Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Note to Prof's Critics: This Wasn't Eliminationism

Recently, the wingnutosphere went on one of its periodic jihads attacking Rhode Island law professor Erik Loomis for having tweeted the following after Sandy Hook:
I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders. Now I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick.
Among the first to pounce, labeling it "eliminationist rhetoric," was the well-noted smear artist Glenn Reynolds, who also has a penchant for indulging in the fantasy that left-wing political violence is a bigger problem than right-wing violence.


Well, as someone who has written and published a book on the subject matter -- The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right -- let me put simply something I have said many times in many different and windier ways over the years: Glenn Reynolds is completely full of crap.
As I explain in the book, the term describes not just ordinary violent rhetoric, but rather involves the "positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision."

Eliminationism, I explain, is
a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.

Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

Two key factors distinguish eliminationist rhetoric from other political hyperbole:
It is focused on an enemy within, people who constitute entire blocs of the citizen populace.
It advocates the excision and extermination of those entire blocs by violent or civil means.
Loomis's remark is a rather generic political expression -- and not even a particularly violent one, considering its long provenance in the annals of ordinary rhetoric -- directed at a single person, not a whole class of them. By definition, it simply isn't eliminationist. At worst, it is simply generic violent rhetoric of the "off with their heads" variety.

Of course, Reynolds has responded petulantly:
But hey, if you want to argue that “head on a stick” isn’t any sort of eliminationist rhetoric, well, duly noted.
Right. Just as it is duly noted that Glenn Reynolds is a right-wing jackass.

Just as when he labeled MEChA "fascist hatemongers", Reynolds seems not to understand that when one is called out on a viciously false smear, an apology is usually forthcoming. But of course, no such thing will occur here. Same as it ever was.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Morgan Rips Into Gun Nut Pratt: 'You're an Unbelievably Stupid Man, Aren't You?'

Piers Morgan encountered the gun nuts' gun nut, Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America, on his CNN show last night, and blew apart when he realized his guest was certifiable. (If only he had asked Pratt his views about public schools to boot.)

The result, anyway, was highly amusing, producing entertaining exchanges such as this:
PRATT: I honestly don't understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It's incomprehensible.

MORGAN: You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you?

PRATT: It seems to me that you're morally obtuse. You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. And I don't know why you want to be the criminal's friend.

MORGAN: What a ridiculous argument. You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever.
And then there was the way it all wrapped up:
MORGAN: Yes, I know -- I know why sales of these weapons have been soaring in the last few days. It's down to idiots like you.

Mr. Pratt, thank you for joining me.

When we come back --

PRATT: Thank you for your high-level argument, Mr. Morgan. It's really good.

MORGAN: You know what, you wouldn't understand the meaning of the phrase high-level argument. You are a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense. You shame your country.

PRATT: Disarmament is dangerous. (INAUDIBLE) into role model.

MORGAN: Yes. Sure. I know all about role models and you're not one of them.
Over at the wingnut media-watch outfit Newsbusters, the piteous wailing was tremendous:
It's one thing for an anchor or host to disagree with his guest, but to attack them for a differing view is not what journalism is supposed to be about. Or is that no longer important to CNN as it struggles to get viewers as well as its relevancy back?

The reality is that there are many in this nation that believe that the current gun laws promote violence rather than reduce it, and that if there had been someone armed at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the shootings either wouldn't have taken place at all or would have resulted in less loss of life.

Irrespective of what the anti-gun left represented by folks such as Morgan think, this is a position that has its place in this debate even after this most recent event.
Yes, that's a position, all right. We would call that the "incredibly stupid and morally disgusting" position. And Morgan has every right to be disgusted. Something would be wrong with him if he weren't.

And something is wrong with Pratt and his defenders.

below the fold.
PRATT: I think we need to ban gun control laws that keep people from being able to protect themselves. The problem is not going to go away if we ban this or that gun. We've tried that. That doesn't work. Doesn't even work in England. You have mass murders there all over Europe. There have been mass murderers.

MORGAN: You're talking complete and utter -- you are talking complete and utter nonsense.

PRATT: The solution is for people to be able to defend themselves at the point of the crime and not wait for 20 minutes for the police come after everybody is dead.

MORGAN: What you've just said, Mr. Pratt, was an absolute lie. The gun murder rate in countries like Britain or Germany or Australia, we've all suffered massacres many years ago, similar nature, have -- there are 35 people killed a year. Your country has 12,000.

PRATT: Your murder rate has -- your murder rate is lower than ours, that is true. Your violent --

MORGAN: Lower? It's 75 against 12,000 in Australia.

PRATT: Your violent crime rate --

MORGAN: They had a massacre. And they got rid of the assault weapons.

PRATT: Your violent crime rate is higher than ours as is the violent crime rate in Australia. America is not the Wild West that you are depicting. We only have the problems in our cities, and unhappily, in our schools where people like you have been able to get laws put on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves.

I honestly don't understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It's incomprehensible.

MORGAN: You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you?

PRATT: It seems to me that you're morally obtuse. You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. And I don't know why you want to be the criminal's friend.

MORGAN: What a ridiculous argument. You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever. You don't -- you don't actually give --

PRATT: You have no --

MORGAN: You don't give a damn, do you, about the gun murder rate in America? You don't actually care. All you care about --

PRATT: It seems to me that facts don't bother you, do they, Mr. Morgan?

MORGAN: -- is the right for any -- Americans -- you would like to see --


PRATT: Facts seem to -- they bounce right off of your head.

MORGAN: No, no, let's deal with some facts.

PRATT: You're speaking oblivious to -- what we do know is that when you go to an area in the United States where guns are freely available, readily able to be carried legally, there you find our lowest murder rates. Lower than the murder rates in Europe. You go to our cities where we have cracked down on guns and people can't defend themselves and that's where the criminals have a field day.

MORGAN: I'm sure you're not going to try and let it happen. You see my argument is not about the American's right to defend themselves in their home with a firearm. That's not the argument that I'm trying to put out there. My argument is the same as the argument that Senator Feinstein said, that the president endorses. That I believe many, many Americans now believe, following this tragedy which is that there is absolutely no use and no justification for these AR-15 type assault weapons --

PRATT: Oh, the contrary.

MORGAN: Let me finish.

PRATT: How can you say such a thing?

MORGAN: Let me finish my sentence.

PRATT: The Korean merchants in Los Angeles use these kinds of firearms to protect their lives and businesses.

MORGAN: Let me finish my sentence.

PRATT: And for you to say there's no useful purpose for these guns, that's just completely wrong.

MORGAN: OK. Let me finish my sentence. There are these assault weapons, which have been used now in movie theaters, in shopping malls, in elementary schools to murder many, many Americans. And now 20 5-year-old children. And they are armed with magazines, 30 at a time here, a hundred in Aurora, in a movie theater.

And your only answer, Mr. Pratt, to people that want to get rid of both the magazines and these assault weapons, if I'm not mistaken, is to let everybody else have similar weapons? Is that the solution to America's gun murder problems?

