OK: Secret Rogue Faction that Runs the Bush Administration

Saturday, September 22, 2007

OK: Secret Rogue Faction that Runs the Bush Administration

Note: Please read this previous post first: “Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement” and then this post will make more sense. I am an opponent of conspiracy theories in general and this one about the Bush Administraion in particular. This was meant as a clarification of wording in my previous post, not an endorement of a conspiracy theory. -cb

= = =

In my recent post on Webster Tarpley I wrote that:

“In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”

Critics have suggested this meant I had not actually read Tarpley’s book. I have read the book. In it Tarpley contends that the Bush Administration is controlled by a secret invisible government, and that 9/11 was part of a plan to put pressure on George W. Bush as President to ensure that he continued to follow the foreign policy and economic game plan provided to him by the oligarchic faction known as the neoconservatives. Tarpley goes out is his way to make it clear that he thinks Bush himself is incapable of being part of the staged “Synthetic Terror” event the rest of us call the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

So I specifically did not suggest Bush was behind staging the attacks, I said the Bush Administration. As Tarpley himself points out, if 9/11 was a staged event, it would have been impossible to have been carried out without the complicity of high-ranking government agency and Administration officials, or as he calls it: the “rogue networks of the US invisible government” (p. 432). Specifically, Tarpley writes that the sponsors of 9/11 “were not located in a cave in Afghanistan, but were rather a network located high within the US government and military”(p. 280).

According to Tarpley, in 2004, “with the desperados of the neocon faction calling the shots” the “rogues were once again inclined to” stage another terrorist attack on US soil (p. 397). Tarpley also indicates that he thinks the necons are part of the invisible government apparatus, and that this includes “Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Luti, Schulsky, Scooter Libby, Cambone, Hadley and others who run the Bush administration.” If the neocons run the Bush Administration, and the neocons are part of the secret plot, then the Bush Administration staged the attacks, even if every person in the Administration was not part of the plot. I find all these claims ludicrous, but I can see there is room for misinterpretation due to my shorthand description.

In the future I will make sure I state that Tarpley has written that a secret invisible government which runs the Bush Administration through the neocon-Straussian oligarchic network staged the 9/11 attacks; or at least use the phrase ‘a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration,’ which is what I will insert in the text. My apologies to Mr. Tarpley if he was offended by my summary of his claims about the alleged conspiracy.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement

There is no question that author Webster Griffin Tarpley has become a divisive and destructive force within the U.S. antiwar movement. The real question is why antiwar activists would pay him any attention in the first place. Activists are in an uproar over an incident at a peace encampment in Keenebunkport, Maine where Tarpley is implicated in a stunt where well-known peace activists such as Jamilla El-Shafei, Cindy Sheehan, Dahlia Wasfi, and Ann Wright were tricked into signing a document they thought was merely a call for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. The fine print in the document echoes Tarpley’s claim that Cheney is plotting a pre-election coup using a domestic terrorist attack as an excuse.
Tarpley is a former acolyte of crackpot and convicted felon Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. You remember LaRouche. He is generally described as a perennial Presidential candidate who once said the Queen of England ran the global drug trade. Tarpley may have left the LaRouche group, but it has not left him. Tarpley acts as a sockpuppet for LaRouche, spreading delirious venom throughout the antiwar movement. The LaRouche group has a long history of conning people into signing statements based on misleading descriptions of the actual text. Déjà vu.

With so much factual evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence, malfeasance, and just plain lying on the part of the Bush Administration, there is no reason to spread Tarpley’s gossip. The dramatic erosion of civil liberties in the United States is bad enough without embracing the delusional warnings by Tarpley that “neocons always prefer a coup d’etat to an election.”{1}

The current tempest traces back to July 4 th, 2007 when Philadelphia peace activists held an Emergency Antiwar Convention. It was an attempt to merge the movement against the war in Iraq with the “9/11 Truth” movement. The event featured 9/11 conspiracy films, as well as presentations from Tarpley and another former LaRouchite activist, Lewis DuPont Smith. Attendees issued a Call “In the spirit of our Declaration of Independence” urging others to join activist organizations throughout the country to collaborate and forge common strategies and actions.”{2} The statement included the phrase: “ Government by the People, not by cliques of bankers and financiers,” which could have been copied from a number of Nazi publications from the 1930s which identified the culprits as Jews.

Tarpley has introduced similar statements at other meetings, including one in Chicago.{3}  A few weeks later, with his star rising in the antiwar movement, Tarpley posted a long article on the Jeff Rense website warning: “Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer, Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him.”{4}

According to Tarpley, antiwar activists needed to quickly confront “the Cheney doctrine, which calls for a new super 9/11 with weapons of mass destruction in the US, to be used as the pretext for a nuclear attack on Iran and for martial law at home.”{5}

This is not the first time Tarpley has predicted an apocalyptic political event. In 2004, he posted a warning: “Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election.”{6} The election, needless to say, actually took place as scheduled, although there were legitimate complaints about vote suppression to benefit Republican candidates.

Tarpley is co-author (with LaRouche researcher Anton Chaitkin){7}, of the book George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, originally published by the LaRouche publishing house.{8}Progressive author and blogger David Neiwert reviewed the book, noting that “Like most LaRouche texts:”

…the Bush “biography” is a mélange of fact and distortion, written in a highly suppositional style that makes numerous leaps of logic and asserts connections where there is no real evidence to support it, at other times omitting exculpatory or contrary information that reveals a more complete picture. Sifting through it requires a great deal of work, but there are nuggets of fact woven into their text that are substantiated and which deserve proper consideration.{9}

In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.{10} [Note: specifically a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration – see blog post that follows] LaRouche takes a similar position. According to LaRouche the attacks on 9/11 should be:

”recognized, sooner or later, as the product of a witting “inside job.” Finally, my detailed knowledge of the onrushing strategic crisis within which those attacks were situated, allowed no other conclusion, than that this was an attempted military coup d’état with a global strategic purpose of the most ominous implications imaginable.”{11}

While continuing to follow the polluted path blazed by notorious crackpot and homophobic antisemite Lyndon LaRouche, Tarpley is a regular contributor and featured poster on the Jeff Rense website. If we can set aside the UFO mania found on Rense.com, there is still the promotion of Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

At some point leaders of the antiwar movement need to have a discussion about the larger issue of conspiracism. Right now, however, it is clear that some progressives have been snared by Tarpley’s mesmerizing presentations. This could undermine the credibility of the antiwar movement, alienate its existing base, and jeopardize its relationship with existing allies. This should be obvious no matter what your individual position is on the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11. The antiwar movement needs to welcome individuals from a broad range of political beliefs who share the goal of ending the war in Iraq. However this open door policy should not include allowing charlatans and hucksters to disrupt the movement. It is time to slam the door in the face of Webster G. Tarpley and his ilk.


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Sources:

{1} Webster G. Tarpley, “Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer: Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him,” 7-21-7, http://www.rense.com/general77/chens.htm.

{2} “The ‘Act-Independent United Front Program’, submitted By Webster Griffin Tarpley and approved by The Philadelphia Emergency Anti-War Convention, July 4, 2007’ The Philadelphia Platform,’ http://www.waronfreedom.org/tarpley/philly.html. See the: event described at http://actindependent.org/, and http://actindependent.org/peac.html, and the full statement at http://actindependent.org/philadelphiaplatform.pdf. See http://www.waronfreedom.org/tarpley/chicago-resolution.html.

{3} “9/11 Truth — The Key To Stopping World War III, Resolution Submitted To The 911 Chicago Truth Conference, June 2-4, 2006. This resolution was presented to the final plenary meeting of the conference by Webster G. Tarpley and acclaimed by voice vote. Tarpley is the author of the book, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”

{4} See also, Tarpley, “Helicopter Ben Unleashes Dollar Hyperinflation,” 8-12-7,http://www.rense.com/general77/ben.htm.

{5} See http://www.rense.com/general77/chens.htm.

{6} As of September 11, 2007, the Tarpley article is still on Michel Chossudovsky’s Global Research website: Webster Griffin Tarpley, “Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election, posted July 10, 2004, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/TAR407B.html.

{7} A recent article by Anton Chaitkin is BAE, Baroness Symons in Black Operations Against LaRouche, July 6, 2007, http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2007/3427bae_antilar_ops.html.

{8} Tarpley, Webster Griffin and Anton Chaitkin. (1992). George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Washington, DC: Executive Intelligence Review.

{9} David Neiwert, “Bush, the Nazis and America,” September 07, 2003, http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2003/09/bush-nazis-and-america_07.html

{10} Tarpley’s book is published by Progressive Press, http://www.waronfreedom.org, which also publishes a book by Eric Hufschmid, Painful Questions . Hufschmid is described as one of the researchers “who openly mix 9/11 skepticism with Holocaust denial or revisionism,” see “Holocaust Denial Versus 9/11 Truth,” http://911review.com/denial/holocaust.html.

{11} Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., “Zbigniew Brzezinski and September 11th”, Executive Intelligence Review, January 11, 2001, http://www.larouchepub.com/lar/2002/2901zbig_sept11.html.


Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who doesn’t want to prevent terrorism and violence? Not many folks I would imagine. So why am I in a snit over the federal legislative proposal H.R. 1955: the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007”? Because it is a $22 million foot in the door that could lead to the same type of government surveillance abuse that was denounced by Congress, the media, and activists in the 1970s.

Liberal congressional representatives apparently were sucker punched by the language and oddly forgetful of past government intelligence gathering abuses. It could easily turn into another privatized federally-funded giant slush fund for politically-connected hacks.

Anyone who remembers the infamous FBI Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) will recall how compiling files on the ideological leanings of dissenters opened the door to a systematic campaign of illegal surveillance and disruption, spawned tens of millions of pages of spy files, and even led to the murders of political activists—primarily people of color. Just read the text of the legislation, and these claims of potential abuse seem absurd. Have I become a paranoid conspiracy theorist? I don’t think so, but explaining why takes some doing. But isn’t protecting our civil liberties worth a little effort? Let’s start with the Bill itself, the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.”

On October 22, the House of Representatives passed 404 – 6 a bill authorizing $22 million for the establishment of a “ National Commission On The Prevention Of Violent Radicalization And Ideologically Based Violence.” Read the text and follow the legislation here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-1955.

Two of the opponents were on opposite sides of the political spectrum: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio. That’s a clue in itself, but the text of the legislation seems innocuous. It sets up a short term study commission and a permanent government funded study center.

In its findings of fact, the House stated:

(5) Understanding the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence is a vital step toward eradicating these threats in the United States.

Sounds OK, we need to understand more about how terrorism works, but none of these terms are adequately defined. Does violent radicalization include reading the work of leftist Che Guevara or rightist Otto Strasser? Last time I checked, it was legal to propose the violent overthrow of the Unites States government, as long as you didn’t suggest when and where. Still if these are the Thought Police, they are just studying the matter…or are they? Check out the next paragraph:

(6) Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily accomplished solely through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and can benefit from the incorporation of State and local efforts.

Wait, “ Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists”? How would that work? And why does it need the further integration of Federal, State, and local intelligence and law enforcement efforts? We saw the integration of integration of Federal, State, and local intelligence and law enforcement efforts under the FBI COINTELPRO operations; and they included cooperation from private, corporate, and right-wing spies. Couldn’t happen again? It already has, as outlined in a number of articles on just this sort of integrated effort in cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Denver. Check out http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/profiling.htmlhttp://www.commondreams.org/headlines/091000-04.htmhttp://www.publiceye.org/liberty/Maldon.html.

And remember, the whole idea is prevention:

(1) The development and implementation of methods and processes that can be utilized to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States is critical to combating domestic terrorism.

And the Internet is a special target:

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.

How would this “prevention” activity actually work? Will they track Internet browsing? How about what books we buy or take out of the local library?

This is not just a study commission; there is a permanent “ Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.”

According to the legislation, “The Center shall assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States” and develop “methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.”

Why does this matter. Aren’t there safeguards? Well, since the Reagan Administration took office in 1980, we have seen the continuous erosion of the safeguards put in place in response to COINTELPRO and other examples of surveillance abuse by the federal government. Furthermore, what began as surveillance and data collection became an illegal FBI scheme to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” political dissidents that were seen as threatening the security of the United States. These targets were portrayed as “violent radicals.” Now the fear of terrorism has replaced the fear of subversion by radicals. With the new legislation, both hot buttons are pushed.

It is the penchant for data collection that gets government agencies in trouble with the Bill of Rights in the first place, according to the late Frank Donner:

“Intelligence in the United States serves as an instrument for resolving a major contradiction in the American political system: how to protect the status quo while maintaining the forms of liberal political democracy.”

Since evidence of actual wrongdoing was minimal, Donner suggested that within the intelligence community, “The selection of targets for surveillance, operations such as informer infiltration and wiretapping, and file storage practices reflect what may be called the politics of deferred reckoning, the need to know all about the enemy in preparation for a life or death showdown…” The intelligence community “anticipated” threats by relying on “ideology, not behavior, theory not practice.” It treated activities which might be aimed–some time in the future–at undermining the government, as subversive. According to Donner:

“Domestic countersubversive intelligence is, in theory, future-oriented: ‘subversive’ activities are, in the language of the Bureau, those aimed at future overthrow, destruction, or undermining of the government, regardless of how legitimate these activities might currently be or how tenuous the link between present intentions and ultimate action.”

As the specifics of the popular culture changed, so did the language used to describe the menace, although the institutionalized procedures remained remarkably constant-merely made more efficient with the advent and advances of computer technology. In the genesis of witch hunts, subversive begat extremist which begat terrorist. Donner noted the addition of the term “extremist” to the countersubversive arsenal of demonizing language, and discussed how the Reagan Administration and the New Right used the term “terrorist” to marginalize dissident groups.

I frequently write about homegrown violence and domestic terrorism carried out by a few people in right-wing social movements. I have also written about how some militant Islamic movements are forms of theocratic neofascism. So I am worried about violence and terrorism, but I am alsoworried about civil liberties, and sit on the board of the Defending Dissent Foundation. I suspect that this new initiative would quickly devolve into providing justifications for more political repression against Muslims and Arabs and people of color including Mexicans. We are a nation oozing xenophobia and nativism as pandering politicians make quite clear in the frequent drum beats about borders and the rule of law.

I fear that this new “Center for Excellence” will produce politicized research that will inevitably be bent toward the service of whatever administration is in power–Republican or Democrat. It can easily become a mechanism by which serious scholarly research will continue to be underfunded, and by which politically connected cronies of the current administration get cash in a pork barrel.

There are already government agencies that fund scholarly research into violence and terrorism. To centralize this research into a specific so-called Center of Excellence just means the ability to sidestep existing peer review systems, strict academic privacy safeguards for data collection, and the process of competitive proposals already being submitted by serious scholars.

An example of this type of semi-privatized centralized plan is the National Endowment for Democracy, (NED) which neatly circumvents the U.S. State Department and sets up a privatized foreign policy apparatus. The National Endowment for Democracy is a giant slush fund for political hacks who meddle in the internal policies of other countries. If other countries funded such a program sending political hacks to the United States to meddle in our elections we would all be outraged.

So in my view, H.R. 1955: the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” is, like the NED, just another federal government scheme to sneak around existing processes for oversight and public scrutiny.

The issue is not the need to fund serious scholarly research into terrorism violence and bigotry. The issue is whether or not we want our tax dollars wasted by political cronies providing the type of answers the current administration wants. This is not to suggest that individual scholars would be the hacks, it is that by circumventing the traditional scholarly process which includes privacy restrictions and peer review, the proposed study commission achieves two politicized functions:

1) Researchers could collect the type of data that government agencies are currently forbidden to do because of past abuses regarding surveillance and data collection, and there is no guarantee that individualized information would not be passed to law enforcement agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.

2) The scholars chosen would reflect a skewed collection favoring research and analytical models that are biased in favor of the views and legislative desires of the current administration. This is true whether it is a Republican or a Democrat in the Oval Office.

None of this is necessary. News Flash! There are already a number of excellent centers that study terrorism and violence in the United States. Among the centers I have worked with are the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, http://www.violence.neu.edu/; the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State Santa Barbara; http://hatemonitor.csusb.edu/index_old.html; and the Hate Crimes Research Network at Portland State University in Oregon.

If you are a conservative, consider the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford, http://www.hoover.org/.

Then there are a gaggle of individual scholars who already write on these subjects.

One of the sharpest is Jessica Stern at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. According to Stern, the work is already well developed. She writes about the causes of terrorism:

…it is worth considering the causes of terrorism. Several possible root causes have been identified, including, among others, poverty, lack of education, abrogation of human rights, the perception that the enemy is weak-willed. I’ve been interviewing terrorists around the world over the past five years. Those I interviewed cite many reasons for choosing a life of holy war, and I came to despair of identifying a single root cause of terrorism. But the variable that came up most frequently was not poverty or human-rights abuses, but perceived humiliation. Humiliation emerged at every level of the terrorist groups I studied — leaders and followers. http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/news/opeds/2004/stern_jihad_ds_020504.htm

In the United States, my research leads me to argue that this is humiliation rooted in a sense of betrayal by government officials. It is this sense that led Timothy McVeigh to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma. This was in part generated by government failures and abuses related to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas and the Weaver Family survivalist retreat at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. It was behind the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, by three skinheads in Portland, Oregon.

