Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Robin Prosser: Victim of Paternalistic Totalitarianism

"Eeet's naht a TOO-mah!"
If it were a tumor, and Arnold's treatment program included marijuana, the Feds would intervene.

Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a fit of clarity during a recent interview with GQ, creating a small pseudo-controversy quickly cleaned up by a press aide.

Asked about drug use during the 1970s, the seven - time Mr. Olympia – whose hypertrophied form eloquently testified to the copious non-clinical use of steroids – insisted that he was clean. Reminded that millions have seen footage from the documentary Pumping Iron of the future California Chief Executive blissfully sucking on a spliff, Arnold insisted: “Marijuana is a leaf, not a drug.”

That's a perfectly defensible distinction (unlike the spurious one Arnold drew between adultery and carnal acts that fall short of the “act”). Arnold's comment, and the de rigueur “clarification” offered by his press aide, provided a brief ripple of general amusement, and the high priests of the news cycle were able to advance the story while avoiding the question of whether the remark had merit worthy of further consideration.

Marijuana is many things, both troubling and helpful. The most destructive role played by the Demon Weed is not the impact it has on the sensory perceptions of those inhabiting the Hackey-Sac and Jam Band subculture; rather, it is the exploitation of this relatively innocuous leaf by Leviathan as a way of aggrandizing its power and subsidizing its crimes.

In a society where the regulated consumption of alcohol and nicotine is perfectly legal, it makes no sense to ban consumption of cannabis. As is the case with prohibition of any kind, criminalization of marijuana has done nothing to reduce the extent of its consumption. But this is to be expected, since the War on Drugs isn't an effort to reduce narcotics use; instead, it's a singularly lucrative public works project for prosecutors, police, and others in the business of retail coercion.

Cynical sort that I am, I find myself wondering if the reason why Arnold's comments were given such wide circulation was to help bury a more noteworthy marijuana-related story – the death, by suicide, of 50-year-old Montana resident Robin Prosser on October 18. For decades, the Missoula woman suffered from systemic lupus, an immunosuppressive disorder that attacked her internal organs and slowly robbed her of the ability to live a normal life, leaving in the place of her stolen physical skills a residue of ever-growing chronic pain.

At one time, Robin was a well-paid systems analyst with a refined gift for playing the piano. At the time of her untimely death last week, she was living in a small, unventilated apartment, penniless and deeply in debt, unable even to go for a long walk: What for most people would be the welcome caress of sunlight to her would be an unbearable assault. Like many others dealing with chronic pain produced by incurable degenerative diseases, Robin benefited from the medical use of marijuana.

Robin was elated when Montana voters approved the state's Medical Marijuana Act in 2004. Although she was probably too weak and tired to be outraged by the Supreme Court's Gonzalez v. Raich decision the following year upholding the federal government's claim that it could ignore state laws permitting the medical use of marijuana, enforcing its own edicts by arresting sick people who use marijuana for the purposes of pain abatement and the compassionate health care providers who help them obtain it.

The Raich decision is marked by a singular cruelty. The majority opinion concedes that the California residents who brought the case, Angel Raich and Diane Monson, are people suffering from incurable diseases who endure “excruciating pain” and could die without the medically supervised use of marijuana. Neither of them was “trafficking” in marijuana; Monson cultivated her own, Raich received hers through two anonymous caregivers. Their behavior was perfectly legal under California's 1996 “Compassionate Use Act,” and had no nexus of any kind with “interstate commerce.”

When deputy sheriffs, in the loathsome company of a group of armed parasites from the DEA, visited Monson's home in August 2002, they concluded that “her use of marijuana was lawful as a matter of California law. Nevertheless, after a 3-hour standoff, the federal agents seized and destroyed all six of her cannabis plants.”

For this act of malicious vandalism, the feds should have been arrested by the deputies and frog-marched to the nearest jail. The deputies should have turned their guns on the Feds and defended Monson's right to life and her personal property – which is the sole reason why the office of County Sheriff exists in the Anglo-Saxon Common Law tradition. Instead, they behaved in the fashion we should expect, now that the Homeland Security apparatus has absorbed every formerly independent police agency in the country.

Given that Monson's behavior was perfectly legal and absolutely necessary for her survival, why did the Court rule against her?

"Everything within the State; nothing outside the State; nothing against the State": That was Mussolini's totalitarian formula, symbolized by the Fasces, which can be seen at left in an Axis commemorative stamp, and in the U.S. House of Representatives behind the Speaker's chair (see below).

This case “is made difficult by [Raich and Monson's] strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes,” the Court allowed, with “Justice” Stevens employing that tone of sympathetic regret often used by people making indefensible decisions that harm innocent people.

However, the Court was zealous to preserve the power of Congress, as the legislative appendage of the Leviathan, to impose its will on the entire American population – even when doing so results in unambiguously bad policy that expands the compass of human misery. This is because central government supremacy must be maintained at any cost.

According to Stevens' opinion in Raich, the controlling precedent is the pernicious Wickard v. Filburn, the 1942 ruling that turned the Constitution's Commerce Clause into a license for totalitarian regulation. On Comrade Stevens' reading, “Wickard ... establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself `commercial,' in that it is not produced for sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity.”

