Tag Archives: domestic terrorism

Birds of a Feather in the Refuge

Wampler “Birds of a feather, flock together.” So sayeth all grandmothers offering advice about the accumulation of friends and acquaintances.  For all the palaver about a “peaceful” occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge from the Bundy Boys, they’ve kept company so far with the two notorious cop-killers in southern Nevada, and now it comes to light they have an armed felon in their midst.

Neil Wampler, California patricide, “…Wampler was a ubiquitous presence at the start of the occupation, often seen roaming the compound and talking to reporters. He said he drove to Oregon from his home near San Luis Obispo after seeing an online call for people to support the cause in Burns.” [Oregonian]  And, yes, by his admission, he’s armed.

Little wonder Mr. Wampler’s concerned about gun rights, as a convicted felon (2nd degree murder of his father during a drunken fight) Mr. Wampler doesn’t have any.   As a convicted felon he is prohibited from firearm ownership in California, and in Nevada, and in Oregon.   Mr. Wampler doesn’t agree, however:

“California and federal law generally prohibit felons from possessing firearms. Wampler told The Oregonian that he can legally possess a gun. Cipolla, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Wampler cannot have a gun because of his murder conviction.” [Oregonian]

Thus we can assume that Mr. Wampler is a law unto himself; if he says his criminal record doesn’t prohibit his gun toting, then his sovereignty must be respected? This position seems to capture the sovereign notion that the law applies to thee but not to me.  And, Mr. Wampler isn’t the first of the Malheur Loons to make threats, he just seems to be the most recent:

“We are peaceful people, I certainly am,” he says. “And the only circumstance, the last extremity, I think that any gunshots would be fired is if the federalists tried to root us out of here. They would find out then, that we are not playing. We’re not gonna give an inch. And I say that very seriously.” [Oregonian]

Shorter version: If the authorities try to make us leave the Refuge we’re going to start shooting people, even if we Loons have worn out our welcome in the county. [Oregonian]

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Power for the Loons: A small electric co-op considers what to do with the Loons at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Harney Electric Map Harney Electric Cooperative is the power transmission and distribution provider for approximately 20,000 square miles of southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada, and right in the midst of their service territory map is the Malheur Wildlife Refuge – currently occupied by more loons than pin tails, swans, and geese.

The Co-op has about 4,000 power meters, 350 miles of transmission line, and more than 2,400 miles of distribution line across the six counties shown on the map.  And there are numerous voices asking why the power hasn’t been cut off at the Malheur Refuge…

A major consideration is Safety.  Harney Electric, for all its territorial expanse, isn’t a very large company.  In fact, the members read their own meters. The company audits meter readings once a year, but for all 12 months of the year the meters are read by the customer/members and not by designated meter readers.  The main office is in Hines, OR (population 1,510) with a branch office in Orovada, NV (population 155) and another small satellite office in Fields, OR (population 120).   It isn’t too far off the mark to say that the administration and management of the co-op is a case of everyone knowing everyone else – employees included.  No one is particularly excited about sending in a lineman to shut off the power at the Refuge since the Loons have an unfortunate track record of actually shooting and killing people.  Case in point: the two miscreants who joined the Bundy Militia for a time in Their Great Delusional Standoff in southern Nevada, and then saw fit to assassinate two police officers in Las Vegas. [MSNBC]  There’s frankly little way for the power company to win —

If they send in an unarmed lineman – do the Loons take offense and physically attack the lineman?  If they send in police or national guard with the lineman – does this constitute an “assault” by the authorities, and also place the lineman in peril?  Should the lineman and a police escort approach the “boundary” does this create a justification in the twisted minds of the trespassers for the shooting to start?  No one in charge at the power company is particularly happy about the prospect of seeing a lineman’s body draped in a Tea Party flag.

Gee, offer some naysayers – why can’t the co-op cut the power off well outside the range of the Loons?  That assumes that the co-op has isolation capacity, and the equipment already installed to shut down portions of the distribution line.  Since its founding in 1961, the co-op’s primary concern has been to get power to isolated areas, NOT how to shut off power to isolated portions of its service area.   The co-op has shut off power to the Frenchglen, OR BLM fire station [OregonLive] as of January 7, 2016, another target of the Loons, but not occupied by them.  The integrity of the BLM fire station at Frenchglen is an important component in the safety of Harney Electric Cooperative’s transmission and distribution lines in southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada.

And then there’s the matter of the bill.  The Bundy Loons are using metered power to prepare their grilled cheese sandwiches – the current rate for power at minimum is $28.75 per month for the first 150 kilowatt hours.  No one’s heard how the Bundy’s intend to pay for the power they’re using – any more than anyone’s figured out how they intend to pay for the $1 million in back grazing fees and penalties they already owe.  However, this time the Bundy’s aren’t ripping off the federal government – they’re ripping off the customers of a small electric cooperative.

If the Loons keep up their occupation to March 1, 2016 they should be mindful that Harney Electric’s minimum rate will increase to $31.50 per month with a 9 cent charge for every kilowatt hour after 150.  Security light pricing will be at $9 a month for a 100 watt light on a meter or transformer pole, and the charge for a specially placed pole will be $11.80 per month.  If the Loons are using a 150 watt security light, that will cost them $13.00 per month.

