Document scrubbed of traces to environmentalist group after Free Beacon inquiries
A Democratic senator moved to conceal his apparent behind-the-scenes collaboration with an environmentalist pressure group on Wednesday after inquiries into the group’s role in crafting a report accusing political opponents of doing the bidding of special interests.A report posted on Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D., R.I.) website on Monday accused Environmental Protection Agency critics of being in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry. According to metadata in the report, the document was created by an attorney with a green group currently defending EPA policies in federal court.
After the Washington Free Beacon sought comment from Whitehouse and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), one of the report’s co-authors, a new version of the document appeared online without digital fingerprints identifying the environmentalist attorney as its author.
The report, released on Monday by Democratic Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, Barbara Boxer (Calif.), and Ed Markey (Mass.), is written to resemble an amicus brief in ongoing litigation challenging Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. A federal court heard oral arguments in that case on Tuesday.
One of the parties in that litigation is the Sierra Club, a leading environmentalist group that enlisted the services of attorneys with the group EarthJustice to defend the EPA regulations in court.
David Baron, one of the EarthJustice attorneys working on behalf of the Sierra Club, appears to have assisted the Democratic senators in putting together their report on the regulations’ legal challengers. Metadata in the since-deleted version of the Senate Democrats’ report listed him as the document’s “author.”
The new version of the report was created at 9:42 a.m. on Wednesday morning, according to the document’s metadata, and lists Whitehouse staffer Gifford Wong as its author.
Whitehouse, Reid, Boxer, and Markey did not respond to questions about EarthJustice’s role in creating the report. EarthJustice and the Sierra Club did not return requests for comment.
Though the initial document’s metadata indicated the file was created by Baron, it is not clear what role he and EarthJustice played in crafting the report’s contents or the extent to which the group’s input made it into the final product.
It was also not immediately clear whether EarthJustice was compensated in any way for its work on the report.
Senate ethics rules generally classify pro-bono legal assistance as a “gift” subject to a $50 limit. Boxer, one of the report’s ostensible authors, is a vice chair of the Senate Ethics Committee.
Ethics rules make exceptions to the gift rule for pro-bono legal services provided to senators filing legal briefs in their official capacity. The four senators who released this week’s report also signed on to an amicus brief supporting the disputed EPA regulations, but their report was not an official legal document.
The report “demonstrates that the state officials, trade associations, front groups, and industry-funded scientists participating in the [EPA regulation legal] challenge actually represent the interests of the fossil fuel industry,” according to a news release on Whitehouse’s website.
EarthJustice has previously collaborated behind the scenes with leading environmental policymakers, according to internal communications released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, which opposes recent EPA regulations.
A 2014 E&E report identified EarthJustice as one of a number of organizations involved in “informal advisory teams of senior green-group representatives” that shaped major EPA regulations in internal discussions prior to their public release.
Chris Horner, an E&E attorney whom Whitehouse called out by name on the Senate floor on Tuesday, sees similar collusion at play in Senate Democrats’ report this week.
“Now we have documentary proof that its members have outsourced their policy-making and speech-writing to the green activists, signing their name to whatever is put in front of them, and using their office however these groups ask,” Horner said in an email.
Amending the Colorado Constitution is too easy. In fact, it’s been amended more than 150 times in 140 years. Compare that to 27 amendments for the U.S. Constitution since 1789.
The bar is this low: Proponents of an amendment must collect signatures from registered voters equaling 5 percent of those who participated in the previous secretary of state vote — or about 98,000 signatures — from folks from anywhere in the state.
But here is the dirty secret if you have some money and want to amend the Colorado Constitution today:
(1) Round up 200 signature collectors.
(2) Deploy them to downtown Denver and Boulder.
(3) Pay them $2 for each valid Colorado voter signature.
Once each of your signature-gathering contractors has obtained 500 signatures, you have just cleared the bar to get whatever hare-brained change to the state Constitution you want on the ballot. And it cost you $200,000. Most importantly, you didn’t hear from anyone outside of the Denver-Boulder area.
This may look like a gross oversimplification, but it’s not. Maybe in hot election years, the cost is more like $500,000, but that number is budget dust for some special interest supporters.
This is why we were appalled at The Denver Post’s editorial opposing Amendment 71, which would raise the requirements for getting proposed amendments on the ballot. We are not in the business of criticizing other newspapers and fully understand an honest disagreement on an issue like this, but the basis for the Post’s position is just offensive. More on that below.
Amendment 71 would involve the entire state in the amendment process. To get on the ballot, a proposed amendment would require signatures from 2 percent of registered voters from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.
As a practical matter, only measures with genuine grassroots support will have a chance to get on the ballot if Amendment 71 passes. Proponents of a measure will have to come to Mesa County, hold town hall meetings and make a convincing case for the change, and then do the same across the state.
Proposed changes to the Constitution would require buy-in, not just from one demographic, but from the entire state. Significantly, the process to change a statute remains unchanged by Amendment 71. Interest groups can go to the ballot and change statutes under the same rules as today.
But Amendment 71’s requirements for amending the Constitution will be too expensive, says the Post editorial board. Requiring signatures from all 35 Senate districts sets the bar too high. The effect of the Post’s position is that rural opinions don’t matter. The Post agrees amending the Constitution should be harder, but doesn’t think all areas of Colorado should help determine a proposed amendment’s ballot-worthiness.
The prosperity gap between urban and rural Colorado has perhaps never been wider. The Post’s cynical position opposing Amendment 71 underscores one of the reasons for that chasm.
Summary: The Southern Poverty Law Center began with an admirable purpose but long ago transformed into a machine for raising money and launching left-wing political attacks. Lately it’s become more of a threat to free speech and civil debate than a defender of the weak or a foe of violent extremism. It has also taken in millions from the Picower Foundation, whose own funds came largely from founder Jeffry Picower’s “investing” in his old friend Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
On August 15, 2012, an angry gay rights activist named Floyd Corkins stormed the Family Research Council’s Washington, D.C. headquarters and began shooting. Corkins shot a brave security guard in the arm, but the guard still managed to wrestle him to the ground before he could kill or injure others.
Corkins was carrying 50 bullets and two loaded magazines for his 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol; 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches; and the address of another potential target, the Traditional Values Coalition. Before initiating his shooting spree, Corkins reportedly said, “I don’t like your politics.”
Reacting to the shooting, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins stated: “Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy.”
Attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. founded the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 1971. It bills itself as “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” People familiar with the SPLC may describe it differently. (For a previous CRC profile of the Center, see “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of ‘Hate,’” Organization Trends, November 2006.)
Early on it made a name for itself fighting genuinely extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and breaking down barriers of discrimination in the South. But today it is primarily a leftist attack machine. It devotes most of its sizeable resources to a systematic smear campaign against respected organizations and opinion leaders whose legitimate policy differences put them to the right of the SPLC.
For example, prior to the shooting, the SPLC identified the Family Research Council as an “anti-gay” extremist group, lumped together with groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis, the Nation of Islam, and the New Black Panther Party.
Even liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who describes the Family Research Council as “a mainstream conservative think tank,” thought the SPLC went too far:
I disagree with the Family Research Council’s views on gays and lesbians. But it’s absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church.
