Monday, September 10, 2007

Power vs. Authority (UPDATED, 9/11)

“Power is the ability to force compliance with one’s demands; authority is the ability to command voluntary obedience.” -- Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt was a diligent and widely respected student of totalitarianism. It is not necessary to agree with all, or even most, of her assumptions and conclusions to appreciate the critical distinction she draws between power -- "the capacity to transform a living person into a corpse, which is to say, a thing," as Simone Weil put it -- and authority.

In a free society, power is used only to protect the persons, property, and rights of the innocent, and then only as a last resort after an appeal to authority fails.

The aspirational premise of the republic we have lost was that power would be transmuted into authority through the "consent of the governed," and that the authority thus conferred on governing institutions was revocable -- to the extent that the government itself could be altered or even abolished when necessary to protect individual rights.

It didn't work out that way. Given the history of the singular plague called government, this outcome was hardly surprising. The entire project begun by the Founders was based on the right to revoke consent -- a right they exercised in withdrawing from the British Empire. The exercise of that right is also known as "secession," and the entire point of the event commonly called the Civil War was to abolish that right through the exercise of State power in its most elemental sense: More than a half-million human beings were turned into the things called "corpses" not to free slaves from bondage, but rather to reconquer communities that had chosen to leave a supposedly free union.

Since 1865, as historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel has pointed out, there have been no permanent victories for individual liberty over power.

Today, the malign influence of the Regime ruling us contaminates practically every social institution, through “laws” regulating behavior, speech, and even individual attitudes.
And the behavior of the Regime's armed enforcers -- still called "Police," even though their behavior is now indistinguishable from that of an army of occupation -- is increasingly defined by Lenin's totalitarian formula of exercising "power without limit, resting directly on force.

Back in the Good Old Days, many law-and-order conservatives insisted that the chief domestic threat to liberty came from the efforts of Communist and other subversive groups to undermine the police. In the era of the federalized, militarized, monolithic Homeland Security State, the police themselves are the single most potent threat to individual liberty.

This is not necessarily because their ranks have been filled with degenerates, although the decline in recruiting and performance standards certainly plays a role in our predicament. Rather, it is because law enforcement at every level has embraced the power-centered worldview, in which the role of police is to ensure that people submit to the State.

A spectacular example of this has been captured by 20-year-old Brett Darrow. Last Friday, Darrow captured, on video, an arrogant, abusive, foul-mouthed, illiterate, cretinous, power-intoxicated simian by the name of Sgt. Kenline [actually, Kuehnlein -- see update and correction below] threatening to perjure himself to justify arresting the motorist -- simply because Darrow wasn't properly submissive to somebody wearing a State-issued costume.

"Try and talk back ... to me again," snarled Kenline, who took offense when Darrow politely and compliantly asked what violation justified his detention: Merely asking an agent of the State to justify such an action, you see, is grounds for arrest. And Kenline understands that he has the power -- not the authority, mind you, the power -- to commit acts of violence against Darrow to deprive him of his freedom, and then lie about the circumstances afterward.

"I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something," boasted the officer. "You want to come up with something? I come up with nine things.... You already start your f*****g problems with your attitude. Did we have a bad night boy? Huh? Answer me or I'll lock you up for failure to imply [sic] with a police officer's commands.... You want me to show you? You want me to lock you up to show you I'm right and you're wrong?.... You want me to show you the f*****g law."

Kenline's contrived objection was that Darrow failed to use a turn signal. As Darrow's video record documents, this was a lie: The driver had signaled properly. Kenline also claimed that Darrow had been "swerving back and forth within the roadway" -- another documented lie. Without the video record, Kenline's lies would have held up in court, since -- in defiance of Common Law principles and common sense -- the uncorroborated word of a police officer is considered self-ratifying in court.

Darrow behaved with commendable composure during this entire ordeal, and was released after a few minutes -- and following a nauseatingly paternalistic lecture from a uniformed goon who badly needs to get his back dirty. As Darrow comments, "Looking into this guy's eyes, he was crazy. I was really scared he was going to assault me. I just wonder how many other people have been arrested on these charges

In what passes for Sgt. Kenline's mind, he doesn't need the authority of the law, because as someone exercising power, he is the law. (Go here for a video and transcript of the encounter.)

This isn't the first time Darrow (who is a hero in the cause of civil liberties, but who needs to be a bit more judicious if he wants to avoid becoming a martyr) has experienced and documented the totalitarian mindset that increasingly typifies the police.

The power to treat others as objects inevitably gives rise to sadism. Those who work in law enforcement are hardly immune to this tendency; indeed, there's reason to believe that this profession selects for that personality type.

