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Last week, I posted two lengthy articles on MS-13: one looking at the present day and another at the gang’s history.

Two other articles about them intrigued me, summarised below. Emphases mine.

Ingenious Honduran structure

I mentioned on Friday that MS-13 became established in Honduras when illegals who were part of the gang in the United States were deported during the 1990s — the Clinton years.

The Honduran MS-13 structure has become highly sophisticated since then. In May 2016, InSight Crime published an article, ‘Is Honduras’ MS13 a Drug Trafficking Organization? An Obscure Fugitive May Have the Answer’.

The ‘obscure fugitive’ is one David Elías Campbell, who is also known as ‘Viejo’ or ‘Viejo Dan,’ and, by a leader of MS-13 in San Pedro Sula, as ‘Tío Sam’.

San Pedro Sula is the second largest city in Honduras. The MS-13 operation there is quickly integrating itself into society.

In 2013, using gang money from extortion, drug dealing and hired assassinations, Campbell started a trucking company, Delca, which has a fleet of heavy goods vehicles equipped to haul fertiliser, large shipments of which could hide drugs.

Campbell has made trips to the United States, Panama and Colombia. When Honduran police arrested him as part of their Project Avalanche, he managed to escape:

Their allies included former and current high-level members of the policeCampbell escaped, reportedly with the help of a police commander, who goes by the alias “Monga.”

MS-13 also bankrolls local politicians with the hope of seeing them get elected at national level:

The MS13 also sought political cover and a means to assert influence over the national government. The group allegedly financed the campaign of Jorge Neftalí Romero Mejía, the mayor of Talanga, a municipality near the capital, La Tribuna reported. Investigators told InSight Crime the gang’s long-term plan was to see their mayor take a seat in congress.

MS-13 donates to the city:

The relationship continued after the elections. Authorities played for InSight Crime telephone intercepts of conversations between Porky [Alexander Mendoza, a top MS13 leader in San Pedro Sula] and the mayor discussing, among other things, a tractor the MS13 was giving to the municipality.

MS-13 also owns a hospital!

They have become financially sophisticated at money laundering and diversion:

the MS13 created a more sophisticated financial wing, Honduras authorities say, included a gang member with a Master’s in finance. They managed a large list of employees, and even paid out Christmas bonuses to members and collaborators such as the police. They bought properties, moved into new residences and became leaders in the transport industry, paying more money to their drivers than rival companies, the Honduras investigators said.

“They had the best drivers,” one investigator told InSight Crime.

The Honduran MS-13 works closely with the one in El Salvador, including with any leaders currently in jail.

Gang leaders have made it tricky for investigators to unravel who is in charge of the Honduran operation. Alexander ‘Porky’ Mendoza directed authorities to Campbell, but other investigators say there is no proof Campbell is an MS-13 member. (He became involved with them during his youth as a small time drug dealer.) Furthermore, telephone intercepts reveal that Porky is the real leader.

It is possible that MS-13 operates a type of honorary membership system, because the gang in El Salvador designated three new members in 2015 who are clearly too old to go through the rigours of what the normal MS-13 members have to in order to be initiated: murder and the 13-second beatdown, which I mentioned on Friday.

Whatever the story is with Campbell, he is well placed to take the Honduran MS-13 into:

the world of transnational criminal organizations … His movements, supposed efforts to contact large-scale wholesalers in Colombia, and his trucking company suggest that he has the infrastructure and wherewithal that has been missing in the gangs to make this leap.

Imagine. MS-13 could be transporting drugs and other items all over North and South America.

MS-13 in North Dakota

In 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article — ‘Drug explosion follows oil boom on North Dakota Indian reservation’ — concerning the tribes that comprise MHA Nation: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.

MHA Nation is a huge reservation that is three times the size of Los Angeles. Because it has traditionally been a low crime area, it had only 20 law enforcement officials and a handful of investigators. There are approximately 4,000 Native Americans living there, but with the oil boom, thousands of outsiders, too.

The Bakken Oil Fields have brought prosperity not only to North Dakota but especially to MHA Nation. Individuals and families receive royalty cheques that oil companies pay them for use of the land they have inherited. The royalty amounts vary, but can be as much as tens of thousands of dollars a month, the LA Times says. Unfortunately, enough younger tribal members are using the money to buy meth and other drugs, making narcotics a lucrative operation.

Authorities found heroin on the reservation for the first time in 2012. In 2013, MHA Nation flew in Guatemalan gang experts who taught them how to identify members of MS-13! This is incredible not only for the reservation but also the quiet, rural, truly Midwestern state of North Dakota:

One of the experts, Francisco Foppa, said he noticed MS-13 tattoos on people in a Wal-Mart in Minot and the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge at the MHA Nation’s capital in New Town. “It was alarming to see people with those tattoos on the reservation,” he said.

Authorities have not arrested any MS-13 kingpins, but the gang’s presence is palpable and many speak about it in whispers.

MS-13 is strong enough and scary enough that I question whether I should speak out at all,” said a former tribal leader who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “They’re vicious. Just like any ripe feeding ground, they have competition, but obviously they are the big bad wolf. They are the ones that are the most terrifying.”

The rot spread to Montana, North Dakota’s neighbour. Residents in Roosevelt County had just passed a bond enabling the increase of jail space.

An FBI initiative, Operation Winter’s End, resulted in arrests and indictments in 2013. It established that the drug dealers had ties to Mexican gangs. Still, the problem persists.

On March 5, 2015, the FBI opened its fifth agency in the state:

Special Agent in Charge Thornton states, “The office in Williston is a welcomed addition to our presence in North Dakota. The opening of this office is in response to the unprecedented growth in population and economic activity associated with the oil exploration and production in the Bakken region and the corresponding increase in criminal activity. The FBI will be in a better position to effectively address these issues in this region of North Dakota through this new office. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with our local law enforcement partners in the region through this permanent presence.”

I knew North Dakota well at one time, and all of this is just unthinkable. I am not alone. The LA Times reports:

Mary Eleanor Fox, a 66-year-old silver-haired matriarch of a large family, said she never thought she’d see the day most of her grandchildren would be addicted to the sort of drugs she’d once only heard about “in the big cities.”

Sadly, some babies are born addicts. Mrs Fox’s family has experienced the tragic phenomenon:

Her daughter, Jackie Powell, a robust 47-year-old with a quick smile, was forced to quit her job and become a full-time mom to her two grandsons — ages 1 and 2 — who were born addicted to methamphetamine.

Their father, Powell’s son Mason Fox, struggles with his meth addiction. Their mothers grapple with the same. Amelia Reed, mother to the youngest, first tried meth nearly five years ago and says she’s addicted to “the devil’s drug.”

“Now my first son was born with it,” Reed said. “I was pregnant and selfish and wouldn’t stop doing it.”

Reed receives oil royalty money from land she inherited on the reservation, and says the monthly checks made it easy for her to drop at least $400 a month for her habit.

An article dated March 25, 2016 from the Montana paper, Havre Daily News, ‘Mexican drug cartels hit north-central Montana’, says:

International crime cartels are selling hard drugs along the Hi-Line and the FBI has confirmed the Mexican border is the most “prevalent route” by which drugs are arriving in the U.S. and, consequently, into Montana.

An agent with the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force, who prefers not to be identified by name, said cartel members have been selling methamphetamine, heroin and opioid pills along the Hi-Line since before the Bakken oil boom started in 2007. But the flood of people and high oil wages opened the floodgates of drugs and outside dealers. The drugs have spilled out of the Bakken, down the Hi-Line and into Hill County.

A local, who has spent time around drug dealers and who asked not be identified, talked about a methamphetamine dealer in Havre.

The Havre dealer met regularly in eastern Montana with a cartel member to buy meth that would be sold along the Hi-Line, the person said. The out-of-town gang member who was selling meth to the local dealer, according to the testimony, was short in stature, spoke “little English” and had a tattoo of the number 13 on his face

One possibility is the gang MS-13

But there are other Sureños gangs that sport the number 13 in homage to the Mexican Mafia, La Eme (The M):

Another possibility for which cartel the out-of-town drug dealer belonged to is the South Side Sureños …

Whichever cartel the drug dealer was from, he wanted to make sure the Havre dealer and their partner was trustworthy. He made a reference to decapitation if they weren’t, the person said.

This is a huge problem for what was a law-abiding region of the United States:

The Montana National Guard Counterdrug Program will receive a 60 percent funding hike, according to a press release issued last week by Sen. Jon Tester’s office.

The increase is partly in response to pressure from Tester to National Guard Bureau Chief General Frank Grass to help fight “organized and transnational drug trafficking and smuggling” in the Bakken region.

By the time Tester had written Grass about allocating money to fight the increased crime in the region — Tester tells Grass that “arrests in all crime categories in Bakken counties increased by 80 percent”— he had long known how dire the situation in Montana is.

Montana authorities have identified the big players there as being from the Sinaloa Cartel. That said, overall:

A local Task Force agent confirmed that cartel members have gone beyond the Bakken and landed in Hill County. He added that they are anything but inconspicuous.

“They come to this area and they’re a big fish in a little pond and they stick out,” he said.

He said cartel members “target” the Indian reservations.

“I don’t know why that is,but it may have something to do with the drug transportation pipeline,” the agent said. “One of our main pipelines here is the Yakima. We just had a big case that we took down and one of those guys was part of the cartel. He was an illegal immigrant” …

The folks who want to do harm to this country will go to the weakest link in the chain, and if the weakest link in the chain is north of Havre or north of Plentywood or north of Bismarck, North Dakota, or wherever, that’s where they will go,” Tester said.

Senator Tester thought that border security was essential to put a stop to this:

Tester said Tuesday during an interview at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation that he knows how important border security is. That’s why he’s against reducing border patrol agents by 300 as President Obama’s 2017 budget would do

“All I know is that if they’re replacing people with technology on homeland security, we need to see that plan. … I’m not opposed to having the best technology on the northern border if it saves money. In fact, I encourage them to do that. But that’s not the story I heard. The story I heard is they are reducing the people and the equipment isn’t anything more than what they would do under normal budget circumstances,” Tester said.

Tester’s office said the senator “would like to see increased security along the southern border,” adding that that is the reason he voted for the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that provided for increased border security. The bill made it past the Senate but was never taken up in the House of Representatives, the statement said.

If President Donald Trump had explained his rationale for ‘the wall’ using these types of examples during his 2016 campaign, more people would have got on board with it. That was the one sticking point I had with it.

Having done my reading for these posts, I now think it’s a good idea.

Trump is now explaining it better:

However, ports will also have to be better secured, as a result.

When it comes to gangs: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Tomorrow: Big Pharma makes big money from illicit drug addiction

I had never heard of MS-13 until last year.

Since then, I run across a mention of them nearly every week without even trying.

My post yesterday dealt with the latest strategy to fight this alarming and deadly gang.

MS-13 have had an incredible and terrifying expansion in the United States. I recently saw a History Documentary Channel film on them and would like to share it with you along with a bit of California gang history.

For my European readers, this gang might appear to be an American and Central American phenomenon, however, primary school children in North Brabant, The Netherlands, are beginning to copy MS-13’s violent behaviour (see here and here).

