Saturday, June 09, 2007

Interview with an immigrant: I

[Tom Matsuoka in 1998.]

-- by Dave

[I'm preparing for my upcoming cross-country trip aboard the Dreams Across America "Dreams Train" -- during which I'll be trying to tell the stories of some of the 100 immigrants who are embarking on a whistlestop tour of the country to share those stories. The posts will be carried here, at the Dreams Across America blog, and at Firedoglake. In order to introduce the kinds of issues and stories we'll be talking about, I thought I would run some interviews of immigrants -- or more properly interviews with the children of immigrants -- who tell both their stories and their parents' I conducted in the 1990s: specifically, the raw interviews of Japanese Americans that provided the basis for Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community.

[What follows is a transcript of an interview I conducted in March 1992 with Tom Takeo Matsuoka, who was 89 at the time. Matsuoka was a "kibei" -- American-born (in 1903) and thus a citizen like most Nisei, but one who returned to Japan at an early age and was educated there, then came back to the United States (in 1919) and remained as a citizen. Matsuoka was a community leader in the rural Bellevue farming community near Seattle through the 1920 and '30s. He was arrested the day after Pearl Harbor by the FBI and detained at by the Justice Department for some six months; upon being reunited with his family at the temporary facility at Pinedale, Calif., he worked to get them out on a work-release program and they relocated to Chinook, Montana. After the war the family bought a farm in Chinook and remained there for another 48 years. When I interviewed him, he was living in Ridgefield, Wash., near his daughter, Rae Takekawa, who assisted with the interviews.

[This was one of my earliest interviews with a Nisei immigrant, and it shows: the conversation is unfocused and skips around a great deal, and a number of salient questions went unasked because I had not developed a good ear yet for what the interviewees were telling me. (Some of the notations, incidentally, are taken from my handwritten notes.) I interviewed Matsuoka twice subsequently (I'll be running the latter of these, which has fewer of the flaws of this interview, shortly as well). Matsuoka's story forms the human core of Strawberry Days, which was finally published in 2005.]


[Tape off at first part of discussion about return to Bellevue in 1945: TM explaining why he didn't return -- because home had burned down while family was in camp, most possessions gone, and no easy way to rebuild, since raw materials like lumber were still being rationed.]

Tom Matsuoka: ...[They were telling me,] You're gonna have a hard time with this house. Because the deal with it was, everything was rationed. So you had to put the application in. And maybe if you come back and put an application in, and maybe in a year's time, it will come. Oh, it makes one mad! So, if you have a place to stay, maybe you can stay over there. So I went back to Montana, and I talked to the wife and the kids, and I said, well they can stay here. So in the meantime Mr. Warner [a sugar-beet farmer in Chinook, Montana] say, he want to sell the farm, you know; say, don't go back to Washington, I sell the farm. And the family, they don't mind to stay. I went to farm [emphasis on it, as verb]. That's why I ended up there 48 years, you know.

Rae Takekawa: The whole community, they knew each other. They knew quite bit about each other.

TM: We cleared the land. Right here [pointing to map] where this business section is, that's just about all what I think Japanese people have cleared. Only one is where people have the house, where the living quarters were. They c;leared that themselves. But they have a sawmill, first it was at Medina, I think. Then they cut all the trees around there. Then they moved the sawmill to Wilburton. They were cutting all the trees, cut all the trees down.

In those days, the first Japanese people moved in there, no car, the only transportation they had to Seattle is a ferry. So after the ferry, they cleared land, you know.

If people now, if they think about it, they'd say that's the craziest thing ... but in an acre, there'd be maybe 20, 30 big stumps, left from when they'd cut the logs.

When first the Japanese people started the farms, they would come by ferry to Bellevue to pick strawberries... Bellevue was where the strawberries came from. And with strawberries, you would never get the crop until the fourth year. You can't produce first year, nothing. Second year was bad. And the fourth and fifth year, you get the crop. And then in the sixth year, they go down again. So when they cleared the cland, they had to make agreement to stay, oh, five, six years, you know. And you had to go to a lot of expense to clear the land.

A lot of people were using the dynamite. Nowadays, you know when it goes out, but in those days, you had to be on the lookout, you know. Then you dig the roots out, and cut them with the ax, then you get the horse, and you get the horse to pull. Boy, that's a lot of hard work. When you get back to the big stumps, you put the dynamite in a hole underneath... The stumps would be burned with the fire, and the fire would burn pretty good, you know.

I cleared one piece of land that had so many stumps, that nobody touched it; I said to Tok [Hirotaka, his brother-in-law], "It's a big place. We said we're gonna clear it. I don't know how many acres." Man that was hard work.

DN: Tell me about your early years.

TM: My dad, he likes to farm. He farmed with a vegetable garden in Hawaii too. Close to Honolulu. When he came, mother got sick, so mother and I went back to Japan. And Dad came to the States. Well, he worked a couple years [on railroad crews and at sawmills], and then he started to farm again. He farmed on Vashon Island. They had strawberry farms there, you know.

Now, he was broke; that was when Mr. Polk come in and they made the declaration that you can't sell nothing, and he broke the farm. So he left everything and went to the sawmill. And then he made a little bit of money and he started to farm again. And then Mr. Harding come in, and then he was broke again.

In 1919, oh they were saying that the Japanese people had too many families or too many kids. Everything started from California... So they kept the lease of the land for them.

This country, I think around '21, '22, it was really bad for the Japanese. There was the Immigration Law, and the war came at that time.

You couldn't do anything, you know. It comes out in the paper. Well, we're only ordinary people. But you couldn't do anything.

RT: My mother [Kazue Hirotaka] was such a feisty person. Now, she was born in Bellevue. She must have been one of the first people born among the Japanese. She was born in the United States, and she was an American, and she knew it...

TM: She was headstrong. She gave a speech. Not against anything, you know. Nothing like when you were growing up in Montana.

Yeah, all the time, there's this: Japs, Japs, Japs. You know.

When you [looking at Rae] were growing up, it was nice. But the worst time was around 21, 22, 23. That was when it all started.

When you go to work in the sawmills, they don't give you a good job. You could get work, but good jobs, they never give. You have to take it. You can't argue. You just have to take it.

RT: It seemed to me that you had to fight all the way. When you were selling too, you had to fight to market your stuff. If the market wasn't .... they wouldn't accept your stuff, and that kind of thing.

TM: In the early 1920s, Japanese farmers started to grow strawberries and tomatoes. Before then, they grew carrots, cabbage, you know, vegetables. Biggest crop at one time was peas.

RT: It was land that was not cleared, and so nobody could do anything with it. It was very poor land, in some places, A lot of the farmers were very poor, too. There wasn't much land there, but what else could they do? What else could they do? There were some really tough, tough, families, tough making a living. These were families living on the edge. Of course, at that time, you didn't have the social welfare programs that I don't know if they'd have used anyway. The other thing is, of course, that you have this awful pride, that you don't take any help.

DN: Do you remember being anxious before the war about what might happen?

TM: I would have to say no. Pearl Harbor -- that was a surprise, you know. From about 1939 on, though, it was beginning to smell fishy. We weren't sure. From about 1939 on, everybody was worried. The Japanese Consul come to one of our meetings. He say: "Looks bad!" [Emphasis] In 1940, I took kids, around 10-12 kids, to Japan. That was a big thing, you know. Anyway, in Japan, that year, they had the 2,600th-year annivsersary of the country. People in Japan were very -- they think they can't get away. They think they have to fight England and America. I took those kids, and I travel around, and oh, always the secret service is behind me. And you know, you go on the train, you go somewhere different, and they always ask. They're always concerned with where you're going, what train you're on; it was really terrible.

People were all right, you know. But it was artificial.

RT: I'm sure you will hear this again: The Japanese who were citizens assumed that the ones who were gonna have to go away were the Japanese who were not citizens, and of course they couldn't be citizens. They never really dreamed, at the beginning, that it would happen to them too. But the only Issei that I really knew was my grandmother. I must say, that as far as she was concerned, she had a really hard life and it was a matter of all the years that she was trying to make a go of it, and that was the prime concern: making a living. That was the most important thing. She didn't care about the emperor. I really think that she finally, right before the war, finally was getting so that it was a little better for her, finally getting out of debt, getting to eat, drink, and a little bit of stability, ease of mind, that kind of thing.

TM: You know, before the war, things were always broke. You had no chance for the good jobs, that's for sure. Like when the growers came back to Washington. You never had a job. You were never hired.

We were the first Nisei married on the Eastside [in 1926]. Wasn't a big wedding. But the reception...

They had the reception. I'll tell you kids one thing. This was dry, you know. Dry. But my Dad, had to have a drink if it's a wedding party. So he made a home brew. I don't know how many gallons he made. But you have to smuggle it into the restaurant, you know. So he puts it in the suitcase, then takes it in. It was in a Chinese restaurant, where we had the reception. Oh, everyone had a hell of a good time. [Laughter]

RT: I remember Pearl Harbor. I told him. You were outside working on the Udo.

TM: Yeah, the kids came out. Heard it on the radio. "It's a war started!" "What!" "Yeah! The Japanese planes have bombed Pearl Harbor!" Oh, God. [He kept working.]

DN: When did the FBI come and arrest you?

TM: They came knocking on the door about 3 a.m. We were sleeping. There were three guys, three FBI guys. And I think it was the local police or something. They have two cars without license plates.

RT: So they came in, and of course, I was in a bedroom that was on the main floor too. My mother, I told you she was really feisty. [Tom: "She mad."] She was really yelling at those FBI guys. Now that I think about it, she was screaming at them about her rights. She knew. She said, "You have no right! I have my rights! I'm a citizen!" This incensed her. She didn't care. She was just yelling at them.

