Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Report Back On Maine For Mainers Anti-Immigrant Picnic #mepolitics

Here's the report back from Andy Bourassa who stood with Stacie Bourassa and Ryan Celli on the road outside the "Maine for Mainers" anti-immigrant picnic.

The event had been publicized by unknown actors who mailed this flyer to residents living nearby in Canaan:

Several Maine newspapers, and even the Associated Press, carried the story of the flyer and the push back from organizers who objected to being characterized as white supremacists (despite their online history as such).

This is Andy's account:
We arrived at about 1:40. At that point, Ryan Celli was already there and parked on the opposite side of the street-about 500 yards from Camille's property. Fox/ABC channel 7, was already there also. 
As soon as we parked our car TOM K approached us. He asked us if we were supporters, protesters, or something else. 
I stated we were here to watch, document, and make it know we didn’t support his mission or presence. 
I began to record at this point, as he and Ryan began debating where we could and could not stand or be. 

Ryan stated he had spoken with the road commissioner and was clear on what he could and could not do. Stacie and I also had consulted on the law in Canaan. 
TOM argues that we could not follow those guidelines. Ryan made him aware that Camille had threatened him, and TOM said Camille has a tendency to give over excited and carried away. We never addressed him until he spoke to us. After I called him out on this-because he said we were arguing with him...he walked away to complete his FOX interview further up the road. 

After reporter finished with him-she came down and interviewed all three of us.
Her questions were things like-do we expect more people, how did you hear about this, and what did you think about the flyer (they say they didn’t send it)?
At 2:00- Ryan and I walked up the street and planned to stand about 50 yards away from Camille's driveway in the shade-on opposite side of the road and document. As we walked by the property, Camille came out and engaged Ryan. She started arguing with him about us being there and saying she had called the police. At that point -Ryan stopped walking and said, I guess I’ll stand right here. Just off the property line-on the side of the road. 

Camille has some young guy in a Gandhi shirt (go figure) stand guard at the entrance to the drive. He silently shadowed Ryan for awhile.

A car arrived, with two older white men (60+). They pulled up and asked me if this was the white supremacist picnic. I planed my video up so they wouldn’t see me recording and wouldn’t get their faces. But you can hear the exchange on the video. They were from out of town and saw the event and wanted to come support TOM and Camille.
Because they stopped and chatted with me, when they tried to go in- Camille stops them and says they need to leave immediately and that they are on camera trespassing. She gets upsets and tells them to leave now! All that is on video. She actually turned away supporters-because she was so worried about infiltrators.  
After they left, Camille again addressed and argued with Ryan and then walked away. The guy that had been shadowing Ryan, suddenly took three steps toward him and reached into his pocket. It happened so fast I didn’t catch it on video-just saw it. Ryan pulled up his shirt and showed the guy that he was carrying a weapon and warned him not to approach any further. The guy pulled out his phone and started recording, (this I have on video I shared) as he narrated a false tale. In my video I correct him and he changes his story three times-but eventually says exactly what I said in his own words.  
Camille comes back out and starts yelling at Ryan again. 
At this point, Camille says: “Have you ever heard the phrase don’t shit where you sleep? You have kids-you fool. Someone could come to where you live...” 
At this point Ryan called the state police and reported threatening of his family. Police said they were on their way. 
After 25 minutes the police showed up. State police Sgt. Bryant. 
He was kind and calm. He spoke to Ryan first, then me, then went to speak with Camille and party. Stacie recorded this interaction with us-it is 15 mins long. 
Officer took a very long time with them at the picnic. We waited for 45-60 mins in the sun like he asked us to. I made the comment that I would have left sooner than that if he hadn’t made us stay-it was state sponsored protesting because he wouldn’t let us leave the scene:) 
We waited at the end of her drive while he spoke to TOM, Camille and other party goers. At some points they got heated with the officer and seemed quite upset. Overall they had the state police at their picnic for about an hour-so hard for TOM to talk.
While waiting to be released, two people left the party. One looked right at Ryan and I as he left in his pickup and said: “those people are friggin nuts!” 
The officer finally came back and told us we were being warned for Disorderly Conduct. He acknowledged we had not broken any laws but said if we persisted and they were called back we would be arrested. I challenged that as I had reported to him as a cooperating witness with video that he reviewed. How was I being disorderly. I also challenged his notion we were invading her space. All interactions happened in the easement or public roadway so it was a disagreement between two parties in public-not on privately owned land. We asked if Camille was also getting a warning and he said he would “talk” to her. We challenged that and said if we are being warned -she has to be too. Ryan also asked that the officer provide a formal warning of harassment and cease and desist on any further contact -per threats and warnings she had already sent and received. Based on evidence Ryan provided he did issue her and official no contact. Camille violates that the same night by posting at and about him on Facebook. Which the officer said specifically was not allowed. 
There were about 8-10 people in total. Camille and her partner Dave, and TOM...were three of the 8-10, and two people left. So overall, maybe 5 members showed and stayed.

