Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Missing in action

From William Safire's most recent recent column, in which we are asked to predict the future:
9. Best-Picture Oscar: (a) Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain"; (b) Edward Zwick's "The Last Samurai"; (c) Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River"; (d) Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation"; (e) Gary Ross's "Seabiscuit." (This is the category I'm good at.)

If this is the category he's good at, just how did he manage to omit the likely winner?

I can never figure out why these right-wing pundits have such a fetish for these prediction games, when they are provably really bad at it. Though I actually agree with him on No. 13.

Mr. Popular

I managed to get quoted in today's USA Today piece on political blogs by Kathy Kiely. Welcome to all the visitors coming here from there.

One of the things we discussed (but which didn't make it in) was the way blogs have opened up the work of publishing to journalists like myself -- largely because I no longer have to pitch a storyline to an editor. I'm my own editor. Mickey Kaus talks about the freedom this offers, particularly from deadlines, which is great -- though there are always days when blogging is a much more onerous task than others, so it doesn't necessarily feel a lot different.

For me, the big thing is the freedom to publish material that would never make print otherwise. That's not to say I couldn't use an editor -- every blogger could, and me especially. Nor does it mean I feel free to publish irresponsible material (though many bloggers do). It does mean I can write an extended essay on fascism and not worry about who I can sell it to -- because frankly, I don't think I could even sell it now. It's too thick, too unconventional, and it is all about the f-word, from which editors run shrieking, just like the other f-word.

But I'm very glad I wrote it, and a lot of other people seem to be as well.

The freedom to be completely unconventional -- and to follow your own journalistic instincts unfettered, which in today's corporate-journalism environment is a rarity -- is what makes blogging so great. I am also beginning to believe that blogs in fact could become a significant way of obtaining information that, on the Web at least, eclipses conventional journalism. The possibilities are there, at least.

Doing Fox

There really isn't much to say about my brief appearance on Fox's "The Big Story" yesterday, discussing the Texas case. It only lasted a couple of minutes, and all we talked about was the fact that domestic terrorists have committed many more crimes on American soil in the past decade than international terrorists; and the potential lethality of Krar's armament. We didn't really have a chance to get into the whys of the story not receiving any notice.

Here's a transcript.

The folks at the Fox office were pleasant and helpful, and one of them managed to keep my daughter entertained while I went on the air. I couldn't see any of the show, so if someone happened to catch it, please feel free to write in and tell me how it came off. I'm sure I have a face made for blogging, but other than that ...

[Incidentally, in case anyone's interested ... they did mispronounce my name. I'm used to it, so it doesn't bother me much. But it's NYE-wert.]

Monday, December 29, 2003

More on Tyler

The Christian Science Monitor picks up the Texas cyanide bomb case:
The terror threat at home, often overlooked:

As the media focus on international terror, a Texan pleads guilty to possessing a weapon of mass destruction.

... "Without question, it ranks at the very top of all domestic terrorist arrests in the past 20 years in terms of the lethality of the arsenal," says Daniel Levitas, author of The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right."

But outside Tyler, Texas, the case is almost unknown. In the past nine months, there have been two government press releases and a handful of local stories, but no press conference and no coverage in the national newspapers.

Experts say the case highlights the increased cooperation and quicker response by US agencies since Sept. 11. But others say it points up just how political the terror war is. "There is no value for the Bush administration to highlighting domestic terrorism right now," says Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas in Austin. "But there are significant political benefits to highlighting foreign terrorists, especially when trying to whip up support for war."

Mr. Levitas goes even further: "The government has a severe case of tunnel vision when it comes to domestic terrorism. I have no doubt whatsoever that had Krar and his compatriots been Arab-Americans or linked to some violent Islamic fundamentalist group, we would have heard from John Ashcroft himself."

... Experts say the case is important not only because of what it says about increased government cooperation, but also because it shows how serious a threat the country faces from within. "The lesson in the Krar case is that we have to always be concerned about domestic terrorism. It would be a terrible mistake to believe that terrorism always comes from outside," says Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.

The fact is, the number of domestic terrorist acts in the past five years far outweighs the number of international acts, says Mark Pitcavage of the fact-finding department at the Anti-Defamation League. "We do have home-grown hate in the United States, people who are just as ill-disposed to the American government as any international terrorist group," he says.

Of course, you can always say you read it here first.

Orcinus does Fox (!)

Imagine my surprise.

Apparently, I'll be appearing on Fox News's "The Big Story" at about 2:30 p.m. PST (that'd be 5:30 EST), talking about the Texas cyanide bomb case.

I'll report back.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Don'tcha just love Republican advice?

Nice projection, Mona Charen:
What seemed so clear to outsiders -- that the Democrats' best bet was a war-supporting liberal like Gephardt or Lieberman -- did not seem to sway the nominating wing of the Democratic party. They are thirsting for a Bush-bashing, small America liberal -- someone who will genuflect before the United Nations. But Dean is more than a liberal, he is a liar and a narcissist. So if he is nominated, it's going to be long, long year.

Because, you know, if there's anything Republicans dislike, it's competition in the narcissism and lying departments.

[Link via Atrios.]

Marketing terror

If anyone wanted evidence that the "war on terror" is primarily a political marketing campaign -- in which war itself is mostly a device for garnering support -- they need look no farther than the startling non-response to domestic terrorism by the Bush administration.

This failure is particularly embodied by the Texas cyanide bomb plot -- largely because the refusal by John Ashcroft's Justice Department to give the story significant media play is problematic at best. Considering that Ashcroft leaps to the podium at nearly every turn in announcing the arrests of potential Al Qaeda-oriented terror suspects -- not to mention the readiness of the Department of Homeland Security to raise the "threat" level to Code Orange -- the silence in the Texas case is disturbing.

At the very least, the DoJ owes the public -- for ethical reasons alone -- an open assessment of the threat posed by the potential presence of cyanide bombs in the hands of domestic terrorists on American soil. If William Krar indeed manufactured and distributed more of these bombs, then shouldn't the public be both thoroughly alerted, informed and watchful? There are sound investigatory reasons not to reveal too much in the way of details, but utter public ignorance and indifference can be harmful as well, since it can in many regards make the terrorists' ability to act that much simpler. Isn't countering that, after all, the purpose of all these Code Orange alerts?

As I've argued consistently, domestic terrorists (especially the "lone wolf" type) pose at least as great a real threat to public safety as their international brethren -- if, for no other reason, than that they fully intend to "piggyback" on attacks like those of Sept. 11. (This is not to mention the facts that they can operate with great impunity, since they are likelier to go undetected, and they are equally motivated and inclined to act violently.) The anthrax terrorist, it should go without saying, was a clear-cut case of this. More to the point, white supremacists' core agenda has revolved directly around terrorism for more than a generation now, precisely because they believe the public must be convinced that democracy is a failure and will not keep them safe. The more chaos, the more terror, the more they believe they can shake up the system enough to seize power. That was, after all, the purpose of the Oklahoma City bombing.

It must be noted that the failure is not particularly one of law enforcement -- though even there, problems exist. But the FBI notably has not backed down, philosophically speaking, in its pursuit of domestic terrorists since Sept. 11, as the Tyler case demonstrated. Once Krar's materiel cache was uncovered, the agency committed the full phalanx of investigators and other resources to the case. And the reality is that, as the Washington Post reported earlier this year, agents themselves thoroughly understand that domestic terrorism needs to be a top priority in any "war on terrorism," and generally have acted accordingly.

What's becoming clearer is that this priority is not shared by top officials in the administration. Since Sept. 11, the FBI and other security agencies have massively shifted their terrorism focus to those components related to Al Qaeda and similar international terror groups. The Tyler case (like others) only was broken because of an accidental stroke of good fortune (namely, a traffic stop). Any philosophical priority given to domestic terrorism has been overwhelmed by the reality of funding and manpower devoted elsewhere.

Indeed, Frederick Clarkson reported in Salon last month that the DoJ took unusual steps to keep the trial of domestic terrorist Clayton Waagner -- who'd tried to "piggyback" himself on the anthrax terrorist by mailing death-threat letters stuffed with white powder to abortion clinics -- a low-profile case. Likewise, there have been multiple other cases of domestic terrorism in the past year that have failed to receive significant attention.

The fact that a pathology in the press is a primary factor here should not be understated. I've struggled hard and long against the problem of the mainstream media's blinders when it comes to the significance of the extremist right and its activities [and the fact that I now work independently suggests my solution to date]. As Chip Berlet points out in the Clarkson piece:
"Once somebody claims a religious motivation for an act of terrorism," he said, "most people, including reporters and editors, become unglued." If Waagner had been a self-identified Muslim terrorist instead of a Christian terrorist, Berlet observed, "he'd have been lynched by now." Indeed, while news reports invariably note that he is a self-described terrorist, and dutifully quote him as saying so, they also studiously avoid use of the word "Christian."

"The notion of Christian terrorists is a place people don't want to go," Glazier agreed. "And the notion of there being more than one Christian terrorist is a place where people also don't want to go."

Reporters and editors often "fear to offend," added Berlet. "But if it's fair to say if we can see the religious motivations in the Taliban, we ought to be able to see them in Waagner or Eric Rudolph." He notes that although Waagner and his associates in the Army of God "represent a tiny fraction of the wider Christian right, people don't know how to make sense of it." And reporters, he says, "walk away from it."

