Larry Flynt > Political Articles

Making Enemies

Monday, September 23rd, 2013


Interview by Mark Johnson

In the wake of the Boston bombings, a disturbing fact is being obscured: The FBI actually creates more terror plots than it cracks.

You may not see it much on the news, but the FBI doesn’t only get involved in major terrorist events after they happen—in many cases it’s there at the very beginning. Government agents have been running sting operations, providing supposedly dangerous dupes with everything from motive to means. Investigative reporter Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, reveals that while the agency is busy collaborating with criminals and ensnaring innocent citizens to justify its budgets, real threats are being ignored.

HUSTLER: Your book came out just before the Boston Marathon bombings. Did that event damage your argument or vindicate it?

TREVOR AARONSON: The Boston case really gets at the question I answer in the book: What has the FBI been missing while it’s been so focused on sting operations? The Boston case suggests that real threats like the Tsarnaevs are going unnoticed.

Is there any likelihood that an FBI informant was involved in that case?

Anything I would say on that would be speculative, but the family has said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s contact with the FBI lasted for long periods of time. It’s not unusual for the FBI to approach a Muslim, realize that he is not a threat and then try to recruit him as an informant. Whether or not Tamerlan was ever an informant, the FBI claims publicly that they investigated him in January 2011, and he wasn’t a threat. That’s where they say officially that their tracking of him stopped.

In that same month they had Rezwan Ferdaus on their radar. This was a guy who came to their attention through a heroin-addicted informant paid by the FBI.

Ferdaus allegedly told him this story of how he had a plan to load a remotecontrolled airplane with explosives and fly it into the U.S. Capitol. Obviously the idea was pat ently ridiculous, but what was even worse was the fact that Ferdaus didn’t have any means of doing this plot on his own. He had no money. He had no access to weapons. He was just a loud-mouthed miscreant.

Instead of pursuing Tamerlan Tsarnaev in January 2011, the FBI decided to launch this sting operation against Ferdaus. They had the informant introduce two undercover agents to Ferdaus who were posing as al-Qaeda operatives. They said, “We can help you make your plan possible,” and gave him $4,000, which he used to purchase a remote-controlled airplane. They then paid for a trip to Washington, where he scouted out locations. Then in the final stage they gave him explosives and C4 for the bomb.

At that point they arrest Rezwan Ferdaus and charge him with conspiracy to destroy a federal building and material support for terrorism. He had no capacity for committing an act of terrorism on his own. It was the FBI informant and under cover agents that gave him everything he needed. This guy, in FBI parlance, was far “more aspirational than operational” and yet they spent all of these FBI resources investigating him.That same month they reportedly said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “No, he’s not a threat; let’s not worry about him.”

The FBI also missed Faisal Shahzad, who delivered a bomb to Times Square in 2010. It didn’t go off, but what was amazing is the FBI didn’t know a thing about him until he delivered that bomb.

Why does the FBI operate this way when it’s not working?

One of the things they say is: If you’re an FBI agent, and you get a tip that this guy says he wants to commit an act of terrorism, you don’t want to be the FBI agent who says let’s let him mature out of it, then in six months discover that he actually found out a way to get a bomb, delivered it to a shopping mall and killed innocent people.

But this is really a bureaucratic problem. The FBI now gets $3 billion for its counterterrorism program. It’s the largest part of its budget. So the FBI has to find a way to say, “Hey, look at us. We’re spending your money and keeping you safe.” The evidence shows that the threat really isn’t there. The sting operations are really only netting these guys who never have the capacity, never have the weapons, never have the plan; in some cases they never even have the idea.

There’s a case, for example, in Newburgh, New York, right outside of New York City. They ran this sting operation on a man with a history of mental illness named James Cromitie and gave him the idea for the attack. He was going to plant bombs at a synagogue in the Bronx and use a Stinger missile that would take down airplanes taking off from the local airport. The FBI would provide everything he needed: the Stinger missiles, the transportation, the bombs, everything.

About halfway through the sting operation they became concerned that Cromitie would wise up and back out. If he backed out, they wouldn’t have any charges they could bring. They realized Cromitie was a felon. He’d gone to jail earlier in life for selling crack cocaine, and if they could get him with a gun, they’d have a backup felony gun charge if the sting fell apart.

The informant gives Cromitie $500 and says, “Go to New York City and buy a gun.” Cromitie spends the whole evening searching around for someone that he could buy a gun from and isn’t able to find anyone—isn’t able to buy a gun in New York City! He comes back to the informant and says, “Sorry. I couldn’t get a gun. Here’s your money back.”

FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress, describing what a great danger James Cromitie would have been had he been able to move forward in his terrorist plot. But the same man that the FBI director describes to Congress as being dangerous is the man who with $500 in his pocket couldn’t even buy a gun. How dangerous can a terrorist be when left to his own devices he can’t buy a Saturday Night Special in New York City?

Who are these informants?

Average people who live standup lives don’t make good informants, so the FBI ends up having to use people who have criminal records. Take Shahed Hussain. This was a man who fled Pakistan because he had been accused of murder and comes to the United States. He was running a number of scams, one of which was working with DMV employees to help illegal immigrants get driver’s licenses so they could become cabbies in New York City. When he got caught, they converted him into an informant. Most of the informants who act as agents provocateur for the FBI have some really colorful pasts, including drug-dealing, robbing tollbooths and very violent crimes.

