Monday, December 26, 2011

The Freedom To Oppress: Why Ron Paul's Old Racist Newsletters Matter

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Let's face it -- Ron Paul's lame denials about his repulsively racist and homophobic newsletters of the '80s and '90s on CNN should permanently lay to rest everyone's favorite myth about the man, i.e., that he's a "straight shooter" and an "honest man". No he's not. He's a liar.

Anyone who can make millions of dollars for years off a notorious newsletter with their name on it and then later look into a camera and claim with a straight face: "I didn't write them. I didn't read them at the time. I disavow them. That's it" -- that man is a liar, pure and simple. Especially when you can find videos as recent as the above 1995 interview on C-SPAN in which he clearly embraces the content of those newsletters.

That alone should tell us everything we need to know about the man. The facts: Ron Paul had a significant role in determining the editorial direction of his newsletters, which were edited and largely written by Lew Rockwell and a staff under his direction. And yes, those newsletters were ugly, racist, homophobic, and bizarre excursions in right-wing extremism, extraordinarily popular with militiamen and other far-right "Patriots". But then, that would be because Paul built his political career in pandering to such extremists.

Conor Friedersdorf,
who is inclined to libertarianism and thus has a soft spot for Paul, has a thoughtful and nuanced take on the matter, but he also makes excuses for the inexcusable:
Do I think that Paul wrote the offending newsletters? I do not. Their style and racially bigoted philosophy is so starkly different from anything he has publicly espoused during his long career in public life -- and he is so forthright and uncensored in his pronouncements, even when they depart from mainstream or politically correct opinion -- that I'd wager substantially against his authorship if Las Vegas took such bets.
That's probably a safe bet, but it's beside the point: whether or not Paul did the actual writing, the newsletters were produced at Paul's behest and written deliberately in a way to make it sound as if it were Paul himself addressing the readers. More to the point, we also know that he had a significant role in the editorial decisions, and was responsible for the newsletters' larger thrust which -- from my reading of them at the time, picked up at various militia meeting tables in the 1990s -- was largely about "New World Order" conspiracy theories, as well as various other themes tailored to the far-right militia audience: Eliminating the IRS and the Fed, returning to the gold standard, and the usual fearmongering about minorities, crime, and immigration.

And all you have to do is examine Paul's record in Congress to realize that his newsletters reflected his actual politics at the time, since (by way of example), at the time he was viciously attacking the MLK holiday on his newsletter's pages, he was simultaneously opposing it on the floor of the House.

Likewise, the newsletters' extremist content was similar in nature to the bills he proposed -- for example, his newsletters' paranoid theorizing about the United Nations and the "New World Order" was reflected in his actual attempts to withdraw the United States from the United Nations.

This same paranoid worldview came up not merely in the newsletters, but in Paul's other publications, such as his 1988 tract World Money, World Banking, and World Government: A Special Report from the Ron Paul Investment Letter". The first two pages of this tract give you the flavor:

Paul has never repudiated his conspiracy-mongering ways. After all, he continues to appear on Alex Jones' "Conspiracy Planet" radio show and expound on the evils of the New World Order. This is all of a piece with Ron Paul's longtime embrace of right-wing extremism, of which the racist elements are only a component.

Indeed, these kinds of things are going to keep cropping up. Now Paul is denying having written a fundraising letter warning of "race war" that was sent out with his signature on it.

These revelations are significant beyond the merely tawdry and embarrassing aspects they present. Because they also tell us a great deal about the kind of president a man like Ron Paul would be.
Friedersrdorf, to his great credit, acknowledges this, but nonetheless concludes:
Should Paul continue to perform well in the polls, or even win the Iowa caucuses, national media attention is going to focus intensely on his newsletters as never before, and it won't represent a double-standard: published racism under any candidate's name would rightly attract press attention! Paul ought to stop acting aggrieved. He is not a victim here. Voters ought to do their best to understand the controversy, gauge Paul's character, and render judgment about his likely behavior were he elected to the presidency, relative to his competitors.

The racist newsletters should in fact be part of the calculus.

So should the uncomfortable fact that bygone complicity in racist newsletters doesn't necessarily make Paul the candidate most complicit in human depravity (sad as that is), or tell us whose policies, which candidate, would do the most to square American government with the highest ideals of our polity. Support for Paul is grounded for many in the judgment that he is that candidate. That his policies, the ones he would champion in general election debates and pursue if elected, are the most moral on offer among the GOP contenders. I remain sympathetic to that argument.
Well then, let us consider whether or not Paul's policies would be moral ones. And we know, as he has expressed over many years on many occasions, what the outline of his policies would look like: eliminating the income tax, dismantling the IRS, dismantling the Fed, returning to the gold standard, and radically gutting the federal government and its power, notably including its power to enforce civil-rights laws and to protect minorities. It was only recently, after all, that Paul reaffirmed that he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

That agenda, as it happens, matches up with the agenda that has long been promoted by the most racist elements in American politics of the past two generations and more -- the Posse Comitatus, the Aryan Nations, the Klan -- as well as by a variety of extremists with deep roots in far-right anti-Semitism, such as the John Birch Society (with whom Paul has enjoyed a long association).

And while they may employ vicious racism and bizarre extremism in their rhetoric supporting this agenda -- something largely absent from Paul's -- their reasons for pursuing an agenda identical to Paul's supposed "freedom" agenda have to do with the way they define "freedom" -- that is, as the freedom to oppress other people.

The roots of this lie in the Civil War, which was fought on one side by people who were willing to take up arms to defend their freedom to enslave other people. They clothed it in the language of "states' rights," but in the end the right in question was essentially the right to deprive other people of their rights. It should go without saying, at least in this day and age, that the very concept is not only laughably illogical but profoundly immoral as well -- not to mention fundamentally anti-democratic.
The whole panoply of subsequent court rulings (think Plessy v. Ferguson) and legislative miscreancies that created and supported the system of Jim Crow in the South and the Sundown Town phenomenon in the rest of the country, as well as the many failures of Congress to enact anti-lynching legislation -- the roots of institutionalized racism, as it were -- were likewise couched in the language of preserving "freedom" and "states rights". The America that Ron Paul's long-enunciated agenda would return us to, as it happens, would closely resemble the America of 1900. If Americans really understood what America looked like then, they would realize that this would not be a good thing at all.

As Bruce Bartlett sagely observed when the same issue arose regarding Ron Paul's son, Rand:
As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn't have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.
The handwringing over whether Paul is a racist or not really is beside the point. Labels really become inconsequential when the real issue is how their politics would play out on the ground if they achieved power. And in the end, there is a reason racists support Ron Paul's agenda: It would be a dream come true, a return to the days when the freedom to oppress others was protected by the American legal system.

To the extent that Paul's agenda really reflects a libertarian agenda, then this same problem reflects on the great shortcoming of libertarianism as a political philosophy. Friedersdorf objects to this strenuously, but he does not provide us with an adequate explanation for what amounts to a monstrous blind spot in libertarianism -- namely, their apparent belief that the only element of American political life capable of depriving Americans of their rights is the government, while pretending away the long and ugly history of Americans being deprived of their rights (including the simple right to live) not by the government, but by their fellow Americans.

What is utterly missing from libertarianism -- and particularly the libertarianism of Ron Paul -- is a recognition that their love of freedom is easily perverted into the freedom to deprive other people of their freedoms. When confronted with it, they simply try to shrug it off as a problem that freedom itself will eventually overcome -- when history, of course, has proven them wrong time and time again.

As we observed back then:
Ron Paul and Rand Paul both like to present radical ideas in reasonable clothing. But the consequences of their ideas have outcomes that we have seen proven in our own history as toxic and destructive to our democratic ideals. Their ideas were long ago discredited, and simply fluffing them up in new language will not make their real-life consequences any less horrific.

