Friday, March 21, 2014

Hate-Filled Rant Leaves Longtime Catholic ‘Traditionalist’ Isolated

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.] 

Austin Ruse
It only took a brief rant to wreck Austin Ruse’s budding career as a “traditionalist” Catholic pundit. Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), an anti-LGBT hate group that lobbies at the United Nations, was on American Family Radio (AFR) last week when he said that the “hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” like Duke “should all be taken out and shot.”

While violent rhetoric is an increasingly common feature of far-right rhetoric, it is particularly jarring coming from a pundit and think tank official who markets himself as “pro-life” and “pro-family.”

After Right Wing Watch posted Ruse’s rant – and then publicized his self-pitying responses to having his own words played back – Ruse found himself suddenly isolated. The American Family Association – on whose program he made the rant – severed all ties with him, saying: “AFR condemns such comments, no matter who makes them.” One of C-FAM’s board members, Monsignor Anthony Frontiero, resigned from the board after Faithful America petitioned him to do so. And C-FAM may lose its status at the United Nations.

Ruse eventually buckled and apologized, telling Talking Points Memo:

“I deeply regret and apologize for using the expression ‘taken out and shot’ on the Sandy Rios Show this week. It was not intended to be taken literally. I have dedicated my life and career to ending violence. I regret that these poorly chosen words are being used to attack my friends at American Family Radio and American Family Association.”

Notwithstanding the apology, AFR’s Sandy Rios defended Ruse’s remarks as being “words of life” that warn believers against listening to liberal professors. Rios insisted that Ruse’s words were the kind people make in private conversation all the time, which may well be true around her workplace – AFR is a wing of the American Family Association, whose spokesperson Bryan Fischer has made all manner of offensive and outrageous remarks.

Ruse still appears to have a friend in the Family Research Council (FRC), which prominently featured him earlier this month in a panel discussion on the U.N. Ruse used the opportunity to promote a conspiracy theory (one promoted for some time by C-FAM) that a cadre of United Nations officials were working to make abortion rights a component of every U.N. treaty. He also castigated the U.N. generally as a hotbed of socialism.

Perhaps more noteworthy were remarks by Ruse’s fellow panelist, Pat Fagan of the FRC. Speaking about a U.N. panel that criticized the Vatican over sexual abuse, Fagan compared the panel’s report to Kristallnacht, the night of violence that Nazi Brownshirts subjected Jewish merchants to in November 1933 and which foreshadowed the Holocaust:

FAGAN: This is just an analogy and I don’t want to take it directly, but the first really egregious act that was very public and against the good of people and against the good of the Jews was Kristallnacht in Germany. And that was very significant because the police permitted it. And that was the beginning of the end, when those who were there to enforce the law failed to do so and did not protect the citizen from these bullies – more than bullies, murderers.

Now, this is not Kristallnacht. But it is the breaking of a pretty big window. They didn’t go around smashing all the windows, it’s just that if you think of the Vatican as a shop on Main Street, well, they didn’t break all the windows on Main Street but they went up to the shop and they smashed through the big plate glass window.

Now, this is good, because it is now made very clear what is going on.

In the discussion that followed, Ruse lauded Fagan’s remarks on this point.

Today, Ruse published another mostly self-pitying piece on the fallout from his comment, which he now admits was a “gaffe” (nothing more, nothing less, in his mind). It remains to be seen if Ruse can recover.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Right-Wing Extremists in Montana File for Legislative Races as Democrats

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Democratic primary voters in some Montana legislative districts will see new and unfamiliar names on the ballot this year. That’s because at least eight Democratic candidates are actually far-right “constitutionalists” and Tea Party activists. One of them is the current Republican vice-chairman for Sanders County. Two of the others have turned out to be homeless.

Most of the activity has occurred in Gallatin County, where Bozeman is the main population center and county seat. The county is home not only to Montana State University but also a variety of extremist elements. Key members of the radical Montana Freemen group were active there in the 1990s.

Chief among the new crop of candidates is Michael Comstock, a well-known local Tea Party activist and antigovernment “Patriot” movement organizer who has run previously as a Republican. This year, he filed to run in the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat in District 24, a seat currently held by Republican incumbent Roger Webb, who is running for re-election.

