Category Archives: Right Wing

In This Pennsylvania Town, Racism ‘Was Quiet.’ Then Trump Stoked Fears of Violence

Above: Troy Johnson of Aliquippa speaks up on election turmoil

MILTON, Pa. — Kareem Williams Jr. sits on a park bench in the center of town and waits for the racists to attack. He tells himself he is ready. It’s a cool Saturday morning in fall, and the valley is alive with the rumble of pickups.

When the trucks stop, here at the red light at the corner of Broadway and Front Street, drivers gun their engines. Some glare directly into Williams’ eyes.

Williams is a Black man. The drivers are white. All their passengers are white. Williams returns their gaze with equal ferocity. He tells himself he is ready. He is not. His back faces the Susquehanna River. His car is parked a block away. If these white men jump from their truck, fists or pistols raised, Williams has nowhere to run.

The light turns green. Engine roar blasts the river. Williams follows each truck with his eyes until it’s gone.

“I always knew racism was here. But it was quiet,” said Williams, 24, a factory worker and a corporal in the Pennsylvania National Guard who grew up in Milton. “Now, in this election, people are more openly racist. The dirty looks, middle fingers, the Confederate flags.”

To Williams, and to many non-white people he knows in central Pennsylvania, this rise in overtly racist behavior is linked inextricably to the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump. In yards up and down the Central Susquehanna Valley, Williams sees Confederate flags and Trump flags flying side by side. People with the most Trump bumper stickers seem the most likely to shout hateful things.

As the presidential election approaches, Williams said, such threats grow more common, more passionate.

“On election day I’m going to be in my house. I’m not going anywhere,” said Williams, known by his nickname K.J. “If these racists are looking to protest, they’ll go to Harrisburg or Philadelphia or D.C. If they’re looking to kill people, this will be the place. They’re gonna come here.”

Experts on American racial history agree. For Black people living in towns like Milton, they say, the threat of white terrorism is the highest it’s been in generations.

“Historically, most acts of racial terror have been enacted in rural communities, small towns or medium-sized cities,” said Khalil Muhammad, a history professor at Harvard University. “The conditions for wide-scale anti-Black violence are today more likely than at any point in the last 50 years.”

‘That’s a powder keg’

Within a month, 230 communities in Pennsylvania organized 400 anti-racism events, said Lara Putnam, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh who studies grassroots movements.

“That is an insane number,” Putnam said. “It’s an order of magnitude larger than the number of places that ever held a Tea Party event.”

Many protests happened in towns where African Americans and other non-white people constitute a tiny minority, surrounded by rural communities with virtually no people of color at all. Those areas are overwhelmingly conservative, said Daniel Mallinson, a political science professor at Penn State Harrisburg. Out of 6 million votes cast in Pennsylvania in 2016, Trump won the state by 42,000.

But in Milton he dominated, carrying the surrounding Northumberland County by 69%. In front yards and country fields, Trump flags and Confederate flags comingle.

“Traditionally when we think of political candidates, we think of yard signs. But a lot of Trump flags went up in 2016, and in a lot of places they didn’t come down. It’s a visual representation of tribalism in our politics,” Mallinson said. “There’s a lot of implicit and explicit racial bias in central Pennsylvania.”

As local critics and defenders of the white establishment grow more engaged, state and national politics raise the stakes. Pennsylvania is the likeliest state in the nation to decide the presidential election, according to FiveThirtyEight, a polling and analytics aggregator. Statewide polls place Democrat Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 7%, the same as Hillary Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania three weeks before the 2016 election.

Large-scale voting fraud has never been detected in modern American politics. Yet Trump often claims he can lose only if the 2020 election is fraudulent, which stokes fear and anger among his core supporters, experts said.

“They fully expect Trump will win,” said John Kennedy, a political science professor at West Chester University outside Philadelphia. “When they hear the results on election night, that’s a powder keg.”

Trump also appears to encourage the more violent factions of his coalition. The president repeatedly has declined to promise a peaceful transition of power. He defended Kyle Rittenhouse for killing an unarmed protester in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During the first presidential debate, Trump appeared to encourage white terrorists, urging the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and insisting that “somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.”

Some white people in central Pennsylvania appear to be following the president’s lead.

“Do I worry about right-wing vigilante violence against peaceful protests if people are protesting Trump after the election? Yes,” Putnam said. “It’s happening. And there’s every reason to think more of it will happen.”

In September, Trump proposed designating the KKK and antifa as terrorist organizations. Antifa is not an organization, however, but rather an idea shared by some on the left to aggressively challenge fascists and Nazis, especially during street protests.

“President Trump has unequivocally denounced hate groups by name on numerous occasions but the media refuses to accurately cover it because that would mean the end of a Democrat Party talking point,” said Samantha Zager, a Trump campaign spokesperson. “The Trump campaign will patiently wait for the media to develop the same intense curiosity on these actual threats to our democracy as it has with regard to hypothetical scenarios from the left.”

