Saturday, January 25, 2003

Fundamentalism: The real enemy

Conservative commenators who like to pit American liberals in the same camp as the right-wing Islamists reponsible for 9/11 are in many ways trying cover their own tracks.

Let's face it: When right-wing propagandists and pundits natter on about how Islamists hate Western culture, how they hate modernism and freedom and our supposed decadence, they're talking about those parts of our society that are decidedly liberal. Indeed, many of these chatterers specifically point out how Islamists are known to put homosexuals to death, in stark contrast with their supposed sympathizers in the American antiwar crowd. Others blame liberals from the other direction -- like Jerry Falwell, saying our cultural depravity caused God to raise his protective hand from us.

All of this, of course, begs the question whether American liberals in truth have any sympathy whatsoever for Islamists. The majority of their objections to the looming war are not based in any empathy for the enemy, but on the utter failure of the Bush administration to make a case for attacking Iraq. How, exactly, is Saddam connected to 9/11 anyway? If we're only going to war to flex our muscle in the world, then damned straight the majority of Americans are against it. Sympathy's got nothing to do with it.

The truth is, however, that there is a substantial portion of the American population that feels the same way about modernism and liberal America's supposed "moral relativism" as do the Islamists. There is even a subset of these folks who likewise openly hope for the overthrow of the government and who argue for the death sentence for homosexuals. Another subset is working actively to penetrate the halls of U.S. government and take over its reins from within, transforming the nation into an open theocratic "Christian" state that structurally will resemble nothing so much as those Islamic states we now officially despise.

They're called fundamentalists. They're a global problem -- particularly in the USA. Conservatives, of course, don't really want to talk about the problem in this context, since their movement's ranks resound with the thunder of a million thumping Bibles.

The reality is that America -- indeed, Western civilization generally -- in confronting the Islamists is not up against Islam itself (contrary to what the Paul Weyrichs of the world may tell us). There is nothing innately anti-modern about Islam (no more so than any other ancient world religion).

We are up against all the many faces of fundamentalism. It is this movement that is explicitly anti-modern. Religious scholars, such as Karen Armstrong in her excellent The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, like to point out that the movement arose specifically as a reaction to modernism, or more specifically, as a reaction against the many failures of modern society. (This likewise suggests the real solution to the problem, that is, to find ways to mitigate those failures as a way of blunting the appeal of fundamentalism; but heaven forfend such suggestions be made, since they have roundly been denounced by conservatives as "anti-American." See, e.g., Patty Murray.)

This is not to argue that everyday fundamentalists are necessarily equivalent to Islamist footsoldiers. But it does underscore the fact that the extremists among Christian fundamentalists -- particularly those from the Christian Identity movement -- are every bit as dangerous to our national well-being as those from Al Qaeda.

There's a new front that poses a fresh danger as well: Hindu fundamentalism.

Here's an excellent piece from the latest Searchlight:

Hindu fundamentalism -- why we are concerned

This easy acceptance of anti-Muslim propaganda reflects a wider set of concerns -- the growth of Hindu fundamentalist, nationalist and anti-Muslim ideas within the Hindu community of Wellingborough, and indeed wider afield, where such ideas have become almost "common sense". Since the attack on the Twin Towers and the subsequent American led "war on terrorism", anti-Muslim sentiment and prejudice has grown significantly across all communities, both in the UK and abroad, and is certainly not confined to the Hindu community, although Hindu fundamentalist groups now have more credibility for their long-standing anti-Muslim views that predate recent events.

It's not too hard to see that the rise of Islamic terrorists is closely associated with American funding of such groups during the anti-Soviet uprising in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We have a history of loosing the "enemy of our enemies," only for the little monsters eventually to turn on us. (See also Saddam Hussein.) Let's not repeat the mistake.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Rush, Newspeak and fascism: Part 1

If there was any question that Rush Limbaugh is the most dangerous demagogue in America, he may have erased it with his latest broadside, describing antiwar protesters as "fascists and anti-American."

This is the latest step in the right-wing campaign to demonize opposition to President Bush's questionable policies as "anti-American," a campaign I've described previously. It is closely associated with attacks on multiculturalism. But Limbaugh takes it another step by associating liberals with Nazis and other fascist regimes.

This is not the first time he has misused the term. He has referred at various times to "liberal compassion fascists," and on other occasions has explained to his national audience that Nazis in fact were "socialists." This is, of course, the kind of twisting of terminology that turns the meaning of a concept into its precise opposite -- thereby nullifying its meaning and reality -- that is the essence of Newspeak.

"Fascism" has indeed come to be a nearly useless term in the past 30 years or so. In many respects, leftists are most responsible for this degradation; it became so common to lob the word at just about anyone conservative or corporatist in the 1960s and 1970s that its original meaning -- describing a very distinct political style, if not quite philosophy -- became utterly muddled, at least in the public lexicon. But the historical record is very clear about just what fascism really was and is.

Put simply, fascism is maybe best understood as an extreme reaction against socialism and communism. It was explicitly anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and corporatist, and it endorsed violence as a chief means to its ends. It was also, obviously, authoritarian, but claiming that it was oriented toward "socialism" is just crudely ahistorical, if not outrageously revisionist. Socialists, let's not forget, were among the first people imprisoned and "liquidated" by the Nazi regime.

But over the past 30 years or so, "fascism" has been bandied about so freely that is has come loosely to represent the broader concept of authoritarianism, which of course encompasses communism as well. And Limbaugh is clearly hoping to leap into that breach of popular understanding to exploit his claim that those on the left who are opposed to the war are "fascists." He's also hoping to tie the antiwar protesters in with his previous references to the "Islamofascists" of Al Qaeda, thus making them out clearly as enemy sympathizers.

Before he carries this much further, let's take a look at the real meaning of the word "fascism."

Over the next few days, I'll be offering a reasonably serious scholarly discourse on fascism and its meaning in today's politics. But first I wanted to offer a piece by Umberto Eco, who is a cultural scholar, of course, though not what I would consider a genuine expert on fascism. Nonetheless, his piece is on the right track, and lets me illustrate the point clearly:

Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt

Eco identifies a series of traits that descry the essence of what he calls "Ur-Fascism," that is, the beast that has always been with us and will always be. Now, although this piece was written in 1995, let's see how many we can recognize today:

The cult of tradition.

[Who are the folks who beat their breasts (and ours) incessantly over the primacy of 'traditional Judaeo-Christian culture'?]

The rejection of modernism.

[Think 'feminazis.' Think attacks on the NEA. Think attacks on multiculturalism.]


[Think how G.W. Bush's anti-intellectualism and illogical, skewed speech are positively celebrated by the right.]

Action for action's sake.

[Exactly why are we making war on Iraq, anyway?]

Disagreement is treason.

["Liberals are anti-American."]

Fear of difference.

[Again, think of the attacks on multiculturalism, as well as the attacks on Muslims and Islam generically.]

Appeal to a frustrated middle class.

[See the Blue states.]

Obsession with a plot.

[Limbaugh and conservatives have been obsessed with various "plots" by liberals for the past decade -- see, e.g., the Clinton impeachment, and current claims of a "fifth column" among liberals.]

Humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.

[Think Blue states vs. Red states.]

Pacificism is trafficking with the enemy.

[The very essence of these latest attacks.]

Life is eternal warfare.

[This perfectly describes the War on Terror.]

Contempt for the weak.

[Think both of conservatives' characterization of liberals as "weak spined," as well as the verbal attacks on Muslims and immigrants from the likes of Limbaugh and Michael Savage.]

Against 'rotten' parliamentary governments.

[Remember all those rants against 'big government'?]

Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

[See all of the Newspeak entries being compiled at this blog. Also see, especially, Limbaugh's contention that liberalism equals fascism.]

Well, I think it was Richard Hofstadter who first observed that arch-conservatives are highly prone to projection.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Helen Thomas speaks truth to power:

"This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history.”

Can't be repeated enough.

Somewhere on my drawing board is a book project titled: A Manifest Unfitness: The Calamitous Presidency of George W. Bush. I may just make it an e-book you can read here.

More on the treason front

Role reversal: Bush wants war, Pentagon urges caution

"The President considers this nation to be at war," a White House source says," and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."

Wonder how soon the roundups start.

Newspeak of the Week

"Liberalism is anti-American."

Yesterday's Michael Kelly column is a vivid example of the kind of phenomenon I've remarked on recently, in which liberals are increasingly painted as being sympathetic to the enemy.

A typical snippet: The left has hardened itself around the core value of a furious, permanent, reactionary opposition to the devil-state America, which stands as the paramount evil of the world and the paramount threat to the world, and whose aims must be thwarted even at the cost of supporting fascists and tyrants.

I mentioned previously that this smear on liberals -- that they are "anti-American" -- is directly drawn from the same kind of mud that used to be thrown at them -- that they are "Commies." I thought that smear was mostly extinct, but not for the likes of Kelly:

This is whom the left now marches with. The left marches with the Stalinists.

Others, notably Glenn Reynolds and James Lileks, have made the same argument.

Let's put something to rest right now. Ideologically speaking, I'm as devotedly anti-Communist as I am anti-fascist, and I think the vast mass of antiwar liberals out there are as well. But pragmatically speaking, they don't particularly care who is organizing the antiwar rallies, because at least someone is doing it. And there are reasons liberals don't view Communists with the same kind of reflexive horror as do conservatives.

As authoritarian ideologies go, Communists have a decidedly more mixed role in America's history -- both good and bad -- than do fascists, whose contributions have been unremittingly negative. By way of example: Communists played a major role in the case of the Scottsboro boys, a group of nine transient young black men who were accused groundlessly of rape and nearly lynched in 1931. Were it not for the tireless efforts of the International Labor Defense -- the legal arm of the Communist Party of America -- those young men would have died. Philip Dray has an extensive account of the case in his excellent At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America.

And only a century ago, the people who were agitating for the elimination of child labor and limiting the work week to a mere 70 hours were regularly attacked -- often physically -- as "socialists" and "communists." [I always recommend J. Anthony Lukas' Big Trouble for a very clear rendition of social conditions at the turn of the century.]

This is an old smear, and it reeks of desperation. It's an attempt to silence reasoned debate by merely dismissing ad hominem the motives of the opposition. And of course, since it clearly violates the Orcinus principium, it carries the stench of anti-democratic zealotry.

Oh, in case anyone had forgotten amid all this Newspeak: Democratic liberalism -- especially questioning, probing and ultimately pragmatic liberalism -- is a quintessentially American product. Fascism -- particularly the kind that brooks no questioning -- is not.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A Brief History of the Southern Strategy

I thought I'd offer some more selected excerpts from Joseph Aistrup's The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South, which despite its academic veneer reads like a strategic handbook for Republicans. It contains a fairly comprehensive history of the Southern Strategy, which I'll recap here.

According to Aistrup, the Southern Strategy actually originated with Barry Goldwater and his “Operation Dixie” campaign, then evolved in the hands of successive party leaders: Nixon, Reagan’s and Bush. As he describes it:

The Southern Strategy was developed to take advantage of the upheavals of the southern structure (Bass and De Vries, 1976, 22-33). The major goal of the Southern Strategy was to transform the Republicans’ reputation as the party of Lincoln, Yankees, and carpetbaggers into the party that protects white interests (Klinkner 1992; Bass and DeVries 1976; 22-23). Thus, subtle segregationist threads are sewn in to the tapestry of the Southern Strategy. As a response in part to the GOP’s new image and the liberalizing changes in the national Democrats’ party positions, the Southern Democrats evolved from a party that depended on race-baiting, white supremacists to a party that needs and depends on black support to win elections (Lamis 1988).

Significantly, the GOP began a conscious effort to recast their Southern image after Nixon’s loss in 1960. Under the influence of Goldwater and his allies, the Republican National Committee’s program “Operation Dixie” (Klinkner 1992) changed to openly promote a more conservative states’ rights and segregationist policies and to recruit candidates of this ilk. Republican segregationist candidates made respectable showings in the 1962 South Carolina U.S. Senate elections, where William Workman received 43 percent of the vote, and in the 1962 Alabama U.S. Senate election, where James Martin was seven thousand votes shy of unseating Democratic Sen. Lister Hill.

