mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“If Trump Wins, Will There Be Blood?”: Maybe It’s Time To Take Crazy At Face Value

That question has gone conspicuously unasked as we enumerate the possible outcomes of November’s election. The potential impact on the nation’s economy, its foreign policy and its standing in the world have all been duly analyzed. But there has been little, if any, discussion of the potential for violence.

It is, of course, Donald Trump’s name on the ballot that necessitates the discussion. His rallies have erupted into brawls with depressing frequency; his followers assaulting demonstrators while he eggs them on.

And then, there’s this: Last year, two South Boston brothers — Scott and Steve Leader — were arrested after allegedly peeing in the face of a homeless, 58-year-old Mexican immigrant sleeping on a bench. They beat him with a metal pole, breaking his nose. Authorities say Scott Leader explained himself thusly: “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s initial response was simply to note that his followers “love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” If that is the sort of “passion” a few rallies and speeches incite, how much worse would it be in the event — God help us all — of an actual Trump victory? How emboldened in their bullyboy behavior would people like the Leader brothers become with one of their own in the White House?

And that’s not even the worst-case scenario. What if the far more likely thing happens? What if Trump loses? His followers are already filled with fury and an exaggerated sense of their own victimhood and entitlement. What happens if an embarrassingly emphatic repudiation is added to that mix?

Hate crimes might be the least of our problems. The greater worry might be terrorism.

In a nation conditioned to think of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslim fanatics with difficult names, the idea will strike some as ridiculous. But to be sanguine about the danger of radical right violence is to pretend Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff in Nevada and the armed takeover of federal property in Oregon never happened. And it is to ignore a litany of radical right terror plots enacted or interdicted in recent years.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Atlanta Olympics bombing to a New York state plot to murder Muslims by radiation poisoning, to a massacre at an African-American church in Charleston, to the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, to the crashing of an airplane into an IRS office in Austin to a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs to, literally, dozens more, the radical right has hardly been shy about using violence to frighten people as a means of achieving their political goals — the dictionary definition of terrorism.

Small wonder Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, does not laugh off the possibility of violence from aggrieved supporters of Donald Trump. Radical right terror, he says, “is a worry anyway, as we go through this huge demographic transition in the United States. But the thing about Trump’s voters is that they are angry, they are riled up, and they are expecting to win.” If and when they don’t, he says, terrorism might well be their response.

It’s not as unthinkable as some of us will want to believe. Too often, as the right has descended into tribalistic incoherence, the rest of us have underestimated the crazy, baselessly reassuring ourselves that they’ll go this far, but surely no further. And too often, we’ve been wrong. Maybe it’s time to abandon baseless reassurance. Maybe it’s time to take crazy at face value.

Will there be blood? Here’s a better question:

Will you honestly be surprised if there is?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Freelance Insurrectionists”: Is The Oregon Standoff The Inevitable Result Of Anti-Government Rhetoric?

Out in Oregon, the Bundy clan has begun another heavily-armed standoff with the government, seizing control of a building at a wildlife refuge and talking about laying down their life for liberty, presumably in some kind of gruesome battle in which plenty of law enforcement officials are killed along with the martyrs to the anti-government cause. Most of the Republican presidential candidates have so far avoided saying anything about this event, but liberals are raising the question of how much responsibility the Republican Party and its leaders bear for this kind of radical right extremism.

It’s a complicated question, but the answer is: not as much as their most fervent opponents might claim, but not so little as they’d like.

This latest standoff is led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy and leader of what seems to be a band of freelance insurrectionists. If you’re having a conflict with the federal government, they’ll load up their weapons, come to your location, and set up a confrontation with law enforcement, whether you want them to or not.

You can read elsewhere about what led up to this standoff, but it has to be understood in context of the last one, when rancher Cliven Bundy got into a conflict with the United States government over grazing fees. The problem was that Bundy wanted to use public land to graze his cattle, but didn’t want to pay the fees that every other rancher does, since as he said at the time, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” Anti-government activists flocked to the standoff, pointing guns at government officials and talking of insurrection. Two of those present at the event would soon after go on a shooting rampage in Las Vegas, murdering two police officers and a bystander.

At the time, some Republican politicians, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, said that whatever Bundy’s gripe with the government, he ought to follow the law. But others were far more indulgent. Ben Carson supported the protest. Ted Cruz blamed it on President Obama, calling the standoff “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on.” And Rand Paul not only supported their cause but later had a friendly sit-down with Cliven Bundy. Donald Trump took a middle position, saying that laws should be followed, but that when it came to Bundy, “I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk and the people that are so loyal…I respect him.” (For more details on these reactions, go here).