In July, neo-Nazis rallied in Williamsport, 20 miles north of Milton. In August, a white person fired into a crowd of civil rights marchers in Schellsburg, Pennsylvania, wounding a man in the face. At a recent event for police reform in Watsontown, three miles north of Milton along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, white counter-protesters yelled that Black people “live off white people.”

Overlooking the protest, on the balcony of the Mansion House restaurant, white men stood armed with assault rifles.

“They looked like snipers,” Williams said. “Trump is the motivator in all of this. He has a huge following here.”

The last time America witnessed such an open embrace between white supremacists and the White House was the administration of Woodrow Wilson, said Muhammad.

“You have to go back 100 years,” Muhammad said. “We have every reason to be extremely vigilant about the possibility for violence over the next several weeks. Anywhere where people are flying Confederate flags are places where people ought to be mindful of where they move in public.”

Racism in the land of Chef Boyardee

The side streets of downtown Milton end in rich river bottomlands where the autumn corn grows 7 feet tall.

Continue reading In This Pennsylvania Town, Racism ‘Was Quiet.’ Then Trump Stoked Fears of Violence

beyond tactics: Even if Trump Loses, Trumpism Will Live On

A defeat for Donald Trump in next month’s election is unlikely to banish the cultural divisions he has stoked © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

The US is too militantly divided for a sweeping repudiation of the president to last. We need to keep on keepin’ on in organization a progressive majority for years ahead.

By Edward Luce
Financial Times Guest Link

OCT 15 2020 – Though few will dare admit it, much of America is preparing to celebrate the end of Donald Trump. Not only would his defeat bring the curtain down on an administration they regard as the worst in modern US history. In their eyes, it would also dispel the MAGA hat-wearing, militia-sympathising deplorables who make up the US president’s base.

It would be a moment of redemption in which not only Mr Trump, but Trumpism also, will be written off as an aberration. After four years of unearned hell, America could pick up where it left off.

That would be a natural reaction. It would also be a blunder. Should Mr Trump lose next month, it would be with the support of up to 45 per cent of expected voters — between roughly 60m and 70m Americans. Even now when Joe Biden’s poll lead is hardening into double digits, a Trump victory cannot be discounted.

Even if he loses, it is highly unlikely to match the sweeping repudiation that Walter Mondale suffered against Ronald Reagan in 1984, or Barry Goldwater to Lyndon Johnson in 1964. America is too militantly divided for that.

A victorious Biden camp would need to take three concerns into account. The first is that the Republican party is Mr Trump’s, even if he departs the scene. Five years ago, many evangelical voters still felt distaste for Mr Trump’s libertine personality. They quickly learned he was the kind of pugilist they wanted.

The likely Supreme Court confirmation next week of Amy Coney Barrett, and that of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch before her, are testaments to that. America’s Christian right has embraced its inner Vladimir Lenin — the end justifies the means.

The same applies to professional Republicans. Self-preservation might imply they would distance themselves from Mr Trump as his likely defeat drew nearer. The opposite has been happening. As an Axios study shows elected Republicans have become steadily more Trumpian over the past four years.

Partly this was because a handful of moderate representatives either retired in Mr Trump’s first two years, or were ejected by hardliners in primaries. Mostly it was because of the visceral power of Trumpism. It turns out there is not much grassroots passion for fiscal conservatism in today’s Republican party — if there ever was. The impetus is with those who fear that America will cease to be America, partly because of the US’s growing ethnic diversity.

Swamp notes

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The second point is that America’s information culture is far more degraded today than in 2016. Democrats often blame Mr Trump’s victory on the Russians. Maybe so. But whatever disinformation Russia spread was dwarfed by home-grown material. According to a study this week by the German Marshall Fund, the amount of fake, or disguised fake, news that Americans consume on their social media has more than tripled since 2016.

Facebook is a much greater vehicle for disinformation today. More importantly, US consumer demand for news that is either distorted or plain false — about the pandemic, for example — continues to grow. A dark conspiracy cult such as QAnon would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. Today it reaches tens of millions of Americans.

The evermore disruptive impact of digital technology on public culture makes governing increasingly difficult. A Biden presidency’s first priority would be to roll out a national coronavirus strategy to flatten America’s curve. Little else can happen before that.

Much of its success would depend on Americans following rules such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds and complying with contact tracers. But a Trump defeat is unlikely to banish the cultural divisions he has stoked. Large numbers of Americans say they will reject a vaccine and view masks as a surrender of their freedom. Mr Biden’s fate will partly hinge on the degree to which he can marginalise those sentiments.

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His final concern should be on the conditions that gave rise to Trumpism. The ingredients are still there. Hyper-partisanship, blue-collar deaths of despair, the China threat and middle-class insecurity are all worse, or as bad, as four years ago. Most of those looking to follow Mr Trump, such as Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, or Tom Cotton, the Arkansas senator, are harder-line versions of him without the caprice.

