Saturday, June 30, 2007

Derek Hale's Murderer Is Back On The Streets

Lt. William Browne of the Wilmington, Delaware Police "did not violate police department policy or procedures" when he gunned down Derek Hale (left, in Iraq with a Marine buddy) on the front porch of a friend's house last November 6. This was the long-anticipated and utterly predictable finding of the Wilmington Police Department's Office of Professional Standards.

The supposed exoneration of Lt. Browne came after Delaware state Attorney General Beau Biden cleared him of violating state law when he shot Derek twice, at point-blank range, after the decorated Marine combat veteran had been hit with seven taser blasts in a little more than a minute. Derek, a retired Marine sergeant, was not the subject of an arrest warrant at the time, although he did belong to the Pagans, an "outlaw motorcycle club" that included several people under investigation for suspected narcotics and firearms offenses.

So Lt. Brown is now free to kill again. He will not be stopped unless the civil suit filed against him and others implicated in the murder and cover-up succeeds. On previous experience, it's doubtful that such a lawsuit will produce that result, given that the murderous Lt. Brown has been "cleared" by the hierarchy of the gang that employs him.

Are there any Marine veterans in Wilmington who know Lt. Browne? If you're out there, could you take him aside and have a friendly chat with him, expressing your opinion of someone who would gun down an unarmed, unresisting combat veteran, leaving his wife a widow and orphaning his stepchildren?

(My thanks to Anthony Gregory for alerting me to this infuriating, if predictable, development.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Nothing's Either Good or Bad -- Unless the State Says So (Pt. 1)


Denmark's a prison.


Then is the world one.


A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.


We think not so, my lord.


Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

The United States, nominally a constitutional republic, has a population of roughly 300 million people. That figure represents a rounding error in trying to calculate the population of China, which is a nominally Communist nation. Yet the US has a larger prison population than China.

Granted, in China one can find himself thrown in prison for various ideological crimes that don't involve offenses against persons and property. But the same is true of the United States, as well, even if the specific list of such “offenses” is different.

Subjects of tyrannical governments are left in a state of perpetual insecurity, never certain how or when the “law” will change in such a way that something considered perfectly legal today may be regarded as a grave crime tomorrow. By that definition, the regime ruling the United States is at least as tyrannical as the one ruling China, and as we've observed, the rate of incarceration reflects that reality.

Ashley Epis, 8 years old, displays her support for her father, Bryan, who was sentenced to federal prison for the supposed crime of growing medicinal marijuana. "My daddy is not a criminal," Ashley explains. The purulent hypocrites who sent him there are, however.

It is difficult to tell how many of the 2,245,189 people held in prisons and jails as of June 2006 (the last year for which figures were available) had been locked up for driving under the influence of alcohol, or for DUI-related probation or parole violations. And of course, drug offenders of various kinds are well-represented in detention facilities of all kinds: By one recent estimate, the imprisonment of non-violent offenders – meaning, for the most part, substance abusers of some variety – accounted for 77% of the growth in the prison population between 1978 and 1996.

Such people are in prison not because they have committed crimes that are wrong in themselves (mala en se), but rather because the State has banned those acts (mala prohibita). A century ago, drug use was not considered a crime of any sort – much less a felony – in most American jurisdictions. Thanks to the “war on drugs,” it is now possible to be imprisoned for growing a non-narcotic that is arbitrarily banned by the same Federal Government that, a little more than a half-century ago, all but required its cultivation: Hemp.

Recently, a group of farmers from North Dakota (including state representative David Monson) filed suit against the Drug Enforcement Agency, seeking to lift the ban on the industrial production of hemp, an immensely profitable cash crop that can be used for food, fiber, and fuel. Oilseed and fiber hemp cannot be used to produce the narcotic commonly called marijuana. The State of North Dakota has licensed its production. And yet the farmers would find themselves subject to prosecution and imprisonment unless the DEA issues the appropriate permits, which the agency is unwilling to do.

Do my eyes deceive me, or is the battle-scarred sailor in this 1942 war propaganda poster seeking comfort in an elaborate water bong?

Seven decades ago, when FDR and his gang were in charge of the regime, cultivation of fiber hemp was encouraged as a “patriotic duty.” In 1938, Popular Mechanics published a feature story extolling hemp as a “billion-dollar crop” that could lift American farmers from the slough of the Great Depression. Ironically, at the time (as we'll shortly see) an effort was already underway to criminalize hemp production.

After FDR successfully maneuvered the US into World War II (albeit with the timely help of Imperial Japan), growing fiber hemp – for various naval applications -- was seen as vital to the war effort, as this 1942 federal propaganda film illustrates:

This dull but informative agitprop film depicts hemp as a splendidly useful – nay, miraculous – plant whose multifarious uses had blessed mankind since time immemorial. It also reported that, with Japan seizing control of vital hemp supplies overseas, the cultivation of American hemp was a major war priority. Accordingly, in 1942, 36,000 acres of seed hemp planted “by patriotic farmers at the government's request” who had received the appropriate federal registration and tax stamps.