There is, after all, a simple reason the Pauls attract racists to their campaigns: Their ideologies would make racist discrimination legal again. You can call it a matter of deep intellectual consistency if you like. I call it selling cheap rationalizations for real evil in the world.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Is Tucson's KVOA Treating Hate Group Leader Glenn Spencer As A Legit News Source?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Here's a classic example of the way far-right hate groups have been moving into our mainstream discourse, being legitimized by a clueless and culpable mainstream media.

Tucson's NBC News affiliate -- KVOA-TV, Channel 4 -- ran this interesting segment the other day on a new/old technology to catch border crossers. The most interesting thing about it, though, was their chief source for the story: American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer:
HEREFORD - Most people agree we need to secure the border, right? The issue is, how do we know when the border is secure? How do we measure that? The American Border Patrol, a non-governmental organization that monitors the border, thinks an old technology may hold the new answer.

They're called geophones, basically, a magnet inside of a coil. But they can sense the smallest vibrations, like someone walking across the border. American Border Patrol installed the system on their ranch to test its effectiveness.

"And it works. It's been here for 11 months underground, working. And it counts everybody who crosses," said Glenn Spencer, American Border Patrol.

The sensors pick people up at 600 feet, but can start to analyze it better and tell if it's human from 300 feet.

"Showing in Google Earth where on the border the detection and the alert happened," said Spencer.
Notice anything missing from this story? Well, how about even the slightest mention of the fact that Spencer runs one of the most notorious anti-immigrant hate groups in the country?
Spencer was one of the first well-known anti-immigration activists to more or less openly court white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has attended conferences of American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in racist theories about blacks and others, and interviewed the magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, on his syndicated radio show. Another Spencer radio guest was California State University, Long Beach, Professor Kevin MacDonald, who is the architect of an elaborate anti-Semitic theory dressed up as evolutionary biology. Spencer also promoted on his website a booklet published by Taylor called The Color of Crime that claims to be a "relentlessly factual" study alleging — on the basis of Taylor's mixing up of all interracial crimes and race-motivated hate crimes — that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than whites to be hate criminals.
The ADL has more on Spencer.

Moreover, how about a disclaimer pointing out that the video footage of Spencer's that they run in this segment is part of his ongoing project to demonize Latinos?

It's not as though Spencer's involvement in anti-immigrant hate is an unknown matter in Arizona. After all, Shawna Forde was arrested on his property only two years ago.

Moreover, using him as a news source of any kind ought to raise big red flags for any journalist. After all, this is a guy who has spread false rumors that immigrants were carrying the Ebola virus. He's made his living for the past 15 years promoting the "Reconquista" conspiracy theory/hoax. And now he's a legitimate news source? On what planet?

So I called up the newsroom at KVOA to ask. I spoke with an assistant editor, a woman named Lisa, who defended the story by pointing out that it was about the technology Spencer has been using on his ranch -- and which is apparently about to be adopted on a test basis by state authorities -- to detect border crossers. I pointed out to her, however, that the story used Spencer's videos and legitimized his activities by treating him as a benign border-activism group.

She admitted that she was personally unaware that Spencer's American Border Patrol has long been designated a hate group. But she did not indicate whether any clarification would be broadcast for their viewers.

You see, Spencer has been working hard to mainstream himself these days, particularly by taking on a new tea-party guise that lets him reach a much broader audience than his old Minuteman schtick, now that Forde went and messed that up for him.

And thanks to the ignorance and irresponsibility of media mavens like the reporters at KVOA, he's getting there with plenty of help.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seasons Greetings From DOJ: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Rebuked For Abusing Civil Rights In Arizona

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Christmas came early for the law-abiding residents of Arizona's Maricopa County yesterday:
PHOENIX — In a strongly worded critique of the country’s best-known sheriff, the Justice Department on Thursday accused Sheriff Joe Arpaio of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by unfairly targeting Latinos for detention and arrest and retaliating against those who complain.

After an investigation that lasted more than three years, the civil rights division of the Justice Department said in a 22-page report that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which Mr. Arpaio leads, had “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency.” The department interfered with the inquiry, the government said, prompting a lawsuit that eventually led Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies to cooperate.

“We have peeled the onion to its core,” said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, noting during a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning that more than 400 inmates, deputies and others had been interviewed as part of the review, including Sheriff Arpaio and his command staff. Mr. Perez said the inquiry, which included jail visits and reviews of thousands of pages of internal documents, raised the question of whether Latinos were receiving “second-class policing services” in Maricopa County.

Mr. Perez said he hoped Sheriff Arpaio would cooperate with the federal government in turning the department around. Should he refuse to enter into a court-approved settlement agreement, Mr. Perez said, the government will file a lawsuit and the department could lose millions of dollars in federal money.

A separate federal grand jury investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s office is continuing, focusing on accusations of abuse of power by the department’s public corruption squad.
That investigation -- unlike this probe, which involved civil law -- is a criminal matter. The other shoe has yet to drop on that score.

Arpaio, of course, claims that this is all politically motivated:

"Don't come here and use me as a whipping boy for a national, international problem," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The DOJ warned Arpaio to stop racially profiling Hispanic members of the community, or face the consequences. But Arpaio vowed to continue his controversial immigration sweeps.

"I took an oath of office. I'm enforcing the state and federal laws," Arpaio said.. "It's as simple as that, and I will continue to enforce those state laws."

The normally media friendly sheriff stayed away from the cameras for most of the day today. And when he did speak, it was during a late-afternoon news conference with his attorneys at his side.

"I'm going to say it again, I will continue to enforce all the laws," Arpaio said during the 40-minute news conference.


"President Obama and his band of his merry men might as well erect their own pink neon sign on the Arizona-Mexico border saying welcome to your United States," Arpaio said. "Our home is your home."
The immediate effect, as the LA Times reported, is that Arpaio and his deputies have lost their right to enforce federal immigration law, and are moreover being kicked out of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program:
In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department was ending one agreement with Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and restricting the office’s access to another Homeland Security program.

“Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust,” Napolitano said. “DHS will not be a party to such practices. Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO's 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office access to the Secure Communities program.”

Under the 287(g) program, Arpaio’s deputies could question jail inmates about their immigration status. Under Secure Communities, fingerprints collected by state and local police are shared with immigration authorities to identify and deport tens of thousands of people each year.


U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, who represents part of Maricopa County, praised Homeland Security for terminating Maricopa County's participation in the 287(g) jail program, saying it underscored how serious the Justice Department’s findings were.

“It's been used wrongly and in a very abusive way,” Grijalva, longtime critic of the sheriff, said in an interview.
Indeed -- and those abuses raise serious questions about the programs themselves. If they give abusive law-enforcement agencies the power to substantially increase their abuse -- which was clearly the case here -- doesn't that seriously undermine the already questionable value of these programs in the first place?

Just asking.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Gun Magnet: Montana Awash In Far-Right Extremists, Thanks To Loose Laws

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A number of state legislatures in the Interior West in recent years, reflecting their deeply conservative constituencies, have tried to outdo each other in promoting gun rights within their boundaries -- almost always at the behest of far-right gun factions. Leading the way, probably, has been Montana, whose legislature has passed a number of radical bills in recent years aimed at limiting federal oversight of guns in the state, including a recent bill giving sheriffs the right to arrest federal agents.

Now Montanans are learning there is a steep price to pay for endorsing gun-rights extremism: Not only does it empower some of the most extreme right-wingers operating in the realm of mainstream politics, it also attracts some of the most radical members of the far right, including committed racists who see their new Western homes as the place to try to build a white-supremacist homeland.

David Holthouse has a four-part series at Media Matters
reporting on this phenomenon in detail, and it is a must-read:
In addition to calling on fellow right-wing extremists to move to the Flathead Valley, leaders of both the PLE and the Patriot movements in the region are urging followers to exploit Montana's weak firearms regulations by stocking up on guns, including .50 caliber sniper rifles and assault weapons, says Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which closely follows PLE and Patriot activity, including online communications.

