Saturday, May 13, 2006

The question of character

Remember how, when George W. Bush was running against Al Gore back in 2000, we kept hearing about his superior "character" -- emphasized constantly by references to his supposed religiosity -- as such a refreshing contrast from the Bill Clinton years?

Well, now the worm has turned:
In a new poll comparing President Bush's job performance with that of his predecessor, a strong majority of respondents said President Clinton outperformed Bush on a host of issues.

... Respondents favored Clinton by greater than 2-to-1 margins when asked who did a better job at handling the economy (63 percent Clinton, 26 percent Bush) and solving the problems of ordinary Americans (62 percent Clinton, 25 percent Bush).

On foreign affairs, the margin was 56 percent to 32 percent in Clinton's favor; on taxes, it was 51 percent to 35 percent for Clinton; and on handling natural disasters, it was 51 percent to 30 percent, also favoring Clinton.

Moreover, 59 percent said Bush has done more to divide the country, while only 27 percent said Clinton had.

When asked which man was more honest as president, poll respondents were more evenly divided, with the numbers -- 46 percent Clinton to 41 percent Bush -- falling within the poll's margin of error.

It's too bad it's cost us the well-being of the nation and a growing mountain of bodies to discover that, perhaps, Bush's character wasn't all it was quacked up to be.

Especially since that was clear even before he was elected. And it has been manifest since the day he assumed office.

Back then, Gail Sheehy provided an insight that seems rather prophetic:
Even if he loses, his friends say, he doesn't lose. He'll just change the score, or change the rules, or make his opponent play until he can beat him. "If you were playing basketball and you were playing to 11 and he was down, you went to 15," says [Doug] Hannah, now a Dallas insurance executive. "If he wasn't winning, he would quit. He would just walk off.... It's what we called Bush Effort: If I don't like the game, I take my ball and go home. Very few people can get away with that."

The chief problem, as I observed at the time, is that no one in the press was willing to point out that the emperor had no character:
What has become painfully clear is that for no one in the Washington press corps do George W. Bush's absolute ruthlessness and his unwillingness to win or lose by the rules of the game raise a character question. Instead, they look at the guy, Al Gore, who has made abundantly clear his willingness to abide by the rules, to play fairly and squarely at every turn, and deride him for his wimpiness in comparison.

Then there was the "trifecta" joke, in which all of Bush's character flaws came rushing to the fore:
Most economists peg the source of these nagging deficits on Bush's tax-cut plan, the deepest portions of which loom ahead. The administration sternly denies this. Yet it's clear that while Sept. 11 may have deepened and broadened the budget-deficit problem, the administration was faced with chronic budget deficits no matter what.

And that gets to the heart of the "trifecta" joke, whose entire purpose clearly is to blame the deficit on Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Thus it lets Bush escape any serious questions about either his failure to balance the budget or, particularly, his campaign pledge to use the Social Security Trust Fund to pay down the national debt. The national tragedy gave him unparalleled political cover for his administration's failures -- and Bush, to no one's surprise, has displayed no hesitation whatsoever about using it. Indeed, it has become his favorite joke.

Never mind that it is perhaps the most tasteless and insensitive joke in the annals of the presidency, nor that it is ultimately a falsehood. What's really noteworthy about Tale of the Trifecta is that the in-your-face political opportunism it represents is not out of the ordinary for this administration.

Since Sept. 11, Bush and his Republican colleagues have at every turn used the threat of terrorist attacks as cover for the administration's difficulties:

-- Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked critics of his anti-terrorism measures in December by telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that opponents of the administration "only aid terrorists" and "give ammunition to America’s enemies."

-- When Democratic leaders in the Senate -- particularly Majority Leader Tom Daschle -- questioned Bush’s handling of the war on terrorism, they drew accusations of "aiding and abetting the enemy" and dark suggestions about the critics' patriotism.

-- When questions emerged in early May about what Bush and his advisers knew about terrorist threats before Sept. 11 and Democrats began pushing for an independent investigation, a series of warnings of yet more imminent terrorist attacks were issued from the administration. The criticism largely subsided.

-- Four days after proposing, amid skepticism, a Cabinet-level Homeland Security department, the administration announced the arrest of a man suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda agents to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in an American city. As it happens, the actual arrest had occurred a month before.

