Saturday, July 21, 2007

Normalizing white supremacy

-- by Dave

Something kept popping up while I was researching Bill O'Reilly's remarks comparing DailyKos to the Klan and neo-Nazis. It was kind of a repeating theme, the kind of note that keeps popping up enough to create a pattern -- in this case, a very telling one.

While I was cruising through far-right racist websites -- something I do with some regularity anyway -- I kept running across a familiar theme: white male Christians are under siege, an "endangered species," and "white culture" is likewise on the brink of vanishing in a swamp of brown people.

Even though we've been hearing this pap from the white-supremacist right for lo these many decades now (really, this meme dates back to the early 20th century), and it has been a standard plaint of neo-Nazi and Klan websites for most of their existence, there was a reason it kept popping up on my radar: I was looking for material relating to Bill O'Reilly.

And it is a familiar claim because it's one we heard not too long ago from O'Reilly himself:
Bill O'Reilly: But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right.

O'Reilly, in fact, is one of the major media figures responsible for whitewashing the reality that Buchanan's recent work has finally tipped the scales into outirght white supremacist extremism. O'Reilly, in fact, had previously hosted Buchanan in 2005, an interview in which they discussed Buchanan's "Decline of the West" thesis.

Indeed, as Media Matters has observed, the decline of white male dominance is a frequent concern of O'Reilly's:
-- On the May 16, 2006, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that The New York Times and "many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed." O'Reilly continued: "According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will." O'Reilly's comments came during a discussion of opposition by the Times and others to deploying the National Guard to help secure the border.

-- On the May 1, 2006, edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, O'Reilly alleged that the "organizers" of nationwide pro-immigrant protests had a "hardcore militant agenda of 'You stole our land, you bad gringos,' " and that the protest organizers were seeking to "take it back by massive, massive migration into the Southwest.' "

-- On the April 12, 2006, broadcast of his radio show, O'Reilly claimed that on the April 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, guest Charles Barron, a New York City councilman, had revealed the "hidden agenda" behind the current immigration debate. O'Reilly told his listeners: "[T]he bottom line is Charles Barron said last night is there is a movement in this country to wipe out 'white privilege' and to have the browning of America." O'Reilly suggested that this "hidden agenda" included plans to let "people who live in the Caribbean, people who live in Africa and Asia ... walk in and become citizens immediately."

From the May 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Reluctantly, and I mean reluctantly, "Talking Points" is going to support this legislation. It's the best we can get and does improve the situation. But make no mistake, it's not fair. It drastically alters the United States of America. And there will be unintended consequences all over the place.

The new census report says America's now one-third minority. And in four states -- California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii -- whites are the minority. So with the infusion of as many as 20 to 30 million new citizens in the next 10 years, the landscape of America will absolutely change.

Compare all this, if you will, with the kind of rhetoric you can find at Klan sites like the Knights' Party [warning: racist site], which opens its official platform with the following as its top items:
The recognition that America was founded as a Christian nation.

As James Madison, known as the "Chief Architect of the Constitution" stated; " We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves to control ourselves to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

The recognition that America was founded as a White nation.

America was born as an extension of White European heritage. Those who formed the very ideals that we cherish such as freedom of speech, trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty, free enterprise, etc. were of White European heritage. All of the early laws of the United States from its very inception restricted citizenship to White people and all of the early charters, laws, compacts, etc were signed into effect by White people.

This particular site is hardly alone in voicing these beliefs as being among the most important sources of their political involvement. Visit Stormfront, or the National Socialist Movement site, or David Duke's website, and you'll not only be able to find similar statements, you'll discover that they are prominent and pervasive throughout the sites.

None of these sites (except the commenters at Stormfront) cite O'Reilly in these rants; he is only occasionally a source for them on this. Rather, it's evident that he is channeling them. What O'Reilly provides for them is confirmation of the self-evident truth of their core beliefs -- as well as encouragement that their message is spreading and being adopted by more and more Americans.

Now, O'Reilly has on various occasions attempted to make clear he is not on the side of white supremacists, particularly the anti-Semitic types that populate the Klan and neo-Nazi organizations -- O'Reilly being an outspoken defender of Israel. And there is no real evidence that he sympathizes with the kind of naked bigotry that is the essence of hate groups.

