National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan attacked the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for assigning two gay attorneys to the team of attorneys working on Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, a case in which the Supreme Court will address the extent to which religious organizations can engage in discrimination without running afoul of sex discrimination law.
In a blog post, Whelan quoted discredited research from Pajamas Media to attack one of the attorneys, Aaron Schuham, for his previous position with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization dedicated to preserving the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
But Whelan then went a step further, stating that Schuham has a "same-sex partner [who] is ... Chris Anders, federal policy director for the ACLU's LGBT Rights project." Whelan further reported that another Justice Department attorney working on the case, Sharon McGowan, "was also a staffer on the ACLU's LGBT Rights project" and that she is married to a woman who is "the Family Equality Council's 'federal lobbyist on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family issues.' "
Whelan then used this information to spin a conspiracy theory about the Justice Department possibly using the discrimination case as a step in their agenda to "have gay causes trump religious liberty":
Thus, insofar as personnel is policy,* it may well be that the Obama DOJ's hostility to the ministerial exemption in the Hosanna-Tabor case is part and parcel of a broader ideological agenda that would have gay causes trump religious liberty.
So, in Whelan's opinion, should all gay lawyers have been barred from working on a case that deals with the application of anti-discrimination laws to religious freedom, or just the ones who were previously gay-rights activists or have same-sex partners who are gay-rights activists? Or is it OK to assign gay lawyers to the case, but only if the Justice Department takes a position more to Whelan's liking? Whatever Whelan meant, it's a ridiculous argument.
Kevin William Harpham, a Washington State resident with long-standing ties to the white supremacist movement, pled guilty today in connection with the attempted Martin Luther King Day parade bombing in Spokane last January.
According to the Justice Department press release announcing the plea:
On March 9, 2011, Harpham was arrested and charged by complaint with the crimes of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device. Today, Harpham pleaded guilty to two counts of a superseding indictment, charging Harpham with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempt to commit a federal hate crime. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity March was attended by hundreds of individuals, including racial minorities. The explosive device placed by Harpham was capable of inflicting serious injury or death, according to laboratory analysis conducted by the FBI.
The backpack bomb planted by Harpham along the parade route contained shrapnel dipped in rat poison, and was discovered minutes before parade marchers arrived.
Harpham's plea agreement calls for a sentence of 27 to 32 years in prison and for lifetime court supervision following his release.
In March, we reported on Harpham's white supremacist ties:
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Harpham was a member of the National Alliance, an infamous neo-Nazi organization, in late 2004. It's not clear when he joined the National Alliance or whether he's still a card-carrying member.
But an individual identifying himself as Kevin Harpham, who says he's a neo-Nazi who lives near Spokane, has been active on the crudely racist, anti-Semitic website Vanguard News Network since joining the online forum in November 2004.
Since then, Harpham has posted 1,069 comments to VNN using the moniker Joe Snuffy, slang for a low-ranking U.S. soldier. (Kevin William Harpham was apparently in the army in 1996-1997 and was based at Fort Lewis, Wash., the Southern Poverty Law Center reported earlier today.)
Harpham last posted to VNN on January 16, the day before the attempted MLK Day parade bombing.
Harpham is part of a wave of right-wing domestic terrorist plots in recent years, many conducted by similar "lone wolves."
Earlier this morning, a lone gunman, identified by law enforcement as Eduardo Sencion, opened fire at and around an IHOP in Carson City, NV, killing three people and injuring eight more before turning the weapon on himself.
According to law enforcement, he was using an AK-47, which is currently being examined to determine if it is semiautomatic or automatic.
From the Reno Gazette-Journal:
Authorities say gunman Eduardo Sencion used an AK-47 assault rifle in an IHOP attack that killed three people, including two members of the National Guard.
Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong says they're analyzing the weapon to determine whether it is automatic or semi-automatic.
Authorities at the scene reportedly "found one empty 30-round magazine and two more still containing rounds on the ground."
The gunman's motives are currently unclear, but law enforcement officers are reportedly attempting to determine whether he was targeting five uniformed National Guard members who were shot in the attack, with two fatalities.
