Thursday, November 30, 2006

Review of the News, November 30

An orbital view of the CIA-operated "Salt Pit" detention/interrogation/torture facility in Afghanistan

Today's Theme: Murderous Impunity

"To us, everything is permitted." -- From a 1919 editorial in Krasni Mech (The Red Sword), a journal published by the Soviet Cheka, forerunners of the KGB. Unofficial motto of the contemporary Homeland Security State being constructed under the reign of the Bushling.

"Torture Taxi" Victim Describes Ordeal, Demands Redress

As far as the regime that rules us is concerned, Lebanese-born German citizen Khaled al-Masri is an un-person. He was treated as such during the six months he was illegally imprisoned in Macedonia and Afghanistan, and he's still regarded an un-person by the regime now that he seeks redress for his treatment.

The large-framed, pony-tailed father of six, who somewhat resembles the noted libertarian comedian Penn Gillette, underwent six months of unlawful imprisonment, torture, and sexual abuse at the hands of Emperor Bush's servants.

Masri, who fled Lebanon for Germany in 1985, is the veteran of one failed marriage and many short-term jobs. For the past several years, he's been unemployed, living with his second wife and six children in a one-room apartment. In December 2003, seeking a brief respite from various domestic troubles, Masri took a bus trip to Macedonia. He was removed from the bus by Macedonian police and taken to a hotel in Skopje, where he was detained and interrogated for roughly a month.

On January 23, 2004, a group of masked Americans – a CIA-organized “snatch squad” well practiced in this sort of thing – dragged him off to an airplane bound for the “Salt Pit,” a detention and torture facility in Afghanistan.

"I felt two people violently grab my arms,” recounted Masri in testimony given yesterday to a House committee. “I then felt someone else grab my head with both hands so I was unable to move. . . . Finally they stripped me completely naked and threw me to the ground. . . . I felt a boot in the small of my back. I then felt a stick or some other hard object being forced in my anus. I realized I was being sodomized. Of all the acts these men perpetrated against me, this was the most degrading and shameful."

For five months, Masri was treated worse than most livestock. He was given fetid, greenish water; his typical meal consisted of “soup” that was an inedible slurry of leftover chicken parts from meals originally served to Afghan guards. He was kept in an unheated cell with one thin blanket as a barricade against the bitter cold of an Afghan winter.

On the second night of Masri's detention, recounts the book Torture Taxi, his masked captors dragged him from his cell in chains into another room, where he confronted seven other masked men. One of them, who spoke with a Lebanese accent, informed Masri that he was “in Afghanistan, where there are no laws ... we can do with you whatever we want.”

Within a very short time it was clear to Masri's captors that he was entirely innocent. Yet he was kept for five months before being dragged back to the Balkans and unceremoniously dumped on a hilltop in Albania.

Among the maxims followed by totalitarian rulers is this: Never explain, never apologize. Earlier this year a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Masri against former CIA director George Tenet (recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom). Federal Appeals Judge T.S. Ellis III allowed that Masri was entitled to some form of redress, he claimed that it would be injurious to national security for the lawsuit to proceed. (Remember that name; we'll return to him in a moment.)

The Bush regime has steadfastly refused to acknowledge it has wronged Masri in any way, it did offer an apology – to the German government, not to the individual German citizen who was wrongfully and illegally imprisoned, abused at length, and degraded in ways that normal people cannot even imagine.

The Atrocity in Atlanta, Continued

Details are emerging about the prelude to the State-authorized home invasion in which Atlanta resident Kathryn Johnston was murdered, and the whole thing is shaping up pretty much the way I had expected.

24-year-old Alexis Antonio White, the “reliable” informant cited in the affidavit used to procure a warrant for a "no-knock" raid, “is a petty criminal with a series of drug arrests in the past few years,” reports today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Records show he has been arrested at least once during that time on drug charges — last year, when he was charged with carrying 48 bags of marijuana. Police said he refused to stop his car for several blocks and his car reeked of pot....He has been convicted of at least one cocaine-related charge and served two years' probation, records show. A list of numerous arrests stretching back over the past seven years has him living at six different apartments. Atlanta police in a 2001 arrest report noted White's occupation as `drug dealer.' He was 19 at the time.”

Another key disclosure involves Atlanta narcotics officer Arthur B. Tesler., who was involved in the murder of Kathryn Johnston.

In May 2001 officer Tesler was involved in a head-on collision with Samuel T. Gulley, JR., who was riding a motorcycle. According to a lawsuit that was filed by Gulley in 2002 – and which resulted in a $450,000 settlement by the City of Atlanta – Gulley collided with Tesler's patrol car when the officer made an excessively wide turn while exiting a parking lot into the wrong lane.

As a result of the crash, Gulley spent three months in the hospital and was left with more than $90,000 in medical bills.

Gulley charged that Tesler and other officers “fabricated traffic charges against [him], ignored evidence ... and improperly initiated criminal proceedings” to cover up the officer's misconduct.

Notes the Journal-Constitution: “A police report written by Officer Jackson Christopher listed Tesler as the victim and suggested that Gulley ran into the officer's police cruiser. Tesler's account had him pursuing a fleeing suspect when he pulled out [into the wrong traffic lane]. But Tesler didn't alert radio dispatchers to the chase because of heavy radio traffic, according to court papers. The lawsuit contradicted Tesler's account by alleging that the officer was on routine patrol and didn't have his emergency lights or siren on at impact.”

Insisting that the settlement paid to Gulley isn't an admission of guilt, Atlanta Deputy City Attorney Jerry DeLoach told the Journal-Constitution: “Looking at all the facts and evidence, we thought it would be to the city's advantage and the employee's advantage if we minimized our exposure.”

Yes, it was vital to the best interests of the City – its ruling elite, that is, not its residents – to keep a valiant officer like Tesler on the payroll, so that he could eventually be involved in a home invasion that resulted in the murder of an 88-year-old grandmother.

The Hit on Litvenenko: A Defector's Perspective

About a decade ago, while a Senior Editor at The New American, I was contacted by a young Russian expatriate named Alexander Konanykhine, who had fled his country for the United States in 1992. At the time he was an adviser to Boris Yeltsin and president of a large and successful commercial bank in Russia that was coveted by the KGB-controlled Russian mob.

After being kidnapped by, and escaping from, the KGB, Konanykhine (along with his wife) came to the US and immediately contacted the FBI to warn that Russia's largest commercial bank – which was deeply involved in various ventures with the US government and various US corporations – was now in the hands of the KGB and the Russian Mob (or do I repeat myself). Three years later, while cooperating with the FBI, Konanykhine was warned by the Bureau that the KGB had taken out a contract on his life. Shortly thereafter, the FBI itself tried to extradite Konanykhine to Russia as part of a deal with the KGB.

Alex spent several years in legal limbo, often in jail, always living under the threat of being sent back to Russia and certain death. One one occasion he was literally about to be stuffed aboard a plane by US officials when a restraining order arrived. Eventually, Alex and his wife became the first people to be granted political asylum from “post-Soviet” Russia.

Given his background and experiences, Konanykhine's perspective on the recent murder of KGB/FSB defector Alexander Litvenenko by radioactive poisoning (which has been described, accurately, as a miniature nuclear attack), is eminently worthy of our attention. Alex sent me this link to two recent interviews, one on MSNBC and the other on CNN International, in which he briefly describes his own experience and comments on the Litvenenko case.

Incidentally, the Judge whose timely intervention saved Konanykhine's life was U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III – the same one who refused to allow Khaled al-Masri's lawsuit against the CIA to proceed.

During a hearing conducted in late 2003, Judge Ellis described Konanykhine's treatment as the result of a "sinister deal between the INS and the successors to the KGB. There's no treaty between Russia and the U.S., and they wanted this guy back for some reason, and the U.S. also wanted an FBI office in Moscow, and so they dealt. It was that simple.... This has all the earmarks of something strange. I don't understand what's happening with this man and Russia and our country."

