Saturday, September 28, 2013

We Shall Overwhelm!

We Shall Overwhelm

AP Images/J. Scott Applewhite

Four years ago, the modern Tea Party seemed to emerge from nowhere, leaving journalists bewildered and the public with few reference points to understand seemingly spontaneous rallies by middle-class people seeking lower tax rates. A search for the phrase “tea party” in connection with “politics” in major newspapers yielded fewer than 100 mentions in 2008—and when the words did appear linked together, they suggested studied formality and decorum. The next year, they appeared more than 1,500 times, often connected to “protest demonstration."


But little was spontaneous about the new party. “Social movements that explicitly defend the interests of the rich and the almost-rich have been a recurring feature of American politics,” Isaac William Martin, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, reminds us in his new book, Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent. “Such movements shook the American polity before the Obama era, before the Reagan era, and before Barry Goldwater ran for president—before, even, the New Deal.”

With meticulous research, Martin shows how the modern Tea Party grew from decades of efforts by American oligarchs to de-tax themselves. They relied on cranks, rogues, and a few scholars to polish the most effective ideological marketing pitches. Their goal was selling the notion that if the rich bear less of the burden of government, all of us will somehow end up better off. These pitches have worked best when some newly proposed government initiative—like President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—arrives to pose the threat of major policy change. They have depended on diverting attention from obvious questions, such as just how does a smaller tax bill for the Koch brothers benefit us?

Spanning decades, the residue of relationships, movement-building skills, and organizations from past enlistments of the affluent many to agitate for the interests of the super-elite few could be seen merely as an example of what Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab called “cultural baggage” in their 1971 book The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970. Instead, Martin says, these movements bequeathed to us “not just a suitcase we drag along behind us” but “a toolkit” to remake American public policy. Martin also concurs with historian Richard Hofstadter, who pointed out a half-century ago how many practitioners of his famous theory—the paranoid style in American politics—found their roots in the arrival, in 1913, of the 16th Amendment. That amendment, ratified on the eve of World War I, resolved disputes over the meaning of the phrase “direct taxes shall be apportioned,” and in doing so ushered in the modern income tax.

By the 1920s, Martin writes, corporate boardrooms were rife with “rich men who were scared of progressive taxation, but did not know how to fight it.” Along came J.A. Arnold, a semi–con man who told them he knew what to do. Arnold grew up in central Illinois, near the birthplace of rabble-rousing William Jennings Bryan and a few years behind him. Populist movements fueled by abuses of railroads and their underwriters surrounded him in his youth. Arnold saw opportunity—not in fighting the railroads but in fighting the progressives. By age 34, he had discovered what Martin calls “a talent for flattering rich and powerful men.” Again and again, Arnold would “seek out a rich patron, turn the conversation to politics, profit.”

Arnold, allied with traditional bankers, fought the Texas land banks that helped small farmers prosper. Then he hit the big time, organizing “tax clubs” that, like the Tea Party, seemed to emerge from nowhere. In just 33 days, as 1924 became 1925, Texas tax clubs held an astonishing 216 gatherings. The clubs “were in the pure image of the Texas Farmers’ Union and the Farmers’ Alliance,” Martin writes. “The participants in the tax clubs, however, were not farmers: They were overwhelmingly bankers.” Indeed, all but 7 percent of conference chairs were bankers, the great majority of them bank presidents. Their pitch was that lowered taxes would encourage productive investments, an idea that resonates with today’s economic and tax debates. (Knowing this kind of backstory makes it less surprising when today’s Heritage Foundation professionals describe their employer as a leading advocate for the poor.)

Arnold found his greatest support in the Old South, where he had organized the Southern Tariff Association to promote tariffs over income taxes. Delta plantation owners and their economic peers “worried that federal spending threatened their political power” because broader economic opportunity would “endanger the willingness of the black poor to work for low wages.” Martin notes that Mississippi had been among the first states to ratify the 16th Amendment, because Mississippians had so little income to tax. But by 1940, the legislature voted to repeal it—even though fewer than 300 Mississippi residents owed enough income tax to expect any income tax cut.

Martin also shows how adept tax opponents have been at using sleight-of-hand arguments. Back in the 1920s, for example, the brothers Pierre and Irénée DuPont attacked the federal enforcement of Prohibition—“a particularly sore point to pious rich.” In the elite view, the federal government unfairly made up for its lost revenue with higher income taxes, “thereby letting the sinners off scot-free while shifting the costs of their sins onto the rich.” But one rich people’s organization found that its appeal met greater success after abandoning the narrow argument that legalizing and taxing liquor sales would ease the burden on the teetotaling wealthy. The new idea was that ending Prohibition would “provide additional revenue to state and federal governments in crisis.” Thus it was that in the early days of the Great Depression, ending Prohibition gained early favor with lawmakers “in states that were increasingly stressed to pay for basic public services.” Pennsylvania led the way in stopping the funding of enforcement. This kind of shift in rhetoric remains relevant today as congressional Republicans push a 25 percent cut in the IRS budget just as more states ponder legalizing—and taxing—the sale of marijuana.

In time, J.A. Arnold lost favor, partly because he prospered even as his movements faltered. But others came along eager to pick up the slack. Edward Aloysius Rumely, a onetime Progressive turned right-winger by Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 effort to pack the Supreme Court, and a specialist in direct-mail publicity, “would do the most to transform the movement to untax the rich.” Among Rumely’s successors was Connecticut manufacturer Vivien Kellems—a veteran of the fight for women’s suffrage (the civil--disobedience techniques of which she brought into the anti-tax movement) and a standout in the man’s world of 1930s big business who grew much richer thanks to New Deal and World War II government contracts. Still, she compared IRS agents to Hitler’s enforcers. She insisted that small business was “marked for liquidation,” and in one jeremiad warned that “we are one step removed in this country from the Firing Squad and the Concentration camp.” In a 1948 Los Angeles speech, Kellems announced she would cease withholding income taxes from her employees’ checks. The gesture made her a hero to this day to the virulent, sometimes violent cliques that claim the paying of taxes is voluntary and the federal government is a criminal organization.

Martin also examines more sophisticated anti-tax advocates, like Robert Dresser, a New England textile heir, Harvard-educated lawyer, and union opponent who led the way in what Martin calls “clever policy crafting,” an essential feature of rich people’s movements. Dresser’s work toward a constitutional amendment limiting the federal government’s power to tax helped make the once-fringe cause “increasingly palatable” to mainstream conservatives starting in the 1940s, almost four decades before Californians enacted Proposition 13.

In his dotage, at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Dresser embraced John Bircher conspiracy theories. It’s but one thread in a taut fabric Martin weaves from many connections among Southern racists, anti-communist crazies, corporate welfare queens, and rich people’s de-tax movements. Another thread is the little-known story of the young organizer Grover Norquist’s many trips in the early 1980s to Angola. He went there to learn tactics from the Marxist turned anti-communist revolutionary Jonas Savimbi, who had the support of many of the right-wingers around President Ronald Reagan; Norquist would soon put what he learned into practice as he transformed a new organization, Americans for Tax Reform, from a “short-term lobbying project” into the vehicle for a “war of attrition against the American welfare state.”

