Tuesday, October 31, 2006

There Go De Judge? Let's Hope So

A little more than a week from now, if Jesus tarries* and Utah voters are wise, Judge Leslie Lewis will be out of a job. Utterly devoid of judicial temperament or corresponding intellectual endowments, Lewis, who has afflicted the state's 3rd District Court for several years, has been targeted for recall by a citizen's group outraged over an incident last February in which she ordered the arrest of a courtroom spectator for leaving the room.

The spectator, Kent Jacobson, was on hand for a hearing involving his brother Michael, who was accused of (and later found guilty of) a poaching-related offense. Little Miss Lewis (hereafter referred to by her given name, as is appropriate in dealing with any other ill-behaved child) is apparently one of those misguided people who view nature through a Disney filter: The wild is a joyous realm in which anthropomorphized animals gambol about, speaking English and playing soccer, and every hunter is a heartless bipedal predator bent on slaughtering Bambi's Mother.

Because of her strong feelings about hunting, Leslie recused herself from the case, but like any other termagant unduly infatuated with the sound of her voice, she had to say her piece before doing so. This she did at great and (owing to the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality of said voice) excruciating length, mocking and ridiculing not only the accused poacher, but hunters in general.

“I have a prejudice concerning deer hunters and people who kill deal and transport deer that have been shot,” Leslie sniped, according to a transcript of the incident. “Have you ever actually looked at a deer when they're alive?... And it doesn't bother you that you can see its heart beating?... I'm asking you a question, I expect an answer.”

No doubt acting on an impulse shared with others in the courtroom, Kent Jacobson, heaving a weary sigh, left the courtroom – which was an act of gentlemanly restraint in the face of Leslie's arrogant, juvenile provocation. In a fit of childish pique over the fact that a member of her audience was leaving in disgust, Leslie directed a taunt at Mr. Jacobson: “Are we boring you?” When Jacobson left the room without replying, Leslie sicced the Bailiff on him.

“Now, why did you feel the need to make such an explosive and clear indication of your displeasure or boredom at being here?” Leslie upbraided Kent Jacobson, once he had been dragged in front of her.

Bear in mind, that 1) Leslie had asked Kent a question, and 2) that she had just ordered Kent's brother Michael to answer a previous question. Like any rational adult, Kent proceeded to supply an answer.

“OK, it's not just the displeasure of being bored here,” he began, offering a fully responsive answer to the question just asked by the snitty, arrogant little girl play-acting the role of a judge. “The problem is, we have just as much rights of going out and shooting deer as you have the right...”

Following some brief cross-talk, little Leslie ordered that Mr. Jacobson be arrested – for the supposed offense of answering a question he had been asked in court.

“Put him in custody,” snipped the little caniform female to the Bailiff, before directing some more trash-talk at Mr. Jacobson. “I'm not going to argue with you, and you have no business chastising me, sir, and I did not make a comment you have any right to correct.... I don't want to hear a word from you. You and I are not in the same position, we are not having a dialogue.”

“I was bored,” mumbled Mr. Jacobsen as the Bailiff took him away.

“You're bored?” mocked little Leslie from the bench. “Let's see how you feel in the holding cell.”

At this point, if this incident had taken place in a self-governing community in a free country, one of two things would have happened: Either the Bailiff would have refused to carry out this patently illegal arrest, or the spectators in the courtroom would have interdicted that arrest. But the Bailiff obeyed the illegal order, and the spectators passively permitted Leslie to commit the crime of false imprisonment.

(Click here to see a video recording of this incident.)

Leslie's little tantrum reminded me of a similarly repellent episode that took place about a year ago.

In October 2005, the then-CEO of the company that until recently employed me was forced to resign. As he left the office, carrying a company-purchased laptop computer, the former CEO was gently and respectfully accosted by a meek but dutiful company officer, who had to check to see if any of the company's proprietary information was still on the laptop. This is called “due diligence,” just as Kent Jacobsen's composed and polite comments to Leslie is properly described as “answering a question posed by a judge.”

According to several eyewitnesses, the ex-CEO whirled on the company official (who may be the most unassuming person I've ever met) and hissed at him: “I can still fire you.”

That's what was on the tip of that guy's brain, as it were, as he was resigning his position. He was not thinking about the company's future, or dwelling on considerations of his family's financial well-being; he was entirely preoccupied with the thought that he was losing the ability to fire people.

I suspect that similar fleeting impulses ricocheted around in Leslie's uncluttered mind as she dealt with Michael and Kent Jacobsen. Because of her irrational aversion to hunting, she was going to miss out on sending someone to jail – unless, of course, she could provoke Michael into doing something that could be construed as contempt of court. Michael didn't commit that offense. Neither did Kent, as the record reflects; he was, after all, trying to answer an open-ended question posed by the silly little girl playing dress-up in judicial robes on that occasion.

But Leslie was determined to send someone to jail, if only to demonstrate that she was “not in the same position” as the hoi polloi on hand to witness her descent into pure, unalloyed adolescent spite.

Kent Jacobsen spent several hours in state custody. That is an atrocity, a form of kidnapping – and it is the defining offense of what has been a hugely embarrassing judicial career. Leslie is as unqualified to be a judge as she is to be a pole dancer, although in the latter career she would have inflicted less damage on society.

Repulsive as her behavior is, Leslie is merely a symptom, in much the same way that an acutely painful rectal itch might be a warning sign of a potentially fatal cancer. The key to understanding why this is so can be found in two things: Leslie's arrogant statement that as a judge she was “not in the same position” as common citizens, and the obedience rendered to her by the Bailiff and the courtroom spectators.

As Roger Roots points out in a thought-provoking historical survey published by Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal, our present system of “law enforcement” is based on collectivist premises entirely foreign to our constitutional system and common law heritage.

“Under the common law, there was no difference whatsoever between the privileges, immunities, and powers of the constables and those of private citizens,” writes Roots in summarizing his findings. “Constables were literally and figuratively clothed in the same garments as everyone else and faced the same liabilities – civil and criminal – as everyone else under identical circumstances.

Until the late 1800s, “police were a sanitation and repair workforce more than a corps of crime-fighting gun-slingers,” he continues. “Sheriff Wyatt Earp of OK Corral fame, for example, repaired boardwalks as part of his duties.” It wasn't until the dawn of the 20th Century that American communities alienated the law enforcement role – once carried out by Sheriffs, their deputies, and deputized posses of citizens – to professional police officers endowed with exceptional powers and prerogatives.

The most provocative finding in Roots' study, and the one most relevant to the incident in Judge Leslie's courtroom, is the following:

“Nothing illustrates the modern disparity between the rights and powers of police and citizen as much as the modern law of resisting arrest. At the time of the nation's founding, any citizen was privileged to resist arrest if, for example, probable cause for arrest did not exist or the arresting person could not produce a valid arrest warrant where one was needed..... [As recently as a century ago, police officers] who executed an arrest without proper warrant were themselves considered trespassers, and any trespassee had a right to violently resist (or even assault and batter) an officer to evade such arrest.”

"You're out of order! This WHOLE TRIAL is out of order!"

Under that standard – assuming that Roots' findings are reliable – Kent Jacobsen would have been fully within his legal and constitutional rights to resist the arrest order issued by Judge Leslie, and the courtroom spectators would have acted properly had they taken action to prevent Kent's arrest.

It should be remembered that the kind of outrage inflicted on Kent Jacobsen is hardly uncommon; in fact, summary execution during unjustified arrest is becoming distressingly common.

To cite just two examples:

*Last February, 43-year-old Michael Kreca was murdered by San Diego police when the mild-mannered, non-violent tech writer refused to submit to an utterly unjustified arrest. Kreca had been walking in Sorrento Mesa when he was accosted by two officers who claimed to have had heard gunshots. Kreca, who was carrying a firearm (as any rational person would when walking alone in San Diego) told the officers he had not been shooting and hadn't heard gunshots. He consented to a body search that turned up a 9mm pistol in the waistband of his baggy clothes.

One officer, Samantha Fleming, told Kreca that she was going to handcuff him “for her safety,” according to an official report. “No, you're not going to do that,” replied Kreca. “Let me go; I want to leave.” As he tried to leave, the other officer – Sergeant Elmer Edwards -- placed his gun against Kreca's chest and fired twice, killing him.

What a hero.

The official inquiry ruled that Sgt. Edwards “acted within the law,” since California statutes permit police “to use deadly force to protect themselves and members of the public from serious injury or death” -- which means, in practice, that police officers in that jurisdiction can murder civilians without consequence, unless said citizens are members of a protected minority class.

