Friday, July 10, 2009

Fox's Napolitano fears hate-crimes law hurts free speech -- but ignores explicit language of bill

-- by Dave

Judge Andrew Napolitano sat in as the guest host Wednesday on Glenn Beck's Fox News show, and featured a segment devoted to the notion that the hate-crimes legislation currently before the Senate might somehow be abused to undermine Americans' free-speech rights. His guest was David Rittgers of the Cato Institute.

There is, however, a problem right off the bat with their thesis: The bill in question -- the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) -- contains specific language designed to ensure that the bill is never construed in such a fashion:

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

Any honest discussion of this aspect of the legislation would have to bring this language into consideration -- but it's never mentioned by either Napolitano or Rittgers. Rittgers has written about it at Cato -- mostly objecting on the basis of concerns about federalism -- and similarly omits any discussion of the bill's actual language (which also explicitly recognizes the primary role of the states and local jurisdictions).

Watch instead what Napolitano and Rittgers do in the course of this discussion: they bring in a totally unrelated piece of legislation -- the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act", which is indeed highly dubious from a constitutional point of view -- as though it were part and parcel of the same hate-crimes legislation issues -- even though the two laws have nothing to do with each other.

And then they return almost seamlessly to the federalism and double-jeopardy issues around the LLEHCPA -- Napolitano just refers briefly to "this legislation," but it's quickly clear they're discussing not the Megan Meier bill, which does not raise such issues, but rather the LLEHCPA. It's all so muddied up that anyone watching the show could easily conclude that they're somehow packaged together.

Moreover, the double-jeopardy problems -- as we've explained in some detail -- are largely nonexistent, or rather simply reflect the ongoing debate over "dual sovereignty doctrine," which involves many more issues than merely bias crimes.

The ACLU strongly supports this bill, despite its usual concerns over double jeopardy, and if you look the bill's actual language, you can see why:

‘(b) Certification Requirement- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General that--

‘(1) such certifying individual has reasonable cause to believe that the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person was a motivating factor underlying the alleged conduct of the defendant; and

‘(2) such certifying individual has consulted with State or local law enforcement officials regarding the prosecution and determined that--

‘(A) the State does not have jurisdiction or does not intend to exercise jurisdiction;

‘(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;

‘(C) the State does not object to the Federal Government assuming jurisdiction; or

‘(D) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.

It also contains this clause:

‘(e) Rule of Evidence- In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.’.

This is why Caroline Frederickson, Director of the ACLU's Legislative Office, said this about it:

This bill has a provision, that has been in it since 2005, that has enabled the ACLU to support this legislation, because it does protect both civil rights and free speech and association. The bill specifically blocks evidence of speech and association that are not directly related to the crime.

That means that anyone saying we have unleashed the thought police, or thought crimes, is wrong.

... This bill will have the strongest protection against the misuse of a person’s free speech that Congress has enacted in the entire federal criminal code.

Napolitano was obviously looking for a way to grind Glenn Beck's usual ax about "our rights" being "eroded" by the federal government. And he obviously didn't want to bother explaining the facts in order to do it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Kilmeade does eugenics: Americans marry 'other species' so we don't have Swedes' 'pure genes'

[H/t Media Matters]

-- by Dave

Brian Kilmeade put on a classic display of the way today's right-wingers cling to old half-baked notions of race and eugenics Wednesday morning on Fox and Friends, discussing a Scandinavian study of the benefits of marriage:

Kilmeade: Leave it to the Finns and Swedes to come up with something. Because that's a -- we are, we're a, we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other --


Kilmeade: I mean the Swedes -- the Swedes have, uh, pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes. Because that's the rule. Finland -- Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we marry Italians and Irish and --

Dave Briggs: OK, so this study does not apply.

Kilmeade: It does not apply to us.

Other species? We marry other species? Since when? What, is this the man-on-dog sex that Rick Santorum was on about?

And what the hell do "pure genes" -- whatever those are -- have to do with marriage behavior?

It's astonishing, really, the level of complete and utter idiocy that passes for professional news talk on our cable TV these days. Charles Pierce is right.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sarah Palin's not just a quitter -- she's a professional quitter. And taxpayers get the tab

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin quit as Alaska's governor because, she claimed, she needed to "do the right thing for Alaska."

But has anyone sat down and figured out how much this stunt is actually going to cost Alaska's taxpayers?