In the case of Wickard, the commodity was wheat grown by a farmer purely for his own consumption on a tract of land he owned; in Raich, the commodity was marijuana produced solely for the consumption of individual patients under medical supervision (and in Monson's case, she grew her own). Yet because Congress has decreed that marijuana grown and consumed under such circumstances could affect interstate commerce in some way only those omniscient seers can detect, it has the power to criminalize that activity.

Most likely for tactical reasons, the respondents in the Raich case didn't challenge the constitutionality of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Act; after all, they weren't trying to decriminalize narcotics, they were simply trying to compel the Feds to respect state medical marijuana laws. But in any case, the Court isn't receptive to the idea that there are limits of some sort on the powers of the central government:

The Supremacy Clause unambiguously provides that if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail. It is beyond peradventure that federal power over commerce is `superior to that of the States to provide for the welfare or necessities of their inhabitants,' however legitimate or dire those necessities may be.... Just as state acquiescence to federal regulation cannot expand the bounds of the Commerce Clause, ... so too state action cannot circumscribe Congress' plenary commerce power.”

Here Stevens was just a tad precious in trying to demonstrate his even-handedness: His attempt at dialectical symmetry falls apart when he refers to the congressional commerce power as “plenary,” which would mean that it had no place to “expand.” But he's lying (no other word fits) in his depiction of the Supremacy Clause.

The entire point of enumerating federal powers is to restrain the central government to the specific enumerated functions. The entire point of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments is to protect individual rights and reserved state powers against federal encroachments.

And as James Madison instructs us in Federalist essay number 45, under the Constitution it is the states, not the central government, that have plenary authority to deal with “all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State” -- including the issue of whether or not critically ill people can exercise their God-given right to seek palliative care in the form of medical marijuana.

In his concise and well-reasoned dissent from the Raich majority, Justice Thomas points out: “In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.”

By ratifying the Bush Regime's policy of ignoring state medical marijuana laws, “Here, Congress has encroached on States' traditional police powers to define the criminal law and protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.... Further, the Government's rationale – that it may regulate the production or possession of any commodity for which there is an interstate market – threatens to remove the remaining vestiges of States' traditional police powers.”

And this is the entire point, of course – not only of this execrable Supreme Court decision, but of the entire War on Drugs: The consolidation of a unitary, omnipotent State.

To the soul-dead functionaries building that system, the sufferings of Robin Prosser (may she rest in God's peace) and others in her condition are a painful but necessary sacrifice – incense on the altar of the Almighty State.

In March of this year, the DEA – acting on a tip from a UPS employee – confiscated a package bound for Robin Prosser that contained less than an ounce of marijuana. Displaying what he probably thought was heroic magnanimity, Jeff Sweetin, the DEA's regional commissar, said that Prosser wouldn't face prosecution.

We're kind of protecting people from their own state laws,” gloated Sweetin. “Give me liberty, or give me death,” responded Prosser in a despairing newspaper column.

To be free of the besetting pain inflicted needlessly on her by the paternalistic State, Prosser had to die. Tell me again: In what sense is this a genuinely free country?

Video Extra

The late Robin Prosser shares a first-hand account of her plight:

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Here we see Robo-Republican Mitt “Double Guantanamo” Romney confronted by Clayton Holdon, who uses medical marijuana to treat his muscular dystrophy. This exchange from October 6 dispels at least one of the mysteries surrounding Mitt: Given the place he stores his head most of the time, it's no wonder the 60-year-old candidate's hair remains dark brown.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bloodsuckers In Blue

To "Protect" and Siphon: A "Phleboto-Cop" prepares to drain the blood of a "volunteer."

(Thanks to Freedom's Phoenix)

During the mid-1980s, a state radio broadcast in East Germany proudly announced a record-breaking national blood drive. In the audio equivalent of fine print could be found the critical, defining detail: “Most of the donors were volunteers.”

As with so many other East German episodes of that sort, the Stasi State's practice of compelled blood donation prefigured current developments here in the erstwhile Land of the Free.

An appeals court in New Jersey has ruled that police enjoy “qualified immunity” when accused of excessive force in retraining a man from whom they're extracting an involuntary blood sample.

That decision is veritable layer cake of due process atrocities.

The foundation is the well-established, and constitutionally spurious, concept of “qualified immunity,” the incantation regularly pronounced to protect law enforcement officers from civil liability when they needlessly or improperly injure or kill innocent people.

Offenses against the Bill of Rights – particularly the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination – compose the middle layer.

Topping off the court's unpalatable confection is the claim that it is proper for a police officer to force a subject to submit to those violations of his constitutionally protected rights through abuse tantamount to torture. In this case, a police officer placed his entire bodyweight on one of Russell Johnson's wrists while attempting to handcuff him.

According to Dr. Michael S. Grenis, an orthopedic physician who examined Mr. Johnson, the predictable result of the policeman's action was not only to inflict excruciating pain, but also leave him with permanent nerve damage that may result in “permanent impairment of a significant body function.”

That last line, incidentally, wasn't extracted from the New Jersey court decision, or the physician's report. It was taken from the notorious 2002 “Bybee Memorandum” in which the Bush Regime defined torture as narrowly as it could, for the purpose of enabling that practice as much as it could. This adds another dreadful weapon to the arsenal of the armed parasites called “DUI officers.”

Quite in spite of themselves, DUI officers occasionally identify and remove from the highways people whose state of intoxication make them dangerous to innocent people. In like manner, the police in East Germany did occasionally identify and arrest people who had committed real crimes against persons and property. By this was incidental to the primary purpose of East Germany's police, which was to compel the submission of that nation's captive population.

