Friday, December 19, 2008

In Katrina's wake, white neighborhood 'militia' murdered blacks

A.C. Thompson has a devastating piece in The Nation this week describing the all-white militia that took up arms to defend one of the few neighborhoods in New Orleans to stay dry after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees in 2005:

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply "didn't belong."

It started out as a classic case of white paranoiac overreaction to fears of looting and rioting and whatever else it is those black people do -- rather like the reaction you saw in sundown towns in the 1920s, which were similar in being "defended communities," to supposed threats of black depredations -- but quickly morphed into something else altogether:

Fellow militia member Wayne Janak, 60, a carpenter and contractor, is more forthcoming with me. "Three people got shot in just one day!" he tells me, laughing. We're sitting in his home, a boxy beige-and-pink structure on a corner about five blocks from Daigle's Grocery. "Three of them got hit right here in this intersection with a riot gun," he says, motioning toward the streets outside his home. Janak tells me he assumed the shooting victims, who were African-American, were looters because they were carrying sneakers and baseball caps with them. He guessed that the property had been stolen from a nearby shopping mall. According to Janak, a neighbor "unloaded a riot gun"--a shotgun--"on them. We chased them down."

Janak, who was carrying a pistol, says he grabbed one of the suspected looters and considered killing him, but decided to be merciful. "I rolled him over in the grass and saw that he'd been hit in the back with the riot gun," he tells me. "I thought that was good enough. I said, 'Go back to your neighborhood so people will know Algiers Point is not a place you go for a vacation. We're not doing tours right now.'"

He's equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hourlong documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, "It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it." A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, "I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings." A white woman standing next to him adds, "He understands the N-word now." In this neighborhood, she continues, "we take care of our own."

Janak, who says he'd been armed with two .38s and a shotgun, brags about keeping the bloody shirt worn by a shooting victim as a trophy. When "looters" showed up in the neighborhood, "they left full of buckshot," he brags, adding, "You know what? Algiers Point is not a pussy community."

... Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."

I'm just waiting for some Republican to tell us once again that "racism is dead."

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]>

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hate crimes: It's time to finally pass a federal law

-- by Dave

The most recent well-publicized anti-Latino bias crime -- this time involving the death of an Ecuadorean immigrant -- has prompted the National Council of La Raza to push for the passage, at long last, of a federal hate-crimes law:

Today the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—joined leaders from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda on Capitol Hill to urge Congress and the new Administration to make passage of the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act” a priority. Following on the heels of November's brutal battery and murder of Marcelo Lucero in Suffolk County, NY, another senseless death has provoked outrage in communities throughout the nation. Two Ecuadorean brothers were assaulted on December 8 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay died last week as a result of his injuries.

“President-Elect Obama and the new Congress should not waste any time in immediately passing the ‘Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act’ so that more lives are not lost in senseless attacks,” said Janet MurguĂ­a, NCLR President and CEO. “The wave of hate unleashed by the polarized debate over immigration has led to an increase in violence and hate groups targeting Latinos. These recent deaths are a direct outcome of the anger and hatred spurred on by people who mischaracterize all Latinos and the institutions that serve them as a threat to our country.”

No doubt Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly will promptly find ways to distort this debate. But they need a little reality check:

Hate crimes-Latinos chart_4e3d1.JPG

As the SPLC reports:

Hate crimes targeting Latinos increased again in 2007, capping a 40% rise in the four years since 2003, according to FBI statistics released this fall.

As anti-immigrant propaganda has increased on both the margins and in the mainstream of society — where pundits and politicians have routinely vilified undocumented Latino immigrants with a series of defamatory falsehoods — hate violence has risen against perceived "illegal aliens." Each year since 2003, the number of FBI-reported anti-Latino hate crime incidents has risen, even as a swelling nativist movement has become larger and more vitriolic.

This about more than just Latinos, though. This is about black people (remember the Jena 6?), gays and lesbians, Muslims ... every kind of minority. And for that matter, it's about white straight people too:

Bias-crime laws are a way for society to make clear its condemnation of such acts, recognizing them as more heinous than simple crimes because they cause greater harm. Indeed, pretending as opponents do that a cross burned on the lawn is the same as being egged and toilet-papered, or that a gay-bashing rampage by young thugs is the same thing as a bar fight, simply tries to pretend away the truly hateful and terroristic element of the former of these, as though it doesn't exist. But it does exist, and its effects poison our society and make a joke out of our self-belief in ourselves as an "equal opportunity" society.

This, in the end, is the single clearest reason why progressives should avidly support a federal hate-crimes law: These are crimes whose primary purpose is to disenfranchise, to expel, to deny the most basic rights of association and opportunity to millions of Americans of all stripes. Civil libertarians need to come to grips with the fact that these crimes are real, their effects are real, and they represent, as Donald Green argues, a real "massive dead-weight loss of freedom" for those millions of Americans.

Americans lose their freedoms not just through government oppression; an honest appraisal of our history forces us to recognize that there is a substantial track record of Americans losing their freedoms (up to and including their lives) through the actions of their fellow citizens: the genocide of Native Americans; the long reign of terror of the "lynching era" and associated "sundown towns" that infected the entire nation; the expulsion and incarceration of Asian Americans; the long-running campaign of vicious hatred directed against gays and lesbians.

Hate crimes are an integral part of that history, and laws intended to punish their perpetrators with stiffer sentences are an important blow for the cause of very real and substantial freedoms for millions of Americans. Trying to argue that, in some esoteric sense, they constitute "thought crimes" that somehow deprive us of our freedoms (to what? commit crimes?) turns this reality on its head.

Yet progressives haven't yet figured out that framing hate-crime laws as a defense of people's civil liberties is precisely the argument that will instantly deflate the long-running "thought crime" argument. In all the debate over the legislation, I haven't seen the point raised once.

As long as small-town -- and even big-city -- law-enforcement officers labor under misconceptions about bias-crime laws and fail to properly identify, investigate, or prosecute them, places like Jena are going to fester. And this is where the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act comes in -- because its primary mission is to help local law cops and prosecutors do their job well -- by providing logistical and investigative support, grants, training, and other kinds of assistance.

Here’s a link to the most recent version of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Spineless Democrats -- facing a certain G.W. Bush veto -- crumbled when it counted last year when there was a historic chance for its passage. This year, they will have no excuse -- especially with Latino groups getting on board.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No, Bill O'Reilly, they're laughing at you

-- by Dave

My home state has been getting an inordinate amount of attention from Bill O'Reilly lately over that awful, horrible, teeth-gnashing, faint-inducting display by atheists located next to the Nativity scene in the state Capitol.

You can tell it's really been a slow couple of weeks because O'Reilly is still flogging this worthless story. The only thing O'Reilly has to show for it is a group of state workers who've been inundated with out-of-state callers wasting their time.

Oh, that and all the additions to the Capitol display, which now includes a sign honoring the Flying Spaghetti monster and a Festivus display.

It came up in yesterday's O'Reilly Factor show on Fox, while he was discussing the issue with Megyn Kelly. O'Reilly said this:

The Flying Spaghetti Monster holiday display. All these people are doing is mocking her. That's why they're doing it.

