Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 5)

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Allow me to end this series with yet another egregious act by Arpiao. There were 400 sex-crime cases that were insufficiently investigated or not investigated at all by Arpaio’s office.

The New York Times:

Sheriff Arpaio, the top law enforcement official in sprawling Maricopa County, is perhaps best known for his hard-nosed treatment of prisoners and his aggressive raids aimed at illegal immigrants. But it is his department’s approach to more than 400 sex-crimes cases that has Sheriff Arpaio in trouble.

His deputies failed to investigate or conducted only the sketchiest of inquiries into hundreds of sex crimes between 2005 and 2007, investigations by Arizona law enforcement agencies have shown. Many of those cases involved molested children.

The cases were first raised by The East Valley Tribune in 2008 but resurfaced in the news media earlier this year and in a recent article by The Associated Press, which prompted Sheriff Arpaio to defend himself at a news conference. “If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims,” he said on Monday, vowing to hold deputies accountable.

… Many of the cases originated in El Mirage, a working-class suburb of Phoenix, where the Police Department was disbanded in 2005 and the Sheriff’s Department was called in to provide policing. But when the Police Department was reformed in 2007, officials discovered that dozens of sensitive cases, many filed by illegal immigrants, had not been adequately investigated or investigated at all.

… activists converged on the Town Hall in Guadalupe, a predominantly Latino neighborhood where sheriff’s deputies conducted a high-profile raid in 2008. Randy Parraz, who is leading an effort to oust the sheriff, urged the Town Council to adopt a resolution calling for Mr. Arpaio’s resignation. But town officials put off the matter and instead allowed residents to vent.

One young woman said her cousin has tried with no success to get deputies to investigate the molestation of her three daughters. “The person who did it is still out there,” she said. “We see him all the time.”

Subsequent efforts to investigate the cases have proven fruitless as many of the victims have moved, or no longer wish to cooperate with the authorities.

I’ll stop here. I could continue to give details of Arpaio’s legal violations and negligence for weeks. The case against the former sheriff is light years away from penalization for “doing his job.” Donald Trump has done this country a grave disservice by pardoning Sheriff Arpaio.

Trump has failed to uphold the rule of law and justice in his pardon.


Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 4)

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The Legal Case Against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

In our last blog we itemized the questionable practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). It’s time to lay out the legal case against MCSO. We will quote directly from Judge Snow’s ruling:

1. Mere unauthorized presence in this country, without more, is not a criminal offense. It is true that use of unauthorized methods of entry into this country generally constitutes at least misdemeanor or petty criminal violations of federal immigration law. See, e.g., 8 U.S.C. § 1325 (2005) (making it a federal misdemeanor to enter or attempt to enter the United States at “any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.”). However, aliens may enter the country legally, but become subject to removal either by staying longer than authorized or otherwise acting in excess of their authorization. Although a number of such aliens are here without or in excess of authorization, they have only committed a civil, as opposed to a criminal, violation of federal law. As the Supreme Court recently explained “[a]s a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States. If the police stop someone based on nothing more than possible removability, the usual predicate for an arrest is absent.” Arizona v. United States, ___ U.S. ____, ____, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 2505 (2012) (citing INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032, 1038 (1984)). (pg. 109)

2. This Court preliminarily enjoined the MCSO on December 23, 2011 from detaining persons based only on a suspicion that they were in this country without authorization in the absence of additional facts. The MCSO appealed the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit. In affirming the preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit reiterated these principles:

We have long made clear that, unlike illegal entry, mere unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime. See Martinez-Medina v. Holder, 673 F.3d 1029, 1036 (9th Cir. 2011) (“Nor is there any other federal criminal statute making unlawful presence in the United States, alone, a federal crime, although an alien’s willful failure to register his presence in the United States when required to do so is a crime, and other criminal statutes may be applicable in a particular circumstance.”) (citation omitted); Gonzales v. City of Peoria, 722 F.2d 468, 476–77 (9th Cir. 1983) (explaining that illegal presence is “only a civil violation”), overruled on other grounds by Hodgers-Durgin, 199 F.3d 1037. The Supreme Court recently affirmed that, “[a]s a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” Arizona v. United States, 132 S.Ct. at 2502. (pgs. 109-110)

3. In affirming this Court’s preliminary injunction, not only did the Ninth Circuit establish that the MCSO has no power to arrest such persons under such circumstances, it made clear that the MCSO has no power to detain them to investigate their immigration status. It is the existence of a suspected crime that gives a police officer the right to detain a person for the minimum time necessary to determine whether a crime is in progress. “[P]ossible criminality is key to any Terry investigatory stop or prolonged detention. . . . Absent suspicion that a ‘suspect is engaged in, or is about to engage in, criminal activity,’ law enforcement may not stop or detain an individual.” Ortega-Melendres II, 695 F.3d at 1000 (quoting United States v. Sandoval, 390 F.3d 1077, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004).

