Friday, May 19, 2006

The Lyons roars

If I had my druthers, I'd probably link to Gene Lyons' column just about every week, but this week's offering is really exceptional:
Polls show anger about illegal aliens running strongest where Mexican Americans are fewest. Irrational factors are clearly at work. Basically, they’re the same parts of the South and Midwest where the 19 th century Know-Nothing movement and the Ku Klux Klan flourished. Then immigrant Catholics and Jews threatened national solidarity.

Some have even persuaded themselves that the so-called Reconquista movement poses a conspiratorial threat to recapture states “stolen” from Mexico. Frankly, I’d gladly say good riddance to Texas. In the meantime, maybe we should rename places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Santa Fe and Colorado lest the Meskins get any ideas.

He points to Glenn Greenwald's piece discussing how the nativist right is using the immigration debate to elide a discussion of the way the administration has abused the power of the executive branch, and concludes:
Only last week, U. S. intelligence "czar" John Negroponte said the government was "absolutely not" monitoring domestic calls. Two days later, USA Today learned that NSA has secretly compiled databases of hundreds of millions of domestic phone calls and uses computer algorithms to scrutinize them for suspicious patterns. How do you know they're up to no good? Because when Qwest refused to hand over customer data without a FISA court ruling, the government dropped the effort. The administration wanted not only Americans to be kept in the dark, but the U. S. government's own secret courts. That's probably because a 1986 federal law made it illegal for communications companies to divulge "a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber or customer... to any government entity." (My emphasis ) ABC News has since confirmed that the FBI is scrutinizing its reporters' phone records as well as those of The New York Times and The Washington Post as part of a CIA "leaks" investigation. Leaks, that is, about torture, secret prisons and, yes, legally suspect domestic "intelligence" efforts—basically anything the government calls classified for reasons of political convenience. Possibly you recall the First Amendment, which reads in part, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." But hey, look over there: Some stocky little brown guys are digging a ditch.

Man, I wish I'd said that.

Good reads

Reading through Kevin Phillips' analysis of the criticism directed his way from the Rubin wing of the Democratic Party, I happened to note his observations about Jacob Weisberg of Slate. Yeah, that Jacob Weisberg.

Best one-stop shopping for refuting your right-wing anti-immgrant friends' bullshit talking points? Try the ImmigrationProfs' blog.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has an excellent examination of Bush's border program that covers all the bases.

Still, for my money, Digby (who else?) has the most insightful take on the immigration debate, though he/she touches on a point (regarding white privilege) I'll be expanding on soon. Meanwhile, be sure to read Glenn Greenwald, who ties it all in with the surveillance scandals.

Meanwhile, Press the News has an excellent analysis of the Bush domestic-spying program.

Eric at Correspondent X has an excellent takedown of that Shelby Steele's recent book, with a follow-up post to boot. Be sure to check out his blog, which is excellent.

And following up on some other previous posts, Echidne chimes in on Ann Coulter.

And ThinkingMeat does the honors in dealing with Dan Paden. When guys like Paden come along, you think, "Gawd, where do I start?" But then you realize that life is too short. Anyway, thanks, meatguy.


Once upon a time I admired Paul Watson, not least for his iconoclasm.

Then, when I got to watch him in person, I began to realize that he's kind of a dick.

Now I know he is.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

'Invasion': Repeating history

It's fascinating how quickly right-wing talking points become incorporated in the mainstream. Maybe it's because they're in our system, imbued by our history.

The most recent entails calling the current wave of immigration from Mexico an "invasion." I hear it a lot, especially hanging out with the Minuteman crowd. I'm even getting comments from ostensible "longtime Democrats" calling it that.

This charge, of course, originates with the white-supremacist American Patrol, which has been making this charge for years. I think its crossover into the mainstream, however, occurred back in 2001, when Phyllis Schlafly asked:
The question we should ask our Mexican immigrant friends is, are you assimilating or invading?

The charge picked up more steam with Michelle Malkin's book on immigration titled Invasion, which was picked up and trumpeted by the folks at VDare -- another SPLC-designated hate group. In recent months, though, Malkin has taken up the claim full-time, calling it "Reconquista."

