Friday, May 16, 2014

Idaho’s GOP Gubernatorial Primary Debate Reveals Deep Streak of Extremism

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Usually, political debates are an opportunity for candidates to provide voters with enough information for them to make informed decisions before filling out their ballots. But Wednesday night’s Republican gubernatorial primary debate in Boise, Idaho, featuring the state’s top four conservative candidates, raised more questions than it answered.

Two of the four candidates – a foul-mouthed biker from Nampa named Harley Brown and a bearded anti-abortion activist named Walt Bayes – had previously run for office but garnered few votes. Their show-stealing debate performances, broadcast on Idaho’s public television network, revealed why.

Both men were on the program at the insistence of incumbent Gov. L. Butch Otter, who was accused by his Tea Party rival, State Sen. Russ Fulcher, of inviting the men to participate so that he could avoid Fulcher’s own questions.

Brown set the tone by explaining early on in the debate that God told him to run for president while he was going through personal trouble: “I cried out to God. I said, ‘How about putting me back on active duty and making me a battalion commander?’ Long story short, he says, ‘No, son, I got a higher rank for you. I’m gonna make you a commander in chief.’ And I stagger not at his promise. I’m gonna get into that more with you.”

Brown paused briefly and looked at everyone staring at him, and said: “Don’t think I’m crazy, ‘cause I’m not.”

However, while Brown was mostly colorful and crude, Bayes was clearly the most radical of the lot, declaring abortion outright murder, saying he would shoot authorities if they came for his children, and implying he thought LGBT people should be put to death.

One of Bayes’ early statements was a rant about abortion, claiming it was against state law to even perform the procedure: “If I’m governor, I am going to enforce the law. And somebody says, ‘What about the Supreme Court?’ If the Supreme Court goes to hell, I’m not followin’. And I’m telling you folks, when you murder 56 million babies, you’re asking for our country to be demolished.”

He read from Scripture – Romans 1:24-32, to be exact – when he was asked about the recent court decision overturning Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying: “My main loyalty is to God Almighty, and what he says is what I go by. And this is part of the Bible.”

The reading concluded with the line: “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they would commit such things, are worthy of death.”

Bayes also boasted of having been arrested for his home schooling advocacy when he was asked if he could govern. “They told me we couldn’t home-school. I prayed about it. I stood on my hind legs like a man. I told ‘em what I thought of ‘em, and the television would talk to me for thirty minutes or an hour: Well what would you do if they came out to take your kids? Well, you’d shoot ‘em! What else would you do?”

Bayes also had a scathing assessment of the two political parties: “I honestly think half of the Republican Party is Democrats and half of the Democratic is Communist.”

Near the end of the debate, Bayes exclaimed: “Our energy plants that are run by atomic – they can stand one-fifteenth of an earthquake like that one in Japan! And my Bible says they’re gonna get worse and worse!”

While Brown and Bayes kept the audience’s attention with their outlandish pronouncements, the two more mainstream candidates – incumbent Gov. L. Butch Otter and State Sen. Russ Fulcher, a Tea Party favorite – held wonky discussions mostly between themselves about serious state policies and politics.

The two fringe candidates also tried their hand at policy, voicing sentiments similar to those heard on the right surrounding the standoff at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch.

“The first thing I want to do is take Idaho ground back from the federal government,” said Bayes. “The Constitution – the Idaho Constitution – states plainly that the federal government only owns a few buildings. The land is ours. We’ve got as much right to all the land in this state, including the wilderness, as New York has Manhattan. I’ve got as much right to see Manhattan Island like they paid twenty-four dollars for as they have to come out here and look at our wilderness. We’ve got a bunch of Eastern idiots running everything!”

