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TBR News August 1, 2020

Aug 01 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments, August 1, 2020: If Trump wants to look more like Hitler, he should grow  moustache. Trump’s covers are beginning to slip and the hidden Nazi emerges. Of limited intellect but deluded ambition, Trump hopes to get a permanent lease on the Oval Office and later become the crowned king of America and he does talk about this to staff members in the White House he thinks he can trust. The fact that his father was a black-hating member of the KKK and his great uncle a Je-hating colonel in the German SS only goads him to press onwards. But his medical and psychological problems will eventually pour very cold water on his flaming dream.


The Table of Contents


  • Donald Trump’s Fascist Performance
  • Could this anti-Trump Republican group take down the president?
  • Trump badly miscalculated in Portland – and even he knows it
  • Federal agents at protests renew calls do dismantle Homeland Security
  • It’s Gonna Blow
  • 41 Cities, Many Sources: How False Antifa Rumors Spread Locally
  • Don’t be fooled by Trump’s false accusations
  • Trump says Oregon leaders must clean out ‘beehive of terrorists,’ threatens to send in National Guard
  • Plan to slash $600 lifeline threatens misery for millions of Americans
  • Three million more guns: The Spring 2020 spike in firearm sales
  • The Encyclopedia of American Loons


Donald Trump’s Fascist Performance

June 3, 2020

by Masha Gessen

The New Yorker

Donald Trump thinks power looks like masked men in combat uniforms lined up in front of the marble columns of the Lincoln Memorial. He thinks it looks like Black Hawk helicopters hovering so low over protesters that they chop off the tops of trees. He thinks it looks like troops using tear gas to clear a plaza for a photo op. He thinks it looks like him hoisting a Bible in his raised right hand.

Trump thinks power sounds like this: “Our country always wins. That is why I am taking immediate Presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America . . . dominate the streets . . . establish an overwhelming law-enforcement presence. . . . If a city or state refuses . . . I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them. . . . We are putting everybody on warning. . . . One law and order and that is what it is. One law—we have one beautiful law.” To Trump, power sounds like the word “dominate,” repeated over and over on a leaked call with governors. It sounds like the silence of the men in uniform when they are asked who they are.

Trump got these ideas from television and Hollywood movies, and he had the intuition to recognize them. He knew what he wanted to imitate. We know that he likes the military and its parades. (A senior Administration official, speaking with the Daily Beast, attempted to downplay the President’s interest in tanks: “I think that is just one of the military words he knows.”) Perhaps he has seen many movies that feature the Black Hawk, that monster of military-industrial production, the metal embodiment of brute force. Perhaps Trump heard that, when Russia occupied Crimea, it flooded the peninsula with men in unmarked uniforms—they dominated without ever identifying themselves. Perhaps he heard the word “dominate” in his recent telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin. Perhaps he had seen a picture of Hitler in a similar pose, or perhaps he just conflated two gestures that symbolize power in American politics: one hand raised, the other on the Bible—this may explain the slight uncertainty of his display, as if he weren’t sure how much the book was supposed to weigh.

The President is a talented performer who plays an exaggerated version of an idea of who he is. On “The Apprentice,” he played what he thought a wildly successful real-estate developer would be like. He made inane pronouncements with great aplomb, and, as my colleague Patrick Radden Keefe wrote, in a Profile of the creator of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, Trump made bizarre decisions that the makers of the show then scrambled to make look credible in the editing room. When the show started, Trump was a has-been, an occasional butt of tabloid jokes; by the time it ended, he and the audience both believed that he was one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen on the planet. That, in turn, made his Presidential campaign if not immediately plausible then at least imaginable.

A power grab is always a performance of sorts. It begins with a claim to power, and if the claim is accepted—if the performance is believed—it takes hold. Much as he played a real-estate tycoon in the most crude and reductive way, Trump is now performing his idea of power as he imagines it. In his intuition, power is autocratic; it affirms the superiority of one nation and one race; it asserts total domination; and it mercilessly suppresses all opposition. Whether or not he is capable of grasping the concept, Trump is performing fascism.


Could this anti-Trump Republican group take down the president?

Savage attack ads from a well-funded group of dissident Republicans are aiming to sway a key sliver of opinion in swing states

August 1, 2020

by Richard Wolffe in Washington

The Guardian

Amid all the noise of an election involving Donald Trump – all the inflammatory tweets and shadowy Facebook posts – one set of ads has somehow managed to break through.

There’s the one of the US president shuffling down a ramp that declares that the president “is not well”. There’s the whispering one about Trump’s “loyalty problem” inside his White House, campaign and family.

There’s the epic Mourning in America that remakes Reagan’s election-defining 1984 ad, turning the sun-bathed suburbs into a dark national portrait of pandemic and recession. On Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, those three ads alone have racked up more than 35m views.

The Lincoln Project, run by a group of renegade Republican political consultants, has crystallized one of the core narratives of the 2020 campaign in ways that few other political commercials have in past cycles.

Its work on brutal attack ads sits alongside the swift boat veterans against John Kerry in 2004, the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the daisy ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Their reward? Disdain from independent media, distrust across the political spectrum and a recent series of harshly negative coverage from pro-Trump media outlets.

Disdain appears to be the consensus view from the pundits. Atlantic magazine called their ads “personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs”. The New Republic examined what it called “the viral impotency” of the Lincoln Project, suggesting they couldn’t “persuade voters of anything”. Even the Washington Post declared most of their ads were “aimed not at persuading disaffected Republicans but simply at needling the president”.

But that’s not how the project’s leaders see their work or purpose. In their launch manifesto, published as a column in the New York Times, the founders said their goal was “defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box”, including his Republican supporters in Congress.

To that end, they said their efforts were about “persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts” to defeat Trump and elect congressional majorities opposed to Trumpism.

In practice, that means organizing anti-Trump Republicans in eight swing states – including Florida, Ohio, Arizona and North Carolina – to hold virtual town halls and write postcards to Republican neighbors and friends. It also means organizing surrogates to speak to those voters in their home states and towns.

“These are Republicans they are familiar with – former representatives and mayors,” said Sarah Lenti, executive director of the Lincoln Project. “People like Rick Snyder in Michigan who will come out and say, ‘We’re supporting the Lincoln Project and supporting Joe Biden this cycle.’ It gives people the cover to say, ‘Our leadership is doing this, so it’s OK for us too.’”

Alongside the top-tier surrogates and ads, there is a grassroots effort to organize women, veterans and evangelicals to reach out to persuade Republicans to abandon the president who dominates their party.

“There are certain voters we’re not going to move – the one-issue voters on the right to life – and that’s OK,” says Lenti.

“We’re looking at 3-5% of Republicans in certain states. They tend to be more educated than not. Over 40 years old, and the demographic split is about 50/50, maybe a little towards men. We’re also seeing traction with some evangelicals, and those are typically older and less educated.”

That sliver of disaffected Republicans is the target for ads like Mourning in America: people who are old enough to remember the original from three decades ago are also old enough to be at the highest risk of the coronavirus. “Under the leadership of Donald Trump,” the narrator says, “our country is weaker, and sicker, and poorer.”

That was the first ad that triggered Trump enough to tweet-storm about the group two months ago: a presidential outburst that transformed the Lincoln Project’s profile and resources.

“A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, “Morning in America”, doing everything possible to get even for all of their many failures,” Trump tweeted.

If Trump was truly tormented by the Reagan reference, the irony is striking. Trump himself stole, without attribution, Reagan’s 1980 slogan: Make America Great Again.

For the most part Trump’s tweets focused on the individual founders of the project that troubles him so deeply. Given their track record in GOP politics, his dismissal of them as Rinos – Republicans In Name Only – means there are very few Republicans who can pass the Trump test.

The Lincoln Project founders include John Weaver, who was a political strategist for George HW Bush in 1988 and 1992, as well as John McCain’s strategist for a decade; Reed Galen, who worked on both Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004; Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign in 2008 and worked in the Bush White House and campaigns before that; and George Conway, a conservative lawyer whose wife Kellyanne just happens to work as Trump’s counselor in the West Wing.