But most critically, during the standoff Cliven Bundy and his supporters became heroes of conservative media. Sean Hannity practically made Bundy his Fox News co-host for a couple of weeks. Their bizarre claims about the government and the means they were using to lodge their complaints — an armed standoff — were validated and promoted again and again by the media outlets conservatives rely on for their news. It was only when Cliven Bundy turned out to be an unreconstructed racist, of the kind who begins sentences with “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” that Fox and the Republicans who supported him finally distanced themselves from him.

Even if they hadn’t been so aggressively supported and promoted by elite conservative figures and institutions, the Bundys’ actions can be viewed as an outgrowth of conservative rhetoric over the years of Barack Obama’s presidency. From the moment he was elected, conservatives said that Obama was not legitimately the president (many of them charged that he wasn’t born in the United States). Virtually everything he did was given a given a dark and sinister spin, with the constant refrain that Obama was a tyrant who had not only usurped power but would shortly turn the United States into a terrifying nightmare of statist oppression. The line between mainstream rhetoric and that of the radical fringe disappeared, with popular television hosts and backbench Republican House members spouting conspiracy theories about FEMA concentration camps and the Department of Homeland Security stockpiling ammunition in preparation for some horrific campaign of repression. Nearly every policy with which conservatives disagreed was decried as the death of freedom itself.

Anyone who took all that literally and believed that the people saying it were actually sincere could well have concluded that armed insurrection was indeed an appropriate response to what was plainly a coup from the enemies of freedom within the government, led by a despot who was literally trying to destroy America. Now combine that with the way so many Republicans talk about guns — not just as a tool of self-protection, but as something whose essential purpose is to intimidate government officials. Second Amendment purists, some of whom are running for president, regularly justify their enthusiasm for loosening gun laws as a way to keep tyranny in check, by showing that gun owners are willing to fight against their government, should it become necessary. As Ted Cruz has said, “The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.”

So on one hand, Republicans regularly say that we need so many guns in civilian hands in case it becomes necessary to wage war on the government, while on the other hand they say that Barack Obama’s government has become tyrannical and oppressive, and freedom is all but destroyed. So why is anybody surprised when people like the Bundys put those two ideas together?

It doesn’t stop there. Republicans were similarly divided on Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who decided that because she doesn’t support same-sex marriage, she could defy the Supreme Court and refuse to grant marriage licenses to anyone in her county. Davis got full support from five of the Republican presidential candidates, while six opposed her move and the rest came down somewhere in the middle. But the point is that a meaningful contingent of elite Republicans said that when you don’t like the law, you can pretend the law doesn’t apply to you, even if you’re sworn to carry it out.

These days, every lunatic corner of the right can find respect and validation from at least some of the most prominent and respected figures in Republican politics and conservative media, at the same time as people are encouraged to strap on their AK-47 when they go down to the supermarket.

Today, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both condemned the actions taken by the insurrectionists in Oregon. There are surely plenty of other Republicans who are disgusted by the Bundy clan and actions like this standoff, so it wouldn’t be fair to blame the whole party for the rise of this kind of armed right-wing radicalism. But you also can’t say anti-government rhetoric had nothing to do with it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Ammon Bundy, Conservative Rhetoric, Oregon Militiamen | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Bundy Caliphate”: Ammon Bundy Starts Wingnut Woodstock in Oregon

Ammon Bundy’s band of Oregon militiamen include anti-government wingnuts who have fought the feds on behalf of ranchers before, and one activist whose anti-Muslim rhetoric sparked warnings from the FBI.

On Saturday, armed extremists seized buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge—300 miles southeast of Portland—to protest prison time for Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-and-son ranchers convicted of arson for torching more than 100 acres of federal land, allegedly to cover up poaching.

The occupiers are led by Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose 2014 standoff with the feds made national headlines. The elder Bundy was fighting the Bureau of Land Management, which came to seize his “trespass cattle” that were grazing on public land. Right-wing militias rushed to defend Cliven, and authorities eventually retreated.

Now some of the same anti-government provocateurs are heeding the call to head to Oregon, where Ammon and about 20 others split from a peaceful demonstration on Saturday and drove 30 miles to the wildlife refuge’s headquarters, which were closed for the holidays.