No, Bill. They're mocking YOU. That's why they're doing it.

The FSM and Festivus displays were intended to drive O'Reilly and his supporters even further nuts. After all, the core of O'Reilly's original complaint was that the atheists were taking advantage of their free-speech rights; the displays that piled on specifically were intended to make the same point even further. (This is particularly so for the FSM folks, whose whole point is to make as much fun of organized religion as possible.)

Of course, Gov. Gregoire has called a halt to this nonsense, so O'Reilly's story is going away. With a whimper from Papa Bear himself.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nazis in the military: 'I'm so proud of my kills'

Shawn Stuart-764380_36d56.jpg

[Shawn Stuart, Iraq War veteran, at a 2006 neo-Nazi rally in Olympia, WA.]

-- by Dave

Two years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center ran a devastating report describing the infiltration of neo-Nazis into the ranks of the American military. The Pentagon's official response was steadfast denial of the problem.

The SPLC's David Holthouse just published a follow-up report, and found, predictably, that the problem is getting worse as the conflict in Iraq drags on:

A new FBI report confirms that white supremacists are infiltrating the military for several reasons. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11," which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins,' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement."

The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years. For example, in September 2006, the leader of the Celtic Knights, a central Texas splinter faction of the Hammerskins, a national racist skinhead organization, planned to obtain firearms and explosives from an active duty Army soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. That soldier, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, was a member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.

I observed at the time that one of the uglier aspects of the presence of neo-Nazis in Iraq would be the behavior of American soldiers among civilians there:

As Atrios notes, the SPLC report raises immediate questions about the kind of men we're sending over to Iraq. To what extent, really, does the spread of white-supremacist attitudes in the military bring about atrocities like the recent murder of a 14-year-old girl and her family, or the Haditha massacre? It isn't hard to see, after all, attitudes about the disposability of nonwhite races rearing their ugly head in those incidents.

Sure enough, as Holthouse reports:

Earlier this year, the founder of White Military Men identified himself in his New Saxon account as "Lance Corporal Burton" of the 2nd Battalion Fox Company Pit 2097, from Florida, according to a master's thesis by graduate student Matthew Kennard. Under his "About Me" section, Burton writes: "Love to shoot my M16A2 service rifle effectively at the Hachies (Iraqis)," and, "Love to watch things blow up (Hachies House)."

Kennard, who was working on his thesis for Columbia University's Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also monitored claims of active-duty military service earlier this year on the neo-Nazi online forum Blood & Honour, where "88Soldier88" posted this message on Feb. 18: "I am in the ARMY right now. I work in the Detainee Holding Area [in Iraq]. … I am in this until 2013. I am in the infantry but want to go to SF [Special Forces]. Hopefully the training will prepare me for what I hope is to come."

One of the Blood & Honour members claiming to be an active-duty soldier taking part in combat operations in Iraq identified himself to Kennard as Jacob Berg. He did not disclose his rank or branch of service. "There are actually a lot more 'skinheads,' 'nazis,' white supremacists now [in the military] than there has been in a long time," Berg wrote in an E-mail exchange with Kennard. "Us racists are actually getting into the military a lot now because if we don't every one who already is [in the military] will take pity on killing sand niggers. Yes I have killed women, yes I have killed children and yes I have killed older people. But the biggest reason I'm so proud of my kills is because by killing a brown many white people will live to see a new dawn."

The July 2006 report by the SPLC found this infiltration occurring at an alarming rate. Neo-Nazis "stretch across all branches of service, they are linking up across the branches once they're inside, and they are hard-core," Department of Defense gang detective Scott Barfield told the SPLC. "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," he added. "That's a problem."

The source of the problem, as the report explained, was the extreme pressure military recruiters were under to fill their recruitment quotas. "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces," said Barfield, "and commanders don’t remove them . . . even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members." The military downplayed a neo-Nazi presence in the ranks, Barfield added, "because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they’ll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."

One of the noteworthy aspects of this phenomenon is the increasingly military style of the Far Right in recent years, particularly the militias in the 1990s, who openly recruited veterans and current military members. The two cultures have become increasingly enmeshed, as embodied by Steven Barry's recruitment plan for neo-Nazis considering a military career as a way to sharpen their "warrior" skills.

The FBI's assessment in the "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11" report found that the numbers of identifiable neo-Nazis within the ranks was quite small (only a little over 200), but warned:

Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.

Looking ahead, current and former military personnel belonging to white supremacist extremist organizations who experience frustration at the inability of these organizations to achieve their goals may choose to found new, more operationally minded and operationally capable groups. The military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.

Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.

... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.

... Military experience—often regardless of its length or type—distinguishes one within the extremist movement. While those with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, FBI investigations indicate they frequently have higher profiles within the movement, including recruitment and leadership roles.

... New groups led or significantly populated by military veterans could very likely pursue more operationally minded agendas with greater tactical confidence. In addition, the military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.

This problem doesn’t involve only the Nazis, gang-bangers, and other violent personalities worming their way into the military. It also affects the many more formerly normal, non-racist recruits who have been dragged into multiple tours of duty in Iraq, regardless of the psychological dangers of such treatment. This includes many people whose evaluations have recommended they not be returned for duty but have been sent back regardless. Thus the Timothy McVeigh Finishing School continues to operate.

This has the deadly potential to become a significant component of the predictable surge in far-right activity likely to manifest itself in the United States in the coming months and years, especially as Democrats and liberals expand their hold on power. We run the risk of re-creating the conditions that arose in Germany and Italy after World War I: the presence of scores of angry, disaffected, and psychologically damaged war veterans, fed a steady diet of "Dolchstosslegende," poised to organize into a political force aimed at "rebirthing" the nation and its heritage.

In our current situation, these veterans not only will have served with neo-Nazis amid their ranks, they will likely be faced with unemployment and a wrecked economy, eager for someone to blame and fully trained and capable of violent action.

SPLC Chief Counsel Richard Cohen has written another letter to the Defense Secretary pleading that the DoD take concrete steps to deal with this problem. Here's hoping he produces something other than denial this time.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, December 08, 2008

George W. Bush and those whites-only Texas suburbs

Sundown Sign_557e3.jpg

-- by Dave

At a cursory glance, the news about George W. Bush moving into a former whites-only enclave in Texas called Preston Hollow looks to be one of those minor, one-day stories. After all, it's not as if these kinds of covenants are still in existence or are being enforced, right?

But there's a lot more to this story, because it tells us a lot about not just George W. Bush, but about the conservative worldview and how it plays out as governance, and moreover, about the real reasons for the nation's lingering racial divide.

For starters, it's worth remembering that this isn't the first former "sundown suburb" that the Bushes have lived in. When Bush returned to Texas in 1989, he moved to the Dallas suburb of Highland Park, where he lived until becoming governor in 1994.

