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Sarah, Jared and the T-Word

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Could it be, in this marvelous melting pot we call “The United States of America,” that one’s religion or ethnicity can make all the difference between being labeled a charismatic politician or a media celebrity versus, say, a domestic terrorist?

Defining the T-Word

To a layman, the definition seems fairly clear-cut. According to the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001, under Section 802, titled, “Definition of domestic terrorism”:

(5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that–

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended–

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

NOTE: Regarding description (A) in the above, it is a violation of the U.S. Code to incite insurrection or to advocate the overthrow of the government by force or violence.

____________

From what little we know of Jared Loughner, it appears that he doesn’t fit the definition of a domestic terrorist. Nor does it appear that he was involved in inciting insurrection or advocating the overthrow of the government.

It appears that Jared Loughner is, indeed, a profoundly disturbed individual who acted alone. This finding no doubt elicited a huge (albeit private) sigh of relief among the other players in the headlines — Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the tea bag party, not to mention the bulk of the Republican Party, which has benefited so richly from the tea party rhetoric. Having figuratively dodged the bullet, these folk were then free to wage a campaign of self-righteous indignation against those who suggested that they may have served as conduits to the tragedy, given the climate of lawlessness, hatred and violence they’ve been promoting for the past two years.

Prologue

In the immediate wake of the Tucson shootings, there was a call for civility. Given the enormity of the national pain and grieving from the tragedy, such a call seemed almost superfluous. After all, who could be so crass, so brazen, so callous and heartless that they needed reminding to stop the political theater and take a break from the ugly words. Still — for those who did need reminding — there was that verbal call for civility. Surely no one would breach this, much less commit more violence.

Yet, within just three weeks of the tragedy, Sarah Palin threw the words, “blood libel” onto the table; Glenn Beck accused progressive Democrats of trying to “destroy” God;  Michele Bachmann compared the tea bag party’s battle against Obama to the “perilous” battle of the marines at Iwo Jima to “beat back a totalitarian aggressor”; and in Spokane, Washington, a bomb was planted at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. I could easily site a dozen more.

While the media have floated the bombing attempt as a “possible hate crime,” the FBI has accurately termed it as a case of domestic terrorism, which makes the dearth of news coverage perplexing compared to, say, the Time Square incident, which received a full court media circus.

Less perplexing is the statement by Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who says that her department’s Central Intelligence Unit has reported an increase in hate literature and other white supremacist activity over the past two years. Two years? Interesting. This is the sort of information we should be scrutinizing, if we hope to prevent such attacks in the future. What is past is prologue.

It is at least a sign of progress that the Spokane bombing attempt — which was designed to inflict mass casualty of innocent men, women and children — has been labeled an act of domestic terrorism. True progress will come when the folk who incite such acts — no matter what their race, religion or ethnicity — are also called to task. Of course, after Sarah’s  “blood libel” defense last week, it’s unlikely that the media or anyone else will be mentioning her name in the same sentence as the word “Spokane” any time soon.

Deja Vu

No one ever accused Gov. George Wallace of throwing a bomb, but he was nonetheless widely blamed for creating the violent landscape in which the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham occurred in 1963, killing four innocent children and injured 22 others — and which occurred just one week after Wallace told the New York Times that, to stop integration, Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals.

Wallace was asked, 23 years later, to comment on the blame he’d been assigned by so many at the time — including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who’d wired Wallace the day after the murders, “Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created in Birmingham and Alabama the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.” To this, Wallace replied:

“I had never made any statement, and you can look at any statement I have made, I’ve always said that God made us all and he loves us all and anyone who attempts to harm the hair on another man’s head in this matter is not on our side. I did not ever use any provocative, a, talk about civil right, I never talked provocative about Dr. King or anyone of that sort…. I spoke my vehemently against the federal government, not against people. I talked about the, the government of the United States and the Supreme Court. I never expressed in any language that would upset anyone about a persons race…. I don’t believe in a big strong federal government, I don’t believe in taking too many rights away from the people, same thing I always said…” George Wallace, in a 1986 interview

In the wake of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, there was a nationwide call for civility, much like the call we’ve heard in the wake of the tragedy in Tuscon.  One such call came from Wisconsin, where the editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel wrote a piece titled, “Nation’s Shame,” which read, in part:

“For the rest of the nation, the Birmingham church bombing should also serve to goad the conscience. The deaths [of the four children] in a sense are on the hands of each of us. They can only be atoned for by having everybody on all sides resolve to continue on in the search for human dignity.”

Two months later, George Wallace traveled to Dallas, Texas, arriving a few days before John F. Kennedy, about whom he’d recently said, “The President wants us to surrender this state [Alabama] to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-Communists who have instituted these demonstrations.

Wallace’s agenda in Dallas during that fateful week in November 1963 was twofold: to reinforce his segregationist platform, in case anyone doubted it, and to announce his intention to challenge Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in 1964.

Again, George Wallace was never accused of throwing a bomb or pulling a trigger, nor were Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle or Glenn Beck. By the same token, Osama bin Laden did not personally fly two jets full of passengers into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck

What if, instead of being white-skinned, Jared Loughner were an American of Arab descent? Or a Muslim? Would the first headlines after the Tucson tragedy have echoed the first headlines we saw after the Fort Hood tragedy, labeling the attacker — a man who was, like Jared, a profoundly disturbed individual who acted alone — a domestic terrorist, with some calling the Fort Hood tragedy America’s “mini 9-11”?

And what if the other players (e.g. Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh) were Muslims or Americans of Arab descent? More to the point, what is the net difference between this ilk of American politician/media celebrity versus, say, Islamic extremist, Anwar al-Awlaki, who officials quickly fingered as a conduit to the Fort Hood shootings, for preaching his “hateful ideology directed at inciting violence against the United States”?

We, as a country, seem to take comfort in the idea that bogeymen are a breed of people easily recognized by their color or religion. But history teaches us that the bad guys who’ve run amok on American soil promoting lawlessness, violence, terror and tyranny against the citizenry have nearly always been white and toted a King James under their arms.

At any point in this history, we, as a country, could have drawn enduring lessons from the most violent chapters in our past. But it doesn’t seem to be in our nature to do so, even when the lessons are spoon-fed to us, as they were in the Jim Crow lynching era, the McCarthy era, and in the wake of the Birmingham church bombing, which was followed just two months later with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which was followed five years later by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which was followed just two months later by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

We’ve come close a few times. In the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, civil rights legislation was finally passed to mandate an end to segregation — granting equal access to the ballot box, equal rights to housing  and equal access to public places, among other things. And likely none of this would have taken place, had ordinary citizens not spent the previous decade taking to the streets in non-violent protest — laying their lives on the line as they were variously arrested, beaten, lynched, shot at and bombed by a concert of law enforcement, the KKK and ordinary citizens, whose vision of democracy paid respect to the bullet over the ballot.

But even after civil rights legislation was passed, it would be still be years of non-violent protest before these rights trickled down to all citizens in the South. Indeed, it was a full 15 years after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision before all school systems in the South were finally integrated. The lessons from these years, while they may be self-evident, were never really learned.

We came close to another teachable moment in the wake of 9-11, however, instead of serving to protect Americans from terrorists, the U.S.A. Patriot Act was used as a tool protect our leaders from accountability for the campaign of lawlessness, violence and tyranny they were about to undertake.

In the wake of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, national and international laws and treaties were broken; the Constitution and Bill of Rights were dismantled and, with them, went the constitutional rights of each and every American citizen. We were taken into two illegal wars that bled our national treasure dry and continue, still, to drive our economy into deeper destitution.