In 1937, the Federal Government, working in collusion with the politically well-connected DuPont corporation (a military contractor that was developing synthetic plastics and wanted to beat down competition from hemp-based fiber products) covertly plotted to criminalize production of hemp through the use of suffocating taxation and regulation. This was exactly the same strategy, incidentally, that inspired the 1934 National Firearms Act, the first step in what was intended to be the disarmament of the American people.

The move to ban hemp through confiscatory taxation saved the career of Harry J. Anslinger, who prior to 1931 had been Assistant US Commissioner for Prohibition. Anslinger, notes Jack Herer in his fascinating study The Emperor Wears No Clothes, “was hand-picked to head the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics by his uncle-in-law, Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury under President Herbert Hoover. The same Andrew Mellon was also the owner and largest stockholder of the sixth largest bank (in 1937) in the United States, the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, one of only two bankers for DuPont from 1928 to the present.”

"Dude, that looks like some righteous weed!" exclaimed Harry Ansligner (left, affecting a casual pose in his overcoat) as his homiez took stock of their newly acquired stash.

Anslinger was hopelessly addicted to lurid stories – none of which was ever documented -- of marijuana-crazed people committing hideous crimes, including rape, murder, and “miscegenation.” (Oh, didn't I mention that Ansligner was particularly preoccupied with the idea that black people are particularly susceptible to marijuana, and that one particularly acute danger posed by the demon weed was its supposed role in breaking down the barriers against “race-mixing”?)

Following World War II, when it was documented that marijuana did not promote outbursts of violent, aggressive behavior, Anslinger – in a fashion worthy of Orwell's Ministry of Truth – reversed field entirely. By 1948, he insisted that the same drug that turned men into paranoid, predatory criminals and white women into aggressive sluts would somehow turn young people into weak-willed pacifists unwilling and unable to obey the muster call to take arms against the Communist Menace.

Clearly, marijuana – at least as described by Anslinger – was a uniquely versatile substance. In testimony under oath before Congress in 1937, Anslinger insisted: "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind." Eleven years later, once again under oath, he warned that Communist powers would flood the country with marijuana in order to leave our youth too torpid and blissful to pick up a gun.

Neither of these descriptions was truthful, of course. But each was useful in its time for Anslinger's objective, which was to create a pretext for expansion of federal power to regiment individual behavior.

Well, they had a point: A Canadian cartoon, circa 1931, ridicules the American experiment in social regimentation called "Prohibition."

Prior to 1937, marijuana consumption was neither good or bad from the State's point of view. The same was true of alcohol consumption before 1920, and after 1933 – an historical parenthesis during which Anslinger and his ilk wrought havoc in the name of Prohibition.

(In part II, we'll briefly examine the seminal role played by the OSS/CIA in creating the narcotics counter-culture).

Make sure to check out the Liberty Minute archives, and to drop by The Right Source.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Reign of the Bullies (IMPORTANT UPDATE; see bottom of page)

Kevin Bearly became a Los Angeles policeman for an eminently commendable reason: An idealistic young man with a deep streak of Irish pugnacity, Kevin couldn't countenance lawless bullies, and during his years on the LAPD he dealt with more than a few of them.

A few weeks ago, Kevin described an incident from early in his police career in which he learned how easily police officers can become street bullies.

Shortly after hitting the streets as a rookie police officer, Kevin and his partner -- a veteran officer -- visited the local skid row. One by one, the drunks were loaded onto a van. At one point, Kevin made a disparaging remark about one of them, an unkempt middle-aged man. The target of the ill-considered jibe fixed Kevin with an outraged look and then "hit me square in the face, knocking me flat on my back," he recalled.

Knocking Kevin down, I hasten to point out, is not easily or frequently done by anyone of any size.

Understandably, Kevin was infuriated, not just because nobody likes to be knocked down, but also because slugging a police officer was, and is, considered a serious criminal offense. His partner intervened, made sure that everyone was securely in the van, and then he took Kevin aside to impart some necessary wisdom, beginning with this unexpected assessment: "You got exactly what you deserved."

The officer went on to explain how the man who had made Kevin get his back dirty was a World War II veteran who had lived a good and decent life until a series of misfortunes had deposited him on skid row. He had been a man of accomplishment, and despite the weakness that left him on the streets, he still had a sense of dignity and self-worth. These are the kind of things that every Beat Cop needed to learn about the people in his patrol area, Kevin was told.

And his partner italicized another important principle:

"We have to treat everybody with respect. It doesn't matter whether we like them or not, or what their attitude toward us may be. We owe them respect."

This was the perspective of many law peace officers as recently as the 1970s. A residue of that honorable attitude can be found today: Even now, there are police officers who comport themselves with dignity and discipline, and see their role as that of protecting the rights of the innocent, rather than making the public submit to the power of the State.