James Loewen -- who has written the definitive text on the subject, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism -- has compiled a Sundown Town database that includes a number of Texas towns, (though not Preston Hollow, an apparent omission; Loewen is adding to this database as evidence comes in). The database describes Highland Park thus:

Highland Park is one of Dallas's most exclusive suburbs. President George W. Bush lived there at one time, and Dick Cheney still maintains a home in Highland Park. When it was developed in 1913, restrictive covenants applied to every home. After Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Highland Park sent its few black students to school in Dallas rather than allow them to attend Highland Park schools. Eventually this was overturned on the basis of Texas's desegregation laws, to which an alderman suggested that the city ask homeowners to fire their live-in servants (the parents of those black schoolchildren). In 1961, the city of Dallas stopped accepting children from the suburbs, and at least one white employer paid rent for a Dallas address for her black servant's children.

In 1981, 104 people filed a class-action lawsuit against the town, alleging discrimination and racial profiling by police against African Americans and Hispanics. The police often charged people of color with being "drunk in car", a crime which the plaintiff's lawyers pointed out was not actually on the books. Although the police denied the allegations, the Justice Department became involved, and reached an agreement with the town to halt the practice.

A black couple who purchased a house in Highland Park in 2003 are believed to be the first black homeowners in the city. According to a June 2003 Newsweek web article, the local paper ran a story about the couple on the front page, with the lead "Guess who's coming to dinner? and staying for a while?" The article also referred to the female of the couple as "girl". The woman, Karen Watson, told Newsweek she was "disappointed" with the lead but happy that race and racial discrimination in housing were being discussed. Watson is a mortgage officer and reported that she had seen racial discrimination in her work.

The city has a reputation for exclusivity applied any outsiders, not just people of color. Eating lunch and picnicing is forbidden the local parks. The city also required fishing permits to fish in any waters within Highland Park, which violates Texas law as a state fishing permit is good for all public waters in Texas and all of the waters within Highland Park are public. Usage of tennis courts in the public parks is forbidden to Dallas residents. Two white graduate students were arrested for violating this ordinance and offered the choice of a $5 fine or a night in jail. The students chose jail.

When it comes to race in America, we've always thought of the persistent poverty and concomitant crime of the inner city as "the problem," or at least its chief embodiment. But as Loewen notes [pp. 374-75], the problem, or at least its source, is embodied in the all-white communities that have a history of, if not eliminating them outright, at least making nonwhites unwelcome:

Most people, looking around their metropolitan area, perceive inner-city African American neighborhoods as "the problem." It then follows all too easily that African Americans themselves get perceived as the source of the problem. ... So whites generalize: blacks can't do anything right, can't even keep up their own neighborhoods. All African Americans get tarred by the obvious social problems of the inner city. For that matter, some ghetto residents themselves buy into the notion that they are the problem and act accordingly.

... It takes an exercise of the sociological imagination to problematize the sundown suburb. As one drives west from Chicago Avenue toward Oak Park, the problems of the Near Northwest neighborhood in Chicago are plain. Oak Park then presents its own problem: can it stay interracial, having gone from 0.2% African American in 1970 to 22.4% in 2000? The source of both problems lies not in Chicago Avenue in either city, however, but elsewhere -- in neighborhoods miles away that look great, such as Kenilworth, which in 2000 had not one black household among its 2,494 total population. Once one knows its manifestations, white supremacy is visible in Kenilworth, the sundown suburb, and in Near Northwest Chicago, and it is inferable in Oak Park as well. Lovely white enclaves such as Kenilworth withdraw resources disproportionately from the city. They encourage the people who run our corporations, many of whom live in them, not to see race as their problem. The prestige of these suburbs invites governmental officials to respond more rapidly to concerns of their residents, who are likely to be viewed as more important people than black inner-city inhabitants. And they make interracial suburbs such as Oak Park difficult to keep as interracial oases.

Towns like Highland Park and Preston Hollow, as Loewen explains in his book, represent one of the important ways "defended" white communities export their social problems to the urban centers many of their residents are hoping to flee:

Once they get into the NIMBY mind-set, they try to keep out any problem or "problem group," pawning off their own social problems of central cities and multiracial, multiclass inner suburbs. Consider those members of society who are dramatically downward mobile -- some alcoholics and drug addicts; some Downs syndrome children; many schizophrenics; elderly people whose illness and incapacity have exhausted their resources and their relatives; employees fired when an industry downsizes and no one wants their skills. Every social class -- even the most affluent -- generates some of these people. Elite sundown suburbs offer no facilities to house, treat, or comfort such people -- no halfway houses for the mentally ill or ex-criminals, no residential drug treatment facilities, no public housing, often not even assisted-living complexes for the elderly or persons with disabilities. This is no accident. Elite white suburbanites don't want such facilities in their neighborhoods and have the prestige, money, and knowledge to make their objections count. "Without such homes, people with mental illnesses often wind up homeless, especially in wealthy areas," according to an AP article telling how an elite white neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut, blocked a halfway house for years.

When sundown suburbanites do become homeless, they simply have to leave. Most sundown suburbs do not allow homeless people to spend the night on their streets, and of course they provide no shelters for them. "In suburban jurisdictions," said Nan Roman, of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2000, "there is no sense that these are our people." Community leaders worry that if their suburb provides services, that will only bring more homeless people to their town because no other suburb does. The result, nationally, is that cities provide 49% of all homeless assistance programs, suburbs 19%, and rural areas 32%. Yet suburbs have more people than cities and rural areas combined. Less affluent inner suburbs and central cities must cope with the downwardly mobile people that more affluent sundown suburbs produce, as well as with their own. These social problems burden cities twice. ...

[Thomas and Mary Edsall, in Chain Reaction] point out that the principle of self-interest explains what otherwise might seem to be an ideological contradiction: sundown suburbanites usually try to minimize expenditures by the state and federal governments, but locally they favor "increased suburban and county expenditures, guaranteeing the highest possible return to themselves on their tax dollars." The Edsalls cite Gwinnett County, Georgia, as an example. Gwinnett, east of Atlanta, is "one of the fastest growing suburban jurisdictions in the nation, heavily Republican (75.5% for Bush [senior]), affluent, and white (96.6%)." Its residents "have been willing to tax and spend on their own behalf as liberally as any Democrats." Such within-county expenditures increase the inequality between white suburbs and interracial cities. They do nothing to redress or pay for the ways that Gwinnett residents use and rely upon Atlanta and its public services.

As I've observed previously:

The chief dynamic driving this is a certain dishonesty on the part of many whites on the issue of race. Most people understand that racism is deeply stigmatized in our society -- "racist" is a negative, ugly word, and no one likes being accused of being one. But privately -- being the products of mostly white enclaves where the stereotypes on race, both negative for blacks and nonwhites, and contrastingly positive for whites, persist -- they cling to views that are most charitably explained as the end result of generations of ignorance.

... The impulse to defend "white culture" by residential segregation has come surging to the forefront of the national consciousness with the immigration debate, which has proven, more than anything, to be a conduit for extremist thought into the mainstream of the national discourse. Probably the most prominent, and high-level, example of this is Patrick Buchanan and his race-baiting screed, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, which at its core is about reviving old eugenicist myths about race and whiteness, all couched in such terms as "defending white culture." This mindset, in fact, is infecting all levels of conservative discourse.