Yet there is no question that O'Reilly has nonetheless appropriated -- almost certainly from secondary sources like Buchanan, who in fact cites extremist sources in his published work -- the longtime core message of white supremacists and transmitted it, stripped of the obvious bigotry but still containing the core idea, to his broadcast audience of millions.

As one of my regular commenters, s9, observes in the comments to the previous post:
It's obvious what Billo is doing: exaggerating the threat of extremism among mainstream liberals while simultaneously communicating the extremism of the racist far right in comfortable terms for mainstream conservatives. What explains this behavior? That's what I think it's important to note.

The reason Billo is exaggerating the threat of extremism among mainstream liberals is that he's agitating, softening the ground in advance, for an extremist backlash against the "secular-progressives" that he (and people like our own Whiteman) hate so much.

It isn't just Billo doing this, of course. Guys like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have started cranking up the rhetoric lately too. It's clear they're all looking forward to having the opportunity to take out their frustrations in a decentralized campaign of discrimination against 'liberals' in the aftermath of the next major mass-casualty terrorist attack in the U.S.

This strikes me as precisely right. Blaming "secular progressives" for everything amiss with America has been a long-running O'Reilly theme -- they are, after all, the Enemy in his self-proclaimed Culture War. Recall that interview with Buchanan two years ago:
O'REILLY: All right. Now, the secular progressives who were at the forefront of promoting this kind of behavior -- and I'm going to ask you why in a minute -- will point to the declining pregnancy rate among teens. It's going down. Crime rate's going down. Education scores are going up.

And they're going to say, "Hey, we can digest this kind of stuff, and it's not going to have a pernicious effect on our society." How do you answer that with the stats?

BUCHANAN: Well, take a look at the stats. You have something like more than two thirds of all African-American children are born out of wedlock. It was only eight percent in the 1940s. Something like a third of white children and 40 percent of Hispanics or maybe 50 percent. And you've got all these attendant social problems.

Now I'm not saying we lose every battle. You know, the battle of gay marriage, you win it at the ballot box. But the idea you'd be talking about homosexual marriages -- in the 1950s nobody would believe it.

So I think what is happening is there's no doubt that the left is making tremendous progress. We win some battles, but I believe we're losing the war.

O'REILLY: Now, the vanguard, the panzers of the left, are the press, the elite media, The New York Times, L.A. Times, L.A. Times column by this nut -- what's his name? -- Robert Scheer -- attacks the Catholic Church for opposing gay marriage and saying the pope is an awful guy. And they're all a bunch of hypocrites.

I've never figured out why The New York Times and The L.A. Times or even network news, which doesn't actively promote secular progressivism but certainly is comfortable with it, why they want to change the society in that direction. Do you know why they do?

BUCHANAN: Well, do I know exactly why? I'm not exactly sure, but I can tell you this.

The elites, you mentioned the media elites. But you take the culture elites in Hollywood and New York. You take the academic elites. All of them have been converted to what we used to call the counterculture in the 1960s.

This is all-too-familiar far-right scapegoating -- commies, brown people, liberals. It's not just O'Reilly: Limbaugh, Savage, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and dozens of lesser right-wing lights have all been indulging eliminationist rhetoric directed at these targets for some time now.

And that, folks, is hate. O'Reilly isn't just fantasizing and distorting and misinforming the public when he accuses DailyKos of hatemongering -- he's projecting.

After all, it's clear: When it comes to the ideas you find at Klan and neo-Nazi sites, the person most "just like" them is Bill O'Reilly himself.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

O'Reilly and the hate talk

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly, I object.

As someone whose work involves tracking the activities of neo-Nazis, the Klan, and other elements of the extremist right, it's time that someone pointed out the profound damage that O'Reilly is inflicting on our national discourse by promoting the notion that somehow, DailyKos is comparable to hate groups like the Klan and the neo-Nazis.

What O'Reilly is telling the public, essentially, is that such hate groups purvey the same kind of discourse that you find at common, garden-variety political blogs. He's not only smearing DKos -- he's seriously downplaying and distorting the kind of hate being spewed by the haters of the racist right.

