Friday, April 11, 2008

My new job

-- by Dave

Some of you may have noticed it's been a bit quiet here this past week or so. Some of that's due to some travel I did last week (went to Arizona), but a lot more of it has to do with my new job -- as of Monday, I'm now doubling as the managing editor at Firedoglake.

It's a challenge of the kind I've been looking for the past year or so and it's exciting to get this kind of opportunity. I'm very much enjoying working with the amazing array of talent Jane has assembled there, and I'm humbled that Jane has entrusted me with them.

I'm sure many of you are wondering what will happen to Orcinus. Here's what: Not a lot will change. This past week has been tough, but things should get on an even keel soon (I hope) and I'll be posting here daily and more again. Sometimes there will be crossposts, but a lot of what I do here doesn't mesh with what FDL does, and my reasons for doing them here haven't changed significantly: I still want this blog to be an important informational resource for people dealing with the far right and the other issues I write about here. Also, FDL does better with short, snappy posts, and as most of you know, I tend to indulge the long form at this blog, since the purpose is different.

Hope you all read me at both places, but most of all, you can still count on Orcinus doing what it's always done for the foreseeable future. I may be a little diverted at times, but that will be a tradeoff I hope everyone can live with.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Real McCain on Immigration and Race

-- by Sara

Our buddy Cliff Schecter has been hard to miss the past couple days. The buzz over his forthcoming book, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him and Why Independents Shouldn't, has been heard even beyond the sheltered garden of liberal blogdom, and is now hitting the mainstream media with the thunder of an oncoming B-52.

And well it should. Cliff's got a hell of a tale to tell. Actually, perusing my advance copy, he's got several of them. His indelicacy in chewing out his wife -- you know, the one whose large personal fortune has made McCain's career possible -- and calling her the c-word in front of reporters is the story all over the front pages right now. But there's more. Much more.

The larger point that runs throughout Cliff's book is that Senator Straight Talk has a long record of being anything but. On any issue you can name, he's hemmed and hawed and twisted himself around to fit whatever group he was currying favor with (or taking funding from) on any given day. (That, in the end, is why conservatives don't trust him, and nobody else should, either.) And that habit absolutely extends to his record where issues like race and immigration are concerned.

McCain on Immigration: Way out front -- then nowhere to be seen
McCain's home state of Arizona has been ground zero in the immigration wars, so you'd expect the state's most visible national politician would have a strong voice and a well-considered and consistent point of view on this issue. And so he has -- right up until he started running for president.

On the plus side, he seems to clearly understand that the GOP's obsession with the issue is devastating its future prospects with the growing pool of Hispanic voters. He knows that building fences is futile. He came out against a draconian 2004 state initiative in Arizona that would have denied all public services to undocumented immigrant. The state's conservatives returned the favor by trying to pass a state resolution censuring McCain for refusing to cave into their racist demands.

Two years ago, he even went so far as to co-sponsor an immigration reform bill with Ted Kennedy. But as soon as he put himself in the running for the 2008 nomination, McCain suddenly was nowhere to be seen when immigration -- an issue he could have owned, and been the country's leading voice of sanity on -- was being discussed. By late 2006, he began to back away -- from the negotiations, from Kennedy, from any relationship to his bill at all. By May 2007, the Washington Post noticed that he'd taken his name off the bill, and wasn't making the meetings any more. A "top Senate Democrat" told the Post that McCain withdrew because "he knows it's killing him in the primary."

McCain on Race: Is it "offensive," or just "heritage"?
That same lack of moral center can be seen on his mushy handling of race issues. Cliff points out that McCain's ancestors were slaveowners and fought on the side of the Confederacy -- a piece of his personal history you can be quite sure wasn't prominently highlighted on last week's "Biography Tour." Perhaps because of this -- and because he's done almost nothing to stake out a strong stance for equality at any point in his career -- his record through the years has been all over the place.

One example, which was originally reported by Steve Benen in an August 2006 post at The Carpetbagger Report, regards McCain's attitude toward Bob Jones University and its student conduct policies, which McCain attacked in the 2000 primaries as "racist and cruel" and declared belonged in the 16th century, not the 21st. At that point, he was trying to draw a favorable contrast with George Bush, who had recently spoken at BJU. According to Benen:
McCain assailed the appearance, arguing that Bush's uncritical speech at BJU was tantamount to an endorsement of the school's policies. John McCain told reporters, "If I were there, I would condemn openly the policies of Bob Jones, because I would want to make sure that everybody knew that this kind of thing is not American."

