Saturday, March 14, 2009

Closer to Home

-- by Sara

Last summer's church shooting in Knoxville, TN hit close to home for me. As a Unitarian Universalist -- and a liberal -- the idea that the right wing's eliminationist rage toward the left would end up in the death of two members of my own tribe wasn't unexpected; but it was a gutpunch, and a moment of awakening.

But, for other reasons entirely, last Sunday's shooting in a Baptist chuch in Maryville, IL hits even closer to home.

The shooter, Terry Sedlacek, had struggled for years with long-term, chronic Lyme disease, contracted after being bitten by a tick some years ago. Though this description of his symptoms seems extreme even among Lyme patients, his struggle to get treatment is an infuriatingly common one. The media debate over the role this disease may have played in the shooting has tapped into one of the most furious and tragic medical debates in modern medicine. On one hand: there are doctors on TV claiming that it's entirely possible that Lyme can create the kind of psychiatric problems that would lead to this kind of catastrophe. On the other are doctors saying that it's impossible -- Lyme is a relatively benign bacterial infection that's easily treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.

What you're seeing here is the public version of a medical furor that's been raging more privately for over 20 years, with a million or two patients caught in between. The stakes are incredibly high. Doctors caught on the wrong side commonly lose their licenses. Patients caught in the crossfire commonly lose their lives.

Lyme and Me
I came by my own ringside seat at these festivities courtesy of a tick bite incurred, probably on a hiking trail somewhere in the Sierra, in the late summer of 1984. I don't remember the bite. I never saw the tell-tale bulls-eye rash (I'm a country kid -- I got bit all the time by one noxious thing or another) that one of the warring camps insists must be present for a Lyme diagnosis to be accurate. But I do know that I went to bed one day in October of that year, and was never the same afterward -- and that I've been struggling with devastating bouts of exhaustion, body pain, and brain fog ever since.

Over the years, various doctors pinned assorted diagnoses on these symptoms, all of which promised exactly zero hope for a cure. Occasionally, one would recommend a symptomatic treatment that would alleviate some of the pain, or forestall at least some of the damage; and through the years, these little wins added up to a decade of gradual recovery that allowed me to reclaim at least some of my life. It wasn't enough to keep me from having to abandon my career; but at least the pain wasn't constant, and the neuropathies weren't crippling -- which is more than many Lymies can say. Eventually, in 2005, I lucked into an experimental pilot study for a treatment that alleviated the neurological and cognitive issues to the point where I could actually go to grad school. And blog. And, at least virtually, begin to rejoin the human race. It wasn't a cure; but it was something much more like a life, and I took it for all it was worth.

But it wasn't until a year ago this past week -- nearly 24 years and a dozen or so doctors after my first collapse -- that I finally got a firm diagnosis of Lyme disease. Last August, after returning home from the convention in Denver, I started the difficult and demanding high-dose multi-layered antibiotic treatment. The average case of chronic Lyme takes two to five years of treatment to cure. At this late date, though, the odds are only about 70% that I'll ever be able to shake it. Still, six months in, my joints work again. I can exercise and travel without having to pay it back with weeks in bed. And my mind grows sharper by the day. The drugs are working -- and every day I'm better is a day of grace I never thought I'd see.

Two Definitions of Lyme
The treatment takes so long because Lyme is the most cunningly persistent bacterium known to science. In its native state, it's a spirochete -- a cousin to syphilis. But if you hit it with penicillin, it will convert in a matter of minutes into an intracellular form that's more like a mycoplasma, which will only respond to a macrolide antibiotic like azithromiycin or Biaxin. Or, just for fun, it will roll up into a hard cyst form that can hide, dormant, in the macrophages of cells, and then emerge to re-infect the host years on down the road. This well-armored third form responds -- only very reluctantly -- to Flagyl and a couple of the TB drugs. Curing the disease means taking large doses of several classes of antibiotics together for months at a time -- either orally, or through an IV -- so the germ will have nowhere to hide. And all the while, we also need to be carefully watching for and mitigating the drugs' own very real consequences to the body.

To complicate matters further, the ticks that deliver Lyme usually deliver other diseases, too: babesiosis (a form of malaria), ehrlichiosis, mycoplasma, and others that also must be found and treated for a full cure to happen. Though these are nominally "deer ticks," entomologists have found Lyme-bearing ticks on birds, dogs, rodents, horses, and many other animals. Last week's chimp attack is also being blamed on a form of Lyme psychosis. It's probably true that veterinarians have a better handle on this disease than the doctors who treat humans do.

