Thursday, September 27, 2007
The Totalitarian Entente
The instrument chosen to carry out this domestic "anti-terrorism" campaign is a "hate crimes" measure appended to the defense authorization bill. In predictably manipulative fashion, the measure was named for murder victim Matthew Shepard, a diminutive college freshman who was savagely beaten to death about a decade ago by a couple of deranged bullies in Laramie, Wyoming. Because Shepard was a homosexual, he has been consecrated as a martyr to the cause of "gay rights," and the hideous crime committed against him depicted as a symbolic indictment of the attitude ignorantly and dishonestly called "homophobia."
Republicans from the White House down opposed the amendment, more out of a desire to palliate the GOP's Evangelical constituency than an honest concern over constitutional principle. The chief complaint was that the amendment endangers the "defense"* bill, since it might trigger a presidential veto. (I know -- I'll wait for the derisive laughter to subside.)
The Republicans understand that they have to pantomime outrage over the bill, but after a news cycle or two they'll almost certainly drop the pretense.
This little melodrama illustrates anew something we can't be too frequently reminded of: There is no material difference between the two branches of the Establishment Party at the wholesale level.
At the retail level -- where earnest but mistaken citizens honestly believe that the Jackass and Pachyderm are mortal enemies divided by irreducible conflicts over tangible principles -- there are significant differences of worldview. Thus anti-war activists invest their hopes in the Democrats, and social conservatives look on the Republicans as all but anointed by God.
When it comes down to cases, however, the Democrats are always willing to fund killing abroad in order to expand the machinery of social engineering at home, and the Republicans are always indecently eager to do the reverse.
The two branches of the Establishment party are joined in a totalitarian entente, one of them promoting militarism abroad and police state coercion at home, the other pushing wealth redistribution and social engineering everywhere. Granted, the dichotomy isn't absolute, and each branch dabbles in the other's metier -- something about which I'll have more to say anon. But as a matter of "branding," the division of labor described above is pretty reliable.
And the dialectical synthesis of these two varieties of statism is a bigger, bloodier, costlier and more invasive welfare/warfare/social engineering state that is literally at war with the American people.
Recall Kennedy's words about the federal hate crimes law: "`We are going to fight terrorism, hatred, and bigotry here at home.'"
This isn't a promise merely to enlist law enforcement in an effort to combat violent crime. That statement should be taken as nothing less than a threat to make war on those of us whose views of homosexuality -- newly enshrined as a protected federal category for the purposes of hate crimes enforcement -- are shaped by the Bible.
The entire hate crimes concept is innately totalitarian, in that it addresses individual values and attitudes and proscribes those deemed unsuitable by society's self-appointed supervisors.
The key distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian states is that despotisms of the latter variety claim jurisdiction over the minds of their subjects. "Laws" enacted by such regimes regulate individual beliefs and attitudes, which are subject to the scrutiny of enforcement bodies. The subjects themselves are liable to punishment and "correction" should they persist in holding opinions deemed to be "anti-social" by those in charge of the regime.
A couple of generations ago, liberal Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter brushed up against that distinction, writing in his dissent from the ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette: "Law is concerned with external behavior, and not with the inner life of man."
Defining the motives of a suspect can aid a criminal investigation and convince a jury; this is a proper role for police authorities. Punishing the motive, rather than the crime, is not; it is a task carried out by what C.S. Lewis called "official straighteners" -- agents of a therapeutic totalitarianism, secret police empowered to tear windows into the souls of men through coercion and rearrange their values to suit a ruling elite.
We have reason to believe that "official straighteners" would be plentiful and very busy during the reign of President Rodham-Clinton, should such a fate be visited upon us.
Significantly, while Kennedy and his ilk are expanding the powers of official attitude control here at home, the Bush Regime is doing the same business abroad. The Washington Post has reported that occupation authorities in Iraq are waging war in the "battlefield of the mind" against detainees, seeking to "bend them back to our will," in the words of Gen. Douglas Stone, commander of detention facilities there.
Those who accept "religious enlightenment" are recommended for release, Gen. Stone explains. Those deemed to be "irreconcilables" -- you know, people who take irrational and inexplicable offense over a foreign occupation of their country and don't readily take dictation in religious matters from the invaders -- are to be "put ... away" permanently.
Don't be too surprised if the administration of our next elected dictator tries to adapt the same method for dealing with "irreconcilables" here at home.
Be sure to check out The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
*"Defense" is a misnomer, of course, given that the present military establishment is not configured to defend the United States, and hasn't been since ... well, 1846 or thereabouts.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The State on Steroids
Seeking to fine-tune the utopia of peace, plenty, and progress that is the United States of America under the reign of Bush the Dumber, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently carried out what the State stenographers in the prestige press call the “largest crackdown in American history on illegal steroids.”
“Operation Raw Deal” was not merely multi-jurisdictional, but multi-national in scope: Agents from the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration executed 143 search warrants, arrested 124 people, shut down 56 domestic steroid labs, and collaborated with counterparts in nine foreign countries. And since this was a “drug war” initiative, officially sanctioned theft was part of the program as Feds “forfeited” 25 automobiles, three boats, 71 firearms, and $6.5 million in cash.
All of this was done to protect the public against ... well, against what, exactly?
Steroid abuse (there are clinically appropriate uses for steroids) is perhaps the ideal specimen of a malum prohibitum – something that is a “crime” only because the State has so decreed. Born of vanity and hopelessly skewed priorities, steroid abuse is among the stupidest of the myriad varieties of self-inflicted damage practiced by flawed and fallen human beings. But the key here is that it is self-inflicted -- and the State has no legitimate jurisdiction (except in one case I'll get to anon) to forbid or punish steroid abuse.
Like most in his line of work, the late professional "wrestler" Chris Benoit -- who killed his wife and disabled son in a murder-suicide earlier this year -- used steroids. But his lethal breakdown may have had more to do with prescription anti-depressants than illicit testosterone boosters.