In much the same fashion, arresting real drunks is peripheral to the prime directive of DUI police, which is to harvest revenue for the jurisdictions they serve. And it's hardly necessary for a driver to be intoxicated – or even to drink at all – to be caught in the clutches of the DUI enforcement system. As California DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor observes, there is a widely observed “DUI exception to the Constitution,” and that “exception” is doing a great deal to make East German-style police behavior the norm.

The October 1 installment of the investigative TV program Inside Edition examined the recent DUI arrests of two men – one of them a Polk County Commissioner named Randy Wilkinson, the other an 19-year-old named Robbie Stout – neither of whom had consumed so much as a picogram of alcohol on the day of the arrest. Both Wilkinson and Stout were handcuffed, fingerprinted, forced to pose for mug-shots, and briefly jailed.

What was particularly galling in the case of Randy Wilkinson was that he requested a blood alcohol test, which confirmed that there was no alcohol in his bloodstream – yet the charges weren't dropped until much later. Likewise, Stout underwent a blood alcohol test (apparently not at his request) that produced a negative result – which was also ignored.

On exiting the jail, Wilkinson, who was running for re-election, was greeted by reporters. He was able to get the charges dismissed with relatively little difficulty, but some substantial expense. Stout, a young man of limited means, had to pay several thousand dollars in legal fees in order to clear his name of the bogus charge.

With relatively little difficulty, Inside Edition was able to unearth documentation that DUI officers in Lakeland, Florida -- where those spurious arrests occurred -- are under a strict quota (clothed in the euphemism “Performance Standard”) to make 10 arrests a month. The program's investigative team was able to verify that similar quotas have been assigned to police departments across the nation.

Thanks to a pernicious proviso in nearly every driver's license application called “Implied Consent,” the police can detain any driver at their discretion, conduct a warrantless search of the driver's vehicle, and compel the driver to undergo a “chemical test” for alcohol, via either the admittedly unreliable instrument called a Breathalyzer, or the more invasive method of a bodily fluid test – blood or urine.

Refusal to submit to this procedure will generally lead to summary arrest for “per se intoxication”; furthermore, as one legal advice website points out, “Under implied consent laws, in most states a driver's license is automatically suspended for up to one year, even if the motorist is not found guilty of DUI.”

So, in the East German sense of the expression, those of us who have driver's licenses have "volunteered" to be stopped, interrogated, searched, and surrender bodily samples at the whim of a DUI enforcement officer. And as the cases of Randy Wilkinson and Robbie Stout illustrate, a perfectly clean blood alcohol test will not result in immediate exoneration.

This is because, once again, the purpose of this exercise is not to identify drivers who are dangerously intoxicated, but rather to generate revenue. Former Atlanta DUI Officer Tony Corrado admitted to Inside Edition that filling DUI arrest quotas is necessary in order to keep federal subsidies flowing into “local” police departments.

Matters get worse – they always get worse – at DUI “safety checkpoints.”

One return on Washington's investment in subsidizing DUI arrests is a healthy stream of vital information collected by police at “safety checkpoints.” A May 2, 2005 Washington Post story describes how the hundreds of Washington-area motorists pulled over at “safety checkpoints” were aware that they were being subjected to an involuntary intelligence-gathering dragnet.

One of the innocent people profiled by the Post story, Lisa Davis, was sober and carefully obeying all traffic laws when she was detained at a checkpoint. “Even so,” noted the Post, “an officer jotted down some basic information before letting her go, including her name, address and the time and location of the stop for a police database....”(Emphasis added.)

Which is to say that she – like all the other drivers who passed through the checkpoint – was temporarily arrested (that's the correct term to use when a police officer detains you, however briefly and for whatever purpose) and compelled to surrender personal information at gunpoint.

And just as all drains eventually flow into the ocean, all information collected by “local” police eventually ends up in Leviathan's master databases, to be used as Leviathan's masters see fit – a reality somewhat understood by Miss Davis, if by relatively few others.

I've got some serious constitutional issues with that,” commented Miss Davis about the police search. “I feel like it's a violation of my rights. It's a slippery slope to Big Brother.”

I disagree with Miss Davis only to this extent: She fears the impending advent of a Big Brother State, rather than recognizing that it has already descended on us. How else can we adequately describe a system in which police can compel innocent people to suffer the invasion of their persons for blood tests – and when a negative result does not provide immediate exoneration?

To "Protect" -- and Infect: James Green, victim of a police-administered DUI blood draw, displays the infection he received as a result.

A few years ago, Arizona became the first state to train police officers to collect their own blood samples. This procedure is now used in Utah, Texas, and perhaps elsewhere. Although they are trained to render emergency aid, Police are not health care professionals – as Arizona resident James Green learned, to his dismay, when he was arrested on suspicion of DUI by a Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy.

Despite the fact that the arrest took place within walking distance of a hospital, the deputy insisted on performing the blood draw. Two inept and unhygenic needle-sticks later, the deputy has his blood sample – and Green had a nasty infection that lasted for months and forced him to miss work as a test pilot.

Da Boyz in Blue Had Their Fun: Brian Sewell displays injuries sustained in a Taser attack inflicted on him when he refused to let Sheriff's Deputies draw his blood.