The militiamen took up posts on the snow-covered desert to protest what they call the federal government’s illegal ownership of Harney County land, which they believe should belong to local ranchers.

“I didn’t come here to shoot. I came here to die,” one militiaman told Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Amanda Peacher. The camouflage-clad man would only identify himself as “Captain Moroni,” Peacher said in a tweet.

While it appeared police didn’t take the bait, the men nonetheless stood guard at a tower typically used to watch for range fires, The Oregonian reported.

Les Zaitz, a reporter for The Oregonian, estimated about 20 people were stationed at the refuge’s bunkhouse—where women were cooking lunch—as well as at the work building and fire tower. In tweets, he described the scene as “calm, quiet, [and] no signs of damage.”

As the story unfolded Sunday, and the militants released online videos, national news and social media spectators feared violence—and observers challenged news outlets for describing the armed occupation as “peaceful.”

Not everyone in rural Oregon was happy to see the militia. Signs reading, “No Bundy Caliphate—Take your Hate Somewhere Else!” and “Protect the Blue—Militia Go Home” were posted on roads heading into Burns. Haney County schools, which were scheduled to reopen on Monday, will be closed all week because of the protest, authorities said.

At the refuge, men bundled in winter jackets and hunting camouflage milled about the parking lot, and a parked pickup truck blocked the gate. Several men, some strapped with knives and sidearms, refused to speak to a Daily Beast reporter at the scene.

While most participants appeared friendly and harmless, a few have reputations within hate groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers, The Daily Beast has learned.

On Sunday afternoon, federal officials told Portland’s KOIN 6 that the FBI would work with local law enforcement to end the takeover.

The Harney County sheriff’s office released a statement Sunday vowing to keep citizens safe.

“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States,” Sheriff David Ward said, according to OPB.

Ammon Bundy said his motley crew planned to stay there indefinitely, KOIN 6 reported.

“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Bundy told KOIN 6. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”

Indeed, Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine and Arizona militia activist, released a teary-eyed YouTube video days before the event, on Dec. 31, asking his children to be good while he was gone, before railing against “the oppression and tyranny” in Oregon.

“Your daddy swore an oath… to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that’s why he couldn’t be with you on Christmas,” Ritzheimer said. “That’s why I can’t be with you on New Year’s.

“I am 100 percent willing to lay my life down, to fight against tyranny in this country,” Ritzheimer later said in the video, in which he’s sitting behind the wheel of a truck.

The Iraq War veteran concluded: “No matter what happens, no matter what lies are pushed out, just know that I stood for something. Don’t let it be in vain.”

A fellow extremist posted a video of Ritzheimer at the refuge, where he claimed to be “armed with the Constitution and a camera.”

“We will not fire unless fired upon, but we will stand and defend the Constitution,” Ritzheimer said.

In May 2015, Ritzheimer organized an anti-Muslim protest at a Phoenix mosque that drew 250 people, many of them armed, and invited them to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad following the Garland, Texas shooting.

After the Dallas-area attack, Ritzheimer began walking near the mosque waving an American flag and wearing a “Fuck Islam” T-shirt. He also tried raising $10 million on GoFundMe last summer, after claiming his life was being threatened because of his protests and that his family had to go into hiding. (The donation site came down as soon as the media spotted it.)

In October 2015, the bigot helped spur more than 20 anti-Muslim protests across the country called the “Global Rally for Humanity.

One month later, the FBI issued a warning to local authorities about Ritzheimer after he published a video of himself brandishing a gun and claiming he was heading to Hancock, New York to confront a Muslim group.

Ritzheimer was targeting Muslims of America, publisher of the The Islamic Post, which had called the Marine an “American Taliban,” the New York Daily News reported.

“Fuck you Muslims. We’re gonna stop at virtually every mosque along the way, flip them off and tell them to get fucked,” Ritzheimer says before brandishing his weapon.

The hate-mongerer is affiliated with the Three Percenters militia group, which takes its name from the mythical statistic that only 3 percent of American colonists supposedly fought in the war for independence.

Other rightwing activists descending on Oregon include Blaine Cooper, who at a 2013 town hall event told Sen. John McCain he’d have him arrested and tried for treason over his support of intervention in Syria.

Ryan Payne, an Army vet who claimed to organize militia snipers to target federal agents during Cliven Bundy’s Nevada standoff, was also present.

Payne once told the Missoula Independent he took charge “as a kind of on-the-ground commander.”