I grant that the use of steroids and other performance enhancers has tainted professional sports, and that the resulting accomplishments should be considered fraudulent. But the Feds – you know, the charming folks who relentlessly debase the currency and compel us to use it under threat of official violence -- have neither the constitutional mandate nor the moral standing to punish athletes who undermine the competitive integrity of their chosen sports.
(Incredibly, one announced reason for the steroid crack-down was to suppress steroid use in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.)
“Roid rage” -- a condition characterized by sudden, explosive bouts of abnormal aggression -- does appear to be a legitimate problem, albeit one that has been defined largely through anecdote, rather than clinical studies. It's difficult to see how that state of mind is inherently worse than alcohol-induced intoxication and the resulting impairments. This suggests to me that however widespread the problems associated with unsupervised individual steroid use might be, they're nowhere near as serious as the much more common problems associated with our society's most commonly used mood-altering drug, alcohol.
There is at least one serious steroid-related problem that government should address, and most likely will not: The growing use of steroids by police officers.
Falling Off the Thin Blue Line, a recently self-published memoir by former Texas police officer “David Johnson” (the name is a pseudonym), describes the author's “addiction” to steroids, his side-line career as a steroid dealer, and his impressions about the extent of steroid use among the State's armed enforcement agents. (I'm sure I'll have more to say about “Johnson's” book in the future.)
This is not a recent development. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin reported in 1989: “Anabolic steroid use by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country.” This assessment came a year after Congress banned the “unauthorized” possession and use of steroids by the public.
According to former police officer and longtime police psychologist Gene Sanders, “There is sort of an underground, unspoken tradition among several departments that I've worked with that if you really want to bulk up, this [steroid use] is the best way to do it.... The thinking is that big is better than small, tough is better than weak.” Implicit in that “thinking,” of course, is that a police officer should be a physically intimidating presence.
I'd bet platinum to potato chips these guys were juiced.
Joe Occhipinti, executive director of the National Police Defense Foundation and a highly decorated former street officer, insists that “Any officers saying they need to take steroids to perform their jobs, I don't buy it. If you need to subdue a guy, and he's 6'2” and 300 pounds, you request backup!” This makes sense to police veterans of Occhipinti's cast of mind, who don't define their role in terms of the ability to dominate and intimidate others. Unfortunately, it's the dominate-and-intimidate mindset that defines most contemporary police work – and the resulting steroid use has become deeply entrenched in police departments across the nation.
A November 1989 “60 Minutes” story entitled “Beefing Up the Force” featured “interviews with three police officers whose use of steroids had apparently caused the hyper-aggressiveness that had gotten them into serious trouble,” recounts Dr. John Hoberman. “The worst case involved what one psychiatrist called `a real Jekyll and Hyde change' in the personality of a prison security guard in Oregon who had kidnapped and shot a woman who made a casual remark he didn't like.” At the time the crime was committed, the guard had a testosterone level fifty times higher than normal.
The “60 Minutes” piece focused on a “hard core” group of steroid users on the Miami police force – seven officers called the “River Cops” who in 1987 were implicated in cocaine dealing and conspiracy to commit murder. The trial of an accused murdered of a Broward County Deputy Sheriff suggests that steroid use is still very common among law enforcement officers in that community: An autopsy found anabolic steroids in the slain deputy's muscle tissue, and the accused killer claims that he acted in self-defense when confronted with irrational aggression from the steroid-inflamed officer.
In the late 1980s, Houston police officer Scott Tschirhart, an amateur bodybuilder and known anabolic steroid user, was involved in three lethal shootings of black suspects under exceptionally suspicious circumstances. His fellow officers had observed a distinct change in his attitude and disposition as he cycled through his “gear.” “The bigger he got ... the worse he got about strutting around and bragging,” one of them recalled. “You could really see him changing.” But nothing was done until after Tschirhart was involved in three fatal shootings, and then the only sanction he faced was expulsion from the force.
As of 2004, police in nine states had been accused of crimes related to steroid abuse. The Boston Police Department is still dealing with a recent scandal involving a drug ring inside a police motorcycle unit that dealt in both steroids and cocaine. The accused ringleader, Roberto Pulido, allegedly obtained steroids from a drug dealer in Greece and sold them to at least two other officers. An FBI inquiry into the drug ring resulted in new policy requiring steroid tests for Boston Police officers.
Although disclosures of this sort are uncommon, it's clear that we're not seeing a handful of isolated cases.
“Officer Jimmy,” interviewed by Men's Health for an October 2004 expose, reported that “Steroid use is very pervasive in law enforcement. I'd say, of the cops I know, 20 percent to 25 percent of them are using” steroids. “Jimmy,” who became a police officer in 2000, is a good representative of the new “dominate-intimidate” mindset: He believes – or at least believed at one time – that police are under-utilizing an important tool: “What law enforcement needs is a little testosterone. Every cop should do a [steroid] cycle a year.”
A March 2004 pamphlet published by the DEA's “Office of Diversion Control” underscores the reasons why steroids are so attractive to the likes of “Officer Jimmy”: “The idea of enhanced physical strength and endurance provides one with `the invincible mentality' when performing law enforcement duties.”
Of course, that conceit of invincibility may have more to do with the fact that the steroid-pumping cop carries a gun, is sheathed in body armor, clothed in the power to inflict lethal violence on others at his discretion – and can file criminal charges against any civilian who so much as touches him, or recoils from his touch.
If the government is going to regulate what goes into the bloodstream of individuals, it should focus exclusively on those in its employ, particularly the police. But the larger problem, as always, is the hypertrophied State itself.
On another subject....
Some of you might be aware of another part-time blog I maintain entitled "Notes on the Jerry Seinfeld Society." Since that blog deals with a subject of limited interest, I've not really tried to give it much exposure. The current essay, however, deals with something I consider to be important and more than a little disheartening.
