Friday, August 08, 2008

The New McCain Salute

[Cross-posted at Firedolglake.]

The wingnuts are having lots of fun kicking around an LA marketing company’s dumbass idea for an "Obama salute" (you form an O with both hands). I have no idea why these geniuses thought authoritarian gestures would become a big thing with liberals and progressives, but what the hell. The market will speak on this one, I’d bet.

So all the wingnut bloggers, notably the A-listers like Ole Perfesser and Malkin, are all over this major pressing and campaign-changing story like stink on shit. One can only imagine the scene if anyone actually affiliated with the Obama campaign were behind a dumb idea like this.

I’m sure, however, that this is just jealousy. So in the spirit of political sharing, we dirty fucking trekkies of the left have concocted a similar salute for John McCain:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

So Much For McCain’s Outreach To Latinos

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 The folks over at The Sanctuary — one of the premier group blogs about Latino issues — last month sent out a questionnaire to the Obama and McCain campaigns trying pin them down on the specifics of key issues, particularly immigration. Here’s what happened:
By the July 31st deadline, only the Obama campaign had responded to the survey. The Sanctuary conducted extra follow-up with McCain’s campaign headquarters via e-mail and telephone to investigate their failure to meet the deadline.

"The first phone call I placed was answered cordially. I was told that someone would get back to me. I never heard back from anyone," said Sanctuary editor Kety Esquivel of, who has appeared on CNN to discuss the questionnaire. "The second time I called, the person I was speaking with hung up and the third time I called the line was disconnected."
Of course, it was only last month that McCain was cooing sweet nothings in the ears of Latino voters in Chicago, holding a late-night town-hall session that was closed to the public. Even then, it was obvious he was telling Latinos he was their pal — but just not to let anyone else know that. And it went over about as well as you’d expect.

Looks like he’s taking my advice and just embracing his party’s inner nativist wingnut.

The Anthrax Case Might Be Cracked, But It Is Far From Closed

Bruce Ivins
[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

I hope everyone watching the anthrax/Bruce Ivins case has been reading Marcy’s stellar work, particularly her delving of the Justice Department’s selective document dump yesterday (see especially her wrapup on the documents and the timeline she constructed, as well as this morning’s note). The bottom line: "they haven’t solved this crime, but they want us to all go away and pretend they have."

Some of the evidence presented is fairly damning, to be sure. There’s a big red flag in the middle this affidavit: Ivins gave the FBI false anthrax samples during their investigation of the mailings in April 2002. What’s particularly noteworthy is that he appeared to be hiding the fact that his lab samples (which he originally did not hand over) matched the samples in the mailings.

Besides being extraordinarily suspicious behavior (Ivins’ explanations were far from convincing) this sort of non-cooperation is also obstruction of justice. And that, no doubt, was a club the FBI began holding over his head to get his cooperation in the years that followed.

It’s also worth noting that this event happened only days before Ivins was involved in discovering an anthrax leak at the lab, an event that set off a panic within Fort Detrick. (The Frederick News Post published an excellent series describing this event.)

At the same time, you have to be struck by some of the FBI’s behavior that emerges from these papers as well as other documents. The Washington Post story following the dump covers this well: It really was an extraordinary pattern of constant harassment, including showing up at a supermarket with autopsy photos to tell Ivins’ wife that he had killed those people.

I’ve been around federal law enforcement for a long time, and agents almost never engage in tactics like that unless they are dead certain they have their man and are trying to shake him into a misstep. Problem is, I’ve also seen agents be wrong about that.

What stands out in these documents is what we’ve gotten so far from the leaks (almost certainly coming from an investigator) that have fed us most of the public information about the case against Ivins: Namely, there are tons of cause for suspicion, and even a reasonable circumstantial case to make against Ivins, but it’s a dubious proposition at best that this evidence would have yielded a conviction — it’s more likely, in fact, that it wouldn’t have.

Indeed, it’s likely that Ivins would still be alive if their case against him had been stronger. After all, they could easily have taken him into custody after his release from the hospital where he was treated just before his suicide — but probably didn’t because their case was so weak and they feared it would be dismissed outright if they grabbed him.

What the public has to work on so far are affidavits for search warrants — which are fine for establishing probable cause, but don’t do diddly for establishing actual guilt. They may have gotten a good crack on the case, but the FBI is far from having solved it.

Indeed, the affidavit contains several inconsistencies. One of the key pieces of evidence it raises is his mysterious late-night work around the time of the attacks, emphasizing his refusal to explain what he was working on. Yet a later section quotes an e-mail showing showing that Ivins resumed work on a vaccine project at this time. And the “unusual” pattern of night work is clearly shown to have begun in August, well before the Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. — meaning if Ivins was working on the attacks then, he conceived them before 9/11. And yet whoever was responsible for the attacks was clearly piggybacking off them (see the phony "Muslim" content of the letters).

