Saturday, December 17, 2005

They're making a watch list ...

... checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice ...

Big Brother is coming to town:
NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.

... The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.

"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

Plainly, this kind of anecdote underscores the ease with which programs aimed strictly at stopping terrorists (or those with a "clear link" to terrorists) can be expanded into areas having little to do with terrorism.

And that really is the issue, isn't it, with the the program uncovered in the recent revelations about the Bush administration's surveillance of American citizens through the National Security Agency? (Though it must be pointed out that, for now, it's difficult to ascertain whether the UMass surveillance was conducted under the same program as the NSA work.)

This raises really significant constitutional issues, and raises the immediate question of whether the Bush administration is intentionally provoking a constitutional crisis. Today's analysis in the Washington Post points out:
Bush's constitutional argument, in the eyes of some legal scholars and previous White House advisers, relies on extraordinary claims of presidential war-making power. Bush said yesterday that the lawfulness of his directives was affirmed by the attorney general and White House counsel, a list that omitted the legislative and judicial branches of government. On occasion the Bush administration has explicitly rejected the authority of courts and Congress to impose boundaries on the power of the commander in chief, describing the president's war-making powers in legal briefs as "plenary" -- a term defined as "full," "complete," and "absolute."

... Congress asserted itself in the 1970s, imposing oversight requirements and passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said FISA "expressly made it a crime for government officials 'acting under color of law' to engage in electronic eavesdropping 'other than pursuant to statute.' " FISA described itself, along with the criminal wiretap statute, as "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted."

No president before Bush mounted a frontal challenge to Congress's authority to limit espionage against Americans. In a Sept. 25, 2002, brief signed by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, the Justice Department asserted "the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority."

The brief made no distinction between suspected agents who are U.S. citizens and those who are not. Other Bush administration legal arguments have said the "war on terror" is global and indefinite in scope, effectively removing traditional limits of wartime authority to the times and places of imminent or actual battle.

"There is a lot of discussion out there that we shouldn't be dividing Americans and foreigners, but terrorists and non-terrorists," said Gordon Oehler, a former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center who served on last year's special commission assessing U.S. intelligence.

By law, according to University of Chicago scholar Geoffrey Stone, the differences are fundamental: Americans have constitutional protections that are enforceable in court whether their conversations are domestic or international.

Bush's assertion that eavesdropping takes place only on U.S. calls to overseas phones, Stone said, "is no different, as far as the law is concerned, from saying we only do it on Tuesdays."

Michael J. Woods, who was chief of the FBI's national security law unit when Bush signed the NSA directive, described the ongoing program as "very dangerous." In the immediate aftermath of a devastating attack, he said, the decision was a justifiable emergency response. In 2006, "we ought to be past the time of emergency responses. We ought to have more considered views now. . . . We have time to debate a legal regime and what's appropriate."

Bush already has appeared to declare himself beyond the law on numerous fronts, most notoriously on his attempts to ignore the Geneva Conventions regarding torture. It is not just a recurring theme: It's a standard MO. "Very dangerous," indeed.

You know, I was around when most Americans realized that Richard Nixon was a threat to the nation's well-being, and I remember what happened then. I don't think it will happen to George W. Bush, but I thought that about Nixon, too.

Presidential powers

Atrios and Digby have it exactly right regarding the broader ramifications of the recent revelations that President Bush ordered domestic spying on Americans without any kind of oversight or review: Bush almost certainly broke the law.

But this is perfectly in keeping with a pattern of power acquisition this administration demonstrated early on, and has maintained steadfastly throughout, particularly in its decision to invade Iraq, as well as its expansions of executive power in the form of military tribunals and "enemy combatant" declarations. Indeed, we'd had hints of the administration's animosity to limits on such surveillance all along.

It all brings back something I wrote almost three years ago:
Joan Didion makes a noteworthy point:

"I made up my mind," he had said in April, "that Saddam needs to go." This was one of many curious, almost petulant statements offered in lieu of actually presenting a case. I've made up my mind, I've said in speech after speech, I've made myself clear. The repeated statements became their own reason: "Given all we have said as a leading world power about the necessity for regime change in Iraq," James R Schlesinger, who is now a member of Richard Perle's Defence Policy Board, told The Washington Post in July, "our credibility would be badly damaged if that regime change did not take place".

