On McCain’s death: 1 September 2018

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Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father, certainly revered from above by her anti-Trump father, was powerful, memorable, and one of the most ever heart-wrenching tributes to a girl’s father.

The gathering was an equally full honors-to-McCain majority of the most powerful statesmen and stateswomen in American politics within the last fifty years–and easily one of the most populated with never-Trumpers. Perhaps a wry counter-poke at the packed crowds of faithful and fervent “parishioners” who regularly flock to the now frequent Trump rallies.

Trump has his fresh populist followers, wheras McCain had his seasoned establishment legions from both sides of the historic political aisle–the “swamp.”

The service was full of recognition for the real-life valor that John McCain had earned, along with a disheartening peppering of beyond-the-grave and frankly hateful jabs, animated by what he had become in the last years of his life.

I will try to remember him for what he was.

As he has in the recent past communicated on camera to me and those like me who don’t like what he became, I’m sure he would gladly shout the same directly to my face–that we could all: “Go to hell!”

For the bitterly hateful and disrespectful-of-the-office-of-the-presidency legacy that he unashamedly, even proudly, left behind at the end of his long trail, I would likewise shout the same to his face.

However tragic he became, though, I sincerely pray for his eternal rest in the Lord!

by S.A. Bort

photo from: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/01/643975364/photos-honoring-sen-john-mccain

Anti-Trump, history-twistery VOX.com slants MS-13 as wrongly targeted by Trump and ICE policies

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Christina Animashaun/Vox

“What a steaming pile of VOX.com, B.S. propaganda! All any reasonable person has to do is question the [mal]intent of VOX vs. the intent of ICE.

Which organization has in mind the blind TOLERANCE of case-after-case of anarchic butchery (Note the MS-13 motto “kill, rape, control” attributed to and merrily carried out by most of them) and which organization has only the protection of citizens–as well as NON-citizens–in mind? Really, VOX? Your slanted journalism is supposed to be helpful in any way, shape or form?”  — S.A. Bort / 10 August 2018

VOX

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/26/16955936/ms-13-trump-immigrants-crime

MS-13, explained

President Trump has turned the Salvadoran-American street gang into public enemy No. 1.

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President Donald Trump and his White House call them “animals.”Attorney General Jeff Sessions says “they must be and will be stopped.”

The administration talks about the Salvadoran-American gang MS-13 with the hatred and intensity once reserved for apex predators, lingering on the gory details of murders they’ve committed. A fact sheet the White House sent out in May — titled “What You Need To Know About The Animals of MS-13” — highlighted five brutal cases and included details like this: “In Maryland, MS-13’s animals are accused of stabbing a man more than 100 times and then decapitating him, dismembering him, and ripping his heart out of his body.”

MS-13 has become the face of the Trump administration’s favorite trope: the idea that people from other countries are sneaking into America and importing violence and crime. Talking about the gang has allowed Trump to associate crime with immigration without having to deal with the inconvenient truth that immigrant crime rates are, if anything, lower than those of the native-born.

But Democrats (and some local law enforcement officials) argue that the Trump administration is nonetheless using MS-13 to demonize all immigrants — that immigrants themselves are the biggest victims of MS-13, and that harsher immigration enforcement impedes the kind of community policing that allows police officers to distinguish innocent immigrants from gang members.

“We’re going to destroy the vile criminal cartels MS-13 and many other gangs,” said President Trump during his speech on July 28, 2017, in Brentwood, New York. 
Getty Images

It’s easy to see why MS-13 has become Trump’s perfect antagonist. The group, born on the streets of Los Angeles, has established a foothold in the suburbs of New York City, Boston, and Washington and has announced its presence with brutal and horrific murders. MS-13’s “foreignness,” its official status as a transnational criminal organization, and its penchant for ultraviolence — the machete is a frequent weapon of choice — certainly make for sensationalistic copy.

But the attention that MS-13 has received is disproportionate to its impact. MS-13 hasn’t reversed nationwide trends of declining violent crime, even in the areas where they’re most powerful. And for all the horror it inspires, the gang has never numbered more than 10,000 members in the US. MS-13 has been responsible for gruesome crimes, but the fact is that it is not a major criminal presence at the national level. The reason it has suddenly become part of the national discourse on immigration policy is that President Trump has put it there, front and center.

In a way, Trump got lucky that the current wave of MS-13 violence coincided with his rise to the presidency, providing him with a convenient foil. And if he gets his way, the policies he wants to implement to clamp down on the gang will only make things worse and do further harm to the immigrant communities around the country who are already most victimized by the gang.

Mass incarceration turned MS-13 from a stoner gang into a hardened criminal enterprise

MS-13 was born in the USA.

It started as a youth gang of Salvadoran teens in Los Angeles: “more of a social than criminal group that gathered around a shared taste for rock music and marijuana,” according to the journalist Hector Silva Avalos. The LAPD’s first reference to the “Mara Salvatrucha Stoners” dates to 1975, but most analysts peg the group’s growth into something significant to the early 1980s, when Salvadorans began to flee a brutal civil war in their home country and come to the US as unauthorized immigrants.

They faced hostility from other ethnic groups for being new, and from other young people for being long-haired mosher types, so they banded together and called themselves the Stoners — later Mara Salvatrucha, and eventually, once the gang had metastasized under the network of Southern California Latino gangs known as Sureños, MS-13.

