The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
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The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.
November 4, 2010
Those lawsuits, filed respectively by a state legislator and a high-profile media commentator (both of whom are black) didn’t surprise Valrey. His travels across America screening his film highlighted for him – again – a reality that governmental officials constantly reject: police brutality is a widespread scourge.
“Police brutality is definitely not ‘isolated incidents’ as officials always say after each new killing or beating by police,” said Valrey, host of the Block Report, a program aired on KPFA-FM, the Pacifica station in the Bay Area.
“When we screened the film in Atlanta people were still talking about the police murder of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston [in 2006].”
Valrey’s film “Operation Small Axe” primarily examines the January 1, 2009 fatal shooting of unarmed Oscar Grant by a transit policeman at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland. That killing sparked riots in Oakland.
That deadly New Years Day incident, which was captured on cell phone videos by eyewitnesses, triggered condemnations across America.
In an unusual twist for police abuse incidents, a jury last summer convicted Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer who shot the handcuffed Grant in the back, of involuntary manslaughter. (Police officers involved in abuse incidents rarely face criminal charges, and most escape even discipline from their police department.)
Decades of incidents across the country and repeated documentation from a variety of sources substantiates Valrey’s assessment of the systemic nature of police brutality.
Thirty-two years before that Philadelphia state legislator filed his federal civil rights violation lawsuit alleging two policemen roughed him up when he inquired about their mistreatment of an elderly man, a Pennsylvania House panel conducted an investigation into widespread often deadly brutality by Philadelphia police dating from the 1960s.
During those August 1978 investigative hearings a respected black pastor called police “raving maniacs” when telling that legislative panel about his beating by Philly police when he asked them to stop beating a teen on his doorstep.
Data in the 2010 semi-annual report released by the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project listed 2,541 cases of various kinds of police misconduct nationwide between January and June of this year. Abuse from “Physical Force” constituted the largest category of those misconduct reports.
Further, according to the NPMSRP’s report, police misconduct caused 124 deaths in the first six months of 2010, with 60-percent of those fatalities resulting from police gunfire.
The “Operation Small Axe” film also features a segment about the prosecution of Valrey, who, during an unruly protest days after the Grant shooting, was arrested by Oakland police and charged with felony arson.
Valrey says his arrest was a blatant attempt to punish him for his coverage and his criticisms of police brutality, racism and other contentious issues in Oakland. Valrey, who faced 3-to-5-years in prison if convicted, spent two days in jail after his arrest and then 14-months on bail before prosecutors dropped the arson charge on the first day of his trial citing lack of evidence.
Oakland police had arrested Valrey minutes after he verbally confronted Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, a former U.S. Congressman known as a progressive Democrat. Valrey had blasted Dellums for doing too little about the Grant shooting specifically and about police abuse generally.
“After criticizing Dellums I was standing across from City Hall reviewing the video in my camera when I saw police running towards me so I ran, and they tackled me, took me to jail and took my camera,” Valrey said.
“Police made up the charges at the police station. They said I started a fire in a trash can outside of the federal building. Why would I start a fire outside one of the most secure buildings in Oakland where everything is videoed?” Valrey said.
“At the preliminary hearing the cop that testified against me said he did not see me start the fire but he saw some smoke coming from the can. He said he was 100-yards away and it was at night.”
Valrey says police refused his requests to return his video camera and even ignored a court order he obtained. “I never got it back,” he says.
While many Bay Area journalists criticized the arrest of Valrey, some defended it.
The headline for a cover story in the East Bay Express called Valrey an “Agent Provocateur” – a term generally associated with police informants assigned to cause violence. That article referred to Valrey as an “advocacy journalist” who did things “no mainstream journalist would do,” like speaking at an anti-police brutality rally.
“They tried to get the community to turn against me but I have strong support in the community,” said Valrey, who serves an editor at the San Francisco Bay View, a black owned online newspaper.
Police abuse incidents have cost Oakland millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements in the past decade alone. Settlements include the $1.25-million paid in 2006 to settle 59 lawsuits arising from police beating anti-war protestors three years earlier and the $10.9-million paid in 2003 to settle a class action lawsuit against four officers who beat and/or falsely arrested 119 people.
A $3.5-million 2006 settlement symbolized what Valrey and others contend is the Oakland police practice of shooting first and asking questions later.
That settlement involved Oakland paying the family of an undercover policeman who was fatally shot in January 2001 by two fellow (white) officers who claimed they mistook the (non-white) undercover officer for an armed assailant. The slain officer was arresting a theft suspect. Police officials described that incident as a tragic accident dismissing racial profiling allegations by critics.
Earlier this year BART officials agreed to pay $1.5-million to the 5-year-old daughter of Oscar Grant.
That NPMSRP data listed $148.5-million paid by governments across America for police “misconduct-related” settlements and judgments during the first six months of 2010.
“Operation Small Axe” provides a unique focus on the ire raging within Oakland’s minority communities arising from decades of rampant police abuse. The film depicts street-level anger among everyone from teens to the elderly – an anger triggered by daily indignities from police like profanity-filled commands and unnecessary force that are ignored by the news media.
“People in the communities know this police terrorism is happening but it is different for them to see it on the screen. It’s important to have our media show what is going on because the news media doesn’t do that,” said Valrey, a harsh critic of mainstream media. “I think it’s important for people to see a media person from ‘the Hood’ fighting back.”
Another segment of the film examines the controversial March 2009 incident involving parole violator Lovelle Mixon, the Oakland man killed by police after he fatally shot four police officers. Valrey drew criticism for failing to harshly criticize Mixon for killing police.
Valrey sees police brutality as a “unifier” for black and brown communities across the country.
“These groups usually don’t agree on religion or politics but they agree that police terrorism is an unnecessary evil in our communities,” Valrey said. “When we showed the film in San Diego, the audience was all Mexican. Blacks and Mexicans don’t get along but there were no problems.”
The “Small Axe” film began as a documentary on Valrey’s Block Report program, but evolved into an examination of police brutality in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting. Valrey says making the film was “eye-opening…like Ida B. Wells reporting on lynchings in the late 1800s.” The title for the movie comes from a song by reggae music legend Bob Marley.
San Francisco Chronicle | November 5, 2010
A bare minimum sentence of two years for the police killing of unarmed Oscar Grant falls short of fairness and justice. But it’s no reason for the violent protests and vandalism that followed earlier stages in the polarizing case.
The prison term handed down by Judge Robert Perry in Los Angeles where the case was heard means that BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle may be out in a year after counting time already served in Jan. 1, 2009, shooting. The judge went with the lightest punishment possible on an involuntary manslaughter conviction and tossed out a verdict on gun use that would have added extra years.
Mehserle’s action was a crime, more than an error in judgment or an accident. Still, the jury verdict in July fit the evidence presented in the case. Mehserle shot Grant, who was pinned down on a train platform and no threat to the officer, but there was no indication the officer meant to kill.
Mehserle’s defense did stretch credibility. Worried that Grant was armed, the officer reached for his Taser stun gun and by mistake pulled his service weapon, which he used to shoot the detainee. This explanation took several days to emerge after the shooting, but it convinced the jury that Mehserle acted impulsively.
The power of this case – a white cop killing a young black man – led police to mobilize for trouble and merchants and offices to close early. It would be a shame if the case and the issues of fairness and justice were overshadowed by broken glass and street arrests.
Instead, the case should be remembered as an instance of poor judgment, inadequate training and a sentence that doesn’t reflect a serious crime.
