Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Phrase For The Ages, Via Mark Sawyer: Republicans Basking In Their 'Summer Of Racial Resentment'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It isn't often that truth gets spoken at Fox News, let alone a deep truth about the behavior of both movement conservatives and Fox itself. But UCLA poli-sci prof Mark Sawyer managed to slip one into the morning broadcast yesterday during a segment of America's Newsroom with Shannon Bream filling in for Megyn Kelly.

The topic was the so-called "Ground Zero mosque", and Sawyer was crossing swords with radio talker Ben Ferguson, who seems incapable of anything beyond basic talking-points regurgitation.

Bream pointed to the mosque organizers' message of healing the wounds of 9/11 and wondered how that message got lost in the uproar. Sawyer, of course, couldn't help but chortle:
Sawyer: It's been lost because after that Laura Ingraham interview, you guys decided in your summer of racial resentment in the Republican Party, that you were going to whip this up, along with the New Black Panther Party, along with Shirley Sherrod, along with a bunch of other phony stories to get people all stirred up. And that's the point. Nothing's wrong with her message. Exactly what she's saying is exactly the America that we should all want to live in.
Good on Sawyer. I love it when someone says what needs saying, because it doesn't happen enough on teevee. (Of course, Ferguson not only couldn't respond, he then displayed his usual sensitivity by dismissing concerns that the mosque organizers were now getting death threats -- because hey, it happens all the time, right?)

Mind you, he limited the observation to Republicans -- but let's face it, everything he said was equally true about Fox News' behavior. Indeed, as we increasingly see via the money trail, Fox and the GOP are joined at the hip these days.

'Sovereign Citizenship': Not Just For White Supremacists Anymore

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

(Via The Alyona Show at YouTube)

What do you get when you mix the mushy-headedness of libertarianism with the nuttiness of right-wing extremism, all juiced up in the right-wing populism of the Tea Party movement?

Well, one of the outcomes is the rise in "sovereign citizens" -- those folks who believe in tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories about the government, including the notion that all you have to do is magically sign some documents an voila! You're no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government and its laws!

Indeed, as you may recall, this even allows you to move into mansions that are in foreclosure and proclaim them your very own. And as we saw in the case of Jerry and Joe Kane, there is a dark, violent side to this as well.

This was why, last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a study on sovereign citizens reporting a sharp increase in the numbers of people who were claiming sovereign citizenship:
As many as 300,000 people identify as sovereign citizens, the Southern Poverty Law Center found in a study to be published Thursday that was obtained by The Associated Press. Hate group monitors say their numbers have increased thanks to the recession, the foreclosure crisis, the growth of the Internet and the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Adherents expect the current American system of government to end one way or another.
"I'm the Patrick Henry of the 21st century. I'm here to regain our freedom," James McBride said in a jailhouse interview. "I'm going to, or die trying."

At the heart of their belief system: The government creates a secret identity for each citizen at birth, a "straw man," that controls an account at the U.S. Treasury used as collateral for foreign debt. File enough documents at the right offices and the money in those accounts can be used to pay off debt or make purchases worth thousands of dollars.

The movement is based on a form of "legal fundamentalism," said Michael Barkun, a retired Syracuse University political science professor who researches anti-government and hate groups.

"These people really seem to feel that filing certain kinds of legal papers that are connected to their theories will somehow also magically have the power to alter relationships and grant things that otherwise would be unobtainable," he said.

Experts say sovereign citizens are the latest manifestation of anti-government activists going back to the Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s, which recognized only local governments and no law enforcement official with more jurisdiction than a sheriff. In the 1980s, government protesters exploited the farm crisis by selling fraudulent debt relief programs.
You can read the full SPLC report here.

The ADL issued a similar report last week full version in PDF here:
In the summer of 2010, Americans have witnessed a wave of anti-government sentiment sweeping the country. In the mainstream, this has manifested itself in ways ranging from the spread of anti-incumbent electoral trends to the growth of anti-government movements such as the Tea Party movement.

On the fringes of American society, the growth of anti-government sentiment has helped spawn the proliferation of extreme anti-government conspiracy theories and the resurgence of anti-government extremist groups and movements, most noticeably the militia movement, which has grown from 50 groups or so in 2008 to nearly 200 in 2010.

However, there is another anti-government extremist movement that has also grown considerably in size and activity, though this growth—and, indeed, even the existence of the movement—has largely escaped public attention. This is the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement, which has exhibited a marked increase in activity in the past several years. The sovereign citizen movement is actually larger than its cousin militia movement, and has also engaged in more violent or confrontational incidents in recent years than militia groups have, yet it has attracted at best a fraction of the attention.

