Tag Archives: Storm Troopers

Portland – What Do You See?

As I watch the videos and still photos of the chaos in Portland and read comments on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, I am driven to ponder: how does what I see differ so much from what others see? And why?

To a large degree, we see what we expect to see. Powerful psychological forces, largely if not entirely unconscious, control what parts of a visual field actually register as “seen” in the conscious mind. You likely have experienced this a few times. You didn’t “notice” something that someone else did notice and thought was obvious. Maybe you went looking for something in a room and didn’t “see” something else; you were puzzled when this was pointed out.

So, some of us see the videos and photos of camouflaged, unidentified “soldiers” of an unidentified federal force beating, tear gassing, pepper spraying and generally assaulting protesters who have been on the streets of Portland in the vicinity of the federal courthouse for approaching two months. Two months! Two months and no apparent plan by Portland political leadership to address the concerns that led the protesters to the streets in the first place. Based on videos I have seen, it appears that Trump’s Storm Troopers have committed multiple crimes against Portland residents: unlawful search, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, false arrest (no probable cause) and kidnapping.

Others don’t see that at all. They see only rioters trying to destroy federal and private property, anarchists and enemies of America. Communists and/or fascists and/or socialists. OMG, antifa! So, they post video of fires being set and photos of people wearing what seem to be anti-American insignia or slogans.

As an interesting aside, I think, the president of the United States does not see “fine people … on both sides,” as he did when the neo-Nazis and white supremacists/KKK marched in Charlottesville with torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Trump sees only enemies. He also sees opportunity – a chance to deflect attention away from his catastrophic failure of leadership regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is likely quite happy that Portland is such a visible powder-keg – it’s tailor-made to draw media attention away from the pandemic and the as-yet-unaddressed issue of Russian bounties to the Taliban for killing American soldiers.

To some degree we all have an agenda, perhaps not the same as Trump’s, but an agenda nonetheless. That agenda moderates what we tend to focus on from the multitude of images, accusations and claims emerging from the tumult in Portland.

At this late stage, this alignment is not likely to change. The mayor of Portland probably realized that last night when he joined the crowd to talk with the protesters, many days late and dollars short. He got tear gassed for his effort and, of course, that garnered the biggest headlines.

Step back,  on either side, a moment from the emotional engagement that is triggered by Portland and ask the question: why would all those people, mainly young but now joined by large numbers of women (calling themselves Momtifa), some of whom are pregnant, why would they behave as they are? Does any rational person think those people in Portland are all just hooligans who have been waiting all this time for an excuse to engage in violent activity, risking arrest and serious personal injury? Why is there so much anger in this group that some of them try to physically engage police and try to burn down a courthouse?

It’s easy, and entirely simplistic and simple-minded, to call them a “mob” and other names that have become popular on right-wing talk shows. Don’t those of us who are also angry, on either side, have a responsibility to address the underlying issues rather than just reacting emotionally to the video of the moment? Does anyone really approve of the violence as a long-term viable strategy for effectuating change? If you don’t, then you know that something must be done to address the reasons for the anger that led to the violence.

So, what now? Trump is sending his federal strike force to other cities to beat, tear gas, pepper spray and assault other American citizens, again on the pretext that the (usually Democratic) leadership of those cities cannot sufficiently dominate the streets on their own. We are thus likely to see Portland-like images from these other cities, as the protesters, already frustrated by the customary excuses and inaction, boil over in rage against what seems like, and almost certainly is, a gross and unconstitutional abuse of federal power. I can’t predict the future any better, and perhaps worse, than anyone else, but it’s hard to see how this is going to accomplish anything good.

The main consequence of Trump’s approach is going to be feeding more red meat to the most ravenous segment of his political base that is at once racist and hungry for new “enemies” to hate. Trump actually may benefit politically with his base by keeping the pot boiling over in the “Democrat-run cities” but at what cost to those cities and the country? He continues gaslighting the nation about imminent cures for COVID-19 with his renewed “daily briefings” while promising to suppress violence in cities that “can’t take care of their own business.” In reality, this will just produce more violence.

