Thursday, December 08, 2005

Flourishing in the dark

[Mark Martin, right, leader of the Ohio branch of the National Socialist Movement, leads his troops in Toledo. Photo by Isis.]

The city of Toledo is now girding for another invasion of their city by neo-Nazis, and it's clear that officials are intent on avoiding a repeat of the disaster that befell them the last time.

Today they filed a lawsuit to force the National Socialist Movement from repeating its performance of October:
The city of Toledo says it will file a lawsuit today in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against the National Socialist Movement and any counter-protesters to a neo-Nazi rally Saturday, seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent them from rallying, assembling, or parading in any other place other than the rally site at Government Center downtown.

If granted, city officials said the restraining order or injunction would prevent the groups from making an unannounced visit in or near residential neighborhoods, particularly those in the vicinity of North Toledo where the Oct. 15 riot occurred.

An earlier profile of Ohio's NSM activists in the Columbus Dispatch [subscription required] describes how these hate groups continue to flourish just out of public view:
Ohio communities haven’t seen this level of activity by an extremist group for years. Gone are the rallies of the late 1990s, when the Ku Klux Klan held protests almost monthly in small towns and bigger cities.

But groups that monitor white supremacists and other extremists say Ohioans shouldn’t be fooled into thinking hate groups have gone away. They've just gone underground.

"Most of these groups don't do rallies. They're more secretive," said Mark Pitcavage, who monitors hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League. "There is still a lot of white-supremacist activity in Ohio."

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama monitors 31 hate groups in Ohio, up from 22 in 1998.

These groups were more visible from the late 1990s to 2001 because three Ku Klux Klan groups were the dominant white supremacists in Ohio. And the Klan liked to demonstrate in public places.

Hate rallies were so common that the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation produced a tape to show lawenforcement agencies how to handle them. Concrete barriers and metal detectors were commonplace, as police sought to keep the extremists away from angry counterdemonstrators.

Then those Klan groups fell apart.

Jeff Berry, who led the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan group that rallied all over northwestern Ohio, went to prison. He and some supporters held a television crew at gunpoint until they gave him their tape. He served more than three years.

The head of a second Ohio Klan group moved to Jasper, Texas. A third organization just disintegrated.

Without a dominant leader, extremist groups tend to collapse, Pitcavage said.

"One person often makes the difference. It's someone with the drive or the organizational skills to make it happen. We're not talking about vast social movements," he said.

The groups that remain, however, are more subversive than the Klan. They communicate via the Internet and at meetings on private property.

That doesn’t make them any less dangerous, their watchdogs said.

Anthony Griggs, a research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his organization is concerned because the Ohio State Skinheads, a statewide group, recently held a meeting in Hocking County in an apparent attempt to unite with other skinhead groups.

"They feel that by working together, their goals will be more easily achieved," he said. "My instinct is they are definitely growing."

... Bill White, spokesman for the Virginia chapter of the National Socialist Movement that organized the Toledo rally, said the monitoring won’t thwart the group's efforts. There are several chapters in Ohio, he said, that will become more vocal.

"Our Ohio unit has become a lot more active in the last few months," he
said. "We will be involved in demonstrations all the time."

The other day, Matt Stoller had a nice in-depth examination of the spread of right-wing extremism, focusing on the Minutemen. But what he observed applies equally to what we're seeing in places like Toledo:

We're seeing a real flourishing of right-wing extremism in no small part because of its increasing absorption into the mainstream right.
I got mad at the researcher I talked to because it was very clear she hasn't studied what bubbles beneath the surface of our politics. The Democratic Party and the liberal base of it is basically a pro-capitalist group who believes in a safety net and collective action to preserve the rule of law and some measure of equality of opportunity. There are extremists, but they are outside the party and most importantly, not on the whole particularly dangerous. The Republican Party base is full of people who believe that vigilante groups like the Minutemen are patriotic, and those that oppose them are enemies of the state. The Republican Party base does things like endorse rape as a legitimate function of property rights, which leads directly to the demonization of women. They embrace their crazies, and defend those who threaten minorities with violence. They even call us unserious on national security because we condemn those who use violence to enforce a racist agenda.