The fixes to America’s problems are manifold, complex, and painstaking. A vaccine will not suddenly banish the pandemic. Nor would Mr. Trump’s defeat magically bring an end to Trumpism.

More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

Breaking: State Rep. Austin Davis Resigns As Vice-Chair Of Allegheny County Democratic Committee

jessica Benham
Jessica Benham and Austin Davis. (Photo from the candidate’s Twitter.)

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

Last week, several elected officials called for the resignation of Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Eileen Kelly for press-conference-turned-shit-show in which she defended the endorsement of a candidate who thinks all addicts should OD and then making offensive comments about the past addiction struggles of County Councilor Bethany Hallam.

And while Kelly has refused to step down, there was a resignation today from a high-ranking party official, Vice-Chair Austin Davis of Mckeesport. Since last Sunday’s endorsement, Davis has thrown his support behind two unendorsed candidates, Jessica Benham and Summer Lee, which is a violation of the ACDC charter.

In a letter to Kelly, first reported by WESA’s Chris Potter, Davis said:

“I believe in the Democratic Party and the people that make up the party! It has become clear that I cannot best serve the party and its people as the vice-chairman of the ACDC. Please Accept this letter as my official resignation as vice-chairman of the ACDC, effective immediately.

The events of recent days have crystalized that we do not share the same values and hold vastly different views in the direction that this party should be moving!

“I will always be committed to the values of the Democratic Party and I will work tirelessly to support and elect people who support those values.

“However, I can not remain in this position under your leadership.”

The issues surrounding the party began in mid-January when Heather Kass, a little-known South Hills Democrat was hand-picked by retiring, Conservative state Democratic state Rep.Harry Readshaw to run for his seat. However, hours after the endorsement, the Pittsburgh Current found several Facebook posts from Kass that not only supported Trump but also called people on public assistance “lazy idiots,” and said addicts needed to “OD” so there would be “less shit in the world.”

 

Her posts began in 2015 but she continued to post offensive content as recent as last summer when she posted this image of her husband:

The party endorsed Kass, angering many in the party, not just those considered progressive. But under party bylaws, ACDC committee members were expected to support the endorsed candidate without fail, however, many quickly defected to Kass’ progressive opponent, Jessica Benham., including Davis, the then-vice-chair. Then last week, Kelly had a press conference in which she doubled down her support for Kass and said this about County Councilor Bethany Hallam:

Kelly says that Bethany Hallam went through a hard time with drug addiction and was forgiven … but when Heather Kass apologized for posting critcisms of Obamacare, etc. in a moment of hardship, no one forgives her: “Why is it good for them and not for her?”

Davis’ resignation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those following this story. This past weekend, Davis spent time knocking doors and canvassing with Jessica Benham:

But this isn’t the only issue to rise out of the Feb. 16 endorsement process. At that meeting, only one incumbent did not receive the endorsement and that was Summer Lee, the region’s first black woman elected to the state legislature. She faced an opponent backed by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald. And while Kelly supported Kass, she ripped Fitzgerald for damaging the party for not backing Lee. Many people are upset about Lee’s treatment by the committee, however, there were some voices who couldn’t understand why Kelly supported Kass,

Since then Support around lee has been growing. In a Monday press release, Lee reported a surge in endorsements and fundraising from organizations, unions and many long-time elected officials. The complete release is below:

“Western Pennsylvanian State Rep. Summer Lee (D-34) has received a surge in donations and a growing list of new support from labor unions, community organizations, and elected officials following news of her primary challenge by Chris Roland, a North Braddock councilman. Rep. Lee won her seat by defeating a long-term incumbent in 2018 and is the first Black woman to represent Western Pennsylvania in the state house. 

Last week the Working Families Party endorsed Rep. Lee, and is providing strategic support to her race. She has received a surge of grassroots contributions. To date, she has raised $108,176 for her reelection, with an average donation of $83.45. 

“Rep. Summer Lee is committed to fighting for working families in western Pennsylvania, and that is why we’re committed to fighting for her,” said Nicolas O’Rourke, Organizing Director for Pennsylvania Working Families Party. “We need allies in Harrisburg who support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, who care about fighting climate change in our backyard, and who run for office because they genuinely care about the communities they serve, not just their high-dollar donors.” 

Lisa Rhodes, Chair of the PA Democratic Black Caucus, State Senators Katie Muth (D-44), Larry Farnese (D- 1), Lindsey Williams (D-38)  and state representatives Frank Dermody (D-33), Dan Frankel (D-23), Austin Davis (D-35), Ed Gainey (D-24), Jake Wheatley (D-19), Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181), Joe Hohenstein (D-177), Chris Rabb (D-200), Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184), Danielle Otten (D-155), Sara Innamorato (D-21) have also endorsed Lee

“I enthusiastically support Rep. Summer Lee because she is a bold new progressive voice in Harrisburg. In her first term in office, she has unwaveringly lifted up the concerns and priorities of poor and working class people, and all Pennsylvanians who value racial, economic and environmental justice,” said Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200).