One motive behind the effort to send Alex back to Russia was a $100,000 wrongful arrest suit he had filed against the Immigration and Naturalization Service (and, by extension, the Department of Homeland Security, which absorbed the INS). "The INS knew that I would be killed in Russia," Konanykhine told me in late 2003. "Certainly, eliminating the plaintiff is the most effective way to avoid a lawsuit. The question is -- shall the U.S. Government be allowed to kill people to avoid judicial review?"

Well, why not, if such is the sovereign will of the Almighty Decider? To him and his minions, "everything is permitted."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Support Your Paramilitary Police?

THESE are the "good guys."

“I am so sorry to see that you, who worked for a group that supports local police, have nothing but contempt for police,” a decent and conscientious police officer wrote in a recent e-mail. “You and [Reason Senior Editor and libertarian blogger Radley] Balko can point out mistakes here and there, and some very serious I agree. There many search warrants done each day across this country and most are successful and without incident. I don't see you commenting on them or I don't see you mentioning cops that get shot during these warrants.”

“I don't see you writing about cops like myself who after executing search warrants and yanking perps out in cuffs were approached by old ladies and and moms with kids thanking me for giving them freedom and liberty to move about their own property and streets,” continued the officer, who serves in Queens, New York. “I am an old right conservative and supporter of the free market. I am not a statist. Many more are getting shot by perps and not by police. I do believe though that most major cities are going to hire more and more bad guys because of the PC mentality.”

While I have no reason to think that this fellow is anything other than an earnest and capable public servant – in the honorable sense of that expression – it was his misfortune to write that letter on the same day that 23-year-old Sean Bell was killed by a 50-shot fusillade from plainclothes NYPD officers in the same borough.

The undercover police had staked out a strip club in the Jamaica section of Queens. Mr. Bell and his two companions (the latter were wounded in the assault) were at the club for a bachelor party. The incident took place in the early morning hours of what was supposed to be Bell's wedding day, a tardy but welcome development in light of the fact that he and his live-in girlfriend already had two young children.

Early reports of the shooting claimed that the officers believed that either Bell or one of his companions was armed, and that the driver of the car they were riding deliberately struck one of the officers after he had identified himself. After the shooting – during which stray bullets perforated some nearby apartment buildings – the officers called for backup. A search of the car and its occupants failed to find a gun.

Speaking the day after Bell was killed, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged (as paraphrased by the AP) that it was “unclear what prompted police to open fire,” and that it “was also not clear whether the shooters had identified themselves as police.”

One analyst describes episodes of this sort, in which several police empty their clips into unarmed suspects, as “contagious shooting,” “gunfire that spreads among officers who believe that they, or their colleagues, are facing a threat,” in the words of the New York Times. “It spreads like germs, or laughter, or fear. An officer fires, so his colleagues do, too.”

This type of behavior is predictable for Marines patrolling one of Baghdad's more turbulent neighborhoods. One would expect that a different mind-set would prevail for civilian police in American neighborhoods.

One would expect this. One would be wrong.

“Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed,” reports Joseph D. McNamara, a former police chief in Kansas City, Missouri and San Jose, in an op-ed published in today's Wall Street Journal (November 29; subscription only). “An emphasis on `officer safety' and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to shoot or be stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

While police work is dangerous, and some police officers die heroically in defense of the innocent (may God grant rest to their souls and comfort to their families), the on-duty mortality rate of police officers is incredibly low. McNamara points out that last year, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty “out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts.”

Here's a question somebody needs to examine: How many innocent civilians were killed by police last year, in paramilitary raids and other unnecessary shootings? I would wager that the civilian casualty count is higher than 51.

The “officer safety” mindset has dangerous and lamentable consequences beyond militaristic overkill, among them a tendency to immunize police against civil and criminal liability – or even significant career injury – when they kill innocent people.

Witness the case of Salvatore Culosi, a 37-year-old optometrist who was killed by Fairfax, Virginia SWAT operators last January. Culosi was suspected of operating an illegal sports betting operation, which is hardly the type of supposed offense that would justify sending a SWAT team to execute an arrest warrant. (Virginia has a state lottery, so laws against sports betting really make no sense.)

Although Culosi was unarmed and offered no resistance, he was shot dead during the January 24 encounter.

Just days ago, an official inquiry ruled out criminal charges against the man who killed Culosi, 17-year police veteran Deval Bullock. However, Bullock faces a three-week suspension without pay.

Astonishing as it may seem, the local police union is protesting this disciplinary sanction as excessive.

Marshall Thielen, president of the police union, called the penalty unprecedented and too harsh. "There's never been anything close to that," complains union president Marshall Thielen, describing Bullock's unjustified killing of an unarmed, non-violent citizen a "tragic mistake while trying to help the community."

Which of these individuals was a larger threat to the community: A mild-mannered optometrist who was taking bets on football games, or a heavily armed paramilitary operator who can kill people with impunity?

Questions of this sort ricochet harmlessly off a mind armored with the “officer protection” dogma.

Video Extra

Here's a TV news account of full-force SWAT raids in Dallas against "illegal" poker games.

Here's a fanboyish piece of self-dramatizing video from an Alabama SWAT operator that is borderline auto-erotic.

And here's a news report from Communist China documenting how the Boyz in Beijing are gettin' their SWAT freak on in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Red Dogs, Death Warrants, and Murderous Marketing

A “warrant,” explains the insightful Lew Rockwell, is “a piece of paper the government issues itself before burglarizing your home.” Lew seems to be giving voice to the shade of Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil's Dictionary – which is to say that he is using the scalpel of satire to pare away flabby sentimentality and expose the evil, pulsating heart of the matter.

Shortly after 88-year-old Kathyrn Johnston (who was initially identified in news reports as 92 years of age) was shot and killed during a police raid on her Atlanta home, I offered the following predictions:

"Color me cynical, but I'm guessing that we will eventually learn some or all of the following:

1)The warrant was defective;
2)The `evidence' behind it came from an unreliable source, such as a paid informant or a corrupt cop – or even the `John Doe' accused of making the buy, who cited a phony address as part of a deal;
3)As an alternative to the foregoing, `John Doe' doesn't exist, and the police will never find him, for the same reason O.J.'s diligent search has failed to find Nicole's “real killers,” and his fellow mass murderer George W. Bush has failed to find Saddam's “reconstituted” nuclear arsenal...."

Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

“An informant who narcotics officers say led them to the house where an elderly woman was killed in a drug raid is accusing the officers of asking him to lie about his role, Atlanta police Chief Richard Pennington said Monday. The informant, who has not been identified, complained to department officials that the drug investigators involved in the bust had asked him to go along with a story they concocted after the shooting, said Pennington.”

The warrant (.pdf; thanks to Radley Balko) obtained by the counter-narcotics squad, which was signed one hour before the shooting, claimed that the informant had used $50 in city funds to purchase crack cocaine from a dealer known only as “Sam,” described as “a black male approximately 34 to 35 years of age,” who reportedly met the informant at the door, went into Johnston's home, and returned with two small bags of crack.

Why was it necessary to obtain a “no-knock” warrant and execute a paramilitary raid on the home? The warrant, issued on November 21, was good for ten days. However, the judge, County Magistrate Kimberly Warden, ticked the box authorizing a full-force raid on the grounds that it was reasonable “to believe that the giving of verbal notice would greatly increase the officer's peril and (or) lead to the immediate destruction” of the contraband.

The “peril” faced by the officers could have been avoided by simply staking out the premises, and waiting for “Sam” either to leave or to conduct another transaction. As it stands, three officers are recovering from bullet wounds and an innocent grandmother is dead.