The pushback did not stop there. The conservative Club for Growth took the extraordinary step of creating and airing its own ad attacking the Lincoln Project. It depicted the group as a bunch of failed strategists trying to make a quick buck by hating not just Trump but the American people.

This month they have been joined by two hit stories in the Murdoch-owned New York Post, accusing the founders of “ties to Russia and tax troubles” as well as secretly wanting to work for Trump. These may be confusing lines of attack for Trump supporters who have grown numb to ties to Russia, tax troubles and think highly of those who want to work for Trump.

For Democratic ad-makers, the work of the Lincoln Project has earned their respect, even if questions remain about its impact. “The ads have struck a chord with progressives and activists who see the Project as validating everything we’ve been saying about Trump, but now being voiced by the people we usually campaign against,” said Jim Margolis, a veteran Democratic strategist and ad-maker for the Obama and Clinton campaigns. “The question is whether independent voters, moderate Republicans and white suburban voters will respond as well.

“If the objective is modest – moving a point or two in the right states with the right people – I think they can help win the election. Remember: Hillary Clinton lost the presidency in 2016 by less than one point in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. So even small gains can mean the difference between a Trump second term and a new day in America.”

But for some of the ads it is clear they are engaged in a battle for the attention of a singular target.

“Some of these ads have an audience of one,” says Lenti. “That’s always been part of the strategy. Because every time he gets off message, spewing grievances, he’s not campaigning. The idea is to get him off message again and again and again. It bothers him. We hear from people inside the White House that he wants them to make us go away. But we’re not going away.”

Trump’s concern about the Lincoln Project has only helped to fill its coffers. After seeing Mourning In America, Trump stepped off Marine One and talked to reporters before boarding Air Force One.

“They should not call it the Lincoln Project,” he complained, after taking more potshots at its founders. “It’s not fair to Abraham Lincoln, a great president. They should call it the Losers Project.”

Instead of turning them into losers, Trump helped raise $2m for his sworn enemies. The group raked in more than $20m by the end of June, far ahead of its target of raising $30m by the end of the election cycle. Most of those funds came after Trump’s attacks in May, with small donors making up the bulk of its supporters: the average donation is around $50.

Now the group has enough funds to go after Trump’s supporters in tight Senate races. This week it placed its biggest ad buy – $4m in Alaska, Maine and Montana – as the expanded battlefield underscores its bigger goal.

“I don’t think this wing of the party is going away,” says Lenti. “Our job isn’t to reform the Republican party. Our job is to end Trump and Trumpism.”


Trump badly miscalculated in Portland – and even he knows it

Trump overestimated how much voters fear ‘antifa’ – and underestimated how terrible his ham-fisted authoritarianism

July 31, 2020

by Cas Mudde

The Guardian

Opponents of Donald Trump often describe him as a “political genius” who has a cunning understanding of the anxieties and fears of American society, and is able to create and use crises to his favor. The current standoff in Portland shows, yet again, that this is not the case. While his alleged fight against antifa will satisfy some of his far-right supporters, it increasingly risks further alienating the so-called “moderate” Republicans – which seems mostly used to describe better-off pocketbook Republican voters – who are already feeling uneasy over his Covid-19 handling and the economic fallout of the pandemic.

An almost ignored aspect of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is that Trump failed to use it to push through his authoritarian agenda by increasing executive powers, weakening the powers of other institutions, like Congress, and marginalizing dissent, for instance by banning demonstrations. Almost all other countries implemented a more repressive approach to Covid-19, including those governed by progressive parties (like Spain), while most far-right governments used it to push through draconian repressive measures (such as Hungary and India).

Of course, the explanation is that Trump initially denied and ignored the dangers of Covid-19, arguing that “it’s going to work out fine” and “the warmer weather” would take care of it. This made it difficult for him to later shift to an authoritarian approach. Difficult, but certainly not impossible. But clearly Trump never wanted to. Instead, he kept insisting on an economic approach to re-election, repositioning himself as the savior of the US economy, and aggressively pushing for the “reopening of America”.

A second opportunity to push through an authoritarian agenda came with the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the police murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this spring. Trump’s response was as expected, playing to the broader Republican electorate’s racialized fears about chaos and rioting. In the 15 days between Floyd’s murder and funeral, Trump tweeted 195 times about unrest, law enforcement and the threat of military use.

But rather than prioritizing the race card, his natural response, Trump quite quickly redefined the Black Lives Matter protests as antifa protests. This redefinition was in line with two longer-term processes within the Trump camp. First, Trump seems to truly believe that he has a shot at significantly increasing his support among African Americans. For instance, he has long boasted that his administration “has done more for the Black Community than any President since Abraham Lincoln”. (Needless to say this is not true.)

Second, antifa has become a popular bogeyman within the broader conservative movement, at least since the provocative campus visits of (former) rightwing darlings like Milo Yiannopoulos in the early days of the Trump presidency. The altercations between far-right and Antifa activists, blown out of proportion by mainstream media, were happily incorporated into rightwing propaganda, and Antifa became a favorite topic of many of the president’s favorite shows on Fox News.

Trump became increasingly obsessed with antifa. He also spread conspiracy theories about antifa, parroting far-right media – like his new favorite television channel, One America News Network (OANN) – as well as far-right social media accounts. He even tweeted his intention to designate “ANTIFA” as a terrorist organization, an almost certainly unconstitutional move.

Strengthened by the information from his rightwing bubble, the Portland protests must have looked like a golden opportunity to him. Portland has long been one of the main symbols of leftwing politics in the US – it’s viewed positively by progressives, despite slightly mocking programs like Portlandia, and negatively by the right wing.

But the problem is that the Portland protests play only to one of Trump’s ideological strongholds: authoritarianism. Given that Portland is the whitest big city in the US, the vast majority of protesters are white, which leaves his biggest asset, racism, largely irrelevant. Similarly, populism is largely useless, as few people will believe that “the elite” live in, or deeply care for, Portland – unlike, for instance, New York.

Portland is not only a bad choice because of the limited appeal to the broader Republican electorate. It could also seriously backfire. Police brutality against small, and even radical, groups of protesters could lead to broader support for the protesters.

This happened, for instance, at the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2013-14, and it seems to be happening now in Portland too. As Trump’s “little green men” are picking up peaceful protesters from the streets, without adequate identification and in unmarked cars, the discussion is moving away from the alleged violence by antifa to the threat to US democracy posed by the Trump administration.

The redefinition of the protests goes hand in hand with the diversification of the protesters. No longer are the protesters just young, white “anarchists” who can count on little particular sympathy outside of small progressive circles; now stalwarts of America’s conservative society are represented too: mothers and veterans. And they are arrested, beaten and teargassed too.

In a society as deeply militarized and patriarchal as America, vets and mothers are powerful symbols of the existing order. Seeing them protest against the government, and particularly a dubious and unnecessarily violent paramilitary unit, is a publicity problem for the Trump administration. These are the salt of the earth of the Republican electorate, who will not automatically assume these groups are in the wrong. Moreover, many Republicans will have much less tolerance for disproportionate repression to white moms and vets than they sadly have towards African Americans and white leftwing youths.

In short, Trump’s decision to “unleash” authoritarianism in Portland was a poor one. Having ignoring much better opportunities like Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests, he is caught in a confrontation that enthuses only a part of his base and increasingly worries the broader Republican electorate. And as the public image of the Portland protester is more and more reflecting some stalwarts of American society, and therefore the Republican electorate, Trump might be increasingly fighting himself.

The fact that the federal police are now being withdrawn from Portland shows that even Trump has realized his mistake.

Cas Mudde is the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, the author of The Far Right Today (2019), and host of the new podcast Radikaal


Federal agents at protests renew calls do dismantle Homeland Security

After months of protests demanding the defunding of police, the abduction of protesters turns the focus to Homeland Security

July 30, 2020

by Alice Speri

The Intercept

In his formal proposal to create the Department of Homeland Security, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush wrote that “the changing nature of the threats facing America requires a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.”