PRATT: I would challenge you to go and tell the Korean merchants who survived the riots in Los Angeles, sorry, you had those firearms that saved your lives.

MORGAN: Can you answer my question?

PRATT: I'm answering your question. I wish you could understand it. Because you're talking against self-defense.

MORGAN: Would you like to see -- would you like to see -- would you like to see --

PRATT: You're talking against people being able to protect themselves.

MORGAN: Would you like to see teachers armed --

PRATT: And you don't want to hear it, that's why you keep interrupting me.

MORGAN: No, no, I don't mind hearing it. I think it's complete nonsense. But I mind hearing it. You would like to see --

PRATT: Well, the press tend to do that, don't they?

MORGAN: Stop being so facetious. I just want you to answer this one question. Post what happened at Sandy Hook, your answer to this problem of repeated use of this weapon with these high-capacity magazines is to continue letting Americans buy them with impunity, and to not concern yourself with these mass shootings, is that right?

PRATT: The Second Amendment means what it says, and meanwhile, you want to continue laws against self-defense. Laws that prohibit self-defense. Laws that prohibit teachers and other faculty, other members of the administration in schools from being able to defend themselves if they have a concealed carry permit. The laws prohibit them right now. We have been lobbying against those laws since they were put on. We will continue to do so, pointing out that that is where the problem is.

And for you to support them means that you're really blind to the role that that plays in enabling murders to operate within impunity.

MORGAN: Yes, I know -- I know why sales of these weapons have been soaring in the last few days. It's down to idiots like you.

Mr. Pratt, thank you for joining me.

When we come back --

PRATT: Thank you for your high-level argument, Mr. Morgan. It's really good.

MORGAN: You know what, you wouldn't understand the meaning of the phrase high-level argument. You are a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense. You shame your country.

PRATT: Disarmament is dangerous. (INAUDIBLE) into role model.

MORGAN: Yes. Sure. I know all about role models and you're not one of them.

Rick Snyder's Now One of the Most Unpopular Governors in America

I'm sure you'll join me in saying: Awwwwwwwwwwww:
We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we've polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder's -18. He's dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).

There's not much doubt that it's the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder's popularity. Only 41% of voters in the state support the right to work legislation, while 51% are opposed to it. If voters got to decide the issue directly only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to overturn it. This comes on the heels of voters overturning Snyder's signature emergency managers law last month. The simple reality is that Michigan voters like unions- 52% have a favorable opinion of them to only 33% with a negative one.
That probably explains Snyder's veto of that concealed-carry gun bill. A little too late for this piece of future political roadkill.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Remember, the Gun Nuts Spew Hatred of Schools and Teachers Too

As Susie has already noted, a number of pro-gun nutcases -- including gun-rights lobbyists like Larry Pratt, with actual influence inside the Beltway -- have responded to the atrocity at Sandy Hook with the atrocious argument that "gun free zone" policies caused the massacre, and that what we ought to be doing is arming our schoolteachers.

Yes, these people are evil. And insane. And unfortunately, they play a real role in our politics.

One of the realities about the right-wing gun lobby that has frozen politicians into inaction when it comes to dealing with the mass proliferation of guns and their attendant violence in America is that they in fact are only partially about guns. They really are broad-ranging far-right organizing vehicles, attacking liberal politics and policies on a number of fronts -- including taxes, the environment, abortion rights, and yes, education.

Indeed, their contribution to our national conversation about education largely consists of a steady flow of vicious rhetoric attacking public schooling and public schoolteachers. They usually depict them as incompetents and parasites, not to mention "socialists." Their broader, Randian politics constantly undermine public schools, from gutting their funding to perpetuating degrading perceptions of educators.

And no one is more prone to those vicious attacks than Larry Pratt, the longtime head honcho at Gun Owners of America, one of the most conspiracy-prone of all the right-wing gun orgs. Pratt was one of the originators of the militia movement of the 1990s, and he's still doing his best to pollute American politics with similarly toxic concepts.

I reported about Pratt's activities related to Tea Party organizing for AlterNet back in 2010, based in part on an appearance he made at a Tea Party event in Montana that year. (You can see the longer video I made at that event here.)

Here's what Pratt told that crowd:
You know, one of the big problems – I don't have to, this is not a news flash to anybody here – but one of the big challenges that we face in getting the freedom message across is what's happening in the schools. The schools are propagation, propaganda centers for the hard left. And kids are coming out not only ignorant of basic facts, but actually instructed that being an independent person and self-reliant is not the goal in life and that we ought to be a bunch of drones like in Europe.

I heard an example of this kind of indoctrination. Seems that this sixth-grade class was getting drilled by the teacher as she was asking, 'Well, how many people support President Obama?' And all the hands went up save Johnny's. And Johnny kind of stared back at the teacher. She said, 'You don't support President Obama?' He said, 'No ma'am.' 'Why not, Johnny?' 'Well, my daddy's a Republican, and my mama's a Republican, so I'm a Republican.' And the teacher said, 'Well, now Johnny, if your mama were an idiot, and your daddy were a moron, what would that make you?' [Pause] 'An Obama supporter.' [Applause]

That's just a little example, apocryphal as it was, of the little culture war we're in. And when I made a statement like this at an armed rally outside of Washington, it kind of exploded some of the media's head. Which is kind of why I want to repeat it again tonight.

What I said I think is perfectly obvious to everybody here, is that, we are in a war. It is a culture war. We're in a war, and the other side knows it, because they started it. And I would say it's only in the last couple of years that a lot more Americans on the other side, on the receiving end of the culture war, have come to the realization that, 'Eh! We're in a war!'

And what we're seeing is that we are facing socialism, pure and simple. They want our guns, of course – that's what every socialist regime has ever wanted to do. They want our kids, they want our money, they want our land – and we've already talked tonight about you can't even change your mind without getting a permit from the local authorities of some kind or another.

That's not freedom. And we've already lost a great deal.
It will be interesting to see if Adam Lanza left behind an explanation for his inconceivably evil rampage. It will be even more interesting to see if his rationale, such as it was, springs from the same kind of thinking promoted by people like Larry Pratt.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now Watch: Gun Nuts Will Claim Their Obama Paranoia is Coming True

If there is any kind of silver lining lurking in yesterday's horror show at Sandy Hook Elementary, it is this: The national conversation on guns is sharply changing. Perhaps that's because, as Charlie Pierce observes, this bell has been tolling long and loud -- and now we realize that it tolls for us.

It's a reflection of the depraved state of our national conversation that it took a parade of massacres culminating in a schoolhouse full of murdered 5-year-olds to awaken that realization in us. But that's where we are. The question now is how to get out of it.

Particularly because the other half of the conversation -- the gun-rights absolutists who increasingly retreat into paranoid conspiracy theories to justify their worldviews, as well as an insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment asserting that the real purpose of gun ownership is to enable the overthrow of a tyrannical government -- is just plain ol' bug-eyed crazy. Not to mention psychopathically insensate, exemplified by the Brian Fischers and Mike Huckabees out there blaming liberals for the murders.