Somewhere in the midst of their Grand Delusion about Sticking It to the Federal Government, the Loon Militia (#YallQaeda) in their Cowliphate, have forgotten that it isn’t the Federal Government keeping the lights on at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, it’s a small electric cooperative, which expects its customers to read their meters and pay promptly.   It appears that the Bundy definition of Liberty incorporates taking what they want, when they want it, without consideration of how this narcissistic selfishness impacts others … like the Harney Electric Cooperative and its customers.

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Silhouettes in Courage

It’s been confirmed that the perpetrators of the Bundystan sit in at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge are free to go into town for their “snacks.”  There are at least two ways to view this element of the situation. One, the authorities are allowing the continuation of the occupation of federal property in ways that are inconceivable to those who remember the May 1985 assault on Osage Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. [Guardian] Another perspective is that the authorities aren’t taking the Grand Occupation of the YallQaeda Militia as seriously as the YeeHawdists wanted.  Thus, this isn’t the Alamo – it certainly isn’t Ruby Ridge, much less Waco.  And, there the YallQaeda sits — assured in their own minds that their actions will cause significant discourse about public land management and a Rising of the Populace – being held up to ridicule instead of admiration.

Case in point: The man who says he won’t be locked in a concrete box is more than happy to sit inside a blue tarp for the duration —

Tarp Man Granted that prisons are unpleasant places in which to reside, but being stuck in a chair under a tarp in  weather not predicted to get much over 17 degrees Fahrenheit at night for the next week isn’t my idea of Freedom.  And, to do so while insinuating that you’d fight to the death before you’d leave the “comfort” of your Little Blue Tarp because you won’t tolerate  an arrest, leaves one wondering if some kind soul won’t donate a copy of Magnus Mill’s 1998 novel “The Restraint of Beasts” to help the ‘patriots’ pass the time?

The wildlife refuge has been a contentious issue for the Hammond family for some time [TPM] but with the Hammonds reporting to authorities to complete their prison sentence there seems little for the YallQaeda to do but crank up the verbiage and get the perfectly predictable Twitter backlash.  The level of self delusion is, indeed, remarkable.  Who, while illegally occupying federal property, would NOT think arrest warrants are a logical outcome?  Ammon Bundy cites his “credible sources” as informing him of impending arrest warrants [Oregonian] Well, gee… what would a person expect in the circumstances?

There are some voices in support, albeit tangential at best. For example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) used his time on the House Floor to excoriate the Bureau of Land Management for its insensitivity to the “culture” of the American West. [Oregonian]  However, Rep. Walden’s aim seems a bit off the mark,  if for no other reason than the Malheur Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Walden was explicit is his condemnation of illegal occupations, and his speech was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Bundy Bunch.

So the Bundy Boys Camp Out will continue until the residents of Burns, OR have exhausted their patience, and the YallQaeda has worn out its welcome.  The federal, state, and local reaction seems to imply that (1) there aren’t very many occupiers, and (2) they aren’t actually doing very much; except sitting in an isolated camp from which the TV trucks will depart for the Next Shiny Object getting cold and wondering why the Great Insurrection hasn’t started.

Silhouettes in courage.

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Dispatches from Bundystan

Dispatch Case While the Bundyites and their associated #VanillaISIS #Y’AllQaeda #YeeHawDist members, there are some informative and serious pieces of background writing which deserve our attention.  One of these is Elaine Hunt’s piece for Lets Talk Nevada, “Senator Dean Heller on the Bundys and the BLM.”   Hunt provides local context for the ongoing situation between the “Sovereign” Bundys, including the stances taken by city and county officials.

There’s no shortage of articles available concerning the tactics which might be adopted to resolve the situation in the Malheur Wildlife Reserve.  Newsweek offers its advice on how the Federal government can resolve the issue peacefully.  The Washington Post provides some context for the ongoing fight over public lands in Oregon.   The piece also provides a bit of encouraging news: The government position that the Bundy Gang is invading the area is taking hold with local officials in the local area.

Meanwhile, authorities are planning to cut the power to the facilities at the Malheur Refuge [Guardian] To which the #VanillaISIS responded they were ready – however, surely they know that if the Federal and local agencies cut off traffic to the Refuge it won’t be all that long before they’ve run through the gasoline in the pickups to run a generator?  This point highlights some questions which such radical activities raise in general.

Question Marks

# How do radicals convince themselves that there is a vast reservoir of support for their cause?  From the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, with sporadic anti-tax violence until 1794, which ended with the “rebels” fleeing in the face of Washington’s collection of 13,000 militia members from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – to John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on the Harper’s Ferry federal arsenal – to Charleston murderer Dylann Roof’s pathetic attempt to “start a race war” [Nwk] – to the equally pathetic request of the #Y’AllQaeda for people to send “snacks” and come to join them – the radicals have vastly overestimated the breadth and depth of their causes.

