Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Some Thoughts on the 2014 Election

I would be remiss in not pointing out one of the key dynamics that has been at play for some years, and really became a significant factor last night: Our failure to take right-wing extremism seriously.

The American right has been growing increas
ingly radicalized by the extremist rhetoric, nearly all of it originating with the racist/extremist right, that has become pervasive in mainstream discourse over the past generation. The Tea Party, frankly, is now indistinguishable from the militia movement of the 1990s. And the mainstream press continues to treat this radicalization as normative politics -- in large part because liberals do not make it an issue. When Joni Ernst can advocate Agenda 21 conspiracy theories and radical anti-abortion positions and still be treated like a normal politician, we share in that blame.

And the real result is that the center of gravity for our entire national discourse gets pulled farther rightward. Republicans become more and more rightist and radical because of this impetus, to the point that there are no real moderates in that party any longer. And what happens then is that the GOP keeps nominating far-right extremists who are so repulsive that liberals are happy to elect anyone -- even the most sellout corporate Democrat --- to keep them out of office. And so the Democratic Party has no incentive to listen to their progressive voters or even represent them; all they need to do is represent a safe corporate middle, and they can win election.

When progressives start making right-wing extremism a serious issue, to the extent that the mainstream press has no choice but to cover it, then we may begin making headway against this tide. But not until then.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Makings of Ammonium Nitrate Bomb Found in Border Militiaman’s Hotel Room

Kevin "K.C." Massey III

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

When ATF agents arrested Kevin “K.C.” Massey III at a Brownsville-area hotel last week on charges that he had been illegally carrying weapons while leading border-militia patrols in Texas, they found more in his hotel room than just guns and ammo. There was also a container of ammonium nitrate and fuel—a potent bomb in the making.

According to an inventory of items taken during Massey’s arrest, an “ammo box filled with ammonium nitrate (suspected) and fuel” was found in the room, which participants at Camp LoneStar—the border-militia operation at which Massey had been dubbed a “commander”—had described as a place rented out by the camp as “a place to take a shower and get a good night’s rest.”

As the San Antonio Express-News noted in a report on the arrest, ammonium nitrate, which can be purchased as a farm fertilizer, can make a potent explosion when mixed with diesel fuel and detonated. It was the explosive Timothy McVeigh used in his 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Massey was arrested as the result of an ATF investigation that followed an Aug. 31 incident at Camp LoneStar in which a Border Patrol officer fired four shots at a militiaman named John Foerster, who dropped his weapon at the scene. After Massey and a companion arrived at the scene to vouch for Foerster, agents kept his AK-47 rifle and a .45 caliber handgun as part of their investigation.

Both Massey and Foerster were arrested for being felons in possession of a firearm last week. Additionally, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan ordered Foerster to remain in detention while undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

Massey’s arrest has inspired a fresh round of paranoia among the ranks of his fellow “Patriots” on the border, who appear to be claiming that laws precluding felons from owning weapons are “unconstitutional.” One of his supporters on Facebook, in the midst of a long rant supporting Massey, argued: “What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? any law made to keep a person from owning a gun is UNLAWFUL,and invalid from its inception!”

Another posted a lengthy discursion on federal authority’s supposed overreach in Massey’s case, and concluded that the state of Texas needed to intervene: “If what the federal government implies to be true by their persecution of K. C. Massey is true, then there is no need for the three branches of the government of Texas to exist. On the other hand, the government of Texas should take a more aggressive role, as the Supreme Court did, in limiting the overbearing and abused authority of the federal law enforcement agencies.”

In the meantime, an avid Camp LoneStar supporter has begun hawking T-shirts with the camp’s logo on them. She promises that “a portion of the proceeds” will go toward Massey’s legal defense fund. Other supporters also recently organized a “Slam for the Rights of K.C. Massey” as a fundraiser.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Camp LoneStar Arrests Result From Earlier Encounter With Border Patrol Officer

John Frederick Foerster
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A chance encounter earlier this summer with a Border Patrol officer along the Rio Grande has become a disastrous event for the vigilantes prowling the Texas border at the militia encampment dubbed Camp LoneStar.

Two of the militiamen, including camp leader Kevin “K.C.” Massey III, now face federal felony weapons charges as a result of the encounter. Massey was arrested on Monday, while a second militiaman, John Frederick Foerster, was arrested on Tuesday. Both are charged with being felons in possession of a weapon.