When and why the “Stoners” became a hardened violent gang is up for debate. Avalos attributes it to repeated confrontations with other LA gangs, while journalist Ioan Grillo thinks it has more to do with the arrival of newer Salvadoran immigrants who were “hardened by the horrors” of civil war. Salvadoran journalists Carlos Martinez and Jose Luis Sanz, meanwhile, say that the gang’s story paralleled that of a lot of young men during the “tough on crime” era: They were minor delinquents stuffed into jails and prisons, where they had the time, opportunity, and incentive to become hardened criminals.

No matter where MS-13 first adopted its current nihilistic ethos — which marries semi-Satanic imagery (the original Stoners were Judas Priest fans) with extravagant brutality and violence — mass incarceration and deportation were what took the gang international.

El Salvador’s National Civilian Police reviewing Mara Salvatrucha gang leaders in 2004.
 Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

In the early 1990s, California passed laws mandating life sentences for a third felony and allowing minors to be charged as adults if they were determined to be gang members. “Hundreds of young Latin criminals were sent to jail for felonies and other serious crimes,” wrote journalist Ana Arana in a 2005 Foreign Affairs article called “How the Street Gangs Took Central America.”

At the same time, with the civil war finally over, the US made a renewed effort to deport unauthorized immigrants back to El Salvador. And in 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act led the government to start deporting large numbers of immigrants who’d been convicted of crimes (including legal immigrants stripped of their legal status due to their criminal records).

By the turn of the 21st century, gang members were an American export. According to one estimate, 20,000 criminals were sent to El Salvador from 2000 to 2004 — a considerable number for a Salvadoran government that didn’t have the capacity to deal with criminal organizations and that wasn’t being notified which of the deportees being returned to them were criminals, thanks to US law at the time.

To be sure, most MS-13 gang members in El Salvador were not deportees — according to one 1996 survey, only 16 percent of Salvadoran gang members had been to the US, and 88 percent of them had joined the gang in El Salvador — but between the deportation of gang leaders and the cultural appeal of “thug life,” the gang itself was absolutely an import from the US.

As the US’s gang problem became El Salvador’s, the Salvadoran government responded in the same way the US had — with mass incarceration of young men — only worse. El Salvador imported a zero-tolerance “mano dura” (firm hand) policy from Honduras, leading to the imprisonment of 31,000 young people from 2003 to 2005 simply on the suspicion that they were members of gangs. Eighty-four percent of them would ultimately be released because the government didn’t have evidence to charge them with anything.

In the meantime, incarcerated members of the same gang were kept together in dedicated prisons — which reduced violent confrontations in prison but also made it a lot easier for gang leaders to consolidate and plan criminal activity.

National Civil Police officers completing a raid of suspected MS-13 members in San Rafael, Santa Tecla, El Salvador, in 2008.
AFP/Getty Images

The US may have exported MS-13 to El Salvador, but, according to most experts, it was Salvadoran MS-13 members who eventually founded cliques on the East Coast of the US (though some think MS-13 spread to the East Coast from California). Those cliques, in the suburbs of DC and Boston and on Long Island, started garnering attention for themselves in the mid-2000s with their gruesome executions.

But the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and local governments struck back, with aggressive investigation and prosecution of MS-13 clique leaders and multi-pronged local policing strategies to starve gangs of new members.

The response may or may not have reduced the total number of MS-13 members in the US — official estimates have ping-ponged between 6,000 and 10,000 for years (with current estimates at the high end of that range) — but it appeared to put an end to the grisly violence that had drawn public attention. Law enforcement “effectively decimated” the DC-area MS-13, as the Washington Post wrote in 2017, and rendered the Boston-area cliques dormant for years.

It worked — until it didn’t.

MS-13 is officially a “transnational criminal organization.” But really, it’s short on the “organization” part.

The US Department of the Treasury officially designated MS-13 as a “transnational criminal organization” for the purpose of economic sanctions in 2012. It was the fifth organization to be designated that way, joining some heavy hitters: the Russia-based Brothers’ Circle, the Italian Camorra, the Mexican cartel the Zetas, and the Yakuza in Japan.

But most analysts agree that MS-13 doesn’t really belong in that company. Those other organizations are sophisticated global syndicates with several different illegal revenue streams crossing borders; MS-13 is more of an internationally franchised street gang. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report argued that “the term transnational criminal organization, or TCO, might be misleading when used to describe” Central America’s maras; the 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorized MS-13 as a “national gang” rather than a TCO.

There are two substantive differences between MS-13 and more sophisticated criminal organizations. The first is organizational: MS-13 cliques in different areas are less like branches of the same organization than like franchises. The West Coast and East Coast MS-13 don’t have a ton of common ground or mutual trust. Efforts to unify cliques into a “national program” have fallen apart before. Different cliques are definitely in communication, and members sometimes flee to another clique in another city after committing a crime to evade law enforcement, but that’s just street-gang-level stuff on a bigger geographic scale.

The second is economic: MS-13 makes its money through relatively small-time drug dealing and old-fashioned extortion. That extortion can be brutal, and sometimes wide-scale: In 2015, they extorted the bus drivers of San Salvador into going on strike for higher wages, so that more of those wages could be turned over to the gang. But it’s not as sophisticated as the multitude of revenue streams that other transnational criminal organizations have.