Though Waagner's crimes fiercely exploited the fears created by 9/11, Berlet says the press has tended to diminish the crimes. For example, he says, most of the stories use the term "anthrax hoax" to describe Waagner's crimes. But "just because a terrorist threat turns out to be a hoax does not mean that it has no effect."

Chip is exactly right, incidentally, about the "fear to offend." In fact, I couldn't begin to count the editors and reporters I've known who fear even running stories about white supremacists because they might offend various people and stir up "bad feelings" in the communities. "Let sleeping dogs lie" is a line I've heard all too often. The sad reality is that the disinclination to report on domestic terrorism has a long history that deepened in the 1990s.

Moreover, the post-2000 press corps has become slavishly corporate, and the post-9/11 ethos mandates a close adherence to the White House line. If the administration doesn't push the story, it's not worth reporting.

That in turn, however, points to the most significant aspect of the problem: The role of top government officials in downplaying the threat of domestic terrorism.

As Danny Levitas observes:
Had several Arab Americans with definitive links to known terrorist organizations been found in the President's home state with a sodium cyanide bomb, how long do you think it would have taken Attorney General John Ashcroft to call a national news conference and announce it? I'm not saying that I think anything was done to bury or lower the profile of this story intentionally. But I think it is quite reasonable to assume that had Arab American terrorists been involved (as opposed to white supremacists and militia activists) we would not have heard the end of this, and that would have been way back in April when the WMD and other massive explosives were first discovered.

Also, it is worth considering the nature of the materiel uncovered. Land mine components, suitcase bombs, binary explosives, more than 60 fully functional pipe bombs, and more. This is the biggest stockpile of the most dangerous stuff that I can EVER recall being found in connection with the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi movement. [Ed. note: more on that point here.]

A number of observers writing about the Tyler case -- notably The Black Commentator and The Intelligence Squad -- have essentially concluded that "John Ashcroft isn't going to make a big deal out of nailing these guys" for one primary reason: "they are essentially a more extreme version of Ashcroft himself." That is: "The Bush men conceal the existence [of] terrorists, as if embarrassed by their own kind."

I can't argue entirely against this conclusion, except to note that the evidence in its favor is not wholly conclusive, and there is evidence contrary to it. If this were the case, would Ashcroft have prominently invoked the federal hate-crimes law in pursuing the notorious case of Darrell David Rice? Wouldn't he have pulled the plug on the FBI's reasonably sound pursuit of domestic terrorism, as described in that Post story?

More to the point, however, is that it is in essence an ad hominem argument that elides the core policy questions about this failure, and in a way lets Aschcroft and Co. off the hook: It explains away the failure to adequately confront domestic terrorism by arguing that Ashcroft and Bush are bad men of poor character. It may be emotionally satisfying to reach that conclusion, but it is not an argument.

It's more important, perhaps, to keep in mind the political dimensions that come into play here. There are, in fact, some fairly obvious political reasons why the Bush administration might not want to confront domestic terrorism as a significant component of the "war on terror".

A few weeks ago, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! radio program tackled the Tyler case. She had on an impressive collection of guests, including Robert Riggs, the chief on-air reporter for the Dallas TV station, CBS-11, that originally broke the significant dimensions of the Tyler case; Brit Featherston [his name is misspelled on the transcript], Assistant U.S. Attorney in Texas; and Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Jensen had the most telling comment on the case:
I think the reason for that, if I were to speculate -- not being in the brain of John Ashcroft -- is that cases like this -- of domestic terrorism, especially when they involve white supremacist and conservative Christian groups, don't have any political value for an administration, especially this particular administration. Therefore, why -- if one were going to be crass and cynical, why Would they highlight this?

On the other hand, foreign terrorism and things connected to Arab, South Asian and Muslim groups, well those have value because they can be used to whip up support for military interventions, which this administration is very keen on.

Think, if you will, about the different kinds of terror at work here. The war against international terror plays out on a global stage, and as it's been waged so far by this administration, in remote and exotic locales. When Bush invokes the "war on terror," it revolves around images of Arab fanatics and desert combat. It's far removed from our daily realities -- except, of course, for the coffins coming home on military transports, images of which are forbidden to the press.

This is a peculiar, amorphous terror to which we as individuals feel only remotely or vaguely connected. The attacks of Sept. 11 are raised to remind us it can strike here, but the source of the terror is something that seems distant and disattached to us. The less concrete it is, the more vague the potential response. Thus Saddam Hussein can be conflated with Osama bin Laden as a threat to America and an entire war campaign constructed around his role in "the war on terror," though it is becoming increasingly clear he had little if any role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

This is a highly marketable kind of terrorism, in the sense that its potential threat can be invoked at any time to justify an entire panoply of political moves, as well as to impugn the patriotism of your opponents. This sort of "war on terror" doesn't require any real sacrifices on the part of the public -- unless, of course, you happen to draw the unlucky Gold Star -- but being on the Right Side is easy, since the Enemy is The Other. He isn't The Guy Next Door.

Domestic terrorism, however, has none of these advantages. It plays out in our back yards, in our heartland, and many of its actors either dwell in or hail from rural America; they could be the rancher or the Gulf War vet next door. We all have known or encountered intense ideological believers, kooks if you will, who seem just half-steps removed from William Krar or Tim McVeigh. They are familiar. Mostly we like to ignore them as simple aberrations, unlikely to cause much harm.

Cases like Krar's are stark reminders that this is a dangerous presumption. Domestic terrorists may not have mounted a body count to match Al Qaeda's, but since 1995, the drumbeat of right-wing extremist violence has been regular and substantial -- much more so than anything committed by overseas terrorists. Oklahoma City alone should stand as a stark reminder of both the damage only a few of these terrorists can cause.

Situations like the current Code Orange, in fact, create a fresh environment for these kinds of terrorists to act -- because it provides them a cover in which the perpetrators will be presumed to be nonwhite Muslims. As we saw in the anthrax case, such a blind alley can lead to a stunted investigation in a hurry.

Making the public aware of the threat from domestic terrorists, especially as part of a real war on terrorism, would require getting the public to confront the reality that the "axis of evil" comprises not merely brown-skinned people with turbans and fanatical gleams but also that surly white guy next door with the pipe-bomb arsenal in his basement.

As Robert Wright has astutely observed:
For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.

The number of intensely aggrieved groups will almost certainly grow in the coming decades of rapid technological, and hence social, change.

The problem with confronting this reality is that it throws into stark relief the ineffectiveness of the Bush Doctrine -- particularly as it has played out in the invasion of Iraq. It makes all too clear that the current conflict is not only a grotesquely ineffective response to the challenge posed by terrorism, it is likely to worsen the problem exponentially.

Moreover, no one is going to be mistaking most domestic terrorists (except, of course, the ELF/ALF contingent) with liberals. If anyone's patriotism is likely to be impugned by association with the right-wing extremists who have consistently been involved in the considerable bulk of domestic American terrorism in the past decade, it would be Republicans.

A public campaign against domestic terrorism is problematic for political reasons: It runs directly counter to the kind of "war on terror" that has been marketed to Americans, and which is in fact the centerpiece of Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

As Robert Jensen observed in the Goodman interview:
So I think the politics are very clear here. Prosecutors' offices are always political. I mean, I have covered even small town prosecutors' offices and there's always a political element to them. But some are more political than others.

I think what we have to acknowledge here is that probably since the Nixon administration, we have never seen a Justice Department so completely and thoroughly politicized as this one.

This may seem to be a mostly political problem -- and certainly, it is one that the Democratic candidates would be smart to make hay with. Since Republicans have been eager to paint them as weak on national security, Democrats have solid reasons to question the administration's priorities here.

Most of all, this is a real issue of public safety that should transcend politics. After all, this particular Bush-administration/media failure may also have a real-world impact -- especially if one of those cyanide bombs goes off.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Border trouble brewing

I've been warning for some time now that the ugly extremism around so-called "border patrol" vigilante groups was likely to eventually lead to violence. Now the storm clouds along the border -- particularly in Cochise County, in the southeastern corner of Arizona -- are darkening.

The problem revolves around a group calling itself "Ranch Rescue," which, as the SPLC explains, is "a group of vigilantes dedicated to patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border region in an effort to deter and repel border crossers and trespassers. They conduct paramilitary operations and equip themselves with high-powered assault rifles, handguns, night-vision devices, two-way radios, observation posts, flares, machetes, all-terrain vehicles, and trained attack dogs."

As you can see from the SPLC legal report, one of the members of the Arizona chapter of Ranch Rescue, Casey Nethercott, was arrested earlier this year for assaulting two illegal immigrants in Texas.

Now it turns out that while Nethercott awaits trial, his property in Arizona is being converted to a heavily armed compound -- one, perhaps, designed both for "hunting" illegal aliens and for repelling federal authorities. In the meantime, the local sheriff is minimizing the potential threat.

All of this is revealed in a seemingly nondescript story in the local weekly paper, the Sierra Vista Herald:
E-mails reveal discussions on group; sheriff says concerns about Ranch Rescue unwarranted

The correspondence shows deputies met with FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents in November to discuss Ranch Rescue and varying reports that the group had constructed an armory with "'a million' rounds of ammunition" on the property, as well as previous reports of gun-mounted dune buggies and .50-caliber sniper rifles with a range of up to two miles.

... At the heart of the county's interest in Ranch Rescue are two zoning complaints, both filed in November regarding a flurry of construction on the 70-acre property believed to be owned by Casey Nethercott.

Ranch Rescue President Jack Foote has said that the group was invited by Nethercott in September to help Nethercott, a Ranch Rescue member himself, guard his border property against trespassing by illegal immigrants and the Border Patrol.