Even with the subtle change toward accepting candidates who were more in tune with the predominant white Southern party at that time, it was not until the 1964 presidential campaign that the Republicans’ new image became solidified. The key event that highlighted the Republicans; new strategy and led to the Democrats shedding their old segregationist image was the national Democrats’ support of civil rights and Goldwater’s and the Republican party’s support of states’ rights (Bass and De Vries 1976, 29). This election, more than any other (Carmines and Stinson 1989), drew clear lines of division and provided a glimpse of the future of party politics in the South and the rest of the nation. The battle was defined in the South as segregation versus desegregation. However, it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who promoted segregational politics.

... In tandem with the Southern Strategy issue orientation, a number of Republicans attempted to use subtle segregationist suggestions to win elections. Southern Republicans developed a set of policy positions that reinforced their racially conservative policy orientations. Republicans opposed forced busing, employment quotas, affirmative action and welfare programs; at the same time, they favored local control and tax exemptions for segregated private schools (Lamis 1988, 24). Segregationist policies became more abstract, a Reagan official explained: “You’re getting abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes ... [these policies] are totally economic things and a by-product of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it” (Lamis 1988, 26).

Incidentally, a number of Goldwater’s fellow Republicans -- mostly the old Northeastern progressive wing -- raised serious objections to his efforts:

The insertion of numerous segregationists into the Southern Republican candidate pool represents a significant precedent for the “party of Lincoln.” In addition, the moderate-to-strong showing of these segregationist Republicans provided Goldwater with evidence supporting his strategy for GOP presidential success in the South.

Significantly, pursuing the Goldwater strategy conflicted with the earlier efforts by Potter [the first head of “Operation Dixie”] to create a non-racist party. This change in issue emphasis sowed the seeds of discontent and intraparty rivalry between economic conservatives and racially oriented social conservatives, which to this very day tears at the heart of GOP unity in some Southern states.

In this sense Republican support for this strategy was far from consonant. Indeed, there was much dissension in the RNC over the adoption of Goldwater’s Southern Strategy. Republican heavyweights such as former RNC chair Meade Alcorn and New York Senator Jacob Javits felt the party should not abandon its historic commitment to civil rights to the votes of Southern segregationists (Klinkner 1992, 24). Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper agreed with Alcorn and Javits, emphasizing the amoral dimension of this strategy: “But in the long run, such a position will destroy the Republican party, and worse, it will do a great wrong because it will be supporting the denial of the constitutional and human rights of our citizens” (Bailey 1963).

The strategy reached fruition under Nixon, and consequently overtook the GOP itself:

Undaunted by Wallace’s potential usurpation of the states’ rights mantle, Nixon cut a deal with Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond (S.C.) to continue promoting policies consistent with a states’ rights orientation. Murphy and Gulliver describe the meeting: “Richard Milhous Nixon ... sat in a motel room in Atlanta in the early spring of 1968 and made his political deal. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was there. There were others. The essential Nixon bargain was this: If I’m president of the United States, I’ll find a way to ease up on the federal pressures forcing school desegregation or any other kind of desegregation. Whatever the exact words or phrasing, this was how the Nixon commitment was understood by Thurmond and other southern GOP strategists.”

Since this time, the racially conservative issue appeal of the southern Strategy has evolved from advocating states’ rights and opposing busing in the 1960s and 1970s to opposing large segments of the civil rights policy agenda, including affirmative action and quotas in the 1980s... The key to deciphering the Southern Strategy and understanding its evolution is found by revealing how its policy rhetoric appeals to its target audience, Southern whites. Many of the public words and deeds of the Southern Strategy have hidden meanings to adherents. Seemingly ambiguous political language has important, specific connotations for various groups in society. ...

Aistrup then provides several key instances from Nixon in which he deliberately used phrases that echoed many Southerners’ complaints about desegregation, adopting many of the themes of George Wallace: attacking the busing issue, pounding at “law and order,” and decrying welfare.

Unstated, but understood, was the racial tone of this line of attack: whites, once again, were being forced to pay the costs of liberal programs to help poor blacks.

The trend was refined by Reagan, who as Aistrup points out did not have a Southern Strategy per se, but whose conservatism was easily tailored rhetorically to the sentiments of racially oriented white Southerners. He points to a long passage from Reagan’s 1983 State of the Union Address, and remarks:

What do these references to “truly needy” and “greedy” mean within the context of Southern politics? The stereotype of a welfare recipient in the South and the rest of the country revolves around race. ... Reagan never overtly paints a picture of who is the “undeserving poor” or “greedy”; rather, it is his ambiguity and his past characterizations that allow individuals to envision that image of welfare recipients for themselves. For example, during Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 bids for President, it was not uncommon for him to stereotype welfare recipients in terms of the welfare queen with multiple children, large house and a Cadillac (Edsall and Edsall 1992). Whom do the Democrats “spend, spend spend” taxpayers’ money on? The unstated impression left on Southern whites’ minds is blacks. Polling data and focus group sessions show how these seemingly race-neutral statements are interpreted in a racial manner by many whites, especially those who were once the backbone of the Democratic coalition.

A passage here is important for understanding how the Southern Strategy continues to operate today:

When a GOP presidential candidate’s campaign strategy emphasizes racially conservative appeals, he identifies not only himself but his party as the one that protects white interests. The identification of the GOP, instead of the Southern Democrats, as the protector of white interests, combined with the large infusion of blacks into the Southern Democratic parties, opens the door for Southern whites to abandon their historic ties to the Democrats.

We don't need no steenking privacy rights

As long as I'm bringing up blasts from the past, let's review this one, just in case anyone had forgotten exactly what -- after taking over the judiciary -- is the foremost item on the agenda of the Federalist Society:

We Hold These Truths: A Statement of Christian Conscience and Citizenship [July 4, 1997]

While we are all responsible for the state of the nation, and while our ills no doubt have many causes, on this Fourth of July our attention must be directed to the role of the courts in the disordering of our liberty. Our nation was constituted by agreement that "we the people," through the representative institutions of republic government, would deliberate and decide how we ought to order our life together. In recent years, that agreement has been broken. The Declaration declares that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." In recent years, power has again and again been wielded, notably by the courts, without the consent of the governed.

