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Out of Portland tear gas, an apparition emerges

She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness.

A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street. The agents, dispatched by the Trump administration over vociferous objections of state and city officials, are part of a force that has fired projectiles at and detained activists protesting nightly since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police May 25.

Numerous photos and videos posted on Twitter show the unidentified woman as she halted in the middle of the street at about 1:45 a.m. She stood calmly, a surreal image of human vulnerability in the face of an overpowering force that has been criticized nationally by civil rights advocates.

The agents, in gas masks and helmets, continued firing pepper balls in a staccato “pop, pop, pop” heard on video, aiming low at the asphalt, where puffs of smoke mingled with clouds of gas. At one point, a fellow protester, clothed, carrying a homemade shield, darted in front of the woman, angling to protect her.

But the woman sidestepped him. He jumped out of the way, perhaps realizing that he made them both a target.

Before it was over, she struck ballet poses and reclined on the street. She also sat on the asphalt in a yoga-like stance, facing officers, before they left.

Portland has long been loved, or mocked, for its streak of earnest but quirky organic earthiness, as portrayed in the “Portlandia” television comedy series. Sometimes the envelope-pushing forms of expression involve nudity.

A Portland tavern owner, Bud Clark, gained fame during the 1980s before his election as mayor via a popular “expose yourself to art” poster showing him in a raincoat discreetly flashing a bronze nude sculpture.

Courts have held that appearing nude in Portland is a protected form of political expression, superseding bans on public indecency.

In 2008, a Multnomah County judge cleared a nude bicyclist of indecent exposure charges, saying cycling naked had become a “well established tradition” in Portland as a form of “symbolic protest.” Four years later, a man was acquitted of similar charges by a judge who interpreted his stripping naked at Portland International Airport as a legitimate form of protest against Transportation Security Administration procedures.

The woman making her statement Saturday was altogether uninhibited, at one point standing on one leg and raising her arms in an arc-type motion.

As she struck ballet poses, a patrol car arrived and a dozen officers in blue uniforms replaced the line of agents, whom officials described as having been targeted by protesters throwing rocks, bottles and pieces of metal. She sat in the street facing them, legs spread in the headlights’ glare.

Later she rolled on her back in a graceful pose, then stood again. The second group of officers, who may have been either Portland police or federal agents, also left.

In all, the woman’s appearance lasted about 15 minutes. News photographers said she slipped away, uninjured, into the crowd.

Images of her on social media harked back to previous iconic — but clothed — images juxtaposing force and vulnerability, such as the 1967 photo of a Vietnam War protester who faced a line of U.S. troops and placed a carnation into the barrel of a soldier’s rifle. In an ultimate act of defiance broadcast worldwide, a man stood in front of a column of tanks leaving Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989, a day after the Chinese military had suppressed protests by force.

Nudity has also served as a form of protest since at least to the 11th century, when legend holds that Lady Godiva rode naked, veiled only by her long hair, on a horse through Coventry, England, to protest oppressive taxation.

On Twitter, sympathetic commentators were quick to conclude that “Naked Athena,” as they dubbed the Portland protester, caused the officers to turn tail. But the reason for their departure is not clear from a review of multiple images. Federal officials and police did not comment on the woman.

Others on Twitter said the performance, by a white woman, distracted from protests of injustices faced by Black people.

The right-wing Nationalist Review website gave the incident its own spin, stating: “Antifa psychopath loses her mind, strips naked to ‘protest’ Portland police.”

In Washington on Sunday, House Democrats continued to voice alarm at the Trump administration’s dispatching of federal agents to crack down on protesters in Portland, expressing concerns that it could be a precursor to similar crackdowns in cities across the nation. A Homeland Security official has said the tactics could well be applied in other cities in the months before the presidential election.

In a letter to the inspectors general of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, leading Democrats called for the watchdogs to investigate the conduct of the federal agents, whose presence was again termed unwelcome Sunday by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Later Sunday, the Oregonian newspaper of Portland, posted an account of the mysterious woman’s appearance on its website, OregonLive, quoting one of its photographers, Dave Killen. He said that he didn’t hear the woman utter a word as pepper balls nicked the asphalt beside her and protesters yelled at officers.

“She was incredibly vulnerable,” Killen said. “It would have been incredibly painful to be shot with any of those munitions with no clothes on.”

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Joe Biden running out of gas on road to defeat

Joe Biden is toast, white toast, but toast, nevertheless.

So, butter him up while there is still time. He is not going to be around much longer, let alone become president.

That was the lead of a column we wrote that ran last July. It is truer today than it was back then. It is not a matter of if, but when.

Since then things have only gotten worse. Once the favorite of moderates and establishment Democrats, Biden is on political life support, after having been beaten badly in the Iowa caucus and humiliated in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where he finished fifth.

Despite the upcoming Nevada caucus Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary Feb. 29, where the former vice president is expected to do better, there is no way but down for Biden.

And talk about Biden reviving his campaign in those two states are simply words from “lying dog-faced pony soldiers,” to quote Biden, who apparently quoted a line from a John Wayne western movie that nobody can find.

Seeking a connection, Biden would have been better off in a tight spot quoting Robert Frost, who at least lived in New Hampshire. It is what Jack Kennedy used to do when caught in a fix. He’d quote:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And then JFK would beat it out the back door.

Joe Biden, a lifelong politician and vice president under Barack Obama, is the aging NFL backup quarterback destined to never fill the starting role. He may become a president of something one day, but not of the United States.

He stumbled in Iowa and fumbled in New Hampshire, ending up punching down on Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who wants to turn the country into South Bend, Ind.

What a state! Instead of laughing at his “lying dog-faced pony soldier” joke with the young woman asking a question, people laughed at him.

It’s no wonder Biden could not get out of New Hampshire fast enough. He misread the NH license plate motto to read “Let’s Flee or Die.” So he fled the state for South Carolina even before most of the people even voted.

Even John Kerry, Biden’s friend and campaign adviser could not save him in New Hampshire, a state Kerry won in the 2004 Democrat presidential primary and in the November election, only to lose to George W. Bush.

Now with Biden losing, Kerry’s dreams of becoming secretary of state again and reversing Trump’s reversal of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Change Accords, are dashed. This also means no more hanging with his buddy Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister

There is only one person who could have saved Biden. That is Barack Obama, the saintly president Biden served under for eight years. But Obama did not endorse Biden, or anyone else. Nor will he endorse Biden, especially now that Biden is spiraling downward. Even saints have limits.

What really must have crushed Biden was the television ad — one of untold thousands — that billionaire Michael Bloomberg launched during the New Hampshire primary campaign he did not even run in.

One ad, that is still running, makes it appear that Obama has endorsed Bloomberg for president, which Obama has not. Bloomberg, a billionaire, has already spent $300 million of his own money on television, seeking to buy the Democrat nomination.

While he did not compete in Iowa or New Hampshire, Bloomberg has risen in the polls as a result of his heavy television spending, in which he mainly attacks Trump. He has promised to spend $2 billion to defeat Trump.

In the Obama ad, which goes back to a 2012 event where President Obama introduced then New York Mayor Bloomberg, Obama says of Bloomberg, “At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions.”

While it is not an Obama endorsement of Bloomberg, it sure looks and sounds like one to the average television viewer. How that must have stung Biden!

Since Obama has not endorsed Bloomberg — or Biden — what Biden ought to do, if he is still around, is grab Bloomberg by the collar and accuse him of being “a lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

That ought to do it.