The Bush administration wanted a new agency to oversee everything from border security to emergency preparedness and response — “the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over a half-century,” the document noted.

Eighteen years later, the Department of Homeland Security has ballooned into the third largest agency in the U.S. government, employing 240,000 people, including more than 60,000 law enforcement agents — nearly half the total number of federal law enforcement agents. DHS oversees two dozen subagencies and offices and has an annual budget of $50 billion. Since its founding, in 2002, the department has run agencies as different in scope as the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while also largely replicating, through dozens of regional law enforcement hubs known as fusion centers, the counterterrorism mission that premised its founding but remains the primary responsibility of other agencies.

And yet the invisible enemy Bush feared arrived nonetheless. Every two to three days, the coronavirus is killing the number of Americans who died on September 11. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the virus has killed 50 times as many.

Criticism of DHS has accompanied the department through its existence, most recently when former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became the face of the Trump administration’s brutal policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border. Calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — one of DHS’s most visible and abusive agencies — have echoed from street protests to the halls of Congress and the 2020 presidential primary. Then earlier this month, as President Donald Trump deployed DHS troops, primarily from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, against protesters rallying against police violence in Portland, Oregon, he once again trained the spotlight on the troubled department. The unidentified agents abducting people in unmarked rental cars raised questions about what the Border Patrol was doing on the streets of an American city and awareness about the impunity with which it operates elsewhere. And their presence stoked calls to not only abolish ICE or CBP, but also to dismantle their parent agency altogether.

“This current moment is bringing this opportunity for widening the frame and having people understand just how large this force has grown, and who are the people working there, and who do they listen to,” said Marisa Franco, director and co-founder of Mijente, one of the groups that popularized the call to abolish ICE. “Has dumping, dropping, flushing all this money down the toilet into these agencies made us any safer? Has it done any real good? Would we rather spend that money somewhere else? I think that’s a really critical conversation to have.”

Franco noted that after 9/11, some might have been hesitant to target DHS because of how closely it was associated with the attacks on New York and Washington. But the last two decades, and particularly the last several months, have radically transformed how many Americans understand what security means and what their government should do to keep them safe.

“I just think the veneer is off,” said Franco. “I think people are pretty shocked at what’s happening, and they are really thinking about how to stop it.”

From 9/11 to Abolition

Trump has been threatening to “send the feds” into American cities, mostly ones run by Democrats, for as long as he has been in office. By the time DHS deployed its federal agents, the nationwide protests that started with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis had mostly dwindled after raging for weeks. In Portland, before the agents’ presence set them off once again, they had shrunk in size to a few hundred protesters.

The deployment of federal law enforcement — particularly BORTAC, a tactical unit some have dubbed CBP’s “RoboCops” — came after weeks of growing calls to defund police departments across the country moved from protest chants to budget negotiation hearings. The deployment is widely understood to be political theater aimed at distracting from the administration’s disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But at a moment when criticism of law enforcement has reached an unprecedented number of people, Trump’s show of force is having the effect of elevating the local call to defund and abolish police to a sprawling federal law enforcement apparatus that remains largely nebulous to most Americans.

“There is more skepticism of law enforcement on every level of government than there has been in this country’s history, and it’s arguably a result of the overreach of law enforcement,” said Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “Their unaccountability, the violence of the policies they are carrying out, and the violence with which they are doing it is more known and understood by more people than ever before.”

“The latest deployment of DHS, and especially CBP officers, going into American cities without the request of local political authorities is incredibly disturbing,” he added. “It’s like a novel written by a libertarian about the encroaching powers of federal law enforcement.”

CBP is not the only federal agency Trump has dispatched to fight his political battle: Last week, the Department of Justice launched what it called “Operation Legend” — a coordinated initiative “across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime,” according to the department’s announcement. As The Intercept has reported, federal-local partnerships of this sort, flooding cities with FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and other federal agents, along with local police, are nothing new. On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr was grilled by legislators about the Justice Department’s response to the protests; testimony from DHS officials is scheduled for later this week.

While it is hardly the only agency facing criticism, DHS embodies much of the unaccountable culture of policing that a growing number of Americans have come to reject. And in the middle of a public health and economic crisis of historic proportions, DHS’s massive, and costly, infrastructure has also become an emblem of government’s misplaced priorities. The Cato Institute, which has called for the abolition of DHS for nearly a decade, argued in a 2011 policy paper that the agency had already failed. “DHS has too many subdivisions in too many disparate fields to operate effectively,” David Rittgers, a former legal policy analyst at the institute, wrote at the time. “Americans are not safer because the head of DHS is simultaneously responsible for airport security and governmental efforts to counter potential flu epidemics.”

Today, the greatest threat to American safety in decades has come not in the form of a terrorist attack, but as a pandemic and the resulting economic disaster that have only been exacerbated by years of investment in the country’s sprawling security apparatus at the cost of everything else. “If this is not a clear failure of DHS, and this is not a clear failure of the billions of dollars that were poured in, then I don’t know what else would be a clearer example,” said Hamid Khan, an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, a group that has called for an end to mass surveillance across levels of government. “Billions of dollars, and for what?”

Calls to dismantle, or at least rein in, DHS have surfaced repeatedly over the years, for instance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as at the height of the Trump administration’s family separation effort. Last year, following the exposure of a Facebook group for CBP agents filled with racist, violent, and misogynistic content, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocated the disbandment of DHS altogether, calling the department’s establishment “an egregious mistake.” Now, the scenes in Portland, against the backdrop of the health, economic, and policing crises the nation is facing, have given those calls new momentum.

“If the Trump years have shown anything, it is that the agencies within D.H.S., and especially ICE and C.B.P., are in desperate need of root-and-branch reform or some other fundamental change,” Jamelle Bouie wrote in the New York Times. “If and when we close the book on Trump, perhaps we should use the opportunity to close the book on Homeland Security too.”

“I never thought that the Department of Homeland Security would be used against our own people,” former Sen. Barbara Boxer wrote earlier this month, calling her own vote in favor of the agency’s creation “myopic.” “Congress can act to both condemn this gross tyranny and then restructure the department so that no president, now or ever again, can have a private police force and menace the people he or she swears to protect.”

As the movement to defund police grew over recent months, a number of people have also called on legislators to withhold DHS funding until more robust checks can be imposed on an agency whose current oversight is the jurisdiction of more than 100 committees and subcommittees — a bureaucratic nightmare that’s effectively allowed parts of the department to go rogue.

“Given this state of affairs, there is no excuse for Congress to rush through another multi-billion-dollar appropriation for the department,” analysts with the national security forum Just Security wrote this week ahead of a DHS appropriations vote. “Before any funds are made available, Congress should conduct some of the oversight that’s been missing to date.”

The Just Security analysts also called on legislators to demand that Trump nominate a DHS secretary. Chad F. Wolf, a lobbyist, is currently running the department in an acting capacity, unconfirmed by the Senate, as are Ken Cuccinelli, his deputy, and dozens of other Trump administration officials. And the analysts called on legislators to push for greater transparency on part of DHS, including the publication of operational guidelines and assurances that the department’s law enforcement activities are conducted “with appropriate care for constitutional rights and clear channels of accountability.”

“This trend toward lawlessness is on full display in Portland,” they wrote. “The leverage afforded by the appropriations cycle presents the best and perhaps only opportunity for Congress to confront a department run amok.”

Tackling the Monster

DHS was founded on the belief that a lack of interagency communication had caused the government to miss cues about the 9/11 attacks. The department brought together agencies that had previously operated under several different departments, creating an unwieldy mess of clashing cultures and duplicative efforts, and setting up a massive bureaucracy whose scope, and cost, ballooned over the years.

DHS’s size and sprawling nature are part of the reason why a broader grassroots movement targeting the agency has not yet emerged. “It’s a department that has so many layers, and so many tentacles to it,” said Khan. “So it’s a matter of how do we pick it apart and look both at the larger infrastructure and at the points of this monstrosity that can be exposed and picked upon one by one?”

