Saturday, September 20, 2008

GOP official: Hispanics 'consider themselves above blacks,' won't back Obama

-- by Dave

LP at New MexicoFBIHOP notes that Bernalillo County Republican chairman Fernando C' de Baca told a BBC reporter:

"The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors," he said. "African-Americans came here as slaves.

"Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president."

If I were Republicans, I wouldn't be counting on this view being particularly widespread among Latinos. Especially if Latino Republicans -- and John McCain supporters at that -- go around spreading the word that the party is wedded to old racial divisions.

The New Mexico Independent has more.

What goes around...

-- by Sara

Right now, the GOP has to be rueing the day they ever brought up Jeremiah Wright.

And, you know, they can't blame anybody but themselves. They started it. There used to be a gentleman's agreement -- at least among white Protestant politicans, which was almost all of them -- that you didn't drag people's private religious beliefs into the campaign arena, any more than you'd drag in the sordid details of their family lives (including health issues, mistresses, addicted wives, pregnant daughters, and gay sons). Even public people were assumed to be entitled to some level of a private life, and that protection definitely covered their religious views, affiliations, and activities.

That custom, if it still existed, would have made the above clip a political non-issue. If a vice-presidential candidate wanted to credit her governorship to a faith-healing witch hunter from another country far away -- well, the press was well-trained to ignore such aberrations, and look the other way.

But, of course, the religious right went ahead and broke that agreement, and then spent the next 30 years making the Godliness of its candidates a centerpiece of their politics. And now, finally, that strategy has come all the way back around and bit them squarely on their wide, rosy butts.

Six months ago, they couldn't stop talking about Jeremiah Wright, and what his "radical" (code for: angry black ghetto thug) theology said about the presidential potential of his parisioner, Barack Obama. Now, of course, they have no interest at all in talking about Thomas Muthee and what his truly bizarre brand of neo-Pentecostalism might say about Sarah Palin's intentions for the country. Double standard? Of course.

But we shouldn't let them off that hook. Since they brought up the subject, let's go ahead and have that conversation. All of it.

For example, while we're at it, we should be taking stock of this new SPLC report examining the strength and numbers of the "Joel's Army" movement. While this group has been a concern of right-wing watchers for the past few years, I got my first public sighting of them last summer -- at the Northwest Washington County Fair, of all places. The military mothers' group had put together a big scrapbook showing all the county's service men and women, with a page for each one with personal histories (high school attended, parents' names, deployment dates, etc.) and photos. It was a very popular and moving exhibit. My husband and I went through it twice.

What struck me was that better than half of the troops from this rural ag county were either homeschooled or had attended Christian schools. Some families had two and three sons serving. A few photos showed them in battle dress, Bibles in hand; or in other religious contexts. Being aware of Joel's Amry, I couldn't shake the impression that some of these families had bred these kids for military service the way most middle-class families groom their kids for college. I was looking at at least a few of the faces of this new army of Christian warriors, young men (and a few women) who joined the military not just out of patriotism or job experience, but also to gain the skills they expected to need someday to take the country for Jesus -- by force.

The SPLC report expresses deep concern over the size and intensity of the Joel's Army movement:
LAKELAND, Fla. — Todd Bentley has a long night ahead of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the 32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced, shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a continuous "supernatural healing revival" in central Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet and don't bat an eye when he tells them he's seen King David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. "He was looking very Jewish," Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read "Joel's Army." They're evidence of Bentley's generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that's gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other "hyper-charismatic" preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel's Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian "dominion" on non-believers.

Todd Bentley healing

"An end-time army has one common purpose — to aggressively take ground for the kingdom of God under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Dread Champion," Bentley declares on the website for his ministry school in British Columbia, Canada. "The trumpet is sounding, calling on-fire, revolutionary believers to enlist in Joel's Army. … Many are now ready to be mobilized to establish and advance God's kingdom on earth."

Joel's Army followers, many of them teenagers and young adults who believe they're members of the final generation to come of age before the end of the world, are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal churches. Numbering in the tens of thousands, they base their beliefs on an esoteric reading of the second chapter of the Old Testament Book of Joel, in which an avenging swarm of locusts attacks Israel. In their view, the locusts are a metaphor for Joel's Army.

Despite their overt militancy, there's no evidence Joel's Army followers have committed any acts of violence. But critics warn that actual bloodletting may only be a matter of time for a movement that casts itself as God's avenging army.

Those sounding the alarm about Joel's Army are not secular foes of the Christian Right, few of whom are even aware of the movement or how widespread it's become in the past decade. Instead, Joel's Army critics are mostly conservative Christians, either neo-Pentecostals who left the movement in disgust or evangelical Christians who fear that Joel's Army preachers are stealing their flocks, even sending spies to infiltrate their own congregations and sway their young people to heresy. And they say the movement is becoming frightening.

