Saturday, January 29, 2011

California wingnut arrested outside Michigan mosque with explosives: Just another 'isolated incident'

-- by Dave

Now, I don't know about you, but when an agitated man drives all the way from California to Dearborn, Michigan, with a trunk full of Class C explosives (high-end fireworks, mostly) and is arrested outside an Islamic center for making terrorist threats -- well hey, I just naturally assume that this has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the right-wing Islamophobic hatred that's regularly ginned up by radio and TV talkers.

From the Detroit Free Press:

About 700 people were attending a funeral inside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, the largest mosque in metro Detroit, when Dearborn police arrived to arrest a man in a car in the parking lot.

He had driven to Michigan from California and reportedly was overheard in a bar making threatening comments about Muslims or Arabs. His car was loaded with large, illegal fireworks, police said. Now, Roger Stockham, 63, is jailed on charges that include making a false report or threat of terrorism.

"He's very dangerous," said Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad.

Now, how do we know that this couldn't possibly have been a right-wing ideologue? Why, because he had been arrested back in 2002 for threatening President Bush -- which is always a certain sign of left-wing politics, according to every right-wing talker on the planet. From the Detroit News:

A decorated Army veteran accused of plotting to blow up a Metro Detroit mosque served time in federal prison for threatening to kill President George W. Bush and bomb a Vermont veterans' clinic in 2002.

Ah, but then we read the details of that particular arrest:

In the Vermont incident, he told authorities at the time of his arrest at a Veterans Affairs Department complex in Colchester that his minivan was full of explosives. A search found no explosives.

Before the arrest, Stockham called a local paper twice to say he was going to explode bombs in the neighborhood. In one call, he identified himself as "Hem Ahadin," saying he was "a local Muslim terrorist on a roll."

He ranted against the VA, the FBI and Bush, largely because of the things the president had said about Iraq in a speech earlier in the week.

According to affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Stockham threatened to carry out "jihad," or holy war, against the VA office in White River, Vt.

In other words, the threat against Bush was made in the context of Stockham pretending to be an Islamic terrorist -- that is, he threatened Bush because he wanted his listeners to believe he was a Muslim, since he wanted authorities to assume whatever act he committed was an act of Islamist terrorism.

Most of all, the man had been diagnosed with (and treated for) mental illness on several occasions, which we all know means you can't possibly blame right-wing rhetoric for having helped inspire the act, right?

Yep, just another isolated incident.. We're up to 21 and counting, by the way.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Frank Luntz gets called out for his phony Obama-bashing 'focus group' after the SOTU

-- by Dave

[media id="19523" embed="true" image="true" download="true"]

It really isn't any news to our readers that Frank Luntz is one of the most ethics-challenged "pollsters" out there, particularly since he really has had so much influence on our national discourse by his significant role in shaping right-wing talking points.

But as Ellen at NewsHounds observed the other day, he really reached new depths with his dog-and-pony "focus group" on Fox News with Sean Hannity that followed President Obama's State of the Union address -- because it was so obviously larded up with Obama-haters:

Given that 53% of the country voted for Barack Obama, 15 or 16 people should have been Obama voters to make it a representative sample of Americans. Furthermore, given their level of hostility to Obama, especially when he is enjoying a resurgence in the polls, you have to wonder how many of those 13 were Obama-voting Republicans or Tea Partiers. Luntz also repeatedly asked his group questions designed to elicit negative comments about Obama.

Today, the L.A. Times' James Rainey lowered the boom with a devastating critique:

The kangaroo court convened with Chief Justice Hannity declaring Obama "flat," redundant and out of touch. Luntz didn't even bother to stifle a smile when he told the 29 members of the focus group, "I don't want you to feel under pressure because of what Sean Hannity just said."

Luntz asked those seated in the front row to give a word or two to assess Obama's performance. Seven of 10 let him have it. "Platitudes," said one, followed by "empty, redundant, political, not connected with America, hyperbole and Obama conflicting...."

Never mind trying to find neutral language — the goal of any truly nonpartisan pollster — so as not to taint the subjects. In one question, Luntz allowed the panel to say only that the speech had exceeded or fell short of expectations. No chance for the panelists to stake out the likely middle ground. Lo and behold! Most of them said the speech fell short.

Perhaps the slipperiest of Luntz's tricks played on the most important question of all: how Obama has handled the economy. First noting that the president called the "worst" of the recession over, Luntz later said: "How many of you believe the recession is over, raise your hands?" He then relayed the result: "Three of you. So obviously that must have undercut credibility when he said it?"