A group of Border Patrol officers were in pursuit of several illegal border crossers in the early morning hours of Aug. 29 when one of the officers, having lost sight of the fugitives, came upon Foerster, who was standing in the brush holding a weapon. According to the criminal complaint, the agent fired four shots at Foerster and missed; Foerster threw down his gun and surrendered.

While the officers were processing information with Foerster, Massey and another Camp LoneStar participant arrived to vouch for Foerster, carrying weapons. Massey had an AK-47 rifle and a .45 caliber handgun.

According to Massey’s account of the incident on Facebook, Border Patrol officers asked the men to store their guns (as well as a GoPro video camera) in a Patrol vehicle. But when the officers wrapped up their work, they insisted on keeping the guns and the camera as part of their investigation.

The encounter occurred on the private property owned by Cuban “Rusty” Monsees where the Camp LoneStar encampment is set up, and so no arrests were made at the time. However, it shortly emerged that Foerster was in fact a felon; Massey, as federal agents would later report, also had been convicted of a felony in 1988.

On Monday, ATF agents swooped in and arrested Massey at a hotel in Brownsville, and then arrested Foerster on Tuesday.

The arrests set off a round of paranoia among their fellow militiamen. Massey’s “superior” at Camp LoneStar, Archie Seals, ranted on Facebook about how the arrests represent government oppression of their citizen-vigilante efforts:

Ok, I had been thinking for a while, “Are we doing any good here”? Now I know we are, and we are stepping on someone toes. Listen up all Feds that are monitoring, you have put my #2 in a cell illegally thinking it would shut us up and down. Guess what??? It didn’t work. We are still open for business, because, “This is what we do”. If anything, you made us stronger and more determined. When you take me in on some bs, another has been chosen to take over, then another, and another. We are Camp LoneStar and we are going no where. Now, I need every possible BOG immediately. Let’s show these feds that we only will grow stronger. Who will now join me and who will send support for the camp and for KC??? We need supplies here and KC needs funds for bond and lawyer.

Fellow “Patriot” Gary Hunt, evidently familiar with the details of Massey’s arrest, posted angrily at his blog:

These occurrences … should provide adequate warning to patriots, especially those who have a felony record, that there is a concerted effort on the part of government to find cause to bring charges against you and take your guns away. They also provide insight into the tactics that the government is using to cull the patriot community of as many as they can, reducing the remaining numbers, and intimidating those who remain.

Massey’s friends at the Secure Our Border organization changed the cover photo of their Facebook page to one featuring Massey’s portrait, accompanied by the legend: “Taken by the ATF for the crime of proving that the border can be secured by a few American Patriots.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

‘Camp LoneStar’ Leader Arrested by ATF Agents for Firearms Violations

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Kevin Lyndel “K.C.” Massey III, the current self-described “commander” of the gathering of border militiamen near Brownsville, Texas, dubbed Camp LoneStar, was arrested by federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Monday.

Massey, a 48-year-old from Quinlan, Texas, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, a federal offense.

According to a report from KGBT-TV in Brownsville, Massey was convicted of burglary in 1988, when he was 21 years old. Paroled in 1993, his record has remained clean since then.

Massey appeared in a number of the videos that emerged from the border watch at Camp LoneStar this past summer, but he was never seen carrying a weapon in them. A number of photos were posted on the camp’s Facebook page and elsewhere on social media showing a number of Camp LoneStar participants carrying weapons and wearing masks.

Massey described detaining border crossers in the Facebook comments to one of the Camp LoneStar videos, which showed militiamen detaining border crossers at gunpoint and cuffing them with their hands behind their backs with zip ties. “Sorry we had to ‘Detain’ them,” Massey, wrote. “[B]ut they were wore out and just fell down and gave up while the other 7-8 ran like gazelles!”

He later remarked: “One of the guys pissed himself!” Another chimed in, “Dude pissed himself bad.”
According to KGBT, Massey’s family posted on Facebook that ATF agents had arrived suddenly at their North Texas home and seized all their weapons.

Massey was arraigned Tuesday morning in Brownsville before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan, who denied bond until a Friday morning hearing. He remains in custody.

The Camp LoneStar page was mum about Massey’s arrest, but one of Massey’s main supporters, the North Carolina-based Secure Our Border, suggested in a Facebook post that Massey was only being arrested because of corruption within federal border law-enforcement operations. Referencing a 2012 report of supposed Border Patrol corruption, it fumed:
2012 but do you think it has stopped? Think again ….. you think the Corruption in The Border Patrol doesn’t go deep and run as rampant as the stream of invaders of our Nation Think AGAIN! You think that KC Massey III was arrested for the reasons in the post below? THINK AGAIN!