As the Violence Policy Center has noted, while the 1994 federal assault weapons ban attempted to ban the AK-47, gun manufacturers quickly evaded the restriction "by making slight, cosmetic design changes to banned weapons." The ban subsequently expired in 2004. A 2003 VPC study found that one in five law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty from 1998 to 2001 were killed with an assault weapon.
At Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Joshua Green reports that for all the fearmongering from gun activists, President Obama has actually helped the gun industry, which he says has seen huge sales during his presidency:
In the time since he took office, gun sales have soared. The government doesn't track individual sales. But the FBI criminal background check required to purchase a gun is considered a reasonable proxy, and these have hit record numbers each year Obama has been in office. This year, they're on track to surpass 15 million for the first time.
Ruger has done especially well. Since Obama's inauguration the company's stock price has risen more than 400 percent, making it a better investment than gold, which is up 113 percent. "They've been outstanding in offering new products, especially in the concealable handgun segment," says Jim Barrett, an analyst at CL King who tracks the gun industry and rates the company a "strong buy."
Analysts anticipated a brief jump in firearm sales after the election as many gun owners, fearful that a new Democratic President would move to ban assault weapons, fortified their home arsenals. "Initially, what spiked were the tactical rifles, the stuff Rambo might use," says Barrett. As a result, 2009 was "a blockbuster year."
So was 2010. And so is 2011.
CEO Michael O. Fifer alluded to this concern in a July sales call. "I think half of the people in the firearms industry, if asked, would hope [Obama] is not President, but then will secretly go out and vote for him again," Fifer said.
Not all the available data suggests that such a boom is occurring. Indeed, the number of households owning a gun has been in long term decline. But whether or not the gun industry and their enablers have actually succeeded in increasing gun sales by frightening Americans gun owners into thinking that confiscation is around the corner, there's certainly no doubt that they've tried to do so.
While Green does a great job in pointing to the National Rifle Association's role in ginning up the fears of government confiscation of firearms in order to boost gun sales (a role for which they are rewarded by donations from the gun industry), he leaves out the right-wing media's important position in this cycle.
Following President Obama's election, several right-wing radio hosts including Sean Hannity warned their listeners that the new administration would outlaw and confiscate all guns. At roughly the same time, the Los Angeles Times reported that "gun buyers across the country are flocking to gun stores to stock up on assault rifles, handguns and ammunition."
Since then, the right-wing media has regularly pushed similar claims. They've baselessly warned of the alleged confiscatory tendencies of Nancy Pelosi and Sonia Sotomayor. They've used everything from the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords (R-AZ) to the recent rule requiring gun dealers to inform the ATF when someone buys more than one of certain types of guns a week to promote their conspiracies.
These kinds of dishonest claims may boost the bottom line of the gun industry, but they also bring with them a body count. In April 2009, Richard Poplawski, a 22-year-old neo-Nazi, shot and killed three police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call at his Pittsburgh home. According to one of his friends, Poplawski was afraid of "the Obama gun ban that's on the way." He also reportedly "loved Glenn Beck," who regular promotes these gun confiscation conspiracies.
Indeed, Beck responded to the Pittsburgh shooting by both denying any personal responsibility for the crime and claiming that Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun." In June, Beck went as far to ask his audience, "why would you get a gun?" before pointing to a picture of President Obama and regulatory official Cass Sunstein.
How does the right-wing media benefit from stoking the fears of their audience in this manner? Just as the NRA is the recipient of gun industry donations, conservative radio hosts may find themselves the recipients of gun industry advertising. It is a lucrative cycle, but potentially a deadly one.
For months, the right-wing media has been desperately trying to tie the ATF's failed Fast and Furious operation to the upper reaches of the Justice Department and the White House, claiming that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder must have known the flawed techniques used by the ATF despite their denials.
The right-wing media claimed that the stimulus funded the operation; that wasn't true. They claimed that Attorney General Holder "took credit" for Fast and Furious in a speech; that wasn't true either. They've even claimed, absent any evidence whatsoever, that the Obama administration deliberately set up the operation to arm Mexican drug cartels in order to justify increased gun control.
