Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bush’s Grand Moff Tarkin Aims Death Star At Forestlands

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 For years, rural progressives have been trying to warn their neighbors that voting for Republicans meant voting for the rapine of the natural heritage in which they live. Most of those neighbors ignored them and voted Republican because they promised "jobs" and wrapped themselves in all-American values.

Now, as the Bush administration tries to inflict as much environmental havoc on the citizenry as it can on its way out the door, the chickens have come home to roost:
The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation’s largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.

The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes. Plum Creek owns more than 8 million acres nationwide, including 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Montana, where local officials were stunned and outraged at the deal.

"We have 40 years of Forest Service history that has been reversed in the last three months," said Pat O’Herren, an official in Missoula County, which is threatening to sue the Forest Service for forgoing environmental assessments and other procedures that would have given the public a voice in the matter.

The deal, which Rey said he expects to formalize next month, threatens to dramatically accelerate trends already transforming the region. Plum Creek’s shift from logging to real estate reflects a broader shift in the Western economy, from one long grounded in the industrial-scale extraction of natural resources to one based on accommodating the new residents who have made the region the fastest-growing in the nation.
Essentially, Rey is opening up millions of acres of forestland to development, which means that you’re going to see residential developments and McMansions sprouting up in the woods — not just in Montana but everywhere.

And the deal stinks like rotting trout. Just last week, Montana Sen. Jon Tester was demanding an investigation into these secret talks:
For the past two years, Tester said, the company has been negotiating behind closed doors with federal officials to expand the uses allowed under its road easements, which previously dealt only with logging. The proposed new easements would give Plum Creek the right to drive across public land for commercial, industrial or residential development, and according to Tester and several western Montana officials, would open up numerous tracts of land to real estate development.

With 1.2 million acres in its possession in western Montana, Plum Creek is the largest private landowner in the state.

Tester said he first heard of the negotiations two months ago, when local officials contacted his office in frustration because they had no ability to weigh in on public lands decisions affecting their counties.

Officials have said the deal, if it goes through, could put local and state government on the line for providing firefighting and other services to homes in wooded areas previously unimagined for real estate development.

Tester said he was especially concerned that negotiations have been going on in secret for so long.

“Transparency in government is pretty damned important,” he said.

Tester said he’s been “quizzing” Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey – who oversees the Forest Service – for two months to get details about the negotiations, to no avail.
He said he doesn’t know if the negotiations and road changes are necessarily illegal, but enough legal and other questions surround the changes that an impartial investigation is in order.

Tester and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., jointly asked the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to conduct the probe. In their Tuesday letter to the agency, the senators wrote that as recently as 2006 a Forest Service official in Seeley Lake concluded that such road easements were only for logging and could not be used for other purposes.

But two years later, in 2008, a Forest Service lawyer took exactly the opposite position, concluding that such easements were for whatever the timber company wanted to use them for.
Mark Rey, the mastermind of the deal, is the Grand Moff Tarkin of the West’s public lands. He has a long history — including major stints as a lobbyist for Northwest timber companies, including Plum Creek — that makes this deal reek of outright corruption.

But then, Rey has never been one to be much bothered by the niceties of the law or basic governmental decency. It nearly landed him in jail earlier when he faced a contempt-of-court citation for ignoring environmental laws and a judge’s orders to enforce them. He got off, but the judge handling the matter still blasted Rey and the Forest Service for their "systematic disregard of the rule of law."

Sound familiar?

Here’s hoping Tester is able to get his investigation.

Oh, and a note to Barack Obama, who’s campaigning in Montana this weekend: Dude, here’s a chance to solidify your lead there. Because all those rural folks who voted Pubbie the past decade are ready and willing to have their minds changed. If Obama were smart, he’d blast Rey and the Republicans with both barrels on this.

Because nothing is more likely to ruin their way of life than Mark Rey’s McMansions.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Race Zombies: Caught Between Hate For Obama, Contempt For McCain

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

It’s hard to tell who drives the racist right further over the edge — Barack Obama or John McCain. The prospect of a liberal black man as president makes them all twitchy and itchy, and there’s nothing they’d like to do more than vote against him. But then they’d have to vote for a phony like McCain, who doesn’t even pass their sniff test.