Nary a pip was heard from the fiscally conservative right, nor from the constitutional conservatives. And if the “taxed enough already” bag party noticed the alarming rise in the tab on their grandchildren’s futures, or the rising rates of unemployment and home foreclosures, they certainly didn’t think enough of it to take to the streets in armed protest until the fall of 2008.

Also in the wake of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, bogeymen around the world were herded up like cattle — based not on their actual words or deeds, but on the color of their skin, their religion their ethnicity — then tortured into making confessions and left to indefinitely rot in illegal prisons.

This was not our first trip to the proverbial rodeo. But my point here is not to take a trip down the Trail of Tears into our country’s history with ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, lynching, segregation, oppression, internment camps, torture and illegal detentions, even as the root causes for these are the same root causes that compel modern-day politicians, media celebrities and their followers to threaten assassinations, “second-amendment remedies” and other brands of terrorism against their political opponents.

Palling Around with Terrorists

Historically, assassinations and other second-amendment remedies do not occur without warning. The rhetoric during the Kennedy years was remarkably similar to the rhetoric 100 years earlier, in Lincoln’s day, which is remarkably similar to the rhetoric we heard in the years before Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, which is remarkably similar to the rhetoric we’ve been hearing ever since Obama became a serious contender for the presidency — and most especially since the fall of 2008, when Sarah Palin arrived on the scene.

It started out innocently enough, beginning with her first speech on the national stage:

“And a writer observed, ‘We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity,’ and I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America. — Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 3, 2008

The writer to whom Sarah referred was none other than Westbrook Pegler — the racist, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist/writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

While many decried Sarah’s reference to Westwood Pegler, there were some whose ears perked up at the sound of that dog whistle. For those who missed that first, tentative bleat of the dog whistle, they caught it by the second or third try. Within a month of her first speech, Sarah Palin had escalated the rhetoric from labeling Obama as an ivory tower academic elitist to painting him as a socialist, Muslim, pro-terrorist, anti-American. Absent from the list was the n-word, which her crowds soon added to the list.

As the heat of her rhetoric grew, so did the size of her crowds. Palin’s response, or lack thereof, to the violent calls from her supporters left no doubt that it was safe to say outrageous things — even calling for the death of Obama — in her presence:

“Kill him!”

“Treason!”

“Traitor!”

“Off with his head!”

“He’s an Arab!”

“Commie faggot!”

Such calls quickly became a staple item at McCain-Palin rallies, where neither candidate saw fit to moderate the language and, instead, allowed the rhetoric to escalate, without comment. For her part, Sarah kept raising the heat:

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world…. Our opponent, though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. — Sarah Palin, October 4, 2008

Early into her campaign, she was called upon to tone down the incendiary rhetoric — just as she and others who have since joined the chorus have been called to do in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shootings. One particularly eloquent call for civility came from Rep. John Lewis of Georgia — a man who literally put his life on the line during the Civil Right era:

“As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

Rather than consider the weight of the congressman’s words, McCain & Palin took it as a personal attack. Rather than consider their responsibility in the tone that had overtaken our national dialogue, McCain-Palin used their response to Rep. Lewis as an opportunity to issue yet another bleat of their dog whistle. Herein, they gave a firm wink to the “thousands of  hardworking Americans” to signal that the language they’d been using at McCain-Palin rallies was not only still welcome, but downright American.

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign.

I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

And so the “debate” has continued for two years and counting. Whenever similar voices of reason  have been raised to protest the violent rhetoric on the right, they’ve been drowned out with cries about liberal, socialist, communist democrats trying to stifle free speech and put their boot-heel on the neck of our democracy.

For their part, the media, in the interest of “balance,” has served as the bully pulpit for the violent rhetoric, while simultaneously parroting the talking point that the rhetoric on the left is just as violent as the rhetoric on the right.

Sarah Fever

In the wake of the violent campaign season of 2008, death threats were issued against the president, effigies were burned, and KKK membership soared to its highest numbers in decades.

But it was during the summer of 2009 health care wars when the rhetoric took a decidedly darker turn under the renewed leadership of Sarah — who had since resigned her governorship, so that she could begin laying the groundwork for her 2012 presidential run. By then, such rhetoric had become the native tongue of the Republican party, which now encompassed the tea bag party of citizens who took to the streets carrying guns — or photos and crude drawings of guns — their signs smattered with threats of violence against the entire Democratic party — all of whom were now accused of being socialists, communists and fascists with an agenda to install death panels.

The language continued from the summer of 2009, through the bill’s signing in March 2010, then into the campaign season in the fall of 2010, and into the present:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” — Sarah warns her followers of Obama’s Nazi-style health care plan on her Facebook page on August 7, 2009. This statement earned her the “Lie of the Year,” award by the St. Petersburg Times, home of Politifact, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 2009 for its work in political fact-checking.

Editor’s note: It’s interesting to compare the similarities between the above prediction and one made 46 years earlier by George Wallace — a prediction that never came true, even as many people fervently believed it would: “This civil rights bill will wind up putting a homeowner in jail because he doesn’t sell his home to someone that some bureaucrat thinks he ought to sell it to.

This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass. — Rep. Michele Bachmann railing against the dangers of health care reform during an Independence Institute fundraiser in Denver on August 31, 2009

Well, I qualified for my CCW [permit to carry a concealed weapon] with a Dirty Harry cannon, so maybe that tells you a little bit. But, you know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every twenty years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies. They’re saying, ‘My goodness what can we do to turn this country around’ and I’ll tell ya, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out. — Sharron Angle in a conservative talk radio interview, January 14, 2010

“Break their windows. Break them NOW. We can break their windows Before we have to resort to rifles to resist their “well-intentioned” tyranny. …  The time has come to take your life, your liberty and that of your children and grandchildren into your own two hands and ACT. It is, after all, more human than shooting them in self-defense. And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.” –Excerpt from Mike Vanderboegh’s missive to “All Modern Sons of Liberty,” to break the windows of Democrat headquarters and offices during the week the health care bill was due to be signed into law. In the wake, windows and doors were smashed across the country. Vanderboegh’s missive was posted on March 19, 2010, just two days before the door and window of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s Tucson office were smashed by vandals.

“We are 3 percent of American  gun owners. That‘s the muzzles of 3 million rifles who can be, if  required, pointed directly at the hearts of anyone who wants to be a tyrant in this country.” A byline posted on the website of Mike Venderboegh — a man who, interestingly enough, lives off the government dole with his monthly SSI checks and also enjoys the “well-intentioned tyranny” of government-run Medicare.

Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page. — Sarah Palin’s twitter on March 23, 2010,  the same day that Obama signed the health care bill into law. Fans who visited her Facebook page arrived to find a rifle-scope map (below), with Gabrielle Gifford’s district in the #4 slot on Sarah’s list.

Sarah Palin's "crosshairs map," which was scrubbed from her website after the assassination attempt against Rep. Giffords in Tucson


Ya’ll don’t need to worry about getting re-elected on November. But you’d better be moving out of GA (whole and all) before November because ya’ll getting what’s coming for ya. SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS.” — Anonymous letter received by Rep. David Scott of Georgia, addressed to “David Scott & Family,” March 29, 2010 The phrase, “Sic Semper Tyrannis” was famously shouted by John Wilkes Booth as he assassinated President Lincoln. This phrase has more recently been adopted by some in the tea party movement. While these words are often translated as “death to the tyrant,” the literal translation is, “Thus always to tyrants.” Similar language was used in the threats issued to Democrats across the country in the wake of the health care bill.

