Friday, November 30, 2007


-- by Dave

I'm pleased to announce that in addition to my weekly posts at The Big Con, I'm now going to have a weekly slot at Firedoglake. Jane's about to kick off a redesign/reimagination of the site that I think is going to take FDL to another level, so I'm excited to be aboard. I've been posting there awhile off and on, but it's nice to have a regular gig.

Look for me on Thursdays at 6 p.m. FDL time. My inaugural post went up last night. It's about how immigrant-bashing at the higher levels of movement conservatism play out on the ground in the shape of hate crimes:
If it weren’t already crystal clear that the right-wing approach to the immigration debate has had the effect of infusing movement conservatism with the toxic sewage of the racist right — all the way to the highest levels — last night’s GOP presidential debate drove the point home rather vividly.

Rick Perlstein surveyed the damage and acidly observed:

The Republican YouTube debate was an astonishment. Not a single second on the economy, which may well be on the verge of collapse, with the middle class potentially more vulnerable than its been at any point since the 1920s. And yet, as my colleague Bill Scher points out, twenty-three minutes of ranting about the dusky hordes invading our shores. Is a great American political party really going to base its entire presidential appeal on scapegoating the Other?

Question answers itself, I guess.

The problem, however, isn’t limited to the Republican candidates — what the debate last night reflected was how thoroughly the discourse has become infected with this sewage. Those candidates wouldn’t have been careering off the rails on immigration if they didn’t believe that was what their voters wanted to hear.

We can object to this kind of scapegoating on logical grounds, but we should also be really outraged on a moral level as well. It’s important to remember, after all, that this rhetoric manifests itself in the real world as a much more visceral and vicious kind of hate — most especially as hate crimes.

Enjoy. And be sure to tune in weekly.

Ron Paul's nativism

-- by Dave

Greg Sargent at TPM has put up a Ron Paul flyer being distributed in South Carolina (naturally) on the immigration issue. The above image was especially bizarre.

I'm not sure how "amnesty" is "trampling the Constitution," but I do believe that trying to take away children's traditional constitutional rights, enjoyed by generations of Americans, as an answer to it in fact tramples those rights.

And how, exactly, is the issue of "amnesty" associated with birthright citizenship anyway? How would taking that citizenship right away affect "amnesty" -- unless you just see the prospect of giving any Latinos citizenship at all noxious, and see amending the Constitution as part of a larger program to deny them?

Paul isn't just being anti-illegal immigration here -- he's being generically anti-immigrant. Check out the sixth step of his six-part plan:

It's not just allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a path to citizenship they oppose -- it's any expansion of immigration at all, even the logical expansion of immigration to accommodate labor and other economic demands that would make the system actually function properly instead of creating a permanent underclass of "illegal aliens."

Note also: the "60 million" figure that Paul cites reflects immigration over a 20-year-period; considering that the total U.S. population by 2030 is projected to be 363 million, that's only about 17 percent of the total population. Given the relatively flat birth rates in the U.S. in recent years -- a trend likely to continue, at the least -- it's clear that immigration will play a significant role in future economic expansion and competitiveness. Paul's program essentially calls for gradual economic suicide.

It is, as Sargent suggests, classic nativism. But then, we knew that about Paul already.

Outside the Village

-- by Dave

You've gotta laugh at the latest whining from Michelle Malkin & Co. about the Republican "YouTube" debate of Wednesday night. Seems that the questioners weren't sufficiently conservative enough for the Loyalty Police of the Assholosphere -- as though the questioners' support for other candidates makes them not real enough Americans (i.e., not Kool-Aid swilling conservatives) to have earned the privilege.

As Jane Hamsher adroitly observes:
When the Democratic YouTube debates were broadcast, we were delighted by the fact that candidates were being asked honest and tough questions by real people, including right wing gun nuts. Nobody complained, we were happy that the questions weren’t being asked by media hogs who had their own agenda (see Russert, Tim). The fact that the Republicans could not stand up to that kind of discussion, which did not take place within their hermetically sealed world view, was something people predicted at the time. Last night’s embarrassment came not because of liberal questions, but rather because the GOP has an exceptionally poor lineup pandering to an extreme, delusional minority.

