Things are getting real now. Trump sent unidentified federal troops into Portland, Oregon to illegally abduct peaceful protesters, force them into unmarked cars, and transport them to secret locations. Now he is threatening to send his goons into more cities and states led by Democratic mayors and governors. This is a giant step toward fascism.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun.
The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy.
One of Snyder’s lessons was, “Be wary of paramilitaries.” He wrote, “When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.” In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening.
According to a lawsuit filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, on Friday, federal agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles” since at least last Tuesday. The protesters are neither arrested nor told why they’re being held.
There’s no way to know the affiliation of all the agents — they’ve been wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” — but The Times reported that some of them are part of a specialized Border Patrol group “that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations.”
Why Trump chose the Border Control to act as his personal secret police:
“It doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump picked C.B.P. to be the ones to go over to Portland and do this,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, told me. “It has been a very problematic agency in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of respecting the law.”
It is true that C.B.P. is not an extragovernmental militia, and so might not fit precisely into Snyder’s “On Tyranny” schema. But when I spoke to Snyder on Monday, he suggested the distinction isn’t that significant. “The state is allowed to use force, but the state is allowed to use force according to rules,” he said. These agents, operating outside their normal roles, are by all appearances behaving lawlessly.
Snyder pointed out that the history of autocracy offers several examples of border agents being used against regime enemies.
“This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire,” said Snyder. “The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.”
When Mark Pettibone was detained by armed camouflage-clad officers and forced into an unmarked van last week, he says he had no idea what was happening to him.
Pettibone, 29, is one of several protesters in Portland, Ore., who say they’ve have been arrested by militarized federal agents in recent weeks.
The officers were deployed by the Department of Homeland Security to help the Federal Protection Service protect federal buildings and statues from protesters who have been demonstrating against police brutality.
The so-called “rapid deployment teams” have been seen sporting military-style fatigues with the word “Police” on them, but no badge numbers or identifying information. They include members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, according to the New York Times.
Portland’s mayor has called their presence unconstitutional and demanded the federal government remove them from his city.
But DHS and U.S. President Donald Trump have both defended the move, and refused to back down. Trump suggested Monday he may soon deploy more officers to confront protesters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, noting the cities’ mayors are “liberal Democrats.”
Read and/or listen to the interview with Pettibone at the link.
Yesterday the Chicago Tribune reported that Trump’s storm troopers will be sent to Chicago next: Trump expected to send new federal force to Chicago this week to battle violence, but plan’s full scope is a question mark.
Chicago may see an influx of federal agents as soon as this week as President Donald Trump readies to make good on repeated pledges he would try to tamp down violence here, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for example, is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to the city this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned.
The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing — and what their limits would be — had not been made public.
DHS in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the Department of Justice indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.
One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters.
Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland, Oregon, has raised alarm in many circles. Chicago, too, has dealt with protests that have led to injuries in recent days.
The New York Times: Trump Threatens to Send Federal Law Enforcement Forces to More Cities.
President Trump plans to deploy federal law enforcement to Chicago and threatened on Monday to send agents to other major cities — all controlled by Democrats.
Governors and other officials reacted angrily to the president’s move, calling it an election-year ploy as they squared off over crime, civil liberties and local control that has spread from Portland, Ore., across the country.
With camouflage-clad agents already sweeping through the streets of Portland, more units were poised to head to Chicago, and Mr. Trump suggested that he would follow suit in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and other urban centers. Governors and other officials compared his actions to authoritarianism and vowed to pursue legislation or lawsuits to stop him….
The president portrayed the nation’s cities as out of control. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”
Democrats said the president was the one out of control. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would introduce legislation to limit the role of federal agents in cities like Portland. “This isn’t just an Oregon crisis,” he said. “It’s an American crisis. We need to stop Trump before this spreads.”
He added, “We won’t let these authoritarian tactics stand.”
Read the rest at the NYT.
Last week, people wearing combat fatigues were seen pulling apparently peaceful protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and hustling them into unmarked vehicles. Their uniforms carried no identifying insignia, but they were clearly military uniforms. Based on the video evidence so far, the people being arrested were not engaged in crime. So we are faced with two questions. First, are these people military personnel, or are they police officers dressed up like soldiers? Second, do these people have the authority to sweep people off the street like this?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the answer to the first question is that the force patrolling the streets of Portland consists of the Federal Protective Service, whose job it is to protect federal property. Personnel from other federal agencies—principally the Border Patrol—have also reportedly been deputized to assist in that mission. So these uniformed personnel are a militarized police force, which is always a dangerous thing. The answer to the second question is that, under the Fourth Amendment, this force does not have the authority to detain people like this. But government lawyers will rely on expansive theories of police power that cripple Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizures. This would not be the first time the federal government has tried this, though it appears to be one of the first targeting people exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
The Federal Protective Service has the authority to make arrests “if the officer or agent has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony.” If that doesn’t sound right to you, it shouldn’t. People can’t be arrested unless the arresting officer has probable cause—not merely reasonable grounds—to believe a crime has been committed or is underway. That’s required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which presumptively prohibits seizures without probable cause.