There are many other public intellectuals and scholars who study terrorism and violence. For example Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence; James Aho who has studied the Christian Identity movement; David Cook who studies how apocalypticism is generating dualism and violence within sectors of Islam; Nicholas N. Kittrie who explores the boundaries of dissent and violence; Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins who write about “Religious Totalism, Exemplary Dualism,” and the propensity for violence; George Michael, author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right. There are dozens more including Michael Barkun; Catherine Wessinger; Mark Hamm; Kathleen Blee; Jeffry Bale; Carol Mason; Lane Crothers, Abby L. Ferber, Patrick Minges; Betty Dobratz; Jack Levin, Brenda Brasher; Jack McDevitt, Stephanie Shanks-Meile; David Norman Smith; Jean E. Rosenfeld, Lorna Mason. This list was just off the top of my head.

There are also several public institutions not affiliates with a university, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Facing History and Ourselves, (which conducts research as well as producing an exemplary curriculum). I sometimes disagree with what these groups have to say, but they have produced a substantial body of work that creates a public dialogue without a “Center for Excellence.”

I have a much cheaper plan than the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” In fact it doesn’t add a red cent to the existing taxpayer burden…it’s called a library card.

Tell the Senate to reject this pending legislation, and refer those interested in more information to the Library of Congress, it’s a block away from the U.S. Capitol building, and it is free to the public. What a deal!


The section on Frank Donner and history is adapted from “Government Intelligence Abuse: The Theories of Frank Donner,” http://www.publiceye.org/liberty/donner.html.


For more background:

http://www.aals.org/clinical2004/fisher.pdf

http://www.publiceye.org/liberty/repression/history.html


For other stories by progressives about this legislation:

“Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act”,
Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times.

“Bringing the War on Terrorism Home:
Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States,”
Jessica Lee, The Indypendent.

“Enemies of the State,”
Wendy Kaminer, The Phoenix

“Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent,”
Amy Goodman interviews Jessica Lee and Kamau Karl Franklin.

t r u t h o u t | Report 
Matt Renner

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

War on Christimas – Who wrote it?

Here is a gem from the past:

“And it has become pretty general. Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth.”

Where and when did this appear?  Take a guess. Bill O’Reilly? Wrong. Guess again. World Net Daily? Nope…read on…

Here is some more of the text:

“Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find.

Still not clear?

“Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards. And even in this business one comes upon that same policy of declaring Anti-Semitic everything that is Christian. If Rabbi Coffey says the New Testament is the most Anti-Semitic book ever written, what must be the judgement on an Easter card that is truly an Easter card?”

Getting an inkling? How about this text?

“There has not been any ‘persecution’ of the Jews in the United States and never will be any, but all that the Jews have had to carry in the way of misunderstanding has been the result of the leadership which has misled them into paths of bloated ambition, instead of substantial human achievement.”

Year? — 1921

Source? — One of the nastiest antisemitic tracts ever published in English: The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, Chapter 36.

Originally published as an article,
“‘Jewish Rights’ to Put Studies Out of Schools,”
THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 19 March 1921.

Collected in:

Henry Ford and the staff of the Dearborn Independent, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.  1920-1922,  Vols. 1-4.
Chapter 36: “Jewish Rights” to Put Studies Out of Schools.
Republished. Reedy, WV: Liberty Bell Publications, 1976.
Originally published Dearborn, MI: The Dearborn Publishing Company, 1920-1922. Primarily consists of reprints of a series of articles from Ford’s Dearborn Independent in book form.
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_International_Jew:_The_World’s_Foremost_Problem/Chapter_36


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

OK: Secret Rogue Faction that Runs the Bush Administration

Note: Please read this previous post first: “Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement” and then this post will make more sense. I am an opponent of conspiracy theories in general and this one about the Bush Administraion in particular. This was meant as a clarification of wording in my previous post, not an endorement of a conspiracy theory. -cb

= = =

In my recent post on Webster Tarpley I wrote that:

“In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”

Critics have suggested this meant I had not actually read Tarpley’s book. I have read the book. In it Tarpley contends that the Bush Administration is controlled by a secret invisible government, and that 9/11 was part of a plan to put pressure on George W. Bush as President to ensure that he continued to follow the foreign policy and economic game plan provided to him by the oligarchic faction known as the neoconservatives. Tarpley goes out is his way to make it clear that he thinks Bush himself is incapable of being part of the staged “Synthetic Terror” event the rest of us call the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

So I specifically did not suggest Bush was behind staging the attacks, I said the Bush Administration. As Tarpley himself points out, if 9/11 was a staged event, it would have been impossible to have been carried out without the complicity of high-ranking government agency and Administration officials, or as he calls it: the “rogue networks of the US invisible government” (p. 432). Specifically, Tarpley writes that the sponsors of 9/11 “were not located in a cave in Afghanistan, but were rather a network located high within the US government and military”(p. 280).

According to Tarpley, in 2004, “with the desperados of the neocon faction calling the shots” the “rogues were once again inclined to” stage another terrorist attack on US soil (p. 397). Tarpley also indicates that he thinks the necons are part of the invisible government apparatus, and that this includes “Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Luti, Schulsky, Scooter Libby, Cambone, Hadley and others who run the Bush administration.” If the neocons run the Bush Administration, and the neocons are part of the secret plot, then the Bush Administration staged the attacks, even if every person in the Administration was not part of the plot. I find all these claims ludicrous, but I can see there is room for misinterpretation due to my shorthand description.

In the future I will make sure I state that Tarpley has written that a secret invisible government which runs the Bush Administration through the neocon-Straussian oligarchic network staged the 9/11 attacks; or at least use the phrase ‘a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration,’ which is what I will insert in the text. My apologies to Mr. Tarpley if he was offended by my summary of his claims about the alleged conspiracy.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement

There is no question that author Webster Griffin Tarpley has become a divisive and destructive force within the U.S. antiwar movement. The real question is why antiwar activists would pay him any attention in the first place. Activists are in an uproar over an incident at a peace encampment in Keenebunkport, Maine where Tarpley is implicated in a stunt where well-known peace activists such as Jamilla El-Shafei, Cindy Sheehan, Dahlia Wasfi, and Ann Wright were tricked into signing a document they thought was merely a call for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. The fine print in the document echoes Tarpley’s claim that Cheney is plotting a pre-election coup using a domestic terrorist attack as an excuse.
Tarpley is a former acolyte of crackpot and convicted felon Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. You remember LaRouche. He is generally described as a perennial Presidential candidate who once said the Queen of England ran the global drug trade. Tarpley may have left the LaRouche group, but it has not left him. Tarpley acts as a sockpuppet for LaRouche, spreading delirious venom throughout the antiwar movement. The LaRouche group has a long history of conning people into signing statements based on misleading descriptions of the actual text. Déjà vu.

With so much factual evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence, malfeasance, and just plain lying on the part of the Bush Administration, there is no reason to spread Tarpley’s gossip. The dramatic erosion of civil liberties in the United States is bad enough without embracing the delusional warnings by Tarpley that “neocons always prefer a coup d’etat to an election.”{1}

The current tempest traces back to July 4 th, 2007 when Philadelphia peace activists held an Emergency Antiwar Convention. It was an attempt to merge the movement against the war in Iraq with the “9/11 Truth” movement. The event featured 9/11 conspiracy films, as well as presentations from Tarpley and another former LaRouchite activist, Lewis DuPont Smith. Attendees issued a Call “In the spirit of our Declaration of Independence” urging others to join activist organizations throughout the country to collaborate and forge common strategies and actions.”{2} The statement included the phrase: “ Government by the People, not by cliques of bankers and financiers,” which could have been copied from a number of Nazi publications from the 1930s which identified the culprits as Jews.

Tarpley has introduced similar statements at other meetings, including one in Chicago.{3}  A few weeks later, with his star rising in the antiwar movement, Tarpley posted a long article on the Jeff Rense website warning: “Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer, Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him.”{4}

According to Tarpley, antiwar activists needed to quickly confront “the Cheney doctrine, which calls for a new super 9/11 with weapons of mass destruction in the US, to be used as the pretext for a nuclear attack on Iran and for martial law at home.”{5}

This is not the first time Tarpley has predicted an apocalyptic political event. In 2004, he posted a warning: “Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election.”{6} The election, needless to say, actually took place as scheduled, although there were legitimate complaints about vote suppression to benefit Republican candidates.

Tarpley is co-author (with LaRouche researcher Anton Chaitkin){7}, of the book George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, originally published by the LaRouche publishing house.{8}Progressive author and blogger David Neiwert reviewed the book, noting that “Like most LaRouche texts:”

…the Bush “biography” is a mélange of fact and distortion, written in a highly suppositional style that makes numerous leaps of logic and asserts connections where there is no real evidence to support it, at other times omitting exculpatory or contrary information that reveals a more complete picture. Sifting through it requires a great deal of work, but there are nuggets of fact woven into their text that are substantiated and which deserve proper consideration.{9}

In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.{10} [Note: specifically a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration – see blog post that follows] LaRouche takes a similar position. According to LaRouche the attacks on 9/11 should be:

”recognized, sooner or later, as the product of a witting “inside job.” Finally, my detailed knowledge of the onrushing strategic crisis within which those attacks were situated, allowed no other conclusion, than that this was an attempted military coup d’état with a global strategic purpose of the most ominous implications imaginable.”{11}

While continuing to follow the polluted path blazed by notorious crackpot and homophobic antisemite Lyndon LaRouche, Tarpley is a regular contributor and featured poster on the Jeff Rense website. If we can set aside the UFO mania found on Rense.com, there is still the promotion of Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

At some point leaders of the antiwar movement need to have a discussion about the larger issue of conspiracism. Right now, however, it is clear that some progressives have been snared by Tarpley’s mesmerizing presentations. This could undermine the credibility of the antiwar movement, alienate its existing base, and jeopardize its relationship with existing allies. This should be obvious no matter what your individual position is on the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11. The antiwar movement needs to welcome individuals from a broad range of political beliefs who share the goal of ending the war in Iraq. However this open door policy should not include allowing charlatans and hucksters to disrupt the movement. It is time to slam the door in the face of Webster G. Tarpley and his ilk.


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Sources:

{1} Webster G. Tarpley, “Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer: Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him,” 7-21-7, http://www.rense.com/general77/chens.htm.

{2} “The ‘Act-Independent United Front Program’, submitted By Webster Griffin Tarpley and approved by The Philadelphia Emergency Anti-War Convention, July 4, 2007’ The Philadelphia Platform,’ http://www.waronfreedom.org/tarpley/philly.html. See the: event described at http://actindependent.org/, and http://actindependent.org/peac.html, and the full statement at http://actindependent.org/philadelphiaplatform.pdf. See http://www.waronfreedom.org/tarpley/chicago-resolution.html.

{3} “9/11 Truth — The Key To Stopping World War III, Resolution Submitted To The 911 Chicago Truth Conference, June 2-4, 2006. This resolution was presented to the final plenary meeting of the conference by Webster G. Tarpley and acclaimed by voice vote. Tarpley is the author of the book, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”

{4} See also, Tarpley, “Helicopter Ben Unleashes Dollar Hyperinflation,” 8-12-7,http://www.rense.com/general77/ben.htm.

{5} See http://www.rense.com/general77/chens.htm.

{6} As of September 11, 2007, the Tarpley article is still on Michel Chossudovsky’s Global Research website: Webster Griffin Tarpley, “Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election, posted July 10, 2004, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/TAR407B.html.

{7} A recent article by Anton Chaitkin is BAE, Baroness Symons in Black Operations Against LaRouche, July 6, 2007, http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2007/3427bae_antilar_ops.html.

{8} Tarpley, Webster Griffin and Anton Chaitkin. (1992). George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Washington, DC: Executive Intelligence Review.

{9} David Neiwert, “Bush, the Nazis and America,” September 07, 2003, http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2003/09/bush-nazis-and-america_07.html

{10} Tarpley’s book is published by Progressive Press, http://www.waronfreedom.org, which also publishes a book by Eric Hufschmid, Painful Questions . Hufschmid is described as one of the researchers “who openly mix 9/11 skepticism with Holocaust denial or revisionism,” see “Holocaust Denial Versus 9/11 Truth,” http://911review.com/denial/holocaust.html.

{11} Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., “Zbigniew Brzezinski and September 11th”, Executive Intelligence Review, January 11, 2001, http://www.larouchepub.com/lar/2002/2901zbig_sept11.html.


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Monday, July 09, 2007

For Progressives who Vote Democratic but Value Human Rights

Human Rights are Not Political Commodities

We understand the same First Amendment that guarantees separation of church and state guarantees the rights of Christian conservatives to defend their views in the public square, and to seek redress of grievances through a variety of political and social channels.

In recent months, however, we have seen indications that some in the leadership of the Democratic Party, and some of its candidates for public office, are seeking the votes of Christian conservatives by suggesting there is room to compromise on reproductive rights and gay rights.

While public debates over social issues are a sign of a healthy democracy; we do not believe is proper for politicians to negotiate away basic human rights for any group of people in the United States.

The problem is not “abortion” or “reducing the number of abortions.” The problem is unwanted pregnancies, how to prevent them, and how to support women who get pregnant in the decisions they deem appropriate. This includes access to legal and safe contraception and abortion; as well as access to health care and child care for women who choose to give birth and raise children—concepts seen as fundamental rights in other industrialized countries. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors who are women, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

The problem is not “gay rights” or “gay marriage.” The problem is building a society where the basic human rights of all people are respected and defended. Under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no such thing as “Special Rights.” When some Christian conservatives claim that gay people want “Special Rights,” it is a falsehood. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors in LGBTQ communities, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

We intend to vote in the upcoming elections in 2008, and we intend to vote for candidates who make it crystal clear that they support basic human rights for all. At the same time, we will continue to build broad and diverse coalitions seeking fundamental progressive social change. As we rebuild our progressive social movement, we will pay special attention to politicians who have through words or actions objectively undermined basic human rights for women, the LGBTQ communities, or any other group in our society.


If you agree with the above statement, visit the contact page for the Democratic National Committee: http://www.democrats.org/page/s/contactissues; fill in the contact form with your e-mail and Zip Code; and paste this pledge into the “Questions” box.

This is my personal tirade, and is not connected to any of the several organizations for which I work or volunteer.
Post comments at Talk to Action. –Chip Berlet

 

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bush, Constitutional Threats, and the Christian Right

That the Bush administration is disturbingly power hungry is amply documented in a recent article, “The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism,” by Erwin Chemerinsky in the UC Davis Law Review. While some Christian Right leaders sleep tight in the secure knowledge that the brightly burning Bush has God’s help in illuminating the shadows of terror; others fear it is the flames of a new witch hunt prophesizing ungodly dangers.

So some of us who work to defend and extend civil liberties in the United States find ourselves in coalitions with Christian Right staff and ideologues inside the beltway; and sometimes outside the beltway in that vast area between New York and Los Angeles often overlooked by DC policy wonks. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and some of us have struggled with the questions surrounding such coalition work. Where are the proper boundaries for even limited cooperation?

There is a real danger facing civil libertarians (and all of us!) under the Bush Administration. Chemerinsky, a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, warns that

“Throughout American history, the government’s response to threats has been repression. The war on terrorism is now over four years old and shows no signs of abating. Authorities have imprisoned some individuals without due process for nearly that long and have given no indication about possible release. These detentions have lasted longer than either World War I or World War II. In addition, the loss of freedom to average citizens has been enormous and, most disturbingly, there is no reason to believe that the country has been made any safer by the loss of liberty.”

Serendipity brought me the Chemerinsky article; my son is on the board of editors of the UC Davis Law Review and sent me a copy. As it happens, Chemerinsky and I are both on the board of advisors to the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DEFCON). We were bombarded with e-mails from supporters of Dr. James Dobson after DEFCON criticized Dobson’s refusal to find a problem in his being used as a shill in a questionable lobbying campaign cooked up by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

At the same time, I was on the board of a group, now renamed the Defending Dissent Foundation, with a DC staff person who found herself at meetings with representatives of several Christian Right groups such as Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation. This wing of the Christian Right was worried about civil liberties, executive power, and political repression.

As is often the case, Justice Louis D. Brandeis summarized the issue in elegant (if dated) language:

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
–Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

One reason to see the complexity in the various sectors of the Christian Right is that there are times when some of us find ourselves on the same side of an issue.

If our typical response to the Christian Right is to use alarmist and demonizing rhetoric, we miss opportunities for parallel tactical activities toward a common goal, even if we are reluctant (for good reason) to form long-term strategic coalitions.

Sources:

Erwin Chemerinsky, “The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism,” UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2006: pp. 3-20.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Real Christian Conscience and Commitment

On Sunday, April 29th hundreds of us gathered at the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, Illinois to celebrate the life and mourn the death of John Curtis Koehler. “Curt” was a high school teacher, journalist, printer, civil rights and labor activist, and fan of music and theater. Curt was born in 1950 and died April 7, 2007 after a mighty struggle against brain cancer. Curt’s wife, the Rev. Denise Griebler, and their two children were there when a seizure robbed Curt of life.

Curt’s sense of humor was indomitable. Being rolled into the operating theater for brain surgery, a nurse asked Curt what he wanted her to pray for. “Peace in the world,” he replied.

We both shared a strange sense of humor when we first met over 40 years ago in junior high school in suburban northern New Jersey. We also attended the same Presbyterian Church where we became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. In our youth group we read the essay by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Curt and I worked with another church youth group member, Sue Kaiser, along with several friends, to set up a church coffeehouse (it was in the sanctuary—our church had no basement). We traded entertainment with another church coffeehouse up the road. I went and read poetry at the “Escarole” coffeehouse, while our coffeehouse, the “Purple Kumquat,” got the teenage singing duo Maggie and Terre Roche, who later were joined by their sister Suzzy and became the folk trio the Roches. (So as it turned out, it was not an even trade).

