Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When Desertion is a Duty

A young man named Stephen with large hopes and a small bank account answered an employment ad for a security agency. Offered a generous salary, extravagant benefits, and a sizable signing bonus, he inked a renewable employment contract promising to work for the agency for six years.

Only after Stephen passed through the agency's training program did he discover that the security firm was actually a front for a criminal syndicate. Rather than protecting lives and property, he would be required to take part in armed robberies and expected to kill, when necessary, to ensure the success of the "mission."

Stephen had no problem with the idea of risking his life for money, but he wanted nothing to do with crimes against innocent people. So he simply walked away from his job.
Question: Should Stephen be subject to civil or criminal liability for deserting his employers and violating the terms of his contract? That contract was certainly valid at the time of its execution. But it became defective when Stephen's employer required him to commit crimes against innocent people. A contract requiring a party to commit a crime is not enforceable.

When the Mafia puts out a "contract" to have someone murdered, it hardly expects that agreement to be enforced by the courts.

Obviously, Stephen shouldn't be punished for walking away from his contract. In fact, a better moral case could be made for prosecuting those who choose not to do as Stephen did, once they became aware of the true nature of their employer and the "mission" they had been given.

"Stephen" is a hypothetical character.
Robin Long is the reality. The 25-year-old Idahoan, who enlisted in the Army in 2003, was recently convicted of desertion and sentenced to 15 months behind bars for the supposed crime of refusing to participate in an illegal war.

Robin was raised in Boise as part of a military family, and always took it for granted that he would make the military his career as well. When Robin enlisted in June 2003, the Army recruiter -- who, like many others in that line of work, was a shameless liar -- assured him that he wouldn't be sent to Iraq.

Not content to be a contract killer, Robin Long decided to quit his job. Now the criminal syndicate that hired him is throwing him in jail.

Those assurances seemed quite plausible at the time, since they were offered just weeks after Bush's notorious "Mission Accomplished" photo-op. But at the time Robin wasn't opposed to being sent to fight what he then considered to be a just war.

"When the United States first attacked Iraq, I was told by my president that it was because of direct ties to al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction," he later
recalled. "At the time, I believed what was being said."

Robin's view of the morality of the Iraq war changed not because he learned that the case for it was fraudulent (something no honest person can now dispute), but rather because of the way his training dehumanized the Iraqis he was supposedly being sent to liberate.

"I was hearing on mainstream media that the U.S. was going to Iraq to get the weapons of mass destruction and to liberate the Iraqi people, yet [I was] being taught that I'm going to the desert to, excuse the racial slur, `kill ragheads,'" Robin explained.
Robin's horror was compounded by encounters with Iraq combat veterans who bragged of their "first kills" or showed him pictures of Iraqis who had died beneath tank treads.

When Robin received orders to ship out to Iraq in 2005, he was the only one in his unit called up for combat. Given a month's leave before he was to report to Fort Carson in Colorado, Robin took the opportunity to learn more about the merits of the war.
After long and anguished contemplation he decided that he couldn't be a party to a world-historic crime. So, acting on exactly the same moral premises that "Stephen" did in the parable above, Robin deserted his employer.

Seeking refuge from the crime syndicate he had unwittingly served, Robin took up residence in a friend's basement in Boise, then relocated to Canada, where he lived for three years. He met a young woman he wanted to marry; they got a head start on a family by having a son before a ceremony.

Robin applied for refugee status, contending that he was unwilling to participate in a patently illegal war and confronted "irreparable harm" if we were forced to return to the putative Land of the Free.
Broadly speaking, the Canadian government shares Robin's view of the Iraq war and has never taken part in the Coalition of the Bullied and Bribed Washington assembled to occupy Iraq. Both Parliament and the Canadian public support a return to that country's Vietnam-era policy of welcoming American soldiers who refuse to serve in an unjust foreign war.

But Stephan Harper's government, under pressure from the Bush Regime,
refuses to treat war resisters as refugees. Robin was denied refugee status and required to check in with Canadian immigration authorities every month.

On July 4, Robin was arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency, which accused him of not "adequately" reporting his whereabouts.
Robin became the first American "deserter" to be deported from Canada back to the U.S. since the Vietnam war.

Although he's a hero to many opponents of the Iraq war, Robin, like others who have refused orders to kill Iraqis, has been accused of cowardice.
Tim Richard, a former National Guard soldier from Iowa, knows what it is like to be assailed as a coward for following his conscience rather than the herd. Like Robin, Tim fled to Canada shortly before he was to be sent to Iraq. However, Tim is uniquely fortunate in that he had dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, a fact that stymied efforts to return him to the lower 48.

Tim Richard (back row, second from left), seen here with other Canadian anti-war activists.

Seeking money to pay for college, Tim enlisted in the National Guard in 1999. His contract specified a six-year term of service. In 2005, Tim was a semester away from completing his college degree, and four months from the end of his service contract, when he was called up for deployment to Iraq.

After making the necessary inquiries, Tim was shown official paperwork that changed his release date from November 2005 to December 2031.
A contract that can be unilaterally changed by one party is not enforceable. But, as noted here before, the official view of the military, as explained to a soldier deployed in Iraq, is that "we can keep you here just as long as we want, and we ain't never got to send you home."

After reporting to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Tim was horrified by the pre-deployment training he was given. Much of that training dealt with kicking in doors and holding civilians at gunpoint -- "attacking people who are defending their homes," as he describes it. In one training exercise he ended up "shooting" two role-players posing as Iraqi civilians. The experience, along with the studied indifference of his instructors and fellow trainees, left Tim profoundly shaken.

Along with other soldiers bound for Iraq, Tim was given leave on Thanksgiving Day 2005.
He used that opportunity to take an outbound bus headed for the western U.S., eventually joining his mother in British Columbia.

