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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call, Portland Edition — July 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Paradise Pass with Crested Butte in the distance, CO – 2020 photo by glacticspark

The second biggest story of the summer is the widespread support of the protesters, those people of all races and ages, who took to the streets to say something about racism in America. Portland is and seems likely to remain the epicenter of the Trump administration’s law and order response.

America’s First Amendment rights are under attack in Portland by Trump’s paramilitaries every day. How can that be? Few have heard of US Code 1357. It allows immigration officers to operate within 100 miles of any external US border. Hence Trump could call out border troops to DC, Portland, or Chicago.

USC 1357 gives DHS jurisdiction over about two-thirds of the US population. They can enter any building that isn’t a dwelling within 25 miles of the border without a warrant.

The regulation was adopted by the US Department of Justice in 1953. At the time, there were fewer than 1,100 Border Patrol agents nationwide; today, there are over 21,000.

These problems are compounded by a lack of personnel oversight by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the DHS. The CBP consistently fails to hold its agents accountable for abuses.

Portland has protests on most days of the year. It’s part of the DNA of the city. Now, it’s looking like Trump’s paramilitaries are trying to foment violence and create a backlash among the protesters. The NYT reports on how these troops were the instigators of recent violence: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building.

Then…the officers started advancing….they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: “This is an unlawful assembly.”

By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them.”

What’s the end game for Trump in Portland?  His paramilitaries aren’t going to murder groups of protesters in cold blood, so what are they going to do? Have nightly tear gassing until the November election?

Trump’s paramilitaries are saying to Portland: “We wouldn’t have to violate your Constitutional rights if you didn’t insist on exercising them.”

There is libertarian support for ending the Trump paramilitary presence in Portland. Libertarians acknowledge that there is no police power in the Constitution. Policing is left to the states. To the extent the President can send federal officers into Portland or other cities, it should be limited to protecting federal property, not moving into crowds that are two blocks away.

The libertarian argument would say that the people of Portland and other cities have the right to decide who they want to elect to City Hall and how much funding they want to provide for their police. The federal government should only be brought in to defend federal property if the local police are unwilling or unable to do so.

Ironically, during the Obama administration, the GOP thought that the “arming up” of America’s internal security forces like the CPB was a risk to THEM. Now, when it’s impacting Democratic-voting cities, they’re all for it.

Trump’s election chances seem to depend on whether he’s Nixon reborn in 2020. Nixon ran on law and order and against violent demonstrations, largely by students who were against the Vietnam War. Protests never spread as broadly as this in the 1960s. To a great degree, the Vietnam protests were by white college age youth. That isn’t true of today’s protesters.

Trump’s law and order gambit is that Antifa Marxists will take over our cities and then, our suburbs. He’s clinging to the idea that there is an equivalent of the “silent majority” of 1968 still out there to elect him.

But Vanity Fair reported some new polling on the response to Trump’s anti-BLM efforts. If those polls are correct, the silent majority of 2020 is firmly on the side of Biden when it comes to issues of race and justice. Nixon’s ghost seems to have left the building.

Time to wake up America! People in Portland are not afraid of the protesters. They know that their safety isn’t in question. There’s no doubt this is a protest against the government, not their fellow citizens.

To help you wake up listen to Peter Green, guitarist of Fleetwood Mac who died this week, play “Albatross” from 1969’s “The Pious Bird of Good Omen”:

This reminds Wrongo of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” from 1959.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2020

Possibly lost in the “Terrorist Antifa Moms” news out of Portland last week was the thought that we continually say things like this:

  • Another new low for Trump.
  • How dare he?
  • Trump flaunts the Constitution.

In the past, other presidents have used governmental authority for political ends, but no other president has used a combination of the FBI/DHS/ATF and private mercenaries to literally beat down our First Amendment rights. Who’s stepping forward to stop him?

Without a principled Congress, nothing will stop him. The Republican Party steadfastly remains unshocked by his behavior. The Democratic Party can hold all the hearings it wants. It will never make a dent in Trump’s behavior. The current national dumpster fire is 100% owned by the GOP.

From Trump’s perspective, he’s doing exactly what he’s certain that he can get away with as President. He’s moved the goalposts, because our system wasn’t designed to hold back a President without principles. On to cartoons.

Protection of your Constitutional rights is now in the hands of Portland’s mothers:

Here’s the true cognitive test for Americans:

Who’s behind these secret police masks?

Do Americans understand how close we are to Trump declaring Martial Law?

Can Trump win on this debate question?

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Trump’s Portland Playbook

The Daily Escape:

Storm near Mesa Verde, CO – photo by mayaxs

It’s once again getting difficult to write about this stuff. Trump is willing to deploy a secret army to protect buildings, but he won’t take responsibility to protect human beings from a pandemic that is killing Americans at the equivalent of three jumbo jet crashes a day.

Let’s focus on the conflict between the First Amendment and the Second Amendment that’s been playing out on our streets since the murder of George Floyd in May. Early in the COVID pandemic, armed protestors carried their long guns into the Lansing, MI state capitol demanding an end to the shutdown. They also stood around in Richmond, VA and in both cases, law enforcement kept their distance, bending over backwards to avoid creating a confrontation.

When unarmed protestors showed up in most American cities after Floyd’s murder, law enforcement more or less did whatever they wanted to them. The sustained brutality of the police against unarmed protestors (there are more than 800 video-recorded incidents of police violence) is prima-facie evidence supporting the protestors’ message.

There are political ramifications and lessons to be learned from the reactions of both groups of protestors and local and federal authorities.

