health bill in the Senate with only 51 votes and no filibuster allowed. Republicans have been calling the procedure unusual and unfair, but Hoyer says that's hardly the case.

"Since 1980, I think reconciliation has been used 22 times; 16 by Republicans; more than two-thirds of the time; that's probably 70 percent of the time. For their tax bills, welfare reform, other pieces of legislation. And they act as if somehow this is a process that should not be used."

But even finding a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate still won't be easy. Health care remains one of the hardest political efforts there is.


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Visit Natural Resources Defense Council Save BioGems - The monthly update for BioGems Defenders - February 2010
BioGems Update
A big thank you to BioGems Defenders who recently sent nearly 19,000 messages to protect grizzly bear habitat in Wyoming's Shoshone National Forest.

BioGems Defenders:

Action Messages Sent:

America's Arctic

Shell's Drilling Threatens the Arctic Refuge

A half a century ago, the Eisenhower administration created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values." But reckless oil development continues to endanger the future of this one-of-a-kind natural sanctuary. The Obama administration has given the Shell oil company a preliminary green light to begin exploratory drilling off the coast of the refuge as early as this summer. Government experts have predicted that least one oil spill will occur if Shell proceeds with full-scale production. Apart from killing polar bears and their cubs on their main birthing ground, the oil could also suffocate or poison whales, including endangered bowhead and beluga whales.

» Tell the Obama administration to reject Shell's plan and protect the coastline of the Arctic Refuge from a disastrous oil spill.

In the News
NRDC is headed to federal court to block the Navy from building a sonar training range just outside the only known calving grounds of the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most critically endangered species of whales left on the planet. The proposed $100 million range, spanning 500 square nautical miles off the coast of northeastern Florida, would effectively transform the area into an epicenter of ear-splitting sonar use. The Navy's plans would expose the right whales to a triple threat from sonar, vessel strikes and entanglements, and scientists say that the loss of even a single whale could drive the species to extinction.

We continue to fight diligently to help ensure a safe and easy passage for Yellowstone bison that wander beyond park boundaries into Montana during the harsh winter months in search of food. Recently, local NRDC staffers lent a hand by helping to dismantle about two miles of unused barbed-wire fencing on an old grazing allotment north of West Yellowstone. Opening up this critical migration corridor is a key step toward making the area more hospitable for roaming bison.

In a grim setback to wolf recovery efforts, a preliminary estimate has shown that wolves in the northern Rockies failed to increase in number last year. Since being reintroduced to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s, the population had achieved a roughly 20 percent annual growth rate. But wolf hunts and aggressive government control actions precipitated a record of more than 500 wolf deaths in 2009, bringing recovery progress to an abrupt halt. The current population now reportedly rests at about 1,650. Scientists say this number must reach at least 2,000 to ensure a sustainable recovery.

Action Insider

Get the latest updates on wolves, bison and other western wildlife: Become a fan of NRDC's new Northern Rockies Wildlife page on Facebook and follow NRDC's wildlife expert Matt Skoglund, a.k.a. @YellowstoneMatt, on Twitter.

A highly endangered right whale -- feared dead -- may actually be alive. Meanwhile, wolf sightings have expanded in Oregon's Cascade Mountains. Get the full roundup of good news on wildlife from NRDC's Andrew Wetzler.

26 February 2010


This is a very disturbing article. Reading the 10 orders the Oath Keepers are supposed to refuse in defense of the Constitution one might first think they are a patriotic group. BUT, Oath Keepers were in existence in 2008, while Pres. Bush was continuing to send troops to Iraq to fight in an illegal and immoral war. Stewart Rhodes, the groups founder, never called on U.S. troops to refuse deployment to Iraq, never called on U.S. troops in Iraq to refuse any military action except for defensive purposes. NOTE HERE I do not believe he should have done either of these things, Bush was the Commander-In-Chief at the time and the military (and any LEO agency in the U.S.) can not allow individual interpretation of orders by the ranks, as called for by Rhodes, to see if they agree with them or not. Members of the military and LEOs have the right and responsibility to refuse an illegal order, and so if ordered to shoot everyone in a village because a patrol took fire from the village, the soldiers that refuse to do so are in the right under military and civilian law. They do not have the right to refuse orders based on their individual interpretation of the constitutionality of the order, to allow such action could render the military and LEO agency inoperable. NOW however, the Oath Keepers see the need to exercise their option to disobey the current Commander-In-Chief, Pres. Obama. Considering that Stewart Rhodes never called on the Oath Keepers even consider challenging orders from Pres. Bush, and taking into account the racist and extreme right wing people and organizations the Oath Keepers are associated with this is no surprise, and so one can only conclude they are in opposition to a Black Commander-In-Chief, and are a dangerous and treasonous threat to the American people and our government. Click the header for the story on the Mother Jones website and access to all the links with this article.

Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason
Meet the fast-growing "patriot" group that's recruiting soldiers to resist the Obama administration.

By Justine Sharrock | March/April 2010 Issue

THE .50 CALIBER Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load magazine. When the 25-year-old drove me to a mall in Watertown, New York, near the Fort Drum Army base, he brought me to see it in its glass case—he visits it periodically, like a kid coveting something at the toy store. It'll take plenty of military paychecks to cover the $5,600 price tag, but he considers the Bushmaster essential in his preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.

His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oath Keepers [1], one of the fastest-growing "patriot" organizations on the right. Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit [2] it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey [3] and Paul Broun [4], both Georgia Republicans.

There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.

Pray (who asked me to use his middle name rather than his first) and five fellow soldiers based at Fort Drum take this directive very seriously. In the belief that the government is already turning on its citizens, they are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, running drills, and outlining a plan of action. For years, they say, police and military have trained side by side in local anti-terrorism exercises around the nation. In September 2008, the Army began training [5] the 3rd Infantry's 1st Brigade Combat Team to provide humanitarian aid following a domestic disaster or terror attack—and to help with crowd control and civil unrest if need be. (The ACLU has expressed concern about this deployment.) And some of Pray's comrades were guinea pigs for military-grade sonic weapons, only to see them used by Pittsburgh police against protesters last fall.

Most of the men's gripes revolve around policies that began under President Bush but didn't scare them so much at the time. "Too many conservatives relied on Bush's character and didn't pay attention," founder Rhodes told me. "Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists. But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, 'I think you are a threat to the nation?'"

In Pray's estimate, it might not be long (months, perhaps a year) before President Obama finds some pretext—a pandemic, a natural disaster, a terror attack—to impose martial law, ban interstate travel, and begin detaining citizens en masse. One of his fellow Oath Keepers, a former infantryman, advised me to prepare a "bug out" bag with 39 items including gas masks, ammo, and water purification tablets, so that I'd be ready to go "when the shit hits the fan."

When it does, Pray and his buddies plan to go AWOL and make their way to their "fortified bunker"—the home of one comrade's parents in rural Idaho—where they've stocked survival gear, generators, food, and weapons. If it becomes necessary, they say, they will turn those guns against their fellow soldiers.

PRAY AND I DRIVE through a bleak landscape of fallow winter fields and strip malls in his blue Dodge Stratus as Drowning Pool's "Bodies"—a heavy metal song once used to torment [6] Abu Ghraib detainees—plays on the stereo. Clad in an oversize black hoodie that hides his military physique, Pray sports an Army-issue buzz cut and is seriously inked (skulls, smoke, an eagle). His father kicked him out of the house at age 14. Two years later, after working jobs from construction to plumbing—"If it's blue collar, I've done it"—he tried to enlist. It wasn't long after 9/11, and he was hell-bent on revenge. The Army turned him down. Blaming the "THOR" tattooed across his fist, Pray tried to burn it off. On September 11, 2006, he approached the Army again and was accepted.