Questions about the efficiency of the consolidation of profoundly different agencies under DHS were raised from the beginning, across party lines, but the department’s creation was hastily approved anyway. Despite early promises that spending would be contained, the agency’s cost more than doubled in the first decade of the department’s existence, in part thanks to the funding of dozens of state, local, and regional information and intelligence-sharing centers, known as fusion centers. The centers were established ostensibly to improve collaboration among law enforcement agencies but in practice replicated the work of the FBI and FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Forces. DHS had little to show for its price tag: A 2012 Senate Homeland Security report found that the department’s fusion centers “often produced irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence reporting to DHS, and many produced no intelligence reporting whatsoever.” In 2015, Sen. Tom Coburn issued a scathing report concluding that “despite spending nearly $61 billion annually and $544 billion since 2003, the Department of Homeland Security is not executing any of its five main missios.

But DHS was not just a colossal waste of money: Its very existence, and the need to justify it, puts civil liberties at risk. Over the years, fusion centers that had been set up to counter terrorism dedicated much of their time and resources to sharing intelligence about crime, which was already the responsibility of local law enforcement. And increasingly, they started monitoring the constitutionally protected activities of activists and government critics. “There are not enough terrorists to go around; the police and the FBI already identify and prosecute potential terrorists whenever possible,” the Cato report noted in 2011. “So fusion centers seem to be treating mere political dissent as a threat without any indication of violent intent in order to justify their continued existence.”

A product of the war on terror, in more recent years DHS came to be defined by the work and human rights violations of two of its largest agencies, CBP and ICE, whose treatment of migrants, as well as immigration activists, has been a precursor to the abuses now on display in Portland.

CBP in particular operates far beyond the border, as its authority extends 100 miles into the interior to an area that encompasses nine of the country’s 10 largest cities and nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population. In recent months, hundreds of CBP agents were dispatched to respond to protests against police violence in Washington, D.C., and a CBP drone monitored the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. The move to police protests has been a disturbing development for an agency that for years has been accused of pushing the limits of its legal authority.

“This is an opportunity for the broader public to see and really ask themselves, if this is what DHS agents and this is what Border Patrol agents do to mostly white people in Portland, imagine what they are doing to women crossing alone in the middle of the night with children, to young people coming across the desert in the borderlands,” said Franco. “I think people asking themselves that question should really send a chill down their spine, imagining what might happen, and what is happening, and what has been happening.”

When immigration enforcement and border protection were moved away from the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice to the jurisdiction of the newly formed DHS, “there was an explicit reframing of immigration from being a labor issue to a national security issue,” noted Franco. “And what is happening now is that they’re trying to frame people exercising their freedom of speech and their right to protest and their right to organize as an issue of national security. And calling people who do those things terrorists.”

While critics of DHS and its war on terror ethos have been warning of those dangers since the agency’s early days, their concerns came into sharper focus under the Trump administration. CBP and ICE in particular, whose rank and file were among the first to endorse Trump’s presidential bid, have often contributed to the impression that they are more loyal to the president than to their legal mandate. “The DHS houses Trumpism’s true believers,” sociologist Stuart Schrader wrote in the New Republic earlier this month.

“I think there’s a good reason why it’s Customs and Border Protection that’s in Portland and not another law enforcement agency,” said Brendan McQuade, a professor at the University of Southern Maine who studies the Homeland Security apparatus. “And that is because Customs and Border Protection is, in liberal terms, one of the least professionalized agencies, and to name it more plainly, it’s been captured by white supremacists.”

Migrants and their communities have known that for years, and as Americans connect the dots between what is happening in Portland and what has been happening along the border and in immigration detention centers nationwide, scrutiny of DHS is bound to grow.

What is coming into focus is a more general rejection of the notion of “security” that the U.S. has long peddled, said McQuade.

“The unique circumstances of Covid, the Trump administration’s very poor handling of it, and the insecurity and uncertainty that has created have created textbook circumstances for political rupture and realignment,” he added. “Now is the time to push everything on the table and fight for the biggest demands.”


It’s Gonna Blow

Be a Miracle if it Don’t

July 30, 2020

Fred Reed


Hoo-boy. She’s ready to explode, go high order. Smoking ruins, dead bodies, seething hatreds, and a country that can’t be put back together. It may not happen, but she looks ready.

No one is in charge in this collapsing shell game of a country. In Louisville hundreds of armed blacks threaten to “burn the motherfucker down,” meaning Louisville, if they don’t get their way. All cringe before them, with reason. They have guns. Larger numbers marched in Georgia, armed, ready to rock and roll. BLM says it will “go into the suburbs” to get Whitey. Who will stop them? Not the government. It fears them. Weimar Kentucky. An American Freikorps.

America today in video. Scroll down to the New York footage. It’s Planet of the Apes.

Gun sales are way up. A friend in Rhode Island went to a gun shop and found a long line outside. A columnist in Virginia was told that the other stores report long waitlists for prize arms, notably the AR 15. People are afraid, or fed up. They are arming. The spring winds.

There is no leadership, no one in charge. In Trump we have perhaps the weakest President in history, mouthy, preening, ineffectual, much talk and no action. He did nothing while the rioters looted, burned, and vandalized, then disengaged himself from the pandemic, leaving decisions to the states. Much cawing and gaudy feathers, but no bird inside.

Congress does nothing, one parry neutering the other and all bought and paid for by special interests, by Wall Street and the arms makers and the big corporations. Local governments submit to the rioters or stand aside as the burning goes on. This is not society. It is chaos.

To collapsing countries these usually comes a man on a horse. A man with a big stick. You know, 1789, 1917, 1933. That kind of thing.

The media encourage the rioters, inflame passions either deliberately or through partisanship. They have little idea what they are encouraging. It may seem strange to say that the media do not know what is going on—it is their business to know–but they don’t. They were blindsided by the Trump because they had no idea of conditions in the country, in Flint and Gary, in Wheeling. Today they do not know what is brewing out there, or of how much they contribute to it.

After all, nothing out in the great mysterious middle land affects them. Journalists in the Beltway Isolation Cage are rich compared to deplorables in in Gary, live in a city proof against recession. Their decisions are whether to go out for Turkish or Vietnamese, not how to pay the rent. They censor news they don’t like, suppress the seismic rumblings out there in a country they don’t really know. In censoring others they censor themselves. They cannot read stories they cannot write. For example, sickening racial attacks on whites. That would be racism. Perish forfend.

But race is just the most explosive part of an unfunctioning polity. Other things ratchet up the fury. Add economic decay and you get more anger, more pressure. People live paycheck to paycheck, maxed out on credit cards. They don’t have a thousand dollars, or five hundred, for an emergency. The young live in their parents’ basements because they can’t get jobs to buy houses and start families. People don’t see doctors because medical care is both costly and wretched. Student loans crush the young. Grade schools are propaganda mills; parents know it, but can do nothing. Retirement programs vanish as employers turn employees into independent contractors, avoiding the expense of benefits. People see no hope. This makes them dangerous. Watch.

And BLM wants to go into the suburbs to get Whitey. God help us. Then it will well and truly blow. BLM doesn’t know how many white men are sick of the chaos and destruction, sick of BLM. They quietly say, “Bring it on. Let’s settle it.” Laden words.

While these undercurrents grow, the media will chirp and lecture and say virtuous things. Then, boom.

No one is in charge. No one will tell the rioters “No” and make it stick. No one, yet. It can blow.

BLM is cocky, aware of its power, made overconfident by easy victory. It, and Antifa, have never met resistance. If things get really wild, though, they will. They will also find that food does not really grow in Safeway, and that a Safeway burned out does not necessarily return to be burned out again.

A country gets what it asks for, and deserves what it tolerates. Most of the social problems engendering chaos result from the failure or collusion of government. Other countries have good national medical care. America does not. Student loans are a calculated scam, just as credit card companies deliberately entice people to buy what they cannot afford and then charge them usurious interest. Retirement plans exist elsewhere. European countries have them. But the Pentagon and Wall Street get America’s money.

