Saturday, April 04, 2009

Richard Poplawski: Was Pittsburgh shooter driven by right-wing gun paranoia about Obama?

-- by Dave

We're gathering more information about Richard Polawski, the 23-year-old man who decided to kill four Pittsburgh police officers and wound five others because it appears he was afraid they -- at the behest of the Obama administration -- were going to take his guns away.

The initial reports indicated he was fearful that the Obama administration was going to "take away his guns."

A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said. Friends said he feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

Three officers were killed, said a police official at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard would only say that at least five officers were wounded, but wouldn't give any other details.

... One friend, Edward Perkovic, said the gunman feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said he feared that President Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he "wasn't violently against Obama."

Perkovic, a 22-year-old who said he was the gunman's best friend, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, "Eddie, I am going to die today. ... Tell your family I love them and I love you."

He feared an Obama gun grab? Gee, I wonder where he could have heard that.

Indeed, a story replete with NRA-style fearmongering about the looming "grab" -- which has been fueling a run on guns at local shops -- ran just three days ago in the Pittsburgh Tribune.

We've been reporting for awhile on the surge in gun sales, and how the paranoia around guns is making the more unstable elements of the right particularly edgy. Inevitably, that edginess is going to break out into actual violence -- as it appears to have done today.

Ironically, this is exactly the kind of incident that law-enforcement intelligence-gathering is supposed to help prevent -- intelligence like the Missouri State Patrol report so hysterically attacked by these same paranoid right-wingers. I tried to explain at the time that these kinds of extremists are in fact a very real danger to people in law enforcement, but all anyone on the right wanted to talk about was Ron Paul bumper stickers. Well, there you go.

Police say he was lying in wait in a carefully planned ambush:

Richard Poplawski, 23, met officers at the doorway and shot two of them in the head immediately, Harper said. An officer who tried to help the two also was killed.

Poplawski, armed with an assault rifle and two other guns, then held police at bay for four hours as the fallen officers were left bleeding nearby, their colleagues unable to reach them, according to police and witnesses. More than 100 rounds were fired by the SWAT teams and Poplawski, Harper said.

Poplawski_b921c.JPGAnd he was paranoid about the Obama administration taking people's guns away -- even though, of course, there have been no indications of any such plans beyond NRA rantings:

Poplawski feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon," said Edward Perkovic, his best friend.

Perkovic, 22, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, "Eddie, I am going to die today. ... Tell your family I love them and I love you."

Perkovic said: "I heard gunshots and he hung up. ... He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot."

Poplawski had once tried to join the Marines, but was kicked out of boot camp after throwing a food tray at a drill sergeant, Perkovic said.

Dennis Roddy at the Post-Gazette has more:

Friends described a Richard Poplawski far different from the 22-year-old man accused of gunning down three police officers today -- a partier sometimes, a guy in search of an understanding of politics, even a walking comedian.

He was also convinced that the government wanted to take away his guns and his freedom.

There are bits about him out on the Internet. There are the MySpace photos, like the one above. He also seems to have co-created an "Insane Ownage" video for You Tube.

Perhaps just as interesting are the views of Poplowski's much-quoted "best friend," Edd Perkovic, whose MySpace page, as Troll Report notices, is rich anti-Semitic hate talk like this:

DOCUMENTS I RECCOMEND YOU READ BY GOOGLE: "Civil War II" by Tom Chittum "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" "The Turner Diaries" by Dr. William Pierce "Jewish Supremacy" by Dr. David Duke It Has Even Been Documented In The Communist Manifesto: "“We must realize that our party’s most powerful weapon is racial tension. "By propounding into the consciousness of the dark races that for centuries they have been oppressed by the whites, we can mold them to the program of the Communist Party. "In America we will aim for subtle victory. While inflaming the Negro minority against the whites, we will endeavour to instill in the whites a guilt complex for their exploitation of the Negros. "We will aid the Negros to rise to prominence in every walk of life, in the professions, and in the world of sports and entertainment.

