Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The FEMA Concentration Camp Story is a Hoax, a Fake

The story about FEMA "concentration camps" has been going around for many years, since long before the Obama administration came along. The central theme of this hoax story is that The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has built over 800 internment facilities ("concentration camps") that are empty but fully staffed and operational, and ready to accept large numbers of political opponents of the present administration.

On a right-wing website, I just reviewed the list of supposed locations of these places and it takes a vivid imagination for these right-wing groups to assert that that these camps are "active and fully staffed". The sites mentioned in the list that I personally know of are a joke. Tulelake California, site of a former internment camp of the Japanese in WW2? C'mon. The camp site was sold many, many years ago after the buildings were sold and moved or demolished. Yes, there is a wildlife refuge in the area and it, like any of the many other tens of millions of acres of federal land could be used as the site of an internment camp, but already built and fully staffed it certainly isn't. Same thing for Fort Ord, which is under re-development for mostly commercial purposes and the barracks have nearly all been demolished. The Army still uses an easterly chunk of what used to be Fort Ord, but there are very few buildings there. Terminal Island has had a federal prison located on it for decades, but it's on a small area of land fill surrounded on three sides by water and no way can accommodate a huge expansion of "FEMA detainees." Other sites listed as being in California are closed military bases where commercial redevelopment (or nothing) is going on and military buildings are being torn down.

One of the more preposterous examples is the "camp" in Alaska that is capable of receiving 500,000/2 million prisoners (the number depends on which website you visit). How somebody could come across a couple of facts and get the story so twisted contrary to what is real is beyond me. The reality behind this goes back to Congressional action on the Alaska Mental Health Act in the 1950's when Alaska was still a territory and had no territorial facilities to provide for care of mental patients. The act provided for the federal government to give a million acres of land to the Alaska Mental Health Trust to fund operations over a sustained period of time. Much of this land was later sold to private interests or converted to forest and park lands. To this day, there is an Alaska mental health system that still retains about 35% of the original federal property granted but it's run by the state of Alaska and not FEMA.

Let's look at a couple of other examples, those facilities listed for Minnesota. The connection between FEMA and Camp Ripley may not have anything to do with internment. There is a Minnesota Dept. of Corrections facility at Camp Ripley, but it's a low-level offender unit designed to take people sentenced to public service and has approximately 120 beds if the information I've read is current and correct. It's not run by FEMA but by the state of Minnesota. FEMA may have looked at Camp Ripley in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a place where quarters (empty barracks) were available to house displaced persons. They considered all sorts of places to put those people.

The Duluth Federal Prison Camp is for real and operated by the Bureau of Prisons, US Dept of Justice, not by FEMA. The term "camp" takes on negative overtones to some people, but in the language of the federal prison system, the designation "camp" just signifies that it's a facility for minimum security prisoners. So, they could take them out to a logging "camp" (or whatever) and the prisoners could work under minimum guard. Federal prison camps typically have limited or no perimeter fencing. The inmate population at FPC Duluth is around 900. There's no secret about FPC Duluth; you can read about it online.

Oh, and that FEMA concentration camp in Lansing, Michigan? It's a small fire station.

The list shows numerous "former WW2 POW camp" locations, but these were nearly all closed down and dismantled shortly after WW2. The exceptions are those locations where POW's were housed in buildings on larger military bases that were turned back over to the services for on-going use, such as training facilities, ROTC barracks, buildings used by the reserve components during AT, etc. But, I will add, that by now even most of these buildings have been torn down due to obsolescence.

Similarly, listing former WW2 Japanese internment camps is just ridiculous because I don't know of a single one of these that was retained for further use after WW2. These sites were all closed, buildings razed or sold, and the land disposed of or reverted to the BLM or Bureau of Reclamation.

There is federal land all over the country, much of it in the western US. Yes, any of it could conceivably be used to build a camp some day for some purpose, but 800 camps, fully-operational, sitting there waiting to be filled? Puh-leeze. The people that are banging the drum on this one just picked numerous present and former federal sites, and because they are (or were) federal, figure they could be FEMA internment camp sites. "We saw some lights pointed inward there"; so that means it's a concentration camp?

I'm thinking that it's giving FEMA (and the government in general) way, way too much credit for being organized enough to have this all in place and just sitting there waiting. FEMA can't even sell off their defective mobile homes that they stupidly bought after Katrina.