As Bruce Wilson at Talk2Action has recently pointed out, three of the four churches Sarah Palin has attended share affiliations with the New Apostolic Movement, of which Joel's Army (as well as the now-defunct "Jesus Camp") are a part. It's a tenuous link of circumstantial evidence -- but it's no more tenuous or circumstantial than the arguments the right has been using all along to tie Obama to various radicals. Palin has spent her life in these churches, and (unlike Obama) has publicly admitted her political debt to a "witch-hunter" whose beliefs are much farther from the Amerian mainstream than Wright's ever were.

By their own standards and rules of evidence, Sarah Palin's association with New Apostolic churches and her admitted personal associations are serious issues that cast a long shadow on her intentions for this country. If the GOP ticket wins, there's a one-third chance that the world's most powerful country -- including the biggest army the world has ever seen -- will end up in the hands of a woman who believes that God put her where she is; and subscribes to a religion that is overtly and unapologetically raising its children to destroy American democracy.

The odds of their success are small. Two-thirds to three-quarters of all fundamentalist-raised kids leave the faith before the age of 40, most in the first decade after they leave home. Odds are good most of these young warriors will find more peaceful lives on other paths.

But they are already leaving their mark on our military (as both Mikey Weinstein and Andrew Bacevich have reported); and we'd best not understimate the fresh appeal extremist movements can have in the wake of economic collapse or military defeat. With the prospect of both looming in our future, it's probably just as well that that old gentleman's agreement is no longer in place to protect the likes of Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin’s Bircher Mag: What Was In It

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

According to Ben Smith, Team McCain has an explanation for that copy of the John Birch Society organ, The New American, that Sarah Palin was displaying in the 1995 photo of her that appeared in the New York Times:
"This photo from the early to mid 90s shows the Governor having her photo taken in front of a three ring binder of information from local citizens presented regularly to Wasilla council members by the town clerk," said Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb. "These binders featured material given by members of the public to all council members."
Really? Well, you can see the first page of the story at left. Here’s a PDF file of the entire piece [minus a page we'll insert soon]. The text is also available here. And here’s a shot of the cover.
As you can see from reading it, it’s largely a long-winded exercise in needless paranoia: The author seemed to believe that a relatively benign gathering of governors to hash over states rights was part of a covert conspiracy to remake the Constitution.

Why exactly would this article be part of "material given to the council by members of the public"? It has nothing to do with Wasilla, or even city governance. Nor, for that matter, is the piece bound in with the rest of the material in the binder; Palin has set it out separately.

Smith notes that the then-editor of New American at the time reported (quite accurately) that the publication distributed copies of the piece widely with the intent of flooding state and local civic offices. And indeed, this piece looks not quite like the original (the piece on Palin’s desk has printed material below the second black bar), suggesting that what we’re looking at is one of those reprints.

So it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation that some citizen, at a bare minimum, dropped it by for distribution to the council and that just happened to be the page that Palin had opened to when time to pose for her photo.

However, that doesn’t explain everything.

Rather than being randomly selected, it appears that Palin has chosen this piece carefully — it appears to be, after all, an official City Hall portrait (at least, it’s not just a snapshot). The Birch flier has been pulled out and neatly arranged. Nor is it hole-punched for the three-ring binder; rather, it seems to have been placed on top of the briefing materials separately.

Why choose as an illustration of one’s work on the Wasilla City Council an article dealing with an international conspiracy to destroy the Constitution under the guise of a states’ convention? Phil Munger has some ideas.

So do we. We’ll report back on this when we know more.

militia-cover.thumbnail.jpgIn the meantime, it’s worth getting some context for this. As we explained, the Birch Society in the 1990s was also heavily involved with promoting the idea of "citizen militias." Here’s a copy of the cover of The New American two issues before the "Con Con Call" edition — specifically, from Feb. 6, 1995.
Here’s the text of the cover story from that edition. As you can see, this was an entirely sympathetic piece about the militias (one that actually devoted most of its space to attacking the SPLC and the ADL), which concluded:
While the legal standing of many of the militia organizations may be uncertain, there should be no uncertainty about this: Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Louis Freeh, and their federal minions can be counted on to fully exploit any and all incidents involving militias, and to be monitoring the actions and rhetoric of militia members. Together with the media, they will attempt to construct the spectre of a terrible armed threat amongst us. Unfortunately, there appear to be many in the ranks of the militia movement who will play right into their hands. And if that doesn’t happen on its own, the militias provide the perfect medium for federal agents provocateurs to instigate outrageous offenses that can be used to justify even more draconian gun control laws and police-state repression.
This was published two months before militiaman Tim McVeigh blew up 168 people in Oklahoma City. Sure enough, the JBS shortly afterward began flogging the theory that McVeigh was actually working for the FBI — and still does.