Meanwhile, Fox also interviewed Tom Moffit, who was a neighbor of Poplawski's. He apparently believed that Poplawski was acting out of gun paranoia as well.

My new book is looking more timely all the time. We'll have an announcement about it Monday.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

O'Reilly in Bircherville: Obama's selling us out to 'one world government'

-- by Dave

Now there's what you would call a leading question:

Is President Obama selling out America?

That's how Bill O'Reilly started out last night's "Talking Points Memo" segment of his Fox News show: A question that none-too-subtly accuses the president of betraying not just his oath but the nation at large. Like the kind of thing John Birch Society members and militia leaders do reflexively.

And sure enough, he was off and running, helping promote the Bircherite notion that Obama is taking us toward a nefarious "one world government" in which America is enslaved under global rule:

Talking points believes fear is driving the president's numbers down -- some Americans believing he's not been effective on the economy so far, others feel his policies are too socialistic, with the Congressional Budget Office estimating the USA will run up about $9 trillion in deficit over the next ten years.

Some conservative pundits actually believe President Obama is a "Star Chamber" guy -- a man who secretly wants to turn America into a progressive country modeled on Western Europe. Also, they think, he wants to lessen the power of America and sign up for a one-world combine of governance.

In the past, that kind of thinking was labeled loony, but that's changing. Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, the former prime minister of Denmark said:

In Europe, we have been protected from the worst effects of the crisis thanks to welfare states built up over the past 60 years to cushion citizens from the threats posed by the free market. We can all count on state health care, social housing, education, unemployment support and other universal, tax-funded services. ...

The simplistic dictum of more markets and less government -- championed by Reagan, Thatcher and their ideological heirs -- has failed on a momentous scale. ...

I am hopeful that the G-20 will make progress ... We must keep up the pressure by demanding a globalization that works for everyone, and forge new alliances and new lines of communication across national boundaries. We must develop new, progressive ways to achieve global justice.

Well, Karl Marx could not have said it better. Global justice requires that a one-world government seize private property and distribute it so that every human being has roughly the same amount of resources.

So there you have it: "global justice" equals "one world government." Evidently, all that talk about cooperation is just

Now, when O'Reilly says "some conservative pundits" believe this stuff, he means far-right nutcases like Alan Keyes and the Birch Society. And while he tries to set position himself as being somehow slightly skeptical of such notions, in reality, this whole rant is nothing but an endorsement of their worldview.

Next: O'Reilly wonders aloud if a black man is capable of being president, because "some conservatives" have claimed all along he is incompetent by virtue of his mixed race ...

But what's noteworthy about this rant is that the basis for his thesis is, once again, entirely groundless -- because not only does Poul Nyrup Rasumussen, the European socialist whose op-ed he cites, have absolutely nothing to do with either President Obama or any of the G-20 leaders who met in London, but he doesn't actually promote a "global government" (beyond building an international framework for cooperation) or any of the other things O'Reilly characterizes the op-ed as saying.

You can read it yourself:

Note first of all O'Reilly's deceptive edit of the conclusive quote in his citation:

I am hopeful that the G-20 will make progress on these areas. But we cannot just leave it to them. We must keep up the pressure by demanding a globalization that works for everyone, and forge new alliances and new lines of communication across national boundaries. We must develop new, progressive ways to achieve global justice.

The "leave it to them" line makes irrevocably clear that Rasmussen sees the G-20 leaders as quite a separate entity from his own group of European Socialists. O'Reilly, however, is invested in suggesting that Obama is in bed with them, so of course it was edited out.

Indeed, Rasmussen even identifies himself with a separate group of socialists:

That's why, as the G-20 meets in London, an even larger group will meet in Brussels -- a group of progressive politicians, trade unionists, NGOs, academics and figures from major international institutions. This is the world conference of the Global Progressive Forum (GPF), which will bring together speakers from five continents to develop a new vision of a globalized world which benefits all. The GPF will take place in the European Parliament and will be opened by Bill Clinton. It will feature debates and discussions on the issues of global governance, trade, financial markets, decent work, migration and climate change, all aimed at coordinating global answers to what are global crises. It shows that the world's progressives are serious about making a solidaristic social model a reality for all.