Good job, Kimberly. Were you aware that you were signing Kathryn Johnston's death warrant? Do you even care?

Of course, we're assuming that any element of the story told by the police here is true and correct. The Informant appears to dispute every detail described in the warrant. In an interview with a local police station, the Informant – who is now in “protective custody” -- claimed that he never visited Johnston's home, and that he was contacted by the officers after the shooting.

“`This is what you need to do,'” the Informant quoted the police as saying. “You need to cover our ass..... It's all on you, man.... You need to tell them about this Sam dude.”

Does “Sam” even exist? So far, every detail described by the police officers who murdered Kathryn Johnston has been false.

“At first police said that the drug buy was made by undercover police, but later they said the purchase was made by an informant,” recounts the Journal-Constitution. “Early on, police said narcotics were found at the house after the shooting, but on Sunday investigators said they had found only a small about of marijuana, which police don't consider narcotics. Also, even though the affidavit said the house was outfitted with surveillance cameras, [Police Chief] Pennington said the informant had told internal affairs investigators that police officers had asked him to lie about the cameras.”

Chief Pennington couldn't confirm that Johnston's home had security cameras. Given that the frail woman's daughter had installed burglar bars and other safety precautions at the home, the use of security cameras as an additional precaution would make sense.

It's understandable that an elderly woman living alone in a neighborhood near a crime-ridden area would outfit her house to withstand a siege. Given that armed robbers conducting home invasion robberies have started to mimic the behavior of police when the latter conduct their own State-approved home invasions, it's entirely understandable that an old woman would open fire on armed, unidentified men breaking into her home.

What makes no sense at all – even assuming that there is some merit to the affidavit that led to the “no-knock” warrant – is the urgency to conduct a full-force raid on the site of an alleged purchase of $50 worth of crack cocaine.

Jason Smith, the investigator who filed the affidavit that prompted Magistrate Kimberly to issue the warrant, proudly describes himself as a veteran of “the City of Atlanta Police RED DOG section (Run Every Drug Dealer Out of Georgia)....”

“RED DOG” sounds more like the product of an advertising agency than a sober law enforcement initiative. It's impossible to run every drug dealer out of a maximum security prison; how could every drug dealer be run out of the entire state of Georgia?

But just as some people let the rhyme dictate the reason (to paraphrase a character from Voltaire's Candide), many politicians and bureaucrats seem to believe that the most important policy problem can be cured through the proper application of a catchy acronym. The “problem” in question, of course, is to justify the accumulation of power in the hands of those wielding the magic acronyms.

At the administrative level, RED DOG is intended to generate statistics that will enhance the job security of the managerial class. At the street level, the task of generating the proper statistics means that doors must be splintered, guns must be drawn, shots must be fired, and human flesh must be mortally rent.

In case of Kathryn Johnston, we're seeing a variation on the now-familiar theme of death by government. This could be considered an instance of death by government marketing.

In 2004, the City of Atlanta issued a document entitled “Fragile Momentum: Plan of Action for Rebuilding the Atlanta Police Department to Help Secure Atlanta's Position as Capital of the New South.” Issued jointly by Mayor Shirley Franklin and APD Chief Richard Pennington, the document was created with the help of the New York Consulting Firm Linder & Associates, which boasts that it has “helped clients successfully rename, brand and reposition dozens of products.”

The challenge in Atlanta was to “re-brand” a corrupt municipal government and inefficient police force. The “Fragile Momentum” (an inelegant and illiterate title, albeit a typical product of the sophomoric “insights” peddled by marketing gurus) is “structured in accordance with the Performance Engineering (tm) system for uprooting ingrained perceptions and securing committed behavioral change, among large groups of people, over a long period of time. This system has proven effective in both mass marketing and organizational-change applications.”

The marketing/advertising/PR industry began during World War I as an appendage of the Anglo-American war effort. Like the Lincoln Group and other propaganda firms that have hitched themselves to the Iraq War gravy train as “information contractors,” Linder & Associates has profited handsomely from the “War on Drugs.”

Recently, “[Linder & Associates founder John] Linder has provided the inspiration and direction for the Baltimore BELIEVE campaign to change the mindset of the city and rally citizens to take action against illegal drugs,” boasts the company's promotional material. “Baltimore, a Linder client, led the nation’s big cities in reducing violent crime during the three-year period 2000-2002.”

“John is simply the best at what he does,” gushes LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, the former New York City Police Commissioner.” Well, what does he do, exactly? “It’s awful to admit,” Bratton concedes, “that after working with John... I still can’t pronounce what he does."

Linder's friend, author David Quammen, provides a chilling description Linder's occupation: “The only way to describe John’s work is that he whispers into the ears of the powerful.”

It's not difficult to imagine the kind of affirmations Linder shares with the powerful: “You're wise; you're bold; you're visionary. You simply need to mobilize community support behind your principled leadership.”

The challenge facing Atlanta, the Linder-inspired “Fragile Momentum” report asserted, was that the public simply didn't take “ownership” of the city's crime problem. Indeed, city residents simply didn't understand that they had “more violent crime than any other city (over 100,000 people) in America....[T]hose interviewed certainly did not feel they were held hostage to crime violence....”

According to the report, this refusal of Atlanta residents to perceive the “crisis” is “high-risk civic behavior .... especially if that denial [were to result] in lack of proper support for the Atlanta Police Department in its crime reduction efforts.”
Not surprisingly, the “crime reduction” crusade was to include a radical escalation in counter-drug enforcement.

The section of “Fragile Momentum” dealing with narcotics enforcement offers a detailed indictment of the Atlanta PD for its insufficient zeal in enforcing drug prohibition. Arrests for drug-related offenses, undercover operations, and gun seizures were all down, which could actually mean that violent crime (as well as narcotics use, which – while unwise -- isn't violent and shouldn't be a crime) was actually in decline. The report also complains that “officers and investigators alike are frequently using the municipal `disorderly conduct' (DC-6) charge to arrest suspects found with small amounts of narcotics, rather than charging them with more serious criminal drug violations.”

Our Drug-Fiend ancestors: A magazine ad from 1885 extols the use of cocaine as a topical analgesic

Nor is it enough to ramp up criminal drug charges: “It is the dealer, not the user, driving drug activity and violence. Arrests for distribution, not possession, must be the measure of enforcement productivity.”

Those two brief sentences reflect the perverse incentive structure that inspired the needless fatal attack on Kathryn Johnston's home.

Atlanta's political class demands police “productivity” in the form of dealer arrests; under pressure to produce, a narcotics squad confects a story about a dealer and attacks a home. Now three police are recovering from gunshot wounds, and an innocent grandmother is dead.

The city's political class most likely looks on this episode as a troublesome public relations challenge, rather than a hideous crime. And chances are they'll retain the services of yet another propaganda shop to re-package this atrocity in a way that absolves those complicit in it of all responsibility.

How often does this kind of thing take place in our supposedly free country? Dozens, scores, hundreds of times a year?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Review of the News, November 27

It's time to play Name That Dictatorship!

“Except for a brief period in the early 1980s, the country has been ruled under `emergency laws' since 1967 – laws that consolidate power in the president and which authorize [law enforcement and intelligence] authorities to detain suspects for long periods of time without trial, refer civilians to unconventional `State Security Emergency Courts,' censor media in the name of national security, and prohibit unauthorized political activities.”

If you guessed the Bu'ushist Republic of Amerika, you're close, but wrong. All of those measures have been implemented, in whole or in part, in the USA since 2001, so the time-line described above is a little off.

The winning dictatorship, incidentally, is considered a “democracy,” and is a leading beneficiary of the form of systematized plunder called “foreign aid.”

The correct answer, and source, will be given below.