One of our wise Alaska friends e-mailed the other day, pointing out that Palin's resignation is likely going to wind up costing in the vicinity of $200,000 or more, because a special session is going to be required to name a successor to the lieutenant governor's post.

Indeed, Greg Sargent is reporting that one of the reasons Palin repeatedly gave for resigning -- that defending her on the ethics complaints was costing taxpayers a bundle -- was fundamentally false.

All this for the sake of someone who already has a history of quitting on the state when she hit rough sledding -- but using the splash she made from doing so as a stepping-stone to higher office.

John Ziegler, Palin's Biggest Fan, dropped that point in passing the other night on The O'Reilly Factor -- as though it were an admirable thing to do, of course.

Crisitunity at Swing State Project explored this in a bit further detail:

One other thought about Alaska that just about everyone in the tradmed seems to be missing. Sarah Palin did have a job in between being mayor of Wasilla and Alaska Governor: she was chair of Frank Murkowski's Oil and Gas Commission. How long was she on this Commission? Less than a year... until she quit in January 2004 with a big public huff (leaving the Commission in the lurch with only one member), saying "the experience was taking the 'oomph' out of her passion for government service and she decided to quit rather than becoming bitter." She publicly cited her frustration with being unable to be all straight-talky and mavericky about the corruption and backbiting on the Commission, but the resignation also came at a very convenient time for switching over to lay the groundwork for her successful 2006 gubernatorial run.

As DavidNYC at DailyKos acidly observed:

Don't forget that she also quit four different colleges en route to getting a degree in journalism. It seems that the one lesson Sarah Palin's learned her whole life is that quitters always win.

The best part is that the taxpayers pick up the tab for it, too. Apparently, "what's right for the people of Alaska" is to give them the shaft -- now that she's "too big" for them, especially.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Fox report suggests Pentagon policy nixing religious flyover is a sign Obama is anti-Christian

-- by Dave

Gretchen Carlson of Fox and Friends was all worked up this morning over something she read off the Christian Newswire -- and in typical Fox fashion, proceeded to report on only the religious right's spin of the event.

The story involves the Pentagon's decision not to have its Air Force jets do their annual flyover at the "God and Country Family Festival" in Nampa, Idaho last weekend. She had on Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, which is constantly on the lookout for "anti-Christian" activities on the part of whatever miscreants it can manufacture. It produced this exchange:

Carlson: So when I first read this story, I actually found it hard to believe. Because for 42 years, at this rally in Idaho, the Pentagon has authorized a flyover. Suddenly this year, a new president in office, and a new policy. What do you make of it?

Mahoney: Well, we're stunned, actually, and it's a reminder that our Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. I think the viewers need to understand, the flyovers that were held for 42 years were not to endorse or promote any religion, but to honor the military, who was there in force.

Actually, the promoters of the event told the local paper otherwise:

Organizers don't deny the explicitly Christian nature of the annual patriotic rally.

"Yes, it's about as Christian as you can get — we believe in promoting Christianity," Syme said. "And we have no plans to change that."

Regardless, Mahoney charged on:

Mahoney: I think it causes one to pause and say, 'What changed? After 42 years, what changed?' And Gretchen, the only indicator we have is that we have a new commander in chief.

And I think that we are wondering, when we look at President Obama: Is there a culture of hostility toward expressions of faith in the public square -- particularly Christian?

Let's put this in context. Several months ago, the president spoke at Georgetown University; when he spoke there, he covered a cross, and he covered a sacred symbol for the name of Jesus. He did not celebrate the National Day of Prayer at the White House, had no events at the White House, and yet just a couple of weeks ago we had a major reception to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June.

So we need to move -- we right now are filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the American Center for Law and Justice, and we want to get to the bottom of this to ensure that no American citizen and no group is denied access to the public square because of their faith tradition.

Of course, I've never heard that "sucking up taxpayer dollars by employing the military for your entertainment" was a matter of having "access to the public square" before. It's a novel concept, but not one likely to fly in court.

But Carlson notes that of course the eeeeeevil Daily Kos endorses the Pentagon's enforcement of its longstanding policy. So I went looking and discovered that she was referring not to a front-page piece but rather a diary by Chris Rodda -- and a very good one at that, which explains that the Pentagon was actually finally responding to complaints filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. And what happened was that the Pentagon finally agreed to enforce its longstanding policy against permitting military participation in religious events:

Looking into this issue for MRFF (in what I wrongly thought was going to be a very temporary job), I found that the Stone Mountain event was far from an isolated incident. The military was regularly providing flyovers at countless evangelical Christian events all over the country, not only violating the regulations prohibiting military participation in religious events, but spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money in the process.