... The complaints allege the Ranch Rescue compound has constructed observation and guard towers from the remnants of a water tower and windmills, and workers are in the process of completing bunkers, barracks, a helicopter landing pad and indoor weapons range.

Zoning inspector Rick Corley said that while the complaints have yet to be investigated, such construction is likely a violation of the property's residential zoning restrictions.

A complaint filed Nov. 3 by the Sheriff's Department has since been withdrawn, with Rothrock citing FBI contact regarding the situation on Nov. 13 as the reason. In his explanation for the removal of the zoning complaint he writes, "The situation is more serious than we were aware of. We will be setting up a meeting (with) the FBI in the near future."

It is understandable why the sheriff would want to calm the public by emphasizing that Ranch Rescue is likely to prove to be a bunch of blowhards whose self-aggrandizing moment in the sun is about to set. Nonetheless, one has to hope that he also privately recognizes that the situation at the Nethercott place is extremely volatile at this point.

If indeed the group falters financially, as authorities appear to think will happen, they should not feel assured that that will be the end of it. Just ask the folks up in Jordan, Montana.

In the meantime, Ranch Rescue's continued presence -- especially behind their bristling fortress walls -- is not a healthy thing. As the Herald story notes:
According to an e-mail from Rothrock, "(Border Patrol) says that the (Ranch Rescue) people openly state that they are 'hunting' undocumented aliens."

According to Ranch Rescue's Web site, volunteers from the Missouri Militia and other groups based out of Texas and California are at work in Douglas on a mission known as Operation Thunderbird. With continuous armed patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border region around Douglas, as well as the construction of physical obstacles on the private property to deter Mexican traffic, their goal, the site says, is to protect private ranchers' properties and apprehend illegal immigrants before they can ravage the land.

Ranch Rescue, of course, claims it is nonviolent. I'm sure the Salvadoran couple who met Casey Nethercott would differ. And why, exactly, does it need a sniper rifle that can kill from two miles away?

Spreading extremism

Here's an interesting report at ABC News:
The Racist Next Door? White Separatists Say Professionals Hear Their Message

This report focuses on the National Alliance, which as I've mentioned previously is enjoying a ghoulish half-life since the 2002 demise of its creator, William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries. Its evidence appears to be primarily anecdotal, but it does confirm observations I've made here about the increasing palatability of white-supremacist ideology to a broader class of Americans. I think some of this is predictable; in times of great national duress and social upheaval, the totalist mindset becomes much more common, and with it the appeal of totalitarian ideologies.

However, what's interesting to note is that this is occurring without any appreciable increase in the National Alliance's real membership figures, which the SPLC keeps fairly close watch upon. This suggests that the NA is garnering substantial amounts of "silent" support, actual followers who, for professional or other reasons, decline membership.

Certainly, there can be little doubt that the NA is becoming much more active on a surprisingly broad scale. Its followers are distributing fliers everywhere these days, from Virginia to Florida to Pennsylvania to Nebraska to Arizona to Washington. The reports have been a steady drumbeat in the past year. [The most recent such case was reported last week in Omaha.]

Pierce was the core of the National Alliance for all of its existence (which dates back to the late 1970s) and many of us hoped it would die out with his passing. Hate, it seems, has a life like a vampire instead.

[Incidentally, Devin Burghart and I used to attend militia meetings together in 1994-95 when he was working as a researcher for the Portland-based Coalition for Human Dignity. He's doing great work at Center for New Community now, and it's nice to see him get some airtime.]

Friday, December 19, 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Saving the whales ... from Bush

Best news I've had in a long time:
Judge rules for orca listing

A federal judge yesterday struck down the Bush administration's decision not to protect Puget Sound orcas under the Endangered Species Act, chastising federal officials for failing to consider the "best available science."

The U.S. District Court ruling was a major victory for environmentalists.

The National Marine Fisheries Service had justified its June 2002 decision by saying that even if orcas that reside in the Sound and nearby waters disappeared, their place could be taken by far-ranging transient orcas that sometimes visit.

The fisheries service's decision rested on the contention that only one species of orcas exists worldwide -- a finding that Judge Robert Lasnik noted dates to 1758 and that modern scientists consider "outdated and inaccurate."

[Seattle Times version here.]

This could turn out to be a major front in the Bush administration's war on the environment. The Interior Department under Gayle Norton (and most notably, under her top hatchetman, J. Stephen Griles) has refused to issue any endangered-species declarations, and this is one that needs pushing. Now the courts are behind it. The NMFS has a year to come up with a plan.

As I've mentioned previously, the Sound's orca populations are currently teetering on the precipice. If they decline much further they will no longer be biologically viable.

The NMFS argument, incidentally, was laughable, and would have set a devastating precedent had it succeeded, since the same argument could then be applied to native salmon runs.

You can read more about the issue here, here and here.

There's a great deal going on regarding orcas that is directly affected by politics. It's a complex issue and one I hope to blog more about in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.

A denial

From the old home front ... Seems my old college stomping grounds of Moscow, Idaho, is still as inhospitable to racist hatemongering as it was when I attended school in the '70s and '80s:
Motel turns away David Irving

Until he arrived in town, the details surrounding Irving's visit were limited. According to his Web site, he planned to host an event somewhere in Moscow. At approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mark IV manager Jeff Cheser realized his hotel was the chosen location when Irving entered the lobby.

Cheser began to receive inquiries early in the week about an event associated with the Holocaust revisionist. He heard from several people that Irving said he would speak at the Mark IV. When he looked into the situation further, Cheser discovered a reservation for a gentleman by the name of Alfred Holden.

"I called the number listed with the reservation and was told that no one by that name (Holden) lived there," Cheser said. "We will close up early so this event can't take place. It will hurt business tonight, but, in the long-term picture, we won't be identified as a supporter of an anti-Semitic event. This is private property, and we have the right to refuse service to anyone. I'm not going to rent this guy a room."

The Moscow Police Department was notified when Irving tried to check in, but he left before the officers arrived.

[Hope you all check out the police chief's name. No irony there, eh? Bet the poor guy has to live it down a lot in a place like Idaho.]

The Moscow city attorney, Randy Fife, is a dear friend of mine from high-school days. I have no idea if he was involved in this (I'd be surprised, though you never know), but law enforcement sent a pretty clear message here along with the business community. Communities in Idaho, as it happens, are getting pretty good at this.

I hope Howard Dean is paying attention.

Blood Meridian

Another head on the radical-right serpent rears its head in Texas, this time with a familiar name and strategy:
Republic of Texas Redux

Six quiet years have passed since anti-government Republic of Texas separatists made headlines during a violent weeklong standoff with police.

The 1997 siege in the Davis Mountains of West Texas left one separatist dead, a hostage wounded and, with the imprisonment of self-styled Ambassador Richard McLaren, seemed to dampen the group's rallying cry that Texas was a fully independent country.

But now a newly revived wing of the Republic of Texas is attempting to stage a visible comeback. The group has planted an 1836 Independence flag and declared the unassuming East Texas rail town of Overton their provisional capitol. The group's so-called "citizens" and elected "President" Daniel Miller set up what they call their provisional government in a 16,000-square-foot building that once was a hospital.

Visitors are invited to apply for passports. Some adherents have blanked out the word "state" on their Texas license plates, in deference to their belief that Texas is not a state. Blue Republic of Texas flags are popping up on homes around town, and hundreds of interested patrons come on weekends for seminars about how the Republic interprets American tax and land use laws.

This is from the same investigative team (Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs) at CBS-11 in Dallas/Fort Worth that brought us that solid reportage on the cyanide bombers case. So we won't ask if it's something in the water in Texas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Enabling extremists

MSNBC has just demonstrated that it didn't need to have Michael Savage anchoring one of its shows in order to play the approving host to right-wing extremism.

On Tuesday's Joe Scarborough show, national audiences were treated to a good ol' fashioned anti-immigrant hatefest, replete with standup performances by Pat Buchanan and a famous white supremacist named Jared Taylor.

The topic was whether it was time to clamp down on immigration in order to prevent the white majority population from being overwhelmed into permanent minority status. There were token liberals on the program, but they were given the usual liberal treatment -- allowed to speak once briefly before being rudely interrupted, and thenceforth allowed only to shout occasional potshots from the sidelines. Buchanan, Taylor and NewsMax's James Hirsen, with Scarborough busily enabling them, largely dominated the affair. You can read the transcript for yourself.

The most interesting aspect of this is the inclusion of Jared Taylor, as well as his treatment. Some background: Jared Taylor is one of the leading lights in what is known generically as the "academic" wing of the white-supremacist movement. His magazine, American Renaissance, is one of the leading publications in this field. It is also designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of its certified hate organizations (it's under the Oakton, Virginia, listing).

In fact, the most recent SPLC Intelligence Report listed Taylor as one of its "40 to Watch," compendium of the people likely to be at the forefront of right-wing extremism in the next few years:
In his personal bearing and tone, Jared Taylor projects himself as a courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist -- a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old.

And indeed, that is the stock-in-trade preferred by Taylor, who carefully avoids epithets, writes in language that approximates that of academia, and generally seeks to put a rational and well-argued face on anti-black racism.

Taylor is a Yale graduate who worked for 17 years in Japan, is fluent in that language, and greatly admires his former hosts. The reason for that admiration is instructive -- the Japanese, Taylor told British journalist Nick Ryan, "think with their blood, not their passport."

