Minutemen uber alles
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Well, the Minutemen apparently are running low on volunteers -- their Web site currently features an urgent plea for volunteers "on the border to the end of April." According to my sources, the project's numbers have been in precipitous decline in the past week, while the Project is officially supposed to last until April 30.
That hasn't prevented them from declaring victory anyway, even before they've officially wrapped up their three-ring anti-immigration circus:
- "In just 17 days, the Minuteman Project has successfully sealed the San Pedro River Valley border from illegal activity," Minuteman organizer Jim Gilchrist said on the project's Web site this week, halfway through the monthlong venture.
Gilchrist pointed to a drop in Border Patrol apprehensions in the area as proof: The agency caught about 2,500 illegal immigrants in the Naco area during the first half of the month; agents apprehended nearly 7,700 during the same period last year.
But others aren't so sure:
- "They're taking credit for securing the border, and surely no one with any credibility believes that," said Michael Nicley, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson sector, which encompasses most of the Arizona border.
... Nicley and others attributed the drop to U.S. agents and the increased presence of Mexican police and members of Grupo Beta, a Mexican government-sponsored organization that tries to discourage people from crossing illegally and aids those stranded in the desert.
Authorities suggested that illegal immigrants are simply going around the Minutemen's lines.
"They are going west of Naco, but they are still trying," said Bertha de la Rosa, a coordinator with Grupo Beta.
But in a way, Gilchrist is right: the Minuteman Project has been a success. Not for actually doing anything substantive about immigration. Rather, it's been eminently successful in mainstreaming and legitimizing extremist vigilantism.
After all, they've even gotten a United States Senator ready to give them official imprimatur. Sen. Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican, came up with the idea yesterday:
- A Republican senator said Wednesday the government should consider deputizing private citizens, like the Minuteman Patrol in Arizona, to help secure U.S. borders.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said the U.S. Border Patrol also should look to local law enforcement and state officials for help along the most porous parts of the U.S.-Mexico line.
"I wonder sometimes if maybe we're not looking too much to a federal solution," Allard told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.
"I happen to believe that those people down along the border that formed the Minutemen organization have some real concerns," Allard said.
Sure, if you consider the imminent "minority status" of the white race to be a "real concern."
The mainstream conservative pundit corps -- particularly Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin, not to mention Lou Dobbs of CNN -- have been adamant that the Minutemen haven't a racist bone in their bodies, and insist that they're just a gigantic "neighborhood watch."
The Minuteman organizers have assiduously promoted this line as well, insisting that the volunteers' backgrounds are being thoroughly checked, and that anyone who doesn't meet their standards (which appear mostly to involve criminal backgrounds) is not being accepted. What they're not telling you, of course, is that the Aryan Nations types and similar assorted extremists who've attached themselves to the Project hung around the scene anyway, setting up their own camp spots, and the Project, as I reported earlier, had no way of controlling them.
And it doesn't appear that their background checks are exactly weeding out the racists, either. For instance, in the largely sympathetic portrait of the Minutemen that ran recently in the Ventura County Star, we get a description of this fellow:
- "Something is going to happen here," said Joe McCutchen, 73, of Fort Smith, Ark. "We are hopeful."
As the sun sank, rumors descended across the border like darkness.
Minutemen organizers said they were warned that the Central American drug-smuggling MS-13 gang was planning an attack on the Minutemen.
McCutchen had a flak jacket and a .38-caliber snub-nosed pistol, in case.
But the night would grow darker without immigrants or gangs.
McCutchen, it seems, was a model Minuteman. A piece on the Minutemen for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette featured McCutchen prominently:
- Armed with binoculars, a video camera and a.22-caliber pistol, Joe McCutchen manned his post Tuesday, braving 105-degree heat and 50-knot winds to guard a lonely stretch of Arizona desert where Mexicans sneak across the border.
"The desert is mean -- it's brutal," McCutchen said. Besides the elements, there are rattlesnakes.
Nonetheless, the 73-year-old retired Fort Smith pharmacist set out Tuesday afternoon for another unpaid shift monitoring a porous stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border near Tombstone.
And it featured a familiar refrain at the end:
- "The president hit the lowest of low blows when he called us 'vigilantes,'" McCutchen said.