I'm certain that FEMA has all kinds of contingency plans for every kind of situation, including insurrection. Back in the late 1960's which is the time I entered the Army, there were plans to deal with the riots that had been sweeping the country. One of them was "Operation Garden Plot" (referred to in at least one of the websites that I visited while reading up on this subject). Garden Plot was and is simply an operations plan for federal authorities to provide assistance to the states, counties and municipalities for riot control. When I was at Fort Lost in the Woods, we had several cadre members who were on the roster for emergency response if needed via Garden Plot. By late 1969, the riots were mostly over and the peace demonstrations after that never got to be more than concerned authorities could handle without massive federal augmentation. No doubt Garden Plot plans had some component that included methods to house a potentially massive influx of detainees; at that time, they still had many more bases and surplus barracks than they do now. The base closures and realignments of the 90's and later divested the government of a great deal of their military property that could've been used for this purpose.

Some of the websites that deal with the subject of FEMA internment camps mention numerous "executive orders" that have been formulated to deprive citizens of their rights in an emergency. What they fail to mention is that most of these were written up during WW2 and were designed to be a contigency against any number of unforeseen events. They also fail to mention that most of these executive orders have since been rescinded or folded into similar orders that were consolidated under the Reagan administration. There are now addenda that add a requirement that such orders be carried out in compliance with guarantees provided under the US Constititution. Although not exactly comparable, this is one of the problems that the federal government is having with the prisoners at Guantanamo.

Now, having said that about presidential executive orders, it was one such order that sent all those Japanese US citizens and resident aliens to internment camps during WW2. I'm not going to argue against military security or the sentiment of the government of the day as to feeling the threat of imminent invasion of the west coast. That action does demonstrate that if the government wants to intern people en masse, they can and will do it. Of course, that was in the 1940's in a political and social climate when it was much easier for the government to trample on citizens' rights.

This whole "FEMA Internment Camp Conspiracy" hoax reminds me a lot of the big "Area 51 Conspiracy" of a decade or so ago. Yes, there was such a thing as Area 51, and it was ultra-high security. Some people got ahold of those two ideas and decided that something fishy must be going on there. Area 51 is a fairly remote location, and partly for that reason it was chosen for highly classified aeronautical research. Testing of the U-2, the SR-71, the "Stealth" generation of warplanes, and who knows what-all (that's why it's supposed to be secret) has taken place there. People believe what they want to believe, and the more fantastic it seems, the more it entertains and interests them. The private contractor security guards in camoflage fatigues without insignia only whetted the appetite of the conspiracy theorists looking for UFO secrets.

If we can discuss a loss of liberties in general, the most concrete recent examples of that occured under the Bush II administration as a result of 9-11. So what has the Obama administration really done in the past 200 days to limit our liberties? They've mostly been running around like chickens with their heads cut off, over-extending themselves. Much of the persecution that some people feel under the Obama administration is self-inflicted; it hasn't happened yet. My own personal feelings are that my rights were under more potential threat from Dick Cheney than they are under Obama.

Sean Hannity, certainly no liberal, has gone on the record as declaring the FEMA concentration camp story a hoax.

So I've just got to wonder, why do some of the extreme right-wing websites keep promoting this kind of hysteria when the story is so obviously false? I'll admit that our government is flawed, but why make things worse with information that isn't true? Is it for some kind of demented recognition? Maybe somebody has been watching re-runs of "Red Dawn" too many times.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rush Limbaugh didn't invent talk radio

When I was a teenager living in Los Angeles in the 1960's, I used to listen to AM radio quite a bit at night. During that time, I often listened to a couple of stations, KABC and KLAC. Some of the personalities on those stations were Joe Pyne, Michael Jackson (no relation to the pop musician), Mort Sahl (the comedian), Joel Spivak, and others. These men all conducted talk radio shows which at the time were referred to as "two-way radio". Talk radio actually started before the 1960's on the east coast; some of the personalities involved with it came west after beginning their careers in the east.

One of my favorite radio talk show hosts of the 1960's was Joe Pyne. Pyne was a Marine Corps veteran of WW2. His on-air style was informative and argumentative. He didn't suffer fools gladly, and would often insult callers with phrases such as, "Ah, go gargle with razor blades" and "What's your point beside your head?" Basically a conservative, he would end his shows with the phrase, "Straight ahead and get Castro." He died in his forties of lung cancer at the height of his career in 1970.

Joe Pyne also had a TV show on KTTV in Los Angeles that was later nationally syndicated. You can look on Youtube and find video clips of a few of Joe Pyne's shows that were broadcast.