Although it was probably never a good idea for the U.S. to import Robert Peel's system of "professional" police, this much can be said: Peace Officers like Kevin and his partner (I've been blessed to know a few, and correspond with many more) are more valuable than platinum, and they will be extinct within the next generation.

Their places will be filled by the likes of Joey Williams of the Hot Springs Police Department, the wretched skinhead in uniform who plays the starring role in this video:

Look particularly at what happens between 2:13 and about 2:00 in the video as the heroic Officer Williams places a chokehold on a 12-year-old girl, and then does the same thing to a male youngster of about the same age who came to her defense. The girl escaped, but the boy was taken down and cuffed -- after Officer Joey got some help from one of his buddies.

That's right, Joey: That kid you took down, with some help from another tax-guzzler, was more of a man than you will ever be (but then again, since you were named after a baby kangaroo I suppose you started out at a disadvantage). He came to the rescue of a girl being attacked by a lawless bully

"If you resist, then that's what happens," wheezed the carbohydrate sculpture in uniform, winded but triumphant after his mano-a-mano with an underfed 12-year-old girl, after one of the kids criticized Officer Joey for throwing her defender to the ground. "She wasn't too damn worried about it when she wanted to fight," added Joey, his words delivered with the kind of chest-thumping bravado one would expect had the subdued suspect been 6'5" of streaming steel, rather than a skinny kid barely into adolescence.

During this entire incident, that bald, corpulent sack of malice is heard sputtering about the skateboarders being in "violation of a city ordinance," and then listing all of the various offenses for which they were being arrested: "Fleeing," "disorderly conduct," "resisting arrest," and so

"See that blow on my knee?" he complains at one point. "That's battery."

Well, Officer Joey -- embodiment of the Thin (make that "chunky") Blue Line and retromingent enforcer of petty municipal ordinances -- putting a chokehold on an unarmed and unresisting 12-year-old girl is felony assault; it could be considered attempted homicide. More importantly, it is a violation of something that should be encoded on the DNA of every male, and reinforced by the social mores of the Old South: You don't commit acts of violence against young women.

Once again, it was the kid handcuffed on the street who lived up to that ideal, not the bully with a badge who put him there.

I don't care what costume you wear, what cheap jewelry you can flash in somebody's face, or who cuts your paycheck -- you don't lay your hands on somebody's daughter, much less wrap your arm around her throat and try (unsuccessfully, Joey: she got away from you) throw her to the ground.

Joey is on "administrative leave." This almost certainly means he'll be reinstated and given different duties as soon as the Hot Springs PD can find some way to justify the pre-ordained conclusion that his behavior was "in compliance with department guidelines." In fact, the Department is already working on a revised storyline.

"If a subject becomes confrontational, the officer has a right to defend himself," insists Department spokesperson McCrary Means. "There are certain steps: first of all a verbal command. Like I said, if that subject becomes combative, that officer needs to do all he can do to get that subject under control."

Really? A State-employed armed thug is entitled to "do all he can do" to ensure submission, even when the supposed offense is the equivalent of spitting on the sidewalk? Even when the "combative" subjects are unarmed, non-violent youngsters, including pre-teens?

Officer Joey, seen here strangling two unarmed adolescents.

In principle, "all he can do" means that a police officer can employ potentially deadly force, such as putting a chokehold on a 12-year-old girl; wouldn't that also mean that the same officer can pull his gun and shoot skateboarders, if he fails to make them submit to his commands?

This is why I refer to every law or ordinance -- however trivial it may seem -- as a potential death sentence.

Not only should Joey be cashiered from the force and prosecuted for several kinds of assault and battery, he should be locked in a room with that girl's male relatives for about an hour, during which time he would have every opportunity to justify his unearned swagger by displaying the martial prowess that gave him the upper hand in a fierce street struggle with a 12-year-old girl.

In case you're interested in expressing your admiration for the work of Officer Joey and the intrepid force he serves here's the contact information:

Phone: (501) 321-6789
Fax: (501) 321-6708
Chief of Police, Bobby Southard
641 Malvern Avenue,
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901


Keith Graff, seen here with his father, Terry, before his life fell apart.

Something tells me I'm going to have a lot to say about this case, in which 24-year-old Glendale, Arizona man Keith Graff, a former US Army Paratrooper, who was murdered by a Officer Charles Anderson III in apparent retaliation for "assaulting" another officer -- Carla Williams, a She-Police with whom the first police officer was romantically involved. The murder weapon of choice was a "non-lethal" Taser gun.

A few weeks before he was killed, Graff -- who was the subject of a felony arrest warrant for meth use -- had a run-in with "Officer" Williams. As she tried to arrest him, Graff shoved her aside and escaped on foot. This was the second time Carla Williams, who had no business being a police officer, had let a suspect escape. The implications for her career were pretty ominous, and this might have been why her bed-mate, Officer Anderson, decided to track down Graff and punish him.

Anderson found Graff in a Phoenix apartment on May 3, 2005. Graff once again fled, but this time Anderson caught him and used his Taser to "subdue" Graff, who was uncooperative but non-violent.

