Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rove says Obama's handling of Nigerian airline bomber weaker than Bush's -- even though it's identical

-- by Dave

Karl Rove went on Fox News twice yesterday -- first on Your World and later on Hannity, where he essentially repeated his earlier performance -- to accuse the Obama White House of being soft on terrorism because it did not declare Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber of that Northwest flight into Detroit, an enemy combatant:

Rove: This shows the big difference in this administration's approach to it. This guy was treated not as an enemy combatant, and turned over to the FBI and the CIA for interrogation, he was charged criminally, which means he immediately lawyered up and the amount of information we're going to get from him is going to be this much, compared to what we could get if he was just simply sweat by the FBI and the CIA -- not even using enhanced interrogation techniques, just using what police would be able to use if you weren't lawyered up. This is a very troubling way in which the administration has handled this.

On Hannity, he claimed that by filing criminal charges, "we treat him as a guy who tried to knock over a Seven-Eleven or got caught shoplifting."

Memo to Karl: Convenience-store robbers and shoplifters do not get charged with terrorism in federal court. Just sayin'.

Moreover, the problem with Rove's claim that "this shows the difference" between the Bush and Obama administrations is flatly false (aka a lie).

Faced with nearly identical circumstances with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid -- who was attempting to use the exact same kind of explosive on an American flight -- the Bush administration in 2001 did exactly the same thing: it filed criminal charges and eventually tried Reid in federal court.

What's worth noting is that Reid, too, was potentially an intelligence bonanza, since he had numerous operational ties with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.

Then there was Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who was eventually convicted of plotting with Al Qaeda to participate in the 9/11 attacks. He, too, was treated as a federal criminal by the Bush administration.

Finally, it should be noted that declaring suspects "enemy combatants" -- especially when they are captured away from the field of battle -- is actually a legal minefield fraught with far greater uncertainty than the use of federal criminal statutes. The classic example of this was the case of Jose Padilla, who was declared an "enemy combatant" by the Bush administration and whose case wound up taking years to be settled by the Supreme Court -- which eventually insisted that he be tried in federal court. Padilla's case was somewhat different, since he is a U.S. citizen, but one can rest assured that the issue of habeas corpus central to his case would be resurrected should Obama have followed Rove's advice.

But then, anyone who follows Karl Rove's advice deserves everything that inevitably will happen to them.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Luis Ramirez case: Ripping open the truth about hate crimes in small-town America

-- by Dave

Many of us celebrated when the Justice Department announced it had indicted three police officers for obstructing justice in the case of the bias-crime murder of a Latino named Luis Ramirez in the rural town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

But as Maegan La Mamita Mala at Vivir Latino observes (be sure to read the whole post):

Civil rights and the more expansive human rights matter little when you’re dead. So longer sentences make us feel better, like all the marching, chanting, petition signing, mouse clicking and text messaging meant something. Whatever the outcome of the Federal case, no one will go to jail for taking Luis Ramirez from his children and this world. So while we need to support this case, it has to be done in a larger context. Whatever the outcome of the Federal case, it still will be dangerous to be a Latino in the United States.

This reality is underscored by the details as they emerge in the Ramirez case. Indeed, the conditions that gave rise to the attempt to cover up the bias crime by local officers are present in nearly every small rural town in America.

Consider, for instance, what the local prosecutor saw going on with the case as he handled it:

The Pennsylvania prosecutor who failed to secure felony convictions against two teens in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant says he thought his case was "compromised" from the start.

Like many residents in the small, tight-knit eastern Pennsylvanian community of Shenandoah, Schuylkill County District Attorney James Goodman knew that an officer investigating the death of Luis Ramirez was in a relationship with the mother of one the teens involved.

Goodman also believed the investigation and evidence hadn't been handled as it should have been.

"They didn't interview the perpetrators, the boys. In fact, not only did they not interview them, they picked them up, gave them rides, helped them concoct stories, brought them back and told the boys what to say," Goodman told CNN.

The son of Shenandoah Police Lt. William Moyer also played on the same football team as the teens who were involved in the July 2008 street brawl, according to court documents.

"It's clear they were trying to help these boys out, for whatever reason -- they were football players, these police officers were trying to help these boys out and limit their involvement in the death of Luis Ramirez."

Likewise with the local eyewitnesses to the crime:\

Residents say they witnessed or long suspected the culture of corruption, nepotism and coercion among the town's law enforcement described by federal prosecutors in indictments and at hearings this week. The police chief and his second-in-command also face federal charges of extorting payments from illegal gambling operations.

Eileen Burke, a former Philadelphia police officer who moved back to her native Shenandoah, said she saw its bleakest example firsthand. After the beating, Ramirez lay about 15 feet in front of her house at Vine and Lloyd streets. From her porch Thursday, she pointed to a manhole cover in the middle of the street where she kneeled over him as he convulsed on July 12, 2008.

A nearby utility pole once had "RIP" scrawled onto it, but it has since been painted over. Now there is only a faint orange blob to mark the spot.

"I knew there was a cover-up," Burke said. "I knew."

Police from other municipalities and state police responded to the scene before a single Shenandoah police officer arrived, she said.

"I sat on my porch that night, from when it happened at approximately 11:15, until 2:30 in the morning," Burke said. "No one came to me to ask what I saw, what I did."

It wasn't until 10 days later that Shenandoah police dropped off a paper on which she was asked to write out a witness statement, Burke said. In the months after, she said she watched the teens walk around town as if nothing wrong had happened. People coddled and protected them, she said, because they were star athletes in a town where Blue Devils football is the primary preoccupation and where the newest immigrants, Latinos who come to work on farms or in factories, are often seen as aloof and unwelcome.

"They made them heroes," Burke said. " 'Free the three.' They wanted to make shirts up and everything, because it was our illustrious football team."

When she walked around town, some people called her a "Mexican lover" or told her to "go see a Mexican," Burke said.

"I had people who said, 'Why didn't you just close the curtains?' "

Having worked for many years in small rural communities, I can attest that this kind of corruption is common, especially when it comes to crimes against people who are considered "outsiders".

Indeed, this very problem is the major subject of my 2003 book, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, which focused on another hate crime in a small rural town in which the outcome was reversed, similarly revealing the nature of what goes on in hundreds if not thousands of small towns across the country: hate crimes are ignored, covered up, and go unprosecuted at a disturbing rate in small towns.

One Justice Department study found that the actual occurrence of bias crimes is about fourfold what are actually recorded in FBI statistics, for a variety of factors -- one being that the victims themselves, fearful of further persecution or public exposure, often refuse to press charges or file a complaint. Gays and lesbians and Latinos are particularly unlikely to act because of such fears, and it becomes especially acute in rural areas.

Compounding this, of course, is the reality that local law enforcement is likely to be either ignorant and poorly trained in the nuances of identifying and investigating bias crimes, or as in the Shenandoah case, they are actively hostile to a bias-crime prosecution, and are thus prone to victimizing the victims a second time (as we saw in Ocean Shores).

All the more reason that we should be glad we finally passed a federal bias-crime law.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Justice arrives: Three cops among five indicted for obstructing federal hate-crime investigation in Shenandoah, PA

-- by Dave

Already we can be thankful that we finally passed a federal hate-crime law this summer -- because it's helping bring about justice in the case of a Latino man killed by white thugs in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Two indictments charge the five with federal hate crime charges, as well as obstruction of justice and conspiracy, authorities said in a written statement. A federal grand jury handed up the indictments last week, and they were unsealed Tuesday.

Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky are charged with a hate crime for beating Luis Ramirez in July 2008 while shouting racial epithets at him, according to the department. Ramirez died two days later.

"Following the beating, Donchak, Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, participated in a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault," the Justice Department said. As a result, Donchak faces three additional counts of conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses, officials said.

Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and two other officers are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice in the Ramirez investigation. Nestor and a fourth police officer are named in a third indictment and charged with extortion and civil rights violations related to police corruption, the Justice Department said.

It's genuinely disturbing to discover that local law-enforcement officers were involved in covering this matter up and obstructing justice. It adds just another twist to an already shocking case.