TM: They wanted to go up to see the boys. But they couldn't go. Ma said no. So they went through letters, diaries.

Then I asked them, what you gonna do with me? "Well, we'd like to have you questioned in Seattle." "Well, do I need a change of clothes?" "Yeah, maybe. You have to take your shaving kit, your toothbrush." Oh boy, that's when I know I'm not gonna come home right away.

No handcuffs or anything. They took me into Seattle, and took me up to the Immigration building. Took me up to the holding tank, and there whole bunch of them: "Oh, you come too!"

If I had had a birth certificate, I didn't have to go to Missoula. But I didn't have a birth certificate at that time. [It had been lost in a courthouse fire in Hawaii.]

DN: Did they ask you any questions?

TM: No. Nothing. Ten days we were at the immigration office. Later, there was a rumor going around. "They're gonna move us someplace." "Yeah? Where are they gonna move us?" "No, nobody knows." Eventually, they moved us to Missoula, Montana. Right about after Christmas. And all this time, nothing. No questions. Then came the evacuation law.

There were hearings in Missoula. After the relocation was over, it came through. By that time, the family was moved to the relocation camp. That takes a long time, you know.

RT: The family got to visit him. In Seattle, we came up once, saw him from outside. We came because it was before Christmas, and we knew you were gonna get moved. She took us up there to see you.

TM: But you don't get to see. They don't let children in. And we are on the second floor. [Rae: I remember the bars.] Mother and Rulee [their youngest daughter] came to Missoula -- took the train out to see me.

RT: My mother ran the farm. I remember it was rhubarb time. We had a lot of rhubarb. And you had to get that rhubarb. And I think that Tok [Hirotaka], and Jim [Matsuoka, Tom's half-brother], they came and helped. But you were just never sure what was going to happen, if, Dad, after they took him, if he was going to get to come back.

DN: I guess that was all answered when FDR signed EO9066 and they announced the evacuation zones.

RT: That's when we knew what was gonna happen.

They took us by train from [Kirkland]. Right there. No trains came or nothing. They loaded us up in old cars. It was these real ancient passenger cars.

We didn't try to sell things. We tried to store things. We moved a lot of things around, because we got renters, didn't we?

TM: Two guys from Texas, I think.

RT: So we decided that we would store everything, everything got packed up and stuck upstairs.

TM: We also took our things to Jenkins, she was our neighbor. We stored things at his place. And his place caught fire too.

And our place was burned too. And most of all, of all the things I feel so bad about, I lost a 1913 Ford. What a beauty! It was a beauty. I stored it in the garage.

RT: It was behind the garage, but a lot of that was burned, supposedly, too.

We never could understand how it happened. It was kind of funny. Because we got some things back from some friends, didn't we? When we were in Montana. The piano thing, this old chair [points to orange naugahyde monstrosity], just really strange things that you can't figure why they saved.

TM: You know, Johnny De Los Angeles, he stayed in a labor house, see. And they were on the way to my house. Johnny said he went to get his wife in Redmond, and they were coming back, and saw smoke. "Gee, it looks like," our place, you know. And he really hurried. He came up there, and where it was burning was in the kitchen; that's where it started. Somebody must have helped Johnny. They dragged out the piano. That's when they got the old chair. And some pictures.

I asked Johnny how it started. He didn't know.

DN: OK, now, you were reunited at Pinedale, at the assembly center. What was it like there?

RT: I was 14, 15 that summer. When we went down there, we got into trouble, hanging out with a bunch of kids -- course, I guess you'd call them gangs now -- and of course, he wasn't there. I guess you could just about imagine. And my brother found friends. Mom -- there were always calls for volunteers and she was always busy with that.

And then he came back. He came back to Pinedale.

TM: With the clothes I took to camp. I was picked up Dec. 8 and I had all winter clothes, you know. Then it was summer when I joined my family in Pinedale. Oh, the temperature was up around a hundred degrees. Oh! It was really hot.

RT: We went to Tule Lake [the more permanent "relocation center" where they were assigned] the end of July.

TM: I worked for a farm in Tule Lake. In the morning we'd go out, and the guard, he had to count us. With one of those counting machines. My God, it was never right! Always too many or not enough. So they'd have to count them again. Every single day. So we're standing in the bus, and the Japanese, they watch you, you know. In those days, the American boys were having a hard time on the war front, you know. And some of them say, "No wonder they having a hard time; they can't even count the numbers!"

RT: Gottlieb Blatter, a farmer from Montana, came down in 1942, and recruited the family. Just in time for the beet harvest. This was Sept. 25.

TM: Camp was no place to have your family.

RT: You know, we got off that train [in Montana], and it was snowing. I thought I would die! September, and it was snowing!

TM: On that train, they treated us like prisoners. We had guards. Ah -- you know. Some of them were goofy kids. They'd watch the toilet. And behind the door, they're talkin' to each other: "I wish someone would run and try to get away... So I could shoot 'em!" [Laughter]

RT: I know that when we went out there, and we went up where the farm was, and he took us to where we were going to live, and I've thought about it, not at that time, but later, I wonder what my mother, she must have thought. There were two rooms and seven of us. One room was the bedroom. We had three little beds and a little crib-like thing. We got no heat with that room. And the other room was where Ma did the cooking. And she would try to mop that floor, because she was so fussy, she would try to mop that floor and it would freeze.

TM: And so after the harvesting is all over, we have to decide to stay rather than go back to camp. So I get a job feeding the sheep. Seventy dollars a month. Oh, he really cried. "Oh, I never paid so much!" [Laughter]

We stayed on that farm in '42 and '43. We moved to Gus Lundeen's farm on the other side of town in 1944.

When we first moved to Montana, school board didn't want our kids to go to school. That's how it was at first.

Eventually, the Matsuokas became admired members of the community. Tom was named Montana Farmer of the Year in 1963. Kazue passed away in 1986, after which Tom moved to Ridgefield.

More in the next interview.

Sunday Funnies

-- by Sara

Ric Mercer is Canada's answer to Jon Stewart. For years, he's done this schtick on his show where he asks Americans stupid questions about Canada, and records their stupid know-it-all answers for posterity.

My fellow Americans: This is how your friendly neighbours -- uh, neighbors -- to the north make fun of you when they think you're not looking.

For the record:

Canadian currency does have loonies and toonies. But no woodies.

The House of Parliament is made of stone, not ice. And it's in Ottawa, not Toronto. (And I'd bet double odds that Al Gore knows that, too.)

Poutine is not a Prime Minister, and has never endorsed George Bush. Poutine is Quebec's iconic dish -- french fries with cheese curds and gravy. (It may, however, still be smarter than George Bush -- and several of his supporters, as seen here.)

We have provinces, not states; and Members of Parliament, not congresspeople.

Canada has daily newspapers, VCRs, staplers, electric lights, domestic canines, 25 area codes, 32 million citizens, the fourth-best public school system in the world -- and the same time zones at the US. (In fact, the present system of global 24-hour time zones was developed by a Canadian, Sir Sanford Fleming.)

And Mike Huckabee is a twit. But we knew that.

My laptop is going into the shop, and I'm going home to California. Both of us should be back on Friday the 15th. See you then. -- S

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ron Paul vs. the New World Order

[Ron Paul with Steve Hempfling of the Free Enterprise Society. For a gallery of other Patriot favorites from the FES, see here.]

-- by Dave

I have to admit that when Rep. Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I didn't raise much of an eyebrow, even though I am a longtime Paul watcher. After all, he's run before; his 1988 Libertarian Party candidacy attracted little attention because he ran mostly from the fringe, and his views haven't changed substantially over the years.

What I didn't expect was that his anti-war advocacy would attract as many evident admirers from the left as it seems to have, particularly those who are dissatisfied with Democrats' apparent fumbling of the Iraq war issue. Certainly, the message boards at liberal outlets like Crooks and Liars who've carried factual counterinformation about Paul have been flooded with raging defenses of the man, as have some of our comments threads.

To what extent this is an illusion created by Paul's legion of True Believers is difficult to ascertain. Paul is very well organized online -- much of his support is derived from this -- and it's entirely likely the flood of "liberals" and "progressives" who are busy arguing that someone like Paul is worth forming an alliance with are, in fact, simply part of Paul's corps and they're doing their part to muddy the waters and ultimately attract new supporters in a "Third Way" kind of strategy.

And to some extent it seems evident that they're succeeding. Mostly, they seem to be taking advantage of a combination of amnesia among those experienced enough to know better, and simple ignorance on the part of progressives who've never heard of, or paid any attention to, Ron Paul previously. They hear Paul's carefully crafted antiwar rhetoric and his critique of the Bush administration -- all of which elide or obscure his underlying beliefs -- and think it sounds pretty good, especially for a Republican.

As Sara has already explained, there's a real problem with that -- namely, for all of Paul's seeming "progressive" positions, he carries with him a whole raft of positions well to the right of even mainstream conservatives.

A more important point, though, that's overlooked in all this is that Ron Paul has made a career out of transmitting extremist beliefs, particularly far-right conspiracy theories about a looming "New World Order," into the mainstream of public discourse by reframing and repackaging them for wider consumption, mostly by studiously avoiding the more noxious and often racist elements of those beliefs. Along the way, he has built a long record of appearing before and lending the credibility of his office to a whole array of truly noxious organizations, and has a loyal following built in no small part on members of those groups.

And it's equally important to understand that he hasn't changed his beliefs appreciably in the interim. Most of his positions today -- including his opposition to the Iraq war -- are built on this same shoddy foundation of far-right conspiracism and extremist belief systems, particularly long-debunked theories about the "New World Order," the Federal Reserve and our monetary system, the IRS, and the education system.

