Here's an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.
Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.
That turns out not to be quite right because it didn't count other forms of larceny. Still, this is a truly amazing statistic. They just take the stuff, no due process, nothing. And they keep it to use for more law enforcement.
For some reason most conservatives have no problem with this. But taxing you for roads and bridges is tyranny. I don't get it.
There are lots of methods. They probably work best in combination but you can get a lot done with just one thing: fear.
Here's an interesting piece in the New York Times about Trumpism by Timothy Egan;
In “The Plot Against America,” the novelist Philip Roth imagines an alternative history at the dawn of World War II. Charles A. Lindbergh, aviator hero and crypto-fascist, defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Rather than go to war against Nazi Germany, he foments an atmosphere of hatred directed at Jews in the United States.
President Lindbergh’s rule is based on fear. He can violate the Constitution because enough Americans do not mind limiting the freedom of a suspect minority in the name of security.
Of course, it could never happen here. It’s a novel, silly boy — one of late-stage Roth’s better efforts. Made-up stuff. That’s what I’ve always thought. But over the last three months, in listening to plans of the Republican presidential front-runner and the views of his increasingly thuggish followers, I’m starting to have some dark fears should Donald Trump become president.
It was 21h32 on November 13th when time stopped in France and around the world as Paris was attacked in its heart. One hundred and thirty people were killed while enjoying dinners with friends, celebrating birthdays, and dancing at a concert. The French government, with the support of most of the population and political groups, rapidly declared a state of emergency that was initially scheduled to last 12 days. This drastic measure, not used since World War II, altered the normal balance of powers in France, giving more discretion to the President and the government.
The following week, as the police and military forces were tracking the perpetrators of the attacks, people around the world sent messages showing their support for the people of Paris, and France was moved by an unprecedented rush of solidarity. Since several suspects remained at large, the President requested that the parliament extend the state of emergency to three months, and modify the French law on the state of emergency, which dates from 1955. Parliament granted both requests with limited opposition, despite the absence of justification for the changes, and despite the fact that the modifications created new measures extending surveillance powers and limiting freedoms. More radical changes could come as the French have government has chosen this difficult period to consider modifying the Constitution, which would officially shift France from the Fifth to the Sixth Republic.
Before the attacks
France has historically been a country with a strong tradition of defending human rights. The French Revolution and the Enlightenment inspired many human rights declarations around the world. Despite this proud record, more recently abuses and violations of those universal rights have taking place in France, as highlighted in a recent Human Rights Watch report. The past two years have been particularly liberticide. Ostensibly in response to terrorist threats, France has passed no fewer than four separate laws extending its surveillance powers since December 2014: the Military Programming law, the Anti-Terrorism law, the Intelligence law, and the International Surveillance law. Together, these laws have made France an all-seeing state, capable of monitoring the population, collecting and retaining personal data for excessive periods, snooping on the private communications of individuals in France or abroad, and the list goes on. Given France’s ever-expanding surveillance authorities, many see the government’s immediate response to the attacks in Paris as relatively measured and calm. However, it may simply be that there are not many more surveillance powers for the government to seek. That said, the newly adopted proposals have nevertheless further extended the French surveillance state to extremes never previously seen in the digital age.
What is in the new law on the state of emergency?
The law adopted on November 20th declares a state of emergency in all French territories for three months, during which:
Warrantless house searches are authorised night and day, unless the house is occupied by a lawyer or a member of Parliament. This authority is granted by the Home Affairs minister or the Prefect of a region. The law also provides that a prosecutor be notified without undue delay. While remaining broad, this measure is a limitation of the 1955 law that authorised such house searches without notifying a prosecutor. If there is a wrongful or unsupported search, an individual can seek redress from of an administrative court.
Warrantless searches of electronic devices are authorised. Data can be accessed and copied by law enforcement.
The Home Affairs minister has the power to place individuals under house arrest if “there are serious reasons to believe that his/her behavior constitutes a threat to security and public order”, a provision created under the 1955 law. Now, these individuals can also be placed under invasive surveillance. While the parliament debated whether to prevent these individuals from accessing the internet, members of parliament abandoned the idea because the French constitutional court previously established that access to the internet is a fundamental right. However, the Home Affairs minister can order a limit or temporary suspension of their communications.
The government has the right to dissolve groups or associations that "take part in the execution of acts that represent a serious infringement to public order or whose activities facilitate or incite the execution of such acts." Under French law, public order is a subjective notion, which can be interpreted in different ways depending on the situation. It has never been defined by the French constitutional court.
The law includes a measure to allow authorities to block websites that promote or incite terrorism, without the intervention of a judge. However, this mirrors a proposal that was already adopted in November of last year during reform of the Anti-Terrorism law, and that measure remains in effect. This makes the new measure nearly duplicative. Under the new provision, the limited oversight mechanism provided in the Anti-Terrorism law, which has been executed by the national data protection authority called CNIL, is no longer compulsory, and it is not clear whether there will be any mechanism for redress.
Silver lining: The 1955 law gave authorities control of the media, and this is no longer authorised.
But the biggest change might be yet to come. François Hollande, the French President, has announced a proposal to modify the French constitution to “adapt the State’s response to emergency situations.” The Prime Minister has been tasked with preparing this proposal, and it is expected to be released in the next few weeks. While everyone awaits the release, several political groups are already expressing doubt as to whether the government needs to modify the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which has been in place since 1958. A change in the constitution would officially create the Sixth Republic in France.
More at the link. They've put climate activists under house arrest.Evidently they must believe they are in cahoots with ISIS. Or they're using their expanded powers for other purposes. I wonder what it could be?
We can’t let it happen anymore. We have to be strong, we have to smart. We have to be fair, we have to be fair to all side. And it’s tough. You know, if you’re Muslim — and there are so many, they’re so great, they’re such good people — but we to be smart, because it’s coming from this area. I mean, there’s something going on. There’s some nastiness, there’s some meanness there. There’s something going on in the mosques and other places. And we have to at least say there’s a problem so we can solve it. We can’t close our eyes.
I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama — he wants to close his eyes and pretend it’s not happening. Why is he so emphatic on not solving the problem? There’s something we don’t know about! There’s something we don’t know about. (Shouts from the audience can be heard, declaring that Obama is a Muslim.)
So, we have to go out — and again, the greatest source for this is our local police. And the really greatest source is all of you, because you have all those eyes. And you see what’s happening. People move into a house a block down the road — you know who’s going in. You can see. And you report them to the local police. You know, it’s too complicated — call the federal government, who do we call? it’s a big bureaucratic mess, nobody knows what they’re doing, okay?
But you people, and me and everybody, you know when somebody moves to an apartment near you, or to a house near you — you’re pretty smart, right? We know if there’s something going on. Report them! Most likely you’ll be wrong, and that’s okay. But let the local police go in and check out [sic], and you’ll get rid of this stuff. That’s the best way. Everybody’s their own cop, in a way — I mean, you gotta do it, you gotta do it.
We might like to think that's way outside the mainstream. But unfortunately, it isn't:
"Mississippi is a great state, but like all 50 states it has troubled souls that might look to find meaning in this sick, misguided way. The challenge that we face in law enforcement is that they may be getting exposed to that poison and that training in their basement," Comey said. "They're sitting there consuming and may emerge from the basement to kill people of any sort, which is the call of ISIL, just kill somebody."
So he stressed that the threat is very real, not just for military or law enforcement or the media, all of whom have been warned by the FBI that ISIS could be gunning for them, but for ordinary citizens as well.
"If you can video tape it all the better, if it's law enforcement all the better, if you can cut somebody's head off and get it on tape, what a wonderful thing in their view of the world," he continued. "That's the challenge we face everywhere."
Comey expressed particular fear that restrictions on information gathering could give terrorists more leeway because they are harder to track.