In the absence, then, of any reasonable suspicion of a possible crime, there is no basis on which the MCSO can make an investigative detention—let alone an arrest— based only on the belief that someone is in the country without authorization. See also Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 326 (2009) (holding that an investigatory stop is justified at its inception only when an officer “reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a criminal offense”). (pg. 111)

4. The LEAR policy requires the arrest of the subject encountered by the MCSO. As Sheriff Arpaio testified, the MCSO continues to arrest all persons that it comes across that it believes to be unauthorized aliens. When the MCSO finds some aliens that it cannot charge with a violation of state law, it turns them over to ICE (and has done so consistently without problem). Of course, his testimony highlights the fact that once such persons come into the custody of the MCSO, they are not free to leave and are hence under arrest. His testimony in this respect is supported by the similar testimony of a number of other MCSO witnesses. Chief Sands, Deputy Rangel, and others testified that such persons are taken into custody first, and only those that cannot be charged on state charges are then turned over to ICE. Such persons are investigated and apprehended upon the prerogative of the MCSO and not at the direction of ICE. And such apprehensions occur despite the lack of any authority on the part of the MCSO to investigate or arrest for civil immigration violations. (pg. 113)

5. The MCSO’s LEAR policy is not authorized by Arizona v. United States, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g)(10), or any other case or statute. The policy is further in excess of the MCSO’s constitutional authority because the policy’s focus on removable aliens as opposed to aliens who have committed criminal offenses violates the strictures against unreasonable seizures set forth in the Fourth Amendment.89 The Court therefore concludes as a matter of law that when MCSO detains a vehicle’s occupant(s) because a deputy believes that the occupants are not legally present in the country, but has no probable cause to detain them for any other reason, the deputy violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the occupants. See Arizona, 132 S. Ct. at 2509 (“Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.”) (citation omitted). The Court further concludes, as a matter of law, that the MCSO has violated the explicit terms of this Court’s preliminary injunction set forth in its December 23, 2011 order because the MCSO continues to follow the LEAR policy and the LEAR policy violates the injunction. See Ortega-Melendres v. Arpaio (Ortega-Melendres I), 836 F. Supp. 2d 959, 994 (D. Ariz. 2011). The MCSO is thus permanently enjoined from enforcing its LEAR policy with respect to Latino occupants of motor vehicles in Maricopa County. (pg. 114-115)

6. The MCSO’s use of Hispanic ancestry or race as a factor in forming reasonable suspicion that persons have violated state laws relating to immigration status violates the Fourth Amendment. “The Fourth Amendment prohibits ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ by the Government, and its protections extend to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 9 (1968)). However, the Fourth Amendment is satisfied if an officer’s action is supported by “reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity may be afoot.” United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 30). (pg. 115)

During a so-called “Terry stop,” an officer’s reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in criminal activity permits the officer to stop the person for a brief time and take additional steps to investigate further. Terry, 392 U.S. at 24. Under Ninth Circuit law, the race of an individual cannot be considered when determining whether an officer has or had reasonable suspicion in connection with a Terry stop, including for immigration investigation. See, e.g., Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir. 2000); (Doc. 530 at 23 ¶ c). Nevertheless, analysis under the Fourth Amendment, including that relating to reasonable suspicion, is wholly objective, and “[s]ubjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.” See Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996). (pg. 115-116)

7. While the en banc Ninth Circuit also affirmed the convictions, it emphasized that the defendants’ Hispanic appearance was not a proper factor to consider in determining whether the Border Patrol agents had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicles. Id. In so holding, the Ninth Circuit noted that for reasonable suspicion to exist, the totality of the circumstances “must arouse a reasonable suspicion that the particular person being stopped has committed or is about to commit a crime.”90 Id. at 1129 (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418 (1981) (emphasis in original). The court went on to note that:

[t]he likelihood that in an area in which the majority—or even a substantial part—of the population is Hispanic, any given person of Hispanic ancestry is in fact an alien, let alone an illegal alien, is not high enough to make Hispanic appearance a relevant factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus. As we have previously held, factors that have such a low probative value that no reasonable officer would have relied on them to make an investigative stop must be disregarded as a matter of law.