This article appeared on page A – 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle
By Emi Kolawole
Washington Post | November 4, 2010
Palin wrote to Jake Tapper of ABC News to counter the allegation that the favoriting of the Ann Coulter tweet was on purpose:
“Jake [Tapper], I’ve never purposefully ‘favorited’ any Tweet. I had to go back to my BlackBerry to even see if such a function was possible. I was traveling to Alaska that day…it was an obvious accidental ‘favoriting,’ but no one can mistake that Ann Coulter was obviously being tongue in cheek with that Tweet. Shall I correct this with whichever wonderful media outlet ran with this (an obviously bored reporter…since there must be nothing going on in the world today, like, um, ramifications of a shake up of power in the U.S. House of Representatives?).”
Updated 9:32 p.m.
Sarah Palin has used her Twitter account for a variety of things, including endorsements of key candidates during the 2010 midterm elections. But, and stay with us here, Palin’s account features
a retweet of an Ann Coulter tweet that links to this image:
Coulter’s tweet, which is listed among Palin’s “favorites,” introduces the photo with the phrase, “MY NEW CHURCH!” The photo is of “The Blood of Jesus ATLAH World Missionary Church,” and the text on the sign reads, “The blood of Jesus against Obama History made 4 Nov 2008 a Taliban Muslim illegally elected president USA: Hussein.” The New York City-based church is led by James David Manning.
retweeted “favorited” the Coulter tweet personally is unclear, but SarahPAC staffer Rebecca Mansour insisted to a reporter this summer that “anything that goes out under [Palin’s] name is hers.”
By Thursday evening, all of Palin’s favorites had been cleared from her Twitter account. She told ABC News’s Jake Tapper in an e-mail that it was “an obvious accidental ‘favoriting.’ ”
“Jake, I’ve never purposefully ‘favorited’ any Tweet. I had to go back to my BlackBerry to even see if such a function was possible,” Palin wrote.
By Jonathan Marks
Jewish Week | November 5, 2010
We know that the Nazis unleashed a nationwide pogrom of unparalleled brutality in response to the assassination in Paris of a German official, Ernst Vom Rath, by a Jewish teenager, Herschel Grynszpan, who said he was avenging his parents who were being harassed back in Germany.
Here’s where it gets interesting, just as here is where the synagogue Kristallnacht programs prefer to change the subject.
Q: Why did Grynszpan kill Vom Rath, a relatively minor embassy aide, instead of assassinating the German ambassador to France, whose office was in the same building?
A: Grynszpan killed Vom Rath because the two were having a gay affair that went wrong, according to several sources. Vom Rath was so flamboyant that he was known in the gay underworld of Paris as “Madame Abassador.” According to Haaretz, Nobel Laureate Andre Gide wrote in his diary, Vom Rath “had an exceptionally intimate relationship with the little Jew, his murderer. The idea that such a highly thought-of representative of the Third Reich sinned twice according to the laws of his country [by being homosexual and having a sexual relationship, and with a Jew] is rather amusing.”
Vom Rath supposedly picked up the small (5-foot) Grynszpan, a ringer for Sal Mineo, on a Paris street. It is presumed that as they got to know each other, Vom Rath promised Grynszpan that he would use his Nazi influence to protect Grynszpan’s family, who were suffering back in Germany, in exchange for the teenager’s sexual favors. After a while, when Vom Rath did not come through, Grynszpan shot him.
Q: Why did Grynszpan never go on trial?
A: The French judicial people claimed they could get an impartial jury, as anti-German feeling was peaking. Nor did the French particularly care to punish the 17-year-old Grynszpan. At that time in Paris, there was actual sympathy for a Jew killing a Nazi. Long before the universalist Anne Frank became the teen idol of the Holocaust, that teenage idol was Herschel Grynszpan — the symbol of the defiant Jew “fighting back.”
Q: Why, when Vichy France turned him over to the Nazis, did the Nazis not kill him?
A: The Nazis were holding him for a special propaganda “show trial” about “international Jewry” and its attacks on Nazi Germany that forced Germany to defend itself. Grynszpan left a note in prison (in coded Hebrew) that he concocted the gay story to tarnish the reputation of Vom Rath as a Nazi martyr and throw a wrench into the Nazi’s preparation for the show trial. Unlike other imprisoned Jews in the Holocaust, he was actually given a psychiatrist, to whom he first told the story of being Vom Rath’s lover, and he was allowed to have a lawyer (who may have tipped him off about using the gay defense).
Q: Did Grynszpan survive the war?
A: During the heavy allied bombings of Germany, some Jews inside Germany slipped through the cracks and the rubble. Several Jews who were in Dresden during the “Slaughterhouse 5” bombing (Feb. 1945) told me that the Nazis were about to do away with them when the fire bombing destroyed the Nazi records, destroyed prison walls, and the anarchy was not unlike the “Plague of Darkness” in Egypt. Either Grynszpan escaped prison in that fashion or he was freed at liberation. In either event, several stories after the was said he returned to Paris under an assumed name and was working in a garage.
The German government, which meticulously kept death records of each prisoner in their jails and even in Auschwitz, had no record of Grynszpan’s death when a death certificate was requested by his parents after the war. (His parents, whose torture in 1938 precipitated the assassination, ending up surviving the next six and a half-years of the Reich but testified at the Eichmann trial in 1961. Eichmann said he spoke with Grynszpan in either 1943 or 44).
Q: Why is Grynszpan no longer famous?
A: He was so famous in 1938 that non-Jewish journalists from the upper echelons of the American media formed a defense fund for Grynszpan. But after the rumors of the gay angle came out, Grynszpan’s story was relegated to the attic. His murder of a Nazi, once regarded as heroic, is now only mentioned as a one-liner, a prelude to the Nazi’s pretext of Kristallnacht. It became too unseemly and uncomfortable to discuss the sordid homosexual affair at the increasingly sacred and somber Kristallnacht commemorations.
We prefer to remember Kristallnacht beginning on the night of Feb. 9 with synagogues burning, not on the morning of Feb. 7 when Grynszpan walked into the German embassy at 9:30 a.m. and fired five bullets at Madame Ambassador.
More than 100 journalists from around the world have pledged their support to Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.
The statement made by members of the Global Investigative Journalism Network criticizes the push to arrest Assange on episonage charges for releasing detailed logs about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The statement says that the information “should never have been withheld from the public” and praises Wikileaks as an “extraordinary resource” for journalists.
“Overall, Wikileaks’ factual reporting of numerous undisputed abuses and crimes is of far greater significance than the widely criticized mistakes over inadequate redactin,” the statement says.
Journalists wishing to add their names to the protest may email WikileaksStatement@gmail.com.
October 30, 2010
A police report obtained by The Kansas City Star shows the shotgun used to kill Jordan may have made its way into the hands of the mob several years before the murder. The report said the gun was part of a cache of stolen weapons sold through a “North End Italian fence” in 1966.
In addition, key sources have said that a low-profile mob associate known on the street as “Shotgun Joe” may have provided the gun and recruited the killers in what appears to have been a complex plot to murder Jordan.
The man, Joe Centimano, died of cancer in 1972, and police never questioned him.
The Jordan killing was “contracted by the North End and carried out by blacks,” according to a convict named Walton I. Froniabarger, a police informant who in 1972 identified Centimano as the middle man, and another source who Saturday corroborated that story for The Star.