"I'm very worried about where we're drifting as a country in respect to law enforcement's ability to, with lawful process, intercept communications. I'm not talking about sneaky stuff. I'm talking about situations where we have probable cause to believe that somebody is communicating with a terrorist group," he said. "... We're drifting into a place where there are going to be large swaths of this country beyond the reach of the law."
Because of that, Comey said, citizens need to be constantly on the watch. The current climate of the world does not make it acceptable to see something and not report it.
"Ordinary folks should listen to the hair on the back of their neck," he said. "We've gone back through every homegrown violent extremist case in the United States and studied it. In every single case, someone saw something online, at a religious institution, in a family setting, at a school, that was weird, that was out of place, this person was acting in a way that didn't make sense."
No word on whether or not we should report armed Trump voters but they sure make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I'm going to guess that's not what either FBI chief Comey or Donald Trump have in mind.
If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.
“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.
John G. Horgan, who studies terrorism at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, said the mismatch between public perceptions and actual cases had become steadily more obvious to scholars.
“There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. Horgan said. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”
We're just talking about political violence in that chart. (Mass shootings and general gun violence has literally killed hundreds of thousands of people in that time frame.)
Now ask yourself, which of those violent ideologies is more likely to present an existential threat to our way of life? Which one influences more Americans to take up the cause? Which one has power within our governing structure?
From former congressman and current grifter Allen West, on the Planned Parenthood terrorism:
Here’s the ONE FACT about the Planned Parenthood shooting liberals refuse to admit
Written by Allen West on November 28, 2015
I had a great run along Ft. Lauderdale beach this morning — big difference between here and Dallas weather. I’d hoped to get in some scuba diving this Thanksgiving weekend, but the seas are just too rough. However at least there’s no freezing rain. One thing for certain, I am having fun watching some REALLY good college football rivalry games — more to come on this Saturday.
However, tragedy has struck out in Colorado Springs and I wanted to express my condolences to the families who’ve lost loved ones — especially to the law enforcement officer who lost his life — our everyday guardians. As I watched the coverage and read some of the online social media responses, along with the protests in Chicago, figured I had to offer my assessment. And for those liberal progressives who feel my words don’t matter, then why are you here reading them?
We don’t know the motive behind the shooting in Colorado Springs, yet I’ve already seen the “right wing Christian” negative castigations — the whole fear of right wing Christians as opposed to militant Islamic terrorists. I think the liberal progressive media and their acolytes need be careful in exposing themselves to a blatant hypocrisy. The incident that occurred in Colorado Springs is horrible and surely will reflect upon a demented mind. But those on the left need to be aware that EVERY DAY Planned Parenthood is in the business of killing babies. That is not debatable. Murder is murder, and if the left believes it can leverage this as some political scoring point, you are dearly mistaken.
I know, the retort will be that Roe v Wade provides for the legal killing of babies – but do any of you find comfort in that logic? I suppose we’ve come to a point in America where we — well, the progressive socialist left — cherry picks which killings are ok, i.e., politically advantageous.
And so it is in Chicago where folks under the false narrative and deceptive guise of “black lives matter” are protesting — again — and blocking seasonal shoppers.
Now just how many black lives have been killed in Chicago? Yet they’ve chosen the disturbing shooting of a drug-induced young black man wielding a knife to champion. What about the nine-year-old black child who was lured and executed as part of a gang-related feud, in Chicago? Crickets. And could it be possible that the over 13 million black lives – babies — been killed since Roe v Wade mean so very little? After all, they don’t fit into the desired political narrative of the liberal progressive left.
Nope, their lives don’t matter since the white liberal progressive mass media says they do not.
Come to think about it, where are the protests over the Indiana pregnant pastor’s wife who was killed and raped by several black males? Nah, her life doesn’t matter. And what of the New Orleans medical student who stepped in to save the life of a woman being assaulted by a black male — he was shot in the stomach? And we all saw the video of the assailant pointing the gun to his head as he lay on the ground — thankfully the gun jammed and his life was spared. Does the life of the medical student, or the woman he saved, matter? Nah, they don’t fit into the liberal progressive left political agenda, narrative.
So here is my recommendation to the progressive socialist left, based on my assessment: shut the hell up and stop the bovine excrement. Stop cherry picking what lives matter in order to further your sick and insidious manipulation for your own political advantage.
You all are a bunch of miserable useful idiots, per Vladimir Lenin, who need to get a grip and realize just how stupid you’re making yourselves look. You’re consistently opening up yourselves to hypocrisy alerts as if you don’t believe anyone sees this, or perhaps believe no one will call you out on it.
Just stop, put down the George Soros paid for and produced signage. Go home and watch some college football, but stop with the Rahm Emanuel mantra of “never let a good crisis go to waste.” You’re manufacturing crises while ignoring real issues — like al-Qaida terrorists just attacked a U.N. compound in Mali. Y’all on the liberal progressive left and your media accomplices just want to distract us, but what you are proving is this.
The only lives that matter are those you can manipulate for your gain and advancement of your political end state. The police officer in Chicago has been arrested. The shooter in Colorado Springs has been apprehended and certainly will not be released.
But babies will continue to be murdered in Planned Parenthood clinics. More little black children will be killed by black-on-black gang violence. And there will be more whites assaulted and killed by blacks.
My saying this does not make me an Uncle Tom, sellout, Oreo, white man’s porch monkey, or house ni!@er. It means I know the facts, see through your crap, and will not tolerate it. Your disparaging name-calling just fuels my desire to speak out even louder because your lies must be exposed.
Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas. Now back to ESPN College Game Day.
Honestly, you don't want to know what most of the right has been saying about this shooting. It's obvious that many of them are like West and pretty much think that it was a justified shooting. Even the cops, apparently, for whom they have spared almost zero compassion. Others have been dancing on the head of a pin desperately trying to find some way to prove that this wasn't a political act, whether it was going on for hours yesterday trying to make people believe that the location of the shooting was some kind of coincidence and the man was really a bank robber or a crazy person holed up on Planned Parenthood so he could shoot shoppers in a nearby strip mall. I'm not kidding.
Today they are saying this is nothing like Islamic terrorism because the killer is rumored to have had mental problems which, apparently, makes the fact that he shot 12 people, killing 3 in a Planned Parenthood clinic not a political act. Because suicide bombers are all perfectly sane, we know that.
They are also very upset that the president condemned the shooting saying "enough is enough" because "the facts aren't in." I don't know what to make of that, frankly, because the dead bodies are in the morgue and the others are in the hospital so it seems to me that those facts are in and the president is required to say something in that event.
At this writing, Ted Cruz is the only Republican candidate to speak out. But they're in a tough spot. An anti-abortion zealot (also known as their base) "exercised his 2nd Amendment remedies" at a Planned Parenthood clinic. He also shot five police officers, killing one of them.
How in the hell can they thread that needle?
Update:Buzzfeed found twitter users who were dancing on a virtual Jersey City rooftop:
I wish I could see how these people with such alleged reverence for life are any different than the nihilistic Islamic fundamentalists who cheer the shooting of people in restaurants and concert halls.
"He must have done something," says the voice in my head when I think about Laquan McDonald. It is the voice of my parents' generation, a generation that went from seemingly never questioning authority to always questioning it. Except when members of minorities run afoul of police. I wonder if "He must have done something" was the model of justice our Founders thought they were pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish? Or is that the kind of colonial-rule justice from which they fought to separate themselves? Are they now rolling over in their graves?
As police in Colorado Springs led away the alleged Planned Parenthood murderer in handcuffs, I was still trying to process the latest police shooting news from Chicago. The Guardian's database this morning lists 1033 people killed by police in the U.S. so far this year. Police killed "more people in the first 24 days of 2015 than police in England and Wales did in the last 24 years," as reported by the Independent, noting "police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt."