AlterNet’s Gabriel Thompson was in Alabama last weekend for the annual conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens, and his report is well worth the eye-opening read, just to get a sense for what a pack of jabbering cross-burners these folks really are. And as you can imagine, the prospect of an Obama presidency is driving them into a cannibalistic rage:
While Barack Obama has been subject to a whispering campaign, those whispers begin somewhere as shouts — and that somewhere is in places like the CCC’s annual meeting.

"There’s an election coming up, and no matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you better pay attention to what’s going on," Bishop says at the conclusion of his remarks. At this, the crowd murmurs. "We got a young man running for president. Don’t make no difference whether he’s black, white or yellow. But I have a problem with his ideology, with the things he believes in. Obama for president. I can’t even say that. This is a great turning point. ‘Mohammed’ Obama, is that right?"

"Hussein," the crowd calls out.

"That is something we just can’t afford in this country," Bishop says. "My grandkids can’t afford it. If you care about your grandkids’ rights, then this is the election. If the Hispanics and the blacks get together, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll do what we’re told. Now I know that McCain isn’t as conservative as we’d like –"

"He isn’t a conservative at all!" someone yells.

"You got that right!" adds another.

"But he can be our salvation," continues Bishop, clearly upset at the interruption.

"It’s time for you to stop talking," shouts an angry voice.

By now Bishop is livid. "Well, don’t come crying to me when you get your tails beat and have to say, ‘Yessuh, Mr. Obama.’"
All kinds of meaty takeaways in that:

– The far right, as I’ve observed previously, acts as a kind of echo chamber for the mainstream right where talking points, ideas, and agendas are tested out and gradually shaped. We’ve already been hearing the "Muslim Obama" crap from a large number of ostensibly mainstream right-wingers, so it’s just about a dead certainty the volume and intensity of it will rise as Election Day nears.

– What these guys are really scared of is being treated by black people in exactly the same way they have treated them ("Yessuh, Mr. Obama") if/when economic and social positions shift. (This is, incidentally, an old motif that dates back to the lynching-era hysteria about blacks raping white women when, in reality, white men raping black women was a commonplace, both before and after slavery.) And that is the chief anxiety of these men — that their own mistreatment of their fellow humans will come back to haunt them. As it happens, this is in fact a powerful appeal across many sectors of white society. So expect to hear strands of it woven into the GOP’s attacks on Obama.

– These guys really just can’t stomach McCain, mostly because he fails their "purity" tests. A lot of them feel sold down the river by Bush — though almost certainly this is not because Bush wasn’t conservative enough, but because he was incompetent and his presidency a disaster. McCain, in these people’s eyes, isn’t a true "conservative" — particularly not on the all-important right-wing hysterical issue du jour, immigration. And there’s a reason for that.

I know, I know. Couldn’t be happening to a nicer bunch of folks.

Goodbye, and Good Riddance

-- by Sara

Our long national nightmare of racism moved a few moments closer to daylight today, as Jesse Helms -- one of the more pernicious and persistent characters in that nightmare over the past six decades -- passed from the scene and on toward whatever reward awaits a man who made so many people so miserable for so long.

Pam Spaulding, a native North Carolinian who can hardly remember a time when Helms wasn't out there instigating that state's racists for his own political gain, offers her take here. She also quotes some of his most noxious public statements, including steamers like these:

"The New York Times and Washington Post are both infested with homosexuals themselves. Just about every person down there is a homosexual or lesbian."
-- 1995

"The University of Negroes and Communists"
-- Reference to the University of North Carolina devised by Mr. Helms when he worked for Willis Smith's 1950 U.S. Senate campaign.