“Rep. Summer Lee is a strong Democratic legislator who inspires us to do better things in Harrisburg. She made history by winning two years ago and her voice is needed at the Pennsylvania Capitol.” said Rep. Frank Dermody (D-33). 

Amongst labor, Rep. Lee is endorsed by several labor unions, including SEIU HCPA, SEIU 32BJ, and SEIU State Council. “We will not let such a champion of everyday working people get pushed out of office,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU for Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Rep. Summer Lee is committed to making sure that workers across this state have the right to organize and join a union, and that workers get fair wages and strong contracts. 32BJ will knock on thousands of doors to ensure Rep. Lee returns to the Pennsylvania State House.”

Rep. Summer Lee has received the support from progressive groups like Democracy for America, Collective PAC, Make the Road Action, Free The Ballot, One Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Stands Up, Pennslyvania Young Democrats, Young Democrats of Allegheny County, and Black Voters Matter. While many of these groups have not gone through their endorsement process, all are voicing their support for Lee’s performance in office so far. 

“We support Rep Summer Lee because she is a champion of criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania,”  said Robert Saleem Holbrook, Free The Ballot, which has endorsed Lee. “It is important that our communities have a representative who believes in the values of restorative justice, and recognizes that the communities most impacted by violence are also the ones most impacted by mass incarceration.”

“One PA members knocked on thousands of doors in 2018 to support Summer Lee because of her clear vision for Western PA. In the short time she’s been in Harrisburg, she has established a track record of alignment with our members’ values,” said Erin Kramer, Executive Director at One Pennsylvania. “Summer makes sure that underserved and under resourced communities in Allegheny County get the resources and representation they need to thrive. Our members are headed back into their endorsement process soon and we will only support candidates who are accountable to the people and not corporate interests.” 

Rep. Lee has been a champion on the issues that matter most to working families since before taking office, and she’s continued to champion issues like ending mass incarceration, full and fair funding for our schools, labor rights, $15 as a minimum wage, immigration rights. Since taking office in 2018, Rep.Lee has sponsored over 71 bills and helped generate over two million in state grants to her community.

The Working Families Party is a grassroots political party that recruits, trains, and elects the next generation of progressive leaders to office. In 2018, the WFP helped Rep. Rabb in his first bid for reelection, defeating a very well funded Democratic primary opponent, and going on to earning the most votes of any state representative in the general election. In 2017 the WFP knocked on 70,000 doors to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner. And in 2018, the WFP helped Liz Fiedler win her 4-way primary race with 51% of the vote. In 2019 the WFP recruited and helped elect Kendra Brooks for City Council At-Large, the first city-wide third-party victory in Philadelphia history. 

In 2019, the WFP helped elect longtime tenants organizer and progressive champion Jumaane Williams as Public Advocate in New York City, swelled the ranks of Chicago city council progressive caucus, helped make Stephen Mason the first Black mayor of Cedar Hill, Texas, helped insurgent Latinx LGBTQ social worker Candi CdeBaca oust a longtime incumbent on the Denver City Council, and elected other council members from Morgantown, W.Va., to Phoenix, Ariz. 

Continue reading More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

The White Nationalist in the White House

Stephen Miller sent 900 emails to Breitbart that spell out his white nationalist sympathies

By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist

Nov 19, 2019 – White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has a white nationalism problem. Nine hundred recently uncovered emails he wrote to Breitbart.com in 2015 and 2016 reveal him to be a white nationalist sympathizer and a promoter of racist anti-immigration ideas.

At the time Mr. Miller wrote the emails, he was an adviser to then-Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, an extremist who could do little harm to America outside the confines of Alabama.

A weird and solitary figure even by the standards of the then evolving alt-right, Mr. Miller took it upon himself to educate the folks at Breitbart about the nuances of bigotry that they simply weren’t astute enough to pick up on their own.

He sent emails to favored reporters at the site he believed would push his “tips” into the mainstream. Among his favorite ideas was the “white genocide” conspiracy theory that animated the Tree of Life shooter in Pittsburgh in 2018.

In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, death row inmate Rodney Reed waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop, Texas. Supporters for Reed, who’s facing lethal injection in less than two weeks for a murder he says he didn’t commit, are mounting a final push in the courts and on social media to stop his execution, which is being called into question by lawmakers, pastors, celebrities and the European Union.

Of course, we wouldn’t know about his intellectual freelancing if it weren’t for the investigative work of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC acquired the 900 emails from disgruntled and fired Breitbart editors eager to show the extent of Mr. Miller’s dalliance with white nationalist racism and ideas.

Mr. Miller wrote the emails before he became the architect of President Donald Trump’s brutal anti-immigration policies. The politics of separating families at the border and the scheme to cut non-white European immigration to a trickle codified into law the rhetoric of what were once alt-right fever dreams mere months before he joined the White House.

