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“The Lessons Of Charleston”: The Real Threat To America Is Right-Wing Terrorism

On Wednesday night, a man named Dylann Storm Roof allegedly entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a prayer meeting. There he reportedly sat quietly for almost an hour, before opening fire with a pistol and killing nine people. He has since been captured.

When a mass shooting happens, people naturally wonder about the motivation. What we know so far is that Roof made overtly racist remarks to his friends; boasted a Facebook profile picture that showed him wearing the flags of white supremacist African states; and allegedly told one of the victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” It seems a safe bet that racism was a likely motive in the Charleston shooting.

Until we know more about the gunman, it’s impossible to get more specific than that. What can be said, however, is that the attack is congruous with America’s history of white supremacy and right-wing extremism, a real domestic threat that far outstrips that of Islamist terrorism. If terror is the mortal threat it has long been trumped up to be, then we must conclude that our whole political and law enforcement apparatus has been pointed in the wrong direction.

First, this should be emphasized: Random murders of black civilians are not some historical aberration. On the contrary, they were the very foundation of the political system in the American South for something like 90 years. Segregation and Jim Crow did not just mean separate drinking fountains, but a system of racial subordination in which blacks were controlled through fear of psychotic violence. This shooting spree is the worst single incident in many years — but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Colfax Massacre. If he had done it in 1890, the Charleston gunman probably wouldn’t have even been arrested.

That ugly history has not been confronted in a remotely honest way. Right now, the flag of treason, chattel slavery, and apartheid flies over a Civil War memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. In 2014, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended this placement, noting that she had heard no complaints from local CEOs.

That brings me to right-wing militant activity, which also has not been confronted. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security finished a report on right-wing extremism, started during the Bush years. It argued that the election of the first black president, the Great Recession, and veterans having trouble adjusting to civilian life (Timothy McVeigh was a veteran of Desert Storm), and other factors might lead to a spate of terrorist attacks, similar to what happened in the 1990s. It was mainly a cautionary note, proposing little aside from increased watchfulness and naming no specific threats.

Nevertheless, the backlash from conservatives was immediate and fierce. Pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin spun it as indicting all veterans and conservatives. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano eventually withdrew the report, and apologized repeatedly.

Six years later, how have things turned out?

Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012. [The New York Times]

Those few Islamist plots — a great many of which were basically created wholesale by the FBI — are presented as justification for tremendous effort on the part of law enforcement and the military. They assassinate American Muslims overseas. They deluge American mosques with infiltrators and spies. They keep innocent people in Guantanamo Bay for year after year.

Since 9/11, right-wing terrorists have killed more than five times as many people as Islamist ones. Yet a short study warning to keep a watchful attitude towards the former is met with enraged hostility. It reveals both the small actual danger of Islamist terrorism, and the utterly ridiculous and hypocritical way in which anti-terrorism resources are allocated.

Still, if conservatives are confident in their ideas, and do not subscribe to the paranoid delusions of the sovereign citizen, white supremacist, or neo-Nazi movements, they should not feel threatened by close investigations of such people. But I’m not holding my breath.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 19, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Right Wing Extremisim, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Still Remains Popular Within The State”: South Carolina’s Complicated Relationship With The Death Penalty

If prosecutors convict Dylann Storm Roof and then seek the death penalty—and despite calls from Governor Nikki Haley, it’s not clear they will—the Charleston shooting suspect could be sitting on death row for a long time. The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011, despite a list of 44 people awaiting execution. The pace of executions has slowed to a crawl, in a state that has put 282 people to death over approximately the last century. And the reasons that this slowdown has happened may also give prosecutors pause in this case.

In its earliest days, South Carolina was notoriously expansive in its definition of what qualified for the death penalty; a slave could be put to death for destroying grain, for instance. It is still one of the top 10 states for per capita executions, following the Supreme Court suspension of the dealth penalty in 1976 and its subsequent reinstatement. But South Carolina’s relationship with capital punishment has gotten complicated, some for reasons that align with national trends and some specific to the state. On one hand, it’s a place where, just last year, a judge posthumously exonerated a black boy executed in 1944—the kind of case that has led some states to move away from the death penalty. On the other hand, months later, a state legislator sought the reintroduction of firing squads to make it easier to execute criminals.

