Saturday, August 21, 2004

Our friends at Citizens United

It really shouldn't surprise anyone that the right-wing attacks on John Kerry -- notably including the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- have all so far proven to be brazen falsehoods and crudely nasty smears. One of the main players in perpetrating the smears, as it turns out, is none other than Citizens United, the Floyd Brown/David Bossie dirty-tricks operation.

These are guys whose ethos makes Dick Nixon look like a choirboy.

Again, this isn't a surprise, if you happen to know a little about their history. Not only were these characters central actors in the misbegotten attempt to impeach Bill Clinton; not only does their involvement in dirty smears date back to the first Bush presidential campaign and the "Willie Horton" ads; but they have also been, over the years, significant players in the transmission of far-right extremist ideas and agendas into the mainstream and the concomitant bridging and coalition-building between the mainstream and extremist right.

Their most recent project, as Joe Conason reports in Salon, is releasing a pro-Bush counter to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 to be titled The Big Picture. But it's only half an enconium to Bush; it also features an extended attack on Kerry:
An outline of the "The Big Picture" obtained by Salon suggests that the Citizens United documentary will offer not only a staunch defense of Bush but also an aggressive attack on Kerry, including a recitation of various smears having to do with his medal-winning military history put forward lately by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The outline portrays the Democratic nominee as the preferred candidate of such "foreign leaders" as Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il and the Nicaraguan Sandinista Party, and as an "appeaser" of European powers deemed corrupt and hostile to U.S. interests -- especially France. Virtually all the world's other nations are solidly behind Bush and the war in Iraq, according to the outline, which labors to disprove allegations that Bush "lied" about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaida.

Note the hostility to international cooperation? Note the eagerness to pull out the lowest of cheap shots, namely, the insinuation that Kerry is "the favored candidate" of the nation's enemies? Note the allergy to factuality or fairness, and the eagerness to distort, twist and lie?

Well, these are all perfectly in character for Citizens United.

Salon previously examined Bossie, who seems to have taken up residency among the "respectable" pundit class, including semi-regular appearances on Lou Dobbs' CNN talk program.

Just as significant, though, is the background of Floyd G. Brown, the group's founder and chairman. Brown's current bio (at the Young America's Foundation)neglects to mention it, but his old bio at Citizens United (no longer available) used to read proudly:
In 1988 and 1992, Mr. Brown's independent expenditure campaigns supporting President Bush produced effective and memorable ads including the now-famous "Willie Horton ad."

Now, most people would run from any association with the Horton ad, which stands today as an icon of Republicans' dalliances with racism. But not Brown, who understood that the damage inflicted by such an ad would easily overcome any outrage that might follow. The important thing was to get the meme out there -- regardless of its noxious nature.

This was discussed in detail in a report by Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates on the reach of the "Clinton conspiracy" industry into the extremist right, in which Citizens United played a starring role:
Brown remains proud of the 1988 Willie Horton ad, widely denounced as racist pandering. In 1992, he attempted to place ads for a $4.99 paid phone call that would play tapes of Gennifer Flowers in a telephone conversation with then-governor Clinton. The hook was a promise that the conversation probed sexual matters. The incident was so tasteless that the Bush/Quayle campaign was again forced to condemn Brown and his tactics. Brown also arranged a screening for a reporter of Militia leader Linda Thompson's video, "Waco: The Big Lie," a potage of conspiracy theories linking Clinton to premeditated murder.

Two of Brown's senior staff are veterans of the ultra-conservative subculture with its conspiracist worldview of communism as a vast left wing conspiracy-a worldview that originated in the Old Right. Cliff Kincaid is director of Citizens United Foundation's American Sovereignty Action Project. He the author of two conspiracist books on the United Nations, Global Bondage: The U.N. Plan to Rule the World and Global Taxes for World Government, both published by Huntington House. Kincaid's claims about the UN are promoted within the patriot movement. Kincaid also works for Accuracy in Media, and writes columns for Human Events and the American Legion Magazine, with a circulation of 3 million. In a 1991 article for Human Events, Kincaid red-baited groups protesting the Gulf War and quoted right-wing undercover operative Sheila Louise Rees, claiming antiwar demonstrations were concocted "by the traditional hard-line peace activist organizations that have always worked with the Communist Party U.S.A." Human Events is now published by Eagle/Phillips Publishing. Regnery Publishing is primarily owned by Phillips Publishing and the Regnery family.