Now Pray is both a Birther and a Truther. He believes he is following an illegitimate, foreign-born president in a war on terror launched by a government plot—9/11. He admires soldiers like Army reservist Major Stefan Frederick Cook, who volunteered for a deployment last May and then sued to avoid it—claiming that Obama is not a natural-born citizen and is thus unfit for command. Pray himself had been eager to go to Iraq when his own unit deployed last June, but he smashed both knees falling from a crane rig and the injuries kept him stateside. In September, he was demoted from specialist to private first class—he'd been written up for bullshit infractions, he claims, after seeking help for a drinking problem. His job on base involves operating and maintaining heavy machinery; the day before we met, he and his fellow "undeployables" had attached a snowplow to a Humvee, their biggest assignment in a while. He spends idle hours at the now-quiet base researching the New World Order and conspiracies about swine flu quarantine camps—and doing his best to "wake up" other soldiers.

Pray isn't sure how to do this and still cover his ass. He talks to me on the record and agrees to be photographed, even as he hints that the CIA may be listening in on his phone. Although I met him through contacts from the group's Facebook page, Pray, fearing retribution, keeps his Oath Keepers ties unofficial. (Rhodes encourages active-duty soldiers to remain anonymous, noting that a group with large numbers of anonymous members can instill in its adversaries the fear of the unknown—a "great force multiplier.") For a time, Pray insisted we communicate via Facebook (safer than regular email, he claims). Driving me from the mall back to my motel, he takes a new route. He says unmarked black cars sometimes trail him. It sounds paranoid. Then again, when you're an active-duty soldier contemplating treason, some level of paranoia is probably sensible.

The next afternoon we join Brandon, one of Pray's Army buddies, for steaks. Sitting in a pleather booth at Texas Roadhouse, the young men talk boastfully about their military capabilities and weapons caches. Role-playing the enemy in military exercises, Brandon says, has prepared him to evade and fight back against US troops. "I know their tactics," brags Pray. "I know how they do room sweeps, work their convoys—if we attack this vehicle, what the others will do."

A strapping Idahoan, Brandon (who doesn't want his full name used) enlisted as a teenager when he got his girlfriend pregnant and needed a stable job, stat. (She lost the baby and they split, but he's still glad he signed up.) Unlike his friend, he doesn't think the United Nations must be dismantled, although he does agree that it represents the New World Order, and he suspects that concentration camps are being readied in the off-limits section of Fort Drum. He sends 500 rounds of ammunition home to Idaho each month.

Pfc. Lee Pray vows he'll fight to the death if a rogue US government "forces us to engage."Pfc. Lee Pray vows he'll fight to the death if a rogue US government "forces us to engage."EVERY YEAR ON April 19, history buffs gather on the village green in Lexington, Massachusetts, to reenact the first battle of the Revolutionary War. For Stewart Rhodes, it was the ideal setting to unveil the organization his followers consider the embodiment of a second American Revolution.

Rhodes, 44, is a constitutional lawyer—his 2004 Yale Law School paper, "Solving the Puzzle of Enemy Combatant Status," won the school's award for best paper on the Bill of Rights. He's now working on a book tentatively titled We the Enemy: How Applying the Laws of War to the American People in the War on Terror Threatens to Destroy Our Constitutional Republic. Raised in the Southwest, Rhodes enlisted in the Army after high school, receiving an honorable discharge after he injured his spine during a night parachute jump. He enrolled at the University of Nevada and in 1998, after graduating, landed a job supervising interns for Congressman Ron Paul. Rhodes has also worked as a firearms instructor and a sculptor—for Vegas' MGM Grand hotel, he produced a fiberglass Minuteman statue—and has practiced law in small-town Montana ("Ivy League quality without Ivy League expense"). He writes a gun-rights column for SWAT magazine. He's a libertarian, staunch constitutionalist, and devout Christian.

It was while volunteering for Ron Paul's doomed presidential bid that Rhodes decided to abandon electoral politics in favor of grassroots organizing. As an undergrad, he had been fascinated by the notion that if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could have been stopped. Then, in early 2008, SWAT received a letter from a retired colonel declaring that "the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered" and that service members, veterans, and police "is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!"

Rhodes responded [7] with a breathless column starring a despotic president, "Hitlery" Clinton, in her "Chairman Mao signature pantsuit." Would readers, he asked, obey orders from this "dominatrix-in-chief" to hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters? If "a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands," he warned. You had better "resolve to not let it happen on your watch." He set up an Oath Keepers blog, asking soldiers and veterans to post testimonials. Word spread. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local Tea Party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. And by the time Rhodes arrived in Lexington to speak at a rally staged by a pro-militia group, a movement was afoot.

Rhodes stood on the common that day before a crowd of about 400 die-hard patriot types. He spoke their language. "You need to be alert and aware to the reality of how close we are to having our constitutional republic destroyed," he said. "Every dictatorship in the history of mankind, whether it is fascist, communist, or whatever, has always set aside normal procedures of due process under times of emergency...We can't let that happen here. We need to wake up!"

He laid out 10 orders an Oath Keeper should not obey [8], including conducting warrantless searches, holding American citizens as enemy combatants or subjecting them to military tribunals (a true Oath Keeper would have refused to hold José Padilla [9] in a military brig), imposing martial law, blockading US cities, forcing citizens into detention camps ("tyrannical governments eventually and invariably put people in camps"), and cooperating with foreign troops should the government ask them to intervene on US soil. In Rhodes' view, each individual Oath Keeper must determine where to draw the line.

The crowd was full of familiar faces from patriot rallies and town hall meetings, with an impressive showing by luminaries of the rising patriot movement. There was Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who had refused to enforce the Brady Law in the mid-'90s. Also present was Mike Vanderboegh, whose Three Percenter [10] movement styles itself after the legendary 3 percent of American colonists who took up arms against the British. Rhodes singled out Marine Charles Dyer, a.k.a. July4Patriot—whose YouTube videos [11] advocate armed resistance—as a "man of like minds." When Rhodes finished, Captain Larry Bailey, a retired Navy SEAL, Swift Boater, and founder of the anti-antiwar group Gathering of Eagles [12], asked the crowd to raise their right hands and retake their oath—not to the president, but to the Constitution.

RHODES' TIMING WAS impeccable. Twelve days earlier, the Department of Homeland Security had issued a report [13] warning that a black president, weak economy, and high unemployment rate had created a "fertile recruiting environment" for right-wing extremists—"disgruntled" vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, the report noted, could bring combat know-how to domestic terrorist groups. Predictably, veterans groups went ballistic, and the report itself became a potent Oath Keepers recruiting tool. "The No. 1 focus of DHS is not Islamic terrorists—it is me and you," Rhodes told followers. "They will unleash the government against you, silence you and suppress you!"

Lee Pray and his pal Brandon were left behind with injuries when their unit shipped off to Iraq. They spend their idle hours preparing for the day the government goes too far.Lee Pray and his pal Brandon were left behind with injuries when their unit shipped off to Iraq. They spend their idle hours preparing for the day the government goes too far.Oath Keepers collaborates regularly with like-minded citizens groups; last Fourth of July, Rhodes dispatched speakers to administer the oath at more than 30 Tea Party rallies across America. At last fall's 9/12 march on Washington, he led a contingent of Oath Keepers from the Capitol steps down to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Afterward, Oath Keepers cohosted a banquet with the hawkish Gathering of Eagles. This February, a member of the group organized a Florida Freedom Rally featuring Joe the Plumber and conservative singer Lloyd Marcus. (Sample lyrics [14]: Mr. President! Your stimulus is sure to bust / it's just a socialistic scheme / The only thing it will do / is kill the American Dream.)