A recurring dream of the century-long effort Martin chronicles is getting the top tax rate down to 25 percent or even 15 percent. Reagan got tantalizingly close with the 28 percent top rate in the 1986 Tax Reform Act, enacted with bipartisan support. George W. Bush won the number that matters most—long-term capital gains and dividend rates down to 15 percent—from 2003 to 2012. More than 30 percent of America’s capital gains now flow to the fewer than 8,300 households with annual incomes of $10 million or more, while the nearly two-thirds of U.S. households making less than $50,000 collect just 3 percent.

Martin’s title is an homage to Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward’s seminal 1978 book Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail. Piven and Cloward showed that the poor get heard when they stop being docile. Or, as Frederick Douglass put it, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Mass demonstrations, strikes, and even riots scare the oligarchs into paying attention.
The problem with disruption as a strategy is that the wealthy, having smart advisers and plenty of money, co-opt threatening movements. We can see this in the 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, later a Supreme Court justice, wrote for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as it tried to understand and undercut the burgeoning consumer movement. Powell’s proposed strategies included creating subtly anti-consumer institutions modeled superficially on the work of consumer advocates like Ralph Nader, adding a patina of concern for public interest to obscure their agenda.

In the case of the modern Tea Party, we now know that a good chunk of the money to stage events came from the Koch brothers, inheritors of wealth who are no strangers to the benefits of government-granted corporate monopolies as well as to laws that let them avoid, defer, and even escape taxes. That the mainstream news gives so little attention to the Kochs’ behind-the-scenes manipulations is a tragedy. The Tea Party’s very name sows confusion: The original 1773 Tea Party opposed tax favors for the wealthy owners of the British East India Company. Contrast this with modern Tea Party demands that a congress and president—elected by the people—lack legitimacy and must reduce taxes, especially on business and owners of capital.

Rich people’s movements waxed and waned over much of the last century, going dormant only to reappear when roused by a new policy threat. They have yet to achieve many of their goals. But thanks to decades of well-funded organizing, favorable laws in Washington and state capitals that passed while few noticed, and now the dark-money opportunities of Citizens United, they are here to stay. Martin’s book is useful in understanding a forgotten history that preceded the seemingly sudden assaults on consumers, unions, and workers by legislatures and governors in Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, and other states where extremists are currently in power. While the actions are indeed abrupt, contemptuous, and cruel, they grow from a neglected but by now lengthy tradition of lessons the rich and their advisers learned from failures past.

Originally posted at: http://prospect.org/article/we-shall-overwhelm

Friday, September 27, 2013

It's know time like snow time in beautiful Wyoming!

Howdy You All,
 
It's that time of the year.
 
 
 
 
Up at Spear-O-Wigwam next to Park Res. In Bighorn Mountains Just west of here.
Taken last night, 9-26-2013
 
 

"This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in."
-Teddy Roosevelt- Chicago, IL, June 17, 1912

Thursday, September 26, 2013

SWAT team shoots innocent man 22 times in front of his family (Jose Guer...




TUCSON, AZ — A multi-million dollar settlement concludes the disturbing case of Jose Guerena, the Iraq veteran who was riddled with bullets in his own home during a faulty SWAT raid. Not only did these paramilitary police perform a haphazard assault on an innocent family's home, they prevented their victim's wounds from being treated after they shot him dozens of times. The hefty disbursement of tax dollars to the Guerena family may be warranted, but does nothing to reign in the aggressive department which is responsible for this murder, nor does it ensure the public that these inept Drug Warriors will not kill their family next.

http://www.policestateusa.com

On the morning of May 5, 2011, after working the graveyard shift at a copper mine, Jose Guerena and his wife were awoken at 9:30 AM to loud noises and voices outside their house. Guerena, a 26-year-old former U.S. marine who served 2 tours in Iraq, sprang from his bed began to secure his family. He and his wife thought that their home was being invaded. He hid his wife, Vanessa, and his 4-year-old daughter in a closet and grabbed his rifle.

He was correct that his home was being invaded. What he did not realize was that the invaders would be wearing uniforms labeled "police." The noises that jarred Guerena awake would later be revealed to be the detonation of concussion grenades in their back yard. Unbeknownst to him — only seconds earlier — an armored truck had parked in their front yard and a SWAT team was rapidly preparing to break down his door.

Guerena approached the front door toward the source of the noises. Wearing only his boxer shorts, he defensively waited in the hallway for the unidentified bad guys to make their move. Within seconds the door was battered in. After a brief silence, Guerena peered around the corner. Four police officers unleashed a barrage of bullets down the hallway. A fifth one scurried up to the doorway and stuck his gun down the hallway, not wanting to miss his opportunity to participate in a kill. For 10 seconds the shots continued, a total of 71 in all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

David Koch Seeded Major Tea-Party Group, Private Donor List Reveals!