"With the PLE, it's the coming battle with Zionist Occupied Government, with the Patriots, it's the New World Order, but again the rhetoric is similar: 'A big fight is coming, so move with us to Montana where it's easy to get a lot of serious guns, because chances are you're going to need them,'" says McAdam.

Gaede cited Montana's "pro-gun" culture in a recent PLE recruiting message posted to the major white nationalist online forum Stormfront.

"The atmosphere of the area has a distinct 'Montana' feel and attitude. That attitude is to leave others alone and allow them to have their own beliefs and choices," Gaede wrote. "There is a strong pro-gun and pro-hunting population and one of the strongest Constitution parties that I have seen yet. Our Christmas parade still goes by that name and we have a nativity scene in our public square with a Baby Jesus... Come Home!"
Yes, this is the same April Gaede who dressed up her twin daughters as a neo-Nazi pop-music act called Prussian Blue, all so that they could become the objects of creepy old Nazi fetishists' desires. (The girls recently told Montana reporters that they no longer believed in the Nazi upbringing.)

Gaede and her fellow neo-Nazis, in fact, have been intimidating their neighbors ever since they moved into the Kalispell area, and their activism has spread into larger campaigns of vicious harassment against liberals previously.

But as Holthouse explains, it isn't simply white supremacists who are changing the political landscape in Montana. They're being aided and abetted by far-right "Patriot" movement followers who are extending their power into the halls of the Montana Legislature -- particularly by trying to enact an extremist "gun rights" agenda that also reflects the longtime agenda of the racist radical right.

The Southern Poverty Law Center just released a report on this as well
Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist preacher who ran for president under the Constitution Party banner in 2008, moved 18 members of his family to Montana’s Flathead Valley last fall after receiving what he called a divine message telling him the state was the “tip of the spear” in the fight for liberty. Stewart Rhodes, a Yale-educated lawyer, former Army paratrooper and head of the conspiracy-minded Oath Keepers, also moved here. Rhodes is laying the groundwork for a new militia and is calling for citizens to adopt a barter economy to escape the bondage of U.S. currency.

... What is happening in Montana — thanks to this newest wave of extremists — is a convergence of two “separatist” ideas that have long fermented in the brew of Pacific Northwest extremism. The antigovernment “Patriots,” the larger of the two movements, want to establish a remote base of like-minded allies as a bastion of resistance for the day when, as they believe, the government will impose martial law. White supremacists are organizing around the idea of forming a long-desired all-white homeland far away from the multicultural cities.
Significantly, as we reported last year in an investigative report for AlterNet, a majority of the Patriot movement revival is taking place under the banner of the Tea Party, which has proven a fertile recruitment ground for right-wing extremism.

Moreover, the Montana Legislature, for this past session, has been largely controlled by this same faction of Tea Partying Republicans, following the lead of these gun-rights radicals. As we reported, these radicals actually announced their agenda in the fall of 2010 in the run-up to the election that brought the Tea Partiers to power:
The evening's first speaker is a fellow Montanan and another gun-rights figure: Missoula's own Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a longtime fixture on Montana's far-right political scene.

Marbut enjoys an almost legendary status among Patriots and Tea Parties, one seriously burnished by his May 2009 appearance on a Glenn Beck episode on Fox News as part of a group of state-level political activists Beck had called in to discuss then-nascent efforts by legislators in a number of conservative states to declare their "sovereignty" in relation to the federal government. Just the month before, Montana legislators had passed (and the Democratic governor signed) a bill declaring that all guns manufactured in the state were exempt from federal legislation. The bill had been drafted by Marbut, who enjoys guru-like status among the state's gun-rights aficionadoes.

Marbut has never actually been elected to any office at all, though he has run numerous times, largely because he resides in liberal Missoula, where local residents are all too well aware just how radical he really is – embodied by his long history of forming alliances and dalliances with figures on the extremist right. For instance, Marbut in the 1990s tried organizing Patriot "neighborhood watches," advising Militia of Montana members not to call themselves "militias". Of course, his concept of a "neighborhood watch" was largely a survivalist one, incorporating "communications, organizations, and supply" issues.

In 1994, disgusted with the passage of the Brady Act, Marbut suggested Montana secede from the Union, and his MSSA promoted a resolution legalizing the formation of "unorganized militias." And Marbut wasn't merely involved in the militias -- he also played footsie with Christian Identity activists, running his columns in a white-supremacist "Christian Identity" newspaper, along with a related militia magazine, the Sierra Times. And he's actively promoted tax-resistance-style jury nullification in the form of the Fully Informed Jury Association, which Marbut calls "the last peaceable barrier between innocent gun owners and a tyrannous government." FIJA sells video tapes of speeches by Red Beckman, among others.

Marbut references FIJA in his talk in Hamilton this night, but mostly he wants to talk about the next session of the Montana Legislature, where he hopes to propose a new piece of "sovereignty" lawmaking. He calls it his "Sheriffs First" bill.

"That's a bill that if we get it passed -- and I think we can -- we'll make it a crime in Montana, a state crime, for a federal officer to arrest, search or seize without the advance written permission of the county sheriff," Marbut explains, to enthusiastic applause.

"And how that will work is, ah, the federal officers might come to your local sheriff and say, 'OK, here's our probable cause, we believe there's people at this location in your county who have a meth lab – they're making methamphetamine. And we wanna bust 'em.' The sheriff might look it over and say, 'Gosh, I'm glad you brought this to me, here's your advance written permission, and I will send a couple deputies to help you.'

"Or the federal officers might come to the sheriff and say, 'Here's our probable cause, it leads us to believe there's somebody in your county at this location who's manufacturing firearms without a federal license. And we want to go bust them.' The sheriff might say, 'Sorry, we have a state law in Montana that authorizes that activity, it's perfectly legal here, you may not go bust them, you do not have permission, and if you do, we can put you in Deer Lodge. We can put you behind bars in Montana for doing that.' " That brings out the whoops alongside the applause.
Indeed, this bill -- along with a slate of others promoted by Marbut and his Patriot-movement cohorts, including a law to allow a reintroduction of spear hunting in the state -- passed this past spring, prompting the state's Democratic governor to publicly veto the bills with a branding iron. The Patriots, of course, are vowing to overwhelm any resistance in the next Legislature.

The newcomers have peculiar attitudes about their new neighbors that are not likely to win them many friends in the long term, however, particularly among longtime Montanans. Chuck Baldwin expressed it in his announcement of his move to the Flathead:
Baldwin went on to state that being born in Montana does not necessarily make one a Montanan.

“There are a lot of people that were born in Montana but are not Montanans,” Baldwin said. “And there are a lot of people, like me, who were not born in Montana but we have been Montanans our whole lives.” (Baldwin arrived in the Flathead in October.)

“Real Montanans love freedom,” he said. “Real Montanans will fight and die for the principles of truth, honor and freedom.”
Their solution, apparently, is to attempt to frighten and intimidate the "not real Montanans", such as the folks at the Montana Human Rights Network (founded by a sixth-generation Montanan), who comprise much of the state's tolerant, common-sensical longtime residents. They're now being subjected to the usual barrage of death threats and other forms of intimidation.

And make no mistake: They intend to intimidate with their superior arsenals. As Holthouse reports in the last installment:
At least five PLE members appear on videos from the expo. One of them, posting on Stormfront as "White Wolf," declared Weaver's presentation "amazing." Also in attendance was Scott Ernest, a white supremacist from southern Florida who, according to a travelogue he posted to Stormfront, a major white supremacist web forum, took Amtrak to Kalispell in order to visit the Flathead Valley for the first time and meet with Gaede and two other PLE leaders to discuss moving there.

Ernest has since relocated to Kalispell, where, according to his Stormfront posts, he's living in an RV. He's become a huge booster for PLE online, regularly updating his Stormfront thread, which has more than 21,000 views.