This act was called "desertion" by the U.S. military. But, as Tim points out, he actually carried out the terms of his service contract before it was unilaterally (which is to say, fraudulently) revised by the military: Tim served the full six years he had agreed to.
Because of the criminal policies of the government that ruled him, Tim was compelled not only to flee to Canada but to repudiate his U.S. citizenship. Now a full Canadian citizen, Tim has continued both his college education and his activism against the Iraq war.

Both wings of the Establishment Party are in agreement that the U.S. will remain mired in Iraq until at least 2011. Meanwhile, Washington is eagerly courting other catastrophes in the region: Preparations are still being made for a strike on Iran, the resurgent Taliban, in time-honored fashion, is slowly but effectively cutting off supply routes for U.S.-led occupation forces in Afghanistan, and the Bush Regime seems perversely determined to goad Russia into a completely avoidable conflict the the Caucasus.

Two more "liberated" Iraqi children join the uncounted thousands who have been killed as a result of Washington's murderous "humanitarianism." May God grant them eternal peace in His presence.

All of this will inevitably mean that tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel -- Guardsmen and Reservists, in particular -- will deal with multiple and extended tours of duty, conscription by "stop-loss" order, and other insufferable hardships inflicted in the course of missions having nothing to do with defending the United States. If we harvest even one-tenth the hell Bush and his handlers have sown, the trickle of "deserters" may quickly become a deluge.

There is nothing criminal about refusing to honor a supposed commitment to serve as contract killers for the world's largest source of preventable criminal violence.

On the subject of officially sanctioned criminal violence --

Media notice

Tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 28) I'll be on the nationally syndicated radio program Point of View from 2:00-3:00 Eastern Time to discuss "Communitarianism," both the ideology and the movement.

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Recovering Lawns, Failed States, and Reasons for Hope

Here in western Idaho, amid the waning days of August, summer still announces its presence in afternoon temperatures that retreat just short of the century mark.

But the first signs of an overeager Autumn can be felt in the odd, lingering morning chill and seen in the subtle golden mellowness that colors the early evening sunshine.

The unfortunate resumption of government schooling has closed the too-brief parenthesis of liberty each summer provides to the inmates of that system. And I find that much of what little spare time I have is consumed by efforts to rehabilitate our yard, which takes up more than an acre in total area.

Owing to the vagaries of the weather, an abortive attempt to start a garden two years ago, the damage inflicted by a young but vigorous canine, and neglect reflecting circumstances beyond my control, the yard became a frightful and mysterious place.

No, this isn't our yard -- but it bears a striking resemblance to the way it used to look.

Over the past month or so, as a welcome but unfamiliar normalcy has taken hold of our domestic affairs, I have been ministering to our yard with various landscaping implements, and doing what I can to aid the grass in its noble effort to reclaim the territory usurped by weeds.

And I've found myself impressed, once again, by how little it takes to restore a lawn. There are sections I've had to re-seed, and a few really tenacious clusters of weeds that will require some particular attention. But to my surprise, new grass now adorns a few isolated sections of the yard where no seeds had been sown.

From the time we moved here nearly three years ago, those sections were barren except for a dense overgrowth of weeds. Those once-drab areas are now blanketed in green. The grass seeds were dormant beneath the weeds, and resilient enough to take possession of the ground once it had been cleared with a weed-eater, mowed, and watered.

Quite naturally, the resurrection of our neglected yard prompted me to ponder the prospects for the recovery of liberty in our society, which is invaded in every conceivable way by the choking tendrils of state power. This overgrowth has happened not merely by neglect -- as is the case when a yard becomes ragged with weeds -- but more importantly by invitation.

A metaphor for our times: Here we see a foreclosed home, its untended yard surrendered to weeds.

People have been seduced into believing that they can live in symbiosis with the State that is killing what little liberty and prosperity we still enjoy. We have succumbed to the lure of what Bastiat called "institutionalized plunder," fallen prey to the temptation to employ the State's coercive power to live at the expense of others.
And now we've reached a point where a simple weeding, even a thorough one, won't suffice.

Something much more invasive, more catastrophic, will be required to beat down the State's overgrowth and clear the field so that freedom can flourish and genuinely civilized life can recover.

The unfolding economic collapse -- which implicates every significant institution of the evil system that rules us -- could be a providential catastrophe, if it is dealt with correctly. To put the matter simply, for our civilization to recover, the United States of America needs to become a "failed state."

That term conjures images of Somalia in the early 1990s, as tribal wolf-packs headed by small-bore thugs grandly calling themselves "warlords" plundered famine relief deliveries, leaving thousands to starve. But as we'll shortly see, there is more to what we might call the "Somali Model" than warlords and famine victims, and much of it could apply to reconstructing free society following the overdue collapse of the American State.

Between the 1960s and the early 1990s, Somalia was the "beneficiary" of huge loans from the World Bank; by 1987, 37 percent of the country’s GNP was derived directly from such loans. Siad Barre, the Marxist kleptocrat on whom the World Bank bestowed that beneficence, lived in opulent splendor even as the nation’s infrastructure rotted away.

Barre's regime collapsed in 1991, triggering a brief but bloody civil war among rival aspirants to succeed the tyrant.
Starving Somalis offered irresistible opportunities for the purveyors of victim pornography, and saturation media coverage of the famine led to a US-led, UN-mandated "humanitarian" intervention in December 1992. That mission was soon redefined as a "nation-building" exercise -- that is, an effort to re-impose a standard-issue centralized regime on a fissiparous tribe-based society.

As it happens, the famine was under control before the military intervention began, and the effort to inflict a government on the Somalis led to a great deal of entirely gratuitous bloodshed. So the UN mission folded its tents and left the Somalis to muddle through without a government.
And Somalis did more than merely muddle: After suffering horribly under a World Bank-subsidized central government, they flourished in a state-less society precisely because of the "neglect" of the "international community."

