Saturday, March 26, 2011

As Predicted, Beck Goes Full-Bore Bircher With Hour-Long Promotion Of Griffin's Anti-Fed Conspiracy Tome

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We warned this was coming: On Friday, Glenn Beck devoted his entire hour to promoting the conspiracy theories of G. Edward Griffin, a John Bircher and 9/11 truther whose book, The Creature from Jekyll Island, attacks the Federal Reserve as a nefarious cabal intent on enslaving and destroying America.

It was quite a performance: Among other things we learned from Griffin was that he believes there is no actual gold at Fort Knox (maybe Goldfinger rendered it radioactive, eh?) and that there is a real inflation rate of around 20 percent right now.

Well, as we explained already:
Beck, as we all know, has previously demonstrated a fondness for the Birch Society, and this is consistent with that: Griffin, after all, was a close personal friend and longtime associate of Birch Society founder Robert Welch, and wrote a popular Birch book published in 1964, The Fearful Master: A Second Look at the United Nations.

The Creature from Jekyll Island
is in many ways a compendium of previous works claiming that the Federal Reserve is a fundamentally illegitimate -- and therefore deeply nefarious -- organization. Most of these theories were deeply anti-Semitic in nature, since they depicted the Fed's bankers as part of a Jewish cabal intent on destroying white American society. What sets Griffin's work apart is that -- like most Birch texts, which assiduously avoided anti-Semitism -- he manages to scrub out the anti-Semitic elements while keeping the paranoid conspiracist elements intact.

Since its publication in 1994, Griffin's book has become a popular text for a large number of right-wing extremists, particularly tax protesters and Patriot movement believers. Griffin himself was involved in organizing a gathering on Jekyll Island last year that the Southern Poverty Law Center credits with helping revive the militia movement.

It has been debunked thoroughly, of course -- probably most notably by historian Gerry Rough, whose three-part series on the origins of the Fed, "Another Twist on the Jacksonian Bank War," pretty thoroughly reveal just how fraudulent Griffin's text really is. You can read it here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
[Rough has debunked Griffin further in other essays as well: here, here, and here.]

Meanwhile, Media Matters' research team has a complete rundown on Griffin. From an earlier piece:
Griffin, in addition to spinning conspiracy theories about the Fed, is also a 9-11 truther and has written extensively about the U.S. government's "facilitation" of the attacks. In April 2008, Griffin appeared on the radio program of conspiracist Alex Jones and claimed that he predicted just days after 9-11 that "the FBI and the intelligence agencies of the federal government had advance knowledge of this attack but did nothing to stop it," and that he was proven right. He also is -- or, at least, was -- a member of the ultra-right wing John Birch Society. He wrote a 1970 pamphlet entitled "This is the John Birch Society: An Invitation to Join," and a 1975 book entitled The Life and Words of Robert Welch: Founder of the John Birch Society.
Another terrific debunking of far-right Federal Reserve theories generally, including Griffin's texts, was provided by Edward Flaherty at Public Eye. From the first part:
Following the near catastrophic financial disaster of 1907, the movement for banking reform picked up steam among Wall Street bankers, Republicans, and eastern Democrats. However, much of the country was still distrustful of bankers and of banking in general, especially after 1907. After two decades of minority status, Democrats regained control of Congress in 1910 and were able to block several Republican attempts at reform, even though they recognized the need for some kind of currency and banking changes. In 1912 Woodrow Wilson won the Democratic party’s nomination for President, and in his populist-friendly acceptance speech he warned against the "money trusts," and advised that "a concentration of the control of credit ... may at any time become infinitely dangerous to free enterprise."3

Also in 1910, Senator Nelson Aldrich, Frank Vanderlip of National City (today know as Citibank), Henry Davison of Morgan Bank, and Paul Warburg of the Kuhn, Loeb Investment House met secretly at Jeckyll Island, a resort island off the coast of Georgia, to discuss and formulate banking reform, including plans for a form of central banking.

The meeting was held in secret because the participants knew that any plan they generated would be rejected automatically in the House of Representatives if it were associated with Wall Street. Because it was secret and because it involved Wall Street, the Jekyll Island affair has always been a favorite source of conspiracy theories. However, the movement toward significant banking and monetary reform was well-known.3 It is hardly surprising that given the real possibility of substantial reform, the banking industry would want some sort of input into the nature of the reforms. The Aldrich Plan which the secret meeting produced was even defeated in the House, so even if the Jekyll Island affair was a genuine conspiracy, it clearly failed.

The Aldrich Plan called for a system of fifteen regional central banks, called National Reserve Associations, whose actions would be coordinated by a national board of commercial bankers. The Reserve Association would make emergency loans to member banks, create money to provide an elastic currency that could be exchanged equally for demand deposits, and would act as a fiscal agent for the federal government. Although it was defeated, the Aldrich Plan served as an outline for the bill that eventually was adopted. 5

The problem with the Aldrich Plan was that the regional banks would be controlled individually and nationally by bankers, a prospect that did not sit well with the populist Democratic party or with Wilson. As the debate began to take shape in the spring of 1913, Congressman Arsene Pujo provided good evidence that the nation’s credit markets were under the tight control of a handful of banks – the "money trusts" against which Wilson warned.1 Wilson and the Democrats wanted a reform measure which would decentralize control away from the money trusts.

The legislation that eventually emerged was the Federal Reserve Act, also known at the time as the Currency Bill, or the Owen-Glass Act. The bill called for a system of eight to twelve mostly autonomous regional Reserve Banks that would be owned by the banks in their region and whose actions would be coordinated by a Federal Reserve Board appointed by the President. The Board’s members originally included the Secretary of the Treasury, the Comptroller of the Currency, and other officials appointed by the President to represent public interests. The proposed Federal Reserve System would therefore be privately owned, but publicly controlled. Wilson signed the bill on December 23, 1913 and the Federal Reserve System was born.6

Conspiracy theorists have long viewed the Federal Reserve Act as a means of giving control of the banking system to the money trusts, when in reality the intent and effect was to wrestle control away from them. History clearly demonstrates that in the decades prior to the Federal Reserve Act the decisions of a few large New York banks had, at times, enormous repercussions for banks throughout the country and the economy in general. Following the return to central banking, at least some measure of control was removed from them and placed with the Federal Reserve.
Ben Dimiero at Media Matters observes:
Among many, many other bizarre conspiracies, Griffin has written a book alleging that cancer can be cured by the B-17 vitamin, but this has been covered up due to "the hidden economic and power agenda of those who dominate the medical establishment."

Oh, and according to Griffin's website, Glenn Beck's dismissal of birthers is evidence that Beck's "role as a controlled opposition leader is becoming more obvious."
Yet as you can see, Beck practically scrapes at Griffin's feet, treating each of his words as golden nuggets of truth:

Griffin is a clever hoaxter, in large part because he's able to tap into the circular far-right informational bubble, wherein conspiracy theorists cite each other endlessly as "evidence" of their own outlandish ideas. Gerry Rough has an interesting essay explaining how this works:
What happens with conspiracy theories is that author "A" will write a passage in his text, place a footnote or endnote as a reference source for the passage, then move on with the conspiratorial narrative. This is no different than any other work of non-fiction: this is merely standard operating procedure. Author "B" on the other hand, will assume that the passage is correct, cite the same passage, and never bother to check to see if the passage had anything at all to do with a verifiable conspiracy. It is here where conspiracy theories are patently different than other works of non-fiction. *At no point ever* do conspiracy theorists verify the authenticity of the original passage, nor is there any attempt to verify context. So, if a passage turns out to be fabricated or grossly distorted, precisely as *all three examples* in part 3 of this debate, no conspiracy theorist will ever likely have knowledge of it.
In other words, they breathe their own exhaust and convince each other it's fresh air. And as Rough explains, Griffin is noted for playing a key role in this circle-jerk by giving other conspiracy theorists "authoritative" quotations that in fact are bogus in nature:
This is much more likely the scenario that happened with Flynn’s research. In point of fact, G. Edward Griffin, a well known author and editor of John Birch Society publications, deliberately lied about the passage in question, then Flynn simply passed on the lie all too willingly while citing Griffin as the original source. In the case of Griffin’s research, there are no other options: Griffin did not cite another author as the source for the passage that his text quoted. In failing to do so, the ultimate responsibility for lying stops at the desk of Griffin alone. But lets not let Flynn and other conspiracy theorists off the hook so easily either. All who write this conspiracy theory nonsense had at one point a responsibility to verify any given passage in question. They willingly shunned that public responsibility and aided a lie by way of omission. If this were an intellectual crime it would be likely classified as criminal negligence.
And then when you have a popular TV host with an audience of millions treating this kind of fraud as a factual representation of history ... well, it's no wonder people can't pass a damned citizenship exam.