But there's just one teensy little problem. As Daryl at One People's Project points out, Joe McCutchen has a long history of involvement with all kinds of white-supremacist organizations, including Jared Taylor's American Renaissance and the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Indeed, I devoted a previous post to McCutchen's activities as a leading example of the way right-wing ideologues play footsy with real extremists.
If Joe McCutchen is a model "Minuteman," it should be interesting to see what happens if Wayne Allard succeeds in federally deputizing him.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
It begins, it seems, with right-wing extremists threatening judges on the radio for failing to bend the law to their desires. Then you have right-wing fringe transmitters spewing the same kind of hatred of the judiciary on multiple TV appearances, and Oxycon-artist radio hosts ranting out the same lines over the nation's airwaves.
Next thing you know, you have House leaders threatening retribution for judges who refused to jump through their hoops, and Senators warning judges that they might be bringing violence upon themselves for making decisions people don't like. Suddenly, a focused, heavily organized campaign springs into action, poised to combat those evil liberals who pervert the normal American way of life -- the dark, dreaded men in black robes. (And hey, just coincidentally in time, you can buy the book!)
Huh? Where did this come from? This wasn't even an issue in the last election! It all seems like it's coming out of far right field, doesn't it?
In fact, this very subject -- especially the rhetoric involving "black robed traitors" and "betrayal of our Christian heritage" -- has long been a hoary staple of the extremist right in America. You used to hear this kind of talk all the time at militia meetings ten years ago, and at Aryan Nations congresses ten years before that. Hatred of the judiciary is a centerpiece for the Posse Comitatus, the tax-protester extremists and Identity adherents like the Montana Freemen, and the Bircherite paranoids who have accused the judiciary of harboring Communist subversives since the days of, well, Brown v. Board of Education. Funny, that.
Nowadays, these themes enjoy much more powerful -- and supposedly mainstream -- proponents, as well as their respective audiences. Case in point: this coming Sunday's right-wing hatefest, dubbed "Justice Sunday", though as the New York Times reports, it really is a chance to promote Bill Frist's campaign to portray Democrats as "against people of faith" for opposing Bush's most radical nominees to the federal bench. (See Frederick Clarkson for more.) As the NYT story pointed out:
- Some of the nation's most influential evangelical Protestants are participating in the teleconference in Louisville, including Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson, the born-again Watergate figure and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This kind of lineup offering singularly mainstream support for an all-out ideological attack on the judiciary was reflected in the kickoff event for the anti-judiciary campaign: "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," a conference organized by a bevy of right-wing figures, notably Phyllis Schlafly.
As Dana Milbank's report on the event for the Washington Post pointed out:
- This was no collection of fringe characters. The two-day program listed two House members; aides to two senators; representatives from the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America; conservative activists Alan Keyes and Morton C. Blackwell; the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's parents; Alabama's "Ten Commandments" judge, Roy Moore; and DeLay, who canceled to attend the pope's funeral.
Milbank's story was also noteworthy for pointing out the viciousness of the rhetoric being deployed:
- Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.
The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly.
Movement-conservative defenders of the rhetoric (notably Vieira himself) later tried to soft-pedal his remarks, claiming they were intended within the the context of impeachment only. Vieira's exchange with Eric Muller at Is That Legal, I think, laid bare the dishonesty of this defense. As Muller put it:
- Mr. Vieira's questioned reference to Stalin in his speech was absolutely not "to the point" that many judges today are acting as communists. Mr. Vieira can call Justice Kennedy a commie all he wants, and nobody is going to care or take notice.
The questioned Stalin reference in Mr. Vieira's speech, which, incidentally, he repeated for added effect, was to Stalin's phrase "No man, no problem." "He [Stalin] had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: no man, no problem." That is what Mr. Vieira said, and that is what people have (rightly) been screaming about.
Max Blumenthal had even richer detail on this gathering, and the naked hatred it festered, in The Nation:
- Michael Schwartz must have thought I was just another attendee of the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. I approached the chief of staff of Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn outside the conference in downtown Washington last Thursday afternoon after he spoke there. Before I could introduce myself, he turned to me and another observer with a crooked smile and exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"
For two days, on April 7 and 8, conservative activists and top GOP staffers summoned the raw rage of the Christian right following the Terri Schiavo affair, and likened judges to communists, terrorists and murderers. The remedies they suggested for what they termed "judicial tyranny" ranged from the mass impeachment of judges to their physical elimination.