Along with another young woman from our area, Curt, Sue, and I were sent as youth delegates to a National Council of Churches conference on Church and Society in Detroit in 1967. I’ve forgotten the name of the other young woman, and it was not reported in our local papers at the time, since she was Black, and thus was excised from the photograph of the four of us who were delegates from our region.

In Detroit we had our complacent White suburban ideas challenged. We saw an amazing multimedia presentation put together by Harvey Cox and examining racism, war, poverty, and other issues. One night some of us went over to the local underground newspaper. We joined other youth delegates to stage a “love feast” in a nearby park where we fed the hungry and celebrated life along with some Diggers who were driving back to California after the attempt to levitate the Pentagon in an antiwar rally. Margaret Mead sent over a pomegranate, with a note saying that it was the fruit of love, and thus no proper “love feast” could be staged without it. I’ve always wondered who ended up with that collectable note?

When we arrived back in New Jersey, our pastor, the Rev. Robert Hugh Reed, sent us a clipping from the December 1967 issue of a conservative Baptist newspaper, the Crusader. “Extremists Prominent in US Conference on Church and Society” blared the headline.

“The group studying ‘The Role of Violence in Social Change” sharply criticized the church for lack of action against what it calls the ‘systemic’ violence in our society—’practices which exact exorbitant interest rates from the poor, inadequate health systems…inadequate housing…police practices that result in death and injury….’ It urged that non-violent efforts to get rid of systemic violence should move beyond marches and picketing to massive campaign[s] in civil disobedience, non-cooperation with the state, strike, and economic boycotts.”

Precisely! Heavens…what are we waiting for? In King’s Letter he observes: ” We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed…. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.”
The Crusader also griped about our religious services:

“Worship services at the conference were almost as revolutionary as the problems the conference dealt with: A young dancer in an electric blue leotard interpreted words of the fortieth Psalm; and excerpts from the morning newspapers were interjected into the traditional liturgy.”

Heavens! Precisely! What’s the problem? Oh, that’s right, it is all “extremism.” Well, King had something to say about that too:

” though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love … Amos an extremist for justice …Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel … Was Not Martin Luther an extremist … Abraham Lincoln … And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.…”

The Rev. Denise Griebler, is the pastor at St. Michaels United Church of Christ in Illinois. She is also a longstanding social justice activist. The UCC is the target of another campaign against so-called “extremism,” this time funded by right-wing ideologues who claim the name of God to defend their unfair and disproportionate power, wealth and privilege. They have the audacity to use the name “Institute on Religion and Democracy,” when what they are doing is undermining democracy. They claim the name “renewal” when what they are doing is deeply reactionary, repressive, and regressive.

On the website of St. Michaels United Church of Christ is the note:

IF…

…you understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally

…you know that God’s love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity

…you believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that social expression of love is justice, and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from commitment to the natural world

…you’ve wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children

THEN…

…we invite you to join us at St. Michael’s UCC and explore all the ways that God is still speaking.

The Rev. Denise Griebler is one of the many Christian leaders throughout the world working for real democracy and renewal. I treasure the times that Curt and I celebrated communion together under the blessing of Denise and in the company of our friends. Curt will be remembered as one who walked the walk. We can do no less.


Post comments on this article at http://www.talk2action.org/story/2007/5/7/203427/5598.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Christian Nationalist “Minutemen” Convening in Lexington, MA?

Some of the same Christian Nationalists who helped fan the media hysteria over the staged events tied to “Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC” have called for a convocation April 19th-21st, 2007, of contemporary Christian patriot “Minutemen” at the historic Battle Green in Lexington, MA to save America from the new tryanny of the courts and the spreading sinful stain of homosexual marriage.The convention is titled: “Someone Has Stolen My Country And I Want Her Back” and it is announced that at this meeting, just as the Minutlemen of 1776 rejected oppressive rule, the attendees will gather to reject the court decision at an event “Where we will have no other king but KING JESUS!” What prompted this new crusade is a federal court decision that the solution for parents who object to every aspect of a gay-tolerant curriculum is to send their children to private schools rather than having the courts favor their minority viewpoint by rewriting the curriculum. This, in the framing of the Christian Nationalists, is “judicial tyranny.”

According to an announcement from Minutemen United:

“It seems as if Lexington, Mass. is ground zero in the battle for the soul of America. Just last week a Federal Judge in Boston threw out a law suit by David Parker. To read more about the Parker’s legal battle with the government schools read here. When tossing the Parker case the judge said that normalizing homosexuality to young children is ‘ reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.’ According to Wolf, this means teaching ‘diversity’ which includes differences in sexual orientation. This case is about the rights of parents to ‘train a child in the way that he should go.’ The courts are consistently ruling against parents.”
http://minutemenunited.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=717

What follows is more detailed information:

The Convention

Sponsored by The Patriot Pastor & The Heroes of Liberty & The Minutemen United

LEXINGTON MASSACHUSETTS …

THE CRADLE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY AND FREEDOM

April 19th-21st 2007 AD

The convention has rented the Knights of Columbus Hall at 177 Bedford St. in Lexington.

The Trumpet is being sounded again

To All Who Can Hear The Clarion Call and Respond.

There is an Alarm being sent through out The Nation from Sea to Shining Sea.

http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/lexington/

You can find one version of the flyer at: http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/lexington/Lex07fly.pdf5.pdf

The Heroes of Liberty may refer to the “Black-robed” ministers of the colonies called the “Black Regiment,” according to Lear, who appears in full colonial regalia in photos on his website.

http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/regiment.shtml

Lear appears a bit of a Falstaff in one photo where he stands next to an artful sign proclaiming:

Biblical View
of Government
…state is
Divinely
Ordained
…state authority is
Limited
…leads to
Patriotism
…results in Republic
…based on
Creation

Minutemen United

The group Minutemen United describes itself:

“Minutemen United is a group of men and women dedicated to creating an environment where Christian thoughts, ideals and leaders can get traction in the marketplace of ideas. We hail from New York to California and are headquartered in Ohio ‘the heart of it all’. “

“We recognize and honor those brave souls who prayed, lived and died for our Constitutional Republic. We believe the founding fathers “got it” when they created a ruling document and supporting instruments that serve and undeniably recognize our creator – the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob.”

http://www.minutemenunited.org/

According to Minutemen United:

“In April of 2006 a group of Christian Patriots traveled to Danbury, Connecticut and held a prayer vigil at the site of the original Danbury Baptist Church. It was at that church that the course of America changed when the Baptist constructed a letter to then-President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s response of 1801 contained the much-quoted line “separation of church and state” that was eventually made law by Justice Hugo Black and the Supremes in 1947.”
http://www.minutemenunited.org/

Minutemen United is run by Dave Daubenmire:

“Dave Daubenmire, a veteran 25 year high school football coach, was spurred to action when attacked and eventually sued by the ACLU in the late 1990’s for alledgedly mixing prayer with his coaching.”

“More than two centuries later we believe that America is facing another crisis. If God fearing men and women do not arise to action NOW, we believe that the very sovereignty of this great nation may once again be in jeopardy. It is our belief that the only thing that can save this nation is a return to Christ. We declare Him to be our Commander-in-Chief, and choose to fight the battle by standing on the Word of God.”

http://www.minutemenunited.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=14

Coach Dave Daubenmir also runs “Pass the Salt Ministries.”

http://www.ptsalt.com/

“Challenging the ‘church of the Status Quo’, Pass The Salt is calling Christians to engage the culture. By taking the fight to the enemy Coach Daubenmire has become a recognizable voice with the media as he is an unashamed, articulate, apologist for the Christian world view. Coach’s willingness to stand with Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC, has enabled him to partner with some of the nationally known voices in America.”

“In addition to his weekly radio show, Coach has made regular national appearances on Hannity and Colmes, CBS Evening News, Scarborough Country on MSNBC, Fox News, The Edge with Paula Zahn, Dayside with Linda Vester, and Court TV.”
http://www.ptsalt.com/about

Featured products include an audio series titled “Rebuilding the Walls:”

http://www.ptsalt.com/products/

Massachusetts was the site of the 2006 Liberty Sunday rally which I wrote about previously:

October 15: Liberty Sunday – Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/10/9/19229/8084

Liberty Sunday: Gay Bashing for Republican Victory


Post comments on this article at Talk2Action.


Friday, March 16, 2007

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Eight: The Child, the Family, the Nation, and the World

This series has traced the role of early Calvinism on a particular aspect of theocratic Christian nationalism that fits neatly into what Michelle Goldberg calls a “totalist political ideology,” (p. 8).Christian nationalists do not just want to enforce narrow authoritarian frameworks on their own children and families–they see this hierarchical model as necessary for reforming the community, the nation, and the entire world.While Christian Right dominionists seem obsessed with gender issues, they have been melded into an ultraconservative political movement that shares with them an interest in two other issue areas: hyper-individualistic libertarian economic policies, and an aggressive unilateral U.S. foreign policy.

John Calvin

The ultraconservative coalition was carefully crafted over many decades. When ultraconservative political strategists saw how many Christian evangelicals voted for “born again” Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976, they set out to pull these voters back into the Republican Party to reshape it and move it to the political right (Berlet & Lyons: pp. 220-224; see note one).As Matthew N. Lyons and I explain in Right-Wing Populism in America:

“A key step in this movement-building process took place in 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to a meeting with right-wing strategists Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. The main idea was to push the issue of abortion as a way to split social conservatives away from the Democratic Party. This meeting came up with the idea of the “Moral Majority,” which Falwell turned into an organization. The New Right coalition really jelled at this point with the creation of a frame of reference with which to mobilize a mass base, (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222; citing D’Souza, pp. 105-118; Martin, pp. 200-201; Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 49-63).

Anxiety over changing gender roles were linked in subtle ways to White tensions over race relations.

“Following Wallace’s example, the New Right used coded racial appeals while avoiding explicit ethnic bigotry. Racism was reframed as concern about specific issues such as welfare, immigration, taxes, or education policies. Movement activists such as Viguerie denounced liberal reformism as an elitist attack on regular working people. In some cases, this antielitism drew directly on the produceristtradition” (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222)

For example, ultraconservative activist William Rusher declared that a:

“new economic division pits the producers–businessmen, manufacturers, hard-hats, blue-collar workers, and farmers–against the new and powerful class of non-producers comprised of a liberal verbalist elite (the dominant media, the major foundations and research institutions, the educational establishment, the federal and state bureaucracies) and a semipermanent welfare constituency, all coexisting happily in a state of mutually sustaining symbiosis,”(Rusher: p. 14; see note two)

So gender, race, and collectivism were hot buttons to be pushed along with the classic staple of the Christian Right: fear of communism and the Soviet Union. As Kazin expalins, the New Right coalition was a “multi-issue, multi-constituency offensive” that developed a new set of frames through which to see politics in the United States:

“Conservatives talked like grassroots activists but were able to behave like a counter-elite. Within their coalition were Sunbelt corporations opposed to federal regulation and high taxes; churches mobilized to reverse the spread of “secular humanism”; local groups that protested school busing, sex education, and other forms of bureaucratic meddling in “family issues,” and foundations that endowed a new generation of intellectuals and journalists, (Kazin: p. 247).

The central scapegoats used to mobilize mass support included abortion, gay
rights, and prayer in schools. “Family Values” became a code word for a
particular form of Christian conservative social and political practice.

Since the 1980s and the rise of the Christian Right, public policy regarding social welfare (and especially the treatment of criminals) has echoed the patriarchal and punitive child-rearing practices favored by many Protestant fundamentalists. Most readers will recognize the phrase: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This idea comes from a particular authoritarian version of fundamentalist belief.

According to Greven:

“The authoritarian Christian family is dependent on coercion and pain to obtain obedience to authority within and beyond the family, in the church, the community, and the polity. Modern forms of Christian fundamentalism share the same obsessions with obedience to authority characteristic of earlier modes of evangelical Protestantism, and the same authoritarian streak evident among seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American evangelicals is discernible today, for precisely the same reasons: the coercion of children through painful punishments in order to teach obedience to divine and parental authority,” (Greven: p. 198).

The belief in the awful and eternal punishment of a literal Hell justifies the punishment, shame, and discipline of children by parents who want their offspring to escape a far worse fate. This includes physical or “corporal” forms of punishment. “Many advocates of corporal punishment are convinced that such punishment and pain are necessary to prevent the ultimate destruction and damnation of their children’s souls,” (Greven: p. 62).

This is often accompanied by the idea that a firm male hand rightfully dominates the family and the society, (Greven: p. 199).

The system of authoritarian and patriarchal control used in some families is easily transposed into a framework for conservative public policy, especially in the criminal justice system.

Lakoff explains that on a societal level, according to conservative “Strict Father morality, harsh prison terms for criminals and life imprisonment for repeat offender are the only moral options.” The arguments by conservatives are “moral arguments, not practical arguments. Statistics about which policies do or do not actually reduce crime rates do not count in a morally-based discourse.” These “traditional moral values” conservatives tend not to use explanations based on the concepts of class and social causes, nor do they recommend policy based on those notions,” (Lakoff: p. 201).

According to Lakoff:

For liberals the essence of America is nurturance, part of which is helping those who need help. People who are “trapped” by social and economic forces need help to “escape.” The metaphorical Nurturant Parent–the government–has a duty to help change the social and economic system that traps people. By this logic, the problem is in the society, not in the people innocently “trapped.” If social and economic forces are responsible, then other social and economic forces must be brought to bear to break the “trap.”This whole picture is simply inconsistent with Strict Father morality and the conservative worldview it defines. In that worldview, the class hierarchy is simply a ladder, there to be climbed by anybody with the talent and self-discipline to climb it. Whether or not you climb the ladder of wealth and privilege is only a matter of whether you have the moral strength, character, and inherent talent to do so, (Lakoff: p. 203).

To conservatives, the liberal arguments about class and impoverishment, and institutionalized social forces such as racism and sexism, are irrelevant. They appear to be “excuses for lack of talent, laziness, or some other form of moral weakness,” (Lakoff: p. 203).

Much of this worldview traces to the lingering backbeat of Calvinist theology that infuses “common sense” for many conservatives. To this brand of conservatism, it doesn’t matter if it is the child, the family, the community, the nation, or the entire world: to avoid chaos and immorality, there needs to be a strong authority figure willing to apply punishment, shame, and discipline–verbally if possible–through physical force and violence if need be.

The Bush administration, with the backing of millions of Christian conservatives, seeks to reform the global village by spanking its perceived miscreants–and they have the military arsenal to back up this neo-Calvinist authoritarian worldview.


SourcesBerlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford.

Brooks, Clem, and Jeff Manza. (1996). “The Religious Factor in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1960-1992.” Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, New York, NY. Revised and included in Jeff Manza and Clem Brooks, Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignment and U.S. Party Coalitions (pp. 85-127). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Diamond, Sara. (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1998). Not by Politics Alone: The Enduring Influence of the Christian Right. New York: Guilford Press.

D’Souza, Dinesh. (1984). Falwell, Before the Millennium: A Critical Biography. Chicago: Regnery Gateway.

Green, John C., James L. Guth, and Kevin Hill. (1993). “Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 55, no. 1, February, pp. 80-91.

Greven, Philip. 1991. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Knopf.

Hardisty, Jean V. (1999). Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. (1990). To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kazin, Michael. (1995). The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York: Basic Books.

Lakoff, George. [1996] 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Martin, William. (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Phillips, Kevin P. (1975). Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Rusher, William. (1975). The Making of the New Majority Party. Ottawa, IL: Greenhill Publications.


Note One: On Christian Evangelical Voting Patterns:These are the cites Matthew N. Lyons and I used to explain how we arrived at our survey of voting patterns:

Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 55-56; Roads to Dominion, pp. 172-177, 209-210, 231-233; Not by Politics Alone, pp. 67-69; Himmelstein, To the Right, pp. 122-123; Green, Guth, and Hill, “Faith and Election”; William Martin, With God on Our Side, pp. 148-159, 197-220; Brooks and Manza, “Religious Factor.”

Viguerie estimated that between 5 million and 7.5 million “born-again Christians voted for Nixon or Wallace in 1968 and for Nixon in 1972, but switched to Carter in 1976,” and that he and his allies in the New Right set out to win them back to vote for Reagan in 1980 (Viguerie, New Right, pp. 155-174, quote from p. 156). This figure is probably unrealistically high, but the belief in those numbers helped shape the New Right election strategy.

Diamond credits the addition of 2 million new voters in 1980 to “the combined efforts of Moral Majority, Christian Voice, and New Right electoral vehicles” like Howard Phillips’s Conservative Caucus and Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation (Roads to Dominion, p. 233).

Note Two: On Rusher

The quote from Rusher in Making of the New Majority Party, is also quoted in Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, p. 127. Rusher, in his text, urges readers to consult Kevin Phillips’ book: Mediacracy.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare
Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies
Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism
Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism
Part Eight: The Child, The Family, The Nation, & the World


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 3

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part three of a speech I gave in 2006.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-03.mp3

The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties: Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part three.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-03.mp3

Monday, January 29, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 2

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part two of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part two.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-02.mp3

Monday, January 22, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 1

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part one of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part one.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-01.mp3

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New Christian Right Leadership Network

Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008. For many years the Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference was hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title “Road to Victory.” The Christian Coalition, however, has unraveled as a national group. In late September 2006 a coalition of Christian Right groups stepped into the void and staged a national pre-election conference, the Values Voters Washington Briefing.According to a report published by Political Research Associates, “The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson’s Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right.”