"It's paradise here," he gushes in one of more than 400 posts. "I open carry [a handgun] every day. If you can, you should too."
Those of us who endured a similar campaign in Idaho in the 1980s and '90s will be forgiven if they feel a little shudder of recognition.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Just Another 'Isolated Incident:' Georgia Militiamen Arrested For Plotting Ricin Attack

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.] 

We know that right-wing thinkers like Peter King and Bill O'Reilly believe the only serious domestic-terrorism threat Americans face is from "radical Islam" and its adherents. So no doubt they will again turn a blind eye to the most recent case of right-wing domestic terrorism, this time involving a plan involving one of the most toxic biological agents -- ricin, which is lethal in small doses -- and explosives.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Four North Georgia men accused of being members of a fringe militia group were arrested Tuesday by federal authorities for planning to make the deadly toxin ricin and obtain explosives, federal authorities said.

Authorities said that, beginning in March, the men held clandestine militia meetings and discussed using toxic agents and assassinations in an effort to undermine federal and state government and advance their interests.

The four men taken into federal custody are: Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, and Toccoa residents Dan Roberts, 67; Ray H. Adams, 65; and Samuel J. Crump, 68.
"These defendants, who are alleged to be part of a fringe militia group, are charged with planning attacks against their own fellow citizens and government," U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said. "To carry out their agenda, two of the defendants allegedly purchased purported explosives and a silencer, while the other two defendants took steps to attempt to produce a deadly biological toxin."
AP's Greg Bluestein has more details:
They have been talking about "covert" operations since at least March 2011, according to court records, discussing murder, theft and using toxic agents and assassinations to undermine the state and federal government.

At one meeting, investigators say, Thomas openly discussed creating a "bucket list" of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media he felt needed to be "taken out."

"I've been to war, and I've taken life before, and I can do it again," he told an undercover investigator, according to the records.

Thomas' wife, Charlotte, called the charges "baloney."

"He spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy. He would not do anything against his country," she said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Thomas and Roberts are accused of buying what they believed was a silencer and an unregistered explosive from an undercover informant in May and June 2011. Prosecutors say he discussed using the weapons in attacks against federal buildings.

Prosecutors say Crump also discussed making 10 pounds of ricin and dispersing it in Atlanta and various cities across the nation. Adams, meanwhile, is accused of showing Crump the formula to make ricin and identifying the ways to obtain the ingredients.
Of course, we've been reporting for some time that militias have been quietly resurgent across the rural landscape since about 2008, which was confirmed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in its 2009 investigative report on the subject. And as we noted then, this resurgence will be accompanied by the inevitable wave of domestic-terrorist attacks and attempts.

Most recently we had the would-be bomber of the Spokane Martin Luther King Day parade, as well as the rampaging militiaman still hiding out somewhere in the Montana woods. It's all added to the growing list of right-wing violence since 2008.

Which again begs the question: If we need to hold hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism, why doesn't that include our most prolific domestic terrorists, both historically and currently -- right-wing extremists?

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism; the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

Opportunistic Neo-Nazi Claims To Support #OccupyPhoenix...Asked To Leave

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Our favorite Arizona Nazi border watcher, J.T. Ready, recently reached new opportunistic depths by showing up and pretending to support Occupy Phoenix -- even though he was apparently confronted by other participants, who made it clear he wasn't welcome.

Let's be clear: J.T. Ready is a neo-Nazi, a classic totalitarian/authoritarian, someone who despises and loathes and sneers at the kind of democracy-in-action that the Occupy movement represents. He likes chaos, though, and he sees the movement's unsettling effect as something he can use. And showing up at protests always is good for a little attention. That's why he did this.

Predictably, as Matt Gertz at Media Matters reports, the same right-wing bloggers who have been trying to smear the Occupiers as anti-Semites picked this up and ran with it:
For some time, the right-wing media has been attempting to brand Occupy Wall Street and related protests as anti-Semitic. In the latest example, conservative blogger Jim Hoft is pointing to video of heavily armed Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready patrolling the Occupy Phoenix protest and saying nice things about the movement.

Hoft sarcastically concludes, "Yup. They're just like the tea party."

It's worth pointing out that much of the rhetoric Ready spouts during the video -- decrying fiat money, saying that he and others were "exercising our Second Amendment right so that everybody can have a First Amendment right," claiming that Operation Fast and Furious was intended to "take away our rights" and the perpetrators are traitors who should be put to death -- sounds much more like the rhetoric of a conservative protestor than an OWS supporter.

And indeed, that's the problem for Hoft: Ready previously attended and reportedly spoke at Tea Party rallies ...
Gertz then details all the times Ready has appeared in support of tea party events.

And who can forget Ready's recent excursion into the world of vigilante border watches? That, as it happens, is also the territory embraced by tea partiers, not Occupy.

Along the same lines, Ready has a history of associating with -- and being empowered by -- major tea party figures in Arizona, most notably Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of SB1070, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the publicity-hound sheriff of Maricopa County.

Indeed, Ready has been working tirelessly at making himself a familiar presence on the Arizona landscape. This is just the latest desperate bid for attention.

Andrew Breitbart, just as predictably, resorted to the same technique in his ongoing effort to smear Occupy as anti-Semitic. published a list detailing "#Occupy Wall Street's Supporters, Sponsors, and Sympathizers" that included a handful of neo-Nazi organizations.

Of course, this is an old technique of the racist far right: Embrace a mainstream entity as an entry point for legitimizing your agenda. It was perfected by David Duke during his political career as a Republican, and has been replicated ever since by the many racists seeking to mainstream themselves -- most recently, as the NAACP's 2010 report laid bare, through the auspices of the tea party.

You'd think conservatives would be a little sensitive to this issue. After all, they complain bitterly whenever someone points out that their side of the aisle attracts all kinds of racists and domestic terrorists.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That Fake Latina Candidate Drops Out When Russell Pearce's Nieces Are Subpoenaed

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

So it seems that the fake Hispanic candidate propped up by the corrupt author of SB1070, Russell Pearce, in his recall election in Mesa has suddenly dropped out:
Candidate Olivia Cortes on Thursday withdrew from the Legislative District 18 recall election of Senate President Russell Pearce amid ongoing allegations that her campaign was a sham set up by Pearce supporters to pull votes away from opponent Jerry Lewis.
Pearce will now face only fellow Republican Lewis in the first recall election of a sitting legislator in state history.

Cortes said in a statement that the "constant intimidation and harassment" led to her withdrawal. And her attorney said that the move was the condition of a deal to stop a court hearing scheduled for today.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke had agreed to hear additional testimony in a lawsuit challenging Cortes' candidacy, despite ruling earlier this week that she could remain on the ballot. Burke ruled that Pearce supporters put Cortes on the ballot, but he found no fault with Cortes herself.

A Lewis campaign spokesman said Cortes' decision further proves her sham candidacy but said the damage already has been done.

"From the Cortes/Pearce camp, it's mission accomplished. Their goal was to have the ballot printed with other names on it to confuse people, and that's been done," Lewis co-chairman John Giles said. "Voters are sometimes surprisingly uninformed, especially people who are voting absentee."
The New York Times has more:
But Ms. Cortes’s candidacy fell apart after Mr. Lewis’s allies said they had uncovered evidence of even more links between Ms. Cortes and Mr. Pearce, noting for instance that Mr. Pearce’s nieces had helped collect signatures to get Ms. Cortes on the ballot and that one of Mr. Pearce’s brothers, Lester, who is a justice of the peace and is prohibited from campaigning, accompanied them.

Instead of facing another court hearing on Friday, in which Mr. Pearce’s relatives were subpoenaed, Ms. Cortes agreed through her lawyer to pull out of the race.
Pearce was asked about it at the debate this weekend, too:
Ms. Cortes’s candidacy was not debated, but afterward Mr. Pearce was called by reporters, who grilled him on the issue. He denied being behind Ms. Cortes’s candidacy and said he had spoken to his nieces about their involvement. “I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I wish they hadn’t done it.”
If I were a Mesa voter, I would want to toss out Russell Pearce just for making it so obvious he thinks they're all stupid.