MRFF began exposing these events, which included flyovers on the five holidays when flyovers at civilian events are permitted, and even a few at National Day of Prayer events, and began to see some decline in their frequency, but we weren't sure if the number of flyovers at these events was really decreasing, or if the military and organizers of these events were just being more careful not to make the nature of the events so obvious.

Well, needless to say, the following letter denying, for the first time in 42 years, the request for a flyover at one Christian rally, released on many websites in conjunction with a Christian Newswire article titled "Pentagon Denies Flyover of Patriotic 'God and Country Rally' in Nampa Idaho Because of its Christian Content," was the best 4th of July present MRFF could have asked for.

The letter read in part:

Your Air Force aviation support request doesn't fall into either approved category, as such, we are unable to approve it. Air Force and DoD policy prohibit support for events which appear to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any special interest group, religious or ideological movement.

With an increasingly high operations tempo and limited resources to meet our training and operational commitments, we are required to take a hard look at all of our requests and carefully follow our policies and guidelines. In denying your request, we are not questioning the worthiness of the event, but rather enforcing DoD and Air Force policy to preserve the operational and training requirements of our aviation units and to practice the prudent stewardship of taxpayer-financed resources.

Of course, one of the ways you can tell whether or not these kinds of "issues" have any validity is by looking at the people who are raising a stink about them. One name that keeps popping up is that of Brandi Swindell:

Christian activist Brandi Swindell sent a text message about the lack of the flyover from Wednesday night's event at the Idaho Center amphitheater. She followed up with another message Thursday.

"This is unbelievable and deeply troubling," Swindell wrote. "The Pentagon does not have the authority to discriminate against Christian groups or events. This type of religious bigotry is unconstitutional. How sad to see this lack of respect and level of blatant bias surrounding the 4th of July celebration."

This is the same Brandi Swindell who ran for Boise City Council on an explicitly (and rabidly) anti-abortion platform, replete with bizarro antics and insane pronunciamentos. She was also kicked out of the Idaho House after she had one of her patented anti-abortion meltdowns in the office of the Republican Speaker.

Hearing a complaint about "anti-Christian bias" from the same people who are most aggressively trying to shove their "Christian nation" ideology down everyone else's throat is only mildly amusing. Seeing them attack President Obama as anti-Christian is pretty disturbing.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Coulter thinks Palin's resignation was a brilliant move: 'She is too big for the position now'

-- by Dave

I suspect Ann Coulter didn't really intend, appearing Sunday on Fox News with Marc Lamont Hill, to open a big wide window for everyone to see in brilliantly illuminated color the deep, sneering contempt in which your average Republican pundit actually holds all of those "hard-working average Americans" they normally profess to represent.

But she did:

Coulter: I think it's brilliant. And I'm baffled by people being baffled by it. Um, I mean, she's a huge, huge star. And meanwhile she's stuck up in Ulan Bator, she can neither respond to her many admirers who want her to come speak down in the Lower 48, and want her, you know, to be raising money for them, starting PACs, and being the voice of conservatism, which she is. She can't do that, or she'll be neglecting the state.

... Look, she's a lame-duck governor, it isn't her fault that she became a huge, huge star, but she is too big for the position now. And people acting like, you know, leaving a governorship is a step down.

Hill: When she was on the campaign, she talked about fighting for the little person, fighting for the state of Alaska. And now all of a sudden to say, she's too big for an elected office. I mean, how can you be too big for an elected office. That's her job. That ostensibly was her calling.

Coulter: Well, she doesn't say that. I'm saying that. Obvious.

Hill: No, no, you are saying that, but you're replicating the very thing that she said shen she said that 'I have a higher calling.' If she says that her calling is higher, it essentially is greater than the thing that she's doing right now, and that borders again on absurd.

Coulter: Than dealing with fishing licenses in Alaska. [ed. note: corrected]

Hill: Tell that to the people of Alaska.

Hill is right: Coulter is just giving clear voice to the message that Sarah Palin is sending. That message is: She's too big for those little people in Alaska anymore. Why, she's so big now she can save the world. "Don't cry for me, Wasilla!"