Rhodes has become a darling of right-wing pundits. In a column last October, Pat Buchanan predicted [15] that "Brother Rhodes is headed for cable stardom." Glenn Beck has cited the group [16] as a "phenomenal" example of the "patriot revival movement," while Lou Dobbs declared [17] that its platform "should give solace and comfort to the left in this country." Conspiracy-radio king Alex Jones even put an Oath Keepers segment, including footage of the Lexington speech, on his hit DVD Fall of the Republic. "I can't stress enough how much your organization is scaring the globalists," he told Rhodes [18] on his show.

All this attention has put Oath Keepers on the radar of anti-hate groups. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League [19] and the Southern Poverty Law Center [20] both name-checked the group in their reports on rising anti-government extremism. "They think the word 'patriot' is a smear," Rhodes countered during his Dobbs segment. SPLC's Mark Potok "wants to lump us in with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and of course make the insinuation that we're the next McVeigh." But such attacks have only raised Oath Keepers' profile. After a combative Hardball interview in October—host Chris Matthews asked Rhodes [21] whether Oath Keepers had the "firepower to stand up against the federal government"—the group says it gained 2,000 members in three days.

As of mid-January, according to Rhodes, Oath Keepers had at least one chapter in every state and was adding dozens of members daily. Some 14,000 people had signed up as members on the Oath Keepers website while more than 15,000, including dozens of military recruiters, had done so on Facebook. And that doesn't include those who, fearing reprisal, do their networking offline. Volunteers are in the process of sending out some 1,000 "constitutional care packages" complete with Oath Keepers patches to soldiers serving overseas.

IT IS EASY ENOUGH to dismiss the Oath Keepers as (in the words of Britain's Independent [22]) "right-wing crackpots" or "extremist nimrods" (Huffington Post [23]). CNN stressed the group's conspiracy theories in its series on militias. But beyond the predictable stereotypes, "the reality is a lot of them are fairly intelligent, well-educated people who have complex worldviews that are thoroughly thought out," says author David Neiwert, who has been following the patriot movement closely since the '90s.

Rhodes' vision is simple—"It's the Constitution, stupid." He views the founding blueprint the way fundamentalist Christians view the Bible. In Rhodes' America, sovereign states—"like little labs of freedom"—would have their own militias and zero gun restrictions. He would limit federal power to what's stated explicitly in the Constitution and Bill of Rights; any new federal law affecting the states would require a constitutional amendment. "If your state goes retarded," he says, "you can move to another state and vote with your feet." The president would be stripped of emergency powers that allow him to seize property, restrict travel, institute martial law, and otherwise (as the Congressional Research Service has put it) "control the lives of United States citizens." The Constitution, Rhodes explains, "was created to check us in times of emergency when we are freaking out."

Much of this is familiar rhetoric, part of a continuous strain in American politics that reemerged most recently during the 1990s. Back then, a similar combination of recession and Democratic rule led to the rise of citizen militias, the Posse Comitatus movement, and Oath Keepers-type groups like Police & Military Against the New World Order. But those groups had little reach. Nowadays, through the power of YouTube and social networking, and with a boost from the cable punditry, Oath Keepers can reach millions and make its message part of the national conversation—furthering the notion that citizens can simply disregard a government they loathe. "The underlying sentiment is an attack on government dating back to the New Deal and before," says author Neiwert. "Ron Paul has been a significant conduit in recent years, but nothing like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin—all of whom share that innate animus."

Oath Keepers' strength derives from what Rhodes calls "a very powerful common bond" (the vow of service) as well as the uniform—"a powerful source of credibility and respect" that allows members to "throw their weight into any movement...and tip any election." Rhodes is wary of "old-party asshole RINOs" (Republicans in name only)—he mentions Dick Armey, the former House majority leader turned Tea Party sponsor—who in his view are merely out to hijack the grassroots.

Most Oath Keepers may intend to disobey their commanders only in the instances the group highlights. But the group's ideas also appeal to extremists like Daniel Knight Hayden, whose inflammatory tweets [24] last April ("START THE KILLING NOW!") signaled his intent to wreak havoc at a Tax Day protest. On the morning of April 15 he sent out a tweet touting Oath Keepers, followed by "Locked AND loaded for the Oklahoma State Capitol. Let's see what happens." (The FBI arrested him at home a few hours later; he was eventually convicted for transmitting interstate threats.) Rhodes vigorously denounced Hayden, but the episode hinted at the power of the group's language. Rhetoric like Rhodes' ("Do you want them to kick down your door in body armor?") can have "an unhinging effect" on people inclined toward violent action, Neiwert explains. "It puts them in a state of mind of fearfulness and paranoia, creating so much anger and hatred that eventually that stuff boils over."

In the months I've spent getting to know the Oath Keepers, I've toggled between viewing them either as potentially dangerous conspiracy theorists or as crafty intellectuals with the savvy to rally politicians to their side. The answer, I came to realize, is that they cover the whole spectrum.

ON A CLEAR September evening, I found myself in suite 610 at the Texas Station casino in North Las Vegas mingling with two dozen Oath Keepers state leaders, directors, and hardcore devotees. It was past midnight, but the place—down to the American flag wallpaper in the bathroom—was awake with the sense of a movement primed to burst into the national consciousness. Mississippi director Chris Evans, who sports a long beard and cowboy hat, declared in his pronounced drawl that this gathering was so important to him that for the first time since 9/11 he'd succumbed to the "invasive breach of privacy" required to fly here. Rand Cardwell, who organized multiple chapters in Tennessee, only woke up, he told me, when the government began bailing out big companies and left ordinary people in the cold: "Pain causes action," he said. For others here, the aha moment came with the Patriot Act or when federal troops and contractors confiscated weapons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As techies swarmed around laptops discussing website tweaks, two shy Midwesterners who hoped to become state directors told me they were eager to learn recruiting tips. An energetic young veteran griped that hate-crime bills aim to police people's thoughts, and that the "Don't Tread on Me" bumper stickers popular with constitutionalists raise enough suspicion these days to get a person pulled over by the authorities. Over bottled water and microbrews, they swapped tips on how to involve members in state militias, spread viral YouTube videos of soldiers reaffirming their oaths, and reach out to other patriots. They boasted of recruiting at gun shows, approaching politicians and cops, and stuffing leaflets into magazines in veterans hospital waiting rooms.

The three-day conference was called posthaste after Rhodes realized that his group was growing beyond his control. On the first night, over a casino buffet of barbecue, goopy Chinese food, and key lime pie, core members scrutinized printouts of potential organizational structures before heading upstairs to sign legal documents, pick a board of directors, and start nominating state representatives.

Rhodes caught wind of my presence during the introductory meet and greet. Taking me aside, he told me he'd decided reporters weren't welcome. After I protested that the Oath Keepers website had described the conference as open to the public, he offered to refund my $300 entrance fee. Then I told him I'd read his Yale paper and shared many of his concerns about executive power; I really wanted to hear what Oath Keepers had to say. In the end, he agreed to let me stay and eventually invited me to hang out with the inner circle.