There have been other, less clear incidents suggesting a willingness to use Sept. 11 and its aftermath as not just a political shield, but a weapon. This probably should not be a surprise: after all, one need only recall Karl Rove’s instructions to the Republican National Committee last January to make the war on terrorism a political issue.

And, lest we forget, the question of Bush's character came clearly to the surface with his military-records questions, which raised red flags about his character both as a young man and as president:
[T]he gross character flaw that the AWOL matter reveals is also very much part of what we have gotten from this presidency. There is no sense of accountability to the public anywhere in this administration; if something goes wrong [Can you say, "Weapons of mass destruction?" I knew you could.] it places the blame elsewhere. It falsifies budget figures and misleads the public about the grotesque debt load its deficits are placing on future generations. And it distorts intelligence estimates so that it can convince the public to participate in a war it had planned even before winning election. It bullies its opponents, and traffics in the most transparent way in keeping the public in line by fanning its fears of terrorist attack.

This is a presidency sold to the public on the phony image of Bush as a man of superior character -- a straight shooter, a veteran, a man who understands and respects duty and honor. (This was meant to contrast with Bill Clinton and, by extension, Al Gore.) But as we have explored at length previously, Bush's family connections are not any source of superior character; and as the AWOL episode demonstrates rather starkly, his personal history gives no evidence of having developed it either.

This personal character of Bush's has been a cornerstone of his entire governing style. Should we go to war? Trust Bush -- he's a "good man." Economy's in the dumpster? "He's working hard to make things better." Wrecking the environment? "How can you impugn our motives?" Valerie Plame? "That's just politics."

This style gives way to the kind of arrogance that can dress Bush up in a flight suit and send him jetting out to the deck of an aircraft carrier, in way specifically designed to emphasize his own phonied-up service record, for the sake of a photo op prematurely announcing "Mission Accomplished." It's what lets Bush get away with posing for all the world as a veteran "war president" with a real respect for the suffering of average soldiers. And it's what lets him and his minions get away with impugning the motives and patriotism of the people who question his leadership.

In the intervening months years, the same flaw comes up time and again: Fumbling the Katrina disaster; flouting both the Geneva Conventions and American law by claiming the power to ignore them both at will; allowing oil and energy companies to run roughshod over consumers; handing out huge tax breaks to the wealthy while the budget deficits pile up; and most of all, invading a nation on false pretenses and then incompetently failing to either conceive or carry out an adequate occupation or withdrawal.

So it should be clear that character does indeed count. But it should also be clear that neither the mavens of the media nor the movement-conservative propagandists who sold the nation on Mr. Bush are any judges of it.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Go smugly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in stonewalling.
As far as possible, leave no chance of surrender
and be on superior terms to all other persons.
Speak your truthiness loudly and garbled;
and never listen to others,
especially not the wise and the well-informed;
they can all just go to hell.

Seek out loud and aggressive persons,
they are a vexation to your critics.
Constantly compare yourself with others,
so that you remain vain and bitter;
for you always must be assured there are lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements, even if they only consist of catching large perch, as well as your plans, even if they go to shit.

Keep covering the tracks of your own failed and calamitous career;
because if anyone ever clues in to your incompetence, your fortunes will change in time.
Abandon caution in your business and political affairs;
for the world is full of trickery, but no one is better than you.
But let this not blind you to what use in virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of suckers.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign intelligence.
Always be cynical about war;
for in the face of all effeminite sensitivity
it is as eternal as blood.

Take blindly the counsel of the years,
grasping desperately the things of youth.
Nurture the strength of your liquid spirits to cushion you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings; they are for wealkings.
Many fears are born of care and thoughtfulness, which is beyond your ken.
In your weekly discipline session,
tell her to be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the Bizarro Universe,
no more brains than God gave a rock;
you have no business being what you are.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is crumbling around you as it should.

Therefore be at war with the Enemy,
whatever you conceive him to be,
and use those labors and aspirations
to justify warrantless surveillance on your nation.

With all its Hannities, Drudges, and Fox Networks,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be oblivious.
Strive to be happy.
29 percent approval ratings notwitshtanding.

With apologies to Max Ehrman. Sorta.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Coulter and the onset of fascism

Did you notice how everyone on the right tut-tutted when Ann Coulter called for retaliation against "ragheads" -- but still, she continues to appear on college campuses and cable-TV programs apace. So much for that phony right-wing "outrage" over "extremists in their own ranks."