“We locked them down,” Payne said of the BLM agents. “We had counter-sniper positions on their sniper positions. We had at least one guy—sometimes two guys—per BLM agent in there. So, it was a complete tactical superiority… If they made one wrong move, every single BLM agent in that camp would’ve died.”

Brand Thornton, a political activist from Las Vegas who is now at the wildlife refuge, told The Daily Beast he was a member of the Southern Nevada Militia, which on its Facebook claims not to identify with racist, violent, or anti-government groups.

Thornton said he’s tried getting the word out about the Hammonds’ alleged plight for months. The weekend’s mission is “not haphazard at all; it’s very, very calculated,” he said.

“Whatever it takes,” Thornton told The Daily Beast. “I think we’re going to be here for at least two months, and possibly six months, that’s what I’m figuring. There’s a lot we got to do, we got a lot of education, educating people.”

Meanwhile, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, Cliven Bundy’s neighbor across the border who participated in the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff, told a reporter on Sunday that he’ll stay in Oregon “until the Constitution is upheld.”

The cowboy-hat enthusiast, who like Cliven, apparently refuses to pay grazing fees to the government, told The Daily Beast he “came up here just to support the Hammond family” because the Bundys did.

“When the Bundys came here, I said, ‘Well I rode with them once, I’ll ride with them again,’” Finicum told The Daily Beast.

“It’s atrocious what they’ve done,” he said. “How can you throw them in prison for something that happened 11 years ago. They served their prison time, and now they get thrown back in jail for the same thing again. That’s unconscionable.

“Let me be very clear, this is to be peaceful,” Finicum said. “We have no intent of pointing a gun at anybody, and why would they come and point a gun at us?

“These are just some rock buildings. This isn’t about the buildings, this is about issues, this is about ideas, it’s about the Constitution. If [we] weren’t [armed], they’d roll in here and taze us all and zip-tie us and be done by supper time.”

The Hammonds said they’d turn themselves in for their prison terms on Monday. The father, who has already served three months, and the son, who’s served a year in prison, said they lit the fires to reduce invasive plants and to protect their land from wildfires. Meanwhile prosecutors said that the duo set the fires to cover up their deer-poaching on federal lands.

In October, a judge ruled their prison terms were too short under federal law and ordered them to return to the clink for about four years.

Still, the Hammond family appeared to distance themselves from the militia antics. Dwight Hammond’s wife, Susan, told OPB, “I don’t even know what ‘occupying the refuge’ means.

“I don’t really know the purpose of the guys who are out there,” she said. “I kind of understand where they come from, as far as their priorities in life.”

 

By: Anna Bird and Kate Briquelet, The Daily Beast, January 3, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Ammon Bundy, Domestic Terrorism, Oregon Militiamen | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Who’s Really Laughing About The Invasion Of Texas?”: Just Getting The Larger Idea Into The Mainstream Media Is A Victory

All week long we’ve been having a good laugh over Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordering the Texas state guard to monitor Jade Helm 15, a military exercise planned by the Pentagon to simulate “covert military operations” in Texas and seven other western states. The conspiracy theory on the right is that the operation is designed to “take over” Texas, which is funny because the state is actually already part of the US. The speculation that abandoned Walmart stores are being prepped to hold gun-lovers and patriots makes it only more hilarious because, well, don’t Walmarts already do that?

We on the left can laugh all we want at the rightwing nut-jobs, but don’t think for a moment that liberals are the only ones enjoying the comedy. A lot of Republicans who know better are laughing up their sleeves about the hysteria the media coverage is generating. Texas Representative Louie Gohmert feeds the alarm, warning that “patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned” about the exercise. “I have a great deal of faith and confidence in Governor Abbott,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz says, letting the fantasy fly. “You know, I understand a lot of the concerns raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm. It’s a question I’m getting a lot.”

But as Jon Stewart points out, these military exercises have been going on in Texas for years, and the Lone Star state has always welcomed them. Hmmm, what’s different now, he wonders, under a photo of our black president.

This is how ginning up the base works. If there’s a near-time analog, it would be the 24/7 coverage before the 2014 midterm elections about Ebola and the crazies’ theory that the feds were encouraging an epidemic in America by not quarantining anyone who set foot in West Africa. That was a bad joke, too, since, after all, nobody who had not been in West Africa or treated someone with Ebola had ever caught the disease. And the media coverage stopped on a dime when the election was over.