David Scott, you’re nothing but a nigger. None of your colored constituents are going to be able to save you because we don’t want this socialized Obamacare you’re pushing because you Negroes are too lazy to take care of yourselves. — Another anonymous, March 2010 letter sent to Rep. David Scott of Georgia, the last words of which strike at the heart of  the real reason citizens took to the streets in arms against health care reform.

It is a special irony that the racial component of health care reform was manufactured by the corporations and their paid political footmen, whose profit margins were threatened by health care reform. Like most tea baggers, the writers of the above letters were clueless to how easily and shamelessly their strings were pulled by corporate America, which spent many millions of dollars on a slick campaign to paint health care reform as the new welfare, to equate the Democratic Party with the Nazi Party, and to bankroll the necessary speakers to deliver these messages to America, to scare as many people as possible into believing that they were embroiled in a life-and-death struggle against the evil Democrats and their death panels.

And when the bill was finally signed, and the dire warning about death panels proved false, the health care bill was then morphed from being a baby-and-grandma killer to being a job killer. The talking points may have changed just a bit to suit the scenery, but the message is still the same: They’re trying to kill us!

The terror induced by these messages has been matched only by the urgency of the remedy proposed by the tea bag party that was spawned from this slick corporate campaign:  Rise up, ye patriotic Americans! Take up arms to protect yourselves, your children and grandmaw from the communists! The socialists! The elitists! The scientists! The anti-Americans! The death panels! Get your guns and get your ammo before it too late! Save yourselves from the tyranny of your own government! Water that tree of liberty with the blood of the tyrant!

The tea bag party, like Timothy McVeigh, have presumed much by removing Jefferson’s quote out of context and then embracing it as the slogan for their cause — beginning with the presumption that they even remotely understand what Jefferson was talking about. Better the tea bag party should learn the history and politics surrounding Shay’s Rebellion, then return to Jefferson’s letter and actually read the thing — word for word, line by line — in its entirety. Only then might they glimpse the sublime irony that a group of people bereft of the historical facts would take Jefferson’s words out of context, make a lie of them, and then repeat the phrase ad nauseam to somehow legitimize their threats of assassination and insurrection.

This would all be silly if not for the fact that these folk genuinely believe they are standing on the shoulders of our country’s founders, and that these founders are somehow cheering them on in their cause. The Joe Wilson “You Lie” machine gun receiver offered for sale in January 2011, just before the Tucson massacre, is but one of many souvenirs we can add to the roster of blatant calls we’ve seen over the past two years to commit violence against the Democratic party, in general, and the president in particular.

Palmetto State Armory ad for the Joe Wilson "You Lie" AR-15 Lower, which was famously scrubbed from their website after the Tucson massacre and the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Again, we’ve been to this rodeo before. We know that, once the bombs have been thrown, the guns fired and the innocents killed, folk like Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck and all those who flock to their message can always claim, the same way Gov. George Wallace did after his call for a “few first-class funerals”: “We never, ever, ever intended….”

Still further down the road, some 50 years, we can look back, shake our heads in disbelief and wonder: How did so many people become so deluded?

“Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”

In both Kennedy’s and Lincoln’s day, patriotic, God-fearing Americans were called to take up arms against a federal government accused of overstepping its bounds with (take your pick) slavery/integration — issues that were fed by the existing hatred among certain swaths of whites for  immigrants and other races, religions and ethnicities, all of whom were plotting, according to the fiery rhetoric of the day, to use these federal mandates to subjugate freedom-loving, white Christian Americans. For its part, the federal government was plotting — according to the fiery rhetoric of the day — to use these mandates as a ruse to funnel money out of the pockets of “hardworking Americans” as part of their tyrannical agenda to impose (take your pick) socialism/fascism/communism.

Today, patriotic, God-fearing Americans have been called to take up arms against a federal government accused of overstepping its bounds with (take your pick) immigration reform/health care reform/anything-reform under a black president — issues that are fed by the existing hatred among certain swaths of whites for  immigrants and  other races, religions and ethnicities, all of whom are plotting, according to the fiery rhetoric of today, to use these mandates to subjugate freedom-loving, white Christian Americans. For its part, the federal government (loosely defined as liberals, from Obama on down) is plotting — according to fiery rhetoric of today — to use these mandates as a ruse to funnel money out of the pockets of “hardworking Americans” as part of their tyrannical agenda to impose (take your pick) socialism/fascism/communism.

The call to RELOAD and repeat history has been implicit and relentless. If not Tucson, then where? If not now, then when? And if not Gabrielle Giffords, then who?

Frank Kratovil effigy

Rep. Frank Kratovil — who was hung in effigy?

Rep. Alan Grayson — who has received a file full of death threats, both overt and covert, with the latter including Sarah Palin’s advice to her fellow tea-baggers to “take him out”?

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz — whose opponent, Robert Lowry, held a rally at a target range, where he shot at a human silhouette with Rep. Wasserman-Shultz’s initials printed beside the head?

Rep. Ron Klein — whose Palin-endorsed opponent, Allen West, told his fellow tea-baggers, “You’ve got to make the fella scared to come out of his house,” and “If you’re here to stand up-to get your musket, to fix your bayonet, to charge into the ranks-you’re my brother and sister in this fight,” and  “Nothing personal Ron, but I plan to beat you like you stole something dear to me…. Matter of fact you are, My Country!”?

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver — who was spat on and — along with several of his colleagues — called a nigger by tea bag party-goers within just minutes of a Michele Bachmann “Code Red” rally on Capitol Hill ?

Rep. Bart Stupak — who, like many of his colleagues during the health car wars, received death threats?

Rep. Russ Carnahan — who had a coffin left in front of his home?

Tom Perriello — who was hung in effigy?

Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother — whose gas line was cut?

Rep. Louise Slaughter – who not only received death threats against herself, but received a message that snipers were being deployed to kill children of those who voted for health care overhaul?

If not Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, then who?

Those in the media and political mainstreams, who have spent the past 2 years calling for such a tragedy, whether blatantly or by polite suggestion, can breathe a huge sigh of relief that it was a mentally ill man, and not one of their own, who ultimately pulled the trigger. As for the rest of the Democrats whose names — or whose children’s names — have been placed on the various hit lists issued by the radical political right, it may be a few years before they can breathe so easy.

Faux "Wanted" posters circulated in Dallas several days before Kennedy's arrival

Trigger fingers

The stage was similarly set in the before Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963. Days before his arrival in Dallas, the American Bible Society placed an anti-Kennedy advertisement in the local newspaper, urging the citizenry to be vigilant against the march of “Godless Communism.”

Faux FBI-style wanted-posters were circulated, accusing Kennedy of treason for, among other things, appointing “Anti-Christians [Jews]to Federal office” and for giving “support and encouragement to the Communist inspired racial riots.”

White supremacists painted swastikas on Jewish stores, and Gov. George Wallace — whose contempt for the Kennedy family made him somewhat of a folk hero among segregationist southerners — arrived in Dallas that same week, his plane blazed with Confederate flags. While there, Wallace spoke on the issue of segregation, saying that, while he had nothing against “Negroes,” he was against the mixing of races and resented “Washington telling us how to run our schools.”

Texans engaged in a parlor game where folk deliberated over which Kennedy they hated the most:  John? Jackie? Joseph? Bobby?

Bumper stickers throughout Dallas echoed the words flaunted on Confederate flag festooned billboards throughout the South: KO the Kennedys. Perhaps in retrospect — that is, after Kennedy had been shot in the head — some of the folk who flaunted those bumper stickers might have claimed, as Sarah Palin is now claiming, “We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights.”

Remarkably, there were those who actually applauded the assassination, while some even expressed regret that Jackie, too, had not been killed. Such was the heat generated from the political rhetoric of the day.

