Is Sarah Palin A Closet John Bircher?

palin2.thumbnail.jpgMichael Shaw at BAGNewsNotes found this 1995 image of Sarah Palin at her Wasilla City Council desk. It appears to be her official portrait, and a mundane one at that.

What’s striking, as Michael points out, is the article in front of her: It’s a piece about the "Con Con Call" — one of those hysterical non-issues that conspiracy theorists of the far right in 1995 were shrieking about, involving an attempt by a handful of governors to organize a convention aimed at fighting what they saw as states’ subordinate status. (Yes, the shrieking shut it down.)

One of the organizers of that particular torch-bearing mob was the John Birch Society. And sure enough, the article that Palin is proudly displaying in this portrait is a copy of the March 1995 edition of New American, the house organ of the Birch Society.

The article in question was written by Don Fotheringham. (It’s no longer in the NA’s archives, but you can read the text of it at this site.)

The Birchers are best known for their ardent McCarthyism and their long career in promoting cockamamie conspiracy theories about supposed Communist infiltration of government — not just in the ’50s and ’60s, but well into the late ’80s, until the fall of the Soviet Union. At that point, they simply picked up the same act and transferred it to promoting similar theories about the "New World Order" under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. (Chip Berlet has one of the best disquisitions on the Birch Society’s long career.)

These same theories were the raison d’etre of the militia movement — and indeed, the Birch Society ardently promoted the militias and related "Patriot" activity. I used to see their material on sale at militia gatherings regularly.

So it’s probably not a coincidence that Sarah Palin was proudly reading Bircher magazines at the same time she and her husband were attending Alaskan Independence Party gatherings and making friends with its leaders, and the same year her husband signed up as a member. Because the AIP, as we’ve detailed, has a long history of being part of this same "Patriot" movement contingent.

It might be no wonder that an AIP follower like Todd Palin doesn’t believe he has respond to official subpoenas. After all, "sovereign citizenship" — fancy words for "I’m exempt from your laws" (based on the notion that the government was "illegitimate") — was a staple of the Patriots, too.

That’s quite the VP nominee John McCain picked there. (more…)

Bush DOJ Doesn’t Even Pretend To Take Threats To Obama Seriously

Troy Eid and his mentor, ex-AG Alberto Gonzales;
with Karl Rove somewhere backstage

Troy Eid, the Rove-appointed U.S. Attorney in Colorado who tossed off the case of the would-be Obama assassins, is deeply concerned about meanie bloggers he blames for the resulting spate of bad press. He might better spend his time reading his own affidavits.

Here’s the AP version of what was in the affidavit:

Johnson later told a federal agent that the men talked about assassinating Obama only because he was black, according to a federal arrest affidavit. Johnson said he also heard Adolf say that he wanted to kill Obama "on the day of his inauguration" and that he would "find high ground to set up and shoot Obama," the affidavit said.

And yet in his press conference announcing there wasn’t "enough evidence" to pursue conspiracy charges against the men, Eid said:

"You know, they didn’t, they didn’t reveal a plan. I think what you can see in the affidavit was, uh, a lot of racist rantings and a lot of dislike for the idea of Senator Obama as an African-American person of color being able to pursue that office."

Not only did these men have a plan, they had the material for carrying it out and appeared to be in the early stages of doing so. Investigators found high-powered rifles, ammunition, disguises, walkie-talkies, and maps, all indicative of a coordinated plan to assassinate Obama.

As Brad Jacobson at Media Bloodhound notes, you couple all this with the admission by one of the participants, and it’s clear that Eid’s office had before them (as the FBI made clear in recommending charges be filed) evidence of motive, intent, and plan — as well as both the means and the capability of carrying it out. Moreover, as is always critical in conspiracy cases, they evidently took steps to do so.

This is the same U.S. Attorney who was forced upon Coloradans by Karl Rove, despite being profoundly compromised by his associations with Jack Abramoff. Not only was Eid hired while Monica Goodling was calling the shots, his chief deputy was "vetted" by Goodling.

Two questions arise — one minor, one major:

— How often has Troy Eid ignored the FBI’s recommendations in the past when it comes to filing charges in cases of this nature? (We know when it came to a black man inside a prison threatening John McCain — despite a clear lack of capability of actually carrying out the threat — Eid was eager and willing.)