Extremism is an inherent characteristic of human societies, but it is the mark of civilization how one manages that extremism. The left-wing is basically a mainstream movement, and seeks to expel extremists from our coalition. The right-wing is not. Republican Party activists either endorse white supremacy through the use of coded attacks on illegal immigrants, or they legitimize such attacks by disagreeing with the groups but keeping them in the coalition.

I was angry at that researcher for the same reason I bristle at most mainstream political strategists. She is paid to detect the broadest spectrum of feelings, hence the immediate recoil at 'both extremes', but not to actually understand the extremism at the core of the Republican Party. The advice that comes from such research is bad if you are a progressive. Pretend that the leaders of both parties are moderates. Seek extremism in your own party, and disavow it. Don't talk about 'icky' things, like rape, or race, or civilian casualties in Iraq. Don't reverse insane policies like the war on drugs that remove freedom from a substantial part of the populace. That will simply turn off the middle, because they want to believe that what we have now is mainstream, and changes demanded by either side's base are just extreme.

I have a different way of looking at it, aside from chopping the public up into a mainstream that doesn't like icky things, and two politically equivalent extremes. We need to ask all Americans to reach higher, to say that the loss of, say, New Orleans is the manifestation of Republican extremism, and our tolerance of it. We need to draw a direct line between the Minutemen/Free Republic axis of the Republican Party, and Iraq, New Orleans, Scooter, etc. We need to show, explicitly, that the awful events in the past, and the ones to come, are the result of Republican Party's core extremism, and our tolerance of it. Most Americans think they are doing reasonably well, though there is deep anxiety over the clear storm clouds on the horizon. Crafting an overall narrative of extremism on the right, drawing directly from their racist and vicious mainstream activists, as well as the story of our tolerance of this lunacy, is key to explaining the storm clouds.

We need to show the extremism, the tolerance of it, and offer a counter-narrative. We aren't better than the Republicans because our policies make more sense, we are better than the Republicans because America is better than vicious extremism, because Americans are better than our worst instincts. We are setting things right in our own party, in our lives, and we will do so in America. Join us.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Yeeaaarrgh indeed

Whew! When it comes to right-wing eliminationist rhetoric, the temperature just keeps on rising.

This item from Media Matters just speaks for itself:
On the December 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, radio host and regular Fox & Friends guest Erich "Mancow" Muller stated that Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean "ought to be kicked out of America" and "tried for treason" in response to a San Antonio radio interview in which Dean said that the idea that the United States can win the war in Iraq is "just plain wrong." After Muller asserted that Dean should be "kicked out of America," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed, replying: "Absolutely."

... From the December 6 edition of Fox News' which also featured co-hosts Steve Doocy and E.D. Hill:

MULLER: Guys, I do want to do one serious thing today. Howard Dean ought to be kicked out of America.

KILMEADE: Absolutely.

MULLER: He ought to be tried for treason. He is the enemy. These people, these Dummy-crats -- I'm not a Republican. I'm a Libertarian --

DOOCY: What did he say, Mancow, this time?

MULLER: He said yesterday -- it was late-breaking news -- I, -- I've never done this before in my life -- I was calling radio shows. I've never done that. I called Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes last night [saying]: "You guys gotta get on this. Howard Dean said we're going to lose the war."


MULLER: This is the head of the Democrats!

HILL: Hey, Mancow --

MULLER: These people want every boy to die. They're bloodthirsty animals. Howard Dean is a vile human being. I can't believe it.

KILMEADE: Many people can't. His quote was: "The idea that the U.S. will win the war in Iraq is plain wrong."

DOOCY: Mancow, we have invited Howard Dean on this program many times and he has declined.

MULLER: Because you'll ask him questions. You'll ask him real questions -- and if I sound like I'm ranting and raving and furious, well, it's because I am. But this guy, this guy is bloodthirsty. He is evil. I'm telling you, I really think every time you report another dead body in Iraq, they go, "Hoo hoo, it's perfect!"

I'm sure Michelle Malkin and other right-wingers will now be rushing forth to condemn these "unhinged" remarks soon! Why, just any century now!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A response at last

Well, someone finally responded to my series on Michelle Malkin's latest book, Unhinged.

No, not Michelle. The response comes from Cathy Young, the Boston Globe columnist who has written on Malkin previously.

It's a detailed and thoughtful response, and requires a detailed and thoughtful reply. I've unfortunately been in the middle of writing a long paper on the Minutemen, and will be presenting it at a conference this weekend, but I hope to be back in the saddle by Sunday with something worthwhile.