The past year or so, you've also been hearing it in mainstream media, especially on Fox News, such as David Asman's outburst in March:
"Well, if he's actually encouraging an invasion of our borders, I mean, that's grounds for warfare! Are you suggesting we actually go to war with Mexico?! We haven't done that in about a hundred and fifty years."

And of course, the wingnuts at places like NewsMax are now going full-bore with it:
The United States is being invaded by Mexico, and President Bush is allowing it to happen. Mexico will one day take over the United States, through voting, if nothing is done to stop the invasion by Mexican illegals.

Over at Townhall, someone named "Seaspook" explains:
We have no leverage with an aggressive, belligerent, emerging superpower and we are being occupied by Mexico. These 12 million Mexicans are not immigrants, they are aliens. Most have no intention of becoming Americans, owe no allegiance to the US, and some in fact believe parts of the US belong to Mexico. This is exactly how Mexico lost Texas.

The funny thing about all this is how closely it parallels the xenophobic hysteria that was raised almost exactly a century ago, during the initial wave of Japanese immigration. It was called the "Yellow Peril."

Prejudice against Asian immigrants had a long history, particularly against the Chinese. During the successful drive to exclude them -- culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 -- popular prejudices of the nativist variety came into full play, such as a labor organizer's screed warning of "China's Menace to the World":
MEN FROM CHINA come here to do LAUNDRY WORK. The Chinese Empire contains 600,000,000 (six hundred millions) inhabitants.

The supply of these men is inexhaustible.

Every one doing this work takes BREAD from the mouths of OUR WOMEN.

So many have come of late, that to keep at work, they are obliged to cut prices.

And now, we appeal to the public, asking them will they be partners to a deal which is only one of their many onward marches in CRUSHING OUT THE INDUSTRIES OF OUR COUNTRY from our people by grasping them themselves. Will you oblige the AMERICAN LAUNDRIES to CUT THE WAGES OF THEIR PEOPLE by giving your patronage to the CHINAMEN?

... This is the one unvarying story everywhere. Let white men, in competition with Chinese, mark down wages and profits as they may, extend the hours of labor or re duce the food standard as they may, the Chinese, without seeming effort or privation, can at once get below them and work them out.

It took on a special life, however, when Japanese began emigrating in the mid-1890s, and especially after Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, an event that shocked the reigning white-supremacist worldview. Suddenly Japanese immigration was not just racially distasteful, but a perceived threat.

An article at Densho explains it clearly:
In the West, Japan's victory over Russia sparked fears of Asian world domination. Shortly after the Russo-Japanese War, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst adopted "yellow peril" notions and widely disseminated them through his newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner. In 1907, a two-part Sunday supplement entitled "Japan May Seize the Pacific Coast" noted that, "the Yellow Peril is here." Notions of the "yellow peril," however, were not confined to the pages of newspapers. Popular literature, too, contained similar motifs. Homer Lea's Valor of Ignorance, for example, published in 1909, prophesied a great war between the United States and Japan. These themes continued to be explored throughout the entire period leading up to Pearl Harbor.

As I explain in Strawberry Days, the "Yellow Peril" was essentially
a conspiracy theory which posited that the Japanese emperor intended to invade the Pacific Coast, and that he was sending these immigrants to American shores as shock troops to prepare the way for just such a military action, and lay the groundwork for acts of sabotage and espionage when the signal was given. As ... James Phelan put it in 1907, the Japanese immigrants represented an "enemy within our gates."

Phelan -- who served a single term in the U.S. Senate and was the mayor of San Francisco -- was probably the single most prominent figure in California on the issue of Japanese immigration.

In 1906, Phelan said:
"They now occupy valleys in California by lease or purchase of land to the exclusion of not only whites but Chinese, and if this silent invasion is permitted by the federal government, they would at the rate at which they are coming, a thousand a month, soon convert the fairest state in the union into a Japanese colony. If they were naturalized they would outvote us.

"But California is white man's country, and the two races cannot live side by side in peace, and inasmuch as we discovered the country first and occupied it, we propose to hold it against either a peaceful or a warlike invasion."

Phelan was of course part of a much larger movement, embodied in such groups as the Asiatic Exclusion League, which in its May 1905 newsletter, pronounced the following:
"As long as California is white man's country, it will remain one of the grandest and best states in the union, but the moment the Golden State is subjected to an unlimited Asiatic coolie invasion there will be no more California."