The original police investigation identified numerous possible motives for Jordan’s murder. A co-founder of the black political club Freedom Inc., and one of the most powerful politicians in Missouri, Jordan had associates who ranged from senators and faction-connected politicians to violent street hoodlums.
But his bare-knuckled politics, and what one friend called his “truculent manner,” had angered influential people in the worlds of crime and politics, and may have been part of the motive for his murder.
Cold Case Squad detectives with the Kansas City Police Department re-opened the case this summer following stories in The Star and have been asking questions about Centimano, his possible role in the Jordan murder and his connections to the mob, according to persons who have been interviewed.
Police, however, declined to comment publicly on their investigation.
If Jordan was the victim of a Mafia hit, said Alvin Sykes, a local civil rights leader who pushed police to reopen the case, “that scary fact will not deter me from cooperating with the thorough and credible investigations being conducted by the Kansas City Police Department and The Kansas City Star.
“I encourage justice-seeking Americans with any information on this case to continue to come forward.”
Jordan was killed by three shotgun blasts just after 1 a.m. on July 15, 1970, as he was leaving his Green Duck tavern at 2548 Prospect Ave. It was just three weeks before a Democratic primary, in which he was running for re-election to the Missouri House.
Eyewitnesses said Jordan’s killers were black, but theories have persisted for decades that the assassins were hired by whites.
The shooting had many of the earmarks of a professional mob hit. The killers used a stolen gun that could not be traced and they dumped it almost immediately afterward.
When the shotgun was recovered a few days later, police traced it to a burglary five years earlier in Independence, but could not determine what happened to it after that.
However, when a reporter for The Star recently asked the Independence Police Department for the original 1965 burglary report for the gun, it came with an unexpected bonus. Attached was a supplemental report filed a few months after the burglary.
Dated January 1966, the report said a “reliable” confidential informant told police the shotgun, and other guns stolen along with it, were sold through a “North End Italian fence” and that “the merchandise was disposed of through this source before Kansas City, Missouri Police Department could act on the information.”
Sources interviewed by The Star said they believed the fence often worked exclusively with the mob.
There is no evidence the supplemental report was reviewed by investigators at the time. But Cold Case detectives obtained the same report shortly after The Star.
Why would Kansas City’s mob want Jordan dead? There were so many reasons, it turns out, that it is surprising the police did not spend more time investigating possible mob involvement at the time of the murder.
To understand the potential motives behind a Mafia conspiracy, it helps to know the Kansas City mob scene at the time.
Although now mostly a memory, organized crime, known at the time as La Cosa Nostra (“our thing”), was still going strong in 1970. FBI affidavits described the organization as a cold, murderous gang of hoodlums. And it didn’t take much to end up in its crosshairs.
The River Quay entertainment district west of the City Market became a mob battleground with bombings, murders and attempted murders through the 1970s.
Jordan angered North End faction politicians and members of the mob who supported them. An ardent civil rights leader, Jordan fought for black political power and to end white-faction control of black voters.
Orchid Jordan, who died in 1995, believed her husband’s murder was politically motivated, she told investigators at the time, because Freedom had become the single most powerful political club locally. Several Jordan confidantes had told police the same thing.
She said her husband sometimes refused to change Freedom’s endorsements of certain candidates, even after being offered money to do so, and added that shortly before his death, Jordan had angry disagreements with North End politicians about the Freedom ballot recommendations in the upcoming election.
George Lehr, a candidate for county judge at the time, met with police shortly after Jordan’s murder. An armed guard stood outside his home, Lehr told the officers, because he was “close politically with Jordan” and was concerned about an attempt on his life.
Lehr said Jordan had joined with other reformers to uproot Democratic faction leaders, some of whom were supported by members of the mob.
“Leon stood for the right things and would naturally have been opposed to what the North Side factions were doing,” said Bill Phelps, who served with Jordan in the General Assembly.
Not only was he a challenge to their political influence and possibly some of their criminal activities, he had physically attacked a state legislator supported by North End political groups.
In May 1965, Jordan unleashed a roundhouse punch in the state Capitol that floored Frank Mazzuca. While not considered a mob associate, Mazzuca was known to support its interests in Jefferson City, according to former colleagues.
Jordan accused Mazzuca of purposely embarrassing some of Jordan’s former black colleagues in the Police Department by asking them during a hearing about race discrimination in the department.
Alex Petrovic, a fellow legislator from Sugar Creek, said in a recent interview that he was drafted afterward to march Jordan to Mazzuca’s office to apologize.
“Mazzuca had friends on the North Side, and the word was that they were going to try to kill him (Jordan). But Mazzuca talked them out of it and just wanted Jordan to apologize,” Petrovic told The Star.
He said Jordan was aware at the time that what he had done could get him shot.
“I took Leon down to Frank’s office, and he apologized,” Petrovic said, “but I always wondered if that was enough.”
Mazzuca died of a heart attack in January 1969; Jordan was killed 18 months later.
The Mazzuca incident, combined with all the other issues the mob had with Jordan, may well have been enough to get him killed, said Bill Ouseley, a retired FBI agent who specialized in organized crime in Kansas City.
“Political influence and control was of such import to the outfit that it could get you killed,” he added.
Two police informants, who were members of the “Black Mafia,” a group involved in drugs, prostitution and murder, maintain that was what happened.
Froniabargar said Jordan’s killing was “contracted by the North End and carried out by blacks.” The payoff man, he said, was an Italian-American who owned a liquor store at 19th and Vine. Police later determined that man was Centimano.
Froniabarger’s story recently was confirmed by the other former Black Mafia member who agreed to speak to The Star only on the condition of anonymity. The source said they had also been told that Centimano was involved and recruited the killers.
“I know for a fact it was the Italians who wanted him dead,” the source said. “The people who did this had no reason to kill this man (Jordan), and I wanted to tell his wife before she died, but I was afraid.”
Parts of their stories are also backed up by Eddie David Cox, a federal inmate who has discussed the case with the police and The Star.
Cox said Centimano obtained the shotgun used to kill Jordan in March 1970 — four months before the murder — from his associates in the white Mafia, and turned it over to the killers, who were black.
According to one report in the original investigation, police determined that Centimano “was a small time hoodlum who associated with both the North End and criminal elements in the black community.”
Organized crime experts said that while black killers have carried out mob hits, it was unlikely that top-level mobsters in Kansas City would have hired them directly to handle a high-profile hit such as the Jordan killing.
Jordan’s murder more likely would have been the work of mob associates looking to curry favor with the leaders of organized crime, Ouseley said.
That is eerily similar to what happened in a separate killing just months after Jordan’s murder.
In October 1970, some of Kansas City’s top mobsters were indicted for running an interstate sports gambling ring out of a North End social club called The Trap.
A month later scrap dealer Sol Landie, a key witness in the case, was murdered.
The killing was made to appear as a home invasion and robbery gone bad. After terrorizing Landie and his wife, the assailants held a pillow to Landie’s head and squeezed two rounds from a .38-caliber handgun into his ear.
They let Landie’s wife live to tell authorities her attackers were black.
“The Landie killing was not sanctioned by the top leaders of the outfit; Nick Civella (who ran the mob at the time) would never have approved it,” Ouseley said.
“In fact,” Ouseley said, “we later determined this was an off-the-reservation deal by some outfit-connected person probably seeking to enhance his position within the organization.”
Landie’s killers were caught a few hours later and quickly turned on a mob associate named John “Johnny Franks” Frankoviglia.