California gang organisation

In California, gangs operate on a North-South divide. The boundaries are marked by the towns of Delano and Bakersfield.

Gangs from the North are called Norteños: Northerners. They affiliate with the larger criminal organisation Nuestra Familia, which formed in 1968 in the Soledad Correctional Facility, located in Monterrey County. Their main income comes from drugs: cocaine, heroin, cannabis and methamphetamine. Nuestra Familia’s Wikipedia entry points out:

While members of the Norteños gang is considered to be affiliated with Nuestra Familia, being a member of Nuestra Familia itself does not signify association as a Norteño.

The number of the Norteños is 14. N is the 14th letter of the alphabet and is the first letter in Nuestra Familia. They write the number 14 as XIV or X4. They tattoo themselves with four dots. Their colours are red and black.

Sureños — Southerners, also SUR (Southern United Raza) — are gangs that operate from the southern part of the state, although some have a presence in northern California. They affiliate with the organisation Mexican Mafia, created in 1957 at what was then the Deuel Vocational Institution (now an adult prison) in Tracy. It has no original connection with Mexico, but rather Hispanic youth gangs in Los Angeles. Mexican Mafia has no connection with the New Mexican Mafia.

The number of the Sureños is 13. M is the 13th letter of the alphabet and the first letter in Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme: The M. They write the number 13 as itself but also as XIII, X3, uno tres, trece. They tattoo themselves with three dots. Their colours are blue and grey.

In addition to drug trafficking, Sureños are also very violent. They kidnap, murder, assault and engage in human trafficking.

MS-13 is a Sureño gang.

The rift between the northern and southern gangs took place in 1968:

While La Eme had initially been created to protect Mexicans in prison, there was a perceived level of abuse by members of La Eme towards the imprisoned Latinos from rural farming areas of Northern California.[10] The spark that led to the ongoing war between Norteños and members of the Mexican Mafia involved a situation in which a La Eme allegedly stole a pair of shoes from a Northerner. This event put into motion the longest-running gang war in the state of California and the founding of Nuestra Familia.[10]

MS-13: from LA street punks to big players

Wikipedia states that the etymology of the name MS is in dispute. The gang’s full name is Mara Salvatrucha:

There is some dispute about the etymology of the name. Some sources state the gang is named for La Mara, a street gang in San Salvador, and the Salvatrucha guerrillas who fought in the Salvadoran Civil War.[8] Additionally, the word mara means gang in Caliche slang (es) and is taken from marabunta, the name of a fierce type of ant. “Salvatrucha” may be a combination of the words Salvadoran and trucha, a Caliche word for being alert. The term, “Salvatruchas” has been explained as a reference to Salvadorian peasants trained to become guerrilla fighters, referred to as “Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front.”[9]

InSight Crime has a good translation of a history of MS-13 which appeared in Spanish on the El Faro site. Insight Crime’s Geoffrey Ramsey explains more before going into Sanz and Martinez’s history from El Faro. Emphases mine below:

While the MS-13 is more commonly associated with menacing tattoos and violent initiation ceremonies, El Faro’s two-part investigation (See Part I and Part II, in their original Spanish) into the gang’s history shows that this was not always the case. When starting out at the bottom of the food chain in Los Angeles’ gang underworld, the Mara found itself attacked from all sides. The authors, Jose Luis Sanz and Carlos Martinez, claim that the gang’s fearsome reputation had to be earned, and was the result of persecution from white and Mexican gangs in the city …

The transition into one of the most ruthless transnational criminal gangs was not an easy one. The Mara Salvatrucha, like other street gangs, emerged from humble beginnings. While most analysts believe that the gang got its start in Los Angeles-area prisons in the 1990s, its roots date back farther than that, to a small group of teenagers in the Salvadoran community in the 1970s:

In the late ‘70s in LA, the Mara Salvatrucha was just a bunch of ragged teenagers, mostly heavy metal fans. They called themselves “stoners” in reference to rock and the influence of the Rolling Stones, as did other youth gangs — like the Mid City Stoners and The Hole Stoners — who listened to rock and smoked marijuana on street corners and parks in their neighborhoods.

No member of the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners was over 18 years. Most had come to the United States recently, with his parents fleeing poverty in El Salvador. They were the most recent batch of migrants to arrive and none could say that their “territory” was entirely theirs, with no blacks, Mexicans or Koreans.

Still, speaking within the Mara Salvatrucha of stoners is to invoke the pure, the original, the real thing. In the Mara, which maintains a blurred memory preserved by oral traditions, they say that none of these early pioneers are alive, but gangsters who cooly claim to have joined in those early days are aware of the prestige this gives them. Invoking the blurred past is a hallmark of the constant war for respect being waged in the gang.

The LAPD has records of the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners dating back to 1975. Researchers like Tom Ward, of the University of California, have documented the foundation of small cliques or core stoners of the MS in 1978.

It is uncertain when it first began, but some veteran Salvatruchos from LA in the late ‘70s claim that a dozen stoners began meeting regularly at the Seven Eleven that still exists at the intersection of Westmoreland Avenue and James M. Wood Street. There, at that Seven Eleven, is probably where the first clique of the Mara Salvatrucha began. There are still, in Los Angeles and El Salvador, gang members who belong to it.

The Salvatruchos felt tough. Their tight jeans torn at the knees, black shirts with album covers of ACDC, Led Zeppelin or Kiss, and long hair all shouted defiance. They were involved in fights with similar groups, stole car cassette players and became infamous in schools like Berendo Middle School, four blocks from the intersection of Normandie Avenue and Pico Boulevard. Some even boasted of being satanic while singing Hell Bent for Leather, by Judas Priest. But they hardly had any ambition beyond going to the next concert and feeling powerful by raising their fists into the air and raising two fingers, simulating a pair of horns. For the moment.

Sanz and Martinez explain MS-13’s evolution from petty crime into extreme violence as the gang expanded in Los Angeles. Prison served as an enabler, with members getting acquainted with each other and trading information:

Salvadorans formed their own gang to stand up to pressure from other Latinos, finding themselves looked at in disgust by Mexicans and their descendants. It is not easy being the new kid on the block and expecting others to invite you to play with them. Even if the game consists of waging war …

By 1985 most of the MS cliques had moved past their stoner identity and in the following years took up small-scale drug trafficking, or extorted money from corner drug dealers in their areas.

Controlling the street made no sense if you could not get financial benefit from it. They competed with other gangs in order to win in all categories: presence, control, violence … money. [MS-13 affiliated woman] La Chele remembers how the homies came out of jail talking in new terms about the arts of intimidation and power, learned from long cell conversations. She, herself near the end of a brief stay in a prison, found herself bringing order to her clique, which was losing money because it only taxed local drug dealers once a week.

“The homie who was in charge of extortions asked me, ‘How do you think you can improve our method, coming out of jail?’ And I said, “Simon, you got to charge rent every day, plus the corner dealers can see that red truck of yours from a mile away. When they see it they hide and that’s why you don’t·manage to get anything.”

It took a long time for MS to earn enough street cred so that they could get a powerful ally in the gang world. Sanz and Martinez tell us:

The number 13 is actually a name that indicates homage to a criminal force majeure, the Lords, the Mexican Mafia, which reigns in Southern California. The Mara Salvatrucha would take several years to build that friendship and that number.

MS-13 now an international menace

This brings us to the 45-minute film from History Documentary Channel, MS-13: World’s Most Dangerous Gang. It was made in 2016. Some dates differ to what Sanz and Martinez above documented, e.g. when the gang was founded. A summary of the film follows:

Wally

The documentary features the story of Wally, a student at Hollywood High and an Iranian immigrant, having a snack in a neighbourhood restaurant with a friend. On December 17, 2002, an MS-13 girl approached Wally and asked him where he was from, meaning what gang was he with. A few minutes later, a group of male gang members and the girl surrounded him, brutally beating him up. They fled. Bleeding, Wally got up off the floor. He thought that was the end of the incident. Suddenly, a gang member walked back in with a gun and shot him at point blank range.

The senseless attack occurred because the girl and the male gang members were angry when Wally said he was from Iran. He had no gang connection. But Wally protested his innocence in vain.

Wally survived the beating and the shooting, but was now a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair and on a ventilator 24/7. Fortunately, he was able to testify in court against his attackers. He died four months later.

Marvin ‘Spy’ Guerra was among the defendants in court. He had joined MS-13 in October 2002. Guerra was the guy who went back to the restaurant to shoot Wally. He did that to make a name for himself.

Guerra aimed the gun close to Wally’s face. Wally’s only option in a split second reaction was to put his hand in front of his face. The bullet went through Wally’s hand and into his neck. Guerra had crippled Wally for life.

Guerra received a life sentence. He is eligible for parole in 15 years, therefore, soon.

Honduras

Another senseless attack — a massacre — took place in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. On December 23, 2004, MS-13 members there opened fire on a bus full of families at 6:30 p.m. Women, children and the elderly died in a bloodbath. A Honduran law enforcement official said it was like ‘something out of a Hollywood movie’, so horrific it didn’t seem possible in real life.

The massacre was organised and executed by a Los Angeles MS-13 member.

Two cars blocked the bus, one from the front and the other at the back. MS-13 members first killed the bus driver. They then sprayed the bus with bullets. That wasn’t enough. The gang members then went inside the bus to make sure everyone was dead. The law enforcement official said:

It was like a war zone, because the weapons were war weapons — M16s, AK-47s.

Twenty-eight people died, six of whom were children.

Fortunately, Honduran police were able to capture all but one of the killers — the mastermind behind the attack, from Los Angeles. His name is Eber Anibal Rivera-Paz, known as El Coche, or The Tapeworm. He was part of an MS-13 clique the Normandie Locos, referencing Normandie Avenue in Los Angeles.

The Tapeworm had been deported in the 1990s back to Honduras, where he started an MS-13 clique which he headed. He ordered the bus massacre in order to get back at police who were cracking down on the gang.

He made his way back to the United States but was quickly sent back to Honduras by airport immigration. Somehow, Honduran officials were unable to identify him upon his return. Furthermore, someone should have been waiting for him at the airport. When he saw no one was there, he continued on his way.

The Tapeworm has not been seen since. He could be in Honduras. He could be in the United States. He could be anywhere.

Ex-members’ stories

Since the 1980s, MS-13 has been growing at a ‘phenomenal rate’, with a presence in 41 or 42 states today as well as in Latin America.

In its infancy, MS-13’s original members had not belonged to gangs in El Salvador. They only formed a gang once they met in Los Angeles near Lafayette Park.

By 1979, approximately 700,000 Salvadorians fled the guerilla war in their own country for the safety of the United States. They settled near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. One law enforcement official interviewed said that more than 95% of these immigrants wanted to work hard and build a new future for themselves. However, some young Salvadorians felt the tension on the streets near the park, which a Mexican gang, 18th Street, controlled. Salvadorians were not welcome.