The Ramirez case was a classic example of why we needed to pass a federal bias-crime law -- especially considering the outrageous circumstances in which the local jury slapped the young thugs on the wrist:

[T]his was a pretty clear-cut case of jury nullification: the weight of evidence against the accused was so powerful that it's clear the all-white jury -- like similar juries in the South during the Civil Rights struggle -- was not going to convict two young white men of murdering a Mexican. Even if, as Friedman says, "the only reason he is dead is because he was Mexican."

Prosecutors alleged that the teens baited the Ramirez into a fight with racial epithets, provoking an exchange of punches and kicks that ended with Ramirez convulsing in the street, foaming from the mouth. He died two days later in a hospital.

Piekarsky was accused of delivering a fatal kick to Ramirez's head after he was knocked to the ground.

As they poured out of courthouse, the teens' supporters shouted "I was right from the start" and "I'm glad the jury listened" at cameras that caught the late-night verdict.

But Gladys Limon, a spokeswoman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the jury had sent a troubling message.

"The jurors here [are] sending the message that you can brutally beat a person, without regard to their life, and get away with it, continue with your life uninterrupted," she said.

Considering some of the details of the killing, it's also inordinately clear this was a classic bias crime, with the incident instigated by racially charged taunts that made clear the victim was selected because of racial animus:

"Isn't it a little late for you guys to be out?" the boys said, according to court documents. "Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here."

... Burke recalled hearing one final, ominous threat as the teens ran. "They yelled, 'You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him,' " she said.

That is, of course, the entire purpose of bias crimes: To hold the victim up as an example: "You're next." The purpose is to terrorize the target community, to drive them out, eliminate them.

This is why Latino advocates demanded the Justice Department step in and deliver justice. It looks like they have.

Larry Keeler at HateWatch has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stewart lambastes Glenn Beck for his gold-standard conflict of interest

-- by Dave

Oh what fun: Jon Stewart rips into Glenn Beck for his manifest lack of ethics in promoting gold as an investment on his program.

YahooNews's Brett Michael Dykes explained it in some detail:

For some time Beck critics have cried foul over his relationship with Goldline International, a precious metals vendor that features the TV and radio host's endorsement prominently on their website. Critics charge that Beck is guilty of misleading his audience by often advising them to purchase gold in advance of the potential collapse of the value of the dollar on the world currency market, without disclosing that he is in fact a "paid spokesman" for Goldline. Beck's on-air promotion of gold, which includes advising viewers to construct "fruit cellars" and to rely on a "three G system" of "God, Gold, and Guns" in the event of America's collapse, dates back to his time as a host for CNN Headline News.

Glenn Beck also regularly talks up gold on his nationally syndicated radio show, where he often endorses Goldline during live commercial segments. Additionally, Beck has had the company's CEO on as a guest. Advertisements for Goldline are also featured prominently on Beck's own website, where he recently promoted gold in an audio clip warning of an apocalyptic future:

When the system eventually collapses, and the government comes with guns and confiscates, you know, everything in your home and all your possessions, and then you fight off the raving mad cannibalistic crowds that Ted Turner talked about, don't come crying to me. I told you: get gold.

And as James Rainey explained at the LA Times, he may be leading a lot of people down a financial garden path:

Beck, true to form, has not been subtle in making his pitch. He has appealed to listeners to "think like a German Jew" during the period of Nazi ascendance. "I think people are running out of options," he said, "of something that could be worth something at all."

The alternative? Gold. Beck touts his personal investments in the metal and, though he has offered cautionary notes, he leaves no doubt about his bottom line.

"If you have been watching for any length of time and you still haven't looked into buying gold, what's wrong with you?" Beck asks on a video on his personal website. Those not following his advice, he adds, are "nuts."

Buying gold during economic hard times is not, to be sure, a new concept. In the current recession, it's a strategy that has been embraced by many mainstream investors.

My colleague Tom Petruno has written of how some economic wizards -- including David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, predictor of last year's financial swoon -- have replaced some of the cash in their portfolios with gold.

But even some of those who have been making lots of money selling gold concede that the appeal goes beyond mere reason. Peter Epstein, president of Merit Financial Services, told Politico that his firm had advertised on CNN but that the gold message resonated more with Fox's viewers "because it's the angry white man audience -- it's the conservative audience. . . . They are distrustful of the government, of the regime."

That sort of thinking might not lead to the soundest decisions, some gold professionals told me.

"When people buy into the fear and flock into one thing, it's only a matter of time before it turns," said Matt Zeman, a metals trader at Chicago-based LaSalle Futures Group. Indeed, since last week's high of $1,218, gold had dropped Tuesday to $1,143, Zeman noted, adding: "I think the wheels could really come off the gold bandwagon."

Actually, Beck is promoting Ron Paul's extremist brand of libertarianism by promoting the "gold standard." It's been a sucker play for the Far Far Right for many years, and now it's being promoted by a mainstream news entity.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Glenn Beck can't seem to recall describing the Obama administration as fascist. We remind him.

-- by Dave

Glenn Beck seems to be increasingly rattled by having been designated by the ADL as the nation's "Fearmonger in Chief" -- though he continues, on his Fox News show at least, to avoid tackling his critics by name. (He's pushed back at the ADL on his radio show, but only briefly.)

Yesterday he went on his show and denounced the unnamed "they" who say he is encouraging violence with his extremist rhetoric (which would decidedly include us). Keying off his softball interview with Barbara Walters -- who never did bring up his serial falsehoods about Walters and her colleagues at The View, oddly enough -- Beck gets all worked up about the toughest point raised in the whole conversation:

Beck: Barbara Walters even played into this nonsense during her interview with me last night on her annual 'Fascinating People' show. Here it is:

[CLIP] Walters: Glenn Beck is somebody who incites people to violence --

Beck: Oh, I've heard a lot --

Walters: -- He is inflammatory, he makes us scared.

Beck: Yeah. People say Glenn Beck is someone who incites people to violence. Yeah, a lot of people are saying that, but what's the evidence?

She also mentioned that I called Barack Obama a fascist. I don't know -- I, I don't think so. Maybe -- I don't think so, I do realize that Media Matters and now just got an extra grant from Soros and they're moving into hyper-scramble to find, you know, an example. But I don't know if I ever even called him a fascist. I know I've said 'fascistic tendencies' -- sure, the administration is going in this direction.

Actually, what Walters said was this:

Walters: OK, you have said the Obama administration is fascist.

And in fact, that is exactly what he has done -- on multiple occasions, but most notably back on April 1:

Beck: Like it or not, fascism is on the rise. And that doesn't mean the Adolf Hitler kind of fascism. It's fascism with a happy face. I'll explain the exact definition of fascism in a second, and it will boggle your mind.


Beck: I looked up the definition of fascism yesterday, and I want to break it down. The first part is: "Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners." Wouldn't you say this is what's happening with GM right now?

As we noted then, this even included a segment with a time-traveling dime:

How far out to lunch was Beck here? Well, one of the goofier moments in this whole charade came when Beck trotted out the back of an old American dime -- first minted, as Beck says, in 1916 -- which has a fasces, the fascist symbol, on its reverse side:


This is the famed "Mercury dime", which was designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who won a 1915 competition: "The reverse design, a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, was intended to symbolize America's readiness for war, combined with its desire for peace."

Now, the fasces has a long history of inclusion in various parts of American symbology besides just this dime. You can find it in the Oval Office, on National Guard Bureau insignia, on the American flag that flies in the U.S. House, in the Mace of the House of Representatives; on the seal of the U.S. Senate, on the Statue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol building, and on a frieze on the facade of the United States Supreme Court building. Fasces are incorporated into the Lincoln Memorial.

But then, fascism as a political movement was not born until 1919. So for sculptor Weinman to have intended the fasces on the Mercury dime to imply a "fascist" intent, he'd have had to have jumped in a time machine, traveled to the future, met Mussolini, and come back to 1915 with that nefarious design in his head. Somehow I doubt this.

Beck had made the charge even before then, in a February conversation with Laura Ingraham:

Beck: We are really, truly, stepping beyond socialism and we're starting to look at fascism. We are putting business and government together!

Ingraham: Glenn, you're throwing a lot of terms around, and I'm going to play devil's advocate, because this is fair and balanced. Now, moving from socialism to communism, that's, that's a pretty big leap -- socialism, obviously, the economic system, communism the political system. How are we right now moving toward state ownership of all, for instance, heavy industry?