Frankoviglia and the others were convicted for their roles in the “freelance” Landie murder, which ultimately did nothing to derail the gambling case.
Landie’s murder prompted a visit by Jordan’s widow to U.S. Attorney Bert Hurn.
Hurn, now 85, recalled that she told him the Landie killing was proof that her husband was probably killed by blacks hired by white assassins who wanted political control over the black community.
“I suspected myself that that could be the case,” Hurn recently told The Star.
Kansas City police this summer reopened the Leon Jordan murder case — the oldest unsolved murder ever undertaken by the department’s Cold Case Squad.
The decision to reopen the case came after lobbying by local civil rights activist Alvin Sykes, and after a July 11 article in The Kansas City Star.
But the re-investigation got off to a difficult start.
After a reporter asked about the whereabouts of the shotgun used in the Jordan murder, police acknowledged they had lost it.
A week later, a Kansas City crime lab employee rediscovered the weapon, a Remington 12-gauge Wingmaster shotgun, in the trunk of one of the department’s patrol cars.
Police don’t know how it got there, but they have a theory that some weapons experts find hard to believe.
Police contend they lost track of the gun sometime in 1973. The following year, they unknowingly — and serendipitously — purchased the same shotgun from a local gun shop.
They apparently never checked the serial number of the newly purchased murder weapon. Instead, they refurbished it and put it back in service in one of their patrol cars.
By Bilal Randeree
Al Jazeera | Nov 1, 2010
The first comprehensive report into cluster bombs around the world has been released by Cluster Munition Monitor, a civil society-based programme providing research on cluster munitions.
Cluster bombs are a particular menace because they often fail to explode on impact, leaving behind de-facto landmines.
The report, released on Monday, found that seven countries have destroyed their stockpiles. “Norway, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Moldova and Montenegro have destroyed their weapons, and 11 others are in the process of doing so,” Conor Fortune, media officer with the Cluster Munition Coalition, told Al Jazeera.
“The UK is a key country that has destroyed more than a third of its stockpile. It has been one of the biggest users in the last decade, in the Balkans and Iraq, so it is important that they are destroying their stockpile.”
Fortune said that the biggest culprits are the US, Russia, China and Israel: “With the exception of China, all have used cluster munitions in the last decade.”
“The US has only agreed to ban the export on munitions and claim that they will phase out use of the weapons by 2018,” he said.
The report found that of the 16,816 cluster munition casualties confirmed globally through the end of 2009, the vast majority (14,719) were caused by unexploded munitions that failed to detonate during attacks.
However, the report said that most casualties go unrecorded and it is likely that the actual number of casualties was at least between 58,000 and 85,000.
|Egypt’s new desert battle|
|Cambodia in clasp of cluster bombs|
|Georgia cluster bomb legacy|
|Lebanon’s cluster bomb lessons|
According to the report, 74 nations currently had stockpiles of cluster bombs and some 23 countries remained contaminated by the deadly weapons.
“Laos is the most heavily affected country in the world and that is one of the reasons why it will host the upcoming Convention on Cluster Munitions,” Fortune said.
The first meeting of more than 100 countries that have signed up to the convention will take place in Vientiane, Laos from November 8, 2010.
“There is real momentum behind the ban on cluster munitions,” Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, said.
“It is encouraging to see so many countries showing such commitment to eradicating cluster munitions and their severe impact on civilians now and forever.”
Goose, who took part in the talks that brought about the Convention on Cluster Munitions, said that the impressive number of signatories to the ban convention, the short time to bring it into force, and the rush to implement its life-saving provisions are all very positive.
However, according to the report for 2009, casualties have been recorded in at least 27 states and three other areas affected by cluster munitions.
“Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans in Europe are all affected. This is a problem that has resonance in many parts of the world and that is why we are seeing interest from many countries,” Fortune said.
“Things are going more quickly that anybody expected – it is less than two years after the convention opened for signature and countries have already started implementing it and destroying their stockpiles, putting them out of use forever.
“We are very encouraged at the rate that countries have started destroying their weapons, but the work on the cluster munition ban is far from done and we have lots of work to do still.”
The Intellectual Foundations of the Tea Party – a Stunning Essay
By Amol Rajan
The Independent | 18 October 2010
Not by me, obviously.
This essay [reprinted in fulll below] in last week’s New Yorker by Sean Wilentz is one of the finest essays on American politics I have ever read.
Calmly, methodically, and with wonderfully selected evidence from a very broad range of sources, it shows the essential lunacy of much of the Tea Party’s rhetoric, and irrefutably associates it with a long tradition of irrationalism and conspiracy in the American psyche.
Glenn Beck’s heroes turn out not to be the Founding Fathers of America, as he often claims, but the misfits of the John Birch Society, and that late, fanatical purveyor of intellectual anarchy, William Cleon Skousen.
Other than the economy of the writing, and the clarity with which the argument is built, the merit of Wilentz’s essay is that it places the Tea Party firmly within a long tradition of lunacy in the American right. Skousen himself was ostracised by moderate conservatives, as Wilentz notes, time and time and time again through his career.
Gripped by religious dogma, he claimed in ‘The 5,000 year leap’ – ludicrously described by Beck as “divinely inspired” – that the American constitution is really a Christian manual, rather than an Enlightenment manifesto. He makes endless factual errors, of which this is my favourite:
“Skousen also challenges the separation of church and state, asserting that “the Founders were not indulging in any idle gesture when they adopted the motto ‘In God We Trust.’ ” In reality, the motto that came out of the Constitutional Convention was “E Pluribus Unum”: out of many, one. “In God We Trust” came much later; its use on coins was first permitted in 1864, and only in 1955, at the height of the Cold War, did Congress mandate that it appear on all currency. The following year, President Eisenhower—who Welch charged was a Communist agent—approved “In God We Trust” as the national motto”
Wilentz notes that, at least since Barry Goldwater, Republicans aiming for power have had to resist overtures from conspiracists on the hard Right. Reagan managed it; so too did both the Bushes. But the Tea Party’s chief effect on the Republicans has been to deprive it of a credible, moderately Conservative leader, capable of winning nationally.
In effect, Beck and Sarah Palin personify the fulfilled ambitions of the cranks and conspiracists who have tried – and failed, thank goodness – to bring America to its knees ever since Woodrow Wilson declared himself committed to the welfare of the poor.
A few months ago, the cable-television and radio host Glenn Beck began his Fox News show with one of his favorite props: a pipe clenched between his teeth. “I’ve got my pipe,” he told his audience, his speech slightly muddled by the stem, “because we’re going to speak about schoolish kind of things.” The theme of the day was “Restoring History,” and Beck, looking professorial in a neat dark blazer and a pink button-down shirt, began the lesson by peering at a stack of history textbooks and pronouncing them full of falsehoods, produced by “malicious progressive intent.” Progressives, he explained—liberals, socialists, Communists, the entire spectrum of the left—“knew they had to separate us from our history to be able to separate us from our Constitution and God.” For the next hour, Beck earnestly explained some of the history that “is being stolen from us”: the depression of 1920, for example, or how conservative economics saved the nation from the “near-depression” of 1946—crises that progressives don’t want you to know about. “You’ve been taught one lie, I think, your whole life,” he said.