Of course, when you misstate what a politician says — in this case taking out the all-important qualifier that Obama referred to the worst of the recession ending — it's not hard to make that politician look woefully out of touch.

In an exchange of e-mails the next day, Luntz defended his claim. He said his panel had "dialed downward" (with hand-held devices for keeping running tabs on the speech) at the moment Obama spoke about the recession. "It's what they heard," Luntz said. "I realize Obama said the worst of the recession is over, but they heard the recession is over."

The day after our little e-mail chat, Luntz clearly intended to keep mangling Obama's message. "The president said the recession is over," he said on the Fox Business Network's "Imus in the Morning." Naturally, people are too "angry" and "agitated" to hear that kind of talk, he said.

Indeed. As you can see from the video above, Hannity sets the tone from the outset, clearly advising the "focus group" on what the tenor of their remarks should be -- though Luntz lamely tries to tell them not to pay Hannity any mind:

HANNITY: First of all, I thought a lot of this was flat, surprisingly so, inasmuch as we've heard a lot of this before -- earmark reform, transparency, for example. It almost seemed like the "Yes, we can" magic disappeared a little, maybe because we've heard it before.

But the thing that struck me Frank, and I'm dying to find out what your group says, is the disconnect. I did not feel the president had the sense of urgency, how bad unemployment, the debt, the deficit is, when he called for $400 billion in savings, when he accumulated $3.4 trillion in new debt since he's been president. It seems like he's trying to sell the same policies.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Let's fan out what our 29 people in Atlanta had to say. And I don't want you to feel under pressure because of what Sean Hannity just said. I want a word or phrase to describe what you thought of the speech.

And it just goes quickly downhill from there.

Nice schtick you've got there, Frank. It's obvious you're addressing those concerns about not getting as much airtime on Fox as you used to, as Rainey notes:

He has suggested that his airtime has previously been cut on Fox because his findings didn't comport with the outlet's orthodoxy.

All "fixed" now, eh?

Full transcript here.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Full video of 'New Black Panthers' scene reveals GOP attorneys orchestrating the affair

[Video from U.S. Commission on Civil Rights]

-- by Dave

It was pretty obvious from the start that the whole New Black Panthers Party "voter intimidation" controversy was a Breitbart-like right-wing operation intended to gin up fear among white voters, made for heavy airplay on Fox News -- and later, to become an Obama-bashing tool, especially in the hands of Bush-appointed right-wing operatives still inside the Justice Department.

Now Ryan J. Reilly at TPM Muckraker has a great little scoop demonstrating that this whole scene in fact was being orchestrated by GOP attorneys: It turns out that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which has been devoting a great deal of energy to the matter, finally released the full two-and-a-half-minute video showing the New Black Panthers being chatted up by police outside the polling station in Philadelphia -- and then afterwards, the "poll watchers" -- lawyers hired by the GOP -- orchestrating the scene:

In the extended version of the footage, posted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this month, a police officer tells Morse to back off. That's when the commotion begins.

The video shows someone off-screen to Morse's left, telling the officer "I got him, I got him." A man who appears to be Chris Hill, a Republican poll watcher who was accused of intimidating voters at the polls by another woman at the location, says "Put it down. You've got enough."

Then Bartle Bull chimes in. "Don't you threaten him with your hands. You're threatening him. Don't you use your hands!"

Soon an individual seems to grab Morse's arm or his camera -- the screen moves erratically. "I'm a fucking professional videographer," Morse tells the person trying to stop him from filming. "I was paid... to come from L.A. today."

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which has doggedly pursued the Justice Department's handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, released the final version of their report this week, complete with responses from all the commissioners on the panel. Two Democratic commissioners who have dissented from the investigation pointed out the additional footage in their reply and note that while the Justice Department handed over a full copy of the video, the Commission didn't see fit to post it online until this month, far after the report had been finished.

The video shows that the white Republican poll watchers who showed up to the majority African-American precinct knew exactly what kind of media sensation they had on their hands.

"We're on the same team," says another Republican poll watcher off screen.

"You're fucking up the story. Don't fuck up the story," one unidentified poll watcher tells Morse.

"You guys are lawyers, I'm a videographer," Morse says.