# Why do movements such as #Y’AllQaeda almost invariably include leadership which indulges in pseudo-military activities rather than actually enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces?   Oathkeepers being the exception, as would be the likes of Timothy McVeigh, many of the self styled Militia types don’t  have what might be considered even para-military training.  Target shooting, gun collecting, and video games don’t create real soldiers.  A point which appears to have escaped many militants.

# It’s interesting that some of the loudest critics of range management often include individuals who aren’t all that successful in ranching enterprises?   Previous  Nevada protests, in Elko County (Gardner), and in Nye County (Hage), were sparked by the actions of individuals who blamed the Bureau of Land Management for problems they may very well have created for themselves. 

I suppose we’ll always have among us those who have inflated views of their own agency, and unrealistic perspectives concerning the level of support for their own cause.  The play-soldiers will continue to conflate fantasy with professional military reality.  And, those who cannot accept or admit their limitations will invariably blame others for their problems.  The trick is not to allow this to fester and metastasize in the body politic.

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Bundys in Birdland

Malheur Birds The Malheur Wildlife Refuge has a message posted explaining the closure of the area:

The Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that an unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments.

The number of “invaders” varies according to reports ranging from 150, a number about half those who were protesting the incarceration of a local rancher, to 24, a number based on sightings in the local area.  We’ve met these people before. 

Specifically, we met them in the ongoing dispute over the Bundy’s refusal to pay $1.1 million in grazing fees and penalties, and a standoff with federal, local, and state authorities which ended peacefully – but with the Bundy’s back in court having resolved nothing about their payment of fees and assessments.  However, all was not peaceful about the people the Bundys tend to attract – two of whom assassinated two Las Vegas police officers and killed a “good guy with a gun” in a nearby retail store.

Categorically speaking, they are part and parcel of the Sovereign Citizen movement.  Indeed, after the federal authorities moved personnel out of Bundystan to prevent attacks on Bureau of Land Management employees, the Bundys pitched a party celebrating one year of ‘freedom’ from federal control.  Their “Liberty Celebration” included some predictable faces like that of  Robert Crooks, founder of the Montana Minutemen. [NPR]

The FBI is clear on who these people are – domestic terrorists.  The FBI assessment concludes:

Although the sovereign-citizen movement does not always rise to violence, its members’ illegal activities and past violent—including fatal—incidents against law enforcement make it a group that should be approached with knowledge and caution. It is important that law enforcement be aware of sovereign citizens’ tactics so agencies can warn the public of potential scams, spot illegal activity and understand its potential severity, and be prepared for and protect against violent behavior or backlash through intimidation and harassment.

OK City bombing baby It’s important to remember at this point that trespassing cattle, making phony license plates, and filing nuisance law suits aren’t the only thing these people are capable of doing – Terry Nichols, of Oklahoma City Bombing infamy claimed to be a Sovereign Citizen. [FBI]

There are some politicians who appear to want Americans to focus on foreign or foreign inspired terrorism, but a significant number of voices are reminding us that we are at more risk of insult, injury, or death at the hands of right wing domestic terrorists than from any foreign source or sources.

The following chart, published by Mother Jones after the Charleston, SC church shooting illustrates the point:

Chart domestic terrorism Or, to look at the situation from another perspective — “The Sovereign Citizen Movement is the number one domestic terrorism threat today, a bit jump from just seven years ago when the group was seventh on the list.” [D&T]

Given this record and the data from serious sources like the University of Maryland’s START group, [pdf] we know the right wing extremists are dangerous.  Additionally, even if the numbers aren’t readily at hand the images of Oklahoma City are still an emotional tag reminding anyone who cares to be concerned that the danger is constantly with us.  Coping with a domestic threat of this nature is another matter.

If we know these people are domestic terrorists, and we know they are dangerous why haven’t we done more to minimize their effectiveness?

First, there are too many voices rising in support of right wing extremist views which conflate conservatism with right wing extremism.  It wasn’t so long ago that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a report indicating the dangers posed by domestic right wing individuals and groups, and she endured Congressional and political lambasting for her efforts. [WaPo]  It would be helpful if (1) conservative members of the punditry could distance themselves from the “Freedom” rants of their extremist cohorts, and (2) the media could differentiate between conservative and extremist elements.  This is made all the more difficult as so called “conservative voices” move toward extremist positions; but, it’s not an impossible task.

Secondly, we need to disentangle the Gun Rights Lobby from the domestic terrorism issue.   The transparently irrational argument that the 2nd Amendment protects all others is an invitation to the arms accumulations of right wing extremists.  It is perfectly possible to require background checks, enact safe storage laws, and limit the capacity of firearms without damaging anyone’s enjoyment of hunting or target practice.  It is also perfectly possible to limit the number of firearms a person can purchase during a specific period of time, or preclude straw purchases, without infringing on personal liberties.   In fact, we could reduce the necessity of “militarizing the police” if we could decrease the availability of military style weaponry available to domestic terrorists.

