Friday, February 29, 2008

The War Criminal on the Twenty-Dollar Bill

The village was completely unprepared when the siege began. Propelled by an insatiable lust to avenge the recent destruction of a military installation, the attackers chose the small, undefended community as the target of a reprisal raid.

But this wasn’t a battle. It was a slaughter.

Within a few hours, not a living thing was left behind in the village, save only a few troops from the attacking force. The villagers who had weapons faced the larger and better-armed invaders unflinchingly, dying where they stood with their faces to the enemy. “For good measure,” writes one historian, the attackers “shot down women and children until the ground ran vermilion.”

Still, the atavistic appetite for vengeance was not slaked. When it was discovered that 45 people – including women and children – had sought refuge in a cabin, the assailants surrounded the crude little dwelling, set it afire, and both watched and listened as the flames claimed the lives of shrieking, terrified people who cried out to their gods for deliverance.

The following day, after the charred debris of that cabin had cooled, a food cache was found in its basement. The invaders had undertaken a long forced march to reach the village, and their supplies were inadequate to keep the army fed. So from the basement the troops retrieved a large supply of potatoes that had been roasted in the fatty runoff that resulted as their victims were burned to death.

Fortified by their cannibalistic repast, the attackers went on to repeat their exploits at a larger nearby town, this time setting scores of houses ablaze and burning hundreds of civilians. Within a short time they had defeated the main body of their enemy and secured the surrender of their leader, who offered himself for execution as a ransom for the women and children who had been driven into the wild to escape the attackers.

For the victorious commander of the terror campaign, these assaults were simply a down-payment on a more ambitious project, one that would require the expulsion of tribal enemies from their lands, and the extermination of those who didn’t leave. Carrying out the policy he envisioned would eventually claim the lives of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

This story could have been set in Darfur, took place in Alabama, amid the “Red Sticks” Creek uprising in 1813.*

The first incident described above, the Tallussahatchee Massacre, was intended as a reprisal for a devastating Creek attack on Ft. Mims, a slapdash installation that was the product of shoddy workmanship and strategic ineptitude.

The Creeks, roiled the revanchist “Red Sticks” movement, were brutal in their attack on Ft. Mims, an engagement they considered necessary to turn back encroaching settlers. Savage as that attack was, it was a "battle," not a "massacre" (as it's commonly called): The fort was a military installation, after all. Though atrocities were committed during the assault, at least some of the Creeks took care to spare non-combatants. One of them, a warrior named Sanota, placed his life at considerable risk to Vicey Cornells and seven of her children, whom he fed and cared for until he could take them to a white settlement.

Of course, there was no reciprocal sense of restraint on the part of those who attacked Tallussahatchee, a target that was chosen specifically because it was defenseless. The next morning, as the militiamen digested the grisly meal described above, their commander gleefully promised that they would “repeat Tallussahatchee” in their next engagement. This was too much for at least some of the men to bear, and they rebelled. Somehow, their commander was able to maintain discipline long enough to carry out the second massacre.

As many of you already know, the architect of these atrocities is the figure who stares out at us from the twenty dollar bill, his craggy features seeming to radiate benevolence. To the Creeks, Choctaw, and others who were the firs subjects of his “Indian Removal” program, Jackson was known variously as Jacksa Chula Harho (“Jackson Old and Fierce”), “Sharp Knife,” and, simply, The Devil.

Among the backwoodsmen who rallied to fight the Red Sticks under Jackson was a Tennessean named Davy Crockett. I’d like to think that Crockett was among those who tried to desert Jackson’s army following Tallussahatchee, and that disgust over Jackson’s acts of undisguised mass murder helped turn Crockett into a foe of “Old Hickory,” but I can’t demonstrate from available records that this was the case.

Red Eagle, the chief who offered himself on behalf of his people in a conference with Jackson at Horseshoe Bend, had been born William Weatherford. His father was an American settler in Georgia, his mother a woman of mixed Scottish/French/Creek ancestry. His brother John had chosen to follow the Euro-American path. As is so often the case in such episodes from our history, Red Eagle displayed greater valor, boldness, and compassion than that demonstrated by the forces of “Christian” civilization.

"Old Hickory" meets with Red Eagle (aka William Weatherford): In defense of his homeland, the Creek war chief (who shared Jackson's Scottish ancestry on his mother's side) offered himself for execution in exchange for mercy toward the women and children of his tribe. That offer tells us something about the savagery of Jackson's campaign against the Creeks.

Andrew Jackson was a man of many worthy accomplishments. He was certainly right about the evil represented by the Bank of the United States. He was also an individual of considerable personal courage. This doesn’t change the fact that he was a war criminal who presided over one of history’s larger atrocities: The “Trail of Tears” and beginning of continent-wide dispossession of the Indians.

The term “Jacksonian” is often wedded to various kinds of populism, as well as the attendant spoils system. But the term, as we shall see anon, has recently come to be used to describe a certain type of authoritarian pseudo-populism that supports both foreign war and the kind of dictatorial presidential leadership that is produced by war.

The fruits of the "Jacksonian" worldview: Iraqis comb the rubble of their homes in search of the remains of their families.

Many conservatives – such as myself, back when I considered that label an adequate description of my convictions – have applauded President Jackson’s defiant, dismissive reaction to a Supreme Court decision he disdained: “That’s Mr. Marshall’s ruling. Now, let’s see him enforce it.” For me, that utterance lost its luster when I learned its context.

Rather than being a principled reaction to judicial activism, Jackson was expressing his dictatorial arrogance in setting at naught the Supreme Court’s finding that the federal government actually had to recognize the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation within its own territory, as well as the legal, moral, and constitutional obligation to honor treaties.

That 1832 ruling (Worcester v. Georgia), followed a previous decision (Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia) in which Justice Marshall expressed tremendous sympathy for the besieged Indians, while pleading lack of jurisdiction to uphold their plea for a protective injunction. In Worcester, a group of Christian missionaries living on Cherokee land defied a Georgia law requiring whites to obtain a license in order to live on Indian lands. The Court upheld that claim, pointing out that states had no jurisdiction within Indian lands.

Jackson, with the eager support of Congress and Georgia legislators, simply ignored that ruling, and proceeded to enforce laws passed in 1828 that enabled the expropriation and expulsion of the Cherokees to Indian Territory – now known by an anglicized version of the name it was given by the Creeks, Okla Houma (“Red People”).