Following a speech at a New York college in 2009, a student asked former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) about a quotation attributed to him in a textbook. It said, “illegal immigrants were ‘coming to kill you and kill me and our families.’” Taken aback, Tancredo subsequently called the publisher to learn where the fake quotation had come from. “The Southern Poverty Law Center,” was the reply.
This is a familiar pattern. In 2007, SPLC labeled the Federation for American Immigration Reform a “Hate Group” as part of an effort to smear opponents of open borders and illegal immigration. In this effort, SPLC had no qualms associating itself with the National Council of La Raza (in Spanish, “the Race”), one of whose subordinate groups, the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, is notorious for the motto, For La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada (“For The Race everything. Outside The Race, nothing”).
In a 2010 report detailing SPLC’s efforts, Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies wrote:
Rather than engage in a debate, La Raza and its allies have waged a campaign to have the other side shunned by the press, civil society, and elected officials. It is an effort to destroy the reputations of its targets. It also seeks to intimidate and coerce others into silence. It undermines basic principles of civil society and democratic discussion.
SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok doesn’t mince words about illegal-immigration opponents: “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on … I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.…” (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnTz2ylJo_8&feature=relmfu.)
The SPLC has an improbably named program titled “Teaching Tolerance.” Perhaps Mr. Potok should take the course.
In the “Hate and Extremism” section of the SPLC website, the group lists 1,274 “Patriot Groups.” This category includes nonviolent conservative organizations like the Oath Keepers, the Constitution Party, Tea Party Patriots, the Tenth Amendment Center, and Joseph Farah’s WorldNetDaily.
In addition to fomenting hatred for groups with which it disagrees, the SPLC is the author of dangerous provocations. For example, in 1996 SPLC hyped a story that black churches were being torched at alarming rates in the South by white racists. As Michael Fumento wrote in the American Spectator at the time, this was soon proven to be false.
SPLC wildly exaggerates the number of groups genuinely associated with hate and violence as well. Laird Wilcox, an independent, non-conservative researcher found that of 800-plus “hate groups” over half them were either non-existent, existed in name only, or were inactive. (See http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc_20_3/tsc_20_3_vinson.shtml.)
Wilcox has his own “extremist” lists. One is called “The Watchdogs … organizations who ‘monitor’ and combat the activities of their ideological opponents,” including many “organizations and individuals who have nothing to do with racism.” SPLC tops the list. (See http://www.lairdwilcox.com/tool/order00-01.html#Left.)
A Morally Bankrupt Organization Founded by a Morally Bankrupt Man
SPLC’s co-founder, Morris Dees, has been harshly criticized by former SPLC employees, a former business partner, and many liberal critics. They see him as little more than a rank opportunist and the SPLC’s chief purpose as raising money for SPLC coffers.
Though trained as a lawyer, Dees is best known for his fundraising ability. Raising $25 million for the George McGovern presidential campaign in 1972, his payment was the donor list, the gold mine that boosted SPLC’s funding. A position with Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976 added another sterling list. It paid off.
With over $238 million in net assets, the SPLC is one of the wealthiest nonprofit organizations in the United States. Despite this massive endowment, the Center devotes almost 20 percent of its $34.5 million operating expenses – $6.5 million in 2011 – to fundraising. This includes $1 million for fundraising services and $5.5 million in fundraising staff salaries and administrative expenses.
Meanwhile, the group spent only $11 million on its supposed primary mission: “providing legal services to victims of civil rights injustices and hate crimes.” The Center spent an astounding $12.5 million maintaining, publishing, and promoting its “hate” list propaganda, including a program to “educate” children, according to its 2010 tax return.
SPLC received $36 million in contributions in 2011. Excess contributions and investment income allowed the Center to boost assets by $9.4 million. Its 2010 tax return shows the SPLC realized a net gain of $28.8 million, following a similar net gain in 2009 of almost $30 million—roughly equivalent to its entire operating budget! Why fundraise at all?
Each year the SPLC is able to add tens of millions of dollars to its endowment. Despite being a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supposedly with nothing to hide, some of SPLC’s assets are squirreled away in untraceable Bermuda and Cayman Island accounts. Why?
SPLC’s leaders are among the highest paid in the nonprofit field. As Chief Trial Counsel, Morris Dees receives $343,676. Richard Cohen, the Center’s president, is paid $339,764.
SPLC boasts many high-dollar donors. The top 10 for recent years are: Picower Foundation ($3,813,112, 1999 – 2008); Cisco Systems Foundation ($1,620,000, 2001 – 2004); Grousbeck Family Foundation ($1,600,000, 2007 – 2011); Grove Foundation ( $875,000, 2001 – 2011); Rice Family Foundation ($535,000 , 1999 – 2010); Rockefeller Philanthropy ($510,000, 2008 – 2010); Unbound Philanthropy ($500,000, 2006 – 2010); Public Welfare Foundation ($500,000, 2008 – 2010); Vanguard Charitable Endowment ($469,120, 2006 – 2011); Rocking Moon Foundation ($350,000, 2006 – 2010); and the Jewish Community Fund ($347,274, 1999 – 2010).
Space constraints prevent inclusion of the many more foundations and small family funds that regularly contribute $10,000 to $25,000 per year. Do these donors realize they are merely contributing to a quarter-billion-dollar investment fund?
SPLC’s biggest benefactor, the Picower Foundation, made the most of its money from the Bernie Madoff scam. Founder Jeffry Picower, who was friends with Madoff for 30 years, profited by $5 billion from his “investments” with his friend, an amount larger than Madoff personally “earned.” Picower died in 2009, but as ProPublica.org reported December 27, 2010, federal prosecutors and the trustee charged with recovering money for Madoff’s victims took Picower’s estate to court. The estate agreed to a settlement of $7.2 billion to compensate victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Federal prosecutors apparently thought Picower, an accountant, should have questioned returns on investment that ranged up to 950 percent. The Picower Foundation has closed its doors, but will the SPLC refund any of its ill-gotten gains?
Dees’ first business partner was Millard Fuller, who later went on to found Habitat for Humanity. In an article in The Progressive, he described their relationship:
Morris and I, from the first day of our partnership, shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money. We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich. During the eight years we worked together, we never wavered in that resolve. (See http://www.secondclassjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Egerton-Poverty-Palace-July-1988.pdf.)
Many of Dees’s most virulent critics are on the Left. Nation magazine’s Alexander Cockburn wrote a scathing article in 2009, “King of the Hate Business.” Recent Republican electoral losses, Cockburn wrote, were
horrible news for people who raise money and make money selling the notion there’s a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of “Mein Kampf” tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other. What is the arch-salesman of hate mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, going to do now? Ever since 1971, U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with his fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC. (See http://www.creators.com/opinion/alexander-cockburn/king-of-the-hate-business.html.)
Harper’s published a similarly critical analysis of the SPLC titled, “The Church of Morris Dees”:
Today, the SPLC spends most of its time—and money—on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. “He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement,” renowned anti-death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer (not Dees’s business partner, ed.) says of Dees, his former associate, “though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.”