David Koch Seeded Major Tea-Party Group, Private Donor List Reveals!
 Exclusive tax documents confirm the conservative billionaire provided start-up funds for Americans for Prosperity.
David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Tax documents obtained exclusively by National Journal confirm that conservative billionaire David Koch, along with a handful of major corporations, provided the seed money a decade ago to start the foundation behind Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that played a key role in helping to organize the tea-party movement into a potent political force.
Koch's relationship with the group is no secret—he's the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—but he downplays his involvement in a way that critics charge is disingenuous. An official Koch website states that AFP is merely "among the hundreds of organizations that have received monetary support" from David Koch, his brother Charles, or the company they own, Koch Industries. "AFP and AFP Foundation operate independently of Koch Industries. We are not involved in their day-to-day operations and we do not direct the activities of either organization," the company's website continues.
But a donor list filed with the IRS labeled "not open for public inspection" from 2003, the year of AFP's first filing, lists David Koch as by far the single largest contributor to its foundation, donating $850,000. And an earlier document also obtained exclusively by National Journal lists millions more in financial contributions from the conservative industrialist to AFP's predecessor.
Following Koch on the AFP Foundation donor list are a number of corporations, including State Farm, which gave $275,000, 1-800-Contacts, which donated $80,000, and Johnson & Johnson and Shaw Industries, which each gave $50,000. Shaw, a carpet and flooring manufacturer, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the company controlled (ironically) by pro-Obama billionaire Warren Buffett. Also listed are a number of well-known and deep-pocketed conservative foundations, including the Pennsylvania-based Sarah Scaife Foundation and the North Carolina-based John William Pope Foundation.
The document, a Form 990 Schedule B, is essentially list of the largest contributors to a nonprofit organization, filed annually with the IRS. It's meant to be kept private, with only redacted versions released to the public, but a source retrieved the AFP Foundation Schedule B from a publicly accessible state attorney general's website, where it had been apparently uploaded in error, as has been known to occur on occasion. AFP, a 501(c)(4) group, and its foundation, a 501(c)(3), are legally separate, but they operate functionally as two parts of the same organization, in an arrangement common among political nonprofit organizations.
AFP was started in 2004 after it split "due to philosophical differences" from a predecessor called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which also spun off FreedomWorks, one of the groups currently leading the charge against Obamacare. A separate previously unreported Schedule B from Citizens for a Sound Economy Educational Fund lists a number of big corporate and foundation donations, but records David Koch as the largest funder.
That document, from 2001, states that the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation provided the single largest contribution, $2.35 million, while David Koch personally donated $1 million, and Koch Industries chipped in another $952,500, for a total of more than $4 million.
Corporate donations include $750,000 from General Electric, $275,250 from Exxon Mobil, $255,000 from State Farm, $100,000 from Philips Lighting, and $350,036 from the law firm Wilmer, Culter, & Pickering, now known as WilmerHale. There are also numerous foundation grants, including a $450,000 contribution from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
State Farm, the only company listed on both firms, has a history of aggravating liberals, from its refusal to purchase advertising on the now-defunct progressive talk-radio network Air America, to its support for the American Legislative Exchange Council. But in the years since its $275,000 donation to AFP, a spokesperson said, the insurance company has given only an additional $3,500 to Americans for Prosperity. "We support a variety of groups across the political spectrum in the interest of encouraging thorough discussion of issues of concern," State Farm's Anna Bryant said. The other companies did not respond to or declined requests for updated contribution information.
AFP spokesperson Levi Russell reviewed the donor list and said his group doesn't maintain records on site from that far back, but said the Schedule B is most likely authentic, given its provenance. He confirmed that since the organization was founded in 2004, the first tax filing would have been for 2003.
Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group and longtime Koch antagonist that has released numerous leaked documents from conservative groups, but was not the source on these documents, said the donor lists offer some new clues about the Koch Brothers' shadowy donor network.
"To my knowledge, a Schedule B from AFP or CSE has never been made public," she said. Campaign finance reporters and watchdog groups closely track grants made by nonprofit groups, but contributions directly from individuals or private companies like Koch Industries are kept private—"It's all off-book, basically," Graves said—so current estimates likely vastly undercount contributions. The new documents, she said, "reveal that there's a high likelihood of lots of Koch funding that hasn't been reported."
Indeed, just this month we learned that the Koch brothers created a group that quietly spent over $250 million during the 2012 election with zero public notice, thanks to a fairly novel use of a tax designation normally reserved for chambers of commerce and trade associations. That group, Freedom Partners, contributed $32.3 million to Americans for Prosperity.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to know how much more money is floating around out there until someone else hits the wrong button and accidentally uploads an otherwise hidden document to a public database. It says a lot about the current campaign finance disclosure regime that we must rely on clerical errors for a glimpse at how millions of dollars are spent to influence the political system.

More About This Writer: 
Alex Seitz-Wald | Political Reporter
aseitz-wald@nationaljournal.com | Follow: https://twitter.com/aseitzwald 

The YouToons Get Ready for Obamacare

2014 is coming--are you ready for Obamacare? Join the YouToons as they walk through the basic changes in the way Americans will get health coverage and what it will cost starting in 2014, when major parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," go into effect.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned TED Talk: Nick Hanauer "Rich people don't create jobs"



Via Business Insider: "As the war over income inequality wages on, super-rich Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has been raising the hackles of his fellow 1-percenters, espousing the contrarian argument that rich people don't actually create jobs. The position is controversial — so much so that TED is refusing to post a talk that Hanauer gave on the subject. National Journal reports today that TED officials decided not to put Hanauer's March 1 speech up online after deeming his remarks "too politically controversial" for the site..."

Why Shouldn't I Work for the NSA? (Good Will Hunting)

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and his Medal of Honor speech!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Benghazi Testimony Fox Doesn't Want You To See!

Watch: The Benghazi Testimony The Conservative Media Will Not Dare Show You!
Blog By: ARI RABIN-HAVT






Florida Representative Alan Grayson used his opportunity at today's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Benghazi to dismantle many of the myths spread by the conservative media.
Here are just some of the myths his line of questioning debunked:
Conservative media figures have claimed Ambassador Chris Stevens only went to Benghazi under orders from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Jeff Kuhner of the Washington Times went so far as to say Clinton "sent him on a suicide mission. Mrs. Clinton has American blood on her hands."






Grayson's questioning of Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, debunked this myth:
GRAYSON: Who decided that Ambassador Stevens go to Benghazi on September 11, 2012?
KENNEDY: It was the Ambassador's decision, sir.
GRAYSON: Now was Secretary Clinton responsible in any way for reviewing and approving the in-country movements of U.S. ambassadors, either Ambassador Stevens or anyone else?
KENNEDY: No, sir.
Additionally Grayson elicited testimony from Kennedy calling into question conservative myths about security at the Benghazi compound:
GRAYSON: Did the Ambassador, when he went to Benghazi, have a normal security detail in accordance with the State Department procedures and rules at that time?
KENNEDY: Yes, sir. He had two diplomatic security special agents who accompanied him from Tripoli to Benghazi.
[...]
GRAYSON: Was there any money that was appropriated for the purpose of improving that post that was unspent at that time?
KENNEDY: No sir, we were -- there was no specific money appropriated for Benghazi. We were simply taking money from other locations. But all the requests that they put forward as I mentions save one -- which is the guard towers which were determined to be unnecessary and potentially too attention getting, we -- all their requests were fulfilled.
Furthermore Grayson's questioning of Kennedy also debunked the conservative mythology that President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton were derelict in their duties the night of the attack. For instance, Fox's Monica Crowley has claimed that "the two leaders of the U.S. Government" were "unaccounted for that night. We have no narrative of where they were or what they were doing."
Today's testimony should put an end to that claim:
GRAYSON: Did the White House ever ignore any reports regarding this attack?
KENNEDY: No, sir, not that I'm aware of.
GRAYSON: Did Secretary Clinton ever ignore any reports regarding this attack?
KENNEDY: No, sir, I personally spoke to Secretary Clinton that evening and Secretary Clinton was being constantly briefed by our operation center all evening.
No doubt this part of Patrick Kennedy's testimony will never see the light of day on Fox or in the conservative media.

By: ARI RABIN-HAVT   Find him @ Twitter: https://twitter.com/arirabinhavt
 Ari Rabin-Havt hosts The Agenda, a national morning radio program airing on SiriusXM 127. He is also a senior fellow at Media Matters and was on the faculty of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. He is co-author of "The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine" and has served as an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/09/18/watch-the-benghazi-testimony-the-conservative-m/195950

Monday, September 16, 2013

WHEN COAL Comes En Masse to our Western Cities, Towns and Communities, Like Sheridan, WY!

