Saturday, April 03, 2010

Foxheads Dismiss 'Patriot' Group's Threats To Governors As Harmless Hyperbole

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Coming on the heels of last weekend's arrests of a group of a militiamen in the Midwest for plotting to kill law-enforcement officers, you'd think people in positions of responsibility would take seriously some of the rising threats from right-wing extremists. And, judging from the story in the Washington Post, it would seem at least the FBI is:
The FBI is warning police across the country that an anti-government group's call to remove governors from office could provoke violence.

The group called the Guardians of the free Republics wants to "restore America" by peacefully dismantling parts of the government, according to its Web site. It sent letters to governors demanding they leave office or be removed.

Investigators do not see threats of violence in the group's message, but fear the broad call for removal of top state officials could lead others to act out violently. At least two states beefed up security in response.
But over in the FoxNewsiverse -- which operates on separate plane in which everything up is down -- it's not really a big deal. Just about the only discussion of the story on Fox yesterday came in the "All Star Panel" section of Special Report with Bret Baier, and it mostly elicited a big yawn.

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard didn't really know what to make of it, but at least there seemed to be some agreement that even if these were just "kooky people," sometimes "kooky people" can inflict serious harm. Except for Charles Krauthammer, who thought it was all a non-story -- because, of course, activity by right-wing extremists is always a non-story to conservatives:
Krauthammer: Oh, come on. I get e-mails like that every week, and I don't even hold any office. And they don't always include the legally remove you, either.

... And lastly, loony anarchists aren't new in America. We've had 'em since Sacco and Vanzetti. It didn't start with health care reform.
Except, Charles, that these aren't anarchists. These people call themselves "constitutionalists". Just like your Fox colleague, Glenn Beck.

And yes, they've been known to blow stuff up, too.

As Lee Fang at Think Progress explains, the group making the threats is in fact a classic right-wing extremist organization:

While much of the rhetoric from the group resembles the style of patriot extremist organizations, their concerns seem to stem directly from economic anxiety. The group’s broadcasting affiliate, Republic Broadcasting Network, advertises survival kits, gold buying guides, and other hallmarks of a movement in America which believes that the country is heading towards economic collapse. The website also promotes tea party protests, calls for revolution, videos from Glenn Beck, and sympathetic articles about recent right-wing domestic terrorist activities, like the suicide attack on an IRS building in Austin earlier this year.

Guardians of the Free Republics’ call to dismantle the government has gained traction on right-wing tea party websites. The groups’ proclamation is posted on ResistNet, the popular tea party forum, as well as Tree of Liberty, a tea party forum known to have been frequented by users which supported Hutaree, the Christian militia recently arrested in Michigan.

One YouTube user, jonah70757, has enthusiastically posted links and audio broadcasts rallying support for Guardians of the Free Republics’ call for revolution. The user brandishes various weapons, seemingly in preparation for a violent revolution, and posts videos about militias, tea parties, and conspiracies about President Obama’s birth. Watch a ThinkProgress compilation of jonah70757’s videos:

All this is coming amid rising anxieties among government workers generally:

Four days after a gunman shot two federal policemen near the Pentagon entrance, federal employee Sandy Ressler posted a short essay online, expressing dismay at what appeared to be an increasingly hostile climate for government workers.

"I work for the government and I am NOT the enemy," read his March 8 post on the social networking site GovLoop. Ressler, a program manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, lamented that the country is becoming "more and more polarized" and worried about growing misperceptions about federal employees. His post generated scores of sympathetic comments from fellow federal employees.

Their concerns are justified: Weapons violations on federal properties increased by 10 percent over the last year; threats against IRS facilities are up by 11 percent. And while threats are up, the level of protection at federal buildings is down. The Federal Protective Service has shrunk by 15 percent over the last seven years; hundreds of IRS buildings have no security at all.

Dozens of employees interviewed by Federal Times over the last two weeks say they have been concerned for months about security. They're worried about the anti-government rhetoric in the U.S.; they fear that the public is developing an impression of federal employees as overpaid, lazy and controlling.

