Monthly Archives: September 2017

Take This Seriously! The Equifax Data Breach – What To Do?

SERAPH.net

On September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting agencies, announced a massive data security breach that exposed vital personal identification data— including names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers on as many as 143 million consumers, roughly 55% of Americans age 18 and older.

This data breach was especially egregious because the company reportedly first learned of the breach on July 29 and waited roughly six weeks before making it public (hackers first gained access between mid-May and July). Moreover, consumers don’t choose to do business or share their data with Equifax; rather, Equifax — along with TransUnion and Experian, the other two major credit reporting agencies — unilaterally monitors the financial health of consumers and supplies that data to potential lenders without a consumer’s approval or consent.

Equifax has faced widespread criticism following its disclosure of the hack, both for the breach itself and for its response, particularly the website it established for consumers to check if they may have been affected. Both the FBI and Congress are investigating the breach. In the meantime, click the pdf below for the answers to five pertinent questions you might have.

The Equifax Data Breach - What To Do.pdfThe Equifax Data Breach – What To Do.pdf 

We are always here as a resource to help you think through the real world financial issues that can have an impact on you or your business.  Please do not hesitate to contact us at 609-689-9700 or solutions@mercadien.com for further assistance. 

Marguerite L. Mount, CPA, CGMA, PFS 
Managing Director & Chair, Individual Services Group

Disrespect For The Sound of Music

Why Austria Won’t Honor Maria von Trapp

Yes, “The Sound of Music” is a heavily fictionalized version of the Trapp family story. But it’s true that they did risk their lives to flee Austria and the Nazis to come to America.

So why, asks Julia Dent at Acculturated, does the city of Salzburg refuse to honor them with a street name? The answer: “Because the real Maria von Trapp used corporal punishment on the children.”

Never mind that it wasn’t illegal, or even uncommon, in that era. And Maria never hid the fact that she was no Julie Andrews, but “a pretty harsh and strict person.” Says Dent: “Hollywood thought her worthy enough to make a movie about her life,” so “shame on Austria for being too cowed by political correctness to embrace one of its bravest citizens.”

SHAME! A Hypocritical Silence

Hypocrisy on Cuba

Latin American countries “deserve credit for their recent denunciations of what they bluntly refer to as Venezuela’s dictatorship,” says Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.

Which is why he can’t understand “why they don’t do the same thing with Cuba’s dictatorship. When it comes to Cuba, they all seem to look the other way,” even though it’s been “a hereditary dictatorship since 1959” and likely will remain so.

Even President Trump “has left intact most key aspects of former President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba.” Indeed, “US trade and tourism to Cuba is flourishing under Trump.” Denouncing Venezuela “is the right thing to do. But ignoring Cuba’s abuses is morally wrong.”

SCAM ALERT: 5 Famous Charities That Are NOT Providing The Help They Claimed To Hurricane Victims

Hurricane Charity Scam

People all over the country are donating to Harvey disaster relief efforts, but law enforcement officials and consumer watchdogs urge caution: Beware of phony charities.

CNN

Are YOU giving money to a charity scam in the wake of Hurricane Harvey or Irma?

Every time there’s a disaster, dishonest charities are there to profit off of human (and animal) misery. While many people know to look out for fly-by-night charities that pop up, you should also beware of charities that seem legitimate but that have a history of questionable spending of charitable donations.

We’ve compiled a list of 5 charities with shameful pasts. We suggest you give to someone else. The FBI has issued a number of guidelines for people to keep in mind when giving to charity following a natural disaster.

Given to one of these already? We’re including info on how to get your money back. (If a charity doesn’t comply, you can file a complaint with your state attorney general.)

  1. The Humane Society of the United States

Many want to help animals affected by disasters—but the Humane Society of the United States is not a good place to give a gift. According to documents provided to the New York Attorney General, following Hurricane Sandy HSUS raised millions of dollars and only spent one-third of what it raised on Sandy relief. The Louisiana Attorney General also opened an investigation of HSUS into how it spent donations raised after Hurricane Katrina after his office received complaints that money was being misused. Noted one Huffington Post contributor: “[B]ased on the HSUS’s performance during and after Katrina — if you care about starving creatures, you’re probably better off grinding your dollars into a nutritious paste and feeding them directly.”