*Just yesterday, police in Jerseyville, Illinois killed 17-year-old Roger Holyfield, a youth who apparently suffered from emotional problems. Someone had called the police to complain about Holyfield's behavior: He was carrying a Bible and a cordless phone and shouting “I want Jesus!”

The troubled youth reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder, and from my admittedly untrained perspective, that seems like a plausible explanation. (“Religious preoccupation” is a common symptom of bi-polar disorder.) Rather than being treated as sick person needing treatment, the young man was treated as a threat to officer safety: He was surrounded by a scrum of police and Tasered twice when he became “combative.” Rushed to a nearby hospital, Holyfield became unresponsive; he was medevaced to Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis, where he died.

According to an eyewitness, four police, two State Troopers, and a plainclothes officer were deployed to deal with the supposed threat posed by one sick teenager armed with a Bible. Another commented that there were more than enough men on hand to subdue the youth without shooting him twice with 50,000 volts of electricity. Another witness contended that the police had acted properly: “[Holyfield] was struggling, he was resisting. [The police] did what the could to hold him down.”

Really? Seven tax-fattened heroes did everything they could to avoid using a consistently lethal “non-lethal” weapon on a sick, unarmed, non-violent teenager? Or did they simply do what was convenient, in the serene confidence that they wouldn't be held responsible if that young man died?

All of these episodes illustrate the often murderous impunity enjoyed by those who have been given a state-issued license to kidnap and kill other human beings. That license needs to be revoked immediately, from as many of those people as possible – and evicting Leslie Lewis from her judicial post in Utah would be a splendid way to begin.

*When I use the expression “if Jesus tarries,” I'm not being profane; I'm expressing frustrated impatience.

Oh, and my apologies to Flip Wilson, as well as his brothers Fetch and Scrud (that's an allusion to Utah's disinctive patois, of course.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is Real Money "Illegal"?

[Publisher's note: The following essay is adapted from an article I wrote for The New American and submitted for publication on October 2 -- the day I was fired. I actually completed the first draft two hours after learning about my termination; while it was clear to me that it would not be published, I still had an assignment to complete and I've always regarded deadlines as sacred.

What follows is essentially the same piece I sent to the magazine on October 2, with a few minor edits for clarity and one small section added to bring the story up to date.]

Is Real Money "Illegal"?

The Feds insist that the privately produced Liberty Dollar – silver coins or storage receipts redeemable for gold or silver on demand – isn't as genuine as federal reserve notes backed by nothing.

Although people are understandably, and often excessively, preoccupied with money, most people cannot specifically define what it is. Is it paper currency? Is it coins? Is it checks, credit cards, or other negotiable instruments? Should we consider the electronic impulses recorded in our checking and saving accounts as “money”? And why do people accept any or all of the foregoing in exchange for goods and services?

In recent weeks this question has been complicated because of a warning issued by the US Mint regarding the growing use of “Liberty Dollars," privately issued currency produced by an Evansville, Indiana based group called the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code (NORFED). The organization claims that there is a total of $20 million in Liberty Dollars presently in circulation.

NORFED -- founded by Bernard von NotHaus, the former mintmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Mint -- has struck coins made of pure silver, using silver “blanks” produced by the Sunshine Mint in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The Sunshine Mint is reportedly the same facility that produces all of the blanks used by the US Mint to create its collectible coins. It also provides safe, audited storage for the gold and silver used to back Liberty Dollar notes, which are very attractive, multi-colored storage receipts, each of which is infused with a computer-readable strip that makes counterfeiting extremely difficult. The notes, which do not advertise themselves as legal tender, are redeemable on demand in gold or silver.

The coins, as well as the metal-backed notes, are distributed through a national network of Regional Currency Offices (RCOs), and accepted by merchants who advertise their willingness to accept them in barter for goods and services. Many other businessmen who are not part of the Liberty Dollar movement have been willing to accept the beautiful silver coins (called “medallions” by RCOs for legal reasons) as well.

Many see the Liberty Dollar as a healthy hedge against inflation and a splendid example of mutually beneficial barter. The Feds, however, are trying to convince the public – through insinuation, not through formal prosecution – that NORFED is engaged in fraud.

"We don't want consumers to be fooled," insists U.S. Mint spokeswoman Becky Bailey. "The United States Mint is the only entity that can produce coins."

This isn't true, of course, since many companies produce beautiful gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion coins. What Ms. Bailey apparently meant to say was that none of these companies has the government's permission to circulate those coins as money. But government's permission is not required, where the transaction takes place between fully informed parties -- sellers willing to accept privately produced coins or storage notes for precious metal, and buyers with sufficient specie to pay the asking price.

Real vs. “Real” Money

Under federal law, the U.S. Dollar, in various denominations, is defined as “legal tender,” meaning that it must be accepted as payment for “all debts, public and private.” Since August 15, 1971, when President Richard Nixon severed the last links between the dollar and gold, the Federal Reserve Note (FRN) has not been backed by precious metals or commodities of any kind. Its value is provided by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. Government – which means, in practice, that people accept it in payment because the federal government forces them to.

This is a relatively recent development in our nation's history, the result of a process that began with the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 and continued until our “money” was completely divorced from precious metals in 1971.

Until 1965, minted US government coins in circulation contained at least some precious metal; that is no longer the case. Contemporary dimes and quarters are made of a nickel/copper alloy that is worth less than the face value of the respective coins; even the lowly penny, once made from copper, is now composed of zinc.(Curiously, however, the nickel coin presently contains six cents' worth of the metal, but this anomaly likely won't last much longer.)

The U.S. Constitution specifies that Congress has the power to "coin" money, and to punish counterfeiting; it also specifies that no state can "make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts" -- a prohibition that applies, in principle, to Congress as well, since nothing in the Constitution authorizes the creation of paper money, let alone fiat currency.

The Founders, remembering the disastrous experience of issuing the fiat “Continental” currency during the War for Independence, inscribed the principle of hard money in the Constitution. In 1792, Congress passed the Coinage Act, a measure defining a “dollar” as a specific quantity – 371.25 grams – of silver. For most of our nation's history – the span of 130 years between 1787 and 1913 – gold and silver, as well as notes redeemable in the same, issued by governments and private banks, were money.

However, despite the unambiguous language of the Constitution and the 1792 coinage act, as well as the balance of our national history,a federal statute criminalizes the use of gold and silver in transactions as a form of “counterfeiting and forgery.”

REAL money -- silver bullion coins and bars. Use it instead of the regime's officially sanctioned counterfeit, and you may go to jail.

Chapter 18, section 486 of the United States Code declares:

“Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

According to the US Mint's Becky Bailey, using Liberty Dollars, or any other form of gold or silver coin, “as legal tender is a violation of federal law.”

I asked Bailey to consider a hypothetical question: If an individual went to a local diner and offered a Liberty Dollar in exchange for a meal, and the proprietor agreed to provide the service on those terms, “is that transaction a crime?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I'm not an attorney, but our legal team has looked this over carefully, and they're convinced that exchanging gold and silver medallions for goods or services as if they were real currency – including in barter – is a violation of 18 USC section 486.”

Pointing out that the U.S. Constitution authorizes only the use of gold or silver as legal tender, I asked: “How can it be a federal crime to use the only legal tender recognized by the Constitution in private transactions?” She immediately became very defensive.

“Look, do you want to debate the legal and constitutional issues?” she asked with some asperity. Assured that I was only asking her to explain a factual contradiction, Bailey insisted that the issue was moot, since “we did go off the gold standard.”

“U.S. Attorneys are receiving complaints and phone calls from merchants and local authorities across the country about the use of the Liberty Dollar medallions as currency," she continued. "We don't want consumers to be fooled.”

Are prosecutions forthcoming? I asked.

“We're not an enforcement agency,” Bailey replied. “I don't know if law enforcement agencies are planning to prosecute. But we're convinced that the use of the Liberty Dollars is a violation of federal law.”

The U.S. Secret Service, which is the agency in charge of investigating counterfeiting, offers a view much different from that expressed by Ms. Bailey. Kevin Miller of the Secret Service's field office in Spokane, told the Missoulian (.pdf)last year that using the Liberty coins is perfectly legal when they're accepted voluntarily.

“It's kind of like Wally World coins or Disney dollars,” Miller opined a year ago, referring to scrip or tokens used at amusement parks. “The merchant can accept them, just like bartering. But it's not considered counterfeit because there's no U.S. Obligation.”

More recently, however, federal prosecutors have been making threatening noises similar to those made by the US Mint's Becky Bailey.