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has partnered with the Family Research Council, and is likely to get more media attention in the coming months as court cases are filed. What follows are some capsule descriptions from the PRA report, by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006:


Family Research Council Action

Focus on the Family was originally located in Southern California, far from the Washington public policy debates during the 1970s. Founder James Dobson created a Washington presence for his organization by starting a think tank/lobbying arm and calling it the Family Research Council. Incorporated in 1983, the FRC was at first a closely aligned with Focus on the Family, becoming more influential under the leadership of Gary Bauer from 1988 to 1990 when Bauer then left to become a candidate for President. Issues around tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC, and now both organizations have 501 c (4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby.The organization has maintained its focus on its definition of family issues: opposition to reproductive rights, homosexuality, and support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator.

Perkins maintains a strong connection to FRC members through his daily web messages from Washington and a print distribution center in Holland, MI, the home of the FRC’s original benefactor, Edgar Prince. In the twenty years since its founding, the FRC has become the premier lobbying arm of the Christian Right in Washington, well positioned to sponsor its recent summit.

Focus on the Family Action

From an Arcadia, CA radio show that began in 1977, Focus on the Family has grown to become the largest Christian Right organization in the country, with a campus of buildings on 50 acres of land in Colorado Springs, CO, an annual budget of $130 million, and its own zip code. James Dobson is its founder, a Christian conservative trained as a child psychologist. While Dobson has always emphasized the evangelical nature of the group, its mission, according to its own 2000 strategy statement, was to motivate “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.”At two points in Focus’ history, it became clear that Dobson would need a separate organization to representing the group when it wished to lobby. First came the Family Research Council in 1983, but as that group developed its own identity, Dobson founded Focus on the Family Action in 2004 to represent his own advocacy interests and once again to protect the 501 c (3) status of his parent organization.

Focus on the Family Action takes a hard line on homosexuality, whether it be same sex marriage, the ex-gay movement, or normalizing homosexuality in schools. It holds positions against gambling, pornography, and activist judges, and in October 2006 it joined forces with FRC Action to produce a voter scorecard.

Americans United to Preserve Marriage

Gary Bauer, this group’s President, has been associated with a number of Christian Right organizations since he served in the Reagan administration. Assuming the post of President of the FRC in 1988, Bauer led the group through a major growth stage, leaving to run for President in 2000. Less successful in attracting popular support as a candidate than as a voice of Christian social conservatism, Bauer withdrew after faring poorly in the early primaries.In 1996 he founded the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a political action committee, directing individual campaign contributions to the group’s endorsed candidates. The organization claimed credit for helping many conservative victories in 2002. Positioning itself as “Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-growth,” the CWF reassured contributors that, “Supporting CWF takes the guesswork out of identifying the true conservatives from the pretenders.”
http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/values-voters/vv-toc.html

Inflammatory Committee Terror Report Helps McCain/Lieberman Target Obama

Monday, May 12, 2008

Inflammatory Committee Terror Report Helps McCain/Lieberman Target Obama

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-05-12


An inflammatory first report on the domestic threat of “violent Islamist extremism” issued a week ago via the Senate Committee on Homeland Security turns out not to have been drafted by the Committee at all. The report was drafted solely under the direction of Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (CT)– a pro-war “Independent Democrat”– and ranking Republican Susan Collins (ME). It appears that other members of the Committee, including Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), had no part in authoring the controversial document, titled: “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat.”(PDF). “Neither Senator Obama nor his staff had any input into the report,” said the spokesperson in Obama’s Washington, DC, office Wednesday evening.

The international news service Reuters carried a story identifying the report as coming from the Homeland Security Committee as a whole, and the confusion is understandable. Senator Collins’s office in DC, however, stressed that “It was never a full Committee report” and that the cover and inside text of the report itself made that clear. The spokesperson added that “There is a lot of cooperation on this Committee, it is very bipartisan.”

Bipartisan perhaps is not the proper word to describe this report, as Lieberman, the chair, is campaigning against his former political party, the Democrats. Nor is it just an interesting anecdote that Democratic Senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for president Obama happens to sit on the Committee, since the report (and the Committee’s threatened follow-up reports on “Violent Islamist Extremism”) can easily be turned against Obama by his political adversaries.

It has become clear that one of the leading themes of the general election campaign being promoted by Republicans is that Obama is weak in the fight against terrorism. McCain has already personally attempted to tie Obama to the controversial Palestinian political party Hamas and President Bush yesterday in a speech to the Israeli parliament transparently likened Obama to “Nazi appeasers” for his willingness to “negotiate with terrorists and radicals.” Lieberman’s senate committee report, therefore, is uniquely positioned to influence the political discourse. If Obama fails to embrace the document and the hard-line national security legislation it is preparing the ground for, the case may be made that he is choosing to ignore the import of his own congressional committee’s findings, that he is knowingly failing to appreciate the threat of “radical Islam” here and abroad and is therefore willfully soft on terrorism.

At least three other Democratic Senators–Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE); and Carl Levin, (D-MI)–who sit on the Committee with Obama had no role in the writing of the report, according to their DC Senate office spokespeople. I placed calls to the DC offices of all members of the Committee over several days, but most had yet to return phone calls or emails sent to their press secretaries when this article was published.

Minority staff reports” and “majority staff reports” are common enough, but this report– coming from the ostensibly bipartisan leaders of the committee– can leave the impression that it took into account the views of all of the committee members, which it clearly does not. Reports authored together by the majority and minority staff of a committee are not unheard of and in fact come more often than usual from the Homeland Security committee, but they are not generally common. In addition, Capitol Hill insiders say the report was primarily driven by Lieberman’s staff. One Democratic Party operative grumbled that the staff didn’t even send Democratic members of the Committee courtesy copies of the report before it was issued.

Lieberman is no neophyte on the political scene. He surely knows the report, its release timed as it is to coincide with the heating up of the general election campaigns, will be used for political ends– to whiplash Barack Obama and to push both Obama and Hillary Clinton toward hard-line policy positions on the Middle East, as well as to more generally soften opposition to civil liberties abuses by the Bush Administration. More than any serious attempt to examine the serious issues it addresses, the report seems a mere election year political trick.

A spokesperson for the Senate Committee said Thursday afternoon, however, that there was “zero truth” to assertions that the report was politically motivated. “We held six hearings going back for over a year. There were multiple drafts. It was a long process. The staff worked hard on it. There was never any consideration of the political impact.” She said that in an election year season when “even the weather is being interpreted through a political lens,” such speculation is common but regrettable. There was “absolutely no connection to Obama” or the campaign, she continued. The report came out of Senator Lieberman’s deep and sincere interest in the topic and was issued when it was finished.

The Lieberman report has been condemned by critics as based on dangerously thin analysis and so a threat to freedom of expression, civil liberties, and civil rights. The report echoes an equally flawed legislative bill stalled in Congress titled “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007,” which I criticized last November.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, summarized the ACLU response to the report: “Once we begin trying to regulate belief systems, we have veered perilously far from the Constitution.”

The Defending Dissent Foundation (on whose board I sit) coordinated an open letter to the Senate Committee even before the report was released. According to the letter, already signed by 20 civil liberties groups:

We must be clear; the need to prevent criminal acts of violence is unquestionable. Studying and understanding the origin of terrorism and what provokes violence is an important element of prevention. But one of the greatest challenges to countering such movements is drawing the line between advocacy of ideas, including violence, and taking concrete steps toward carrying out a violent act. It is also important to distinguish between violence that injures or kills people and minor acts of vandalism that are part of an act of civil disobedience. Properly viewed, dissent can be an antidote to terrorism, not a precursor to it.

More groups are signing onto the letter, already endorsed by civil liberties activists across the political spectrum from the Republican Liberty Coalition to United for Peace and Justice.

Senator Lieberman has pushed out a report that many experts say is full of superficial stereotyping of Muslims and grade-school analysis of terrorism. It seems one more way that Lieberman, the “Independent Democrat,” is campaigning for Republican candidate McCain. Kate Phillips on the New York Times Politics Blog calls their dance “the McCain-Lieberman duet.”

The Democratic Party is reluctant to criticize Lieberman because the Senate is home to 49 Republicans and 49 Democrats, with two independents (Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) who line up with the Democrats in caucus, thus giving the Democrats a voting majority and senior status on Senate Committees. If Lieberman moves to caucus with the Republicans, it would mean the Senate was evenly divided, sending more tied votes to Vice President Dick Cheney, who serves as the President of the Senate. In addition, Democrats would no longer unilaterally control the chairs of all Senate committees, and would have to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans.

There are certainly political groups who will use the report to fire bigoted salvos on behalf of McCain, just as they used falsehoods and fabrications to sink the candidacy of John Kerry. McCain at the time called the charges against Kerry “dishonest and dishonorable.” Yet McCain, who has a long track record as a militarist., is the clear beneficiary of election year fear-mongering about Islam and terrorism, and has reached out to leaders of the Christian Right who have a track record of Islamophobia.

When McCain stood before the audience of some 2000 Christian conservatives last year at the FRC Action Values Voters “Washington Briefing” conference, it was already clear that he was seeking to mend fences with the Christian Right. Now McCain has cultivated support from apocalyptic preacher John Hagee, who has stated that “Jihad has come to America. If we lose the war to Islamic fascism, it will change the world as we know it.” Hagee is not just talking about “radical Islam,” he also believes that the Quran itself gives Muslims a mandate to kill Christians and Jews. According to Hagee, “Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly.”

American Muslims have launched a campaign to encourage more precise language when linking Islam and terrorism, just what the Lieberman report fails to do. According to Religion News Service:

While Muslim Americans have made this argument for years, U.S. government officials have only recently adopted it. In March, the National Counterterrorism Center drafted a memo for the State Department urging diplomats to drop words like “jihadists” or “mujahedeen” (those engaged in jihad) when describing terrorists because it “unintentionally legitimizes their actions.”

In fact, in January the Department of Homeland Security suggested that “We should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam,” according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press. This fact has already attracted attention in the blogosphere, but mainstream media have yet to offer any meaningful coverage of this entire episode. My first report on this matter was posted on the HuffingtonPost / OffTheBus last Monday.

The group Muslim Advocates notes that “The Senate report, issued by Senators Lieberman and Collins on May 8, 2008, with bold red letters on the title and provocative graphic photos of al Qaeda overseas, insinuated that American Muslims are ripe for radicalization and present a potential ‘homegrown’ security threat to the nation.”

A letter critical of the report and asking for a dialogue has been sent to the committee by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Muslim Advocates. The letter notes that “Given that only one of nineteen witnesses before the committee represented the American Muslim community, we also urge you to include representative American Muslims at future hearings on Islam or the American Muslim community.” The letter suggests that the report undermines its own stated goals, and points out:

As Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testified to the committee, in response to a question from Senator Tester, “It is very important that …we make clear that we are not racially profiling people. We are not imputing to people that they are dangerous or threatening because they are Muslim. … We have to continually treat every American with the same respect that our Constitution requires, regardless of their heritage, regardless of what their religion is, and when that is not honored, that actually has a counterproductive effect.” Unfortunately, the committee’s report undermines fundamental American values (as well as its own stated recommendations) by encouraging alienating suspicion of several million Americans on the basis of their faith. Contrary to Secretary Chertoff’s recommendations, it thus exacerbates the current climate of fear, suspicion and hatemongering of Islam and American Muslims.

Fear-mongering by Republicans about terrorism, Islam, and the Middle East is ratcheting up in the campaign, and Islamophobia has consequences, as I outlined in my previous post about the firing of school principal Debbie Almontaser, Muslim bashing is the New Witch Hunt.

Lieberman has a long track record of supporting an aggressive U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is tilted in favor of an aggressive stance by the government of Israel. This serves to mobilize that sector of the Christian Right known as “Christian Zionists,” profiled by Max Blumenthal here on HuffPost in an article and video about Christians United for Israel, which McCain endorser Hagee heads. While some critics of U.S. foreign policy slip into a stereotypical conflation of Israel, the Israeli government, Jews, Zionism, and Christian Zionism, the relationships among “Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy” are well studied. Christian Zionists help push U.S. foreign policy in a bellicose direction that undermines chances for a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis; a matter for reflection this week, when the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel is being celebrated.

The 2008 Christian Right Values Voters Summit scheduled for September places “immigration” and “radical Islam” just after “marriage and the family” on its list of the important “highlights” of the conference. For the past two years, the Values Voters conference and “Washington Briefing” has featured a range of Islamophobic speeches and publications. If McCain moves to the Political Right to shore up the Republican voter base in the Christian Right–which trial balloons about Gov. Mike Huckabee being considered for the VP slot make more plausible–then Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric will find an eager audience. Summit co-sponsor FRC Action is already bashing Obama.

Last year on HuffPost I wrote that “A McCain-Huckabee ticket, however, could pull voters to the polls across several core Republican constituencies mobilized around the economy and immigration.” I should have added Islamophobia, because it clearly is going to play a role in election 2008, no matter who ends up as the final presidential standard bearers for the Republicans and Democrats.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lieberman’s Very Serious Muslim-Bashing Senate Report

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-05-09


A bigoted bombshell was lobbed from Inside the Beltway last Thursday when the Senate Committee on Homeland Security under the “leadership” of Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman and ranking Republican Susan Collins. The report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat,” (PDF) combines Muslim bashing with suggestions that would further undermine Consitutional rights in the United States.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, summarized the ACLU response to the awful Lieberman/Collins Senate Committee report:

Though the need to prevent criminal acts of violence is unquestionable, targeting communities based on religious beliefs is unacceptable and unproductive. We will only end up stigmatizing the Islamic community and creating a nation of Islamophobes. We should not be legislating against thought and we should certainly not be regulating religious or unpopular thought. A dynamic debate can only make this country stronger and safer. (More here)

Is Islamophobia something to worry about? I think so. Islamophobia has been simmering of the back burner of Campaign 2008 for some time.

Take the case of Debbie Almontaser in New York. There are lots of statistics and studies, but sometimes a personal story is the best illustration of a problem.

Almontaser was removed as the principal of a new Arab language public school in New York City in 2007. She was thrown to the circling wolves by her own union and the NYC department of education.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Almontaser explains that she began to “help safeguard my Arab, Muslim, and South Asian neighbors in Brooklyn.” Aha! Typical! After all, Almontaser is an Arab Muslim immigrant from Yemen. What do you expect? Well, expect more, because Almontaser had already spent years working with a “group of Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, and others who meet on a monthly basis to talk about world issues and give each other a sense of hope and support. Immediately after September 11, some members of the dialogue called to check up on how my family and I were doing. Based on the concerns and issues I raised, I was invited by these members to go to their churches and synagogues and to speak on behalf of the Arab-American and Muslim communities in Brooklyn.”

What got Almontaser fired? She became the target of right-wing media fanatics who used her to whip up fears of terrorist Muslims teaching children to become suicide bombers.

The New York Post and New York Sun led the attacks. Sun columnist Alicia Colon was especially nasty: “So whose insane idea was it to have an Arabic public school in Brooklyn open this September? Are they out of their minds? Have they learned nothing from the Netherlands about the danger of pandering to multiculturalism?”

When I first heard of this proposed school, I thought it was a joke. But then I read Daniel Pipes’s column about this disguised ‘madrassa’ and discovered who the major principals were. Now I can’t dispel this feeling of disbelief and outrage. This proposal is utter madness, considering that five years after September 11, ground zero is still a hole in the ground and we’re bending over backwards to appease those sympathetic to individuals who would destroy us again. Smart, really smart.

In one online essay, Daniel Pipes, a scholar and anti-Islamic pundit, claimed that Almontaser said, “Arabs or Muslims…are innocent of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”

The actual quote? Almontaser said “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims…. Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.”

The bigoted media feeding frenzy was a disgrace. Months later the New York Times did the right thing and published a thoughtful article titled “Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School” (online here).

The Bush administration policies in the Middle East have been a disaster, and part of the blowback has been a tragic escalation of both Islamophobic and antisemitic rhetoric in volitile political debates. Muslims are portrayed as a barbarous, tribal force prompting a “Clash of Civiliaztions” in the analysis by Samuel Huntington. Jews loyal to Israel are said to be controlling U.S. foreign policy through the U.S. neoconservative movement and the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The lurid and bigoted claims wash across the Internet. Such xenophobia and stereotyping has no place in a country that aspires to be a real democracy.

Debbie Almontaser was engaged in working in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities to challenge stereotypes and build bridges across communites. There are several initiatives across the country twinning the issues of Islamophobia and antisemitism. Almontaser, an early leader in such efforts has been slapped down by fanatics. Almontaser is still fighting to clear her name and regain her position in the courts. (Read more about Almontaser and an earlier Witch Hunt here)

It is into this target rich political environment of fear and xenophobia that Lieberman and Collins toss their bombshell report. And they promise more to come. More than fifty years ago, a lawyer representing another target of a political witch hunt confronted the head of an earlier Senate committee: “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

History may be repeating itself. Time will tell, and history will judge our response.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lieberman Gift To McCain: Senate Islamist Terrorism Report

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-05-08


When a bipartisan Congressional committee issues a report on the threat of domestic terrorist violence during an election year, you can be sure that the centrist establishment is worried about the popular backlash against government repression and the threat to civil liberties.

That’s nothing new.

Scholar William W. Keller argues that in times of wide-spread social unrest and tensions, some liberals retreat from their oversight function as protectors of civil liberties and allow authoritarian methods to be implemented in order to restore order and defend the state. Right now in Washington, DC, civil liberties activists have built a coalition that spans the political spectrum from left to right. This coalition recently managed to block legislation titled the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” It was, as detailed here, lousy legislation and deserved to be squashed.

Many voters do not support the war in Iraq and are suspicious of Bush administration demands for even more erosions of civil liberties and Constitutional rights.This scares the bipartisan status quo brigade, and centrist Republicans and Democrats now rally behind the power of the state. Dissidents on the left and right already are all potential suspects in the “War on Terrorism.” Who better to pick as the main target for the New Witch Hunt than Muslims in America? Is there a more vulnerable community for a new campaign based on fear?