UPDATE: While you're pondering the topic of eliminationism, be sure to check out Shakespeare's Sister this week, where she's discussing that very subject.

A poke in the eye

There are only a handful of comic artists I make a point of reading regularly, and Tom Tomorrow is one of them:

This cartoon reminded me of a couple of points made here recently.

Point A:
The chief, overarching argument of the conservative movement, in essence, has been that liberals are the sole and primary cause of everything that is wrong both with America and with the world at large. What kind of reasonable discourse is possible, really, when that is the starting point of the conversation?

Point B:
Conservatives' complaints about left-wing ugliness are akin to those of the lunatic who walks about the town square poking his fellow citizens in the eye with a sharp stick -- and then complaining about their lack of civility afterward.

Satire makes the point so much sharper. Thanks, Tom.

Reconstruction's push

One of the better reads this month is the Mother Jones feature describing the real goal-line drive now under way by the nation's Christian Reconstructionists, who believe they are near to achieving their goal of controlling America as a Christian theocracy:
It could have been nothing more than a half-hour rebel yell -- except that Moore is more than the latest prophet of the religious right. He stands a good chance of being the next governor of Alabama; he’s also arguably the single most significant politician to owe his ascendancy to Christian Reconstruction—an obscure but increasingly potent theology whose top exponents hold that Christian crusaders must conquer and convert the world, by the sword if necessary, before Jesus will return.

Moore has never declared himself a Reconstructionist. But he is a frequent orator at gatherings whose organizers are part of the movement. The primary theologians, activists, and websites of Reconstruction laud him as a hero. Moore’s lawyer in the Ten Commandments fight, Herb Titus, is a Reconstructionist, as are many of his most vocal supporters, including Gary DeMar, the organizer of the Restore America rally and the head of American Vision, one of the most prolific publishers of the movement.

Reconstruction is the spark plug behind much of the battle over religion in politics today. The movement's founder, theologian Rousas John Rushdoony, claimed 20 million followers -- a number that includes many who embrace the Reconstruction tenets without having joined any organization. Card-carrying Reconstructionists are few, but their influence is magnified by their leadership in Christian right crusades, from abortion to homeschooling.

Reconstructionists also exert significant clout through front organizations and coalitions with other religious fundamentalists; Baptists, Anglicans, and others have deep theological differences with the movement, but they have made common cause with its leaders in groups such as the National Coalition for Revival. Reconstruction has slowly absorbed, congregation by congregation, the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (not to be confused with the progressive Presbyterian Church [USA]) and has heavily influenced others, notably the Southern Baptists.

[For more on Roy Moore's connections to the extremist right, see here and here. Note that Moore has recently added immigration to the issues his campaign intends to revolve around. Moore also recently attracted support from the neo-Confederate separatist group Christian Exodus, while one of his leading supporters recently renounced his longstanding ties to the neo-Confederate hate group called the Council of Conservative Citizens.]

The Mother Jones piece goes on to explain how Reconstructionists intend to win:
Reconstructionists aren't shy about what exactly it is they are pursuing: "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise," Gary North, a top Reconstruction theorist, wrote in his 1989 book, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism. "Those who refuse to submit publicly…must be denied citizenship."

We also get a look at what life would be like under Reconstructionist rule:
Besides facilitating evangelism, Reconstructionists believe, government should largely be limited to building and maintaining roads, enforcing land-use contracts, and ensuring just weights and measures. Unions would not exist, and neither would unemployment benefits, Social Security, and environmental protection laws. Public schools would disappear; one of the movement's great successes has been promoting homeschooling programs and publishing texts used by tens of thousands of homeschooling families. And, perhaps most importantly, the state is "God's minister," as DeMar puts it in Liberty at Risk, "taking vengeance out on those who do evil." A major task for the government key Reconstructionists envision is fielding armies for conquest in the name of Jesus.

Reconstruction's premises may fly in the face of mainstream Christianity, and some of its leaders' beliefs would probably surprise even the movement's own foot soldiers. But what has made the theology such an explosive addition to public life is not its dogma on individual issues so much as its trumpet call to action. This is a faith in which religion is not an influence on politics; it is politics.