In any other administration, the existence of 900 emails exposing a senior aide’s secret life as a cheerleader for white nationalism would’ve resulted in a full-throated rebuke, a swift firing and a televised escort from the White House grounds by the blackest Secret Service agents on staff. Continue reading The White Nationalist in the White House

How White Supremacists Split a Quiet Rust Belt Town in PA


Outside the home of Daniel Burnside in Ulysses, Pa. Burnside is director of the National Socialist Movement. (Brett Carlsen/For The Washington Post)

 — The traffic sign that greets visitors on the south side of Ulysses, a tiny town in rural far north-central Pennsylvania, is suitably quaint — a silhouette of a horse-drawn cart reminding drivers that the Amish use the roads, too. But on the north side of town, along the main thoroughfare, is a far different display: a home dedicated to Adolf Hitler, where star-spangled banners and Nazi flags flutter side by side and wooden swastikas stand on poles.

White supremacy has had a continuous presence in Ulysses and surrounding Potter County since the Ku Klux Klan arrived a century ago, giving the town — with a population today of about 650 — improbable national significance. In the mid-2000s, it hosted the World Aryan Congress, a gathering of neo-Nazis, skinheads and Klan members.

This year, after a sting operation, federal prosecutors charged six members of an Aryan Strike Force cell with weapons and drug offenses, contending that they had plotted a suicide attack at an anti-racism protest. A terminally ill member was willing to hide a bomb in his oxygen tank and blow himself up, prosecutors said. The group had met and conducted weapons training in Ulysses.

Neo-Nazis and their opponents here say that white extremists have grown more confident — and confrontational — since the rise of Donald Trump. Two months before the 2016 presidential election, the KKK established a “24 hour Klan Line” and sent goody bags containing lollipops and fliers to hundreds of homes. “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake,” the message read. A regional newspaper ran Klan advertisements saying, “God bless the KKK.”

Local police said the group had not openly recruited in years.

Two weeks later, the area’s two neo-Nazi groups, the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and Aryan Strike Force, held a “white unity meeting” in Ulysses to discuss their response to Trump and plan joint action. One organizer would not say when the groups had last met, simply commenting: “It’s just a good time.”

How journalists should cover white nationalists and neo-Nazis

The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan examines how media organizations can effectively cover hate groups without promoting their ideas. 

Potter County is staunchly Republican and has voted Democratic once since 1888; Trump received 80 percent of the vote, tying with Herbert Hoover for the highest percentage won.

“I can tell you with certainty that since November 2016, activity has doubled, whether it’s feet on the street or money orders or people helping out,” said Daniel Burnside, 43, a woodcarver who owns the Nazi-themed home and directs the state chapter of the National Socialist Movement, a far-right group that was founded in Detroit in the mid-1970s. It has a presence in many states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, and the NSM was among the groups taking part in the violent August 2017 rally in defense of Confederate statues in Charlottesville.

“We have meetings every 30 days,” he said. “ There’s more collaboration.”


Daniel Burnside poses for a portrait on July 7, 2018, in Galeton, Pa. (Brett Carlsen/For The Washington Post)

Burnside, who declined to say how many local residents were involved in his group, was born in Ulysses and raised there by a grandfather who he said was a Nazi sympathizer who fought in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. Burnside said his beloved grandfather drank himself to death because of the war’s impact on him.

The younger Burnside said he joined the NSM four years ago but has long harbored anti-Semitic views and is a practicing Odinist — the pagan religion Odinism is popular among some neo-Nazis. Burnside does not see Trump as a leader of the NSM cause but as a politician who amplified long-standing white-nationalist views at the right time.

“Personally, I don’t know about Trump,” he said. “You won’t necessarily see MAGA hats at an NSM meeting. We’re anti-Semitic. Something’s off about Trump with the Jews. That said, we’re strategically aligned. When Trump says something that aligns with us — close the borders, build the wall, look after your own — that’s good: We’ve been saying this for 25 years, but he has made it mainstream.”

“We’re still a white nation, and I respect that he supports that,” Burnside added. “He’s also highlighted social problems. The kids who go to bed hungry, people who can’t pay their bills, the damage being done to society.”

Joe Leschner, 38, a white restaurant manager, fled the county this year because of what he said was abuse aimed at him and his wife, Sashena, who is black, after Trump’s election.

After he discovered a KKK leaflet outside their home, Leschner organized an anti-racism gathering in Ulysses. “And these guys drove by us and gave the gun signal, like they’re going to shoot us,” he said.

One of those who Leschner said made a pistol gesture had previously been jailed for 10 years for an aggravated assault on a black man. This year he was convicted of possession of firearms he was not legally allowed to own and intent to sell drugs.

Photographs of the Leschners were circulated on VK, a Russian-run social media site, with users posting death threats, he said.

“A guy came up to us in a restaurant and said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ I wanted to say something, but just couldn’t. This was where I grew up, at the restaurant where I got my first job. My wife was almost in tears,” he recalled.