This political agitation was further spurred by a Bay Area newspaper war between the Hearst-owned Examiner and the Chronicle, the latter of which began running headlines like the following:

Eventually, this agitation led to the passage of Alien Land Laws forbidding "aliens ineligible for citizenship" (Asians were precluded from naturalization then) that outlawed ownership of land for Japanese farmers.

The same wave of immigrant-bashing reached high water in Washington in 1919-21, when the presence of Japanese farmers was blamed for the inability of returning veterans to obtain work. This was kicked off by a campaign by a fellow named Miller Freeman, president of the Anti-Japanese League of Washington and a wealthy publisher, who had been agitating about a possible Japanese invasion of the Pacific Coast since 1907. Freeman was chair of the state Veterans Commission in 1919.

As I describe in Strawberry Days:
Beneath the lead-in was a small portrait of Miller Freeman, with a caption: "Sees Menace in Japanese Here." The first paragraph laid out Freeman's case:

That by getting control of 47 per cent of Seattle’s hotels, and by leasing land when forbidden to own it, Japanese violate the spirit of the "gentleman's agreement" between the United States and Japan, was the charge made Friday by Miller Freeman, secretary of the veterans' welfare commission.

The story went on to detail how the Japanese "controlled" 218 of the hotels in Seattle (it would later turn out that "control" included mere managerial status, not necessarily ownership), and worse yet, were taking over all the state's prime farmland: "Practically all the best farming lands in the vicinity of Seattle are in the hands of the Japanese -- a condition true of nearly all of the farming land adjacent to all the cities of the Pacific Coast.

"The law forbade foreigners to own land, and the spirit of the law is to prevent them from realizing the profits of our agricultural acreage. Yet these Japanese come here, lease the land, cultivate it, and take the cream. And the spirit of the law and the 'gentleman's agreement' is violated."

As a result of this travesty, Freeman claimed, World War I veterans returning home from Europe were being shut out of the labor market: "By gaining control of business, the Japanese is crowding our returning veterans out of a chance to get a new start." And if the trend continued, he warned, the result would be inevitable: "In the face of the flow of Japanese to the Pacific Coast, white people are ceasing to move here from the East. Eventually the whites will be forced to go elsewhere to make a living. ... Thus, the Japanese will eventually hold the balance of power in politics on the Pacific Coast. They will vote solid, and will control political affairs. Japan retains control of her people everywhere, notwithstanding that they may be accepted as citizens by the countries of their adoption."

Of course, very little of Freeman's tirade was true, but that last assertion was flagrantly deceptive; thanks to the 1790 Immigration Act restricting citizenship to
"free white persons," naturalization was not an option available to the Japanese. The only means by which a person of Japanese ancestry could obtain citizenship was by being born on American soil; but then, as Freeman would make clear on numerous other occasions, even those American-born Japanese were not racial equals and could never mix with white society. They were Japanese through and through, and thus their citizenship was of dubious nature at best.

Despite his later contentions that he had no prejudice against the Japanese, this racial separatism was a cornerstone of Freeman’s argument as he presented it in the pages of the Star. He voiced it largely by sprinkling his writing and speeches (including his remarks to the Star) with popular aphorisms: "The Japanese cannot be assimilated. Once a Japanese, always a Japanese. Our mixed marriages—failures all—prove this. 'East is East, and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet.' Oil and water do not mix."

And his conclusion became a political benchmark: "It is my personal view, as a citizen, that the time has arrived for plain speech on this question. I am for a white man's Pacific coast. I am for the Japanese on their own side of the fence. I not only favor stopping all further immigration, but believe this government should approach Japan with the view to working out a gradual system of deportation of old Japanese now here."

... [T]he notion of a statewide prohibition [against Japanese land ownership] appealed immensely to Freeman, who founded the Anti-Japanese League of Washington in 1916 and began campaigning for an alien land law in the state. His early attempts at pushing the legislation met with little success, but in 1919, the plight of returning veterans gave him the opening he sought.

Freeman was appointed by Governor Louis F. Hart in early 1919 to the state’s Veteran Welfare Commission, which was charged with reemploying returning veterans of the Great War. Though some economists noted at the time that the problem was a complex (but probably short-lived) one caused by slow-acting market forces, for Freeman it became abundantly clear that there was a singular cause: the Japanese, once again.