He did it again yesterday:
But here's what I think. The hate websites on both the left and the right -- I object to. You know I object to. Now, you're a little bit more a libertarian about this in our previous conversations.

But I say this. There's no difference between the KKK and the Nazis, who have websites, than the Daily Kos. Because the Daily Kos is basically saying, "We're allowing this kind of thing to come on. It's good that Tony Snow has a recurrence of cancer; we hope he dies. We're sorry the assassination attempt against Dick Cheney failed; let them try again." And on and on and on and on.

I mean, this is the stuff that they have every day on this website, and they revel in it.

Now, am I overstating this? Because I think hate is hate, no matter where it is.

It is, as Media Matters explains in patient detail, a gross overstatement, of course. Nearly all of the "hate" he cites come in random comments -- not actual DKos posts -- and appear to have been selected from a very few out of the literally millions of such comments that have been posted at Kos over the years.

O'Reilly has been claiming for the better part of a week now that "hate is hate" and thus Kos is just like the haters; the previous outburst went like this:
Hate is hate, sir. That website traffics in it, as do the Nazi websites. No difference.

Kenneth Brown, Jacksonville, Florida: "Mr. O'Reilly, I'm a black American and understand your argument against JetBlue, but I disagree with you comparing the Daily Kos to the KKK. The website simply hates the Bush administration."

What does the pope have to do with the president, sir? How about Israel? The website sells hate, as does the KKK and the Nazis. The comparison is valid.

Actually, there really is no comparison, and anyone claiming so is seriously misleading the public about the nature of the hate that is peddled with great regularity at sites run by neo-Nazis and Klan types.

DailyKos is, by any standard -- whether on the Internet or not -- a fairly mainstream liberal website that specializes in political dialogue. The clear mass of posts at the site are about politics, and they express clearly mainstream views. In a few rare cases, commenters can be found making hateful remarks, but they are statistically quite tiny in number. Moreover, Kos has specific policies regarding hateful speech, and while they may be enforced with varying degrees of laxity, to claim that the site actually encourages hate speech is a gross and absurd distortion of reality.

As for being a purveyor of hate -- ahem -- O'Reilly himself has a noteworthy track record. Witness, for example, his latest adventure in the Bizarro Universe, when he tried promoting the cockamamies theory that lesbian gangs were running rampant and threatening hetero males with pink pistols -- a story that he continued to insist was "legitimate."

This story, in fact, was a classic piece of anti-gay hatemongering, painting them without evidence as violent, ballbusting thugs likely to inflict harm on poor white males, linking them groundlessly with criminal behavior and hateful behavior. It was in the same mold as the anti-immigrant hatemongering in which O'Reilly indulges regularly, and which sparked his onscreen fight with Geraldo Rivera.

Indeed: where, exactly, does O'Reilly think people like the Klan (which also indulges frequently in gay-bashing) get their raw material from, anyway? They get it from supposedly "mainstream" sources like O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs. Were O'Reilly to spend any time perusing far-right websites, he might be appalled to see how many times his reportage is cited by them -- particularly in such chat forums as the neo-Nazi favorite, Stormfront, where O'Reilly's reportage is a real favorite, even though O'Reilly himself is dismissed as a "neocon" by the white-supremacy purists.

But if you really want a taste of what the neo-Nazis and the Klan actually promote at their websites, here's a sampling from various websites and their current offerings, taken today alone:
[From a typical Stormfront post]

A white girl who says she has only slept with 4 guys. One of them happens to be a jew. She says she thought he was white. Yes the guy appears to be white, but she now knows he isn't. She is now aware of what the jews are trying to do to whites, and is completely repulsed by this wreckage of her past, and would like to forget it ever happened.. This is my thought....If she was unaware at the time, it isn't really her fault. She was in no way a liberal, and was under the impression that if someone isn't black, asian, mexican etc. than they are white. This is an extremely nice girl, who may have been naive at one point in time, but I still would not consider her a race traitor. She is currently dating a friend from my gym who is racially aware, and has set her straight. Any thoughts?