For the fractious Tea Party movement, Beck—a former drive-time radio jockey, a recovering alcoholic, and a Mormon convert—has emerged as both a unifying figure and an intellectual guide. One opinion poll, released in July by Democracy Corps, showed that he is “the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters,” seen not merely as an entertainer, like Rush Limbaugh, but as an “educator.” And in the past few months Beck has established his own institute of learning: the online, for-profit Beck University. Enrollees can take courses like Faith 102, which contends with “revisionists and secular progressives” about the separation of church and state; Hope 102, an attack on the activist federal government; and the combined Charity 101/102/103, a highly restrictive interpretation of rights, federalism, and the division of powers.
During the “Restoring History” episode, Beck twice encouraged viewers to join his Web seminars, where they can hear “lessons from the best and brightest historians and scholars that we could find.” The B.U. faculty consists of three members, including one bona-fide academic, James R. Stoner, Jr., the chair of the political-science department at Louisiana State University; the other two are the head of a management consulting firm and the founder of WallBuilders, which the Web site calls “a national pro-family organization.” Beck himself often acts as a professor, a slightly jocular one, on his Fox News program. Surrounded by charts and figures, he offers explanations of current politics and history lessons about the country’s long march to Obama-era totalitarianism. The decline, he says, began with the Progressive era of the early twentieth century, in particular with the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, when both the Federal Reserve System and the graduated federal income tax came into existence. “Wilson,” Beck told his radio audience in August, “just despised what America was.”
Beck’s claims have found an audience among Tea Party spokesmen and sympathizers. At the movement’s Freedom Summit in Washington last September, one activist told a reporter, “The election between Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in 1912 was when it started going downhill.” And in April an angry member of the Tea Party Patriots group from Cape Fear, North Carolina, claimed on the group’s Web site that “the very things you see happening in this country today started with the Wilson Administration.”
At a Tax Day rally this past spring, the veteran conservative organizer Richard Viguerie described the Tea Party as “an unfettered new force of the middle class.” And, indeed, calling Obama a socialist in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson is audacious enough to seem like the marker of a new movement—or, at least, a new twist in the nation’s long history of conspiracy-mongering. In fact, it marks a revival of ideas that circulated on the extremist right half a century ago, especially in the John Birch Society and among its admirers.
Beck’s version of American history relies on lessons from his own acknowledged inspiration, the late right-wing writer W. Cleon Skousen, and also restates charges made by the Birch Society’s founder, Robert Welch. The political universe is, of course, very different today from what it was during the Cold War. Yet the Birchers’ politics and their view of American history—which focussed more on totalitarian threats at home than on those posed by the Soviet Union and Communist China—has proved remarkably persistent. The pressing historical question is how extremist ideas held at bay for decades inside the Republican Party have exploded anew—and why, this time, Party leaders have done virtually nothing to challenge those ideas, and a great deal to abet them.
The early nineteen-sixties were a turbulent time in American politics, for the right wing in particular. In the South, racist violence against civil-rights workers was constant, deepening sectional splits in the Democratic Party that would in time deliver the once solidly Democratic South to the Republicans. Southern elected officials, in support of what they called “massive resistance” to civil-rights laws and judicial rulings, resurrected the ideas of nullification and interposition, which claimed that individual states could void federal laws within their own borders. Others focussed on what they considered a fearsome Communist menace inside the United States. General Edwin A. Walker caused an enormous stir when he resigned from the Army in 1961, after President John F. Kennedy’s Pentagon reprimanded him for spreading right-wing propaganda among his troops and accusing prominent American officials of Communist sympathies. Senator Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat from South Carolina, spoke for many on the far right when he declared that various modestly liberal domestic programs “fall clearly within the category of socialism.”
The John Birch Society was one of the decade’s most controversial right-wing organizations. Founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, a candy manufacturer from Massachusetts, the society took its name from a Baptist missionary and military-intelligence officer killed by Communist Chinese forces in 1945, whom Welch called the first American casualty of the Cold War. The group was founded at a propitious time. After Senator Joseph McCarthy’s fall, in 1954, many of McCarthy’s followers felt bereft of a voice, and Welch seemed to speak for them; by the mid-sixties, his society’s membership was estimated to be as high as a hundred thousand. Welch, exploiting fears of what McCarthy had called an “immense” domestic conspiracy, declared that the federal government had already fallen into the Communists’ clutches. In a tract titled “The Politician,” he attacked President Dwight D. Eisenhower as “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy” who had been serving the plot “all of his adult life.” Late in 1961, after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, he accused the Kennedy Administration of “helping the Communists everywhere in the world while pretending to do the opposite.”
Wherever he looked, Welch saw Communist forces manipulating American economic and foreign policy on behalf of totalitarianism. But within the United States, he believed, the subversion had actually begun years before the Bolshevik Revolution. Conflating modern liberalism and totalitarianism, Welch described government as “always and inevitably an enemy of individual freedom.” Consequently, he charged, the Progressive era, which expanded the federal government’s role in curbing social and economic ills, was a dire period in our history, and Woodrow Wilson “more than any other one man started this nation on its present road to totalitarianism.”
In the nineteen-sixties, Welch became convinced that even the Communist movement was but “a tool of the total conspiracy.” This master conspiracy, he said, had forerunners in ancient Sparta, and sprang fully to life in the eighteenth century, in the “uniformly Satanic creed and program” of the Bavarian Illuminati. Run by those he called “the Insiders,” the conspiracy resided chiefly in international families of financiers, such as the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers, government agencies like the Federal Reserve System and the Internal Revenue Service, and nongovernmental organizations like the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. Since the early twentieth century, they had done a good deal of their evil work under the guise of humanitarian uplift. “One broad avenue down which these conspiratorial forces advance was known as progressive legislation,” Welch declared in 1966. “The very same collectivist theories and demagogic pretenses which had destroyed earlier civilizations were now paraded forth in the disguise of new and modern concepts.”
In the worst case, Welch believed, military action might be necessary to dislodge the totalitarians. But for the moment a nonviolent political revolution would suffice. Accordingly, he designed the Birch Society roughly, if not explicitly, on the Marxist-Leninist model of a vanguard revolutionary party: a series of small cells that would work in secret to agitate the populace and elect right-thinking candidates to office. “It isn’t numbers we have to worry about,” Welch wrote, “but the courage on the part of our followers to stick their necks out and play rough—the same as the Communists do.”
The “Founder” himself would dictate the society’s policies, advised by a council of about two dozen businessmen and professionals, and the local cells would be overseen by unyielding commanders. “It is the leadership that is most demanding, most exacting of its followers,” Welch observed, “that achieves really dedicated support.” Welch’s group became synonymous with right-wing extremism, earning satirical blasts from critics ranging from the cartoonist Walt Kelly to the musicians Bob Dylan and Dizzy Gillespie. The trumpeter, whose actual name was John Birks Gillespie, made a humorous run for the Presidency in 1964, organizing John Birks Societies in twenty-five states.
Still, the most outlandish of the era’s right-wing anti-Communists was not Welch but Willard Cleon Skousen. A transplanted Canadian who served as a Mormon missionary in his teens, Skousen was considered so radical in the early nineteen-sixties that even J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. watched him closely; one 1962 memo in his extensive F.B.I. file noted that “during the past year or so, Skousen has affiliated himself with the extreme right-wing ‘professional communists’ who are promoting their own anticommunism for obvious financial purposes.” Skousen was himself employed by the F.B.I., from 1935 until 1951, much of that time as a special agent working chiefly in administration. These desk jobs, he claimed implausibly, gave him access to confidential domestic intelligence about Communism. Skousen also maintained that he had served as Hoover’s administrative assistant; Hoover informed inquirers that there was no such position.