We left at 4:15 when the officer released us. At that point they were mostly done.

For context, here are a few screenshots of hostess Camille Cheaney Patterson's threats posted to Facebook prior to the picnic.

To put faces with names:

A couple of thoughts about all this:

*  White privilege probably allowed Stacie, Andy, and Ryan to feel safe interacting with a state trooper the way they did. It also protected them as they stood in a public space witnessing the picnic and documenting who attended:

* People of color would not likely have felt safe in this space or these interactions.

* I wouldn't have felt safe knowing that Ryan was carrying a concealed weapon. The probability of someone being injured or killed goes up significantly in spaces where guns are present. I have asked Ryan to comment on his choice to do this, and thus I won't guess what his motivation and reasoning may have been.

* Why is avowed white nationalist Tom K. wearing an Indian kurta in the photos with his wife and Camille's partner Dave? Because Hindu Brahmins were the original white supremacists?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Dog-Whistle Racist Tweet Says Baltimore Is Full Of Rats -- Not NYC?

Photo credit: Andrew Savulich, NY Daily News
Have you ridden the subway in NYC lately? I have, and it's common to see rats there -- on the platforms, or down on the tracks, foraging.

Last night the power went out in Manhattan around 6:30pm, trapping people in subway cars and stations. If I had been one of them, you can bet I would have been thinking about the rats as I was led to safety by first responders.

I saw a woman almost step on a large rat just behind her as she stood chatting with friends on a bright summer morning. Ok, that was in Brooklyn.

Manhattan is the home base of the white supremacist family lolling in nepotism in the nation's capitol.

Yesterday their not-so-bright patriarch tweeted insults at Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore. Ostensibly Cummings' crime was being a bully -- to officials of Homeland Security under questioning in Congress about their conduct of torture centers for immigrants.

Cummings tweeted back: "Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors.

It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents." Cummings did not even use the tag #WeAreBaltimore which trended to the top quickly and stayed on the top 10 list of trending topics for hours.

Infested, dirty, rats, and crime are words that turn up regularly in White House insults directed at elected officials of color. Congresswomen of color are told they deserve to be "sent back" even though they are U.S. citizens. 

White people in the U.S. are no longer the majority, and whipping up their fear of other races is a good way to distract from the things really fueling their anxieties: declining prosperity, health care and higher education beyond their reach

Photo credit: Herika Martinez, Getty Images
Building a wall on our southern border is a visible symbol of white making right. The Supreme Court just ruled that the demagogue with bad hair can divert Pentagon funding to that purpose. Now you know what is even more sacred than the military in the U.S.: racism.

I heard that news with mixed feelings. U.S. and Afghan allied forces have killed more civilians than the Taliban, and the demagogue recently mentioned casually that he had the power to obliterate Afghanistan should he want to. More brown children he and his base do not care for, and they probably could not even articulate why not.

