A turn to darkness.

US federal agents (FPS, ICE, DEA, TSA and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)) in camouflage uniforms without identification and carrying military weapons, serving under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security by authority of an Executive Order issued by the president, are detaining and removing unarmed and non-violent protestors from Portland streets in unmarked vans. This includes detaining and removing people well away from federal property and protest locations, which is ostensibly the reason for their deputisation and deployment. DHS says it will not only continue to use these agents in Portland but expand their use in other (Democratic governed) cities and states.

The legal justification for this unprecedented move is that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) is responsible for protecting federal property such as court houses, post offices, local branches of federal agencies (say, US Park Service) and even monuments. It can request support from other federal security agencies when needed. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has nation-wide jurisdiction. CBP has jurisdiction within 100 miles of any border, and Portland is located approximately 80 miles from the Pacific coast. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also has nation-wide jurisdiction. The Transportation Security Administration has nation-wide jurisdiction at transportation hubs. CBP and ICE are notorious for harbouring zealous MAGA partisans in their ranks, and the federal forces deployed to Portland are not indigenous to Oregon, so are, in their minds, operating in an “alien” hostile environment. Under the Executive Order, ICE, DEA, TSA and CBP are operating in support of the FPS in Portland. The DHS is the parent department for all of these agencies, and maintains that although the armed officers and the vehicles they are using in their operations lack overt forms of identification, they have discrete identifiers that satisfy legal requirements.

Although the Oregon governor and Portland mayor object to the deployment of federal agents in this capacity, they have no power under federal or state to stop it. What this amounts to is a federal takeover of local law enforcement duties without the agreement of the duly constituted authorities of the jurisdiction in which federal forces are deployed, and without the majority consent of the people who live in that jurisdiction.

For those of us who remember the Argentine “dirty war” and the role of unidentified men in unmarked Ford Falcons in the “disappearance” (desaparicion) of thousands of people, this is a chilling and sinister development. It is particularly so because unlike Argentina there are no armed guerrilla groups seriously challenging government authority in Portland or elsewhere, especially from the Left. For all the rightwing talk of Antifa being a threat, they are neither heavily armed or organised as effective guerrilla fighting units. Instead, what irregular militias exist in the US today are predominately rightwing supporters of the president and his political project who reject government authority because it is ostensibly part of the “Deep State” and who have histories of violence in support of their beliefs.

Here there is another parallel with the Argentine “dirty war.” In the years leading up and then during the early days of the dictatorship that came to be known as the “Process” (Proceso), rightwing death squads roamed the country with impunity, targeting “subversives” and other “undesirables” with murderous vigilante justice. The death squads were both a complement to and a justification for the official repression meted out by the unidentified men in Ford Falcons, whose uniforms were grey suits and black ties. After all, with murderous bands of unidentified armed men stalking the streets, the State needed to step in to restore order.

In Portland and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest there is a very active alt-Right/white supremacist community that is armed and has a history of street level violence. They are particularly active in Portland, and are widely believed to have sympathisers within the Portland police, who in turn have shown a disturbing propensity to resort to violent crowd control methods even when confronted wth peaceful protests. Now, the Portland police and these rightwing militias have a third arm in the guise of the unidentifiable federal security forces being deployed in that city. The federal forces and Portland police may have different legal status than the rightwing extremists, but their objectives vis a vis BLM and other peaceful protests are the same: brute intimidation and suppression by force.

Put in broader terms, the rule of law is disappearing in parts of the US because, although they cloak themselves in a legal mantle, those who enforce the law no longer believe in it and prefer to ally with violent non-state groups who share a similar ideological agenda. That mindset is now evident at the federal level.

A tipping point is rapidly approaching.

61 thoughts on “A turn to darkness.

  1. Any thoughts on what the Spraytan Stalin is trying to achieve with this? Excite the base? Testing to see where the limits might be? Is he really so stupid that he thinks getting federal agencies under his control to act like violent banana republic thugs improves his law and order image? All of the above?

