“Patriot” Watch, Ctd. 7 – Jim Crow Edition

There has not been a “Patriot” Watch post on Semi-Partisan Sam for several months now, but this does not mean that America’s true patriots (ha) have been derelict in their duties. And by “duties”, I mean their habit of saying ever more outrageous things, associating themselves with thoroughly debunked ideologies and individuals, and generally causing embarrassment to mainstream conservatives who doesn’t necessarily view every implementation of an Obama policy as a call to reach for their muskets and tri-corner hats to march to Washington.

Honoring America...
Honoring America…

Salon Magazine has been keeping tabs, and has published a list of what they call “seven crazy right wing statements” that took place in just the past seven days. It is not an edifying spectacle:

1. Ted Cruz: We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the Senate

2. Glenn Beck: War is a progressive idea so I am now against it

3. Alex Jones: Globalist cyborgs are coming

4. Stuart Varney and Monica Crowley: EPA is trying to suffocate children

5. Minnesota archbishop: Satan is behind gay marriage

6. Texas GOP gov. candidate tweets that Wendy Davis is “too stupid to be governor.”

7. Internet advice from a nobody who wants to ruin perfect strangers’ lives: Dads, don’t educate your daughters!

Readers can delve into each of these gems at their own leisure; for the purposes of this entry I will focus on just one – Senator Ted Cruz’s unfortunate speech at a Heritage Foundation event honouring the late Senator Jesse Helms. Salon sums up Helms’ character and accomplishments thus:

For those who don’t remember, here are some of the fun-filled, wacky things Helms said and did:

  • He sang the confederate anthem “Dixie” in an elevator with Carol Moseley-Braun, the African-American senator from Illinois, and told Sen. Orrin Hatch in front of her that he was trying to make her cry.
  • He opposed integration, or “mixing of the races,” and called the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists” because it was integrated.
  • He led a one-man, 16-day filibuster opposing the designation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday, and threatened to lead one to save South African apartheid.
  • More comically, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he seemed unable to absorb the fact that the North Korean president’s name was Kim Jong Il, not Kim Jong 2.
  • Unlike other like-minded Southern politicians Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, Helms never disavowed his racist, segregationist views even on his deathbed in 2008.

And this is the man that Ted Cruz chose to praise. In public.

Children, never meet your heroes. Never meet them, for you are bound to be disappointed. This blog has been an unabashed supporter of the likes of former Texas congressman Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, for some time. Frankly, their libertarian, small government message and advocacy for the “real people” as opposed to the moneyed and powerful special interest and elites is a very attractive political quality, albeit one that is dulled somewhat by their obsession with gold and abolishing the Federal Reserve.

But it seems that every time a seemingly viable libertarian-leaning politician emerges on the scene, they manage to torpedo themselves by doing something terribly naive, untoward or downright foolish. In the case of Paul Sr. we had the racist articles in the Ron Paul Newsletter, and in the case of Ted Cruz, the latest rising libertarian star, we now have recorded video footage of him praising an unrepentant racist and segregationist politician for going to Washington D.C. and “saying crazy things”.

Rachel Maddow does a good a job as any of expressing revulsion at Cruz’s decision to praise Helms in such a way:

 

With the Republican Party today, it always seems to be one step forward followed by two steps back. There were initially hopes after the 2012 election that the GOP might revise its stance on immigration reform so as to avoid demographic suicide in the coming decades, but this was swiftly followed by derogatory talk of latino “wetbacks” and children with “calves the size of cantaloupes” (from hauling drugs across the border, apparently) coming from elected Republican lawmakers.

Similarly, with the (at least partial) discrediting of the big-government, big-spending, deficits-be-damned, hawkish neo-conservative wing of the Republican party, it seemed as though an influx of new voices (such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) might lead the GOP to a more appealing, sustainable stance in favour of protecting the rights of the average person rather than the moneyed special interest. One step forward. But, of course, this was followed by lots of shrieking about the unstoppable tide of Obamaist socialism in America, and coddling up to birthers and out-and-out racists. Two steps back.

Not enough people for the GOP to win a national majority again.
Not enough people for the GOP to win a national majority again.

Most of the reasons that this stance is so attractive to Republicans in the short term but so decisively in the medium to long terms have already been covered on this blog and elsewhere. But one angle that perhaps has not been discussed enough is the off-putting effect that these unsavoury positions have on younger voters. We have already seen the GOP reduce their opposition to gay marriage in light of its growing approval, seeming inevitability and support among young people.