Harper’s also published a letter from Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, to the University of Alabama, declining an invitation to a “Morris Dees Justice Award” presentation. Bright called Dees “a con man and fraud,” and added:
The positive contributions Dees has made to justice—most undertaken based upon calculations as to their publicity and fundraising potential—are far overshadowed by what Harper’s described as his “flagrantly misleading” solicitations for money. He has raised millions upon millions of dollars with various schemes, never mentioning that he does not need the money because he has $175 million and two “poverty palace” buildings in Montgomery. He has taken advantage of naive, well-meaning people—some of moderate or low incomes—who believe his pitches and give to his $175-million operation. He has spent most of what they have sent him to raise still more millions, pay high salaries, and promote himself. (See http://www.thesocialcontract.com/answering_our_critics/art2000nov.html.)
The Fairfax (Virginia) Journal counseled federal employees to forego contributions to the SPLC in the Combined Federal Campaign:
… give your hard-earned dollars to a real charity, not a bunch of slick, parasitic hucksters who live high on the hog by raising money on behalf of needy people who never see a dime of it. (MDJonline.com, Sept. 30, 2011.)
SPLC’s first president was Julian Bond, a socialist who has supported and participated in socialist, communist, and other radical leftist organizations and activities his entire life. As a rising star in the Left he received the early endorsement and support of the Communist Party USA, and he assisted, endorsed, and campaigned for radical causes and politicians, according to DiscoverTheNetworks.org.
In the 1960s Bond was elected to the Georgia legislature three times, but each time the legislature refused to seat him because of his agitation against the Vietnam War. Bond called on the communist lawyer Leonard Boudin to represent him. Boudin’s other clients included the government of Fidel Castro, Soviet agent of influence Paul Robeson, and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Boudin’s daughter, Kathie, was a Weather Underground terrorist, who served 25 years for her participation in the 1981 Brinks robbery that left two policemen and one Brinks guard dead.
Along with radical activists such as Ella Baker, Bond co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. SNCC was later led by black separatists Stokeley Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, who openly advocated guerrilla warfare in U.S. cities. In 1967 Bond served as co-chair of the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP), described by the late Sen. James Eastland as a group “working hand-in-glove with the Communist Party” to foment “revolution in the United States.”
Bond’s most significant contact as co-chair of the NCNP was fellow NCNP member Herbert Marcuse. A Marxist who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, Marcuse ultimately took up residence in a number of American universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California, San Diego, where he mentored the black communist, Angela Davis. Bond and Marcuse helped found the radical journal In These Times.
Bond visited Castro’s Cuba in 1959 and was “enchanted by the revolution.” Following a repeat visit in 2006 he said that it “simply reinforced my admiration for the Cuban people and the society they are building.” (See http://www.medicc.org/cubahealthreports/chr-article.php?&a=1027.) Bond remains on SPLC’s board to this day.
SPLC’s board of directors also includes James Rucker, who co-founded Color of Change in 2005 with self-described communist Van Jones. Before that, Rucker was grassroots organizing director at the Soros-funded activist group MoveOn.
Another board member, Patricia Clark, spent time as National Criminal Justice Representative of the American Friends Service Committee. This nominally Quaker organization was created by socialist Quakers in 1917 and began colluding with Communists in the 1920s, when it worked with Soviet agents Jessica Smith, Harold Ware, and John Abt. (See http://keywiki.org/index.php/American_Friends_Service_Committee.)
Gabrielle Lyon, an SPLC research fellow, has spoken glowingly of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Ayers is famous for his Weather Underground years and has yet to be tried, along with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, for the murder of San Francisco police Sgt. Brian McDonnell in 1970. Larry Grathwohl, the only FBI informant to ever successfully penetrate the Weathermen, has testified under oath that Ayers told him of their complicity in the bombing that killed McDonnell. This case is still open. (See http://www.usasurvival.org/docs/Grathwohl_names_Dohrn.pdf.)
More recently, an editorial written by SPLC’s Mark Potok was published in the Communist Party USA newspaper, People’s World. Potok claimed the editorial was free for publication anywhere, and he didn’t control where it appeared. When the Daily Caller news website asked Potok last year if he objected to the Communist Party newspaper printing his piece, he refused comment. Potok did say, however, that the SPLC uses an organization called OtherWords to place SPLC’s op-eds in other journals.OtherWords is a nonprofit editorial service of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), one of the most influential far-left organizations in the United States. (IPS was profiled in the February 2011 Foundation Watch.)
King of Sophistry
Radical leftists are extremely adept at the use of language and propaganda. They have to be. An ideology that has brought more hardship, misery, and death over the last century than all the wars of history combined always needs image makeovers. The Soviet Union’s first leader, Vladimir Lenin, explained, “We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us.”
The entire leftist movement has adopted this technique. Thus, any person who opposes illegal immigration becomes a “xenophobe.” Any person who cites the devastating adverse impacts of “anti-poverty” programs is “selfish” or worse. Any person who opposes affirmative action is a “racist.” Anyone who opposes ever-increasing taxes must be “greedy.”
Straw man arguments, misinformation, and other forms of sophistry, coupled with vitriolic smears of opponents can easily intimidate average citizens, who haven’t the time or inclination to look deeper and are naturally anxious about being tarred with the same brush. With sufficient media promotion, this fraudulent narrative becomes accepted as the “truth,” even chic. Most people want to be seen as siding with the “good guys.”
Critics are isolated and polarized, and despite the Left’s phony characterization of a deep-pocketed Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Left’s critics are usually independent voices of little or no means, not necessarily even conservative, with scant resources to defend themselves against defamation campaigns and frivolous lawsuits, which are favored tactics of the well-heeled SPLC and other leftist groups. Far-left agitator Neal Rauhauser even admitted as much when he advocated for a policy of “lawfare” against political opponents:
We’re dealing with people who have likely had no interaction with the court system beyond a traffic ticket; the potential for a pro se litigant to force them into expensive, long distance, lengthy, discovery laden litigation doesn’t seem to cross their minds. The reality of travel, or frightful expenses, or summary judgments needs to be made real. We probably need to make a very visible example of at least one of them before the rest understand. (See http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/middle-class-guy/2012/jun/28/who-neal-rauhauser/.)
Cultural Marxism and Hate Crimes
This kind of sophistry also has roots in the teachings of Julian Bond’s friend and leftist icon Herbert Marcuse. He was an influential member of the Marxist Institute for Social Research that was founded in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923 and modeled after Moscow’s Marx-Engels Institute. It came to be known simply as “the Frankfurt School.” Marcuse and other scholars affiliated with the Institute reestablished it in the U.S. following their exodus from Germany, and developed philosophical studies specifically dedicated to subverting American culture.
Marcuse was often called the Father of the New Left, and he helped pioneer the ideas of political correctness and hate crimes. In a 1965 tract called “Repressive Tolerance,” Marcuse declared:
This essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society. The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed….
As he explained, the way to fix the “repressive tolerance” that Americans suffer because of the First Amendment is to suppress all voices except those from the Left:
Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.… Not ‘equal’ but more representation of the Left would be equalization of the prevailing inequality.