This is one of the important long-term reasons for repudiating conservative governance, the kind embodied by the denizens of all-white enclaves: Until we do so, we'll never be able to find long-term solutions to festering racial issues we've never properly addressed. It's long overdue.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Chenoweth on Global Warming: The Proto-Palin

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin reminds me, for some reason, of the late Helen Chenoweth -- the congresswoman from Idaho's 1st District from 1992 to 2000. Well, I actually can think of a lot of reasons: Maybe it's the slightly stilted, doll-like delivery in a red business suit. Or the beauty-queen smile. Or the absurd right-wingnuttery she sells with a distinctly populist style. Watch and judge for yourself.

Chenoweth was perhaps best known for being an avid promoter of the militia movement in Congress (though towards the end of her tenure shee made headlines for her extramarital affairs. Indeed, the above video is one I made from a video sold by the Militia of Montana as part of its New World Order conspiracy promotion, titled "America In Peril." It features Chenoweth speaking before an obviously preselected audience, prior to her election to Congress in 1992, as a "Natural Resources Consultant."

This snippet (the video is nearly an hour long) is from the first five minutes or so, and features Chenoweth holding forth on the causes of global warming:

What is some of the programs that the environmentalists are engaging in? Well, some of the programs are programs of fear -- fear that is so broad and so expansive that you and I can do nothing about it.

What about the idea that the earth is warming? You know, we hear that every day -- that the earth is warming. But when we look back, where are temperatures taken? Well, they’re taken from airports. Weather balloons go up from airports, where heat rises from miles and miles of concrete.

And you see, the satellites that are recording data around the globe will tell us that today, the earth is not warming. But you see, what the pseudoscientists -- who have turned into political scientists and lobbying scientists -- are saying is that these issues are so huge that you and I can do nothing about it.

You can almost envision Sarah Palin sitting at the back of the room taking notes. Indeed, as you can see, the camera irregularly pans to the nodding audience members, and one of these happens to bear a striking resemblance to Palin (she's at about the 5:40 mark of the video; you can see a still here). Not that this actually is Palin, but let's just say the imagery is complete.

The rest of the talk is similarly nutty, bizarrely commingling her fundamentalist religious beliefs with a kind of John Bircher conspiracism, all devoted to attacking the environmental movement as the embodiment of Satanic Marxism or something.

Some excerpts:

When we begin to realize what the battle really is, then we begin to focus on what we need to do. Because ladies and gentlemen, the battle isn't a scientific battle. The battle isn’t even a battle for species. The battle isn’t even a battle for certain areas of timber or certain wilderness areas. Only until we're able to understand that this battle is a full-fledged spiritual battle will we begin to understand and have the weapons to deal with it.

You see, always in the past, armies have clashed, and we've had physical lines of battle. We've had armies and armaments battling out back and forth for the conquering of countries. We’ve been able to see over the course of history battle lines drawn and battle lines moved. We've seen countries conquered, we’ve seen countries victorious. But ladies and gentlemen, today as I stand here in front of you, we are in a battle today that is far more insidious and far more dangerous as far as conquering our people, their soul and this great nation than we have ever faced before -- because the battle lines are invisible.

But the battle lines are spiritual in nature. Who are these environmentalists? These environmentalists are a group of people whose members are driven by a certain sect of esoteric concepts, with all the trappings of religious dogma. They believe that nature is God, where we know that the Creator, God Himself, is the one who created nature. And there comes the conflict.

... A man by the name of Marx developed what he called the Communist Manifesto. And ladies and gentlemen, when we understand that that was where the very depths of the darkness of this spiritual war began. They declared war on private ownership in the Communist Manifesto.

... But you see, of greater significance, and in more frightening detail, that manifesto went on to lay out a series of sequential steps by which this would be accomplished. Among the many goals that the Communist Manifesto predicted was the abolition of property and land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes. Today we call it taxes. The abolition of all rights of inheritance. That's a constant battle that we're waging. ...

You see, what the environmental movement is doing is breaking down state and national boundaries. And so with that one enactment, and the listing of that one species, we encompass northern California, Oregon and Washington. The unfortunate thing is that it breaks down the sovereignty of states -- and you see acid is no respecter of the national boundaries between Canada and America. And that’s part of the way we begin to globalize and break down the sovereignty of this great nation.

And ladies and gentlemen, the bottom line is that if we are forced to place our world resources in the hands of a few who are controlling a world government, that isn't what God planned for us, and it certainly is not in our best interest. We will certainly lose our liberties, and it begins with the breakdown of our state boundaries. And that's what the spotted owl issue did.
Because you see, for any land management, they believe in their spirit that we are trying to manage and move in and desecrate their sacred ground. Nature is God to them.

You see, this country flourished very well because we understood the role of God in this country....

Sure sounds like Sarah Palin's political mentor to me.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Derek and the white-power dominoes

[Derek Black, right, with his father, Don Black, center, and Rep. Ron Paul, at the January 10, 2007, "Values Voters" Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.]

-- by Dave

White supremacists have been trying to reinsert themselves back into the mainstream (where once upon a time they were common) for a long time now. One of the chief avenues for this effort has for years been the Republican Party in the South, particularly in places like Louisiana, where David Duke operates, and Mississippi, where the Council of Conservative Citizens has a friend in Gov. Haley Barbour. It's all part of the legacy of the Southern Strategy.

In Florida, Republicans are now being confronted with the legacy of the Southern Strategy in the person of 19-year-old Derek Black:

Derek Black says "of course" he will attend a meeting Wednesday for new members of Palm Beach County's Republican Executive Committee. Never mind that the party chairman says Black's "white supremacist" associations are not welcome and he will not be seated.

"I was elected," Black, 19, says.

Sporting a black hat, the son of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black was seated last week in a restaurant off Southern Boulevard. Sitting next to him was one of his supporters: David Duke, former Louisiana state legislator and another former KKK grand wizard.

"We're going to fight," Duke said. "I know Derek Black is going to fight for his constitutional liberties. That's why I'm here, because I want to assist Derek."

Sorry, says county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein. In the qualifying period in June, Black didn't sign a loyalty oath pledging he would not do anything injurious to the party. And that's not the only problem.

"He participates in white supremacist activities," Dinerstein said. "We're the party of Lincoln. We're the party that says we don't judge anybody by the color of their skin."

There's a familial connection between David Duke and Derek Black: Derek's mother, Chloe Black, was previously married to Duke, and their son is Derek's half-brother. But there's also a strategic connection, in that Duke did the same thing himself in the 1980's and '90s in Louisiana, largely taking advantage of the Republicans' Southern Strategy.

In his book on the Southern Strategy, Joseph Aistrup describes this (cited here):

Using the basics of Reagan’s rhetoric, and mimicking the Reagan administration’s attack on civil rights, Bush vetoed the first version of the Civil Rights Act (1990) on the basis that it represented a “quota” bill. This strategy most likely would have succeeded, except for the emergence of Louisiana Republican and former Klansman, David Duke. David Duke's emergence as a Republican is an unintended consequence of the Southern Strategy’s race issue orientation (Page 1991, B7). Although Republican strategists are fully aware that the Southern Strategy entices voters of the same mold as David Duke (Evans and Novak 1991, A27), they find it extremely distasteful when a racial reactionary leader becomes a Republican candidate, wins a state legislative seat as a Republican, and is one of two finalists in the Louisiana U.S. Senate (1990) and governor (1991) contests. White House press spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said of Duke: “He’s not a Republican, he never will be a Republican ... We don’t like him.”