This points up the larger problem: Rasmussen never argues for "global governance" beyond having a framework that creates international cooperation. He doesn't argue for "redistribution of wealth." None of this remotely suggests secret plans for creating a "one world government" -- unless you're a right-wing paranoid.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Projection much? Glenn Beck warns: 'Fascism is on the rise'

-- by Dave

Just a few weeks ago, Glenn Beck was shrilly declaring that America was marching toward Communism. It was the show's featured theme. Yesterday, he admitted he was wrong -- it's not Communism we're headed toward, it's Fascism!

Of course, he only looked the definition of the word up the day before, so you know, he may change his mind again. But whatever:

Beck: Like it or not, fascism is on the rise. And that doesn't mean the Adolph Hitler kind of fascism. It's fascism with a happy face. I'll explain the exact definition of fascism in a second, and it will boggle your mind.

Well, as someone who's studied fascism in the flesh, this had me interested. So he brought on libertarian economist Sheldon Richman to talk about what it all means:

Beck: I looked up the definition of fascism yesterday, and I want to break it down. The first part is: "Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners." Wouldn't you say this is what's happening with GM right now?

Um, no Glenn, not really. You see, the means by which the Nazis achieved "domination" of private owners was violence and thuggish intimidation. I could be mistaken, but I don't think that's what's happening to GM right now. But that's what's missing from your how you're depicting fascism.

You see, Beck is quoting from Richman's article on fascism in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, which is a libertarian site. He and Richman go on to discuss fascism in purely economic terms.

But fascism was an economic phenomenon only secondarily at best. Primarily, fascism is a political and cultural pathology; its leading ideologues in fact explicitly rejected economics as a driver in human affairs. Fascism was all about blood and iron and will, a love of violence and a contempt for the weak. Only in its mature stages -- when it has actually obtained power -- do economics come into play for fascism.

Moreover, fascism was always populist -- a very specific, producerist kind of right-wing populism. That's hardly what has proceeded from Obama and the Democrats, who if anything are looking more corporatist by the day.

So when we look at the reality of fascism, both historically and in the present, the only serious likelihood of any coming strain of fascism is proceeding, as we might expect, from the populist corners of the right, especially as it indulges and encourages eliminationist rhetoric directed at various "liberal" and minority targets (Latino immigrants in particular).

How far out to lunch was Beck here? Well, one of the goofier moments in this whole charade came when Beck trotted out the back of an old American dime -- first minted, as Beck says, in 1916 -- which has a fasces, the fascist symbol, on its reverse side:


This is the famed "Mercury dime", which was designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who won a 1915 competition: "The reverse design, a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, was intended to symbolize America's readiness for war, combined with its desire for peace."

Now, the fasces has a long history of inclusion in various parts of American symbology besides just this dime. You can find it in the Oval Office, on National Guard Bureau insignia, on the American flag that flies in the U.S. House, in the Mace of the House of Representatives; on the seal of the U.S. Senate, on the Statue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol building, and on a frieze on the facade of the United States Supreme Court building. Fasces are incorporated into the Lincoln Memorial.

But then, fascism as a political movement was not born until 1919. So for sculptor Weinman to have intended the fasces on the Mercury dime to imply a "fascist" intent, he'd have had to have jumped in a time machine, traveled to the future, met Mussolini, and come back to 1915 with that nefarious design in his head. Somehow I doubt this.

But that's just a small example of how badly Beck has distorted the public's understanding of fascism with this segment. By way of remediation, let me offer the definition of fascism from someone other than a libertarian economist -- in this case, from Roger Griffin, the renowned Oxford Brookes scholar who has authored, among other studies, The Nature of Fascism. This is from a survey article he authored:

Fascism: modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.

Or Robert O. Paxton, in The Anatomy of Fascism:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

As you can see, none of these would exactly be a handy definition for Beck's purposes, since very little of what they describe fits the politics that are currently proceeding on the main American stage.