I bet those Alaskan voters are real impressed right about now. The rest of us too.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

As 'Tea Parties' lose steam, fringe conspiracists step up to the fore

-- by Dave

If it wasn't already obvious that the right-wingers who organized the Tax Day Tea Parties vastly overstated their actual significance -- except as a harbinger of the slide towards right-wing populism -- then this past weekend should lay any doubts to rest.

Even before the holiday weekend, it was clear that the planned 2nd edition of the Tea Tantrums Parties was going to be somewhat less than energetic. David Weigel at the Washington Independent observed that a lot of this had to do with mainstream support peeling away:

But the collaboration between the official Republican establishment and the Tea Parties has not lasted into June. The RNC has no plans to get involved with any Tea Parties. A spokesman for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who jaunted around northern California to attend several Tea Parties, said that his holiday plans were private but would probably not include Tea Parties. Gingrich will not attend any of the Tea Parties, although he recorded video messages for events in Birmingham and Nashville “at the request of the respective organizers,” according to spokesman Dan Kotman.

Media coverage has also gotten a little bit more scarce. Coverage on Fox News has largely been limited to interviews with Tea Party organizers on the network’s morning shows. While sources at Fox would not discuss their plans for covering the weekend events, they confirmed that no anchors would be attending and that the attendance and news value of the events looked to be lower than that of the April rallies. Tea Party organizers are counting, instead, on local news coverage and on distributed reporting such as the conservative news site PajamasTV, which hosts an “American Tea Party” show and has asked readers to submit their own videos from their rallies.

Part of the dynamic of right-wing populism is that, as whatever mainstream backing it gathers initially peels away, its more radical elements rise to the fore. And indeed, the Anti-Defamation League warned beforehand that extremists were likely to be making their presence felt at these gatherings:

White supremacists and neo-Nazi hate groups plan to take advantage of the anti-tax "Tea Parties" set to occur in more than 1,000 cities and localities over the July 4 holiday weekend to disseminate racist fliers and other materials and attempt to recruit others to their cause, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

ADL's Center on Extremism, which monitors extremist groups and provides information to law enforcement and the public, has released information on its Web site describing the attempt by white supremacists to co-opt the anti-tax message of the events as a means to spread racism and anti-Semitism.

On Stormfront, the most popular white supremacist Internet forum, members have discussed becoming local organizers of the "Tea Parties" and finding ways to involve themselves in the events. Many racists have voiced their intent to attend these rallies for the purpose of cultivating an "organized grassroots White mass movement," with some suggesting that they would do so without openly identifying themselves as racists.

If you watch the above video -- featuring clips culled from various Tea Parties around the nation, including (in order of appearance) Norwich, Conn.; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; Cape Coral, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; and La Canada/Flintridge, California -- you can see it all: the lackluster crowds, combined with a toxic dose of truly wingnutty rhetoric.

The conspiracists were obviously out in force. In Oklahoma, a man calling himself "July4Patriot" talked about his organization, the "Oath Keepers" -- a collection of freshly returned war veterans who are organizing to resist the impending New World Order. As you can hear, among the things they fear is that the government intends to conduct house-to-house searches of private homes and begin rounding up citizens and putting them in concentration camps. The only thing missing was the black helicopters (though give him enough time, and that probably will turn up too).

Then there was the "Birther" speaker in Florida who assured everyone that the Constitution is based on Biblical law, and added that President Obama isn't a constitutionally legal president because he won't show his birth certificate. Or the woman in California who warned that illegal immigrants were the real problem.

The conspiracist element was everywhere -- and so was the fizzling of energy. There was no party in Seattle this time -- though a gathering in Olympia was reported to have gathered 1,500. As you can see from the tea parties' organizing site for Washington, the sponsor of that "party" was an outfit calling itself "PatriotMarch"
-- and if you go there, you can quickly ascertain that this is an essentially Bircherite group of conspiracists too. (Quick shower recommended afterward.)

It happened elsewhere as well. In Duval County, Florida, there were signs comparing Obama to Hitler.

The next step in the devolution process of right-wing populists -- just as we saw with the Minutemen -- involves acting out by renegade violent and unstable actors. That's the really ugly part. And as you can see, the Tea Parties are getting there, bit by bit.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, July 06, 2009

How I helped drive Sarah Palin crazy by digging into her past

-- by Dave

Last October, I went on CNN Newsroom with Rick Sanchez to talk about an investigative piece co-written with Max Blumenthal about Sarah Palin's longtime dalliances with Alaska's far-right elements, particularly the secessionist Alaska Independence Party.