Please be sure to visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Carlos Arrendondo, a native of Costa Rica, wasn't even a citizen of the United States when he learned on August 25, 2004, that his oldest son Alexander had been killed in Iraq.
It was Carlos's birthday. Rather than a phone call from Alex, however, Carlos received a visit at his Hollywood, Florida home from a Marine Corps "Casualty Assistance Team," who informed him that his son -- just twenty days after his own 20th birthday -- had been killed fighting the Idiot King's useless war in Iraq.
Carlos Arrendondo, a member of "Gold Star Families for Peace," participates in an anti-war demonstration.
On learning of this irrecoverable loss, Carlos suffered an epic breakdown.
"At that moment, not expect [sic] those words, my world tumbled and I felt my heart go down to the ground and rush up through my throat," Carlos wrote later. Like many parents confronted with the news that their children had been killed in the service of the State, Carlos was seized with the desperate thought that if he could force the Marines to leave, his son would still be alive.
Momentarily deranged, Carlos went into his garage and grabbed a container of gasoline and a welding torch, which he used to set the Marine Casualty Assistance Team's van on fire -- igniting himself in the process. Although understandably startled by vehemence of Carlos's reaction, the Marines acted quickly to save Carlos's life, retrieving him from the burning van, suffocating the flames that threatened to kill him, and arranging for medical attention.
Since that horrible morning, Carlos has become a U.S. citizen and enlisted in the anti-war movement. He is often found at anti-war protests displaying photographs of his lost son. During the recent anti-war rally in Washington, Carlos brought up the rear of the march, pulling a mock-up of a flag-draped casket bearing his son's name and photograph.
It is reasonable to believe that this wasn't the most appropriate way for Carlos to display his opposition to the war, or express his abiding grief for his son -- but the important point is that Alexander was his son.
Long before becoming a Marine, and then a corpse, Alexander Arredondo was a flesh-and-blood human being -- his father's firstborn son. From his eyes radiated the promise of a long and happy life, of years to come in which he and his children would provide joy and satisfaction to his proud and grateful father.
That light was extinguished because a vainglorious idiot working on behalf of an unfathomably evil power elite started a useless war halfway around the world.
I can understand why Carlos, after being deprived of his son in that fashion, erupted in fury and collapsed on himself in desolation. His grief is sacred. We may not share it, but decency requires that we respect it.
Those who believe that the demands of the State trump the bonds of the family will find Carlos's grief inexplicable; a sub-set of those people who fetishize the State's killing apparatus find that grief offensive.
Thus it was that ex-Marine Fred Peterson, who might otherwise be a thoroughly decent man, saw fit to desecrate Carlos's memorial to his son during the September 15 war protest. Peterson was in Washington as part of a group calling itself "A Gathering of Eagles," which is best understood as a kind of loosely organized, Republican-aligned freikorps (specializing in street theater rather than actual armed combat) that materializes on occasion to confront anti-war demonstrators.
According to an account published by National (Socialist) Review Online, Peterson was "offended by the marcher's politics and [his] perceived lack of patriotism" and also believed that because Carlos was "exploiting the death of a fallen Marine," he had "crossed a line." Accordingly, "Fred walked out into the street and snatched the picture off the casket."
Here's Mr. Peterson's account of the incident, written in stilted prose that might strike even the most emo adolescent as excessively melodramatic:
My teams broke up at the Capitol, mission accomplished, and I was walking alone back to the Mall when I saw the photo-image of a proud young Marine in dress blues being held hostage in company not of his own choosing and affixed to a coffin not his own. The insult to his honor and disrespect to his Corps and cause by his captors was immediately obvious and intended. These same peddlers of provocation are paid to push their coffin-prop all over the country they revile. They subvert a common will and undermine the cause and country for which this hostage-Marine had sacrificed his very life. The captive Marine was not among his own. He was surrounded and outnumbered by those who shamelessly exploit his image and memory, disgrace his uniform, his brothers in arms, and his willing sacrifice. He would never choose such company. He needed a rescue.... I liberated his image from the midst of the hostile crowd, intending to replace it in a position of honor [in] Arlington, where he would rest with heroes and among his own...."
In fact, by this time the "hostile crowd" had moved on (remember, Carlos was bringing up the rear of the protest). So Peterson didn't display any "boldness" by "liberating" Alexander's picture -- an act better described as theft, vandalism and -- in a sense -- desecration.
What is genuinely revealing here is that Peterson claimed to be acting as an agent of the "common will," and that he claims (on behalf of the State's military affiliate) an exclusive proprietary claim on the image and memory of Carlos Arredondo's son.
Shortly afterward, Peterson was surprised to be tackled from behind by Carlos, whose rage was understandable even if -- once again -- his method of expressing it was questionable. As for Peterson, he got more or less what his arrogant presumption had bought: He was knocked flat on the ground by the father he had offended.
And then Peterson's fellow heroes joined in, swarming Carlos and -- according to eyewitnesses -- beating and kicking the distraught Gold Star Father. The police intervened and broke up the scrum, and no charges were filed.
Granted, it could have been much worse. (Given the brutality routinely practiced by the WWI-era antecedents of "A Gathering of Eagles," we can expect it to get worse.) But what happened was bad enough. And it was brought about because a "right-wing" provocateur considered it entirely appropriate to commit an act of aggression against a grieving father who was guilty of undermining the "common will."
A more genteel version of the same thuggish, militarist collectivism was behind the White House-orchestrated drive to condemn the left-wing group MoveOn.org for running a New York Times advertisement critical of General David Petraeus , whom George W. Bush cravenly exploited as the political equivalent of a human shield. (In keeping with their recent performance, most Senate Democrats supported the resolution condemning the activist group.)
"I felt like the ad was an attack not only on Gen. Petraeus but on the U.S. military," drooled Bush in response to a planted question at a White House press conference. "Most Democrats are [more] afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org ... than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."