Mitt's Masquerade

From the “you read it here first” department:

“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.”

Pro Libertate
, October 22

“In late October, Romney and his wife Ann, balancing lunch trays on their laps in the den of their Belmont, Mass., home, met with about 15 evangelical leaders from as far away as Alaska, including Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Southern Baptist leader Richard Land. The three-hour meeting was set up by Mark DeMoss, a p.r. consultant who specializes in Evangelicals.... Romney advisers are debating whether he will need to give a big speech in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, who told Protestant church leaders in Houston 46 years ago that he was `not the Catholic candidate for President' but instead was `the Democratic Party's candidate for President, who happens also to be Catholic.' After the G.O.P.'s defeat in the midterms, that may be a speech Republicans are prepared to hear. A big tent, even one stretching all the way to Salt Lake City, could be what gets them back into power in Washington two years from now.”

Time magazine, November 26 (from the December 4 edition)

“The doctrinal differences that separate Mormon beliefs from mainline Christianity are as numerous and as significant as those dividing Dar al-Islam from the Christian world. In some ways Mormonism is closer kindred to Islam than it is to conventional Christianity.

Pro Libertate, September 26

“[Mormon] church officials are wary of the impact Romney's candidacy could have on them--and on the portrayal of their faith. Yes, his campaign will bring attention and credibility to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as the Mormons are formally known, and give them a chance to demystify their theology and customs. But church officials also calculate that Romney's bid to succeed George W. Bush could remind some mainstream Christians just how different Mormonism is from their faith and perhaps expose their flock to more of the sort of discrimination that drove their founders west by handcart and covered wagon into the Great Salt Lake Valley. Although Mormons are known for family centeredness, hard work and clean living, many Americans remain suspicious of them, maybe because so many aspects of their faith remain mysterious. A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found.”

Time, op. cit.

To win the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney has to carry off a multi-layered masquerade. First, he has to disguise – or at least mis-direct attention from – his religious commitments and convictions, in order to be palatable to the Christian Right; secondly, he has to perform the same feat with respect to his political record, which until very recently was that of a liberal Republican.

To do the first, Romney has to hope for more coverage of the sort Time magazine gives him in the current issue, in which principled disagreement over religious beliefs is seen as either “persecution” or an overture to the same.

In pursuit of the second objective, Romney has cast himself as a defeated but heroic champion of traditional marriage. To do this, he has done nothing of substance to oppose homosexual “marriage” in Massachusetts. By losing on the issue, Romney has cast himself in a role that will make him palatable to social conservatives. In fact, raising the specter of homosexual marriage permits Mitt to change the subject from the historic practice of Mormon polygamy (which was defended by 19th Century Mormon leaders in terms oddly similar to those used by advocates of homosexual “marriage” today).

As the homosexual activist publication Bay Windows points out, before Romney began re-branding himself as the Christian Right's preferred presidential choice, he was on very congenial terms with the Lavender Lobby.

During his 1994 Senate campaign, Romney wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Club in which he promised to support efforts to :establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens” and actually claimed that he would “provide more effective leadership than my opponent” in that cause.

Romney's opponent, of course, was Ted Kennedy.

“During his 2001 run for governor, [Romney's] campaign distributed bright pink flyers at the June Pride parade declaring `Mitt and Kerry' [his wife] wish you a great Pride weekend!'” recalls Susan Ryan-Vollmar of Bay Windows. “During his inaugural speech, he said it was important to defend civil rights `regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race.' He appointed eight openly gay and lesbian people to high profile positions in his administration. And before he decided to run for president – that s to say, before he needed to establish some strong anti-gay bonafides – Romney doubled the budget line item for the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. This would be the same commission, mind you, that Romney tried to disband in a highly public fashion last May.”

He didn't “succeed” in disbanding that Commission, of course – which means, in terms of his chosen strategy, that Romney succeeded brilliantly.

Ryan-Vollmar points out that Romney has profited handsomely from “failures” of this sort:

“If I were a member of the coalition or a signer of the anti-gay marriage petition ... I'd be furious with Gov. Mitt Romney today,” she writes. “I'd be wondering where he's been the last two years on the marriage issue. Imagine if Romney had held a rally on the State House steps before the Nov. 9 constitutional convention (ConCon) and thousands of people had shown up to loudly demand that lawmakers take a vote on the marriage amendment. Romney might have changed the outcome of the ConCon” -- which ended without passing that amendment, despite the fact that the pro-traditional marriage side could have won if “the governor had actually been working with them.”

“In the last two years,” continues Ryan-Vollmar, “Romney has spouted some over-the-top rhetoric about civil marriage rights for same-sex couples,” depicting the “same-sex marriage” movement as an effort to redefine marriage out of existence (which, in fact, it is). “You would think that a man genuinely fearful for the health of marriage, a man who was actually in a position to do something about it, would do everything in his power to `defend' marriage,” writes Ryan-Vollmar, whose observation is correct despite her use of mocking quotation marks. “Think again. The only thing motivating this governor is personal ambition. The likely reason for his failure to hold a raucous rally prior to the Nov. 9 ConCon was is calculation that he had absolutely nothing to gain from it. What if he held the rally and the measure died anyway? Too risky. So Romney waited and held his made-for-TV-ad spectacular long after it could have any impact whatsoever on the actual debate.”

The Wreath and the Wrath

The Peace Symbol, has been disparaged by some as the “footprint of the great American chicken,” and condemned by others as a pagan icon connoting anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sentiments. It is certainly not among my favorite symbols. Were it displayed in my neighborhood, however, I could probably contain my disapproval.

The same can't be said of a handful of people who belong to the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Owing to the complaints of “three or four” residents of a 200-home subdivision, Lisa Jensen, a former Association president, faces fines of $25 a day for displaying a Christmas wreath in the shape of a Peace Symbol.

Some residents whose sons have been dispatched to Iraq contend that the wreath “is an anti-Iraq war protest,” reports current Association president Bob Kearns (who really needs to grow some dangling anatomy). Other describe it as “a symbol of Satan.”

“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq,” Kearns told the AP. “If you let one go up then you have to let them all go up.”

If that subdivision is anything like most found in the Western US, it probably suffers from no shortage of jingoistic displays, and a near absence of anti-war symbols. Seeking to spare residents of the neighborhood from exposure to something that might provoke a moment of unregulated, independent thought, Kearns has sent a letter to Association members stating that the board “will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive.”

This was done, once again, on the strength of “three or four” complaints.

Mrs. Jensen, to her credit, isn't backing down.

“Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied,” she told the AP. “What if they don't like my Santa Claus.” She calculates that the fines would eventually exceed $1,000, and she has no intention of paying them.

It's to be hoped that this dispute doesn't end up in court, which it will unless Jensen's detractors suffer a sudden fit of maturity.

Incidentally, Jensen's wreath doesn't say anything about the war in Iraq.

And for what it's worth, the Peace Dove would be a more suitable symbol, in my view.

And now, the answers:

The winning dictatorship is: The Arab Republic of Egypt, where – according to the US State Department -- “torture and abuse of detainees by police, security personnel, and prison guards remained common and persistent.... Principal methods of torture reportedly employed by the police and the SSIS included stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending victims from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beating victims with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; using electrical shocks; and dousing victims with cold water. Victims frequently reported being subjected to threats and forced to sign blank papers for use against themselves or their families should they in the future complain about the torture. Some victims, including male and female detainees and children, reported sexual assaults or threats of rape against themselves or family members.”

Sounds like a pretty rough place, doesn't it? This is why Egypt is one of several foreign subcontractors who offer hands-on service in detaining and torturing individuals subject to “extraordinary rendition” by the Bush Regime.