The face of a killer:
Charles Anderson, the policeman who tracked down Keith Graff and electrocuted him as his bed-mate, Carla Williams (right, below) urged him on.

For "subdue" we should read "kill": Anderson fired the Taser into Graff's chest at point-blank range for 84 seconds, while Carla Williams (according to a witness) to "keep `it' on" him.

Four police officers were involved in the incident -- Anderson and Williams, and two other male officers who, one assumes, weren't sleeping together. One of them, Detective Carl Caruso, told a review panel that "after five or 10 seconds, the suspect stopped resisting." At that point, one of the officers should have cuffed Graff.

Yet Anderson kept pumping electricity into the prone, helpless, and dying 24-year-old man.

The Department's internal review of the incident...

Wait for it ... wait for it ...

"Cleared Anderson of any wrongdoing" in the matter, claiming that he had acted "in accordance with policy."

"Our use-of-force people concluded that the officers were within the policies we had in place," insists Phoenix PD spokesliar Lt. Dave Kelly, "and that's just the way it is."

Former LAPD SWAT Commander Ron McCarthy, who reviewed the same evidence, came to a markedly different conclusion:

"Anderson was punishing Graff with the Taser.... The fact that he held down the trigger for 84 seconds and at no time lifted the pressure of his finger to allow Graff to comply, when obviously he could have done so, is brutality."

It was also, whether prosecuted as such or not, second-degree murder, at the very least. And given the avidity with which Anderson tracked Graff down, premeditation has to be assumed. Furthermore, Williams would have to be seen as an accomplice, as would the other two officers who refused to intervene. A case can be made that the review board that didn't discipline Anderson in any way are accessories to the crime, as well.

Be sure to check out the Liberty Minute archive (today's installment is particularly relevant to the topic discussed above) -- and to visit The Right Source.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Private Vices, Public Crimes

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property.

Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.

Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

In vices, the very essence of crime – that is, the design to injure the person or property of another – is wanting. It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another....

Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property.... For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be a falsehood, or falsehood truth.

Lysander Spooner, Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication Of Moral Liberty

Six months ago, an unjustified SWAT raid on the Scottsdale, Arizona home of Salvador and Carlota Celaya resulted in a fire that deprived the elderly couple of all their earthly possessions.

This was a crime, not a vice.

The police obtained a search warrant claiming they had evidence connecting the Carlota family and its home to Erasmo Ruiz Villarreal, who was wanted for a home invasion robbery a few nights earlier. At the beginning of the raid, SWAT operators threw a flash-bang device – a grenade that carries a potentially lethal charge, and has incendiary effects – into a bedroom. The grenade is marked with a warning that it is not to be “deployed” on flammable objects, such as bedding. So it's not surprising that the bed caught on fire.

The purpose of using a “diversionary” grenade is to “disorient” the target. In this case, the target – the criminal suspect – wasn't on the premises. Salvador Celaya, a 73-year-old man who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was already quite disoriented by the raid: Not knowing that the armed assailants were police, he armed himself with a .22 revolver and began shooting.

One would think that the heroes of the SWAT team – swaddled in protective armor, bearing ballistic shields, and packing very large caliber weapons – would be able to withstand such a withering barrage from a small-caliber weapon and be able to subdue a confused 73-year-old man without killing him or destroying his home.

One would think so. One would be wrong.

According to the police report, it was Salvador, not the SWAT team, who was responsible for the fire that gutted his home. The police insisted that Salvador's “decision to arm himself with a gun forced them to implement safety precautions that prevented them from putting the fire out.”

This is a standard element of every SWAT raid: Officer safety uber alles. But the fire wouldn't have ignited if the police had followed correct “safety precautions” before the grenade had been flung into the bedroom.

The Celayas immigrated to the United States 45 years ago; he worked as a mechanic, she labored as a seamstress. Through frugal living they acquired enough money to buy the home that was destroyed in the raid – an event for which the police department accepts no responsibility.

This is not a botched raid,” sniffed Gilbert P.D. Spokesdrone Lt. Joe Ruet as the debris was still smoldering. “It's not the wrong house, and it's a very serious criminal that we're after.”

Well, that “very serious criminal” wasn't there, and neither were any of the stolen items – including $7,000 in cash, consumer electronics, a pit bull, and rims from a Cadillac Escalade, at least some of which would have survived a fire – that were listed on the search warrant. So it was the "wrong house," and an innocent couple was deprived of their home for nothing. Wouldn't this fit the description of a “botched raid”?

Well ... no. The Gilbert Police Department, after long and detailed scrutiny, has exonerated itself completely (wasn't the suspense terrific?). Although the Gilbert PD admitted that the SWAT operators “did not adequately announce their entry” into the Celaya home, this was only a “minor violation” of department policy.