Why should citizens of a supposedly free republic be "afraid ... of irritating the United States military"? As someone who briefly lived under military rule in Guatemala I find myself wondering if Bush sincerely meant to suggest that it would it be better if citizens were afraid of the military.
Kentucky Senator "Chinless" Mitch McConnell described the ad as "abhorrent," theatrically wailed: "Who would have ever expected anybody to go after a general in the field at a time of war, launch a smear campaign against a man we've entrusted with our mission in Iraq?"
Yes, it just might be this obvious.
McConnell didn't explain why it is scandalous or inappropriate for citizens to criticize any government official at any time -- whether peacetime or time of war, and whether the official wears a suit or a military uniform. And Senate Democrats, palsied with terror over being accused of undermining the "common will," enshrined in precedent the idea that a publicly condemning a cynical exercise in war propaganda is in some sense a civic crime.
Not surprisingly, given the finely attuned political instincts she shares with the spouse with whom she no longer shares a bed, Hillary Clinton has embraced the same view. Weeks after she had chided Petraeus for offering an implausibly optimistic assessment of the Iraq occupation, Clinton has condemned the MoveOn.org advertisement.
Hillary's transparently opportunistic gesture won't placate her critics on the militarist right -- but they're not the intended audience. Madame Hillary is in full triangulation mode, building "centrist" credentials intended to make her palatable to that vast and (for her) dimly understood region west of the Hudson River.
For years, both in the streets and in government, conservatives of the Bu'ushist variety -- call them Weimar Republicans -- have been diligently mowing down legal and constitutional restraints on presidential power. Their objective has been to entrench and exalt Republican power uber alles. Meanwhile, Madame Hillary has quietly abetted this process in the serene confidence that she will be the eventual beneficiary of the Republican Party's decision to embrace executive dictatorship.
After all, as the irreplaceable Chris Floyd points out, the Clintons and their political caste are just as wedded to the Military-Industrial-Media-Homeland Security Complex as are the Bushes. Clinton was just as inclined toward the promiscuous use of the military as his successor. And Hillary herself is as militaristic as any of the soi-disant heroes on the Right. She wouldn't have any difficulty arranging needless wars in which young men like Alexander Arredondo would die, leaving fathers like Carlos Arrendondo broken and desolate.
So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that Bush has all but anointed Hillary to be his successor, or that he is quietly giving her advice on how best to perpetuate the war she would inherit on January 20, 2009.
Should she be enthroned as our nation's first distaff dictator, Hillary will inherit the radically enhanced apparatus of coercion the Republicans kindly built on her behalf. The German Communists in the early 1930s, along with their Soviet patrons, tried to pull of the same stunt by quietly supporting the National Socialists in the hope of inheriting a ready-made dictatorship.
"Nach Hitler, kommen wir" -- "After Hitler, we come," was the optimistic refrain of the German Communist Party. That approach didn't work out for them. Hillary and her comrades, however, just might pull it off.
Be sure to visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
How The "War On Drugs" Brought Communism To America
Neither Alan nor Stephne has been charged with a crime of any kind. Under the Communist premises of the "War on Drugs," it isn't necessary to be convicted of a crime in order to lose one's property, since the State is empowered to seize anything its agents wish to steal, at any time they wish to do so, as long as some "drug nexus" can be established to justify the theft.
The theory and practice of Communism are based on the denial of private property, and the administration of "justice" under Communism is collectivist in nature. It is not necessary to prove the guilt or innocence of an individual accused of a crime against socialism, explained Lenin shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917; it is sufficient to demonstrate that the accused belongs to a collective regarded as an enemy of the State.
Once this is understood, it becomes clear that Communism came to America -- in principle, if only intermittently in practice -- in 1970 with the passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. That measure nullified the right of private property by permitting law enforcement to steal (or "forfeit") money and physical assets believed to be involved in, or the proceeds of, narcotics trafficking.
The very term "forfeiture" carries a connotation that property rights are contingent and can be revoked when those acting on behalf of the State choose to do so. Under the Anglo-Saxon tradition of liberty under law, property can be taken only following due process of law; this would require a criminal proceeding in which the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty of a specific offense and convicted by a jury of their peers. None of this is true where "asset forfeiture" is concerned.
Under the first Bush administration, which was led by a former CIA Director (every individual holding that post is also the Kingpin-in-Chief ex officio of the global narcotics trade), a model anti-drug statute was created in Washington, D.C. and sent out to various state legislatures. The seizure and forfeiture provision in Washington State's version of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act is typical of laws governing the practice throughout the country, and the same is true of the forfeiture mechanism created by that statute. The experience endured by Alan and Stephne Roos could happen to anyone living in the USSA.
Thomas Roos, who had already served six months in jail on drug-related charges, was pulled over repeatedly in 2005 by police who found evidence of illegal drug transactions. In August of that year the local counter-narcotics soviet, called the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force (SRDTF), "forfeited" the family's late-model Nissan. Following another arrest, the SRDTF stole the second vehicle, a refurbished 1970 Chevy Chevelle "muscle car."
Alan and Stephne insist that they didn't know that their son was using the cars to conduct drug transactions, and that they were furious with him for doing so. They explained as much to the "designated hearing officer" for the County Sheriff's Department, who ruled that a "preponderance of evidence" existed that the cars had been used for drug trafficking.
Once that decision was made -- not by a jury, or a judge, but by an official of a Sheriff's Department that stood to profit from the seizure -- Alan and Stephne were informed that they had the burden to prove that they weren't aware of Thomas' activities in order to receive the "benefit" of the "innocent owner exception."
In other words:
Once the police stole Alan and Stephne's cars, what had been a right was transmuted into a contingent, government-granted "benefit." The Washington State statute specifies that "no property right exists" in assets that are stolen by the government in this fashion. And in order to qualify for the exception, Alan and Stephne, like all others in such a predicament, were required to prove their innocence -- not regarding a criminal act, mind you, but regarding what the state Court of Appeals called their "mental state."