The USCCR issued its full report, including evidentiary material, earlier this week, and as you can see it's a pretty divided affair, largely along partisan lines -- though in fact conservative Bush appointee Abigail Thernstrom backs up her earlier concerns about the investigation with a brief but scathing dissent:

This investigation lacked political and intellectual integrity from the outset, and has been consistently undermined by the imbalance between the gravity of the allegations and the strength of the evidence available to support such charges. Some commissioners offered serious, principled critiques of the process, and questioned the evidentiary record. Their views were contemptuously ignored by the commission's majority.

The majority charges that racial double standards govern the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in the Holder Justice Department. If that can be convincingly demonstrated, it will be a grave indictment of this administration.

But that evidentiary showing awaits further investigation by the Department of Justice and Congress. I applaud that investigation, and hope that it will shed more light on this important question than the tendentious report provided by the commission’s majority.

Indeed. As we explained previously:

So a little perspective is perhaps helpful here: There are indeed black racist hate groups (the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors is another). However, they are dwarfed both in size and in sheer numbers by white racist hate groups. Check the SPLC's compendium of hate groups and you'll see what I mean: they outnumber anti-white racists by about 99 to 1.

Oddly enough, we never get any reporting about these hate groups from Fox News -- except when they want to attack the Department of Homeland Security's bulletin warning about the rising likelihood of violent terrorism from right-wing extremists. Then, they're all too eager to simply whitewash away the very existence of white supremacists and far-right terrorists.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Liberals don't want to 'silence' conservatives -- they'd just like to have an honest democratic debate

-- by Dave

Right-wingers seem to have a problem understanding how this whole free-speech thing works. They seem to believe, for instance, that it's perfectly acceptable for them to say the most outrageous things imaginable as part of their rights to free speech -- but if someone stands up and exercises their free-speech rights by criticizing what they said, then by God, they're trying to take their rights away!

Like those brilliant minds over at the Right Scoop:

What is really at work here is the Left trying to control the speech of a small group of impressionable people – Republicans. They could care less about how civil the nation is but if they can keep the Republicans from name calling, they end up looking better than they would if Republicans constantly reminded America of their socialist agenda.

This idea intrigues Fox's Megyn Kelly yesterday morning, and so she invited Alan Colmes on to chew it over. She found she had more than she bargained for:

COLMES: When Sarah Palin responds to the State of the Union address and uses the acronym WTF, and says it was a 'WTF' speech, that is really uncalled-for and over the top. That is --

KELLY: Why can't she say that? What is the problem with saying that?

COLMES: I didn't say she couldn't say that. But I have a right to get on the air that's absolutely absurd -- let her say it! In fact, I want her to say more of that stuff! But we have the right to come on and say that's absolutely absurd and ridiculous! I'm not saying anybody should be shut down.

KELLY: Yes, but others are. You're not.

COLMES: Come on, who's saying anybody should be shut down?

KELLY: This call for civility.

COLMES: Wait a minute, Megyn. Who's trying to shut who down? Who's trying to shut anybody down? Who?

KELLY: Well, that's the question. The theory is -- the theory is that this call for civility in fact an effort to silence critics who -- let me just finish the theory -- this is from this article -- the theory is -- other conservatives have said this -- that they're trying to silence Republicans or conservatives or Tea Party people who have been -- who have been successful in winning back control of the House, winning back more seats in the Senate, and they're worried about how successful they might be in 2012.

COLMES: Paul Broun of Georgia, the congressman who said that Obama was just spewing his venom, said the reason Democrats wanted to sit with Republicans was to shut them down, to shut them off, to silence them. That's absurd!

This is a crazy conspiracy right-wing theory that somehow is accusing the Left of when they call for civility, what they really want is to shut you up? No!

What's wrong with just calling for civility for its own sake? So we should be condemned because people on my side call for us to be civil? And they expand this into some kind of bad evil plot to shut you down? That's crazy!

Let's stipulate, perhaps, that civility is a lofty but probably unreachable goal. But let's also stipulate that democratic debate itself is impossible when one side threatens, intimidates, smears, and invokes violent eliminationist rhetoric against the other -- especially if it simultaneously refuses to engage in a debate over the facts of the issues but instead devotes its energy to shrieking hysterically about false "facts" and conspiracy theories.

Civility would be great. But honest, clear debate without the cloud of violence is what we desperately need.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Shawna Forde trial: The lunatic-fringe supporters make their presence felt

[Photo by Dave Ricker.]