This is an important point. Republican presidential candidates have, for the past six years, been operating almost completely inside a bubble -- creating campaign appearances that have been almost completely insulated from anything resembling the real world. It's helped, of course, that during that time the GOP has had only a single candidate -- George W. Bush -- which has made the job that much simpler.

Essentially, it's been a simple process: Shut out anyone who might raise any "controversial" (i.e., "dissenting") voices, pack the audience with True Believers, and foster the illusion of broad and fervent support.

What's been most remarkable is the way this strategy has exploited the innate authoritarianism of the right wing's voting base -- that is, the people who openly welcome simply shutting out any kind of dissent because it's insufficiently respectful:
Though it showed up throughout his first term, especially in the form of "First Amendment Zones," [the authoritarianism] really manifested itself during the 2004 campaign, when it became routine for the Bush campaign to exclude, often with a real viciousness, anyone deemed a non-supporter. The nadir of this behavior came when some schoolteachers in Oregon wearing T-shirts proclaiming "Protect Our Civil Liberties" were unceremoniously removed and threatened with arrest. For that matter, even soldiers returned from Iraq were prevented from entering if they were deemed insufficiently supportive. Towards the end, there was the bizarre phenomenon of the "Bush Pledge", which Billmon acutely described as "truly sinister."

Rather than ending with the election, this behavior has seemingly only escalated since. The most noteworthy example was the incident in Denver in which two people attending a Bush "town hall" forum were ejected and threatened with arrest because they had arrived with Kerry bumper stickers on their car. Unsurprisingly, it later turned out it that it was, in fact, a Republican operative posing as official security who had engaged in this faux-official thuggery.

But then, we've known all along that Bush's roadshows are not real exercises in town-hall democracy, but are completely phonied-up propaganda events, Potemkin gatherings for Potemkin audiences.

This insulation of Bush and his toadies from public dissent by rigging the audience has, if anything, both worsened since the 2006 election (Bush hardly makes any appearance now in which the audience isn't thoroughly vetted) and has spread to other quarters; recall, for instance, the recent flap over the fake reporters at a FEMA press conference.

What's been fascinating to watch in the unfolding drama of the coming election -- with the ability to control the audience much more problematic -- is how the Potemkin Village's function in the right's propaganda strategy has been shifted to the Beltway Village and its attendant idiots.

An event like the YouTube debate took the questions out of the hands of the Potemkin Villagers and let in a range of voices. Which, of course, is what really has the wingnutosphere's panties in a bunch.

In contrast, consider what's happened at all the previous Republican debates -- wherein the entire affairs were overseen from start to finish by Villagers. To wit, from the Wikipedia rundown:
May 3, 2007 - Simi Valley, California: "The debate was moderated by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews of Hardball and The Politico's John Harris. Questions were gathered from The Politico readers for the candidates."

May 15, 2007 - Columbia, South Carolina: "The event was moderated by Brit Hume, with Chris Wallace and Wendell Goler asking most of the questions."

June 5, 2007 - Manchester, New Hampshire: Hosted by Wolf Blitzer and a gaggle of mainstream-media pundits.

August 5, 2007 - Des Moines, Iowa: "[M]oderated by George Stephanopoulos and David Yepsen."

:September 5, 2007 - Durham, New Hampshire: "[M]oderated by Brit Hume, with Chris Wallace and Wendell Goler asking most of the questions."

Oct. 9 in Dearborn, Michigan: Moderated by Chris Matthews, MSNBC; Maria Bartiromo, CNBC; John Harwood, CNBC; Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal.

October 21, 2007 - Orlando, Florida: "The event was moderated by Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, Wendell Goler and Carl Cameron."

Malkin and her pack of whiny-ass titty babies have nothing to complain about -- though that, of course, has never stopped them. And it certainly won't be the last we hear of it. In fact, the more we point out how ridiculous they're being, the more determined they'll become to prove us right.

Next thing you know, Malkin will be peeping through the windows of that scurrilous John Edwards supporter. It's her style. I just hope she reports it in that cheerleader outfit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Calling all Paulbots

-- by Dave

Hey, I haven't had a 500-comment thread for awhile, so let me give a nice fat link and shout-out to Skip Berger's excellent piece at Crosscut discussing the ongoing mudwrestlemania over Ron Paul.