"Although we haven't had any of these types of cases in Montana yet, the statute says using one of these coins as legitimate money could be a crime," assistant U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme tolde the October 15 Missoulian. "It looks like if you make or attempt to pass a coin of gold or silver as current money it's a crime."

There it is: In the land of fiat -- that is to say, phony -- money, using the real article is a crime.

Bogus money, valuable trinkets: The Federal Reserve Note and federally issued coins have less intrinsic value than the pewter medallion on the left -- a Bronze Medal I won in a wrestling tournament a few years ago -- and the plastic "coin" one of my children received at a church activity involving Bible study. At least those items reflect honest effort and achievement.

How is anyone injured by accepting silver or gold instead of a debt instrument or a worthless slug?

The Missoulian takes a stab at answering this question by insinuating that the Liberty Dollar is overvalued and thus a form of fraud.

"The Liberty Dollar coins are made of 1 troy ounce of 0.999 fine silver and have a face value of $20," notes the paper. "But the coin's face value soars above market prices for the same weight of silver, which is currently about $10.45 an ounce." (As this is written, the spot price of silver is north of $12.00 an ounce.)

Once again, if both parties to the transaction are fully informed and willing, what injury results? And besides, this critique of the Liberty Dollar doesn't disclose the "market price" of gaudily decorated rag paper, or why we should be forced to accept little rectangles of the same as if they had some innate value.

No such thing as bad publicity

For their part, NORFED and the Liberty Dollar campaign perceive the recent attention from the US Mint and the mainstream press to be an intimidation campaign that appears to be backfiring.

“What the US Mint asserted in its press release, and what was picked up by various news outlets – from USA Today to CNN and CBS, with some of it ripping into local coverage – was nothing more than a handful of vague allegations and insinuations of fraud,” Michael Johnson, Executive Director of the Liberty Dollar campaign, told me in a telephone interview.

“We've been around for eight years, and in that time we've made repeated inquiries to the Treasury Department, the Secret Service, and several other federal agencies. To date, we've received no notice of any kind from any government agency that anything we've done is illegal or unethical. They've not contacted us, they've not approached us in any way. Our chief legal counsel in Washington has tried to communicate with the Treasury Department's legal counsel. But they literally won't even return our phone calls.”

If the intent is to scare people away from the Liberty Dollar movement, the campaign may have backfired.

“I think the Feds gave us about $40 million in free publicity with their attacks on the Liberty Dollar,” commented Matthew Pitagora, who operates a Regional Currency Office (RCO) out of his Evergreen Valley Water Company in San Jose, California.

“What we're doing isn't just an effort to promote the use of real money through private barter,” Pitagora told me. “It's also a First Amendment campaign to inform the public about the destruction of their wealth through the use of fiat currency, and hopefully to energize the public to petition our elected representatives for a return to legal, constitutional money – gold and silver. So when the Feds resorted to what I consider attempted information terrorism – trying to scare our customers away – it really worked to our benefit. Millions of people who didn't know about the existence of a legal, constitutionally sound alternative to the worthless FRNs [Federal Reserve Notes] now do, and that will certainly help our efforts.”

USA Today and the other media outlets that republished the US Mint's press release were acting as stenographers rather than journalists, dutifully retailing what they had been fed by the Feds. The media had been given an opportunity to hear and report NORFED's side of the story earlier.

“In early August, Mr. Von Not Haus and some of his associates held a press conference outside the Federal Reserve's headquarters in New York,” recalled Michael Smith to The New American. “They held up a giant `debt balloon' to illustrate the impact of inflation in driving our nation into incipient bankruptcy. The message was: the dollar is headed for collapse, you'd better move to protect your personal wealth – and the Liberty Dollar is a good way to go.”

The press conference received no coverage at all in the mainstream media. However, Smith suggests, “the negative coverage of Liberty Dollar triggered by the US Mint's press release could have been a response to our efforts to raise our profile. If that was the intention, though, it didn't work out quite the way they had planned, because we're doing about double the amount of business now that we were before” the hit piece appeared in USA Today.

For now, explains Pitagora, “we'll keep circulating the Liberties. I take them here at my business. When people are interested I'll give them to customers in change, which means that I'm actually giving them back something more valuable than the FRNs they use to pay me. That's a great feeling.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rented Thugs

What stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique ("a great task that occurs once in two thousand years"), which must therefore be difficult to bear. This was important, because the murderers were not sadists or killers by nature; on the contrary, a systematic effort was made to weed out all those who derived physical pleasure from what they did.... Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical
suffering. The trick used by Himmler — who apparently was rather strongly afflicted by these instinctive reactions himself — was very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

If you have tears to shed, let them fall like rain for Lt. Ackley of the New London (Connecticut) Police Department. This noble paladin of public order was victimized during the September 22nd arrest of protester Lauren Canario, whose supposed crime was to sit placidly reading a book on the front porch of a home that had been seized by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC).

Canario, who has twice been forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation, is currently being held at York Correctional Institution on $5000 bail. She was arrested last year and held in irons for the supposed crime of trying to participate in a City Council meeting held to discuss eminent domain seizures of property in New London.

According to Caleb Johnson, who called Lt. Ackley, the officer “told me he has been victimized by her, as he has been forced to carry her where they want her to be, resulting in him hurting his back.”

Hey, butch it up, hero. Ditch the donuts and do some deadlifts and good mornings. If you're serious about working as a rented thug for the local affiliate of the corporatist state, chances are you'll occasionally have to do some hands-on heavy lifting – heavier, in any case, than lifting a pen to scribble an extortion note (sometimes called a “traffic ticket”) when you're shaking down local motorists on behalf of the folks who slop your trough.

As it happens, Lt. Ackley had some help lifting and carrying the non-cooperative, non-resisting protester. It really shouldn't take two burly gendarmes to lift one small-boned, middle-aged woman.

The NDLC is, in a specific sense, a fascist entity: A public-private partnership (with both the local government and the federal Department of Commerce) that employs state power on behalf of a private cartel.

As the Institute for Justice recounts, in 1998 the City of New London “handed over its power of eminent domain—the ability to take private property for public use—to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), a private body, to take the entire neighborhood for private development. As the Fort Trumbull neighbors found out, when private entities wield government’s awesome power of eminent domain and can justify taking property with the nebulous claim of `economic development,' all homeowners are in trouble.”

The beneficiary of this seizure was the politically connected pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which insisted that by using the power of eminent domain to raze the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, it could expand the city's tax base – thereby serving the “public good,” which in this case is defined as “evicting law-abiding home owners in order to keep the local political parasites knee-deep in donuts and whores.”

The Supreme Court placed its imprimatur on this doctrine in its notorious Kelo decision. In its origins, the NLDC is the type of “improper or wicked project” Madison referred to near the end of Federalist essay number 10 – meaning that the seizure of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, unjust and abominable as it is, would have been a matter to be dealt with at the state level, rather than the federal level.

Or so I thought – until I discovered that the NLDC is a “partner” with the U.S. Department of Commerce. That which the federal government subsidizes, it controls. I pointed this out earlier regarding the Bush regime's claim that any local law enforcement agency receiving a “homeland security” subsidy – however modest – is effectively federalized.

The same principle should apply when citizens seek redress for government abuses, such as those committed by the federally supported NLDC. The problem, of course, is that it's almost impossible to imagine any federal court siding with the people against the political class, including favored corporate entities like Pfizer. State and local authorities, including the police, aren't going to abandon this racket, especially when they have the Feds at their back.

This is why Lauren Canario and her husband moved from Las Vegas to New London to join in a peaceful protest movement against the expropriation of Fort Trumbull residents. Are they “outside agitators”? That's a question to ask their new neighbors.

Is “civil disobedience” of this sort necessary and proper? It makes a good counterpoint to ballot measures in several states intended to pre-empt similar fascist applications of eminent domain elsewhere.

Should those measures pass, they will immediately be challenged in court by agents of the corporatist state, and the war of attrition on property rights will continue – and most likely escalate. Which will mean more work for the likes of Lt. Ackley.

It may seem uncharitable at best, and demented at worst, to compare the self-pitying Lt. Ackley to similarly self-absorbed officers who carried out the murderous decrees of the Third Reich. But bear in mind that the Lt. Ackleys of today are also enforcing fascist policies, albeit with more deference to their victims (for now, at least) than was displayed by their German and Italian forebears. The key distinction here is one of degree, not of kind.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Romney Candidacy, or Will The Saints Go Marching In? (part 2)

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has attracted predictable support from his fellow Mormons, including critical covert help from the upper echelons of the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City. What is somewhat surprising is the help Romney is receiving from Evangelical Christians, who historically have regarded the Mormon Church as a non-Christian cult.