Green was more fortunate than Brian Sewell, another Arizona resident who was arrested for DUI in 2004 and forced to undergo a blood draw. Like many others, Sewell is deathly afraid of needles, and didn't consent to be stuck. He received three Taser shocks while resisting efforts by deputies to draw his blood. Eventually the charges against Sewell were dropped.

Given that blood test evidence isn't considered conclusive (at least for purposes of exculpating the accused), what is the purpose of such behavior by the police?

We should never rule out simple sadism.

Blood draws allow the police to take out a little bit of `street justice' on suspects who refuse to cooperate by sticking a needle in them,” opined a defense attorney in commenting about an essay by the above-mentioned Lawrence Taylor. “If an officer is angry with the suspect, he may present an unreasonable risk of harm to the suspect. Also, the officer is less likely to establish phlebotomy safety protocols. I have a client who was stabbed with a needle 5 times by a police officer before they took him to the hospital to get a blood draw. The client told the police that he had collapsed veins and they would not be able to get his blood. The police did not listen because there had been a scuffle and they were angry with my client. My client took pictures of the puncture wounds the next day. We have a hearing on the matter in December.”

We shouldn't be surprised when we learn that the officers in that incident "behaved professionally" and "acted within department guidelines." The outcome of official inquiries into police misconduct is usually as predictable as an East German election.


A friend in the health care field corrected my improper use, in the original version of this essay, of the term "dysgenic" to refer to a non-sterile needle stick. Thanks, Bud!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Diplomacy" As The Art Of Cultivating Conflict

The purpose of diplomacy is to protect our independence and security through means other than war.

Those occupying the upper echelons of the Bush Regime define diplomacy as the practice of removing impediments to war. Indeed, for Dick Cheney and his cohorts, manufacturing pretexts for war is the highest form of diplomacy.

But then again, as Stephen Kinzer documents extensively in his fascinating (and infuriating) book Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, that type of perverse “diplomacy” has long been the Power Elite's stock-in-trade.

Of John Foster Dulles, scion of a family deeply rooted in the Anglo-American Elite, one biographer noted that “it was not too difficult ... for threats and interests to merge in [his] mind,” leading him to the conclusion “that the United States might actually have an interest in being threatened, if through that process Americans could be goaded into doing what was necessary to preserve their way of life.” Thus Dulles and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, arranged the 1953 Iranian coup that deposed Mohammad Mossadegh, thereby creating the conditions for several decades of stimulating conflict in the Persian Gulf that may well culminate in an apocalyptic war.

I hasten to clarify that the “way of life” referred to above is one in which the bulk of the American population dutifully submits to the benevolent supervision of the likes of Dulles – the anointed Guardians of the Bipartisan Consensus. Keeping the population perpetually alarmed over some foreign threat is a vital part of maintaining that sinister stability; absent such a perpetual crisis, at least some of the people would start agitating for a smaller, less expensive, and less invasive government.

So threat cultivation is necessary in order to ensure a rich harvest of government power. This is hardly a secret; it's been the common practice of rulers for as long as they have afflicted humanity. But the Bush Regime has distinguished itself somewhat by its vulgar, transparent lust for war, and its dogmatic refusal to explore alternatives. It's not their wealth that's being wasted, or their own flesh and blood being rent, by the needless wars they pursue.

To get some sense of just how alienated the Regime is from reality as the rest of us experience it, consider this: The administration's eagerness to go to war with Iran has alarmed Fareed Zakaria.

A little more than a decade ago, Mr. Zakaria – at the time managing editor of the Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs – kicked off his career as foreign affairs columnist for Newsweek with an essay entitled “Thank Goodness for a Villain.” The piece contained this breathtaking specimen of Establishment “wisdom”:

If Saddam Hussein did not exist, we would have to invent him. He is the linchpin of American policy in the Mideast…. If not for Saddam, would the Saudi royal family, terrified of being seen as an American protectorate (which in a sense it s), allow American troops on their soil? Would Kuwait house more than 30,000 pieces of American combat hardware, kept in readiness should the need arise? Would the king of Jordan, the political weather vane of the region, allow the Marines to conduct exercises within his borders?… The end of Saddam Hussein would be the end of the anti-Saddam coalition. Nothing destroys an alliance like the disappearance of the enemy.”

Of course, the Power Elite Zakaria spoke for did indeed create Saddam, for precisely the purposes Zakaria describes. As I've said before, rational people understand that sometimes it is necessary to create alliances to confront enemies; the depraved, power-intoxicated people Zakaria communes with prefer to create enemies in order to justify entangling alliances.

However, at some point Zakaria seems to have retrieved his conscience, or at least recovered his sense of the absurd. With the administration and its supposed Democratic antagonists lusting for war with Iran, and the Regime's media minions depicting Iran as a world-historic menace, Zakaria has taken up the unfamiliar role of dissident.

Iran has an economy the size of Finland and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion,” he wrote in a recent Newsweek contribution. “It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?”

We're on a path to irreversible confrontation with a country we know almost nothing about. The United States government has had no diplomats in Iran for almost 30 years. American officials have barely met with any senior Iranian politicians or officials. We have no contact with the country's vibrant civil society. Iran is a black hole to us – just as Iraq had become in 2003.”

Zakaria cites the account of James Dobbins, who served as Bush's representative to the international donor's conference in Bonn following the eviction of the Taliban. Dobbins recalls that the Iranians “were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful.” After dipping their toes in the mysterious waters of Washington-centered diplomacy, the Iranians wanted to take the full plunge, offering additional cooperation in Afghanistan and wide-ranging talks with the US on a variety of issues.

Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence,” recounts Zakaria. “The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, `looked down and rustled his papers.' No reply was every sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They're mad.”

The current issue of Esquire offers a similar account of Bu'ushist "diplomacy" toward Iran.

In April 2003, State Department official Hillary Mann received a detailed four-page fax from the Iranian government. The document, which was sent through the Swiss embassy in Tehran (through which Iran and the US have maintained back-channel contacts) contained “a detailed proposal for peace in the Middle East, approved at the highest levels in Tehran.”

The Iranians offered to recognize Israel, cut off all support for the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, banish or imprison all international terrorists residing in Iran, and to end its nuclear program. The message urged Washington to re-open formal diplomatic channels that have been closed for decades.

The Bush administration refused even to acknowledge the overture from Tehran. Former National Security Council official Flint Leverett (who resigned in digust following the needless invasion of Iraq) protested that the rejection would mean “an Iran that has nuclear weapons and no dialogue with the United States.”

Odd as this result might seem to those familiar with conventional diplomacy, it makes perfect sense once it's understood, once again, that the purpose of Bush/Cheney-style diplomacy is to facilitate, rather than mitigate, conflict.

As the estimable Charley Reese observes with characteristic concision, “The reason our so-called diplomacy hasn't worked [as most people would understand the term `worked'] is because the Bush administration position is this: Iran, unless you stop what you are legally entitled to do (enrich uranium for nuclear fuel), we won't talk to you about not doing what you are legally entitled to do. You can't have talks if your position is that the other side must give in to your demands as a precondition.”

But once again, talking with the Iranians is exactly what the Bush Regime wants to avoid. Direct talks with the Iranians, after all, might lead to a solution other than the war Washington craves -- and what responsible leader would run such a risk?

Monday, October 22, 2007

To The Gulag, But For The Grace Of The State, Go I

A "Crime" is invented:
New Hampshire anti-tax activist Russell Kanning is "arrested" -- the common euphemism for an officially sanctioned assault -- for the supposed crime of handing literature to employees of the criminal syndicate called the Internal Revenue Service. It's not necessary to commit an actual crime in order to be treated this way.

To Brooklyn resident Matthew Jones goes the distinction of proving something long suspected by students of the institutionalized affliction called government: If they want to, the State's armed enforcers can find a “legal” excuse for taking away one's freedom even if the individual is doing absolutely nothing.

At around 2:00 am the morning of June 12, 2004, Mr. Jones was standing and chatting amicably with a few other people on the corner of Manhattan's 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue. None of them was doing anything to injure or even annoy another living soul – or, for that matter, to disturb public order. Reasonable people that they were, Jones and his friends would yield to the occasional pedestrian who needed to get by, but owing to the hour the sidewalks weren't as congested as they would be during business hours.

Into this unremarkable scene wandered a badge-wearing pest who decided to arrest the inoffensive Mr. Jones on a “disorderly conduct” charge.

One might reasonably ask: “What manner of `disorderly conduct' can someone engage in standing still?”

According to the arresting police officer, Jones was “impeding other pedestrians,” reports the New York Times.

So a gun was brandished (every contact with a police officer involves the threat, however subliminal, of lethal violence) and handcuffs were applied to the wrists of the astonished and disgusted Mr. Jones. In familiar fashion, Jones was slapped with the additional charge of “resisting arrest” for “flailing his arms” as he understandably tried to wrench himself from the grasp of the dishonest, demented tax-feeder.

According to the account from Officer Momen Attia, Jones “refused to move when asked,” and then “tried to run away” when threatened with arrest.

Think for just a second: If the problem was that Jones wasn't moving, why did Officer Attia insist on taking him into custody once Jones tried to “run away”? And why was it supposedly necessary to place handcuffs on Jones and haul him to jail, rather than writing a citation – assuming (as reasonable people would not) that merely standing still on a sidewalk constitutes some kind of infraction?

The answer, of course, is that Mr. Attia, like many – perhaps most – of the criminal class we refer to as “public servants” is prepared to act on the totalitarian assumption, “That which is not expressly permitted is forbidden.” From that perspective, all of us who don't belong to the governing caste are lawbreakers subject to State-authorized violence at the whim of Leviathan's armed enforcers. And let it not be forgotten that each and all of us can be arrested at any time, because it is literally impossible not to violate some enactment – however pointless, arbitrary, or obscure – referred to as a “law.”

Christians understand that our hope for salvation resides in God's grace, not in obedience to the Law. As Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans, “... no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

Statism rests on a diabolical mimickry of that principle: The purpose of what Statists refer to as the “law” is not to protect persons and property, but rather to leave the governed in a state of perpetual insecurity regarding their behavior, and to render them perpetually at the mercy of the State's enforcers.

It can happen to anyone, for no defensible reason: Denver Real Estate agent Alberto Romero (left, with his family) died after a Taser attack; Romero attracted police attention by acting strangely following what appeared to be some kind of seizure.

The subject's relationship to the State could be summarized in a transposition of a familiar idiom: “To the gulag, but for the grace of the State, go I.”

Don't think for a picosecond that those who operate the instrumentality of coercion aren't aware of this reality, and eager to exploit it when there is power or profit to be gained from doing so.

