By Doug Porter
The popular image of the Golden State is that it’s a hotbed of liberalism; it’s the “left coast” of the country in conserve-speak. The Republican Party is all but irrelevant, and even Orange County, the former bastion of conservatism is no longer safe for the GOP. It would seem that, having been defeated in the electoral arena, some right wing activists are moving into the grey areas of political activity.
So it may come as a surprise to some that a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued yesterday names California as the national leader when it comes to the number –82–of conspiracy-minded anti-government so-called “Patriot” groups. Such groups have seen substantial growth since the 2008 election of President Obama and are described as becoming increasingly militant.
In 2008 there were 149 such organizations nationally, rising to 512 in 2009, jumping again to 824 in 2010, to 1,274 in 2011 and increasing yet again in 2012 to 1360. The report warns:
Now, in the wake of the mass murder of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut school and the Obama-led gun control efforts that followed, it seems likely that that growth will pick up speed once again.
Concurrent with the issuance of the SPLC 2013 report , the group released a copy of a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, warning of the potential for domestic terrorism and urging the creation of a new interagency task force to assess the adequacy of federal resources devoted to the threat.
“As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns,” wrote SPLC President Richard Cohen, a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. In October 1994, the SPLC wrote to then-Attorney General Janet Reno about the growing threat of domestic extremism; the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed six months later in the country’s deadliest act of domestic terrorism.
Former FBI informant David Gletty, who infiltrated various militia and extremist groups, told CNN:
“They believe the Constitution is being raped. With hate groups, things are going to get worse because they feel like they’re in battle. It’s not surprising with their hatred of President Obama that there are even more hate groups out there.”
The SPLC study defines patriot groups as anti-government militias driven by their fear that authorities will strip them of their guns and liberties. From the CNN report:
The groups named in the SPLC study came from information compiled from “field reports, Patriot publications, the Internet, law enforcement sources and news reports.”
Other highlights of the report include:
— The state with the most neo-Nazi groups: California, with 9.
— The state with the most Ku Klux Klan groups: Texas, with 26.
— The report breaks out a group it calls “Christian Identity,” which the SLPC defines as “a religion that is fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic.” Texas has the most, with five.
— Another category in the report, called “General Hate,” is defined as groups that are anti-gay, Holocaust deniers, racist musicians or radical traditionalist Catholics. California has the most such groups, with 37.
Has the NRA Gone Too Far for Firearm Manufacturers?
The Washington Post is up today with a major development in the political conflict underway about proposals for gun control legislation. It would seem that some of the NRA’s strongest traditional supporters are breaking ranks over the prospect of expanded background checks for private firearms sales. From the Post:
In behind-the-scenes talks with congressional staff members and others, gun makers, dealers and other Second Amendment advocates have offered support for more instant criminal background checks, buoying the hopes of gun control advocates, including President Obama, who put a top priority on extending criminal checks to private sales.
The trade group for the nation’s leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill.
However the NRA still has cards to play:
Gun manufacturers have been wary of crossing the NRA, in part because of the bruising experience of Smith & Wesson more than a decade ago. During the Clinton administration, the firearm maker privately negotiated gun safety issues. Gun rights groups swiftly punished Smith & Wesson, urging dealers not to carry the company’s products and creating serious financial trouble.
Yes We Can Kill; Here Come the Drones
NBC News reported yesterday on a letter from US Attorney General Eric Holder to Sen. Rand Paul saying the Obama administration had “no intention” of carrying out drone strikes against suspected terrorists in the United States, but could use them in response to “an extraordinary circumstance” such as the 9/11 terror attacks. From NBC:
The letter from Holder surfaced just as the Senate Intelligence Committee was voting 12-3 to approve White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director. The vote came after the White House agreed to share additional classified memos on targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens overseas.
Paul had threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate if the administration did not clarify whether targeted drone strikes could be used inside the U.S.
In his letter, Holder called the question of drone strikes inside the U.S. “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and we hope no president will ever have to confront. … As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.”
There was no word over whether the Senate would be calling for an investigation over who leaked the letter.
Letter Talks About Hoteliers’ Damage to San Diego
George Mullin is a local artist with grand visions for San Diego. In recent years he’s been advocating for the city to ramp up its plans for the Balboa Park Centennial in 1915. Both Voice of San Diego and the UT have published his essays describing just how much impact and recognition a properly done celebration would impact the city.
So it’s significant that this letter from him, published in VOSD yesterday, seeks to make a connection between the dustup over the Hotel tax-that’s-not-a-tax and the now seemingly floundering plans for ‘Edge 2015’.