Bill O'Reilly Gets Called On The Carpet By One Of His Smear Victims

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Last week we observed -- especially after the arrest of a neo-Nazi in Spokane for a planned bombing of a parade the next day -- that Bill O'Reilly owed Mark Potok a big apology for smearing him after he offered the opinion that, as domestic-terrorism threats go, the extremist right remains a much more potent problem than homegrown Islamic radicals. (OReilly repeated the smear even after the Spokane arrest.)

Of course, we knew that wasn't gonna happen. But last night on The O'Reilly Factor, we got to see the next best thing: Potok pinning O'Reilly's ears to the wall for the smear.
O'REILLY: Now a few weeks ago, Mr. Potok, you said on CNN the biggest terrorist threat is coming from the radical right community. Do you still stand by that?

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: That is false as I think you know. I said the biggest domestic threat to America was from domestic radical right not domestic jihadists, in other words, not home-grown American Muslims. That was twisted on your show by you.


O'REILLY: All right. So you -- it wasn't twisted by me -- no, no, it wasn't twisted because your statement is dubious. It wasn't well -- with all due respect because we like you as a guest -- your statement was not well put.

Let me read your exact statement ok. It's not our biggest -- this is talking about Muslim jihadists. "It's not our biggest domestic threat. I think that pretty clearly comes from the radical right in this country."

Now I'll dispute that. I think that Muslims jihadists are a much bigger threat than the radical right and the numbers back me up: Fort Hood and Fort Dick.

POTOK: Bill, can I just have one --

O'REILLY: Yes. Go ahead.

POTOK: One thing I want to say, immediately afterwards you said, Muslim terrorists or jihadists have killed tens of thousands of people all over the world. Well, that is true. I don't disagree with that at all. I certainly think that as an external matter, Al-Qaeda is far greater threat. I don't think there's much question about that. But that's not what I said.

O'REILLY: All right. I'm glad you are saying that.
In fact, it might be helpful to remember exactly what it was that Potok actually said on CNN:
MALVEAUX: If you can from your study of tracking radical groups, potentially hate groups, what do you think of this hearing? Is al Qaeda radicalizing Muslims? Is that our biggest homegrown terrorism threat right now?

POTOK: Well, I think it's not our biggest domestic terror threat. I think that pretty clearly comes from the radical right in this country. Although I would certainly not minimize the threat of jihadist terrorism in this country. Obviously, we have seen a fair amount of it.
Clearly, Potok was drawing a distinction between jihadist terrorism of the international kind and the (so far) quite limited threat of homegrown Islamic radicalism. But O'Reilly refuses to recognize the distinction:
O'REILLY: But you put -- no, you yourself in a position, of criticizing Peter King's hearings on what domestic terror threat is from the jihadists. In the context of where you were it seemed to me diminishing that in favor of saying the right wing radicals are a bigger threat. I don't believe the right wing radicals are a bigger threat. And I don't believe Americans see it either.

I could be wrong. One thing you do have going for you in Spokane where a nut named Karen Hartman with ties to white supremacists has now been indicted for putting a bomb on the road during a Martin Luther King Day parade -- thank God it didn't go off.

You do have those isolated incidents
and there are white supremacist groups who are a bunch of idiots and FBI are all over them.
Ah yes, the famous "isolated incidents". So far, just in the past two-and-a-half years, we're up to 24 of them and counting:


But O'Reillyesque ignorance is widespread -- and so is O'Reillyesque arrogance, as we saw this week when a group of Minutemen in Iowa managed to bring a halt to a terrorism-training exercise because the scenario involved white supremacists attacking immigrants. Indeed, as Potok mentions, the resulting threats forced authorities to call off the exercise.

O'Reilly somehow thinks this makes the people who dreamed up the scenario look bad, and not the hate callers whose ignorance shut the drill down. Perhaps that's because it's an ignorance they share with O'Reilly, who only a couple of weeks before hosted a segment in which he and his guests dismissed the cold-blooded murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father at the hands of a group of killer Minutemen -- white supremacists who were targeting Latinos for murder. That, too, was -- you guessed it -- just another "isolated incident".
OREILLY: Now, in Iowa, this thing was cancelled because, basically they wanted to run a drill that right wing terrorists were coming down from the corn fields and shooting children. I think most Americans go, that is stupid, it's a waste of money why are you bothering.

POTOK: Well, are you going to tell our viewers why it was cancelled.

O'REILLY: Yes, because they had threats.

POTOK: It was cancelled because they had enormous number of threats.

O'REILLY: Not enormous, they had threats.

POTOK: I just talked to a reporter out there. The threat that really made them shut the exercise down was a call to the school that said if you go through this, something like you envision will happen or may happen. So who is to say? Sounds like the people you're --


O'REILLY: Yes, it's terrible. It's awful. And I ceded to you that there are white supremacist groups that the FBI should be watching and they do anything like this, they should arrest them. But at this juncture --


O'REILLY: Mr. Potok, you are not going to convince the American public that these far right kooks are more dangerous than the jihad? You're not going to do that.
And I'll give you the last word.

POTOK: Well, Bill, that is not what I said once again. So I think it would be good if you paid attention to what was actually said rather than going on television and calling me a lot of names. I'm a member --


O'REILLY: I didn't call you any names Mr. Potok. I used your own words --

POTOK: I saw the transcripts. What name -- I don't appreciate that kind of mischaracterization.

O'REILLY: What name did I call you?

POTOK: You said we were part of the radical left, the nuts on the left, who were coming up with this kind of lunatic --

O'REILLY: I don't think I called you that.

POTOK: -- which you have utterly misinterpreted.
Just for the record, here's exactly what O'Reilly said while disparaging Potok and Ezra Klein:
It all goes back to America being the world's biggest villain. The far left believes that the United States has provoked Muslim extremists by backing Israel and doing business with the oil sheiks. To radicals on the left, the jihadists are simply misguided and would stop their terrible killings if only we understood them and changed our foreign and domestic policies.

That's what the far left truly believes, and that's why you're hearing all of this absurd nonsense.
Potok didn't get the apology he deserved. But he did get his pound of flesh.

Hannity Goes All-in On The Birtherism, Keeps Insisting Obama Hasn't Produced A Legal Hawaiian Birth Certificate

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Fox News is pretty rapidly becoming the Conspiracy Nutcase Network, what with Glenn Beck going all-in as a John Bircher, along with Sean Hannity's headfirst dive into the swamps of Birtherism.

After Hannity's initial foray into Birtherism in defense of Donald Trump on Wednesday, he devoted both of his subsequent "All American Panel" segments to defending Birtherism again. On Thursday, the panelists included former Maryland Gov. Rob Ehrlich, poli-sci prof Caroline Heldman, and ex-Imus producer Bernard McGuirk. It went like pretty much like the first foray:
HANNITY: First of all. What's the deal? Produce the birth certificate it is over and done with. Chris Matthews wants it.

MCGUIRK: This is why Donald Trump should throw his hair into the ring. He legitimized this issue. People say why not just show it. The other thing it took away is that Joy Behar was conspicuously silent. She is a bully she will go over -- she will go after Sharron Angle, Donald Trump she has nothing to say.


HANNITY: If I asked for the birth certificate, can I get it?

HELDMAN: I assume that you could, Sean.

HANNITY: Is it go all the way back to 1975?


HANNITY: Could you get your birth certificate?

MCGUIRK: In a heartbeat.

HANNITY: Look, what I like about this, every pejorative, birthers and this and that. Chris Matthews was the guy -- why don't we get rid of it and move the issue aside so it never comes up again?

HELDMAN: How about common sense takes over and it never comes up again.

HANNITY: Wait a minute, but he did talk in his book prayers and he went to a Muslim school and he talk all about all these and he studied the Koran and prayers at sunset were most beautiful things he saw in life. He spent a lot of his youth in Indonesia.


MCGUIRK: Show the birth certificate and get it over with.

HELDMAN: Wait, what does - have to do with being born in the United States? How is that material to whether or not he was in the United States? What is the logic?