Posted: 16 Sep 2013 08:43 AM PDT
Backed-up traffic as a coal train passes through Billings, MT. 
Backed-up traffic as a coal train passes through Billings, MT.
CREDIT: Western Organization of Resource Councils
Why is it that the USA has to always get rid of their natural resources as quickly as possible for the fast buck? Why can't we use them wisely, and conservatively, rather then use them up as quickly as possible? Why are we even thinking of sending COAL to China? Who woke up one day and thought that was a great long-range policy goal for the USA? Only greedy little bastards would have---short term gain trumps long term energy security for the country.
BILLINGS, MONTANA — Not so long ago, the two warehouse district streets that parallel the railroad tracks running through Montana's biggest city were, in the description of a local architecture firm, "seedy and dangerous, highlighted by saloons, gambling, fighting, and regular police traffic."
Today, Minnesota Avenue and Montana Avenue are the heart of a small but thriving retail, entertainment and residential loft district, part of a spreading urban transformation that has brought new vitality to Billings — a revitalization that some residents fear may be in jeopardy as coal mines operating in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana could in the near future begin shipping massive quantities of coal to export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.
Though their communities may differ greatly, the coal industry's drive to breathe new life into a struggling economic sector is uniting activists and residents alike — from ranchers in the West, to small towns like Livingston, Sheridan, and Billings, to the cities in Washington and Oregon facing the possible construction of large coal export facilities.
Founded as a railroad town in 1882 — it is named for the then-head of the Northern Pacific — Billings has long dealt with freight trains rumbling through the heart of their city on tracks that separate the north and south sides. But people here worry that a dramatic increase in the number of trains moving through the center of the city will bring an unacceptable level of congestion, potential health impacts from diesel fumes and coal dust blowing off the open cars, and setbacks to the urban renaissance currently underway.
Those kinds of concerns are mirrored in many communities across the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest, which are in the cross hairs of a possibly huge jump in coal train traffic that could significantly affect community life.
Freight trains, including coal carriers a mile and a quarter long, delay auto traffic on heavily-traveled 27th Street in Billings for seven or eight minutes. During peak travel times those lines of waiting traffic can be several blocks long, according to Billings residents, and can delay access to the city's hospitals for residents on the south side. And it's not just traffic that is raising concerns: Dr. Robert Merchant, a Billings pulmonologist, told The Daily Climate, that he fears the dust, diesel fumes and noise will adversely affect the health of city residents. "A marked increase in coal trains will markedly impact the health of my patients," he said. "I need to keep them out of the hospital."
AP779473313206[1] 
CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Over the past few years, six new West Coast coal export terminals have been proposed to move U.S. coal to Asia, primarily China. Currently there are no U.S. coal export facilities on the West Coast, and the modest but growing export trade in U.S. coal headed for Asia is shipped from terminals in British Columbia. Three of the U.S. terminal plans have fallen by the wayside, but the three that remain, in Cherry Point, Washington, Longview, Washington, and Boardman, Oregon, would have the capacity to ship close to 120 million tons of coal per year.
A study prepared last summer by three transportation experts for the Western Organization of Resource Councils determined that at full capacity, those six terminals would be able to ship 170 million tons of coal. According to the report, "Heavy Traffic Ahead," that would mean an additional 57 coal trains passing through Billings on average every day.
With the three remaining terminal plans, the coal train traffic would be almost 70 percent of what the study projected for the original six terminals, meaning that freight train traffic in Billings could roughly triple from what it is today. That could bring the total stalled traffic time on the three Billings streets that cross the train tracks to about seven hours a day.
"It's already an issue," said Ed Gulick, an architect whose firm has played a key role in the urban redevelopment here and has an office just south of the railroad tracks. With triple the number of trains, he said, "downtown would be cut off from the interstate, so it will be a huge issue."
coal-trains
Gulick concedes that many elected officials here don't see the issue in the same light as he does. In April 2012, the county commissioners in Yellowstone County, which includes Billings, wrote the state's three-man congressional delegation voicing their support for the proposed coal terminals and predicting they would help expand Montana's coal industry and spur employment.
But as Larry Swanson, an economist who heads the University of Montana's O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West points out, mining in the years 1991-2011 never accounted for more than two percent of the state's jobs. And he projects that through 2020, the big job growth fields will be health care and social assistance, trade, and retail and hospitality.
The Powder River Basin currently accounts for more than 40 percent of U.S. coal production. As coal used for electricity generation domestically has declined in recent years, the industry has started to pin its hopes for growth on Asia's appetite for that fuel.
Two years ago, for example, the CEO of industry giant Arch Coal, Steven F. Leer, referred in a press release to the company's "strategic objective of expanding Powder River Basin coal sales into the Asia-Pacific region."
And last year, the president of Cloud Peak Energy, Colin Marshall, announced the purchase of a new mine site in the basin, saying the acquisition would "position Cloud Peak Energy well for future growth in our Asian exports as additional terminal capacity becomes available."
The study prepared for the Western Organization of Resource Councils projects that most of the industry's hoped-for boom in exports to Asia from Montana and Wyoming would be shipped via BNSF lines from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest. BNSF is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company chaired by investing wizard Warren Buffett.
Communities large and small across that region have been coming to grips with what a major increase in coal train traffic could mean. In many of them, existing rail lines run straight through their downtowns, so the possibility of large numbers of coal trains blocking passage for auto traffic is no small matter.
In Sheridan, Wyoming — population about 18,000 — city officials commissioned a study that looked into relocating the rail line and associated downtown rail yard. The study concluded that the project would cost between $140 million and $169 million. With no relocation of the rail lines and rail yard, the study predicted that in ten years, the number of vehicles experiencing delays at the town's main rail crossing would more than double to between 3,365 and 4,945 depending on the timing of rail traffic coming through.
"Sheridan had to scramble to come up with $5 million for upgrades to its sewage treatment plan," said Brad Mohrmann, a consultant who has worked on a separate study of economic development possibilities for the current railroad properties if the rail line is moved. "Where are they going to get $160 million? That would never happen … BNSF is not interested in throwing in one dime."
AP F WY USA COAL CRUNCH 
CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Similar concerns are being aired in Livingston, Montana, another town with a rich railroad history where the tracks run through the center of the community. Facilities include a rail yard and shop complex that dates to 1883 where soil and water is contaminated by hydrocarbons, asbestos and chlorinated solvents because of railroad maintenance activities. The area, a state superfund site, is being cleaned up, but at a snail's pace according to residents.
Located on the Yellowstone River, east of Bozeman, Livingston is a gateway to Yellowstone National Park to the south through the Paradise Valley. It's become a mecca for anglers, authors and artisans, and the small downtown next to the railroad tracks is an eclectic amalgam of coffee shops, a rail museum in the historic depot, restaurants featuring locally grown food, and fly fishing shops along with welding and industrial supply stores.
Currently about 15 trains a day come through Livingston, said Kerry Fee, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council, who expects the number could double with construction of the coal export terminals. Though he agrees there will be some job growth at the railroad maintenance facility, he thinks overall it would very much be a net negative for the community.
For some in Livingston, climate change is also a significant concern. Courtney Lehmans, a 20-year resident, says Montana during much of that time has been dealing with drought, and she points to the rapid disappearance of many of the glaciers in Glacier National Park as clear evidence of warming. With a big increase in coal production in the Powder River Basin, she says "they'll be shipping it to China and the emissions are going to hit the jet stream and come right back to us."
There are only three places in Livingston where vehicles can cross the tracks, and only one of them is an underground bypass that operates even when trains are coming through but which sometimes floods. Fee thinks that double the number of trains will increase the odds that emergency vehicles and EMTs will at some point face an emergency and not be able to get from one side of town to another.
Noise is another concern. Fee says he can hear the train horns from four miles away, and the effort required to pull long trains up Bozeman Pass to the West makes them sound like jet engines in the valley below.
"It's pretty darn loud," Fee said. "It will affect property values and it is not going to be good for the economy."
The post When Coal Comes To Town: Western Communities Brace For Coal Export Explosion appeared first on ThinkProgress.