Witness the comments of a Multnomah, Oregon Sheriff's Deputy (brought to my attention by Radley Balko) who described the sensual thrill he experiences when killing a suspect, or subjecting him to electric torture through the use of a Taser:
“Seeing someone get Tasered is second only to pulling the trigger. That is money – puts a smile on your face.”

There are other perks to be enjoyed, apart from sending hot lead or 50,000 volts into a human body.

Didn't like your hamburger? If you're wearing a State-issued costume, you can arrest the short-order cook on a fabricated charge of "reckless conduct."

That's what happened to 20-year-old Kendra Bull of Union City, Georgia, who spent a night in jail and was bailed out on $1,000 bond because an officious pr*ck in uniform wasn't smart enough to complain about his hamburger after the first bite.

(Thanks to The Smoking Gun, we know that the soon-to-be-changed home phone number of Wendell Adams, the aforementioned officious pr*ck in a uniform, is 770-964-1333. Why don't you give the guy a call. Be polite, if that suits you.)

Can't keep track of your money or count your change correctly? If you're a cop, you can throw a conniption fit, assault and pepper-spray the young woman working at the register, and drag her away to jail on fraudulent charges:

The assailant in this video, a rented thug from Dayton Ohio named Michael McDonald (no, not that Michael McDonald), "was cleared of all wrongdoing." Although the city touched up the taxpayers to buy off McDonald's victim, the officer apparently behaved according to department policy.

Don't they all?


Sgt. James Kuehnlein, the foul-mouthed bully in uniform whose demented rant was captured on video by Brett Darrow, has been put on unpaid suspension after Police Chief Scott Uhrig received hundreds of outraged phone calls.

After reviewing the video, Chief Uhrig said "the officer acted inappropriately when he threatened to make up charges, and used a disrespectful tone and inappropriate language," reported

"We don't do that," Uhrig said. "Someone either violated the law or they didn't. You don't say, I'll lock you up and then come up with why afterward."

Chief Uhrig is describing the proper conduct and demeanor of a peace officer, as understood a generation ago. Sgt. Kuehnlein modeled the tactics and behavior of the contemporary Homeland Security thug. It is Kuehnlein, not Uhrig (who -- despite his criticism of the abusive cop -- still made a point of questioning Darrow's motives) who represents the wave of the future.

Please be sure to follow the unfolding economic Armageddon at The Right Source, and to check out the Liberty Minute archives.


dixiedog said...

Oh so true. But I do have to say (yet again) that the culture itself is producing these cretins. They're also NOT the minority personality type anymore...sigh. Ramon Perez's type, OTOH, IS fast becoming the minority in society at large, so there's slim pickin's even for the few departments that want people of relatively good character.

That said, yes, most departments seem to want to recruit the worst of the bunch; the more illiterate and cretinous, the more obedient they will naturally be :(.

Speaking of this Missouri copper that Brett Darrow had the misfortune to meet on the copper's beat, I was perusing Digg a few hours ago and I happened to catch that exact video since it had 3800+ diggs so far!

This isn't the first time Darrow (who is a hero in the cause of civil liberties, but who needs to be a bit more judicious if he wants to avoid becoming a martyr) has experienced and documented the totalitarian mindset that increasingly typifies the police.

Indeed. However, we all, who have bona fide brass scrotums that is (No, I'm not absolutely certain I even have those when it comes down to the (gun) metal), may have to face becoming a martyr at some point in time. If not for exposing State goons on the prowl for prey, then most certainly for something truly worthy of the final sacrifice, life itself. If we really believe in what we are sayin' and claimin', of course.

Nevertheless, I agree that one who purposes and goes outta the way to have encounters with the State and to overexpose State goons to the wide world merely for the accolades and fame is most unwise, IMO.

Hopefully, that's NOT Mr. Darrow's intention. Although, I do have to wonder about someone who has multiple serial encounters with State agents while seemingly always having a video cam at the ready. But, many mobile phones these days have 'em and it seems everyone has one of those so it's possible he's just unlucky to meet the goons so frequently.

Anyway, this sad situation won't improve until the commoners absolutely and resolutely demand it, they likely won't, and act like responsible folk themselves getting involved in helping to shape their local and state Leviathanettes, walk their talk, etc., etc., and most likely won't adequately do those things either.

Al Newberry said...

The officer here is clearly out of line. But this guy was obviously looking to be stopped by an officer. Only a dumbass would drive right by a cop car and park in a commuter parking lot in the middle of the night and NOT expect the cops to come for him. It may be wrong, but it is pretty obvious this guy was looking for an encounter with police. He just happened to have his video camera on for the event.