"Fed-bashing may be the only true bipartisan issue," said Kenneth Goldman, a manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Worse, many say they fear violence against feds has been legitimized. They blame that on a number of culprits — extremist groups, the media and even some politicians.
And while the talkers who are irresponsibly spreading this extremism on the airwaves deserve the lion's share of culpability for this phenomenon, we mustn't forget the Beltway insiders who eagerly pretend it all away, and their role in making it happen, too.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fox 'Analyst' Compares Obama Energy Policy To Tonya Harding: 'Break Your Opponents' Kneecap'. Bret Baier Chortles.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Boy, President Obama had better hope his three-dimensional chess skills are better than they look in his environmental policies -- especially yesterday's announcement about his offshore drilling plan, which was basically a gift to the oil industry and their conservative allies.

Because afterward, they showed their appreciation by largely savaging Obama, as John Boehner did in denouncing the policy for not going far enough. ("Far enough," in Republican parlance, means "total capitulation".)

And then there was yesterday's Special Report with Bret Baier -- you know, one of Fox News' vaunted "hard news" shows that's supposedly really "fair and balanced" -- discussing the policy, which brought on a fellow named Patrick Creighton from the Institute for Energy Research (an oil-industry front group), who made the following comparison:
Creighton: We call it the Tonya Harding approach, where you break your opponents' kneecaps to get ahead. This president and his environmental allies continue to tout that wind, solar, and other renewable fuels will displace fossil energy -- and that's just not the case.
Afterward, Bret Baier chortled over it with reporter Jim Angle:
Baier: The Tonya Harding approach. [laughs]

Angle: [Prolonged laughter]
And then they wonder where all those nutcase Tea Partiers get the ideas for their nutty signs.
Meanwhile, what Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes said.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Chat With Rachel: Pondering The Meaning Of The Rise Of The Militias

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Rachel Maddow featured a segment last night on her MSNBC show questioning just how far removed from mainstream conservatism the resurgent militias -- embodied by the recently busted Hutaree militia in the Midwest -- really are.

Right-wingers like Bill O'Reilly are adamant that the militias have nothing to do with the Tea Parties and, by extension, the mainstream conservative party.

I had some trouble hearing Maddow, so I kind of blew a couple of the questions. To be clear:
-- What I expect at the April 19 militia march on Washington is, essentially, a smaller Tea Party with guns.

-- The main threat posed by the militias is not to average citizens but to law-enforcement personnel, who inevitably are the first people to have contact with these extremists that provokes violence.

Inevitably, innocent bystanders will be involved as well, as they were on April 19, 1995. And the truth is, your average American is far more likely to be harmed by a right-wing domestic terrorist than an international terrorist.

But the chief reason to fear violent militiamen is the threat they pose to our law-enforcement officers, and from a broader perspective, the toxic effect their acts have on our society and the ability of average citizens to feel safe.

In any event, I thought it was a useful discussion, even if the points I wanted to make weren't as sharp as I'd have liked.

Bill O'Reilly Denounces The Hate -- But Wants To Pretend It's The Same On Both Sides

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Last night Bill O'Reilly announced he was doing an admirable thing -- covering the legal expenses of Fred Phelps victim Albert Snyder -- and in doing so, seemed to express an admirable sentiment: hate talk is a bad thing, and all sides should eschew it.

Except, of course, by Bill's lights, the flow of hate is equal on both sides:
There is far too much hatred in America. That's obvious. It comes from both sides. The Michigan militia and the Westboro Baptist Church are far-right nuts, but there are just as many far-left idiots doing vile things.

Thirty-eight-year-old Norman Leboon has been charged with threatening to kill Republican Congressman Eric Cantor. Apparently Leboon wants to kill Cantor and his family and is now being held without bail. It looks like this guy is simply nuts. Ideology might not be in play.

However, a brick was thrown through the window of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Monday. Obviously that's political.

The point is that the situation in America is reaching critical mass. There is far too much hatred in the air.

The press is obviously pumping up inappropriate things that happen on the right and pretty much ignoring hateful things on the left. Bernie Goldberg and I established that on Monday.

But every member of the media should condemn all hate speech and violent activity. It is simply un-American.
Then O'Reilly had Laura Ingraham come on to point out that yeah, those left-wingers can be every bit as nasty as the right-wingers.

Tell you what, Bill and Laura. Come and talk to us again about how nasty and wrong hateful talk from the left is when:
-- A liberal walks into a church and opens fire on the congregation because they're all a bunch of conservatives and he wants to kill as many right-wingers as he can.

-- A liberal walks into another church and shoots a doctor in the head.

-- A liberal shoots three police officers who come to his door because he fears the president is going to take his guns away.

-- A liberal walks into the Holocaust Museum and shoots a guard because he hates Jews and believes it's time to start a race war.