As I noted earlier: This was a crime – an immensely destructive act of negligence that deprived an elderly couple of the product of their lifetime labors. By refusing to accept its moral responsibility to the Celayas, the Gilbert PD has compounded culpable negligence with active malice. The Celayas are preparing to sue the city for $750,000, which most likely means that the local taxpayers – rather than the guilty officials – will pay for the crime committed against that family.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Arizona, another elderly individual – 83-year-old Phil Cisnerosfaces a life sentence in prison as a result of a personal vice that shouldn't be punished as a crime.

For at least part of his time in the State Prison in Florence, Cisneros was sleeping outdoors in 100-degree heat. He suffers from “prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea, shingles, dizziness, and shortness of breath,” reports the Phoenix New Times. Most of those afflictions can kill him. Unless action is taken to commute his three-year sentence, Cisneros will die in prison. In fact, the State may quietly accelerate that process, given that it will cost at least $65,000 to provide Cisneros with medical care for each year he's imprisoned. And he has committed no crimes against persons or property.

A few weeks ago, he was sentenced to three years in prison on a felony DUI conviction handed down in absentia nine years ago.

In 1993, Cisneros lost his first wife Lucy to Alzheimer's disease. The stress of caring for his invalid wife apparently drove him to the bottle. Between 1989 and 1992, he was busted for DUIs four times. After Lucy died, Cisneros sobered up. He met another wonderful woman also named Lucy and remarried, much to the delight of his five children and fifteen grandchildren.

And then both he and his second Lucy were diagnosed with cancer. This apparently drove him back to driking, and in 1998 he was arrested for rolling through a stop sign on his way home from a bar. A canny DUI lawyer could likely have worked out a deal that didn't involve time behind bars, but Cisneros never showed up for the trial. Gila County Prosecutor Daisy Flores, whose surname should be “Nettles” rather than “Flowers,” insists that Cisneros made a conscious attempt to avoid punishment.

However, according to everyone who knows him, Cisneros has made no effort to hide himself from the police, who for their part made no effort to bring him in. Furthermore, Phil has let Lucy do all the driving. She was behind the wheel a few months ago when the couple was returning from a dental appointment in Mexico. Border Guards detained the couple and arrested Phil on the nine-year-old conviction.

According to Flores, her office has actually exercised clemency by “forgiving” one of Cisneros's prior convictions and imprisoning him for merely three years – which is to say, for life: “[H]e took off for eight and a half years. I don't feel any pity for him.”

Los Angeles County Prosecutor Rocky Delgadillo, Paris Hilton's Inspector Javert, has provided a useful and timely reminder that the most inflexible prosecutors tend to be the most cavalier about obeying the laws. With that in mind, someone should rummage around in Daisy Flores's background and find out what un-addressed infractions and petty crimes litter the record of that pitiless little shrike.

Gila County Judge Robert Duber has displayed a similar gift for compassion and proportionality: During the trial, confronted with letters from 65 friends and relatives urging leniency, the Judge sneered that he saw 65 “co-conspirators” who had concealed Cisneros rather than clicking their heels and surrendering him to the State.

Duber's reaction when told that Cisneros suffers from several terminal afflictions displays a similar human touch: “The entire jail system is full of people who have very bad health problems.”

Like Phil Cisneros, my father is 83 years old, and like myself he doesn't drink, smoke, or engage in any similar vices (although both of us have a weakness for soda, which is a much bigger health risk than, say, smoking marijuana, something I neither do nor recommend).

To Robert Duber II, I offer this observation just by way of useful advice:

If some preening, overfed, tax-devouring chair-polluter who wears a dress to work sent my elderly father to die in prison for a non-violent offense, I would be severely tempted to track that “judge” down and curb-stomp his ugly, arrogant face. Permanent disfigurement would be a condign punishment for a judicial crime of that sort.

Yes, I believe in the non-aggression principle. But the death sentence Duber inflicted on Phil Cisneros was an act of aggression against someone whose behavior – once the key distinctions are understood – was a vice, not a crime.

But isn't driving while intoxicated a crime?” I hear someone asking – most likely my Past Self, who believed as much until quite recently. My thinking on the subject has changed, in large measure because of these wise insights offered by Thomas Fleming:

We have to give up such pernicious folly as the delusion that in locking up a DUI offender we are protecting the public.... Just as the state does not exist to make people virtuous, the criminal justice system does not exist to protect the public but to punish criminals once they have committed a crime.... [T]o punish a DUI offender who has not harmed anyone is to punish a physical or moral condition. Adultery in the heart may be as sinful as one carried out, but we punish the act and not the state of mind.... These blood-alcohol crimes are the equivalent of thought-crimes.”

The language of Orwell's dystopia is appropriate to a discussion of Arizona's demented DUI law, under which some offenders must install an Orwellian ignition interlock system that forces them to take a breath test as a condition of operating a vehicle.

The assumption here is that people who occasionally become intoxicated on alcohol cannot be trusted to operate their own cars – just as it's supposedly just to deprive Phil Cisneros of what little time he has left to enjoy the company of his grandchildren and terminally ill wife because of a nine-year-old DUI conviction.

