Monday, August 31, 2020

I’m Quarantined.

 You’ve heard the phrase “rude awakening.” My family had one this morning. Actually, we were already awake when my teenage son’s girlfriend called and told us that she had been sent home from school to self-quarantine because she was in class with person who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The story that emerged was that another student went to school last week while exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus that include loss of the senses of taste and smell. This student had undergone a COVID test but went to school before the results of the test came back positive. Other students who had been in close proximity to the sick person were sent home and told to quarantine for 10 days.

Now, because of the irresponsible act of one student and the parents who allowed her to go to school sick, several other students, faculty, and their families have been exposed. These people and their families, mine included, now have to self-quarantine or risk spreading the infection. The actions of one infected person are cascading throughout the school system and community.

Were it not for masks, the situation would be worse. My son’s girlfriend attended church with us yesterday. Afterward, we went out to dinner together. We also had to make a couple of stops at stores. We wore masks and social-distanced at all of these places and thank God we did! These mitigations are not foolproof but they greatly reduce the chance that we could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spreaders of the virus. As a pro-life person with a conscience, I would not want to pass the disease to others, especially those who could be high-risk.

You may recall that my wife and I decided on virtual school for our children. Our current situation underscores the fact that your health depends on the actions of others. Even though we tried to be cautious and responsible, our lives are now impacted by people who refused to be cautious and responsible. Even if the virus doesn’t spread to any of the others involved, the carelessness and selfishness of the sick student and her family has impacted dozens of others.

This is how the virus spreads. This is why the economy can’t get back to normal. This is why governors have to enact emergency orders.

Not only do a number of kids and teachers have to self-isolate, so do their families. Because one student went to school sick, now I can’t go to work. I have to be responsible because someone else was not.

If you want to get the country back to normal, the best way to do that is to be responsible and stop the spread of the virus. Wear a mask, social distance, and for goodness sake don’t go to school, work, or anywhere else if you are showing Coronavirus symptoms. When you spread the disease, you not only put your friends and neighbors at risk, but you slow the recovery and the return to normal.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump Supporter Killed In Portland

 It was only a few hours after I wrote on Saturday that violence was spiraling out of control and both sides were escalating the situation that a Trump supporter was killed in Portland by leftist rioters. The murder was live-streamed as a convoy of Trump supporters in cars drove through the city, which has been rocked by BLM and Antifa violence for months.

The Post Millennial, a Canadian outlet, the New York Times, and CNN have some of the most detailed information on the shooting, but police have released few details even a day later. The confrontation began with a “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally in Portland” that began in Clackamas. Police tried to prevent the Trump-supporters from going downtown, but some vehicles did so anyway. Shortly after, confrontations were sparked between the pro-Trump group and leftists in the downtown area.

Videos of the rally, including one retweeted by President Trump, show trucks flying Trump flags with people in the back, some wearing body armor and gas masks, shooting paintballs and what appears to be pepper spray at pedestrians. Demonstrators on the street hurl insults and burn Trump flags.

It was in this environment that a prominent member of Patriot Prayer, an Oregon pro-Trump group, was killed. The name of the victim has not been released and police reportedly have no suspects. The murder was caught on camera and tweeted by Andy Ngo.

The video shows a quieter street than the scene that Trump retweeted. Someone yells what sounds like, “We’ve got a Trumper over here” and then there are two gunshots. A pedestrian staggers a few steps and then falls to the street. Two assailants run away as a crowd gathers over the fallen man. In the jumble of voices, someone yells, “We are trying to help you” amid cursing.

In a subsequent tweeted video, an unidentified speaker says over a loudspeaker, “I just got word that the person who died was a Patriot Prayer person. He was a f-ing Nazi. Our community held its own and took out the trash. I’m not going to shed any tears over a Nazi.”

While reprehensible, these comments are strikingly similar to the response to the shooting in Kenosha last week. Many on the right celebrated the deaths of two men who were assumed to be criminals and communists. A great many grassroots voices celebrated Kyle Rittenhouse in terms that sounded a lot like the mirror image of the Portland woman’s speech.

None of these killings should have happened. As I discussed last week in my article on Kyle Rittenhouse, there was a chain of events that led to the Kenosha shootings and plenty of blame to go around on both sides. Even worse, politicians on both sides are pouring fuel on the fire with their rhetoric.

As I pointed out over the weekend, violence begets violence. This most recent murder will spark retaliation by Trump supporters. That retaliation will mean that the leftists will require an eye-for-eye. The deteriorating situation means that America could be on the brink of widespread political violence or a civil war.

Rioting is wrong. So is taking the law into your own hands. So is shooting paintballs and pepper spray at pedestrians. As my parents taught me decades ago, two wrongs don’t make a right. The prescription for illegal activity is not more illegal activity.