Julio Cabrera, a former MS-13 member, said that when he joined in 1987 as Flipper, MS-13 and some of the other gangs got along and partied together. That changed in short order once MS-13 got involved in drug dealing and violence. Eventually, MS-13 began infringing on 18th Street’s territory.

In 1990, a fight broke out at a neighbourhood party and an 18th Street member shot an MS-13 member. Some say the shooting started a fierce war between the two gangs. Gunfights took place nightly.

By then, Salvadorians who had fought in their civil war began arriving in Los Angeles. Some joined MS-13. They were tough. They had military training. A law enforcement official says that they had seen and engaged in so much ruthless and extreme violence — e.g. cutting people’s arms off with a machete, setting people alight — that it was routine.

When Charlie ‘Angel’ Vasquez’s family arrived in Los Angeles in 1979, he was eight years old. He joined the Parkview Locos, a clique of MS-13 and got two tattoos, one on each arm. One says Mara 13 and the other 213, the city’s telephone area code. He said he was an ‘adrenaline junkie’ at the time and found the gang violence ‘exciting’.

He met the aforementioned Julio Cabrera, who helped initiate him into MS-13. The initiation rite consists of getting brutally beaten up by other gang members for 13 seconds. Vasquez says that if a member is enjoying watching someone getting beaten up, he’ll count to 13 more slowly.

Such violence and notoriety, Vasquez says, attracted hundreds of new recruits around the city. Not only was MS-13 shooting people without a second thought, they also had a reputation for rape. Vasquez said that he disapproved of rape, but a lot of his fellow ‘homies’ didn’t mind.

MS-13 also had a well known reputation for murder, which Vasquez also participated in. In 1991, he got into a heated argument with a rival black gang member. The black punched him then ran off. Charlie caught up with him. Out of his box on drink and cocaine, Charlie couldn’t stop punching his rival. When he stood back, he saw his clothes were covered in blood. His rival died.

Police arrested Vasquez at the scene. Vasquez felt no remorse for what he had done. In fact, he said that he felt proud, especially because his victim was black:

Hispanic gang members are racist.

Whilst in Los Angeles County Jail, he contemplated his next victims (‘Chinese? Cops?’) and his next crime:

You can’t help but think of evil things to do.

Meanwhile, the war with 18th Street was escalating. Drive-by shootings were commonplace, and innocent people were getting shot, sometimes fatally.

Enter the Mexican Mafia, which decided to stop the carnage. It was bad for their business. People stopped hanging out on street corners waiting for their drugs.

The truce took place at Elysian Park. The LAPD filmed it. The Mexican Mafia divided the area around MacArthur Park between the two gangs.

That was when Mara Salvatrucha added 13 to its name. That numerical addition increased their prestige. Soon they branched outside of Los Angeles. New territory was easy to find.

Rapid expansion

By the early 1990s, police forces noticed that MS-13 random violence was taking place far away from Los Angeles.

As the LAPD began cracking down on the gang, members moved elsewhere in the US. This gave them the opportunity to lie low from the police as well as operate in a new environment.

A law enforcement official said that it is easy for the gang to blend in to new surroundings. MS-13 members work by day, often in the building trade or menial labour, so appear to be straight arrows to employers. They enjoy working hard and will move anywhere there is job growth and steady employment.

BUTwell meaning parents also move their MS-13 teenage children to other parts of the country in the belief that they will quit the gang. Joker, who was a member of the Parkview Locos (affiliated with MS-13), said that his mother told him they were going to move to Virginia, where she had family. After six months, Joker picked up where he left off when he happened to meet other LA members there. He wasted no time in setting up a new branch of MS-13 in Fairfax County, Virginia. He began recruiting in middle schools and high schools.

Joker was not alone. This happened all over the United States. By the end of the 1990s, there were 10,000 MS-13 members across the nation.

In Dallas in 2001, the body of a young man was found in the woods. He had been shot execution style — and sodomised.

In Virginia in 2003, hikers found the body of a pregnant teenager along the banks of the Shenandoah River. She had been stabbed 16 times, her head nearly severed.

My post from yesterday has more recent cases.

Illegal immigrants

The Clinton administration instituted new laws to crack down on illegal immigration in the 1990s, closely tied to gang violence.

The aforementioned Tapeworm — who ended up in Honduras — was one of the members deported.

Hundreds of other MS-13 members were deported back to their Latin American countries of origin. They quickly established and led MS-13 branches. They were big fish in a little pond.

However, there was a more pragmatic reason. They returned with no money and no job, just the clothes on their back. Many had no family, so crime and violence were the only options they knew and the ones that came easiest.

El Salvador

Around this time, MS-13 took root in El Salvador.

The aforementioned Julio Cabrera was sent back to El Salvador. The kids on the street thought he was a Hollywood movie star. He started several cliques in the MS-13 style. He had no end of recruits. The gang culture grew quickly.

Charlie Vasquez, who was doing time for beating a black gang member to death, was offered a plea bargain and was deported to his native El Salvador. Unlike a number of his fellow members, he took the opportunity to turn his life around south of the border.

Central America became a gangster’s paradise

The teenage recruits that deported MS-13 members cultivated were eager to get the full gang experience.

American culture is a big deal there, and anyone from Los Angeles earns instant respect and adoration.

Police forces in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala were overwhelmed by a sudden crime epidemic, which included families being terrorised, sometimes massacred. Victims were afraid to notify the police, and there were cases where police were afraid to confront the gang members or investigate those crimes.

California law

In 2004, laws began changing in California, making it easier not only for people to speak up but also for police to arrest gang members, even for loitering.

However, MS-13 lives on: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Law enforcement

Since 2006, the FBI has developed a good working relationship with law enforcement in Central American countries.

Conclusion

Jail and prison have served to further MS-13’s reach.

One prison in San Salvador is comprised of MS-13 members only. The inmates hide their telephones and can easily communicate with MS-13 members in the United States. Heinous crimes have been engineered and committed.

The same thing happens from US prisons to Central American MS-13 cliques.

Human trafficking, drugs and money laundering are highly likely to be international operations.

Fortunately, as some MS-13 members get older, they leave. They find jobs and raise families. Some become willing informants, a great asset to the authorities. They get their tattoos removed. Some help young teens avoid gang life. Others turn towards the Church. One former MS-13 member has become a pastor.

MS-13 is an international scourge. Let us hope that the US Attorney General and law enforcement agencies both in the US and Central America can eradicate it.

Coming up on Monday: MS-13’s surprising new market

President Donald Trump’s supporters are in a quandary these days.

Some — myself included — are bemused by the sudden neo-con foreign forays, wishing he had pursued ‘America First’ policies and left the overseas conflicts alone for the time being.

That said, many Americans approve of Trump’s performance so far, as the Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday, April 19, 2017, indicates:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Fifty-two percent (52%) disapprove.

Other polling companies and polling aggregator sites consider Rasmussen to be too ‘right wing’. To them, Rasmussen has this message:

The same pollsters who called the presidential election wrong last November show the president with a worse job approval rating than we do. We called it right in November, so you decide who’s got it right now.

Reassuring those of us who thought he had gone soft on the domestic front, Trump tweeted:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed up on Tuesday, April 18, with his announcement regarding America’s gangs, especially MS-13:

Sessions said, in part (emphases mine below):

In February, President Trump issued an executive order to us to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, and today we’ll be proposing concrete ideas to follow through on President Trump’s directive. 
 
So let me state this clearly. Under President Trump, the Justice Department has zero tolerance for gang violence. Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety.  These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate.

MS-13 has become a symbol of this plague that has spread across our country and into our communities.  There are over 30,000 members abroad with their headquarters in the El Salvadoran prison system.  According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, MS-13 now has more than 10,000 members in at least 40 states in this countryup significantly from just a few years ago.  

Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors.  They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults – MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools.

Just a few days ago, law enforcement believes that members of MS-13 murdered four young men and dumped their bodies in a park on Long Island.  Last month, it was two teenage girls in Los Angeles who were killed with machetes and baseball bats.  A few weeks ago, the FBI added an MS-13 member to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List for a suspected brutal murder with a baseball bat and screwdriver – all purportedly to earn his MS-13 tattoo.  Violence is an initiation rite. They’ve killed mothers alongside their children and vice versa.  They have gang raped and trafficked girls as young as 12 years old.  

We cannot allow this to continue.  We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement and choke-off supply lines.  If you are a gang member: We will find you.  We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits.  We will not concede a single block or street corner to your vicious tactics.

The Daily Mail has another MS-13 report dated March 2, wherein Houston gang members kidnapped two teenage girls and held them hostage for two weeks. The gang members shot and killed one of them. The other they plied with drugs and drink and took turns sexually assaulting her. They also forcibly tattooed her. The Mail has pictures of the young defendants, who are smiling and waving to the camera. The report states that they are illegal aliens from El Salvador with a deep interest in satanism.

Sessions spoke to Tucker Carlson on Fox News later that day:

Sessions explained that until 2009 — first year of the Obama administration — law enforcement authorities had made significant progress in stemming the growth of gangs such as MS-13. Since then, gang numbers have increased. He blamed this, as he said in his statement above, on lax border policies and sanctuary cities. He also cited the Obama administration’s lax attitude to what are known as the Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC).

A graph from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) shows that the number of UACs more than doubled between 2008 and 2009 alone, from under 10,000 to approximately 20,000. By 2014, that number had risen to 70,000. The administration took action to reduce the number to 40,000 in 2015, but, in 2016, the number soared once more to over 70,000.

The CIS report — from May 2016 — says:

The initial response of the Obama administration to the surge in 2014 was to present these minors as victims of human trafficking, covered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, signed by President Bush and reauthorized during the Obama administration in 2013. TVPRA requires the screening of unaccompanied children as potential victims of human trafficking. The attempt, however, was quickly dropped and the case for smuggling upheld instead. It is true that the vast majority of UACs who are illegally entering the United States are smuggled and not trafficked. (Cases such as those forced to work on egg farms in and around Marion, Ohio, remain the exception.3) …

In July 2014, President Obama expressed his desire to set up a refugee/parole program in Central America.8 What the president suggested was screening children in their home countries to determine whether or not they qualify as refugee applicants, then flying those who do directly to the United States. These in-country screening programs are not common and were used as exceptional humanitarian recourses by the United States following, for instance, the Vietnam War and the 1990 Haiti earthquake …

As for humanitarian parole, parents in the United States need to prove they are able to financially support their child. The parolees are granted work authorization for two years (renewable).

The reason for this initiative’s lack of success is rather simple, as we are reminded by MPI [Migration Policy Institute]: “The United States is home to an estimated 1.3 million Salvadoran, 902,000 Guatemalan, and 534,000 Honduran immigrants. A majority of these immigrants are unauthorized and unlawfully present and therefore could not meet the program’s lawful presence requirements for parents.” MPI also notes that under existing U.S. laws those parents legally present in the United States can (and probably already did) sponsor their children for immigrant visas instead of going through burdensome processes.

In 2016, the Obama administration decided to expand that refugee/parole programme:

Despite the fact that this new addition to the existing (and somewhat unpopular) CAM Refugee/Parole Program was mainly designed in response to the increasing number of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States illegally, this new setting could benefit every person — adults included (“vulnerable families and individuals”) — from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who seeks asylum. The government’s primary concern, however, is still focused on providing children from Central America with a safe alternative to crossing the border on their own.