One has wonder whether this reading material crossed Councilwoman Palin’s desk approvingly as well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is Sarah Palin a closet John Bircher?

-- by Dave

Michael Shaw at BAGNewsNotes found this 1995 image of Sarah Palin at her Wasilla City Council desk. It appears to be her official portrait, and a mundane one at that.

What's striking, as Michael points out, is the article in front of her: It's a piece about the "Con Con Call" -- one of those hysterical non-issues that conspiracy theorists of the far right in 1995 were shrieking about, involving an attempt by a handful of governors to organize a convention aimed at fighting what they saw as states' subordinate status. (Yes, the shrieking shut it down.)

One of the organizers of that particular torch-bearing mob was the John Birch Society. And sure enough, the article that Palin is proudly displaying in this portrait is a copy of the March 1995 edition of New American, the house organ of the Birch Society.

The article in question was written by Don Fotheringham. (It's no longer in the NA's archives, but you can read the text of it at this site.)

The Birchers are best known for their ardent McCarthyism and their long career in promoting cockamamie conspiracy theories about supposed Communist infiltration of government -- not just in the '50s and '60s, but well into the late '80s, until the fall of the Soviet Union. At that point, they simply picked up the same act and transferred it to promoting similar theories about the "New World Order" under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. (Chip Berlet has one of the best disquisitions on the Birch Society's long career.)

These same theories were the raison d'etre of the militia movement -- and indeed, the Birch Society ardently promoted the militias and related "Patriot" activity. I used to see their material on sale at militia gatherings regularly.

So it's probably not a coincidence that Sarah Palin was proudly reading Bircher magazines at the same time she and her husband were attending Alaskan Independence Party gatherings and making friends with its leaders, and the same year her husband signed up as a member. Because the AIP, as we've detailed, has a long history of being part of this same "Patriot" movement contingent.

It might be no wonder that an AIP follower like Todd Palin doesn't believe he has respond to official subpoenas. After all, "sovereign citizenship" -- fancy words for "I'm exempt from your laws" (based on the notion that the government was "illegitimate") -- was a staple of the Patriots, too.

That's quite the VP nominee John McCain picked there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Can Bush's DOJ do its job in protecting Obama?

-- by Dave

Troy Eid, the Rove-appointed U.S. Attorney in Colorado who tossed off the case of the would-be Obama assassins, is deeply concerned about meanie bloggers he blames for the resulting spate of bad press. He might better spend his time reading his own affidavits.

Here's the AP version of what was in the affidavit:

Johnson later told a federal agent that the men talked about assassinating Obama only because he was black, according to a federal arrest affidavit. Johnson said he also heard Adolf say that he wanted to kill Obama "on the day of his inauguration" and that he would "find high ground to set up and shoot Obama," the affidavit said.

And yet in his press conference announcing there wasn't "enough evidence" to pursue conspiracy charges against the men, Eid said:

"You know, they didn't, they didn't reveal a plan. I think what you can see in the affidavit was, uh, a lot of racist rantings and a lot of dislike for the idea of Senator Obama as an African-American person of color being able to pursue that office."

Not only did these men have a plan, they had the material for carrying it out and appeared to be in the early stages of doing so. Investigators found high-powered rifles, ammunition, disguises, walkie-talkies, and maps, all indicative of a coordinated plan to assassinate Obama.

As Brad Jacobson at Media Bloodhound notes, you couple all this with the admission by one of the participants, and it's clear that Eid's office had before them (as the FBI made clear in recommending charges be filed) evidence of motive, intent, and plan -- as well as both the means and the capability of carrying it out. Moreover, as is always critical in conspiracy cases, they evidently took steps to do so.

This is the same U.S. Attorney who was forced upon Coloradans by Karl Rove, despite being profoundly compromised by his associations with Jack Abramoff. Not only was Eid hired while Monica Goodling was calling the shots, his chief deputy was "vetted" by Goodling.

Two questions arise -- one minor, one major:

-- How often has Troy Eid ignored the FBI's recommendations in the past when it comes to filing charges in cases of this nature? (We know when it came to a black man inside a prison threatening John McCain -- despite a clear lack of capability of actually carrying out the threat -- Eid was eager and willing.)

-- Is this administration -- and particularly this Justice Department, as deeply compromised as it has become by the Bush White House's crass politicization -- capable of ensuring that true threats against Democratic figures like Obama are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately?

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Troy Eid and the Obama plotters: Blaming the bloggers

-- by Dave

Having grotesquely failed in taking seriously the plot by three white-supremacist tweakers to assassinate Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado’s Rove-appointed U.S. Attorney, Troy Eid, is complaining in the Denver Post that the resulting negative coverage is all the fault of anonymous liberal bloggers:

Long before respected mainstream news organizations, including The Denver Post, got so many of their story leads from anonymous Internet scribblers whose veracity and competency cannot by definition be verified.