And meanwhile, power-intoxicated Judges who needlessly tear long-suffering families asunder, and SWAT operators who leave innocent elderly people homeless and destitute, are free to visit such misery on others.

Such is the state of affairs in the state that gave us Barry Goldwater.

Please be sure to check out The Right Source.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One Small Victory Over Leviathan

The son of an FBI agent, Richard Mack attended the Bureau's training academy and aspired to become a G-Man himself. When that career didn't materialize, he ended up in Provo, Utah, the community made famous (after a fashion) in Fletch.

It was the early 1980s; hair was big, ties were skinny, and the “War on Drugs” was just beginning to grind our liberties to dust. Mack, under the nom de guerre “Gary Layton,” worked as an undercover narc, in which capacity he was occasionally required to partake of the demon weed. He got promotions; the people who passed him the bong got prison time. The patent hypocrisy of this exercise was not lost on Mack.

After his undercover gig, Mack was transferred to traffic enforcement, where he experienced an epiphany.

One day, while on patrol, he parked his police cruiser near an elementary school to review a report,” recounted a 2003 Salt Lake City Weekly profile. “He saw a woman run a stop sign. She saw him see her. She pulled over without instruction from flashing police lights. Mack thought to himself, `This will be easy.' When he approached her car, she handed over her insurance and license information through an open car window without saying a word. Mack thought again, `Good, this will be easy.'”

But as he peered into the car, Mack felt his conscience rebel.

I looked down at this dilapidated, old, crappy car with this 35- to 40-ish woman going on 85, and she had this dejected stare. Her kids were fighting in the back. They looked unkempt. I knew she did not have the money that this ticket was gonna cost her. I looked at her children and her crappy old car, and then I looked at me.”

At that moment, Richard Mack's priorities were rearranged by the tidal pull of something foreign to most people who wear state-issued costumes: A sense of decent shame over what he was required to do.

Instead of “protecting and serving” this over-worked, financially desperate woman, he was “taxing and harassing” her. As he tells the story, Mack decided on that day he “would never be on the wrong side again.”

This didn't mean leaving law enforcement. Mack moved to Arizona, where he was elected Sheriff of Graham County. In addition to dealing with the sundry and manifold petty crimes that afflict every community, Sheriff Mack confronted the world's largest and most powerful crime syndicate – the US Federal Government – and won, even though that victory cost him his job.

Ten years ago tomorrow (June 27), the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sheriff Mack and Jay Printz, the Sheriff of of Montana's Ravalli County (below) , striking down provisions of the so-called Brady Act that required state law enforcement officers to carry out background checks on gun purchases. By the time the ruling was handed down, Mack was out of office.

The first and less important objection offered by Mack and Printz to the Brady Law was that conducting background checks would be inordinately time-consuming.

The second and immeasurably more important objection was that the law impermissibly required state governments (in the words of Justice Scalia's majority opinion) “to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program ... by conscripting the State's officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions [such as counties], to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program,” such as the Brady Bill's limitations on firearms purchases. Doing so, Scalia wrote, is “fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

Scalia's conclusion is serviceable, if expressed with only a fraction of the outrage warranted by Wasington's criminal assault on the innate rights of individuals and the reserved powers of the states.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas added an interesting nuance to Scalia's argument, noting that Congress has no authority to regulate “intrastate, point of sale transactions,” including those dealing with firearms. He also pointed out that if the Second Amendment “is read to confer a personal right to `keep and bear arms,' a colorable argument exists that the Federal Government's regulatory scheme, at least as it pertains to the purely intrastate sale or possession of firearms, runs afoul of that Amendment's protections.” (Emphases in original.)

Once again, Thomas comes infuriatingly close to making sense, only to flinch at the last moment.

The Second Amendment “confers” nothing on anybody; instead, it forbids the central government to take any action that would infringe on a pre-existing individual right that had the felicitous side-effect of providing individual states with the ability to muster militias in their defense – against both foreign enemies and, when necessary, the central government itself. Since the Brady Act targeted point-of-sale transactions, it was unconstitutional on its face. But this is also true of purely interstate commerce in firearms, since the Second Amendment forbids Congress to use its power to regulate commerce in a way that would infringe on the individual right to armed self-defense.

Since those opinions were written ten years ago, Scalia and Thomas have shed whatever residual loyalty they had to genuine federalism and become reliable supporters of the Homeland Security State. Scalia, in fact, now worships at the First Church of Jack Bauer, whose chief tenet holds that the powers exercised by the central government are defined by necessity, rather than law.

Just in the last year, the Bush Regime has made the extraordinary if predictable claim that any law enforcement department that receives a farthing of federal support is an affiliate of the federal government, thereby nullifying the good done by the lawsuit filed by Sheriffs Mack and Printz. But this doesn't mean that their effort was a waste of time.

Richard Mack and Jay Printz (who retired in 1998) were constitutionally minded peace officers who represented the last of a dying breed -- and that breed isn't going extinct because of natural causes.

Obiter dicta

Keith Humphrey of the Christian Liberty Party, one of the brightest and bravest people I know, has created an on-line archive of my "Liberty Minute" daily radio commentaries; new segments are posted each weekday. Please check them out.

I ask for your indulgence and your prayers -- your indulgence, because my posting may become somewhat erratic due to a sudden congestion of free-lance projects, which is a blessing; and your prayers, because Korrin is in the throes of another health crisis that may result in yet another hospitalization.

We are working to get another edition of
Pro Libertate the e-zine completed as soon as possible.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Mitt Romney and the Teen Torture Industry

George Romney's presidential ambitions were scuttled by his infamous remark that he had been "brainwashed" about Vietnam. It is to be hoped that Mitt Romney's statement that he wants to "double Guantanamo" will prove similarly fatal to his presidential bid:

As I've pointed out before, Romney's credentials as a social and fiscal conservative are as counterfeit as Pamela Anderson's mammalian anatomy (and just as beguiling to the weak-minded).

His only selling point to the Evangelical Nationalist voting bloc -- apart from his forgettably photogenic looks -- is his commitment to the doctrine of presidential omnipotence, particularly with respect to the detention and torture of suspected terrorists and "enemy combatants."

The applause that rewarded Romney's endorsement of Gitmo-plus indicates that for the central core of True Believers within the GOP, nothing is more important than preserving the president's power to detain and torture people at whim.

For several months I have been warning that behind Romney's public image -- he looks and acts like preternaturally well-preserved Osmond Brother -- we can find something very close to absolute evil: A variety of authoritarian "conservatism" that endorses the torture and sexual mistreatment of children. Those warnings have been vindicated by a lawsuit filed against Robert Lichfield, co-chairman of Romney's Utah Finance Committee.

We know what's behind the smiles: Mitt Romney and Pat Robertson strike a pose during Regent University's 2007 Commencement Ceremony.

Lichfield has helped raise $2.7 million for Romney in Utah, including $300,000 at a February event in St. George. Over the past decade, Lichfield has been co-chairman of the Utah-based World-Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), a corporation that makes $70 million per year running an archipelago of torture camps – many of them located off-shore – in which troubled American youngsters have been subjected to torture as a means of behavior modification (BM).

WWASPS is a major player in the "tough love" industry, which runs camps, retreats, and other private reform institutions for teenagers deemed to be incorrigible. The WWASPS approach is an outgrowth of methods pioneered by Straight, Inc., which operated a similar chain of BM facilities until being overwhelmed by lawsuits. Mel Sembler, the Flordia-based shopping mall magnate who operated Straight, Inc. with his wife Betty, is another key fundraiser for the Romney campaign.

The polluted fountainhead of these programs was a federally funded program called The Seed, which was exposed by a 1974 Senate Judiciary Committee investigation as employing the same “highly refined `brainwashing' techniques employed by the North Koreans” against American POWs. And all of this was an outgrowth of the cynical, murderous fraud called the War on Drugs.

In her indispensable book Help at Any Cost, Maia Szalavitz documented how WWASPS and kindred programs “utilize punishments banned for use on criminals and by the Geneva Convention. Beatings, extended isolation and restraint, public humiliation, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced exercise to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, and lengthy maintenance of stress positions are common.”

Some teenagers selected for forced enrollment in BM programs have been treated exactly like terrorist suspects, suffered “extraordinary rendition” at the hands of rented thugs. Many have been kidnapped from their beds (with the consent of parents who had succumbed to a “hard sell” by a BM program pitchman) and taken to an offshore detention facility in the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, American Samoa, Australia, France, or even the Czech Republic; yes, the BM industry, like the CIA's torture gulag, made use of assets in a former Iron Curtain nation.

The methods used by WWASPS personnel are likewise uncannily like the "enhanced interrogation techniques" referred to by Romney. (That phrase, as used by Bush and his minions, is a direct translation of the German expression used by the Nazi Gestapo to describe exactly the same methods.)

At one BM facility in Puerto Rico, “teens were found bound and gagged with nooses around their necks,” observes Szalavitz. At "High Impact," a WWASPS detention center in Mexico, teenage victims were locked in dog cages. (See the photo at left.) One survivor of that facility described how he was nearly drowned to death by a group of older kids who -- made feral through prolonged mistreatment -- hoped that the murder would shut the program down. Amberly Knight, former director of the WWASPS-affiliated Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica, testifies that food deprivation was commonly used to punish inmates, and particularly rebellious kids were taken to a tiny isolation room and forced to kneel on concrete for up to 14 hours a day.

We don't need no stinkin'... well, you get the point: A bathroom facility at the WWASPS "High Impact" gulag in Mexico.

Inmates at a WWASPS program in Samoa were sometimes confined for long periods in an "ISO Box," a three-foot by three-foot box akin to a North Vietnamese “tiger cage.” Others were hog-tied with duct tape or beaten by staffers. When the Samoan government began a child abuse inquiry, WWASPS hastily shut down the facility.

