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Spyhopping the Right.

David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at dneiwert@hotmail.com.

Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at srobinson@enginesofmischief.com.

Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.

Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Unhinged: Unhonest
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:

"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here

Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation

Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.


Choice essays:

"The Political and the Personal"


"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.


Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[PDF file]

[Suggested $5 donation]

[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]

[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]


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Ethics indeed
Saturday, January 15, 2005  
I've been reading about the Kos/myDD dustup with some interest, even though it only affects me peripherally (I only take money for the publication of my work, and decline all ads). I do think the ethics of blogging is an evolving thing, but it might not be bad to establish.

More troubling is that the whole brouhaha reflects yet again the breakdown in ethical standards for the mainstream media -- in this case, the Wall Street Journal, which ran the piece that set off the controversy. It included this paragraph:
A spokeswoman for Mr. Dean said the two bloggers hired by the campaign did nothing unethical because both disclosed their connection to the Dean operation.

Now it turns out that, according to the "spokeswoman" cited here, she said no such thing. According to today's post by Kos that quotes her comments at Dean For America:
Jeanne's colleagues committed a journalistic no-no: they took her background conversation with me and made up a quote from "a Dean spokeswoman". Their fake quote had this spokeswoman apparently admitting that the bloggers were paid for promoting the campaign. They completely mischaracterized our conversation -- and Jeanne was rightly upset about it. I was, and am, too.

Since a distorted version of the conversation has been put in print, I'll tell you what was told to Jeanne when she asked what the story was with the campaign and these bloggers.

I said that, as many media outlets noted at the time and a giant disclaimer on their blog said, these guys were hired as technical consultants. Specifically, they helped the Web team pick a technology platform for the blog (Movable Type) and helped manage Internet advertising (banner ads, Google ads, etc.). They weren't paid to write content -- either for the campaign or on their own blogs. And just in case there was any ambiguity, the campaign made sure they had a notice saying "I am a paid consultant for Howard Dean" right smack on the front of their personal blogs.

The only people the campaign paid to write blog posts were full-time staff at headquarters who wrote the content here on Blog for America. They and the rest of the staff at headquarters were people who quit their jobs and upended their lives to work 100 hours a week for a campaign they believed in -- and frankly, compared to "normal" jobs, the campaign barely even paid them. Had the campaign been throwing around cash to people just to write nice things on blogs, there would have been a mutiny in Burlington.

Ahem. I think the Wall Street Journal needs to convene an independent panel to investigate how this clearly fraudulent quote appeared in print in their newspaper. Any former attorneys general handy?

10:56 AM Spotlight

Betraying the truth
Friday, January 14, 2005  
The most striking aspect of the dustup over the CBS News 60 Minutes report on George W. Bush's National Guard service record is what it reveals about the standards of modern journalism -- not just at CBS, but throughout the national media.

Indeed, the reaction so far has been more instructive than any flaws CBS may have uncovered regarding its own practices.

When the Independent Review Panel that was assembled to examine the matter released its report earlier this week, it was clear that CBS' internal standards for reporting had been violated, and dismissing the four executives involved was appropriate. Most astonishing, certainly, was the CBS reporting team's failure to adequately establish the provenance of the so-called Killian memos. As I mentioned previously, this kind of failure is just emblematic of the shoddy standards that have come to prevail throughout the national media.

The same degraded journalism, in fact, has pervaded much of the ensuing discussion of the CBS matter, both before and after the report. As Corey Pein explored at Columbia Journalism Review, the rest of the media's handling of the story, particularly the carefully orchestrated firestorm that erupted on the right side of the blogosphere, was every bit as riddled with shoddy documentation and analysis, groundless conjecture, and politically motivated bias as anything CBS might have contemplated.

Moreover, once CBS broadcast its report and the right-wing-spin-driven brouhaha erupted over the memos, the Beltway press treated the matter of Bush's military records as a tainted story. Any pursuit of the many remaining unanswered questions about Bush's records and the White House's mendacious explanations for them summarily disappeared from the media's radar.