The country desperately needs state and local governments to rein in the violence. On both sides. Both the rioters and vigilantes need to go home or go to jail. The provocations have to end for the good of the country.

Joe Biden has issued a strong statement, saying, “The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right.” 

More elected officials should follow suit. We need statesmen who will put country over party, stand up, and hold everyone accountable rather than pointing fingers at the other side and justifying their own side’s excesses. A joint statement by Donald Trump and Joe Biden condemning violence and calling for calm might go a long way.

That approach would require a consistent message from both sides, however. Too many on both sides are still stuck on stupid and rationalizing why only the other side is to blame. That means the violence will continue.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Violence Spirals As Both Sides Escalate




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Violence Spirals As Both Sides Escalate

For citizens to take up arms to police the streets both undermines the rule of law that they claim to be upholding as well as inviting escalation and retaliation.

One of the most disturbing things about the Kyle Rittenhouse saga is the evidence it provides that both sides are escalating the battle in the streets. Often lost among the discussion of Rittenhouse’s actions is the simple fact that at least two people among the rioters were armed. If right-wing vigilantes and militia members are going to open fire on demonstrators then it is very likely that the demonstrators are going to start shooting back. Without some sort of de-escalation, we may be very close to literal war on the streets of some cities.

To be strictly correct, the rioters may already be shooting. As I noted a few days ago in my article about the Kenosha shootings, the video shows muzzle flashes before Rittenhouse opened fire. It isn’t clear who fired these shots, which apparently were not aimed and may have been directed into the air, but it is likely that they came from someone in the crowd of protesters. The bottom line is that there were multiple gunshots in addition to the shots fired by Rittenhouse.

It is also possible that the shots were fired by some other group such as the Boogaloo Bois. Back in June, several Boogaloo members were arrested at a BLM protest in Las Vegas with full gas cans and Molotov cocktails. In May, another Boogaloo member was arrested for the shooting murder of a security guard in Oakland during a protest. A second security guard was wounded in the attack. The Boogaloo, which is a far-right anti-government movement, was also present in Kenosha and could have acted as a provocateur.

It isn’t difficult to see where things are headed. Guns have been present and now pandora’s box has been opened with an incident that left two protesters dead and a third wounded. Rightly or wrongly, the demonstrators will believe that the right-wing counter-demonstrators are out for blood and respond accordingly.

Guns will become more common among the violent demonstrators. Long before the Kenosha shootings, I had already seen many social media posts that allege that Antifa members have been training with guns. Whether that was real in the past or not, it is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the future.

In opposition to the rioters, we have right-wing vigilantes and militia groups, who themselves are often breaking the law. Although laws vary by state and locality, Wisconsin’s self-defense law allows the third-person defense of property only in certain circumstances. Among those is the requirement that the “3rd person whose property the person is protecting is a member of his or her immediate family or household or a person whose property the person has a legal duty to protect, or is a merchant and the actor is the merchant’s employee or agent.” It is not legal for militia members or concerned citizens to unilaterally decide to defend property without any legal authority to do so.

Wisconsin also stipulates that “person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defense.” An exception to this rule is when the person “reasonably believe[s] that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm,” but even then the person must not use deadly force until he “reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.”

These self-appointed protectors of neighborhoods in which they may not even live have also disobeyed orders from the police to disperse. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel references a post by Kevin Mathewson, “commander” of the Kenosha Guard, which seems to exist primarily on Facebook. Mathewson admits that officers have told his men “go home under threat of arrest… in the past.” When asked about deputizing civilians to assist police, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told the Wisconsin Examiner it would represent an “immense” liability to have untrained and deputized civilians working alongside officers.

Yet Mathewson and others reject the law enforcement requests that they stand down, saying, “But by definition, we don’t need the government’s permission. We don’t need to be told — we can do it. In fact, the Constitution tells us we can do it. And the Second Amendment was put in there for instances like this — when we’re at war and under siege.”

As we have seen, state law indicates that Mathewson is wrong. Resisting lawful orders to disperse and illegally acting to defend property that doesn’t belong to them is just as much a violation of the law as what the the violent mob is doing. Rationalizing the situation does not change the law.

Finally, it is a failure of government that has allowed the situation to escalate in the first place. Too many governors and mayors have looked away from the violence and destruction of property. One of the most important functions of government is to protect its citizens. In too many cities, that has not been happening, which leaves a vacuum for militia groups to fill.

Too often, local police are overwhelmed by brawlers on both sides and just step back, as they did in Portland last week as Proud Boys and other right-wingers battled leftist demonstrators. Many on both sides are looking for trouble and increasingly they are finding it.

To me, the best solution seems to be the riot-control trucks from “Soylent Green.” Scoop up the demonstrators indiscriminately and cart them off to the hoosegow. The rowdies on both sides need to be removed from the streets.

Failing that, if local police departments cannot control the situation, mayors and governors need to call out the National Guard to pacify their cities. If mass arrests need to be made and water cannons need to be used to bring things under control then so be it. Americans should not be brawling in the streets like brownshirts and communists in Weimar Germany.

But the riot-control must come from state and local governments. For citizens to take up arms to police the streets both undermines the rule of law that they claim to be upholding as well as inviting escalation and retaliation. For the federal government to step in undermines the Constitution and federalism.

What we really need is for our elected officials to rise above the partisan calculations about the election and work together for the good of the country. Our leaders should be calling for peace and calmness rather than stirring up emotions and justifying criminal behavior. Both sides need to tamp down the rhetoric and denounce the violence on the part of their own supporters, not just that of the opposition.

But what are the odds of that?

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Is Kyle Rittenhouse A Hero, A Villain, Or Something In Between?

 Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old, who shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday night and wounded a third, has been arrested by police and charged with murder. Some are calling Rittenhouse a hero while others say that he is a vigilante. As usual, facts can be muddled and internet claims can be exaggerated or fictional, so here is what we know so far.

CBS News reported that numerous cellphone videos showed a man identified as Rittenhouse in the aftermath of the shootings. Rittenhouse, who is not from Kenosha, was arrested at his mother’s house in Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles away, per the Chicago Tribune. He is reportedly being held without bond pending extradition to Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Rittenhouse was with armed older men on the night of the shooting. He also appears in photos on Fox News of a group cleaning graffiti earlier on Tuesday. He is not armed in the photos but is seen again later that night, wearing the same clothes but carrying an AR-15, in a video interview posted to Twitter with Richie McGinniss of the Daily Caller.

In the video, Rittenhouse says, “People are getting injured and our job is to protect this business. And my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle; I’ve gotta’ protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”

It is also unclear whether the militia members were asked to defend the property or where they were there on their own initiative. It seems unlikely that Rittenhouse was being paid to do the “job” of protecting the property.

The Journal-Sentinel reports that the Kenosha Guard, a militia group that has organized an “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property” event on Facebook, has fielded members in response to the demonstrations. However, Justin Mishler, a self-identified member of the Kenosha Guard, said that Rittenhouse is “not one of us.”

Mishler speculated that Rittenhouse may have been a member of the boogaloo, a loosely affiliated militia group that has also been present in Kenosha. However, boogaloo members are often anti-police, unlike the Kenosha Guard, which offered to help local authorities maintain order.

Another Twitter video shows the armed Rittenhouse and other apparent militia members walking around the streets in close proximity to vehicles belonging to the Sheriff’s Department. A voice on the loudspeaker can be heard telling protesters that they are trespassing and to disperse, but the officers offer water to the militia members and tell them, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”

There are numerous reports that Rittenhouse’s social media accounts showed “Blue Lives Matter” material and photos of himself with a gun similar to the one in the videos from Kenosha. His Facebook page, which has since been taken down, also showed that he belonged to the Grayslake, Lindenhurst, Hainesville Public Safety Cadet program, per the Chicago Tribune. Despite some claims to the contrary, there seems to be no evidence of racist or misogynistic material on Rittenhouse’s social media. Buzzfeed reported on a video that Rittenhouse posted to TikTok showing himself on the front row of a Trump rally in January.

It seems unlikely that Rittenhouse, who greatly admired the police, would have been a part of the boogaloo movement. Even if he was not a part of the Kenosha Guard, he may have been a member of a similar group or simply responded to the open call for assistance on social media.

The events leading up to the shooting are also uncertain at this point. The New York Times has put together a timeline of sorts that places Rittenhouse in the vicinity of a Kenosha car dealership with other self-proclaimed militia members for several hours prior to the shootings. The interview with the Daily Caller reporter and another Facebook live stream broadcast occurred at this point. The video with the police vehicles reportedly was recorded about 15 minutes before the first of two shootings.

Yet another video shows Rittenhouse walking the streets with this rifle about six minutes prior to the shooting. The Twitter thread by a New York Times reporter states that the shooting took place shortly before midnight about four blocks from the car dealership that Rittenhouse had said he was protecting. It is not clear why he was in this area.

The dozens of videos present confused images, but Rittenhouse appears to return fire after a muzzle flashes from the crowd. A protester goes down and then Rittenhouse takes out his phone. As he runs past the camera, he can be heard to say, “I just killed somebody.”

video showing a different angle on the Twitter thread appears to show Rittenhouse being chased by demonstrators, some of whom are armed. It isn’t known what preceded this video or why Rittenhouse was being chased.