A poem posted at Stormfront

We march tired and true
Frowning upon ever n****r and jew
They've taken over our homeland
and we need to take a stand
you see our shaven heads and grin
you know we are proud to be wearing white skin
put on our boots and pull the lace
we are the one true aryan race
we stand tall and ready to fight
the guys on our side arent afriad
and there lifes for our race are laid
We are white and we are proud
We are white and we shout it loud!

Headlines from the American Nazi Party/National Socialist Movement website]

Throwback the Wetback

Eugencis 101:

Mexicans outbreeding whites and blacks!

60 million Californians by mid-century and Latinos the dominant ethnic group, study says.

[From the NSM's 25-point agenda, available atop its website]

We demand land and territory (colonies) to feed our people and to settle surplus population.

Only members of the nation may be citizens of the state. Only those of pure White blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Non-citizens may live in America only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens. Accordingly, no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation.

The right to vote on the State government and legislation shall be enjoyed by citizens of the state alone.

... All non-White immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force.

[From the White Camelia Knights of the Ku Klux Klan website]

Racial suicide all in the name of equality is insane. In the Klan’s opinion, it shows a lack of love and caring for the White Race. The Klan believes Whites are superior to the Non-Whites. When someone comes to a Klansman and makes the comment, ‘we are all God’s creation and the only difference in the Race’s is the color of the skin’, we tell them that they are partially correct. God is the creator, and he did create us all, but there is a world of difference between the races besides skin color.

Why are so many people bent on promoting race-mixing and racial equality? Because, it is Satan’s goal to have us violate our Heavenly Father’s law on mixing our seed with the other people of the world. What use to be wrong is now right. What use to be bad is now good. Our world has been turned upside down and we have only ourselves to blame for being so gullible.

... We’re often asked if there will be a race war in America's future. Our answer to this question is “yes”. What most people don't realize is there are racial battles breaking out all across America right now. These racial battles are going to lead us into an all out race war. As the non-white race population is growing the White population is decreasing.

Our constitution was designed for White Christian America by White Christians and is not going to be adequate for or accepted by non-whites in the future. Today most Blacks and other non-whites blame White's for everything that has gone wrong in their communities. They expect White taxpayers to financially fix their problems for them; White's are tired of taking the blame and or no longer willing or able to support non-white communities. This of course will breed even more hatred against Whites.

I could go on all night, of course. But you get the picture: Hate groups specialize in purveying hate -- not just generic nastiness, the kind inspired by the Michael Savages and Rush Limbaughs of the world everyday but real hate: ethnic, racial, religious and sexual bigotry in its most noxious form. It's not merely a bug that crops up in comments -- it is the entire raison d'etre of these organizations and websites.

That is not even close to the kind of comparatively mild rhetorical heat that emanates from the political blogosphere, particularly not from mainstream sites like DailyKos -- though one could, pretty accurately, make a case that such hate is in fact rhetorically endemic to right-wing sites like Little Green Footballs and the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. But even that comparison, frankly, does not do justice to the ugliness that is the everyday grist of the far right's mill.

The hate that comes from the extremist right has a special quality, an extraordinary viciousness that makes clear that its purveyors are simply monsters with rotted smegma for souls. Pretending that what comes out of a mainstream political website like DailyKos bears any relation to them is false, irresponsible, and profoundly misleads the public that is Bill O'Reilly's audience.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars on O'Reilly's latest attempt at "balance." [And thanks to John for the nice link.]

Taco trucks in Chocolate City

-- by Dave

The ongoing demographic shift in America, led by the heavy influx of Latinos from south of the border, is creating a lot of discomfort in places that were pretty much homogenously white before the 1990s -- many of them, as I've explored previously, are indeed all-white, historically speaking, very much by design.

But whites aren't the only segment of the population that's being discomfited by it. So, in fact, are some largely black urban neighborhoods that are beginning to feel under siege -- most notably, in New Orleans, according to a Los Angeles Times story about the city's decision to crack down on taco trucks:
But not everyone is enamored of the newest cheap eats to captivate the Crescent City. Jefferson Parish politicians, who have long turned a blind eye to whites and blacks peddling shrimp out of pickup trucks and snow cones on the street, recently outlawed rolling Mexican-food kitchens, calling them an unwelcome reminder of what Hurricane Katrina brought. Soon, Sanchez will be run out of business.