Part of the reason for this lack of attention is that the ideology of the movement is complicated, its tactics and activities are unusual, and adherents of the movement typically do not form organized groups that can draw more attention. Usually, the movement operates “under the radar” of public attention; even when attention is drawn to the activities, often criminal, of adherents, the media often does not understand their connection to an organized movement.
Of special note is this point -- namely, that while "sovereign citizenship" started out as a way for white supremacists to undermine the federal government, its clientele has broadened as it has spread.

From the SPLC report:
In recent years, however, most new recruits are people who have found themselves in a desperate situation and are searching for a quick fix. Others are intrigued by the notions of easy money and living a lawless life, free from any unpleasant consequences (Moreover, many self-identified sovereigns today are black and apparently completely unaware of the racist origins of their ideology.) When they experience some small success at using redemption techniques to battle minor traffic offenses or local licensing issues, they're hooked. For many, it's a political issue. They don't like taxes, traffic laws, child support obligations or making banks rich, but they are too impatient to try to change what they dislike by traditional, political means.

In times of economic prosperity, sovereigns typically rely on absurd and convoluted schemes to evade state and federal income taxes and hide their assets from the IRS. In times of financial hardship, they turn to debt- and mortgage-elimination scams, techniques to avoid child support payments, and even attempts to use their redemption techniques to get out of serious criminal charges. Jerry Kane, who'd suffered a series of personal defeats in life, specialized in teaching a mortgage-elimination technique that had no basis in the actual law.

Once in the movement, it's an immersive and heady experience. In the last three decades, the redemptionist subculture has grown from small groups of like-minded individuals in localized pockets around the nation to a richly layered society. Redemptionists attend specialized seminars and national conferences, enjoy a large assortment of alternative newspapers and radio networks, and subscribe to sovereign-oriented magazines and websites. They home school their children so that a new generation will not have to go through the same learning curve that they did to see past the government's curtain to the common-law utopia beyond.

While the techniques sold by promoters never perform as promised, most followers are nonetheless content to be fighting the battle, and they blame only the judges, lawyers, prosecutors and police when their gurus' methods fail. While most have never achieved financial success in life, they take pride in engaging the government in battle, comparing themselves to the founding fathers during the American Revolution.

In recent months, their movement has grown to the point where a group called the Guardians of the Free Republics is attempting to assemble its own common-law-based, alternative government on a national scale. Already, the group, which earlier this year demanded that the governors of all 50 states step down, claims to have set up a common-law court in every state. At least 1,350 people have signed up to serve as jurors on these pseudo-legal judicial bodies.
This is why you'll find folks like the scary black dude in Georgia who was using sovereign citizenship to scam his way into homes. Likewise, another black couple in Georgia were arrested by police for engaging in a similar scam.

And it attracts believers like this hapless Canadian fellow, Curtis Nixon, who as you can see in the video atop the post was having trouble answering the reporter's questions through the post-bong haze.

Of course, most of them are harmless. Jerry Kane was too. Until a cop pulled him over. And then all bets are off.

Unfortunately, no one has taken this phenomenon very seriously as long as it only involved white people. Maybe now that will start changing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fair And Balanced: O'Reilly Guest Rips Justice Probe Of Arpaio -- But Her Background As Andy Thomas Operative Goes Unmentioned

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Ah, there's nothing like watching Bill O'Reilly bloviate on Fox News to get daily lessons in journalistic ethics -- lessons, that is, in how to rather nakedly discard ethics altogether.

On Wednesday, O'Reilly featured a segment on the Justice Department's threat to sue Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his refusal to cooperate with its investigation of his racial-profiling practices. (Naturally, the feds have so far punked out.)

To do this, he brought on a guest named Rachel Alexander, identified as a "former deputy attorney for Maricopa County, AZ" -- and that was it. Alexander then proceeded to assure O'Reilly that the DOJ's threats, as well as its investigation, were purely "political" -- though all she could point to was some coincidental timing around the SB1070 matter, which in fact only arose well after the DOJ began investigating Arpaio.

But what is unmentioned is that Alexander, when she worked for Maricopa County, was a well-known operative and shill for the DA, Andrew Thomas -- one of Arpaio's most prominent allies. (When Thomas stepped down to run for Arizona Attorney General, he left Arpaio exposed to potential investigation, but Alexander departed with him shortly. Nowadays she identifies herself as the "Director of Social Media" for the J.D. Hayworth campaign.)1

What is also unmentioned is that Alexander is under investigation, along with Thomas, for ethical violations while working for Maricopa County:
In March, Berch ordered an inquiry into Thomas' behavior after a Superior Court judge ruled that Thomas acted unethically in his prosecution of Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. The inquiry was prompted in part by the State Bar of Arizona, the semi-governmental agency that licenses and polices lawyers in the state.