HANNITY: Why won't they release the birth -

HELDMAN: What is the logic?

HANNITY: Why don't they just release it and get it over with. The only reason they don't release it is because it insults him.
Last night, it was more of the same, with a different panel, including civil-rights activist Ron Daniels, Fox contributor Peter Johnson, and Republican "strategist" Dee Dee Benkie. Daniels tried pointing out, repeatedly, that Obama has in fact produced his birth certificate -- but that seemed to fly right over everyone else's head:
HANNITY: Do I think he was [born in America]? Yes. Do I think this is odd that they won't produce the birth certificate? It's beginning to get odd to me.


BENKIE: Yeah, but why not produce it? It's so easy. Here it is -- on TV, on billboards, whatever. Why not just bring it out? Why not show it?

DANIELS: It's shown time and time again. Do we trust the Hawaiian authorities or not? I don't understand this. There is a problem here. There's something going on here, that people keep talking about this birth certificate, and there's a significant amount of people believe in it.

HANNITY: Why haven't they just produced the certificate?

DANIELS: They have! They've shown it! You can go see it -- anybody can go see it, just like you can go see a copy of --

HANNITY: That's not true!

BENKIE: That's not true. It's never been out.

HANNITY: Because they've never allowed anybody to see it. That's the point.

BENKIE: It's never been out.

HANNITY: It's never -- see, you're agreeing with me that it's odd.

BENKIE: It is odd. It's very odd.
Yes, very odd, very odd indeed. Odd that no matter how plainly the evidence is given to people like Hannity, they keep insisting that it hasn't been presented.

OK, I'm going to write this verrrrry slooooowwly, just so Hannity and his panelists and the likeminded Trump fans don't miss anything:

1. President Obama has in fact presented for public viewing his legal birth certificate from the State of Hawaii.
It was released in 2008. Here it is.


2. A lot of people have in fact examined this birth certificate,
including the fact-checkers at Fact staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.
3. This birth certificate is the same birth certificate anyone born in Hawaii would present as proof of citizenship.
"Our Certificate of Live Birth is the standard form, which was modeled after national standards that are acceptable by federal agencies and organizations," Okubo said. "With that form, you can get your passport or your soccer registration or your driver's license."
4. The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed that Obama was born in Honolulu.
“There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law (Hawaii Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

“Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawaii, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

“No state official, including Governor Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawaii.”
The continued dispute that Hannity and Trump seem to think is so significant is so important, in fact, is over the privacy-protected medical records of Obama's birth -- what the Birthers are calling his "long form birth certificate," but are in fact the private medical records of his birth kept at the hospital, containing large amounts of personal medical information about Obama's mother, including gynecological data.

And as Hawaii officials have explained numerous times, these records are protected by privacy laws, and for perfectly sound reasons:
Hawai'i's disclosure law (Hawai'i Revised Statutes 338-18) states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in vital statistics records, or to copy or issue a copy of all or part on any such record ... "

The law further states that the Health Department "shall not permit inspection of public health statistics records, or issue a certified copy of any such record or part thereof, unless it is satisfied that the applicant has a direct and tangible interest in the record."

Those who have "direct and tangible interest" are generally limited to the person named in the record, the spouse, parent, descendant, or personal representative, or by someone who is involved in marital, parental or death litigation involving the named person's vital record or other legal reason established by a court order, and various official agency or organization representatives, including the state director of health, according to the law.
Here are a coupla questions for Sean Hannity and Donald Trump and their acolytes:
Is a birth certificate acceptable to every known authority for every other citizen of that state somehow unacceptable proof of citizenship for presidential candidates?
Or do they believe that every candidate for president should have to release for public review the private medical records, including personal medical information about their late mothers, of their own births?
If the answer to either of these is "no," then why are they demanding it only of Barack Obama -- while simultaneously talking about his five years spent in Indonesia?

And they wonder why the rest of us consider Birtherism, at its core, profoundly racist.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Real Costs Of SB1070's Ugly Nativism For Arizona Have Only Just Begun To Take Their Toll

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We knew all along that there was a powerful business incentive involved in the Arizona Senate's recent rejection of the latest Russell Pearce anti-immigration slate. Now the New York Times corroborates it:
The Senate move was a victory for the Arizona business lobby, which on many issues is more moderate than state lawmakers. And it was a rebuke for the State Senate president, Russell Pearce, a Republican and the driving force behind tough immigration measures, including the law passed last April requiring police to question the status of anyone they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

Opponents of the five bills said that the state’s image had been hit hard, and that it did not make sense to pass new measures while the state had already put itself so far out in front of other states and the federal government on the issue — at a cost to tourism and other industries.

They said that previous immigration bills were still being reviewed by the courts, and that it was not smart to pass new legislation that plainly conflicted with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

“I don’t believe that anyone, including myself, foresaw the national and international reaction” to April’s bill, said Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said estimates of lost tourism business ranged from $15 million to $150 million. “Now we have that experience under our belts. We know these measures can cause economic damage; it’s just a matter of degree.”
The tourism and image-related business losses were only the tip of the iceberg, though, when it comes to the damage inflicted on the state by SB1070 and its related anti-immigration measures. As we've explained previously, simply deporting and/or driving out all the state's undocumented immigrants would have disastrous economic consequences on a broad basis for the state -- some of which are already being felt.

A new study from the Center for American Progress, "A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie: The Economic Impact of Legalization Versus Deportation in Arizona" lays it all out in great detail:
The economic analysis in this report shows the S.B. 1070 approach would have devastating economic consequences if its goals were accomplished. When undocumented workers are taken out of the economy, the jobs they support through their labor, consumption, and tax payments disappear as well. Particularly during a time of profound economic uncertainty, the type of economic dislocation envisioned by S.B. 1070-type policies runs directly counter to the interests of our nation as we continue to struggle to distance ourselves from the ravages of the Great Recession.

Conversely, our analysis shows that legalizing undocumented immigrants in Arizona would yield a significant positive economic impact. Based on the historical results of the last legalization program under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, our analysis shows a similar program would increase wages not only for immigrants but also for their native-born co-workers. This would generate more tax revenue and more consumer and business spending, supporting additional jobs throughout the economy.
Public debate over the wisdom of laws such as S.B. 1070 is heated but generally lacking in substance. The proponents of S.B. 1070 and related legislation now under debate in other cities and states claim to be acting in the best economic interests of native-born Americans, but as this report demonstrates, their claim is wholly unsubstantiated.
The chart below makes it simple:
Figure 1: Mass deportation versus mass legalization
Costs and consequences
Deportation effects in Arizona
* Decrease total employment by 17.2 percent
* Eliminate 581,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born workers alike
* Shrink state economy by $48.8 billion
* Reduce state tax revenues by 10.1 percent
Legalization effects in Arizona
* Increase total employment by 7.7 percent
* Add 261,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born workers alike
* Increase labor income by $5.6 billion
* Increase tax revenues by $1.68 billion
Some Arizonans are starting to wake up. The other night in Mesa, there was a spirited public debate over the so-called "Utah compact," the Mormon-led deal in Utah that led to state leaders there taking a more thoughtful approach to immigration:
Not everyone in Mesa was ready to agree, however. Of the nearly 30 speakers, almost half opposed the compact, and several speakers threatened the city with lawsuits and the loss of millions of dollars under provisions of last year's Senate Bill 1070 if the city endorsed the Utah Compact. In their view, adopting such a statement would turn Mesa into a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.

Speakers against the compact complained that illegal immigrants are draining the state treasury, committing crimes, degrading Mesa's quality of life and even providing cover for terrorists crossing the southern border.

Arguments ranged from the theological, with speakers disagreeing on how Jesus would see the issue, to the economic, with sparring over whether immigrants help or hurt Arizona's bottom line.

"If you do pass this, you will be fulfilling what God told Micah: Do justice, love kindness and walk modestly with your God," said Paul Whitlock, senior pastor of Desert Heritage Church, which belongs to the United Church of Christ denomination.

"It's not about race, it's about following laws," said Joe Fletcher, representing the Mountain View Tea Party. "Why does one group get to choose which laws they want to follow and one group doesn't?"

Brenda Rascon, a Westwood High School and Arizona State University graduate who said she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, said the compact is "a good alternative to the hostile climate created by laws like SB 1070," which became law last year under the aegis of state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

"I'm a citizen of this country. I see a growing hostility towards people who look like me, supported by my state senator," she said.