That said, history has yet to agree on the facts surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. This much is known: We had enough warning before the fall of 1963 to know that — among certain politicians and citizens who considered themselves patriotic, freedom-loving, hard-working Americans — the idea of murdering children and assassinating the president of the United States seemed like a good idea.

We can keep pretending that bombs and bullets are fired from a vacuum, independent of the cultural climate and the political rhetoric. Or we can acknowledge what we already know: no one is really surprised when the violent rhetoric of the day actually produces fruit.

Crafting the Perfect Storm

A friend of mine, who is no longer living, was a nuclear physicist who worked, for a time, with fault tree and root cause analyses, which are used to predict the likelihood of bad events. The idea is to prevent bad events by studying the various factors that either have either caused bad events in the past or which would, in theory, cause such an outcome. I found the topic fascinating: What would happen if this went wrong, then this went wrong or, alternately, that went wrong?

As much as scientific inquiry is eschewed in the current political climate, there is a science to how and why bad events — from nuclear accidents to failed car brakes — occur. To give an over-simplified, real-life scenario of such a fault-tree analysis: What would happen if, say, an earthquake of this particular magnitude occurred 120 miles away at the precise moment that a nuclear reactor was at this particular stage of operation while, simultaneously, this worker was distracted and/or this mechanism, this gauge, and/or this system failed?

In other words: How to create, on paper, the perfect storm? The fault tree analysis does this by studying theoretical disasters, whereas the root cause analysis studies real-life disasters that have already occurred.

William Duke, in discussing the root cause analysis of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, offered some interesting insights, which may be worth considering in the wake of the murders in Tucson:

Humans have a deep need to seek retribution against those that harm us. This is not irrational. Nor is the desire to seek justice for those harmed by disasters. But, this need often preoccupies and distracts us from the more compelling need to understand why such things happen. We cannot prevent what we do not understand. We can address an individual committing the same mistake by taking away their ability to do it. We can address an organization from repeating mistakes by punishing it or imposing tighter controls and oversight. But, in doing so we are not addressing the most fundamental “Why,” the true root causes of such disastrous events. We live in a complex world where small events can have colossal effects. We tend to think that in such a complex world there are an infinite, or nearly infinite, number of root causes. This is not true. Research over the past few decades demonstrates that root causes fall into a very few categories and that these root causes, unfortunately, recur frequently.

Interestingly, as Duke went on to explain, there has been much study and research into understanding how some complex organizations in “high-risk environments” (e.g. U.S. Navy aircraft carriers) have managed to operate for many years with very few bad events.

From these studies, the term “mindfulness” emerged. In a nutshell, mindfulness encompasses five basic characteristics which, combined, enable organizations to — among other things — study root causes and learn from failure, so as to prevent future bad events. Sounds simple enough. But how does an organization go about cultivating “mindfulness”? Duke addressed this in his paper:

The question remains, however, how does an organization actually develop these characteristics when mindfulness is, at heart, a cultural phenomenon? Organizational culture is very difficult to change. Weick and Sutcliffe offer some sage advice. They assert that, in order to change your culture, you should act your way into what you want to become. But, if it’s about acting, where’s the script?

The Scriptwriters

One ubiquitous presence in nearly every violent chapter of our country’s history has been the rise to power by the lowest common denominator — the underbelly of our society.

The underbelly is distinguished by their words and deeds — not by color, religion, ethnicity, wealth or social station. Be they velvet-gloved racists, nativists, charismatic cult leaders or extemporaneous folk heroes, their rise to power is always generated by fear — fear of economic hardship, fear of attack, fear of the bogeyman. And the more fear they can generate, the more power they have to influence ordinary people to do the unthinkable.

This does not happen overnight. Sarah Palin did not introduce herself on the world stage in September 2008 by accusing her opponent of “palling around with terrorists.” That would have shocked the sensibilities of most Americans. Better to start small. Just a little bleat:

“‘We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity,’ …. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.

Given the recent flag-pin flak that preceded that speech, who would dare find fault with the lovely portrait that Sarah painted of America, even if it was the work of Westwood Pegler?

In the days following that speech, Sarah expanded on this portrait by dividing the country into two different kinds of people: people who love America and people who don’t, with the Obamas falling into the latter category.

From here — and with the serendipitous arrival of Joe the plumber who, being just an average Joe, couldn’t be called to task for testing the waters with the word “socialist” — the staple rhetoric at team McCain-Palin quickly grew to encompass socialist, communist, Muslim, terrorist.

After the election, the rhetoric only escalated, with much of this coming from the folk at Fox News, who echoed Palin’s labels and added some of their own. By the summer of 2009, with the advent of the corporate-funded, Palin-led tea party, Obama had morphed into a Nazi tyrant dictator, intent on imposing fascist rule — complete with death panels to kill babies and old people.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2009, the tea bag party-goers — many of them scared shitless by this point — bought unprecedented number of guns and ammo. They began defiantly carried their guns to rallies, many of them also carrying signs with the Thomas Jefferson quote: The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Somehow, and for reasons we have yet to agree on, a lot of ordinary people across the country — including the built-in statistic of mentally disturbed people that exist in any population — had come to believe that insurrection, overthrowing the government and assassinating the president were good ideas.

But it didn’t stop with the president. As the bill came closer to being signed, the rage and the threats came to encompass every politician in favor of health care reform, which included most of the Democrats on Capitol Hill. These folk, according to Sharron Angle, had gotten the American people, ” really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies,” a solution that was echoed in Sarah Palin’s gun sights map in the spring of 2010.

Where does one escalate the rhetoric from here? What is the next step, after  successfully convincing a huge swath of American citizens that the president and over half of Congress are pro-terrorist, fascist, Nazis who are trying to kill us? Once you’ve championed the death of the president and half of Congress, what’s left to say?

The calls for civility, for toning down the rhetoric have been ongoing since the fall of 2008. But, rather than consider their responsibility in setting the violent tone, Palin, Angle, Limbaugh, Bachmann, Beck and the rest have not only ignored these calls, but have painted them as a plot by the tyrant and his minions to silence dissent. It was only after the bloody massacre in Tucson that any of them saw fit to respond to the calls for civility. And in the case of Sarah Palin, in particular, the focus of her response has been to deny culpability and express her own personal outrage at being victimized by the tragedy.

Addressing her new-found victimhood, Sarah Palin chose the incendiary term “blood libel.” This was a test balloon, to be sure, and was designed — just like her Westwood Pegler quote — to send out a signal, to test the temperature, to rally her base to her defense. Sarah’s “blood libel” strategy backfired in a really big way, indeed offending the sensibilities of most Americans. In response, Palin offered a second defense, phrased in milder terms, and has since been uncharacteristically silent.

But fellow teabagger, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has since picked up the ball and released another test balloon. When asked to comment on the calls to tone down the rhetoric, Lee said:

“The shooter wins if we, who’ve been elected, change what we do just because of what he did.”

Even tho this was a direct rip-off from the Bush playbook  (e.g. The terrorists win if Americans don’t go back to normalcy) it, too, failed to take flight.

But there will be more test balloons. We can be sure of that. And over time, as the visceral horror from Tucson massacre gradually recedes into the past, we can be equally sure that one of these test balloons will succeed.

Crafting the Perfect Storm

Lee Atwater has been given the lion’s share of credit for the art of honing old hatreds into a political movement, but it was the Jim Crow era, the McCarthy era, the integration era, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, and the legacies of men like George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Westwood Pegler and Harry Dent that gave Atwater the tools for drafting the blueprint that was used by Reagan for making political hay out old ignorance, old fears and old hatreds.

