Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Authentic Cruelty of a Synthetic Man

Yes, I'm willing to see you suffer, and throw you in prison -- but don't expect me to admit it.

Mitt Romney, a polymer-based life form of nearly limitless pliability, is as long on cash as he is short on genuine convictions. For the Power Elite's political brokers, few traits are more endearing in a potential president than malleability. Romney's suppleness of spine helps explain how he was able to soak up $10 million in promised campaign donations from politically connected oligarchs during a day-long marathon fundraiser in Las Vegas.

Seeking an issue on which Romney takes a binding, definitive stand often seems like trying to overtake the horizon. Clayton Holden, a wheelchair-bound man and long-time medical marijuana patient, may be the only person who has ever seen Romney perform a plausible impression of Martin Luther (“Here I stand, I can do no other") regarding any subject.

Holden suffers from Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, an affliction that has left him with a twisted spine, inflamed nerve bundles, and unremitting chronic pain. When Holden was 16, his suffering was compounded when he was hit by a car while crossing the street in his wheelchair.

Like many others who suffer from debilitating pain, Holden has found that marijuana offers him relief while inflicting none of the side-effects that accompany many government-approved drugs. On at least ten occasions, Holden has been confronted by police, who – to their credit – have been willing to flout what they are required to call “the law” in favor of elemental decency. It’s only a matter of time before some armed functionary will be found who is sufficiently vicious to throw Holden in a cage. That’s the outcome that Mitt Romney would favor.

During an October 7, 2007 Republican presidential forum in New Hampshire, Holden politely but forcefully confronted Romney to ask him the same question he had posed to other candidates (only one of whom – no extra credit for guessing which one – actually gave him an unequivocal answer): Since Holden has to use marijuana to treat his affliction, would Romney be willing to see him and his doctors arrested and carried off to jail? 

Romney, as is his habit, tried to take refuge in persiflage, insisting – on the basis of what qualifications, he didn’t say – that synthetic marijuana would work just as well. He then sought to ooze his way out of the question by quipping that he doesn’t “arrest anyone."

The most remarkable aspect of Romney’s encounter with Holden is that he displayed none of his characteristic equivocation in defending drug prohibition. He yielded not so much as a millimeter in his insistence that medical marijuana is a "gateway drug"; this means that Holden and other patients who use it either have to settle for useless or harmful government-approved treatments or endure the punitive wrath of the divine State. The Mittster didn't even seek to palliate the feelings of this powerless, suffering individual by deploying a sympathetic platitude.

Presidential politics in our putrefying empire deals in the infliction of wholesale cruelty -- through the destruction of wealth, the propagation of aggressive violence, and the constriction of individual liberty. Like most people who aspire to the imperial purple, Romney doesn't like to be seen dispensing cruelty on an individual basis, which is why he ended the conversation with Holden as quickly as possible, and was palpably angry that this uncomfortable moment was caught on camera.

Owing to the influence of big-money campaign donation "bundlers," and dubious bookkeeping of the sort that that is common among the politically protected Wall Street denizens whose favor he ardently courts, Romney has emerged as the fundraising front-runner among among GOP presidential aspirants.  As Romney campaign minion Chris Slick memorably put it during the day-long grovel-fest in Vegas: “Today we demonstrate our ability to raise excessive and ungodly amounts of cash while other candidates are still pattering about in bumf*ck, Iowa somewhere. No one can come close to what our machine can do. No one.”

 By "our machine," Slick wasn't just talking about Romney's political campaign; he was referring to an interlocking network of pressure groups, lobbyists, and political criminals that  support, sustain, and profit from the Warfare State.

Slick himself is director of online operations for "ACT! for America," an anti-Muslim pressure group whose founder and chief spokesperson, Lebanon-born Brigette Gabriel (nee Nour Saman), tirelessly evangelizes on behalf of a war of annihilation against Islam. In a 2007 address at Rev. John Hagee's mega-church, Gabriel insisted that Muslims "have no soul". This which would mean, of course, that Muslims aren't merely mistaken or sinful, but that they aren't genuinely human.

There are many pressure groups who promote various elements of the War Party agenda ala carte. Gabriel's group will settle for nothing less than the Full Cheney combo meal: Permanent war abroad, unlimited regimentation at home, indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, institutionalization of torture, and so on.

It's worth pointing out that during the 1980s, Gabriel -- under her birth name -- was a correspondent/propagandist for a television network affiliated with the South Lebanon Army (SLA). During the horrific Lebanese civil war -- a multi-sided conflict in which no belligerent had a monopoly on unspeakable acts -- the SLA was an Israeli-supported militia that ran a notorious torture dungeon called Al Khiam Prison. Many of the methods now employed by Washington's Homeland Security State -- those not devised by the CIA, or reverse-engineered from Soviet sources, that is -- were field-tested on detainees in the Al Khiam prison.