Taylor entered the active racist scene in 1990, when he began publishing American Renaissance, a magazine that focuses on alleged links between race and intelligence, and on eugenics, the now discredited "science" of breeding better humans.

"Never in the history of the world has a dominant people thrown open the gates to strangers, and poured its wealth out to aliens," Taylor wrote in his magazine, under the pseudonym Thomas Jackson, in 1991. "All healthy people prefer the company of their own kind." Blacks, Taylor writes, are "crime-prone," "dissipated," "pathological" and "deviant."

Taylor, whose 1992 Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America makes similar points in a book format, went one further in 1993, speaking at a conference of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens*. (Today, Taylor's New Century Foundation*, which publishes American Renaissance, is intimately related to the council through "common membership, governing bodies, trustees and officers," according to the foundation's tax forms.)

In the late 1990s, he came out with The Color of Crime, a booklet that tries to use crime statistics so as to "prove" that blacks are far more criminally prone than whites. That racist booklet is now a staple of white supremacists like former Klansman David Duke.

One thing that separates Taylor from much of the radical right, however, is his lack of anti-Semitism; he told MSNBC-TV interviewer Phil Donahue in 2003 that Jews "are fine by me" and "look white to me." That view may be related to his wife, who some in the movement have said is Jewish.

Evelyn Rich became well known because of her 1985 and 1986 interviews of Duke, conducted as part of her dissertation research, and was perceived by many as an anti-racist. (The recorded interviews, in Tulane University's archives, were used by anti-Duke forces to make radio ads attacking Duke during his run for Louisiana governor in 1991.) As a result, Taylor's marriage to Rich has shocked many of those who know about it.

Today, Jared Taylor's conferences are well-attended, suit-and-tie affairs that reflect his international reach. In 2002, speakers included Nick Griffin, leader of the neofascist British National Party, and Bruno Gollnisch, who was then second in command of Jean Marie Le Pen's immigrant-bashing National Front in France.

The ADL's report is equally unsparing:
The stated purpose of the journal was to create "a literate, undeceived journal of race, immigration and the decline of civility." AR held that "for a nation to be a nation -- and not just a crowd -- it must consist of people that share the same culture, language, history and aspirations." Under Taylor's stewardship AR has largely skirted overt racism and stereotypes; its authors use apparently scientific, sociological and philosophical arguments to demonstrate the purported superiority of the white race and the threat nonwhite minorities pose to American society. It has tried, in other words, to make racism appear to be entirely reasonable. Contributors make considerable use of facts and statistics derived from reputable sources, but use them out of context or extrapolate exaggerated conclusions; their articles emphasize information that supports racist positions while ignoring or downplaying information that does not. To buttress their "proofs," Taylor and his colleagues expound on the shared ethnic and racial heritage to which they attribute all of the nation's achievements. Social problems are inevitably attributed to the weakening of this racial heritage by intermarriage.

The emphasis AR places on clear and hierarchical divisions of races leads the publication to bizarre and even grotesque interpretations of history. In August 1992, for instance, AR published an interview with University of California Professor Arthur Jensen -- referred to by the journal as a "pioneer" and "the world's best-known scholar in the field of racial differences in intelligence."1 Jensen attempted to explain why eugenics has fallen out of favor.

Jensen: I think that World War II was really the main turning point in this... revulsion against the Nazi Holocaust. People pointed to that as an example of what would happen if we recognized our differences. Of course it's very inapplicable really, because the group that was persecuted there was the group that was doing very well in Germany and around the world.

AR: It's my understanding that in fact there's no record that Hitler even said that Jews were inferior anyway.

Jensen: That's right, yes. They had other reasons for their views. But this [the Holocaust] was still given as an example of the result of making racial or ethnic distinctions between groups.

Oddly enough, not a scintilla of this background was made available to any of Scarborough's viewers. As far as anyone watching the program knew, Taylor was an ordinary mainstream white guy from an acceptable conservative magazine. Especially since he had Pat Buchanan firmly in his corner.

At one point in the program, Taylor even offered a defense against the charge that he was racist:
I have been called a racist twice already, so I would like to respond to that.

What these people are, in effect, saying is that white people do not have a right to be a majority in their own country, whereas, in both of their countries, in Mexico and wherever in the Middle East you have come, Mr. Hamud, you have a majority and you would be furious if people were coming into your country, demographically and culturally changing it.


TAYLOR: You are setting up double standards and accusing me of racism, whereas I simply wish to preserve the country of my ancestors. And there is absolutely nothing wrong of that.

Anyone familiar with either David Duke or the white supremacists in the neo-Confederate movement is all too familiar with this tactic, hiding behind the skirts of legitimate heritage interests in the name of exclusionist and racist policies. But then, that too was the theme of Buchanan's own The Death of the West, which was little more than a repackaging of key portions of David Duke's My Awakening. In fact, Buchanan's thesis -- that "white" American culture is in danger of being overwhelmed by brown people -- had been the centerpiece of Duke's organization between 1992-96.

But you would never know any of this from watching Scarborough's show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Saddam and Bush

Evidently liberal antiwar bloggers like myself are being chastised for failing to do due penance before the altar of the Mighty Babbling Bush in the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture. It seems the right somehow views the event as a kind of vindication of the invasion and the administration's phony justifications for it, as well as the conduct of its continuing endeavors there.

Well. I don't see how anyone with a drop of decency can say that Saddam's capture was anything but a good thing -- a very, very good thing. Indeed, many of us have been looking forward to the day Hussein was brought to justice for many long years -- well before, I might add, even the first President Bush did anything but hand him weapons and enable his atrocities.

Moreover, like the folks at Amnesty International, I think it's absolutely vital that Hussein face a criminal tribunal that at the very least meets international standards -- and as Joe Conason argues, preferably by an international tribunal. But the Bush administration's antipathy to the international courts is well documented as well. If the White House insists on allowing the court being set up by the neocon puppet Salem Chalabi (who enjoys zero credibility among Iraqis) to control hold Hussein's only trial, there will be numerous long-term harms inflicted. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch has poignantly described the far-reaching effects of Saddam's butchery, and why he needs to stand trial for all his crimes:
To do these victims justice, their plight should be recorded in a court of law and their perpetrators properly judged and punished. But the Iraqi Governing Council, taking its lead from Washington, last week established a tribunal that is to be dominated by Iraqi jurists. Despite the superficial appeal of allowing Iraqis to try their own persecutors, this approach is unlikely to produce sound prosecutions or fair trials. It reflects less a determination to see justice done than a fear of bucking Washington's ideological jihad against any further enhancement of the international system of justice.

... Despite the obvious merits of an internationally led tribunal, Washington is adamantly opposed, which largely explains the path chosen by the Iraqi Governing Council. But Washington's opposition reflects its ideology, not concern for the Iraqi people. The Bush administration calculates that a tribunal of Iraqis selected by its hand-picked Governing Council will be less likely to reveal embarrassing aspects of Washington's past support for Saddam Hussein, more likely to impose the death penalty despite broad international condemnation, and, most important, less likely to enhance even indirectly the legitimacy of the detested International Criminal Court.

It certainly is in any event a great relief to know the man is permanently out of power, and like every other decent American, I'm pleased that he is alive and will face trial.

That said, the next logical observation is this: The capture is in the long run inconsequential. The problems that America faces in Iraq right now and for the foreseeable future have nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. They have almost everything to do with George W. Bush.

Jim Lobe recently nailed this with a fine analysis for the Inter Press Service News Agency:
The Axis of Incoherence

Lobe zeroes in on the administration's most notorious recent screwup: the one in which the Pentagon announced that certain nations were being blacklisted for Iraq reconstruction projects -- a day before James Baker was in Europe, pleading with the leaders of those same nations to rewrite their Iraq debts:
Wednesday's embarrassing and potentially costly snafu is symptomatic of a larger problem faced by an administration that seems increasingly at sea over what to do about Iraq and whose constituent parts are trying desperately to protect their own interests.

This has become especially clear over the past month in Iraq itself where the U.S. military has adopted much more aggressive counter-insurgency tactics in order to reduce insurgent attacks against its own forces, even at the expense of the larger struggle waged by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to win the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis, including the residents of the so-called "Sunni Triangle".

On the one hand, the CPA's job is to convince Iraqis that U.S. troops are there to help them to rebuild and make a transition to democratic Iraq.

On the other hand, the military, which lost a record number of troops to hostile fire last month, is now embarked on a military campaign in the region that increasingly apes Israeli tactics. Razor-wire fences, checkpoints, night-time raids and roundups, bombing, and the demolition of houses and other buildings have never persuaded Palestinians that Israeli soldiers are in the West Bank to help them.

The CPA and the military now have "opposing goals", noted ret. Rear Adm. David Oliver, who just returned from a high-level CPA job. While Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's forces are focused on "tactical and immediate" goals of hunting down suspected guerrillas and maintaining order, CPA chief L. Paul Bremer is trying to win the confidence of the Iraqi people. "The military's goal has nothing to do with the (Coalition's) success," Oliver said.

This incoherence -- or rather the exasperating difficulty of reconciling military tactics to strategic goals -- was best expressed this week by Lt. Col. Nathan Sussaman, the commander of a battalion that that has surrounded the town of Abu Hishma with a razor wire fence. "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects," he told the New York Times, "I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."

I'm very glad Saddam's been captured. But from what I can see, it's a band-aid over a festering pustule.

[The Lobe piece via Cursor.]