The source: Torture Taxi: On The Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights by Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, page 68.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Posner's Paean to Totalitarianism

“... you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
Matthew 15:6

In dealing with what amounts to a permanent state of emergency resulting from the threat of mass terrorism, the federal government “could be authorized by a constitutional amendment to curtail particular civil liberties in times of national emergency,” writes Judge Richard Posner in his recent book Not A Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency. “But alternatively it [the federal government] could be (as at present it is) denied that legal authority yet acknowledged to possess the power, and even the moral duty, to violate legal, including constitutional, rights when necessary to avoid catastrophic harm to the nation.”

Posner is the former chief judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In the early 1960s, he was a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Students of Brennan's career will recognize that Posner shares his thoroughgoing contempt for the Constitution. They may be surprised, however, by Posner's brusquely dismissive treatment of civil liberties.

Funny, he doesn't look evil: Richard Posner, apologist for totalitarianism and torture

Violations of individual rights are a given, from Posner's perspective. The only question worthy of examination is whether there would be merit in continuing the charade of living in a constitutional republic by formally amending a charter of government the regime can ignore at any time our rulers choose to do so.

The subject of torture, predictably, offers Posner's most pointed illustration of what he considers the “law of necessity" (or what Noah Webster, understanding the cynical uses to which ruling elites invoke emergency powers, disapprovingly called the "old stale plea of necessity").

“Even torture may sometimes be justified in the struggle against terrorism, but it should not be considered legally justified,” Posner writes. Under the government's “necessity” defense, continues the judge, the regime would enjoy “a moral and political but not legal justification for acting in contravention of the Constitution [that] may trump constitutional rights in extreme situations.... Civil disobedience can be a duty of government in extreme circumstances to its citizens even if not a right.”

Here we see a remarkable, albeit not entirely unpredictable, inversion of a familiar concept.

For decades, protest movements of various kinds – from Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam demonstrators in the 1960s, to some elements of the Right to Life Movement more recently – have invoked the “necessity defense” to justify nominally illegal behavior, most of it non-violent. Often at the periphery of such movements can be found activists who unabashedly engage in criminal behavior, ranging from theft to vandalism to bombing.

Those who defend law-breaking of both varieties invoke the “necessity defense”: The moral imperative to prevent a great evil (such as abortion, aggressive foreign war, systematic denial of civil rights to racial minorities) justifies the violation of unjust positivist laws, or activities that run afoul of less “important” laws (such as those against trespassing or riot, for instance).

To their credit, at least some of those who have engaged in genuine civil disobedience have observed a critical distinction between what they practice and common lawlessness: They are willing to pay the price for breaking the law when they discern a necessity to do so. This is one important distinction between civil disobedience and mere antinomianism.

Not surprisingly, although Posner lays claim to the concept of “civil disobedience,” he pointedly exempts the government and its agents from accountability to law. This is because for Posner – as for most of his comrades in the judiciary – the State is the law.

This is the gravamen of the 1936 Supreme Court decision United States vs. Curtiss-Wright Export Company, at least as Posner reads it: The power of the “national” state “is not limited to the powers explicitly granted by the Constitution....” (Interestingly, the Anti-Federalist faction anticipated this outcome – the supplanting of a federated republic with a “national” regime -- during the 1788 debate over ratifying the Constitution, and further foresaw that this would be brought about through the judiciary.)

As the supposed embodiment of the national State, the president enjoys effectively illimitable powers, according to Posner. Under what he calls “the Curtiss-Wright principle,” Posner suggests, the president “can do anything if the emergency is dire enough” -- even though he cavils over whether or not outright dictatorship finds a “handle in the constitutional text.”

John C. Yoo: Legal scholar, advocate of presidential dictatorship, defender of sexual torture of children.

The Bush regime, it must be noted, doesn't equivocate about the president's supposed authority to do anything he deems necessary to anyone of his choosing. Witness the properly notorious statement by John C. Yoo, a pre-eminent architect of the regime's legal doctrines, to the effect that the president can properly authorize the sexual mutilation and torture of children as a way to extract confessions or "intelligence" from the child's parents.

Agents of the Bush regime practice their version of "civil disobedience," as defined by Posner

At one point, Posner addresses a critical and largely ignored distinction, that distinguishing "authority" from "power." While the government in general, and the president in particular, have the power to do more or less anything, they have only the authority to do certain specific things. At least that's how people who understand and respect the American constitutional system would define that distinction.

Speaking on behalf of the totalitarian tradition, however, Posner insists that the concept of authority -- that is, delegated, limited, and revocable specific powers -- has been rendered moot during the perpetual state of emergency under which we now live. We simply have to recognize that "reliance on the executive's willingness to exercise raw power in extreme circumstances may be preferable to recognizing a legal right to do so."

What's the whole point, then, of even having a written Constitution?

The thrust of Posner's argument is that the text of the Constitution is inconsequential, except as a noble lie intended to palliate the sentiments of those ruled by the Regime.

Witness this remarkable statement:

“My subject is constitutional rights, so I shall not be concerned with limitations on government power that do not protect such rights.”

This statement could not issue from anybody with a rudimentary understanding of the Constitution, and respect for its principles and purposes. The constitution's chief limitation on government power consists of its specific enumeration of government powers and functions contained in the document: Where government power is concerned, that which the Constitution doesn't explicitly authorize, it forbids.

Posner, however, begins with the totalitarian premise that government's power is all-encompassing save for those exceptions it condescends to make. This is made clear literally in the first sentence of the book:

“This is a book about the constitutional rights that impinge on the measures for the protection of national security that the US government has taken in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."

To “impinge” is to “encroach,” to “transgress,” to “infringe,” or to commit aggression. Thus Posner considers individual liberties to be a form of aggression against the rights of government.

This is to say that the judge correctly depicts the relationship between the individual and government to be one of predator and victim; he simply assumes – contrary to all recorded human history – that the State is the victim, and the individual the offender, in that relationship.

Oddly enough, Posner considers the “victimized” State to partake of a deified nature. The American perspective on government and rights dictates that rights are an individual endowment from the Creator. Here's Posner on the question of “rights”:

“It is natural to think that constitutional rights are rights stated in the text of the Constitution of the United States. But it is wrong.... Constitutional rights are created mainly by the Supreme Court of the United States by `interpretation' of the constitutional text.”

(Posner makes a point of disparaging the insights of the Framers of the Constitution, who, he observes, "were not demigods" -- unlike the divine entities who adorn the federal judiciary, from which they ex-nihilate "rights" or revoke existing ones as suits their omnipotent whims.)

By this claim, Posner literally exalts the power of the judiciary above that of the Creator, thereby explicitly fulfilling the prediction made by the Anti-Federalist author “Brutus” (the writer behind that pseudonym is believed to have been a judge himself -- Robert Yates of New York): “There is no power above them [federal judges], to control any of their decisions. There is no authority that can remove them, and they cannot be controlled by the laws of the legislature. In short, they are independent of the people, of the legislature, and of every power under heaven. Men placed in this situation will generally soon feel themselves independent of heaven itself.”

While Posner displays unalloyed disdain for the Constitution and the Creator, he does recognize at least some limits to the power of the judiciary: He notes that the courts generally defer to the other branches when there is a consensus between the executive and legislature; and he points out that the courts are reverent to the point of abject superstition in their application of stare decisis, at least when dealing with post-New Deal precedents.

What we are left with is a claim that the central government's power, when exercised by the president with the deference of Congress, is essentially inexhaustible, and that it is possible to “bend” constitutional law into any shape necessary to facilitate the exercise of those powers. And what of those of us on the receiving end of those powers? Well, “freedom” consists of whatever the State, in its grace, sees fit to bestow on us.