While Romney is connected to all of this by the only most tenuous of threads, it's important to remember that he has spoken of the supposed need to "double Guantanamo" -- that is, to expand the use of indefinite detention and the application of torture techniques that have been cloaked in the Gestapo-derived euphemism "enhanced interrogation."

Whatever  transgressions Romney has committed against the current GOP line, the hints of calculated cruelty behind his smarmy demeanor make him irresistible to at least some of those who want to make war against Islam the central organizing principle of American life.

It is in Romney's profitable relationship with former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler that these separate strands of cruelty are woven together like the braids of a torturer's whip. In 2008, Romney appointed Sembler to serve as one of his ten national campaign fund-raisers.  Sembler, a retired shopping mall magnate from Florida, also served as chairman for the legal defense fund established on behalf of convicted felon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. 

In addition to being an architect of the war in Iraq, Libby helped devise the legal framework for the globe-straddling archipelago of CIA torture facilities. In 2007, Libby was found guilty of perjury and obstruction in the case of outed CIA operative Valerie Plame; his prison term was commuted by George W. Bush, who --like Romney -- is someone whose sympathy for the powerful and corrupt is inexhaustible.

Long before the administration of Bush the Dumber made torture an official federal policy, Mel Sembler and his wife were promoting the use of torture and indefinite detention in the "war on drugs." In the early 1970s, they created a behavioral modification program called “Straight” that targeted youngsters who either had drug or alcohol addictions, or were considered to be “at risk” of falling prey to addiction. Many of the teenagers put into Sembler's program complained of physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.

 Teen inmates at a Behavior Modification facility.
 "Straight" grew out of a federally funded pilot program called “The Seed,” which according to a 1974 Senate Judiciary Committee investigation used methods similar to the “highly refined `brainwashing' techniques employed by the North Koreans” against US prisoners of war. 

Thus Sembler's "Straight" program was, in a sense, a progenitor of the Bush-Cheney "enhanced interrogation" regime.

“The Seed” was shut down in the mid-1970s, but Sembler's network (nine clinics in seven states) continued to receive funding from the same federal agencies that had underwritten the Communist-derived initiative. "Straight" was closed down in 1993, but by this time it had planted seeds of its own that sprouted up across the U.S. and abroad, where "drug rehabilitation" facilities employed "treatment" techniques that were indistinguishable from the criminal abuses carried out in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

A "Straight"-inspired drug "treatment" dungeon in Mexico.
 In her valuable book Help at Any Cost, investigative journalist Maia Szalavitz documented how programs constructed from Sembler's template had employed "punishments banned for use on criminals and by the Geneva Convention."

"Beatings, extended isolation and restraint, public humiliation, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced exercise to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, and lengthy maintenance of stress positions are common," continued Szalavitz.

Some teenagers selected for forced enrollment in BM programs have been treated exactly like terrorist suspects -- snatched from their homes or the streets by rented thugs and then sent by way of “extraordinary rendition” to isolated detention facilities, often in foreign countries. The best-known professional child-napper is Rick Strawn, a retired Atlanta police officer whose personal history includes alcoholism and domestic abuse, as well as repeated accusations of child sexual exploitation.
The very model of authoritarian piety, Strawn conspicuously wears his "What Would Jesus Do?" wristband as he places handcuffs on the wrists of a teenager being forcibly conveyed to a distant, inaccessible dungeon. Often this is done with the knowing consent of criminally credulous parents following a "hard sell" by a pitchman for a behavior modification (BM) program, which is usually portrayed as an enhanced summer camp intended to impart "respect for authority" in a beautiful natural setting.

More than a few of the teenagers consigned to those facilities -- which have been uncovered in several states, as well as Mexico, Jamaica, American Samoa, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere -- had no documentable problem with drugs or alcohol, or any other self-destructive behaviors. But just as we're told that practically any development justifies "expanded vigilance" against terrorism, just about any adolescent problem or behavior can be depicted as an indication that the youngster is "at risk," and thus needs to be confined in a BM facility to get “straightened out" through means that include unambiguous torture.

At one BM facility in Puerto Rico, “teens were found bound and gagged with nooses around their necks,” reports Szalavitz. At "High Impact," a Mexico-based facility run by  the Utah-based World-Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), teenage detainees were locked in dog cages. One survivor of that gulag was nearly drowned to death by a group of older kids who -- having been made feral through prolonged mistreatment -- hoped that the murder would shut the program down. 

"The Hobbit."
Amberly Knight, former director of the WWASPS-affiliated Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica, testifies that food deprivation was commonly used to punish inmates, and particularly rebellious kids were taken to a tiny isolation room and forced to kneel on concrete for up to 14 hours a day.