More like something from Gollum's diseased mind: This tiny torture cubicle at Spring Creek Lodge, a WWASPS camp in Montana, was called "The Hobbit."

WWASPS's Spring Creek Lodge in Montana featured a tiny disciplinary cubicle called "The Hobbit" in which some inmates were confined for weeks or months at a time and fed nothing but beans and bananas. One counselor at Spring Creek was charged with sexually molesting two boys who had been imprisoned in The Hobbit.

Mark Runkle, who spent two and a half years on the staff at the Spring Creek facility, has described how detainees would be rousted in the middle of the night and taken into the nearby woods for "tests of will."

"They take kids down to the Vermilion Bridge at night, blindfold them, and push them off into the river," Runkle recalled. "They take them off into the woods, and they come back hurt. They claim it's a mind-increaser. I think it breaks the kids down -- breaks their will down. Mentally, they do damage. Emotionally, too."

Last December, 133 plaintiffs – survivors of WWASP facilities, along with parents and other loved ones – filed a lawsuit (.pdf) against Richfield in the US District Court for Utah, claiming that inmates of the residential programs were “subjected to physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.”

The parents suing Lichfield, notes The Hill, “sent their kids to WWASPS-affiliated schools such as Cross Creek Center for Boys in LaVerkin, Utah; Majestic Ranch Academy in Randolph, Utah; and The Academy at Ivy Ridge in Ogdensburg after they got in trouble for insubordination, drug use or petty theft. The parents learned of the boarding schools through Teen Help, a business owned by Lichfield that matched parents and their children with boarding schools around the country and [abroad] ... Plaintiffs have alleged that Lichfield made millions from the schools.”

Among the allegations of abuse outlined in the lawsuit are the following:

*Placement in isolation for long periods of time, and at times, including being locked in small boxes and cages, and locked up in basements, and forced to assume distorted and painful physical positions for long periods of time;

*Exposure to extreme (hot and cold) temperatures for long periods of time;

*[Being] kicked, beaten, thrown and slammed to the ground;

*[Being] bound and tied by hands and/or feet;

*[Being] chained and locked in dog cages;

*[Being] forced to lie in, or wear, urine and feces as one method of punishment;

*[Being] forced to clean and scrub toilets and floors with their toothbrush and then use the toothbrush afterwards; [...]

*Sexual abuse, which included forced sexual relations and acts of fondling and masturbation performed on them; [...]

*[Being] Threatened with severe punishment, including death, if they told anyone of their abuses and poor living conditions; [...]

*[Being] subjected to [a] buddy system where older students were allowed to physically, mentally, and sexually abuse younger students and manage them as part of a `cleansing' process....

This institutionalized perversion thrived in a program that Lichfield said was intended to combat the "breakdown of the family."

"When the family is not functioning, society suffers," he explained in a 1993 telephone interview. It's not obvious to rational people how officially sanctioned sadism can help fix what's been broken by the family's decline, but Lichfield has found sadism and sanctimony to be a profitable combination.

And there is something utterly horrifying about the fact that Romney tapped not one, but two key people in the Teen Torture Industry to raise money for his presidential campaign. This obviously raises questions about where and how those funds have been raised. But the more serious issue is this: Romney himself has embraced the use of torture, however euphemistically described, as a central function of the presidency.

Why should we doubt the seriousness of Romney's desire to "double Guantanamo," when some of his closest allies have been running a global detention and torture network for troubled American teenagers?

Point of personal privilege....

I first wrote about this subject for The New American magazine in March of last year. Last September, shortly before I was fired by the, ahem, heroes running that magazine's sponsoring organization, I touched upon the subject again in a piece about Mel Sembler published in the JBS News Feed.

Just before I was fired, I published a three-part series describing how the GOP's leadership and much of its rank and file -- the self-anointed Champions Of All That Is Decent -- had embraced torture, both at home (via Sembler's Behavior Modification programs and related efforts) and abroad (at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and elsewhere). See here, here, and here for that three-part series, as well as here for an essay -- clearly identifiable as a satire, albeit one inspired by a sense of mortal disgust over the repellent spectacle of bullying arrogance the GOP had become -- that serves as a sort of postscript.

Those essays, published on my own time and in a blog for which I alone was liable, figure prominently in the rationalizations used to justify my firing in letters to TNA subscribers. I say "rationalizations" -- plural -- because the people responsible for that decision have never settled on one clear reason for firing me.

The individual who took the initiative in having me fired has said on more than one occasion that the essays referred to above were hampering the organization's fund-raising and recruiting efforts, which prompts me to wonder why he was trawling for money and volunteers in that badly polluted authoritarian pond, rather than doing what Ron Paul has done: Offering an appeal to freedom-focused people irrespective of party label.

Surely, an organization devoted to "Less Government, More Responsibility, and - with God's Help - a Better World" shouldn't be inordinately concerned about offending the kind of people who can countenance child torture. You might want to ask that fellow about this, but only if you're not particular about being told the truth.

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