Today you can see this tactic in operation every day when left-wing professors, journalists, and politicians ridicule, misrepresent, ignore, or threaten anyone they disagree with. The Southern Poverty Law Center assists in this effort.
Even more ominously, but in line with Marcuse’s call to arms, the SPLC is a consultant to both the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and the latter has labeled conservatives potential “domestic terrorists.” The SPLC has not been identifying enemies of America. It has been identifying enemies of the Left.
Some of the people and groups on the SPLC’s hate lists genuinely do express hatred and bigotry, like Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party, the KKK, Nazi parties, and the like. But mixed in are many well known, widely respected individuals and groups who have taken principled positions on matters of national importance. Their only sin is their outspoken opposition to the Left’s radical designs.
By cataloging the statements and writings of individuals and groups with whom they disagree, the SPLC is also creating a paper trail to use if and when hate crimes laws are strengthened sufficiently to provide pretexts for lawsuits or other legal action. This is a not-so-subtle threat. That sort of attack has begun to happen in Canada, Britain, and Sweden.
The SPLC’s interaction with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI carries another threat. By deliberately mischaracterizing conservatives and tea partiers as “extremists,” the SPLC implies they have a potential for violence and thus offers a justification for the government to keep tabs on these potential “domestic terrorists.”
The Left, on the other hand, has a firmly established record of militancy, violence, and treasonous, unscrupulous and disgusting anti-social behavior. Occupy Wall Street, for example, is an anti-social, violent movement of the extreme Left. The Black Bloc is a violent organization of the extreme Left, and the FBI recently conducted raids on suspected Black Bloc members.
Why have we heard nothing about it from the SPLC? Are these genuine domestic terrorists on the group’s “Hate Map”? No, nor is Adbusters, an “anti-consumerist” magazine that hatched Occupy Wall Street and that has expressed support for the Black Bloc. (For more on the organization behind the magazine, the Adbusters Media Foundation, see the profile in Foundation Watch, January 2012.)
What about the blatantly terrorist Jumaat al-Fuqra and its 35 U.S.-based terrorist training camps? Crickets from the SPLC. (See http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/01/35-jamaat-al-fuqra-terror-training-camps-still-operating-in-the-us.html.) The same is true for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Why are none of these groups listed in the SPLC’s “Intelligence” files? What about the Communist Party? What about union thugs like AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, implicated in murder, or United Steelworkers’ president Leo Gerard, who exhorted Occupy Wall Street to “more militancy?” All prone to violence, and they proudly say so!
Despite a mountainous record of violence from left-wing individuals and groups, there have never been any left-wing groups identified on the SPLC’s “hate groups” list.
Come to think of it, why isn’t the SPLC listed?
After a bombing attempt on May Day this year by five Occupy Cleveland activists was thwarted, a reporter for National Review asked the SPLC if it planned to put Occupy Wall Street on its “hate group” list? SPLC’s stunning answer: “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a wealthy, well-connected, organized attack machine of the extreme political Left. It shares strategies, goals, and tactics with other similar organizations and colludes with them in campaigns of defamation, disinformation and legal threats to silence and/or criminalize political opponents.
The SPLC has unjustifiably secured itself a position of influence within our government and society. Its very presence threatens our freedoms and First Amendment rights. It abuses our system of justice, while hiding behind a Constitution for which it has little respect.
James Simpson is an economist, businessman, and freelance writer. His writings have been published in Accuracy in Media, American Thinker, Big Government, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, FrontPage Magazine, and elsewhere.
Startling & Thought-Provoking New Analysis of LaVoy Finicum Shooting — with Additional Commentary by Attorney Fred Grant
Note: Supposedly there is an ongoing FBI investigation regarding a coverup by FBI HRT agents involved in that incident. In light of all this subject matter, new videos, anonymously produced, and recently posted on social media, are particularly thought-provoking. After several views, we have found the video analysis to be quite persuasive, if not compelling. In addition to the first general analysis video, we have now also added an additional video devoted to analysis of the purpose of the FBI foam bullet. TM
Below the videos you can also find exclusive, inside analysis and commentary by Attorney Fred Kelly Grant.
AS AN OLD, CURMUDEONLY, DISTRUSTING PROSECUTING ATTORNEY I WOULD CHARGE THAT LAVOY FINICUM WAS MURDERED IN THE FIRST DEGREE WITH PREMEDITATION AND DELIBERATION — Fred Kelly Grant
I have written only one other time about what I thought of the shooting of LaVoy Finicum as an unnecessary, and deliberate acceleration of the “take over” of the Malheur Wildlife buildings in Oregon. And, I haven’t followed the case since visiting with Mrs. Finicum and her deciding to seek counsel elsewhere. I presented her with a plan of action designed to do two things (1) secure her financial assistance for the rest of her life under the Civil Rights Act, and (2) to protect her ranch from what someone will someday do to try to take it. When she chose to go elsewhere, I did not think it appropriate for me to write more about the case, and I have done nothing but follow the news stories of the enormous failures of due process of law regarding the defendants who were arrested. During my prosecutorial and defense career I have seen first degree murderers who frightened jailers treated less severely than what the press reports about the treatment of these men.
I have just watched [the YouTube videos shown above]. I have not and will not name the person who sent me the link because I would not want him linked to my absolute statements in this piece. But, there is full transparency as to who is showing the video and why.
On the basis of the video, as a prosecutor, I would file first degree, premeditated murder charges against officers who shot the deadly shots and at least accomplice before the fact against the officer who fired the foam bullet that caused Finicum to put his hands to the left of his chest.
I would argue to any Grand Jury and to any Petit Jury that his firing of that foam bullet, and then running out of sight instead of trying to subdue a man he knew he had only wounded, was proof that he was the “set up” man. Those of you who have seen the prior films and photos will no doubt remember that LaVoy Finicum got out of the vehicle with his hands in the air, arms fully outstretched, in an obvious surrender move.
Someone, somehow, had to make it appear that he was going to reach for a weapon. I know I could secure an indictment for first degree murder from a Grand Jury, so my focus here is on how I would talk to the members of the Petit Jury. My question to them in closing argument would be simply “If he were going to resist armed officers why did he come out of the vehicle with his arms high in the air; why didn’t he come out shooting? Think about that for just a moment, in fact, think about it for about ten seconds while I watch the clock and keep quiet.”
Jurors do that, they think when you give them moments of silence. More impact comes from their silent thought about your question, than if you immediately answered it for them.
Then my argument would go something like this: Keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, he had already been shot at in the vehicle at least twice. He had already told the others in the vehicle that ‘they are going to kill us’. So, why, in the name of common sense, did he come out with his hands up so high in the air that he couldn’t possibly get to a gun without being gunned down. No, you members of this jury are regular people, with regular minds, and the voir dire showed that you have the ability to listen, but more importantly to hear, and to think. You demonstrated that in your answers to the questions put to you by defense counsel and I. With that ability, with that sense, you cannot possibly watch the video you just saw without observing:
The FBI set up the roadblock in a position that violated every rule of police safety for roadblocks—safety for themselves as well as the public;
The placement of that roadblock on a virtually blind curve with the snow banks along the highway so that a vehicle they knew was traveling at a high rate of speed would not see it in time to avoid acceleration of the situation involving a “take over” of a wildlife center in the winter;
Firing shots at the vehicle as it was still moving toward them at a high rate of speed, not knowing whether those shots would cause the car to crash into their parked cars, perhaps injuring or killing their own;
LaVon getting out of the vehicle with his hands in the air even as he exited the door; he didn’t just put them up once he was outside, he had them up when he came out of the vehicle.