The most egregious instance of such usurpation of power is the 1973 decision of the Supreme Court in which it claimed to have discovered a "privacy" right to abortion and by which it abolished, in what many constitutional scholars have called an act of raw judicial power, the abortion law of all fifty states. Traditionally in our jurisprudence, the law reflected the moral traditions by which people govern their lives. This decision was a radical departure, arbitrarily uprooting those moral traditions as they had been enacted in law through our representative political process. Our concern is for both the integrity of our constitutional order and for the unborn whom the Court has unjustly excluded from the protection of law.

Our concern is by no means limited to the question of abortion, but the judicially-imposed abortion license is at the very core of the disordering of our liberty. The question of abortion is the question of who belongs to the community for which we accept common responsibility. Our goal is unequivocal: Every unborn child protected in law and welcomed in life. We have no illusions that, in a world wounded by sin, that goal will ever be achieved perfectly. Nor do we assume that at present all Americans agree with that goal. Plainly, many do not. We believe, however, that democratic deliberation and decision would result in laws much more protective of the unborn and other vulnerable human lives. We are convinced that the Court was wrong, both morally and legally, to withdraw from a large part of the human community the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process of law.

Oh, and a little bit more about judicial nominee John Roberts' colorful history, arguing against abortion rights. Roberts, you may recall, authored a brief in the Supreme Court case Rust v. Sullivan -- a case that did not implicate Roe v. Wade -- that "the Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion... finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

Roberts was Deputy Solicitor General at the time. His boss? None other than Kenneth Starr.

In case anyone has forgotten how outrageous Rust v. Sullivan was -- it certainly foreshadowed Bush v. Gore in the foulness of its logic -- here's a blast from the past from Anna Quindlen:

The Most Serious Threat is Rust v. Sullivan [CJR, 1991]

Quota unquota

When was the last time we heard a Bush talking about "quotas"?

It was back in when Bush Sr. was vetoing the Civil Rights Act of 1990. His reasons for doing so were built upon the phony argument that the legislation was a "quota bill": "As presented to me, S. 2104 would lead employers to adopt quotas for hiring and promotion, and it would prevent or discourage some victims of illegal quotas from seeking legal redress."

Two years later, desperate to repair the damage from that decision (and the subsequent ascent of David Duke), Bush signed the Civil Rights Act of 1992, which was not appreciably different from the 1990 version.

Here's an excerpt from Joseph Aistrup's insightful The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement (University of Kentucky Press, 1996), which is mostly a strategist's guide for other Republicans. This is from pp. 52-53:

Using the basics of Reagan’s rhetoric, and mimicking the Reagan administration’s attack on civil rights, Bush vetoed the first version of the Civil Rights Act (1990) on the basis that it represented a “quota” bill. This strategy most likely would have succeeded, except for the emergence of Louisiana Republican and former Klansman, David Duke. David Duke's emergence as a Republican is an unintended consequence of the Southern Strategy’s race issue orientation (Page 1991, B7). Although Republican strategists are fully aware that the Southern Strategy entices voters of the same mold as David Duke (Evans and Novak 1991, A27), they find it extremely disateful when a racial reactionary leader becomes a Republican candidate, wins a state legislative seat as a Republican, and is one of two finalists in the Louisiana U.S. Senate (1990) and governor (1991) contests. White House press spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said of Duke: “He’s not a Republican, he never will be a Republican ... We don’t like him.”

Aside from Duke’s overt racism, the Duke affair is distasteful to Republicans because candidates like Duke expose how the Southern Strategy’s conservative message can be racially interpreted by many Southern whites, lending credence to Democrats’ claims concerning the racially divisive nature of the Southern Strategy’s issues (McQueen and Birnbaum 1991, A18). However, the most disturbing aspect of David Duke for the Republicans and Bush was that he elicited rhetoric straight from the Bush campaign: Opposing “quotas,” affirmative action, and any type of minority preference; assailing those who are on welfare; and blaming government and special interests for the poor state of Louisiana’s economy.

However, it was the actions of a Republican senator that effectively undermined the use of race-based issues in the 1992 presidential campaign. In the furor engulfing President Bush’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990, several moderate Republican senators led by Senate John Danforth (R-Mo.) attempted to forge a compromise civil rights bill. After numerous meetings with administration negotiators, Danforth lamented that the administration were more interested in using race and quota issues in the 1992 presidential election than constructing a compromise (Overdorfer and Schwartz 1991, A21). With the political backdrop of David Duke winning a spot in the 1991 Louisiana runoff election for governor as a Republican, and Bush’s appointment of Clarence Thomas to fill Thurgood Marshall’s vacant Supreme Court seat (Thomas is from Missouri, Danforth’s state), Bush cut a deal that led to the passage of the 1991 extension of the Civil Rights Act. Importantly, the 1991 version was not substantially different from the previously vetoed version (McQueen and Birnbaum 1991, A18).

With the race pillar suddenly gone from the Southern Strategy, Aistrup contends, Bush was forced to shore up his Southern base by making naked appeals to religious conservatives: “Consequently the Republican National Convention was transformed into another edition of the ‘700 Club.’” This drew him too far to the right and spelled his doom in the general election.

Junior may be following in his footsteps -- zigging to disavow the racial neo-Confederate wing of the party, then zagging back right again, hoping to repair the damage with the attacks on affirmative action.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Next in line

To supplement the previous post, I just came across this from a piece in today's Salon, "Reproductive rights" [Salon Premium subscription req'd], by Sheerly Avni, part of a Salon multi-feature package on "Worst Case Scenarios."

It quotes Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood: "In a realistic worst-case scenario, we could lose not only our right to abortion, but even our right to birth control."

Federalist Society Takeover Alert

Via the Pontificator, an important heads-up about another right-wing extremist who's been nominated to the judiciary by the Bush administration.

His name is John Roberts, and he's been nominated to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. You can read all about him at Alliance For Justice.

Among the many points raised about Roberts, this one stands out:

"As a Deputy Solicitor General, Mr. Roberts co-wrote a Supreme Court brief in Rust v. Sullivan, for the Bush administration, which argued that it could prohibit doctors in federal government-sponsored family planning programs from discussing abortions with their patients. The brief not only argued that the regulations were constitutional, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, but it made the broader argument that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided-an argument unnecessary to defend the regulation. The Supreme Court sided with the government on the narrower grounds that the regulation was constitutional, rather than holding more broadly that Roe v. Wade should be overturned."