[Regnery (and Eagle/Phillips Publishing) may ring a familiar bell: This is the house that published both Michelle Malkin's dismal pro-internment screed and the Not So Swift Liars' book.]

As Berlet notes, though, Brown moved from "Willie Horton"-style dirty tricks in the 1990s to specializing in promoting far-right "Patriot" movement beliefs, notably theories about Bill Clinton's evil conspiracy to enslave America by instituting a United Nations-led "New World Order."

As recently as 1999 at the Citizens United Web site -- in addition, naturally, to a bevy of Monica-related impeachment demands -- one could find screaming exposes of the Clintons' alleged involvement in the United Nations one-world-government plot. A streaming banner on the site shouted: "Secret United Nations Agenda Exposed In Explosive New Video!" A little further down, the site explained: "This timely new video reveals how the liberal regime of Bill Clinton is actively conspiring to aid and abet the United Nations in its drive for global supremacy." For those who follow the militia movement, these tales have more than a familiar ring.

Indeed, it used to be a common sight at militia meetings in the mid-1990s to see stacks of Brown and Bossie's tome Slick Willie: Why America Cannot Trust Bill Clinton for sale in stacks, right alongside The Clinton Chronicles (both book and video). Later, of course, Bossie began achieving a certain level of notoriety for his anti-Clinton activities, notably distributing doctored audio tapes to the press under the auspices of his position as an investigator for Rep. Dan Burton, R-Melon Shooters, from which he was summarily fired.

In recent years, as they're striven for media respectability -- which has apparently been granted -- Citizens United has toned down the overt appeals to the far right. But you don't have to look far to see it simmering just beneath the surface, and in revealing fashion.

Nowadays at their Web site, for instance, you can find this description of the activities of the Citizens United Foundation:
American Sovereignty Project

American Sovereignty Project ("ASP") is the grass-roots lobbying arm of Citizens United that works to protect American sovereignty and security. ASP's major objectives include complete U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, defeat of the treaty to establish a permanent U.N.-controlled International Criminal Court, and rejection of one-world government.

Citizens United for the Bush Agenda

Citizens United for the Bush Agenda is the project through which Citizens United members work to enact key elements of President Bush's conservative legislative and policy agenda, including across the board tax cuts, complete elimination of the death tax, a strong national defense, deployment of a missile defense system, educational choice, and a reduction in government regulation and red tape.

This is an interesting one-two punch, planning-wise. The first project appears directed at what we can expect from the far-right/mainstream conservative nexus if John Kerry is elected; the second project looks forward to a Bush election.

The latter is disturbing enough (can anyone explain to me why pushing a missile defense system is even on the list of Bush priorities?). But the former is a chilling harbinger of what awaits us if Kerry wins the presidency:

McCarthyite railing against "communist" influences. Patriot-oriented conspiracy theories about a "New World Order" global government (with the Swift Boats Veterans material -- replete with its theories about Kerry's "long-term" plans to become president -- playing a starring role). Bizarre and divisive claims about the "homosexual agenda" and gun-control plots and "Green Nazis." Most of all, incessant attacks, both on Kerry's character along with otherworldly distortions of his actual political agenda, combined with larger attacks on "liberalism" as a disease in need of eradication.

If it sounds a lot like what Bill Clinton faced upon his election 12 years ago, you're right. But there's a difference, and it's significant: Bossie and Brown are no longer consigned to obscurity. Nowadays, they're players among the pundit class.

The promulgation of the "New World Order" hysteria, in particular, threatens to be a real problem for Kerry, because his plans for dealing with the mess in Iraq, as well as for dealing with the "war on terror," revolve around building international coalitions. [Remember, if you will, the response at Free Republic to news stories about international monitors at American elections.) And he'll be contending against a mainstream right that, contaminated by growing extremism, is certain to become not only bellicose, but irrational and perhaps even radical in opposing him. Certainly, they will stop at nothing to paint him as betraying America in the process.