However, the evidence, as I've explained at length, is overwhelming that Bush skipped out on his commitment by failing to take his flight physical and disappearing from duty for the ensuing year or more; the Killian memos, if they had been legitimate, only would have supplemented and shed some fresh light on what was already a mountain of established and confirmed data. As Kos puts it, the bottom line is this: Bush was AWOL, and every independent examination of his record confirms it.

Not only have the national media failed to pursue this, or even acknowledge it, they are now characterizing the CBS panel's report as actually vindicating Bush -- even though it specifically does not. For that matter, it doesn't even make a definitive finding on whether the "Killian memos" were authentic or not.

Media Matters reported on this the other day:
On January 10, CNN host and nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak and author and WorldNetDaily.com columnist Bob Kohn both falsely suggested that questions about Bush's service rested solely on the flawed 60 Minutes report. January 11 reports in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe relayed erroneous claims by Bush administration officials and other Republicans that the panel report vindicates Bush's assertion that he fulfilled his service and received no preferential treatment, without detailing the vast body of evidence that is completely unrelated to the memos and has not been contradicted or substantively disputed.

Appearing on the January 10 edition of MSNBC's The Abrams Report, Kohn reacted to CBS anchor Dan Rather's September 15 remark that nobody has questioned the "major thrust of our report" by asserting that "There's no story without the documents. ... it's just conjecture without the documents." Earlier that day on CNN's Crossfire, Novak asked why CBS has failed to issue a "formal retraction of George W. Bush ducking National Guard service."

In a January 11 article, The Washington Post reported that conservatives asserted that the panel's findings "would convince Americans that Bush had served honorably during the Vietnam War and received no special treatment," but failed to mention that the panelists explicitly stated (as noted below) that they were not addressing the issue of Bush's service -- not the strength of the evidence against him, nor the credibility of his response. Instead, the Post quoted a remark that made no reference to the panel's findings -- Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie's claim that "[t]he public has made their judgment: They know the president served and was honorably discharged."

Perhaps the rest of the press is eager to sweep the whole affair under CBS' carpet because the entire sorry episode stands as a condemnation of the degraded standards that have come to hold sway throughout the media for the past decade and more.

Atrios commented on this the other day:
[T]he worst Rather has been accused of by sensible people is letting partisanship cloud his judgment. Accepting that as true just for sake of argument, it's still a far less egregious sin than most of the Whitewater-era horseshit which has never been acknowledged as horseshit by the liberal media, even though unlike the Rather incident, much of that horseshit was clearly deliberately manufactured by the producers and reporters. These events were recycled and echoed throuhgout the entire liberal media, with no one calling foul and no one calling for their heads. Without making any statement about what the appropriate consequences for "Rathergate" should be, it's clear that the media attention by that liberal media and the actual consequences have been much greater than dozens of worse incidents involving clear deliberate deception by people in the media.

In his weekly column, Gene Lyons elaborated on this point in more detail:
Amazingly, the CBS team reporting on the president's lost year in the National Guard -- and do let's recall that the suspect memos made a neat fit with other signs that Bush took a powder -- never talked to the purported source of the documents even after Burkett changed his story about who it was.

That's incredible.

Or would be, that is, had Conason and I not documented even worse transgressions in our book, "The Hunting of the President."

During the infamous Whitewater scandals, reporters pursuing Clinton credited the "revelations" of paid sources; edited audio tapes and video clips to make innocent remarks appear suspect; routinely hid exculpatory evidence (my favorite was a Washington Postarticle neglecting to mention that Clinton never endorsed a supposedly suspicious check); intervened with the Justice Department on behalf of an embezzler under indictment; actively assisted prosecutors trying to flip witnesses against the president; hyped stories about nonexistent FBI testimony alleging that the Clintons got $50,000 from a crooked loan; and even gathered information from sources and turned it over to Starr's prosecutors.

Those should have been firing offenses, too. But that was then; this is now. That was Clinton; this is Bush Last week, columnist and TV pundit Armstrong Williams got caught violating the most basic rule of all: He took $240,000 from the White House for touting its education reforms. There was a signed contract; he fulfilled it. Even Pravda did things more subtly.