-- by Dave

[image display="original" link="source" alt="Laine-Disguise.JPG" width="412" height="318" id="8572"][/image]

Yes, it's true: Shawna Forde has her defenders -- one of her old Minuteman border-watch associates, in fact, who has concocted a conspiracy theory that this was all a setup to pin the crime on Shawna and the Minutemen. She even has an explanation for how Forde managed to get ahold of survivor Gina Gonzalez's jewelry.

Her name is Laine Lawless, and she is a scheduled witness in the case, which means she can't attend court hearings until after she testifies. So yesterday she brought the Shawna Forde trial to a screeching halt mid-testimony when she tried to sneak into the courtroom wearing a really cheesy disguise:

The capital murder trial of Shawna Forde came to an abrupt halt this morning when a witness in the case - one of Shawna Forde's biggest supporters - came into the courtroom in disguise, violating a court order that all witnesses remain outside the courtroom.

Laine Lawless, wearing a black wig, short trenchcoat and sunglasses, was immediately spotted by reporters and detectives. One of the detectives alerted prosecutor Rick Unklesbay, who immediately asked to approach the bench of Judge John Leonardo.

The jurors were quickly ushered out of the room and Leonardo asked Lawless if she did not understand him when he told her on Tuesday that she and all other witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom until after the attorneys release them from their subpoenas.

Lawless told the judge she understood his order, but objected to it as she is a "citizen reporter" who has a right to be in the courtroom. She insisted she was told she was not going to be called as a witness, something the attorneys for both sides denied telling her.

In fact, prosecutor Kellie Johnson told Judge Leonardo she has exchanged e-mails with Lawless since Tuesday reiterating she is still under subpoena and can't be in the courtroom. Johnson said she told Lawless if she objected to the court order to take it up with the judge.

Lawless said she doesn't remember what the dates on the subpoena are and believes those are relevant.

At prosecutor Rick Unklesbay's suggestion, Judge Leonardo told Lawless that she is not only banned from the courtroom unless or until she's called to testify, but she's banned from the courthouse. In answer to her question, the judge said she can get someone else to file any motions she has objecting to his ruling.

Here's Laine Lawless in action back in 2006:

We've written about her previously -- and believe me: In the dictionary, under "piece of work," they have Laine Lawless's picture:

Lawless, in fact, has been a significant figure on the Minuteman front for some time now, not least because she formed one of the first spinoff groups. She played a key role in helping Chris Simcox organize one of his earlier versions of the Minutemen, the Civil Homeland Defense, and was one of the characters who showed up on video when the Minutemen first organized their border watch.

However, she got the boot shortly afterward, no doubt because she's such a lunatic that not even Simcox wanted to be associated with her. So she started up her own Minuteman offshoot, and it was shortly in the business of forming alliances with real neo-Nazis and even offering them advice on how to harass Latinos:

A prominent anti-immigration leader has secretly urged the nation's largest neo-Nazi group to launch a campaign of violence and harassment against undocumented workers in the United States.

Laine Lawless, who started a group called Border Guardians last year, sent an April 3 e-mail to Mark Martin, "SS commander" of the Western Ohio unit of the National Socialist Movement, which has 59 chapters in 30 states. It was titled, "How to GET RID OF THEM!"

The e-mail from Lawless, who was also an original member of Chris Simcox's vigilante militia before it morphed into the Minuteman Project in early 2005, detailed 11 suggestions for ways to harass and terrorize undocumented immigrants, including robbery and "beating up illegals" as they leave their workplace.

"Maybe some of your warriors for the race would be the kind of people willing to implement some of these ideas," Lawless wrote. "I'm not ready to come out on this. ... Please don't use my name. THANKS."

At the request of Lawless, who declined to respond to questions from the Intelligence Report, Martin posted her suggestions to a number of neo-Nazi bulletin boards. Those suggestions included:

-- "Steal the money from any illegal walking into a bank or check cashing place."

-- "Make every illegal alien feel the heat of being a person without status. ... I hear the rednecks in the South are beating up illegals as the textile mills have closed. Use your imagination."

-- "Discourage Spanish-speaking children from going to school. Be creative."

-- "Create an anonymous propaganda campaign warning that any further illegal immigrants will be shot, maimed or seriously messed-up upon crossing the border. This should be fairly easy to do, considering the hysteria of the Spanish language press, and how they view the Minutemen as 'racists & vigilantes.' "

In other news, Forde's sister testified -- and that wasn't good

Aranda told jurors she met Forde when Forde was 18 or 19 years old and has only seen her four or five times since then.

On one of those occasions, in April 2009, Aranda testified her sister talked about robbing people associated with drug cartels to fund her Minutemen group.