The Bar asked that an outside investigator be appointed, and the court appointed Colorado attorney John Gleason.

The Arizona Supreme Court also appointed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Jones as the "probable cause panelist," a judge of sorts.

Since then, several other complaints have been lodged against Thomas with the state Bar, including one by an association of defense attorneys.

Two of Thomas' former top prosecutors, Rachel Alexander and Lisa Aubuchon, also are under investigation. Alexander has since left the office, and Aubuchon is suspended with pay pending an internal investigation at the County Attorney's Office.

Thomas, Alexander and Aubuchon asked Jones to dismiss the complaints. Jones refused. On July 1, they filed their petitions for special action.
Some of this may have to do with Alexander's penchant for political cheerleading on the taxpayers' dime:
Rachel Alexander, the deputy county attorney now handling the Maricopa County Attorney's racketeering lawsuit against a host of county officials, was working out of Thomas' executive office as recently as mid-December, county records show.
Indeed, Alexander -- a conservative blogger and longtime Thomas supporter -- wasn't transferred to the MCAO's Major Crimes Unit until December 14. That's just one week before she became the attorney of record on the extremely complicated racketeering suit, in which Thomas accuses the county supervisors, some judges, and other elected officials, of being part of an elaborate criminal conspiracy.

The timing on that transfer is interesting because it confirms our theory -- posited on this blog yesterday -- that Alexander is an odd choice to be handling the RICO litigation. Thomas has basically staked his reputation on the idea that the county officials who oppose him are engaged in a massive (and bizarre) coverup so they can build their pet project. (According to the suit, the elected officials allegedly conspired to build a new county courthouse and thwart the county attorney from investigating it.)

But the lawsuit itself is a bizarre melange of unsubstantiated allegations and details that don't quite add up to anything. A veteran prosecutor would have a hell of a time advancing this case; a prosecutor with one week's experience in major crime is likely doomed.

We also learned another interesting thing about Alexander: She's supposed to be nonpolitical.

As we pointed out in our previous post, the blogger/neophyte crime fighter recently tweeted on behalf of her boss, county attorney Thomas, saying that he needed volunteers for his campaign for attorney general.
Interestingly, Alexander's most important role while working for Thomas was handling the aborted prosecutions of various county officials that eventually led the FBI's investigation of Arpaio for abuse of power -- a matter, as Alexander notes, entirely separate from the racial-profiling probe. Since she probably plays a significant role in the FBI investigation, it's pretty remarkable that she would even dare to publicly comment on it -- let alone castigate the Justice Department. But, considering that she's probably involved, it is entirely unsurprising.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coulter Claims 14th Amendment Doesn't Guarantee Citizenship As A Birthright. A Little Later, Ken Starr Corrects Her.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It seems that back in 1993, Sen. Harry Reid attacked birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, a position he later renounced and now stands thoroughly opposed to.

But the change in position gave Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly a chance not just to whack Reid last night on Fox, but for Coulter -- that self-described "constitutional attorney" -- to claim that the 14th Amendment doesn't really create birthright citizenship:
COULTER: And by the way, it is being lied about every place, but this is what the 14th Amendment required. I mean, Americans -- what Harry Reid was saying was utter common sense. Americans must be sitting back thinking, "What were they thinking back in 1860? Were Americans really worried? What is it? We haven't guaranteed citizenship."

O'REILLY: No, it was a totally different things. It was African-Americans being liberated from slavery.


O'REILLY: It was Native Americans being tossed off their land.

COULTER: It was not Native Americans. Native Americans were excluded from the 14th Amendment. It was all about Reconstruction. It was about free slaves, this multi-culti rainbow coalition is a brand-new invention.

It wasn't like Americans were upset that the deadbeats couldn't slip into the country and have babies and start collecting welfare. We didn't have welfare then. It was amazing they even thought about it.

It was all part of Reconstruction to get an amendment added to the Constitution.


COULTER: It was a big step. This whole baby anchor thing comes from a footnote that was not related to the opinion, in an opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982.

O'REILLY: But it would be very hard. It would be very hard and, I think, impossible.

COULTER: It's not in the Constitution.

O'REILLY: I think it's impossible now to get that anchor baby thing to be illegal, because you would have to get -- they would tie it to the 14th. Then it would have to go to the Supreme Court. Is it part of the amendment or not?