— Is this administration — and particularly this Justice Department, as deeply compromised as it has become by the Bush White House’s crass politicization — capable of ensuring that true threats against Democratic figures like Obama are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately?

Troy Eid And The Obama Plotters: It’s The Bloggers’ Fault

Troy Eid Reaches for his concealed Ace

Troy Eid Reaches for his concealed Ace

Having grotesquely failed in taking seriously the plot by three white-supremacist tweakers to assassinate Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado’s Rove-appointed U.S. Attorney, Troy Eid, is complaining in the Denver Post that the resulting negative coverage is all the fault of anonymous liberal bloggers:

Long before respected mainstream news organizations, including The Denver Post, got so many of their story leads from anonymous Internet scribblers whose veracity and competency cannot by definition be verified.

Eid goes on to contend that "faceless bloggers" are destroying journalistic standards by publishing "wild internet rumors" that journalists then feel compelled to run. And that, you see, is why there were questions about his handling of the tweakers case. Not, you know, because they demonstrated a clear and bizarre double standard in his enforcement of the law.

Well, for what it’s worth, this "faceless blogger" was one of the first bloggers tackling this case. I don’t know to what extent we drove the subsequent reportage, but I do know that these posts generated a great deal of traffic.

And I have never blogged under anything but my own name. As you can see, my mug shot adorns my posts here. I am not faceless or nameless.

I also happen to have the credentials to be raising these questions: I’ve written books on the far right, have covered numerous federal court cases involving the far right, have covered FBI standoffs and have gotten to know a number of both FBI agents and federal prosecutors, and I know how these cases operate. In 2000, my reportage on domestic terrorism for MSNBC won a National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism.

And yes, I’m a blogger and a journalist, and proud of it.

Troy Eid is going to have to come up with a better excuse than this. Particularly as it becomes clear how badly he’s botched this case. More on that later.

[H/t to Nicole at Crooks and Liars.]

McCain’s Latest Lie: Spanish-Only Immigration Ad Blames Obama

Is there anything the McCain campaign won’t lie about? It’s becoming pathological:

The McCain campaign has started airing a new Spanish-language television commercial in the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that lays the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the feet of Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues — despite the fact that Obama supported the bipartisan John McCain-Edward Kennedy efforts to enact such reforms and voted for their final proposal last year.

… "Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants," the ad’s announcer says in Spanish in the spot, released Friday. "But are they? The press reports that their efforts were ‘poison pills’ that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead."

This is a complete reversal of the real picture: Republicans, not Democrats, killed immigration reform, and it had nothing to do with “poison pill” amendments. It had to do with right-wing Republicans who hated the “amnesty” portions of the bill that McCain himself supported.

As you can see in the above video, the nativist nutcases actually claim credit (with good reason) for killing immigration reform. And they will continue to be the largest obstacle. 

Even the Washington Times is calling bullshit on McCain’s ad (with its own right-wing take, of course):

It’s McCain’s second attempt to try to tie Obama to unpopular congressional Democrats, and this one’s a stretch. The immigration bill didn’t die because of poison pill amendments; it died because it was unworkable from the start — a mishmash of ideas and policies that never quite worked together, that was always skewed too far toward amnesty to truly win much conservative support, and that never quite got the buy-in such a deal needed from both sides.

This is only the latest lie coming from these people, as we all know, and it has permanently changed the campaign narrative. McCain’s campaign has officially become the Fast Talk Express.

Lou Dobbs Just Loves To Spread A Little Hate

Lou Dobbs pays us a nightly visit from up-is-down Planet Bizarro in his weekday show. But this week, his special Bizarro launching pad is the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" anti-immigrant lobbying push — you know, the one sponsored by a hate group.

Sure enough:

DOBBS: Absolutely. And you’re to be commended. The Federation for American Immigration Reform is to be commended. I know that you and I, our fellow radio talk show hosts, all of us who have been involved at the forefront of this issue for years now have taken a lot of heat. We have been called racists, xenophobes, all sorts of nastiness from groups that — like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has become a hate group of its own, referring to FAIR as a hate group simply because they want illegal immigration stopped and border security, port security put in place. How are you being received now?

Actually, if all FAIR wanted was "illegal immigration stopped and border security put in place," no one would object, particularly not the SPLC, which takes no position on either of those issues.