Much of this has already been documented by Sara here and here, as well as by phenry at dKos (who has more here) and by Off the Kuff, which also notes Paul's kookery on Social Security.

The Republican Party has a history of hosting right-wing fringe figures like Paul, people who portray themselves as patriotic conservatives and exploit the latent conspiracism and paranoia of their audiences well enough to win election to Congress, but who actually build remarkable records of non-achievement once in D.C., mainly because their beliefs are so far removed from the mainstream that no one pays them any mind, except the folks back home, who are persuaded by all the bellicose flag-wrapping that these characters are doing the job they want done back in Washington. I had the fortune (both good and bad) of covering three such figures from Idaho over the course of my newspapering career: George Hansen, Steve Symms, and Helen Chenoweth.

All of these folks, at various times in their careers, were publicly quoted saying things that were at the very least racially charged and insensitive -- but in the end, it became difficult to make the case that they were outright racists. What all of these incidents did reflect, however, was their willingness to adopt racist talking points and ideas and parrot them unthinkingly, which similarly reflected their susceptibility to associating with right-wing extremists of a broad variety of stripes. This didn't mean that they were racists per se -- particularly if your definition of racism includes attacking members of other races hatefully. Rather, what it demonstrated unquestionably was that they had extremely poor judgment, especially regarding whose ideas and agendas they helped promote.

The same is generally true, I think, of Ron Paul. While I think the evidence that Paul is incredibly insensitive on racial issues -- ranging from a racially incendiary newsletter to his willingness to appear before neo-Confederate and white-supremacist groups -- is simply overwhelming, it isn't as simple to make the case that he is an outright racist, since he does not often indulge in hateful rhetoric -- and when he has, he tries to ameliorate it by placing it in the context of what he thinks are legitimate policy issues. (Hansen, Symms and Chenoweth were also skilled at this.)

To be fair, Paul has written on the subject of racism and seemingly denounced it. But take a close look at his argument:
Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individual who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.

Conservatives and libertarians should fight back and challenge the myth that collectivist liberals care more about racism. Modern liberalism, however well intentioned, is a byproduct of the same collectivist thinking that characterizes racism. The continued insistence on group thinking only inflames racial tensions.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity. In a free market, businesses that discriminate lose customers, goodwill, and valuable employees – while rational businesses flourish by choosing the most qualified employees and selling to all willing buyers. More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct what is essentially a sin of the heart, we should understand that reducing racism requires a shift from group thinking to an emphasis on individualism.

This is, in fact, just a repackaging of a libertarian argument that multiculturalism is the "new racism" -- part of a larger right-wing attack on multiculturalism. This is, of course, sheer Newspeak: depicting a social milieu that simultaneously respects everyone's heritage -- that is to say, the antithesis of racism -- as racist is simply up-is-down, Bizarro Universe thinking.

If Paul's express views on racism are less than convincing, then the piece that appeared under his name in 1992 about black crime, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, was simply damning. The ugly smear intended by the rhetoric in that case was unmistakably racist. Paul has since claimed it was ghostwritten and he wasn't paying enough attention, but that doesn't explain why he continued to defend those views to a reporter four years later, in 1996:
Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time."

... Paul, writing in his independent political newsletter in 1992, reported about unspecified surveys of blacks.

"Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action,"Paul wrote.

Paul continued that politically sensible blacks are outnumbered "as decent people." Citing reports that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia are arrested, Paul wrote:

"Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,' I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal," Paul said.

Paul also wrote that although "we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers."

A campaign spokesman for Paul said statements about the fear of black males mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has decried the spread of urban crime.

What Paul never explained was that one of the primary sources for this information about black crime came from Jared Taylor, the pseudo-academic racist whose magazine American Renaissance was at the time embarked on a long series of tirades on the subject (the June 1992 issue was primarily devoted to the subject; the statistic claiming that 85 percent of black men in D.C. have been arrested appears in the August issue), the culmination of which was Taylor's later book, The Color of Crime, which made similarly unsupportable claims about blacks.

This sort of unspoken dalliance -- an uncredited transmission of ideas, as it were -- takes place all the time with far-right politicos like Ron Paul. It's one of the reasons to be concerned about any traction they may actually gain within the mainstream.

This is especially the case because there is nothing in Paul's present behavior or positions that is inconsistent with his past; he's just more astute about how he voices them. No reporter yet seems to have asked him about his belief in the "New World Order," notably.

His history is replete with far-right dalliances, and more importantly, many of his current positions are taken directly from the extremist right, and in fact embody the propagation of their longtime agenda. A look at his record makes clear how and why this is so.

His propensity for right-wing extremism manifested itself fairly early in his career, even before he ran for president as a Libertarian. One of the earlier signs of this was his association with Gary North, the son-in-law of R.J. Rushdoony, the founder of Christian Reconstructionism and himself a leading figure in the movement. North served briefly on Paul's staff in the 1970s, but their association continued well beyond that.

For instance, Chip Berlet at Public Eye noted Paul's attendance in 1985 at an "investment planning seminar" put on by North at the Los Angeles Airport Hyatt. Among the speakers were a panoply of right-wing conspiracy theorists, including Antony Sutton, Joel Skoussen, Dr. Frank Aker, Larry Abraham, and Howard Ruff, as well as Constitution Party founder (and militia sympathizer) Howard Phillips and ... Ron Paul. More recently, North could be found expounding on the wisdom of Ron Paul.

Along the way, Paul developed as one of his major ongoing themes the extremist belief that the Federal Reserve is an illegitimate authority, that our current monetary system is built upon a house of cards and is due momentarily to collapse, and that to avoid such a fate we must return to the gold standard and abolish the Fed.

Notably, Paul makes only passing reference to this at his campaign Web site:
In addition, the Federal Reserve, our central bank, fosters runaway debt by increasing the money supply – making each dollar in your pocket worth less. The Fed is a private bank run by unelected officials who are not required to be open or accountable to "we the people."

He's much more explicit about all this in his book The Case for Gold, which takes old far-right theories about the legitimacy of the monetary system and launders them of their sometimes explicit anti-Semitism and presents them as devout and reasoned patriotism.

These arguments, in fact, have had some currency on the extremist right for some years now, having been a favorite theory of the Posse Comitatus and various tax protesters, including the Montana Freemen, who themselves picked it up from other conspiracy theorists, and then used it for creating fictitious monetary systems of their own. As I explain in Chapter 5 of In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest:
The Freemen justified this with an argument straight out of Roy Schwasinger's seminars: The federal government was bankrupt and illegally printing bogus money anyway, money that no longer had any basis, since the government took the dollar off the gold standard in 1971. So the Freemen were free to create their own money out of equally thin air -- not only that, but by basis of the "constitutional" nature of the common-law courts that issued the liens, their system was more legitimate than the federal government's.

The alternative-universe notion that the Federal Reserve system prints "funny money" based on no real foundation has floated about on the far right for years, and is a key component of some cult belief systems like Lyndon LaRouche's. In reality, the modern international monetary system is based on the economic engine behind each kind of currency -- the levels of supply and demand that a nation produces. It is, like all economic systems, essentially a mental construct, but it has very real grounding in the work of producing goods and services within each nation. The American dollar's continuing strength abroad is a reflection of our nation's output; indeed, it is still considered the basis of most international currency rates.

Those who argue that money must be based on some hard commodity -- usually gold and silver -- ignore the fact that when a currency is based on gold, the value given to gold is as essentially arbitrary as that assigned to paper currency. That is, the value of gold would rise and decline according to the value of the output behind the economic system using it as a standard. Indeed, since gold is still used in manufacturing and jewelry-making, the crossover between gold as a commodity and gold as an expression of currency had the tendency to destabilize the currency system, which is why the United States went off the gold standard in 1971.

These tax-protest theories extended to other beliefs, including the notion that the Internal Revenue Service is an illegitimate agency and the federal income tax a scam. As the ADL explains in this report, have been circulating on the fringe right for some time now, mostly in the guise of the tax-protest movement. And Ron Paul has been one of their leading figures in the past decade:
The other tax protest movement to emerge in the second half of the 20th century had a very different history. It was an extreme right-wing movement that had its origins in longstanding conservative opposition to the income tax, which was ratified as the 16th Amendment in 1913. Conservatives objected to the progressive nature of the tax, the loss of personal income, and, later, the intrusive nature of the withholding process. Some pointed out that a "heavy progressive or graduated income tax" was one plank in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

Early opposition in the postwar era was relatively mild and consisted in large part of various campaigns to repeal the 16th Amendment. Of these, the most important were attempts to pass the so-called "Liberty Amendment." First introduced in Congress in 1952, it essentially tried to strengthen states' rights. However, in 1957 Congressman Elmer Hoffman of Illinois introduced a revised version of the Liberty Amendment that included a section mandating the abolition of income, estate and gift taxes. In this form, the amendment garnered considerable support among extreme right-wing conservatives as well as the budding libertarian movement.

In the late 1950s, Willis Stone became national chairman of the Liberty Amendment Committee and tried to raise support for the proposed amendment through a book, Action for Americans. Stone and the Committee were able to persuade several state legislatures (eventually nine) to request that Congress send the amendment to the states for ratification, but this fell far short of the requirements for a constitutional amendment. Since then, far-right conservatives have repeatedly tried to reintroduce the Liberty Amendment in Congress -- most recently by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas in 1998 -- but without any success. Given the costs of the Cold War and the simultaneous expansion of government services in the 1950s and 1960s, it is not surprising that Stone and the Liberty Amendment Committee had little chance of success.