It’s gonna blow. Short of a miracle.

The deadliest question is how to accommodate blacks. One mustn’t say what everyone knows, that blacks are the least educable, least productive, most criminal, most violent, most dependent, and least assimilable of the population. If anything can be done about any of these, it won’t be, because no one is permitted to name the problem. No one is in charge.

As whites lose economic ground they will be less willing to pay for welfare, food stamps, free housing, and other charity. When a pie shrinks, someone will get less pie and, if the pie shrinks a great deal, some will get almost no pie. Meanwhile, gun sales are way up.

At least six cities had serious riots last night with the mob throwing bricks at the police. A thrown brick is a lethal weapon. It would be met with equally lethal force. Yet governments, mayors, city councils back away, back away, back away. If they stop, it is going to be ugly.

America does not control its streets. The mob does. Everywhere. Name another country that permits this.

If confronted by force, the white rioters, mostly young, will melt away. They are Snowflakes, Millennials, young, stupid, ignorant, having the most exalted time of a life boring before and soon to be again, Blacks, more virile, will not. If they do not, the resultant mayhem will make our starter riots like like a PTA meeting at Lake Woebegone. Then what?

Here we come to the joys of diversity. Cultures can be too different to live together. Whites and blacks have almost no common ground, little common history. Whites trace their history back to well before the ancient Greeks, through Rome, the Renaissance, Europe. Blacks had no part in this and, it seems, have no interest in it. Aristotle? Thomas Jefferson? Einstein? Madame Butterfly? Galois? FORTRAN? These might all have come from some remote galactic civilization.

There is no agreement, anywhere, at any level, over anything. Hardcore conservatives insist that the coronavirus is no worse than the common flu as hospitals report overwhelmed ICUs and epidemiologists cry the alarm. Blue states favor lockdown while red states open up. Libertarians peddle cockamamie conspiracy theories. Mask laws are ignored or fought over. China, South Korea, Singapore shut down, control the virus, go back to work. Not America. Nobody is in charge.

Nothing holds the country together. There is no social glue, no dominant culture. We have no shared history, language, dialect, ethnicity, or religion. Diversity turns the country into rubble.

Diversity? It is the end of America. The country once was overwhelmingly white, European, Anglophone, and Christian. It worked, as approximate monocultures usually do. No longer. The North hates—the word is not too strong—the South and seeks to erase its culture and uniqueness. The Bible Belt is intensely Christian while the northern elites, heavily Jewish, seek to suppress Christianity. The coastal elites hold the central deplorables in contempt. Blacks hate whites. Feminists hate men.

Hispanics float in indeterminate limbo, not having jumped either way. Amerindians maintain a demanding apartness. Jews, neither Christian nor, in the minds of many, neither quite European or quite American, control the media and finance, generating perennial hostility. Bulk lot Somalis, having nothing in common with Minnesota, are in Minnesota. On and on.

It is going to blow. If it doesn’t, a miracle will have happened.

Currently, if weirdly, blacks hold the whip hand in the country, but it will not last and won’t improve racial relations. it is lighting a fuse, fertilizing hatreds that cannot be expressed but, if ever they are, Katie bar the door.

Statues come down if blacks don’t like them. Universities abandon teaching English grammar because blacks can’t understand it. Whites are fired for saying, “All lives matter.” The country lowers standards for blacks in medical schools, lowers required scores on the bar exam for them. High schools give diplomas to blacks who can barely read.

Gonna blow, boys and girls. At least that’s the way to bet.


41 Cities, Many Sources: How False Antifa Rumors Spread Locally  

Claims about the involvement of anti-fascist activists in protests of racism show the many ways false information spreads inside communities online.

June 22, 2020

by Davey Alba and Ben Decker

The New York Times

In recent weeks, as demonstrations against racism spread across the country, residents in at least 41 U.S. cities and towns became alarmed by rumors that the loose collective of anti-fascist activists known as antifa was headed to their area, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In many cases, they contacted their local law enforcement for help.

In each case, it was for a threat that never appeared.

President Trump has spread some unfounded rumors about antifa to a national audience — including his accusation, without evidence, that a 75-year-old Buffalo protester who was hospitalized after being knocked down by a police officer could be “an antifa provocateur.”

But on the local level, the source of the false information has usually been more subtle, and shows the complexity of stunting misinformation online. The bad information often first appears in a Twitter or Facebook post, or a YouTube video there. It is then shared on online spaces like local Facebook groups, the neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor and community texting networks. These posts can fall under the radar of the tech companies and online fact checkers.

“The dynamic is tricky because many times these local groups don’t have much prior awareness of the body of conspiratorial content surrounding some of these topics,” said Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory. “The first thing they see is a trusted fellow community member giving them a warning.”

Here are four ways that antifa falsehoods spread in local communities.

After One Tweet, Dozens of Calls to the Police

On the last weekend in May, the police in Sioux Falls, S.D., decided to investigate whether busloads of antifa protesters were headed to town. It shows what can happen from a single tweet.

They were responding to a rumor spreading quickly among residents online, and first posted to Twitter by the local Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re being told that buses are en route from Fargo for today’s march downtown…,” the group posted on Twitter. “Please bring in any furniture, signs, etc. that could be possibly thrown through windows.”

The tweet was later deleted, but not before the rumor spread verbatim on Facebook, where it was even translated into Spanish. On Facebook, screenshots of the tweet and other posts about the group’s message collected more than 4,600 likes and shares according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool that analyzes interactions across social media.

These included shares by the Facebook pages of three local news outlets with a combined reach of 36,238 followers, and two posts in Spanish-speaking local Facebook groups, which reached 2,611 followers.

Twitter said it had taken down “hundreds of groups” under its violent extremist group policy and “continues to enforce our policies against hateful conduct every day across the world.” Facebook said its fact-checking partners rate many false claims about the protests, including about antifa.

The rumor led dozens of people to reach out to the local police that Sunday, according to Sam Clemens, the public information officer at the Sioux Falls Police Department.

“But on the day of the protests, we didn’t have any evidence of any buses coming from out of town carrying people,” Mr. Clemens said. The vast majority of protesters were local residents, he said.

The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce said it had gotten the information from sources it knew and believed to be credible.

“We received information that led us to believe there was a cause for concern. As such, we wanted to encourage local business owners to take responsible, precautionary steps for their businesses,” said Jeff Griffin, the group’s president. “We removed the post when we realized it was contributing to a different message that we did not intend.”

From YouTube to Infowars

A screenshot from a YouTube video purporting to show Yucaipa, Calif., residents preparing for “potential antifia looting ahead of a planned BLM protest.”

A screenshot from a YouTube video purporting to show Yucaipa, Calif., residents preparing for “potential antifia looting ahead of a planned BLM protest.”

A false rumor about antifa protesters in Yucaipa, Calif., a city about 70 miles from Los Angeles, started with one viral YouTube video about the city. Before long, it had even reached a national audience.

A YouTube video posted on June 2, featuring scenes of men in masks and holding guns, purportedly residents of the city preparing for “potential antifa looting ahead of a planned BLM protest,” has collected 17,200 views in the days since. Facebook posts of photos claiming to show the Yucaipa residents defending their town were posted at least 587 times in Facebook groups, and amassed over 24,000 likes and shares, according to the Times analysis. They were shared in pro-Trump and far-right Facebook groups, as well as other local community groups.

Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman, said that, like Facebook, the video service uses fact-checking panels to flag false information, and that the company aims to promote videos from authoritative sources about the protests.

On the same day, the conservative commentator and former Fox News host Todd Starnes published a blog post titled, “TOWN FIGHTS antifa: ‘They Just Beat the Ever-Loving Snot Out of Them.’” It collected over 48,000 likes and shares, and reached three million followers on Facebook.

A day later, the conspiracy website Infowars posted an article about the false narrative, which spread it further among followers of conspiracy groups and several Facebook groups dedicated to praising Mr. Trump.

A representative for Mr. Starnes said he was unavailable to respond.