"Your tax dollars are being used to pay for grade-school classes that teach our children that CANNIBALISM, WIFE-SWAPPING and MURDER of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior."
-- Fund raising mailer, 1996

"All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction."
-- After Mexicans protested his visit in 1986

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."
-- 1995 radio broadcast

"She's a damn lesbian. I am not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine."
-- Explaining why he was opposing the appointment of a woman for a cabinet post.

"They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
-- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968
Over at Group News Blog, my homie Lower Manhattanite -- whose parents fled North Carolina because of white men empowered by the likes of Helms -- starkly lays out what Helms did to black America:
Helms' and his fellow travelers racist demagoguery drove more Black folk from North Carolina than GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles combined. My mother, father and at least eight other uncles and aunts ran like runaway slaves from that intentionally racially backward-ized state during Helms' media heyday of 1960 to his Senate Tenure beginning in 1972 and at least a decade into it.

He giddily meant the million or so African Americans in the state, and the twenty-nine million outside his state in the greater United States nothing but ill will and used his legislative cudgel to beat them down every single chance he got. There is no redeeming feature in my eyes to remember him with. Unlike several undeniably talented bigots who strode the last century like colossi—the likes of a Leni Rifenstahl or a D.W. Griffith—genuinely evil-enabling people who still boasted world and culture changing talents, Helms was not talented. Nor was he particularly smart. What he was, was dogged, and vicious—and he applied that doggedness and viciousness to the task of promoting White Supremacy for the better part of half a century. If he had a talent, it was in the application of his personal racial animus in writing and voting for oppressive legislation that denied people of color their so-called inalienable rights. He damn sure made managed to somehow make them “alienable”, so in that respect alone perhaps—in his blunt-trauma-to-the-skull harshness—he was a “talent”. But then again, Charlie Manson clearly evidenced a proficient “talent” for psychotic murder, so take that for what it's worth.
Back in the early 90s, folk-music satirist Roy Zimmerman predicted that Helms would "die like a hero in the drizzling rain" when "the weight of his skull finally crushed his brain." It didn't happen quite that way -- or quite that soon. But, by the end of his life, Helms was nothing more than a living fossil, a political curiosity -- the last of an era of overt hatemongers that included Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. Together, men like these anchored the far right end of the cultural tug-of-war that defined the entire postwar era.

And they were never ashamed of it, either -- even though many more thoughtful Americans still feel tremendous shame for having shared this country with them. Their names are a stain that doesn't quite wash out, no matter how often we try to cleanse it with light and truth. Even so, we have no choice; we have to keep trying.

Pastor Dan told me that while Helms was, without a doubt, a dirty rat bastard, he believes in a God who is even capable forgiving rat bastards like Helms. Perhaps PD worships a better god than I do. But those of us left here on earth will be left dealing for generations to come with Helms' bitter legacy, and no amount of forgiving -- or media lionizing, which is already tuning up the hagiography machine -- should ever allow us to forget that.

We ought not speak ill of the dead. But we are obligated to speak the truth. And the truth is that Helms was one of the nastier characters of the last century -- and his passing is a Fourth-of-July gift from the gods of liberty that allows us to move into this one with considerably lighter baggage.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Because Racial Profiling Worked Out So Well The Last Time

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

There was a striking story this week in the Colorado Springs Gazette about the children of Japanese-American internees returning to Camp Amache, the place where they were held during World War II.

It talks about the heavy human toll paid by the victims of that episode, as well as the way we’ve managed to dump it all down the national memory hole:
The buildings are gone, sold by the government after the war, but the camp remains, an overgrown, snake-infested patchwork of foundations. A National Historic Landmark, it is accessible to the public but rarely visited, a forgotten, open secret of the past.

"It’s something we don’t necessarily like to talk about," said University of Denver professor Bonnie Clark, overseeing the archaeological survey. "We like to think this isn’t the kind of thing we do."
But it is the kind of thing we do — or at least, are about to do again:
The Justice Department is considering establishing a new policy that would allow the FBI to target Americans for investigation even in the absence of evidence or other compelling indications that the person was breaking a law, according to the Associated Press.