For much of the far right, especially the Bircher element, accompanying this hostility to the IRS, the Fed, and the federal monetary system was a similar hatred of the United Nations. And again, Ron Paul has been a leading figure in this regard in Congress; he continues annually to promote the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which would withdraw the United States from the U.N.

Helping fuel the U.N.-bashing in the 1990s, you'll recall, was the conspiracy theory holding that the "New World Order" suggested by the first President Bush in 1991 was actually part of a larger plot to enslave the world under a global government located at the U.N. Black helicopters and sightings of Chinese troops massing on the borders were part and parcel of these beliefs.

And helping promote these beliefs, and lend them the legitimacy of his office, was Congressman Ron Paul, who even to this day promotes the "New World Order" theories -- it is, indeed, much of the basis of his hostility to the Iraq war. Just three years ago he gave an interview to Conspiracy Planet on the subject of the NWO, and this is how it went:
EF - I've read in The New America that you are aware of the Round Table Groups, Skull & Bones, and other "secret societies" that have actively participated in the dismantling. In your essay "Neoconned", you went so far as to align the Bush Administration with Trotskyites. However, it seems that the Bush/Skull & Bones guys are perpetually fighting the United Nations, the CFR, the Bildebergs. Are the Bohemian Grove Republicans on the same team as the Rockefeller Round Table members, or are they at war?

RP - You know, their rhetoric suggests they might not like the United Nations, and you hear that often. They'll be complaining about the United Nations, and this and that. But, we have to remember, when it came time to get authority and a reason to go to war, they mentioned the United Nations twenty-one times in the authority, when we voted for the authority for the President to go to war when he felt like it.

I think what's going on, they're not anti-U.N., they're anti-U.N. if they don't do exactly what they want. Because there is a fascist-type faction that wants to keep the military/industrial complex going, and the oil control. Then there's the Kofi Anan-type guys. They are Socialists. They like world government.

Richard Perle, not too long ago, made a statement that he thought we should get out of the United Nations. Well, I think that's, sort of, to pacify some of our supporters. They figure, "Oh, this is great. We've never had a President so sharply critical of the United Nations." But in his mind, they may well be believing they are saving the United Nations or transforming the United Nations, rather than being opposed to world government.

EF - You have also written (and I have quoted you) that the U.N. is actively working to criminalize the 2nd Amendment. Who do you think the men at the top are, and what is their ultimate plan?

RP - Anybody in Washington that likes big government, authoritarian government, which is most of them; deep down, the 2nd Amendment is their greatest obstacle, in the physical sense. Their other greatest obstacle is the right of free speech.

I think that they haven't been able to be as aggressive with guns because it's a healthy sign of this country. I think our people defend the 2nd Amendment better than they defend the 1st Amendment. Which is sort of a twist, I think. Twenty years ago that probably wasn't the case.

Once again, what they say and what they really want are two different things. They criticize the U.N, yet they want to build it up. They can say they support the 2nd Amendment. At the same time, they wouldn't mind curtailing that freedom. Because that is the ultimate freedom.

I kid a lot at my speeches and say, you know, I believe in gun control. I want to take the guns away from those 100,000 federal bureaucrats who own them. The Al Gores of the world, Schumer, these people…they want a monopoly of the guns. They never talk about getting rid of the guns from the bureaucrats. But, they want to get rid of the guns from the people who can't defend themselves.

EF - Going off that, Americans are still reeling from the '95 Clinton ban? How many Congressmen and Senators would you estimate are actually directly involved with these plans of destruction? Or can most claim ignorance?

RP - You know, it's weird. From outside and observing it objectively it looks like that's what they are dedicated to. Many are sort of dupes.

It's sort of like us on our side, who believe in pure liberty. We have a lot of support and a lot of help. But, a lot of people aren't as dedicated. On the left, there's probably just a few who really believe in totalitarian government completely and totally. So, it's the propaganda that you have to watch out for.

Just look at how the propaganda machine gets busy when they decide the country must go to war. It's really a powerful force.

EF - You have sponsored legislation that would get America out of the United Nations. Some Americans believe that if we must go to war, that the United Nations would be the people to fight. You have claimed that the U.N. is actively working to destroy American sovereignty. Can you list of the main bullet points that support that theory?

RP - Well, just everything they've done. Everything the U.N. does from day one, you give up a certain amount of your sovereignty. And, the worst giving up is this notion of going to war under U.N. resolutions, which we did very quickly after we got in the United Nations. There was a U.N. resolution and we sent off all those men to get killed in Korea.

Whether it's that, or the WTO that manages trade, or the IMF that we subsidize with our taxpayers' money and then they go off and play games with their special interests. They rarely ever help poor countries. The World Bank isn't any better. That's an international welfare scheme. It's sold as a scheme that's going to help poor people in poor countries. But, all these programs end up helping the very wealthy, connected corporations and banks.

Note, if you will, that the interviewers' questions are all predicated on a belief in old far-right conspiracy theories about "banking elites" [read: Jews] are secretly out to control the world -- and Paul clearly accepts those premises as valid.

The embrace of extremist beliefs also includes Paul's views on education: just as he'd like to eliminate the Fed and the IRS, he'd also like to do away with public education. He's an avid supporter of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, and has been since its inception. You'll note his inclusion as a supporter on their Web site.

With all these extremist beliefs forming the underpinnings of his political agenda, it follows, like night and day, that he'll be exhorting like-minded extremists to follow. This is why you'll find, in Paul's record, a nearly unbroken string of appearances before various far-right groups, from the Gary North wackaloons in the 1980s to various "Patriot" organizations in the 1990s to neo-Confederate and white-supremacist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South.

It's also why you'll find him coming to the defense of a variety of right-wing extremists involved in violence, from the cross-burners Sara described here, to the Branch Davidians and the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, which engaged in a similar armed standoff with authorities.

And that in turn is why Paul enjoys so much support among the far-right racists and conspiracy theorists out there. These range, as Sara has noted, from David Duke and the Stormfront folks to the neo-Confederates, tax protesters, and Birchers -- all believers in the "New World Order," all fans of Ron Paul. This shows up, for instance, in the unusual level of support that Paul enjoys among members of the Constitution Party -- Howard Phillips' far-right entity that was a significant promoter of the militia movement in the 1990s. Indeed, listed among the leading supporters of Paul's presidential bid this year are Chuck Baldwin, the 2004 Constitution Party Vice Presidential candidate, and Jim Clymer, the Constitution Party chairman.

These are the people who are empowered by Ron Paul's presidential campaign -- and the more traction he gains, especially if he can start pulling in support from the antiwar left, the more they will revel in it. Only a "progressive" who remains unconcerned about the increasing influence of the extremist right in our mainstream politics will be interested in lending Ron Paul and his supporters even a nod in the direction of the time of day.

Ron Paul may or may not be a racist -- and arguing about it is likely to end up nowhere. But what is unmistakably, ineluctably true about Ron Paul is that he is an extremist: a conspiracy theorist, a fear-monger, and an outright nutcase when it comes to monetary, tax, and education policy. The more believers and sympathizers he gathers, the worse off the rest of us will be.

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Los Evangelicos

-- by Sara

A new Pew Foundation report just out this morning tells us that 37% of American Hispanics now identify as Evangelical Protestants, making it the second-largest religion after Catholicism in that group.

It's a short article, but full of worthwhile stuff -- including the fact that Hispanic Evangelicals are anti-gay and anti-choice in even higher numbers than their white co-worshippers (61% to 77% and 67% to 86%, respectively).

Which would appear to leave a great big opening for the GOP, as the article also notes. "Bush-Cheney '04 campaign manager Ken Mehlman called the Latino vote "the single most important number" that came out of the 2004 election. More recently, in a piece posted on The Politico, Mehlman stated: "The majority party in the 21st century will be the party that reaches out to Hispanics."

It's almost like that whole Republican anti-immigration thing never happened. Like the GOP is going to capture these "family values voters" handily, even as its immigration policies keep their families separated for decades, allow employers to treat them like slaves, and leave their brothers, sisters, and cousins dying in the desert. Gay marriage and abortion only distract people for so long when they can't get workman's comp for the fingers they lost after a 10-hour day in the meatpacking plant; or the hotel refused to pay them (again); or other Republicans decide they're fair game for assault simply because they're brown.

Coyotes and Minutemen and thousand-mile fences -- that's some real nice "reaching out to Hispanics," there, Ken. (Can't wait to see what else you cook up before the 2008 elections that will further endear you to these people.) The thing of it is, though, that the GOP is so inherently racist, all the way down in its DNA, that they don't even really notice the ways in which they contradict themselves -- let alone recognize the ways in which they're abusing the very people they readily admit they depend on most to ensure their own future.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Immigrants and disease

-- by Dave

If you want to see how extremist-right talking points work their way into the mainstream of our political discourse and eventually attain "conventional wisdom" status, watch how Lou Dobbs' phony leprosy statistics continue to be repeated and given official media imprimatur.

Last week, on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough had the following exchange with Patrick Buchanan (whose descent into unreprentant extremism has already been remarked):
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Pat, let me stop you right there, and let me ask you this question...


SCARBOROUGH: ... because Lou Dobbs has gotten in trouble talking about leprosy and all these other issues.

BUCHANAN: He's right about leprosy! I can give you the numbers!

SCARBOROUGH: If these -- if these are the facts, though, how do we verify it, and how do we get out government to act on these type of issues without people calling you and Lou Dobbs and other Cassandras that are sounding the warning bigots, people who just hate Mexicans?

BUCHANAN: All right -- all right, let me tell you the source of one of my things. Seven hundred thousand East Asians are believed to be in New York. "The "New York Times" -- and it's in my book -- said 100,000 of them carry hepatitis, hepatitis B. This is right there in "The New York Times." There are reports by all kinds of doctors and others on the increases not only in Hansen's disease, which is leprosy, where they found 7,000 cases in the first three years of this century, only 900 in the last 30 years before it.