According to public records, HSUS also has put more than $50 million into offshore accounts in the Caribbean. It doesn’t need a dime. Instead, look at giving to the Houston Humane Society or San Antonio Humane Society—both of which are unaffiliated with HSUS.

Get a refund: Call 202-452-1100

  1. Disabled Veterans National Foundation

In Harvey’s aftermath, DVNF promises donors that “you can provide disaster relief to affected veterans, their families and those in critical need with your gift today.” However, CNN has exposed DVNF’s wasteful spending. The news organization found DVNF raised $55.9 million over a several-year period but that almost none of that money was given to veterans; instead, much of it was spent on direct mail, candy, hand sanitizer, and other frivolous items. CharityWatch also gives DVNF an “F” grade in its Winter 2016-17 rating guide.

Get a refund: Call 202-737-0522

  1. World Emergency Relief (a.k.a. Children’s Food Fund)

World Emergency Relief raised $16 million in 2015, according to its tax return, and claims it is “responding to assist Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas with truckloads of emergency supplies.” However, CharityWatch gave World Emergency Relief an “F” grade in its Winter 2015-16 report, calculating that it spent as little as 32% of its budget on programs.

Get a refund: 888-484-4543

  1. Paws for Purple Hearts

Paws for Purple Hearts is a veterans-focused charity that “is doing its part to provide relief for pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey,” according to its website. However, CharityWatch, a no-nonsense charity evaluator gives Paws for Purple Hearts an “F” grade in its Winter 2016-17 rating guide. CharityWatch calculates that the nonprofit spends only 14% of its budget on programs and spends 62 cents to raise a dollar. A local animal charity in a disaster-affected area would be a better bet.

Get a refund: Call 844-700-PAWS

  1. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

PETA claims to rescue animals after disasters—but the group’s track record of “caring” for animals should give everyone pause. PETA’s animal shelter at its headquarters in Norfolk, Va., has a kill rate of about 85%, according to filings PETA has made with the state. PETA has killed over 35,000 animals since 1998—many within 24 hours of receiving them, according to an inspection report.

Get a refund: 757-622-7382

How Americanisms Are Killing The English Language or How Americans Made English Cool.

British vs. American English

A book released this year claims that Americanisms will have completely absorbed the English language by 2120. Hephzibah Anderson takes a look.

So it turns out I can no longer speak English. This was the alarming realisation foisted upon me by Matthew Engel’s witty, cantankerous yet nonetheless persuasive polemic That’s the Way it Crumbles: The American Conquest of English. Because by English, I mean British English.

Despite having been born, raised and educated on British shores, it seems my mother tongue has been irreparably corrupted by the linguistic equivalent of the grey squirrel. And I’m not alone. Whether you’re a lover or a loather of phrases like “Can I get a decaf soy latte to go?”, chances are your vocabulary has been similarly colonised.

Speaking on the wireless in 1935, Alistair Cooke declared that “Every Englishman listening to me now unconsciously uses 30 or 40 Americanisms a day”. In 2017, that number is likely closer to three or four hundred, Engel hazards – more for a teenager, “if they use that many words in a day”.

As a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it

But how did this happen and why should we care? After all, as a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it. Words like bungalow, bazaar, even Blighty, have their roots elsewhere. Heck, go far enough back and isn’t it pretty much all just distorted Latin, French or German?

The first American words to make it across the pond were largely utilitarian – signifiers for flora and fauna that didn’t exist back in Merrie England. Moose, maize and tobacco were among them. But there were others, too, that in retrospect might seem laden with significance – words like plentifulness, monstrosity and conflagration.

With no means of swift communication or easeful passage between the two countries, American English merely trickled back into its source to begin with. But as the balance of power between Britain and her former colonies shifted, as America ascended to military, economic, cultural and technological dominance, that trickle swelled to a torrent, washing away any kind of quality control.

Cookies and closets

Throughout the 19th Century, Engel contends, “the Americanisms that permeated the British language did so largely on merit, because they were more expressive, more euphonious, sharper and cleverer than their British counterparts”. What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’? That long ago ceased to be the case, leaving us with words and phrases that reek of euphemism – ‘passing’ instead of dying – or that mock their user with meaninglessness, like the non-existent Rose Garden that political reporters decided No 10 had to have, just because the White House has one (it doesn’t exactly have one either, not in the strictest sense, but that’s a whole other story).

What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’?