    If the tipping point gets passed and Don of the Deadbrains is still in charge after noon on Jan 20th next year, what is the path back to something vaguely resembling liberal democracy? Mass civil unrest until the internal pressure becomes unsustainable?

    I’ve sorta kinda got the impression that’s what led to some improvements in Chile and Argentina, but my impression is those places have yet to achieve anything close to healthy democracy.

  2. Who is pulling Donald Trump’s strings? As he does not read and has no background in any academic discipline such as the law, who is telling him about all this wide ranging legislation at his disposal as el Presidente? He has no trouble executing executive orders at the drop of a hat. Who is feeding him this ammo? Is it that guy he dumped and criticised for not being well groomed? Can’t remember his name.

  3. Steve Bannon was who I was thinking of. Mike Pence certainly wouldn’t be informing Trump. His robotic discourse makes one wonder if there is an actual human occupying his body.Could it be Sean Hannity, is he smart enough or just another Trump sycophant? So many questions!!!!

  4. @Barbara Matthews: I suspect it’s less a matter of pulling strings and more a matter of enablers with a convergence of interests.

    The most dangerous enabler I’d be looking at is Bill Barr. He’s long had a view of the presidency being an imperial position, rather than merely the co-equal of the legislative branch and the judicial branch of government. As Attorney-General, he is in charge of the Department of Justice which includes some of the federal agencies that are involved in the recent ramping up of egregious violations of democratic norms. And he’s get the skills and knowledge and connections to pull off the moves that are the most threatening to ongoing democracy.

    Stephen Miller has kept to the shadows lately, but it’s fairly likely he’s trying to stoke the anti-immigrant and racial tensions – and that’s only a matter of encouraging the tiny-fisted fascist to express his long-term nature, so it’s not really pulling strings.

  5. I agree with Andre. Barr and Miller are the evil tag team working in tandem to advance their shared and individual policy visions. However, I believe that Miller has equal weight to Barr in terms of influence over Drumpf. Not only is he in the West Wing and talks with Drumpf on a daily basis, but his neo-Nazi views dovetail neatly with Drumpf’s populist authoritarianism. Barr provides the legal cover to how they do things, but Miller is the horse whisperer when it comes to what to do. Barr’s views on the imperial presidency are an instrument of convenience for Miller and Drumpf.

    I do not think Bannon exercises that much influence over Drumpf any more. Not only does he live in Italy and is more interested in shaping its politics (and those of other European countries). I believe that Bannon realises that Drumpf is destroying the GOP and a) does not want to be seen as having a part in that (even though he is on record as saying he would like to see the Bush/Romney types eliminated from the party); and b) he wants to be able to be involved in picking up the pieces and putting Humpty Dumpty back together once things explode. That should come after November, so I expect him to re-surface then.

  6. The answer is in plain sight; Vladimir Putin is Trump’s eminence grise, and he’s following the playbook that succeeded for him in the Donbas and Crimea regions of Ukraine, “Little Green Men” and all.
    I don’t doubt that Barr and Miller are also involved, but Trump doesn’t fear and cower before them as he does with Putin.

  7. @Phil Sage: Your source is a press release from the DoJ. I am sceptical that this is a source of truth.

  8. Yes, Di, I did see that. Yoo should be in jail for his role in authorising water-boarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques. But because he is not, it is not surprising that a criminal like Drumpf would look to him for advice.

  9. Wow

    It’s like looking at a mirror image of what I think of the situation in Portland, which has long been ground-zero for US anarchist movements.

    – 53 consecutive nights of rioting, fires, etc in the CBD.

    – the Portland Police regularly held back from defending places (their union building was set alight the other night.

    – When they have had the chance to arrest members of Antifa and BLM they’re on the streets the next day thanks to “revised” bail initiatives and a DA who has made it quite clear that prosecutions won’t be happening.