Congressman Cummings' real crime was more likely that the House Oversight Committee he chairs sent subpoenas this week to the demagogue's nepotism recipients. Personal emails and texts pertaining to official business are sought, according to the Associated Press:

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s chairman, said the committee has obtained “direct evidence” that the president’s daughter, Kushner and other top aides were using personal accounts for official business in violation of federal law and White House policy. 
“What we do not yet know is why these White House officials were attempting to conceal these communications,” Cummings said

What we do know: additional racist pronouncements will attempt to distract the public from this information.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Racism Report From Central Maine -- It's Not Good; Black Family With Sick Child Harassed At Skowhegan KFC

People I know in Canaan, a rural town near Skowhegan, Maine, received this charming notice in the mail recently. It appears to refer to this event organized by a group associated with one of the most vocal of the (now retired) mascot keepers.

As you can see here, the event was created by the infamous white nationalist who was fired from his job as town manager of Jackman, Maine based on racist posts to social media.

Some people who I respect say, Why give the white supremacists this kind of free publicity? And I get that. So, the name of the fired town manager is in an image, not text that could be searched, and I won't be putting his name in the Labels (tags) section of this blogging platform either. But, here's why.

Because Maine for Mainers and "The Way Maine Should Be" are dog whistles for white supremacy. 

And white supremacy beliefs lead to tragically cruel behavior toward people of color. Like this, which happened this week in Skowhegan:

Is it ironic that KFC, a brand associated with a stereotypical old white Southern guy, is in the same store as Taco Bell? 

Is it unrelated that Rep. Jared Golden has his office staff in DC tell constituents that harassment of people of color by ICE "doesn't really affect Maine's 2nd District" and thus "isn't really on his radar" because it's mostly white, mostly rural Maine?

I think the failure of Democrats like Golden and Nancy Pelosi to stand up against Nativist, racist harassment of people of color is a huge factor in today's climate of fear for people of color.

Even little children of color who suffer from chronic, life-threatening illness.

When my (white) friend's (white) daughter with seizure disorder has one in public in Skowhegan, people rush to help them. I've been there to witness it, more than once.

Is Skowhegan the only or even the most racist place in Maine? Hardly. But it racked up a national reputation for itself due to the many ugly, violent statements and threats made by the Skowhegan "I__n" Pride group during the 2015-2019 period of struggle to replace their offensive high school mascot.

Photo credit: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty

What does it say about where we're headed when brown toddlers are penned up in stinking pens at the border? The same thing it says when Katelyn and her friends mock a Black father for praying in Arabic as his little girl seizes while he prepares her medication.

White does not make right.

Compassion makes right. Care for other human beings makes right. Courage to stand with targeted groups makes right.

Maybe you have wondered what you would have done during the historical tragedy of the Holocaust that persecuted Jewish people in Europe and resulted in 6 million being murdered -- many in concentration camps.

Now you know, because you're doing it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rep. Jared Golden's Staff To Constituent: ICE Roundups Not An Issue In Maine's 2nd District (Despite Arrest Of 6 In Rangeley)

The above post is from fierce and relentless child welfare crusader Mary Dunn, who's now on her way to stand outside the Homestead child detention center in Florida and shout:

¡No Estan Solos! (You all are not alone!)

Mary called her alleged representative in Congress, Rep. Jared Golden. Of course she didn't get to speak with him, just a staffer in his DC office. She wanted to know Golden's position on the recent ICE roundups terrorizing citizens and immigrants alike.

In case her words are hard to read above, I'll transcribe them here. (Link added by me).
She said that he believes that since this is an issue that doesn't really affect Maine's district 2 that it's not really on his radar! Holy shit! I informed her that 5 people were just rounded up in Rangely and last I knew that was in District 2 so that does affect him and his district.  
And reminded her that even if there was no ICE presence in Maine, which there is, this is affecting the entire country on his watch. And as a member of the United States Congress he will be remembered for how  he responded to this defining moment in our history. She was like whatever. It was clear she could care less. 
PLEASE call Golden's DC office and demand he respond appropriately to this crisis. Demand he work with congress to undo this mess that Trump and his administration is carrying out. Tell him to stop the ICE roundups. 1-202-225-6306.
Jason D. Owens and Senator Susan Collins of Maine (photo credit: Maine Beacon)

In searching for an article about the Rangeley ICE raid to link to, I came across this chilling quote from a Border Patrol officer in Maine who has been identified as a member of the now
archived racist and violently misogynistic "I'm 10-15" closed Facebook group:

"These arrests further illustrate the value of information provided by the public," 
Jason D. Owens, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol in Maine, said in a statement obtained by The DCNF. "With our limited resources, 
we rely on the public to assist us by reporting suspicious activity."

So, there are informants eager to snitch on hard-working brown people in Maine. Once again, this history major is horrified, but not surprised.

What suspicious activity? you may be wondering. Here's what the Houston Chronicle reported about that: "Jason Owens, Border Patrol chief in Maine, said illegal contract labor deprives employment opportunities for those who are lawfully authorized to work in the U.S."

So I'm guessing Rep. Golden's staff would say he is also unaware of a major economic factor in staffing for the summer tourism surge in Maine each summer. Here's the Portland Press Herald on July 7 this year: "Summer labor crunch hits Maine businesses hard.

Or maybe it's just about the gratuitous cruelty to fan the flames of his base for Golden, too.

Jared Golden's staffer will probably be reprimanded for being too honest about her boss's indifference to ICE raids in Maine.

When the DC office opens today, I'll be calling to echo Mary's demand for accountability from our elected representative. But I'll go easy on whoever answers the phone.  Likely that person will be young, idealistic, and imagines herself motivated to serve the public good. 

One thing is for certain. She or he is in the belly of the beast. Possibly she is starting to figure that out. Part of our job is to help her.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Stench From The Camps Is The Defining Smell Of U.S. Government Rotting

Palestinian child being evicted, and not for the first time, by apartheid-state Israel in 2018. Yesterday Israel was admonished by the UN for demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes.
(Image by UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir)

Sometimes the news is so sad, so troubling, and so bizarre that my feelings about current events are best expressed in a digest of what I've been reading.

So, here goes for the final week of a very hot and very ugly July with dollops of fierce kindness and (probably unfounded) optimism.

Trending on Twitter July 18 after the demagogue with bad hair had a crowd in South Carolina chanting "send her back" about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

 Omar has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for 16 years, which is longer than the demagogue's current wife. Stochastic terrorism is the demagogue's specialty. Indeed, two police officers in Louisiana were fired this week after posting and liking on Facebook that someone should use one of America's 300,000+ guns on another member of "the Squad" whom the demagogue loves to target, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It would take an week of posts to list all the threats of violence against the four women of color who make up the Squad.

Note the asymmetry on Twitter, the demagogue's presumed home court: 134,000 versus 39,800.

(My eternal optimism was deflated by a convo with my youngest who explained that Area 51 is a morally vacant millennial joke -- not a metaphor about storming government facilities to free "aliens" being held captive as I had hoped.)

Speaking of so-called aliens being held captive, here is a long post from an immigration lawyer who is doing a difficult job in worsening times:

Then, for some dark comic relief, a letter from my "representative" in Congress who this week represented General Dynamics, not me, when he voted to authorize $733 billion in Pentagon funding for 2020. His statement on the vote is predictable, while his expressed views on justice for Palestinians makes him sound like a poorly informed middle school student.