There was a recent case in Seattle that targeted a man who had schizoaffective disorder, which meant he had trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy, which obviously made him very easy to be manipulated. The informant who targeted him was a five-time sex offender with a history of child molestation! The most odious man you could possibly imagine had then been hired by the FBI to move forward in the sting operation.

How many FBI terror plots do we know about?

Since 9/11 there have been approximately 175 defendants who have been caught in sting operations where the FBI provided the means and opportunity—and in some cases the idea—for the crime. When you compare that to people who actually pose a significant danger, it’s jawdroppingly low. There are about seven, if you count the Tsarnaev brothers, who posed a significant threat. Since 9/11 there are still far more people killed by lone gunmen like we saw in Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, than there have been people killed by Islamic terrorists.

If the FBI were to go into areas where there are groups of white supremacists and offered people the opportunity to commit violence in the same way it offers the people in the fringes of Muslim communities to commit violence, you would find those same people who would say yes. The problem is the FBI doesn’t do that.

Don’t the serious guys know what the game is by now so they can avoid it?

I’ve heard the joke a number of times from Muslims that when they pray on Friday, they just assume the guy next to them is an informant. The Tsarnaevs did appear to be bumblers, but they were sophisticated enough to put together a bomb. That means that they were smart enough not to go to the mosque and start talking about how they wanted to get involved in an act of terrorism and engage an informant who leads them along. The really dangerous guys aren’t likely to fall for a simple trap.

How much money does an informant make?

You can make six-figure paydays plus expenses and have your phone paid for. Shahed Hussain, the accused murderer from Pakistan, was paid $100,000 for his work in the Newburgh case. That’s in addition to a performance incentive, which is a set amount of money that an informant will make upon the successful prosecution of a defendant. Agents have told me those can be tens of thousands of dollars as well. So a good informant on an individual case that may last four to six months is making $100,000 plus maybe another $30,000 to $40,000 in performance incentives. You do that a couple of times a year, and you’re making serious money.

These are men that because of their backgrounds aren’t likely to make a lot of money in the free market. So the FBI gig is really about as good as it gets. What’s concerning from a justice perspective is that they have a direct financial incentive in prosecutions. They’re not looking for the person who is going to pose a danger; they’re looking for the next sucker that they can get in a terrorism sting operation because they know that means money for them.

How do these cases stand up in court? Isn’t it entrapment?

Any entrapment defense is hard to win because it requires you to go to the jury and say, “You know, I committed that crime, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it were it not for the government agent overpowering my will.” In terrorism cases 11 people have formally argued entrapment as a result of a sting, and none has been successful. The government has been very successful in putting on the stand government experts with dubious credentials who will testify about how “this defendant watched a militant jihadi video produced by al-Qaeda and known to help with the self-radicalization process, so this man was radicalized before the government agent was introduced.”

One government expert named Evan Kohlmann gets paid to testify about how people self-radicalize just by watching jihadi videos. What’s ridiculous is I’ve watched jihadi videos, you have, your readers probably have—they’re on the news. There isn’t this huge rash of terrorists who come out after watching jihadi videos.

The other issue is that because the government controls the whole sting, they could choose to make it a minor crime. They could give the guy a gun and say, “Shoot this man in the kneecap in the name of jihad,” but they don’t. They give him a huge sophisticated bomb that even an organized criminal organization would have trouble obtaining and get him to unleash it in a downtown area where if it were real, it would kill hundreds, if not thousands of people. The jury hears that, and it overwhelms whatever empathy they could have for the defendant.

The FBI measures its success through cases and prosecutions. If they can prosecute somebody and find him guilty, in the FBI’s view this is a successful policy. There was a case in Portland Oregon, that involved an impressionable 19-year-old man who got involved in a plot to bomb a Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony. At his trial it came out that there was an email from inside the FBI where they talked about how because this guy was a loser and smoked marijuana, he was very susceptible to their advances, to getting involved in a plot. An email like that suggests that the FBI’s number-one focus isn’t so much on figuring out who’s dangerous and then going after those guys. The FBI is interested in making a case that can make careers and get you promoted.

What red flags should honest people look out for so they don’t get caught up in these stings?

Informants usually fit a pattern. They tend to be overly obsessed with talking about inflammatory subjects or U.S. foreign policy, and they’re always the first one to take the conversation beyond “this is messed up” to “what are you going to do about it?”

Everyone’s allowed to have extremist views in the United States. Nothing has stopped the First Amendment. But the FBI is using the First Amendment almost as a tip sheet. They will find people who post extremist things on Facebook and use an informant to target that person. There are actually very few people in this country going around advocating violence. So if someone comes up to you and is trying to incite you to try to get into some sort of violent act for a political cause, there’s a good chance that’s an FBI informant.

Deadly Cycle

Monday, July 22nd, 2013


by Simone Wilson, reporting from Israel and Gaza

It’s one of the world’s most elusive holy grails: lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. From a distance the conflict seems absurd. But for the people who live it day to day, the reasons are as real as life and death. As deadly exchanges again flare up, our reporter explores why the emotional wounds on both sides refuse to heal.