Nonetheless, MS-13 occupies a lot of real estate in the imagination of many Americans — and politicians. What really distinguishes MS-13 is the spectacle of its executions. As anthropologist Jorja Leap told the Atlantic, “They don’t just kill people, they cut off body parts.” In 2003, MS-13 members in Northern Virginia retaliated against 17-year-old Brenda Paz for informing on the gang to the FBI by stabbing the pregnant Paz so violently in the neck that “her head was almost completely severed” when her body was dredged out of the Shenandoah River. In spring 2017, as many as 10 gang members in Wheaton, Maryland, stabbed a victim 100 times and cut out his heart and buried it separately.

ICE and gang task force officers arrest alleged MS-13 member in Manassas, Virginia, on August 10, 2017.
 The Washington Post/Getty Images

In the communities where MS-13 has been highlighted — Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island; Montgomery County, Maryland; Fairfax County, Virginia — the gang’s activity makes up a large percentage of murders and violent crime. Suffolk County had only 22 homicides in 2017 but attributed 14 of them to MS-13.

That said, murder is declining even in the counties most bedeviled by MS-13. So why has the gang become so notorious? That list of communities above offers a clue: MS-13 has established itself in major metro areas — New York and DC — whose local media outlets have national reach. (MS-13 is also active in North Carolina, and some of the most gruesome murders of this wave happened in Houston, but those aren’t the cases that have drawn national attention.) And the gang is strongest in the suburbs of those metros.

“This sort of thing is about a feeling,” the chief executive of Suffolk County told the New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer. “You don’t feel that crime is down. Acts like these murders aren’t supposed to happen in the suburbs.”

The “you” in this case isn’t actually the community that’s being targeted — which is, overwhelmingly, fellow Salvadoran immigrants. It’s white voters who feel just close enough to violence to feel abstractly threatened.

It’s an updated, hyper-localized version of the political dynamic of crime in the 1970s and ’80s, when criminal justice policy was designed to appeal to white voters in the suburbs, but its effects were largely felt by nonwhite Americans in inner cities.

“Anger and empathy alike are weaker forces when they come from voters who see crime on the morning news than when they flow from voters’ lived experience,” William Stuntz wrote in his 2012 opus The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. “The system oscillates not between moderate levels of mercy and retribution, but between wholesale indifference and unmitigated rage.”

In the early 2010s, the pendulum swung to indifference. Intensive anti-gang programs in the Virginia suburbs were cut 85 percent, a casualty of Congress’s elimination of earmarks.

In the middle of the decade, it swung to rage.

The child migrant “surge” of the mid-2010s set the stage for the current MS-13 panic

In spring and summer 2014, America was transfixed by a “crisis” at the border: Border Patrol officials were being overwhelmed by people coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, often children unaccompanied by a parent. Increasing numbers of unaccompanied children had been coming to the US from the “Northern Triangle” since 2011 — and after the gang truce in El Salvador fell apart in 2013, giving way to a wave of violence that made the country the most violent in the world for a few years, the pace of children fleeing to the US accelerated. While the influx slowed in August 2014, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children continued to enter the country through 2016.

In all, about 260,000 unaccompanied children migrated to the US from 2012 to June 2017. Many of them claimed to be fleeing from imminent danger posed by local gangs, among them MS-13. While their ultimate immigration cases — often for asylum or a special immigrant status for juveniles — were pending, they were able to enter the United States.

The surge received wide coverage in the media — and activated latent anxieties among Americans. In June 2014, only 3 percent of Americans told Gallup that immigration was the most important issue facing America; in July 2014, it spiked to 17 percent, the highest level in a decade.

The idea that so many migrants were being received at the border and then released into the US seemed to many Americans like a security crisis — even a slow-motion invasion. The fact that the asylum seekers were fleeing gangs didn’t seem like a point in their favor, particularly among Americans who believe America is weakened when people from “shithole countries” are allowed to resettle here.

But there was no large-scale infiltration of the US by MS-13 members. In June 2017, interim Chief of Customs and Border Protection Carla Provost told the Senate Judiciary Committee that 159 unaccompanied minors who had been processed by Border Patrol between September 2011 and June 2017 were “confirmed or suspected” to have gang ties — a “very low” number, as she said, given that about 260,000 unaccompanied children were processed during that time. Of those 159, 56 were “confirmed or suspected” to be affiliated with MS-13.

Christina Animashaun/Vox

By CBP’s estimates, 0.02 percent of the unaccompanied minors who came to the US — one in every 5,000 migrants — had some MS-13 affiliation. That might be an undercount — or, conversely, it could count migrants who were wrongly suspected of being MS-13-affiliated because a Border Patrol agent misunderstood their tattoos, or because they had relatives who were in MS-13 but weren’t themselves, or who had been coerced into joining the gang and had fled to the US to escape its clutches.

But with MS-13, perception has been more powerful than reality. More than anything President Obama did, the 2014 border crisis activated the immigration anxiety Donald Trump would ride to the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

As a candidate, Trump didn’t talk much about MS-13 in particular. He was usually happy to talk generally about how dangerous immigrants — or, at his most specific, unauthorized immigrants — were. After the election, however, he appears to have been alerted to the MS-13 threat — and since then, both he and Attorney General Sessions have turned the gang into their rhetorical public enemy No. 1.

MS-13 is a perfect foil for Trump. It allows him to connect the reality that gangs have taken over much of El Salvador with the fear that parts of America have become similarly lawless and unfamiliar — abetted by foolish local “sanctuary city” governments.

Furthermore, it allows him to do that without saying anything that sounds like an obvious racist dog whistle. When Trump said Mexico was “sending” rapists and murderers over the border, people across the political spectrum recognized that he was playing on racist fears. But the same criticism doesn’t resonate as much when Trump talks about an actual criminal gang.