To say that Golden is in AIPAC's back pocket so soon in his maiden voyage as an elected official would be disappointing except that I expected no better. After all, he ran as a Democrat and veteran bragging about his role in U.S. wars of aggression against Israel's foes.Is the fact that the Pentagon's bloated budget and insatiable appetite for petroleum are causing a climate emergency lost on him? No reply on that topic of my communications with him. Nor any meaningful response to the humanitarian disaster of brown babies and children being held in U.S. concentration camps.
Photo credit: USA Today

The stench from the camps is the defining smell of our times.It has become ever more necessary to hold your nose while attending to the media circus of which candidate will get the Democratic Party nomination.I'll bet you that, no matter who else is running, the oligarchs will keep the demagogue with bad hair in office by hook or by crook. They find 8-year terms much more convenient than taking on a whole other group of Katie Johnsons and Stormy Daniels to pay off, hush up, etc. every four years.Of course I'm praying he goes down with Jeffrey Epstein. But I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Close The Camps! National Disgrace! We Do Not Consent! Heard By ICE Agents At South Portland Sit-Down As 14 Protesters Issued Citations

Michael Cutting with a warning for us all (photos mine unless otherwise noted)

Yesterday at the ICE facility in South Portland, Maine, I joined about 50 people horrified by the torture of children in concentration camps, children who are caged and denied basic hygiene after being separated from their parents and other family members.

It was so hot that my phone quit working after the first 40 minutes so I did not get all the photos I had hoped to get. The Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald both covered the action and showed the 14 people who sat down and refused to move until the camps are closed. They were issued citations after a long time sitting on hot pavement. My sheroes and heroes, all.

Ably led by Catholic Worker Jessica Stewart from her wheelchair, the action repeated one a year ago for the audience of Homeland Security employees. Message for this target group: "just following orders" will not excuse you morally. It will not even protect you under international law when the torture of children is finally adjudicated.

Heed our warning now: exert your moral agency, and step away from doing evil.

I was so hot that I got a migraine, and on the drive home reflected that I had failed to ask the officers if any of them were members of the notorious "I'm 10-15" closed group for Border Patrol agents now archived (with a name change) on Facebook.

Border Patrol agent Jason D. Owens with Senator Susan Collins, who has shown a great fondness for fascism since the demagogue with bad hair was elected in 2016.

The head Border Patrol agent in Houlton, Maine,  Jason D. Owens, was a member of the group before it caught the attention of ProPublica and vanished.

The group's posts regularly featured sadistic memes and jokes aimed at "tonks" which is apparently what these cops call migrants based on the sound it makes when their heads are struck with a flashlight.

In case you're wondering why we protest.

In case you're wondering why I didn't sit down, too, it's because I'm still out on bail for my arrest blocking the road at a war ship launch by Bath Iron Works on June 22.

Another member of the Inouye 22, Ashley Bahlkow, was in SoPo yesterday with her husband and their 2 year old. We were both avoiding arrest for the same reason. When I remarked on the numerous reporters present, she observed that news outlets in Maine are a lot more reticent about covering protests of General Dynamic$, which owns Bath Iron Works.

Another friend I saw that did risk arrest was organizer Mary Dunn. It was a first time for her and I was super proud of her endurance and commitment. She has been holding weekly "close the camps" vigils on Fridays in Waterville, Maine and has just recently connected with Jessica Stewart. These women are formidable and I can't imagine having better advocates for justice for children.

Elizabeth Leonard was also on hand playing guitar and leading songs to keep morale up. Based on Mary's post about the experience, it sounds like it worked.

Photo credit: Brianna Soukup, Portland Press Herald

I had worried that the group that sat down could not hear us chanting and singing because they were directly behind the exhaust pipe of a Homeland Security truck that sat idling for two hours (all of them appeared to be content to waste fuel and spew CO2 while their trucks were parked).

While the sit-down was underway, we were informed that ICE had arrested six people in Rangely, Maine. A very small town high in the Western Mountains, and the type of tourist destination that is scrambling to staff its hospitality business as the federal government continues to prosecute those willing to travel far from home to work at those jobs. Cruelty is not very rational when it comes to economics.

How many people refuse to vacation in the U.S. as they boycott the cruelty? We'll never know for sure, but I know some individuals personally who are boycotting. And I can't say that I blame them.

Maine was once Vacationland but today will break a record for hottest ever recorded in Portland. The evil empire seems determined to go full throttle off the moral and environmental cliff.