Skip is much more sympathetic to Paul than I am, but he acknowledges that he does have a wee bit of a problem vis a vis his history and his express ideology:
It's long been true that the far-far-right and far-far-left experience meetings of the minds on many issues (anti-WTO activism is one example, another is demonstrated by the support the American Civil Liberties Union gives to both communists and Nazis). I'll name another example in my personal experience: home schooling. When I became involved in the home schooling movement, those involved were mostly liberal baby boomers and Christian conservatives. The fact that '60s lefties and religious righties worked together to liberalize the state's home schooling rules was hardly an extremist conspiracy, merely a case of people out of the mainstream finding common cause. The whole point is that everyone gets to let their own indvidual freak flag fly no matter what they believe. And libertarians in particular are likely to find themselves in front of some pretty strange parades.

But does Paul's ideology represent something more sinister — or crazy? I think Neiwert is right to raise these issues and parse Paul's speeches and legislative record. And it's not the first time issues like this have been raised over an affable, principled, fringe conservative. The late Washington Rep. Jack Metcalf of Whidbey Island shared many of Paul's beliefs regarding the Federal Reserve, the UN, etc. Metcalf once demanded that his state legislative salary be paid in coin because paper money wasn't mentioned in the Constitution. Metcalf was also widely criticized for speaking to groups with racist and extremist agendas, and he had to answer for his father's onetime membership in the pro-fascist Silver Shirts, a group run by a fan of Adolph Hitler.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote a 1999 profile of Metcalf that covered this ground. But Westneat also captured the kind of colorful, independent character that Metcalf embodied for many people. Some of his politics were on the fringe, some of his supporters were a little scary, but what was refreshing was how much Metcalf was the antithesis of politics as usual. That is a major part of Paul's appeal, too — especially to people in the Western U.S., where we often like politicians who defy categorization. Metcalf was a flannel-wearing whale-lover, too.

It's actually a pretty thorough and fair piece. Be sure to read it all.

Special bonus: Yes, you too can contribute to a Ron Paul blimp! No doubt every bit the up-and-up enterprise as those Ron Paul dollars.

When the Sewage Seeps In

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]
If it weren’t already crystal clear that the right-wing approach to the immigration debate has had the effect of infusing movement conservatism with the toxic sewage of the racist right — all the way to the highest levels — last night’s GOP presidential debate drove the point home rather vividly.

Rick Perlstein surveyed the damage
and acidly observed:
The Republican YouTube debate was an astonishment. Not a single second on the economy, which may well be on the verge of collapse, with the middle class potentially more vulnerable than its been at any point since the 1920s. And yet, as my colleague Bill Scher points out, twenty-three minutes of ranting about the dusky hordes invading our shores. Is a great American political party really going to base its entire presidential appeal on scapegoating the Other?

Question answers itself, I guess.
The problem, however, isn’t limited to the Republican candidates — what the debate last night reflected was how thoroughly the discourse has become infected with this sewage. Those candidates wouldn’t have been careering off the rails on immigration if they didn’t believe that was what their voters wanted to hear.

We can object to this kind of scapegoating on logical grounds, but we should also be really outraged on a moral level as well. It’s important to remember, after all, that this rhetoric manifests itself in the real world as a much more visceral and vicious kind of hate — most especially as hate crimes.

I’ve been documenting for some time the way the revival of right-wing nativism has provided a significant meeting-ground for far-right racists and mainstream conservatives, empowering the former and driving the latter over a political cliff.

This confluence is manifested in organizations like the Minutemen and their various spinoffs — which really are nothing more or less than the latest incarnation of the militia movement of the ’90s — as well as the naked immigrant-bashing of mainstream conservative pundits like Patrick Buchanan and Lou Dobbs before national TV audiences. And dare I mention the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs, and Michelle Malkins?

And it rises all the way to the upper crust of the movement, from Newt Gingrich to those presidential candidates, whose ranks were already swelled by such immigrant-bashing stalwarts as Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. It’s all been internalized and normalized for the right.