Meanwhile, they get to look forward to the next natural iteration of Russell Pearce's politics: an open white supremacist running for city council.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Alabama Harvests The Bitter Fruit Of Its Harsh New Immigration Laws: Tomatoes Dying On The Vine

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

 [Video via WJHG]

It's not like they weren't warned. There was already the example of Arizona, whose wrecked economy lies in ruins in the wake of SB1070 and the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that came with its passage.

People warned Alabamans that if they went ahead and passed their own version of anti-immigrant legislation, they would suffer similar economic consequences. But they did it anyway. Now, the state's anti-immigration laws -- which involve using schoolchildren as proxies for enforcement -- are easily the most draconian and vicious anti-immigrant laws in the country.

And guess what? They are now paying the price. Not only are the schools suddenly emptying of Latino children, more tellingly, the state's tomato farmers are in crisis because there's no one available to harvest the fruit. And the authors of the legislation are just telling them, "tough luck":
STEELE, Ala. -- A sponsor of Alabama's tough new immigration law told desperate tomato farmers Monday that he won't change the law, even though they told him that their crops are rotting in the field and they are at risk of losing their farms.

Republican state Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale met with about 50 growers, workers, brokers and business people Monday at a tomato packing shed on Chandler Mountain in northeast Alabama. They complained that the new law, which went into effect Thursday, scared off many of their migrant workers at harvest time.

"The tomatoes are rotting on the vine, and there is very little we can do," said Chad Smith, who farms tomatoes with his uncle, father and brother.

"My position is to stay with the law as it is," Beason told the farmers.

Beason helped write and sponsor a law the Legislature enacted in June to crack down on illegal immigration. It copied portions of laws enacted in Arizona, Georgia and other states, including allowing police to detain people indefinitely if they don't have legal status. Beason and other proponents said the law would help free up jobs for Alabamians in a state suffering through 9.9 percent unemployment.

The farmers said the some of their workers may have been in the country illegally, but they were the only ones willing to do the work.

"This law will be in effect this entire growing season," Beason told the farmers. He said he would talk to his congressman about the need for a federal temporary worker program that would help the farmers next season.

"There won't be no next growing season," farmer Wayne Smith said.

"Does America know how much this is going to affect them? They'll find out when they go to the grocery store. Prices on produce will double," he said.
Good question. No doubt these good Republicans will find a way to blame it on President Obama.

This is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to conservative ideology, just as it does when Randian fantasy meets reality -- which is to say, it quickly comes apart. The right-wing nativists want to pretend that undocumented immigrants are taking away jobs that Americans want to be doing, but the reality is they are largely filling unskilled-labor positions that involve back-breaking work -- the kind of work Americans simply are incapable of performing nowadays, regardless of pay.

Another report on the crisis in Alabama delves this point:

From 11Alive in Atlanta:
CHANDLER MOUNTAIN, Ala.-- Chad Smith's family grows tomatoes on a mountaintop in rural northeast Alabama, and ships them from to Canada.

The summer's crop has been good. But Smith sees thousands of overripe tomatoes rotting alongside his vines, and sees only trouble.

"As of right now, we could lose probably fifty percent of what we have left for the year," Smith said.

That, said Smith, is because of a stiff shortage of field hands, traditionally Hispanic migrant workers. And Smith doesn't sugar-coat their status.

"Farmers across the whole country and every state (rely) on illegal immigration workers to do this kind of work," Smith said, "because that's the only people that's willing to do it."

Like Georgia, this year Alabama enacted a tough new immigration law designed to squeeze out people working and living illegally in the US. By the time Smith's crop started ripening in July, he says most of his usual workers had disappeared.

Chad Smith says he's tried local workers.

"It ain't about the money, it's about the work physically. If a person can't do the work, they can't do it no matter how much you pay them," Smith said.

"As of next year, if nothing changes, there won't be a tomato grown here."
It appears that many of the Alabama workers are fleeing to Florida, which has more sane immigration statutes on the books.

Meanwhile, the farmers have been trying to talk sense into state officials, but to no avail:
"Give us hope, give us something," said farmer Jeremy Calvert, who served as moderator at the meeting. "We feed more people than ever before. We have to have a labor force. There are no machines to pick fresh tomatoes or cucumbers. We use Hispanic labor because we have to. We're caught between a rock and a hard place."

Calvert's words were repeated often concerning the largely Hispanic workforce that harvests the state's and nation's crops.

Keith Smith, a Gold Ridge area farmer who helped organize the event, said the labor issue extends beyond the agriculture community. He said other industries rely heavily on Hispanic labor because of necessity.
As the farmer in the video above observes:
FARMER: I was at a meeting at the Greenbriar restaurant in Huntsville several weeks ago, and there were several senators and legislators there ... Some of them spoke and said where were we at when this law was being debated. They heard from 80 percent of the people that said they were in favor of this law. Well, there's a fundamental problem with that. Eighty percent of the people that's for this law doesn't understand that the 1 percent of us feeds the United States. Our voice is small because we are small. ,,, But we have to have a labor force.
This is all very reminiscent of what's happened when there have been previous outbreaks of xenophobic hysteria. One prime example of this occurred during World War II, when an even more intense outbreak of hysteria in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor led Americans to incarcerate 120,000 Japanese Americans in various internment camps.

As it happened, Japanese Americans provided a substantial portion of the nation's fresh produce supply, particularly on the West Coast, but also in the Midwest. And when we shipped them off to concentration camps, we lost all that production -- even though the nativists who ardently pushed for the evacuation had dismissed this concern beforehand.

I explored this in some detail in my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community. The question first was raised when the idea of removing all Japanese Americans to the interior was being debated by the public:
The removal would not be without problems, warned some. “Approximately 95 percent of the vegetables grown here are raised by the Japanese,” noted J.R. Davidson, market master for the Pike Place Public Market in Seattle, where Eastside Japanese sold many of their goods. “About 35 percent of the sellers in the market are Japanese. Many white persons are leaving the produce business to take defense jobs, which are not open to the Japanese.” Letter writers to the local newspapers raised the same concern.

Their fears were quickly derided. Wrote Charlotte Drysdale of Seattle in a letter to the Post-Intelligencer:
It has been interesting to note how many contributors have been afraid we would have no garden truck if the Japs are sent to concentration areas. We had gardens long before the Japs were imported about the turn of the century, to work for a very low wage (a move for which we are still paying dearly) and we can still have them after we have no Japs.
Isn’t that discounting American ability just a little too low?
These concerns were raised during the congressional hearings that preceded the internment episode too:
Floyd Oles, a spokesman for the Washington Produce Shippers’ Association, warned the committee that the state’s vegetable and fruit production would suffer if the Japanese were evacuated and urged the members to reconsider. He was told that plans were already being formed for replacement farmers to take over the operation of the Japanese farms. And he was questioned about his business connections with Japanese produce cooperatives, including Bellevue’s.
The result was anything but pretty:

The day after Bellevue’s Japanese residents were loaded aboard the train for evacuation, the May 21 edition of the local weekly, the Bellevue American, noted their departure with a front-page story headlined, “Bellevue Japanese are Evacuated Wednesday -- Sent to California.”

On the same page was a smaller item headlined, “No Strawberry Festival This Year.” The story put a wartime face on the reasons presented for ending the city’s main summer attraction, a 16-year tradition: “With the rationing of gasoline, all agreed that the Festival would have to be abandoned this year. Other reasons given were: the shortage of sugar, conservation of tires, avoidance of large crowds and the war effort that is keeping so many busy.”

A simpler explanation, of course, was that 90 percent of Bellevue’s agricultural workforce -- the people who provided the Strawberry Festival with strawberries -- was riding a train to Pinedale, Calif. That loss became painfully obvious in the next week’s paper. A front-page headline read: “200 Workers Needed Now to Care for Crops in Overlake Area.”