-- A liberal walks into the Pentagon and opens fire because he believes the government is plotting against its citizens.

-- A pack of gun-loving liberals forms a plot to kill law-enforcement officers and start a revolution.
See, that isn't happening. But it is happening with characters from the right, opening fire on various perceived "liberal" targets, law enforcement officers, and government employees. (In order, they've happened in Knoxville, in Wichita, in Pittsburgh, in Washington, twice, and this past weekend in the Midwest.)

No doubt there are some liberals who use ugly and sometimes even violent rhetoric. But there's a big difference between what's actually happening on the ground in terms of the behavior of right-wingers and left-wingers when it comes to acting on the rhetoric: The fanatics on the right are decidedly more violent, and act out violently with much greater frequency.

Why is that? Well, there are two big differences between left-wing and right-wing hate talk, one qualitative, the other quantitative:

-- Right-wing talk is decidedly more violent and openly eliminationist -- which is to say, it speaks more openly about eliminating entire blocs of their fellow Americans, and it does so by harkening to violent themes with much greater frequency.

-- The sheer volume of right-wing hate talk is so much greater. Not only are there more examples, by an exponential factor, of right-wing hatefulness, but the talk is emanating from the upper reaches of the right-wing hierarchy: on TV and radio talk shows with hosts who spew eliminationist hatred daily to audiences of millions daily, and among politicians who represent the supposed mainstream of officialdom, and thus lend their imprimatur to such behavior.

The talk shows, in particular, are a real problem. Especially when you have hosts who repeatedly call someone a "baby killer" day in and day out.

Now that's hate talk. But of course, Bill O'Reilly will never admit to that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

O'Reilly Says It's Unfair To Smear Tea Parties With The Nutcases They Attract. Also, It's Possible Obama Will Take Our Guns.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly was all worked up last night on his Fox News show, claiming that the "liberal media" are waving the bloody shirt again, using the violence and extremism and racism of a handful of joiners to smear an otherwise entirely innocent movement.

First, his Talking Points Memo segment was devoted to the notion that "the Tea Party as a whole is not responsible for the loons who may lurk among them."

Which is, you know, pretty much true. Unless, of course, the movement seems to attract a high percentage of loons, and especially if the movement itself employs loons as their speakers and representatives.

Which is the case with the Tea Parties.

This is pretty funny, really, coming from the guy -- as Matt Corley at ThinkProgress notes -- who only a couple of years ago was culling off comments at DailyKos to smear the entire liberal blogosphere as the equivalent of Nazis.

O'Reilly brought on Rev. Al Sharpton, who seems to have figured out how not to let O'Reilly make him into a punching bag, because he pretty effectively rebutted most of O'Reilly's points. Nonetheless, Monsieur Falafeloofah managed to assert that the "liberal media smear" of the Tea Parties by blaming them for their kooks is "unfair!"

This was followed by a segment with Mary Katherine Ham and Juan Williams. And Williams set off O'Reilly by pointing out that the Tea Parties are fundamentally a rebirth of the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s:
WILLIAMS: You know, people who's have a lot of hateful attitudes towards President Bush and then somebody who is extremist on the fringe, yes. And if that was also to be then the case with the Tea Party, yes, that's too much and unfair. But, when you start to see militia groups start to associate with the Tea Party --

O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me stop you there. I haven't seen militia groups associating with the Tea Party.

WILLIAMS: Oh, let me tell you something, the Tea Party flag is now, you know, for example they use the same to....

O'REILLY: The don't tread on me flag?

WILLIAMS: Yes, the one.


O'REILLY: That's from the revolutionary war.

WILLIAMS: No, no, no. But it's taken away, obviously, it's not the same flag. It's not the same flag that you see flying up in the New England States. If the separated flag, if the new flag that they created. Like the same imagery that was on Timothy McVeigh. You know, I mean, this is the kind of thing that is worrisome to me.

O'REILLY: Oh, come on, Juan. You are smarter than that. You can't possibly think the Tea Party is taking any cue from Timothy McVeigh. That's suicide.

WILLIAMS: Oh no. You misheard me. I said if fringe elements. In other words, it's just like you were saying. If people speak out and fringe elements take it, distort it, pervert it and then translate into violence. You can't hold that leadership responsible.
Evidently, O'Reilly has already forgotten his interview with Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers, which is unmistakably a Patriot organization, minus the militias -- because it recruits from the military, Oath Keepers eschews overt or official involvement with militia organizing, since membership in a militia is cause for dismissal from the military. And as O'Reilly knows well, the Oath Keepers are intimately involved in the Tea Parties.