What, then, is the answer? I believe it must lie in a program somewhat similar to the one announced a while back by Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the outpouring of protests across the country and the world, Cuomo told the cities/towns of New York State: get your act together, enlist the interested parties, sit down with a blank slate and redesign your public safety/public health services in a way that makes sense to you in the local affected community and submit your plan with a budget by April. OR, lose state funding. Cuomo’s approach respects local autonomy, creates strong incentives for joint action and has a definitive timeline for outcomes. Whether local political and other leaders have the skills needed to negotiate new arrangements remains to be seen, but this is a model that at least makes sense as a path forward.

I don’t have enough information about why exactly Portland has become the hotspot for protests, but it seems that the reform process has stalled there. It was good of the mayor to finally come out to engage the protesters, but photo ops among the tear gas are not a solution to what ails the police force in Portland or elsewhere. Recognizing the additional challenges that comes with the pandemic, we cannot have this be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Local governments must rise to the occasion or risk mass carnage inflicted by both angry citizens and federal storm troopers led by unhinged politicians looking to exploit the situation for personal political gain.

The longer the protests go on, the greater the frustration at the lack of progress and the greater the risk of more violence. Unlike prior cases, these protests seem unlikely to punch themselves out. It’s time – well past time – for political leadership to step in, displace the over-reaching of the president and start the process of real and powerful reform. The people are not going to accept the routine continuation of police brutality as the norm in American society.

ICYMI – Part 5 [The Land of Oz]

The best hope for the country’s survival until Trump can be removed may lie in the inescapable fact that, like Trump himself, his administration is populated with some of the least competent grifters in history. Trump and his acting (like most Trump appointees) Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf don’t have the same understanding of why a federal force was sent to subdue Portland’s protesters:

While Trump said he sent federal law enforcement officers in to restore order, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said federal agents were in Portland primarily to protect federal buildings like the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which had become a target for protesters. [emphasis added]

[https://bit.ly/3hm1gcW] Trump’s administration remarkably resembles the Keystone Kops of comic book fame. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder why the mayor of Portland cannot initiate a meaningful process involving BLM leaders, among others, to address the concerns that led to the protests. Until that happens, it appears that the turmoil in Portland will continue (assuming Trump does not order his paramilitary forces to start shooting the protesters).

While there is much unknown about the federal assault on Portland, the evidence so far suggests the federal presence has led to escalation in violence, unlawful assaults and arrests by “police” and severe injuries to some protesters. Of course, it’s also true there has been property damage and that is unlawful and, in my view, counterproductive. On the other hand, as I tweeted earlier today, the solution is not physical suppression. If there is a solution at this late stage, it lies in the government addressing in a meaningful substantive way the reasons the protests started.

In related news regarding the federal invasion of Portland, retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore was reported to have said “”Police don’t do this. Watch this, what kind of b—-t is this?!” He added that Chad Wolf needs “to be run out of Washington. He has no business in charge of Homeland Security.” https://fxn.ws/30zUeus

Trump’s Storm  Troopers arrived in Columbus, Ohio and dragged at least one protester off the street into an unmarked vehicle. https://bit.ly/2CyjGIw These “officers” show no outward identification other than “police” on their other clothing. They brandish automatic weapons and threaten onlookers to “stay back.” This conduct is blatantly unlawful and must be stopped through intervention by the courts. I understand ACLU has filed suit. The Trump administration is responsible for these unconstitutional “arrests” in which no probable cause is stated and no Miranda warnings are given.

In a statement inexplicably reported by the Washington Post as an “apology,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “disgusting” and a “fuc*ing bitch” during an unplanned encounter on the Capitol steps, denied “offensive name-calling” [is there another kind?] He admitted to the “strife I injected into the already contentious Congress,” but his “apology” referred only to the “abrupt manner of the conversation.” In a masterpiece of linguistic legerdemain, Yoho said, “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding.” Thus, Yoho does not deny that he said the words, just that he didn’t say them “to my colleague,” and his apology then only relates to someone else’s mistake in attributing the implicitly admitted statements as directed at AOC. Uh huh.