Aside from Duke’s overt racism, the Duke affair is distasteful to Republicans because candidates like Duke expose how the Southern Strategy’s conservative message can be racially interpreted by many Southern whites, lending credence to Democrats’ claims concerning the racially divisive nature of the Southern Strategy’s issues (McQueen and Birnbaum 1991, A18). However, the most disturbing aspect of David Duke for the Republicans and Bush was that he elicited rhetoric straight from the Bush campaign: Opposing “quotas,” affirmative action, and any type of minority preference; assailing those who are on welfare; and blaming government and special interests for the poor state of Louisiana’s economy.

Sure enough, as Jesse notes at Pandagon:

In true Republican fashion, rather than realize that there’s something fundamentally screwy and in need of fixing given a process in which a white supremacist not only feels comfortable running on your ticket, but wins, they’re instead seeking to throw him off the committee to which he was elected fair and square because of a technicality.

There's a secondary dynamic at work here too: Derek Black and his dad Don were big fans of Ron Paul -- Paul even posed with them for a pic back in 2007, as you can see atop this post (this is taken from Stormfront, and was shot at the January 10, 2007, "Values Voters" Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

Indeed, Stormfront itself was a big booster of the Paul campaign, with multiple threads discussing him and communicating about Paul events. One of Stormfront's editors liveblogged the Ron Paul convention in Minneapolis this year too.

So Derek Black, by seeking to gain an official foothold within GOP officialdom, likely sees himself following not just in David Duke's footsteps, but Ron Paul's too.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why Bush's presidency was an Epic Fail


-- by Dave

Karen DeYoung at the WaPo had an interesting report on the change of style that Obama is bringing to the White House, particularly in how it approaches the military:

Obama has been careful to separate his criticism of Bush policy from his praise of the military's valor and performance, while Michelle Obama's public expressions of concern for military families have gone over well. But most important, according to several senior officers and civilian Pentagon officials who would speak about their incoming leader only on the condition of anonymity, is the expectation of renewed respect for the chain of command and greater realism about U.S. military goals and capabilities, which many found lacking during the Bush years.

"Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders," said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"The joke was that when you leave a meeting, everybody is supposed to drink the Kool-Aid," Nash said. "In the Bush administration, you had to drink the Kool-Aid before you got to go to the meeting."

There's no better way to lose a war than to have your on-the-ground decisions be forced through an ideological prism. And it was obvious even to outsiders that this was how Bush was conducting the Iraq war -- indeed, it was the decisive factor behind the very decision to invade in the first place. It's even more telling that the military minds involved saw that this was occurring too.

But in truth, this constitutes not merely the entire Bush approach to governance, but conservative governance as well. Thus -- to use one example out of many -- during Bush's tenure there was not a single economic problem that could not be solved by anything other than tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the financial sector.

Of course, we now realize that this was simply a prescription for gobbling PCBs after a diagnosis of cancer.

So when we hear conservatives tell themselves that the reason they lost this last election was their failure to adhere to "conservative principles," we know they're continuing to cling to the very reason they lost. Because such adherence inherently means that these "principles" -- that is, conservative dogma about how they believe the world ought to be, particularly the insistence that government itself is the problem, when the reality is that bad governance is the problem -- trump their ability to face realities on the ground.

From the outset, it's clear that reversing that approach is the most fundamental aspect of the "change" that Barack Obama intends to bring to the White House. And that is a very good sign indeed.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hate crimes and illegal immigration: O'Reilly reverses the reality

-- by Dave

Earlier this week on The O'Reilly Factor, the Papa Bear did what right-wingers constantly do when discussing hate crimes: he conflated them with ordinary crimes in a way that deliberately confuses the public regarding the nature of these crimes.

As you can see in this clip (or from the transcript), O'Reilly starts out by discussing the horrendous hate crime on Long Island wherein a group of six young white thugs went out looking for Latinos to harm for "sport", and they wound up killing an Ecuadoran immigrant named Marcelo Lucero.

But then he seems to connect this crime to a completely unrelated tragedy involving the deaths of two women at the hands of a drunken driver who happened to be an illegal immigrant.

How are they connected? O'Reilly explains:

So, three human beings are dead because of irresponsible conduct and failed government.

The New York Times and Newsday have covered the Lucero murder extensively, as they should. It is a horrible crime, and seven young men may pay a steep price for being violently stupid.

But the Times and Newsday have pretty much ignored the deaths of the two women. This is a pattern in America.

People killed by illegal aliens can expect little coverage from a media that wants amnesty for foreign nationals here illegally.

But in the end, it is the federal government that is truly responsible for the deaths, and for the entire illegal alien problem. ...

It would be nice to think that O'Reilly simply doesn't comprehend the difference between a hate crime and an ordinary crime. I've explained this many times:

Hate crimes are message crimes: They are intended to harm not just the immediate victim, but all people of that same class within the community. Their message is also irrevocable: they are "get out of town, nigger/Jew/queer" crimes.

That's why bias-crime laws are about imposing stiffer sentences on their perpetrators: they cause more real harm to the community. This principle -- greater harm brings stiffer punishment -- is a basic element of criminal law.

Think, if you will, about the different effects of these two tragedies. In the Lucero case, the fully intended terroristic effects are clear: the Latino community on Long Island naturally feels vulnerable and fearful, and relations with the white community have been permanently stained. In the case of the drunken driver, the community is bound to feel somewhat more vulnerable to the effects of drunken drivers, but it doesn't require one to be an illegal immigrant to be one of those.

Indeed, as with most crimes, the rate for such crimes is actually lower within the immigrant community than with the public at large. There is in fact no correlation at all between immigration and crime.

Which is why when people like Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs constantly harangue their audiences with morbid tales of incidents involving Latinos who commit crimes or are responsible for tragedies, it not only distorts the reality regarding immigrants and crime, but it profoundly demonizes immigrants by linking them with criminality.

In turn, it is this very demonization, particularly in the mainstream media, that actually leads to more hate crimes.

So in effect what O'Reilly is doing is encouraging more hate crimes by suggesting that illegal immigration was the cause of those two women's deaths.

And at the same time, in a twist of logic one can only call bizarre, O'Reilly's inherent thesis is that somehow the federal government's failures on illegal immigration are responsible somehow for the death of Marcelo Lucero as well.

How so? Did that pack of white thugs go out looking for Latinos to beat up because of the failures of the federal government? That seems to be O'Reilly's logic here. Isn't that blaming the victims? And doesn't O'Reilly preach "individual responsibility" for minorities who commit crimes?

O'Reilly finishes up his tirade by demanding that Barack Obama adopt a "zero tolerance policy" towards illegal immigrants.