KC, Archie and the Rest of Camp Lonestar are killing their Cash Cow …. making it difficult for The Border Patrol to do Obama and his Puppeteers dirty work, making it difficult to supplement their Federal Salary and keep the Cartels and The Blow Hard Blow Heads in DC Happy and their drug habits Satisfied!
A former participant at the camp named Rob Chupp told Hatewatch that he and others decided to leave the camp when it became clear that the overseers were not particular about whether or not felons could participate in the camp, nor whether illegal weapons might be in use there. It was a Camp LoneStar participant, John Frederick Forrester, who drew gunfire from a Border Patrol officer in pursuit of a fugitive recently. Forrester, in fact, is a convicted felon.

Chupp, who was involved in organizing an ill-fated “Patriot” border-crossing event, said he and a number of other border watchers pulled out because of concerns about the legality of the operation.
“After the whole shooting thing, we figured out that some of them were felons,” Chupp said. “We asked several of the guys to leave that we found out were felons. Because yeah, we have a Second Amendment to protect your right to bear arms, but we are also a nation of laws, and there’s a reason we don’t let felons own guns. … And it came to be a problem, and it was loud, and ‘We don’t care what the gun laws are,’ and ‘If we want to have this weapon even if it’s illegal, we’re gonna have it.’ It just turned south, and we pulled out.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cliven Bundy in Bizarre Video for Black Candidate: ‘It’s Almost Like Black Folks Think White Folks Owe Them Something’

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Cliven Bundy, the defiant “Patriot” Nevada rancher who led an armed confrontation with federal agents in April – and who has still not faced any consequences in its aftermath – continued making the far-right political rounds in Nevada this week by appearing in a video promoting the candidacy of Independent American Party candidate Kamau Bakari.

This is somewhat remarkable, considering that Bakari is African-American. Rather than run away from Bundy’s reputation as a racist — well earned, after his widely publicized remarks about race in the immediate aftermath of Bundy’s showdown — the two of them went on the offensive, attacking his critics for their “political correctness,” which Bakari says is “bad for America.”

But none of it is as remarkable as the exchange between the two men, in which Bundy complains that “a man ought to be able to express himself without being called names”, and adds: “It’s almost like black folks think white folks owe them something.”

The ad opens with a clip of U.S. Attorney General Eric holder, commenting in 2009 on the state of race in America: “In things racial, we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

The ad then segues to Bundy and Bakari in western cowboy garb with their horses at a hitching post, as spaghetti-western music plays in the background.


BUNDY: Did he just call me a coward?

BAKARI: No, he just called all white folks cowards.

BUNDY: He must not know me.

BAKARI: You mean if someone called you a racist, you wouldn’t drop your head and be all scared and sad and run around here apologizing like them billionaire ball team owners did a little while ago?

BUNDY: No, I wouldn’t, and I’m sick and tired of people that act like that.

BAKARI: Cliven, you know that political correctness, that’s bad for America. A man ought to be able to say whatever you want to say.

BUNDY: That’s exactly right. I know black folks have had a hard time with slavery and you know, the government was in on it. And the government’s in on it again. I worked my whole life without mistreating anybody. A man ought to be able to express himself without being called names.

BAKARI: I hear you, Cliven, I believe you. A brave white man like you might be just what we need to put an end to this political correctness in America today.

BUNDY: Don’t sell yourself short. You’re taking a chance just being in my company.

BAKARI: I know. I’m as sick as you are. I feel ashamed when I hear black folks whining about “white folks this,” “white folks that.” Always begging.
BUNDY: It’s almost like black folks think white folks owe them something.

BAKARI: I know, I’ve got an idea. Let’s call Eric Holder up.

BUNDY: What do you mean?

BAKARI: Tell him you’re a white man that’s not scared to talk to him about race. And you know a black man that will stand with you.

BUNDY: I like that idea. Mr. Eric Holder, this is one white man that’s not scared to talk about race. I dare you to come to Las Vegas and talk to us.
BAKARI: And don’t give us that “you’re too busy” stuff. You weren’t too busy to go to Ferguson, Missouri.
As the Washington Post notes, Bakari is a fringe candidate who has virtually no change of unseating the incumbent, Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat, in Nevada’s 1st District.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oin Oakstar, 43, Key Figure in Shawna Forde Trial, Found Dead in Homeless Encampment

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The death of Oin Oakstar at the age of 43 was probably not a surprise to anyone familiar with the Arizona man’s drug-and-alcohol-fueled lifestyle.