Brian Burghart's web site fatalencounters.org tracks police shootings in the U.S. because the government will not. Burghart and colleagues are building a database of people killed in interactions with American law enforcement since 2000:
This site is founded upon the premise that Americans should have the ability to track [under what circumstances police use deadly force]. This idea was conceived in the wake of the Oct. 6, 2012, killing of a naked, unarmed college student, Gil Collar, at the University of South Alabama. Media reports contained no context: How many people are killed by police in Alabama every year? How many in the United States?
It turned out that Collar was on drugs, including marijuana and the hallucinogen 25-I. It also turned out the freshman never got within 5 feet of the officer, and the officer attempted no less-lethal methods to subdue Collar. On March 1, 2013, the policeman was cleared of wrongdoing.
That, in a 9mm shell, is the crux of the issue. In the United States of America, police routinely kill citizens they are pledged to serve and protect, deploying deadly force in encounters such as that one above, or in the Laquan McDonald case from Chicago. Collar was white. McDonald was black. Fellow officers stood by as the accused killer, Officer Jason Van Dyke, emptied his weapon into McDonald, then they stood silent for a year before their department this week released the dash-cam video of the sixteen shots, and then only under court order.
It seems that being a law enforcement officer is another way — besides being rich or a bank or a government-paid torturer — to enjoy a separate and privileged system of American justice. Only with the advent of cell phones and police cameras as the public gotten a window into the brutality scattered officers wield with heretofore legal impunity, especially in communities of color. Jerome Karabel, a professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, writes that "Extra-judicial killings by the police ... now number more than 1,100 per year -- more than four times the number of people lynched or executed by capital punishment in the worst of years."
Seth Stoughton and Josh Gupta-Kagan, both law professors from the University of South Carolina, decried the criminalization of school discipline problems in the Atlantic after cell phone video went viral of a school resource officer flinging a student to the floor and across a classroom. As Burghart also found, data on certain aspects of policing is lacking. They write:
The limited studies that exist are often inconsistent with each other. As with other aspects of policing, more and better data is essential to making informed policy decisions. This includes data about police violence in school settings; the fact that no one knows how often police are using force against children should not just be alarming, it should be horrifying.
While one of those killed in the Colorado Springs shootings was a police officer, Stoughton (himself a former police officer) produced FBI data weeks ago that show assaults on police officers dropped sharply in 2014. Responding earlier this year to the Tamir Rice shooting, Stoughton wrote:
Why do most officers, charged with serving and protecting their communities, persist in asking whether a use of force was justified rather than necessary? I put a great deal of blame on the expansive “warrior mindset” that has become so highly esteemed in the law enforcement community. To protect themselves, to even survive, officers are taught to be ever-vigilant. Enemies abound, and the job of the Warrior is to fight and vanquish those enemies.
That’s not the right attitude for police. Our officers should be, must be, guardians, not warriors. The goal of the Guardian isn’t to defeat an enemy, it is to protect the community to the extent possible, including the community member that is resisting the officer’s attempt to arrest them. For the guardian, the use of avoidable violence is a failure, even if it satisfies the legal standard.
We are expected to treat police officers as public servants and heroes willing to lay down their lives to protect us. So it baffles me how, as Stoughton writes, "would-be officers are told that their primary objective is to go home at the end of every shift." What is heroic about that? About sacrificing others before you would sacrifice yourself? What is heroic about shooting unarmed suspects in the back or choking them to death for selling loose cigarettes? Stoughton rightly blames the training, and offers suggestions on training Guardian Officers rather than Police Warriors. But beyond that, there is a culture growing within law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community that, post-September 11, increasingly views the public they are meant to serve as "enemy forces" to be dealt with. Somewhere, Osama bin Laden must be smiling.
Police are the ones supposedly trained to respond coolly and professionally in charged situations. In another context, police shootings would be receiving more study and harsh scrutiny, scrutiny to which law enforcement seems immune. In another context — publicly funded schools, perhaps — lawmakers would point to under-performance as indicative of systemic training failures, blame the teachers and their unions, and call for yanking funding from institutions that fail to meet standards. But police are privileged. Politicians do not blame police failures on predominantly white precinct "culture." They do not call for "No Cop Left Behind" programs and threaten to pull funding for police academies that fail to perform to the highest standards. We don't threaten to privatize police departments, a la Robocop. Yet.
The title for this video of British police speaks volumes about how police are viewed in this country. One would think that would be cause for reforming the training and less blue wall of silence:
Why the FBI is on the scene of the Planned Parenthood shooting
No, we don't know for sure the motive of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter. It's always possible that he was a former employee who'd been fired or something. But contrary to the wingnuts suddenly showing tremendous reluctance to pass any judgement about events today, common sense suggests that a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in one of the centers of anti-abortion activity in the country might just have some connection to right wing domestic terrorism.
I Won the Thanksgiving debate with my Republican Uncle! by Spocko
This year I was ready for my Republican Uncle at Thanksgiving. I had all my facts, talking points and debate strategies prepared. I rehearsed in my head my counter points to his points.
I listened closely as he repeated easily debunked economic theories that came from the 1%. I took mental notes while he talked about school "reform." My zingers and responses to his follow up points on taxes were epic and hilarious.
I had my source articles bookmarked on my phone for referring to guns, refugees, Middle East politics and oil.
But I didn't say anything at first. I let him build his case all afternoon. Then during dinner I got ready to pounce.
I anticipated the aftermath of my epic beat down. I envisioned it something like Emma Stone lipsyncing to DJ Khaled's "All I do is win."
This time I was going to force him to admit that I was right and that he was wrong, and to agree to never again bring up ideas that had been proven failures. I've killed lies before and I'm tired of pretending that reality didn't happen because he didn't like it. But even that wasn't the only reason I wanted to win this year.
I wanted to win because I wanted to hurt him, like he had hurt me. He had disrespected me and my "bleeding-heart liberal" views. Time and time again I was proved right, yet I wasn't allowed to gloat or "rub it in." Fuck that!
I knew this would be upsetting to my aunt and other uncle, but screw them! They had let him go on with his bullshit with no challenges for DECADES! Why didn't they shut him down or defend my views? Why did I have to be "the better man?"
I realized I wanted to punish him for believing this conservative bullshit and also for spreading these sick views, views that were cruel, lacked empathy and had failed time and time again.
Would humiliating him in front of the rest of the family shut him up? I got ready to bring up his all his past hypocrisies and crush him once and for all time.
I could win this year. I had the power. I could show him a direct link from his current problems, the people he had voted for and their horrible ideas. I learned from the right wing, I would show no mercy, give no quarter.
We reached the "what are you grateful for," part of the dinner. He talked about how the 1% strategies weren't working for him (because he wasn't the 1%). How scary life is with no real safety net. Why support of family was so important to him.
Then I realized I had been set up for this debate by a long line of right wing radio and TV hosts. People whose job it is to push wedges between families and communities for fun and profit. Their definition of winning is not mine.
I have spent years making these RW talkers who spread division less profitable, something that hurts them. These were my opponents, not my Republican Uncle. By playing their game, their way, I was following their script--not mine.
Finally the question came to me. "What are you grateful for Spocko?"
"Mrs. Spocko, everyone here and my friends all over the world."
"Now, who is ready for a nice vegan dessert?"
Fade in "All I do is win, win, win no matter what..."
ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS – I think it’s time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you’re working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he’s not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen.
France is to opt out of some aspects of the European Human Rights Convention while the state of emergency declared after this month's Paris attacks is in force. As well as raids on mosques and Islamic charities, police have swooped on radical environmentalists since the measure was introduced.