The next morning, in a casino ballroom, a hundred or so Oath Keepers exchanged business cards and schmoozed in between speeches about constitutional law, American Revolutionary history, and a soldier's obligation to disobey illegal orders—Nuremberg references on full display. Clad in suits, or slacks with button-downs, most of them could have been attending an insurance convention. One Oath Keeper handed out Gadsden-flag bumper stickers, while others sold T-shirts, baseball caps, and polo shirts featuring the group's minuteman logo and motto: "Not on our watch." There was a raffle, and James Sugra, one of the masterminds behind Ron Paul's fundraising "money bombs," scored a huge framed replica of the Constitution. To enthusiastic applause, a driver in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (a hot new cross between NASCAR and monster truck rallies) announced that the Oath Keepers would get free ad space on his car. Their logo would be seen on television sets across America. During the talks, I sat between a libertarian who had biked across America, stopping at police stations to hand out recruiting materials, and a first-generation Chinese American stay-at-home dad from San Francisco who invited me to my local chapter's winter survivalist training and rifle practice—extracurriculars, he assured me.

Oath Keepers is officially nonpartisan, in part to make it easier for active-duty soldiers to participate, but its rightward bent is undeniable, and liberals are viewed with suspicion. At lunch, when I questioned my tablemates about the Obama-Hitler comparisons I'd heard at the conference, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the president's socialized medicine agenda would beget a Nazi-style regime.

I learned that bringing guns to Tea Party protests was a reminder of our constitutional rights, was introduced to the notion that the founding fathers modeled their governing documents on the Bible, and debated whether being Muslim meant an inability to believe in and abide by—and thus be protected by—the Constitution. I was schooled on the treachery of the Federal Reserve and why America needs a gold standard, and at dinner one night, Nighta Davis, national organizer for the National 912 Project [25], explained how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics program targeting Christians. I also met Lt. Commander Guy Cunningham, a retired Navy officer and Oath Keeper who in 1994 took it upon himself to survey personnel at the 29 Palms [26] Marine Corps base about their willingness to accept domestic missions and serve with foreign troops. A quarter of the Marines he polled said that they would be willing to fire on Americans who refused to disarm in the face of a federal order—a finding routinely cited by militia and patriot groups worried about excessive government powers.

From the podium, ex-sheriff Mack told the crowd that he wished he'd been the officer ordered to escort Rosa Parks off the bus, because not only would he have refused, he would have helped her home and stood guard there. These days, he said, it's not African Americans who are under attack, but Christians, constitutionalists, and people who uphold family values: This time "it's going to be Rosa Parks the gun owner, Rosa Parks the tax evader, or Rosa Parks the home-schooler."

Mack runs the "No Sheriff Left Behind [27]" campaign encouraging state and local authorities to disregard federal laws that they believe violate states' rights. During the 1990s, he successfully eviscerated a Brady Law provision requiring sheriffs to run background checks on handgun purchasers. Another sheriff who spoke, Mark Gower of Iron County, Utah, uses Mack's precedent to refuse to act against property owners who violate the Endangered Species Act. The conference's lifetime achievement award went to Army Specialist Michael New, discharged in 1996 for refusing to wear a United Nations helmet and patch while serving in Germany.

Oath Keepers steers clear of certain issues. Personally, Rhodes would prefer the list of objectionable orders to include detaining foreigners indefinitely at facilities like Guantanamo. And while he argues that torture should never be legal, the group takes no official stance on America's war on terror or overseas engagements. After an Oath Keeper who is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War [28] touted IVAW repeatedly on Oath Keepers' Web forum, Rhodes deleted the guy's online testimonial. "The IVAW have their own totalitarian mindset," he told me. "I don't like communists any more than I like Nazis."

On the conference's final day, National 912 Project chairman Patrick Jenkins stepped up to talk about the National Liberty Unity Summits [2] his group was organizing in cooperation with Oath Keepers. They would provide a chance, he said, for patriots to forge a common agenda and a plan to carry it out. At the first summit, in December, attendees included representatives of groups from FairTax Nation [29] to the Constitution Party [30] to Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum [31]. On hand were Ralph Reed Jr. (former director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition [32] and recent founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition [33]), Larry Pratt (head of Gun Owners of America [34]), and Tim Cox (founder of Get Out of Our House [35], an organization praised on Fox News for its goal of replacing business-as-usual incumbents with "ordinary folks"). Most notable were representatives Broun and Gingrey, who according to summit organizer Nighta Davis have expressed willingness to introduce legislation crafted by summit attendees. (So, Davis says, have Steve King [36] [R-Iowa] and Michele Bachmann [9] [R-Minn.]. None of the representatives agreed to comment for this story.)

The December gathering was merely a windup. In mid-April, another summit is planned to coincide with a huge gun-rights march and a Tax Day Tea Party rally in Washington organized by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks [37] PAC and the American Liberty Alliance [38]—whose home page touts Oath Keepers as a key part of "the Movement." Organizers expect hundreds of thousands to turn out. The Oath Keepers will be there en masse.

IN VEGAS, Rhodes took me aside repeatedly to explain that many of those in attendance—including featured speakers like "Patriot Pastor" Garrett Lear ("When a government doesn't obey God, we must reform it")—might not represent Oath Keepers' official message. He and his Web staff have been overwhelmed, he told me, by the amount of policing required to keep people from posting "off message" commentary encouraging violence or racism. Last December, they shut down one forum because too many posters were using it to recruit for militias. The Constitution, of course, allows citizens to form militias so long as their intent is to defend and not overthrow the government, but active-duty soldiers can lose security clearances or get demoted for associating with them. Rhodes advises members to go ahead and join—just not in Oath Keepers' name. "As a matter of strategy, it is best to keep the two separate," he wrote in a post.

There may also be serious downsides for a soldier who follows through on his Oath Keepers pledge. Disobeying orders can mean discharge or imprisonment. "You have every right to disobey an order if you think it is illegal," says Army spokesman Nathan Banks. "But you will face court-martial, and so help you God if you are wrong. Saying something isn't constitutional isn't going to fly."

A soldier like Charles Dyer, who in his July4Patriot persona advocated armed resistance against the government, could risk charges of treason. As a Marine sergeant based out of Camp Pendleton, Dyer posted videos to YouTube last year, his face half-covered with a skull bandana. "With the DHS blatantly calling patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is, you're damn right we're a threat," he said [39] in one. "We're a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic...We're gathering in defense of our way of life." For a while, he ran a training compound in San Diego, teaching civilians his Marine combat skills.

Dyer, who with Rhodes' blessing represented Oath Keepers at an Oklahoma Tea Party [40] rally on July 4, was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with uttering "disloyal" statements. He ultimately beat the charge, left the Marines, and reappeared unmasked on YouTube encouraging viewers to join him at his makeshift training area in Duncan, Oklahoma—"I'm sure the DHS will call it a terrorist training camp." In January, Dyer was arrested [41] on charges of raping a seven-year-old girl. When sheriff's deputies raided his home, they found a Colt M-203 grenade launcher believed to have been stolen from a California military base. He now faces federal weapons charges and is being hailed by fringe militia groups like the American Resistance Movement as "the first POW of the second American Revolution."

Shortly after I asked Rhodes about Dyer—before his arrest hit the news—his testimonial vanished from the group's website­. Rhodes once endorsed Dyer in glowing terms, but now claims he was never a member because he hasn't paid dues. Yet Dyer publicly referred to himself as an Oath Keeper, and Rhodes had previously insisted—to Lou Dobbs and anyone else who would listen—that you didn't need to pay dues to be a member.