His opening salvo was a July speech before a group of 170 grocery, laundry and retail store owners that he titled, "This is a White Man's Country." In it, Freeman decried the steady stream of picture brides into the region since 1907, declaring that Japanese mothers bore five times as many children as white women. If the trend were not forestalled, he warned, the entire Pacific Coast would soon be overrun completely with Japanese. And, he said, they now owned and controlled large amounts of property in the state.

Freeman had plenty of support, including the staffs of the local papers:

One editorial in the Star read:
Miller Freeman's proposal in The Star of Saturday to deport the Japanese from the Pacific Coast and to put up the bars against future immigration from Japan has aroused a storm and it has brought Seattle up-standing—face to face with a problem that cannot be settled secretly and cannot be put off much longer.

The Japs are here. They are rapidly gaining control of the best farming land near Seattle. They are in control of the Seattle markets.

... Multiplying five times as rapidly as the whites, the Japs must some day—unless the problem is met now—absolutely control this coast. Just as Hawaii and the Sacramento Valley have been Japanized, so will the state of Washington.

Another, headlined "Japanized!", described all the vast holdings in the Seattle area of the Japanese.

There were also national bestsellers that supported these sentiments, such as Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race, published in 1916:
We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America 'an asylum for the oppressed,' are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all 'distinctions of race, creed, or color,' the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.

Or Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, which concluded:
"Finally perish!" That is the exact alternative which confronts the white race. For white civilization is to-day conterminous with the white race. The civilizations of the past were local. They were confined to a particular people or group of peoples. If they failed, there were always some unspoiled, well-endowed barbarians to step forward and "carry on." But today there are no more white barbarians. The earth has grown small, and men are everywhere in close touch. If white civilization goes down, the white race is irretrievably ruined. It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will obliterate the white man by elimination or absorption. What has taken place in Central Asia, once a white and now a brown or yellow land, will take place in Australasia, Europe, and America. Not to-day, nor yet to-morrow; perhaps not for generations; but surely in the end. If the present drift be not changed, we whites are all ultimately doomed. Unless we set our house in order, the doom will sooner or later overtake us all.

If it all sounds too familiar, it should. Just turn on your TV.

This may be why these memes are so successful: We're hard-wired for it by sheer virtue of our history.

A history, it seems, we're doomed to repeat, because we keep forgetting it, all too conveniently.

[For more on the Yellow Peril, see here.]

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The 'Christianist' coinage

Andrew Sullivan is suggesting we try a new word:
So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist.

Perhaps we should point out that Tristero first coined the term three years ago:
In an analogy to Islamism, I would propose the term "Christianism" to describe a political ideology inspired by Christianity that advocates the replacement of a secular government with one that is profoundly informed by a self-styled "literal" interpretation of the Bible. By this definition, Rudolph is perhaps best described as a radical "Christianist," a man inspired by Christianity to effect social change through violence.

"Christianism" is without a doubt an ugly neologism. However, it is a mistake to describe as "Christian" people and groups like Robertson, Falwell, Christian Identity, and those who are even more radical in their mission to transform the US into an explicitly fundamentalist "christian" state. This confuses Christianity, a religious belief, with a purely secular agenda. Furtheremore, it is highly misleading to ignore the hijacking of Christianity and its symbols by the Rudolphs of the world simply by repressing any reference to their Christian inspirations and calling them "anti-abortion terrorists" or some similar name.

I'm not sure if I can claim co-coinage, but my recollection was that Tristero and I had discussed the terms we could use to describe the current political-religious phenomenon on the right, and this one seemed fairly obvious. I noted Tristero's post at the time as an important contribution to the discussion.

We also discussed it here a few months later, thanks to Kynn Bartlett's now-vanished post on "Christianism" that I discussed here:
Christianism is a theocratic form of Christianity which is anti-pluralistic, designed to impose conservative Christian beliefs on American society (and eventually the world) through the use of the political system (or sometimes outright force). Christianism is a domestic crusade designed to change the country from the inside into one in which (nominally) Christian beliefs are the guiding societal force.

This is the "culture wars" which we are engaged in. It is often presented as "secular vs. Christian," but that's patently false. The fundamentalists have managed to distort the public debate to the point that fundamentalist beliefs are identified in the media as "Christian" -- ignoring entirely the fact that there are large numbers of Christians who don't believe the same way as the conservatives.