This failure betrays any ethos of journalism that aspires to be about determining the truth. The vacuum created by the decline of traditional journalistic standards of fact-checking and substantiation is always, in short order, replaced by propaganda.

That in turn means the direction of public discourse will be determined by whoever has the most aggressive spin machine. Over the past decade, that has been the Republicans.

The result has been an unending litany of reportage in which Republican propaganda has been treated as established fact, daily news budget have become a virtual replica of daily GOP talking points, and editorial news judgment has been driven by the conservative agenda. Atrios and Lyons describe, I think, the ways this has driven political coverage in America.

But it goes beyond politics as well. Most egregiously, it has affected the work of the press corps in covering our government, largely by altering the relationships of journalists to the government. With conservatives in control of every branch, the press has become increasingly a propaganda organ for the government, and in particular the executive branch; simultaneously, its historic watchdog function as a check on abuse of government power has seriously eroded.

As Matt Yglesias says, this could not be more clear than in the instance of the decision to invade Iraq, as well as the continuing occupation of that country. The press was eager to embed itself and remain in the graces of an extraordinarily controlling and punitive administration that had little regard for the truth, and in the process failed to ask the hard questions that might have prevented the nation from entering into an ill-starred conflict whose chief accomplishment appears mostly to have been to kill over a thousand American soldiers, kill thousands more Iraqi civilians, and create conditions certain to only create even more terrorists bent on destroying us.

And now that the weapons of mass destruction which gave the administration its only serious pretext for the invasion have been officially established as not having existed, it can't be any more clear that America was led to war under false pretenses.

But on the day it was announced, that news received far less attention than the relatively meaningless CBS panel report.

Many liberals believe the answer is to create their own aggressive spin machine and think-tank infrastructure. No doubt that would help reverse the swing of public discourse to the right. But it won't solve the problem.

At some point, journalists are going to have rediscover their commitment to the standards of the craft, particularly the old adage: "Get it first, but get it right." At some point, we're going to have to recognize that getting it first without getting it right leads to disaster.

Certainly, the producers at CBS have learned that. Unfortunately, no one else in the media seem to. Indeed, the lesson everyone seems to have gleaned from the whole episode is: "Don't get right-wing bloggers pissed off at you." If that's what everyone comes away with, it'll mean we're only worse off now.

UPDATE: I meant to include a link to Mark Gisleson's excellent analysis of the panel's report over at Norwegianity.

5:53 PM Spotlight

Journalism or disinformation?
Wednesday, January 12, 2005  
Reading Robert Jamieson's admiring column this morning, it's easy to come away with the impression of Stefan Sharkansky of Sound Politics as a kind of crusading truth-finder seeking out anomalies in the just-finished recount of the governor's race in Washington state.

I like Stefan. But I'm not so sure about whether truth is what he and the folks at Sound Politics are after. I think what they're after is for the candidate they rooted for to win -- any way, anyhow.

One of Stefan's more incendiary charges mirrors one made by the loser-out Republican in the race, Dino Rossi, in his lawsuit contesting the election, to wit, military voters were cheated out of a chance to vote by King County elections officials. Sharkansky argues, based on shakily obtained evidence, that these officials obscured the date on which they sent out military ballots and thereby engaged in a "cover-up" (a follow-up post by Brian Crouch charges fraud even more clearly).

However, Carla at Preemptive Karma went a-fact checkin', and found that the claims were not what they seem:
I then contacted Bobbie Egan, the media relations person for the King County Elections Office. Ms Egan knew of the soundpolitics allegations.

Egan informed me that the King County Elections Office doesn't handle the mailing for most of the military ballots directly. They do send emailed and faxed ballots out to those military people who request them. However, King County uses a hired vendor (contractor) to send out military ballots to most APO and US military addresses. King County puts the ballots in the envelopes and addresses them, then hands them off to the vendor who prepares them for the bulk mailings through the US Postal Service. King County's bulk mailing permit isn't used for these ballots. There is a federal permit used for mailing military ballots. Ms. Egan further informed me that they have a paper trail to verify that the mailings were properly sent. I'm hopeful that she will be faxing me copies of this paperwork later today.

