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For The Record  

FTR #1013 Fascism and the Politics of Immigration

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Waffen SS: The GOP’s idea of ideal immigrants.

Introduction: In The Hitler LegacyPeter Levenda noted anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia as part of “The Hitler Legacy.”

Fear of “the other” has been a staple of fascist thought and is dominating much of the political discourse on both sides of the Atlantic.

In FTR #838, Levenda discoursed on how immigration from Europe, both Catholic  and Jewish,  melded with other events in the post-World War I period to mobilize fascist sentiment and activism.

Reacting to the advent of the Soviet Union, abortive Marxist revolutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, large scale immigration of Catholics from Ireland and Italy and Jews from Eastern Europe, powerful elements of the U.S. power elite embraced fascism and eugenics ideology.

With the onset of the Great Depression, the potential threat of Communism was magnified in the eyes of many powerful American industrialists, financiers and corporate lawyers. Germany’s success in putting down the Marxist revolutions within its own borders, as well as the business relationships between corporate Germany and its cartel partners in the U.S. business community inclined many influential American reactionaries to support fascism.

By the same token, these same elements came to despise Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “Jew Deal,” as it was called by his enemies. American Jews were seen as hiring Jewish immigrants and thus denying “real Americans” jobs and economic well-being.

Attacking Roosevelt as a Jew and a Communist, American fascists embraced a cognitive and rhetorical position not unlike the view of Barack Obama as a “Kenyan Muslim,” and, consequently, a “traitor.”

Some key points in Peter’s analysis are explored a section of the book titled the “Origins of 21st Century Conflict.” Highlights of this part of the program include:

  • Analyzing the abortive socialist revolutions that took place in Germany at the end of the First World War, Peter notes the role of the Freikorps and related institutions in suppressing those revolts. In particular, a number of overlapping Pan-German occult organizations, including the Thule Gesellschaft, contributed to the substance of German reaction in the post-World War I period.
  • In the United States, the Bolshevik Revolution produced a spate of anti-Communist organizations that saw Marxism’s advocacy of a workers’ revolution as a fundamental threat to the existing order.
  • Marx’s Jewish background–in tandem with large Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe–fed a doctrinaire anti-Semitism which fused with anti-Communism to become a key element of fascist ideology in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
  • The program set forth how Bolshevism, immigration and anti-Semitism fused to become a theory of “global conspiracy.”
  • We highlight the role in the formation of this ideology of Darwin’s theories and eugenics, both in the U.S. and in Germany. (In particular, we discuss the impact of Irish and Italian Catholic immigration as well as Jewish immigration on the consciousness of elements of the American power elite.) We also detail how National Socialists came to view their role in shaping the evolution of homo sapiens.
  • The Depression and FDR’s New Deal and their effects on many of those same elements of the Power Elite.
  • Hate-mongering that labeled FDR as a “Jew” and a “Communist”–similar to anti-Obama rhetoric portraying him as a Muslim and a traitor.
  • Atavism–the longing for a “simpler time” and its manifestations both in the 1930’s and presently.

In FTR #864, recorded in September of 2015, Peter updated the context of our discussion from March of that year in the context of Donald Trump’s lead in the GOP primary struggle and the reaction sweeping Europe.

Immigration dominated the news that fall and has continued to do so. The flood of refugees from the wars in the Middle East threatened to overwhelm European infrastructure and the phenomenon dominated the political debate in the GOP primary election campaign. Donald Trump capitalized on anti-immigrant xenophobia during the primary and then the presidential campaign.

Of course, he continues to do so today.

In The Hitler LegacyPeter noted anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia as part of “The Hitler Legacy.”

Fear of “the other” has been a staple of fascist thought and has dominated much of the political discourse on both sides of the Atlantic.

“. . . Xenophobia is at an all-time high in Europe and increasingly in America. The Internet has provided new and improved means of communication. . . .

As the political life of every country becomes more and more polarized between “right” and “left,” the men of ODESSA can only laugh at our discomfort. . . .”

Next, we turn to a more recent development.

Melania Trump garnered considerable media attention when she visited a detention center for immigrants, including children, wearing a jacket that said “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?”

Tasteless on its surface, the statement assumes added significance when we factor in the fact that  “I don’t care” (“Me Ne Frego” in Italian) was an important fascist slogan.

Furthermore, the Zara company that made Melania’s jacket has a history of marketing garments with fascist/racist overtones. It marketed a shirt that mimicked a concentration camp inmate’s garb and a swastika-enlaid handbag. It also marketed a Pepe The Frog skirt.

Recent comments by Trump disparaging Haiti as a “shithole” country and pining for immigration from Norway instead warrant a fresh look at the Crusade For Freedom.

During Trump’s brief tenure as President, the media have consistently lamented his actions as idiosyncrasies. Trump’s policies are not his alone, but follow in a linear path, along which the GOP has traveled for decades.

In this post, we review the Crusade For Freedom–the covert operation that brought Third Reich alumni into the country and also supported their guerrilla warfare in Eastern Europe, conducted up until the early 1950’s. Conceived by Allen Dulles, overseen by Richard Nixon, publicly represented by Ronald Reagan and realized in considerable measure by William Casey, the CFF ultimately evolved into a Nazi wing of the GOP.

“. . . . Vice President Nixon’s secret political war of Nazis against Jews in American politics was never investigated at the time. The foreign language-speaking Croatians and other Fascist émigré groups had a ready-made network for contacting and mobilizing the Eastern European ethnic bloc. There is a very high correlation between CIA domestic subsidies to Fascist ‘freedom fighters’ during the 1950’s and the leadership of the Republican Party’s ethnic campaign groups. The motive for the under-the-table financing was clear: Nixon used Nazis to offset the Jewish vote for the Democrats. . . .

. . . . In 1952, Nixon had formed an Ethnic Division within the Republican National Committee. Displaced fascists, hoping to be returned to power by an Eisenhower-Nixon ‘liberation’ policy signed on with the committee. In 1953, when Republicans were in office, the immigration laws were changed to admit Nazis, even members of the SS. They flooded into the country. Nixon himself oversaw the new immigration program. . . .”

1. In FTR #838, Peter Levenda discoursed on how immigration from Europe, both Catholic  and Jewish,  melded with other events in the post-World War I period to mobilize fascist sentiment and activism.

Reacting to the advent of the Soviet Union, abortive Marxist revolutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, large scale immigration of Catholics from Ireland and Italy and Jews from Eastern Europe, powerful elements of the U.S. power elite embraced fascism and eugenics ideology.

With the onset of the Great Depression, the potential threat of Communism was magnified in the eyes of many powerful American industrialists, financiers and corporate lawyers. Germany’s success in putting down the Marxist revolutions within its own borders, as well as the business relationships between corporate Germany and its cartel partners in the U.S. business community inclined many influential American reactionaries to support fascism.

By the same token, these same elements came to despise Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “Jew Deal,” as it was called by his enemies. American Jews were seen as hiring Jewish immigrants and thus denying “real Americans” jobs and economic well-being.

Attacking Roosevelt as a Jew and a Communist, American fascists embraced a cognitive and rhetorical position not unlike the view of Barack Obama as a “Kenyan Muslim,” and, consequently, a “traitor.”

Some key points in Peter’s analysis are explored a section of the book titled the “Origins of 21st Century Conflict.” Highlights of this part of the program include:

  • Analyzing the abortive socialist revolutions that took place in Germany at the end of the First World War, Peter notes the role of the Freikorps and related institutions in suppressing those revolts. In particular, a number of overlapping Pan-German occult organizations, including the Thule Gesellschaft, contributed to the substance of German reaction in the post-World War I period.
  • In the United States, the Bolshevik Revolution produced a spate of anti-Communist organizations that saw Marxism’s advocacy of a workers’ revolution as a fundamental threat to the existing order.
  • Marx’s Jewish background–in tandem with large Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe–fed a doctrinaire anti-Semitism which fused with anti-Communism to become a key element of fascist ideology in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
  • The program set forth how Bolshevism, immigration and anti-Semitism fused to become a theory of “global conspiracy.”
  • We highlight the role in the formation of this ideology of Darwin’s theories and eugenics, both in the U.S. and in Germany. (In particular, we discuss the impact of Irish and Italian Catholic immigration as well as Jewish immigration on the consciousness of elements of the American power elite.) We also detail how National Socialists came to view their role in shaping the evolution of homo sapiens.
  • The Depression and FDR’s New Deal and their effects on many of those same elements of the Power Elite.
  • Hate-mongering that labeled FDR as a “Jew” and a “Communist”–similar to anti-Obama rhetoric portraying him as a Muslim and a traitor.
  • Atavism–the longing for a “simpler time” and its manifestations both in the 1930’s and presently.

2. In FTR #864, recorded in September of 2015, Peter updated the context of our discussion from March of that year in the context of Donald Trump’s lead in the GOP primary struggle and the reaction sweeping Europe.

Immigration dominated the news that fall and has continued to do so. The flood of refugees from the wars in the Middle East threatened to overwhelm European infrastructure and the phenomenon dominated the political debate in the GOP primary election campaign. Donald Trump capitalized on anti-immigrant xenophobia during the primary and then the presidential campaign.

Of course, he continues to do so today.

In The Hitler LegacyPeter noted anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia as part of “The Hitler Legacy.”

Fear of “the other” has been a staple of fascist thought and has dominated much of the political discourse on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Hitler Legacy by Peter Levenda; IBIS Press [HC]; Copyright 2014 by Peter Levenda; ISBN 978-0-89254-210-9; p. 315.

. . . Xenophobia is at an all-time high in Europe and increasingly in America. The Internet has provided new and improved means of communication. . . .

As the political life of every country becomes more and more polarized between “right” and “left,” the men of ODESSA can only laugh at our discomfort. . . .

3. Melania Trump garnered considerable media attention when she visited a detention center for immigrants, including children, wearing a jacket that said “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?”

Tasteless on its surface, the statement assumes added significance when we factor in the fact that  “I don’t care” (“Me Ne Frego” in Italian) was an important fascist slogan.

Furthermore, the Zara company that made Melania’s jacket has a history of marketing garments with fascist/racist overtones. It marketed a shirt that mimicked a concentration camp inmate’s garb and a swastika-enlaid handbag. It also marketed a Pepe The Frog skirt.

“A Brief (Fascist) History of ‘I Don’t Care’” by Giovanni Tiso; Overland; 06/22/2018

This article was sparked by the jacket that Melania Trump wore as she travelled to a detention camp for migrant children, but my intent isn’t to argue that she or her staff chose that jacket in order to send a coded message to the president’s far-right followers. It is, rather, to highlight some of the historical echoes of that phrase – ‘I don’t care’.

The echoes of which someone ought to have been aware, especially in an administration that includes – to put it mildly – several far-right sympathizers. And also to show that the attitude, the theatrical ‘not caring’, was an explicit character trait of Fascism. . . . 

. . . . Fascism lay its roots in the campaign for Italy’s late entry in the First World War, of which Mussolini was one of the leaders. It was at this time that the phrase ‘me ne frego’ – which at the time was still considered quite vulgar, along the lines of the English ‘I don’t give a fu ck’ – was sung by members of the special force known as arditi (literally: ‘the daring ones’) who volunteered for the front, to signify that they didn’t care if they should lose their lives.

The arditi were disbanded after the war, but many of them volunteered in 1919 for an expedition led by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio to capture the city of Fiume (Rijeka, in present-day Croatia) and claim it for Italy during the vacuum created by the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the time of this occupation, former arditi also formed the backbone of the original Black Squads during the terror campaigns that began in 1919 and culminated with the ‘March on Rome’ of 1922, which completed Fascism’s swift rise to power.

This lapel pin worn by an original member of the Black Shirts was recently sold on a website devoted to military memorabilia. It is emblazoned with the words ‘Me ne frego’ underneath the original symbol of the arditi and the acronym FERT (which stands for the motto of the Royal Family). The seller calls it ‘bellissimo’.
[see image of “me ne frego” pin worn by the Black Shirts]

‘Me ne frego’ was the title of one of the most famous songs of the Fascist era.Its original version, dating around 1920, hails D’Annunzio and Mussolini as the fathers of the fascist movement, recycling the old war song of the arditi as the third stanza.

Me ne frego I don’t care

me ne frego I don’t care

me ne frego è il nostro motto, I don’t care is our motto

me ne frego di morire I don’t care if I should die

per la santa libertà! … For our sacred freedom! …

Later versions removed mentions of D’Annunzio, who faded fairly quickly into the background. In the meantime, Mussolini made the slogan his own, and explicitly elevated it to the philosophy of the regime.
[See image of Benito Mussolini “me ne frego” quote]

The meaning of ‘Me ne frego’

The proud Black-Shirt motto ‘I don’t care’ written on the bandages that cover a wound isn’t just an act of stoic philosophy or the summary of a political doctrine. It’s an education to fighting, and the acceptance of the risks it implies. It’s a new Italian lifestyle. This is how the Fascist welcomes and loves life, while rejecting and regarding suicide as an act of cowardice; this is how the Fascist understands life as duty, exaltation, conquest. A life that must be lived highly and fully, both for oneself but especially for others, near and far, present and future.

The connotations of altruism at the end of the quote are in direct contrast with the meaning taken on by the word menefreghismo(literally, ‘Idontcareism’), which ever since the regime has meant in common parlance a kind of detached self-reliance, or moral autocracy. Just as Italy broke with its former allies and charted a stubborn path towards the ruin and devastation of the Second World War, so too the Fascist citizen was encouraged to reject the judgement of others and look straight aheadIt should be remembered in this regard that the regime treated ignorance and proclivity to violence as desirable qualities to be rewarded with positions of influence and power. This required a swift redrawing of the old social norms, and of the language used to signify the moral worth of individuals. ‘Me ne frego’ was the perfect slogan for the people in charge of overseeing such a program.

Four years ago, speaking at a First World War commemoration in the small town of Redipuglia, Pope Francis linked ‘me ne frego’ not only with the carnage of that conflict, but also with the horrors of Fascism, recognising its ideological and propaganda value for Mussolini’s project. This is the form in which the slogan has survived until the present day, as a linguistic signifier not of generic indifference, but of ideological nostalgia. And because the attempts in Italy and beyond to stem the spread of such signifiers have been comprehensively abandoned, we readily find those words appearing not just on seemingly ubiquitous Fascist-era memorabilia but also on posters,
[see image of poster]
t-shirts,
[see image of t-shirt]
or this line of stickers that can be purchased for $.193 from Redbubble (motto ‘awesome products designed by independent artists’), where it was uploaded by user ‘fashdivision’.
[see image of stickers]
The international neofascist movement is of course well aware of this lineage. By way of example, if you search for it online you’ll find a long-running English-language podcast called Me ne frego which recycles this imagery in support of arguments against immigration and multiculturalism, or to opine on the subject of ‘the Jewish question’.
 I don’t doubt that people close both to the Trump administration and this world are similarly cognisant of the uses to which those three words have been put. But even for those who aren’t, claims to indifference have a history which we mustn’t allow ourselves to forget.

4.  The Zara company that made Melania’s jacket has a history of marketing garments with fascist/racist overtones. It marketed a shirt that mimicked a concentration camp inmate’s garb and a swastika-enlaid handbag.

“Zara Removes Striped Pyjamas with Yellow Star Following Online Outrage” by Elena Cresci; The Guardian; 08/27/2014

High street retailer Zara has pulled a striped shirt featuring a yellow star on the front on Wednesday after social media users likened it to the uniform worn by Jewish prisoners in concentration camps during the second world war.

The striped “sheriff” T-shirt, aimed at children aged three months to three years, drew criticism for a design which featured white and blue stripes and a six-pointed yellow star on the front. The star itself had the word “sheriff” written across it, which was not completely clear in the zoomed-out images on the Spanish chain’s website.

But from first glance, many people felt the shirt bore too close a resemblance to the striped uniform and yellow star Jewish prisoners were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

The shirt was available via Zara’s UK homepage as well as in a number of its international outlets, including Israel, France, Denmark, Albania and Sweden. Israeli journalist Dimi Reider was among the first to notice the resemblance.

Writing on 972mag.com, he said: “It’s a SHERIFF shirt for your three-year-old. Obviously. What else could it be?

“Why, what else does it remind you of?”

The retailer has since apologised, in several languages on its Twitter feed, and confirmed the shirt is no longer on sale.

A spokesperson for Zara’s parent company Inditex said: “The item in question has now been removed from all Zara stores and Zara.com.

“The garment was inspired by the classic Western films, but we now recognise that the design could be seen as insensitive and apologise sincerely for any offence caused to our customers.”

This is not the first time Zara has made an unfortunate design choice. In 2007, the retailer withdrew a handbag from its stories after one customer pointed out the design featured swastikas.

5.  Zara’s fascist fashion sense just keeps bubbling up. It turns out Zara made a skirt in 2017 with what appear to be ‘Pepe the Frog’ faces

“Zara Loses Its Skirt Over Pepe the Frog” by Vanessa Friedman; The New York Times; 04/19/2017

Digital activists have claimed another head. Or, rather, skirt.

On Tuesday, Zara, the Spanish chain owned by Inditex that has more than 2,100 stores in 88 countries around the world and was rated No. 53 on the Forbes 2016 list of the world’s most valuable brands, quietly withdrew a distressed denim miniskirt printed with a cartoon face from its websites and stores in the United States and Britain after it became a subject of social media controversy for the graphic’s resemblance to Pepe the Frog.

You know, the green amphibian that was originally intended as a “peaceful frog-dude,” according to Matt Furie, the man who created him, but that was co-opted by anti-Jewish and bigoted groups and designated an alt-right hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League last September.

The skirt had been on sale as part of Zara’s limited-edition “oil on denim” offering of spring-fling artist partnerships.

Twitter got on it pretty fast. “Zara is really out there trying to sell a P*pe the frog skirt, apparently unaware (?) of its current implications,” @meaganrosae wrote. Added @ccarella, “Hmm Pepe on a Zara skirt.”

There is a lot of “how did this happen?” and “how deluded could they be?” going around the cybersphere, but the answer may come down to a blunt collision of globalism and cultural ignorance.

A spokeswoman for Zara said: “The skirt is part of the limited Oil-on-Denim collection, which was created through collaborations with artists and is only available in selected markets. The designer of the skirt is Mario de Santiago, known online as Yimeisgreat. There is absolutely no link to the suggested theme.”

Mr. de Santiago is a Spanish artist based in London whose biography on his official web page states, “I like to explore social interactions and gather them into quirky and colourful storytelling compositions.” According to Zara, he said the frog face “came from a wall painting I drew with friends four years ago.” It is not hard to imagine he was unaware a similar frog face had been used for a somewhat different purpose in the United States.

Unfortunately for Zara, however, the brand has a history with public pressure over a product with potentially offensive implications — especially anti-Semitic implications — which may have exacerbated the reaction. In 2014, it apologized for offering, and then withdrew, a set of children’s striped pajamas with a yellow star on the breast that was widely seen as resembling a concentration camp uniform (the star was supposed to be a sheriff’s badge). In 2007, it withdrew a handbag printed with folkloric designs, one of which happened to look a lot like a swastika.

All of this may add up to something of a teachable moment for the fast-fashion model. Because the business is based on the constant turnover of new products that are effectively “tested” on the shop floor, so that companies can respond quickly to what sells and drop less popular items without much cost, it involves a higher than usual amount of churn. This may mean designs are subject to less stringent vetting than they might be in, say, a traditional fashion brand in which products are created and assessed more than six months ahead of production.

Add to that the recent commercialization of the summer festival circuit, in which corporate giants are leveraging the fashion appeal of sartorial rebellion (always a dangerous game, since it co-opts symbols without really understanding their use), and the pitfalls were potentially pretty big. Just think for a minute of the absurdity implicit in choosing a hate symbol to stick on a garment seemingly meant for a summer-of-love/dancing-in-the-muddy-fields-type event. Oops.

Given the increasing role of the internet in policing brands and companies, it was probably only a matter of time before a company attempting to make hay while the music played made a mistake instead.

Consider it a cautionary tale.

6. Although we have discussed it frequently over the decades, recent comments by Trump disparaging Haiti as a “shithole” country and pining for immigration from Norway instead warrant a fresh look at the Crusade For Freedom.

During Trump’s brief tenure as President, the media have consistently lamented his actions as idiosyncrasies. Trump’s policies are not his alone, but follow in a linear path, along which the GOP has traveled for decades.

In this post, we review the Crusade For Freedom–the covert operation that brought Third Reich alumni into the country and also supported their guerrilla warfare in Eastern Europe, conducted up until the early 1950’s. Conceived by Allen Dulles, overseen by Richard Nixon, publicly represented by Ronald Reagan and realized in considerable measure by William Casey, the CFF ultimately evolved into a Nazi wing of the GOP.

“. . . . Vice President Nixon’s secret political war of Nazis against Jews in American politics was never investigated at the time. The foreign language-speaking Croatians and other Fascist émigré groups had a ready-made network for contacting and mobilizing the Eastern European ethnic bloc. There is a very high correlation between CIA domestic subsidies to Fascist ‘freedom fighters’ during the 1950’s and the leadership of the Republican Party’s ethnic campaign groups. The motive for the under-the-table financing was clear: Nixon used Nazis to offset the Jewish vote for the Democrats. . . .

The elder George Bush installed the GOP ethnic outreach organization as a permanent part of the GOP:

“. . . . . . . . . It was Bush who fulfilled Nixon’s promise to make the ‘ethnic emigres’ a permanent part of Republican politics. In 1972, Nixon’s State Department spokesman confirmed to his Australian counterpart that the ethnic groups were very useful to get out the vote in several key states. Bush’s tenure as head of the Republican National Committee exactly coincided with Laszlo Pasztor’s 1972 drive to transform the Heritage Groups Council into the party’s official ethnic arm. The groups Pasztor chose as Bush’s campaign allies were the émigré Fascists whom Dulles had brought to the United States. . . . “

6a.    The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons; Copyright 1994 by Mark Aarons; St. Martin’s Press; [HC] ISBN 0-312-11057-X; pp. 122-123.

. . . . Frustration over Truman’s 1948 election victory over Dewey (which they blamed on the “Jewish vote”) impelled Dulles and his protégé Richard Nixon to work toward the realization of the fascist freedom fighter presence in the Republican Party’s ethnic outreach organization. As a young congressman, Nixon had been Allen Dulles’s confidant. They both blamed Governor Dewey’s razor-thin loss to Truman in the 1948 presidential election on the Jewish vote. When he became Eisenhower’s vice president in 1952, Nixon was determined to build his own ethnic base. . . .

. . . . Vice President Nixon’s secret political war of Nazis against Jews in American politics was never investigated at the time. The foreign language-speaking Croatians and other Fascist émigré groups had a ready-made network for contacting and mobilizing the Eastern European ethnic bloc. There is a very high correlation between CIA domestic subsidies to Fascist ‘freedom fighters’ during the 1950’s and the leadership of the Republican Party’s ethnic campaign groups. The motive for the under-the-table financing was clear: Nixon used Nazis to offset the Jewish vote for the Democrats. . . .

. . . . In 1952, Nixon had formed an Ethnic Division within the Republican National Committee. Displaced fascists, hoping to be returned to power by an Eisenhower-Nixon ‘liberation’ policy signed on with the committee. In 1953, when Republicans were in office, the immigration laws were changed to admit Nazis, even members of the SS. They flooded into the country. Nixon himself oversaw the new immigration program. AsVice President, he even received Eastern European Fascists in the White House. . . .

6b. More about the composition of the cast of the CFF: Note that the ascension of the Reagan administration was essentially the ascension of the Nazified GOP, embodied in the CFF milieu. Reagan (spokesman for CFF) was President; George H.W. Bush (for whom CIA headquarters is named) was the Vice President; William Casey (who handled the State Department machinations to bring these people into the United States) was Reagan’s campaign manager and later his CIA director.

The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons; Copyright 1994 by Mark Aarons; St. Martin’s Press; [HC] ISBN 0-312-11057-X; p. 605.

. . . . As a young movie actor in the early 1950s, Reagan was employed as the public spokesperson for an OPC front named the ‘Crusade for Freedom.’ Reagan may not have known it, but 99 percent for the Crusade’s funds came from clandestine accounts, which were then laundered through the Crusade to various organizations such as Radio Liberty, which employed Dulles’s Fascists. Bill Casey, who later became CIA director under Ronald Reagan, also worked in Germany after World War II on Dulles’ Nazi ‘freedom fighters’ program. When he returned to New York, Casey headed up another OPC front, the International Rescue Committee, which sponsored the immigration of these Fascists to the United States. Casey’s committee replaced the International Red Cross as the sponsor for Dulles’s recruits. Confidential interviews, former members, OPC; former members, British foreign and Commonwealth Office. . . .

6c. While serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee, the elder George Bush shepherded the Nazi émigré community into position as a permanent branch of the Republican Party.

The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons; Copyright 1994 by Mark Aarons; St. Martin’s Press; [HC] ISBN 0-312-11057-X; pp. 369-370.

 . . . . . It was Bush who fulfilled Nixon’s promise to make the ‘ethnic emigres’ a permanent part of Republican politics. In 1972, Nixon’s State Department spokesman confirmed to his Australian counterpart that the ethnic groups were very useful to get out the vote in several key states. Bush’s tenure as head of the Republican National Committee exactly coincided with Laszlo Pasztor’s 1972 drive to transform the Heritage Groups Council into the party’s official ethnic arm. The groups Pasztor chose as Bush’s campaign allies were the émigré Fascists whom Dulles had brought to the United States. . . . 

Discussion

16 comments for “FTR #1013 Fascism and the Politics of Immigration”

  1. Here’s an article that points towards another refugee crisis that President Trump is apparently very keen on exacerbating: the Venezuelan refugee crisis that’s going to explode of the US invades Venezuela. And as the article makes painfully clear, while Trump’s advisors and US allies in the are staunchly against the idea of a US invasion of Venezuela, Trump is still really, really interested in invading Venezuela and can’t contain that interest:

    The Associated Press

    Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion, US official says

    By JOSHUA GOODMAN
    07/05/2018

    BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country?

    The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration. This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said.

    In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

    But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s.

    The idea, despite his aides’ best attempts to shoot it down, would nonetheless persist in the president’s head.

    The next day, Aug. 11, Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a “military option” to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in U.S. policy circles as the sort of martial bluster people have come to expect from the reality TV star turned commander in chief.

    But shortly afterward, he raised the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the U.S. official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.

    Then in September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February.

    The U.S. official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn’t play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, “My staff told me not to say this.” Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.

    Eventually, McMaster would pull aside the president and walk him through the dangers of an invasion, the official said.

    Taken together, the behind-the-scenes talks, the extent and details of which have not been previously reported, highlight how Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has received top attention under Trump in a way that was unimaginable in the Obama administration. But critics say it also underscores how his “America First” foreign policy at times can seem outright reckless, providing ammunition to America’s adversaries.

    The White House declined to comment on the private conversations. But a National Security Council spokesman reiterated that the U.S. will consider all options at its disposal to help restore Venezuela’s democracy and bring stability. Under Trump’s leadership, the U.S., Canada and European Union have levied sanctions on dozens of top Venezuelan officials, including Maduro himself, over allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses. The U.S. has also distributed more than $30 million to help Venezuela’s neighbors absorb an influx of more than 1 million migrants who have fled the country.

    Trump’s bellicose talk provided the unpopular leader with an immediate if short-lived boost as he was trying to escape blame for widespread food shortages and hyperinflation. Within days of the president’s talk of a military option, Maduro filled the streets of Caracas with loyalists to condemn “Emperor” Trump’s belligerence, ordered up nationwide military exercises and threatened with arrest opponents he said were plotting his overthrow with the U.S.

    Even some of the staunchest U.S. allies were begrudgingly forced to side with Maduro in condemning Trump’s saber rattling. Santos, a big backer of U.S. attempts to isolate Maduro, said an invasion would have zero support in the region. The Mercosur trade bloc, which includes Brazil and Argentina, issued a statement saying “the only acceptable means of promoting democracy are dialogue and diplomacy” and repudiating “any option that implies the use of force.”

    But among Venezuela’s beleaguered opposition movement, hostility to the idea of a military intervention has slowly eased.

    A few weeks after Trump’s public comments, Harvard economics professor Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister, wrote a syndicated column titled “D Day Venezuela,” in which he called for a “coalition of the willing” made up of regional powers and the U.S. to step in and support militarily a government appointed by the opposition-led national assembly.

    Mark Feierstein, who oversaw Latin America on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said that strident U.S. action on Venezuela, however commendable, won’t loosen Maduro’s grip on power if it’s not accompanied by pressure from the streets. However, he thinks Venezuelans have largely been demoralized after a crackdown on protests last year triggered dozens of deaths, and the threat of more repression has forced dozens of opposition leaders into exile.

    “People inside and outside the administration know they can ignore plenty of what Trump says,” Feierstein, who is now a senior adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group, said of Trump’s talk of military invasion of Venezuela. “The concern is that it raised expectations among Venezuelans, many of whom are waiting for an external actor to save them.”

    ———-

    “Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion, US official says” by JOSHUA GOODMAN; The Associated Press; 07/05/2018

    “As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country?

    Why can’t the US just go ahead an invade Venezuela? That’s the question President Trump appeared to be genuinely asking back in August. And when those top aides, like then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, explained to Trump the magnitude of such an action and how easily it could backfire, Trump pushed back, citing the US invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 80’s:


    The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration. This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said.

    In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

    But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s.

    And then the very next day, Trump made public remarks about the “military option” to remove Maduro:


    The idea, despite his aides’ best attempts to shoot it down, would nonetheless persist in the president’s head.

    The next day, Aug. 11, Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a “military option” to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in U.S. policy circles as the sort of martial bluster people have come to expect from the reality TV star turned commander in chief.

    And then he raised prospect of a military invasion directly with the president of Colombia, a country that is already facing large numbers of Venezuelan refugees, and brought the idea up again on the sides of the UN General Assembly:


    But shortly afterward, he raised the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the U.S. official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.

    Then in September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February.

    The U.S. official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn’t play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, “My staff told me not to say this.” Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.

    Eventually, McMaster would pull aside the president and walk him through the dangers of an invasion, the official said.

    And when the Trump administration is asked about these previously unreported incidents, the National Security Council give the ominous replay that the US considers ‘all options at its disposal to help restore Venezuela’s democracy and bring stability’:


    Taken together, the behind-the-scenes talks, the extent and details of which have not been previously reported, highlight how Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has received top attention under Trump in a way that was unimaginable in the Obama administration. But critics say it also underscores how his “America First” foreign policy at times can seem outright reckless, providing ammunition to America’s adversaries.

    The White House declined to comment on the private conversations. But a National Security Council spokesman reiterated that the U.S. will consider all options at its disposal to help restore Venezuela’s democracy and bring stability. Under Trump’s leadership, the U.S., Canada and European Union have levied sanctions on dozens of top Venezuelan officials, including Maduro himself, over allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses. The U.S. has also distributed more than $30 million to help Venezuela’s neighbors absorb an influx of more than 1 million migrants who have fled the country.

    And there are apparently already consequences to all of Trump’s public and private talk of a military invasion of Venezuela: the Venezuelan opposition appears to be warming to the idea:


    But among Venezuela’s beleaguered opposition movement, hostility to the idea of a military intervention has slowly eased.

    A few weeks after Trump’s public comments, Harvard economics professor Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister, wrote a syndicated column titled “D Day Venezuela,” in which he called for a “coalition of the willing” made up of regional powers and the U.S. to step in and support militarily a government appointed by the opposition-led national assembly.

    Mark Feierstein, who oversaw Latin America on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said that strident U.S. action on Venezuela, however commendable, won’t loosen Maduro’s grip on power if it’s not accompanied by pressure from the streets. However, he thinks Venezuelans have largely been demoralized after a crackdown on protests last year triggered dozens of deaths, and the threat of more repression has forced dozens of opposition leaders into exile.

    “People inside and outside the administration know they can ignore plenty of what Trump says,” Feierstein, who is now a senior adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group, said of Trump’s talk of military invasion of Venezuela. “The concern is that it raised expectations among Venezuelans, many of whom are waiting for an external actor to save them.”

    So we have the Venezuelan opposition increasingly hoping for a US invasion after Trump’s many declarations, which presumably means elements of the Venezuelan opposition diaspora are going to be increasingly lobbying the Trump administration for exactly that. Will they get their wish? Well, considering that people like HR McMaster and Rex Tillerson have been replaced with people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, it’s looking a lot more like they will get their wish. Especially with Bolton, who has made his hawking views on Venezuela abundantly clear for years:

    McClatchy

    Trump pick Bolton to drive hardline agenda against Venezuela

    By Franco Ordoñez And Anita Kumar
    March 22, 2018 07:43 PM
    Updated March 23, 2018 10:57 AM

    WASHINGTON John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to put a sharper focus on Venezuela as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, applying a hard line against Nicolás Maduro’s government.

    “For Latin America, he has always emphasized how Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua have undermined U.S. interests throughout the region,” according to a senior administration official.

    But Bolton’s tough talk on North Korea and other countries will make Latin American leaders nervous, raising old fears of U.S. intervention in a region that prides itself on diplomatic solutions, according to a National Security Council official for President Barack Obama.

    “He’s a war monger and Latin Americans get nervous when American presidents tend to lean toward military versus diplomatic solutions,” the official said. “It’s a militaristic style that won’t go down well in Latin America.”

    Bolton believes that economically distressed Venezuela is vulnerable and that others, including Iran, continue to have great influence on the government there.

    Bolton raised concerns about Venezuela in 2013. During a hearing on Syria and Iran, Bolton said Iranians were operating in Caracas to avoid international watchers. “These are expert smugglers with—the largest Iranian diplomatic facility in the world is in Caracas, Venezuela,” Bolton said at the time. “Because of their close cultural ties? No, because they are laundering their money through the Venezuelan banks.”

    Trump has already taken a hard line against the Venezuelan government, applying more than 20 individual and economic sanctions including restricting U.S. financial transactions involving its new digital currency.

    One big question is whether Bolton will take another look at U.S. Cuba policy, according to the Obama official. Bolton blasted Obama for reopening diplomatic relations with the Castro government in 2014.

    Bolton has long been an advocate for even stronger restrictions against Cuba. In 2002, as undersecretary of state, he accused Havana of trying to develop biological weapons, and added Cuba to a list of “axis of evil” countries.”

    ”The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort,” Bolton said in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    Bolton has already served under three presidents, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

    “Bolton is a foreign policy professional, which is a good start, and more than you can say for the president’s first two picks for secretary of state,” said Benjamin Gedan, who served as Venezuela director on the National Security Council under Obama.

    Trump announced late Thursday that he would replace his second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, with Bolton in mid-April. It’s the latest in a series of staff changes in recent weeks.

    Last week, Trump announced on Twitter that he would replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

    Bolton and Trump met regularly during the presidential transition and at the White House to discuss foreign policy. He was spotted in the West Wing earlier Thursday.

    “Though he and Pompeo are considered hardliners, most governments in Latin America should not be spooked, assuming Bolton does not share the president’s habit of bullying U.S. allies,” Gedan said.

    ———-

    “Trump pick Bolton to drive hardline agenda against Venezuela” by Franco Ordoñez And Anita Kumar; McClatchy; 03/22/2018

    ““Though he and Pompeo are considered hardliners, most governments in Latin America should not be spooked, assuming Bolton does not share the president’s habit of bullying U.S. allies,” Gedan said.”

    LOL, what an assurance: The US allies in Latin American shouldn’t be too concerned about John Bolton replacing HR McMaster as the new national security adviser, if you assume Bolton doesn’t share Trump’s habit of bullying US allies.

    If, on the other hand, you assume that Bolton will be perfectly fine with Trump’s habit of bullying US allies, there is plenty to worry about, because both Bolton and Trump clearly have a predilection for military solutions:


    John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to put a sharper focus on Venezuela as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, applying a hard line against Nicolás Maduro’s government.

    “For Latin America, he has always emphasized how Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua have undermined U.S. interests throughout the region,” according to a senior administration official.

    But Bolton’s tough talk on North Korea and other countries will make Latin American leaders nervous, raising old fears of U.S. intervention in a region that prides itself on diplomatic solutions, according to a National Security Council official for President Barack Obama.

    “He’s a war monger and Latin Americans get nervous when American presidents tend to lean toward military versus diplomatic solutions,” the official said. “It’s a militaristic style that won’t go down well in Latin America.”

    But perhaps the most ominous aspect of Bolton becoming the new national security adviser is his suspicion that Venezuela is being used by Iran to launder money and avoid international sanctions. Because it’s already abundantly clear that the Trump administration is interested in whipping up a war with Iran, with Bolton calling pressing a regime change push by the US. So if Bolton gets his wish, will a war with Venezuela soon follow? It’s one of those questions we have to ask:


    Bolton believes that economically distressed Venezuela is vulnerable and that others, including Iran, continue to have great influence on the government there.

    Bolton raised concerns about Venezuela in 2013. During a hearing on Syria and Iran, Bolton said Iranians were operating in Caracas to avoid international watchers. “These are expert smugglers with—the largest Iranian diplomatic facility in the world is in Caracas, Venezuela,” Bolton said at the time. “Because of their close cultural ties? No, because they are laundering their money through the Venezuelan banks.”

    Trump has already taken a hard line against the Venezuelan government, applying more than 20 individual and economic sanctions including restricting U.S. financial transactions involving its new digital currency.

    But with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already economic refugees, and 5,000 more fleeing to surrounding countries each day, one of the other big questions surrounding a possible military invasion of Venezuela is just what kind of refugee situation is this going to create, for the US but more importantly for Venezuela’s neighbors?

    And what if there is no military invasion but still stronger sanctions on Venezuela that creates even more economic refugees, what’s the US response to that going to be? Well, according to the following article, the top Pentagon commander for Latin America and the Caribbean currently envisions no role in providing direct humanitarian assistance to countries taking in fleeing Venezuelans:

    Bloomberg

    U.S. Military Doesn’t See Role Stemming Venezuelan Refugee Flow

    By Anthony Capaccio
    June 7, 2018, 12:20 PM CDT

    The top Pentagon commander for Latin America and the Caribbean said he sees no role for the U.S. military in providing direct humanitarian assistance to countries being inundated with Venezuelans fleeing a collapsing economy under President Nicolas Maduro.

    “There really is not,” Admiral Kurt Tidd, the head of U.S. Southern Command, told Bloomberg News on Thursday after a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington. “Our role is to listen to” and “partner with” the neighboring countries “to understand what their challenges are and how they are dealing” with the crisis.

    Disaster response exercises Southcom regularly conducts with regional allies “all play a contributory role to help them build their capacity to deal with any kind of humanitarian crisis” but ultimately the Venezuela situation “is going to require a diplomatic solution” Tidd added.

    Until then, the flow of refugees will likely continue, Tidd said. “Desperate people will continue to leave to try and make money in other places that they can send back” home.

    Hyperinflation

    Venezuelans have fled their homeland to escape crushing hyperinflation, a shrinking economy and a shortage of basic goods and food. Maduro, who succeeded his political mentor Hugo Chavez in 2013, has frequently blamed the U.S. for sparking the economic crisis and raises the specter of a U.S.-backed coup in public pronouncements. Maduro won election to another six-year term last month in a vote that was widely criticized and boycotted by the opposition.

    The U.S. has seen “probably at least a million Venezuelans” crossing the border to Colombia, Tidd said at the breakfast. “We’ve seen tens of thousands in Peru. We’ve seen tens of thousands down in Brazil and it’s having an enormous impact on those countries’s ability to care for them.”

    ———-

    “U.S. Military Doesn’t See Role Stemming Venezuelan Refugee Flow” by Anthony Capaccio; Bloomberg; 06/07/2018

    “The top Pentagon commander for Latin America and the Caribbean said he sees no role for the U.S. military in providing direct humanitarian assistance to countries being inundated with Venezuelans fleeing a collapsing economy under President Nicolas Maduro.”

    So, currently, the Pentagon doesn’t envision any direct role for the US military in providing humanitarian assistance for the all of the countries currently receiving thousands of Venezuelan refugees a day. And as the Pentagon commander put it, ultimately the Venezuela situation “is going to require a diplomatic solution”:


    “There really is not,” Admiral Kurt Tidd, the head of U.S. Southern Command, told Bloomberg News on Thursday after a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington. “Our role is to listen to” and “partner with” the neighboring countries “to understand what their challenges are and how they are dealing” with the crisis.

    Disaster response exercises Southcom regularly conducts with regional allies “all play a contributory role to help them build their capacity to deal with any kind of humanitarian crisis” but ultimately the Venezuela situation “is going to require a diplomatic solution” Tidd added.

    Until then, the flow of refugees will likely continue, Tidd said. “Desperate people will continue to leave to try and make money in other places that they can send back” home.