Call me a snob, but there’s also the fact that some American neologisms are just plain ungainly. I recently picked up a promising new American thriller to find ‘elevator’ used as a verb in the opening chapter. As in, Ahmed was ‘elevatoring’ towards the top of his profession in Manhattan.

Nowadays, no sphere of expression remains untouched. Students talk of campus and semesters. Magistrates, brainwashed by endless CSI reruns, ask barristers “Will counsel please approach the bench?” We uncheck boxes in a vain effort to avoid being inundated with junk mail that, when it arrives regardless, we move to trash.

It’s understandable, of course. Sometimes, American words just seem more glamorous. Who wants to live in a flat, a word redolent of damp problems and unidentifiable carpet stains, a word that just sounds – well, flat – when they could make their home in an apartment instead? Sometimes that glamour is overlain with bracing egalitarianism – it’s a glamour untainted by our perennial national hang-up, class.

Take ‘movie’. The word has all the glitz of Hollywood and none of the intellectual pretensions (or so it might be argued) of the word ‘film’, which increasingly suggests subtitles (‘foreign-language film’ is one of the few instances in which the f-word doesn’t seem interchangeable with its American counterpart – ‘foreign-language movie’ just sounds odd). Other times they fill a gap, naming something that British English speakers have been unable to decide on, as is increasingly the case with ATM, a boring but brief alternative to cash point, cash machine, hole in the wall. Also to be factored in is what Engel dubs “Britain’s cultural cringe”, which predisposes us to embrace the foreign.

It’s often pointed out that plenty of these Americanisms were British English to begin with – we exported them, then imported them back. A commonly made case in point is ‘I guess’, which crops up in Chaucer. When Dr Johnson compiled his seminal 1755 dictionary, ‘gotten’ was still in use as a past participle of ‘get’. But as Engel points out, good old English is not good new English. Moreover, his beef isn’t really to do with authenticity; it’s more to do with our unthinking complicity. Because it’s not just the cookies and the closets, or even the garbage, it’s the insidiousness of it all. We’ve already reached the point where most of us can no longer tell whether a word is an Americanism or not. By 2120, he suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely. As he puts it, “The child will have eaten its mother, but only because the mother insisted”.

By 2120, Engel suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely

The new Esperanto?

For more than half-a-dozen years (I almost wrote ‘more than a half-dozen’), I was a UK book columnist for Bloomberg News. Despite the nature of my beat, my identity as a Brit, and the organisation’s proudly global nature, I was required to write in American English. A cinch, thought I, but even at the end of my tenure, I was still bumping into words my editors deemed Briticisms. (‘Charabanc’, sure, but ‘fortnight’? That one was a minor revelation, suddenly explaining the many blank looks I’d received over the years from American friends.) Which is fair enough – Bloomberg is, after all, an American company. And yet I can’t help feeling a little retrospective resentment towards my British editors for all the Americanisms that I’ve got past them unquestioned. Likewise, when I published a book in America, I was excited to find out how it would read after it had been ‘Americanized’, but I’ve noticed it’s fast becoming the norm for American works to make it into print over here without so much as having a ‘z’ switched for an ‘s’ or a ‘u’ tacked on to an ‘o’. And if we can’t rely on our publishers to defend British English…

Like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis

None of this would matter if these imported words were augmenting our existing vocabulary. It’s impossible to have too many words, right? But like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis. Engel quotes researchers behind 2014’s Spoken British National Corpus, who found that the word ‘awesome’ is now used in conversation 72 times per million words. Marvellous, meanwhile, is used just twice per million – down from 155 times a mere 20 years earlier. ‘Cheerio’ and, yes, ‘fortnight’, are apparently staring at the same fate.

Even so, you might ask, is this really such a bad thing? When my grandfather returned home from the front in World War Two, he became a firm believer in the unifying powers of Esperanto. Along with Volapuk, Ekselsioro and Mondlingvo, that idealistic tongue came to nothing. American English is succeeding where it failed. But it’s hard not to feel that diminishing linguistic variance isn’t shrinking the world. Engel rues the way in which our national character is going the way of London’s ‘Manhattanized’ skyline, reticence yielding to self-promotion.

