Browsing the blog archives for July, 2010.


American Stasi

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American History, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Joe McCarthy

R.S. McCain Channels Joe McCarthy

Today the FBI released its extensive files on the late Howard Zinn, the popular historian known especially for his book A People’s History of the United States. The FBI opened an investigation of Zinn in 1949 because of his association with what were called “Communist Front” groups. Zinn denied being a member of the Communist Party USA when questioned by agents in the 1950s.

However, in the 1960s the FBI renewed its interest in Zinn because Zinn was critical of the FBI. Apparently Zinn was especially critical of the FBI’s investigations of the civil rights movement. Of course, we know now that J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO project attempted to infiltrate, disrupt and marginalize the civil rights movement from within, including the nonviolent movement of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King himself was under FBI surveillance for much of the last few years of his life. COINTELPRO often operated outside of the law and constitutional prohibitions on warrantless government surveillance.

How much Zinn knew about what the FBI was up to I do not know, but at a civil rights protest in the 1960s he declared the U.S. had become a “police state.” This pissed off the Bureau, which then tried to get Zinn fired from his professorship at Boston University. Which pretty much proves that Zinn had a point. Apparently the files also contain detailed accounts of Zinn’s activities in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam years. At that time I don’t believe the FBI had evidence Zinn was doing anything illegal; it just didn’t like Zinn’s politics.

But just to show that leopards don’t change their spots, or something, our buddy Robert Stacy McCain apparently spent hours piecing together whatever he could find in the documents that tied Zinn to the Communist Party USA so that he could say Zinn lied about being a member.

I read through this as much as I could stand, and it’s mostly guilt-by-association stuff. For example, McCain finds it significant that Zinn thought the state of New York was liable for property damage caused by the Peekskill riots. These were riots in 1949 that stopped a concert by Paul Robeson, the African American singer “known for his strong pro-trade union stance on civil rights and his outspoken beliefs in international socialism, anti-lynching legislation and anti-colonialist movements.” McCain sneers that the riots were “a once-famous cause célèbre of the Left,” apparently siding with the rights of real American patriots to form a riotous mob and violently attack people because of their race and/or politics.

Zinn clearly was actively engaged in many of the same causes as the old CPUSA in those years. In the 1940s he was active in the International Workers Order, an “insurance, mutual benefit and fraternal organization” affiliated with CPUSA. Whether Zinn was a card-carrying member of CPUSA itself or just a fellow-traveler isn’t really clear, though.

And in any event, given the totalitarian activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. Joe McCarthy’s relentless witch hunts, I wouldn’t blame Zinn for lying to the FBI if he was a member.

But finally McCain gets to his smoking gun — an FBI agent found that Zinn’s name and address were on a “list of addressograph stencils at Communist Party Headquarters.” Yes, my dear, Zinn was on the Communist Party’s mailing list. So he must have been a member. Like we’re all members of every organization that sends us mail.

Hey, I get email from the Tea Party Movement. Does that make me a teabagger?

I like this bit of McCain’s —

One of the things you can learn from M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on Joe McCarthy’s investigations, Blacklisted by History, is how deeply the FBI had penetrated CPUSA. One reason that McCarthy’s was sometimes unable to publicly substantiate his accusations was that he relied on secret information passed along by the FBI. McCarthy couldn’t identity the source of his information without compromising the FBI’s investigations, so when his critics tried to make it appear that McCarthy’s suspicions were without merit, McCarthy couldn’t simply say, “Here is the FBI file.”

One of the things you learn from other books on McCarthy, such as David Oshinsky’s A Conspiracy So Immense, is that after McCarthy started making a splash with his mysterious lists of spies, Hoover began feeding him names of people the FBI hadn’t been able to find enough dirt on to prosecute, but Hoover still suspected them of something. The fact remains that no one McCarthy targeted was ever found to be guilty of espionage, and this is still true after the release of the “Venona Papers,” wingnut myth to the contrary.

The point lost on McCain is that most of the time Zinn was under surveillance, Zinn was not doing anything criminal. He was under surveillance purely because of his political beliefs.

And the great irony is that if people like McCain were allowed to run America without restraint, he’d be rounding up everyone whose politics he doesn’t like (most of us) and sending us off to re-education camps. Just like the you-know-who. If McCain had his way, he’d organize an American Stasi.