At that a member of the audience was heard to say, "Cry me a river."

Rascon continued, "Is this the kind of society that we actually want? A divisive, ugly society filled with leaders who appeal to the most basal instincts of our character?"
That's what Arizona has created for itself now. Someday, perhaps, the state's residents with greater good sense will once again be running things. We'll know, perhaps, when they finally show Sheriff Joe the door.

But until then ...

Hannity's Situational War Ethics: 'If You Were President,' He Tells McCain, 'I Would Be Behind You, But You Are Not President.'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Oh, now there's a big surprise: The guy who searched through the rubble heap of the Japanese earthquake for any excuse to bash President Obama is, of course, unhappy with the airstrikes in Libya -- but only because it's Obama doing it.

Last night Sean Hannity invited onto his Fox show Obama's erstwhile opponent, John McCain, aka Grampa McCranky, to bash Obama some more:

HANNITY: Senator, I was with you. Early on, you called and you were asking that we expand the mission, that we have a surge. You were right. I give you 100 percent credit. Here is the problem.

This president dithered for six months on Afghanistan. Wouldn't support the students in Iran in 2009. He supported Mubarak, then he was neutral and then he shifted away from Mubarak. Here's the problem, I mean, Hillary disagrees with Mullen and Gates disagrees with Hillary. And Obama shifted his opinion. Gadhafi has got to go, not got to go. I don't have confidence in him. This policy is incoherent. He seems to be too little, too late, ill advised and doesn't have the political or moral courage to do this right. Tell me where I'm wrong!
MCCAIN: I understand your concern and I share those concerns. And it is incoherent when you say Gadhafi must go and then say that the mission is only there for humanitarian purposes. But we are attacking his forces on the ground. We are keeping two major cities from being overrun and the people are already being subjected to terrible atrocities as we speak. And I believe that with continued ground attacks we can succeed. By the way, this latest announcements I just read that somehow NATO would take over the air, the no-fly zone and the United States would continue the other activities or something frankly I don't understand. I haven't had time to absorb it.

But I've never seen any decision quite like that. But the fact remains, it is in our interests and America's interests and the world's interests to not have another -- to not have another Rwanda. Every time we say never again. And so, I want to see us continue to use our airpower, not ground troops, but airpower which I think would have a significant effect still on the battlefield. That along with equipment and other assistance.
HANNITY: With NATO split. And literally NATO allies abandoning the effort, the president not acknowledging this is war, it is some kinetic military action. And if the humanitarian rational that they are offering, you are right it should have existed for Rwanda and the whole series of other countries. But, you know, does that mean these human rights violations, humanitarian concerns in China, in Russia, in Iran, in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, you know, Lebanon. Where do we go, I mean, from here? It seems to me that he was forced into doing something instinctively that he doesn't want to do.

MCCAIN: I'm sure that instinctively he doesn't want to do it.

HANNITY: But the fact is, but he's pulling out.

MCCAIN: The people of Libya were being massacred. And by the way, you haven't seen a single anti-U.S. demonstration in the Arab world. The Arab League has not reversed their position. The UAE is sending 12 aircraft, Qatar is already sending some airplanes.

So, if we allow the people of Libya to be massacred, I'm going to be on this program six months from now saying never again. And I believe that American military power in the air and with other kinds of assistance, they can still prevail.

HANNITY: Senator, if they.

MCCAIN: Despite, they dithering back and forth that has been going on. Go ahead.

HANNITY: Senator, if he doesn't say that we've got to remove Gadhafi which they flipped and flopped on. And if they never talk about victory or define victory or define success or talk about an exit strategy or telegraph no boots on the ground, he's not committed to it. And I think it is unfair for our military. But, yes, there are all these other countries that a lot of slaughters are going on as well.

MCCAIN: Right now, there are air attacks on Gadhafi's forces on the ground. If those can continue, maybe we can save those people. I'll tell you what, if you bail out right now, Sean, and I heard the criticism, we bail out right now we will see massacres of enormous proportions.

HANNITY: I agree.

MCCAIN: We can still win this thing.

HANNITY: You know what? If you were president, I would be behind you, but you are not president.

MCCAIN: I can still urge the president to use our airpower and our other assets to help these people survive. Thousands of lives are at stake right now my friend.

HANNITY: Senator, if you were president, it would be done right. He is timid and he's inconsistent. This is incoherent and frankly, it's unforgivable because he's the commander in chief.
Of course, Hannity really is just like so many other of his fellow Republicans that way. They'd support this action if it were a Republican leading it! I'm shocked by this development, I tell you.

Especially because these are the same people -- Hannity especially -- who attacked Democrats as not only insufficiently patriotic, but as actively harming American soldiers if they questioned the wisdom of George W. Bush's war policies.

[H/t Media Matters.]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

G. Edward Griffin And The Fed: Is Glenn Beck About To Do Another Swan Dive Into The Deep End Of Conspiracism?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Glenn Beck has done lots of mainstreaming extremist beliefs and ideas in his two-plus years at Fox News -- especially far-right ideas that have circulated for years among Patriot-movement militiamen and John Birch Society members, from various "New World Order" theories and claims to "Tenther" theories to his abortive flirtation with FEMA concentration-camp theories.

Judging from the hints he's been dropping on his Fox News show all this week, on Friday he's going to once again dive into the deep, dark and murky waters of classic far-right conspiracism of the Bircher kind. He dropped hints the other day while discussing the "Liberty Dollar" scamsters -- claiming, on the one hand, that he knew ahead of time that what these characters were doing was breaking the law, but simultaneously, they were telling the truth when it came to the evil Federal Reserve.
BECK: Well, this guy was misguided, but he wasn't trying to bring down the United States -- at least, from what he told me. He believed the Fed was destroying the dollar -- and, really? That's a hard stretch, isn't it?

You, by the way, have to watch this show on Friday -- because there is some truth to that. The unbelievable history of the Fed. The, uh -- what is it, the uh, 'Monster,' is that what it was called? The Monster? The Creature of Jekyll Island. We will give you the truth and none of the crazy conspiracy theories on the Fed on Friday. Anyway.
Beck is referencing one of the widest-read conspiracist works about the Federal Reserve, G. Edward Griffin's The Creature from Jekyll Island, and it appears -- vows to eschew conspiracy theories notwithstanding -- that he intends to cite it as a credible source, much as he did with Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent Liberal Fascism thesis in his "documentary" exposing the nefarious fascist roots of modern progressivism. In that case, he promised to eschew "conspiracy theories" too.

Beck, as we all know, has previously demonstrated a fondness for the Birch Society, and this is consistent with that: Griffin, after all, was a close personal friend and longtime associate of Birch Society founder Robert Welch, and wrote a popular Birch book published in 1964, The Fearful Master: A Second Look at the United Nations.

The Creature from Jekyll Island
is in many ways a compendium of previous works claiming that the Federal Reserve is a fundamentally illegitimate -- and therefore deeply nefarious -- organization. Most of these theories were deeply anti-Semitic in nature, since they depicted the Fed's bankers as part of a Jewish cabal intent on destroying white American society. What sets Griffin's work apart is that -- like most Birch texts, which assiduously avoided anti-Semitism -- he manages to scrub out the anti-Semitic elements while keeping the paranoid conspiracist elements intact.

Since its publication in 1994, Griffin's book has become a popular text for a large number of right-wing extremists, particularly tax protesters and Patriot movement believers. Griffin himself was involved in organizing a gathering on Jekyll Island last year that the Southern Poverty Law Center credits with helping revive the militia movement.

It has been debunked thoroughly, of course -- probably most notably by historian Gerry Rough, whose three-part series on the origins of the Fed, "Another Twist on the Jacksonian Bank War," pretty thoroughly reveal just how fraudulent Griffin's text really is. You can read it here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Another terrific debunking of far-right Federal Reserve theories generally, including Griffin's texts, was provided by Edward Flaherty at Public Eye. From the first part:
The problem with the Aldrich Plan was that the regional banks would be controlled individually and nationally by bankers, a prospect that did not sit well with the populist Democratic party or with Wilson. As the debate began to take shape in the spring of 1913, Congressman Arsene Pujo provided good evidence that the nation’s credit markets were under the tight control of a handful of banks – the "money trusts" against which Wilson warned.1 Wilson and the Democrats wanted a reform measure which would decentralize control away from the money trusts.