Beck's mistake is in attempting to view fascism through an economic prism, when its essence was always political and cultural. Indeed, it's important to understand that fascists rejected economic analyses of the world. This reflected both their devout opposition to socialism (which indeed primarily was preoccupied with economic matters) as well as their core impulse -- the raw will to power, enabled by a discrete set of what Paxton calls "mobilizing passions" (such as a fanatical belief in national ethnic unity, devotion to the instincts of their leader, fear of liberalism, a love of violence, and so on). Maybe Mussolini expressed it clearest when he uttered: "The democrats of Il Mondo want to know our program? It is to break the bones of the democrats of Il Mondo."

As Paxton puts it in Anatomy of Fascism (more here):

Even at its most radical, however, fascists' anticapitalist rhetoric was selective. While they denounced speculative international finance (along with all other forms of internationalism, cosmopolitanism, or globalization -- capitalist as well as socialist), they respected the property of national producers, who were to form the social base of the reinvigorated nation. When they denounced the bourgeoisie, it was for being too flabby and individualistic to make a nation strong, not for robbing workers of the value they added. What they criticized in capitalism was not its exploitation but its materialism, its indifference to the nation, its inability to stir souls. More deeply, fascists rejected the notion that economic forces are the prime movers of history. For fascists, the dysfunctional capitalism of the interwar period did not need fundamental reordering; its ills could be cured simply by applying sufficient political will to the creation of full employment and productivity. Once in power, fascist regimes confiscated property only from political opponents, foreigners, or Jews. None altered the social hierarchy, except to catapult a few adventurers into high places. At most, they replaced market forces with state economic management, but, in the trough of the Great Depression, most businessmen initially approved of that.

What's the most fascistic thing to appear on the American political horizon in recent months? Glenn Beck and his "912 Project" and the accompanying apocalyptic fearmongering. He's a right-wing populist, and that never seems to turn out well.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bachmann-Turnip Overdrive: Clueless 'global currency' paranoia in high gear

-- by Dave

It seems to be slowly sinking through the addled pates of Michelle Bachmann and her avid codependents, like Glenn Beck (henceforth dubbed "the Turnip"), that all this talk about "replacing the dollar with a global currency" has nothing to do with what America wants to do.

But that doesn't mean they're going to abandon their glorious quest to protect Americans from having to buy their groceries with BigBrotherBucks or NewWorldOrderNotes or some such "one world government" currency imposed on us by nefarious "internationalists" in the Obama administration. Ohhh, no.

Bachmann went on Beck's show yesterday to natter at length about Bachmann's bill to block the U.S. from ever joining any such plan. And instead of suggesting, as they have previously, that we all might be forced to start using some new global currency in lieu of the dollar, they fudged the thrust of their conversation a bit without abandoning the conspiracism at all:

Beck: OK, here's the one thing that comes to mind, Michelle. And that is: We can pass anything that says we're not going to recognize any currency -- but that won't keep the value of the currency. The only thing that will keep the currency -- uh -- value -- the only reason why we would look to another currency is because ours sucks because we've devalued it by spending and borrowing and printing. So this legislation really in the end means nothing if we don't stop the spending.

Bachmann: The spending is the key to everything. But it seems like right now there are so many leaks in the dam from every different area. We're fighting out-of-control spending on one hand, out-of-control taxation on another. And now we're talking about the International Monetary Fund being expanded to take on a new, expanded set of responsibilities it was never designed to take on, and that would be expanding the Special Drawing Down Rights for every country, and taking the dollar off as the medium of exchange. That in itself would devalue our dollar lower than we ever seen before in the history of our country. I don't want to see that happen.

There are some glimmers of understanding there, but it's clear that Bachmann is again transmitting to us from Planet Wingnuttia, since this has little to do with the text of her bill.

Beck is shocked, shocked that only 30 congresscritters have signed onto Bachmann's bill. But that might be because they've read its actual text:

`The President may not enter into a treaty or other international agreement that would provide for the United States to adopt as legal tender in the United States a currency issued by an entity other than the United States.'.

