Monday, July 1, 2019

Last Call For Border Line Psychos

America's law enforcement, military, and other first responders are filled with the kind of people who should never be allowed a trickle of authority, let alone the kind of power that police have in this country.  The Border Patrol is no different, with nearly half of the rank and file belonging to a Facebook group that regularly joked that migrants were vermin in need of extermination, and that Latina lawmakers were whores.

Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings.

In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “Oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “If he dies, he dies.”

Created in August 2016, the Facebook group is called “I’m 10-15” and boasts roughly 9,500 members from across the country. (10-15 is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.”) The group described itself, in an online introduction, as a forum for “funny” and “serious” discussion about work with the patrol. “Remember you are never alone in this family,” the introduction said.

Responsible for policing the nation’s southern and northern boundaries, the Border Patrol has come under intense scrutiny as the Trump administration takes new, more aggressive measures to halt the influx of undocumented migrants across the United States-Mexico border. The patrol’s approximately 20,000 agents serve under the broader U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which has been faulted for allegedly mistreating children and adults in its custody. The agency’s leadership has been in turmoil, with its most recent acting chief, John Sanders, resigning last week.

ProPublica received images of several recent discussions in the 10-15 Facebook group and was able to link the participants in those online conversations to apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas. ProPublica has so far been unable to reach the group members who made the postings.

ProPublica contacted three spokespeople for CBP in regard to the Facebook group and provided the names of three agents who appear to have participated in the online chats. CBP hasn’t yet responded.

“These comments and memes are extremely troubling,” said Daniel Martinez, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who studies the border. “They’re clearly xenophobic and sexist.”

The postings, in his view, reflect what “seems to be a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn’t just a few rogue agents or ‘bad apples.’”

The bad apples defense doesn't work when it's nearly a majority of your people, guys.

Look, I understand that border enforcement is a dangerous job.  But joking about violence towards people as if they're less than human isn't acceptable in people we should be holding to a higher standard.

Then again, we could say the same thing about President, so.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

It's July 1, meaning a host of state laws across the country take effect today (or would if they weren't current blocked by courts, hi Alabama's awful abortion ban!) and California's 2016 background check laws now apply to the sales of ammunition as well as firearms.

The bustle inside LAX Ammunition on the Friday before Father’s Day betrayed the gloom of the outside sky.

Employees inside the Los Angeles-area gun shop had their hands full chatting with customers who were looking to replenish their ammo supply before July 1, with some customers spending hundreds of dollars in the process.

Why the hurry? That’s the day a new state law will require almost all buyers to go through background checks before being able to buy bullets, potentially increasing the amount of time and money it takes to make purchases.

“We're probably up by 400% from where we were last year for this past month, and this month, in total sales,” says Daniel Kash, the store’s president.

As it is, California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation — the state bans most assault weapons and restricts the sale and possession of large capacity magazines. There’s also a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm, among other restrictions.

The passage of Proposition 63, a gun control measure approved, coincidentally, by 63 percent of California voters in 2016, will strengthen those laws by taking aim at the sale of ammo.
“Everybody that has a gun ... knows about the law that's upcoming,” Kash says. “That's why you see the store being as busy as it is this week for the Father's Day Sale. People are stocking up right now, basically.”

The new law — championed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, a longtime advocate of gun control — is meant to protect the public by keeping ammunition from getting into dangerous hands, the state says.

Here’s how:
  • Customers will have to receive a background check every time they make an ammunition purchase, paying $1 each time.
  • Those who don’t already have their information in the Department of Justice’s system for these point-of-sale screenings will have to pay up to $20 for an initial screening.
  • Vendors will have to make sure customers aren’t on a DOJ list that names people who are prohibited from buying guns for various reasons — for example, committing a felony — before selling to them.

All ammo sales will have to take place in person — even online orders will have to be shipped to a licensed vendor’s store before customers can pick them up.

Gun owners and enthusiasts aren’t happy, arguing that the new law will cost extra time and money.

“The biggest question on people's minds is what the process is going to be like, and how burdened someone's going to be, whether it's going to take it a tremendous amount of additional time, or whether it's going to cost them more money,” says Alexander Reyes, a manager at Martin B. Retting, a gun shop in Culver City near Los Angeles.

I don't understand, conservatives sure like to make things cost extra time and money when it inconveniences women trying to have reproductive health care or black or brown people, students, the elderly, and the disabled trying to vote.

Here's the thing though, we make people go through hoops to get a drivers' license or buy a car, and firearms are designed to, you know, cause grievous bodily harm to someone on purpose.  We might actually want to regulate that.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Pentagon and Joint Chiefs are politely pushing back on Donald Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the fact that Trump himself is the largest security risk to the nation right now, and our generals and admirals know it.

The U.S. is ill-equipped to counter the increasingly brazen political warfare Russia is waging to undermine democracies, the Pentagon and independent strategists warn in a detailed assessment that happens to echo much bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump's approach to Moscow.

The more than 150-page white paper, prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and shared with POLITICO, says the U.S. is still underestimating the scope of Russia's aggression, which includes the use of propaganda and disinformation to sway public opinion across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. The study also points to the dangers of a growing alignment between Russia and China, which share a fear of the United States' international alliances and an affinity for "authoritarian stability."

Its authors contend that disarray at home is hampering U.S. efforts to respond — saying America lacks the kind of compelling “story” it used to win the Cold War.

The study doesn't offer any criticisms of Trump, but it comes amid continued chaffing by security hawks in both parties who have objected to the president's repeated slights at U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia, public affection for authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, and his habit of scoffing at the evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. A grinning Trump added to that pattern Friday in Osaka, Japan, where he got a chuckle out of Putin by admonishing him, "Don't meddle in the election, president."

In interviews with POLITICO, other Russia watchers supported the report's warnings that the U.S. needs to up its game.

"Russia is attacking Western institutions in ways more shrewd and strategically discreet than many realize,” said Natalia Arno, president of the Free Russia Foundation, an anti-Putin Washington think tank that recently completed its own study of Russian efforts to undermine the West. “The attacks may seem more subtle and craftier, but they are every bit as destructive as governments are influenced, laws are changed, legal decisions are undermined, law enforcement is thwarted and military intervention is disguised."

The unclassified “Strategic Multilayer Assessment” marks a clear warning from the military establishment to civilian leaders about a national security threat that strategists fear, if left unchecked, could ultimately lead to armed conflict.

"In this environment, economic competition, influence campaigns, paramilitary actions, cyber intrusions, and political warfare will likely become more prevalent," writes Navy Rear Adm. Jeffrey Czerewko, the Joint Chiefs' deputy director for global operations, in the preface to the report. "Such confrontations increase the risk of misperception and miscalculation, between powers with significant military strength, which may then increase the risk of armed conflict."

For the Pentagon to even begin to mention this publicly is a five-alarm fire klaxon. This nation will not survive much longer with Donald Trump at the helm, and even if it does, it will be so weak that military conflict will become inevitable.

Trump is a massive security risk, folks.  Even the Pentagon believes so.


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