Friday, May 27, 2005
Right Wing Nitwit of the Week:
“If you've retired, you don't have anything to worry about — third time I've said that. (Laughter.) I'll probably say it three more times. See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda. (Applause.)” – George W. Bush
Responding to Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) suggestion that Senate Republicans had the necessary votes to invoke the so-called nuclear option and that such a step was necessary, Fox News anchor David Asman asked Lott why Republican senators had compromised on the issue. Why compromise, Asman asked, "if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it." Asman clarified (too late) that it was "you guys in the Republican party" who had the votes. (Good old Faux News... so Fair and Balanced.)
On May 18, Media Matters revealed that Clear Channel radio host Glenn Beck said on-air that he was "thinking about killing [filmmaker] Michael Moore" and wondered whether "I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it." (Ahhh clear channel... smells like family values!)
Racist Right Wingers Grow Bolder. 3 Crosses Burned in Durham.
I have to ask again, why is it conservatives and republicans support these people? Do you think the heartland is getting the message that racism is in vogue?
I think they have.
Three Crosses Burned in Durham
By ERIC OLSON : The Herald-Sun
May 26, 2005 : 12:51 am ET
DURHAM -- Three large crosses were burned in separate incidents across Durham Wednesday night, the first time in recent memory that one of the South's most notorious symbols of racial hatred has been seen in the city.
Yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one of the cross burnings.
The Durham Police Department is investigating the burnings. After the third one was reported, the department ordered that any suspicious cargo truck or large pickup truck be stopped.
"At this day and time, I thought we'd be beyond that," said Mayor Bill Bell. "People do things for different reasons, and I don't have the slightest idea why anyone would do this."
Bell, who said he couldn't recall a cross burning in Durham since he arrived here in 1968, said he hadn't received any calls, letters or e-mails that would "remotely" suggest someone would target the city with cross burnings.
The first burning was reported at 9:19 p.m. outside St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Hillandale Road at Interstate 85.
As police and firefighters were finishing their work there, a second cross burning was reported at 9:54 p.m. along South Roxboro Street, about a quarter-mile south of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Someone had positioned the cross atop a large pile of dirt near an apartment complex construction site to the west of South Roxboro Street.
"This is ridiculous," Durham police Sgt. A.M. Batte said as she stood over the smoldering cross around 10:20 p.m.
Then the third burning was reported at 10:28 p.m. at Peachtree Place and Holloway Street downtown.
The crosses were about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, police said. They were wrapped in burlap and doused in a liquid that smelled like kerosene.
The crosses were made of four 2-by-4s. They were screwed flat together with grooves cut at the intersections of the beams.
Batte said it would not have been difficult to place the cross atop the mound because streetlights in the area were out and large construction equipment shielded the view of passing traffic on South Roxboro Street.
Burning a cross without the permission of the property owner is a misdemeanor in North Carolina. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that, under the First Amendment, cross burning could be barred only when done with the intent to intimidate.
Cross burnings have been associated with the Ku Klux Klan since the early 20th century, and the first known cross burning in the country occurred as a Georgia mob celebrated a lynching, the Supreme Court noted in its decision. The Klan often burned crosses in the yard of people who supported the civil rights movement.
Batte said police were trying to determine if May 25 held any significance to white supremacist or other radical groups, and fire investigators also are looking into the cross burnings.
"I cannot think of any reason that any insider or anyone outside would be angry with us," said Bill Gutknecht, senior warden at St. Luke's. "I don't know what kind of point they're trying to make. ... I certainly hope and pray it had nothing to do directly with our church."
Gutknecht noted that on May 9, members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., picketed outside St. Luke's, among other churches, as part of a protest against the performance of "The Laramie Project" at Durham School of the Arts. The play is about the murder of a gay man, and the Westboro protesters carried anti-gay signs with slogans including "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for 9/11."
"That's the only thing of any kind of conflict, and it wasn't really a conflict," Gutknecht said, explaining that church members ignored the protesters.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
"Activist" Judge Priscilla Owen wins appointment to 5th Circuit. Possible springboard to Supreme Court Appointment.