So now comes a “series of reports by the Majority and Minority staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs…on the threat of homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism.” The first report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat,” (PDF) was published today, 8 May 2008.

What’s really amazing, is that this travesty of a “majority and minority” report is not even really “bipartisan.” The committee authors include Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican, and Committee Chairmen Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who has effectively lent himself to the McCain campaign for the last few months.

The ACLU has issued a press release: “ACLU Skeptical of Senate Report on ‘Homegrown’ Terrorism,” and a broad civil liberties coalition signed a letter of protest that was actually issued the day before the report was made public.

Online, there has been almost no comment since the report was issued, hours ago, but it’s easy to imagine what the Republican spin doctors and neo-McCarthyites are already whipping up in order to attack Democrats in this election cycle as soft on terrorism. The blogosphere will soon pulsate with their purple prose. This series of reports is a readymade script for the Swift Boating of the Democratic Presidential nominee and a bludgeon with which to push all of the candidates– Democratic and Republican– into a corner where they will accept more government repression as the price for being elected.

I will be posting more details about the New Witch Hunt and how it intersects with election 2008 over the next few days. Tomorrow, the story of Debbie Almontaser, hounded out of a job as a school principal by bigoted fanatics.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Huckabee Fails to Keep Southern Evangelical Base United

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-02-05


Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee started out his evening speech on Super Tuesday with two Biblical references, when in fact, his Biblical base is slipping–but not far away.

Huckabee is getting a lot of press attention for doing so well with Southern evangelicals, but if you examine vote totals and exit polls closely, it is clear that many conservative white evangelicals in the South have opted for “pragmatism” over “purism” within the Republican Party.

Huckabee represents “purism.” McCain and Romney represent “pragmatism.”

Let’s start with baseline figures. Among white Protestant evangelicals, about 70% of those who vote generally turn out for Republicans, while 30% vote Democratic. No surprise there.

Over the last 30 years, about 15 percent of voters say they are close to the Christian Right, and 70-80 percent of Christian Right voters vote Republican. No surprise there.

Vote totals and percentages in Bible Belt states and their neighbors on Super Tuesday, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee, show Huckabee doing well, but not as well as would be expected if conservative white evangelicals in the South were voting as a bloc. They are not. Huckabee held onto his Biblical base in his home state of Arkansas, but not elsewhere across the South. So while the pundits are noting how well Huckabee did among evangelicals in the South–which is hardly a surprise–few are mentioning that Huckabee did not manage to keep white evangelicals in line behind his candidacy.

This confirms the collaborative investigative report on HuffPost’s OfftheBus with the somewhat misleading headline:

“Evangelical Power Vastly Diminished Headed Into Super Tuesday.” 

Not “Diminished,” but certainly “Divided.”

According to this excellent study:

After contacting nearly a hundred churches and interviewing more than 20 pastors and evangelical leaders, OffTheBus has uncovered a ‘house divided’, although that ‘house’ was never really united in the first place.”

Exit polls show that some 40% of Republicans voting nationally say they are “evangelical” or “born again” in the broadest sense of the term. With Southern Republicans, however, roughly 70% say they are “evangelical,” (it varies by state), yet in this group, only about 40-50% voted for Huckabee in the South on Super Tuesday.

Here is a simple formula–a bit rough, but not bad.

In the Bible Belt states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee, add up the vote percentages for McCain and Romney. If that combined total is more than the percentage received by Huckabee, there is a significant split among conservative white evangelicals. Do the same for Missouri. Note the variation by state. According to exit polls, Republicans voting for McCain tended to list the economy as their chief concern. These McCain voters clearly include a significant number of white evangelicals.

This illustrates two important points.

1). Not all Republican white evangelicals are part of the Christian Right socio-political movement.
2). For white evangelicals–Republican or Democrat–the economy and poverty are also moral values.

Sometimes hot button social issues such as abortion and gay rights are the most important “moral values” for Republican evangelicals in a given election–and sometimes issues such as the economy, political corruption, and opposition to the course of the war in Iraq are the most important “moral values.” Oddly, as noted by Faith In Public Life, Democrats are seldom polled about their faith, even when asked about “moral values.” (See here)

That some white evangelicals are swing voters is nothing new. In the 2006 midterm election, a small but significant number of white evangelicals were swing voters who switched from the Republicans to the Democrats over the latter two issues of war and corruption.

The variation in the percentage of white evangelicals voting Republican or Democrat between two elections is dubbed the “God Gap.” (View a chart on the God Gap here).

Both the larger group of conservative white evangelicals, and the subset that is the Christian Right, have played key roles in electing Republican candidates to public office over the past thirty years. Muddled polling about “moral values” voters–which can include Republicans and Democrats or progressives and conservatives–has obscured this reality. Time and time again, careful scrutiny of polling data shows that in some elections and in some states, conservative white evangelicals provide the margin of victory for Republicans. Analyst John C. Green and a few others have been pointing this out for many years, but few reporters pay much attention.

Steven Waldman on BeliefNet has noted about this set of swing voters:

Keep in mind, this is not “religious right” voters who shifted [in 2006] . It’s moderate and liberal evangelicals who were concerned about the war and corruption.& They’re also conservative on gay marriage and abortion but were more worried about these other issues.

So for me, the bottom line is that there was indeed a meaningful shift among churchgoing Christians toward the Democrats and that there is a real dissatisfaction among many moderate evangelicals with the Republican Party. But because it was triggered by two issues–Iraq and corruption–that can’t be counted on in 2008, the Democrats will have to take some fairly dramatic steps to solidify these temporary gains.

This time around, John McCain represents for many Republicans the protest vote over the economy, keeping more white evangelicals inside the Republican Big Tent. For Republican-leaning white evangelicals for whom the War in Iraq is the most important moral value in this election race, the Democratic candidate might offer an acceptable alternative and prompt some swing votes.

In November, most white evangelicals will undoubtedly vote for the Republican presidential candidate, no matter who wins the nomination. But this is still a complicated situation. A McCain-Huckabee ticket, however, could pull voters to the polls across several core Republican constituencies mobilized around the economy and immigration. McCain is also attractive as a candidate among some Democrats and Independents.

Mark J. Rozell puts the role of the Christian Right in this process in perspective:

First, the Christian right is here to stay. In a decade of studying and writing about it, I have spoken to many reporters, and when they don’t want to know why the movement is on the verge of extinction they want to know why it is succeeding in its plan to take over the GOP or the nation. Both story lines are exaggerations.

Surveys show that the core constituency of the movement has remained rather steady since the late 1970s, even as its policy fortunes rise or fall with changes in government leadership and public opinion.

Second, analyses of the Christian right should be focused less on national figures and organizations and more on grassroots activism, above all in the South. News of the Christian right has for years gravitated to the big-name personalities who are media savvy, controversial, or both. Yet the real impact of the movement lies with its activist base….

While some Republican white evangelicals swung to vote Democratic in the 2006 midterm elections, at the same time, the Christian right brought a large number of evangelicals, Black and White, to the polls. In tight races, this makes a difference that can cost a candidate an election.

Democrats can pick up votes if they learn to mobilize and recruit white evangelicals around the “moral values” issues of the war and the economy, but they need to do this without selling us out on the issues of reproductive, LGBTQ, and immigrant justice. So far Democratic Party leadership inside the Beltway has not demonstrated the ability to do this.


Portions of this post were filched from articles I wrote for other folks: here, and here.


See, for more information:

Chip Berlet & Pam Chamberlain. 2006. Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006. Political Research Associates.

Chip Berlet, “Midterm Election 2006: Pundit Watch,” Talk to Action.

Chip Berlet, “The Christian Right, Mid-term Elections, & Social Movements,” Talk to Action.

John C. Green and Mark Silk, “Why Moral Values Did Count,” Religion in the News, 2005, (Spring).

Scott Keeter, “Evangelicals and the GOP: An Update. — Strongly Republican Group Not Immune to Party’s Troubles,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, October 18, 2006.

Geoffrey C. Layman, and John C. Green, “Wars and Rumors of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behavior,” British Journal of Political Science 36(1), (January 2006): 61-89.

Andrew Kohut, “The Real Message of the Midterms,” Pew Research Center, November 14, 2006.

Mark J. Rozell, “What Christian Right?” Religion in the News, Spring 2003, Vol. 6, No. 1.

Steven Waldman, “The Smaller God Gap,” On Belief, BeliefNet,


Election cycle disclaimer. These are my personal essays written on my own time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Reading the Bible Belt Before Coming of Super Tuesday

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-02-03


Yes, it’s true. A weird hermit, writing about his visions in a cave one hundred years after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, will sway a lot of Republican voters in the upcoming Super Tuesday primary elections 2008. An astonishing number of Christian evangelicals take Bible prophecy so seriously that it shapes the way they will vote this year. But that’s not the problem.

There are millions of Christian evangelicals who read Biblical prophecy in a way that encourages them to vote to feed the poor, protect the environment, support ethics in government, provide adequate health care, housing, and education–even vote against the war in Iraq. These are all moral values for many Christians.

There are many other millions of Christian evangelicals, overwhelmingly White and conservative, who read Biblical prophecy in quite a different way. So on Tuesday keep an eye on Republican voters in those southern states in what is traditionally called “The Bible Belt.” This will determine how the split between “pragmatists” and “purists” among conservative White evangelicals is playing out. Pragmatists may divide their votes between Mitt Romney and John McCain. Purists are likely to vote for Mike Huckabee, especially in Arkansas, where he was governor. But also scope out Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

There’s a good article explaining this in the here.”>Boston Globe

Pundits over the next few days are likely to talk about the splits in the Christian Right, or even predict its demise. Don’t bite on that baloney. Does anyone seriously think most conservative Christian evangelicals will bolt the Republican Party and vote Democratic in November? I think not.

This does not mean that Democrats or progressive movement activists should treat Christian evangelicals or other people of faith in a disrespectful way–millions of us are already Democrats and progressive movement activists (and we don’t think they are the same thing, either, Matt Bai).

So as a Christian, what is it that bothers me about how many people in the Christian Right view Biblical prophecy?

It’s how they read it.

The last book of the Christian New Testament is “Revelation,” written by John of Patmos. It was originally thought to have been written by the same John who was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It most likely was not.

John of Patmos was a hermit who lived in a cave on an island off the coast of what is now Turkey. He had visions and wrote them down. Standard stuff for prophets. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches urge their followers to read “Revelation” as a metaphor, as do most “mainline” Protestant denominations such as the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Episcopalians.

Here is how Jong]”>Erica Jong described things here on Huffington Post:

In the older Christianity–the one Jesus the Jew actually practiced–women were revered for their wisdom and spirituality. But that didn’t suit St. Paul nor apocalyptic St. John the Evangelist who was doing LSD on Patmos (I visited his cave) where he wrote about the four horsemen and the blazing fires in the sky. (It could have been the Patmos sunset seen by a stoner emerging from a cave–or the Patmos sunrise–equally bewitching).

God, I wish I could write like that. (Fat chance.)

Anyway, the Christian Bible’s book of Revelation describes in graphic terms what will happen when an angry God finally intervenes in human affairs at the end of time. The prophetic narrative describes the End Times as a period of widespread sinfulness, moral depravity, and crass materialism. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride in bringing God’s wrath in the form of wars, disease, civil strife, and natural disasters. Satan’s chief henchman appears in human form as the Antichrist, a popular world leader who secretly harbors sympathy for the Devil. He promises peace and unity of all nations under one world government–but it’s a conspiracy. His agents are tracking down and punishing Christians who refuse to abandon their faith. Satan’s allies receive a mark–the Mark of the Beast–represented by the number 666.

This period of hard times are called “the Tribulations” and culminate in a final cataclysmic doomsday confrontation of massed armies in the Middle East, at a place named Armageddon. Good triumphs over evil at the battle of Armageddon, ushering in a millennium of Christian rule.

The book of Revelation (and other prophetic verses in the Bible) provides important clues for understanding the rhetoric and actions of devout Christians who are influenced by apocalypticism and millennialism. Among Christians, belief in an actual coming apocalypse is particularly strong among those Fundamentalists who not only read the Bible literally, but also consider prophetic Biblical text to be a coded timetable or script revealing the future.

Christians who believe the apocalypse is at hand can act out those theological beliefs in social, cultural, and political arenas. An example might be when believers view current world events as “signs of the End Times” or see those with whom they disagree as agents of the Antichrist.

Here is the really bad news. For a few million Christian Fundamentalists…

we are the agents of the Antichrist!

You and me. Liberals, secularists, humanists, Muslims, progressives, feminists, everyone in the LGBTQ community, and more. Even Christians who don’t think the way they do–like me–are enemies of God and Country in their theological worldview.

We are Satan’s scum.

And on Tuesday, some of these Christian Fundamentalists will be voting for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, after which us sinners and Devil’s disciples will have our bodies crushed like grapes until our blood runs ankle deep through a valley in the Middle East.

That’s how they read the Bible.

So on Tuesday, keep your eyes on the Bible Belt.

I will be posting more “revelations” about the Christian Right and election 2008 over the next few months. But remember, millions of Christian evangelicals already vote for Democrats. Some 95% of Black evangelicals, for example, vote Democratic in Presidential elections. Some White evangelicals are swing voters. There are progressive Christian evangelicals. There are even progressive Christian Fundamentalists. And you know what? None of us spiritual folk can leave our beliefs outside the voting booth. That’s just stupid. We don’t ask secularists to leave their morality and ideology outside the voting booth. Get over it.

So don’t cost Democratic candidates some votes by being an ignorant jerk who goes around saying stuff about Christians and other spiritual people that just is not true.

Stay tuned.

I will be on Pacifica radio at 9pm Tuesday evening discussing these issues. Tune in.

Portions of this post were filched from articles I wrote for other folks: here, and here.


Election cycle disclaimer. These are my personal essays written on my own time.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ron Paul and the Bigots: Plain Talk or Plausible Deniability?

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:

2008-01-10


Ron Paul wants us to believe that he wasn’t paying attention when the newsletters that went out under his name for twenty years carried articles that were racist, homophobic, and antisemitic.
This story has circulated before; however when The New Republic posted a story on Tuesday detailing some of the nastier morsels with extensive direct quotes, Ron Paul responded:

“The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts….I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

Well, no, Paul really hasn’t taken any responsibility. Paul so far refuses to name the author of the turgid bigotry in his newsletter, and Paul’s responses over the years are less apologetic than non-denial denials. He didn’t write it. He didn’t know. He wasn’t paying attention. Don’t blame him.

Who else is there to blame?

And what about the overall slant of Paul’s newsletters and public pronouncements? For decades Ron Paul has been promoting bogus right-wing theories about a conspiracy to erode America’s national sovereignty–a conspiracy supposedly involving the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Trilateral Commission. These are the same allegations spread by the armed militia movement of the 1990s. Paul’s current claims about a proposed North American Union and a so-called “NAFTA Superhighway” from Mexico to Canada echo pet conspiracy theories of dubious right-wing information sources such as World Net Daily and Human Events.

Paul denies he promotes these conspiracy theories, even though they are essentially identical to right-wing conspiracy theories circulated since the 1950s. In the 1960s the font of such New World Order conspiracy theories was the John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative organization who today still carries forward the proposition (first articulated in the late 1790s) that a secret society called the Illuminati are constructing a One World Government and manipulating elected officials in the United States.

Paul, no surprise, has become a hero to legions of conspiracy theorists, including some for whom White supremacy, homophobia, and antisemitism are as American as apple pie. Organized racist groups use generic conspiracy theories as an entry point for recruitment. Since the 1800s, claims of sinister plots for global subversion have been interwoven with lurid antisemitic stories of Jewish plots for global conquest.

It is not fair to suggest that Ron Paul is part of any of these bigoted movements, but it is more than fair to ask Paul why he lacks the common decency and common sense to quickly return a campaign donation from a notorious neonazi. It is also fair to ask Paul to explain in more detail how his views about the covert plans of global elites to destroy U.S. sovereignty differs from the generic or antisemitic New World Order conspiracy theories easily found on the Web. What are Paul’s specific sources of information for his claims? When Paul provides his sources we can compare them to the theories promulgated by the John Birch Society–as well as groups with more bigoted baggage.

The rhetoric of Ron Paul over the past decade has been interpreted by some constituencies as coded support for bigoted ideas. This use of coded language in public debate is nothing new. As a Presidential candidate, George Wallace refined the art of coded White supremacist appeals to a high political art form. Wallace knew he was speaking in code, as did President Richard Nixon who adapted the Wallace rhetoric for the Republican’s racist “Southern Strategy.” Does Paul ever wonder why ultra-right crackpots, conspiracy theorists, bigots, and neonazis champion his cause? Does Paul not realize his rhetoric tends to support bigots unless it is clarified?

Why is it so hard for Paul to see that his name is being bandied about by bigots who suggest that Paul holds beliefs that he claims he does not hold? Why doesn’t Paul realize he has an obligation to forcefully distance himself from such claims? This isn’t about guilt by association; this is about a major political candidate standing up and setting the record straight using clear language. Otherwise it gives the appearance that Paul is seeking public plausible deniability, while continuing to court the very constituencies he suggests he rejects.

Read more on conspiracism and coded language here.

Values Voters Summit 2009 – Friday Morning

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tweets from the annual Christian Right “Values Voters Summit” in Washington, DC. So tweets read from bottom up in each section.

Prejean: “God has called me for such a time as this.” [paraphrase of Esther 4:14 – when Queen Esther stood before the judges].

Prejean: people make fun of me for my faith, but I am still standing.