And then there’s the very valid theory that you can’t feel or think things for which you’ve no language. A borrowed vocabulary, one that’s evolved to meet the needs of people whose lives are subtly but profoundly different (ask anyone who’s lived Stateside for a while – those superficial similarities and familiarities soon fall away to reveal a decidedly foreign country), deprives us of fully experiencing our own. It’s nothing short of a “crisis of self-imposed serfdom”, Engel says. “A nation that outsources the development of its own language – that language it developed over hundreds of years – is a nation that has lost the will to live”.

It might seem tactless to bemoan the state of any branch of all-conquering English when so many other languages are being wiped out entirely. But ultimately, the battle isn’t really one of British versus American English, but of individual experience versus the homogenising effects of global digital culture. For a provocative glimpse of where this might all lead, it’s worth noting that Globish, a “sort-of language” (Engel’s phrase) created for business types by former IBM exec Jean-Paul Nerriere, consists of just 1,500 words. Jokes, metaphors and acronyms are verboten, being too fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Personally, I think I’d rather communicate in emojis. But here’s hoping it won’t come to that. Engel’s book is certainly a wake-up call. Sorry, cri de coeur. Wait, better make that a call to arms.

By Hephzibah Anderson

Tim Kaine Claims Not to Know ‘Enough About Antifa’ to Call Them a Terrorists – After His Antifa Son Is Arrested

Thursday, in a comment regarding whether or not Antifa should be labeled a terrorist organization, Sen. Kaine responded:

“I don’t like broad brushes and I don’t know enough about them to say that they’re terrorists, but people who do violent things – the law should take care of them.”

Of course this is Kaine’s response, given the fact that his son is in fact a member of Antifa.

TGP reported earlier this week about Kaine’s son, Linwood Kaine, and his arrest at the Minnesota State Capitol back in March after disrupting a pro-Trump rally. The mob that Kaine’s son was participating in were hurling punches and spraying Trump supporters with pepper spray.

 

 

Murder 220,000 People Including Children And Get A ‘Do Over’?

FARC

“The fact that a war criminal could become the president of Colombia makes no sense,” former Peace Commissioner Camilo Gomez said at a recent court hearing.

After more than five decades of battle in Colombia’s jungles, the nation’s largest rebel movement initiated the launch of its political party Sunday at a concrete convention center in the capital, vowing to upend the country’s traditional conservatism with the creation of an alternative leftist coalition.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will transform into a political party under a new, still-to-be-announced name as part of a historic peace deal signed last year. The accords guarantee the ex-combatants 10 seats in Congress and the same funding the state provides to the nation’s 13 other political parties, in addition to a half-million dollars in funding to begin a think tank to develop their political ideology.

“We are taking an extraordinary step in the history of the common people’s struggle in Colombia,” said Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, to an audience of former guerrillas dressed in white T-shirts with the hashtag #NuveoPartido (#NewParty) on the back.

“This doesn’t mean we are renouncing in any way our fundamental principles or societal project,” he said.

The organization has signaled that it will adhere to its Marxist roots and focus on winning votes from peasants, workers and the urban middle class with a social justice platform, but it faces opposition from many who identify the guerrillas with kidnappings and terrorism.

A poll released in August found that fewer than 10 percent of Colombians said they had total confidence in the rebels as a political party and a large majority said they’d never vote a former guerrilla into Congress.

“They’re not going to be received very warmly in most of Colombia,” said Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. “Their human rights record hurt them. Their media image is terrible. Most Colombians quite simply aren’t socialists or communists.”

But, he added, “All is not lost. A message of wanting to redistribute wealth and undo economic injustice could probably do quite well in a lot of poor areas of Colombia.”

The group’s entrance into politics has been met with fierce resistance from leaders like former President Alvaro Uribe, one of the peace agreement’s staunchest critics. After passing a law earlier this year ratifying the group as a political party, the nation’s Supreme Court is now debating the legislation’s constitutionality. Critics say the former rebels shouldn’t be allowed to participate in politics before first going through a special peace tribunal.

Supporters like Ivan Cepeda of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole contend that political incorporation of the group known as the FARC is the best means of ensuring a lasting peace.

“We have had to pay a very high cost in lives, in infrastructure … that today we are saving with the end of the conflict,” Cepeda said. “It’s more an investment in the democracy of Colombia.”

The FARC was formed in the early 1960s by guerrillas affiliated with Colombia’s Communist Party. Over the next 53 years the battle between the rebels, government forces and right-wing paramilitaries claimed at least 250,000 lives, left another 60,000 people missing and displaced millions, becoming the region’s longest-running conflict.

Four years of negotiations in Havana between rebel leaders and the government culminated with the signing of a peace accord in which guerillas agreed to turn over their arms, confess their crimes in a special peace tribunal that will spare most of any jail time, and turn over their war spoils as reparation to victims.

The agreement also addresses thorny issues like how to reduce Colombia’s booming coca production and provide economic alternatives to poor farmers. The U.S. once labeled the FARC one of the world’s largest drug trafficking organizations.

Colombian voters rejected the accord by a razor-thin majority in a post-signing referendum but a modified version with relatively minor changes was later approved by the legislature. A poll this summer by the Colombian firm Politmetrica found that optimism about the peace process has declined since last October’s referendum, from 67 percent of those surveyed to just about 53 percent.

The conference launched Sunday is expected to gather 1,000 former combatants from around the nation and define the FARC’s political platform. In a document leaked this spring — called the “April Theses” in a nod to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin’s directive by the same name — the FARC leadership described its political party as rooted in “Marxism, Leninism, emancipatory Bolivarian thought and the people’s revolutionary ideology.”

The rebel leader known by the nom de guerre of Pastor Alape said the party’s would quickly seek a leftist coalition to advance implementation of the peace accords.

FARC leaders have toyed with keeping their same acronym and changing their name to the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia, but the idea hasn’t received a warm reception.

“If the FARC intend to grow it’s a mistake,” journalist Angel Becassino told news magazine Semana. The acronym “signifies a past that generates a lot of confrontation.”

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO, Associated Press

iGen – The Codependent – Arrested Development Generation And Why You Should Care

iGen

Controversial speakers are being shut down on campus because today’s college students are obsessed with psychological safety and have little experience with negotiating conflicts.

In the past few years, many U.S. college campuses have become embroiled in controversies over free speech. Students have insisted on “safe spaces” to protect themselves from ideas with which they disagree and have demanded the dismissal of faculty members who offend their sensibilities. Campus speakers have been “disinvited” when students object to their point of view. Such events were rare just five years ago but now seem to occur constantly during the school year. Why has this happened? What is so different about today’s students that many of them denounce faculty and administrators who suggest that a basic expectation of university life is for people with differing perspectives to talk to each other?

Meet iGen, the generation of young Americans born after 1995 and the first to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones in their hands. Puzzling as the recent campus controversies might seem, they are rooted in the unique psychology and life experiences of this cohort.

First, iGen’ers grew up in an era of smaller families and protective parenting. They rode in car seats until they were in middle school, bounced on soft-surface playgrounds and rarely walked home from school. For them, unsurprisingly, safety remains a priority, even into early adulthood.

As I found in analyzing several large national surveys of teens from all backgrounds, fewer of them in the 2010s (as compared with the 2000s) say that they like to take risks, and fewer say they get a thrill out of doing something dangerous. That has real benefits. Fewer get into car accidents or physical fights. In the annual Monitoring the Future survey of more than a half million 12th-graders, the number who binge-drank was cut in half between the late 1990s and 2016. In previous eras, teens were willing to live on the edge by doing things they knew weren’t safe—that was the nature of being a teen. Not anymore.

Nor are they just concerned about physical safety. The iGen teens I have interviewed also speak of their need for “emotional safety”—which, they say, can be more difficult to protect. “I believe nobody can guarantee emotional safety,” one 19-year-old told me. “You can always take precautions for someone hurting you physically, but you cannot really help but listen when someone is talking to you.” This is a distinctively iGen idea: that the world is an inherently dangerous place because every social interaction carries the risk of being hurt. You never know what someone is going to say, and there’s no way to protect yourself from it.

The result is a generation whose members are often afraid to talk to one another, especially about anything that might be upsetting or offensive. If everyone must be emotionally safe at all times, a free discussion of ideas is inherently dangerous. Opposing viewpoints can’t just be argued against; they have to be shut down, because merely hearing them can cause harm.

‘This frame of mind lies behind recent student agitation to keep controversial speakers off campus.’

This frame of mind lies behind recent student agitation to keep controversial speakers off campus. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit watchdog group, campus disinvitations have risen steadily, reaching an all-time high of 42 in 2016, up from just six in 2000. In the American Freshman survey of more than 140,000 college students conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute in 2015, 43% agreed that campuses should be able to ban extreme speakers, up from just 20% in 1984.

The reasons for disinvitations frequently refer to the safety of students. When Williams College disinvited a speaker with provocative views on race, the campus newspaper wrote that his presence on campus would have caused students “emotional injury.” When controversial speakers do come, it is now fashionable to create a “safe space” where students can go if they feel upset.

Members of iGen are also taking longer to grow up. As I found in analyzing seven large national surveys of teens, today’s adolescents are less likely to drive, drink, work, date, go out and have sex than were teens just 10 years ago. Today’s 18-year-olds look like 15-year-olds used to. They don’t reach adulthood too early, but they also lack experience with independence and decision-making.

The result is a generation that looks to college administrators to settle disputes, like squabbling siblings appealing to their parents. Unaccustomed to independence, they want an authority figure to step in. At San Diego State University in 2016, students wanted the university president to apologize for fliers posted by an off-campus group. At Yale University in 2015, a faculty member suggested that students use their own judgment about potentially offensive Halloween costumes rather than let the administration dictate the rules. The students demanded that she resign.

Campus as a “home,” evoking the protected cocoon of childhood, is a theme in many of these incidents. During the controversy at Yale, a student yelled, “It is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students…It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! It is about creating a home here!”

Members of iGen have spent more time with screens and less time interacting with each other in person than any previous generation. Because they communicate primarily online, most of the threats they experience come through social media or texts, not in person. For iGen, danger tends to take the form of words, not physical altercations. At the extreme, this has led to the belief that words can be violence—the belief at the core of disinvitations, “trigger warnings” to alert students to potentially offensive material, and campus speech restrictions. In the American Freshman survey, iGen college students were more likely than Gen X students in the 1990s to agree that “colleges should prohibit racist or sexist speech.”

Finally, in a time of growing income inequality, iGen believes that you either make it or you don’t—so you’d better make it. Compared with previous generations, they are more likely to say that they are going to college to get a good job and less likely to say that they hope the experience will broaden their education and point of view.

To faculty and administrators who grew up in previous eras, college is a place for being challenged by new ideas. Members of iGen disagree: They see college as a place to prepare for a career in a safe environment. They don’t necessarily see a connection between participating in big social and political debates and getting a job that pays well.

All of these iGen factors have combined to create a perfect storm at U.S. colleges. It isn’t hard to see why these young people, looking for safety and practicality, now clash so regularly with their elders when controversial ideas arrive on campus.

—Dr. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” (Atria).

DEBATES? GOV FAIL After Bay Area Violence, California Debates Classifying ‘Antifa’ As A Street Gang

Antifa

Not long after dozens of black-hooded protesters were filmed pummeling people on his city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin made clear his disgust for the self-stylized vigilantes.

“Antifa,” he said, is no different than a street gang, and police should start treating protesters in the anti-fascist movement accordingly.

Later that day, legislators in Sacramento advanced resolutions that would treat violent acts committed by antifa movement’s enemies — white nationalists and neo-Nazis — as terrorist acts under state law.

As forces on the extremes of the nation’s ever-widening political divide continue to battle with fists and weapons on the streets of California, law enforcement officials and politicians have started debating whether these extremist groups should be classified as street gangs.

Such a designation could give law enforcement new tools to combat the groups. Numerous laws on the books give authorities the power to restrict the movements of gang members and enhance criminal charges against them.

But such a move raises legal issues because unlike with traditional street gangs, the underlying motive of these extremist groups is political expression rather than criminal enterprise.

Law enforcement experts say the groups that have been warring in the Bay Area for months — which include anti-fascists and those using “black bloc” militant tactics, far-right organizations such as the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, and white nationalist groups such as Identity Evropa — certainly share similarities with a street gang.

“It is gang behavior with some ideology. But it is also a social entity as well as a political one,” said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Arreguin, the mayor, said he believes that groups on both the left and the right meet this definition. But “it’s something I would want to discuss with our enforcement partners before I make that announcement,” he said.

“There are violent extremists on both sides, and we need to look at a variety of legal and law enforcement strategies to deal with these groups,” he said. “There are organized groups — violent extremists groups — on the left and right that have encouraged people to come to Berkeley and physically confront the antifa or to confront the alt-right.”

But some gang experts also expressed concern about linking the far left to street gang activity. While the groups may share commonalities with gangs, the idea of labeling them as such could be seen as a punishing a political viewpoint, no matter how extreme.

“There’s an argument for it, but there’s also a very grave concern because they are exercising their constitutional rights,” said San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Britt Imes, a nationally renowned expert on gang activity. “Their criminal actions, not their free speech actions, their criminal actions, will determine whether they qualify as a criminal street gang.”

Labeling either far-left or far-right groups as street gangs could have serious consequences for those arrested during the inevitable next clash at a counter-protest in California. Under the state’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act — a piece of legislation passed at the height of the nation’s gang boom — gang enhancements can add two to 15 years to a criminal sentence for people convicted of committing a crime in concert with gang activity.

Identified gang members can also be subject to injunctions, or civil restraining orders, that would prevent them from being in certain areas or congregating with friends and even family. Such tactics have been hailed as successes, and decried as draconian by civil liberties groups, in Los Angeles.

A spokeswoman for the Berkeley Police Department said she did not know whether antifa would qualify as a gang under California law.

Any law enforcement agency trying to label antifa protesters as gang members might also run into another problem: Technically, they don’t exist.

Joanna Mendelson, a senior investigative researcher for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said “antifa” generally describes a way of thinking, rather than a group.

“The antifa is a loose network of individuals who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far-right movements,” she said. “There’s not a clear organizational structure. It’s a movement.”

Antifa does not have a membership, nor does anyone have to claim to be part of the group to embrace its tactics or approach to protests, she added. But some far-left groups that espouse violence have taken on this banner.

Some law enforcement officials believe those groups fit the description of a street gang, even if identifying their followers would be next to impossible.

“I think under state law they could easily be declared a gang,” said Wes McBride, president of the California Gang Investigators’ Assn. “They behave like a gang. They have defined commitment to violence. They have their own gang dress.”

They behave like a gang. They have defined commitment to violence. They have their own gang dress.— Wes McBride, president of the California Gang Investigators’ Assn.

Imes, who said that he was speaking as an expert and that his comments did not reflect the opinions of the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, added that many black and Hispanic factions defined as gangs under the law also lack structure or formal membership.

Antifa’s stated goal may be to defeat white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but if the means by which its followers achieve that mission are violent, they could still be defined as a gang, he said.

“The question is going to become have they engaged in a pattern of criminal activity … and is that part of their primary purpose for existing? When you talk about a group engaging in civil disobedience, I am very hesitant to label them a street gang,” Imes said. “However, if their purpose is to come together to cause havoc, or engage in violence, and this is antifa or the white supremacist side … they’re going to engage in conduct that will eventually fit the definition of what a criminal street gang is.”

Those standing across Bay Area battle lines from anti-fascists, including the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, seem to have more in common with what the average citizen associates with gang lore. The Proud Boys, a national collective of “western chauvinists” founded by former Vice media executive Gavin McInnes, has a formalized initiation process that includes being beaten by members, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Members have to declare themselves as Proud Boys, follow a dress code that includes polo shirts and engage in violent brawls with anti-fascists as part of their initiation, the SPLC has said. The group has regional chapters, including in the Bay Area and Orange County, and some members refer to themselves as “commanders” of specific sets. After an April rally, the Bay Area Proud Boys claimed Berkeley as its “territory,” according to a tweet pinned atop its social media page.

“When they do things like that, and they put things in writing like bylaws … it makes our job a lot easier,” Imes said. “It makes proving the associational organization much easier. When you talk about whether something is a criminal street gang or not, you look to what evidence you have.”

Factions on both sides of the political divide also commit a pattern of crimes that are described in the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, experts say. The repeat brawls in the Bay Area and elsewhere could constitute a pattern of assault. Arson is also listed under the law, Imes said, pointing to fires believed to have been set by anti-fascists during protests in Berkeley earlier this year.

Still, most experts agree that it’s easier to label a group a gang when its criminal acts are divorced from political speech. The Golden State Skinheads are a white supremacy group, for example, but its members have also been known to engage in robberies and drug trafficking.

McBride said he’s less concerned with labels than he is with stopping the endless series of brawls in the Bay Area before they escalate into something worse.

“These young men see it as an adventure with the excitement of a fight,” he said, warning that sooner or later “someone is going to pull a gun.”

By James QueallyBenjamin Oreskes and Richard Winton