The bombs over the Gaza Strip—a small stretch of Mediterranean scrubland along the western coast of Israel, about one-third the size of Los Angeles—often seem to materialize from thin air. In seconds an Israeli F-16 has swooped down over its target, let go its missile with a gut-splitting noise and opened up the earth below into a thunderous well of smoke, flames and flying concrete. After the boom, it takes the people on the ground a few moments to realize if they’re dead or alive—if the guy who was sitting next to them is now on the floor with a shard of glass through his skull, or if the sounds of bloody hysteria are coming from farther off, somewhere across war-torn Gaza City.

“It’s like you’re dying in every second,” says Khader al- Kurdi. The 21-year-old college student has lived through four wars and many more small conflicts, the most recent of which stretched over one week in November 2012, leaving over 150 Gazans lifeless under the rubble. But the worst of the violence, recalls al-Kurdi, came in the winter of 2008 when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. Tanks and soldiers roved the streets and F-16s bombed from above, killing about 1,400 Gazans in three weeks of fighting. The experience “charged me with hate toward Israel,” says al-Kurdi.

Just a few miles off, in southern Israeli towns such as Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council (a collection of liberal farming communes called kibbutzim), civilians have 15 to 45 seconds to find a bomb shelter at the first scream of an air-raid siren.

As residents brace for one of Gaza’s homemade Qassam rockets to hit, these slow-motion moments of pain anticipation are their own special brand of torture. “When there’s an alarm, and all the kids are outside, they’re running just like ants,” says a sixth-grade teacher at Sha’ar Hanegev Elementary School. “In a few seconds the field is empty. It’s like a trigger. They’re all programmed to be playing and happy and dancing and skipping, and within one second they switch into emergency mode.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimates that Hamas—the U.S.- classified terrorist organization that rules Gaza—has hurled more than 8,000 rockets over the fence since Hamas took power in 2006, killing 60 and injuring hundreds more.

If a rocket isn’t intercepted by the IDF’s advanced “Iron Dome” airdefense system before coming to earth, its random trajectory ensures that no space is safe and no mind at ease. Windows explode, homes shake on their foundations, and shrapnel zings across the gardens of Sha’ar Hanegev’s many kibbutzim. “It looks like a big arrow with fire, and when it bombs, it blocks your ears,” says Gal, an 11-year-old student at Sha’ar Hanegev Elementary who recently saw a rocket fall in his grandma’s front yard. A rocket killed a young boy in the back of a Sha’ar Hanegev school bus in April 2011; and another killed community hero Jimmy Kdoshim, a father of three who was known to drop lollipops to local kids as he flew over the farmland on his parachute.

The children of Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev have heard stories about terrorists getting loose from Gaza on foot too. “I have a recurring nightmare that a man in a keffiyeh [Arab headdress] breaks into the window and shoots me,” says Eliav, 11.

Kids on both sides, when instructed by their parents and headmasters to sit straight in their chairs and speak with the nice American journalist, recite that they don’t hate the people on the other side of the wall and that they only want peace. But it’s apparent that their mistrust for each other runs deep.

“We educate for peace and mediation and coexistence,” says Sha’ar Hanegev principal Anat Regev. “But here it’s not so simple because they were born into this situation. They’ve been bombed all the time. You cannot take it for granted that they will want peace.”

Yael Tzalka, an American teaching volunteer at a junior high in Rishon LeZion—which a Hamas rocket narrowly missed in November 2012—observes that “a lot of these kids are liberalminded but really fed up at the same time…. Some of them end up being like, ‘Just kill them all.’ They’re like, ‘Why do we have to go through terrorism?'”

A recent study showed that almost 45% of seventh- and eighth-graders in the Israeli border town of Sderot show signs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the constant threat of rockets. And in Gaza, researchers say the PTSD rate has shot up to almost 70% among high-school students who live in the region’s heavily bombed refugee camps.

Eyad El-Sarraj, one of Gaza’s most respected scholars and doctors, has described this endless cycle of psychological trauma as the ultimate roadblock to peace. After Operation Cast Lead he noted in a New York Times op-ed that “Palestinian children in the first intifadah [uprising] 20 years ago threw stones at Israeli tanks trying to wrest freedom from Israeli military occupation. Some of those children grew up to become suicide bombers in the second intifadah ten years later.” El-Sarraj added, “It does not take much to imagine the serious changes that will befall today’s children.”

Although they have likewise seen unthinkable war atrocities in their day, most elderly residents of Gaza and Israel—and those in the larger Palestinian West Bank—at least have a firsthand understanding of the enemy. They remember a time when Israelis and Palestinians worked alongside each other in factories, when they shook each other’s hands to close business deals, when a one-state solution didn’t sound like an absurd joke.

“We want to live in peace,” insists Gaza City resident Majed al-Kurdi, 49. “I want my son to be able to live, to work, to visit America and visit Israel.”

But his eldest son interjects. “No, I don’t want to,” says Khader. “He wants. I don’t. How can the place who stole your land give you peace? I don’t know how.”

With a few exceptions, historians and older residents in Israel and the two Palestinian territories agree that the younger generations are getting angrier—and, in effect, taking a more conservative attitude toward the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The wounds of Operation Cast Lead had hardly healed in Gaza—its children were still mourning their classmates, still playing in the rubble of bombed-out skeleton buildings—when Israel decided to “mow the lawn,” as conservatives have dubbed it, again in November 2012. (According to the IDF, the attack was in response to 100 Hamas rockets aimed at southern Israel over a 24-hour period.)