"I didn't take it seriously, mainly because she has a habit of exaggerating. She likes to talk big," Aranda said.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mexican drug cartels go shopping for their guns in Arizona

-- by Dave

In Arizona, everyone is freaked out about the violence by Mexican drug cartels south of their border, which was one of the reasons we repeatedly heard from leading state officials as one of their excuses for passing SB1070.

But then it turns out that the ease with which you can buy a gun in Arizona is fueling that violence directly:

The seizure of more than 700 guns and the indictments of 34 people announced on Tuesday are further confirmation that Arizona has become an iron highway for weapons into Mexico, according to federal authorities.

Many legal purchases by straw buyers at Arizona gun stores are being financed and orchestrated by Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, federal officials said.

The cases announced Tuesday involved the purchases of many AK-47s, .50-caliber rifles and other semiautomatic weapons in single-day transactions at gun stores by straw buyers paid by the cartel, U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke said.

"This is a huge problem in this state. It is a strange phenomenon," Burke said at a news conference at the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. "Drug cartels go shopping for their war weapons here in Arizona."

At least 17 people were arrested Tuesday in five cases involving a joint crackdown by the ATF, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service and the Phoenix Police Department.

Gee, I can remember when, a couple of years ago, Obama administration officials pointed out that many of the guns being used by the Mexican drug cartels were being originating in the USA -- and the NRA and Glenn Beck exploded in angry denial, implying that such imprecations upon the fine name of American arms sellers was an attack on the Constitution itself!

[H/t Jamie]

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Glenn Beck digs up a case of left-wing political violence. One.

-- by Dave

Thinking that somehow this will refute the people who are criticizing him for inspiring terrorist acts and death threats against people he has targeted for national on-air vilification, Glenn Beck has dug up the peculiar case of Casey Brezik, a mentally ill (diagnosed schizophrenic) 22-year-old who last September tried to slash the throat of a man he mistakenly believed to be the governor of Missouri. (A more dispassionate account is here.)

Well, there's little doubt that Brezik is a far-left anarchist -- but that doesn't place him anywhere within the same political spectrum as mainstream liberals, other than that they are both generically somewhere on the Left. The same as American neo-Nazis are on the Right along with mainstream conservatives.

More to the point, there's no indication that anyone held Democratic Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon up for extreme demonization or that there was political discourse from the Left identifying him as the source of all evil. Rather the contrary. Brezik selected him not because he was inspired by any kind of mainstream liberal rhetoric (particularly not any broadcast on a major news network).

This stands in rather stark contrast to the issues confronting Beck and his reckless and smear-laden demonization of people and institutions in a way that inspires violence.

Because where that is the issue, we have more than one incident. We have many, many more.

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that Glenn Beck's incident with Brezik is indeed a case of left-wing violence. OK. Now let's place that singular case up against this:

Full details here.

Tom Schaller discussed this in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun recently, citing my work here:

To my critics, I pose a simple challenge: Produce a comparable list of violent acts or attempted acts during the past two years perpetrated by those who support economic fairness, reproductive choice, universal health care, environmental protection, animal rights or any other liberal cause against corporate executives, pro-life organizers, small business owners or white evangelicals.

Mind you, this list doesn't even begin to assess the threats and assaults, which are so much more voluminous they're much harder to track. (We'll undertake that task shortly.)

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Speaking of 'WTF moments': Palin launches into weird babble about Spudnuts

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin almost talked dirty to us last night on Greta Van Susteren's Fox show:

PALIN: Speaking of last night, that was a tough speech to have to sit through and kind of stomach, because the president is so off base in his ideas on how it is he believes government is going to create jobs. Obviously, government growth won't create any jobs, it's the private sector that can create the jobs.

And his theme last night of the State of the Union was the WTF -- you know, winning the future. And I thought, OK, that acronym -- spot on! There were a lot of WTF moments throughout that speech.

In Palinville, this is what passes for cleverness -- along with such witticisms as "lamestream media" and "lock and load". Plus, it fits her whole naughty-librarian schtick -- we all know what that 'F' stands for, don't we? It's enough to make one collapse in a gale of giggles.

In a later segment, she expanded on the "WTF Moments" with one of her own:

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, last night there was a lot of talk about the 'Sputnik moment' that the president talked about. Um, do you agree with him -- is this our moment?

PALIN: That was another one of those 'WTF moments' that when he so often repeated the 'Sputnik moment' that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. He need to remember that what happened back then with the former Communist USSR and their victory in that race to space -- yep, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pardon this brief interjection from Karen Famigheti at Media Matters, responding to identical dumbassery from the Dumbest Blogger in the Wingnutosphere:

It's mind numbing to have to point this out, but Obama's reference to Sputnik refers to the U.S. competing against the Soviet Union during the Cold War space race.

In calling this our "Sputnik moment," Obama was calling on America to "reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race" in order to create jobs and remain competitive. He was not expressing sympathy with the former Soviet Union.

Ah well. Sean Hannity indulged in precisely the same obtuse dumbassery last night. But really, Palin was just warming up her dulcet vocal cords for the real coup de grace:

PALIN: So I listen to that Sputnik moment talk over and over again and I think, 'No, you don't need one of those. You know what we need is a Spudnut moment. And here's where I'm going with this -- and you're a good one, because you're one of those reporters who actually gets out there in the communities, find these hard-working people and find solutions to the problems that Americans face.

Well, the Spudnut shop, in Richland, Washington -- it's a bakery, it's a little coffee shop that's so successful -- 60 some years, generation to generation, a family-owned business. It's not looking for government to bail them out and to make their decisions for them. It's just hard-working, patriotic Americans in this shop -- we need more Spudnut moments in America!

And I wish that President Obama would understand -- in that heartland of America, what it is that really results in the solutions that we need to get this economy back on the right track, it's a shop like that!

Ooooookay. Whatever you say, lady!

Actually, I grew up with Spudnuts. They were wildly overrated doughnuts that supposedly used potato flour. They were a chain popular in the interior West mostly; we had one in my hometown too. Here's a brief history of them. And here's a link to the Spudnut shop in Richland that Palin extols.

I'm hardly one to look down on small businesses -- they're a vital part of the economy. But even a Spudnut shop can't delivery its doughtnuts if the federal government doesn't provide it with infrastructure like freeways and water-reclamation projects -- all keys to Richland's economy.

Moreover, the Spudnut shop in Richland certainly wouldn't exist if it weren't for government-created jobs: for most of its history (especially after 1940), the chief source of employment there has been the Hanford Project nuclear-reactor testing station.

Good ol' Palin is always good for a twofer: Loopy and clueless all in one swell foop!

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The Shawna Forde trial: Survivor Gina Gonzalez takes the stand, and the jury hears the 911 call

-- by Dave

The Shawna Forde murder trial got into full swing the past couple of days, with some riveting testimony featuring the sole survivor of Forde's killer Minuteman-gang home invasion, Gina Gonzalez -- some of it on the taped 911 call she made the night her daughter and husband were shot and killed.

The Arizona Star has been covering the trial assiduously, including this stark account of Gonzalez' testimony yesterday:

She testified about people posing as law enforcement officers coming into her home and shooting and killing her husband, Raul "Junior" Flores, shooting and wounding her, then turning the gun on their 9-year old daughter Brisenia.

"He's all out of bullets by then because he's used them on me and Junior. So he stands there and he loads the gun right in front of her (Brisenia)," Gonzalez says.

Prosecutor Kellie Johnson asks, "And is this something you can see happening?"

Gonzalez answers, "I can hear it happening. I can hear her telling him to 'please don't shoot me.'"

The child is shot and killed.

The jury also heard the now-famous 911 call Gonzalez made before the killers came back and she opened fire on them:

The Star has the report from the courtroom of the 911 dispatcher's testimony:

Remsburg was called to the stand to lay the foundation for the dramatic and seemingly-never-ending call placed shortly after 1 a.m. May 30.

"Somebody just came in and shot my husband and daughter," Gonzalez tells Remsburg.

As she pleads for help and starts to tell Remsburg details of what has happened, she suddenly starts yelling.

"They're coming back! They're coming back in!"

At least five gunshots are heard before Gonzalez yells out "Get the (expletive) out of here!" and more gunshots ring out. (She later asks if her shooting at the gunman will be "held against her" and Remsburg laughs and tells her it was clearly self-defense.)

When she gets back to the phone, Gonzalez again pleads for Remsburg to hurry.

"They shot my husband and they shot my daughter and they shot me. Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening."

There are also, as always, some telling details in the less-spectacular testimony and evidence presented in the court, particularly Gonzalez' encounter with a teal van beforehand:
The day before the slayings, Gonzalez said she and Brisenia were out in their yard looking for some missing car keys when a teal minivan drove by very slowly.