Treasonous Democrats, the cartoon

[From Michael Ramirez of the Los Angeles Times. Ramirez also has a noted predilection for depicting those he dislikes as various kinds of vermin -- rats, cockroaches, and the like.]

In case there was any doubt: Yes, the terrorists are big Howard Dean fans.

Just like the Nazis were Thomas Dewey supporters.

A fallacy of composition

Tacitus is one of those nice conservatives I described in a previous post as akin to certain kinds of crime victims: they fall prey because they project their own normalcy onto people who are not normal. They just can't believe that any other conservative would act from a base of thought different than their own sane framework.

He recently posted a piece attacking my logic in decrying a particularly vicious kind of demagoguery in the presidential campaign -- namely, the identification of Democrats with the "terrorist agenda", thus revealing the "treasonous" nature of both their candidates and their voters.

In denying that this is taking place -- or at least that it is a serious problem -- Tacitus makes the same logical mistake (from the other side, as it were) as the rabid conservatives who in fact are genuinely denouncing Democrats as treasonous: that is, he confuses an irrational argument with a rational one.

First, there's the irrational argument:
[T]he meme that a Democratic '04 victory would be good for terrorists, on the grounds that this notion implicitly transforms Democratic voters into "genuine traitors."

This argument, he says, is identical in structure not only to my argument:
removing "Bush from office in the 2004 election....is not, as the unAmerican rabid right would have us a think, a capitulation to the terrorists. It is in fact the first step to seriously winning the war against them."

But also to his:
Personally, now that Bob Graham is out of the race, I don't see any Democrat -- save perhaps Wesley Clark -- whose election will do anything but harm the war on terror. There, I said it.

But structurally, these are not identical arguments at all. The latter two certainly are similar both in structure and the respectively partisan base of their content. But the first, irrational argument -- that [one side] or the other would be "good for the terrorists" -- is a smear, partly because it is predicated on two complete unknowns: (a) what the enemy actually hopes for, and (b) what in fact would be good (or bad) for them in the long run, regardless of their thinking on the matter; and therefore is groundless. But most of all it is a smear because it rather crassly demeans the motives of the opponents by associating their political success with that of terrorists. It identifies them with the nation's enemies.

There are two ways of smearing your opponents as traitors: You can call them that directly. Or you can identify them with the enemy. Regardless of your poison -- Ann Coulter or Victor Davis Hanson -- it amounts to the death of real debate. That isn't merely arguing over who would be most effective in prosecuting the war on terror. That's flat-out arguing that one side will simply betray us all. It's a smear, and it should be beneath "decent" conservatives.

One of the more interesting discussions of this came recently in the pages of American Conservative, in a piece by Doug Bandow titled " The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush,":
Some of Bush's supporters have been even worse, charging critics with a lack of patriotism. Not to genuflect at the president's every decision is treason. In two decades of criticizing liberal politicians and positions, I have rarely endured the vitriol that was routinely spewed by conservatives when I argued against war with Iraq over the last year. Conservative papers stopped running my column; conservative Web sites removed it from their archives. That was their right, of course, but they demonstrated that it was not just the Clintons who were fair-weather friends.

Arguing the wisest policy over the conduct of the war on terrorism -- a war that potentially affects us all directly -- is something all civic-minded Americans should be engaging in. Injecting accusations about the loyalty of one side or the other in the debate has no place in anyone's arguments, because it just shuts it down.

As Tacitus himself says:
The fact is that some policies -- and some candidates -- are indeed better or worse against terrorism. Honest people can disagree on which is which, but there's hardly anything wrong in arriving at (much less announcing) conclusions on the subject.

What Tacitus seems to miss here is that Democrats have been making essentially the same argument, but from the other side of the fence -- that Bush's policies are ineffective (or worse) in the war on terrorism -- and for simply making those arguments, their motives are impugned as being "helpful" to the enemy. Democrats have so far managed to question Bush without impugning his patriotism -- and as Tacitus suggests (it's the basis of his little joke that "a vote for reelection in '04 is a vote for bin Laden"), it would be ridiculous for them to do so. Republicans, in contrast, have indulged themselves in open smears of the opposition, which appear likely to only worsen as the election approaches.

Most of all, Tacitus wrongly correlates his argument with those I've cited from others, all of which explicitly identify Democrats with the enemy. Let's review.

First, there was Hanson:
So too we should expect a wave of desperate Saddamite attacks once Iraqis take control in July. October will be difficult as Baathists and al Qaedists hope to demoralize our electorate and bring in a Howard Dean or his clone and with him a quick American exit from Baghdad.

I also thought it worth noting this contribution:
Of course, Al-Quada and every other major terrorist organization are also rooting for a Democratic victory over President Bush. Do we see a disturbing pattern here? A vote for the Democrats in 2004 is a vote for Al Quada.

And how could this one go unmentioned?
Here's a hint to you, Eric: The gov't can't do anything to you over that ad, but that's the extent of your protection under the First Amendment.

The rest of us, however, aren't the gov't, in case you've forgotten, and quite few of us would be more than happy to wipe that nervous little grin off your traitorous mug -- with a belt sander.

And then there's this gem:
Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot.

And I haven't even brought in Coulter yet.

Of course, it must be observed that this tactic is not solely relegated to Republicans. Some yet-unnamed Democrats are using the same kind of smear to attack Howard Dean as well.

It's despicable, and it has no place in any corner of the debate. We should be able to argue, loudly, over whose policy will be most effective in fighting terrorism. If we believe in our good faith, we should be able to do so without fear of being accused of treason.

It has always been a given that, no matter how much we disagree on policy, we are all Americans, and are all united against our enemies. In the name of good faith, there are certain boundaries we don't cross. Questioning our political opponents' loyalty for doubting policy decisions is one of them. This is especially the case when it comes to the presidency.

Neither Lincoln nor the GOP hinted that a vote for McClellan was a vote for the Confederacy. Neither FDR nor the Democrats even dreamt of suggesting that the Nazis were secretly rooting for Thomas Dewey. The first time the "dissent is treason" meme appeared in a presidential election was in 1972, when Nixon's CREEP crew trotted it out and slimed McGovern with it. Fortunately, it went hiding under a rock, until Nixon's old crew, and sociopathic mindset, had the chance to re-emerge.

Now it's back with a vengeance. And it's being wielded by "marginal idiots" who just happen to be extraordinarily, even disproportionately, influential. And they run the gamut from Misha to Mike Savage to Katherine Parker to Rush Limbaugh to Ann Coulter, with all the many other similarly sociopathic gnomes in between. These people, and not Tacitus, are the voice of modern conservatism. Sad to say.

And this, in the end, is the real logical mistake that Tacitus makes: He sees his brand of conservatism as representative, when in fact it is exceptional. He naturally, and logically, argues that we can agree or disagree as citizens about whose policy is more likely to win in a war without violating the terms of a good-faith debate. As do I.

But many others, in contrast, leap from rational arguments over policy (my policy is more effective in winning the war) to irrational conclusions (his policy benefits the enemy and betrays the national interest; taken even further, he is a traitor and deserves to be hung). It's one thing to say that one policy is more or less effective; it's another altogether to impugn its intent.

[Liberals of course are no innocents to this kind of argument in other arenas; but in the case of the war, their arguments (or at least those of the leading candidates) have been substantively logical. Certainly we haven't seen much in the way of liberals accusing conservatives of being "objectively pro-Saddam" or "soft on terrorism" or "unpatriotic."]

Tacitus' argument boils down to this: I'm a conservative, and I don't think that way. Why would other conservatives?

But they do, don't they? A lot of them do. A lot more, it seems anymore, than those whose don't.

In your logic text, Tacitus, your error is called a composition fallacy. You can look it up.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Beyond treason

The frontline mantra for the GOP's army of True Believers in 2004:
"God wants President Bush re-elected."

Not hard to figure out whose side Democrats are on, is it?

Guess we're not just traitors anymore, folks.

[Via Ezra at Pandagon.]

Missing the threat

The press is starting to figure out just how potentially important the Texas cyanide bomb plot may be. The ABC station in Tyler, KLTV, played catchup other day with a story that contained little new, except this noteworthy nugget of info: "President Bush was given daily briefings on the matter." [The rest of the station's report, it must be noted, neglects to substantiate this claim.]

Obviously, officials in high places knew how problematic the case was. Why they did not make sure the press knew its significance, and thereby that the public was adequately informed, is the question that needs answering.

Dan Levitas, who wrote the recent New York Times op-ed on the case, has even more details, some of it from interviews he conducted with Justice Department anti-terrorism officials on the ground in East Texas. Here's his report:
-- The sodium cyanide device was fully functional and could have killed anyone "within a 30,000 square-foot facility."

-- Krar's stockpile contained more than 100 explosives, including 60 fully functional pipe bombs, as well as briefcase bombs, land mine components, detonation cord, trip wire and binary explosives; machine guns and other illegal weapons; hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition; and racist, anti-Semitic and antigovernment literature, including Hunter and The Turner Diaries.

-- Krar was/is a bona fide tax protestor who has never been indicted for his tax-related offenses. He is from New Hampshire and has numerous ties to white supremacist and militia groups.

-- Edward Feltus, 56, was a member of the New Jersey Militia.

-- Technically, Krar (who pleaded guilty to possessing a dangerous chemical weapon) faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, but in all likelihood will get only 10-15 years -- mostly because they never uncovered the details of the plot (if any) to actually use the device; nor was anyone injured by it.