One cause of the statewide drop in executions helps explain why there would even be a doubt about whether Roof will face the death penalty: It’s expensive. In 2012, one South Carolina prosecutor who had intended to seek the death penalty changed his mind because of the cost. “Once you file for the death penalty, the clock gets moving and the money, the taxpayers start paying for that trial,” he said, reflecting broader angst in the state about the price of death penalty trials, appeals, and retrials, compared to a life sentence. Mathematically, if fewer prosecutors seek the death penalty, the result is fewer executions. Roof’s case would seem a likely candidate to set aside the question of cost, and some predict the death penalty will indeed be sought. But then, it would surely be one of the costlier death penalty trials, because there’s a link between a case’s prominence and its price. (The prosecutor leading the Roof case is controversial with the black community.)

But there are other reasons for the decline in the execution rate, according to South Carolina government officials, namely the difficulty in acquiring drugs needed for lethal injections. “Right now, what we’re doing is we are looking and reaching out to pharmacies and suppliers et cetera to try to find pentobarbital,” S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said, explaining how the shortage contributed to the slowdown. “We have thus far not been successful at that.” The availability of drugs is an issue other states are confronting, too. Overall, the drop in executions in South Carolina and the reasons for that are “consistent with across the country,” says Emily Paavola, executive director of the state’s Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center.

But the death penalty still remains popular within the state. Nationwide, public support for capital punishment has fallen, partly stemming from the number of exonerations of death row inmates and partly stemming from declining crime rates; that has, in turn, driven politicians in many states to oppose capital punishment. But even death penalty opponents admit that the same shift has yet to happen in South Carolina, except, Paavola says, with regard to the use of the death penalty for the mentally ill, the subject of a poll by her group in 2009.

Opponents of the death penalty have tried to seize on the case of South Carolina’s George Stinney to shift public attitudes. Even among historical exonerations, Stinney’s case stands out: The 14-year-old was electrocuted more than 70 years ago after a two-hour trial that convicted him of beating two white girls to death; in 2014, he was posthumuously exonerated by a judge who cited the all-white jury and a compromised confession. “The case has haunted the town since it happened,” the Washington Post wrote, and “Stinney’s case has tormented civil rights advocates for years.” One of the defense attorneys working the case said the state needed to correct the record. “South Carolina still recognizes George Stinney as a murderer,” Matt Burgess told CNN. “We felt that something needed to be done about that.”

But the Stinney case hasn’t put a halt to a steady stream of bills introduced in the Statehouse that meant to make capital punishment easier, like the legislation introduced by State Representative Joshua A. Putnam to allow firing squads to be used when lethal injection drugs aren’t available. Overall, Paavola’s group has watched the list of factors that makes a case qualify as death-eligible grow since 1976. “The Legislature has, over the years since the death penalty was reinstated, expanded that,” she said, but she noted that individual prosecutors have used their discretion differently. ”From our perspective, the result is, often, very arbitrary selection.”

The Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center isn’t commenting on the Roof case, at least not yet. But on the day of the Charleston shooting, the group called it a “sad day for all in SC.” And the group noted that it had just recently started working with State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was among the murdered. He had been helping them fight a bill that would hide information about how lethal injections are carried out from the general public.


By: Tim Starks, The New Republic, June 19, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, South Carolina | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Consistently Stirring Up Racial Animus”: Right Wing Media And Their “Racialized Political Fodder”

In what is purported to be Dylann Roof’s “manifesto,” he writes that this is where it all began:

The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Reading that reminded me of how Ta-Nehisi Coates meticulously laid out the process by which the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman became “racialized political fodder” for right wing media.

The reaction to the tragedy was, at first, trans-partisan. Conservatives either said nothing or offered tepid support for a full investigation—and in fact it was the Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, who appointed the special prosecutor who ultimately charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. As civil-rights activists descended on Florida, National Review, a magazine that once opposed integration, ran a column proclaiming “Al Sharpton Is Right.” The belief that a young man should be able to go to the store for Skittles and an iced tea and not be killed by a neighborhood watch patroller seemed uncontroversial…

The moment Obama spoke, the case of Trayvon Martin passed out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder. The illusion of consensus crumbled. Rush Limbaugh denounced Obama’s claim of empathy. The Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, broadcast all of Martin’s tweets, the most loutish of which revealed him to have committed the unpardonable sin of speaking like a 17-year-old boy. A white supremacist site called Stormfront produced a photo of Martin with pants sagging, flipping the bird. Business Insider posted the photograph and took it down without apology when it was revealed to be a fake.