At the time, the McCain campaign blew us off publicly. And unfortunately, none of our colleagues in other media settings picked up on the story and asked further questions about the issues it raised -- particularly at a time when the McCain campaign was busy accusing Barack Obama of "palling around" with "terrorists" and extremists.

Now, it turns out that my short appearance on TV threw Sarah Palin into a tizzy and provoked a quarrel with Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign. This from a CBS story by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe:

Internal campaign e-mails exchanged three weeks before Election Day offer a rare look at just how frustrated then Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had become with the manner in which top McCain campaign aides were handling her candidacy. The e-mails, obtained exclusively, also highlight the power struggle and thinly veiled acrimony that pervaded the relationship between Palin and the campaign's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt.

The episode in question began when an investigative report published on the left-leaning Web site raised questions about Palin's relationship with members of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) when she was mayor of Wasilla. The AIP's platform calls for a vote giving Alaskans the option to secede from the United States. It had already been widely known that Todd Palin was a registered member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002 and that Governor Palin had taped a recorded greeting at the party's 2008 convention.

On the morning of Oct. 15, Palin was aboard her campaign jet and en route to New Hampshire when she happened to catch a disparaging CNN segment that touted the story, complete with a provocative graphic at the bottom of the screen reading, "THE PALINS AND THE FRINGE."

While shaking hands after a rally later that afternoon, someone on the rope line shouted a remark at Palin about the AIP.

The comment set her off. She worried that the campaign was not sufficiently mitigating the issue of her alleged connection to the party, which despite a platform that harkens more to the Civil War than the 21st century, continued to play a serious role in Alaska politics.

Palin blasted out an e-mail with the subject line "Todd" to Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis and senior advisor Nicolle Wallace, copying her husband on the message (all of the e-mails are reprinted below as written).

"Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that's cropped up all day today - two reporters, a protestor's sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd's involvement in an anti-American political party," Palin wrote. "It's bull, and I don't want to have to keep reacting to it ... Pls have statement given on this so it's put to bed."

Schmidt hit "reply to all" less than five minutes after Palin's e-mail was sent. "Ignore it," he wrote. "He was a member of the aip? My understanding is yes. That is part of their platform. Do not engage the protestors. If a reporter asks say it is ridiculous. Todd loves america."

This clear cut response from the campaign's top dog carried an air of finality, but it did not satisfy Palin. She responded with another e-mail, adding five more names to the "cc" box, all of whom traveled on her campaign plane. They included her senior political adviser Tucker Eskew, senior aide Jason Recher, the lone traveling aide from her Alaska office Kris Perry, press secretary Tracey Schmitt and personal assistant Bexie Nobles.

Palin's insertion of the five additional staffers in the e-mail chain was an apparent attempt to rally her own troops in the face of a decision from the commanding general with which she disagreed. Her inclusion of her personal assistant was particularly telling about her quest for affirmation and support in numbers, since the young staffer was not in a position to have any input on campaign strategy.

"That's not part of their platform and he was only a 'member' bc independent alaskans too often check that 'Alaska Independent' box on voter registrations thinking it just means non partisan," Palin wrote. "He caught his error when changing our address and checked the right box. I still want it fixed."

Now, the problem with this response is that it's just factually false. Palin's connections with the AIP ran much, much deeper than Todd's paper affiliation. As we explained in the Salon story:

* Palin formed a political alliance with Wasilla's Patriot-movement faction while still a Wasilla city councilman, and they played a significant role in her successful campaign against the three-term incumbent mayor in 1996.

* Palin, in one of her first acts as mayor, attempted to fill the seat vacated by her ascension to the mayorship with one of the leaders of this faction -- a bellicose man described by the city councilman who blocked his appointment as having a "violent" disposition.

* Mayor Palin also fired the city's museum director at the behest of this faction.

* Palin also organized this faction to turn out at a city council meeting to shout down a proposed local gun-control ordinance. Palin also determinedly allowed the testimony of the pro-gun crowd before the bill had even been presented to the council or prepared for public hearings -- a clear violation of city-council policy.