Beck: Let me first of all just explain first what happened in Nazi Germany. It was National -- Socialism. We're talking now about nationalizing the banks, and socialized programs. National. Socialism.

At first in Nazi Germany, everybody was so panicked, they were so freaked. Remember -- don't take anytime to think about it, we've just got to do, do, do. At first all the big companies and the big capitalists in Germany said, 'Oh thank goodness there's a savior! OK, great! We'll do that, yes!' It didn't take too long before -- like here in America, now Goldman Sachs. They've started to see the writing on the wall and went, 'Whoa, whoa whoa! You guys are getting out of control here. What are you guys doing?' And they couldn't get out of it fast enough.

Unfortunately, for those in Germany, you could never go back. I don't know if this is the system that we're headed towards or not, where they're not going to let you out, but let me tell you something, I don't want to play this game. This is becoming extraordinarily dangerous.

Now, Beck did not specifically call Obama himself a fascist -- but then, that's not what Barbara Walters accused him of, either. She said he described the Obama administration as fascist -- and he definitely did that.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tea Partiers make their ambitions clear: They want to take over the GOP

-- by Dave

What hath Republicans wrought?

Sure, they believed, as John noted the other day, that when they were unleashing what Bill Kristol likes to call "guided populism", they were in fact opening the gates for right-wing populism. And now they're looking not only at a a phenomenon much more popular than the standard Republican brand, but a movement that is about to swallow them whole.

And the Tea Party organizers -- notably the Astroturf outfits that originated the Parties, such as FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity -- are making that perfectly clear. Two spokesmen for those groups -- Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks and the AFP's Tim Phillips, went on Hardball yesterday and made this explicit:

MATTHEWS: Matt, how about third party? What about the Tea Party? Sarah Palin is kind of hard to read. She is fascinating. Let‘s face it, we‘re all fascinated with her, because she‘s exciting as a political figure right now. But she‘s talking third party. I mean, she answered the question of Lars Larson. Maybe it just came to mind, but she said, yeah, I might go third party, something like that. Would you guys knock off an incumbent Republican by going third party? You know how the vote splits. Split the right, the Dem wins.

KIBBE: The better way to do it is to take over the Republican party. Frankly, that‘s what our goal is. We need to replace the Republican establishment with fiscal conservatives that are actually willing to cut spending.

All this talk about a "third party" is just so much smokescreen. What's actually happening is that the GOP is fast becoming a full-fledged right-wing-populist entity. Which means that the latent extremism lurking out on the right's fringes for so many years is becoming its new lifeblood, such as it is.

Funny thing is, as Matthews managed to point out early in the segment, not even the Tea Partiers' supposed hero -- Ronald Reagan -- can live up to their standards:

MATTHEWS: Has there ever been a strong conservative president, for example, in your lifetime or anybody—your grandfather‘s lifetime? Who do you look to as a good role model for the tea party people?

KIBBE: Well, obviously, Ronald Reagan is the closest thing we have.

MATTHEWS: What did he do in terms of fiscal policy?

KIBBE: Oh, he—he said that we shouldn't spend money we don‘t have, and he said that the government shouldn't get involved in things that it‘s not very good at doing.


MATTHEWS: Yes. Have you ever checked the numbers with Reagan?

KIBBE: Well, I understand. I understand...


MATTHEWS: The national debt went from under $1 trillion to $3 trillion. He did more to increase exponentially the size of the debt of any president in history.

And he's your role model.

KIBBE: Well, President Obama is...


MATTHEWS: No, I'm asking you. I have asked you one president that you can look up to who was good at tea party politics and ideology.

KIBBE: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: If it's not Reagan, because he clearly didn't do it, who do you look to? Coolidge? How far do you have to look back?

KIBBE: I think we need to find somebody that can meet that standard.

MATTHEWS: So, nobody has recently?

KIBBE: No, certainly not.

Ah well. Blowing off cognitive dissonance is a special teabagger trait. It just adds to their "insane" mystique.

Republicans may have thought these guys had their backs. But now they're looking with increasing worry back over their shoulders. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind, dudes.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The title of John Gibson's new book attacking liberals suggests the Swift Boaters are liars, too

-- by Dave

John Gibson has a new book out hilariously titled How the Left Swiftboated America: The Liberal Media Conspiracy To Make You Think George Bush Was The Worst President In History, and he was touring his old haunts at Fox News yesterday -- first at Fox and Friends and then with Bill O'Reilly -- pitching it and showing off his Kewl New Look (like the goatee?).

His chief line: "They lied through their teeth!"

He meant the evil liberals who are tearing down poor George W. Bush's legacy, of course.

It should be entertaining to see how Gibson manages to translate "openly discussing Bush's actual record" -- from his manifest failures with Katrina to the destroyed economy -- into "lying through their teeth," but Gibson no doubt hired the best propagandists money could buy to ghost-write his book.

But the title is especially interesting in this context, because it's obvious now that Gibson equates "Swiftboating" with "lying through your teeth".

What's interesting about this is that, back in 2004, when the Swift Boat folks were appearing on Fox News en masse in real time and in fact lying through their teeth, John Gibson actually told his viewers they were telling the truth.

Not only that, Gibson attacked other media outlets for failing to run with the Swift Boat stories. He also carried "news" reports treating the Swift Boaters as credible sources.

So who was lying through their teeth back then, and who's doing it now? We suspect that John Gibson hasn't any idea how to distinguish them -- but he does know how to write a book that will sell red meat on the right-wing talk circuit.

Blue Texan has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If 'Tea Party' candidates really are the preferred choice on the Right, then we're in serious trouble

-- by Dave

The latest Rasmussen Poll has disastrous news for Republicans -- and disquieting news for for the rest of us too:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.

The look on Eric Bolling's face, filling in for Neil Cavuto yesterday on Fox News, contemplating this news said it all: He thought the Tea Party and Republicans were one and the same thing! In fact, he spills as much:

Bolling: Isn't the tea party just another wing of the Republican Party? ... Aren't we just splitting the party?

Well, not exactly. Like Republicans, the Tea Party folks are fervently anti-Obama. But as Republicans like Lindsey Graham are discovering, the Tea Partiers are so arch-conservative they hate BOTH parties, and consider Republicans to be sellouts of their true-blue conservative ideals.

Now, this may appear to be good news for Democrats, since it means the Right is splitting its vote. And over the short term, as we saw in the NY-23 race, it may well be. But there is an ominous quality to this that should be disturbing to everyone.

The GOP thought it could unleash this tide of right-wing populism and prosper -- but are discovering that it's not such an easy thing to control.

And what they're unleashing is a flood of right-wing extremism in the process. Because as the "Tea Party" gathering we saw this past weekend in Spokane made crystal-clear, the "Tea Parties" are one of the most massive conduits for mainstreaming extremist beliefs in our history:

More than 1,000 people, including local sheriffs, state representatives, lawyers, families and blue-collar workers, gathered in Post Falls last month to hear a former Arizona sheriff blast the federal government. About 500 met last week in another event organized by the Campaign for Liberty – a coalition of about 10 Inland Northwest groups hoping to create a forum to share ideas and create a louder voice in politics.

Some aren’t afraid to use the word militia.

“We need to rob that word back from the people who villainize it,” said Schaeffer Cox, a 25-year-old from Fairbanks, Alaska, eliciting a roar of approval from the crowd in Post Falls Wednesday night.

It was the second Freedom Festival held at the Post Falls Greyhound Park – evidence, some say, of a new rise of the militia movement in America, but one that blurs the line between extremism and mainstream.

... Wednesday’s meeting was the first event locally since the large gathering on Veterans Day for a speech by Richard Mack, a man described by Potok’s organization as “an iconic hero of the militia movement.”

Mack wrote a book with Randy Weaver in the 1990s about the federal siege at Ruby Ridge and was part of a successful lawsuit against the Clinton administration challenging sweeping gun control legislation.

Mack was joined at the Post Falls event by Washington state Rep. Matt Shea and Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart. County sheriffs were invited to dine with Mack before his speech. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich missed most of the dinner but said he enjoyed Mack’s speech.

“I didn’t hear hate. I heard the exact opposite,” Knezovich said. “I heard respect. Respect for states, respect for individual rights, for the job of the sheriff.”

Knezovich said he received more invitations to Mack’s speech than any other event since he was elected sheriff in fall 2006. Everywhere he went, it seemed, people asked if he planned to go.