Prejean: Beginning of a vicious, vicious storm of attacks.

Prejean: “God had a plan for me that night.” As soon as I didn’t give the politically-correct answer, I knew I was not going to be Miss USA.

Onstage: Miss California Carrie Prejean. “Parents taught me to fear God,” but to be tolerant and not be mean.

Cantor: Liberals have been whittling away at these values.

Cantor: For more than 200 years America stood for the “sanctity of life” from “fertilization to natural death.”

Cantor: Liberals attack the idea that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA): For more than 200 years America stood for “Traditional Values” – Now liberals have abandoned that tradition

Cantor: Liberals pursue social whims and pseudo-scientific theories.

Cantor: For more than 200 years America stood for “Faith, Freedom, and Family” – Now liberals have abondoned that tradition.

Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA): For more than 200 years America stood for “Peace through Strength” – Now liberals have abondoned that tradition

McConnell: Democrats – wasteful spending and debt. “We must turn the tide.” That’s what FRC and others are doing. FRC “vital role.”

McConnell: Labor law reform–Employee Free Choice Act, would inhibit freedom.

McConnell: wrong that current healtcare plans still allow paying for abortions through a variety of ways

McConnell. Heathcare protests not astroturf, but born in kitchen tables and living rooms across America.

Onstage: Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader. At town hall meetings we saw the wisdom of Americans, and many of you were there.

Standing ovation for disabled woman who said abortions started a downward spiral in her life.

Bachmann: Obamacare means 53 different government bureaucracies with the IRS as the enforcement mechanism.

Is it too crass to pray for a new computer? OK, yes, but sometimes…

Computer crashing. Sigh. Must reboot.

Bachmann: Government is taking over energy business-taking over private business profits.

Bachmann: Government is taking over private business in America

Price: Change things in 2010 election.

Price: No checks and balances that work when Obama and Pelosi rule. Only check left is to have American people rise up.

Bachmann: No reason to have government role in healthcare

OK, that’s Rep.Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Sigh…

Rep.Michele Bachman (R-MN). One “l”. Hard to copy edit Twitter.

Rep.Michelle Bachman (R-MN): time to Defund Acorn

Price: time to set the fires of Freedom

Speaking now: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): It’s not about healthcare, it’s about Freedom.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): Society has been embacing a “Culture of Death.” Longstanding frame of Christian Right

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): Obama “the abortion President”

That’s “sez” McCLosky. One key over, a Freud away… (Sorry, Tom)

Rep. Michelle Bachman joins healthcare panel. She has worked with FRC for years sex McClusky.

Vice President for Government Affairs for Family Research Council, Tom McClusky now onstage for healthcare panel

Huckabee: American Exceptionalism is a good thing.

Huckabee: Obama foreign policy is “walk softly and carry an olive branch”…or maybe a “bag of Stay-Puft marsmallows.”

Huckabee: State-run healthcare has bankrupted State of Massachusetts. Really? Ii was solvent when I left yesterday. Fact-Check?

Hucakee: Obama was wrong to hire Van Jones in the first place.

Huckabee: Repeal 16th Amendment, eliminate the IRS and Income Tax.

At Values Voters meetup in DC. Huckabee onstage now. Sez: Audacity of Hope has turned into hypocrisy. Condemns abortion, Acorn.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Illustrated Road to Serfdom

The Illustrated Road to Serfdom: “The Road to Serfdom
by Friedrich A. Hayek”

The anti-collectivism thesis is ummarized in a comic book format as it appeared in Lookmagazine and republished by General Motors.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama Waffles Denounced but Conference Content Ignored

The boxes of Obama Waffles for sale at the Christian Right’s 2008 Values Voter Summit were certainly racist and offensive, and conference organizers did the right thing by shutting down the sales booth in their exhibit hall.

It was alternative journalists, including those working for Political Research Associates and People for the American Way, that first alerted the mainstream media to the offensive caricatures on the boxes with online posts from the conference.

While reviewing the caricatures, this post will also analyze the “humorous” text on the waffle box, and compare it to the content of conference speakers at the Values Voter Summit. Was the Obama Waffle box an anomaly in this Christian Right event?

Click down, view the images, and judge for yourself.

The booth was open for business around noon on Saturday when the story broke. Boxes of Obama Waffles for selling for $10, and business was brisk.

Here are photos of two of the advertising panels at the booth. It was hard not to see the stereotyping.:

Is there a White racist subtext woven into the history of the Christian Right? While many Christian Right leaders have made efforts to involve Black pastors and stressed racial reconcilliation, there is little talk of racial justice that would require institutional changes in America.

The scholar of religion Randall Balmer revealed in his recent book that the energy to build the Christian Right in the late 1970s, often attributed to anti-abortion sentiments, was actually triggered by fears that segregated White Christian private schools would have their tax exempt status revoked by Jimmy Carter’s Internal Revenue Service. Read more here

Other racist stereotypes about Blacks were featured on the Obama Waffles box; the
Rev. Jeremiah Wright made an appearance on the side:

The caricature of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright includes “Popular Sayings: ‘God***America’ and “Made in the US of KKA”

There is a side panel recipe for “Barry’s Bling Bling Waffle Ring” that features a “Recipe Rap” that begins with “Yo, B-rock here droppin’ waffle knowledge” with the rest of the ditty written in such an irritating White caricature of Black rap that even a White 1920s vaudeville blackface crooner would be embarrassed.

The Obama Waffles box also includes stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Mexicans…

Under the caricature of Obama as a Mexican, there is a recipe card for “Open Border Fiesta Waffles.” The recipe card depicts a perforated border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. The text under this says the “greatest danger of all is to allow walls to divide us.”

At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on “The Double Threat To Our National Security: Illegal Immigration,” featuring Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a group calling for a high security border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

The workshop pulsated with fears that immigration by Mexicans was bringing in waves of crime and disease—and perhaps a few terrorists.

The recipe card on the Obama Waffles box including ingredients such as goats milk and jalepeno peppers, and advises as a “Tip: While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language.” The “Recommended Serving” is “4 or more illegal aliens.”

Conference lead-off speaker Lou Dobbs, a vociferous anti-immigrant polemicist, posed for a picture at the booth while holding a box of Obama Waffles. He is reported to have said “My wife will love this,” or something similar. Hard to confirm since the original photo and quote have vanished from the Internet.

There also were stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Muslims…

The box top features Obama with stereotypic Muslim headgear and the admonition: “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.”

At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on “The Double Threat To Our National Security: Radical Islam,” featuring Frank Gaffney, President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. According to Right Web:

Gaffney says that today’s main threat to peace and security is “Islamofascism,” which is a terms he says “makes clear that the war is about much more than Iraq and Afghanistan” and includes those countries—namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa—which provide direct or indirect support for the Islamofascists “in their death struggle with us” (Jim Lobe, “Neo-Con Superhawk Earns His Wings on Port Flap,” February 26, 2006). Read more here

Gaffney’s presentation at the Values Voter Summit echoed these xenophobic assertions.

The environment?

The side panel recipe for “Barack’s Belgium Beauties” suggests that “Environmentally conscious consumers should pay two ozone-offset carbon credits to Al Gore’s GreenWorld Fund. On the bottom of the box, is a “Clip&Save” coupon for “8 Al Gore Green Perks.”

At the Values Voter Summit, there were suggestions that global warming was an over-rated concern, if not a liberal hoax.

Throughout the conference, speakers brought up criticisms of Barack Obama similar or even identical to the text on the Obama Waffles box, ridiculing Obama for talking about being a “citizen of the world,” or mispeaking about “57 states.” Stopping abortion was a central issue at the conference, and the box text, written as if by Barack Obama, reads “When Michelle and I mix up a batch for our family, we only use eggs gently coaxed from their mothers to assure the hen her freedom of choice.”

Both John Kerry and Michelle Obama had a role to play

The mainstream media missed the real story of the Obama Waffles…that the text on the box was offensive, but so was the content of the Values Voters Summit itself.


Election year disclaimer: This post reflects my personal views, not the views of my employers, and is posted on my own time.

Why Rightists Call Obama & FDR Socialist Traitors

For the economic conservatives and right-wing libertarians, Obama is leading America down the slippery slope towards socialism, collectivism, and tyranny, just like FDR.

For the Christian Right, Obama is creating the type of Big Government that is a sign of the collectivist One World Government forged by the antichrist in the End Times.

Both sectors see labor unions as bad for America.

Together, these two sectors have launched a campaign against socialism and Satan–which means stopping the Obama Administration from making changes in the economic system to benefit the majority of Americans.

Economic conservatives and right-wing libertarians
To supporters of rigid Laissez Faire unregulated capitalism, Big Government and collectivism are threats to the very survival of the U.S. economy. This is tied to the idea of “rugged individualism” which is a “core American cultural value”, that is “especially significant in the American psyche”.1

Darwinism spawned Social Darwinism, which spawned Economic Darwinism, which takes the idea of the survival of the fittest in nature and imposes it on economic systems by arguing that fierce and unregulated competition builds individual character and national economic health.2While Social Darwinism is “a secularist philosophy”, it is influenced by “a kind of naturalistic Calvinism,” writes Hofstadter. Calvinism strongly influenced the early American outlook.3 In this form of Calvinism, according to Hofstadter, “man’s relation to nature is as hard and demanding as man’s relationship to God under the Calvinistic system”.4 In some sectors of the Christian Right in the United States, there has been a return to early Calvinist doctrine.

The relationship between libertarian Laissez Faire Capitalism and Calvinist forms of Protestantism was explored by Weber in his classic book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Popular tracts from the early Twentieth Century still circulate in the United States warning that the federal income tax is theft and that the Federal Reserve banking system is a corrupt plan to loot the economy hatched by secretive elites on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. These ideas continue to be repackaged by right-wing groups. In the 1960s and the 1970s these claims appeared as conspiracy theories peddled by the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby.

When President Roosevelt was elected President in 1933 he increased the size and role of the federal government significantly. Libertarian and Laissez Faire ideologues were outraged. To counter this new role for “Big Government”, associations of manufacturers and corporate executives spent millions of dollars to distribute “educational” materials warning that a bloated federal government was the road to collectivism, communism, and tyranny. Economic libertarianism was a bedrock assumption of the American political economy up until the Franklin Roosevelt Administration of 1933 to 1945. Right-wing ideologues still claim that Roosevelt sent the country marching down the road to socialism.

After World War Two, conservative activists led by William F. Buckley, Jr. launched a campaign to rollback the size of the federal government. This became a major rhetorical goal of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.

The Christian Right
Christian Right leader Tim LaHaye, for example, claims it was the Satan himself who engineered the “crafty election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president for twelve years” This was part of a secret conspiracy to turn the “American constitution upside down,” in order to “use our freedoms to promote pornography, homosexuality, immorality, and a host of evils characteristic of the last days,” states LaHaye, in an open reference to the apocalyptic End Times prophesied in Revelation. 9 In another article, LaHaye also believes that the “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe.”

LaHaye asserts that: “All thinking people in America realize an anti-Christian, anti-moral, and anti-American philosophy permeates this country and the world.”11 The subversive conspirators include godless secular humanists and others who secretly manipulate the news media, the entertainment industry, the universities, and even the court system. These evil forces have turned the “American constitution upside down,” warns LaHaye.12 “I have no question the devil is behind what the apostle Paul called ‘the wisdom (philosophy) of this world’ and controls many of our courts and other areas of influence,” LaHaye writes.13

According to LaHaye, the liberal, secular humanist, antichrist conspiracy:

“…dominates the public school system from kindergarten through graduate school. It controls the media from the daily print press to popular magazines (from porno to mainline), the six major TV networks, most of all cable TV; it dominates the entertainment industry, and it elects a predominance of liberals to both parties in our national government.

“This alien philosophy does not come from the Bible, but is antithetical to it. In this country it flies under the banner of “liberalism,” but in reality it is atheistic socialism at best and Marxism at worst.

“We are the only nation that can halt the socialist Marxist enthronement of the UN as THE GLOBAL GOVERNMENT of the world, but it will require a conservative administration and Supreme Court committed to judicially interpreting our nation’s laws that were originally based on moral Biblical principles.”14

Read more about the Right-Wing attacks on the Obama Administration and labor unions at: PublicEye.org – Economic Justice
Notes
1 Hirschman (E.C.) “Men, Dogs, Guns, and Cars: The Semiotics of Rugged Individualism”,Journal of Advertising, Vol. 32 No. 1, 2003, p. 9-22. See also Hsu (F.L.K.), Rugged Individualism Reconsidered: Essays in Psychological Anthropology, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1988;.

2 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism in American Thought , reprint edition, Boston: Beacon Press, [1955] 1992; Bannister (R.), Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1979; Degler (C.), In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991.

3 Zakai (A.), Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Hatch (N.O.), The Democratization of American Christianity, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989.

4 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism, op. cit. , p. 10.

5 Weber (M.), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Parsons (T.), reprint, New York, Routledge, [1930] 1999.

6 Mintz, (F.P.) op. cit.

7 Hayek (F.) (éd.), Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism, London, Routledge, 1935; ———, The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1944; Flynn (J.), As We Go Marching, Garden City, NY, Doubleday/Doran, 1944; Von Mises (L.), Omnipotent Government, the Rise of the Total State and Total War, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1944; ———, Planned Chaos, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY, Foundation for Economic Education, 1947; ———, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1956; Sennholz (H.F.), “The Great Depression”, The Freeman, April 1975, p. 212-213; quoted in Reed (L.W.), “Great Myths of the Great Depression: Phase IV: The Wagner Act”, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, retrieved 26 November 2007, online here .

8 This section is in part drawn from Berlet (C.), “The new political right in the United States: Reaction, rollback, and resentment”, in Thompson (M.) (éd.), Confronting the new conservatism: The rise of the right in America, NYU Press, New York, 2007.

9 LaHaye, (T.) “119 Million American Evangelicals in these Last Days?” Pre-Trib Perspectives, Vol. 8, No. 1, (April 2003), pp. 1-3, quote from p. 2.

10 LaHaye, (T.), “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe,” Pre-Trib Perspectives, (September 1999), http://www.timlahaye.com/about_ministry/pdf/sept.tim.pdf, (accessed July 4, 2006).

11 Ibid.

12 LaHaye, “119 Million American Evangelicals in these Last Days?” p. 2.

13 Ibid.

14 LaHaye, “Anti-Christ philosophy already controls America and Europe.”

Abstaining from Bad Sects

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This essay first appeared as “Abstaining from Bad Sects: Understanding Sects, Cadres, and Mass Movement Organizations,” Resist Newsletter, Somerville, MA: Resist, Vol. 8, No. 10, December 1999. It has fallen off the website of Resist, so I re-publish it here due to several recent requests. It may be of interest to the Occupy Wall Street movement, now facing parasitic sectarian organizing, conspiracy theorists, bigots, and right-wing recruiters.

= = = = =

Any experienced activist can tell tales of trying to unravel the Gordian Knot of the relationships among mass organizing, sectarianism, left cadre organizations, and ultra-leftism. To describe cadre-based sectarian ultra-leftists as tedious and disruptive is a charitable understatement. Wait! Grab hold of that last sentence and examine it.

Sectarianism, cadre groups, and ultra-leftism are three separate issues. Those successful at juggling these tendencies in a real organizing campaign usually start by understanding that there are differences among ideological tendencies and the people who marry them, and there are differences between structures and styles. Rather than lumping everything and everyone together in a prejudiced and stereotypic way, lets unpack the box.

Distinctions

The term sectarianism originated with the Protestant Reformation starting in the 1500s. From the vantage point of the Vatican, Protestantism began as a form of sectarianism., when a small espoused different religious convictions and separated from the “one true church.” This group formed its own religious body and established its own principles and leadership, separate and apart from the Vatican. The response, of course, was to condemn this new protesting sect, consign all those who disagreed with the Catholic Church and its tenets to hell, and–since they were heretics–also revoke all earthly rights. Protestantism soon spawned more sects, who denounced each other for heresy. Some leftists have borrowed this theme with unsettling enthusiasm.

Today, the term sect in discussions of religion can have a far different meaning than sectarianism in the political left. A religious sect can simply be a relatively small group organized around a distinctive set of theological principles. Since these principles are seen as ordained by God, they demand obedience. When a sect tries to enforce these views on everyone, member and non-member alike, the sect becomes sectarian. In this discussion the term “sectarian” refers to an inappropriate demand for a mass group to accept uncritically the ideological precepts of a specific group or individual.

The rise of various religious fundamentalist governments and factions (such as in Iran, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Israel, and many other parts of the world) represent another type of religious sectarianism. In our own country, we can see similar themes in the theocratic wing of the Christian Right.

Sectarianism can have roots other than religious. A form of racialized sectarianism plagues the Balkans and parts of Africa, but it can be seen in the violent attacks on Blacks, Jews and Asians by followers of far right ideologies in the US, with echoes in the electoral politics of David Duke and Pat Buchanan.

Both racial nationalism and religious nationalism are sectarian forms of a right wing populist backlash against globalization of the world economy for the benefit of transnational corporations. Right wing, because instead of seeking to broaden democratic participation, it seeks to build a strong coherent homogeneous group to defend against the socially destructive forces of corporate globalization in a way that demonizes, excludes, and oppresses scapegoats seen as outside the core group. This form of right wing populism can be dangerous, but its crude anti-elite critique can seem attractive to some on the left.

Cadres and Ultra-Leftism

Cadre organizations are built along strict lines of obedience to the group’s ideology, strategy and tactics. They are sects with particular features involving hierarchical structures and organizational practices rooted in Leninism. Often they are obligated to articulate a specific line or script (or “frame” in sociological jargon) regarding a variety of topics.