This encapsulates Bush's entire approach to governance. In Bush's view, the president has -- by virtue of holding the office, even without the actual mandate of the voters -- almost godlike powers, able to decide the fate of entire nations by virtue of his election, or in this case, installment by court fiat. (It's becoming clear why they hated Bill Clinton so much -- liberals aren't supposed to possess such power.)

Or, as Bush told Bob Woodward: "I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

This approach is clear not merely in such brusque asides as "Who cares what you think?", but also in the administration's refusal to hand over documents related to Enron and Halliburton's influences in the Oval Office, as well as a host of domestic issues ranging from the environment to economic and tax policies. It also plays a major role in Bush's messianic militarism.

Most of all, it's an important part of the administration's aggressive acquisition of new and wide-ranging powers for the executive branch. Most of this is being masterminded by Solicitor General Ted Olson, who has been making it his mission since the mid-'80s, when he worked for Reagan's Justice Department, to overturn the losses of executive power that came with the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s.

But the powers this administration has been acquiring go well beyond even that range (much of which had to do with executive privilege and open governance). They now extend into entirely new areas, wrought mainly by Bush's "Military Order" that allows the administration to arrest and detain American citizens as "enemy combatants" without counsel or even notification of arrest -- powers that appear to have been dreamed up by Kafka, but in fact were a product of the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II (I hope to have more available soon about that point in an article I've written).

The administration's assertion of these powers flows out of Bush's godlike view of himself, and his minions' simultaneous promotion of that view. That was especially clear in Olson's explanation for the Washington Post (in a Dec. 2 story by Charles Lane titled, "In Terror War, 2nd Track for Suspects," which is no longer available online) why Bush, and not the courts, should be given these powers:

"At the end of the day in our constitutional system, someone will have to decide whether that [decision to designate someone an enemy combatant] is a right or just decision," Olson said. "Who will finally decide that? Will it be a judge, or will it be the president of the United States, elected by the people, specifically to perform that function, with the capacity to have the information at his disposal with the assistance of those who work for him?"

Of course, Ted -- who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court -- well knows that to hold the presidency, one needs not even be actually elected.

One need only have an unquenchable thirst for power. Perhaps the most dangerous such thirst in American history.

And looking more dangerous all the time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Minutemen's father figure

Suzy Buchanan and David Holthouse of the Southern Poverty Law Center went a-digging into the personal history of Minuteman leader Chris Simcox, and their final report reveals plenty of troubling information.

The portrait of Simcox that emerges is of a paranoid self-promoter who sees himself as an overlooked genius finally coming into his own. He also is prone to extremely unstable behavior:
Court records obtained by the Center's Intelligence Project show Simcox's second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar, filed an emergency appeal in September 2001 to obtain full custody of their teenage son because she feared that Simcox had suffered a mental breakdown and was dangerous.

Dunbar declined to be interviewed for this article, but her sworn affidavits speak for themselves. In one, Dunbar testified that throughout their 10-year marriage, Simcox was prone to sudden, violent rages.

"He once took a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill himself," she testified. "When he was angry, he broke furniture, car windows, he banged his head against the wall repeatedly and punched things."

Dunbar said that when their son was 4 years old, Simcox slapped him so hard that a mark remained on his face for two days. Another time, she testified, she grabbed her young son in her arms and jumped out a window because Simcox was throwing furniture at them.

After such episodes, she said, Simcox would become despondent. "He would stare at walls, mumbling to himself." In the affidavits, Dunbar said she repeatedly pressured Simcox to seek professional help and even tried to have him hospitalized. But he persistently refused treatment.

"Eventually," she said, "the only thing I could do was file for divorce."

Simcox and Dunbar initially shared custody of their son. There was no legal dispute until shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when Dunbar suddenly filed a flurry of emergency appeals.

"While Chris has always been prone to strong opinions and ranting behavior, this last episode has gone even farther," she told the court. "I am convinced he has had some kind of mental lapse and I am now, more than ever, afraid for my son to be in Chris' care."

Dunbar grew frightened after Simcox left her a series of bizarre voicemail messages beginning that Sept. 13, in which he went on angry diatribes about the Constitution, patriotism, and impending nuclear attacks on Los Angles, and talked about training their 15-year-old son in the use of firearms.

"I will begin teaching him the art of protecting himself with weapons," Simcox said in one recorded message he left for Dunbar. "I purchased another gun. I have more than a few weapons, and I intend on teaching my son how to use them." Simcox added, "I will no longer trust anyone in this country. My life has changed forever, and if you don't get that, you are brainwashed like everybody else."