Indeed, the case of Charles Dyer, the onetime Oath Keepers figure arrested on charges of child rape, demonstrates clearly how the lines get crossed. Because Dyer was also active in forming militias in Oklahoma, he evidently did not hold an actual membership in the Oath Keepers, something the organization eagerly pointed out when it disavowed him. However, he was close enough to the Oath Keepers leadership that he was chosen to represent the Oath Keepers -- with Rhodes' blessing -- at a Tea Party on July 4 in Oklahoma.

But facts have never been an impediment to O'Reilly, who then goes on to actually repeat one of the right's favorite nutty talking points:
WILLIAMS: In a situation where you have more Americans worried about their second amendment rights and stocking up on bullets and buying guns because they think that President Obama is going to take away their guns or bullets.

O'REILLY: Oh, he is he a left wing guy, President Obama. That is not out of the realm of possibility.
In other words, O'Reilly doesn't think the Tea Parties are nutty -- because, after all, they're only repeating the nutty things he says.

And for many of them, that's actually true.

It's laughable for O'Reilly and the rest of the Right to pretend that the fact that the Tea Parties attract a sizable number of loons is purely a coincidence, a natural occurrence.

The cold hard fact is that the Tea Parties are a giant magnet for kooks because so many leaders in the movement, from Glenn Beck on down, regularly tell their audiences that provably untrue things are true. They foist nuttiness upon their mass audiences, and the nuttiness then manifests itself in violent extremist groups rising and coalescing with mainstream-right groups.

The best evidence of this is the speech given by Joseph Farah, the publisher and editor of the far-right Patriot-friendly WorldNetDaily, in February at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville:

The speech was largely a defense of the "Birther" conspiracy theories:
I have a dream. My dream is that IF Barack Obama even seeks re-election as president in 2012, he won’t be able to go to any city, any town, any hamlet in America without seeing signs that ask, “Where’s the birth certificate?

It’s a simple question and it has not been answered despite what Bill O’Reilly will tell you.

The rest of the media think it’s ridiculous, which makes me certain it’s one of the most important questions we can be asking. It really hits the target. Polls now show 33 percent of Californians either believe Obama was born outside the country or have doubts about his alleged Hawaiian birth. Nationwide it’s closer to 50 percent. Even significant numbers of Democrats have doubts.

But the media and the politicians keep pretending it’s all been settled.

I say if it’s been settled, show us the birth certificate.
Now, Bill O'Reilly has done whole segments denouncing the "Birthers" as loons.

But then he attacks anyone who suggests that the Tea Party is riddled with extremist nutcases precisely because it is encouraged at the very top ranks of the movement.

Go figure. It's O'Reilly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FBI Busts Of Michigan Militias' Hutaree Sect Once Again Rip The Facade Away From Patriots' Civil Pose

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The case of this weekend's busts of seven militiamen in the Midwest, all affiliated with the Hutaree "Christian militia" -- apparently on bomb-making charges, though more factual details are expected today -- is deja vu all over again.

It very much reminds me of the Washington State Militia, the group whose bust and subsequent federal trial I covered in 1996-7. The WSM was a lot like the Michigan Militia in that it liked to sell itself as a civic-minded group whose main purpose was to defend citizens from government oppression and to perform various civic function. I'll never forget John Pitner, the WSM's "commander," telling reporters outside a meeting hall in Mount Vernon in January 1996 that he and his members had been heavily involved in sandbagging efforts to combat the floods that had hit local rivers the week before.

That was how they behaved when out in public, trying to recruit mainstream conservatives to their cause. Then we discovered that what they were saying in private was quite a different thing altogether.

Pitner and six of his comrades were arrested in July 1996 and hit with a variety of charges, most notably for making pipe bombs. At the trial, it emerged that the FBI had videotaped many of the militiamen's meetings, and so both the trial audience and the jury got to hear Pitner and his cohorts planning various acts of violence, including bombing a local reporter's home and a nearby train tunnel.

The Hutaree group -- which made the above video sometime last year, demonstrating their tactics for attacking an outpost of the oppressive blue-helmeted United Nations, at the culmination of which they burn the U.N. flag and raise the flag of the "CCR" -- the Colonial Christian Republic, which the Hutaree folks promote.