By today’s standards, however, Atwater’s blueprint seems almost naive, having since been refined by men like Karl Rove, Steve Schmidt, Charles Black and Dick Cheney, who turned the science of fear into a commodity. Working in coalition with corporate titans, these guys bankroll the fear-peddlers, and they fill the coffers of the politicians. to and they tend to the coffers of receptive politicians, which includes . Political hay is little more than a petty-case expenditure in the real business influencing, exploiting and re-writing the laws of the land so that these corporations can bilk billions of corporate dollars from the American economy — sucking the marrow from the middle class and driving the poor into deeper destitution.

How to make such an agenda popular with the American people?

Convince them that it is their patriotic duty to be good capitalists. Convince them that everything from Social Security, to public schools, to Medicare, to police and fire departments & public works  will be cheaper and more efficiently run once turned over to private, for-profit business. Convince them Medicare = socialism and Social Security = socialism. Convince them that there are only two alternatives to health care: Nazi death panels or the private, for-profit insurance industry.

Convince them that government regulation kills jobs. Convince them that, because the free market is self-adjusting, corporations will eventually put safety over the profit margin when it comes to our food supply, our water, our air, our health, worker rights and consumer protections. Convince them that, because the free market is self-adjusting, the titans will eventually using Wall Street as their private gambling parlor and will one day, or their own accord, stop plundering the American people to fill their pockets.

In other words, convince them that there is no such thing as moderation or bipartisanship or a middle ground. It’s all or nothing, folks. Kill or be killed. The titans know precisely when, where and how to set the tremor; how to sidestep the checks and balances; how to evade accountability, and how to raise the heat to dangerous levels.

The problem is that rational, respectful, civil human beings do not promote violence as a remedy to the democratic process. For this purpose — and this alone — Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sharron Angle and the rest have been good investments.

As for that business in Tucson, we are reminded that, after all, Sarah’s finger was not on the trigger. Nor was Sharron’s, or Glenn’s or Michele’s or Rush’s or Bill’s or anyone else’s. The sole responsibility for the violence belongs to the person who pulled the trigger. But if we accept this, then we must also accept that the only persons responsible for 9-11 were the 19 hijackers on the planes.

And if we are unwilling to accept this, then we need to change our laws to reflect the reality on the ground. Change the wording in the U.S.A. Patriot Act and the U.S. Code to state, for the record, exactly which races and religions are allowed, under law, to engage in terrorism, insurrection and violent overthrow of the government. And while we’re at it, we should also re-write the Constitution to define treason as anything that is, on the say-so of anyone, treason. This way, patriotic Americans will have license to water the tree of liberty every time they disagree with the outcome of an election or any other contentious aspect of democracy.

At this point, we can then declare that — in this marvelous melting pot we call “The United States of America” — democracy is an antiquated ideal, a quaint relic from a bygone era that was sold to the highest bidder in the early 21st century and replaced with a plutocracy, where the dirty work of silencing dissent is subcontracted to violent mobs, rogue politicians and other madmen.

Mindfulness

Of course there are — as there always have been — other tools at our disposal. After all, the same science that has been used to demonize politicians from Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Gabrielle Giffords could be used to accomplish the opposite. We could choose to cultivate our political and cultural landscape from a place of strength instead of weakness. The same science that has been used to prevent another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island could be used to help prevent bloody massacres and political assassinations. William Duke spoke about when he wrote:

“… in order to change your culture, you should act your way into what you want to become.”

We’ve already seen what we become when we act from a place of weakness, where our best ideas are generated from fear, ignorance, rage and violence. But what might we become if, instead, we acted from a place of strength? What would happen if our best ideas were generated from a place of mutual tolerance, enlightenment, respect and human kindness — in a word: civility? Could it be that that if we chose to act as if we were this wonderful melting pot of people, all united under a civil democracy, that we might become just that?

 

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by Ed Sparrow for the canarypapers

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Written by canarypapers

January 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Beck, Bachmann & the U.S. Census: Fears vs. Facts

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The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. — from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address

It may or may not be a coincidence that census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead with a rope around his neck on 9-12 — the word “FED” scrawled across his chest — on the same day that Glenn Beck’s  “9-12 Project” descended on Washington, where the teabaggers, deathers and birthers gathered to protest what Beck & Bachmann have warned are “the systematic efforts” by everyone from Obama Administration and certain Democratic members of Congress, to health care reformers, environmentalists and the folk at with the U.S. Census,”to destroy our wonderful country and threaten to wipe away our God gifted liberties.”

And it may or may not be a coincidence that Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Michele Bachmann and other Capitol Hill GOPs have used the media and organizations such as Glenn Beck’s the “9-12 Project” as a forum for exercising their own “God gifted liberties” to stoke fear, hatred and conspiratorial disinformation about the Federal government, in general, and the U.S. Census, in particular — as if this 220-year-old, constitutionally mandaded U.S. Census (Article I, Section 2) were somehow a recent invention by the Obama Administration, designed to intrude into our lives and impose Nazi, socialist of communist (take your pick) control over the citizenry:

Certainly the collection of this information is going to be part of an ongoing political campaign by this administration. — RNC Chairman Michael Steele on the U.S. Census

I’ve made it very public what my position is, and I think there is a point when  you say ‘enough is enough’ to government intrusion.Michele Bachmann, explaining her plan to boycott the U.S. census

Can they, um, because I’ve considered not filling it out when I get it, but I want to make sure that they don’t use this  as a loophole to say that I can no longer have a permit for my gun. — Glenn Beck, during his interview with Michele Bachmann, hinting that the Feds might take away his 2nd Amendment rights, should he refuse to fill out his census forms — even as both have have just factually acknowledged that the Census Bureau’s stated fine for such is between $100-$5,000.

It is of no coincidence, however, that a certain percentage of citizens in this country have fallen under the spell of this “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror” that has been spun by these GOP peddlers of terror, who have suggested that the census will be used by the Obama Administration to intrude into their lives, take away their guns and throw them into internment camps (the latter fear is courtesy of Michele Bachmann). A sampling of comments from Beck’s “9-12 Project” website reveals the extent of the terror, anger and hatred felt by their audience:

AMMO UP!!! I suggest ammo you don’t use yourself also. Never know when someone else could use it or trade for goods! Buy cheap/inexpensive ammo. I have my .308, .40 and 5.56.

I always thought they could only ask 2 questions? I am prepared for jail time! These are incredible times.

Why is the “census” so important right now? Two guess, [sic] it is the control this administration wants !

With the economy down and so many people out of work and worrying, the Dems are doing their best to side track this country . This is a cruel administration and it is doing everything it can to undermine our American way of life.

I think the best way to fight this, is to not participate in it. If it is going to be political and not fair anyway, why contribute to the fraud. When you get your census, just mark it, I refuse to answer these questions due to probable fraud.

Time to be sqirrels [sic] or whatever else cracks acorns. “When your [sic] a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

We have allowed, yes allowed the left to push us around for far too long. We have bowed and bent to every politically correct, tree-hugging, capitalist hating scheme they’ve come up with for fear of being called a racist, homophobe, hatemonger. I tell you what, they don’t know what a hatemonger is. It’s time to push back.

No, it’s no coincidence that our country is ripe for a lynching. After all, the Becks, Bachmanns, Steeles, Wilsons and Limbaughs of America have spent the past year working on the GOP tag team, taking turns goading their audiences into stocking up on assault rifles, ammo and grudges.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s still time to make a U-turn before something truly horrible happens.