"What they're doing is just mean," the Texas native, 49, said in Spanish, noting that he'd secured all needed permits before officials changed the rules last month. "I do think they want the Mexicans out. I don't see any other explanation."

Nearly two years after Katrina led thousands of Latino immigrants to New Orleans in search of reconstruction work, it's obvious that the new arrivals are having a cultural influence that reaches beyond repairing homes and businesses — and that's making some people uncomfortable.

Authentic Mexican food is now widely available here in taco trucks and storefront taquerias, adding a contemporary Latin tinge to a famously mixed-up culinary scene that's always managed to preserve its unique Cajun and Creole flavor even as most of America has become homogenized.

But the new ethnic eateries are emerging at a time when many traditional New Orleans restaurants are struggling in the face of sagging tourism and a smaller population — one that's noticeably browner than before Katrina. New Orleans now has about 260,000 residents, down from about 460,000. Roughly 50,000 are Latinos, up from 15,000.

So taco trucks have become fodder for a larger debate over whether to recreate the past or embrace a new future in New Orleans — a discussion that's thick with racial undertones.

To advocates of reclaiming the old ways, new establishments that do not build upon the city's reputation, and may not even be permanent, represent a barrier to progress. As New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas recently put it in an interview with the Times-Picayune, "How do the tacos help gumbo?"

One of the natural effects of creating and maintaining a system of race-based residential segregation built out of "defended" communities -- as white Americans have since the early years of the 20th century -- is that the resulting population centers for minorities become defended communities themselves.

This was particularly the case for African Americans, who in fleeing the horrific violence of race riots, lynchings, and other acts of racial cleansing throughout the American countryside (and not merely in the South), sought refuge in urban centers where other blacks also lived in large numbers: Detroit, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and yes, New Orleans.

Many blacks saw, and continue to see, these as places were they can live without being harassed or murdered simply for the color of their skin, places where their children can grow up without being treated like freaks or presumed criminals. In communities like New Orleans, where black accomplishment was everywhere to be seen, the sense of pride is palpable -- as is the willingness to defend.

I think this is what Mayor Ray Nagin was talking about when he talked about New Orleans as "Chocolate City"; there were in fact white elements eager to remake New Orleans in their own image, and Nagin was certainly aware of that. The overreaction from the eager-to-be-offended Bill O'Reilly types -- whose outrage was built on a phony analogy about race that necessarily deisregarded the reality of racial demographics in America -- revealed more about themselves than anything about Nagin. The mayor, in fact, saw himself as defending the black community from whites who sought to sweep away their hard-earned gains, using Katrina reconstruction as cover. But because whites have deliberately covered over and forgotten the history of the racial balkanization that they created and maintained, it was easy for right-wing white commentators like O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to misrepresent this and instead eagerly portray Nagin's remarks as an example of reverse racism.

Yet there is little doubt that, for blacks especially, there is a sense of violation when the barriers of balkanization break down and others begin moving into their formerly defended communities -- not because they want to protect their privileges, as is the case in all-white communities, but because of the sense that this is all they have left to defend.

So it should not be a surprise that when demographic change comes to these quarters, there's a lot of angst and anger. It's a delicate and complex problem, and resolving it requires large doses of understanding on all sides.

The people moving in, particularly Latinos, need to respect the reasons for their defensiveness, which are not about defending economic privilege and elitism but about preserving hard-earned gains. And the black community, likewise, needs to understand that America needs to break down those walls we spent a century building and maintaining -- including those built to defend against the effects of racism.

But tearing them down is our only option, even if it means mixing taco trucks with servings of gumbo. When they are finally gone, I believe we'll discover that the flavor suits us all just fine.

Are We There Yet?

-- by Sara

It has come to this:
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 17, 2007
Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)(IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)(NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
(Full text here)

It's that B clause that concerns me -- and should concern all of us who blog, comment, organize, write letters, and otherwise exercise our rights to agitate against this unholy war. "Undermining the efforts" is a term that can be defined very, very broadly. And since those of us opposing this war have been told repeatedly, from the beginning, that our efforts to change our fellow citizens' minds were in fact treasonous acts that undermined the war effort, emboldened America's enemies, and harmed our troops, it's not unreasonable to believe that those warnings are now being backed up by official action. "At risk of committing significant acts of violence" is more overbroad weasel-speak: How many of us have said things that could be construed (at least by the certifiable paranoids in the White House) as a threat of violence against the Bush Administration?