Senators Cruz et al. would do well to remember that young people are also, generally speaking, not great fans of racism, segregation or Jim Crow laws, and that speaking at events honouring dead politicians who unabashedly supported all of these things is terrible, terrible PR for the party among new and future voters.

I beg the GOP, as someone who is naturally conservative and libertarian, and would have voted Republican in a previous age – courting the fringe as you are doing now is not worth the damage you are doing to the country, the two-party system or your own future political prospects.

More Praise For The Vatican

Well, for its current occupant, to be more precise. MSNBC host Chris Hayes (who mirrors his mentor Rachel Maddow in speech and writing to a remarkable degree), is the latest to fall under the spell of Pope Francis I, for many of the same reasons that this blog has praised the new pontiff.

francis1

Hayes gushes:

You know who I freakin’ love? This new pope. Pope Francis. You know who I’m talking about, right? The pope. Are you watching this guy? Because you should be. It’s early, but I’m thinking… best pope ever.

That’s original emphasis, by the way. Aside from the redundancy of explaining to his viewers and readers that Pope Francis is indeed the pope, the style is just like Rachel Maddow Mark 2, right? The stylistic similarities between Maddow and her protege are quite astounding. But I digress. Hayes also picks up on the new pope’s penchant for making cold-calls to the faithful who write to him of their problems:

Perhaps most amazing of all: the pope is now picking up the phone and calling people who write to him for advice and prayers—earning him the nickname “Cold Call Pope.” He phoned a woman who had been raped by a police officer in Argentina, telling her she was not alone, and to have faith in the justice system.

He’s comforted a pregnant woman whose married boyfriend tried to pressure her into an abortion, Francis offering to personally baptize her baby.

He also rightly picks up on Francis’ more humble demeanor:

He showed up to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, not in the imposing Popemobile, but in the back of a rental car. He’s not above taking a selfie with the kids. He plans on driving a used car around town. And he’s urged others to do the same: ”It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”

francis2

The one area where Hayes and I differ is the degree to which this wonderful, welcome rhetorical shift will actually lead to any significant step change in Church doctrine or Vatican policy. Hayes says this in his article:

But Francis has also shown he’s pretty good substantively, as well. On the once taboo subject of homosexuality, Francis told reporters: ”If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Clearly, he sees this as something substantive, but I find it hard to apply that term unless there are meaningful changes afoot to reform Church teachings on gay marriage, the ordination of women priests and other such issues – something that is clearly not on the horizon.

Nevertheless, I join Chris Hayes in celebrating the warmer, more inclusive tone now emanating from the Vatican. May it spread down from Pope Francis to his brother cardinals, the archbishops, bishops, priests and of course the laity, where it might really start to do some good.

Some interesting and fun Pope Francis memes can be found here.

Kerry: Free War!!!

The concept of a “Free War” with the tab picked up by Middle-Eastern “allies” such as Saudi Arabia is never a good idea, as blogger Jonathan Turley eloquently points out. Reading this piece made me think back to Rachel Maddow’s excellent book “Drift”, in which she discusses the various ways that it has become easier for America to slide into wars around the country with less and less political debate or oversight to authorise the action. One of the key points that Maddow makes is the fact that because recent wars have been kept off the books, budget wise, the American public is much more likely to support a war when there will be no additional taxation demanded of them to fund it – thus enabling the warmongers Dick Cheney and George W Bush. Kerry’s attempt to sell military action in Syria based on the nebulous idea that Arab countries might pay part or all of the cost is just a continuation of this same trend – trying to coax people into supporting a heavy-handed, militaristic foreign policy entailing lots of foreign wars with the promise that it will not cost them anything.

JONATHAN TURLEY

220px-John_Kerry_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait187px-Vince_Offer_at_Rosebowl_FleamarketThis week Secretary of State John Kerry became the Sham-Wow man for the latest war by the United States. Here is how a Sham-War pitch works. Kerry announced that the Arab countries will pay for our entire war if we invade Syria. That’s right, we can simply rent out U.S. personnel like mercenaries for Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations. First we have Nancy Pelosi explaining the war literally in five-year-old terms and now John Kerry doing his imitation of Offer “Vince” Shlomi.

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On Criminal NSA Overreach

Some very disturbing new findings about the extent to which the  US government uses the vast power of its surveillance apparatus to tackle suspected domestic crime. Of course, up until this point we had been reassured that the draconian collection of telecommunications metadata and the full-on tapping of telephone calls and online communications was used only to help prosecute the “War On Terror”. This has now been revealed to be a total sham.