The legislation that eventually emerged was the Federal Reserve Act, also known at the time as the Currency Bill, or the Owen-Glass Act. The bill called for a system of eight to twelve mostly autonomous regional Reserve Banks that would be owned by the banks in their region and whose actions would be coordinated by a Federal Reserve Board appointed by the President. The Board’s members originally included the Secretary of the Treasury, the Comptroller of the Currency, and other officials appointed by the President to represent public interests. The proposed Federal Reserve System would therefore be privately owned, but publicly controlled. Wilson signed the bill on December 23, 1913 and the Federal Reserve System was born.6

Conspiracy theorists have long viewed the Federal Reserve Act as a means of giving control of the banking system to the money trusts, when in reality the intent and effect was to wrestle control away from them. History clearly demonstrates that in the decades prior to the Federal Reserve Act the decisions of a few large New York banks had, at times, enormous repercussions for banks throughout the country and the economy in general. Following the return to central banking, at least some measure of control was removed from them and placed with the Federal Reserve.
It is true that the Fed was a progressive institution at the outset. And doing away with it and returning control of the banking system to the banks would be the opposite of progressive.

Moreover, ending the Fed is really more about the larger far-right enterprise of gutting the power of the federal government on a number of fronts: taxes, regulating the financial sector, civil-rights laws, public education, the environment.

It will be interesting to watch Friday and see just how deeply into this morass Glenn Beck dives. Given his track record, it likely will be a headfirst plunge.

Sean Hannity Joins Trump Among The Ranks Of Birthers. But 'Don't Bring Up Race!'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, we've always known that Sean Hannity has a penchant for nuzzling right up next to conspiracy theories from folks like noted Birther Jerome Corsi and promoting them in a secondhand fashion without completely diving off the deep end, as his early-evening colleague at Fox is inclined to do.

But last night, defending Donald Trump for his admission that he believes in the Obama birth-certificate theories, Hannity dove right in and embraced his inner Birther. It was something to behold.
Terry Krepel and David Shere at Media Matters have the complete rundown:
HANNITY: What do you think about this birth certificate issue? I mean, it has not been my main issue, but it kind of does get a little odd here after a while. Can't they just produce it and we move on?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): Well, obviously, there's some value to the White House not producing it. I don't know what that could be. This easily could be ended, could have been ended a couple of years ago. I don't know --

HANNITY: Jerry, that's a reasonable position. Is he right?

JERRY SPRINGER (talk show host): Well, no. I'll tell you why.

HANNITY: Release -- do you have your birth certificate?

SPRINGER: No, I finally -- well because I was born in England, and it was during the war, and really, I had to go through a whole process for my Social Security -- because I'm on Medicare now. I had to finally get --

LEEANN TWEEDEN (model and Fox Sports host): You had to track it down, and you did, right? And you had to produce it, right?

SPRINGER: But i found it. I found it. I found it. But because I was born in England, I can't be president anyway.
The best moment came when Springer tried to point out the obvious -- no previous candidate for the presidency had faced these kinds of questions about his citizenship, and it is no coincidence that it happens to be the first African American president. Hannity hastily sprang into action -- block that point!
SPRINGER: But you know what, I understand why there's a resistance to it.


SPRINGER: Because isn't this interesting? Of all our 43 presidents, of the 43 presidents --

HANNITY: Don't bring up race. Do not bring up race. Do not bring up race. It is a constitutional requirement.

SPRINGER: I understand, but why have not of the 43 people we had run -- be president of the United States, never once were you asking, "Where is your birth certificate? "

BURGESS: It was an issue -- it was an issue for John McCain.
As Springer continued trying to make the point that conservatives have fought against racial justice and ethnic equality at every turn of the nation's history, Hannity tried making the dishonest argument that the Civil Rights Act passed in 1965 because of Republicans -- which is true enough, but obliterates the fact that these were liberal Republicans, a now-extinct creature, not to mention the fact that the Southern Strategy completely transformed the GOP after the 1960s into the wholly right-wing faction it has been for at least a generation now.

But then, we always knew Hannity was basically dishonest. Now we get to see his inner extremist come bubbling to the surface.

As The Tea Partiers Run Wild In Montana, The Folks With Common Sense Start To Turn Away

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Douglas Kennedy eagerly filed this report from the wilds of Montana this morning for Fox News, describing the exploits of a Montana Tea Party Republican legislator named Greg Hinkle, from Thompson Falls -- just coincidentally the home of the Militia of Montana ...
Hinkle is a Republican state senator from Thomson Falls, and he recently proposed a law, likely the first of its kind, asking federal law enforcement to first seek approval of county sheriffs before any federal intervention in the state of Montana. He calls it “The Sheriffs First Bill.”

“I believe that before any federal agency does any action within a county,” he explained, “they should cooperate with the sheriff, coordinate with the sheriff and go to him and say this is what we need to do in this county.”

For instance, Hinkle would want the FBI to first notify a Montana sheriff before executing a search warrant or making an arrest in the state of Montana.

At one point he allowed for arrest of any federal agent who didn’t comply, but has since taken out that language. He also reluctantly added a line that allows for federal agents to notify sheriffs “after the fact,” in order to get the bill through the Montana House of Representatives.

Nonetheless, legal observers still call Hinkle’s bill “a clear violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

“The federal government does not have to ask or even inform local law enforcement about what they are doing,” said James Cohen, a constitutional law professor at Fordham Law School in New York. “Sometimes they do because it’s convenient, but they do not have to.”

Hinkle points out that the bill has already passed the Montana State Senate (with the original language) and is expected to pass the House in the next couple of weeks.

He also says there’s a lot of support in Montana, a state which he says well remembers the deadly federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993.
Funny that a parachuting reporter would forget this, but in reality, Montanans remember even better the longest armed standoff with federal agents in history: the 81-day FBI standoff in Jordan with the Montana Freemen. (Yes, yours truly was there.) As Jim Lopach, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Montana, put it in a retrospective piece:
Lopach said the real legacy of the standoff could be that it gave people a reason to consider how far and how deep devotion to political individualism should go.

"It might be a moderating thing," he said. "It might be that they saw the dangers of extremism."
In reality, Hinkle's bill is one we've known about for awhile. It was one of a package of bills that Montana Patriot-movement leader Gary Marbut announced last September in Hamilton at a gathering I covered. (You can watch the video of Marbut describing it here.)
Tonight Marbut wants to talk about a new piece of sovereignty legislation he plans to promote in the state legislature, something he calls Sheriffs First. The bill would make it a crime in Montana for a federal officer to arrest, search or seize without advance written permission from the county sheriff, Marbut explains, to enthusiastic applause.

"How that will work is, the federal officers might come to your local sheriff and say, 'OK, here's our probable cause, we believe there's people at this location in your county who have a meth lab …and we wanna bust 'em,'" Marbut says. "The sheriff might look it over and say, 'Gosh, I'm glad you brought this to me, here's your advance written permission, and I will send a couple deputies to help you.'

"Or the federal officers might come to the sheriff and say, 'Here's our probable cause, it leads us to believe there's somebody in your county at this location who's manufacturing firearms without a federal license. And we want to go bust them.' The sheriff might say, 'Sorry, we have a state law in Montana that authorizes that activity, it's perfectly legal here, you may not go bust them, you do not have permission, and if you do, we can put you in Deer Lodge. We can put you behind bars in Montana for doing that.'" That brings out whoops alongside the applause.
Kennedy's fawning coverage at Fox concluded thus:
“They can’t do it,” [Fordham law professor James Cohen] said. “They can't pass a law that says the federal government, the FBI, the [Drug Enforcement Agency], whatever federal law enforcement agency, must contact the sheriff before engaging in law enforcement activities. It simply can't be done."

Of course it can, said Hinkle.

“How on earth could the states not challenge federal law?” he asked. “That's the way our system of government works.”

“The states are what created the federal government,” he added, “so the states should actually have more authority than the federal government."
This is one of the more breathtaking aspects of this legislation: It so clearly flies in the face of the Constitution as to be absurd, and yet its proponents are some of the loudest proponents of their version of so-called "constitutionalism."

These are the Tea Partiers who swept to power in Montana in the last election, and boy, are they making their mark. But it may not be the one they long for.

Longtime Montanans are well acquainted with these kooks, and the more they rant and rage and embarrass the state, they more they turn people off. An AP story from a few weeks back pointed this out:
HELENA, Mont. – With each bill, newly elected tea party lawmakers are offering Montanans a vision of the future.