Nevermind that this is a Constitutional amendment (which requires subsequent passage by the legislatures of all 50 states). What's clear is that this is a bill intended to prevent a "global currency" being forced upon Americans.

The problem, of course, is that no one is even remotely suggesting such a thing.

Note that Beck describes the bill as "prohibiting the United States from recognizing any other currency besides the greenback," which it manifestly does not do; after all, that would mean we'd refuse to recognize pesos or Canadian dollars or Euros or yuan as well, which would mean the end of foreign trade.

But incoherency is what this whole argument is about. It's about preying on people's gross misunderstanding of international finance and how reserve currency works. Bachmann seems to think America can somehow control what the world uses as its medium of international trade, and seems to now be fearful that international trade will no longer be pegged to the dollar.

But that particular horse has been long gone from that particular barn. The Bretton Woods system, which in fact pegged international trade to the dollar, expired in 1971 thanks to policy changes made by the Republican administration of Richard Nixon. Since then, the dollar has remained the de facto "reserve currency" of choice -- mainly because the United States has remained the world's preeminent economy.

Now, thanks to conservative mismanagement of the past decade and more, that position is in serious jeopardy -- which is why the international community is looking to create a more stable form of reserve currency in which they can invest. It doesn't mean dollars will cease being bought by other nations -- if our economy rebounds to its former strength, the dollar will remain a favorite form of reserve currency --

But reading the text of her legislation, it's clear that the dollar's trade value is not what this bill was about. As Greg Sargent reported:

“She’s talking about the United States,” Keller said. “This legislation would ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States.” Of course, no one had been discussing any change in U.S. currency in the first place….

Indeed, Bachmann's continuing suggestion that Tim Geithner lied to her is manifest evidence of her utter incomprehension -- her complete, bass-ackwards, afactual idiocy:

“Yesterday, during a Financial Services Committee hearing, I asked Secretary Geithner if he would denounce efforts to move towards a global currency and he answered unequivocally that he would," said Bachmann. "And President Obama gave the nation the same assurances. But just a day later, Secretary Geithner has left the option on the table. I want to know which it is. The American people deserve to know."

Asked today about a currency proposal from China at a Council on Foreign Relations event, Secretary Geithner stated he was open to supporting it. Despite attempts to clarify his remarks later in the day, the unguarded initial response calls into question his true intentions.

Although Title 31, Sec. 5103 USC prohibits foreign currency from being recognized in the U.S., the President has the power to engage foreign governments in treaties, and the President is principally responsible for the interpretations and implementation of those treaties according to the Constitution. As a result, legislation prohibiting the President and Treasury from issuing or agreeing that the U.S. will adopt an international currency would need to come in the form of a Constitutional Amendment differentiating a treaty used to implement an international currency in the U.S. from other types of treaty agreements.

Once again, here's what Geithner actually said:

"I haven’t read the governor’s proposal. He’s a very thoughtful, very careful distinguished central banker. I generally find him sensible on every issue," Geithner said, saying that however his interpretation of the proposal was to increase the use of International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights -- shares in the body held by its members -- not creating a new currency in the literal sense.

"We’re actually quite open to that suggestion – you should see it as rather evolutionary rather building on the current architecture rather than moving us to global monetary union," he said.

"The only thing concrete I saw was expanding the use of the [special drawing rights]," Geithner said. "Anything he’s thinking about deserves some consideration."

The continued use of the dollar as a reserve currency, he added, "depends..on how effective we are in the United getting our fiscal system back to the point where people judge it as sustainable over time."

Memo to Michelle Bachmann: Special drawing rights are not a new currency. We won't be buying our groceries with them.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Morris, Hannity agree: The black-helicopter crowd was right

-- by Dave

[media=7717 showimage]

I think Sean Hannity must be looking over his shoulder at Glenn Beck these days and realizing that he really needs to start cranking up the Batmobile if he wants to keep up with that kind of crazy. So he did his best last night on his Fox show, with Dick "Suck On These" Morris doing the honors by schlepping the discussion right into Outer Wingnuttia.