    So we have the top Pentagon commander for Latin America saying the US has no plans to directly assist with a growing South American refugee crisis while reiterating that a diplomatic solution is required for Venezuela. At the same that the White House, led by a president with an open desire for a war with Venezuela, elevates war hawks like John Bolton to positions of high influence.

    All in all, it there’s no shortage of reason why the Venezuelan refugee situation could get a lot worse. And while some of those refugees will presumably flee to the US, the vast majority of them are probably going to end up remaining in South America and is inevitably going to impact South American politics. What kind of political impact will that be? We’ll see, but it’s probably not going to be a positive impact…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 12, 2018, 2:46 pm
  2. It looks like the massive wildfires outside Athens this week that killed at least 82 people was probably arson. So what was the evidence that it was arson? Fifteen fires had started in three areas around Athens simultaneously:

    Deutsche Welle

    Greece fires: Arson suspected in devastating blaze

    A Greek minister has said there were “serious indications” that the fires had been started deliberately. Experts have blamed haphazard and unlicensed building for the high death toll, which climbed to 82.

    Date 26.07.2018

    Greek authorities said on Thursday they suspected arson was behind the devastating forest fires that killed at least 82 people near capital Athens.

    “We have serious indications and significant signs suggesting the criminal actions of arson,” Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas told a news conference. He said police had testimonies to that effect, but did not elaborate.

    Toskas said satellite image analysis of the deadly fires that broke out on Monday on the east and the west sides of Athens indicated that both had been set in multiple places within a short time frame.

    Fifteen fires had started simultaneously in three areas around Athens, raising suspicions among authorities. US surveillance aircraft were being used to gather footage to try to determine the causes of the fires.

    Wildfires near populated areas in Greece are often blamed on arsonists believed to be targeting forest land for development, but arrests are rare.

    ‘Fire trap’

    Most casualties were found at the resort town of Mati, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Athens.

    A group of experts from the University of Athens’ Faculty of Geology and Geo environment blamed the layout of the town for the high death toll.

    The group said the haphazard and unlicensed building, with scant provision for fire safety, had acted like a “fire trap” as they blocked access to the sea.

    “How is it possible to have so many lives lost and not investigate who is responsible for such town planning chaos,” Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis said.

    About 300 firemen and volunteers were still combing the area on Thursday for dozens still missing.

    ———-

    “Greece fires: Arson suspected in devastating blaze”; Deutsche Welle; 07/26/2018

    “”We have serious indications and significant signs suggesting the criminal actions of arson,” Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas told a news conference. He said police had testimonies to that effect, but did not elaborate.”

    So, at at this point, the arson suspicions are just suspicions. But suspicions based on some pretty compelling evidence:


    Toskas said satellite image analysis of the deadly fires that broke out on Monday on the east and the west sides of Athens indicated that both had been set in multiple places within a short time frame.

    Fifteen fires had started simultaneously in three areas around Athens, raising suspicions among authorities. US surveillance aircraft were being used to gather footage to try to determine the causes of the fires.

    And while no suspects have been named at this point, it’s worth noting that seven members of the neo-Nazi group “Combat 18 Hellas”- suspected by some to be the Greek branch of Combat 18 although, as we’ll see below, that might not be the case – were charged with a series of crimes back in March, including arson, causing explosions and possession of explosives:

    Associated Press

    7 charged in Greece with belonging to violent neo-Nazi group

    Mar. 07, 2018

    ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek prosecutor has charged seven men with alleged membership in a violent neo-Nazi group linked to a series of arson attacks on far-left and migrant-related targets.

    All seven Greeks were formally accused Wednesday of membership in a criminal organization, arson, causing explosions and possession of explosives and weapons.

    The suspects were arrested Tuesday by anti-terrorism police in a series of raids in Athens and two provincial towns.

    Officers confiscated Molotov cocktails, 50 kilograms of explosives, shotguns, knives, cudgels, drugs and far-right paraphernalia.

    The suspects are thought to be members of the Greek branch of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

    Far-right and far-left violence has increased in Greece during the country’s deep financial crisis over the past eight years. A Nazi-inspired party, Golden Dawn, is currently Greece’s fourth-largest in parliament.

    ———-

    “7 charged in Greece with belonging to violent neo-Nazi group”; Associated Press; 03/07/2018

    “All seven Greeks were formally accused Wednesday of membership in a criminal organization, arson, causing explosions and possession of explosives and weapons.”

    So although there’s no indication that neo-Nazis were behind these arson attacks, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a the Greek neo-Nazi group was arrested for arson just a few months ago.

    And then there’s the second Greek neo-Nazi group, calling itself Krypteia, that actually claimed responsibility for an arson attack against an Afghan refugee center in March:

    Associated Press

    Greece: Extreme-right group claims arson on Afghan center

    •March 23, 2018

    ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A little-known extreme right-wing group has claimed responsibility for an arson attack on an Afghan community center in central Athens that caused significant damage, but no injuries.

    A group calling itself Krypteia claimed responsibility in a call to a Greek news website on Friday.

    Authorities say they think the assailants started the fire by pouring flammable liquid on the door of the Afghan community center, which is located on the fifth floor of an Athens building. Flames spread inside, damaging desks, tables and computers on Thursday afternoon.

    The United Nations refugee agency condemned the attack, saying the center had been “full of people, including children, not long before” the arson.

    ———-

    “Greece: Extreme-right group claims arson on Afghan center”; Associated Press; 03/23/2018

    “A group calling itself Krypteia claimed responsibility in a call to a Greek news website on Friday.”

    And note how the refugee center was apparently “full of people, including children, not long before” the arson, indicating a willingness to kill people and not just damage property:


    The United Nations refugee agency condemned the attack, saying the center had been “full of people, including children, not long before” the arson.

    The actuall attack happened around 1 PM on March 22, which is time when you would expect people to be there.

    So we have a recent history of neo-Nazi arson in Greece. But it’s not just very recent attacks. Because, as the following article notes, it wasn’t just Combat 18 Hellas members who were arrest in March. There was another neo-Nazi group, “Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists” (AME), that also had people arrested. C18 and AME have close ties they might be considered a single entity. And the crimes they were charged with include closer to 30 arson attacks since 2015:

    Medium

    Tracing Fascist Crime Online: How Greek Bloggers Exposed Neo-Nazis
    It took Greek police a while to realize that crimes were being committed IRL.

    Elvira Krithari
    Mar 24, 2018

    The dawn of March 6th, anti-terrorist units of Greek Police began with arrests of people who allegedly participated in criminal neo-Nazi organisations. Until March 11th a total of 7 suspects were charged with participating in the so-called “Combat 18 Hellas” (C18) and “Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists” (AME), both extremist nationalist organisations, and with other crimes. Four of the suspects remain in custody.

    Their actions involve approximately 30 arson attacks mostly against anarchist and leftist squads and memorial vandalism, such as at the Athens Jewish cemetery in 2015. While before the arrests, C18 and AME hadn’t been famous in the news, their activities were very well observed and documented by tireless bloggers and online watchdogs.

    It’s not that the neo-Nazi organisation wanted to keep a low profile. On the contrary, the organization published videos on Youtube of the attacks and openly claimed responsibility for them.

    Filling the court file

    Combat 18 Hellas (C18) and AME’s criminal targeting towards people and property was openly published on the internet. Yet, the Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr Nikolaos Toskas, stated in a parliament meeting in 2015, regarding an MP’s question about the reluctance of authorities to take legal action, that they cannot proceed with arrests for anti-Semitic vandalism incidents, because, not only Greek but also other countries’ legislation is insufficient to deal with online delinquency.

    However, the crimes were far from just being online occurrences. The webpage xyzcontagion.wordpress.com as well as the Greek Helsinki Monitor (EPSE) greekhelsinki.wordpress.com, gathered enough leads to bring the criminal cases to court. After the bloggers’ notable investigations, a court case was finally filed, which slowly led to the arrest of Neo-Nazi perpetrators in March 2018.

    XYZ Contagion, a Greek investigative blog, monitors the local far right for years. As they told AthensLive “We had always have the Blood & Honors movements in the microscope, we read their magazines, got informed about their concerts, etc. When we first noticed that (C18/AME) passed from slogans and paintings to violence against people and property, we started monitoring them more intensely”.

    Naturally, the two neo-Nazi organisations, C18 and AME, which seemed to have strong affiliations, if not being actually one entity, started becoming mutually interested for XYZ Contagion’s publications.

    In the summer of 2015, Combat 18 Hellas/AME upgraded their actions introducing Molotov cocktails and other explosive materials. “Then, in the autumn of 2015, we said that something had to be done, we gathered whatever material we had, sent people to photograph cemeteries and other places that (the organisation) had attacked to” says XYZ Contagion adding “we also received material and pictures other people had taken and we finally put them all in an article”. The SYRIZA MP, Christos Karagiannidis who brought the case of Combat’s 18 Hellas activities to the Greek Parliament relied on the work the bloggers had carried out.

    At that time the Greek Observatory of the “Helsinki Federation of Human Rights” (Greek Helsinki Monitor—EPSE) had conducted equivalently thorough research on the activity of C18/AME and as XYZ Contagion puts it, “Credits mostly go to EPSE”, for pushing the case to the Public Prosecutor and constantly writing to the General Secretary for Human Rights.

    Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson of EPSE, described to AthensLive the delays in procedure and major omissions regarding the charges: “There has been an unacceptable negligence since the filing of the first and main complaint against AME/Combat 18 in November 2015. Twice the Athens prosecuting authorities have filed the complaint, as well as a subsequent Greek Helsinki Monitor (EPSE) complaint and a few other complaints to the archive of unknown perpetrators, refusing to seek judicial cooperation of the US, where Google has its headquarters, but also refusing to investigate activities of known individuals who had direct or indirect links with these groups”, Mr. Dimitras reveals. “It is telling that both operations leading to the dismantling of these groups were carried out by the counter-terrorism police, which, as they leaked to the media, at some point took over the investigation having evaluated that it had not been thoroughly carried out until then”.

    He continues: “EPSE is still concerned that none of the 30 cases leaked to the media by police as being in the AME/Combat 18 file concerns attacks against minorities [Jews, Roma etc.]; this is why it filed with the prosecutor a request to join the archived investigations with the new one and also provided a list of more than 40 cases included in the EPSE complaints. EPSE intends to play an active role as a civil claimant in the investigation”

    Bonus: The Golden Dawn parameter as seen by the neo-Nazi’s constant observers

    It is not certain –and rather unlikely- that Combat 18 Hellas is the Greek delegation of the homonymous organisation that was first initiated in UK, given also that the Greek B&H skinhead scene in Greece is relatively small, as the XYZ Contagion notes. Besides, Golden Dawn (GD), the major Greek neo-Nazi organisation and legitimate political party, was the first to introduce C18 to the Greek nationalist audience, through the Golden Dawn’s youth magazine “Antepithesi” (Counterattack), in November-December 2001.

    Kostas Skarmeas, attorney in the Golden Dawn trial in favor of the Afghan fishermen that were attacked by GD members, told AthensLive that while there is insufficient evidence to prove a top to bottom and well established connection between GD and C18/AME, one could say that they are communicating vessels, based on undeniable facts.

    “Until 2013, [hate] attacks were conducted only by GD – there wasn’t any other organisation to claim the responsibility”, Mr Skarmeas told AthensLive. “In 2013, when the whole leadership of Golden Dawn was arrested, we saw a clear decline of violent incidents against immigrants, anarchists and antifascists. Since GD withdrew their street battalions because of the trial, the gap seems to have been filled by C18/AME. As evidenced by the court case publication, C18/AME seems to be in direct correspondence with Golden Dawn via a liason. For example, there are published evidence that Spyros Metallinos, one of the detained suspects who participates in C18/AME, is still an active GD member. There are pictures of him from 2017, giving speeches in the GD’s department in Piraeus, or he is photographed with GD’s MPs” he concludes.

    Apart from the connection among perpetrators of these two groups and the similarities between GD and C18/AME’s ways of action, C18 has admitted its admiration for the infamous deputy head of GD in the 1990s, Periandros Androutsopoulos, who after serving sentence for crimes related to his GD role, has since stepped down. The public acknowledgment of a member that has broken with Golden Dawn could have various interpretations. For attorney Kostas Skarmeas, this indicates the level of close proximity among the organisations, rather than distance.

    As Mr Dimitras concludes “both AME/C18 and Apella (another Nazi group that police dismantled earlier this year), have a key member each with known recent involvement in Golden Dawn, which has not denied the related information for both cases”.

    The latest attacks

    On Thursday, March 22nd, another neo-Nazi organisation, Krypteia, attacked the headquarters of the Afghan Community in Greece causing severe damage to their offices. Luckily, no people were there at the time. On the same day, the bell at the Hellenic League for Human Rights rang and through the doorphone a voice warned the employee who answered “We are from Krypteia and we are here to sing you the carols. (We will sing them to you) in the streets or whenever we find you”.

    For more detailed information on the case of C18/AME, we recommend further reading from XYZ Contagion’s website (for Greek speakers):

    1. https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/dikografia-combat18-ame/2.https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/combat-18-anentaxtoi-mpogiatzides/3.https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/tag/combat-18-hellas/

    ———-

    “Tracing Fascist Crime Online: How Greek Bloggers Exposed Neo-Nazis” by Elvira Krithari; Medium; 03/24/2018

    “The dawn of March 6th, anti-terrorist units of Greek Police began with arrests of people who allegedly participated in criminal neo-Nazi organisations. Until March 11th a total of 7 suspects were charged with participating in the so-called “Combat 18 Hellas” (C18) and “Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists” (AME), both extremist nationalist organisations, and with other crimes. Four of the suspects remain in custody.”

    So it was both Combat 18 members and members of the “Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists” (AME) who were arrested on March 6th. The two groups are so close they might be considered a single entity. And it was in the summer of 2015 that the two groups began their arson campaign using Molotov cocktails and other explosive materials:


    Naturally, the two neo-Nazi organisations, C18 and AME, which seemed to have strong affiliations, if not being actually one entity, started becoming mutually interested for XYZ Contagion’s publications.

    In the summer of 2015, Combat 18 Hellas/AME upgraded their actions introducing Molotov cocktails and other explosive materials. “Then, in the autumn of 2015, we said that something had to be done, we gathered whatever material we had, sent people to photograph cemeteries and other places that (the organisation) had attacked to” says XYZ Contagion adding “we also received material and pictures other people had taken and we finally put them all in an article”. The SYRIZA MP, Christos Karagiannidis who brought the case of Combat’s 18 Hellas activities to the Greek Parliament relied on the work the bloggers had carried out.

    And since the beginning of this arson campaign there have been around 30 arson attacks, mostly against anarchist, leftists, and Jewish memorials:


    Their actions involve approximately 30 arson attacks mostly against anarchist and leftist squads and memorial vandalism, such as at the Athens Jewish cemetery in 2015. While before the arrests, C18 and AME hadn’t been famous in the news, their activities were very well observed and documented by tireless bloggers and online watchdogs.

    It’s not that the neo-Nazi organisation wanted to keep a low profile. On the contrary, the organization published videos on Youtube of the attacks and openly claimed responsibility for them.

    Unfortunately, despite the fact that these groups were openly claiming responsibility for the attacks, Greek authorities did little. But thanks to some Greek bloggers who track these kinds of groups (and thanks to the neo-Nazis openly claiming responsibility), they were able to put together enough evidence to force Greece’s authorities to act:


    Filling the court file

    Combat 18 Hellas (C18) and AME’s criminal targeting towards people and property was openly published on the internet. Yet, the Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr Nikolaos Toskas, stated in a parliament meeting in 2015, regarding an MP’s question about the reluctance of authorities to take legal action, that they cannot proceed with arrests for anti-Semitic vandalism incidents, because, not only Greek but also other countries’ legislation is insufficient to deal with online delinquency.

    However, the crimes were far from just being online occurrences. The webpage xyzcontagion.wordpress.com as well as the Greek Helsinki Monitor (EPSE) greekhelsinki.wordpress.com, gathered enough leads to bring the criminal cases to court. After the bloggers’ notable investigations, a court case was finally filed, which slowly led to the arrest of Neo-Nazi perpetrators in March 2018.

    XYZ Contagion, a Greek investigative blog, monitors the local far right for years. As they told AthensLive “We had always have the Blood & Honors movements in the microscope, we read their magazines, got informed about their concerts, etc. When we first noticed that (C18/AME) passed from slogans and paintings to violence against people and property, we started monitoring them more intensely”.

    And note how it doesn’t appear that Combat 18 Hellas is actually the Greek branch of Combat 18. There does, however appears to be some sort of affiliation between Combat 18/AME and Golden Dawn since Golden Dawn introduced Greek nationalist audiences to Combat 18 Hellas through its youth magazine back in November-December 2001:


    Bonus: The Golden Dawn parameter as seen by the neo-Nazi’s constant observers

    It is not certain –and rather unlikely- that Combat 18 Hellas is the Greek delegation of the homonymous organisation that was first initiated in UK, given also that the Greek B&H skinhead scene in Greece is relatively small, as the XYZ Contagion notes. Besides, Golden Dawn (GD), the major Greek neo-Nazi organisation and legitimate political party, was the first to introduce C18 to the Greek nationalist audience, through the Golden Dawn’s youth magazine “Antepithesi” (Counterattack), in November-December 2001.

    Kostas Skarmeas, attorney in the Golden Dawn trial in favor of the Afghan fishermen that were attacked by GD members, told AthensLive that while there is insufficient evidence to prove a top to bottom and well established connection between GD and C18/AME, one could say that they are communicating vessels, based on undeniable facts.

    “Until 2013, [hate] attacks were conducted only by GD – there wasn’t any other organisation to claim the responsibility”, Mr Skarmeas told AthensLive. “In 2013, when the whole leadership of Golden Dawn was arrested, we saw a clear decline of violent incidents against immigrants, anarchists and antifascists. Since GD withdrew their street battalions because of the trial, the gap seems to have been filled by C18/AME. As evidenced by the court case publication, C18/AME seems to be in direct correspondence with Golden Dawn via a liason. For example, there are published evidence that Spyros Metallinos, one of the detained suspects who participates in C18/AME, is still an active GD member. There are pictures of him from 2017, giving speeches in the GD’s department in Piraeus, or he is photographed with GD’s MPs” he concludes.

    Apart from the connection among perpetrators of these two groups and the similarities between GD and C18/AME’s ways of action, C18 has admitted its admiration for the infamous deputy head of GD in the 1990s, Periandros Androutsopoulos, who after serving sentence for crimes related to his GD role, has since stepped down. The public acknowledgment of a member that has broken with Golden Dawn could have various interpretations. For attorney Kostas Skarmeas, this indicates the level of close proximity among the organisations, rather than distance.

    As Mr Dimitras concludes “both AME/C18 and Apella (another Nazi group that police dismantled earlier this year), have a key member each with known recent involvement in Golden Dawn, which has not denied the related information for both cases”.

    Finally, as the article notes, on the same day of the Afghan refugee center attack on March 22, there was also a death threat phoned into the Hellenic League for Human Rights by the same Krypteia neo-Nazi group:


    The latest attacks

    On Thursday, March 22nd, another neo-Nazi organisation, Krypteia, attacked the headquarters of the Afghan Community in Greece causing severe damage to their offices. Luckily, no people were there at the time. On the same day, the bell at the Hellenic League for Human Rights rang and through the doorphone a voice warned the employee who answered “We are from Krypteia and we are here to sing you the carols. (We will sing them to you) in the streets or whenever we find you”.

    And then there’s the attack against a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos back in April. While there aren’t reports of actual arson, the far right attackers did yell “burn them alive” while throwing bottles and shooting flares:

    The Telegraph

    Migrants on Greek island of Lesbos attacked by far-Right extremists shouting ‘burn them alive’

    Nick Squires Our Foreign Staff
    23 April 2018 • 12:24pm

    Far-Right extremists yelling “Burn them alive” launched a violent attack overnight on migrants staging a sit-in protest on the Greek island of Lesbos, injuring around a dozen people.

    The violence erupted late on Sunday after members of the radical Patriotic Movement gathered on the central square of the island’s main city Mytilene, where around 200 Afghan asylum-seekers held a sit-in protest against their miserable living conditions.

    Despite a police presence, the situation soon escalated as the extremists started throwing bottles and lighting flares, shouting slogans like “Burn them alive” and “Throw them in the sea”.

    Tensions spiraled further when Left-wing activists arrived in support of the migrants and started fighting with the far-Right supporters.

    The clashes raged all night until security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd and evacuate the square, forcing the Afghans to return to the island’s overcrowded migrant camps.

    A dozen migrants were hurt and had to be taken to hospital, police said.

    Over 6,500 migrants are currently stranded on Lesbos, far exceeding the 3,000 spots available in the camps.

    More than one million people, mainly fleeing war in Syria, crossed to Greece from Turkey in 2015 after the onset of the bloc’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

    The influx has been sharply cut since the European Union signed a controversial deal with Turkey in 2016 to send back migrants.

    However, more than 13,000 migrants are still languishing in camps on five Greek islands until their asylum claims can be processed.

    This has fueled despair and sparked protests and outbreaks of violence.

    Greece, a country of 11 million people, recorded 58,661 applications last year, making it the member state with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita, according to official data.

    The protest by asylum-seekers began after a a high court ruled last week that migrants arriving on Greek islands from Turkey could travel to the Greek mainland while their asylum applications were being processed.

    The ruling does not have retroactive effect, meaning that migrants already there will not be allowed to leave.


    ———-

    “Migrants on Greek island of Lesbos attacked by far-Right extremists shouting ‘burn them alive'” by Nick Squires; The Telegraph; 04/23/2018

    “Despite a police presence, the situation soon escalated as the extremists started throwing bottles and lighting flares, shouting slogans like “Burn them alive” and “Throw them in the sea”.”

    Bottles and flares…hmm. It would be interesting to learn if those bottles contained flammable fluids or not. Either way, the crowd certainly demonstrated a desire to see these people burnt alive. And it’s hard to treat it as hyperbole given all the rest of the neo-Nazi arson attacks.

    So, as we can see, Greece’s neo-Nazi movement has been on an arson-spree in recent years. A spree that was really only cracked down on starting in March of this year after bloggers put together overwhelming evidence.

    Might the arsonists that started the latest round of deadly fires be neo-Nazis too? Again, at this point we have no idea, but would do have a very good idea about whether or not they should be the prime suspects.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 27, 2018, 1:45 pm
  3. Here’s a pair of stories about of the growing factors that could end up shaping the politics of immigration (and the opportunities for exploitation for the far right everywhere) that has the potential to explode in coming decade:

    With wildfires spiking this year as a reminder of how things to come as climate change gets worse, it’s worth noting a rather depressing study from last year published in Nature Clime Climate that makes it clear that you won’t be safe from the extreme heat and drying conditions from climate change even if you stay for away from combustible forests: if climate change continues unabated, 75 percent of humans face the threat of dying from lethal heat by 2100. And even if there are reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, half of the global population will still likely face at least 20 days of lethal heat:

    National Geographic

    By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind
    Up to 75 percent of people could face deadly heatwaves by 2100 unless carbon emissions plummet, a new study warns.

    By Stephen Leahy
    PUBLISHED June 19, 2017

    A new study has found that 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more—and like a growing forest fire, climate change is spreading this extreme heat.

    Without major reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO 2, up to three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat by 2100. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change.

    “Lethal heatwaves are very common. I don’t know why we as a society are not more concerned about the dangers,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author. “The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks.”

    Dangerous heatwaves are far more common than anyone realized, killing people in more than 60 different parts of the world every year. Notable deadly heatwaves include the 2010 Moscow event that killed at least 10,000 people and the 1995 Chicago heatwave, where 700 people died of heat-related causes.

    Heatwaves have also claimed victims more recently. In the last two weeks, dozens have died in India and Pakistan’s current heatwave, with temperatures spiking to a record 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius). And there have been heat-related deaths already in the U.S. this summer.

    Counting Victims

    Mora and an international group of researchers and students examined more than 30,000 relevant publications to find data on 1,949 case studies of cities or regions where human deaths were associated with high temperatures. Lethal heatwaves have been documented in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, and São Paulo.

    Those facing the greatest risk live in the wet tropics, where only slight increases in average temperatures or humidity can result in deaths. However, heat can be deadly even at moderate temperatures of less than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) if it’s combined with very high humidity, Mora ays.

    Heat kills ten times more people in the U.S. than tornados or other extreme weather events, says Richard Keller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medical history. (Read experts’ safety tips on surviving heat waves.)

    Extreme heat sneaks up on us because we expect it to be hot in the summer, says Keller, who has written a book on the 2003 European heat wave.

    The human body’s internal temperature likes to be between 98.6 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 38 degrees Celsius); any warmer, and it’s a fever. As temperatures rise, the body reacts by sweating to try and cool down.

    If our internal temperature gets close to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), all-important cellular machinery start to break down. Body temperatures above 104 degrees are extremely dangerous and require immediate medical attention.

    If the heat index—a metric that combines temperature and humidity—reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), our bodies begin to slowly heat up to the ambient temperature unless we take action to cool down. (Learn 100 practical ways to reverse climate change.)

    The young and elderly, who disproportionately lack resources and are more socially isolated, are left the most vulnerable. The overwhelming majority of 15,000 heat-related deaths in France during the 2003 European heatwave were 75 or older, many of whom were living on their own, said Keller.

    “Increasing inequality leads to increased deaths from heat extremes,” says Keller.

    Heating the Global South

    Heat didn’t used to be a huge problem in India, Pakistan, and other parts of the global south, but heat extremes are now more common and more intense with climate change, says Keller. (Read “India’s Heat Wave: How Extreme Heat Ravages the Body”)

    Thousands of people have died in India from the heatwaves in recent years. Another new study published in Science Advances found that the number of heatwaves in India killing more than 100 people increased 2.5 times between 1960 and 2009—an uptick likely due to climate change, says study co-author and University of California, Irvine professor Steven Davis.

    Yet India’s mean temperature has only increased 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) in the past 50 years, a mild increase in comparison to other parts of the world.

    Surface temperature measurements show that the Earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since preindustrial times, but this additional heat is not evenly distributed. The Arctic is 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 degrees Celsius) hotter on average, and in November 2016, temperatures were an extraordinary 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) higher than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, an area larger than the continental U.S. (Read “Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic”)

    Small increases in mean temperatures can have a major impact in tropical countries, especially amongst the poor who are extremely vulnerable, Davis notes.

    “In Chicago people can escape the heat, but that’s not the case for many poor people in India,” he says.

    Temperature measurements reveal that summers in 92 percent of U.S. cities have become hotter since 1970. Cities in Texas and the Intermountain West are the most affected, according to data compiled by ClimateCentral. It shows summers in Milwaukee are now 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.34 degrees Celsius) hotter on average, 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees Celsius) hotter in Dallas, and 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.1 degrees Celsius) in Salt Lake City.

    “This is what climate change means on the ground,” says Davis. Nor is it surprising there are 60 killer heatwaves a year, he added. Hotter temperatures are driving people to leave their homes and migrate. (Meet America’s first official climate refugees.)

    “Our attitude towards the environment has been so reckless that we are running out of good choices for the future,” says Mora of the University of Hawaii.

    ———–

    “By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind” by Stephen Leahy; National Geographic; 06/19/2018

    “Without major reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO 2, up to three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat by 2100. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change.

    The bad news: 3/4 of people risk dying of heat by the end of the century if nothing is done about climate change.

    The good news: only about half of all people will face 20 or more days of lethal heat if something is done about climate change.

    That’s how bad the situation is: the ‘good news’ is still bad news, just not as bad as the ‘bad news’.

    And if killer heat waves sound like alarmism, the authors of the study note that killer heat waves are already common. Humanity just doesn’t seem to recognize this:


    “Lethal heatwaves are very common. I don’t know why we as a society are not more concerned about the dangers,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author. “The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks.”

    Dangerous heatwaves are far more common than anyone realized, killing people in more than 60 different parts of the world every year. Notable deadly heatwaves include the 2010 Moscow event that killed at least 10,000 people and the 1995 Chicago heatwave, where 700 people died of heat-related causes.

    So killer extreme heatwaves are already common. They’re just going to get more common. And more extreme.

    And here’s part of what’s going to guarantee that these killer heatwaves because driving forces for human migration: the tropics are the most sensitive to temperature changes. A relatively small increase in temperatures is going to make a much larger difference in the number and intensity of lethal heatwaves:


    Heatwaves have also claimed victims more recently. In the last two weeks, dozens have died in India and Pakistan’s current heatwave, with temperatures spiking to a record 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius). And there have been heat-related deaths already in the U.S. this summer.

    Counting Victims

    Mora and an international group of researchers and students examined more than 30,000 relevant publications to find data on 1,949 case studies of cities or regions where human deaths were associated with high temperatures. Lethal heatwaves have been documented in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, and São Paulo.

    Those facing the greatest risk live in the wet tropics, where only slight increases in average temperatures or humidity can result in deaths. However, heat can be deadly even at moderate temperatures of less than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) if it’s combined with very high humidity, Mora ays.

    Heat kills ten times more people in the U.S. than tornados or other extreme weather events, says Richard Keller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medical history. (Read experts’ safety tips on surviving heat waves.)

    Also fueling those future migrations out of the tropics (and into places like the US), is the pervasive inequality that guarantees that large numbers of people who will be facing these heatwaves won’t have access to things like air condition:


    “Increasing inequality leads to increased deaths from heat extremes,” says Keller.

    Heating the Global South

    Heat didn’t used to be a huge problem in India, Pakistan, and other parts of the global south, but heat extremes are now more common and more intense with climate change, says Keller. (Read “India’s Heat Wave: How Extreme Heat Ravages the Body”)

    Thousands of people have died in India from the heatwaves in recent years. Another new study published in Science Advances found that the number of heatwaves in India killing more than 100 people increased 2.5 times between 1960 and 2009—an uptick likely due to climate change, says study co-author and University of California, Irvine professor Steven Davis.

    Yet India’s mean temperature has only increased 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) in the past 50 years, a mild increase in comparison to other parts of the world.

    Surface temperature measurements show that the Earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since preindustrial times, but this additional heat is not evenly distributed. The Arctic is 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 degrees Celsius) hotter on average, and in November 2016, temperatures were an extraordinary 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) higher than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, an area larger than the continental U.S. (Read “Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic”)

    Small increases in mean temperatures can have a major impact in tropical countries, especially amongst the poor who are extremely vulnerable, Davis notes.

    “In Chicago people can escape the heat, but that’s not the case for many poor people in India,” he says.

    Temperature measurements reveal that summers in 92 percent of U.S. cities have become hotter since 1970. Cities in Texas and the Intermountain West are the most affected, according to data compiled by ClimateCentral. It shows summers in Milwaukee are now 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.34 degrees Celsius) hotter on average, 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees Celsius) hotter in Dallas, and 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.1 degrees Celsius) in Salt Lake City.

    “This is what climate change means on the ground,” says Davis. Nor is it surprising there are 60 killer heatwaves a year, he added. Hotter temperatures are driving people to leave their homes and migrate. (Meet America’s first official climate refugees.)

    “Our attitude towards the environment has been so reckless that we are running out of good choices for the future,” says Mora of the University of Hawaii.

    “In Chicago people can escape the heat, but that’s not the case for many poor people in India”

    Yep, the poor of India, or Central America, aren’t going to have the same resources someone in Chicago has to find shelter. Their only option is going to be to relocate to a cooler latitude.

    And for those who don’t perish at some point from the deadly, their still going to be suffering from temperatures that literally breaks down their cellular machinery:


    Extreme heat sneaks up on us because we expect it to be hot in the summer, says Keller, who has written a book on the 2003 European heat wave.

    The human body’s internal temperature likes to be between 98.6 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 38 degrees Celsius); any warmer, and it’s a fever. As temperatures rise, the body reacts by sweating to try and cool down.

    If our internal temperature gets close to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), all-important cellular machinery start to break down. Body temperatures above 104 degrees are extremely dangerous and require immediate medical attention.

    If the heat index—a metric that combines temperature and humidity—reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), our bodies begin to slowly heat up to the ambient temperature unless we take action to cool down. (Learn 100 practical ways to reverse climate change.)

    The young and elderly, who disproportionately lack resources and are more socially isolated, are left the most vulnerable. The overwhelming majority of 15,000 heat-related deaths in France during the 2003 European heatwave were 75 or older, many of whom were living on their own, said Keller.

    So let’s hope that study was wildly off the mark, because if not if if these researchers are correct, the wild fires of today are just a symbolic prelude to what’s to come.

    As with all stories of catastrophic climate change, the question of whether or not humanity will do anything meaningful about it or just wait for the worst to today and hope to ‘tough it out’ remains unanswered…largely because we aren’t actually doing much of anything about it. There’s always the hope that maybe we’ll smarten up as things get worse. And who knows, maybe future generations will indeed smarten up (it’s a low bar at this point, so it’s possible). But that’s assuming all those future heatwaves don’t literally dumb us down:

    The Washington Post

    Heat makes you dumb, in four charts

    by Christopher Ingraham
    July 17, 2018

    Man, it’s a hot one.

    And that could mean bad news for your performance at work or school, according to at least four recently published studies.

    The reports, which examine the effects of air temperature on cognitive performance in the United States and China, rely on different data sets and methods to arrive at the same conclusion: The hotter it gets, the more our brains seem to slow down.

    The good news? These effects can be mitigated by air conditioning. But access to air conditioning, particularly in American public schools, is dependent in large part on economic factors, meaning rich kids tend to have the luxury of taking standardized tests in air-conditioned schools while many poor kids do not. And thanks to climate change, rising temperatures in coming years are likely to place even more stresses on kids’ — and adults’ — cognitive abilities.

    In four charts, here’s what the studies show.

    Study No. 1: Temperature and High-Stakes Cognitive Performance: Evidence from the National College Entrance Examination in China (July 2018)

    [see chart showing lower Chinese college entrance exam scores associated with high daily outdoor temperature during the exam]

    The first batch of results comes from a working paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research. A team of American and Chinese researchers looked at the effect of average daily temperature (that is, high temperature plus low temperature, divided by two) on Chinese students’ scores on the National College Entrance Examination, a high-stakes standardized test that is “almost the sole determinant for college admission in China,” per the researchers.

    Pairing millions of test results with local meteorological data for the days students took the exam, researchers found that, overall, every temperature increase of 3.29 degrees Celsius (or about 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit) reduced students’ scores on the exam by 1.12 percent, dampening their odds of getting into the most selective colleges by 1.97 percent.

    Chinese authorities are, in fact, well aware that ambient temperature can affect students’ test scores: Citing Chinese media reports, the study authors note that the use of air conditioning on testing days in some regions is prohibited “in order to ensure fair competition with regions in which AC is not available.”

    As it turns out, that’s a common thread running through all these studies: Air conditioning can eliminate the effects of heat on testing performance entirely. But access to classroom AC isn’t evenly distributed throughout American society.

    Study No. 2: Heat and Learning (May 2018)

    [see chart showing lower PSAT US exam scores associated with number of hot days prior to exam]

    Earlier this year, a different team of researchers ran a similar inquiry on the effect of heat exposure on American students’ PSAT scores. Rather than the average temperature on test day, these researchers were interested in how the cumulative number of hot days before the test might affect students scores.

    “Hotter school days in the year prior to the test reduce learning, with extreme heat being particularly damaging and larger effects for low income and minority students,” they found. “Without air conditioning, each 1°F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent.”

    That’s a staggering finding: All other things being equal, in the absence of air conditioning, a 10-degree increase in school-year temperature can reduce the amount of material learned by students by about 10 percent.

    The correlation is so strong it even shows up plainly on a map: In the figures below from the paper, the county-level distribution of 90-degree days bears a striking resemblance to the distribution of PSAT scores.

    [see chart showing county-level association of more days about 90 degrees F with lower PSAT scores in US]

    Generalizing outward from these data, the authors think that if heat can lower test scores, it can reduce overall worker productivity, as well. “Heat exposure can reduce the rate of learning and skill formation, thus potentially reducing the rate of economic growth,” they conclude.

    Study No. 3: Reduced cognitive function during a heat wave among residents of non-air-conditioned buildings: An observational study of young adults in the summer of 2016 (July 2018)

    [see chart showing cognitive test scores associated with higher indoor temperature]

    Moving slightly out of the standardized testing realm, this month a team of Harvard researchers published the results of a study that monitored the cognitive performance of a group of young adults during a heat wave in Boston in summer 2016.

    Similar to the studies previously mentioned, the researchers found that as the mercury rose, the subjects’ performance fell on a battery of self-administered tests involving attention, cognitive speed and basic mathematical skills. The plot above, for instance, shows performance on what’s known as a Stroop test, which asks subjects to parse the difference between incongruently labeled color/word pairs. The warmer it got indoors, the harder that task became.

    Dividing the subjects by whether they had air conditioning in their building of residence, the researchers found that a lack of AC was associated with a performance decline between 4.1 and 13.4 percent, depending on the test. Because the subjects were all healthy, young, college-age individuals, the authors noted that there’s a real possibility that deficits could be even greater among less healthy or less educated groups.

    Study No. 4: Hot Temperature and High Stakes Exams: Evidence from New York City Public Schools (March 2018)

    [see chart showing lower standardized test score on New York State Regents Exam associated with higher outdoor temperature on day of exam]

    Back to the classroom: A March working paper by Jisung Park of Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles examined the effects of outdoor air temperature on 1 million New York City public high school students’ performance on the New York State Regents examinations, a standardized test required to graduate from high school.

    Again, the effects are large: Park found that “taking an exam on a 90°F day reduces performance by 14 percent of a standard deviation relative to a more optimal 72°F day.” To put that in context, that’s more than half the size of the within-school black-white achievement gap on the tests, which works out to about 25 percent of a standard deviation.

    In Park’s sample, nearly 1 in 5 students experienced temperatures of 90 degrees or greater on exam day.

    Because the exams are a prerequisite for graduation, heat exposure during the exams also has a direct effect on students’ odds of graduating. “For the median student, taking an exam on a 90°F day leads to a 10.9% lower likelihood of passing a particular subject (e.g. Algebra), which in turn affects probability of graduation,” Park writes.

    ———-

    “Heat makes you dumb, in four charts” by Christopher Ingraham; The Washington Post; 07/17/2018

    “The reports, which examine the effects of air temperature on cognitive performance in the United States and China, rely on different data sets and methods to arrive at the same conclusion: The hotter it gets, the more our brains seem to slow down.

    That was the strong conclusion from these four studies: the hotter it gets, the dumber you get.

    And while air condition can reverse this cognitive decline, it’s also a luxury many of the poorest people in the US don’t have access to, let alone the rest of the world:


    The good news? These effects can be mitigated by air conditioning. But access to air conditioning, particularly in American public schools, is dependent in large part on economic factors, meaning rich kids tend to have the luxury of taking standardized tests in air-conditioned schools while many poor kids do not. And thanks to climate change, rising temperatures in coming years are likely to place even more stresses on kids’ — and adults’ — cognitive abilities.

    And that the cherry on top of this sh#t sundae humanity is creating for itself: the worse things get thanks to human stupidity the dumber humanity is all going to get…unless you can find refuge in air conditioned buildings. There’s something karmic about, except for the fact that the people who did the least to cause climate change (poor people living in developing countries near the equator) are the same people least likely to have access to air condition and the most likely to experience deadly heatwaves. So it’s more anti-karmic and just awful.

    And in other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 2, 2018, 1:59 pm
  4. It’s that time again. Time to give an update on the Trump Administration figures getting caught palling around with white supremacists. And this time we got a twofer:
    First, one of President Trump’s speechwriters and policy aides, Darren Beattie, was just discovered to have been a speaker at the 216 H.L. Mencken Club Conference. The Mencken Club was started in 2008 and is reportedly regularly attended by the leading white nationalist/’Alt Right’ figures like Richard Spencer, John Derbyshire, Jared Taylor, and Peter Brimelow.

    Beattie claims his speech wasn’t objectionable, telling CNN, “in 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely.” So, the way Beattie puts it, it would apparently be fine an not at all objectionable to give a speech at a hate rally as long as your particular speech wasn’t particularly objectionable.

    It’s worth noting that Beattie `provided CNN a text of his speech, and he starts off thanking the Mencken Club for inviting him and calling it “a great honor”. And when you start off your speech to a white nationalist audience by talking about what an honor it is to be invited there, that along makes it a pretty objectionable speech regardless of the rest of the content. Especially if you become a White House speech writer and policy aide a few months later:

    CNN

    Speechwriter who attended conference with white nationalists in 2016 leaves White House
    CNN Digital Expansion 2016 Andrew Kaczynski

    By Andrew Kaczynski

    Updated 11:05 AM ET, Wed August 22, 2018

    (CNN)A speechwriter for President Donald Trump who attended a conference frequented by white nationalists has left the White House.

    CNN’s KFile reached out to the White House last week about Darren Beattie, a policy aide and speechwriter, who was listed as speaking at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference.

