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Count me among those mystified over the biker gang melee in Waco, Texas — a shootout that left nine dead. Why are these guys committing grown-up violence over the seemingly adolescent concern of who belongs to their group and who doesn’t? Who are they?

For answers, I consulted James F. Quinn, a University of North Texas sociologist who has studied the Bandidos and other outlaw biker “clubs.”

Many of the members came out of the military with skills of war and low tolerance for ordinary civilian life. They borrow their imagery from the old Western outlaws, having traded horses for motorcycles. Billy the Kid would be a model biker.

They engage in drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion and the like. But so do cartels and other powerful organized crime syndicates. (Texas law enforcement considers the Bandidos a Tier 2 threat, with Tier 1 reserved for the cartels.)

But are these (mostly) white guys on Harleys making real money?

“A few people are making a very large sum of money,” Quinn said, “and some people are just getting by.” Some also have day jobs. They run the gamut.

As most of us know, the outlaw bikers have little in common with the lawyer/teacher/retiree motorcyclists dressing the part on weekends. My only complaint on meeting many biker couples headed to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, was that they hogged the washing machines at Motel 6.

Some reports say the riot at the Twin Peaks sports bar started in a battle over a parking space. Others, an exchange of words in the men’s room. Yet another, a “provocation” centered on the wearing of a Texas patch by members of the Cossacks, a gang rival to the Bandidos.

Quinn sees the explosion as the result of a two-year buildup of tensions between the gangs.

“When one club dominates an area, they don’t want others coming through without their permission,” Quinn said. “They believe the other clubs should be subservient.”

The Bandidos fancy they run Texas from the seats of their Harleys. A counter view is that Texas is run from skyscrapers in Dallas and Houston by men who drive Lexuses and Mercedes-Benzes.

In any case, men who join outlaw biker clubs are in it for more than the money. “A lot of it is about excitement, male camaraderie,” Quinn said. “They want to live in that masculine excitement. It’s a hyper-excitement kind of atmosphere.”

Women are not invited. Women are never members of a “1 percent club,” a reference to the tiny percentage of motorcyclists not considered law-abiding citizens. Women are there to serve, which is why the Waco bikers gravitated to a Hooters clone restaurant, where the waitresses wear tops cut low and shorts cut high.

As for the violence in Waco, Quinn believes that even the bikers didn’t foresee the enormity of what occurred. He hesitates to speculate on what will happen next. An amazing 170 arrestees are facing criminal charges, but not many of them are in jail.

“There are going to be a lot of funerals, people coming in from out of town,” Quinn said, “but for the next few weeks, we’re going to see quiet because they know they are being watched.”

What fascinates the outside world about these outlaw bikers is the extraordinary energy they expend for a sense of belonging and a right to bully. Many comments following the Waco coverage ridiculed their hairy faces and paunchy middles.

In the end, one observes all those able-bodied men looking for action and concludes: What a tremendous waste of all that manpower.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Screenshot via KXAN/YouTube

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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