But in an appearance today on Fox News, Michael Sullivan, acting director of the ATF under President Bush, pushed back against such claims, saying that Operation Fast and Furious was "well within the rights of the director [of ATF] to approve or reject," and that he would be "surprised" to learn that "authorities outside the ATF" would have known the details of a specific firearms trafficking operation.
KELLY WRIGHT (ANCHOR): The President says he knew nothing about the operation, but the Justice Department has been slow in responding. Do you think this will lead all the way to the White House being involved?
SULLIVAN: I would be surprised. From our experience at ATF, firearms trafficking cases were fairly routine in terms of the nature and scope of the investigations. They didn't require authorities outside of ATF, and for the purpose of initiating it. Could folks have been briefed up, considering the violence in Mexico and the violence on the border, about the strategy, that's clearly possible. But the project itself was well within the rights of the director to essentially approve or to reject.
Thus far, the Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit that PajamasMedia.com filed against the U.S. Department of Justice has resulted in the disclosure of dozens of DOJ employee resumes and nine largely ignored columns by Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams and Richard Pollock.
"Every Single One" is their ongoing series of posts that tediously tick off the prior work experiences of DOJ lawyers followed by commentary declaring them unabashed left-wing radicals. Ostensibly, the point of the exercise is to establish a case that the administration of President Obama is engaging in the same kind of politicized hiring at DOJ that President Bush was found to have done. Their work has been an utter failure.
Von Spakovsky et al have provided no evidence of politicized hiring practices and have been content to make the lazy claim that, given "every single one" of the latest DOJ hires is liberal, improper procedures must have been used. Unfortunately, they've failed even at this. In order to make their case that every DOJ hire is liberal, they've concocted a definition of liberal so broad that even Pollack himself likely would have to be labeled as a radical leftist.
Washington Times columnist, Fox News regular, and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is no stranger to violent rhetoric. But today's column seems to sets a new standard for depraved bloodthirst.
Nugent notes that the war in Afghanistan has cost the lives of more than 1,500 American soldiers, along with hundreds of billions of dollars. He comments than "Americans should demand to know specifically what we got for the lives and treasure." That seems like a reasonable statement... until Nugent lays out those specifics.
Nugent wants a "voodoo-vermin body count." He wants to know not only how many "voodoo terror maggots our military has killed," but also wants estimates for how many the military has "wounded and maimed," how many "caves and tents used to provide refuge for terror punks have been destroyed" and how many of their goats we have killed.
He goes on to write:
We can go to Recovery.gov to see how "every cent" of our tax dollars has been spent on reigniting the economy and how many jobs have been created. Why can't we go to a website such as Wipethemofftheplanet.org and see how many voodoo whack jobs our warriors have killed and wounded every day and how many in total we have caused to assume cave temperature and wounded?
I want to see a voodoo-vermin body-count digital board updated in real time much like the debt clock.
The real reason Americans aren't told how many voodoo vermin our military have killed and wounded is that it would not be politically correct. The current crop of Fedzillacrats running America probably believe that those statistics would offend other terrorists and cause them to get even angrier at America. Good.
We should want to make other terrorists and those who support them filled with rage. We should want the enemy to hate us, call us the Great Satan. No, we can't all just get along.
In July, Nugent's publicist denied a Media Matters request for an interview after seeing a list of our questions, which focused on his violent and extreme rhetoric. The publicist told us they wanted to maintain a focus on Nugent's "music and not political statements."
That's a smart PR strategy, but it won't end the questions about Nugent's violent rhetoric or the complicity of the right-wing media and the NRA who provide a forum for his extremism.
From the August 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Last summer, Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist appeared on CNN's Larry King Live to defend Arizona's notorious immigration crackdown law, SB 1070.
The law requires that local and state police officers check the immigration status of any individual they encounter in the course of their law enforcement duties who the officer reasonably suspects to be an immigrant in the country illegally.
Pressed by CNN host Larry King to explain what sort of criteria officers might legitimately use, Gilchrist said, "Responding to an officer, 'No hablo English, Gringo go back to Europe.' Obviously there's an issue there that probably the person may be illegal and perhaps the officer should pursue that."