And from NARAL, more on this point:

"As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court (in a case that did not implicate Roe v. Wade) that '[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled... [T]he Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion... finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.'"

The one point that I don't think everyone fully appreciates about Roberts' argument is that it is a classic "strict construction" argument. The underpinnings of Roe v. Wade are its basis upon a right to privacy. The courts first ruled that such a right existed in a case (Griswold v. Connecticut) that upheld a woman's right to obtain contraception. Roe v. Wade followed shortly thereafter.

Because no such right is explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, "strict constructionists" argue that privacy rights do not exist (thereby ignoring the 10th Amendment, which makes clear that certain "natural" rights exist outside of the Bill of Rights).

There is much more at stake here than merely abortion.

And then there's the ultimate warning sign: Ann Coulter digs him.

Celebrating MLK Day -- the skinhead way

More disturbing news on the escalation-of-violence front from the white-supremacist movement, also in my neck of the woods:

Gunfire racially driven, cops say

Four young men -- including three Portland area residents -- are facing hate crime charges after a shotgun shooting spree that police say was aimed at blacks in Northeast Portland.

The four are: Andrew T. Sherwood, 15, of Northeast Portland; Joshua D. Ridley, 19, of Milwaukie; Brian S. Heath, 21, of Gresham; and Denis P. Fahey, 18, of Redmond. They were arrested in Vancouver, Wash., after being chased by police across the Interstate Bridge.

No one was hurt in the shootings, which began shortly after 1 am. Sunday.

According to Portland police, Ridley was the driver of a 1991 black Chevrolet Camaro carrying the four men north through Northeast Portland. One or more of the passengers repeatedly fired shots from the car's open T-top into cars and houses as they drove by, said Police Chief Mark Kroeker. The men told police they also aimed the shotgun at one black male, who quickly ran away.

"They have told us they chose the area because they believed it was predominantly African-American," Kroeker said at a Monday afternoon news conference attended by A.L. "Skipper" Osborne, president of the Portland NAACP, and Robert Richardson, chairman of the police bureau's African-American advisory committee.

Far-right fun and games

An extortion racket by a hate group from my neck of the woods:

Web link infuriates senators
[Must register at Post-Dispatch]

At least eight Ohio state senators' names are linked on the Internet with a white supremacist group calling itself a "nonviolent civil-rights organization'' that recruits members and sells flags, jewelry, bumper stickers and clothing such as Caucasian jeans.

Internet records show that a Seattle political organization has purchased the rights to Web domains under the senators' names -- for
example, -- and redirected the domains to the Web page of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, which calls for "equal rights for all; special privileges for none.''

It gives the appearance that the senators support the group when the Web site pops up under their names.

"Aren't you sick of reverse discrimination, busing, minority welfare rip-offs, massive immigration, gun control, anti-white movies and TV shows?'' reads the Web page statement of beliefs. "Do you want to see America become like Mexico or South Africa or Uganda?''

Later, we get a name connected with the scam:

The domains for the senators' names were registered to the Council on Political Accountability in Seattle on Jan. 9 for a one-year period. However,, a domain-registration company, reports that the eight domains are for sale on eBay with 25 percent of the proceeds earmarked for the American Cancer Society.

Jeremy Stamper, the administrative contact for the Seattle council, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

I haven't met Stamper that I'm aware of (though it's always possible I have, since I like to talk to a lot of rank-and-file types when I attend far-right gatherings), but I've had extensive contact with one of the leaders of another Duke operation based in Tacoma, the National Organization For European-American Rights (NOFEAR), a guy named David Jensen. Jensen raised a stink when a Seattle Asian-American stabbed to death a white man who was in the process of committing a hate crime against him. I covered the trial, and Jensen showed up for one day. The victim's mother chased him away.

The Bigots Who Keep On Giving

John Cole, posting at Matthew Yglesias' comments, says this regarding my post on the Pickering nomination:

But he fails to factor in the dual purpose of calling all these nominees racist. One, you defeat them as candidates, two, you get to keep the fires of racial animus stoked so that you continue to get 90% of the black vote. Whether or not Pickering is a racist matters not a hoot to Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy- labeling him as a racist and having it stick is priority number one.

There's a reason not to factor in these purposes: They're not necessary.

Democrats certainly don't need to "stoke the fires" that keep sending blacks en masse into their arms. Republicans are doing that nicely all by themselves.

Just in the past month they've given us:

-- Trent Lott.

-- The University of Michigan.

-- The California GOP.

Democrats fare so much better when they just leave Republicans to their own devices.

The other kind of terrorism, Ch. 489

Fred Clarkson has an excellent series running on Women's News. This is the latest installment:

Radical Abortion Opponents Said to Be Laying Low

While there have been peaks and valleys on a graph of serious crimes against clinics over the years, it is nevertheless striking that, according to the National Abortion Federation's statistics for 2002, there were no murders or attempted murders last year in the United States and Canada. No bombings or attempted bombings. And only one arson.

Analysts credit Attorney General John Ashcroft for making clear that violent crime will not be tolerated and the change in the public tolerance of anti-abortion violence after the attacks of Sept. 11. In its aftermath, more than 500 anthrax threats were mailed to clinics and abortion rights organizations and Ashcroft issued a statement that these crimes were serious and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Within days of Ashcroft's statement, Clayton Waagner, who has admitted to sending the anthrax threats, was captured.

Law enforcement authorities felt that "it was only a matter of time before anti-choice extremists might be able to get a hold of anthrax--and that they had already said very vocally that they would not hesitate to use it," says Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. "That Ashcroft characterized it [the anthrax threats] as domestic terrorism and the seriousness with which the FBI treated the matter, I believe, headed off copycat crimes."

Give credit where it is due. I think many of us suspected that when Ashcroft took over the Justice Department, pursuit of right-wing terrorists would grow lax. That clearly has not been the case (though one could argue that the failure to solve the anthrax case remains troubling).

However, it is clear that for most of this administration, the only meaning of "terrorist" is "Al Qaeda operative." That's unfortunate, because it tends to ignore the fact that right-wing terrorists have clearly stated they intend to piggyback on the back of Al Qaeda in sowing and reaping fear and public panic. That's become a key part in their own terrorist agenda; and if you don't believe they have one, then take a moment and recall Oklahoma City. And I'm not sure Ashcroft gets this point, either.