Not surprisingly, given that (once again) the hearing officer worked for the department that had already stolen the cars, and had every reason to justify that theft, ruled against Alan and Stephne, insisting (in the words of the state Court of Appeals) "substantial evidence supported a finding that Alan and Stephne knew or should have known that Thomas was using the vehicles to acquire possession of drugs."
In upholding the theft of Alan and Stephne's property, the Court of Appeals pontificated that the "innocent owner exception" in an asset forfeiture applies only when "the claimant is able to demonstrate that the illegal activity for which the vehicles was used was undertaken without the claimant's knowledge or consent."
Add the "War on Terror" to that roster for the totalitarian trifecta.
If Alan and Stephne knew about, or consented to, Thomas' use of their cars to deal drugs, why weren't they charged as either co-conspirators or accessories, before their property was seized by the State?
But comrade, that's how the justice system works in bourgeois countries still groaning beneath retrograde, delusional concepts such as the sanctity of private property and the rights of the accused. The belief in Due Process of Law was the opiate of the masses, and eliminating that opiate was the central -- albeit unspoken -- objective in the Grand And Glorious War On Drugs.
Be sure to visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"Liberation," Then and Now
A representative of the "Coalition of the Willing" confronts an ungrateful Iraqi.*
(Warning: In the essay that follows there is one historically accurate vulgarism.)
Oliver Otis Howard was, by most accounts, an earnest Christian and a genuinely decent man -- in the conduct of his private affairs, in any case. Like too many American Christians, however, O.O. Howard built a mental "Wall of Separation" between the principles he professed and his conduct as an agent of the State.
In 1874, Howard, who lost his right arm to amputation after it was repeatedly wounded during the War Between the States, was given command of the "Department of Columbia." That territory stretched from Canada to the northern California border, and from the Bitterroot Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Whatever his official job description, Howard's chief task was to expropriate those Indian communities whose ancestral lands, though supposedly protected by treaty, were coveted by American settlers.
Under the so-called "Peace Policy" instituted in 1868 by President U.S. Grant, control over the various Indian tribes had been apportioned to the leaders of various religious denominations, whose task was to "Christianize" the natives; in practice that meant teaching them to adopt the transitory customs of mid-19th century America, and to submit without question to Washington's rule.
That program, incidentally, illustrates that there is nothing new about "Faith-Based" federal patronage, or the use of "Clergy Response Teams" to preach unconditional servility to the State.
Howard was selected to rule the Department of Columbia, in part, because he was Presbyterian, and that denomination had been given control over several Indian tribes in the Northwest, including the Nez Perce. Decades earlier, many of the Nez Perce, eager to learn from the "Book of Heaven" to which they had been introduced by Lewis and Clark, had become Presbyterians.
Some Nez Perce bands had not only become Christians, but had fully adapted to the Euro-American culture. Others, such as the band led by Tuekakas became increasingly disenchanted over the duplicity and corruption of the American government. American settlers took what they want without fear of punishment under the law that the US officials promised would protect both white and Indian alike. And the government kept revising its agreements with the Nez Perce with the obvious intent of driving them from their lands altogether.
Although he had gratefully accepted the Gospel, taken a Christian name, and received baptism, Tuekakas was driven from the faith by the violent, arrogant hypocrisy of the white men who professed the name of Christ. He eventually burned his copy of the Book of Heaven, bitterly remarking that it obviously meant nothing to the men who had shared it with him.
Seeking to protect his band's ancestral homeland in Oregon's Wallowa Valley, Teukakas set up cairns of rocks at the borders of his land. Those landmarks meant nothing to politically protected settlers, who blithely trespassed, grazed their stock on Nez Perce lands, and took what they cared to of its game and other wealth.
"If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian...we can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike.... give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who is born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. Let me be a free man...free to travel... free to stop...free to work...free to choose my own teachers...free to follow the religion of my Fathers...free to think and talk and act for myself." --
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
On his deathbed he warned his son -- the sober, eloquent, and noble man known as Chief Joseph -- about the serpentine dishonesty and implacable opportunism of the white man's government. Don't take the government's money, Tuekakas warned, and refuse even so much as to touch a document presented by a government official, lest it be said you agreed to what was printed on it.
"Never accept any gifts, or they will say that you have sold something," "Old Joseph" advised his attentive son. "A few years more, and white men will be all around you. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother."
Joseph was faithful to that charge: He never sold out. Instead, the federal government induced a Quisling from another band -- in one of God's little jokes, the sell-out was named "Lawyer" -- to "sell" the lands belonging to Joseph's band.
It fell to Gen. O.O. Howard, a man who read The Book of Heaven regularly, to do the dirty work of evicting Chief Joseph's people from lands they had never sold and that were theirs by supposedly solemn treaty. He was to provide the force behind the government's fraud, carried out to enhance the profits of politically connected commercial interest and to win the political support of the "values voters" who were pouring into the Northwest. The latter group was composed of people who professed to believe that by driving Indians off their lands they were carrying out a divinely ordained mission to promote "Christian civilization."
Howard discovered that Joseph was (in the words of Kent Nerburn, from his superb recent book) "an oak tree among the reeds and willows." Determined to keep the peace and preserve his people's homeland, Joseph was a fierce, persuasive, and effective negotiator who simply wouldn't fall for any of Washington's ruses.
In 1876, Howard announced that a "special commission" would be formed to bring about an "independent" and "fair" settlement of the land dispute. All of the commissioners were white; three members of the five-man panel were federal officials from Washington. Summoned to Lapwai, Idaho for a council with the commission, Joseph yielded not one inch.
"All I can say is I love my country," he told the panel. "We will not sell the land. We will not give up the land."