"This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in."
-Teddy Roosevelt- Chicago, IL, June 17, 1912

Sunday, September 15, 2013

American ethnicity map shows melting pot of ethnicities that make up the USA today | Mail Online

American ethnicity map shows melting pot of ethnicities that make up the USA today | Mail Online


The map that shows where America came from: Fascinating illustration shows the ancestry of EVERY county in the US

  • Census data shows heritage of 317 million modern Americans
  • Clusters show where immigrants from different nations chose to settle
  • Largest ancestry grouping in the nation are of German descent with almost 50 million people
  • African American or Black is the second largest grouping with just over 40 million people
  • Almost 20 million people claim to have 'American' ancestry for political reasons and because they are unsure of their family's genealogy
By Jessica Jerreat
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A truly captivating map that shows the ancestry of everyone of the 317 million people who call the melting pot of America home can now be seen on a U.S. Census Bureau map.
For decades, the United States opened its doors and welcomed with open arms millions of immigrants who all arrived through New York's Ellis Island in the hope of a better life in America.
Indeed, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York's harbor reads 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free' and the fascinating map identifies the truly diverse nature of the United States in the 21st century.
Although the 2010 census left out questions about ethnicity, this map shows how it looked in 2000, according to Upworthy

Melting pot: This map shows the ethnic heritage of Americans
Melting pot: This map shows the ethnic heritage of Americans




49,206,934 Germans
By far the largest ancestral group, stretching from coast to coast across 21st century America is German, with 49,206,934 people. The peak immigration for Germans was in the mid-19th century as thousands were driven from their homes by unemployment and unrest.
The majority of German-Americans can now be found in the the center of the nation, with the majority living in Maricopa County, Arizona and according to Business Insider, famous German-Americans include, Ben Affleck, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney, Henry J. Heinz and Oscar Mayer.
Indeed, despite having no successful New World colonies, the first significant groups of German immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1670s and settled in New York and Pennsylvania.
Germans were attracted to America for familiar reasons, open tracts of land and religious freedom and their contributions to the nation included establishing the first kindergartens, Christmas trees and hot dogs and hamburgers.

41,284,752 Black or African Americans
The census map also identifies, Black or African-American as a term for citizens of the United States who have ancestry in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The majority of African Americans are descended from slaves from West and Central Africa and of course have become an integral part of the story of the United States, gaining the right to vote with the 15th amendment in 1870, but struggling with their civil rights for at least another century.
Predominantly living in the south of the nation where they were brought to work on the cotton plantations and as slaves in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries, Black or African Americans also have sizable communities in the Chicago area of Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.
 
35,523,082 Irish
Another group who joined the great story of the United States were the Irish and the great famine of the 1840s sparked mass migration from Ireland.
It is estimated that between 1820 and 1920, 4.5 million Irish moved to the United States and settled in the large cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.
Currently, almost 12 percent of the total population of the United States claim Irish ancestry - compared with a total population of six and a half million for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland today.
Irish residents of note include John F. Kennedy, Derek Jeter and Neil Armstrong and 35,523,082 people call themselves Irish.

31,789,483 Mexican
And from 1990 to 2000, the number of people who claimed Mexican ancestry almost doubled in size to 31,789,483 people.
Those with Mexican ancestry are most common along the Southwestern border of the United States and is largest ancestry in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas and San Antonio.

26,923,091 English
The next largest grouping of people in the United States by ancestry are those who claim to be English-American.
Predominantly found in the Northwest and West, the number of people directly claiming to be English-American has dropped by 20 million since the 1980 U.S. Census because more citizens have started to identify themselves as American.
They are based predominantly in the northeast of the country in New England and in Utah, where the majority of Mormon immigrants moved in the middle 19th century.
Notable American people with English ancestry are Orson Welles and Bill Gates and 26,923,091 people claim to come from the land of the original Pilgrims.

19,911,467 Americans
The surprising number of people across the nation claiming to have American ancestry is due to them making a political statement, or because they are simply uncertain about their direct descendants. Indeed, this is a particularly common feature in the south of the nation, where political tensions between those who consider themselves original settlers and those who are more recent exist.

Historic Moment: A painting of Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA depicting the Landing of Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock
Historic Moment: A painting of Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA depicting the Landing of Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock 





Nebraska, USA --- A family poses with the covered wagon in which they live and travel daily during their pursuit of a homestead. Loup Valley, Nebraska. 1886
Nebraska, USA --- A family poses with the covered wagon in which they live and travel daily during their pursuit of a homestead. Loup Valley, Nebraska. 1886

17,558,598 Italian
One of the most influential nationalities to migrate in large numbers to the United States were the Italians.
Between 1880 and 1920, more than 4 million Italian immigrants arrived in the United States forming 'Little Italies' wherever they went.
Bringing their food, culture and entertainment to the nation, another large wave of Italian immigrants arrived in the country following WWII, bringing the total number today to 17,558,598 people.

9,739,653 Polish

The largest of the Slavic groups to live in the United States, Polish Americans were some of the earliest Eastern European colonists to the New World.
Up to 2.5 million Polies came to the United States between the mid-19th century and World War 1 and flocked to the largest industrial cities of New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Chicago.
In many states, the Hispanic population doubled between the 2000 and 2010 census. In New Mexico, Hispanics outstripped whites for the first time, reaching 46 per cent compared to 40 per cent.

9,136,092 French
Historically, along with the English, the French colonized North America first and successfully in the North East in the border areas alongside Quebec and in the south around New Orleans and Louisiana.

Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA --- A portrait of Polish and Slavic immigrant women wearing I.D. tags at the turn of the 20th century
Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA --- A portrait of Polish and Slavic immigrant women wearing I.D. tags at the turn of the 20th century 


The figures reveal the changing face of the U.S., with the number of Hispanics up by 15 million by the 2010 census, from these figures in 2000.
Hispanic children now account for one in four American youngsters as a portrait emerges of a country with an aging white population and rapid minority growth.
While Hispanic communities cover a swath of states from California to Texas, American Indians are more dispersed, with pockets of populations in states including Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and the Dakotas, with a higher concentration in Alaska.
The map also reveals a concentration of people stating American as their ethnic heritage, mostly in the South.
Many may have stated American on the census form as a political statement, or because they have a mixed or unknown heritage, according to Business Insider.
While the United States has its roots in being a welcoming place for immigrants, that hasn't always been the case. As a wave of new arrivals flooded U.S. shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but a movement to restrict who was allowed into the country took hold as well.
In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major federal law to put immigration limits in place and the only one in American history aimed at a specific nationality. It came into being in response to fears, primarily on the West Coast, that an influx of Chinese immigrants was weakening economic conditions and lowering wages. It was extended in 1902.
Other laws followed, like the Immigration Act of 1917, which created an "Asiatic Barred Zone" to restrict immigration from that part of the world, and the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which limited the number of immigrants from any country to 3 percent of those people from that country who had been living in the United States as of 1910.
The 1924 Immigration Act capped the number of immigrants from a particular country at 2 percent of the population of that country already living in the United States in 1890. That favored immigrants from northern and western European countries like Great Britain over immigrants from southern and eastern European countries like Italy.

Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA --- Immigrants stand with members of the New York Bible Society
Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA --- Immigrants stand with members of the New York Bible Society






Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA: Immigrants on line leaving Ellis Island waiting for ferry to N.Y
Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New Jersey, New York City, USA: Immigrants on line leaving Ellis Island waiting for ferry to N.Y

It also prevented any immigrant ineligible for citizenship from coming to America. Since laws already on the books prohibited people of any Asian origin from becoming citizens, they were barred entry. The law was revised in 1952, but kept the quota system based on country of origin in the U.S. population and only allowed low quotas to Asian nations.
The American children of Italian and other European immigrants saw that law "as a slur against their own status" and fought for the system to be changed, said Mae Ngai, professor of history and Asian American studies at Columbia University. In fighting for change, they looked to the civil rights movement.
The political leaders who agreed with them saw it in the same terms, as a change needed for equality's sake, as well as to be responsive to shifting relationships with nations around the world.
Speaking to the American Committee on Italian Migration in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy cited the "nearly intolerable" plight of those who had family members in other countries who wanted to come to the U.S. and could be useful citizens, but were being blocked by "the inequity and maldistribution of the quota numbers."
Two years later, in signing into law a replacement system that established a uniform number of people allowed entry to the United States despite national origin, President Lyndon B. Johnson said it would correct "a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation."
Stephen Klineberg, sociology professor at Rice University in Houston, said the civil rights movement "was the main force that made that viciously racist law come to be perceived as intolerable," precisely because it raised questions about fairness and equality.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When the Police Become a Standing Army, Liberty is Sacrificed Without Security

When the Police Become a Standing Army, Liberty is Sacrificed Without Security!