And here's where the medical battle rages. Infectious disease specialists-- represented by the Infectious Disease Society of American (ISDA) -- have for decades held to the firm position that Lyme is a spirochete that can be killed with a 28-day course of doxycycline. If you're still sick when the month is over, whatever you have isn't Lyme (and, in practice, is generally assumed to be psychosomatic). And this is true, as far as it goes: if you're lucky enough to catch the disease in the first few months after you're bit -- or you've got one of the many strains that's amenable to this treatment -- a short course of doxy usually does do the trick.

However, once some strains of Lyme get dispersed and embedded in the body's tissues, the standard treatment won't touch them. Worse: the standard Lyme tests won't, either, so the results will likely come back negative. The shady politics of how the approved Lyme tests were developed would take a whole separate post to explain; but suffice to say that they're only 70% accurate on their best day, which would make them patently unacceptable as a diagnostic tool were it any other disease. Far more accurate and sensitive tests are available, but insurance companies won't cover the $400 fee.

That's because the IDSA panel doesn't approve of these tests (even though the "controversial" proteins it tests for -- the only ones common to all Lyme strains -- are the same proteins some of these same doctors once tried to build a Lyme vaccine on). It also doesn't accept Lyme's shapeshifting nature; the existence of a chronic form of resistant Lyme that requires long-term treatment; the importance of seeking out and treating co-infections; or the neurological and cognitive issues it can cause. All of these facts are well-documented by the peer-reviewed science; but IDSA's Lyme panel has actually purged new members who brought these studies up for consideration. 

All this is part of the background for the dueling doctor interviews we're seeing on TV this week.

The Great Divide
Why would ostensibly caring doctors be so resistant to accepting new and better data? As always, follow the money. The IDSA's minimalist view of Lyme is greatly favored by insurance companies, who really don't want to be on the hook for expensive testing or more than a month of treatment. On a broader note: they're absolutely terrified (with good reason) that Lyme could turn out to be another huge budget-busting epidemic like AIDS, and want to do everything they can to make sure they're not stuck with the bills for it. To that end, they've made sure that the ISDA's Lyme experts have been richly rewarded with grants, consulting fees, and so on for aggressively defending the narrowest possible case definition and the most limited treatment standards. For their part, IDSA's Lyme group has held up their end of the deal so reliably that last May, they became the first medical standards board in the history of American medicine to be successfully sued (by the attorney general of Connecticut, no less) for corruption.

On the other side of this preposterous debate are the Lyme patients and the clinicians who are successfully treating them -- and that large and growing body of peer-reviewed research (much of it published in major journals) that the IDSA stubbornly refuses to even consider. This side is also being joined by psychiatrists, rheumatologists, and neurologists who have tended to patients ravaged by Lyme; a new generation of genetics researchers who are getting a handle how Lyme does those Houdini-like invisibility and shapeshifting tricks; and the aforementioned veterinarians, whose experience with Lyme doesn't correlate at all with the ISDA's picture of the disease. Doctors in this camp are gathered under the banner of the Infectious Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).

The doctors who join this side of the battle do so knowing their licenses are on the line. Testing for and treating long-term Lyme is a risky business: scores of them have been put out of business by either IDSA or the insurance companies, and the rate of attack is accelerating. As a result, people with chronic Lyme are losing what few options they do have, and end up traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles for treatment. (I was diagnosed by Canada's leading Lyme expert -- who gave me the news on a Tuesday, and retired that same Friday because the provincial medical board was coming after him. My successful treatment is being managed by a doctor in Seattle who protects himself in part by refusing to take insurance.) While the doctors, researchers, and insurers rage, upwards of two million Americans with Lyme are going largely undiagnosed and untreated -- unless they can pony up the six-figure sums needed to find a doctor willing to treat them, and then finance their own cures. 

In the meantime, there are gathering bits of early research to suggest that Lyme may also play a role in triggering other illnesses as diverse as autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and ALS. If any of this proves true, the results of our crippled management of Lyme may ultimately touch many, many more of us.

Blame it on The Gipper
As you can tell by now, this issue is a political and medical snake pit. But the thing that I've found most striking about it is that Lyme patients aren't the only ones caught in it. You can find almost identical battles raging -- with insurers and "official" medical groups lined up on one side, and persecuted heretic doctors and their grateful patients lined up on the other -- among the MS, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Gulf War syndrome communities. In fact, almost every chronic disease that's emerged or spread since the early 80s has ended up re-creating this exact split. You have to wonder: Why? What's going on here?

A few perspicacious science journalists think they've got an answer. The problem, they say, started back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan changed the rules governing how scientists (and the entities they work for) profit from their work. Where scientists used to gain fame and fortune by publishing and sharing their work in conferences and journals -- and were thus rewarded for furthering general knowledge -- the new rules encouraged them to hoard their discoveries as trade secrets; and then leverage their patents and their seats on medical boards to write the disease definitions, mandate approved treatments, and completely control the scientific discourse in order to maximize the profits they made.

The upshot -- in all these cases -- is that when a new disease is discovered, a small cadre of researchers rushes in to lock down the disease's definition, patent its treatment, and control the flow of information around it as soon as they can manage it. From that point, any further discussion of the issue is off-limits; and any new discoveries or treatments not controlled by this cadre are discouraged by means both subtle and brutal. So instead of ongoing scientific give-and-take that leads to increasingly better information and treatment over time, the entire research conversation stalls at a very early stage -- and can stay stalled for decades. In the meantime, patients and clinicians are shut out of the discussion and left to work out practical treatments and new theories on their own, often in defiance of well-funded opposition that's staked its careers and fortunes on preventing any challenges to their established theory.

Horror and Hope
The Lyme community is watching this week's events with an odd mixture of horror and hope. On one hand, the last thing we need is for America to think that the very real neurologicial problems that come with the Lyme package make us a danger to society. It's important to understand that there are over 100 strains of Lyme in the US, only a few of which lead to chronic Lyme and even fewer of which create anything like the kind of psychosis that afflicted Terry Sedlacek. (One of the reasons diagnosis and treatment are so hard is that the various strains all manifest and respond to the drugs differently.) It's even more important that people realize that Sedlacek might never have gotten to this place if the American medical system were structurally capable of integrating and deploying everything we know now about Lyme, instead of staying willfully stuck in the definitions first laid down in the late 1980s.

He deserved better diagnosis, better treatment, better doctors, better information. So do I. So does everyone infected with Lyme. The fact that we can't get it is just one more national failure that can be laid directly at the feet of short-sighted conservative policies, and the belief that an unfettered market can never do harm.

On the other hand, we're beyond grateful that public awareness of the Lyme debacle has been growing. Over the past year, we've seen the publication of noted science writer Pamela Weintraub's excellent Cure Unknown, the definitive book to date on the Lyme epidemic and political travesty surrounding it; the release of Under Our Skin, an award-winning documentary on Lyme that's being shown to full houses around the country (the film clips above are excerpts from this movie); and serious interest from Oprah's Dr. Oz and other media celebrities in doing shows on Lyme.

Given all this, there's hope we're finally beginning the long-deferred conversation about how America deals with its gathering epidemic of emergent chronic illnesses, and give the victims of Lyme and other orphaned diseases the treatment and research attention they deserve. In the face of a precipitous environmental decline that seems likely to make emergent chronic illnesses one of the biggest dangers to American health and security in the coming century, our very survival may someday come down to how effectively we can fix what's broken here.

It's tragic -- but, unfortunately, very typically American -- that it took another church shooting to get us here. But now that we're here, let's not let the chance to have a serious discussion about our deranged medical research system -- perverted, as everything else was, by the right wing's euphoria for free-market fundamentalism -- get away from us. There are tens of millions of chronically ill Americans who are counting on us to get it right this time -- and it shouldn't take the death of innocent people to make us aware of the shameful way they're living, and dying, in our midst.

Update: Can Lyme really make someone homicidal? Pam Weintraub gives a great summary of Lyme's potential psychiatric and neurological effects here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Maddow wonders if we have been overlooking our home-grown terrorists

-- by Dave

Rachel Maddow last night caught up with that strange domestic terrorism case out of Maine that we reported on awhile back as part of a larger trend we're seeing of ratcheted-up rhetoric and increasingly violent expressions coming from the American far right since Barack Obama's election.

Maddow: But should this guy have been found out -- I dunno, before he died? And, post-9/11, have we focused too much on stopping Bin Laden again at the expense of potentially stopping the next Timothy McVeigh?

Good question. And the answer is clearly yes. The Maine incident is only the latest in a long string of cases of serious domestic terrorism emerging from the extremist Right since 9/11. Some of the others include:

-- The anthrax killer.

-- The far-right "Patriot" who constructed a sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing hundreds.

-- The Alabama militiamen who plotted to go on an anti-Latino killing rampage.

-- The ex-Army Ranger who planned an anti-abortion killing spree.

-- The young skinheads who wanted to kill 107 black people and cap it off with Barack Obama.

There has also been outright malfeasance on the part of the FBI when it came to investigating far-right extremists in the past eight years.

That appears to be changing -- the FBI has been public about its concerns regarding the resurgence in white-supremacist hate groups and their activities and recruitment since Obama's election. We'll have to see if that translates into tackling the problem seriously.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Glenn Beck thinks 'political correctness' is driving people to shooting rampages

-- by Dave

In conversation with Bill O'Reilly yesterday on his Fox News show, Glenn Beck speculated that the cause of that murderous shooting rampage in Alabama might have been the shooter's frustration with "political correctness":

BECK: But as I’m listening to him. I’m thinking about the American people that feel disenfranchised right now. That feel like nobody’s hearing their voice. The government isn’t hearing their voice. Even if you call, they don’t listen to you on both sides. If you’re a conservative, you’re called a racist. You want to starve children.


BECK: Yada yada yada. And every time they do speak out, they’re shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?

O’REILLY: Well, look, nobody, even if they’re frustrated, is going to hurt another human being unless they’re mentally ill. I think.

BECK: I think pushed to the wall, you don’t think people get pushed to the wall?

O’REILLY: Nah, I don’t believe in this snap thing. I think that that kind of violence is inside you and it’s a personality disorder.

As Melissa McEwan puts it over at Shakesville:

So, according to Glenn Beck, murderous rampages are the inevitable consequence of conservatives not getting what they want. Never mind that we've no idea whether the man in question was a conservative; it's easy enough to presume a white man from Alabama is a conservative just to make the point that his killing spree is all liberals' fault.

Steve Benen notes that there's a history to this kind of logical leap:

One of the right's more disgusting habits is exploiting violent tragedies for ideological gain. After the shootings at Virginia Tech, Newt Gingrich blamed liberals' "situation ethics" for the tragedy. After the shootings in Arvada, Colo., the Family Research Council blamed the "secular media" for the rampage. After Columbine, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took to the floor to blame public school science classes for teaching young people that "they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup." Just 48 hours after 9/11, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed liberals for "helping this happen."

Matt Yglesias notes:

Thankfully Bill O’Reilly (!) was around to act as the voice of reason (!) and observe that spree killing seem more related to mental illness than to political disagreement.

Actually, the dynamic is more complicated than such simplistic formulas. Spree killings often do have a political motive, even when they clearly involve mental illness (and there's no immediate evidence of that here, though it likely will emerge; the Alabama shooter does not appear ever to have been treated for mental illness).

Moreover, as I discussed in some detail recently, there is often an element of pre-event scapegoating, often in the form of overtly eliminationist rhetoric:

Part of the problem is that we actually have seen this happen time after time after time: A mentally unstable person is inspired by hateful right-wing rhetoric to act out violently -- and yet because of that mental state, the matter is dismissed as idiosyncratic, just another "isolated incident." And over the months and years, these "isolated incidents" mount one after another.

But simply ascribing these acts to mental illness is a cop-out. It fails to account for the gross irresponsibility of the people who employed rhetoric that inspired the violent action in the first place, and their resulting moral culpability.

The most notable recent case of this was the church shooter in Knoxville, who wrote out a detailed manifesto explaining why he went on his rampage:

This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.

The same is true of people like Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph: They may indeed be mentally unstable, but the trigger that makes them kill is always scapegoating, eliminationist rhetoric that inflames their hatred of other people.

This doesn't appear to have been the case in Alabama; the man mostly killed family members and people he thought had "wronged" him. There's no evidence whatsoever of a political motive. Indeed, there isn't a scintilla of evidence for Glenn Beck's thesis except his idle speculation.

But what we can say is that rhetoric like Beck's -- the overt fearmongering, the scapegoating, the paranoid conspiracy theories, the overheated demonization of his opponents -- helps contribute mightily to people's irrational fears of being oppressed, of being under siege, and of feeling the need to lash out.

In other words, if a killing rampage is indeed motivated by "PC backlash," then the far more serious problem is the nonstop rhetoric from the right that tells people that "liberal political correctness", or that various kinds liberal perfidy -- their "treasonous" approach to the war, or the "socialism" or "communism" they are bringing to our economic system -- is the root cause of ordinary people's problems and is destroying the American fabric. In other words, people like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DOJ coming down to check out Sheriff Joe Arpaio's racial-profiling operations

-- by Dave

Now, I know that Sheriff Joe told Glenn Beck he "welcomes" any investigation into his bordering-on-fascist rule in Arizona's Maricopa County. But I bet that nonetheless, he wasn't smiling yesterday:

The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil-rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office after months of mounting complaints that deputies are discriminating in their enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Officials from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that they had begun the investigation, which will focus on whether deputies are engaging in "patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures."

An expert said it is the department's first civil-rights probe related to immigration enforcement.

... The Justice Department frequently receives racial-profiling complaints against police departments, but investigations are rare, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and racial-profiling expert.

"The fact that this has come to their attention and they have announced their intent to investigate is highly significant," Harris said. "It says there is enough there to be investigated. It's not an iffy case that (can be ignored)."

Harris said this is the first civil-rights investigation stemming from immigration enforcement. The probe could last several months.

You can read the notice here. [PDF file]

Maybe the DOJ can take inspiration from Arpaio's Brazil-esque reality-TV show on Fox, in which unsuspecting schlub criminals are duped into being busted on TV. They could build a reality show around investigating Arpaio, including footage of interviews with his victims.

Of course, in the past, Arpaio hasn't been very tolerant of people who criticize him. If you got caught applauding anti-Arpaio comments at county meetings, for instance, you might be arrested by Arpaio's deputies. But I suspect that won't work too well with DOJ investigators, especially the FBI.

This is a hopeful step forward in dealing with the mess Arpaio has made in Maricopa County, and will help make clear to the right-wing nativists out there that scapegoating Latinos is not the way to deal with whatever issues they have with immigration. It makes a mess not just in Arizona, but the whole country.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Chuck Norris and Glenn Beck tout that ol' militia favorite: Texas secession

[Video here]

-- by Dave

A little while back Chuck Norris showed up on Glenn Beck's program and mostly bantered right-wing populist talking points, but they focused especially on the Second Amendment and gun rights, with Beck playing up the possibility of new gun laws under an Obama administration:

NORRIS: Well, yes. The whole thing is that's the Second Amendment — the Second Amendment. The final line in the Second Amendment says, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

That means not by the president, not by Congress. They are not allowed to take our rights away with this because of the Second Amendment, Glenn. And the thing is, I have a 700-acre ranch in Texas. And I have a lot of guns on my ranch.

I don't use them for hunting. I'm not a hunter. But the thing is, it's for protection. And the Second Amendment was designed for tyranny against the government. If the government decides to become a tyrannical government, our guns are to protect us against that. And that's really what the Second Amendment is all about, Glenn.

BECK: So you know, here is the thing, Chuck. You know, the government doesn't want us to have weapons and yet, they have weapons. I think the biggest weapon they have is the IRS. Nobody even understands. I just — I read a letter from ...

NORRIS: You're hitting a real sore point with me right there.

BECK: They can use taxes as a weapon, and the IRS code that that you can't even figure out — am I wrong on that?

The combined tax-bashing and gun paranoia is classic "Patriot" movement chatter, though neither started spinning off into far-right governmental theories and talk about secession.

No, they saved that for last Tuesday, when Norris went on Beck's radio show:

GLENN: Chuck, you live in Texas.

NORRIS: Yes, I do.

GLENN: Somebody asked me this morning, they said, you really believe that there's going to be trouble in the future. And I said, if this country starts to spiral out of control and, you know, and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country, which it would have under I think the Republicans as well in this situation; they were taking us to the same place, just slower.

NORRIS: It was slower, yeah.

GLENN: Americans will, they just, they won't stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up. And they said, where's that going to come from? And I said Texas, it's going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that, Chuck, or not?

NORRIS: Oh, yeah. You know, Texas is a republic, you know. We could actually --

GLENN: It was a country before it was a state.

NORRIS: Yeah, we could break off from the union if we wanted to.

GLENN: You do, you call me.

NORRIS: Oh, yeah.

Yesterday, Norris published a piece at the Patriot-friendly WorldNetDaily, which took it even farther, openly calling for Texans to prepare themselves for secession:

On Glenn Beck's radio show last week, I quipped in response to our wayward federal government, "I may run for president of Texas."

That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.

From the East Coast to the "Left Coast," America seems to be moving further and further from its founders' vision and government. ...

... When I appeared on Glenn Beck's radio show, he told me that someone had asked him, "Do you really believe that there is going to be trouble in the future?" And he answered, "If this country starts to spiral out of control and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country (which it would have under I think the Republicans as well in this situation; they were taking us to the same place, just slower), Americans won't stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up." Then Glenn asked me and his listening audience, "And where's that going to come from?" He answered his own question, "Texas, it's going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that Chuck?" I replied, "Oh yeah!" Definitely.