Eid goes on to contend that "faceless bloggers" are destroying journalistic standards by publishing "wild internet rumors" that journalists then feel compelled to run. And that, you see, is why there were questions about his handling of the tweakers case. Not, you know, because they demonstrated a clear and bizarre double standard in his enforcement of the law.

Well, for what it's worth, this "faceless blogger" was one of the first bloggers tackling this case. I don't know to what extent we drove the subsequent reportage, but I do know that these posts generated a great deal of traffic.

And I have never blogged under anything but my own name. As you can see, my mug shot adorns my posts here. I am not faceless or nameless.

I also happen to have the credentials to be raising these questions: I've written books on the far right, have covered numerous federal court cases involving the far right, have covered FBI standoffs and have gotten to know a number of both FBI agents and federal prosecutors, and I know how these cases operate. In 2000, my reportage on domestic terrorism for MSNBC won a National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism.

And yes, I'm a blogger and a journalist, and proud of it.

Troy Eid is going to have to come up with a better excuse than this. Particularly as it becomes clear how badly he's botched this case. More on that later.

[H/t to Nicole at Crooks and Liars.]

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain's Latest Lie: Spanish-Only Immigration Ad Blames Obama

-- by Dave

Is there anything the McCain campaign won’t lie about? It’s becoming pathological:

The McCain campaign has started airing a new Spanish-language television commercial in the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that lays the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the feet of Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues -- despite the fact that Obama supported the bipartisan John McCain-Edward Kennedy efforts to enact such reforms and voted for their final proposal last year.

… "Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants," the ad's announcer says in Spanish in the spot, released Friday. "But are they? The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead."

This is a complete reversal of the real picture: Republicans, not Democrats, killed immigration reform, and it had nothing to do with “poison pill” amendments. It had to do with right-wing Republicans who hated the “amnesty” portions of the bill that McCain himself supported.

As you can see in the above video, the nativist nutcases actually claim credit (with good reason) for killing immigration reform. And they will continue to be the largest obstacle. 

Even the Washington Times is calling bullshit on McCain's ad (with its own right-wing take, of course):

It's McCain's second attempt to try to tie Obama to unpopular congressional Democrats, and this one's a stretch. The immigration bill didn't die because of poison pill amendments; it died because it was unworkable from the start — a mishmash of ideas and policies that never quite worked together, that was always skewed too far toward amnesty to truly win much conservative support, and that never quite got the buy-in such a deal needed from both sides.

Remember, this is a bill that was so unpopular it was blocked by a bipartisan majority filibuster — usually the tool of the minority.

The McCain campaign, in its backup literature for the ad, points to "poison pill amendments" that Obama backed. But even there, their read on the situation is off. They argue Obama voted for the amendment to sunset the guest-worker program after five years. That amendment passed 49-48.

But the entire agreement was so fragile that without that amendment, sought by labor unions, even more Democrats would have voted against the final bill. In fact, the amendment was voted on twice — it failed the first time, but in order to keep Democrats from abandoning the bill they negotiated a second vote, which passed.

So it's arguable that amendment actually kept the bill alive longer than it otherwise would have lasted.

This is only the latest lie coming from these people, as we all know, and it has permanently changed the campaign narrative. McCain’s campaign has officially become the Fast Talk Express.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How the Big Shitpile will be good for Republicans

-- by Dave

It's been noted on many previous occasions that, no matter how bad the news arising from Republican mismanagement of the economy, or the war, or policy in general, the media find ways to explain how it's going to "be good for Republicans."

However, it may be hard to see how today's news about the freefall on Wall Street and the looming collapse of the American economy -- all the product, as Barack Obama correctly notes, of Republican policies and mismanagement -- will be good for Republicans. Especially with John McCain still running about insisting that "the fundamentals are strong." Could anyone be more clueless?

On the other hand, the GOP does have a knack for making sandwiches out of shitpiles, and no doubt they'll find a way to do it here.

Indeed, it looks like they already have a plan in action, according to the Michigan Messenger:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”

Since this story came out last week, the GOP has gone on to recant that it will use such tactics. On the other hand, an update today reports that a former GOP operative says it's likely the Republicans will indeed use such tactics this fall:

“It is actually a very smart thing to do,” he went on, “particularly in this climate with so many foreclosures.”

For Republicans, he said, targeting the foreclosures would be a cost-effective and “probably” legal method of reducing Democratic votes.

If he were still in the election business, he said, “I’d be doing that all day long.”

Come this November, with the foreclosures piling up, you can count on it.

See? The Big Shitpile is good for Republicans.