Oregon is nuts and nobody cares!

Well, liberals on twitter care, but it is seemingly not worth the front website coverage of NYT, WP, or CNN.  Charles Pierce:

In these times, everything looks like an ill omen. The capitol is crowded with crows. But it is not an exaggeration to say that if you’re not following the ongoing insanity in Oregon, you are missing a look into a very dark future. It begins with a not-at-all-unusual squabble between the Republicans in the Oregon legislature and the Democratic Governor, Kate Brown. At issue is a huge bill aimed at dealing with the climate crisis. On Thursday, every Republican member of the Oregon state senate took a powder, denying Brown and the Democrats a quorum and effectively killing the bill.

Now this is not an unusual tactic. Not long ago, Democratic lawmakers in Texas and in Wisconsin blew town for the same purpose—to throw sand in the gears of a legislative act of which they did not approve and could not stop by conventional means. In Wisconsin, it was to slow down an anti-union measure. In Texas, it was about a redistricting map that gerrymandered the Texas legislature into a farce. The legislative lamsters all had a good time, taking goofy videos in what appeared to be Holiday Inn lobbies while Republicans back home fumed. (The Texans, it should be noted, won a temporary victory.) What makes Oregon different is what the fugitive Republican senators did.

The Republican senators—with the full support of the Oregon Republican Party—made common cause with armed domestic terror groups. (Calling them a militia is a misnomer, regardless of what they may think of themselves.) When a Republican state senator named Brian Boquist heard that Brown was sending the Oregon state police after them, he told a local television station:

Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.

Almost immediately, the local domestic terror groups sprang to Boquist’s defense…

People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on, and one session of a state legislature was cancelled because of it. Roll that around in your head for a while and see where you end up. Something is building in our politics and now I wish I hadn’t watched that series about Chernobyl. We may be exceeding the tolerances of all our systems. [emphasis mine]

 

Petty tyrants

Man this first-person account from journalist Seth Harp upon his return to the U.S. from Mexico is beyond infuriating.   What is so clear is that many of the border partrol officer (goons) enjoying abusing their authority, simply because they can.  Somebody annoys them with a glib answer and they decided to use absurd, quasi-Constitutional powers (the Supreme Court really needs to step in here) to take it out on people.  An excerpt:

My work as a journalist has taken me to many foreign countries, including frequent trips to Mexico. On May 13, I was returning to the U.S. from Mexico City when, passing through immigration at the Austin airport, I was pulled out of line for “secondary screening,” a quasi-custodial law enforcement process that takes place in the Homeland Security zone of the airport.

Austin is where I was born and raised, and I usually get waved through immigration after one or two questions. I’m also a white man; more on that later. This time, when my turn came to show my passport, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was more aggressive than usual in his questioning. I told him I’d been in Mexico for seven days for work, that I was a journalist, and that I travel to Mexico often, as he could see from my passport. That wasn’t enough for him, though. He wanted to know the substance of the story I was currently working on, which didn’t sit right with me. I tried to skirt the question, but he came back to it, pointedly…

In retrospect, I was naive about the kind of agency CBP has become in the Trump era. Though I’ve reported several magazine stories in Mexico, none have been about immigration. Of course, I knew these were the guys putting kids in cages, separating refugee children from their parents, and that Trump’s whole shtick is vilifying immigrants, leading to many sad and ugly scenes at the border, including the farcical deployment of U.S. troops. But I complacently assumed that wouldn’t affect me directly, least of all in Austin. Later, I did remember reading a report in February about CBP targeting journalists, activists, and lawyers for scrutiny at ports of entry south of California, but I had never had a problem before, not in a lifetime of crossing the Texas-Mexico border scores of times on foot, by car, by plane, in a canoe, even swimming. This was the first time CBP had ever pulled me aside.