I had some reservations about the term, particularly because it seemed ripe for mau-mauing from right-wing pundits -- say, Rush Limbaugh or Hugh Hewitt -- who would almost certainly twist it into an attack on "ordinary Christians." I didn't necessarily think it was an inaccurate coinage, but it was one that lent itself to misinterpretation in the wrong hands.

Tristero has continued to use it, as he did recently at Digby's place, and I think his analysis is largely correct. However, I think an anonymous commenter had it about right when he urged the use of "Dominionism" instead of "Theocracy" or "Christianism":
First of all Theocrat implies the rule by a leader who is also the head of the state religion. The Religious Right has learned that approach will not work after Pat Robertson's disastrous run for the GOP nomination in 1988. Besides the United State does not have a history of a state religion or a single dominate religious sect. A straight up Theocratic approach by the Religious Right would have hardline Catholics, Mormons, assorted Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostalists..... all at each other's throats.

Second, I have met Fundamentalists who believe their bible is the word of God who none the less absolutely believe in the separation of church and state. They would not have it any other way less they might someday be the persecuted ones. They reject and abhor a Judge Ray Moore's idolatry and politicizing of the the Ten Commandments.

Last, a word like Christianist preferred by the likes of the insufferable, mercurial and self-styled "conservative" Andrew Sullivan is just too cute and potentially confusing. It does not differentiate somebody who might sincerely wish to use the moral philosophy of Jesus Christ as a basis for a political or legal philosophy from a true Dominionist. One may be from the old school where calling somebody a good Christian could have been done to describe Mahatma Gandhi's quest for Indian independence or Saladin's refusal to slaughter the Crusaders in reprisal for their atrocities against Muslims after recapturing Jerusalem. Both are examples of historical men of different religions who yet were influenced by their knowledge of the new testament gospels and the teachings of Jesus.

No, I think using the words Dominionist/Dominionism are very important because they precisely describe the heretical legal and political philosophy of those who wish surreptitiously to rewrite the history of our country and the founding of its constitution along the lines of their own strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Dominionism is the very word it adherents use to describe their political goal to repudiate the the First Amendment's Establish Clause separating Church and State as a first step towards completely redefining 200 plus years of legal precedence in interpreting the US constitution. In that regard their goals are as Un-American as Communism, Nazism, Fascism.....

One last thing about the word Dominionist, besides its precision. While it has the problem of being a new word that the majority of the public is as yet unaware as to its meaning. I see that as an advantage because everytime somebody hears it they will ask what it means. And now it will be necessary to provide the public with its definition until it is commonplace in the political language. And guess what?? Everytime somebody outside of the koolaid drinking Dominionist orc army hears what it means they will react by saying, "But that is crazy, that is unconstitutional and Un-American". That being exactly the response we should be looking for.

Sure enough, like clockwork, Hugh Hewitt weighed in with a remarkably lightweight response to Sullivan:
Most pundits have rejected "Christianist" because it obviously tries to link Islamists and those evangelicals Mr. Sullivan loathes. He is attempting to dress up hate speech as simple precision, but given the vast spectrum of political opinions among believers on the center-right, "Christianist" is a howler.

Clearly, Hewitt is twisting the term, predictably, to include all evangelicals. At his blog, he expounded a bit further:
There are zero evangelical Christians with any public profile who practice or endorse violence. There are also no major figures within American evangelical circles who endorse any sort of theocracy. Sullivan objects to the political positions of many evangelicals, but given the widespread support for these positions -- opposition to the judicial imposition of same sex marriage for example -- Sullivan refuses to engage their positions on a case by case basis, and instead invents a new description in an attempt to deligitimize them.

Hewitt should probably avail himself of a copy of Michelle Goldberg's new book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which thoroughly documents how widespread this kind of theocratic belief system is, how it's especially spreading at the grassroots level, and how it does indeed feature some prominent religious and political leaders.