The Japanese farmers, under threat of law, had maintained their crops through the spring. At the time they were evacuated, the lettuce crop was ready for harvest, peas were a week or two away, and strawberries were red and ready for plucking. Tomatoes and the second crop of lettuce were due for harvest by the end of July.

Western Farm and Produce Inc., which had stepped in as the wartime substitute for the Japanese, received a Farm Service Administration loan the day of the evacuation for $32,107, mostly to cover the costs it incurred in purchasing the remaining crops, and equipment to grow and harvest them, from the 33 lease farmers who had signed agreements. The company also set up operations at the Midlake warehouse the Japanese growers owned.

But it quickly became apparent that the company was going to have trouble raising enough labor to work the fields. H.C. Van Valkenburgh, the lawyer who formed the company and managed it, pleaded for help through the story in the American. “Labor is the biggest immediate problem because of the highly perishable nature of these crops, which are maturing rapidly,” the story reported. “The pay is much higher than in normal times, and many of the good people who are helping with such fine spirit, consider the money as secondary to the national need of preserving these foods.

“Most of these foods are going to the armed forces, according to Van Valkenburgh, who pointed out that a carload of cauliflower has just been shipped to men in Alaska, and another carload of lettuce has just been shipped to Chicago for the armed forces.” Van Valkenburgh told the reporter he needed 100 workers immediately for picking strawberries and another 100 to care for other crops.

A week later, Van Valkenburgh still needed 100 workers for the strawberry harvest. The following week’s story in the American made no mention of the other crops, but simply appealed for labor. “ ‘We much prefer to employ local help,’ said Mr. Van Valkenburgh Wednesday night. ‘Local help proves more reliable, transportation difficulties are avoided, the number of workers can be regulated, there is more interest aiding a local industry, workers can be trained into steady year-around jobs -- and, of course, we would much prefer to keep the money here.’

“ ‘Consequently, we are making an urgent appeal to all who want to aid in harvesting and caring for these crops to notify us at once, so that we can organize our labor. If insufficient local labor is available, we can get the workers from Seattle, but we want to know how many to send for.’ ”

Actually, the ready labor pool in Seattle was not merely short; it was practically nonexistent. Local Filipinos were already in place on Bainbridge Island farms, and the larger White River land tracts were also sapping the usual workforce. Few white farmers would touch the small Japanese tracts, and other laborers were signing up to join the war effort, which had the advantages of better pay and considerably greater glory.

Berry pickers were paid by the carry -- a wooden tray that held a large number of smaller berry crates, which meant that the fastest pickers were paid the most. The company also hired tomato planters and weeders, who were paid 50 cents an hour. Truck drivers to haul the goods were paid the best: $1 an hour.

But Western Farm and Produce lost a large portion of the strawberry crop to wet weather conditions, so returns on its first harvest were a considerable disappointment. Soon, it was cutting back its operations.

Confusion soon set in, especially as the Japanese leasees began to settle into the camps. In most cases, the farmers had reached agreement with Western Farm to continue paying them through the harvest, so they could in turn make their lease payments to the landowners. A few had been released of their lease obligations altogether, and so the company itself became responsible for paying the rent.

But Western Farm fell down on both accounts. First, it began receiving letters of complaint from the landowners who had released the Japanese from their leases, demanding rent for the land the company was working. The company paid up for a few months in some cases -- it contested others -- and then quit paying altogether after the summer.

Then the Japanese internees, with War Relocation Authority officials backing them, began demanding their unpaid rent. In some cases, the company made partial payments, but even those ended after 1942.

And, with only a handful of workers available for the harvest, it became clear that Van Valkenburgh’s grand scheme to become “the successor to the Bellevue Vegetable Growers Association,” as Western Farm and Produce Inc.’s letterhead suggested, was a money-losing proposition, and the operation quickly dried up.

The crops were abandoned. The company kept hiring tomato planters and weeders through July, but there is no indication that either the tomatoes or the second lettuce crop were ever harvested.

When the Nisei came back three and four years later, it was obvious that only a fraction of the crops they had planted were harvested. The farms had lain fallow since they had left.

And the Strawberry Festival, that great gathering in tiny Bellevue of thousands of people from all walks of life and from all around the Puget Sound, was gone forever.
Similarly, you have to wonder what will happen now to Alabama's tomato-farming industry. Once it gets blown away like this, it may take years to recover -- if it ever does.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tea Partiers In Arizona Prop Up Fake Latina Candidate In Hopes Of Saving Russell Pearce From Recall

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I guess we already knew that Russell Pearce -- author of SB1070 and our favorite Nazi-coddling nativist politician -- has nothing but contempt for Latino voters. Now he's demonstrating the same contempt for every voter in his Arizona legislative district.

Pearce, of course, is facing a recall election because voters in his district finally got tired of his anti-immigrant extremism -- not to mention his coarse, embarrassing corruption.

So how does Pearce go about convincing voters that now he's a trustworthy public servant? Why, by indulging in a scam that colorfully demonstrates both his base bigotry and his utter lack of ethics, of course.

It seems that Pearce's operatives -- notably, a local tea-party leader -- went out and recruited a hapless conservative Latino lady named Olivia Cortes to run a sham candidacy in the upcoming recall election -- the idea being that if enough Latinos vote for Cortes it will drain support away from his actual opponent, Jerry Lewis.

Phoenix's ABC 15 has more,
including a revealing interview with Cortes herself, who demonstrates clearly on camera that she's utterly clueless, a front for the tea partiers who support Pearce ardently:
For the first time, could there be evidence Cortes is a sham candidate? It was presented in Maricopa County Superior Court during Thursday's hearing.

An audio recording could help in the case to block the senate candidacy of Cortes.
In the recording, you hear Suzanne Dreher’s voice. She says she was paid to circulate petitions to get Olivia Cortes' name on the ballot.

A voter can be heard in the recording saying, “Oh, well, I don't think I want to sign because I support Russell Pearce.”

Dreher can reportedly be heard saying, “Well, then you want to sign.”

Under oath, she testified to a hidden agenda to get Sen. Russell Pearce re-elected.

“I was told if people were supporters of Pearce to go ahead and sign this and it would help his chances,” Dreher said in court.

“So the idea was to dilute or divert the vote?” asked Tom Ryan, the plaintiff’s attorney.
Dreher responded, “Yeah.”

Ryan asked Dreher, “Did anyone talk to you prior to you doing this advise you that by running a diversionary or sham candidate that might run afoul of Arizona election laws?

Dreher responded, “I had no idea.”
Here's Cortes' full interview with ABC 15. As you can see, she's being coached off-camera by the tea-partying Pearce operative -- a guy named Greg Western -- who created this fraud:

On Monday, the court ruled that Cortes can keep running, but it castigated Greg Western for playing games with the election:
In his ruling, Burke did skewer East Valley Tea Party chairman Greg Western, a Pearce supporter who has been helping Cortes with her campaign.

"His testimony that he has no idea who designed, posted, and paid for campaign signs supporting Cortes or who paid the professional circulators is too improbable to be believed," he said. "The court finds that Pearce supporters recruited Cortes, a political neophyte, to run in the recall election to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis to advance Pearce's recall election bid."

Burke said without the support of Pearce supporters, Cortes would have had no chance of qualifying as a candidate or running any sort of political campaign, but reiterated that the court found no wrongdoing by Cortes herself. He said the courts should not, in most cases, be the final arbiter of the motives political candidates have for running for election.

"Divining candidates' motives and acting on them is more properly the role of the voters," Burke said. "Plaintiff's remedy is through the ballot box and not the courts."

He said the fact that many petition gatherers honestly told signers that signing Cortes' petition would help Pearce makes it additionally difficult for him to find fraud.
Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched into the question of who is paying for Cortes' campaign, including the signs that are popping up all over Mesa.