Another video shows a second shooting in which the crowd chases Rittenhouse after identifying him as the person in the original shooting. Rittenhouse is knocked to the ground. He turns and fires at his pursuers. One falls to the pavement while another appears to be hit in the arm and runs away.

A third scene shows Rittenhouse walking up the street with his hands up but still carrying his rifle as police respond to the shooting. A voice yells, “He just shot [unintelligible]. Hey, the dude right here just shot [unintelligible]. The dude right here just shot all of them down there.”

The police vehicles roll by to the scene of the shooting without stopping. This is likely because they were on their way to render aid and did not know that Rittenhouse was the killer. The officers inside the armored vehicles may not have been able to hear the people on the street accusing him. What is certain is that Rittenhouse was not detained but went home.

The Journal-Sentinel identifies the three victims of the shootings. The two dead men were residents of the area while the man wounded in the arm is a member of the Milwaukee-based People’s Revolution Movement and had volunteered as a medic at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Wisconsin over the past few months. Media sources do not mention any other criminal records on the part of the victims, but Andy Ngo claimed on Twitter that the three all had criminal histories.

The first victim was Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. Rosenbaum was originally from Texas but had moved to the Kenosha area. Anthony Huber, 26, was the second fatality. Photos in The Sun show Huber’s skateboard laying beside him as he falls to the pavement. Another photo posted by Ngo shows Huber hitting Rittenhouse with the skateboard. A GoFundMe page description says that Huber died “while peacefully protesting” as he “selflessly tried to aid in taking down an attacker.”

Whether Rittenhouse was a formal member of a militia or not, the vigilante label does fit. His group had no legal authority to enforce the law and their right to be on the car lot itself was questionable. The fact that police were tacitly encouraging the group’s participation in containing the riots seems to have been poor judgment on the part of Kenosha’s official law enforcement officers.

It is also questionable whether Rittenhouse was legally justified in either shooting. Wisconsin does allow open carry and the Badger State’s laws allow for self-defense without a duty to retreat when a person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” Subsequent videos and witness testimony will probably shed more light on how the altercation started.

Self-defense could be claimed more reasonably in the second shooting when Rittenhouse was defending himself from pursuing demonstrators, but that justification may hinge on whether the first shooting was justified. Killing to protect yourself after committing a crime is not self-defense and is specifically excluded in the law.

The Kenosha shootings seem to be a tragic instance in which, like the original shooting of Jacob Blake that prompted the demonstrations, both sides were in the wrong. The demonstrations had turned violent and included property destruction but the actions of the rioters did not provide justification for Rittenhouse and the other militia members to insert themselves into a situation where they had no legal authority to intervene.

In the second shooting, it is very possible that the victims thought that they were doing the right thing in attempting to subdue an active shooter who had already killed a member of the crowd. Both Rittenhouse and Huber may have believed they were legally in the right.

In aviation, we speak of accident chains. It is usually a series of events that leads to an accident, rather than one specific action. In this case, the chain starts with the shooting of Jacob Blake and the decision to take to the streets in protest, the turn toward violence, Rittenhouse’s decision to play soldier, the acceptance of the militia presence by the police, and Rittenhouse’s ultimate decision to pull the trigger make up additional links. If any of these links in the chain had been broken, the two demonstrators would still be alive and Rittenhouse would not be in jail.

The Kenosha shootings show what can happen when untrained and unprepared civilians attempt to do the job of law enforcement. Controlling demonstrations and stopping mobs is difficult and dangerous even for trained professionals. When the militias insert themselves into the mix, the situation becomes even more tense and unstable.

While it seems that Rittenhouse likely went to Kenosha with good intentions, he and the other militia members, especially those from out of town and out of state, had no business being there in the first place. These people, some of who were undoubtedly looking for trouble as much as the rioters were, were probably drawn to Kenosha by a power vacuum as law enforcement failed to protect property and quell the riots. The inadequate police response was another link in the chain.

It is too early to say for certain whether the evidence will ultimately support a claim of self-defense in the shootings, but it is certain that the killings have intensified tensions on both sides. There are fringe members of both sides of the political spectrum who favor violence. With every incident, these people become more convinced that violence is the only answer and the situation spirals further out of control.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Rittenhouse and his colleagues should not have been carrying their guns on the streets of Kenosha, but the demonstrators also should not have rioting and destroying property. State and local law enforcement need to stand up and control the unrest before the situation devolves to one in which vigilante militias feel it necessary to patrol the streets themselves. Police should be better trained and work to avoid questionable shootings. Citizens should cooperate with police so that they don’t get shot. Politicians on both sides should stop stoking the fires under the assumption that unrest will help them politically.

Both sides are showing poor judgment in a situation that is escalating and spiraling out of control. Cooler heads need to prevail before a larger national tinderbox ignites.

Originally published on The Resurgent