Friday, February 11, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
March 5, 2000 – Billy Cox - FLORIDA TODAY
NO CRUELER TYRANNY
Last December, on the day President Clinton swung into Orlando for a fund-raiser, a man convicted of threatening to gun him down was getting a more dubious red-carpet treatment.
Escorted by four federal suits, 52 year old Ronald Barbour spent an all expense paid evening in a downtown Holiday Inn, with supper and breakfast billed to Uncle Sam. Talk about VIP privacy – Barbour's hosts blocked off the entire fifth floor, just for him.
But there were a few nonnegotiable strings attached. Barbour couldn't go anywhere. He couldn't make long distance phone calls. He was required to sleep with his bedroom door open. Furthermore, the Army veteran had to watch his mouth about the man he loathes.
"What did I say?" repeats Barbour, when asked to retrieve the exact words that put him in prison for four years. "Well, after all these years I can't recall my exact words concerning Clinton, but they were to the effect that he was a draft dodger and whoremonger. I would note that I was merely repeating what was said about Clinton by a high-ranking military officer who was forced out of the service for saying them."
Barbour's words coupled with a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1994 with an allegedly loaded gun have earned him an active file in the Secret Service's list of potential assassins. As a consequence, the former retired Army career soldier and right wing political activist is being watched by the Treasury Department's crypto-agency, which knows virtually every move he makes.
The Secret Service won't say how many people like Barbour it tracks: This much is certain: If all the world is a stage, the former Army Intelligence officer has the role of a lifetime. "In terms of Shakespeare, I feel like Hamlet, being stalked by the King and his men."
Now living in Orlando, about two years into a three-year probation, Ronald Gene Barbour's rendezvous with infamy has a number of potential origins. Maybe it started when he was a kid, growing up in Huntington, W..Va., reading books such as THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, THE FIRST CIRCLE, FAHRENHEIT 451 and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. Maybe it started with his Cold War under cover intelligence duties in Berlin.
So far as the government cares, it started on January 29, 1994, when a neighbor secretly and illegally tape recorded a conversation Barbour and his brother was having over beers. The neighbor, Stacy Harris, said he did it after hearing Barbour allegedly talking about an attempt to assassinate President Clinton.
Harris was later given a $100,000 reward by the Federal Government for his tape recording. In May 1994, a federal jury in Orlando heard excerpts from the tape. Barbour later challenged the admissibly of this recording on the fact that it lacked a chain of custody (The recording was made on January 29, 1994 - Yet it was not turned over to the Secret Service until a week later) and that it had been edited. Barbour notes that anyone can be made to say anything after a tape recording has been modified.
Hence, the jury heard Barbour's alleged graphic antipathy toward Bill and Hillary Clinton: "And Hillary," the tape has Barbour saying, "You know, I never thought about beating a woman before, but I had this vision, of just stomping her to death. I'd go for her throat and try to break her neck real quick because she's a little thing, and then finish the job by stomping her body with hobnail boots." A few moments later, Barbour allegedly told Harris to get his autograph, because "I'll be the guy who shot Clinton."
Barbour thinks that this portion of the nearly three hours taping by Harris (Only several minutes were turned over to the Secret Service) related to a joke to his brother concerning the punishment of his pet dog (a female) who had a problem with making messes in the house. In regards to the alleged threat about Clinton was a "cut and paste" job done by the Secret Service, because in the original recording transcript no threat against President Clinton is recorded.
Secret Service agents who interrogated Barbour without reading him the Miranda Warning said that Barbour was allegedly drinking heavily and depressed in the winter of 1994. At that point, feeling that life was slipping away and that he had nothing to lose and that he had a political score to settle, Barbour drove north to Alexandria, Virginia from Orlando, Florida and checked into a motel. The Secret Service agents said that Barbour was armed with a Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol and more than 100 rounds of hollow point ammunition. While at the motel for a week, the Secret Service thinks that Barbour made at least six trips into Washington, D.C. looking for President Clinton's jogging routes, so that he could set up an ambush. After learning that the president was in Russia, Barbour returned to Florida without the accomplishment of his "mission."
Barbour relates a different account of his January 1994 trip to Washington, D.C. "Bill Clinton was the last thing on my mind. At that time I was a limo driver for Mears Transportation. I took a week's vacation to visit Washington, D.C. to check out the job opportunities for a person in my line of work. I also wanted to visit the memorial to those who died in service of their country during the Vietnam War. I have a few friends named on that memorial. Yes, I did have a weapon with me for personal protection, but it remained locked in the trunk of my car and unloaded. In regards to me not knowing that Clinton was in Russia during the week I spent in the Washington, D.C. area, all I can say is that I'm a news hound – Of course, I knew he was in Russia! However, as I've said before, I was not interested in harming the president."