“We had to leave,” said Leschner, who now runs a restaurant in Frederick, Md. “Most people aren’t racist, but there are enough that are and enough who let it happen.”

Kathleen Blee, a University of Pittsburgh sociology professor and expert on white extremism, said Ulysses came to be a nexus of such thinking as like-minded residents gravitated to one another.


Sashena and Joe Leschner fled Potter County this year because of what they said was abuse. (Joe Leschner)

“Modern white extremism is different to the KKK in the 1920s or Nazi Germany in that it is exclusively produced through small networks. It is not a mass movement,” she said. “It’s just one person recruiting another. Somebody knowing somebody. . . . You get an extremist in an area, they attract other extremists.”

Ulysses’s most famous resident may have been August Kreis III, 63, a neo-Nazi from New Jersey who moved to town in the 1990s and left about 10 years ago. Kreis made Ulysses the national headquarters of the Aryan Nations group and organized events such as the Aryan World Congress. In 2015, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison on a child-molestation conviction.

Pennsylvania has 36 racial hate groups, more than Alabama, Arkansas or Kansas, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This area is well known for white supremacy. It’s got a rich history and the right conditions to thrive,” said Heidi Beirich of the SPLC. “It’s as significant as many areas in the South usually associated with white supremacy.”

Rural Appalachia, which includes Ulysses’s Potter County, has a wary attitude to outside forces — especially the state — that is often cited as a reason that anti-government militia groups and white extremists have prospered here. “There is also an extreme mind-your-own business approach and a belief in individual rights,” Blee said.

Months before the Leschners fled the area, another controversy erupted after a sheriff’s deputy from a neighboring county entered Burnside’s front yard and confiscated a Nazi flag. Burnside called his local police force, demanding that the deputy return the flag and record a video apology. When that did not happen, he went to state police and pursued a theft case. The 23-year-old deputy was forced to return the flag and pay damages. Local police confirmed that he was suspended and left his position shortly after the trial’s conclusion.

A chain saw at Daniel Burnside’s home with its logo modified to resemble the World War II lightning bolt insignia of the Nazi SS force. (Brett Carlsen/For The Washington Post)
Daniel Burnside carves a swastika, the ancient Eurasian religious icon that was adopted by the Nazis, into the bottom of items he makes. (Brett Carlsen/For The Washington Post)
Many locals suggested that they were more upset by the deputy’s actions than by the neo-Nazism. One man, an Army veteran who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of being branded a racist, said there was no comparison between World War II Nazis and Ulysses residents.

“World War II was a totally different time period. It’s part of history,” he said. “He can do what he wants. . . . Everyone has their own thing.”

One day recently, Burnside, accompanied by a reporter, drove around town dressed in a shirt featuring Hitler’s face as the main design. None of the locals he chatted with objected to his attire.

City council president Roy Hunt insisted that this reflected the town’s generous spirit.

“We’re a laid-back town, and we’re going to be nice to everybody,” Hunt said. “I’ve known Danny for 20 years. If you were in town and you walked around with him, you’re right, he’ll be welcome in every store. . . . If you’re nice, people will be nice to you 98 percent of the time.”

“If he were to put something up that said kill all members of a race, in my opinion that would be crossing the line, but he doesn’t have that sign up,” Hunt said.

He added that the town’s Nazi presence had been exaggerated by the news media and opposing groups.

Burnside said he serves the community. “I do fundraisers for American Legion with my artwork. Boys and Girls Clubs, regardless of race or ethnicity, I do fundraisers. . . . The only way I can help white people is by helping everyone.”

Other residents disagree about the impact of the white supremacists’ presence. As he shopped among Burnside’s carved wooden bears and eagle sculptures, some of them signed with a swastika, Tom Lee, a road construction manager, said that he supports the First Amendment and that the Nazi presence “ain’t nothing to do with me. It’s a free country.”

“After a while, you’re not what you were anymore,” he added. “It is America out here, but not in the inner cities anymore.”

William Fish, a 72-year-old carpenter, recalled as a child accompanying his mother as she delivered blankets and shoes to the shacks where black field workers lived.

“We’re not a racist town, but there are people who will turn a blind eye when they see racism happening. That’s why we have this history,” he said. “I think it has got worse since Trump, I honestly do. I also think our young people do not today share the same rotten values as older people.”

Belinda Empson, 59, said it pained her that veterans in the Memorial Day parade had to march past Nazi signs.


Main Street in Ulysses, Pa. (Brett Carlsen/For The Washington Post)

“My grandson is 8 years old and he’s already asking about the Nazi flags,” said Empson, a retired waitress. “And I don’t want to explain to my grandson what it means, what they’re about. We should have settled this stuff years ago.”

Empson said Ulysses had been divided since Trump’s victory: “I think Trump has opened the gate and said, ‘It’s okay.’ It was not a license, but a subtle, ‘It’s okay.’ I think we are seeing that now.”

“It bothers me,” she added, “because we have good people in this town.”