Instead of Dominionism, Goldberg instead describes "Christian nationalism," but likewise distinguishes it from garden-variety fundamentalism, and often uses it interchangably with Dominionism. See this Salon excerpt, which points out, among other things, its genuinely eand disturbingly extremist aspects:
Still, it's worth noting that thousands of Americans nationwide have flocked to rallies at which military men don uniforms and pledge to seize the reins of power in America on behalf of Christianity. In many places, local religious leaders and politicians lend their support to AVIDD's cause. And at least some of the people at these rallies speak with seething resentment about the tyranny of Jews over America's Christian majority.

"People who call themselves Jews represent maybe 2 or 3 percent of our people," Cabaniss told me after a January 2005 rally in Austin. "Christians represent a huge percent, and we don't believe that a small percentage should destroy the values of the larger percentage."

I asked Cabaniss, a thin, white-haired man who wore a suit with a red, white, and blue tie and a U.S. Army baseball cap, whether he was saying that American Jews have too much power. "It appears that way," he replied. "They're a driving force behind trying to take everything to do with Christianity out of our system. That's the part that makes us very upset."

Most of the Dominionist groundswell isn't taking place in a national limelight. It's growing up like kudzu around our feet instead. A generation of homeschooled kids are gearing up to take over within the next generation, and they have a decidedly militant view of their faith.

But Hewitt's prevarications notwithstanding, it's also taking place at a high level. Among the prominent Dominionists is an author whose works are celebrated on the Christian right:
Tim LaHaye, who is most famous for putting a Tom Clancy gloss on premillennialist theology in the Left Behind thrillers that he co-writes with Jerry Jenkins, was heavily influenced by Schaeffer, to whom he dedicated his book "The Battle for the Mind." That book married Schaeffer's theories to a conspiratorial view of history and politics, arguing, "Most people today do not realize what humanism really is and how it is destroying our culture, families, country -- and, one day, the entire world. Most of the evils in the world today can be traced to humanism, which has taken over our government, the UN, education, TV, and most of the other influential things of life.

"We must remove all humanists from public office and replace them with pro-moral political leaders," LaHaye wrote.

LaHaye, of course, also founded Council for National Policy, a Dominionist "umbrella group" whose membership list reads like a Who's Who of the American Religious Right.

And, as Goldberg describes, there's a real continuum between this faction and a whole host of mainstream figures, including the just-departed House Majority Leader:
Those who don't have a year to spare can attend one of more than a dozen Worldview Weekend conferences held every year in churches nationwide. Popular speakers include the revisionist Christian nationalist historian David Barton, David Limbaugh (Rush's born-again brother), and evangelical former sitcom star Kirk Cameron. In 2003, Tom DeLay was a featured speaker at a Worldview Weekend at Rick Scarborough's former church in Pearland, Texas. He told the crowd, "Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world. Only Christianity."

Another name that pops up here is David Barton, in no small part because the Bush campaign hired him as a consultant in the 2004 election. This is the same fellow who, back in the early 1990s, was pitching his "myth of church-state separation" tale to all kinds of extremists, including the racist Christian Identity sect.

I think Goldberg explained the larger problem well recently at Talk2Action:
Christian nationalists believe in a revisionist history, which holds that the founders were devout Christians who never intended to create a secular republic; separation of church and state, according to this history, is a fraud perpetrated by God-hating subversives. One of the foremost Christian revisionist historians is David Barton, who , in addition to running an organization called Wallbuilders that disseminates Christian nationalist books, tracts and videos, is also the vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party. The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book "The Changing of the Guard:"

"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.

It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.

It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.

It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.

... The iconography of Christian nationalism conflates the cross and the flag. As I write in "Kingdom Coming," it "claims supernatural sanction for its campaign of national renewal and speaks rapturously about vanquishing the millions of Americans who would stand in its way." At one rally at the statehouse in Austin, Texas, a banner pictured a fierce eagle perched upon a bloody cross. For a liberal, such imagery smacks of fascist agitprop. But plenty of deeply committed Christians also object to it as a form of blasphemy. It's important, I think, to separate their faith from the authoritarian impulses of the Christian nationalist movement. Christianity is a religion. Christian nationalism is a political program, and there is nothing sacred about it.

I'm not sure how important our terminology is, though thinking about it can be useful. What matters most is recognizing it exists and contemplating how to confront it. Mendacious denials notwithstanding.

Examining the Minutemen

A young reporter named Joe Killian has been writing about the Minutemen for the News-Record of Greensboro, North Carolina, in the wake of the group's recent aborted appearance there.