Some of the measures taken because of the state of emergency are "likely to necessitate exemption from some of the rights guaranteed" by the convention, the French authorities have told Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland.
States are allowed to opt out in case of war or a danger "threatening the life of the nation", although they cannot be exempted from certain provisions, including bans on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.
Exemptions can be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights.
There have been 1,616 searches of premises, 211 arrests, 161 people charged and 293 weapons seized since the state of emergency was declared.
Among the premises raided have been mosques, prayer rooms and shops targeted because "radical Islamists" were said to frequent them or because some sermons given were judged extreme.
But others have been on the homes of people who have taken part in environmental protests and occupations, such as the camp at the site of the proposed airport near Nantes in western France and one aiming to stop a dam in the south-west where a protester was killed.
Several activists have been placed under house arrest, apparently for fear that they might have defied the ban on demonstrations ahead of the Cop21 climate conference, which opens on Sunday 29 December.
Obviously, all the talk about civilized Western values is just a nice little concept that has no meaning in reality. Good to know. And it's also good to be assured that one can never be too cynical about government opportunistically stretching police powers whenever possible.
The lesson here for the rest of the world is that "threatening the life of the nation" does not mean an existential threat as one might have assumed. It just means a horrific act of mass violence. Very clarifying.
Sharing this because you need to know how hard these folks are working these days to change our traditional understanding of American history. Liberals do this too as progress and time change the way we look at things. But this is unusual because conservatives are supposed to be the traditionalists.
But then American conservatives aren't really conservative are they? Anyway, this is from the Richard Viguerie group:
The establishment media, encouraged none too subtly by President Obama’s Thanksgiving address, and his policies of bringing thousands of potential Islamist terrorists to this country and unconstitutionally granting amnesty and work permits to millions of illegal aliens, has now decreed that “Thanksgiving is about immigration” and that the Pilgrims were “illegal immigrants.”
Normally this could be dismissed as a bunch of soft-headed liberal nonsense, but in the light of Obama’s announcement that he wants to bring additional Muslim "refugees" to America, and grassroots concerns about Common Core and the rewriting of American history in many of our school textbooks, it bears closer examination and rebuttal.
First of all, Thanksgiving is in no way about “immigration.” It may be about faith in God*, perseverance, brotherhood in the face of hardship or even the value of goodwill among diverse people, but it is not about immigration for the simple reason that the Pilgrims did not consider themselves to be “immigrants.”
They were pioneers – colonizers who undertook a voyage for “the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country.”
If today’s immigrants come to America with similar goals to advance Islam – and there’s plenty of reason to believe that many legal and illegal immigrants from Muslim countries do – then we should certainly not see their arrival as a reason to celebrate, because they represent an existential threat to our way of life.
It is also worth noting that the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans – Indians – was not the relationship of welfare recipient Pilgrim to welfare giving Indian that liberals would like us to think.
The treaty of friendship signed between Massasoiet (Massasoit) the Chief of the local Indians and the Pilgrims was very much in the Pilgrims’ favor:
I. That neither he nor any of his, should injure or do hurt to any of their people.
II. That if any of his did any hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender that they might punish him.
III. That if any thing were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.
IV. That if any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; and if any did war against them, he should aid them.
V. That he should send to his neighbors’ confederates to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace.
VI. That when their men came to them, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them.
These are hardly the terms a supplicant asks for from a stronger party – quite the reverse.
True, the Pilgrims needed and received tutelage in how to farm and survive in the tough conditions of 17th Century New England – but the bargain was one of commerce, trade and profit, not welfare.
Indeed, Tisquantum, a.k.a. Squanto, the English-speaking Indian who offered counsel to the Pilgrims, eventually set himself up to leverage the fear the Indians had for English technology for his own private benefit, exacting tributes to put in a good word for someone, or by threatening to have the English release the plague against them.
Squanto even went so far as trying to trick the Pilgrims into a show of military action, by claiming certain Indian groups were in conspiracy together to fight the English: but he went too far, and his treachery was discovered by both the Pilgrims and the Indians. **
In other words, far from being a noble savage Squanto was a practitioner of power politics straight out of Machiavelli.
It is also worth noting that a little more than 50 years after the first Thanksgiving King Phillip’s War broke out between the colonists and the Indians. The economy of New England was severely damaged, half the towns were attacked, something like one-tenth of all men available for military service were lost and the Indians were virtually wiped out.
It was King Phillip's War, not the first Thanksgiving, that resulted in the first official Thanksgiving proclamation, setting a day of Thanksgiving on June 29, 1676, for “reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed...”
That is hardly the warm, touchy-feely story that grade school kids (and adult liberals) would like to believe about the relationship they imagine between the piously incompetent Pilgrims and the peaceable in-touch with nature granola eating Indians.
In the light of liberal revision of what Thanksgiving is about it is also worth recalling that of the over 100 passengers who sailed for America on the Mayflower, only 53 Pilgrims were there to celebrate the first Thanksgiving.
In the first three centuries of European-American history, practically everyone who came to America of their own volition came as a pioneer, not as an “immigrant.” They came for liberty and of necessity to wrest a living (and riches if they could find them) from Nature and from a wild and often unforgiving land; sometimes they fought, sometimes they negotiated and traded, but no one gave them anything.
Today, as Muslims who reject constitutional liberty in favor of Sharia are brought here at taxpayer expense to undermine and possibly attack this country and illegal aliens are put-up in hotels with swimming pools, given a free education, free medical care and even given free underwear, the pioneering aspect of what the Pilgrims accomplished, and how they survived in America has been pretty much scrubbed out of history.
If Thanksgiving is about anything, it is about the spirit of the Pilgrims and how, through the Glory of God, a small band of pious pioneers, not immigrants, planted the values upon which a great Nation was built, and could be lost if we forget them.
“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims – men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care. That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.”
Here's why they are nothing like the pilgrims according to the Daily Caller:
They Were Pioneers
America was founded by people leaving the relative safety of Europe for the unknown perils of the new world, and the Pilgrims were no exception. While few nations accepted the strong Calvinist beliefs of the Pilgrims and the Puritans, these dissidents could still count on the benefit of civilization by remaining in Europe.
When they came to Plymouth, these settlers had to do the very difficult task of creating entirely new communities in a strange land — largely all by themselves. It’s hard to be a refugee claiming asylum when you’re crossing an ocean to a land that’s largely unsettled and is a more dangerous place than where you hail from. There was little refuge to be had in this untamed country for the Pilgrims — especially considering how many new arrivals died in the months upon hitting shore due to disease and other harsh living conditions. (RELATED: It’s ‘Un-American’ To Impose Refugee Resettlement On The Country)
For this reason, they were pioneers creating a society from the ground up rather than refugees coming to a well-established, prosperous society.
They Had No Government Assistance
This statement is an obvious fact when you consider the facts of life in seventeenth-century America. There was hardly any government, much less government assistance to be had. The Pilgrims also had to finance their passage to the new world with a Virginia Company loan that required them to work for seven years to pay off. The only real help they had from any form of government was the tacit permission to settle in English-claimed lands.
Today’s refugees are a different matter. The U.S. government pays for the flights of these migrants to come here. Even though there’s a stated requirement that the refugees must pay back the feds for the free ticket once they start working, 91 percent of these individuals go straight onto government assistance upon arrival — with 68 percent on welfare.
So the federal agencies paying for these trips may have to wait awhile for airfare compensation.
Hostile Natives Were All Around
While it’s true that the Pilgrims and their nearby co-settlers the Puritans initially had cordial relations with the Indian tribes, that goodwill didn’t last long. By 1636, the colonists were engaged in brutal warfare with the Pequot Confederation and eventually came into conflict the Wampanoag — the Indians who participated in the historical Thanksgiving feast — in the coming years.