    – personally I think Trump should have said he was removing ALL Federal agencies from Portland and sending them to other towns and cities in Oregon. I think it’s good when we spread the wealth around.

    – This sort of Federal intervention is what the Far Left always want: then they can scream about a dictatorship, as almost every commentator here is doing. If they can convince enough people then they get to be in charge. Leninist playbook 101.

    – But having said that, when Federal Buildings like the Courthouse are being attacked every night, with little sign of Portland Police even trying to stop the attacks, what’s Trump supposed to do?

    – Finally there’s this interview from a local TV station (no, not the dreaded FOX).


    I’m somewhat sympathetic to the plight of these people, until I remember that this is a Deep Blue city in a Deep Blue state. They voted for the local leadership that’s allowing this to happen. Hilariously they’re still “pro-protest”, not realising what Antifa/BLM really want.

    – “Let it burn” would be fine by me and most other Right-Wingers, as with Chicago, NYC, LA, SF and other Democrat-dominated cities. You wanted this, you got it. The Democrats like Portland’s idiot mayor and Oregon’s idiot governor still think Antifa/BLM are on their side, and they think they can use this to defeat Trump. The worse the better.

  10. Looks like some of them are wearing the same tops as your video Pablo. Peaceful?

    If we are having polite conversation for some hours then you punch me in the face but have video of previously peaceful conversation does that prove the violence did not happen?

  11. Phil:

    I realise that you are beyond reasoning with at this point, but you need to re-read the post. The majority of the violence is being done by the cops and federal para-militaries. They are working hand-in-glove with right wing extremist provocateurs dressed in what they think are Antifa colours, and who lead the assaults on federal and private property, then melt into the background while the peaceful protesters can targeted by the “official” repressors. It is a well known authoritarian tactic, now being used in the land of the free and home of the brave. MAGA! As for the legitimate protestors, check this out: https://www.facebook.com/100004435653133/videos/1636900686467771/

  12. The home of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf vandalized over night.

    Poor old Mayor Schaaf discovers the same thing that the Seattle mayor did – BLM/Antifa regard her as well as they regard Trump. And I did have to chuckle at this quote from a neighbour:

    “This crosses the line, because it’s someone’s house and property,” 15-year-old neighbor Alexandra Wright said. “It’s not exactly okay. It’s not okay on any level.”

    Alexandra’s mom, Amy, said this kind of activism doesn’t further social justice.

    Woah! Lives vs. Property young lady. Clearly her local schools have not been educating her enough about the 1619 project, America’s foundation in slavery, and her responsibility for it.

    I love how these well-off progressives with BLM signs in the windows are shocked, shocked to discover that the same mob which has been piling through Oakland vandalising businesses and public property won’t draw the line at attacking private homes.

    We’re talking socialists/anarchists who don’t respect private property. It’s not like this is a big secret at this point. Pay attention!

  13. Pablo
    That would be really quite funny if the consequences were not so destructive. One of us is drinking the Kool Aid. Zippy Lomax profile at your link shows her as a “Cultural Activist” supporter of BLM. And yet the text addition in the link YOU posted above is
    “Wall of Moms & Dads march again — Portland, OR ⭐️
    edit: I’ve had a lot of folks sending DMs asking how they might donate to help me acquire protective gear (full-face respirator, bulletproof vest, proper helmet, etc.) ”

    Therein lie the logical fallacy to your argument. If BLM were genuinely peaceful protestors rather than violent anarchists they would cooperate with police to identify and arrest your violent “extremist provocateur” infiltrators rather than solicit donations for bulletproof vests and helmets.
    Middle class white marching in favour of taking security and law enforcement away from poor neighbourhoods while violent crime explodes just makes me sick.

    If you cared to read the stats properly you would know that far more cops are killed each year trying to protect their communities than unarmed blacks. About 7 to 1.
    The problem arises from Dem supported police unions who will not allow cops to be disciplined.