I did get a call back from the USPS, but not the supervisor of the Business Mail Entry office in Seattle. I spoke with the media relations person for the region, who is following up on my questions and is set to get back to me later today.

Carla also makes some astute observations about the nature of this kind of "journalism":
If the braintrust at soundpolitics had just made a few phone calls, they could have checked their information. Instead, they published what appears to be dubiously and sloppily sourced material, misleading their readership. This misinformation is being used to prop up some very serious allegations.

Bloggers aren't usually held to the same standard as journalists. It's clear that the kind of sourcing and fact checking usually done by journalists isn't part of the blogosphere, in general. However soundpolitics is making some very serious charges (and working hard to self promote in the wake of these charges). Their readership is whipped up into a frenzy without all of the facts.

This tossing about of serious wrongdoing coupled with dubious sourcing and fact checking is irresponsible.

For what it's worth, the behavior at Sound Politics only mirrors the behavior of the Republican right throughout the recount fight: throw shit on the wall and see what sticks. This is especially true of top Republican officials (notably Rossi and GOP Chairman Chris Vance) as well as right-wing radio, where the word "fraud" rings throughout the airwaves -- a charge that simply has not come even close to being proven.

Indeed, one has to ask: Who's perpetrating the fraud here?

4:44 PM Spotlight

The tsunami T-shirt scam
One of the ways that smears work is that they prey on people's gullibility -- on their willingness, or even desire (depending on your Oxycontin intake), to believe the worst about other people. Especially if it excuses your own lack of human feeling and basic decency.

See, for instance, the far-flung right-wing discussion of the tsunami victims seen wearing Osama bin Laden T-shirts. As Digby noted the other day, a caller to Rush Limbaugh used the photo of a person wearing such a shirt as part of her excuse for not feeling any sympathy for the tsunami victims:
CALLER: (Giggle) Well, I was pretty upset and even getting madder the more coverage I watched, and I was thinking, 'Why am I not feeling so charitable, and I'm seeing all these bodies,' and then I see this picture on the Internet that was sent to me, and it was them carrying a body along in Sri Lanka, it said Galle, G-a-l-l-e, Sri Lanka and they had a crowd of people watching and this guy in the middle is standing there looking at the body wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt.

RUSH: I saw that picture.

CALLER: And I thought, it just validated the way I felt and I thought these are the same people that were the cheerleaders on 9/11, and we're going to go rebuild their world for them.

RUSH: Yeah.

This is all part of the right-wing meme blaming the tsunami victims' faiths for the disaster.

However, in at least some instances, something else is at work here as well.

The other day Amy Goodman interviewed the fearless Allan Nairn, who described how, in Indonesia, the bin Laden T-shirts are being used by right-wing miltarists as a propaganda ploy designed to anger Americans:
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Colin Powell announced that the U.S. would be supplying spare parts for C-130 transport planes ostensibly to help with the relief effort, the Indonesian military transport planes. Within days of Powell making this announcement, it came out that the Indonesian military, which had previously used these planes to transport the goods looted from East Timor, as they were destroying East Timor in 1999 to take thousands of Timorese civilian prisoners out after the 1999 campaign of slaughter in Timor, which previously have been used to drop paratroops over Aceh, were now used just in the past week to bring members of two Bin Laden affiliated Indonesian groups, the FPI and the MMI, the Islamic Defenders Front and the Islamic Mujahadin Council, they flew them up to Aceh, ostensibly to help in the relief effort. These groups were created or well the FPI was in part created by the Indonesian armed forces, and the MMI has received backing from Indonesian military intelligence at various points. The MMI includes Laskar Jihad a group the went into Malukus and helped spark sectarian fighting between Muslim and Christian peasants, Muslim and Christian militias, in which thousands were killed. This was done to create chaos, which the Indonesian military could then take advantage of. And these groups are openly connected to Bin Laden and espouse that ideology.

AMY GOODMAN: You're saying that the Indonesian military has brought them into Aceh now, actually flown them in?