In Somalia, "the very absence of a government may have helped nurture an African oddity — a lean and efficient business sector that does not feed at a public trough controlled by corrupt officials," wrote Peter Maas in the May 2001 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Without the instruments of state coercion to misdirect investments and suppress initiative, private businesses sprang up like blades of grass suddenly freed from an oppressive overgrowth of weeds. This in turn encouraged the development of telecommunications, transportation, and shipping companies to serve the needs of the newly liberated private sector.

Internet cafes began to sprout in Mogadishu, which just a decade earlier had been the scene of astonishing bloodshed. Rather than re-building a state-controlled, taxpayer-financed police force, Somali businessmen hired private security firms to protect their investments and property.

"Mogadishu has the closest thing to an Ayn Rand-style economy that the world has ever seen -- no bureaucracy or regulation at all," wrote Maass in astonishment. "The city has had no government since 1991.... Somali investors are making things happen, not waiting for them to happen." In the stateless Somali economy, everything "is based on trust, and so far it has worked, owing to Somalia's tightly woven clan networks: everyone knows everyone else, so it's less likely that an unknown con man will pull off a scam."

"If the business community succeeds in returning Mogadishu to something resembling normalcy," concluded Maass, "it will have shown that a failed state, or at least its capital city, can get back on its feet without much help from the outside world."

Maass understates the case: Somalia's transformation would illustrate the ability of a stateless society to overcome the pernicious legacy left by decades of "help" from the so-called international community.

"The Americans are here to help us! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
Somalis, acquainted with Washington's practice of armed benevolence, take appropriate evasive action.

A World Bank study grudgingly admitted: "Somalia boasts lower rates of extreme poverty and, in some cases, better infrastructure than richer countries in Africa." This is almost certainly because it was not cursed with a World Bank-subsidized central government to poach the wealth created by Somalia's productive class.

Now, you just knew that the architects of international order simply couldn't allow that state of affairs to continue.

And sure enough, under the all-exculpating rationale provided by the "War on Terror," the Regime ruling us from Washington arranged for Somalia to be invaded by the vile government ruling the neighboring country, Ethiophia.

This crime was carried out in the name of "stabilizing " Somalia, with invading foreign troops deployed "in support of Somalia's fledgling transitional government," slaughtering thousands of civilians at a throw and driving the business community into exile.

New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman, who apparently fills that paper's Walter Duranty Chair for Collectivist Apologetics, did his considerable best in a seminal April 2007 report to depict Washington's surrogate aggression in Somalia as a necessary measure to beat down "raw antigovernment defiance."

As if
that were, in some sense, a bad thing.

"They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society," wrote Gettleman in an all-but-audible tone of alarmed disapproval. His prose is drenched in scorn when describing Somalis seeking to profit in the private sector, but maintains his composure when describing how the transitional government arbitrarily closed and confiscated profitable businesses and hiked some taxes by as much as 300 percent. Gettleman uncritically quoted Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the puppet ruler grandly calling himself Somalia's "transitional president," who described his political critics as "the guys bringing in expired medicine, selling arms, [and] harboring terrorists."

Gettleman buttressed that self-serving accusation with supposedly authoritative assessments from conveniently anonymous "Western security officials" -- you know, the kind people who arranged for Somalia to descend, once again, into murderous chaos, rather than permitting it to enjoy the benefits of state-less, spontaneous order.

By late 2007, thanks to the attention of Washington and its allies, Somalia's fledgling market economy was gone, and the country was
once again on the brink of famine This is typical of the misery inflicted on much of the world by the Regime that rules us from Washington, and it is a small but potent illustration of why that Regime must die.

No, I'm
not talking about tearing up the Constitution, although that document has no documented influence on the people who rule us. In fact, it can be plausibly argued that it is only through the death of the incumbent Regime that the constitutional republic that once existed here could be reborn. I am saying that the recovery and survival of human freedom is much more important than "saving" our present government or any of the collectivist institutions engrafted into the body of our constitutional system.

At some point, we'll have to bare our teeth.

Somalia may not seem to have a whole lot in common with the USA. One key similarity is found in the fact that the government ruling us, like that of pre-1991 Somalia, is propped up by foreign creditors who simply cannot continue to subsidize Washington forever.

Ending those subsidies would mean the immediate collapse of the Washington-centric system. Indeed, that is just one of many ways that collapse could come about.

Yes, that would be a terrifying thing. But no, it is not the worst thing that could happen: Such a collapse could clear the way for the seeds of freedom to take root and flourish. The worst thing would be for the current system to continue ripening in corruption and aggression until it finally brings about a catastrophic war that would, in societal terms, act like a particularly aggressive forest fire -- annihilating the seeds and sterilizing the soil, leaving behind a barren, lifeless moonscape.

Should that collapse come, Americans would have to adjust our living habits in some dramatic ways. We'd have to become re-acquainted with the virtues of local living, and find anew the kind of patriotism that is genuine love of a
country, rather than an adolescent pride in the power of a government's killing apparatus. For American Christians this would probably mean abandoning the comfortable, consumerist religion peddled by mega-churches and learning the hard discipline of unconditional faith in God.

We would have to develop a species of toughness not presently in abundant supply.
Many of our ancestors lived in state-less frontier communities, and Somalis were experiencing that blessing until they once again fell prey to Washington's murderous humanitarianism.

"Rugged individualism" is a phrase that falls easily from the fleshy lips of overfed, morally dissolute Republican talk radio shills. We may be given the opportunity to put that much-admired but seldom-exercised virtue in practice in order to rebuild a state-less -- which is to say, a genuinely civil -- society.

Obiter Dicta

My apologies, once again, for a prolonged absence. I'm in the middle of job-hunting, and would appreciate any help my good friends in Right-Blogistan could provide. Anybody with a solid lead is invited to contact me at WNGrigg (at) msn (dot) com.