Id. at 1132; see also Gonzalez-Rivera, 22 F.3d at 1446. (pg. 118)

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 3)

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A law suit was eventually filed against Arpaio. In, Melendres v. Arpaio, a federal district court found that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in unlawful discrimination against Hispanic people. Let’s review some the court’s findings of fact in this case. Again, I will quote relevant portions directly from Judge G Murray Snow’s ruling:

1. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of the Department of Homeland Security] trained HSU [Human Smuggling Unit] officers that it was acceptable to consider race as one factor among others in making law enforcement decisions in an immigration context. (pg . 36)
2. The evidence demonstrates that the MCSO specifically equated being a Hispanic or Mexican (as opposed to Caucasian or African-American) day laborer with being an unauthorized alien. (Exs. 308 (MCSO news release asserting that the only sanctuary for illegal alien day laborers is in Mexico), 310 (MCSO news release asserting that despite the anticipated arrest of many “illegal aliens” the MCSO is not engaged in racial profiling.), 311; see also Doc 453 at 150 ¶¶ 28–30 (the MCSO acknowledging that the Sheriff and MCSO deputies believed the overwhelming number of illegal aliens in Maricopa County are from Mexico and South America).) In his testimony Sheriff Arpaio acknowledged that he would not investigate Caucasians for immigration compliance because it would not have occurred to him that they were in the country without authorization. (Tr. at 441:22–442:3.) For the totality of all of the MCSO operations in which it targeted and arrested day laborers, Chief Sands could not identify a single instance in which the MCSO arrested a day laborer who was not Hispanic on any charge. (Doc. 530 at 1 ¶ 84.) Similarly, there is no evidence that undercover officers directed patrol officers during day labor operations to stop vehicles that had picked up day laborers that were not Latino. Thus, the Court concludes as a matter of fact that MCSO officers, who believed that Latino day laborers were unauthorized, centered day labor operations in locations where specifically Latino day laborers assembled, and where MCSO deputies perceived they had a higher likelihood of encountering persons present in the country in violation of immigration laws. The logistics of such operations, together with other evidence introduced at trial, show that the MCSO used this combination of race and work status in determining where to locate operations in which it would target vehicles for pretextual enforcement of traffic regulations to investigate immigration status.

However, several MCSO witnesses testified that the locations for these operations were selected in response to complaints about day laborers being involved in other illegal activity, and not principally to enforce immigrations laws against Hispanics. While the Court recognizes that a single law enforcement operation can serve multiple purposes, and that law enforcement officials are entitled to considerable deference in locating and conducting their operations, the Court does not credit such testimony because, among other reasons, there are in the record some direct connections between a citizen complaint regarding Hispanics and Latinos congregating in a certain area and an MCSO enforcement action. (pgs. 43-44)

3. The MCSO used race as one factor among others in making law enforcement decisions during saturation patrols. (pg. 67)
4. The MCSO used race as a factor in determining whom to investigate and arrest during the small-scale patrols without high arrest ratios. (pg. 68)
5. During large-scale patrols, participating MCSO deputies were instructed to not racially profile and were obliged to book all criminal offenders. Yet arrest records show a disproportionate number of arrests of persons with Hispanic surnames. (pg. 71)
6. In sum, a remarkably high percentage of arrests during the large scale patrols were of people with Hispanic surnames. These results occurred while the MCSO claimed to be operating under a policy that forbade racial profiling and required deputies to arrest all criminal offenders. In light of the arrest numbers, the Court finds that either the MCSO was in fact not operating under those policies during the large-scale saturation patrols or MCSO’s policy forbidding racial profiling nevertheless permitted the consideration of race as a factor in executing the operations. (pg. 74)
7. Some MCSO deputies claim to conduct identity checks on all vehicle occupants. Due to MCSO policy that allows officers to consider race in determining whether to initiate an immigration investigation, vehicle occupants who are Latino are more likely to have their identity checked as a matter of operational procedure and policy. (pg. 96)
8. The MCSO never made an evaluation to determine whether its saturation patrols were being implemented with racial bias. (pg. 99)
9. After the revocation of its 287(g) status, the MCSO erroneously trained all of its 900 deputies that they could enforce federal immigration law. The MCSO further erroneously trained its deputies that unauthorized presence in the country, without more, was a criminal as opposed to an administrative violation of federal immigration law. The MCSO operated under that misunderstanding during most of the period relevant to this lawsuit. (pg. 101)
10. In following its LEAR policy, the MCSO continues to use race as an indicator of unauthorized presence. (pg. 106)

Yes, deputies of the MCSO “permitted the consideration of race as a factor in executing the operations.”