“I hate them,” says Ariel, an 11-year-old Israeli girl whose hometown of Be’er Sheva came under attack during the conflict. She compares the feeling of watching Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari get blown up by an Israeli missile to the joy that Hansel and Gretel felt upon pushing the witch into the oven.

Adel, a clean-cut ten-year-old walking the streets of Gaza City, says he was friends with the al-Dalou family, who lost 11 members—including four children—when their home was turned into a massive crater by Israel during the 2012 operation. Asked if he could say one thing to the Israelis, Adel crosses his arms and declares, “I want to fight you.”

Oftentimes the only interactions between Israeli and Palestinian youth are angry, impersonal exchanges over the Internet—where one’s humanity is reduced to a profile pic. “On social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, [Israelis] share their bad opinions, and I can read it and feel how they feel about us,” says Khader al-Kurdi.

In December 2012, when a young Israeli woman serving her mandatory time in the IDF shot Mohammed Salima at a checkpoint in the West Bank after the 17-year-old allegedly pulled a toy gun on a fellow border policeman, Palestinians and their supporters ripped her to shreds on the Internet. They passed around a link to her reported Facebook profile—which, like those of most women her age, was filled with duck faces and bikini shots—and labeled her a “terrorist,” “bitch,” “Zionist whore” and “child killer.”

Just days after the cease-fire, at a bar in Tel Aviv (Israel’s secondlargest and most modern city), a charismatic twentysomething wearing lit-up devil horns starts spitting Arabic like a party trick. His friends and observers snicker, calling it the “nigger language.” Probe another partygoer about the Gazan children who died during the 2012 conflict, and he’ll tell you that while they may look cute, in the end they’re just “suicide bombers in training.”

Over tea and coffee at her family’s home in Gaza City, 18-year-old Samar al-Kurdi—whose baby cousin was fatally crushed during Operation Cast Lead—asks, “How can I have an Israeli friend if the people in Israel hate the Palestinians?” Her little brother begins dancing around in the driveway, singing a popular new song from Egypt called “I Love Israel.” The ironically titled tune plots out various ways to destroy the land of the Jews—such as pouring gasoline on it or hanging it from a noose.

Psychologists have found that those exposed to war traumas often resort to simple, good-guy-bad-guy storytelling to make themselves feel better. “When you are being attacked, the main challenge of society is to cope with the situation,” says Dr. Eran Halperin, an Israeli professor who studies the causes of political extremism. “And the ultimate way to cope with the situation is to create a very, very clear and one-sided story to justify the fact that we have to be in this situation.”

Dr. Rony Berger, another Israeli psychologist, adds that “people exposed to trauma and who develop PTSD are more likely to adopt anti-democratic extreme measures against anybody that is not like themselves.”

In the case of Israel and the Palestinian territories, experts say that the two populations’ lack of exposure to one another, combined with societal influences like war propaganda and a nationalistic K-12 education, is contributing to each side’s increasingly us-versus-them mentality.

“Education in Israel today is very far from a peace-loving education,” says Mordechai Bar-On, an Israeli historian who once served as chief education officer for the IDF. “Even if it’s not extremely right-wing, which it sometimes is, even the normal schooling system is overtly nationalistic and overtly pessimistic.”

The mandatory draft for all Israeli men and women over 18 may serve to strengthen this early surge of patriotism, breeding a country of hardened soldiers. “For the majority of the people, after being exposed to the typical Israeli education, military service has a negative impact,” Bar-On explains. “It tends to fortify your patriotism— your belief that only a strong hand can solve your problems, that you have to defend yourself, that the Arabs are no good, that the Arabs are primitive people, etc.”

Nir, a 24-year-old student in Be’er Sheva, attests that after serving in the IDF, he became more supportive of the Israeli government. “When you are serving, you see things differently than when you are a civilian,” he asserts. During his time as a guard in the West Bank, Nir says he heard crazy stories about Palestinian extremists from fellow soldiers and saw that they weren’t going to give up until they took back Israel from the Jews.

The education system in Gaza is likewise getting a heavy dose of Islamist extremism under Hamas rule. And there are many to influence: Over half the population of Gaza is under the age of 15.

German TV journalist Richard Schneider, who has done extensive reporting in the Palestinian territories, says that at a recent Hamas rally he witnessed some supporters “take their children, put plastic guns in their arms, give them plastic suicide belts, call them shaheeds and everything’s wonderful. Many of the kids are educated that this is something good.”

Yusef—a cherubic Gazan five-year-old in a shirt that reads, “Experts agree that you are an IDIOT”—pokes his head out from behind his father and pretends to fire his toy machine gun at the visiting American. His family says he became so frightened during the recent conflict that he would sob during the night and had to sleep in his parents’ bed.

“If they keep on fighting us, I am going to let Yusef fire rockets toward them,” says his father, Shaban al-Kurdi.

Whereas Israel has the resources and priorities to patch up rocket damage as quickly as it appears, Gaza’s wounds have been left to flap in the wind. Little reminders of the occupier’s wrath pop up everywhere: empty window frames whose glass was blown out by an F-16; daily power outages resulting from both war damage and the blockade of natural resources; a little girl’s Mary Janes poking from the rubble of her family home.