-- The statute under which Krar was prosecuted has been used only five times or fewer in its entire history because of the rarity of finding individuals with bona fide chemical weapons.

-- Federal authorities have served more than 150 subpoenas in connection with the case, but still remain concerned that others may be involved, and the investigation is ongoing.

As to why this was underreported at first, I think there are several reasons: One, the arrests originally took place exactly around the time of the invasion of Iraq and the media was distracted, to say the least. Two, unlike the numerous arrests of suspected Al Qaeda militants, Attorney General John Ashcroft said nothing about this case.

I concur with the assessment that had the DOJ and early news reports more prominently mentioned "Domestic Terrorism" in bold type, then there would have been greater attention paid to the arrests. However, the terms "chemical weapons" were used and that should have been picked up relatively easily on a search. The bottom line, in my opinion, however, is this:

Had there been a news conference in Washington, D.C., featuring the Attorney General and highlighting the discovery of chemical weapons in the home state of President George Bush, rest assured this would have been a major national news story. For reasons known only to John Ashcroft and the public-relations department at Justice, the decision was made to not give this case the same prominence as other terrorism related arrests. Somehow, I do believe that if suspected Al Qaeda operatives had been arrested with a fully functional sodium cyanide bomb in East Texas this would have been all over page one. Now that Krar has pleaded guilty, and more news is getting out, this case is rapidly becoming quite visible.

Needless to say, I concur with every detail of Dan's assessment. This was a joint failure of the media and the Bush administration, two entities that have proven disinclined to admitting such gross lapses.

But the picture that is emerging is especially troubling, because it clearly suggests that this administration is in fact de-emphasizing domestic terrorism -- which could be, for reasons I have detailed previously, a tragic mistake. It also makes clear, indelibly, that this administration is completely missing out on one of the important fronts of any serious "war on terrorism" -- the home front. Like its adoption of a unilateralist "preemptive invasion" strategy in dealing with international terrorism, this failure stands as mute testimony to its base incompetence.

Armed to the teeth

It may seem that one of the real reasons for alarm about the Tyler, Texas cyanide bombers is the sheer size of the arsenal uncovered by FBI agents: 100 explosives, including 60 fully functional pipe bombs, as well as briefcase bombs, land mine components, detonation cord, trip wire, and binary explosives; machine guns and other illegal weapons; some 500,000 rounds of ammunition; a stockpile of chemical agents, including a large quantity of sodium cyanide and acids such as hydrochloric, nitric and acetic acids; and racist, anti-Semitic and antigovernment literature, including William Pierce's Hunter and The Turner Diaries.

The thing is, by right-wing extremist standards, this arsenal may not even be the most impressive ever.

My friend Mark Pitcavage, who is now the ADL's Director of Fact Finding, compiled the following list of other arsenals seized from right-wing extremists. His pick for the most impressive arsenal:
May 14, 1998, Washington: Police seize an arsenal of more than 70 pipe bombs, 28 pounds of C-4, as well as 200-300 firearms (including two dozen machine guns), a 20mm cannon, a grenade launcher, 100,000 rounds of ammunition, and 56 hand grenades, from Gregory McCrea, a suspected child rapist. McCrea is suspected of having ties to militia or other extremist groups. According to a former friend, he also had buried fifty 55-gallon barrels (each with a rifle, a handgun, and ammunition) throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The other runners-up, along with Krar, are:
March 31, 2000, Maryland: During a narcotics raid on the house of Michael Lee Burtner, a pizza restaurant owner, police find 128 guns (including stolen and unregistered weapons), 38,000 rounds of ammunition, drugs, and a variety of antigovernment videotapes and pamphlets. Police suspected Burtner of selling crack cocaine. 

March 12, 2000, Washington: Police discover an arsenal of weapons as they arrest Stephen Ferguson in an eastern suburb of Seattle on weapons charges after a neighbor called 911 when seeing the man dragging an ill and unconscious housemate out of his house. Searching the house, they find more than 60 firearms, including 20 fully automatic weapons and machine guns, a grenade launcher, and 50,000 rounds of ammunition; they also discover marijuana plants, books on explosives, and Nazi paraphernalia.

October 8, California: Authorities seeking to arrest probation violator and white supremacist Jeffrey Stuart Martin discover an arsenal of more than sixty-five weapons, including assault weapons, at his house. When Martin refuses to open his door, law enforcement officers force their way inside to find him hiding in the attic. Authorities also arrest his mother, Kathleen Rose Ezakovich, her husband, Charles Ezakovich, and Greg James Hallahan on drug charges, after police find a half-pound of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Martin had previously been convicted on a hate-crime violation.

January 3, 2000, Tennessee: Nashville tax protester Rodney Lynn Randolph receives a four-year prison sentence on weapons charges. Randolph, whose house was foreclosed on in 1998 when he stopped paying on his bank loans, resisted an order to vacate the premises. A trespassing charge was filed against him; while searching his home, police found an arsenal of weapons that included a hand grenade, bomb-making materials, and automatic weapons parts, as well as blueprints for silencers, 200,000 rounds of ammunition, and a .50-caliber "anti-tank" weapon. Randolph claimed he was not subject to U.S. laws, but eventually pled guilty.

March/April 1996, Pennsylvania: The ATF raided two homes in March and April, uncovering huge caches of illegal weapons. The two survivalists, both with militia ties, were Russell Fauver, 45, of Evesham, New Jersey, and William Kay, 59, variously mentioned as being from Skippack and Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Fauver had on his property 24 handguns, rifles, assault weapons, shotguns and a flamethrower, as well as 100,000 rounds of ammunition, while William Kay had five Sten machine guns, a Maxim machine gun, two grenade launchers, an Uzi, a hand grenade, and silencers. Fauver was a former member of the Christian Patriot Defense League, while Kay was a chaplain with the Unorganized Militia of Pennsylvania.

February 26, 2002, Kentucky. Charlie Puckett, the head of the Kentucky State Militia, the nation's most active militia group, is arrested on nine counts of weapons violations. According to the indictment, Puckett, a former convicted felon, was found in the possession of various guns, pipe bombs, and nearly 35,000 rounds of ammunition. Puckett's arrest comes just after he finishes an interview with the television show "Unsolved Mysteries," which is doing a story on Puckett's friend and former militia colleague Steve Anderson, currently a fugitive accused of shooting at a Bell County, Kentucky, sheriff's deputy in October 2001.

June 10, 1998, Michigan: Redford Township resident Mark Gaydos is killed in a shootout with township police after a traffic stop confrontation. Gaydos was pulled over for not having a driver's license and told he would be arrested. He fled on foot and fired at police officers pursuing him, injuring one; they returned fire and killed him. Following the incident, police search his parents' home (where he lived) and discover an arsenal of guns, bullet-proof vests, 35,000 rounds of ammunition, a pipe bomb, an upside down flag with the words "Remember Waco" printed on it and other assorted paraphernalia. Also discovered during the search was evidence that suggested Gaydos had been the person who had harassed a state representative's reelection campaign in 1996, shooting up the official's campaign signs and placing them outside his campaign headquarters, as well as making harassing phone calls. The representative had refused to back a concealed carry law.

February 9, 2001, Oregon. A cache of white supremacist literature, illegal weapons, bombs and explosive materials, and illegal drugs are found when Clackamas County sheriff's deputies and federal agents arrest two men and one woman during a raid. Arrested are Forrest Bateman, a former skinhead previously convicted in 1989 of racially intimidating a high school student; Anthony Huntington; and Jennifer Williams. Officers seize a machine gun, a grenade launcher, an assault rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, 3000 rounds of ammunition, ammonium nitrate, homemade C4 explosives, six homemade grenades, dynamite blasting caps, primers, fuses, black powder, and 200 timing devices, as well as fifty marijuana plants. Huntington and Williams are subsequently released and not formally charged, while Bateman is held on outstanding warrants for previous charges of assault and illegal possession of an assault rifle. An investigation is ongoing.

June 13, 2001, Texas. Police in Forth Worth seize "volumes and volumes" of militia and anti-government literature, a number of assault weapons, bomb-making materials, and more than 9,000 rounds of ammunition from a storage unit and motel room rented by Fort Worth resident Michael Joseph Toth. Toth faces charges of possession of explosive components and possession of a prohibited weapon. Toth had been arrested on June 7 after allegedly pointing an assault rifle at the head of a man outside a pool hall. According to police, Toth had enough materials to produce 700 to 1,200 pounds of explosives.

October 4, 2001, Illinois. Local and federal law enforcement officers seize a cache of weapons from a group of Pike County survivalists who call themselves the United Survivalists of America. Authorities say the group had amassed an arsenal of weapons, pipe bombs and other explosives, and more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition. The only person arrested is group leader Thomas Wanick of Jerseyville, charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

When I was working the Montana Freemen case I kept coming across off-the-record accounts of hidden arsenals being stashed by "Patriots" throughout the Northwest. I mentioned one in In God's Country directly related to the Freemen [p. 104] and the unusual circumstances in which it was uncovered:
While their legal defeats were coming in rapid succession, the Freemen’s recruiting was going well. Another key follower showed up at the Freemen ranch that fall: Dale Jacobi. A Canadian businessman who had moved from Calgary in the 1980s south to Thompson Falls, Montana, Jacobi became involved in the radical right while operating a propane-gas business in the little Clark Fork River logging town just a few miles east of Noxon. He fell in with John and Dave Trochmann, and also became acquainted with another local Constitutionalist, John Brush.