Rachel Maddow breaks down the extent of this surreptitious, lawless activity on her show:

 

And Reuters reports:

Reuters has uncovered previously unreported details about a separate program, run by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, that extends well beyond intelligence gathering. Its use, legal experts say, raises fundamental questions about whether the government is concealing information used to investigate and help build criminal cases against American citizens.

The DEA program is run by a secretive unit called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Here is how NSA efforts exposed by Snowden differ from the activities of the SOD:

Purpose of the programs

NSA: To use electronic surveillance to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation catch terrorists, the U.S. military fight wars, and the Central Intelligence Agency collect intelligence about foreign governments.

SOD: To help the DEA and other law enforcement agents launch criminal investigations of drug dealers, money launderers and other common criminals, including Americans. The unit also handles global narco-terrorism cases.

So to be perfectly clear – the United States government has explicitly decided to allow this vast spying program to be turned inwards to aid local law enforcement in their daily mundane activities. According to the (already flimsy) assurances that we were given when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s secret programmes, the spying apparatus was to be used only to seek out and intercept communications between non-US citizens that represented a terrorism threat. But it turns out that this is not the case. If an intelligence analyst happens to eavesdrop on your telephone call and finds out that you want to (hypothetically) buy some pot from your friendly local drug dealer, that information might then be surreptitiously passed on to the DEA, who could then come and raid your home. Based on intelligence which they have no right to be privy to.

But worst of all is this bombshell:

Disclosure to the accused

NSA: Collection of domestic data by the NSA and FBI for espionage and terrorism cases is regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. If prosecutors intend to use FISA or other classified evidence in court, they issue a public notice, and a judge determines whether the defense is entitled to review the evidence. In a court filing last week, prosecutors said they will now notify defendants whenever the NSA phone-records database is used during an investigation.

SOD: A document reviewed by Reuters shows that federal drug agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to conceal the SOD’s involvement. Defense attorneys, former prosecutors and judges say the practice prevents defendants from even knowing about evidence that might be exculpatory. They say it circumvents court procedures for weighing whether sensitive, classified or FISA evidence must be disclosed to a defendant.

Local and federal law enforcement officers are actually being trained – instructed – to cover up the fact that the evidence they use to come and arrest you was unlawfully shared by the folks at the NSA. Apparently the clinical, non-threatening term for this is “recreating the investigative trail”. So rather than going to court and admitting that your evidence against the accused came from an NSA tip-off based on illegal spying by the government, agents are encouraged to falsify the account of their investigations and potentially perjure themselves by stating on the record that it was their own brilliant deductive and crime-solving abilities which led to the arrest.

It is hard to adequately describe how foul, deceitful and criminal this behaviour really is.

There was no excuse for allowing the NSA to violate the fourth amendment protection against unreasonable or unwarranted searches when it pertained to potential terrorism. There is certainly no excuse for widening this harassment in aid of civilian law enforcement.

Semi-Partisan Sam says no. This oppressive “national security” apparatus must be rolled back, and those responsible for willfully violating the Constitution must face the legal consequences of their actions.

The Tragedy Of Anthony Weiner

I have refrained from commenting on the slow-motion car crash that has been Anthony Weiner’s campaign to be the next mayor of New York City, partly because it has been hard to keep up with each new lurid detail or revelation that has emerged with every passing day, but also because the story is just very profoundly sad. Here is a very gifted politician, someone who clearly and viscerally cares about New Yorkers, undone by bizarre and foolish decisions made in his personal life.

Rachel Maddow did a good, and fairly humorous, breakdown of the story on one of her recent shows:

 

It is hard to disagree with her analysis. But with the latest polling data showing Weiner slipping into fourth place, it is also disappointing, because of the various Democratic mayoral candidates, he is the only one who possesses anything approaching real charisma or political astuteness. Were it not for his personal demons and indiscretions, he would likely make a very decent mayor, and a great ambassador for the city.

But since this is now almost certainly not going to transpire, rather than laughing at the man any further, it might be good to look back at some of the political waves that he made, and the highlights from his congressional career:

 

The man is a good politician, you have to hand it to him. As regular readers will know, I am scrupulously Semi-Partisan. But nonetheless I must admit it is quite cathartic to watch a Democrat who can deliver a line and give as good as so many Republicans are able to do. Lord knows the Democratic Party needs more public figures like Anthony Weiner. Just with less sexting on the side.