Skousen taught for years in the speech and religion departments at Brigham Young University, interrupted by a stint, from 1956 to 1960, as the police chief of Salt Lake City. His time in office was contentious, and after he raided a friendly card game attended by the city’s right-wing mayor, J. Bracken Lee, he was promptly fired. Lee called Skousen “a master of half truths” and said that he ran the police department “like a Gestapo”; Skousen’s supporters placed burning crosses on the Mayor’s lawn.
After losing his police job, Skousen founded a group called the All-American Society, which Time described in 1961 as an exemplar of the far-right “ultras.” Although he did not join the Birch Society, Skousen worked with its American Opinion Speakers’ Bureau, and, in 1963, wrote a rousing tract titled “The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society,” which condemned the society’s critics for “promoting the official Communist Party line.” (This was a tic of Skousen’s; he later defended the Mormon policy of denying the priesthood to blacks with a pamphlet called “The Communist Attack on the Mormons.”)
All along, Skousen’s evolving thoughts ran in tandem with Welch’s. In “The Naked Communist,” a lengthy primer published in 1958, he enlivened a survey of the worldwide leftist threat with outlandish claims, writing that F.D.R.’s adviser Harry Hopkins had treasonously delivered to the Soviets a large supply of uranium, and that the Russians built the first Sputnik with plans stolen from the United States. A year before Richard Condon’s novel “The Manchurian Candidate” appeared, Skousen announced that the Communists were creating “a regimented breed of Pavlovian men whose minds could be triggered into immediate action by signals from their masters.” A later book, “The Naked Capitalist,” decried the Ivy League Establishment, who, through the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rockefeller Foundation, formed “the world’s secret power structure.” The conspiracy had begun, Skousen wrote, when reformers like the wealthy banker Edward M. (Colonel) House, a close adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, helped put into place the Federal Reserve and the graduated income tax.
In 1971, Skousen organized another group, the Freemen Institute, which he later renamed the National Center for Constitutional Studies. According to an article published in the Review of Religious Research, the center’s targets included “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine in editorial broadcasting, the federal government’s change of the gold standard in currency, all subsidies to farmers, all federal aid to education, all federal social welfare, foreign aid, social security, elimination of public school prayer and Bible reading, and (that familiar right-wing nemesis) the United Nations.”
Skousen’s pronouncements made him a pariah among most conservative activists, including some on the right-wing fringe. In 1962, the ultraconservative American Security Council threw him out, because members felt that he had “gone off the deep end.” In 1971, a review in the Mormon journal Dialogue accused Skousen of “inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary,” and advancing doctrines that came “perilously close” to Nazism. And in 1979, after Skousen called President Jimmy Carter a puppet of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rockefeller family, the president of the Mormon church issued a national order banning announcements about his organizations.
Skousen was undeterred. In 1981, he produced “The 5,000 Year Leap,” a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the U.S. Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible, and that the framers believed in minimal central government. Either proposition would have astounded James Madison, often described as the guiding spirit behind the Constitution, who rejected state-established religions and, like Alexander Hamilton, proposed a central government so strong that it could veto state laws. “The 5,000 Year Leap” is not a fervid book. Instead, it is calmly, ingratiatingly misleading. Skousen quotes various eighteenth-century patriots on the evils of what Samuel Adams, in 1768, called “the Utopian schemes of leveling,” which Skousen equates with redistribution of wealth. But he does not mention the Founders’ endorsement of taxing the rich to support the general welfare. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote approvingly in 1811 of having federal taxes (then limited to tariffs) fall solely on the wealthy, which meant that “the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings.”
Skousen also challenges the separation of church and state, asserting that “the Founders were not indulging in any idle gesture when they adopted the motto ‘In God We Trust.’ ” In reality, the motto that came out of the Constitutional Convention was “E Pluribus Unum”: out of many, one. “In God We Trust” came much later; its use on coins was first permitted in 1864, and only in 1955, at the height of the Cold War, did Congress mandate that it appear on all currency. The following year, President Eisenhower—who Welch charged was a Communist agent—approved “In God We Trust” as the national motto.
In 1982, Skousen published a follow-up work, an ancestor-worshipping history text titled “The Making of America,” and prepared a study guide for nationwide seminars based on its contents. As Alexander Zaitchik reports in his informative study of Beck, “Common Nonsense,” the new book became an object of controversy in 1987, after the California Bicentennial Commission sold it as part of a fund-raising drive. Among its offenses was an account of slavery drawn from long-disgraced work by the historian Fred A. Shannon, which characterized slave children as “pickaninnies” and suggested that the worst victims of slavery were the slaveholders themselves. The constitutional scholar Jack Rakove, of Stanford, inspected Skousen’s book and seminars and pronounced them “a joke that no self-respecting scholar would think is worth a warm pitcher of spit.”
By the time Skousen died, in 2006, he was little remembered outside the ranks of the furthest-right Mormons. Then, in 2009, Glenn Beck began touting his work: “The Naked Communist,” “The Naked Capitalist,” and, especially, “The 5,000 Year Leap,” which he called “essential to understanding why our Founders built this Republic the way they did.” After Beck put the book in the first spot on his required-reading list—and wrote an enthusiastic new introduction for its reissue—it shot to the top of the Amazon best-seller list. In the first half of 2009, it sold more than two hundred and fifty thousand copies. Local branches of the Tea Party Patriots, the United American Tea Party, and other groups across the country have since organized study groups around it. “It is time we learn and follow the FREEDOM principles of our Founding Fathers,” a United American Tea Party video declares, referring to the principles expounded by Skousen’s book. If Beck is the movement’s teacher, “The 5,000 Year Leap” has become its primer, with “The Making of America” as a kind of 102-level text.
The popularity of Beck’s broadcasts, which now reach two million viewers each day, has brought neo-Birchite ideas to an audience beyond any that Welch or Skousen might have dreamed of. Several times a week, Beck informs his audience that socialists (whom he also sometimes calls Fascists or Communists) led by Obama have seized power, and that patriotic Americans must take their country back. His TV show for some time featured “Comrade Updates,” in which Beck described perfidy while the Soviet anthem played in the background. He attacks all the familiar bogeymen: the Federal Reserve System (which he asserts is a private conglomerate, unaccountable to the public); the Council on Foreign Relations (born of a “progressive idea” to manipulate the media in order to “let the masses know what should be done”); and a historical procession of evildoers, including Skousen’s old target Colonel House and Welch’s old target Woodrow Wilson. His sources on these matters, quite apart from Skousen’s books, can be unreliable. On September 22nd, amid a diatribe about House, Beck cited a passage from “Secrets of the Federal Reserve,” by Eustace Mullins. The book, commissioned in 1948 by Ezra Pound, is a startlingly anti-Semitic fantasy of how a Jewish-led conspiracy of all-powerful bankers established the Federal Reserve in service of their plot to dominate the world.
Part of Beck’s allure is the promise that he will reveal secret information. In one segment last year, he produced a drawing of fasces—which he described, anachronistically, as “the Roman symbol of Fascism”—and then a picture of an old Mercury dime, with fasces on the reverse side. “Who brought this dime in? It happened in 1916—Woodrow Wilson was the President,” he said. “We’ve been on the road to Fascism for a while.” Benito Mussolini, of course, didn’t adopt the ancient symbol of authority as the Fascist emblem until the nineteen-twenties; the designer of the coin, the sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, intended it to signify the nation’s military preparedness, and paired it with an olive branch to illustrate the desire for peace.
Beck’s readings of Progressive-era politics are nearly as bizarre. Whatever can be said about Theodore Roosevelt, he was not a crypto-radical. It was Roosevelt who coined the term “lunatic fringe” to describe the extreme leftists of his day, and his concept of New Nationalism—in which an activist government built a vibrant capitalism, partly by regulating big business—looked back to Alexander Hamilton, not Karl Marx. Nor was Wilson a Bolshevik; in fact, in 1917 he sent American troops to Russia to support the anti-Bolshevik White Army. At home, his reforms sought to break up monopolies in order to restore competition among small companies. “If America is not to have free enterprise,” Wilson declared, “then she can have no freedom of any sort whatever.”
In 2007, Beck, then the host of “Glenn Beck,” on CNN’s Headline News, brought to his show a John Birch Society spokesman named Sam Antonio, who warned of a government plot to abolish U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, “and eventually all throughout the Americas.” Beck told Antonio, “When I was growing up, the John Birch Society—I thought they were a bunch of nuts.” But now, he said, “you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me.” His guest beamed. “Yes, we at the John Birch Society are not nuts,” Antonio said. “We are just exposing the truth that’s been out there for many, many years.” Since then, the Birch Society’s Web site has run clips from Beck’s Fox broadcasts, proudly pointing out similarities with their own ideas. Last June, an essay on the site described a presentation by Beck on Communism in America as “the ultimate in complete agreement between the Beck and JBS presentations of American history.”
Beck has also praised Ezra Taft Benson, one of Skousen’s close associates. Benson, the Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower and the thirteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, gained notoriety for a speech in 1966 in which he denounced Democratic officeholders and intellectuals (including the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.) as socialists and Communist sympathizers, warned that “the Constitution will be endangered and hang, as it were, by a single thread,” and praised the John Birch Society as “the most effective non-church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and Godless Communism.” Last June, Beck aired a clip from another Benson speech, intoning, “Ezra Taft Benson warned about what was coming.” The Birch Society’s Web site subsequently praised Beck for “getting progressively (sorry for the bad word choice) closer to presenting American history in the way that The John Birch Society has been doing it for over 50 years.”
Beck is no more the sole representative of today’s multifaceted Tea Party than Welch or Skousen was of the nineteen-sixties far right; he recently told the Times, a bit disingenuously, that he was “not involved with the Tea Party.” Why, then, have the politics of Skousen, Benson, and the John Birch Society had such a resurgence among conservative Republicans—not just through Beck but through Tea Party heroes like the Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle? (Last month, Angle gave a warm address to a “freedom conference” in Salt Lake City, co-sponsored by the John Birch Society and Skousen’s old group, the National Center for Constitutional Studies, praising her audience as “mainstream America” and patriots who had “heard the call.”) The columnist Frank Rich, among others, has suggested that the election of a black President sowed “fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country.” There are signs that this is so: Republicans’ singling out of Thurgood Marshall as an “activist Justice” during Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the warnings on Fox News about the terrible dangers posed by the minuscule New Black Panther Party. But “socialist” is not a racial slur. Jim Crow was not built out of fears of the Federal Reserve and the I.R.S. The Tea Party’s fulminations against cap-and-trade, federal-government bailouts, and big government generally play on very old themes that have nothing to do with the color of President Obama’s skin.
The current right-wing resurgence has more to do with the inner dynamics of American conservatism in the past half century. In the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties, the far right was condemned by liberals, as might be expected; in November, 1961, President Kennedy devoted part of a speech in Los Angeles to denouncing those “discordant voices of extremism” that “equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with Communism.” But the Bircher right also provoked deep anxiety among conservatives, who feared being perceived as paranoids and conspiracy-mongers.
The leading intellectual spokesman and organizer of the anti-Bircher conservatives was William F. Buckley, Jr., the editor of National Review. Buckley was by no means moderate in his conservatism. He was a lifelong defender of Joseph McCarthy and a foe of New Deal liberalism. But he drew the line at claiming that the course of American government was set by a socialist conspiracy, and he feared that the ravings of the extreme right would cost more balanced, practical conservatives their chance at national power. “By 1961,” his biographer John B. Judis writes, “Buckley was beginning to worry that with the John Birch Society growing so rapidly, the right-wing upsurge in the country would take an ugly, even Fascist turn rather than leading toward the kind of conservatism National Review had promoted.” In the next two decades, with Buckley’s support and counsel, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan completed a conservative revolution that succeeded by keeping extremist elements far from the centers of power.
As confidant and adviser to leading conservative politicians, Buckley had far more political influence than might be expected from the editor of a weekly journal. Yet in the early nineteen-sixties he found fighting the Birchers and their fellow-travellers extremely difficult. Even though some of Buckley’s colleagues at National Review thought that the Birch Society went too far, they would not attack the society publicly, for fear of alienating both the Birchers and the conservatives who sympathized with their views. When Buckley wrote an editorial in 1962 that accused Welch of “distorting reality” and failing to make “the crucial moral and political distinction” between Communists and liberals, the magazine immediately lost subscriptions and financial support.
By 1960, Senator Barry Goldwater, of Arizona, was emerging as the great political hope of conservative Republicans, and he consulted closely with Buckley. At a meeting at the Breakers hotel, in Palm Beach, in January, 1962, Buckley urged Goldwater to repudiate the Birch Society. Goldwater demurred; though he conceded that some embarrassing “kooks” lurked among the Birchers, he insisted to Buckley that there were also some “nice guys,” and that it would be injudicious to attack the group in public. The Birchers’ support helped gain Goldwater the Republican Presidential nomination in 1964, and he winked at them in his acceptance speech with his famous line: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. . . . Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
In the general election, though, Goldwater suffered a crushing loss to Lyndon Johnson, partly because Democrats succeeded in making him look like a captive of the loony right. (To the Goldwater slogan “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right,” the Democrats shot back, “In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts.”) Buckley’s fears had been confirmed. But he was undeterred in his efforts to build a respectable and viable conservative movement. In 1967, he favored Richard Nixon among a field of Republican aspirants. He liked Ronald Reagan’s politics, but considered Reagan, who had only recently been elected the governor of California, too new to national politics. George Romney, the governor of Michigan, a wishy-washy moderate, was obviously unsuitable, to say nothing of the Republican archliberal Nelson Rockefeller, of New York. Nixon was a hard-nosed Republican with strong conservative views, especially on Communism and the Cold War; he had established himself as a Communist-hunter in the nineteen-forties by pressing the charge that Alger Hiss, a former official at the State Department, had spied for the Soviets. And, promisingly, Nixon was the front-runner. “It seems to me that we ought to have a real chance of winning this year,” Buckley wrote to Goldwater around the time of the Republican National Convention. He served the campaign as an adviser, and by aiding his friend Frank Shakespeare, who had taken charge of Nixon’s media operations.
But Buckley’s candidate had a reputation for shiftiness that made him unpopular across the political spectrum. Some of the editors of National Review, recalling that Nixon had cut a deal with Rockefeller in order to secure the G.O.P. nomination in 1960, didn’t sufficiently trust him. And the Birch Society had nothing but contempt for the figure whom Welch had called one of “the slipperiest politicians that ever showed up on the American scene.” As President, in 1969, Nixon began to open diplomatic relations with Communist China, and the right wing placed him on its list of perfidious appeasers. When he visited Beijing in 1972, even Buckley was deeply offended. But when the general election took place later that year, with the antiwar Democratic candidate, George McGovern, voicing the country’s anxieties over Vietnam, Buckley and the mainstream of what he called “responsible conservatism” returned to Nixon. The purist conservatives were left to back the third-party candidacy of John Schmitz, a Republican congressman and a member of the John Birch Society.
Nixon won in a landslide, and the next year he appointed Buckley the American delegate to the United Nations. The conservative pragmatists had found the way to real power. And, despite the embarrassment of Watergate, in Nixon’s second term, their strategy proved effective over time. Nixon’s campaign against McGovern sharpened the Democrats’ internal divisions over civil rights and Vietnam, and, Buckley wrote, revealed that the Democrats had “an indifference toward national independence and a hostility toward national freedom.” Meanwhile, the Buckley mainstream, having read the Birchers out of the conservative movement, established itself as a permanent and growing force in the Republican Party and in national politics.
In 1976, Buckley and National Review supported Ronald Reagan’s primary challenge to Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford. After two terms as governor, Reagan had matured into what Buckley considered a nearly ideal conservative politician: a shrewd leader as well as a man of principle. Reagan nearly succeeded in wresting the nomination from Ford, demonstrating how formidable a national figure he had become. The Bircher right had flourished in his political bastion of Orange County, and Reagan was adept at winning extremists’ allegiance while he pursued realistic strategies. His pragmatic side showed immediately after he finally secured the Republican nomination in 1980, when he chose the relatively moderate George H. W. Bush, his bitter foe during the primaries, as his running mate. Though the decision dismayed right-wing ideologues, it had two practical benefits: it instantly healed the divisions between Republican moderates and conservatives, and it helped dampen charges from the Democrats that Reagan was a reckless right-winger. Nobody was more pleased by Bush’s selection than his fellow Skull and Bones man William F. Buckley, who understood the political logic as clearly as Reagan had.
As President, Reagan flattered the extremists—he even delivered some admiring words about Skousen’s Freemen Institute—but he saved his political capital for his real goals: undoing the fiscal underpinnings of New Deal-style government, and redirecting U.S. foreign policy by battling the Soviet Union and its proxies around the world. He appointed moderates to positions of importance, as when he made James Baker III, Bush’s close associate, his first chief of staff, rather than the far more ideological Edwin Meese III, his former chief of staff from California. (As a top policy adviser, Meese helped Reagan stack the federal bench with conservatives, but he was otherwise eclipsed by Baker and Baker’s deputy, the pragmatic Reaganite Michael Deaver, and his crusade, as Attorney General, to roll back civil-rights legislation largely failed.) When zealots in the Administration were exposed, as in the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan skillfully evaded responsibility and replaced them with more centrist Republicans. And, when he recognized in Mikhail Gorbachev a Soviet leader with whom he could undertake genuine efforts to reduce the nuclear threat, Reagan pushed forward, ignoring the complaints that he had become, in the hard-liner Howard Phillips’s phrase, “a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.”
Whatever misgivings may have arisen about him on the right, Reagan achieved a dramatic conservative overhaul of the federal tax code, a profound reconfiguring of the judiciary, and a near-victory for the West in the Cold War. From the standpoint of the mainstream right, the only problem with his legacy was that no other Republican could come close to matching his public appeal and political savvy. For the party of Reagan, his departure was the beginning of a long decline, and it is the absence of a similarly totemic figure, during the past twenty years, that has allowed the current resurgence of extremism. George H. W. Bush repelled right-wingers with his moderate tendencies—not least when, in the face of fiscal calamity, he broke his campaign pledge not to raise taxes. Bill Clinton inspired them to an almost ecstatic series of attacks, and though there remained enough of an older conservative establishment, personified by Senator Bob Dole, to check some of the wildest charges, the new Republican House majority after 1994, pushed by such ideologues as Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, had little interest in maintaining the center. They harassed Clinton, forcing an impeachment even though polls showed that more than sixty per cent of the American people disapproved. George W. Bush seemed at first to have a bit of Reagan’s conservative charisma, but the right wing turned against him for failing to win the war in Iraq, for his moderate position on immigration, and for spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to combat the financial collapse in 2008. When William F. Buckley died, during the 2008 primary season, it seemed to symbolize the end of a conservative era. David Klinghoffer, a former literary editor at National Review, lamented that “urbane visionaries and builders of institutions” such as Buckley have been replaced by media figures “who make their money by stirring fears and resentments.” Conservatism, Klinghoffer added, “has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism,” and is now ruled by those he called “the crazy-cons.”
Some Republicans have tried to extend the Buckley tradition, but to little effect. The commentator David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, lost his job at the American Enterprise Institute after he complained about the Republicans’ obstruction of health-care reform and called the right-wing surge a threat to conservatism. In June, the congressman Bob Inglis, of South Carolina, a tough conservative who nonetheless backed Bush’s financial bailout, lost a vicious primary fight with a right-wing insurgent named Trey Gowdy. To his amazement, Inglis was confronted on the campaign trail by voters who were convinced that numbers on their Social Security cards indicated that a secret bank had bought them at birth. “And then, of course,” he recalls, “it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff.” Not even Karl Rove can afford open dissent with the Tea Partiers. Appearing on Fox News the night of the recent primaries, he described the Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, as probably unelectable and said that some of her statements were “nutty.” Instantly, criticism came from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and other right-wing Republicans. Within days, he was back on Fox, proclaiming himself “a huge Tea Party fan,” endorsing O’Donnell, and affirming that the National Republican Senatorial Committee would give her its full backing.
So far, Rove, an unlikely dissident, is the only prominent Republican leader to so much as gesture at stepping forward, as Buckley and his allies did. Even strong conservatives like Inglis have been pushed aside, as have such former G.O.P. stalwarts as Charlie Crist, in Florida, and Mike Castle, in Delaware, both beaten in the primaries by Tea Party candidates; Crist is now running a long-shot campaign as an Independent. Desperate for gains in the midterm elections, the Republicans are neglecting the struggle it took to make politics safe for Reagan.
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy deplored the far right’s “counsels of fear and suspicion.” Today, Obama’s White House is still struggling to make sense of its enemies. In the absence of forthright leadership, on both the right and the left, the job of standing up to extremists appears to have been left to the electorate. Candidates like O’Donnell may prove too eccentric to prevail, or voters may simply become disillusioned by politicians who campaign on their hatred of government. After the election, mainstream conservatives may well engage in what Richard Viguerie has forecast as “a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” (Already, Rove and some leading Bush political operatives, including the former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, have been quietly supplanting the battered G.O.P. establishment in the effort to raise funds for this year’s candidates.) But, according to a recent poll, more than seventy per cent of Republicans support the Tea Party, and it seems almost certain that a Republican Party that has unstintingly appeased the far right will enjoy a strong and perhaps smashing victory in the coming midterm elections.
In 1906, early in the Progressive era, the humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional barroom sage, Mr. Dooley, put the social and political tumult of the day into perspective. “Th’ noise ye hear is not th’ first gun iv a revolution,” Dooley remarked. “It’s on’y th’ people iv th’ United States batin’ a carpet.” A century from now, or even a year from now, Americans may say the same about the Tea Party. For the moment, though, it appears that the extreme right wing is on the verge of securing a degree of power over Congress and the Republican Party that is unprecedented in modern American history. For defenders of national cohesion and tempered adversity in our politics, it is an alarming state of affairs. ♦