Anybody remember the American Nazi Party of the 1960's? The leader of the American Nazis was George Lincoln Rockwell. I don't know how serious Rockwell was about being a Nazi in America, but his timing for promoting the cause was somewhat off, as the 1960's were not particularly a time of economic turmoil. There was racial turmoil, and Rockwell later made some political hay out of that. Nevertheless, the American Nazis never had more than a few dozen actual members and perhaps a few hundred sympathyzers.

Joe Pyne used to have ripe comments re. the American Nazis, whom he called "American Nutsies". Their leader, George Lincoln Rockwell, he called "George Stinkin' Ratwell".

Here's what California gave her Vietnam veterans for services rendered...

A stinkin' sign by the side of a highway next to a bridge they were already going to build.

Quite a few states showed their appreciation for services rendered by Vietnam veterans by granting them a cash bonus. It wasn't a big deal, typically $100 to $300. California never saw fit to give her Vietnam veterans such a bonus. There were more KIA's in Vietnam from California than any other state. By virtue of population, it's probably the same situation with the number of Vietnam veterans as a whole. I'm sure the California state legislature didn't miss this fact if they were even inclined to mull over the possibility of a bonus. I can get a mental picture of those esteemed statesmen (behind closed doors, of course). "Well, we have this bridge we have to replace anyway. Let's call it the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, then buy a $400 road sign, put it by the bridge, and that will cover it." Mind you, this was long before the current fiscal crisis in the state.

There is a California Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was built in 1984. It isn't very large and is located on a corner of the state capitol grounds in Sacramento. I hasten to point out that its cost of around 2.5 million dollars was put up by private donations, and not from any funds from the State of California.

I mention this not only out of bitterness, but as a prediction that the same will transpire for our current veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Some other states already have bonuses in place for these veterans; California does not and will probably repeat their pattern of parsimony and neglect toward veterans by ignoring it. They can always come up with money for free medical care for illegal aliens, but not for a veterans bonus.

Why the Button Fly?

My travels today took me down to the Fort Lewis area. My, what a lot of activity is going on around there. When I think back on the Clinton years, it was less busy. Anyway, when I'm in the area, I sometimes stop in the shops off-post to see what's for sale. There are a number of shops in Ponders (pawn shops) and Tillicum (so-called "surplus" stores) that are possible sources of funds for skint soldiers. When soldiers run out of money, they sell stuff. Re. the misnamed "surplus" stores, I say this because they really don't sell items that they bought as surplus from the government. They sell stuff that soldiers bring in to them. Soldiers bring things in to sell to the stores to get cash money. The stores turn around and resell the stuff for more money, mostly to other soldiers. Some of the stuff that the soldiers bring in to sell isn't theirs. That's putting it kindly, isn't it?

So, I look around in these stores just to see what kinds of things soldiers use these days. My oh my, they have all kinds of fancy little gadgets and gear that was undreamed of during my time in the Army. They use a number of little pouches, straps, and other things I couldn't identify. Most of it isn't cheap, either. As a lowly example, the Army makes a much nicer pair of socks to wear with boots now, but new ones cost $14 a pair. These socks actually have elastic in the tops that works and holds them up. The old Army issue socks had uppers that would stretch out on their first washing, forever after falling down to your ankles inside your boots.

I also looked at the "new" Army fatigue uniform with the digital camoflage pattern. These are called "ACU's" for Army Combat Uniform. The shirts don't have a real collar, but they do have a nice heavy zipper on the front instead of buttons, closed up with a couple of Velcro pads.

When it comes to zippers, I have this great, big question for the Army uniform design people. I'm sure they researched all this, but still I have to wonder. Why do they still make fatigue trousers with the button fly arrangement? Would very many people disagree that a zipper is far easier and faster to use, both important attributes at times for soldiers?? Maybe the uniform engineers think that a zipper isn't as sturdy under strenuous use as buttons on the fly. Well, the jungle fatigue trousers I wore in Vietnam in 1970-72 all had zippers, and never did one blow out. The heavy-duty zipper on the new ACU shirt would find a nice home on the trousers; it's a much nicer zipper than the crappy one we had on jungle fatigues which was like those found on a cheap pair of civilian slacks. Our OD stateside fatigues had zipper flies in them, too, but when the army came out with the woodland camo BDU's in the early 1980's, a step backward in time was taken when these were made with the button fly. Well, if it was good enough in WW1, I guess it's good enough now.