In an interview prior to Dyer's arrest, Andrew Sexton, another uniformed YouTube star [42] who argues the need for armed resistance, criticized Dyer for making himself a target. Sexton, an Army reservist who served in Afghanistan with US Special Operations Command, also keeps his Oath Keepers ties under the radar. Most soldiers, he told me, don't talk openly about such things, but it's easy enough to tell which ones have been woken up. The Department of Defense, Sexton added, will be shocked by the number of service members willing to turn against their commanders when the time comes. "It's an absolute reality," he says. He views last April's DHS report on right-wing extremists as a "preemptive attack because they know it's coming."

Rhodes isn't calling for violence—indeed, he insists that his group is about laying down arms rather than turning them on citizens. Yet when he writes that "the oath is like kryptonite to tyrants, as the Founders intended. The time has come for us to use it to its full effect," some followers take that as a call for drastic action.

Chip Berlet, of the watchdog group Political Research Associates, who has studied right-wing populist movements for 25 years, equates Rhodes' rhetoric to yelling fire in a crowded theater. "Promoting these conspiracy theories is very dangerous right now because there are people who will assume that a hero will stop at nothing." What will happen, he adds, "is not just disobeying orders but harming and killing."

Rhodes acknowledges that there are certain risks. Freedom "is not neat or tidy," he says. "It's messy." For example, he concedes that "there may be a downside" to police refusing to engage during a riot situation. "Someone could be beaten or raped, but the potential risks involved are far less dangerous than having soldiers or police always do whatever they are told."

LEE PRAY thinks Rhodes downplays the threat Oath Keepers represents to a rogue administration. "They have to be careful because otherwise they will be labeled as terrorists," he says. "You have to read between the lines, but I wish they were more up-front with their members."

It's not hard to see the appeal of Oath Keepers for guys like Pray and Brandon, frustrated young men nervous about their future prospects. They signed up to defend the greatest country in the world, only to be cast aside. Even their injuries were suffered ingloriously. Brandon can't sit for long after being flung from a pickup truck; Pray now walks with a cane, possibly for good. The men sincerely believe their country is headed for disaster, but as broken warriors they are powerless to do anything about it. They have tried writing to Congress, signing petitions, and voting, all to no avail. Oath Keepers offers a new sense of pride and comradeship—of being part of something momentous.

And when the time comes, Pray insists he is battle ready. "If the government continues to ignore us, and forces us to engage," Pray says, "I'm willing to fight to the death." Brandon, for his part, is resigned about their odds fighting the US military. "If we take up arms, realistically we would lose, and they would label us as terrorists," he says. Pray nods sadly in agreement. But they'll take their chances. They consider it their duty.
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The right wing fanatics say YES! But they are the same people who believe the color coded detour signs in Pennsylvania are directions for the U.N. troops who will soon invade the U.S.!

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 26, 2010; A22

The blogosphere is abuzz over conservatives' charges that a logo being used by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency looks very much like a fusion of the Muslim crescent moon and star and the Obama campaign logo. Some folks even detected a similarity to the Iranian Space Agency logo.

"New Missile Defense Agency Logo Causes Online Commotion," said the headline on Drudge. Indeed it did. Our pal Frank Gaffney, writing on his blog, expressed alarm. "The Obama administration's determined effort to reduce America's missile defense capabilities initially seemed to be just standard Leftist fare," wrote Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration. But "a just-unveiled symbolic action suggests, however, that something even more nefarious is afoot."

Lefty bloggers insisted that the logo meant nothing of the sort, suggesting the right-wingers must have found some particularly high-grade hallucinogens. Well, we thought the conservatives had the better of the argument.

Turns out, however, the "new" logo is not so new. "This was a logo that was developed three years ago for our recruiting materials and our public Web site," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told our colleague Ed O'Keefe. "It did not replace our official MDA logo, and of course it has no ties to any political campaign. It was done one year before the 2008 elections. So the whole thing is pretty ridiculous." Lehner said the insignia was chosen because it was "cheaper, because it's three colors as opposed to the five colors on the official logo."

What a minute. Did he say one year before the election? During the George W. Bush administration? Can we get some subpoenas out on this?


A good explanation of why this Republican proposal is a very bad idea for America. Click the header for the story and links.

The big Republican idea to bring down health-care costs is to "let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines." Jon Chait has some commentary here, but I want to simplify a little bit.

Insurance is currently regulated by states. California, for instance, says all insurers have to cover treatments for lead poisoning, while other states let insurers decide whether to cover lead poisoning, and leaves lead poisoning coverage -- or its absence -- as a surprise for customers who find that they have lead poisoning. Here's a list (pdf) of which states mandate which treatments. (Click the header to go to the story to access this list).

The result of this is that an Alabama plan can't be sold in, say, Oregon, because the Alabama plan doesn't conform to Oregon's regulations. A lot of liberals want that to change: It makes more sense, they say, for insurance to be regulated by the federal government. That way the product is standard across all the states.

Conservatives want the opposite: They want insurers to be able to cluster in one state, follow that state's regulations and sell the product to everyone in the country. In practice, that means we will have a single national insurance standard. But that standard will be decided by South Dakota. Or, if South Dakota doesn't give the insurers the freedom they want, it'll be decided by Wyoming. Or whoever.

This is exactly what happened in the credit card industry, which is regulated in accordance with conservative wishes. In 1980, Bill Janklow, the governor of South Dakota, made a deal with Citibank: If Citibank would move its credit card business to South Dakota, the governor would literally let Citibank write South Dakota's credit card regulations. You can read Janklow's recollections of the pact here.

Citibank wrote an absurdly pro-credit card law, the legislature passed it, and soon all the credit card companies were heading to South Dakota. And that's exactly what would happen with health-care insurance. The industry would put its money into buying the legislature of a small, conservative, economically depressed state. The deal would be simple: Let us write the regulations and we'll bring thousands of jobs and lots of tax dollars to you. Someone will take it. The result will be an uncommonly tiny legislature in an uncommonly small state that answers to an uncommonly conservative electorate that will decide what insurance will look like for the rest of the nation.

As it happens, the Congressional Budget Office looked at a bill along these lines back in 2005. They found that the legislation wouldn't change the number of the uninsured and would save the federal government about $12 billion between 2007 and 2015. That is to say, it would do very little in the aggregate.

But those top-line numbers hid a more depressing story. The legislation "would reduce the price of individual health insurance coverage for people expected to have relatively low health care costs, while increasing the price of coverage for those expected to have relatively high health care costs," CBO said. "Therefore, CBO expects that there would be an increase in the number of relatively healthy individuals, and a decrease in the number of individuals expected to have relatively high cost, who buy individual coverage."

That is to say, the legislation would not change the number of insured Americans or save much money, but it would make insurance more expensive for the sick and cheaper for the healthy, and lead to more healthy people with insurance and fewer sick people with insurance. It's a great proposal if you don't ever plan to be sick, and if you don't mind finding out that your insurer doesn't cover your illness. And it's the Republican plan for health-care reform.


Click the header for the story and all links

By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, February 26, 2010; A17

I'm not sure what else was accomplished at Thursday's Blair House summit, but surely one result is that we learned what Republican "leaders" really think about health care and health insurance.

The most important thing Republicans think is that if there are Americans who can't afford the insurance policies that private insurers are willing to offer, then that's their problem -- there's nothing the government or the rest of us should do about it.

"We just can't afford this," said Eric Cantor, the fresh-faced House minority whip from Virginia, while John Boehner, the House Republican leader, called it "a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country." What they were referring to, of course, was the $125 billion a year that Obama and his Democratic allies propose to spend in subsidies so tens of millions of low-income households can afford to buy health insurance and handle the co-payments. But if paying for those subsidies means raising taxes on high-income households with lots of investment profits, or capping a tax break for people with extravagant health insurance, or charging a modest fee on medical device makers that refuse to moderate future price increases, then Republicans are agin' it.