ALLAN NAIRN: Yes, they brought them into Aceh. Some of them are walking around with Bin Laden T-shirts. They go up to foreign reporters and present themselves as Acehnese even though they are not, and James Kelly of the U.S. State Department just said, there's worry that such militants might attack U.S. troops. Well simultaneously Powell was announcing the U.S. is going to aid the Indonesian military, one of the rationales being the Indonesian military is needed to fight such Bin Laden-style military.

AMY GOODMAN: The Indonesian military brought them as in as a way to galvanize support for the Indonesian military?

ALLAN NAIRN: Apparently so. They have used similar tactics before. It's also seems to be a way of terrorizing the Acehnese population.

Be sure to check out Nairn's blog. I was working MSNBC's international desk during the 1999 East Timor crisis, and came to admire Nairn for his bravery and awesome reporting. Here's a Salon piece looking back on that episode.

[Hat tip to Erin in comments.]

10:07 AM Spotlight

A little talk about hate
I'm scheduled to make a speaking appearance today at Seattle University. I'll be discussing hate crimes and my book, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America.

The program is located in the Schafer Auditorium which is in the foyer of the Lemieux Library. I'm scheduled to begin speaking at around noon; I'll talk for about half an hour, then take questions, and then sign books. The program is supposed to last until 1:30 p.m.

This appearance is sponsored by the school's Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. (A PDF of the flyer for the talk is here.)

The public is welcome, so be sure to come down if you have the time.

12:04 AM Spotlight

Montana madness
Tuesday, January 11, 2005  
I mentioned the other day that my recent reconnaissance in Montana and elsewhere had produced some disturbing data, particularly regarding the way right-wing rhetoric is trending.

What I neglected to mention is that Montana in particular is, at the same time, showing signs of hope for rural progressives. This is a winnable fight, if we can ever convince our urban-centric political colleagues to listen up.

Right after the election, I laid out the need for developing a rural strategy if progressives really want to turn the current electoral trend around. Democrats need to become a national party again.

The key, as I said then, is not to surrender on core issues, but to begin fighting back and countering the pervasive right-wing propaganda in rural districts, both by words and by actions. The latter is particularly key, since Republicans have been harming rural dwellers in ways that can be easily demonstrated, particularly by counter-action.

David Sirota recently had a piece in Washington Monthly profiling Brian Schweitzer, the new governor of Montana. He's a Democrat. And he won by adopting precisely that strategy.

The issue that Schweitzer used to drive a wedge between Republicans and their rural base was a simple one: land and stream access for hunters and fishermen. As Sirota explains:
To understand why hunting and fishing is such a big deal in Montana, consider this: The state has a population of 971,000; in 2001, 723,000 of them fished, hunted, or watched wildlife, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey. Though the state has plenty of land for hunting and fishing, the residents don't take kindly to any effort to restrict their sporting pursuits. Yet throughout the Mountain West, Republicans, working with conservative think tanks, have pushed privatization and property-rights regulations that have the effect of doing just that. In the late '90s, for example, the Montana Republican Party platform, along with Brown's running-mate, Rep. Dave Lewis, tried to restrict the state's treasured Stream Access Law, which demands private landowners allow non-commercial anglers to fish on streams crossing through their property. The legislature also attempted to sell off large chunks of state land, much of it prime hunting territory. Some outdoorsmen became worried that the state's deficit woes would be used as a Republican rationale to reduce spending on public land management programs and sell off even more valuable hunting real estate.

Working with a local outdoorsmen group in Gallatin County, which includes Bozeman, Schweitzer drafted a 9-point plan to protect cherished hunting and fishing access rights on public and private lands. Among other things, Schweitzer called for keeping public lands in the state's hands, for spending more money to maintain them for hunters and anglers, and for using fees from hunting licenses to buy easements from private property owners to give sportsmen easier access to fields and streams. He unveiled this plan at a town hall meeting of conservative hunters and fishermen in Bozeman, to happy applause. Randy Newburg, a Republican who heads the Headwaters Fish and Game Association in Bozeman, effectively endorsed Schweitzer, calling access a "special" issue, and accusing Republicans in Helena of trying to "sell it off to the highest bidder."

The beauty of the access issue was three-fold. First, it helped Schweitzer make inroads with the constituency of outdoorsmen that is normally Democrat-averse.