King identified Gilchrist as the founder and president of the Minuteman Project. That's half-true. Gilchrist is co-founder of the Minuteman Project, the nativist group that popularized the concept of placing armed but untrained civilian volunteers on the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage immigrants from entering the country illegally. But he's not been the group's president since February 2007 when the Minuteman Project board of directors fired Gilchrist for allegedly stealing donations.
Gilchrist promptly launched a new organization called Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project, which is little more than a website promoting Gilchrist.
Long after he was being drummed out of the civilian border patrol movement he played a major role in creating and despite repeated revelations of the white supremacist ties of his followers, including murderer Shawna Forde, Gilchrist continued to be invited to speak at universities and appear on major cable news shows. He's been treated by the media as a legitimate authority on immigration issues and often misidentified as the current president of the Minuteman Project.
Last campaign season, Gilchrist further raised his profile by endorsing and stumping for at least ten Republican state and national candidates who sought his help in burnishing their tough-on-immigration credentials. Through all this, Gilchrist has continued to deny that he misappropriated funds. On the issue of white supremacists involving themselves in the movement he played a major role in creating, however, Gilchrist expresses regret.
"Racial supremacists have been a thorn in my side from day one," he told me earlier this year. "They existed in the Minuteman movement, but they had no legitimate reason for being there, because they do nothing to promote equal treatment under the law for all, which after all was our main goal."
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again, that I am very, very disappointed and saddened at the outcome of the Minuteman Project and the citizen border watch movement," Gilchrist said. "All these different organizations and groups just started calling themselves Minuteman this or Minuteman that and unfortunately it turned out that some of the people involved in them had sinister intentions."
Are you a right-winger with an axe to grind and a book to sell? Having trouble getting anyone to pay attention to your expensive non-story about liberal evildoers? Then call Caroline May, intrepid reporter for Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller! The Caller has substantial experience repeating verbatim the politically-tinged accusations made by right-wing figures, and May knows just how to conceal your conservative credentials in an effort to make your story seem credible.
In the latest example of ethical subterfuge, May has written a news story that repeats the claims by conservative bloggers J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky that the hiring practices at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) "have become politicized under Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration."
Importantly, May doesn't turn a critical eye to the research methods used by Adams and Spakovsky to come to their conclusion that "every single new hire" at DOJ's Civil Rights Division "boasted far-left resumes," she simply pushes their complaints forward. More importantly, May -- for the second time -- completely omits any mention that Adams and Spakovsky played a central role in the saga of politicization at DOJ under President Bush.
May's story is only newsworthy if the "former Department of Justice officials" (Adams and von Spakovsky) she cites are trustworthy sources whose call for investigation is objectively warranted and not based on an ulterior political motive. It's ethically imperative, then, that their significant right-wing backgrounds are disclosed so that readers can fairly assess the credibility of their work and their claims. May does not even attempt this.
An August 25 Red State post falsely claimed the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) "skirt[ed] Congress" by issuing a recent rule requiring employers to notify employees of their labor rights. In fact, the NLRB has legal authority to issue rules which regulate employers under the National Labor Relations Act.
|From Trace The Guns|
The National Rifle Association's (NRA) favorite talking point is that we need to "enforce gun laws on books already before passing more." This sentiment was echoed by Pennsylvania blogger Sebastian at the gun blog Snow Flakes In Hell recently as he dismissed efforts to improve gun laws that combat gun trafficking.
Sebastian has been a featured guest on the National Rifle Association's (NRA) media outlets so it's not surprising to see he is blind to the role the gun lobby has played in making gun laws largely unenforceable.
Sebastian takes issue with the below segment in a The Times of Trenton column by Brady Campaign vice president Daniel Vice:
But our country's weak gun laws allow traffickers and killers to stockpile guns in states with weaker laws and smuggle them into our communities. In New Jersey, strong laws make it so much harder for criminals to get firearms that guns flood in from states with weak gun laws at a rate seven times higher than the number of crime guns trafficked out of the state.
Responding, Sebastian writes:
That's funny, because in the country I live in this practice is a felony. So I would like to understand how our "weak guns laws" are allowing criminals to "stockpile guns" in states with "weaker laws." In all 50 states, it's a felony for criminals to have a single gun or round of ammunition, let alone stockpile them. I'm afraid the weak laws they are speaking of are laws which allow them to be sold at all. One reason firearms are trafficked into New Jersey is that New Jersey only has a relatively small number of FFLs compared to most other states. There are few legal channels in the Garden State, so criminals do what the law abiding can't, go out of state.