The fine line between MS-13 “predators” and their prey

The real tragedy of the unaccompanied migrant wave was that for all the concern about whether the US was doing enough to deter and screen child migrants, not many in Washington paid much attention to what happened to them once they entered the US. And under the fog of indifference, some of the teens who had left gang-ravaged El Salvador for the US ended up caught in the life they were trying to escape.

In 2017, the Washington Post told the story of Maria Reyes, who had paid $11,000 to bring her daughter Damaris to Maryland from El Salvador in 2014, only to lose her at 15 when she was killed by a group of teenagers in MS-13 (two of whom had also come to the US as unaccompanied minors).

“I didn’t know people like that existed in the United States,” Reyes told the Post. “I thought it was super safe to have my daughter here with me.”

Other parents of migrant teenagers who were killed in gang violence voice the same disbelief and disillusionment: that gang members weren’t supposed to be in America. But the history of MS-13 shows that where gang members are matters less than the strength of the institutions that are supposed to protect the public from them.

Reward posters hang near a Brentwood, New York, high school asking for information on the homicides of two teenagers on September 13, 2016. 
AFP/Getty Images

Those institutions were weak or nonexistent in El Salvador. They were supposed to be strong in America. But this is the problem Stuntz identified: Both indifference and rage toward marginalized communities weaken the institutions that are supposed to protect them from crime.

Many teenage migrants settled with relatives in communities that already had large numbers of Guatemalan, Honduran, or Salvadoran immigrants. Those communities, where public schools and services are often underfunded already, now got tens of thousands of newteenagers — many of them with traumatic pasts, few of them with close relationships with the relatives (even parents) with whom they were living, nearly none of them English speakers.

The Department of Health and Human Services didn’t have the ability to work with schools or local governments to make sure migrants were getting the legal and social assistance they needed once they were in their new communities. They didn’t even have the ability to screen would-be guardians rigorously — at least a few unaccompanied minors were released to people who weren’t related to them at all and turned out to be human traffickers.

Even in a best-case scenario, when children who came to the US were reunited with parents who already lived here, it was difficult to rebuild close family relationships — as the Post’s story of the Reyes family showed. “Why did you leave me?” Damaris once asked, her mom said. “Why didn’t you bring me sooner?”

“The resulting isolation that many of them feel or experience makes them more susceptible to victimization, gang recruitment, and participation in criminal activity,” a Montgomery County internal report from 2016 read.

The problem was that not only were they isolated, but they were segregated as wellplaced alongside other new arrivals, fellow immigrants, and Salvadoran Americans. Those who had fled MS-13, as Jonathan Blitzer has documented for the New Yorker, often found themselves side by side with people just like the ones they’d fled:

After a few months in school, two Salvadoran boys wearing oversized shirts, sagging pants, and light-blue bandannas sat down next to Juliana in her math class. They peppered her with questions in Spanish. Where was she from? Whom did she hang out with back home? Juliana had promised her mother that she wouldn’t tell other students her full name, so that word of her escape wouldn’t reach El Salvador, and, as the boys grilled her, she became panicked. “When someone talks like that in El Salvador, it means they’re in a gang,” she said. “They weren’t supposed to be here.”

School authorities weren’t always willing or able to help. Some misidentified gang intimidation as bullying; some were simply scared of the gangs. And when law enforcement came through and did gang sweeps, they weren’t able to distinguish gang members from people who were trying to live their lives gang-free.

Blitzer’s New Yorker report says that one Long Island teen was arrested in a gang sweep for having a Salvadoran flag as his profile picture (whose dominant color, bright blue, is also used by MS-13). One ex-girlfriend of a gang member told Blitzer that when they needed to lie low, “Carlos and his friends from MS-13 would change their style of dress” — like swapping out their shoes — and then “mocked the police for being slow to catch on” to the fact that they weren’t wearing their “characteristic” gang attire. “Immigrant teens without ties to the gang,” meanwhile, were at risk: They “didn’t necessarily know which clothes were off limits.”

Trump’s policies won’t destroy MS-13. They will, if anything, only make things worse.

Local officials don’t always agree on the extent of the MS-13 threat. Prosecutors tend to talk up the threat; police officers downplay it. This makes sense — police officers have no interest in making it seem like they’re failing to do their jobs, while prosecutors want to emphasize how important it is to lock people up — but it also demonstrates just how much the discussion of MS-13 is shaped by political incentives.

A deputy county executive in Suffolk County admitted as much to Liz Robbins of the New York Times:

When something dramatic happens, politically, we speak of it in the most larger-than-life terms because that’s going to get the governor’s attention; it got the president’s attention and the attorney general’s attention […] It got us resources, and we’re using that money. Part of the negative side of that is things like this might get overblown.

Local police and social workers emphasize that no anti-gang approach can be solely carceral; that education, mental health care and social intervention are just as important to present teenagers with appealing alternatives to gang membership. And in the one place in the US where MS-13 was once strong but hasn’t been engaging in spectacular violence in the current wave — Los Angeles — that’s what they’ve done.

But that’s not what East Coast communities have money for right now — or what they’re getting. The “resources” the Suffolk County executive mentioned to the Times took the form of a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice, most of which was to be used for enforcement — with “a small amount,” the Times wrote, for education.

The more pressing policy question for local authorities dealing with MS-13 is the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown — and what that means for law enforcement efforts in the immigrant communities where MS-13 is entrenched.