William N. Grigg said...

DD -- I earnestly mourn the days when Ramon Perez was actually fairly typical of the men recruited into police departments.

And you're right, of course, that the blame lies not in our "Czars," but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

My perception is that Darrow actually precipitated this encounter as a way of exposing the speed trap set by the officer.

Darrow is an activist, and that means happily inviting trouble, to some extent. While I don't believe in backing down once trouble presents itself, we have trouble enough without borrowing some more; as we've been told, sufficient to each day is the evil thereof.

Taylor Conant said...

I'd like to see the person who isn't a State-boot-licker who doesn't think that the only reason dirtbags like that cop are alive are because they have badges and the power of the law behind them.

But not the authority.

"My job" LOL... disgusting

Taylor Conant said...

al newberry,

Way to defend an everyday thug and his everyday thuggery for no reason. So what if the kid provoked the cop... he still didn't do anything wrong and the cop still isn't right to treat those he's supposed to "protect and serve" (remember, that JOB thing he kept bleating about) in such a manner.

He's a tyrant and a thug, a true villain. It's pretty dishonest to see anyone try to defend what he does.

btw, I love how Kenline gives the "lecture" at the end of the night, too. Father-State is here to set his children right... am I right "BOY?!"

Anonymous said...

Yeesh. That pig was out of control. This makes me ill.

Your blog is an excellent chronicle of the insanity that is modern day policing. Keep up the good work!

Al Newberry said...

taylor, In no way did I defend the cop in that exchange. I criticized the guy who was clearly looking for trouble.

There's a big difference between saying that both parties were wrong and defending one of the parties.

Anonymous said...

"Only a dumbass would drive right by a cop car and park in a commuter parking lot in the middle of the night and NOT expect the cops to come for him."

Really? Has it come to this where should someone, anyone, wish to stop that they're open to assault? By a cop no less! Has it come to the point where we can't stop, can't light up, can't drink, can't flush, can't protest (unless designated)... ad nauseum? It's that kind of THINKING that's dangerous. That if you don't "obey" that you're treated like the slave they see you as. What kind of "freedoms" do these clowns protect? Evidently it's the freedom to lick their boots.

Anonymous said...

If I were a judge in this case with responsibility to sentence the wrongdoer, I'd sentence the "cop" to one year for each minute that he unlawfully abused Mr. Darrow.

Out of a video of almost thirteen minutes, that "cop" would have easily "earned" a 12-year sentence according to the above standard.

Anonymous said...

"Only a dumbass would drive right by a cop car and park in a commuter parking lot in the middle of the night and NOT expect the cops to come for him."

Ok. Lets say for a moment I live in a bad area. I want beer or a snack from the corner store. I walk a block down the street and see a group of known thugs hanging out by the corner. I know for a fact if I walk any further to simply make a purchase I have a chance of having an altercation for some reason or another. My purchase has nothing to do with this group, except for the fact that I have something they want... (money).

Are we at the point with the police now a days that I cant do something 100% legal that has nothing to do with them (i.e. stopping off the road for what ever reason) with out the threat of being assaulted? It seems that way.

So even if this kid was looking for the police to stop him. Even if thats the whole reason he has the camera in his car in the first place. If he is not doing anything wrong he shouldn't have any video to show for it.

The sad thing is in the case of walking to the corner store your probably less likely to be engaged by a group of thugs if you ignore them and just go about buisness than you are from just going by a police officer.

dixiedog said...

It's interesting that Darrow had to mention that he didn't intend to "entrap" the officer. I'm puzzled as to why he would even say that.

I'm sorry, but I don't give any credence to the so-called "entrapment" nonsense from anyone of any stripe for any reason. You mentioned it with Larry Craig and I laughed out loud. Nobody "entrapped" Mr. Craig and if he pled guilty, he was freakin' guilty or he would've fought it from the start. Otherwise, it's a glaring mental sign that he doesn't belong in the Congress or any other law-making body. Besides, it's also glaringly obvious that someone, who pleads guilty when they are absolutely NOT guilty of the act in question, is rudderless and has no principles, at the very least. Notice I didn't say "law in question" because some acts one may indeed be "guilty" of committing have no constitutional (or moral) basis to be supressed or banned. It's called fiat "law".

So even if Darrow went there for NO reason or ANY reason that doesn't violate a genuine law, the cop can nevertheless likewise for NO reason or ANY reason stop and assess the situation. But the copper, in so proceeding, should just have simply acted like any sensible human being, and ask why Darrow was in the commuter lot at 2AM. Not a big deal and nothing out of character about such a question, given the time in question, the reported thefts in the area, etc. Afterwards, just go on about your official duties and leave well-enough alone. But no, this copper decided instead to play the "power" game since he must of known he otherwise certainly lacked the authorita (sic) to harass and arrest Mr. Darrow.