Third, we could apply the framework we use for discussing foreign terrorism to domestic terrorism.  The tendency of some media outlets to describe domestic terrorists as “mentally disturbed,” or “loners,” or “disengaged” individuals; or more dramatically — “loons,” “whack jobs,” and “childish,” – leaves the impression that these people are not as dangerous as their foreign counterparts.  The 168 killed and more than 680 injured in Oklahoma City would argue otherwise.

We might also want to ask some of the same questions about domestic terrorism we pose concerning foreign or foreign inspired terrorism.  How were these people “radicalized?”  What information sources are they using to implement their plans and encourage their conspiracy theories?  What motivates them to move into the dark realm of domestic terrorism? How can we encourage members of their communities to divulge information about upcoming plots and plans?  Why didn’t some family member, neighbor, fellow church member, inform authorities that there was a plot to occupy a federal facility?  Why do we sanction police action against protesters with signs but urge “caution” when facing right wing domestic terrorists?

The answers to these kinds of questions aren’t always pleasant.  In the case of the Bundys and their allies there are significant elements of racism and religiosity which are difficult for many Americans to discuss.  However, discuss them we must.

Fourth, we might want to pay attention to the NYPD’s assessment of radicalization in domestic terms, in which the extremism comes to the forefront.  There is the initial or pre-radical stage, commonly associated with Internet searches for like minded associates; the self identification state during with the person identifies with an extremist perspective becoming immersed in the ideology; moving into the indoctrination stage wherein the person takes on the ideological perspective more intensely; and finally the “jihadist” phase in which the person takes on the persona of a “warrior” – for “babies,” for “God,” or perhaps individual control of public lands? [Minteh]

If we demand that family members and associates notify authorities if someone is progressing along these stages in regard to transnational terrorism, then why don’t we emphasize the necessity of this reporting in regard to domestic terrorism?

Fifth and finally, why aren’t we demanding that someone turn down the rhetoric?  Polarization is one thing, extremism is the manifestation of polarization beyond normal comprehension.  Those infected with a sense of victimization – or potential victimization – don’t really need to be treated to reinforcement of their bigotry, their prejudices, or their hatred.  No, it’s not acceptable to be a bigot, and it’s not acceptable to be a racist, and it’s certainly not acceptable to take up arms against your own government. We have ballot boxes and courts in which to settle differences.

Duck 2 And so we are left with some right wing radical fringe types occupying a federal facility harboring a wish to expand their “territory” into a fire camp (just what this section of the country doesn’t need) who have been radicalized, and whose extremism is reinforced by the babble of extreme views to which they listen intently.  We can only hope that they don’t decide to feast on the wildlife the refuge is meant to protect for all of us – the Trumpeter Swans, the Sand Hill Cranes, the Red Band Trout, or any of the other species depending on us for protection and refuge.

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Profiles in Cowardice: GOP Soft on Terrorism

Gun Congress I should have known, given that Senator Dean Heller’s last campaign material came from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that he’d cave to NRA radicals on the following bit of legislation: S.Amdt. 2910 to S.Amdt. 2874 to H.R. 3762

All those links refer eventually to a simple amendment —

“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.” {Sen}

And, how did the junior Senator from Nevada cast his vote?  Here’s the roster from vote # 319 —

Heller Terrorist Vote 319That’s right – all those “Nay” votes were to prevent the Department of Justice from refusing to approve gun sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List.  In other words, spoken so often in the last 48 hours, Senator Heller doesn’t want terrorists flying but he evidently has no problems allowing them to waltz into a gun store and loading up on – say,  “1600 rounds of ammunition, another 4,500 rounds ‘at home,’ two assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns.” [ABC]   

“Senators will need to decide where they stand. Or do they stand with the NRA?” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, declaring that the Senate had been “complicit through our inaction” in the 355 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States since the start of the year. “Those who choose to do the NRA’s bidding will be held accountable by our constituents.” [WaPo]

That pretty well sums it up.

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They have nothing: The GOP and Modern American Life

Black Hole Answer: They have nothing!  Question: What does a political party do when it has failed to research, compile, and publicize a platform of policy proposals addressing American issues?  What’s happened to the Republican Party?  There area clues.

They fall back on old issues, pounding away at uninspired and unoriginal grandstanding rhetoric as if the grandstanding were an alternative in itself.  Witness the latest “vote” to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The only alternative proposal in the hopper is Coupon Care or “Voucher Hospital,” which didn’t withstand scrutiny for the last several rounds.  The Republicans talk as if the extension of family benefits for children up to age 26 can be maintained, or the provisions disallowing elimination of insurance for pre-existing conditions can be continued, without sending the whole system into a downward spiral – unfortunately for the GOP, the system IS working.  However, that didn’t stop one more amendment to:

To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 entirely,” from hitting the floor of the U.S. Senate for another vote.  [rc 253]

You read that correctly – the Senate Republicans wanted to repeal the ACA entirely – repeal the prohibitions on refusing insurance for pre-existing conditions, repeal the insurance for young people who stay on their parents’ policies until 26, repeal  the prohibition of arbitrary rescission of coverage, repeal your guarantee of a right to ask that your insurance plan reconsider a denial of payment.  Repeal prohibition of that bogus insurance that put limits on lifetime coverage; repeal the review of premium increases; repeal the provision that at least 80% of what’s paid in for premiums must be used to pay for medical treatment.  Repeal preventive health care; repeals insurance company barriers to emergency services…. [DHHS]

It’s been five years since the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights became law.  Meanwhile, the Senate tried once again to repeal the ACA and Patients’ Bill of Rights “entirely.”   Who were the 49 Senators who voted for repeal?