Brown chimed in: “I agree with Mr. Bayes. The key is getting our land back from the feds. And here’s my
plan of attack.  … OK, you go in there and you use spiritual warfare. Nobody – everybody talks about the natural. But I’m gonna talk about the other realm we need to extend. You bind those evil spirits that are behind the feds with the blood of Jesus, the name of Jesus, the power of entombment of the Holy Spirit, the power of agreement, the Word of God. Take air superiority, and then go in there with your tanks, on the ground, with [colleague Chris] Troupis’s lawsuits. Blitzkrieg.”

The somewhat astonished moderator interjected that the question she had asked was about taxes. Brown was unruffled: “Taxes are a drag,” he said. “I don’t even like to think about it. Fighting the feds is more exciting for me.”

Brown was also clearly unapologetic about the bigoted jokes and remarks he makes at his campaign website, “The Candid Candidate”. “You might find it offensive, but I hit everybody — Jews, Irish people, black jokes and religious jokes,” Brown said when asked about the site. “I don’t like political correctness! Can I say this? It sucks! … I’m about as politically correct as your proverbial turd in a punchbowl. And I’m proud of it. And I’m going for the vote of the real people.”

Indeed, as Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reported, Brown made a crude racist joke about “wetbacks” during the warmup for the debate and was warned that he would be cut off from questioning if he made such comments during the debate.

At the closing, Brown finished the tale of how God told him he would become president, including a mention of “trumped up restraining orders” that prevented him from seeing his kids. He also waved a signed statement from a “Masai prophet” that supposedly confirmed that God had told him this.

“You have your choice, folks,” Brown concluded, waving at his fellow candidates. “A cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy. Take your pick… We’re leaving it up to you.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Former Zimmerman Defender Taaffe Now Says He Should Have Been Found Guilty

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Frank Taaffe, the tough-talking friend of George Zimmerman who appeared on multiple TV programs to defend the Florida man’s actions in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, has had an apparent change of heart.

Taaffe, who has a history as a white supremacist as well as a criminal background, told a reporter for Orlando, Fla.’s News 13 that he now believes that Zimmerman “racially profiled” Martin the day he was shot, and that he should have been found guilty by the jury that eventually acquitted him last year.

“What I know of George and his tendencies and also my opinion is that he racially profiled Trayvon Martin that night because if that had been a white kid on a cell phone, walking through our neighborhood, he wouldn’t have stayed on him the way he did and that’s a fact and I believe that in my heart,” Taaffe told reporter John Davis.

For many months, Taaffe said just the opposite, and did so on national television on numerous occasions, depicting Martin as a drug-addled, thuggish teenager and declaring Zimmerman’s innocence. “It’s really sad that he has already been convicted in the public media and has already been sentenced to the gas chamber,” he lamented in an interview with NBC’s Miami affiliate.

Taaffe said he’s now recanting his earlier statements in order to clear his conscience. “I can only ask for the country to forgive me, and today I believe that he racially profiled him based on the color of his skin.”

Davis said that some “may wonder what does Frank Taaffe have to gain by doing this,” before asking if he was was working on a book or TV show. Taaffe said no, “I’m just working on me right now and getting right with God.”

Taaffe told Davis that he was driven to reassess his views after the death of his brother last month, as well as his two sons’ deaths in recent years. He added a message for Trayvon Martin’s parents: “I’m sorry that you lost your son, I know what that’s like and I wish things had been different.”

It was not clear whether Taaffe now has similar regrets over the crudely racist things he uttered on air while campaigning on Zimmerman’s behalf – most notably on the white nationalist podcast “The White Voice.” On that show, he attacked Oprah Winfrey as a “nigger” and said “the only time that a Black life is vindicated is when a White person kills them.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On MSNBC, Schultz and Schweitzer Raise Concerns about Direction of Western ‘Revolt’

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz hosted former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Monday night to discuss the growing “revolt” over federal land use policies in Western states, embodied in the recent armed standoff with federal officers at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. Schweitzer has deep experience with contentious land use issues and dealing with federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

As Schultz pointed out, antigovernment animus – rife with extremist “Patriots” and militiamen, as well as ample weaponry – appears to be building. Just last week in Utah, a BLM livestock wrangler was threatened on Interstate 15, and protesters – including two Bundy sons – intentionally violated a ban on motorized vehicles in a natural area, put in place to protect nearby archaeological sites.