Many Indians resented the newcomers for coming onto their land and were more than willing to slaughter any colonists who they saw as a threat.
Contrary to mainstream media hysteria, today’s refugees suffer a warm embrace from Americans who support them with tax funds and local amenities. Any verbal or physical attack on them can be treated as a hate crime and punished severely. Any American who might be worried by these new arrivals can face castigation by a biased media and powerful political leaders — such as our own president.
There were no New York Time editorials to bash the Pequot as nativist xenophobes for scalping Pilgrims back in the 1630s.
They Created Safe Communities
In spite of being surrounded by hostile natives and living with constant outbreaks of the plague, the Pilgrims and the Puritans were well-known for building communities defined by order, prosperity, hard work and thrift. Crime was not tolerated and resulted in harsh sentencing.
On the other hand, many refugee communities in the U.S. and Europe are defined by the opposite conditions. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Little Mogadishu neighborhood — a top destination for Somali refugees — has become a hotbed for crime and radical Islam. From 2003 to 2013, the federal government had deported over a 1,000 refugees for violent crime convictions. (RELATED: America Already Has A Refugee Problem On Its Hands)
In Europe, several countries are experiencing a refugee crime wave that is stretching police thin and putting cities on edge.
They Were Christian
The Pilgrims were devout Calvinists who came to America to create model religious communities. Today’s refugees are primarily non-Christian, as can be ascertained by the top countries of origin for settled migrants from the year 2013.
This fact only becomes an important point when considering Syrian Christians. Many groups of people around the world are persecuted for their religion and/or ethnicity — and many of them are non-Christian. In Syria, though, the most persecuted group is arguably the Christian minority. Islamist rebels — not just ISIS — single them out for retribution, punitive taxes and even death merely for the faith they practice.
But even though this is a clearly persecuted group, America has hardly taken in any out of the nearly 3,000 Syrians we have resettled so far. Less than 3 percent of the migrants accepted by the U.S. are Christian, even though they comprise 10 percent of the Syrian population and most of the rebel factions are hostile towards them.
With these facts in mind, it’s hard to make any comparison with the Syrian refugees and the Calvinist Pilgrims. Life was much harder for the seventeenth century settlers, yet they still managed to plant the seeds for a future nation through their struggles.
Today, that nation that was forged by Pilgrims and other transplants from the British Isles is saying no to the idea of taking in more Syrian refugees.
And they were white, let's not forget that. Also too, it's the 2000s not the 1600s, which makes it like, totally different. They didn't have TV then. Or planes. Or Burger King even. So you can't really compare them. They don't even eat Thanksgiving dinner probably because it's like it cannibalism or something for them. Because Turkey. So this is right on.
Well, there is one thing he got wrong. These refugees are facing a hostile population.
ISIS acts like a state that owns an oil company. Notice, at the bottom right, that the non-ISIS market for ISIS oil is local, meaning civilians, and also includes anti-ISIS rebels in Syria and Iraq (click to enlarge; source).
ISIS is a complex entity, in part a state and in part a jihadist insurgency. To the extent that they're a state, they hold territory and govern (including, ironically, offering free government-provided health care). Here's a look at ISIS-held territory, including the location of oil fields and refineries within that territory.
ISIS-held and -supported territory in red; anti-ISIS territory in blue. Note that even the rebels are customers of ISIS oil (click to enlarge; source).
The U.S. and its allies are in a bind. ISIS finances its operations from its oil revenue. Most of its oil isn't sold on the international market, but the local one. That is, millions of people in the region depend on ISIS oil for their energy needs, even the anti-ISIS rebels in Syria. If those oil fields and refineries were bombed or otherwise put out of commission, the disruption to civilians in the region would be enormous. This likely accounts for the fact that of the more than 10,000 air strikes against ISIS by the U.S.-led coalition, fewer than 200 have targeted its oil infrastructure.
The story comes from the Financial Times. Only part is below, but it's all fascinating:
Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists
Erika Solomon in Beirut, Guy Chazan and Sam Jones in London
Jihadis’ oil operation forces even their enemies to trade with them
On the outskirts of al-Omar oilfield in eastern Syria, with warplanes flying overhead, a line of trucks stretches for 6km. Some drivers wait for a month to fill up with crude.
Falafel stalls and tea shops have sprung up to cater to the drivers, such is the demand for oil. Traders sometimes leave their trucks unguarded for weeks, waiting for their turn.
This is the land of Isis, the jihadi organisation in control of swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory. The trade in oil has been declared a prime target by the international military coalition fighting the group. And yet it goes on, undisturbed.
Oil is the black gold that funds Isis’ black flag — it fuels its war machine, provides electricity and gives the fanatical jihadis critical leverage against their neighbours.
But more than a year after US President Barack Obama launched an international coalition to fight Isis, the bustling trade at al-Omar and at least eight other fields has come to symbolise the dilemma the campaign faces: how to bring down the “caliphate” without destabilising the life of the estimated 10m civilians in areas under Isis control, and punishing the west’s allies?
The resilience of Isis, and the weakness of the US-led campaign, have given Russia a pretext to launch its own, bold intervention in Syria.
Despite all these efforts, dozens of interviews with Syrian traders and oil engineers as well as western intelligence officials and oil experts reveal a sprawling operation almost akin to a state oil company that has grown in size and expertise despite international attempts to destroy it. ...
Estimates by local traders and engineers put crude production in Isis-held territory at about 34,000-40,000 bpd. The oil is sold at the wellhead for between $20 and $45 a barrel, earning the militants an average of $1.5m a day.
About selling to their enemies in Syria:
“It’s a situation that makes you laugh and cry,” said one Syrian rebel commander in Aleppo, who buys diesel from Isis areas even as his forces fight the group on the front lines. “But we have no other choice, and we are a poor man’s revolution. Is anyone else offering to give us fuel?”
It's both a complicated situation and a lucrative one (my emphasis):
When [ISIS] pushed through northern Iraq and took over Mosul, Isis also seized the Ajil and Allas fields in north-eastern Iraq’s Kirkuk province. The very day of its takeover, locals say, militants secured the fields and engineers were sent in to begin operations and ship the oil to market.
“They were ready, they had people there in charge of the financial side, they had technicians that adjusted the filling and storage process,” said a local sheikh from the town of Hawija, near Kirkuk. “They brought hundreds of trucks in from Kirkuk and Mosul and they started to extract the oil and export it.” An average of 150 trucks, he added, were filled daily, with each containing about $10,000-worth of oil. Isis lost the fields to the Iraqi army in April but made an estimated $450m from them in the 10 months it controlled the area.
While al-Qaeda, the global terrorist network, depended on donations from wealthy foreign sponsors, Isis has derived its financial strength from its status as monopoly producer of an essential commodity consumed in vast quantities throughout the area it controls. Even without being able to export, it can thrive because it has a huge captive market in Syria and Iraq.
Indeed, diesel and petrol produced in Isis areas are not only consumed in territory the group controls but in areas that are technically at war with it, such as Syria’s rebel-held north: the region is dependent on the jihadis’ fuel for its survival. Hospitals, shops, tractors and machinery used to pull victims out of rubble run on generators that are powered by Isis oil.
“At any moment, the diesel can be cut. No diesel — Isis knows our life is completely dead,” says one oil trader who comes from rebel-held Aleppo each week to buy fuel and spoke to the Financial Times by telephone.
As the top civilian administrator of the former Coalition Provisional Authority, Bremer was permitted to rule by decree. Among his first and most notable decrees were Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 1, which banned the Ba'ath party in all forms and Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2 dismantled the Iraqi Army.
In a very real sense, ISIS is Bush's and Bremer's direct creation.