What surprises many, however, is where he died: In a homeless encampment under a freeway overpass in Everett, Wash., more than a thousand miles from Arivaca, his longtime home near the border.

Police found Oakstar’s body on Wednesday in a tent near an area frequented by homeless people, on railroad property near Interstate 5. There were no obvious signs of how he died, though natural causes are suspected, and police say they are awaiting word on an autopsy, the Everett Herald reported.

Oakstar lived for many years in Arivaca, where he worked for a number of drug-smuggling operations and avidly partook in the products he sold, as he later testified in Pima County Superior Court. It was also in Arivaca that, in 2009, Oakstar met Shawna Forde, a self-proclaimed leader of a “Minuteman” border-watch operation in the Sonoran desert— Forde, as it happens, grew up and lived in Everett at the time she became involved in the Minuteman movement.

Forde, a 41-year-old former hairdresser and teen prostitute, who led a group of her “Minutemen”—aided by one of Oakstar’s employers, an Arivaca man named Albert Gaxiola—to the home of another local smuggler, a man named Raul “Junior” Flores, in the early-morning hours of May 30, 2009. There, Forde ordered her gunman, a Washington white supremacist named Jason Eugene Bush, to shoot Flores, his wife, Gina Gonzalez, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. Gonzalez survived, and, in a dramatic scene, eventually drove the invaders from her home with gunfire.

Oakstar was arrested the next day by Pima County Sheriff’s Office detectives on suspicion of involvement in the murders. Based in part on information that Oakstar gave them, detectives were able to arrest Forde, Bush, and Gaxiola within two weeks of the killings. Oakstar’s testimony in 2011, describing the events leading up to the killings, also helped put all three of those suspects away.
Forde and Bush are now on Arizona’s Death Row, and Gaxiola is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.

As Oakstar described it, Forde wanted to raid a “drug house” in the smuggling corridor where Arivaca sits and steal the smugglers’ drugs and money, all part of her plan to buy a borderland ranch and convert it into a training compound for her outfit, the Minuteman American Defense. Gaxiola obligingly provided her with the name of Flores—a local rival—and told her that there were several million dollars in the house. (The home invaders came away with nothing but handfuls of Gonzalez’ jewelry.)

Oakstar, who had a long criminal history related to drug dealing, testified that he had driven Forde and her gang past the Flores’ home earlier in the day. But when they came by to pick him up at his home for the robbery, they found him incapacitated by alcohol. Oakstar said it was a way out, since he thought he smelled a setup in Forde’s invasion plan, and he wanted nothing to do with hitting a rival where his family lived.

“Women and children are not part of it,” he testified. “There’s no reason to bring them into it.”

According to the Herald, Oakstar had been in the Pacific Northwest since at least this spring. He had been arrested in April 2014 by Seattle police for investigation for burglary and listed his address then as a Seattle homeless shelter.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Border Militiamen Detaining Immigrants, Sowing Fear Among Camp’s Neighbors

The border warriors of Camp LoneStar, heading out on patrol. Credit: Facebook

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Border militiaman K.C. Massey III was slightly apologetic about detaining three border-crossing immigrants during one of his outfit’s vigilante patrols awhile back—handcuffing the men behind their backs with zip ties—along the Rio Grande in southern Texas.

“Sorry we had to ‘Detain’ them,” Massey, one of the leaders of the militiamen that began gathering several weeks ago in Texas, wrote in a Facebook comment after video of the detentions was posted online. “[B]ut they were wore out and just fell down and gave up while the other 7-8 ran like gazelles!”

As the post explained, the militiamen detained the people—described as Honduran, Guatemalan, and Mexican—after they encountered a group of about 11 border crossers, most of whom took off through the brush. The three men they kept were “ziptied, debriefed, and given water,” and U.S. Border Patrol officers eventually arrived and took them away.

“WE DO NOT AIM TO DETAIN, we would much rather send them back into the river into Mexico and dissuade them and the cartel from crossing on the property we patrol,” the post explained. “All encounters were conducted in a humanitarian, professional fashion. Stay vigilant. Thank you for your support.”

But behind the guise of humanitarian treatment was a not-so-subtle smirking contempt. “One of the guys pissed himself!” remarked Massey. Another chimed in, “Dude pissed himself bad.”