Schultz blamed the rise on right-wing media: “We all know where this antigovernment sentiment started, don’t we?”

Schweitzer, who has had plenty of experience in dealing with “Patriot” extremists in his own state, including in the Montana legislature, was particularly scathing in his assessment of the motivations of the people involved in the “revolt”:

SCHWEITZER: And now this bunch, this Cliven Bundy bunch, coming over from Nevada giving advice to people in Utah on how to deal with the BLM? My God, that’s like the Aryan Nations giving advice to Donald Sterling. This bunch, the Bundy bunch are grifters, they haven’t paid their fees, they haven’t cooperated with the federal government, they say they don’t even recognize the United States government. And these Tea Party, militia Foxtrotters, they’re a bunch of ne’er-do-wells – they aren’t ranchers, they aren’t loggers, they aren’t people who have legitimate businesses on the land. You wouldn’t get ranchers to stand next to Bundy. And people who are in the mining business, and the oil and gas business on federal land, they wouldn’t stand next to these people because they make a living on that land, and they listen to the rule of the land.

Schultz pointed out that the fanatical behavior of the “Patriots” raised real concerns about the rule of law: “So now we have got government officials in this country wondering, ‘What do we do if we go out and try to enforce the law, and people are openly armed with assault weapons?’”

“No one knows where this is going to end,” he added. “And no one knows how it’s going to end. And it’s kinda scary. It has the roots of a movement that won’t end really peacefully. I hate to say that. But this is how it goes, isn’t it?”

That was the conundrum he presented to Schweitzer: “Are we now seeing a culture develop in America: ‘Well, you can go ahead and do what you want, we’ll just decide which law we are going to uphold?’”

Schweitzer agreed that it was a real concern. “We are a land that has rule of law,” he observed. “We’re not Yemen. We’re not Somalia. We’re a land that has laws. And we all have to follow those laws. We don’t get to decide which ones we’re going to follow and which ones we don’t. That’s what a civilized society does.”

Schweitzer also said he was glad that the FBI had announced it was investigating the people who had pointed weapons at federal agents during the Bundy standoff in Nevada on April 12: “If you point a gun at law enforcement or federal officials, you should have no expectation of this ending good for you,” he said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Wake of Missoula Shooting, Montana Legislator Rips NRA

Even in a state like Montana, where guns have long been woven into the culture, even in this paranoiac-gun-crazy age, there are still some lines that no one can or should cross. One of them is old-fashioned premeditated murder.

We all saw this "stand your ground" mentality in play with the Trayvon Martin case. And in the recent murder conviction of the Minneapolis man who lay in wait in his home so he could gun down the two teenagers who came to burglarize his place in cold blood.

Now there's a case in Missoula, Montana, a state where guns have been part of the culture since the days of the Old West, and have never ceased being so. But everyone knows when someone is hiding behind a law to commit cold-blooded murder, as happened again in a case like the Minnesota one, involving a homeowner angry at being burglarized.

From the New York Times:

Around midnight on April 27, a 17-year-old exchange student from Germany named Diren Dede left the host home where he played Xbox and drained cans of Sprite to set off with a friend through his dark hillside neighborhood. They passed a home whose garage door hung partially open. Using a cellphone for light, Mr. Dede headed in.

Inside the house, motion sensors alerted Markus Kaarma, 29, to an intruder’s presence. Two recent burglaries had put Mr. Kaarma and his young family on edge, his lawyer said, and he grabbed a shotgun from the dining room and rushed outside. He aimed into the garage and, according to court documents, fired four blasts into the dark. Mr. Dede’s body crumpled to the floor.