And since Bachmann, Beck, Dobbs, Steele, Wilson et al show no signs of changing the incendiary tone of their rhetoric, it is up to each of us, as individuals, to unequivocally reject the agenda they are promoting:

  • first, by calling these people out — as have former president Jimmy Carter, Rep. John Lewis, Nancy Pelosi and others — whenever the rhetoric embraces hatred, threats and/or violence, and
  • second, by taking every opportunity to allay fears with facts.

Here is my contribution:

FEAR: Bachman says that she does not feel “comfortable” giving her personal information to an ACORN worker.

FACT:  Since 1970, the U.S. Census has been sent out and returned by mail. It’s simple. Citizens fill these out in the privacy of their own homes, then mail them back to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not to ACORN. Those citizens who do not return their form, or who return an incomplete form, are contacted either by phone or by an in-person interviewer, who was likely hired through one of several government contractors, including ACORN, so that the form may be completed. Mailing the fully completed census form to the Census Bureau entirely avoids the need for an in-person interview. (Read here for info on the federal laws that safeguard the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Data Protection and Privacy Policy,” and read here for more info on the use of GPS by the U.S. Census Bureau).

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann doesn’t understand why the government needs information, such as her phone number.

FACT: Had she actually bothered to seek an answer to this question, rather than rather than resort to passing on her fearful ignorance and suspicions, Rep. Bachmann would know the reason for each and every question, as these are painstakingly explained throughout the U.S. Census Bureau documentation, as well as  on their website, including info on how long each question has existed on the census. Regarding phone numbers, these are requested in case the U.S. Census needs to contact those folks who didn’t properly fill out their forms. Calling these individuals on the phone saves the time and expense of sending a personal interviewer to the house. Oddly, Bachmann & Co. were silent over the Bush Administration’s wiretapping program, which made it legal for our government to listen into our private conversations, sans the formality of a warrant. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel more threatened by having the government listen into my phone calls, than by the rote gathering of phone numbers, which are available to anyone with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Worst-case scenario regarding phone numbers (should the above facts not allay Rep. Bachmann’s fears), according to the U.S. Census website, her phone number is not required by federal law, which she would know, had she bothered to look before leaping to conclusions.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census short-form is 28 pages .

FACT: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The 2010 Census questionnaire will be one of the shortest in history, consisting of 10 questions. It takes about 10 minutes to complete.” The 2010 short-form is 6 pages long, with the aforementioned “10 questions” being covered on one single page. The other 5 pages allow optional space for documenting up to 12 other household members, if applicable, and requests only basic information, such as race, age, gender, etc.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census short form is 28 pages .

FACT: Perhaps Rep. Bachmann, in her confusion, was referring to the 14-page American Community Survey (ACS) component of the U.S. Census, which went into effect during the Bush Administration, under a Republican majority Congress in 2005. The ACS replaced the now-obsolete U.S. Census “long census form,” which had been in use since 1940 and used on only a sampling of the population (5% of households in 1940, compared to 16% in the last several census counts). Today’s ACS asks essentially the same questions that were asked in the 100-question “long form” during the last two census counts, the only difference being that — rather than being used every 10 years, the ACS is (and has been since 2005) used on an ongoing basis every year. The theory is that, with our rapidly-changing demographic, economic, and housing data, there needs to be a more accurate system for tracking this data between censuses. (As an example of how rapidly our demographics change, the population increase from 1930 to 1940 was just under 9 million, whereas the population increase from 1990 to 2000 was nearly 33 million).  Too, the ACS uses a smaller sampling of households. Unlike the previously used “long-form” which was sent to 1 in 6 households, the ACS has been sent to an average of 1 in 9 households over a 5-year period. For those who have questions on how to fill out the form, a 16-page instruction guide available, but even this (the 14 page questionaire +the 16 page info guide) doesn’t add up to 28 pages.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachmann states that the census asks for the number of live births.

census birthFACT: The census has never asked for the number of “live births,” although it does seem logical that — since the primary goal over its 220-year history has been to keep an accurate count of the U.S. population — there would be at least some question directed toward tracking birthrates. Perhaps Rep. Bachmann was referring to question #23 (left) which has been part of the U.S. Census for 80 of the past 110  years. This information is reportedly used both to project population growth, as well as to serve as a planning tool for the Dept. of Health and Human Services to implement programs, per statutes. (see this U.S. Census Bureau pdf document for more specifics on this)

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachmann states that the census asks how many bathrooms you have.

census  bathroom

FACT: No census has ever asked how many bathrooms a person has.  The census has asked, since 1940, whether a household has plumbing. This information is asked on the ACS form, not the short-form, which most households will receive. This information is used for various reasons, such as gauging poverty, determing risks for groundwater contamination, and for policy development by the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. (see this U.S. Census pdf document for specifics on this).

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachman states that the census asks what time you leave for work and come home.

FACT: This question has been part of the census since 1960, and is one of several regarding transporation and the use of public highways. According to the U.S. Census:

“Transportation planners, using journey-to-work information, to plan for peak volumes of traffic in order to reduce traffic congestion, plan for parking, and develop strategies, such as carpooling programs and flexible work schedules. Decisions are made to build new roads or add capacity to existing roads, and to develop transit systems, such as light rail or subways, by projecting future needs.” Check the U.S. Census site (see pg. 35 of this 65-page pdf to both view the actual questions and to get more info on why this information is collected).

As Rep. Bachmann could attest, it would be much easier — and certainly less intrusive — for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to simply pull this data out of thin air, as she does with so many of her “facts.” However, this approach is not particularly helpful to transporation planners when designing the highway and mass transit infrastructures that our government provides equally to all citizens, in much the same way that all American citizens are given equal access — regardless of income, disability, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, age or race — to public schools, fire departments, law enforcement and, hopefully one day, health care.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census does not ask if people are U.S. citizens.

FACT: The U.S. Census has been asking this very question for most of the past 180 years, beginning in 1820, when it was #13 of thirty-three questions, asking specifially for the “number of foreigners not naturalized” in the household. As Bachmann has also expressed some fear over the government’s interest in asking about age (part of the census since 1800), race (part of the census since 1790) and gender (part of the census since 1790) , it may be of interest to note that all but five of the 1820 census questions were devoted to asking the gender and ages of whites, slaves and “free colored persons.” For the record, question #8 on the 2010 census plainly asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” Also, in April of this year, the U.S. Census acting director, Thomas Mesenbourg, announced to the media, “We’ll Work with ‘Community Organizations’ to Count All Illegal Aliens in 2010.”

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR:  Michelle Bachmann fears that information from the census will be used to round up Americans into internment camps, (as was done to Japanese and other immigrants in 1942, in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor), and states that she wishes that the FBI, instead of the White House, were in charge of the census.

FACT: First of all, the the U.S. Census Bureau operates through the Department of Commerce, not the executive branch of the government, nor ACORN. Regarding the FBI’s role with the census, beginning in 1939, it was the FBI who used the information from the U.S. Census to profile Japanese and other immigrants and to eventually “round up” Japanese, Italians, Germans and Jews into internment camps, per an executive order signed by Roosevelt in 1942. The U.S. government officially apologized for this and awarded $1.6 billion in reparations in 1988, with President Ronald Reagan stating, as he signed the legislation, that the government’s actions had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

The reason there was no mention of the U.S. Census in Reagan’s apology is because it was anti-immigration fervor — not the census — that ultimately led to these internment camps. The pity is that folk like Bachmann — having neglected to learn their history before speaking authoritatively on it — doom the rest of us to re-witness our most despicable histories. A good starting point for absorbing some historical perspective on the internment camps is the draft for an article, written by Eleanor Roosevelt, aptly titled, To Undo A Mistake Is Always Harder Than Not to Create One Originally.