These are documented, Joe. They're all in there, all manner—chigesis (ph) disease kills 50,000 in Latin America each year. Something like 19 million have it. It is now appearing in the United States. There are bed bugs back in 26 states. All these figures were documented in my book. Not a single one of them has been challenged by anyone!

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Pat Buchanan. We're going to have a lot more talk about this not only because of the issue with Lou Dobbs and leprosy and that fight, but also this TB case. TB is coming back in the United States, and it could have deadly, deadly results for all of us. Thanks so much, Pat Buchanan.

A quick review: the figure of 7,000 cases of leprosy that Dobbs touted and Buchanan defends here reflect all the cases reported over the past 30 years -- and not, as Dobbs reported -- and Buchanan repeats -- over a three-year period this century. Claiming as Buchanan does here that it leapt to the 7,000 total only recently is baldly false.

What really stands out about this exchange is the way it throws into stark highlight the way the larger theme at play here -- namely, that immigrants bring disease to our fair shores -- is not about illegal immigration per se. Rather, it's about immigrants generally. It's about depicting all immigrants as disease bearers and, indeed, vermin themselves.

Remember this the next time you hear nativist defenders of Dobbs and the rest of the anti-immigrant pack (who increasingly come bearing claims of being progressive these days) complain: "Dobbs isn't against immigration! He's just against illegal immigration!" Right.

More important, perhaps, is the way Buchanan makes clear that the leprosy statistics are simply part of a larger smear against immigrants linking them to all kinds of disease. It's one we've been hearing a lot lately.

For instance, there was the Texas Republican legislator who claimed that illegal immigrants were bringing "polio, the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, Chagas Disease and Dengue Fever to the United States in alarming numbers." The Washington Times has also done more than its share to spread the notion, including a report that listed sickle cell anemia among the imported diseases -- though neglecting to observe that sickle cell anemia and sickle cell traits are not contagious, but passed genetically. The report also got a big assist from Michelle Malkin, who in backing up her point linked to a Canadian anti-immigrant site that also specializes in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

This sort of rhetoric, of course, is classic eliminationism:
It always depicts its opposition as simply beyond the pale, and in the end the embodiment of evil itself -- unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus in need of elimination. It often depicts its designated "enemy" as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and loves to incessantly suggest that its targets are themselves disease carriers.

And there's a long history of it. An excerpt from Elmer Clarence Sandmeyer's The Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1991, University of Illinois Press), pp. 37-38, describing the agitation against the Chinese in California in the 1870s:
In addition to the stench, filth, crowding, and general dilapidation with which Chinatown was accused of afflicting the community, another serious charge was made that the Chinese were introducing foreign diseases among the whites. For instance, it was claimed by both civil and medical authorities that Chinese men and women were afflicted with venereal disease to an uncommon degree. The Chinese prostitutes were accused of luring young boys into their houses and of infecting them with the disease. A medical journal charged that the blood stream of the Anglo-Saxon population was being poisoned through the American men who, "by thousands nightly," visited these resorts. A cause of rather frequent concern to the officials were outbreaks of smallpox. The Chinese were suspected as the source of the disease, since cases appeared among them while they were still on shipboard. They were condemned especially for not reporting their cases of the disease. "It [Chinatown] is almost invariably the seed-bed of smallpox, whence the scourge is sent abroad into the city.

The most exciting charge under this head, however, was that the Chinese were introducing leprosy into California. The very strangeness of the disease made this charge all the more ominous. It was claimed that wherever Chinese coolies had gone leprosy had developed, and that purchasers of Chinese goods were likely to contract the disease. Dr. Charles C. O'Donnell, a politically minded physician, discovered a case in a Chinese warehouse, placed him in an express wagon and drove through the streets, haranguing the crowds on the street corners concerning the dangers to which the community was being exposed. The contention of some physicians that it was not real leprosy but rather a "sporadic case of elephantitis" did not help matters a great deal. During a period of less than ten years the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco arranged for the deportation of forty-eight cases.

The same kind of charges of being spreaders of disease appeared early in the campaign against Japanese immigrants, at the turn of the century, as I describe in my book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community. From Chapter 1:
All along the Pacific Coast, rumors were running rampant that the Chinese Exclusion Act, up for renewal in 1902, was going to be undermined or done away with completely by insidious legislative forces from the East Coast. Combined with continuing alarms over the arrival of Japanese, sentiments were ripe for a resurgence in anti-Asian fearmongering. Leaping onto that particular stage with gusto was San Francisco’s mayor, James Duval Phelan.

A banker and native son, born in San Francisco in 1861, Phelan was elected mayor in 1896 as a Democrat and his tenure was largely undistinguished. But in 1900, he caught national attention when the city’s Board of Health "discovered" an ostensible victim of bubonic plague in the Chinatown district. Phelan declared a quarantine and blamed conditions among the Japanese and Chinese. The "plague scare" was widely reported in the nation's press, and Phelan had to scramble as local businessmen descended on him to protest that the scare was ruining their trade. The mayor quickly backed down and blamed the health board’s overzealousness. In fact, the only problem a health board inspector had been able to observe among the Japanese was that he found three Japanese men in a single tub in a local bathhouse; evidently, the inspectors were unaware that this style of washing was common in the men’s homeland.

The "plague" rhetoric associated with the Asian immigrants was interwoven with the language of eugenics common to the time, which made "racial hygiene" into a public-health issue:
Underlying all of the anti-Japanese campaigns of the early 1900s were the bedrock principles of white supremacism. The widespread belief that white people were the consummate creation of nature, and that they were destined to bring the world civilization and light, went essentially unquestioned. It was supported by popular literature and self-proclaimed "scientists" who used the questionable methodology of the day to lend an academic veneer to longstanding racial prejudices.
Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities, respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 tome The Passing of the Great Race:

We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America "an asylum for the oppressed," are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all "distinctions of race, creed, or color," the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.

And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant --the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: "There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood."

Both books were national bestsellers that underwent multiple printings. And their core arguments -- which became entwined with deeply cherished beliefs about the nature of race -- became the heart of the battle to exclude the Japanese. Ultimately the issue was couched, like many racial issues of the preceding century, in the terminology of eugenics, a popular pseudo-science that saw careful racial breeding as the source of social and personal good health. Thus many of the campaigns against nonwhites cast the race in question as not merely subhuman, but pernicious vermin who posed a serious threat to the "health" of the white race. As James Phelan, arguing for exclusion in California, put it: "The rats are in the granary. They have gotten in under the door and they are breeding with alarming rapidity. We must get rid of them or lose the granary."

In Washington state, the campaign against the Japanese raised similar concerns:
As part of the general anti-Japanese agitation, the sanitation and general operation of Japanese owned hog farms was also called into question. A letter to the editor of the Seattle Star penned by King County Health Officer H.T. Sparling complained that "The condition of some of these (Japanese owned) ranches is indescribable." Nevertheless, Sparling went on to describe rat infested conditions and filthy meat being taken to the market for human consumption. In closing, Sparling stated, "I am strongly in favor of the ordinance introduced by Councilman Tindall and recommended by Dr. Bead, as it tends to centralize the industry and will make supervision easy."

The animus ran unabated, resulting in a bevy of "Alien Land Laws" intended to prohibit Japanese farmers from owning land, as well as a string of court rulings preventing them from obtaining citizenship. As I explain further in Strawberry Days, the "plague" rhetoric finally was elevated into lawmaking:
The final blow came in 1924, when Albert Johnson, using his offices as chair of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee, introduced a bill that would limit immigration to a 2 percent quota for each nationality, but further prohibiting the admission of any "aliens ineligible for citizenship." The bill easily passed the House, but once in the Senate, the provisions were altered to allow for a Japanese quota as well. However, Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts then stood up in the Senate and denounced a letter from the Japanese ambassador -- which had warned of "grave consequences" for relations between the two nations if the measure were to pass -- as a "veiled threat" against the United States. Lodge led a stampede of support for the House version of the bill, and the era of the Gentlemen's Agreement was over. Signed shortly afterward by President Calvin Coolidge, complete Japanese exclusion was now the law. Officially called the Immigration Act of 1924, it became known popularly as the Asian Exclusion Act. ...

Taken in isolation, these little acts of racial mean-spiritedness may have seemed of little moment. But in fact they had consequences that eventually exploded into the history books. In Japan, the public had been closely watching the passage of the alien land laws with mounting outrage. And when news of the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act was announced, mass riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. As Pearl Buck would later observe, the then-nascent movement for American-style democracy, which had been slowly gaining momentum in Japan, was effectively wiped out overnight. The military authoritarians who would control the nation for the next 20 years gained complete political mastery, and one of the cornerstones of their rule was a bellicose anti-Americanism that would finally reach fruition in late 1941.

Nor were Japanese the only people included in the assumptions of the "filthiness" of nonwhite races. It extended as well to Mexicans, as a new history text by David Dorado Romo makes clear:
A brilliant new book by a Mexican-American historian documents how, in the Twenties and Thirties, the Nazis were inspired by what the United States had been doing to their Mexican neighbours since 1917.

In Ringside at the Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, David Dorado Romo establishes the US Immigration Department's systematic brutality along the Rio Grande border.

Mexican visitors were forced to strip naked and subjected to 'screening' (for homosexuality, low IQ, physical deformities like 'clubbed fingers') and to 'disinfection' with various toxic fumigants, including gasoline, kerosene, sulfuric acid, DDT and, after 1929, Zyklon-B (hydrocyanic acid) -- the same gas used in the Holocaust's death camps.