Second, it let us speak to both left-leaning environmentalists, who wanted public lands and wildlife herds maintained, and right-leaning outdoorsmen, who wanted a place to recreate and a steady population of game to hunt. This was especially important because we did not want to alienate the enviros who would be out in force on election day to vote against an initiative to permit cyanide leach mining. Stern, who had a deft sense of strategy, once pointed out, "Hunters can be some of the biggest environmentalists around, even though they don't think of themselves that way and would never in a million years label themselves that."

Third, it was an issue that would ultimately help us tie Brown in Republican-leaning Gallatin County, one of the fastest growing counties in America. Like other Rocky Mountain exurbs, Gallatin had seen an influx of new residents looking to live in an area with outdoor recreation. Targeting these new residents and making them Democratic voters early were key not only to the election at hand, but also for building a majority for the long haul.

There are similar issues that can be used to dispel the conservative stranglehold on rural political life: the demise of the family farm; corporate timber giants' job-reducing measures and resource mismanagement; the gutting of the rural infrastructure; destruction of hunting and fishing habitat. And that's just for starters. For nearly every rural locale, there is a menu of opportunities.

It is important to remember that this has to be done by candidates who who can demonstrate they share rural dwellers' real values: hard work, honesty, decency, forthrightness, integrity. They also have to be genuine; a few years ago, Idaho Democrats ran as their candidate for the U.S. Senate a man from the East Coast who claimed residence in Sun Valley. Nice fellow, and an avid fly fisherman, but he wasn't from Idaho and gave little sign he had any more than a peripheral connection to the people who live there. He got creamed, of course; but even worse, he underscored the perception in the state of Democrats as the party of urban elites.

Even though Schweitzer is making great strides in Montana, he faces a continuing uphill battle, in no small part because the Republican Party in Montana is so entrenched and remains so powerful. More to the point, the GOP in Montana is becoming increasingly extremist in its orientation.

This has not exactly been a secret in Montana. There have been Republican legislators with militia/Patriot associations, from nearly every part of the state. This strand of GOP politics remains alive and well; take, for instance, the Bozeman legislator who is proposing to require a death certificate be issued for all abortions.

One of the most interesting of these figures is a fellow named Rick Jore, who hails from Ronan, the Mission Mountain/Flathead Valley reservation town where I spent the better part of one summer (in 1988) editing the local weekly paper. Jore's constituency is the extreme right wing whites who tend to form a substantial bloc in western Montana, including the Flathead. (See my previous report on extremist activity in the valley.)

Jore held his seat in the Legislature from 1994 to 2000, always as a Republican. But he maintained associations with Howard Phillips' Constitution Party for several years, and in 2000 announced he was leaving the GOP and running as a Constitution candidate. He promptly lost his seat and hit Phillips' CP speaking circuit.

Jore decided to try running again in 2004. He wound up splitting the right-wing vote, and ended up in a numerical tie with Democrat Jeanne Windham after the final recounts were held: Jore and Windham each had 1,559 votes, while Republican Jack Cross garnered 1,107 votes.

That meant the governor was allowed to make a choice between the two candidates. One big problem with that: the current governor is a Republican, who would be making a choice that would affect the incoming Democratic governor (Schweitzer). Indeed, if Windham were chosen, Democrats would control the state House for the first time in over a decade (in addition to the governorship, they also took the Senate). If Jore, the GOP would maintain its tenuous grip.

Now, outgoing Republican Gov. Judith Martz is perhaps the most unpopular governor in Montana history. (You used to be able to buy a bumper sticker in Montana that proclaimed, "My governor is dumber than your governor.") So unpopular that she decided not to seek re-election after one term. Her ineptitude was a big boost for Schweitzer as well.

Unsurprisingly, Martz picked Jore:
At a press conference, Martz said she studied the election results and found that 63 percent of the House District 12 voters favored the conservative candidates -- either Jore or Cross -- in the three-person race.

"It is my opinion that the people in that community really were looking for a conservative to serve them," she said. "I believe that was the choice of the people and that's why I chose Rick Jore."