What Michele Bachmann, in her defiant ignorance, failed to tell her audience is what actually led to the internment camps. It was certainly not the census. It was, in great part, the culmination of 150 years of xenophobic fear and hatred toward Asians — stoked by the Bachmanns & Becks of the day — that was nearly as old as our country, itself, beginning with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which barred U.S. citizenship not only to slaves and blacks, but to Asians. This law was followed throughout the 19th and early 20th century with various Alien Land Laws, which barred the ownership, leasing or renting of land by those residents who were ineligible to citizenship (read that: slaves, blacks and Asians). The Naturalization Act of 1790 was amended in 1875 to allow citizenship to Africans, still barring citizenship to Asians.   

This nativist hatred of “the yellow peril” only intensified during the 60 years leading up to WWII and the internment camps — with anti-Chinese, anti-Japanese sentiments being epidemic from the 1880s through the 1940s, along side the existing prejudices against blacks, Jews and Catholics. This period saw the passage of a series of laws directed specifically against Chinese, Japanese and/or Filipino immigration — from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (which barred Chinese labor and immigration), to the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907 (in which Japan agreed to not allow its citizens to emigrate to the U.S.), to Immigration Act of 1917 (which barred immigrants from most of Asia), to the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 (both of which sharply reduced the immigration of Catholics, Jews and the Japanese, who were deemed “aliens inelibible to citizenship,with the 1924 act finally barring Japanese immigration entirely). Anti-immigration became, in the wake of WWI, the cause célèbre of the KKK and other nativist groups and fraternal orders of the day, which targeted immigrants for intimidation, threats and lynching, the most infamous being, perhaps, the 1915  KKK lynching of the Jewish pencil manufacturer, Leo Frank..  

As the Depression descended during the early 1930s, job scarcity only escalated the anger and fear toward immigrants — not unlike the climate being cultivated today in the rhetoric of Beck, Bachmann, Dobbs and others — with the rise of WWII facism only seeming to justify old fears, while also justifying new fears of subversive facist and communist elements within the U.S. In 1939-1940, the FBI began the “Custodial Detention Index Program,” which targeted not only the Japanese and Chinese, but also Italians, Germans and Jews,  categorizing these immigrants into  several classes of “subversives.” 

With the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor — and the U.S. officially at war with Japan — long-simmering hatred toward Japanese escalated to a flash-point, sparking both threats and actual acts of violence against Japanese-Americans. From this specific climate and turn of events, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the order to authorize the internment of Japanese Americans. 

It was not until the 1950s-60s that the anti-immigration laws barring citizenship and land ownership to the Japanese began to be lifted. Speaking before Congress in 1960, Senator Warren G. Magnuson — who, himself, had earlier been a proponent of the Japanese internment camps — urged a repeal of the alien land laws, describing the climate of fear that had led to these laws and, ultimately, to the internment camps: 

I am convinced that these anti-alien land laws helped substantially to create the prejudices which were fanned by hysteria in 1942, into and incident that has been described as ‘our worst wartime mistake.’ I have referenced to the mass military evacuation of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, regardless of citizenship, age, or sex from their homes into interior interment camps.

It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965 that barriers against Japanese immigration were effectively lifted, allowing the Japanese an equal path with other nationalities to citizenship and, thereby, putting to rest 175-years of laws that served to legitimize prejudice within our immigration policies. 

It is of no coincidence that the Immigration Act of 1965 coincided with the Civil Rights and Votings Rights Acts of 1964-65, which afforded, after some 250 years, equal rights of citizenship to blacks. But as any white supremacist could tell you, it’s one thing to make a law; it’s another to enforce it. There continue to be in this country certain elements that work, like rust, to undermine the rights of non-whites. Harry Dent picked up the cause for white supremacist politicians in 1964, passing the torch to Lee Atwater in the 1980s, then to Karl Rove. Today, this same torch is being carried by Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann and, by virtue of their silence on the matter, by the entire Republican Party, who are exploiting old fears to further political agendas — stoking fear, hatred and, potentially, violence in the process. 

To borrow from the words that came back to haunt Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” It is this fear that ultimately led to the internment camps, and it is this fear — not the existence of the U.S. census — that could ultimately doom us, as a country, to repeat old history.   

*     *     *     *     *

America’s history with race and immigration is infinitely complex. I can no more do justice to this history in five or six paragraphs than Bachman, Beck, Limbaugh or Dobbs can lend in the various one-liners they broadcast over the airwaves each day, their dire predictions designed to raise ratings and political capital, entirely at the expense of the people they terrify and the victims who pay the price of this terror.

 

Henchmen to Road Rage? To a Lynching?

To date, we don’t know. But the fact that we are even asking these questions speaks volumes about the fears that have been cavalierly tossed about and taken root over the past year or so. 

This is how history repeats itself — by the perpetuation of old fears and old ignorance. It has taken me several hours to track down the facts and write them here for public consumption to set the record straight on just a tiny fraction of the irresponsible disinformation that it took Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann just a few minutes to broadcast to a national audience.

That’s the thing about terror.  It clutches at peoples’ hearts, entirely by-passing their minds, propelling them into survival mode. They’ll do whatever it takes to protect themselves from the enemy, the bogeyman.  These terrified  folk don’t ask questions. They believe what their politicians tell them. They believe what they hear on the TV box. They believe, with all their hearts, that the government is, in the words of Glenn Beck, out to “destroy our wonderful country and threaten to wipe away our God gifted liberties.” Too, there are a certain percentage who may know better, but are, indeed, acting on old hatreds.

From there, all it takes is a small spark. Perhaps an angry man in a pick-up truck who, seeing my Obama bumper sticker, rushes up behind my car on a rural road in South Carolina, threatening to rear-end my car, then nearly side-swipes me as he tries to run me off the road. Or, perhaps, a simple knock on the door by a census worker. That’s all it would take to incite the sort of rage that would compel men to murder complete strangers or to, perhaps, lynch a Boy Scout leader, a cancer survivor, a teacher, a single father to a son.

Whether or not the truth of the latter is fact or fear is a question that has yet to be answered. But it is a question that more and more American face each day — from the President, to members of Congress, to ordinary citizens like myself. It is a terrifying question, to be sure — one that no one should ever, ever again have to ask in this country. Yet, there are some in this country who would doom us to repeat it.

Again, it’s not too late. We can still make that U-turn before something truly horrible happens if, indeed, it hasn’t already.

VIDEO ABOVE: Michele Bachmann’s approach to stopping health care reform: “We have to today make a covenant, slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

 

VIDEO ABOVE: The Young Turks show broadcast on some of Michele Bachmann’s more bizarre statements, including her “slit our wrists” covenant, from the previous video.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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The Resignation of Van Jones: Who Needs McCarthy Hearings, When You Have Glenn Beck?

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When contemplating the abyss, it’s sometimes helpful to look straight into it.  In this spirit, I did something I never do: I went to the Fox News website and read their account of the Van Jones story, titled, “How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next.”  The article reads like a page from the Lee Atwater manifesto.  ( Or Harry Dent or Karl Rove, take your pick.) Herein, I learned that, according to the folks at Fox News, Van Jones was part of a bigger conspiracy, not unlike the Democrats’ secret  mission to use health care reform as a path to putting our country under the rule of socialist death panels.  

And, if not for the courage of the fearless crew at Fox News, it’d still be a secret, since the evil liberal media was, as usual, asleep at the helm, ignoring yet one more left-wing radical plot to take over our country.

Turns out, according to this article, the reason that 57 companies pulled their ads from Glenn Beck’s show was NOT because Beck said the following, of President Obama on July 28th:

This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture — I don’t know what it is. …I’m not saying that he doesn’ t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. He has a — this guy is, I believe, a racist.