Despite the obvious weaknesses in the Government's case against Barbour, a federal jury in May 1994 convicted him of 18 U.S.C. 871, formally known as "Threatening the Life of the President of the United States," a felony that carries a five-year sentence with a possible $250,000 fine, although rejecting 18 USC 1751 known as "The Attempted Assassination of the President" which would have carried life.
Barbour points out that the Government committed major constitutional violations in his case: Perjury, suborning perjury, deception, falsification of official documents, unlawful modification of an audio tape used as evidence in court, intimidation of witnesses by federal agents, obstruction of justice, violation of Writ of Habeas Corpus and other criminal violations. Also, no witnesses observed him on the Mall or near the White House.
When asked in reason for the jury's decision against him Barbour thinks that it was based on emotion, "The U.S. Attorney's attitude, and one that he was successful in selling to the jury, was so what if the case against Barbour was far from perfect, he was going to assassinate the President. In other words, he couldn't prove it, he just said it and that was good enough for the jury."
Barbour spent four years and three months in various federal prisons. He walked out on June 26, 1998, unchastened and insisting that his conviction was politically motivated. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and denied his appeal in 1995.
STAR CHAMBER JUSTICE
"Our system of justice has many ominous parallels with the star chamber of yesteryear: Decisions are made behind closed doors and the average citizen isn't entitled to know anything about the process," Barbour charges, "For instance, after numerous Freedom of Information requests I cannot find out anything on how the Secret Service determines who constitutes a threat against the presidency. If you're able to discover anything will you let me know? I've been trying to find out for years."
Replies Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin in Washington: "That not something we share. We don't talk a lot about protective intelligence."
But on February 9, 1994, an inadvertent glimpse of insight came from agency psychologist Margaret Coggins.
Lecturing at the University of South Florida's Mental Health Institute, Coggins told listeners the Secret Service had three classifications for threat assessment. Those in Class I, she said, are discarded as no threat. Class II involved suspects who were investigated and determined not to pose a threat. Class III types, Coggins said, are considered legitimately dangerous.
At that time, there were 120 Class III suspects in America. Ronald Barbour was not one of them. Coggins didn't mention Barbour's name in her lecture, but she spoke of a Florida man who had been questioned by Secret Service agents on February 3, 1994 — the same day that Barbour was contacted by the authorities.
"The subject went to the Mall every day for six days waiting to shoot the president," Coggins told the audience. "He hoped that if he shot the president, he would be shot dead himself. Fortunately, the president was overseas at the time."
Coggins, whose remarks were printed in the St. Petersburg Times, informed listeners the suspect had been interviewed and eliminated from Class III consideration. So, what happened between then and February 17, 1994, when Barbour was indicted on federal charges by a Grand Jury?
Mackin said Coggins wouldn't be available for comment, "We're, uh, well aware of that article," he says, "I'm not sure she knew members of the news media were at the Conference."
Furthermore, threat assessment evaluations are privileged information. "It goes to our methods and means," he says. "We receive cases involving threats on a rather consistent basis, and we investigate them all to the fullest. If a defendant knows how it's done, they might be able to manipulate the process."
Barbour thinks that President Clinton got directly involved with his case. He cites a reference in the Government's Sentencing Memorandum to a meeting Clinton had prior to the indictment with then Secret Service Director Ron Noble.
"Well, what else could it be but political?" says Barbour who has requested the minutes of that meeting under the Freedom of Information Act, so far, to no avail. "The State of Maryland prosecutes Linda Tripp for illegally taping Monica Lewinsky, but the guy who does the same thing to me gets off scot-free. Come on – give me a break."
Clarence Counts, who represented Barbour at the District court trial and Appeals to the Federal District Court and the United States Supreme Court, states that Stacy Harris' taping was a felony under the Florida Statutes, which mandate a five-year prison sentence for a violation.
The prosecutor of Barbour, former U.S. Attorney James Glazebrook, appointed by President Clinton to the office of U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Middle District Court in Orlando recalls prosecuting Barbour and doesn't dispute Count's point concerning the Harris tape. "It was a very interesting case," he says.
"I remember, at that time, feeling 100 percent confident that no state attorney would think of prosecuting Harris for turning over a tape that might have saved the life of President Clinton," Glazebrook says. "The court completely and properly rejected the defense arguments, because Harris was a Patriot."
Barbour thinks that both Harris and Glazebrook are about as patriotic as Benedict Arnold.