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 2)

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Did the DOJ give specific examples of discriminatory policing? Let’s quote directly from the DOJ’s findings:

1. MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ] deputies target Latino drivers. A statistical analysis of MCSO’s traffic stops made since the initiation ofMCSO’s immigration enforcement program-which is dominated by the use of pre textual stops-shows that MCSO’s enforcement practices have a discriminatory impact on Latino drivers. We had a leading expert on measuring racial profiling through statistical analysis examine MCSO traffic stops. The expert found that Latino drivers were between four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. Overall, the expert concluded that this case involves the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature. (pg. 6)
2. MCSO’s HSU, which purportedly focuses on interdicting both human smugglers and their victims, engages in unlawful conduct in its attempts to enforce immigration-related laws. HSU deputies stop, detain, and/or arrest Latino drivers without adequate cause. When we reviewed all of the traffic-related incident reports generated by HSU from March 2006 to March 2009, we found that roughly 20% of the reports contained information indicating that the stops, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, were conducted without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Further, HSU’s enforcement actions rarely result in human smuggling arrests. During our interviews, an HSU deputy stressed that his unit conducts a “ton of stops” and he estimated the “hit rate” (success rate as measured by frequency of smuggling arrests) to be at 10% to 15%. Accordingly, 85% to 90% of the vehicles HSU stops purportedly based on suspicion of immigration violations have, at most, committed a traffic violation. Pretextual stops motivated by racial bias, or that are the result of a policy targeting a protected group, are impermissible. The typical characteristic ofHSU’s enforcement efforts is, therefore, the targeting and harassment of Latino drivers rather than the effective enforcement of immigration law, an element ofMCSO’s overall pattern of discrimination against Latinos in Maricopa County. (pgs. 6-7)

A. Here is an example of such practices: B.B., a legal resident of the United States, and his 12 year-old son, a U.S. citizen, are both Latino. In May 2009, a group ofMCSO deputies conducted a raid of a house neighboring B.B.’ s home that the deputies suspected of being a “drop house” for human smuggling. At some point during the raid, two of the MCSO deputies involved entered AA’s home after obtaining consent to enter. Without obtaining consent to search, the deputies searched the home without a warrant. Although they found no evidence of criminal activity in the house, the MCSO deputies proceeded to handcuff both B.B. and his son with plastic zip-ties and remove them from their ‘ home. The deputies directed both to sit on the sidewalk next to approximately ten other individuals who had been removed from the neighboring house. MCSO released B.B. and his son without any citation after detaining them with restraints for more than an hour. (pg. 7)

The reader might concede that these are egregious cases, but still wonder if there is evidence of direct criminal activity performed by Arpaio. Let’s continue to quote directly from the DOJ’s findings:

Sheriff Arpaio also received a letter in May 2008 complaining that police had not stopped day laborers in Mesa “in order to determine whether these day laborers are here under legitimate circumstances” although the writer of the letter “believe[d] that they were in the country illegally.” Sheriff Arpaio marked the quoted sections of the letter, believing them to be “intelligence,” and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Sheriff Arpaio later testified that being a day laborer is not a crime. Sheriff Arpaio then received a similar letter later that month stating that Mesa needed “a sweep … terribly” and accusing specifically Latino members of MCSO and the Mesa Police Department of negligence in pursuing “illegals.” Sheriff Arpaio directed that a thank you letter be written, noted that “I will be going into Mesa,” and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Chief Sands later testified that he assumed that the letter’s author correlated undocumented persons with “dark-complected people.” Despite the bias evident in both letters, MCSO conducted crime suppression operations in Mesa on June 26-27, 2008, and on July 14,2008. (Emphasis Mine) (pg. 8)

How else was Chief Sands supposed to implement the demands contained in the letter sent by Sheriff Arpaio? Arpaio failed to give guidelines for the execution of the letter. This is a textbook case of racial profiling. Chief Sands equated “dark-complected people” with undocumented immigrants in a police sweep!