    The Mencken Club, which is named for the early 20th century journalist and satirist whose posthumously published diaries revealed racist views, is a small annual conference started in 2008 and regularly attended by well-known white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. The schedule for the 2016 conference listed panels and speeches by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and two writers, John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, who were both fired in 2012 from the conservative magazine National Review for espousing racist views.

    Other speakers from the 2016 conference are regular contributors to the white nationalist website VDare. Jared Taylor, another leading white nationalist, can be heard at the conference in 2016 on Derbyshire’s radio show along with Brimelow.

    The White House, which asked CNN to hold off on the story for several days last week declined to say when Beattie left the White House. Beattie’s email address at the White House, which worked until late Friday evening, was no longer active by Saturday.

    Beattie confirmed to CNN he spoke to the 2016 conference, saying his speech was not objectionable. Two days after publication of this story, Beattie provided CNN with what he said was the full text of his speech at the conference.

    “In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely,” he told CNN’s KFile in an email on Saturday. “It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”

    Beattie gained prominence in 2016 when as a visiting instructor in Duke University’s political science department he signed on to a letter of academic scholars supporting Trump. He correctly predicted Trump would win the 2016 presidential election.

    As a professor, Beattie wrote an editorial for Duke’s student newspaper in support of the travel ban and has said he supported Trump’s candidacy from the beginning, citing his position on immigration.

    ———–

    “Speechwriter who attended conference with white nationalists in 2016 leaves White House” by Andrew Kaczynski; CNN; 08/22/2018

    “CNN’s KFile reached out to the White House last week about Darren Beattie, a policy aide and speechwriter, who was listed as speaking at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference.”

    He wasn’t just an attendee, he was a speaker. A speaker at a Club that’s basically a “Who’s Who” of white supremacists:


    The Mencken Club, which is named for the early 20th century journalist and satirist whose posthumously published diaries revealed racist views, is a small annual conference started in 2008 and regularly attended by well-known white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. The schedule for the 2016 conference listed panels and speeches by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and two writers, John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, who were both fired in 2012 from the conservative magazine National Review for espousing racist views.

    Other speakers from the 2016 conference are regular contributors to the white nationalist website VDare. Jared Taylor, another leading white nationalist, can be heard at the conference in 2016 on Derbyshire’s radio show along with Brimelow.

    Beattie provided a transcript of his speech to CNN apparently to prove how non objectionable the speech actually was:


    Beattie confirmed to CNN he spoke to the 2016 conference, saying his speech was not objectionable. Two days after publication of this story, Beattie provided CNN with what he said was the full text of his speech at the conference.

    And yes, the very beginning of the speech starts off with Beattie calling it a “great honor” to be invited to speak there. Ouch.

    Ok, so that was the first story we got yesterday about a White House staffer palling around with white supremacists. Now let’s move on to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow. As we also learned yesterday, Kudlow got caught invited Peter Brimelow to Kudlow’s birthday party. Note that Brimelow was list above as one of the attendees of the H.L. Mencken Club event.

    When confronted about inviting Brimelow, Kudlow explained that he’s known Brimelow for decades from back when Brimelow was a respected financial commentator (Brimelow only became an open leading white nationalist over the last couple of decades). The Kudlow played completely dumb and acted like he had no idea Brimelow was a white nationalist, adding that Brimelow has been “coming to my dinner parties for years” but that “none of this other stuff has ever come up.”

    Even Brimelow couldn’t maintain the absurd pretense that Kudlow had no idea what he was all about. When asked about it, Brimelow said, “I’ve known Larry for nearly 40 years. I regard him as a personal friend. They knew my first wife, who died, and were most kind to Lydia when I remarried. We agreed to disagree on immigration long ago.”

    Other attendees of Kudlow’s birthday bash include Roger Stone and some members of the media, CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade.

    So it sounds like Kudlow and Brimelow have probably been hanging out for years. Apparently in larger social setting that involve lots of other acquaintances. And that’s rather notable because it’s one thing for someone to attend a gathering of white supremacists. At least you can ostensibly keep it a secret when you head to the white supremacist gathering. But it’s another thing to invite the white supremacists to your own birthday party and them mingle with all your other friends. Especially when some of them are in the media:

    Washington Post

    Trump adviser Larry Kudlow hosted publisher of white nationalists at his home

    By Robert Costa, Reporter
    August 21, 2018 at 6:39 PM

    The publisher of a website that serves as a platform for white nationalism was a guest last weekend at the home of President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

    Peter Brimelow attended the gathering, a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel.

    Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on Vdare.com, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999.

    While Brimelow has long personally rejected the label of “white nationalist,” he acknowledged to the Harvard Crimson in 2016 that his website does “certainly publish a few writers I would regard as ‘white nationalist’ in that they stand up for whites just as Zionists, black nationalists do for Jews, blacks, etc.”

    Kudlow said Tuesday that Brimelow was a guest at his birthday party at his Connecticut home and is someone he has known “forever,” going back to their work in financial journalism. Kudlow expressed regret when he was described details of Brimelow’s promotion of white nationalists on Vdare.com.

    “If I had known this, we would never have invited him,” Kudlow said. “I’m disappointed and saddened to hear about it.”

    Kudlow said that Brimelow’s views on immigration and race are “a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I’m a civil rights Republican.”

    Kudlow said that Brimelow, who also lives in Connecticut, has been “coming to my dinner parties for years” but that “none of this other stuff has ever come up.”

    A White House spokesman declined to comment and pointed to Kudlow’s interview with The Washington Post.

    Brimelow declined to be interviewed by phone. In a statement, he said: “I’ve known Larry for nearly 40 years. I regard him as a personal friend. They knew my first wife, who died, and were most kind to Lydia when I remarried. We agreed to disagree on immigration long ago.”

    Tuesday evening, Brimelow tweeted: “Apparently we’re not supposed to have personal friends anymore. Who knew.”

    When asked how he would discuss this matter with Trump, Kudlow said, “Just the way I explained it now, hiding nothing.”

    The White House’s brushes with Brimelow come as Republicans are facing challenges on race following Trump’s use of racially charged insults in recent weeks, such as calling his former top African American adviser a “dog,” which several GOP senators have criticized as inappropriate and offensive language.

    Kudlow has known Brimelow for decades, during which their careers in conservative commentary and networks overlapped.

    “Mostly, he was a writer I knew for Forbes and other financial publications,” Kudlow said.

    Kudlow’s public positions are far different than Brimelow’s. A former Democrat, Kudlow has been a vocal advocate for a path to legalization for undocumented workers and was an ally of the late New York congressman Jack Kemp, who called on Republicans to do more outreach to minority voters.

    “The political tide among conservatives and Republicans may be turning in favor of immigration reform. As a longtime supporter of reform who believes that immigration is a pro-growth issue, I am delighted to see these developments,” Kudlow wrote in a 2014 column for CNBC.com. He added that the GOP “must return to its big tent roots. It must follow the lead of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. It must reach out to Latinos, African-Americans, young people and women. A conservative Catholic like myself can work inside the same tent as my Log Cabin Republican friends.”

    Brimelow’s website is named in honor of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in what is now the United States. Dare has become a symbol for white nationalists who are alarmed by immigration.

    The British-born Brimelow has written that Dare, who was white, is a reminder of the “very specific cultural origins of America at a time when mass nontraditional immigration is threatening to swamp it.”

    Vdare.com frequently publishes stories that are popular with the alt-right. The alt-right, short for alternative right, is a small, far-right movement that supports white identity or a whites-only state. Adherents of the alt-right have been known to espouse racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.

    Many alt-right followers are young white men who have found common cause online and who promote traditional gender roles. Coined by activist Richard Spencer in an effort to avoid being labeled racist or white supremacist, the phrase was intended as an umbrella term that would cover disparate points of view, but the focus on a whites-only state appears to be a core principle.

    Several longtime associates of the president also attended the private party at Kudlow’s home in rural Redding, Conn., according to Politico, including political strategist Roger Stone and businessman Christopher Ruddy, both of whom have also known Kudlow for years. Politico reported that members of the media such as CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade, who is one of the president’s favorite personalities, attended as well.

    As Kudlow’s party convened, former speechwriter Darren Beattie was still fuming over his exit from the West Wing, according to a person close to him.


    ———-

    “Trump adviser Larry Kudlow hosted publisher of white nationalists at his home” by Robert Costa; Washington Post; 08/21/2018

    “Peter Brimelow attended the gathering, a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel.”

    You know you’re going to have a memorable birthday party when you invite a leading white supremacist. It might not be memorable in a positive way, but it’s going to be memorable. And yet Kudlow claimed to have no knowledge at all that Brimelow had these views, despite Brimelow being someone Kudlow has known “forever”:


    Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on Vdare.com, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999.

    While Brimelow has long personally rejected the label of “white nationalist,” he acknowledged to the Harvard Crimson in 2016 that his website does “certainly publish a few writers I would regard as ‘white nationalist’ in that they stand up for whites just as Zionists, black nationalists do for Jews, blacks, etc.”

    Kudlow said Tuesday that Brimelow was a guest at his birthday party at his Connecticut home and is someone he has known “forever,” going back to their work in financial journalism. Kudlow expressed regret when he was described details of Brimelow’s promotion of white nationalists on Vdare.com.

    “If I had known this, we would never have invited him,” Kudlow said. “I’m disappointed and saddened to hear about it.”

    Kudlow said that Brimelow’s views on immigration and race are “a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I’m a civil rights Republican.”

    Kudlow said that Brimelow, who also lives in Connecticut, has been “coming to my dinner parties for years” but that “none of this other stuff has ever come up.”

    Apparently politics never came during the dinner parties they’ve had for year.

    Brimelow, to his credit, doesn’t engage in the same act, and simply says that he and Kudlow “agreed to disagree” on topics like immigration long ago:


    Brimelow declined to be interviewed by phone. In a statement, he said: “I’ve known Larry for nearly 40 years. I regard him as a personal friend. They knew my first wife, who died, and were most kind to Lydia when I remarried. We agreed to disagree on immigration long ago.”

    And that “agree to disagree” chumminess with leading white supremacists raises the question of just how frequently are ‘mainstream’ conservatives secretly hanging out with folks like Brimelow. Is ‘dinner with the Alt Right’ a regular thing in Kudlow’s social circles? And how large is that social circle? For instance, we’re now learning that Bob Stefanowski, this year’s GOP nominee for governor of Connecticut, was also at this dinner party with Brimelow. Again, that’s the Connecticut nominee for governor this year in attendance.

    So who else was there and common is it in mainstream conservative circle to just casually invite leading white supremacists to your dinner parties? We’ll presumably never know. But we now have a better idea of where ‘the line’ is for Trump White House employees openly cavorting with white supremacists: you can invite them to your birthday party, but if you give a speech at white nationalist conferences that crosses ‘the line’. Sometimes. There are exceptions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2018, 3:21 pm
  5. someone noticed a rather strange 14 word headline on this link

    We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again

    https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/02/15/we-must-secure-border-and-build-wall-make-america-safe-again

    and…

    On average, out of 88 claims that pass the credible fear screening, fewer than 13 will ultimately result in a grant of asylum.

    Posted by Mark | August 31, 2018, 1:58 am
  6. @Mark: You have to wonder if Ian Smith, the former DHS employee in the following article, had anything to do with that creepy ’14 words’ DHS slogan. It would certainly be consistent with the profile that emerges of the guy:

    The Atlantic

    Emails Link Former Homeland Security Official to White Nationalists

    The emails show Ian M. Smith, who has resigned his position, to be connected to an incognito social scene that included white-nationalist activists.

    Rosie Gray
    Aug 28, 2018

    In the past two years, leaders of an emboldened white nationalism have burst into the forefront of national politics and coalesced around a so-called alt-right subculture as they have endeavored to make their ideology part of the mainstream. Recent developments have shed light on previously unknown connections between white-nationalist activists and the Trump administration. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has denounced “all forms of violent extremism” following the resignation of a policy analyst who had connections with white nationalists, according to leaked emails obtained by The Atlantic.

    The emails show that the official, Ian M. Smith, had in the past been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned various events. On one of the email threads, the address of the alt-right white nationalist leader Richard Spencer is included, as well as Smith’s. Another group of recipients includes Smith as well as Jared Taylor, the founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, who calls himself a “white advocate.”

    The messages, given to The Atlantic by a source to whom they were forwarded, paint a picture of the social scene in which white nationalists gathered for an “Alt-Right Toastmasters” night in 2016, and organized dinner parties and visits from out-of-town friends. And they provide a glimpse into how a group that included hard-core white nationalists was able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles. The revelation of these messages comes amid increasing scrutiny of white nationalists’ ties to the administration; a White House speechwriter, Darren Beattie, left the administration after CNN reported earlier this month that he had attended a conference with white nationalists in 2016. The Washington Post reported last week that Peter Brimelow, the publisher of the white nationalist website VDare, had attended a party at the top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s house. Kudlow told the Post he was unaware of Brimelow’s views and would not have invited him had he known about them.

    After being reached for comment about The Atlantic’s reporting, Smith said in an email: “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.” Neither he nor DHS disputed that it is him on the emails in question.

    White nationalists have an affinity for the president, who they believe shares some of their policy priorities. After the counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, President Donald Trump remarked that there were “very fine people on both sides” who attended the rally. After hearing the president’s statement, Spencer told The Atlantic he was “really proud of him.”

    According to sources with knowledge of Smith’s role at DHS, he was a policy analyst working on immigration. He used to work for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an anti-immigration legal organization associated with the right-wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). From 2014 to 2017 he wrote a number of columns on immigration for National Review. (The NationalReview.com editor Charles Cooke didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment).

    Smith’s public writings showcased a right-wing perspective on immigration, such as opposing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended race-based restrictions on immigration, particularly from countries in Asia and Africa, and which Smith argued was responsible for the “barely governable system we have today,” opposing sanctuary cities, and applauding the controversial S.B. 1070 anti–illegal immigration law in Arizona.

    In an interview with the website FOIA Advisor in 2016, Smith said he “was born just outside Seattle, grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and lived in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Sydney, Australia for many years.” In that interview, he described his role at the IRLI thusly: “I work at a nonprofit law firm that represents people harmed by the government’s failure to regulate immigration.”

    Dale Wilcox, the executive director of the IRLI, said in a statement: “Ian Smith was an investigative associate at IRLI, as an independent contractor for two years and an employee for less than a year between January 2015 and October 2017. How our employees fill their time outside of the office, or the private relationships they pursue, are not issues of IRLI’s concern. It is not any organization’s responsibility to track their employees after hours activities or peer into their employee’s private lives. For the record, IRLI and FAIR have no association with the individuals mentioned and we repudiate their views. Furthermore, if it would come to our attention that any employees are associated with individuals and organizations that hold noxious views on matters of race and ethnicity, that may be grounds for termination. Finally, it must be noted that simply appearing on someone’s email list should never be interpreted as a blanket endorsement of that individual’s point of view.”

    After describing the emails involving Smith in detail to DHS spokespeople on Monday, The Atlantic learned on Tuesday that Smith had resigned from his position.

    A DHS spokesperson, Tyler Q. Houlton, said: “The Department of Homeland Security is committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry. This type of radical ideology runs counter to the Department’s mission of keeping America safe.”

    Several emails obtained by The Atlantic show Smith included on threads with people associated with white nationalism, such as Marcus Epstein, a former Tom Tancredo aide who entered an Alford plea in 2009 for assaulting a black woman in Washington, D.C., in 2007, and Devin Saucier, an editor (under a pseudonym) at American Renaissance. Epstein declined to comment; Saucier did not respond to a request for comment.

    On June 3, 2016, Epstein emailed a group including Smith, Saucier, Taylor, and others to invite them to an “Alt-Right Toastmasters” event. “We are having our much delayed follow up meeting on Monday June 6 at 7:00 PM. A couple of out of town guests will be there. Please RSVP and if you want to invite anyone else, please check with me,” Epstein wrote. “I’m going to give a short presentation on ‘The Pros and Cons of Anonymity’ at 8:00 followed by discussion.” In a previous email on the subject, Epstein had said he was timing the event for a visit from Wayne Lutton, the editor of the white-nationalist publication The Social Contract. According to a source who was there, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Smith attended this event.

    On December 17, 2015, Saucier and Epstein emailed a YouTube link, which is now defunct, to a group of addresses including Smith’s and Spencer’s. Reached by phone, Spencer said, “To my knowledge, I’ve never met Ian Smith. I get roped in to all sorts of email conversations, I receive too many emails every day for me to respond to.”

    Though the emails don’t show Smith and Spencer interacting, some of the messages indicate a familiarity on Smith’s part with Spencer’s projects. In another email, sent on March 7, 2015, Smith refers to an event held by “NPI,” the acronym for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s white-nationalist nonprofit, saying he had missed it because he was out of town. And in another, on May 9, 2016, Smith recommended someone for a job at a prominent, Trump-supporting media outlet, saying that the person was “currently working in development at LI” (the conservative training group the Leadership Institute) and “writes for Radix, Amren, VDare and Chronicles under a pseudonym.” The word Amren refers to American Renaissance; Radix is Spencer’s publication. “Chronicles” appears to refer to Chronicles Magazine, another publication associated with this movement, which has published Lutton and Sam Francis, the late editor of the Council of Conservative Citizens’ newsletter. Smith also wrote that the person he had recommended “helps Richard and JT with their websites,” appearing to refer to Spencer and Jared Taylor.

    In one email exchange at the end of October 2015, Ben Zapp, a real-estate agent who has in the past been photographed with members of this scene, invited a group including Smith; Saucier; Epstein; Tim Dionisopoulos, a Media Research Center staffer; and Kevin DeAnna, the former Youth for Western Civilization president, to his apartment for dinner, stating that he wasn’t going to that weekend’s NPI conference. (The 2016 conference of NPI is where Spencer was caught on video leading a “Hail Trump” chant while audience members gave Nazi salutes.) Zapp, Dionisopoulos, and DeAnna did not respond to requests for comment.

    Epstein replied to the thread saying he wasn’t going to NPI either but was planning to socialize with people who were, and that “I can’t speak for everyone, but this is probably not the best time.” Zapp responded, “It’s a dinner, not a party—thus the having to get out by 9:30 or 10 at the latest. I would imagine this would start on the early side, like 7:00 or even earlier. So it’s settled—we know my home shall remain judenfrei.” Judenfrei is a German word meaning “free of Jews,” which the Nazis used to describe areas from which Jews had been expelled or killed.

    Smith responded to the group: “They don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” using the German word for “Friday,” and added, “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot [sic], etc. I should have time to pop by though.” Matt Parrott is the former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, which flamed out earlier this year after its leader, Matthew Heimbach, had an affair with Parrott’s wife, leading to the two falling out.

    And in an email from 2014, Smith jokingly calls “spooning dibs” on Jack Donovan during a visit from Donovan, a “masculinist” writer who has ties to members of the alt-right and is heavily involved in Wolves of Vinland, a neo-pagan group entwined with the white-nationalist movement. Saucier had emailed several people to discuss sleeping arrangements for Donovan, telling them that, “There was some misunderstanding about how Jack Donovan would arrive down in Lynchburg for festivities this weekend”; the Wolves of Vinland are based outside of Lynchburg, Virginia.

    ———-

    “Emails Link Former Homeland Security Official to White Nationalists” by Rosie Gray; The Atlantic; 08/28/2018

    “The messages, given to The Atlantic by a source to whom they were forwarded, paint a picture of the social scene in which white nationalists gathered for an “Alt-Right Toastmasters” night in 2016, and organized dinner parties and visits from out-of-town friends. And they provide a glimpse into how a group that included hard-core white nationalists was able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles. The revelation of these messages comes amid increasing scrutiny of white nationalists’ ties to the administration; a White House speechwriter, Darren Beattie, left the administration after CNN reported earlier this month that he had attended a conference with white nationalists in 2016. The Washington Post reported last week that Peter Brimelow, the publisher of the white nationalist website VDare, had attended a party at the top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s house. Kudlow told the Post he was unaware of Brimelow’s views and would not have invited him had he known about them.”

    Relatively incognito white supremacists infiltrating conservative circles. It’s like the meta-story of this era. Although a more complete meta-story would be relatively incognito white supremacists infiltrating conservative circles, getting caught, maybe getting fired, and then everybody plays dumb, acts like it’s a surprise, and promptly forgets it.

    In the case of Ian Smith, it was already pretty obvious that the guy had strong Alt Right leanings based on the fact that he worked for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the far right/pro-eugenics Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). And Smith wrote almost exclusively about immigration (and his opposition to it) for the National Review. The writing was on the wall with this guy. So of course he was hired by Trump’s DHS to work on immigration issues:


    According to sources with knowledge of Smith’s role at DHS, he was a policy analyst working on immigration. He used to work for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an anti-immigration legal organization associated with the right-wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). From 2014 to 2017 he wrote a number of columns on immigration for National Review. (The NationalReview.com editor Charles Cooke didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment).

    Smith’s public writings showcased a right-wing perspective on immigration, such as opposing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended race-based restrictions on immigration, particularly from countries in Asia and Africa, and which Smith argued was responsible for the “barely governable system we have today,” opposing sanctuary cities, and applauding the controversial S.B. 1070 anti–illegal immigration law in Arizona.

    And while Smith turning out to be a Nazi fellow traveler should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his background and the groups he worked for, it is rather illustrative for how “a group that included hard-core white nationalists was able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles.” It’s as simple as Alt Right figures like Richard Spencer quietly networking with people like Smith who are basically on the same page, politically, with Spencer but who haven’t yet been outed as Nazis. In other words, people like Spencer are able to operative in conservative circles relatively easily because the internet has made quietly associating with people easier than ever and those conservative circles are filled with crypto-Nazis who largely agree with people like Spencer. And that quiet association can happen unimpeded as long as people like Smith aren’t caught in these email threads or attending Alt Right events (or inviting Alt Right figures to their birthday parties). And based on these emails, it sounds like Smith was indeed able to attend a number of Alt Right events without getting caught for years…until these emails came out:


    Several emails obtained by The Atlantic show Smith included on threads with people associated with white nationalism, such as Marcus Epstein, a former Tom Tancredo aide who entered an Alford plea in 2009 for assaulting a black woman in Washington, D.C., in 2007, and Devin Saucier, an editor (under a pseudonym) at American Renaissance. Epstein declined to comment; Saucier did not respond to a request for comment.

    On June 3, 2016, Epstein emailed a group including Smith, Saucier, Taylor, and others to invite them to an “Alt-Right Toastmasters” event. “We are having our much delayed follow up meeting on Monday June 6 at 7:00 PM. A couple of out of town guests will be there. Please RSVP and if you want to invite anyone else, please check with me,” Epstein wrote. “I’m going to give a short presentation on ‘The Pros and Cons of Anonymity’ at 8:00 followed by discussion.” In a previous email on the subject, Epstein had said he was timing the event for a visit from Wayne Lutton, the editor of the white-nationalist publication The Social Contract. According to a source who was there, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Smith attended this event.

    On December 17, 2015, Saucier and Epstein emailed a YouTube link, which is now defunct, to a group of addresses including Smith’s and Spencer’s. Reached by phone, Spencer said, “To my knowledge, I’ve never met Ian Smith. I get roped in to all sorts of email conversations, I receive too many emails every day for me to respond to.”

    Though the emails don’t show Smith and Spencer interacting, some of the messages indicate a familiarity on Smith’s part with Spencer’s projects. In another email, sent on March 7, 2015, Smith refers to an event held by “NPI,” the acronym for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s white-nationalist nonprofit, saying he had missed it because he was out of town. And in another, on May 9, 2016, Smith recommended someone for a job at a prominent, Trump-supporting media outlet, saying that the person was “currently working in development at LI” (the conservative training group the Leadership Institute) and “writes for Radix, Amren, VDare and Chronicles under a pseudonym.” The word Amren refers to American Renaissance; Radix is Spencer’s publication. “Chronicles” appears to refer to Chronicles Magazine, another publication associated with this movement, which has published Lutton and Sam Francis, the late editor of the Council of Conservative Citizens’ newsletter. Smith also wrote that the person he had recommended “helps Richard and JT with their websites,” appearing to refer to Spencer and Jared Taylor.

    And just in case it wasn’t totally obvious that Smith is indeed a Nazi at heart, there’s the email from October of 2015 where Smith describes his plans to “hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot” from the aggressively neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party. And this was his message in response to an email about keeping a home “judenfrei”:


    In one email exchange at the end of October 2015, Ben Zapp, a real-estate agent who has in the past been photographed with members of this scene, invited a group including Smith; Saucier; Epstein; Tim Dionisopoulos, a Media Research Center staffer; and Kevin DeAnna, the former Youth for Western Civilization president, to his apartment for dinner, stating that he wasn’t going to that weekend’s NPI conference. (The 2016 conference of NPI is where Spencer was caught on video leading a “Hail Trump” chant while audience members gave Nazi salutes.) Zapp, Dionisopoulos, and DeAnna did not respond to requests for comment.

    Epstein replied to the thread saying he wasn’t going to NPI either but was planning to socialize with people who were, and that “I can’t speak for everyone, but this is probably not the best time.” Zapp responded, “It’s a dinner, not a party—thus the having to get out by 9:30 or 10 at the latest. I would imagine this would start on the early side, like 7:00 or even earlier. So it’s settled—we know my home shall remain judenfrei.” Judenfrei is a German word meaning “free of Jews,” which the Nazis used to describe areas from which Jews had been expelled or killed.

    Smith responded to the group: “They don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” using the German word for “Friday,” and added, “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot [sic], etc. I should have time to pop by though.” Matt Parrott is the former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, which flamed out earlier this year after its leader, Matthew Heimbach, had an affair with Parrott’s wife, leading to the two falling out.

    So if we had to come up with a suspect list of DHS employees who would have had a keen interest in ensuring DHS flashes neo-Nazi call signs with creepy ’14 word’ anti-immigrant slogans, it seems like Ian Smith would be near that top of the suspect list. But this is the Trump administration’s DHS we’re talking about, so, of course, Smith has competition.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 5, 2018, 3:38 pm
  7. Now that ‘the caravan’ – the group of Central Americans slowly traveling from Honduras to the US – is being turned into some sort of right-wing fantasy caravan, with claims by Trump that it contains ISIS terrorists and is financed by the Democrats, and even Trump officials themselves are calling it a “political gift” for Republicans in the final stretch of the mid-terms, the question of who actually organized this caravan in the first place is suddenly an important political question. After all, the timing of this caravan literally couldn’t be worse. And as Josh Marshall notes, not only is the timing almost perfect for boosting GOP chances in the mid-terms, the timing is also perfect to ensure the cruelest treatment of the actual caravan members themselves once they reach the US border because being has harsh as possible, and demonizing them as much as possible, is now a political imperative. So whoever arranged for this caravan either had no idea what kind of political trap they were setting for themselves or knew exactly what kind of political trap they were setting and went ahead with it anyway:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    So What’s With The Timing of the Caravan?

    By Josh Marshall
    October 22, 2018 8:37 pm

    So what’s with the timing of this caravan making its way up through Mexico? A lot of readers have been asking me this and I’ve been wondering myself.

    There’s no mystery about the existence of the caravan itself. Immigration from Central America through Mexico into the United States has been a growing phenomenon in recent years. Migrants are fleeing not only economic privation but a horrific level of state breakdown and endemic violence. In many cases, people, often children, are literally fleeing for their lives. There have been caravans before. Some have garnered significant news attention in the US. Despite President Trump’s claims about their being hordes of criminals and “middle easterners” the main point of the caravans is to have some safety in numbers. Migrants are preyed upon rather than predators.

    But still … we’re two weeks out from the November election and this group, numbering in the thousands, has just crossed into Mexico. It does seem almost timed to arrive right on election day and provide made to order images for Trump to rail against in the final days. So what’s the story?

    I took some time today to talk to a number of people who are either involved in immigration politics in the US or have area knowledge that gives them insight into migration pattern from Mexico and Central America. I got a pretty consistent response: a lot of suspicion as to why this is happening right now but also no evidence to suggest anything untoward behind it or any effort to coincide with the election.

    Indeed, one source I spoke to, who has knowledge of migration patterns out of Central America in recent years, told me it’s not implausible that the organizers just aren’t or weren’t tuned into the fact that this is probably the worst possible time to do this. And by worst possible time, I mean not for its impact on the US election but for the incentives President Trump and the US government have to impose the maximum degree of brutality on the migrants – whether that’s by pressuring Mexican authorities to do their dirty work for them or creating cruelty and immiseration spectacles at the US border.

    ———–

    “So What’s With The Timing of the Caravan?” by Josh Marshall; Talking Points Memo; 10/22/2018

    “Indeed, one source I spoke to, who has knowledge of migration patterns out of Central America in recent years, told me it’s not implausible that the organizers just aren’t or weren’t tuned into the fact that this is probably the worst possible time to do this. And by worst possible time, I mean not for its impact on the US election but for the incentives President Trump and the US government have to impose the maximum degree of brutality on the migrants – whether that’s by pressuring Mexican authorities to do their dirty work for them or creating cruelty and immiseration spectacles at the US border.

    Yep, it really was like the worst time for a high-profile caravan to do this. A dangerous journey seemingly timed to ensure an unhappy ending for all the participants. It’s quite a mystery as to why they decided now is the time to do this. A mystery compounded by the fact that no one seems to know who actually started this, which itself seems rather amazing. So it’s worth noting that this is by no means the only caravan of this nature in recent years. And the group that’s been organizing many of the previous caravans, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, is not the group that arranged this caravan. First, here’s an article from April of this year covering an earlier caravan organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Trump also latched on this earlier caravan and was tweeting about it at the time. And according to this article, all of that negative attention from Trump had them convinced they were going to have to change tactics. Note that they didn’t claim they were going to stop helping migrants and asylum seekers reach the US. But they were rethinking the whole caravan plan that made these people such an easy political target of politicians like Trump:

    NBC News

    Who’s Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group behind the migrant caravan that drew Trump’s ire?
    For over 15 years, the organization has led migrants from Central America to seek asylum elsewhere.

    by Nicole Acevedo / April 4, 2018 / 12:19 PM CDT / Updated April 4, 2018 / 1:23 PM CDT

    As he stood among the mothers, children and LGBT youths who had been walking through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border, Rodrigo Abeja found it hard to believe that President Donald Trump had deemed these people dangerous.

    Abeja is one of the lead organizers of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which for over 15 years has led migrants to the U.S. via caravans to help them to seek asylum in other countries.

    “These people are frustrated and desperate,” Abeja said in Spanish in an interview with NBC News from Mexico.

    The group’s volunteers help the migrants stay together to protect themselves from danger along the way, including from criminals and natural elements, but also to move past law enforcement officials.

    The organization had been relatively unknown to most Americans until the president began tweeting about the people Abeja and volunteers began accompanying to the border during Holy Week, the final week of Lent as commemorated by Christians. The president’s tweets came after a story by Buzzfeed headlined “A Huge Caravan of Central Americans Is Headed to the U.S., and No One in Mexico Dares to Stop Them.”

    The caravans are referred to in Spanish as Via Crucis Migrantes, or Migrants’ Way of the Cross. They are fashioned after the Stations of the Cross processions celebrated by Latin American and Latino Catholics to mark and “re-enact” the final days of Jesus from prosecution to his burial in a tomb.

    In such processions, someone plays Christ carrying a wooden cross and people from the congregation or community follow him. Similarly, the volunteers from Pueblos Sin Fronteras and other groups accompany migrants in a caravan that travels in buses, on trains and on foot.

    Pueblo Sin Fronteras also runs a shelter for migrants.

    Abeja said this year’s caravan is different from previous years and there is cause for concern, but not of the sort Trump raised in his tweets.

    Abeja, who has been helping out with the caravans since 2013, said about 1,175 people were taking part in the caravan this year, with some fleeing gang violence in El Salvador and many more from Honduras than in previous years.

    “About 80 percent of them are from Honduras,” he said. “We have around 300 minors ranging from 1-month-old to 11-years-old. As of the rest of the people, we have about 20 youths who identify as LGBT and about 400 women.”

    Abejas said the Hondurans in the caravan are fleeing the continuing political crisis and violence there that escalated in November with the election of President Juan Orlando Hernández. His election was seen as rigged and was followed by violent protests that were shut down with a military-enforced curfew.

    At least 30 people were killed during Honduras’ election aftermath.

    The Organization of American States called for an election do-over after finding irregularities and deficiencies in the Honduran electoral process. But the the United States recognized the election‘s outcome without insisting on another election or a review of the results.

    The Obama administration faced a surge in arrivals from Central America, mostly women and children, at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014. The numbers forced the administration to set up emergency shelters and a family detention center in Texas. The administration also was criticized for some of the steps it took to stem the surge.

    Trump shut down the Central American Minors Program, which was set up by the Obama administration to provide a way for Central American children, and later young adults rejected for refugee status, to get a temporary stay in the U.S. if they had parents already here.

    The conditions that prompted the 2014 spike still exist in Central America today, said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, senior associate with the Latin American Working Group, which issued a report on conditions Tuesday.

    “People are not leaving for economic reasons or to take advantage of a system in the U.S.,” Burgi-Palomino said. “They have real valid claims of fear of returning to the country. They don’t have access to justice. The refugee crisis from the Northern Triangle has not ended.”

    When they get to Mexico, the Honduran migrants visit different embassies and consulates, including those belonging to the U.S., to try to be officially recognized as asylum seekers.

    After Trump’s tweets threw unprecedented attention to the caravans, Abeja and the team of Pueblo Sin Fronteras had to rethink how to help these migrants.

    Pueblo Sin Fronteras was arranging a day to get legal experts to review the cases of all the people in the caravan, and determine who has asylum cases highly likely to win, Abeja said. Those that do will carry on with the caravan.

    The rest have to stay in Mexico, facing the same asylum process that already rejected most of them.

    ———-

    “Who’s Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group behind the migrant caravan that drew Trump’s ire?” by Nicole Acevedo; NBC News; 04/04/2018

    “Abeja is one of the lead organizers of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which for over 15 years has led migrants to the U.S. via caravans to help them to seek asylum in other countries.”

    So we do know of at least one group that has been organizing these kinds of caravans (caravans not just to the US) for the past 15 years: Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

    Like the current caravan, the caravan from earlier this year largely consisted of people from Honduras, a country experience a wave of violence due, in part, to a dirty election last year backed by the US:


    Abejas said the Hondurans in the caravan are fleeing the continuing political crisis and violence there that escalated in November with the election of President Juan Orlando Hernández. His election was seen as rigged and was followed by violent protests that were shut down with a military-enforced curfew.

    At least 30 people were killed during Honduras’ election aftermath.

    The Organization of American States called for an election do-over after finding irregularities and deficiencies in the Honduran electoral process. But the the United States recognized the election‘s outcome without insisting on another election or a review of the results.

    And following Trump’s tweets about the caravan, the Pueblo Sin Fronteras organizers appeared to change the strategy and tried to identify those caravan members most likely to qualify for asylum in the US, with the rest staying in Mexico where they would likely be refused asylum:


    After Trump’s tweets threw unprecedented attention to the caravans, Abeja and the team of Pueblo Sin Fronteras had to rethink how to help these migrants.

    Pueblo Sin Fronteras was arranging a day to get legal experts to review the cases of all the people in the caravan, and determine who has asylum cases highly likely to win, Abeja said. Those that do will carry on with the caravan.

    The rest have to stay in Mexico, facing the same asylum process that already rejected most of them.

    And according to the following article from just a few days ago, Pueblo Sin Fronteras is not part of the current caravan:

    The New York Times

    Did Democrats, or George Soros, Fund Migrant Caravan? Despite Republican Claims, No

    President Trump, echoing the assertions of a Republican lawmaker, said that “a lot of money” was given to migrants traveling toward the United States. There is no evidence of that.
    By Linda Qiu
    Oct. 20, 2018

    WHAT WAS SAID

    “But a lot of money has been passing to people to come up and try and get to the border by Election Day, because they think that’s a negative for us. … They have lousy policy. The one thing, they stick together, but they wanted that caravan and there are those that say that caravan didn’t just happen. It didn’t just happen. A lot of reasons that caravan, 4,000 people.”

    — President Trump, at a campaign rally in Missoula, Mont., on Thursday

    THE FACTS

    This lacks evidence.

    A caravan of migrants is traveling north toward Mexico and the United States — and prompting alarm and false claims from Mr. Trump and Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida.

    There is no evidence that George Soros, a billionaire and major Democratic donor, paid thousands of migrants to “storm.” Nor is there evidence that Democrats support the effort, as Mr. Trump has said..

    Mr. Gaetz is wrong about several things in his description of the video he posted.

    First, it was not shot in Honduras, which he later acknowledged. Google Maps and Facebook photos place the storefront seen in the video, an auto parts shop, in Chiquimula, Guatemala. As Kirk Semple of The New York Times reported, the migrant caravan was formed last week in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and has made its way north through Guatemala.

    Second, Mr. Gaetz’s speculation that the migrants were being offered cash to join the caravan by Mr. Soros is unfounded. Open Society Foundations, Mr. Soros’s philanthropic organization, has denied any involvement.

    Luis Assardo, a Guatemalan journalist, said in an email that he spoke to residents of Chiquimula and was told that some local merchants had given the migrants money while others had offered food, clothing or other help.

    The video appears to show each migrant receiving a single bill, so the largest amount they could have received was 200 quetzales, equal to about $26. Migrants in the caravan told The New York Times that the Guatemalans generally handed out one or two quetzals, or about 13 to 26 cents — undercutting Mr. Trump’s claim of “a lot of money” exchanging hands.

    The migrants said they were not paid to join the caravan.

    BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN
    — Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018

    In an interview, Mr. Gaetz says he now suspects that the men handing out money were cartel members sowing good will and seeking to subvert the government. He is also concerned that American nongovernmental organizations were involved in organizing the caravan, but concedes that “they may not be.” He emphasized that he was merely asking questions — and is “still asking.”

    The notion that refugees will leave their homes solely for a little cash is “crazy,” said Alex Mensing, a project coordinator with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a transnational group that captured Mr. Trump’s attention last spring.. (The group did not coordinate the caravan that is now traveling north, but has been organizing similar journeys for years.)

    “You don’t have to pay people to try to save their own lives,” Mr. Mensing said. “They are fleeing violence, death threats or economic violence.”

    There is similarly no evidence that Democrats “wanted that caravan.” Though Democrats (and many Republicans) oppose the Trump administration’s policy of separating families detained at the border, Democrats have supported legislation to improve border security..

    ———-

    “Did Democrats, or George Soros, Fund Migrant Caravan? Despite Republican Claims, No” by Linda Qiu; The New York Times; 10/20/2018

    “The notion that refugees will leave their homes solely for a little cash is “crazy,” said Alex Mensing, a project coordinator with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a transnational group that captured Mr. Trump’s attention last spring.. (The group did not coordinate the caravan that is now traveling north, but has been organizing similar journeys for years.) ”

    So Pueblo Sin Fronteras is saying they didn’t organize the current caravan. So who did? We’ll according to the following Daily Beast article, it started with pro-government Honduran TV reporters lying to audiences and encouraging them to join the caravan by telling them all the food and costs would be provided. Keep in mind that the Honduran government is an ally of the US and the Trump administration backed this government after the disputed election last year. That’s the government that appears to have encouraged this.

    Specifically, it appears to have started about a month ago when migrant activist Bartolo Fuentes learned about small groups of about 200 Hondurans who were organizing among themselves to make the journey north. Fuentes has years of experience organizing such caravans and offered his help. Then the pro-government HCH cable news channel, the country’s most-watched cable news channel, did a report on Fuentes’s work. The anchors interviewed a woman who was supposedly part of the caravan and who mentioned foreign assistance. The anchors, without any supporting evidence, told TV audiences Fuentes would pay for the migrants’ food and transportation. Fuentes was later interviewed by these anchors and strongly denied this, but at that point the damage was done. Thousands of Hondurans suddenly joined the caravan.

    So it sure looks like the Honduran government, which kind of owes Trump a favor at this point over the US decision to back his contested election, returned the favor in the form of prompting a giant caravan a month before the US mid-terms:

    The Daily Beast

    Forget Trump Hysteria, Here’s How the Migrant Caravan ‘Crisis’ Really Began

    It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, but a TV station close to the Honduran gov’t wanted to embarrass an organizer and said he’d pay for everything. Then ‘the avalanche’ began.
    Jeff Ernst,
    Sarah Kinosian
    10.23.18 4:50 AM ET

    TAPACHULA, Mexico—When Bartolo Fuentes speaks about migrants, the usually soft-spoken former politician gets passionate, and an encyclopedic knowledge of immigration issues shines through. Bespectacled and 54 years old with salt and pepper hair, he has the look of a professor, but he draws on a lifetime working with migrants in Honduras, and on his own personal experience.