That was their clear message Thursday. It was their message during all those years when their party controlled Congress and the White House and they did nothing and said nothing about the plight of the uninsured. And it is clear that they would continue to do nothing if, by some miracle, Democrats were to drop their plan or embark on a more modest approach. For Republicans, the uninsured remain invisible Americans, out of sight and out of mind.

Judging from Thursday's discussion, Republicans have much more sympathy for those who can afford to buy health insurance but are denied because of a preexisting medical condition. They oppose Democratic efforts to end this industry practice directly through regulation, preferring instead to refer those customers to special high-risk insurance pools where they would be guaranteed to find coverage.

In some versions of the high-risk pool, the cost of a policy would be so high that households with average incomes would have to set aside a third or even half of their income to pay for it. It takes a Republican to view this as a solution -- the equivalent of giving a starving man a coupon for $2 off his next dinner at Le Bernardin.

Or perhaps Republicans imagine high-risk pools that are subsidized sufficiently enough that the insurance policies are actually affordable. Unfortunately, the only way to finance such subsidies is through some sort of tax or fee, mostly one imposed on every insurance policy sold outside the high-risk pool. It's a fine idea but one that turns out to be the actuarial equivalent of what Democrats proposed in requiring that insurers charge pretty much the same premiums for everyone, with only modest variations based on age and health condition.

Another of the Republican "big ideas" was to make it possible for small businesses to collectively negotiate with insurance companies for better deals on health plans. But that's what Democrats have in mind with insurance exchanges that will do exactly that, not only for small businesses but also for the self-employed and workers at companies that don't offer health coverage. Although they never quite came out and said it, what apparently bothers Republicans about these insurance exchanges is that they would be overseen by governments -- the same state and federal governments that for decades have negotiated a wide selection of competitively priced plans for tens of millions of satisfied government workers, including members of Congress.

Then there's the issue of what minimal level of benefits a basic health insurance package should offer. Republicans, of course, used Thursday's forum to denounce the idea that such decisions should be made by Washington bureaucrats and politicians. But as my Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein points out, Republicans apparently would have no problem if those standards were to be set by bureaucrats and politicians in Nebraska, or North Dakota or whatever Republican state decided to offer itself up as the regulatory haven from which insurers could sell their policies nationwide.

To give them their due, Republicans did manage to raise some serious issues and make a few constructive suggestions in between their carefully choreographed talking points.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, among others, complained that the minimum standards set in the House and Senate bill weren't very minimal at all, but in fact exceeded the actuarial value of the average policy now sold in the individual and small-group markets -- and are certainly more generous than the high-deductible policies that have shown some success in restraining the annual growth in premiums. Why not, he asked, start with a more modest benefits package?

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan raised legitimate concerns about the way malpractice suits and excessive damage awards can cause physicians to practice defensive medicine, needlessly driving up the cost of health care.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma suggested using undercover agents to weed out the waste and fraud that he claimed were responsible for the fact that one of every three dollars in the Medicare and Medicaid programs is misspent.

And Sen. John McCain demanded that his former presidential rival renounce the special Medicaid funding formulas for Florida and Louisiana that were used to buy the support of those states' wavering senators.

What we didn't hear from Kyl, or Camp, or Coburn or McCain, however, was an offer to vote for a health reform plan if these problems were fixed and their ideas were incorporated. Without even the hint of such offers, there was little reason for a willing president and his unwilling allies to even consider serious compromise. Now the losers will be the American people, who could have surely benefited from such productive dealmaking.


Click the header for the article and all links.

By Shailagh Murray and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2010; A01

President Obama declared Thursday that the time for debate over health-care reform has come to an end, closing an unusual seven-hour summit with congressional leaders by sending a clear message that Democrats will move forward to pass major legislation with or without Republican support.

Democratic leaders face a heavy lift in reviving their stalled bill, a process that would involve intricate parliamentary maneuvering and carries no guarantee of success. But Obama signaled that if meaningful GOP cooperation does not materialize in the weeks ahead, he is ready to proceed without bipartisan support and risk the political consequences.

"The question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something?" Obama said. "And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for."

The remarkable session at Blair House ranged from dull to pointed as it revealed the deep divide between the two parties over health care. It was the same philosophical gulf that led to the collapse of bipartisan Senate negotiations last summer, and the primary reason Congress has resorted to changing the health-care system piecemeal, rather than in broad strokes, over the years.

Republicans said that they share Democrats' assessment that the health-care system is broken, but that they view the pending legislation assembled by Democrats as deeply flawed. They questioned fundamental elements of the Democrats' approach, including whether it is appropriate for the government to set standards for coverage or require individuals to buy insurance.

Obama played the role of active moderator for much of the event, calling on participants to speak and interjecting when he disagreed on specific points. He chided members of both parties for lapsing into campaign rhetoric, but he saved some of his most pointed jabs for Republicans, his voice heavy with sarcasm when he accused GOP speakers of using "good poll-tested language" to describe the Democratic plan as "government-run health care."

Some Republicans were more pleased with the session than others. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) complained as the GOP delegation left the White House that Democrats and Obama had consumed the vast majority of the airtime. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described it as "a good discussion," telling reporters, "I wouldn't call it a waste of time."

GOP lawmakers arrived at the table with two primary goals: to demonstrate that the party has its own health-care solutions, and to criticize the Democrats' proposal as big-government overreach.

"We Republicans care just as much about health care as the Democrats in this room," said Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the No. 2 House Republican. But he added: "There is a reason why we all voted no. And it does have to do with the philosophical difference that you point out."

During a break in the session, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) deemed a bipartisan deal "a long-shot" prospect, but he told reporters that Democrats are undaunted in their quest to deliver a bill to Obama's desk.

"If nothing comes of this, we're going to press forward," he said. "We just can't quit. This is a once-in-a-political-lifetime opportunity to deal with a health-care system that is really unsustainable."

Democrats are attempting a historic feat in seeking passage of a huge bill that aims to expand coverage to an additional 30 million people, reform insurance industry practices and curb rising health-care costs.

But polls show that voters are skeptical of the ambitious proposal, which carries a 10-year cost of roughly $900 billion and would institute the most far-reaching changes to the system since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.

During Thursday's session, both sides expressed regret about the way the debate has unfolded. What started nearly a year ago as a good-faith effort to find broad agreement quickly devolved into a partisan grudge match, marred by favors to secure votes and deals cut by the White House and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill with special-interest groups. As several Republicans noted, most key decisions were reached behind closed doors, a breach of Obama's campaign pledge to make health-care negotiations transparent.

"Both of us during the campaign promised change in Washington," Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said to Obama. "In fact, eight times you said that negotiations on health-care reform would be conducted with the C-SPAN cameras. I'm glad more than a year later that they are here."

If nothing else, the session was an attempt to bring an air of civility and openness to the debate. "Unfortunately, over the course of the year, despite all the hearings that took place and all the negotiations that took place, and people on both sides of the aisle worked long and hard on this issue, and you know, this became a very ideological battle," Obama said.

But he suggested that his hopes for bipartisan agreement are fading. "I don't know that those gaps can be bridged," he said. "It may be that at the end of the day, we come out here and everybody says, 'Well, you know, we have some honest disagreements.' "

The session allowed the parties to draw sharp contrasts that are likely to be echoed throughout the midterm election season. Republicans criticized Democrats for attempting to levy new fees and taxes on businesses to pay for their legislation. They depicted the Democratic proposal as a vast expansion of government authority, and they warned that consumers would have higher insurance premiums and fewer choices.