Wanda Shirk, 68, an English teacher who worked at a Potter County school for 28 years, joked that the town had become LGBT — “Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump.”

“I don’t think everyone here is racist, but I think a lot are racially insensitive,” she said, “and Trump has allowed that to grow.”

Continue reading How White Supremacists Split a Quiet Rust Belt Town in PA

Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

By Carl Davidson

BeaverCountyBlue.org

Feb 8, 2015, Harrisburg, PA. If the vote were taken for the Democratic presidential candidate at the Harrisburg Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 7, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, would likely have won by a landslide.

That was the spirit in the hotel ballroom as Sanders addressed the 800 people gathered for the PA Progressive Summit. The annual meeting, sponsored by Keystone Progress, brought together progressive activists—community and trade union organizers, women’s right and civil rights groups, hopeful candidates and door knockers—all of whom made up the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, from all across the Keystone State.

“I’m going to try something a little different this morning,” said Sanders to start things rolling, “I’m going to tell you the truth.” He got a wave of laughter and cheers from people who often got something else from politicians.

Sanders with Tina Shannon
Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders started off with the ‘Citizen United’ Supreme Court decision taking limits off the superrich in funding elections and candidates. “It will go down is history as one of the worse ever made in modern times” Sanders said by way of description. “By a five-to-four vote, it undermined the very foundations of democracy. I know you think the situation is bad, believe me, it’s worse than you think it is.” Billionaires are not satisfied with owning the economy, he explained. They were buying government as well.”

The Koch Brothers, with 85 billion in wealth, were taken as the case in point. Sanders explained that they alone intended to spend over 900 million dollars on the 2016 election—more than the combined total of Obama and Romney in 2012. This meant these “counter-revolutionaries with a far right agenda” would wield more power than both political parties in the recent past.

Turning to the economy, Sanders said while the economy was clearly in better shape than when Obama, first took office, it was still clearly in bad shape. He explained the different meanings of official unemployment figures, with 5.8 percent being the most common number cited, but double that, near 12%, was more accurate.

Then he broke it down further: “We talk a lot about Ferguson, as we should. But we also need to talk more about Black youth unemployment, which is 30 percent. Nobody should be satisfied with where we are today. We have 45 million people living in poverty, another word we need to talk more about today.”

For those worried about deficits, Sanders noted that they had been reduced under Obama. But he also insisted that if they were truly concerned about deficits, they would have stood up against the Iraq war. This remark got wild cheers and everyone out of their seats.

Unfair Impact of Technological Change

Sanders went on to examine ‘the explosion in technology,’ not only i-Phones and i-Pads, but robotics in factories. “All of this has led to a tremendous growth in productivity on the part of American workers.” Such changes logically might suggest workers were paid more or worked shorter hours, he added, “but all of you know, tens of millions of Americans today are working longer hours for less pay.”

This meant anger and stress among workers—impacting both men and women, even if in slightly different ways—needed discussion as a national issue. There was a time, “ancient history” said Sanders, when one worker could work 40 hours and support a family reasonably well. Now women were working along with men, sometimes at two or three jobs, at long hours and low pay, to hobble together enough to support a family. “This causes a lot of anger, and often it’s being angry at the wrong people for the wrong reasons,” he added. “The average male worker, right in the center of the economy, now makes $800 a year less in inflation adjusted dollars than he did 40 years ago. The average female worker in the center makes $1300 a year, even less. They have a lot to be angry about. They want to know why, and our job is to explain it to them.”

Continue reading Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

Time to Narrow the Target: It’s Not ‘Washington,’ It’s Rightwing Republicans

Ideology and Investment

By Paul Krugman
New York Times Opinion

Oct 26, 2014 – America used to be a country that built for the future. Sometimes the government built directly: Public projects, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, provided the backbone for economic growth. Sometimes it provided incentives to the private sector, like land grants to spur railroad construction. Either way, there was broad support for spending that would make us richer.

But nowadays we simply won’t invest, even when the need is obvious and the timing couldn’t be better. And don’t tell me that the problem is “political dysfunction” or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest doesn’t reflect something wrong with “Washington”; it reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party.

Some background: More than seven years have passed since the housing bubble burst, and ever since, America has been awash in savings — or more accurately, desired savings — with nowhere to go. Borrowing to buy homes has recovered a bit, but remains low. Corporations are earning huge profits, but are reluctant to invest in the face of weak consumer demand, so they’re accumulating cash or buying back their own stock. Banks are holding almost $2.7 trillion in excess reserves — funds they could lend out, but choose instead to leave idle.

And the mismatch between desired saving and the willingness to invest has kept the economy depressed. Remember, your spending is my income and my spending is your income, so if everyone tries to spend less at the same time, everyone’s income falls.

Continue reading Time to Narrow the Target: It’s Not ‘Washington,’ It’s Rightwing Republicans

Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays

Coming to Beaver County in June, The Reverend William Barber is charting a new path for protesting Republican overreach in the South—and maybe beyond.