* Palin had a continual association with Alaskan Independence Party chairman Mark Chryson (a Wasilla resident) throughout her tenure as mayor, and joined to support him in a series of anti-gun-control and anti-tax measures, both locally and statewide.

* Palin attended the AIP's state conventions in 1994 and 2006, the latter when she was campaigning for the governorship. The 1994 appearance is more questionable, since it came at time when the AIP was more openly radical (its members had backed militia figure Col. James "Bo" Gritz in the 1992 election), and its platform then contained what Chryson calls "racist language".

* She sent a videotaped address to the AIP at its 2008 convention, ostensibly because "I've always thought competition is so good, and that applies to political parties as well" -- though notably, she sent no such similar videotaped welcome to the state's Democratic Party.

Schmidt needn't even have consulted our story to ascertain its falsity. According to the CBS story, all he had to do was look at the AIP's website:

Clearly irritated by what he saw as Palin's attempt to mislead her own campaign and apparently determined to demonstrate that the ultimate authority rested with him, Schmidt put the matter to rest once and for all with a longer response to everyone in the e-mail chain.

"Secession," he wrote. "It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years. If this is incorrect then we need to understand the discrepancy. The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country

We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this."

Schmidt's rebuttal to Palin's suggestion that reporters had asked her about the issue was particularly blunt in that it implicitly questioned her truthfulness.

At the time, the McCain campaign's official response was this, from Michael Goldfarb:

CNN is furthering a smear with this report, no different than if your network ran a piece questioning Sen. Obama's religion. No serious news organization has tried to make this connection, and it is unfortunate that CNN would be the first.

Well, as I pointed out at the time: the issue isn't one of Sarah Palin's faith, it's about her conduct in public office, and how it is affected by her ideological associations. It's the cold reality that Palin has a real history of empowering these extremists, and pandering to their conspiratorial beliefs, from her position of public office.

That was an issue then, and it continues to be an issue as long as Sarah Palin seeks public office. Which, given the past weekend's events, may not be much longer.

UPDATE: You'll note that Palin's staff appears to be claiming that they received no inquiries about this matter. Schmidt's memo observes: "According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews."

Well, it's true that we didn't communicate directly with Palin's staff, but that's mainly because we could only contact them through the McCain/Palin campaign at the time. I phoned them as the story neared completion and asked them for comment, and was told that I needed to send an e-mail to the main press address for the campaign. So here's the e-mail I sent to the McCain campaign people on Oct. 9:
To: press@mccain
From: David Neiwert

My name is David Neiwert; I’m a freelance journalist based in Seattle. Max Blumenthal and I spent some time in Alaska the past few weeks going through public records and talking to local residents in Wasilla and elsewhere about Gov. Palin. We’ve put together a report that will be published shortly at

We wanted to know if the McCain campaign cared to comment on our findings so we could include that in the story. I called your press office at headquarters this morning and they suggested I send an e-mail.

Essentially here’s what we found:
  • That Gov. Palin, when a Wasilla city council member, formed an alliance with some of the more radical far-right citizens in Wasilla and vicinity, particularly members of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party who were allied with local John Birch Society activists. These activists played an important role in her election as Wasilla mayor in 1996.
  • Once mayor, one of Mrs. Palin’s first acts was to attempt to appoint one of these extremists (a man named Steve Stoll) to her own seat on the city council. This was a man with a history of disrupting city council meetings with intimidating behavior. She was blocked by a single city council member.
  • Afterward, Mrs. Palin fired the city’s museum director at the behest of this faction.
  • She fomented an ultimately successful effort to derail a piece of local gun-control legislation which would simply have prohibited the open carry of firearms into schools, liquor stores, libraries, courthouses and the like. The people recruited to shout this ordinance down included these same figures, notably the local AIP representative (who became the AIP’s chairman that same year).
  • She remained associated politically with the local AIP/Birch faction throughout her tenure as mayor on other issues, particularly a successful effort to amend the Alaska Constitution to prohibit local governments from issuing any local gun-control ordinances.
In general, we found that not only did Mrs. Palin have numerous associations with these extremists, she actively sought to empower them locally and to enact their agendas both locally and on a state level.

We’d like to know if you have any comment on these findings. We hope to hear from you soon.

David Neiwert
I received no response to this e-mail whatsoever.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Is Rush Limbaugh trying to encourage a military coup against Obama?