On the ground, and away from the hustings and TV cameras, all this scapegoating manifests itself — as it always does — in much more than mere harsh words. It becomes simple, vicious hate.
Brentin Mock at the SPLC recently compiled a useful list of some of the most vicious anti-Latino hate crimes, the foremost part of the recent surge in hate crimes reported by the FBI. As Mock observes:
There’s no doubt that the tone of the raging national debate over immigration is growing uglier by the day. Once limited to hard-core white supremacists and a handful of border-state extremists, vicious public denunciations of undocumented brown-skinned immigrants are increasingly common among supposedly mainstream anti-immigration activists, radio hosts and politicians. While their dehumanizing rhetoric typically stops short of openly sanctioning bloodshed, much of it implicitly encourages or even endorses violence by characterizing immigrants from Mexico and Central America as “invaders,” “criminal aliens” and “cockroaches.”

The results are no less tragic for being predictable: Although hate crime statistics are highly unreliable, numbers that are available strongly suggest a marked upswing in racially motivated violence against all Latinos, regardless of immigration status. According to hate crime statistics published annually by the FBI, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by almost 35% between 2003 and 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available. In California, the state with the largest population of Latinos in the country, anti-Latino hate crimes almost doubled in the same period.
Mock then goes on to give us a useful sampling of these hate crimes and their very flesh-and-blood consequences. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here’s a handful:
JAN. 9, 2004
Dateland, Ariz.
Pedro Corzo, a Cuban-born regional manager for Del Monte Fresh Produce, is gunned down by two Missouri residents — 16-year-old Joshua Aston and his 24-year-old cousin Justin Harrison — who traveled with Aston’s younger brother, 15-year-old Nicholas Aston, to a remote section of southern Arizona with the specific intent of randomly killing Mexicans. The brothers shaved their heads before embarking on their odyssey. Corzo was ambushed after he stopped at a roadblock the group constructed from boulders. Joshua Aston, the ringleader, is later tried as an adult and receives two life sentences for the murder. Harrison also is sentenced to life. Charges are eventually dropped against the younger Aston brother.

DEC. 29, 2004
Redlands, Calif.
Two Latino men and a Latina woman are beaten and kicked in the parking lot of a strip club by a “gang of about 10 skinheads,” as later reported by the San Bernardino County Sun. The neo-Nazi skinheads yell racial slurs at their victims, prompting the Redlands police chief to declare that hate crime charges will be pursued if and when the perpetrators are caught.

MAY 7, 2005
Maryville, Tenn.
A Mexican grocery store is vandalized by five white men who shatter windows, damage a refrigerator and spray-paint neo-Nazi symbols, causing over $17,000 in damage. Two men — Thomas Lovett and Jacob Reynolds — eventually plead guilty and are each sentenced to six months in prison.
And one was particularly noteworthy, because it illustrates how far the discourse on national TV at least has descended:
FEB. 17, 2005
Fabens, Texas
Osvaldo Aldrete-Dávila, who is unarmed and fleeing apprehension on foot, is shot at 15 times by two U.S. Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. One bullet strikes Aldrete-Dávila in the buttocks, severs his urethra and lodges in his groin. Though seriously wounded, he manages to escape into Mexico.

Though the border patrol officers later find that the van driven by Aldrete-Dávila contained a shipment of marijuana, they are unaware of this fact when they open fire.

Ramos and Compean attempt to cover up their actions by cleaning up the spent shell casings and failing to report the use of their firearms to their superiors, as required by Border Patrol regulations. The two agents also fail to report the shooting in their incident reports. El Paso Border Patrol Sector Chief Luis Barker later testifies that Compean told Barker that he and Ramos covered up the shooting because they “knew [they] were going to get in trouble.”

After the shooting comes to light a month later, Ramos and Compean are arrested and eventually convicted by a federal jury of felony assault charges, discharging a firearm in a crime of violence, civil rights violations, and obstruction of justice. They’re sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively.

Ramos and Compean will eventually be transformed by a major right-wing misinformation campaign into high-profile martyrs of the anti-immigration movement. The agents, for their part, will remain unrepentant. Ramos tells a Texas Monthly writer in 2007 that Aldrete-Dávila “got what he deserved.”
Indeed, Salon’s Alex Koppelman exploded the Ramos-Compean storyline back in September — but hardly anyone seemed to take note. Even so, as I noted at the time, this kind of afactual, horribly irresponsible reportage, which now surrounds so much of the debate, has made it divisive and toxic instead of healthy and unifying.