COULTER: Look, whether this is done by -- legislatively or by passing an amendment, I don't care about. I do care about being lied to about what the 14th Amendment says.

O'REILLY: OK, but let's be...

COULTER: That is a lie.
But then, a little over an hour later, former Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr -- the conservative attorney whose work pursuing Bill Clinton in the 1990s gave Ann Coulter her original raison d'etre as a media figure -- came on Greta Van Susteren's show and explained exactly why Coulter is full of crap:
STARR: Well, Greta, I think it would take a constitutional amendment to change that. You know, this is an ancient part of law, that we then made absolutely clear in the 14th Amendment, which was ratified after our Civil War. And the 14th Amendment guarantees every person certain rights to due process, to the protection of life, liberty and property, to the equal protection of the laws. And that is such an important set of protections for all of us as Americans.

But it also begins -- that is, the 14th Amendment, this post-Civil War amendment begins with a specific definition that a person born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States is a citizen of the United States. That's pretty clear to me.
So I think it would take a constitutional amendment to change it. But it's not as if the ratifiers and the architects of the 14th Amendment just made it up. They were really restoring a very venerable tradition in English law and frankly United States law -- until the infamous tradition of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott that held African Americans, those who were in a condition of servitude, who were slaves, were not citizens of the United States. That was profoundly wrong, and it took a constitutional amendment to overrule that decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Coulter might also want to check with Michael Gerson:
The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people "born or naturalized in the United States" for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice.

They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship -- birth -- that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don't have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.
Ah, but Coulter and O'Reilly are obviously species of that 21st-century political creature: the Dred Scott Republican.

PolitiFact has a balanced and thorough rundown
of the facts about "anchor babies".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ho Hum. Just Another Domestic-Terror Attack Gone Wrong. Nothing To See Here, Move Along.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Hm. Wonder how long before this planned domestic-terrorism attack on a police headquarters in McKinney, Texas, is labeled "just another isolated incident":
A man apparently bent on destroying the police headquarters in McKinney was shot and killed this morning after spraying the building with bullets.

Parick Gray_d9af1.JPG Police say 29-year-old Patrick Gray Sharp drove a Ford F150 pickup pulling a trailer to the station and set it on fire in an apparent attempt to draw people out of the building. Inside the trailer, police said, were wood chips, roadside flares, gasoline, and ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the type used in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

"He had a plan. He was executing his plan," McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski said at an afternoon news conference at which he confirmed Sharp's identity and talked about the unusual nature of the attack.

Kowalski said more than 100 shell casings were found in the area, and 23 windows were broken in the building. Officers returned fire, and Sharp was killed 50 to 200 yards south of the police station. It was unclear whether he was shot by police or died from a self-inflicted wound.

No one else was injured in the incident, which began about 9 a.m. and according to Kowalski lasted less than five minutes.

"We know the who, what, when, where. "We don't know the why," Kowalski said.
He said Sharp, who lived in Anna, did not have a criminal record.

"We're delving more into his background," the chief said.
CBS-11 has more details:
Police say Sharp may have been trying to draw people out of the building and blow up a trailer loaded with explosives. Kowalski says Sharp fired more than 100 rounds before he died.

During a morning news conference McKinney Police Deputy Chief Scott Brewer confirmed that around 9 a.m. a man driving a Ford F-150 truck drove up on south side of the Public Safety Building, pulling a trailer. The building houses both the McKinney Police and Fire Departments.

Immediately after Sharp exited the vehicle it became engulfed in flames. Police believed there was ammunition inside the pickup. "Subsequently the fire itself set off that ammunition, causing rounds to be dispersed in immediate area," explained Brewer.

Sharp began yelling something toward the building and opened fire. Officers in and outside the building began searching for the shooter. The suspect was located and there was an exchange of gunfire.
The Dallas Morning News went out and talked to his neighbors. Apparently Sharp had a roomie named Eric McClellan who was nowhere near the scene:
McClellan was vacationing in Philadelphia when the shooting occurred, according to his mother. Police said Tuesday afternoon that they had reached him, and he was surprised by the news.

McClellan and Sharp, 29, "were cool guys," Mullins said. "They stuck to themselves."
Both neighbors said they had no idea what could have been behind Sharp's actions Tuesday.

Police say Sharp had no criminal record, but had been a witness in court cases.
He had been working at Encore Wire Corp. in McKinney, according to the company, which said he resigned a few days ago.

Cheryl Cox, McClellan's mother, said Sharp and her son both worked in security at Encore.
Eventually we'll find out more about why Sharp targeted his local police station, though it's worth noting that his strategy was not entirely different from the Hutaree Militia's. Moreover, certain other aspects -- particularly the presence of an ammonium-nitrate bomb -- indicate a well-established modus operandi.