His hands and arms were in the air, arms completely upstretched like this—-in as well known a surrender symbol as any symbol known to any one of you or any one of your family who has ever watched a western movie, comedy or detective show.
As he walks with his hands empty and his arms upstretched to their highest, had anyone shot to kill him, it would have been too clearly a murder, so he had to be set up.
Now we reach the unidentified officer who fires at LaVoy and we know from the evidence that he fired a foam bullet at his left chest; we see it strike LaVoy. You have heard our testimony as to the impact of such a foam bullet from the distance it was fired. The impact hurt him.
Think about it for just a moment—take a moment of silence while I shut up for a moment, and think about being hit in the chest with such velocity—what is the first thing you would do? Just think. ………And I know because I know you are reasoning people that during that silence you would have grabbed at that spot where you were hit.
When we see a football player go down in a pile we see him grab his knee or his shoulder or his ankle; when we see a basketball player twist his knee, what does he do? He grabs that knee. When we see a batter hit by a fast ball what does he do? Before he threatens the pitcher he reaches and grabs at the point at which the ball hit. I used to tell my young ball players “rub it off” when a baseball took a bad bounce. It is not some mystical theory as the defense would have you accept without using the common sense that you brought into this court room. It is a reaction we see in life, in person, or on television every day of our lives.
LaVoy did exactly what you thought about when I graced you with a few seconds of silence awhile ago. He reached for the spot of the pain.
And, that ladies and gentlemen, gave the killers the excuse they give you here—the excuse that they thought he was going for a gun.
I look at these experienced defendants at the table and wonder whether they really think that you twelve souls believe that they really feared he was going for a gun inside his heavy coat when he could have come out of that car shooting had that been his intent.
I ask you ladies and gentlemen to look at these defendants—you’ve heard about their training, their expertise, their policy of de-escalation—look them in the eyes and tell me whether you think they were that dumb. No. No. No. They were not.
10. Where in the world, much less where in this courtroom to support his fellow officers, is the man who fired the foam bullet? You saw him fire, then turn and disappear behind the roadblock car—never to be heard from or identified again. He wasn’t just some bystander was he? He was one of these defendants’ comrades in arms. Where is he? Why is he not here so I could have asked him why he dashed away at a time when he could probably have subdued LaVoy who was reeling from the pain.
As you know, I asked the court to let you review that video in the jury room and within his lawful discretion he denied my request. He granted the defense objection. But the fact that you don’t have it with you doesn’t remove it from your minds and memories.
You’ve heard days of evidence as to the “take over”, the reasons for it, the reasons why the Government could not allow it to continue, the idea that LaVoy Finicum and his friends or “co-defendants” as the defense would call them, set out to speak to a sheriff. You’ve heard those days of testimony because in the American system of justice designed by our Founders we give these defendants more chance than they gave LaVoy on that Oregon highway.
Were it not for this video you saw, it might be a bit difficult for me to argue that this is a case of premeditated first degree murder. I still would have felt justified in arguing that the law was broken by these defendants in whom we place our trust for law enforcement—but maybe not premeditated, deliberate, first degree murder.
With the video, I have no qualms, no hesitance, in asking you to find that beyond every possible reasonable doubt, these men are guilty of taking the life of LaVoy Finicum intentionally and with premeditation.
What it took God years to develop into a hard working rancher, a good husband and father to eleven children— this man LaVoy Finicum— it took these defendants less than twenty seconds to destroy. You twelve, sworn and true, are the source for what earthly justice we can give him, his wife, his children. I ask you most earnestly to return verdicts of guilty—–guilty of murder in the first degree.”
Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher has broadly apologized to park employees, in a remarkable bow to harsh criticisms leveled last week at a congressional oversight hearing.
Amid a newly revealed Interior Department investigation, and with whistleblowers and lawmakers alike now scrutinizing his actions closely, Neubacher offered contrition for what he acknowledged to be “serious staff concerns.”
“It was never my intention, in any way, to offend any employee over the course of the six and a half years I have been superintendent,” Neubacher wrote in an email sent Sunday night to park staff. “If I did offend any of you at any time, I want to sincerely apologize.”
Neubacher added that he and the park’s senior staffers are “working on ways to enhance the working environment at Yosemite,” and he said they hoped to “share some additional information and next steps . . . early this week.”
Yosemite’s superintendent since early 2010, Neubacher emailed all park employees Sunday evening after his leadership was blasted at a hearing last Thursday of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The panel zeroed in on Yosemite as part of a broader look at park service management problems.
“In Yosemite National Park today, dozens of people, the majority of whom are women, are being bullied, belittled, disenfranchised and marginalized from their roles as dedicated professionals,” Kelly Martin, chief of the park’s fire and aviation branch, said in written testimony.
Martin added that investigators “are likely to find accounts of women and men being publicly humiliated by the superintendent, intimidated in front of colleagues and . . . having their professional credibility and integrity minimized or questioned.”
Martin has worked for the federal government for 32 years and has been at Yosemite since July 2006. She previously worked at Grand Canyon National Park and with the Forest Service at the Carson Ranger District on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, among other places.
Nationwide, women make up about 37 percent of the park service’s workforce. In wildland firefighting, the percentage of women in public lands agencies is even lower.
At Yosemite, Martin cited several troublesome incidents that included her work on the park’s complex fire-management plan being “discounted and discredited,” as well as her being supplanted as the leader of the park’s response to the 2013 Rim Fire.
One investigation, called an “expedited inquiry,” had been initiated by the park service in August to determine whether a hostile work environment or harassment pervaded Yosemite. Such inquiries can lead to formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaints.
“Some employees chose not to come forward for fear of retaliation,” Martin reported.
Still, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House oversight committee, disclosed that at least 18 Yosemite employees had complained about working conditions at the park, and he cited one investigator’s characterization of the Yosemite work environment as “horrific.”
The initial inquiry prompted the follow-up investigation by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, though Martin voiced a concern that it “may not be the appropriate body to handle the sensitivity and nuances of a hostile work environment complaint.”
In his email, Neubacher said he’d learned “over the last few weeks” about the staff concerns.
“Until recently, I wasn’t aware of these concerns and I am deeply saddened by this,” he wrote.
Neubacher declined further comment Monday.
Prior to joining Yosemite, Neubacher was superintendent for 15 years at Point Reyes National Seashore. His leadership there incited controversy over his objections to a local oyster farm, prompting earlier investigations by House committees and others.
The deputy superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, another park whose whose management came under fire at the hearing last week, announced her retirement Monday. The park’s previous superintendent retired in May, as allegations surfaced about sexual harassment complaints being mishandled.