In any case, the end offers an interesting perspective:

Meanwhile Dallas Blanchard is taking the long view. He sees the decades of anti-abortion violence as a sure sign of the death of the movement. He compares the recent history of anti-abortion militancy to the last decades of segregation and to efforts to crush organized labor with violence. "These," he says, "were in retrospect their last gasps."

One could only hope.

Monday, January 20, 2003

News from the white homeland


NAACP chief lies about his past

What Dawson didn´t admit was that between 1976 and 1992, he was imprisoned in four states for forgery, falsifying documents for financial gain, and grand theft; only the most recent prison time was in Idaho.

He didn´t admit that he never played for the Oakland Raiders, as he told The Idaho Statesman and others, despite the vanity plate on his red Lincoln Navigator, ORNFL, for “Oakland Raiders, NFL.”

He didn´t admit that he never wore No. 86 for the University of Michigan and didn´t get a bachelor´s degree in business, as he claims. In fact, Wade Dawson never attended the university.

He didn´t admit that he has outstanding tax liens from both the Internal Revenue Service and the Idaho State Tax Commission.


Can anyone tell me why this has to happen in Idaho? Just before the MLK Day observance? I mean, aren't civil-rights advocates there beleaguered enough?

Well, hey, I'm comforted

Ariz. cache of weapons not a threat, lawyers say

Aloise said his client believed the Arizona weapons, stored under his mother's name, were inoperable and therefore not illegal. ''Obviously, his actions are inconsistent with thinking that he had done something wrong,'' Aloise said.

But federal officials said yesterday an initial review of the more than 200 found weapons -- which included bazookas, grenades, and flamethrowers -- showed that at least some are in working order.

This guy was already a convicted felon who kept buying illegal weapons. I don't know about you, but somehow his attorneys' reassurances would feel just a bit thin if I were among this guy's neighbors. Or anyone in his path, for that matter.

Multiculturalism under fire

Both progressives and centrists need to understand what the increasing attacks on multiculturalism from ostensibly mainstream conservatives are really all about: namely, the return of white nationalism.

These attacks are coming from all sectors of the conservative attack machine -- from the religious right, from the extremist right, and from mainstream liberal-hating conservatives who gleefully join in without considering the broader ramifications of these attacks.

A classic example of this is this report by William Lind of the Free Congress Foundation, "A Short History of Cultural Conservatism." The FCF, as it happens, is neatly positioned at the meeting-point of these three sectors of the right -- it enjoys credibility among both the religious and the far right, and its leader, Paul Weyrich, has been a major player of the mainstream right for over a generation now.

An excerpt:

Over the last several years, the Center for Cultural Conservatism devoted itself to researching the history and hidden agenda of our culture’s enemies. We quickly realized that the somewhat inchoate ramblings of the 1960s New Left had crystallized into a full-blown ideology, the ideology generally known as "multiculturalism" or "Political Correctness." In a new essay series on Political Correctness, we laid out its nature and historical origins, discovering that it is nothing less than Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms, largely through the work of the so-called "Frankfurt School," the Institute for Social Research established at Frankfurt University in Frankfurt, Germany in 1923 and removed to New York City in 1933. To the essay series we subsequently added a video documentary history of the Frankfurt School, "Political Correctness: The Dirty Little Secret."

Lind's history, of course, is utter balderdash. Multiculturalism has its origins in anthropology, and is in many ways the brainchild of Franz Boas, the "father of American anthropology." See, by way of example, this essay by Kenan Malik, "Race, Pluralism and the Meaning of Difference," which discusses the centrality of Boas' precepts to the development of multiculturalism in the 20th century.

Boas, as it happens, was a man after my own heart; he made his reputation with his forty-year study of the Kwakiutl Indians of northern Vancouver Island (where the waters are thick with Orcinus orca). That was also where he developed his concepts of cultural relativism. As this entry from Infoplease neatly sums up:

Boas greatly influenced American anthropology, particularly in his development of the theoretical framework known as cultural relativism, which argued against the evolutionary scale leading from savagery to Culture, laid out by his 19th-century predecessors. He believed that cultures (plural) are too complex to be evaluated according to the broad theorizing characteristic of evolutionary “laws” of developing culture (singular). Instead, Boas sought to understand the development of societies through their particular histories. He established the “four-field approach” through his concern with human evolution, archaeology, language, and culture, each of which has become a sub-field in the wider discipline of anthropology in the United States. Boas reexamined the premises of physical anthropology and was a pioneer in the application of statistical methods to biometric study. Boas was an early critic of the use of race as an explanation for difference in the natural and social sciences, emphasizing instead the importance of environment in the evaluation of individual capabilities, and made important contributions to stratigraphic archaeology in Mexico. As a student of Native American languages, Boas emphasized the importance of linguistic analysis from internal linguistic structure, and pointed out that language was a fundamental aspect of culture. His insistence on rigorous methodology served to establish the scientific value of his contributions, and his methods and conclusions are still widely influential.

Put simply, Boas insisted on applying a genuine scientific method to the study of culture, as opposed to the hodgepodge of pseudo-scientific "sociology" that held sway at the turn of the century and well into this one. These included such bogus sciences as phrenology and eugenics, both of which were clearly unscientific methods for supporting the principles of white supremacy.

It is among our more convenient memory lapses as a nation that we Americans forget that white supremacism was indeed at one time the dominant worldview held by most U.S. citizens. The widespread belief that white people were the consummate creation of nature, and that they were destined to bring the world civilization and light, went essentially unquestioned. And it was supported by popular literature and these self-proclaimed “scientists” who used the questionable methodology of the day to lend an academic veneer to longstanding racial prejudices.

Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact largely did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 tome The Passing of the Great Race:

“We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America ‘an asylum for the oppressed,’ are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all ‘distinctions of race, creed, or color,’ the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.”

And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant -- the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: “There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood.”

Both of the men’s books were national bestsellers that underwent multiple printings. And their core arguments -- which became entwined with deeply cherished beliefs about the nature of race -- became the heart of the battle to exclude Japanese immigrants in the 1920s, and to justify Jim Crow laws in the South well into the 1950s.