When law enforcement’s biggest problem is proactively identifying who gang members are, and distinguishing them from their victims, the solution has to involve talking to community members more. And between the Trump administration’s use of federal immigration agents to sow fear in immigrant communities and its attempts to pressure local law enforcement to help federal agents take immigrants into custody, immigrants have every reason, right now, not to speak to a police officer.

“The community’s silence is the gang’s strength,” Montgomery County Capt. Paul Liquorie, head of the county’s anti-gang unit, told the Daily Signal. “It’s hard enough for the community to come forward to tell us activities that are going on with the gang. If that same community also fears they will be deported if they come forward, that is just one other factor that prevents us from getting an understanding of what is going on.”

Liquorie and his fellow law enforcement officials are careful not to directly criticize President Trump or his agenda. But it’s apparent that the demands Trump is making on behalf of communities threatened by MS-13 are exactly the things that community leaders worry about.

Trump has cast MS-13 as cartoon villains in a fantasy armageddon. But the gang is not a metaphor. And the immigrant communities that MS-13 preys on are very much real — and they’re the ones in harm’s way. Trump’s actions to date show that he doesn’t see it that way — that is, if he sees those communities at all.

Family and friends at the burial service of Justin Llivicura, a 16-year-old high school student in Long Island, New York on April 19, 2017. He was murdered in a local park in what many suspect to be an attack from MS-13 members. 
Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty Images

Hush hush, liberal-propagandist pact among high school history teachers in Massachussetts–and beyond…

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The Federalist

A DIVISION OF FDRLST MEDIA

https://thefederalist.com/2018/08/07/emails-reveal-high-school-teachers-plotting-hide-political-bias-parents/

Emails Reveal High School Teachers Plotting To Hide Their Political Bias From Parents

Emails Reveal High School Teachers Plotting To Hide Their Political Bias From Parents

The Left is abusing American high school education in its struggle to gain and retain political power. We only found out about this incident by accident. How many more?
Ilya Feoktistov

By 

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Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, a group of public school history teachers in the posh Boston suburb of Newton pledged to reject the “call for objectivity” in the classroom, bully conservative students for their beliefs, and serve as “liberal propagandist[s]” for the cause of social justice.

This informal pact was made in an exchange of emails among history teachers at Newton North High School, part of a very rich but academically mediocre public school district with an annual budget of $200 million, a median home price of almost half a million, and a median household income of more than $120,000. Read the entire email exchange here.

I obtained the emails under a Massachusetts public records law after one of those teachers arranged, earlier this year, for an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel organization to show Palestinian propaganda films at Newton North. This stunt earned the Newton Public Schools district a rebuke from the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League and from Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council. But, as the teachers’ emails reveal, Jew-hatred is not the only specter haunting the history department at Newton North.

The Teachers Conspire to Hide Extreme Prejudice

It was late on a cold and snowy New England evening in February 2017, and Newton North history teacher Isongesit Ibokette was venting at his keyboard about the new guidelines for avoiding bias in teaching. They had been sent out by Newton North’s principal that morning, prompted by the general ill will among teachers for the new occupant of the White House.

The guidelines asked teachers to remain objective while teaching about historical and current events; and to treat all students, regardless of political opinion, with respect. Teachers were told: “For current controversial issues (health care, immigration, environmental policies, gun laws), teach students that there are different perspectives and present the reasoning of those who hold those different perspectives.”

Ibokette was having none of it. He typed this reply: “I am concerned that the call for ‘objectivity’ may just inadvertently become the most effective destructive weapon against social justice,” and sent it to the members of Newton North’s history department.

Ibokette was responding to an email from another Newton North history teacher, David Bedar. Bedar was same teacher who hosted the anti-Semites at Newton North, and has played a significant role in the years-long controversy over anti-Jewish bias in the public schools of the heavily Jewish suburb.

Earlier that February day, Bedar sent an email to fellow Newton North history faculty, accusing President Trump and his supporters of “nativism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc.,” and objecting to the following “don’ts” that the Newton North principal had asked teachers to avoid:

  • “Assume that all students agree with us. . . .”
  • “Assume that all students feel comfortable disagreeing with us. . . .”
  • “Present facts or logic that support only one side of a current controversial issue. . . .”
  • “Present our own personal opinion on a current controversial issue as more right than another viewpoint. . . .”

These guidelines seem like Pedagogy 101, and are foundational to correctly applying logic and reason. Yet Bedar, who holds a master’s in teaching from the prestigious Duke University, admitted to his colleagues:

Personally, I’m finding it really difficult in the current climate to teach kids to appreciate other perspectives. . . [T]he ‘other viewpoint’ might not really be an argument ‘about which reasonable people can disagree’ and might not lead to any kind of intellectual, policy debate; it might just be blatantly racist. . . . [I]t feels wrong to not call out ideas that I know will offend many of my students and create a hostile and potentially unsafe environment. . . . I’m worried that as a school we’re so focused on making all kids feel safe and being PC that we’re not showing enough concern for [immigrant] students whose very rights to attend this school and receive an education are being seriously threatened. . . . I don’t feel good about protecting [a nativist] student’s right to a so‐called ‘political’ view. . . Do I really have to avoid saying ‘I think nativism is bad?[‘] The eugenics movement was based in large part on immigrants destroying our country.