All next week, I'll be filling in for the inimitable
Alan Stang on his Republic Broadcasting Network program "The Sting of Stang." The program (broadcast nation-wide, and accessible on the internet) runs from 7:00-8:00 a.m. Central Time, and the call-in number is 800-313-9443.

There is a good chance I'll be publishing another book before the end of the year. Please stay tuned....

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don't Call The Police: They'll Sue You

The siege at Shingle Springs: A local SWAT operator gestures to his comrades during the June 5, 2007 stand-off that left two men dead, and three deputies injured.

Karen Mies, a 66-year-old hospice nurse from Shingle Springs, California, has suffered losses no mother and wife should endure.

A year ago this past June, her husband, 72-year-old Arthur, was killed in an entirely unanticipated act of irrational violence. The killer was Karen and Arthur's 35-year-old son Eddie, regarded by friends as a gentle and unassuming man who in recent years had displayed symptoms of depression and other serious mental afflictions. Eddie was killed in an armed stand-off involving the local SWAT team, a helicopter from the California Helicopter Patrol, and several deputies from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.

More than one hundred rounds were fired in the June 5, 2007 shoot-out that one neighbor likened to the Gunfight at the OK Corral. In addition to the deaths of Arthur and Eddie, three deputies -- Jon Yaws, Greg Murphy, and Melissa Meekma -- suffered gunshot wounds, as did a police dog named Donder.

Tragic loss: Arthur Mies, a motorcycle enthusiast, seen here on a run with his Motorcycle Club a few months before he was murdered by his emotionally disturbed son Eddie.

The injuries suffered by deputies Yaws and Murphy required multiple surgeries and lengthy hospitalization, but they weren't life-threatening.

Immediately after the horrible events of June 5, even as she was absorbing the horrifying deaths of her husband and son, Karen Mies made a point of inquiring after the health of the injured deputies. She commented to a friend that her one tiny consolation was that the wounded deputies would survive.

The brutal truth is that, at least where Yaws and Murphy are concerned, it would have been better for Mrs. Mies if they hadn't pulled through.

Effusively praised for their "heroic" actions during the gunfight, Daws and Murphy have revealed themselves to be craven opportunists of the most contemptible variety by filing a $34 million lawsuit against Mrs. Mies and her husband's estate.

The suit contends that Karen Mies bears partial culpability for the injuries inflicted on the deputies by her son. Eddie Mies is characterized in the document as "a diagnosed schizophrenic" with a "criminal history" who displayed "paranoia and [a] propensity for violence." For these reasons, continues the lawsuit, Karen should have known it was "necessary to avoid allowing Eddie Mies access to firearms," and that she displayed actionable negligence in permitting such access.

In an interview with Sacramento's CBS affiliate, Yaws appeared to accuse the Mies family of conspiring to endanger his life and those of his wounded fellow deputies. When Jake Mies, Eddie's brother, made a frantic 911 call to report that his father had been shot, he told the operator that he didn't know who had committed the crime. Without specifying how he purports to know, Yaws insists that this was a deliberate lie, and that Karen must have been party to the deception.

"We were directly lied to when they" -- note well that Yaws says "they," not "he" -- "said they didn't know who had done it," asserted Yaws. "We thought it was a random person [on the ground] through the neighborhood. We would have handled it entirely differently if we had known it was someone from the residence."

Even if this assessment were correct -- and Yaws supplies us with no reason to think this is the case -- it's difficult to see how the knowledge that this was an aggravated domestic dispute would have changed the tactical situation. The police went in with overwhelming force, and threw up a heavy curtain of lead in a very brief period of time. As the SWAT team raced to the site, the police used the CHP helicopter to flush Eddie from the woods near the home. Shortly thereafter he was dead.

Yes, even with such an overwhelming advantage in numbers and firepower, there is a residual risk to law enforcement in any armed stand-off. Unless Yaws and Murphy believe it would have been better to pull out the police and call in a tactical nuclear strike, it's insurmountably difficult to see what more could have been done to minimize the risks to the officers -- who, one assumes, assume at least some risks.

Another significant tactical advantage enjoyed by the police is illustrated by the injury experienced by Deputy Melissa Meekma: She was hit by a round that found a seam in her bullet-resistant vest. (Interestingly, Meeka -- who appears to be more of a man than either Yaws or Murphy -- is not party to the vindictive lawsuit.)

The lawsuit embroiders a fiction disseminated to the public immediately following the shootout. Sheriff Jeff Neves, who was on vacation when the incident erupted, told the media that Eddie Mies had "tried to bait the officers" into a nearby thicket. (Sheriff Neves, it should be said, was entirely dependent on his deputies for an account of what happened that day.)

The public was later told that Eddie had prepared "an elaborate system of bunkers and tunnels" worthy of the labyrinth created by Colonel Hogan's resistance cell at Stalag 13. Eddie himself, according to the lawsuit, was "found dead in a bunker with a cache of weapons and ammunition, as well as a change of clothes."

One of these two deputies -- Melissa Meekma (l.) and Jon Yaws (r.) dealt manfully with injuries suffered in the line of duty. One hint: It wasn't the one on the right.

To say the least, this is a work of deluded fiction. To say the most, it's deliberate perjury.

Shortly after the suit was filed, Karen Mies took a reporter from the Sacramento Bee on a walking tour of the family's 2.5 acre property, where she and her late husband had raised six children. The "ammunition cache" was an old toolbox containing bullets, birdshot, and various odds and ends. The "change of clothes" was a jacket. At the time of his death, Eddie was armed with a shotgun and a revolver he had purchased legally as an adult.

The warren of "bunkers" and "tunnels" consisted of a handful of small depressions and sunken trails "where the kids used to play," Karen pointed out.

Eddie's psychological problems and "criminal" history are likewise the subject of a self-serving caricature by the plaintiffs. Although it had become obvious to his parents and friends that something was seriously wrong with Eddie, he was never diagnosed with schizophrenia or any other mental disorder, because he refused to seek medical help. His "criminal" record consisted of traffic arrests in Wyoming and Nevada.

Behind this dense fog of distortions, exaggerations, and deliberate misrepresentations lurks a critical unanswered question: Did Eddie actually shoot the deputies, or were they injured as a result of "friendly fire"? The official inquiry by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office has yet to be finished. Bill Clark, the chief deputy DA, says that his office has been "too busy" to complete the inquiry. Of course, a protracted delay would serve the interests of the plaintiffs.

Lawsuits of the sort filed by Yaws and Murphy are generally foreclosed or dismissed on the basis of the "Fireman's Rule." That principle recognizes that police and emergency workers assume certain risks inherent in their jobs, and thus have -- at best -- very limited standing to sue citizens in the event they suffer injuries in the line of duty.

Phillip Mastagni, the police union ambulance-stalker hired by Yaws and Murphy to sue Mrs. Mies, told the Bee that "We are confident that the firefighter's rule will not bar the claim." Tax-feeders across the country have eagerly anticipated a successful lawsuit of this sort.

Witness the fact that, more than a decade ago, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, the official tax-feeders' union) enacted a resolution denouncing the rule as a form of "unfair and indefensible treatment of public safety employees and law enforcement officers" and supporting efforts to "reform or abolish the Fireman's Rule wherever it exists."

To his credit, Sheriff Neves considers the lawsuit to be an embarrassment, and he has criticized his deputies for filing it.

"We need citizens to call us when they have a law enforcement need," Neves told the Sacramento CBS affiliate. "The last thing I can afford is to have a public policy that you can't call the Sheriff's office because you may be sued by one of the responders who is there to protect [you]."

In fact, this lawsuit, whether or not it succeeds, underscores the fallacy that law enforcement agencies exist to protect the public. Consider this: Had the police not responded after Eddie killed Arthur, and several other civilian deaths occurred before the gunman shot himself -- the usual course such tragedies take -- the survivors would not have been able to sue the police for negligence.

Owing to a large body of legal rulings, police are not liable to protect any individual whose life, liberty, or property comes under criminal assault. Yes, the marquee claim made on behalf of the police is that they exist to "protect and serve" the public. In both principle and practice their first duty is to serve the state by extracting revenue from the public, and -- where necessary -- to protect the institutions and functionaries of the State from the citizenry in the name of "public order."

Stringing up the crime scene tape: The most common service rendered by our "protectors" in blue to people who come under criminal assault.

Notwithstanding the genuinely heroic service occasionally rendered by exceptional individual officers, providing actual protective services to individuals is not a pressing priority for the police in an institutional sense.

The utterly vicious lawsuit filed by Daws and Murphy against a grieving widow who lost her husband and her son in the same morning is much more than just a spectacular act of gratuitous cruelty. It illustrates one more way the tax-feeding caste exalts itself above the hoi polloi. And it offers a potent reminder of the fact that if someone is in serious trouble, the police are the last people he should call.

(Sincere thanks to my good friend and fellow Fender-fancier, "Captain" Kirk, for alerting me to this story.)

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Rot Our Rulers Have Wrought

Going down: "It's an express elevator to hell!"

As the elevator doors opened to receive him on the 109th floor, the meek little man -- we'll call him Steve -- was preoccupied with work-related thoughts.

A slightly built man with unfortunate coke bottle glasses and a downright tragic haircut, Steve had little time in his unremarkable life for anything other than work.

The doors closed behind him with the predictable muted ring, and Steve yielded himself to the familiar, comforting insipidity of the Muzak that enveloped him.
Scant seconds later, that anesthetizing caress was rudely interrupted by a decidedly unfamiliar jerking sensation and a loud snap.

For the smallest perceptible fraction of an instant, just long enough for Steve to realize what had happened, the elevator car seemed to be suspended -- and then it began a catastrophic uncontrolled plunge from the top of the skyscraper. Steve found himself racing toward the ultimate unwanted invitation at the
rate of 9.8 meters per second squared.

As the mortally stricken elevator bucked and shuddered, Steve frantically pounded at the alarm, dimly remembering that there was an attendant on duty who might be able to activate an emergency brake. He had no way of knowing that the uniformed attendant had surrendered himself to slumber, and neither heard the urgent buzzing of the alarm nor saw Steve's horrified face on the closed-circuit TV monitor.

The car continued to accelerate as gravity's pitiless grip tightened on its hapless prize. A scream gathered in Steve's throat and began to tear its way out when suddenly he saw a flash of light to his left.

From that burst of radiance coalesced the oddest sight Steve had beheld -- the "Buddy Smooth Trio," a beatnik ensemble of vocalist, drummer, and upright bass.
At this moment of ultimate mortal peril, these heralds from some unseen realm had arrived to comfort and reassure Steve. As his rhythm section laid down a solid groove, and an unseen horn section added some posh accents, Buddy Smooth shared the glad tidings with Steve:

You're gonna win; you're gonna go
You're head of the pack, you're king of the show.
You're on the move -- straight to the top!
You're way out in front -- you'll never stop!
You're gonna win ... you're gonna win!

In defiance of reason and the inevitable fate that faculty understood, Steve found himself oddly comforted by the message.

Yeah, I'll be all right
, he thought as he involuntarily bobbed to the beat. Something will happen to stop this before it hits the bottom.

"I'm gonna w-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-n-n-n-n-n-n," Steve sang tonelessly at the top of his lungs as the elevator continued its inexorable course toward the center of the earth, a trajectory that would soon be rudely interrupted by the earth's unyielding surface.