ACA repeal vote senate 2015And, so Senator Heller, exactly what do you propose to replace the measure which has added  16.9 million more Americans to the number of those with health insurance? [Forbes]  Spare us the vague rhetoric about “free market solutions,” or “protecting individual choices,” or “big government intrusion into American lives.”  Those 16.9 million people aren’t rhetorical place-holders, they are real Americans who want real health insurance – so, what’s your plan?  Crickets.

We can expect more rhetoric about abortion! about immigrants! about Tyranny! about anything EXCEPT those issues which should be attracting our attention, and precipitating practical remedies.

They avoid rational responses to current policy issues(1) What do we hear from our Republican representatives and officials about gun violence in America?   Reaction to the Charleston, Chattanooga, and Lafayette shootings have drawn the same old responses we heard after the IHOP shooting in Carson City, NV,  the VA Tech shooting, the Aurora Theater shooting….  The Republican response has been little more than a recitation of NRA talking points which conveniently boil down to we can’t do anything about the proliferation of guns because: 2nd Amendment.

So, they talk about “mental health,”  but between 2009 and 2011 the legislatures of 34 states cut funding for mental health care services by a total of $1.6 billion.  Some House Republicans tried to bring a funding bill to the floor last January, but as with most legislation in the GOP controlled House it got chopped into bits in the hope that some portion of it could survive. [TheHill]

It’s instructive to note that Representative Murphy introduced his bill (HR 3717) in December 2013, and it bounced around committees until a last subcommittee hearing in April 2014. [Cong]  Then came the portion of the program known as Dueling Bills, the GOP version (HR3717) vs. a Democratic party member sponsored HR 4574 – and the fight was on concerning funding for substance abuse treatment, and treatment under Medicaid, and for veterans.  [NAMI pdf]

Less rationally, Republicans tell us that our personal safety is an individual responsibility and we’d all be safer if we went to the restaurant or theater with weapons.   Former Texas governor Rick Perry:

“I will suggest to you that these concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea,” Perry said. “I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who have appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”[CNN]

And who might these “backgrounded” appropriately trained, knowledgeable, people be?  In a dark theater… and how many of these “backgrounded,” trained, knowledgeable people will it take to create complete chaos? And, more casualties?  Are we willing to create the possibility that our schools, churches, and theaters could become shooting galleries?

(2) What do we hear from the Republicans about terrorism?  Plenty, as long as we’re speaking of ISIS or Muslims.  Not so much if we’re speaking of the home grown variety.   The propaganda wing of the GOP can’t seem to remember any reports of domestic terrorism which can’t be attributed to Muslims.  Interesting, because in September 2011 the FBI released its warning about the Sovereign Citizens and their form of domestic terrorism.  The timing is important because by June 2011 the Department of Homeland Security had eviscerated the analytical unit that produced their report on domestic terrorism including white supremacist and Christian Identity activities. [WaPo]

“Last night, a shooter who held white supremacist and extreme anti-government, anti-feminist views “allegedly killed two people and wounded nine others who were watching the new comedy ‘Trainwreck,’ a film written by and starring the feminist comedian Amy Schumer.”  As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.” [RRW]

We might add that two individuals associated with right wing extremism assassinated two police officers in Las Vegas in June 2014, and draped the Tea Party flag over one of their bodies. [ABC]  

The Republican formula “Say No Evil” about radicalized anti-abortionists, anti-immigrant, anti-integrationists, may work well in fund raising e-mails about Tyranny In America! or, Big Brother, or whatever the fear du jour may be, but it’s obviously NOT helping track the lone wolves who shoot police officers, or threaten to shoot BLM employees, or shoot patrons in movie theaters.

(3) What happened to that Comprehensive Immigration Bill?  A comprehensive immigration policy reform bill passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013. [NYT]  More specifically that would be 760 days ago, or 108 weeks plus 4 days, and it’s politely referred to as Stalled.  The stall began in December 2013, as the House decided to go “piecemeal.” [MPI] As of February 2014 the Speaker was whining the House couldn’t pass the bill because it didn’t trust the President. [WaPo] However, in April 2014 the Speaker was mocking conservatives for blocking the bill. [WSJ]   By June 2014 Senators were blaming ultra-conservative members of the House for the Great Stall. [9News]  The calendar moved on to January 30, 2015 and the internal struggles of the House Republicans still kept the bill in abeyance. [MPR]

760 days, 108 weeks + 4 days, or 18,240  hours later, there is still no passage of an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives – whole or piecemeal.