While Mr. Kaarma has been charged with deliberate homicide, Mr. Dede’s death has set off an outcry an ocean away in Germany, exposing the cultural gulf between a European nation that tightly restricts firearms and a gun-loving Western state. In his defense, Mr. Kaarma is expected to turn to laws enacted in Montana five years ago that allow residents more legal protections in using lethal force to defend their homes.

This isn't the first time the "Castle doctrine" has been used as a pretext for cold-blooded murder in western Montana. Last year, a man in Kalispell gunned down the husband of the woman he had been sleeping with when the man came to his home, and he too claimed self-defense under the Montana law.

But this case presented clear evidence that the perpetrator set out to kill someone:

A hairstylist named Felene Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma had come into the Great Clips salon three days before the shooting and talked about how he had been waiting up with his shotgun for three nights “to shoot some kid.” Ms. Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma was being “extremely vulgar and belligerent,” according to court documents.

Al Sharpton's PoliticsNation show tackled the case earlier this week. And Sharpton got right to the point, exploring the reality that this "stand your ground" mentality was creating a culture that encourages people to commit cold-blooded murder.

He invited Montana legislator Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill of Missoula -- a standout progressive in a state where that is a rarity -- on to discuss her efforts to overturn Montana's "Castle doctrine" laws, or at least reform them.

And Hill left little doubt where all this originates:

HILL: That’s my contention, Reverend. These types of laws have created a culture in our country of vigilante justice that has expanded too far. I believe that this individual is using the “castle doctrine” although it’s premeditated murder – just like we’ve seen in Florida, with Trayvon Martin, and now we’re seeing out here in the West with Montana. This isn’t a rural or urban issue, this isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This is an issue of the NRA taking our gun laws, taking our self-defense laws, and running amok in a dangerous way that has made our communities less safe, and has now resulted in a culture of violence where people are being murdered in the name of their “castle”.

Hill deserves kudos for her bravery and her thoughtfulness. Now if only her fellow Democrats would act like the common-sense Western Democrats of old and rally behind her effort.

White Supremacist Celebrates Second Year as GOP Committeeman with Stormfront Post

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Even though his fellow Republicans originally denounced him, Steve Smith has been unrepentant and unapologetic about his racial views in the two years since he was elected to a Republican county committee in Pennsylvania.

Nowadays, some of those Republicans even pose for photos with him at fundraisers. [Updated with statements from Rep. Lou Barletta and Matthew Dietz below.]

Steve Smith with Congressman Lou Barletta
Steve Smith with Congressman Lou Barletta,
who later explained he did not know
about Smith's white-supremacist ideology
Smith, a former skinhead with a violent criminal record and past associations with neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations, was elected in May 2012 to a four-year term to the Luzerne County, Pa., Republican Party county committee, on what appears to have been a single write-in vote – his own. Republican officials initially attempted to have Smith removed from the position, but eventually gave up and let Smith remain.

Smith recently posted a note at Stormfront – the white supremacist website whose users are responsible for nearly one hundred murders – observing that he had been in office for two years and was becoming entrenched in his role. “Not only were they not successful in ousting me, I was appointed as an officer in my district in my first year!” he boasted.

In the ensuing thread, his fellow white supremacists praised him for his “bravery.” Smith proclaimed: “I consistently vocalize my pro-White viewpoints at meetings. I tell perspective [sic] Congressional candidates that stopping the illegal alien invasion should be their top issue if they truly care about the future of this country.”

Steve Smith with congressional candidate Matt Connolly
Steve Smith with congressional candidate Matt Connolly
One of the participants in the thread asked: “I’m curious. Do you bring along the increase in crime statistics with you when you are arguing these points? If so, how do they handle it?”

Smith answered: “These politicians know I am telling the truth. They have never even tried to debate me on these facts.”

“Unfortunately, these politicians fear being called a “racist” more than they fear the violent crime that blacks and non-white Hispanics are bringing into their neighborhoods,” he added.