Brush decided to move to Musselshell County in 1994, partly to be closer to the Freemen, so he bought a parcel of land out in the distant woods and set about raising and training horses with his wife and daughter. Jacobi, who became a Freemen follower after Trochmann recommended their four-day courses in the Militia of Montana newsletter that spring, sold his business and moved onto Brush’s land, living in a trailer on the property.

In one afternoon that fall, though, Brush not only disavowed Dale Jacobi but the Freemen as well. He later explained why to John Bohlman, the Musselshell County prosecutor:

One morning, Brush told Bohlman, when he drove into town for supplies, Jacobi took Brush’s 8-year-old daughter, with her dog in tow, out to a remote part of their land. He carried with him a stool and a piece of rope. Under a tree, Jacobi set up the stool and placed the little dog on it. Then he made a noose with the rope, placed it over the dog’s neck, and slung it over the tree. He pulled the open end of the rope tight and held it at a distance from the dog, then told the girl to come stand in front of him. Call the dog, he told the girl. She did. It jumped off the stool and hung itself as Jacobi held the line taut.

The girl was in hysterics when her father returned home. Enraged, he asked Jacobi why he did it. Jacobi told him he felt the girl needed some toughening up, and that this would help her. Brush screamed at Jacobi to leave and never come back. Jacobi packed his things into his car and left. He found an open room at [Freemen leader Rodney] Skurdal’s ranch, and soon was named one of the group’s constables. Brush announced he wanted nothing more to do with that bunch -- and asked Bohlman to remove the arms cache Jacobi had left behind. Bohlman and a deputy went out Brush’s place and found PVC pipes hidden under some brush, stuffed with a few guns and a massive load of ammunition, reloading tools, powder and bullets, enough to make thousands of rounds with. Brush also told Bohlman he knew of similar caches like this in strategic spots throughout the Northwest.

Of course, what really puts the Tyler arsenal on an even higher threat plane than any of these cases is the presence of the sodium-cyanide bomb and the stockpile of materials for making them. Such a bomb, according to the experts, packs an explosive and killing capacity well above that of 28 pounds of C-4; the FBI says it is capable of killing everyone inside a 30,000-square-foot facility within moments of its detonation. Put in perspective, this would typically be a concert or meeting hall that would comfortably seat about 3,000 people.

More on the case momentarily.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Levitas weighs in

The Texas cyanide-bomber case finally hits the pages of the New York Times, thanks to my colleague Daniel Levitas, author of the The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right, who has this piece up:
Our Enemies at Home

Americans should question whether the Justice Department is making America's far-right fanatics a serious priority. And with the F.B.I. still struggling to get up to speed on the threat posed by Islamic extremists abroad, it is questionable whether the agency has the manpower to keep tabs on our distinctly American terror cells. There is no accurate way of analyzing the budgets of the F.B.I., Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to discern how much attention is being devoted to right-wing extremists. But in light of the F.B.I.'s poor record in keeping tabs on the militia movement before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, one wonders whether the agency has the will to do so now.

"Unfortunately, keeping track of right-wing and neo-Nazi hate groups isn't necessarily a path to career advancement in the Bureau," a Justice Department official told me not long after the Oklahoma City attack. "Agents get ahead by solving real crimes, like bank robbery, espionage and murder."

... It is also worrisome that the discovery of lethal chemicals in President Bush's home state was not deemed occasion for a high-profile announcement by Attorney General John Ashcroft or other officials trumpeting the arrests of Mr. Krar and his compatriots. This stands in stark contrast to the department's news media onslaughts whenever alleged operatives for Al Qaeda have been apprehended in the United States.

I hope to have some more from Levitas soon.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Treasonous Democrats

Victor Davis Hanson -- one of the chief purveyors of the "Brown Peril" theory -- this week transmits the "a vote for Democrats is a vote for the terrorists" meme into the mainstream, via his recent National Review piece:
So too we should expect a wave of desperate Saddamite attacks once Iraqis take control in July. October will be difficult as Baathists and al Qaedists hope to demoralize our electorate and bring in a Howard Dean or his clone and with him a quick American exit from Baghdad.

This is a nasty piece of work, of course, especially since it underscores the mounting conservative theme that all Democratic candidates and, for that matter, voters are genuine traitors. The consequences of this kind of rhetoric, I think, could be profound, at least if it continues to spread and metastacize, as so many right-wing viruses have in the past decade.

Hanson's argument is predicated on one central idea, though: That things are going swimmingly in Iraq.
From the rhetoric of the Democratic candidates, from the papers in Cairo, and from the videos of the fundamentalists, one would not believe the United States is turning the corner and on the road to a stunning victory, characterized by both competence and idealism. In the last two years our enemies have lacked not the will but the power to defeat us; we in contrast had more than enough power but not enough will. But all that is changing as we ever so slowly become angrier while they get weaker.

Reality check: There are no signs that American forces are "getting angrier" -- only that they are growing demoralized about the colossal failures of their civilian bosses to competently reconstruct Iraq, bring stability and peace to the region as promised, and get them the hell out of there. The only people who are noticeably getting angrier are the civilian populace of Iraq -- and, let's not forget, the right-wing nutballs who are now threatening their fellow citizens with violence for failing to toe the Bushco company line.

Hanson is deluded, and the source of his error is obvious: He sees the "war on terror" as a traditional war, and his review of history essentially insists that the fight in which we are now embroiled is somehow comparable to ancient wars involving large armies of respective nation-states. That it is not should be plain to even the most casual observer.

Moreover, it could not be more plain that things are not going swimmingly in Iraq -- or in Turkey, Indonesia or elsewhere. The diplomatic scene -- and particularly the need to bring our traditional allies to the table -- has been a colossal screwup. It is hard to find much reason for optimism.

Even if the Bush team decides to follow Hanson's lead and make the Nixonian declaration, this coming spring or summer, of "victory" in Iraq, and begins withdrawing U.S. troops, the reality is that any regime we create in Iraq is liable to be overturned, and probably violently, within short order. As Warbaby observed some time back:
What we are seeing is a long-building pressure towards civil war. The resistance has many centers, not one. And it's going to get worse as factions continue to mobilize resources and build organization.

The overriding problem has been the American response, to date, to the challenges raised by the Sept. 11 attacks. Robert Lifton, the pscyhologist whose work I have relied upon heavily in coming to terms with the nature of fascism, excerpted this week in The Nation a portion of his important new work, Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation With the World, in a must-read article titled "American Apocalypse."

Unlike Hanson, Lifton has a far more insightful take on the nature of "the war on terror" that forswears simplistic historical analogies for a keen understanding of its unique nature -- especially its radical neocon vision of a global America uber alles:
The war on terrorism is apocalyptic, then, exactly because it is militarized and yet amorphous, without limits of time or place, and has no clear end. It therefore enters the realm of the infinite. Implied in its approach is that every last terrorist everywhere on the earth is to be hunted down until there are no more terrorists anywhere to threaten us, and in that way the world will be rid of evil. Bush keeps what Woodward calls "his own personal scorecard for the war" in the form of photographs with brief biographies and personality sketches of those judged to be the world's most dangerous terrorists, each ready to be crossed out if killed or captured. The scorecard is always available in a desk drawer in the Oval Office.

[It is useful at this point to remember, perhaps, that one of the identifying motifs of fascism is the idea that "life is eternal warfare."]

Most significantly, Lifton zeroes in on what this approach to warfare means to us on the home front -- that is, how it is reshaping our national identity, and not in good ways:
The amorphousness of the war on terrorism carries with it a paranoid edge, the suspicion that terrorists and their supporters are everywhere and must be "pre-emptively" attacked lest they emerge and attack us. Since such a war is limitless and infinite--extending from the farthest reaches of Indonesia or Afghanistan to Hamburg, Germany, or New York City, and from immediate combat to battles that continue into the unending future--it inevitably becomes associated with a degree of megalomania as well. As the world's greatest military power replaces the complexities of the world with its own imagined stripped-down, us-versus-them version of it, our distorted national self becomes the world.

Despite the constant invocation by the Bush Administration of the theme of "security," the war on terrorism has created the very opposite--a sense of fear and insecurity among Americans, which is then mobilized in support of further aggressive plans in the extension of the larger "war." What results is a vicious circle that engenders what we seek to destroy: Our excessive response to Islamist attacks creates more terrorists and more terrorist attacks, which in turn leads to an escalation of the war on terrorism, and so on. The projected "victory" becomes a form of aggressive longing, of sustained illusion, of an unending "Fourth World War" and a mythic cleansing--of terrorists, of evil, of our own fear. The American military apocalyptic can then be said to partner and act in concert with the Islamist apocalyptic.

Finally, it is becoming clear, as Lifton argues, that the neoconservative vision for "superpower America" and its hegemony over the rest of the world is neither tenable nor desirable. The answer to the war on terror is to build a real world community that respects cultural differences and boundaries -- not an international regime in which all bow down to the superior Americans.
To renounce the claim to total power would bring relief not only to everyone else but, soon enough, to the leaders and followers of the superpower itself. For to live out superpower syndrome is to place oneself on a treadmill that eventually has to break down. In its efforts to rule the world and to determine history, the superpower is, in fact, working against itself, subjecting itself to constant failure. It becomes a Sisyphus with bombs, able to set off explosions but unable to cope with its own burden, unable to roll its heavy stone to the top of the hill in Hades. Perhaps the crucial step in ridding ourselves of the syndrome is recognizing that history cannot be controlled, fluidly or otherwise.