After failing to intimidate Joseph and his allies into surrender, Howard decided that the time had come for undisguised force. In May 1877 he summoned Joseph and the chiefs representing the other Nez Perce hold-outs to another conference in Lapwai. On that occasion, the task of speaking for the Nez Perce fell on Toohoolhoolzote, a large man who had little of Joseph's preternatural patience but a certain rough eloquence of his own.
When Toohoolhoolzote once again began reciting the Nez Perce position, Howard interrupted him. Gen. Howard laid the matter before the chiefs in blunt terms: They were to vacate their lands and relocate to the reservation. No other course of action would be permitted.
"Who are you to tell me what to do?" demanded Toohoolhoolzote. "What person pretends to divide the land and put me on it?"
"I am that man," Howard asserted, abandoning all pretense of diplomacy.
"I am chief here!" exclaimed Toohoolhoolzote. "No man can come here and tell me anything I must do. Go back to your own country. Tell them you are chief there. I am chief here."
As a Christian, Oliver Otis Howard must have known that it was the Nez Perce who were clearly in the right. As an employee of the State, however, Gen. O.O. Howard was committed to carrying out his task, at whatever cost to principle.
"My orders are plain and will be executed," Howard declared, his decision protected by his mental Wall of Separation. "You will go onto the [reservation] land, or I will send soldiers to put you on it."
As would be the case with any man possessing a particle of dignity, Toohoolhoolzote -- by this time an elderly man, albeit still a vigorous one -- was not going to yield in the face of Howard's threat, and he explained this in characteristically colorful language.
"I am a man. I have a prick. You will not tell me what to do."
WELL.... Certainly THAT kind of offense just couldn't go unpunished. Gen. Howard -- who had no compunctions against taking part in the vulgar, obvious theft of Nez Perce land, or over threatening to kill those who resisted that theft -- simply couldn't countenance this breach of Christian decorum. He had Toohoolhoolzote seized and imprisoned.
Howard's threat and his seizure of Chief Toohoolhoolzote constituted an act known to the Nez Perce as "showing the rifle." Open warfare soon flared between the Nez Perce, who were fighting on their home soil to repel lawless invaders, and the U.S. Army. This led to the eviction of the Nez Perce from the Wallowa Valley, retaliatory massacres of white settlers, and the storied 1,500-mile fighting retreat of a handful of Nez Perce under the care of Chief Joseph. The Nez Perce were cut off by the army just short of the Canadian border, and freedom, and then dragged thousands of miles to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
"The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever." --
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, surrendering to General Nelson Miles at Bear's Paw, October 5, 1877.
The Nez Perce were eventually permitted to return to the Northwest from exile in Oklahoma, but despite Joseph's repeated entreaties -- in which he used the notoriety he had earned to plead the cause of his people -- he was never permitted to return to his stolen homeland.
Today, notes Nerburn, Chief Joseph "is not a historical figure but a cultural commodity, a brand name"; the American Ruling Establishment has a perverse genius for commodifying the victims of its conquests. (The British elite has displayed the same depraved gift in its cultural treatment of the conquered Highland Scots after Culloden.)
I find myself pondering three different, but related questions:
*Do supporters of the Global Democratic Revolution anticipate a time when Iraqis, Iranians, and other restive peoples will be rendered docile, confined to reservations, and considered fit to be treated with the same condescending sentimentality now routinely directed at American Indians?
*Wouldn't it be healthy for those who believe that Washington should "Christianize" and "liberate" the Middle East to review the unvarnished history of how that project turned out back when it was called "Manifest Destiny"?
*Have those targeted for "liberation" read American history a bit more carefully than most Americans, and, if so, might this help explain the vigor with which they resist our government's armed benevolence?
* I received the following very welcome correction from a good friend (and brother in Christ) currently serving in Iraq: "Your latest blog entry where you say a U.S soldier is chewing out that Iraqi? That ain't a us soldier. Wrong uniform, wrong body armor, and wrong weapon.
Looks like an Iraqi army guy, or someone else, but definitely not a US soldier."
Given the small stature of the individual in question, I think it's likely he's an Iraqi, which would make him the equivalent of the "Treaty Indians" who carried out police functions during Washington's 19th Century conquest of the Indians.
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Monday, September 17, 2007
The Kitty Genovese Effect: How The Regime Endures (Updated)
From Court TV's account of the 1964 murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese
Thirty-eight residents of Kew Gardens, a residential area in Queens, New York, saw or heard at least part of the assault in which 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. The assailant had time to inflict, seventeen stab wounds in the 5'1", 105 lb. body of the victim.
The attack included a five-minute intermission during which Kitty was able to cry out, "Help me, I'm being murdered! I'm dying! I'm dying!" Mortally wounded, she was still able to drag herself to the rear entrance to her apartment building and attempt to enter before the murderer returned to complete the chore.
The intervention of one armed man -- perhaps even one unarmed man -- may have been enough to save Kitty's life. In fact, it was still possible to save her life after the initial assault, had someone simply let her in the apartment, rendered basic first aid, and called the police. But nobody could be bothered to do even that much on the morning of March 13, 1964, and an innocent woman bled to death because of the torpid indifference of her neighbors.
Why would dozens of people permit an atrocity of this sort to take place? That question was asked repeatedly during the months following Kitty's murder, and embedded in various textbooks on psychology and sociology. What's unfortunate, if predictable, is that most studies of what we could call the "Kitty Genovese Effect" ignore its most common manifestation: The nearly universal acquiescence of the population in routine displays of armed violence against innocent people by agents of the State.
Take, for instance, the beating of Roseland, Indiana City Councilman David Snyder by a uniformed skinhead after Snyder was ejected from a September 14 Council meeting.
What appeared to be a long-standing feud of some kind (Synder, who for all I know is a world-class jerk, has been accused of racketeering, which is just another way of saying he works for government) reached critical mass, and Synder was ejected from the room by Council President Charley Shields.