The policy, being considered as part of the attorney general’s guidelines to the FBI, would allow the agency to conduct racial profiling — potentially singling out Muslim- and Arab-Americans — and to open preliminary terrorism investigations against targets simply on the basis of patterns established through data mining public records and other information.

The agency would be allowed to profile targets based on their race and activities, such as travel to the Middle East or any other part of the world associated with terrorism. But race would be only one factor in the decision to open an investigation.
Now, I’m sure this news makes Michelle Malkin all warm and fuzzy. After all, that was the point of her execrable defense of the internment — it showed that racial profiling was a perfectly reasonable enterprise, according to her logic.

But the fact is that racial profiling actually makes us more vulnerable to terrorism because it exposes our anti-terror strategy to being gamed: terrorists can more effectively elude notice by enlisting operatives who do not fit the profile. In other words, it simply doesn’t work.

If there were reasons to believe they were getting desperate, we could at least understand why the FBI wants to indulge in racial profiling in its search for terrorism suspects (since at best it offers the illusion that they’re doing something). But considering that there have been no significant terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11, this just doesn’t make sense.

There is also the issue of its effectiveness. As Mike German pointed out last year:
But a quick look at population statistics shows that racial profiling will likely be just as unproductive as random searches. The tragic shooting of a Brazilian electrician who was mistaken for an Arab terrorist by British undercover policemen demonstrates the difficulty of identifying race by merely looking at someone. But even if police here in the United States could be trained to properly identify Arab Americans on sight, only about 1 in 4 would actually turn out to be Muslim. The vast majority — 63 percent, according to a 2002 Zogby poll, are Christian. So much for the clash of civilizations.

If you wanted to stop Muslims here in America you’d have better luck targeting South Asians (such as Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshi and Afghans), who make up the largest percentage (33 percent) of the American Muslim population, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of State. Southeast Asians make up an additional 1.3 percent. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer suggested that by profiling Muslims, we can exempt all East Asians from suspicion, but I have a feeling most police officers would have as much trouble distinguishing East Asians from South Asians as they do Arabs from Brazilians.
Moreover, there is a larger issue at play as well. Peter Siggins, California’s Chief Deputy Attorney General, explained this a few years ago:
Ethnicity alone is not enough. If ethnic profiling of middle eastern men is enough to warrant disparate treatment, we accept that all or most middle eastern men have a proclivity for terrorism, just as during World War II all resident Japanese had a proclivity for espionage.
And as I explained in Strawberry Days, the Japanese American internment episode is actually a vivid historical example of how wrongheaded racial profiling really is:
… [I]t remains inescapable that the model of mass internment that emerges from the historical record of World War II does not, as we have seen, offer the slightest shred of evidence that racial profiling is either effective or wise, especially not when it comes to protecting national security and serving the public interest. The overwhelming weight of the postwar evidence is that the internment prevented very little, if any, sabotage or espionage. Moreover, even beyond its transparent unjustness, the damage to the integrity of the Constitution, and the dangerous precedents it set, the internment of the Japanese Americans was an unfathomable waste. It demonstrably undermined the war effort, and proved not to be worth a penny of the billions of taxpayer dollars it wasted.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the actual enterprise itself cost—rounding up 120,000 people by rail car and shipping them first to “assembly centers”; building ten “relocation centers” in remote locales, and then shipping the evacuees into them; maintaining and administering the centers for another three years, which included overseeing programs to help internees find work outside the camps; feeding, clothing, and educating the entire population of internees during this time; and then helping them to relocate near their former homes once the camps closed—there were $37 million more in initial reparations costs in 1948, and then $1.2 billion more in the later reparations approved by Congress in 1988.

At the same time, the Japanese on the Pacific Coast, who occupied some 7,000 farms in the “Military Exclusion Zone,” actually were responsible for the production of nearly half of all the fresh produce that was grown for consumption on the Coast (the Japanese also shipped out a great deal of produce to the Midwest and East). Indeed, Nikkei farms held virtual monopolies in a number of crops, including peppers, snap beans, celery and strawberries, and a large portion of the lettuce market.