Newt Gingrich pounced on Obama’s comments: “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it wouldn’t look like him?” Reverting to form, National Review decided the real problem was that we were interested in the deaths of black youths only when nonblacks pulled the trigger. John Derbyshire, writing for Taki’s Magazine, an iconoclastic libertarian publication, composed a racist advice column for his children inspired by the Martin affair. (Among Derbyshire’s tips: never help black people in any kind of distress; avoid large gatherings of black people; cultivate black friends to shield yourself from charges of racism.)

The notion that Zimmerman might be the real victim began seeping out into the country, aided by PR efforts by his family and legal team…In April, when Zimmerman set up a Web site to collect donations for his defense, he raised more than $200,000 in two weeks, before his lawyer asked that he close the site and launched a new, independently managed legal-defense fund…

…Before President Obama spoke, the death of Trayvon Martin was generally regarded as a national tragedy. After Obama spoke, Martin became material for an Internet vendor flogging paper gun-range targets that mimicked his hoodie and his bag of Skittles… Before the president spoke, George Zimmerman was arguably the most reviled man in America. After the president spoke, Zimmerman became the patron saint of those who believe that an apt history of racism begins with Tawana Brawley and ends with the Duke lacrosse team.

There you have it, folks. Because President Obama simply said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” the right wing media in this country went into a frenzy. That’s when they got Roof’s attention. The rest was up to the white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Dylann Storm Roof is certainly responsible for his own horrific actions this past week. But we can’t ignore the way the right wing media has consistently stirred up racial animus amongst their viewers/listeners at every turn over the last seven years.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Council of Conservative Citizens, Racism, Right Wing Media, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let That Hateful Flag Fly”: From George W. Bush To Lindsey Graham, A History Of Republican Support For The Confederate Flag

South Carolina, a state that’s nearly 30% African-American, celebrates”Confederate Memorial Day” and proudly displays the flag of the Southern Confederacy at its statehouse in Columbia — a longstanding practice that’s under increasing fire following this week’s Charleston massacre, in which a white supremacist gunman is suspected of murdering nine black churchgoers.

In 2000, state lawmakers reached a “comprise” on the controversial symbol, voting to move the flag from the top of the dome to smack-dab in front of the statehouse on the front lawn. In the first state to secede from the Union in 1861, this was what passed for progress.

By now we are all familiar with the defensive refrain from supporters of the Confederate Flag: it’s heritage, not hate.

But that’s a load of crock. It’s been noted that after the Civil War, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens wrote a revisionist account entitled A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, which helped push the myth that the war was really about states’ rights.

According to a 2011 Pew Research poll, just nine percent of Americans had a positive reaction to the Confederate flag. But while the ranks of stars-and-bars fans may be thin nationally, much of the modern Republican Party, defined as it is by white Southern support, cannot bring itself to condemn the symbol of racial apartheid.

Republican South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said following the massacre that although the flag “been used in a racist way” in the past, it remained ”part of who we are,” shrugging off the symbolism in favor of “what’s in people’s heart.” Defending his state’s supposed “comprise,” Graham said “It works here, that’s what the Statehouse agreed to do.”

And remember: Graham is supposed to be one of the “sane” Republicans.

Republican politicians have stumbled over themselves to pander to GOP South Carolina primary voters at the expense of the truth, their fellow Americans and potential voters (granted, the 2012 primary garnered a pathetic 1% turnout from African-American voters) for entirely too long.

During a 2000 Republican primary debate in South Carolina, moderator Brian Williams asked, “does the flag offend you personally,” to which George W. Bush defensively retorted, ”What you are trying to get me to do is express the will of the people of South Carolina. Brian, I believe the people of South Carolina can figure what to do with this flag issue. It’s the people of South Carolina’s decision. I don’t believe it’s the role of someone from outside South Carolina and someone running for president to come into South Carolina.

Lost on Bush was the irony of citing states’ rights — long the doctrine of choice for segregationists and Confederate nostalgists — to defend South Carolina’s right to fly the stars and bars. His response was met with raucous support from the GOP crowd.

For his part, brother Jeb ordered the Confederate battle flag be taken down from Florida’s capitol building back in 2001, arguing that “the symbols of Florida’s past should not be displayed in a manner that may divide Floridians today.”