Carrying guns into a legislature completely undermined whatever goals the protestors in Lansing and Richmond were trying to accomplish. The response from most Americans was to ridicule them. The police believed that the armed protestors weren’t going to use their weapons. They knew that letting them yell and march around would placate them. Law enforcement was pretty sure they wouldn’t be back in larger numbers the next day.

On the other hand, the unarmed protestors inspired by George Floyd’s death started a national conversation about the role and conduct of the police. The BLM protestors turned out in the hundreds of thousands, every day, and theirs was largely an anti-police message.

Carrying arms would have certainly undermined their message. Armed anti-police protestors would have credibly shown (to the eyes of most Americans) that a violent police response was probably appropriate. Unarmed protestors have a moral weight that is completely lacking in the messaging of the armed anti-shutdown protesters.

More importantly, the BLM protestors are targeting their message at people who will vote in November.

The sustained, mostly non-violent nature of the protests in the face of an often-brutal police response (and now in Portland, a similar response by federal secret police) gives the protestors political power. Right now, a majority of the rest of the country is on the side of the Portland protestors. This is the exact opposite of the public’s response to the armed protestors.

Another factor is that Rep. John Lewis’s death reminded us of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Think about how different things would be today if those marchers had been armed. There would have been even greater state-sanctioned violence; and most of America at the time would have seen it as justified. It was those unforgettable and unforgivable images of brutal police violence against unarmed and peaceful marchers that shocked the nation and government enough to change the law.

Lasting change only comes through voting, and putting pressure on elected officials to sanction bad actors and change laws that enable bad behavior. That only happens if the protestors gain and keep credibility with voters.

Isn’t it sad that Trump sees two monsters, civil unrest, and the pandemic, and chooses to say that fighting the pandemic is up to the states, but graffiti on federal courthouses is the hill he’s willing to die on? This is the fallout:

A bunch of people in Portland have sprayed graffiti on buildings, broken windows, and started fires, which, to be clear, is wrong and should be punished. Trump’s response was to send in the feds, in force.

Trump’s play is to use federal law enforcement to prod the protestors into more unrest and property damage. He will continue calling peaceful protesters rioters and anarchists. He will try to paint Biden and the Democrats as enablers of the downfall of American society.

This old storyline has worked in the past. Portland is the test of Trump’s playbook. Protestors have to remain mostly peaceful in the face of threats and physical violence by the Federales.

That must be the BLM playbook.

It’s not going to be pretty. People will get hurt.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Alpine lake, High Uintas Wilderness, UT- 2020 photo by anteaterpinkytoe.

Which is better: Gorbachev’s Chernobyl response, or Trump’s COVID response? It’s a high bar for Trump’s response to be worse than Gorbachev’s.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed the Soviet government’s ineptitude to both the Soviet people and the international community. The reactor’s core meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of $billions in clean-up costs. It led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride. Thirty-four years later, the site remains a waste land.

Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

But Trump is up for the challenge! From Umair Haque at Medium:

“America’s in free fall. It’s having a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a social implosion, and a political implosion all at once. And all those things have been brought to you by Donald Trump, whose negligence, irresponsibility, recklessness have allowed them to flourish.”

Nobody in the world is in free fall like America. America has the highest number of new cases in the world, higher than Brazil’s 50K, or India’s 30K. Even individual Red States have worse outbreaks than many of the world’s poorest countries with far higher populations.

The EU has about 5,000 new cases. America has more than fifteen times the number of cases Europe has. Texas alone had more than twice the number of cases, (more than 10K) and the population of Texas is 7% of the EU’s.

Trump nails the win over Gorbachev with his most egregious action, putting armed secret police on the streets of Portland, OR. Dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters, threw them into unmarked cars, and took them for interrogation without specifying a reason for arrest.

It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (the Border Patrol), a US government organization that has no business conducting actions against Americans in Portland.

Both the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon have asked them to leave. A US Attorney for the State of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Now, the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is vowing to ramp up these actions both in Portland and elsewhere. This is Wolf on the DHS website:

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it. A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America.”

We’ve seemingly reached a point where Trump’s brown shirt police force is reality.

Could it be that Trump is trying to foment unrest? His campaign can’t be happy that protests and urban unrest have quieted down across America in the last few weeks. Is Trump hoping this action will spark a revival of what we were seeing in June?

The calculation would be that an upsurge in protest will divert the country’s attention from the ongoing COVID-19 disaster while scaring moderate voters. It allows Trump to keep playing the law and order president, someone who will protect white suburbanites from scary black/brown anarchists.

This is the same week when Trump claimed Biden wants to abolish suburbs.

We’ve heard this Republican tune before during earlier presidential elections. It’s a mash up of Nixon’s law and order strategy, and Bush I’s Willie Horton strategy. It’s important to point out that both won their elections.

Trump is using Executive Branch agencies that he controls. AG Barr knows there is nothing “Constitutionally” Congress can do about this. They’re trying out various actions to see what they can get away with: for now, it’s the dreaded ANTIFA. Before that it was immigrants and asylum seekers. Later, it could be any opposition.

Time to wake up America! This is who and what we have become. The only question remaining is whether enough non-authoritarian Americans will vote in November to stop the madness.

To help you wake up, here is Big Country’s “We’re not in Kansas” performed live in 1991 in Bonn Germany:

Sample lyrics:

What did you learn in school today
Did you learn to run when the teachers pray
Did they teach you enough to know the state you’re in
Not enough to get out, not enough to win

What did you learn at home today
Did you learn to hate in the proper way
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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