 Have law enforcement forces evolved into a standing army? Yes, in many ways, Radley Balko argues in Rise Of The Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.
According to PublicAffairs, the publisher of Balko's book, released this September,
The American approach to law enforcement was forged by the experience of revolution. Emerging as they did from the shadow of British rule, the country's founders would likely have viewed police, as they exist today, as a standing army, and therefore a threat to liberty. Even so, excessive force and disregard for the Bill of Rights have become epidemic in today's world. According to civil liberties reporter Radley Balko, these are all symptoms of a generation-long shift to increasingly aggressive, militaristic, and arguably unconstitutional policing - one that would have shocked the conscience of America's founders.
Rise of the Warrior Cop traces the arc of US law enforcement from the constables and private justice of colonial times to present-day SWAT teams and riot cops. Today, relentless "war on drugs" and "war on terror" pronouncements from politicians, along with battle-clad police forces with tanks and machine guns have dangerously blurred the distinction between cop and soldier.
 Radley Balko.Radley Balko, Author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop". (Photo: Courtesy of PublicAffairs Books)
The following is an excerpt from Rise Of The Warrior Cop, illustrating how no one is immune to the excessive force and technology of a modern police force, even a mayor.
Cheye Calvo only intended to be home long enough to grab a bite to eat and walk his dogs. Calvo worked full-time at an educational foundation in Washington, DC, but he also had an unusual part-time job: he was mayor of the small town of Berwyn Heights, Maryland. In 2004, at age thirty-three, he was the youngest elected mayor in the history of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Now thirty-seven, he lived with his wife, Trinity Tomsic, her mother, Georgia Porter, and their two black labradors, Payton and Chase. Calvo was due back in town later that night for a community meeting.
As Calvo took the dogs out for a walk the evening of July 29, 2008, his mother-in-law told him that a package had been delivered a few minutes earlier. He figured it was something he had ordered for his garden. “On the walk, I noticed a few black SUVs in the neighborhood, but thought little of it except to wave to the drivers,” he would later recall. When Calvo and the dogs returned, he picked up the package, brought it inside, then went upstairs to change for his meeting.
The next thing Calvo remembers is the sound of his mother-in-law screaming. He ran to the window and saw heavily armed men clad in black rushing his front door. Next came the explosion. He’d later learn that this was when the police blew open his front door. Then there was gunfire. Then boots stomping the floor. Then more gunfire. Calvo, still in his boxers, screamed, “I’m upstairs, please don’t shoot!” He was instructed to walk downstairs with his hands in the air, the muzzles of two guns pointed directly at him. He still didn’t know it was the police. He described what happened next at a Cato Institute forum six weeks later. “At the bottom of the stairs, they bound my hands, pulled me across the living room, and forced me to kneel on the floor in front of my broken door. I thought it was a home invasion. I was fearful that I was about to be executed.” I later asked Calvo what might have happened if he’d had a gun in his home for self-defense. His answer: “I’d be dead.” In another interview, he would add, “The worst thing I could have done was defend my home.”
Calvo’s mother-in-law was face-down on the kitchen floor, the tomato-artichoke sauce she was preparing still sitting on the stove. Her first scream came when one of the SWAT officers pointed his gun at her from the other side of the window. The police department would later argue that her scream gave them the authority to enter the home without knocking, announcing themselves, and waiting for someone to let them in.
Rather than obeying the SWAT team demands to “get down” as they rushed in, Georgia Porter simply froze with fear. They pried the spoon from her hand, put a gun to her head, and shoved her to the floor. They asked, “Where are they? Where are they?” She had no idea what they were talking about. She told them to look in the basement. She would later tell the Washington Post, “If somebody puts a gun to your head and asks you a question, you better come up with an answer. Then I shut my eyes. Oh, God, I thought they were going to shoot me next.”
Calvo’s dogs Payton and Chase were dead by the time Calvo was escorted to the kitchen. Payton had been shot in the face almost as soon as the police entered the home. One bullet went all the way through him and lodged in a radiator, missing Porter by only a couple of feet. Chase ran. The cops shot him once, from the back, then chased him into the living room and shot him again.
Calvo was turned around and put on his knees in front of the door the police had just smashed to pieces. He heard them rummaging through his house, tossing drawers, emptying cabinets.
Calvo and Porter were held for four hours. Calvo asked to see a search warrant. He was told it was “en route.” The police continued to search the house. At one point, a detective got excited when she found an envelope stuffed with cash. According to Porter, the detective was deflated when she found only $68 inside and noticed that the front of the envelope read: “Yard Sale.” At one point, Porter overheard a detective call to ask a relative to schedule a veterinary appointment. The sight of the dogs’ bodies apparently reminded her that she need to make an appointment for her own pet.
Even after they realized they had just mistakenly raided the mayor’s house, the officers didn’t apologize to Calvo or Porter. Instead, they told Calvo that they were both “parties of interest” and that they should consider themselves lucky they weren’t arrested. Calvo in particular, they said, was still under suspicion because when armed men blew open his door, killed his dogs, and pointed their guns at him and his-mother-in-law, he hadn’t responded “in a typical manner.”
Trinity Tomsic came home about an hour later to find a blur of flashing police lights and a crowd gathering on her front lawn. She was told that her husband and mother were fine. Then she was told that her dogs were dead. She broke down in tears. When she was finally able to enter her home, she found her dogs’ blood all over her house. The police had walked through the two large pools of blood that collected under Payton and Chase, then tracked it all over the home. Even once the police realized they had made a mistake, they never offered to clean up the blood, to put the house back together, or to fix the front door.
As Calvo and Porter were being interrogated, one of Calvo’s own police officers saw the lights and stopped to see what was going on. Berwyn Heights officer Amir Johnson knew this was his mayor’s house, but had no idea what the commotion was about because the Prince George’s County Police Department hadn’t bothered to contact the Berwyn Heights police chief, as they were required to do under a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies. Johnson told the Washington Post that an officer at the scene told him, “The guy in there is crazy. He says he is the mayor of Berwyn Heights.”
Johnson replied, “That is the mayor of Berwyn Heights.”
Johnson then called Berwyn Heights police chief Patrick Murphy. Eventually, Murphy was put in touch with the supervising officer, Det. Sgt. David Martini. Murphy recounted the conversation to the Post: “Martini tells me that when the SWAT team came to the door, the mayor met them at the door, opened it partially, saw who it was, and then tried to slam the door on them,” Murphy recalled. “And that at that point, Martini claimed, they had to force entry, the dogs took aggressive stances, and they were shot.”
If that indeed was what Martini told Murphy, he was either lying or repeating a lie told to him by one of his subordinates. There was never any further mention of Calvo shutting the door on the SWAT team - because it never happened. Calvo later had his dogs autopsied - the trajectories the bullets took through the dogs’ bodies weren’t consistent with the SWAT team’s story.
But the lies, obfuscations, and stonewalling were only beginning.
The police department would first claim that they had obtained a no-knock warrant for the raid. They then backtracked and blamed Calvo’s mother-in-law, arguing that when her scream blew their cover, they were no longer obligated to knock and announce themselves. (This was an interesting theory, given that the knock-and-announce requirement, by definition, would have required them to blow their own cover. That’s the point of the requirement.) Maj. Mark Magaw, commander of the Prince George’s County narcotics enforcement division, claimed that the SWAT team couldn’t have obtained a no-knock warrant if they had wanted to, because the state of Maryland doesn’t allow them. This too was false. The state had passed a bill allowing for no-knock warrants in 2005. It’s the sort of law that one would think would have a day-to-day impact on the drug unit of a police department that conducts several raids each week. Yet the head narcotics unit in Prince George’s County was completely ignorant of it. Three years later, Magaw would be promoted to Prince George’s County police chief.
The affidavit for the search warrant was prepared by Det. Shawn Scarlata. It is incredibly thin. In a few paragraphs, Scarlata relates that he intercepted a FedEx package containing thirty-two pounds of marijuana at one of the company’s warehouses. The package was addressed to Trinity Tomsic at her home address. A police officer disguised as a delivery man then took the package to Calvo’s house, where it was accepted by Georgia Porter. There was also a one-paragraph description of Calvo’s home. That’s the only information in the warrant specific to Calvo and his family. The remainder of the six-page affidavit is a cut-and-paste recitation of Scarlata’s training, qualifications, and assumptions he felt he could make based on his experience as a narcotics officer. As Calvo described the warrant in an online chat, “It talks about all the stuff a drug trafficker should have in his or her home and then says something like, ‘Although we know that the police have no evidence of these things, they can be inferred from the very nature of the charge.’ It is circular reasoning that says because we are suspicious of you, there must be evidence of your guilt.”
On August 7, police arrested a FedEx driver and an accomplice and charged them with various crimes related to drug trafficking. Trinity Tomsic was never supposed to receive that package of marijuana. A drug distributor in Arizona had used her address to get the package into the general Prince George’s County area, at which point an accomplice working for the delivery company was supposed to intercept it. The police had found several similar packages. Worse, county police knew the scheme was going on and knew some packages had been delivered to residences unbeknownst to the people who lived in them. The Washington Post reported a couple of months later on cases in which innocent people had been arrested. “Defense lawyers who practice in the county said authorities appear to arrest and charge anyone who picks up a package containing marijuana without conducting a further investigation,” the Post reported. “The more I think about that, the angrier I get,” Calvo later told Post columnist Marc Fisher. “They knew this scheme was going on, yet it never occurred to them from the moment they found out about that package that we were anything but drug dealers.”
Copyright (2013) of Radley Balko. Not to be reprinted without permission of the author or PublicAffairs Books.
To learn more about how American police are adopting and using military tactics, get  Rise Of The Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces with a contribution of $35 or more to Truthout. Become informed and support corporate-free journalism at the same time. Click here for the book.
If you are in the Chicago area on Wednesday, September 18, join Balko and a panel discussion of increasingly battlefield-style police action at 6 PM at Roosevelt University. Please RSVP and learn more by clicking here. The event is cosponsored by Truthout.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Racist “patriots” want me dead: I dared criticize “the troops”!

Racist “patriots” want me dead: I dared criticize “the troops”!

My Salon piece about "supporting the troops" earned death threats and vile, racist responses. They proved my point!