Better the rest of us develop a "zero tolerance policy" for Bill O'Reilly's hatemongering.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How the mighty do fall

-- by Dave

I'm sure a lot of you were wondering what happened to Ann Coulter this election season. The right has trotted her out to wage culture wars reliably ever since 1998. But she hardly was visible at all this year.

Well, if you happen to be one of those lost souls who belongs to the Conservative Book Club, then you received one of these e-mails in your Inbox this week from Coulter.


[Click here to see the full letter.]

As you can see, it's a letter that starts out by teeing off the emerging right-wing meme attempting to blame Barack Obama for the current economic meltdown, mostly by noting that Wall Street firms donated more heavily to Obama's campaign than to John McCain's:

If you've been wondering why the financial industry is in meltdown -- and taking your 401(k) or investment portfolio down with it -- now you know.

Let's face it: The former frat boys who populate Wall Street today understand economics as well as the pinko professors whose courses they snored through.

Now, it's true that Democrats were heavily preferred by Wall Street campaign donors this year, but that has far more to do with their historic preference for lining up behind the perceived likely winners of a given election season. And even a blind pig -- or a right-wing pundit -- could sense before the season even started that the Republican brand was giving off the distinct odor of fetid slop.

But if those same Wall Street pinko-educated frat boys are as ignorant of economics this year as Coulter claims, then wouldn't they have been equally so in 2000 and 2004, when they gave heavily instead to Coulter's then-preferred candidate, George W. Bush? Something doesn't exactly add up here.

That's all just throat-clearing, though, for Coulter's main pitch: She's selling you a financial newsletter written by a fellow named Mark Skousen, whose PhD in economics seems to impress Coulter mightily (if only she gave as much credence to people who actually won the Nobel Prize in economics).

Three years ago, Skousen was selling the same scam through the Heritage Foundation, promising super-hot stock tips if only you subscribed to his pricey investment newsletter. No word on how that hot tech stock actually did -- but I'd wager it performed about as well the return on assisting former Nigerian prime ministers.

Skousen, however, is not just your average "conservative economist." He actually is an adherent of the same far-right school of "libertarian" economics as Ron Paul: he advocates a return to the gold standard, the dismantling of the IRS and the Federal Reserve, and most of the other conspiratorial nonsense that accompanies these theories. Like Paul, he's a devotee of the Ludwig Van Mises Institute, which promotes much of this malarkey, and he's likewise actually a Bircherite in libertarian clothing. Indeed, Paul was one of the headliners at Skousen's "FreedomFest" earlier this year in Las Vegas.

Like most of the Bircher wing of the libertarian movement, Skousen consistently takes a far-right political position on labor issues, too. He wrote a piece denouncing "card check" union organizing just last month.

Skousen is the nephew of the late noted John Birch/Mormon figure W. Cleon Skousen; his brother, Joel Skousen, is famous for promoting Patriot-style "New World Order" conspiracy theories. All three of them promote the far-right version of "constitutionalism," which is all about the belief that secret elites manipulate the economy and the political process, wield the IRS and Federal Reserve as political weapons along with a huge federal bureaucracy, all of which violates the original unamended (or "organic") Constitution.

So this is what Ann Coulter is reduced to these days: Shilling for Patriot-style right-wing moneymaking scams.

But then, I guess it isn't surprising that Coulter is heading down this same path. During the past campaign, she actually came out in support of Ron Paul.

Well, fools and their money are soon parted. And anyone foolish enough to take their investment advice from Ann Coulter will get everything they deserve.

But I'm wondering when we'll see Coulter turn up in late-night infomercials for gold Liberty Dollars with her own image stamped on them. Because that's the road -- the one leading to ignominious obscurity and irrelevance -- she's headed down.

And I can't think of a more deserved fate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The racist backlash to Obama's presidency

Pat Lanzo_0bf30.JPG

[From Creative Loafing.]

-- by Dave

As we predicted before the election, Barack Obama's victory has loosed a flood of hatefulness from the racist right in America. Digby yesterday had a detailed post laying out some of the cases that have erupted so far. From an AP report:

Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

In rural Georgia, a group of high-schoolers gets a visit from the Secret Service after posting "inappropriate" comments about President-elect Barack Obama on the Web. In Raleigh, N.C., four college students admit to spraying race-tinged graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel after the election. On Nov. 6, a cross burns on the lawn of a biracial couple in Apolacon Township, Pa.

The election of America's first black president has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a record in modern presidential elections. Moreover, the white nationalist movement, bemoaning an election that confirmed voters' comfort with a multiracial demography, expects Mr. Obama's election to be a potent recruiting tool – one that watchdog groups warn could give new impetus to a mostly defanged fringe element.

I talked to the SPLC's Mark Potok this morning, and here are his observations:

I think there's something remarkable happening out there. I think we really are beginning to see a white backlash that may grow fairly large. The situation's worrying.

Not only do we have continuing nonwhite immigration, not only is the economy in the tank and very likely to get worse, but we have a black man in the White House. That is driving a kind of rage in a certain sector of the white population that is very, very worrying to me.

We are seeing literally hundreds of incidents around the country -- from cross-burnings to death threats to effigies hanging to confrontations in schoolyards, and it's quite remarkable.

I think that there are political leaders out there who are saying incredibly irresponsible things that could have the effect of undamming a real flood of hate. That includes media figures. On immigration, they have been some of the worst.

There's a lot going on, and it's very likely to lead to scapegoating. And in the end, scapegoating leaves corpses in the street.

According to that AP piece, neo-Nazi Web entities like Stormfront have seen a serious spike in business:

One of the most popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day, according to an AP count. The site,, was temporarily off-line Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day. On Saturday, one Stormfront poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed."

That theme comes popping up a lot:

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old Georgia native who is white, expressed similar sentiments. "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades, and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change," Griffin said.

Last week Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass created a bit of a stir by relaying the story of a Chicago teen who decided to try an experiment in tolerance by wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "McCain Girl" to her high school, where Barack Obama was widely favored as a hometown hero. She got something of an ugly reception -- mostly she was told she was stupid, while some fellow students went so far as to tell her she should die.

While it's not terribly surprising -- passions often run high during political campaigns, and people say and do stupid things in the process, on both sides of the aisle -- it should go without saying that this kind of ugliness does not reflect well on the supposed liberals venting it. If nothing else, it makes them look decidedly illiberal in their intolerance.

However, the flip side -- the violence-laced, vile hatred emanating from Obama haters around the country -- is already dwarfing this intolerance. Yet you have to wonder if Kass and the right-wing pundits who made the teen's story a cause celebre will even bother taking a look.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars].

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The GOP is whistlin' Dixie


-- by Dave

Well, now that the Republican governors have snubbed Sarah Palin when selecting their leadership group in Miami, it's semi-official that the bloom has slightly faded from Palin's rose -- and not a moment too soon.

Which means the GOP is going to start looking a little more seriously for leadership in the coming four years to help lift it out of the miasma in which it is now deservedly enveloped.

But look at that list:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was voted RGA chairman, taking over the top job from Texas Gov. Rick Perry who will now serve as finance chairman. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is vice-chairman, while Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will serve as chair for the annual RGA gala, and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will head up the recruitment effort.