Mohamed, another member of the al-Kurdi family, says that two of his friends from school, along with his Arabic teacher, were killed in the most recent Israeli bombings. “They didn’t do any bad things to make Israel kill them,” the 16-year-old says, his knee jiggling compulsively. He seems especially upset about the bombing of Gaza’s central soccer stadium, a popular spot for games and concerts that Israel claimed was being used as a launching point for Hamas rockets.

So Mohamed was proud when the rockets finally hit Tel Aviv—a record distance for Hamas—in November 2012. In an assignment for his English class, he wrote: “For the first time in war history, the resistance shelled the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv city, and Israelis escape to shelter like mouse.”

Psychologists say that strong feelings of hatred and aggression— of grouping the other side into one big evil entity as a defense mechanism—spike during wartime, when fear and trauma run high.

During the November violence, Gaza freelancer Wasseem El-Sarraj—the son of Dr. Eyad El-Serraj—documented his own hardening to peace in the pages of The New Yorker. “It’s my first harb (war), and it has stirred in me feelings that I had tried hard to suppress,” wrote the journalist. “I never wanted to see Israel as an evil force. I said to myself that that sort of thinking, that sort of emotion, would not be helpful, would not be constructive, would not be ‘me.’ I had wanted to work with Israelis; to reconcile, I suppose. After four years of living in Gaza, this has become an untenable position for me.”


Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

(May 1, 2013 – Beverly Hills, CA) HUSTLER Founder and Publisher Larry Flynt has announced his endorsement of Republican candidate Mark Sanford for U.S. Congress. He has also sent a maximum contribution of $2,600 to the Sanford for Congress campaign and extended a personal invitation to Sanford to meet with him and shake his hand.

Sanford, who gained national prominence in 2009 as governor of South Carolina when he abruptly abandoned his duties for a secret rendezvous with his mistress, is currently running against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat. The election will take place on May 7.

In a statement released today, Flynt calls Sanford “the sex pioneer of our time.” In Flynt’s eyes “no one has done more to expose the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today. Sanford’s open embrace of his mistress in the name of love, breaking his sacred marriage vows, was an act of bravery that has drawn my support.” Chastising the Republican Party for not backing Sanford following his run-off victory, Flynt declared: “I am willing to step in and stand erect for Mark Sanford.”

Flynt further elaborated: “My endorsement has not been an easy decision for me. Even though Mark Sanford has emerged as the leader against sexual hypocrisy in American politics, he is a liar. He lied to his gubernatorial staff. He lied to his wife. He lied to his children. He lied to the people of South Carolina and to the press. Despite his journey down this Appalachian Trail of deceit, I support him not for his character, but for exposing the hypocrisy of traditional values. The liar has exposed the greater lie.” Flynt also commended Sanford’s supporters for “tossing aside lifelong convictions” and “teaching their children the invaluable lesson that traditional values are nothing more than a scam.”

Watch Larry’s Video on YouTube

For press inquiries, email or call (323) 651-5400.

Entitlements Are A Right

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Every time the federal government can’t get its fiscal house in order, we start hearing about entitlement reform. Republicans in particular like to use that word entitlement because it sounds like somebody’s getting benefits they don’t deserve. Nothing makes the hardworking Joe angrier than people who think they’re “entitled” to something.

Don’t believe the bull. Those so-called entitlements include benefits that Americans worked hard for: Medicaid, housing assistance, student grants, food programs, child care, job training, and more. These programs make up the social safety net that keeps the middle-class backbone of our economy strong in tough times.

The only reason politicians on the corporate leash want to slash needed expenditures like these is to protect the huge wealth imbalance that lets the rich get richer while everybody else pays. Instead of extracting the last few cents from the needy, we need to clamp down on greed.

Yes, I’m wealthy, but I remember what it was like to be a regular guy sweating for every dollar. And I know that most people aren’t going to get rich no matter how hard they work. That doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t keep up its end of the bargain. A 21st-century nation that lets its citizens slide into poverty and deprives its children of opportunity is taking a backward approach to history.

Don’t buy the right-wing, Tea Party nonsense that “entitlements” are a luxury we can’t afford. They’re a legal right and necessary for a civilized America.

Larry Flynt

Ann Coulter Comic

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Gun Owners of America

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people children to keep and bare arms shall not be infringed.

The Morom Moments

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012


In the beginning was the Word…of one Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the controversial religious denomination commonly known as the Mormon Church. To this day, adherents revere Smith as a prophet who formulated The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ from ancient text inscribed on golden plates.

When 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney avows, “My faith is the faith of my fathers; I will be true to them,” the fathers he invokes are Joseph Smith and Smith’s successors.

In many authoritative biographies—namely those not written with the blessing of the Mormon establishment—Smith comes off as both a goodnatured grifter and a dangerous sociopath. According to ex-Mormon Kay Burningham—author of An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism -the religion “was founded on deception and continues to build upon that deception.” She also asserts that Mormonism’s founders— Joseph Smith Jr. and family—“were opportunists driven to create an organization where they could acquire the social status and financial resources that they lacked.”

The story starts in 1823 when, as Joseph Smith Jr. proclaimed, an angel told him where to find sacred golden plates buried in a hill in upstate New York. However, according to Smith, it wasn’t until 1827 that he was allowed to extract the plates and begin translating what was engraved on them: a chronicle of God’s dealings with the descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites inhabiting the Americas from 2200 B.C. to 421 A.D.