In a series of articles for Slate, Professor Tim Wu of Columbia University Law School examined the ways in which “American law is under-enforced” -- meaning that a tacit agreement exists between the government and the people not to prosecute every conceivable offense. This applies to “morality” laws dealing with such things as gambling, obscenity, and polygamy, some elements of narcotics prohibition and – most famously – illegal immigration. But the principle applies to myriad other “laws,” ordinances, enactments, codes, and regulations that we are supposedly obliged to obey.

At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game,” writes the professor, who (I'm required to note as a fan of 1970s album-oriented rock) could be addressed as Dr. Wu. “Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity – say, Mother Theresa [sic] or John Lennon. It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. Those crimes were not usually rape, murder, or other crimes you'd see on Law & Order, but rather the incredibly broad yet obscure crimes that populate the U.S. Code like a kind of jurisprudential minefield: Crimes like `false statements' (a felony, up to five years), `obstructing the mails' (five years), or `false pretenses on the high seas' (also five years). The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The result, however, was inevitable: `prison time.'”

The point of this supposedly whimsical little drinking game, notes Wu, is that “Full enforcement of every law on the books would put all of us in prison for crimes such as `injuring a mail bag.'”

Portland resident Frank Waterhouse, the victim of the police attack captured in this video, was Tasered and shot with a beanbag round while videotaping this illegal warrantless search. The police justified this assault by protested that Waterhouse refused an order to drop the camera, "which could be used as a weapon."

It has to be understood that this is not merely a perverse little prosecutorial past-time, nor is it just a useful little object lesson. The “game” described by Wu is nothing less than a form of casual apprenticeship: Remember, it's designed to teach junior prosecutors to rummage around in the most arcane recesses of the criminal code to find some way to put innocent people in prison.

One might ask: Are there similar “games” and practices followed by prosecutors elsewhere in the United States? Well, where do pestilential specimens like Michael Nifong and Andy Thomas come from, if not from a culture in which “games” and other training methods of this sort are common?

We can see the success of such indoctrination in the fact that the United States of America now has the largest prison population of any society in history, with seven million of our fellow Americans either behind bars or on probation or parole.

In a larger sense, however, given the depraved appetite of prosecutors and police to assert their supposed authority, and the perverse ingenuity they have for transmuting peaceful, inoffensive behavior (such as standing still on a public sidewalk) into “crimes,” all of us could be considered part of the parolee population, subject to officially sanctioned violence and imprisonment at the whim of our supposed protectors.

A Personal Note

Please forgive me if my posts become shorter, and my schedule becomes a bit erratic. Korrin is once again in the hospital (as soon as I'm finished, I'm going to visit her). I deeply appreciate the kindness you have shown toward her and to my family.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Dividing Line: HR 3835, The "American Freedom Agenda Act"

Reporter: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said recently that next year, when he has to step down according to the [Russian] constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister, in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition....

Bush: I've been planning on that myself.

Mr. Bush's latest thigh-slapper about formally assuming dictatorial powers, from an October 17 White House press conference.*

It really is this simple: Members of Congress either support the Constitution -- including all of that troublesome stuff dealing with checks and balances and non-negotiable guarantees of individual rights -- or they support some form of executive dictatorship.

How do we find out which Tribunes of the public weal (OK, I'll wait for derisive laughter to subside) take their constitutional oaths seriously and support the rule of law? And how do we ferret out those who support
fuhrerprinzip, either actively or by default?

Dr. Ron Paul has assessed this problem with the trained eye of an accomplished surgeon, and he has cut to the essential question with the incisiveness of an artfully wielded scalpel: On October 15 he introduced
H.R. 3835, the "American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007" (.pdf) which -- if passed by Congress and signed into law -- would demolish several key pillars of the executive dictatorship created by Bush before that edifice is completed.

Yes, I know: The chances of the measure passing are either "Slim" or "None," and "Slim" is saddled up and digging spurs into his mount.

Even if the craven and dishonest collectivists in the Democratic congressional leadership -- people just as disfigured by power-lust as the Republicans, but nowhere near as efficient in accumulating and exercising it -- were to permit that measure to reach the floor, they would never permit it to be passed. And if it somehow won congressional approval, the chances of it winning Bush's signature reside somewhere south of the possibility that the tangle-tongued little tyrant will repudiate his reign and start expatiating on the doctrines of liberty with the eloquence of Cicero.

But the point served by Rep. Paul in submitting that bill, and by liberty-supporting Americans in demanding that their representatives co-sponsor it, is not necessarily to see it enacted. We'd take that result gratefully, of course.

But something very useful can be accomplished merely by making it the focus of a nation-wide citizen campaign.
The text of the bill describes its intention as that of restoring "the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses as envisioned by the Founding Fathers."

Point by point, the measure describes how the Bush Regime has made war on the Constitution -- through the creation of extra-constitutional military commissions; the presidential designation of U.S. citizens as "unlawful enemy combatants" devoid of due process rights; the effective abolition of the fundamental due process guarantee, the writ of habeas corpus; the institutionalization of the demonic practice of torture; the use of "extraordinary rendition" to outsource torture of detainees to terror states abroad; the employment of presidential "signing statements" to nullify laws; the practice of warrantless wiretapping....

The Bill of Particulars presented in the act is detailed, but not exhaustive. However, by addressing those specific abuses, and reversing the policy perversions that created them, the measure would bring our nation several important steps away from the abyss.
Just as importantly, by putting congressmen on record about these matters, the bill will provide the public with a priceless tutorial regarding the true nature of our national representative body. A large-scale activist campaign based on this one piece of legislation could transform the Ron Paul presidential campaign -- whatever its outcome -- into a peaceful trans-partisan rebellion against Leviathan.