That vignette was one of several masterpieces of random, ironic advertising used to promote the Comedy Central cable network about a decade and a half ago. Each variation on the theme -- immediate, non-negotiable doom briefly deferred when the mystical jazz trio materializes -- ended with Penn Gillette's gruff baritone admonishing the audience: "Think positive -- there's always Comedy Central."

This was a brilliant, if ephemeral, bit of marketing. For our present purposes, however, both poor Steve's fate, and the brief, delusional epiphany that comforted him in the seconds prior to his demise, offer a very suitable metaphor for our economy.
The elevator is still plunging, and its death-dive is accelerating. The laws that dictate the impending crash are as unalterable as the law of gravity, and the realities against which we will soon collide as remorseless as the ground that greets a runaway elevator.

Yet there are some who, heeding the song of a mystical jazz trio only they can hear, are muttering to themselves: "Yeah, it'll be all right. Something will stop this before it hits bottom." This happy illusion has been abetted by the supposed rally of the dollar, which has led some -- including the clinically deranged Jim Cramer -- to say that we've reached the bottom and begun a turn-around. Well, wouldn't it be lovely to think so?

Banks are failing with the
hebdomadal consistency of a politician's election-year church attendance. The rot spreading through the banking industry is quickly destroying the foundations of some very large institutions: Merrill Lynch and Wachovia are in severe peril of failure, with write-offs much larger than assets on hand.

The familiar prescription, of course, is more "liquidity" from the Fed, but this is the main vector along which the contagion is spread.
Stock values for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are collapsing as investors accelerate the inevitable outcome -- a decline in share price to zero. This result will most likely come as the result of a federal bail-out, a prospect clearly anticipated in the rescue bill enacted just weeks ago.

His name is Mudd: Fanne Mae CEO Danniel H. Mudd, who richly deserves to be kissed "upside the cranium with an aluminum baseball bat."

The corporatocracy in charge of Fannie and Freddie are being sheltered from their own criminal incompetence and malignant dishonesty. How criminally incompetent were they, you ask? The
Washington Post recently reported that Daniel H. Mudd, the delightfully named CEO of Fannie Mae, boasted in a January 2007 internal memo that expanding the company's portfolio of sub-prime and other, ahem, exotic mortgages was an unqualified success, since it was a way of "optimizing our business."

Sure, Fannie knew those loans had already started to reek, but -- with the same delusional assurance Steve displayed in mid-plunge -- Mudd insisted that those feculent loans would be miraculously sanitized by year's end. And even as the stench of those loans grew unbearable, Fannie continued to underwrite them as a way of gaining market share.

same conditions prevailed over at Freddie Mac, with CEO Richard Syron learning no later than 2004 that the company's financing of bad loans posed "an enormous financial risk ... to the company and the country."

Weep not for Mudd and his fellow malefactors; they're feeling no pain and, we can assume, based on previous performance, no embarrassment. Meanwhile,
new "accountability" standards, largely inspired by the malfeasance of that same politically protected corporate elite, are being passed along to relatively responsible lenders who seek to finance or re-finance homes.

While this is the kind of pain we must expect if anything is to be salvaged from this economy, to be of any real help that pain would have to be distributed more equitably, something that will never happen as long as the criminals running Fannie and Freddie are backstopped by the "full faith and credit" -- I pause here for a moment of hysterical, incredulous laughter -- of the Regime.

Syron's song: "Don't worry, be happy, send money," croons Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron, seen here clumsily improvising a Hula dance during congressional hearings into his company's criminal misconduct.

Shareholders in Fannie and Freddie are being annihilated, but the bondholders will do all right. Significantly, one of the chief foreign bondholders is Moscow, which is most likely in the mood not to do us any favors.

At the beginning of the year, Russia had about $100 billion (roughly one-sixth of its gold and forex reserves) invested in Fannie and Freddie paper. Moscow made a tidy $1 billion off that paper during the first half of the year. Ivan hasn't been hurrying lately to buy more, but he hasn't dumped any, either.

If and when Moscow executes the Big Dump, it will likely come for strategic, rather than strictly pecuniary, reasons. It would profit handsomely if Washington nationalizes Fannie and Freddie outright, a move that would have roughly the same effect on our economy that putting a rocket booster on the retreating end of the free-falling elevator would have on poor Steve. The luxury of Moscow's position is that it can either use its financial leverage against us, or simply wait for Washington to finish destroying what remains of our wealth.

Either way,
commented deputy finance minister Dmirty Pankin during a recent news conference, the effect on Russia would be "minimal." Either way, the United States, which (as European historian and commentator John Laughland explains) is presently a more socialist system than post-Soviet Russia, is headed for a world-historic crash, and there's not a thing Buddy Smooth, or Ben Bernanke, can do to prevent it.

It's a new and unwelcome variation on an old and familiar story: Washington, blinded by hubris, has been micro-managing a far-flung empire even as our country descends into rot and ruin.

Already, many states are haunted by the ghost-towns of would-be exurbs, and the residential sections of many cities have become blighted with vacant houses and choked with overgrown weeds. Grim vistas of that kind give a true glimpse of our economic condition, a reality check as reliable, and as unwelcome, as the picture of Dorian Gray.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Back In the USSA

In his prime he was the most dominant wrestler since the semi-mythical Milo of Croton. A terrifying, 6'4" mound of sharply defined muscle mass, three-time Russian gold medal winner Alexander Karelin typically sported a tonsured head that was as blunt as an artillery shell and an impavid glare as frigid as mid-winter in his native Novosibirsk.

His sheer size, as well as the game face he brought a match, were often often sufficient to terrify competitors into submission even before they tied up on the mat.
His physique was deceptive; he appeared bulky and smooth, perhaps even a little flabby, while warming up. This sometimes engendered fleeting hope that he might be a little soft, a little slow.