“The general argument [of my book],” writes Posner, “is that the scope of constitutional liberties is rightly less extensive at a time of serious terrorist threats and rapid proliferation of the means of widespread destruction than at a time of felt safety, but that the degree of curtailment required to protect us is not so great as to impair the feeling of freedom that is so important to Americans. It would leave intact the essential structure of constitutional liberties that the Supreme Court has been building since the 1950s and 1960s.” (Emphasis added.)

As long as we “feel” free, the State is permitted to do whatever it pleases. It's worth pointing out as well that the judicial traditions Posner alludes to are of very recent vintage, and they were designed to abet and facilitate the expansion of central government power.

In this way, our republic's law – the Constitution – has been nullified for the sake of a totalitarian “tradition.”

A quick note --

There will be a "Review of the News" installment posted here later today. Soon -- hopefully within the next week or so -- that feature will be up and running over at The Right Source.

I'd like to offer a quick thank you to dixiedog for being a productive nit-picker; he helped me find and correct a mis-spelling in the essay above.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Review of the News, November 23

Spanish Conquistador Juan de Onate, who celebrated the first American Thanksgiving on April 30, 1598

Offer Thanks to God, not to the State

As a Confederate sympathizer of (partially) Iberian heritage, I would prefer to celebrate Thanksgiving on April 30, the anniversary of the true first Dia de Gracias, celebrated by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his caravan in 1598.

There is nothing inappropriate about commemorating the tradition begun by the New England Puritans, or the earlier celebration conducted by Catholics in New Mexico, or both, since the point of each version is the same: A humble recognition of our intimate and comprehensive dependency on God for everything that makes life possible, and the adornments that make it a joy.

The problem with the standardized Thanksgiving celebration – as with so much else – is that it has its roots in a cynical wartime propaganda measure (introduced by an unbelieving president), and thus cannot escape the taint of State-worship. Be that as it may, I do intend to eat a scandalous amount of food later today, and thus will have to be brief in this morning's update (by way of pre-emptive penance I plan on doing several hundred pushups, skipping rope for about twenty minutes or so, and otherwise subjecting my aging and too abundant flesh to useful athletic trauma).

Bring Back Wyatt Earp!

So let me see if I understand the story so far:

Undercover narcotics agents in Atlanta claim to have purchased an unspecified amount of illegal drugs from an unidentified man inside the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston just hours before the paramilitary raid on the elderly lady's home that took her life, and left three of the tactical officers wounded.

Now the “John Doe” has fled, and authorities are refusing to release the “no-knock” warrant, despite the fact that it's a public document, because of what is described as an “office policy” -- which I'll wager was about ten seconds old at the time of its first invocation.

Color me cynical, but I'm guessing that we will eventually learn some or all of the following:

1)The warrant was defective;
2)The “evidence” behind it came from an unreliable source, such as a paid informant or a corrupt cop – or even the “John Doe” accused of making the buy, who cited a phony address as part of a deal;
3)As an alternative to the foregoing, “John Doe” doesn't exist, and the police will never find him, for the same reason O.J.'s diligent search has failed to find Nicole's “real killers,” and his fellow mass murderer George W. Bush has failed to find Saddam's “reconstituted” nuclear arsenal;

The most important thing we will learn will be details of a federal role in the killing – no, let's call it by its proper name: the murder – of Kathryn Johnston.

Kathryn Johnston: Victim of State murder.

This morning's Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

“By most accounts, the block where Johnston lived is quiet and unassuming. Yards are neat, and many of the residents are elderly. But, of the 15 homes on the block, three are either abandoned or empty and six [including the late Mrs. Johnston's] have burglar bars on windows and doors. And the Johnston home is just a block east of an area known as `The Bluff,' a section so beset with drugs and crime that federal authorities and Atlanta police have targeted it with an effort called Project Safe Neighborhoods. The program brings increased drug and gun enforcement, as well as inspections for code violations. Dozens of homes have been torn down since 2002 to prevent blight.”

The bullet-riddled mortal remains of Kathryn Johnston testify to the fact that few things are more lethal than a Federal initiative intended to enhance the “safety” of a residential neighborhood.

If the police were genuinely concerned about a drug deal at Mrs. Johnston's home, and they were convinced that the dealer was on the premises, why the hell didn't they simply stake out the home and wait?

Why was it necessary to deploy a paramilitary squad to kick down the door?

My best guess is that the department was reacting to the perverse incentives created by Federal counter-narcotics assistance. A military-style raid, after all, would underscore the magnitude of the “crisis” in Johnston's neighborhood, thereby keeping federal money flowing.

So this was, in a sense, a contract hit – if my suspicions are correct. The alternative – Katherine Johnston was killed because of a mixture of pathological incompetence and clinical indifference – is even worse.

Incidents of this sort are often attributed to a “Cowboy mentality” on the part of police tactical units, and rhetoric of that sort often invokes the iconic embodiment of the Cowboy Lawman mythos, Wyatt Earp. This is a gratuitous insult to cowboys of all varieties, of course, and a culpable misreading of Wyatt Earp's actual record.

Earp was not the dashboard saint played on the Silver Screen by Burt Lancaster, or on the small screen by Hugh O'Brian; he was probably a horse thief in Missouri before becoming a constable in Kansas. After ending his brief career in law enforcement, Earp frequently found himself drawn into small-time scams of various kinds. And we shouldn't ignore the fact that during his tenure in Tombstone, Earp was a Fed, with all the unfortunate connotations that go with that status.

But unlike today's opportunistic paramilitary police operators, Earp – the Shootout behind the OK Corral notwithstanding – resorted to gunplay with commendable reluctance. On most occasions he out-thought and out-maneuvered the bad guy, and his preferred method of dealing with an armed suspect was to “Buffalo” him – approach him from the blind side, grab his gun hand, and stun the subject by clubbing him with the butt of his revolver. (This tactic was depicted very well in the Kevin Costner bio-pic Wyatt Earp, even though the much-maligned Tombstone offers a sounder depiction of the Marshal's life – Val Kilmer's odd choice to play Doc Holliday with a Foghorn Leghorn accent notwithstanding.)

In his witty and compulsively readable book Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends, Allen Barra quotes the following observation by Bat Masterson, who was Earp's comrade in the legendary Dodge City Peace Commission: “[Wyatt], never at any time in his career, resorted to the pistol excepting in such cases where such a course was absolutely necessary. Wyatt could scrap with his fists, and had often taken all the fight out of bad men, as they were called, with no other weapons than those provided by Nature.”

Too often, Wyatt's confrontations (including the famous shoot-out in Tombstone) grew out of efforts to enforce civilian disarmament (aka “gun control”) ordinances. And there are other aspects of his personality, career, and legacy about which I'm ambivalent.

For now, suffice it to say that if the “Cowboy mentality” Wyatt Earp embodied were widespread, we wouldn't be seeing so many innocent people die in needless paramilitary police raids.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Review of the News, November 22

Tased and Confused

In the welter of partial disclosures and contradictory eyewitness accounts that are emerging about the Taser attack on UCLA student Mustafa Tabatabainejad, two facts have achieved saliency:

First, the UCLA officer who used the Taser, 43-year-old Terrence Duren, who has been a policeman since 1988, has a somewhat dubious employment record, having joined the UCLA force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department sometime in the late 1990s. Officer Duren, who at first glance appears to be a solid and respectable guy (that's an important part of this story, one I'll return to shortly), has been involved in controversial use-of-force incidents on at least three previous occasions, including an incident in which he shot a mentally ill vagrant.

The second interesting fact is that Officer Duren served in the first Gulf War. This is significant, in my view, because it illustrates the ever-deepening amalgamation of law enforcement and the military, both in terms of the shared talent pool and the increasing reliance on military tactics, training, hardware, and – most importantly – mind-set by local police agencies.

Consider the explanation given for the fact that Duren used his Taser five times on the UCLA undergraduate. As paraphrased in the Los Angeles Times:

“The officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out [of the computer lab at the UCLA library] and after he urged other library patrons to join his resistance, according to the university's account.”