    Your first paragraph is full of falsehoods. The federal officers are identified with numbers rather than names so they are not doxed and their families harassed. Previously identified offenders are arrested away from the frontline because there is less chance of the mob attacking.

    Trump is going to be reelected. Obamagate is here and justice will eventually prevail. The Left’s inability to accept a democratic result is a disgrace.

  14. Phil:

    Have they legalised ‘shrooms in the UK? Cause you be trippin.’ The only way Drumpf is going to win in November is by stealing the election. He is already working hard to suppress the vote by trying to eliminate mail-in ballots (which is the way absentee ballots are tabulated), and is even trying to defund the Post Service so that it will go bankrupt and cease operations before Nov 3 (the appropriations bill has to be approved by late August/early Sept). Without a postal service the mail does not get through–capiche? The GOP is also recruiting so-called poll monitors for deployment into traditional Democratic districts so that they can challenge voter’s rights to vote. Among other things, these so-called poll monitors have been advised to be armed if possible, in what clearly is an attempt at intimidation. Plus there are assorted GOP legal challenges and mischief such as GOP election commissioners reducing the number of polling places in traditionally Democratic districts (this happened in both Georgia and Tennessee in recent months). So the stage is set to lower turnouts (which favour Democrats) as much as possible.

    He is also clearly gearing up to declare some sort of national emergency that will allow him to suspend and postpone the vote. He will use the pandemic and the spectre of Antifa/BLM-led urban disorder as his justification. And if all that fails he will refuse to recognise the results when he loses and will call his MAGA moron militias into the street to defend his “rightful” victory against it being stolen by the evil Dems.

    We should bet a bottle of wine of his winning in a fair and transparent election. I say that he does not.

  15. Phil Sage’s idea of a “democratic result” also happens to be that of Putin, Assad, Mugabe & Maduro. If/when Trump loses in November, how “democratic” would it be if he relitigates the outcome by refusing to leave the White House, and his loyalists pull something literally explosive a la Moscow 1991/1993 or even Fort Sumter 1861?

  16. KR:

    When people argue in favour of unidentifiable federal para-military forces being deployed to repress peaceful protesters in US cities against the wishes and consent of the local authorities and the population in general, they clearly have lost sight of some of the fundamental principles underpinning democratic rule. Nothing the protesters have done–to include those throwing stones, bottles and even Molotovs at public buildings, only a minority of which are Leftist in ideological orientation–is an existential threat to the community and in fact, seeing that it is not generalised throughout the cities, is not even a serious threat to law and order. In Portland, the PPD is quite capable of handling the unruly elements, and if need be, the Oregon National Guard could be called up to reinforce them.

    More generally, to not be able to see that Drumpf is the worst president in US history, a traitor, a fraud, an incompetent and a racist bigot intent on dividing the country in pursuit of his own personal gain is to be wilfully blind to the obvious. When I see formerly decent conservatives go down this path I can only assume that something bad has happened to them.

  17. I believe Trump is setting the stage for a postponement (at the very least) of the elections this year. His swerve now to wearing masks and at last promoting them is the beginning of this and, in my view, he will work towards that more and more, always using the pandemic as his reason for doing so.

  18. @Di: Interesting prediction, care to place a friendly wager? I am willing to bet money that Trump will not postpone or cancel elections.

  19. I’m not a betting person, Gorkem. Let’s just see what happens. I’ll be extremely happy to be wrong.

  20. Andrew Sullivan on the Mayor of PortlandLiberals riding this tiger are beginning to realize it’s getting hungrier. Which is based on:

    Portland mayor Ted Wheeler is escorted to safety by his security team. Angry protesters follow and try to assault him despite his support on the front lines of the riot. They try to go inside the building but is pushed back by Wheeler’s security.

    No wonder Antifa beat up reporter Ngo last year.

  21. Interesting U.S. interviewee on Q&A today re Trump’s election chances and behaviour. I liked his analysis of Biden as a deeply flawed individual just like the rest of us. Positing that Trump could resign rather than face humiliation at the Ballot box would be a great outcome but I guess Trump’s gargantuan ego and lack of any self knowledge or reflection makes this doubtful.