You knew it was going to be surreal from the outset with Hannity sneering at Obama's handling of the auto-industry bailout as "commander and CEO," saying that Obama is "on a mission to hijack capitalism in favor of collectivism": "the Bolsheviks have already arrived."

Morris -- who these days is coming to resemble the Glowering Gnome who lives under the bridge -- predicted doom and gloom for the Obama presidency from here on out, because GM is going to become an economic deadweight around his neck. Hannity, meanwhile, was into Naked Fearmongering mode:

Hannity: The federal government -- and I don't think I overstate this for our audience -- is destroying our economic system as we currently know it. You have written that it is socialism, and that it's mismanaged socialism.

Morris: Well, what it is, is he's deliberately making it fail. When he gets up there -- Obama -- and he says in December of this year, Volcker is supposed to report on a sweeping overhaul of the tax code, and Geithner is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the regulatory structure, what businessman in his right mind is going to make an investment when he doesn't know the tax consequence and he doesn't know the regulatory consequence.

Hannity: Here's what's frightening. And I think Americans tonight should be frightened... Spending trillions of dollars -- even David Broder of the Washington Post realizes that the CBO says unemployment is going to hit 10 percent, that we are going to have a trillion dollars of debt a year here.

They went on to describe the hell into which Obama is taking us. Morris predicted that "he's going to absolutely fall apart". And then they both began channeling Michelle Bachmann:

Morris: But there is a big thing that's going to happen in London at this G-20 -- and they're hiding it, they're camouflaging it, they're not talking about it: Coordination of international regulation. What they are going to do is to put our Fed and our SEC under the control, in effect, of the IMF.

Hannity: Oh come on. You don't think they'll do this.

Morris: That's what was in the draft agenda. They call it coordination of regulation. What it really is, is putting the American economy under the control of international regulation. And those people who have been yelling, 'Oh, the U.N. is going to take over, global government -- '

Hannity: Conspiracy theorists.

Morris: They've been crazy. But now, they're right! It's happening!

Hannity: Well, when Geithner said last week he would be open to the idea of a global currency last week -- those conspiracy people had said -- have suggested that for years. You're not wrong.

Man. You'd think these geniuses -- or at least their genius producers, or somebody with a grounding in the real world -- could figure out what a reserve currency actually is.

Trotting this stuff out as portending a "one world currency" and a takeover of the American economy is just so crudely afactual that it almost transcends the intentional disinformation it otherwise is.

But when you start telling us that the John Bircher and anti-Semitic wings of the American Right -- both of whom have long touted these sorts of theories -- were actually right, well, it becomes clear just whose agenda Fox News is now in the service of.

As we and others have already explained:

[I]t seems that on Planet Wingnuttia, the proposal by China that the rest of the world go off the dollar as its chief unit of global exchange in fact actually means that the United States will have to go off the dollar too.

Now, down here on Planet Earth, China's proposal has nothing to do with what currency we use in the United States; it has to do with what kind of currency the rest of the world uses as its "reserve currency." We could pass Bachmann's law and throw a big fat national hissy fit if we wanted, and it wouldn't make a damned bit of difference. Because the proposal is one that would be decided by each and every other sovereign nation on the planet, choosing for themselves what kind of currency they choose to use.

A little history about reserve currency might help:

After World War II, the international financial system was governed by a formal agreement, the Bretton Woods System. Under this system the US dollar was placed deliberately at the centre of the system, with the US government guaranteeing other central banks that they could sell their US dollar reserves at a fixed rate for gold if they so desired. European countries and Japan deliberately devalued their currencies against the dollar in order to boost exports and development.

In the late 1960s and early 70s the system came apart under pressure from the rising prominence of the other countries, as well as growing deficits in the US. The US dollar remained central due to the lack of competitor currencies.

Recently, nations, especially in Asia, have been stockpiling reserves at levels previously unknown, especially in US dollars, in an effort to strengthen export competitiveness by weakening their own currencies, and also to contain quick and large inflows of capital and buffer against financial crisis such as the Asian financial crisis.