Bedar’s strawman argument is fallacious. Trump administration immigration policies and the Americans who support them have nothing to do with eugenics. To claim without evidence and by tenuous association that they do is repugnant.

Don’t Fire Me for Being a ‘Liberal Propagandist’

Much worse yet is Bedar’s display of extreme political intolerance toward the views of millions of his fellow Americans, among whom are, presumably, a number of his own students. Support for immigration law enforcement is by no means a fringe political perspective, even in Massachusetts. It is certainly not some sort of taboo that must be expunged from classroom debate, and Newton North guidelines explicitly tell teachers to teach about the reasoning behind different perspectives on immigration.

Yet, in remarkable language, Bedar demanded that the school allow him to propagandize against it, and to do so without any professional consequences: “I have an obligation to teach civic duty and teach kids right and wrong, and about social justice. . . . This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t actually think we should have the option of not discussing [social justice] issues. I feel responsible for doing so. . . . We can help kids interpret the lessons of the past better than anybody. I feel like a phony when I’m not doing that. . . . But..this is hard. I don’t want to get fired for being a liberal propagandist” (emphasis added).

Bedar is, of course, wrong on multiple levels. A master’s degree in teaching is risibly inadequate to qualify anyone as the arbiter of right and wrong, and a history teacher’s basic obligation is to teach history accurately and objectively. A sine qua non of that obligation is to avoid propaganda of any kind.

Unfortunately, Bedar does not seem to be very good at the actual basics of teaching history, much less at interpreting the lessons of the past, shortcomings for which he compensates by being a reasonably good propagandist. For example, Bedar’s erroneous belief to the contrary notwithstanding, the early twentieth-century eugenics movement was based less in conservative nativism than in the same New England progressivism Bedar preaches today. The eugenicist Immigration Restriction League was founded in Boston by three Harvard progressives. As The Guardian well puts it, eugenics is “the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left’s closet.”

Propagandists Simplify Very Complex Events into Slogans

Indeed, if common cause with the eugenics movement is Bedar’s litmus test for approved opinions in the classroom, then opinions supporting deficit spending and birth control should be as forbidden there as nativism seems to be. Left-wing economist John Maynard Keynes called eugenics “the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists,” and believed its implementation would “be a great moment in the progress of civilization.” Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was an inveterate eugenicist who believed that “the campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal, with the final aims of Eugenics.”

All of this is not to argue over birth control, deficit spending, and which ideologies are responsible for what travesties. Rather, it is to say that history, politics, and ideology are complicated things. Yet, in the history lessons they teach, propagandist teachers like Bedar insist on reducing all of this complexity to a Manichean struggle between “right and wrong,” the essence of which they insipidly correlate with “Democrat and Republican.”

In that kind of lurid light, where no shades of gray can possibly exist, people who lack the “right” politics must pose, in Ibokette’s words, a “real, immediate, and present danger” to human progress, and to all that is right and good. Men who light up the world in such stark contrast fill history books with their crimes.

This Is Like My Childhood Education in the Soviet Union

The year after the Soviet Union fell, I entered fifth grade at State School No. 8 in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where I was born at the beginning of the end of that evil empire. Usually, Soviet children started learning the history of Russia in fifth grade, but my teacher told the class that she had nothing to teach us anymore.

“The old history books are useless now,” I distinctly remember her telling us. “They were full of Communist Party lies.” Just like that, the entire monument of official Soviet history, built upon an ideological foundation of lies and held together by despotism, crashed as soon as the coercive power that had kept it upright for 74 years disappeared in an instant.

Left-wing activists are dug in at all stages of the American educational process from preschool to graduate school.

Undaunted by the failures of their comrades in the Soviet Union and other socialist hell-holes, left-wing activists are dug in at all stages of the American educational process from preschool to graduate school, where they seek to replicate the Soviet Union’s abuse of its children’s minds with lurid lies.

Even science education is facing a hostile takeover by progressive luddites with scientific degrees who insist, as one biology PhD student did recently, that “to think there are universal truths perpetuates a particular kind of able bodied white cisgender male logic.” The result of all this left-wing obscurantism is a brainwashed Generation Z that inhabits a false reality colored in stylized black and white by leftist dogma—the same false reality that Soviet school and preschool battered into me as a child.

The Teachers’ Administrators Back Them Up

After Bedar complained that he didn’t want to get fired for being a “liberal propagandist,” his fellow history teacher, Ibokette, wrote back: “David, if you get fired for doing exactly what history teachers, and indeed all rational and ethical‐minded adults should indeed be doing, I will be right behind you.”

I wish this would happen, not because I want them punished, but because I think the way they teach history is a form of child abuse. But Bedar and Ibokette’s superiors, all the way up the ladder, are fully on board with this abuse. Bedar’s direct supervisor, Newton North history department chair Jonathan Bassett, replied to his revolt against reason with this: “David: Your ‘essay’ is very good, and raises a lot of the questions that we are all dealing with. . . . We are in unprecedented times, and we are all struggling to do good.”

The Left is abusing American high school education in its struggle—not to do good, but to gain and retain political power. The ongoing trend of growing political intolerance and ideological bigotry among the newest American adults will continue, and nothing good will come of it. In the Soviet Union, I’ve seen what young people could be turned into, what I myself could be turned into. Trust me, America hasn’t seen anything yet.

Ilya Feoktistov is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
Photo U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith/Released
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Copyright © 2018 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved.