The DOJ’s findings continue:

Sheriff Arpaio’s own actions have helped nurture MCSO’s culture of bias. For example, Sheriff Arpaio has frequently distributed racially charged constituent letters, annotating the letters with handwritten notes that appear to endorse the content of the letter, circulating the letters to others on the command staff, and/or saving the letters in his personal file. Many of these letters contain no meaningful descriptions of criminal activity-just crude, ethnically derogatory language about Latinos. For example, Sheriff Arpaio received a letter asking him to do a “round-up” at 29th Street and Greenway in Phoenix. The letter justified the requested police action by asserting that “[i]fyou have dark skin, then you have dark skin. Unfortunately, that is the look of the Mexican illegals who are here illegally.” Instead of ignoring the request to focus on “dark -skin[ ned]” people, Sheriff Arpaio, believing that the letter was relevant “intelligence,” passed it on to a member of his command staff with a note instructing him to “[h]ave someone handle this.” Labeling as “intelligence” a letter explicitly equating skin color with law-breaking and instructing a subordinate to address it are striking examples of how Sheriff Arpaio has promoted a culture of bias in his organization and clearly communicated to his officers that biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged. (Emphasis Mine) (pg. 10)

Sheriff Arpaio disseminated a letter that requested a “round-up” of people with “dark skin.” This is just a small sampling of the negative racial practice Maricopa County deputies engaged in under Arpaio’s watch.

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 1)

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Donald Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Trump recently held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. At that rally Trump said “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Apparently, Trump thinks Joe Arpaio was simply doing his job. Sheriffs are supposed to abide by, and enforce the Constitution of the United States. Courts exist to determine if any law was broken.

Did Arpaio simply do his job? Did the court rule against Arpaio simply for doing his job? Was Trump justified in offering a pardon to rectify a wrong done by a court?

The Department of Justice 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into civil rights violations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) in June of 2008 and they presented their findings to the county attorney in a document dated December 15, 2011. Quotes in this section will draw directly from this document.

Investigators reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence, toured jails, and interviewed over 400 people, including 150 former and current jail inmates. If that isn’t enough, they interviewed over 75 jail employees, “including the Sheriff, the Chief of Enforcement, the Chief of Patrol, the Administrative Investigative Commander, the Sergeant heading MCSO’s Criminal Employment Squad, and the Lieutenant heading MCSO’s Human Smuggling Unit [HSU].” [Emphasis Mine]

The investigation concluded that MCSO had a pattern of unconstitutional policing and “through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, all in violation of Section 14141.” (pg. 2)

Evidence of use of excessive force against Latinos was also uncovered. (pg. 2) Investigators expanded their investigation because they received allegations that MCSO failed to investigate a large number of sex crimes. (pg. 2)

This blog series will be a thorough examination of the misdeeds of the MCSO and Arpaio.

Charlottesville and “Very Fine People”

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I waited to comment on the Charlottesville tragedy until more facts came to light. I want to focus on Trump’s extemporaneous comments at a press conference on August 15th because there is considerable debate about what Trump meant.

Some people believe Trump said there were “fine people” on the side of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville rally. The other side argues that Trump was commenting, specifically, on those who want to preserve the Robert E. Lee statue in the name of our country’s heritage. The latter argument means there were at least three groups rallying for three different causes:

1. Neo-Nazis advancing the white supremacy agenda
2. The Anti-bigotry group promoting the anti-racist agenda
3. The Heritage group supporting the preservation of Confederate monuments and statues

Let’s  analyze Trump’s comments. My questions, comments, and notes will be written in red with parenthesis.

Here is the relevant section of the transcript of the press conference:

Another reporter: John McCain has called on you to defend your national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Trump: I have already done it. I did it the last time.

Reporter: And he called on you again to —

Trump: Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against Obamacare?

Reporter: And he said-

Trump: Who is senator- You mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?

Reporter: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville. (The reporter is talking about a specific attack by saying “the attack.”)

Trump: Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt-right…uh, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: No, define it for me. Come on, let’s go.

Reporter: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups.

Trump: OK. What about the alt-left that came charging at- (Why introduce the “alt-left” here?)


Trump: Excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt? (It is a fact that the anti-bigotry side was involved in fights. Items were thrown on both sides. Here is how one witness described the scene: “Most white supremacist and Nazi groups arrived armed like a paramilitary force — carrying shields, protective gear, rods and, yes, lots of guns, utilizing Virginia’s loose firearm laws. They used militarized defensive maneuvers, shouting commands at one another to ‘move forward’ or ‘retreat,’ and would form a line of shields or a phalanx — it’s like they watched ‘300’ a few times — to gain ground or shepherd someone through projectiles. It seemed that they had practiced for this.Another witness said Antifa launched an attack of their own:The streets were not barricaded. Violent antifa [anti-fascists] were not penned in their own area as per our agreement with the Charlottesville Police Department, but were roaming the streets and blocking the entrance to Lee Park. They immediately launched an attack on our group with mace, pepper spray, bricks, sticks and foul liquids. The police stood idly by on the sidelines while a brawl was allowed to ensue. We had to fight our way into Lee Park and dozens of our people were injured by mace and pepper spray as we marched through the gauntlet.” How much blame should we assign to each side in light of these testimonies?)