Amusingly enough, Pearce -- who adamantly denies having anything to do with Cortes candidacy -- tried playing the race card when he was called out on this:
PEARCE: Where's Gloria Allred when you need her? You know, this Hispanic woman doesn't have a right to run? Is this a white male Mormon race only? Shame on them. Shame on them.
Obviously, Pearce and his operatives think we're all stupid. Or at least, that the voters of Mesa are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An Undercurrent of Extremism Runs Through the NRA's Board of Directors

Those of us who grew up around the NRA are all too familiar with one of the more striking facets of the organization's relentless fearmongering, its paranoid style: namely, it not only traffics in wild and groundless conspiracy theories about "gun grabbers" and Bircherite "New World Order" takeover schemes, but it forms deep associations with the very extremists whose far-right worldview fosters such paranoia.

The most recent example of this has been the way the NRA's fearmongering about President Obama has fostered real violence from right-wing extremists.

The reason for this kind of extremism is in fact a top-down phenomenon: increasingly, the people running the NRA are themselves deeply extremist.

The folks at the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence have put together a directory of the NRA's board titled Meet the NRA Directors. It's a fascinating site, one that well rewards scrolling through and reading.

In addition to what you'd expect -- a lot of ties to the arms manufacturers who funnel much of the money that is the NRA's lifeblood -- there is also, predictably, a deep undercurrent of right-wing extremism.

The most striking example of this is Robert K. Brown, the longtime publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine. As David Holthouse has explored in some detail already, Brown's magazine was for years the monthly Bible of the "militia" movement in the 1990s, one of the movement's more prominent promoters. The magazine not only promoted the concept of militias but offered advice on how to form them and urged participants to prepare for persecution from the New World Order.

The ties to violent extremists run deeper, in fact:
Soldier of Fortune distributed copies of a newsletter called The Resister during the 1990s. The Resister was published by Steven Barry, then a member of the Army’s Special Forces and leader of the unsanctioned Special Forces Underground organization. The newsletter initially drew inspiration from the controversial siege at Ruby Ridge. The content of the newsletter evidenced a “white Christian militia mentality,” according to Michael Reynolds from the Southern Poverty Law Center, containing racist and anti-Semitic content while also exploring “New World Order” conspiracy theories. When Timothy McVeigh was arrested for the Oklahoma City Bombing, in his possession was a Soldier of Fortune-distributed copy of The Resister.
Also on Brown's record: an array of crimes (largely would-be contract killers) associated with the magazine, as well Brown's associations with right-wing death squads operating in Central America in the 1980s.

As it happens, one of the writers for Brown's magazine -- indeed, he penned one of the first Soldier of Fortune pieces promoting militias in 1994, titled "Join A Militia -- Break The Law?" -- was yet another NRA board member, a fellow named Wayne Anthony Ross. Over the years, Ross has maintained his associations with the far-right Patriot movement, including his more recent involvement in the case of the Alaska militiamen arrested for an assassination plot:
In March 2011, five members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, including leader Francis Cox, were arrested for planning to kill Alaska State Troopers and a federal judge. The group -- which had stockpiled firearms and explosives—advocated the violent secession of Alaska from the United States. Five days after Cox and his co-conspirators were arrested, Alaska Citizens Militia "supply sergeant" William Fulton disappeared—but not before signing over his two houses to Ross, who in 2009 shared the stage with Cox at a Peacemakers meeting. In July 2011, it was reported that authorities were looking for Fulton, who they believe supplied weapons to Cox’s militia.
One of Ross's close associates -- Alaska Rep. Don Young -- is likewise an NRA board member -- and was similarly caught up in the Peacemakers brouhaha:
The Peacemakers had earlier distributed a “Letter of Declaration” which called for armed insurrection in response to the federal government’s enactment of gun control laws. Representative Young signed the letter at a Peacemakers “Open Carry” event in a Fairbanks restaurant. When asked during the event, “If any government should decide that we have to register certain of our arms or turn them in, what would your recommendation be?” Young replied, “Don't do it...I sincerely mean that. Don't turn them in.”
Holthouse reported on this incident at the time, which led us to wonder: Does Young need to reaffirm his oath to the Constitution?

We've been wondering because Young actually signed a revolutionary oath concocted by militia organizer Schaeffer Cox -- the Alaska militiaman arrested last week for plotting to kill cops and a couple of judges -- declaring that the signers would refuse to recognize any new federal taxes or gun laws: "[T]he duty of us good and faithful people will not be to obey them but to alter or abolish them and institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to us shall seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness."

Then there's Jim Gilmore, who took over the reins at Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation in 2009. The FCF likewise has a substantial history of promoting right-wing extremism (it too was a great promoter of the militia concept in the 1990s) and has more recently been closely linked to one of the most heinous acts of right-wing violence -- namely, Ander Breivik's horrific terrorist attack in Norway in which 93 people were killed:
The Free Congress Foundation (FCF), a think tank that promotes the far-right’s viewpoint in the “Culture War,” has courted a great deal of controversy. Gilmore effectively succeeded FCF President & CEO Paul Weyrich in 2009. On replacing Weyrich, Gilmore said, “Paul Weyrich blazed the trail for many conservative themes and I want to continue that leadership.” The “themes” advocated by FCF have included the following:
In his manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of a July 2011 terrorist attack in Norway that left 77 dead, quoted extensively and at length from a FCF-published book about “Cultural Marxism” entitled “Political Correctness: A Short History of Ideology.” The book was written by the former head of the FCF’s Center for Cultural Conservatism William Lind. According to investigative journalist Chip Berlet, “Breivik's core thesis is borrowed from William S. Lind's antisemitic conspiracy theory about 'Cultural Marxism'.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Lind as “a key popularizer of the idea of cultural Marxism.”
One of the more colorful NRA board members if rock guitarist Ted Nugent, whose fondness for saying outrageous things is accompanied by a willingness to embrace ethnic, racial and sexual hatemongering and their associated far-right conspiracy theories. The Educational Fund's site has a pretty good array, including this nugget:
Among "What I said is, 'If you can't speak English, get the fuck out of America.' Spurred by a first-person, hands-on, eyewitness experience in America, where I've gone to enough fuckin' convenience stores where the cocksucker behind the counter can't translate 'doughnut' for me. I never mentioned the word 'Hispanics.' I never mentioned the word 'Mexicans.' I never mentioned the word 'Latinos.' I never mentioned the words 'Spanish language.' I merely said, 'If you can't speak English, get the fuck out of America.”
Of course, we also recall how Nugent issued threats to both Obama and Hillary Clinton onstage in 2007:
Nugent: I was in Chicago last week I said---Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these you punk? Obama, he's a piece of shit and I told him to suck on one of my machine guns...Let's hear it for them. I was in NY and I said hey Hillary---you might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless bitch...Since I'm in California, I'm gonna find-- she might wanna suck on my machine gun! Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? Freeeeedom!
Once Obama was elected, Nugent just ratcheted it up, including his violent talk on Neil Cavuto's Fox News show in 2010:
I’m the expert on the health care bill because I kill pigs. And it’s the communist, Mao, Che agenda of the communist, Mao, Che fans in the White House. They’re pigs, Neil! We gotta kill the pig.
Talk like that earned Nugent inclusion on a list detailing "Hate in the Mainstream" compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Nugent also ardently promoted the theory that Obama planned to grab Americans' guns:
Meanwhile, in order to stop the drowning and murders, I will work on banning water, Obama can try to ban guns. Good luck. Save an innocent life, join the NRA and celebrate 138 years of keeping and bearing. Drive a bad guys nuts. Then shoot him while he’s committing a violent crime.
Some NRA board members, like Sandra Froman, don't have any associations with right-wing extremists in their backgrounds -- they just ardently promote their conspiracy theories:
In the August 2006 edition of America’s 1st Freedom, Froman claimed, “The United Nations is engaged in a global gun ban-scheme. It is well-organized and well funded by eccentric anti-gun billionaires. The goal of this movement is to get every nation to sign a treaty banning the private ownership of firearms worldwide and giving U.N. troops authority to enforce the treaty.” She was referring to a United Nations treaty dealing with small arms trafficking. The treaty’s actual goal is to reduce the illicit international trade in small arms—it does not address the issue of private firearms ownership. In any case, foreign treaties require approval by two-thirds of the members of the U.S. Senate in order to be ratified.
This undercurrent is nothing particularly new for the NRA -- it has a long history of these kinds of dalliances with the far right. But it appears to be growing stronger and louder and more radical than at any time since the militia-loving heyday of the 1990s.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whoda Thunk? Michele Bachmann Is A Big Fan Of The 1924 Asian Exclusion Act