A couple of Camp LoneStar's finest. Credit: Facebook.
Welcome to Camp LoneStar, a border militia outpost on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas where antigovernment “Patriots,” heavily armed and hunting for immigrants, have seemingly taken the law into their own hands in recent weeks and made residents near their operation increasingly fearful and resentful.

The camp, a makeshift encampment, lies on the 21-acre property of a longtime Brownsville-area rancher named Cuban “Rusty” Monsees. Most of the participants pitch tents or park their vehicles there, then go out on patrols at nighttime or afoot in groups, always loaded with a variety of weapon. During the day, they use all-terrain vehicles to prowl along the border fence line or drive to overlooks along the Rio Grande, where they can catch people swimming across the river.

Indeed–just as the detention video post described–another video, posted by Massey on his Facebook page, showed the militiamen forcing border crossers who swam to the American side of the river to retrieve their belongings and swim back to the Mexico side. The video has no audio, but similar previous video from Camp LoneStar included the verbal harassment the border watchers were shouting at the swimmers.

Since it began, there has been a rotating cast of characters at the encampment. Initially, the self-described “commanding officer” at Camp LoneStar was an Arizona militiaman named Joe O’Shaugnessy, but he was eventually replaced by the more strident K.C. Massey.

Nearly all of the reporting on supposed militia activity on the Mexico border in Texas has emanated from the Monsees property, it seems. That includes early reporting from radio host Pete Santilli, as well as stories from the San Antonio Express-News and from Reuters, whose report included a detailed video profile. More recently, reporters from the Texas Observer spent time at the camp and came away with a scathing profile of Massey and his border watchmen.

The portrait of Camp LoneStar that has emerged in recent weeks is not pretty, depicting a camp awash in paranoia and testosterone, with feuds among participants and conspiracy theories flitting about like moths.

Massey and his fellow border watchers––including Monsees—are particularly paranoid about the Mexican drug cartels they claim are responsible for most of the human trafficking they observe—a claim that remains unsubstantiated. They insist on maintaining their anonymity out of fear of retaliation from the cartels; Massey told the Observer reporters that even disclosing how many men were there could endanger them.

“We don’t want cartel operatives knowing about our operation,” he explained. “Let’s just say if there were 10 of us, then the cartel would send 20 hit men to take us out.”

Likewise, Monsees explained to Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers in a phone interview that he was “No. 5” on the cartels’ hit list, a dubious story he has repeated to most of the “Patriots” in the camp. Monsees and his campers also have been promoting the claim that the Border Patrol has been arresting a large number of Muslims—including terrorists on the Most Wanted List—and then keeping the matter hushed up. This story has gained wide circulation among Tea Party members nationally, though more recently the concern has turned to paranoid worries that members of the ISIS have appeared at the southern border.

Indeed, one of the former participants at the camp—a “Patriot” named Rob Chupp, an Indiana man who was a participant in one of Santilli’s multiple interviews in weeks ago—said that he and others decided to leave the camp when it became clear that the overseers were not particular about whether or not felons could participate in the camp, nor whether illegal weapons might be in use there. It was a Camp LoneStar participant, John Frederick Forrester, who drew gunfire from a Border Patrol officer in pursuit of a fugitive recently. Forrester, in fact, is a convicted felon.
Chupp, who was involved in organizing an ill-fated “Patriot” border-crossing, said he and a number of other border watchers pulled out because of concerns about the legality of the operation.

“After the whole shooting thing, we figured out that some of them were felons,” Chupp told Hatewatch, “We asked several of the guys to leave that we found out were felons. Because yeah, we have a Second Amendment to protect your right to bear arms, but we are also a nation of laws, and there’s a reason we don’t let felons own guns. … And it came to be a problem, and it was loud, and ‘We don’t care what the gun laws are,’ and ‘If we want to have this weapon even if it’s illegal, we’re gonna have it.’ It just turned south, and we pulled out.”

Their neighbors are concerned too. Maria Cordero, an ACLU attorney whose home is just down the road from Monsees’ property, told The Observer that everyone in the neighborhood is fearful about the men in camouflage patrolling near their homes. “We don’t know who they are,” Cordero said. “Do they have criminal records? People are afraid, but more than that they are confused.”

Cordero’s husband described a neighborhood full of fearful families, unable to distinguish between the cartels, the militiamen, and real law enforcement.

“We don’t know who these people are. They’re carrying high-powered weapons. It makes us feel less safe, not more safe to have them here,” he said. “I just hope they leave soon.”