However:

Whether Central American children meet the definition of refugees, however, raises serious doubts.

When asked to give his opinion as to why children from Central America were coming to the United States, Thomas Homan, executive associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), replied, “Based on my experience, I think there are some that are skipping fear, but I think there are many more that are taking advantage of the system.”20

The Conservative Treehouse has pulled graphics showing where these UACs ended up (first graphic) and the top cities are for ICE arrests. Notice the pattern between the two.

What happens when UACs arrive in the United States? Whilst not wishing to say that all of the 227,149 who have entered between 2009 and 2015 — according to a Fox News report which cited US Border patrol numbers — are criminals or turn into criminals, their vulnerable status presents ripe fruit for the picking by gangs such as MS-13.

That Fox News article, from September 15, 2016, states:

They remain in federal custody until a sponsor can be located, at which time they are often sent to communities where they are ripe for recruitment by Latin gangs such as the infamous MS-13.

“Our safety standards have increased,” Andrea Helling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told FoxNews.com. “In the last few months screening procedures of children and sponsors has increased in their intensity which we hadn’t done previously.”

Even so:

Some observers say that, at the least, the process sends a steady stream of loosely supervised youths lacking in language and coping skills right into the waiting arms of criminal gangs. At worst, the unaccompanied minors were already initiated into the gangs before they arrived at the border.

Indeed. The CIS paper states that this is true in many cases:

a report published last year by the Migration Policy Institute on “In-Country Refugee Processing in Central America” concluded that, despite the fact that many of these Central American children are “threatened by gang violence and have clear protection needs, being forced to join a gang or experiencing violence do not generally qualify as a basis for refugee status or fall readily into one of the refugee definition categories.”24

And MS-13 is rapidly expanding across the United States.

Fox News describes the Los Angeles gang’s growth in New York state and, surprisingly, not in the New York City boroughs:

MS-13 is believed to be among the largest street gangs on New York’s Long Island, and more than 250 members have been convicted on federal felony charges since 2003. Federal prosecutors there have pinned more than 20 murders on the violent gang.

The number of UACs in New York had grown rapidly by 2016:

Long Island has received 2,093 unaccompanied children, and between October 2013 and July 2016, all of New York received 12,478 children from Central America. The overwhelming majority of the kids are not criminals and likely have competent sponsors. But some are.

Just one or two miscreants can cause a lot of crime. Imagine adding to already existing criminal numbers in a particular town or county:

In June 2015, MS-13 members and El Salvadoran immigrants Jose Cornejo, 17, Bryan Larios, 18 and Joel Escobar, 17, all of Brentwood, N.Y. were charged with the brutal rape of a 16 year-old girl on a local golf course.

Earlier this week, Joshua Guzman, 15, was shot and killed in the Long Island city of Hempstead. While not an unaccompanied immigrant, the boy’s father, Raul Guzman, told Newsday his son was under pressure to join a gang. Police believe his murder may be related.

Other American states are similarly affected by an influx of UACs and gang activity:

MS-13 has a foothold in numerous other communities, where unaccompanied minors are being sent. Texas, which has seen a spike in MS-13 crime has received 15,999 over the same period. The 2015 Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment found MS-13 boasts some 800 members, and authorities explicitly blamed the flood of unaccompanied children being placed in the state.

“The influx of illegal alien gang members crossing the border into Texas in 2014, along with reports of extremely violent murders committed by its members in the Houston area, positions the gang as one of the most significant gang threats in the state for this upcoming year,” the report stated.

Other areas that have seen an influx in MS-13 crime are Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Fairfax County, Va. has seen a 160 percent increase in MS-13 related incidents through April compared to the previous year.

From this, it would appear that some of these sponsors are gang members themselves. Also, it would be relatively easy to see where a UAC coming from a gang in Central America could lie and say he was victimised and would have to escape to the US. It would be a ruse to move up in the gang world, one which already would have been arranged by his home base in Central America and the recipient ‘sponsor’ in the United States.

Being in the US would offer greater prestige and richer pickings than staying south of the border. Consider it a promotion, if you will.

It is not beyond belief that we could find a gang network, particularly MS-13, funneling these boys to the US with sponsorship arrangements having been made in advance.

It will be interesting to see what transpires this year through Attorney General Sessions’s efforts.

Tomorrow: the unlikely, yet true, story of MS-13

President Donald Trump’s supporters have learned a lot about the political process and the media within the past year.

Last year at this time, they learned the difference between primaries and caucuses and how each works.

Those who were in the dark about the Electoral College found out more about it after the election last November.

So much news — real and fake — about Trump is posted every day on websites great and small that it is difficult to keep up.

As Trump supporters are dropping Big Media sites as their main source of news, they have been increasingly turning to — of all things — White House press briefings.

Who has ever watched White House press briefings? No one. They were something for media insiders, not the average American. They were dull and sycophantic.

Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, and the media have changed all that. Since the inauguration, these briefings and ‘gaggles’ (the latter by invitation only) have become must-see or must-read events.

Who knew White House press briefings could be so popular?

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 — still within Trump’s first 100 days as president — the Washington Examiner reported that Sean Spicer is one of the best known people in his administration. And it’s all thanks to his press briefings.

Excerpts from WashEx‘s article, ‘Huge: Spicer briefings draw 4.2 million viewers‘ follow, emphases mine:

There’s a reason why TMZ’s Harvey Levin recently called White House spokesman Sean Spicer one of the “most visible” people in all of Washington.

Because next to President Trump and his globe-trotting vice president, Mike Pence, Spicer’s afternoon briefings continue to be Must See Cable TV for millions of political junkies and the midday click for hundreds of thousands on Yahoo.

The ratings are stellar:

A Nielsen survey for Secrets of two weeks of ratings from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News put Spicer’s average daily viewership at 3.64 million, higher on newsy days to 4.5 million viewers.

And Yahoo told us that Spicer’s online audience sometimes averages 600,000 a day, and at least 3 million a week.

We’d definitely consider these good, and certainly fair to say the briefings have found an audience on Yahoo,” said a spokeswoman.

In addition to Spicer, Trump’s counsellor (in an advisory sense) Kellyanne Conway is also well known to the public. TMZ’s Levin says:

To me, outside of Trump and maybe, maybe Pence, the two most visible people in D.C I think it’s her and Sean Spicer. I’m saying more than anybody in Congress right now.

Unlike in previous administrations, Big Media reporters who pole up to the White House are universally opposed to Trump. Spicer, an active US Navy reservist, has a struggle on his hands every day. He rarely falters in attempting to set the record straight, day after day.

The place is standing room only every time, which also adds to the interest.

Combined, these elements make Spicer’s press briefings compelling viewing:

Conflict makes for great television,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center. “It’s no secret that the liberal media despise President Trump. His spokesman Sean Spicer is pushing back — hard. The media have never been slapped around like this. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on, it is most entertaining,” he added.

A new feature of the briefings is that Spicer occasionally takes Skype questions from local television network news affiliates and alternative media commentators from a screen near his podium. Big Media baulked when he began opening up the floor, but the reporters and pundits on Skype ask much more informed questions than the big boys and girls do.

The press briefings are an important means of communication to all Americans, but especially to Trump supporters:

Fellow Republican spox Ron Bonjean, who handled White House communications for the effort to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court, said having a big TV and internet audience helps Trump keep his message directly in front of Americans.

“The reason why the press secretary holds televised briefings is to communicate directly with the American people. This means that when millions of voters are watching Sean Spicer’s press briefing, it can only help him directly deliver what President Trump’s priorities are on a daily basis,” said Bonjean.

“Basically it keeps a constant connection for Donald Trump to use the live news coverage to people that have supported him across the country,” added Bonjean, the chief communicator for a former House speaker, former Senate majority leader and former Commerce Department secretary.

Videos of each press briefing can be found on the White House Featured Videos page.

After viewing a few of these, some prefer reading the transcripts, which will save time — and frustration with reporters who come in with the same doggone questions every day. Transcripts are on the White House What’s Happening page.

Videos can also be found on YouTube via The White House channel under Press Conferences.

Here is the corresponding transcript.

As my post on the Easter Egg Roll mentioned, Spicer is no stranger to the White House. He worked as a staffer in the George W Bush administration, when he also played the role of an Easter bunny for the Egg Roll.

On December 22, 2016, Fox News reported:

President-elect Donald Trump announced Thursday that Spicer will get the coveted job of White House press secretary, as he announced the senior members of his communications team.

This also includes: Hope Hicks as director of strategic communications; Jason Miller as director of communications; and Dan Scavino as director of social media.

“Sean, Hope, Jason and Dan have been key members of my team during the campaign and transition. I am excited they will be leading the team that will communicate my agenda that will Make America Great Again,” Trump said in a statement.

Spicer was thought to have the inside track for the job, in part because of his ties to incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who currently runs the Republican National Committee.

Spicer worked alongside Priebus throughout the 2016 campaign as chief strategist and communications director at the RNC

A commissioned officer in the Navy Reserves, Spicer previously served as Assistant United States Trade Representative (USTR) for Media and Public Affairs under the George W. Bush administration, and worked for the House Republican Conference before that

Here is a photo of him on duty in uniform taken last week with a reporter from Today, NBC’s breakfast show (photo courtesy of The_Donald):

 

On April 14, 2017, Fox News reported that Spicer has longstanding ties to both the Navy and media work:

Spicer reported to fulfill his duty at the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices, a White House official told Fox News. The well-known spokesman holds the rank of commander — which sits just under the higher rank of captain in the Navy.

Spicer, who joined the Navy Reserve nearly 20 years ago while maintaining his primary work as a Republican media operative and strategist, also possesses a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.

As a media operative and strategist, Spicer was part of joint naval exercises overseas in Guam, Germany and Sweden. He also oversaw media coverage of the US Navy’s operations at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Spicer’s wife, Rebecca Miller, also has a career in media and communications. When the two were married in 2004 at St Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, she was a television producer. Miller is now senior vice president, communications and public affairs, for the National Beer Wholesalers Association. The Spicers have two children.

First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump hosted the 139th Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Monday, April 17, 2017.

The Easter Egg Roll falls under the first lady’s remit. Mrs Trump carefully researched the history of the event and decided to return to tradition.

CNN had a good, if biased, article on how this developed. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

“She wanted to get back to the tradition, so we’re bringing back some traditional elements, like military bands, and focusing on the family itself,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, told CNN.

Those traditional elements include the egg roll, an egg dying station, a cookie decorating station, an art wall, a thank-you card station where children can write notes to troops and veterans, and a reading nook …

Tickets were allocated to schools, children’ hospitals and military and law enforcement families, as well as the families of White House staff, according to [Press Secretary Sean] Spicer.

Planning an egg roll is a tricky balancing act, a collaboration between the East Wing, the White House Visitors’ Office, and volunteers …

Wells Wood Turning crafted 18,000 custom commemorative wooden eggs that will be given to each child in attendance. They arrived at the White House last week in five colors, including, naturally, a shiny gold.