The spurious laws Jackson and his cronies had created, wrote Justice Marshall in the Cherokee Nation ruling, were designed “to annihilate the Cherokees as a political society and to seize, for the use of Georgia, the lands of the Nation which have been assured to them by the United States in solemn treaties repeatedly made and still in force.”

Marshall continued, in words that both recited and prefigured history:

“A people once numerous, powerful, and truly independent, found by our ancestors in the quiet and uncontrolled possession of an ample domain, gradually sinking beneath our superior policy, our arts and our arms, have yielded their lands by successive treaties, each of which contains a solemn guarantee of the residue, until they retain no more of their formerly extensive territory than is deemed necessary to their comfortable subsistence.”

And now the Cherokees, like many other Indian communities to come after them, were to be deprived of even that inadequate “residue” of their own lands.

Unfortunately, Marshall concluded, both the lack of jurisdiction and the uncontainable ambition of Jackson and his comrades made it impossible to protect the Indians from the rapacity of the federal government. “If it be true that wrongs have been inflicted, and that still greater are to be apprehended,” he lamented, “this is not the tribunal which can redress the past or prevent the future.”

In “Old Hickory’s” war of extermination against the Indians we find the definitive expression of what Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations calls the “Jacksonian” temperament, an attitude examined in depth in Read’s book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. “Jacksonians” are one of four dominant schools of thought identified by Mead, the other three being the “Hamiltonian,” “Wilsonian,” and “Jeffersonian” perspectives.

Hamiltonians, by Read’s assessment, pursue a foreign policy rooted in mercantilism – government-backed commercial and industrial expansion. Wilsonians are crusading multilateralists devoted to propagating democracy abroad and building transnational institutions. Jeffersonians are intensely skeptical of an interventionist foreign policy and institutional entanglements. Jacksonians, for their part, are bellicose nationalists who spurn multilateralism and have no use for big gub’mint – except when it’s engaged in what they regard as the worthy and ennobling business of slaughtering foreigners not inclined to take the American yoke.

Not surprisingly, given Mead’s CFR affiliation, he finds something of value in all of these schools of thought – except for the Jeffersonian perspective. Jacksonians may turn up their noses at the institutions the CFR has built with such guileful care, but they make excellent shock troops when it’s time to expand the empire, or to punish restive provinces thereof.

Jacksonians are over-represented in the military, particularly among the ground-pounders. Meanwhile, the Hamiltonians collect dividends on their Halliburton and KBR stock, and the Wilsonians attend posh diplomatic functions and sanctify the bloody business of empire by intoning the proper internationalist incantations.

What makes the Jacksonians so valuable, Mead observes, is their appetite for “eliminationist” warfare, as exemplified in the frontier wars against the Indians: “It was not enough [for Jacksonians] to defeat a tribe in battle; one had to `pacify’ the tribe, to convince it utterly and totally that resistance was and always would be futile and destructive.”

As Professor John Moser of Ashland University points out, the Jacksonian way of war always means “carrying the war to the civilian population” as a way of utterly defeating an enemy – including enemies whose only crime was to defend their own lands against Washington’s designs. This attitude is manifest today whenever conservatives (a better description would be “frenzied nationalists,” or even Lew Rockwell’s coinage, “Red State Fascists”) lament the inadequate savagery of Washington’s war in Iraq, or when such people casually endorse nuclear strikes against Iran or Saudi Arabia.

The cultural influence of contemporary Jacksonians appears to have peaked in 2006. Disillusionment with the Iraq War and with the Dear Leader seems to have encouraged a substantial number of defections from that camp. But we shouldn’t underestimate the potency or resiliency of the Jacksonian element, particularly if they have to spend the next four years steeping in resentment under the presidency of arch-Wilsonian Barack Obama.

Theme-Appropriate Video Extra

(Thanks to Scott Horton.)


*I first heard the story of the Talussahatche Massacre (not "battle," as some persist in describing it) from Billy Bob Thornton's version of Davy Crockett in the 2004 film The Alamo. At the time I suspected the reference to Jackson's men dining on charnel house potatoes was the depraved invention of a revisionist screenwriter. It isn't. See, for example, Gloria Jahoda's 1975 book Trail of Tears, pages 11-15.

On sale now at The Right Source.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Felonious Hugging

Veronica Rodriguez of Hillsboro, Oregon recently completed a year in prison for the supposed crime of hugging a 13-year-old boy. With time off for good behavior, the 27-year-old completed the sentence imposed on her by the judge who presided over her criminal trial.

The prosecutors in that case, displaying a shameless vindictiveness that might have struck Shylock as excessive, appealed the sentence as impermissibly lenient under Oregon's draconian Measure 11 "one strike and you're out" sentencing guidelines. An appeals court agreed with the prosecutors and imposed an additional five years to Veronica's sentence. The case reached the Oregon state supreme court on February 13, and it may prompt a re-evaluation of the Beaver State's "one strike" sentencing law.

I am not being snarky in describing it as a "one strike" law: That's the way it is proudly advertised by law enforcement and prosecutors who have been granted a license thereby to impose lengthy prison terms on people as young as 15 years of age for behavior that could properly be called lewd and unacceptable, but can't rationally be called criminal. Under the law, first offenders face prison terms that must be considered disproportionate to the offenses they commit.

Among the possible applications of Measure 11 listed on a County prosecutor's website are the following:

You[,] alone or with a friend [,] want someone’s baseball cap. You either pretend to have a weapon or threaten to beat the owner up. You and your friend go to prison for 5 years and 10 months....

You and a friend get into a fight with another person. Your friend pokes the other person in the eye with the handle of a hairbrush, a stick, etc. The eye is injured. You and your friend go to prison for 5 years and 10 months....

You and a date are at a movie. You touch your date’s buttocks, crotch, or breast. Your date tells you to stop. You ignore this and touch your date there again. You go to prison for 6 years and 3 months....

You hear that someone is messing with your friend. You go to their house and force them outside to beat them up. You go to prison for 5 years and 10 months....

Robbery, assault, and sexual battery are all serious crimes, and should be punished as such. But Measure 11 -- particularly where alleged sex offenses are concerned -- seems to have been written for the purpose of criminalizing conduct best punished by a stout, privately administered face-slapping.