  22. Tom:

    I would be interested to know the identities of those who attacked Wheeler. Antifa or Boogaloo infiltrators? Having said that, it is well-known that many of the left-leaning protestors are unhappy with Wheeler because he initially gave carte blanche to the PPD to deal to the protests as it saw fit, which given its history of racism and brutality led to the violent suppression of peaceful protests from the get-go, which in turn led to a commiserate response from some of the protestors. Nor did he oppose the deployment of federal paramilitaries until they were on the scene, where their indiscriminate use of force escalated confrontations. So for many his visit to the protest front lines was either a case of too little, too late or rank hypocrisy.

    Again, it is difficult to understand why some right-wingers believe that it is acceptable to use para-military forces to quell largely peaceful protests, especially without the consent or authorisation of local authorities. Had Obama done such a thing, the Right would be candescent with rage.

    Here is one of those Antifa people that you think deserve what is coming to them. I chose this especially because I know that you will enjoy the source: https://www.facebook.com/feministnews.us/posts/1262337714113444

  23. Barbara:

    I did not see the IV but anyone saying that Biden is deeply flawed when Drumpf is in the picture is akin to saying that Kanye West is a troubled genius when compared to Van Gogh.

  24. I think what he was saying was that anyone would be better than Trump. He outlined Biden’s flaws clearly, not well read, not very bright, subject to saying stupid stuff but that even a cardboard cutout would be better than Trump.

  25. In calling Biden flawed he was praising Biden’s humanity and many good qualities, not denigrating him. As the Dems aren’t offering anyone else at the moment his analysis was useful.

  26. Barbara:

    Who was it? I have to say that when it comes to both domestic as well as international/comparative politics “analysis” in the NZ corporate media, I find it to be woeful. OTOH, although I initially thought that he was just another pretty face, having done a few IVs with him I believe that Jack Tame has the makings of an insightful interviewer who should be allowed to pursue things in depth.

  27. I didn’t catch his name, I didn’t see the beginning of the interview. Somebody else probably can tell you. Jack Tame treated him with the greatest respect and deference so i guess he was someone of note. He was quite an old guy, guess what the Americans would describe as “grizzled,” very articulate and measured.

  28. For anyone interested in the Q & A interview, it is available through On Demand – the interviewee was James Carville from The War room documentary fame and is well worth watching.

  29. In saying that though (above) I am not convinced what he says will be what happens. I hope he’s right.

  30. Absolutely Pablo, based purely on the election result. A decent bottle of NZ Pinot Noir for me.
    If your definition of unfair includes efforts to force states to clean their voting rolls of dead and non existent people then we might struggle to agree terms.

  31. Pablo “He is also clearly gearing up to declare some sort of national emergency that will allow him to suspend and postpone the vote”

    That is an utterly disingenuous canard that I am surprised to see you promote. You know US law and the constitution well enough to know it is BS.

    Happy to take side bets on no election delay and no attempt to stay in office.

  32. Ok, Phil.

    Let’s keep the bet on the outcome, and if he tries to delay/suspend/postpone and/or does not recognise the results of he loses, then I get another bottle. Make that Argentine Petit Syrah for me.

  33. Also, there are now reports that “contractors” from Eric Prince’s (brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss) private military company have been deputised to quell protests by the DHS. Think of that: private mercenaries used against US citizens and residents on behalf of the Trump administration. Constitution my ass.

    That tells us at least two things: malevolent authoritarian corruption runs deep in the Drumpf crowd; and there are not enough legitimate sworn public security officers to do the job.

  34. I still don’t get who is behind Trump, orchestrating mayhem. It can’t just be a couple of people. Trump is incapable of holding two ideas at the same time or of maintaining interest in anything before the next brainwave hits or Fox News rarks him up and his brain explodes. I know that there are whole movements at work ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘White people are (allegedly) being wiped out.’ Who is orchestrating all this? It can’t be Trump, who like Prince Charles, isn’t capable of putting his own pants on or wiping his own proverbial, or the do-nothing Congress.