Let’s pretend that you are the judge in a criminal trial. The defendant is accused of violating a law passed by the legislature. The law is very simple, it states “Thou shalt not kill.” The punishment for violating this law is life in prison without the possibility for parole.
Remember you are the judge, and you must decide if the defendant violated this law.
The first case you see is of a man who killed a cow from a herd he owns so that he could sell the meat. Did he violate the “Thou shalt not kill” statute?
The second case is of a woman who shot her husband in the head. She did this because she caught her husband raping her 8-year-old daughter. Did she violate the “Thou shalt not kill” statute?
The third case is of a soldier who was riding on patrol in Iraq. As he sat in his Humvee he heard something strike the Humvee next to him. Thinking it was a bullet he turned, saw a shape pointing something at him, and fired his rifle killing a 12 year old boy who was holding a walking stick. Did he violate the “Thou shalt not kill” statute?
The final case is of a man who decided he no longer wanted to be married and did not want to pay child support for his newborn child. He came home from work and beat his wife and child to death with a baseball bat. Did he violate the “Thou shalt not kill” statute?
You are the judge. If you are a true strict constructionist then you read the statute and apply it to the facts. As a strict constructionist the law is very clear. Thou shalt not kill means “you will not end life.” But the law doesn’t answer the question: whose life? So in a literal interpretation of this statute a true strict constructionist would have to say that there is no “wiggle room” in this law. As a true strict constructionist you would have to find all four of these people guilty as having violated this law and apply the punishment as prescribed.
The problem with this approach is that it’s stupid. The strict constructionist by definition doesn’t take into account extenuating circumstances, doesn’t bring his or her beliefs or opinions to the table, doesn’t look to the intent of the legislature, doesn’t look to the motivations of the defendants, and surely doesn’t apply his or her own values to the actions of the defendant.
The approach of a strict constructionist is dogmatic. The law is as it reads, and it is presumed that the legislature intended the consequences of passing a law as it is written.
Now, truth be told if this were all that is wrong with the “strict constructionist” approach I might be able to accept it if the conservatives today were actually “strict constructionists.” The problem with the modern conservative movement is that they label anyone who agrees with their philosophy as a “strict constructionist” and anyone they disagree with is labeled an “activist judge.”
The truth is that the modern conservative judge, like Priscilla Owen, is just as likely to bring her own biases and prejudices to the bench as a so-called liberal judge. The differences are in what biases and prejudices they each bring to the bench.
The problem today is that the Republicans and W have been bringing in judges who bring a particular bias to the bench. They are almost always biased in favor of Evangelical Christianity and Evangelical Christian principles when it comes to social issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) In addition they are almost always biased in favor of big business when it comes to economic and trade issues. (Think Enron and Halliburton.)
So if you want a judicial system that takes its cues from James Dobson and Pat Robertson and looks to Kenneth Lay for how to run a business… continue to support W and the Republican agenda.
Or maybe it’s time to look for another option.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Dangerous Clowns (Part 3)
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths. -- Eric Heubeck, The Integration of Theory and Practice
I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough around so we can have two on every campus – living fossils – so we will never forget what these people stood for. -- Rush Limbaugh, quoted in TAKE THEM AT THEIR WORDS, by Bruce J. Miller with Diana Maio
A pattern that has become more and apparent on both the official and grassroots level is that of conservatives compiling lists of dissidents, or individuals perceived as dissidents. Activists have found themselves on “no fly lists” or even the subject of “preemptive” arrests. Attendees at events where Bush or Cheney speak have been carefully vetted, with those identified as liberals or Democrats turned away as if their political affiliation alone qualifies them as security risks. In Fargo, North Dakota, about forty people were listed as barred from Republican events for such radical activities as expressing criticism of George W. Bush. Recently in Denver, three people were denied entrance to the event because someone had spotted a “No Blood for Oil” bumper sticker on their car.