The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass told me, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."
Cass's "solution" is the "Constitution Restoration Act," a bill relentlessly promoted during the conference that authorizes Congress to impeach judges who fail to abide by "the standard of good behavior" required by the Constitution. If they refuse to acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," or rely in any way on international law in their rulings, judges also invite impeachment. In essence, the bill would turn judges' gavels into mere instruments of "The Hammer," Tom DeLay, and Christian-right cadres.
I've discussed the "Constitution Restoration Act" at length previously. As I said then:
- Here's the core of the would-be law:
- Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.
In other words, the law would forbid any court to review cases involving the invocation of God in the courtroom, or the placement therein of the Ten Commandments.
But, like a set of Ginsu knives, that's not all! As this piece from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram explains:
- That's sweeping enough, but it doesn't stop there. The bill would declare that federal judges interpreting the Constitution may not rely on anything besides "English constitutional and common law."
Judges, even those on the Supreme Court, could not look to other court rulings, administrative rules, executive orders -- and no foreign law, dadgummit -- though the bill says nothing about reliance on divine inspiration.
Any judge who entertains a legal claim based on a public official's "acknowledgement of God" would be committing an impeachable offense.
... Bringing the courts to heel has long been a pipe dream of the religious right, ever since the days of Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. For years, they have complained that "activist courts" have taken over the law of the land and become too involved in shaping public policy --something, they contend, that is strictly the purview of the Congress. At various times, proposals have been floated to pass laws limiting the courts' jurisdictions (one example that springs to mind was the plan by a right-wing Washington legislator in the early 1990s to give the state Legislature the power to overturn court rulings and place severe limits on the courts' purview). Now, it appears they're driving hard to make it a reality.
The forthcoming campaign is a noteworthy departure from many previous mainstream efforts in that it engages in vicious, demeaning rhetoric that demonizes the judiciary as a conspiratorial brotherhood of black-robed traitors. But in that regard, it has a great deal in common with the anti-judiciary rhetoric of the extremist right.
Talk about "black-robed traitors" or "tyrants" has been, as I mentioned, a staple of various gatherings of the far right for many years, ranging from Aryan Congresses and Posse Comitatus meetings to militia gatherings, common-law courts, and Freemen "training sessions."
A quick sampler of the far right's reading troves shows the theme's pervasiveness. Red Beckman -- a key figure in both the Posse Comitatus and Montana Freemen movements, as well as various "jury nullification" schemes -- once wrote a book titled "The IRS and the Black Robed Cover-Up" that was commonly offered on tables at "Patriot" gatherings.
So was Judicial Tyranny and Your Income Tax by Jeffrey A. Dickstein, Atty., as well as former Republican Rep. Robert Dornan's 1980 conspiracy screed, Judicial Supremacy: The Supreme Court on Trial.
The Freemen went so far as to utterly dismiss the legitimacy of the mainstream court system. As this Ablion Monitor piece on the Sonoma County Freemen explained:
- This is the crux of their claims: there are really two judicial systems. Those courtrooms down at the county building are "Admiralty" courts -- or, as Cozio sneers, "monkey courts" presided over by "black-robed terrorists." On the other side are common-law courts, organized by everyday citizens.
The hatred of "men in black robes" likewise shows up among current white-supremacist hate groups. The National Vanguard's "Declaration of White Independence" includes the following observation:
- The modern Federal Government has politicized the judicial system by allowing our People to become brainwashed by the Jewish media, and thereby the black-robed tyrants have obstructed the administration of justice; consequently, every Judge renders decisions that dovetail with the agenda of the inner party (i.e., the state within a state, the Jew), and every jury deliberates in sky castles created for them by the Jewish media system of control and indoctrination: this is our land of the free, this is our home of the brave.
Reliably enough, you can find the theme of "black robes" appearing in various "transmitter" media organizations, people who pose as mainstream observers but who take extremist ideas and massage them into presentable messages in the mainstream. A fine example of this was WorldNetDaily's Devy Kidd, who recently opined:
- A nation divided will always be conquered which is why the attack on our Christian nation must stop and the only way that will happen is for the churches in this country to find their backbone and we get rid of these black robed judges who hallucinate decisions such as the 1947 Everson v Board of Education.