In reality, Coulter has long been leading the race of right-wing nutcases to move the demarcation line for "beyond the pale," and this week she demonstrated again that there are really no such limits for the right. Every week, they move the line farther to the right, until before you know it, you're staring outright fascism in the face.

Media Matters directs us to the latest Coulter emission, wherein she shrieks like a harpy about conservatives' lack of "manliness":
Democrats have declared war against Republicans, and Republicans are wandering around like a bunch of ninny Neville Chamberlains, congratulating themselves on their excellent behavior. They'll have some terrific stories about their Gandhi-like passivity to share while sitting in cells at Guantanamo after Hillary is elected.


Patriotic Americans don't have to become dangerous psychotics like liberals, but they could at least act like men.

Why hasn't the former spokesman for the Taliban matriculating at Yale been beaten even more senseless than he already is? According to Hollywood, this nation is a cauldron of ethnic hatreds positively brimming with violent skinheads. Where are the skinheads when you need them? What does a girl have to do to get an angry, club- and torch-wielding mob on its feet?

Let's be clear here: Coulter is not "joking." She is seriously calling for "manly" conservatives to inflict violence on a college student who is in the United States legally. Moreover, she is calling for a similar kind of violence as an appropriate response to "unhinged" and "violent" liberals.

This is, of course, the logical outcome of this whole argument, gaining greater circulation even among ostensible liberals, that the left is becoming dangerously unstable -- because, naturally, the "sensible" response calls for even greater doses of "manly" violence.

Coulter first tested this new variation on an old meme during a college-campus appearance last month in Chicago, as Lauren Patrizi reported:
Ann addressed her supporters in the crowd with this statement. "You're men. You're heterosexuals. Take 'em out." She chided them further when they did not rise. Before you knew it there was about 25 students marching to the balcony to supposedly "take out" the protestors above. I saw a priest holding students back and deans and security warning the students to go back to their seats. Chaos erupted. Ann left after taking one question.

Coulter's vaguely jocular reference in her column to employing skinheads on the right's behalf is also significant, because it is a nod and a wink -- and, combined with insults about one's manhood, a nudge -- in the direction of a historical reality regarding fascists: street thugs, in the early stages of fascism, were an essential element of their rise to power. The SA Brownshirts -- as well, in Italy, of Mussolini's black-shirted squadristi -- were used by supposedly mainstream conservatives as shock troops who could intimidate socialists, communists, and Jews; this was the key factor in the Thyssen-Nazi alliance. Similarly, right-wing thugs like the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s served to intimidate labor organizers and various leftists. (This was also an important subtext of Coulter's quip that her "only regret with Tim McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.")

The tide of right-wing eliminationism has been rising steadily in recent years, led in large part by Coulter and her sycophants. It has now topped the brim and is on the verge of bubbling over into action.

I warned a little while back that one of the real differences between movement conservatism and fascism is that the former "does not yet rely on physical violence and campaigns of gross intimidation to obtain power and suppress opposition."

If Ann Coulter -- who has a predilection for seeing her "outrageous" remarks become standard right-wing talking points -- has her way, that difference will soon disappear. All that will be necessary is for those young, heterosexual, "manly" conservatives to start following her advice, and proving their "manhood" in the only way they know how.

But then, that's what those fellows down in Jamul were doing, isn't it?

Don't worry, though: Coulter could sing the Horst Wessel Song in English and call for a Final Solution to liberalsim, and her friends on the right would smirk and assure us that she's just joking. Oh, and get a sense of humor too, you unhinged, violent moonbats, wouldja?

Then they'd book her for another round of cable talk shows.

Let's empower extremists

That rocket scientist Hindrocket has some advice for President Bush:
So, discussion about long-term approaches to immigration will continue. But in the meantime, your priority will be securing the borders and enforcing the laws currently on the books. Which means that the crackdown on employers of illegals will be expanded. Announce some specific measures to begin securing the Mexican border, preferably including some kind of fence.

This simple act will cause your approval ratings to begin rebounding, re-energize Republicans, and assure that the party keeps its Congressional majorities in November. If you really want to get the conservative base back in your corner, go and meet with the Minutemen--on camera--and tell them you appreciate what they're doing.