In phone conversations with his son that his ex-wife recorded and submitted to the court as evidence of Simcox's mental instability, he challenged the boy to become "a man and a real American."

"You better stop playing baseball, buddy, and you better do something real, 'cause life will never be the same," Simcox thundered. "I'm going to go down to the Mexican border and sign up for the government for border patrol to protect the borders of the country that I love. You hear how serious I am."

It's also quite clear that Simcox is motivated less by real concerns about border security than about the influx of Latinos into the United States:
In January 2003, while on patrol with Civil Homeland Defense, Simcox was arrested by federal park rangers for illegally carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun in a national park. Also in Simcox's possession at the time of that arrest, according to police records, were a document entitled "Mission Plan," a police scanner, two walkie-talkies, and a toy figure of Wyatt Earp on horseback.

Two months later, in a speech to the California Coalition on Immigration Reform, a hate group whose leader, Barbara Coe, routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages," Simcox offered a dire warning to his audience.

"Take heed of our weapons because we're going to defend our borders by any means necessary," he said. "There's something very fishy going on at the border. The Mexican army is driving American vehicles -- but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops."

Of illegal immigrants, Simcox added: "They're trashing their neighborhoods, refusing to assimilate, standing on street corners, jeering at little girls walking on their way to school."

He also has been known to inflate his resume:
"When I'm asked by reporters if I'm a racist, I tell them, 'Why don't you go ask my black ex-wife and my biracial children and the members of the racial diversity committee I chaired whether I'm a racist?'" he said at the October conference.

Simcox, evidently, was never the chair of his school's diversity committee. Even more disturbing, however, is what comes next:
"When they ask me, 'Well, what do you have to say to people who call you a racist?' I come back at them with, 'What do you have to say to people who call you a child molester?'"

That's a strange rhetorical device given the accusations leveled at Simcox in the summer of 1998, when his 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage -- prior to his union with Dunbar -- came to live with him in Los Angeles.

In separate interviews with the Intelligence Report, two of Simcox's former colleagues at Wildwood and his first ex-wife gave the same account. They said that Simcox helped his daughter get a job babysitting for a Wildwood School employee and that one night, Simcox's daughter showed up unexpectedly at her employer's house, visibly upset, alleging that her father had just attempted to sexually molest her.

"He tried to molest our daughter when he was intoxicated," said Deborah Crews, Simcox's first ex-wife and the girl's mother. "When she ran out, he tried to say he was just giving her a leg massage and she got the wrong idea."

Contacted by the Report, Simcox refused to answer four direct questions about the molestation allegations. "I would never answer those questions to you. You can't ask those questions," he said. "You're on a witch hunt and you're trying to discredit our movement, which is to secure the borders. ... My personal life has nothing to do with anything that goes on here."

No charges were filed against Simcox, but Crews said she and her daughter immediately broke off all contact with him.

"He's a drastic, chaotic, very dangerous guy," said Crews. "I'm surprised he hasn't shot anybody yet. I see him on TV and I have to turn if off, because it makes me sick to see him getting all this attention."

If this is someone's idea of the leader of a "neighborhood watch," I'd be watching my neighborhood very closely indeed.

Koufax time

The fine folks at Wampum are asking for nominations for the annual Koufax Awards. I've been exceptionally fortunate the past couple of years to win for Best Series. I don't think I'm likely to keep a streak like that going: the competition this year in all the categories seems tougher than ever. Which is a great thing.

This year, I'd just like to remind everyone to be sure to pitch in. At the same link above, you'll find the Wampum "Make a Donation" button on the right-hand side. Click it and give.

Contests and quizzes

Say, if anyone's interested, you can go vote in the annual Weblog Awards, which are run by Wizbang, so I take them with about a mine of salt. Orcinus is a finalist in the Best of the Top 250 category.

I normally ignore those silly online quizzes that wind up giving you a chance to pigeonhole yourself along various themes. But I was kind of intrigued by the "What is Your World View" quiz at QuizFarm. Here's what it came up with for me. It's surprisingly accurate:

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
created with

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Attacking science

The read of the day is Chris Mooney's review of the most recent bit of Regnery Press mendacity to hit the bookshelves, namely, Tom Bethel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.