The use of blacklists, of course, is nothing new. It was the hallmark of the Red Scare, and those of us who are old enough and well educated enough to be familiar with the history of the HUAC [House Committee on Un-American Activities] and the career of Joseph McCarthy are also familiar with how and why the use of such blacklists are a detriment to an open society.
Unfortunately, like the lessons of the Second World War, the lessons of the Red Scare are falling from living memory, and cynical conservatives have been quick to take advantage of this historical amnesia. The Bush administration might be somewhat cagey about its lists, blaming overenthusiastic Republican volunteers and computer database glitches, but younger conservatives seem to be less aware of the implications of the lists they compile, and therefore more transparent about the attitudes and motives that drive them.
For that reason, one of the most blatant examples of this penchant for taking names is David Horowitz’s right-wing organization euphemistically named Students for Academic Freedom. SAF has inaugurated a campaign in which Republican Student organizations at American universities are invited to keep dossiers on individual faculty members’ political affiliation. Their web site links to a document entitled HOW TO RESEARCH FACULTY PARTY AFFILIATIONS, which advises students on how to compile a list of school administrators and tenured or tenure track professors and set up an excel spreadsheet that includes the individuals’ first and last name, party affiliation, department, address, age, and gender. They are instructed to match these spreadsheets to voter registration records, record the party affiliations and send the spreadsheets to Horowitz’ organization via email. Horowitz’ organization is compiling a database of University employees and their political affiliations.
How that information might be used by these youthful zealots was illustrated recently at Santa Rosa Junior College in California, when ten instructors came to work in February of 2005 to find flyers decorated with red Soviet stars affixed to their office doors. The flyers’ text was a quote from an obscure California law, which forbids “the advocacy or teaching of communism” with the intent to indoctrinate, communism being defined as “the political theory that the presently existing form of government of the United States or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.”
The Santa Rosa Junior College Republicans shortly afterwards confessed to posting the flyers. Molly McPherson, the organization’s president first said that “we did this because we believe certain instructors at SRJC are in violation of California State Law,” then, more vaguely a few days later, that “there have even been accounts of JC teachers openly advocating Communist and Marxist theories,” then even more vaguely, that “The opinion of the far left is presented as fact, with no alternative.”
What’s especially striking about the Santa Rosa incident is the apparent naiveté of the students involved. The SRJC Republicans seemed unable to distinguish between liberal opinions and the advocacy of Communism. McPherson not only described the faculty reaction to having stars anonymously posted on their doors along with accusations of criminal behavior as “of a magnitude that I didn’t expect,” but made the incredible assertion that the red stars had not been meant as a personal attack against the individual instructors. There was no evident comprehension on the part of the SRJC Republicans of the historical and political implications of what they were doing.
There was also an odd attitude of either impunity or cognitive dissonance, in which claims were made about merely wanting to promote “fairness” even as liberal instructors were denounced as communist law-breakers and California College Republicans gloated over silencing the opposition through dirty tricks and intimidation.
A look at the California College Republican message boards linked to the JRJC-CCR web site contradicts the claim that the CCR is in any way interested in ensuring fair-mindedness on campuses. The folder entitled “Lefties on College Campus” contains a single message enthusiastically promoting a Horowitz wannabe site in which students are urged to submit the names of liberal professors. Another folder, entitled “College Republican Triumphs” contains two threads, one entitled “How to Kick Liberal Groups off Campus 101” the other by the same author entitled “Students First! Triumph 2003,” and consisting of a long, repulsive description of how the College Republicans at UCSD used dirty tricks to destroy a “communist” organization on that campus. (An example of how this College Republican defines “communist” is instructive. “While ‘communist’ is a very strong term, it is a deserved one, this guy was a ‘Dean-iac’ watching precincts for that moron.”)
One passage from this posting describing the writer’s behavior at a debate is especially worth reproducing here.