The ostensible reason for the US fumigation was the fear of a typhus epidemic. Yet in 1916, the year before such 'baths' were enforced, only two cases of typhus had occurred in the poorest El Paso slum.

In light of similar "epidemics" involving Asians at about the same time, it's probably safe to assume that the scares were utterly groundless and existed only as a pretext to treat nonwhites as subhuman. And as Romo observes, the Nazis actually were inspired by the American example:
Romo (right) quotes Hitler writing in 1924, "The American union itself... has established scientific criteria for immigration... making an immigrant's ability to set foot on American soil dependent on specific racial requirements on the one hand as well as a certain level of physical health of the individual himself."

In 1938, three years before the first death camps of the Final Solution, Nazi chemist Dr Gerhard Peters published a full account, in German science journal Anzeiger fur Sahahlinskund, of the El Paso 'disinfection' plant. He included two photos and diagrams of the machinery which sprayed Zyklon B on railroad cars. (Peters went on to acquire Zyklon B's German patent.)

It should be noted that while the Americans sprayed their victims with toxic chemicals, they restricted use of Zyklon B to freight and clothes. As the Nazis understood, spraying it directly on a human caused almost immediate death. We can only guess what effect it had on the thousands of Mexican men, women and children who, after a 'bath' in DDT or gasoline, were sent away in clothes drenched with Zyklon B.

So when Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs begin railing phony statistics and horror stories to whip up fears that immigrants are bringing deadly diseases en masse to our shores ... well, just remember that it's been done before. And we've seen the results, too.

The Trouble with Ron

-- by Sara

Molly Ivins, God bless her big heart, warned us about Ron Paul over a decade ago. Her coverage of this 1996 Texas congressional races included this prescient precis:
Dallas' 5th District, East Texas' 2nd District and the amazing 14th District,which runs all over everywhere, are also in play. In the amazing 14th, Democrat Lefty Morris (his slogan is ''Lefty is Right!'') faces the Republican/Libertarian Ron Paul, who is himself so far right that he's sometimes left, as happens with your Libertarians. I think my favorite issue here is Paul's 1993 newsletter advising ''Frightened Americans'' on how to get their money out of the country. He advised that Peruvian citizenship could be purchased for a mere 25 grand. That we should all become Peruvians is one of the more innovative suggestions of this festive campaign season. But what will the Peruvians think of it?
Molly, with her usual insight, laid out the essential struggle we're having with Paul. As a libertarian leftist, I understand viscerally the charm of Paul's message. Who wouldn't be charmed? He's anti-war, anti-torture, anti-drug war, and anti-corporation -- a real progressive dream date. Until you reflect on the fact that he's also anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-sane immigration policy, and apparently, anti-separation of church and state as well:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.

-- From a "War on Religion" article Ron Paul wrote in December 2003 (found at Lew
And that's the trouble we're having with Ron. There's just a whole lot going on under that affable exterior that deserves a hard second look before we clutch the man to our collective bosom. The political writers in Texas back in that '96 campaign knew quite a bit about this, and their writing survives to tell some interesting tales. Here, for example, is Clay Robison, writing in the Houston Chronicle the same week Molly wrote the above:
[Democratic candidate] Morris recently distributed copies of political newsletters written by Paul in 1992 in which the Surfside physician endorsed the concept of secession, defended cross burning as an act of free speech and expressed sympathy for a man sentenced to prison for bombing an IRS building.
Cross-burning as free speech? (And sympathy for domestic terrorist bombers?) Um, yeah. Two months later, the Austin American-Statesman let Paul share his views in his own words:
Not all officials express alarm when discussing cross burnings. U.S.Rep.-elect Ron Paul, a Texas Republican from Surfside, described such activity as a form of free speech in some situations.

"Cross burning could be a crime if they were violating somebody's property rights,'' he said during his campaign. But if you go out on your farm some place and it's on your property and you put two sticks together and you burn it, I am not going to send in the federal police."
See, here's that problem again. When Paul explains it, it sounds all nice and reasonable. What you do on your property absolutely should be your business, and nobody should be able to tell you what you can and can't put on your Saturday night bonfire. But Texas was having a huge upswing in cross-burnings that year, which were part of an (all-too-successful) effort to terrorize its African-American community. There's plenty of legal precedent that one person's right to free speech ends when it begins to terrorize others into silence -- and, because of this, cross-burning is recognized as a hate crime in many jurisdictions across the country. But Ron Paul, for all his libertarian talk, apparently doesn't believe in putting any restrictions on speech, even when it damages other individuals and the overall level of civil behavior in society.

And then there's the company he keeps. Dave is going to have more on this soon; but if you want to know someone's character, look at the people he surrounds himself with. (Most of us wish we'd understood more about Bush's friends before the 2000 election -- let's not repeat that mistake here.)

First, there's Tom DeLay. Paul may be loudly anti-corporate and anti-GOP establishment; but that didn't stop him from taking $6,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC. According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Paul returned the favor by voting to weaken House ethics rules when DeLay proposed doing so as GOP Majority Leader; and to allow DeLay to continue to serve after an indictment. Since DeLay is easily the biggest corporate whore Washington has seen since Mark Hanna, we're not wrong to wonder about Paul's true enthusiasm for curbing corporate excess.

Then, there's the 100% legislative ranking Paul got from Cannabis Culture magazine -- a fact that lifts liberal spirits everywhere, and is very consistent with his libertarian views. But we shouldn't let that blind us to the fact that he also got 100% rankings from both the Christian Coalition and the John Birch Society -- two entities far more powerful and serious than Cannabis Culture,, and which actively wish ill on people like us. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson actively helped midwife Paul's budding political career: according to the New York Times, his political teams were circulating campaign letters promoting Paul over Bush I as a presidential candidate all the way back in 1988.

More serious are the friends on the farthest right edges -- the tax patriots, "sovereign citizens," and proto-fascists who have supported him from the beginning and are supporting him still. It's been quite a while since the militia fever of the early 90s acquainted us all the permutations of these loony-right movements (if you can't tell the players without a scorecard, the ADL provides a very good one here); but commenter Hume's Ghost pointed us to this excellent summary:
Many commentators have portrayed the Patriot and militia movements as fascist. We believe it is more accurate to describe them as right-wing populist movements with important fascistic tendencies-thus they are quasifascist or protofascist. Like the America First movement of the early 1940s, the Patriot movement and the militias represented a large-scale convergence of committed fascists with nonfascist activists. Such coalitions enable fascists to gain new recruits, increase their legitimacy among millions of people, and repackage their doctrines for mass consumption.

Mary Rupert dubbed the Patriot movement "A Seedbed for Fascism" and suggested that the "major missing piece in looking at the Patriot Movement in relation to fascism is that it does not overtly advance an authoritarian scheme of government. In fact, its emphasis seems to be on protecting individual rights." According to Rupert, there are two "portents of possibility" that could shift this situation: "First is the below-the-surface disposition of the Patriot Movement towards authoritarianism, and second is the way in which Patrick Buchanan...picked up and played out the Patriots’ grievances." We would add that "individual rights," like states’ rights, can also be a cover for the sort of decentralized social totalitarianism promoted by the neofascists of the Posse Comitatus and Christian Reconstructionism -- both of which helped lay the groundwork for the Patriot movement itself.
This puts a new context around Paul's relationship with The Patriot Network, a South Carolina-based group that's part of the "tax resistance" movement. This crew threw a 2004 banquet in Ron Paul's honor, as I mentioned in an earlier post (their newsletter noted that "most of the state's leading nationalist figures attended,").

Groups like this one aren't just a bunch of Howard Jarvis-type disgruntled taxpayers. The Patriot Network, like others going all the way back to the Posse Comitatus of the 70s, coaches members on how to avoid taxes, bilking them of thousands of dollars by selling them "untax" packages that will enable them -- under their own bizarre theory of government -- to exempt themselves from taxation. These "untax" theories have been repeatedly refuted by the courts across the country over the past couple decades; and several leaders of previous organizations offering similar services have been convicted and jailed for tax fraud. As noted above, the Patriot movement overlaps strongly with a variety of Christian Identity, militia, "sovereign citizen," and other ideologies dear to the heart of the far-right domestic terrorist agenda.

Another site that's endorsed Paul is the Dixie Daily News, a neo-Confederate website full of articles on states' rights, gold-backed currency, and how the South was right all along. Paul writes for this site frequently -- as does his friend and former legislative aide Gary North, who is also R.J. Rushdooney's son-in-law and a leading light of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. At the moment, the headline at the site is promoting Ron Paul's appearance at the group's "FreedomFest" in Las Vegas next month.

If Paul is making public appearances for this group, we need to be asking: why is he running for office in a government he clearly doesn't believe in?

If you doubt that Paul has the support of our proto-fascists, don't take my word for it -- take theirs. This endorsement, for example, recently appeared on national KKK leader David Duke's website. And I'll let an anonymous commenter from Stormfront, the far right's favorite Web watering hole, have the final word:
Anyone who doesn't vote for Paul on this site is an assclown. Sure he doesn't come right out and say he is a WN [white nationalist], who cares! He promotes agendas and ideas that allow Nationalism to flourish. If we "get there" without having to raise hell, who cares; aslong as we finally get what we want. I don't understand why some people do not support this man, Hitler is dead, and we shall probably never see another man like him.

Pat Buchanan's book "Where the Right Went Wrong" is a prime example of getting the point across without having the book banned for anti semitism. The chapters about the war in Iraq sound like a BarMitzvah, but he doesn't have to put the Star of David next to each name for us to know what he means. We are running out of options at this point, and I will take someone is 90% with us versus any of the other choices.