Sure, that sounds like a swell idea. Let the president shake hands with right-wing extremists whose chief mission in life entails demonizing Latino immigrants and dreaming up bizarre conspiracy theories.

For the latest version of the latter, see Ed Cone:
[Minuteman founder Jim] Gilchrist "said he believes there is a criminal conspiracy involving President Bush, his father, and political strategist Karl Rove to open America's borders to cheap labor for big business."

Perhaps next time out, Hindrocket will suggest that Bush meet with Fred Phelps to help secure the conservative-Christian vote.

After all, what harm can it do? It's not as if extremists don't already have enough power in this administration.

[Hat tip to Jane.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Signs of the times

Down in Jamul, California, a restaurant is set ablaze...
Lailanie Ontiveros looked in disbelief at the smoke-covered broken glass, the charred wood and the profane ethnic insult spray-painted on the door to her restaurant.

Sheriff's officials said the fire and anti-Mexican graffiti at Mariachi's Mexican Bar and Grill late Monday was arson and a hate crime, but Ontiveros couldn't understand why anyone would hate her family.

... The fire caused about $10,000 in damage to the restaurant, on Campo Road near Aurora Vista Drive. The obscenities were spray-painted in red on the front door, on a poster advertising NASCAR events and on the side wall of the restaurant.

Ontiveros, her mother and brother have owned the Jamul restaurant for two years. A mural depicting her mother's hometown of Durango, Mexico, fills one wall. The ceiling, painted with puffy clouds, is now darkened by smoke.

The fire came a day after a massive march in downtown San Diego seeking rights for Latino immigrants, but sheriff's officials and Ontiveros didn't cite any connection between the protest rally and the arson.

Of course not. It's just another minor crime. Add it to the list.

Likewise, no one connects little acts like these to rhetoric like this, this, or this.

It's just much easier that way.

Channeling the Minutemen

There's always been a kind of Bizarro World quality to Fox News -- you know, up is down, right is wrong, true is false -- which no doubt contributes to its role as a font of Newspeak.

But on a recent Fox News Watch broadcast, James Pinkerton raised the art to a new zenith as he painted a picture of poor, put-upon Minutemen being negatively portrayed by the media:
PINKERTON: The media like brown people, but they like black people more. And so, therefore, the -- when Jesse Jackson and his -- some of these people are starting to worry about immigrants cutting away jobs from African Americans, that's one thing. But what they really dislike, of course, is white people. And so --

HALL: Oh, Jim. Oh, please. Please.

PINKERTON: -- in that sense, the -- the racial typology -- brown, black, white -- was visible there, and I think --


PINKERTON: I stand by it completely, in terms of the way the Minutemen were covered on this coverage. And anybody can watch --

GABLER: The Minutemen got a favorable article on the front page of The New York Times.

PINKERTON: The Minutemen get slammed --


Well, it's hard to tell what Pinkerton meant by "this coverage" exactly. But if he was talking about Fox News' coverage of the Minutemen, then he appears to be ingesting powering hallucinogens before watching. Maybe Ibogaine, or something like that.

Because really, Fox News' handling of the Minutemen has been so pronouncedly biased in their favor that it's nearly impossible to find any negative coverage there.

The most obvious case in this regard is the coverage provided by Sean Hannity, including a recent segment touting their fence-building project. Past coverage included a fawning interview with Minuteman leader Chris Simcox and a visit from Hannity on the "front lines" in Arizona.

Then there's Bill O'Reilly, who likewise promotes the Minutemen as a group of sincere citizens. And in general, the coverage on Fox uniformly is indistinguishable from Minuteman propaganda.

It's not, however, simply on Fox that this is the case. CNN, particularly under the leadership of Lou Dobbs -- who openly avowed his explicit support -- has done perhaps as much as Fox to promote the notion of Minutemen.

Then there's MSNBC, which has been not quite so ardent but certainly as largely favorable in their coverage of the Minutemen. Tucker Carlson has been their most fervent defender, calling them people "who have taken up arms for the land they love," and had a softball interview with cofounder Jim Gilchrist. Joe Scarborough hosted Simcox for an interview that did bring up the issues of extremism and racism in the Minutemen's ranks, but largely took Simcox's denials at face value. And on Hardball with Norah O'Donnell, a Minuteman spokesman appeared as a "conservative" talking head and was never asked about anything in the way of extremism.