Here are the eggs. Note the similarity in the first couple’s signatures:

CNN also gave us the history behind this popular — and very visible — White House event:

The egg rolling tradition began in the 1870s on Capitol grounds. After a particularly rotten 1876 roll, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation to protect Capitol grounds, which prohibited egg rolling, per the National Archives.

But in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed children to roll their eggs on the White House South Lawn, and 139 years later, the tradition continues.

It’s always been quite a production for the first lady’s office.

Florence Harding wore a feathered hat in 1922. Grace Coolidge brought her pet raccoon, Rebecca, in 1927. Eleanor Roosevelt oversaw the egg roll during her husband’s four terms in office, including 1937, when more than 50,000 children attended.

The tradition of the costumed Easter Bunny began with a Pat Nixon staff member in 1969, per the White House Historical Association.

Spicer has a history with the Egg Roll himself: as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, he was the man inside the Easter bunny suit.

With a new administration this year and not many staff in place, the planning time was short. Wells Wood Turning of Buckfield, Maine contacted the White House on February 20 to say that they needed to know how many eggs to make because time was running out.

Mrs Trump also had a skeleton staff at that point, so all hands were on deck. The White House engaged the services of event planning company Harbinger, which has organised events for a wide array of clients. The Obamas used C3 Presents.

That said, hundreds of volunteers are needed every year for the Egg Roll. After all, 21,000 people were expected this year. Easter baskets must be filled with a variety of sweet treats and other fun items. Four hundred volunteers, most of whom live locally, showed up on Holy Saturday to organise the gifts and work on other aspects of the event:

Part of the prep happened this Saturday, when 100 or so volunteers worked elbow-to-elbow in a fenced-in, tented portion of the Ellipse, behind the South Lawn of the White House. Creating a lengthy assembly line, they spent hours stuffing candy, coloring books and commemorative eggs into goodie bags for families attending the roll.

According to a source who participated in the preparation the weekend, the volunteers — many holdovers from years’ past and former administrations — arrived at 10 a.m. ET, working alongside Visitors Office and Social Office staffers. Truckloads of donated products were unpacked, grouped and placed into their designated spots, said one volunteer team leader. The items included arts and crafts supplies, as well as non-perishable foods. And yes, the source confirmed, there were also Peeps.

Peeps are a marshmallow Easter candy, most of which are coated with brightly coloured sugar.

Everything is carefully planned and diligently executed:

By the end of the afternoon, thousands of bags were completed, with the goal each child will receive a souvenir goodie bag and commemorative egg, added the source.

“Everyone at the White House is very excited about (Monday’s) Easter Egg Roll. Preparations are continuing through the weekend to ensure that every child who attends has a positive experience they’ll remember for years to come,” said Grisham.

Whereas Mrs Obama favoured popular music at the Easter Egg Roll, Mrs Trump scaled such music back, preferring to bring back the military bands from older Easter Monday events.

CNN says that special thanks go to Rickie Niceta Lloyd, Mrs Trump’s social secretary and the White House Visitors Office which organised four orientation sessions for the volunteers beforehand.

The next few tweets give us a glimpse of what went on over Easter weekend:

This was the graphic for the event. The bunnies have wooden spoons in their paws, because egg rolling contestants need them to push the eggs to the finishing line (see below):

It had rained and the ground was damp. Nevertheless, there was a rainbow, which impressed ‘Teddy Roosevelt’:

By the time the Trumps appeared on the balcony, the lawn had a crowd awaiting the official opening of the event:

President Trump introduced the event, followed by the the first lady:

Watch Mrs Trump nudge her husband to put his hand over his heart for the National Anthem, performed by the United States Marine Corps band. I saw another clip of this and Barron was first, closely followed by his mother:

Journalists covered the event for television. CNN’s Jim Acosta shared a laugh with a Mutant Ninja Turtle:

However, Today‘s Al Roker, who is the NBC morning show’s weatherman and co-host, appeared less amused. I think he is still angry Hillary lost:

One boy had Acosta’s number. As Acosta gave a live report, the lad on the left kept mouthing ‘Fake News!’ The video below should go straight to the 17-second mark (H/T: The Conservative Treehouse):

If that gets taken down, Newsbusters has a copy.

The following video from Fox News 10 in Phoenix shows how crowded the White House lawn was. President Trump turns up at the 27:52 mark to have pictures taken with guests. He also signed hats and programmes:

In the following video, jump to the 17:25 mark to watch the first Egg Roll of 2017. It only lasts 20 seconds:

Here’s a view from the finishing line:

The First Family was present at the starting line for the first Egg Roll. Trump’s daughter Tiffany (Marla Maples’s daughter) is in the pink dress and son Eric (Ivana Trump) is between Mrs Trump and Barron:

The Trumps went on to engage with their young guests:

Happy days bring happy experiences. The photo below appears thanks to The Truth Division and The_Donald:

 

The two clearly enjoyed each other’s company (click on top left photo below). (Donald Trump Jr, his wife and daughter are in the same photo. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln characters are in the baseball shirts, top right. Al Roker continues to be unamused, bottom left.)

Eric Trump and his wife Lara Lee brought along their dogs.

The American Egg Board supplied hen’s fruit (top left) and a fun display, An Egg’s Journey (top right):

Bro4 provided popular music. Martin Family Circus also entertained the guests.

Mrs Trump managed to persuade her husband’s press secretary and much of the cabinet to follow her lead in reading to the children in the Reading Nook. She chose Party Animals by Kathie Lee Gifford, wherein different animals find out how much they have in common. Mrs Trump said it was a particular favourite:

Press Secretary Sean Spicer read How to Catch the Easter Bunny with young Joshua, the only one in the audience who knew the story:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions read It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny, accompanied by his wife and four of their grandchildren:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr Ben Carson, accompanied by his wife and granddaughter, read The Grouchy Ladybug:

General Kellogg read Giraffes Can’t Dance. He did a great job, too:

Education Secretary Betsy De Vos and Counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway also read to the youngsters. Conway chose God Gave Us Easter. Mrs De Vos, with one of her grandchildren, gathered the children up closely around her.

Military bands, the boy band and the circus act performed on the Bunny Hop Stage.

The United States Army Band chose traditional songs that the many of the children would not have heard before as well as better known numbers:

The Air Force Band and their Singing Sergeants brought an accomplished bluegrass air to proceedings:

First Son Barron, who turned 11 on Monday, March 20, is as tall as his mother:

I also hope this was a great success for First Lady Melania Trump. I am especially pleased that she blended the traditional with the contemporary so well, ensuring that Easter Monday was a delightful day out for all her guests.

President Donald Trump and his family attended an Easter service at Palm Beach’s Episcopal church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea, on April 16, 2017.

The Palm Beach Post tells us:

Bethesda-by-the-Sea was founded in 1889, making it the first church in Palm Beach County and the oldest Protestant church in South Florida. The rectory was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth, who also drew the plans for the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee and the original Norton Museum of Art, according to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

The church’s architecture, dozens of stained-glass windows and gardens make it a popular spot for weddings and photo shoots.

It is a beautiful church, in line with most Episcopal houses of worship in the United States, as the following tweets will demonstrate.

I also enjoyed looking at members of the congregation. They remind me of the people I attended church with during my young adulthood in an Episcopal church. I miss them! (We are quite scruffy here in England when it comes to Sunday worship.)

Bethesda-by-the-Sea is the Trumps’ church:

Trump has a history with the church: He married first lady Melania there in 2005, and his youngest son, Barron, was christened there. The Trumps attended the most recent Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, receiving a standing ovation as they entered the sanctuary. Last Easter, the president, first lady and Barron attended the church’s 11 a.m. Sunday service.

And when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, visited Mar-a-Lago in February, the first lady included a trip with Akie Abe to Bethesda-by-the-Sea as part of her hosting.

This is a good photo of the interior:

The Palm Beach Post advised people wishing to go to the 11 a.m. service — the one the first family attended — to make arrangements to show up early because of security arrangements. Easter services are crowded anyway, and nearly everyone who regularly attends Bethesda-by-the-Sea shows up for worship.

This is how the morning of April 16 went at the church, thanks to the tweets from Aleese Kopf, reporter for the Palm Beach Daily News — a.k.a. The Shiny Sheet, because of the smooth paper.

The Sun Sentinel shows the Trumps’ arrival. Daughter Tiffany (mother Marla Maples, second wife) holds a pink handbag:

The next set of tweets comes from Michael Delauzon, who works at the White House.

The first family entered from a door near the pulpit and the altar.

The rector, The Rev. James Harlan, greeted them:

The man in front of Barron is not the president. He is likely to be Melania’s father:

 

The president has the aisle seat.

In ‘UPDATES: Trump attends Easter service at Palm Beach church‘, the Palm Beach Post reported that a well-dressed, concerned but polite protester had been along the route to the church. She held up a pro-immigrant sign asking that Trump express concern for them. As if Donald Trump doesn’t know about immigrants! The Palm Beach Post surmised she probably went unnoticed by the first family.

The article went on to say:

A block away, the president, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron; Trump’s daughter, Tiffany; and the first lady’s parents entered the church for 11 a.m. services from a series of tents erected to give the family privacy. 

The Rev. James Harlan, the church’s rector, gave a welcome message before the service with instructions on receiving communion- and turning off cell phones and cameras …

Trump left after taking communion. The first family planned to brunch at Mar-a-Lago with Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., followed by an afternoon Easter egg hunt. 

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s director of communications, provided the photo of Mar-a-Lago:

The Trumps left later that day to return to Washington, DC.

The Palm Beach Daily News has more.

Tomorrow I hope to have a post about the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, which took place on Monday, April 17.

I have written previously about alternative media’s Mike Cernovich with regard to his recent 60 Minutes interview and its full transcript.

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, Cernovich tweeted:

On Monday, he reported more about his first mainstream news scoop, excerpted below (emphases mine):

Susan Rice, who served as the National Security Adviser under President Obama, has been identified as the official who requested unmasking of incoming Trump officials, Cernovich Media can exclusively report.

The White House Counsel’s office identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking after examining Rice’s document log requests. The reports Rice requested to see are kept under tightly-controlled conditions. Each person must log her name before being granted access to them.

Upon learning of Rice’s actions, H. R. McMaster dispatched his close aide Derek Harvey to Capitol Hill to brief Chairman Nunes.

“Unmasking” is the process of identifying individuals whose communications were caught in the dragnet of intelligence gathering. While conducting investigations into terrorism and other related crimes, intelligence analysts incidentally capture conversations about parties not subject to the search warrant. The identities of individuals who are not under investigation are kept confidential, for legal and moral reasons.

James Rosen, a former Bill Clinton adviser who now works for Fox News, says that this is a huge story which could explain why General Mike Flynn had to resign earlier this year. The tweet below says Fox News acknowledged that Cernovich broke the story. I did not see that in the clip, but am posting it anyway so that you can read what Rosen says:

The Daily Caller explained Big Media’s reaction to Cernovich’s scoop and how they reported it:

Mike Cernovich, a journalist who has promoted conspiracy theories and was deemed “fake news” by “60 Minutes,” was the first to break the news that Obama’s former national security advisor Susan Rice made requests to unmask the identities of Trump associates.