Interestingly enough, the authorities in Bridgewater Township actually asked local militias to help them search for a couple of missing persons. Among them were members of the Hutaree militia:
While the SMVM training is public, Hutaree, a Christian-oriented group, shies away from public attention.

Wendy Lineweaver, 43, of Manchester Township, a Hutaree member, participated in both searches in the township.

She joined the tightly-knit unit after meeting several members at a Ron Paul rally several years ago in Ann Arbor. Lineweaver opposes surveillance cameras on streets, the use of body scanners at airports and fears the government may microchip people.

“If you really want to try and install a police state in this society, you’re going to hit a brick wall, meaning us,” she said. “That’s what we’re preparing for.”

Militia members are politically active, but have the same concerns as everyone else, said Rivka Pratt of Hamburg Township, who is Schiel’s fiancĂ©e. The mother of two is a member of Schiel’s unit.

“We all live normal lives,” she said. “We all worry about paying the bills. How the kids are doing in school…You don’t live your life worrying about the government.”
You even had the local Republican councilwoman whose brilliant scheme this was praising them afterward:
“Based on what I have observed of our local militia’s efforts, I highly recommend that other municipalities coordinate with and get to know their local militia members."
Meanwhile, their fellow militiamen are now busy throwing the Hutaree folks under the bus:
Mike Lackomar, of, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the were not a part of the raid.

Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.

"Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community," he said.
Lackomar said he was told there were five arrests Saturday and another five early Sunday. The FBI declined to comment.

One of the Hutaree members called a Michigan militia leader for assistance Saturday after federal agents had already began their raid, Lackomar said, but the militia member -- who is of Islamic decent and had heard about the threats -- declined to offer help. That Michigan militia leader is now working with federal officials to provide information on the Hutaree member for the investigation, Lackomar said Sunday.

"They are more of survivalist group and in an emergency they withdraw and stand their ground. They are actively training to be alongside Jesus," he said.
Of course, they'll all be clamoring to assure us that they're really just a bunch of civic-minded folks, honest. They just happen to be a little paranoid is all.

Hutaree Militia Planned To Attack, Kill Law-enforcement Officers And Their Families

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, the facts are now being made public in this weekend's militia bust in the Midwest, and it isn't pretty:
Six Michigan residents, two Ohio residents and an Indiana resident have been indicted on charges of attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in connection with their membership in a Lenawee County Christian militia group.

Members of the Hutaree -- including a Michigan couple and their two sons -- conspired to oppose by force the authority of the U.S. government, according to a release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

The indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court today claims that the Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices rigged with projectiles, which constitute weapons of mass destruction, according to the announcement by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.
You can read the indictment as a PDF here. Of particular note is this:
The general concept of of operations provided that the Hutaree would commit some violent act to draw the attention of law enforcement or government officials and which would draw a response by law enforcement. Possible such acts were discussed including killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking a funeral procession motorcade with weapons of mass destruction. These acts would intimidate and demoralize law enforcement, diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective.

The general concept of operations further provided that, once such action was taken, Hutaree members would then retreat to one of several "rally points" where the Hutaree would wage war against the government and be prepared to defend in-depth with trip-wired and command detonated anti-personnel Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), ambushes, and prepared fighting positions. It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would serve as a catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the Government.
CNN explains further:
According to the plan, the indictment said, the Hutaree wanted to use improvised explosive devices to attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession. The indictment said those explosive devices, commonly called IEDs, constitute weapons of mass destruction.

Subsequently, the indictment said, Hutaree leader David Brian Stone obtained information about IEDs over the Internet and e-mailed diagrams to a person he believed could manufacture them.

He then had his one of his sons, Joshua Matthew Stone, and others gather materials necessary to manufacture IEDs, the indictment alleges.

According to the indictment, David Brian Stone and David Brian Stone Jr. taught other Hutaree members in June how to make and use explosive devices.
The only funny aspect of all this: As Blue Texan at FDL observes, the right-wing blogosphere is falling all over itself to dream up excuses for these guys.

Meanwhile, Ed Brayton reports that Mike Vanderboegh, the ex-militiaman who called for bricks to be thrown through Democratic office windows, has simultaneously denounced the Hutaree and then suggested that the arrests could still spark "civil war" from the militias.

Hmmm. I can remember when I was being called an "alarmist" for pointing out that we were heading down this road.