The woman inside reluctantly waved at her when she waved at the van, Gonzalez said.

She'd never seen the van before and she knows just about everyone in town from working at The Mercantile, Gonzalez said.

The incident was so odd, she mentioned it to detectives and they later found the van at suspect Albert Gaxiola's house, with Jason Bush's blood in it.

And then there's the jewelry belonging to Gonzalez that turned up in Forde's possession:

The jewelry stolen from her home that night (and later found in Forde's possession) was stuff she rarely wore: a belt buckle she'd had since she was 17, her wedding ring, earrings belonging to her late mother-in-law, etc.

The belt buckle had a "G" on it for her name and she was able to show detectives she had a bracelet matching one of the necklaces that was recovered.

Be sure to read Will Bunch's excellent take on the story.

The L.A. Times report is here.

Our ongoing coverage of the Forde case is here.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kris Kobach the Con Man: SPLC report lays bare Nativist spokesman's scam for local municipalities

-- by Dave

Well, we've known for some time that Kris Kobach -- one of the co-authors of Arizona's Nativist immigration law, SB1070, and a frequent guest on Fox News whenever they need a reliably right-wing talking point on various immigration issues -- is something of a crook and a liar, since he rarely appears on TV without misleading the audience and presenting one fake "fact" or another that turns out to be utterly false.

Now the Southern Poverty Law Center has revealed that -- prior to his recent election as Kansas' Secretary of State -- Kobach basically made a living by scamming various municipalities into adopting outrageously unconstitutional anti-immigration statutes, and then leaving them holding the very large, expensive, dripping and fetid-smelling bag:

When Mr. Kobach Comes to Town


The towns that passed nativist laws in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska, along with the state of Arizona, have spent millions of dollars to defend them in court, and almost every judicial decision so far has gone against them. One community, faced with skyrocketing legal costs, had to raise property taxes, and another was forced to cut personnel and special events and even outsource its library.

That was just the beginning. The four towns and one state examined in this report all saw a crisis in race relations as conflicts between Latino immigrants and mostly white natives escalated. Latinos reported being threatened, shot at, subjected to racial taunts and more. Police are having trouble getting cooperation from any in their Latino communities. Pro-immigrant activists have been threatened with notes that promise to “shed blood” to “take back” communities. The mayor of one town had his house vandalized after opposing a proposed law and was warned by federal agents to be careful; he ended up retiring after four terms in office. Angry protests and counter-protests, along with dangerously rising tensions, have rocked one town after another. In some communities, business districts have largely collapsed.

Behind all of this stands one man: Kris Kobach, a former Kansas City law professor who was just elected Kansas secretary of state. For the better part of the last six years, Kobach has been chief legal counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He helped to write and defend in court the laws in Hazleton, Valley Park, Farmers Branch, Fremont and Arizona, and he is seeking to do even more.

The report is quite complete, including a timeline for each of the four municipalities Kobach has "helped".

And in an important way, he's done the same thing for Arizona, where he convinced the electorate that a scapegoating strategy and installation of a police state for Latinos was the way to solve their immigration issues. The state is already suffering badly economically, and it's been made much worse by the economic boycott that resulted from SB1070 and the mass departure of Hispanics from the state. Kobach, of course, has had plenty of help in damaging Arizona's economy, including the state's governor. Meanwhile, as the state crumbles, the Arizona Senate president thinks the real imperative is to end birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants.

Of course, now that he's been elected Secretary of State in Kansas, Kobach can just walk away and smile. Meantime, as the SPLC observes, he gets to continue doing his work scamming communities eager to walk the bigot's path.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Securing the border: Why a fence will never work until we reform the system

-- by Dave

You could just about hear the heart attacks happening at Fox News -- home of Republican nativists' favorite rallying cry: 'We have to secure the border before we can have immigration reform!' -- the other morning last week when documentary filmmaker Roy Germano -- whose last movie, The Other Side of Immigration, is a must-see for anyone serious about the subject -- came on to discuss a little clip he made recently.

The clip, which he put up on YouTube, shows two American girls easily climbing over the border fence that Minutemen, authorities and right-wing talk-show blowhards all seem to believe will keep out illegal immigrants.

Obviously someone booked it at Fox because they thought it would demonstrate what a lousy job the Obama administration is doing on border security. But the clip itself actually made clear that the whole concept of using a fence to control immigration is a joke.

As Germano put it: "I thought it revealed that the fence is quite absurd, it's not doing the job it's supposed to do, it's a waste of money, and it also has a lot of unintended consequences."