Yet as recently as last week, Dobbs was flogging the Ramos-Compean story as somehow legitimate — never having even acknowledged its thorough debunking. Ah, but those mainstream journalists have so much more credibility and accountability, I am told. Evidently, this innate credibility allows them to flog fraudulent stories without consequence.

I am also looking forward to the next round of blogger ethics panels. Maybe Joe Klein and Lou Dobbs will be together on it.

Those racial politics

-- by Dave

It's been clear that Pat Buchanan has become an unapologetic racist for some time now -- though to see his frequent appearances on the cable gabfests, you'd think he still enjoyed all the respectability he ever had.

But this is, evidently, the Bizarro Universe that is now the Beltway. Where else can you find journalists saying issues are too complex for them to understand after they've weighed in as experts on them? Where else can you find white racists like Buchanan whining that the country is being racially balkanized?

Buchanan did so recently on Fox's Hannity & Colmes talk show:
HANNITY: You say we're on a path of national suicide. I want to ask this question directly because you say it's a day of reckoning. Do you really believe that America, the country we all love as we know it, is in jeopardy of existing?

BUCHANAN: I think -- here's what I think. I think America may exist, but I'll tell you this: I do believe we're going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable. If we do not put a fence on that border --

HANNITY: I agree with you.

BUCHANAN: -- you're going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them. What's going to happen to us, Sean, in my judgment, is what is happening right now: We are Balkanizing. We are dividing and separating from one another politically, morally -- on issues like abortion or Terri Schiavo -- racially and ethnically, when you get Jena and then you get Don Imus, and all of these things ripping us apart. All the things that used to pull us together and hold us together no longer do.

You know, to listen to Buchanan talk, you would think that the drawing of racial lines that he's decrying as unnaturally divisive was a recent invention -- caused, perhaps, by the recent mass influx of Latino immigrants, or perhaps the civil-rights movement.

You'd never guess that those racial lines were drawn well over a hundred years ago in this country, and they were not only drawn but enforced by them for well over a century. The "Balkanization" he sees was created long ago, though it may have been invisible to his eyes -- since it's clear that, in Buchanan's eyes It's been only because of the fight for civil rights and the rise of multiculturalism that this has changed at all.

As I've noted before, "identity politics," though it was not called that then, was an invention of 19th-century white supremacists who divided the nation up into a distinct racial hierarchy that had economic outcomes, with white Europeans at the top of the heap and everyone else somewhere at whatever bottom could be scraped out for them. Whites continued to employ such divisions with abandon through most of the first half of the last century. Their heirs continue to do so, but in less nakedly racial terms.

Now we have attacks on the only concrete, actual good-faith efforts to overcome this poisonous legacy -- affirmative action, the "welfare state," hate-crimes legislation, and various aspects of civil-rights law -- all under the umbrella of combating "identity politics", as though the effort to overcome such politics was the source of them. And consistently, there has been one primary source for this resurgence of white supremacy camouflaged as "normal" politics: the conservative movement generally, and the Republican Party specifically.

Pat Buchanan is only leading the way: You only need watch Hannity's bootlicking performance alongside him to recognize that there are many movement conservatives eager to follow.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

About that civility thing

-- by Dave

Up in Bellingham, a fellow named Stu Hyatt penned the following two-sentence missive to the Bellingham Herald:
Concerning the rioters at the shipyard in Tacoma. Where is the the National Guard unit that guarded Kent State when we need them?

I'd imagine it's serving in Iraq right now, actually. Like thousands of National Guardsmen.

But you have to wonder about a newspaper that will publish a fairly unmistakable wish that someone would shoot war protesters.

Now, no doubt we'll be reminded that this is "just a joke," like so much right-wing "humor" these days. Eliminationist? What's that?

Mind you, this is an editorial page whose editor last month was fretting about nasty rhetoric in the current political discourse. Funny how that standard gets applied, isn't it?

[Hat tip to Steve at Washington Outsiders.]

Immigation and American values

-- by Dave

I've put up a guest post at The Big Con ruminating on how the nativist approach to the immigration debate is essentially part of a divide-and-conquer strategy, while progressives need to be talking about the issue in a way that brings us together:
One of the black holes in our national discourse is the right’s revival of old-style nativism in its approach to the current immigration debate -- replete with its scapegoating, demonization, and conspiracy theories, all in the pursuit of an eliminationist policy of deportation. In sucking all the oxygen out of the debate, the right has obscured some of the real issues surrounding our dysfunctional immigration system, thereby preventing us from finding effective solutions.