What really is surprising, ultimately, is the fact that not only do Bossie & Co. have even a shred of credibility, but they're given a national platform on mainstream media. As Atrios put it, it's astonishing -- and telling -- that people like the smear artists at Citizens United and Swift Boat Liars are given any media time whatsoever, instead of being shoved to the sidelines along with Lyndon LaRouche, Militia of Montana and the rest of the nation's immensely destructive far-right lunatic contingent.

That is, after all, exactly where they belong.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Trivial pursuit

Almost as noteworthy in Chris Matthews' performance was this little capper from the usually reliably establishment GOP mouthpiece, David Gergen:
More than whether Kerry gains or Bush gains is the fact that it's not good for the country. To have an argument about the past when we should talk about the future is trivializing what we face as a nation. How will we come up with a strategy to win this war on terrorism?

Where will the next president go over the next four years?

Indeed, that's the whole purpose of the Swift Boat Veterans brouhaha -- to trivialize the presidential campaign.

I tuned in today to the whole phalanx of radio talk-show hosts still hopping about on the Swift Boat affair. And after awhile, I just wanted to say to them:
OK, fellas, go ahead and have your fun. After 10 years of racing after every right-wing smear planted in the press, we've come not to expect any better.

Just let us know when you're done with the trivia, will you?

Because it's clear that for the chattering classes, that's all that matters in this election: Trivia.

The Swift Boat Veterans flap -- like the "Kerry affair with an intern" rumor -- is clearly just a smear about nothing. It's a meaningless he said/she said tempest, and it reveals nothing meaningful about the two men running for president this year (except, perhaps, the eagerness of one of them to stoop to condoning gutter-level smears because he has nothing else to offer).

Someday, you might start thinking instead about discussing issues that are meaningful to the nation's citizens in fundamental and substantive ways:

-- What is the right course for securing the nation against terrorism, while protecting the civil liberties that define us?

-- How are we going to effectively extricate ourselves from the ongoing mess we created in Iraq, and bring our soldiers home and out of harm's way?

-- What can we do about the 2 million or so jobs that have been lost in the past four years -- as well as the continuing malaise in job creation?

-- What can we do about the ballooning federal budget deficit, for which our children and grandchildren will be paying?

-- How can we develop an effective energy policy that confronts and begins to reverse our longtime dependence not merely on oil, but on the giant congolmerates and Middle Eastern suzerains who control it -- because gasoline prices are reaching outrageous levels, because the spectre of stagflation continues to hover, and most of all, because oil continues to entangle us in military adventures that cost us both treasure and lives?

-- What can we do about better preserving our environment, and especially confronting global warming, now that we know it's not just a theory, and we know that its effects may be truly dire and truly destructive?

Wait. I know. These subjects are BORING, right? They do nothing for ratings.

But all of these questions also happen to affect nearly every one of us, rich or poor, in concrete ways. Providing good information about them -- and what our public figures intend to do about them -- is what the media are supposed to do in a democratic society.

Then again, civic-mindedness is the last thing on these people's minds.

Fooling with facts

I've been pretty hard on Chris Matthews in the past, so giving credit where it's due: His Hardball show tonight demonstrated what happens when you finally act like a real journalist. The propagandists are exposed for the fools and liars they are.

Tonight he first took apart Swift Boat Liar Larry Thurlow, who of course had been exposed earlier by the Washington Post as a lying micreant. Indeed, it seems that Thurlow all along has been testifying against his own Bronze Star, since he wouldn't have received the medal if not for the same small-arms fire that played a significant role in Kerry's medal.

In any event, Matthews continued his recent trend of returning to his journalistic roots by going after the fact-challenged Michelle Malkin in a similar fashion.

Matthews didn't stop everything. For instance, there was this tidbit from Malkin:
MALKIN: Well, second of all, you brought up Willie Horton. I think that's quite interesting that you did. The underlying implication is that some how this is a Republican orchestrated thing, just like the swift boat campaign. Of course, it was Al Gore who brought up Willie Horton first.