The Yucaipa Police Department confirmed on Twitter that it had responded to reports of fights in public on June 1, but did not mention the involvement of antifa. A public information officer for the department pointed to a YouTube video posted last week, in which a Yucaipa police lieutenant, Julie Brumm-Landen, said the city had not experienced looting or destruction from protests of racism.

“The information about antifa or planned criminal activity in Yucaipa is nothing more than internet speculation and false rumors,” Lt. Brumm-Landen added. “Any peaceful protests that takes place will have the full support and protection of the Yucaipa Police Department.” That video was viewed just 100 times.

Warnings From a Congressional Candidate

A congressional candidate over 2,000 miles away from Yucaipa started to spread a similar message. The episode highlights how even when a tech company removes bad local information, it can happen too late.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican in northwest Georgia and a professed member of the fringe conspiracy theory group QAnon, tweeted an ad for her House campaign showing her holding an AR-15-style rifle and threatening antifa activists. “You won’t burn our churches, loot our businesses or destroy our homes,” she said in the ad. It was retweeted 20,000 times.

That same campaign ad was removed from Facebook two days later — but not before it racked up over 1.2 million views. According to the social network, the video violated the company’s policies against promoting the use of firearms.

“We removed it because it advocates the use of deadly weapons against a clearly defined group of people, which violates our policies against inciting violence,” said Andrea Vallone, a Facebook spokeswoman.

No group of antifa activists arrived in Georgia. But that didn’t seem to hurt Ms. Greene’s political campaign. One week after her ad posted, she finished first in her primary, winning 41 percent of the vote in the strongly Republican 14th Congressional District, and has a strong chance of winning a runoff vote in August.

Ms. Greene, who has a history of making offensive remarks about blacks, Jews and Muslims, appears to have no remorse about spreading unfounded rumors of antifa coming to town.

“I’m sick and tired of watching establishment Republicans play defense while the Fake News Media cheers on antifa terrorists, B.L.M. rioters and the woke cancel culture as they burn our cities, loot our businesses, vandalize our memorials and divide our nation,” Ms. Greene said in an emailed statement.

Facebook Group Posts, Then Text Messages

In late May to early June, there was a rumor that “two bus loads of antifa” were heading to Locust, N.C., about 25 miles east of Charlotte. The rumor was shared in text messages among people in the area — far out of sight of any fact-checking organization.

On June 1, the rumor surfaced in Facebook groups with names like DeplorablePride.org and Albemarle News and Weather.

That same evening, the police in Locust posted a screenshot of a text that had been circulating in the community over the weekend. The text falsely claimed that police officers had been knocking on doors to warn that “a black organization is bringing 2 bus loads of people to walmart in locust with intentions on looting and burning down the suburbs.” The post, on Facebook, assured residents that the Police Department had not been spreading the rumor.

Jeffrey Shew, the assistant chief of police, said all the residents who reached out to the department to report the buses “had no direct knowledge” of violent protesters coming to town. He said they were only sharing what they had seen on social media. By midnight on June 1, Mr. Shew said, it was clear that the rumors were untrue.

“No protests, groups looking to protest or groups looking to riot occurred,” he said.

On June 2, the police posted another message on Facebook emphasizing that the rumors had no substance. It exemplified that often, community members themselves are the ones on the front lines of debunking false rumors.

“We had absolutely zero confirmed credible information related to these activities however out of an abundance of caution we did arrange or stage extra resources and officers in Locust in the event there was any legitimacy to the posts,” the post by the Locust Police Department read. “Now in the morning after, we can 100% confirm there was zero truth to any of the posts that we observed.”

Posts containing the original rumor reached 27,855 followers on Facebook, according to the Times analysis. The police’s posts reached 2,966 followers on Facebook.

Davey Alba is a technology reporter covering disinformation. In 2019, she won a Livingston Award for excellence in international reporting and a Mirror Award for best story on journalism in peril.


Don’t be fooled by Trump’s false accusations

August 1, 2020

Las Vegas Sun

President Donald Trump whistles, thugs of the extreme right respond, and good people get hurt.

In the 29 days since Americans began protesting over the death of George Floyd, a string of violence and terrorization by right-wing extremists has destroyed Trump’s lies that leftist radicals are responsible for problems at demonstrations.

White nationalists, militia members, agitators in the Boogaloo Boi movement and others have been arrested or implicated in incidents snaking through cities across the U.S., including Las Vegas. In some places, police officers committed galling acts toward protesters, no doubt emboldened by Trump’s bloodthirsty call to “dominate” the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, there still has not been an arrest of any known antifa member for a significant act of violence related to the protests.

“The numbers are overwhelming: Most of the violence is coming from the extreme right wing,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who studies extremist political activity for the think tank Foreign Policy Research Institute, told The Washington Post.

The looting and destruction that Trump ties to the left occurred only in the early days of the protests, and the demonstrators themselves have helped tamp it down. But the far-right’s efforts at terror go on. Who’s turning up at protests armed to the teeth? Not the peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

As far as antifa, it’s being villainized because it does one thing: It responds to the physical threats of the far right. That’s all. And the reason Trump targets the loosely based organization is because the far right is frightened of people standing up to them. Federal authorities have offered no evidence to back up the contentions from Trump and Attorney General William Barr that antifa organized the rally. That stands to reason: antifa members say the scale of the demonstrations is far beyond what they could have organized.

Contrary to Trump’s characterizations, here’s a sampling of what’s really happening on the streets of America:

  • In Oakland, Calif., authorities filed charges against an adherent of the Boogaloo movement and an accomplice for killing a security officer and critically wounding another outside a federal building. Officials say the men intentionally timed the attack during protests, knowing law enforcement would be busy responding to the demonstrations. The suspects escaped after the shootings, but eight days later the white van in which they allegedly carried out the attack was spotted, leading officers to the property of Richard Carrillo in nearby Ben Lomond, Calif.

Sheriff’s deputies approaching the home were ambushed and shot. One deputy died. Carrillo, an active-duty Air Force sergeant, was wounded. According to reports, he escapes and stole a car, then abandoned it after writing Boogaloo-linked phrases on its hood in blood. When he tried to steal another car at a nearby home, the homeowner tackled him and held him until police arrived and arrested him.

Authorities say Carrillo’s motive was to advance the Boogaloo movement, whose adherents seek to incite an overthrow of the U.S. government and start a second civil war. Police say they found a boogaloo patch, firearms and bombmaking equipment in vehicles Carrillo used.

