Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gone whaling

I'm off to the islands with a pack of 5-year-olds this weekend. I may actually have a breaking-news post this weekend, so look for it, though I can't promise anything. Otherwise, we'll be communing with the orcas.

The Lyons roars

Gene Lyons takes on the eliminationist wingnuts in his latest column [link not yet available; will publish it as soon as it is]. As Gene points out, the notion that the New York Times has a liberal bias runs directly counter to his own experience:
The New York Times arrogant? Goodness, yes. Condescending too. During the decade the newspaper devoted to its farcical coverage of the Whitewater hoax, feeding out of Kenneth Starr's soft little hand like a Shetland pony, I experienced that condescension first hand. Even confronted with dispositive documentary evidence its Whitewater stories were bunk, its basic response never varied: "We're the New York Times and you're not."

But left wing? Well, the Times, along with the Washington Post, led the 2000 "War on Gore" that basically gave Bush the presidency. Then-columnist, now executive editor Bill Keller actually quoted his 3 year-old daughter's opinion that the Democratic nominee was a stiff.

After 9/11, the Times, along with the rest of the newspaper consortium, buried its finding that had all the legal votes in Florida been counted in 2000, Al Gore would have been president.

Lest we forget, it was reporter Judith Miller's series of leaked, single-source "exclusives" touting Saddam Hussein's imaginary nuclear weapons, accompanied by TV appearances by Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney carefully coordinated with Times publication dates, that helped stampede the nation to war. Columnist Keller thought invading Iraq was a terrific idea.

Now the Times has its reward. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll thinks he knows why. "Many members of the president's base consider 'New York' to be a nifty code word for 'Jewish.' It is very nice for the president to be able to campaign against the Jews without (a) actually saying the word 'Jew' and (b) without irritating the Israelis."

Actually, that's wishful thinking. Anti-Semitism, as such, is old hat among True Believers on the extreme right. For years, the idea's been percolating through the right's well-organized propaganda apparatus that Democrats aren't loyal Americans. Regarding Ann Coulter’s ludicrous book "Slander," I once wrote that "the 'liberal' sins [she] caricatures -- atheism, cosmopolitanism, sexual license, moral relativism, communism, disloyalty and treason -- are basically identical to the crimes of the Jews as Hitler saw them."

Michael Savage, Michael Reagan, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Limbaugh and others peddle the same sterilized American update of an ancient slur. Limbaugh recently called 80 percent of Times subscribers "jihadists."

Now the Bush White House, desperate to prevail in 2006 congressional elections, has taken up the cry. Reasonable people never want to believe extremists believe their own rhetoric. But quit kidding yourselves. We're witnessing mass psychosis. The next terrorist strike, should it happen, will be blamed on the enemy within: treasonous "liberals" who dissent from the glorious reign of George W. Bush.

Unless confronted, it's through such strategems that democracies fail and constitutional republics become dictatorships.

Gene, as always, says it all.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A nice day for Nazis

The summer in Puget Sound -- clear skies, temperatures in the mid-80s, a light breeze -- was in full bloom yesterday in Olympia. As I walked away from the media area near the podium set up on the Capitol steps where a feeble clutch of neo-Nazis held forth to a crowd intent on mocking and ignoring them, I smiled at two of the 275 Washington State Patrol officers called out to duty that day.

It was clear that there was nothing much cooking that day except for sweating neo-Nazis standing on some granite steps in the hot sun in long sleeved-brownshirt outfits and black boots. The patrolmen, well away from the action, were in short sleeves and standing near a balcony where nothing was happening, chatting and relaxed.

"Nice day for overtime, eh?" I said with a grin. They grinned back.

The whole scene, really, was a bit of theater of the absurd: Here, on the Capitol steps, screaming racial invective into the public-address system, was a total of 12 neo-Nazis, ten of them decked out in crisp brownshirt outfits with neat little patches on the shoulders. Occasionally, as a speaker would wrap up his schtick, they'd all stand in line and do the "Sieg Heil" thing.

Meanwhile, fifty yards away -- separated by a fence and large open space -- was a crowd estimated at over 300 people, nearly all of them there to mock, deride, and toss insults at the Nazis.