What the SPLC cares about is the xenophobic demonization of immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, in no small part because that kind of scapegoating serves as a major recruitment tool for hate groups that inflict violence on minorities. Watchdogging that part of the scenery is pretty much the SPLC’s deal — and FAIR has indulged it so egregiously that they’ve earned the bona-fide hate group distinction.


Sarah Palin And The AIP: Not So Fast With The Exonerations, Please

It’s now become conventional wisdom that Sarah Palin had nothing to do with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party and is therefore clear of any associations with them. As usual, the CW is crap. is the source for most of this line of refutation:

She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She’s been registered as a Republican since May 1982.

So of course it made its way elsewhere, including a Washington Post story by Jonathan Weisman which repeated that the AIP connection story as one of the “unfounded charges” against Palin – even though, as we’ll see, the question was perfectly well founded.

Moreover, the issue isn’t merely whether Palin has been a member of the AIP – the question is to what degree she has associated with them and supports them.

Remember, folks – Trent Lott was never a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens or the League of the South. Lott got into trouble because he openly associated with them – speaking before them, running his column in their newsletters, telling them what great work they did, lending the authority and weight of his office to their bids at credibility.

And when it comes to Sarah Palin and the AIP, the same is very much true – in no small part because the AIP is cut from the same right-wing populist cloth as the League of the South. The two organizations, in fact, have operational alliances.

And yes, Sarah Palin has lent the authority of her office to the AIP’s effort to gain mainstream credibility – despite the fact that it is largely an extremist organization.

As you can see in the video above, Palin addressed the AIP by video earlier this year, applauding its work with lines like: “Your party plays an important role in our state’s politics” and “Keep up the good work.”  She also acknowledges having campaigned at the AIP convention in 2006.

Her husband was enrolled as an AIP member from 1995 to 2000, though the party indicates he was not particularly active. It’s also in dispute whether both Palins attended the 1994 AIP convention. (more…)

Calling Out FAIR: Lobbyists Descend At A Hate Group’s Bidding

For years, the Federation for American Immigration Reform has gotten away with posing as a mainstream immigration-reform organization. The mask has finally started to slip off the façade, thanks in no small part to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s devastating report on FAIR last year in which it was finally designated what we’ve known it to be all along: a hate group.

One of the main events involved in FAIR’s charade has been its annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” gathering of lobbyists, who then descend up on congressmen and legislators and their staffers to push their decidedly xenophobic brand of immigration “reform.” This year, CNN’s Lou Dobbs is even broadcasting from the event.

Well, turnabout is only, er, fair play. So this year, organizations seeking progressive immigration reform are holding FAIR’s feet to the fire – along with all the lobbyists and talk-show hosts participating. They’re running an ad campaign pointing out FAIR’s long history of indulging and promoting a frankly xenophobic and frequently outright racist campaign against immigrants.

The WaPo’s Mary Ann Akers reports:

The ad, paid for by America’s Voice and the Service Employees International Union, among others, asks, "When Did Extreme Become Mainstream?" And it notes FAIR has been "designated as a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center."

The ad includes three racially explosive quotes; one from John Tanton, founder of FAIR, saying, "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?" FAIR president Dan Stein is quoted saying, "Should we subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible?" Another quote in the ad, attributed to former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, a former FAIR advisory board chairman, says: "New cultures [in the U.S. are] diluting what we are and who we are."

America’s Voice has a complete rundown on FAIR.

Does anyone want to wager on whether Dobbs will mention the SPLC’s hate-group designation? Or whether, if he does, he’ll dismiss them again as an “open borders advocacy group” – even though the SPLC in fact has never taken any position on either border security or immigration policy generally?

UPDATE: FAIR responds: (more…)

McChange: GOP Wants To Pretend The Past Seven Years Didn’t Happen

That stampeding sound you heard last night at the Republican National Convention? That was the sound of conservatives running away from their own record.

Says John McCain:

“Change is coming! Change is coming! Change is coming!”

“We need to change the way government does almost everything.”

Says Sarah Palin:

John McCain and I are ready to shake up Washington, ready to challenge the status quo, to serve the common good, and to leave this nation better than we found it.

Right. But as Peter Baker adroitly observes, it’s pretty tough to claim to be the agent of change when your party has been in power for the past eight years.