One way to enforce a single ideological line or a specific strategy or tactic is to use a process called “democratic centralism.” Under democratic centralism, cadre are expected to engage in a frank discussion and debate internally with other cadre and the group’s leadership. However once a specific position is arrived at, cadre are expected to support the decision, and refrain from any disagreement with or criticisms of the “line” with persons or groups outside of the cadre organization. When people talk about “The Party Line,” they mean the line the cadre group members are bound to uphold in public.

Ultra-leftism is an egocentric form of mythopoetic martyrdom whereby practitioners anoint themselves as the beleaguered guardians of the one true political line. They read long impenetrable manifestos at public meetings. They show up at mass demonstrations with helmets and hockey sticks for a game of self-fulfilling prophecy that often results in violence as they hurl themselves at police. They inevitably urge a course of action that is hopelessly out of touch with reality. Even Lenin called this an “infantile disorder.”

Theory, structure, organizational practice, and individual behavior interact in complex ways.

Cadre organizations indeed resemble “sects” in terms of internal organization and hierarchy, but not all cadre organizations or their members are “sectarian” in organizational practice. Not all cadre organizations engage in ultra-leftist activities. Some cadre members of ultra-left groups can still act appropriately as individuals in mass organizations.

Legacies

Andrew Feenberg in “Paths To Failure: The Dialectics of Organization and Ideology in the New Left” discusses how sectarianism and ultra-lefitism can create a false sense of achievement. Looking at the New Left of the 1960s and early 1970s, Feenberg, argues the attraction of “sectarianism and ultra-leftism sustained its energies for several decisive years while dispersing its audience.”

“Sectarianism in the movement was based on a sense of moral superiority that was effective in motivating an in-group but incompatible with its expansion among those sympathetic to its program. Moral heroism mobilized the troops, but it was accompanied by a characteristic romantic elitism rooted in a sense of differentness, of sacrifice and oppression.”

“New left sectarianism was often conjoined to ultra-leftism, the systematic failure to employ strategies realistically adapted to the situation at hand. Instead, many new left groups preferred to substitute individual morality for politics and became obsessively concerned with establishing the revolutionary personal identity of their members at the expense of effective action on the real world. Ultra-leftists became adept at driving a wedge between principle and practice in every kind of situation, blocking the employment of even the most elementary instrumental intelligence in political work.”

In the mid 1970s thousands of left activists joined new cadre organizations. The results were mixed. Some individuals carried out successful organizing campaigns. Other groups sank into a totalitarian morass. In the worst scenario I witnessed, lesbian couples were broken up, told to marry heterosexual fellow cadre, and moved to industrial cities to “merge with the industrial proletariat.”

In Chicago in the 1980s I was asked by friends of my spouse to be parliamentarian at a founding meeting of a national US/Albanian Friendship Society. At the time, I was still collecting hours of such work needed to become a certified parliamentarian. I turned out to be one of the few attendees not in one of three competing Stalinist cadre organizations. Everyone was on their good behavior, however, and over several days we actually managed to draft principles of unity and a constitution and by-laws. I had quipped that if this group somehow managed to come up with democratic guidelines that didn’t require supporting the government of Albania or its political system, that even I would join. They did, so I paid my dues and have been red-baited ever since.

It was in this group that I finally took the time to understand the ideological rift between Moscow, China, and Yugoslavia, which occupied far too much conversation time among my leftist friends. I learned that in post-war Europe some of the countries had been semi-feudal; and that for survivors to side with the communists who had fought in the resistance, instead of re-installing Nazi-collaborationist monarchs and oligarchs who had looted the country, was hardly difficult to understand. I helped investigate the harassment of ethnic-Albanian Chicagoans who were protesting Yugoslav repression of Albanian intellectuals in the Kosovar region (premature anti-fascism redux). I made friends.

Unfortunately I also made enemies. At one point some cadre member who held an elected position in the local group fell out of favor with her party’s leadership. At the next meeting all of her former colleagues arrived with the same script. She was no longer doing a good job. She must be removed. I protested that what was happening was obviously a decision by a cadre organization to enforce conformity of action through democratic centralism. I argued that this was not appropriate in a democratic mass organization. It was clear that some of the individual cadre members were troubled by what was being asked of them. I gave an impassioned speech on the importance of moral conscience over blind obedience that had some of them in tears. Resistance was futile. They all dutifully voted to purge the poor woman from her meager post. She was also required to remain an active member…another humiliation.

My retribution was not to quit. I wasn’t in a cadre group and I was too well known to purge. I hung on until I left Chicago. What was left of the group threw me a going away party. There we were in a rented hall, the chair of the group, the purged woman who came to thank me, and me. That’s all that was left.

Block voting by cadre members in a mass democratic organization is one of the most destructive practices I have seen in the US left–and I have seen it far too often. It undermines the basic premise of actual debate, the informed consent, that makes democratic practice possible.

Two Steps Back…

One response to sectarianism and ultra-leftism has been to condemn identity politics as reflecting new forms of those tendencies. To me this sounds like the voice of privilege complaining about how annoying it is to deal with those pestiferous people who keep pointing out how unfair the privilege is. My mental image is a support group for former slave holders after the civil war. Nobody likes to give up privilege and power (well, I certainly don’t) but I see it as an issue of fairness.

Jean Hardisty, in her book Mobilizing Resentment, acknowledges that a “theme common to nearly all those who discuss the state of the progressive movement and its future is our lack of agreement on a vision around which the movement’s different groups can coalesce.” According to Hardisty, “to blame ‘identity politics’ for the decline of the larger movement fails to look at the reason identity groups arose in the first place–the neglect of their input and their issues.”

Hardisty embraces the thesis of Francis Calpotura and Kim Fellner in their pamphlet, “Square Pegs Find Their Groove,” and summarizes their views as arguing that:

“…if all the people who are marginalized and excluded from power are to achieve real self-determination, progressive organizers must address not only class inequities, but also related forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism–even if these are not directly germane to a specific organizing goal…an uncompromising solidarity with marginalized groups is the bottom line of this model of grassroots organizing.”

You Can’t Judge a Book…

I have worked on organizing campaigns that were destroyed by sectarian ultra-leftism, yet I have worked on organizing campaigns where members of cadre organizations played an important leading and sustaining role. While I have never been tempted to join a cadre organization, I have seen the good–not just the bad and the ugly–emerge from such groups. Clearly there are some organizing campaigns where the energy and commitment of cadre groups sustains the work through dry spells. Therefore, it is not the cadre organization itself that poses the problem.

In the 1950s the National Lawyers Guild refused to purge its members who were members of the Communist Party. Today there are Guild members who are cadre in a variety of communist groups along with a majority of unaffiliated members. As a paralegal investigator, I joined the Guild in the 1970s. I found an example of an organization that tried hard to incorporate the participation of cadre within a democratic structure.

Easy? Are you crazy? The cacophony at some meetings makes “Star Wars” seem like a minimalist film. I have chaired committee meetings with debates featuring cadres from Leninist, Trotskyist, Stalinist, and Maoist groups, along with Marxists, anarchists, libertarians, and progressive independents–interacting with a preponderance of reluctant Democrats–all intertwined with multiple alternate identities as lawyers, legal workers, labor organizers, tribal sovereignty activists, civil liberties and civil rights advocates, environmentalists, feminists, gay men and lesbians, and people of color.

Bernice Johnson Reagon has discussed the practical problems of coalition work in terms of risk and discomfort. She built a metaphor around her problems breathing due to being at a high altitude for the first time at a 1981 meeting of women in Yosemite National Forest:

“You got one group of people who are in strain–and the group of people who are feeling fine are trying to figure out why you are staggering around, and that’s what this workshop [on coalition politics] is about this morning.”

“I wish there had been another way to graphically make me feel it because I belong to the group of people who are having a very difficult time being here. I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”

Practical Magic

In real life, a mass democratic organization needs to establish principles of unity that apply to both the goals of the group and its internal operating procedures.

Can cadre organizations relate to the mass-based group in a principled manner? Can members of cadre organization abide by the principles of unity established by the mass-based group? The issue boils down to behavior. Do individual people behave appropriately? If not, is there a process to deal with their behavior that is problematic?

Principled opposition needs to be respected within a mass organization as long as it is not disruptive to a degree that threatens the existence of the group. Some disruption is inevitable, even healthy. How else would people of color, women, and gays and lesbians assert their right to be treated with respect? If a group cannot accommodate these issues of respect, then its existence is problematic, and maybe a mass exodus and formation of a new group with new principles of unity is a good outcome. The trick is to find the balance between the constant struggle that democratic and inclusive practice requires, and the ability of the group’s goal to be pursued without endless splits. As Reagon graphically explained, real coalition work is hard.

Individuals who repeatedly engage in disruptive behavior should be expelled from a group, as long as some sincere attempt is made to reconcile the person to the group’s principles of unity regarding appropriate behavior. Nothing is more destructive in a mass organization than rumors claiming someone is a secret member of a cadre cell, or a police agent, or mentally unbalanced. Some people are just disruptive, for whatever reason. It is essential that the objective effect of the behavior be the focus, not the assumed intent or cause of the behavior.

It is not fair for cadre organizations to send blocks of cadre members bound by democratic centralism (or other mandates to conform to a single line) into mass organizations to commandeer debates and votes. It is manipulative, elitist, and profoundly undemocratic.

Members of cadre organizations need to be sensitive to the fact that their presence changes the dynamics of mass organizations, and learn to tread lightly. They may see themselves in the vanguard, but history makes that judgement. Insisting it is so will not speed up the process. Everyone needs to persuade others by the force of their ideas and the exemplary character of their actions…not by brute force.

Leaders of mass organizations need to be sensitive to the fact that in a truly democratic organization, every voice must be heard. It is not appropriate to silence real or imagined cadre members because of a presupposition that the message will be a repeat performance or that a cadre is just parroting the party line. So what? Either the ideas are persuasive or they are not.

Activists in cadre organizations get to proselytize and even recruit, as long as they do the work, and abide by the principles of unity agreed to by the mass organization. Groups get to set the rules for time, place, and manner. The usual time is before and after the main event. I usually tell cadre members I will listen to their pitch if they will listen to my tirade on why the concept of “democratic centralism” is an oxymoron.

Conclusions

Organizer Suzanne Pharr, wrote In the Time of the Right: Reflections on Liberation, in which she urges that within the movement we must “Create principled internal politics and healthy standards for work and working conditions:”

“Be respectful of everyone. Do not act martyred. Build relationships that include more than work: celebration, ritual, play. Use positive humor whenever possible and often. Get a life, have a life, live a life–as fully and joyously as imaginable.”

Terrorism, Politics, Mental Illness, and Superhero Complex

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Originally written for and posted at Alternet


In Friday’s Colorado movie theatre shooting rampage the suspect is described as a “Lone Wolf” terrorist. What does that mean? How does it fit into the overall picture of terrorism as portrayed in the corporate media? Media coverage of domestic terrorism is not covering the whole story. Since the election of President Barack Obama, there have been a series of deadly terrorist incidents in the United States, some clearly politically-motivated, others more obscure—in which individuals have reached the breaking point and acted out in violence; often cloaking themselves in the armor of a delusional Superhero Complex in which they are a hero or antihero for their terrorist attacks.

The claim of mental illness in a terrorist is often used incorrectly, and sometimes used to dismiss any societal motivating factors in a violent act. Most people who struggle with mental illness do not act out in violence. Some convicted terrorists said to be “obviously” mentally ill do not have a diagnostic condition recognized by the medical community; while juries convict terrorists who display clear signs of mental distress. What if the few terrorists who are mentally ill are like the mine canaries, warning us of something toxic spreading the fumes of anxiety through our society?

Even the definition of the term terrorism is hotly disputed and politically-biased. The US government considers “eco-terrorism” the greatest terrorist threat in our country. The evidence suggests this is not the case. Not all acts of violence—even political violence—are necessarily forms of terrorism. A broad generic definition of terrorism is using force or the threat of force to harm or intimidate civilians to advance a political or social objective. Using this definition, terrorism can be carried out by individuals, groups, or states. It can be a methodology used by the weak against the powerful, or the powerful against the weak. It can be aimed at persons or property. Using this definition, in the Middle East, suicide bombers targeting Jews and Israelis and the Israeli government shelling of Palestinian towns are both acts of terrorism.

The U.S. government rejects this definition in favor of one that assumes nation states cannot be engaged in terrorism. This is self-serving, since it excludes from “terrorism” US drone attacks that kill non-combatant citizens in foreign countries. It also excludes the World War II carpet bombing of the German city of Dresden in February 1945, and the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

A “Lone Wolf” terrorist is a person who has no current or past ties to an organized group advocating political violence. Such people are very hard for government authorities to track, thus their acts of terrorism are almost impossible to stop. The Lone Wolf uses a form of terrorism called “Leaderless Resistance.” Organized groups or cells can use Leaderless Resistance, but it is accurate to use that term only if every member of the cell has never participated in another organized group dedicated to political violence as a current or future goal. The concept of “Leaderless Resistance” is often attributed to right-wing racist Louis Beam, a neonazi icon and ideologue in the United States. Even Beam correctly notes that the concept was developed by a former CIA operative, Colonel Ulius Louis Amoss, a dedicated anticommunist who sought to improve the success of US agents building espionage cells in European countries occupied by the Soviet Union. Beam, on the other hand, implied it would be an effective way to build underground cells by White supremacists in the United States.

Claims that “Leaderless Resistance” cells on the political right have carried out numerous acts of terrorism are not technically accurate. Most incidents involve perpetrators with previous ties to organized ultra-right White supremacist groups. According to terrorism researcher Simson Garfinkel, the clearest examples of Leaderless Resistance in the United States are in the ecological group Earth First! and several Animal Liberation movements—movements that generally avoid harming people with their acts of vandalism against property.

When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in a terrorist bombing, terrorism “expert” Steven Emerson speculated that it was Arabs attempting to “inflict as many casualties as possible…that is a Middle Eastern trait.” Being wrong and a bigot have not stopped his crusade of self-promotion. As I write this, bloggers—without any evidence—are speculating on the motives of the accused perpetrator in the Colorado shootings. Some already are saying it can only be the act of a person who is mentally ill. This is not necessarily true.

Let’s start with the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011. Writing in Slate following the terror attack, Vaughan Bell suggested we are “too quick to use ‘mental illness’ as an explanation for violence.” As evidence Bell reviewed the work of an Oxford University psychiatrist, Seena Fazel, who “led the most extensive scientific studies to date of the links between violence and two of the most serious psychiatric diagnoses—schizophrenia and bipolar disorder” Either of these forms of mental illness can “lead to delusions, hallucinations, or some other loss of contact with reality.” Bell wrote that:

Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel’s team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone’s propensity or motive for violence.”

According to Dr. Marvin Swartz, while “we don’t know whether there was a specific relationship between the political climate that [Loughner] was exposed to and his thinking, it’s a reasonable line of inquiry to explore.” Swartz explains that “One’s cultural context does [have an effect on] people’s thinking and particularly their delusions. It gives some content and shape to their delusions.” Swartz, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, says it is legitimate to study “the cultural influences on people’s delusions or persecutory thinking,” and consider “different aspects of culture” and the how they affect people’s behavior—even the actions of terrorists.

The link between mass media vilification of a scapegoated group and incidents of aggression and violence against that group is well-established. Not everyone gripped by the media massage reacts by assaulting or killing the scapegoat, however, and a few people actively resist the campaign. Some terrorists write a script in which they see themselves as a Superhero out to avenge a wrong—real or illusory. Men in the United States seem oddly attracted to this role which intersects with guns and violence.

Older models of psychological interpretation often dismissed the violent actors as dysfunctional or mentally ill and left it at that. Contemporary approaches factor in psychological considerations, but also consider the role of demonization and scapegoating in creating perceptual frames. Within sociology, the study of how the construction of frames and narratives assists ideological goals and attracts and retains recruits is well developed. In several disciplines there are studies of apocalyptic narrative storylines that cast the perpetrator in the role of hero for saving society from a mortal threat.

For some terrorists who are not clinically mentally ill, the act of violence has a clear goal of sending a message they hope will be understood and acted upon. They are seldom correct in their idea that their “propaganda of the deed” will have the desired outcome. For the tiny handful of those who struggle with serious mental illness and turn to violence, outside factors in the society play a role in writing the script they are following to justify their actions. This script is internally generated and generally incomprehensible to other people, however, it can be internally consistent and understandable to the perpetrator. So outside societal factors can be involved, even if they are greatly misinterpreted through the darkened glasses of psychosis.

Zev Sternhell, a scholar of Fascism who was injured in a 2008 terrorist pipe bomb attack, says there are outside factors. Sternhell said the Loughner attack on Giffords and others was related to “radical conservative incitement against the Obama administration’s health care reform law, which Giffords backed.”

What about the terror attacks of John Salvi on reproductive health clinics in Boston in December 1994? Salvi was clearly motivated by his zealous anti-abortion stance and conspiracy theories about manipulation of currency by bankers. A jury convicted him despite persuasive testimony that Salvi was mentally ill. Salvi later committed suicide in jail. This raises further question, including the issue of the difference between a diagnosis of mental illness and the criteria for being found legally insane and unable to stand trial.

Clearly the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing, for which Timothy McVeigh was executed and Terry Nichols remains incarcerated for life—showed no signs of mental illness. They were political soldiers, just like Anders Behring Breivik charged with terror attacks in Norway in July 2011.