And that's just on cable TV. Likewise, the general coverage of the Minutemen in the press has been neutral to positive, with warm write-ups in various organs.

In contrast, it seems that the only coverage of the Minutemen's footsie games with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and their infiltration by same, as well as the proliferation of bigots with violent attitudes within their ranks, can be found at the SPLC Intelligence Report or in a handful of obscure news accounts. Certainly, you heard or saw little about it on Fox.

Maybe he was watching Bizarro Fox.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Righteous anger

Richard Cohen, via Atrios, waxing wankeriffic like the Nobel Prize winner he is:
But the message in this case truly is the medium. The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred. This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations.

Oh please. Just take me out and shoot me. We've been hearing this whine, incessantly, for the past four years, and it's enough.

These morons -- the conservatives who can dish it out but can't take it, and their Beltway liberal enablers who can neither dish it out nor take it -- had barely finished their eight-year spree trashing the country and the presidency in order to prove their moral superiority (and, along the way, pave the way for a complete right-wing takeover) before they began mewling this gibbering pap. Now they've swallowed the Michelle Malkin "unhinged liberal moonbat" meme whole.

No doubt some of Cohen's mail was vile, though before I take his word for it, I'd rather look at the evidence (which he of course cannot provide), particularly regarding the extent of it. And note how weirdly inconsistent the tone of the column is; at some points he seems to be suggesting that nearly all of it was awful, though he admits he didn't even come close to reading it all; at others, he admits that some of it was respectful and even supportive. It's just flat-out incoherent.

The underlying incoherency, though, is in Cohen's pearl-clutching claim that what poured out of his screen was unadulterated "hatred." Considering the life-and-death issues at stake here, and the blitheness of pundits like himself in treating these issues as mild embarrassments or inconveniences, it's clear that what Cohen is actually having to face is people's anger -- their righteous, well-tended anger.

As I wrote two years ago:
All of the hand-wringing currently circulating among the pundit class about the rising tide of "Bush hatred" misunderstands the nature of what really is happening. They mistake anger for hatred -- though in the case of conservatives, it's fair to say that the confusion is intentional.

Anger, for the most part, is a righteous and largely rational thing -- it arises from genuine grievances, and is typically a response to outrages of some form or another. Hatred, on the other hand, is an irrational thing; it comes from deep in the soul, and is usually an expression of some deep-seated imbalance on the part of the hater. Naturally, if anger is allowed to fester unaddressed long enough, it can easily mutate into hatred. But they are distinctive in nature.

We can all recall the Clinton hatred of the 1990s: wild accusations that he planned to enslave America in a "New World Order," that he'd had Vince Foster murdered, that he ran drugs out of the Mena airport, that he had fathered a black "love child," and on and on and on. As Bob Somerby recently observed on the topic, this wasn't just emanating from the fringe elements of the right, though it certainly had a significant audience there; this was coming from supposedly mainstream conservatives inside the Beltway, and it was broadcast throughout mainstream media. This hatred was grotesquely irrational, especially considering that Clinton was a political moderate by any lights whose policies on many fronts (international trade, welfare reform, balancing the budget) presented victories for conservative ideals.

Of course, the same conservatives who engaged in this lunacy -- projectionists that they are -- have a habit of accusing liberals of the very behavior in which they themselves avidly participate and foment. Thus they have now invented the "Bush hatred" meme, suggesting that liberals who attack Bush are the moral equivalents of themselves. ("I know you are, but what am I?" is the essence of these charges.)

But, as I have argued at length previously, the majority of this "hatred" is predicated on real policies and real actions by both Bush and his administration. This is not hatred: it is anger -- real, righteous and well-grounded anger.

Anger can be a healthy thing, especially if it is based on solid reasons and real grievances. Anger over real injustices motivated the American Revolution, the anti-slavery and civil-rights movements, and women's suffrage. History is replete with righteous anger.

Anger only becomes unhealthy hatred if it festers. And one of the ways it can fester is if the grievances underlying them are dismissed out of hand as irrational -- not just by the perpetrators of the injustices, but by the supposed allies of the victims.

Oh, but Cohen even recognizes that perhaps there might be some good reason for the anger:
I can appreciate some of it. Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that's going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice -- once because they couldn't stop it and once more at the polls.

Only if people like Richard Cohen and the similarly execrable Joe Klein are allowed to pose as "liberals." Because the reality that is consistently overlooked by these "voices of moderation" is that the vast majority of Americans are now "Iraq war critics."