It was hard to disagree. BJU, of course, is a rigidly Christian fundamentalist school with a record of virulent racism and anti-Catholic policies. (The school, for example, used to ban interracial dating among its students and school officials have repeatedly attacked the Roman Catholic Church, referring to the pope as the "Antichrist" and calling Catholicism a "satanic cult.")
But McCain changed his tune six years later, as his current bid for the nomination began to get underway. When asked if he'd accept an invitation from BJU in 2006, he left the door open, saying he'd have to look at the school's latest policies. "I understand they have made considerable progress," he said. "I can't remember when I've turned down a speaking invitation. I think I'd have to look at it."

To be fair: the school had lifted it interracial dating ban in the meantime. But it also sent Bush an effusively creepy note affirming his status as God's hand-picked gift to America -- follow the link to read it all. It's not an improvement. Really.

McCain on the Confederacy: Flapping in the breeze
On the issue of the Confederate flag, McCain also seems to wave with the slightest breeze -- and changes direction faster than the weather of a southern summer. Here's Cliff:
Nothing reveals McCain's contortionism better than his various positions on the Confederate flag. In September 1999, McCain said that choosing whether to fly the Confederate flag "should be left to the states." In January 2000, he proclaimed, "The Confederate flag is offensive in many, many ways, as we all know. It's a symbol of racism and slavery." Three days later, he said, "Personally I the flag as a symbol of heritage."

It's a long journey from "racism and slavery" to "heritage" in only three days. So it wasn't surprising to learn that it was a journey McCain never actually took. He made this clear in an April 2000 speech in South Carolina. McCain told the mostly supportive crowd, "I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary...So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth."
About the only thing McCain been absolutely consistent on through the years has been his unwavering opposition to making Martin Luther King's birthday a federal holiday -- although he recently tried to back away from that record, too. According to a recent post at the Democratic Party's website:
John McCain today brought his effort to reinvent himself for the general election to a new low by misleading the voters on his full record on a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. McCain tried to suggest that his opposition to a holiday honoring Dr. King was limited to his 1983 vote against a federal holiday. In reality, McCain maintained his opposition to it until at least 1989, voted against funding for the commission working to promote the King Holiday in 1994, and used divisive language about state's rights to defend himself. McCain even supported Republican efforts to repeal a holiday in his state in 1987.

"It's frankly disingenuous for John McCain to try and reinvent himself for the general election by distorting his record of opposing a holiday honoring Dr. King," said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. "John McCain should be honest about his full record of opposing the federal holiday, opposing a state holiday four years later, using divisive language to defend himself, and voting to cut off funding for the commission working to promote the King holiday as recently as 1994."
The website goes on to list five votes between 1983 and 1994 in which McCain consistently voted against the holiday. Way to stand tall there, John.

McCain on Racists: Some of his best friends are
Finally, notes Cliff, McCain doesn't seem to mind consorting with the GOP's known racists. He campaigned heavily for George "Macaca" Allen in 2006. That same year, he hired Terry Nelson -- the guy who approved the notoriously racist "Call me, Harold," ads that tanked Harold Ford, Jr.'s senatorial bid in Tennessee -- as his first national campaign manager. In Florida, McCain's campaign co-chair was Bob Allen, who was arrested for soliciting sex from a police officer in the men's room at a Titusville city park. Allen blamed the event on the African-American police officer, who was "a pretty stocky black guy" and therefore somehow scared Allen in to propositioning him.

The overall picture here doesn't suggest that McCain is overtly or even covertly racist. In fact, it's clear that he has at least a cursory understanding of the logic of civil rights, and can speak to it when called to do so. But the record does reveal a distinct lack of conviction where racial equality is concerned. It's just not that important to him -- certainly not a matter of deeply-held principle. As far as McCain is concerned, this issue is infinitely negotiable: he'll sing whatever song the crowd wants to hear, whether it's a traditional tune of white "heritage" or a manly declaration that racism is "offensive."

That same flexibility is evident in his choice of friends: obviously, in the good-ol'-boy network of the GOP, there are any number of qualifications that will overcome a truly ugly record on the issue of race. And, given his persistent limpness on one of the country's core issues, we shouldn't doubt that those friends will push him to play the race card, over and over, starting the very moment Obama clinches the nomination. This wandering moral maverick has proven he doesn't have the will or the guts to stop them.

It's like Barack Obama said last month in Philadelphia:
We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
McCain's flaccid record on race will guarantee that, if Obama's the man, the GOP's side of the 2008 campaign will fit this exactly. We're going to see race as spectacle, as tragedy, as media fodder, as a smear tactic. We're going to see the GOP hitch the demons unleashed by Hillary to the deepest racist fears of the party's base. And we can be sure that McCain, fearful for every vote, will try to say all the right things to everyone -- but, in the end, will not lift a finger to stop it.