As we saw in the case of the Bellevue farms, a handful of enterprising whites throughout the coastal communities decided to try running the Japanese farms with the hope of making a killing from the crops. But labor was so short that not one of these enterprises lasted beyond about five weeks, and none of them had a successful harvest. Nearly all of these farms lay fallow for the next four years. This major loss of production of fresh vegetables clearly harmed the war effort on the home front, and played a significant role in triggering the rationing that came during the war years.
So if racial profiling not only doesn’t work, but creates a panoply of problems both at the time and afterward, that raises the question: Why do it, then?

Well, in an administration that has been all about accruing fresh powers over the civilian population, the answer to that may be one with truly ominous overtones.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

White Supremacists and the Anti-Immigration Crowd

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

A story out of New Hampshire tells us everything you need to know about the nature of the wingnuts out fomenting against immigration:
Rob O’Donovan of Haverhill says the group, Northeast White Pride, is holding a "Close the Border" demonstration Saturday to protest illegal immigration. He says the group is not based on hate or white supremacy, but on having "pride" in white history.

"We reject the popular use of the term ‘racists’ or ‘supremacists’ as we don’t hate anyone because of their cultural identity," O’Donovan wrote in an e-mail interview with The Nashua Telegraph. "We do, however, seek to protect our own cultural identity and heritage from being obscured by those of others, especially when those customs clash significantly with the morals and ethics of our American cultural heritage."
Sure, they’re not a hate group. They just want to wipe out brown people. What’s hateful about that?
We’ve known for some time that white supremacists have been promoting immigration as a major recruitment tool, and it has been working. Indeed, the current anti-immigration campaign on the American right is riddled throughout with racists and bigots of various stripes, despite the ongoing and sometimes heated denials by their leaders.

And it attracts them for a specific reason: the campaign is simply a regurgitation and repackaging of their longtime agenda. Which is also why nearly every overt neo-Nazi and white-power rally of recent vintage (see, for instance, the Nazi rally in Olympia a couple of years ago) has been focused on immigration. It has been, after all, their issue for a long time running.

So the recent meeting between leaders of the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and Jim Gilchrist’s Minutemen organization is not exactly a big shocker:
The Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist hate group, publicly announced earlier this week that it was co-hosting an anti-immigration strategy session with Americans4America, the official Las Vegas chapter of Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project.

Despite the Minuteman Project’s oft-touted anti-racist policies, the meeting took place June 24, offering some of the strongest evidence yet of direct ties between the Minuteman movement and overtly racist organizations.

“There’s a lot of overlapping between our two groups,” Nevada CCC leader Don Wassall told the Intelligence Report. “I met a couple of people from their group who are interested in trying to recruit more and get more people active in both of our groups.”
Not every Minuteman is a white supremacist, of course. But the organization’s claims that it is "weeding out" its racists is really just a sham. After all, there’s a reason that it has to "weed them out" in the first place: they really are just a fresh new mask for a hoary tradition of old-fashioned racist nativism.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Darcy Burner Loses Her Home To Fire

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 Awful news from the Northwest: Darcy Burner’s home burned to the ground this morning. Video here.

Fortunately, no one was hurt (except, perhaps, the family cat). The fire appears to have started near the bedroom of her 5-year-old son.

This disaster has befallen Darcy just as she was gearing up her fight to replace that faux moderate Republican, Rep. Dave Reichert. The Seattle Times reporter also asked her about the campaign:
Burner said she hadn’t yet considered whether the fire would impact her campaign.
"I am today focused on my family and just really grateful that my family is OK," she said. "Tomorrow I’ll wake up and figure out what comes next."
Good for Darcy. (The Times, incidentally, just ran a puff piece describing just how "moderate" her opponent is.)

Goldy has more details about the fire.

Of course, losing one’s home is a staggering loss, and our deepest sympathies go out to Darcy and her family. At this point, there hasn’t been a recovery fund set up. But in the meantime, you can always express your sympathy support by visiting Darcy’s Blue America page, or by donating directly at her site.