It is not such a far leap, then -- after numerous reinforcements from the likes of Randall Terry and Bo Gritz -- for the notions of "black robed tyrants" destroying the "culture of life" and "our Christian heritage" to ripple through the national airwaves as seemingly respectable opinion.
This is how the far-right echo chamber works: Ideas and policies bubble up all the time on the right, but those from the far right typically have a history of long-term traction in its meeting halls. Once they have that traction, it seems only a matter of time before a transmitter picks the idea up, massages it, and presents it as "conservative."
The phenomenon, as I've explained previously, has a dual effect: it draws the mainstream farther right steadily, and it legitimizes and empowers within the mainstream people who, not so long ago, were considered extremists.
The whole attack on the courts has a real screeching quality to it. If you filter out all the noise, though, two clear strategies for attacking the fundaments of the nation's judiciary emerge:
-- Eliminate the filibuster in the Senate (the so-called "nuclear option") in the name of forcing Bush's Federalist Society-anointed nominees upon the judiciary.
-- The "Constitution Restoration Act." This latter seems to have little chance of passage in a sane world, and thus should pose no serious threat.
However, I am not so sure we are living in a sane world anymore.
10 years later
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
And you may ask yourself,
Well, how did I get here?
How did we reach the point, as a nation, where treat the terrorists in our midst as "anomalies" -- despite their long record of wreaking havoc in our own back yards -- while embarking on a global "war on terrorism" that involves invasions and occupations of foreign lands?
How did it come to pass that, on the 10th anniversary of the second-worst act of terrorism on American soil -- the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- one of the nation's best-known newsmagazines completely ignores the date and its meaning (that's right; there's not a story in either the April 18 edition of Time or the Ann Coulter edition of April 25), and instead devotes its cover to plumping for a woman who has made light of the bombing?
I think Digby has nailed it just about right:
- It has become clear to me that we are frogs being slowly boiled to death. And the media are enjoying the hot tub party so much that they are helping to turn up the heat.
It's become clear that not only the public, but the nation's mainstream media have bought in whole to the Bush approach to the "war on terror," which is nothing less than a political marketing machine. And anyone who questions it risks the wrath of being declared, a la Coulter, a traitor.
This was made clear most recently during the coverage of Eric Rudolph. As Paul McLeary at CJR observed, news reports concerning Rudolph were reluctant to call him what he is: a domestic terrorist.
The whole sorry situation, if nothing else, reveals one of the nation's abiding racial blind spots: We shrug off terrorism when it's committed by white Americans, but we fire up the bombers and declare a "war on terror" when it's committed by brown-skinned foreigners. Pointing this out, of course, is deeply unAmerican.
It's not that Al Qaeda is not a more serious threat: as I've explained in depth, it is. But ignoring the very real threat of homegrown terrorism -- particularly in its potential role as a kind of piggyback terrorism that echoes larger threats, as with the anthrax killer -- prevents us from coming to grips with the asymmetrical nature of terrorism as a global phenomenon.
One of the most thorough of the 10th-anniversary reports on domestic terrorism came from Steve Johnson at MSNBC, which gave a pretty thorough rundown on the current nature of the domestic-terror threat, especially from right-wing extremists. But notably, the report got little play and was quickly buried at the site.
[I was especially pleased with one aspect of the Johnson report: The special popup titled "Threat From Within" is a remnant of the 1999 report I put together for MSNBC that won the National Press Club Award for Online Journalism in 2000. If you click on it, you'll see the data I compiled for 1995-2000, though the recent years are missing quite a few actual incidents. At any rate, this little item had long since disappeared, so I was pleased to see it resurrected again. It's a very handy and enlightening little tool.]
Another solid roundup appeared in a Washington Post report by Lois Romano that covered many of the same bases. I noted especially these remarks from my old friend Ken Toole:
- "If Krar had a Middle Eastern name, we would have had the military in there," said Ken Toole, director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which tracks militia and hate groups. "The war on terror continues to focus on the external threats, but do not kid yourself. The hard core is still out there in this country."