When asked to comment on specific details in this story, a CBP spokesperson responded with a canned statement replete with the sort of pseudo-military terminology that betrays the agency’s sense of itself not as a civil customs service but as some kind of counterterrorism strike force. “CBP has adapted and adjusted our actions to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence,” the statement reads in part. “As the threat landscape changes, so does CBP.” The agency declined to put me in touch with Moncivias and the other officers named in this account or to make an official available for an interview, but a CBP source mentioned that the “port director” had reviewed “the tape” of the encounter. I found that very interesting, because I had specifically asked Moncivias and the other officers if I was being videotaped or recorded, and they had categorically denied it…

That was just the beginning. The real abuse of power was a warrantless search of my phone and laptop. This is the part that affects everyone, not just reporters and people who keep journals.

IN GENERAL, LAW enforcement agents have to get a warrant to search your electronic devices. That’s the gist of the 2014 Supreme Court case Riley v. California. But the Riley ruling only applies when the police arrest you. The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether the same protections apply to American citizens reentering the United States from abroad, and federal appeals courts have issued contradictory opinions. [emphases mine] In the absence of a controlling legal authority, CBP goes by its own rules, namely CBP Directive No. 3340-049A, pursuant to which CBP can search any person’s device, at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. If you refuse to give up your password, CBP’s policy is to seize the device. The agency may use “external equipment” to crack the passcode, “not merely to gain access to the device, but to review, copy, and/or analyze its contents,” according to the directive. CBP can look for any kind of evidence, any kind of information, and can share what it finds with any other federal agency, so long as doing so is “consistent with applicable law and policy.”…

CBP has been doing warrantless device searches since the advent of the modern smartphone, Cope said, but the practice has increased by some 300 percent since Trump took office…

It was around 4 p.m. when Moncivias finally finished up and informed me, anticlimactically, that I was free to go. I couldn’t wait to get outside because the detention area was freezing. No wonder Spanish-speaking migrants call CBP detention la hielera — the icebox. I took my phone and laptop and silently packed up my luggage, which still lay disemboweled on the desk, underwear and all. Pomeroy was gone by this time. As I was walking out, I said to Moncivias and Villarreal, “It’s funny, of all the countries I’ve been to, the border guards have never treated me worse than here, in the one country I’m a citizen of, in the town where I was born.”

“Welcome back to the USA,” Moncivias said.

So, here’s what I got to thinking.  There’s probably a huge selection bias of people with bad character– who really like exercising arbitrary authority just because they can– seeking out these jobs.  In a better world, the CPB bureuacracy would do every thing it can to ensure that these types do not join the Border Patrol at higher rates.  These are exactly the sort of people who should not be in these jobs in a properly-functioning democracy.  One incident like these, and all the agents who harassed Harp should be out of job.  Alas, encouraging petty tyrants is clearly just standard operating procedure for this agency.  This is so wrong and so truly un-American and so sadly completely Donald Trump’s America.

The Concentration Camps

I cannot remember which person I follow on twitter posted this, but to paraphrase the sentiment… imagine being more concerned about the terminology for a place in America where children are denied soap and toothbrushes and a decent place to sleep than being concerned about the fact that our government is denying children in America soap and toothbrushes and a decent place to sleep.   There’s many words to describe that.  Deplorable is certainly one.  Callous indifference to the point of evil works, too.

Some on-point tweets:

And a nice piece from NPR’s Scott Simon:

If you knew of a child who was being forced by a parent or guardian to sleep on a cold concrete floor, in overcrowded surroundings, with screaming lights always on overhead that made it hard to sleep, with limited access to a bathroom, no way to brush their teeth, no soap and no towel — would you do something?

Call the police or juvenile authorities to say, “A child is being mistreated. You should do something.”

This week, the U.S. government went to court to argue that it’s acceptable to keep thousands of migrant children detained in U.S. custody.

Let me repeat that: thousands of children in U.S. custody, exactly in such conditions…

Many of us would call the police if we knew children were being held in cold, cramped, filthy and uncomfortable circumstances. Thousands of children are being held in those conditions — in U.S. government facilities.

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