Bzzzt! Sorry, Michelle, but you've been caught lying again! As Bob Somerby has demonstrated (on multiple occasions) beyond any reasonable doubt, that's simply a false statement. It's true that, in the 1988 campaign, Gore did first raise the issue of the Massachusetts furlough program. But he never mentioned Willie Horton. And the Willie Horton ads were only a problem not because they raised the (somewhat legitimate) furlough issue, but because they were a clear-cut case of race-baiting and denigrating stereotypes.

Matthews didn't mention this, and proceeded accordingly. But it wasn't before long that Malkin really put her foot in it -- or, more precisely, made a fool of herself on national television:
MALKIN: Well, yes. Why don't people ask him more specific questions about the shrapnel in his leg. They are legitimate questions about whether or not it was a self-inflicted wound.


MATTHEWS: What do you mean by self-inflicted? Are you saying he shot himself on purpose? Is that what you're saying?

MALKIN: Did you read the book...

MATTHEWS: I'm asking a simple question. Are you saying that he shot himself on purpose.

MALKIN: I'm saying some of these soldiers...

MATTHEWS: And I'm asking [the] question.

MALKIN: And I'm answering it.

MATTHEWS: Did he shoot himself on purpose?

MALKIN: Some of the soldiers have made allegations that these were self-inflicted wounds.

MATTHEWS: No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.

MALKIN: That these were self-inflicted wounds.

MATTHEWS: You're saying there are -- he shot himself on purpose? That's a criminal act.

MALKIN: I'm saying that I've read the book and some of the...


MATTHEWS: I want an answer yes or no, Michelle.

MALKIN: Some of the veterans say...

MATTHEWS: No. No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.

MALKIN: Yes. Some of them say that.

MATTHEWS: Tell me where that...

MALKIN: Self-inflicted wounds -- in February, 1969.

MATTHEWS: This is not a show for this kind of talk. Are you accusing him of shooting himself on purpose to avoid combat or to get credit?

MALKIN: I‘m saying that's what some of these...

MATTHEWS: Give me a name.

MALKIN: Patrick Runyan (ph) and William Zeldonaz (ph).

MATTHEWS: They said—Patrick Runyan...

MALKIN: These people have...

MATTHEWS: And they said he shot himself on purpose to avoid combat or take credit for a wound?

MALKIN: These people have cast a lot of doubt on whether or not...

MATTHEWS: That's cast a lot of doubt. That's complete nonsense.

MALKIN: Did you read the section in the book...

MATTHEWS: I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a Purple Heart.

MALKIN: I'm not sure. I'm saying...

MATTHEWS: Why did you say?

MALKIN: I'm talking about what's in the book.

MATTHEWS: What is in the book. Is there -- is there a direct accusation in any book you've ever read in your life that says John Kerry ever shot himself on purpose to get credit for a Purple Heart? On purpose?


MATTHEWS: On purpose? Yes or no, Michelle.

MALKIN: In the February 1969 -- in the February 1969 event.

MATTHEWS: Did he say on it purpose.

MALKIN: There are doubts about whether or not it was intense rifle fire or not. And I wish you would ask these questions of John Kerry instead of me.

MATTHEWS: I have never heard anyone say he shot himself on purpose. I haven't heard you say it.

MALKIN: Have you tried to ask -- have you tried ask John Kerry these questions?

MATTHEWS: If he shot himself on purpose? No. I have not asked him that.

MALKIN: Don't you wonder?

MATTHEWS: No, I don't. It's never occurred to me.

What I especially liked about this exchange is that Matthews finally demonstrated that he won't put up with the standard conservative-pundit practice: make an outrageous accusation, then soft-pedal and pretend that it's all just legitimate questioning, and hey look over there! Isn't that another non-sequitur?

Oh, and why exactly did Michelle duck out from the rest of the show? It sounded like Matthews was planning to come back to her. And she never did get to plug her new book. [UPDATE: Michelle says she was booted off. Note the snide reference to "basement ratings." Wotta pieca work.]