Well, as much as the South's political power was diminished in the last election, it's pretty plain that the GOP for the foreseeable future is the Party of the South.

Out of this group, Barbour's name is perhaps the one we've heard most frequently on the tips of right-wing talking-head tongues. But Barbour has quite the checkered history: He's notorious for ardently promoting the Confederate flag and consorting with the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens -- and he does so unapologetically.

So if Barbour does emerge a serious party leader, it will mean the GOP has thoroughly embraced its Cro-Magnon, neo-Confederate wing, and the dog-whistle rabble-rousing we saw from McCain and Palin in 2008 will look positively civil in comparison.

Another name not on this list, but frequently mentioned (and yet another Southern governor) is that of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Ezra Klein has a good piece at TAP about Jindal:

Chief among the prospects is Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, a former Rhodes Scholar and health policy bureaucrat who's taking a step into health care innovation today with a major proposal to reform how Louisian's Medicaid system works.

There's one problem with all this: Jindal's actual record as governor, particularly as he's tried to enact "conservative" reforms in education, health care, and housing, has been nothing short of disastrous, a classic case of the calamitous effects of conservative governance. Isaiah Poole at FDL had the rundown earlier this year, describing how Jindal's "reforms" have done nothing but deepen the misery of Katrina-struck Louisianans, particularly those in New Orleans:

The American Prospect's Mori Dinauer uncovered this note of praise of Jindal from Rush Limbaugh: "Bobby Jindal, the new governor of Louisiana, is the next Ronald Reagan." The title fits, given Reagan's disdain for the poor and for people of color. (Though it's unlikely that Reagan ever included performing exorcisms on his resume.) Add Jindal's unconditional opposition to abortion under any circumstances (15 years old and raped? Tough.), his support for teaching the doctrine of "intelligent design" in public schools and his opposition to civil rights protections for gay and lesbian people, and you have a perfect storm of ideological disaster for the New Orleans and the state.

But, like Reagan, Jindal can be smooth, charming and even disarming. As the shock of Katrina recedes from the collective memory and as the recovery effort continues to boil in a murky stew of inertia, Jindal is well equipped to be the next great facade for conservatism — as long as no one is asking questions about what's behind the front.

Sounds like the Republicans' kind of guy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Latino Vote: Can Democrats lock it up for a generation?

-- by Dave

One aspect of the 2008 election outcome that will likely have real long-term consequences for the nation's political alignment is the emergence of the power of the Latino vote.

It's looking increasingly as though Latinos have moved semi-permanently into the Democrats' column, in large part because the Republican brand has been semi-permanently tainted with the ugly nativist bigotry that has immersed movement conservatism. It certainly played a significant role in the voters' repudiation of all things conservative.

Andres Ramirez at NDN Blog likewise pored over the numbers and found, among other things:

Hispanics Improved The Margin of Victory in These Four States - In Colorado, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama won by 9%. In Florida, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama won by 3%. In Nevada, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 11.4% of the electorate, while Obama won by 12%. In New Mexico, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 28.3% of the electorate, while Obama won by 15%.

If These Trends Continue, the National Map Will Continue to Get Harder for Republicans – Of the nine states that flipped from Bush 2004 to Obama 2008, four were heavily Latino states. Just as Pete Wilson’s taking on Hispanics in the 1990s contributed to the transformation of California, home of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, from a swing to the bluest of blue states, the demonization of Hispanics by the national GOP is turning very critical battleground states much more blue.

A recent study by America's Voice looks at how 19 out of 21 pro-reform candidates beat nativist hard-liners in key battleground contests around the country:

Here's the essence: swing voters chose candidates that stood up for a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform than their hard-line opponents. Latino voters turned out in record numbers and voted down the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican Party. Their participation in the 2008 elections contributed to Senator Obama's wins in key battleground states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida, and also helped Democrats win contested House and Senate races in these states and beyond.

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant forces that have all but hijacked the Republican Party proved to be inconsequential at best, except for their role in potentially driving the GOP into the political wilderness with Latino and New American voters.

Even Sen. Mel Martinez, the Florida Republican who watched his state turn blue this election under the tide of Democratic-voting Latinos, understands that the party is screwed. He as much as said so on Meet the Press:

The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican Party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters, where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain. Senator McCain did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we're going to be relegated to minority status.

Simon Rosenberg observes:

[T]he way the Republicans [have] handled the immigration issue -- by demonizing Hispanics -- was one of the biggest political mistakes made by a political party in the last 50 years of American politics. As Peter Wallsten writes in the LA Times today, this failure with Hispanics may have cost them 4 prominent states in this election, but may cost them Arizona and Texas in the coming years. If that comes about it is game over, lights out for the GOP in the Electoral College for a very long time.

It's also apparent, from these results and from polling, that the nativists' "deport them all" immigration policy is wildly unpopular -- and that, moreover, Americans in fact take a pragmatic view of immigration: They're not interested in shipping out illegal immigrants, they're interested in seeing them become legal citizens.

Yesterday America's Voice released a study of these results in combination with their own polling inside key swing districts (PowerPoint file here). It found, among other things:

71% of Latino voters in our sample favor 'a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants,' but the support is broad across the American electorate, not among Latinos. In the following swing districts: VA-11, AZ-1, AZ-5, NM-1, WA-8, CO-4, IL-14, NV-3, PA-11; 67% of swing voters favor a pathway (CIR). This matched the 67% of a nationwide sample who favor CIR (when they are required to pay a fine and learn English).

Path to Citizenship_ae87e.JPG

What this polling makes clear is that the progressive solution to immigration, once again, is the sensible solution -- and it's one that Obama can pursue with the knowledge he has the public fully behind him.

Best of all, it is a certain path to keeping the Republican Party and the toxic politics it has practiced the past four decades on the margins of our political discourse. Until they learn their lessons about coddling racists and bigots, they deserve to remain there.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Navy gets all-clear from Supreme Court to harm whales

-- by Dave

While progressives everywhere are basking in the knowledge that liberal Democrats now control two of the three estates of the federal government, it is worth remembering that despite the voters' mandate, the Right still controls (barely, by a one-vote margin) the third: namely, the Supreme Court. And the right-wing Federalist Society dogmatists now sitting on the court are not only capable, but extremely likely, to wreak havoc with that mandate.

We received an unpleasant reminder of that reality this week:

The nation's need for Navy sailors to practice using sonar to guard against enemy submarines "plainly outweighs" any legal requirement to protect orcas and other marine mammals, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, turning back environmentalists' efforts to restrict sonar use during naval training exercises.

Quoting a 1907 statement by President Theodore Roosevelt -- "the only way in which a navy can ever be made efficient is by practice at sea" -- the high court's five-member conservative majority said lower courts had improperly restricted naval exercises off Southern California.

But the justices in the majority stopped short of endorsing a Bush administration attempt to justify using a controversial White House waiver to justify the exercises.

When the lower court's ruling was announced earlier this year, it appeared to be a significant win for environmentalists, not to mention the cetaceans affected by these tests. It was also a win for the rule of law, considering the Bush administration's egregious lawbreaking in attempting to foist these tests on us.