I'll keep protesting until I literally cannot continue. See you in the streets.

With my friend Jacqui Deveneau yesterday. (Photo credit: Robin Farrin)

Protest wherever you go! To order a t-shirt with my sign design on it you can click here. Proceeds go to RAICES, a legal advocacy organization working directly to support migrants and asylum seekers. Thanks to my childhood friend Rebecca Northcutt for setting that up and spreading the image around Santa Cruz, California. We are allies from coast to coast demanding: CLOSE THE CAMPS!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Of Great White Whales And Sacred Cows: Who Dares Criticize Bill McKibben?

A certainty of my waning years is that any likely social movement is almost immediately co-opted by $$$$$$$, sometimes masquerading as the Democratic Party. I say masquerading because, even though the DNC was too racist for my parents to want to belong, it subsequently rebranded itself as progressive, socially aware, and concerned with the plight of poor people. This is a convenient mask to wear while wining and dining with General Dynamics.

The Squad in Congress who object to military funding pointing out, as Rep. Rashida Tlaib did, "These are huge checks being written to Boeing and Lockheed," are inconvenient to the ruling class. D's and R's have criticized them, while history suggests they will be wooed by many a suitor to abandon their principles. Only time will tell.

So goes life under late capitalism, with its designed-to-be-endless wars hastening climate catastrophe barreling down on us.

Climate activists have their share of Democratic Party-style apologists. Bill McKibben's recent piece in the New York Review of Books shows him doing backflips to minimize the Pentagon's role in hastening climate change, and frame the U.S. military as, not a cause, but a solution.

My good friend and climate activist Janet Weil had this to say about that:

The thing that really stood-out for me in McKibben's article was the "of course" about 800 U.S. military bases all over the world.
Of course they are! Just like seawater in the seas, or any other "natural" phenomenon. 
But we can hope for a world where U.S. military bases, of whatever number, all over the world and into space and maybe Mars someday, are fueled by renewable energy! Which is magic and comes from renewable fairies, not resources dug out of the ground and fought for/defended by...the military!

Journalist Cory Morningstar addressed some of McKibben's other points in a Facebook post on July 4:

If you don't do Facebook the See More link will not work, so here are screenshots of the rest of Morningstar's commentary:

What would real action on Pentagon climate crimes look like? Extinction Rebellion marched on Washington DC recently. They are on the list for big donations from a "philanthropist" being advised by McKibben and others of his ilk. Probably because of sentiments like this one from an extinction rebel in DC interviewed by Popular Resistance:

“I’m here because I have seen that what traditional environmental NGOs do to address climate change isn’t working,” [Dominic Serino] said.

Which brings me to the best article I've read in a long time on climate, governance, human behavior and, yes, literature: "Ye cannot swerve me: Moby-Dick and climate change" by Manuel Garcia, Jr. in Counterpunch.

Some choice morsels from Mr. Garcia's analysis:

...fossil fuels are the opiates in the addiction to war that would be the death of humanity by Planet Earth’s rejection of it.
Do we work dutifully to the death, or till cast adrift as expendable, and do we willingly follow the leader to perdition if he is hellbound and determined for it; or do we rebel, overturn the structure of command, and lead ourselves even if such freedom entails a hard life? Is humanity as a whole worth our individual pains in this effort? Or, is the idea of restructuring human civilization — and soon — to jettison capitalism, authoritarianism, and their enabling fossil-fueled militarism and marbling corruption, just a chimera that would use up our individual life forces to no avail;
We're the crew of the doomed ship. Young people are demanding we swerve, the whale is climate catastrophe, and I think we can guess who Captain Ahab is.

Ha, you thought it was going to be the demagogue with bad hair, didn't you? Sadly, it's McKibben.

If you find other authors who dared to criticize Bill McKibben's article, drop me a line will you?

Meanwhile, you owe it to yourself to read Garcia's whole piece, for the hope and optimism contained within its bitter truth.