According to WAPO, and in a replay of the classic Republican response to situations like this, “Yoho appeared to become emotional as he described what he said was his experience with poverty, recounting that he and his wife used food stamps early in their marriage.” https://wapo.st/2X2ZW7d And, of course, the final Republican flourish, ““I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

Trump would be proud of this performance: His playbook says, “When caught, never actually apologize; deflect, then bring up God and country.” Another interesting aspect of this encounter is that Rep. Roger Williams (Tex.), could hear some of the exchange, but in classic Republican mode, he demurred by claiming he was not paying attention to the confrontation because he was so engrossed in  thinking about issues in his district. The Republican Party should rebrand itself as the Stepford People.

While on the subject of clarity, a favorite, I was stunned the other day to read this in a WAPO news report subtitle: “Kathy Spletstoser is suing Gen. John Hyten for alleged sexual assault in federal court.” Admittedly, the report appeared in Apple News and the subtitle does not appear on WashingtonPost.com [see https://wapo.st/2CUU1Kb ], but the formatting suggests the subtitle was not invented by Apple News. Sooo, first, the allegation is not that the “alleged sexual assault” occurred “in federal court.” Second, and more important,  Col. Splestoser (Army, Retired) is not suing for “alleged sexual assault.” She is suing for “sexual assault,” which at the pleading stage is still just an allegation, but there is no offense (civil, criminal or military) of “alleged sexual assault.” One does not sue for relief from “alleged sexual assault.”

I understand this may be a pretty fine point. But we are in an era in which the so-called Main Stream Media is under attack by the government and is not trusted by a shockingly high percentage of the population. A recent online poll – I don’t much trust polls – by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and The Harris Poll found that “41% of Americans believe the news media are the “enemy of the people.” It is therefore particularly important that the real media (aka the MSM) be clear and as specific as possible in reporting news. People are easily confused by legal  and scientific language (witness the ongoing squabble over the difference between “total tests” and “tests per capita.” Trump does not know the difference and apparently many others don’t either. The  media need to be careful. This is one of the roles of editors. Do we still have editors?

On the merits of Col. Splestoser’s six sexual assault claims, the article reveals some shocking information about the military justice system:

The Justice Department attorneys representing Hyten have cited numerous rape and sexual assault cases that have been blocked over the years, including one in which the court said that “while the acts of sexual harassment served no military purpose, they were incident to” the plaintiff’s military service. Another says “even sexual misconduct can be within the scope of employment” in the military. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, no specific cases are cited for these points and, not being versed in military law, I can’t address them. But, if accurate, these are genuinely astounding principles to operate in a modern military of the United States. Perhaps yet another example of how far we have to go in achieving the aspiring heights to which the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and basic morality call us. It is hard to understand why independent investigation of these types of charges is not required.

Our boy Matt Gaetz is in the news again with ethics issues. https://politi.co/2BnMdQx

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office [“at or below market rate”] from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client.

Naturally, Gaetz denies wrongdoing, claims everything was above board, no worries. Trumpworld in action. Read the article if you want a good, but ultimately depressing, laugh.

On a more positive note, the House has voted (with 72 Republicans joining – ooooh, Trump’s not gonna like that) to remove all the Confederate statues from the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md  observed that “Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty.” Meanwhile, back at the KKK rally, President Trump lost his appetite at the thought that traitors would no longer be honored in the nation’s capitol. But, maybe he doesn’t have to worry too much. The bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled Senate must be considered iffy in light of this disgraceful statement from Majority Leader McConnell:

What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery  [https://bit.ly/2CUzZiN]

Mitch McConnell — defender of liberty, as long as you’re white, and standing firmly behind the “principles” of the 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICYMI – Part 4

In keeping with the Trump ethnic cleansing policy, the administration announced that all “foreign” college students whose schools are planning purely online instruction for the next school year must leave the United States. https://nyti.ms/2ZOCb33 Trump and neo-Nazi Stephen Miller will stop at nothing to remove as many non-white people as possible from the United States.

The full impact on the students and schools is not known because not all colleges have firmed up plans re online versus attended classes. However, “vocational program students and English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online” so those students’ access to US higher education is effectively being terminated. The revenue streams from those students (potentially numbering hundreds of thousands) will, of course, also be lost to higher education. Since Trump’s “education” was a complete waste, he apparently doesn’t care what happens to American colleges and universities as long as he can strike a blow for an all-white America.