How exactly are we supposed to conduct a conversation with people who cling insistently to irrational nonsense?

And what is nearly certain to happen next is going to make the conundrum inescapable.

It's clear, both from his remarks yesterday and his radio address today, that President Obama has now screwed up the political courage to try to tackle the matter of the mass proliferation of guns in American society. And that, as it happens, will fall in line with the paranoid predictions of the gun nuts before the election.

You remember what they were saying:
"[The Obama campaign] will say gun owners -- they'll say they left them alone," LaPierre told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. "In public, he'll remind us that he's put off calls from his party to renew the Clinton [assault weapons] ban, he hasn't pushed for new gun control laws. ... The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he's actually been good for the Second Amendment."
"But it's a big fat stinking lie!" the NRA leader exclaimed. "It's all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country."
How was the conspiracy to take shape? By the following steps:
1. Neutralize gun owners and NRA voters as a political force in national elections, and thereby:

2. Win re-election to a second term in the White House, where they then will be immune to the will of voters and free to continue consolidating and misusing their ever-increasing power to:

3. Prosecute a full-scale, sustained, all-out campaign to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights through legislation, litigation, regulation, executive orders, judicial fiat, international treaties—in short, all the levers of power of all three branches of government.
The result, predictably, has been a saturating boom in gun sales around the country:
"He's never been pro-gun," says Cris Parsons of President Obama. Parsons, 31, owns a Texas gun purveyor called the Houston Armory. So far, Parsons insists, Obama has been "pretty coy" about his antipathy toward guns--and he likely will remain so during the campaign. To do otherwise would "upset a lot of people."

But if Obama wins a second term, he'll have "nothing to lose," says Parsons.

Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws, including "Gun Laws of America," says gun owners are worried that the president, as a lame duck, will clamp down as never before on gun ownership.

Parsons says about 40 percent of Armory customers cite this fear as their reason for stocking up on guns and ammo now, before the election.
And so with the President actually picking up the issue of gun violence now, these people will believe their worst fears are in the process of being realized.

Many of the "Patriot Porn" books I've been reading -- you know, apocalyptic "novels" for "preppers" about hardy bands of survivors making America safe for Patriots again after the depredations of Obama and the liberals who destroy America -- feature scenarios along these lines. Most of them depict Obama or his stand-in using various "crises", including school massacres secretly conducted by nefarious government agents out to create popular support while blaming fabricated scapegoats and ultimately gun owners themselves for the problem, to provide the pretext for destroying the Constitution and instituting the "Islamic Republic of America" or some similar "liberal" entity.

As I've observed before: These gun-rights absolutists thrive on the paranoia they engender, and the rest of us eventually pay the price for it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Latest Far-Right Wingnuttery: Obama Plotting a 3rd Term

Our friend and sometime contributor Leah Nelson has a post up over at the SPLC's Hatewatch site examining that fringe world between far right and far left -- dominated by the rightist element, in the person of Alex Jones and his proto-Patriot conspiracy shop.

In this case, it's these pseudo-economists who put out conspiracist newsletters to investors -- their most recent theory being that President Obama is plotting to defy the Constitution and ensconce himself for a third term come 2016 -- whose Planet Bizarro version of reality gets a good sharp look:
'Anarcho-Capitalists’ Seen as Cousins of the ‘Patriot’ Movement
The star of the show is a fellow named Porter Stansberry, a scam artist/"financial guru" convicted of making over a million dollars selling false "inside tips" (he claimed a First Amendment defense) and was subsequently fined $1.5 million by the SEC.
Evidently soured on the government by his brush with the law, Stansberry has turned from scam artist to antigovernment radical, using various Internet publications to mix dubious investment advice with apocalyptic warnings about a coming era of tyranny that will destroy America.
His most recent insight? According to a YouTube video distributed across a multitude of far-right websites and discussed with great seriousness by figures like antigovernment conspiracist Alex Jones, President Obama is planning to overthrown the Constitution, implement socialism, and seize a third term in office.

According to Stansberry, Obama won’t even have to use force to do it. Instead, the president plans to buy his third term with untold profits gained from mining America’s vast shale oil deposits, which will lead to an era of extraordinary prosperity unlike anything America has seen before.

“All of this new wealth,” Stansberry says, “will seem like a gift from the Prophet Muhammad to the administration of Barack Obama.”

And his supporters will eat it up. Once the black gold really starts flowing, Stansberry claims, the president will execute a Hugo Chavez-like power grab, distributing money and favors to friends, cronies, and political allies, who in return will cheer for him in the streets as he seizes an unconstitutional third term — and, possibly, even a fourth — in office. During his reign of terror, Obama will replace America’s market economy with a socialist dictatorship and “punish and tax those who work hard,” using the wealth they create to “buy favors and luxuries for millions of Americans … who have done nothing to earn it.”
As Nelson explores, Stansberry is hardly alone peddling this scam. Indeed, Nelson goes on to explore in depth how these "anarcho capitalists" are in many regards just the latest attempt by the old far-right Patriot movement to expand its appeal -- mostly by exploiting the pieces of common ground they have with extreme libertarians from the left and anarchists. Be sure and read the whole thing; it's fascinating.

But it often comes down to a very familiar sort of refrain:
The Patriot movement is noteworthy for its followers’ forceful assertion of the right to bear arms, and form private militias willing to face down tyrannical government forces when the time comes. In contrast, Casey, Stansberry, and their sympathizers make a lot of noise about opposing violence, stressing the need to bring about their desired revolution through education and activism.

But in a 2011 essay titled “The Corruption of America,” Stansberry began to sing a very different tune. “The nation will soon face a choice between heading down the path toward fascism … or turning back the power of government and restoring the limited Republic that was our birthright,” he wrote. “What gives me confidence for the future? Gun sales, for one thing. U.S. citizens legally own around 270 million firearms – around 88 guns per 100 citizens (including children) today. That’s a hard population to police without its consent.”

Sounding very much like his Patriot cousins-in-arms — and very little like a proponent of nonviolent resistance — he continued: “[I]f the government attempts to take our guns … my opinion would change immediately. … But that’s one right the Supreme Court has been strengthening recently.”

“It gives me hope,” Stansberry said, “that most people in America still understand that the right to bear arms has little to do with protecting ourselves from crime and everything to do with protecting ourselves from government.”
Yep, we've heard that tune before.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trent Franks Does the Projection Thing: Obama 'Out of Touch With Reality'

Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona today, discussing the ongoing fiscal bluff negotiations between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner:
I think the Speaker is at a profound disadvantage in the negotiations as it is ... simply because he's got a recalcitrant Senate and a president that simply is out of touch with reality.
Hm. And which reality is that? Maybe the reality on Planet Wingnut, where up is down, trickle-down succeeds, tax cuts create jobs, and the Rhythm Method works. And the public secretly supported Republicans in the last election.