Cernovich said in his report Sunday that New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman knew about the Rice requests, and “has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.” A New York Times spokeswoman told The Daily Caller, “Cernovich’s claim regarding Maggie Haberman is 100 percent false.”

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake confirmed Cernovich’s report Monday, but did not include any details about Haberman sitting on the story. Cernovich told TheDC in an interview that Lake also sat on the story over the weekend. Lake tweeted Tuesday, “Reports that I sat on the Susan Rice story are false.”

The Bloomberg story didn’t give Cernovich any credit for his scoop and he said he wasn’t upset as he has more influence than Bloomberg.

Cernovich revealed how he got the story:

Zero Hedge provides a partial transcript of the video (emphases in the original):

I’m showing you the politics of ‘real journalism’.  ‘Real journalism’ is that Bloomberg had it and the New York Times had it but they wouldn’t run it because  they don’t want to run any stories that would make Obama look bad or that will vindicate Trump.  They only want to run stories that make Trump look bad so that’s why they sat on it.

So where did I get the story?  I didn’t get it from the intelligence community.  Everybody’s trying to figure out where I got it from.  I got it from somebody who works in one of those media companies.  I have spies in every media organization.  I got people in news rooms.  I got it from a source within the news room who said ‘Cernovich, they’re sitting on this story, they’re not going to run it, so you can run it’.

If you’re at Bloomberg, I have people in there.  If you’re at the New York Times, I have people in there.  LA Times, Washington Post, you name it, I have my people in there.  I got IT people in every major news room in this country.  The IT people see every email so that’s how I knew it.

On Wednesday, April 5, Cernovich wrote about what happened next:

– Rice said she unmasked but it was legal.

– Fake news does not call Rice a liar for saying she never unmasked anyone, instead….

– Fake news attacks Cernovich’s character.

– Fake news claims Trump said he was “illegally” spied on (not what he said).

Susan Rice

Since Cernovich’s story broke, Susan Rice has given several television interviews this week to friendly outlets, such as MSNBC and PBS.

Rice’s husband, Ian Cameron, was a senior producer of successful news programmes for ABC. Although he is no longer working for them, preferring to spend time with his family, Heavy contacted the network to find out why they were not giving the Rice story much coverage:

Heavy has reached out to ABC News’ PR staff to see whether Cameron still has any link to ABC News, as his LinkedIn profile and past articles say he left the network several years ago. This story will be updated if a response is received.

Fox News is the only channel doing any critical coverage of the story. On April 5, they reported  (emphases mine):

The intelligence reports at the center of the Susan Rice unmasking controversy were detailed, and almost resembled a private investigator’s file, according to a Republican congressman familiar with the documents.

“This is information about their everyday lives,” Rep. Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence committee said. “Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”

On the House Intelligence Committee, only the Republican chairman, Devin Nunes of California, and the ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, also of California, have personally reviewed the intelligence reports. Some members were given broad outlines.

Nunes has consistently stated that the files caused him deep concern because the unmasking went beyond the former national security adviser Mike Flynn, and the information was not related to Moscow.

Alternative media have been digging deeply. Circa, which has excellent reports on intelligence, posted an article about the Rice controversy on Monday, April 3, the same day that Cernovich’s scoop appeared. Circa analysed what might have occurred with Rice, intelligence information and others in the Obama White House. A brief excerpt follows:

How the information was disseminated beyond Rice will also be a potential focus of congressional oversight, since lawmakers may want to know if it was briefed to Obama or shared with members of her larger circle of advisers, like deputy Ben Rhodes.

Rice has not returned repeated calls for comment from Circa. But in an interview with PBS recently, she said she had no idea what House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes was talking about when he said Obama officials were monitoring Trump associates after the election.

One intelligence professional with detailed knowledge of how the NSA and other intelligence agencies share information with the White House during transitions told Circa that U.S. intelligence reporting on foreign leaders’ perceptions of Trump spiked after his unexpected election win in November, creating a trove of information that could be accessed by the outgoing White House.

More will surely follow in the days and weeks ahead.

Steve Bannon

In closing, I would like to clarify what happened with Steve Bannon, one of President Trump’s closest advisers.

On Wednesday, April 5, The Drudge Report had headlines from Big Media outlets saying that said Bannon had lost his security clearance and was threatening to quit. Cernovich explains why these reports are false: look at who wrote them.

That day, The Conservative Treehouse reported that what really happened. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, Steve Bannon continues to attend National Security Council (NSC) meetings:

The hilarity cemented itself when competing media outlets were arguing about Steve Bannon being on the NSC, or being kicked-off the NSC, while Bannon walked past them en route to today’s NSC meeting.  Wait, wha… huh?   Yeah -{Insert Laugh Track HERE}-

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum, and today is no exception.   No, Steve Bannon is not being removed from the Senior advisory role to President Trump and will attend NSC meetings with the President.  Bannon’s security clearance therein remains unchanged.

Secondly, Lt General McMaster is realigning the NSC meetings to emphasise security threats over politics, a holdover from the Obama administration — a big part of the Susan Rice revelations. This is where the Big Media story about Bannon is coming from because:

Bannon is removing himself from the Principal’s Committee of the H.R. McMaster NSC (*note* he never attended the committee meetings, well, that is, he did, once), now that the political weaponization of NSC intelligence operations has been removed; and McMaster has recalibrated the incoming intelligence agencies to remove the political intelligence they were previously used to sending.

This is what McMaster is doing:

HR McMaster, the current National Security Adviser of President Trump, had to reset and re-instruct each of the heads of the intelligence agencies who provide intelligence to the NSC to remove the political intelligence.

McMaster needed to visit with each agency, CIA, NSA, State Department and Defense, to reorient them on what national intelligence the Trump administration wishes to receive within the National Security Council.

President Trump doesn’t want the national intelligence agencies sending him updates on what Senator Schumer had for lunch, where and who he dined with.  Instead President Trump prefers the intelligence agencies focus on global security issues that are actually vital to the national security interests of the country.

H.R McMaster’s instructions toward he intelligence agencies has just freed up thousands of hours of operational intelligence (spying and analysis) to focus on real threats unrelated to domestic politics.  Subsequently with the new direction established, Steve Bannon doesn’t need to be a pre-filter for NSC raw intel any longer. Bannon can now be a consumer of that intelligence, just like President Trump.

Stories on security topics and alternative media will continue after Holy Week and Easter. This year, Palm Sunday falls on April 9.

On Monday, April 3, 2017 President Donald Trump welcomed Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to the White House.

The two had met once before, on Monday, September 19, 2016, during the presidential campaign. Al-Sisi also met with Hillary Clinton that day in a separate exchange. As I explained in my post of September 23, Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump was much more rewarding. Sensible Egyptians do not like Clinton because she was friendly with the wife of Mohamed Morsi, Al-Sisi’s predecessor, and had sympathies with his regime, which had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahramonline reported:

the talk was about an exceptional chemistry between the two men, who saw eye to eye on the need to combat militant Islamism and to find a holistic approach to resolving Middle East issues, including the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the instability in Syria and Libya.

I understand from online comments that this month’s historic meeting went uncovered by Big Media, which focussed on Trump’s notionally chaotic White House instead.

However, the Egyptian press gave it careful coverage.

On April 1, 2017, Daily News Egypt reported (emphases mine):

A number of politicians and experts have praised the importance of the five day visit of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to the US capital Washington, DC, where he will meet with US president Donald Trump following an official invitation.

Al-Sisi is also scheduled to meet with a number of US cabinet members and representatives of the decision-making circles in the US, as well as Republican and Democratic members of the US congress and the heads of a number of committees.

The meeting will include reviews on Egypt’s economy and political conditions, discussions over boosting bilateral relations, and ways of increasing investments between both countries …

Regarding topics that Al-Sisi will focus on, the president will review what Egypt has recently achieved, especially with its new national projects. The primary focus will also include challenges Egypt is facing, particularly with terrorism and the circumstances that led to the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Egyptian pundits looked forward to a cordial, constructive discussion, the newspaper said:

Political science professor Hassan Nafaa told Daily News Egypt that the visit is of great importance for the two countries, as there were tensions between both countries that occurred after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated regime. He stated that this visit would contribute to more Egyptian-American cooperation.

During the administration of former US president Barack Obama, the relations deteriorated, as he believed the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces in 2013 was a military coup. The US, as a result, cut its military aid to Egypt, but decided to continue payments and shipments of military goods in 2015.

Ahramonline explained:

Relations between the El-Sisi regime and the Barack Obama administration were not particularly comfortable, given the hesitation of the previous US administration in acknowledging the political change that occurred in Egypt in June 2013.

A meeting between El-Sisi and Obama in New York a year later, following the election of El-Sisi to the top executive job in June 2014, secured stable bilateral relations, including strong support from the Obama administration for Egypt in getting an IMF loan last year. However, it failed to move beyond that.

El-Sisi never visited the White House during the Obama administration.

Today, he is hoping to turn a new page in bilateral relations with a new administration.

The media outlet also reported that there is hope that Egypt and the US could resume a relationship the two countries have not enjoyed for 40 years:

According to Egyptian officials involved in the preparation for El-Sisi’s visit, Cairo wants to see advanced security cooperation that goes beyond anything that the two countries have had since the construction of a close alliance in the late 1970s in the wake of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

The following video shows Trump and Al-Sisi speaking of their objectives for the trip and for the future. Al-Sisi’s interpreter addresses Trump as ‘Your Excellency’ more than once. Al-Sisi calls terrorism an ‘evil ideology’ (2:15) and pronounces it the ‘problem of the century’ (4:25). He said he is confident that the Trump administration will ‘resolve this issue’ (4:28). Trump responds, ‘We will do that together. We will fight terrorism and other things and we’re going to be friends for a long, long time’ (4:35):

You can read more from Time‘s Zeke Miller.

Globalist heads no doubt exploded at this news, which, coupled with the expected visit by the King of Jordan, is sure to disrupt their NWO plans in future. Together, these three men could bring peace to the Middle East.

CBS’s Mark Knoller tweeted:

Trump posted photos from the meetings:

The Conservative Treehouse has great close-up photographs of Al-Sisi’s arrival at the White House. Trump is starting a new presidential tradition of greeting official guests at the front door, something his predecessors did not do.

Here is a photo of Al-Sisi’s departure that day:

This is the first time in eight years that an Egyptian president has visited the White House.

On Wednesday, April 5, Al-Sisi gave an interview to Brett Baier of Fox News. The Conservative Treehouse provided a partial transcript, including this:

al-Sisi: “I first saw the campaign of his excellency President Trump, and I listened to his speech of the neccessity of facing and confronting terrorism all over the world; that he is a great personality and a unique individual, and that he will find great success.”

“I fully trust the capabilities of President Trump, and I have full conviction that he can do things, exert efforts, that very few people can do.  And he can succeed in so many fields that others cannot.  I trust him wholeheartedly.  And again, I congratulate you for having him.”