The 275 officers -- a number of them in full riot gear -- were ostensibly there to keep the two sides separate. There were police planes flying overhead as well, and snipers on the rooftops. It was an overwhelming police presence, and a tremendous expenditure of public dollars.

And for what, exactly? For the sake of 12 social misfits who think that getting up on the Capitol steps and ranting about Jews and dirty immigrants is the way to spark a social revolution.

The neo-Nazis in question -- the Northwest chapter of the National Socialist Movement, whose activities regionally we've reported previously (you may also recall they were the group that designated me a "race traitor") -- were not exactly threatening. For that matter, they were completely unimpressive in nearly every regard: disorganized, lackluster speakers with nothing interesting to say, and physically unimposing. Even their new brownshirt outfits came off more like insipid geek fantasy role-playing.

The speakers -- like Nigel Fovargue, the Los Angeles Nazi whose image graces the top of the post, or Shawn Stewart, a skinny Iraq War veteran from Billings, Montana -- really had little to say, other than spewing racial invective: "There's a little cockroach that has crawled into every nation and they have been kicked out everywhere. Who am I talking about? The Jew. The Jew hates you all," Stewart said.

This meant they all ran out of steam after about ten minutes; by 2:30 p.m., a half-hour into the rally, they all began talking among themselves about who would speak next. After awhile the speakers began returning to the podium to rant a little longer.

The rally's chief organizer, "Jim Ramm" -- whose real name is Matthew Ramsey, a former Snohomish County militia promoter whose earlier activities I documented recently -- spent much of the rally walking about the steps, videotaping the speakers (as well as those of us in the press area) and checking the sound system. But he also took the podium on occasion, delivering his invective with a guttural snarl.

Ramm and his NSM crew had been predicting a large turnout of fellow neo-Nazis, but all they really demonstrated was just how pathetic a response their recruitment efforts have been over the past year. This can only be a good sign for folks in the Northwest, who have suffered the presence of neo-Nazis for many years now, because nationally speaking, in contrast, the NSM has become a significant presence on the far-right scene.

This is especially the case in light of the violence the NSM was responsible for inducing in Toledo, Ohio, last year, and attempted to spark earlier this year in Orlando, Florida.

In stark contrast, the crowd in Olympia was largely good-natured -- their main purpose was to mock and laugh at the Nazis. Following up on the previous day's community gathering that celebrated the city's diversity, the crowd of protesters that showed up was intent on making a positive response to the Nazi preesence.

Especially noteworthy was the troupe of protesters dressed as clowns -- Nazi clowns, who actually goosestepped together better than the inchoate cluster up on the Capitol steps. They pranced and laughed and danced in the front of the crowd, setting the light-hearted mocking tone that prevailed throughout the afternoon.

The idea for this was hatched by local organizers, including Rick at Olyblog, who approached me last January with the idea, and which sounded at the time like an excellent response I endorsed.

Mind you, this runs directly counter to the advice given by my friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, who consistently urge people to stay away and defang the Nazi rallies by denying them an audience.

Having covered Aryan Nations events in Coeur d'Alene, I can attest that this is generally good advice. Though community organizers in northern Idaho would often hold counter-rallies elsewhere as an alternative celebration (to good effect, I might add), nonetheless, the parade routes there would still be lined with counter-protesters who just turned ugly, spewing hate right back at the Nazis; this always seemed to me to be counter-productive, a matter of feeding the beast. The Nazis always took sustenance from it.

The response in Olympia, however, was one of the most effective I've seen yet. For one thing, by making mockery the theme of the day, it transformed the mood of the crowd from an angry one -- and who wouldn't get angry if they actually listened to what these Nazis were saying? -- into a celebratory one. They played music, they danced, and made so much noise having fun that, if you were in the crowd, you couldn't hear a word the Nazis were spewing.

Rick at Olyblog has more, as does the Olympian.

It also seemed to disorient and dishearten the Nazis. Of course, they recognized that their entire audience that day was constituted of people who opposed them -- and it was clear from their taunts ("The only reason we are able to be up here today is because you people don't have the guts to do what it takes to silence us," Gary Nemeth told the crowd) that they hoped to spark violence from them, a la Toledo. But after awhile it became clear that their audience was, for the most part, studiously ignoring anything they had to say, and was more intent on dancing and playing music than taking after their sorry asses. And this clearly deflated them.