And if he wins, nothing will change.


Cliff Schecter's book, The Real McCain, is available for just $10 at You're going to need these talking points between now and November.

A little race with your stocks

-- by Dave

Investors Business Daily has always been prone to running with bizarre far-right crap -- during the 1990s there wasn't a Clinton conspiracy they wouldn't promote, including some New World Order and Y2K fearmongering. It's a handy place for stocks news, but you wouldn't want to bet the farm on the accuracy of their news.

This week, though, Hatewatch reports that they've finally leapt off the cliff and into outright promotion of white-supremacist kookery:
Last Friday, a highly conservative publication called Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) published an editorial on its website called "The Real Cost of Immigration" that previewed a report to be released [Tuesday] at the National Press Club -- an analysis, as IBD noted, by one Edwin S. Rubenstein that is being published by The Social Contract journal. What IBD didn't bother to tell its readers was the troubling truth about Rubenstein's politics and those of his Michigan publisher.

According to IBD, Rubenstein’s report, “The Fiscal Impact of Immigration: An Analysis of the Costs to 15 Federal Departments and Agencies,” concludes that every immigrant to the United States costs taxpayers more than $9,000. That’s vastly more than other analyses have concluded, and no mention whatsoever is made of what most economists agree on —that immigrants, legal and otherwise, help grow the economy in ways that actually increase jobs for native Americans. But that's no surprise, given where Rubenstein and his publisher are coming from.

The truth is that Rubenstein is a man who has written for years for a racist anti-immigration website called VDARE -- short for Virginia Dare, said to be the first white child born in the New World. He also writes for the white supremacist National Policy Institute. Last spring, the institute released a report, prepared with Rubenstein’s help, that paints “a statistical and narrative portrait of the war on white America,” in the website’s words. Nicholas Stix’s introduction to the article describes the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling outlawing school segregation as “arguably the worse decision in the Court’s 216 year history.” He claims later civil rights legislation was unconstitutional. “[I]ntegration and the civil rights movement led directly to the destruction of great cities,” he concludes.

The other day, Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft, in reviewing Glenn Greenwald's excellent new book, Great American Hypocrites: Toppling The Big Myths of Republican Politics,, observed that this is how garbage from all quadrants -- including the far racist right -- makes its way into mainstream-conservative media. This is, of course, a live and current example, which has been the case for the immigration debate generally.

Trust me: Before long, you're going to hear folks like Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage citing the IBD report as accurate.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Because Nobody Wants To End The War More Than Joe

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 Wow. Holy Joe now sees Americans’ continuing disagreement with him and the White House over their intransigence on ending the war as comparable to the violent extremism that’s currently awash in Iraq.

That was the message today in his testimony before the Petraeus/Crocker hearing, when he told us that Iraq has made more political progress since the surge than Americans have:
What I’m about to say, with respect to my colleagues who have consistently opposed our presence in Iraq, as I hear the questions and the statements today, it seems to me that there’s a kind of hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.

The fact is, there has been progress in Iraq, thanks to extraordinary effort by the two of you and all those who serve under you on our behalf.

I wish we could come to a point where we could have an agreement on the facts that you are presenting to us, the charts you’ve shown, the military progress, the extraordinary drop in ethno-sectarian violence, the drop in civilian deaths, the drop in American deaths, and the very impressive political progress in Iraq since last September.

Hey, let’s be honest about this: The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more political reconciliation and progress since September than the American political leadership has. So we’ve got to give credit for that.
Yep, the violent extremism in Washington these days is just intolerable. Quoth Scarecrow: "Lieberman is correct. Petraeus should take 30,000 troops and liberate Washington from the threat of extremists. And they shouldn’t leave until we have victory. The consequences of losing America to extremists would be catastrophic."

As Josh Marshall observes, Lieberman obviously "sees no harm in overstating the progress in Iraq."
Matt Yglesias says what needs saying:
To state the obvious, America has a heated political debate, but liberals and conservatives aren’t shooting mortars at each other and we don’t have pitched battles in the streets. To compare the situation in Iraq to the persistence of strong partisan disagreement in the United States is idiotic.
But that’s only half the idiocy. While Joe is busy accusing his fellow Democrats of refusing to face reality, he and his fellow Surge Sycophants refuse to even acknowledge, let alone confront, the hard realities on the ground in Iraq. As Scarecrow observed yesterday:
Even if we credit the surge with temporarily neutralizing Sunni forces (while creating further risks of civil war) that only set the stage for competing Shia factions to fight each other for control of Badghdad and Southern Iraq — with Bush using the fighting as an excuse to keep US forces bogged down in Iraq indefinitely. Fighting one side’s grab for power by laying siege to Sadr City’s million people risks hundreds of civilian deaths.
Of course, Joe also insists we have to "win" before we leave. And like Cokie Roberts, Lieberman has a, um, flexible definition of "victory" in Iraq — so flexible, it’s now entirely ass-backwards. Up is down. War is peace. Quagmire is victory.