In 2008, both John McCain and Mitt Romney ran into trouble when they refused to cave to Confederate Flag fetishizers who then took out ads in the early primary state attacking them for speaking out against the hateful symbol.

McCain, learning his lesson from the infamously racist 2000 primary during which he delivered a tortured but typical defense, said “some view it as a symbol of slavery; others view it as a symbol of heritage. Personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage,” went on to apologize for his inability to forcefully denounce the flag, calling it one of the “worst decisions” he’d ever made.

McCain revealed the truth in the GOP’s struggle to admonish the flying of the Confederate Flag, recounting his own flip-flop, “[I]t could come down to lying or losing. I chose lying.”

So much for the Straight Talk Express.

In 2012, former House Speaker and advocate of child labor Newt Gingrich made clear his opposition to national demands that the flag be taken off public property, “I have a very strong opinion,” Gingrich said. “It’s up to the people of South Carolina.”

Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee defiantly declared that “outsiders” were not allowed to debate the Confederate Flag.

But there seems to be some hope that the 2016 primary may change.

Rick Perry, who supported Texas’ rejection of Confederate-flag license plates that was upheld by the Supreme Court this week, called the issue a state’s matter today but added that “I agree that we need to be looking at these issues as ways to bring the country together….And if these are issues that are pushing us apart, then maybe there’s a good conversation that needs to be had about [it].”

Gov. Nikki Haley, the state’s Republican governor who had previously defended not demanding the flags removal because no business owners had complained to her, said today, ”I think the state will start talking about that again, and we’ll see where it goes.”

We shall see how 2016ers handle the GOP South Carolinan primary voters’ demands to proclaim state’s rights and let the Confederate Flag fly free.


By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon, June 19, 2015


June 22, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Awful Than Anyone Realized”: Fiorina Dead Wrong About Clinton Foundation — But It’s Worse Than That

Carly Fiorina is still masquerading as a Republican candidate for president – although her poll numbers remain dismal – so perhaps we must pay attention to her. The longer she sticks around, however, the more she demonstrates that she is even more awful than anyone realized.

Which is, for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and busted Senate candidate, a kind of achievement.

Attempting to reintroduce herself to America as the anti-Hillary, Fiorina has repeatedly attacked the work of the Clinton Foundation, repeating lies she reads in right-wing media about its budget and expenditures. When Fox News Channel interviewed her on June 10, she complained, “We are finding so little of the charitable donations [collected by the Clinton Foundation] go to charitable work.” Based on her interpretation of the foundation’s IRS 990 forms, she estimated that only 6 percent of its funds have gone toward charitable purposes.

Uttered by someone who claims to be a brilliant executive — which presumably includes the capacity to read and comprehend financial documents — that was an embarrassingly stupid remark. Very little knowledge or expertise is required to figure out that the Clinton Foundation is an operating entity, or really a public charity, whose salaries, travel expenses, and other costs reflect actual work on the ground all over the world.

Now the nonpartisan has bluntly corrected Fiorina’s nonsensical accusation in a long, painstaking refutation of what she and others (including a Fox News genius named Gerri Willis) have said about the Clinton Foundation’s spending.

“Fiorina is simply wrong,” according to the Factcheck report, which went on to assess the foundation’s budget in detail. The bottom line, according to the philanthropy analysts at CharityWatch, is that the Clinton Foundation spends 89 percent of donations for charitable purposes – well above the industry standard of 75 percent.

But that’s not even the worst part. Fiorina could have found out these facts very easily, because she is involved with groups that work with the Clinton Global Initiative and even got herself some free publicity in 2014 by appearing at a CGI event with former President Clinton.

So she mounted a damaging political assault on the same organization whose goodwill she had exploited for her own purposes, casually defaming thousands of foundation employees who perform important work — without even attempting to learn the truth from them first.

To me, this indicates personal character so low as to disqualify her for any elected office, let alone the presidency. She is untrustworthy as well as incompetent.

Anyone who has studied Fiorina’s career probably knows that already. Discussing her disdain for a minimum-wage increase at the CGI event, she blamed increasing economic inequality on “crony capitalism” – a problem highlighted, of course, by her own $40 million golden parachute, which enraged Hewlett-Packard stockholders, executives, and workers.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog; The National Memo, June 20, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Inititiave | , , , , | 2 Comments

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