Finally, it provided an opportunity for the various diversity-oriented interest groups drawn out by the Nazis to get together, network, and actually form working coalitions that likely will prove effective in organizing the Olympia community against the lapping waves of right-wing extremism. Those organizers deserve a hearty round of applause for how well they responded to Monday's event.

It's especially important because groups like the NSM flourish in environments where people try to ignore them in the hopes they'll just go away. As we've seen in the past couple of decades, they don't.

And, in an environment where rising mainstream eliminationism demonstrates the broad influence of far-right hate groups well beyond their pathetic membership numbers, and there is no shortage of mainstream right-wing transmitters duplicating their tactics, hate groups can no longer be simply ignored.

And the crowd in Olympia may have finally found exactly the right way to respond to them.

The drums of elimination

Documenting the mounting drumbeat of eliminationist rhetoric from the American right has long been a staple of this blog. But even I have to shake my head in wonder at the turn of events this past week -- most of it in the wake of the New York Times' publication of stories detailing the Bush administration's use of banking data in its search for terrorists.

The upshot has been a significant escalation in this rhetoric, coming not just from the usual rabid quarters but coming over the national airwaves from figures who supposedly represent mainstream conservatism -- and it is aimed not just at the usual "liberal" targets, but at the entire institution of the free press.

And perhaps most remarkably, the press itself -- continuing its chief trend so far this century -- has been remarkably timid about confronting it.

Fortunately, there have been a few voices that have not, including Paul Waldman at Media Matters:
The right has kept the media under constant assault for decades, and the response from the media has been to bend over backward to prove they aren't biased -- by being harder on Democrats. They should have learned long ago that the "liberal bias" charge has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the news. It is a political strategy, a way of "working the ref" and providing easy excuses for public rejection of the right's goals. But what we have seen this week is something qualitatively different.

Given the constant drumbeat of criticism directed at the media from conservatives, it might be easy to dismiss this latest expulsion of bile as just more of the same. But it's worth stepping back to take a look at exactly what has occurred over the past week. Members of Congress have suggested revoking the Capitol Hill credentials of journalists, so that only news organizations that do not displease the ruling party may be permitted to report from Congress. Other members have accused members of the media of "treason" and advocated their prosecution. A conservative television and radio personality suggested that the government establish an Office of Censorship to screen the news. Another said, "I would have no problem with [New York Times editor Bill Keller] being sent to the gas chamber." The House of Representatives passed a resolution saying it "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations."

In short, the right assembled a posse this week -- vigilantes stalking television studios, radio airwaves, print, and the Internet, their apparent goal to revoke the First Amendment.

That, as it turns out, was only the beginning. Glenn Greenwald this weekend examined the lunacy that arose in the right-wing blogosphere, particularly from the Michelle Malkin and David Horowitz quarters, where they claimed that the Times Travel Section committed treasonous behavior by printing a story detailing the accommodations -- and locations -- of Bush and Cheney's vacation retreats, all of which is already easily accessed public information.

But that wasn't enough. This was about beating the drum to eliminate the enemy. Horowitz set the rhythm:
Make no mistake about it, there is a war going on in this country. The aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists who began a scorched earth campaign against President Bush before the initiation of hostilities in Iraq.

And pretty soon everyone else joined in, including commenters like this:
since we've so civilized ourselves that it's highly unlikely that an angry mob with torches will show up on the NYT's doorstep.

Pity, that.

Greenwald's updates detail how the drumbeat started reaching a fever pitch:
UPDATE II: The outright derangement generated by this madness has now led one of the imbeciles who likely read Malkin and Powerline's blog to post the home address and telephone number of the Times photographers on his website. NOTE: After leaving the photographer's home address up for roughly 24 hours, he has deleted the page (a screen shot before its deletion is here) and now warns:

The post has served its purpose--we got your attention over the NY Times' lack of consideration for everyday Americans, (who its principals have utter contempt for), our soldiers (who they despise) and our President (who they have a seething hatred of). Subsequent posts will concentrate on the Times's reporters, editors and executives.

He then -- with more unintended irony than I thought possible -- pouted that the comments he received were "getting pretty nasty" and decried the "common ploy of the Left: destroy the messenger when he or she hits home with a good point, instead of discussing or arguing the merits of that point."