It is currently funded by George Soros and is an extreme progressive organization which obsesses over ‘patriot groups.’ According to Discover the Networks:
Southern Poverty Law Center: This organization monitors the activities of what it calls “hate groups” in the United States. It exaggerates the prevalence of white racism directed against American minorities.
Formed in 1971 as a ‘civil rights litigation’ organization, SPLC has ties with the American Communist Party and its articles often appear in Communist newspapers, as well as hard-left progressive publications.
‘This Land Is Our Land’: The Movement Bigger Than The Bundys’
OPB’s Conrad Wilson and the Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein update us on the last full week of the government’s case against the Malheur refuge occupiers.
Then, we take a look at the so-called Patriot Movement — a loosely-connected network of organizations that are united in the belief the federal government has overstepped its authority.
Mark Potok is a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center. His job is to monitor groups that are a part of what he calls the “extreme right.” That includes everything from racist groups like the KKK and to groups like the Bundys, whose concerns revolve around severe distrust of the federal government.
Potok says many people in the groups he tracks believe there is “a secret plan to impose draconian gun control on all Americans” and “those who resist the coming seizure will be thrown into concentration camps that have been secretly built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
SPLC has identified nearly 1,000 groups across the country with these kinds of beliefs and connects the groups to the philosophies that motivated the Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho; the Waco, Texas, siege; and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Potok says there is a way to curb the movement.
“In the late ‘90s, the FBI made quite an effort … to meet with militiamen, to go out to have coffee to talk to these people about their concerns and fears, and in fact I think there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that that was quite effective,” Potok said. “You realize the person you’re having coffee with is an actual human being just like you are.”
Joseph Rice is the head of the Josephine County chapter of the Oath Keepers — a group that Potok sees as central to so-called patriot groups. But Rice thinks SPLC is uninformed about his group. “I’ve never spoken to those folks,” he said.
Rice was in Harney County when Ammon Bundy led a group to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but Rice and his group didn’t join the occupation. Instead, he and a group of like-minded organizations known as the “Pacific Patriots Network” stuck around to provide security in town. The group said it was there to prevent another Waco or Ruby Ridge-like incident.
Those incidents, he says, were “lessons in history.” The individuals involved in those incidents “were living their life as they chose to live freely, without impact to others. It was only when the federal government came in they had impact, and that resulted in loss of life.”
Though he didn’t endorse it, Rice insists that the takeover of the refuge was an act of civil disobedience. And while he disagrees with the charges against Ammon Bundy and the other defendants, he does think the incident has drawn attention to issues around the federal control of land, which could be good for the aims of his group.
Is this private school getting public money to push radical environmentalism?
The Four Corners School is an integral part of the Canyon Country Discovery Center in tiny Monticello, Utah. An attractive facility in a beautiful setting at the foot of the Abajo Mountains, with Canyonlands National Park to the north and Lake Powell to the west, this small private school has recently come under fire for its associations with extremist environmental organizations.
Janet Ross, who served for many years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) also serves as the director of the Four Corners School. SUWA is infamous for what some refer to as dirty tricks and others refer to as lies, in garnering donations from supporters through near-hysterical ads portraying oil rigs in national parks, and similar scare tactics.
Fake photograph published by SUWA to frighten potential donors about energy development in southern Utah
SUWA is also deeply involved in the “Keep it in the Ground” movement which has the goal of banning virtually all fossil fuel extraction and development efforts in North America.
The Petroglyph, a southern Utah-based blog, reported in September of 2013:
It’s not that locals didn’t like the Four Corner School or their liberal approach to environmental issues. The school’s own records showed that they supported and donated to environmental groups like Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and other radical environmental groups…
The same report details the taxpayer funding that fueled local opposition to the school:
…The controversy was based on the fact that the county was funding a privately-owned non-profit school and associated business with taxpayer money.
The San Juan Record reported back in August that the Four Corners School received $1.59 million tax dollars from the U.S. Commerce Department. Within the U.S. Department of Commerce is the E.D.A (US Economic Development Administration). The grant that the Four Corners School received was an E.D.A Grant.
In 2007 San Juan County commissioners authorized the Four Corner School to receive over $500,000 in taxpayer money from the county to build the Canyon Country Discovery Center. Once the public found out about this and raised a fuss, the county rescinded the money, but not until $400,000.00 had been already paid to the school.
Despite people coming out against their tax dollars being used this way, San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams and Monticello City Mayor Doug Allen continued to help the school petition the state for additional funds from the public treasury.
More recently, a ‘public’ meeting to be held in Monticello by the U.S. Forest Service in order to get local input on a management plan for the region, was held at the private school. The problem was that, not only is the school on privately-owned property with related restrictions, but the school is deemed ‘unfriendly’ by many San Juan County locals because of historical tensions with environmental activist groups, and what many regard as the misapplication of taxpayer funding. Reagangirl.com reported:
The US Forest Service booked the Canyon Country Discovery Center (CCDC) for its Management Plan Revision Open House public meeting on September 14, 2016. The problem is the CCDC is a private school promoting what most residents of San Juan County consider to be radical environmentalist agendas. With deep ties to groups including the Grand Canyon Trust, Wilderness Society, SUWA, Dine Bikeyah, Conservation Lands Foundation, Pew Trusts, Hewlett, and others, CCDC pits itself against the economic interests of the county and its people. For instance, the fore named groups are pushing for the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument, which will effectively shut down oil and gas, mining, and other viable economic industries in San Juan County.
Organizers and supporters of the Four Corners School and the CCDC cite benefits from tourism and outside dollars coming into the county because of its appeal as a traveler destination. Although the majority of funding for the Four Corners School comes from private sources, the funding from San Juan County is significant, considering the fact that San Juan is Utah’s poorest county.
A May 2016 report about extravagant expenditures by the county’s Director of Economic Development is one of many issues in San Juan County generating concern about where taxpayer dollars are going.
SEARSBURG, Vt. — It was a private ceremony held on private property, for a public project being built on public land. And when members of the public showed, they were barred from entering by public employees.
Welcome to “clean” energy in Vermont.
Three state troopers guarded the entrance to the Monday morning ground-breaking ceremony of the Deerfield Wind Project, a 30-megawatt 15-turbine installation being built by Spanish developer Iberdrola on U.S. Forest Service land in the Green Mountain National Forest.
Gov. Peter Shumlin was there, on the inside, as were more than 50 protesters, on the outside. Even state Rep. Marriana Gamache, R-Swanton, who is on the House Energy Committee, was denied entry.
Photos courtesy Grafton Woodlands Group WIND PROTEST: Wearing a bat costume to highlight the peril posed to bats and birds by wind turbines, Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment attends a protest outside the ground-breaking for a 15-turbine project.
Iberdrola (known as Avangrid in the U.S.) has a 25-year purchase agreement with Green Mountain Power. Vermont utilities are required to get at least 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, regardless of the cost.
The Deerfield turbines, each just under 500 feet tall, will be the first-in-the-nation utility-scale wind farm on U.S. Forest land.
“This is going to be in a remote location, far from load where there aren’t customers to serve,” said Annette Smith, president of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who was among the protesters. She was dressed in a bat costume to highlight the killing of bats and birds by large turbines. “It is a measly 30 megawatt project which with wind means it’s really only 10 megawatts in terms of actual production.”