Robert and I decided to grab front row seats in order to debate the communist [the “Dean-iac”] … So we sat down with a couple tall glasses of beer and got ready for our oral assault. What was great was that the sound system was crappy at best. So nobody could really hear what the candidates had to say. So when the communist [name withheld] began to speak, Robert and I launched our attack. ‘COMMUNIST!’ ‘YOU’RE A GOD DAMN LIAR! BULLSHIT!’ and “STOP LYING COMMUNIST!’ were just some of the many different phrases we yelled. Since the sound system was total rubbish, no one heard what [name withheld] had to say.
That someone would boast about this kind of behavior on a public board is, for a reader familiar with the history of the Third Reich, a bit staggering. The image it conjures up of Brownshirts swilling from steins and shouting down Social Democrats in a German beer hall is inescapable.
And it’s in this atmosphere that college Republicans are being encouraged to compile lists of college employees and their party affiliations.
Taking the names of individuals and their political or religious beliefs serves, not only to earmark the listed individuals for future punishment, but to notify anyone who might consider expressing or acting on similar religious or political beliefs that they are being watched. If this trend is allowed to continue Americans may find themselves thinking twice about what most of us consider the normal expression of political beliefs. We may end up on a list somewhere if we wear the “wrong” shirt or drive with the “wrong” slogan on our bumper. College instructors may hesitate before challenging students even in the normally acceptable venue of classroom discussion, not because it would be inappropriate (it would not), but because they cannot afford the professional or personal consequences of an angry student adding them to David Horowitz’ database.
We are in danger of descending into the kind of political environment only Streicher and his spiritual descendants could want, in which one side has succeeded not by convincing, but by intimidating into silence everyone who has opinions outside a narrow range of beliefs. There is no arguing with people who simply yell, “shut up,” so loudly that you can’t make yourself heard. There is even less argument possible with people who yell, “Shut up or we’ll hurt you.”
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Dangerous Clowns (Part 2)
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
… the day will come when the German people will awake … and that day will be sealed in blood. -- Julius Streicher 1924 DS #22
If the Christian people work together, they can succeed during this decade in winning back control of the institutions that have been taken from them over the past 70 years. Expect confrontations that will not only be unpleasant, but at times physically bloody … -- Pat Robertson, Pat Robertson’s Perspective, October/November 1992
When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors. -- Ann Coulter at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2002.
If guns are outlawed, how can we shoot liberals? -- Originally a quote from State Sen. Mike Gunn. It is now a popular bumper sticker.
Early in 2005, Americans were offered a working illustration of the extent to which those often dismissed as irrelevant crackpots have a direct pipeline to the mainstream media, all the way up to the Washington Press corps. At a January 29th press conference, a “reporter” using the name Jeff Gannon asked Bush the following question:
Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And [Senator] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work – and you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?
Most readers are probably familiar with the resulting tempest, which resulted in “Jeff Gannon” being exposed as an online writer named James Guckert whose journalistic credentials are skimpy to the point of being nonexistent. To be fair, "Gannon’s" soft-ball questions were not much more eccentric and biased than those of the venerable Les Kinsolving, who up until his recent health problems, had been a regular if rather weird feature of White House Press conferences.
But Kinsolving, unlike Guckert, has solid chops as a reporter, and Guckert has some embarrassing connections to gay websites uncovered by liberal bloggers. So “Jeff Gannon” resigned his post as a “reporter,” with much eye dabbing on the part of his right-wing fans and regretful sighs on the part of deliberately obtuse mainstream commentators like Howard Kurtz, all of whom helped to paint Guckert as the unfortunate victim of liberal bigotry and harassment.
In fact, a truly interesting, but overlooked aspect of Guckert is not his sexuality or his affiliation with Talon and GOPUSA, or even the undeniably fascinating question of how he got access to White House briefings using an alias, but his connection with a popular right-wing website called Free Republic, to which Mr. Gannon frequently contributed.
Free Republic is more than just a forum where like-minded people can post their opinions. It is used as a contact point for mobilizing right-wing activists on a grassroots level in a manner that sometimes goes beyond simply campaigning for a favorite candidate or pushing for changes within the context of our legal system.