Regardless of how New Jersey compares to other States there are lots of Federal Firearms Licensees in New Jersey. Further, there is no reason to assume the gun traffickers Vice mentions are necessarily previously convicted criminals unable to legally obtain firearms.
But to answer the question of how weak gun laws facilitate trafficking is pretty straight forward: the gun lobby kneecaps enforcement efforts at every possible opportunity.
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) leader William Gheen has frequently presented himself as a moderate within the American nativist movement since founding ALIPAC in 2005.
Last May, for example, Gheen yanked ALIPAC's backing of a major rally for Arizona's notorious immigration crackdown law, S.B. 1070, after learning that one of its organizers was linked to racist skinhead groups.
Such anti-extremist posturing has lent Gheen mainstream media credibility. He's been quoted often, nearly two dozen times by mainstream papers in the last six months, according to a Nexis search. Even The New York Times included his comments in a story on border security published August 9.
Earlier this week, however, Gheen appeared to relinquish his mainstream legitimacy in favor of predicting race war and endorsing violence in response to the immigration policies of "Dictator Barack Obama."
As first reported by Right Wing Watch, Gheen argued on the air that the Obama administration is preparing for "conflict with White America" by allowing millions of non-white immigrants into the U.S. to "back them up."
Gheen advocated for "illegal and violent" actions in response.
GHEEN: What Janet Napolitano has spent most of her time doing in the last couple of months has been, one, preparing the new spy network that's available now, the new data-collecting, see everything you do online, beyond the normal terrorist list that they're creating, they're creating a much larger list now of people who might be troublesome here in the country. And putting out videos and propaganda telegraphing what I believe to be a conflict with White America they're preparing for after they get another 10 or 15 million people in the country to back them up.
We're no longer referring to him as President Barack Obama, our national organization has made the decision and made the announcement we now refer to him as Dictator Barack Obama. That's what he is. And basically at this point, if you're looking for a peaceful, political recourse there really isn't one that we can think of, and I'm really not sure what to tell people out there other than I guess they need to make decisions soon to just accept whatever comes next or some type of extra-political activities that I can't really even talk about because they're all illegal and violent.
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that while open expressions of racial radicalism are new for Gheen, the ALIPAC leader is "no stranger to more more garden-variety bigotry and fear-mongering":
He has accused Mexican immigrants of carrying infectious diseases and plotting to take over the Southwest. In April 2010, he targeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), claiming that the 56-year-old bachelor is gay and saying he should come out to avoid being blackmailed into working with Democrats on immigration reform. In July 2010, Gheen told revisionist "historian" David Barton that LGBT people secretly want to import undocumented immigrants as a way of "replacing many core Americans and American values," part of an overall "war" against Americans.
For the past couple of weeks, Pajamas Media (PJM) has been pushing what they believe to be is a profound disclosure of personal information about new employees at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. PJM contributors Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams have been struggling to make the case that the Obama administration is politicizing the DOJ the way the Bush administration was found to have done, and now that they've gone through the trouble of filing a lawsuit to obtain the resumes of everyone hired at DOJ's Civil Rights Division since 2009, they are desperate to make their investment worthwhile. As a result, PJM has decided to run with the theme that "every single one" of the new hires is a "far-left" liberal.
Their arguments have so far provided no evidence whatsoever that qualified, similarly-situated conservative applicants to the Civil Rights Division were turned away for a lack of liberal credentials. Instead, they rely on the assertion that because all of the new hires are liberal, it defies probability that conservatives weren't rejected for political reasons. Despite the logical inadequacy of this argument, it relies on a definition of "liberal" that is completely constructed by von Spakovsky and Adams. Their frantic attempts to make a case of politicization against Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration results in a broad, and at times ridiculous, characterization of what activities and affiliations constitute sufficient evidence of one's liberal worldview.
Here are just a few of the previous employers and affiliations that PJM believes are liberal (which by contrast reveals a lot about what von Spakovsky and Adams must believe conservative values do or do not encompass):
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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