This incoherency is also evident in the concluding final section, which makes clear that investigators are continuing to look outside of Fort Detrick for the location and the equipment used in making the anthrax and the letters. (It also makes it unlikely that the lyopholizer used in making the anthrax was the one recently linked to Ivins in news reports based on the leaks.)

Even if Ivins can be linked with hard evidence, the case still has many unresolved issues, particularly whether Ivins had any co-conspirators (the affidavits even indicate this was a possibility). And then there are the larger issues about what was happening at Fort Detrick — why security was so lax, and whether the facility was violating the international bioweapons convention if it was making this anthrax.

But it’s clear the Justice Department wants to walk away from this case — and with someone linked closely to Scooter "Germ Boy" Libby calling the shots, that seems increasingly likely. Hopefully, Congress will have something to say about that.

[Thanks to Warbaby for the links and pointers.]

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

You’re Not Being Paranoid If They Really Are Out To Get You

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 Today’s AP story about the NRA spy who infiltrated Ceasefire NJ, a major gun-control organization, was perfectly in line with classic right-wing gun-nut behavior.

One of the ways that the paranoid mindset endemic to the American right plays out is that they always wind up doing the very things they like to suspect the rest of us of — like playing dirty tricks and infiltrating them. It’s because they start out fearful, and then move on to imagining what those they fear might be doing to harm them, and those imaginings inevitably are built out of what they themselves might do in reversed positions … all of which becomes a self-fulfilling rationale for doing it entirely on their own.

This is especially true of the gun culture. I grew up in it. I know.

Their integrity and honor — you know, the kind of values they like proudly announce they’re all about — is showing, too, in the NRA’s tight-lipped refusal to comment on the story. A press release on the purity of the essence of our bodily fluids is forthcoming, no doubt.

I think the comment from one of the spy’s supposed friends said it all:
Bryan Miller, executive director of Ceasefire NJ, said he feels betrayed by McFate. Miller’s brother, an FBI agent, was shot to death in 1994.

"To have somebody that I consider a friend, have been with dozens of times, shared meals with, treated as a friend, to have her be an employee, a subcontracted spy for the NRA, is just mind-boggling. It’s so venal," Miller said. "In the battle of ideas with the gun lobby, we’re at a constant disadvantage because we’re honest."
Heaven help us if we become as paranoid as they are. And the funny thing is, they keep proving that we ought to be.

The Right Jujitsus Obama On Race, And The Timid Left Tumbles Over


[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

It was easy to predict, going in, that the dynamics of race and politics were going to be a big factor in this year’s election — the main question was how naked the Republicans would play it.

And now we’re seeing what their plan is: Play it subtle, with a raft of images that will send off all the necessary messages to the lizard-brained wingnuts of their base, but nothing overt that can be readily flagged as racial — and when the Obama camp inevitably responds, play the wounded party. In other words, turn Obama’s race into a liability by making him respond to subtle, easily denied racial appeals so that he seems like he’s making unfair use of "the race card."

McCain’s "Celebrity" ad, and its aftermath, have so far played that strategy to perfection — Obama has been forced to retreat after initially calling it out, and his nominal defenders on the left have taken up defensive positions as well. Meanwhile, the wingnutosphere is in full roar; Peter Kirsanow’s post at NRO today, portraying Obama as making absurd overuse of "the race card," is the apotheosis of their emerging meme on race.

A little while back Jane pointed out that Republicans have done extensive polling to figure out how to play the race question, and they have concluded that they could succeed mainly by making "implicit" appeals instead of explicit ones. What we’re seeing now is that polling converted to campaign strategy.

No doubt, the end game of this strategy will be to open the floodgates so that more explicit appeals with similar dog-whistle content — like Floyd Brown’s ads linking Obama to black criminality — will gain added cover and be treated as legitimate.

It’s not, as Bob Herbert has argued, that the racial dog-whistle components of these ads are self-evident; they’re far more subtle than that. Neither, on the other hand, are they as utterly absent from them as folks like Taylor Marsh would have us think.

Last month in Austin I was on a panel about political rhetoric with Michael Shaw of BagNewsNotes, who presented the slideshow and talk you see in the video above (Michael has a post about it here.) As you can see, he makes a compelling case that a campaign has been well under way on the right — and becoming entrenched as a result within the mainstream media discourse — to marginalize Obama through these subtle appeals.