The book, evidently, is nothing but a compendium of right-wing anti-science bullshit, and Mooney details the multitude of problems with it. His conclusion:
Overall, then, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science is a very saddening and depressing read. While they have undoubtedly made mistakes, and certainly nourish individual biases just like all the rest of us, scientists in universities and in government have generally worked very hard and have--thanks to the scientific process--come up with a great deal of important and relevant knowledge. But along comes someone like Bethell and, in a book that's likely to be read by a lot of people, radically distorts and undermines their conclusions and findings, while whipping up resentment of the scientific community among rank-and-file political conservatives. That Bethell is finding such a ready audience underscores the severe threat to the role of science in modern American life and, most importantly, in political decision-making.

So, what is it about Regnery that makes it such a repository of fraudulent writing?

I suppose it could have something to do with its origins.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Comments policy

I've had a pretty open comments policy for most of the existence of this blog. Generally, I stick to a handful of restrictions:

-- No libelous or threatening remarks.

-- No vicious, intimidating or misogynist attacks on other posters.

-- No off-topic posts.

Having had a recent infestation of naked racists in my comments, however, I've decided I will no longer let these boards become a sounding board for racists to trumpet their propaganda. I'm willing to allow reasonable discussion, but not overt racism, sexism, or homophobia intended merely to antagonize.

So consider this a new rule:

-- No blatant racism, misogyny, or religious, ethnic, or sexual bigotry.

Posters who do so will be deleted and banned.

Those racists who have posted here in recent days have been deleted and banned.

Blind spots

What's missing from this picture?

Glenn Reynolds posts the following:
MORE SYDNEY BEACH RIOTS: It's like Paris Down Under.

Hint: The same thing was notably missing at Hugh Hewitt, who headlined his link to the coverage of the suburban riots thus:
Will the French Riots Move to Australia?

Well, just in case these fellows, or their readers, need a clue, here's what's missing from their picture of the situation in Australia:

See, at first glance, Reynolds' post seems not to make any sense: How could the white riots that broke out Sunday in Sydney somehow resemble the riots in France, which involved young men of Middle Eastern descent who have not been allowed to assimilate into French society? Surely Reynolds doesn't think that angry white Aussie skinheads are analogous to angry French Muslims?

Or is he suggesting, like Lucianne Goldberg (via Atrios) that this is nothing but a "WASP riot" -- and thereby, somehow, not merely justifiable, but lauadble, something long overdue?

Ah, but he's not, you see: The link in Reynolds' post takes you to a Pajamas Media report regarding the reactive riots targeting whites in Muslim neighborhoods.

In fact, it's clear that those are the only riots that are of interest to both Reynolds and Hewitt. Nowhere on their sites is there any mention whatsoever of the large-scale white race riots that began Sunday and are now spreading elsewhere in Australia. You know, the riots that are directly the cause of the suburban riots they're all worked up about.

Their positions seem to be like Michelle Malkin's: If whites riot against Middle Easterners, and some Middle Eastern neighborhood respond violently, then the fault obviously lies with the Middle Easterners. All the racial friction, it's clear, is a product of those evil Muslims.

At least, that seems to be what they're saying, but it's hard to say for sure, because they're all incredibly incoherent.

Now, before anyone gets their shorts in a bunch, let's be clear: I'm not suggesting that any of these fine right-wing hacks are racists. As I explained at length the last time out, I reserve the term "racist" (or accusations of a similar nature) for people or organizations who actively engage in the denigration of people of other races, and who specifically trade in hateful talk and discriminatory actions toward them.

The issue here is something I talk about a lot at this blog: The big blind spots so many Americans -- particularly right-wing Americans -- have when it comes to the wellsprings of violence in the world: They are almost congenitally incapable of seeing right-wing violence when it rises up and slaps them on the forehead.

Instead, they wind up trying to avoid the subject by logical convolutions that produce utter incoherence of this kind. (That was, after all, the very point I was making when Reynolds last decided I was accusing him of racism.)

So, just in case there's any question: there are no doubt all kinds of racial tensions in Australia these days, but the mass violence that has broken out in recent days is being fueled by right-wing whites, many of them being led by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

After all, it was the right-wing Australia First party that was handing out booze and anti-immigrant propaganda at the beach to help fuel the riots. And it was a right-wing radio talk-show host who was helping foment the riots over the public airwaves, rather like what we saw in Rwanda:
The riot was still three days away and Sydney's highest-rating breakfast radio host had a heap of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners along. "Alan, it's not just a few Middle Eastern bastards at the weekend, it's thousands. Cronulla is a very long beach and it's been taken over by this scum. It's not a few causing trouble. It's all of them."