Rev. Gregory Johnson of Lehi, Utah, is director of a ministry called Standing Together, which describes its mission as “service, prayer, and strategic evangelism,” as well as “building bridges of relationship and dialogue” between Evangelicals and the Mormon Church.

He is also a key player in Mitt Romney's outreach to evangelical Christians.

“Mitt Romney is as evangelical as any evangelical governor I would hope we could have,” Johnson insisted during a May address to a group of pastors in Massachusetts, although he conceded that in a head-to-head competition with an electable Protestant conservative, “I just feel Christian conservatives will vote for their own kind.”

In recent years, Johnson -- a former Mormon -- has been doing what he can to narrow the divide between mainstream Christians and Mormons. He has teamed up with Robert Millet, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, to conduct a series of joint appearances throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

The Johnson-Millet presentations are intended to advance a model of “dialogue” between Evangelicals and Mormons that places the priority on building personal relationships, rather than vindicating doctrinal truth (as one is given the wisdom to understand it).

Last February, after attending a Johnson-Millet event in the Boise area – months before Johnson made his remarks in Massachusetts -- I commented to a friend: “This is helping to lay the groundwork for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.” I shared that assessment a few days ago with a local Protestant minister who is a critic of Johnson's outreach to the Mormon Church, and received this nuanced response: “I don't think Standing Together and the Johnson-Millet dialogues began with that intention, but they certainly serve that purpose.”

Standing Together was instrumental in arranging a November 2004 speech at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City by Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical apologist of considerable note. While acknowledging many of the key distinctions between Mormonism and Bible-based Christianity, Zacharias' address – in keeping with the approach favored by Johnson – tried to emphasize what were presented as points of agreement.

Also on the bill that evening at the Tabernacle was Richard Mouw, president of Pasadena's Fuller Theological Seminary, whose speech was actually more important than the one given by Zacharaias. In his address, Mouw presumed to speak on behalf of the entire Evangelical Church in apologizing to Mormons: “We evangelicals have sinned against you [by] seriously misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of members of [your] faith.”

One evangelical leader complained to Terry Eastland of the Weekly Standard that Mouw's speech was “everything a Mormon could dream of to make Mormons theologically legitimate.”

Mitt Romney and his handlers have almost certainly been taking notes. During an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” last June 5, Romney decanted a pretty good version of the gospel according to Johnson and Millet when asked about his Mormon beliefs: “I'm a religious person, and I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior.... But then as you get into the details of the doctrines, I'd probably say look, time out; let's focus on the values that we share.... [I]f you have doctrines you want to talk about, go talk to the church, because that's not my job.”

Romney served a full-time mission to France, he's been a Bishop in the Mormon Church, and he's well acquainted with the Mormon maxim that “every member [should be] a missionary,” so his answer was as disingenuous as it was politically serviceable.

As the Boston Globe reported a few days ago, the spine and nervous system of Romney's presidential campaign is built on a nation-wide network of Mormon fundraisers and volunteers, with church leaders all the way up to Mormon Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley in the loop. The initiative, employing language that savors strongly of the Standing Together approach, is called Mutual Values and Priorities (although Romney aide Spencer Zwick claims MVP has been abandoned).

In creating MVP, Romney's campaign consulted with Mormon Apostle Jefferey Holland, a former President of Brigham Young University, about its plans to mobilize graduates of BYU Business School. Holland “has handled the initiative for the church and hosted a Sept. 19 meeting in his office in church headquarters with one of Romney's sons, a paid political consultant ... and one of the governor's major donors,” reports the Globe.

And Holland, interestingly enough, has been in contact with Gregory Johnson. That was one of two interesting disclosures made by Johnson during a meeting last Wednesday with some of his critics from the Evangelical community. The other disclosure was that Johnson had received a phone call from Utah Lt. Governor Gary Herbert, who asked the minister “how do we deal with the perceptions” of Evangelical Christians that could impede the Romney campaign.

So it appears that the Romney campaign is turning to Johnson – and like-minded Protestant figures – to fine-tune its pitch to Evangelicals. That pitch is nicely summarized by Robert Millet, Johnson's tag-team partner in the Mormon/Evangelical “dialogues”: “[Romney] will have to make the point that if you want to understand me, look at 21st century Mormonism and not its anomalies” -- meaning polygamy, the 148-year ban on ordination of black men to the church's lay priesthood, the “blood atonement” doctrine, and the theocratic teachings and practices that supposedly ended when Utah achieved statehood in 1896.

At the same time the Romney campaign is positioning its candidate as an exemplar of “21st century Mormonism,” it is building a Mormon campaign infrastructure that hearkens back to the 1844 presidential candidacy of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and the theocratic system he had devised shortly before he was murdered in June of that year at Carthage Jail in Illinois.

In 1842, Joseph Smith organized an esoteric body within the Mormon priesthood leadership called the “Council of Fifty.” Known variously as the “Anointed Quorum,” the “Kingdom of God,” the “Council of the Kingdom,” or the “General Council,” that body was styled as the curia regis, or King's Council, for Joseph Smith as the “Prophet, Priest and King” of a global theocracy. Joseph Smith was ordained to that position in a special conference of the Council of Fifty on April 11, 1844 – about two months prior to his death.

“I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the world,” Smith declared publicly roughly one month after his secret coronation. The presidency would have been useful to that end, had Smith been elected. But by Mormon reckoning, by aspiring to the White House Smith was actually seeking an office beneath his station. “You are already president pro tem of the world,” wrote Mormon Apostles Lyman Wight and Heber C. Kimball in a June 19, 1844 letter to Smith.

Perhaps the most provocative title given to the Council of Fifty came in an April 18 statement Joseph Smith claimed was given by revelation from God: “Ye are my constitution.” Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt explained the import of that declaration to his comrades, telling them that “here in this Council we have a living constitution not a written one – which we must conform to.”

In 1844, nearly all members of the Mormon Church lived in Nauvoo, Illinois. At the time a city larger than Chicago, Nauvoo was ruled by Joseph, the city mayor and commander of the Nauvoo Legion, the largest private militia in the country. Most Mormons were unaware of the extent to which Joseph and his Council – which was organized along Masonic lines, and included several powerful non-Mormons – aspired to obtain and exercise political power.

Although he publicly spoke the language of “Jeffersonian democracy” and “protection of person and property,” Smith's private political machinations were highly authoritarian and conducted through oath-bound, esoteric channels.

Yale-trained Ph.D. historian D. Michael Quinn
, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Mormon Church archives, notes that Joseph's ruling Council was bound by multi-layered ritual oaths of secrecy, and “nearly every member” of the body “was a Freemason.” One-third of its membership was drawn from the Danites, a violent, secret society created during the Mormon Church's violent struggles with its Missouri neighbors in the 1830s. Although described as a self-defense organization, the Danites were deeply involved in plunder, harassment, and other violent crimes against non-Mormons. Its members were bound by an oath “never to reveal the secret purposes of this society.... Should I ever do so, I hold my life as the forfeiture.”

Comments Dr. Quinn, who could be considered the Carroll Quigley of Mormon historiography:

“In the Spring of 1844 Smith gave the public only an indistinct foreshadowing of the new world order he was formulating in his secret meetings with the Council of Fifty.”

That “new world order” would feature many of the most obnoxious elements of the post-Constitutional regime under which we now live. As set out in his campaign manifesto, Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States, Smith supported, among other things:

*Creation of a central national bank with branches in every state (not unlike the Federal Reserve): “let Congress shew their wisdom by granting a national bank, with branches in each state and territory, where the capital stock shall be held by the nation for the mother bank....”

*The expansion of the United States to include Canada Mexico, in an arrangement akin the proposed North American Union: “let the union spread from the east to the west sea; and if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to Canada and Mexico....”

*Giving the president power to intervene militarily within individual states, at his sole discretion, to deal with threats to the civil rights of minorities (an abuse of federal power that has become commonplace in the post- “Civil Rights” era):”Give every man his constitutional freedom, and the president full power to send an army to suppress mobs; and the states authority to repeal and impugn that relic of folly, which makes it necessary for the governor of a state to make the demand of the president for troops, in case of invasion or rebellion.”

But Smith's vision was not limited to the United States, or the Western Hemisphere.
The slender book Joseph Smith & World Government by the late Mormon historian Hyrum L. Andrus (who taught in the religion department at Brigham Young University) outlines what its author calls "Joseph Smith's concept of a new world government.”

According to Brigham Young, Smith's chief disciple and successor, the Council, as the theocratic government of "Zion," "is the only true form of government on the earth." What of our constitutional republic? It was merely "a preparatory development necessary to the later establishment of the Kingdom of God," meaning the Mormon theocracy, according to Andrus.

When the theocracy was fully installed, wrote Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt, "the kingdoms of this world will be united in one.... O America! how art thou favored above all lands!... Within thee is the Kingdom of God [meaning Joseph Smith's covert theocracy, the Council of Fifty.] Thou wast chosen to prepare the way! It must increase, but thou shalt decrease!"

How is the Mormon theocracy to obtain the political power to which it is supposedly entitled?

According to Andrus:

"To establish the Kingdom of God in its political power, the Constitution of the United States was to be brought into association with Zion's [the Mormon Church's] religious and economic society in such a way as to grant the appropriate priesthood councils in Zion the power to nominate men to political office.... [T]he Church, with its priesthood authority, was the body out of which this political organ was to be developed...."

This sounds more than a little like the role played by the Mormon leadership, and prominent elements of its lay membership, in quietly supporting the Romney candidacy. This is entirely understandable, since Mormons, like every other constituency, has a predictable interest in supporting and promoting their own. This sense of political identity is particularly strong among Mormons, however, in part because they have long been taught an eschatological view in which the “Elders of Zion” -- Mormon priesthood-holding men – would step in to rescue our country at a time when our Constitution would hang “by a thread.”

With the current crop of 2008 Republican presidential contenders devoid of a conspicuous conservative favorite, Romney (who is not a conservative; he only plays one on TV) is, for all intents and purposes, the default favorite of the Christian Right – assuming that Gregory Johnson, Richard Mouw, and others of their persuasion succeed in neutralizing Evangelical concerns about Mormonism.

And I venture this prediction: If the Republicans lose control of the House on November 7, Romney will be the 2008 Republican nominee. Christian Right leaders accustomed to a “seat at the table” of political power will wrestle with their collective conscience, and win.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Romney Candidacy, or Will The Saints Go Marching In? (Part 1 of 2)

For the Republican Party, particularly the Christian Right (or what I have come to call the “Ecclesio-Leninist” faction), the chief objective of modern politics is to preserve and expand executive power in order to continue the war against “Islamo-Fascism” -- and to ensure that the powers accumulated by Bush remain in Republican hands.

In the interests of achieving that objective, the Ecclesio-Leninists are willing to embrace electable candidates who may be regarded as less than ideal in terms of their positions on various social, economic, and theological issues. Their position could be summarized thus: As long as we can agree to kill 'em all, we'll let God sort out our moral and theological disagreements.

This is why Mitt Romney, who is perceived as the most conservative potential 2008 GOP standard- bearer, is gaining political traction with Christian Conservatives in the South who ordinarily wouldn't have anything to do with a Mormon politician.

As late as 2004, Romney was marketing himself as a “moderate” or “centrist” Republican. When he ran for the Senate in 1994, Romney actually tried to flank Ted Kennedy to the left on issues such as abortion and homosexual “rights.”

But in courting the Evangelical Right, Romney has made all of the appropriate noises on social issues and, more importantly, offered unqualified support to the Bush regime's seizure of dictatorial power (including the purported presidential authority to order torture of detainees). He also endeared himself to the War-obsessed Christian Right by inveighing against Mohamed Khatami during the former Iranian President's visit to Harvard. Romney, who has also been an unabashed supporter of the war in Iraq, would almost certainly support a war with Iran as well.

True, the Mormon Church teaches that all Christian denominations are apostate, and that only faithful, active Mormons will reach the highest level of “celestial glory” in the world to come. The religion teaches that God is an exalted man, and that those who dutifully follow the Mormon program will themselves be exalted to godhood as well. It diverges in many other critical matters of doctrine from Bible-based Christianity.

Romney's growing support among Evangelical conservatives demonstrates that these essential disagreements are no longer a significant political liability.

Who cares if Romney is wrong about how people can get to heaven, as long as he is willing to kill the “right” people? -- or so his Evangelical supporters appear to think.

This is a remarkable development for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that until about 116 years ago, the Republican Party targeted Mormon polygamy as one of the “twin relics of barbarism” (the other being chattel slavery) to be abolished through aggressive federal action – and Mormonism itself to be an aberrant religion akin to Mohammedanism.

Fair warning: The following portion of this blog is largely devoted to an examination of religious doctrines. Those of my readers who are of an atheist or agnostic bent will probably find it tedious and unedifying; those who are Mormons will probably find it offensive. I earnestly ask those who belong to either category to bear with me until the end, because I am driving toward a point that I think is worthy of your consideration, even if it's a little rough getting there.

When last I mused in print about the impending Romney presidential bid
, I pointed out that Mormons actually have more in common with Muslims, on matters of faith and doctrine, than they have with mainstream Christians. To substantiate that claim I offered a link to an essay by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), a California organization of Mormon scholars whose mission is to defend their Church in the eyes of the public.

The essay(.pdf) is entitled “A Message of Friendship: Muslims and Latter-day Saints.”

I should point out that I am on record calling for a less truculent policy toward the Muslim world, since I think we have trouble enough in our dealings with Islam without borrowing any more. It is not my view that we can or should wage a “war of civilizations,” primarily because war by its nature undermines civilizations rather than preserving them, and secondarily because it's unreasonable to describe contemporary America as a civilized society in many ways.

That being said, this must be also: There are serious and insurmountable differences between the Christian and Muslim faiths; the truth claims they make are mutually exclusive. Which is why, once again, it's significant that Mormonism (as FAIR points out) shares a great deal of common ground with Islam (the following quotes are taken from FAIR's analysis):

*Mormons, unlike conservative Christians, find “truth” in the Quran:

"Latter-day Saints accept all truth, wherever it may be found, as part of our religion -- whether in the Quran or in other good books."

*Mormons believe that God as described in Islam is the same Being worshiped by Bible believers:

"Latter-day Saints recognize the terms God and Allah to refer to the same being in different languages."

As a matter of history, “Allah” was a Moon deity adored by Arab pagans (I use that term in its descriptive, rather than pejorative, sense) long before Mohammed began his career as a prophet.

*Mormons and Muslims both regard mainstream Christianity as degenerate, and the Bible as flawed and inadequate:

"Muslims and Latter-day Saints both recognize that after the coming of Jesus, divisions and apostasy arose in the Christian church.... Latter-day Saints and Muslims acknowledge that writings in the Bible, while inspired and truthful, underwent some changes as they passed through the hands of careless scribes and translators and conniving priests."

*Some Mormon leaders have actually acknowledged the prophetic calling of Mohammed as authentic:

The FAIR paper cites the opinion of LDS Apostle (and counselor to Brigham Young) George Q. Cannon: "I believe myself that Mahomed, whom the Christians deride and call a false prophet ... was a man raised up by the Almighty, and inspired to a certain extent by Him to effect the reforms which he did in his land.” Elsewhere, FAIR asserts that "revealed to Abraham and Muhammad many particulars relating to even seemingly small aspects of daily life.... Would God withhold counsel from us today in great matters when he [sic] taught Abraham and Muhammad even in small ones?"

There's a great deal to be said about trying to understand how Muslims think and what they believe, and seeking not to give offense unnecessarily. But this hardly requires that Christians concede key truth claims made by Muslims – regarding the purportedly divine origin of the Quran, the calling of Mohammed as a prophet, and the identity of Allah as the Supreme Being.

In fact, by professing two of those three tenets an individual performs shahadah -- that is, he converts to Islam. The Quranic punishment for repudiating that profession, either in word or deed, is death. Which is why countless Christian martyrs, both ancient and modern, have been willing to suffer torture and death rather than conceding even as much as FAIR did in its “Message of Friendship” to Muslims.

Mormon founder Joseph Smith was compared to Mohammed (the link is to a sectarian source, but the footnotes are reliable) in fact, during a bitter inter-communal war between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri, Smith actually offered the parallel himself. Referring to the Muslim refrain, “Al-Quran or the Sword,” Smith predicted that the time would come when Americans would face the ultimatum, “Joseph Smith or the Sword.”

There are other points of similarity as well between Islam and Mormonism. To name just two: Like Mohammed, Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel (Gabriel in Mohammed's case, “Moroni” in Smith's), and , through that messenger, to have received a new book of scripture; both Muslims and Mormons have practiced polygamy, and some fringe elements of both religions do so even today.

At this point, irreligious readers will ask, quite reasonably, “Yeah, and so what? Why should we care?”