“I thought to myself, ‘If that many people would like me to attend this event, I’ll do that,’ ” Knezovich said.

Mack has long been a speaker on the constitutionalist circuit, gaining fame in the militia movement in the 1990s. “There’s really a remarkable amount of anger out there that this movement reflects,” Potok said.

Still, Potok added, “it’s a little shocking that Richard Mack, given his ideas, could draw such a large crowd, including so many public officials.”

When you have law-enforcement officials and state legislators showing up to support citizen militias and "oath keepers" who believe the federal government is about to swoop down in black helicopters and round up citizens to imprison them in concentration camps ... Well, that's a problem for everyone.

It's like the 1990s on steroids. Back then, it produced a notable spate of domestic terrorism. This time around, with so many more people being successfully recruited, one can only imagine the violence that awaits us all.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wingnuts' latest fake outrage: Reid points out conservatives' long history of foot-dragging

-- by Dave

The right's latest fake controversy is what happens whenever any Democrat happens to bring up historical truths about conservatism -- like the fact that it has been on the wrong side of right and wrong for much of the nation's history. They scream and shout about how mean liberals are and then cover over these truths with a pile of afactual excrement.

Here's what upset them so. Harry Reid accurately laid out the sorry history of conservatives in America whenever important and momentous advances in civil rights and the betterment of life for all Americans happen to arise: They stick up for the forces of oppression, hatred, and economic deprivation.

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans have come up with is this slow down, stop everything, let's start over."

"You think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, slow down, it's too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough. When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted slow down, there will be a better day to do that. The day isn't quite right.

When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

The only thing right-wingers heard was that "Reid compared opponents of health-care reform to opponents of slavery."

Well, not exactly: He was pointing out that there was continuum to all of these, a common thread. That is, the opponents of health care, just like opponents of civil rights for minorities, and opponents of the vote for women, and opponents of ending slavery all had one big thing in common: They were all conservative.

Rather laughably, Sean Hannity and Karl Rove try to cover this over -- as does Michelle Malkin -- by pointing out the wonderful things Republicans have done over the decades, such as Lincoln freeing the slaves. Of course, what they don't mention is that these things were achieved by people who would today be considered liberal Republicans. Malkin also wants you to remember those Democrats who fought against civil rights: Of course, she conveniently omits the history of the Southern Strategy and the way old-line bigots like Strom Thurmond joined the GOP en masse in the 1960s and '70s, thereby transforming the Party of Lincoln into the Party of Neo-Confederates.

(Oh, and a reminder to Karl Rove, who claims that "Joe Wilson got in trouble for speaking the truth": He should ask Wilson sometime his views on Lincoln.)

And what they especially avoid confronting is that Reid is right in that opponents of ending slavery were CONSERVATIVE, and opponents of health-care reform are CONSERVATIVE. The contexts change with the shifting challenges of our respective eons, but we can always count on one thing:

When conservatives stand up to fight against common-sense advances that improve the lives of Americans, we can feel a sense of surety that history will prove them wrong. It always has in the past.

By the way, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was whining on Fox's Your World (with Eric Bolling filling in for Neil Cavuto) that Reid's remarks were "over the top" and asking him to apologize:

Our hearts just bleed for those poor victimized Republicans who want us all to erase history from our memories and just remember them as the victims of mean-talking Democrats. Especially the saintly Karl Rove.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

ear Michelle Malkin: Here are some other law-enforcement officers you forgot to mourn

-- by Dave

Michelle Malkin's latest column wants to turn the deaths of police officers around the country -- spurred by the recent horror in Lakewood, WA -- into a chance to blame liberals for the deaths.

The Left has a popular mantra: “Stop the hate.” Why don’t they start applying it to the men and women who protect and serve?

She listed some officers killed in a couple of different incidents involving career criminals and a bizarre recent case here in Seattle.

Well, I've got a few other officers here she seemed to have forgotten about:

Pittsburgh officers Eric Kelly, Paul Sciullo III and Stephen Mayhle, gunned down by budding neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski, because he believed the officers were part of a nefarious plan to take citizens' guns away.

Security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns, shot down by extremist nutcase James von Brunn at the Holocaust Museum.

Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies Burt Lopez and Warren "Skip" York,
gunned down by right-wing nutcase Joshua Cartwright, who believed right-wing propaganda that President Obama was going to take his guns away.

Later in her column, Malkin asks:

From where does the deadened and deadly callousness toward the thin blue line come?

Oh, I dunno. Maybe it comes from conservatives like Michelle Malkin, who shriek and holler when mean "liberals" at the Department of Homeland Security issue an important bulletin to law-enforcement officers warning them of the threat posed by right-wing extremists to their health and well-being, crying that in doing so they're just "smearing conservatives."

Even though, as we pointed out, the report was an important heads up about the Richard Poplawskis out there:

The Department of Homeland Security more than likely couldn't give a rat's patoot about today's right-wing Tea Tantrums, because they're mostly exercises in futility and stupidity anyway.

But I'll tell you who they do care about: the people in uniform who go out every day and put their lives on the line to keep you and I and our families and neighborhoods safe -- that is, the men and women in law enforcement. People like those three officers in Pittsburgh, who had no reason to suspect a killer was about to ambush them.

A recent study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism lays out in painful detail the very real threat that right-wing extremists pose to people in law enforcement:

Research led by Dr. Joshua D. Freilich (John Jay College, CUNY) and Dr. Steven Chermak (Michigan State University) and funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has revealed a violent history of fatal attacks against law enforcement officers in the United States by individuals who adhere to far-right ideology.

* In the United States, 42 law enforcement officers have been killed in 32 incidents in which at least one of the suspects was a far-rightist since 1990.

* 94% of these incidents involved local or state law enforcement. Only two events—high-profile attacks at Ruby Ridge and at the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City—involved federal agents. Much more common are events like the tragic Pittsburgh triple slayings.

* Attacks on police by far-rightists tend to occur during routine law enforcement activities. 34% of the officers killed by far-rightists were slain during a traffic stop, and a number of law enforcement officers have been killed while responding to calls for service similar to the domestic violence call that precipitated the Pittsburgh murders.

* Firearms were the most common type of weapon used during these fatal anti-police attacks. 88% of the incidents involved guns, while only 6% involved explosives and 6% involved knives. 81% of the victims were killed by guns.

* Only 12% of the suspects in these attacks were members of formal groups with far-right ideologies. The vast majority—like Poplawski—acted alone. This greatly complicates law-enforcement efforts to anticipate which individuals might pose a threat to police officers.

* Beyond these law enforcement murders, far-right violence presents a broader threat to national security and American citizens. Since 1990, far-rightists have been linked to more than 275 homicide incidents in 36 states. These crimes have resulted in the more than 530 fatalities, including the 168 victims murdered by Timothy McVeigh when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The vast majority of these suspects are white and male, with almost 70% being 30 years old or younger.

Back then, Michelle couldn't be bothered to express even a scintilla of concern about the safety of law-enforcement officers:

This is where I wonder about the grotesquely skewed priorities of the conservative movement and its leading pundits. Because all the yammering has been fearmongering about the DHS potentially targeting ordinary conservatives -- especially VETERANS!!!! -- when in fact there is not a scintilla of evidence they have done so or are considering it.

Yet in the meantime, as we just pointed out, these right-wing extremists who are the subject and the raison d'etre of this bulletin are also known lethal threats for the men and women who work in law enforcement ...

So while the folks at Faux News fearmonger for the sake of yet-unharmed veterans and conservatives, they're completely turning their backs on the interests of the men and women who risk their lives each day serving as law-enforcement officers.

Yeah, well, that was then. This opportunity is now. Even if it means connecting Obama to the Oakland cop killings through Van Jones, just because he was a black nationalist from Oakland ... it's all about Michelle's agenda. Dead cops just make handy props for it.

We know this because on her next post, she argues that funding for public safety and health functions -- like, you know, police -- is the same thing as funding toxic assets:

Well, now the Democrats want to use it to bail out state governments and convert unused TARP bucks into…a government union slush fund.

Oh, Christmas tree, Oh, Christmas tree

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday that unused money in the Treasury Department’s financial rescue plan would be used to pay for a new job-creation package.