This government has now asserted -- without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress -- its right to take away our houses, cars, savings accounts, the stuff of our lives, on the say-so of the President and his Treasury Secretary. They are not kidding. What we do here, what I am doing right now (unless I choose my words very carefully) is being done in defiance of the Law According to George Bush.

For the past four and a half years, Dave has carefully and thoughtfully argued that there's a difference between proto-fascism -- the sprouts that are present in the garden, but have not yet borne flower or fruit -- and the real thing.

When the President can take away your life's savings without due process, under authority of a law no people's legislature ever approved, for simply disagreeing with his policies and publicly stating your intentions to do something about them, we are treading so close to that line that it's hard to tell whether we're actually over it.

And, worse, we've reached the point where these outrages seem to occur weekly -- bigger and more blatant every time, but by now we've seen so many so often that we're inured. We don't even know where to start fighting. In any other administration we've ever had, this one act on its own would be an impeachable offense. In this one, it's just another drop in an overflowing bucket.

And that, too, is how fascism works. As Milton Mayer explained in They Thought They Were Free:
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have....

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
The America that would accept this kind of edict in silence is not the America that we grew up in. Something has changed. We are poised to accept this like we've accepted every other insult. It's hard to imagine that, even when bloggers and other dissenters start losing their property, that there will be tens of thousands in the streets to protect us. As long as the forms are still there, and the system continues to do what it must to sustain itself, we will simply be collateral damage.

If we accept the forcible removal of our property without due process, forcible removal of our lives will not be far behind. And there are people eager to accomplish this: according to Barna Research, there are about 50 million hardcore fundamentalists who have been eagerly awaiting the day, training and planning and praying for the chance to do just that -- to take out their frustrations on the liberal traitors whom they have been taught to believe are responsible for everything that's wrong with their lives. They believe, in their bones, we have stabbed God's America in the back; and they are out for vengeance. This is the edict that will provide "legal" support and justification for their first tentative steps toward mob rule.

Are we there yet? Not quite. But Bush has just put the capstone on the doorway leading to the coming fascist state. Whether your own B clause is a passport or a gun, it's probably time to make sure both are in good working order.

Update: Thom Hartmann did a long interview with far-right economist Paul Craig Roberts on Friday that sheds more light on the implications of this. (There are plenty of people on the right who are at least as concerned about Bush's intentions as we are.) You can go hear the audio here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mmmmm. Sea lice

I've written previously about the problems associated with farmed Atlantic salmon, especially those raised in Pacific Coast waters. A quick roundup: the fish are loaded with chemicals, the farms pollute the local waters, and worst of all, they are harming native Pacific salmon stocks.

Unfortunately, more and more of them are coming, especially up in British Columbia, where the government is avidly promoting salmon farming because it brings jobs. Washington state is not far behind. And as Rafe Mair at The Tyee explains, the bullshit coming from the promoters of this environmental disaster is seemingly endless.

First, there is the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue:
Here is what well-known fish biologist John Volpe had to say: "The independent scientific community speaks with a single voice with regards to sea lice and their impact on wild salmon. Salmon farms kill wild salmon. There's no debate around that. It's been known and acknowledged in Europe for more than a decade."

Dr. Volpe, a distinguished marine biologist from the University of Victoria, did considerable research on escapees from the Atlantic salmon cages and found hundreds of them in the few rivers his funds enabled him to examine. At the same time then agriculture, food and fish minister John Van Dongen said that only three had been found, while his colleague Stan Hagen said there were only two!

Dr. Volpe then participated with two doctoral students from the University of Alberta, Martin Krkosek and Mark Lewis, on the sea lice issue and concluded that beyond a doubt, lice from these cages were slaughtering migrating pink and chum salmon smolts. In order to understand the issue you should know that pink salmon smolts spend very little time in rivers, but quickly migrate. They have a two-year cycle unlike other salmon species here and in Europe; pinks have no scales when they migrate and thus have no protection against lice.