It would be easy to discount this missive as sour grapes, given that Mullin’s efforts to get involved with the Balboa park fete have been ignored or rejected, but the tone of authenticity surrounding his arguments merits consideration in my opinion. He starts out by asserting that, while he often disagrees with Bob Filner, the Mayor is right in challenging San Diego’s hoteliers’ power. From VOSD:
The abuse and damage this cabal has inflicted upon San Diego is extensive; the time has come to pull back the curtain and reveal the truth. Here are but two examples: First: Instead of building a compelling, long-term brand and message for San Diego, the hoteliers (via the TMD and Tourism Authority) have repeatedly and shortsightedly embraced superficial marketing campaigns to fill their hotel rooms for the next quarter. Consider the years and millions of TMD taxpayer dollars the hoteliers have spent running this show — is there even one lasting San Diego message or image we can point to that will help drive people to San Diego over the long-term? Perhaps something along the lines of New York‘s “Big Apple” and “I Love NY,” or Las Vegas’ “Sin City” and “What Happens Here, Stays Here”? Sadly, no. Instead, we are saddled with the likes of “Happy Happens,” “Hey! Sheer Bliss Is Calling” and “Yooo Hooo, Big Smiles Are Calling.” The lack of creativity and vision is deafening.
Mullin goes on to draw the connections between the hotel businesses and the Balboa Park planning group:
What do hoteliers and lobbyists (specifically the ones in charge of our centennial) know about putting together a high volume theme park or celebration? Not much, it turns out, and they are scurrying away from their Waterloo as fast as they can:
1) [Hotel lobbyist Mike] McDowell just resigned as CEO to go back to work for [TMD Chairman Terry] Brown and the hotelier lobby (as if he hadn’t been all along);
2) No big plans have been put in place for the centennial, and, tragically, time is now too short to put together most of the big visions I and others had previously proposed;
3) The centennial has been named Edge 2015, more akin to a Gillette Razor ad campaign;
4) There is effectively no money raised (despite McDowell’s claims the centennial would be a $30-to-$50-million event); and
5) Adding insult to injury, a Los Angeles firm has been hired to produce “our” San Diego centennial. (The collapse of Irwin Jacobs’ plan for Balboa Park is a separate issue entirely; however, you can bet the hoteliers will try using it as a scapegoat for the centennial disaster they created.)
The Filner versus hotelier fight is bigger and more important than meets the eye. What’s really at stake is who is going to run our city — our elected leaders, or the hoteliers? Will we be a city of ideas and vision, or a city ruled by the silent hand of a visionless cabal? Make no mistake; the civic soul of San Diego is hanging in the balance.
BREAKING NEWS: Comedian Takes the Summer Off
What does it say about the state of the news business when comedian John Stewart announcement that he’s taking a break to direct a film becomes headline news? This ‘big news’ was on the front page of today’s web editions of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. It was also an item on the NBC Nightly News program last night.
I love John Stewart’s show on Comedy Central. Obviously, so does the media. So why the heck can’t they report on some of the stories he covers?
Or maybe something like the following story…
Food Riots Likely to Become the New Normal
The Guardian (U.K.) has a story up today that should be required reading. It makes the connections between intensifying inequality, debt, climate change, fossil fuel dependency and an impending global food crisis.
What? You didn’t know the world was running out of food? What do you expect from a country where it is considered acceptable for the news media to give ‘equal’ coverage to the fringe groups that deny climate change?
Consider this from the Guardian (and then go read the whole story!):
Whether or not those [food] prices materialise this year, food price volatility is only a symptom of deeper systemic problems – namely, that the global industrial food system is increasingly unsustainable. Last year, the world produced 2,241m tonnes of grain, down 75m tonnes or 3% from the 2011 record harvest.
The key issue, of course, is climate change. Droughts exacerbated by global warming in key food-basket regions have already led to a 10-20% drop in rice yields over the past decade. Last year, four-fifths of the US experienced a heatwave, there were prolonged droughts in Russia and Africa, a lighter monsoon in India and floods in Pakistan – extreme weather events that were likely linked to climate change afflicting the world’s major food basket regions.
The US Department of Agriculture predicts a 3-4% food price rise this year – a warning that is seconded in the UK. Make no mistake: on a business-as-usual scenario, this is the new normal. Overall, global grain consumption has exceeded production in eight of the past 13 years. By mid-century, world crop yields could fall as much as 20-40% because of climate change alone.
But climate is not the only problem. Industrial farming methods are breaching the biophysical limits of the soil. World agricultural land productivity between 1990 and 2007 was 1.2% a year, nearly half compared with 1950-90 levels of 2.1%.
On This Day: 1857 – The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision ruled that blacks could not sue in federal court to be citizens. 1960 – The United States announced that it would send 3,500 troops to Vietnam. 1973 – John Lennon’s visa extension was canceled ( due to anti war activities) by the New York Office of the Immigration Department. It had been granted only five days before.
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