In the real world, today’s appearance at the hearing was just all about Lieberman’s continuing Zell Millerization, using his "bipartisan" credentials to bash Democrats. We all know when he gets in front of the mikes that he’s going to attack liberal critics of the war with whatever Bizarro World version of reality he’s adopted that day.

Yet in spite of that, Harry Reid says Lieberman is going to be keeping all his committee assignments next year, including his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Courant story includes the usual attempt by Lieberman to relegate his critics to the fringes:
In a telephone interview from Washington, Lieberman said he went on the air expecting to discuss Iraq or the presidential campaign, not his place in politics.

Lieberman said his critique against the "small group on the left" was directed at the online advocacy group and liberal bloggers like Daily Kos, not any colleagues.

He said he was struck by how the leading Democratic presidential candidates attended the Yearly Kos convention of liberal bloggers, skipping the annual meeting of the moderate and once influential Democratic Leadership Council.
Hmmm. I don’t suppose it could be that the candidates appeared at YearlyKos because poll after poll has shown that Americans, by substantial majorities, agree with those dirty fucking hippies and not Joe (and his fellow war apologists in the DLC) about ending the war, could it? In the old days, we used to call that "democracy."

Ah well. We’ve become accustomed to such gum-flapping from Lieberman. As the story notes:
[W]hen he raises alarms over hyper-partisanship, a term he used in a foreign-policy speech last year, Lieberman focuses on Democrats.
But wait! Joe says that there have been Republican hyper-partisans — but only back in the ’90s:
"I will certify to the fact that the hyper-partisanship has been on both sides," Lieberman said. "There were a lot of Republicans who had a similarly hyper-partisan reaction to anything — literally, anything — that Bill Clinton did during the ’90s."
And of course, back then, Lieberman made sure pandered to them, too. It’s what he’s always done.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bolder by the day

-- by Dave

So now the skinhead set is trying to gain recruits in Pennsylvania (specifically, Wilkes-Barre) by hanging banners near public throughways:
The banner on the Market Street Bridge, which promotes the Keystone State Skinheads organization, reads, “Preserve Our Heritage,” on a white bed sheet with black spray paint. The sign was hung on the west side of the bridge and also promotes the organization’s Web site,

It comes just a day after similar fliers were posted in Shickshinny and earlier last week in Pittston, and days after police arrested two teenage girls – one a self-proclaimed Nazi – on charges of spray-painting anti-Semitic words and symbols on two buildings, the Ohav Zedek Synagogue and the vacant Mertz Building on Conyngham Avenue.

According to the Keystone State Skinheads Web site, the KSS was formed in September 2001 by a “small group of skinheads” residing in Harrisburg, with the goal of uniting all racially aware skinheads in Pennsylvania. The organization has a local branch in Dunmore with a P.O. Box address.

“They seem to keep putting (banners up) under the disguise of nightfall,” said Ron Felton, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Obviously they don’t want to be detected, but want to promote their cause by defacing public property.”

You'll note that the message of the banner is intended to resonate with whites resentful about Latino immigration.

Left Behind: Waaaah!

-- by Dave

Dude: Did you know that the Rapture has already happened?
When House Majority Leader Tom DeLay delivered a moving speech from the halls of Congress last week, in which he argued that his political enemies are persecuting him because of his religious faith, there was just one problem: he wasn't supposed to be there. Earlier this month, say observers, the 'Rapture,' the much-anticipated event in which God summons his faithful to the heavens, finally happened.

But instead of Mr. DeLay and millions of other believers making the skyward trek, the biblical bash appears to have been an exclusive, invitation-only affair. As of today, fewer than three dozen Christians are confirmed to have been 'raptured,' leaving their rejected brethren to deal with seven years of Tribulation, a turbulent period marked by the return of the anti-Christ.

For those who had hoped to be cashing in on their heavenly rewards, these are days of soul searching and regret. From Capitol Hill to the mega-churches of the south, disappointed travelers are asking the same questions: 'Why not me?' 'What did I do wrong?' and 'Was it something I said?'