Barbour says that the Secret Service investigators were unable to produce eyewitness accounts to build a case of presidential stalking. Therefore, they tricked him into incriminating himself, in an interview done without benefit of the Miranda Warning, by walking him through a series of hypothetical questions like, "What advice could you give the Secret Service to enable it to better protect the president?" He says that never in the course of the five-hour interrogation did he tell investigators that he planned to assassinate President Clinton.
Without knowing the particulars of the case, ACLU executive director Greg Nojeim in Washington, D.C. says that it's difficult to know where Barbour crossed the line from First Amendment rights to a deadly threat.
As for the Secret Service's classification procedures, Nojeim says: "Good luck. Your only hope of finding out how he went from Class II to Class III is to file under the Freedom of Information Act and wait a few years and hope you're satisfied with the results, because they're usually not satisfying."
With the Linda Tripp analogy in mind, Tim Lynch, spokesman for the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. says, "Prosecutors have an extraordinary amount of discretion. You can take any two cases in the country and say, ‘Why this and not that?' And because there is so much discretion, cases like these do raise legitimate questions of oversight involving the legislative branch over the executive."
Having exhausted all legal recourse, those discussions are a moot point for Barbour, now, but given his background in military intelligence, Barbour wonders whether he'll be on the government's "Watch List" for the rest of his life, "Can you believe it? The Secret Service considers my military career a negative factor in my case."
The adopted son of a World War II veteran who landed in France at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, Barbour joined the Army after high school in 1966. He served tours of duty in Europe, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia and Alaska before being assigned covert "spy duty" in West Berlin working a cover electronic surveillance mission against Russian forces in East Germany from a radio tower.
In the late 1970s, Barbour was assigned to the very secret National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland where he worked the ELINT mission, which was the intercept and analysis of Russian and Chinese telemetry and radar systems. In the early 1980s, Barbour was assigned to the Canal Zone in Panama to monitor Cuban and Russian signal traffic to and from Central America. Barbour retired from the Army in 1986, after his last assignment at Patrick USAF Base, Florida.
THE FEDERAL PRISON SYSTEM
Barbour says he pulled time at four federal prisons. The most memorable was a year spent at Butner, North Carolina, in 1994 where he meet Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel and Keith Idema, convicted of fraud and a self styled "Soldier of Fortune" who alleged that his conviction was a frame up by the federal government who wanted his information concerning portable nuclear weapons. Barbour's impression of Pollard was that he was an honest man sorry for his offense against national security. In contrast, Barbour thought Idema was a liar and phony who had puffed up his resume in Special Forces and lied about his experiences in the former Soviet Union. Barbour notes that Idema spent most of his time at Butner in Segregation because of his many problems interacting with guards and fellow inmates.
Barbour says that he was assaulted twice by fellow inmates while incarcerated, but says that his injuries weren't serious. Barbour also states that he was closely monitored by prison authorities, subjected to endless interrogations by Secret Service agents, and that prison authorities encouraged fellow inmates to spy on him.
When freed in 1998, Barbour says that, "I had always been a free man in my mind, so a readjustment to life outside prison was extremely easy for me."
THE BARBOUR CASE: IMPORTANT QUESTIONS NOT ANSWERED
"In the present case, Barbour "was not just making idle threats." Hines, 26 F.3d at 1474. Less than two weeks prior to his threats, Barbour was in Washington, D.C., with one hundred rounds of ammunition, waiting to assassinate the President. He failed to carry out his plan only because the President never arrived where Barbour was waiting, and he returned home only after discovering the President was out of the country. Barbour never deviated from his plan to kill the President; he was just denied the opportunity. Thus, when Barbour made his threats after returning home, there was every reason to conclude that he intended to act on those threats and that he was likely to do so. Because the record supports the district court's determination that Barbour had evidenced an intent to carry out his threat, the six- level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2A6.1(b)(1) was properly applied." - Federal Curcuit Court Judge Kravitch.
This reporter would like to ask the following questions to Judge Kravitch after careful examination of more than 1,000 pages of pictures, tapes and court records relating to this case:
1. If indeed this account is true then why was Barbour not tried in Washington, D.C., the site of the alleged assassination plot?
2. Why the Government could produce no witnesses or pictures to place Barbour anywhere near Clinton's jogging routes where the alleged assassination was to take place?
3. Why does Judge cite "100 rounds" of ammunition and gun ownership come from when it was proven in court that Barbour owned no guns or ammunition at the time of his arrest?
4. Finally, Clinton was not in Washington, D.C. and on a tour of Russia during the alleged assassination attempt, so how could have he been harmed by Barbour in Washington, D.C.?
NO CRUELER TYRANNY: THE INJUSTICE OF THE BARBOUR CASE
This reporter thinks that a great injustice was done to Barbour. Please consider the facts of the case that were exposed in court:
1. The information that Barbour had attempted to assassinate came from a confidential informant not trusted by law enforcement agencies because the information he provided to authorities was not reliable and used to settle personal disputes with others.