“The terrorist attacks in Oslo,” writes Gardell, “were not an outburst of irrational madness, but a calculated act of political violence.” Gardell says that here was a “certain logic” to the “carnage that can and should be explained, if we want to avoid a repetition.” Gardell notes that Breivik himself was aware that his “shock attacks are theatre and theatre is always performed for an audience.”

Psychiatrist Rosenqvist believes Breivik is not legally insane, and his “deviant statements” about Islam and other matters “are an expression of an extreme ideology,” and should not be seen as “a psychotic view of reality.” Rosenqvist suggests Breivik is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder that is not a form of legal insanity. Rosenqvist told reporters that Breivik was immersed in a cult-like anti-Islamic movement based outside of Norway. That movement, in fact, is based in the United States.

As one of Norway’s leading forensic psychiatrists, Rosenqvist’s opinion carried enough weight to have the matter of Breivik’s sanity reopened to a new pre-trial evaluation by outside experts. Rosenqvist examined Breivik for Norwegian authorities while he was in prison awaiting trial. Breivik admits to the bombing and shooting spree, but denies criminal guilt, according to press accounts. The Telegraph reported Breivik describes himself as “a commander of a resistance movement aiming to overthrow European governments and replace them with ‘patriotic’ regimes that would deport Muslim immigrants.”

A number of authors have written about what Mattia Gardell calls “Breivik’s Ideology” of the “Romantic Male Warrior Ideal.” Gardell writes that Breivik saw himself as a “self-appointed knight” who “gave himself the stage name Sigurd – the Crusader.” Gardell observes:

Animated by heroic tales of the crusaders, movie epics such as 300, Lord of the Rings, Passion Of The Christ, Serbian ultranationalist narratives of Radovan Karadzic’s bloody actions during the Bosnian civil war, and the exploits he performed in World of Warcraft, Breivik felt equipped for battle.”

Breivik’s Manifesto echoes many of the same tropes. Breivik warns of a “deconstruction of European cultures, identities and the traditional structures” which he identifies as the “nuclear family, traditional morality and patriarchal structures.” He rejects what he sees as the current “pacified/feminized” culture of Europe. He sees himself as a heroic warrior standing erect against the onslaught.

The role of gender panic in shaping an identity of the Superhero warrior is analyzed by James William Gibson in his book Warrior Dreams. In a similar line of analysis, Julie Ingersoll found in Breivik’s Manifesto “evidence of his profoundly sexist view of the world, where women are naive and lacking in rationality, but are useful for sex and reproduction.” She called it “emasculation paranoia.” Ingersoll also highlighted Breivik’s claim that “feminism is to blame for what he asserts is the success of a supposed Muslim plan for world domination.” Breivik “wants to set the culture clock back ‘to the ‘50s—because we know it works.” This mythic nostalgia, according to Ingersoll, “is a central feature …of how Breivik’s analysis could well have been lifted from the talking points of the religious right.

An example of this is in an essay by Christian Right author Gerald L. Atkinson that appeared in a collection on Political Correctness by Christian Right ideologue William Lind, one of Brevik’s intellectual heros cited in his manifesto. Atkinson excoriates feminism and blames what he calls “Cultural Marxism” in a way that matches Breivik’s analysis. According to Atkinson:

Perhaps no aspect of Political Correctness is more prominent in American life today than feminist ideology. Is feminism, like the rest of Political Correctness, based on the cultural Marxism imported from Germany in the 1930s? While feminism’s history in America certainly extends longer than sixty years, its flowering in recent decades has been interwoven with the unfolding social revolution carried forward by cultural Marxists.

The conspiracy theory about Cultural Marxism sweeping America and infecting the body politic all the way up to President Barack Obama is widespread in right-wing Republican circles. Many of the purveyors of this myth warn of impending doom and cast themselves in the role of the latter day Paul Revere’s—an example of Superhero Complex.

A number of terrorists in the US fall into that pattern. Stressor factors that can create a Superhero Complex that leads to violence can include zealous political goals, anxiety over changing racial, gender, or religious dynamics, a sense of being persecuted, fear and depression over collapsing economic viability, a belief in conspiracy theories of impending attack by dark forces, or other factors. For Salvi, Loughner, and Breivik, stress was focused on targeted scapegoats by right-wing fearmongering from marginal sources and demonization of liberal ideas. This litany of demonization and scapegoating is carried on mainstream corporate media in the United States, and not just Fox News. An example is the appearance of right-wing ideologue, Islamophobic bigot, and Sharia Law conspiracy theorist Newt Gingrich appearing on CNN to discuss the Colorado terrorist attack.

We do not as yet know enough about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado to make an assessment of the motivations of the arrested shooter. We do know that societal and political factors can shape the actions of any terrorist, no matter what their mental status. We also know, based on reporting by alternative journalists David Neiwert, Sara Robinson, and others, that the mainstream frame of reporting on terrorism and political violence in the United States is shoddy and politically-biased—downplaying acts by right-wing militants and attacks on reproductive rights providers, while overplaying terror plots involving Muslims and Arabs as well as those involving ecology activists. Better in-depth reporting could help solve the problem, rather than exploiting it for commercial game in an ironic parody of the bad sensationalist media hacks criticized in the HBO television series “The Newsroom.”

How Right-Wing Greedster Cranks Raise $ by Trashing Obama

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Right-wing cranks and greedsters have been cashing in on the gullibility of their audience since the earliest days of the Internet. Selling gold, survivalist supplies, investment opportunities, and the amazing garage fish farm crap/hydroponics vegetable garden installation.

Now comes an offer so cynical and breathless that it deserves its own post. How can I improve on this carnival huckster pitch? I can’t. Here it is.

= = =

News just broke that a Russian crime ring has stolen over a BILLION passwords.

I hope that you’re not among those impacted, but only time will tell.

Political Operative, Floyd Brown, calls cyber terror the most disruptive force in the world.

This is not in the news yet…

Cyber terror is suddenly a $46-billion industry.

It’s thriving thanks to the deep pockets on Capitol Hill.

Right now, at the highest levels of government, it’s clear that a “Russian retaliation” is being planned.

Washington’s retaliation WILL impact certain stocks.

Floyd Brown is urging immediate evasive action…

Floyd’s been down this road a million times during his career on the Hill.

He’s granting 750 of our readers an unbelievable opportunity…

That is, a chance to listen-in on his conference call (regarding cyber terror) with an active member of Congress (first-come, first-served).

Let’s call him Congressman “X.”

Congressman “X” sits on a major Congressional House Committee, and he played an active role in uncovering the truth about the attack of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

He’s also on an Emerging Threats House subcommittee.

You don’t want to miss this conference call!

The conference call is exclusively for our readers.

During the call, Floyd will reveal the one stock downwind from the crisis.

Shares could blast exponentially higher as details concerning Washington’s retaliation hit the masses.

To reserve your seat, click here.

[[ https://orders.wsdinsider.com/CLWLAUNCH/ECLWQ805/index.htm?pageNumber=2 ]]

Good investing,

Justin Fritz
Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Daily

= = =

PT Barnum wouldn’t blush…he would vomit.

Condi’s Dad and the Lessons of War

[Originally posted on October 27th, 2004)

When I hear Condoleezza Rice defending the war in Iraq I think of her father denouncing the war in Vietnam. Condi’s dad was a Dean in the college of liberal arts at the University of Denver in the early 1970s when I was editor of the student newspaper, the Clarion. His name was John Rice, but no student dared call him that. He was an imposing figure, and we all called him “Dean” Rice.

In her book Bushwomen, Laura Flanders traces how Condi Rice was recruited by right-wing Republicans. Flanders recounts how Ms. Rice, speaking at the GOP convention in Philadelphia, said that her father “was the first Republican I knew,” and claimed “In America, with education and hard work, it really does not matter where you come from; it matters only where you are going.”

That’s not what I learned from Dean Rice. I took his class “The Black Experience in America,” and continued to attend the seminars with his encouragement. The seminar was built around a series of invited speakers who lectured in a public forum followed by classroom discussions. That’s where I met Fannie Lou Hamer, a Black voting rights activist from Sunflower County Mississippi, who led a challenge to the all-White Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democrat Convention, which failed that year but succeeded in 1968. That’s where I heard Dean Rice explain that he had always refused to register as a Democrat because that was the party of the bigots who had blocked his voter registration when he and his family lived in the South.

Dean Rice may have been registered as a Republican up North, but he taught me about working for progressive social change and opposing institutional racism. He taught me that White people like me enjoyed privileges routinely denied to Blacks. He taught me that the proportion of Blacks serving in Vietnam was tied to economic and social policies at home. And he pointed out that along with this knowledge came an absolute moral imperative to act.

The seminar speakers invited by Dean Rice included a wide range of perspectives–from members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, to exiled South African poet Dennis Brutus, to Louis Farrakhan explaining the teachings of Black Muslim Elijah Mohammed, to Lee Evans and John Carlos who were organizing Black athletes to resist racism. It was Carlos and a teammate gave the black power salute after winning medals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. I still have a tape of the lecture by Andrew Young who was then a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was long ago, but I think I remember Condi as a teenager all dressed up playing the classical piano introduction to Young’s speech. Condi was so smart and talented she was a bit scary. We all knew she was being groomed to go far, but we never suspected she would end up painting a public picture of her father that many of us would not recognize.

Dean Rice had high standards for all of us; and as his students we respected him enough to ask him to speak in May of 1971 at a campus memorial service for the students slain at Kent and Jackson State the previous year. Dean Rice eulogized the dead students as “young people who gave their lives for the cause of freedom and for the cause of eliminating useless war.” He read the names of those from the university community who had died in Vietnam. He spoke of the atrocities. Then he challenged us all:

“When tomorrow comes will you be the perpetuators of war or of peace? Are you the generation to bring to America a lasting peace? Or did your brothers and sisters at Kent and Jackson State die in vain?”

Jim Heltsley, who taught in the Speech and Communications department, was deeply moved by the speech delivered by Dean Rice. That day he sent a large envelope to me containing a letter to the editor. Heltsley wrote: “After listening to Dean Rice and others speak of the ‘senseless’ war and of the atrocities committed there and within our own country, I shook with silent frustration….I wanted to shout that it is all of us that are guilty-we who sit there and do nothing.”

“I sat there in the sun looking at a one-eyed veteran and felt the place where my left elbow used to be-it was torn off by shrapnel in Korea in that infamous ‘police action’. There must have been older faculty members present who felt the tearing sensation of bullets [in the Second World War]. But here we sit and accuse others of not doing anything…we are all responsible-in particular we who should be expert witnesses!”

Heltsley wrote that he did not have the courage to be arrested in protesting the war, but that that in the envelope was something he could do. Enclosed were his four Korean War medals he was rejecting, including a Purple Heart. I thought about the medals and the message, and what I had learned from Dean Rice over the years. I thought about how my brother had stood up for his different set of principles, and was serving in Vietnam while I sat safely at a desk on a college campus.

We ran the letter from Heltsley as the front page of the Clarion, with the medals laid across the bottom of the page. The next day I laid down and was arrested with other protesters at a federal center outside Denver in an act of civil disobedience to protest the war in Vietnam.

More than thirty years later I leaf through old issues of the University of Denver Clarion and old letters from Dean Rice. On the television I hear the Bush Administration justifications and rationalizations for the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, the endless wars. And I know that what I taught my child, and what I teach others, is shaped by the question asked by John Rice in 1971:

“When tomorrow comes will you be the perpetuators of war or of peace?”

Uniting to Defend the Four Freedoms

Note: This essay was first written in the days following
the domestic terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

We all need to spend some time considering how best to defend liberty and freedom, and what unites us as a nation concerned with democratic values. In doing so, we need to commit to a process that respects civil liberties, and civil rights, and civil discourse.

My Dad wouldn’t talk with me about World War II except to say it was brutal and bloody and that he lost many friends. So when he swapped war stories in the basement with his drinking buddies, I would sit in the dark at the top of the stairs and listen.

I learned how his hands and feet had been frostbitten during the Battle of the Bulge, and that one of his Bronze Star citations was for taking out a Nazi machine gun nest. He thought the Germans were decent people whose big mistake was not standing up to the thugs like the Brownshirts who broke the windows of Jewish-owned stores on Kristalnacht. As I remembered this, I watched mountains of broken glass being swept up in Oklahoma City as the death count rose.

News of the bombing reached our family on vacation in coastal Georgia. I had been writing about the historic and social roots of the militia movement and, after visiting a museum preserving a former rice plantation, had talked with my son about how the Ku Klux Klan had formed as a militia during the economic and cultural turmoil following the Civil War. I had little doubt that the blast was somehow linked to the armed militia movement.

Reports of the carnage at the Oklahoma City federal building, the selfless efforts of rescue crews, and the horror of even some militia members, mingled eerily with stories commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. I found history lessons connecting these events in an old brass-bound wooden chest, inherited after we buried my Dad at Arlington Cemetery 20 years ago. Inside were brittle photos of a young lieutenant, a dried flower sent to my Mom from “somewhere in Belgium,” crumbling newspaper clippings on the fighting near Bastogne, and a leather case filled with war medals.

Like many White Christians in the late 1950s, Dad held stereotyped views about Blacks and Jews. His actions spoke differently, though, and were the durable lesson. When neighbors in Hackensack, New Jersey, told him that our town was not ready for the Little League team he coached–with a Black player, a Jewish player, and a Jewish assistant coach–Dad simply said he had picked the best, and shut the door. He told me he had seen Jews and Blacks die along with everyone else fighting the Nazis; then he pointedly invited the entire team and their families to our yard for a very public picnic. Later, the stones crashing through our windows at night merely hardened his resolve.

In the 1960s we moved up the commuter rail line to Hillsdale, New Jersey. My brother went to military school and played in the marching band. In college he was sports editor of the campus newspaper and joined ROTC. After graduation he shipped out to fight in Vietnam. I went to church-basement coffee houses and marched with the civil rights movement. In college I edited the campus newspaper and joined the anti-war movement. After the killings at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970, I editorialized in favor of a student strike.

The next year, after a commemoration of Kent and Jackson, a professor sent me his Korean war medals as an act of protest against our government’s policies. He felt a need to stand up, and his conscience told him that “it is all of us that are guilty–we who sit there and do nothing.” We sent the newspaper with a story about the medals to the printers, then I sat up all night trying to unravel conflicting emotions over family expectations, my hope for my brother’s safe return from war, career plans, and what my personal moral obligations demanded of me, given my views about peace and social justice. When morning came, I quietly joined other anti-war protestors and engaged in my first act of non-violent civil disobedience at a federal building near Denver.

My Dad was Grand Marshall of Hillsdale’s Memorial Day parade. When a tiny peace group in the early 1970s asked to participate, it created a furor. Dad was a lifelong Republican, pro-war, and anti-communist, and his idea of America came right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. He told the town officials that if the peace marchers followed the rules, they were entitled to march. And they did. Mom told me he came home from the debate shaking his head, asking how people could forget those who gave their lives to defend such rights.

Reunited as a family one Thanksgiving, we all toasted my brother’s safe return from Vietnam with the crystal wine glasses my father brought back from Germany. It was a mirrored tableau of Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want,” a painting of a family sharing abundant food. The “Four Freedoms” series appeared as Saturday Evening Post covers during World War II; and as corny and steeped in stereotyping as they were, the theme helped unify and rally our nation at a time of crisis. Sure, politicians had other more cynical and pragmatic justifications for the war, but most Americans were willing to fight because they believed in the four freedoms.

Years later, battling cancer, my Dad was determined to don his uniform one last time on Memorial Day. As I helped him dress, I asked him about the war. His only reply was to hand me one of his medals. Inscribed on the back were the words “Freedom from Fear and Want. Freedom of Speech, and Religion.” The four freedoms. My Dad fought fascism to defend these freedoms, not just for himself, but for people of different religions and races, people he disagreed with. . .even people he was prejudiced against.

Today, the four freedoms that millions fought to defend are under attack–in part because we forget why people fought World War II, we deny what led to the Holocaust, we fail to live up to the promise of the civil rights movement, and we refuse to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War era.

Freedom of speech needs to be defended because democracy depends on a public dialogue to build informed consent. This is impossible when the public conversation–from armed militia members to talk-show hosts to mainstream politicians–is typified by shouting, falsehoods, and scapegoating. The Nazi death camps proved that hateful speech linked to conspiracy myths can lead to violence and murder. The solution is not censorship, but citizenship–people need to stand up and speak out in public against the bigots and bullies. Democracy works. The formula for democracy is straightforward: over time, the majority of people, given enough accurate information, and access to a free and open debate, reach the right decisions to preserve liberty. Thus democracy depends on ensuring freedom of speech.

Freedom from fear is manipulated by those demanding laws that would undermine freedom of speech. The same agencies that spied on the civil rights and anti-war movements are again peddling the false notion that widespread infiltration of social movements is effective in stopping terrorism. Meanwhile, demagogues fan the flames of fear to urge passage of even more authoritarian crime control measures–while doing little to find real societal solutions that would bring freedom from fear to crime-ridden communities.

Freedom of religion is twisted by those seeking to make their private religious views into laws governing the public. But it is also abused by liberal critics who patronize sincere religious belief as ignorance, and litter the landscape with hysterical and divisive direct mail caricaturing all religious conservatives as zealots. Freedom of religion means we must have a serious debate on the issues with our devout neighbors, while condemning the theocrats who claim to speak for God as they pursue secular political goals.

Freedom from want has been shoved aside in a mean-spirited drive to punish the hungry, the poor, the children, the elderly, the disabled, the infirm, the homeless, the disenfranchised.

For many in our country, the four freedoms remain only a dream, but at least in 1945 it was a dream worth fighting for. How many of us today are willing to stop shouting and just talk with each other about how best our nation can defend the four freedoms?

-Chip Berlet