Not to mention if Paul makes a serious run, he legitimizes White Nationalism and Stormfront, for God's sake David Duke is behind this guy!
Bill Maher and Jon Stewart may love the ratings Ron Paul brings in. But the growing pile of evidence is proving that Paul, for all his freedom-loving talk, is in the pocket of the very people this blog has spent the past four years warning about. His links to the murderous brownshirt fringe that brought us the Freemen standoff and the Oklahoma City bombing are too strong to be ignored.

If America ever becomes a fascist state, it will be Ron Paul's long-time followers who bring it about. And we -- progressives, miniorities, feminists, gays, "intellectuals," and Jews like Maher and Stewart -- with be the first ones to feel their genocidal rage. We cannot overlook his long association with far-right extremists just because he agrees with us that the war is wrong and pot should be legal. If Bush has taught us anything, it's that we need to hold ourselves and our candidates to much higher standards than that. What we choose to overlook now, we will live to regret later.

Valuable research assistance for this piece was provided by Hume's Ghost, librarian Dan Harms, and our commenters. -- SR

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Minuteman implosion

-- by Dave

It's been fascinating, in a train-wreck kind of way, watching the rift in the ranks of the Minutemen, which began growing by leaps and bounds after the Minuteman movement itself was largely proven a scam, rumble on under its own momentum down the canyon and over the cliff.

You can hear the wails echoing now, as the Minutemen in descent begin rapidly turning on each other in the kind of cannibalization that is all too common among the extremist right, especially when the poop hits the deck:
The Minutemen, the anti-immigrant vigilante force set up two years ago to patrol the US-Mexican border, is in danger of imploding in a row over finances.

The group was formed in 2005 in response to concern over illegal immigration, mainly Hispanic. It has been accused of attracting racists, a charge it denies. The group, which split within months of its formation in a row over funds, has now fragmented again. A breakaway group, the Patriots' Border Alliance, is being set up and has established a website.

One of the leaders of the new group, Bob Wright, acknowledged the risk of the whole movement falling apart. "I think this absolutely unjustified farce has a good chance of tearing this organisation apart, which would be a damn shame," he said.

As it often does, the split has arisen over the ostensibly good intentions of the movement followers and the not-so-noble actions of its leaders:
Before the split, Mr Wright was deputy leader of the biggest of the Minuteman groups, the Minuteman Civil Defence Corps, which claims a membership of up to 8,000. The split came after he and other senior members invited the leader, Chris Simcox, to a meeting in Arizona to account for funds. Mr Simcox accused them of arranging an unauthorised meeting and purged Mr Wright and other senior leaders, and about a dozen state organisers.

Mr Wright said: "We asked for a meeting and this insanity is the result of that ... We were worried that the standard operating practice was not being followed as religiously as should have been." Hundreds of members were now leaving, he said.

As the East Valley Tribune reports, Simcox is wasting no time filling the slots with more pliable True Believers:
Some members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps have questioned Simcox, claiming promised funds have not been delivered to state chapters and border watch volunteers. Part of the problem appears to come from Simcox's penchant for exaggerating his successes. In mid-2006, Simcox told volunteers and journalists the group had raised $1.6 million in donations and private grants. But the group's 2005 tax filing in November revealed only $450,000 in revenues.

Some chapters have left the group and state leaders have quit, while Simcox has thrown out others for challenging his authority. Just last month, the Washington Times reported, Simcox stripped titles from four national leaders and the Arizona state director.

On Thursday, Simcox announced he had replaced the four national leaders and is seeking to hire 11 more people.

"Trust me, you will see big changes in how we operate, all concerns will be addressed, problems will be solved and we will continue to lead the nation in this fight to secure our borders," Simcox says in a message on his group's Web site.

As both the stories note, another sign of the discontent is the lawsuit filed by another supporter over the absurd fence the Minutemen erected along a short portion of the Mexico border:
A man who mortgaged his home in order to help the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps build border fencing on private land in Cochise County is suing the group and its president, Chris Simcox, for fraud and breach of contract.

In a complaint filed May 22 in Maricopa County Superior Court, Jim Campbell, a retired homebuilder and Air Force veteran from Fountain Hills, accused Simcox and the MCDC of falsely promising to build a multi-layered Israeli-style security barrier on the Palominas ranch of John and Jack Ladd.

Campbell alleges that, after hearing the MCDC publicize the plan in April 2006, he had three telephone conversations with Peter Kunz, project manager for the effort, in which Kunz promised the Israeli-style barrier would be built along 10 miles of the Ladd ranch.

Encouraged by the plan, Campbell says he took out a loan on his home and donated $100,000 to the project on May 22, 2006, with the stipulation that it be used to purchase steel tubing for the Ladds’ fence. However, by the May 27, 2006, groundbreaking, the Ladds had rejected the double-layered, 14-foot barrier in favor of a traditional range fence. “To date, MCDC has not constructed any ‘Israeli-style’ border fencing on the property where the groundbreaking ceremony took place, in breach of agreement between it and Campbell,” the complaint states.

Campbell says he asked for his donation back, but Simcox told him the money would be used to build an Israeli-style barrier along 9/10 mile of Richard Hodges’ border-front ranch in Bisbee Junction.

Instead, Campbell alleges, the money was diverted to other MCDC projects and affiliated groups, while work on Hodges’ fence languished.

Campbell is asking for a total of $1,220,845 in damages and reimbursements from Simcox, the MCDC and Kunz. His suit also names Diener Consultants, a Chicago-based fund-raising organization that has played a central role in the fence-building campaign, and the MCDC-affiliated Declaration Alliance, a Virginia-based charity founded by conservative activist Alan Keyes.

As these lawsuits work their way through the courts, we'll be finding out a whole lot more about how these right-wing scam artists bilked millions of people into sending them their hard-earned dollars. It's the same old story with a new cast, but watching how it plays out is always instructive.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

--by Sara

Ron Paul's been explaining away a decade of anti-black/anti-semitic/patriot whackadoodle writings by simply saying, "A ghostwriter did it." This excuse has been popping up everywhere, courtesy of his addled minions who seem to accept it as a reasonable excuse that lets their man off the hook for statements no American politician should ever make in public (or private either, for that matter).

As someone who once made a good living ghost-writing national award-winning newsletters for three different entities, I want to explain a little bit about how that works -- and why this explanation is beyond bogus.

Back in the day (which corresponds closely to the heyday of The Ron Paul Survival Report), newsletter clients retained my services as a writer under a work-for-hire contract. That means that -- unlike other writing work, to which I retain all legal rights -- the client ordered me to produce work carefully-tailored to their own needs, bought that work outright, owned all rights to it, and put their own names on it. (That’s what makes it ghosted. My name might have appeared in a masthead, or nowhere.) My job was to take their ideas, make them sound pretty, and organize the whole into a coherent, readable newsletter. Legally and ethically, it was just as though they'd produced the piece themselves.

Paul's apologists may need to hear that again. Once they paid my fee, all legal rights to it belonged to them outright. It was their intellectual property -- noun, verb, and preposition. They had absolute freedom to add to it, cut it, or change it around any way they chose. (This is one reason I didn't mind keeping my name off the pieces.) Because they bought the right to put their name on my work and represent it as their own -- a right that Ron Paul evidently also exercised at The Ron Paul Survival Report -- they paid me a nice premium over and above what I'd have made writing the same pieces for a magazine.

If one of those clients stood up years later and insisted that no, they didn't say that -- "she put words in my mouth that I never knew about!" -- I'd be very very quick to point out that they bought it...and they own it. When they put their names over my words, they claimed full responsibility for them. Once their check cleared, it was theirs. They can't go around blaming me for any problems that might result, because they had full control and ownership from the get.

So Paul's facile assertion that somewhere, somehow, a nasty, scheming ghostwriter slipped all those hateful words in under his name is just ridiculous. To swallow this line, you'd have to be as daft as the White Queen, perfectly willing to believe half a dozen impossible things before breakfast:
1. That the ghostwriter who wrote The Ron Paul Survival Report was never really under Ron Paul's control

2. That somebody other than Ron Paul put their money on the line to pay the writer (these things don't come cheap -- I charged a minimum of $1K per page for my copy, and his was eight pages per issue).

3. And, by extension: that somebody other than Ron Paul owns the resulting intellectual property. (It'd be interesting to see what would happen if some other right wingnut started plagarizing those articles.)

4. That Ron Paul never read, commented on, or approved what was written for the newsletter that bore his name -- and was so critical to building his early political base

5. That The Ron Paul Survival Report was written, laid out, published, and shipped during the night by elves, with no input from Paul at all

6. That Ron Paul actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the Survival Report Apparently, his name ended up in the title as some kind of perverse coincidence. He was out of town that day. All those days.
As I said below: Either the man is a straight talker who means what he says, and says what he means -- in which case, he stands by all his words, and is willing to defend them as his own. He started the newsletter, he hired the writer, he approved the copy, he paid for the words to be printed and mailed under his name. Through those actions, he took full legal and moral ownership of those words. They are, then and now, his intellectual property.

Or else he's just another weasely politician, using "straight talk" to wow the crowds when it suits his purposes, but equally quick to tell lies to disassociate himself from decades of unsavory "straight talk" that now threatens to keep him off the national stage.

It's one or the other, Ron. You cannot have this one both ways -- at least, not without talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Takin' the Dreams Train

-- by Dave

On the same broadcast in which Lou Dobbs seemingly described his critics as "commies" and "fascists" and then embarked upon a muddled, half-baked defense of his reportage on immigration, Dobbs also ran a "news report" on a coming campaign to begin injecting some common sense into the immigration debate.