As Killian notes in his more detailed report at his blog, the important underlying debate raised by the Minutemen was obscured by the outrageous rhetoric and behavior that was being employed on both sides.

And unfortunately, that means the Minutemen win, because they prosper in an atmosphere of distrust and disinformation. That's probably why they use these tactics, knowing the other side will respond in kind.

Killian began digging well beneath the surface of the matter, though, and his subsequent report is well worth reading in its entirety.

Unsurprisingly, he finds that, despite their claims to the contrary, the Minutemen's ranks are indeed riddled with a broad range of garden-variety racists and extremists, including a Hammerskin admirer named Jenny:
But, strangely, Jenny's case isn't singular or even extraordinary. The corners of the net where white supremacists gather are crawling with photos of people who claim to be both Minutemen and members of organized white supremacist groups. And they’re not shy about it. They post pictures of themselves giving Nazii salutes at Minuteman rallies to their MySpace profiles. They blog about it. If you know where to look you can find literally dozens and dozens of examples of people who are clearly members of violent, organized racist groups who are are also acting as Minutemen. The examples I found are the tip of the iceberg.

When confronted about the evidence, Minutemen organizers hung up on him.

The upshot:
None of this is a blanket indictment of the Minuteman Project, its sister and splinter groups and all of those who support them as racists. My personal experience is that there are many among the group and its supporters whose motivations are not racial. But I think this little bit of actual reporting by an unbiased reporter in his off-hours does pretty clearly diffuse the argument that accusations of the group and its members being either racially motivated or very tolerant of radical, organized racists within the group are ridiculous, have no basis in fact, are exaggerated or may just be an attempt by the left to distract people from the Minutemen's real work.

Later, in his comments, someone defends the Minutemen by claiming, among other things, that the Minutemen "are the only ones we can see that are trying to keep murderers, rapists, and diseases out of our country."

Killian responds on point:
The stated goal of the Minutemen is not to keep rapists, criminals and diseased people out of a healthy country. Jim Gilchrist told me in the interview I had with him this isn't their goal. They want to prevent all people from any country from getting into the country illegally. Some of the Minutemen I interviewed who were clearly not racists mentioned specifically that they don't like it when people imply that all illegal aliens are diseased or criminals or both.

I think that sort of talk may lead people outside the organization to think that even those Minutemen and their supporters who are not organized racists have racist or xenophobic reasons for getting involved with the group.

There are all sorts of reasons why people get involved with this group. But I think those who have reasonable concerns about border security and illegal immigration that have nothing to do with race are a little tired of those who think brown people are going to poison our culture, hurt us, make us dirty and diseased.

Well said. And perhaps more to the point, the resurgence of this kind of bigotry strikes many of us as a much deeper problem than illegal immigration itself.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Shorter Joe Klein

Those festering black congressmen just pulse in their seats, emanating raw hatred.

That 'immigration emergency'

There were a lot of things wrong with tonight's TV address on immigration from President Bush, not the least of which is the lingering question:

Why, if post-9/11 border security is such a suddenly serious concern, aren't we sending the Guard to the Canadian border? -- It is, after all our longest and most porous border, and its many open spots do not entail dangerous and potentially lethal desert crossings. Perhaps more to the point, the one terrorist who did try to sneak into the USA with explosives as part of a plot to attack a major metropolitan area was caught on the Canadian border.

Ah well. We're not accustomed to logic from this president anyway, especially when it's a twofer: a good photo op and rescuing your poll standings with the base are all in the offing. Especially if you can do it with military troops in the picture. Too bad about those cuts in the Border Patrol staffing last year.

But the one really disconcerting note was kind of slipped into the address as an afterthought or footnote:
For many years, the government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived, the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called "catch and release," is unacceptable -- and we will end it.

We are taking several important steps to meet this goal. We have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more."

It's more than likely that the Halliburton contract to build new detention facilities for a potential "immigration emergency" is going to come in terribly handy here.

Concern over these centers is no longer simply a matter of wearing the tinfoil hats.

Here are the kind of scenes America seems about to re-enact:

Sure puts Vox Day's eliminationist fantasy about ridding the nation of illegal immigrants -- by comparing their potential handling to Hitler's liquidation camps -- in perspective, doesn't it?