Update: More by Justin Elliott at Salon — five different FBI special agents submitted surveillance reports on Zinn’s participation at one, and the same, anti-draft public meeting. He was also found to be on the mailing list of a Communist bookstore (I don’t know if this is the same mailing list already mentioned, or not).

“There’s also a fair amount here about Zinn’s 1974 trip to North Vietnam with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, during which they received three freed American POWs,” Elliott writes. McCain also had brought up the trip to Hanoi as proof of Zinn’s communist activities, but McCain left out the part about freeing POWs. Fascinating.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

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Newt Wants to Be Your President

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American History, conservatism, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Un-bee-lee-va-bull:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich twice called on the United States to attack North Korea and Iran Thursday because the United States has only attacked “one out of three” of so-called “Axis of Evil” members by invading Iraq. He also claimed that Muslims are trying to install Sharia law on America and said that the “War on Terror” should have been a war on “radical Islamists” instead.

Speaking at an American Enterprise Institute event yesterday, Gingrich compared not following through on President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” agenda with not fully engaging the Axis power in World War II.

“If Franklin Roosevelt had done that in ’41, either the Japanese or the Germans would have won,” Gingrich said, adding that Americans should “over-match the problem.”

Newt, who allegedly has a degree in history, doesn’t notice that FDR did not “fully engage the Axis power” in World War II until after Pearl Harbor and after Germany had declared war on the U.S. Before that, Germany had already bombed Britain and invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The destroyer U.S.S. Ruben James had been sunk by a U-boat attack weeks before Pearl Harbor. But the U.S. officially was neutral until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The United States under Franklin Roosevelt did not enter the war until the war was brought to us.

So no, Newt, history does not tell us that Roosevelt would have attacked Iran and North Korea just because it was on his to-do list.

Also, Newt continues to spout inane and hateful drool about the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” the Islamic center that would not actually be a mosque and would not even be visible from “Ground Zero.”

According to Nate Silver, Newt’s biggest obstacle to the Republican nomination in 2012 is Sarah Palin. This is because the two of them appeal to the same demographic slice of the conservative base, but that slice likes Palin better than Gingrich. So maybe he thinks that to have a shot at the White House he has to out-Palin Palin. Otherwise, if that’s what he really thinks, someone should adjust his meds.

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I ♥ Anthony Weiner

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Obama Administration

Have they forgotten? Last night the House debated a bill to provide $4 billion in health care aid to September 11 rescue and recovery workers. A large percentage of those who cleared debris and recovered bodies from the wreck of the World Trade Center have suffered severe health problems as a result, mostly because they were breathing toxic fumes without adequate safety equipment. Some have died, others are dying, they can no longer work and need public assistance. The bill failed to get the needed votes, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was a tad distressed.

I understand it was mostly Republican votes that killed the bill. BTW, I’d love to know how many of those Republicans who voted no to assist the heroes of 9/11 are working their constituents up into a lather over the “Ground Zero mosque”?

In other obstructionist news, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to help get loan money to small business. Now they’ll all go home to their districts and scream that Democrats hate small business.

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What Will Happen When We Leave/Don’t Leave Afghanistan

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Obama Administration

A new argument for not pulling troops out of Afghanistan arrived in my email inbox just now. The argument is that it would be a nightmare for Afghani women if the Taliban re-took control of most of the country. The email cited a Time magazine story about an Afghani woman whose ears and nose were cut off by the Taliban because she ran away from an abusive husband.

I would point out that this incident happened last year, and the presence of American troops in Afghanistan didn’t stop it. However, the point seems to be that if the troops were completely gone, such incidents would increase many times over.

Another aspect of this story is that the Afghan government is exploring the possibility of negotiating a political accommodation with the Taliban to put an end to the fighting. Afghani women, understandably, view such an accommodation as a betrayal. I question whether any group as irrational and fanatical as the Taliban could be negotiated with, anyway.

The only fix to this problem I can think of is to turn back time to 2002, when the Bush Administration lost its focus (if, indeed, it ever had any focus) in Afghanistan because it was obsessed with Iraq. Which is to say, there are no fixes. This is a terrible situation that should not have been allowed to get this bad, but it was allowed, so there it is. And while the impulse to keep lots of troops in Afghanistan indefinitely to protect women from the Taliban is honorable, it doesn’t seem to me to be possible. How many troops? How long? At what cost? There’s a point at which resources run dry.