But of course, it will all be written off as just another "lone wolf" indulging in an "isolated incident."

Funny how we keep having all these "isolated incidents", isn't it?

O'Reilly Launches Whinefest When NYC Mosque Bashers Get Called Out For Their Bigotry. Then Rove Compares Muslims To Neo-Nazis.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

"How it infuriates a bigot, when he is forced to drag out his dark convictions." -- Logan Pearsall Smith.
Bill O'Reilly was all a-squawk yesterday at the prospect that someone might point out what's obvious to everyone who's watched the growing fake "controversy" over the NYC "Ground Zero" mosque -- namely, that the predicate of people's objections to it revolve around their irrational and bigoted eagerness to lump peaceful American Muslims in with a tiny handful of violent radicals.
O'Reilly: Here's the question. How does the far left survive in this country? How? That crew is so hateful, so harmful to the nation, it's amazing they have any platform at all. If you oppose gay marriage, you're a homophobe. If you want a secure southern border, you are anti-Hispanic. And now, if you think building a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero is inappropriate, you are intolerant, an anti-Muslim bigot.

... Do you see what's happening here, ladies and gentlemen? The far left will never debate the merits of the issue. They simply attack and begin branding their opponents as racists, bigots, and un-American. Let's get down to it. There are thousands of Americans who lost loved ones on 9/11. Many of these people feel a Muslim display so near the attack zone is hurtful because fanatical Muslims killed their family and friends. So, where is the tolerance toward the 9/11 families? Where is the understanding and respect for their feelings?

President Obama well understands the emotions in play, which is why he will not comment on the so-called wisdom of building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. But the far left doesn't care about the wisdom of the project because they are promoting the fiction that America is mean to Muslims. Anything that makes U.S. policy seem oppressive is embraced by these loons.

Every poll says the majority of Americans believe the proposed mosque is simply not a good idea. Nobody I know wants to violate religious freedom. Nobody wants to persecute Muslims. Nobody wants to cause trouble. What we do want is a sane country. Again, I don't know how the far left continues to survive in the USA. And that's the Memo.
A little while later, he brought on Karl Rove to affix his seal of approval -- and he only confirmed that Republicans are sinking to the lowest kind of bigotry in this affair:
Rove: They're demonstrating that they're way out of touch with the American people. This is an issue in which the vast majority of American people believe there is a freedom of religion that is ingrained in our Constitution, and that right of freedom, of free expression of religion is best exercised by not building it here.

Look, we've got a free -- in that same First Amendment, there is a right of freedom of speech. Who believes that, say, skinheads should show up at a black sorority convention and scream bigoted remarks? Who believes that there is a right of freedom of assembly? Who believes, you know, that neo-Nazis should show up at the B'nai B'rith hotel and have their meeting in the same, you know, the next meeting room?

There are rights that everyone has that it would be prudent not to exercise them at certain times, and this right that they have to build a religious building where they want should be prudently exercised elsewhere.
It does seem that Rove doesn't actually believe there is freedom of assembly. In point of fact, we do allow neo-Nazis to hold rallies in racially inflamed communities, just as we allow the Fred Phelpses of the world to show up at the funerals of soldiers.

But it tells us everything we need to know about the right-wing perspective on this that he would blithely compare Muslims practicing their religion peacefully to neo-Nazis and skinheads -- as though they're moral equivalents.

Pretty much proves Bill Press's point -- the one that had O'Reilly squawking:
There is only one reason to oppose this mosque -- and that is to paint Islam as an evil religion.

Palin Says NYC Mosque Would Be A 'Stab In The Heart' To The Nation's Bedwetters. And We Should Care ... Why?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Sarah Palin went all Pam Geller on us the other night with Greta Van Susteren on Fox:
Palin: Ya know, it sounds cliched to say the president is disconnected from the American people on this issue, but how else do you describe it? He just doesn't get it -- that this is an insensitive move on the part of those Muslims who want to build that mosque in this location, that feels like a stab in the heart of, collectively, Americans who still have that lingering pain from 9/11.
Oh please. These drama queens on the right need to explain to us just who among the survivors of the 9/11 attacks -- let alone those right-wing bedwetters traumatized by repeated viewing of the attacks -- sees someone expressing their religion freely as an attack on them.

We know, they're out there (right, Pam?), but then someone needs to explain why we need to pay any attention to -- let alone make important decisions based on their input -- these fundamentally irrational hysteria-mongers.