He explains it thus:
In looking at the fearful or polarized treatment of Obama, it breaks down into three categories:
  • Obama as “Other.”
  • Obama as racial stereotype
  • And third, in descending order: Obama as shadow figure; Obama as man with a covert, anti-American agenda; Obama as Machiavellian mastermind; and Obama as closet Muslim and even Islamic Manchurian candidate.
It’s important to understand that these three categories interact and reinforce each other, often appealing as they do to the same base side of human nature. It’s the kind of appeal in which the GOP has come to specialize in since the days of Nixon.

As Shaw explains, one of the major racial personality stereotypes focuses on "lust, particularly toward white women." Several of the images, you’ll see, juxtapose Obama with a beautiful white woman in a way that is slightly startling — just as the "Celebrity" ad did. People familiar with racist-right appeals (particularly those common on the white-supremacist right) are all too familiar with the connotation of these juxtapositions: they are intended to appeal to the lingering white fear of "miscegenation" and racial mixing generally. That, and not simply our imaginings, is why so many people thought of the ugly miscegenation-mongering of the anti-Harold Ford "Fancy" ad.

Shaw also notes that the "uppity" racial stereotype is being trotted out increasingly as well, both by the right and by the media in general (see, e.g., Dana Milbank) in regards to Obama, though the favored version of it, I think, is that he’s "arrogant."

Responding to these kinds of appeals requires care. Calling them out as overtly racist, as we’ve seen, walks into the political ambush that’s being laid here. But at the same time, it’s foolish to pretend it isn’t happening. It’s still possible, in fact, to turn this to Obama’s advantage.

For now, calling out the dog-whistle components of the Republican appeal (and the resultant media coverage) isn’t a viable option, because McCain and Co. have seemingly immunized themselves for the time being. What’s called for, in fact, is some reverse jujutsu — because, let’s face it, the GOP strategy involves pushing a delicate line, and the best response is to find ways to get them to push past it.

It should be possible, while laying low, to invite the Republicans and their wingnut base to amp up the racial coding on issues where they are far less prone to being careful — issues such as immigration, where the nativist component largely holds sway. An aggressive effort by Obama to talk about immigration almost certainly would bring out the worst in the conservative movement — and make those "implicit" racial appeals in the rest of their ads look a lot more explicit in the process.

Regardless of whether the Obama campaign ever figures this out, it’s incumbent on those interested in seeing him elected to keep up the pressure and call this nonsense out for what it is. Obama doesn’t have to say it, but we can, and we will.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Is ‘Anthrax Killer’ Bruce Ivins Just The Latest Richard Jewell?

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[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

The East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona, recently ran a five-part series on Crazy Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the wingnut nativist who has been doing his damnedest to round up and deport every illegal immigrant in Maricopa County.

It’s really quite damning from the outset; the initial piece makes it clear that Arpaio has transformed what was once a typical local law-enforcement agency into an immigration bureau. Even more damning is the reportage on how grossly "America’s sheriff" and his crew violate federal laws along the way:
But the deputies’ work that morning, as with dozens of similar MCSO immigration patrols across the county, violated federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling, a Tribune investigation found.

Those regulations specifically forbid crackdowns like Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “crime suppression/anti-illegal immigration sweeps” unless there is “reliable, empirical data” that serious crime is taking place. That’s defined as 911 calls and crime statistics based on reports, among other things.

But the sheriff’s office conducts large-scale operations without any evidence of criminal activity. The sweeps are billed as crackdowns on general crime, primarily in neighborhoods where many Hispanics live and work.

That’s exactly what federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement rules are designed to prevent.
What’s perhaps most outrageous about this: Even though Arpaio is clearly flouting the regulations, officials at ICE in Arizona have given him their official imprimatur.

And what do the Maricopa County taxpayers get out of all this? Why, crappy law enforcement, of course, as Part IV reported:
In Guadalupe, grocery store employees waited in vain for help during an armed robbery.

In Queen Creek, vandalism spread through a neighborhood where Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies rarely patrolled.

In Aguila, people bought guns in the face of rising crime that deputies couldn’t respond to quickly enough.

And in El Mirage, dozens of serious felony cases went uninvestigated.

Response times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered over the past two years as Sheriff Joe Arpaio turned his already short-handed and cash-strapped department into an immigration enforcement agency, a Tribune investigation found.
Another point worth noting, and not mentioned in this series: Arpaio’s raids are not only a waste of his deputies’ time, they also suck up the resources of the local LEOs where the raids occur. When Arpaio repeated the Mesa raids this summer, it also cost the Mesa city government absurd amounts of overtime for its own officers to keep track of Arpaio’s deputies.

The standard nativist position on immigration — and it is largely now the position of nearly every Republican politician — is that we simply need to enforce the laws on the books, round up every illegal immigrant and deport them; if they want to immigrate, let them do it legally, blah blah blah.

Here’s a good example of what happens when you do that.

[H/t to bmaz for the Mesa info.]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Anthrax And The Bush 'War On Terror'

-- by Dave

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the Bush administration -- including the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Pentagon -- all want the anthrax-killer case to quietly die with the person of Bruce Ivins. Yep, case closed, move along, folks. Right?

Well, excuse us. If you don't mind, we still have a few questions:

-- Was Ivins, as Marcy and Glenn Greenwald have wondered, a conscious part of the disinformation campaign to convince Congress and the public to go to war with Iraq?

-- Did Ivins -- if he really was the anthrax killer -- have any co-conspirators, as the evidence suggests?

-- Why was security at Fort Detrick, home of USAMRIID, probably the nation's most sensitive and secretive weapons laboratory, so lax as to allow this to happen?

-- And finally (and perhaps most significantly), was the mere fact of this kind of weaponized anthrax's existence at Fort Detrick another example of the Bush administration's flagrant violations of international law?

You see, the process used to create this anthrax was in flagrant violation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (more here). The United States is not just a cosigner, it is one of the chief authors of this particular international law, which has been in effect since 1972. Chief among its tenets is the prohibition against developing new biological-weapons processes.

The FBI's self-evident conclusion that the anthrax was produced at Fort Detrick is manifest evidence that we are violating that law -- and have probably been doing so for some time, even preceding the Bush regime.

Indeed, we've known since this spring that the anthrax was almost certainly produced there, when a Fox News report on a possible breakthrough in the case disclosed that "scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues."

So you'll have to excuse us if we are not quite ready to move along. In fact, as Jane says, it's time for a full-blown, front-page congressional investigation.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Second Coming

--by Sara

On Friday, the McCain campaign struck again, following up the Britney/Paris ad with one even more offensive -- a three-fer that managed to, all at once, reinvoke the Cult of Obama meme; suggest that popularity shouldn't be a criterion for picking US presidents (a notion that two stolen elections have proven in principle, but is now being baldly promoted as a GOP campaign talking point); and blast the dog-whistle at air-raid volume at the religious right, ginning up their already well-fermented fear that Obama is the antichrist.

I wrote one of the earliest blog entries on this over at on Friday, and several other good posts have been written since. But I'd like to direct your attention particularly to Dave Johnson's offering at Seeing The Forest. Our buddy Dave, a man of great intestinal fortitude, waded out into the right-wing blogs and collected a few specimens of the net.slime that's already been raising the question of Obama's links to Satan. One choice bit:
Obama is the Anti-Christ. This is the evidence:

1.- He will come as a man of Peace (Obama promises peace in Iraq, defeat for the US)
2.- He will come mounted on a white Female horse(Obama mother is white who had 6 African husbands)
3.- He will come to deceive( Obama says he's a Christian but in fact he was born a Muslim, practices the Islamic religion, prays Friday’s facing Mecca)
4.- He will make himself the most powerful man on earth, if elected
5.- He will try to destroy the Jewish People and Israel( Obama has said he loves the Arabs specially the Palestinians, hates Israel and Jews. Admires Hitler, Osama etc)
6.- He will present himself as good and righteous but in fact he's Satan himself. Violence is in his heart
7.- Obama will help Al Qaida in its evil projects.
8.- Barack Hussein Obama is the “King of the South” predicted in the Bible.(Daniel .11, Kenya is south of Jerusalem)
9.- Obama comes to implant muslim Sharia Law upon America.
Obama is the Anti-Christ, beware of him.
Watch him and don't let you be deceived by Him.
Supporters of Obama: 1.5 billion Muslims, Oprah, Louis Farrakanh, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all American Muslims.
Dave notes that everybody from Hal Lindsey to Glenn Beck has piled onto this, giving the an absurd level of media legitimacy to a story that should never, in any sane country, ever have risen to the level of a talking point in a presidential campaign. The only bright spot here is that the people most likely to believe this were never going to vote for Obama anyway due the race thing -- though I suppose the fact that they'd rather cop to believing in the Rapture fable than admit they won't vote for a black man does say something interesting about where our taboo lines fall these days.

Fortunately, the indispensable Snopes is on the case. Their last word won't be -- but should be -- the last word on this entire sorry farce:
The Biblical citation most relevant to this issue might not be one from Revelation, but rather this passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Let the people of the word say amen.