How will this end? The authors aren't sure:
Isis’ luck with oil may not last. Coalition bombs, the Russian intervention and low oil prices could put pressure on revenues. The biggest threat to Isis’ production so far, however, has been the depletion of Syria’s ageing oilfields. It does not have the technology of major foreign companies to counteract what locals describe as a slow drop in production. Isis’ need for fuel for its military operations means there is also less oil to sell in the market.
For now, though, in Isis-controlled territory, the jihadis control the supply and there is no shortage of demand. “Everyone here needs diesel: for water, for farming, for hospitals, for offices. If diesel is cut off, there is no life here,” says a businessman who works near Aleppo. “Isis knows this [oil] is a winning card.”
The situation in Iraq and Syria isn't stable, but it isn't unstable either. Dismantling ISIS is going to be a tough nut to crack. Radicalizing a great many more of the region's residents is a distinct possibility if Western and Russian attacks increase.
A Nation Free of Oil
One final thought. Have you ever wondered what the nation and our foreign policy would be like today if Jimmy Carter had won in 1980, the solar panels had stayed on the roof of the White House, renewable energy production had thrived, and the nation, by determined effort, were freed of all dependence on fossil fuel?
That world, with the possibility of leisurely conversion from carbon, is gone. But for a time in the 1970s the door was wide open. If a certain Presidential candidate hadn't cut a deal with a certain hostage-holding government, we might even have walked through it. How much better would our lives be today, if we were a nation free of oil?
As America heads off to its collective orgy of individual consumption, I ponder how much our belief in our own beliefs is self-reinforcing and a kind of faith both religious and secular.
At Naked Capitalism, Lambert Strether points to a three-part documentary, The Power of Nightmares 1: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (BBC-2004). From the Wikipedia summary:
The film compares the rise of the neoconservative movement in the United States and the radical Islamist movement, drawing comparisons between their origins, and remarking on similarities between the two groups. More controversially, it argues that radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organisation, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is a myth, or noble lie, perpetuated by leaders of many countries—and particularly neoconservatives in the U.S.—in a renewed attempt to unite and inspire their people after the ultimate failure of more utopian ideas.
Interesting parallels between the religious radicals and the noeconservative project to make the Soviets the bogie man hiding behind every tree and under every bed:
This dramatic battle between good and evil was precisely the kind of myth that Leo Strauss had taught his students would be necessary to rescue the country from moral decay. It might not be true, but it was necessary to reengage the public in a grand vision of America's destiny that would give meaning and purpose to their lives.
The neoconservatives were succeeding in creating a simplistic fiction, a vision of the Soviet Union as the center of all evil in the world, and America as the only country that could rescue the world.
If the intelligence had to be cooked to show that the Soviets were a bigger threat than our intelligence services and military thought, so be it. With the Soviets gone, we had to find and/or create a new Evil Empire. (The same Washington players -- Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc. -- who hyped the Soviet threat later hyped Saddam, then al Qaeda. Now this season's Big Bad is ISIS.) Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Islamic theorist the documentary proposes as a parallel to Leo Strauss, proposed a project to rescue the world from western culture's "state of barbarous ignorance" in which "you’re so corrupt that you can’t even know you’re corrupt," writes Strether. A kind of moral Dunning-Kreuger effect.
Watching the Donald Trump circus now, it is easy to see the effects of both. And it's hard not to see the parallels between the two forms of religion.
Despite all the negativity and fear, the energy in this room does not feel dark and aggressive and threatening. It doesn’t feel like a powder keg about to blow, a lynch mob about to rampage. It feels joyous.
“There is so much love in every room I go to,” Trump says, near the end of nearly an hour and a half of free-associative bombast, silly and sometimes offensive impressions, and insane pronouncements. “We want our country to be great again, and we know it can be done!”
This is the thing Trump knows: You can stand around fretting about truth and propriety and the danger of pandering to baser instincts.
At recent Trump rallies, supporters have spit in protesters’ faces, tackled demonstrators in Miami, and shoved and punched a Black Lives Matter activist in Alabama. (“Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Mr. Trump said after the episode.) Mostly, he has embraced the scuffles as a new and action-packed dimension of the Donald Trump experience.
“Isn’t a Trump rally much more exciting than these other ones?” Mr. Trump asked as the police ejected a protester shouting “Trump’s a racist” from a rally in Worcester, Mass., last week. “That kind of stuff only adds to the excitement.”
To supporters seeing him up close, the Trump experience was very real. They locked eyes on him and nodded religiously when he talked about “anchor babies” cast by unauthorized immigrants, or the “animals and savages” perpetrating terrorism, or the “scum” on the streets. Guarded by a line of Secret Service agents under the stage, he made his fans howl with laughter and shake their heads in disgust at “stupid” leaders who use teleprompters.
He even got them to mock their brethren who could not get into the hall. “You should have gotten here earlier,” Mr. Trump said to applause.
When he referred to the man identified as the ringleader of the Paris attacks this month as “the guy with the dirty, filthy hat,” the crowd chuckled, but one of the high school girls, unexpectedly appalled, shouted, “You bastard,” before lowering her head.
When Mr. Trump said he would bring back waterboarding as an interrogation tactic against terrorism suspects, and added, “If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway,” an older couple behind the group of teenagers threw back their heads in utter delight.
“Amen,” the woman said.
“Oh, my God,” one of the high school girls said. Another covered her mouth in shock.
On Thanksgiving 1965, Arlo Guthrie visited friend Alice Brock and her husband at their home, a church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and did them a favor by taking out their garbage. The dump was closed that day, so Guthrie and a friend dropped the garbage off a cliff where other locals had previously dropped trash. Guthrie was arrested the following day, and the mark on his record miraculously kept him out of Vietnam by making him ineligible for the draft.
Guthrie recalled the incident in hilarious detail in 1967's "Alice's Restaurant," which became his most beloved song and the subject of a 1969 movie. (The Old Trinity Church, where Alice lived, is now the Guthrie Center). It's also become a Thanksgiving tradition, played nationwide on public radio every year. "To have what happened to me actually happen and not be a work of fiction still remains amazing," Guthrie says. "It's an amazing set of crazy circumstances that reminds me of an old Charlie Chaplin movie. It's slapstick." Guthrie, who very rarely plays the song live, kicks off an 18-month tour celebrating the event that inspired the song on January 21st in Daytona Beach, Florida. Here, Guthrie reflects on his unlikely classic.
Did you ever think "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" would be your most beloved song?
Well, you have to remember that back in '65, all the way into the early Seventies, nobody in their right mind would have written an 18-minute monologue. I mean if it was 2:31, stations wouldn't play it. So I never expected it to even be on a record, let alone get airplay, let alone have it made into a movie. I mean, that was all like a whirlwind of events that were way beyond my control.
The song was kind of a novelty song when you started it, right?
I did take the war in Vietnam seriously, and I was in college. I began college in Billings, Montana, in September of 1965. I was gonna study forestry. And I came home for Thanksgiving vacation and stayed with my friends in this old church they had purchased. So when I first started writing about it, it was just repeating or telling my audience what had happened to me. Because I thought it was funny.
To have what happened to me actually happen and not be a work of fiction still remains amazing. It's an amazing set of crazy circumstances that reminds me of an old Charlie Chaplin movie. It's slapstick. I mean, who gets arrested for littering? And who goes to court and finds themselves before a blind judge with pictures as evidence? I mean, that's crazy! And then to be rejected from the military because I had a littering record? I mean, those events were real and not only that, those people played themselves in the movie! The cop in the movie is the real Officer Obie and the judge in the movie, the blind judge is the real Judge Hannon. And these are real people! And they consented to play themselves because they think they, like me, observed the absurdity of the circumstance.