But the court took care not to address that issue:

Ginsburg noted that the Navy took the "extraordinary" step of going to the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to obtain a waiver.

"To justify its course, the Navy sought dispensation not from Congress, but from an executive council that lacks authority to countermand or revise (legal) requirements," she wrote.

The majority opinion sidestepped that issue.

These tests are likely causing these creatures real harm, particularly the cetaceans that have echolocation capabilities, because they are so sensitive to sonic events (it is their primary way of "seeing"). It appears even to be killing some of them, particularly the porpoises that have washed up looking like this.

The ruling's effects on wildlife are likely to be profound, especially in areas with endangered populations of cetaceans, such as the Puget Sound, where the resident killer whales have been listed under the ESA, and whose most recent population count showed yet another decline.

As the Center for Whale Research reported when the sonar was tested in the Puget Sound's canyon walls back in 2003, both orcas and porpoises were profoundly disturbed by these tests. Some 15 harbor porpoises washed up dead in short order. (More details on the tests and their aftermath can be found at the Orca Network and at

The most aggravating aspect of this is that the Navy has never attempted to demonstrate that it these tests and practices must be conducted without any consideration of the surrounding environment -- that is, they're insisting they be able to conduct them at any time and under any situation, regardless of impact.

No doubt these considerations would inconvenience the Navy, but it has never demonstrated that the tests cannot be conducted without making the appropriate situational assessments. It just wants to conduct them at its own convenience, and the public -- and the animals -- be damned.


If you're interested in getting a glimpse of the sonic world these creatures inhabit, check out the video I made last summer, which features sounds I captured through a hydrophone of killer whales communicating. The photos and sounds were taken at very nearly the same exact location as the whales you see in the video atop the post during those sonar tests.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A word about southeastern Idaho, where schoolkids chant "Assassinate Obama"

-- by Dave

Excuse me a moment while I go throw up (no offense to David Edwards and Muriel Kane at Raw Story):

Madison County, Idaho was once dubbed "the reddest place in America" by Salon, but that didn't make it any less shocking when elementary school children started chanting "assassinate Obama on the school bus.

Matthew Whoolery told KIKD News he found out about the chanting from his second and third graders, who had no idea what the word "assassinate" meant.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," Whoolery stated. "I think the thing that struck us was just like, 'Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'"

Whoolery, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, is not an Obama supporter, but he was shocked that any public official would be threatened in that way. "I don't think that the majority of people in Rexburg have extreme ideas like that, but we were just surprised that it would go that far," Whoolery told KIKD.

The Madison County School District has sent out an email saying that students are to be told this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

OK. I grew up in southeastern Idaho -- Idaho Falls, to be exact, about 30 miles south of Rexburg. I've spent a fair amount of time in Madison County; it was where one of my more traumatic experiences as a young adult occurred. So I can talk a little about why this kind of thing might happen there.

This particular corner of the country, as the Raw Story piece notes, is heavily Mormon. Roughly 90 percent of the population there is LDS. And because of that, there is a virulent and entrenched strain of John Bircherite extremism in the body politic. That in turn has helped produce a long-running parade of right-wing extremists (particularly tax protesters and "constitutionalists") who have made Madison County their home.

At the same time, it is by nearly all outward appearances a classic slice of American heartland. My great-aunt and -uncle, both non-Mormons, lived most of their lives there and were not just perfectly comfortable, thoroughly accepted members of the community, but they loved it. There is a decency and integrity to the town and that transcends political considerations.

So having their schoolkids chant "assassinate Obama" must have shocked their sensibilities deeply, which is why school officials and parents made a point of standing up against it.

At the same time, it's not terribly surprising. And not just because there is such a deep streak of ultra-right thinking that runs through this community -- but also because the campaign just finished by Republicans was so rife with rabble-rousing rhetoric that it is, frankly, a wonder this hasn't happened more often, and in more places than just southeastern Idaho.

In fact, it very likely -- indeed, almost certainly -- has. And it's to the credit of Rexburg's conservative Mormons that they drew attention to it. Perhaps they will stop and take a good hard look at the kind of hate they've been spewing before their children.

If only other Republicans in the rest of the heartland would do the same.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Decline and Fall of the Minutemen

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-- by Dave

Zvika Krieger at TNR has a solid report on the demise and dissolution of the Minuteman movement:

In this environment, Gilchrist's movement is falling apart, overtaken by new members whom he describes as "troublemakers with personality disorders and criminal propensities." In contrast, he insists that the group's original members were able to give voice to the immigration concerns of ordinary Americans because they demonstrated "a passionate allegiance to the United States of America and its priceless principles." There is no doubt that the Minutemen--aided by sympathizers in the media like Lou Dobbs--drove the national conversation in 2005. But whether the enormous wellspring of American anger over illegal immigration that they claim to have tapped into actually existed is another question.

However, it's not merely Gilchrist's organization (The Minuteman Project) that's falling apart; so is the other major "Minuteman" outfit, cofounder Chris Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

For what it's worth, I reported on this aspect of the story, as well as Gilchrist's, back in October for The American Prospect:

Today the Minuteman movement is beyond mere disarray; it is in the early stages of complete decay. The arc of the Minutemen's decline and fall happens to trace almost precisely that of previous right-wing populist movements, notably the Klan of the 1920s and the militias of the 1990s. The pattern goes like this: The group is beset by financial manipulators who seem naturally drawn to them. Then, following an initial wave of popularity, the group splinters under the pressure of competing egos into smaller, more virulent entities who then unleash acts of public ugliness and violence that eventually relegate them to the fringes.

The Minutemen haven't quite reached that final stage yet, but they are well on their way. And while that may be welcome news to those who oppose the Minutemen's nativist agenda, that last stage represents some natural and equally toxic consequences.

'Obamahitler' rises again

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-- by Dave

The "Obama is a Liberal Fascist Hitler" meme has been floating around since at least February, if not before. And now that the election's over and voters can't punish Republicans for spouting this kind of nonsense, it's getting a fresh life.

F'r instance, there's the Georgia Republican congressman who foresees young Brownshirts emerging from Obama's proposal for a national civilian-service corps:

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."

Sounds like someone's been reading too much Jonah Goldberg. Of course, Jonah's adherents at sites like Red State and Gateway Pundit think Rep. Broun is on the right track.

Meanwhile, there's also the Texas state education-board member who fears that Obama is secretly plotting with Muslim terrorists to destroy America:

State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."

She also suggests Obama would seek to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country.

Though Dunbar is defiant, the article seems to have been removed from the CWN site. You can read the cached version here.

In a similar vein, we're also hearing that Obama is the antichrist from the religious-right wingnuts.

This really is a double case of deja vu. Not only did we hear this crap circulating around the right during the campaign this year, we heard almost exactly the same thing 16 years ago when Bill Clinton won the White House -- the supposed "looming dictatorship" and the nefarious conspiracies with dark forces.

That only produced eight years of "New World Order" conspiracy theories and their accompanying militias and right-wing domestic terrorists. You'll forgive us if we're not very eager to see what this go-round produces.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]