... Others argue that the most dangerous times can be during a power vacuum. "You have more marginal people trying to act out and hard-core believers trying to fill the void," Toole said, adding: "Everyone has to understand that they are just regrouping -- a new generation will come in."
I think, considering the increase in hate-group activity and recruitment among young people we've been seeing lately, that the new generation is already coming in, and is making its presence felt.
The Post story also noted something that we noticed awhile back, namely, that priorities are being skewed:
- Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI acknowledge that since the Sept. 11 attacks they have viewed foreign threats as a higher priority than domestic ones. A recent department internal assessment of threats did not list militias, white-supremacist groups and violent antiabortion activists. The assessment, first reported by Congressional Quarterly, did mention radical environmental groups and animal rights activists as potential threats.
Fortunately, some Democrats -- notably Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee -- appear to be wising up:
- ALF and ELF "are the left-leaning groups that they identified," said Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "But they absolutely left out any of the other groups."
"If your responsibility is to protect the homeland from these domestic terrorists, then you have an obligation to identify all of them -- not just some of them," Thompson said.
Sounds like another unAmerican traitor to me. I'm sure Ann Coulter will have a fresh dish of venomous desserts to serve Rep. Thompson soon.
And the talking heads on Hardball will politely applaud and laugh. Isn't she a hoot? Same as it ever was.
The Rudolph manifesto
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Probably no news event of the past year has made me as queasy as watching Eric Rudolph "confess" to his crimes as part of his plea agreement. What was especially disturbing was the way Rudolph turned his public confession into a defacto manifesto, justifying his murderous spree and clearly issuing a clarion call to other True Believers to take up his mantle.
For anyone genuinely concerned about domestic terrorism and the havoc it wreaks, Rudolph's smugness in justifying the deaths and injuries he caused was enough to set a lot of jaws on edge:
- "I certainly did, your honor," Rudolph told the judge when asked if he detonated the bomb outside the Birmingham clinic in 1998. He was expected to plead guilty to three other bombings in Atlanta later Wednesday, including the blast at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
With his admission, a nurse who was nearly killed in the blast began weeping in the front row of the courtroom.
"He just sounded so proud of it. That's what really hurt," said Emily Lyons, who lost an eye in the bombing.
Rudolph, dressed in a red jail uniform, winked toward prosecutors as he entered court and spoke tersely to answer a series of questions from the judge, saying the government could "just barely" prove its case if it went to trial.
He drummed his fingers on the side of a podium as a prosecutor told of the Wal-Mart hose clamp that was found inside the body of the off-duty police officer who died in the blast, then described pieces of a remote control receiver found in Lyons' body.
The performance, and the way it was broadcast without commentary or rebuttal, clearly alarmed abortion providers who recognized that Rudolph was issuing a call to action to the like-minded, as a recent Christian Science Monitor report detailed:
- Abortion clinics around the US are "bracing for attacks" after convicted murderer and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph issued a "manifesto" justifying attacks against such clinics and their workers. Associated Press reports that federal officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are calling US clinics to make sure their security is up to date.
'When one of these extremists puts out a call to action, oftentimes others do try to follow in their footsteps,' said Vicki Saporta, head of the National Abortion Federation, which represents 400 US clinics. 'He clearly is speaking to the extremists who believe in justifiable homicide.'
It's not as though they aren't out there, either. Remember that just a year and a half ago, another would-be domestic terrorist, who specifically cited inspiration from Rudolph's example, was arrested before he could mount his planned killing spree.
And then there are all the supporters of abortion-doctor killers like Randall Terry and his minions, who just made a big national splash in the Terri Schiavo debacle. Perhaps the next time Terry is on Fox, one of their fair'n'balanced hosts can ask him about Eric Rudolph.
But then, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if the new "mainstream" right begins making a John Cornyn-like assessment of Rudolph: Gosh, we don't condone violence, but when those baby killers won't listen to reason and a bunch of black-robed judges won't stop them, then patriotic people like Eric Rudolph are just bound to take matters into their owns hands.
In the meantime, there is a lingering question that still hasn't been settled, and doesn't look like it will be: What about those who helped Rudolph?