Pelosi said she favored using funds in the Troubled Asset Relief Program to finance initiatives aimed at kick-starting growth in the moribund jobs market.

In doing so, she effectively ruled out implementing a tax on financial transactions by banks and other financial institutions.

Pelosi said she still favored a tax in principle but the U.S. would have to work with other countries to implement such a levy.

So far, financial institutions have repaid around $71 billion of taxpayer money to the Treasury. That figure doesn’t include the $45 billion that Bank of America Corp. (BAC) said Wednesday it intends to repay.

Additionally, there is approximately $226.5 billion of the original $700 billion fund that either was never used by the Treasury or was earmarked for initiatives but not yet spent.

A senior aide to Pelosi said no decisions had been made as to which pot of money to use, or how big the final job-creation package would be.

He said House Democrats are talking to their counterparts in the Senate as well as in the Obama administration.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday the administration is “actively looking at” ways to use the TARP program to help aid the labor market.

… Pelosi said serious thought is being given to investments in transportation infrastructure, seen by economists as one of the most efficient ways of creating jobs quickly.

She also said money could be used to preserve public-sector jobs such as firefighters, police and health-care providers.

The senior Pelosi aide said this would be distributed by bypassing state governments and providing funds directly to local or regional governments.

It’s the “inevitable lard-up” phenomenon I’ve been writing about since bailout-a-palooza began under the Bush administration.

Yeah, Michelle Malkin, champion of our police officers. Right.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

While Hannity calls global warming 'the biggest scientific fraud in our lifetimes,' the ocean levels are rising

-- by Dave

I'm planning on being around in ten years, Lawd willin'. And I'm really looking forward to holding up all these global-warming deniers, like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and all their absurd guests running around their shows screaming that "CRU e-mails prove global warming is a hoax!" for some serious, serious ridicule.

Like Hannity last night on his Fox show, hosting the best author Exxon/Mobil money could buy, Chris Horner, to natter at length about the fake CRU e-mails scandal. At the very end, Hannity comes up with an epithet for global warming:

Hannity: Biggest scientific fraud, I think, in our lifetime.

Yes, that's what we'd call it too -- not global warming, but this fake scandal, as Media Matters explains in thorough detail.

Particularly when it comes to Hannity's and Horner's doubts that the e-mails were "stolen" (Hannity says: "I don't think that's an accurate story," and Horner says, "There is no evidence this was a hacking.") As MM explains:

CRU officials have stated that emails were obtained through "a criminal breach of our security systems." In its initial response to the reported theft, officials at the University of East Anglia stated: "Recently thousands of files and emails illegally obtained from a research server at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have been posted on various sites on the web." In a statement about the controversy, CRU vice chancellor of research Trevor Davies stated: "We are committed to furthering this debate despite being faced with difficult circumstances related to a criminal breach of our security systems and our concern to protect colleagues from the more extreme behaviour of some who have responded in irrational and unpleasant ways to the publication of personal information."

But beyond the fact that this is just another right-wing water-muddying exercise to advance their own propaganda, you really have to wonder how the rest of the media can so eagerly lap up such a non-story. Especially when confronted with the actual evidence of what in fact is occurring in the Real World, i.e., the natural world, to wit:

Climate change speeds up since 1997 Kyoto accord

Since the 1997 Kyoto international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated — beyond some of the grimmest warnings made back then.

As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the Arctic's once-frozen summer sea ice. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.

And it's not just the frozen parts of the world that have felt the heat in the years leading up to next month's climate summit in Copenhagen:

• The world's oceans have risen about an inch and a half.

• Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe, from the U.S. West to Australia to the Sahel desert of North Africa.

• Species now in trouble because of changing climate include not just the polar bear, which has become a symbol of global warming, but also fragile butterflies, colorful frogs and entire stands of North American pine forests.

• Temperatures over the past 12 years are 0.4 degree warmer than in the dozen years leading up to 1997.

"The latest science is telling us we are in more trouble than we thought," said Janos Pasztor, climate adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Here's why: Since an agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution was signed in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, the level of carbon dioxide in the air has increased 6.5 percent.

From 1997 to 2008:

• World carbon-dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have increased 31 percent.

• U.S. emissions of this greenhouse gas rose 3.7 percent.

• Emissions from China, now the biggest producer of this pollution, have more than doubled in 12 years.

We're also starting to see things we've never seen before, like massive killer algal blooms. We don't know that climate change is causing it, but we do know we've never seen this stuff before.

In ten years we're going to be in a world of hurt and these well-paid morons are going to have some explaining to do.

Of course, we know this crowd: They'll somehow try to claim that they were really right.

Right. Morons.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Palin boosts the Birthers: 'I think it's a fair question'

-- by Dave

Oy. Sarah Palin legitimizes the Birthers:

Transcript via Alex Koppelman at Salon:

HUMPHRIES: Would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran?

PALIN: Um, I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think enough members of the electorate still want answers.

HUMPHRIES: Do you think it's a fair question to be looking at?

PALIN: I think it's a fair question, just like I think past associations, past voting records, all of that is fair game. You know, I gotta tell you, too, I think our campaign, the McCain-Palin campaign, didn't do a good enough job in that area. We didn't call out Obama and some of his associates on their records and what their beliefs were, and perhaps what their future plans were, and I don't think that was fair to voters, to not have done our jobs as candidates and as a campaign to bring to light a lot of things that now we're seeing made manifest in the administration.

HUMPHRIES: I mean, truly, if your past is fair game and your kids are fair game, certainly Obama's past should be. I mean, we want to treat men and women equally, right?

PALIN: Hey, you know, that's a great point. That weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about, that Trig isn't my real son, a lot of people say, "Well, you need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he's your kid," which we have done, but yeah, so maybe we should reverse that and use the same type of thinking on the other one.

Steve Benen is spot on:

That last point about the bizarre notion that Palin's son is not her son was especially odd. The former half-term governor seems to think questions about Trig's birth certificate are a "weird conspiracy theory freaky thing" -- she does have a way with words -- but instead of arguing that all of the nonsense be taken off the table for everyone, Palin wants to see "the same type of thinking" applied to the president.

Palin tried to walk this back on her Facebook page:

Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

No, you just suggest that the people who are asking and suggesting this have good reasons to do so. In other words, you just legitimized a bunch of far-right fringe cases.

As Brian Levin put it at HuffPo:

While many are pondering what exactly Sarah Palin’s approving radio comments on the birther issue and her subsequent “clarification” mean to her possible 2012 run, there is a more fundamental question: what does this bode for our democracy? The answer is this is yet another indicator that extreme is the new mainstream.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Arpaio rudely interrupted by students singing 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

-- by Dave

Monday night in Tempe:

PHOENIX -- A night aimed at discussing First Amendment issues with the controversial Maricopa County Sheriff ended with protesters disrupting the session and Sheriff Joe Arpaio walking out.

"People are saying this looks really bad for ASU, for one of the forward thinking journalism schools in the country," said student Elizabeth Shell.

The Arizona State University event in downtown Phoenix was part of a series at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where guests respond to questions about journalism and media.

After 45 minutes of questioning Monday night, a group of protesters started to sing and chant in the back of the room, interrupting Sheriff Arpaio's response to questions about illegal immigration.

"Is this legitimate?" the protesters sang, to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody, a popular ballad by Queen.

During the outburst, Arpaio placed a University of Arizona hat on his head followed by an ASU hat.

"I thought this was going to be a situation not allowing this to go on," Arpaio said, referencing the disruption.

"You know what, this is ridiculous. I'm going to go," said Arpaio, before walking out of the forum.

"Was I forced," asked Arpaio, "Nobody forces the sheriff to stop, it was an agreement I made with the professors."

ASU Dean Christopher Callahan called the protest misplaced.

"I think it's very short-sighted, because these are people who are against Sheriff Arpaio's policies, and what they succeeded in doing is stopping focused, intense questioning of his policies," he said. "It just seems kind of dumb to me."

I have mixed feelings about these events. As you can see from the footage, Arpaio was just being pressed about why his office is stonewalling the Department of Justice in its investigation of Arpaio for corruptly using the threat of official retaliation against his critics. It would have been good to see his feet held to the fire on this.

On the other hand, Arpaio is such a contemptible figure -- the manacling of a woman in childbirth being only the most recent example -- that he deserves every expression of contempt that comes his way. (Besides, it was also a very funny stunt.)