Democrats countered that health-care problems -- whether related to rising costs or barriers to coverage -- have grown so egregious that the government has no choice but to intervene.

The two parties did find accord in several limited realms. People should be allowed to buy insurance across state lines, lawmakers agreed, although Democrats want to set minimum standards that policies in all states would have to meet. They agreed that forming pools for uninsured people is a good way to lower premium costs. And they conceded that unless costs are contained, Medicare will be bankrupted and employers will stop offering coverage.

As the session concluded, Obama challenged Republicans to offer alternatives to the tax incentives and Medicaid expansion that Democrats have proposed for reducing the number of uninsured, and to the individual mandate they would establish to require people to buy coverage.

Although Obama opposed the mandate as a candidate, he said he concluded it is necessary to achieve another major goal: preventing insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

"I'd like the Republicans to do a little soul searching and find out are there some things that you'd be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance, and dealing seriously with the preexisting-condition issue," Obama told lawmakers.

Few Democrats expect the request to yield any breakthroughs. Senior congressional aides said Democratic leaders will assess the mood next week, after House and Senate lawmakers spend the weekend at home hearing from constituents. But rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers appeared to be warming to the idea of moving ahead on their own legislation, senior party officials said.

To pass their bill, Democrats must rely on a special budget process known as reconciliation. Under a plan being discussed by senior Democratic lawmakers, the House would approve the bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, along with compromise provisions that address their objections to the Senate legislation. The fixes would be written under reconciliation rules to prevent a GOP filibuster, allowing it to clear the Senate by a simple majority.

Republicans often used reconciliation in recent years when they controlled the Senate, but GOP leaders now cite the procedure as evidence that Democrats are prepared to manipulate Senate rules to muscle their bill through despite public opinion.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) implored Obama to "renounce this idea." But he received no assurance from the president.

"I don't need a poll to know that most of Republican voters are opposed to this bill and might be opposed to the kind of compromise we could craft," Obama said. "It would be very hard for you politically to do this."

Professor Obama schools lawmakers on health-care reform
By Dana Milbank
Friday, February 26, 2010; A01

Republicans had been hesitant to accept President Obama's invitation to participate in Thursday's White House health-care summit. Their hesitance turned out to be justified.

An equal number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers assembled around a table at Blair House, and each had a chance to speak during the seven-hour televised talkathon. But members of the opposition party may not have fully understood that they were stepping into Prof. Obama's classroom, and that they were to be treated like his undisciplined pupils.

Obama controlled the microphone and the clock, and he used both skillfully to limit the Republicans' time, to rebut their arguments and to always have the last word.

Among the first to have his knuckles rapped was Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). The 2008 Republican presidential nominee accused his former rival of "unsavory" dealmaking, of breaking his promise to put health-care negotiations on C-SPAN, of supporting a 2,400-page bill, of giving favors to lobbyists and special interests. He directed Obama to "go back to the beginning" with health-care reform.

"Let me just make this point, John," the president said when the tirade ended. "We're not campaigning anymore. The election's over." Teacher directed student to drop the "talking points" and "focus on the issues of how we actually get a bill done."

It's a safe bet that no minds were changed in that room Thursday, and it's not entirely clear that Obama was even trying to forge a compromise. Though advertised as a consensus-building opportunity, the summit served more as a moment for the president to tell Republicans, with the cameras rolling, why they're wrong and he's right.

The forum matched his lawyerly skills -- and, less flatteringly, his tendency to act like the smartest guy in the room. Prof. Obama ventured deep into the weeds of health-care policy to contest Republican claims, and, for one day at least, he regained control of the fractious student body that is the Congress.

The 40 lawmakers and administration officials, seated in squeaky chairs around the square, were to speak only when called on. After each talked, Obama would determine whether the speaker's point was a "legitimate argument."

While each of them had to call him "Mr. President," Obama, often waving an index finger, made sure to refer to each of them by their first name: "Thank you, Lamar. . . . We're going to have Nancy and Harry. . . . John, are you going to make the presentation yourself?"

If somebody went on too long, Obama cautioned the lawmaker to be "more disciplined." When Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) spoke about Medicare cuts, Obama cut him off. "I don't mean to interrupt," he said, but "if every speaker, at least on one side, is going through every provision and saying what they don't like, it's going to be hard for us to see if we can arrive at some agreements."

After several such moments, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke up. "Republicans have used 24 minutes; the Democrats, 52 minutes," he said.

Obama made McConnell look small in his chair. "You're right, there was an imbalance on the opening statements," he said, "because I'm the president."

The forum probably didn't alter the trajectory of health-care legislation, if only because few Americans could possibly have paid attention.

In between the flare-ups, the summit was often the kind of event only a member of the Party of NoDoz could enjoy. Republicans numbingly repeated their demand that Obama "start over." Democrats responded with their talking point that the parties are "not that far apart." Both sides trotted out stories of afflicted Americans, including a woman who said she couldn't afford dentures so she "wore her dead sister's teeth." And the vice president's idle brain coined a new Bidenism when he said of his fellow Americans: "I'm not sure what they think."

Yet there was something uplifting about Thursday's session. Sure, there was more posturing than in a typical yoga class, but lawmakers demonstrated themselves to be serious and knowledgeable leaders as they treated the nation to a discussion about expanding high-risk insurance pools, 60 percent actuarial values and the like. It couldn't hurt Americans to see their leaders arguing substantive points without scripts and attacks.

"Never have so many members of the House and Senate behaved so well for so long before so many television cameras," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) observed.

That's probably because their teacher carried a big rhetorical paddle.

After Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) accused Obama of trying to increase health-care premiums, Obama dismissed the "usual critique" of reform and told him that "this is an example of where we've got to get our facts straight."

When Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the two parties disagree about the question "Does Washington know best?" Obama shot back: "Anytime the question is phrased as 'Does Washington know better?' I think we're kind of tipping the scales. . . . It's a good talking point, but it doesn't actually answer the underlying question."

Spotting a huge stack of papers in front of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Obama preempted him: "Let me guess: That's the 2,400-page health-care bill." It was. "These are the kind of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation," the president said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in his turn, tried all the Republican buzzwords: "scrap this bill . . . bankrupt our country . . . dangerous experiment . . . government takeover of health care . . . new taxes . . . Medicare cuts . . . unconstitutional."

Obama shook his head. "John," he scolded, "every so often, we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points."

It was the Blair House equivalent of being ordered to wear the dunce cap.

22 February 2010

2009 National Environmental Scorecard

LCV's 2009 National Environmental Scorecard
Click the header for the scorecard.

Last year we saw great progress on a range of clean energy, environmental, and public health issues. Much of this success is directly related to the results of the 2008 election, when pro-environment majorities in both chambers of Congress were strengthened.
The most sweeping accomplishment was the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) by the House of Representatives in June.
How did your members of Congress vote on ACES and other critical environmental priorities? Find out in our just-released 2009 National Environmental Scorecard!
Click here to view our National Environmental Scorecard and see how your members of Congress measure up.
Looking back at the environmental votes of 2009, it has never been more clear that elections have consequences. Consider that each of the six new Senators endorsed by LCV in 2008 earned a perfect 100% in 2009. In sharp contrast, the six Senators they replaced had an average lifetime score of 23%.
In the House, the 22 LCV-endorsed members of the class of 2008 earned an average score of 90% in 2009, whereas the members they replaced had an average lifetime score of 34%.
The scope, magnitude and urgency of addressing the climate crisis and building a clean energy economy led us to take the extraordinary step of double scoring the House vote on final passage of ACES. However, there was also progress made on other key issues such as clean water, preservation of public lands, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation, chemical security and population issues.
Find out if your members of Congress voted to protect our planet, or sided with dirty polluters.