It used to be infuriating watching Matthews' show and seeing Hitchens, Coulter, Sullivan and that whole crowd simply waltz away with a free propaganda ride. I have no idea what finally turned Matthews' old juices back on, but this (combined with his recent exchange with Bush propagandist Matthew Dowd) are certainly welcome signs. When he was just doing a column, Matthews was a solid reporter and smart analyst, but it all seemed to fly out the window once he got the MSNBC gig. Nice to see some hints of it resurface.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A thousand words

This photo -- taken at President Bush's recent appearance in Portland, and published on the front page of the Portland Tribune -- shows a Bush supporter attempting to silence a protester.

It speaks volumes, I think, about the underlying dynamic of this year's election.

Something similar, I should mention, occurred during Michelle Malkin's recent Seattle-area appearance:
Her controversial views, detailed in her book "In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror," drew some 200 people to Cedar Park Church, many of them supporters.

When naysayers challenged her thinking, many in the crowd applauded to cut them off, or repeatedly shouted "Ask the question!" when critics tried to offer a counterpoint.

What's worth pointing out, of course, is that many of the people who stood up to denounce Malkin were themselves Japanese American internees, and most of them were very elderly.

Of course, at her blog, Malkin tried to depict the dynamic as being a matter of elderly internees mostly being rude to her. (The report in the Times, where she used to work, was "biased.")

[Thanks to Citizen Able in comments for pointing to the Portland photo.]

Orcinus on the air

I'm scheduled to appear this afternoon on KOMO-TV's Northwest Afternoon, live at 3 p.m. We'll be discussing Death on the Fourth of July, of course.

I'll also be signing copies of the book tonight at University Bookstore in Seattle (4326 University Way NE) at 7 p.m.

Next Tuesday, Aug. 24, I'm scheduled for an hour-long interview with Steve Scher at KUOW, Seattle's major NPR station (94.9 FM). It's supposed to be from 9 to 10 a.m. as part of its Weekday show.

Whew! Busy schedule.

And of course, I've been remiss in mentioning that I finally met Mark Crispin Miller on Monday night at the Elliott Bay signing for his new book, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order, which already is ranked No. 58 at Amazon. (Go, Mark, go!)

Mark had to endure an otherworldly interview with Michael Medved while he was here, so by the time I saw him that evening he was still trying to regain his sense of reality, I think. In any event, we had a pleasant beer together and exchanged notes and thoughts. It's especially warming to find someone who still has not succumbed to the weight of outrage fatigue that I think eventually hit most of us who try to deal with the outrageous machinations of this administration.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Michelle and the Case of the Phantom Facts

Out making a fool of herself on national television this week, Michelle Malkin let loose with this one on Bill Maher's Real Time:
And let me just give you a specific example, because these civil liberties 'Chicken Littles' will scream when the FBI tries to gather intelligence in the places where they should. In Seattle, last week, Jim McDermott is now calling for a congressional investigation because the FBI went to mosques to voluntarily interview people, to ask if they had information that might reveal terrorist attacks. Everybody is screaming that it's tantamount to, guess what, the Japanese-American internment, simply because they're going to mosques. Where are they going to go to gather intelligence? The Knights of Columbus?"

Well, there have been some questions raised about the FBI's handling of its contacts with the Muslim community. You can read the story in the Seattle Times yourself:
About 20 Muslims met with U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, on Saturday and discussed the matter. In the last two weeks, nearly 30 Muslims in Seattle have been questioned by federal agents, a mosque spokesman said.

The men talked about being invited to the FBI office by agents who said they wanted to reach out to the Muslim community, Junejo said. When they arrived, however, Junejo said they instead were asked questions about membership in terrorist organizations and whether they had recently purchased an emergency vehicle.

Read through the story. Notice anything missing?

That's right. No one referenced the Japanese American internment, or even began to invoke it. To my knowledge, no one has yet. Certainly you can't say that "everyone" has.

Ah well. We've already discussed Ms. Malkin's problems with facts, haven't we?

Also worth noting: Eric Muller catches her in yet another fib regarding yet another supposed invocation of the spectre of internment -- one that, of course, never happened.

Political thuggery

There's always a certain amount of petty vandalism and things like sign theft in any election, usually on both sides. But this year, things seem to have ratcheted up another notch, nudging closer to real violence -- and it all seems to be coming from the right-wing side.

The most recent incident to come to my attention happened a week and a half ago right in my own neighborhood:
A Renton woman is facing hundreds of dollars in car repairs because someone didn't like her politics.