Boas' multiculturalism, then, was specifically a reaction against white supremacism. And there is little doubt that this philosophy became the dominant American worldview in the last half of the past century. It is also deeply interwoven with mainstream liberalism in America, and its institutional ascendance is an indication of how broad and powerful those beliefs have become.

Obviously, there are some limits to multiculturalism, limits that Boas himself might readily concede. But its critics rarely propose an alternative; and when they do, it is almost always a form of white supremacism clothed in code words, as is Lind's: Cultural conservatism is the belief that there is a necessary, unbreakable, and causal relationship between traditional Western, Judeo-Christian values, definitions of right and wrong, ways of thinking and ways of living -- the parameters of Western culture -- and the secular success of Western societies: their prosperity, their liberties, and the opportunities they offer their citizens to lead fulfilling, rewarding lives.

What this view blithely ignores is the extent to which the "secular success" of Western culture has depended not upon such high-minded ideals as integrity and decency but rather upon their polar opposites: deceit, treachery, thuggery and lethal brute force. (Certainly Franz Boas, who had lifelong contacts with Native Americans, was acutely aware of this history.) The success of Western culture is not any proof of its superiority.

This does not make me (or anyone else) who holds these views innately anti-American. Hardly. In fact, I think the fact that we live in a society where such views can not only be spoken but openly explored is a sign of our greatness, and I have always been glad to consider myself a patriot who would die defending the country from a genuine threat -- specifically because I believe in that greatness. Indeed, I firmly believe that truly understanding America's problems means taking the blinders off about our own history, which by necessity shapes our obligations to the present and future.

Not that the likes of William Lind would entertain such views for a moment. It's worth remembering that Lind has become a controversial figure in recent weeks, after an essay of his defending the Confederacy was circulated in a newsletter by the would-be chair of the California Republican Party, William Back. Lind's essay argued that "history might have taken a better turn" if the South had won the Civil War, and likewise contends "The real damage to race relations in the south came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won."

Moreover, as this SPLC report makes clear, Lind has aligned himself on multiple occasions with far-right extremists, including Holocaust deniers. There should be little doubt that he is an unapologetic voice for white nationalism.

His attacks on multiculturalism are of a piece with this. See, for instance, this essay:

Is Multiculturalism a Threat to the National Security of the United States?

YES: A fragmented culture subverts national identity, purpose and the will to fight enemies.

Lind repeats his ahistorical rant about multiculturalism's origins, and adds this:

The basic message of "multiculturalism" is that all cultures are equally good and beneficent - except Western culture, which is violent and oppressive. That message is, of course, a lie. In reality, Western culture is one of only two cultures that has been successful over time in terms of the quality of life it provided to its adherents (the other success is Chinese culture). To see real violence and oppression, one need only look at the life of non-Muslims in Islamic majority countries. The purpose of multiculturalism is to disarm the West psychologically, to make it impossible for Western men even to consider fighting in defense of the Western, Judeo-Christian way of life; to do so, as the multiculturalists preach, is to become "another Adolf Hitler" (who was, ironically, no fan of Judeo-Christian culture himself.)

Lind is hardly the only voice attacking multiculturalism out there, however. Rush Limbaugh's radio program regularly features similarly ahistorical attacks on the concept. The Washington Post's Michael Kellylikewise is fond of "exposing" the sins of multicultural principles. Fox News talking heads use the word as a sneer. Even libertarians at the Ayn Rand Institute label multiculturalism "the new racism" [thereby qualifying for an entry in "Newspeak of the Week"].

Nearly all of these attacks are built upon the kind of smear campaign that has all too often typified conservatives' attacks on bedrock liberal principles for the better part of a century. For years, of course, this smear was embodied in the word "Commie" (note that Lind specifically tries to make multiculturalism out to be Marxist in origin). Now that the label doesn't really work any more, they've come up with a new variation on the same theme: "anti-American."

These remarks do not come to argue, but to silence. Their intent is not to advance the debate by considering points on their merits, but by smearing those who raise them as "anti-American," a characterization no freedom-loving citizen wants. In a post-9/11 environment where such labels have been associated with "providing aid and comfort to the enemy" and "fifth column" accusations, these arguments have a growing danger behind them.

I recently criticized one of these attacks on multiculturalism, a blog essay by Brian O'Connell titled "From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps." Going through it, you'll see that it fits the mold: No real critique of the actual contents of multiculturalism, just reflexive caricatures of its various postures, some of which could have been inspired (or written) by William Lind: "As is implied by Step No. 1, "We Cannot Judge Other Cultures", we are perfectly free to judge our own culture, Western culture, and that of its most visible agent, the US. And we're not just free to do so, indeed, we're obligated to do so. Like the first step, this is axiomatic. And when we do analyze Western and US culture, what a magnificent host of pathologies we find: racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, capitalism, corporatism, consumerism, and the chronic trashing of the environment."

Brian has offered a defense, which says in part:

My post merely draws a connection between the practice of multiculturalism and resulting anti-Americanism. I advocated no action. The only action I would suggest is speech: pointing out what's wrong with that view and that way of thinking. And that's all I did.

This is, of course, simply disingenuous. The attacks on multiculturalism are part of a cohesive line of argument that is beginning to emerge from the right. Its basic syllogism is this: Liberalism equals multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is anti-American. Anti-Americanism gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Thus, liberal attacks on the Bush regime's war effort support the enemy.

Considering the already-vicious character of this line of reasoning, one wonders how long will it be before we hear the next logical step of this syllogism: Namely, that those who support the enemy are equal to enemy combatants.

Again, these contentions aren't meant to argue -- they mean to silence the opposition. Their only purpose is to squelch dissent. And its speakers are in clear violation of the the Orcinus Principium: "Americans who accuse their fellow citizens of sympathizing with the enemy merely for dissenting from the nation's war aims are objectively anti-democratic."

Brian further responds:

As is groaningly familiar now, many on the left equate criticizing critical speech with stifling dissent. As if the First Amendment envisions only a single iteration of criticism; as if free speech means that you can say anything you want, as long as it’s not about what other people are saying. It’s not so. War on Dissent. Please. Dissent is not a church and I am not being sacreligous by saying that a certain group of dissenters are in error.