Their state would be a place where officials can ignore U.S. laws, force FBI agents to get a sheriff's OK before arresting anyone, ban abortions, limit sex education in schools and create armed citizen militias.

It's the tea party world. But not everyone is buying their vision.

Some residents, Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and even some Republican lawmakers say the bills are making Montana into a laughingstock. And, they say, the push to nullify federal laws could be dangerous.

"We are the United States of America," said Schweitzer. "This talk of nullifying is pretty toxic talk. That led to the Civil War."

A tea party lawmaker said raising the specter of a civil war is plain old malarkey.

"Nullification is not about splitting this union apart," freshman Rep. Derek Skees said. "Nullification is just one more way for us to tell the federal government: 'That is not right."
There's been a substantial influx of these extremists into the state from elsewhere in the past decade, many of them drawn by cheap land and their own internalized mythology of the Western landscape what Montanans are like (think "rugged individualism"). Perhaps no one symbolizes this influx better than Chuck Baldwin, the erstwhile presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, who recently moved to the Flathead Valley from Florida.

Baldwin held a shindig in Kalispell, where he was feted by local white supremacists and other supporters. He all but announced that he was planning to run for governor, in hopes of displacing Schweitzer. And he voiced the view of a lot of these newcomers:
Baldwin went on to state that being born in Montana does not necessarily make one a Montanan.

“There are a lot of people that were born in Montana but are not Montanans,” Baldwin said. “And there are a lot of people, like me, who were not born in Montana but we have been Montanans our whole lives.” (Baldwin arrived in the Flathead in October.)

“Real Montanans love freedom,” he said. “Real Montanans will fight and die for the principles of truth, honor and freedom.”
Here's hoping he and his fellow Montana Tea Partiers run on that kind of platform. Sounds like a surefire winner with all the lifelong Montanans I know.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gingrich Leads The Right-Wing Hypocrisy Brigade On Libya: First Slams Obama For Not Acting, Then Slams Him For Acting

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Of course you knew that no matter what President Obama did in regards to Libya, right-wingers were going to slam him for it -- damned if he did, damned if he didn't. But few have been quite as naked in their two-faced hypocrisy as Newt Gingrich.

Via George Zornick at ThinkProgress, here's Gingrich giving Greta Van Susteren his prescription for dealing with Libya two weeks ago, on March 7:
Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. Communicate to the Libyan military that Gadhafi is gone, and that the sooner they switched sides the more likely they were to survive.

Provide help to the rebels to replace him. I mean, the idea that we're confused about a man who has been an anti-American dictator since 1969 just tells you how inept this administration is. They were very quick to jump on Mubarak, who was their ally for 30 years, and they're confused about getting rid of Gadhafi. This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with.

… We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening.
Then there he was last night on Fox News with Sean Hannity:
HANNITY: So, did he make a mistake by not seeking Congress' authorization, and do you view that as a violation of the War Powers Act?

GINGRICH: Well, no, the War Powers Act technically gives him 45 days. But it's a violation of common sense.
And then he went on Today this morning with Matt Lauer and actually said he wouldn't have intervened:
GINGRICH: The standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain. … The Arab League wanted us to do something. The minute we did something, the Arab League began criticizing us doing it. I think that two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a lot. I think that the problems we have in Pakistan, Egypt — go around the region. We could get engaged by this standard in all sorts of places. I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
Of course, what else do you expect from Newt Gingrich? If nothing else, we can always count on him to explore new depths in naked hypocrisy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can't Let Go: Fox Reporter Insists Error-Laden Smear Of Reporters In Libya Was Right

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

You would think that after being publicly castigated by CNN reporter Nic Robertston for falsely reporting that Libyan officials had used CNN and Reuters reporters as "human shields" who stymied a planned British air attack on Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, the folks at Fox would at least do what they usually do when called out for their lies -- just ignore it and hope it will go away (which it usually does).

But no. Jennifer Griffin -- having stirred up the mess earlier yesterday in her initial report -- went back on the air last night to repeat the allegations to Greta Van Susteren.

A little while later, though, she came back and admitted that she had misled Fox's viewers -- but only about the presence of Fox reporters:
GRIFFIN: Earlier today I reported that Fox News had not gone to Gaddafi’s compound while journalists from other news outlets such as CNN and Reuters had, in fact, gone.

I’ve since learned that FOX did indeed go. Tonight I learned that although reporter Steve Harrigan opted not to go and instead remained back at his hotel - he wanted to stay on the air, I’m told, to provide full coverage of what was going on in Libya. He did, in fact, send a security guard with a camera to Gaddafi’s compound with the journalists from the other news outlets. I did not know about that earlier today. I became aware of that this evening. That was my mistake and I apologize for the error.
Ah, but that wasn't enough. Griffin again doubled down on her claim that these reporters had been used as "human shields":
GRIFFIN: But what is being lost in this discussion is that the Libyan government is using journalists as human shields. There is frustration among military officials that those journalists are being – are going to those sites and have prevented air strikes such as the one that was called off by the British earlier today.
There are, of course, all kinds of problems with this charge -- the foremost being that Libyan officials could not have known that the airstrikes were being planned for the brief period the journalists were there. It would have been impossible for them to have knowingly timed the visit in order to use the reporters as shields and stymie the attack.

As the CNN report on the matter explains:
The incident involved a trip Sunday night arranged by Libyan authorities to the Gadhafi compound that had been bombed earlier by coalition forces.

Robertson said the 40 or so journalists on the bus weren't told ahead of time where they were going, and that there was no attempt by the Libyan minders to restrict anyone from getting on or off the bus before they left.

Upon arrival, the journalists spent about 20 minutes at the damaged building and then were hurried to a tent where they waited with Gadhafi supporters for him to appear, Robertson said. Gadhafi never showed up, and the journalists went back to their bus and departed, according to Robertson.

A government official even pushed him onto the bus as he tried to broadcast a live shot at the end, Robertson said.

"If they wanted to use us as human shields ... they would have kept us there longer," Robertson said. "That's not what happened."
Ellen at NewsHounds observes:
Surely, no matter how big a dent the reporters put in the British plans to strike the compound, this was not the only window of opportunity to do so. Griffin did not address that point, nor did she comment on why, if Fox News had been concerned about being used as a human shield, as she had previously reported, it had sent someone - a non-reporter, no less - to the compound anyway.
Griffin has been getting more airtime on military and national-security stories ever since Catherine Herridge -- far and away Fox's best on-air reporter, and perhaps the sole real journalist at the network -- got crossways with Fox executives over gender discrimination. It's obvious she lacks Herridge's experience and savvy -- especially the ability to tell when she's being manipulated by a lazy Fox colleague and an anonymous military official.

Political Violence On The Left And The Right: Fantasy And Reality

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

If you were looking for an example of how right's wingnutosphere manages to spin the most innocuous wisps of nothing into massive earth-shaking scandals of cosmic import, look no further than the outbreak of right-wing hives that erupted last week over these words from the estimable political-philosophy professor Brian Leiter:
Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers' rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. ... At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke.
Within a week's time, these words had morphed into an example of left-wingers advocating violence in places like Wisconsin!, one of the favorite memes o' the week at Fox. Megyn Kelly devoted an entire segment to wondering about the meaning of Leiter's words:
KELLY: Well, some on the left now suggesting that crackdowns on unions like we saw in Wisconsin will lead to renewed interest in whether violence would be morally justified.
Of course, Kelly couldn't manage to find a Faux Democrat who could actually read what Leiter wrote in context and laugh the whole discussion off the screen, since such a creature does not exist. This left Kelly free to then compare Leiter's quip to a nutty rant from Louis Farrakhan. Fair 'n' balanced!

The person who pretty much kicked off the whole charade last week was the Ole Perfesser, Glenn Reynolds, who wanked:
This whole “new civility” business just isn’t working out as promised. On the other hand, it is working out pretty much as expected. . . .
It seemed that everyone on the right, rather than read what Leiter's words actually said, wanted to read what they thought his hidden meaning was -- namely, that violence might become philosophically justified, a la Eugene Volkh: "My sense from Prof. Leiter’s post, though, is that he is hinting at more than just a philosophical inquiry".

Ann Althouse, as is her wont, made the leap and went there:
How quickly the lefty mind turns toward violence! ... Here, I'll help you get your fancy-schmancy, high-tone philosophy seminar started: Acts of political violence are justified to get what you want.