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day-

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.

Reporter: Is it the same level as neo-Nazis?

Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent. (This is not true. The anti-bigotry side acquired two permits and the neo-Nazi group had an injunction. We must keep two events separate if we are going to do justice to the facts of this encounter. The opponents to the “Unite the Right” rally had permits from the city of Charlottesville to rally on August 12, 2017 near Justice and McGuffey parks from 9 am until 7 pm. Emancipation Park was the location of the white supremacist rally. All three parks are near each other. The Unite the Right group did not have a city permit to rally at Emancipation Park. The fact checking site Snopes explains: “On the other hand, the Unite the Right rally didn’t have a city permit — they had a judge’s order. According to documents provided by the city, organizer Jason Kessler applied for a permit on 30 May 2017 to hold the rally at Emancipation Park (which used to be called Lee Park), where a controversial statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee has been the focal point of racial tensions. The city had tried to move that demonstration from Emancipation Park, which is the size of one city block downtown, to McIntire Park, which is larger and away from central Charlottesville. But Kessler sued, and a judge sided with him…. The night before the deadly events of 12 August 2017, tiki-torch carrying white supremacists held another chaotic, violent demonstration during which they were also confronted by counter-protesters. In this instance, no one had a permit because no permit was needed.” Here is the permit that was acquired by the anti-bigotry protesters.)

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Go ahead.

Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. (The video of the deadly attack is here. The attack starts at 11:09. Can you see anyone from the heritage group in the crowd?)

Reporter: Well, white nationalists-

Trump: Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. So … Excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you’d know it if you were honest reporters — which in many cases you’re not. But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop? But they were there to protest- excuse me. you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of the Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.

Reporter: Should statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?

Trump: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government depending on where it is located.

Reporter: Are you against the Confederacy?

Another reporter: How concerned are you about race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?

Trump: I think they have gotten better- or the same- I- look. They’ve been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that because he’d make speeches about it. But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs — you see where companies are moving back into our country — I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country, we have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay and, when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.

Reporter: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

Trump: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that’s the way it is. (Look at the video again. The murder footage starts at 11:09. Does the scene look the way Trump describes it? Do you see clubs “violently attacking the other group” before the car rushes in to murder people?)

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Reporter: Mr. President, your words-

Another reporter: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are there-

Trump: Well, I do think there’s blame- Yes. I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either and- and- and- and if you reported it accurately, you would say it.

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Reporter: Neo-Nazis started this in Charlottesville. They showed up at Charlottesville, they-

Trump: Excuse me.

Reporter: To protest the removal of that-

Trump: [Inaudible.] You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me — I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. (Which event is he referring to; the one that occurred on August 11th or August 12th? Is he conflating the two events? Are the events on August 11th or the events that occurred just before the car attack on August 12th relevant to how we should talk about the murder of Heather Heyer?)

Reporter: Do you support white nationalists, then?

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Well, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down- Excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

Reporter: I do love Thomas Jefferson-

Trump: OK, good. Well, are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So, you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture and you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned, totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group, too. (I think Trump is thinking about the August 11th rally, but it’s unclear. Where are the “fine people” in the neo-Nazi/White Nationalist crowd in the tiki-torch rally on August 11th or the August 12th neo-Nazi/White Nationalist crowd? Can he point them out in videos or photos?

Jason Kessler is named as the sole plaintiff in the injunction that granted the neo-Nazi/White Nationalist group permission to hold the rally. It seems only natural to think the rally was meant to advance his aimsHere is the injunction. Here is Kessler celebrating the injunction. Kessler clearly says Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, will speak at the rally. Here is what Spencer said at a rally that took place in 2016: “To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conqueror. We build, we produce, we go upward. And we recognize a central lie of American race relations. We don’t exploit other groups — we don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around. … America was, until this past generation, a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.” What does Spencer’s planned speaking engagement at the rally suggest about the purpose of the rally? Kessler explicitly says in the aforementioned video that “the alt-right is hear.” 