The examples of the GOP's reflexive opposition to President Obama's agenda are many but this may be the best one yet: by a 27 point margin Republicans say they disapprove of the President's executive order last year pardoning two Thanksgiving turkeys (Macaroni and Cheese) instead of the customary one. Only 11% of Republicans support the President's executive order last year to 38% who are opposed- that's a pretty clear sign that if you put Obama's name on something GOP voters are going to oppose it pretty much no matter what. Overall there's 35/22 support for the pardon of Macaroni and Cheese thanks to 59/11 support from Democrats and 28/21 from independents.
The rest of the poll is kind of fun too. They ask which presidential candidate is the most likely to ruin Thanksgiving. I think you can guess who that is. By a mile.
By the way, the Turkey pardon tradition was started by President Reagan when Sam Donaldson was asking him if he planned to pardon his partners in Iran-Contra crime while he was walking past the White House turkey and he quipped, "maybe I'll pardon this guy."
You know all those articles you see every year about how to argue with your conservative uncle at Thanksgiving? Well, unsurprisingly, the conservative uncles are very upset about it. I wrote about it for Salon this morning:
The Thanksgiving holiday seems like one of those rare occasions in American life where virtually everyone shares a similar experience, the traditions of the family gathering, the food, the football, the sometimes contentious discussions among people who love each other but nonetheless have different worldviews and political beliefs. It’s become something of a cliché, in fact, with an annual flurry of tongue-in-cheek articles in newspapers and other publications giving advice on how to handle that obnoxious uncle’s unpopular opinions at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
And yes, these articles are usually aimed at liberals trying to deal with that drunken Limbaugh-listening relative who insists on baiting everyone at the table by going on about the pet right-wing outrage of the moment and passing on talk radio propaganda as if it had been delivered directly from God. These stories are so ubiquitous that it’s fair to assume this must be a fairly common experience.
It’s undoubtedly also true that conservative families often have to deal with the college kid who’s home for Thanksgiving break and decides to regale the table with her newfound knowledge that everything they believe in is the result of corporate brainwashing and that Ayn Rand turns out to be a fraud. These days there will likely be a lot of talk at those tables about trigger warnings, cultural appropriation and safe spaces, all things that will sound to the drunken uncles as if they are being discussed in a foreign language. (National Review would-be humorist Charles C.W. Cooke tried to tackle this last year with mixed results.)
The difference between these two phenomena is best illustrated by the massive whining and tantrums that result from any joking around about it. And no, I’m not talking about the college kids. Yes, they might get frustrated and call their parents “haters” and flounce off to their rooms, but they are, after all, still kids. No, the people who are hysterical over this are conservatives who have worked themselves up into a full-blown hysterical meltdown over it.
This year, the Democratic National Committee put together a funny little website called “Your Republican Uncle” in which they use this annual holiday trope as a way to explain some of the issues important to Democrats in a mildly amusing format. Evidently, the right has been unaware up until now that Democrats don’t agree with them, because this clearly hit a very sensitive nerve. Even as they dismiss it all as inane folly, they went to incredible lengths to angrily debunk the “talking points” in lengthy blog posts on such major websites as Hot-Air, where chief writer Allaahpundit was spitting mad:
The takeaway from these sites is that liberals are so cloistered from interaction with conservatives and so insecure in their own basic political beliefs that they actually need to be prepped before the most basic social engagement with the enemy. If you think that’s a good look for your movement, you do you.
I’m fairly sure that he’s taking this a lot more seriously than any liberal takes it. But he wasn’t alone on his righteous indignation. Conservative blogger Ace of Spades wrote an entire treatise on how to deal with the miscreant liberals in your family when they use any of these “Vox explainer” talking points. It’s very elaborate and very, very serious:
I herewith humbly submit these first sketches of a new branch of Lifemanship I call “Thankgivingmanship,” which I define as the gentle art of insulting the stupid without alerting them to the fact that they’ve been insulted at all.
It is the goal of the dedicated Thanksgivingman, then, to achieve the sublime art of giving offense without offense being taken.
My basic strategy is thus: It would be as rude of you as it is rude of your cretinous grownchildren kin to allow a Thanksgiving dinner into a stupid game of Rachel Maddow Talking Points and their rebuttals.
So, rather than confront the unemployed idiots who will be assailing you, I propose instead to superficially avoid conflict and engagement on their dummy mouthflappings, and appear instead to agree with them.
But — and here is the point — a skilled Thanksgivingman will only appear to agree with the grownchildren to feeble intellects, such as those possessed by the grownchildren themselves. Instead of disagreeing with them — which will cause argument and anger — you will instead claim to agree with them, while in fact contradicting them, subverting them, of baffling them with statements that nearly, but do not quite, make sense.
As I said, it’s all very elaborate. He goes on to lay out a complicated set of tactical arguments designed to tie the foolish liberal up in knots. It is obviously something that merits a lot of serious thought and preparation. Clearly, it’s extremely important.
But nobody is more intent upon taking up the momentous challenge of the Thanksgiving liberal talking points conspiracy than the man who says his talent in on loan from God, Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh was hopping mad about all this on his show yesterday and he didn’t mince words. He went on for about half an hour on the subject, very upset and disturbed by what these liberals are doing to the institution of the family:
You hear a lot these days about how much businesses dislike “uncertainty.” It’s too hard, goes the refrain, to figure out how financial reform is going to play out, or how much heath care reform is going to cost. Better to play it safe and not hire anyone.
But at least today’s businesses are reasonably assured of a stable calendar. During the latter years of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, this was not the case. In August of 1939, President Roosevelt was taking a brief summer fishing trip on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, just over the border from southeastern Maine. A handful of journalists were gathered in the living room of the red cottage that had belonged to the president’s mother. After some discussion of the tensions in Europe—this was August 14, less than three weeks before the German invasion of Poland—FDR said to the newsmen: “Oh! I will give you a story I had entirely forgotten. I have been having from a great many people, for the last six years, complaints that Thanksgiving Day came too close to Christmas. Now this sounds silly.” But the president went on to explain that the tradition that had begun with Abraham Lincoln of annually celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November created a time window between Labor Day and Thanksgiving that was too long without a holiday, and a time window between Thanksgiving and Christmas that was too short.
The first issue the President had already fixed, by making Columbus Day a national holiday in 1937. To address the second one, he would simply move Thanksgiving to an earlier date. “The stores and people who work, retail people, etc. are very anxious to have [Thanksgiving] set forward,” he explained. And 1939 provided an ideal opportunity for shifting what FDR labeled “a perfectly movable feast.” There were five Thursdays in November that year, and so moving Thanksgiving from the 30th to the 23rd would make it not much earlier than it had been the previous year (the 24th), and yet give the retailers the extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas they were clamoring for.
In keeping with the light, summer mood, there was only one question from the press: “This year, Mr. President?” The answer was quick: “This year, yes,” and then the President went back to arguing that there is “nothing sacred about” the date of the celebration, noting that “in the early days of the Republic, it was held sometime in October.”
The seeming spontaneity of the announcement belied the fact that the remarks had been scripted for FDR a week before. One of his aides, Lowell Mellett, a former Scripps-Howard newsman who would go on to head the movie division of the Office of War Information, had in fact provided the President with different versions of how he might present his plan to the public. Moreover, as FDR indicated in his press conference, the issue had come up before. In 1933 and 1934, November also had five Thursdays, and a diverse group of merchants had conducted a public campaign to have the date changed; the most prominent push had come from the National Retail Dry Goods Association. But the administration was far too busy trying to implement the National Industrial Recovery Act, and rebuffed requests to change the date.
For all the years of considering the question, however, no one in the administration seems to have given much thought as to the logistics of moving a major holiday. This left them stunningly, comically unprepared for how the country would react, especially given just three months notice. In early July, the President drafted a letter he wanted to send to each state Governor asking “your personal thought” about moving the holiday—not to the second-to-last Thursday of November, but rather to Monday, November 15th. (FDR had long held that Mondays made the best holidays, because workers could get a three-day weekend.) “I am saying nothing about it until I have heard from the Governors,” FDR wrote.