It's understandable that those who are indifferent to religious matters would ignore them as criteria for evaluating presidential candidates. But how is it reasonable for professed Christians to ignore or minimize such matters when deciding whom to entrust with the immense, and ever-expanding, powers of the presidency?

Christians are taught that where our hearts are, our treasures will be also. For a large and growing segment of the conservative Christian community, the most coveted treasure is political power; so set is that cohort's collective heart on preserving the Republican Party's temporal power that it's willing to embrace a candidate whose views of eternal matters are, in some ways, probably closer to the Islamic “enemy” than their own.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness"? For too many people who consider themselves Christian conservatives, power is much more important than righteousness -- power without limit, resting directly on force. Which is why, once again, I refer to such people as "Ecclesio-Leninists."

Next: Mormon theocratic politics, then and now

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Habeas Corpus Delicti

corpus de-LIC-ti (n) -- The material evidence in a homicide, such as the discovered corpse of a murder victim, showing that a crime has been committed; a corpse.

“This is not a time of rebellion,” points out John D. Hutson, dean of the Franklin Pierce Law School in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, referring to the Bush regime's suspension of the habeas corpus guarantee. “There has not been an invasion, and there's no evidence the `public safety' requires it. Let's not kid ourselves. This is not about an invasion. It is about the embarrassment of holding people who, if they got to court, could show they should not have been held.”

Hutson's assessment alludes to the fact that the U.S. Constitution does permit Congress to suspend habeas corpus “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” The newly enacted Military Commissions Act (MCA) effectively destroys the habeas corpus guarantee for non-citizens within the United States accused of being “unlawful enemy combatants,” and undermines that guarantee for any US citizens thus designated by a “competent tribunal” appointed by, and accountable only to, the president.

Habeas corpus is the principle of law, innate to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of due process, protecting individuals from arbitrary imprisonment without trial or other judicial recourse. The fact that the Constitution provides for the suspension of that guarantee by Congress, under specific circumstances, is one of the three major disfiguring weaknesses of that noble text (the others being the Eminent Domain “takings” provision and the original language outlining the compromise on chattel slavery).

What happened on October 17, when Imperator Arbustius Minimus scrawled his childish signature on the MCA, could be considered an example of a “revolution within the form,” Aristotle's description of the process through which tyrants determined to acquire total power subvert the institutions of a relatively free society through deception, rather than demolition – using legal means and established institutions.

In our constitutional system, checks and balances only operate if those in whom political sovereignty resides – the public – are alert and jealous of their liberties. Most of the American public has either been anesthetized by the corporatist media, or intimidated into compliant silence.

The sound of liberty dying, pace Senator Amidala, is not necessarily “thunderous applause”; in our case, it's the amorphous babble of a terminally distracted population that has been indifferent to the fate of their freedoms.

Dean Hutson's analysis of the MCA underscores the fact that the MCA retroactively pardons Bush and his henchmen for illegally imprisoning and torturing innocent detainees rounded up and imprisoned at Gitmo and various “black sites” after 9-11. This explains why Bush was so anxious to get the measure passed before the mid-term elections. This presents us with a fascinating spectacle – the passage of a law that is itself evidence of a crime (that is, a corpus delicti).

But is it possible that immunizing Bush and the others who went to what Darth Cheney calls “the dark side” was the central purpose of the MCA?

This would certainly be in character – if we can wring from that word an applicable meaning – for Bush and his cohorts.

After all, as military affairs analyst William Lind points out, Americans and Iraqis continue to die in a war Washington knows is lost for the purpose of preserving George W. Bush's historic reputation.

“The `battle for Baghdad' is going nowhere,” Lind observed a few days ago. “A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, `It didn’t get any better while I was there, and it’s not going to get better.” Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.”

“Actually, I think the White House knows it too,” Lind continues. “Why then does it insist on `staying the course' at a casualty rate [dead and wounded] of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President’s watch. That is why we still fight. Yep, it’s now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective `Rovian.' Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.”

From this perspective, Incurious George and his handlers just demolished seven centuries of due process protections, and are presiding over the needless slaughter of thousands, simply to protect themselves from the consequences of their own corruption.

Lind, in a phrase I devoutly wish had been birthed at my keyboard, predicts: “When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence.”

And CNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, in the most recent of the “Special Comment” segments he has devoted to chronicling our descent into a Bushevik dictatorship, chides Bush for not thinking things through as he signed the MCA.

Striking exactly the proper tone in addressing the Bushling – the weary condescension and tightly controlled anger of a disgusted adult trying to explain a rudimentary concept of logic to a spoiled, bratty child who has just burned down the family home – Olbermann inquired:

“Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a `competent tribunal' of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of `Unlawful Enemy Combatant' for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?”

Bush the Much Lesser is indeed a poster child for not thinking things through, and it would be delectable to see him hoist by his own petard. But it looks like someone has already established a ratline for Bush and his cohorts: According to a report in the Latin American press, the Bush Family has been looking into the possibility of purchasing land and settling down in northern Paraguay.

The corpse of our constitutional republic lies cold at our feet; her murderers have chosen an escape route, and the getaway car is idling in the driveway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cultists, Counterfeiters, and Cop-Outs

Bush's Conservative Critics are HELPING THE TERRORISTS!

Isn't it fun to see a mind-wiped cult adherent get caught in the coils of a cult conundrum?

Last month, the Bush White House convened an off-the-record meeting with the GOP's chief herd-poisoners: Talk radio personalities Mike Gallagher, Neil Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, and Sean Hannity.

According to yesterday's New York Times, the purpose of this session was to discuss such issues as the war in Iraq and immigration, and to ensure that these prominent exponents of the Party Line remain true and faithful in their assignment, which is to keep their audiences on the GOP reservation.

At the GOP's grassroots, disaffection has been growing over the administration's incontinent spending habits, the deepening morass in Mesopotamia, and the proposed amnesty for illegal aliens. These issues, as well as other conservative complaints, were brought up during the White House meeting. According to Medved's account, in seeking to parry those criticisms, Bush deployed his most reliable trope.

Reports the Times:

“Mr. Medved wrote about how Mr. Bush spoke about his commitment to his immigration plan in terms of the fight against terrorism. He said the president made a case that if he were to give in to conservative complaints, `the nation's enemies (and the rest of the world) would take away the belief that the president could be bullied, prodded, overwhelmed, and intimidated.'”

Which is to say: If Bush changes what passes for his mind about ANYTHING for ANY REASON – then the terrorists win.

This suggests to me that the Bushevik revolution has succumbed to a form of auto-immune disorder, turning its “you either stand with us or with the terrorists” illogic against those within the ranks who have yet to purge themselves of any thought or impulse not devoted to upholding and sustaining the Dear Leader.

North Korea's Counterfeiters, and Ours

Only someone whose sense of irony is long dead can contemplate the current North Korean “crisis” without indulging in a wry, bitter chuckle.

We can leave aside, for the nonce, the fact that the admittedly horrible regime in Pyongyang has been denounced as an “aggressor” for reportedly test-detonating a nuclear device – by a regime headed by another hereditary tyrant who has conspicuously refused to rule out a nuclear strike against Iran. (It's my view, by the way, that the Bush regime sees the Korean nuclear “crisis” as a back door to war with Iran.)

The irony I find indigestibly rich comes in this discussion of the various forms of organized crime pursued by Pyongyang .

North Korea's rulers “have held off political collapse in the years since the end of the cold war thanks to a web of criminal businesses backed by the power and military might of a well-armed dictatorship,” observes The Australian. Among those illicit enterprises is the production of “counterfeit $100 bills known to law enforcement agencies as [the] Superdollar. US security services have seized $US 50 million ... of the counterfeits since they began appearing in 1989, of a quality so high they are often detected only when they reach the Federal Reserve.”

Which is to say that the counterfeits generated by Pyongyang are nearly as good as those produced by our own regime's counterfeiting arm.

In fact, Irwin Seltzer of the Hudson Institute (a neo-Trotskyite-leaning think tank that generally embraces a bellicose foreign policy) points out that the explosion of Federal Reserve-enabled debt during the reign of Bush the Dimmer has actually done more to compromise our national security than North Korea ever could – and that fact has helped embolden the oligarchy fronted by Kim Jong-Il.

“It is the economic policy of the Bush administration that has hobbled its efforts to veto North Korea's application to join the nuclear club,” Seltzer opines. Washington's profligacy has resulted “in stacks of IOUs held by China,” for which North Korea is a surrogate.

Seltzer, predictably, faults Bush and the adults who script his lines and wipe the drool from his chin for their failure to “call on the American people to make some sacrifices, in the form of higher taxes,” so as to fund the ongoing and ever-expanding War Against Whatever Bad Things We're At War With This Week.

But we're already paying taxes in the form of inflation – the product of the Federal Reserve's officially sanctioned counterfeiting. At least North Korea's evil ruling junta, unlike our own, is smart enough to pay for its ambitions by counterfeiting some other country's currency.

As Bruce Bartlett points out in Impostor, his indictment of George W. Bush for sundry crimes against the Constitution, one inescapable legacy of the Bush era will be the largest tax increase in our nation's history. So deep and vast is the fiscal hole into which we've fallen, that we're likely to see both rampant inflation to monetize the debt, and extortionate tax increases as well. And let's not forget that another significant military engagement abroad will also likely result in the imposition of a “blood tax” in the form of conscription.

Conscience Makes Cowards of Us All

“The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
(Proverbs 28:1)

Earlier today (October 17), Pro Libertate correspondent Scott Watson reported on a congressional candidate forum held at Meridian, Idaho's Valley Shepherd Church of the Nazarene.

On hand to address the luncheon meeting were Republican congressional candidate Bill Sali and Constitution Party candidate Paul Smith; the audience included incumbent Representative Butch Otter (who is the Republican candidate for Governor of Idaho) and Senator Larry Craig, who really should retire from politics and find employment as a stand-in for noted sci-fi/horror character actor Michael Ironside.

(Senator Craig)

(Actor Michael Ironside)

During his turn at the microphone, Paul Smith “described 9-11 as an `inside job,' insisting that someone `pulled' Building 7, and that the whole incident was contrived by the government to be a pretext for war and the creation of a police state,” Scott recounted to me. “This made Senator Craig really mad; I mean, he was furious. He got up and walked out of the room. He clearly didn't want even to be in the room when such views were being expressed. He did come back later, but he was still visibly angry. This guy has been in politics for decades, and you've got to assume that he has plenty of practice when it comes to controlling his reactions – but it was plain to see that he was really angry.”

Asked about the reactions of other Republican celebrity politicians in the crowd, Scott said that Rep. Otter “didn't appear to have much of a problem” with Paul Smith's remarks, and that the reaction of candidate Sali – who was difficult to see from Scott's vantage point -- “wasn't so pronounced.” Scott videotaped the event, and as soon as the video is posted on-line I'll provide a link to it.

As I've said before, I consider myself a persuadable skeptic regarding the claims of the 9-11 Truth Movement. But whether or not the 9-11 attacks were an “inside job” -- Operation Northwoods on steroids, as it were – it's beyond serious dispute that the incidents were exploited in exactly the fashion that Paul Smith described.

Smith's audience included two collaborators in the process of turning our republic into a Reich, as well as another who is indecently eager to enlist in the effort.

Few Republican loyalists have displayed greater servility toward Imperator Bush than Senator Craig and Representative Otter, both of whom voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) – the legal foundation for a literal presidential dictatorship. Sali's campaign ads – a slurry of regurgitated White House talking points – leave little doubt that if elected, he will gladly become the most docile, dutiful drone in the Collective.

Larry Craig is your typical high-viscosity politician, meaning he's unfit for civilized company. Craig describes himself as a conservative – whatever that etoliated expression means anymore – but it has been Otter's proud claim to be something infinitely more commendable: a constitutionalist. He is much more personable and much more knowledgeable about the Constitution than Craig – and thus much more culpable for betraying it by voting on behalf of the MCA. Otter's was a conscious crime against his oath of office, one that disqualifies him from ever holding another office of public trust.

Craig's retreat in the face of Paul Smith's political heresy was an interesting gesture for many reasons, among them the fact that the Senator's priority was to remain untainted by such blasphemies against the State, rather than trying to understand why views like Smith's have gained so much traction among sober, responsible people. That's because Craig – like practically every other elected official -- apparently views his role as that of representing the regime to the people, rather than protecting the people from the regime.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"The Only Reason to Vote Republican" (revisited)

The following essay is a re-run, but a very timely one.

It was originally published on July 9 in the "Birch Blog" on The New American's website. Within hours of posting this essay, I received stern, disapproving messages from my superiors at JBS, complaining that the essay undermined what had been described to me as the "corporate consensus" that the Birch Society would have to make nice with the GOP in order to grow and prosper.

What is remarkable about that complaint is this: The essay below cites the "Conservative Index" published by The New American to document and illustrate the points I was making. So I was, in effect, being criticized for making appropriate, if inconvenient, use of materials published by the JBS.

"Why do you insist that the Democrats would be better?" demanded my editor, Gary Benoit, in an e-mail. I replied that what I wrote was not anti-Republican or pro-Democrat, but rather anti-incumbent -- and besides, I asked, how could the Democrats be worse?

At least one other commentator, Laurence Vance, made similar use of that Conservative Index in writing an indictment of the incumbent Republican Congress.

Significantly, even though the JBS officials who fired me protested that blog posts like "The Only Reason to Vote Republican" were terminally off-putting to GOP-leaning Republicans, this specific post prompted a very favorable discussion thread at -- of all places! -- Sean Hannity's website.

And in recent weeks, several high-profile Republican-aligned conservative commentators and activists have openly called for the GOP's defeat in this year's mid-term elections.

I have reason to believe that "The Only Reason to Vote Republican" led directly to the decision to fire me from the JBS. I published it about three weeks after receiving a phone call from Alan Scholl in which my job was threatened for writing an earlier blog explaining how the GOP was cynically exploiting the immigration issue as a way of mobilizing the political support it needed to consummate the creation of a police state, which effectively happened on September 28, with the passage of the Military Commissions Act. On the same date, the Mark Foley scandal broke.

Interestingly, the final essays I published in this space before being fired all dealt with various ways in which the Republican leadership supports torture and perversion -- traits now widely understood by an increasingly disgusted electorate.

My offense, apparently, was to take the JBS's principles (and published works, like the Conservative Index) too seriously, and being ahead of the curve. That's a self-serving view, I admit, but it makes a certain sense -- unlike the explanations currently being handed out by Appleton to justify my termination.

The Only Reason to Vote Republican

Sunday, July 9, 2006, 11:28 PM

Unless your Congressman is named Ron Paul, he doesn't deserve to be re-elected.

On at least one occasion during the last congressional term, every member of the House of Representatives – Dr. Paul being the sole exception – violated his oath of office by voting in favor of unconstitutional legislation; this is documented by the most recent installment of The New American's Conservative Index (CI).

The CI is not a comprehensive survey of congressional votes; it does, however, provide a useful core sample of the convictions – such as they are – of Congressmen and Senators by examining their votes on clear-cut constitutional issues.

For the House, the average CI score in this installment was 36 percent. Vermont Representative Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, actually out-performed the average, and several supposedly conservative Republicans, by running up a cumulative score of 37 percent. The New American has described as “Sanderistas” those Republicans (such as former House Majority Leader Tom Delay – 37 percent) whose CI rating is identical to that of Vermont's lefty Independent, or those (like DeLay's replacement John Boehner – 34 percent) whose performance was even worse.

Newt Gingrich, who successfully co-opted the 1994 Republican “revolution” that led to the seizure of the House from the Democrats, consistently voted to the left of Sanders.

The chief difference between Sanders and the Republican “conservatives” who flank him to the left is found in the preferred beneficiaries of wealth redistribution. Republicans generally favor corporate welfare, while lefties of the Sanders type are wedded to Big Labor and Welfare State constituencies. Both parties – or, better stated, both appendages of the ruling Establishment Party – have become nothing more than elaborate political support systems for deeply entrenched constituencies.

Which is one of many reasons why Rep. Paul is so valuable.

In a profile of Rep. Paul that suppurates befuddled condescension, the Washington Post describes him as a “rare breed” in this era of lock-step (or goose-step, in the case of a GOP increasingly defined by fuhrerprinzip) party discipline: “Democrats and Republicans have been quite disciplined in recent years – when party leaders say `jump,' the savvy congressman had better inquire how high.”

Dr. Paul, however, insists on treating his oath to uphold the Constitution as, well, a solemn promise before God to his constituents. Which is why he is a living rebuke to the hypocritical collectivists who infest the Republican Party, and utterly mystifying to the retread socialists who publish the Post.

“Republican Ron Paul missed out on the 19th century, but he admires it from afar,” writes the Post in a witticism that's as limp as an un-medicated Rush Limbaugh. “He speaks lovingly of the good old days before things like Social Security and Medicaid existed, before the federal government outlawed drugs like heroin. In his legislative fantasies, the amiable Texas congressman would do away with the CIA and the Federal Reserve. He'd reinstate the gold standard. He'd get rid of the Department of Education and leave the business of schooling to local governments, because he believes that's what the Constitution intended.”

Note how the Post treats those prescriptions (particularly those dealing with education ) as whimsical personal opinions, rather than -- as Paul demonstrated to the reporter – strict application of the actual text of the Constitution. (In what was almost certainly a long overdue primer on the charter of our republic, Paul introduced the Post report to Article I, Section 8, which specifies every purpose for which Congress can appropriate money.)

Rep. Paul has a well-earned and altogether commendable reputation for voting against nearly every proposed law -- perhaps acting on the unassailable insight that in a society suffocating, as is ours, beneath countless positivist laws, the only defensible legislative course is to begin repealing them.

After all, the only Being in the universe who has a right to impose laws originally gave us ten, and He eventually condensed them into two.

Dr. Paul also understands that everything government does is backed by the threat of lethal violence – often implicitly, but to an increasing extent, overtly. Once the Constitution, which is intended to restrain and control government, is cast aside, that power is emancipated and deployed on behalf of whatever individual or faction can seize control of it, and will be used to the extent the victors can get away with it.

In principle, the only alternative to the Constitution is kto kogo? -- Lenin's “who does what to whom” dichotomy, which – when coupled with his ideology of rule (“power without limit, resting directly on force”) -- provides the formula for the Total State.

Over at the More Liberty Blog, Richard Wilkins observes:

“Last Friday, the House Republicans passed a resolution attacking the media for daring to inform the public about the government's efforts to spy on them. Early this year, the GOP House leadership pushed a bill through the House outlawing "price gouging.” Now they are attacking the press. First economic crimes, now attacks on the media for displeasing the State. Maybe GOP really stands for Grand Old Politburo.”

If you're content to settle for this -- if you believe that unchecked profligacy, open-ended foreign war, and canine subservience to a lawless executive should be rewarded -- then by all means, vote Republican this November.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Do We Do? Fight Them, Until We Can't

“... the liberty of my country is gone, and I go after it!”

Patriot-martyr James Otis, reacting to a speech offered by Tory Timothy Ruggles during a meeting of the Massachusetts Assembly in 1769; Otis then dashed from the House as if in physical pursuit of the freedom that had fled from America's shores.

“What do we do now?”
“Same thing we always do – fight them until we can't.”

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, answering a question from her compatriot Tyrol as they contemplate life under the tyrannical Cylon occupation, on “Battlestar Galactica.”

Freedom has fled our country. Tyranny has descended, albeit in tiny but perceptible increments -- much like the first modest droplets that prefigure a deluge of Noachian proportions.

Before September 28, we were still, in principle, a relatively free country. Today we are, in principle, a nation of slaves – or at least we will be as soon as the demented little pseudo-male in the White House puts crayon to parchment and signs the Military Commissions Act into “law.”

As late as a month ago, it was possible to prevent this outcome. Now it's all over but the sound of one Sharpie marker scratching out the Bushling's appropriately childish signature.

Many people – including some I once thought cared about freedom – will contend that this assessment is both alarmist and defeatist, since for the most part we'll be able to go about our business.

But this misses the point. In principle, our freedom of movement and the other liberties that were given to us by our Creator are now conditional and revocable at the whim of the insensate clod who defiles the White House. Once again, this means that although in practice we may behave as free people, in principle we're slaves.

John Locke taught this principle to the anti-government extremists and miscellaneous reprobates who won our independence from Great Britain. Slavery, Locke pointed out, consists of being "subject to the incessant, uncertain, arbitrary will of another man" and that "absolute arbitrary power" is the practice of "governing without settled standing laws."

The Bushling, under the Military Commission Act, can imprison and torture anyone he chooses to designate as an “unlawful enemy combatant.” And through the use of “signing statements,” he can set aside the substance of any duly enacted law by invoking his supposed authority as a “war president” (this is most commonly known as the doctrine of the “unitary executive”).

True, these powers have already been exercised, but only (for the most part) against foreigners and a few disreputable US citizens, such as Jose Padilla. This, like the illegal surveillance of domestic phone calls and other impositions, was done without express legislative consent – until September 28, 2006, The Day Liberty Died.

“But we're still freer than people in Cuba, Iran, China, or Russia, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia,” many will contend. No, we're not – in principle. As is the case with Cubans, Iranians, Chinese, Russians, Syrians, and subjects of the House of Saud, our freedoms are contingent on the continued grace of our master and his duly appointed agents. They may leave us alone entirely; they may impose upon us slightly; they may suddenly descend on us in fury to deprive us of our homes, our families, and our lives. According to what our rulers are pleased to call the “law,” the choice is entirely theirs.

“A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their master, who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the last extremes of injustice and oppression,” wrote Edward Gibbon , getting the principle right even if he applies it somewhat dubiously to the fate of pagans under Emperor Theodosius. We should remember that proverb whenever some lickspittle like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh advises us that George the Bold – slayer of Zarqawi and “liberator” of Iraq and Afghanistan – is both good and wise, and will only take but a few of our rights away for the greater good.

Of either Limbaugh or Hannity it can be said: He has the soul of a kapo – assuming, of course, that he has a soul of any kind.

The case of the above-mentioned Jose Padilla illustrates perfectly what the regime has planned for us.

Padilla, a US citizen, is an ex-con, a former gang-banger. By most accounts, he's a pretty loathsome fellow – perhaps half as loathsome as the typical tax-fattened parasite working for the world's most murderous gang, the Federal Government. He was arrested in Chicago by the Feds, designated an “enemy combatant” by Emperor George Witless Bush, and detained without appeal in a Naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft made a dramatic announcement (appropriately enough, in Moscow) that Padilla was part of an al-Qaeda plot to smuggle and detonate a “dirty” bomb in the United States. Bush and his handlers insisted that the president has the authority to detain an enemy combatant indefinitely, simply on the chief executive's say-so.

When it appeared that this claim was headed for a Supreme Court challenge that the administration would lose, Padilla was released from military detention and indicted on various charges that had nothing to do with a “dirty” bomb plot. This way Bush and his cohorts could protect the purported presidential authority to lock up a U.S. Citizen at whim – until that claim was ratified by Congress, as it was on September 28.

The prosecution of Padilla has shaken loose revelations – almost entirely ignored by what we're told is the “liberal” media – about the real reason he was arrested and detained for more than three years without trial or legal recourse: The Feds wanted to recruit him as an informant and operative, and he refused to play along.

In addition to being illegally arrested and imprisoned for three years, Padilla was tortured, according to a very plausible brief filed by his attorney.(.pdf)

“In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla's `dependency and trust,' he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention,” reports the brief. “The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live.”

The chief torture method employed by the regime was isolation and sensory deprivation, coupled with efforts to deprive him of sleep. He was also “put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run.”

He was threatened with deportation to Gitmo – a place that this loser insists is a paradise on earth – as well as “being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution.”

Padilla also claims to have been drugged with LSD (which was developed by the CIA, let's not forget, for just such uses).

Why was this done to Padilla? The Regime's answer, in the form of a brief it filed opposing Padilla's right to legal counsel, is quite telling:

“Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla.... Providing him access to counsel now .. would break – possibly irreparably – the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.”

Roll that statement around on your mental palate for a while. Then rinse, and spit.

Padilla, remember, had nothing to do with a terrorist plot. The Regime was simply trying to break his will – through torture – in order to turn him into an informant and, quite likely, an agent provocateur. The case for denying him legal counsel boils down to this: If he knows he has rights, we can't break his will; ergo – no lawyers for him!

Here's something else to contemplate:

Under the Military Commissions Act, “evidence” obtained through torture can be used against those designated “unlawful enemy combatants” by presidential decree. The methods used in the attempt to break Jose Padilla's will could therefore be used to extort accusations for use in “court.”

How would Americans – at least those of us who pay attention to the news – react if what we're discussing now were being said about Cuba, China, Iran, Russia, Syria, or Saudi Arabia? Bear in mind that most people who live in those countries never experience such things, yet we have no difficulty referring to the governments ruling those unfortunate nations as despotisms.

Yet for some reason most Americans cannot or will not face this unpleasant but insurmountable fact: As of September 28, the government that rules us has officially claimed the power to behave exactly like the regimes ruling all of those long-suffering nations.

Our freedom has fled. How many Americans are willing to pursue it, before the regime that chased it away catches up to them?