If the student was “limp,” nothing prevented the officers (there were four of them, after all) from lifting the student and carrying him bodily from the room. Yes, it looks bad, albeit not nearly as bad as resulting the Abu Ghraib mise-en-scene -- a screaming student, surrounded by armed, uniformed men, with other students looking on in horror.

Both Tabatabainejad and several eyewitnesses add a key element missing from the official account, specifically that the Taser was used because he went limp. The student insists that he went limp when one of the officers refused to let go of his arm. He was leaving, in other words; he simply didn't consent to being dragged bodily from the room like a criminal.

Tabatabainejad, after all, is a California-born American citizen. He objected to the demand to show his ID, according to his account, because he suspected he had been singled out for harassment on account of his Iranian ancestry. (As someone who has been mistaken for an Iranian, a Saudi, an Egyptian, and various other ethnic types, I can sympathize somewhat with his complaint.) It's understandable to me why Tabatabainejad would insist on retaining a particle of dignity, and any legitimate peace officer – whose priority in a situation of this sort is to de-escalate – would permit the young man that insignificant moral victory.

But Officer Duren, like nearly everybody else employed by the Homeland Security State, is not a peace officer. His objective was to make the subject submit to the State's power – to “win” the engagement and hold the territory. His actions, and those of his comrades, reflect a military mind-set.

In chapter seven of my 2001 book Global Gun Grab (which may still be available from my erstwhile employers; if so, snag a copy), I cite a key insight from Diane Cecilia Weber, a law enforcement analyst at the Cato Institute: “[T]he mindset of the soldier is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not an `enemy' but individuals who are protected by the Bill of Rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences – such as unnecessary shootings and killings.”

Tabatabainejad was shot five times – by a Taser, a “non-lethal” weapon that has proved to be quite lethal in too many recorded incidents. I'm of the opinion that providing Tasers to police officers has actually abetted the unnecessary use of force, rather than containing it.

What we're dealing with here is not a hardware issue – firearms vs. Tasers – but a “software” issue – a military mindset vs. that of a peace officer.

For decades – beginning in the late 1960s, and escalating through the Nixon years – Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that the struggle to contain street crime is a literal “war.” (Go here for a clip from a very popular 1980s prime-time cop show that offers, via a very badly written and dubiously directed monologue, a version of this propaganda trope.) The “war on crime” soon spun off subsidiary “wars” on drugs, child abuse, and other marketable pathologies that dealt with discrete portions of the population.

With the advent of the “war on terror,” everyone's a suspect – and when the demands of State agents are met with anything other than instantaneous and unqualified submission, a citizen/subject/suspect becomes the “enemy.”

As I mentioned above, Officer Duren doesn't strike me as a malefactor. He's probably a decent guy, as are most of those who fill the ranks of the Homeland Security State. But as Isabel Patterson warned, most of the evil done in the world is done by “good” people.

The Wrong End of the Telescope

Here's a very brief excerpt from my next book, which is very much a work in progress:

“When it comes to protecting individual rights, too many Americans are examining the issue through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. They tend to obsess over distant and improbable threats posed by governments half-way around the world, while ignoring or minimizing the very tangible dangers to liberty posed by the government ruling us right now. Americans also dwell on the atrocities committed by the worst regimes in history – National Socialist Germany, Soviet Russia, and other mega-murdering tyrannies of that type – while ignoring clear and compelling warning signs that our own country is rapidly succumbing to similar totalitarian tendencies right now.”

Here's a splendid example of what I'm describing:

"The dirty little secret of the computer industry is that leading American computer companies are helping the Communist government of China spy on Chinese citizens. Firms accused of enabling the Chinese police state include high-profile names like Microsoft and Google. Now, another company, Cisco Systems, is facing investor backlash for its part in helping the Communist regime in Beijing....Every so often it is important to be reminded that evil triumphs only when good people do nothing. The shareholder revolt at Cisco highlights the importance of an informed citizenry taking an active stance against the perpetuation of evil.”

Bully for Cisco's rebellious shareholders, I say – even as I ask what may be a more pertinent question: When can we expect a similar shareholder revolt against the tech industry's collaboration in the efforts of our Regime to build a comprehensive surveillance system in this country?

Civil liberties advocates of various stripes have filed a total of 48 lawsuits against various telecom giants – including BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, Sprint, MCI, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast – for their involvement in the Regime's warrantless wiretap program. A federal judge has ruled – suh-PRIZE! -- that the Regime is not required to comply with a freedom of information act request filed by advocacy groups seeking documents about the number of wiretaps and the program's chain of command.

It's a “national security” issue, y'see.

Beijing says exactly the same thing about its domestic surveillance program, too.

And many – if not most – of the people building Beijing's Big Brother system are doing exactly the same thing here, only our version is much more advanced than theirs.

So ... isn't it an exercise in mote-plucking and beam-avoiding to focus on what's going on in China?

Hey, I'm just asking.

Heroic Security Officers Wounded in Fatal Clash with Insurgent ...

... or, at least, that's how the killing of 92-year-old Atlanta resident Katherine Johnson during an armed drug raid is being depicted in the “free” press.

Imperial Outsourcing

Every time I read something extruded by Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, I'm prompted to remember that “Caligula” meant “little boots" (the despicable little creature's given name was Gaius). Little Max is Caligulan in his perverted appetite for power and his disdain for freedom. Taking a page from the syllabus of mortal errors made by ruling class of late Imperial Rome, Max – along with a fellow think-tank Babbitt -- insists that the US should look to rented foreigners to defend the empire's far-flung garrisons:

“Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, have proposed allowing thousands of immigrants to serve for four years in the military in exchange for U.S. Citizenship....More than 40,000 noncitizens are serving in the U.S. military on active and reserve duty, and about 8,000 permanent residents enlist for active duty every year. Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said that a recent change in law has given the Pentagon authority to bring foreigners to the United States to serve in the military, but that the Pentagon has not exercised the option.”

Call it Imperial Outsourcing – turning to immigrants for coffin-stuffers because going abroad to kill and die on behalf of our ruling elite is a job Americans increasingly won't do.

It could also be a case of importing people to serve in the Leviathan's domestic army, as well.

This sort of thing has been done before. During the War Between the States, it was common practice for immigrants freshly arrived in New York to be stuffed into a Union uniform and sent off to kill Confederates. And thinly assimilated immigrants were often used in frontier duty, “chastising” or “pacifying” Indians.

Immigrant officers were used in the round-up of the Navajo for interment at New Mexico's Bosque Redondo gulag, as described in Hampton Sides' Blood and Thunder (to which I've referred before). Referring to the officers who served under Kit Carson as the Navajos were rounded up, Sides writes:

“Time and time again they demonstrated themselves to be a uniquely inept and unruly bunch. Overworked and underpaid, many of them drunks, a good number of them immigrants fresh from paces like Ireland, England, and the Netherlands, they hated having to do this depressing work in a desert wasteland.... [N]early half of the officers serving on the Navajo campaign were either court-martialed or forced to resign.... [A]mong other things, Carson's officers were charged with `murder, alcoholism, embezzlement, sexual deviation [one was caught in bed with an enlisted man], desertion, and incompetence.'”

This army of degenerates was given orders by James Henry Carleton to break the spirit of the Navajo, compelling them to submit to the central government under the threat of literal extermination.

Carson, who hated this duty and did what he could to mitigate it, was given this message from Carleton to pass along to the Navajos:

“This war shall be pursued against you if it takes years, until you cease to exist or move [into the reservation]. There can be no other talk on the matter.”