    In 1980 an older brother migrated north, and by the end of the decade Bartolo sought refuge in Mexico himself after receiving threats. Central America’s right-wing death squads were notorious and his earlier participation in protests against the U.S.-backed Contras, who used his country as a staging ground in their CIA-backed war on Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, made him a potential target.

    Until recently, Fuentes lived in relative anonymity despite being a former legislator and the host of a radio show on migration called “Without Borders.” But today, depending on who you ask, he is either a hero who’s put his own life on the line to help migrants, or a cynical villain. Many in the Honduran government—concerned with the country’s image amid a mass exodus—portray Fuentes as a “coyote,” or human trafficker, who organized the migrant caravan and took advantage of the people in it with “false promises” for political purposes.

    ABOUT A MONTH AGO, when Fuentes first became aware of small groups dispersed throughout Honduras that were organizing among themselves to make the trek north, he decided to help out, just as he had done with a previous migrant caravan last April—and indeed throughout his life.

    At the time, all the groups combined numbered no more than 200 people, Fuentes says. As someone who had helped repatriate the bodies of many migrants who died in the journey al Norte, he was acutely aware of the dangers and wanted to help ensure the people’s safety.

    “No one expected this human avalanche,” he told The Daily Beast in a phone call from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

    But then a report on the country’s most-watched cable news channel, HCH, painted a picture of the caravan that changed everything. The anchors interviewed a woman who was supposedly part of the caravan. The woman talked about safety in numbers, called Fuentes the organizer and mentioned foreign assistance. The anchors, without any supporting evidence, then said that Fuentes would pay for the migrants’ food and transportation.

    Fuentes was later interviewed by the anchors and strongly refuted what was said, but by then the damage was done.

    “When I saw the [HCH] news report, I said ‘This is my opportunity,’” said Gustavo Montoya, 57, a migrant in the caravan whose face was sunburned and eyes were sparkling as he arrived in the this town in southern Mexico. “It grabbed my attention that we could pass easily. It impressed a lot of people.”

    “After that news program I started to get hundreds of calls, then it took on a life of its own,” said Fuentes. “In Honduras, the government wants to minimize why people are leaving—they know they are going to leave and they want to say they are doing so because of lies and the opposition, not the conditions that they created. This is in line with what the United States is saying—that there are false promises being made. And this pro-government news program played into that messaging, trying to say that there is financing when really people just need to get out.”

    Soon afterward, Hondurans from across the country headed west to join the caravan, which swelled by the thousands. Many were propelled to join by the HCH report, but the majority were people who had been considering migration for a long time and now saw an opportunity to head north with added safety in numbers and without having to pay a coyote, which can cost as much as $7,000.

    “We are in the middle of a crisis in Honduras,” said Fuentes’ wife Dunia Montoya, who shares her husband’s academic aura and is also a journalist and migration activist. “In Honduras 300 people leave daily. What frightens the world is the accumulation of a week or two of people that concentrated together, but in Honduras we have been living in a humanitarian crisis since long ago.”

    SOME GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS in Honduras are calling for an increase in social welfare spending to combat the causes of migration. But existing programs are highly politicized and rife with corruption. President Juan Orlando Hernandez already has spent more than any of his predecessors—to little or no effect on the lives of the poor.

    According to FOSDEH, a local think tank, about two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and the total number increased by roughly six percent in 2017; 80 percent of workers earn below the minimum wage of a few hundred dollars per month. On top of this, Honduras ranks among the most violent countries on the planet. Fewer than one in 10 crimes is ever solved.

    And then there’s the drought. Honduras is one of the countries that has been most affected by climate change, particularly in the part of its territory that intersects with what’s known as the Central America Dry Corridor. In the past, farmers in this region could rely on two harvests annually, but now they are lucky to produce one. This year, a severe drought during the rainy season meant tens of thousands of families produced none.

    Data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol shows an increase in rural migration in the past year due to these issues, and so many migrants from that particular region have attempted to flee in the last week that Honduras closed its border there with Guatemala indefinitely.

    WITH A MIDTERM ELECTION looming in the U.S., President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico if they didn’t stop the caravan, prompting those governments to send security forces to their respective borders. Then, without evidence to support the claim, Trump said the caravan was organized by Democrats and one of their major donors, billionaire George Soros. At a campaign rally in Montana last Thursday he said, “It’s going to be an election of the caravan.” On Friday he said, “These are some bad people coming through. These aren’t babies, these aren’t little angels coming into our country.”

    On Monday Trump floated the idea the caravan was rife with criminals and “Middle Easterners,” only to have Guatemala’s president claim, in a burst of pure sycophancy meant to back up Trump’s claims, that several members of the so-called Islamic State had been intercepted. No evidence was presented to substantiate that statement. New York Times fact checkers rubbished it in short order. And, as it happens, for more than a century “Middle Easterners” have been a significant part of the Honduran population. They’re called Turcos because they immigrated so long ago they came with Ottoman passports.

    By Monday, in any case, most of the caravan, by then over 7,000 strong, successfully passed into Mexico. Trump announced via Twitter that since Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were unable to halt the advance of the caravan, “We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”

    The lesson to government leaders in the region should be just what a capricious ally Trump can be.

    Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has a lot more to lose than $180 million in U.S. assistance if the United States withdraws its support from his government. The United States is a close ally and supported Hernandez during a disputed election earlier this year, which was fraught with irregularities that swung in his favor and prompted the head of the Organization of American States to call for new elections.

    Washington chose instead to recognize Hernandez as the winner and certified that his government was making progress on human rights despite corruption scandals and abuses, including extrajudicial killings that have taken place on his watch. Over 30 people were killed in the unrest that followed the election and the crisis polarized the country further.

    WITH EACH PASSING DAY, the news coverage is inspiring more and more people to flee Honduras. Another caravan, this with roughly 1,000 people according to reports, crossed into Guatemala on Sunday. Yareli Guillen, a 19-year-old housekeeper in San Pedro Sula with fair skin, dark hair, a cherubic face, and a voice younger than her years is about to migrate for the second time, after first leaving her rural hometown for the city. “I have work, but I also know there’s no opportunity here for me to grow and I need to help my family—there has been practically no harvest this year,” she said.

    ———-

    “Forget Trump Hysteria, Here’s How the Migrant Caravan ‘Crisis’ Really Began” by Jeff Ernst, Sarah Kinosian; The Daily Beast; 10/23/2018

    “Until recently, Fuentes lived in relative anonymity despite being a former legislator and the host of a radio show on migration called “Without Borders.” But today, depending on who you ask, he is either a hero who’s put his own life on the line to help migrants, or a cynical villain. Many in the Honduran government—concerned with the country’s image amid a mass exodus—portray Fuentes as a “coyote,” or human trafficker, who organized the migrant caravan and took advantage of the people in it with “false promises” for political purposes.

    Bortolo Fuentes is being cast as the man behind the caravan. And yet, when you look at how the situation played out, it sure looks like the people behind the caravan are the pro-government reporters who told audiences that Fuentes would pay for their food and transportation:


    ABOUT A MONTH AGO, when Fuentes first became aware of small groups dispersed throughout Honduras that were organizing among themselves to make the trek north, he decided to help out, just as he had done with a previous migrant caravan last April—and indeed throughout his life.

    At the time, all the groups combined numbered no more than 200 people, Fuentes says. As someone who had helped repatriate the bodies of many migrants who died in the journey al Norte, he was acutely aware of the dangers and wanted to help ensure the people’s safety.

    “No one expected this human avalanche,” he told The Daily Beast in a phone call from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

    But then a report on the country’s most-watched cable news channel, HCH, painted a picture of the caravan that changed everything. The anchors interviewed a woman who was supposedly part of the caravan. The woman talked about safety in numbers, called Fuentes the organizer and mentioned foreign assistance. The anchors, without any supporting evidence, then said that Fuentes would pay for the migrants’ food and transportation.

    Fuentes was later interviewed by the anchors and strongly refuted what was said, but by then the damage was done.

    “When I saw the [HCH] news report, I said ‘This is my opportunity,’” said Gustavo Montoya, 57, a migrant in the caravan whose face was sunburned and eyes were sparkling as he arrived in the this town in southern Mexico. “It grabbed my attention that we could pass easily. It impressed a lot of people.”

    “After that news program I started to get hundreds of calls, then it took on a life of its own,” said Fuentes. “In Honduras, the government wants to minimize why people are leaving—they know they are going to leave and they want to say they are doing so because of lies and the opposition, not the conditions that they created. This is in line with what the United States is saying—that there are false promises being made. And this pro-government news program played into that messaging, trying to say that there is financing when really people just need to get out.”

    Soon afterward, Hondurans from across the country headed west to join the caravan, which swelled by the thousands. Many were propelled to join by the HCH report, but the majority were people who had been considering migration for a long time and now saw an opportunity to head north with added safety in numbers and without having to pay a coyote, which can cost as much as $7,000.

    Again, this is a government that probably feels pretty indebted to Trump right now given the US decision to ignore the calls by Organization of American States to call for new elections despite all the irregularities that ensured Hernandez’s victory:


    Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has a lot more to lose than $180 million in U.S. assistance if the United States withdraws its support from his government. The United States is a close ally and supported Hernandez during a disputed election earlier this year, which was fraught with irregularities that swung in his favor and prompted the head of the Organization of American States to call for new elections.

    Washington chose instead to recognize Hernandez as the winner and certified that his government was making progress on human rights despite corruption scandals and abuses, including extrajudicial killings that have taken place on his watch. Over 30 people were killed in the unrest that followed the election and the crisis polarized the country further.

    Of course, the false reporting wasn’t the only thing that triggered the caravan. Rampant poverty, crime, and drought from climate change all created the conditions that made the too-good-to-be-true promise made by these reporter too tempting to refuse for many Hondurans with little to lose:


    According to FOSDEH, a local think tank, about two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and the total number increased by roughly six percent in 2017; 80 percent of workers earn below the minimum wage of a few hundred dollars per month. On top of this, Honduras ranks among the most violent countries on the planet. Fewer than one in 10 crimes is ever solved.

    And then there’s the drought. Honduras is one of the countries that has been most affected by climate change, particularly in the part of its territory that intersects with what’s known as the Central America Dry Corridor. In the past, farmers in this region could rely on two harvests annually, but now they are lucky to produce one. This year, a severe drought during the rainy season meant tens of thousands of families produced none.

    Data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol shows an increase in rural migration in the past year due to these issues, and so many migrants from that particular region have attempted to flee in the last week that Honduras closed its border there with Guatemala indefinitely.

    And the Honduran government doesn’t appear to be the only government trying to curry favor with Trump. The president of Guatemala decided to claim, without providing evidence, that several ISIS members had be caught in the caravan. The fact that these caught members were parading on TV makes it clear that this was a blatant lie. A blatant lie intended to buttress the blatant lie Trump made a day earlier about the caravan being rife with criminal and “Middle Easterners”:


    WITH A MIDTERM ELECTION looming in the U.S., President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico if they didn’t stop the caravan, prompting those governments to send security forces to their respective borders. Then, without evidence to support the claim, Trump said the caravan was organized by Democrats and one of their major donors, billionaire George Soros. At a campaign rally in Montana last Thursday he said, “It’s going to be an election of the caravan.” On Friday he said, “These are some bad people coming through. These aren’t babies, these aren’t little angels coming into our country.”

    On Monday Trump floated the idea the caravan was rife with criminals and “Middle Easterners,” only to have Guatemala’s president claim, in a burst of pure sycophancy meant to back up Trump’s claims, that several members of the so-called Islamic State had been intercepted. No evidence was presented to substantiate that statement. New York Times fact checkers rubbished it in short order. And, as it happens, for more than a century “Middle Easterners” have been a significant part of the Honduran population. They’re called Turcos because they immigrated so long ago they came with Ottoman passports.

    All in all, it’s sure looking like the conditions for current caravan crisis was created by a combination of a corrupt Honduran government, rampant crime, and climate change. But the actual spark that created the caravan was thanks to Hondura’s pro-government media. Media working at the behest of a right-wing government that owes Trump big time.

    Adding to the dark comedy nature of the narrative coming out of the White House, Vice President Mike Pence just told reported that it’s actually Venezuelan leftists financing the caravan. Yep. And who told Pence this fun fact? The president of Honduras:

    Talking Points Memo

    ‘No Proof Of Anything’: Trump Unravels When Pressed On Migrant Conspiracies

    By Matt Shuham
    October 23, 2018 4:53 pm

    President Donald Trump finally admitted Tuesday that he had “no proof” to support his blatant lies and conspiracy theories about the migrants and asylum-seekers traveling toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The President also tried — and failed — to get Vice President Mike Pence to accuse Democrats of funding the caravan, and to say there were Islamic State members in the caravan.

    Pence did say that, during a phone call earlier Tuesday, the vice president of Honduras had told him that the group “was organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela.”

    “What else did they say, Mike, about ISIS?” Trump attempted. “Did they say something?”

    They hadn’t. Pence returned to talking about leftist groups.

    Pressed earlier for proof for Democrats’ non-existent involvement with the caravan, Trump was similarly evasive.

    “You’re going to find out. And we’re going to see. Maybe they made a bad mistake, too,” he said.


    ———-

    “‘No Proof Of Anything’: Trump Unravels When Pressed On Migrant Conspiracies” by Matt Shuham; Talking Points Memo; 10/23/2018

    “The President also tried — and failed — to get Vice President Mike Pence to accuse Democrats of funding the caravan, and to say there were Islamic State members in the caravan.”

    Yep, Trump actually tried to coax a new set of lies out of Mike Pence during a joint phone call after Pence told him that the Honduran president blamed the financing of the caravan on Venezuela:


    Pence did say that, during a phone call earlier Tuesday, the vice president of Honduras had told him that the group “was organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela.”

    “What else did they say, Mike, about ISIS?” Trump attempted. “Did they say something?”

    They hadn’t. Pence returned to talking about leftist groups.

    So it sounds like the right-wing needs to work out its narrative. Trump clearly wants to idiotically assert that the Democrats are behind the caravan. And he clearly wants to claim there’s ISIS members in the caravan (Pence has been sort of backing him up on that lie). And as we saw above, the Guatemalan president was happy to push the ISIS meme. But the Honduran president is pointing fingers as Venezuela. What will the narrative be that they ultimately arrive at? We’ll find out. But the actual causes (crime, poverty, climate change, and the Honduran government’s media assets) will presumably continue avoiding blame and maintain the conditions where new politically convenient caravans can be created as needed in the future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 23, 2018, 3:29 pm
  8. Here’s another piece that describes the factors that led to the suddenly growth of the migrant caravan. As we should expect, in addition to the disinformation promoting the caravan that was heavily pushed by pro-government cable TV, it sounds like Facebook and WhatsApp also played key roles:

    Bartolo Fuentes, the migrant activist who ended up leading the caravan, explains how he was initially contact over WhatsApp by a small group of people in September who were planning on making the trip to the US and wanted Fuentes’s advice on about the trip. A week before the caravan started, Fuentes posted a flier on his Facebook page calling for people to meet at 8 a.m. on October 12 at a bus terminal. Then there was surge in media coverage, especially from the popular pro-government HCH broadcaster. By the time people started gathering at the terminal around on October 11th, there were already live streams from Facebook pages and the whole thing had gone viral across Central America. The caravan organizers were stunned with the sudden flow of people far beyond anyone’s expectations. Within days of the caravan’s departure almost no one in the caravan could explain how it all started. They could only cite Facebook posts or TV coverage that prompted them to decide to join.

    So that explains at least part of the dynamic that led to this unusually large caravan suddenly popping up less than a month before the US mid-terms. But that still leaves a number of unanswered questions. Questions related to the lessons we’ve been learning about Facebook and WhatsApp in recent years, the lesson that the right-wing has mastered the art of weaponizing social media a mass manipulation. So given the fact that the pro-government (right-wing government) cable TV station was apparently spreading misinformation to promote the caravan and given the obviously political gift the timing of the caravan represents to the American right-wing, the obvious question of whether or not right-wing forces were also behind the Facebook and WhatsApp promotion of the caravan has to be asked (even though it probably can’t realistically be answered, especially for WhatsApp)

    The Washington Post

    How the migrant caravan became so big and why it’s continuing to grow

    By Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow
    October 23, 2018 at 8:10 PM

    HUIXTLA, Mexico — Edith Cruz was sitting at home in central Honduras, scanning Facebook on her phone, when she saw the post about the caravan on a community news page.

    It was Oct. 12. She and her cousin had just opened a small business selling tortillas when they were confronted by a gang, threatened with death if they didn’t hand over half of their profits. She looked at the Facebook post: “An avalanche of Hondurans is preparing to leave in a caravan to the United States. Share this!” Within three hours, her bags were packed.

    The question of how the migrant caravan began has wound its way to the American midterm elections. President Trump and other Republicans have suggested that Democrats paid migrants to begin the journey. As the group continues to grow, the largest such caravan in recent years, its beginnings are being scrutinized: How did more than 5,000 migrants from across Central America find each other?

    Although the caravan’s origin story remains somewhat opaque, the answer from many migrants here is that they had wanted to leave for months or years, and then — in a Facebook post, a television program, a WhatsApp group — they saw an image of the growing group and decided.

    “Right away, I knew I would go,” said Irma Rosales, 37, from Santa Ana, El Salvador, who saw images of the caravan on television and bought a bus ticket to meet up with the group in Guatemala last week.

    “I had been waiting for a way to get north, and then I heard about the caravan,” said Ediberto Fuentes, 30, who had fled Honduras for southern Mexico but was stranded for months, without the money to pay for a smuggler to travel to the United States.

    “I packed my bag in 30 minutes,” said Jose Mejia, 16, from Ocotepeque, Honduras, who heard about the caravan when his friend knocked on his door at 4 a.m. and said simply, “We’re going.”

    On Tuesday, they stopped to rest in the small southern Mexican city of Huixtla, washing their clothes in buckets of water, sending messages to their families from Internet cafes, accepting whatever donations local residents were willing to offer. There was word that hundreds more migrants from across Central America, drawn by the endless media coverage, were on their way.

    The Honduran government claims that community activists, led by a former legislator named Bartolo Fuentes, were initially behind the group, intending to malign the country’s leaders. The bulk of the migrants here are still from Honduras.

    “There’s clear evidence where it began. Bartolo was the person who was in front of the media; he was the face of this event,” Alden Rivera Montes, Honduras’ ambassador to Mexico, said in an interview.

    “They were trying to show Honduras as a failed country, which is totally false,” Rivera Montes said.

    Vice President Pence said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Honduras’ president told him the caravan was financed by Venezuela’s left-wing government. There is no evidence to support that claim.

    Fuentes told The Post he was merely helping to connect small groups of would-be migrants who were already planning to travel north. In September, there were posts on Honduran Facebook groups about the plans for the caravan.

    “These people who have normally migrated, hidden, day after day, had decided to come together and travel together to protect themselves,” Fuentes said.

    He said he was in touch with four groups of would-be migrants who were talking on WhatsApp and other social networks — in Tegucigalpa, the capital, as well as La Ceiba, Colon and San Pedro Sula — about the possibility of traveling together.

    “They contacted me; they said, ‘We saw what you’ve written; we want you to tell us how the caravan had gone in March,’ ” he said.

    Fuentes had a long career as a political activist on the Honduran left. A former student leader who had protested against the U.S.-backed “contra” war to overthrow the neighboring Nicaraguan government, he was elected to the legislature in 2013 and hosted a radio show about migration called “Without Borders.” He is a staunch critic of President Juan Orlando Hernández.

    A week before the caravan started, Fuentes posted on his Facebook page a flier about the caravan that read, “We aren’t going because we want to, violence and poverty is driving us out.” It called people to meet at 8 a.m. on Oct. 12 at the San Pedro Sula bus terminal.

    “We are going to accompany these people,” Fuentes wrote on Facebook on Oct. 5. “We will support them at least for the departure.”

    The early days of the caravan received a surge of media coverage in Honduras, particularly from HCH, a popular television broadcaster in the country. By the time people started gathering at the bus terminal on Oct. 11 and 12, there were live streams on various Facebook pages. Before Americans had heard about it, the caravan had gone viral in Central America.

    “Everyone wants to know who is guilty, who is behind this,” said Irineo Mujica, director of Tijuana-based Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which has advocated for this and previous caravans, helping to arrange the routes and other logistics. “But no one has the power to organize this many people. No one can engineer an exodus.”

    By mid-October, the explosion of media coverage and viral social media posts across Central America prompted an explosion in the number of migrants. Within days of the caravan’s departure from San Pedro Sula on Oct. 13, almost no one could pin down the group’s official origin story. They could cite only the Facebook post or television program that led to their own decision to migrate.

    Many of the migrants watched the caravan grow in real time, surprised as the numbers surged.

    “When I arrived at the bus terminal (in San Pedro Sula), there were 30 people. A few hours later, there were hundreds,” said Jose Vijin, 32, from northwestern Honduras.

    Migrant caravans have traveled through Central America for several years, part human rights protest, part effort to guarantee safe passage for Central Americans traversing a dangerous route north. Normally, a Central American migrating to the United States must pay a series of cartel-linked smugglers to make the journey, a sum that can reach more than $10,000. The caravan offered a relatively safe way to migrate that was basically free of cost.

    The last caravan, which left southern Mexico in March, received so much media attention, particularly during its final days, that it appears to have set the groundwork for the current, larger exodus, said many migrants. The current group is exponentially bigger than previous caravans. Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who missed their chance this spring decided that this time, they would rush to join the group.

    ———-

    “How the migrant caravan became so big and why it’s continuing to grow” by Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow; The Washington Post; 10/23/2018

    “Although the caravan’s origin story remains somewhat opaque, the answer from many migrants here is that they had wanted to leave for months or years, and then — in a Facebook post, a television program, a WhatsApp group — they saw an image of the growing group and decided.”

    TV, Facebook, and WhatsApp. That’s how people in Honduras, and eventually elsewhere in Central America, learned about the caravan. Bortolo Fuentes was first contact by a small group of would-be migrants in September, he agreed to help them:


    Fuentes told The Post he was merely helping to connect small groups of would-be migrants who were already planning to travel north. In September, there were posts on Honduran Facebook groups about the plans for the caravan.

    “These people who have normally migrated, hidden, day after day, had decided to come together and travel together to protect themselves,” Fuentes said.

    He said he was in touch with four groups of would-be migrants who were talking on WhatsApp and other social networks — in Tegucigalpa, the capital, as well as La Ceiba, Colon and San Pedro Sula — about the possibility of traveling together.

    “They contacted me; they said, ‘We saw what you’ve written; we want you to tell us how the caravan had gone in March,’ ” he said.

    Fuentes had a long career as a political activist on the Honduran left. A former student leader who had protested against the U.S.-backed “contra” war to overthrow the neighboring Nicaraguan government, he was elected to the legislature in 2013 and hosted a radio show about migration called “Without Borders.” He is a staunch critic of President Juan Orlando Hernández.

    He then posts on Facebook a week before the October 12th departure date, letting anyone who wanted to join know to show up at a bus terminal. Then there was a surge of media coverage, in particularly from the popular pro-government HCH cable news channel, along with live Facebook streams. An explosion of media coverage in the days following its departure ensure the whole thing went viral across Central America before audiences in the US had even heard about it:


    A week before the caravan started, Fuentes posted on his Facebook page a flier about the caravan that read, “We aren’t going because we want to, violence and poverty is driving us out.” It called people to meet at 8 a.m. on Oct. 12 at the San Pedro Sula bus terminal.

    “We are going to accompany these people,” Fuentes wrote on Facebook on Oct. 5. “We will support them at least for the departure.”

    The early days of the caravan received a surge of media coverage in Honduras, particularly from HCH, a popular television broadcaster in the country. By the time people started gathering at the bus terminal on Oct. 11 and 12, there were live streams on various Facebook pages. Before Americans had heard about it, the caravan had gone viral in Central America.

    “Everyone wants to know who is guilty, who is behind this,” said Irineo Mujica, director of Tijuana-based Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which has advocated for this and previous caravans, helping to arrange the routes and other logistics. “But no one has the power to organize this many people. No one can engineer an exodus.”

    By mid-October, the explosion of media coverage and viral social media posts across Central America prompted an explosion in the number of migrants. Within days of the caravan’s departure from San Pedro Sula on Oct. 13, almost no one could pin down the group’s official origin story. They could cite only the Facebook post or television program that led to their own decision to migrate.

    So it sounds like the caravan had an unusual amount of media attention. Keep in mind that these caravans are a common thing, so it’s not like this one was some sort of media-worthy novelty.

    But despite this wave of media coverage (including from the pro-government HCH), the Honduran government his now blaming it all on Bortolo Fuentes, claiming he did it all to make the Honduran government look bad:


    The Honduran government claims that community activists, led by a former legislator named Bartolo Fuentes, were initially behind the group, intending to malign the country’s leaders. The bulk of the migrants here are still from Honduras.

    “There’s clear evidence where it began. Bartolo was the person who was in front of the media; he was the face of this event,” Alden Rivera Montes, Honduras’ ambassador to Mexico, said in an interview.

    “They were trying to show Honduras as a failed country, which is totally false,” Rivera Montes said.

    Amusingly, the Honduran government also told Mike Pence, without evidence, that the Venezuelan government was financing the whole thing. So the Honduran government seems to be very interested in framing the caravan as some sort of attack on itself (presumably in part to deflect from the role the pro-government TV coverage played):


    Vice President Pence said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Honduras’ president told him the caravan was financed by Venezuela’s left-wing government. There is no evidence to support that claim.

    The caravan members themselves are saying that it was all of the media attention of the last caravan from March/April of this year that helped generate interest in this caravan. The fact that they don’t have to pay traffickers for protection is another big incentive for the caravan approach. So when you combined the inherent advantages of a caravan (cheaper and safer) with the extensive free advertising they received from the media, it’s almost surprising there aren’t more and larger caravans of this nature:


    Migrant caravans have traveled through Central America for several years, part human rights protest, part effort to guarantee safe passage for Central Americans traversing a dangerous route north. Normally, a Central American migrating to the United States must pay a series of cartel-linked smugglers to make the journey, a sum that can reach more than $10,000. The caravan offered a relatively safe way to migrate that was basically free of cost.

    The last caravan, which left southern Mexico in March, received so much media attention, particularly during its final days, that it appears to have set the groundwork for the current, larger exodus, said many migrants. The current group is exponentially bigger than previous caravans. Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who missed their chance this spring decided that this time, they would rush to join the group.

    “The last caravan, which left southern Mexico in March, received so much media attention, particularly during its final days, that it appears to have set the groundwork for the current, larger exodus, said many migrants. The current group is exponentially bigger than previous caravans.”

    So given that the large amounts of attention that caravan from earlier this year received and the role that attention appears to have played in the unprecedented size of the current caravan, it’s worth noting that one of things that drew enormous international attention to that last caravan was the decision of Donald Trump and the GOP to politicize it at the time. As the following article from early April describes, these caravans are common place and typically done primarily to bring public attention to asylum seekers (and not to simply bum rush the borders of a country like the GOP is claiming). They’ve been going on for years. But Trump and the GOP decided to politicize the last one and now there’s a super-caravan. So in that sense, we can thank Donald Trump and the GOP for the unprecedented size of the current caravan:

    The Washington Post

    The migrant caravan denounced by Trump will end in Mexico City, but some people vow to go on alone

    By Joshua Partlow
    April 5, 2018

    MATIAS ROMERO, Mexico — The caravan of Central American migrants that has prompted scathing tweets from President Trump is expected to end its journey at the Mexican capital rather than pushing north to the U.S. border, organizers said Wednesday.

    The sheer size of the group — more than 1,000 people, swollen by Hondurans leaving their country after a contentious presidential election — has made the logistics of travel too difficult, they said.

    “When we saw the numbers, we were shocked,” said Irineo Mujica, a Mexican American activist who is helping organize the trek. “It’s impossible to travel with this many people.”

    Trump warned on Twitter this week that a “big Caravan” was “now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border” — one of a number of warnings he issued about the march. The president, who made the fight against undocumented immigration a core campaign promise, declared that he would sent troops to the border to prevent a flood of illegal crossers.

    But while many of the Central Americans in the group say they will try to get to the United States on their own, it has been decided that the organized caravan will finish in Mexico City after a stop in the city of Puebla later this week.

    In a puzzling turnabout, Trump on Thursday appeared to praise “strong immigration laws” in Mexico for keeping the caravan from moving toward the U.S. border. Earlier this week, Trump accused Mexico of doing little to halt the flow of migrants, and threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement as punishment.

    “The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border,” Trump wrote in a tweet, which also took credit for policies that have limited border crossings.

    In Mexico, some of the families huddled under tarpaulins and trees at a soccer field in Matias Romero said they were frustrated to learn that the caravan won’t reach the border, having counted on the protection offered by the big group.

    After fleeing San Pedro Sula, Honduras, because of gang threats, Katerina Dominguez Enamorado, 22, had been in Tapachula, a southern Mexico town, when she joined the caravan. She expected it would end in Tijuana, the Mexican border town across from San Diego. If she had known it would go only halfway across Mexico, she said, she would have tried to work in Tapachula and save money for the journey.

    “My mission is to reach Tijuana, even if I have to beg for money and hitchhike,” she said.

    Mexican immigration officials on Wednesday handed out legal permits of up to a month to hundreds of migrants who spent their fourth day in a public park here in the southern state of Oaxaca, waiting for the caravan to continue. This spares them from immediate deportation but is not a long-term solution. For Mujica, the organizer, that’s as much as he expects.

    Mujica, the director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a migrants’ rights group, said he never intended to bum-rush the group over the border. In fact, he said, many of the migrants hoping to reach the border planned to ask for asylum — not sneak over illegally.

    Caravans like this one are common as an attempt to raise awareness, but they exist apart from the regular flow of migrants. Conservative U.S. media seized on this year’s caravan as an example of unchecked migration, and Trump’s comments brought it more attention.

    Although the president has repeatedly warned about the dangers of illegal immigrants pouring over the border, the numbers have fallen. U.S. border authorities reported a 26-percent decline in the number of people detained along the Mexico border in 2017 compared with the previous year.

    Mujica reiterated that the point of the caravan was to emphasize the need for legal reforms, draw attention to the migrants’ plight and press for more welcoming policies from Mexican authorities. He said “the best thing we have won” from the spotlight Trump has turned on this particular group is a high-level meeting with Mexican immigration authorities to talk about long-term change.

    Before, “it was like deaf ears, nobody was listening,” Mujica said, adding that migrants will be able to “exercise their rights with these documents.”

    Organizers say that migrants can now take buses on their own to Puebla, a city south of the capital, where a workshop on immigration law is planned for Friday. Rodrigo Abeja, one of the organizers, said help was being sought from a breakaway faction of Mexico’s teachers union, which has years of experience convening large protests and is generally aligned with the country’s leftist presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. But the logistics remain fluid.

    Even before Trump got involved, this had become the biggest caravan that this group of organizers had seen.

    Many Hondurans who fled after their country’s contested presidential election in November had already amassed in Tapachula and joined the caravan when it set off late last month. Mujica said that at least 80 percent of the migrants are from Honduras.

    One of them, Maria Elena Colindres Ortega, 43, had been a congresswoman in Honduras until January. She said she joined in the hope of eventually applying for political asylum in the United States. More than 20 people were killed in post-election protests, and Honduras has long been a dangerous place for activists.

    “I couldn’t wait for them to kill me,” Colindres Ortega said.

    The hundreds of people gathered here still face daunting prospects. After the relative safety of the caravan ends, dangers abound for migrants, especially in the violence-ridden Mexican states along the U.S. border. And while most here have tales of woe, proving the need for asylum to U.S. courts is a different matter.

    Trump has made the migrant caravan a central theme in tweets. He has warned that Mexico must stop the group or risk being penalized in the negotiations over revising the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has also threatened to reduce U.S. aid to Honduras.

    ———-

    “The migrant caravan denounced by Trump will end in Mexico City, but some people vow to go on alone” by Joshua Partlow; The Washington Post; 04/05/2018

    Trump has made the migrant caravan a central theme in tweets. He has warned that Mexico must stop the group or risk being penalized in the negotiations over revising the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has also threatened to reduce U.S. aid to Honduras.”

    Yep, the caravan from March/April of this year was a central theme of Trump’s tweets at the time, along with Trump proclaiming that the US has a ‘weak law’ border. It’s kind of the perfect advertisement to encourage future, bigger caravans:


    Trump warned on Twitter this week that a “big Caravan” was “now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border” — one of a number of warnings he issued about the march. The president, who made the fight against undocumented immigration a core campaign promise, declared that he would sent troops to the border to prevent a flood of illegal crossers.

    But while many of the Central Americans in the group say they will try to get to the United States on their own, it has been decided that the organized caravan will finish in Mexico City after a stop in the city of Puebla later this week.

    But as the director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the migrant rights group that organized this earlier caravan, stressed, the plan for these caravans was never to simply bum-rush the people across the US border. The caravan is distinct from the regular flow of migrants. That’s not to say that people don’t use the caravan to safely reach Mexico and then independently try to cross the US border. But the actual caravans are about raising awareness, moving people safely so they don’t become prey to the cartels and kidnappers:


    Mujica, the director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a migrants’ rights group, said he never intended to bum-rush the group over the border. In fact, he said, many of the migrants hoping to reach the border planned to ask for asylum — not sneak over illegally.

    Caravans like this one are common as an attempt to raise awareness, but they exist apart from the regular flow of migrants. Conservative U.S. media seized on this year’s caravan as an example of unchecked migration, and Trump’s comments brought it more attention.

    Although the president has repeatedly warned about the dangers of illegal immigrants pouring over the border, the numbers have fallen. U.S. border authorities reported a 26-percent decline in the number of people detained along the Mexico border in 2017 compared with the previous year.

    So when Trump and the GOP directed international attention to the caravan, they were almost thankful because it got them the attention for the migrants’ cause they were seeking in the first place:


    Mujica reiterated that the point of the caravan was to emphasize the need for legal reforms, draw attention to the migrants’ plight and press for more welcoming policies from Mexican authorities. He said “the best thing we have won” from the spotlight Trump has turned on this particular group is a high-level meeting with Mexican immigration authorities to talk about long-term change.

    Before, “it was like deaf ears, nobody was listening,” Mujica said, adding that migrants will be able to “exercise their rights with these documents.”

    But it’s also worth noting that this caravan in March/April was, itself, an exceptionally large caravan, due largely to the political turmoil in Honduras following the contested election outcome. An outcome the US backed in favor of Honduras’s current right-wing government:


    Organizers say that migrants can now take buses on their own to Puebla, a city south of the capital, where a workshop on immigration law is planned for Friday. Rodrigo Abeja, one of the organizers, said help was being sought from a breakaway faction of Mexico’s teachers union, which has years of experience convening large protests and is generally aligned with the country’s leftist presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. But the logistics remain fluid.

    Even before Trump got involved, this had become the biggest caravan that this group of organizers had seen.

    Many Hondurans who fled after their country’s contested presidential election in November had already amassed in Tapachula and joined the caravan when it set off late last month. Mujica said that at least 80 percent of the migrants are from Honduras.

    Overall, it’s looking like we can attribute the size of the current caravan to a combination of a social media viral campaign, the pro-government Honduran television coverage and the decision of Trump and the GOP to politicize the earlier caravan.

    So given the immense media attention the current caravan is receiving, should we expect even larger ones in the future? We’ll see, but as the following article makes clear, the GOP is planning on making ‘the caravan’ its central talking point in the final weeks of the mid-terms, and heavily promoting the idea that George Soros and the Democrats are funding it. Which means the GOP is loudly sending the message to the rest of the world that, yes, there are foreigners who will pay for these caravans. And as we’ve seen, that’s the kind of messaging campaign that’s great for making the next caravan even bigger:

    The Daily Beast

    Trump’s Own Team Knows His Caravan Claims Are Bullshit

    Asked for evidence supporting the president’s claims about the caravan, a senior administration official told reporters to ask ‘the Mexican authorities.’

    Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein, Will Sommer
    10.23.18 7:52 PM ET

    Donald Trump and his political allies have embarked on an aggressive, end-of-the-campaign effort to drum up fear among voters about a caravan of poor migrants several thousand miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of it is mistruths and embellishments, but Trumpland could care less.

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “This is the play.”

    Over the past few days, Trump has issued cryptic warnings about the southern border being overrun. His vice president has amplified baseless accusations that terrorists may have infiltrated the group of—largely—Honduran asylum seekers. And conservative media have provided ’round-the-clock coverage of what they depict as a mob gaining in size and steam.

    Stoking immigration fears is a tried and true political winner for the Republican Party. In 2014, GOP lawmakers were able to capitalize on a surge of families rushing to the southern border and opaque warnings that ISIS agents, carrying the Ebola virus, could sift through undetected.

    Trump, however, has perfected the art. In 2016, his top domestic policy item was to build a border wall to prevent an overflow of undocumented immigrants from coming into the country. He did this—and did it successfully—despite illegal immigration being at a 40-year low.

    In 2018, Trump has reprised the lines but with a touch of additional MAGA flair. On Monday night, the president proudly affirmed that he is a “nationalist” politician—adopting a term that often carries the baggage of “ethnonationalism” or “white nationalist” neo-fascism that, among other horrors, culminated in the Charlottesville atrocity last year.

    Trump himself seemed aware of the risks he took in adopting the moniker, telling the crowd that he wasn’t supposed to “use that word.” But, in reality, it was merely a continuation of the 2016 playbook. His campaign manager during that run, Steve Bannon, was thrilled to hear Trump embrace the nationalist tag, according to the former’s friends. When Bannon worked in Trump’s West Wing last year, he put administration priorities on his office whiteboard under the heading of “POPULIST” and “NATIONALIST,” according to those who saw it.

    For Republicans, the sharp turn toward immigration fears, and those related to the caravan in particular, has been viewed a clear political winner, even as some acknowledge that the rhetoric from the president and others—including philanthropist and Democratic financier George Soros was funding the caravan—has been overblown.

    “Soros is probably not masterminding these people coming to the border,” conceded one GOP operative in an interview on Tuesday. “When it comes to allowing segments of the base to believe what they want to believe, it happens on both sides. Republicans are no more guilty of it than Democrats.”

    What made the caravan politically useful, the operative continued, was that it resonated with precisely the voter sect that the GOP needed to reach in the next two weeks. “It’s an issue that motivates Trump’s most ardent conservative base,” the operative said. “If your worry was that we’re not going to be able to turn our base voters out, well—what’s the opposite of kryptonite?”

    Publicly, the White House has defended the president’s insistence that the caravan contains “criminals” and “unknown Middle Easterners.” But it hasn’t always been graceful. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence softened the charge to merely “people of Middle Eastern descent.” His office then said that 10 suspected terrorist were apprehended by the U.S. every day—conflating those captured worldwide with those found along the southern border. Later that day, the president himself seemed to concede that he’d been riffing it while arguing that there was the possibility that he could end up being correct.

    After everyone from the White House press secretary to the vice president has vouched for his claim that “Middle Easterners” have infiltrated the caravan, Trump tells reporters he has no proof of “Middle Easterners” in there, but that there “very well could be.”
    — Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) October 23, 2018

    In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, senior administration officials declined to defend the claims coming from the president himself, referring reporters to “the Mexican authorities” on questions about the construct of the caravan. “The president has made his comments on it, we’re not going to speak for him on what that looks like,” said one of the officials, whom the White House made available on the condition of anonymity.

    But the absence of supporting evidence has not slowed the administration down. A recent White House email blast of talking points to Trump surrogates and media allies, sent and compiled by White House aide Julia Hahn, strongly emphasized the “caravan” and the supposed “crisis” at the border, according to those who have read the email. And even Republican critics of the president and his use of the caravan catnip conceded that it would have a tangible electoral impact.

    “I do think it works that’s why he does it,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said in an interview. “I’m not saying there are never any people with nefarious motives. But [President Trump] didn’t say that based on any evidence… it was just thrown out there because he knows it works.”

    To date, the caravan hasn’t made its way into any campaign advertisements. But one top GOP official involved in House races said it was just a matter of time. “It’s a little new but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t in one soon,” the operative said.

    But ads aren’t exactly needed to give the issue any more attention. Despite posing no clear or immediate threat to U.S. national security, the caravan has become a fixture of the political conversation and national media broadcasting. Google search analytics show significantly more interest in the “caravan” than in “health care” starting on Sunday. The New York Times put the story above the fold two days in a row.

    Now two days in a row. Happening all over again. pic.twitter.com/r1RYRnbF0n
    — Mark Copelovitch (@mcopelov) October 23, 2018

    How it got to that point illustrates the ways in which a flattened media landscape can allow fringe-ish stories to take root and bloom into national controversies. Trump wasn’t the first Republican to circulate rumors about a “CARAVAN” in an attempt to rile up Republicans ahead of the midterms. That would be Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a staunch Trump defender, who on Oct. 17, tweeted video he claimed was members of the caravan receiving money, possibly from Soros, in Honduras to “join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time.” Gaetz’s video has been retweeted more than 44,000 times, as of Tuesday, and received nearly 2 million views.

    BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN
    — Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018

    Gaetz eventually conceded that the video was shot in Guatemala, not Honduras. And, since the migrants in the video received just a single bill, the most they could have received was roughly $26—hardly enough to induce someone to travel thousands of miles to “storm the US border.”

    Still, Gaetz’s video went viral alongside the idea that the migrants are for some reason intent on reaching the United States before Election Day. Pro-Trump Facebook and Twitter accounts have shared pictures of a Mexican police officer with a bloody face, claiming it’s proof that members of the caravan have overrun Mexican law enforcement. In fact, the images were from an unrelated protest six years ago.

    Tons of misinformation about the caravan floating around. This photo of a bloodied police officer has tens of thousands of shares on a few big FB pages. It was taken in 2012, and has nothing to do with the caravan. pic.twitter.com/CPxPBygbRv
    — Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 22, 2018

    Trump supporters have also seized on an image of Hondurans burning an American flag with a swastika drawn on it, dubbing them the “caravan protesters” and implying that they were members of the caravan.

    Damn these Honduran migrants seem like they really want to come here… pic.twitter.com/oSUaaHoLku
    — Vincent James (@RealVinceJames) October 21, 2018

    In a widely circulated tweet retweeted by conservative columnist Ann Coulter, right-wing social media personality Vincent James wrote, “Damn these Honduran migrants seem like they really want to come here.” In reality, the Hondurans were protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and weren’t members of the caravan.

    The caravan issue has even earned its own “Bikers for Trump” hoax, with online rumors flying around that a horde of Trump-loving bikers were headed to the border to stop the caravan before it crossed into U.S. territory.

    TROOPS being DEPLOYED to the border! Bikers for TRUMP and the CITIZENS MILITARY MILITIA are also deploying to work with ICE and BORDER CONTROL! They can use funds and supplies Please go to war Drummer website to find information on donations! PRAY FOR THEM ALL!!
    — Billie Schaeffer (@USAgaggy63) October 23, 2018

    For Democrats watching it all unfold, the past few days have produced a nauseating case of déjà vu. Matt Canter, who headed communications for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2014, recalled how the closing weeks of that cycle turned on “border crossings, ebola, and beheadings.” Though Canter suspected that voters had become “a little sick of the baiting and the scare tactics”—citing thefailure of Ed Gillespie to win the Virginia gubernatorial election in 2017 by pivoting to fear-mongering over MS-13 gangs—he conceded that the caravan story likely would hurt.

    ———-

    “Trump’s Own Team Knows His Caravan Claims Are Bullshit” by Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein, Will Sommer; The Daily Beast; 10/23/2018

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “This is the play.”

    It’s always fascinating when politicians suddenly get honest about their dishonesty. But that’s what just a bunch of anonymous Trump officials just did for this article. They’re just going to proudly say whatever works politically. And given the round-the-clock coverage conservative media is giving this caravan, whatever they say is going to be loudly repeated over and over:


    Over the past few days, Trump has issued cryptic warnings about the southern border being overrun. His vice president has amplified baseless accusations that terrorists may have infiltrated the group of—largely—Honduran asylum seekers. And conservative media have provided ’round-the-clock coverage of what they depict as a mob gaining in size and steam.

    Stoking immigration fears is a tried and true political winner for the Republican Party. In 2014, GOP lawmakers were able to capitalize on a surge of families rushing to the southern border and opaque warnings that ISIS agents, carrying the Ebola virus, could sift through undetected.

    Trump, however, has perfected the art. In 2016, his top domestic policy item was to build a border wall to prevent an overflow of undocumented immigrants from coming into the country. He did this—and did it successfully—despite illegal immigration being at a 40-year low.

    The intended audience is for the right-wing Big Lie machine is, of course, Trump voters. But as the experience from the March/April caravan demonstrates, when Trump and the GOP make these caravans a major US topic of US media it also gets more attention elsewhere in the world. Like in Central America. Which likely led to the unprecedented size of the current caravan:


    For Republicans, the sharp turn toward immigration fears, and those related to the caravan in particular, has been viewed a clear political winner, even as some acknowledge that the rhetoric from the president and others—including philanthropist and Democratic financier George Soros was funding the caravan—has been overblown.

    “Soros is probably not masterminding these people coming to the border,” conceded one GOP operative in an interview on Tuesday. “When it comes to allowing segments of the base to believe what they want to believe, it happens on both sides. Republicans are no more guilty of it than Democrats.”

    What made the caravan politically useful, the operative continued, was that it resonated with precisely the voter sect that the GOP needed to reach in the next two weeks. “It’s an issue that motivates Trump’s most ardent conservative base,” the operative said. “If your worry was that we’re not going to be able to turn our base voters out, well—what’s the opposite of kryptonite?”

    To date, the caravan hasn’t made its way into any campaign advertisements. But one top GOP official involved in House races said it was just a matter of time. “It’s a little new but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t in one soon,” the operative said.

    But ads aren’t exactly needed to give the issue any more attention. Despite posing no clear or immediate threat to U.S. national security, the caravan has become a fixture of the political conversation and national media broadcasting. Google search analytics show significantly more interest in the “caravan” than in “health care” starting on Sunday. The New York Times put the story above the fold two days in a row.

    Now two days in a row. Happening all over again. pic.twitter.com/r1RYRnbF0n
    — Mark Copelovitch (@mcopelov) October 23, 2018

    And note how the Trump/GOP fixation on the caravan got started: GOP congressman Matt Gaetz fraudulently claimed that footage of the caravan members receiving small amounts of money in Guatemala was actually footage of them being paid in Honduras to make the journey. And George Soros was the one paying them to reach the US before Election Day for some unspecified diabolical plot:


    How it got to that point illustrates the ways in which a flattened media landscape can allow fringe-ish stories to take root and bloom into national controversies. Trump wasn’t the first Republican to circulate rumors about a “CARAVAN” in an attempt to rile up Republicans ahead of the midterms. That would be Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a staunch Trump defender, who on Oct. 17, tweeted video he claimed was members of the caravan receiving money, possibly from Soros, in Honduras to “join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time.” Gaetz’s video has been retweeted more than 44,000 times, as of Tuesday, and received nearly 2 million views.

    BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN
    — Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018

    Gaetz eventually conceded that the video was shot in Guatemala, not Honduras. And, since the migrants in the video received just a single bill, the most they could have received was roughly $26—hardly enough to induce someone to travel thousands of miles to “storm the US border.”

    Still, Gaetz’s video went viral alongside the idea that the migrants are for some reason intent on reaching the United States before Election Day. Pro-Trump Facebook and Twitter accounts have shared pictures of a Mexican police officer with a bloody face, claiming it’s proof that members of the caravan have overrun Mexican law enforcement. In fact, the images were from an unrelated protest six years ago.

    Tons of misinformation about the caravan floating around. This photo of a bloodied police officer has tens of thousands of shares on a few big FB pages. It was taken in 2012, and has nothing to do with the caravan. pic.twitter.com/CPxPBygbRv
    — Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 22, 2018

    That’s the message Gaetz was pushing to US audiences and it’s a message that undoubtedly also traveled to Central America too. So you have to wonder how many people across Central America are under the impression that George Soros will pay them to travel to America thanks to Gaetz and the GOP? And don’t forget the Honduran government claiming Venezuela is paying for this.

    As we can see, we aren’t simply witnessing a GOP pretend freak out over a migrant caravan that poses no meaningful threat to anything other than the profit margins of human traffickers. We’re actually witnessing the GOP incite future mega-caravans. Endless fearmongering about how the US has ‘weak law’ borders and that George Soros and Venezuela will pay for the migrants is pretty much the best advertising these caravans could get. And given the way the GOP is gleefully exploiting the caravan for political gain, it’s the kind of pro-caravan advertising the GOP no doubt is happy to provide.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 24, 2018, 3:38 pm
  9. Now that it looks almost certain that Brazil is going to be electing a fascist pro-torture/pro-dictatorship lunatic as president on the runoff election this Sunday, here’s a pair of article that remind us that the election of Bolsonaro doesn’t just represent doom for Brazil. It also represents the latest instance of an anti-environment strongman politician coming to power in a world where anti-environmentalist strongman politicians are coming to power almost everywhere:

    The Guardian

    Our planet can’t take many more populists like Brazil’s Bolsonaro

    Just when Earth badly needs pro-environment leaders, we get big-business strongmen. There’s a reason for this grim irony

    Jonathan Watts

    Wed 24 Oct 2018 01.00 EDT
    Last modified on Wed 24 Oct 2018 12.35 EDT

    Unless every poll is wildly wrong, Brazil will probably elect a racist, sexist, homophobic advocate of torture at the end of this month. The former army captain Jair Bolsonaro nearly won outright in the first round, securing the votes of almost 50 million people – despite his extreme views being well known.

    What is less well understood, however, is the catastrophic environment implications of his rise to the brink of power. And in this, Bolsonaro is not unique: around the world, diminishing resources are fuelling a global rise of authoritarian leaders dedicated to doing the bidding of some of the world’s most environmentally damaging interests.

    The Brazilian election results were announced on 8 October – just as climate scientists were issuing their most dramatic warning yet that humanity has just 12 years to slash emissions or suffer the consequences of dangerous global warming. If countries do not start planting trees and cutting fossil fuels now, they said, then it will be impossible to prevent a rise of more than 0.5C, which would completely eradicate all of the world’s corals and irreversibly disrupt weather systems, bringing droughts, floods and extreme heat that will push hundreds of millions into poverty.

    History tells us that when environments deteriorate, societies turn to supposed strongmen and religious zealots rather than smart, pragmatic leaders. That is happening now. In addition to the dictatorships of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, a growing number of young democracies have relapsed into authoritarianism: the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and next, it would seem, Brazil under Bolsonaro. And underlying this is environmental stress, which has been building for over two centuries.

    Starting in Britain, the carbon-capitalist industrial model has long been extracting minerals and organic resources, and discharging the waste into the air, sea and land. As more nations developed, they exported their environmental stress to the next country rising up the economic ladder.

    Now that this paradigm is being replicated by the world’s most populous country, China, there are very few places left to absorb the impact. Competition for what is left is growing. So is violence and extremism. Centre-ground politicians who once talked chummily about “win-win solutions” have been pushed to the sidelines. No one believes this any more. Voters may not see this in environmental terms, but consciously or subconsciously they know something is broken, that tinkering is no longer enough.

    In the US, with massive support from the fossil-fuel industry, Donald Trump has undermined the Environmental Protection Agency, opened up swaths of national parks to industry, cut pollution controls and promised to pull out of the Paris accord. In Australia, Malcolm Turnbull was ejected from power by his colleagues because he tried to fulfil promises to cut carbon emissions. And now in Brazil, voters are backing a politician who has vowed to pull his country out of the Paris deal, abolish the main government agency tackling deforestation and end the demarcation of indigenous land.

    Bolsonaro has the backing of agribusiness and mining leaders, who are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of an Amazon denuded of its greatest protections. The markets – which are heavily driven by extractive industries – also love him. The main stock index and exchange rate of the Brazilian real spiked after his first round win. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal endorsed him as a “conservative populist”.

    Such neo-fascist politicians should not be blithely dismissed. They are the hired guns of the industries working against the Paris accord and other international agreements that aim to prevent further environmental catastrophes, which hit the poorest hardest. Their “anti-globalism” is first and foremost anti-nature and anti-future. An extraction-first approach may bring economic benefits in the short term, as cronies and campaign donors clear more forests, open up plantations and dig more mines – but the profits are concentrated while the environmental stress is shared.

    The great fear climate scientists have is that a warming planet could create feedback loops that will make everything much worse. But there has not been enough study of economic and political feedback loops. How drought in China puts pressure on the Amazon to produce more food and clear more forest. Or how powerful business interests will choose a dictator over a democrat if it means easing environmental controls that threaten their ability to meet quarterly growth targets.

    We are already seeing a widening gap between politicians and scientists. While the latter urge more ambitious climate action, the former know they will receive more campaign funds if they oppose emissions cuts, support extractive industries and weaken pollution regulations. It is not just dictatorships. Britain is pushing ahead with fracking, Germany with coal and Norway with oil exploration.

    At some point, voters will realise that ecological stress is at the core of the world’s current woes. The aha! moment may be when water grows prohibitively expensive, or crops fail owing to successive heatwaves, or the refugee crisis sparks war, but at some point the weakness of the strongmen will be apparent, and people will seek change. The danger is, by then it may be too late. Climate and politics alike will have passed a tipping point, leading to social chaos and the morphing of populists into full-blown dictators-for-life.

    ———-

    “Our planet can’t take many more populists like Brazil’s Bolsonaro” by Jonathan Watts; The Guardian; 10/24/2018

    “What is less well understood, however, is the catastrophic environment implications of his rise to the brink of power. And in this, Bolsonaro is not unique: around the world, diminishing resources are fueling a global rise of authoritarian leaders dedicated to doing the bidding of some of the world’s most environmentally damaging interests.”

    As we can see, one country after another is choosing to follow the lead of strongman politicians coming to power on a grievance-filled ‘populist’ right-wing agenda but backed by the powerful and environmentally destructive industries on the planet. And what’s so disturbing as that, as history tells us, when the environment deteriorates, societies increasingly turn to strongmen and religious zealots. In other words, when the going gets tough, humanity goes insane. Over and over:


    History tells us that when environments deteriorate, societies turn to supposed strongmen and religious zealots rather than smart, pragmatic leaders. That is happening now. In addition to the dictatorships of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, a growing number of young democracies have relapsed into authoritarianism: the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and next, it would seem, Brazil under Bolsonaro. And underlying this is environmental stress, which has been building for over two centuries.

    In the US, with massive support from the fossil-fuel industry, Donald Trump has undermined the Environmental Protection Agency, opened up swaths of national parks to industry, cut pollution controls and promised to pull out of the Paris accord. In Australia, Malcolm Turnbull was ejected from power by his colleagues because he tried to fulfil promises to cut carbon emissions. And now in Brazil, voters are backing a politician who has vowed to pull his country out of the Paris deal, abolish the main government agency tackling deforestation and end the demarcation of indigenous land.

    Bolsonaro has the backing of agribusiness and mining leaders, who are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of an Amazon denuded of its greatest protections. The markets – which are heavily driven by extractive industries – also love him. The main stock index and exchange rate of the Brazilian real spiked after his first round win. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal endorsed him as a “conservative populist”.

    Such neo-fascist politicians should not be blithely dismissed. They are the hired guns of the industries working against the Paris accord and other international agreements that aim to prevent further environmental catastrophes, which hit the poorest hardest. Their “anti-globalism” is first and foremost anti-nature and anti-future. An extraction-first approach may bring economic benefits in the short term, as cronies and campaign donors clear more forests, open up plantations and dig more mines – but the profits are concentrated while the environmental stress is shared.

    “Such neo-fascist politicians should not be blithely dismissed. They are the hired guns of the industries working against the Paris accord and other international agreements that aim to prevent further environmental catastrophes, which hit the poorest hardest. Their “anti-globalism” is first and foremost anti-nature and anti-future. An extraction-first approach may bring economic benefits in the short term, as cronies and campaign donors clear more forests, open up plantations and dig more mines – but the profits are concentrated while the environmental stress is shared.”

    That’s a pretty good way to describe these kinds of politicians: anti-nature and anti-future hired guns of the industries that have the most to lose from saving the environment.

    And this twisted dynamic, where environmental deterioration and collapsing resources leads people to vote for the strongmen who will exacerbate the deterioration, raises the question of whether or not humanity is facing a kind of political doom-spiral: where environmental crises lead to strongmen leading to worse environmental crises and worse strongmen, etc. If humanity’s hardwired instinct to think and react in a short-term manner when under stress can’t be overcome, we literally may not be capable as a species of avoiding that kind of doom-loop:


    The great fear climate scientists have is that a warming planet could create feedback loops that will make everything much worse. But there has not been enough study of economic and political feedback loops. How drought in China puts pressure on the Amazon to produce more food and clear more forest. Or how powerful business interests will choose a dictator over a democrat if it means easing environmental controls that threaten their ability to meet quarterly growth targets.

    We are already seeing a widening gap between politicians and scientists. While the latter urge more ambitious climate action, the former know they will receive more campaign funds if they oppose emissions cuts, support extractive industries and weaken pollution regulations. It is not just dictatorships. Britain is pushing ahead with fracking, Germany with coal and Norway with oil exploration.

    At some point, voters will realise that ecological stress is at the core of the world’s current woes. The aha! moment may be when water grows prohibitively expensive, or crops fail owing to successive heatwaves, or the refugee crisis sparks war, but at some point the weakness of the strongmen will be apparent, and people will seek change. The danger is, by then it may be too late. Climate and politics alike will have passed a tipping point, leading to social chaos and the morphing of populists into full-blown dictators-for-life.

    “At some point, voters will realise that ecological stress is at the core of the world’s current woes. The aha! moment may be when water grows prohibitively expensive, or crops fail owing to successive heatwaves, or the refugee crisis sparks war, but at some point the weakness of the strongmen will be apparent, and people will seek change. The danger is, by then it may be too late. Climate and politics alike will have passed a tipping point, leading to social chaos and the morphing of populists into full-blown dictators-for-life.”

    That’s perhaps that saddest possibility: that humanity will eventually wake up and realize that listening to siren songs of ‘populist’ strongmen was a really bad idea but it will be too late and conditions will be perfect for these strongmen ‘populists’ morphing into dictators-for-life. Plenty of people living under dictatorships would love to change their situation but can’t. “We have no choice” will become the default slogan for all of the horrors of the future.

    Let’s also not forget that in Bolsonaro’s case, the odds of him becoming dictator-for-life are alarmingly high simply because he’s openly in favor of a military dictatorship. Brazil won’t have to wait until it’s ‘too late’ ecologically to get a dictator-for-life. They’re knowingly voting one in now. So if Bolsonaro does indeed stay in power for years to come and unleashes a new wave of ecological destruction across the Amazon, how is he going to respond as the impacts of climate change inevitably become undeniable? The following article gives us a hint. It turns out that Bolsonaro doesn’t deny that climate change is happening. He doesn’t deny that humans are causing it. And he doesn’t deny that it could lead to the destruction of humanity. But he exclusively pins the blame on overpopulation.

    Now, it’s undeniable that overpopulation is a major problem facing humanity. And if it wasn’t for the influential Religious Right, particularly in the United States, there would have been far more resources put into family planning and other programs for limiting population population. Pointing out the perils of overpopulation is one of the few valid points Bolsonaro makes. But to exclusively rely on family planning programs, at the same team he’s about to decimate Brazil’s rain forests at the behest of the most environmentally is obviously just trolling. Bolsonaro clearly doesn’t care at all about the catastrophe his policies are going to create or future Brazilians and he’s clearly pointing to overpopulation because that’s a perfect Nazis device for pinning the blame of eco-collapse on the poorest people in the world and immigrants. As the environment gets worse, politicians like Bolsonaro will point to the poorest populations, which typically have the highest birth-rates, and immigrants (who often have higher birthrates and come from countries with higher birthrates) and declare that they are the cause of all of this environmental destruction. Not Bolsonaro or the powerful resource-extraction industries behind him and not the wealthy nations that consume far more per-capita than anyone else. In other words,
    Bolsonaro is already laying the groundwork for a future Nazi-like response to eco-collapse of blaming immigrants and the poorest people on the planet:

    The Guardian

    Amazon at risk from Bolsonaro’s grim attack on the environment

    Threats to the rainforest and its people and an end to the Paris agreement are among the promises of Brazil’s presidential hopeful, reports Climate Home

    Fabiano Maisonnave for Climate Home, part of the Guardian Environment Network
    Tue 9 Oct 2018 06.32 EDT

    No more Paris agreement. No more ministry of environment. A paved highway cutting through the Amazon.

    Not only that. Indigenous territories opened to mining. Relaxed environmental law enforcement and licensing. International NGOs, such as Greenpeace and WWF, banned from the country. A strong alliance with the beef lobby.

    In a nutshell, this is what Jair Bolsonaro, who is sailing towards Brazil’s presidency after taking a near-majority in a first round vote on Sunday, has promised for the environment.

    An enthusiast for torture and the 1964-85 military dictatorship, the retired army captain is famous for racist, homophobic, authoritarian and misogynistic rhetoric. But his views on how to manage Earth’s largest tropical rainforest are just as grim and appalling.

    Bolsonaro has galvanised voters in urban centres who are disillusioned with the political establishment’s corruption scandals and attracted to his “tough-on-crime” positions amid rising criminality rates. He received 46% of the vote on Sunday and now faces a 28 October run off with the Workers Party’s Fernando Haddad, who polled 29%.

    In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they don’t expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.

    In August, Bolsonaro raised eyebrows internationally when he pledged to join Trump’s US and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. That means the country would no longer be committed to curb its emissions from the deforestation of the Amazon, which is here a bigger source of greenhouse gas than the burning of fossil fuels.

    Bolsonaro accepts the climate is changing dangerously. CHN asked him about this during a press conference in April. He said the solution was in controlling the growth of the world’s human population.

    “This explosive population growth leads to deforestation,” he said. “Because you will not grow soy on the terrace of your building or raise cattle in the yard. So we have to have a family planning policy. Then you begin to reduce the pressure on those issues that lead, yes, in my opinion, to global warming, which could be the end of the human species.”

    Yet he praised president Trump’s policy on the Paris deal and implied that it was part of a UN plot to strip Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon.

    “Congratulations to Trump. If it were good for them, [the US] wouldn’t have denounced it,” he said, adding that a concept for a “136m-hectare ecological corridor” that would be “under world’s control, not ours” had “been discussed”. ” I don’t know how deeply,” he added.

    Brazil’s current environment minister Edson Duarte said: “Instead of spreading the message that he will fight deforestation and organised crime, he says he will attack the ministry of environment, Ibama and ICMBio [Brazil’s federal environment agencies]. It’s the same as saying that he will withdraw the police from the streets.”

    Speaking to the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Duarte said: “The increase of deforestation will be immediate. I am afraid of a gold rush to see who arrives first. They will know that, if they occupy illegally, the authorities will be complacent and will grant concordance. They will be certain that nobody will bother them.”

    Bolsonaro’s environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: “Minorities have to bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.”

    Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.

    “Sooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We won’t have any interference in these countries, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,” he said last year.

    Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazil’s territory is recognised indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.

    The law protects indigenous rights. Article 231 of the 1988 Constitution states that indigenous peoples have “original rights over the lands that they have traditionally occupied”, although the land belongs to the state and they have no ownership rights over minerals.

    But there are concerns about whether Bolsonaro will respect these laws. Several analysts have warned Brazil could slip towards authoritarian rule. These fears have increased in the past weeks. His running mate, general Antônio Mourão, has argued for a new constitution without popular participation and raised the possibility that Bolsonaro could proclaim a self-coup.

    Both Bolsonaro and Mourão have defended the excesses of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which displaced and killed (intentionally or through diseases) thousands of Indians in the Amazon, amid an effort to build roads and hydroelectric dams in the forest. The armed forces have never recognised any wrongdoing.

    “If he wins, he will institutionalise genocide,” says Dinamam Tuxá, the national coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples, in a phone interview with Climate Home News. “He has already said that the federal government will no longer champion indigenous rights, such as access to the land. We are very scared. I fear for my own life. As a national leader, I am sure I will be punished by the federal government for defending the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

    During the campaign, Bolsonaro promised he will abolish the ministry of environment and transfer its functions to the ministry of agriculture. The agriculture portfolio will be handed to politicians from the “beef caucus”, a conservative group of lawmakers who control about one third of Congress and have opposed indigenous land demarcations and advocated for the reduction of conservation units, among other measures, to expand the agriculture frontier. Last week, they formally endorsed Bolsonaro.

    In several speeches, he said he would end the “fine industry” run by Ibama and ICMBio, to control illegal mining, deforestation and logging. On Sunday he used his first post-election statement to vow to neuter Ibama.

    This is personal for Bolsonaro. In 2012, he was caught fishing illegally inside a federal reserve off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and was issued a $2,700 fine. Since then as a member of Brazil’s chamber of deputies, he has targeted Ibama, going as far as presenting a bill that forbids its agents to carry weapons, even though they operate in some of the most dangerous areas of the country.

    Ibama will be stripped of its environmental licensing powers, he said during the campaign. These will be redistributed to other official agencies. That means, for instance, that federal agency will no longer be able to contain controversial projects such as the reopening of the disused BR-319, an 890km highway that cuts from one of the most preserved areas of the Amazon, and São Luiz do Tapajós, a giant hydroelectric plant planned to be built in an area inhabited by the Munduruku indigenous group and river dwellers.

    BR-319, which connects Manaus to Porto Velho, is specially troublesome, as it will allow for secondary roads. According to a study by NGO Idesam, an area as big as Germany and Belgium combined is under its influence and will become more vulnerable to land-grabbers and deforestation. Recent attempts to pave it have been barred by Ibama.

    “He names Ibama and ICMBio as his number one public enemies and has given several messages that he will reverse environment and social laws,” said André Guimarães, director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. “However, one thing is what he says during the electoral campaign. Another thing is what he will be able to do if he takes office.”

    ———-

    “Amazon at risk from Bolsonaro’s grim attack on the environment” by Fabiano Maisonnave; The Guardian; 10/09/2018

    “An enthusiast for torture and the 1964-85 military dictatorship, the retired army captain is famous for racist, homophobic, authoritarian and misogynistic rhetoric. But his views on how to manage Earth’s largest tropical rainforest are just as grim and appalling.

    Yep, we don’t just have to fear Bolsonaro pulling a coup and turning into a dictator. We also have to realize that if he does become a dictator that’s going to give him plenty of time to utterly destroy and permanently destroy Brazil’s environment. And even if he doesn’t become a dictator, he’ll still have the power to do irreversible harm to Brazil’s environment and the global environment with moves like pledging to pull Brazil out of the Paris climate agreement


    In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they don’t expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.

    In August, Bolsonaro raised eyebrows internationally when he pledged to join Trump’s US and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. That means the country would no longer be committed to curb its emissions from the deforestation of the Amazon, which is here a bigger source of greenhouse gas than the burning of fossil fuels.

    On top of that, he casually embraces the idea that Brazil’s minorities, in particular the indigenous populations, which have rights to the Amazon that currently stand in the way of industrial deforestation, need to “bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.” He is already talking about wiping populations out:


    Yet he praised president Trump’s policy on the Paris deal and implied that it was part of a UN plot to strip Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon.

    “Congratulations to Trump. If it were good for them, [the US] wouldn’t have denounced it,” he said, adding that a concept for a “136m-hectare ecological corridor” that would be “under world’s control, not ours” had “been discussed”. ” I don’t know how deeply,” he added.

    Brazil’s current environment minister Edson Duarte said: “Instead of spreading the message that he will fight deforestation and organised crime, he says he will attack the ministry of environment, Ibama and ICMBio [Brazil’s federal environment agencies]. It’s the same as saying that he will withdraw the police from the streets.”

    Speaking to the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Duarte said: “The increase of deforestation will be immediate. I am afraid of a gold rush to see who arrives first. They will know that, if they occupy illegally, the authorities will be complacent and will grant concordance. They will be certain that nobody will bother them.”

    Bolsonaro’s environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: “Minorities have to bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.”

    Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.

    “Sooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We won’t have any interference in these countries, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,” he said last year.

    His running mate recently call for a new constitution without popular participation and raised the possibility that Bolsonaro could proclaim a self-coup. And Bolsonaro campaigned on abolishing the ministry of environment and putting those responsibilities in the hands of the “beef caucus” that runs the ministry of agriculture. So he could rapidly do long-term damage with a new constitution or mass deforestation with or without that coup:


    But there are concerns about whether Bolsonaro will respect these laws. Several analysts have warned Brazil could slip towards authoritarian rule. These fears have increased in the past weeks. His running mate, general Antônio Mourão, has argued for a new constitution without popular participation and raised the possibility that Bolsonaro could proclaim a self-coup.

    Both Bolsonaro and Mourão have defended the excesses of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which displaced and killed (intentionally or through diseases) thousands of Indians in the Amazon, amid an effort to build roads and hydroelectric dams in the forest. The armed forces have never recognised any wrongdoing.

    “If he wins, he will institutionalise genocide,” says Dinamam Tuxá, the national coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples, in a phone interview with Climate Home News. “He has already said that the federal government will no longer champion indigenous rights, such as access to the land. We are very scared. I fear for my own life. As a national leader, I am sure I will be punished by the federal government for defending the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

    During the campaign, Bolsonaro promised he will abolish the ministry of environment and transfer its functions to the ministry of agriculture. The agriculture portfolio will be handed to politicians from the “beef caucus”, a conservative group of lawmakers who control about one third of Congress and have opposed indigenous land demarcations and advocated for the reduction of conservation units, among other measures, to expand the agriculture frontier. Last week, they formally endorsed Bolsonaro.

    In several speeches, he said he would end the “fine industry” run by Ibama and ICMBio, to control illegal mining, deforestation and logging. On Sunday he used his first post-election statement to vow to neuter Ibama.

    But perhaps the most ominous part of Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is the fact that he appears to acknowledge that climate change is man-made and could lead to the end of the human species, but he exclusively attributes this to overpopulation. Yes, overpopulation is a major driver of climate change, but when a Nazi like Bolsonaro fixates on overpopulation as the sole solution for a crisis he is trying to exacerbates that’s a pretty obvious sign about the nature of the kinds of solutions he’ll be advocating after ‘family planning’ doesn’t save the day. It starts with ‘we need to focus on family planning’ and ends with ‘we simply can’t afford to have those people around. We have no choice!’:


    Bolsonaro accepts the climate is changing dangerously. CHN asked him about this during a press conference in April. He said the solution was in controlling the growth of the world’s human population.

    “This explosive population growth leads to deforestation,” he said. “Because you will not grow soy on the terrace of your building or raise cattle in the yard. So we have to have a family planning policy. Then you begin to reduce the pressure on those issues that lead, yes, in my opinion, to global warming, which could be the end of the human species.”

    Just think about that: the guy who has pledged to destroy all of the environmental laws standing in the say of deforestation tells us that it’s really just explosive population growth that’s causing all of this deforestation. And that’s the guy poised to become Brazil’s next president and possibly Brazil’s next dictator. For who knows how many years to come. So when the future strongmen of Brazil are declaring that this or that minority group needs to be wiped about because there are too many people and ‘we just don’t have a choice’, it will be worth recalling the choice Brazil is about to make in a few days. Granted, recalling this blunder in the future won’t really help, but we might as well learn from history at some point, even if it’s too late.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 25, 2018, 12:24 pm
  10. This was probably inevitable: Trump appears to be leading a full scale ‘Willie Horton-ization’ of the GOP’s closing arguments for 2018 mid-terms. The particular ad that prompted all the comparisons to the infamous Willie Horton ad was tweeted out by Trump Wednesday night. The ad focuses a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty for the 2014 killing of two California police officers. The ad starts off focusing on Bracamontes, blaming Democrats for ‘letting him in’ (in reality he was originally deported by Bill Clinton) then shifts to footage of people rioting in streets and pushing down fences, and asks the question, “Who else would Democrats let in?” As one conservative commentator put it, “I don’t see anything in this video that I haven’t heard from the president consistently for the past couple of years,” but added, “it’s not the message I would be closing the campaign on.” And that’s the message Trump is closing the campaign on:

    The Washington Post

    Trump revives ‘Willie Horton’ tactic with ad linking illegal immigrant killer to Democrats

    By Allyson Chiu
    November 1, 2018 at 6:10 AM

    Pinned at the top of President Trump’s Twitter feed Wednesday was a video. The man on the screen has a shaved head and a mustache and long chin hair. Smiling, he announces, “I killed f—— cops.”

    The man is Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty in April for killing two California law enforcement officers in 2014. At the time of the shootings, Bracamontes was in the United States illegally — and now, with the midterm election approaching, he’s the star of the GOP’s latest campaign ad.

    “Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” reads text on the 53-second video, which is filled with audible expletives. “Democrats let him into our country. . . . Democrats let him stay.”

    The text is superimposed over videos of Bracamontes appearing to show no remorse for his crimes, and even declaring, “I’m going to kill more cops soon.”

    More footage follows: Throngs of unidentified people rioting in unidentified streets and pushing down fences in undisclosed locations. A Fox News Channel correspondent interviewing a man identified only as “deported immigrant in caravan,” who asks to be pardoned for attempted murder.

    “Who else would Democrats let in?” the video asks. An image of Bracamontes smiling reappears before being replaced by text, “President Donald Trump and Republicans are making America safe again.”

    The video, which the president promoted Wednesday afternoon to his 55.5 million Twitter followers, came with a message from Trump to “Vote Republican now!” As of early Thursday morning, the video had been viewed more than 1.8 million times, drawing widespread condemnation.

    (Note: The following video posted by Trump contains graphic language.)

    It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country. Vote Republican now! https://t.co/0pWiwCHGbh pic.twitter.com/2crea9HF7G
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018

    Trump and Republicans were criticized for “fearmongering,” and the ad has been decried as “racist,” with many likening it to the infamous “Willie Horton” ads supporting George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. Only the video Trump shared, critics say, is “far worse.”

    as you recall, Bush campaign distanced itself from the Willie Horton TV ad

    this is coming directly from the President of the United States

    from dog whistle to guttural scream https://t.co/a5UOILF5KK
    — John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 31, 2018

    About 30 years ago, William Horton, a relatively unknown African American felon in Massachusetts, became “Willie Horton,” the focal point of attack ads from Bush’s campaign against Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee and governor of Massachusetts.

    Horton, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, was temporarily released from prison in June 1986 as part of Massachusetts’s weekend furlough program, which Dukakis supported. Horton escaped while on furlough and in April 1987, he raped a white woman and stabbed her white fiance.

    The “Revolving Door” TV ad accusing Dukakis of being soft on crime showed convicts coming in and out of prison through a revolving door made of prison bars, and was meant to allude to Horton, Rolling Stone reported. The ad was largely masterminded by Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News Channel in 1996.

    “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand — or without it,” Ailes once told a reporter, according to Rolling Stone.

    Another ad called “Weekend Passes,” run by the National Political Action Committee, took things a step further and included Horton’s mug shot. That ad was created by Larry McCarthy, who had worked under Ailes for six years during the 1980s, the New Yorker reported.

    “This was a classic example of racial cuing,” Claire Jean Kim, a political-science professor at the University of California at Irvine, said in a 2012 PBS special. “The insinuation is, if you elect Governor Dukakis as president, we’re going to have black rapists running amok in the country. It’s playing to white fears about black crime.”

    Whether it was simply an attempt to criticize Dukakis’s crime policies or if it was an appeal to racial fears, the “Willie Horton” ads worked. “Willie Horton was devastating to Mr. Dukakis,” the New York Times wrote in 1990.

    Kim, who described the ad’s strategy as “incredibly effective” and “masterful,” said even decades later, it still “sets the bar for racial cuing.”

    “Candidates talk about not wanting to be Willie Hortonized,” she said.

    On Wednesday, critics slammed Trump and Republicans for promoting what was described as a “Willie Horton redux” by both CNN’s Chris Cuomo and the New Republic, a left-leaning magazine.

    With only five days until the midterm election, Trump has returned to immigration with renewed gusto. His anti-immigration stance was critical to his success during the 2016 presidential campaign and “he is counting on similarly inflammatory words and images to help the GOP hold its congressional majorities,” The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim reported. Just this week, Trump publicly vowed to end birthright citizenship and said he would deploy as many as 15,000 active-duty troops to the border.

    Conservative commentator Scott Jennings told Cuomo that he wasn’t surprised by the ad.

    “I don’t see anything in this video that I haven’t heard from the president consistently for the past couple of years,” Jennings said. But, he added, “it’s not the message I would be closing the campaign on.”

    Lemon echoed his fellow anchor when rebuking the ad.

    “It’s a naked appeal to fear and hate, and it is racist,” he said.

    Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, brought up Willie Horton on Lemon’s show, noting that although the 1988 ad was effective in the sense that Bush won the election, it did little to help the former president’s personal image.

    “The Willie Horton ad gave George Herbert Walker Bush his one big black eye in history,” Brinkley said.

    ———-

    “Trump revives ‘Willie Horton’ tactic with ad linking illegal immigrant killer to Democrats” by Allyson Chiu; The Washington Post; 11/01/2018

    “The video, which the president promoted Wednesday afternoon to his 55.5 million Twitter followers, came with a message from Trump to “Vote Republican now!” As of early Thursday morning, the video had been viewed more than 1.8 million times, drawing widespread condemnation.”

    Hordes of people from south of the border are coming to kill you and your family. That’s the message to American voters Trump wants to turn into the message in the final stretch of the mid-terms. There’s going to be riots and people pushing down fences and they’re coming to commit horrible violence:


    The man is Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty in April for killing two California law enforcement officers in 2014. At the time of the shootings, Bracamontes was in the United States illegally — and now, with the midterm election approaching, he’s the star of the GOP’s latest campaign ad.

    “Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” reads text on the 53-second video, which is filled with audible expletives. “Democrats let him into our country. . . . Democrats let him stay.”

    The text is superimposed over videos of Bracamontes appearing to show no remorse for his crimes, and even declaring, “I’m going to kill more cops soon.”

    More footage follows: Throngs of unidentified people rioting in unidentified streets and pushing down fences in undisclosed locations. A Fox News Channel correspondent interviewing a man identified only as “deported immigrant in caravan,” who asks to be pardoned for attempted murder.

    “Who else would Democrats let in?” the video asks. An image of Bracamontes smiling reappears before being replaced by text, “President Donald Trump and Republicans are making America safe again.”

    “Who else would Democrats let in?” It’s basically the opposite of the “Who else would Mike Dukakis let out [of prison]?” message at the heart of the 1988 Willie Horton ad. An ad that almost defined race-baiting in American politics for the last 30 years and, of course, was created by Fox News creator Roger Ailes:


    About 30 years ago, William Horton, a relatively unknown African American felon in Massachusetts, became “Willie Horton,” the focal point of attack ads from Bush’s campaign against Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee and governor of Massachusetts.

    Horton, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, was temporarily released from prison in June 1986 as part of Massachusetts’s weekend furlough program, which Dukakis supported. Horton escaped while on furlough and in April 1987, he raped a white woman and stabbed her white fiance.

    The “Revolving Door” TV ad accusing Dukakis of being soft on crime showed convicts coming in and out of prison through a revolving door made of prison bars, and was meant to allude to Horton, Rolling Stone reported. The ad was largely masterminded by Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News Channel in 1996.

    “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand — or without it,” Ailes once told a reporter, according to Rolling Stone.

    And that’s Trump’s final message to voters. But, as the following article notes, it’s not like it’s just Trump going ‘full Horton’ in the final stretch of the campaign. Republicans across the country are running extremely similar disturbing ads of this nature, with many of them produced by the superPACs associated with House and Senate Republican leadership. It’s clearly a popular message with the party as a whole. And not just because anti-Latino race-baiting helps fire of the Republican base. It’s also a great distraction from all the deeply unpopular positions held by the party. As one GOP operative put it, “It’s clearly working. We are all talking about it and not health care”:

    CNN

    Trump’s racist video is part of a broader GOP midterm strategy aimed at the conservative base

    By Eric Bradner and Fredreka Schouten, CNN

    Updated 12:16 PM ET, Thu November 1, 2018

    Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s new Willie Horton-style web video posted to Twitter on Wednesday night represented a new flashpoint in a culture war he is stoking ahead of next week’s midterm elections. But it also came as part of a broader strategy GOP candidates are using in key House, Senate and governor’s races.

    Republican candidates and outside groups involved in tough races, particularly in deep-red states and districts where turning out the conservative base is all that matters, are airing television advertisements stoking fears and spreading misinformation about the group of migrants still 900 miles from the Southern border.

    It’s the GOP’s closing argument in Tennessee, where Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who faces Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen in a competitive Senate race, has aired ads that mention the “caravan” nearly 800 times, according to an analysis by Kantar/CMAG, which tracks political ads.

    One Blackburn ad describes the migrants as “gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East, possibly even terrorists.” A narrator says that “Marsha Blackburn will stand with Trump to build the wall and stop the caravan.”

    The migrants, traveling as a group for safety, have left their home countries and are heading to the United States. Trump and his allies have tried to stoke fears about the group and tie them to Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. There have been no reports, in the press or publicly from intelligence agencies, to suggest there are people from the Middle East embedded in the caravan.

    The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has also aired ads attacking Bredesen. “The caravan is coming, yet Bredesen is too liberal to care,” a narrator says in one ad.