The piece also offers an accurate theological assessment of the Reconstructionists, which is important to understanding their role in the larger religious right, and why many traditional fundamentalists continue to resist them, albeit mutedly:
Traditionally, groups like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority were "premillennial": They believed that humanity was inevitably headed for Armageddon, which would most likely arrive with a nuclear blast, whereupon Christ would appear in the Second Coming and set things right. "The debate was over whether Brezhnev was the Antichrist," says the University of Georgia's Larson.

Reconstruction's alternative was "postmillennialism": Christ would not return until the church had claimed dominion over government, and most of the world's population had accepted the Reconstruction brand of Christianity. The postmillennial twist offered hope to the pious that they could change things -- as long as they got organized. (Reconstructionists angrily denounce end-times visions like those of Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series: If these are the Last Days, American Vision's website points out, "then why bother trying to fix a broken world that is about to be thrown on the ash heap of history? Why concern ourselves with education, healthcare, the economy, or peace in the Mideast? Why polish brass on a sinking ship?")

For premillennialists, Reconstruction's revolutionary philosophy offered an opportunity to turbocharge the religious right. Most conservative churches opposed abortion, for example, but Reconstruction-influenced groups such as Randall Terry's Operation Rescue were willing to field soldiers and take the fight to the enemy. This not only emboldened activists, it gave Reconstructionists a chance to spread their organizing message: If you want to do God's work, this needs to be God's nation.

Similarly, Baptist morality focused on personal choices, such as avoiding drinking. But Reconstructionists didn't tell believers to shun sin. They said to conquer it, even if the price was jail or martyrdom. Paul Hill, the antiabortion activist executed two years ago for the 1994 murders of abortion clinic workers in Pensacola, Florida, had been a minister in the Reconstruction-dominated Presbyterian Church in America.

And it concludes with a sobering reminder from the leaders of the movement that they do not intend to relent:
When I last saw Gary DeMar, he was shepherding Roy Moore through a crowd of true believers at the Restore America rally. As they walked by, I asked Moore, "Do you favor a theocracy?" The judge turned and looked at me, shook his head, frowned, and walked away. But DeMar, in our interview, had already answered the question.

"All governments are theocracies," he said. "We now live in a secular humanist theocracy. I want to change that to a government with God at its head."

If you want a marker on just how deeply embedded in the halls of mainstream Republican power Reconstructionists have become, just recall the role Randall Terry and his followers played in the Terri Schiavo controversy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Unhinged indeed

John McKay at archy directs us to a recent piece of lunacy -- eliminationist lunacy, of course -- from the ol' OxyCon artist himself, Rush Limbaugh:
(Quoting from an AP report) "Aljazeera has broadcasted an insurgent video today, shows four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq, with a previously unknown group claiming responsibility for the kidnappings. The unknown group is the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, and they said the four were spies working undercover as Christian peace activists, according to Aljazeera. Aljazeera said that it could not verify any of the information on the tape. The aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four of its members were taken hostage on Saturday...."

[P]art of me that likes this. And some of you might say, "Rush, that's horrible. Peace activists taken hostage." Well, here's why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality. So here we have these peace activists over there. I don't care if they're Christian or not.


Yeah, as warped as these people are, you know they're going to blame Bush for this... They wouldn't have been kidnapped because they wouldn't have been there in the first place if Bush hadn't gone and caused the war and created all these terrorists. I mean, these people are liberals, they're warped. Well, I mean, that's why there's -- I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this. Probably, even with this, though, you know, they're not going to see the light of day. They're not going to -- I know, let them take me out of context. I don't care anymore.

Once upon a time, the remaining few shreds of basic decency on the right -- you know, those folks who actually think it's wrong to openly wish for the deaths of your fellow Americans just because they think differently than you -- would have risen up to denounce this kind of talk.

And, as John points out, only recenly we've had assurances from none other than Michelle Malkin that conservatives do stand up and denounce such instances of genuine extremism with great regularity:
"[T]he truth is that it's conservatives themselves who blow the whistle on their bad boys and go after the real extremism on their side of the aisle."

"... And while conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories, extremism and conspiracy theories have become the driving force of the Democrat Party.

"It is in fact conservatives who are very outspoken in condemning fringe people, and people who are extremists on the right side of the aisle."