Smith was mighty pleased: He had discovered God’s word, and he would bring the good news to the world. Witnesses say the religious zealot used seer stones to translate what was inscribed on the golden plates. However, skeptics suggest that Smith—a semiliterate farm boy schooled in the soaring language of the Bible—concocted The Book of Mormon out of his own fervid imagination.

This was no small achievement. Smith was a smart guy, and he had a family schooling in the art of cheating the gullible. His father, Joseph Sr., had been repeatedly charged with currency counterfeiting in Vermont in the 1820s. Joseph Jr. himself was hauled into court in the northeastern United States on multiple occasions. He was described in an 1826 New York legal proceeding as “a disorderly person and an impostor.”

According to historian Fawn Brodie, one of his preferred cons involved the help of his brother Hyrum. While visiting a neighboring household, Hyrum would secretly hide a valuable heirloom. When, days later, the victim complained that the prized object was missing, Hyrum came to the rescue. He volunteered his brother Joe Jr. to show up— for a small fee—and put “magic stones” into a hat. Joe would then put the hat over his face and stare into the stone-filled darkness to see where the lost item was—the location of which his faithful brother had already provided.

Smith said his ethical rule was, When the Lord commands, do it. This was convenient, as it was decreed by Joseph Smith that the Lord would only communicate with—you guessed it—Joseph Smith. Early on, he spoke of receiving a divine message about “plural marriage.” The Lord commanded that all Mormon men should take multiple wives and establish the tradition of polygamy. Smith’s wife at the time was skeptical.

The Mormon sect grew throughout the 1830s and 1840s, and so did the controversy. Land theft, bank fraud and cattle rustling were alleged. Historian Will Bagley describes what happened when the Mormons were forced to flee westward and resettle: “After stirring up a religious civil war in Missouri and being exiled to Illinois, Smith founded a kingdom on the Mississippi at Nauvoo, Illinois. Having secured a charter that made him ruler of a city-state and a wealthy land developer, Smith raised a private army, made himself

America’s first lieutenant general since George Washington and began seducing women and barely pubescent girls with an abandon that would make Bill Clinton blush.” Mormon converts began to look askance at sainted Joe, and today their accounts read like those of cult escapees. “When I embraced Mormonism, I conscientiously believed it to be of God,” a disaffected convert wrote in 1831. “I now know Mormonism to be a delusion.”

Mostly what the Mormon Church coveted was the property of converts and their free labor. Joseph Smith’s own personal secretary concluded that Smith and other Mormon leaders were “confirmed infidels who have not the fear of God before their eyes. They lie by revelation, swindle by revelation, cheat and defraud by revelation.”

Jailed on charges of treason, Smith—along with his brother Hyrum—ended up murdered by a lynch mob in Illinois in 1844. It’s not a surprising turn given the level of animosity that Mormons’ criminality had evoked among their preferred targets— the “filthy Gentiles” who disdained the upstart religion.

The Mormons fled still further west, looking for the Holy Land, their Zion, the paradise where they could settle without interference from the Gentiles. They discovered Zion in the sunblasted wilderness of Utah. That’s where the new prophet, Brigham Young, was presiding when 120 men, women and children traveling across Mormon territory by wagon train were slaughtered. This was the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, which historians believe was sparked by an apocalyptic hysteria that the federal government was planning to invade Utah and destroy Young’s people. The apocalypse never came to pass.

By the mid-1850s,W.M.F.Magraw—a personal friend of U.S. President Franklin Pierce—would conclude that civil law in Mormon territory was “overshadowed and neutralized [by an] ecclesiastical organization as despotic, dangerous and damnable as has ever been known to exist in any country…all alike are set upon by the self-constituted theocracy, whose laws, or rather whose conspiracies, are framed in dark corners.”

Years earlier, John Corrill—a onetime prominent Mormon official and a member of the Missouri legislature—authored A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints. Corrill, who was excommunicated in 1839, accused the Mormon leadership of “bad management, selfishness, seeking for riches, honor and dominion, tyrannizing over the people, and striving constantly after power and property.”

Laws undermined by conspiracies and outrageous privilege coupled with unbounded greed and power-maddened mismanagement: This sounds a lot like a description of Corporate America today. Perhaps this explains why our current Mormon Moment is really about the Mormon Church’s engagement and success in the corporatocracy.

In this context, think about Mitt Romney: Here is a man who, while heading the leveraged buyout firm Bain Capital, got rich as an opportunistic “vulture capitalist” by exploiting and plundering companies built on the hard work of others. Romney indeed keeps the faith of his fathers.


Christopher Ketcham is a New York City-based freelance reporter who has written for Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, and many other publications and Web sites. He can be reached at More of his work can be found at

The GOP “Voter Fraud” (2012 Edition)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

By Brad Friedman

The Republican Party is once again pretending that Democrats are committing “voter fraud”—meaning people, perhaps tens of thousands, are voting illegally for Democratic candidates. At the same time, ironically, the GOP’s own nominee for President—Mitt Romney—appears to have committed voter fraud. And he’s not the only high-profile Republican to defraud the very system the GOP claims Democrats are violating. I have evidence of Romney’s real voter-fraud crimes. Republicans, on the other hand, are just making shit up.