  35. Just adding to that (in between getting dinner ready) Robert Mercer, a wealthy hedge fund owner and also part owner of Cambridge Analytica, has been one of the major people behind Trump, but I’ve also read there are wealthy Southern oil dynasties who have provided funding for his election campaign. That may or may not be correct. I am sure Pablo can set us on the right path.

  36. I am also eagerly awaiting Pablo to explain to us who is Trump’s puppet master.

  37. Gorkem: To name a probable few…

    Robert Mercer
    Rupert Murdoch
    Sheldon Adelson
    Charles Koch
    Vladimir Putin
    Robert Herring (founder of OANN, a FOX News on meth)
    Peter Thiel

  38. Thanks Kumara but I think I need to wait for Pablo to weigh in… best to get the most informed POV. No offense to you but when it comes to analysis of hidden power structures in US politics I think Pablo has the view that is most valuable.

  39. A bit too much fawning to my liking since I am not some major prognosticator. I will go with what KR has to say except for two things: 1) we have to add Stephen Miller, Fox News and other conservative radio types, and the Trump family entourage to the mix because no matter how imbecilic they are they carry weight with the orange merkin; 2) he is losing many of his big corporate backers in the finance, fossil fuel and brick and mortar industries. He has served his purpose when it comes to taxes and de-regulation but his erratic behaviour and utter, pathological incompetence when handling the pandemic and its economic repercussions, chaotic foreign policy and acceleration of race conflict have forced them to abandon ship. Although I am not a big fan of Joe Biden, he represents a safer pair of hands for the corporate elite, and if he brings in Kamala Harris as VP rather than a progressive (I do not think that he will select Amy Klobuschar) with the intention of doing one term and handing the reigns over to her (as is widely rumoured), then the choice will be easy. At the end only his family (or some of them) and psychos like Zeb Gorka will be left clinging to that sinking ship.

  40. Is Amy Klobuchar a progressive? I thought she was on the more conservative side of the Democratic leadership contest (although it’s relative, obviously).

  41. Also I think Klobuchar took herself out of contention for Vice President

  42. Unfortunately, the selection process has now become a bit of a circus show, with VP candidates having to tick off a zillion boxes (other than being female) in order to satisfy/appease the myriad identity communities demanding to have a say in the selection. To put it in a crass and very un-PC way, before long the association of Latina female midget wrestlers will demand representation in the process (and yes, in Mexico and many parts of the US with a large Mexican-origin population, midget wrestling is a thing). The point is that this is exactly what Steve Bannon talked about in 2016, and what GOP strategists are salivating about this year. And of course any and all of the candidates will be branded as commie socialist atheistic pedos seeking to impose their unholy agenda on the God fearin’ masses whose only protection is Drumpf.

  43. @Pablo: Do you think Biden was wrong to say his VP candidate would be a woman and preferably black? Do you think things would be better for the campaign if he was more open to choosing a white/male VP candidate?

  44. Pingback: Black and White Views of America | No Minister

  45. I think Biden should have said “all options are on the table” and left it at that.

  46. Interesting, why would you say that? Given that winning female voters and non-white voters is pretty much essential to defeating Trump, is it worth the risk of alienating them and potentially driving some of them into non-voting status?

  47. A statement that all options are being considered can lead to the selection of a female POC without seeming rigged from the get-go (even if it was). It also makes the choice appear more competitive than token. That way Biden could have run the gauntlet of identity lobbyists and claimed that he went with merit, not lobby money or influence.

    As for the general electorate. What Biden needs to do is pry away working class, middle aged male voters from the MAGA base. Everything else will then fall in place because if phrased correctly (NOT as a culture war meme!),then the appeal to them will resonate with everyone else.

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