Initially, there was some hope that the plea might reveal who assisted Rudolph, though those familiar with the case were skeptical that he would ever "snitch" on anyone still alive. But as the earlier story pointed out:
- Investigators also have said it's possible Rudolph, an outdoorsman and former soldier, could have survived alone. But Long doesn't buy it.
"I don't think you could make your way up here without driving. You'd have to drive or have someone drive you. There's no taxis, no MARTA," Long said, referring to the Atlanta rail system. "If there were accomplices, they should be prosecuted."
People around town said they've heard others say they don't think Rudolph did anything wrong. Wade said she never sympathized with Rudolph, but added, "I understand why a lot of people would help him or sympathize with him."
This hope was seconded by another victim:
- Both the defense and prosecutors declined comment on exactly what evidence will be revealed during the plea hearings, but the owner of the Alabama clinic that Rudolph bombed hopes his confession leads to the arrest of others she believes may have assisted in the attack.
"Absolutely he had help. There's not a doubt in my mind," said Diane Derzis, whose New Woman All Women Health Care installed security cameras after the attack.
Those hopes were dashed, of course, by what Rudolph actually said. As the CNN story explained:
- That said, Rudolph was not cooperating in the "classic sense," said Nahmias. Rudolph has never disclosed who, if anybody, has helped him during his years on the run.
Nahmias said investigators have so far found no evidence that Rudolph had any co-conspirators. Although Rudolph did approach one friend six months after going into hiding, he had apparently surveilled the friend for weeks, Nahmias said.
And when Rudolph was finally caught in May 2003, it was at a dumpster while foraging for food, evidence that he had no helpers, Nahmias said.
Still, as Mark Potok on NPR's Talk of the Nation pointed out, "the statement boils down to an attempt to kind of strip away from himself the uglier parts of his ideology," as well as to disguise the extent of help he may actually have gotten:
- I think the probability is that he did not get at least any organized help. I think it is possible that he got perhaps involuntary help. ...
On the other hand, I think it has to be said that at one point Rudolph came out of the mountains, and approached this man George Nordman, who runs an organic-food store there. And Nordman is known to have right-wing views of his own. Now, I'm not accusing him of having illegally aided and abetted Rudolph. But the fact is that Rudolph left Nordman's store with a great deal of food and his truck as well, and Nordman did not report this to federal authorities for three days.
So, you know, it's hard to say. I don't think there's any question that Rudolph was seen by many in western North Carolina as a kind of Butch Cassidy character -- good-looking, you know, kind of a wild man who was defying all the forces of the federal government: planes, helicopters, dogs, infrared heat-detection equipment, and doing it very successfully. So I think he was something of a folk hero.
Moreover, as Potok pointed out, there was much about Rudolph's confession that was simply a kind of cover-up. His claims of non-affiliation with Christian Identity simply don't hold water, especially because of his long membership in Nord Davis' Identity church in North Carolina. These are detailed to a great extent in the book Hunting Eric Rudolph by Henry Schuster and Charles Stone -- a book that Rudolph singled out for attack in a postscript to his confession.
This isn't taking place in a vacuum. Rudolph broadcast his manifesto right at a time when extremism is gaining a real toehold in the upper echelons of mainstream conservatism, and a general environment of nasty intolerance, embodied by relentless attacks on multiculturalism, has descended on the national discourse. So Derrick Jackson's thoughts on Rudolph's legacy and its broader meaning are exactly on the money:
- Rudolph will be put away for life. A Los Angeles Times feature this week said his guilty plea marked the continued fall of extreme, antigovernment individuals and paramilitary, right-wing militia groups that stirred controversy at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. The Times quoted Vincent Coppola, author of Dragons of God: A Journey Through Far-Right America, as saying, "My guess is today we're at the low ebb of a movement that comes and goes." He said Rudolph "is sort of an artifact of another time. That doesn't mean the time won't come again."
Artifact? Another time? Rudolph may be put away for all time because he used deadly violence. But there are still many people doing his bidding. After Massachusetts's highest court legalized gay marriage, 11 states passed amendments to ban gay marriage in last November's elections. President Bush supports a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
On abortion, several states and the Bush administration have added restrictions in American domestic and foreign policy, behind the code language of the "culture of life." As to "global socialism," which can easily be interpreted as the sharing of Americans' wealth in a multi-cultural world, the signs are pretty obvious that Rudolph's spirit is alive and well there, too.
The most inflaming current story is the "Minuteman Project." A right-wing militia of several hundred people is "patrolling" a 23-mile stretch of Arizona's border with Mexico, reporting illegal crossings to US border agents. The head of the minutemen, Vietnam veteran and retired accountant Jim Gilchrist, said in newspaper interviews: "Too many immigrants will divide our country. We are not going to have a civil war now, but we could."
Like many paranoid groups trying to ignore minor details -- such as that Gilchrist could not buy produce so cheaply at his local supermarket without illegal immigrants picking his broccoli or that construction costs in the Sun Belt would be far higher without illegal labor -- Gilchrist turns imagery on its head. Despite the fact that many of them carry guns and knives, he called his minutemen "a bunch of predominately white Martin Luther Kings."
They would all disavow Rudolph, of course, but it sounds like the minutemen share Rudolph's basic premise about the "dangers" of global socialism when Gilchrist says, "We are becoming a country run by mob rule," The Minuteman Project's website disavows any assistance from "separatists, racists, or supremacy groups." But the current headline on the Aryan Nation's white supremacy website is, "Minuteman Project: A call for action on part of ALL ARYAN SOLDIERS."
The next headline is, "Mexican Invasion." The third headline is, "Mexican army escorts border drug runners."
As Faulkner said: "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." We may like to think we've reached some kind of closure with Rudolph's guilty plea, but it has all the look of yet another beginning.
DeLay's Golden Oldies
Considering the focus being leveled at House Majority Leader Tom DeLay right now regarding his fondness for junkets with lobbyist Jack Abramaoff, it might be worthwhile to revisit one of the previous incidents involving such a trip, uncovered by Jeff Stein for Salon back in 1999, describing garment factories in Saipan that are more slave dens than manufacturing plants:
- Wages in the factories average about $3 per hour -- more than $2 less than the U.S. minimum wage of $5.15. No overtime is paid for a 70-hour work week. But that's hardly the worst of it. Far away from the swank beachside hotels, luxurious golf courses and the thousands of Japanese tourists snorkling around sunken U.S. Navy landing craft in the clear waters, some 31,000 textile workers live penned up like cattle by armed soldiers and barbed wire, and squeezed head to toe into filthy sleeping barracks, all of which was documented on film by U.S. investigators last year.
The unhappy workers cannot just walk away, either: Like Appalachian coal miners a generation ago, they owe their souls to the company store, starting with factory recruiters, who charge Chinese peasants as much as $4,000 to get them out of China and into a "good job" in "America." Their low salaries make it nearly impossible to buy back their freedom. And so they stay. The small print in their contracts forbids sex, drinking -- and dissent
The Clinton administration was moving to change these conditions when DeLay and Abramoff sprang into action:
- Enter Tom DeLay and his Texas Republican sidekick, Dick Armey. When the Clinton administration sought to yank Saipan's factories into the 20th century in 1994, requiring the workers be paid a minimum wage, overtime and their living conditions improved, the island government hired a platoon of well-connected Washington lobbyists, headed by former DeLay aide Jack Abramoff, to block the plan. Abramoff, in turn, personally or through his family, contributed $18,000 to DeLay's campaign coffers. So far, the island government has paid the firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds $4 million for their efforts, records show. They also treated DeLay and Armey to trips to the island, where they played golf, snorkled and made whirlwind visits to factories especially spiffed up for the occasion, according to several accounts.
"Even though I have only been here for 24 hours, I have witnessed the economic success of the Marianas," DeLay told a banquet crowd. As for the critics of the plantation system, DeLay told the dinner crowd darkly, "You are up against the forces of big labor and the radical left."
Right. Unlike the workers in Saipan, who merely are up against the forces of big money and the radical right. But then, the same is true of American workers.
And if you go through the catalog of DeLay/Abramoff scandals, you'll see that the identical alignment is at work in each of the instances of lawbreaking behavior by the Republican power cadre. (Indeed, the Marianas lobbying has become one of the focal points of the Justice Department investigations.)
DeLay's scandals are part of a larger pattern of abuse of ordinary working people in defense of moneyed interests. That probably needs pointing out.