Read the rest of the legal argument at Slate.
More galloping authoritarianism stories to check out:
Philadelphia Inquirer: Kenney and Krasner Slam Trump After President Threatens to Send Feds to Philly.
Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer: Trump’s made-for-TV fascism in Portland won’t get him reelected. It may get someone killed.
Take care and have courage, Sky Dancers!
Before I get to today’s news, I want to call attention to this investigative article in The New Yorker on legal elderly abuse. The author, Rachel Aviv, deeply researched the guardianship system in Nevada, but this apparently happens in other states as well. It’s a long read, but well worth it, especially for those of us who have elderly parents–and who are getting older ourselves.
For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.”
Rennie, his wife of fifty-seven years, was slower to rise. She was recovering from lymphoma and suffered from neuropathy so severe that her legs felt like sausages. Each morning, she spent nearly an hour in the bathroom applying makeup and lotions, the same brands she’d used for forty years. She always emerged wearing pale-pink lipstick. Rudy, who was prone to grandiosity, liked to refer to her as “my amour.”
On the Friday before Labor Day, 2013, the Norths had just finished their toast when a nurse, who visited five times a week to help Rennie bathe and dress, came to their house, in Sun City Aliante, an “active adult” community in Las Vegas. They had moved there in 2005, when Rudy, a retired consultant for broadcasters, was sixty-eight and Rennie was sixty-six. They took pride in their view of the golf course, though neither of them played golf.
Rudy chatted with the nurse in the kitchen for twenty minutes, joking about marriage and laundry, until there was a knock at the door. A stocky woman with shiny black hair introduced herself as April Parks, the owner of the company A Private Professional Guardian. She was accompanied by three colleagues, who didn’t give their names. Parks told the Norths that she had an order from the Clark County Family Court to “remove” them from their home. She would be taking them to an assisted-living facility. “Go and gather your things,” she said.
Rennie began crying. “This is my home,” she said.
One of Parks’s colleagues said that if the Norths didn’t comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You’re going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue.
Parks drove a Pontiac G-6 convertible with a license plate that read “crtgrdn,” for “court guardian.” In the past twelve years, she had been a guardian for some four hundred wards of the court. Owing to age or disability, they had been deemed incompetent, a legal term that describes those who are unable to make reasoned choices about their lives or their property. As their guardian, Parks had the authority to manage their assets, and to choose where they lived, whom they associated with, and what medical treatment they received. They lost nearly all their civil rights.
That’s just the introduction. I hope you’ll go read the rest.
The Las Vegas gun massacre continues to dominate the news. I’d like to recommend a couple of positive articles coming out of the horror. You may have read this one by Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post already, but just in case: Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.
Up-and-coming country star Luke Combs had just started his set on the smaller of the two festival stages when Kody Robertson, an auto parts salesman from Columbus, Ohio, squeezed in at the end of the bar next to Michelle Vo, an insurance agent from Los Angeles.
The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.
A longtime country music fan, Robertson was in Vegas with a group of friends and told Vo about the fun they’d had at last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival. Vo replied that she’d only recently fallen for the genre; this was her first festival. She was here alone. By the time the night’s final act took the main stage, the fast friends had settled into a spot about 20 yards from the right side of the stage, nestled between a few cuddly married couples and a rambunctious bachelorette party.
It was 10:08 p.m. Robertson and Vo searched the air for the fireworks they assumed they were hearing. Then came a second burst: indiscriminate gunfire hailing from a 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Screams punctuated the pop-pop-pop. Jason Aldean, the headline act, ran from the stage. A bullet pierced the left side of Vo’s chest.
“She got hit and I turned and saw her immediately fall to the ground,” Robertson recalls. “She was literally right beside me, maybe two feet away.”
Robertson threw his body on top of hers as a shield from the bullets and, when the firing finally seemed to stop, worked with another man to carry Vo out of the venue — pausing for cover each time the gunfire resumed.