Bands of right-wing toughs are not physically beating up the opposition, as was the case in Striecher’s Germany. After all, in the 1920s and 30s, there was no mass media as we know it. Political expression more often took the form of a speaker communicating directly with an audience in a hall. In such a society, one silences the opposition by physically preventing them from speaking, breaking up the meeting, making people afraid to either speak at such gatherings or attend them.
Today, in a world with television, an Internet and widespread access to computers, silencing the opposition can be done more indirectly, through attacks not on the body of the person making a speech in an auditorium, but on the show, and more directly on the web site or discussion board where they are expressing their opinions. The right wing web site and forum Free Republic early on established a reputation for fomenting organized efforts among their members to skew national polls, flood discussion boards, and bring down websites they deem too “liberal.” In fact, they ended up coining a term for this kind of activity – “freeping.”
From the standpoint of physical safety it’s obviously preferable to be figuratively rather than literally elbowed aside, silenced not by having your ribs cracked but by having your web site brought down or your poll skewed or your online forum over-run. It remains, however, a disturbing symptom in a free society, particularly given that the Free Republic forums have shown a tendency to target not just polls and websites, but individuals. And the language used about these individuals often does more than merely border on the violent. David Brock’s Media Matters pointed out the reaction on Free Republic to the reporter who had filmed an American soldier shooting to death an injured Iraqi.
"Turn [Reporter's name] over to the terrorist."
"No need for anything overt. Unfortunate things happen in combat zones, and if the reporter fails to hear someone yell 'Sniper!!', well, c'est la guerre.”
"I don't want the punk killed, I'd just like to see his hair mussed. Jaws wired shut for a few months, food through a straw, that kind of thing."
It might be argued that, as an embedded television reporter, the reporter was a public figure, and thus inevitably prone to harassment and death threats. In some cases, however, the individuals targeted for “freeping” have not been public figures at all, but ordinary Americans who have marched, signed petitions, or posted web sites about their opinions. In this eagerness to target ordinary citizens as well as in its virulent language about those whom they target, Free Republic and other right wing websites increasingly parallel Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer.
As Randall Bytwerk notes in his biography of Streicher, “in 1933 Streicher began the pillory column, giving the names and addresses of German women purportedly having relations with Jewish men … The very popular brief items section of the paper served similar functions. Perhaps the best way to understand the despicable nature of such material is to summarize the twenty items from a typical 1937 issue:”
Bytwerk goes on to cite the items, which include “In a village, the populace is concerned because a well-known Jew-lover has been given the guardianship of a farm; A town councilman lets his daughter date a Jew; A printer is represented by a Jewish attorney; A German attorney represents a Jew …”
“In each case,” Bytwerk continues, “the names of the accused and their towns or districts are given … And in addition many longer letters were printed, and interior articles were based on materials supplied by readers … those who feared appearing in the Sturmer had good reason. Even if most were not officially prosecuted, they could lose friends and business … in 1934 a reader reported that a German married to a Jew had been expelled from an organization after the Sturmer published the marriage …”
In the summer of 2001, after Jenna Bush was carded at an Austin Texas restaurant and arrested for underage drinking, the name of the restaurant manager who had turned the girl in was posted on the Free Republic web site, as well as personal information about the manager and her infant son, her social security number, her telephone number, and her home address. Free Republic forum members suggested ways of “dealing with” the manager, from vandalism, to arson, to identity theft, and other crimes.
To give at least minimal credit to those who run Free Republic, the messages containing the woman’s personal information and those advocating outright crime were quickly removed, but not before they had been greeted with vociferous approval from many Free Republic posters. There were Free Republic members who disapproved and said so, but the overwhelming response on Free Republic was venom. The messages that were not removed include the following:
“FWIW, a call place to [name of the restaurant] yesterday confirmed that [name of the manager] was still employed as of 1700 hrs. CT.”
“If we have to destroy [restaurant] and [name] to send you the message to cut it out, so be it. If we have to destroy ten, a hundred or a thousand more leftists to make the point, that is OK too.