If the issue is protecting Afghani women, it seems to me the most practical thing to do is to establish lots of guarded safehouses (I’d be OK with leaving troops in country for that purpose) as well as helping women leave Afghanistan, with their children, and begin new lives elsewhere. Ultimately it’s Afghanistan itself that’s got to find the will and the means to rid itself of the Taliban.

Update: Outstanding response to this issue from Greg Mitchell at The Nation.

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Scamming the Rubes

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Obama Administration

Let us be clear: No one at the White House is talking about ending Bush’s tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 year. You can scour news stories and White House announcements all you like, and the Obama Administration’s intentions regarding the Bush tax cuts have been completely clear since the 2008 campaign.

For example, on television last week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner discussed letting tax cuts expire for those making more than $250,000 a year, which would affect 2 to 3 percent of all Americans. At a press briefing yesterday, Robert Gibbs said “The President said that, as he had committed to in the campaign, he would not allow the tax cuts for the middle class to expire.”

However, if you’re getting your news from the Republican Noise Machine, you wouldn’t know that. You’d think everyone’s taxes will be going up.

Today the Usual Tools on the Right Blogosphere are frantically linking to a new “tax calculator” at the Heritage Foundation website. The calculator is supposed to tell how how much YOUR taxes will go up if the Bush tax cuts expire. In their announcement on the calculator, Heritage uses an example of “a married couple with two children under 17 earning $45,000 a year with no other income” who will, Heritage says, owe an additional $3,002 in taxes next year if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

Heritage provides absolutely no evidence for its assertion that the Obama Administration plans to allow all the tax cuts to expire. But of course rightie bloggers assume that what Heritage says must be true, so like good little tools they are properly outraged about “the largest tax increase in United States history.”

(Note: in rightiespeak, “the largest tax increase in United States history” refers to any change in tax code whatsoever, when enacted by a Democratic Congress.)

What’s important to remember is that Heritage speaks for its founders and benefactors, who are (according to Sourcewatch)

* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* Scaife Foundations: Sarah Mellon Scaife, Scaife Family, Carthage
* John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
* Castle Rock Foundation
* JM Foundation
* Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
* Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc.
* Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
* Roe Foundation
* Rodney Fund
* Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation
* Orville D. and Ruth A. Merillat Foundation
* Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation
* Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
* William H. Donner Foundation
* Walton Family Foundation
* Armstrong Foundation
* John Templeton Foundation
* William E. Simon Foundation

These are foundations set up by families wealthy beyond our imaginations who use rightie think tanks like Heritage to push policies to protect their wealth. The rightie think tank infrastructure exists to push a number of policies that benefit the extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

One of their more successful propaganda strategies is to convince the rubes that tax increases proposed only for the mega-wealthy are really aimed at everyone, including the hypothetical married couple with two children earning $45,000 a year. Thus the rubes can be stirred up into fear and anger about tax increases that will not touch them at all. (See, for example, “GOP Fairy Tales” by Kevin Drum.)

Another organization pushing the propaganda that President Obama intends to raise taxes on lower-income earners is Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist. ATR is an astroturf site established by the following foundations (according to SourceWatch):

* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* Carthage Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
* JM Foundation
* John M. Olin Foundation
* Sarah Scaife Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
* R.J. Reynolds
* Philip Morris
* Tobacco Institute

Norquist and his good buddy Jack Abramoff also scammed some Indian tribes into giving money to ATR. Apparently the chiefs were told they had to make the donations in order to have access to President Bush.

BTW, according to Lori Montgomery at WaPo, here’s the reason the Bush tax law was written to expire in ten years:

The cuts were written to expire to allow the bill to pass Congress under fast-track budget rules, known as reconciliation, and avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Just like the final piece of Obama’s health care overhaul, the tax cuts needed only 50 votes to win Senate approval, instead of the 60 required to shut down a filibuster.

Under reconciliation, legislation may not increase the deficit beyond a 10-year “budget window.” Because the tax cuts would have increased the deficit, Republicans had to write them to expire in 2011.

In other words, Congress knew full well that the tax cuts would not magically increase revenue and pay for themselves, although of course no one on the Right was admitting that in public. And never forget that those tax cuts are the single biggest cause of the current federal budget deficit, the same deficit righties shriek about whenever a Democrat proposes any policy whatsoever.