Trump and his supporters talk as if support for preserving history and white nationalism are two non-overlapping agendas. Kessler married both agendas in these rallies. According to Business Insider:

“Kessler told a local radio station last week that the rally was meant as a show of “support” for Charlotteville’s monument to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, which he said local politicians were trying to remove as part of “a push to take down all of these white historical figures.”

“We’re trying to do a pro-white demonstration,” Kessler said. “We’re trying to show that folks can stand up for white people. The political correctness has gotten way out of control, and the only way to fight back against it has been to stand up for our own interests.”

The rallies were “pro-white” according to its organizer.

I find it difficult to believe that “fine people” would stand next to these people to advance their non-racist historical agenda. Look at the photos from the August 11th rally. 

Here is a photo from the newspaper, Times Union:

Image result for charlottesville august 11 rally

Here’s another image from

Remember, the protesters were shouting “Blood and Soil.” The Washington Post gives a short history of this chant:

The concept of “Blood and Soil” (in German, “Blut und Boden”) was foundational to Nazi ideology. “Blood” referred to the goal of a “racially pure” Aryan people. “Soil” invoked a vision of territorial expansion and was used to justify land seizures in Eastern Europe and the forced expulsion of local populations in favor of ethnic Germans. The term was a rallying cry during the 1920s and early ’30s, when the Nazis and other far-right political parties opposed the fledgling Weimar German democracy. This concept played on resentment about German territories lost under the terms of the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles.

Here is an image from the August 12th rally from Variety:

Charlottesville rally flag

Contrary to Trump’s protestations, this was a white nationalist, alt-right rally.

What kind of person would ignore all of the white supremacists props, chants, and gestures in order to advance their “heritage” agenda? There pro-heritage protest should have instantly turned into an anti-bigotry protest once they saw all of the racist objects and actions present at the rally.   

Trump said there were “good people on both sides.” He is wrong about this and he should be utterly condemned. Donald Trump has gone too far. Perhaps we should get rid of Trump because he is acting like a “bad hombre.”)

Reporter: Who was treated unfairly? Sir, I’m sorry I don’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.

Trump: No. No. There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people: neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest — and very legally protest, because you know- I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So, I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final- does anybody- you have an infrastructure question.

What do you think? Is Trump guilty of drawing a false equivalency here?

Update (08/29/2017): A video has just been released showing a white supremacist shooting a gun at anti-biogry protesters. USA Today:

A 52-year-old Baltimore man who allegedly fired a gun within a crowd at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month was arrested by police on Saturday.

Charlottesville police identified Richard Wilson Preston as the man seen in a video published Saturday by the ACLU of Virginia, per CNN, in which a man walking among protestors and counter-protestors at the city’s Emancipation Park draws a pistol and fires amid the crowd.

Before doing so, the man, sporting a bandana and a tactical vest, appears to yell, “Hey, (N-word)!”

The video can be seen here.


Trump’s Afghanistan Policy

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Trump gave a policy speech on Afghanistan yesterday. He covered a lot of areas, but many unanswered questions remain:

1. What are we trying to accomplish in Afghanistan? We are still in the dark about our purpose for being in Afghanistan. In the past the Taliban served as hosts for Al Qaeda. Are we trying to prevent this from happening again? Trump suggested as much when he said, “We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America.” Are we trying to totally eradicate the Taliban? This doesn’t seem to be the mission, especially since Trump said he wants to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. Trump said, “Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.” Is the goal to have a central government is Kabul?
2. Trump said, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” Why should we abandon our nation-building mission?
3. How many troops will be added to the mission?
4. When is it appropriate for US troops to leave? What will Trump have to see before he calls for a withdrawal?
5. Speaking of troop withdrawal, does this speech amount to a failed campaign promise? Here is what Trump said in the past:

Image result for trump tweets on afghanistan

Image result for trump tweets on afghanistan

Here are some quotes preserved by ABC News:

One of the most controversial statements Trump made about Afghanistan came during an October 2015 interview with CNN.

“We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place,” he said on CNN’s “New Day” on Oct. 6, 2015.

“At some point, are they going to be there for the next 200 years? At some point what’s going on? It’s going to be a long time,” he said.

“We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. We had real brilliant thinkers that didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And it’s a mess. It’s a mess. And at this point, you probably have to (stay) because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave. Just as I said that Iraq was going to collapse after we leave.”

If this is not enough, Trump suggested pulling out of the Middle East entirely. “When it’s not ISIS, it will be somebody else. We have been over there for so many years. We have spent up to $5 trillion,” he said this on Fox News in May 2016. Remember, this is when his campaign was in full swing.