Consider this endorsement of the "American Freedom Agenda Act"(AFA) from Naomi Wolf, a former campaign adviser to Al Gore:

"Ron Paul was the first of all the presidential candidates, red or blue, to step up in this way -- and all credit is due to him for getting there first. May the others of both parties race to follow his lead.... A groundswell of millions of Americans of all parties rising up to insist on passage of the AFA legislation means that we are awake -- we get it -- and that we assert that an alert citizenry, not a whipped-dog Congress or a violently abusive executive, decides what happens in this nation still.

I am not a voter on his side of the ballot -- but I will move heaven and earth to support the passage of this lifesaving agenda.... There is no way to overstate how crucial this piece of legislation is. We are at a turning point, and without the restoration of the rule of law the `blueprint' for what I have called a `fascist shift' -- the closing down of democracy -- calls for scarier recriminations against citizens, greater tightening of social controls.... Without the rule of law we will be powerless as each of these assaults on liberty continue to escalate. With it we can fight back.

This is the answer both to those who say `What we can do?' and to those who claim (actually, sometimes whine) `there is nothing we can do.' And if we don't act on this now we will get the democracy we deserve -- which is no democracy at all.

Put aside your partisan ideal world -- sometimes issues simply transcend partisanship -- and if ever there is an issue that is above and separate from party politics, it is the restoration of the democratic system we inherited. There are good people and passionate patriots across the political spectrum."

There is nothing on the congressional agenda more important than the AFA, because if the "fascist shift" correctly discerned by Wolf is completed, our ability to change government policy, or mitigate its abuses, will be gone.

With the possible exception of the closely related struggle to end the abhorrent war in Iraq, there is no political issue more important than arresting and reversing our nation's descent into unalloyed executive dictatorship.

Get in touch with your Representative by e-mail, fax, phone, letter, semaphore, carrier pigeon, or telepathy -- or, preferably, all of the foregoing.

Hound him or her incessantly about HR 3835; hector, pester, harangue, persecute, brow-beat, upbraid and remonstrate with that public servant until he or she either co-sponsors the AFA or provides a formal statement explaining why it is supposedly unworthy of support. Make it clear that this is a strictly binary, either/or proposition: Either one supports the Constitution or an extra-constitutional executive dictatorship -- there is no via media, no "third way," no other choice on the menu.

Nothing cuts sharper than a clearly and cleanly articulated set of principles. It's high time that Congress felt the keen edge of the people's blade -- and Dr. Paul has put just the right implement in our hands for the job. Let's get to work.

Be sure to visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.
Dum spiro, pugno!

*Thanks to StrikeTheRoot.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

S-CHIP Of Fools

"You know, I was amazed how easily people fell for the idea that we actually disagree! Um, Bill -- could you spot me an intern until next Tuesday?"
Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, co-architects of the much-discussed S-CHIP program.

Nothing of substance stands to be accomplished as a result of the “debate” over the proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and Bush's veto of the same. The program, after all, is the purebred offspring of an incestuous union cloaked in the euphemism "bipartisanship."

A federal “block grant” program jointly created by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, S-CHIP was passed by a Republican-dominated Congress and signed into law in August 1997 by a Democratic president whose fiscal performance placed him comfortably to the right of the incumbent Republican. As with any other welfare state measure, S-CHIP was designed to expand, and in recent weeks this objective has been stated clearly by both George W. Bush and by Mike Leavitt, the Bush Regime's minister for welfare.

In his veto message – a rarity, given that the Grand and Glorious Decider claims the power to nullify legislation through “signing statements” -- Bush pointed out that he sought to expand funding for S-CHIP “twenty percent ... over the next five years.”

After conceding his agreement with the Democratic congressional leadership that S-CHIP should grow, Bush claimed that his real intention was to see the program shrink: “[T]his legislation would move health care in this country in the wrong direction.... Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage.”

The disagreement here was based on an expansion of S-CHIP coverage to include “some families of four earning almost $83,000 a year,” which would mean turning the program into a middle-class entitlement.

And let it not be forgotten, insisted Bush, that the S-CHIP expansion bill “does not fully fund all its new spending, obscuring [its] true cost... [and] raising taxes on working Americans.”

So Bush took out his veto crayon and went to work, spelling that challenging four-letter word with relatively little difficulty (although, to be fair, Dick Cheney helped guide the Bushling's hand).

This veto was cast by the same apostle of small government and fiscal austerity whose congressional minions employed blackmail, threats, bribes, and unethical parliamentary stalling tactics to pass an immeasurably larger enhancement of the socialized health care system on November 22, 2003.

This was done for reasons of vulgar political opportunism: Current and soon-to-be Medicare beneficiaries vote, and so the Bushite Republicans decided to bribe that chunk of the electorate with hundreds of billions of dollars to be stolen from the young and yet-to-be-born.

As the incomparable James Bovard recalls, the Medicare expansion bill – which was a pure product of Republican partisanship – actually lost when the Roll Call was taken at 2 a.m. However, the White House-allied Republican leadership kept the vote open for four hours while various arm-twisters bribed, browbeat, and bullied enough Republicans to create a “victory” margin. Even then, only two congressmen succumbed to White House pressure.