Over here in our own little Planet Earth, the public resoundingly approves of Obama's approach to the negotiations -- and even a majority of Republicans agree that Obama has a mandate to take away those huge tax breaks Bush handed the wealthy. The crushing reality here is that Boehner and Co. are negotiating with their asses in their hands.

Of course, the current majority of members of the House happen to reside on Planet Wingnut. So that's a problem.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Happy Holidays From Clackamas: When Can We Talk About Gun Proliferation?

Gee, I wish someone would let me know when it's OK to have a national conversation about the mass proliferation of guns in American society and the inevitable slide to lethal violence that creates. Because, you know, it's obvious that now is not the time:
The masked gunman who opened fire in a crowded Oregon shopping mall, killing two people and wounding a third before taking his own life, appeared to have acted in a blind rampage with no known motive, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Tuesday afternoon shooting frenzy at the Clackamas Town Center in the Portland suburb of Happy Valley triggered pandemonium inside the mall at the height of the busy holiday season, sending thousands of shoppers streaming out of the complex as authorities arrived on the scene.
We know precious little right now about the gunman or his motivations:
Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, was the masked man who stormed into Clackamas Town Center Tuesday afternoon, fatally shooting two people and wounding another before turning a gun on himself, police said.

Roberts does not appear to have a criminal history in Oregon, according to court records. He had two speeding tickets earlier this year.

Court records show that Roberts and a woman, Hannah Shoemake, were evicted last summer from their Happy Valley apartment.

Roberts' mother answered her door at her Portland home, but declined to comment to an Oregonian reporter. "I loved my son very much,"she said.
There isn't really a lot to say that hasn't already been said before. But it's worth noting the terror and chaos that these scenes inspire:

As I said not too long ago after something not very dissimilar happened in my backyard:
Everyone wants to know why this is happening. It isn't hard to figure out a couple of things that were clearly at play here: We're now a society awash in guns at unprecedented levels. And we're also awash in an increasingly untreated population of mentally ill people.

... [W]e haven't only government-gutting conservatives to thank for this problem. Because we can also thank the far-right paranoid gun nuts who run large national "gun rights" organizations for having gutted any kind of reasonable restraints on the public's access to guns.
Here's a natural fact I know from a lifetime of handling guns: A gun invites its use. Always. And for the insane or the insanely angry or the psychopathic or the weak of mind, that invitation becomes difficult to resist.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Threepers Creepers: On Far-Right Fringes, the Exodus to the Woods is Under Way

[Bo Gritz's Idaho survivalist community, 'Almost Heaven,' in 2004]
Now that they've lost their election and are seeing their political future circling down the drain, a lot of folks on the political right are drowning in despair and retreating even further into the cocoon of non-reality they've created for themselves. And that response is especially acute on farthest fringes of the Right, where the militiamen are stocking up for the Obamacalypse.

Even among the larger population of mainstream conservatives, they're not handling the election results well. Fully 49 percent of them think Obama won with the help of ACORN-induced vote fraud -- apparently oblivious to the fact that ACORN has been defunct for the better part of two years. Then again, those same polls show their numbers overall are shrinking in a downward spiral.

The most hard-core of these among the "mainstream" Republicans just had their most recent moment of glory -- protecting America from the "threat" of a loss of sovereignty under the guise of a basic act of decency such as recognizing the rights of the disabled. As Dan Drezner observes, it's hard to tell just what these "sovereignists" are on about.

Though actually, if you've been observing the American Right for a long time, it's not hard at all to see what these folks are on about: They're succumbing to their inner John Birchers, retreating to a paranoid fantasyland in which President Obama and the Democrats are about to destroy every last vestige of freedom in America on behalf of the ever-conspiring Communists who lurk inside the New World Order.

The Right has been warming up to this for a long time, including their insane hysteria in the run-up to the election. And whenever they suffer a bad election, they go through paroxysms of discontent in which large chunks of them opt for total withdrawal from American society as preparation for the End of the World As We Know It. And some of them fantasize about how they can take on evil oppressive liberal dictatorship.

You can actually find a whole genre of books dedicated to this worldview. I call it "Patriot Porn" -- fictional books that tell the tales of brave bands of patriotic survivors who take on the powers of the evil liberal/commie/Mooslim overlords and carve out their pocket of resistance and survival. They have titles like By Force of Patriots and Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse, and Firebase Freedom (whose author, the late William W. Johnstone, appears to have been dead since 2004 but somehow seems to keep producing, zombie-like, these awful paranoid Patriot fantasy titles such as The Blood of Patriots and Phoenix Rising; Firebase Freedom is coming out this month). And yes, you can actually pick up the Johnstone books off the grocery-store paperback shelf.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that a number of right-wing "Patriots" are deciding to live out that very fantasy. Via Digby, here's the announcement from an outfit calling itself the "III Citadel":
Patriots understand that an epic storm is coming to America.

Economic collapse is imminent. Disruptions of Just-in-Time supply lines will lead America into chaos. Violence along racial, ethnic, religious and economic class lines will bring forth famine, disease and a fundamental reset of life in America.

A group of Patriots have decided to build a community off the most likely lines of peril, a bastion of Jefferson's Rightful Liberty where we may remain safe, warm, healthy and comfortable while American society suffers the inevitable destruction that must accompany the decades of degenerating morality of our Countrymen.
The location of this compound of right-wing extremists is the deep woods of northern Idaho -- in fact, in one of my favorite, oft-visited fly-fishing areas (the St. Joe River is a balm for the soul), Benewah County. It is deeply wooded and mountainous terrain with few roads. This fourth-generation Idahoan has seen the likes of these folks before. It has pretty much never turned out well.

Right off the bat is the fact that, as the announcement explains, this "community" is going to revolve around the manufacture of weapons:
The cornerstone of the Citadel is III Arms Company, an industry to support the first wave of Patriots who will become modern American Pioneers. We will build Fighting Arms and ammunition for Patriots and around us a town will begin to grow. Other revenue streams are already in the works. Our intent is to purchase at least one thousand acres, and construct a walled town of at least one square mile to withstand any potential violence from hungry, diseased Souls. Obviously the Citadel is not being built to defy any laws of the United States or the State of Idaho, or to withstand any .gov or .mil attack. Our fortifications are merely defensive for a SHTF world.
Sure, that's what all of these right-wing extremists who set up compounds in the woods start out saying: They're just creating a retreat away from everyone else and will never bother anyone, because their position is purely defensive. That's what they said at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake in the 1970s. And at the Freemen compound in Montana, and at Almost Heaven in Kamiah, both in the 1990s. Then it turned out that they were magnets for violent terrorist criminals and con artists who committed strings of crimes and, in the case of the Freemen and Aryan Nations, produced armed standoffs with federal authorities.

They're planning to have "up to 5,000 households" within the compound, which should create some interesting problems in terms of sanitation and sewage. But these are hardy Patriots, no doubt.

They seem, on the other hand, to have a kind of cognitive dissonance problem. They declare themselves an "open society" with one breath and then declare that all liberals will be banned from living within their walls with the other:
The Citadel is not to be a closed society, instead a refuge for genuine Patriots who wish to live without neighbors who are Liberals and Establishment political ideologues, open for tourists who will be welcomed into our town to visit our planned Firearms Museum, shop in our Town Center, stay in a B&B or hotel while vacationing and exploring the wonderful skiing, hunting and fishing opportunities in the area, and many other attractions we will offer.

If you are a patriotic American who believes in Jefferson's Rightful Liberty, who believes in the Constitution as written, who believes in the Declaration of Independence, and who wishes to live in a beautiful, secure mountain town that bans Liberals from living among us, consider exploring the Citadel as we evolve and build.
Well, logic has never been their strong suit. And so far, it appears that all this is only a fantasy. It doesn't appear that the promoters of this scheme have yet even purchased any Benewah County property. And so far, the promoter of the scheme has not even identified himself publicly.

If you're wonder what all the "III" references are about -- besides the "III Citadel" and "III Arms", these folks identify themselves as "III Patriots" -- here's the explanation: One of the favorite statistics bandied about by the folks on the far right is the claim that only three percent of the American colonial population at the time of the Revolutionary War actually participated as soldiers in the fighting; the reasoning that follows from this is that it really only takes a dedicated band of people to bring about revolutionary change in America. This is their way of rationalizing themselves out of their extreme minorityhood.

So they call themselves "Three Percenters" or "Threepers", and they organize their militia activities accordingly. One of the leading Threepers is none other than the execrable Mike Vanderboegh, who you may remember as the charming man who fomented a spate of anti-Democratic violence after the passage of health-care reform.

However, it appears that this particular band of Threepers is a spinoff group created by some Patriots who fell out with Vanderboegh. Indeed, that's pretty much the story arc of every Patriot group that's ever existed: The come together in fear and paranoia, and pretty soon they break apart under the same forces -- with large dashes of anger issues and ego thrown into the mix. But along the way, the chemistry that results can often be lethal, usually for people who have the misfortune to cross their paths at the wrong moment.

This particular plan reminds me a great deal of another Patriot "community" that was attempted in the 1990s a few miles to the south of Benewah County, down in the Kamiah area, called "Almost Heaven." It was organized by far-right hero James "Bo" Gritz, who similarly sought out a place where Patriots could retreat and have each others' backs when the End of the World came.

However, it all came to naught. First, some of Gritz's fellow Patriots decided they needed to get involved with the Freemen standoff over in Montana, and created a stir by attempting to create a similar situation in Kamiah. Then Gritz attempted suicide when his fed-up wife up and left him. By 2004, it was pretty much over. The best thing you could say about it was that it didn't end up being a magnet for criminals and terrorists, as the Aryan Nations joint was, and that no one got into an 81-day armed standoff with the FBI, as they had in Jordan.

We'll be watching to see if the "III Citadel" moves from the fantasy stage to reality. Increasingly, these Patriots and their "Prepper" contingent -- the folks storing away canned foods in their basements and guns in their attics -- are being treated as sorta mainstream by the mainstream press, who are readily gulled by the protestations of non-extremism by these extremists. And you never know how fundraising schemes like the gun sales will succeed.

Sure, they may be making things better in the short run by just going away. But these paranoid fantasies about Obama are going to be festering for a good long while, and that never produces anything but tragic misery.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, November 30, 2012

McCain Won't Let Actual Security Threats Distract Him From His Susan Rice Jihad, By Gum

A reporter at a press conference in D.C. with Grumpy John McCain, who still wants to rant about Benghazi even after it's become clear there's nobody out there on that lawn, asked a perfectly sensible question yesterday:
Q: Do you think there was potentially a greater national-security threat in apparently thousands of pages of classified documents ending up on the personal computer of a Tampa socialite who may have been a friend of the head of the CIA, of secret covert e-mail accounts involving the head of the CIA, and a top general in Afghanistan, and the fact that the FBI agent who was complained to stepped out of the chain of command and apparently went to a House Republican leader, rather than anybody upstairs. Do you think that there's potential -- you put all that together -- do you think that's a greater potential national security threat than what you're talking about?
You could watch the veins begin to bulge on Grumpy's neck and forehead as this question went along, and so naturally he burst like a festering pustule when it was done:
MCCAIN: Well, I say with great respect, that’s one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard. -- I’m answering your question. Do you want me to answer your question or do you want to interrupt? Which do you want? -- There are four dead Americans. The lives of other Americans were put in jeopardy.

This is a matter of four dead Americans. I think that the other issue raised is very serious, and I think it deserves a thorough and complete investigation — but it does not rise to the level of an attack on an American consulate that took four American lives.
OK, just so we're clear: Potential security threat created that exposes possible Republican chicanery? Never an issue. Tragic incident in which intelligence details remain unclear, so it can be endlessly exploited? Yeh, that's what gets Grumpy's attention.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Poland Narrowly Averts Its Own Right-Wing Terrorist Bloodbath

BrunonKwiecien.jpgDr. Brunon Kwiecień
We all remember Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who massacred dozens of (mostly) young Norwegians in the summer of 2011, right? Well, now it seems that people in Poland have narrowly escaped having their own version of such a terrorism-induced bloodbath, at the hands of an admirer of Breivik:
Last week the Polish government announced the thwarting of a terrorism plot that is worrisome in its audacity and in who was behind it. In a country with minimal experience of terrorism, the discovery of a sophisticated homegrown bomber seeking to decapitate the government by blowing up the parliament and the president has caused shockwaves and introspection.

The would-be bomber, Dr. Brunon Kwiecień, a forty-five year old research scientist at Krakow’s Agricultural University, fits few currently fashionable profiles. Neither a jihadist nor marginally employed or socially bereft, Kwiecień is married with two children, has a respectable income, and is reported to have been exceptionally interested in explosives since his youth. A skilled chemist popular with his students and considered unremarkable by his university colleagues, he came up with a truly audacious plot to blow up the Sejm, the Polish parliament in Warsaw, during a joint session where both houses, the president and the full cabinet would be present. As Kwiecień is reported to have conducted visits to Warsaw to select his targets, this appears to be more than the figment of a demented imagination.

The seriousness of the bomber’s intent was evidenced by the astonishing haul made by Polish police after Kwiecień’s arrest on November 9. Among the items seized were a dozen illegal firearms, some 1,100 rounds of ammunition, body armor of various types, several detonators (including cell phones triggers) and an amazing four tons of high-grade explosives—more than enough to flatten several city blocks—which the bomber had access to due to his job. There seems to be little doubt that Kwiecień had the technical competence to build the bomb, but his efforts to find collaborators fell short.
As Stratfor explains, this was an attack for which Kwiecień was well suited, requiring a skillset well within his range of competence:
Kwiecien is also a self-proclaimed supporter of Norwegian ultranationalist terrorist Anders Breivik, who conducted a successful lone wolf attack in Oslo in 2011. Indeed, tactically Kwiecien's plot against the Polish government resembled Breivik's in many ways. But his was only the latest, certainly not the last, thwarted terrorist attack in Europe, where similar plots can be expected as the economic and political situation continues to worsen.

Kwiecien allegedly considered Breivik's vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack on Norway's parliament building a failure -- Breivik's killed only eight people and failed to inflict catastrophic structural damage on the building. Breivik used 1 metric ton of ammonium nitrate-based explosives, commonly called ANFO, or ammonium nitrate fuel oil, and parked his vehicle on the street, putting some distance between the VBIED and the building. Kwiecien intended to construct an explosive device using 4 metric tons of ANFO inside a tanker truck, crash through the gates of the parliament building and detonate the VBIED within the courtyard. Investigators believe that it would have been a suicide mission. Had he executed his attack successfully, he likely would have created a blast big enough to cause significant structural damage and loss of life, resulting in more damage and more deaths than Breivik's explosive device.

According to authorities, Kwiecien began planning for the attack between July and September. He apparently had traveled to Warsaw to surveil the area surrounding the building. The fact that there is fairly light security at the entrance to the parliament building may have encouraged Kwiecien to go forward with his plot.
Europeans have been having a problem with a surge in right-wing-extremist violence generally. But then, so has the USA -- to little notice in the media.

It's enough to make one wonder if there are Breivik admirers in the USA working along similar lines. And whether our law-enforcement apparatus would be able to catch them in time.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Right-Wingers File Suit to Delist Endangered Orcas

When the resident orcas in the Puget Sound were listed as an endangered species back in 2005, it seemed inevitable that business interests -- who hate being restricted in their ability to ruin the environment at whim, including destroying the salmon runs on which the orcas' survival depends -- would try to overturn the ruling. And sure enough, within the year, the Building Industry Association of Washington filed a suit to try to delist them. It was thrown out in a matter of months.

Now comes yet another attempt, courtesy of a right-wing legal foundation filing another delisting attempt on behalf of a handful of California farmers, unhappy that they've lost irrigation water to salmon restoration:
NOAA Fisheries will begin a review of the status of a population of killer whales that is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. This review is prompted by a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation to remove existing protection for these whales.

NOAA said the petition presents new information from scientific journal articles about killer whale genetics, addressing issues such as how closely related this small population is to other populations, and meets the agency's standard for accepting a petition to review.

During the status review, the agency will seek public input and gather all relevant information to determine if NOAA should propose to remove this distinct population of killer whales from the federal species-protection list. The agency cautioned that acceptance of this petition does not suggest that a proposal to delist will follow.

These fish-eating marine mammals, sometimes called orcas and officially known as Southern Resident killer whales, were listed as endangered in 2005, when there were 89 of them in the population.

Southern Resident killer whales spend time in Washington's Puget Sound and nearby waters. They generally leave for the open ocean in the winter. Scientists say that there are now 86 killer whales in the population. The petition asserts that the Southern Resident killer whales are actually part of a much larger population and are, therefore, not in danger of extinction.
NOAA insists that accepting the petition does not mean it is necessarily inclined to delist:
We'll begin a review to determine the population's ESA status, and are soliciting scientific and commercial information about these whales to ensure that the status review is comprehensive. Acceptance of this petition doesn't presuppose any particular outcome. We'll consider and address all substantive information received by Jan. 28, 2013.
What's especially specious are the arugments being raised by the Pacific Legal Foundation:
The decision comes after the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition in August asserting that the whale, which swims in the marine waters of the Pacific Northwest, is not biologically different from other orcas found in oceans all over the world.

The PLF argues the whale's continued listing puts farmers at risk because salmon and steelhead found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are part of the orca's food supply.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a news release that the PLF's petition presents new information from scientific journal articles about killer whale genetics. The articles address issues such as how closely related this small population is to other groups of orcas, meeting the agency's standard for accepting a petition for review.
In reality, the newest orca research actually establishes the unique qualities of resident populations. Because they are social animals, they live in fairly large groups which move about to various locales, depending on where fish runs are most abundant. At the same time, genetically distinct populations of so-called "transient" orcas, or Bigg's killer whales -- which eat marine mammals as opposed to fish -- also move through these same waters.

Orcas are not like other species in their portability: If these resident orcas become extinct, they will not be replaced in the ecosystem by other orcas. They will simply be gone.

This would be not just a devastating outcome for people who care about the health of our waters here on Puget Sound. It would also have a devastating economic effect: It's estimated that over a million travelers come to Washington state each year with the purpose of seeing our killer whales, who are indeed among the world's most easily observed whale populations.

A number of observers are questioning NOAA's motives as well:
Fred Felleman, of Seattle, who in 2001 advocated for the original petition for listing, said the petition now to delist the orcas is a distraction from the necessary work of rebuilding orca populations.

"Oh great, here is a chance to biopsy them and tag them and chase them all over town until we don't have to worry about them any more," Felleman said.

To him, the distinct behavior of the southern residents sets them clearly apart from other orcas. They eat only fish, while other orcas eat seals and other mammals. They have distinct family groups, dialects, greeting ceremonies and migratory patterns.

"If there was ever a poster child for this type of subspecies, it's the killer whales," he said. "It's not just their genetics, it's culture. These clearly are the tribes of the sea, and if you extirpate that population not only do you lose the genetic code, you lose a unique brain trust."
If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, there are two organizations to whom you should write:
Northwest Region
Protected Resources Division
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115-0070
Attention—Donna Darm, Assistant Regional Adminstrator
And then you can write our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has a history of advocating for tobacco and nuclear interests and other "business" causes inimical to the human population. Now they're moving to hurt wildlife too -- which also hurts humans.
Pacific Legal Foundation
3900 Lennane Drive, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95834
Phone: (916) 419 7111
Fax: (916) 419 7747
Email: plf AT
Notably, PLF has offices in Washington state, where the businesses who would be harmed by orca extinction operate:
10940 NE 33rd Pl # 210
Bellevue, WA
(425) 576-0484
Be polite and respectful -- but let them know what you think.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Navarette Spins a Big Immigration Lie Out of a Bushel of Little Lies

Ruben Navarrette, the conservative Latino columnist who has been struggling for some time with the nature of the beast with which he finds himself in bed, was pondering the other day how -- after 71 percent of the Latino vote in the USA went for Barack Obama and other Democrats -- Republicans might possibly turn around their image problem with Hispanic voters. They are, after all the demographic time bomb that just went off in the GOP's face.

In his newest column, he appears to have hit upon the solution: Lie like a dog about Democrats, pretend that the raging nativism in the Republican Party doesn't exist, and in general invert reality by introducing a new viral right-wing Planet Bizarro meme -- to wit, that Democrats are the reason comprehensive immigration reform will run aground in the coming sessions of Congress.

That's right: In Navarrette's up-is-down recasting of the immigration universe, the Republican hysterics -- led by Rush Limbaugh and the Minuteman faction, who nowadays fancy themselves the Tea Party -- who were responsible for shooting down the 2007 immigration-reform bill, having declared it "dead on arrival" at the moment of its introduction -- have been airbrushed entirely out of the picture.