UPDATE III: Another upstanding, patriotic blogger -- after linking to the blog which posted the address of the Times photographer -- has now posted this:

So, in the school of what's good for the goose is good for the gander, we are providing this link so YOU may help the blogosphere in locating the homes (perhaps with photos?) of the editors and reporters of the New York Times.

Let's start with the following New York Times reporters and editors: Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. , Bill Keller, Eric Lichtblau, and James Risen. Do you have an idea where they live?

Go hunt them down and do America a favor. Get their photo, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up, and send it to the link above. This is your chance to be famous -- grab for the golden ring.

He's urging people to find the names and addresses of New York Times editors and reporters in order to "hunt them down and do America a favor." And he said that right after he posted the link to the address of the Times photographer. And this is just the beginning of this syndrome, not the end.

This syndrome has a specific name: eliminationism. And it's important to identify it, because it has become not only a distinguishing but a dominating feature of right-wing rhetoric.

As I described it before:
What, really, is eliminationism?

It's a fairly self-explanatory term: it describes a kind of politics and culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas for the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination.

... Rhetorically, it takes on some distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as simply beyond the pale, and in the end the embodiment of evil itself -- unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus in need of elimination. It often depicts its designated "enemy" as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and loves to incessantly suggest that its targets are themselves disease carriers. A close corollary -- but not as nakedly eliminationist -- are claims that the opponents are traitors or criminals, or gross liabilities for our national security, and thus inherently fit for elimination or at least incarceration.

And yes, it's often voiced as crude "jokes", the humor of which, when analyzed, is inevitably predicated on a venomous hatred.

But what we also know about this rhetoric is that, as surely as night follows day, this kind of talk eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

Of course, we all know that this isn't the first time that Malkin has pulled a Radio Rwanda stunt, nor, it's quite clear, is it likely to be the last. She's actually quite proud of the ugliness she's unleashing.

In that regard, she's really just following in the footsteps of the Eliminationist Diva herself, Ann Coulter, who wants to inspire mobs of skinheads to perform their manly duties and beat the crap out of Muslims and liberals.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this current outbreak is that it's occurring in a context in which the drums have been getting louder all around, especially in recent months. Perhaps the most important front for this has been the immigration debate, which has opened the floodgates for all kinds of right-wing extremism to gain adoption from mainstream conservatives.

The talk has also become a staple for local and national radio talk show hosts, and it has generally become imbedded in the media discourse to the point that it now seems almost unremarkable.

The rising question in all this, as Michelle Goldberg explored at Huffblog, is the extent to which this eliminationism signals a trend toward real fascism.

After all, eliminationism is the calling card, the signature project, of fascism. The natural outcome of "palingenetic ultranationalist populism" -- Oxford scholar Roger Griffin's definition of the core of fascism -- is always eliminationism; in order to revive the national spirit, the nation has to be purged of the elements that have caused its despoilment. The fascist always casts himself as the true representative of the national spirit, and always casts himself in a heroic light. But heroes always need enemies, and eventually, the fascist gets around to naming them.

When we hear the drumbeat of eliminationism, we know where it always ends up. Those who join in may not conceive of themselves as fascists, but they join in anyway.

After all, the drumbeat feels good. It's about scapegoating, telling people that their problems, and the problems of the world, are not their fault -- it's someone else's.

Boom ba boom.

It keeps drumming, and the louder it gets, the more people join in.

Boom ba boom boom boom.

And when they name their enemies, they're just getting started. First it's "illegals." Then it's "homosexuals." Then it's "Muslim radicals." Then it's "liberals." Then it's "the liberal media."

Boom ba boom boom Boom ba boom boom

And it just gets louder and louder. And pretty soon no one knows how to make it stop.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Did Gonzales lie to Congress?

Jonathan Singer at MyDD and John Aravosis at AmericaBlog are both pointing to the significance of Andrew Harris' story at Bloomberg News regarding the initiation of President Bush's authorization of the NSA domestic surveillance program, which says:
The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.

"The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11," plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. "This undermines that assertion."

The lawsuit is related to an alleged NSA program to record and store data on calls placed by subscribers. More than 30 suits have been filed over claims that the carriers, the three biggest U.S. telephone companies, violated the privacy rights of their customers by cooperating with the NSA in an effort to track alleged terrorists.