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Among many other lunacies from last night's tea party debate, Michele Bachmann uttered this:
The immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960s when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws. What works is to have people come into the United States with a little bit of money in their pocket, legally, with sponsors so that if anything happens to them they don’t fall back on the taxpayers to take care of them.
Ian Milhiser at ThinkProgress explains:
In 1924, Congress passed a package of immigration laws — including the National Origins Act and the Asian Exclusion Act — establishing a quota system giving preferential treatment to European immigrants. Under these laws, the number of immigrants who could be admitted from a given country was capped at a percentage of the number of people from that nation who were living in the United States in 1890. Because Americans were overwhelming of European descent in 1890, the practical effect of these laws was an enormous thumb on the scale encouraging white immigration.
These quotas were eliminated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, an act which is widely credited for opening up our nation to new Americans of Asian and Central and South American descent.
As Milhiser explains, these laws were notorious for singling out Japanese immigrants -- and all other Asians as well -- for exclusion from immigration, which had the effect of reinforcing existing laws that prohibited Asians from even becoming naturalized citizens:
It’s worth noting that the 1924 laws that Bachmann believes to have worked so very well singled out certain people for particularly harsh treatment. As immigration scholar Roger Daniels explains:
1924 law also barred “aliens ineligible to citizenship” – reflecting the fact that American law had, since 1870, permitted only “white persons” and those “of African descent” to become naturalized citizens. The purpose of this specific clause was to keep out Japanese, as other Asians had been barred already.
The prohibition against naturalization embedded in these laws was slowly eradicated by the effects of World War II. Chinese -- who had been prohibited from emigration to the U.S. since 1884 -- were permitted to become naturalized American citizens in 1944 as a result of China's alliance with the U.S. Meanwhile, Japanese immigrants were finally permitted to become naturalized American citizens with passage in 1952 of the McCarran-Walter Act. But the race-based system of quotas persisted, and Asian immigration remained at a trickle as a result during those years.

This is the system that Bachmann thinks is just hunky-dory. Which is even more appalling when you consider its origins.

As I explained in my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community, the 1924 Immigration Act was passed at the height of racist anti-Japanese xenophobia, the culmination of a long campaign to exclude Asian immigrants of all stripes. It began on the local level in Pacific Coast states like Washington and California, and eventually became a national phenomenon -- one that had powerful consequences 17 years later:
Politicians like Albert Johnson [a congressman from Hoquiam, Washington] in particular were prone to picking up the anti-Japanese cause, since the agitating factions represented several key voting blocs, while the Japanese themselves were excluded from voting and thus had no political clout whatsoever. Various officeholders, especially rural legislators, found that attacking the Japanese threat, and piously talking about saving American civilization, went over well with the voters. But even on a statewide level, the issue received prominent play; Governor Hart, a Republican, campaigned for his ultimately successful re-election on a promise to outlaw the leasing of any property by the Issei, while one of his GOP primary opponents, John Stringer, took it a step further: “It is our duty to take every acre of land on Puget Sound away from the Japs and place it in the hands of our ex-soldiers.”

The Japanese and their few allies, which included the produce and agricultural associations that helped distribute their goods, were poorly organized compared to their opponents. They offered token protest of the proposed laws, but found themselves out-manned. When the legislature convened early in 1921, a flood of anti-Japanese bills awaited. The first proposal would have made it mandatory to post American citizens as guards at any Japanese-owned hotel. Another called for an official investigation of the Japanese immigrants. A third prohibited any “aliens and disloyal persons” from teaching in any public or private schools. All these faltered in the legislative process. But the fourth and centerpiece bill—a land law that forbade ownership of land by all “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” and making it a criminal offense to sell or lease land to any such alien—flew through both houses nearly unimpeded, passing the House 71-19 and the Senate 36-2. Governor Hart, freshly re-elected, signed the bill in short order.

Flush with political victory, Miller Freeman [leader of the anti-Japanese campaign in Washington] had the final say on the matter. In an article addressed to the Japanese community, he minced no words: “The people of this country never invited you here. You came into this country of your own responsibility, large numbers after our citizens supposed that Japanese immigration had been suppressed. You came notwithstanding you knew you were not welcome. You have created an abnormal situation in our midst for which you are to blame.”

The storm of venom against Japanese immigrants kept raining down for the next three years, often with an official imprimatur. New Mexico passed an alien land law in 1922, and Oregon, Montana, and Idaho all followed suit in 1923. Washington’s legislature tightened its own alien land law in 1923 by empowering the attorney general to seize the property of anyone who leased or sold to ineligible aliens.

The United States Supreme Court weighed in as well. Its 1922 ruling in Ozawa v. United States officially sanctioned the exclusion of all Asian races. A Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa—arguing that he had been almost entirely raised and educated in the United States, was a product of its universities, and was a Christian who spoke English in his home—sought to overturn a district court ruling that denied him the right to seek citizenship. And though the court agreed that he was “well qualified by character and education for citizenship,” it denied his appeal on the grounds that immigration laws limited naturalization to “free white persons and aliens of African nativity.” Then, in 1923, the court upheld the constitutionality of Washington’s alien land law with its Terrace v. Thompson ruling (in a case involving a King County landowner named Terrace who openly declared his wish to lease his land to an Issei farmer, and sued the state's attorney general over efforts to enforce the alien land law) which found that an alien ineligible for citizenship did not enjoy equal protection under the law.

The final blow came in 1924, when Albert Johnson, using his offices as chair of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee, introduced a bill that would limit immigration to a 2 percent quota for each nationality, but further prohibiting the admission of any “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” The bill easily passed the House, but once in the Senate, the provisions were altered to allow for a Japanese quota as well.

However, Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts then stood up in the Senate and denounced a letter from the Japanese ambassador—which had warned of “grave consequences” for relations between the two nations if the measure were to pass—as a “veiled threat” against the United States. Lodge led a stampede of support for the House version of the bill, and the era of the Gentlemen’s Agreement was over.

Signed shortly afterward by President Calvin Coolidge, complete Japanese exclusion was now the law. Officially called the Immigration Act of 1924, it became known popularly as the Asian Exclusion Act. (Its final clause: “The terms ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ do not include a wife husband by reason of a proxy or picture marriage.”)

Taken in isolation, these little acts of racial mean spiritedness may have seemed of little moment. But in fact they had consequences that eventually exploded into the history books. In Japan, the public had been closely watching the passage of the alien land laws with mounting outrage. And when news of the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act was announced, mass riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. As Pearl Buck would later observe, the then-nascent movement for American-style democracy, which had been slowly gaining momentum in Japan, was effectively wiped out overnight. The military authoritarians who would control the nation for the next 20 years gained complete political mastery, and one of the cornerstones of their rule was a bellicose anti-Americanism that would finally reach fruition in late 1941.
Moreover, the groundwork laid by the success of the nativist campaign led to one of the nation's great historical atrocities -- namely, the incarceration of 110,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

And we all remember how Michele Bachmann deplored that episode -- when it suited her own fearmongering purposes. Guess it's another story when it comes to immigration, eh?