Sunday's trouble did not come out of the blue. It was brewing all week on talkback radio — particularly on 2GB.

Radio doesn't get much grimmer than Alan Jones' efforts in the days before the Cronulla riot. He was dead keen for a demo at the beach — "a rally, a street march, call it what you will. A community show of force."

He assured his huge audience he "understood" why that famous text message went out and he read it right through again on air. "Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the Shire get down to North Cronulla to support the Leb and wog bashing day ..."

Daily he cautioned his listeners not to take the law into their own hands, but he warmed to listeners who had exactly that on their minds.

Last Thursday Charlie rang to suggest all junior footballers in the Shire gather on the beach to support the lifesavers. "Good stuff, good stuff," said Jones.

"I tell you who we want to encourage, Charlie, all the Pacific Island people because, you want to know something, they don't take any nonsense. They are proud to be here — all those Samoans and Fijians. They love being here. And they say, 'Uh huh, uh huh. You step out of line, look out.' And, of course, cowards always run, don't they?"

When John called on Tuesday to bluntly recommend vigilante action — "If the police can't do the job, the next tier is us" — Jones did not dissent. "Yeh. Good on you, John." And when he then offered a maxim his father had picked up during the war — "Shoot one, the rest will run" — the broadcaster roared with laughter. "No, you don't play Queensberry's rules. Good on you, John."

Unsurprisingly, with text messages and e-mails stirring the pot, the violence continues to escalate, with more whites attacking more Middle Easterners elsewhere:
Elsewhere, Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported Tuesday that a family of Middle Eastern origin was attacked in the western city of Perth by a group of 11 white men, who threw eggs, shouted abuse and kicked their garage door.

The 42-year-old father, who did not want to be identified, said his family was badly shaken by Monday night's incident.

"I don't know if we were mistakenly identified," he said. "What I definitely know is it was something linked to the escalation in New South Wales."

In Adelaide, a taxi driver of Lebanese origin, Hossein Kazemi, was injured when he was punched by a passenger during an incident Tuesday.

"There was some sort of discrepancy and argument over the fare," a South Australian police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. "Apparently during the assault, the victim, because he was of Lebanese origin, was taunted about the stuff in Sydney and Cronulla beach."

More violence seemed likely. New text messages circulated Monday, one of which called for more fighting next weekend: "We'll show them! It's on again Sunday."

Another message warned of possible retaliation from Middle Eastern groups.

"The Aussies will feel the full force of the Arabs as one -- 'brothers in arms' unite now," the message said.

Somehow, I get the feeling that our friends on the right will find a way to blame the immigrants for the problems. Because that's what blind spots do to you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Civil rights in Toledo

[Jeffrey Willis of the Toledo Journal being arrested. Photo by Isis.]

Dealing with neo-Nazis who hold a rally in your community, as I explained last time out, requires a combination of common sense -- keeping the Nazis confined to a single rally area that can be readily secured by police is fundamental -- and finely tuned sensitivities: as important as it may be to secure the free-speech rights of those neo-Nazis, it's equally important to let the larger community exercise its free-speech rights as well.

After bolloxing up the first step last time, Toledo officials appeared this last weekend to have that part figured out, finally: Toledo made it through the weekend without a repeat of the riots that struck the last time.
Surrounded by an undaunted show of police force, the National Socialist Movement's hour-long rally at Government Center began 43 minutes late and ended with 30 arrests, including three news media photographers.

About 170 observers and counterprotesters stood in front of the TARTA bus station on Jackson Street, separated by a row of riot-clad officers, a median with trees, and a line of barriers. They held signs against hate and chanted for the 63 neo-Nazis, some in uniform, to leave.

Authorities reported no injuries or damage after the rally. They and the neo-Nazis said the event was a success.

"Today, it was law enforcement that hit a home run," Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said yesterday.

Bill White, a National Socialist spokesman from Roanoke, Va., said participants included members of the Ku Klux Klan, Retaliator Skinhead Nation, and the World Church of the Creator.

"I think it went very well, extremely well," he said, despite technical difficulties with a public address system partway through the rally that prompted the group to use a bullhorn.

Yes, it went very well for the neo-Nazis. They were able to put on their show at all kinds of taxpayer expense.