Smith said the project will destroy two ridge lines, one of which is within a mile and a half of the George D. Aiken Wilderness, which will likely be subject to noise pollution.
John Brabant, a member of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, noted that 20 years ago when the local Sugar Bush Ski Resort applied for an Act 250 permit, the Agency of Natural Resources enforced strong restrictions on the project.
“The old ANR used to take this very seriously, they wouldn’t even allow ski trails to go through this area that was bear denning and breeding habitat for fear that just the mere passage of skiers would wake the denning bears. Yet they are going to allow these blasts throughout the winter,” he said.
Smith said they saw heavy equipment heading toward the soon-to-be construction site to begin clearing the forest.
“This is the time when the bears start feeding up there in the fall and they go denning up there, so they can kiss their happy home goodbye, they are losing their cafeteria and their bedroom,” she said.
Brabant reflected that decades ago many of those now supporting industrial wind projects would have been on the outside, with the protesters, rather than the inside, with the developers.
“These environmental groups 20 years ago would have fought tooth and nail to stop what’s going on,” said Brabant. “Now they are not only not fighting, they are supporting, openly, unabashedly (the projects).”
At the ceremony, Shumlin touted his aggressive approach to industrial wind and solar projects.
“I am proud that since I took office we have increased solar by 11 times and wind generation by 20 times, and that we now have over 17,000 Vermonters working in clean energy jobs,” he said.
Other voices from inside the event expressed nothing but enthusiasm for the project. A representative from the neighboring town of Readsboro, which is supposed to collect $150,000 per year in revenue from the project, heaped praise on wind power, as did an official from the Forest Service.
“It was a party for the club and I guess there was some ceremony and they had food or something afterwards,” said Brabant. “We couldn’t see it. We were down the road away from where it all went down.”
If you want to understand what’s behind the Bundy Ranch Bunkerville standoff, the imprisonment of the Hammonds, the Oregon standoff, and the growing hatred of the federal Bureau of Land Management in the West, this is a must watch.
These are BLM agents on the Bundy Ranch–is something amiss here?
Imagine a country that has a corrupt authoritarian government. In that country no one knows about checks and balances or an independent court system. Private property is not recognized in that country either. Neither can one buy or sell land. And businesses are reluctant to bring investments into this country. Those who have jobs usually work for the public sector. Those who don’t have jobs subsist on entitlements that provide basic food. At the same time, this country sports a free health care system and free access to education. Can you guess what country it is? It could be the former Soviet Union, Cuba, or any other socialist country of the past.
Yet, I want to assure you that such a country exists right here in the United States. And its name is Indian Country. Indian Country is a generic metaphor that writers and scholars use to refer to the archipelago of 310 Native American reservations, which occupy 2 percent of the U.S. soil. Scattered all over the United States, these sheltered land enclaves are held in trust by the federal government. So legally, many of these land enclaves are a federal property. So there you cannot freely buy and sell land or use it as collateral. On top of this, since the Indian tribes are wards of the federal government, one cannot sue them for breach of contract. Indian reservations are communally used by Indian groups and subsidized by the BIA (the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior) with a current annual budget of about $3 billion dollars. Besides being a major financial resource that sustains the reservation system, BIA’s goal is also to safeguard indigenous communities, or, in other words, to make sure that they would never fail when dealing with the “outside” society. People in the government and many Native American leaders naÏvely believe that it is good for the well-being of the Indians to be segregated and sheltered from the rest of American society.
This peculiar trust status of Indian Country, where private property rights are insecure, scares away businesses and investors.1 They consider these forbidden grounds high risk areas. So, in Indian Country, we have an extreme case of what Robert Higgs famously labeled “regime uncertainty” that retards economic development.2 In fact, this “regime uncertainty” borders on socialism. James Watt, Secretary of the Interior in the first Reagan administration, was the first to publicly state this. In 1983, he said (and then dearly paid for this), “If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don’t go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations.”3
In the 1990s, I had a chance to travel through several reservations. Each time when I crossed their borders I was stunned by the contrast between the human landscapes outside and those within Indian reservations. As soon as I found myself within a reservation, I frequently had a taste of a world that, in appearance, reminded me of the countryside in Russia, my former homeland: the same bumpy and poorly maintained roads, worn-out shacks, rotting fences, furniture, and car carcasses, the same grim suspicious looks directed at an intruder, and frequently intoxicated individuals hanging around. So I guess my assessment of the reservation system will be a biased view from a former Soviet citizen who feels that he enters his past when crossing into Native America.
I am going to make a brief excursion into the intellectual sources of this “socialist archipelago.” Since the 1960s, the whole theme of Native America had been hijacked by Marxist scholarship and by so-called identity studies, which shaped a mainstream perception that you should treat Native Americans not as individuals but as a collection of cultural groups, eternal victims of capitalist oppression. I want to challenge this view and address this topic from a standpoint of methodological individualism. In my view, the enduring poverty on reservations is an effect of the “heavy blanket” of collectivism and state paternalism. Endorsed by the federal government in the 1930s, collectivism and state paternalism were eventually internalized by both local Native American elites and by federal bureaucrats who administer the Indians. The historical outcome of this situation was the emergence of “culture of poverty” that looks down on individual enterprise and private property. Moreover, such an attitude is frequently glorified as some ancient Indian wisdom — a life-style that is morally superior to the so-called Euro-American tradition.
Before we proceed, I will give you some statistics. Native Americans receive more federal subsides than anybody else in the United States. This includes subsidized housing, health, education, and direct food aid. Yet, despite the uninterrupted flow of federal funds, they are the poorest group in the country. The poverty level on many reservations ranges between 38 and 63 percent (up to 82 percent on some reservations),4 and half of all the jobs are usually in the public sector.5 This is before the crisis of 2008! You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to figure out that one of the major sources of this situation is a systemic failure of the federal Indian policies.
These policies were set in motion during the New Deal by John Collier, a Columbia-educated social worker, community organizer, and utopian dreamer who was in charge of the Native American administration during FDR’s entire administration. English Fabian socialism, the anarchism of Peter Kropotkin, communal village reforms conducted by the Mexican socialist government, and the romantic vision of Indian cultures were the chief sources of his intellectual inspiration. Collier dreamed about building up what he called Red Atlantis, an idyllic Native American commonwealth that would bring together modernization and tribal collectivism. He expected that this experiment in collective living would not only benefit the Native Americans but would also become a social laboratory for the rest of the world. The backbone of his experiment was setting up so-called tribal governments on reservations, which received the status of public corporations. Collier envisioned them as Indian autonomies that would distribute funds, sponsor public works, and set up cooperatives. In reality, financed by the BIA, these local governments began to act as local extensions of its bureaucracy.
