On June 9, our commissioners wasted half an hour of taxpayers’ time and money giving a regrettably inadequate presentation on “coordination”, their far-right scheme to use truncated, Civil War-era interpretations of the Constitution to nullify federal laws and actions they don’t like. They have already contracted with a Texas-based industry-front-group—American Stewards of Liberty (ASL)—for $150 an hour in legal fees to aid them in their effort to advance this failed cause of the Confederacy (state and local nullification of federal laws, remember?) by cherry-picking the word “coordination” out of mountains of federal regulations and claiming that this word means exactly what ASL, the Old South and our commissioners say it means. In Commissioner Kanenwisher’s own words at the June 9 meeting: “So what does ‘coordinate’ mean? Well, that’s what lawyers are for. And they decided that coordination means exactly what coordination means. In other words, ‘coordinate’ is a different form of the word ‘subordinate.’ So those two things mean different things.” Translation: For this and other novel interpretations of the English language and American History our commissioners have now committed our county to pay ASL $150/hour in their stated effort to fight the federal government with old-school, militia-style County Supremacy tenets. For context, remember this is the same commission that spent $200 for an “unfringed” flag because the old “fringed” one was deemed treasonous to their conspiracy-dependent supporters. So how did the last three years of far-right militia-style extremism in the Bitterroot pan out for us? Remember Celebrating Conservatism and the militia-masterminds our then-candidate, now-elected commissioners–invited into our community to school us on how to run their version of Government? Here’s a partial rundown:
• American Stewards of Liberty lawyer Fred Kelly Grant who not only charges $150 an hour but who equates the American Revolution with the “rebellion” the South lost in the Civil War, and who wonders aloud whether we should not have another “rebellion” or “revolution”.
• Flathead Liberty Bell’s Shaeffer Cox, who’s currently locked up in Fairbanks, Alaska, awaiting trial (http://mediamatters.org/rd?to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ktuu.com%2Fnews%2Fktuu-fairbanks-murder-conspiracy-trial-delayed-nine-months-20110415%2C0%2C4057241.story) on state and federal charges of conspiring to murder judges and state troopers and whose video, “The Solution” admonishes viewers to “kill for liberty” and is required viewing for prospective Liberty Bell members.
• Flathead Liberty Bell and Celebrating Conservatism, who circulated and published identical “2nd Amendment Declarations” last year, suggesting signers might decide to overthrow the government if they felt like it. Suzy Foss signed this petition.
• Montana’s Constitution Party, whose founder and former chair Michael Heit was involved with current militia fugitive David Burgert in a militia murder scheme in the Flathead dubbed Project 7. Most recently Heit was caught lying about his status as a Vietnam war veteran in order to obtain benefits.
• Constitution Party presidential candidate and current Kalispell resident Chuck Baldwin, whose philosophy is encapsulated in his statement that “…the South was right in the War between the States”. Lincoln Co. Watch’s Paul Stramer, the Montana Freemen’s “communications” expert.
• Jury Nullification advocate Red Beckman, who declared that Jews deserved the Holocaust because they killed Jesus.
• County Supremacist darling Richard Mack.
• And let’s not forget the John Birch Society. Remember, all three new commissioners as well as our new county attorney consorted, curried favor with and spring-boarded to power from those bizarre organizations and characters and have—to date—never disassociated themselves from them.
So what does this all mean to our fragile democratic processes we depend on to stay involved in local decision-making? Again, from Kanenwisher’s “coordination” presentation: “The primary and most effective conversations these federal agencies can have with the general public is through their local government. That’s the democratic process… now this “coordination” meeting. Are you saying there’s not public comment in that? Well yeah, that’s what I’m saying.” Translation to English: The new commissioners need to cut the public out in order to advance their extremist agenda, and that they want the public to pay for that agenda. They want to replace years of public involvement in planning efforts with a shadow-government model, an ad hoc committee that they intend to stack with those of like mind. A single word (coordination) cherry-picked out of mountains of federal land-use regulations will justify more of the same extremist ugliness and divisiveness that has been foisted on this community over the last three years. More simply put, they will give the power back to “We The People” by cutting us out. They will advance democracy by eliminating it. They will give us the vote by taking it away, and they will be benevolent dictators. We, of course, will like it because they (which includes a county treasurer who also couldn’t do her job) were elected. The so-called Tea Party movement that lent the militia movements new steam after the election of our first non-white president, is demonstrably riddled with extremists. Burgert, Cox, and Beckman are just some of them. To repeat: with the possible exclusion of Burgert, our commissioners (and our county attorney) have not only associated with but have never disavowed any of these characters or their extremist tenets. In fact they are actively pursuing those tenets, including the conspiracy-saturated $200 “fringed flag” ridiculousness and the $150-an-hour “nullification through coordination”. We demand that our commissioners and county attorney, as well as the new “Planning Office Manager” either publicly and irrevocably disassociate themselves with these Far-Right characters, supporters and groups—including ASL—or spit out what they really intend, instead of wasting our time and money on any more disingenuous “presentations”.
Bill LaCroix, Coordinator
Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance