Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Soviet States of North America (Pt. I): Illegal Immigration -- The Problem is the State

The single biggest problem our nation faces, an acquaintance commented recently, was the presence of “20 million illegals [who are] killing our economy and culture.... 20 million more with amnesty would be the end of any America I want to live in.”

Severe and growing problems have indeed resulted from the effective abolition of our borders – especially for U.S. Citizens living along our hypothetical southern border with Mexico, where many Americans are literally under siege.

But here's what left me puzzled about that fellow's assessment:

First, he opposes the minimum wage (as I do, because – among other reasons – the federal government has no constitutional authority to set prices for labor or anything else). This means he really can't indict Mexicans or others willing to work for a comparative pittance as the culprits in undermining the price of labor.

And while it's true that welfare transfer payments to immigrants, both legal and illegal, are doing considerable damage to our economy, they are getting plenty of help in the form of myriad pay-outs, hand-outs, subsidies, and other forms of official and plunder and bribery that are purely home-grown.

Secondly, while the idea that illegal immigrants are “killing ... our culture” has some limited merit as well, this is an odd complaint coming from this particular acquaintance of mine, who (to his credit) has taken great care to insulate himself and his family from a culture he considers to be ruined already.

He worships at an independent fundamentalist church. He and his wife have home-schooled their children, and (once again, to their credit) they don't have a television. He has little use for popular music (defined here as anything originally recorded on media more sophisticated than wax cylinders); indeed, he sometimes acts as if people who clap on the back-beat are Satan's Glee Club.

That our contemporary culture is a Stygian sewer is obvious. How this is related to the problem of illegal immigration is not.

True, the engineered influx of a large, undigested mass of people who speak different languages, follow different customs, and were raised in much different political traditions, has done a great deal to undermine our public culture.

But I contend that this reflects the fact that this is an engineered influx – one brought about by the elites controlling the State, for the purpose of expanding their power by undermining our old republican culture.

It's reasonable to believe that, absent such intervention – along with mandated bilingualism and other policies designed to trap immigrants in cultural and linguistic ghettos – our culture would be able to absorb new immigrants with much less difficulty. And it's likewise reasonable to believe that if our economy were freed from the burden of a huge and metastasizing welfare/warfare state, it could easily produce jobs at suitable wages for both immigrant and native-born workers.

The central problem here, as in practically everything else, is the fact that the State (institutionalized coercion in the hands of self-serving people) is at war with society. And America's society is not the first in which a corrupt Power Elite has used immigration in an attempt to “elect a new people.”

Murray Rothbard, who once supported an open borders view of immigration, has described why he revised his views of the matter:

I began to rethink my views on immigration when, as the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the cultures and languages of these peoples,” Rothbard explained. After examining the matter in depth, he concluded that "the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors."

The “proprietors” referred to by Rothbard, the real owners of this country, are the productive people who create wealth in the private sector, and who seek to preserve the institutions of a free society. We have never given permission to the government to reconfigure our society in Soviet fashion, using engineered migrations to eradicate a shared language and culture and then replacing it with a statist pseudo-culture compatible with a totalitarian political order.

While not elaborating on the idea, I'd like to point out briefly that ours is not the first American civilization to face dispossession through engineered illegal immigration.

The Sioux Indians of the Black Hills were promised by Washington that their borders would remain secure in perpetuity. Those assurances proved to be as evanescent as a handful of snowflakes after a pathologically ambitious Union officer named Custer led an expedition in 1874 that discovered gold in the Black Hills -- and then eagerly abetted illegal immigration into Sioux lands. For the soon-to-be-dispossessed Sioux, scant comfort was found in Custer's demise a few years later.

Manifest Destiny, as depicted in Federal propaganda....

... and as experienced by the Sioux.

One sobering lesson taught by the dark side of Manifest Destiny is that illegal immigration can be a very effective tool for those seeking to demolish societies and reduce them to servitude. I believe a related lesson is that those of us who want to avoid that fate should direct our efforts at combating the Power Elite that's seeking to do this right now -- the engineers of the envisioned North American Union, or as I prefer to call it, the Soviet States of North America. It is they, not the illegal immigrants themselves, who are "killing our economy and culture."

In part II, I'll look at a key element of that Power Elite -- interlocking crime families that are binding the U.S. and Mexico together at the expense of the peoples of both countries.

Please be sure to visit The Right Source, our regularly updated news and commentary page.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From Local Police to Occupying Army, or LESO: The Greater of Many Evils

Well, it sure ain't an RV: This "Peacekeeper" Armored Personnel Carrier is listed by the Charleston, S.C. Police Department as a "Patrol Vehicle."

There are Peacekeepers deployed in US cities, but they're not under UN command.

They're armored personnel carriers supplied to “local” police agencies for little or no cost through the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), established in 1995 as part of the Defense Logistics Agency.

Since that time, the LESO has made huge amounts of military hardware – from boots to helmets to ammo to helicopters and the “Peacekeeper” APCs -- available to local and state police agencies, often at little or no cost.

If you're interested in watching the Pentagon's promotional video for the LESO's campaign to militarize “local” police, go to this page maintained by the DLA. At the bottom of the links you'll find one leading to “LESO Get With The Program Video.” Follow that link, and -- assuming you can withstand the barrage of really obnoxious whitebread canned pseudo-funk PSA music -- you will have the entire program explained to you.

Fred Baille, a boileplate-spewing spokesdrone for the DLA's Distribution Realization Policy Directorate (a suitably Soviet title for a police state agency), explains that through the LESO program, local” law enforcement agencies can receive “excess” military gear of practically any description “as if they were a DoD organization.”

What this means, in practical and tangible terms, is that your local police has the same access to military hardware as any branch of the armed services. In everything but brand name, they're domestic appendages of the Pentagon.

The “Get With The Program” video demonstrates how easy it is for police agencies to snag the swag: Simply call up the LESO website, fill out a form “justifying” the order, and send it in. And getting “surplus” Pentagon equipment is depicted as a civic-minded thing to do, since getting the federally subsidized military gear actually helps keep taxes low.

Not discussed in the video are hidden costs of that subsidy. The monetary costs are borne by taxpayers nation-wide. But a much larger price is paid when communities no longer control their own police agencies.

When local police are supported by local tax funds, they are locally accountable. When those police are materially and financially supported by Washington – to any extent – the locus of control and accountability shifts there. That is the principle recognized in the Supreme Court's 1942 Wickard v. Filburn decision.

The Bush Regime is trying to expand that principle in the case of Joshua Wolf, a videoblogger imprisoned on federal contempt charges last fall for refusing to surrender videotape sought by federal prosecutors.

The Feds claimed that Wolf's video contained footage of an attack by rioters on a San Francisco Police Department squad car during a July 2005 protest. Wolf maintained that he didn't have the footage sought by prosecutors – which allegedly showed the squad car being put on fire – and that under California's shield law, he didn't have to surrender the tape. The Feds countered that because the SFPD receives federal subsidies (for counter-narcotics and “homeland security” efforts, among other things), the damaged squad car is federal property, and so the matter belongs in federal court, where California's shield law doesn't apply.

That claim has yet to be resolved in the courts, but given that claims of this sort have been consistently vindicated since, oh, about 1937, the suspense isn't exactly killing me.

Which leaves us here:

Any police agency that receives so much as a particle of federal aid is no longer a local police force. It is, in principle, a federal army of occupation.

Yes, most policemen (including those seen in LESO's promotional video) are decent and honorable people who honestly believe that they are serving and protecting their communities. But the people who fund and control them are neither decent, nor honorable, and at a time of their choosing they can execute Order 66 (if you'll pardon the allusion) and turn that army against us.

For decades, since the Kennedy administration unveiled its Freedom From War program for UN-administered “general and complete disarmament,” many observers have wondered when the blue helmets of the UN “Peace Force” would be dispatched to disarm Americans and put down patriotic resistance. It's not impossible that such a scenario could eventually be played out, however unlikely it is at present.

People who focus on the UN as the source of the immediate threat, however, are preoccupied with the wrong threat vector.

Please visit our daily news page The Right Source -- and stay tuned for both Pro Libertate: the e-zine, and my forthcoming book From Republic to Reich: How The Imperial Executive Swallowed the Bill of Rights.

Monday, January 29, 2007

American Idolatry

The art of government is the organization of idolatry. The bureaucracy consists of functionaries; the aristocracy, of idols; the democracy, of idolaters.

The populace cannot understand the bureaucracy: it can only worship the national idols.

The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone: the civilized man to idols of flesh and blood.

A limited monarchy is a device for combining the inertia of a wooden idol with the credibility of a flesh and blood one. When the wooden idol does not answer the peasant’s prayer, he beats it: when the flesh and blood idol does not satisfy the civilized man, he cuts its head off.

He who slays a king and he who dies for him are alike idolaters.

George Bernard Shaw, “Maxims for Revolutionists,” from Man and Superman

Joseph Farah has grown disenchanted with the incumbent presidential idol, whose brutality and bloodlust have proven inadequate.

He had such a promising start, too – hurling 10,000-pound bombs into some residential neighborhoods in Baghdad, authorizing the use of chemical weapons in others, summarily imprisoning countless people, authorizing both physical and psychological torture of detainees, including U.S. Citizens.... Now, there was an Idol that made Joe go weak in the knees with girlish ardor.

But somewhere, somehow, the Idol-in-Chief lost his murderous mojo, and Joe's wandering eye has caught sight of a worthier figure, one even less inhibited by legal or moral restraints than the incumbent. Like many others of his ilk, Joe pines after Jack Bauer, the cartoonish caricature of Nietzche's uber-man, the central character in “24.”

In the world depicted on "24," Bauer is the literal savior of mankind. Without him, “all is lost,” writes Farah. “Presidents come and go. Jack Bauer remains – and, as long as he remains, there is hope the bad guys will continue to be foiled in their efforts to kill Americans and destroy their country.”

Bauer's methods, which include torture of various kinds and even the conscious, deliberate murder of innocent people, “would be illegal in the real America,” and even on the battlefield, Farah admits. Be that as it may, insists Farah (a self-described Christian journalist), “America needs Jack Bauers. We will lose Iraq if we fail to recognize war is a dirty business that must be waged with the understanding that anything short of victory is unacceptable. There will be a presidential election in 2008, God willing. I hope there will be a Jack Bauer among the candidates.”

Before dealing in depth with the depravity Jack Bauer symbolizes, this must be said:

America is not fighting a war in Iraq. That war was not declared by the people of the “united States in Congress assembled.” It was ordered by the Grand and Glorious Decider, with the connivance of corrupted and cowardly elected representatives who yielded to his demands. It is the State served by those people that is fighting in Iraq, not America. And it is a moral imperative for those people to lose – not only in Iraq, but everywhere their malign ambition takes tangible form at the expense of freedom, decency, and happiness.

A huge, drab bureaucracy is necessary in order to translate such evil ambition into death and misery. As Shaw noted, bureaucracies don't inspire reverence among the masses, so it's necessary to provide them with suitable idols – figureheads, like presidents or chancellors; idealized, action-figure versions of State operatives, such as soldiers; or, in the case of Joe Farah and his ilk, fictional characters like Jack Bauer.

This is why 24 should be considered a “public-private partnership” between the Department of Homeland Security and Hollywood. This was made obvious by last Summer's nauseating Heritage Foundation symposium on the program, during which its producers and cast examined its relevance to the ongoing “war on terror.” The keynote address was delivered by DHS Commissar Chertoff, who – like many others who serve the Leviathan – described himself as a fan of the program.

Rush Limbaugh, MC of the Heritage Foundation's symposium on the TV show "24," forces himself on an unwilling Mary Lynn Rajskub, one of the stars of the program -- thereby making vivid in one repulsive gesture what the term "conservatism" has come to mean in the era of George W. Bush.

From their perspective, what's not to like? In Jack Bauer the world is presented with a sleek, idealistic figure who conducts the essential work of the State – murder, kidnapping, torture, and sundry other forms of lawlessness – in contrived circumstances that make those acts seem not only justifiable, but heroic.

In Jack Bauer, the "coldest of all cold monsters" is anthropomorphized into a warm and charismatic figure -- or at least a two-dimensional simulacrum of the same. “24” could be considered pornography appealing to the libido dominandi (lust for power), and Bauer's adventures a weekly sermon about the supposed virtues of situational ethics. And the scenarios concocted by those who script the program are intended to short-circuit the higher reasoning functions of the audience, encouraging them to surrender themselves unconditionally to the Amygdala.

“24” is perhaps the most sophisticated example of Gramscian cultural subversion – the manipulation of cultural symbols to construct the Total State. This is because it is designed to enlist the support of people who supposedly cherish and defend the values and institutions that would have to be destroyed in order to build the Total State.

The ultimate intention of those who created that program is nothing less than to seduce its viewers into a worldview built on a conscious, deliberate rebellion against God and His law.

Few have captured the essence of "24" better than the author of a favorable review of the program published by The New American magazine shortly before I was fired from the publication. In its original draft, the review offered this bouquet to the program's central character: "Jack's strength is that he always faces down his fears of oblivion and damnation and makes the right choice, for country and mankind, if not necessarily for God."

What this means (as I have pointed out elsewhere, including in a letter to TNA's editor protesting that review) is that it is possible to make "right" choices in defiance of God and His law. Among the "right" choices of that sort made by Jack Bauer was to murder his innocent friend Ryan in order to appease a terrorist's demand. Others have involved various acts violating the Constitution Bauer would have sworn an oath in God's name to defend.

The worldview promoted by “24" (as, once again, I pointed out in my critique) is unalloyed evolutionary humanism. It assumes that moral restraints are man-made, and thus subject to revision when necessary, and while that can lead to ugly consequences, we simply have to muddle through, re-calibrating our moral compass when necessary. And this task requires brave, dauntless men like Jack Bauer -- a Nietzschean uber-man, operating beyond good and evil, who will defy God's law when necessary to serve the "greater good" of humanity.

The Bush Regime, which is built squarely on a foundation of fuhrerprinzip, has eagerly abetted the subsidiary cult of Jack Bauer. This has been done in the hope that those who, like Joe Farah, spend a lot of time holding up a picture of Bauer with one hand will react to every presidential appearance by closing their eyes and imagining that it's Jack Bauer who's actually speaking.

In his 1922 book Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann explained how this kind of thing works:

"Because of their transcendent practical importance, no successful leader has ever been too busy to cultivate the symbols which organize his following. They conserve unity. From the totem pole to the national flag, from the wooden idol to God the Invisible King, from the magic word to some diluted version of Adam Smith or Bentham, symbols have been cherished by leaders, many of whom were themselves unbelievers, because they were the focal points where differences merged.... [t]he leader knows by experience that only when the symbols have done their work is there a handle he can use to move a crowd."

"24" has given the Bushling a great deal of leverage in his efforts to build a Leader-State. Chances are his successor -- whoever he or she might be -- will pick up seamlessly from where the incumbent Idol leaves off, with only minor and inconsequential changes in liturgy.

Please visit The Right Source, our daily page of news and commentary. And stay tuned for the debut of Pro Libertate -- the e-zine.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Get The Cuffs, Ponch

Like many women her age, my lovely wife Korrin harbored a rather substantial teenage crush on Erik Estrada. For six seasons the Puerto Rican-American television performer (calling him an “actor” would leave the truth with a severe contusion) essayed the role of a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer saddled with the improbable name Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncharello on CHiPS.

When she caught a glimpse of a recent photograph of Mr. Estrada, Korrin's expression silently quoted Milton's famous lament, "Time, the subtle thief of youth...." To my eyes it appeared that the erstwhile pin-up boy wears his decades well, even though a toupee is now necessary to supplement his once-luxuriant hair. (In that respect, at least, I have the better of him, since my hair -- what remains of it -- is all mine, and not in the sense that my check to Sy Sperling cleared the bank.) [It turns out that the foregoing comments about the authenticity of Mr. Estrada's hair are misinformation arising from a "Stupid Human Trick" he once performed for David Letterman; please see the first comment below, and forgive me for my error.]

Estrada was recently rescued from the purgatory of 3:00 a.m. reruns and Mexican telenovelas by an offer to do a new prime time program called “Armed & Famous,” in which he can be seen swaggering around in a police uniform, but this time it's for “real” -- or at least as real as “Reality TV” gets, which isn't very.

The program's gimmick is to take Estrada and four other quasi-psuedo-demi-semi-celebrities (LaToya Jackson, who's never been seen together with her alleged “brother,” Michael; former female professional “wrestler” Trish Stratus; Jon “Wee Man” Acuna, professional skater and semi-professional human projectile in the imbecile-chic “Jackass” television and movie series; and Jack Osbourne, the spawn of Ozzy and Sharon), put them through police training, and deploy them on the streets of Muncie, Indiana as sworn officers of the local police department.

At this point, the second question that naturally occurs to a rational person (the first being, “Where's Steve Guttenberg?”) is this: If law enforcement is such a dangerous profession and sacred trust, why is it being used as 'Reality TV' fodder?

The insidious thing about “Armed & Famous” and other specimens of “criminal verite programming,” notes Richard Rapaport, a visiting scholar at the UC Berkley Institute of Governmental Studies, is that “they have helped set a national tone in which both the police and the policed have been convinced that appropriate law-enforcement correlates with high-speed chases, blocking and tackling, drawn weapons, and a shoot-first, think-later mind-set.”

Rapaport's point is illustrated quite nicely in an on-line video clip from “Armed & Famous.” One of the police instructors, expressing what is most likely scripted frustration over the delinquencies of the faux-celebrity rookies, decides to play an allegedly hysterical joke on them: While the group is gathered in a room to discuss their SWAT training, the instructor throws a flash-bang diversionary grenade in their midst and charges into room with another officer, unloading several paint-pellet rounds at the startled trainees.

Doubtless because of reflexes honed by playing Officer Ponch decades ago, Estrada's reaction was to hit a knee and begin shooting back “at anything that wasn't my partner.”

The incident was framed as a playful stunt; I mean, who wouldn't get a charge out of throwing a flash grenade into a knot of easily startled people?

Well, how about rational people who appreciate the dangers of fooling around with grenades of any kind?

Last July, the town of Hempstead, Texas was forced to more than half of its police force, and felony charges were issued against them, for incident in which officers were accused “of setting off SWAT team grenades just for fun,” reported the Houston NBC affiliate KPRC.

The first flash-bang grenade blew up under a police car at a Hempstead truck stop, sending police running out with guns.... Hempstead's police chief promised he would investigate, but then the same reserve officer was accused of setting another grenade off at a back-yard party. One party guest lost a foot. Two full-time officers and five reserve officers have been charged with felony evidence tampering, accused of trying to cover it up.

Hempstead is a town of fewer than 5,000 that doesn't seem to be exceptionally prone toward violent crime. It has a 13-member police department. Yet – in keeping with the general trend toward militarization – it has access to paramilitary hardware. And in keeping with the increasingly common “warrior elite” mentality prevalent in too many law enforcement agencies, more than half of Hempstead's police were involved in a cover-up of the criminal misuse of that hardware resulting in grievous injury to one person, and potential lethal risks to many others.

Obviously, flash-bang grenades aren't toys. Like Tasers and other increasingly familiar elements of the “non-lethal” police arsenal, they can be deadly – particularly when used with insouciant abandon by police steeped in a militaristic mindset.

[I] never quite understood why flashbangs are considered `non-lethal,'” writes Radley Balko, author of an authoritative study of police militarization. “There are a few cases where people have died when flashbangs set the house on fire, a few more cases of lost appendages and third-degree burns, and, of course, the cases where the shock, noise, and bewilderment caused by flashbangs triggered heart attacks.”

Marines storm a building in Baghdad after using diversionary flash-bang grenades to disorient anyone who may lurk inside.

Not so long ago, police were peace officers, not paramilitary poseurs or action hero wanna-bes. In that not terribly distant era, “local cops had the authority to take the car keys from a tipsy, mortgage-paying citizen and drive him or her home,” dealing with the problem as gently as possible, recalls Professor Rapaport. “A deputy sheriff might confiscate a couple of joints from a high-school student and send her off with a warning. Confronting a marital dispute, community-savvy beat cops could decide to walk mates to different corners of the house and allow emotions to cool. Police stops then did not seem, as they do now, to be confrontations chilled by the potential for misunderstandings and even bloodshed.”

Today, across America, there is a growing schism between police and the communities they are sworn to serve,” Rapaport continues.

That divide is not likely to be narrowed anytime soon, particularly if “Armed & Famous” is in any way typical of current efforts at community outreach.

Obiter dicta

I have been informed that Aaron Russo, writer/producer/director of America: From Freedom to Fascism, has undergone cancer surgery. Please take a second to remember him in your prayers.

Kevin Shannon, host of a daily nationally syndicated radio program, has invited me to co-host the program with him on Fridays. Please listen, and let your friends know as well.

Kevin's program is available through The Right Source, a daily news site I'm helping to edit. Please check our "Breaking News" and"Commentary" sections, which are being updated several times daily -- and, once again, please let any interested friends know as well.

In coming weeks, The Right Source will be expanded and most likely receive a face-lift. One section of it accessible to subscribers will offer our new e-zine, Pro Libertate. When my forthcoming book "From Republic to Reich" is finished, it will likely be available for purchase through the site as well.

Finally, the forthcoming issue of The American Conservative will carry an article written by me about the new, RFID-equipped "e-passports," which couple some of the worst elements of the unfolding surveillance state with huge liabilities where personal security is concerned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mike Nifong: Your Time Is Coming....

No ceremony that to great ones 'longs, Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword, The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe, Become them with one half so good a grace as mercy does.

If he had been as you and you as he, You would have slipt like him; but he, like you, Would not have been so stern.... Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once; And He that might the vantage best have took
Found out the remedy. How would you be, If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are? O, think on that; And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made. ...

O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.

The fair Sister Isabella holds forth on the virtues of mercy to Lord Angelo, who -- preoccupied with "horizontal" thoughts -- isn't listening.

Finally, and not a moment too soon, the North Carolina Bar Association is taking punitive action against the malignant Mike Nifong, the corrupt, mirror-worshiping prosecutor driving the Duke University non-rape case.

Nifong screws his face into a parody of piety while laboring to send innocent young men to prison.

In his lust to bag several specimens of the most elusive of legal prey – the “great white defendant” -- Nifong suppressed exculpatory DNA evidence, misrepresented the fact of the case, and fed a steady diet of misinformation to media flacks eager to join the safari. With malicious calculation he has exploited currents of racial and sexual collectivist grievance in the hope that they could carry him to fame and, perhaps, political fortune.

Needles to say, justice played no role whatsoever, and mercy even less, in Nifong's machinations.

Dr. William Anderson of Frostburg State University, who has diligently cataloged Nifong's offenses against law and decency, points out that the Durham County D.A.'s conduct in this case reflects a maxim cherished by both state and federal prosecutors: “Charges are like spaghetti – throw them against the wall and see what sticks.”

This explains, among other things, why Nifong seeded the media with dark hints that the spoiled, rich white lacrosse players had plied the poor black stripper with the “date rape drug”; why he conspired with corrupt, thuggish cops to arrest a cab driver on a bogus shoplifting charge in an effort to suppress the driver's exculpatory testimony; why, after his “victim”/witness suddenly “couldn't remember” being raped, Nifong dropped the rape charge while keeping the others....

None of this has stuck, but three innocent young men and their families have been put through hell. Which is why Nifong should be thrown against a wall, repeatedly.

I'm not kidding. This is a case in which corporal punishment of some sort is necessary. Professional humiliation and civil penalties are not adequate. Nifong deserves a beating, which – unfortunately – isn't a legal option in our system.

More's the pity, because Nifong is not an anomalous “rogue prosecutor”; he's actually quite representative of his professional caste.

As Dr. Anderson points out, “anyone who has followed the predations of Rudy Giuliani and Elliot Spitzer in their `crusades to clean up Wall Street' knows something about the filing of bogus or questionable charges.” That “something,” of course, is that creative abuse of prosecutorial power offers a fast track to political success.

Just ask Governor Spitzer, or former NYC Mayor and future US President (he hopes) Giuliani.

For decades, Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabbinowitz has chronicled the legal atrocities wrought by prosecutors who have ripped communities to shreds through bogus child abuse prosecutions.

Like Nifong, this “busy army of prosecutors” has been “uninterested in proofs of innocence, [and] willing to suppress any [that are] found," she writes. "They built case after headline-making case charging the mass molestation of small children, and managed to convict scores of innocent Americans on the basis of testimony no mind could credit. Law officers who routinely violated requirements of due process in their effort to obtain a conviction, they grasped the special advantage that was theirs: that for a prosecutor dealing with molestation, and wearing the mantle of avenger, there was no such thing as excess, no limits to what could be said of the accused. In court, rules could be bent, any charges presented, and nonexistent medical evidence proclaimed as proof positive of the accusation.”

Unduly convinced of their righteousness, unaccountable for all practical purposes, utterly immune to reprisal, the typical crusading prosecutor's attitude toward an innocent defender was akin to that displayed by Lord Angelo, deputy to Duke Vincentio of Vienna, to Isabella in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Angelo, an official of sterling reputation, was temporarily given plenipotentiary authority by the Duke, and with great generosity of soul he proceeded to bless the city with his own abundant virtue.

Or something like that.

We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape, till custom make it their perch and not their terror,” he explained. So when he learned of a citizen who had impregnated his inamorata without benefit of clergy, Angelo dusted off a law, long fallen into desuetude, making fornication a capital crime.

Isabella, the condemned man's sister, came to plead on his behalf. A pious and virtuous woman, Isabella was also quite lovely. These attributes weren't lost on Angelo, who offered her a fascinating plea bargain: He would commute the death sentence if Isabella would sleep with him.

When Isabella – who easily overmatched Angelo both in intellect and character – told the corrupt magistrate that she would expose his corruption, Angelo smugly gave voice to thoughts akin to those that must animate prosecutors of Nifong's ilk:

Who will believe thee, Isabel? My unsoil'd name, the austereness of my life, My vouch against you, and my place i' the state, Will so your accusation overweigh, That you shall stifle in your own report And smell of calumny.... As for you, Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.

Because of his “place in the state,” Angelo insisted, “my false overweighs your true.”

Every single day – perhaps every single hour – officials in this country act on that assumption, stealing the freedom, property, and the very lives of innocent people.

Prosecutors are like President Bush,” writes Paul Craig Roberts. “They absolutely refuse to admit that they ever make a mistake and have to be forced to disgorge their innocent victims. Nothing makes a prosecutor more angry than to have to give back a wrongfully convicted person's life.”

Nifong's would-be victims have lived under the threat of spending thirty years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. Were this a sane and just society, they would be given an opportunity to confront Nifong in person, and express to him, in any way they see fit, what they think of his behavior.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How to Deal With Taxmen and Other Thieves

Carjacker Cuticello: Knocked flat on his, um, Cheney by a woman. He got off easy.

Last night, a resident of New Haven, Connecticut was approached by C.J. Cuticello, a tax collector bent on seizing her car because of $536 in outstanding taxes and fees. According to the local NBC affiliate, the woman reportedly “pushed Cuticello to the ground, got in her car and ran over his foot, then backed up into the tow truck before speeding away.”

I admire her restraint.

It's entirely appropriate to use lethal force to repel a carjacking. And horse thieves were often used to stretch ropes in the Old West. Cuticello is no better than a carjacker or horse thief and deserves to be treated that way.

Predictably, the TV station – you know, a local outpost of the “liberal” (“statist” is a much more accurate description) media – described the citizen as an assailant and “scofflaw,” and the would-be carjacker as the victim of a “hit-and-run driver.” And just hours earlier, the station had presented a sympathetic profile of Cuticello, who lamented how difficult it was to shake down local motorists, and the sad duties he performs as a government-licensed car thief

Using a sophisticated plate identification device called a Bootfinder, Cuticello identifies and seizes vehicles, which are held in a city-owned lot until the ransom is paid (the tax plus whatever additional fees the syndicate behind this racket can devise). Using a fleet of three tow trucks, Cuticello and his gang have stolen more than 1,000 cars in the last several months; the local crime bosses expect them to track down a total of 10,500 vehicles and plunder a total of $2 million in revenue.

(Cuticello, by the way, also eagerly networks with other parasite privateers eager to get a piece of the plunder.)

As notes, the New Haven city government claims that it can seize cars from those owing as little as $50 in unpaid parking tickets. Cuticello, who richly deserves to be made acquainted with the decorative uses of hot tar and chicken feathers, has been stealing cars for the local government for several years.

Like a child molester seeking vulnerable prey, Cuticello lurks in the shadows of large gatherings of distracted potential victims: He has prowled Wal-Mart parking lots and student parking areas at Yale University (where he targets out-of-state students). He's even swiped cars during Mass at the local Saint Rose of Lima Church, in the process chewing out the local Priest – who was forced to leave the confessional to deal with the carjacker.

I find it inexplicable that Cuticello had gotten away with this for as long as he did before running into someone willing to push back. And it is delicious to the point of rapture that when he finally got his back dirty, it was a woman who put him there.

Centuries ago, our colonial forebears, who suffered under an absolutist government much more civilized and much less intrusive than ours, would occasionally inflict humiliation of various kinds (including, when deemed necessary, physical abuse) on tax collectors and other agents of official injustice.

The treatment given to Cuticello was squarely in that estimable tradition; my only complaints are that it was entirely too mild, and – given how commonplace corrupt abuses of power like Cuticello's have become – altogether too uncommon.

Some would protest that such sentiments are un-American. In fact, they're more properly described as (read this carefully, now) ur-American.

Before he became the ringleader of the uncouth radicals who seized independence from Great Britain, Samuel Adams was a tax collector, his livelihood provided by a share of his collections.

Even in that loathsome occupation, Adams' fundamental decency proved insurmountable: He eventually went broke because he refused to put the screws to people who couldn't pay their assessments; sometimes he paid the tax bills himself. Ironically, his experiences as a tax collector convinced him of the injustice of the Royal tax system, and the social networks he developed in that occupation proved useful in organizing the rebellion that led to our independence. In the words of biographer Mark Puls, from his days as a tax collector, Adams “developed a feel for the pulse of public opinion that no other local leader could match.”

As Puls notes in his excellent book Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution, Adams was among many whose properties were scheduled for seizure by Royal authorities in Boston because of inherited debts arising from the collapse of a land-bank scheme:

In August 1758, a notice appeared in the Boston Newsletter announcing that the land-bank commissioners ordered a public auction the following day of Adams' father's estate, which included the house in which Samuel still lived, the malt brewery, the wharf dock, flats and other buildings, along with gardens and other adjacent property. The notice was signed by Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf. Adams fired back a letter to the sheriff, pointing out that his predecessor had also tried to divest the family of its property but was unable to do so because the action was deemed `illegal and unwarrantable.'”

Adams blatantly threatened the Sheriff, and visited the auction to threaten and intimidate anyone who set foot on the property.

The Adams property remained unsold, and the inherited debts were never collected. Neither did Adams make up the shortfall in tax collections for which he was legally liable, according to colonial statutes. This isn't because he was a scofflaw and a dead-beat. He was convinced that it was unjust to take his property because his father had been left with debts on account of official chicanery; he was similarly convinced of the injustice of the taxes he had been paid to collect, a fact demonstrating that his motives weren't self-interested.

In his youth, Adams displayed a “dislike for authority of any kind,” by middle age he had come to understand the critical distinction between authority and power.

Adams believed in the rule of law, that freedom entailed an obligation of moral and rational behavior,” notes Puls. “He sought not to overturn colonial society but to preserve it from British intrusion” -- which meant, when necessary, interdicting the enforcement of unjust laws and policies, frustrating the corrupt collection of public revenue, and eventually taking up arms against the established government.

Which brings us back to the putatively criminal attack on C. J. Cuticello.

Eventually, the police will track down the woman who heroically knocked Cuticello on his tax-fattened Cheney. She will face as many criminal charges as can be conceived by the degenerate mind of the local prosecutor. A trial will be held.

This will present a perfect opportunity for jury nullification – and nothing less than this will suffice.

Should a jury decide that it is not a crime for an otherwise law-abiding citizen to beat down a government-authorized carjacker, New Haven will experience a sudden shortage of the same. This would, in turn, compel the local government to re-examine the merits of a revenue-collection scheme that depends on enforcement measures that are utterly criminal.

If this doesn't happen, esurient municipalities across the country will enact versions of New Haven's carjacking scheme. And just as surely as water will wet us, as surely as fire will burn, some people will eventually find decorative uses for the lifeless bodies of those sent to carry out those seizures.

For the record: I think this is something we should avoid, not just because I don't want to see people (even tax collectors) getting killed, but also because of the even more horrible things that would come thereafter.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Commissar Arises

Commissar Andrew Thomas addressing his neo-totalitarian comrades at a gathering of the artfully misnamed Federalist Society.

A little more than two years ago, Matthew Bandy of Phoenix, Arizona was a well-mannered and unremarkable 16-year-old boy who displayed a defect common to males of his age: An undisciplined adolescent libido.

A little more than two years ago, Andrew Peyton Thomas of Phoenix, Arizona was a 39-year-old County Attorney who displayed numerous defects common to those who eschew honest work and instead place themselves on a public payroll. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll limit our inventory to just one of those failings: Thomas was indecently eager to use the power of his office to stage high-profile prosecutions for reasons of ambition and ideology.

On December 16, 2004, the Bandy family was rudely awakened by a 6 am knock on the door. Armed policemen, their guns drawn and their game faces on, shouldered their way into the home and handed Greg Bandy a search warrant, telling him that his son Matthew was suspected of possessing child pornography.

Greg adamantly denied any interest in, or possession of, erotic images of children. He did grudgingly admit to downloading more conventional smut from the Web. The police confiscated the computer; a cursory investigation found nine child porn images on the hard drive. This confirmed a report to the Phoenix police from Yahoo monitors, via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, that nine child porn photos had been uploaded to a chat room from the Bandy family's household computer.

Arizona's child porn laws are draconian and inflexible, and Maricopa County Attorney Thomas, borrowing a favorite trope of Bill O'Reilly, had campaigned as the scourge of child exploiters. He charged 16-year-old Matthew Bandy with nine counts of possession and distribution of child pornography, each of which was a class 2 felony with a mandatory ten-year sentence.

Those sentences would have run consecutively, not concurrently. Which means Matthew Bandy would have died in prison – either of old age, prison violence (most likely involving some form of sexual degradation), or suicide.

Thomas, in effect, was prepared to steal a 16-year-old's life from him as punishment for a sex crime in which he never laid a hand on another human being.

Now, compare the sentences Matt Bandy faced with the wrist-slap – no, more like wrist-caress – given to 18-year-old Clifton Bennett, son of Arizona State Senate President Ken Bennett, for molesting 18 young kids with a broomstick at summer camp. The judge in Bennett's case – with the support of the prosecution – consolidated the 18 counts to one for the express purpose of helping the privileged teenager avoid jail time. Dear young Cliffy's powerful Daddy complained that a felony would prevent his son from serving a mission for the Mormon Church.

In this, as in so much else, we see that in our feudalist system of “justice,” mercy is for the powerful.

Immediately after being charged, Matthew was confined to virtual house arrest and forced to wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle. His family hired a high-octane defense attorney named Ed Novak, who demanded to have the hard drive tested by independent forensic experts. On Novak's initiative, Matt took and passed polygraph tests and psychiatric evaluations.

Thomas's office, instead of providing the hard drive for inspection, offered another deal: Matthew could spent up to 15 years in prison, and be a registered sex offender for life. The latter would mean he could have no contact of any kind with children or be in proximity to minors in any setting.

Novak again demanded to see the hard drive. Thomas again refused to provide it, even ignoring court orders to do so. Eventually the Bandy family took the matter to the state Supreme Court and forced the intransigent Thomas to turn over the drive for examination.

When it was presented for inspection by computer forensic specialist Tammi Loehrs, the hard drive was found to contain more than 200 infected files, including "backdoor Trojans" (I heard that -- stop snickering, Beavis) that apparently permitted a hacker to use the Bandy computer to store the child porn and upload it to the Yahoo chatroom. Remote infestation of home computers by child porn is horrifyingly common.

Even so, prosecutor Thomas, displaying a vicious tenacity that would make Shylock look like the very soul of reasonable compromise by comparison, insisted on a deal in which Matt would plead guilty to one charge of distributing obscene material to minors – by taking a copy of Playboy to school and showing it to three of his friends. No jail time would have resulted from this charge. However, Matthew – unlike, say, those who corrupt youth with the State's blessing via “sex education” -- would still be labeled a sex offender and serve 18 months' probation.

Amazing as it may seem, this matter was heard by a judge who possessed a particle of rationality and a smidgen of common sense. He accepted the guilty plea, but threw out the sex offender designation.

It is not my intention to say that peddling pornography is a victimless act. (There's an interesting discussion of that claim in – of all things – Hundred-Dollar Baby, the current Spenser novel by Robert Parker. The novelist, who is by no means a conservative, appears to believe, as I do, that pornography inflicts severe damage on both the consumers and producers, and that its collateral damage is substantial as well.) The facts of the Matthew Bandy case are these: He was accused of a crime the government couldn't prove, and then blackmailed into pleading guilty to an act that has not been prosecuted as a crime within living memory.

Behind this lurks the smirking, self-satisfied figure of Andrew Peyton Thomas, the bland, artfully coiffed personification of the new totalitarianism (and, perhaps not coincidentally, a near ringer for David Duke when seen from certain angles). After doing his considerable best to steal the life of a predictably misbehaving teenage boy, Thomas still insists that he has done nothing wrong, that he had actually performed some variety of public service by teaching Matt that "you know, these kids really shouldn't be takin' [nervous chuckle] Playboys to school."

If Thomas wants to sermonize, he should resign as prosecutor and pastor a church. In fact, he should resign anyway, or be forced out of office, before he mutates into a more consequential brand of career criminal, on the order of Alberto "Habeas Corpus isn't a fundamental right" Gonzalez, or John "Child Sexual Torture is a presidential prerogative" Yoo.

Before oozing his way into his current office, Thomas wrote extensively about his views of crime, punishment, and public order. He is one of those writers (I suspect I may be another) who confuse prolixity with profundity. The Phoenix New Times dipped a hand into the raging stream of Thomas's literary output and withdrew observations like the following:

*“The root of our crime problem is a rights-happy radical individualism.”

It makes much more sense to say that the root of crime is insufficient respect for the rights of others, but this view isn't easy to reconcile with what Thomas describes as his “Hobbesian view of government.”

Here's another:

* “All able-bodied men without a criminal record should once again be subject to obligatory service for community crime surveillance.... Their sole duty would be to inform police of crimes in progress. Women should not be subject to such conscription for the same reason that they have traditionally been spared combat duty.... Properly strong criminal penalties would deter those who might be tempted to dodge the draft [to serve in these neighborhood patrols] by committing a crime and acquiring a criminal record.”

What Thomas is describing here is hardly novel; it's a system akin to “block committees” set up in National Socialist Germany, as well as similar snitch-and-bully arrangements found in such enlightened societies as Castro's Cuba, Mao's China, Revolutionary Iran, and Saudi Arabia. What is somewhat original in Thomas's version is the idea of conscripting men into such service, on pain of severe criminal penalties should they rebel at the prospect of serving as neighborhood snitches.

In light of Thomas's truly perverse desire to lock up Matt Bandy for the rest of his life, it's worth wondering what "strong criminal penalties" he would prescribe for those who dodged his proposed "draft."

Questions of this sort aren't entirely academic. Thomas is probably fairly typical of the commissars coughed up by the neo-conservative legal culture. He's entirely of a piece with the Bu'ushists who are demolishing our Anglo-Saxon system of liberty under law, and there are doubtless thousands more like him gestating in the movement's womb even now.

Video bonus

As I've admitted elsewhere, I'm an incorrigible sci-fi geek. Among my favorite programs of the past decade was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (the first reader to identify the connection between that program and the novel mentioned above gets ... well, an enthusiastic "Atta-boy!")

During the its last three seasons, DS9 featured a lengthy war between the Federation and a multi-layered enemy called The Dominion. At the top of The Dominion's power structure was a cunning race of devious shape-shifters called the Founders; their orders were carried out by a genetically engineered warrior race called the Jem'Hadar, who were controlled through their dependence on a narcotic called Ketrecel White.

The Dominion's intermediaries were drawn from a race of unctuous, officious bureaucrats called the Vorta; they control the Jem'Hadar, and defer slavishly to the Founders, whom they revere as "gods." I've come to think of them as a race composed entirely of amoral, vicious lawyers ... you know, people like Andrew Peyton Thomas.

In this clip, two Federation Good Guys -- the valiant Klingon Worf and Ezri Dax -- are offered a plea bargain by a Vorta "prosecutor" named Weyoun. I can't bring myself to disapprove of Worf's reaction.