    The ads mimic a strategy Trump set into motion weeks ago. Ignoring some Republicans’ pleas to put a booming economy at the forefront in the midterms, the President has launched an all-out culture war depicting immigrants, particularly Latinos, as a threat to the nation. He said Wednesday he might send 15,000 troops — three times the number currently fighting ISIS in Iraq — to meet the group of migrants. He has hyped it as an imminent threat, even though the group is shrinking in numbers and still weeks from the border.

    On Wednesday night, Trump escalated his race-fueled campaign further, posting on Twitter a video produced by the Republican consulting firm Jamestown Associates that depicts Democrats as plotting to help people they depict as Central American invaders overrun the nation with cop killers.

    The web ad features Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican man who had previously been deported but returned to the United States and was convicted in February in the killing of two California deputies.

    “I’m going to kill more cops soon,” Bracamontes is shown saying in court as captions flash across the screen reading, “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.”

    The web ad recalled the 1988 “Willie Horton” ad backed by supporters of George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign. It depicted Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis as responsible for the rape Horton, a convicted murderer, committed while out of prison while furloughed under a Massachusetts program. The ad was seen as playing into white fear and racist stereotypes of African-American.

    Thirty years later, Trump’s spot is the Willie Horton ad on steroids — and playing into the same racist stereotypes, this time with Latino immigrants.

    A source close to the White House described the web ad as well as Trump’s immigration push as “changing the argument from family unification to invasion.”

    “It’s clearly working. We are all talking about it and not health care,” the source added.

    New CNN polls underscore why Republicans — who widely view maintaining control of the House as a long-shot but see turning out conservatives in key Senate races as an opportunity to expand their majority there — are all-in on a strategy of fear-mongering over racial divides.

    In Arizona, 50% of Republican likely voters say immigration is the most important issue — up from 35% in September. And in Nevada, 42% of Republican likely voters identified immigration as the most important issue, an increase from 28% in September. Both states feature competitive Senate races.

    What’s not clear: Whether Republican voters’ shifting views are a response to Trump’s messaging, or whether Trump and other GOP candidates are shifting their messaging as a reaction to the movement in their base.

    Some Republicans running in more moderate territory have broken with Trump over his fear mongering on immigration. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican running for re-election in a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016, called the new web ad “part of a divide-and-conquer strategy.”

    However, candidates and outside groups in other competitive races where Republicans’ primary concern is turning out their base are also airing ads stoking fears about the group of migrants.

    The Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Speaker Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC, launched an ad in Minnesota’s 1st District — a largely pro-Trump district that is among the GOP’s best chances of flipping a House seat — casting Democratic candidate Dan Feehan as “weak on border security, soft on crime.”

    “A caravan of illegal immigrants marching on America. Over 7,000 strong, the caravan is full of gang members and criminals,” a narrator says. It has aired 124 times, per Kantar/CMAG.

    In South Carolina’s 1st District, Republican Katie Arrington highlights “an MS-13 killer arrested in the Low Country; a caravan of illegal immigrants marching on our border; Democrat Joe Cunningham, campaigning with the sanctuary city mayor of L.A.; the Pelosi agenda, open borders, undermining law enforcement.” It has aired 125 times, per Kantar/CMAG.

    A GOP group in Texas aired an ad accusing Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, of cheering on the migrants. “The caravan is coming, some say criminals among them. But there’s Beto O’Rourke, cheering them on,” a narrator says.

    Two other Republican Senate candidates, state Sen. Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin and Corey Stewart in Virginia, have also advertised about the “caravan.” Stewart’s ad has run 469 times, per Kantar/CMAG.

    In Kansas, Republican gubernatorial candidate and staunch Trump ally Kris Kobach uses footage of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson discussing the group of migrants growing “more massive by the day.”

    What those candidates all have in common: They need to jolt the conservative base before Tuesday’s midterms. In Blackburn and Cruz’s cases, both will win if Republicans turn out to vote. The same is true in Minnesota’s 1st District, where Republican Jim Hagedorn hopes to win the retiring Rep. Tim Walz’s seat. In Vukmir and Stewart’s cases, both are underdogs worried that Republican voters will sit out the race.

    On most of the map — especially the states and districts where the partisan makeup is more balanced — Republicans have generally not made the “caravan” their focal point in the closing days of the midterms. Still, most aren’t displeased to see Trump driving a cultural message of fear.

    “It’s incendiary, I get it,” one Nevada Republican said of the Trump ad. “It’s a turnout game, and it fires up people on both sides.”

    ———-

    “Trump’s racist video is part of a broader GOP midterm strategy aimed at the conservative base” by Eric Bradner and Fredreka Schouten; CNN; 11/01/2018

    “President Donald Trump’s new Willie Horton-style web video posted to Twitter on Wednesday night represented a new flashpoint in a culture war he is stoking ahead of next week’s midterm elections. But it also came as part of a broader strategy GOP candidates are using in key House, Senate and governor’s races.

    It’s not just Trump. It’s a broad strategy. A strategy that’s played a key role in the GOP’s hopes in Tennessee, where the GOP has been running ads that mention “caravan” nearly 800 times:


    Republican candidates and outside groups involved in tough races, particularly in deep-red states and districts where turning out the conservative base is all that matters, are airing television advertisements stoking fears and spreading misinformation about the group of migrants still 900 miles from the Southern border.

    It’s the GOP’s closing argument in Tennessee, where Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who faces Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen in a competitive Senate race, has aired ads that mention the “caravan” nearly 800 times, according to an analysis by Kantar/CMAG, which tracks political ads.

    One Blackburn ad describes the migrants as “gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East, possibly even terrorists.” A narrator says that “Marsha Blackburn will stand with Trump to build the wall and stop the caravan.”

    The migrants, traveling as a group for safety, have left their home countries and are heading to the United States. Trump and his allies have tried to stoke fears about the group and tie them to Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. There have been no reports, in the press or publicly from intelligence agencies, to suggest there are people from the Middle East embedded in the caravan.

    And it’s not just candidates or conservative superPACs. The Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund are all running similar ads:


    The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has also aired ads attacking Bredesen. “The caravan is coming, yet Bredesen is too liberal to care,” a narrator says in one ad.

    The ads mimic a strategy Trump set into motion weeks ago. Ignoring some Republicans’ pleas to put a booming economy at the forefront in the midterms, the President has launched an all-out culture war depicting immigrants, particularly Latinos, as a threat to the nation. He said Wednesday he might send 15,000 troops — three times the number currently fighting ISIS in Iraq — to meet the group of migrants. He has hyped it as an imminent threat, even though the group is shrinking in numbers and still weeks from the border.

    The Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Speaker Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC, launched an ad in Minnesota’s 1st District — a largely pro-Trump district that is among the GOP’s best chances of flipping a House seat — casting Democratic candidate Dan Feehan as “weak on border security, soft on crime.”

    “A caravan of illegal immigrants marching on America. Over 7,000 strong, the caravan is full of gang members and criminals,” a narrator says. It has aired 124 times, per Kantar/CMAG.

    And as one GOP operative put it, “It’s clearly working. We are all talking about it and not health care”:


    A source close to the White House described the web ad as well as Trump’s immigration push as “changing the argument from family unification to invasion.”

    “It’s clearly working. We are all talking about it and not health care,” the source added.

    It’s an invasion (and never mind our wildly unpopular health care policies)! That’s how the GOP as a party is closing out the mid-terms. Going all in on out doing ‘Willie Horton’.

    In fairness, the GOP isn’t exclusively focusing on disgusting race-baiting in order to distract from its wildly unpopular health care policies. Some candidates are actually talking some their health care stances. With up-is-down complete fiction lies, of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 1, 2018, 3:36 pm
  11. Here’s an interesting followup on the origins of ‘the Caravan’ in Honduras and the mystery over how it grew so large so suddenly and why it was timed to arrive during the US mid-terms, arguably one of the worst possible times it could have made the journey given the US political dynamics: First, recall how it appeared that a pro-Honduran government cable news channel, HCH broadcaster, played a key role in disseminating misinformation about the caravan and providing heavy coverage. The pro-government station falsely claimed that community activists, led by a former legislator named Bartolo Fuentes, were initially behind the group and that Fuentes would pay for their food and transportation. The right-wing Honduran president also allegedly told Mike Pence that Venezuela was financing the caravan. Also recall how Facebook and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) played a key role in disseminating this misinformation.

    Now we’re learning more about the role Facebook played in this dynamic and how it was that the size of the caravan exploded in the days before it departed Honduras. It turns out someone set up a sophisticated fake Facebook account pretending to be Bartolo Fuentes and used that account to send misinformation to a large number of migrant activists. Most of the messages were sent using Facebook Messenger which would have helped keep the existence of this fake account ‘under the radar’. The account operated entirely in Spanish and precisely targeted influencers within the migrant rights community. Fuentes only learned about the existence of this fake account from the migrant activist group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. As we previously saw, Pueblo Sin Fronteras has indeed organized previous caravans but did NOT organize this one. As we’ll see below, the reason the group did not support this caravan was specifically because of the horrible political dynamic of doing it right before a US election. But the fake profile was telling people Pueblo Sin Fronteras was going to lead the caravan on its journey.

    So who was behind this fake Facebook account? We don’t know, and Facebook is refusing to give out any information barring a subpoena or request from law enforcement, saying it does not share such information out of respect for the privacy of its users. That Facebook cited an alleged respect for user privacy would be hilarious enough for random users, but keep in mind that this is a user who blatantly impersonated a public official for the purpose of spreading misinformation to the public. Even Fuentes himself can’t get any information from Facebook.

    But there is one clue about the identity of the person (people) behind the fake account: the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa is listed in the fake profile as Fuentes’s hometown, not his real hometown of the San Pedro Sula suburb of El Progreso. According to the BuzzFeed article, this is NOT the kind of mistake that someone from Honduras would make. Fuentes is a well-known politician in the country.

    So it’s looking like Facebook once again was used by right-wing forces to sow disinformation and is once again doing as little as possible to correct this.

    Ok, first, here’s a post by Josh Marshall where he notes Facebook’s opposition to revealing anything about the impersonator, not even the country of origin. Apparently Facebook considers the country of origin to be part of that fake user’s privacy. Marshall also notes that, according to immigration activists he’s spoken with, it’s entirely possible that the Honduran people themselves had no understanding of the grave political risks of traveling to the US right before the US mid-terms, so the timing of the caravan wasn’t shocking from the perspective of the poor migrants who actually joined the caravan. But as Marshall notes, it was only after the fake account started operating that the caravan began to swell. And as Marshall also notes, it’s hard to imagine a disinformation operation this sophisticated would have limited itself to just one fake account. So that’s another aspect of Facebook refusing to give out any information about this: we have no idea how many other fake accounts were doing the same thing:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Fake Facebook Account Had Role Building Immigrant Caravan

    By Josh Marshall
    December 6, 2018 4:25 pm

    Here’s a very, very interesting Buzzfeed article which reports that a fake Facebook account appears to have had an important role stirring up the Honduran immigrant caravan which coincided almost precisely with the 2018 midterm election. Facebook has admitted the account was an imposter account impersonating a prominent Honduran politician. But it is refusing to release information about the account, who may have set it up or what country it originated from.

    For starters, it’s important to note that whatever the role of this account or others that may come to light, it didn’t create the Honduras’ emigration crisis that goes back to the later years of the Obama administration. There have been other ‘caravans’, the main point of which is to give migrants safety in numbers and not be prey to criminals and gangs on the journey north. But the timing of the October/November 2018 event has always been suspect.

    During the height of the news fever back in October I reached out to a prominent US pro-immigration activist and asked this person, ‘Am I crazy to be suspicious that you’ve got the biggest caravan yet heading north timed almost perfectly for the final weeks of the US election?’ The answer was very interesting. It was basically, ‘Yeah, we’re all very suspicious but there’s no clear evidence that it hasn’t grown up organically.’

    One of the things that seemed so odd to me was that if you’re an immigrant looking to escape the runaway murder rate and gang and paramilitary violence in Honduras, the worst possible time to make the attempt would be in the final days of a US election campaign in which the government has every incentive to make an example of you to show its anti-immigrant bona-fides. Like you may or may not make at another, less election focused time. But you’re definitely not getting into the country when Donald Trump is trying to use you as a scare cudgel to salvage control of Congress.

    What this person told me was that that wasn’t that hard to understand. From years working with people in the region this person told me, you’d just be surprised. They’re not as versed on the internal dynamics of our politics as you might think. This was a valuable corrective to my myopia and lack of perspective. I don’t know much about the internal dynamics of their politics and they don’t know ours.

    Still the person I was speaking to remained pretty suspicious. There just wasn’t any evidence that it wasn’t growing up in the way other immigrant caravans have over recent years.

    Now we get to this Buzzfeed article. The account was created about a week before the caravan departed and impersonated a man named Bartolo Fuentes who Buzzfeed identifies as “a Honduran activist, journalist, and former lawmaker.” The subtleties to the story are important. Fuentes was initially skeptical about this particular caravan. It wasn’t getting much attention. But it caught on so dramatically that he eventually joined it for a period of time, not as a prospective immigrant but as a supporter.

    The account mainly used Facebook messenger to communicate with other influential figures in Honduras and confirm Fuentes’ support of the effort. In Buzzfeed’s reconstruction, this bogus account didn’t start the effort and actually kicked off just after the efforts to organize it got underway. But before the account got started not many people seemed to be joining. Only after the account kicked into gear did enthusiasm and participation spike. The account also claimed falsely that the caravan was being led by a migrant rights organization called Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Later, once the caravan swelled to a massive scale, the Pueblo Sin Fronteras did get involved, though in a support rather than leadership role.

    The relevant point though is that it wasn’t true when the imposter account falsely spread the word.

    It appears that this account helped the caravan gain key momentum to the point where its size became a self-fulfilling prophecy, spurring even more to join and groups which hadn’t been supportive to get involved.

    So far, it seems like we only know about this single account. It’s hard to believe one Facebook account could play that decisive a role. But the account seems to have been sophisticated. And it is equally difficult to believe that a sophisticator operator or organization would have gone to such trouble and limited their efforts to a single imposter account.

    ———-

    “Fake Facebook Account Had Role Building Immigrant Caravan” by Josh Marshall; Talking Points Memo; 12/06/2018

    “Here’s a very, very interesting Buzzfeed article which reports that a fake Facebook account appears to have had an important role stirring up the Honduran immigrant caravan which coincided almost precisely with the 2018 midterm election. Facebook has admitted the account was an imposter account impersonating a prominent Honduran politician. But it is refusing to release information about the account, who may have set it up or what country it originated from.

    Yes, Facebook, the company now known for rampant privacy violations, won’t even give out the apparent country of origin for the fake account.

    Marshall also notes that, while it’s not surprising that a large number of migrants would have joined such a caravan despite the peril of doing this right before a US election because they simply wouldn’t be familiar with the role immigration plays in US politics, immigration activists are still suspicious of this caravan. It didn’t seem to happen the way past caravans did:


    During the height of the news fever back in October I reached out to a prominent US pro-immigration activist and asked this person, ‘Am I crazy to be suspicious that you’ve got the biggest caravan yet heading north timed almost perfectly for the final weeks of the US election?’ The answer was very interesting. It was basically, ‘Yeah, we’re all very suspicious but there’s no clear evidence that it hasn’t grown up organically.’

    One of the things that seemed so odd to me was that if you’re an immigrant looking to escape the runaway murder rate and gang and paramilitary violence in Honduras, the worst possible time to make the attempt would be in the final days of a US election campaign in which the government has every incentive to make an example of you to show its anti-immigrant bona-fides. Like you may or may not make at another, less election focused time. But you’re definitely not getting into the country when Donald Trump is trying to use you as a scare cudgel to salvage control of Congress.

    What this person told me was that that wasn’t that hard to understand. From years working with people in the region this person told me, you’d just be surprised. They’re not as versed on the internal dynamics of our politics as you might think. This was a valuable corrective to my myopia and lack of perspective. I don’t know much about the internal dynamics of their politics and they don’t know ours.

    Still the person I was speaking to remained pretty suspicious. There just wasn’t any evidence that it wasn’t growing up in the way other immigrant caravans have over recent years.

    And it was the fake Fuentes account that appeared to play a key role in giving the caravan momentum right in the final days before the departure:


    The account mainly used Facebook messenger to communicate with other influential figures in Honduras and confirm Fuentes’ support of the effort. In Buzzfeed’s reconstruction, this bogus account didn’t start the effort and actually kicked off just after the efforts to organize it got underway. But before the account got started not many people seemed to be joining. Only after the account kicked into gear did enthusiasm and participation spike. The account also claimed falsely that the caravan was being led by a migrant rights organization called Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Later, once the caravan swelled to a massive scale, the Pueblo Sin Fronteras did get involved, though in a support rather than leadership role.

    The relevant point though is that it wasn’t true when the imposter account falsely spread the word.

    It appears that this account helped the caravan gain key momentum to the point where its size became a self-fulfilling prophecy, spurring even more to join and groups which hadn’t been supportive to get involved.

    And as Marshall also points out, given the sophisticated nature of this Facebook operation and the obvious intent behind it, it’s hard to believe there were other fake accounts that we just haven’t discovered yet:


    So far, it seems like we only know about this single account. It’s hard to believe one Facebook account could play that decisive a role. But the account seems to have been sophisticated. And it is equally difficult to believe that a sophisticator operator or organization would have gone to such trouble and limited their efforts to a single imposter account.

    Now let’s take a look at the actual BuzzFeed article, and how Facebook refuses to give even the country of origin of the Facebook account out due to an alleged concern over user privacy (Bwahaha!!). It also note that there appeared to be a mistake made by the people behind the fake account: they incorrectly set the hometown of Fuentes to Honduras’s capital, which is the kind of mistake a Honduran would be unlikely to make since Fuentes is a well known politician. There are also a number of quotes from Pueblo Sin Fronteras about the group’s apprehension about the caravan, with the group’s representative asserting that “Nobody wanted this to take place so close to the elections…Somebody was clearly trying to mislead people to generate more interest in the caravan.”:

    BuzzFeed

    A Mysterious Imposter Account Was Used On Facebook To Drum Up Support For The Migrant Caravan

    Days before the migrant caravan left Honduras, a fake Facebook account was used to try to bolster its numbers. The social media giant has since deactivated the account but has refused to provide information about who created it.

    Ken Bensinger
    BuzzFeed News Reporter

    Karla Zabludovsky
    BuzzFeed News Reporter

    Posted on December 6, 2018, at 12:17 p.m. ET

    Just days before the migrant caravan set out from Honduras, an imposter stole the identity of a prominent early supporter on Facebook, using a fake account to try to boost the caravan’s numbers.

    Bartolo Fuentes, a Honduran activist, journalist, and former lawmaker told BuzzFeed News that someone used the phony account to send Facebook messages falsely claiming that established migrant groups were organizing the effort. News like that — coming from a well-known public figure in Honduras, such as Fuentes — could go a long way to convincing people to join the group of migrants traveling to the US.

    The caravan, which threaded north through Guatemala and Mexico, eventually ballooned in size to more than 7,000 people. It also became a political flashpoint in the lead-up to last month’s US midterm elections.

    In response to a query from BuzzFeed News, a Facebook spokesperson said the phony account “was removed for violating [the company’s] misrepresentation policy,” but declined to share any further information, such as what country it originated from, what email address was used to open it, or any other details that might reveal who was behind it. Facebook added that, barring a subpoena or request from law enforcement, it does not share such information out of respect for the privacy of its users.

    Fuentes said he believes it’s important to find out who was behind the rogue account — but hasn’t gotten any answers from Facebook. “Who knows how many messages could have been sent and who received them?”

    As far as Fuentes can tell, the fake account, which primarily used Facebook Messenger to spread disinformation, was created less than a week before the caravan was scheduled to depart.

    On his real account, Fuentes did post a few times about the caravan, which he said he’d heard about in mid-September after being invited to join a small private WhatsApp group of would-be migrants. One of his posts, from Oct. 4, showed a stylized image of a bedraggled migrant and indicated the caravan “spontaneously convened” without any formal organizer.

    But the messages being sent by the imposter, which also had Fuentes’s photo, had a very different flavor, the former lawmaker learned. They claimed that the prominent and influential migrant rights organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras was organizing the caravan and would be leading it on the arduous journey.

    But the news was fake. Although Pueblo Sin Fronteras had organized several previous caravans, including a big one in the spring that attracted 1,500 people, it staunchly opposed the latest effort based on well-founded fears it would stoke anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the elections.

    The bogus Fuentes account stands out for its sophistication and timing. It was created before the caravan departed, when the event had not yet attracted news coverage. It operated entirely in Spanish and precisely targeted influencers within the migrant rights community. And rather than criticize or undermine the caravan — as other online campaigns would later attempt to do — it was used to legitimize the event, making a loosely structured grassroots event appear to be a well-organized effort by an established migrant group with a proven track record of successfully bringing Central American people to the US border.

    Fuentes has been unable to get any information from Facebook about the account, but one small detail stood out. Whoever created it listed the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as Fuentes’s hometown, rather than the San Pedro Sula suburb of El Progreso. That might seem like a minor error, but it’s the sort of mistake a foreigner — not a Honduran — would make about the well-known former lawmaker, whose left-wing party stands in opposition to the current president’s administration.

    When the imposter account began sowing misinformation, the caravan was not expected to be huge — in fact, very few people even knew about it. Only around 160 men, women, and children showed up at the bus station in San Pedro Sula at the appointed time early Oct. 12.

    Fuentes has no idea how many messages were sent by the imposter account, or who might have received them. He said the WhatsApp group where he learned about the caravan had only a few dozen people in it, and he subsequently found out about a few other such groups that were equally small. He was surprised to see people continuing to arrive at the bus station throughout the morning, eventually attracting media coverage.

    Fuentes was interviewed on Honduras’s top-rated television news station, HCH, as the crowd gathered. The huge turnout inspired him to join the caravan for at least part of its journey, although he had no plans to immigrate to the US. By the next morning, before the caravan had even departed, the number of migrants had swelled to more than 1,200 — making it among the largest in history.

    By the time the caravan’s participants had traveled the nearly 200 miles to cross the Guatemalan border on Oct. 16, so many other migrants had joined that it had grown to some 3,000 people — more than double the size of any previous caravans.

    That same day, President Donald Trump issued the first in a series of increasingly incendiary tweets about it, threatening to withhold aid to Honduras if the migrants didn’t turn around.

    The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018

    But the caravan continued to grow — reaching an estimated 7,200 migrants as it advanced through southern Mexico. With the midterm elections less than a month away, Trump and other Republicans seized on the issue, calling the caravan an “invasion” and framing it as a crisis that only a Republican victory in the midterms could solve. The president sent thousands of soldiers to the border, and he, along with other politicians and pundits, pointed fingers at “leftist organizations,” Venezuela, gang members, and even George Soros for organizing the caravan.

    “The American people, I think, see through this,” Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News on Oct. 27. “They understand this is not a spontaneous caravan of vulnerable people.”

    Many of the migrants left the caravan to remain in Mexico, but more than 5,000 reached Tijuana. Now, as many remain huddled at the border with meager supplies and little clarity about whether they’ll be able to enter the United States, it’s impossible to know what role the fake Facebook account may have played in helping to swell numbers.

    “It’s important for me to find out who was behind it,” said Fuentes, who was detained and subsequently deported after crossing the Guatemalan border on Oct. 16 — an action he calls illegal.

    Fuentes first learned about the phony account from Irineo Mujica, who represents Pueblo Sin Fronteras and has organized previous caravans.

    In an interview, Mujica said the group had been against the caravan because of the likelihood it would be used to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment in the lead-up to the midterms.

    That’s why he was so infuriated by the Facebook messages claiming he not only supported the caravan but would personally be traveling to Honduras to lead it out of San Pedro Sula. But once the caravan attained critical mass, Pueblo Sin Fronteras decided to show support, albeit from the sidelines.

    In southern Mexico, Mujica, who holds dual US and Mexican citizenship, was arrested by Mexican federal police on Oct. 18, while leading a march in support of the migrants. He was subsequently released on bond.

    The largest caravan organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras numbered 1,500 people. To this day, Mujica said he is mystified by how the latest caravan could have grown so large.

    “Nobody wanted this to take place so close to the elections,” he added. “Somebody was clearly trying to mislead people to generate more interest in the caravan.”

    ———-

    “A Mysterious Imposter Account Was Used On Facebook To Drum Up Support For The Migrant Caravan” by Ken Bensinger and Karla Zabludovsky; BuzzFeed News; 12/06/2018

    “Nobody wanted this to take place so close to the elections…Somebody was clearly trying to mislead people to generate more interest in the caravan.”

    Yep, somebody was clearly trying to mislead people to generate more interest in the caravan. And they clearly knew enough about Honduras’s immigration activist community to know to impersonate Fuentes and successfully pull it off while precisely targeting influencer in the migrant rights community. But they did make one mistake: incorrectly listing Fuente’s hometown as the Honduran capital. Given that Fuentes is a well-known national politician it’s a reasonable assumption that his hometown would be the nation’s capital, but that’s still wrong and a real Honduran would likely know this:


    The bogus Fuentes account stands out for its sophistication and timing. It was created before the caravan departed, when the event had not yet attracted news coverage. It operated entirely in Spanish and precisely targeted influencers within the migrant rights community. And rather than criticize or undermine the caravan — as other online campaigns would later attempt to do — it was used to legitimize the event, making a loosely structured grassroots event appear to be a well-organized effort by an established migrant group with a proven track record of successfully bringing Central American people to the US border.

    Fuentes has been unable to get any information from Facebook about the account, but one small detail stood out. Whoever created it listed the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as Fuentes’s hometown, rather than the San Pedro Sula suburb of El Progreso. That might seem like a minor error, but it’s the sort of mistake a foreigner — not a Honduran — would make about the well-known former lawmaker, whose left-wing party stands in opposition to the current president’s administration.

    Also keep in mind that, given the evidence that the right-wing Honduran government was also promoting this caravan, perhaps this account was being run by someone working in the government (presumably from the capital) and they carelessly set the Honduran capital as the fake profile’s hometown because they were literally working from there.

    And note how, when the imposter account bean, the caravan was only around 160 people. So this account appears to have played a potentially very significant role in that last minute surge. And since Facebook won’t cooperate with Fuentes we have no idea how many Facebook messages were sent from this account and who received them:


    When the imposter account began sowing misinformation, the caravan was not expected to be huge — in fact, very few people even knew about it. Only around 160 men, women, and children showed up at the bus station in San Pedro Sula at the appointed time early Oct. 12.

    Fuentes has no idea how many messages were sent by the imposter account, or who might have received them. He said the WhatsApp group where he learned about the caravan had only a few dozen people in it, and he subsequently found out about a few other such groups that were equally small. He was surprised to see people continuing to arrive at the bus station throughout the morning, eventually attracting media coverage.

    Based on the information Fuentes has, the account was created less than a week before the caravan’s scheduled departure and primarily used Facebook Messenger to spread the disinformation, which would have kept this disinformation operation more under the radar. And those messages claimed that Pueblo Sin Fronteras was organizing the caravan and would be leading it. Pueblo Sin Fronteras was actually staunchly opposed to it precisely because of the timing with respect to the US mid-terms and only joined after it had swelled in size:


    As far as Fuentes can tell, the fake account, which primarily used Facebook Messenger to spread disinformation, was created less than a week before the caravan was scheduled to depart.

    On his real account, Fuentes did post a few times about the caravan, which he said he’d heard about in mid-September after being invited to join a small private WhatsApp group of would-be migrants. One of his posts, from Oct. 4, showed a stylized image of a bedraggled migrant and indicated the caravan “spontaneously convened” without any formal organizer.

    But the messages being sent by the imposter, which also had Fuentes’s photo, had a very different flavor, the former lawmaker learned. They claimed that the prominent and influential migrant rights organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras was organizing the caravan and would be leading it on the arduous journey.

    But the news was fake. Although Pueblo Sin Fronteras had organized several previous caravans, including a big one in the spring that attracted 1,500 people, it staunchly opposed the latest effort based on well-founded fears it would stoke anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the elections.

    And Fuentes only learned about the fake account from a representative from Pueblo Sin Fronteras:


    “It’s important for me to find out who was behind it,” said Fuentes, who was detained and subsequently deported after crossing the Guatemalan border on Oct. 16 — an action he calls illegal.

    Fuentes first learned about the phony account from Irineo Mujica, who represents Pueblo Sin Fronteras and has organized previous caravans.

    In an interview, Mujica said the group had been against the caravan because of the likelihood it would be used to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment in the lead-up to the midterms.

    That’s why he was so infuriated by the Facebook messages claiming he not only supported the caravan but would personally be traveling to Honduras to lead it out of San Pedro Sula. But once the caravan attained critical mass, Pueblo Sin Fronteras decided to show support, albeit from the sidelines.

    But Facebook refuses to give any information about this fake account…citing respect for user privacy:


    In response to a query from BuzzFeed News, a Facebook spokesperson said the phony account “was removed for violating [the company’s] misrepresentation policy,” but declined to share any further information, such as what country it originated from, what email address was used to open it, or any other details that might reveal who was behind it. Facebook added that, barring a subpoena or request from law enforcement, it does not share such information out of respect for the privacy of its users.

    Fuentes said he believes it’s important to find out who was behind the rogue account — but hasn’t gotten any answers from Facebook. “Who knows how many messages could have been sent and who received them?”

    So that teaches us something about Facebook and privacy: Facebook will fight for your privacy…as long as you’re running a right-wing disinformation operation.

    And given the wild success this fake account had, it raises the question of what else Facebook is going about this fake account. Is the user going to be allowed to do it again? Was there a much larger network of fake accounts that have yet to be discovered? Facebook isn’t talking.

    And more generally, can Facebook prevent something like this again? Or are fake Facebook profiles impersonating public figures just something Facebook can’t really prevent? Keep in mind that if the user obscured their digital trail – like using a throw away email address and virtual private network to sign up – it’s entirely possible Facebook itself has no idea who did this and can’t effectively prevent them from doing it again.

    So that’s all another reason not to believe the things you read on Facebook. And preferably #DeleteFacebook.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 7, 2018, 2:28 pm
  12. Phew! That’s kind of a relief. A little: President Trump is schedule to make a televised address to the American public tonight to build up public support for his decision to keep the government shutdown over demands for funding for ‘the Wall’. And while it sounds like Trump will continue fanning the flames of fantasy by trying to convince the public that there really is a big national emergency with the US-Mexico border, at least we’re getting reports that he’s not planning on formally declaring the situation a national emergency and unilaterally ordering the military to start building the wall, a move he’s been openly considering in recent weeks. So the real national emergency that would be created by the president declaring a fake national emergency in order to extricate himself out of his shutdown showdown crisis of his own making is at least not imminent.

    Still, while that kind of national nightmare won’t be happening tonight, it’s still looming. And when the White House is doubling down on such outrageous lie that even Fox News calls them out – like the lie that four thousands “suspected terrorists” have entered the US illegally, with the southern border be a key point of entry – it’s pretty clear that Trump and his entire team are fully committed to whipping up a fake crisis. And a great way to make that fake crisis feel much more ‘real’ is to declare it an emergency and start using those emergency powers. And the more extensively those powers are used, not just at the border but inside the US, the more real this fake emergency is going to feel.

    So in the interesting of peering into the abyss, here’s a looking at the US history of presidential emergency powers and all the things Trump could do if/when he eventually goes down that path. For instance, he’ll also have the option of declaring any US citizen who provides assistance to asylum seekers or undocumented immigrants in the US as a threat to national security. “Sanctuary cities” could be declared defiant of the federal government and the military could be ordered in to enforce immigration law. Things like shutting down websites that he doesn’t approve of can be shut down. And when Americans start protesting in response, the military can be brought in to suppress those protests:

    The Atlantic

    What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency

    From seizing control of the internet to declaring martial law, President Trump may legally do all kinds of extraordinary things.

    Elizabeth Goitein January/February 2019 Issue

    In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump reached deep into his arsenal to try to deliver votes to Republicans.

    Most of his weapons were rhetorical, featuring a mix of lies and false inducements—claims that every congressional Democrat had signed on to an “open borders” bill (none had), that liberals were fomenting violent “mobs” (they weren’t), that a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class would somehow pass while Congress was out of session (it didn’t). But a few involved the aggressive use—and threatened misuse—of presidential authority: He sent thousands of active-duty soldiers to the southern border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate Central American migrants, announced plans to end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship by executive order, and tweeted that law enforcement had been “strongly notified” to be on the lookout for “ILLEGAL VOTING.”

    These measures failed to carry the day, and Trump will likely conclude that they were too timid. How much further might he go in 2020, when his own name is on the ballot—or sooner than that, if he’s facing impeachment by a House under Democratic control?

    More is at stake here than the outcome of one or even two elections. Trump has long signaled his disdain for the concepts of limited presidential power and democratic rule. During his 2016 campaign, he praised murderous dictators. He declared that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be in jail if he were president, goading crowds into frenzied chants of “Lock her up.” He hinted that he might not accept an electoral loss. As democracies around the world slide into autocracy, and nationalism and antidemocratic sentiment are on vivid display among segments of the American populace, Trump’s evident hostility to key elements of liberal democracy cannot be dismissed as mere bluster.

    It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without bumping up against the limits set by the Constitution and Congress and enforced by the courts. Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check.

    But will they? Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.

    This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down.

    1. “A LOADED WEAPON”

    The premise underlying emergency powers is simple: The government’s ordinary powers might be insufficient in a crisis, and amending the law to provide greater ones might be too slow and cumbersome. Emergency powers are meant to give the government a temporary boost until the emergency passes or there is time to change the law through normal legislative processes.

    Unlike the modern constitutions of many other countries, which specify when and how a state of emergency may be declared and which rights may be suspended, the U.S. Constitution itself includes no comprehensive separate regime for emergencies. Those few powers it does contain for dealing with certain urgent threats, it assigns to Congress, not the president. For instance, it lets Congress suspend the writ of habeas corpus—that is, allow government officials to imprison people without judicial review—“when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it” and “provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

    Nonetheless, some legal scholars believe that the Constitution gives the president inherent emergency powers by making him commander in chief of the armed forces, or by vesting in him a broad, undefined “executive Power.” At key points in American history, presidents have cited inherent constitutional powers when taking drastic actions that were not authorized—or, in some cases, were explicitly prohibited—by Congress. Notorious examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent during World War II and George W. Bush’s programs of warrantless wiretapping and torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Abraham Lincoln conceded that his unilateral suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War was constitutionally questionable, but defended it as necessary to preserve the Union.

    The Supreme Court has often upheld such actions or found ways to avoid reviewing them, at least while the crisis was in progress. Rulings such as Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, in which the Court invalidated President Harry Truman’s bid to take over steel mills during the Korean War, have been the exception. And while those exceptions have outlined important limiting principles, the outer boundary of the president’s constitutional authority during emergencies remains poorly defined.

    Presidents can also rely on a cornucopia of powers provided by Congress, which has historically been the principal source of emergency authority for the executive branch. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, Congress passed laws to give the president additional leeway during military, economic, and labor crises. A more formalized approach evolved in the early 20th century, when Congress legislated powers that would lie dormant until the president activated them by declaring a national emergency. These statutory authorities began to pile up—and because presidents had little incentive to terminate states of emergency once declared, these piled up too. By the 1970s, hundreds of statutory emergency powers, and four clearly obsolete states of emergency, were in effect. For instance, the national emergency that Truman declared in 1950, during the Korean War, remained in place and was being used to help prosecute the war in Vietnam.

    Aiming to rein in this proliferation, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Under this law, the president still has complete discretion to issue an emergency declaration—but he must specify in the declaration which powers he intends to use, issue public updates if he decides to invoke additional powers, and report to Congress on the government’s emergency-related expenditures every six months. The state of emergency expires after a year unless the president renews it, and the Senate and the House must meet every six months while the emergency is in effect “to consider a vote” on termination.

    By any objective measure, the law has failed. Thirty states of emergency are in effect today—several times more than when the act was passed. Most have been renewed for years on end. And during the 40 years the law has been in place, Congress has not met even once, let alone every six months, to vote on whether to end them.

    As a result, the president has access to emergency powers contained in 123 statutory provisions, as recently calculated by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where I work. These laws address a broad range of matters, from military composition to agricultural exports to public contracts. For the most part, the president is free to use any of them; the National Emergencies Act doesn’t require that the powers invoked relate to the nature of the emergency. Even if the crisis at hand is, say, a nationwide crop blight, the president may activate the law that allows the secretary of transportation to requisition any privately owned vessel at sea. Many other laws permit the executive branch to take extraordinary action under specified conditions, such as war and domestic upheaval, regardless of whether a national emergency has been declared.

    This legal regime for emergencies—ambiguous constitutional limits combined with a rich well of statutory emergency powers—would seem to provide the ingredients for a dangerous encroachment on American civil liberties. Yet so far, even though presidents have often advanced dubious claims of constitutional authority, egregious abuses on the scale of the Japanese American internment or the post-9/11 torture program have been rare, and most of the statutory powers available during a national emergency have never been used.

    But what’s to guarantee that this president, or a future one, will show the reticence of his predecessors? To borrow from Justice Robert Jackson’s dissent in Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 Supreme Court decision that upheld the internment of Japanese Americans, each emergency power “lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

    2. AN INTERNET KILL SWITCH?

    Like all emergency powers, the laws governing the conduct of war allow the president to engage in conduct that would be illegal during ordinary times. This conduct includes familiar incidents of war, such as the killing or indefinite detention of enemy soldiers. But the president can also take a host of other actions, both abroad and inside the United States.

    These laws vary dramatically in content and scope. Several of them authorize the president to make decisions about the size and composition of the armed forces that are usually left to Congress. Although such measures can offer needed flexibility at crucial moments, they are subject to misuse. For instance, George W. Bush leveraged the state of emergency after 9/11 to call hundreds of thousands of reservists and members of the National Guard into active duty in Iraq, for a war that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Other powers are chilling under any circumstances: Take a moment to consider that during a declared war or national emergency, the president can unilaterally suspend the law that bars government testing of biological and chemical agents on unwitting human subjects.

    One power poses a singular threat to democracy in the digital era. In 1942, Congress amended Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 to allow the president to shut down or take control of “any facility or station for wire communication” upon his proclamation “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” resurrecting a similar power Congress had briefly provided Woodrow Wilson during World War I. At the time, “wire communication” meant telephone calls or telegrams. Given the relatively modest role that electronic communications played in most Americans’ lives, the government’s assertion of this power during World War II (no president has used it since) likely created inconvenience but not havoc.

    We live in a different universe today. Although interpreting a 1942 law to cover the internet might seem far-fetched, some government officials recently endorsed this reading during debates about cybersecurity legislation. Under this interpretation, Section 706 could effectively function as a “kill switch” in the U.S.—one that would be available to the president the moment he proclaimed a mere threat of war. It could also give the president power to assume control over U.S. internet traffic.

    The potential impact of such a move can hardly be overstated. In August, in an early-morning tweet, Trump lamented that search engines were “RIGGED” to serve up negative articles about him. Later that day the administration said it was looking into regulating the big internet companies. “I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful,” Trump warned. If the government were to take control of U.S. internet infrastructure, Trump could accomplish directly what he threatened to do by regulation: ensure that internet searches always return pro-Trump content as the top results. The government also would have the ability to impede domestic access to particular websites, including social-media platforms. It could monitor emails or prevent them from reaching their destination. It could exert control over computer systems (such as states’ voter databases) and physical devices (such as Amazon’s Echo speakers) that are connected to the internet.

    To be sure, the fact that the internet in the United States is highly decentralized—a function of a relatively open market for communications devices and services—would offer some protection. Achieving the level of government control over internet content that exists in places such as China, Russia, and Iran would likely be impossible in the U.S. Moreover, if Trump were to attempt any degree of internet takeover, an explosion of lawsuits would follow. Based on its First Amendment rulings in recent decades, the Supreme Court seems unlikely to permit heavy-handed government control over internet communication.

    But complacency would be a mistake. Complete control of internet content would not be necessary for Trump’s purposes; even with less comprehensive interventions, he could do a great deal to disrupt political discourse and hinder effective, organized political opposition. And the Supreme Court’s view of the First Amendment is not immutable. For much of the country’s history, the Court was willing to tolerate significant encroachments on free speech during wartime. “The progress we have made is fragile,” Geoffrey R. Stone, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago, has written. “It would not take much to upset the current understanding of the First Amendment.” Indeed, all it would take is five Supreme Court justices whose commitment to presidential power exceeds their commitment to individual liberties.

    3. SANCTIONING AMERICANS

    Next to war powers, economic powers might sound benign, but they are among the president’s most potent legal weapons. All but two of the emergency declarations in effect today were issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or ieepa. Passed in 1977, the law allows the president to declare a national emergency “to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat”—to national security, foreign policy, or the economy—that “has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States.” The president can then order a range of economic actions to address the threat, including freezing assets and blocking financial transactions in which any foreign nation or foreign national has an interest.