A vandal struck Joni Job's car while she shopped this weekend at a Fremont grocery store.

It seems someone didn't like her Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker.

The vandal left his own political message on the side of her car. "Bush in 2004'" was scrawled in red paint.

Her car also has a new dent in the wheel well and a Confederate flag slapped on the back.

"That was the real bone chiller, that was the real bone chiller," said Job. "I just thought what, are we at civil war? This is crazy people ... stop."

[Via Xan at Corrente]

Somewhat more typically, someone has also been marking up yard signs in Dallas. But another commenter at this blog made an even more interesting observation:
The other day someone at work made a comment about my sticker, they asked me if it was my car who had the Kerry sticker and told me to be careful because someone might vandalize my car. I thought it was strange but didn't think anything of it.
The following day someone else saw me driving into work and they said it was career suicide.

As I say, a certain amount of this is probably normal in any election. But this year seems to have brought out the really fascistic tendencies of the right, especially at the level of the general populace. There's a reason for that, I think, and I'll be discussing it in detail soon.

In the meantime, of course, it will be safe to predict that we'll continue to hear tut-tutting from the Foxcist pundits about "Bush hatred." And when, as many are already predicting, the right-wing provocateurs show up in New York City to help incite "liberal violence," the latter will be all we'll hear about for the remainder of the campaign.

Oh, that difference

My friends at the Center for New Community recently performed a great public service by ripping the facade off the anti-immigrant "Protect Arizona Now" initiative. Seems that one of the group's senior advisers -- the titular head of its national operations -- is in fact a well-known white supremacist named Virginia Abernethy.

As the Arizona Republic recently reported, Abernethy, like many such believers, happens to deny that she's a "supremacist":
In naming Virginia Abernethy a national adviser of PAN, the group has handed her a "megaphone to promote racist views," charged the Center for New Community in a nine-page report and in interviews with The Arizona Republic.

Abernethy denied the allegation from her Nashville, Tenn. home. She's a separatist, not a racist, she said.

"There's a huge difference," said Abernethy, 69. "We're not saying anything about supremacy, not at all. We're saying that each ethnic group is often happier with its own kind."

We used to hear this line a lot in the 1990s, coming especially from Christian Identity adherents who didn't want to be associated with neo-Nazis and skinheads. (Classic case: Randy Weaver.)

It is a paper-thin distinction, of course. If you ask a white "separatist" to explain his or her views, and you continue to press them, they inevitably resort to racist stereotypes and white-supremacist beliefs to justify their desire to remain "separate", ranging from personal hygiene to intelligence to alleged criminal propensities. They also like to trot out a crude kind of Darwinism. In any event, it doesn't take long to figure out that their desire for separation boils down to their utter contempt and desire to exclude other races.

Readers of In God's Country may recall the little anecdote contained in Chapter 4 about my efforts to pin down the leaders of the Militia of Montana, John and Dave Trochmann, on whether or not they were adherents of Christian Identity, the nakedly racist "religion" which preaches that white people are the "true children of Israel" and that other races are either subhuman "mud people" or Satanic in origin (the latter designation being reserved for Jews). The Trochmanns were coy about it:
So I want to get the truth from Trochmann, if I can. Is he a racist or isn't he? Is he a believer in Christian Identity, or not? He denies, angrily, having a racist bone in his body or his agenda. But evidence keeps cropping up: A letter from [Aryan Nations leader Richard] Butler, for instance, that outlines Trochmann's long and storied activities at Hayden Lake (including having co-authored the Aryan Nations' code-of-conduct manual). Documents Trochmann filed in Sanders County declaring himself a "sovereign citizen" by virtue of being a "free white Christian." Books carried in MOM's catalog that suggest a Jewish conspiracy of "international bankers" is behind the New World Order.

On my own, I'd found other evidence suggesting the whole Trochmann clan was comprised of Identity believers. I'd heard in early 1995 from friends in the Sandpoint area that Trochmann had at one time organized Identity Bible studies in the Panhandle. So I decided at the next opportunity to ask the Trochmanns about it.