The place to start, of course, is to remove Bush from office in the 2004 election. This is not, as the unAmerican rabid right would have us a think, a capitulation to the terrorists. It is in fact the first step to seriously winning the war against them.

[Thanks to reader mondo dentro for pointing me to the Lifton piece.]


Tristero has what is undoubtedly the most insightful take on our latest mad dog attack.

He's right. I'm so ashamed.

Friday, December 12, 2003


I took the above picture of Keiko the killer whale a couple of weeks after he was moved from his aging tank in Mexico to his then-new rehab center at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. He was grooving on his new wide-open spaces, but they were already working on making him not so attached to humans, and he hadn't had any visitors except his trainers for awhile. He definitely was checking me out, and he saw that I had a camera. He loved cameras.

You could say that the camera loved Keiko, too, because he looked awfully good in Free Willy, which indeed would have been (and is in every other respect) a bleah Hollywood kids' flick but for the orca's vivid presence. After seeing him a few times, I thought it actually had worked the other way around. He was a charismatic orca who was very attuned to humans (at least partially the product, no doubt, of having been captured while still young). I think the film succeeded in large part because his rather warm and playful personality came through on film.

A true story: The scene in the film in which Willy rescues the boy, Jesse, from the bottom of the pool was not in the original script, but was based on something Keiko did in real life. The young daughter of the owner of the aquarium in Mexico where he resided for many years (and where much of the film was made) fell in, unnoticed, during a performance. No one was aware of it, in fact, until Keiko nudged her up and out of the water and to the side of the pool. The film's director heard the story from the pool owners and decided to write it into the script; when asked to recreate the performance with a Jesse dummy, Keiko pulled it off on the first shot.

The thing about orcas like Keiko, of course, is that they are attuned so well to humans that it is easy to anthropomorphize them, which is something of an insult; it denies them their whale-ness. But I gather that even during the "release into the wild" sessions in Iceland, he was reluctant to sever his ties with humans. Which is probably why he showed up in Norway and adopted a local village full of humans.

When he died of pneumonia at the age of 27 yesterday, I was of course sad to read about it. But he lived a long life for a captive male. And in his last years, there's no doubt he enjoyed a better quality of life than most of his preceding years. He was healthy, and seemed happy, the reports say.

I think that, as animals go, he was more important than most of the creatures who populate our big screens and our cultural iconography, because he was a great ambassador for his species -- and for that matter all of animalkind. The image of the threatening killer whale was forever shattered after Free Willy, and the gentle intelligence of the animals was imbedded permanently in the popular imagination. And he became a symbol of something new in humans too -- a clearer understanding of, even a sympathy for, the needs and rights of wild animals. No doubt some would declare that crass sentimentality or "pussy" behavior. Screw them.

The spiral of eliminationism

The antics of Misha, the "Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler," have notched another turn in the spiral of eliminationist violence that I've remarked upon previously. Now he has gone so far as to advocate the death of a "traitor" who runs an anti-Bush Web site.

This time, it may not be without consequences.

The object of Misha's ire is Eric Blumrich, who runs BushFlash, a rabidly anti-Bush site that is closely associated with the Dennis Kucinich campaign. Blumrich, in fact, created this ad, which makes the all-too-legitimate point that American lives are being wasted daily because this administration underestimated the problems of trying to rebuild Iraq once we had invaded. President Bush's "fall product" of 2002 is killing our soldiers daily in 2003. It also underscores the fact that antiwar activists indeed "support our troops" -- and do not believe their lives should be forfeit on the altar of Bush's misguided and incompetent foreign policy.

Evidently, this point cut too close to the bone for the pro-Bushites surrounding Misha, who avidly denounced the Kucinich ad by contending that it "used our war dead to push his agenda." [Funny how none of them seems to mind President Bush using our dead, war and otherwise, (notably the Sept. 11 victims) to push his political agenda.] One has to wonder if opponents of the war are simply supposed to pretend that those body bags are meaningless.

And the contention that this kind of dissent actually puts our troops further in harm's way is ludicrous. If the prowar folk can produce any evidence that insurgents in Iraq receive one iota of encouragement from antiwar dissent here, they have yet to produce it. Any kind of serious examination of the insurgency reveals that it receives far more encouragement from the daily bumbling of the Bush team in Iraq. When it comes to heedlessly putting our soldiers in harm's way, well, Bush is in a class of his own.

Not that reason has anything to do with the primal screamers comprising the prowar crowd -- particularly not Misha. A couple of days ago he lashed out at Blumrich with the following:
Here's a hint to you, Eric: The gov't can't do anything to you over that ad, but that's the extent of your protection under the First Amendment.

The rest of us, however, aren't the gov't, in case you've forgotten, and quite few of us would be more than happy to wipe that nervous little grin off your traitorous mug -- with a belt sander.

Not saying anything in specific, mind you, but we'd be damn careful about showing our face in public if we were you. You just never know who that perfect stranger behind you in that alleyway might be. Could be a sibling or other relative of one of the fallen soldiers that you just took a dump on the grave of, and G-d only knows what might happen then.

Eric may not be famous enough to be a pick for the 2004 Dead Pool, but there's another signed Imperial Mug for the first LC to inform me that Eric Blumrich has died in a "tragic" accident.

Accidents DO happen, you know, and that's the kind of news that would definitely make my entire day.

Of course, Misha seems to have forgotten that it isn't the First Amendment that protects us from murder, assault, threats and intimidation. It's criminal law.

Most significantly, this was not mere eliminationism; it was outright advocacy of someone's death. Taken alone, it bordered on a criminal threat, but probably didn't cross the boundary because it didn't suggest that Misha himself was going to carry out the threat. It was more in the nature of telling someone "you deserve to die and I hope somebody does it to you soon."

But then he told his readers how to do just that.

Shortly after posting the text, Misha began directing his readers on how to find Blumrich's address. On his front page, he posted a map of Blumrich's neighborhood, complete with a red star over his residence. He went on to create and post a map showing directions from Fort Dix to Blumrich's residence. Commenters posted: "ROAD TRIPPPPPP! And we can't wait to arrive..."

Neither component in and of itself constitutes a serious threat, but the combination of the two is almost certainly actionable, since it not only incites violence but helps facilitate it. Laws regarding threats and intimidation are different in various states, and I gather that Blumrich is consulting with local authorities so that it can be dealt with accordingly.

Misha since then has cowered behind his claim that it was "satire," but there was nothing obviously satirical about the post, at least not in the sense that satire often depicts the reductio ad absurdam of an argument; rather, it was clear that even if Misha intended the post to be "extreme humor," there was little question he was wishing extreme violence and even death upon Blumrich. Here's a clue for you, Misha: The First Amendment doesn't cover threats, intimidation and open incitement to violence.

But even if Misha's post -- particularly the attempts to direct people who will act out his scenario to Blumrich's residence -- is not criminally actionable (and it may not be), it is almost certainly civilly actionable, especially if someone decides to take Misha up on his suggestion. Misha's weak disclaimers notwithstanding, if Blumrich is in fact assaulted or threatened at his residence, he will have very solid grounds for suing the crap out of the Rottweiler.

Even though the spiral of Misha's antics has been predictable, it is no less alarming. When "traitors" are pointed out and their homes and private lives targeted, it moves eliminationism from the arena of mere rhetoric into real action. And that is the borderline that simply cannot be crossed if the right is serious about "civility" (which is, frankly, increasingly unlkikely).

I've had previous dealings with this kind of behavior and its consequences firsthand. Readers of "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" will recall that I described at length the anti-conservationist campaign in Montana's Flathead Valley that has been an ongoing problem there since the late 1990s. The source of the problem is a right-wing radio talk-show host (and station owner) who has made a career out of not only using eliminationist rhetoric toward liberals generally and environmentalists specifically, but he has gone so far as to broadcast their home addresses and workplaces.

The consequences, as I described then:
Beginning in the summer of 2001, local conservationists began receiving a series of death threats, some delivered in person, others by phone. Car windows were smashed in, tires slashed. Strange men would show up in people's yards at twilight, then run off when confronted. People's homes were vandalized. Others would be followed home by men in pickups or on motorcycles. Sometimes the teenage children of the targets were threatened.

If Misha's post represents a coming trend -- and it's clear that part of his intent in making these posts was to inspire others to "out" similar "traitors," wherever they might be -- then we may well see the realization of my fears that the Flathead-style war against liberals would become a national phenomenon.

Finally, it's important to remember where this spiral -- eliminationism put into action -- leads: In a pile of corpses. Recall, if you will, the recent story from the international genocide trials involving the bloodshed in Rwanda in 1994-95. One of the key players in the massacres by majoritarian Hutus, as it happened, was a radio station that broadcast the names, residences and locations of Tutsi "cockroaches":
A three-judge panel said the media executives had used a radio station and a twice-monthly newspaper to mobilize Rwanda's Hutu majority against the Tutsis, who were massacred at churches, schools, hospitals and roadblocks. The court said the newspaper "poisoned the minds" of readers against the Tutsis, while the radio station openly called for their extermination, luring victims to killing grounds and broadcasting the names of people to be targeted.

Another account describes how the station directed the killings:
Tutsis and moderate Hutus were hunted down and slaughtered, some after their names and whereabouts were broadcast on RTLM. Babies and children were massacred and women were gang-raped before being murdered -- some in churches and convents where they had sought refuge.

And the thing about spirals of violence is that once they begin spinning, they become increasingly difficult to stop.