Speaking (or singing) over the top of someone is rude, and it's inimical to democratic discourse. But this isn't a First Amendment issue, as some claimed, because it had nothing to do with government suppression of free speech. These were just people exercising their own free-speech rights.

As we've noted, Arpaio has even had citizens arrested for applauding his critics at County Supervisors meetings. Now that is a true threat to First Amendment rights. It would have been worth the time of a panel devoted to the First Amendment for Arpaio to have answered to that. Instead, he was just answering questions about how well his office issues press releases. No wonder people were frustrated.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ho hum. Just another would-be domestic terrorist found with a bomb-making lab. Nothing to see here, just move along

-- by Dave

Gee, for some reason, this story hasn't managed to make it out of the local news and into the national headlines:

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – Following a pipe bomb explosion Monday night, police and federal law enforcement officials are trying to figure why a Center Avenue man turned his apartment into a bomb factory.

thumb_mediumMarkCampano_c3716.JPGPolice said no charges have been filed against Mark Campano, 56. Police found 30 completed pipe bombs in his apartment along with components to make more, plus 17 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Campano is in an Akron hospital with injuries received when one of the bombs exploded.

As police and federal authorities puzzle over Campano's past and what he planned to do with the bombs, a former neighbor said Campano often railed against the government.

Barbara Vachon lived next door to Campano at the Center Park Place Apartments for several years and said he was a big reason she moved.

"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."

She said there were other warnings.

"There were a few times I heard minor explosions from outside the apartment building, and he would scream that he had hurt himself," she said. "I never knew what he was up to."

Vachon said Campano seemed to be most active at night.

"There was a steady stream of creepy visitors going in and out of his apartment," she said.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is also investigating the case.

Of course, if this had been a Muslim extremist caught with such an arsenal, we'd be getting talk-show panels on Hannity featuring Michelle Malkin ranting at length about the threat of Islamic jihad, blah blah blah. Not to mention chatty discussion on Fox and Friends and Morning Joe.

But instead, because he's just a white anti-government extremist, hey, let's just give it a big shrug.

More on the case here and here.

[H/t Susie.]

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beck attacks ADL for report naming him the 'fearmonger in chief'

[H/t Media Matters.]

-- by Dave

As one might expect, Glenn Beck has been simply cowardly about dealing with that report from the ADL titled "Rage Grows in America", which singled him out for special attention as the nation's newest "fearmonger in chief".

Beck has been largely silent about it. He only obliquely referenced it on his Fox News show earlier this week, exclaiming that "they" call him "anti-government" and heatedly denying that he is.

But on his radio show on Wednesday, he finally crawled out of his shell a little more, drawn out by a Timothy Rutten column in the Los Angeles Times discussing the report:

Beck: I'm just looking at a story from the Los Angeles Times today. The headline has my name in it, but it's really about you: "Who's watching Glenn Beck?" And then it goes into the -- "Much like the Depression-era demagogue from -- uh, Father Charles Coughlin" --

Anybody who knows history -- yeah. Yeah. I'm just like that guy.

Um -- "Fox is promoting a mass movement. Should his bosses be pulling the plug on him?" "For nearly a century, the Anti-Defamation League" -- which has as much to do, I believe, with the plight of the Jewish people as the National Organization of Woman has with the plight of women -- it is nothing, I believe, nothing but a political organization at this point. And I -- it, it kills me to say that.

I mean -- for the love of Pete, name the person that has been more friendly to Israel. Name the person that has spoken out more against the Holocaust deniers that are running Iran. Name the person who has stood up for Israel more than I have! Name the person in the mainstream media that speaks as passionately as I do -- not for some glorified Israel Zionist movement, but because I see the Jewish people as people! And the leaders of Iran as monsters that want to finish the job that Hitler started. You name the media person, Anti-Defamation League.

Well, first things first: Nevermind how obtuse a person must be who is neither a woman nor a Jew passing judgment on whether organizations with established histories of effectively fighting for the rights of either group has "anything to do" with their "plight." What really stands out about this rant is the stereotyped image Beck has of Jews, to wit, the only aspect of their "plight" worth mentioning is the defense of Israel.

In reality, the ADL has historically been focused on the much broader "plight" of the Jews represented by anti-Semitism and its pernicious effects. As you can see from just visiting the "About" section of their website, the ADL was founded primarily to combat anti-Semitism. Yes, the defense of Israel is in fact a concern of the ADL's -- but it is only one of many items on its agenda.

Beck, in fact, is clearly suggesting that anti-Semitism isn't a problem for Jews, except as it relates to Israel. (Beck has a thing about Iran that's actually a bad case of evangelical apocalypticism.) But in the USA, the problem of anti-Semitism has little if anything to do with Israel, and almost everything to do with the spread of right-wing hatemongers, who spread their poison through the very conspiracy theories and fearmongering scenarios and McCarthyite scenes that are Glenn Beck's stock in trade.

Now, let's take a look at that Tim Rutten column, especially because Beck never really did explain to his audience exactly what the piece said.

Here's the lede, that Beck read only snippets from:

For nearly a century, the Anti-Defamation League has stared unflinchingly into the dark corners of America's social psyche -- the places where combustible tendencies such as hatred and paranoia pool and, sometimes, burst into flame.

As a Jewish organization, the ADL's first preoccupation naturally is anti-Semitism, but in the last few decades it has extended its scrutiny to the whole range of bigoted malevolence -- white supremacy, the militia movement, neo-nativism and conspiratorial fantasies in all of their improbable permutations. These days, the organization's research is characterized by the sense of proportion and sobriety that long experience brings.

Rutten goes on to make an incisive and accurate comparison of Beck to Father Charles Coughlin. And its conclusion is similarly thoughtful:

It's hard to imagine any contemporary cable system dropping Fox News simply because Beck is an offensively dangerous demagogue -- not with his ratings at least. His new foray into politics, though, presents Rupert Murdoch's network with a profound challenge. Is it willing to become the platform for an extremist political campaign, or will it draw a line as even the authoritarian Catholic Church of the 1940s did? CNN recently parted ways with its resident ranter, Lou Dobbs -- who now confirms he's weighing a presidential bid.

Does Fox see a similar problem with Beck -- and, if not, why?

It probably didn't help Beck's case that, on the same afternoon the report was released, he went on his Fox News show and ranted at length about how President Obama is taking us "straight ... to a New World Order" and "global government."

One couldn't have asked for a better illustration of one of the ADL report's key observations:

One of the most disturbing trends in the rise of anti-government animosity in 2009 has been the resurrection and proliferation of anti-government conspiracy theories, many of which had their origins in the early- to mid-1990s. More extreme than “birther” conspiracies, these theories allege dark, violent designs on the part of the federal government to declare martial law and end democratic government, to confiscate firearms from American citizens to render them defenseless, and to build hundreds of concentration camps to house “dissidents” and other liberty-loving Americans.


Although much of the recent anti-government anger has been generated by a combination of partisan politics, grass-roots activists, and extreme groups and movements, the mainstream media has also played a role in promoting anti-government anger and pandering to people who believe that the Obama administration is illegitimate or even fascistic.

Beck, in fact, gives real succor to some of the country's worst anti-Semites because he helps promote their ideas; Beck's fearmongering echoes theirs so closely that it is rapidly becoming an important recruiting tool for them.

Alexander Zaitchik explored this recently for Salon, examining what white supremacists themselves say about Beck, with illustrations culled from the discussion forums:

Thor357, a Stormfront sustaining member who has posted on the site more than 3,500 times, had this to say:

"Glenn Beck and Alex Jones [a controversial conservative media figure who believes 9/11 was an inside job] are the front line in the war of Ideals we grapple with, they are far from perfect and are somewhat compromised. But every person in the last 2 years that I have introduced to the WN [White Nationalist] Philosophy have come largely from Alex Jones, Glen Beck and the Scriptures for America founder Pastor Pete Peters ... Baby steps are required for people like these, but the trio Beck, Jones, Peters are the baby food that feeds potential Nationalists… "

... Later in the same discussion thread, Thor357 added:

"I have talked to 6 people in two days because Glenn Beck woke them up, it's amazing how angry they are. They are pissing fire over Obama, this is a good thing. Now I educate them. If out of 100 of the Glen Beckers I keep 20 then I have won 20 more to cover my back side. I never lost the 80 as they never were."