In response, Jore said, "I was pleased and privileged that she would express the confidence in me." He said he agrees with Martz that the district ought to have a conservative representative, given how the vote totals came out.

Windham could not be reached for comment but in the past has rejected the notion that more Lake County voters cast their ballots for conservative candidates, a conservative should be appointed.

What's noteworthy about Martz's action was that it explicitly acknowledged an ideological connection between Republicans and the extremists of the Constitution Party. Usually, they are more circumspect.

A voter's lawsuit contested the outcome, though, on the basis of seven ballots that were marked for both Jore and Cross, which according to Montana law rendered their vote invalid for that race, but which were counted for Jore. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and Windham won the seat, which in turn gave the House to Democrats.

Now, you may recall that the Constitution Party sponsored a couple of Montana appearances by Judge Roy Moore, the fellow who raised the ruckus over the Ten Commandments in Alabama. Those appearances were also bolstered by a turnout drive from the Militia of Montana.

Travis McAdam (of the Montana Human Rights Network) explained in detail in a recent op-ed for the Helena Independent Record what the Constitution Party is: among other things, the only party that openly supported the "militia" movement:
Howard Phillips founded the national Constitution Party in 1992, combining Christian Reconstruction with themes of the militia movement. Reconstructionists believe that civil law should mirror Old Testament biblical law, meaning capital punishment should be extended to gays, lesbians, blasphemers, and adulterers. People who are not "Christian enough" could be denied citizenship, or worse, be executed. The party also promotes "New World Order" conspiracy theories similar to those of the militia movement.

(A minor corrective worth noting, incidentally: they originally called themselves the "U.S. Taxpayers Party" and changed the name to "Constitution Party" in 1999 for the 2000 election.)

Even more profound is the significance of Martz's move:
Her decision reverberates with partisan political sentiment. Wanting to keep Republicans in control of the House, Martz provided legitimacy to the Constitution Party, something the party had been unable to do on its own. For short-term political gain, Martz has allowed Montana conservatism to take another gigantic step to the right.

Brian Schweitzer, to his credit, appears poised to take advantage of this creeping extremism by making hay with it. His national peers might be wise to follow his example.

11:17 PM Spotlight

Sunday, January 09, 2005  
I really am bad at this sort of thing, but I suppose I should have noted that yesterday was my second anniversary operating Orcinus. (Here's my first post.)

The only reason it's worth noting is that every now and then I like to stop and say thank you to the people who keep reading and linking to this little corner of the blogging world. I consider myself incredibly fortunate in this regard. It's every writer's dream to have a kind of ongoing conversation with so many thoughtful people. I've tried to keep the blog a real writer's journal where I work out writing ideas, so attracting this kind of readership is extremely gratifying (not to mention edifying).

Here's to many more years.

1:16 PM Spotlight

Brain dead indeed
The ever-on-the-spot John Ray at Dissecting Liberalism posted this today:
There is a pompous Leftist ass (as in donkey) called Steve Kangas who claims to have all the answers to why Leftists are right and others are wrong. I guess he has convinced himself but convincing others will be harder. I have shown here how far-Left and quite stupid is his treatment of one topic at least. He starts out by defining socialism in such a way that only Communists can be socialists and then defines socialism in a way that would exclude Stalin from being one! So is ANYBODY a socialist according to Kangas? Only Mr Brain-dead Kangas himself, I guess.

Obviously John Ray is as well informed as he is a deep thinker. Because on the left side of the Web, it's very well known that Steve Kangas has been dead since Feb. 8, 1999, the day he was found in the men's restrooms of Richard Mellon Scaife's offices.

The circumstances were mysterious at best, and though Kangas' death was officially ruled a suicide, it has formed the basis of several theories that he was murdered for his outspoken views, and especially his ongoing criticism of Scaife (see here, here, and here). I have no idea whether these theories hold any water, not having examined any of them thoroughly. But there is little doubt that Kangas has been, uh, brain dead for five years now, a fact that takes only a little googling to ascertain.

I think John Ray wonders why none of the people he "dissects" (including yours truly) take his work seriously. Really, now.

[Via The Daou Report.]

11:20 AM Spotlight

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