Monday, July 23, 2012

Good night, and good luck.

“Witch trials in America” isn’t exactly what you’d call a hot topic these days.

If pressed about the topic, most folks would likely mention the Salem witch trials, which took place in Massachusetts between February of 1692 and May of 1693. The number of people affected by the trials was actually pretty small - only about 150 people were arrested, and only 19 were actually executed.

In spite of the fact that they seem like a mere blip in our history, the witch trials of long ago have had a very significant effect on our country. For starters, they reinforced the importance of separation of church and state to our Founding Fathers. They also provide a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, lapses in due process, and governmental intrusion on individual liberties.

Believe it or not, “witch hunts” in America didn’t end in 1693, but they’ve continued under other names since that time.

Richard Nixon had his “enemies list” in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s, which functioned as a witch hunt, but the most prominent example of “witch hunts” during my lifetime center around the man pictured below:

“The junior senator from Wisconsin” was first elected to his position in 1946. After three largely undistinguished years in the Senate, he suddenly rose to national fame in 1950, when he asserted that he had a list of members of the Communist Party who were employed in the State Department . His charges of Communist infiltration (all of which were unfounded) eventually spread to the administration of Harry Truman, Voice of America, and the United States Army.

Due to his actions, careers were destroyed, and lives lost, but he met his match when he tangled with the man pictured below:

Edward R. Murrow’s broadcast of “See it now”, on March 9, 1954 sealed McCarthy’s doom, and McCarthy’s rebuttal on the same program, on April 6, 1954, only made matters worse. The Army-McCarthy hearings started on April 22, and added further fuel to the fire. Finally, on December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to condemn the actions of Senator McCarthy.

Exactly one month before the vote of condemnation, the Gallup Poll found that his approval rating was 35%, significantly higher than the current approval rating of Congress, which is 17%.

Although he continued to serve in the Senate for another 2 and a half years, he was largely ignored by his fellow senators, and died of complications related to alcoholism on May 2, 1957.

The most recent victim of a witch hunt is the man pictured below:

Being the Attorney General of the United States is a position that is fraught with peril. Most of Eric Holder’s predecessors have come under fire for a variety of “misdeeds’” , which usually didn’t turn out to be fatal to their position.

In Mr. Holder’s case, he has become a recurring target for conservative anger due to (1) his investigation into Bush-era torture allegations, (2) using the civilian court system for terrorism cases (3) refusing to defend a law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage and (4) challenging (successfully) Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. However, THE most important reason for their anger is the Justice Department’s role in invoking civil rights laws to block voter ID measures.

Prior to 1965, laws that were designed to suppress voter registration were called “Jim Crow laws” , and they were deemed illegal by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Unfortunately, the Jim Crow laws have come back to life again:

Poor people and minorities aren't the only groups that are being targeted by the new laws. In 2008, college students voted for Barack Obama by a 2 to 1 margin over John McCain. To quote Heather Smith, head of Rock the Vote:

"You think your vote doesn't matter? Then why are they trying so hard to take it away from you?".

The House oversight committee, chaired by Representative Darrell Issa of California,, seized on an operation known as Fast and Furious as s a tool to discredit Mr. Holder, and voted to hold him in contempt on June 21, even though the Department of Justice had already turned over 7200 documents related to “Fast and Furious” to the committee.

The day before, Chairman Issa admitted that his investigation had uncovered no evidence, and now had no strong suspicion, that Mr. Holder had known about, or authorized, the Fast and Furious operation.

Issa’s committee has demanded EVEN MORE documents, and the executive branch finally decided that “enough was enough”. President Obama has invoked executive privilege for any documents produced after February 4, 2011.

Significantly, FOX News was the only cable network to carry the hearings live for an extended period of time.

Operation "Fast and Furious"actually started under the Bush administration. In its early stages, it was known as Operation Wide Receiver, and one of its chief coordinators was a man named William Newell, who was the ATF agent in charge of Phoenix.

Operation Wide Receiver was shut down in October of 2007.

Almost exactly two years later, the operation was resurrected again, this time as “Operation Fast and Furious”. The man responsible for the new program was William Newell.

The same William Newell.

Eric Holder’s office first became aware of the operation in July of 2010, and on November 8, 2010, he testified in a Congressional hearing that the operations was “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution”.

After Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed on December 12. 2010, the ATF bureau decided that the program no longer made sense, and it was shut down on January 25, 2011.

If you’re a regular listener of the Rush Limbaugh show, of course, you’ll recognize that the whole purpose of the program was to create hayhem, which would allow the Obama administration to take away everybody’s guns. A view, incidentally, that is also shared by Darrell Issa and Wayne LaPierre.

If you're a regular listener of Rush, you're also likely to believe the theory that the recent theater shooting in Colorado was a plot by the government to give President Obama the cover that he needs in order to sign the U.N.Arms Trade Treaty.

If you have any doubts at all about the fact that the Executive VP and CEO of the NRA is a raving lunatic, read (or listen to) his speech at the NRA convention in St. Louis earlier this year:

are you nuts?

Incidentally, the idea that the Democrats are out to "create mayhem" isn't a new idea. In 2000, LaPierre said President Bill Clinton tolerated a certain amount of violence and killing in order to strengthen the case for gun control and to score points for his party.Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart called it "really sick rhetoric, and it should be repudiated by anyone who hears it."

Due to Democratic candidate John Kerry's history of authoring and supporting reasonable gun control legislation, LaPierre actively campaigned against the senator in the 2004 Presidential election.

Surprisingly, even the majority of the NRA members don't agree with Mr. LaPierre either, so it's just a matter of time before he gets forced out of his position.

(Incidentally, the folks who don’t want any restrictions on the sale of guns and ammunition are also the same folks who passed voter ID laws in the last two years).

Purely by coincidence (?) Darrell Issa’s committee voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt eight days after the Department of Justice sued the State of Florida for its illegal attempt to purge 182.,000 voters from its polls. The vast majority of those voters, incidentally, were minorities, who are far more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans.

In the last 2 years, 18 states have passed voter ID laws, ostensibly to reduce “voter fraud”, which is virtually non-existent throughout the country. Although the laws may seem like a good idea at first blush, they serve to disenfranchise voters who are minorities, low-income persons, senior citizens, voters with disabilities, and students.

In all, 33 states have passed laws requiring identification for voting. If you think that all those laws are intended to eliminate voter fraud, consider the words of Mike Turzai, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives:

Listing the accomplishments of the Republican-controlled legislature, he said “Voter ID - which is going to allow Mitt Rommey to take Pennsylvania - done”.

Surprisingly, progress HAS been made against the more restrictive voting laws. A state court in Wisconsin ruled that Photo ID restrictions were in strict violation of their state Constitution, and court challengers are currently underway in Florida, Texas, and Minnesota.

If election officials were REALLY serious about voter IDs, they would follow the example of Mexico, and issue EVERYONE a biometric ID card.

At the conclusion of Edward R. Murrown’s broadcast on March 9, 1954, he said this to his viewing audience:

“His primary purpose has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation in not proof and that conviction depends on evidence and due process of law.. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason., if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world., but we cannot defend freedom abroad if we cannot defend it at home. The actions of the junion Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it - and rather successfully”.

Some of his words still ring true today.

Eric Holder is being convicted without evidence, and Wayne LaPierre is creating a situation of fear in order to further promote the spread of firearms in a country where we already have far too many.

If you’re still tuning in to FOX News to get the facts about Eric Holder, or Fast and Furious (or pretty much anything else) all I can say to you at this point is this:

“Good night …

and good luck.”

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