    In the late 1970s and ’80s, presidents used the law primarily to impose sanctions against other nations, including Iran, Nicaragua, South Africa, Libya, and Panama. Then, in 1983, when Congress failed to renew a law authorizing the Commerce Department to control certain exports, President Ronald Reagan declared a national emergency in order to assume that control under ieepa. Subsequent presidents followed his example, transferring export control from Congress to the White House. President Bill Clinton expanded ieepa’s usage by targeting not just foreign governments but foreign political parties, terrorist organizations, and suspected narcotics traffickers.

    President George W. Bush took matters a giant step further after 9/11. His Executive Order 13224 prohibited transactions not just with any suspected foreign terrorists, but with any foreigner or any U.S. citizen suspected of providing them with support. Once a person is “designated” under the order, no American can legally give him a job, rent him an apartment, provide him with medical services, or even sell him a loaf of bread unless the government grants a license to allow the transaction. The patriot Act gave the order more muscle, allowing the government to trigger these consequences merely by opening an investigation into whether a person or group should be designated.

    Designations under Executive Order 13224 are opaque and extremely difficult to challenge. The government needs only a “reasonable basis” for believing that someone is involved with or supports terrorism in order to designate him. The target is generally given no advance notice and no hearing. He may request reconsideration and submit evidence on his behalf, but the government faces no deadline to respond. Moreover, the evidence against the target is typically classified, which means he is not allowed to see it. He can try to challenge the action in court, but his chances of success are minimal, as most judges defer to the government’s assessment of its own evidence.

    Americans have occasionally been caught up in this Kafkaesque system. Several Muslim charities in the U.S. were designated or investigated based on the suspicion that their charitable contributions overseas benefited terrorists. Of course if the government can show, through judicial proceedings that observe due process and other constitutional rights, that an American group or person is funding terrorist activity, it should be able to cut off those funds. But the government shut these charities down by freezing their assets without ever having to prove its charges in court.

    In other cases, Americans were significantly harmed by designations that later proved to be mistakes. For instance, two months after 9/11, the Treasury Department designated Garad Jama, a Somalian-born American, based on an erroneous determination that his money-wiring business was part of a terror-financing network. Jama’s office was shut down and his bank account frozen. News outlets described him as a suspected terrorist. For months, Jama tried to gain a hearing with the government to establish his innocence and, in the meantime, obtain the government’s permission to get a job and pay his lawyer. Only after he filed a lawsuit did the government allow him to work as a grocery-store cashier and pay his living expenses. It was several more months before the government reversed his designation and unfroze his assets. By then he had lost his business, and the stigma of having been publicly labeled a terrorist supporter continued to follow him and his family.

    Despite these dramatic examples, ieepa’s limits have yet to be fully tested. After two courts ruled that the government’s actions against American charities were unconstitutional, Barack Obama’s administration chose not to appeal the decisions and largely refrained from further controversial designations of American organizations and citizens. Thus far, President Trump has followed the same approach.

    That could change. In October, in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump characterized the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. border to seek asylum as a “National Emergency.” Although he did not issue an emergency proclamation, he could do so under ieepa. He could determine that any American inside the U.S. who offers material support to the asylum seekers—or, for that matter, to undocumented immigrants inside the United States—poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security, and authorize the Treasury Department to take action against them.

    Such a move would carry echoes of a law passed recently in Hungary that criminalized the provision of financial or legal services to undocumented migrants; this has been dubbed the “Stop Soros” law, after the Hungarian American philanthropist George Soros, who funds migrants’-rights organizations. Although an order issued under ieepa would not land targets in jail, it could be implemented without legislation and without affording targets a trial. In practice, identifying every American who has hired, housed, or provided paid legal representation to an asylum seeker or undocumented immigrant would be impossible—but all Trump would need to do to achieve the desired political effect would be to make high-profile examples of a few. Individuals targeted by the order could lose their jobs, and find their bank accounts frozen and their health insurance canceled. The battle in the courts would then pick up exactly where it left off during the Obama administration—but with a newly reconstituted Supreme Court making the final call.

    4. BOOTS ON MAIN STREET

    The idea of tanks rolling through the streets of U.S. cities seems fundamentally inconsistent with the country’s notions of democracy and freedom. Americans might be surprised, therefore, to learn just how readily the president can deploy troops inside the country.

    The principle that the military should not act as a domestic police force, known as “posse comitatus,” has deep roots in the nation’s history, and it is often mistaken for a constitutional rule. The Constitution, however, does not prohibit military participation in police activity. Nor does the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 outlaw such participation; it merely states that any authority to use the military for law-enforcement purposes must derive from the Constitution or from a statute.

    The Insurrection Act of 1807 provides the necessary authority. As amended over the years, it allows the president to deploy troops upon the request of a state’s governor or legislature to help put down an insurrection within that state. It also allows the president to deploy troops unilaterally, either because he determines that rebellious activity has made it “impracticable” to enforce federal law through regular means, or because he deems it necessary to suppress “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” (terms not defined in the statute) that hinders the rights of a class of people or “impedes the course of justice.”

    Presidents have wielded the Insurrection Act under a range of circumstances. Dwight Eisenhower used it in 1957 when he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce school desegregation. George H. W. Bush employed it in 1992 to help stop the riots that erupted in Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King case. George W. Bush considered invoking it to help restore public order after Hurricane Katrina, but opted against it when the governor of Louisiana resisted federal control over the state’s National Guard. While controversy surrounded all these examples, none suggests obvious overreach.

    And yet the potential misuses of the act are legion. When Chicago experienced a spike in homicides in 2017, Trump tweeted that the city must “fix the horrible ‘carnage’?” or he would “send in the Feds!” To carry out this threat, the president could declare a particular street gang—say, MS-13—to be an “unlawful combination” and then send troops to the nation’s cities to police the streets. He could characterize sanctuary cities—cities that refuse to provide assistance to immigration-enforcement officials—as “conspiracies” against federal authorities, and order the military to enforce immigration laws in those places. Conjuring the specter of “liberal mobs,” he could send troops to suppress alleged rioting at the fringes of anti-Trump protests.

    How far could the president go in using the military within U.S. borders? The Supreme Court has given us no clear answer to this question. Take Ex parte Milligan, a famous ruling from 1866 invalidating the use of a military commission to try a civilian during the Civil War. The case is widely considered a high-water mark for judicial constraint on executive action. Yet even as the Court held that the president could not use war or emergency as a reason to bypass civilian courts, it noted that martial law—the displacement of civilian authority by the military—would be appropriate in some cases. If civilian courts were closed as a result of a foreign invasion or a civil war, for example, martial law could exist “until the laws can have their free course.” The message is decidedly mixed: Claims of emergency or necessity cannot legitimize martial law … until they can.

    Presented with this ambiguity, presidents have explored the outer limits of their constitutional emergency authority in a series of directives known as Presidential Emergency Action Documents, or peads. peads, which originated as part of the Eisenhower administration’s plans to ensure continuity of government in the wake of a Soviet nuclear attack, are draft executive orders, proclamations, and messages to Congress that are prepared in advance of anticipated emergencies. peads are closely guarded within the government; none has ever been publicly released or leaked. But their contents have occasionally been described in public sources, including FBI memorandums that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act as well as agency manuals and court records. According to these sources, peads drafted from the 1950s through the 1970s would authorize not only martial law but the suspension of habeas corpus by the executive branch, the revocation of Americans’ passports, and the roundup and detention of “subversives” identified in an FBI “Security Index” that contained more than 10,000 names.

    Less is known about the contents of more recent peads and equivalent planning documents. But in 1987, The Miami Herald reported that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a secret contingency plan authorizing “suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to fema, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis.” A 2007 Department of Homeland Security report lists “martial law” and “curfew declarations” as “critical tasks” that local, state, and federal government should be able to perform in emergencies. In 2008, government sources told a reporter for Radar magazine that a version of the Security Index still existed under the code name Main Core, allowing for the apprehension and detention of Americans tagged as security threats.

    Since 2012, the Department of Justice has been requesting and receiving funds from Congress to update several dozen peads first developed in 1989. The funding requests contain no indication of what these peads encompass, or what standards the department intends to apply in reviewing them. But whatever the Obama administration’s intent, the review has now passed to the Trump administration. It will fall to Jeff Sessions’s successor as attorney general to decide whether to rein in or expand some of the more frightening features of these peads. And, of course, it will be up to President Trump whether to actually use them—something no previous president appears to have done.

    5. KINDLING AN EMERGENCY

    What would the Founders think of these and other emergency powers on the books today, in the hands of a president like Donald Trump? In Youngstown, the case in which the Supreme Court blocked President Truman’s attempt to seize the nation’s steel mills, Justice Jackson observed that broad emergency powers were “something the forefathers omitted” from the Constitution. “They knew what emergencies were, knew the pressures they engender for authoritative action, knew, too, how they afford a ready pretext for usurpation,” he wrote. “We may also suspect that they suspected that emergency powers would tend to kindle emergencies.”

    In the past several decades, Congress has provided what the Constitution did not: emergency powers that have the potential for creating emergencies rather than ending them. Presidents have built on these powers with their own secret directives. What has prevented the wholesale abuse of these authorities until now is a baseline commitment to liberal democracy on the part of past presidents. Under a president who doesn’t share that commitment, what might we see?

    Imagine that it’s late 2019. Trump’s approval ratings are at an all-time low. A disgruntled former employee has leaked documents showing that the Trump Organization was involved in illegal business dealings with Russian oligarchs. The trade war with China and other countries has taken a significant toll on the economy. Trump has been caught once again disclosing classified information to Russian officials, and his international gaffes are becoming impossible for lawmakers concerned about national security to ignore. A few of his Republican supporters in Congress begin to distance themselves from his administration. Support for impeachment spreads on Capitol Hill. In straw polls pitting Trump against various potential Democratic presidential candidates, the Democrat consistently wins.

    Trump reacts. Unfazed by his own brazen hypocrisy, he tweets that Iran is planning a cyber operation to interfere with the 2020 election. His national-security adviser, John Bolton, claims to have seen ironclad (but highly classified) evidence of this planned assault on U.S. democracy. Trump’s inflammatory tweets provoke predictable saber rattling by Iranian leaders; he responds by threatening preemptive military strikes. Some Defense Department officials have misgivings, but others have been waiting for such an opportunity. As Iran’s statements grow more warlike, “Iranophobia” takes hold among the American public.

    Proclaiming a threat of war, Trump invokes Section 706 of the Communications Act to assume government control over internet traffic inside the United States, in order to prevent the spread of Iranian disinformation and propaganda. He also declares a national emergency under ieepa, authorizing the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of any person or organization suspected of supporting Iran’s activities against the United States. Wielding the authority conferred by these laws, the government shuts down several left-leaning websites and domestic civil-society organizations, based on government determinations (classified, of course) that they are subject to Iranian influence. These include websites and organizations that are focused on getting out the vote.

    Lawsuits follow. Several judges issue orders declaring Trump’s actions unconstitutional, but a handful of judges appointed by the president side with the administration. On the eve of the election, the cases reach the Supreme Court. In a 5–4 opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Court observes that the president’s powers are at their zenith when he is using authority granted by Congress to protect national security. Setting new precedent, the Court holds that the First Amendment does not protect Iranian propaganda and that the government needs no warrant to freeze Americans’ assets if its goal is to mitigate a foreign threat.

    Protests erupt. On Twitter, Trump calls the protesters traitors and suggests (in capital letters) that they could use a good beating. When counterprotesters oblige, Trump blames the original protesters for sparking the violent confrontations and deploys the Insurrection Act to federalize the National Guard in several states. Using the Presidential Alert system first tested in October 2018, the president sends a text message to every American’s cellphone, warning that there is “a risk of violence at polling stations” and that “troops will be deployed as necessary” to keep order. Some members of opposition groups are frightened into staying home on Election Day; other people simply can’t find accurate information online about voting. With turnout at a historical low, a president who was facing impeachment just months earlier handily wins reelection—and marks his victory by renewing the state of emergency.

    This scenario might sound extreme. But the misuse of emergency powers is a standard gambit among leaders attempting to consolidate power. Authoritarians Trump has openly claimed to admire—including the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan—have gone this route.

    Of course, Trump might also choose to act entirely outside the law. Presidents with a far stronger commitment to the rule of law, including Lincoln and Roosevelt, have done exactly that, albeit in response to real emergencies. But there is little that can be done in advance to stop this, other than attempting deterrence through robust oversight. The remedies for such behavior can come only after the fact, via court judgments, political blowback at the voting booth, or impeachment.

    ———-

    “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency” by Elizabeth Goitein; The Atlantic; January/February 2019 Issue

    “But will they? Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.”

    Yep, there’s a relatively unknown parallel legal regime that grants presidents extra powers and the magic words to get that regime started are “national emergency”. This parallel regime isn’t spelled out in the constitution. And what emergency powers are declared in the constitution are left to Congress. But that hasn’t prevent prevented some legal scholars and past presidents from asserting that there are inherent constitutional powers during times of emergency and, for the most part, the Supreme Court has supported those emergency powers when presidents declared and used them:


    1. “A LOADED WEAPON”

    The premise underlying emergency powers is simple: The government’s ordinary powers might be insufficient in a crisis, and amending the law to provide greater ones might be too slow and cumbersome. Emergency powers are meant to give the government a temporary boost until the emergency passes or there is time to change the law through normal legislative processes.

    Unlike the modern constitutions of many other countries, which specify when and how a state of emergency may be declared and which rights may be suspended, the U.S. Constitution itself includes no comprehensive separate regime for emergencies. Those few powers it does contain for dealing with certain urgent threats, it assigns to Congress, not the president. For instance, it lets Congress suspend the writ of habeas corpus—that is, allow government officials to imprison people without judicial review—“when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it” and “provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

    Nonetheless, some legal scholars believe that the Constitution gives the president inherent emergency powers by making him commander in chief of the armed forces, or by vesting in him a broad, undefined “executive Power.” At key points in American history, presidents have cited inherent constitutional powers when taking drastic actions that were not authorized—or, in some cases, were explicitly prohibited—by Congress. Notorious examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent during World War II and George W. Bush’s programs of warrantless wiretapping and torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Abraham Lincoln conceded that his unilateral suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War was constitutionally questionable, but defended it as necessary to preserve the Union.

    The Supreme Court has often upheld such actions or found ways to avoid reviewing them, at least while the crisis was in progress. Rulings such as Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, in which the Court invalidated President Harry Truman’s bid to take over steel mills during the Korean War, have been the exception. And while those exceptions have outlined important limiting principles, the outer boundary of the president’s constitutional authority during emergencies remains poorly defined.

    And it’s not like the emergency powers automatically go away when the emergency ends. As a result, thirty states of emergency are in effect today and Congress has done next to nothing to address this:


    Presidents can also rely on a cornucopia of powers provided by Congress, which has historically been the principal source of emergency authority for the executive branch. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, Congress passed laws to give the president additional leeway during military, economic, and labor crises. A more formalized approach evolved in the early 20th century, when Congress legislated powers that would lie dormant until the president activated them by declaring a national emergency. These statutory authorities began to pile up—and because presidents had little incentive to terminate states of emergency once declared, these piled up too. By the 1970s, hundreds of statutory emergency powers, and four clearly obsolete states of emergency, were in effect. For instance, the national emergency that Truman declared in 1950, during the Korean War, remained in place and was being used to help prosecute the war in Vietnam.

    Aiming to rein in this proliferation, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Under this law, the president still has complete discretion to issue an emergency declaration—but he must specify in the declaration which powers he intends to use, issue public updates if he decides to invoke additional powers, and report to Congress on the government’s emergency-related expenditures every six months. The state of emergency expires after a year unless the president renews it, and the Senate and the House must meet every six months while the emergency is in effect “to consider a vote” on termination.

    By any objective measure, the law has failed. Thirty states of emergency are in effect today—several times more than when the act was passed. Most have been renewed for years on end. And during the 40 years the law has been in place, Congress has not met even once, let alone every six months, to vote on whether to end them.

    As a result, the president has access to emergency powers contained in 123 statutory provisions, as recently calculated by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where I work. These laws address a broad range of matters, from military composition to agricultural exports to public contracts. For the most part, the president is free to use any of them; the National Emergencies Act doesn’t require that the powers invoked relate to the nature of the emergency. Even if the crisis at hand is, say, a nationwide crop blight, the president may activate the law that allows the secretary of transportation to requisition any privately owned vessel at sea. Many other laws permit the executive branch to take extraordinary action under specified conditions, such as war and domestic upheaval, regardless of whether a national emergency has been declared.

    So not only does Trump have the ability to declare a national emergency, he’s got enormous precedent. Except, of course, the ’emergency’ in this case is a fake crisis aggressively promoted by the right-wing disinfotainment complex. But as long as Trump can get away with declaring a fantasy emergency a real emergency, he’s going to have a whole legacy of emergency powers precedents to work with. That includes the powers Congress granted presidents in 1942 to allow the president to shutdown or take control of wire communications facilities. And today that means Trump could basically take over the internet and selectively censor whatever content he wants, at least in America:


    2. AN INTERNET KILL SWITCH?

    One power poses a singular threat to democracy in the digital era. In 1942, Congress amended Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 to allow the president to shut down or take control of “any facility or station for wire communication” upon his proclamation “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” resurrecting a similar power Congress had briefly provided Woodrow Wilson during World War I. At the time, “wire communication” meant telephone calls or telegrams. Given the relatively modest role that electronic communications played in most Americans’ lives, the government’s assertion of this power during World War II (no president has used it since) likely created inconvenience but not havoc.

    We live in a different universe today. Although interpreting a 1942 law to cover the internet might seem far-fetched, some government officials recently endorsed this reading during debates about cybersecurity legislation. Under this interpretation, Section 706 could effectively function as a “kill switch” in the U.S.—one that would be available to the president the moment he proclaimed a mere threat of war. It could also give the president power to assume control over U.S. internet traffic.

    The potential impact of such a move can hardly be overstated. In August, in an early-morning tweet, Trump lamented that search engines were “RIGGED” to serve up negative articles about him. Later that day the administration said it was looking into regulating the big internet companies. “I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful,” Trump warned. If the government were to take control of U.S. internet infrastructure, Trump could accomplish directly what he threatened to do by regulation: ensure that internet searches always return pro-Trump content as the top results. The government also would have the ability to impede domestic access to particular websites, including social-media platforms. It could monitor emails or prevent them from reaching their destination. It could exert control over computer systems (such as states’ voter databases) and physical devices (such as Amazon’s Echo speakers) that are connected to the internet.

    Then there’s the economic emergency powers he’ll have as a result of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 combined with George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13224. With these powers, Trump could literally sanction individual American citizens he deems to be providing support for whatever is causing the emergency. So, for instance, if he declared some future caravan of asylum seekers an emergency, he could sanction anyone offering help to those asylum seekers. The immigrants rights community could be destroyed:


    3. SANCTIONING AMERICANS

    Next to war powers, economic powers might sound benign, but they are among the president’s most potent legal weapons. All but two of the emergency declarations in effect today were issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or ieepa. Passed in 1977, the law allows the president to declare a national emergency “to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat”—to national security, foreign policy, or the economy—that “has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States.” The president can then order a range of economic actions to address the threat, including freezing assets and blocking financial transactions in which any foreign nation or foreign national has an interest.

    In the late 1970s and ’80s, presidents used the law primarily to impose sanctions against other nations, including Iran, Nicaragua, South Africa, Libya, and Panama. Then, in 1983, when Congress failed to renew a law authorizing the Commerce Department to control certain exports, President Ronald Reagan declared a national emergency in order to assume that control under ieepa. Subsequent presidents followed his example, transferring export control from Congress to the White House. President Bill Clinton expanded ieepa’s usage by targeting not just foreign governments but foreign political parties, terrorist organizations, and suspected narcotics traffickers.

    President George W. Bush took matters a giant step further after 9/11. His Executive Order 13224 prohibited transactions not just with any suspected foreign terrorists, but with any foreigner or any U.S. citizen suspected of providing them with support. Once a person is “designated” under the order, no American can legally give him a job, rent him an apartment, provide him with medical services, or even sell him a loaf of bread unless the government grants a license to allow the transaction. The patriot Act gave the order more muscle, allowing the government to trigger these consequences merely by opening an investigation into whether a person or group should be designated.

    Designations under Executive Order 13224 are opaque and extremely difficult to challenge. The government needs only a “reasonable basis” for believing that someone is involved with or supports terrorism in order to designate him. The target is generally given no advance notice and no hearing. He may request reconsideration and submit evidence on his behalf, but the government faces no deadline to respond. Moreover, the evidence against the target is typically classified, which means he is not allowed to see it. He can try to challenge the action in court, but his chances of success are minimal, as most judges defer to the government’s assessment of its own evidence.

    Despite these dramatic examples, ieepa’s limits have yet to be fully tested. After two courts ruled that the government’s actions against American charities were unconstitutional, Barack Obama’s administration chose not to appeal the decisions and largely refrained from further controversial designations of American organizations and citizens. Thus far, President Trump has followed the same approach.

    That could change. In October, in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Trump characterized the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. border to seek asylum as a “National Emergency.” Although he did not issue an emergency proclamation, he could do so under ieepa. He could determine that any American inside the U.S. who offers material support to the asylum seekers—or, for that matter, to undocumented immigrants inside the United States—poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security, and authorize the Treasury Department to take action against them.

    Such a move would carry echoes of a law passed recently in Hungary that criminalized the provision of financial or legal services to undocumented migrants; this has been dubbed the “Stop Soros” law, after the Hungarian American philanthropist George Soros, who funds migrants’-rights organizations. Although an order issued under ieepa would not land targets in jail, it could be implemented without legislation and without affording targets a trial. In practice, identifying every American who has hired, housed, or provided paid legal representation to an asylum seeker or undocumented immigrant would be impossible—but all Trump would need to do to achieve the desired political effect would be to make high-profile examples of a few. Individuals targeted by the order could lose their jobs, and find their bank accounts frozen and their health insurance canceled. The battle in the courts would then pick up exactly where it left off during the Obama administration—but with a newly reconstituted Supreme Court making the final call.

    Then there’s the possibility of Trump simply sending troops to engage in domestic police actions. That should be helpful for dealing with any protests:


    4. BOOTS ON MAIN STREET

    The idea of tanks rolling through the streets of U.S. cities seems fundamentally inconsistent with the country’s notions of democracy and freedom. Americans might be surprised, therefore, to learn just how readily the president can deploy troops inside the country.

    The principle that the military should not act as a domestic police force, known as “posse comitatus,” has deep roots in the nation’s history, and it is often mistaken for a constitutional rule. The Constitution, however, does not prohibit military participation in police activity. Nor does the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 outlaw such participation; it merely states that any authority to use the military for law-enforcement purposes must derive from the Constitution or from a statute.

    The Insurrection Act of 1807 provides the necessary authority. As amended over the years, it allows the president to deploy troops upon the request of a state’s governor or legislature to help put down an insurrection within that state. It also allows the president to deploy troops unilaterally, either because he determines that rebellious activity has made it “impracticable” to enforce federal law through regular means, or because he deems it necessary to suppress “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” (terms not defined in the statute) that hinders the rights of a class of people or “impedes the course of justice.”

    Presidents have wielded the Insurrection Act under a range of circumstances. Dwight Eisenhower used it in 1957 when he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce school desegregation. George H. W. Bush employed it in 1992 to help stop the riots that erupted in Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King case. George W. Bush considered invoking it to help restore public order after Hurricane Katrina, but opted against it when the governor of Louisiana resisted federal control over the state’s National Guard. While controversy surrounded all these examples, none suggests obvious overreach.

    And yet the potential misuses of the act are legion. When Chicago experienced a spike in homicides in 2017, Trump tweeted that the city must “fix the horrible ‘carnage’?” or he would “send in the Feds!” To carry out this threat, the president could declare a particular street gang—say, MS-13—to be an “unlawful combination” and then send troops to the nation’s cities to police the streets. He could characterize sanctuary cities—cities that refuse to provide assistance to immigration-enforcement officials—as “conspiracies” against federal authorities, and order the military to enforce immigration laws in those places. Conjuring the specter of “liberal mobs,” he could send troops to suppress alleged rioting at the fringes of anti-Trump protests.

    And as was revealed back in 1987, Oliver North worked with FEMA to set of a secret contingency plan authorizing “suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to fema, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis”:


    How far could the president go in using the military within U.S. borders? The Supreme Court has given us no clear answer to this question. Take Ex parte Milligan, a famous ruling from 1866 invalidating the use of a military commission to try a civilian during the Civil War. The case is widely considered a high-water mark for judicial constraint on executive action. Yet even as the Court held that the president could not use war or emergency as a reason to bypass civilian courts, it noted that martial law—the displacement of civilian authority by the military—would be appropriate in some cases. If civilian courts were closed as a result of a foreign invasion or a civil war, for example, martial law could exist “until the laws can have their free course.” The message is decidedly mixed: Claims of emergency or necessity cannot legitimize martial law … until they can.

    Presented with this ambiguity, presidents have explored the outer limits of their constitutional emergency authority in a series of directives known as Presidential Emergency Action Documents, or peads. peads, which originated as part of the Eisenhower administration’s plans to ensure continuity of government in the wake of a Soviet nuclear attack, are draft executive orders, proclamations, and messages to Congress that are prepared in advance of anticipated emergencies. peads are closely guarded within the government; none has ever been publicly released or leaked. But their contents have occasionally been described in public sources, including FBI memorandums that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act as well as agency manuals and court records. According to these sources, peads drafted from the 1950s through the 1970s would authorize not only martial law but the suspension of habeas corpus by the executive branch, the revocation of Americans’ passports, and the roundup and detention of “subversives” identified in an FBI “Security Index” that contained more than 10,000 names.

    Less is known about the contents of more recent peads and equivalent planning documents. But in 1987, The Miami Herald reported that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a secret contingency plan authorizing “suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to fema, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis.” A 2007 Department of Homeland Security report lists “martial law” and “curfew declarations” as “critical tasks” that local, state, and federal government should be able to perform in emergencies. In 2008, government sources told a reporter for Radar magazine that a version of the Security Index still existed under the code name Main Core, allowing for the apprehension and detention of Americans tagged as security threats.

    Since 2012, the Department of Justice has been requesting and receiving funds from Congress to update several dozen peads first developed in 1989. The funding requests contain no indication of what these peads encompass, or what standards the department intends to apply in reviewing them. But whatever the Obama administration’s intent, the review has now passed to the Trump administration. It will fall to Jeff Sessions’s successor as attorney general to decide whether to rein in or expand some of the more frightening features of these peads. And, of course, it will be up to President Trump whether to actually use them—something no previous president appears to have done.

    This plan by Oliver North is the infamous “Rex 84” scheme. Recall how Rex 84 was created with the idea of the mass internment of black Americans – under the assumption of mass civil uprising by black militants – and one of the key features of the scheme was the deputization of right-wing paramilitaries to maintain order. Might the Trump team have some sort of Rex 84 Redux in mind? Spark mass protests in the Latino and immigrant rights communities and follow that up with mass arrests and incarcerations? Perhaps with the help of deputized groups like the Oath Keepers to keep the protestors in line? It’s a grim thought, but one of the key lessons we’re learning over and over in the Trump era is the grim plausibility of the previously unthinkable.

    And that’s perhaps the most chilling aspect of this look back at the history of executive powers and national emergencies: Trump will clearly enjoy drawing upon a wide array of the emergency powers granted to him by America’s growing legacy of executive emergency powers. But of all the examples of previous national emergency powers, the grimmest, Rex 84, is clearly the most ‘Trumpian’ in nature. And while US isn’t at the point yet where mass uprisings could be used to impose a Rex 84-inspired mass crackdown, a great way to get to that point is the declaration of a blatantly fake national emergency about a blatantly fake border crisis.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2019, 4:12 pm
  13. Nazi trolls are going to troll. It’s one of the unavoidable parts of the New Normal of the internet age. But as Adam Serwer reminds us in a new piece in The Atlantic discussing the abundant overt trolling in the manifesto of neo-Nazi killer Brenton Tarrant, the Nazis were always trolls going back to the beginning of the movement in the early 1920’s. Trolling was a crucial political weapon. This is in part because trolling gave their violent exterminationist rhetoric an air of plausible deniability. But it was also a way of expressing a contempt for the prevailing liberal order. As Serwer puts it, “the insincerity itself was a moral act, an expression of contempt for the weak.” In other words, trolling is a means towards the ends of overturning the prevailing moral order.

    It’s worth noting how this relates to the slogan ‘Me ne frego’ (“I don’t care”) used by Italian fascists that was echoed by Melania Trump’s disturbing “I don’t really care, do you?” jacket that she wore in public while traveling to a visit to the immigrant child detention centers. While the slogan may have started off as an embrace of a willingness to die in battle, it went on to symbolize a kind of moral autocracy and the rejection of the society’s concepts of morality. It was literally a slogan stating ‘I don’t care about your concepts of right and wrong’ as the fascists took over Italy. And that was the slogan in large letters on Melania’s jacket as she took a high-profile trip to the visit the centers for large numbers of undocumented immigrant children who were separated from their parents and held in prison-like conditions. So it was a chillingly apt use of a slogan that has come to symbolize a rejection of liberal morality.

    As Serwer notes, part of the appeal of trolling for the original Nazis is that liberal society, which is generally predicated on the pretense of an open debate of ideas, is simply ill-equipped to deal with trolls. How does one engage in a debate or simply assess someone who shrouds their extremist beliefs with an “I’m just joking about these calls for mass murder (Or am I?)” wink and nod patina. It was a challenge societies utterly failed to address during the rise of the fascists and Nazis in the 1920’s and 30’s and they are doing it again today:

    The Atlantic

    Nazis Have Always Been Trolls

    They rely on murderous insincerity and the unwillingness of liberal societies to see them for what they are.

    Mar 21, 2019
    Adam Serwer
    Staff writer at The Atlantic

    The coward who gunned down 49 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand left behind a white-nationalist screed rationalizing his mass murder as a necessary act to preserve the white race.

    The manifesto is striking for its trolling—its combination of fanaticism, insincerity, and attempts at irony. The killer was particularly obsessed with the idea of “white genocide,” a term that does not actually refer to mass murder, ethnic cleansing, or even violence, but to the loss of political and cultural hegemony in countries that white supremacists think should belong to white people by law. The theory of white population decline is innumerate nonsense; as The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb writes, the conspiracy is a kind of projection, a paranoia that the past genocide, colonialism, and ethnic cleansing forced on the West’s former subjects will be visited upon it.

    Although the manifesto itself was written in the distinctive vernacular of the far-right internet, there is nothing new about white supremacists trolling. The Nazis were dedicated trolls who weaponized their insincerity to take advantage of liberal societies ill-equipped to confront them. This was not done just for political advantage—rather, the insincerity itself was a moral act, an expression of contempt for the weak.

    The original Nazis were open about their intentions, but their strategic insincerity created a fog of doubt that allowed observers to avoid the obvious. In 1922, The New York Times infamously declared that many believed “Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.” In 1930, even after the Nazis had become the second-largest party in the German legislature, the Times assured its readers that “there is no present basis for assuming that the Nazis will attempt to make anti-Semitism a militant issue in their legislative program.”

    Many of the ideological descendants of the Third Reich have raised the banners of liberal principles in their defense. They say they are defending free speech, or due process, or democracy—but their only purpose is to empty these concepts of meaning, to make them as contemptible to their ideological opponents as they are to them. In this, too, they resemble their ideological forebears.

    As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, Nazi supporters were “satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.” A horrified reaction to such expressions of cruelty merely affirms the importance of being cruel. “Vulgarity, with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories, carried with it a frank admission of the worst and a disregard for all pretenses which were easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life,” she wrote.

    The ideas in the shooter’s screed are placed beyond argument, presented as expressions of iron laws of nature. Such writings intend to bait the earnest into making fools of themselves. Both race itself and whiteness by extension are biological fictions made real only by society’s embrace of both concepts; the pseudoscience concocted to justify such definitions changes with political necessity. The shooter’s definition of who counts as white would not have applied 100 years ago, but white supremacy is a nostalgic ideology, one that looks at the past not for wisdom or knowledge, but for fairy tales of pristine white societies that never existed.

    “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1946 essay “Anti-Semite and Jew.” “The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors.”

    The crimes of the Nazis have, for some, obscured the extent to which they relied on murderous insincerity and the unwillingness of liberal societies to see the Nazis plainly for what they were. In the 1930s, falling for this ploy might have been understandable; with the hindsight of history, it is incomprehensible that many continue to do so. But it is important to understand that weaponized insincerity was an essential element of fascism from the very beginning.

    Ultimately, as with the New Zealand shooter, every joke, every pithy reference, every pretend gesture toward the moral standards of liberal democracy has the same punch line: We are going to kill you. There is nothing more profound to unearth from their ideas, or from them.

    ———–

    “Nazis Have Always Been Trolls” by Adam Serwer; The Atlantic; 03/21/2019

    “Although the manifesto itself was written in the distinctive vernacular of the far-right internet, there is nothing new about white supremacists trolling. The Nazis were dedicated trolls who weaponized their insincerity to take advantage of liberal societies ill-equipped to confront them. This was not done just for political advantage—rather, the insincerity itself was a moral act, an expression of contempt for the weak.

    Yep, the insincere trolling of the Nazis itself was a moral act. The Nazi morality of contempt for the weak, where ideals like democracy, equality and rights for women and minorities are what is seen as weak. And a Nazi moral paradigm where cruelty is a virtue:


    As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, Nazi supporters were “satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.” A horrified reaction to such expressions of cruelty merely affirms the importance of being cruel. “Vulgarity, with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories, carried with it a frank admission of the worst and a disregard for all pretenses which were easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life,” she wrote.

    “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1946 essay “Anti-Semite and Jew.” “The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors.”

    But the trolling is also highly strategic, in part because it allows observers to avoid truly seeing what was staring them in the face: that the Nazis really are intent on mass extermination. They aren’t joking. And yet, repeatedly in the 1920’s and 30’s, observers arrived at the conclusion that the Nazis were just engaged in hyperbolic rhetoric. Their words weren’t to be taken seriously:


    The original Nazis were open about their intentions, but their strategic insincerity created a fog of doubt that allowed observers to avoid the obvious. In 1922, The New York Times infamously declared that many believed “Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.” In 1930, even after the Nazis had become the second-largest party in the German legislature, the Times assured its readers that “there is no present basis for assuming that the Nazis will attempt to make anti-Semitism a militant issue in their legislative program.”

    The crimes of the Nazis have, for some, obscured the extent to which they relied on murderous insincerity and the unwillingness of liberal societies to see the Nazis plainly for what they were. In the 1930s, falling for this ploy might have been understandable; with the hindsight of history, it is incomprehensible that many continue to do so. But it is important to understand that weaponized insincerity was an essential element of fascism from the very beginning.

    Flash forward to today, and we have a growing far right presence on the internet that had turned trolling into a giant game: say something so extreme it gets you banned or censored, and then wave the flag of ‘free speech!’ The fact that the Nazis, when they take power, would almost immediately ban free speech is just part of the trolling:


    Many of the ideological descendants of the Third Reich have raised the banners of liberal principles in their defense. They say they are defending free speech, or due process, or democracy—but their only purpose is to empty these concepts of meaning, to make them as contemptible to their ideological opponents as they are to them. In this, too, they resemble their ideological forebears.

    It’s worth recalling that when Matthew Hale, the neo-Nazi leader of the white supremacist World Church of the Creator, was caught on tape asking one of his followers to murder Judge Lefkow, Hale’s attorney, Glenn Greenwald, argued that Hale’s barely coded request to kill Lefkow was simply a “misinterpretation” and he wasn’t actually calling for the judge’s murder. Instead, it was protected political speech. While that wasn’t exactly trolling that Hale was engaged in on that tape, it’s another example of a Nazi attempting to use barely-coded language to provoke violence under the banner of ‘free speech!’

    So what’s society to do? That sadly remains an open question but Serwer does end his piece with some very good advice: when Nazis are trolling you there is a one very simple and accurate way to interpret their trolling: the Nazis are simply telling you “we are going to kill you.” That’s their underlying message:


    Ultimately, as with the New Zealand shooter, every joke, every pithy reference, every pretend gesture toward the moral standards of liberal democracy has the same punch line: We are going to kill you. There is nothing more profound to unearth from their ideas, or from them.

    And sure, it’s deeply unsettling to interpret the avalanche of online neo-Nazi/’Alt Right’ trolling as effectively death threats against you and everyone you know (at least everyone you know who isn’t a Nazi). But that’s what they are. Death threats that are intended to be seen by other Nazis are real death threats and rallying cries and intended to be seen by everyone else as just a sick joke. And that’s a pretty good way to characterize Nazi-like movements: very sick, serious, and deadly jokes that are laughed off at society’s peril.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2019, 11:20 am
  14. Here’s a particularly grim set of articles in light of the Trump administration’s ongoing strategy of using cruelty as a tool for discouraging refugees and asylum seekers from coming to the United States:

    The leadership of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is once again in a state of flux and the end result of that flux appears to be the consolidation of influence by Stephen Miller, the far right protege of Steve Bannon and old friends with Richard Spencer, over DHS’s immigration policy.

    Note that it was reported earlier this year that Miller would tell White House staffers that “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.” That’s the current de facto shadow-director of DHS following the resignation of DHS Security Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday. Trump has been agitating towards a return to his family separation policies (separating kids from parents when dealing with the refugee and asylum seekers at the US southern border) and Nielsen was reportedly resisting this, which presumably played a big role in her resignation. Nielsen wasn’t channeling the spirit of Miller enough so someone new is required.

    Word is that Miller is also pushing for a number of other senior DHS replacements. Specifically, Miller wants to see Trump dismiss the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Cissna, and the department’s general counsel, John Mitnick. So DHS could be in for not just a new director soon but also a new general counsel. And who knows who else. And all of the people chosen will presumably be willing to implement Stephen Miller’s vision of a DHS that will be cruel to refugees and asylum seekers as Miller deems necessary to dissuade them from even trying to come to America. What could possibly go wrong?:

    CNN

    Stephen Miller wants Trump to oust more senior leaders at Homeland Security

    By Priscilla Alvarez, Jake Tapper and Abby Phillip
    Updated 12:17 PM ET, Mon April 8, 2019

    Washington (CNN)White House senior adviser Stephen Miller wants to make sure that outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is only the first of a string of senior officials headed out the door.

    Trump administration officials say that Miller, who played key a role in Nielsen’s ouster, also wants the President to dismiss the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Cissna, and the department’s general counsel, John Mitnick.

    A senior administration official also said that under the law, DHS Under Secretary of Management Claire Grady, the current acting deputy secretary, is next in line of succession to be acting secretary. That means there are questions as to whether she will need to be fired as well in order to make Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan the acting DHS secretary, as Trump tweeted Sunday night.

    Miller’s heightened influence within the West Wing has been aided by the President, who recently told aides in an Oval Office meeting that Miller was in charge of all immigration and border related issues in the White House, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

    Miller has always informally been one of the leading hardliner voices on immigration in the West Wing. But this change formalizes that role and it also gives him the ability to call and chair meetings on immigration issues. This change was first reported by The Washington Post.

    The President has pushed in recent weeks to reinstate the family separation policy, which Nielsen resisted, a source familiar with the discussions says. Trump rescinded that policy amid public outrage and scrutiny from the courts last summer.

    Additionally, after Trump walked back his threat to close the US-Mexico border and praised Mexico for doing more to stop the flow of immigrants, the President has since soured on his own walk back. By the end of the week, Trump became frustrated once again about the issues at the border, dissatisfied that Mexico was not doing enough and looking for his aides to take tougher steps to address the problem.

    The changes have left the department in limbo, which has had at least three positions filled by people in an acting capacity in senior roles.

    Late last week, the White House abruptly withdrew the nomination of Ron Vitiello for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which caught both Congress and the department by surprise. Nielsen was unaware what was happening until after the nomination was pulled, a person familiar with the news said.

    Asked about the mood at DHS following Nielsen’s resignation, one DHS official told CNN there was “some exasperation,” adding that the department doesn’t “have enough depth” to fill longtime vacancies.

    “We are losing leadership faster than we can get it confirmed or even hired permanently,” the official said.

    ———-

    “Stephen Miller wants Trump to oust more senior leaders at Homeland Security” by Priscilla Alvarez, Jake Tapper and Abby Phillip; CNN; 04/08/2019

    “Miller’s heightened influence within the West Wing has been aided by the President, who recently told aides in an Oval Office meeting that Miller was in charge of all immigration and border related issues in the White House, according to a person familiar with the meeting.”