In this morass it may be counted as a minor miracle if Congress can manage to pass a relatively uncontroversial highway funding bill. [TheHill]

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Congress was expected to be filled with Republicans and Democrats who having different perspectives would file differing bills on the same general topics.  Compromises would be worked out among the ladies and gentlemen of the august legislative bodies, and conference committees would work out the differences between measures.  This requires that both sides bring something to the table.  How do we know the GOP isn’t packing anything in its collective briefcase?

When the highway bill comes up they want to “repeal Obamacare” just one more time, or when legislation stalls it is everyone’s fault and no one’s fault that we can’t seem to enact comprehensive immigration policy reform.  How many votes on various and sundry “anti-abortion” proposals has the House taken, instead of taking any votes on whether or not to have universal background checks for gun sales? 

How many hours has the House spent on the Benghazi attack compared to the number of hours it has taken testimony on the condition of our roads, airports, dams, and bridges?  How much time was expended dreaming up a bill to exempt veterans from the ACA and Patient’s Bill of Rights if those individuals already had “government” insurance? (A specious proposal if there ever was one.)

How much more time before the Republicans come to realize that most of the American public – that portion not infatuated with the celebrity bashing all immigrants – would very much like to see something accomplished. 

It’s hard to accomplish anything when what’s being brought to the table is essentially nothing.

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Something to Celebrate July 4th: Young People, Old People, and the CNN Poll

Fail News Channel

In perhaps haste to show “relevant” news concerning the battle flag issue, CNN concentrated on a poll question about whether the CSA battle flag was a symbol of pride or a symbol of racism.

“The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race, and among whites, views are split by education.” [CNN]

And just as certainly, the views were divided along ethnic/racial lines:

“Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree. In the South, the racial divide is even broader. While 75% of Southern whites describe the flag as a symbol of pride and 18% call it a symbol of racism, those figures are almost exactly reversed among Southern African-Americans, with just 11% seeing it as a sign of pride and 75% viewing it as a symbol of racism.” [CNN]

Thank you CNN for once again concentrating on the perfectly obvious and missing the much more interesting.

For example the poll also presented results by age.  A point not emphasized in the coverage, and those results were interesting in themselves.  One of the questions asked was if the crime in Charleston should be considered terrorism. The results by age:

CNN poll terror q 47% of individuals 18-34 saw the act as one of terrorism, compared to only 37% in the 35-49 cohort, 39% in the 50-64 group, and 37% of those over 65 years of age.   Since the CNN results and reportage invite speculation, let’s engage in some.

Most children by age four are aware of major national events, if not entirely capable of explaining them.  By seven the gears are clicking such that the young person can at least form an emotional reaction to the events, situations, and ideas being presented to them; ideas which are more fully informed when they reach eleven years of age.  In simpler terms, what happens before a person is about 10 is history and what happens afterwards is current events – none of us willing to perceive ourselves as museum relics.

Thus a person who is 34 years old now was 12 years old when the first attack was made on the World Trade Center in New York City (1993) and saw “terrorism” on the television set.  A 34 year old person was 14 years old when the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred, 1995.   For an individual born in 1985, that domestic terrorism bombing happened just as they were capable of a better understanding of the event.  That person is 30 years old this year.

Perhaps terrorism has a broader definition for those who are old enough to remember the Khobar Towers (1996), the African embassy bombings in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole (2000), the WTC/Pentagon Attack (2001), the Madrid train bombing (2004), and the attack on the London underground rail system (2005).  We might contend with some rationality that for those under 34, if an attack of any sort includes multiple victims, in significant places, for particular ideological reasons then it’s terrorism.  That the Charleston attack is not perceived as “terrorism” by more than half the respondents may be a function of the media’s tendency to attach “Muslim” to any and all assaults, hence it’s not terrorism if it isn’t associated with the followers of Islam.

The hate crime question seemed a bit less divided.  CNN asked if the attack on the Charleston church was a hate crime:

CNN poll terror 2 Every age group overwhelmingly categorized the act as a hate crime. What’s intriguing in this question is the 5% difference between the younger group, who were more likely to classify the act as terrorism, and the over 65 group 90% of whom categorized it as a hate crime.

A person now 65 years of age (born 1950), one now 70 (born 1945) will more likely have a frame of reference tilted toward classification of attacks as hate crimes because they witnessed these during the modern Civil Rights Movement.  A person born in 1945 would have been aware of the murder of Emmett Till (1955), Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963, and the iconic image of the carnage, the Birmingham Church Bombing took place in September 1963.  A person now 65 was 13 years old when that happened, and one 70 was 18 at the time.  The bombing of the Church and the murders of Civil Rights Movement advocates are within the ‘current events’ time line of those over 65.  Little wonder they would slot the Charleston Church attack into the hate crime category.

It would be interesting to see the results of an academic study that tests how individuals categorize insidious attacks perpetrated for ideological reasons, and if the nature of the reporting and publicity given to the event at the time informs their classifications as they age.

Comments Off on Something to Celebrate July 4th: Young People, Old People, and the CNN Poll

Filed under anti-terrorism, media, racism

Domestic Terrorism Home on the Range

BundyThe Nevada Progressive leads off this morning with a column on “Everytown,” and the efforts of those who seek reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, a post following “Clear and Present Danger” on the Bundy Anarchists in southern Nevada.  It’s both timely and appropriate to put these thoughts in close proximity.