Racist (Credit: Reuters/Richard Rowe)
“I will fucking kill you if the opportunity presents itself you ungrateful motherfucker.”
I shook my head as I forwarded this message, tucked entirely into the subject line, to my department chair.  Then I went on to the next one.  The day before, I had published an essay about the problems of uncritically repeating the slogan “Support Our Troops.”  Not everybody was happy with my argument.
When I arrived at my office the following morning, a voice mail waited:  “I’m sure your son is a fucking faggot, just like you’re a fucking faggot.”  (I am offering the caller enormous benefit of the doubt by correctly transcribing the contractions.)
By that point, the vitriolic messages were arriving in my inbox faster than I could read them. I forwarded the death threats to the police and some of the funnier bluster to friends and family. I feared less for my life than for the well-being of a society in the thrall of this nationalistic furor — or at least a society made to genuflect to an all-American image of the flag lest anybody arouse that furor.
I don’t genuflect.  The first rule for any serious writer is to agitate the contentious and embrace the disreputable.
It didn’t take long for the tenor of the messages to change. Suddenly I went from being a troop-hating fag to a jihadist, awash in the new vocabulary of apocalyptic struggle — dhimmitude, swine, Taliban, anti-Semitism, Allah, terrorism, hijab, pedantry, oppressed women — informing the limitless Clash of Civilizations.
“Moohamed was a murdering pig.”
Apparently a bovine enthusiast, too, I thought as I clicked the message to make sure it contained only stupidity of the nonthreatening variety:  “And so are you, all Muzzies are sub human dogs and should be put down like a diseased animal with Rabies.  I only wish I lived in Virginia so i could hunt you down like the dog you are, I hope you die soon along with your family.”
And so it went the rest of the day.  (If you’re wondering: No, one never becomes desensitized to racism.)
Just before slamming the lid of my laptop near midnight, I received a message on Facebook from a (white) high school friend I haven’t seen in 20 years:  “Man, I really don’t think any of this would be happening if you were white.”  Some folks from my hometown (not in fact in the Islamoland of Pamela Geller’s imagination) had banished me from the right to be called a native son.  But I grew up the child of immigrants in the heart of Southern Appalachia: My family was never accepted fully enough for banishment to mean anything.
The alignment of narratives was clear. Patriotism and ethnonationalism had again converged. There is nothing in the American past we can evoke for nostalgic coziness. Patriotism and ethnonationalism have always interacted in the United States.
* * *
My old classmate identified the correlation between race and the limits of acceptable critique, but is he correct that whiteness would have protected me from rage? In the abstract, no. Sean Penn has faced more rage than I can ever hope to elicit. Michael Moore isn’t popular among uncompromising patriots, either. Nobody who conceptualizes patriotism or troop-worship as foolish will escape harsh feedback in today’s United States.
Yet in the concrete, my old classmate’s speculation is insightful. Whiteness cannot protect one from nationalistic wrath. White critics of patriotism and militarism may well be asked to leave the country. They may be ostracized for airing unpopular views. They may be called pussies and faggots. And they may be threatened with death. But their fundamental legitimacy as stewards of proper American-ness will rarely be questioned. It will instead be lamented as lapsed or forsaken. They will not field incessant questions about their religion (i.e., whether or not they are Muslim).  They will not be told to return to nations that don’t exist.
In short, their dissidence will be conceptualized as individual failures, not as evidence of cultural deficiency.
My article about the trouble with the phrase “support the troops” suddenly had nothing to do with its own rhetorical anatomy. Instead, it became a referendum on the evils of Islam and the vileness of Arab culture.
Ethnonationalism conjoins feelings of nationalistic ardor with rigid standards of ethnic belonging. West Bank settlers practice a form of ethnonationalism, as do Holland’s Party for Freedom, Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and the English Defence League.  Ethnonationalism doesn’t necessarily entail biological determinism (the notion that one’s biology ensures inborn characteristics), but it always enacts racialized criteria for its version of national identity. It often accommodates or incorporates homophobia and sexism. American ethnonationalism is no exception: the terms “bitch” and “faggot” so easily condemn those who eschew the demands of compulsory patriotism.
Ethnonationalism and patriotism aren’t always identical, but they are often interchangeable. Dominant notions of patriotism in today’s United States recycle the age-old assumption that the truest of all Americans, those who deserve the pleasure of abuse without accusations of atavistic disloyalty, are Christian, male, heterosexual and white.
* * *
Scandinavians aren’t fully white. The Irish aren’t at all white. Neither are Italians. Jews are genetically nonwhite. Ukrainians are but dark-hearted impostors. Greeks and Spaniards might as well be black.
At some point in American history, each of these statements was widely considered to be true. Somewhere along the way, each statement gave way to different truisms, depending on the social and political mood of the nation. Each community, in short, became at least white enough to escape the peripheries now inhabited by Latino/as, Arabs, Asians and Muslims.  (Blacks and Natives inhabit even more complex and insidious peripheries.)
American national identity has never been static, but its one constant is assimilation not into citizenship but into whiteness. The noun “American” is technically neutral, but its connotations reinforce whiteness as the default value of belonging. To mollify our denial, we piously hang flags in the gentrified precincts of our ethnonational geography.
Patriotism is the natural culmination of this phenomenon. To express loyalty to a national ideal, one must accept the assumptions that provide the ideal its power. When those assumptions demand conformity to the rules of white normativity, the ideal constantly recirculates the racism endemic to narratives of American exceptionalism.
Are all patriotic folks therefore racist? No. In fact, it is possible to be both patriotic and anti-racist. It is important to distinguish between racism as an ethic, attitude or philosophy and racism as a discourse transmitted through the broadcast of unexamined mythologies. Transmitting those discourses may not bespeak personal acceptance of racism, but it does bolster the institutions through which racism noiselessly affects the social order. Such is the tenacity of racism; it perpetuates itself even in the absence of direct endorsement.
Sometimes, however, an event unleashes the racism hidden in the structures of patriotism. It happens, for instance, when an Arab is (mistakenly) seen to be criticizing “the troops,” the most sacred trope of American pride.
* * *
I am not a fan of Barack Obama. Bank bailouts, kill lists, counterrevolutionary fervor, widespread torture — each policy is, in my opinion, unforgivable.  But Barack Obama and I share something in common. We both experience the relentless wrath of Islamophobia without actually being Muslim.
We are not alone. Islamophobes target those they wish to expunge from the national identity they craft by maintaining the romance of a purer Americana. One need only be plausibly Muslim to become a target.
Obama has inspired a resurgence of ethnonationalism. No modern politician’s ethnicity and religion have been so maligned, so mistrusted, as those of Obama, the heretical interloper, the untrue American. No birth certificate can overcome the aberrations of his funny name and dark complexion. No level of diplomacy and conciliation can appease the anxiety of the hyperpatriots who bestow on Obama a particular symbolism and then decry the decline of the nation as a result of his symbolic incivility.
Rooting out evidence of people’s foreignness has become such a common way to argue that it overwhelms any critical analysis proffered by those perceived to be Muslim (by virtue of brown skin, an unusual name, or distasteful headgear). Purveyors of this brand of ethnonationalism are rarely called unpatriotic because they govern the territories of normative American-ness. Patriotism is their domain, hostage to their definitional preferences.
In turn, patriotism is often a veiled lament at the changing demographics of the United States. There is no space in the real America for an alien president with socialist pathologies, immigrant hordes who undermine a timeless way of life, or an uppity jihadist who denounces the nation’s favorite platitude. By incessantly identifying and policing the limits of acceptable thought, ethnonationalists conjoin patriotic demands with implicit racial and sexual reproach (which periodically becomes explicit).  This relentless shaming of dissidence benefits precisely two demographics: politicians and their wealthy clientele.
We can spend energy formulating a more inclusive and thoughtful patriotism, but ultimately it wouldn’t be energy well spent. Patriotism can only benefit all citizens if the state and its institutions are inclusive of the entire populace. Until that happens, and it has never happened in any epoch of American history, patriotism will have a stronger relationship with ethnonationalism than with movements for equality.
In the meantime, we are stuck with this type of geopolitical analysis, distilled from the most patriotic of the pundits to the believing viewers and finally into the inboxes of the infidels: “Do not sit and mock this great country in defense of the violence-riddled, sexual predatorial, Jihadist nations of Africa and Middle East, that you yearned to get away from.”
Translation:  As long as the far right remains in charge of defining patriotism and the liberal left continues reinforcing those definitions through weak-kneed appeals to tolerance, broader conversations about the state of our nation will be lazy, irrational and violent — in other words, everything the current brand of patriotism asks us to be.
Steven Salaita is an associate professor of English. He tweets at @stevesalaita.

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