Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Roots of Right Wing Religious Extremism: The Winrod Legacy 2/2

In PART ONE of this series we looked at the career of Reverend Gerald Winrod, the anti-Semitic preacher from Kansas. Decade after decade, from his fiery attacks on Roosevelt's New Deal to his admiration of the Nazi state, to his crusades against Communists (if only because he saw it as a Jewish conspiracy), Winrod rode every current wave of right-wing radicalism.

Gordon Winrod
In this post, we will look at how the Winrod legacy was passed on to his son, Gordon Winrod, and led to an even more direct expression of violent extremism.

The Torch Passed to a New Generation

Reverend Dr. Gerald B. Winrod passed the torch to his son, Gordon Winrod, who carried on the family tradition of virulent antisemitism. For a time, his son maintained his father's works until finally leaving Kansas, to re-settle in the Missouri Ozarks.

While it is fair to say that Winrod had nowhere near the charisma of his father, his tracts against the Jews were quite a bit more explicit. The Jews, said Gordon Winrod, drank the "warm blood of Christians" and "controlled the money, the media and thus all politics and all government." There was no end, according to Winrod, to the misery they caused. 

In 1960, he began publishing the monthly "The Winrod Letter" which was not only filled with his current rants against the Jews, it offered a list of other anti-Semitic books and tapes that could be ordered from his church. (Click here for a partial sample of a 1997 newsletter.
Hating Jews had become a cottage industry for the Winrods.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Roots of Right Wing Religious Extremism: The Winrod Legacy 1/2

by Nomad

Most Americans have not heard of the name Winrod but decades ago, Reverend Gerald Winrod was at one time a charismatic voice of right-wing dissent, His anti-Semitic message spread through the Midwest by radio at a time when the Nazi party in Germany were rising to power. 
This two-part post traces his rise and fall and his ideological rebirth through his son, a man who took the message to the next level.

Of all the books of the Bible, the Book of Revelations holds a particular spell over right-wing Fundamentalists. I suppose there's a good reason. It is colorfully written and vague enough to mean nearly anything, depending on current events, the mood of the preacher and the target of the sermon. And for the more literal- minded Christians it instills a sense of imminent unalterable doom and fear. A proven motivator. 
In our times, we have heard suggestions that Obama is somehow related to the coming of the Anti-Christ, the devil-incarnate from the biblical prophecies. 
However, Obama is hardly unique in this regard. In fact evangelists have used the prophecies to point fingers at well-known leaders nearly from the time the book was included in the official canon of Scripture. 

In this post, I want to examine the biographical history of the nearly forgotten Reverend Gerald Burton Winrod. Winrod used this particular technique against the president and against the progressive movement in general.

Reverend Gerald Winrod vs. Franklin Roosevelt

In the 1930s, for Christian fundamentalists, all the signs of the end times were obvious. It was a time of great -almost unbearable- tension and apprehension. The rise of totalitarianism in Europe and a world-wide depression unlike anything anybody had ever seen were just two signs that of the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.

Matt Sutton, Professor of History at University of California, Santa Barbara, notes that in the 1930s, a few influential Christian leaders began to impose their own view on political events.
Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal quickly emerged as the object of their most intense domestic scrutiny. Fundamentalists sensed something sinister in the thirty-second president. His consolidation of power, his controversial policies, and his internationalist sensibilities seemed consistent with biblical descriptions of politics and international relations in the last days.
As a result, fundamentalists did not interpret the growth of the modern liberal state in the U.S. as a reasonable response to the growing global economic depression but instead viewed it in conjunction with Mussolini’s visions of empire and Hitler’s Antisemitism. In short, fundamentalists across the continent came to believe that New Deal liberalism was the means by which the U.S. would join the legions of the Antichrist.
One of the more notable preachers that took this view was Rev. Gerald Burton Winrod in Wichita, Kansas.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

West, Texas Explosion: The Price of Poor Regulation and Rick Perry's Budget Cuts?

Even though the first responders are even now searching through the devastation left after the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion yesterday, some factors that led to the disaster are beginning to become clear.

The plant had already been investigated by The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for its failure to obtain an air quality permit as a fertilizer mixing and storage facility. The company had, in fact, earlier been fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to have a risk management plan that met federal standards. That $2,300 penalty was issued on August 14, 2006, according to EPA records.
In November, West Fertilizer Co. vowed to meet all standards expected for anhydrous ammonia storage tanks. The odorless gas would be stored in two 12,000 gallon permanent storage tanks.

In addition the company would conduct daily in-house inspections during normal business hours to ensure there are no" leaks of ammonia.
Despite previous complaints from neighbors of ammonia smells from the plant, West Fertilizer Company officials assured the TCEQ that “emissions from the tanks would not pose a danger.” However:
That assertion was based on expected routine emissions, not the possibility of a catastrophic failure.