2. The agents discovered in the course of their investigation that Harris had produced a recording that was clearly illegal under federal and state statutes and should not have been admitted in court, because it lacked a chain of custody, but was allowed by the District Court based only on the testimony of Harris of its accuracy.
3. President Clinton was briefed by Ronald Noble, the current Director of the Secret Service, on or about February 4, 1994 concerning the arrest of Barbour for an assassination attempt. The repeated attempts made by Barbour to secure the minutes of his meeting between Clinton and Noble from the White House have been denied the citing National Security.
4. Barbour was denied his right to WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS for a period of two weeks --February 3, 1994 to February 17, 1994-- despite several attempts by Barbour to secure the attention of the federal judiciary.
5. The District Court ignored perjury on the part of Secret Service agent John McKenna who first interviewed Barbour at the VA Clinic in Orlando. Barbour has testified that he was not read his Miranda right to remain silent, and Barbour’s testimony is supported by the Director of the VA Clinic in Orlando who overheard the conversation from another room. The agents also failed to record Barbour's alleged permission to answer questions or to obtain his signature on a waiver; yet both agents testified that they had these items available in their government vehicle.
6. The decision of the District Court should have been reversed by the majority Circuit Court of Appeals on any of these grounds, which are gross violations by the government of a citizen's rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments, violation of Writ of Habeas Corpus, and indications of a conspiracy to convict an innocent man that may reach into the highest office in the land.This reporter can only conclude from his study of the facts of the case that the federal justice system underwent a meltdown in the Barbour case. In the words of Montesquieu, "There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice." It is chilling that some of those individuals responsible for this injustice still occupy positions of authority in the federal criminal justice system.
A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT
"I was there at the party where Ron was taped by that Stacy Harris character and I heard the tape in court, and I can tell you my brother never said those things about killing Clinton and an assassination attempt," says Jack Barbour. "And I told that to the court. My brother got screwed big time by Bill Clinton. Everyone knows he uses the courts to get people who don’t like him! Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives back in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice. There is not a doubt in my mind that either Bill Clinton or one of the lackeys got my brother sent up the river. Did Ron tell you he lost everything: his military pension, his apartment, his car, his bank account...EVERYTHING? And for what? Telling the truth about that degenerate and traitor, Bill Clinton. I detest Bill Clinton. I hate Hillary Clinton. I think the Democrats are filthy lying leftist elitist scum and the main enemies of the Republic. So send me to prison for four years too!”
"Ron is not a physical threat to anyone, says Scott Ellis, Brevard County Commissioner, I’ve known Ron Barbour for years. He helped out in my Congressional campaign in 1986. Barbour is politically astute enough to know that shooting the president doesn't effect political change. I think this injustice shows how a corrupt president can bend the federal court system and the Secret Service to do his will. Did a conspiracy exist between Ron Noble, the Director of the Secret Service and Senior Special Agent John McKenna to put Ron Barbour in prison at the orders of President Clinton? I understand that while Clinton was Governor of Arkansas his enemies were sometimes hauled into court on bogus charges. I well recall that in 1995 or 1996 that Rush Limbaugh’s radio studio was raided by the Secret Service because Limbaugh was alleged to have threatened Clinton and they were looking for an audiotape to prove it. The Secret Service found nothing and Limbaugh was not charged.”
“I was a juror in Barbour’s trial at the Federal Courthouse in Orlando in late May 1994,” said Shelly Jackson of Altamonte Springs, “There were two counts on his indictment: The first was U.S.C. 1751 – the attempted assassination of the president; the second was U.S.C. 851 – threat against the president. We found Barbour guilty of the second charge, which carried a five-year sentence. This happened because one juror – the Foreman – wanted to find Barbour guilty of both counts and the rest of us thought he was innocent, so this was a compromise. The deliberations went on for nearly three days and the best reason the Foreman who thought Barbour was guilty could come up with was that Barbour would not have been charged by the government with this crime if he was not guilty. At least Barbour was spared the worst fate in our verdict because conviction on U.S.C. 1751 would have carried life in prison.”
“I was Ron Barbour’s attorney in the trial and wrote both his appeals,”says Clarence Counts,” I have been an attorney for more than 20 years and handled dozens of clients and have forgotten most of them; however, the USA v. Barbour is one case I’ll never forget because of arrogant abuse of power and obstruction of justice on the part of the U.S. Secret Service which resulted in sending an innocent man and honorable decorated professional soldier to prison for more than four years. I remember thinking several times during the trial of Barbour that what was happening to him had an ominous parallel with the oppression of political opponents of the Communist regime in Soviet Russia like Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Did Ron Barbour attempt to assassinate President Clinton? The facts of the case indicate he did not; therefore, the Circuit Court majority opinion by the very liberal and Democratic appointed Judge Kravitch in the denial of Barbour’s Appeal is a tale told by an idiot.”