Anyhow, it's good that this copper was, at the very least, suspended without pay. Still, the punishment was inadequate, IMO. A copper with that kind of attitude and total disregard for the citizens who (involuntarily, yes, but still) provide his bread, the Constitution, and the local law, not to mention whimsically threatening to fabricate charges, should be fired outright as the absolute minimum.

In any event, one almost certain result of this widely-disseminated episode will be that potentially corrupt coppers at all levels, from now on, will not simply ignore, like Kuehnlein (who noticed it and commented on it, btw), about a camera that they see and simply confiscate the camera and/or trash it. I suspect that that's probably already occurred many times and we never hear about it. After all, then it's the "holy" government agent's word against a mere commoner who other commoners view as likely to be criminally inclined since they believe government is filled with mostly "holy" fellas for the most part.

Sigh.......they never....................LEARN!

Al Newberry said...

Mot and anonymous:
You both miss my point entirely. My point is that this guy was obviously looking to set up a situation where he would be confronted by an officer. He had his camera on in his car, deliberately drove right around a cop car, and parked in a commuter parking lot in the middle of the night. NOTHING WRONG WITH THOSE ACTIONS PER SE.

Anyone who doesn't know how pompous and paranoid police officers are these days IS a dumbass in my opinion.

This guy was clearly trying to set an officer up. That hurts his credibility with anyone other than those of us who already agree with him. If he's trying to convince those who think the cops are "your friend" he'd better find a more convincing scenario.

The cop in the scenario was clearly out of line, especially with the calm demeanor of Darrow. His actions are suspect in my opinion and in the opinion of pretty much everyone commenting here. But that's preaching to the choir. We don't need convincing. The general public does, however.

So perhaps when you comment to someone it would be good to actually read and understand the point they are making rather than seizing upon a minute part of what they say and taking it out of context to make an unrelated point.

Unknown said...

The police chief has also had his problems. Back in 2000 he was accused of propositioning a 17-year-old girl while a police officer in Arnold, Mo., and he was put on probation -- which means he was never cleared. Of course he denies all of it.

The town in question is nothing more than a speed trap. Such small towns should not by law be even allowed to have police forces.

Anonymous said...

“Power is the ability to force compliance with one’s demands; authority is the ability to command voluntary obedience.” -- Hannah Arendt

With all due respect to Hannah Arendt, here are the definitions that are right and proper:

Power is the ability to force compliance with one’s demands; authority is a priviledge to exercise a specific and defined power, granted/delegated by a higher authority in possession of that same authority.

Her inclusion of the words "ability to command voluntary obedience” makes no sense at all.

John Washburn said...

Authority is the ability to command voluntary obedience.

I would argue authority is the permission to exercise power.

Persuasion is the ability to command voluntary obedience.

The fact that persuasion and power are alliterative is helpful for the rhetorical aspects of this distinction.

Anonymous said...

I think we agree on the meaning of "authority". "Persuasion", defined as the ability to command voluntary obedience, is a good catch, but I have a mental block when I juxtapose the words. To me it is a double oxymoron! I think the problem is that the great word "persuasion" comes to us with too many connotations or nuances. One can persuade with logic, evidence, facts, emotion, and fear.

Is it "persuasion" when the IRS (unlawfully and illegally) commands "voluntary compliance"?
As for me, I'm not persuaded.

Anonymous said...



Freedom means that the kid can do whatever he pleases, as long as he isn't screwing up.

The cop can ask waht's going on.

The kid says "nothin'".

The cop sees he's not drunk, stoned, or spattered in blood, so he has to lay off!

The cop can wait and observe - But not FFFFFFF With him.

otherwise, we all need to go home and bar the door.


David Bockman said...

Of one thing we can be certain-- James Kuehnlein will never hold a law enforcement position ever again. Should some unfortunate agency ever make the insane mistake of employing him, every single arrest, every single ticket, every single act he does in an 'official' capacity can be taken to court and likely dismissed because the good freely admits having no moral qualms whatsoever about perjuring himself.

Additionally, anyone ever arrested, ticketed, or currently in jail because of James Kuehnlein's testimony no has grounds for appeal.

Anonymous said...

I believe that you are looking at the world through rose colored glasses. The basic assumption in your statement is that the courts are a place where one receives justice. Sorry David. The courts are there to protect the state (empire), and besides, most people don't know how or can't afford to bring lawsuits against the state.