Robertson could have just left it there, but instead he recovered Vo’s purse and cell phone and embarked on a long search to find Michelle as well as communicating with her family. If you haven’t read it already, please do. Lowery’s writing is just brilliant.
The Daily Beast: Unarmed Security Guard Took On Las Vegas Killer Stephen Paddock.
LAS VEGAS—Jesus Campos had no firearm when he found Stephen Paddockand approached his room on the 32rd floor of Mandalay Bay on Sunday night.
Paddock, who had rigged cameras in the hallway and on the peephole of the door, saw Campos coming and fired through the door, hitting him in the leg, said Dave Hickey, president of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America. The union represents Campos and hundreds of security guards at Mandalay Bay.
When Campos was hit, he radioed casino dispatch and told them his location—and Paddock’s.
“We received information via their dispatch center…that helped us locate where this individual was sequestered,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday.
When Campos first arrived on the 32nd floor, he did so by elevator because Paddock had somehow blocked stairwell doors leading to the hallway outside of his room, Hickey said. The door to the room itself was also barricaded, Campos found when he tried to open it, just before the bullets came through the door.
Police officers subsequently approached the room and were met with 200 rounds from Paddock, Lombardo said on Wednesday night. Police fell back until SWAT arrived.
Campos, wounded, stayed on the floor and even went door-to-door, clearing rooms with police, Lombardo said, until he was ordered to leave because he was wounded.
Click on the link to read the rest. Here are a few more stories you might want to check out.
The New York Times: Las Vegas Shooting: Investigators Grapple With Gunman’s ‘Secret Life’
Las Vegas Journal-Review: Las Vegas Strip shooter targeted aviation fuel tanks, source says.
The massacre in Las Vegas has completely overshadowed the Puerto Rico crisis in the headlines, but the situation there is still dire. NPR reports: 112 Degrees With No Water: Puerto Rican Hospitals Battle Life And Death Daily.
Every day across Puerto Rico, with its shattered power grid, hospitals are waging a life-and-death battle to keep their patients from getting sicker in the tropical heat. Now two weeks after the storm, about three-quarters of Puerto Rico’s hospitals remain on emergency power. This creates dangerous conditions for critically ill patients.
At the Pavia Arecibo Hospital, about an hour west of San Juan, administrator Jose Luis Rodriguez wipes sweat from his worried brow. “We don’t have any air conditioning,” he says. “We can handle maybe a week, but it’s already been two weeks almost.”
The government calls them “indirect deaths” – those who died after the violent storm: heart attack victims, people on kidney dialysis machines that failed, people who fell off roofs inspecting storm damage, and people killed in auto accidents on highways made more treacherous from Maria’s destruction.
“So far after the storm we have had 49 dead bodies,” says Rodriguez. Earlier this week, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the official fatality figure for Hurricane Maria from 16 people to 34. But with unofficial reports like the one from Arecibo, that number is expected to rise.
More at the link.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two weeks after Hurricane Maria toppled Puerto Rico’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems, medical officials said the island’s health system is “on life support.”
Among the multiple impacts that have left the island’s medical system deeply damaged:
-Patients are dying because of complications related to the primitive conditions and difficult transportation issues so many island residents now endure.
-A lack of transportation in small towns makes it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.
-An administrator in a small-town hospital has to drive her car to an ambulance company a mile away to ask for a patient to be transferred to a larger hospital.
– Severe lack of communications on the island has resulted in less triage and coordination between hospitals, and more patients arriving at large medical centers than usual, which has stretched capacity.
-Doctors are afraid to discharge patients after surgery to places with unsanitary conditions and where care and transportation may not exist, adding strain to an already strained system.
Other stories of possible interest:
This is turning out to be a link dump, because there is so much news. I haven’t even gotten to the latest stories on the Russia investigation, and I’m running out of space. Some links to explore:
Talking Points Memo: Russia Appeared To Target Wisconsin’s Elections Body Via A Banner Or Popup Ad.
Politico: Trump pushes for Senate intel panel probe of ‘Fake News Networks’ in U.S. (What a moron!)
What else is happening? What stories are you following?
I thought we’d made some progress since J Edgar Hoover headed the FBI, but maybe not. This is a really disturbing story I heard as I listened to today’s show from Democracy Now. You may recall that the FBI raided homes of peace activists in Minnesota and Chicago back in September. Here’s one of those villainous peace activists from back then.