During the course of the investigation of my alleged crime - the attempted assassination of President Clinton - the U.S. Secret Service would continue to rape the U.S. Constitution with violations of my civil rights under the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments. They would also ignore the "Great Writ" - The Writ of Habeas Corpus and kidnap me me for a period of nearly two weeks in a locked mental ward.
In due course, I would come to trial and be found guilty of "only" one offense of the many charges filed against me on February 17, 1994 - 18 USC 871 - "Threat against the president" and sentenced to five years in federal prison, three years probation and a fine of $250,000. I would serve this sentence in a number of federal prisons and be twice the victim of attempted assassination by fellow inmates, perhaps at the direction of the U.S. Secret Service. I would be released on June 26, 1998 to start life again after being illegally imprisoned in some of the worse correctional facilities in the United States.
This story is told here.
I successfully completed my court ordered three years of probation on June 26, 2001 with no violations. This marked the closure of my case, "The United States of America v. Ronald Gene Barbour." I was informed by my probation officer that if I kept a "clean nose" the U.S. Federal Government had no more interest in me. In short, he said I was free as a bird! However, the U.S. Secret Service had other ideas...
The story is told here in detail on this website.
The short of it is that I have been ruthlessly targeted as a "PERSON OF INTEREST" by the U.S. Secret Service for the last seventeen years at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars and countless man hours of useless work by the U.S. Secret Service. This official terrorism has only served to keep me poor unemployed and on the run. Since 2001 I have lived in the following states: Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, Utah and Montana in a quest for privacy. The outcome is always the same: The U.S. Secret Service starts a campaign against my employers and landlords - In time I'm usually asked to move on. Some years ago "Les Miz" was popular as a Broadway play and movie: I'm living "Les Miz" on a daily basis. I own the role of Jean Val Jean.
I have to ask myself - what is the real reason behind the civil war launched against me by the U.S. Secret Service? I think the official reason they would give that I am a threat to the presidency runs contrary to the facts. The real reason for this "Secret Civil War" has to do with the fact that I'm a proud WASP Southerner, decorated U.S. Army veteran and prolific writer who owns five blogs and continues to be highly critical of the U.S. Secret Service and the presidency. I was told by Senior Special Agent John Francis McKenna at FCI Coleman on March 15, 1998 that I was not to publish anything concerning my case or its aftermath; that for me the First Amendment did not exist.
This is how the "Secret Civil War" stands today. The "Order of Battle" is decidedly against me, but the advantage is not all to the stronger Superpower side. For instance, in less than an hour I can abandon my current position and move to another anywhere in the country within 24 hours. In three days, I could be anywhere in the world living under any identity. I have studied the campaigns of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, fine Southern gentlemen and rebels who nearly threw Federals out of the Confederacy. These generals were the masters of popping up in force to surprise and defeat superior numbers.
I have another advantage unknown to these rebels of old - a laptop computer and the Internet. These high technologies used with my inalienable right to freedom of speech gives me the high ground on which I can stand to watch my powerful enemy maneuver in the valley below me. In terms of chess, I have become the knight - a high value player that flies around the chessboard and does considerable damage to the opposition pieces. It is well said by Patrick Henry that the battle does not always go in favor of the stronger side.
How will this "Secret Civil War" end? Obviously, in the checkmate of the white king that the white knight defends. In other words, my death. No, I'm not playing the defeatist card here, I'm simply being the realist. I think some fine day, the case officer in Washington, D.C. in charge of black conflict will conclude the obvious, the Federal side is losing the "Secret Civil War" and issue verbal orders to lower ranking SS officer to terminate "Team Ronbo" with extreme prejudice and I will be murdered.
Until that "Appomattox Day" this white knight keeps flying across the chessboard taking out black pawns, black bishops, and black knights in dubious battle.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
DIRECTOR CURT OLDS: ENEMY OF THE REPUBLIC
Re. NON- APOLOGY APOLOGY FROM MCT AND DIRECTOR CURT OLDS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Please be advised that I have REQUESTED the U.S. Attorney for Montana and/or local law enforcement to issue an arrest warrant against CURT OLDS for death threats against VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE SARAH PALIN during the period of January 21 to 30, 2011 in Missoula, Montana.