Inmates at a WWASPS program in Samoa were sometimes held for hours in an "ISO Box," a three-foot by three-foot box akin to a North Vietnamese “tiger cage.” Others were hog-tied with duct tape or beaten by staffers. When the Samoan government began a child abuse inquiry, WWASPS hastily shut down the facility.
WWASPS's Spring Creek Lodge in Montana featured a tiny disciplinary cubicle called "The Hobbit" in which some inmates were confined for weeks or months at a time and fed nothing but beans and bananas. One counselor at Spring Creek was charged with sexually molesting two boys who had been imprisoned in The Hobbit.

Robert Lichfield.
In 2006, more than two-dozen families filed a lawsuit against WWASPS, alleging that inmates of the residential programs were “subjected to physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.” Many of them had been directed to the program through Teen Help, a business operated by Utah businessman Robert Lichfield that served as a processing center for WWASPS. 

As it happens, Lichfield was co-chairman of WWASPS, and as of 2006 he was pulling in an estimated $90 million a year by funneling teens into a globe-spanning network of detention camps. At least some of that money used to fuel Romney's presidential ambitions. 

During the 2008 campaign, Lichfield was appointed by Romney to head his fundraising efforts in Utah.  In that capacity he helped raise $2.7 million for Romney, including $300,000 at a single event in St. George. All of this happened after Richfield's role in WWASPS was known. Romney dismissed Richfield in late Summer 2007 after a second lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than one hundred of the organization's victims. At about the same time, a "counselor" at a WWASPS facility was found guilty of assault and false imprisonment.

The lawsuit against WWASPS coincided with the housing bust. Like many other criminal enterprises that prospered during the bubble, WWASPS has gone out of business, even as the attorneys for Lichfield and his cohorts have employed every dilatory maneuver in their arsenal to hold the lawsuit in abeyance. 

In spite of all this, there still seems to be a market for a business specializing in teen "rehabilitation" through torture: Narvin Lichfield, Robert's brother and partner in crime, recently re-opened a WWASPS-inspired facility in South Carolina that had been shut down amid an avalanche of civil lawsuits and criminal charges. 

Apparently, there are still people who can scrounge up nearly $3,000 a month to purchase the services of people who specialize in "therapeutic" child abuse, and state officials willing to countenance such operations as an adjunct to the "war on drugs." There is a lot of ambient cruelty in late-imperial America, and Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations will depend on his ability to catalyze that cruelty into hard cash.

Once again: Thank you!

I wish to reiterate, and amplify, my thanks to everyone who has responded to my recent appeal; this has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family, and we are deeply grateful. I've made a start at expressing individual thanks to each of you who have donated to us, and I promise that I will get in touch with all of you as soon as I can. Thanks again, and God bless.

Dum spiro, pugno!


liberranter said...

There is a lot of ambient cruelty in late-imperial America

A sickeningly large percentage of it practiced and/or endorsed by "faith-based" groups and individuals seeking to put a biblical imprimatur on their animal blood lust.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that some of these social aberrations such as those Lichfield characters and that guy, Strawn haven't been simply 'disappeared.'

The arrogant jackass, Strawn, is nothing more than a bounty hunter. I know how I would tend to react if some goon of his sort was inclined to summarily take possession of my kid. And that same solution would fittingly apply to those taser/trigger happy cops you've so lucidly described in past articles.

Doc Ellis said...

no need to post

Greetings Will,


you wrote
Romney, as is his habit, tried to take refuge in persiflage, insisting – on the basis of what qualifications, he didn’t say – that synthetic synthetic marijuana would work just as well. He then sought to ooze his way out of the question by quipping that he doesn’t “arrest anyone."

Were you redundant or referring to false fake weed?

Thank you for writing this essay

Doc Ellis 124

no need to post

Anonymous said...

Will... you are the single most depressing blogger on the planet. You make me hate humanity.

Shootist66 said...

For anonymous:

I refer you to that old cliche...'The more I see of people, the more I like my dogs!'

Anonymous said...

Anyone recall when Mitt Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat in 1994? Romney tried to out-flank Kennedy on the left.

Romney is as phony as a 3-dollar bill.

I live in Utah, and nothing irritated me more in the 2008 presidential cycle to have Romney win nearly 85% of the Utah Republican primary vote. I can't help but think that had something to do with his membership in the LDS Church and little else...but I could be mistaken.

Anonymous said...

A correction to my earlier comment...Romney won over 89% of the vote in the 2008 Utah Republican presidential primary...

Yet, I recall conversations by any number of government officials who claim that such numbers in "sham" foreign elections denote a "dictatorship".

MoT said...