But in order to paint a picture of venal Democrats secretly conspiring to keep Latinos in thrall by only pretending to support comprehensive immigration reform, Navarette has to lie. A lot. And indeed he does:
When the media talk about the imminent arrival of comprehensive-immigration reform, this is what is generally assumed: Supposedly, the tuneup to our immigration system that President George W. Bush first talked about at the White House with Mexican President Vicente Fox in September 2001 is a done deal. We’re told: Democrats want it, and Republicans need it.

The assessment is half right. The Republicans need it. But the Democrats don’t really want it. They’ve never really wanted it. They only say they want it to trick Latinos and immigration-reform advocates into voting for them again and again.

Which is why reform probably won’t happen. We’ll have a debate but no solution will emerge from it.

So why don’t Democrats want comprehensive-immigration reform? For the same five reasons that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid teamed up in 2006 and 2007 with the nativist wing of the Republican Party to kill bipartisan bills and, in 2010, helped scuttle the DREAM Act — a mini-legalization program for college students and military.
This is just blatantly, egregiously false -- and the nakedness of these assertions is a clear signal that Navarrette is not simply mistaken on the facts, but actively knows they are false and is lying.

For instance: Harry Reid was the sole sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. He did not "team up" with nativist Republicans to kill his own bill: He fought them tooth and nail.

Likewise, Reid has always supported the DREAM Act, and was one of its sponsors in 2009 and 2010. When it was reintroduced during the 2010 lame-duck session, it was Harry Reid leading the charge. The measure failed because Democrats couldn't overcome the Republican-imposed and -supported filibuster.

Navarrette tells a number of other little lies too, including claiming that labor "opposes any stab at immigration reform that includes mention of guest workers" (false: unions are fine with guest-worker programs that ensure normal constitutional rights, guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, for such workers, including labor and civil rights) and that Democrats are afraid of pitting Latinos against labor unions (new flash for Navarrette: Labor unions loudly support comprehensive reform; indeed, one of the largest unions, SEIU, counts Latinos as a significant bloc of their base).

But the Big Lie all this is intended to promote is the notion that it's not Republican nativists -- you know, the folks who would rather die than allow anything remotely like Navarrette's own "common sense" proposal to craft a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here (not to mention for new arrivals as well), which are immediately and loudly denounced as "amnesty" -- who are preventing immigration reform from moving forward. Nope. It's venal conniving Democrats.

Certainly it's true that there are parts of comprehensive reform that are hard for progressive reformers to swallow as well (including, most likely, penalties and fines for immigrants who are found to have violated existing law), especially for labor unions, many of whose members may also view the new arrivals with some anxiety. But that is not a serious obstacle, nor are those currents strong enough to inspire the kind of nefarious "keep them on the plantation" conspiracy that Navarrette has fabricated here.

What's most self-evident, though, is that Ruben Navarrette has not single shred of credibility remaining.

 Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tea Party Path to Victory: Go After Moderate Republicans in 2014

I say the Tea Partiers should go for it:

The tea-party movement is trying to regroup after taking some licks in this month's elections. Several groups already are setting their sights on 2014 congressional races, in which they plan to promote their preferred candidates and hope to weed out Republicans they consider insufficiently conservative.
Yeah, that's the ticket! You know, if we get enough Tea Partiers as the GOP nominees, as BooMan notes, Democrats may be able to take back the House and keep the Senate.

You know they make ideal opponents, because they have such a fine grasp of reality ... the reality on Planet Bizarro, that is:
Tea-party activist Greg Fettig, a founder of Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate and a backer of Mr. Mourdock, said the main lesson from the loss is that activists need to be sure the campaigns they support are well-run.
If by "well run" he means "not prone to saying insane things that make voters flee them in droves," he might have a point. But that would not describe any known or likely Tea Party candidate.

But of course it can't be them. It can't be that their gravitational pull forced every GOP candidate, including Mitt Romney, into such extreme far-right positions that they couldn't appeal to the broader American electorate. Heavens no. It was the fact that Romney tried to appear sane nonetheless:
In their post mortems of the 2012 election, activists put much of the blame for Mr. Romney's defeat squarely on the candidate.

"If we choose someone who runs a content-free campaign and is left of center, at least within the Republican Party, we will get our butts kicked," said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation.
These folks deserve our encouragement.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Can We Help the Would-Be Secessionists Pack?

The Tea Party folks -- to no one's great surprise -- are not taking their electoral defeat at the hands of a black man lying down. They're threatening to pack up their soccer ball and take it home.

Of course, where they'll go once they're packed up is an open question. But by God, they are NOT gonna put up living around a bunch of libruls any longer. Matthew Feldman and Leonard Weinberg at TruthOut round up some of the far-right reaction.

It was particularly chortle-inducing to read the reaction in the Seattle Times of Keli Carender, the Seattle woman credited with providing the initial spark for the whole Tea Party shebang back in 2009:
"It's getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe's, and I was glaring at everyone around me," says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group.

Carender's glaring took place at the Trader Joe's in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs.

"I kept thinking I was surrounded by people who are destroying freedom,"says Carender. "It's starting to make me angry, not wanting to be around these people."
Trust me, honey, no one wants to be around you, either. Especially as you glare psychotically at them for having the audacity to think differently than you and the voices in your head. Most of us, when we encounter folks like you, run the other direction before you can pull out your sniper rifle and begin firing.

But this was especially hilarious to read in Seattle of all places. Hello, Keli: The voters in Washington state had just voted to legalize marijuana and gay marriage both in the same election -- one of the most massive expansions in individual freedom in any election in recent memory.

The only "freedoms" they turned their backs on, as it were, by rejecting Republican rule were the "freedom" to not pay taxes and the "freedom" not to have a non-right-wing president. At least, those seem to be the freedoms that Tea Partiers are most focused upon. (Yes, we know they're extremely paranoid about their gun rights being taken away, based on their readings of vapor trails, as far as we can tell. Indeed, here in Seattle, we'd be delighted -- for obvious reasons -- if the Obama administration actually were to take up the problem of gun proliferation and its attendant violence. But we're not holding our breaths.)

Of course, if Keli really can't stand to be around those steenking libruls, all she really has to do is move across the lake to Bellevue, where Republicans are still mostly dominant. Though that is waning, too, as more and more people figure out that the GOP is controlled by nutbars.

Carender's reaction is fairly typical of the Tea Party crowd in general after the election. Indeed, a number of folks in red states are flocking to see if they can secede from the union.
Even as Americans flock to theaters to see a film about a revered historical figure that reunified the nation after a bloody Civil War, there’s a fresh movement among some political factions to have their states secede from the United States.

In the wake of President Obama’s re-election earlier this month, a flood of petitions has filled the White House’s “We The People” website, seeking federal permission for states to “peacefully” withdraw from the nation and “create [their] own new government.”