But, boy, did that coverage help drive racially biased voters to the polls.

Whether or not rank-and-file Texans really believe that US generals are threatening to put them under martial law, there’s a sense of pleasure in punking the national media and forcing them to discuss black helicopters. Check out this video, from the Austin Statesman and played this week on Hardball, that shows a US Army spokesman trying to calm fears at a town hall in Bastrop County, Texas. After the 4:30 mark, you can see a young woman smiling and hooting in delight as the spokesman tries to make his point, only to be confronted by folks shouting that they don’t believe a word he says.

The Texas takeover is like Obamacare death panels, or Sharia law coming to a court near you, or fluoride in the water supply. It doesn’t matter if the particular charge is proven to be completely false. Just getting the larger idea (don’t trust Obama’s feds, they want to un-cling you from your guns and religion) into the mainstream media is a victory. It validates the paranoia.

And just because Clive Bundy is paranoid does not mean the federal government isn’t actually out to get him. The right perceives their power waning and so proactively taunts the powers that be to expend resources and convince them they’re wrong. Many conservatives are sane enough to know that these conspiracy theories are a crock. But they see that Mitt Romney tried to win the presidency two years ago with a supermajority of white voters and lost convincingly. They want conservatives to win elections, and it is increasingly apparent that their ability to do so in national contests is diminishing rapidly. Defying or degrading the institutions that enforce the will of popular majorities is actually a logical way to delay their expression.

We’re going to have a long hot summer of this sad joke: Jade Helm 15 lasts from July 15 through September 15. There’ll be lots of laughs, but it’s not clear who’ll get the last one.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, May 8, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Jade Helm 15, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Immoral Worldview Common Among Republicans”: Police Violence Is Putting The Lie To The Tea Party Conservatism

As with so much else in modern America, the experience of Ferguson and Baltimore has turned police brutality into a partisan issue. With a few rare exceptions, Democrats and progressives tend to fall on the side of the victims of discriminatory and violent behavior by police, while conservatives tend to go to bat for the authorities.

The primary reason for this is racism: conservative whites tend to see urban minorities as either subhuman or guilty of cultural sins that are supposed to explain their endemic poverty. In that context, any police violence is excused as the necessary quelling by any means of an aggressively violent population unable to fit into civil society and unworthy of the civil rights afforded to non-minorities. It’s an immoral worldview, but extremely common among base Republicans.

The other reason is discrimination against the poor in general. Conservatives wrongly assume that the wealthy are society’s job creators, and the poor are simply moochers who eat off the generous fruits of the holders of capital. The military defends the righteous and free producers in America against the socialist and Communist freeloaders outside the U.S., while the police vigilantly defend property rights and social order against the ever-dangerous fifth column of parasites from within. That Objectivist viewpoint is just as factually wrong and immoral as the racist one, but it’s also far more acceptable within polite society largely because it’s so convenient to the wealthy elite and their enablers.

The problem, of course, is that these views run directly counter to supposed conservative stances on liberty and the 2nd Amendment. Republicans claim to be the defenders of freedom against big government tyranny. More disturbingly, they insist that deadly arsenals be permitted in every American home and even on the streets–primarily as a defense against the potential for infringement on civil rights by a totalitarian state.

But where we see the government most actively and destructively impinging on the rights of its citizens, not only are conservatives mostly silent on the abuses but they stridently stand on the side of the unaccountable state enforcers.

The reason is obvious, of course: the only government tyranny conservatives truly fear is one in which the poor–and particularly the non-white poor–have the ability to constrain their property rights. Cliven Bundy becomes a hero for threatening to shoot law enforcement that holds him accountable for stealing water and land, even as killer cops are lauded for killing unarmed black men for no legitimate reason. Welfare via taxation is seen as a greater evil than corporate malfeasance.

Conservatives can’t be upfront and honest about their immoral beliefs because only about 30% of the American population shares them, and it’s not OK to say most of these things in polite society. That’s why they’re so angry, why they feel oppressed, and why they “want their country back.”

But honesty here is necessary. We can’t move forward as a society without honest conversation, and if conservatives refuse to be openly honest about what they believe, it falls on us to provide that honesty for them.

But most of all, it’s time to stop pretending that Republicans care about liberty or government abuse of power. They really care about keeping poor people and minorities from having access to the same quality of life they purport to enjoy, and they’ll use every lever of tyranny to keep it way–whether through the ballot box or the ammo box.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 2, 2015

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Partisan Politics, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: