Saturday, July 22, 2006

Minutemen not so vigilant when it comes to watching funds

At the end of May when perennial electoral failure Alan Keyes went to Palominas, AZ to join Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox at the groundbreaking ceremony for Minutemen's newest border fence project, everything looked promising in the world of border vigilantes. The immigrant marches and raging congressional debate only brought increased media coverage of the immigration issue that gave the Minutemen not only increased publicity, but a huge influx of cash from their base of disgruntled xenophobes. Now it appears that much of the money raised for fence building, binoculars, and beverages never reached the average minuteman on the street.

Apparently much of the $1.6 mil raised over the past fifteen months by Simcox is unaccounted for. Now leaders of the vigilante group want to know where the money is, and why it was funneled through Alan Keyes' Virginia based charity organization, Declaration Alliance.

(There's more)

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Over the Memorial Day weekend about three hundred border vigilantes gathered in the hot Arizona desert to listen to rousing speeches and begin their "work" securing the borders. Joining them was a who's-who of the anti-immigration movement including Rep. Steve King of Iowa, sponsor of the effort to scrap the renewal of the Voting Rights Act due its bilingual provisions, and Arizona governor candidate Don Goldwater who recently called for using incarcerated immigrants as workers to build border walls. One address they heard was that of failed presidential candidate and conservative commentator, Alan Keyes. Keyes spoke before the cheering crowd and thanked them for doing Gods work in saving America.

"And right now as America faces what I think is the greatest crisis of our institution in its history ... When a country loses the will to defend its borders, when a country loses the will to assert its identity, when a country loses the will to stand in defense of its way of life, that country is doomed....Now, I'm here to tell you right now that however we may sometimes feel discouraged, that however we may sometimes think that there is no hope, you need to remember that when we pray to God for a blessing, you have come forward to be the answer. You have come forward to be the defenders."

Now it appears that Keyes and Simcox may have had more on their minds than defending America against the "invading horde" from south of the border as they riled the faithful that weekend. Members of the vigilante group have raised serious question about where all the money raised since the groups founding in April of 2005 has gone.

The members say money promised for supplies like food, fuel, radios, night-vision scopes and binoculars never reached volunteers staffing observation posts to spot and report illegal border crossers.

“This movement is much too important to be lost over a question of finances,” Gary Cole, the Minutemen’s former national director of operations, told The Washington Times. “We can’t demand that the government be held accountable for failing to control the border if we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the people’s money.”

The organization has not released any financial statements or fund-raising records since it was created. Several of the group’s top lieutenants have either quit or threatened to do so, saying requests to the group’s president, Chris Simcox, for financial accountability have been ignored, The Times reported.

Mr. Cole said he personally collected “tens of thousands of dollars” in donations during the Minutemen’s 30-day April 2005 border vigil in Arizona. But he said that despite numerous requests, he was never told where the money went.

Mr. Cole said Mr. Simcox removed him as a national director of the border campaign “for asking too many questions about the money.”

Mike Gaddy, a retired Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada and Beirut who helped organize the Minuteman's April 2005 border watch as a field coordinator, said he and other volunteers challenged Mr. Simcox on numerous occasions to come up with a financial accounting and are suspicious of the need for hiring outside consultants.

"When we heard he was hooking up with outside consultants, I pleaded with Simcox that he had to keep this thing squeaky clean because the Minuteman movement was essential to this nation's sovereignty," Mr. Gaddy said.

He said Mr. Simcox rejected his offer last year to personally pay for an audit to answer growing concern among the ranks about the group's finances. "He told me what he did was his business."

"Something is seriously wrong," he said. "I saw firsthand the dedication of the men and women who volunteered to stand these border watches, sometimes under very difficult circumstances, and proudly came to the conclusion that this is what America was all about. But a number of people I thought I could trust have since disappointed me."

Mr. Gaddy said he did not know how much money the organization had collected, but said, "It would be a substantial sum."
Washington Times

Both Keyes and Simcox deny any financial wrongdoing.

Keyes claims his organization handles the MCDC's finances through his organization because he "wished to do all in (his) power to assist the Minutemen's growth into a national civic movement as quickly as possible -- as the public exposure of the lawless state of our southern border is a matter of utmost urgency," he adding that his "organizational team has an established history of effective issues advocacy, grass-roots activism, political campaigning, financial accountability, regulatory compliance and fundraising." Additionally Keyes claims that the MCDC is still in the process of applying for IRS nonprofit status so it was advantageous to funnel the funds though his established organization.

As for his part, Simcox stated that he receives no salary from MCDC despite the fact that "hours of toil and sacrifice necessary to run this national organization" had taken a toll on his personal life and finances. Simcox claimed that he was forced to sell his newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed due to the financial pressure.

"My present source of income has been the honorariums and fees received from organizations who request me for speaking engagements," Simcox said. "I have also received money from selling my life story for a movie that will soon go into production. Even with those combined sources of income, I have made just enough to keep my head above water." He added that any other information about his finances was no one's business.

Despite their denials of any wrongdoing, many questions remain unanswered.

Earlier this year, Vern Kilburn resigned as director of operations for the Minuteman's northern Texas sector because of what he called "professional differences with the management and business practices" of the MCDC national headquarters.

In a letter of resignation, he said Mr. Simcox and other Minuteman leaders offered "no acceptable answers" to concerns that he had about the management, accountability, ownership and the distribution of money for the Texas operation, adding that they were unable to verify Texas' share of the Minuteman donations.

Mr. Kilburn said that only two checks for $1,000 came from MCDC headquarters in October for the Texas operation and that other Minuteman leaders across the country "are having similar problems concerning money or the lack of."

Although he resigned as director of operations, he said he sought to remain with MCDC to continuing his work with "like-minded patriots" but was fired by Mr. Simcox. He declined to expand on his letter, saying only he "pretty much had my fill of the Minuteman as far as Chris Simcox goes."

Mr. Gaddy, Mr. Cole and Mr. Kilburn are among only a few Minuteman leaders and volunteers who have come forward publicly over questions about accountability. The vast majority declined to be identified for fear of hurting the movement.

"I have no interest in going on the record in this matter," said one top MCDC leader who heads one of the organization's most active groups. "I have a lot of the same questions and have never received answers that are satisfactory. I have been contemplating resigning for a number of reasons, and lack of public accountability is one of those reasons."
Washington Times

It appears that many leaders of the vigilante group have been asleep at the wheel while Simcox and Keyes have had free reign over the MCDC's finances. It is yet to be seen how the financial problems of the fledgling group of border ruffians will effect their ability to further their agenda of intimidation and fear, but I'm sure those who care about true immigration reform will not be shedding any tears over the minutemen's current dilemma.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on W's recent birthday, and my own.

George Bush recently celebrated a milestone birthday, reaching his sixtieth year. Like him, I also passed a milestone about a month ago, reaching the half-century mark. This puts us both in good company with millions of fellow boomers, George at the front end of the generation, myself somewhat towards the back. Our parents were called the "greatest generation", we can only claim being the "largest," and as such, for better or worse have dominated much of American society and culture for the last forty years.

Passing this milestone got me thinking about how we got to our current political state. You see, being part of a not so exclusive club does give us boomers a unique perspective on just what's wrong the current ruling class in this country. Figuratively, we know these guys; we met them years ago hanging at parties, or at school. We know what they were into, how they fit it, where that stood in the cosmic order of things. I'll ask that you youngsters indulge me for a minute while I ramble on. To my fellow boomers... you'll know where I'm coming from as I ponder this topic.

Karl Rove 1969

Everyone else 1969

I rest my case.

"That's not fair," I can hear some youngsters saying, " not everyone was all "hippie-ish" with long hair, and freaky cloths, smoking pot and dancing around, no way ... they were a minority made famous by the media. Most young people back then probably looked more like young Karl, and besides ... you can't judge someone just by how they dress or how they look, that's wrong."

Sorry kids .... Wrong on both counts.

We ALL looked like freaks to a certain degree. We all wore hippie cloths and had long hair at one time or another. Your mom probably went to concerts, dressed in her peasant blouse and patched jeans and danced around barefoot like a whirling dervish. Dad had a big bushy mustache or muttonchops and smoked joints before, during and after the show. They most likely were not full-blown Hippies, riding on the bus with the Merry Pranksters, but they were part of what has now been termed; “the youth culture.”

As to judging a book by its cover, you have look at it with historical perspective. At that time we were in the mist of a REAL, full-blown culture war, not like the bizzaro-world one that goes on politically today, and like in any war, people wore uniforms to tell friend from foe. Our uniform was "freak." The opposition ... take a look at young Karl there.

But it goes some much deeper than that. At that time the music you listened to, your cloths, the books you read or movies you saw, all spoke volumes as to who you were, not only politically, but personally. Those so far removed from the mainstream youth culture were not individualists, or contrarians ...they were anti-social, misfits and miscreants.

The vast majority of us we had common social experiences that united us. We were the first TV generation and grew up watching the same shows from the big three networks. We were the rock n roll generation who grew up with our own rebellious musical art form that we all knew inside and out. It was our secret code. It not only spoke to us and about us, it gave us common ground and united us. We were a generation of tumultuous times. The civil rights movement, anti-war movement, womens rights, riots in the streets, the drug culture, these things effected our generational psyche. We were the first and last generation to be able to engage in sexual activity without the fear of pregnancy or life threatening diseases. These things gave our generation a sort of monolithic nature that to this day affects American culture. Our music still plays, our fashions once again find popularity with a younger generation; we're generally a cultural pain in the ass for those who have come after us.

This almost monolithic nature also allows us to do one other thing; spot those who were so out of the norm, so different from the rest of us that they remain to this day societal misfits. This is what we see in the current leadership of this nation; Just look at that picture of young Karl Rove.

Just think about this current crop of conservatives. What kind of 18 or 19 year old could have listened to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and said ... "Hell yeah.. That guy's got some good ideas there. In fact I'm going to idolize this guy and spend the rest of my life trying to bring HIS vision to reality."

Then there's Nixon in 68 or especially in 72?; How the hell at that time, could anyone under the age of thirty possibly support the most reviled man on earth?; Hell, he was burned in effigy on street corners daily just for fun, what kind of island of the misfit toys kind of person would have supported him. Yet these guys loved him.

And don't get me started on "A Hippie is someone who walks like Tarzan, looks like Jane and smells like Cheetah", cultural warrior, Governor Reagan. This guy was the anti-Christ long before sat in the oval office, yet these people worshipped the guy.

We boomers know who these guys are. They're the ones with the ironed, straight-legged jeans with cuffs when everyone else was wearing bells. They had a record collection that included "The Ray Conniff Singers sing Dylan", and "Up With People."

They'd never smoke pot because it would make them have "mutated children" and to them "Reefer Madness" really was a documentary.... And a damn accurate one too...thank you very much.

Yeah, we know these guys. They went to the movies and loved True Grit while everyone else was watching Easy Rider. We listened to Nashville Skyline until we could rattle off the lyrics in our sleep; they thought that "People" song by Barbara Streisand was kind of catchy. We watched Dick Cavett to see Janis, they liked Merv Griffin with Zsa Zsa.

I could go on infinitum ... the point is we boomers know these guys. We all met one or two of them. And you know what ... they always freaked us the fuck right out. You'd ask all your friends "Hey... you know that freakin guy?" and hope to God someone would say, "Oh yeah, don't mind him, he's OK ... he's my cousin, just visiting from Bumfuck".

Now, I know what you kids are going to say. "If you guys knew how fucked up these guys really were, why didn't you warn everyone". I don't know what to say... I guess maybe they were right about all that pot ruining your memory and all …sorry, just kidding

Perhaps it's just that at the time we thought so little of these outcasts and they were so weird that it never dawned on us that they would one day hold the reins of power.

One thing I do know ... when the right wing tries to paint themselves as mainstream representatives of their generation, and attempts to marginalize everyone else as some sort of out-there minority... I know better and the majority of my generation knows better also, if they cared to admit it. "Freak" was the norm then, and it's the repressed, social misfits that now run this country who always stood out from the crowd ... and not in a good way... more in a Norman Bates kind of way if you know what I mean.

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