My Hummingbird Buddies

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Often now, when I go to put the hummingbird feeders out with the sunrise, a single hummingbird flies up close to me while I’m still holding the two feeders. It then drinks from the feeders while I’m still holding them in my hands.

This morning, two hummingbirds came up to me and drank from the feeders while they were still in my hands. In this goofy world, there are still moments that are so heartwarming and magical to me!

by S.A. Bort/3 August 2018

Photo by S.A. Bort/17 August 2013

Daybreak: a poem

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5:50 AM. Air brisk to the face. No wind.
Subdued light with orange horizon. No sun.
Hummingbird feeders, sugary, up as scheduled. No whistly hums yet.
Refreshing solitude. Daybreak.

On the left coast, out-of-touch film stars/media do whatever they do at this hour.
On the right coast, politicized representatives/media do whatever they do.
Now their jets, passing oppositely overhead, steal the silence, largely stockholders profiting non-partisanly from growing businesses.
All of this my view from down here. From bountiful middle-America.

Back inside, opening our living room blinds. Light pours in.
A quick peek at the morning news-of-the-moment on the “plastic, fantastic lover.” Darkness leaks in.
Back to the sanctuary of our bed.
Dreams strain under the puzzling together of nonsensical memories.

By S.A. Bort / 10 August 2018

Photo by S.A. Bort / 16 October 2017

Parkland, Florida Mass Shooting: The Tipping Point?

Following Parkland, Florida School Shooting–02-14-17

February 15, 2017:  This is a Facebook post of mine from the day following the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting. I am currently writing a post on my current thoughts of what CAN be done realistically, effectively and in a non-partisan or political manner. I will share that soon. Everyone has their own view of a solution, usually staunchly partisan, but NOW, more than ever, is the time to make public each of our REALISTIC solutions. I believe and pray that yesterday’s Parkland, Florida mass shooting IS the tipping point. It has to be, with the full participation of all American citizens’ voices, regardless of cultural or political differences. Let’s all come together. These senseless tragedies CAN be stopped as close to 100% as is humanly possible. We must actively advance civility.

 

November 6, 2017:  Here’s my take on the frightening and unacceptable rise in gun-related murders in America. Banning guns is not a real solution. Why? There are already half-a-billion guns out there. That is what I believe is the current estimate. What are authorities going to do? Will they go house-to-house confiscating those guns? I think not. Banning guns will not solve the problem of all the guns that are already out there that cannot be thoroughly confiscated. Automatic or semi-automatic weapons, maybe, which I would completely support, but even those, present owners would not give them up easily.

 As far as improving background checks, the presently deceased gunman in the Texas shooting was dishonorably discharged and court-marshaled from the Air Force. His right to own a gun was taken away, yet he found a way to buy a weapon—four years in a row! He must have lied on his forms or found some other weasely way to purchase his four guns. A more thorough background check migh make it harder for people to buy guns, but I believe that where there is a will, there is a way. There are too many guns out there already that can be bought or stolen.

As far as mental health, the killer in the Texas mass killing reportedly sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law—who attended the Baptist Church where the shooting took place, although, she wasn’t there at the time of the shooting. Why didn’t she report those texts to the authorities? Would the authorities have responded? Is it a current crime to send threatening texts? Maybe strengthening background checks would help. Would all gun-sellers take those strengthened checks seriously?

My wife, Jean, called the local police at least once in response to a former neighbor’s strange behavior. We spotted him, once, running on his property with camo pants on, stopping, quickly kneeling and aiming his rifle into the distance, running again, kneeling again and then aiming again. We live in the mountains where many people own guns and have large acreages to run around on, even to set up home shooting ranges. It’s not illegal here. Maybe in cities, but it’s not in many sparsely populated areas. The local police, here, almost laughed at us with our “see-then-tell” approach. They did visit our neighbor, but he wasn’t home, so they didn’t pursue our concerns other than watching his house on occasion. He hung “painted, death-masks” on two aspen trees that face our driveway as we drove down from our home for God’s sake! Again, he was on his property, so he wasn’t “breaking the law.” He reported me to the local police once when I turned the corner by my acreage, slamming on my brakes, and almost running into him and one of his two, frankly vicious, Tibetan Mastiffs as they walked along in the middle of the road. (Even the police were afraid of his dogs.) A deputy visited our house, though, questioning me, and warning ME to drive more safely. So much for “see-then-tell!”

As far as those who seek mental health assistance; counselors, therapists and psychiatrists are bound to keep their records sealed to protect privacy. Perhaps a legal warrant for those records would supply those records in the case of someone who appears to them to be a threat to others, or especially capable of a mass shooting, but even so, would that violate privacy rights and also result in dissuading many others, who are ill, from seeking out help that might prevent them from hurting others? I think so.

Lastly, what of family members, friends or others that have more defined “red-lights” as to their strange behavior, or stained backgrounds? Constitutional rights are not that easy to be taken away in an exceptional and valuable, FREE country. It’s not easy to declare a family member insane, for example, because there are laws that protect that person from being taken advantage of by family members that want to lock them away to take their inheritance or for some other shady reason. It takes going to court, spending lots of money on attorneys, and fighting, often with extremely heavy hearts, to prove that person unable to sanely care for themselves, and then to lock them away in an institution. A snap-of-a-finger? Again, I think not.

Truly, mass shootings, or shootings at all, are a frustrating and senseless, complex problem to solve. What we need are real and effective solutions toward solving these heartbreaking crimes—other than gun control or strengthening background checks. In the case of the Texas shooter, he was stopped from killing even more churchgoers by a private citizen with his own legally-owned gun. Something to seriously consider.

above photo from:

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/photos-shooting-high-school-parkland-florida-feb/NLte3JSXX7Bt5lvBKdqKRL/

President Trump as the biblical Nathanael?

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Former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, mentioned earlier this month on the cable news program, Fox & Friends, that he thought President Trump was similar to Nathanael in the Bible.  Here is the only substantive passage about Nathanael from the Bible:

John 1:45-47 (RSV)

45  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  46  Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  47  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  48  Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”  Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  49  Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”

Engraving of the Apostle Nathanael. Photo: Getty Images

Engraving of the Apostle Nathanael. Photo: Getty Images

image from: http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/JZ-Nathanael-Bartholomew.htm

Parkinson disease Second opinion: 16 February 2017

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As a final Parkinson’s update, I was able to bump up my second-opinion appt from late March to yesterday.  I have “Parkinsonism,” which is the effects of Parkinson’s Disease brought on by the regular use of Abilify.

Because I have Rem Sleep Behavior Disorder (acting out my dreams while asleep), I have a 50-80% chance of developing Parkinson’s Disease in the future.  This is good and bad news.

As a result, I will stop using Abilify and see if the Parkinsonism goes away or not.  Basically, I don’t have Parkinson’s right now, which is very good news, even though the possibility of it developing later in life is pretty high.

image from:  https://www.drugs.com/abilify-images.html

Saul Alinsky, the left’s “shadow government” and the press

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Breitbart News

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/02/14/lefts-alinsky-plan-destroy-trump-administration/

The Left’s Alinsky Plan to Destroy the Trump Administration

Associated Press

by Joel B. Pollak 14 Feb 2017

When a former community organizer with little other experience became the Democratic Party nominee for president in 2008, conservatives began inquiring what, exactly, a “community organizer” does.

That led to a surge of interest in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a secular Bible among Barack Obama’s cohort of left-wing radicals in Chicago.  In the White House, as aide Valerie Jarrett so memorably put it, Obama remained a community organizer, using his old tactics to push his agenda.

Now that they have been relegated to the opposition, Obama and the Democrats are not only using the same old Alinskyite tactics, but amplifying them through the media, who will never forgive President Donald Trump for winning the election.  (Far from retiring quietly, Obama has been swift to criticize his successor and encourage left-wing protests against his policies.)

Here are just a few examples of Alinsky’s rules being put into practice in an effort to bring down the Trump administration.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”  During the 2016 election, the media tried to stop Trump from winning by focusing on his personal flaws, real and imagined.  That failed — so they are targeting the people around Trump.

The most unfortunate victim of this strategy is not former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign this week, but White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is the most accessible member of the president’s media team, and one of the most effective.  For making a flippant remark at the end of a Fox & Friends segment, in which she endorsed Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, she is now being singled out for investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics.  (What “investigation” is needed?  She was on live television.)

The media are simply throwing whatever they can at the people around Trump, whether it is true or not.  For example, bloggers and journalists smeared Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka as a Nazi sympathizer, in keeping with the ongoing defamation of White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon (both formerly of Breitbart News) as a “white nationalist” and worse.

Sometimes the attacks are not only false, but also personally abusive, such as a recent article in Fusion targeting White House speechwriter and policy guru, Stephen Miller:  “Why does Stephen Miller sound like such a dick?  A voice coach explains.”  MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough’s attacks on Miller have become so openly hostile to Miller, and so personal in nature (“my young, little Miller”) that even the Washington Post seemed genuinely taken aback by the Morning Joe host’s criticisms.

It is worth noting that the media did not press for the resignation of any of the Obama administration officials associated with much more serious scandals — Benghazi, the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal come to mind — even when officials admitted that they had misled Congress and the public.  Now, the media are constantly searching for personalities they can pillory as proxies for the Trump administration as a whole.

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”  In the weeks after Election Day, Saturday Night Live contented itself with weepy tributes to Hillary Clinton.  Now, however, it has returned to comedic form in ridiculing President Trump and his staff.  There is nothing wrong with that — and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is funny — but what is interesting is that mainstream news outlets, such as CNN, often spend the next several days after each new sketch reporting and re-running Saturday Night Live segments as news.

Politico recently piled on with an entirely speculative report that Saturday Night Live could actually force the dismissal of the White House staffers it has been targeting, including Spicer.  The obvious goal of such “fake news” stories is turn entertainment into a political weapon against the Trump administration.

“If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its [positive] counterside.”  What Alinsky meant was that tactics that would ordinarily be abhorrent — say, rioting on a university campus, or telling the public that members of the government were “Nazis” — would be tolerated, and even celebrated, once they had been proven successful.

The current Democratic Party strategy is not to reach out to the voters they have lost over the past several years, but rather to make the country appear ungovernable, hoping that voters then turn to the Democrats for relief.

In recent protests at Los Angeles International Airport, for instance, Mayor Eric Garcetti not only joined demonstrators in solidarity, but did so at a time when protesters were blocking traffic and disrupting travel.  He was perfectly willing to harm his own city for political gain — normally objectionable, except that it worked.

These tactics will not fade because of one resignation.  Alinksy, after all, advised his acolytes to “keep the pressure on.”  What is happening today will continue throughout the Trump administration.  The government, and the conservative voters who are expecting it to deliver, will have to be just as tough, and even stronger, in the face of Alinskyite attacks.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News.  He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016.  His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.