Mair then runs down the list of excuses coming from the industry, and points out that each of them is just so much nonsense. The bottom line is profits, and even environmental considerations won't prevent them from proceeding. Indeed, there's a real motive for the farmers to destroy wild salmon stocks:
Gee, Mr. Fish Farmer, I guess the good news is that as your Atlantic salmon kill off the Pacific salmon we'll need more and more of your product?

You're a smart lad.... It's rather like the Vietnam war, where they had to destroy villages in order to save them.

There's a popular bumper sticker around here: "Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon." It's worth keeping in mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bush vs. the whales

[A dead harbor porpoise in the San Juans, May 15, 2003. Photo by Sandy Dubpernel.]

One of the reasons to pay attention to the Bush administration's towering mendacity in its ongoing attempts to reconfigure the American political system -- particularly in its attempts to claim nearly illimitable executive-branch powers -- is that it doesn't just manifest itself in the prominent, well-noted ways. These include the ongoing claims of executive privilege in shielding itself from congressional investigations, or the White House's assertion of immunity from judicial review in such matters as military tribunals.

No, this madness infects everything this administration does, including its environmental policy. Witness, for example, what is going on this very moment in the administration's intent to deploy new high-tech sonar devices along the Pacific Coast as part of the ongoing "war on terror".

The P-I's Robert McClure, one of the nation's best environmental reporters, notes in his blog that the administration is only allowing two weeks for the public to comment on the use of sonar in Washington state waters:
[T]oday the National Marine Fisheries Service gave members of the public two weeks to get their say-so typed up and shipped in on a five-year extension of a rule allowing the Navy to use low-frequency sonar that enviros insist will harm whales and dolphins.

And note that this comes as many members of the public are on vacation. I wonder how much comment NMFS really wants? The AP story on this fails to mention this short public-comment period as an issue, although the Natural Resources Defense Council, the greenie group that has stayed on top of this issue the most, complained vociferously about it.

This low-frequency sonar is different from the more-common mid-frequency sonar that witnesses said spooked orcas and other marine mammals near the San Juan Islands a few years ago. NMFS said in issuing the proposed rule that one reason it would allow the low-frequency to be used is that it's only going to be on a handful of ships. That's on page 37414 of the Federal Register notice. (Don't worry -- the proposal isn't 37,000 pages long. It's just the Register's arcane page-numbering system.)

One thing I've learned from watching this administration is that when it breaks well-established norms, and then tries to pretend that doing so is normal, it's all a pretense to cover something devious in the offing. Think of the case of the eight fired U.S. attorneys, an action that reflected the White House's now-evident determination to politicize the Justice Department.

In this case, the administration is short-circuiting the normal hearing process -- typically, the public is given 60 to 90 days for comment, not 14 -- because it's self-evident that it is determined to deploy its deadly new sonar in the Puget Sound, the public -- and the wildlife -- be damned. What ulterior motives lie beneath that are hard to discern.

Certainly, its effects on wildlife are likely to be profound. As the Center for Whale Research reported when the sonar was tested in the Sound's canyon walls back in 2003, both orcas and porpoises were profoundly disturbed by the tests. Some 15 harbor porpoises washed up dead in short order. (More details on the tests and their aftermath can be found at the Orca Network).

Scientists and activists alike fired off letters of protest to the Navy, and a federal judge ruled that the tests had to cease because they hadn't gone through the usual environmental processes. The Navy and environmentalists reached an agreement to suspend the tests.

But now it's clear that they are determined to proceed with using this sonar here, regardless of their effect on such endangered species as the southern resident killer whales. The military in Puget Sound is accustomed to having its way, and it's clear that this time it intends to get it.

The only thing that could possibly stop them, or at least slow the process, would be a mass letter writing campaign to protest both the resumption of tests and the extraordinarily short comment period. Unfortunately, the clock is now ticking.

Here's info on how you can write:
You may submit comments on the application and proposed rule, using the identifier 062206A, by any of the following methods:


Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:

Hand-delivery or mailing of paper, disk, or CD-ROM comments should be addressed to: P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225.