As a permit condition, the TCEQ required the company to build a wall between the tanks and a public road to prevent passing vehicles from striking the tanks. The company complied and on Dec. 12, 2006, the agency’s executive director issued an operating permit for the tanks, which already existed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Slimy and Dark Arts: Texas GOP State Chairman Munisteri's Desperate Database Deception

by Nomad
The Wall Street Journal reported last week about a fundraising letter by the Texas GOP state chairman, Steve Munisteri.

Although you might not have heard of him, as an activist for conservative grassroots movements, Munisteri has been around forever. According to his bio:
As State Chairman of the Texas chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, Munisteri begun the practice of issuing legislative rankings for members of the Texas House of Representatives and State Senate. In 1980, Munisteri founded Young Conservatives of Texas, a group which continues to produce the future generations of our conservative leaders and elected officials in college campuses across the State.
Most recently he was elected to chair the Republican Party of Texas in 2010. For a conservative in Texas, the future looks rather grim. 
Texas is slowly but surely turning from a conservative red to a decidedly liberal blue. Apparently, as Texas slips from the Republican fingers, Munisteri is ready to pull out all stops; hence the letter. 
That letter, aimed at poaching the last dollar from the Texas rich, was full of the predictable fear-mongering about Democrats “ coming to take away your guns,” and more than that, “they’re coming to hijack your rights and freedoms.” 
He called the new Democratic voter-mobilization effort, Battleground Texas, “a clear and present threat to you and your family.” 

It’s the kind of rhetoric that doesn’t hold up to too much analysis or critical thinking but, to a certain type of Texas Republican, it really tends to stir the blood. To outsiders, it just smells like the sour BO of desperation. (At least the Texas Democrats behind Battleground thought so.)

However, there was another detail in the article about the letter that caught my eye.
To fight back, the GOP letter urges Republicans to give anywhere from $15 to $5,000 so the party can “immediately undertake our own effort to identify thousands of Texas conservatives.”
The letter warns that the former Obama operatives “have become masters of the slimy ‘dark arts’ of campaigning: creating massive databases; collecting information on every voter and non-voter; and then using that information to do whatever it takes to drive these voters away from Republican candidates and principles.”
That’s a rather interesting claim for Munisteri to make against the Democratic Party. While there is nothing illegal about collecting information in “massive databases,” Munisteri is playing on the ignorance of his constituents about modern political campaigning. As Mr. Munisteri well knows, these so-called dark and slimy arts have become a long feature of the Republican campaigns since the Bush administration. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why African Americans Should be Skeptical of Rand Paul’s New and Improved Republican Party

entucky Senator and rising star in the GOP, Rand Paul recently spoke at Howard University, a mostly black campus in Washington DC. He came to the campus to ask black Americans to give conservatism a second look. He appears to be banking on African Americans ignoring decades of controversial stands on racial issues. 

Now that it is clear that the Republican party can no longer win elections by appealing to white prejudices, Paul is trying to re-write history, his own, his father’s and the the Republican conservative movement. African American voters have every reason to be skeptical of Paul’s hollow overture.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gun-Toting Nelson, Georgia: Where Conservatives Fell in Love with Mandates

By Nomad
When the town of Nelson, Georgia (all 626 people, 254 households, and 188 families of it) decided to mandate the ownership of at least one firearm for all of the town's households, it opened up a lot of interesting questions.

But the most important one was: 
Where are all those conservatives and Tea Party radicals who protested so loudly and for long about Big Government mandates when it came to affordable health care?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Divorced Michael Reagan: Casting the First Stone at Same-Sex Marriage

Before Michael Reagan launches into a diatribe about the evils of same-sex marriage, he might want to review the Bible's view on divorce. He might not be able to look at himself in the mirror.

Michael Reagan was on Piers Morgan the other night giving (free of charge) his opinions on gay marriage. He said he didn't believe in it. Piers also called upon Reagan to explain his recent op-ed piece in which he equates same-sex marriage to “polygamy, bestiality, and perhaps even murder.”
It's not an original argument, of course. Limbaugh and Beck and Bachmann and so many other lunatics have trotted it out time after time.

In that article, Reagan called upon churches of all denominations to "fight back" unless they were cowards who were "afraid to lose their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by engaging in political activity." (A taunt that could prove costly to many violating organizations if the IRS could ever be roused from its slumber.) 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are Republicans Finally Waking Up to the Realities of the Sequester?

Welcome to Reality
With so many insightful investigative report s and op-ed articles appearing online all the time, it's no wonder that so many of us are turning their backs on cable news sources. With so much out there,  scattered hither and thither, it's next to impossible to catch them all.
That's where I come in! Here's an op-ed article that I thought you might find interesting.
President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard has written an excellent piece at In These Times called:

The GOP’s Big Yellow Taxi Syndrome

The same Republicans who thought Norquist's infamous comment about "shrinking government small enough to drown it in the bathtub" was witty and wise are now having second thoughts about the idea. Especially when it comes to cuts that affect their own districts.
Republicans bellyached for years that government must shrink. It had to be smaller. Cut the budget come hell or high water, they yammered. Well, darn if the sequester hasn’t brought hell and high water to Republican districts across America.....