Actually, Digby predicted this some time ago: That Republicans would begin claiming that Bush failed because he wasn’t a “true conservative.” But the stark reality is that – Bush’s timid and eventually short-lived resistance of the GOP’s nativist elements on immigration notwitshstanding – every single policy enacted under the Bush administration was done with not merely the full blessing but the adamant support of movement conservatives.


FBI Wanted Obama Plotters Charged, But A Rove Appointee Said No

Tharin Gartrell, 28; Shawn Robert Adolf, 33;
and Nathan Johnson, 32

We noticed last week that it was awfully peculiar that Colorado’s U.S. Attorney, Troy Eid, had so airily dismissed conspiracy charges against the three white-supremacist tweakers who were caught planning to assassinate Barack Obama at last week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Now it turns out that those suspicions were fully warranted:

KUSA – 9Wants to Know has learned three men in Denver planned to assassinate U.S. Senator Barack Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Denver by sneaking into one of his events and shooting him with a gun hidden inside of a camera, according to federal court records.

Nathan Johnson’s girlfriend, whom 9NEWS is not naming because she’s a juvenile, said it would have to be a suicide mission.

The plot is similar to that in the 1992 movie "The Bodyguard" starring actors Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. In the movie, Costner stops an assassination attempt against Houston by spotting a weapon hidden inside a gutted-out TV camera.

Johnson, Shawn Adolf and Tharin Gartrell all thought that Obama had a suite in the third floor of the Hyatt hotel, where they were staying. In fact, the Senator was staying in another Denver Hotel.

The men were doing methamphetamine inside the hotel with two women on Aug. 23 discussing the plot to kill Obama, according to federal records.

Adolf said "it would not matter if he killed Senator Obama because police would simply add a murder charge to his pending charges," according to the records. There were seven outstanding warrants for Adolf’s arrest.

The underage woman told law enforcement that Adolf also talked about using "a high-powered rifle 22-250 from a high vantage point" to shoot Senator Obama during his acceptance speech at INVESCO Field at Mile High during the DNC.

Even more significant, beyond the details of the plot, was the fact that, as the Colorado Independent notes, the FBI asked for more serious charges to be filed and were turned down. (more…)

Former FBI Agent and ACLU Counsel: St. Paul Police Behavior Is ‘Frightening’

michael-german.thumbnail.JPGYesterday afternoon I caught up with my longtime acquaintance Michael German, the ACLU’s National Security Counsel. I first met German in the 1990s when he was an FBI agent, and I knew he would have some insights into the descent of St. Paul into a virtual police state.

Here’s our conversation:

DN: Mike, I assume you’ve been watching event in St. Paul closely. What are you seeing there?

German: I have been following the policy that has enabled this sort of activity. It just stuns me that it’s gotten to this level where they’re actually targeting iWitness Video, when they’re so clearly engaged in journalistic work, it just stuns me.

Do you find this kind of behavior unprofessional on the part of the police in St. Paul?

It’s hard for me to know, not being there. Clearly, they are spending a lot of effort on people who are not a threat. And there may be people there who are a threat, and if they focus their activities on those people and not on people who are simply wanting to go to a political convention wanting to have a say and to express themselves – you know, that is a wasted effort. It’s not going to help them find the people who are going to do bad things by impeding the rights of the people who are there to express themselves. And so much seems to be focused on people who are simply trying to have their say and document what happens.

The part that really bothers me is the focus on people who are simply documenting what is happening. That is troublesome, because there is guidance being published by the Los Angeles Police Department, which has since been endorsed by the Department of Justice, called “suspicious activity reporting,” that essentially endorses targeting anyone who would document police activity as potential terrorist threats. Let me read it to you:

It is the policy of the Los Angeles Police Department to make every effort to accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism.

Now, the idea that it would be the policy of the Los Angeles Police Department to collect information on non-criminal behavior is outrageous. They should be focused on people intending to do harm.

It lists 65 behaviors that they say are behaviors related to terrorism, and the one that pertains here is “takes pictures or video footage.” [The entry on p. 40 reads: “Takes pictures or video footage (with no apparent esthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.).”] “No apparent esthetic values?” So apparently they’re going to be sending police officers to art school to understand esthetic values.

But it actually mentions taking video footage of taking video footage of security personnel. So the mere taking of photographs or video footage of law enforcement – even law enforcement doing something improperly – they’ve identified that as a precursor to terrorism. So now you might understand why these police officers are focusing on people with cameras. It’s because it’s actual policy to do so. (more…)