When competitive exertion began, however, dense plateaus of muscle would suddenly reveal themselves in Karelin's chest and upper thighs, sharp striations of sinew would etch themselves in his arms, and his opponent would learn that Karelin's strength was entirely functional -- and utterly inhuman. They would likewise discover that he had the agility of a much smaller athlete, as well as the flexibility of a gymnast.

Much of Karelin's training was derived from his upbringing in one of Russia's most pitiless regions. One of his preferred training protocols was to run uphill sprints through chest-high snowdrifts; to increase the difficulty he would often carry a large log on his shoulders. He also spent countless hours hiking, hunting, skiing, and rowing a boat in the wilderness.

By the time he became an Olympic athlete Karelin was already a world-class physical specimen.
Between 1987 and 2000 (when he was beaten in Sydney by the heroic Rulon Gardner), Karelin never lost a match, and never surrendered a point, in international competition. Many of his opponents, unable to mount an offense, focused instead on trying to prevent Karelin from executing his signature scoring move -- the "Karelin Lift."

Derived from a move generally used by much smaller Greco-Roman grapplers, the Lift involved securing a body-lock on the opponent and then lifting him from the mat and dropping him on his head. Bear in mind that Karelin, who competed in the 286-pound weight class, was executing that maneuver on world-class competitors who weighed roughly as much as he did.

When he was approached in 1999 to run for parliament as a member of Vladimir Putin's Unity Party, Karelin -- regarded as a national hero by the Russians, who as a truly civilized people have a proper esteem for wrestling, the purest sport -- was told he would have to grow his hair and otherwise soften his terrifying visage. "Maybe you want me to pierce my ears and nose, paint my cheeks, use lipstick and makeup?" Karelin growled at his image-maker, who quite likely found himself involuntarily irrigating his skivvies.

An intimidating silhouette: Karelin (guess which one?) towers above his Russian Olympic teammates.

Even though he appeared to be an authentic Ivan Drago, a product of a super-secret Soviet genetic engineering project (hence his nickname "The Experiment"), Karelin is literate and refined man.

He has steeped himself in the admirable literature and exquisite classical
music of his homeland, to which he has a deeply rooted devotion. Like many Russians of his generation, however, his is a somewhat paradoxical patriotism.

For most of his life, his country was run by undisguised criminals who strip-mined it of its wealth, both tangible and cultural; who filled mass graves with tens of millions of innocent victims, and ran the world's largest network of prison camps; and who ruled through terror at home while pursuing subversion, and aggression abroad.

After winning his first gold medal in Seoul in 1988, Karelin acquired the cultural clout to defy the Soviet Communist Party, at a time when such defiance was still a very risky proposition. Shortly thereafter
he asked his mother to renounce her Party membership, which she did.

Karelin's study of Solzhenitsyn's work had taught him, quite properly, to loathe Communism, but it left him hurting and puzzled: "[A] lot inside me was ruined by trusting in the society where I live. After reading this, I had nothing left. I wondered, Are there no white spots in our history, only black? My whole country is in perpetual funeral."

Patriots of many countries, our own emphatically included, can empathize with Karelin. It is natural to love one's country. It is just as natural for informed people to despise the government that rules them.
Many Russian patriots who became politically aware shortly before the end of the Soviet Union were put into an exceptionally painful position: As much as they loved their country, they couldn't feel proud of it.

Milo's demise: The aged former wrestler, always seeking to test and validate his strength, attempts to split a recalcitrant stump with his bare hands. According to the legend, his hands became inextricably entrapped in the stump, and Milo was left helpless to defend himself when he was set upon by wolves.

That's the predicament confronting well-informed, principled patriots living in the proto-Soviet USA. Please forgive me for quoting something I wrote several years ago -- a column for The New American magazine that was rejected by its timorous editor and publisher for being a touch too controversial.

At the time, George Bush the Lesser, purported conqueror of Mesopotamia, was still in high triumphalist mode. He was still wreathed in the institutionalized awe of an official personality cult, and it struck me at the time that Bush had more than a little in common with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both had come to power as the result of appointment, rather than election. Both benefited from high-profile terrorist attacks the following September -- in Russia, it was a series of apartment bombings; in the US, of course, it was 9/11. Each of them used those incidents as a pretext to resume a highly controversial war -- Chechnya for Putin, Iraq for Bush.

Each worked quickly to centralize power in the office of the chief executive, and to expand the use of surveillance, extra-judicial detention, and torture. Both of them practiced shameless cronyism, and cultivated a quasi-official "Dear Leader" cult.
For all of these similarities, I concluded, the comparison between Bush and Putin is fundamentally unfair, since "one of them heads an increasingly authoritarian and lawless government that is pursuing a radical vision of global revolution rooted in the teachings of the Soviet Union’s founders. The other is merely the president of the Russian Federation."

The unpalatable reality of our present circumstances is this: Putin's Russia, in domestic terms, still displays many of the traits of its Soviet past -- but it is the regime in Washington that is carrying out a truly Soviet-style foreign policy. Moscow doesn't seek to build an ideological empire run by a vast army of apparatchiks and puppet rulers. Washington manifestly does.

This is apparent in the ugly war that Washington arranged in Georgia, a country run by a visibly unbalanced tool of the neo-"conservative" politburo. Mikheil Saakashvili was brought to power in 2003 through a coup orchestrated by
the National Endowment for Democracy, often referred to as the "Neo-conservative Comintern." Georgia's "Rose Revolution" was one of a series of color-coded "revolutions" that roiled various countries in recent years -- Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution," and the "Tulip Revolution" in Krgyzstan.

Georgia's "Rose Revolution," observes Peter Hitchens of the London Daily Mail, "was a putsch achieved by an orchestrated mob, followed by an election so shamelessly one-sided that our supposed hero got 96 per cent of the vote."