This note was similar to a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, that Smith wrote last year, defending and explaining his views:

I am going to present three facts on violent crimes. Young adults commit more violent crimes than older adults. Men commit more violent crimes than women. Blacks commit more violent crimes than whites.

I will bet that almost everyone will wholeheartedly agree with the first two facts without batting an eye, but the last fact seems to bring about false cries of “racism” and a litany of lame excuses.

How can it be perfectly OK to profile according to age and sex , but not race?

Has “political correctness” effectively stopped most people from publicly stating the obvious truth?

I stand behind my positions on racial issues because they are backed up with facts and logic. Here is a bet for the liberals and cultural Marxists who like to try to denigrate me for bringing up the truth on race and crime. If blacks can bring down their violent crime rate in proportion with their population in this country, and Detroit becomes one of the safest cities in the United States while maintaining its majority black population, I will quit being an advocate for whites.

Of course, the crime statistics that Smith and his cohorts obsess about have been around a long time, and their crude and oversimplistic analysis of it has been long debunked. Crime correlates with poverty, and race has been shown to be a very poor predictor of criminal tendencies. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped white supremacists from continuing to parade such statistics as proof of a racial root to crime.
Steve Smith with congressional candidate Matthew Dietz
Steve Smith with congressional candidate
Matthew Dietz

Smith has frequently denied that the ideology he
advances falls into the category of “white supremacism” or racism. Yet Smith’s blunt approval of race-based smears meets the basic definition of hate – namely, having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics (e.g. race).

Smith’s whole career at this point appears to be focused on advancing his racial views. When another user on Stormfront asked him about the possibility of someday running for governor in Pennsylvania, he responded: “I may move up the food chain, but if I do it will be a local office.” “I don’t have the money or time to consider a run for Governor. I have two more years on my current term,” he said.

When he was first elected, Smith also adamantly denied that he was a white supremacist. “That’s a bunch of name-calling the liberals do,” Smith said. “I have made mistakes, and I am moving on.”

Of course, Smith also dismissed his conviction for beating up a black man, during his days as a skinhead, with stones and chunks of pavement, claiming the account wasn’t true: “He wasn’t even touched,” Smith said. He tried to pass the attack off as a case of “drunken stupidity.”

Smith remains unremorseful and unrepentant. He boasted on Stormfront about the mainstream Republicans who posed for photos with him during a recent Republican fundraiser in his district. And he posted the photos.

These included shots with Rep. Lou Barletta, R-PA (11th District); and two Republican congressional candidates from Pennsylvania, Matt Connolly and Matthew Dietz, both competing in the state’s 17th District.

When contacted by Hatewatch, Barletta’s campaign manager, Lance Stange, firmly distanced the congressman from Smith:

We appreciate the Southern Poverty Law Center for bringing this to our attention.  The Congressman recently spoke at a local Republican event.  As often happens, he posed for pictures with a number of people when he was finished speaking.  Apparently, one of them was Mr. Smith, whom the Congressman does not know.

The Congressman rejects the opinions expressed on the website in question and does not associate himself with those views.  He is outraged that his image would be used in any way to support such ideas.

Matthew Dietz’s campaign manager, Cynthia Anderson, also firmly distanced the candidate from Smith:

We’d like to thank the Southern Poverty Law Center for notifying us of Steve Smith’s assertions in an online posting following a Luzerne Co. Republican Committee event earlier this month. Mr. Dietz was very troubled to learn about Smith’s past and current associations; they stand in direct opposition to Mr. Dietz’s own beliefs – namely that this Nation’s greatness was indeed earned through the sacrifice of people from numerous creeds, races, and beliefs.

Matthew Dietz and his campaign have worked diligently to reach out to all families in the 17th Congressional District without exception or exclusion. We condemn any who would use his message to hurt, harm or alienate the citizens in our District, State, or Nation.