However, it didn't go so well for people who wanted to make known their opposition to the National Socialist Movement's message. It's clear that police ran roughshod over the free-speech rights of average Toledoans in the process:
Terry Lodge, a Toledo lawyer and longtime civil rights activist, said he was upset by what he perceived as police harassment. He noted how people constantly were brushed back by police horses. He also was disturbed by how some people seemed to have been arrested for being too vocal or animated.

"What you have in Toledo is martial law for a day," he said. "The whole business of shoving people back pre-emptively is wrong."

One outsider in the crowd agreed that security went too far.

"It's clearly police intimidation against the people of Toledo," said Shanta Driver of Detroit, who identified herself as a member of the National Women's Rights Organizing Committee.

J. Eaton, 26, of North Toledo said he saw police officers arrest a man after overhearing someone say that it appeared there was "something brewing" between him and others. "They're just abusing their power," Mr. Eaton said.

John Jackson, 21, of West Toledo said the neo-Nazis can spew all the rhetoric they want as long as they don't incite rioting in a black neighborhood again. "Just stay out of the 'hood," he said.

These were not just isolated reports. Throughout the city, activists were angered by police tactics, and with good cause:
"I thought they were heavy-handed, and we thought their use of horses was very intimidating," said Perrysburg resident Kathy Baldoni, who helped organize The Toledo-Area Peace Team.

"Police seemed to arrest people without reason. They were clearly not doing anything that would have provoked an arrest."

Sheriff's deputies from several different Ohio counties rode on horseback through the crowd and pulled out protesters. At one point, a peace-team member, who refused to give her name, laid down in the path of a horse but was not arrested.

Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said all arrests were justified.

He also said that law-enforcement officials did not want the peace team to attend the event. "I didn't particularly want them to be here," Chief Navarre said. "Numbers create problems for law enforcement."

The Michigan Peace Team joined the Toledo-Area Peace Team at the rally. Members stood poised throughout the crowd, and often pleaded with police officers not to arrest protesters.

A Toledo police officer, who refused to give his name, threatened to arrest several peace team members if they interfered with an arrest.

As always, the indefatigable History Mike's Musings was on the scene in Toledo. He reported from the scene about the police's hair-trigger responses, including the arrests of news photographers like Jeffrey Willis:
Police arrested two photographers at the beginning of the NSM rally in Toledo today.

One was Jeff Willis, of the Toledo Journal. I have not found out what prompted the police to arrest second, unidentified photographer.

I saw Jeff get bumped and step beyond the orange-and-white barricade; perhaps that is why he was arrested. As far as I could see, he was just doing his job.

Mike also has described the absurd costs the Nazis are inflicting on the city of Toledo -- costs that will no doubt escalate with the legal litigation bound to result from the trampling of citizens' free-speech rights.

Mike, in fact, makes a really important point regarding those rights:
I witnessed people being arrested who did not appear to have committed a crime, and received reports of people arrested for sitting in cars trying to warm up outside of the protest zone.

The costs of the freedoms of Toledoans (and those coming from other areas to protest the Nazis) were startling. As repugnant as it may seem to protect the rights of the Nazis to free speech, what about everyone else?

A protester that I interviewed on Saturday at the rally put it bluntly.

"They [the NSM] walked right out the front door of our city hall to shout their hate messages," said Danita Watkins of Toledo. "It's just like the city rolled out the red carpet for them. They are up there acting like they own the city now."

Should a group of people, under the banner of free speech, be allowed to hold an entire city hostage? Should average citizens be denied their right to free speech just because the city believes there might be unrest?

And what if this event had occurred in warm weather, instead of in single-digit wind chills? I would be willing to bet that there would have been four times as many protesters, both inside and outside the "official" protest zone. How many detainees would it take before people would begin to think that the costs in terms of civil liberties to the general public outweigh those of the neo-Nazis?

I don't think the city of Toledo intended to send the message about whose rights are more important that they just sent.

Because it's not a message any responsible civic entity should want to send.

The problem

OK, so thousands of white thugs go on a racist rampage in Sydney ...

... so Michelle Malkin wonders if Sydney is "the next Paris".

In other words, when Middle Easterners riot in Paris, they are the problem.

But when whites go on a riot attacking Middle Easterners in Sydney, it is, once again, the Middle Easterners who are the problem.

I think Michelle Malkin has a problem.

[Edited to reflect the issue is racial, not religious.]