Ooops, well, maybe not:
Saying that it can no longer stand by its story that the Rapture may have happened earlier this month, the Swift Report, a popular conservative weblog, is officially retracting its account of the much-anticipated event in which God summons his faithful to the heavens. After receiving hundreds of complaints from outraged readers who'd been 'left behind,' an editorial investigation determined that the Swift Report had failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece.

One of the more important of these principles, of course, was to check and see whether the persons they reported as having been "raptured" even existed in the first place:
"As the current pastor of Spring Hill Baptist Church for the past three years, I hate to tell you but we have never had a Pastor DeLong here, not even as a visitor and we do not know anything about a Mr. Dumé. If we find any evidence of the rapture occurring we will let you know. I am going to ask the janitor if she found any jewelry or clothing."

But of course, when called on the carpet, the author of the piece retreated to the good ol' right-wing way of accepting responsibility for her shoddy work -- blame it on a subordinate:
While Ms. Swift initially stood by her reporting, she has since acknowledged that the story was flawed, attributing its many errors and inaccuracies to a Swift Report intern who was responsible for researching the article. "This has been a difficult but important period for us. It represents a unique opportunity for all of us at the Swift Report to learn from the mistakes surrounding the flawed Rapture article and reaffirm our commitment to the American public to practice journalism of the highest standard,'' said Ms. Swift.

You may also want to note that "The Swift Report" is in fact named for Deanna Swift, whose bio describes her as a "season professional journalist" who "found herself all but blacklisted during the Clinton years." This is hard to imagine, since Swift's standards of journalism are obviously the kind that, during the Clinton years, would have guaranteed her success.

Maybe she was too busy getting ready for the Rapture herself.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Whiny McSame

-- by Sara

With only seven months left in the Longest Election Season Ever, it's not too early to start pointing out how entirely unsuitable for office John McCain is -- and how far the mainstream media will go to defend his tender ego and quick temper from the slightest bruising.

Crooks & Liars has today's story, which involves a McCain appearance earlier this week that devolved into a life-threatening free-fire situation on a par with....well, maybe Hillary's daring escape from a fusillade of eight-year-olds with poems:
At an appearance at an Episcopal high school in Alexandria, Virginia during his Biography tour, a student calmly and rationally pointed out the rather obvious political overtones to the assembly (despite it not being portrayed as such to the student body, evidently) and asked what McCain's intent was being at her school.

STUDENT: We can see that this isn't completely absent, uh, political motivation isn't completely absent, yet we were told this isn't a political event. So, what exactly is your purpose in being here, not that I don't appreciate the opportunity, but I'd just like some clarification.

MCCAIN: I knew I should have cut this thing off. [laughter] This meeting is over. [laughter] Um, this is an opportunity and part of a series of visits that I'm playing…paying…we started in Mississippi, uh, where my family's roots are back to the middle of the 19th century, to here. We're going from here to Pensacola, Florida, to Jacksonville, Florida, and a couple of other places where…we're going to Annapolis, where I obviously attended the Naval Academy.

And it's sort of a tour where we try to not only emphasize the values and principles that guided me and I think a lot of this country in the past, but also portray a vision of how I think we need to address the challenges of the future, and a lot of that is in retrospect, but a lot of it is also advocacy and addressing certain challenges that face the nation. I hope that attendance here was not compulsory.
CNN reporter/McCain acolyte rushed to report on Our Hero's breathless escape from the threat of this Raging Student Heckler:
ACOSTA: So there you have it, John McCain, who is no stranger to incoming fire, able to handle that heckler there...
As Nicole Belle at C&L put it: "It is such an indictment on the pathetic notions of journalism from a journalist–especially when it comes to dealing with media darling John McCain–that CNN reporter Jim Acosta can't even recognize a legitimate question being asked of a presidential candidate and characterized it as being under fire from a heckler."

The story took me back to last July, and what 1500 bloggers put seven Democratic wannabe-candidates through at the debate held at Yearly Kos. We were polite (mostly) -- but those seven (Hillary and Obama, plus Edwards, Dodd, Kucinich, Richardson, and Gravel) spent an entire afternoon fielding questions that were several orders of magnitude more challenging than "Why are you here?"

If the mainstream media had any sense of proportion at all, McCain's apologists would have to liken what Obama and Hillary endured at our hands to...well, maybe surviving Hiroshima would qualify.

The funny thing is, though: all seven came through the grilling at the hands of Those Nasty Bloggers without a scratch. (In fact, several of them looked like they were having a pretty good time.) We can only conclude from this that every last one of those early Democrats would have made a tougher, better, less whiny-ass candidate than McKleenex.

If enduring the "threat" from a high school student with a softball question is what passes for "tough" in McCainland, he doesn't have the grit to be president of the local AARP chapter (those old gals can play rough), let alone the country.