It’s become difficult, for instance, to talk about the effects of immigration on labor and wages, or the challenges to the cultural assimilation that has been part of the historic American immigration model posed by mass illegal immigration, without finding oneself placed in the nativist camp.

After all, they are among the first to raise these issues -- but in a way that inflames stereotypes and encourages scapegoating, and almost consistently on the basis of false and distorted information. Compounding the situation is the “journalism” practiced by media figures like Lou Dobbs of CNN, who in attempting to make the populist case that illegal immigration is harming the middle class, consistently reverts to reporting bogus information from racist-right sources – and then complains that it’s his critics who keep raising the specter of racism.

Anyone who can see the nature of the larger issues – which really are about the nation’s competitive economic future, which is only hampered by the persistence of irrational xenophobia – wants nothing to do with such discussions.

But there are real problems surrounding our malfunctioning immigration system, and some of them have a great deal to do with these cultural, labor, and economic issues. And in the long run, it will behoove progressives and people who favor comprehensive immigration reform to begin talking about them -- because it’s essential to how we shape our solutions, and indeed is part of the rationale for implementing the reform in the first place.

Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Now that's patriotic

-- by Dave

We had a nasty little hate crime here in Seattle involving a drunken football fan who got tossed from Husky Stadium and decided to take it all out on the Sikh taxi driver giving him a ride home:
The suspect, a 20-year-old Kent man, was released on $25,000 bail Monday. He remains under investigation for third-degree assault and malicious harassment, the state's hate crime charge, court and jail records say.

Trying to escape the attack, the 48-year-old victim stopped in a car pool lane Saturday night on Interstate 5, near Columbian Way, and scrambled out, state troopers said. His attacker had punched, choked and bitten him, calling him an "Iraqi terrorist," according to police reports.

Only minutes before, police had asked the driver to take the suspect home after he had been ejected from Husky Stadium during the Apple Cup, the State Patrol reported.

The suspect knocked off the victim's turban and tore out clumps of his hair, according to reports. The beating continued as the victim fell onto the road. The victim briefly was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center for injuries that included a concussion and bite marks on his head, according to police and acquaintances.

Now, I guess we all know why Sikhs are being subjected to bias crimes in increasing numbers since Sept. 11 -- they're being mistaken for Muslims. There's no small irony in this, given that Sikhs have historically endured harsh persecution at the hands of Muslims, which may play a role in many immigrants' presence here.

But ya know, they're all brown-skinned towelheads to a certain American mentality:
The taxi driver, Sukhvir Singh, had stopped for food at a market on Montlake Avenue, near Husky Stadium, when police officers asked if he could drive the suspect home and he agreed, according the State Patrol.

On the way to the suspect's home, the suspect launched into a tirade of epithets and attacked Singh, according to police reports.

The suspect, witnesses said, was trying to climb into the bus that had stopped alongside when state troopers first arrived. His aggression continued toward officers, who nearly chose to subdue him with Taser stun guns, Merrill said.

The suspect told officers that he had attended the football game with a friend who had served in Iraq, Merrill said.

So I guess he was just trying to do his part.

Bias-crime charges were filed today.

Not right enough

-- by Dave

Well, we've been hearing ever since the 2006 election from right-wing stalwarts that their problems with the electorate were that they weren't far enough to the right.

And surveying the GOP presidential field -- one in which an extremist like Ron Paul can come off seeming sane and moderate -- I'd have to say they seem all to have been listening.

So now the clucking old chickens of the far right are coming to roost in places like South Carolina, where Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is apparently about to face a primary fight from a fellow named Buddy Witherspoon, a GOP national committeeman and, as SJ Reidhead at Blogcritics reports, a stalwart of the Council of Conservative Citizens:
Unfortunately, he forgot to mention an alleged previous involvement with the KKK and his membership in the ultra right wing Council of Conservative Citizens. Over the years he has resisted all calls and demands from the SC GOP establishment to resign from the CofCC, which has strong ties to the white supremacist organization, Stormfront. According to an article in the New York Times, “…“…A member of the Republican National Committee told state Republicans that he was severing his bond with the Council of Conservative Citizens. This official, Buddy Witherspoon, told the state party's executive committee on Saturday he would no longer be part of the conservative group. Mr. Witherspoon said: ''I am a Christian. I am a conservative. But one thing I am not is a racist.'' In January, Mr. Witherspoon refused a request by Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, that he renounce his ties with the group.”