And then he offered his thoughts on how to really make the borders secure -- and as he explained, the only way we're going to be able to do that is by having a rational system of immigration, instead of the outdated, xenophobic system we currently have in place. This, of course, is when the heart attacks started happening:

GERMANO: If we are really serious about our border security, I think it's in our interest to be monitoring and regulating the immigration flow that is inevitable. There is a multi-million-dollar -- hundreds of million-dollar -- industry out there of human smugglers that will try to smuggle people in. They will build tunnels under the fence, they will get people over the fence.

So we should be investing in an immigration system that actually gives people the opportunity to enter the country legally. The typical Mexican has almost no way of entering the U.S. legally. So we should be expanding the number of visas we offer so that employers can hire the workers they need to meet the labor demand in our country.

SCOTT: All right, y-you have just lit up our chat room, I'm sure, because there are lots of unemployed people in this country who would like to have jobs, and they say, 'Why are we letting people in where there's so much unemployment in America?'

GERMANO: But there are certain sectors of the economy where it's the old, you know, 'immigrants do jobs that Americans don't want to do.' I go to western New York state a lot and I visit family farms who have had ads in papers for 20 years and have never had a native-born speaker respond to that ad. And they depend on immigrant labor. But our H2A visa program, which is the farm worker visa program, only has less than 70,000 visas for 800,000 to 1.2 million jobs that need to be filled on our family farm.

We've discussed this point quite a bit too. The only problem is that Americans are not only in denial about the numbers of unskilled-labor jobs their economy produces, but the willingness and ability of native-born Americans to actually fill them.

Here's the original YouTube clip from Germano:

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Beck and Francis Fox Piven: Do we have to wait for someone to get hurt before Fox acts?

-- by Dave

Movement conservatives seem to believe that they've won the narrative after the tragic shootings in Tucson -- namely, that Jared Lee Loughner was just a nutcase and there was nothing political about his attack on a Democratic congresswoman.

Indeed, they seem to believe that it's now conventional wisdom that whenever an angry right-wing nut violently attacks an oft-demonized liberal target, it has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the demonizing rhetoric that preceded it. Just another "isolated incident." Even if we ARE up to 20 and counting.

The problem with this "wisdom"? Reality has a nasty way of intruding, as David at VC noted yesterday, from a New York Times report about how Beck's obsession with Frances Fox Piven has now produced death threats against her :

Never mind that Ms. Piven’s radical plan to help poor people was published 45 years ago, when Mr. Beck was a toddler. Anonymous visitors to his Web site have called for her death, and some, she said, have contacted her directly via e-mail.

In response, a liberal nonprofit group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote to the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, on Thursday to ask him to put a stop to Mr. Beck’s “false accusations” about Ms. Piven.

“Mr. Beck is putting Professor Piven in actual physical danger of a violent response,” the group wrote.

Fox News disagrees. Joel Cheatwood, a senior vice president, said Friday that Mr. Beck would not be ordered to stop talking about Ms. Piven on television. He said Mr. Beck had quoted her accurately and had never threatened her.

“ ‘The Glenn Beck Program,’ probably above and beyond any on television, has denounced violence repeatedly,” Mr. Cheatwood said.

Not as often, however, as it has denounced Frances Fox Piven. We've given some ripe examples in the video above, but really, it pales in comparison to a more complete list, such as this account from Media Matters.

We've already seen what happens when Fox hosts hold individual people up for extreme demonization. When Bill O'Reilly called Dr. George Tiller a "Baby Killer" some 28 times, it was no surprise when a kook already worked up by an environment of hateful rhetoric walked into a church and shot Tiller in the head. And when O'Reilly more recently attacked Rep. Jim McDermott, a right-wing nutcase from California called McDermott up and issued a long string of obscene death threats.

Glenn Beck is a particular case. When a Beck fan named Charles Wilson was inspired to call and threaten Sen. Patty Murray, we heard nothing from Fox News. Likewise, when it became clear that would-be Tides Foundation terrorist Byron Williams was directly inspired by Beck as well, not a word was heard.

Now, having been directly confronted over the threats to Piven, this supposed news network is actually trying to stonewall its way past reality.

So far, we've been lucky that no one outside of two injured Oakland police officers has been physically injured by the nutcases Beck inspires. But death threats are a real injury too.

Which raises the question: Is Fox waiting until someone actually physically attacks Frances Fox Piven before convincing Beck to reel it in?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]