It is interesting that these so-called native autonomies received peculiar jack-of-all-trades functions: legislative, executive, judicial and economic — a practice that is totally unfamiliar in America. For example, in the rest of the United States, municipalities and counties do not own restaurants, resorts, motels, casinos, and factories. In Indian Country, by contrast, it became standard practice since the New Deal. By their status, these tribal governments are more interested in distributing jobs and funds than in making a profit. As a result, many enterprises set up on reservations have been subsidized by the government for decades. Under normal circumstances, these ventures would have gone bankrupt. This system that was set up in the 1930s represents a financial “black hole” that sucks in and wastes tremendous resources in the name of Native American sovereignty. This situation resembles the negative effect of foreign aid on Third-World regimes that similarly use the tribalism and national sovereignty excuse as a license to practice corruption, nepotism, and authoritarian rule.
My major argument is that Collier’s utopian project (restoration of tribal collectivism) was not a strange out-of-touch-with-reality scheme but rather a natural offshoot of the social engineering mindset of New Dealers. Moreover, the Indian New Deal was a manifestation of standard policy solutions popular among policy makers in the 1930s, both in Europe and North America. These solutions were driven by three key concepts: state, science, and collectivism. Recent insightful research done by German-American historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch into the economics and cultures of three “new deals” (National Socialist Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and FDR’s United States) shows that in the interwar period, governments in these three countries (and in other countries, too) pursued extensive state-sponsored modernization. But, simultaneously, to better mobilize their populations and ease the pressure of modernization on the people, they cultivated a sense of community, the organic unity with land and folk cultures.6
For example, in 1930s Germany, along with the grand autobahn building project and genetic experimentation, there existed a strong back-to-land movement and attempts to revive Nordic paganism. In the United States, in addition to the National Recovery Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority and similar giant projects, there flourished the community-binding Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Federal Art Project that produced “heroic” community murals as well as thousands of craft items for civic, state, and federal organizations. Furthermore, as “one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever attempted by a state” (W. H. Auden), Federal Writers’ Project (also part of WPA) employed thousands of intellectuals who were directed to collect regional folklore and ethnographies, and promote the heritage of local communities. Last but not least, there were projects like the Arthurdale settlement (West Virginia) — a federally sponsored scheme to place unemployed industrial workers on land and mold them into new wholesome American citizens.7 Even Stalin’s Soviet Union, which was going wild with its aggressive modernization and industrialization, somewhat muted the cosmopolitan message of Communism and became more “organic” in the 1930s, trying to root itself in Russian history, mythology, and folklore — pursuits that became known as National Bolshevism.8
Another common sentiment shared by social engineers from California to the Ural Mountains was an unconditional faith in science. We can call it science worship. At that time, policy makers assumed that by using science and expert-scholars government could plan and engineer a perfectly ordered crisis-proof society. F. A. Hayek was the first to draw attention to this aspect of modernity in his seminal book The Counter-Revolution of Science (1955).9
The Indian New Deal fits perfectly into those policy trends. In fact, as early as 1928, federal bureaucrats began suggesting that the Indians be organized as public corporations — a fancy innovation that they copied from Europe. Collier, a middle-level New Deal bureaucrat, personified sentiments of modernism I mentioned above. On one hand, he praised Indian tribalism that would help not only the Native Americans but would also help anchor Americans in land and nourish a sense of community among them. Yet, on the other hand, like a mantra, Collier repeated that only a scientific approach would resolve the problems communities faced in the modern world. A recurrent message throughout his essays and articles is a demand that Indian communities be used as laboratories for sociological experimentation. In one of his speeches — which by the way is labeled “United States Administration as a Laboratory of Ethnic Relations” — Collier gave himself an unrestricted political license to experiment with Indian Country. In this speech, he stressed that if a government tried to impose something on an ethic group it would be harmful. Yet, if government intervention was backed up by science and supplemented by generous financial injections to local communities, then the interference would be very benign.10
Where did Collier get his “scientific” ideas about segregating Native Americans into cultural groups? The answer is simple: from contemporary anthropological scholarship. At that time, American anthropologists were very much preoccupied with traditional culture. They were on a mission to retrieve ethnographically authentic Indian customs and artifacts. Driven by this romantic notion, anthropologists downplayed the heavy influence of Euro-Americans and African-Americans on indigenous communities. As a result, they totally ignored such segments of Indian population as cowboys, iron, cannery and agricultural workers, and individual farmers. They considered them non-Indian and non-traditional. So, before Collier emerged on the scene in 1933, American anthropology had already invented its own Red Atlantis by classifying the Indians into tribes and relegating them into particular cultural areas.
Pressured by the federal government and lured by an offer of easy credit, a majority of Indians approved of Collier’s plan to restore “tribes” and organized themselves into public corporations. Still, a large minority — more than 30 percent of the Indians — rejected the Indian New Deal. Many of them informed Collier that, in fact, although they were Indians, they had nothing against private property and did not want be segregated from the rest of Americans into tribes under federal supervision. They stressed that they could not stomach his communism and socialism, and wanted instead to be treated as individuals. Collier was very much surprised and angered by these dissidents, who organized themselves and founded the American Indian Federation (AIF) to oppose him. In a bizarre motion, he dismissed them as fake Indians. To him, the true Indian was expected to be a spiritually-charged die-hard collectivist. Historian Graham Taylor, who explored in detail Collier’s attempts to railroad tribalism in Indian Country, stressed, “His basic orientation was toward groups and communities, not individuals, as building blocks of society.”11 Later, Collier even resorted to nasty tricks labeling his Indian opponents as Nazi collaborators, and had one of them investigated by the FBI. Eventually, government squashed AIF as part of a larger FDR effort to use the FBI to phase out the “right-wing fifth column” elements in the United States.12 D. H. Lawrence, the famous British novelist, who rubbed shoulders with Collier as early as 1920, had a chance to personally observe his aggressive zeal on behalf of Indian culture. This British writer prophetically noted that Collier would destroy the Indians by setting “the claws of his own white egoistic benevolent volition into them.”13
To those dissident Native Americans who repeatedly challenged him about going tribal, Collier explained that their individualism was obsolete. In his view, state-sponsored tribalism was modern and progressive. In his address given before the Haskell Institute, Collier instructed students to cast aside “shallow and unsophisticated individualism.” He warned the Indian youngsters that this useless trait of dominant culture would not be “the views of the modern white world in the years to come.” Instead, he called on the new Indian generation to come help “the tribe, the nation, and the race.” He invited them to step into a radiant future that included such “necessities of modern life” as municipal rule, public ownership, cooperatives, and corporations.14
The system set up by Collier is still in place and functioning. What are its future prospects? As I mentioned, the Indian “socialist archipelago” is relatively modest in its size. It occupies only 2 percent of U.S. soil and shelters only 22 percent of 5 million Indians now living in the United States. Unlike bailing out such bankrupt states as California, New York, and Illinois, socializing subsidies to Indian Country is not too painful for a huge American budget. So, potentially, this “socialist archipelago” can exist forever as long as American taxpayers are ready to put up with its peculiar status, and unless, of course, American welfare capitalism goes down under the burden of its numerous entitlement obligations. So far, protected by the shield of trust status and guaranteed financial injections, Indian Country is in pretty “good shape,” unlike, for example, some current Third-World autocracies that are not always sure if Western aid will continue to flow. All in all, like the Social Security scheme, farmers’ subsidies, and many other “wonderful” products of the New Deal alchemical lab, Red Atlantis is still with us alive and well.