“There’s really no way to candy-coat it. The extreme fringe of the far right who have once again gained national prominence thanks to Cliven Bundy’s nationally televised temper tantrum are not interested in mere protest. And it’s time for all the rest of us to recognize the clear & present danger of legitimizing this kind of behavior. ” [TNP]

There’s “right wing,” and “far right wing,” and then there’s that “extreme fringe of the far right.”   As the Rachel Maddow Show illustrated, they are both armed and dangerous.   We have an unfortunate roster of hits and near misses to prove the point.

The Bloody and Near Bloody Decade

On April 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The 7000 pound truck bomb caused massive loss of life and damage.  McVeigh was among those on that Extreme Fringe of the Far Right, who could refer to the children killed that day as “collateral damage.”  There was a near miss in July 1995 when antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk tried to purchase an machine gun and plastic explosives in order to carry out his proposed attack on the Austin, TX Internal Revenue Office.  Polk was sentenced to 21 years in a Federal Prison.

On October 9, 1995 the Extreme Fringe scored a hit on an Amtrak Passenger Train in Arizona, leaving antigovernment messages, some signed “Sons of the Gestapo.”  There was another near miss in November 1995 when members of the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia were arrested while in the process of planning bombings and attacks on abortion providers and gay bars.

The antigovernment message almost hit close to home when in December 1995 a drum filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil failed to detonate at a Reno, NV IRS office.  The tax-protester was arrested, tried, and convicted.  It would seem that the designation “tax-protester” might be a bit mild for someone who had demolition on his agenda.

January 1996 literally started out with a bang, when the Militia under Commander Pedro, Peter Kevin Langan, tried to shoot it out with the FBI in Ohio.   The year continued with a terrorist in Hood River, Oregon stockpiling 460 pounds of Tovex explosive, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent, and a collection of homemade hand grenades.   April 12, 1996 Larry Shoemake takes his Neo-Nazi extreme fringe behavior into the open and goes on a shooting spree in Jackson MS.  He killed one African American man and wounded seven others during his racist shooting rampage.  A few days later members of the Militia At Large of the Republic of Georgia are arrested for distributing shrapnel packed pipe bombs to their membership for their ongoing “war” with the government.  In July 1996 the Viper Team in Arizona is arrested after they were found videotaping federal facilities as potential targets for their antigovernment attacks.  But, there was no “near miss” on July 27, 1996 when Eric Rudolph detonated his bomb in Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA during the Summer Olympics.

Near misses were prevented from becoming real hits when members of the Washington State Militia, the Phineas Priests, and the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia were arrested in 1996 before they could carry out their plans.

Eric Rudolph was back in action in 1997 when he bombed an abortion providing health care center in Sandy Springs, GA, an Atlanta gay bar, and an abortion provider in Birmingham, AL.  The year also included a thwarted attempt by the Black Dawn group to stockpile 35,000 rounds of ‘heavy’ ammunition and artillery shells, and another attempt to bomb an IRS office in Kalamazoo, MI.  Perhaps the most hazardous near miss came on April 27, 1997 when a Militia planned to cover an armed robbery by blowing up a natural gas refinery in Fort Worth, TX — a facility close to a local elementary school.

This wasn’t the end of antigovernment action in 1997, which included an explosion in Yuba City, CA, a fire in the Colorado Springs, CO IRS office, and a planned attack on Fort Hood wherein the Fringe group thought foreign troops were being trained.

Eric Rudolph wasn’t finished, in 1998 he set off a nail packed remote controlled bomb at a Birmingham abortion provider’s building, and during the same year the Ku Klux Klan planned to assassinate a federal judge in East St. Louis, IL.  More attacks were planned in Michigan by the members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan, thankfully foiled.  The Republic of Texas should perhaps get the prize for the most bizarre attack plan to assault President Clinton and other federal officials, “Officials say the men planned to use a cactus thorn coated with a toxin like anthrax and fired by a modified butane lighter to carry out the murders.” [SPLC] There were eight more incidents, of varying efficacy and harm from 1998 to 2000.

So, what should we have learned in that half decade?

If nothing more, we should have learned the definition of Domestic Terrorism as set forth in 18 U.S. Code 2331:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

And, yes, the acts and intended acts during that decade would certainly seem to fit the definition of Domestic Terrorism as established in the law.   Bombings, assassinations, and fires, would qualify as dangerous activities designed to intimidate and coerce, and even kill.   We should also have learned that antigovernment fringe extremists are quite likely to attack federal offices, to assassinate people associated with activities with which they disagree, and to otherwise seek to intimidate and coerce when they fail to convince.

We don’t have much trouble labeling such individuals as Eric Rudolph, the Phineas Priests, the New Dawn, the North American Militia, and other groups as domestic terrorists — but there is an inclination to be entirely too parsimonious with the term when an individual or group is characterized as a “protestor,” or an “activist,” when what they really advocate is armed opposition to legitimate authority.