Unfortunately Witherspoon’s white supremacist ties do not end with the CofCC, which has been actively involved in efforts to separate Lindsey Graham from his Senate Seat. Witherspoon’s alleged KKK ties would, if he were elected, make him “the farthest right member of the South Carolina delegation and possibly the entire US Senate.” Over the years Witherspoon has been an honored speaker at various CofCC events.

...Early supporters of Buddy Witherspoon also include former GOP President hopeful and alleged white supremacist Pat Buchanan and lame duck Colorado Congressman and current Presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo.

And what earned the wrath of the far right? Why, Graham's apparent "weakness" on the immigration front:
Several months ago, Senator Lindsey Graham earned the ire of many of the more extreme anti-immigration organizations and supporters including the powerful and prestigious US Immigration Reform PAC run by Mary Lou Tanton, wife of noted anti-immigration “puppeteer” John Tanton. “…U.S. Immigration Reform Political Action Committee (USIRP), which helped defeat Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., in the 2000 general election over his pro-illegal alien voting record, announced today it will target senators for defeat again in 2008. "The top senator we want to defeat is Lindsey Graham R-SC…" says USIRP communications director Phil Kent…. Kent said the group will also "assess the yes votes of all senators regardless of party, and will target incumbents in either their primary or general election campaigns, whichever is appropriate…”

Witherspoon is hardly the only Republican from the South to play footsie with the CofCC and other neo-Confederates. Those who've done so include Sen. Trent Lott and Gov. Hayley Barbour of Mississippi, as well Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul.

Witherspoon's activism in the CofCC, however, is more than mere footsie: he's an organizational bigwig. And it's been going on for awhile; an SPLC report from 1999 mentions his participation even then.

Its conclusion was especially revealing in describing how the CofCC operates:
At a meeting of its Washington chapter earlier this month, attended by a representative of the anti-Semitic tabloid The Spotlight, hard-line white supremacists were plentiful.

One of them, describing himself as the best friend of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, summed up his views for the audience from the CCC podium.

"Be a Nazi," DeWest Hooker enjoined them. "But don't use the word."

That's how far to the right people like Lindsey Graham are being expected to proceed. Considering Graham's role in the Clinton impeachment fiasco, I'd just say karmic payback is a bitch: he helped gas up the bus that's about to take him plunging over the precipice of the far right.

And as Digby observes, it's making prospects for 2008 very promising indeed. It's not likely, after all, that the public is going to get aboard a flaming wreck careering off a cliff.

Still, you have to wonder: Given the media's propensity for worrying that "Democrats are being pulled too far to the left by their base," where exactly is the reportage on this race? Will David Brooks and Joe Klein pen columns?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where We Stand

-- by Dave

My concluding post in the five-part series at The Big Con, "The Politics of the Personal: Where We Stand," is now up for public consumption. The opening:
How is any kind of normative political discourse possible in the environment created by right-wing eliminationist rhetoric? How is it possible to be civil to people who constantly are placing you under threat of assault, verbal and otherwise? How can there be dialogue when the normative rules of give and take and fair play have not only been flushed down the drain, but chopped into bits and swept out with the tide? Do the advocates of civility place any onus on the nonstop verbal abuse, and absolutely ruthless, win-at-all-costs politics emanating from the conservative quadrant? And do they really expect liberals to refuse to defend themselves, even realizing that doing so gets them accused of further incivility?

Ironically, the mainstream right has largely managed to avoid much discussion of its venom-by-the-bucket role in poisoning the well of public discourse by, somewhat predictably, accusing liberals of being unconscionably nasty and vile in how they respond. It’s become a common theme not just from the usual quarters (Malkin devoted an entire book, titled Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, to the subject) but a common talking point among the hoi-polloi “centrists” of the Beltway Village media, “wise men” like David Broder and Howard Kurtz: “decent” Democrats must eschew the very kind of ugly hardball politics Republicans have spent the past decade mastering, and must ignore the loud voices of their increasingly angry base.

It’s a neat trick. Not only has the village lunatic gained their permission to continue wandering the town square poking everyone he dislikes in the eye with a sharp stick, he gets to claim victimhood when they respond angrily.

Hope you've enjoyed the series -- and if you've missed it, here are Parts 1, 2, 3, and and 4. An explanatory note is here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who's the nutcase?

-- by Dave

It seems Michelle Malkin (along with the New York Post) is all atwitter about the results of polls showing that the American public doesn't believe the same as evidently proper-thinking Americans should.

The most significant evidence? The polls showing that "62% believe the feds ignored specific warnings about 9/11," or as the Post described it:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government had warnings about 9/11 but decided to ignore them, a national survey found.

And that’s not the only conspiracy theory with a huge number of true believers in the United States.

The problem is, this isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a perfectly rational belief based on established facts.

After all, as Roy Edroso observes, that belief is fully consistent with what can be found in the 9/11 commission report, as we've discussed here in some detail. Remember what Richard Clarke told the commission:
Former top counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke told a special commission today that the Bush administration initially did not treat terrorism as "an urgent issue" and sidetracked his proposals to deal with the threat more aggressively.

...Clarke said that in the Clinton administration, there was no higher priority that fighting terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular. But he said that "the Bush administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue, but not an urgent issue." He and CIA Director George J. Tenet "tried very hard to create a sense of urgency," Clarke said. "Although I continued to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way."

Indeed, the warnings about the looming likelihood of a terrorist attack were issued by Clarke as early as January 2001. And as Mahablog noted at the time, former CIA chief George Tenet, in his tell-all book, claims that he told then-National Security Adviser Rice in July 2001 of an “urgent threat” from al Qaeda -- and that Rice did nothing with it.

And perhaps most notably, there was the infamous Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing, the one titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." [That's a copy of it above.] After getting this memo, as we noted, the official Bush response was this:
-- The problem is handed off to Richard Clarke (if anyone in the White House could have been accurately described as warning everyone they knew of an imminent attack, it was Clarke).

-- The intelligence agencies involved send out a handful of warnings and the State Department beefs up security abroad.

-- The FAA sends out some warning fliers.

-- Rice prepares her missile-defense speech.

-- Bush takes nap, clears brush, remains resolutely on vacation. Finally ends vacation and returns to his leadership role by reading My Pet Goat to Florida schoolchildren.

Now, as for the other items that horrify Malkin -- such as a belief in JFK conspiracy theories, or a belief in UFOs, I'd say they both reflect the kind of misperceptions that arise whenever the government gets secretive and unresponsive. Note that in the latter case, only 32% believe in UFOs -- which isn't a lot different than the lingering core of support for George W. Bush.

As for the note that "50% say it's 'very likely' oil companies are conspiring to keep fuel prices high" -- well, once again, this isn't a conspiracy theory so much as a realpolitik appraisal of the way the business world operates.

We've discussed the difference between genuine conspiracies and conspiracy theories many times here, having had abundant experience exploring the latter in the 1990s. One of the real signals that differentiates people who believe in the latter is that they ardently believe things that are provably false.

Calling people who believe in things that are provably true "conspiracy theorists" is actually turning the term on its head. But then, that's something Michelle Malkin specializes in, isn't it?

As we've noted before, Malkin herself has specialized in manufacturing a veritable cottage industry of right-wing conspiracy theories in recent years, including the General Ripperesque notion that the Flight 93 memorial is actually a tribute to the terrorists; or that a suicide bomber in Oklahoma was the forerunner of an Islamic conspiracy there. She likewise groundlessly attacked the Pulitzer winner in photography as a secret Jihadi sympathizer; attacked USA Today with conspiratorial accusations for a badly retouched photo; and perhaps most notoriously, tried to ferret out a nefarious conspiracy by the Associated Press in Baghdad that turned out to be completely false. Though perhaps nothing quite matches her attack on a 12-year-old that again turned out to be a case of overwrought right-wing fantasizing. But then, that incident pretty much was a case of self-immolation.

Not that Malkin seems to have noticed. But then, she's been estranged from reality for awhile now.

Thers has more.