-- by Dave

One of the problems with trying to track the flood of wingnuttery emitted daily by Rush Limbaugh is that there's so much of it, and it's so ceaseless, that one becomes overwhelmed trying to keep up with it. But there's been a thread in his commentary this past week that's particularly dangerous, and it needs calling out.

It began on Monday, after the military coup in Honduras. Limbaugh went on the air and said this:

Limbaugh: So we've got hell breaking loose in Honduras. You know what we learned about Honduras? We learned the Obama administration tried to stop the coup. Now what was -- the coup was what many of you wish would happen here, without the military.

The next day, describing Obama talking to troops about the withdrawal from Iraq, he described the president thus:

"This is a guy who sought their defeat."

And then Wednesday, he expanded on these thoughts even further:

This is Barack Obama, who led from the United States Senate his party into doing everything he could to ensure the defeat of the U.S. military. ... This party was doing everything it could to impugn and dishonor the military.

On Thursday Limbaugh added to the litany in a much more explicit fashion:

Limbaugh: And if we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.

This thread of commentary clearly is pushing toward a single thought -- to push people in the armed forces into seeing Obama as a usurper and traitor, just like the Honduran president, and toward the idea that a similar military-based removal of him from office might be justified.

Keep in mind that Limbaugh is only of only four pundits still broadcast daily on Armed Services Radio, so our men and women in uniform are getting fed this garbage on a daily basis. (And Wes Clark was right: It is well past time to take him off.)

Limbaugh in fact is picking up on sentiments already circulating on the right. Larisa Alexandrovna at AtLargely picked up on the chatter going on at various right-wing blogs after Honduras coup, pointing in particular to the Gateway Pundit's commenters, who posted such items as the following:


We've seen a steady drumbeat of fearmongering from the right since Obama's election. But now we're treading into truly dangerous, insurrectionary territory.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday News Brunch and Open Thread

-- by Sara

Sorry it's been so quiet here this week. The weather's warm (at least by the standards that obtain on the 50th parallel), which makes it hard to focus on work. Canada celebrates its Independence Day on July 1, and the US's is three days later, so the party energy is running high on both sides of the Cascadian border. The tourist season is starting to bring in visitors from points south, so we're spending the weekend clearing out the guest room. Oh, and my first chick fledged -- she turned 19, found a fabulous job on a new TV show, and moved out into her own apartment this past week. We bought her a set of cooking pans for a birthday gift. A landmark moment that passed in a blink: one day she was here, and a single U-Haul load later, she was gone.

What's for brunch? Got lots of little yinnies I've been saving up over the past couple weeks, meaning to blog but not quite getting to. On the menu today:

Southern Baptists: old, white, and in decline. The SBC's 16-million-strong membership is falling so fast that it could be less than half that size within 40 years. Baptisms are down. So its the church's influence in Southern culture (the article notes that "dry" counties are becoming less so). They're not holding onto the kids. It doesn't bode well for the long run.

Over the years, the SBC has been the font of some of the most egregious looniness from the religious right, so I feel a bit like a circus fan hearing the news that attendance is falling off at Ringling Bros. shows. For the whole 20th century, they were the best show in town. Best catch 'em before they fade into history.

Huckabee and Gingrich: Prop 8 passed because of prayer. Evidently, the Yes on 8 voters just couldn't be hateful and stupid enough all on their own to vote away people's civil rights. For spite of this magnitude, you need God.

More on why both the above stories are a major problem for the GOP.

Some are responding to the Republican meltdown by giving up on God, and going for their guns. "...For many gun owners, this year's NRA show isn't the beginning of any armed insurrection, but rather a part of a conservative soul-searching as an out-of-power political minority seeks a new role." Well, that's something to look forward to.

And then there's the current fuss on the right about the census. This is an old Bircher bugbear going back to the 1960s. Reading around, it seems pretty clear to me that their real fear is that an accurate count will result in more of their money going to Those People (which, as Digby rightly notes, is the animating force behind most conservative racism). Though I'm still not clear how encouraging white people to make sure they're undercounted is supposed to fix that.

In any event, right-wing screeching aside, next year's census (as currently configured) is actually considerably less intrusive than any census done in most of our lifetimes. Even the small percentage of households getting the expanded questionnaire aren't being asked questions that haven't been asked before.

In any event, if the upshot is that Michelle Bachmann's seat is wiped off the Congressional map by this, it will not be a bad thing.