Carolina Patriot, whose member picture features a kitten aiming an assassin's rifle, was conflicted but admiring:

"Every now and again when an infomercial takes the place of hunting or fishing, I'll turn over to Glenn Beck if he's on and watch his show. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes it is informed, and sometimes, I think he comes to SF [Stormfront] to steal show idea's"

UstashaNY offered up an analogy to substance abuse, with Beck as the soft-stuff hook:

"Beck, Dobbs etc. are like gateway drugs. If it wakes up one person to learn something about whats really going on and that person does the research, looks deeper and deeper into WHO and WHAT is behind all of this, then its a win for the movement. NOBODY in the msm is reporting the stuff Beck does, let him keep talking. It will wake people up, believe me… He is more of a help to us then you may think. Until we have a REAL voice in the msm, guys like him and Dobbs are a stepping stone right into our laps. Its only a matter of time..."

Glenn Beck is rapidly becoming a serious problem. Fox obviously does not want to deal with it, and Beck obviously is going to run away from any accountability for his gross irresponsibility as hard and fast as he can.

Which means that the voices calling him to account are becoming increasingly vital.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Populism: It's all the right-wing rage these days

-- by Dave

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Glenn Beck's shows have become so full of wingnuttery these days that it's really becoming hard to keep up (though Media Matters does a great job of that anyway). It's such a constant barrage of right-wing extremism that the bigger picture gets lost in the onslaught.

The kind of wingnuttery Beck is embracing -- and promoting -- is a product of the kind of politics that now has conservative America in its thrall: right-wing populism. And it's not just Beck -- it's Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties, and the broad mainstream of the American Right who are careering down this path.

Take this prime moment in yesterday's Beck show as an example. Beck -- being our Fearmonger in Chief, as usual, with handy chalkboard in hand -- told the audience that we have three potential economic outcomes facing the USA: Recession, Depression, or Collapse. In other words, Disaster, Doom, or Total Annihilation. It was, as always, an uplifting scenario. He also described how we normal folks respond at each step. Paying off our debts, building fruit cellars, that sort of thing.

Then he got to the third one:

Beck: The third one is Collapse. That's 'Get out of debt and save,' plus, 'Have a fruit cellar,' plus -- I like to call the "three G system" here for this -- it's, uh, God, Gold, and Guns.

Now personally, you might take God and put him as an umbrella over the whole thing. And then you got your gun and your gold down here too. But that's your choice.

"God, Gold and Guns" has quite the ring to it, doesn't it? And the thing about it is, it could stand in all three aspects as the Battle Cry of Right-Wing Populism -- not just now, but as we've known it for most of the past thirty years and more. Before Beck, there was the Posse Comitatus, and the militias, and the Ron Paul wing of the GOP -- all right-wing populists, and all focused largely on the mythology of right-wing "constitutionalism", whose three great appeals to the masses have revolved around embracing the notion of a "Christian nation," returning the U.S. to the gold standard, and defending gun rights.

The third segment of Sarah Palin's interview with Bill O'Reilly also aired last night, and the subject, indeed, was right-wing populism:

Palin: If there is a threat at all that perhaps I represent, it is that the average, everyday, hard-working American, that their voice is going to be heard, and their -- what our voice is saying right now is, we're telling the federal government, and we're telling the elites who think that they are -- can and should call all the shots for all the rest of us. Trust us in that we know what our federal government's role is supposed to be in our lives, it's supposed to be minimal.

O'Reilly: But that sounds logical. That doesn't offend me.

Palin: That's why it's perplexing as to why I would be, you know, kinda clobbered left and right --

O'Reilly: You don't know -- really. You're sincere about you don't know why you're the lightning rod, you don't know why?

Palin: Only if it is because I'm representing a normal American who is --

O'Reilly: Well, why don't they like normal Americans? Why don't the New York Times like normal Americans, or NBC News? Why should they have disdain for the regular folks?

Palin: Because I think that, obviously they wanting so much control over our lives, I think perhaps there is a little bit of threat there, that the average American is gonna rise up and our voice is going to be louder and louder, and we're going to tell our government, 'No, we expect you to work for us, we're not going to work for you, we expect things to turn around here quite quickly,' even if that means the elites are not gonna be in control anymore.

I'm talking about the media, I'm talking about those that are in bureaucracy that are calling the shots for us -- I -- that's why the Tea Party movement, I think is beautiful. And I think that it is, it is empowering for so many of us to be watching what's going on with the Tea Party movement where we saying -- 'That's -- that's me!' I think it's beautiful what's going on right now. And perhaps that is threatening to some who don't want to cede any control.

O'Reilly: I think that's a good analysis, but what I get from talking to you for the past hour is that you, Sarah Palin, want to lead that movement. You want to lead it.

Palin: I do not need a title, and I do not necessarily be the one to lead it, I don't -- need to --

O'Reilly: You -- no spin. You want to lead that populist movement. I can see it in your eyes. You want it.

Palin: I'm willing to assist. I know in my heart and soul that the experiences that I have gone through -- I believe that's all been kind of put together in my life -- can benefit the average, everyday, hard-working American because I have been where they are. I'm experiencing what they're experiencing. And I'm willing to assist, but again, I don't have to be the top dog.

This is all fitting, of course, because the the April 15 Tea Parties really signaled the takeover of the American Right by its populist wing. And Palin, of course, had established herself as a right-wing populist well before the parties began, during the 2008 campaign.

The Tea Parties, in every incarnation -- from the Tax Day protests to the health-care town halls to the "Tea Party Express" and the "912 March on Washington" to Michele Bachmann's lame "Super Bowl of Freedom" -- has been all about populism, and it is distinctly right-wing populism.

A giveaway moment came during Sean Hannity's April 15 evening "Tea Party" broadcast from Atlanta, when he brought in a live feed from the Rick and Bubba Tea Tantrum in Alabama:

Hannity: And I'm going to tell you one other thing: When did we ever get to a point in America where, we're nearly at the point where fifty percent of Americans don't pay anything in taxes! Nothing!

[Crowd boos]

Rick: The numbers out are just astounding that, that, how much that the very top taxpayers actually pay. I feel like these taxpayers are disenfranchised. I want them to have a share of the burden just like they have a share of the vote.

That's right -- it's the wealthy top percentage of the country that needs a tax break. After all, they are the one Obama's targeting, right? So at least they're being upfront about just who "the taxpayers" are whose interests they're out marching to defend.

You could find similar sentiments on the right only the month before, in mid-March, when it was revealed that executives at the insurance giant AIG – which had just been the recipient of a massive government bailout – continued to pay themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses with bailout money. This spurred a loud round of protest, mostly from liberals and labor groups angry about the abuse of taxpayer dollars.

But Rush Limbaugh defended the bonuses, telling his radio audience: "A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration." Glenn Beck had a similar rant on his Fox show: “What I really, really don’t like here is the idea that we are willing to give in to mob rule. And that’s what this is: The mob in Washington getting everybody all – I mean, the only thing they haven’t said is, ‘Bring out the monster!’ It’s mob rule! They are attempting to void legally binding contracts.”

This kind of obeisance to the captains of industry and their utrammeled right to make profits at the expense of everyone else is a phenomenon known as Producerism, which is a hallmark of right-wing populism. It's accurately defined in Wikipedia as:

a syncretic ideology of populist economic nationalism which holds that the productive forces of society - the ordinary worker, the small businessman, and the entrepreneur, are being held back by parasitical elements at both the top and bottom of the social structure.

... Producerism sees society's strength being "drained from both ends"--from the top by the machinations of globalized financial capital and the large, politically connected corporations which together conspire to restrict free enterprise, avoid taxes and destroy the fortunes of the honest businessman, and from the bottom by members of the underclass and illegal immigrants whose reliance on welfare and government benefits drains the strength of the nation. Consequently, nativist rhetoric is central to modern Producerism (Kazin, Berlet & Lyons). Illegal immigrants are viewed as a threat to the prosperity of the middle class, a drain on social services, and as a vanguard of globalization that threatens to destroy national identities and sovereignty. Some advocates of producerism go further, taking a similar position on legal immigration.