But truthfully, these people are beyond help.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Gingrich: We should have Singapore-style drug tests for Americans

-- by Dave

Newt Gingrich followed Bill O'Reilly's lead last night on The O'Reilly Factor, talking about how Americans' drug use -- and not horribly wrong-headed American drug laws -- are responsible for the border wars being waged by Mexican cartels.

O'Reilly seemed to think that Singapore might be a model to follow, since things work so swell over there:

O'Reilly: I don't know whether you know this, but I did one of my papers at Harvard on this -- on how to reduce demand for drugs. But the United States has never figured it out. You can't lock up drug users, I mean, that doesn't work. And you can't force them into rehab, you have to want rehab, and even if you want it, it's very hard to get off hard drugs and alcohol. Very hard.

What you can do, though, is sanction people along the way. And this is what they do in Singapore. If you're caught possessing drugs -- and that means drugs in your bloodstream, they have a little hair thing, and they put it in there -- then you have to go to mandatory rehab. And they have centers where you go.

Now, they have no drug problem in Singapore at all, number one, because they hang drug dealers -- they execute them. And number two, the market is very thin, because when they catch you using, you go away with a mandatory rehab. You go to some rehab center, which they have, which the government has built.

The United States does not have the stomach for that. We don't have the stomach for that, Mr. Speaker.

Gingrich: Well, I think it's time we get the stomach for that, Bill. And I think we need a program -- I would dramatically expand testing. I think we have -- and I agree with you. I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory. And I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization.

Of course, mandatory testing means that everyone is a suspect, and everyone must submit. Aren't these the same right-wingers who are complaining loudly that Obama's supposed "socialism" is all about taking away our rights and enslaving us in a totalitarian state?

I keep hearing that Newt is trying to position himself for a 2012 presidential run. Nice to know what he has in mind for us citizens.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says hi to his neo-Nazi supporters, poses for pix

-- by Dave

I've been reporting for a long time on the many ways that the immigration debate has served as a critical nexus in the intersection between right-wing extremism and mainstream conservatism.

Last weekend, Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the quasi-fascist chief law-enforcement officer of Arizona's Maricopa County, currently under DOJ investigation for his refusal to abide by court orders and his rampant racial profiling -- provided us with a crystalline example.

Because we got to see a classic case of someone in a position of real power lending the authority of his office to the empowerment of far-right radicals -- unintentionally, perhaps (though not likely), but with the same result regardless.

On Saturday, May 2, several thousand people came out to march in protest of Arpaio's increasingly thuggish tactics.

And as is often the case with such events, there was a little knot of neo-Nazis out there to counter-protest. This meant they were out there to support Arpaio.

The first part of the above video is taken from footage shot by one of these counter-protesters. A little ways in, you'll see a black Cadillac pull up containing none other than Sheriff Joe himself, who has decided to stop by and say hello to his supporters. He lets one of them pose for a picture.

As it happens, the young man posing for him is none other than Thomas Coletto, aka "Vito Lombardi" -- who, as Stephen Lemons reports, is not only the local leader of a neo-Nazi outfit, but was also busted for burglary in a supposed "Columbine"-type plot two years ago.

After posing with Arpaio, Coletto posted the shot on the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.

And it's not as if Arpaio recoiled and hurried on when he figured out who he was talking to. You can see in the video he pulls over and shakes hands with someone in group standing with a Confederate flag.

The rest of the video is compiled from other footage available on YouTube, particularly the work of 287gGots2go, who let us see what this little clutch of white nationalists was like from the other side of the camera.

I think it tells everything we need to know about who Sheriff Arpaio counts on for his support. It also tells us everything we need to know about how these people feel empowered enough to come crawling out from under the rocks beneath which they usually hide.

Dan Weiss at Imagine 2050 has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

The evil librul media pays homage to Glenn Beck

-- by Dave

I suspect it was just an evil librul media ploy on the part of the New York Times to run such a fluffy little piece on Glenn Beck as this one:

Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star

Because, you know, Glenn's best new pal, Bill O'Reilly, has declared war on the NYT. Right-wingers being the good paranoid types they are, no doubt it crossed their minds that this was a classic wedge ploy. Especially when it features nice complimentary remarks from another O'Reilly bete noire, MSNBC:

And always, Mr. Beck’s emotions are never far from the surface. “That’s good dramatic television,” said Phil Griffin, the president of a Fox rival, MSNBC. “That’s who Glenn Beck is.”