Sure. That would explain why we likewise have heard so much condemnation from conservatives rgarding the recent outbreak of extraordinary lunacy from so many of its most prominent figures, especially Bill O'Reilly:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

And then there was this:
These pin-heads running around going, "Get out of Iraq now" don't know what they are talking about. These are the same people before Hitler invaded in WWII that were saying, "He's not such a bad guy.' They don't get it.

And conspiracy theories? O'Reilly's been peddling those, too.
There's a very secret plan. And it's a plan that nobody's going to tell you, "Well, we want to diminish Christian philosophy in the U.S.A. because we want X, Y, and Z." They'll never ever say that. But I'm kind of surprised they went after Christmas because it's such an emotional issue.

Of course, O'Reilly hasn't been alone. Among the other prominent right-wingers going completely off the deep end, Ann Coulter has a category all her own:
"The Democrats are giving aid and comfort to the enemy for no purpose other than giving aid and comfort to the enemy. There is no plausible explanation for the Democrats' behavior other than that they long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle.

"They fill the airwaves with treason, but when called to vote on withdrawing troops, disavow their own public statements. These people are not only traitors, they are gutless traitors."

"This is no different from the prosecutor going after Rush Limbaugh and every ruling that comes out goes against the prosecutor. This is just going -- they want it to be against the law to be a Republican, and they would like us in Guantánamo."

Hoo boy! Such wackery! And of course, those sane, cooler heads -- the voices of decency and anti-extremism among the ranks of conservatives -- are rising up against this kind of talk en masse.



[Crickets chirp interminably.]

Well, that's OK. We can wait.

When rhetoric turns to reality

There's a reason, you know, why I've focused so much over the past couple of years on the eliminationist nature of so much right-wing rhetoric: namely, that this kind of rhetoric inevitably leads to concrete action.

Sure enough, a Kansas University professor who rather publicly raised the ire of the religious right has been beaten by a couple of thugs who assaulted him because of his views:
Douglas County sheriff's deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists.

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki reported he was beaten by two men about 6:40 a.m. today on a roadside in rural Douglas County. In a series of interviews late this afternoon, Mirecki said the men who beat him were making references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

"I didn't know them, but I'm sure they knew me," he said.

Mirecki said he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

"I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind," he said. "They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out."

He said the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object. He was treated and released at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"I'm mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots," he said.

Douglas County Sheriff's Officials are classifying the case as an aggravated battery. They wouldn’t say exactly where the incident happened, citing the ongoing investigation

The sheriff's department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck.

Mirecki was indiscreet enough to post his views about "fundies" in a Yahoo chat room, saying he planned to teach intelligent design as "mythology" in an upcoming course. He wrote it would be a "nice slap" in the "big fat face" of fundamentalists.

Mirecki's remarks caused an uproar with the religious right in Kansas, despite an apology from Mirecki. Last week, the stalwart defenders of free speech at KU announced that the class would be canceled.

It's also noteworthy that one of Mirecki's harshest critics, and a leader of the torchlight brigade against him, is himself a firebrand of the most obnoxious sort -- one who, indeed, regularly engages in eliminationist rhetoric toward atheists and non-Christians. He was joined by right-wing Christians around Kansas, including Republican state Sen. Karin Brownlee, who remarked: "We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America."

Obviously, someone was listening.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Domestic terror and the FBI

The Bush administration's incompetence at national security has been bubbling back up to the surface for public display, most notably in the scathing official assessment of the government's response to the 9/11 commission's report announced today.

Another story, in the New York Times, underscored yet another component of this incompetence:
Officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation mishandled a Florida terror investigation, falsified documents in the case in an effort to cover repeated missteps and retaliated against an agent who first complained about the problems, Justice Department investigators have concluded.

In one instance, someone altered dates on three F.B.I. forms using correction fluid to conceal an apparent violation of federal wiretap law, according to a draft report of an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general's office obtained by The New York Times. But investigators were unable to determine who altered the documents.

The agent who first alerted the F.B.I. to problems in the case, a veteran undercover operative named Mike German, was "retaliated against" by his boss, who was angered by the agent's complaints and stopped using him for prestigious assignments in training new undercover agents, the draft report concluded.

Mr. German's case first became public last year, as he emerged as the latest in a string of whistle-blowers at the bureau who said they had been punished and effectively silenced for voicing concerns about the handling of terror investigations and other matters since Sept. 11, 2001.