I should note that under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 871, death threats are punishable even if no other action is taken. THE WORDS ALONE WILL SEND A PERSON TO PRISON FOR UPWARDS OF FIVE YEARS! Under the clear provisions of the law, CURT OLDS – who put the death threat in the mouth of his actor – should be indicted by a federal grand jury.
I think I speak for countless members of the local Montana Tea Party community who have had it with local Montana Leftists who use The Arts as a means of propaganda for their hatred of the Right and its leaders like Sarah Palin.
Sincerely, Ronald “Ronbo” Barbour. publisher and writer for “The Freedom Fighter’s Journal.”
P.S. I personally witnessed this disgusting act of hate and solicitation of murder. I noted that many children were present. I also think CURT OLDS is a dastardly coward in that he lacked the courage to make the death threat himself, but used an innocent actor to issue his death threat against Sarah Palin.
Mikado-gate: MCT Community Theatre deals with backlash over Palin quote
On Sunday night, MCT Community Theatre wrapped up its two-week run of Gilbert & Sullivan’s satirical operetta, “The Mikado,” with a frolicking performance at its home theatre on East Broadway in Missoula.
On Monday morning, MCT executive director Michael McGill set about the hard business of mending all that had gone awry over the weekend, when word spread across the Internet that MCT’s production advocated the beheading of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
What began with a single letter to the editor, published in last Friday’s Missoulian, quickly erupted into a nationwide controversy after dozens of political bloggers picked up the thread and ran with it – some adding their own colorful amendments to the story.
In the face of it all, McGill had one, simple message on Monday.
“In retrospect, we made a mistake,” he said. “Anybody that gets singled out in such a way as that, whether it might be (President Barack) Obama or Palin or whomever, it’s inappropriate. I take full responsibility for that.”
At the center of the controversy was a single couplet, inserted by director Curt Olds into a song sung by the character Ko-Ko, a pacifist executioner. Listing off those people whom he intends to behead, the singer in the Missoula production noted, “that crazy Sarah Palin needs a psychoanalyst / She never would be missed, no she never would be missed.”
“It’s very common practice to amend those lyrics,” said McGill. “It’s how they were amended in this case that’s an issue. There’s a lot of misinformation about what happened, but I don’t want to shirk our responsibility for what did happen.
“The important part to me is that the apology is clear and that the responsibility is taken by this organization.”
The controversy over the lyrics first came into the public eye last Friday, when the Missoulian published a letter from Clinton resident Rory Page, who attended the production on Sunday, Jan. 23. In the letter, Page said she took “great offense” at the Palin reference, particularly given the context of the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people in Tucson, Ariz.
“We are in the midst of a crisis that took place in Tucson where many started pointing fingers at that horrible right wing with all their hatred and targeting and standing for the second amendment and on and on and on,” Page wrote. “So, here we are in a lovely play with beautiful voices serenading us and we have to hear that it is okay to call for the killing of Sarah Palin because we don’t like her and no one would miss her. Unbelievable.”
In the letter, Page demanded an apology from MCT.
On the same day that Page’s letter was published, McGill issued a written apology, which was forwarded to local media and posted on MCT’s Web site. In his letter, McGill said the Palin reference would be removed from all further performances of “The Mikado.”
Despite MCT’s fast retreat, the issue quickly went viral on the Internet over the weekend, spurred by a Friday blog post by Wall Street Journal online opinion editor James Taranto. In a short opinion piece titled, “Curt Olds, the Lord High Executioner: Eliminationist rhetoric against Sarah Palin,” Taranto argued that the Palin reference was an example – though he did not name others – of widespread hate-speech in the arts world.
“This incident is shocking but not surprising,” Taranto wrote. “For all the bogus accusations being thrown at Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, genuinely hateful political rhetoric is commonplace in the art world, even in art that is not overtly political.”
Political bloggers around the country quickly followed Taranto’s lead.
Anthony Martin, a South Carolinian who runs the Liberty Sphere blog, posted an entry titled “Children’s play in Montana calls for beheading of Sarah Palin,” in which he wrote, “the play’s director decided at the last minute to add a bit of ‘humor’ to the production by including a scene which…subjected children to a call for Sarah Palin’s beheading.”
Chicago-based blogger Warner Todd Huston echoed similar themes in a post at Rightpundits.com, titled “Children’s Theater Adds ‘Decapitating Sarah Palin’ To Kids Play.” Huston argued that the reference to Palin in the production demonstrated that, “liberals can be as vile and violent as they like.”
Numerous Montana-based commentators also picked up the story, including Aaron Flint, host of the Billings-based talk radio show, “Voices of Montana,” which airs on KGVO-AM 1290, KGRZ-AM 1450, and KLCY-AM 930 in Missoula.
On his blog, “The Flint Report,” Flint accused MCT of “absurd and hateful rhetoric,” and encouraged theatre-goers to videotape the production, in order to “expose these people.”