After collecting the video camera he had brought to document the meeting, Synder walked placidly from the chamber. Synder is tall and very thin; he looks like a cross between NBA immortal Larry Bird and Oscar-winning actor James Cromwell); Town Marshal Jack Tiller, the tonsured thug with a history of excessive force who ushered Synder from the room, looks like Baby Huey with a less impressive physique.
As he left, Snyder hurled an insult over his shoulder at Shields, and then was seen muttering something at Tiller. The officer responds by shoving Snyder in the back; a loud noise indicates that the Councilman had been shoved face-first into the glass doors leading out of the building.
The cameraman, along with more than a dozen people, rushed into the next room. The lens captures the sight of Snyder, sprawled face-first in the parking lot with Snyder's flaccid form splayed across his back and at least two other uniformed heroes prepared to assist.
Tiller, in keeping with what must be the new standard police protocol for conducting beat-downs of unresisting, helpless civilians, is bellowing "Don't resist! Don't resist!" as he repeatedly slugs Synder in the upper body and, apparently, his head.
Nobody moved to prevent or mitigate this assault, which -- thankfully -- proved to be much milder than it could have been (owing, I believe, to the presence of a video camera). In fact, several dutiful citizens are recorded urging others to "let the police handle it." One beefy female vulgarian who had some kind of grudge against Synder can be heard urging Tiller to hit the prone Councilman even harder; she is permitted to come within a few feet of Synder to spit insults in his face as he is hauled away to jail in handcuffs.
Interviewed moments after he had assaulted Snyder, Jack Tiller did what most police do in situations of this kind: He lied.
Jack Tiller, master of Donut-kwon-Do, waits for the aftershocks to subside in his tremulous form following his heroic blind-side assault on skinny, unresisting, middle-aged City Councilman Dave Snyder.
"It was a fight, and he's going to jail," boasted Tiller, trying to catch his breath after the unfamiliar exertion. The officer claimed that Synder had "hit" him, a charge not validated by the videotape, which shows the cooperative Councilman with his back to the gelatinous gendarme. (An eyewitness claims Snyder threw an elbow, but once again this account doesn't comport with the available video record and what was seen could simply be Snyder jerking his arm away from Tiller.)
For the supposed offense of leaving the Council meeting and receiving an unwarranted beating, Synder was originally charged with a felony.
The "felon" in question, following his release from police custody.
The only happy news to emerge from all of this is that the fiscally challenged Roseland municipal government will apparently begin laying off police officers, despite Tough-guy Tiller's promise that his department won't leave the town "without police protection."
Tiller appears to be as much a stranger to irony as he is to pumping iron. Roseland appears to have fewer than 2,000 residents. Why can't the town rely on the County Sheriff for police "protection"? And given that the Town Marshal feels entitled to throw a City Councilman to the pavement face-first and beat him on camera for no reason, the key question is: Who will protect Roseland residents from the police?
Certainly not the cream of the town's civic culture, who stood inert as a criminal assault took place right in front of them. Any one of them could have intervened, if only to remind Tiller that he was on camera and was liable for administrative or criminal charges. A couple of generations ago, it wouldn't have been unusual for one or more men in such circumstances to attempt a citizen's arrest, which was certainly justified here.
Of course, Tiller had police on hand to "assist" -- and from this fact we can extract a clue as to the real meaning behind the familiar motto, "To Protect and Serve": The other police on the scene were there to "assist" by deterring law-abiding citizens from intervening to prevent Tiller from beating Synder.
Those silly Iraqis! They can't even have a City Council meeting without it degenerating into armed violence! Why can't they learn to conduct business the way we do in Indiana... Oh, wait....
How does this common police tactic differ from similar tactics employed by other armed gangs?
It should be said that Roseland's municipal politics are exceptionally colorful, and Snyder has plausibly been accused of heavy-handed and corrupt tactics in seeking control of the Council -- including, ironically enough, using the police to punish his political critics. If this is true there may be some ironic symmetry in the fact that it was Snyder who ended up with a boot on his neck, and it might explain why people weren't eager to intervene.
But this doesn't make right what happened to Synder, something principled, freedom-focused people understand. There weren't any to be found at the Roseland City Council meeting last Friday. And that incident, which took place in a small town in middle America, helps illustrate why our society is descending inexorably into the morass of police state tyranny.
(Thanks to Strike The Root for bringing this story to my attention.)
AS IF TO ILLUSTRATE MY POINT....
There was a time, back when this country was relatively free, that a loudmouth (even one asking some pertinent questions in an impertinent fashion) would be given the bum's rush without being swarmed, assaulted, and subjected to electro-shock torture by rented thugs.
Obviously, we live in a different country now:
Notice that, at the time the Taser was used, the agitated student was lying on the ground, immobilized, and surrounded by at least six armed goons -- well, five goons and one goon-ette. Yes, that's right: The less-than-commanding soprano voice demanding that the student stop resisting belongs to a She-Police. (Notice as well how the announcer obliquely frames the incident in a way that makes the victim responsible for being tortured.)
There's no reason why the Kampus Kops couldn't have simply dragged this kid from the auditorium (the right to freedom of speech doesn't extend to hijacking a public event) and barred him from re-entering the event, rather than putting him under arrest. He may have been obnoxious, but he was entirely correct to resist arrest through peaceful, if assertive, non-cooperation.
Ah, but this would have deprived the heroes in blue from asserting their authoritah, and denied at least one of them the sensual thrill of subjecting another human being to a Taser shock.
I hear tell from a hero in the Multnomah Sheriff's Department -- some impotent windsock in a government-issued costume -- that giving someone a blast from a Taser is better than Viagra.
Boys and Girls, it's this simple: Officer Friendly is no more. I mourn his passing for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that his place has been usurped by over-armed (and generally over-fed) sadists who love to hurt helpless human beings and can do so with impunity.
Terrible as it is to say so, we've reached the point where we'd better start learning how to hurt back.