For some reason, I find myself wondering if this sort of thing could happen on a much grander scale now that our nation is being turned into the modern equivalent of one vast Indian reservation....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Review of the News, November 21

Quote Of The Day

Our present selection addresses a persistent source of perplexity: Why do so few subjects of the regime notice our ever-deepening condition of servitude?

“From the time of the Magna Carta and even earlier, the makers of English law have been concerned to protect the physical freedom of the individual. A person who is being kept in prison on grounds of doubtful legality has the right, under the Common Law as clarified by the statute of 1679, to appeal to one of the higher courts of justice for a writ of habeas corpus. This writ is addressed by a judge of the high court to a sheriff or jailer, and commands him, within a specified period of time, to bring the person he is holding in custody to the court for an examination of the case – to bring, be it noted, not the person's written complaint, nor his legal representatives, but his corpus, his body, the ... solid flesh which has been made to sleep on boards, to smell the fetid prison air, to eat the revolting prison food.

This concern with the basic condition of freedom – the absence of physical constraint – is unquestionably necessary, but is not all that is necessary. It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison, and yet not free – to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the National State, or of some private interest within the nation, want him to think, feel, and act. There will never be such a thing as a writ of habeas mentum; for no sheriff or jailer can bring an illegally imprisoned mind into court, and no person whose mind had been made captive ... would be in a position to complain of his captivity.”

Aldous Huxley, from Brave New World Revisited

Define “Temporary”

All created things have a life-span. Stones will eventually be worn down to pebbles, and then to dust. The “fixed” stars are nothing of the sort; constellations will change (some have, within the memory of man), and the radiant orbs that compose them will themselves grow cold and die, or erupt into the cataclysmic fury of supernovas.

With this in mind, it's useful to ask: What does the regime mean when it hints that there will be a “temporary” increase in troop deployments to Iraq? What is their time horizon, if any?

In 1898, a “temporary” telephone tax was imposed to pay for another demented war, this one intended to grab a few territories from the pathetic remnant of the Spanish Empire. That “temporary” tax was repealed last year -- more than a century after it was first imposed.

Back in World War II, with the aid of the late Milton Friedman, the regime under FDR imposed the payroll withholding tax as another “temporary” wartime expedient. The expiration date of that monstrous imposition has yet to be reached, more than half a century later.

In 1950, U.S. Troops were deployed to Korea as part of a temporary “police action” under UN command. Our military temp workers remain deployed in Korea today.

A biographical variation of this principle is offered by the case of Skull & Bones legacy George W. Bush, who was given the place-filler secret name “Temporary” back in 1969; his attention occupied by other matters (such as evading military service in Vietnam – a perfectly sensible course of action not available to less privileged kids), “Temporary” never bothered to change the default label.

So once again I inquire: When we're informed that the Pentagon is considering “a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels in Iraq,” what is the projected half-life of this “temporary” deployment?

Unless our defeated force is driven out of Mesopotamia in a panicked, disgraceful rush, or – even worse – cut off and slaughtered (did the brain-boxes running this war ever play "Risk"?), I suspect that there will be American troops entrenched in Iraq until Jesus comes, or thorium 232loses its potency, whichever comes last.

The build-up itself may be “temporary,” if only to provide a suitably inflated troop count that can be reduced at some unspecified future date in order to provide an illusion of “progress.”

Note as well that the Pentagon describes this scenario as the “surge option.” Remember that expression “surge”; one advertised purpose of the proposed “national service” program supported by Charles Rangel and others – in which all 18-year-olds would have to enlist in federal service, either in the military or some other role – would be to provide “surge capacity” for military missions abroad.

“Channeling,” revisited

Back in 2002, Navy Recruiter Lt. Jason Hudson, whose territory is centered in Tennessee but includes parts of five states, was puzzled by a directive that was apparently designed to promote enlistment of white recruits while diverting equally qualified black enlistees.

Lt. Hudson spoke out against what a policy he regarded as racially invidious and probably illegal. That policy was repealed, but Lt. Hudson faces a negative evaluation that he suspects, reasonably, to be a retaliatory action by his superiors.

There may be little substance to Lt. Hudson's complaints, but this episode offers a suitable occasion to review the Vietnam-era practice of “Channeling,” in which the Selective Service System enforced a de facto caste system.(.pdf)

The draft is not “only about putting men in the military,” observes activist Ron Jacobs in CounterPunch. “It is also about maintaining the stratification of society based on society's current economic needs [as those “needs “are defined by the ruling political class, of course – WG]. Prior to 1969, the military draft consistently deferred men who were considered to be `college material.' In addition those in college whose studies might have been useful to the war machine-say in the areas of technology and science-were granted deferments. This policy was called `channeling' and was defended as being in the national interest. Its converse-the channeling of men who weren't considered `college material' to the front lines, was by default, also considered to be in the national interest. After 1969, when the national draft lottery was introduced in the name of supposed fairness, the policy of channeling was continued via the AFQT [Armed Forces Qualifying Test]. Those young men whose numbers were drawn who were sent to the front lines were more likely to have scored lower on the [AFQT]. Those young men whose numbers were drawn who scored higher, usually because they had received a better education, were assigned to units more likely to be out of harm's way, probably in another part of the world.”

Future Vice President Deadeye Dick Cheney, who had “other priorities” than service in Vietnam, was able to channel-surf his way to multiple deferments, as were many others in the neo-Trotskyite War Party.

The fundamental evil of conscription is it asserts a claim no government has a right to make, namely that it is entitled “to every dollar and every right arm in the country for its protection," as the New York Times explained in a pro-draft "Civil War"-era editorial I'm doing my best to make notorious.

The draft always entails regimentation of the economy as well as the impressment of slave labor. This is why Bernard Baruch, the Woodrow Wilson regime's Economic Commissar, demanded the power to control the entire labor force, set prices, and control all productive activity. He also administered the “Work or Fight” initiative, through which the federal government commanded men who received deferments to be “faithfully, continuously and usefully employed in a capacity and for an enterprise determined by the government to be essential to the prosecution of the war....”

In brief, as I've explained elsewhere, conscription is not merely integral to communism; it is communism.

Philip Gold, author of the new book The Coming Draft: The Crisis in Our Military and Why Selective Service Is Wrong, points out that like any other central planning scheme, conscription always entails mal-distribution of the resources it commands – in this case, the living bodies of young people. The “channeling” caste system was one inevitable result.

During Vietnam, recalls Gold (who doesn't oppose conscription in principle, as any decent, freedom-focused person would), there was “a vast excess of bodies over and above the military requirements. So the pre-Vietnam draft became an exercise in social engineering – or, as it was called back then, `channeling.' A complex and generous latticework of deferments and exemptions encouraged young men to beat the draft by engaging in socially desirable activities.... This was essentially the draft we used to fight Vietnam: a draft designed to keep people out. The lottery system that replaced it from 1970 to 1973 represented an improvement. But that lottery was a buy-off until the draft could be ended entirely. Today a lottery system would face the same problem: a major excess of bodies beyond requirements. The same basic inequity – some serve, many don't – would pertain, unless we hauled off a couple million teenagers a year for the sake of `fairness.'... Would renewed conscription be `homeland defense only,' or would it simply provide future presidents with large quantities of semiskilled, expendable labor?”

I have a better question: Why are we even tolerating a discussion – however furtive – of renewing the odious practice in any form?

Oh, that's right – see the Quote Of The Day above.

Obiter Dicta

I'm aware that I owe you a significant announcement, sometime "around Thanksgiving." Here's a downpayment: I'm working on a book about the emerging American Reich; it should be done by New Year's Day. I'll have additional details regarding publication and distribution as soon as they're available.

If you have enjoyed these Review Of The News segments, you'll be interested to know that -- as soon as the technical details are worked out -- they will be available at The Right Source as a daily feature. I'll continue to post lengthier essays here at Pro Libertate.