The chance came at a militia meeting in Maltby, Washington, that February. The meeting was at a little barn-red town hall in the semi-rural village, the kind of town where edge dwellers proliferate. Bob Fletcher was the MOM representative that day, but Randy and Dave Trochmann were operating the book-and-video tables where they hawked their wares. They saw me taking pictures of the table and came over and asked who I was. I gave them a card, and we stepped outside for a smoke.

Dave Trochmann has the same kind of intense demeanor as his brother, but there's something vaguely unsettling about him. I've known men like him, that hard-eyed working-class kind of man, and they are not people you want to mess with. If you do, they'll fix you and anybody close to you. It's hard to believe that Randy is his son. Randy, a skinny, dark-haired twentysomething, is doe-eyed and easygoing, a little jittery like all the Trochmanns, but you get the feeling he'd find it possible to like you even if you were a liberal.

I asked Dave about the Identity Bible studies. Any truth to that?

"Well," he said, looking about before answering, "you know, we're not white supremacists. We just think the races should be separate."

I'd heard the distinction made before.

"We just don't believe in race mixing," Trochmann said. "It's the laws of nature. You don't see robins and sparrows mating, do you? We don't have a bunch of spobbins flying around."

I started explaining the genetic distinction between race and species, but realized it was a useless argument here.

"We don't hate other races," Randy said. "We just don’t think they should mix. That's all Identity means to us." I let it go at that, and we wandered off to other topics, and eventually back into the meeting hall.

Another little note about Dave Trochmann: He was the chief target of the BATF investigation into alleged gun-running activity in western Montana which sparked the Ruby Ridge case. Randy Weaver was a friend of the Trochmanns and visited them semi-regularly, and the ATF wanted him to inform on their activities. They hoped to squeeze Weaver into doing this work by threatening him with the gun-alteration charge. Weaver refused, and, well, the rest was history.

In any event ... back to Arizona.

It seems that the dustup over Abernethy is just the beginning of the story regarding PAN.

The folks at the Federation for American Immigration Reform have been working to take over the largely local FAIR organization, and the flap over Abernethy is providing them with just the opening. They're denouncing PAN for the Abernethy hire.

Problem is, FAIR is not noticeably any more taint-free than Abernethy herself, having had numerous dalliances and associations with the same white supremacists as Abernethy, notably the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Center for New Community has filed a fresh report on this aspect of the controversy:
While the Center for New Community believes that FAIR's denunciation of Dr. Abernethy is a laudable first step, a closer examination reveals that FAIR continues to work with numerous organizations and individuals who either work alongside Dr. Abernethy in racist organizations or share her "repulsive separatist views."

Unfortunately, rather than using their considerable clout to rid racists and anti-Semites from leadership positions across the anti-immigration movement, FAIR's press release appears to be part of a cynical attempt to snatch control away from PAN's local leaders.

What's especially noteworthy is the long history between FAIR and the CofCC:
In the Arizona Republic article of August 7, Virginia Abernethy describes herself and the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) as a white "separatist." In their press release, FAIR rightly calls such views "repugnant" and repudiates them.

Disturbingly, however, FAIR has had plenty of opportunities to repudiate these views in the past, yet has not done so. In fact, like Abernethy, FAIR staffers have spoken at CCC events and shared the stage with CCC leaders (including Abernethy). At least one FAIR staffer is even reported to be a CCC member.

Among the examples of FAIR working with the white supremacist CCC:

-- FAIR Western Regional Coordinator Rick Oltman is described as member of the Council of Conservative Citizens in the Winter 1997/1998 edition of the Citizens Informer.

-- In 1997, FAIR Western Regional Coordinator Rick Oltman actually shared the podium with Virginia Abernethy at the Council of Conservative Citizens conference. Oltman and Abernethy sat on a panel entitled, "Immigration – Are We Being Overrun?"

-- At a January 17, 1998 anti-immigration rally in Cullman, Alabama, Rick Oltman shared the podium with Council of Conservative Citizens leaders and William Burchfield, a onetime Alabama state leader of Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

-- According to the Citizens Informer, FAIR Field Coordinator Dave Ray was a scheduled guest speaker at a March 11, 1997 Central Alabama CCC meeting.