The story goes on to detail how the NSA went about setting up the operation:
The NSA initiative, code-named "Pioneer Groundbreaker," asked AT&T unit AT&T Solutions to build exclusively for NSA use a network operations center which duplicated AT&T's Bedminster, New Jersey facility, the court papers claimed. That plan was abandoned in favor of the NSA acquiring the monitoring technology itself, plaintiffs' lawyers Bruce Afran said.

The NSA says on its Web site that in June 2000, the agency was seeking bids for a project to "modernize and improve its information technology infrastructure." The plan, which included the privatization of its "non-mission related" systems support, was said to be part of Project Groundbreaker.

Mayer said the Pioneer project is "a different component" of that initiative.

Mayer and Afran said an unnamed former employee of the AT&T unit provided them with evidence that the NSA approached the carrier with the proposed plan. Afran said he has seen the worker's log book and independently confirmed the source's participation in the project. He declined to identify the employee.

If the information in the lawsuit is correct, this means that the Bush administration authorized the NSA surveillance well in advance of Sept. 11 -- perhaps as early as February 2001, scarcely after Bush had been sworn in. As Singer points out, this severely undercuts its claim that the government could have prevented 9/11 with such a program in place.

Matt O. at The Great Society digs up two prime examples of these claims: one from Dick Cheney ("Cheney said if the administration had the power 'before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon.'") and then-NSA chief (and now CIA chief) Michael Hayden ("Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such," said Hayden).

But perhaps just as importantly, it also raises questions about the administration's official response to questioning about the program. Because, as I pointed out at the time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress that in fact the program was initiated after 9/11 and the Sept. 18 authorization of force by Congress:
LEAHY: Let me just ask you a few questions that could easily be answered yes or no.

I'm not asking about operational details, I'm trying to understand when the administration came to the conclusion that the congressional resolution authorizing military force again Al Qaida, where we had hoped that we would actually catch Osama bin Laden, the man who hit us -- but where you came to the conclusion that it authorized warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States.

Did you reach that conclusion before the Senate passed the resolution on September 14th, 2001?

GONZALES: Senator, what I can say is that the program was initiated subsequent to the authorization to use military force.

LEAHY: Well, then, let me...

GONZALES: And our legal analysis was completed prior to the authorization of that program.

LEAHY: So your answer is you did not come to that conclusion before the Senate passed the resolution on September 14th, 2001?

GONZALES: Sir, I certainly had not come to that conclusion. There may be others in the administration who did.

LEAHY: Were you aware of anybody in the administration that came to that conclusion before September 14th, 2001?

GONZALES: Senator, sitting here right now I don't have any knowledge of that.

LEAHY: Were you aware of anybody coming to that conclusion before the president signed the resolution on September 18th, 2001?

GONZALES: No, sir.

The only thing that I can recall is that we had just been attacked and that we had been attacked by an enemy from within our own borders and that...

LEAHY: Mr. Attorney General, I understand. I was here when that attack happened. And I joined with Republicans and Democrats and virtually every member of this Congress to try to give you the tools that you said you needed for us to go after Al Qaida, and especially to go after Osama bin Laden, the man that we all understood masterminded the attacks, the man who's still at large.

LEAHY: Now, back to my question: Did you come to the conclusion that you had to have this warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States to protect us before the president signed the resolution on September 18th, 2001? You were the White House counsel at the time.

GONZALES: What I can say is that we came to a conclusion that the president had the authority to authorize this kind of activity before he actually authorized the activity.

LEAHY: When was that?

GONZALES: It was subsequent to the authorization to use military force.

Of course, as I also pointed out at the time, Gonzales was not sworn in when he testified, so technically this may not constitute perjury.

But it certainly constitutes lying to Congress.

It's not hard to understand why Gonzales would mislead the committee. After all, as I said then:
If indeed Bush took these steps before 9/11, then it should be plain it has little to do with fighting terrorism, and everything to do with expanding presidential powers.

And anyone who points that out, of course, is a traitor to be hunted down.

UPDATE: Gary Farber at Amygdala points out that the Groundbreaker program was a separate matter from the NSA domestic-surveillance program about which Gonzales was testifying. My bad. Be sure to read all of Gary's piece, and check out his links to his previous work on the NSA matter.