BUT Harvard and MIT are not taking this lying down. They have sued to block the action. https://cnn.it/2Co23uQ and have been joined by other universities.

UPDATE: For reasons not made clear, in less than one week, the Trump administration, aka the Katzenjammer Kids and/or the Keystone Kops, reversed its decision to force foreign students to leave or be deported. https://cnn.it/2CPyFxL But stay tuned. The neo-Nazis advising Trump are not deterred.

Trump’s Storm Troopers descended on Portland OR wearing camo outfits with no outward identification and used flash-bang grenades and tear gas to facilitate “arrests” of peaceful protestors without charges or Miranda warnings, using unmarked vans and generally behaving like the Stasi, the feared secret police force in communist East Germany. This “federal help” was imposed over objections from Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor and, on the face of it, seem to have made the conflict on the streets of Portland worse rather than better. Trump is promising to send more such “help” to various cities he has deemed unable to defend themselves against protestors demanding more just policing and removal of racist statues and symbols from public view.

Trump seeks to strangle COVID testing programs by withholding funds because the surge in infections and deaths is, he rightly believes, imperiling his chances for re-election. His personal political goal is more important to him than the health of the people he took an oath to protect. Following what we hope will be his overwhelming defeat in November, Trump may well face charges of crimes against humanity, among other offenses committed during his term.

Trump has suggested he will not accept any election outcome in which he is not the winner. He was squarely asked more than once in a Fox interview and said, “I’ll have to see.” Meanwhile, he continues to complain that any form of voting except in-person will result in a rigged election. That, despite his own use of mail-in ballots and their use by multiple states with no evidence of meaningful fraud issues. The Post Office, whose funding Trump also wants to cut, will surely face challenges in handling the increase in mail traffic but given the past decline in postal use due to electronic communications, it seems implausible that this is an issue that can’t be resolved within the months before the election. Unless, of course, Trump doesn’t want to solve it but wants to cripple the agency responsible for mail ballot transmission to bring about the very problem about which he claims to be so concerned.

Despite Florida’s attempt to doctor the data, COVID cases and deaths continued to spike there and through most of the states outside the northeast. https://tmsnrt.rs/3eKvmVP Trump, however, using his customary word-salad, continued to claim that the virus will soon just disappear:

“We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame-like, but it’s – it’s going to be under control.”

Trump on “Fox News Sunday” repeated his assertion that the virus would eventually disappear.

“I’ll be right eventually,” he said. “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”

https://reut.rs/30x0OBB

It is well known and widely discussed by many people that Trump is always right. Many people. Bigly. A grateful nation must appreciate these reassuring words from their leader. (thick sarcasm for those who don’t recognize it).

In the least important news, Kanye West, who had previously announced he was running for president, then announced he had suspended his campaign, has now apparently decided, in his best imitation of a human pinball machine, he is running after all. He has missed qualifying on many state ballots and the entire enterprise seems like a sick joke that is not remotely funny. Despite his manifest lack of qualifications, even more so than Donald Trump, West has a large, and like Trump, inexplicable following of people who would actual waste their votes on him. Some of us don’t even think he’s a decent musician, and he certainly cannot do anything but muck up an already problematic campaign situation for the nation’s highest office. It is equally inexplicable that news media think this is a newsworthy story and continue to provide oxygen for what should be ignored.

In multiple disturbing videos, the New York City Police Department is shown to have used unreasonable and unnecessary violent force against protesters in the recent demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd. Be advised that the videos in this New York Times report are extremely violent: https://nyti.ms/39bNNBs NYPD says it used restraint, which is ludicrous gaslighting in the reality shown in the video.

Equally disturbing video shows an individual painting black paint over the Black Lives Matter street mural that was placed on 5th Avenue by the city in front of Trump Tower. NYPD officers purport to be trying to stop her but this one woman is somehow, while crawling on all fours, able to manhandle the officers and continue what the defacement. https://bit.ly/39cMIJK  Later she posted this message on Twitter stating that she was treated “like royalty” by the police who actually approved of what she was doing and thus it may be concluded that their faux “arrest” was just for show. https://bit.ly/3jnlp43 The city has some explaining to do.