No one minds a serious critique of the errors of multiculturalism. But O'Connell's polemic was anything but -- rife with mischaracterizations of the actual tenets, as well as the history of, multiculturalism, and built around a thesis that is clear in its intent: to prove that the very nature of multiculturalism is anti-American. He wasn't pointing out an error; he was painting liberals as unpatriotic sympathizers with the enemy. Especially when delivered in the context of a critique of the antiwar movement, the effect is clearly part of a worrisome trend in the national debate.

Finally, I think it's important to point out that not only is there no evidence -- beyond its obviously questioning and skeptical stance -- that multiculturalism is innately anti-American, it must be remembered that it is in fact innately American, a product of old bedrock democratic principles like egalitarianism. (Certainly this is part of how Boas envisioned it as well.) But then, democracy itself seems not to be much valued by those on the right these days.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Find out what it means to me

Oops. Someone stepped over the line.

Rice: Race Can Be Factor In College Admissions

Rice's statement came after an article in The Washington Post yesterday in which several White House aides said she had played a crucial role in Bush's deliberations and helped persuade him to publicly oppose Michigan's program. Officials who described her role to The Post noted that it was unusual for her to become such a major factor in an issue that did not involve foreign policy. Their comments had the effect of associating a respected African American adviser to Bush with a decision that has been criticized by many black leaders. Rice reportedly was angry about the article in part because she believed it had been written only because she is black.

Wonder if she has stopped to think why these obvious cretins (one suspects Karl Rove) inside the White House team who put her name out there came to pick her to help them flog this phony story in the first place -- and not merely because of her race. They also obviously thought she would play along. That says a lot about how much they respect her, doesn't it?

Blast from the past

I've been doing research today and was struck by a fresh reading ofJustice Robert Jackson's dissent in Korematsu v. United States.

Jackson attempts to tackle some issues that ring with a certain prescience:

But if we cannot confine military expedients by the Constitution, neither would I distort the Constitution to approve all that the military may deem expedient. That is what the Court appears to be doing, whether consciously or not. I cannot say, from any evidence before me, that the orders of General DeWitt were not reasonably expedient military precautions, nor could I say that they were. But even if they were permissible military procedures, I deny that it follows that they are constitutional. If, as the Court holds, it does follow, then we may as well say that any military order will be constitutional and have done with it.

The limitation under which courts always will labor in examining the necessity for a military order are illustrated by this case. How does the Court know that these orders have a reasonable basis in necessity? No evidence whatever on that subject has been taken by this or any other court. There is sharp controversy as to the credibility of the DeWitt report. So the Court, having no real evidence before it, has no choice but to accept General DeWitt's own unsworn, self-serving statement, untested by any cross-examination, that what he did was reasonable. And thus it will always be when courts try to look into the reasonableness of a military order.

In the very nature of things, military decisions are not susceptible of intelligent judicial appraisal. They do not pretend to rest on evidence, but are made on information that often would not be admissible and on assumptions that could not be proved. Information in support of an order could not be disclosed to courts without danger that it would reach the enemy. Neither can courts act on communications made in confidence. Hence courts can never have any real alternative to accepting the mere declaration of the authority that issued the order that it was reasonably necessary from a military viewpoint.

Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

Looks like the Bush administration found that loaded weapon, and is wielding it gleefully in the name of the 'war on terror.'

The War on Dissent, episode 87

[Thanks to The Propaganda Remix Project]

Here's logic worthy of Rush Limbaugh:

From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps

This piece might also be titled: "How to Smear Anyone Who Criticizes American Actions as Treasonous Bastards Who Are Aiding the Enemy in Two Easy Steps."

Wonder how long it will take this crowd to start propounding internment camps for liberals.

Holy Joe

What About Those End Times, Mr. President?

The image is jarring: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, presidential candidate, appears on an infomercial asking Evangelical Christians to donate money to "rescue a Jew.""'On Wings of Eagles' is a modern-day fulfillment of Biblical prophesy," the voiceover in the infomercial says, over images of huddled Russian Jews at the airport, smiling as they presumably wait to leave Russia for Israel.

... Critics of the Christian Right say the IFCJ's appeal to "prophesy" in their infomercial is a thinly veiled reference to Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ and the moment when nonbelievers -- Jews included -- will be cast into the lake of fire. Jewish critics of the IFCJ say the group demeans the dignity of Jews.

Yet from 1994 to 1999, Lieberman, who on Monday announced his bid for the presidency, served as co-chair of one of IFCJ's projects, the Washington-based Center for Jewish and Christian Values.

For a long time I thought Lieberman was one of the Democrats most in need of a spine implant. Now I think a brain implant might come first. Completely selling your fellow Democrats down the river is one thing; this is another.

Affirmative action, Texas style

From College Station, home of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

Texas A&M Embarrassed by 'Ghetto Party'

Texas A&M University officials are trying to stop some students' plans to mark Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with an-off campus party at which guests are encouraged to mimic stereotypes about blacks.

``It's hard to understand how students could live in today's world and think a party playing on stereotypes of African-Americans would be acceptable,'' said Ron Sasse, director of dormitories at the College Station campus, where 85 percent of the students are white and 3 percent are black.

No, it really isn't hard to understand at all.

Backbone implant

Memo to Dick Gephardt: See, it doesn't hurt to have a spine:

Mo. Confederate Flag Removals Protested

Steve Mahfood, director of the Department of Natural Resources, ordered the flags removed Tuesday after Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt's declaration last weekend that the Confederate battle flag shouldn't fly ``anytime, anywhere.'' Gov. Bob Holden — a Democrat who once worked for Gephardt — later said he endorsed Mahfood's decision.

What the story doesn't mention, of course, is that Gephardt made those remarks while backtracking from his craven cowardice of the last week (and inspiration for a Spineless Worm Alert), when Gephardt declined to criticize the Dixie flag in South Carolina.

Also noteworthy:

Mark Trout, who attended the rally, said he was a member of the Sons of Union Veterans and considered suppression of Confederate heritage or emblems to be a ``direct attack on the overall history of the Civil War.''

He said singling out the Confederate flag was unfair because slavery existed in the United States longer than the Confederacy existed.

Well, sure Mark, except for one little difference: The United States' raison d'etre was not the defense of institutional slavery.