In the United States, Producerists are distrustful of both major political parties. The Republican Party is rejected for its support of corrupt Big Business and the Democratic Party for its advocacy of the unproductive lazy waiting for their entitlement handouts (Kazin, Stock, Berlet & Lyons).

Chip Berlet has written extensively about the long historical association of producerism with oppressive right-wing movements and regimes:

Producerism begins in the U.S. with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology. Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below. After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

The Producerist narrative is why Henry Ford – who, as the ostensible author of The International Jew, a 1920 conspiracist tome that inspired Hitler’s paranoia, and whose capital later helped build the Nazi war machine in the 1930s, was also (and not coincidentally) perhaps the ultimate American enabler of fascism – is such a seminal figure for American right-wing populists, both as a leader in the 1920s and ‘30s, as well as a figure of reverence today. (Glenn Beck, in fact, has on several occasions on his Fox News show referenced Ford as something of a holy figure for his efforts to resist FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s.) The same narrative is also why, in today’s context, Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged – a tendentious novel speculating on the disasters that would befall the world if its great industrial leaders suddenly chose to stop producing – are so important in their mythology.

Right-wing populism is essentially predicated on what today we might call the psychology of celebrity-worship: convincing working-class schlubs that they too can someday become rich and famous -- because when they do, would they want to be taxed heavily? It's all about dangling that lottery carrot out there for the poor stiffs who were never any good at math to begin with, and more than eager to delude themselves about their chances of hitting the jackpot.

The thing about right-wing populism is that it’s manifestly self-defeating: those who stand to primarily benefit from this ideology are the wealthy, which is why they so willingly underwrite it. It might, in fact, more accurately be called "sucker populism."

Nonetheless, right-wing populists have long been part of the larger conservative – though largely relegated to its fringes. Some of the more virulent expressions of this populism, including the Posse Comitatus movement, Willis Carto’s Populist Party, and the “Patriot”/militia movement of the 1990s, have been largely relegated to fringe status. However, there have been periods in America’s past when right-wing populism was not thoroughly mainstream but also politically ascendant. Probably the most exemplary of these was during the wave of Ku Klux Klan revival between 1915 and 1930.

It seems to have slipped down the American memory hole that this later Klan, built on a romanticized image of the original post-Civil War Klan, was – albeit briefly – a real political force: a nationwide organization with chapters in all 48 states that briefly became a political powerhouse in a number of states, including Oregon, Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Maine, where the Klan played a critical role in the 1924 election of Owen Brewster to the governorship. That same year, the Klan made waves at the Democratic Convention when the Klan-backed candidate, William Gibbs McAdoo of Georgia, declined to denounce them. Al Smith of New York managed to block his nomination, largely on these grounds, and West Virginia's John Davis emerged as the compromise selection. He lost to Calvin Coolidge.

The Klan, however, was about much more than mere racism, which was more an expression of its larger mission -- enforcing, through violence, threats, and intimidation, "traditional values" and what it called "100 percent Americanism." It was essentially populist, presenting itself as a vigilante force for “the people,” but there was no mistaking it for anything "progressive." The latter, in fact, was its sworn enemy. And like all right-wing populist movements, it promoted a Producerist narrative in which noble white people, the cream of creation, were being culturally assaulted by a conspiracy of elites and ignoble nonwhites.

The Klan’s populist vigilantism was applied broadly to the community, and not merely on racial or religious issues (this Klan was singularly anti-Catholic). David Chalmers, in his landmark work on the Klan, Hooded Americanism, describes (pp. 32-33) how Col. William J. Simmons, the man most responsible for the revival of the Klan in the 1915-20 period, shifted the Klan's focus from merely attacking nonwhites to a very broad menu of targets:

To the Negro, Jew, Oriental, Roman Catholic, and alien, were added dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex, marital "goings-on," and scandalous behavior, as the proper concern of the one-hundred-percent American. The Klan organizer was told to find out what was worrying a community and to offer the Klan as a solution.

Simmons' conception of the Klan as a special secret service bustling about spying on radicalism and questionable patriotism and generally reliving its wartime grandeur, was translated into a more enduring system of societal vigilance. The Klan was brought to Muncie, Indiana, by leading businessmen to cope with a corrupt Democratic city government. It entered Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Herrin County, Illinois, to put down bootlegging. When a newly formed Klan chapter would write to Atlanta for suggestions as to what to do first, the response was almost unvaryingly to "clean up the town," an injunction which usually came to rest it emphasis on the enforcement of the small-town version of the Ten Commandments.

This Klan crumbled in the late 1920s under the weight of internal political warfare and corruption; many of its field organizers later turned up in William Dudley Pelley’s overtly fascist Silver Shirts organization of the 1930s. After World War II, most of these groups – as well as the renowned anti-Semite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, and lingering American fascist groups like George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party – were fully relegated to fringe status. So, too, were subsequent attempts at reviving right-wing populism, embodied by Willis Carto and his Populist Party, as well as other forms of right-wing populism that cropped up in the latter half of the century, from Robert DePugh’s vigilante/domestic terrorist organization The Minutemen in the 1960s, to the Posse Comitatus and “constitutionalist” tax protesters in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the “militia”/Patriot movement of the 1990s. As it had been since at least the 1920s, this brand of populism was riddled with conspiracist paranoia, xenophobic white tribalism, and a propensity for extreme violence.

Yet beginning in the 1990s, as mainstream conservatives built more and more ideological bridges with this sector – reflected in the increasing adoption of far-right rhetoric within the mainstream – the strands of populism became more and more imbedded in mainstream-conservative dogma, particularly the deep, visceral, and often irrational hatred of the federal government. One of the more popular "mainstream" figure among this bloc in the 1990s was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And so when he created something of a sensation with is campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008, it meant that these ideas and agendas started receiving widespread circulation among the mainstream Right -- and with it, an increasing number of conservatives who called themselves "libertarians", when what they really meant was "populists."

But if Ron Paul opened the door for right-wing populism, though, he scarcely could have anticipated the overnight political star who would, in short order, come waltzing through it to great fanfare – namely, Sarah Palin. Hers is a somewhat different, more mainstream-friendly brand of right-wing populism – and as a result, it was embraced by a significantly greater portion of the American electorate.

Palin has always been a populist figure, right from the start of her political career as a member of the Wasilla City Council and then the city’s mayor. Shortly after winning her first council term on a pro-tax liberal agenda, Palin flipped her political allegiances and formed an alliance with a group of anti-tax, right-wing populist local citizens who would form her initial political base. This included a long association with one of the local leaders of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party, which was also a major conduit for militia/Patriot organizing in the state in the ‘90s. Palin channeled those associations during her first run for the governorship (she was the AIP’s unofficial candidate in the race, since it had no candidate of its own that year).

And her populism emerged for national view shortly after John McCain announced her as his running mate. It was more than just the aggressive, McCarthyite attacks on Obama as a “radical” who “palled around with terrorists” and the paranoid bashing of “liberal elites” -- most of all, there was the incessant suggestion that she and McCain represented “real Americans” and were all about standing up for “the people.”

Populism, yes, but indisputably right-wing, too: socially and fiscally conservative, business-friendly, and hostile to progressive causes. The Producerist narrative was a constant current in Palin’s speeches, particularly when she would get the crowd chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!” In her singular debate with Joe Biden, Palin continuously cast herself and McCain as essentially populist. Here are some typical outtakes of Palin’s responses in the debate:

So there hasn't been a whole lot that I've promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street.

Indeed, Palin’s populism probably saved the Republican ticket from the ignominy of a national landslide, even though they did eventually lose, because the standard corporate-style Republicanism that McCain represented had become profoundly unpopular by the end of the Bush era. Moreover, after the election, Palin has remained unusually popular among American conservatives, while McCain has become an object of frequent excoriation, particularly by the Glenn Beck conservatives, who have begun labeling him a “progressive Republican.”

Now it is becoming increasingly clear that Sarah Palin is going to be running for president, and has a better-than-even chance of becoming the GOP nominee -- there is simply no one else in sight who can match her for sheer star power on the Right. And the Right loves its stars.

The wingnutosphere, and even much of the Establishment Right, seems content to embrace right-wing populism, because it's the only path they can see to returning to power.

But as we have seen through the long and sordid history of right-wing populism in this country -- and particularly the way it has always unleashed violent, extremist rage -- it may just be a deal with the devil.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.