Comstock claimed during an interview with KCFW-TV in Bozeman that he’s a mainstream Democrat in the tradition of John F. Kennedy and Montana icon Mike Mansfield, and more mainstream than his primary opponent, Democratic activist and educator April Buonamici. But as the blogger Montana Cowgirl observed in her posts calling out Comstock and the other candidates, no one in Bozeman who knows Comstock is fooled by this, since he has been a colorful figure on the local political scene for many years:

Comstock’s main focus is his concern about a possible takeover by ‘a one-world UN controlled government,’ the Bozeman Chronicle has reported.  In his campaign literature and on Facebook, he says he is worried about the impending collapse of civilization.  He proudly calls himself ‘a Tea Party extremist’ and believes the Muppets have ‘sold out to socialism and bad behavior.’

A Montana Human Rights Network profile of Comstock published in a 2012 newsletter noted that he is a prolific author of letters to the local newspaper editors, where his views have been well noted:

In 2003, he complained that ‘women and minorities get a free leg up on this white male [Comstock]’ when it came to employment. He’s also advocated getting rid of the minimum wage, which he called a ‘relic of our socialist past.’ He claimed the devastation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was ‘directly attributed to 100 years of corrupt liberal politics.’ In another letter about Katrina, he complained that the media gave too much credence to the ‘rantings of opportunistic race-baiting leftists.’ He said statistics proved more focus should have been on white victims. While ‘blacks did constitute the majority of deaths,’ Comstock wrote, ‘proportional to their represented numbers, whites suffered the most deaths.’

Montana Cowgirl has also identified several other bogus “Democrats” on various Montana ballots, most of them in Gallatin County. A man named Harry Pennington, for example, has filed to run as a Democrat for the state Senate seat in District 32, currently held by incumbent Democrat Franke Wilmer. Pennington’s Facebook page is rife with Tea Party material and conspiracist material about President Obama.

Pennington and another candidate – a woman named Laura Springer, who is unknown in local politics, was last registered to vote in a distant county and filed papers to run as a Democrat in House District 63 – listed the same street address in Bozeman as a third candidate, a “Patriot” and local militia organizer named Dane Peeples, who filed as a Democrat to compete against the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Tom Woods, in House District 62.

When a reporter from the Associated Press investigated why all three listed the same street address, it turned out that the home belonged to Peeples, who had no idea why the other two candidates listed his address as theirs. When the reporter asked the other two, they explained that it was because they actually were homeless at the time and needed to use an address. Springer told the reporter she was living out of motels. And Pennington turned up in a December 2013 news feature about the virtues of new government-funded services for the homeless as one of its clients.

All three, it appeared, had met up through a online “constitutionalist,” Tea Party forum called the Constitution Club, where both Peeples and Springer have active accounts, as Montana Cowgirl documented.  Among the other users on the site is a far-right extremist from Bozeman named William Wolf, who last month threatened to arrest a local judge under the auspices of “the Montana Unorganized Militia”. Peeples claims to be active in a different militia group calling itself the ‘Irregulars’ .

Meanwhile, in Sanders County – on the western side of the state, far removed from Bozeman – another dubious Democrat has filed to run for a legislative seat. Gerald Cullivier, who was elected GOP vice chair for the county in 2011, filed to run as a Democrat in House District 13. The field already features two registered Republicans and a registered Democrat.

As Montana Cowgirl explained, Cullivier is not a mainstream Republican but hails from its far-right wing, having campaigned on behalf of far-right candidate Matt French in 2012.

The Great Falls Tribune
surveyed the state’s legislative races and found that, in all, eight elections featured Tea Party candidates running as Democrats. Interviewed for the story, Cullivier claimed he was running as a conservative Democrat, having broken with the Republican Party because it “wasn’t conservative enough.”
A fellow Tea-Party conservative from Sanders County, Terry Caldwell, has similarly filed to run as a Democrat in House District 14, also claiming to have a desire to make the Democratic Party more conservative.