Certainly, 15-year-olds -- of any chronological age -- shouldn't persist in fondling unwilling girlfriends (or be permitted to beat up others with impunity, for that matter). But I can't see how it's right to send someone to prison for six years and leave him indelibly branded as "sex offender" for repeatedly copping a feel without explicit permission. And Veronica Rodriguez has been consigned to that fate for behavior much more innocuous than a furtive movie-house grope.

Veronica Rodriguez (center at bottom) with her boyfriend Kevin (left) and her parents.

(Willamette Week photo)

Assuming that the statement of facts in the appellate court's ruling is reliable, there's ample reason to suspect that Veronica Rodriguez was guilty of serious errors in judgment that might have led to less-than-criminal misbehavior with an under-age boy. That misbehavior should have resulted in her losing her job at the Hillsboro Boys & Girls Club, where she worked as a counselor.

The 13-year-old in question came from a broken home and was described as having trouble managing his anger (as most 13-year-old boys do, of course). Veronica, whose initial assignment at the Club was to be a "Prevention Coordinator" -- helping members avoid "doing things such as getting pregnant in high school [or] joining a gang," as she described the role -- took what appeared to be an unusual and unseemly personal interest in the youngster.

According to the summary presented by the Oregon Court of Appeals:

"Defendant and the victim [the Court's term for the 13-year-old] frequently hugged each other, and defendant sometimes put her arm around the victim when they walked, Defendant occasionally allowed the victim to sit on her lap in her office. He kissed her on the cheek between 10 and 20 times. She sent e-mail messages to him in which she said, `I love you' and `I love you lots'.... Defendant took the victim with her on several trips to Bend and Spokane, two of which were overnight trips. The two were frequently alone together in her car, at her apartment, and at his home. They were seen alone together in her office at the club with the door closed."

In addition, Veronica frequently visited the youngster's home and ate dinner with his family, and frequently gave him rides home from school. All of these unsupervised individual contacts, especially the overnight trips, violated the club's long-established rules. They also connoted a deeply improper relationship between Veronica (who at the time was 25 years old) and her 13-year-old friend.

So the proper course of action would have been for the club's faculty to sanction Veronica, and even fire her, if necessary. Absent direct evidence of sexual contact between the two of them, Veronica and her "boyfriend" (as gossip among the other students described the youngster) should have been pried apart using instruments other than the criminal law.

No direct evidence of such a relationship was ever found -- despite the fact that Veronica was convicted of first degree sexual assault and has served a year in prison for that offense.

The purported "sexual conduct" behind that charge took place in the club's game room, which was filled to near-capacity by several dozen students. The offense is described by the Court of Appeals thus:

"The victim, who had since turned 13, was sitting on a chair. Defendant, who had since turned 25, was standing behind him, caressing his face and pulling his head back; the back of his head was pressed against her breasts."

At this point you're probably asking yourself, "Self, could you explain how an attractive 25-year-old woman could be topless in a room full of adolescent boys without triggering a riot?" That's a good question, because it underscores a key distinction rational people would make, and that the prosecutors talked a jury into ignoring: The "victim"'s head was pressed against Veronica's shirt, not her breasts. Both Veronica and her "victim" were fully clothed.

This was the "sexual conduct" referred to by the prosecution, which makes me think they must never have gotten the little speech from their parents explaining "Where babies come from."

Oregon's laws, like those of most states, describe sexual contact as one intended to gratify the sensual appetite of one or both parties. It's not clear at all that the contact described above would qualify. Oh, sure: Given the state of perpetual hormonal carbonation in which many 13-year-old males exist, any contact with an attractive female could qualify, but that's hardly a sound standard.

There's little doubt that Veronica's conduct, as described by the courts, was ragingly improper. But the one overt act described here is not a crime. The jury deadlocked on a second count involving another alleged incident of a more overtly sexual nature.

So Veronica was convicted of sexual assault on the basis of one non-sexual act and a relationship shrouded in a dense fog of insinuation. To win a conviction, the prosecutors essentially convinced a jury to find the defendant guilty of inferred acts and imputed motives. In this way, an inappropriate hug became a felony

Michael Hintz, a former police detective who has worked for Veronica's defense team, describes her conviction as the most perverse miscarriage of justice he's seen in two decades of investigative work. The trial judge, Nancy Campbell, insisted on setting aside mandatory sentencing guidelines because she found the prescribed sentence sufficiently disproportionate to shock the conscience.

But because of Measure 11, and a corps of prosecutors incontinently eager to twist the knife as fiercely as they can, Veronica now faces another five years in prison for conduct that no sentient being can consider criminal.

As the Pharisees prepare to stone a woman to death for adultery, Jesus brings to their attention a fatal flaw with
their version of Measure 11.

The fact that a jury was willing to buy the prosecution's case suggests that, in Washington County, Oregon, at least, jury pools are drawn primarily from those who take their bearings on reality from daytime television. And the willingness of the state judiciary to sentence Veronica to five additional years in prison underscores the political triumph of the chief promoter of Measure 11, a retread Republican "family values" politician named Kevin Mannix.

Until the political winds shifted a decade and a half ago, Mannix was a "McGovern Democrat." With the ascendancy of the Gingrich-era Republican Party, Mannix changed parties -- eventually becoming chairman of the Oregon GOP -- and began to give voice to previously unknown social conservative convictions.

Perhaps inspired by the exploits of the television gumshoe bearing the same surname, Mannix also embraced the "law and order" theme, which is always a good way for cynical politicians to consolidate tiny rivulets of social discontent into a torrent of politically useful alarm. In 1994 he sponsored Measure 11 as a way of tying the hands of judges regarded as too solicitous of the rights of criminals. The predictable result was a draconian system of mandatory sentencing and an invitation for career-minded prosecutors to pad their statistics by building cases against "felons" like Veronica Rodriguez.

Kevin Mannix, the moral conscience of Oregon and scourge of the criminal element, is radiant during a photo-op with a singularly impenitent criminal.

Mannix has served in both chambers of the state legislature. During three state-wide elections, offered himself as a gift to the voters of Oregon; each time the voters have politely said, "Thanks, but no thanks." In his losing campaign for Attorney General in 2000, and his equally unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2002, Mannix benefited greatly from the financial support of Loren Parks, a Nevada resident described by some as the "Daddy Warbucks of Oregon conservative causes."

And here is where this particular story takes a turn from the tragic to the genuinely weird.

Loren Parks, unlike Veronica Rodriguez, is a certifiable pervert. He's the founder and owner of Parks Medical Electronics Inc., which manufactures a device called the "penile plethysmograph," which takes readings of the galvanic skin response of a male sexual organ while a test subject is bombarded with pornography; this is supposed to measure male sexual arousal.

That heinous device is frequently used in child abuse investigations: Men suspected of molesting children are subjected to an assault of visual pornography, including scenes involving children. Reactions determined to deviate from an arbitrary norm have been used as evidence in criminal trials, despite the device's dubious reliability.

What kind of a mind could have conceived of such a device? I won't presume to open a window into Loren Parks' soul; that's not necessary, given the exhibitionistic streak that led him to set up a website boasting of his putatively astonishing sexual prowess. Another useful public admission came in 1986, when he settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a mildly retarded woman whom he had sexually exploited -- an act not noticeably distinct, in a moral sense, from child molestation.

Parks is also dealing with a lawsuit filed by a former employee named Maria Guerin, who accuses him of barraging her with pornographic e-mails and pressuring her into a sexual relationship. To parry that accusation, Parks produced a document called a "Contract to have a sexual relationship" that Guerin allegedly signed before a 2001 trip abroad. The document says, inter alia, "We will be sleeping together on the trip for our mutual pleasure.... Neither of us is obligated to continue an intimate relationship following the trip. All of this has been discussed with my supervisor...."

Guerin contends that the document is spurious and that Parks inserted into her personnel file after the fact. I'm inclined to think that it would be more alarming -- and more compelling as evidence against Parks -- if the document were genuine.

Parks was a major financial backer of Measure 11 in 1994. Somehow it just figures that an individual as extravagantly perverted as he would be the chief financial supporter of that law that may steal six years out of the life of an undisciplined young woman who has been labeled a sex offender on the basis of an intrinsically harmless act.

(Thanks to Anthony Gregory at Strike The Root for bringing Veronica's story to my attention.)

My new book, Liberty in Eclipse, is on sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Money's No Good Here

The graveyard of discarded fiat currencies: Heaps of Soviet-era rubles decompose in a landfill. Chances are the fraudulent instrument of debt called the "dollar" will soon reach the same destination.

For decades, the American ruling establishment has enjoyed the privilege of exporting inflation.

This has been done, acknowledges Ben Steil of the Council on Foreign Relations (a group I'm not in the habit of quoting favorably), by compelling other governments around the world to print huge mounds of their own currencies to prop up the dollar by buying Treasury Notes.

Thus when the Fed inflates, central banks world-wide follow suit, thereby driving up consumer prices for those ruled by satraps of Washington's global empire. Not surprisingly, at least some of those on the unfavorable end of this equation are getting restive, which is why the Gulf Cooperation Council has been making noises about removing the "dollar peg" that holds this corrupt arrangement together.

He just can't leave wretched enough alone, can he? The execrable Alan Greenspan at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, urging the region's petro-oligarchs to abandon the dollar.

Oh -- and wasn't it cute of Alan "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" Greenspan, addressing an investors' conference in Jedda, to advise GCC governments to drop the dollar peg in order to protect them from the consequences of his own inflationary policies?

Foreign purchases of our debt bonds started to taper off three years ago. If the GCC governments act on Greenspan's advice, it will probably provoke a world-wide flight from the dollar and, in short order, the end of our status as a First World nation. I wouldn't blame the GCC or anybody else for bailing on the buck, of course. But it is indigestibly rich to see Greenspan wielding the pin that may be used to pop the dollar bubble he so diligently inflated during his term as Fed Commissar.

To understand the likely consequences of the course Greenspan now prescribes, a different metaphor is called for.

For decades, the fiat dollar has been the world's reserve currency, issued by the world's largest debtor. The results of this unprecedented combination were entirely predictable: Washington has generated a flood tide of inflation that has inundated more or less the entire world.

A tide is a reciprocating phenomenon -- if it goes out, it must come back in. But how do we describe what happens when a relatively small stretch of coastline suddenly has to absorb the impact of every returning tide from all the world's oceans all at once? "Tsunami" is an entirely inadequate term.

Well, in economic terms, we're going to find out, and probably sooner than any of us will admit. And auguries of this potentially apocalyptic development abound.

For instance: "Euros only" signs have sprung up on the streets of Manhattan. No, this doesn't mean proprietors of small shops would flatly reject FRNs (Federal Reserve Notes) if offered in sufficient quality. It does mean, however, that with the inversion of the exchange rate in favor of the European Union's flavor of fiat currency, and the corresponding influx of European tourists, at least some small businessmen in New York -- particularly those who have traveled to Europe recently, and learned just how little a dollar will buy on the Continent -- are trying to avoid the hassle and stress of converting currencies.

"I need euros," one street vendor from Niger explained to the Washington Post. "The dollar's going down. I don't want to change it before I go home."*

We'd better get used to that kind of thing. In fact, it would be a good idea for Americans to study what's happening to another dollar, the Zimbabwean variety. The regime led by the demented Marxist thug Robert Mugabe will admit to an official inflation rate of 100,580 percent in January, up dramatically from a more, ahem, modest rate of 66,212 percent last December. But unofficial -- which is to say, more reliable -- estimates put the rate at around 150,000 percent.

A millionaire street beggar in Zimbabwe displays bundles of that nation's increasingly worthless fiat currency. He has an endearing and radiant smile now, but the history of hyperinflation suggests this young man is in for incredibly hard times. Say a prayer for him.

The typical Zimbabwean is a multi-millionaire: The country's per capita gross domestic product is $9 dollars (U.S.), or about 70 million of that country's dollars. But then again, a kilo of chicken goes for 15 million Zimbabwean dollars.

While Zimbabwe's "millionaires" starve, its ruler and his posse feast. Amid chronic shortages of gasoline, food, and other essentials, the sub-cretinous hordes who compose that nation's ruling elite recently raised 3 trillion Zim-dollars to celebrate the Dear Leader's 84th birthday.

Of course, we're not suffering Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation, at least not yet. But here's the cold, unyielding reality: As measured by our current account balance (which is not the sole definitive measure of an economy, I hasten to point out), our country is poorer than Zimbabwe, at least according to the CIA's World Factbook (a fact brought to my attention by the diligent folks who run the Freedom's Phoenix newssite). Of the 163 nations on the CIA's list, Zimbabwe is 95th. The United States is dead last.

Our nation is broke in a way no country has ever been broke before. And as households, Americans are about to grow much poorer.

William Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions recently told participants a the USDA's Outlook Forum that a wave (there's that image again) of "real food inflation" is about to reach consumers. His assessment was seconded by Larry Pope of Smithfield Foods, the nation's largest pork processor: "I think we need to tell the American consumer that [prices] are going up.... We're seeing cost increases that we've never seen in our business." (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Glauber, the USDA's chief economist, took note of a fact that should be obvious to anybody who's shopped for breakfast cereal recently: The price of wheat has surged dramatically, and stands at nearly $20 a bushel, an increase yet to be fully factored into consumer prices.

As Lapp soberly pointed out, we're just at the beginning of this trend. And the kind folks at the United Nations, who never met a problem they couldn't transform into a crisis, or a crisis they couldn't nurture into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, is reportedly drawing up plans for food rationing in urban areas should commodity price inflation go hyperbolic and food riots ensue.

Of course, this kind of thing would only happen in desperately impoverished countries without the means to meet the obligations imposed on them by their governments, and whose populations can't afford to buy food. You know, countries like Zimbabwe today ... and perhaps the United States in the near future.

Liberty in Eclipse is on sale now at The Right Source.


*I experienced a moment of mild and bitter amusement reading this observation in the Post story: "U.S. currency is the only legal tender money in the United States, but parties can agree to satisfy a debt by other means."

Oh, really? Well, what if the parties agreed to an exchange of goods for Liberty Dollars, which are either made of, or fully redeemable in, the only constitutionally permissible money -- gold and silver? The Feds regard an equitable transaction between fully informed parties that involves real money to be a species of "forgery." What the
Post meant to say, apparently, is that parties are free to conduct transactions using other fiat currencies.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Parasite's Priorities (Updated, February 23)

"I see nothing! NO-thiiinnng!": Affable, purblind doofus Sgt. Schultz, the patron saint of German Bank Regulators.

Klaus Zumwinkel, former CEO of Deutsche Post -- the German postal service and parent of the DHL parcel delivery company -- lost his job last week. He may soon go to prison. His "crime" was to protect his legitimately earned wealth from the omnivorous socialist bureaucracy that afflicts Germany. He did so by opening a foundation in neighboring Lichtenstein, where his earnings were protected by the banking secrecy laws of that tiny (pop. circa 35,000) but heroic principality.

During his tenure as head of Deutsche Post, concedes the New York Times, Zumwinkel "helped transform [the postal service] ... from a stodgy state bureaucracy into a publicly listed logistics and freight-delivery powerhouse...."

Despite operating within a thoroughly socialized business environment, Zumwinkel -- through the tenacious application of his considerable gifts -- added a great deal more wealth to his society than what he earned. Yet he is now being traduced by the German State as an enemy of society for the supposed crime of tax evasion. Even if he avoids prison, he won't get his severance.

Stefan Ortseifen is another German executive who is stepping down from a lofty post in Germany's corporate world. As head of the IKB, a Dusseldorf-based German bank, Ortseifen has presided over a lengthy series of government-subsidized catastrophes. In contrast with the huge net contribution to German wealth made by Zumwinkel, Ortseifen's ineptitude and mismanagement have destroyed billions of dollars' worth of capital, and his failing bank has devoured billions more in direct government subsidies.

With the serene confidence conferred by the knowledge that the taxpayers would absorb any losses, IKB invested huge sums in the sub-prime mortgage market here in the United States. As he did so, Ortseifen consciously defrauded investors, depositors, and the German public by assuring them that "uncertainties in the American mortgage market" would have "practically no effect" on the health of IKB's investments.

This was an obvious and vulgar lie, as would be recognized by any sentient being (or perhaps even Sean Hannity... well, maybe not). And just days after the last such assurance departed Ortseifen's schnitzel-hole, "IKB was on the verge of bankruptcy, with its supposed wonderful US investments worth little more than the paper [they were] printed on," recounts Der Spiegel.

At the very least, Ortseifen should be investigated for fraud and subject to both criminal and civi liability. Instead, he will be allowed to retire on his own terms and keep his pension, which is something north of $40,000 a month.

Liechtenstein's Castle Vaduz, one of many scenic attractions in that tiny but breathtakingly beautiful country.

In propping up America's government-abetted mortgage mess, Ortseifen pissed away countless billions of dollars earned by other people. Zumwinkel's "crime," recall, was to send his own money abroad to keep it out of the hands of people like Ortseifen.

Only to a mind entirely hostage to socialist assumptions -- and thus willing to abide the existence of an untouchable, unfathomably wealthy Nomenklatura -- could say that this makes any kind of sense.

In the decades since the advent of the Federal Reserve System in annus horribilis 1913, the entire world banking system has become intertwined with government -- both national and trans-national.

Germany's banking system may be the most statist in the known universe: The relationship between that country's government and banking system is so flagrantly and conspicuously incestuous that amorous Appalachian cousins, upon seeing the spectacle, would exclaim in disgust: "Hey, that just ain't right!"

Going up the food chain from Ortseifen we find Ingrid Matthaus-Maier, CEO of the state-owned (and, therefore, unregulated) KfW banking group and a long-time member of the Social Democratic Party. The salary of this champion of social equity is $614,000 a year, all of it paid either directly by the taxpayers or from capital acquired through taxpayer subsidies. In exchange for this relatively modest (by international banking standards) compensation, Matthaus-Maier helped orchestrate the crisis now rippling through the German banking system.

"The state-owned banks are supposed to bail each other out when necessary," comments Der Spiegel, "but the problem is that many are in trouble themselves and hardly in a position to help their peers." Germany's "public-sector banks speculated far more heavily than private banks in American subprime mortgage securities. Now these banks' beleaguered executives are calling on the government to bail them out from a disaster of their own making."

O.K. -- by a show of hands, how many of you are surprised by this? Just one? Oh, right -- it's Hannity again, who's always the dullest implement in the cutlery drawer. (Just go sit in the corner, Sean, and tend to your finger-painting, 'kay?)

Matthaus-Maier and Ortseifen "are perfect examples of the fatal mix of amateurism, greed and political protection that is symptomatic of Germany's state-owned, partially state-owned and public-sector banks," observes Der Spiegel. "It is an environment that can only thrive in the shadow of the state" -- and has drained scores of billions of dollars from the public treasury. "

Once again, I wish to underscore the fact that these people were part of the parasite class -- State employees (the word "workers" doesn't apply) and executives of State-supported institutions. Their actions have destroyed huge amounts of confiscated wealth.

But they're not the real criminals -- or so we are urged to believe. The real criminals, again, are those like Klaus Zumwinkel, "tax evaders" ("tax refugees" is a more honest term) who did what they could to protect their earnings from the confiscatory, punitive tax system that kept statist drones like Ortseifen knee-deep in strudel and strumpets.

Zumwinkel's arrest comes as a result of an operation carried out by the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). A few years ago, the BND had a "walk-in" by a disgruntled ex-employee of Liechtenstein's LGT Group, a financial institution that specializes in setting up the type of foundations often used by German tax refugees. The spitzel offered the BND a CD-ROM containing data on German banking clients.

That information was proprietary, privileged, and protected by law. The individual who offered the CD-ROM to German intelligence was trafficking in stolen property. So the German spooks, pillars of Teutonic rectitude that they were, refused to accept it -- right?

Uh, yeah, right. And you'll probably believe that there's never been an escape from Stalag 13.

To purchase that stolen information, the BND shelled out $7.3 million in funds taken at gunpoint from German citizens, including Zumwinkel and others whose data was found on the CD-ROM.

"The German government has used tax money to pay for a crime by a citizen of Lichtenstein," protested attorney Ferdinand von Schirach, a citizen of that stalwart Apline principality. "That's illegal."

Hans-Adam II, Lichtenstein's ruling prince (who is on record as saying that a tax rate in excess of six percent is "tyrannical"), quite properly condemned the crime as an "attack" on his country. Subverting Lichtenstein's laws and invading its institutions "does not solve the problems [Germany] has with its taxpayers," the prince correctly observed.

Like Switzerland and Luxembourg, Lichtenstein's banking secrecy laws date back to the 1930s, a time -- like the one nigh on arrival, I'm afraid -- of global depression, ubiquitous socialist tyranny, and incipient world war. Those countries provided a safe haven for the assets of German Jews. And then, as now, those havens were denounced by German collectivists, both "right" and "left," for offering refuge to those seeking to escape "social justice" as conceived and implemented by Berlin.

"It's simply unacceptable to have tax havens in Europe that encourage capital flight and incite tax fraud," belched Ronald Pofalla, a high-ranking member of the German Conservative Union, at a Berlin press conference. "We must ensure that such refuges are shut."

Although the account I read was silent as to whether that last phrase was accompanied with a stiff-armed, stiff-handed salute, that gesture would have been appropriate in the context.

The flag of a free country:
Liechtenstein's national banner. Like Switzerland, the heroic Alpine nation has not bent the knee to Ba'al by joining the European Union, and it permits productive people to keep their financial affairs hidden from the Argus-eyed monstrosity called "government."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that Liechtenstein must revise its banking laws to make them more permeable by German authorities, and insists that the principality's
"reputation is at stake" on its response to that demand. I don't know what the culture-specific equivalent of an upthrust middle finger would be, but whatever it is I hope that Liechtenstein's response could be summarized as such.

Once again, Merkel and Pofalla are described as conservatives. And from their perspective, "capital flight" is best addressed by prosecuting the productive -- such as Zumwinkel -- rather than purging the parasites, of whom Ortseifen and Matthaus-Meier are typical.

And rather than cleaning out the State-abetted corruption and cronyism in Germany's banking system, Merkel's government is staging a propaganda spectacle intended to make tax refugees the scapegoats for that nation's coming depression.

It's worth studying these developments in Germany, if only to catch a glimpse of how things will soon play out over here as well.

UPDATE: Parasites and informants of the world, unite!

Apparently the Brits drive a better bargain than the Germans when dealing for stolen banking information: They only paid the snitch 100,000 pounds for information on 100 British citizens who used the same bank in Liechtenstein to protect their wealth from Britain's esurient tax laws.

The Sunday Times of London offers some additional details regarding the source of this illegally obtained private information:

"The suspected whistleblower, accused of stealing data from the bank, was sacked and convicted of fraud. He also offered data to tax authorities in America, Canada, Australia and France."

OK, we have to do a little semantic housekeeping here.

A "whistleblower" is someone who, at personal risk, defies threats and pressure from corrupt superiors in order to reveal corruption, incompetence, and/or criminal wrongdoing. This guy is a disgruntled ex-employee and convicted criminal, not a "whistleblower." The bank he worked for did nothing illegal under the enlightened and commendable laws of its country.

Granted, the governments that afflict other nations don't like Liechtenstein's laws, but that's just hard cheese.

It's going to be exceptionally interesting to see what use, if any, our own Leviathan makes of this stolen information.


Liberty In Eclipse is on sale now at The Right Source.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Our Collapsing Kleptocracy (UPDATED)

The frontman looks for cover: Bush cowers behind former Fed Commissar Alan Greenspan, architect of the debt bubble that is devouring the world economy.

TODAY correspondent Ann Curry: Some Americans believe that they feel they’re carrying the burden because of this economy.

George W. Bush: Yeah, well…

Curry: They say we’re suffering because of this.

Bush: I don’t agree with that.

Curry: You don’t agree with that? It has nothing do with the economy, the war, the spending on the war?

Bush: I don’t think so. I think actually the spending in the war might help with jobs.

Curry: Oh, yeah?

Bush: Yeah, because we’re buying equipment, and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses and the economy is adjusting. --

TODAY Show, February 18

Occasionally the Mass Murderer-in-Chief will make a candid comment that serves as a core sample of his personality. Beneath the superficial affability that disguises his inbred sense of unearned privilege, below the dense-pack arrogance, hidden away under multiple layers of ignorance and corruption, at the center of his being, Bush is a creature of the kleptocratic State, in its crudest and most destructive form.

It’s not just that Bush has completely internalized a dimwit’s version of Keynesianism. He also appears genuinely to believe that war –heedless wholesale destruction -- is more profitable than constructive private enterprise.

“Y’see” -- I can imagine him saying in his practiced mock-drawl, his shoulders hunched over in that oddly simian way of his, a self-satisfied smirk creeping across that face that could have been designed by Matt Groening – “these idiots in the private sector jus’ went out and built a whole buncha houses nobody could afford, an’ now we gotta big mess. Don’t know why the fools went and overbuilt the housing market. Here’s the cool thing, though: You can’t overbuild the military. Heck, if we build too many bombs, or tanks, or missiles, we can always find some use for ‘em, and if we can’t, I’m sure the Israelis or the Saudis or someone can take ‘em off our hands – even if we have to pay them to.”

While Bush is well-known for his significant contributions to the practice of military Keynesianism, he has played no small role in expanding the practice of the domestic version as well – including the same vastly overbuilt housing and mortgage market.

The unwinding of the sub-prime mortgage market is what triggered the ongoing – and ever-escalating – global financial crisis. Bush (who probably thinks the term “sub-prime” refers to a steak that costs less than a C-note) probably doesn’t remember that he was directly involved in abetting the sub-prime disaster. Yes, the Fed created the mortgage mess as a matter of deliberate policy. But Bush did his considerable best to help things along.

"Low interest rates have encouraged a housing boom here in America--and that's good, that's good," Bush exulted at an October 2003 forum on Hispanic-American affairs in California, years before he “discovered” that a housing boom is a Bad Thing. In the same speech, he urged that banks make more “zero down payment loans available to first-time buyers[,] whose mortgages are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration….”

If you want more of something – in this case, risky mortgage loans to dubiously qualified borrowers – subsidize it. And the subsidies that aided the housing bubble didn’t come only through the FHA, of course. Fannie, Freddie, and Ginnie all got into the act, as well, creating a world-historic debt bubble that is now rapidly collapsing. This wasn’t done out of an altruistic desire to help every American own a home, but because the politically connected investor class realized unfathomably huge profits in generating that debt and finding perversely creative ways to repackage it.

In a sane world, that would be a noose, rather than a medal -- and both of them would be on the scaffold. (I'm kidding. Sort of.)

As James Howard Kunstler* points out, our present financial system is nothing more than a “daisy-chain of liabilities” – beginning with the “dollar” itself, an instrument of debt posing as a form of currency.

Kunstler chose an unfortunate name for his must-read blog (caveat lector), and his assumptions regarding “Peak Oil” are disputable. He is entirely correct, however, in predicting an impending economic depression he calls the “Long Emergency,” and his analysis of the financial system strikes me as sound.

Bogus deity, real money: An ancient Greek silver coin bearing an image of the goddess Artemis.

Where once every national currency was backed by “reserves” of something considered valuable – generally gold – “reserves” came to be “denoted in just currencies themselves, or certificates that represented the existence of currencies held elsewhere, or pixels on a screen representing the movement of alleged piles of currency from one place to another, or the intention to move a notional pile of currency to a theoretical destination, and then that became an algorithm purporting to represent the future arrival of a notional pile of money at theoretical destination-to-be-named-later, and so on…. And after a while, the nature of money became so detached from anything real, so abstract, that its very existence became hypothetical. Even this `worked’ for a while, in terms of the managers of this money being able to `cream’ substantial amounts of this hypothetical money off the top of their notional operations and translate that hypothetical cream into Tribeca lofts, Gulfstream jets, and other real luxuries.”

“The rest of the economic food chain” – meaning serfs like thee and me – “got stripped of remaining asset value … until they had nothing left to trade with except debt, in one form or another, and this phase of the game turned out to have a short lifetime when the only debts remaining to be monetized were the contracts on houses occupied by people with no hope of ever meeting their obligations – and then the whole sorry racket started to go up in vapor.”

At present, the banks – with the quiet help of Helicopter Ben’s counterfeiting agency – “are pretending to have money and desperately cadging loans from all comers to keep appearances up, but the loans can’t come in fast enough.” At some point, somewhere in this purportedly wealthy country, news will leak out that an inconspicuous bank is about to fail. This will trigger a bank run, and the contagion will spread far and fast.

That’s what happened last September at England’s Northern Rock bank, that country’s fifth-largest mortgage lender. Northern Rock quietly applied to the Bank of England for emergency aid to prevent a bank run. Instead, it precipitated one.

In the course of a single weekend, before the government guaranteed Northern Rock's deposits and police turned away panicky customers, the bank lost some $4 billion as customers emptied their accounts. As the Economist magazine notes, this was England’s first bank run since 1866. Just a few days ago, the British government announced – after failing to arrange a subsidized take-over by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group -- that it was nationalizing Northern Rock.

Consider this: Richard Branson is willing to risk life, limb, and fortune in his effort to pioneer commercial spaceflight, but he wants nothing to do with the banking business unless the taxpayers provide him with parachute.

Right now, as noted above, American banks are doing exactly the same thing that triggered the run on Northern Rock: They’re on life support to the central bank, hoping to forestall depositor panic. But, once again, at some point, a significant bank failure will happen, a run will materialize and metastasize – and, as Kunstler writes, “that would be the magic moment that the USA discovered it was no longer a rich nation.”

Northern Rock may yet prove to be the pebble that starts a global financial avalanche. Or that catastrophe may begin somewhere on this side of the Atlantic. But it is coming, and probably sooner than most people think.

The last Depression we endured took place in a country with enviable natural resources, a large and growing industrial capacity, and blessed with a population familiar with discipline, thrift, and the deferral of gratification. The next depression, Kunstler predicts, “will play out against the background of a society that has pissed away its oil endowment, bulldozed its factories, arbitraged its productive labor, destroyed both family farms and the commercial infrastructure of main street, and trained its population to become overfed diabetic TV zombie `consumers’ of other peoples’ productivity, paid for by `money’ they haven’t earned.”

To the extent this description of the hoi polloi is accurate, the behavior described reflects the priorities of the ruling oligarchy, in which – perhaps to an extent unprecedented in our history – fortunes are made through the vulgar redistribution of wealth by the State. And in this respect, George W. Bush is a perfect exemplar of his class.

In his infuriating and informative new book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill), David Cay Johnston recounts the old and sadly neglected story of how Bush the Younger became wealthy. Like Kunstler, Johnston is mistaken in some important ways, but he does an admirable job exposing the machinations of our ruling oligarchy, of whom Bush the Lesser is a suitable specimen.

During the reign of Bush the Elder, Duhbya was wealthy, but not extravagantly so. Unlike Joseph in Egypt, under whose hand every venture prospered, Bush the Younger had a knack for running businesses into the ground. His was the touch of Tantalus, rather than Midas.

Bush did know how to manage one asset only a handful of Americans enjoy: His family political connections, many of which we reinforced by his inherited membership in Yale’s Skull & Bones secret society. (Depending on whom you ask, Skull & Bones is either a satanic coven or an oddly packaged Good Old Boy network; my view is that it is a little of both.)

"Yeah, we may
look like the founders of the Paul Anka Fan Club -- but trust us, we're evil": George "Poppy" Bush (immediate left of the Grandfather Clock) and fellow Bonesmen.

Unlike his father or his grandfather, Bush the Younger didn’t take his Bonesman duties all that seriously. As an initiate, he was given the new name “Temporary” as a placeholder until he thought of a more appropriate sobriquet, and he never bothered to change the default. So to this day, Bush the Younger remains “Temporary” to his Bonesman brethren.

In the early 1990s, several Bonesmen were among the investors Bush turned to when he conceived the idea of buying the Texas Rangers. The underperforming team wasn’t a bargain at any price, but Bush believed that the Rangers could quickly become profitable if a new stadium could be built for them. In fact, the investors quickly devised a plan to build a 200-acre “entertainment zone” surrounding the new stadium, including hotels and restaurants.

Bush and his cronies could easily afford to buy the Rangers; they could even afford to build a stadium. But getting the land to build the “entertainment zone” would be a little more difficult, since many of those who owned the property weren’t interested in selling.

Ah, I see that at least some of you know where this story is headed….

Rather than paying what the owners would have been willing to take for their land, Bush and his buddies “simply had the city of Arlington seize the land they needed and more, using government’s power of eminent domain,” recalls Johnson.

The new stadium was built by a municipal “Sports Authority” (represented in court by Ray Hutchison, husband of Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison). The Authority was funded through a half-cent increase in sales tax approved in a quick and dirty referendum held after Bush threatened to move the Rangers to another city – a now-familiar extortion tactic by owners of professional sports teams seeking municipal subsidies. It also administered an interest-free rent-to-own arrangement for the team’s new owners, with every payment – and all maintenance expenses – applied to the purchase price of the stadium.

“The investors Bush assembled paid $86 million for the Rangers,” summarizes Johnson. “They sold nine years later for $250 million. The $164 million profit was $38.5 million less than the [total] subsidy” provided through the Authority. As a result, “Every dollar that Bush and the other investors pocketed when they sold the team came from the taxpayers…. Bush and his investors made no economic profit from the market when they sold the team. The only money they received came from the increased sales taxes that flowed into the stadium deal” – and that deal was made possible by the theft and extortion carried out through eminent domain.

In many ways, Bush’s Arlington Scam prefigured the much larger and infinitely more murderous criminal enterprise called the Iraq War. In Texas, Bush used the power of eminent domain to seize property to enrich himself and his buddies; in Mesopotamia, he arranged a military occupation of an energy-rich nation for more or less the same purpose.

In both cases, the taxpayers were plundered for the benefit of Bush and his fellow kleptocrats, although in the case of Iraq the price is paid through the relentless debasement of the currency, and the resulting theft of our earnings and savings. Oh, yes, the costs also include the death, dismemberment, or derangement of tens of thousands of Americans sent to colonize Iraq.

But from where Bush and his comrades sit the war is a sweet deal for the economy, and it’s churlish of the rest of us to cavil over the costs of such a profitable enterprise. After all, Bush explained with an idiot child’s impression of regal generosity in the above-referenced TODAY show interview, “we’re just about to kick out 157 billion dollars to our taxpayers” in the form of tax rebates, a lagniappe that will do little more than trigger a brief and inconsequential spasm in a dying consumer economy.

The most useful thing any of us can do with that rebate is to use it – along with whatever liquid funds we can spare – to invest in some combination of the three Noble Metals: gold, silver, and lead.

UPDATE: The Contagion Spreads....

Germany's state-owned KfW banking group, which invested billions in the US sub-prime mortgage market, is "on the verge of bankruptcy, with its supposed[ly] wonderful investments worth little more than the paper [they were] printed on," reports Der Spiegel. And other state-owned banks are beginning to totter:

"The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has injected 1 billion [pounds] into WestLB, another state-owned bank, as well as providing the ailing bank with another 3 billion [pounds] in loan guarantees. The situation is even worse in Saxony, where the state has issued 2.73 billion [pounds] in guarantees to Sachsen LB, that state's Landesbank, as Germany's state-backed regional banks are known. The other state-owned banks are providing another 14 billion [pounds] in guarantees. Hamburg-based HSH Nordbank urgently needs 1 billion [pounds] in fresh capital, while Bayern LB announced Tuesday that the bank's chief executive, Werner Schmidt, will be stepping down as of March 1 as a result of the crisis.

"The situation for Germany's public banks has become so dramatic that it threatens to topple what has been one of the key pillars of the country's banking system. The state-owned banks are supposed to bail each other out when necessary, but the problem is that many are in trouble themselves and hardly in a position to help their peers. And things could get even worse."

That's Will Grigg's First Iron Law of Reality (c): Things can always get worse. Where the international banking system is concerned, they will get radically worse in a hurry.

(Thanks to Lew Rockwell for drawing attention to the Der Spiegel story.)

*In the original version, I mistakenly referred to James Howard Kunstler as "William" Kunstler. That's a pretty major "whoops," one I regret as earnestly as I appreciate a reader's gentle correction thereof.

Point of Personal Privilege...

Please forgive the lengthy hiatus between essays. During the past two days I did something uncommon -- I took the equivalent of a brief vacation. (My last genuine vacation was in August 2001, and my former employers managed to bisect that one by sending me to New York in the middle of it.) This was dictated by simple exhaustion.

Korrin has been in the hospital since early October, and even with the considerable and heroically generous help of my friends and family it's been difficult to maintain a reasonable work schedule while being a temporary single parent to five young children.
I sure appreciate your patience, and your prayers.

Owing to problems with my local ISP, this post is uncommonly light on graphics and links. When those problems clear up, I'll probably revisit today's edition and upgrade it considerably.

Don't forget: My new book, Liberty in Eclipse, is available at The Right Source.

Dum spiro, pugno!