Leiter is…inclined to approve of the impulse toward violence on the left and willing to mobilize the discipline of philosophy to generate rhetoric to support its political goals. It’s quite disgusting.
Indeed, there was great handwringing on the right that Leiter was actually inciting violence. James Taranto cites reader John Benjamin:
Frankly, Leiter borders on incitement. Not to see that comments such as his enhance the possibility of actual violence in the future is unacceptable. There is a profound degree of antipathy in political circles today and one would be denying reality if one expressed surprise at an act of political violence today. Shock and horror, yes, but surprise, no and it's due precisely to the allowing of intellectual lunatics such as Leiter the light of day on campus or anywhere inside civilization.
Even Taranto -- who nonetheless read Leiter's remarks as intimating an approval of violence -- wouldn't go quite that far. But nonetheless it became a fait accompli that Brian Leiter was urging the left to engage in violence.

Which is not just patent nonsense but patently dishonest nonsense: The clear meaning of Leiter's remarks is that this kind of political-miscreancy-without-accountability ultimately gets people to thinking about violence, and some of them concoct philosophical justifications for it -- which really is almost unquestionably true, regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit upon. He says absolutely nothing to indicate approval or disapproval; he merely remarks on this point.

For what it's worth, we're of the opinion that political violence of any kind regardless of source -- whether privately inflicted or state supported -- is only acceptable in the name of self-defense or humanitarian defense of others. And while we have been adamant in standing up to the rhetoric of eliminationist violence that has been endemic on the Right in recent years, we're similarly adamant that threatening rhetoric has no place on the Left. And to the extent that it has bubbled up in Wisconsin in recent weeks, we are willing to stand with those who condemn the threats.

But what's most amazing about this episode is how finely tuned right-wing ears have become to even the vaguest intimation of advocacy of violence from the left, in part because of the anger bubbling up in Wisconsin. Amazing, because they have been utterly deaf when it comes to the endless deluge of vicious and hateful bile that's come from the American right in recent years. John Benjamin's fears that Brian Leiter is inciting violence are downright laughable when stacked up against, say, your run-of-the-mill Glenn "Progressives Are Cancer on Society" Beck rant, or Sean Hannity's latest eliminationist joke.

Their fears are especially ironic in the face of what they have produced. In contrast to the handful of relatively low-level threatening remarks we've seen out of Wisconsin, there has been a real flood of threats from the American Right directed at liberals and government officials, including some that have produced federal prosecutions for making threats. These threats have come from sovereign citizens, among others; they have involved numerous instances of political-campaign violence, as well as threats to judges, and 'Patriot' threats of violence against sitting governors. There have been explicit threats from Tea Partiers and death threats from anonymous racists.

But those are just the threats, which really have been so numerous and have become so common that it's really impossible to track them.

This is not the case when it comes to incidents involving real or imminent violence producing arrests.

Here's what a map tracking them for the past two and half years looks like:

Here's the complete list.
As you can see, since July 2008, we are up to 24 incidents and counting.

Here's my challenge to all those right-wing bloggers who are up in arms about the left's supposed countenancing of the advocacy of violence: Come up with a comparable map.

Really. I'd like to challenge the entire wingnutosphere to map out for us the incidents of actual left-wing violence targeting conservatives over the same time period. Threats don't count: You have to demonstrate that someone inspired by left-wing ideology either engaged in a violent act or was arrested while preparing to engage in one.

Because then you could demonstrate that you have solid grounds for fearing the potential advocacy of violence in left-wing rhetoric. Over here on the Left, we don't have that problem. We have those grounds.

My guess is, the best you'll be able to come up with is Kenneth Gladney. Which is about as lame and hapless an example of "political violence" on recent record.

Of course, we understand why you're trying to make someone like Brian Leiter out to be an advocate for violence: It's a way of diverting our attention from the very real concerns that exist about the results of right-wing violent rhetoric. Of course, in order to succeed, you have to completely whitewash away the very real and troubling history of right-wing extremist violence in America over the past 20 years. But that's something you've all become very skilled at.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Does Rep. Don Young Need To Repeat His Oath To The Constitution?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We know Rep. Don Young of Alaska was not one of the two Republicans who forgot to take the oath of office on Jan. 6. But the question bears asking anyway: Does Young need to reaffirm his oath to the Constitution?

We've been wondering because Young actually signed a revolutionary oath concocted by militia organizer Schaeffer Cox -- the Alaska militiaman arrested last week for plotting to kill cops and a couple of judges -- declaring that the signers would refuse to recognize any new federal taxes or gun laws: "[T]he duty of us good and faithful people will not be to obey them but to alter or abolish them and institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to us shall seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness."

David Holthouse at Media Matters' Political Correction has the rundown:
A video posted online in June 2009 shows Alaska Congressman Don Young signing a revolutionary "Letter of Declaration" written by Alaska militia leader Schaeffer Cox, who was arrested yesterday along with four compatriots for allegedly plotting to kidnap and murder Alaska State Troopers and a Fairbanks judge.

"Let it be known that should our government seek to further tax, restrict or register firearms ... thus impairing our ability to exercise the God-given right to self-defense that precedes all human legislation and is superior to it, that the duty of us good and faithful people will not be to obey them but to alter or abolish them," reads the declaration that Rep. Young signed.
So the folks at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is putting together a petition demanding that Young clarify his position vis a vis his oath to uphold the Constitution and the federal office he holds.

As CSGV's Josh Horowitz puts it:
"It is simply unacceptable for a sitting member of Congress to sign a document calling for violence against the government of the United States. We call on Rep. Don Young to do the right thing and repudiate this repugnant document. "
You can sign here.

As Holthouse explained:
Cox describes how he wrote his "Letter of Declaration" the night before the initial meeting of the Second Amendment Task Force at a Denny's restaurant in Fairbanks. In the video, Cox claims that 150 people attended the meeting, saying, "It was standing room only."

"Everybody there signed this letter," he adds.

As Cox begins to recite his declaration, the video cuts to footage of Rep. Young signing the very same letter (it is unclear whether this occurs at the same meeting).

The video shows Cox standing next to Rep. Young, addressing a crowd. "We have no obligation to submit to a government that refuses to submit to their governing document," Cox says.

A man in the crowd asks Rep. Young, "If any government should decide that we have to register certain of our arms or turn them in, what would your recommendation be?"

Rep. Young responds, "Don't do it...I sincerely mean that. Don't turn them in."
Young's office eventually did provide an explanation of sorts as to what we see on the, which essentially came down to: Yeah, he was there, he signed the letter, he palled around with Cox. So what?
Rep. Young's communications director, Meredith Kenny, said the video shows Rep. Young signing the letter at an "open-carry day" in Fairbanks in the spring of 2009. At the open carry day, gun rights activists appeared in public openly wearing handgun in holsters.

"Rep. Young attended not because of anything having to do with Cox -- nor is he in any way affiliated with Cox -- but because he has always been a vocal and staunch defender of the Second Amendment," Kenny said. "Congressman Young stands strong with gun owners of America, and will always defend the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans."
Of course, we got a taste of Schaeffer Cox's violent extremism through his videos, including his callous willingness to kill federal agents:

COX: If there came a time where they were endangering my family, you bet I would kill those federal agents. And what kind of a father and husband would I be if I wouldn't? Would I sacrifice my family on the altar of submission to the wicked state? No, that would be despicable, we would highly criticize anybody who did that, stood by and watched in history. And we've got to reckon with the fact that that's our time right now.
Now, we have those agents -- with 3500 guys we have tremendous resources at our disposal. And we had those guys under 24-hour surveillance -- the six trouble-causers that came up from the federal government. And we could have had them killed within 20 minutes of giving the order. But we didn't because they had not yet done it.

The Hammer Comes Down At Last On Those Far-right 'Liberty Dollars' Promoters

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A federal jury in North Carolina finally is bringing the hammer down on the NORFED "Liberty Dollars" scam artists for trying to undermine U.S. currency:
The leader of a group that marketed a fake currency called Liberty Dollars in the Asheville area and elsewhere has been found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy against the government in a case of “domestic terrorism.”

Bernard von NotHaus was convicted Friday at the conclusion of an eight-day trial in U.S. District Court in Statesville. The jury deliberated less than two hours, according to the Department of Justice.

Charges remain pending against William Kevin Innes, an Asheville man who authorities said recruited merchants in Western North Carolina willing to accept the “barter” currency, according to court records. Innes was indicted along with von NotHaus in 2009.

“Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism,” U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said. “While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, Buncombe County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Secret Service with help from the U.S. Mint.

“We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government,” Tompkins said.

Von NotHaus, 67, faces up to 25 years in prison during sentencing, which hasn't been scheduled.
Back when the feds first raided von NotHaus' operations in 2007, CNBC's Lawrence Kudlow invited him on for an interview that was remarkably congenial, if notably ill-informed:
KUDLOW: I don't understand why people aren't free to choose. If they want to circulate your coins or your paper, they should be free to do that. I do think it is against the law, but I think in a perfect world they should be free to choose.
Von NotHaus' outfit called itself NORFED -- the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act & Internal Revenue Code. Among the coins it minted just before it was busted were Ron Paul dollars.

On CNBC, Von NotHaus went on to claim that the NORFED currency was perfectly legal. Just for the record, minting coins to be used as currency in fact is illegal, under 18 USC 486:
Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
NORFED and its defenders liked to claim that there was nothing illegal about minting your own coins if you choose -- though of course others this is true only if you don't make them look like legal tender. It's also somewhat irrelevant if you're selling them as part of a pyramid scheme, and using the business for illegal money laundering -- which is what NORFED was doing. As the original affidavit explained:
The marketing system NORFED operates to sell the currency is a multi-level marketing scheme. The scheme gives NORFED, RCOs, and Associates a profit for selling the ALDs into circulation. When the ALD reached the point of being unprofitable, NORFED conducted a "move up" of the currency. In 1998, the ALD currency was minted using a $10.00 base, meaning that a $10.000 ALD coin, eDollar, or warehouse receipt was backed by one troy ounce of silver. In November of 2005, the thirty (30) day moving average of the spot price of silver reached the "move up point" set by the NORFED.

NORFED recalled all of the $10.00 base coins and warehouse receipts and "re-minted" the currency as a $20.00 base currency. This change made what the day prior had been a $10.00 denomination ALD coin, warehouse receipt, or eDollar backed by one troy ounce of silver, a re-minted re-issued $20 denomination coin. This instantly doubled the value of the currency. The "move up" left the silver and gold holdings at the same level as they were at the $10.00 base. Thus the value of the entire currency was doubled without changing the holdings at all. The other effect of the "move up" was a tremendous increase in profits for NORFED, RCOs and Associates.
The U.S. attorney's description of NORFED's activities as "domestic terrorism" has raised some eyebrows -- Ben Smith at Politico calls it a "novel expansion" of the word's definition, while the usual suspects of the wingnutosphere have been squawking.

But there's nothing particularly novel about it at all: "terrorism" has long been used to include crimes where the intent and motive involved attacking and undermining the government of the United States. And that's abundantly self-evident in this case.

Glenn Beck Is Still In Denial About Martin Luther King's Progressive Leadership

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Glenn Beck has always been a bit muddled about just whose side Martin Luther King -- whose legacy Beck has tried to hijack in the most bizarre fashion for some time now -- was really on. Beck has often tried to exalt King on the one hand while smearing progressives as evil -- even though King in fact was a leader not merely of the Civil Rights movement but also of the larger progressive movement of his time.

So today he sneered at Richard Trumka for recalling King's martyrdom while standing up for the workers in a public employees union:
GLENN BECK: Madison is just the beginning, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told a union rally in Annapolis on Monday. Madison is just the beginning; you ain't seen nothing yet, he says. The message? Angry schoolteachers and the unions are the same.

Join us April 4th, 2011, a day to stand in solidarity with working people of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and a dozen other states, where well-funded right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights that Dr. King gave his life for.

Wait, wait, hold it, just a second. Dr. King lost his life for collective bargaining for the public unions, really? Did you know that? 'Cause -- that -- we have to update our history books, because I didn't know that. Did you know that?

PAT GRAY: I personally didn't. (Laughs)

BECK: Thank you for that.

GRAY: I didn't know that. I - I was - I'm a little confused, I guess, 'cause, yeah, I thought it had something to do with civil rights, but it was a union deal?
As Media Matters explains, King in fact was assassinated while fighting for a public union:
King Spoke On Behalf Of Memphis "Public Servants" In His Final Speech. From Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before his assassination:
The issues is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.

Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. And force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: we know it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. [Dr. Martin Luther King, 4/3/1968, via American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees]
King Was Assassinated While In Memphis To Support Public Sanitation Workers.
Memphis Workers Were Fighting For Recognition Of Their Union, Better Wages.
Of course, not only is Beck absurdly confused about whose side progressives were on in the civil-rights struggle, he has a convenient case of amnesia when it comes to which side conservatives were on. Hint: It wasn't Martin Luther King's side.

Especially conservatives who Glenn Beck avidly promotes, such as Mormon far-right icon W. Cleon Skousen. Here's a flier that was distributed by Skousen's friend and longtime associate, Ezra Taft Benson:


Among the foremost leaders in the campaign to discredit King as a Communist, especially among Mormons, was none other than the Church's future president, Benson.

Here are some prime quotes from Benson:
“LOGAN, UTAH-Former Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson charged Friday night that the civil-rights movement in the South had been ‘formatted almost entirely by the Communists.’ Elder Benson, a member of the Council of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a public meeting here that the whole civil-rights movement was ‘phony.’” (Deseret News, Dec. 14, 1963)

“The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. While it can be thwarted in a fairly short period of time merely by sufficient exposure, the evil effects of what has already been accomplished cannot be removed overnight. The animosities, the hatred, the extension of government control into our daily lives–all this will take time to repair. The already-inflicted wounds will be slow to heal. First of all, we must not place blame on the Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. Not one in a thousand Americans–black or white–really understands the full implications of today’s civil-rights agitation. The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather
than their own.

Next, we must not participate in any so-called ‘blacklash’ activity which might tend to further intensify inter-racial friction. Anti-Negro vigilante action, or mob action, of any kind fits perfectly into the Communist plan. This is one of the best ways to force the decent Negro into cooperating with militant Negro groups. The Communists are just as anxious to spearhead such anti-Negro actions as they are to organize demonstrations that are calculated to irritate white people.

We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committees launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups. This is an effective way for the American people of both races to find out who are the false leaders among them” (Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference Report, Oct. 1967).
And here's the cover of a book for which Benson wrote the introduction:


Alexander Zaitchik describes the book
in his recent piece for the SPLC on Beck's espousal of Skousen:
Benson was also an advocate for Bircher-style conspiracy theories. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he saw the hand of communism in every social welfare policy and fought them as both immoral and unconstitutional. A rabid foe of the civil rights movement, Benson in 1971 allowed one of his anti-civil rights talks to be reprinted as the introduction to a book of race hate called Black Hammer: A Study of Black Power, Red Influence, and White Alternatives. The book's cover featured the severed, bloody head of an African American. By the end of the decade, his politics had taken a similar turn to that of his friend Skousen. During a 1972 general conference of the Church of Latter-day Saints, Benson recommended all Mormons read Gary Allen's New World Order tract None Dare Call it Conspiracy.
And then there was Skousen -- whose views on race somehow are never mentioned by Beck:
Skousen's rolling theocratic lecture tour ran into problems in 1987, when outsiders started examining the contents of the book on which the seminars were based. The Making of America, it turned out, presented a history of slavery that could have been written by a propagandist for the Ku Klux Klan. Skousen relied for his interpretation of slavery on historian Fred Albert Shannon's Economic History of the People of the United States (1934). Quoting Shannon, Skousen described African-American children as "pickaninnies" and described American slave owners as the "worst victims" of the slavery system. He further explained that "[slave] gangs in transit were usually a cheerful lot, though the presence of a number of the more vicious type sometimes made it necessary for them all to go in chains." Shannon and Skousen also cast a skeptical eye on accounts of cruelty by slave masters and expressed much more interest in the "fear" Southern whites had while trying to protect "white civilization" from slave revolts.
This is why Beck's constant posturing on behalf of the civil-rights movement -- mostly in order to claim a King-like aura for himself -- is so bizarre. In order for Glenn Beck to convince his fellow conservatives to adopt this mantle, he essentially has to persuade millions of people who have opposed it with every fiber of their beings for most of their lives to completely reverse course and claim the opposite of their former beliefs.

In reality, of course, it's just a pose intended to mislead the gullible and blunt the critics who can see right through Beck's phony veneer of advocacy for the civil rights of right-wing white people.