There were others: In the Choteau area, arch-conservative David Brownell filed for the state Senate District 9 seat against registered Democrat Joan Graham. Brownell, too, claimed to be merely a conservative Democrat, though he knew nothing of the party’s platform.

The Tribune found another dubious Bozeman-area candidate: Kathy Hollenback, running against registered Democrat Denise Hayman for the nomination in House District 66. Hollenback also lists a dubious address – one belonging to Gallatin County Republican precinct chair David Ponte – and appears mostly to have been active in Tea Party politics prior to this year.

The Montana Human Rights Network has seen similar behavior in the past. “I would generally say that we hit, like most people in the country, a peak of extremist filings in 2010,” MHRN co-director Rachel Carroll Rivas told Hatewatch. “We saw a lot of those people elected to office here in Montana. And I think we actually saw a lot of pushback from the public and from within the mainstream Republican Party on some of those ideas.

“Some of those more wild-card extremists have actually made their way out of elected office because, you know, making Anderson Cooper isn’t necessarily good for the party when it’s a joke,” Rivas noted, referring to the national attention that a Montana Tea Party legislator received for proposing a “birther” bill requiring all presidential candidates to provide their birth certificates.

“That being said, we still have a very conservative arm of the Republican Party, and the dial, because of what happened in 2010, has been moved right. So it’s harder to pinpoint in some ways who are the extremists because the dial has moved so far that there’s a large number of people that are included in the ‘responsible’ camp.”

Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Director Lauren Caldwell told the Tribune that the primary challenges came as a surprise. “It appears there’s an organized effort to file tea party Republicans as Democrats,” Caldwell said Wednesday. “It is sort of dirty politics at its worst. The goal appears to be to deceive voters.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Idaho Lawmakers Want to ‘Nullify’ EPA So Dredge Mining Operations Can ‘Get Back to Enjoying’ State

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Right-wing proponents of “nullification” – the idea that individual states can free themselves from the purview of federal laws by virtue of simply declaring themselves so – have largely focused on convincing state legislatures to pass bills “nullifying” federal gun laws, as in Missouri. Others have urged applying such statutes to the fight over same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers in Idaho this week, though, expanded the field by applying “nullification” to federal environmental laws.
Idaho State Rep. Paul Shepherd
Idaho Rep. Paul Shepherd

The state’s House Resources Committee on Thursday approved HB 473, a bill declaring that “the regulation authority of the United States environmental protection agency is not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violates its true meaning and intent … and is hereby declared to be invalid in the state of Idaho.” The bill will next go to the floor of the House for a vote. (UPDATE: The bill stalled on the floor of the House and was sent back to the Resources Committee. This will likely kill the legislation for this year’s session.)

Such nullification strategies are not particularly new; they have a long history on the extremist and racist right, with roots in the Posse Comitatus movement. Nonetheless, they have been gaining favor among conservative lawmakers in recent years, often in desperation to prevent the passage of progressive measures.

The author of the Idaho bill, Rep. Paul Shepherd, hails from Riggins, a town where the economy is largely based on the mining industry. Much of his advocacy has focused on preventing the EPA from enforcing regulations on small-scale dredge-mining operations that have become popular among prospectors and wildcat miners. Much of his support has come from miners.

“Let’s get the EPA out of Idaho and get back to enjoying the Gem State,” one of them told the lawmakers during testimony.

Shepherd’s agenda appears to go well beyond helping small dredge miners. During debate in the Resources Committee, Rep. Dell Raybould of Rexburg, a fellow Republican, expressed hesitation: “I notice in here, we’re talking about dredge mining, but the wording of this would this include any EPA regulations of anything in Idaho, just flat-out,” he observed. He asked Shepherd if the bill would cover all EPA water quality and air quality standards.

“Yes,” said Shepherd. “I feel it covers any overreach that we can show is legally overreach by that agency.”
Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane warned the committee, in a six-page analysis, that the bill “would, with almost certainty, be found unconstitutional.” Committee members nonetheless approved it, despite Kane’s observation that the EPA’s constitutionality had been upheld numerous times by the Supreme Court.