The Governors’ responses would likely have kept FDR from making the change, or at a minimum persuaded him to begin the new observance in 1940 rather than immediately. But the letters were never sent. And so prior to Roosevelt’s Campobello bombshell a month later, essentially no one—not Governors, not clergymen, not even the retailers who’d dreamt up the idea—knew that Thanksgiving in 1939 would come a week early.
It’s hard to name a group of Americans who weren’t thrown off by the change in date. Pleasing businessmen had been FDR’s stated goal, and many of the large department stores hailed the move; the president of Lord and Taylor predicted that the shift could create an extra billion dollars in additional commerce. But business rarely speaks with a single voice, and FDR angered quite a few industries by giving so little advance notice. Food distributors, for example, had production and shipping schedules set for months, and in some cases they couldn’t be moved. A week makes a difference in the lifespan of an early navel orange, noted the Chamber of Commerce of Lindsay, California, which complained that the crop would not be ready in time for the earlier date, and thus no one would be eating oranges on Thanksgiving. “Cutting off one week of this valuable holiday market will cost shippers of this and adjoining districts many thousands of dollars,” its telegram said.
More urgent complaints came from companies that printed and distributed calendars. Their 1940 products had already been produced, and they now faced the prospect of selling calendars with the wrong date for an important national holiday two years in a row. “This is a great hardship on our part as we have already printed over three million Calendar Pads for 1940 with the date as the custom had been, the last Thursday in November,” wrote the president of APT Lithographic. The president of the Symphony Orchestra of Albany—where FDR had served as governor—tried to speak for many, writing the President: “Literally thousands of organizations throughout the country who are forced to arrange definite dates, often a year in advance, will suffer by this unexpected change.”
Some of the loudest grumbling came from colleges and high schools that had scheduled Thanksgiving football games and other festivities, and now scrambled to see if different plans could be made. The coach of Ouachita College made his protest explicitly political, telling the Associated Press “We will vote the Republican ticket if he interferes with our football,” which, in what was then solidly Democratic Arkansas, bordered on treason.
Even ordinary citizens were baffled and outraged; thousands wrote and sent telegrams to the White House to complain. Many had given little thought to why this quasi-sacred holiday was celebrated on the day that it always had been, and thus expressed disbelief that the President—or indeed anyone—had the power to shift the day. “You can no more change my day of Thanksgiving than you can change the shape of the moon,” wrote a man from Darby, Pennsylvania.
But one group was in a position to do more than gripe: the 48 state Governors. Since there had never been federal legislation making Thanksgiving a holiday, the existence of a presidential proclamation was not binding on the states. Governors could declare a day of Thanksgiving any day they wanted to, as many states had done going back (at least in New England) to the 17th century. And so nearly half the states simply ignored the White House plan and observed Thanksgiving on the 30th. Thanksgiving 1939 was the most chaotic, most fractured celebration the holiday has ever seen, in the 150 years that it has been observed nationwide. The country was almost evenly split between the two Thanksgivings: 26 states and the District of Columbia carved their turkeys on the earlier day, while 21 states did so on the later day. In Texas, where they both raise turkeys and love football, Governor Lee O’Daniel decided that both days would be official holidays.
In keeping with the polarization that characterized Roosevelt’s entire tenure in office, the split was largely partisan. In New England, where Thanksgiving had been celebrated the longest, all of the governors stuck by the traditional date; then again, all the New England governors were Republicans. Only five Republican governors—in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—joined with the Democratic governors celebrating Thanksgiving on the 23rd. Perhaps inevitably, the two days became known as “Democrat Thanksgiving” (the 23rd) and “Republican Thanksgiving” (the 30th); some referred to the 23rd as “Franksgiving.” A Peter Arno cartoon in The New Yorker captured the divide perfectly. At an upper-crust Thanksgiving dinner, a woman tells her turkey-toting butler: “Bring Mr. Rogers some bacon and eggs, Bassett. He’s not celebrating till next week.”
Actually, for butlers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the situation was even more complicated. Thursdays were traditionally the day off for domestic workers—butlers, chauffeurs, maids—employed by wealthy Californians. To make up for the fact that many would have to work two consecutive Thursdays they declared a third celebration—dubbed Domestic Workers’ Thanksgiving—on November 16th. English actor Arthur Treacher—the most famous onscreen butler of the day—was the guest of honor at a seven-course dinner and floor show at the Biltmore Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles.
Despite all the confusion, Roosevelt stuck to his guns and insisted that 1940’s Thanksgiving also be moved up a week—that is, on November’s third Thursday (the 21st) instead of the fourth. With Roosevelt resoundingly re-elected in 1940, a few more governors came on board that year; a total of 32 states observed the holiday on the 21st. Yet the bifurcated holiday only added to the strife and confusion. In part because so many 1940 calendars had been distributed showing November 28th as Thanksgiving, surprising numbers of people—state governors, university presidents, schools, lodges, church groups, families planning reunions—were unsure when the “real” Thanksgiving would take place, and wrote the White House to ask. As late as July 1940, the head of the marketing department at Birds Eye Quick-Frozen Turkeys found himself having to politely ask the White House about the right date, “so that we will be able to make some decision as to the purchase of turkeys and to plan our advertising activities more accurately.” The 1942 Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby musical Holiday Inn introduces a Thanksgiving scene with a November calendar with a cartoon turkey sitting comfortably on the last Thursday, who then switches back and forth between that day and the previous week, until he gives up and faces the audience with a shrug.
And after all that strife, the plan didn’t work. New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was generally a supporter of the president’s, and was concerned that FDR was taking all the political heat. So he instructed the city’s commerce commissioner to launch a study into whether sales had gone up or down. When LaGuardia’s comprehensive survey was finished in the spring of 1941, he wrote to the president: “There is no indication from the aggregate sales figures that the Holiday trade during November and December was greater with the observance of the new Thanksgiving date in 1939 and 1940, respectively, than with the date heretofore observed.” What retailers wanted—overwhelmingly—was a single national day, regardless of whether it was the last or second-to-last Thursday in November.
And thus, the administration was forced to retreat. On May 21, 1941, the President admitted in a press conference that his Thanksgiving shopping stimulus experiment “did not work.” Roosevelt had made a firm commitment to the calendar makers to keep 1941’s Thanksgiving where it had been planned, but 1942 would see the restoration of the traditional date. Meanwhile, Congress was motivated to ground Thanksgiving with an official, national piece of legislation. Yet here, too, there was a faction that advocated a simple return to the last Thursday, against those who saw an opportunity to address permanently the issue of late Thanksgiving that had so perturbed America’s retailers. In November, the Senate Judiciary committee changed the wording in a law that had been passed by the House, substituting “fourth” Thursday for “last.”
Although Roosevelt was no longer directly involved in the Thanksgiving debate, the country’s political division clouded the seemingly simple task of picking a Thursday. In Senate debate, veteran Roosevelt nemesis Robert Taft argued that the proposed fourth Thursday raised the question of “whether we are now compromising between the Executive and history.” However, those who agreed with Taft had little stomach for fighting over the day of Thanksgiving once Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Both houses agreed to the fourth Thursday, and President Roosevelt signed the bill into law on the Day after Christmas. Even then, a few states stubbornly refused to acknowledge anything but the last Thursday. As late as 1950, five states chose the fifth Thursday in November as their Thanksgiving; only with the nation at war in Korea in 1951 did all Americans once again sit down to the Thanksgiving table on the same day. On the list of things to be thankful for, knowing in advance when a holiday will take place ranks fairly high.