No, the real reason for the boycott is much more insidious: Glenn’s show was boycotted because he broke the Van Jones story.  According to Phil Kerpen, Director of Policy for Americans for Prosperity, who officially broke the story on Beck’s July 28th show: “Given the chronology… we should consider whether the boycott was retaliation for the coverage.”

But wait, there’s more. According to Kerpen, Jones’ real agenda at the White House was, “an attempt to achieve radical ends” an end Kerpen deemed, “squarely within the mainstream of the political left and the Democratic Party.”

Just what was Jones’  secret agenda? Apparently, his agenda for the “greening” of America was really a thinly disguised plot to topple capitalism. Kerpen even gave a name to his plot, calling it “the watermelon theory,” (not to be confused with the certain stereotypes of yore about colored folk and watermelon). According to Kerpen, Jones’ efforts toward a cap and trade bill to curb carbon emissions was  “watermelon,” green on the outside but Communist red to the core.

As evidence of this, Kerpen revealed Jones’ ties to the radical organization, the Apollo Alliance, which has been involved in myriad nefarious projects, such as:

  • Working with volunteer university students, union workers and community members to caulk, seal and insulate low-income homes in Buffalo, NY.  and to also design a do-it-yourself kit for homewners — called the Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) that gave homeownders the necessary materialsto make basic improvements themselves.
  • Efforts to keep millions of U.S. jobs from being sent overseas. Responding to recent reports that 30% of American overseas job losses came from the manufacturing sector — and that 70 percent of America’s clean and efficient energy systems are currently being manufactured overseas — Apollo has been working with a “broad spectrum of U.S. industry, including manufacturers, distributors, labor unions, and clean energy producers” to support legislation to “revive American manufacturing through investment in clean energy.” In this effort, the Apollo Alliance supports Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill titled, “Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act,” — a bill to boost domestic clean energy manufacturing and ensure that new clean energy jobs stay in the United States, while also cutting American dependence on foreign oil. 
  • Efforts to modernize our long-neglected transportation infrastucture to rejuvinate our cities by bringing businesses and people back to the deteriorating downtowns, much like Chattanooga did in the early 1990s — a succes story that created jobs, prospered business, and improved the quality of life, while also setting the standard for cutting operating costs,  reducing fuel consumption and waste, while being good stewards of the environment.  

And this is only “the tip of iceberg,” accoring to Kerpen. To illusrate this point, he offered the following chart which draws the clear, undisputable connections between communism, green jobs, the Sierra Club, the president of the United Steel Workers Union and, yes, none other than Van Jones.

 

The Chart: The "Green Jobs" Radical Network Conspiracy to Take Over the WorldEven

If this reminds you of that scene with all the crazy road signs in the movie, “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure,” it’s for good reason. We Americans were on a crash collision course with communism — saved only by the grace of Phil Kerpen’s meticulous research, which uncovered all manner of scary plots:    

“He [Jones] urged adoption of a carbon cap-and-trade program, renewable electricity mandates– including Al Gore’s outlandish and impossible goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2018, large taxpayer-funded green jobs programs, a so-called smart grid for electricity, more mass-transit subsidies, higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, federal funding for organic farms, a ban on new coal plants, expanded ethanol mandates, and even a spirited, multiple page pitch for a cash-for-clunkers program.”

Scary stuff, eh? Kerpen elaborates:

“Green jobs are not economic jobs but political jobs, designed to funnel vast sums of taxpayer money to left-wing labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice community organizers.”

In other words, environment protection is part of an evil fascist  plot to take over the government. Social justice is just another word for socialism. And community organizers are… Well, you get the picture. 

Kerpen continues:

“Even  if Apollo is properly tainted by the Van Jones scandal, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, as this chart shows. In fact most of the action has already moved to the Center for American Progress, the hyper-politicized think tank that’s advancing most of the left’s agenda.”

It would easy enough to confuse the name of this “leftist” organization,  “Center for American Progress,” with its polar opposite,  “Americans for Prosperity,” the group with which Phil Kelpern serves as pollicy director. A quick view of their websites dispels all confusion. Below are some of the headlines from the home page of the “leftist” group, Center for American Progress, allegedly tied to Van Jones: 

  • Serving America’s Veterans
  • Restoring America’s global leadership
  • Seizing the energy opportunity
  • Creating progressive growth
  • Delivering universal health care
  • Getting Our Sudan Policy Right
  • Mixed News for Older Workers
  • A Good Job Is Hard to Find
  • Ted Kennedy, in Substance
  • Evaluating the Elections in Afghanistan
  • Public Shows Strong Support for Changes in Energy Policy
  • Making Government Work for Families
  • What Does Reform Mean for You?

In contrast, the headlines on Karpen’s “American’s for Prosperity” site seem less geared toward  issues and solutions and, well, American progress, than toward sliming the Democrats and killing every single effort to address the enormously complex issues of our times. Their current focus appears to be on killing health care reform and bashing unions and a cap and trade bill:

  • Green Czar’s Communism No Coincidence
  • Obama to Indoctrinate Schoolchildren
  • Obama’s “new” health care strategy
  • Baucus Deal is No Compromise
  • Americans for Prosperity Exposes the Left’s “Secret Plan” to Use Forced Unionization to Take Over the Country
  • Obama’s ‘Green’ Groups Eye Lots of Greenbacks
  • Tell the Obama administration to allow offshore drilling here in America!
  • Documentary Exposes Cap-and-Trade: It’s All About Control
  • Americans for Prosperity encourages members of the general public to visit their district offices and attend town hall meetings of their senators and representatives, especially during this August break when issues like health care reform and cap-and-trade are at the peak of debate. Make sure your voice is heard!

Of course, this comes as no surprise from an organization that is bedfellows to Doug Coe’s C-Street and the insurance, pharmaceutical and oil industries, to name a few. So it also comes as no suprise that Americans for Prosperity has also been spearheading this summer’s debacles of the tea-baggers, birthers and deathers, inciting Americans to take arms against imaginary giants.

Turns out, these efforts are effective. Health care reform is dead in the water, and Van Jones resigned, saying that he took on this position with the Obama Administration so that he could put his energies into defending others, not into defending himself. His absence leaves the Obama Administration another person short of the independent voices sorely needed to counterbalance money with morals on Capitol Hill — to offer a a strong voice for the people, whose interests are not served by the kings of industry and their lobbyists, whose job is to buy political favor and squash anything that stands between the kings and their profits. 

The aptly named “Americans for Prosperity” makes no claims to be Americans for clean drinking water, or Americans for breathable air, or  Americans for preserving and protecting the environment for future generations, or Americans for decent medical care for all citizens, or Americans for serving the needs of veterans, or Americans for stopping genocide in Africa, or Americans for decent worker wages. No, their name is American for Prosperity, and the only causes they support are those that benefit the kings of industry. Causes that benefit the people and the environment are enemies to prosperity.

Having hamstrung Van Jones, on the heels of helping kill health care reform, Americans for Prosperity got a taste of blood and it seems they like it. Seems they like folk who issue death threats and accuse the president of hating white people. Seems they like folk who resurrect the ghost of Joseph McCarthy. Seems they like insurrectionists who plan revolts against our constitutional government. Seems they like folk who attend Obama events with guns strapped to their sides. Seems they don’t give a damn about death panels, so long as they’re run by insurance CEOS.

Here, Obama and the Democratic Party would do well to take a line from George W. Bush’s playbook: We don’t appease terrorists.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more on Van Jones, from someone who actually knows the man and his work, see Arianna Huffington’s, “Thank you, Glenn Beck!”