Although the petitions are largely a symbolic gesture meant to express some people’s dislike of election results, residents of all 50 states have now filed them. More than 675,000 digital signatures have been collected so far.

Of course, anyone can create a petition on the White House site; under the site’s guidelines, White House staff only will review a petition and issue a response if one garners at least 25,000 signatures.

(For context, other recent petitions have called for nationalizing the production of Twinkies, to ensure their continued existence; and pardoning the Ohio State Buckeyes from “unjust NCAA sanctions” that prevents the team’s “rightful access to a BCS bowl game.”)

Thus far, only secession petitions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have reached the 25,000-signature threshold. Not surprisingly, all of those states – except Florida – went for Republican Mitt Romney in the election.
This secession movement has been all the talk at Tea Party sites, though of course official Republican figures are trying to knock it down.

But as for me, I'm with Hunter at DKos:
This notion of conservative secession has its merits. Of course, as "True America" we'd want to attach some constraints to the separatists: no nuclear weapons, get your own damn military, and we'll be carving out territory for you that consists entirely of places close to sea level, so that you can ignore climate change from the best possible vantage point. But this sounds pretty doable, once the logistics get worked out. So what are you going to call yourselves? United Galts of America? New Jesusland? That's great, we'll send you a card.
Especially when you consider that dumping these morons from the union will save us not just headaches, but a buttload of the money with which we Blue staters subsidize them:
This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically "red" states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.
Of course, most of these halfwits believe that their tax dollars actually subsidize the welfare parasites who live in the Blue states, when the reality is that it's the other way around.

FWIW, I just watched Lincoln the other night. And while contemplating the subsequent reality -- that the South effectively overturned all of Lincoln's careful work (not to mention the verdict of the war itself) in the years following, all under the bellicose banner of the Bloody Shirt -- I was struck by the thought that we all might have been better off if we had just let the South go fester in its own moral and economic rot. We might still be.

Because what's clear about these folks, beyond their delusions about a decline in our freedoms, is that they do not believe in democracy. That's clear not just in their threats but in their daily actions and their constant contempt for democratic institutions, not to mention their overwhelmingly clear preference for right-wing authoritarian rule and an oligarchical society. Well, mebbe we should let them have it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Outrage in Arizona: Most Uncounted Ballots Cast by Latinos

Something is rotten in the state of Arizona. And it stinks of a festering campaign to suppress the growing political power of the state's Latino population.

Because they're still counting nearly 200,000 "provisional" ballots that were handed out in massive numbers because of the large number of first-time voters whose mail-in ballots were not delivered, and others who did not receive their sample ballots, showing up on Election Day with only hats in hand -- even though they had legally registered. From the WSJ:
Arizona elections officials continued chipping away at a mountain of uncounted ballots from the Nov. 6 election, but more than 192,000 uncounted ballots remained Wednesday night, leaving results up in the air and prompting protests from the Latino community.

At least one high-profile contest remains in the balance: the closely watched congressional race between incumbent Democrat Ron Barber—the chosen successor to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords—and Republican Martha McSally. As of Wednesday evening, 943 votes separated the candidates, with Mr. Barber ahead.

Many candidates with large leads—such as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—have declared victory while their opponents conceded.
But state election officials cautioned that with so many uncounted ballots they couldn't confirm the outcome of any races. The state plans to release its official results Dec. 3, but "that doesn't stop candidates from declaring victory or conceding defeat," said Matthew Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's office, which oversees elections.

More than 163,700 uncounted ballots are provisional ballots—meaning ballots that need to be checked for missing information, such as the voter's identity or to ensure the voter hadn't filled out two ballots, or voted at the wrong polling place. The remaining 28,550 uncounted ballots are early mail ballots.

Voters who couldn't provide identification at their polling place had until the end of Wednesday to provide it so their ballots would be counted. But groups that worked to register Latino voters in the state said they feared that some provisional ballots might not be counted if those voters weren't aware of the requirement.
You read that right: If you were handed one of these provisional ballots, you had until yesterday to get back to the courthouse and prove that you voted legitimately. If not, your vote gets tossed.

And even if you do show up and prove your vote legitimate, there's the nagging suspicion it will end up uncounted anyway:
"I think a lot of Latino votes were left out on purpose," said 18-year-old Nicolas Botello, protesting outside the Maricopa County Recorder's office Thursday night. Mr. Botello said he voted, but said he fears other voters won't be counted because they received provisional ballots that may be disqualified.

Some protesters left hand-written notes on a large cork board propped up on the sidewalk behind a statue of the Virgin Mary. One such note read: "I registered to vote but they made me cast a provisional ballot. Did it count?"
So far, Senate Democratic candidate Richard Carmona has not unconceded his race, though he is being urged to do so, since the heavy Latino count inherent in these ballots could change the outcome of his race as well.

But the Barber-McSally race is attracting the usual Republican vote-suppression tactics, as AlterNet's Laura Gottesdiener reports:
Democratic congressman Ron Barber is locked in a tight battle against Republican challenger Martha McSally for a congressional seat in a district of Southern Arizona that includes the city of Tucson. The seat was once held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the race is now gaining national attention as voter disenfranchisement threatens to tip the balance in favor of the Republican challenger.

As of Tuesday, Barber had a 829-vote lead , but McSally is using every dirty trick in the book to try to cut into Barber’s lead by attempting to disqualify votes cast in predominately Latino districts, where voters went heavily for Democrat Barber.

Tuesday, the Republican’s attorneys filed a court motion seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Cochise County from counting the ballots, alleging that 130 votes should be disqualified because they “have been spoiled because they were not sealed, as required, when they were transported from the Castro Park, Ramsey and Hopi Precinct polling locations to the Cochise County Elections Department and Recorder’s Office.”
Mario Solis-Marich observes:
Koss had noticed a trend as she called voters to remind them to head to the polls. Repeatedly she found that voters that registered for the first time had not received their sample ballots and did not know where their polls were. Many of the first time voters also had requested mail in ballots that never arrived. “Something here is not right,” she had told MarioWire during a phone call the Monday before the November 6th election. On election day she told about the stated election results in Maricopa “these numbers do not add up”. As a numbers prone economist Ellee Koss should know.

“This is a sad commentary on democracy in Arizona” said Randy Parraz who leads Citizens for a Better Arizona. What we are seeing in Maricopa County is a systemic breakdown of the election process”.

The tactics are hitting home especially for new citizens, such as this Iranian man who was voting for the first time:

As the video's description explains:
When he received his voter registration card he was very happy because he could vote in a free and fair election for the first time in his life! When he got to the polls they told him that his name was not on the list and he would have to cast a provisional ballot. He asked if they would count them and they told him yes 100% but with 500,000 votes uncounted he is now less sure. This is very disappointing to him personally because he left his country and came here because he thought this was going to be a new place he could have rights. In Iran he says they had no freedom, no democracy. And he feels like the five years he worked to become a citizen was for nothing.
Heckuva job there, Arizona. As Rachel Maddow says in the video atop this post, this is a matter of deliberately making it hard for minorities to vote.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.