Most of these folks are aligned with Palestinian solidarity groups. In the fall, subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on 13 of the activists. The subpoenas were later withdrawn when the activists asserted their fifth amendment rights. Many of us thought the situation had ended there. We were wrong. Three of those people who were the subject of raids were reissued subpoenas earlier this month. (Happy Holidays!! Peace On Earth!!!) Democracy Now picks up the story with an additional subpoena that was issued to a “Chicago-based activist and journalist involved in Palestinian solidarity work—at least the 23rd person subpoenaed since September”.
I found some information on a peace rally in front of the Dirksen Federal Building this month in Chicago from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. (Yeah, that HAS to be a terrorist group!) It’s dated December 9, 2010. This piece not only mentions the Palestinian solidarity connections but also Colombian connections.
A group of about 100 activists braved frigid temperatures to protest the latest round of FBI subpoenas in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Monday night.
The FBI issues summons to appear before a federal grand jury to three college students Friday. They are scheduled to appear on Jan. 25, said their attorney Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild. The women are being targeted because they traveled to the Palestinian occupied territory of the West Bank, he added.
The new subpoenas bring to 17 the number of activists throughout the Midwest that have been targeted by the FBI for their Palestinian and Colombian solidarity work.
Amy Goodman’s piece at Democracy Now has more details. (Shameless Plug: Please PLEASE keep Democracy Now on your charitable giving list). Notice there’s also a recent Supreme Court decision that has put peace activities in the FBI’s cross hairs.
All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that’s critical of U.S. foreign policy. Details on the grand jury case remain scarce, but the subpoenas cited federal law prohibiting, quote, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups that said some of its provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist groups about nonviolent activities.
I have to admit that I have a particular interest in this because I have an FBI file from the 1970s. They actually read my mail coming to my dorm room. It was because I was a member of the University of Nebraska’s University Women’s Action Group and was actively working to change the state’s “rape” law at the time and to get sexual assault and battery crimes moved out of property crimes divisions in police departments and into major crime units. Some one broke into the car of the NOW State Coordinator, took her mailing list, and suddenly, all of us noticed that our mail never made it to us without ever having a broken envelope seal. It was bizarre. It didn’t last long because I think at some point either Ford or Carter must’ve put an end to it. Nixon was even out of office by that time. Believe me, I was hardly a radical or a threat at the time. I thought the ‘thought police’ thing had kind’ve gone by the wayside after the Nixon/Ford years but, boy does that seem to be a wrong assessment.
So, Amy Goodman interviewed several of the people involved in the recent FBI and grand jury activity. Here’s an account of the recent ordeal by Peace Activist Tracy Holm.
Right now, our individual lawyers are being called into meetings with the District Attorney, Fox, in Chicago. They’re essentially trying to scare us into talking, to naming names and giving them a case against the movement and against the people that we have worked with historically to fight for justice for the people of Palestine and the people of Colombia.
I’m really curious about the Colombia thing. Do you know of any suicide bombers, etc. from Colombia? So, the interview continues by bringing in “Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent who was named by Time Magazine Woman of the Year for her exposure of the problems in intelligence by the FBI pre-9/11″. She is interviewed by Juan Gonzalez.
Well, you know, after 9/11, we almost—there was a green light put on, and there was a very big blurring between protest, civil disobedience and terrorism. And you saw this in many ways. The door was open to basically targeting, without any level of factual justification, advocacy groups. And again, this began pretty quickly after 9/11.
It’s gotten to the point now, nine years later—and I wanted to mention the Washington Post is doing a pretty good job of exposing this, this top-secret America, this monitoring. Their most recent article in the Washington Post says there’s a hundred—the FBI has 164,000 suspicious activity reports. Again, these are things that just have no level of factual justification, that people call in, and the FBI is now keeping records on people. So, I think that, you know, this case will just be the start of targeting various groups like this.
Are we now back in the place that we were in the 1970s where just being an activist for Social Justice gets you onto some one’s radar? Because, if we are, I’m thinking my email and mail are going to be read again. Does this trouble you the way it troubles me?
Several commenters have been discussing Obama’s role as a community organizer. Some have already put up links in the comments. I’ll add all links to this post so we have a collection of information on this topic.
According to this article in The Nation, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985, a little more than a year after he graduated from Columbia University in NYC. He was 24 years old. He was hired by Jerry Kellman, a Chicago organizer, to lead the Developing Communities Project (DCP), which would target African American neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side by working with African American churches in the area. During Obama’s time as a community organizer, Harold Washington was serving as Chicago’s first black mayor. This was a source of hope and inspiration for Obama and other blacks and progressives in the city. Read the rest of this entry »