  • In Albuquerque, N.M., a former city council candidate was arrested alongside members of a militia group after allegedly shooting and wounding a protester. Witnesses say the shooting occurred after the arrested man, Steven Ray Baca, intimidated protesters planning to topple a statue of the murderous Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate outside the Albuquerque museum. People monitoring police radios via scanners say police called the militia “armed friendlies” before the shooting.
  • In Bethel, Ohio, population 2,800, a crowd of about 80 protesters was met by a horde of 700 armed counterprotesters. During the demonstration, smartphone video captured a peaceful protester being punched in the head by a counterprotester who was later identified as a member of a motorcycle gang that had turned up to antagonize the crowd. The assault happened directly in front of a police officer, who did nothing. “Sir, I just got punched right in the back of the head,” the man says to no avail. The officer’s response is drowned out by counterprotesters screaming at the victim.
  • Militants clad in military fatigues and carrying guns, baseball bats, hammers and axes lined up across the street from a group of about 200 peaceful protesters in downtown Coqueville, Ore. The armed counterprotesters said they were there to protect businesses from antifa, citing a conspiracy theory that the group is sending busloads of its members to small-town protests to cause violence. The local sheriff fueled the situation by repeating the theory. No buses showed up in Coqueville or in any other small community. In Hutchingon, Kan., the hoax prompted threats to protesters, and caused numerous businesses and county offices to close. The police chief used the threats to pressure protesters into calling off their demonstration, which they declined to do. Instead, they moved it to a Saturday afternoon and about 100 people marched peacefully down Main Street.
  • In Forks, Wash., seven or eight carloads chased a multiracial family of four out of town, accusing them of being members of antifa. The townspeople, some of whom were armed with semiautomatic rifles, followed the family to a camping area, where they cut down trees to prevent the family from leaving. The family was helped by a group of local high school students who used a chainsaw to cut through the felled trees. No one was hurt. An investigation is ongoing.
  • In Loveland, Colo., a gunman confronted a Colorado State University football player who was working for a roofing company, accusing the player and another employee of being members of antifa. The gunman, 65, held them at gunpoint, jamming his knee into one man’s neck and the gun into his back. The player and his colleague, who were going door to door for work while wearing masks, were not injured. The gunman was charged with two counts of felony menacing and two counts of false imprisonment.
  • According to the Sacramento Bee, protesters in several small California cities have encountered milita-type individuals carrying firearms and claiming they’re present to protect property. In one example, as 200 peaceful protesters gathered in Arroyo Grande, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, armed gunmen patrolled the roof of a nearby gym.
  • Twitter revealed that a post from the account @Antifa_US calling for protesters to “move in to the residential areas … the white hoods … and take what’s ours” was run by white supremacists posing as antifa.
  • In Minneapolis, state troopers and deputies from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office were caught puncturing tires of 20 to 40 vehicles in the protest areas. Authorities gave various excuses for their actions — some cars were in the way of police operations, some contained sticks or rocks, etc. — but a tow truck driver told a documentary filmmaker that he got “call after call after call” from “everybody.” “Medics over there. News crews. Random people that were just here to protest and … tires slashed,” he said.
  • The situation stretches beyond U.S. borders. London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a warning that further protests could lead to violence and disorder due to the presence of extreme far-right counterprotesters to anti-racism demonstrations.
  • Then, unfortunately, there’s Las Vegas, where three men with ties to the Boogaloo movement were arrested with firearms and materials to make Molotov cocktails. Authorities say the men came to a rally with the intent of inciting violence by hurling the explosives at law enforcement, but were caught before they could carry out their plan. Days later, authorities arrested a man on suspicion of falsely impersonating a law enforcement officer after he had shown up heavily armed at a protest and claimed to be a federal agent. The man bears a tattoo of the Nazi SS force. Authorities say he is the husband of a Metro police officer, who knew he was impersonating a federal agent.

That’s reality. Yet Trump continues to demonize peaceful protesters, including as he was exposing thousands of his followers to the threat of coronavirus Saturday in Tulsa, Okla.

“All of these places I talk about are Democrat,” he said, referring to places where violence has occurred. “You know that, every one of them, every one of them.”

The goal with these types of comments is clear: Trump wants to conflate any protest with violence and fear. The result of this agitation from the top plays out in the panicked reactions of militias who finally think they can go beyond pretending to be military personnel and become macho men toting guns to protect the world … from peaceful protesters.

Let’s not forget, Trump’s own father was arrested during a Ku Klux Klan riot in New York. Fred Trump would be proud of the videos his son tweeted Monday showing random black-on-white street crimes in an obvious attempt to rev up white nationalists. Amid a climate with rising racial tensions, Trump is more concerned about the toppling of a few Confederate statues and the prospect of rechristening military bases named for Confederate leaders. This is what he considers our “Great American Heritage,” to grab a few words from one of his tweets.

Trump is giving aid and comfort to the true enemies of America: violent racists, far-right militia, the Klan’s fantasies about a glorious history of defending slavery.

That becomes clear in the official record, as told by reports from law enforcement authorities nationwide


Trump says Oregon leaders must clean out ‘beehive of terrorists,’ threatens to send in National Guard

July 31, 2020

by Hillary Borrud

The Oregonian

President Donald Trump said Thursday that federal officers who were stationed at the courthouse in downtown Portland will remain in the city through at least Friday to see if Gov. Kate Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler clear out protesters Trump described as “beehive of terrorists.”

If Brown and Wheeler do not succeed, Trump threatened to send in the National Guard.

Thursday was the first day of a phased withdrawal of federal officers from the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, where protests against police violence and systemic racism have continued more than 60 days. The focus shifted more recently to federal police tactics, after officers seriously injured multiple people with impact munitions and unidentified agents swept at least two protesters into unmarked vans.

Portland police swept people from a park adjacent to the federal courthouse early Thursday morning and Oregon State Police assumed control of the area around the courthouse Thursday afternoon.

The Trump administration reached agreement with Brown’s office earlier in the week for the federal withdrawal. But the president claimed Thursday they wouldn’t necessarily leave.

“Our people are staying there to see whether or not (the Oregon State Police and Portland police) can do it today and tomorrow and if they don’t do it, we will send in the National guard and we’ll take care of it,” Trump said.

The president made the remarks during a televised coronavirus briefing, in response to a question from a reporter for One America News, a conservative network known for friendly coverage of the president. The reporter asked if Trump was confident Brown and Wheeler could “quell the protest in Oregon.”

“Many should be arrested because these are professional agitators, these are professional anarchists, these are people who hate our country,” Trump said. Brown and Wheeler are “working today and probably tomorrow to clean out this beehive of terrorists. And if they do, it I’m going to be very happy, and then slowly we can start to leave the city. If they don’t do it, we’ll be sending in the National Guard.”

Neither Trump nor federal officials have offered any evidence that professional agitators are at work. In fact, an AP analysis released Thursday found that most of the 200 people arrested during downtown Portland protests are local white people, often college students, with no previous criminal record in Oregon.


Plan to slash $600 lifeline threatens misery for millions of Americans

Republican infighting has delayed an expansion to the weekly cash benefit – so what happens if a deal can’t be reached?

July 31, 2020

by Amanda Holpuch in New York

The Guardian

For millions of unemployed Americans dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression a $600 payment each week from the government has been a vital lifeline, allowing them to keep their homes and put food on the table despite losing their jobs.

But now many of those hit hard by the economic disaster caused by the coronavirus pandemic are bracing for a steep drop in income this week as Republican party infighting delays a replacement for an expansion to weekly unemployment benefits, meaning many could have that vital lifeline cut or taken away.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Wednesday that the Democrats’ proposal to continue the program, which expires on Friday, through the end of the year was “completely unhinged”, while members of his own party criticized its proposed replacement.

Hanging in the balance of these 11th-hour negotiations are the financial livelihoods of 30 million unemployed Americans and their families, many of whom have struggled to get timely, accurate payments because of the country’s archaic unemployment infrastructure.

Jamie, a 68-year-old pilates instructor in Florida, immediately filed for unemployment when she lost her job in the first week of March. For six weeks, the unemployment office didn’t acknowledge her application so she sought the help of Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, an advocacy group.

“I hadn’t had any benefits for three months,” she said. “So, I was with zero, zero, zero, zero, zero until Legal Aid stepped in to help.”

Jamie, who did not want her last name to be used, moved out of her apartment because she couldn’t pay rent, and has been living with a relative.

In late May, she received the benefits she was entitled to, but on Wednesday her check was inexplicably less than it should have been.

“We live in a rich country that has all the resources. I think we should not have to live this way because of the pandemic,” she said. “There are other countries that are not having this problem.”

Debates about whether to renew the $600 expansion have been muddled by Republicans, and also by anecdotal news stories which claim, without data, that the money is “disincentivizing” people from going back to work. An estimated 40% to 68% of workers make more from the expansion, which is paid on top of state benefits, than they did in their jobs, but economists have found this has not deterred people from seeking work.

Those benefiting the most from the expansion are low-wage workers – the expanded benefit is equivalent to $15 an hour – and the people of color and women overrepresented in sectors with the highest unemployment rates. The Congressional Budget Office said of the 19 million workers receiving unemployment insurance in July, 47% are people of color and 53% are women.

No one has said the $600 boost is the perfect solution, but experts say a replacement must be manageable for overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

On Monday, Republicans proposed scaling back the payments to $200 a week until October. Then, states would be expected to implement a system which gives individuals 70% wage replacement, capped at $500, until the end of the year.