    Keep in mind that immigration-related issues are probably going to be the centerpiece of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Fear-mongering about immigrants and asylum seekers is going to be a core Trump message. So when Trump puts Miller in charge of all immigration and border relates issues in the White House he’s effectively making Miller one of the most powerful figures in the administration because so much of what the administration is going to be doing between now and the election is going to be related to showcasing for immigration-related fear-mongering but also showcasing the Trump administration’s willingness to employ cruelty as a policy tool. In other words, Stephen Miller’s chilling id is set to become manifest in Trump’s immigration policy as a strategy of increasing Trump’s political appeal. But before Miller’s id can fully manifest as DHS policy he’s going to have to clean house at the DHS leadership level. Which is about to happen:

    Miller has always informally been one of the leading hardliner voices on immigration in the West Wing. But this change formalizes that role and it also gives him the ability to call and chair meetings on immigration issues. This change was first reported by The Washington Post.

    The President has pushed in recent weeks to reinstate the family separation policy, which Nielsen resisted, a source familiar with the discussions says. Trump rescinded that policy amid public outrage and scrutiny from the courts last summer.

    The changes have left the department in limbo, which has had at least three positions filled by people in an acting capacity in senior roles.

    Asked about the mood at DHS following Nielsen’s resignation, one DHS official told CNN there was “some exasperation,” adding that the department doesn’t “have enough depth” to fill longtime vacancies.

    “We are losing leadership faster than we can get it confirmed or even hired permanently,” the official said.

    So a Miller-directed leadership purge is taking place at DHS in anticipation of an election year immigration policy that’s going to be so inhumane that the current leadership couldn’t be trusted to go through with it. It’s more than a little ominous. Especially because, as the following article from June of 2018, shortly after Trump ended his family separation policy for families making asylum claims, Miller doesn’t just advocate for inhumane policies like family separations as a means of discouraging asylum seekers from even coming to the US at all. He also appears to enjoy it. As one White House official told reporters, “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border…He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”:

    Haaretz

    Trump Adviser Rips Into Stephen Miller: ‘He’s Waffen-SS’

    Miller, the architect of Trump’s hard-line immigration policy, is the protege of Steve Bannon and an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer

    Haaretz
    Jun 22, 2018 4:28 PM

    Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old White House adviser, has ignited a political firestorm in the United States as the Trump administration’s immigration policy of separating migrant children from their parents and detentions in cages is putting pressure on the nation.

    Miller himself is reportedly happy with how things are going, which led one fellow staffer to equate his behavior to that of the Nazi SS, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

    “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

    The government should know how bad this looks and how innocent children are actually suffering. That kind of scenario is unacceptable to most Americans as exemplified by former First Lady Laura Bush’s withering criticism. https://t.co/F4PKL00xLS— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) June 18, 2018

    The Trump administration will not win on this one and it should reverse course today.— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) June 18, 2018

    Both, Melania Trump and Laura Bush made the rare political move of speaking out against the policy – joining the UN human rights chief, who called it “unconscionable.” Even stalwart Trump supporters like Bill O’Reilly have admitted defeat on the issue, writing on Twitter, “The Trump administration will not win on this one and it should reverse course today.”

    Miller told The New York Times over the weekend that the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families was a “simple decision.” Miller’s comments has showed him as the key force pushing Trump’s hardline immigration policy at a time when the White House is increasingly divided amid the growing public outrage over the policy.

    “No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told the Times in an interview. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.” The White House had hinted that it would go down that path last year, but U.S. President Donald Trump backtracked.

    Researchers have pointed out the hypocrisy of Miller’s position as his family came to the United States as Jewish refugees from Europe. His great-grandfather Nison Miller was even reportedly denied legal asylum in the United States, but made it into the country regardless. “Order of Court Denying Petition” is the title of a government form dated “14th November 1932,” dug up by researchers proving Miller’s family history as an illegal immigrant.

    Miller, who grew up in a liberal Jewish home in Santa Monica, California, was Trump’s chief speechwriter throughout the campaign, a role he has been tapped to continue in the White House. Miller is known for his ability to provoke his audience – he often stirred up the crowds at campaign rallies before Trump would take the stage.

    Miller is an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Mother Jones reported in December 2017. The two met while they were students at Duke University, where both of them members of the conservative student union. Spencer told the magazine that Miller “is not alt-right or a white nationalist or an identitarian.” But he added: “Could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.”

    In February 2018, 17 Jewish groups, including the left-leaning J Street, called on the White House to dismiss Miller as its senior policy adviser.

    Organizations, including American Jewish World Service, Americans for Peace Now and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, issued the call in an open letter they sent Thursday to White House chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly. The letter was spearheaded by the National Council of Jewish Women.

    The co-authors wrote that Miller, who favors an immigration reform he said would benefit applicants who would assimilate more easily into American society than others, has “extreme viewpoints and advocacy of racist policies.”

    Miller and Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, authored Trump’s controversial inaugural address have been at the forefront of Trump’s populist messaging. Miller, who wrote Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, was accused of promoting a dystopian view of America, a theme carried through in Trump’s inaugural address, in which Trump referred to crime, poverty and the disappearing manufactuing base in the country as “American carnage.”

    Before joining the campaign, Miller worked as communications director for then Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, one of the first Republicans to come out in support of Trump. As an aide to Sessions, Miller was instrumental in defeating a proposed bill for immigration reform.

    In a lengthy profile of Miller published in Politico last June, his old boss compared him to Karl Rove, the legendary political adviser of former U.S. President George W. Bush.

    Prior to his stint with Sessions, Miller worked as a press secretary for two other Republicans – Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Congressman John Shadegg.

    ———-

    “Trump Adviser Rips Into Stephen Miller: ‘He’s Waffen-SS'”; Haaretz; 06/22/2018

    Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

    Miller actually enjoyed seeing the pictures of people in turmoil. That’s how one White House adviser portrayed him last year. And given that he referred to family separation policies as a “simple decision” highlights how casually he views these decisions. The fact that he’s old friends with Richard Spencer doesn’t help with the “Waffen-SS” description:


    Miller told The New York Times over the weekend that the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families was a “simple decision.” Miller’s comments has showed him as the key force pushing Trump’s hardline immigration policy at a time when the White House is increasingly divided amid the growing public outrage over the policy.

    Miller is an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Mother Jones reported in December 2017. The two met while they were students at Duke University, where both of them members of the conservative student union. Spencer told the magazine that Miller “is not alt-right or a white nationalist or an identitarian.” But he added: “Could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.”

    Of course an old friend of Richard Spencer would find family separation policies to be a “simple decision.” Lacking empathy simplifies a lot of decisions. And it’s that joyful Waffen-SS mindset that is increasingly looking like the centerpiece for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign because Trump has been pushing for a new family separation policy for a while now:

    NBC News

    Trump’s support of renewed child separation policy led to collision with Nielsen
    A senior administration official believes Trump is convinced family separation has been the most effective policy at deterring asylum-seekers.

    By Julia Ainsley and Geoff Bennett
    April 8, 2019, 9:16 AM CDT

    President Donald Trump has for months urged his administration to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.

    Trump’s outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted — setting her at odds with the president.

    According to two of the sources, Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy, and that he would be reversing his own executive order from June that ended family separations.

    Three U.S. officials said that Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Patrol who is expected to take over as acting DHS secretary, has not ruled out family separation as an option.

    The policy McAleenan would consider, according to the officials, is known as “binary choice” and would give migrant parents the option between being separated from their children or bringing their children with them into long-term detention.

    A senior administration official said it seems Trump is convinced that family separation has been the most effective policy at deterring large numbers of asylum-seekers.

    ———-

    “Trump’s support of renewed child separation policy led to collision with Nielsen” by Julia Ainsley and Geoff Bennett; NBC News; 04/08/2019

    “A senior administration official said it seems Trump is convinced that family separation has been the most effective policy at deterring large numbers of asylum-seekers.”

    Yep, Trump is convinced that family separations are a deterrent to stop asylum-seekers. And that’s why he wants to reinstitute the family separation policies. But then Nielsen informed him that federal courts orders prohibited it, so he had to replace her:


    President Donald Trump has for months urged his administration to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.

    Trump’s outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted — setting her at odds with the president.

    According to two of the sources, Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy, and that he would be reversing his own executive order from June that ended family separations.

    But Trump isn’t just planning on family separations to discourage asylum-seekers from coming to the US. He appears to have also decided to make public statements directed at asylum seekers that would discourage them from coming and waging a rhetorical campaign that portrays asylum-seekers as dangerous liars who aren’t actually facing dangers in their home countries. For example, during a recent speech on Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump declared his suspicions that asylum seekers are not facing real dangers and are, themselves, built like dangerous mixed martial arts fighters and would assault Americans. And then the next day Trump announced that the US is “full” and that immigrants or asylum seekers shouldn’t bother coming during a trip to a Border Patrol station:

    The Hill

    Trump says some asylum-seekers look like they’re ‘fighting for the UFC’

    By Kyle Balluck – 04/07/19 07:28 AM EDT

    President Trump said on Saturday that some asylum-seekers should be “fighting for the UFC,” calling the process a “scam.”

    Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Trump said asylum-seekers are “some of the roughest people you’ve ever seen, people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC,” referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a company that promotes mixed martial arts matches.

    Trump also said that asylum-seekers are coached.

    “They read a little page given by lawyers that are all over the place — you know lawyers, they tell them what to say,” Trump said.

    “I am very fearful for my life. I am very worried that I will be accosted if I’m sent back home,” he added. “No, no. He’ll do the accosting.”

    The president’s comments came after he last week backed away from a threat to close the border with Mexico.

    He said during a visit to a Border Patrol station in Southern California one day later that the immigration system is “full.”

    “The system is full. We can’t take you any more,” Trump said on Friday, adding that whether it is “illegal immigration” or asylum-seekers, the answer is “I’m sorry. We’re full.”

    ———-

    “Trump says some asylum-seekers look like they’re ‘fighting for the UFC'” by Kyle Balluck; The Hill; 04/07/2019

    “Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Trump said asylum-seekers are “some of the roughest people you’ve ever seen, people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC,” referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a company that promotes mixed martial arts matches.”

    Yep, days before Trump fires Nielsen for her unwillingness to reimplement a new family separation policy, Trump smears asylum seekers as fakers who aren’t really facing real dangers are are, themselves, actually dangerous fighters who will “do the accosting” if allowed into the US:


    Trump also said that asylum-seekers are coached.

    “They read a little page given by lawyers that are all over the place — you know lawyers, they tell them what to say,” Trump said.

    “I am very fearful for my life. I am very worried that I will be accosted if I’m sent back home,” he added. “No, no. He’ll do the accosting.”

    The president’s comments came after he last week backed away from a threat to close the border with Mexico.

    And then the next day Trump declares that the US is “full” and asylum-seekers shouldn’t bother coming:


    He said during a visit to a Border Patrol station in Southern California one day later that the immigration system is “full.”

    “The system is full. We can’t take you any more,” Trump said on Friday, adding that whether it is “illegal immigration” or asylum-seekers, the answer is “I’m sorry. We’re full.”

    As we can see, it’s pretty clear that Trump is convinced that tripling-down on fear and hatred towards Latin Americans and a whipped up border crises is his best shot at reelection in 2020. And that campaign strategy isn’t just putting Stephen Miller in the Trump 2020 campaign driving seat. Miller is now effectively one of the most powerful people in the US national security establishment as a result of his elevation as the person in charge of Trump’s immigration policy at DHS. The joyfully sadistic Waffen-SS guy is in charge of US immigration and asylum policy and it’s happening as a core element of a political strategy that’s supposed to appeal the American electorate next year.

    So if you think the situation at the US southern border is grim now, just wait. Stephen Miller has some sadistic 2020 campaign stunts new policies he’s working on.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 8, 2019, 11:58 am
  15. Here’s another story to keep in mind whenever you hear about the US government systematically downplaying the threat posed by far right domestic militants:

    A militia group, United Constitutional Patriots, has been detaining migrants at the US-Mexico border in New Mexico and posting videos of their exploits on Facebook. One video shows the armed men in masks and fatigues stopping around 300 migrants at gunpoint, ordering them to ground, and then waiting for US Border Patrol to show up to hand them over. In at least two videos, one of the men in fatigues identifies himself as Border Patrol when stopping the migrants. These videos raise obvious question about whether or not Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) is actively working with the group and tolerating their vigilante actions. CPB acknowledges that they are in contact with the group but deny that the agency condones armed arrests of migrants.

    So there is definitely a problem with armed militia’s operating as border vigilantes on the US-Mexico border. The open question at this point is the extent to which the militia vigilantes have the backing of US Border Patrol:

    CNN

    A militia group detained migrants at the border. The ACLU calls it kidnapping

    By Catherine E. Shoichet, Deanna Hackney, Geneva Sands and Paul P. Murphy, CNN
    Updated 5:47 PM ET, Fri April 19, 2019

    (CNN)A militia group near the US-Mexico border detained hundreds of people this week, New Mexico’s attorney general told CNN.

    “My office has been informed that this week, an armed group has detained nearly 300 people near Sunland Park, New Mexico,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a written statement. “These individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.”

    Videos posted online purportedly showing migrants held by the United Constitutional Patriots group and handed over to the US Border Patrol drew swift condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

    “We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum,” the ACLU said in a letter to state authorities denouncing the actions and asking the government to step in. “We urge you to immediately investigate this atrocious and unlawful conduct.”

    The New York Times reported that a spokesman for the militia group said their actions were legal, “comparing the detention of the migrants to ‘a verbal citizen’s arrest.'”

    Videos show armed men in masks, fatigues

    Various private militia groups — often espousing anti-immigrant views — have patrolled the border for years.

    But it’s rare to see video of an armed group detaining migrants on the US side of the border.

    Authorities say they’re looking into videos posted on the United Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops Facebook page.

    The videos purport to show members of the group detaining migrants, including families with children, who’ve just crossed the border.

    They show people often in full military fatigues, with handguns strapped to their sides, wearing gloves and black face masks. Armed men order migrants to stop, force them to sit on the ground and then apparently call Border Patrol to pick them up. At least two videos posted on the group’s Facebook page depict a man in fatigues verbally identifying himself as “Border Patrol” as he stops a group of migrants.

    CBP says it doesn’t condone civilians interfering in law enforcement matters

    Asked about the United Constitutional Patriots and the videos the group has posted online, a US Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the group itself or the social media posts, but said the agency “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations taking enforcement measures into their own hands.”

    “Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved,” the spokesman said in a written statement, referring those who suspect illegal activity to call 911 or contact the agency directly. “Border Security operations are complex and require highly trained professionals with adequate resources to protect the country.”

    And a CBP spokesman said the agency is looking into videos posted in which a member of the group appears to claim he works for the Border Patrol.

    A statement on the United Constitutional Patriots’ Facebook page describes the group as “Americans that believe in the Constitution and the rights of every American that will stand up for there rights in unity and help keep America safe.”

    “We’re just here to support the Border Patrol and show the public the reality of the border,” spokesman Jim Benvie told The New York Times, noting that his group had been camped near El Paso, Texas, for the past two months and intends to stay until President Trump’s planned border wall is built.

    But Border Patrol officials are distancing themselves from the group.

    “We have contact with them, but they do not work with us. They do not work alongside us,” one Border Patrol official said.

    When it comes to protecting the border and making arrests, that authority is “strictly for Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection,” the official said, saying he hasn’t seen anyone from the militia group attempt to make an arrest.

    “By law, they cannot conduct an arrest,” the official said. “If they do, then somebody needs to do something about it.”

    Governor’s office calls threatening migrants ‘unacceptable’

    A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said state and local authorities are looking into the matter.

    “They have absolutely not been authorized by our office or any other. We are actively working with the AG’s Office, state police and local police to determine what has gone on and what can and will be done,” said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor. “That migrant families might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form is completely unacceptable.”

    Peter Simonson, executive director for the ACLU of New Mexico, told CNN that while militia groups have patrolled near the border before, now such groups feel empowered by rhetoric they hear from the White House.

    “We concede that these groups have a freedom to associate, to assemble, freedom to speech and our state gun laws do give them ability to carry weapons,” Simonson said. But the ACLU’s key concern, he said, is that private armed citizens are “taking it upon themselves to carry out justice and not allowing federal authorities to do their job.”

    “These people are armed, their intentions are misguided and they certainly don’t have training, much less any authority, to be conducting arrests and long-term detentions of people coming across the border,” Simonson said. “We are concerned this is such a potentially explosive situation, we are worried someone is going to get hurt.”

    ———-

    “A militia group detained migrants at the border. The ACLU calls it kidnapping” by Catherine E. Shoichet, Deanna Hackney, Geneva Sands and Paul P. Murphy; CNN; 04/19/2019

    “They show people often in full military fatigues, with handguns strapped to their sides, wearing gloves and black face masks. Armed men order migrants to stop, force them to sit on the ground and then apparently call Border Patrol to pick them up. At least two videos posted on the group’s Facebook page depict a man in fatigues verbally identifying himself as “Border Patrol” as he stops a group of migrants.

    So there’s an armed militia running around pretending to be “Border Patrol” and holding migrants until the actual border patrol agents show up. It’s more than a little disturbing. And while CPB denies endorsing the group’s actions, the agency does acknowledge having contact with the group:


    Asked about the United Constitutional Patriots and the videos the group has posted online, a US Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the group itself or the social media posts, but said the agency “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations taking enforcement measures into their own hands.”

    “Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved,” the spokesman said in a written statement, referring those who suspect illegal activity to call 911 or contact the agency directly. “Border Security operations are complex and require highly trained professionals with adequate resources to protect the country.”

    And a CBP spokesman said the agency is looking into videos posted in which a member of the group appears to claim he works for the Border Patrol.

    But Border Patrol officials are distancing themselves from the group.

    We have contact with them, but they do not work with us. They do not work alongside us,” one Border Patrol official said.

    When it comes to protecting the border and making arrests, that authority is “strictly for Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection,” the official said, saying he hasn’t seen anyone from the militia group attempt to make an arrest.

    “By law, they cannot conduct an arrest,” the official said. “If they do, then somebody needs to do something about it.”

    Keep in mind that if the way this group operates is to hold migrants at gunpoint until CPB arrives it seems impossible that CPB wouldn’t be aware this was happening and being done in a way that casts the militia as CPB helper. So it’s going to be interesting to see what turns up in the investigation into this. The FBI has reportedly arrested the leader of the group, Larry Hopkins, are charges of being a felon in possession of a gun.

    As the following article describes, it turns out the FBI had already investigated the United Constitutional Patriots over “militia extremist activity” in 2017. And according to that investigation, witnesses told the FBI that the the leader of the group, Larry Hopkins, bragged about training volunteers to kill Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros:

    Reuters

    Leader of armed group at U.S. border boasted of assassination training: FBI

    Julio-Cesar Chavez, Andrew Hay
    April 22, 2019 / 9:10 AM / Updated

    LAS CRUCES, N.M./TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – The head of an armed group that stops migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally allegedly boasted of training volunteers to kill former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an FBI agent said in court papers.

    Larry Hopkins, leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, appeared in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday to face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The FBI said it found guns during a 2017 visit to his home.

    The UCP has helped the U.S. Border Patrol detain some 5,600 migrants in New Mexico in the last 60 days, the group said.

    Defense attorney Kelly O’Connell said Hopkins planned to plead not guilty to the firearms charge. He said the charges were unrelated to UCP’s actions at the border.

    “This is not even dealing with what’s going on right here,” O’Connell said.

    Wearing a dark green prison jumpsuit and bright orange sneakers, Hopkins appeared at ease in court and did not speak to anyone but his attorney.

    The UCP has said its two-month presence at the border was intended to support U.S. Border Patrol, which has been overwhelmed by record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum.

    In court papers, the FBI said witnesses in 2017 accused Hopkins of saying the UCP was training to assassinate Obama; Clinton, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016; and George Soros, a financier who supports liberal causes. The accusations were made during an investigation into “militia extremist activity,” the agency said.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics accuse the UCP of being a “fascist militia” whose members illegally detain and kidnap migrants by impersonating law enforcement.

    UCP members, many of whom have served with U.S. Special Forces, take turns living in a camping trailer close to the border near Sunland Park, New Mexico and patrolling a five-mile section of border, much of it unfenced.

    Armed with rifles and wearing camouflage uniforms with the group’s eagle insignia, the group has posted dozens of videos showing the volunteers instructing migrant families to sit and wait until Border Patrol agents arrive. The group has been accused of detaining women and children at gunpoint, a claim it fiercely denies.

    The videos show armed men casually standing at a distance from migrants and unarmed UCP volunteers sometimes offering them water. The group gained attention after it posted an April 16 video showing as many as 300 migrants, most of them families, sitting at its camp waiting for Border Patrol.

    New Mexico’s Democratic Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, on Friday ordered an investigation of the UCP. She said “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum-seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease.”

    “NOT BREAKING ANY LAWS”

    FBI Special Agent David Gabriel said in a criminal complaint that in October 2017 the agency received reports a militia was being run out of Hopkins’ home in Flora Vista, New Mexico.

    When agents entered the home they collected nine firearms, ranging from pistols to rifles, Horton was illegally in possession of as he had at least one prior felony conviction, according to the complaint.

    Hopkins, the UCP’s national commander, told the agents that his common-law wife owned the weapons in question, according to court papers.

    UCP spokesman Jim Benvie said the group’s aim was to publicize the “border crisis.”

    ———–

    “Leader of armed group at U.S. border boasted of assassination training: FBI” by Julio-Cesar Chavez, Andrew Hay; Reuters; 04/22/2019

    “In court papers, the FBI said witnesses in 2017 accused Hopkins of saying the UCP was training to assassinate Obama; Clinton, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016; and George Soros, a financier who supports liberal causes. The accusations were made during an investigation into “militia extremist activity,” the agency said.”

    So witnesses told the FBI in 2017 that United Constitutional Patriots’ leader was bragging about training people to carry out political assassinations and this is the same militia that appears to have some sort of quiet working relationship with US Border Patrol.

    And in other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 23, 2019, 2:05 pm
  16. The horrors of Trump’s immigrant child detentions back in the news following recent reports of stunning conditions at a Clint, Texas, Border Patrol facility where 250 children were kept for weeks without regular access to beds, showers, toothbrushes, and soap. The Trump administration had a predictable explanation: it was the Democrats’ fault. Specifically, it was the fault of Democrats in congress because that they hadn’t yet given the Trump administration all of the money the administration had requested for its various immigration proposals. That’s allegedly why the children couldn’t get beds, showers, toothbrushes or soap…not enough money. This is following an announcement by the Trump administration earlier this month that it was canceling educational and recreational programs and legal aid in shelters because of budget shortfalls and requested $2.9 billion to expand these detention facilities.

    On a positive note, all but 30 of the children were removed from the Clint, Texas, facility after this was reported on, although 100 of those kids were just sent back to the facility. Hopefully they get soap and blankets this time.

    The Democratic-controlled House just voted on a $4.5 billion emergency funding package so we’ll see if that results in an improvement in the conditions for these kids. But as we’ll see in the following pair of articles, there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned that conditions won’t improve even with that emergency funding. Why? Well, for starters, the Trump administration is already threatening to veto that emergency funding bill in favor of a version created by the Republican controlled Senate that has fewer controls on how the money is spent. And as the following article points out, one of the key concerns of the Democrats who voted in support of this emergency funding is that it won’t actually be used for improving the conditions of the undocumented immigrants held in detention and instead will simply be used to expand the detention system so even more people end up held in inhumane conditions. And as we’re going to see in the second article, that’s a real concern because the Trump administration lawyers have already argued before the courts withholding basic amenities, like soap and toothbrushes, from detained migrants does not violate the government’s responsibility to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions to detained children. Yep, the Trump admin is simultaneously arguing that the inhumane conditions of the children being held in detention is the fault of the democrats for not funding the Trump administration’s full immigration agenda at the same time the administration lawyers are arguing that there’s no real obligation to provide the children basic amenities like soap and toothbrushes:

    The Nation

    Democrats Confront a Dilemma at the Border
    Lawmakers want to deliver aid to migrant children. Can they do so without helping Trump expand the detention system?

    By Zoë Carpenter
    06/26/2019 1:07 PM

    Last week, a group of lawyers visited a remote Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, that was designed for the temporary detention of about 100 adult migrants. What they found were some 250 children in appalling conditions. Several were sick and in quarantine; others had lice. Very young children had been left in the care of slightly older children. Although the government is bound by a legal agreement and other regulations to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions for underage migrants and to transfer them out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours, children told lawyers they had been in the facility for weeks without regular access to beds, showers, toothbrushes, and soap.

    The grim dispatch from Clint added to previous reports of worsening conditions in immigration detention facilities. The Border Patrol is currently holding about 15,000 people, nearly four times its capacity, a number that excludes the tens of thousands of people already transferred to ICE custody. In early June, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General reported “immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards” at multiple facilities, including contaminated food and poor sanitation; a previous IG report found “dangerous overcrowding” at a processing center in El Paso. While concerns about immigration detention centers predate the Trump administration, monitors describe an escalating humanitarian crisis due in part to the sheer number of people being detained and the long length of time they are held in facilities designed for temporary stays. One doctor who recently visited the Ursula Border Patrol processing facility in McAllen, Texas, wrote in a medical declaration that the conditions there could be “compared to torture facilities,” and are “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.” Since December, at least seven immigrant children have died in federal custody or shortly after being released.

    The Trump administration describes the problem largely as an issue of money. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the shelter system for underage migrants and is charged with finding sponsors to release the children to, claims its facilities are at capacity, causing to children to stay in Border Patrol custody for longer periods of time. “Here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding…they can’t move the people out of our custody,” acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders told the Associated Press. Earlier this month the administration announced that it was canceling educational and recreational programs and legal aid in shelters because of budget shortfalls at HHS, and requested $2.9 billion to expand its facilities.

    On Tuesday night the House voted on a $4.5 billion emergency funding package intended to address the crisis. The measure passed after an intense debate among Democrats about the wisdom of pouring more money into a dysfunctional and expanding detention system. Some progressive lawmakers, along with immigrant rights advocates, argued that mismanagement and policy decisions made by the Trump administration were to blame for a “manufactured” crisis—and that the focus should be on dismantling the detention system, not on propping it up. Poor conditions are “not due to a lack of resources; [they’re] due to a desire—an active desire by this administration to hurt kids,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday evening before a meeting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office regarding the funding package. “We need to stop funding the detention of children under any and all circumstances.” Ultimately, Ocasio-Cortez was one of three progressive Democrats to vote against the bill, which passed mostly along party lines.

    The overriding concern was that some of the money referred to as a “humanitarian aid” package could be used to expand detention capacity. “I think there’s been a lot of obfuscation in this debate, where people who support a more militarized border are pointing to these conditions as reason to appropriate more money for more jails,” said Clara Long, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and a member of the monitoring team that visited the Clint facility. “Expanding detention centers means more people are going to be detained and that puts more people at risk, when the best way to ensure that children are safe and that asylum seekers’ rights are respected is to opt to release people and have them live in communities and with their families,” said Long.

    Jonathan Ryan, the CEO of the legal aid organization RAICES, explained his concerns to Isaac Chotiner in similar terms. “We are being presented with a false choice,” Ryan said. “It is either you withhold funds from children who desperately need them, or you provide funds that will be used to create more cages, more concentration camps, more deaths of children at the border.”

    Members of the Congressional Progressive and Hispanic caucuses in the House did manage to add some stricter conditions into the funding package, which directs $788 million to new Border Patrol facilities; $112 million for food, medical care, and other necessities for people in Border Patrol custody; and $866 million to shelters under the jurisdiction of HHS. Ultimately, Democrats hope the funding will help the administration move children more quickly from Border Patrol custody to HHS shelters, which are better equipped to care for them. But some of those privately operated shelters, called “temporary influx” facilities, are on federal property and exempt from state regulations an oversight; the bill requires that these centers meet certain standards of care and limits the time that children can be kept there to 90 days. The largest of these, known as Homestead, is a 3,200-bed compound in south Florida owned by a for-profit corporation called Caliburn International. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly joined Caliburn’s board earlier this year, shortly before the company secured a $341 million no-bid contract from the government. Long, who visited Homestead in March, said that the idea of children leaving Border Patrol custody for that shelter was “cold comfort” given what she witnessed there, although she added that a 90-day limit was better than none at all.

    “There are a lot of people making a lot of money by locking those kids up. The fact is, they don’t need to be there,” said Warren Binford, the director of the clinical law program at Willamette University, and another member of the team that reported on conditions in Clint. (That team is tasked with evaluating the government’s compliance with the Flores settlement, a legal agreement governing the treatment of migrant children in federal custody.) Binford and other attorneys say that the Trump administration continues to needlessly separate children from relatives at the border—including, in some cases, their parents—and has been slow to release children to sponsors, in part because of changes to the vetting process that put sponsors at risk for detention and deportation, discouraging them from coming forward. According to Binford, many of the children held for extended periods in Border Patrol custody or in HHS shelters have parents or relatives in the United States, but the administration is making little effort to find them.

    Many progressives voted for the House funding measure despite serious misgivings. “I have tremendous apprehensions about [supporting the legislation],” Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal said before the vote. “I am not doing so with a free heart. I am not doing so believing that this is going to solve the problems. I am doing so because I am willing in the name of these children to see if we can do something to improve those conditions at the border.” Even that hope remains tentative: Trump threatened to veto the House legislation, preferring the version that the Senate is expected to vote on later this week, which places fewer restrictions on the money. Congress has only a few days to reconcile differences between the two bills before the July 4 recess.

    ———-

    “Democrats Confront a Dilemma at the Border” by Zoë Carpenter; The Nation; 06/26/2019

    “Last week, a group of lawyers visited a remote Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, that was designed for the temporary detention of about 100 adult migrants. What they found were some 250 children in appalling conditions. Several were sick and in quarantine; others had lice. Very young children had been left in the care of slightly older children. Although the government is bound by a legal agreement and other regulations to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions for underage migrants and to transfer them out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours, children told lawyers they had been in the facility for weeks without regular access to beds, showers, toothbrushes, and soap.”

    Weeks without regular access to beds, showers, toothbrushes, and soap and leaving very young children in the care of slightly older children. That’s what was discovered at just one of the federal facilities where undocumented immigrant children are being held. But this is all the fault of the Democrats for not providing enough funding according to the Trump administration. It’s the kind of explanation that’s defies logic given the low costs of things like toothpaste and soap, which only fuels concerns that the Trump administration is basically holding these kids hostage in these conditions in order to force Congress to allocate the full range of funds for Trump’s immigration-related agenda. An agenda that would involved a dramatic expansion of the numbers of these detention facilitates if the administration can get all of the funds it desires. The fact that the Trump administration is threatening to veto the House’s emergency funding bill in favor of a Senate version that has fewer restrictions on how the funding is spent adds to the suspicions that we’re seeing a child abuse hostage crisis designed to extract money from congress in order to create even more poorly-run detention facilities:


    The Trump administration describes the problem largely as an issue of money. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the shelter system for underage migrants and is charged with finding sponsors to release the children to, claims its facilities are at capacity, causing to children to stay in Border Patrol custody for longer periods of time. “Here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding…they can’t move the people out of our custody,” acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders told the Associated Press. Earlier this month the administration announced that it was canceling educational and recreational programs and legal aid in shelters because of budget shortfalls at HHS, and requested $2.9 billion to expand its facilities.

    On Tuesday night the House voted on a $4.5 billion emergency funding package intended to address the crisis. The measure passed after an intense debate among Democrats about the wisdom of pouring more money into a dysfunctional and expanding detention system. Some progressive lawmakers, along with immigrant rights advocates, argued that mismanagement and policy decisions made by the Trump administration were to blame for a “manufactured” crisis—and that the focus should be on dismantling the detention system, not on propping it up. Poor conditions are “not due to a lack of resources; [they’re] due to a desire—an active desire by this administration to hurt kids,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday evening before a meeting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office regarding the funding package. “We need to stop funding the detention of children under any and all circumstances.” Ultimately, Ocasio-Cortez was one of three progressive Democrats to vote against the bill, which passed mostly along party lines.

    The overriding concern was that some of the money referred to as a “humanitarian aid” package could be used to expand detention capacity. “I think there’s been a lot of obfuscation in this debate, where people who support a more militarized border are pointing to these conditions as reason to appropriate more money for more jails,” said Clara Long, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and a member of the monitoring team that visited the Clint facility. “Expanding detention centers means more people are going to be detained and that puts more people at risk, when the best way to ensure that children are safe and that asylum seekers’ rights are respected is to opt to release people and have them live in communities and with their families,” said Long.

    Many progressives voted for the House funding measure despite serious misgivings. “I have tremendous apprehensions about [supporting the legislation],” Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal said before the vote. “I am not doing so with a free heart. I am not doing so believing that this is going to solve the problems. I am doing so because I am willing in the name of these children to see if we can do something to improve those conditions at the border.” Even that hope remains tentative: Trump threatened to veto the House legislation, preferring the version that the Senate is expected to vote on later this week, which places fewer restrictions on the money. Congress has only a few days to reconcile differences between the two bills before the July 4 recess.

    And note how some of the facilities housing immigrants while they await their hearings are privately run for-profit facilities, the largest of which has former White House chief of staff John Kelly sitting on its board, highlighting how potentially profitable a dramatic expansion in detention facilities could be and how the profit-motive is going to play into the decisions to leave immigrants in dangerous conditions:


    Members of the Congressional Progressive and Hispanic caucuses in the House did manage to add some stricter conditions into the funding package, which directs $788 million to new Border Patrol facilities; $112 million for food, medical care, and other necessities for people in Border Patrol custody; and $866 million to shelters under the jurisdiction of HHS. Ultimately, Democrats hope the funding will help the administration move children more quickly from Border Patrol custody to HHS shelters, which are better equipped to care for them. But some of those privately operated shelters, called “temporary influx” facilities, are on federal property and exempt from state regulations an oversight; the bill requires that these centers meet certain standards of care and limits the time that children can be kept there to 90 days. The largest of these, known as Homestead, is a 3,200-bed compound in south Florida owned by a for-profit corporation called Caliburn International. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly joined Caliburn’s board earlier this year, shortly before the company secured a $341 million no-bid contract from the government. Long, who visited Homestead in March, said that the idea of children leaving Border Patrol custody for that shelter was “cold comfort” given what she witnessed there, although she added that a 90-day limit was better than none at all.

    Next, here’s an article that points out the fact that the Trump administration lawyers are already arguing that withholding basic services like soap and toothbrushes does not violate the government’s responsibility to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions to detained children. Yep, they seriously just argued this as part of an appeal of a ruling that found that such amenities are indeed required:

    Vox

    As immigrant children go without soap and toothbrushes, Trump and Pence say Congress is to blame

    Lawyers visiting a detention center in Texas found children there lacked basic necessities. Trump and Pence blame Congress.

    By Anya van Wagtendonk Jun 23, 2019, 5:39pm EDT

    President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence responded separately to criticism over reports that the government is not providing detained immigrant children with adequate food, water, soap, toothbrushes, or blankets. In three interviews that aired Sunday, both men blamed Democrats for the conditions at detention facilities.

    Questions about the conditions detained minors are in began to arise following the publication of an Associated Press report that detailed the findings of a team of lawyers that toured a detention facility in Clint, Texas. The lawyers reported they found 250 infants, children, and teenagers being held without adequate access to food, water, or medicine. They also said they saw babies and toddlers being left in the care of slightly older children, and that there was poor access to areas for bathing, places to sleep, and fresh clothes.

    Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he believes the government should “of course” provide children with basic amenities. But he blamed congressional Democrats for the lack of sufficient bed space, arguing that they had stymied efforts to increase funding for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during the government shutdown last winter.

    Tapper pressed Pence on the “horrific conditions” at the Clint detention center, where lawyers who visited the facility told stories of flu and lice outbreaks and minimal adult supervision. “It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections,” Warren Binford, one of the lawyers, told PBS NewsHour.

    “You’re a father. You’re a man of faith,” Tapper pressed the vice president. “You can’t approve of that.”

    “No American should approve of this mass influx of people coming across our border,” Pence responded. “It is overwhelming our system.”

    Speaking with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump also said that Democrats were to blame for the poor conditions at the border.

    “It looks like these kids are being used as, as some sort of — is it hostages?” Todd asked.

    “If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately. But they refuse to do it,” Trump said.

    The Trump administration has defended these conditions in court

    These interviews followed a viral video of a Justice Department attorney arguing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that withholding basic amenities, like soap and toothbrushes, from detained migrants does not violate the government’s responsibility to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions to detained children, something established in what’s known as the Flores settlement.

    In the video, published last week, one of the three appellate judges incredulously asks the lawyer, Sarah Fabian, if “there are circumstances when a person doesn’t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap? For days?”

    Fabian answered by arguing the Flores settlement was vague, making its language on providing children with safe and sanitary conditions unenforceable.

    At issue is what the Flores settlement directs the government to do. The name comes from a 1997 federal court decision, Flores v. Reno, that created guidelines for keeping children in immigration detention centers. The Flores settlement requires that children be released to “responsible” adults as quickly as possible, that their detention conditions be as unrestrictive possible, that the conditions in which they are being kept are safe and sanitary, and that they be given basic necessities like food, water, and medicine.

    The settlement came back before judges in 2015, when lawyers argued that the Obama administration was violating immigrants’ rights. In filings during that case, they alleged dangerous conditions at holding facilities.

    The judge in that case, US District Judge Dolly Gee, found that these conditions indeed violated Flores. The ruling was confirmed by the Ninth Circuit in 2017, but the Trump administration has taken on an appeal, arguing the settlement doesn’t mandate that the government provide children with toothbrushes and soap.

    Fabian is one of the lawyers from the Department of Justice representing the government in this appeal.

    The three judges on the Ninth Circuit probed Fabian on the definition of “safe and sanitary” last week. Judge William Fletcher asked her if the government considered “cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket” to be within the bounds of safe and sanitary.

    Fabian argued that the specific amenities in question — toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, and blankets — were not itemized within the original settlement.

    “One has to assume … parties couldn’t reach agreement on how to enumerate that or it was left to the agencies to determine,” she said.

    Arguing on behalf of the detained children, Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, said “the plain meaning” of the words safe and sanitary needed to be honored.

    “Today we have a situation where once a month a child is dying in custody,” he said. “Certainly the Border Patrol facilities are secure, but they’re not safe and they’re not sanitary.”

    The judges did not rule on the issue, and did not say when they would before ending the session. However, clips of Fabian’s arguments were widely circulated on social media.

    When Pence was shown one such clip by Tapper, he responded by saying, “I can’t speak to what that lawyer was saying.”

    ———–

    “As immigrant children go without soap and toothbrushes, Trump and Pence say Congress is to blame” by Anya van Wagtendonk; Vox; 06/23/2019

    “These interviews followed a viral video of a Justice Department attorney arguing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that withholding basic amenities, like soap and toothbrushes, from detained migrants does not violate the government’s responsibility to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions to detained children, something established in what’s known as the Flores settlement.”

    What was discovered at that facility in Clint, Texas, was legally acceptable. That’s what Trump’s Justice Departent lawyers just argued in their appeal of a ruling that found the opposite was the case. That’s how dedicated the Trump administration is to defending the treatment of these children:


    In the video, published last week, one of the three appellate judges incredulously asks the lawyer, Sarah Fabian, if “there are circumstances when a person doesn’t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap? For days?”

    Fabian answered by arguing the Flores settlement was vague, making its language on providing children with safe and sanitary conditions unenforceable.

    At issue is what the Flores settlement directs the government to do. The name comes from a 1997 federal court decision, Flores v. Reno, that created guidelines for keeping children in immigration detention centers. The Flores settlement requires that children be released to “responsible” adults as quickly as possible, that their detention conditions be as unrestrictive possible, that the conditions in which they are being kept are safe and sanitary, and that they be given basic necessities like food, water, and medicine.

    The settlement came back before judges in 2015, when lawyers argued that the Obama administration was violating immigrants’ rights. In filings during that case, they alleged dangerous conditions at holding facilities.

    The judge in that case, US District Judge Dolly Gee, found that these conditions indeed violated Flores. The ruling was confirmed by the Ninth Circuit in 2017, but the Trump administration has taken on an appeal, arguing the settlement doesn’t mandate that the government provide children with toothbrushes and soap.

    Fabian is one of the lawyers from the Department of Justice representing the government in this appeal.

    The three judges on the Ninth Circuit probed Fabian on the definition of “safe and sanitary” last week. Judge William Fletcher asked her if the government considered “cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket” to be within the bounds of safe and sanitary.

    Fabian argued that the specific amenities in question — toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, and blankets — were not itemized within the original settlement.

    “One has to assume … parties couldn’t reach agreement on how to enumerate that or it was left to the agencies to determine,” she said.

    So as we can see, the scandal here isn’t simply the discovery of these children being kept in a government facilitate without basics like soap and blankets. The larger scandal is that the Trump administration is arguing that this isn’t a scandal at the same time it’s using these kids as bargaining chips in order to get more funds from Congress to expand this system. And even that scandal is dwarfed by the much larger scandal that this entire scandal appears to all be going according to plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 26, 2019, 3:53 pm

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