Ironically, the strongest defense of MCT’s altered script also came from afar, courtesy of Jack Marshall, an attorney from Alexandria, Va., who runs the Ethics Alarms blog.
In several posts to his own blog as well as comments posted to several other blogs, Marshall argued that the Palin reference was exactly what Gilbert and Sullivan might have written themselves, if they were still alive. Marshall lambasted MCT’s critics for “complete ignorance of the historical and cultural context of a few lines in a song, misapplied to a political satire in which violence is used with the levity of a Roadrunner cartoon, connected without logic or perspective to an event, the shooting in Tucson, as far removed from Gilbert and Sullivan…as the shooting in Tucson was removed from, well, Sarah Palin.”
Nadia White, a professor at the University of Montana’s School of Journalism, said the fast and furious explosion of the issue online exemplified both the best and worst of what the Internet offers modern-day society.
“By removing the traditional filters, the Internet has made it possible for information to do extraordinary things,” said White. “We’re seeing that on a big, big scale – you see it with Wikileaks, and with the situation in Tunisia and Egypt. And on a small, local scale, we’re seeing our local MCT production suddenly coming under a national microscope in a way that it couldn’t have before.
“What we’re learning in this time of unprecedented opportunity to share information is that there comes a related responsibility to consider the validity of the information,” she added.
The whole kafuffle left Curt Olds deeply shaken on Monday. The Butte native and UM graduate said he never anticipated that the Palin reference would spark anything more than laughter – as it has in several past productions in which he himself has starred as Ko-Ko.
“It’s pretty much required that you update those lyrics, and so that’s what we did – as I’ve done every time I’ve done this show in the past,” said Olds, who has performed the role of Ko-Ko in more than a dozen professional productions around the country. “It’s part of doing ‘The Mikado,’ that you make those references relevant to modern times.”
Also included in Olds’ amended list of targets for execution, as sung in the Missoula production: people who drink expensive frappuccinos from Starbucks; Missoula drivers who don’t understand how to navigate roundabouts; members of the audience; and the oboist in the orchestra.
Palin was the only modern person mentioned by name in the song.
Olds said he added the Palin reference early in the rehearsal stages of the production, more than a month prior to the incident in Tucson. He said it never crossed his mind that the Giffords shooting – and the subsequent controversy over Palin’s list of electoral “target” districts – might make the reference impolitic, until Page’s letter appeared in the Missoulian.
“Sarah Palin was in there because she goes beyond politics; she’s one of the most well-known human beings in this country,” said Olds. “I have no ill feelings about her at all; I included her because she’s a well-known celebrity, and that’s in keeping with the spirit of the song…I’ve never heard a word of complaint or any type of letter coming out of including her in the song (in past performances).”
Olds said that W.S. Gilbert’s original lyrics to the song demand updating because they reference several long-forgotten political and celebrity figures of late 19th century Britain. Gilbert himself updated the list several times over the years, and encouraged others to follow suit after him.
The original lyrics also include a reference to blackface entertainers, who are described using the N-word – giving further reason to change the lyrics.
Anne Basinski, a voice professor and director of the opera program at the University of Montana, said most modern productions of “The Mikado” feature amended lyrics in Ko-Ko’s list-song.
“If you did a survey of ‘Mikado’ performances of the past 50 or 60 years, it would be extremely difficult to find a performance where the original text was done,” said Basinski. “As far as who or what is inserted into the song, the object is to look at who’s getting lots of press and attention; and they get their nose tweaked a little bit.”
Such historical precedent for the production’s creative liberties didn’t make life any easier around MCT’s offices as the controversy heated up. On Sunday, Michael McGill called Missoula police to request extra patrol around the company’s facility on East Broadway.
McGill later said the request was purely precautionary and wasn’t precipitated by any specific threat.
“That was just a situational awareness thing I decided to do,” said McGill. “There were some impassioned responses to what was going on, which led me to feel that the police department, for sensible reasons, should be made aware.”
Moving forward, McGill said the incident has already spawned a new policy at MCT, requiring that the executive director be made aware of any additions or deletions made to scripts produced at MCT Community Theatre.
As to the specific criticisms leveled at MCT, he said he was particularly concerned by those that confused the community theatre production with the company’s activities as a provider of educational children’s theatre programs.
But he said the best thing he and his company can do at this point is move on and learn from the experience.
“We made a mistake,” said McGill. “Oh man, we made a mistake.”