What is it about Utah and its support of people who LOVE to feed at the trough of "authoritah" and then proceed to kick the bejesus out of everyone who doesn't kowtow? What I find is that any group that readily submits to an overarching power architecture are more than eager to do violence in its name. Mitt is simply a rubber dollar bill ready to bend to his masters will.

whitebuffalo said...

"Mitt Romney, a polymer-based life form of nearly limitless pliability..."

A hilariously apt description of the creature Mitt!

One criticism though. You mentioned Rev. John Hagee without using the term "the stark raving mad lunatic". Which, according to Strunk and White, must always go together. It's true. Look it up...

Seriously, this report shines a light into the twisted souls of those who worship authority as a form of religion.

And for the parents who allow these sickos to do such crimes against their children, well no wonder the kids are doing drugs and such. What kid wouldn't rebel against that form of parental authoritah?

Rebellion is natural against the likes of "parents" like Mitt, Newt and all the other psychopaths who seek to rule us.

JohnS said...

..."the politically protected Wall Street denizens who favor he ardently courts,"... should be "whose".

Proofreading provided gratis from your friends at The Nitpicking Society.


Anonymous said...

Again and again I keep coming across the theme of "Plastic people". This is just one more bucket full of examples describing all too many people/ ... and "they' sure as heck won't be reading something like this... which might give them a clue... which might help to turn things around.
Instead there's only down... down... down.

Warren said...

Always read your column, Will. In my book, without question, you are at the head of the class when writing of state-sponsored tyranny. Words and phrases,such as mundanes, government costumes, and more are becoming household norms. Now,polymer-based life form! Brilliant!
You brought me back to old memories (nightmare's) when discussing "The Seed." Growing up in Hollywood, Fla. during the 60's and 70's, I can still see the "campus." Located on State Road 84, in Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale, I use to crane my neck to see if there were any kids playing outside. Never seemed to be.... When in my early to mid-teens, I knew of a couple of kids I went to school with who were "sentenced" to time at this facility, and felt sorry for them. It was a real stigma for those unfortunate souls, as losers, hooked on pot, etc. It was considered worse than being handed time at "Junior Haven."
I was 20 when it closed, but for many years following, that barbed-wired facility stood, abandoned, with that extroadinarily large "THE SEED" sign still standing.
Thanks, Will. I didn't realize how deep and widespread the tentacles of those "life-forms" were, that those who conceived such a monstrosity lived to replicate and update their tyranny.

Best Regards,

Warren J. Van Wie
Herndon, Va.

Parmeniclitus said...


Like one "anonymous" above, I too live in Utah and have for years, though I'm getting ready to move out next week. I live in a town that was a more “conservative” predominantly LDS mining/cattle town when I moved here as a teen in '85. This town has since become a haven for "extreme sports" along with the more or less "progressive" sentiments of that crowd of I mean, college-educated smarm. This county was one of two Utah counties where the majority voted for Obama in '08. Needless to say, it has changed over the years. Or has it, really?

Let’s recall that Mormonism finds its roots in the very same Burned Over District as did the "social gospel" which led to statist Progressive movement early in the last century. The fact that statism is embraced by Mormons is of little surprise since the Yankee Pietism of the BOD most often sought to use the State to stamp out sin and create their version of Heaven on Earth.

The rampant moralism our modern “progressives” perpetuate with their jingoistic calls for “sustainable” and “green” living, multiculturalism, “social justice,” etc, is no more than the queen that is the social gospel, but in modern drag. Many of these “progressives” work for the BLM, The Forest Service, National Park Service, the school system, and so on.

As an instance of local politicking, I recall about twelve or fifteen years ago a push to get the cattle off the “public land” in the name of the “environment,” but this has only proven to benefit what has become the taxpayer-subsidized mountain-biking industry, and a source of increased revenue for the State. These “progressives” constantly belittle their heretical Mormon cousins as “rednecks,” “hicks,” etc, for destroying the land, all the while remaining oblivious to the fact that their own machinations have led to increased traffic on the very land they sought to “protect.”

It is interesting to watch both groups wheedle, cajol, pressure and sue each other through Statist means while engaging in finger-wagging moralism, each echoing the other in so many ways. Neither group is less statist than the other. They both love them some State.

Sibkiss said...

MoT said...

Parmeniclitus, you echo many of the same insights that I've been afforded to see over the years. Hypocrisy is the soul mate of every statist, whether "green", "tie-dyed" or flag waving red white and blue. They all love to clobber someone over the head and tell them how to live. That, in their twisted noggins, is doing their red-neck neighbors some sort of back handed favor. Progressives are particularly adept at making moral back flips when it suits them. They have the annoying habit of moving to some location, gushing about how wonderful the place is, then proceed to turn it into a carbon copy of the hell they claim to be leaving behind. All the while bitching and moaning about the "locals" and how they, the locals that is, resent them. Sounds like American foreign policy played out domestically.