Many older readers will join me in hoping that the two countries can recoup the warm co-operation they had in the 1970s. This looks like a great start.

It is interesting that the King and Queen of Jordan visited the White House on the same day that Al-Sisi gave his interview to Baier.

 

Trump addressed the press concerning this significant meeting between the two leaders. He said, in part:

The King has been a leader in calling for a plan to defeat ISIS once and for all.  And I’m with you on that.  We’re both leaders on that, believe me.  That’s what we speak about today, and that is what we are going to do.  And it will be a shorter fight than a lot of people are thinking about, believe me.  We’ve made tremendous strides as we discussed.

As you know, we had a very, very fine delegation come over from Egypt and also from Iraq, and they said more has been done in the last six weeks than has been done in years with the previous administration.  And believe me, we’re going to keep it that way.

We will destroy ISIS and we will protect civilization.  We have no choice — we will protect civilization. King Abdullah and I also discussed measures to combat the evil ideology that inspires ISIS and plagues our planet.  In addition, we also acknowledge the vital role that Jordan has played in hosting refugees from the conflict in Syria.  We have just announced that the United States will contribute additional funds to Jordan for humanitarian assistance.  This aid will help countries like Jordan host refugees until it is safe for them to return home.  The refugees want to return home.  I know that from so many other instances.  They want to return back to their home.  And that’s a goal of any responsible refugee policy.

Finally, we discussed to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, including peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.  And I’m working very, very hard on trying to finally create peace between the Palestinians and Israel, and I think we’ll be successful.  I hope to be successful, I can tell you that.

The Conservative Treehouse points out:

Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s Fattah al-Sisi have a very close regional relationship.

It would be interesting to find out if they met privately as they were both in Washington on the same day.

While the King of Jordan met with President Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Rania for a tour of a local school. They visited a science class.

Both the president and first lady were pleased to welcome the King and Queen of Jordan.

I’ll leave the last word to The Conservative Treehouse (emphasis in the original):

Think of the nationalist possibility.  ♦ Fattah al-Sisi (Egypt), ♦ King Abdullah II (Jordan), ♦ Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel), ♦ Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority), ♦ King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), and ♦ U.S. President Donald Trump.  Together they have a remarkable canvas.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is an American association with 14,000 members.

For 20 years, the NAM has polled its members on economic confidence and published the results in the NAM National Outlook Survey.

The latest one concerns the first quarter of 2017. These manufacturers express strong optimism for President Donald Trump. In fact, more importantly, this is the most optimistic they’ve ever been in 20 years!

The presidents over that time period have been Clinton, Bush II and Obama. What does that tell us about President Trump? Plenty.

The overview is on page 2 of the PDF. A few highlights follow:

  • Percentage of Respondents Positive in Their Own Company’s outlook: 93.3% (77.8% in December 2016)
  • NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index: 63.7 (53.3, December 2016)
  • Expected Growth Rate for Full Time Employment Over the Next 12 Months: 2.3% (1.0%, December 2016)
  • Expected Growth Rate for Inventories Over the Next 12 Months: 0.8% (-0.1%, December 2016)

Then, there’s this:

“Do you think the United States is headed in the right direction, or is our country on the wrong track?”

RIGHT TRACK: 59.9%  WRONG TRACK: 9.4%  UNSURE: 30.8%

(December: Right Track: 25.7%, Wrong Track: 27.0%, Unsure: 47.3%)

What a change in those numbers, particularly the last set, in such a short space of time. Incredible.

This survey is worth more than a mountain of polls. These are statistics from 14,000 manufacturers nationwide, taken by their own association — not a thousand or so people surveyed by an agenda-driven polling company.

President Trump met with members of the NAM and its president and CEO Jay Timmons at the White House on Friday, March 31, 2017 (H/T: The Conservative Treehouse).

Those who do not have time to watch the 12-minute video will find the transcript very interesting with regard to the variety of industries and businesses represented.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job, Jay.

My administration is working every day to make it easier for manufacturers to build, hire, and grow in America.  We’re removing job-killing regulations and lifting the burdens on American industry like I would say have never been lifted before. We’ve done a lot of work over the last 60, 70 days, and I think you’re seeing some real production

Earlier this week, I signed an executive order to end the war on coal.  We had coal miners up at the office.  It was an amazing scene.  You had very tough, very strong, very powerful men that were crying actually; and they were crying with happiness.  And produce more American energy and more American jobs, which is how I got elected in the first place …

One of the reasons we’re here today is to announce the extraordinary results of a new survey from the National Association of Manufacturers.  Your survey shows that 93 percent of manufacturers now have a positive outlook on the future of their business in this country — 93 [percent].  And it was just a few months ago, 56 [percent].  That’s a slight difference.  (Laughter.)  That’s a slight difference.  (Applause.)

That’s a 20-year, record high — highest it’s been in 20 years, and it’s going higher.  Believe me, you could come back next month, Jay.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know how much higher it can go.  And so I’m very proud of that, and we’re all very proud of that.  And the manufacturers are really starting to invest big money, and a lot of things are happening.  It’s a new surge in optimism, which is sweeping all across our land.

These survey results are a further vote of confidence in our plan to bring back jobs, lower taxes, and provide a level playing field for our workers.  The manufacturing companies represent — and represented here today — are just an extraordinary group of people. They’re leaders.  They’re brilliant in so many ways.  The field has not been a level field.  Jobs have been leaving our country, going to China and Mexico and lots of other places.

And you’ll be seeing what’s happening over the next few weeks.  It should be very interesting for you to watch.  As you know the President of China is coming to Florida.  We’re having a meeting — big meeting — at Mar-a-Lago.  We call it the Southern White House, which it actually is.  It was originally built as the Southern White House, a lot of people don’t know

MR. TIMMONS:  … I want to reemphasize for the media here that this quarterly survey of our 14,000 members has been going on for 20 years.  And to the point you made, this was the highest level of optimism that our manufacturers have expressed in 20 years.

MR. TIMMONS:  And the other statistic that I think you’ll find interesting is the right-track/wrong-track question that our manufacturers answered.  Just the month before Inauguration Day, the right-track number was only 26 percent.  Today it is over 60 percent.  So that’s a huge growth, as well.  And that’s because of the focus on taxes, regulations, infrastructure investment.  We appreciate your commitment to investment in job creation and manufacturing.  And we’re going to deliver.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Jay.  That’s really nice.  

MR. TIMMONS:  Thank you.  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Patricia, would you like to say something?  Pretty outstanding what you’ve done.

MS. MILLER:  Thank you.  I appreciate being here today.  I own a plastics manufacturing company in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  We’re a three-year entrepreneurial in growth phase with a 40-year legacy.  It’s great to be part of manufacturing in the U.S. 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a really great job.  You’ve done a great job.  Really great.

MR. EDDY:  Good morning, Mr. President.  My name is Joe Eddy.  I’m the president and CEO of a company in northern West Virginia called Eagle Manufacturing.  We’re 125 years old this year; a family-owned business.  We manufacture products out of steel and plastic.  We make over a thousand industrial safety and hazardous materials handling products.  And I bring from West Virginia a major thank you for the work you’ve done for coal …

MR. GREENBLATT:  My name is Drew Greenblatt.  I’m the owner of Marlin Steel.  We’re a steel factory, make wire baskets for the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry.  We make everything in Baltimore City, Maryland.  We import nothing.  We use steel from Illinois, we use steel from Indiana.  We’re thrilled with the policies that you are pursuing.  We feel great optimism, and we’re thankful for those approaches you’re taking. Obviously — we’re 45 miles from where you’re sitting right now  — we’d love for you to come visit us …

MR. RIORDAN:  Mr. President, good morning.  My name is Tom Riordan.  I’m the CEO of Neenah Enterprises.  We’re a casting and forging operation in Wisconsin — 145 years old.  First products were plowshares back in the Civil War.  Today most of our products are related to infrastructure in terms of street casting, sewer covers, and so on.  The other half of our business is really tied to on/offload vehicles with folks like Caterpillar and John Deere.  We’re very much dependent upon your policies moving forward …

MR. MAGYARI:  Nice to meet you.  My name is Doug Magyari.  I’m the CEO of IMMI, Inc.  We’re a Troy, Michigan company, suburb of Detroit.  And we’re very much a leading-edge research and development company on advanced technologies, and in particular, we’ve built the most advanced augmented reality and virtual reality glasses in the world.  And it’s an extremely important technology that’s going to affect not only everybody at this table, but really every facet of our lives.  And there’s military applications and all sorts of medical applications, as well as entertainment

MS. BUCHWALD-WRIGHT:  Hello.  It’s nice to see you again.  I’m Karen Buchwald-Wright.  And I’m the president and CEO of a family business that manufactures natural gas compressors.  We’re from Mt. Vernon, Ohio.  And gas compressors are used in both the oil and gas industry, so I’m especially thankful that you have gotten the Keystone

THE PRESIDENT:  Very busy.

MS. BUCHWALD-WRIGHT:  Yes, we are going to be.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You have to be.  Big difference.  That industry has changed over the last couple of months — actually, over the last couple of weeks, that industry has changed …

MR. BARR:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m Matt Barr with Carolina Color.  We manufacture colors for the plastics industry. We’re a family-owned business — we also celebrated our 50th anniversary this year, 120 employees.  We’re in Delaware, Ohio, and we’re headquartered in Salisbury, North Carolina …

MS. JOHNSON.  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m Kellie Johnson, president of ACE Clearwater Enterprises.  It’s a 16-year-old family business — third generation.  We’re a supplier to the aerospace and power generation industries.  We build products out of metal.  If it flies or is launched, our parts are on it.  We employ 200 of the best men and women in our industry. And on behalf of all of them, thank you for what you’re doing.  

And we would love to have you come and visit next time you’re in southern California.  In fact, I’ll never forget my husband and I approaching you in the lobby of your golf course in Palos Verdes when the flag controversy was going on.  And we respected your position and we are so proud that that flag is flying today.  Thank you.  It worked out well.

THE PRESIDENT:  It worked out.  That was a very good decision …

Anyone moaning about Trump really needs to stop going to Big Media as the main source for news. Turn off the television, put down the newspaper and get online.

Trump’s is the most transparent administration in modern history. All of Trump’s presidential activities are on the White House site, along with videos. All of Sean Spicer’s press briefings are there, too.

Trump is my kind of president!

As I wrote on March 27, 2017, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s plan for healthcare was pulled on Friday, March 24, 2017. There wasn’t enough support to even hold a vote in the House of Representatives.

It wasn’t a very good plan, anyway: too many vested interests. In fact, much of it was not too different from Obamacare.

Ryan’s plan — Ryancare — was the AHCA, the American Health Care Act of 2017.

Obamacare is the ACA or PPACA, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010.

Below is a brief review of healthcare in the United States.

Before the 1980s

When I was growing up in the US, until the 1980s, general practitioners (family doctors) had their own practices. You made an appointment and paid for it. The doctors also made house calls, when necessary. The charges for both were reasonable. Those men knew you, your family, your health problems. They were also friendly and reassuring.

There also used to be community hospitals in most towns, even small ones.

Hospitalisation insurance — for catastrophic and/or unexpected healthcare — was affordable.

During the 1980s

In the 1980s, HMOs became popular and most employers paid for their employees’ insurance.

I left the US during this time and was not on an HMO plan myself, although I did have employer-paid insurance with a reasonable $100 per annum deductible (‘excess’ for my British readers).

Everything was straightforward.

I didn’t even have a family doctor.

I saw two specialist physicians during that decade by ringing their offices for an appointment. I used a walk-in clinic once. Walk-in clinics were new that decade.

I can’t comment further personally.

After the 1980s

American readers are free to comment on HMOs and PPOs.

It seems that, by the 1990s, everything was run by big healthcare corporations or a large consortium of local doctors.

21st century

A new development in primary healthcare arose around the turn of the century: concierge medicine.

Concierge medicine differs from the walk-in clinic or other types of direct primary care in that one pays a membership fee monthly, quarterly or annually for one’s healthcare.

This type of primary care was developed in 1996 by the two physicians who founded MD2 (pronounced “MD Squared”) International in Seattle.

Concierge medicine expanded from there, particularly after the Millennium. Initially, it was rather exclusive and expensive. Patient membership was limited.

However, that has been changing over the years. Some concierge care is incredibly affordable. Visit the YourChoice Direct Care site to see one example. YourChoice Direct Care is in Brighton, Michigan, and is referenced below. The membership fee covers much of the care provided. Drugs dispensed are generic and dirt cheap.

Of course, even if one is a member of a concierge or direct care medical practice, one still needs health insurance.

Health insurance under Obamacare

The obligation to purchase health insurance has become a problem with Obamacare, because premiums skyrocket this year. I have read only one anecdotal account online of someone who was grateful for Obamacare. That person is in a different situation to most, however. All the other accounts I’ve read are from middle class people who are now hit with five-figure deductibles in addition to eye-watering premiums. And we mustn’t forget the co-pay when seeing the doctor. A patient must pay for his part of the doctor’s visit on the day.

My readers who are not American should note that Obamacare is insurance, not treatment.

Another point worth remembering is that American legislators have their original healthcare plans and are not subject to Obamacare.

One can see why Americans are disgruntled with Obamacare — ACA, PPACA.

The proposed Ryancare — AHCA — was no better.

Why did Americans need Obamacare?

In a post from March 22, 2017, Karl Denninger of Market Ticker explains that the bottom is falling out of healthcare. Excerpts follow, emphases in the original.

Denninger has studied figures released by the Treasury Department which show:

the Federal Government spent $1,417 billion last fiscal year on Medicare and Medicaid, up from $380 billion in 1998, which incidentally was 37% of all federal spending last year — and it’s accelerating at ~8-9% a year as it has been for the last several decades (with some notable outlying years.)

At this rate it will cross $2,000 billion, or more than half (by a good margin) of the current federal budget within 5 years.  That will blow a $600 billion additional annual deficit hole in the budget into a rising rate environment which the government will not be able to finance.

That’s math, not politics.

This is because high-risk pools of patients began increasing in the 1990s:

That’s a fact, and it was cited as one of the reasons we had to pass the PPACA – to put a stop to their collapse by forcing everyone into paying for those who were very sick or nearly dead!  The stories of people who were unable to get into those pools at all due to lack of funding were well-circulated and the crimp put on treatments paid for by them were both well-documented and publicized — again, due to lack of funds.

By 2008, he says the medical and insurance industry were quickly heading towards collapse:

See, while health care counts toward GDP, and is nearly 20% of it today (up from about 3% 30ish years ago) most of it doesn’t produce anything.  Not one car, one house, one television set.  Oh sure, it might allow someone to keep making those things — maybe — but at what cost?  Yes, there are exceptions, but most of those exceptions (e.g. childbirth) are actually quite cheap in percentage terms.

The ugly part is that much medical care is actually negative to GDP.  Why?  Consider the drug addict who mainlines opiates and destroys his heart valves. “Fixing” it costs upward of $500,000, all said and done. Will that person ever produce more value than that with their remaining life?  Definitely not if they keep using drugs; they’ll die.  The sad reality is that most of them do exactly that.

How about the Type II diabetic that winds up running through a quarter-million bucks in drugs, amputations, dialysis, blindness and death because they won’t change their food intake and stop eating carbohydrates?  How far does he or she go before the ability to produce is destroyed, at which point they’re on disability and go from producing something to a net consumer of everyone else’s production?  By the way that specific instance when you add it all up nets out to somewhere around $400 billion a year for Medicare and Medicaid now!  That’s crazy on any objective basis; you could literally give everyone in the country — man, woman and child $1,000 a year instead with money left over — or adequately feed everyone who is hungry in sub-Saharan Africa (all ~230 million of them!) with a lot of money left over.

Ethical considerations aside (emphasis in purple mine):

you can’t escape the mathematical outcome that results from allowing these people to impose their costs on everyone else.  There are plenty of people in the lower and middle economic strata — in fact, most — who can easily wind up being a net negative to GDP and the problem becomes much worse when medical costs ramp by a factor of six compared against GDP and not all of the conditions in question come as the result of voluntary lifestyle choices.

But in all cases you eventually run out of people who can and will pay when exponential cost expansion occurs, especially when at the same time you ramp cost the income base you rely on to pay taxes to fund it is being destroyed one drug addict or Type II diabetes sufferer at a time.

Why Obamacare failed

Denninger says:

The PPACA was basically a bailout of the medical industry engineered to force a more-level slam of the cost on everyone in the country.

But… it failed.  It failed because nothing was done about the actual problem and costs continued to ramp.  The PPACA managed to get a lower spend in Medicare and Medicaid for one year (and a modestly-better increase in the two bordering it) but spending then returned to its previous trend!  The negative GDP problem got worse rather than better in aggregate and moved even further up the income scale on an individual basis.  The government tried to finance that through even more deficit spending but doing so just destroyed productivity and tax receipts.

Obamacare does not solve the cost problem:

It just moves the problem somewhere else.  Where it moved it was on the back of productivity and tax receipts, both of which have been horrifyingly bad since the 2008 crash.  Last fiscal year tax receipts rose by less than 1% despite all the new taxes in the PPACA and higher rates generally while productivity improvements have all but disappeared.

Why the AHCA was a bad remedy

He notes that the AHCA did not address cost, either, and:

if we do not address cost and thus drop that $1,417 billion precipitously the government’s budget will be destroyed and thus collapse on the clear evidence and trends published by our government’s own Treasury Department.

The AHCA failed to even achieve a vote partly for this reason and, had it passed, would have helped to:

further advance the collapse of our federal government’s ability to fund itself, and thus operate!

Furthermore:

The AHCA cannot resolve this problem because it intentionally refuses to address the driver of the problem in the first instance.  Returning to “High Risk Pools” is idiotic because those very pools were on the verge of collapse prior to the PPACA and were a big part of why Obamacare was written and passed!  The insurance and medical lobbies wrote the PPACA to get rid of those problems and pools, or so they thought.

They tried denying math but failed because the laws of mathematics are not suggestions. You can’t get rid of a cost by making someone else pay it; you simply move it and eventually it comes back and bites you.

… It just moves money around, something I noted back when it was first released (and much to the detriment of state budgets.)

What needs to happen

Denninger says 15 USC as well as State Consumer Protection laws must be enforced.

Prices and charges must be posted and must be uniform:

Forcing published pricing and charging everyone the same price for the same service or product of like kind and quantity, disconnecting it from alleged “insurance” using existing law, will force competition into the market immediately.

He says prices will drop dramatically and links to the aforementioned Your Choice Direct Care:

Medical costs will instantly drop like a stone.  How much?  Let me point out that from one “direct concierge care” site we have some examples of what market prices for common services and drugs look like – $4 for an A1c test, $3.13 for a CBC (complete blood count), $7 for a PSA screen, $275 for an MRI (damn close to what you can buy it for in Japan – cash, of course), $37 for an X-ray and $167 for a CAT scan.  On drugs how about $1.98 for 90 Prozac pills, or $1.44 for 30 Prilosecs? This place claims these offers are “at their cost” with your “membership”; note that they are not selling at a loss and the maker/operator of same is still making a profit!  Why would you fork over a “co-pay” of $10 or $20 when you can pay $1.50 for your prescription in cash?

Why would you need “health insurance” to cover routine medical care and prescriptions if you could buy services and drugs at prices like that — or at a 20% markup from them with a bunch of competitors in a given area?

We can have that sort of pricing for medical care today, right now, right here, everywhere in the country: Enforce the damned law today and that’s the pricing we will have for medical services and drugs TOMORROW.

Let me make this clear for you because we have proof of what the outcome will be: The known pricing we will obtain if we were to do this is, for most treatments and drugs, 80 to 90% LESS than paid today.  In fact most of the drugs listed on that concierge site are 10-20% of your copay under existing so-called “insurance” and so are the imaging and lab prices!

He says any reform legislation should cover — and President Donald Trump has mentioned this — prescription drugs:

repeal the reimportation ban on pharmaceuticals, and we need to add to Robinson-Patman inclusion of international sales.  That will force “best price” everywhere and pharmaceutical costs will fall like a rock here in the United States.  Oh, those other nations?  They’ll get to pay their ratable share of the development of drugs — and it’ll be about damn time.

In terms of legislation it’s pretty easy — you can see some ideas here and here.

Conservative media remain silent

For some reason, no conservative commentator ever discusses healthcare reform.

Here’s a list from Denninger’s readers:

Hannity HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Rush HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Levin HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Beck HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Savage HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
O’Reilly HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Hewitt HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Malkin HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Ingraham HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Cain HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Bruce HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Bennett HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Boortz HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.

Let me add to your list of those who refuse to address this.

Hannity and Ingraham have been sent this info a dozen or so times as well as my Congressman which gets a “generic” health care response letter.

Tucker Carlson HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Ann Coulter HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Stuart Varney HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.

Even the “supposed” legal commentators have not touched this.

Judge Napolitano HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Judge Jeanine HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.
Kimberly Guilfoyle HAS NOT brought it to the forefront.

Then lets not even get started on the inability to actually contact or send a real email to any of these people. You have to go through some inane message system on social media or use some ridiculous web form that will not even recognize hyperlinks or colored, bold, italicized text for emphasis …

It appears social media accounts for all of these above are mostly designed for promoting book sales and personal aggrandizement and “look at me” posts.

At this point, every person that seemed like they might actually be willing to listen or discuss this has been notified and has revealed themselves by their refusal to discuss any of this.

Someone replied with regard to those in the list who work for Fox News:

Start asking the wrong questions on that network and you are gone. These media organizations exist not to promote freedom or uncover truths to protect the people but to inflame passions and promote propaganda. This is what happens when only a few large corporations control the majority of the media.

Someone else blamed it on the public:

Because TV , Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have reduced John Q Public’s attention span to about ninety seconds

… fact based essays don’t get traction.

True that!

Conclusion

Karl Denninger answered many of the questions I had been asking myself about healthcare in the US.

I hope he has answered some of yours, too.

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