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
FM: RONALD GENE BARBOUR, PUBLISHER OF "THE FREEDOM FIGHTER'S JOURNAL"
REF: CRIMINAL ACTIONS BY SPECIAL AGENT TAD DOWNS, U.S. SECRET SERVICE
LOC: MISSOULA, MONTANA
OVERVIEW: DURING THE TIME FRAME OF DECEMBER 10, 2010 TO JANUARY 31, 2011, SPECIAL AGENT TAD DOWNS VIOLATED NUMEROUS LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS IN HIS QUEST TO "TALK TO BARBOUR."
1. ON OR ABOUT DECEMBER 10, 2010 AT APPROXIMATELY 0930, AGENT DOWNS AND TWO MEMBERS OF THE MISSOULA POLICE DEPARTMENT COMMITTED FELONY ARMED TRESPASSING ON THE PROPERTY AT 1540 WEST BROADWAY STREET IN MISSOULA, MONTANA WHEN THE OFFICERS ENTERED THE PROPERTY OF BROWNIE'S PLUS MOTEL WITHOUT FIRST SECURING THE PERMISSION OF RICHARD CHAVEZ, THE MOTEL MANAGER.
2. OFFICERS PROCEEDED TO ROOM 15 THAT WAS OCCUPIED BY RONALD GENE BARBOUR AND KNOCKED LOUDLY ON THE DOOR DEMANDING ENTRY TO THE ROOM. BARBOUR APPEARED AT THE DOOR AND ASKED AGENT DOWNS IF HE HAD A WARRANT FOR THIS VISIT. AGENT DOWNS SAID HE HAD NO WARRANT AND WAS TOLD BY BARBOUR TO "GO POUND SAND."
3. IN THE PERIOD FOLLOWING THIS EPISODE, AGENT DOWNS MADE NUMEROUS HARASSING PHONE CALLS TO RICHARD CHAVEZ AND RONALD GENE BARBOUR DEMANDING THAT BARBOUR "TALK TO HIM" WITHOUT NAMING THE TOPIC OR REASON FOR SUCH A DISCUSSION. AGENT DOWNS WAS TOLD BY BARBOUR IN A CALL ON OR ABOUT DECEMBER 12, 2010 TO THE U.S. SECRET SERVICE OFFICE IN BILLINGS, MONTANA THAT SUCH A PROPOSED DISCUSSION VIOLATED HIS RIGHTS UNDER THE FIFTH AMENDMENT. BARBOUR AGAIN ADVISED AGENT DOWNS THAT HE WAS ENGAGING IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITY UNDER LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS.
4. ON OR ABOUT JANUARY 30, 2011 AGENT DOWNS CALLED RICHARD CHAVEZ AND ASKED TO BE ALLOWED TO SEARCH BARBOUR'S ROOM WITHOUT A WARRANT. AGENT DOWNS' MOST RECENT REQUEST WAS DENIED BY RICHARD CHAVEZ WHO ASKED AGENT DOWNS NEVER TO CALL HIM AGAIN. ON JANUARY 31 2011 AT APPROXIMATELY 1000 HOURS, AGENT DOWNS CALLED AGAIN BEGGING "DIRT" ON BARBOUR.
5. DURING THIS PERIOD OF INTENSE HARASSMENT OF BARBOUR, AGENT DOWNS IGNORED DEATH THREAT MADE BY CURT OLDS - THE GUEST DIRECTOR OF "THE MIKADO" AGAINST VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE SARAH PALIN ON OR ABOUT JANUARY 23, 2011.
1. ARMED TRESPASSING - MONTANA STATE LAW VIOLATION.
2. STALKING - LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS VIOLATION.
3. HARASSMENT - LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS VIOLATIONS.
4. CONSPIRACY WITH MISSOULA POLICE TO VIOLATE BARBOUR'S CIVIL RIGHTS.
5. CONDUCT UNBECOMING AN OFFICER AND GENTLEMAN.
6. FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE A SERIOUS THREAT AGAINST A PROTECTEE OF THE UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE.
7. OTHER RELATED CHARGES TO BE FILED AT A LATER DATE BY BARBOUR.
BASED ON THESE INCIDENTS ALONE, IT IS CLEAR THAT SPECIAL AGENT DOWNS POSES A THREAT TO RONALD GENE BARBOUR AND REFUSES TO INVESTIGATE LEFTIST DEATH THREATS MADE AGAINST SARAH PALIN. ONE SHUTTERS TO THINK THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS AT LARGE IN MONTANA USING THE COLOR OF LAW TO SCREEN HIS QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITY. FOR MY OWN PERSONAL SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF THE REPUBLIC, I ASK THAT AGENT DOWNS BE REMOVED FROM ACTIVE DUTY IN THE FIELD AND INVESTIGATED FOR ABOVE MENTIONED CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.
SINCERELY, RONALD GENE BARBOUR