-- FAIR's weekly television show, "Borderline," has featured white nationalist leaders, including Sam Francis, a leader in the Council of Conservative Citizens and Associate Editor of The Occidental Quarterly, and Jared Taylor of the CCC and head of the New Century Foundation, the publisher of the racist journal, American Renaissance.

-- FAIR Eastern Regional Director, Jim Staudenraus, shared the stage with Jared Taylor of the CCC and American Renaissance at a September 7, 2002 anti-immigration conference.

-- CCC members have participated in several of FAIR's Immigration Reform Awareness Week lobbying events.

Though FAIR has attempted to separate themselves and Proposition 200 from Virginia Abernethy, they have made no effort to separate themselves from the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Nor has FAIR taken any public action against staffers who chose to work with the CCC -- Rick Oltman, Dave Ray and Jim Staudenraus have not been disciplined or fired.

One thing about the extremist right: They're such nasty characters that they often neutralize themselves by busily cutting each others' throats. Would that they did so more often.

The whole cauldron is creating enough of a stink that even Arizona voters should be thoroughly repelled by now.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Punching back

I really miss Media Whores Online.

I especially miss the way it could single out media miscreants for special treatment when they put in truly whorelike performances on the national stage. There have been many in recent weeks -- Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has been trying to keep up -- but the torrent is too much for any one person.

This weekend on Meet the Press, there were really many moments of high travesty, notably from substitute host Andrea Mitchell. But the MWO Whore of the Week award would really have to go to the Boston Globe's Anne Kornblut, who popped out with this:
MS. KORNBLUT: Which is still something that there's a bit of back and forth over. The truth of his record, the criticism that's coming from the Swift Boat ads, is that he betrayed his fellow veterans. Well, that's a subjective question, that he came back from the war and then protested it. So, I mean, that is truly something that's subjective. What I can say is that it does seem to have fired up at least a very small sliver of the Republican base. When we were out with Kerry in Oregon over the past few days, we started to see some more protesters showing up with signs outside the Kerry events, talking about his military record, talking about him as a war criminal. And so I think to the extent -- I'm not sure it will actually do anything with swing voters, but I think to the extent that it gets people -- conservatives doubting Kerry's record, we're going to hear more of it.

Well, Kornblut is right about the latter part. The "Swift Boat Veterans" topic is on all the lips of the conservatives. Just like Vince Foster's suicide, the rabid right thinks that it has finally latched onto just the right personal smear (the kind in which it specializes) for bringing down John Kerry.

It's all that conservatives want to talk about, at least among themselves. This weekend, my brother-in-law -- a Mr. Oxycontin fan and a guy who roots for politicians like he roots for football teams -- and his equally clueless cousin were exchanging verbal high-fives over all the Swift Boat talk.

I got angry and told them this was the scummiest kind of politics I could remember seeing in a long time, which was saying a lot. "You want to see scummy politics," the cousin told me, "just wait till Kerry gets going."


Problem is, the Kerry people aren't even punching back. Yet.

Look, I understand. What we should be talking about in this election is the fact that we lost over 2 million jobs in the USA under this administration. We should be talking about a federal deficit that has ballooned to a record $435 billion. We should be talking about the diversion from a serious "war on terror" in invading Iraq and how it has harmed our national security. We should be talking about the outing of CIA agents, and the setting of energy policy by consulting with corporate interests, and the concrete degradation of environmental standards.

But we're not. We now have a thoroughly trivialized press corps, which is now busliy feeding the maw of a conservative movement that demands attention to truly insignificant personal smears whose entire purpose is to attack liberals and non-conservatives. Serious issues are "boring" and do little for your ratings. The Kerry campaign is going to have confront that reality.

If the Swift Boat Veterans smear keeps up -- and especially if the Bush campaign is going to keep winking and nudging in their direction -- someone's going to have to remind the scumfeeders at GOP campaign headquarters of a certain reality.

The next time some right-wing pundit or Swift Boat Liar smears Kerry's service record on TV, it's time for the traditional liberal punching bag to stand up and say:

"This is a lot of 'he said/she said'. So who you gonna believe? A guy with three Purple Hearts from 'Nam? Or a guy who went AWOL in the Guard?"