Now that it’s here, now that it’s affecting their constituents, Republicans contend the $1 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts they demanded should have been specifically targeted to eliminate only “waste, fraud and abuse.”
"Waste, fraud and abuse" is apparently a stock phrase that that been on the lips of the Republicans-especially the Tea Party radicals. And yet, when called upon to explain where they would have cut, (note the past tense) the GOP remained vague and tended to change the subject. It was a phrase that played well in sound-bites on Fox News and back home but, without any specifics, it was about as hollow as Satan's heart.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Right Wing's Strange Love-Hate Relationship with Mr. Darwin

There’s always been a vexing paradox about the marriage of the Neo-conservatives with the Christian Right. Certain key principles endorsed by either group just do not seem to fit together. One of those mismatches involves the respective attitudes of these groups toward the ideas of Charles Darwin. 

From the moment, Darwin published his major works in the middle of the 19th century, it was clear that the strict adherents of the Biblical view would find much to despise. Any blurring of the line between Man as a divine creation of God, and Man as a creepy-crawly evolutionary product of thoughtless Nature was bound to cause a bit of a fuss. 

The argument between the strict believers in the unchallengeable word of God and the evolutionists committed to the peculiar notions of Mr. Darwin was, in many ways, part of the larger war between science and religion. 
All very interesting, you say, but what of it? 
The problem lies in one of the key principles of evolution, namely, the survival of the fittest. Unfortunately for the Christian Right, it just happens to form the basis of the neo-conservative social platform. It’s called Social Darwinism. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Talking Goat Claims Sarah Palin is Actually the Anti-Christ


(reprinted from Nomadic View for the special April Fools post)

The news of Kah-Kah, a five-year-old Hailun breed of domesticated goat, has astounded scientists around the world in what seems to be the first true and verifiable case of intelligent animal speech. And apparently, the goat had an important announcement.

Hao Wei Yuan, his owner, told reporters, "I was in the rice field and I heard somebody calling my name. There was nobody. Only Kah-Kah. Then I understood that it was goat's voice."

After Wei Yuan brought the goat to his home, his wife and children refused to have any thing to with the animal. "They were frightened and told me to kill it. She say You go and kill it. Kill it.' But I could not do."

And yet the strangest part was yet to come. US biology professor Emery Bohred from Stanford University heard of the strange phenomenon, while on a tour of farms in late 2008. Naturally he decided to make the long journey to the isolated region to see for himself. "I admit, I didn't believe it. I thought it was all a wild goat chase. I mean, seriously, a talking goat? At best, I thought it would be making random sounds that could possibly sound like words. I was not prepared for this."

When Bohred arrived, what he discovered astounded him. "It was actually speaking English. Not merely sounds but full words strung together as sentences. That's something I hadn't heard before. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. " The goat would spend hours chatting with local villagers under the Yam-yam tree in a variety of dialects but even the owners were stunned to hear the goat address the American strangers in their own language.

"Initially, the goat refused to answer any direct questions and kept changing the subject. For a Capra aegagrus hircus, it was quite obtuse."

Even today, whenever Professor Bohred talks about Kah-Kah, his face still lights up with child-like wonder. "You can't imagine my reaction. Kah-Kah actually asked me questions about where I was from, if I was married and my age. The goat even translated Chinese jokes into English, but I didn't quite see the humor. " (Bohred attributes this to a cultural, rather than any inter-species, gap. )

After recovering from the shock, Bohred asked Wei Yuan for permission to examine the goat more intensively. In the following three months, Bohred conducted a wide variety of experiments to determine how Kah-Kah might have developed such a capacity.

"I suspect it is genetic." speculated Bohred, "I am still uncertain."

There was one thing that Kah-Kah kept repeating. At first, Bohred noted, it was only a name. "Sarah Palin. "

(Oddly the goat's accent seemed to have an artificial Minnesota dialect.)

"When I showed that I recognized the name, the goat clearly stated, 'Sarah Palin is the Anti-Christ.' For three days in March 2009, Kah-Kah continued to repeat that same sentence over and over. "From morning until night, like a broken record. I thought I would lose my mind. "

"And then, suddenly without any explanation, the goat was silent." Bohred explained to reporters at a press conference. Wei Yuan, at his family insistence, finally slaughtered Kah-Kah in November 2010.

Yuan told reporters:
"My wife, she very angry with me. She say me ancient Chinese proverb. 'Just because an ass can speak. it doesn't mean you have to listen.' "

There was, unfortunately, no record of the goat's last words. However, according to village sources, Kah-Kah was broiled with liberal amounts of ginger and garlic and made a splendid dinner for nine.