Democrats should have seen the “legalization” of voter suppression by the GOP coming long ago. During a 1980 speech to thousands of Baptist preachers in Dallas, right alongside Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell, one of the founding fathers of the modern conservative movement was caught on videotape revealing the entire point of today’s new polling-place photo ID restrictions instituted in state after state by Republicans over the past year.

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich admitted to the crowd of supposedly moral, Christian men. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now.”

Weyrich, a cofounder of the Moral Majority and neoconservative Heritage Foundation, continued: “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Got that? For Republicans to win elections, they need to reduce voter turnout. And this year, they’ve legalized their plan to do it.

Here’s how: Weyrich also cofounded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This right-wing, billionaire-funded nonprofit brings together corporate lobbyists, advocacy groups and state lawmakers to secretly draft “model legislation” that is then pushed through statehouses around the country. One such model is the vote-suppressing polling-place photo ID restriction bills passed by more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures and signed by GOP governors in the wake of their party’s 2010 “wave election.”

The intent of the new restrictions on voting rights is clear. They are meant to keep African-Americans, Hispanics, urban dwellers, the elderly and students—all constituencies that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, yet who disproportionately lack the type of state-issued photo ID now required under these new laws—from being able to cast their once-legal vote.

Republicans pretend the new laws are meant to curb a Democratic “voter fraud” epidemic, but they’re lying. To date, proponents of the laws have been unable to show any historic examples of polling-place voter impersonation—the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by photo ID requirements.

Advocates of the restrictions point instead to a handful of ACORN’s tens of thousands of low-level registration workers who committed voter-registration fraud. But mandatory photo IDs do nothing to stop that type of fraud. [For more on ACORN, see companion article.] Republicans also point to absentee-ballot fraud. But again, photo IDs do nothing to stop that kind of fraud.

Indiana was the first state in the Union where Republicans successfully instituted photo ID restrictions. During the first election under that new law, legally registered college students, elderly nuns and even World War II veterans were turned away from the polls without being allowed to vote. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Americans are misinformed enough to support restrictive electoral laws. But that’s likely because they don’t realize some 21 million of their fellow, legally registered voters do not possess the type of ID now mandated under the new restrictions.

Proponents argue: “You need a photo ID to buy cigarettes or alcoholic beverages or to get on an airplane! So why not to vote?!” However, the truth is you don’t need a photo ID to buy cigs or booze. I’ve been doing both for years and can’t remember the last time I was carded. Neither is one needed to board a commercial airplane. Yes, it might make your life a bit easier, but airlines aren’t dumb enough to turn away some 21 million potential customers. They’ve found ways to accommodate those millions who do not have a photo ID.

More to the point, all of those things are privileges—unlike voting, which is a Constitutional right. Republicans, on the other hand, are hoping you’re dumb enough to fall for their anti-American, antidemocratic scam. They also hope you don’t hear about voters like 84-year-old Ruthelle Frank, an elected town official in Brokaw, Wisconsin. She was born at home and therefore never had a birth certificate, which is now required to receive a so-called free voter ID at Wisconsin’s Division of Motor Vehicles. Frank, disabled, has never had a driver’s license. She is listed in the state registry, however, so for $20 (an unconstitutional “poll tax”), she’s been told, she can have a birth certificate issued. That will, in turn, allow her to qualify for a “free” ID.

Sadly, Frank’s name is misspelled in the state registry. So it would take an additional $200 to have that correction made. Thus, for a mere $220, Frank—who voted without problem for 63 years—may receive her “free” ID required by Wisconsin’s new law…assuming she finds someone to drive her to the DMV.

It’s also impossible for Wisconsin resident Bettye Jones, who was born in Tennessee, to get her “free” ID. The 77-year-old African-American recently moved to Wisconsin from Ohio, where she had a valid driver’s license. But Wisconsin officials won’t accept an out-of-state driver’s license for voting, and despite a “thorough search,” Tennessee officials were unable to locate her birth certificate, according to the lawsuit Jones has filed. Without that birth certificate, she cannot vote in Wisconsin. Two court cases have found that the voter-suppression law violates Wisconsin’s constitution. We’ll see if the state’s Republican-majority Supreme Court agrees.

Then there’s Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old African-American in Tennessee. Nothing in her state’s constitution seems to disallow the new GOP law. So Cooper, who says she voted without any problems throughout the Jim Crow era in the South, is now facing one for the first time. Cooper doesn’t drive, but she does have a birth certificate. However, she was denied a “free” ID at the DMV because her itself—who had manufactured fraudulent voter registrations instead of doing the hard work of signing up genuine voters. Nobody ever cast a single vote in any election via an inappropriate registration by an ACORN worker.

In early 2011, Virginia’s Gingrich for President campaign submitted a large number of fraudulent petition signatures in its futile effort to get the candidate on the state’s 2012 Presidential primary ballot. In a statement aired by CNN in December 2011, Gingrich admitted that “1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud.”

Gingrich, whose tally of bogus signatures was far worse than that of the now-defunct ACORN, failed to turn in the “one guy” who he claimed was responsible. An official at the Virginia State Board of Elections told me that, if true, what Gingrich described is “definitely an illegal act.” And earlier this year, an official at the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia confirmed to me “that there is an investigation underway.”

Here’s a quick summary of other recent serious fraud allegations and convictions against high-profile Republicans:

•In February 2012, Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State Charlie White was declared guilty of having registered and voted from a residence where he did not actually live. In a separate civil case, White was ordered removed from office by a circuit court judge, who ruled that the defendant’s fraudulent registration made him ineligible to be on the 2010 ballot. It was the felony convictions, however, that forced White out of office. Other than that, he received a slap on the wrist: one year of home detention.