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The Amazing Disappearing Iraq Reconstruction Money

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Obama Administration

More news that isn’t news — if you were paying attention lo those many years ago (and I know you were) you remember that billions of dollars of money allocated for reconstruction in Iraq were missing. We knew this at least by 2006, if not sooner.

So, this bit just posted at Think Progress isn’t really news —

Yesterday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) released its findings on how the money was spent from a special Iraq reconstruction fund set up by the Department of Defense (DOD) between 2003-2007. The account used Iraqi oil money to fund the reconstruction of Iraq. SIGIR concluded that 96 percent of the $9.1 billion the reconstruction program cannot be accounted for by the DOD.

Read more at WaPo. Naturally I want to know precisely who in the DoD was responsible for this, and if those persons were military careerists or Bushie civilian appointees.

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Not Really Secret

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Obama Administration

The big buzz this morning is over a massive release of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan from the website Wikileaks. Wikileaks is a loosely organized association headquartered in Sweden that was “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa,” its website says. This is according to Wikipedia, as the Wikileaks site is down at the moment.

Via Steve Benen, Michael Crowley’s assessment is that the documents don’t tell us anything new.

It’s never been a secret, for instance, that the Taliban have proven more resilient than anyone expected; that U.S. special forces hunt and eliminate Taliban leaders without the courtesy of a fair trail; that elements within our putative ally Pakistan play a sinister double game with radical Islamists; that our troops kill innocent Afghans on a regular basis. It’s not even a secret, as anyone familiar with the Pat Tillman saga knows, that the military sometimes manipulates facts about the war.

Once again, we’re learning that the days in which one could subdue and pacify an enemy through warfare are over. For the benefit of any rightie who happens to wander into this blog: Nations fight to maintain their territory and their sovereignty, and when that is no longer tenable there is not much left for them to do but surrender and agree to terms. When the enemy is not a nation, but a movement, or hostile organizations not tied to anyone territory and not under the authority of any one government, that’s not the case.

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Say No to Oligarchy

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Obama Administration

Following up the last post — this is in George Bob Herbert’s column

The point that Ms. Sherrod was making as she talked in her speech about the white farmer who had come to her for help was that we are all being sold a tragic bill of goods by the powerful forces that insist on pitting blacks, whites and other ethnic groups against one another.

Ms. Sherrod came to the realization, as she witnessed the plight of poverty-stricken white farmers in the South more than two decades ago, that the essential issue in this country “is really about those who have versus those who don’t.”

She explained how the wealthier classes have benefited from whites and blacks constantly being at each other’s throats, and how rampant racism has insidiously kept so many struggling whites from recognizing those many things they and their families have in common with economically struggling blacks, Hispanics and so on.

“It’s sad that we don’t have a roomful of whites and blacks here tonight,” she said, “because we have to overcome the divisions that we have.”

Pretty much what we were saying in the comment thread to the last post.

See also Bernie Sanders at The Nation, “Say No to Oligarchy.”

Update: Unrelated, but it’s too funny not to mention and I don’t want to start another post — word is that Mexican drug cartels have invaded Texas and commandeered several ranches! This is reliable information from a Texas blogger, whom Michelle Malkin calls a “veteran immigration blogger.” Well-trained drug cartel commandos have taken over at least two ranches in the Loredo, Texas, area, and this has been confirmed by a reliable source in the Loredo Police Department.

Or, maybe not. Confederate Yankee called the Loredo Police Department and also the Webb County sheriff’s department and was told by one amused and one irritated law enforcement officer that the rumors were false. And see Tbogg’s take if you need a good laugh.

Apparently what set the rumors off was a gun battle on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. People heard the shots on the U.S. side and called police, who investigated and determined that no violence spilled over into Texas. Little Lulu quotes an AP story —

Frightened people on the U.S. side of the border called emergency dispatchers after hearing the gunfire, Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza said Thursday. But he said there was no spillover violence.

“We were getting reports from people who live on the river’s edge that they could hear gunfire and explosions from the Mexico side,” Baeza said.

“We didn’t have any incidents on the American side. It’s hard for people to understand who don’t live here,” he added. “They’re not Vikings, they’re not going to invade us, it doesn’t work that way.”

What does he know? A reliable source alerted me to these photos of the invasion.

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Whites and Privilege

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Obama Administration

I’m sorta kinda responding to Melissa McEwan’s response to Jim Webb’s Wall Street Journal op ed “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege.”