...Mr. German's case dates to 2002, when the F.B.I. division in Tampa opened a terror investigation into a lead that laundered proceeds, possibly connected to a drug outfit, might be used to finance terrorists overseas. The F.B.I. was considering initiating an undercover operation to follow the lead, and Mr. German, who had extensive experience infiltrating militias, skinheads and other groups, was asked to take part.

But in the coming months, Mr. German would alert F.B.I. officials that the Orlando agent handling the case had "so seriously mishandled" the investigation that a prime opportunity to expose a terrorist financing plot had been wasted. He said agents had not adequately pursued leads, had failed to document important meetings with informants, and had tolerated violations of rules and federal law on the handling of wiretaps.

The report, in one of its few dissents from Mr. German's accusations, said it could not confirm that the F.B.I. had missed an important chance to expose terrorism. Rather, it cited two findings by the bureau that the prime informant had misled agents about the terrorism angle in the case and that "there was no viable terrorism case."

I've written about Mike German and the Tampa case previously. This report omits one of German's key charges, namely, that he had urged undercover work commence in the case some months before and was ignored, and when it finally did begin, it was much too late. This mirrored German's experience with a domestic-terror case in Portland: the FBI, it was clear, no longer considered the extremist right's contributions to terrorism to be worth their while.

As German has explained elsewhere:
... Domestic terrorism investigations are regulated by Attorney General Guidelines meant to prevent abusive investigations into unpopular groups. The AG Guidelines required the FBI to initiate investigations of domestic groups only when there is a reasonable indication of criminality. As a criminal investigator this was my focus anyway, but FBI management often overstated the amount of evidence needed to find a "reasonable indication" of criminality and stymied investigations unnecessarily.

Domestic Terrorists are also often underestimated. Their beliefs are so unusual and abhorrent that people mistakenly believe they are stupid, which they are not. They are very organized and very dangerous. Besides, it doesn't take a genius to make a bomb. Again, there's a lack of good intelligence about what these groups are all about.

... Numbers are hard to come by because these are clandestine groups, so most of what they do is secretive. Many people in the movement have military training, and there are a lot of publicly available training materials for terrorists. Especially online. A large part of what these groups do on a day-to-day basis is to train each other, either based on their own experience or these materials. I don't believe the government needs to be spying on these groups. The FBI should be conducting well predicated, proactive criminal investigations like mine. The focus needs to be on the real criminals, not just people whose message we don't like.

... I think it's important to keep the focus on criminality rather than ideology. We all have a first amendment right to speak out, but we don't have a right to force people to listen. Terrorism, whatever the ideology, is about forcing people to listen to your message. There are plenty of legitimate ways for people in this country to get their message out, but violence- for whatever cause- is not one of them.

I've also explained many times before that domestic terrorism has to be considered a significant component of any serious "war on terror," and failing to do so must be viewed as an abysmal failure on the part of the Republicans running our government -- particularly in the White House -- to provide us with real national security:
Here's a reality check for the Department of Homeland Security: After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, through Jan. 1, 2000, there were over 40 serious cases of domestic terrorism -- some of it realized, some of it thwarted -- committed by right-wing extremists.

These were not petty or mere property crimes. They included the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinics by Eric Rudolph; a plan to attack a gathering of military families in the Midwest; and a plot to blow up a California propane facility. In every instance, the planned or perpetrated act involved serious violence in which potentially many people could be killed or injured.

Since that time, the rate has declined dramatically, but the cases keep occurring with some regularity, and the lethal nature of the threat has if anything become worse. Since 2000, we're talking about an actual anthrax attack; plans to set off cyanide and sarin bombs; more planned bombings of abortion clinics; and threats against federal judges. All emanating from either lone wolves or organized extremists from the far right.

These are not torchings of SUVs and vacant condos or trashing of research laboratories, which are bad enough, and certainly a problem worth confronting on a level deserving the actual threat they pose. But the level of violence, and the lethality of the threat posed, is of another order altogether when it comes to right-wing extremists.

It's all a matter of priorities. If genuine national security were the concern of the people now running the government, they would be pushing through a fundamental reordering of how our law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering agencies do their work.

Instead, their priorities reveal that national security is only meaningful as an electoral strategy -- and can be manipulated accordingly. And someday, we'll all once again pay the price for this.