“the health dept. HAS been alerted and are going to go check 'em out. i got "sick" there eating last friday and HAD to report that fact to the health department ...”
“I haven't heard of any husband, so I suppose that she's unwed ... I wonder if she knows who the father is? That being said, I wonder if she's a fit mother… I wonder if child protective services shouldn't get involved, in order to make sure that there is an appropriate, stable environment for the child?
Free Republic itself became so alarmed at the level of vituperation that a planned demonstration by local Freepers in front of the restaurant was called off. The story was picked up by Salon and several other outlets, and resulted in such bad publicity for Free Republic, that one would think its administrators would have learned some caution when it came to targeting private individuals.
But in March of 2004, a member of Free Republic posted what he described as an “Enemies List,” triumphantly announcing, “Here you are, FReepers. Here is the enemy. Working in conjunction with A.N.S.W.E.R., they have given us their names.” What followed was a list of signatories for an online petition posted by ANSWER. The obvious purpose of posting this list on Free Republic was for “Freepers” to target individual names on the petition for harassment, and the original post made this plain by adding, “How about this one --- [Name Omitted], U.S. Coast Guard, [Location omitted]. Well, sailor, I guess it is time for me to call your commanding officer and see what he thinks about this.”
“Don’t forget [Name Omitted], Military/Navy, [Location omitted] while you’re at it.”
“You already made the call? Good work…by his name is he probably a Muslim. The CO will love to have a disgruntled Muslim in his unit.” “The poor moron is never going to know what hit him.”
And it was not only members of the military who were targeted. Some Freepers were apparently poring over the list in search of names from their own areas.
“Here’s an Enemy in the County – [Name Omitted] Roman Catholic Priest, [Location Omitted]”
“Well shiiiite! None of this pond scum live [City name]. Too bad, I was looking for something to do this evening.”
“Ah, too bad we don’t have some pictures, so we could make a rogues gallery of some of the individuals.”
“I sure do hope to see a round of hangings soon. After a fair trial of course.”
This zest for going after individuals is by no means confined to Free Republic. During the controversy surrounding the Dan Rather/George Bush Memos, a university professor posted to his web site the first draft of an examination of the memos and his cautiously worded opinion that they were genuine. He was denounced as a “liar and a charlatan” on a right wing web site, his name, the university where he worked, his email address, as well as that of his employers was posted online. It ended, fortunately, in his university threatening legal action against the web site that had spearheaded the campaign and a rather half-hearted apology by the web site’s manager, but not before the professor and the university had been inundated with Internet hate-mail, attacks and demands that he be fired.
Apologists for the right-wing blogosphere often claim that it’s all hyperbole, that the people who describe Democrats and liberals as traitors worthy of beatings, imprisonment, and execution don’t really mean it. This good-natured assumption is undermined by the fact that right-wing posters on forums like Free Republic, Lucianne.com, and Little Green Footballs are unfazed by genuine tragedies involving liberals and leftists. In April of this year, a young activist named Marla Ruzicka was killed in Iraq when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy. Ruzicka’s work in Iraq was strictly humanitarian, but her affiliation with Medea Benjamin’s CODE PINK made her the enemy in the minds of many right-wingers.
There were some lonely voices raised on the right wing Internet in respectful acknowledgement of Ruzicka’s humanitarianism, courage, and accomplishments, but they were drowned out by a roar of chest-thumping contempt:
I am trying to muster up some tears – but it just ain’t happening.
She hated this country and everything about it. She played with matches and got burned. Good riddance to the idiot gene pool I would say.
She wasn’t one of their victims; in her case, it was ‘friendly fire’ that did her in.
Good riddance to this piece of filth,
Because the Bush administration validates this kind of language by conflating dissent with disloyalty it’s not surprising that these “jokes” and “hyperbole” have morphed more and more into organized actions.
[To be continued ... This is Part 2 of "Dangerous Clowns," presented as a 4-part series.]