Fast Forward

There are more incidents during the past 19 years which illustrate the extent to which extreme right wing fringe elements are willing to go in promoting their delusional beliefs.  No one should argue that ultra- beliefs have no Constitutional standing. However, remembering the definition of domestic terrorism in 18 U.S. Code 2331 should provide us with a guide line for what could be considered domestic terrorism —

Is it an activity involving, “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State?” Does the activity have the intent to (1) intimidate? Or (2) influence policy, or (3)  affect conduct by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping?

On July 27, 2008 J.D Adkisson opened fire at the Knoxville, TN two were killed, seven were injured.  Mr. Adkisson drafted a four page letter in which he described how he hated liberals and gays, and blacks, “and anyone who was different than him.” [HuffPo] On June 10, 2009  Neo-Nazi James von Brunn shot a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.  Adkisson surely intended to do as much ‘destruction’ as possible in the Unitarian Church in Knoxville, and von Brunn had an extensive history of right wing activities seeking to intimidate and coerce in the name of White Nationalism.  And to these two examples of domestic terrorists we should add Frazier Glenn Cross to the roster.

Granted that this post has listed individuals who have stepped over the edge of reason and committed, or sought to commit, heinous acts which deserve all the opprobrium they receive.  However, these individuals aren’t necessarily steaming in their own personal stew. They are justified each time someone “protests” in the name of “freedom.” They find rationalization each time someone is an “activist” for antigovernment causes.  They are easily swayed by the antigovernment rhetoric of right wing news and opinion outlets, and they are taking their cues from those who would fan their fires.

They are the Neo-Nazis, the Neo-Confederates, the Southern ‘Heritage’ types, the disaffiliated gun enthusiasts, the antigovernment crusaders, the social and cultural warriors… and they can be armed and dangerous. [Salon] [Alternet] [Salon]

Enter Cliven Bundy, disgruntled freeloader on federal (public) land, and those who would feed his fire:

“The involvement of armed militiamen—and Bundy’s promise to “do whatever it takes” to reclaim his cattle—doesn’t appear to phase conservative activists who have turned Bundy into a cause célèbre. Before this weekend’s confrontation, National Review Online, Fox & Friends, and American Thinker all blamed the government for mounting tensions. Two groups affiliated with Americans for Prosperity, a political organization funded primarily by the Koch brothers, spent the weekend tweeting their support for Bundy, Media Matters reported. Sean Hannity, who on Friday hailed Bundy as a capitalist hero—”When your cattle graze there, that keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer”—invited Bundy back on the air Monday for a second, easygoing interview in which he made only glancing reference to the armed confrontation.” [MJ]

“Blame the government” + “glancing reference to the armed confrontation” = a problem.   April 2009 Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Naplitano drew verbal fire from conservatives for daring to suggest that right wing extremists constituted a terrorist threat in the United States.  Her department’s report, which rightly noted that some of the ‘militia types’ and ‘radical right wing’ groups were potentially dangerous (witness the list above), was vilified in the conservative press as an attack on Conservatism, Conservatives, veterans…. but it was as prescient as it was accurate.  Look at Picture Number 3 from NBC, captioned: “Protesters gather at the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp near Bunkerville, Nevada on April 12. Hundreds of states’ rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals’ return to rancher Cliven Bundy. Some protesters were armed with handguns and rifles at the corrals and at an earlier nearby rally.”

When is a “protester” a “domestic terrorist?”  Do people armed with rifles and handguns facing off against government officials and agents create a situation “dangerous to human life, in violation of  criminal laws?” What usually happens when someone brandishes a firearm before an officer of the law?

Did members of that crowd “of hundreds” seek to intimidate, coerce?  Of course they did — that’s why they were there, to coerce the federal officials from implementing federal land use policy.

The problem with hyper-sensitive thin skinned (albeit mostly white skinned) conservative ‘protesters’ is that when criticized for radical behavior, behavior which stimulates the warrior fantasies of delusional individuals, they whine loudly that they are being “attacked.” They are defending Freedom (read their own self interest), and the American Way of Life (read white and disgruntled).   Here’s a hint: If you are aiming a firearm at a BLM encampment, you are not ‘defending America.’  If you are standing in your phony camo-costume armed and disrupting law enforcement officials, you are not ‘protesting.’ You are — a domestic terrorist.

Recommended reading: SPLC, “Terror from the Right,” Ken Sofer, “17 years after Oklahoma City,” Think Progress. Matthew Harwood, “Law Enforcement/Right Wing Terrorists,” Salon. “Terrorist Attacks and Related Incidents,” Johnston Archive.  Molly Redden, “Everyone on the Far Right Loves...” Mother Jones. Reuters, “Bundy Ranch Standoff Emboldens Militia Groups.”  Brian Jencunas, “Why There’s Nothing Conservative About Cliven Bundy,” HuffPo.  “Almost 100 Hate Crimes Linked to One Website,” HuffPo.  NBC News, “Standoff at Bunkerville.”  Sarah Posner “Neo-Confederates and the Revival of Theological War“, USC Annenberg.

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Filed under conservatism, Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Politics