It was these types of thoughts that led me to utter the tongue-n-cheek frustration on Glenn Beck's radio show, "I may run for president of Texas!"

I'm not saying that other states won't muster the gumption to stand and secede, but Texas has the history to prove it. As most know, Texas was its own country before it joined the Union as its 28th state. From 1836 to 1846, Texas was its own Republic. Washington-on-the-Brazos (river) served as our Philadelphia, Pa. It was there, on March 2, 1836, where a band of patriots forged the Texas Declaration of Independence. (We just celebrated these dates last week.)

... For those losing hope, and others wanting to rekindle the patriotic fires of early America, I encourage you to join Fox News' Glenn Beck, me and millions of people across the country in the live telecast, "We Surround Them," on Friday afternoon (March 13 at 5 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. CT and 2 p.m. PST). Thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation. You can host or attend a viewing party by going to Glenn's website. My wife Gena and I will be hosting one from our Texas ranch, in which we've invited many family members, friends and law enforcement to join us. It's our way of saying "We're united, we're tired of the corruption, and we're not going to take it anymore!"

Just to jog people's memories, the most recent organized effort to declare Texas an independent republic was the "Republic of Texas" outfit that built itself around Patriot conspiracy theories and engaged law enforcement in a week-long armed standoff:

The movement split into three factions in 1996, one led by McLaren, one by David Johnson and Jesse Enloe, and the third by Archie Lowe and Daniel Miller. In 1997, McLaren and his followers kidnapped Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe, held them hostage at the Fort Davis Resort, and demanded the release of two movement members in exchange for the Rowes. McLaren's wife, Evelyn, convinced him to surrender peacefully after a week-long standoff with police and Texas Rangers. The McLarens and four other Republic of Texas members were sent to prison. This effectively destroyed the McLaren faction, and the Johnson-Enloe faction was discredited after two of its members, Jack Abbot Grebe Jr. and Johnie Wise, were convicted in 1998 of threatening to assassinate several government officials, including President Bill Clinton.

Rick Ross has a complete library of articles about the RoT, which remains active in a mildly mutated form to this day. Also, Slate's Franklin Foer wrote a pretty comprehensive piece about them in 1997.

We've been saying for awhile that right-wing populism tends, in America at least, to lead down the path of far-right extremism. Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris seem to be taking off at a brisk jog.

Dana Houle has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Right's biggest nightmare: What if Obama fixes the economy?

-- by Dave

The wingnuts have been exploring nonstop all kinds of gloom-and-doom scenarios that apparently are certain to envelop the American economy under President Obama's guidance. Some of them -- particularly Glenn Beck's -- are wildly over the top, but every one of them believes we truly are headed for the great national crapper.

So if you want to see wingnut heads explode like so much Scanners Popcorn, watch what happens when someone proposes the possibility that Obama's programs might actually work.

Take, for instance, Wayne "Trapper John" Rogers this weekend on Fox's Cashin' In segment with Terry Keenan. When one of the guests wondered if Rogers would subsequently approve of a government bailout of GM should it turn out to actually help the economy improve, he went ballistic:

Rogers: No, but you don't know that, and they don't know that. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold on! We've got proof that this doesn't work! All you've got to do is, everybody invokes the Depression. Go back and look at the lessons of the Depression! This does not work! And everybody knows that! So this is a stupid plan, and it's something that you're speculating about, that, 'Oh, this may work.'

Sure. 'Everybody knows that' FDR failed. Uh-huh.

Well, as Stephen Colbert put it the other night:

Colbert: Last scenario. Mr. Moore -- scariest one yet. The year is 2012. President Obama's policies have worked. Pulling out of the Iraq War was the right thing to do. The stimulus plan has the Dow rebounding to somewhere in the 12,000 area. People's faith in the government is restored. Stephen Moore, if this happens, what are you doing? It's gun-in-the-mouth time for you, isn't it?

Moore: Wait. You mean, socialism actually works?

Colbert: Socialism worked. Obama was right. The government can actually solve some problems. Is that gonna happen?

Moore: I'd have to rethink everything I believe in.

My prediction: Even if this scenario becomes reality -- and conservative dogma is proven finally for the dog-something it actually is -- these people will never rethink what they believe in. They won't credit Barack Obama. And they'll try to claim somehow that it proves they were right after all.

It's what they do.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]