By Lisa Rab

Beaver County Blue via Mother Jones

April 14, 2014 – The Reverend William Barber is charting a new path for protesting conservative overreach in the North Carolina—and beyond.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Reverend William Barber II [1] reclined uncomfortably in a chair in his office, sipping bottled water as he recovered from two hours of strenuous preaching. When he was in his early 20s, Barber was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful arthritic condition affecting the spine. Still wearing his long black robes, the 50-year-old minister recounted how, as he’d proclaimed in a rolling baritone from the pulpit that morning, "a crippled preacher has found his legs."

It began a few days before Easter 2013, recalled Barber, pastor at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of the state chapter [2] of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "On Maundy Thursday, they chose to crucify voting rights," he said.

"They" are North Carolina Republicans, who in November 2012 took control of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time in more than a century. Among their top priorities—along with blocking Medicaid expansion and cutting unemployment benefits and higher-education spending—was pushing through a raft of changes to election laws, including reducing the number of early voting days, ending same-day voter registration, and requiring ID at the polls. "That’s when a group of us said, ‘Wait a minute, this has just gone too far,’" Barber said.

Barber "believed we needed to kind of burst this bubble of ‘There’s nothing we can do for two years until the next election.’"

On the last Monday of April 2013, Barber led a modest group of clergy and activists into the state legislative building in Raleigh. They sang "We Shall Overcome," quoted the Bible, and blocked the doors to the Senate chambers. Barber leaned on his cane as capitol police led him away in handcuffs.

That might have been the end of just another symbolic protest, but then something happened: The following Monday, more than 100 protesters showed up at the capitol. Over the next few months, the weekly crowds at the "Moral Mondays" protests grew to include hundreds, and then thousands, not just in Raleigh but also in towns around the state. The largest gathering, in February, drew tens of thousands of people [3]. More than 900 protesters have been arrested for civil disobedience over the past year. Copycat movements have started in Florida [4], Georgia [5], South Carolina [6], and Alabama [7] in response to GOP legislation regarding Medicaid and gun control.

Continue reading Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays

Follow the Money: Don’t Expect Much from Christiana by Way of Supporting Teachers and Public Schools

Representin’ Like A Representative: A Look At Jim Christiana’s Campaign Cash

Jim Christiana with his wife in NyCity as posted to his Twitter feed.

Jim Christiana with his wife in New York City in front of a car fire, as posted to his official Twitter feed.

By John Paul – Founder of BeaverCountian.com

Published on April 07, 2013 at 7:03 pm

State Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) received more political contributions last year than all of the other five state reps for Beaver County combined, money the candidate used to help finance a lavish lifestyle, an investigation by the Beaver Countian has revealed.

Campaign finance reports from 2012 show Christiana received nearly $310,000 in political donations. Democratic Representative Rob Maztie came in a distant second, bringing in just shy of $84,000. Representative Jim Marshall, the county’s other Republican representative, received only $52,675 in contributions.

In just one month, between March 6th and April 9th of last year, Christiana’s campaign saw donations to his campaign in excess of $88,000. He brought in half of that sum again between April 10th and May 14th, another $48,000. The months between May and October saw an additional $164,400 added to his coffers. Despite extensive spending by the candidate, Christiana’s campaign account had over a quarter of a million dollars sitting in it at one point during the last election cycle.

By comparison, Christiana’s rival in the last election, Democrat Bobby Williams, raised just over $20,000 during his entire campaign.

While Representative Christiana failed to respond to inquiries from the Beaver Countian made at the end of March, Beaver County Commissioners say they were stunned to learn just how much money has been flowing through his hands.

Continue reading Follow the Money: Don’t Expect Much from Christiana by Way of Supporting Teachers and Public Schools

Union Busting Coming Our Way via GOP and Koch Reactionaries

‘Right-to-work’ legislation proposed in Pennsylvania legislature

 

By Ned Resnikof

Beaver County Blue via MSNBC

Jan 22, 2013 – A little more than a month after Michigan Republicans successfully passed landmark anti-union legislation in their state, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly are attempting to follow in their footsteps. Six Republican state representatives are each bringing their own “right-to-work” style bill to the State House floor, as part of an effort collectively known as the Open Workforce Initiative.

One of the legislators involved, Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, has reportedly introduced right-to-work bills during every legislative session of the past 14 years. ”The framers of our Constitution did not intend for our government to become an enforcer for unions,” he explains on his website. “Working men and women should have the freedom to join a union if they choose and to leave that union when it is in their best interest to do so.”

Metcalfe’s success record so far might reassure union allies that Pennsylvania is unlikely to turn into another Michigan. In fact, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, said as much during the Michigan right-to-work battle, telling reporters, “There is not much of a movement to do it.”

However, Corbett has also said he would sign right-to-work legislation if it came across his desk.

Continue reading Union Busting Coming Our Way via GOP and Koch Reactionaries

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