Cohen has a long history of this kind of crap. His claims notwithstanding, I'm not sorry to look elsewhere for someone who is a "friend" of liberal causes. With "friends" like that, who needs enemies?

Monday, May 08, 2006

The real Minutemen

Reporters who bother to spend time with the Minutemen and dig a little deeper are finding that the organization isn't as forthright as it seems.

In Washington state, for instance, Minuteman organizers insist they're only concerned about border security. But that doesn't explain why one of their supporters is running an initiative that would strip illegal immigrants of the ability to obtain government benefits, including welfare and health care.

Down in Phoenix, an investigative TV crew from KPHO went undercover and discovered that, when the cameras go off, the Minutemen are talking a much different ball game than their preferred public image of upstanding, concerned citizens:
These are anti-immigration vigilantes, taking action, mobilizing in the Arizona desert, driven by a conviction.

Pineapple 6 says, "These f___ing Mexicans. They will kill you. They don't give a f__k."

That Mexican immigrants are public enemy number one.

Fred Puckett says, "And once you shoot a couple of these son of a b@#$%es, they'll think twice."

Even worse are the spinoff groups that piggyback off the Minuteman propaganda and then draw the more radical actors into their ranks:
Another vigilante group - expelled from this operation - was operating nearby.

Pineapple 6 says, "They're carrying automatic weapons and they're chasing guys down and tracking them.. then they tie them up."

The next day, we set out to find the so-called "Rogue Minutemen."

Fred Puckett says, "Hi guys. I'm Fred Puckett.. Minuteman of One."

Puckett calls his group "Minuteman of One."

Puckett says, "We don't have no by-laws.. we don't have nothin'. We go out in two-man teams and we hit them like we did 40-years ago in Vietnam."

Members of Minuteman of One have a controversial M-O. They carry assault rifles when they're out on patrol, they don't hesitate to follow migrants or smugglers and they've been known to "confiscate" food, water and the luggage they come across.

Puckett says, "We believe our country is being destroyed from the inside. Anything south of I-10 is a third world nation."

The KPHO team last year did the same thing and found similar results.

Of course, this is standard M.O. for all of the far right's attemps to mainstream itself. In the 1990s, when I attended militia-organizing meetings, the leaders were adamant that all they were interested in was civic-minded protection of citizens' rights, and that they were nothing more than a neighborhood watch group.

Two years later, I watched in a federal courtroom as those same men were revealed on FBI videotape building pipe bombs and talking about blowing up various targets, including a local railroad tunnel and the home of a local reporter.

Fortunately, not every TV reporter these days is content to just let them blow smoke, though most are (see, e.g., Lou Dobbs). They're fewer and farther between, but the KPHO team deserves a big round of applause.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Global hate

Well, if it will make you feel any better, the United States isn't the only place seeing a resurgence of right-wing extremism and white supremacism under the banner of anti-immigrant sentiment.

In fact, if you include Australia, you could say it's becoming largely a global phenomenon.

This weekend brought us the news that the proto-fascist British National Party made some noteworthy gains in the just-finished elections:
The British National Party, which wants non-white immigrants to leave the U.K., made its biggest gains to date in local elections, capitalizing on economic pressures and ethnic tension in some of England's poorest districts.

The BNP won 11 of the 13 seats it contested in the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham, as well as adding seats on other councils mainly in eastern England and the Midlands, according to tallies compiled by the British Broadcasting Corp.

The gains more than doubled the number of municipal lawmakers the party has to 46 across England. Lawmakers from mainstream parties have expressed concern about the rise of the BNP. Parties with an anti-immigration agenda have failed to build national support in Britain in the past, in contrast to other European countries such as France.

Even before the election, as many as 25 percent of British voters indicated they might consider voting for the BNP. Not a good sign.

A statement from Searchlight explored this further, and added a caveat:
Any BNP victory should be a cause of concern. Its presence raises tensions and divides communities, and its lies, which are central to its campaigning tactics, incite fear and racial violence.