How will Trump supporters view this apparent policy reversal?
6. Is Trump’s policy reversal motivated by Afghanistan’s mineral wealth? The New York Times wrote:

President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies.

Mr. Trump has discussed the country’s mineral deposits with President Ashraf Ghani, who promoted mining as an economic opportunity in one of their first conversations. Mr. Trump, who is deeply skeptical about sending more American troops to Afghanistan, has suggested that this could be one justification for the United States to stay engaged in the country.

Trump seems to hit at this concern in his speech when he said, “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.”

7. Trump said, “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.” How will this be heard by the Pakistani government? What was Trump trying to accomplish by publicly insulting Pakistan?
8. Erik Prince was the head of the former company Blackwater and he is now the executive director and chairman of Frontier Services Group. Blackwater employees were convicted of killing 31 unarmed civilians in Iraq’s Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007. This man who was the founder of Blackwater said he has advised Trump. There is speculation that Prince may have a role to play in Trump’s Afghanistan strategy. Will Erik Prince play a role in Trump’s Afghanistan strategy?
9. What will we do to dramatically decrease the number of civilian deaths? The Guardian reports:

The number of civilian deaths in the Afghan war has reached a record high, continuing an almost unbroken trend of nearly a decade of rising casualties.

The number of deaths of women and children grew especially fast, primarily due to the Taliban’s use of homemade bombs, which caused 40% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017, according to UN figures released on Monday.

Child casualties increased by 9% to 436, compared with the same period last year, and 1,141 children were wounded. Female deaths rose by 23%, with 174 women killed and 462 injured.

US and Afghan airstrikes also contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43% increase in casualties from the air, the figures showed.

… In June, the US conducted 389 aerial attacks in Afghanistan, putting this year on a par with 2013, when there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country.

Of the 232 civilian casualties from 48 aerial operations, 114 were caused by Afghans and 85 by Americans. In one especially deadly operation, the US killed 26 civilians in airstrikes in Sangin district in Helmand.

Once again, what measures will we take to reduce civilian deaths?

Confederate Interrogation

There are more than 700 Confederate Monuments in the United States according to FiveThirtyEight. The same site provided the following map of the locations of these monuments:

I’m having a difficult time finding good arguments for the preservation of these statues. I’ve decided to throw the question to the public. Are there good arguments for the preservation of Confederate monuments and statues?

A Quick Note about Transgender Members of the Military

Image result for Transgender

Donald Trump is going to ban all transgender people from joining the military. Here are the relevant tweets:

Image result for trump transgender military tweet

I want to zero in on the monetary argument. Trump wrote that transgender people burden the US budget with “tremendous costs.” Is this statement true? Bloomberg looked into the matter and found that transgender people make a negligible dent in the defense budget:

A 2014 study estimated that 15,500 trans people were currently serving in the U.S. military. The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law that researches gender identity, came to that figure using a 2011 survey of 6,546 transgender Americans. Around 20 percent of that survey’s respondents said they had served in the armed forces. There are currently 1.3 million active-duty personnel in the U.S. military and an additional 800,000 in reserves.

Using various extrapolations based on population estimates and rates of service for men and women, the Williams researchers concluded that 8,800 people were in active duty and another 6,700 were in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. Trans people, the Williams report suggested, might even join the military at a higher rate than other groups.

“It’s a consistent finding in studies that have been done across a variety of different data sources that trans people serve in the military at higher rates than the general population,” said Jody L. Herman, a co-author of the Williams study. She cited academic interviews conducted with transgender servicemembers that underscored the appeal of the military’s perceived hypermasculine environment.

But, as Herman added, “trans people want to serve in the military for the same reasons as everyone else wants to serve in the military.”

Researchers from RAND used much lower numbers to estimate transgender-related health-care costs, putting the total ranks of active transgender service members between 1,300 and 6,600 and concluding that only about 130 might seek gender-related surgeries. But even if the number of transgender service members is closer to the Williams Institute’s estimate, the cost for their medical care would be a negligible share of the military’s total health budget.

Trans people represent a small number of military members and thus a small portion of healthcare costs. If budgetary concerns aren’t the real motivation for the ban what is?

There is some speculation that Trump issued this tweet to divert attention from the raid on Paul Manafort’s house (see previous post for details). This theory is supported by the fact that we have no details or timeline for the execution of the ban.

This post is not meant to argue the merits of allowing transgender people into the military. This is meant to expose deception in Trump’s arguments against allowing transgender people into the military.