Of course, Dobbs and his reporter -- the execrable Casey Wian, he of the notorious "Aztlan" reportage -- portrayed it in the most negative light possible:
DOBBS: The Catholic Church, and other pro-illegal alien lobbying groups finding new ways to promote amnesty. As Casey Wian now reports, they're taking a cross-country trip by rail in order to highlight the accomplishments of illegal aliens.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call it the Dreamers' Train. Actually, there will be four trains carrying 100 immigrants to Washington, D.C., next month. Along the way, they plan to share their stories of success after they or their parents came to the United States, in some cases illegally.

REV. GIOVANNI BIZZOTTO, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: The Bible reminds us you shall treat a stranger, the migrants who resides with you, no differently than the natives born among you.

WIAN: Dreams Across America participants plan to lobby members of Congress, who are likely to still be debating the issue of illegal alien amnesty when the trains arrive in the nation's capital in mid-June.

MARIA ELENA DURAZO, L.A. COUNTY LABOR FEDERATION: We are not promoting any piece of legislation. We want all legislation to reflect the dreams of these men and women.

WIAN: Some of the Dreamer stories are already on the group's web site, including an interview with California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, the child of immigrant farm workers.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney is another supporter.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: There is a tremendous degree of hypocrisy with these religious leaders who are standing up and portraying themselves as morally superior, because they are helping some illegal immigrants who are here in our society.

Well, who are they hurting by helping those illegals? No. 1, they're hurting the American people, whose jobs are being taken, but they're also hurting people who would like to come here legally and are obeying our laws and waiting to immigrate here legally.

WIAN: The Dreams across America web site also provides a link to the story of another son of immigrants, New Mexico governor and 2008 presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

However, a spokesman for Richardson's campaign says the governor is not associated with Dreams Across America.

WIAN: Perhaps a better name would be the Amnesty Train, because that's the goal of many Dreams Across America supporters. They're appearing more desperate as the so-called comprehensive immigration reform efforts stalls in Congress -- Lou.

DOBBS: So I guess we could call it the A Train. Is that right?

WIAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: All right. Casey, thanks. Casey Wian, from Los Angeles.

I guess it is no longer a surprise that Dobbs' reportage has become a real barometer of the misinformation levels being purveyed by the nativist faction in the immigration debate.

If you go to the Dreams Across America Web site, you won't find discussions of amnesty. What you find is this:
The Dreams Across America Tour is a nationwide journey via train that educates the public to dispel myths, give real facts, and shares personal stories about the need for just and humane immigration reform in this country.

In eight days (June 13th- 20th) via ten cities, the tour will bring together one hundred diverse individuals from throughout the country referred to as Dreamers. These Dreamers will share their compelling stories and reinforce what still holds true today – no matter our backgrounds, immigrant or native born, we all cherish the values that make this country prosper. However, only by working together to address our nation's broken immigration laws, can we continue to achieve and live the American dream.

Of course, if you look at the list of the tour's supporters, it's quite clear that they are uniformly advocates for progressive and humane immigration reform, and in many cases they are supporters of what the nativists call "amnesty" -- though the details will often vary.

Probably a good gauge of the intentions of the tour's backers can be found at the Web site of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), which is a major partner in one of the tour's events. FIRM describes its agenda for immigration reform thus:
1. Provide a Path to Permanent Resident Status and Citizenship for All Members of Our Communities. Our immigration policy needs to be consistent with reality. Most immigrants are encouraged to come to the United States by economic forces they do not control. Immigrants bring prosperity to this country, yet many are kept in legal limbo. Legalization of the undocumented members of our communities would benefit both immigrants and their families and the U.S.-born, by raising the floor for all and providing all with equal labor protections.

2. Reunite Families and Reduce Immigration Backlogs. Family unity is a guiding principle in federal policy. Immigration reform will not be successful until we harmonize public policy with one of the main factors driving migration: family unity. Currently families are separated by visa waiting periods and processing delays that can last decades. Comprehensive immigration reform must strengthen the family preference system, by increasing the number of visas available both overall and within each category. In addition, the bars to re-entry must be eliminated, so that no one who is eligible for an immigrant visa is punished by being separated from their family for many years.

3. Provide Opportunities for Safe Future Migration and Maintain Worker Protections.
Any worker visa program must include provision for full labor rights (such as the right to organize and independent enforcement rights); the right to change jobs; and a path to permanent residence and citizenship. A regulated worker visa process must meet clearly defined labor market needs, and must not resemble current or historic temporary worker programs. The new system must create a legal and safe alternative for migrants, facilitate and enforce equal rights for all workers, and minimize the opportunities for abuse by unscrupulous employers and others.

4. Respect the Safety and Security of All in Immigration Law Enforcement. Immigration enforcement laws already in place are creating fear among immigrant and nonimmigrant communities alike. Ineffective and costly policies should not be expanded, but new alternatives and solutions should be sought. Fair enforcement practices are critical to rebuilding trust among immigrant communities and protecting the security of all. Any immigration law enforcement should be conducted with professionalism, accountability, and respect. Furthermore, there should be effective enforcement of laws against human trafficking, and a border strategy that emphasizes training, accountability and competency that rejects militarizing the border with Mexico. In all cases, immigration reform must respect clear boundaries between federal immigration enforcement, local law enforcement and the enforcement of labor laws.

5. Recognize Immigrants' Full Humanity and Eliminate Barriers to Full Participation. Immigrants are more than just workers. Immigrants are neighbors, family members, students, members of our society, and an essential part of the future of the United States. Our immigration policies should provide immigrants with opportunities to learn English, naturalize, lead prosperous lives, engage in cultural expression, and receive equitable access to needed services and higher education. FIRM opposes unreasonable barriers to naturalization, including excessive fees, endless and discriminatory background checks, and grinding bureaucracy.

6. Restore Fundamental Civil Rights of Immigrants. Since September 11, 2001, selective and discriminatory implementation of sweeping law enforcement policies has not only failed to make us safer from future attacks, but undermined our security while eroding fundamental civil liberties. Failure to protect these fundamental rights goes against the core values of a democracy, and, therefore, the United States. For the benefit of everyone, and not just immigrants, these basic rights must be restored and protected.

7. Protect the Rights of Refugees and Asylees. The United States has always been viewed as a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. Yet, since September 11, 2001, significantly fewer refugees have been admitted. The U.S. government has an obligation to remove barriers to admission and save the lives of thousands of people across the world fleeing for their lives. In addition, our current policies treat many asylees unequally based on their country of origin. Our country must ensure fair and equal treatment of individuals and their family members seeking asylum, and end the inhumane detention and warehousing of asylum seekers.

8. Economic Justice. America's immigration system plays an important and often under-recognized role in United States labor policy, opening doors to particular populations to serve the short and long-term needs of American industry. Under such a dynamic, immigrants can be pitted against native-born workers in a labor market under stress from general economic insecurity. We believe strongly in the solidarity of all workers, especially low wage workers. Any worker – immigrant or native born – vulnerable to exploitation threatens the standing of all workers.

9. No Criminalization. The United States has a long and revered immigrant past; however current immigration laws, which seek to criminalize future flows of immigrants and workers, undermine that history. Governments that selectively legislate certain groups of people as criminal in their behavior or appearance and limit access to government services and protections under this basis run the risk of creating abuse of authority and discrimination. Such abuse increases exponentially when factors of race, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation are involved.

10. Restore the number of refugees that enter the United States to pre 9-11 levels.

Now, just to be clear: This is in no way the official position of Dreams Across America, precisely because elucidating an agenda is not its mission. Rather, as near as I can tell, the Dreams Train is about trying to get people talking to each other like human beings. It is specifically not about promoting any piece of legislation.

Still, as a rough gauge of the sentiments riding with the train, the FIRM agenda is probably as clear as you'll get. And you can argue endlessly over the meaning of terms, but you'll notice that nowhere does FIRM advocate "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, though it does argue for the "legalization of undocumented workers," which would amount to much the same thing as far as the nativists are concerned. But note that it doesn't argue for blanket citizenship -- rather, it calls for "a clear path to citizenship.

Is it about "open borders," as other critics no doubt will claim? Not exactly; rather, it's clear that it's advocating a more sensible approach to border security, including a crackdown on human trafficking.

No, the bulk of the FIRM agenda seems fairly common-sensical, really -- though no doubt Lou Dobbs and Casey Wian would beg to differ.

Perhaps, as one of the tour organizers, Rick Jacobs (writing at HuffPo), suggests, if Lou Dobbs is against it, they're probably on the right track.

Because I firmly believe that the human element has too long taken a back seat in our national debate over immigration, I have taken a deep interest in the Dreams Train, and thanks to the kindness of Jacobs (and the help of Matt Stoller and Jane Hamsher), I will be joining the train for the entirety of the tour from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington.

Orcinus readers, I hope, will be pleased to know that for the eight days I'm with the tour -- June 12-19 -- I'll be posting regularly along the way. No doubt I will be sitting down and interviewing a number of the 100 immigrants and getting their stories told. At other times, I'll be describing the stops and what takes place there.

I never check my independence at the door, so readers can be assured they'll be getting an unvarnished version of the tour. Nonetheless, I'll be up front in telling you that I think a tour like this, emphasizing the human dimensions of the debate, is precisely the kind of thing that is needed in the debate.

And of course, a large reason this is so has to do with the prevalence of dehumanizing rhetoric in the debate from the nativist right -- including the Lou Dobbses of the world. I'll be writing about that more in the coming week, as well as running some interviews with immigrants that I've already conducted, quite apart from this tour, as a kind of warmup.

Hope you all stick around for the ride. And oh, yes -- I'll be cross-posting at Firedoglake and the Dreams Train blog.