In the case of Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) -- who, to his everlasting credit, voted against the bill – the tactics included the offer of a $100,000 campaign donation to his son, a Republican congressional candidate. That bribe was coupled with a threat: Vote against the bill, Smith was told, and your son is (in the words of now-convicted Republican former congressman Randy Cunningham) “dead meat.”

Behind the gangland tactics and Banana Republic parliamentary procedures employed on the House floor, the White House was committing several varieties of perjury and and accounting fraud in calculating the costs of the Medicare enhancement. The White House's proud boast was that the expanded program would cost no more than $400 billion over the next decade (such a trifling sum to those in the business of official plunder).

Apparently that arbitrary figure was produced when some tertiary administration official pulled it from his emunctory aperture. And the White House was careful to cover up more rational cost estimates. As Bovard recounts:

Richard S. Foster, the top actuary at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, privately estimated in June 2003 – five months before the final vote – that the bill would actually cost $550 billion. He was contacted by Democratic staffers seeking estimates on the cost of the Bush proposal. By law, he was obligated to provide them the information. Thomas Scully, the chief Medicare administrator, is reported to have threatened to fire Foster if he provided the information. Foster later commented that `there was a pattern of withholding information for what I perceived to be political purposes.' The much higher estimate of the cost of the Medicare bill was apparently known by top officials at the White House.”

Eventually the Bu'ushists admitted – long the bill was enacted – that the new Medicare benefit would cost at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

In a nice bit of hypocritical parallelism with the S-CHIP, Bush and his cronies deliberately shot down a proposal offered by 30 House Republicans to extend Medicare drug benefits only to seniors without private insurance coverage. And a study of the measure by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that because of the expanded Medicare program, “at least one-third of all private companies will dump their retirees into the Medicare system” -- which is an entirely predictable outcome.

So Bush's Medicare expansion was guilty of all the offenses that made the S-CHIP expansion so eminently worthy of a Bush veto. The chief difference, once again, is that Bush's enrichment of socialized health care is monumentally more destructive, since it constitutes one of the demographic cluster-bombs set to detonate as the Baby Boomers retire.

So when the economy collapses and intergenerational warfare erupts over Social Security, Medicare, and other old age entitlements, we should remember to express proper thanks to George W. Bush and his adherents.

"When we say `Don't trust anybody over 30,' we mean it!" The dystopian State depicted in Logan's Run imposed mandatory euthanasia at age 30; a fraudulent ritual called "Carousel" extended the bogus promise of "renewal" to those who qualified, but nobody ever did. That system represented one way to control old age entitlement costs -- not that I intend to give the supervisors of our quasi-socialized health care system any ideas....

The air was not rent with outraged cries from Republican-aligned media personalities when Bush got his Medicare expansion. Yet that same claque of concubines can be heard execrating the Democrats for their S-CHIP proposal – which, while bad enough, is nowhere near as disastrous as Bush's entitlement.

And efforts to defend the Chimpster's veto have broken new ground in partisan viciousness, including an unprecedented campaign to traduce young children whose catastrophic medical expenses were subsidized through S-CHIP.

That the benefits received by those families have no constitutional sanction is clear and important, but not immediately germane to this discussion – since we're examining the actions of a party apparatus that is utterly disdainful of the Constitution and incapable of fiscal restraint.

The only reason why Republican media whores -- from the Hogarthian caricature of egotistical gluttony called Rush Limbaugh, to the caustic little callat named Michelle Malkin – targeted 12-year-old Graeme Frost and his family was because his rebuttal to a presidential radio address was seen as an attack on the Dear Leader and the One True Party.

The same is true of the utterly vile suggestion, made by National Review's Mark Hemmingway, that the parents of Bethany Wilkerson, a toddler who received S-CHIP subsidies (and who stars in a Democrat-created political ad) made a “bad decision” by having children:

Dara [Bethany's mother] admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was `unmanageable.' From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.”(Emphasis added.)

I hope Bethany grows up strong — I’m worried about her,” wrote Hemmingway in the tone of sneering, condescending mock-sympathy that comes easily to comfortable people devoid of principles. “Not because I’m worried that the state won’t take care of her, but I’m afraid that her parents will continue to set a bad example.”

How dare Bethany's mother decide to quit her job before having children! How inept of the parents not to exercise oracular insight regarding the hidden medical problems that would eventually afflict their yet-to-be-conceived child! More to the point – how dare that family defy the wisdom of the Dear Leader, and publicly oppose the designs of his One True Party!

Such people really shouldn't be allowed to breed.

Having sloughed off the ideological pretense of being a conservative Party, the Bushified element of the GOP stands before us in the full majesty of its reptilian evil. It really is a totalitarian cult held together only by the worship of power.

"A sprawling apparatus of coercion, surveillance, and social regimentation? Oh, George and Dick, you
shouldn't have!" --

Hillary the Red's delighted reaction as she unwraps her house-warming gift on the morning of January 20, 2009.

And the unfiltered nastiness of that cult's media allies will probably guarantee that in January 2009 our country will be blessed with a government headed by an unabashed socialist who will eagerly build on the legacy of her predecessor.

A Personal Note

Thanks, so much, for the prayers and very generous expressions of support for Korrin and for myself. I promise to keep you apprised of how she's doing. Your friendship, and concern for my family, are among my biggest blessings.

Please be sure to visit
The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.

Dum spiro, pugno!