Not to mention Michelle Malkin's fraudulent but popular defense of internment camps. And all along we wondered if she had Muslims in mind. I guess we should have noticed that her previous book was about the Latino "invasion".

[Hat tip to teh l4m3.]

President Pants-On-Fire

Big Brother is watching -- but just you journalists:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

President Bush on Saturday:
"The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. "The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

No, just the personal lives of the people whose job it is to give the public oversight of your activities. The people you consider your political enemies.

Are we too late? Are we are now officially a Banana Republican state?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The McVeigh Finishing School

Everyone should go read the Hartford Courant series on how the Pentagon has been deploying mentally ill soldiers. Especially striking was this:
The Courant's investigation found that at least 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite exhibiting signs of significant psychological distress. In at least seven of the cases, superiors were aware of the problems, military investigative records and interviews with families indicate.

Among the troops who plunged through the gaps in the mental health system was Army Spec. Jeffrey Henthorn, a young father and third-generation soldier, whose death last year is still being mourned by his native Choctaw, Okla.

What his hometown does not know is that Henthorn, 25, had been sent back to Iraq for a second tour, even though his superiors knew he was unstable and had threatened suicide at least twice, according to Army investigative reports and interviews. When he finally succeeded in killing himself on Feb. 8, 2005, at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, an Army report says, the work of the M-16 rifle was so thorough that fragments of his skull pierced the barracks ceiling.

One thing the story only briefly addresses is that veterans damaged psychologically like this also bring their scars home. And when the violence that results is not inwardly directed, it can also be directed outward.

Paul deArmond pointed this out three years ago, as we began this invasion:
Here's an unsettling thought. The last go-round in the Gulf produced at least three spectacular domestic terrorists: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City) and John Mohammed (DC sniper killings). Both McVeigh and Mohammed were reported to be unbalanced by their experience during the Gulf War.

... The levels of stress on our troops is quite high and several sources report that the training and conditioning of troops for agressive behavior is more severe than in the past. Combine this with the continuing spread of anti-government ideologies through terrorism-related conspiracy theories and the encouraging (or at least failure to suppress) of activities like vigilante border partrols which combine racism with xenophobia.

Even if the war ends with Bush's tenure in 2008, I'm afraid we're going to have a real long-term mess on our hands. Messed-up soldiers cost us in so many ways -- in therapy, in the damage they inflict, but most of all in the theft of their promise.

Heroic foresight

Last night at Firedoglake, Pachacutec asked readers to name their heroes. I chimed in, noting that my great hero was my granddad, and that my writing heroes are Norman Maclean and Raymond Carver.

But my political hero was my home state's senior senator, Frank Church, whose final campaign I covered in 1980. I was raised a Republican and worked on Republican campaigns as a teenager, but always respected Church politically and even campaigned briefly for him in 1976, when he ran for the presidency. I first met him outside of campaign appearances in 1978, when we had gone fishing on Lake Pend Oreille with my then-boss, Pete Thompson. I was very young at the time -- all of 21 -- and Church was kind enough to give me considerable access and time, including personal interviews and the like, when I needed them.

I've written previously about the keenness of Church's insights, particularly what he saw coming down the road for America. I strongly believe that much of what he warned about back then is coming true today, and much of what he stood for then remains relevant today as well.

The Firedoglake discussion spurred some keen memories for me, especially his early and principled opposition to the Vietnam War. Church had served with honor in World War II, but his critics, like John Kerry's today, still impugned his patriotism and his service. Moreover, Church had voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, but had enough courage to reverse course within the year -- something today's Democrats could stand to learn from.

Church is best remembered for his investigations into the CIA. The resulting reforms brought the intelligence arm of the executive branch under public control for the first time -- reforms that are now being undone by the Bush administration.

It was in his role of chair of the intelligence committee that Church turned his sights on the NSA, and was appalled by what he found regarding its power of surveillance:
"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

He added that if a dictator ever took over, the NSA "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."

His warning, I think, was a real clarion call for those of us now confronting the NSA's sweeping powers under the Bush administration:
"I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge," Senator Church said. "I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

I recall that, at the time, Church -- who was a thoughtful man -- was derided for engaging in hysterical hyperbole.

Now, as with so many other of his warnings, he looks to be a real prophet.