Shepherd’s retort: “I think that the Supreme Court needs to go by their oath of office. The Supreme Court’s changing the Constitution.”

These arguments, of course, not only fly in the face of the Constitution itself and its Supremacy Clause, but also in the face of numerous court precedents. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress has a complete rundown of the legal and constitutional issues involved in the debate, as it were.

Anti-government rhetoric during the debate over dredge mining has predictably become heated. One mining district leader described the EPA as “jack-booted thugs in swat uniforms” to the Twin Falls Times News. The same article noted that EPA officials in Idaho had so far not handed out any tickets or fines related to miners’ failures to obtain permits, in hopes of generating voluntary compliance with a new permit regime.

The state’s oldest environmental organization, the Idaho Conservation League, has long supported the permit process. They argue that dredge mining can “wreak havoc on fish habitat and stream water quality.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

‘White Man’s March’ Events Draw Smattering of Participants, Loads of Derision

Skinheads Richard Kidd and Jarred Hensley with unidentified Klansman in Florence, Ky.
Skinheads Richard Kidd and Jarred Hensley with unidentified Klansman in Florence, Ky.
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.] 

Kyle Hunt had grand visions of thousands of white men coming out of the woodwork this weekend to stand up and defend their interests in a public march that would grab the nation’s attention. Like a lot of such plans, things didn’t exactly work out that way.

Hunt, a 30-year-old former Google employee currently living in Massachusetts, promoted the “White Man’s March” this past weekend through a variety of white supremacist outlets, including his own outfit, Renegade Broadcasting, an Internet radio station devoted to covering “the destruction of the white race.” The plan was to hold the main event in New York City, with satellite marches occurring in various other cities around the country.

The marches, Hunt claimed, were a response to fears that white people are being “mocked, displaced and violently attacked” through an insidious liberal idea known as “diversity.”

But no one seems to have actually marched in the “#whitemanmarch.” It was more of a series of brief banner displays and Twitter photo postings of racist flyers and stickers affixed to various objects around the country. The banners were large red-and-white affairs reading “Diversity = White Genocide”.

Hunt argues that the “‘diversity’ agenda is being directed at white countries (and only at white countries) with various programs to ensure that there are less white people at schools and in the work force, which is unfair and discriminatory.” It is “taking away money and opportunities from the White citizens,” he says.

The New York event ran into trouble when it emerged that Hunt was attempting to tie his Saturday “march” with the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, scheduled for the same weekend. His plans were roundly denounced by angry Irish Americans and parade organizers.

Hunt told the press beforehand that he expected “thousands” to participate. On Saturday, only a smattering of attendees showed up in New York. There were similarly tiny gatherings in Florence, Ky., Tempe, Ariz. and Birmingham, Ala., where police took down the “Diversity” banners. Demonstrators also showed up in Branson, Mo. and Olympia, Wash.

As much as anything, the march was the subject of open mockery, especially on social media and the Internet. On Twitter, people flooded in with derisive tweets, some of which were so hilarious they were collected at, City Guide and elsewhere.

Reactions from white supremacists to the low turnout and poor press coverage was mixed. Robert Whitaker, of “mantra” fame, complained that his “white genocide” message had been inappropriately commandeered and that the event was not inclusive of women. “The White MAN’s March was a hijack. White people come in two sexes,” he wrote Sunday.  Whitaker also chided the concept of taking to the streets as something “out of the 30′s.”

Other racists were critical of the Klansmen who showed up to participate at a protest in Florence, Kentucky, organized by former National Alliance leader, Robert Ransdell, particularly since this was one of the few gatherings that generated media coverage.   Skinheads Richard Kidd and Jarred Hensley also attended.
Ransdell defended the Klan’s presence and stated his protest was “really a sight to behold, White people in large numbers not even being scared away.”

Counting Ransdell, the “large numbers” at his Kentucky event added up to nine, which seems to have been one of the largest White Man’s March gatherings anywhere. The presence of two notorious skinheads and two Klansmen didn’t stop Ransdell from taking a victory lap on the racist forums Sunday.

Meanwhile, Hunt is pursuing his next grand vision. He warned one interviewer that he may well be the President of the USA by 2020.