State-authorized violence has become a lethal threat both palpable and capricious. We've reached the point described by Solzhenitsyn, a critical juncture at which decent people either actively resist lawless State violence or resign ourselves to living under the rule of a Terror State, knowing that we deserve everything that will be inflicted on us.
Obviously, I'm not talking about active violence against anybody. I am unconditionally committed to the non-aggression principle. But we must put an end to passive acceptance of State brutality. The incidents described above may have been prevented by just a handful of people willing to interpose themselves between the assailants and the victims, at the potential cost of physical injury and "criminal" charges.
Sometimes in circumstances like this, courage can be contagious.
Will this approach work? I don't know. But it's worth a try. And I promise that I will not permit this kind of thing ever to happen in my presence without doing whatever I can to stop it.
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Friday, September 14, 2007
I Can't Stand Bullies, Revisited*
"We hit Iraq because we could," concludes the Stone Cold Steve Austin of the New York Times op-ed page, who establishes his bad-ass bona fides by exclaiming, "Well, suck on this!"
That defiant challenge to the Iraqi insurgency and the Muslim world at large was issued from the comfort of a soundstage on the Eastern Seaboard. It's of a piece with the faux machismo of the Imperial Dim-Wit in the Oval Office, whose most notable pronouncements regarding Iraq are "Bring it on!" and "We're kicking ass."
Not for the likes of Thomas Friedman are the actual terrors of the battlefield; such chores are not assigned to members of the Cognitive Elite. Instead, he gets to prance around the world on a bottomless expense account, collecting anecdotes to feed into whatever mechanism he possesses that extrudes the banalities he ends up publishing between book covers.
Meanwhile, as Friedman himself put it, "boys and girls [are] going house-to-house from Basra to Baghdad" carrying out the needless, pointless, useless war Friedman now justifies by displaying his dubious and implausible grasp of streetfighter patois. (By the way, what kind of macho man sends girls out to fight wars?)
So the whole point of invading Iraq was to show we could do it -- to "burst the bubble" of post-9/11 Arab confidence. The occupation would over-awe the Muslim world and leave it pliant, tranquil, subservient to Washington's whims, from Friedman's perspective.
And how's that workin' out for ya?
Make no mistake: Friedman is a bully -- albeit one who outsources the actual bullying to more physically accomplished people -- and the foreign policy he supports as a "public intellectual" is bullying writ large.
In fact, all the Establishment Right has left is the desperate, erratic bellicosity of a bully in irreversible decline. And that trait has come to define how most of the world sees our nation.
Wilt Chamberlain -- whose plentiful allotment of flaws did not include a bullying disposition --once lamented that nobody roots for Goliath. The Bard captured another facet of the same truth: "'Tis excellent to have a giant's strength, but it's tyrannous to use it like a giant."
Six years ago, the United States learned that, despite decades of quasi-imperialist global meddling, we were still respected and even loved in much of the world. The day after Black Tuesday Queen Elizabeth instructed the Coldstream Guards to play "The Star-Spangled Banner," a gesture the memory of which even now brings tears to my eyes.
"We Are All Americans," proclaimed a banner headline in France's leading newspaper. That headline expressed an outpouring of sympathy soon to be repaid by snide, untutored digs at French valor and national pride from the likes of Jonah "The Pantload" Goldberg, who also dissed Canada as a girly-man country. A large and expanding carbohydrate sculpture whose gelatinous form threatens to become a quantum singularity, Goldberg would load his pants with used food were he to find himself in a fist-fight, let alone a fire-fight.
In the wake of 9-11, expressions of support and sympathy for America were found on the streets of Tehran. And the regime ruling the unfortunate Iranians actually offered to sit down with the Bush administration and hold open-ended discussions on all of the long-standing disputes and conflicts between our nations. The Bu'ushists didn't deign to reply to that initiative. And now the Regime in Washington is working frantically to concoct an excuse to attack Iran, with a nuclear strike conspicuously left "on the table" as an option.
Around the world, people who once admired and respected the United States are now disgusted with us because we have permitted our government to launch and prolong an unjust, aggressive, bullying war against a country that never threatened us and couldn't defend itself.
"Well, it's better to be feared than loved," retort the mock-macho pundits on the GOP-dominated Right.
We're neither loved nor feared, as much as our government understandably alarms much of the world. The preponderant sentiment is one of contempt, particularly among most of the Muslim population whose "bubble" Friedman seems to think we've burst.
Nobody likes, let alone admires, a bully. Those who cower behind a bully -- the Friedmans and Goldbergs of the world, along with the Sean Hannitys, Bill O'Reillys, and countless lesser specimens of the same despicable breed -- seek vicarious vindication as Men Not To Be Messed With. And when one bully is defeated, those who followed in his wake will simply attach themselves to another.
Poised to make a comeback: A post-WWI German propaganda poster depicts the "stab-in-the-back" myth, a version of which will likely become a political fixture in the post-George W. Bush era (see below).
Now that the Swaggering Fool is a spent force, the bully-boy right is taking a long look at Rudy Giuliani, the GOP's Count Orlov. But then the GOP might consider losing the White House next November as a strategic advantage, since the winner -- most likely Madame Hillary -- would have to deal with the unfolding debacle in the Middle East. This would give time for the "Stab-in-the-back" narrative to percolate through the ranks of the right, eventually creating a movement that would fall into ranks behind the Sainted One, the All-Knowing Pillar of Military Integrity and Strategic Genius David Petraeus. Let no one take his name in vain! (Except, of course, for CENTCOM C-in-C Adm. William Fallon, whose assessment of Petraeus strikes me as sound.)
Already, as Justin Raimondo points out, Saint Petraeus has started to hear "Hail To The Chief" in his head whenever he enters a room. He has gazed longingly into the mirror and seen a President staring back, perhaps one sitting astride the proverbial white horse.
What is "The Man on Horseback," after all, but the incarnation of bully-centric politics?
*This essay revisits themes touched on in an essay I published a year ago, shortly before losing my job at The New American.
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