The piece does feature some interesting quotes:

Mr. Beck says he believes every word he says on his TV show, and the radio show that he still hosts from 9 a.m. to noon each weekday.

He says that America is “on the road to socialism” and that “God and religion are under attack in the U.S.” He recently wondered aloud whether FEMA was setting up concentration camps, calling it a rumor that he was unable to debunk.

At the same time, though, he says he is an entertainer. “I’m a rodeo clown,” he said in an interview, adding with a coy smile, “It takes great skill.”

And like a rodeo clown, Mr. Beck incites critics to attack by dancing in front of them.

“There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck,” said Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.”

Yes, there are.

In any event, we've prepared a compendium of Beck's greatest hits of the past three months on Fox. Just so you all can be reminded just how swell he really is. And start your office pools for when Beck is going to completely go berserk (my prediction: when his ratings begin their inevitable decline).

Or you can just go read the posts from the past few weeks.

Will Bunch has more, as does Eric Boehlert at Media Matters' County Fair.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Jonah's roadmap for conservatives has a few gaping holes in it

-- by Dave

Jonah Goldberg was part of a panel discussion broadcast on CSPAN this weekend put together by Commentary magazine titled "The Future of Conservatism."

Goldberg, as is his wont, tried to explain the need to humanize conservatives by whining about how tough it's been to get people not to see them as humorless, out-of-touch whiners:

There's a lot to be said for sort of -- David Brooks came up with a great anthology of conservative writing. And a huge chunk of it was just trying to remind people that conservatives are in fact people. You know, that we're nice people, that we are -- with human ambitions and human desires, and compassion and all of the rest. Because we already had the arguments about economics and all of that, and foreign policy pretty well nailed down when this book came out, it was to convince people that you were not a bad person to be a conservative.

Now, I think in some ways that fight has kind of been won, or at least we've made a lot of progress in that fight. The problem is that in the process, we are now going back to New Deal economics and all of the rest, and all of the other issues, on foreign policy we're sending out lovely videos to Iran and that's about it. And so the job for conservatism is again to go back to these arguments that we thought we had won a long time ago, and that's a worthy fight to have.

These sorts of ruminations tell us a great deal about how conservatives see themselves, which (as is usually the case with conservative self-mythology) has the cognitive-dissonance-producing problem of not being particularly well grounded in reality. Indeed, as in Goldberg's peroration here, it's practically an alternative-reality fantasy, a distinctly backward-looking one that refuses to acknowledge current realities on the ground.

Conservatives indeed had economic arguments won for much of the past thirty years -- Reagan's "small government" ethos was present in Bill Clinton's administration as well, embodied by his willing signature on the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act back in 1998.

What Goldberg and his fellow conservatives are loath to admit is that this approach to economics and fiduciary responsibility has been proven irrevocably to be an unmitigated disaster, and a return to FDR-era regulation is not only warranted but necessary for our economic survival.

This reality on the ground changes the arguments for conservatives in fundamentally profound ways -- which they, in their ongoing state of denial, stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. One of these is that the old, stale argument about whether conservatives are nice people or not is rendered utterly useless.

It is, in fact, quite possible for perfectly nice people to believe things that produce perfectly bad outcomes for the rest of society. That's as true of liberals as it is of conservatives. And what's become clear is that movement conservatism produces all kinds of bad outcomes. Those nice people make for really bad governance.

Indeed, those nice people can even politely applaud while real evil proceeds. Torture, anyone? Katrina? The list of actual evils produced by conservative governance is quite long.

Sure, we can acknowledge that most conservatives are in fact nice people. But they're nice people who have nearly ruined the country. That's an argument conservatives can't really engage, though, without losing -- because they've already lost it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.