It could take state agencies eight to 20 weeks to implement the wage replacement scheme, according to a memo from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, obtained by Bloomberg.

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said “nothing could be more ill-conceived” than slashing the $600 benefit.

“They are asking these already underresourced and vastly overworked agencies to engage in truly extreme amounts of reprogramming of computers, taking away from current benefit delivery, for a program that lapses on December 31, 2020,” Dixon said.

Democrats, who want to extend the program until economic conditions improve, said the proposal was “totally inadequate”. At least two Republican senators have also denounced the scheme.

Republicans in Congress are also at odds with the White House about other elements of the $1tn stimulus proposal, including Donald Trump’s wish to include funding for the FBI building.

Trump said at the White House on Tuesday that he was still negotiating with Republicans over parts of the bill he opposed. “It’s sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and asks and the Republicans go with theirs,” Trump said.

Some Republicans have suggested that because of the divisions, they might have to pass more narrow legislation to address disagreements piece by piece.

In the background of these disagreements is the ongoing crisis in overwhelmed state unemployment agencies.

The legal aid attorney who helped Jamie collect unemployment, Laurie Yadoff, said though Florida’s unemployment system is working better than it did when the pandemic began, there are still many unresolved problems.

Yadoff represents about 150 people in Florida’s Broward county, just north of Miami. Her clients include people in their 80s working through the pandemic because social security doesn’t cover all their needs and people collecting as little as $54 a week in state unemployment.

She said the problems her clients face include waiting hours to speak with a representative at the unemployment office, not receiving the full payments they qualify for and simply not having their claims processed. As of Monday, 82,000 Florida resident’s claims were under review, according to its unemployment office.

Yadoff said most of her clients “just received their money either sometime at the end of May, perhaps in June, some are still getting money in July for the first time and I think some people haven’t received it yet.”

Those who have received their checks are paying back overdue rent and utility bills, paying off credit card debt and stocking up on food after going months without income.

This, said her client Jamie, is what’s missing from the discussions in Washington.

“We’re not the primary priority, we’re secondary,” Jamie said. “First comes the business, first comes this, first comes that. Other places said: take care of the people first, we’ll figure the rest out.”


Three million more guns: The Spring 2020 spike in firearm sales

July 13, 2020

by Phillip B. Levine and Robin McKnight


When Americans are concerned about their personal security, they buy firearms. Such concerns have been rampant since March, initially due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the social unrest in June that followed George Floyd’s killing. Our estimates indicate that almost three million more firearms have been sold since March than would have ordinarily been sold during these months. Half of that increase occurred in June alone. This pattern highlights an important potential consequence that may result from this tumultuous period: more firearms in the hands of private citizens.


Past spikes in firearms sales have occurred when individuals worried about possible restrictions . Following President Obama’s calls to impose modest restrictions on firearm sales in response to the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and the San Bernardino terrorist attack, sales jumped by 3 million and 1.6 million, respectively, beyond the expected level over the few months of elevated sales. Protests demanding gun control legislation led by students in Parkland, Florida, the site of the most recent high-profile school shooting, led to another spike in sales of 700,000.

The data presented here are from background checks conducted by the FBI before a firearm is sold by a licensed dealer. These data do not perfectly measure firearm sales, but they are highly correlated with sales and are commonly used by researchers. In past work, we have used these data to show that the spike in firearm sales following the Sandy Hook school shooting led to a spike in accidental firearm deaths, particularly among children.

The 2020 spike, however, is less about concerns regarding access to firearms, than personal safety. In March, concerns about personal safety arose from both a deadly new virus and an economy in free fall. By June, concerns about the virus and the economy remained, and were compounded by new evidence of racial injustice in policing, widespread protests, and discussions of defunding the police.


Daily data allows us to better identify the sources of fears about personal safety. As the following figure shows, the average daily level of firearm sales in January and February was 92,000. Within that period, daily sales varied within the range of 80,000 to 100,000 per day.

On March 13, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the next 12 days (including that day), firearm sales surged, jumping to over 120,000 per day, and peaking at 176,000 on March 16.  Over 700,000 additional firearms were sold in March.

The geographic pattern in the additional sales is not correlated with COVID-19 death rates nor with increases in unemployment rates. This suggests that the spike in firearm sales resulted from a general sense of national apprehension, rather than a response to differential deterioration in local conditions. Over the next two months, as the country settled into its new environment and even moved into a period of scheduled re-openings, firearm sales stabilized, if perhaps at a slightly higher level than earlier in the year (seasonal variation is modest during this period of the year).


Then George Floyd was killed on May 25, which started a chain of events leading to a Minneapolis police station being burned down on May 28. Protests then spread nationwide, including to Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, where the federal government forcibly removed protesters, reportedly using chemical agents and rubber bullets, on June 1. Additional protests, including clashes with police, continued for several days.


The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Anjum Usman

The Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) protocol was a project established by the Autism Research Institute, a quack organization, to promote a series of unproven and dangerous treatments for autism based largely on the scientifically discredited idea that autism is some form of “vaccine injury” or “toxicity” and/or food intolerance, and that dangerous detox therapies can help “cure” people with autism. There is a decent exposé of the project here. The project was formally closed down in 2011, but the DAN! practitioner network was continued by Dan Rossignol, who is apparently into more or less every type of autism quackery there is, and his Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS); by 2015, the organization’s online clinician directory listed 49 members in the United States, of which 33 were medical or osteopathic physicians. Interestingly, most of the latter (67%) have been subject to government actions for a variety reasons, but at least seven of them for reasons related to practices that are central to the DAN! approach, primarily administering, causing harm and even killing children with chelation therapy:

–       Roy E. Kerry, MD, whom we have met before

–       Richard E. Layton, MD

–       Seshagiri Rao, MD, for nontherapeutic prescribing, failure to secure informed consent, and fraudulent billing related to mismanagement of five children with autism or autism spectrum disorder

–       Alan Schwartz, MD, who lost his medical license due to incompetence, gross and repeated negligence, unprofessional conduct, and violating a previous probationary order

–       Stephen L. Smith, MD, charged with using unreliable diagnostic tests and failing to provide or refer patients for appropriate treatment

–       Kenneth P. Stoller, MD, whom we have also met before

–       Anjum Usman, MD

As a group, these are not practitioners you’d want anywhere near your children, but the focus of this entry is the last one on that list.

Anjum I. Usman, a self-proclaimed “autism specialist”, operates the True Health Medical Center in Naperville, Illinois, and is “board certified in family practice and in integrative and holistic medicine”. She also owns of the Pure Compounding Pharmacy, and has been the target of at least two complaints. The first complaint was for offering care that “demonstrated extreme departure from rational judgment” – settled with a consent agreement under which Usman (without admitting or denying fault) was fined $10,000 and placed on indefinite probation for a minimum of one year. The second complaint was accompanied by a civil suit, and the details of that suit might give you an impression of the kind of pseudoscience-based quackery you might encounter if you use her services, perhaps in particular her commitment to the scientifically unsupportable, deranged and dangerous quackery that is chelation therapy as a treatment for autism. Now, if you take chelation therapy and add a lot of useless vitamin supplements and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, at least you’ll have a reasonably effective recipe for making lots of cash off of the troubles of patients and caregivers, and Usman seems to have been pretty successful for a while. As a result of the complaint, she was also put under supervision, but given that the supervisor (Robert Charles Dumont) is a witch doctor an acupuncturist and member of the faculty of the Integrative Medicine Department of Northwestern University School of Medicine, one might be excused for entertaining some serious doubt about the quality of that supervision. Usman was also involved in Roy Kerry’ treatment of Tariq Nadama, being the one to diagnose the boy with high aluminum levels and referring him to Kerry.

Usman is a regular presenter at Autism One (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Autism_One), the annual gathering of vendors, providers and quasi-researchers to push various grifts and quackery on desperate parents, appearing for instance with a talk on biomed quackery in 2015. She also participated in the relatively high-profile antivaccine autism summit in Dallas in 2016, and even serves on the board of Generation Rescue

Diagnosis: Monster.


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