•In March 2011, then-GOP Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman was also identified as having committed apparent voter fraud. The former governor of Utah remained registered to vote in that state well over a year after he had been appointed U.S. ambassador to China. As the Salt Lake Tribune noted: “Huntsman voted by absentee ballot for last year’s [2010] general election using the state-owned mansion on South Temple as his Utah residence— months after Governor Gary Herbert settled into the historic building and Huntsman purchased a home in Washington, D.C.”

•In February 2012, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana)—who, like Charlie White, hails from the first state in the nation to implement voter-suppressing photo ID laws—was accused by a group of Tea Partiers (who find him too moderate) of having committed voter fraud. It seems Lugar had been registered to vote at the address of the Indianapolis house he reportedly sold decades ago. Lugar hasn’t resided in the Hoosier State since moving to the Washington, D.C., area after first winning a Senate seat in 1976.

•Representative Todd Akin (R-Missouri), who is vying for the U.S. Senate this year, has been voting for years, according to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch, from a house in an electoral district where he does not actually reside. The property, the newspaper found, is vacant and has been long scheduled for suburban redevelopment. Nevertheless, Akin has continued to use it as his voting address for some seven elections, ever since the congressman and his family moved to their new house 18 miles away. BTW: Akin supports polling-place photo IDs for everyone else.

•In a ham-handed attempt to demonstrate that polling-place voter fraud exists in New Hampshire, despite election officials’ assertions to the contrary, GOP propagandist and federally convicted criminal James O’Keefe led a videotaped conspiracy to commit just such a fraud during the Granite State’s “First in the Nation” primary last January. Unamused, a Republican mayor called for O’Keefe and his coconspirators to be “arrested and prosecuted.” New Hampshire’s attorney general is investigating O’Keefe on charges of voter fraud.

•In what appears to have been an attempt at massive election fraud, Charlie Webster—chair of the Maine Republican Party—publicly announced Mitt Romney the winner of the state’s 2012 GOP caucuses (by just 194 votes) before hundreds of voters in two different counties had even convened. Moreover, dozens of towns that had already held caucuses were fraudulently reported by the party as having had no voters at all. Several months earlier, Webster had named hundreds of student voters as having committed fraud when they hadn’t. An investigation by Maine’s Republican secretary of state determined that the students were, in fact, all legal voters. Apparently hoping to dissuade them from voting, he nonetheless sent them threatening letters.

•In a hilarious turn of events, religious supporters of Newt Gingrich charged that religious supporters of then- Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum rigged an informal election during a secret meeting near Austin, Texas, last January. The confab had been called by “religious conservative leaders” to coalesce their support around a single GOP alternative to Mitt Romney.

Other examples of high-profile GOP voter fraud include, among others, the 156-year sentences imposed on eight top election officials in Clay County, Kentucky, who had changed the votes tallied by electronic voting systems; the guilty plea of a registration firm’s owner accused of hoodwinking registered California Democratic voters into switching their allegiance to the GOP in 2008; and neocon superstar Ann Coulter’s alleged multiple cases of demonstrated wrongdoing, including falsifying her address in Florida.

Not a single one of the above instances of election fraud would have been deterred or prevented by the polling-place photo ID restrictions Republicans have instituted, or are attempting to institute, in at least a dozen states across the country prior to the 2012 Presidential election. Meanwhile, the epidemic of election fraud by prominent GOP figures continues unabated.

Ben Quayle Involved in Sea of Galilee Nude Swim

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Apparently Arizona Republican Representative Ben Quayle is a wild and crazy guy. First it was revealed that the son of former Vice President (and dimwit) Dan Quayle once wrote a column for a soft-core porn site. Now the press reports he was involved in the Sea of Galilee skinny dipping incident that has threatened the election prospects of Kansas politician Kevin Yoder. This news couldn’t come at a worse time for Quayle who is battling Representative David Schweikert in a bitter primary battle to be decided this coming Tuesday, August 28. Although Schweikert has served his district well, Quayle decided to challenge him when he was, in effect, redistricted out of a job. To become eligible for the seat Quayle moved into a home owned by his parents.


The Antiabortion Personhood Movement

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By Kimberly Cheng

Republican lawmakers and Bible-thumping extremists are championing the Personhood Amendment in more than a dozen states across the nation. By defining that human life begins at conception, the measure essentially grants full legal rights to fertilized eggs. If passed, the Personhood Amendment would not only ban virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, but also oral contraceptives, IUDs and other methods to prevent pregnancy—a devastating blow to the 99% of women in the United States who use some form of birth control. A victory would also prohibit married women from conceiving via in vitro fertilization and outlaw embryonic stem-cell research.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has declared that personhood measures “erode women’s basic rights to privacy and bodily integrity, deny women access to the full spectrum of preventive healthcare and undermine the doctor-patient relationship.” Even a resounding rejection in 2011 by Mississippi voters and a pair of defeats in Colorado haven’t been able to quell the advocates of “life begins at conception,” most notably Colorado-based Personhood USA. Here are at least 15 states where you might see the Personhood Amendment on your ballot this year: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington.

Personhood Amendment

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