Webb’s op ed, very generally, points to the issue of white poverty. Unfortunately Webb begins by framing his argument in terms of white workers losing ground because of affirmative action programs, and I disagree that’s the problem.

However, It’s way out of order, I think, to accuse Webb of merely trying to maintain white privilege. I agree with John Cole, there are whites living in places “where poverty is so deep, so ingrained, that the idea in those regions that there is some sort of ‘white privilege’ is in fact laughable. To them, the privilege of chronic unemployment, life in a tarpaper shack with no medical care, food stamps but no grocery store, and not much of a future doesn’t look like that great of a deal.”

I’d also say that while the issues of racial discrimination and entrenched poverty do overlap, a lot, they aren’t exactly the same. I agree also with John that the real issue is closer to what Shirley Sherrod was saying about class v. race.

But whatever it is, it’s a real issue, and it is not at all helpful to react to discussion of the problems of white poverty with knee-jerk declarations that “This isn’t about white people; it’s about privileged white men.”

No, it’s about white poverty, and about the cultural marginalization of rural whites. I don’t think Webb addressed the topic as well as it needed to be addressed, but I know where he’s coming from, because it’s pretty close to where I came from.

There are whites living out of most people’s sight in Appalachia, the Ozarks, and other sparsely populated areas who are hopelessly locked into poverty. Some of these areas are marginally agricultural, and sometimes there is mining — dangerous, usually non-union, but a paycheck. Where there isn’t farming or mining there are white families whose existence going back four or five generations has depended on a combination of government assistance and sporadic menial jobs, and the children don’t receive the social, cultural, educational, medical, and sometimes even the nutritional support to pull themselves out of that.

In the most isolated areas are people who are barely functional in 21st-century culture. For example, I’ve known very bright people — been related to ’em, in fact — who didn’t, and probably couldn’t, speak standard English. In most of the U.S. an adult whose articulation, syntax and verb conjugation skills signal IGNORANT HILLBILLY is seriously handicapped.

Such places tend to be off the beaten track, out of sight and out of mind. And yes, this a relatively small slice of the white population of the U.S. But it’s not that small.

White impoverished areas I know of didn’t get that way because of affirmative action programs. They were dirt poor before there was such a thing as affirmative action programs. And we really need to get over the idea that giving a hand up to minorities was somehow at the expense of whites, because an economy that makes it easier for everyone to be productive is a healthier economy for everyone. But let’s not forget that people can be left behind for reasons other than race.

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Enough With the Buttinskys

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Obama Administration

According to this Yahoo News story, people around the country are organizing protests against the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. They’ve got a photo of a bleeping protest in bleeping Tennessee. Give me a break. How would they feel if a bunch of New Yorkers showed up in their town and dictated to them what they could and could not build?

I didn’t pay much attention to it when it happened, but apparently a few weeks ago Pam Geller organized a protest in lower Manhattan in which people from across the U.S. assembled and protested the Islamic center. Exactly how many is a matter of dispute, but it was some number between 350 and 2 million.

Geller is organizing another protest for September 10. I am no good at organizing things, but I would just love to whip up a humongous counter-protest of NEW YORKERS. Well, OK, I’ll let New Jerseyites come too. They watched the towers burn and fall from New Jersey. But if anyone has any idea whom to prod to organize such a thing, speak up.

I get an impression that some of the protesters are opposed to building mosques anywhere in the U.S. A google search showed there already are three mosques in Manhattan and more than 30 in the New York City area. How do we know they aren’t going to train terrorists? some ask. I guess the same way we know, or hope, they aren’t training pedophiles at Saint Patrick’s. If we aren’t going to turn into a police state, sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are what they say they are.

But if that’s what worries the haters, then it’s far better to build a big Islamic center in lower Manhattan than anywhere else. It would be tricky to have a secret training camp in one of the more densely populated places on the planet.

Now that great waste of human protoplasm known as “Newt Gringrich” is saying “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” Yes, that’s mature. If the Saudis are intolerant, we have to be intolerant too, just to show we can be as intolerant as they are! That’ll show ’em!

Except the Saudis wouldn’t be affected. The ones who would be affected are “West African handbag vendors, to Egyptian halal cart owners, to a few financial workers.” Who are also New Yorkers, and Americans, by the way. Not Saudis.

Nice article by Kelly Caldwell, “Say Yes to a Mosque at Ground Zero.”

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