As always, you can count on LCV to continue to work for environmental policies that protect our planet for future generations. As our top priority, we will continue our efforts to ensure that the Senate finishes the excellent work started in the House by swiftly passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill. And we will continue to call on you to contact your elected officials to urge them to support this and other critical legislation in 2010 and beyond.
We also ask that you help educate others about how Congress scored on the environment. After checking your Members' scores, please spread the word by forwarding this to your friends and family. And be sure to stay on top of our work by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you,

Gene Karpinski
League of Conservation Voters

20 February 2010


More interesting than the fuding of the Tea Party is who they are associating with...check out the story in the March-April issue of Mother Jones 'Age Of Treason'. Oath Keepers, American Liberty Alliance, Gun Owners of America, National 912 Project, Three Percenters, Committees of Safety, American Resistance Movement, Get Out Of Our House, Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Georgia republican reps Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, Dick Armey, Glenn Beck, ex-Army chief Maj. Gen. Albert Stubblebine, Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, Alex Jones, and Ralph Reed Jr. These groups and individuals are not to be taken lightly, because they are as great a threat to our Republic as any from outside our borders. Organizations like DFA,, BoldProgressives, Credo Action and others should make a real effort to educate the country to who is funding the Tea Party movement and their associates and organize a sustained campaign to boycot these companies. Click the header to go to the story, related stories and comments.

by Peter Overby
February 19, 2010 A nagging question in the Tea Party movement has surfaced again: Who's actually paying the bills? Some Tea Party leaders announced earlier this month that they're forming a fundraising corporation. Its goal is to raise money from other corporations and rich individuals. But they set it up so it doesn't have to disclose who those donors are.

The head of the Memphis Tea Party is a burly businessman named Mark Skoda — a forceful presence on the national Tea Party scene.

And just as forceful at the Tea Party convention in Nashville, Tenn., where he held a press conference to roll out the new fundraising operation: the Ensuring Liberty Corp., a tax-exempt 501(c)(4), which would be followed by the establishment of the Ensuring Liberty Political Action Committee.

The PAC would be a normal political committee, following the contribution limits and full disclosure requirements of federal election law.

The 501(c)(4) is another story.

Skoda told reporters about the significance of having that tax-exempt status.

"As you know, election law allows 501(c)(4)s to raise and recruit funds that allow us to go ahead and encourage people to participate in the PAC. It allows us a greater latitude in which to execute our strategy," he said.

And he made a pledge.

"We will do that in a systematic way, with transparency that is obviously lacking in too much of the political process today," Skoda said.

No Limits

But a more complete description of the fundraising rules for a 501(c)(4) like the Ensuring Liberty Corp. would go like this: It can raise as much as it can get — no limits — from wealthy donors and from corporations.

And there's no disclosure. No possible blowback against the Ensuring Liberty Corp. for taking the money, or against a corporate donor for giving it.

Skoda didn't respond Thursday to messages left on his office, home and cell phones.

But the Ensuring Liberty Corp. wouldn't be the first ally of the Tea Party movement to cross paths with big money.

FreedomWorks, headed by lobbyist and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, has said about 15 or 20 percent of its money comes from corporations.

And Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, has long been rumored to be financed by David Koch, of the family that owns Koch Industries. That's one of the biggest privately held companies in America, and the family has a long history of underwriting conservative causes.

David Koch confirmed the rumors at an AFP convention last fall. "Five years ago my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity. And it's beyond my wildest dreams how the AFP has grown into this enormous organization," David Koch said, according to audio from the online news site The Washington Independent.

AFP spokeswoman Amy Payne says corporations are its smallest group of donors, after individuals and foundations.

Anger At Lobbyists

If corporations were fueling a powerful new grass-roots movement, would it matter to people in the movement?

Joseph Lowndes, a political scientist at the University of Oregon, isn't so sure it would. He has written about the Tea Parties and other conservative movements.

The us-against-them anger of Tea Partiers is aimed mostly at government. But Lowndes says he sees one important part of corporate activity that could raise their hackles.

"Corporations don't seem to me to be the thing that really gets them in a lather in the same way," he says. "Except for they do see, in their kind of, you know, partly right-on and partly conspiratorial understanding of the ways in which lobbyists work in Washington."

The corporate lobbyists that worked angles in the health care debate, for instance.

But for now, the only people likely to be upset by corporate funding for the movement would be the ones who have already dug in against Tea Party groups and are spoiling for a fight.
Related NPR Stories
Two Views Of The Tea Party's Appeal Feb. 6, 2010
Tea Party Convention Kicks Off In Nashville Feb. 4, 2010
Tea Party Star Leads Movement On Her Own Terms Feb. 2, 2010


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Students: Prove Yourself

Greenpeace is looking for the next generation of student leaders who are ready to stand up and protect the planet. Are you up for the challenge? If you’re a current undergraduate student and passionate about protecting the environment, we want YOU to join us.

The Greenpeace Organizing Term is a semester of advanced training for student activists. We’ve just opened our Summer ’10 and Fall ’10 applications. An opportunity of a lifetime awaits you, please don’t wait. Spaces fill up quickly so apply today.

Nuclear Power: A Dirty and Dangerous Distraction

President Barack Obama announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the United States in nearly three decades. Greenpeace is extremely disappointed in the President’s decision to back nuclear power. It’s a dirty and dangerous distraction from the clean energy future he promised America.

Wall Street will not back nuclear power. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office has already determined that these loans stand a greater than 50% chance of default. But it appears the President is only listening to nuclear industry lobbyists.

Antigua, Be a Whale-Friendly Nation

Year after year, Japan lobbies to persuade the 88 countries that make up the International Whaling Commission to vote against the whaling moratorium. They will try anything to reestablish commercial whaling.

But, thanks to public pressure and the fear of lost tourism revenue, in 2008 the Commonwealth of Dominica announced they would be a whale conservation nation and no longer vote with Japan. Now the islands of Antigua and Barbuda are on the cusp of making the same decision.

Please take action and encourage the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda to do the right thing and vote for the whales, not against them.

Protect Bering Sea Canyons

When members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council looked out of their hotel and around the meeting rooms, they were reminded of the deep sea canyons in the Bering Sea that they're failing to protect. Greenpeace cleverly reminded them on newspapers, napkins, pens and t-shirts.

Last week, the NPFMC met in Portland, Oregon to discuss whether any new protections are needed within the approximately one million square miles of the ocean managed by the Council. The Council is dominated by fishing interests and, historically, management has favored industrial fishing over protecting the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Greenpeace is advocating for marine reserves. It’s the only way we can save the Bering Sea before it’s too late and the last remaining coral is finally destroyed by a factory trawler.

Whaling should be on trial, not the people opposing it

It's been almost two years since the politically motivated arrest of Junichi and Toru — the Greenpeace activists known as the Tokyo Two — for their roles in exposing the corruption and lies woven into the fabric that holds the whaling industry together. As the trial began this week, Greenpeace USA was one of many offices worldwide supporting the Tokyo Two at a Japanese embassy. We delivered new information to Japanese officials and demanded that the Japanese government respect the civil and political rights of its citizens, Junichi and Toru.

Before the verdict has even been rendered, a working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council has already ruled that the defendants' human rights have been breached by the Japanese justice system. A quarter of a million individuals, dozens of legal experts and human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have all expressed equal concern.

Show your support for Junichi and Toru by taking action today. Tell the Japanese Embassy that you stand beside Junichi and Toru as co-defendants.

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