While the media focused on the success in East London, BNP fortunes elsewhere were more mixed. Although the BNP took three seats in Stoke-on-Trent, Epping Forest and Sandwell, there were other areas where it failed to make its expected breakthrough. There were no BNP successes in Oldham, Dudley, Blackburn and Thurrock. The BNP fell back in Calderdale, where it was defending two seats but only succeeded in one. Kirklees was another top target and the two councillors elected there were fewer than expected.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the leading anti-immigrant party began handing out cudgels as vote-winning gadgets:
The leader of the 'Stop Immigration' political group running in upcoming local elections in Turin will be distributing clubs as an electoral gadget in the multi-ethnic San Salvario neighbourhood of the northern city. Turin-daily La Stampa reported on Friday that Max Loda will hand out for free some 1,000 clubs -- with 'Stop immigration' engraved on them -- to win support for the party's candidate for mayor Denis Martucci at the 28 May election.

Martucci, who is backed by a number of lists including a 'Forza Toro' group of fans of the Torino soccer team, is one of nine candidates for Turin mayor.

Loda said the initiative will be promoted in the neighbourhood with the highest number of immigrant residents as well as in the rest of the city because "Turin risks to become a stronghold of illegald immigrants from over the world."

He claimed the clubs "only represent a cry of alarm, to say: dear citizens of Turin, dear Italians, we must defend ourselves from criminal ethnic gangs."

An estimated 2.8 million of Italy's 60 million inhabitants are non-EU foreigners, according to a survey by Catholic relief agency Caritas. Immigrants in Turin mainly live in the San Salvario and Porta Palazzo neighbourhoods.

Loda, previously unknown on the national political scene, made headlines in Turin in 2000 with a member of the anti-immigration Northern League Party, European MP Mario Borghezio, when a bridge in Turin was set on fire at the end of a demonstration against foreigners he was co-sponsoring.

Meanwhile, in Poland, a fellow named Roman Giertych, who heads up an extreme-right party called the League of Polish Families, was just named the nation's Minister of Education.

This would be akin to having Fred Phelps named Education Secretary. Giertych, whose grandfather was a notorious anti-Semite who advocated, in the 1930s, expelling all of Poland's Jews, made a name for himself primarily by advocating for laws against homosexuals, including "a bill in parliament that would penalize, through fine or even imprisonment, those who publicly promote the change of the 'traditional' definition of marriage".

He also thinks highly of the press:
"They call themselves moral authorities, but in fact they're just scum."

The Polish anti-fascist group Never Again spoke out against Giertych's rise:
Roman Giertych, the leader of the extreme-right political party League of Polish Families (LPR) and of the nationalist youth organisation All-Polish Youth (MW), was nominated to the post of Minister of Education today.
"It is a disgrace! Our worst worries are coming true" -- comments Marcin Kornak, the chairman of the anti-fascist 'Never Again' Association. "The lack of reaction from the politicians to the growing wave of chauvinism in Poland has led to an extreme nationalist being nominated to the ministry of education post. We protest against it!"
The newly appointed minister of education is the leader of the All-Polish Youth and he is going to promote its educational patterns in Polish schools. The All-Polish Youth draws from the darkest traditions tainted with extreme nationalism and antisemitism. For years it has recruited its members from among skinheads. It promotes xenophobia and a violent rejection of everything that does not match its criteria of "true Polishness". The All-Polish Youth has been repeatedly accused of being fascist and the media have published photos of its members (today MPs for the LPR) raising hands in the Hitler-salute.

Meanwhile, back in the USA ....

... at the University of Texas-Arlington, the renowned white supremacist Jared Taylor was recently presented as the "conservative" side in a debate sponsored by College Republicans.
Taylor said Mexican immigration is bad for the United States and cited statistics detailing high crime and school dropout rates among Hispanics. Gutierrez said those statistics are an ugly reality because whites have been in charge and have discriminated so harshly against Hispanics.

Taylor said even though Hispanics are in charge of everything south of America's borders, residents are fleeing those failed societies. He said he hopes a wall is built along the border to keep illegal Hispanic immigrants out.

Gutierrez said walls separating people have always failed. He argued that Mexicans have a right to move throughout the Americas because they were here before white settlers and because much of their land was "stolen" from them in the Mexican-American war.

Taylor pointed to that sentiment as deep disloyalty to the United States.

"Mexicans in particular are the worst candidates for U.S. citizenship," he said. "They don't respect our sovereignty."

You see? Sure they may be racist, but they come off so reasonable, so patriotic, so ... authoritative.

Round and round and round it goes, and where it stops ...