That figure reminded me of the "Tirana Index," devised about two decades ago by Charles Krauthammer, who at the time was a mildly innovative commentator at The New Republic. Alluding to the fact that Albania's ruler Enver Hoxha, an unvarnished Stalinist, routinely "won" elections by majorities of 99 percent or higher, Krauthammer asserted: "The higher the vote any government wins in an election, the more tyrannical it is."

That was how Dr. Krauthammer saw things circa 1986.

Today -- well, last Friday (August 15), when his most recent
column was published -- Krauthammer, who has degenerated into a tediously predictable neo-con hack, extols the Georgian regime as "Georgia's democratically elected government," even though by his own Tirana Index Georgia would have to be classified as a despotism.

The recent behavior of Saakashvili's junta -- ruling through a state of emergency at home, and engaging in blatant aggression abroad -- certainly illustrate that Krauthammer was on to something with his Index.

No matter, he insists: Should Saakashvili's government fall because of an ill-conceived effort (abetted by Washington and Tel Aviv) to force unwilling ethnic Russians to submit to its rule, then we must be ready to "make Russia bleed." This is to be done first through international ostracism, and then by supporting an Afghan-style armed resistance movement, if necessary.

Hey, great idea, Chuck, given that, y'know, Washington's last venture in Afghan-style proxy warfare was such an unqualified success.

Last March, the Bush administration made it known that it supported Georgia's request to join NATO -- as soon as it dealt with the problem of ethnic separatism in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The correct way to deal with separatism, of course, is to respect the right of people to go their separate ways if they choose to, and then to conduct commerce and diplomacy on peaceful, honorable terms.

That's the correct way. It is not, however, the "American" way, at least since 1861.

It's certainly not what Saakashvili -- whose political base consists of Georgians who want to reclaim South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- had in mind.

And this is obviously not what Washington had in mind when it dispatched hundreds of military
advisers to Georgia, conducted war games with the Georgian military that ended just a week prior to the assault on South Ossetia, and (with the help of Israeli contractors) equipped the Georgian Army for an attack that Washington certainly knew was coming -- just as it certainly knew Russian reprisals would not be far behind.

I have no way of knowing if Washington expected the Georgian military to collapse under the Russian onslaught as quickly and completely as it did. Since the Georgia gambit was planned by the same strategic geniuses who assured us that American occupation forces in Iraq would be greeted with candy and flowers, I suspect the result was an unpleasant surprise.

While neither side in this conflict is entirely clean, it was the post-Soviet Russian military that acted with professionalism, efficiency, and, for the most part, proportionality; it was the Georgian forces
trained and equipped by the proto-Soviet regime in Washington that committed an act of undisguised aggression, and -- when stymied by a superior force -- channeled its murderous rage into attacks on innocent civilians. And in a moment of unabashed censorship worthy of Soviet state television, Fox "News," an acknowledged appendage of the White House, actually tried to suppress eyewitness testimony of American civilians who reported that the Georgians had been the aggressors, and the Russians had acted to protect civilians.

After abetting Georgian aggression before the fact, and intervening during the ensuing hostilities (by airlifting Georgian troops from Iraq and dispatching military "humanitarian aid" missions), Bush retained the unmitigated gall to insist that the Russians had to honor Georgia's version of its international boundaries: "A major issue is Russia's contention that the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may not be a part of Georgia's future. But these regions are a part of Georgia. There's no room for debate on this matter."

Leaving aside the fact that the U.S. has no right or need to be policing ethnic boundaries in the Trans-Caucasus, Bush is missing a point that should be obvious even to him: His puppet regime lost the battle; it was the side that requested a cease-fire; and the losing side doesn't get to dictate what can and cannot be debated.

Clearly, Bush and the adults who script his lines aren't finished with the Georgian conflict, and they're preparing to capitalize on what could be a long stretch of unpleasantness between Washington and the only other government on earth that can actually do material harm to the United States.

Whether or not Russia was justified in its decision to intervene in Georgia, this was
not an act of Soviet-style imperialism, at least on Moscow's part.

Since the USSR was brought down in a controlled demolition back in 1991, Washington has never neglected a chance to get into Moscow's grille. It has expanded NATO into Russia's front porch, bringing into that alliance not only the entire former membership of the Warsaw Pact but also the Baltic States that once belonged to the Soviet Union proper.

And now, even as the Bush Regime claims the right to change any regime on earth it doesn't like, it lectures Moscow about the vulgar impropriety of launching a military mission intended to protect ethic Russians from military aggression that was planned and orchestrated in Washington.

This. Is. Going. To. Hurt. American Greco-Roman Olympian Jeff Blatnick, winner of a gold medal at the Soviet-free 1984 Games in Los Angeles, is about to experience the painful result of the "Karelin Lift."

It's likely that the wizards of warfare who confected the conflict in Georgia saw the current Russian military establishment much as Alexander Karelin's early opponents saw him -- big and intimidating, certainly, but also soft and, perhaps, a trifle stupid.

But it's clear now that Russia can muster the means to assert control over its "near abroad," a part of the world where Moscow remains formidable, and where we have no business meddling. That doesn't mean the meddling will stop anytime soon, of course: There's simply too much profit to be made by the War Lobby now that the public is being convinced that the Russians are once again on the march. And this may be the entire point of this bloody, cynical exercise.

It is the fate of Alexander Karelin's ancient counterpart, Milo, that may foretell the end of Washington's empire. Milo enjoyed a long and uniformly victorious career, but eventually Time, the subtle thief of youth, stealthily sapped his uncanny vitality.

As Milo became an older man, a dangerous dis-proportion developed between his vanity and his strength. He compulsively tested his strength by focusing it on opponents that couldn't fight back -- inanimate heavy objects and the like.

One day he found a farmer working with doomed persistence to split a large, gnarled tree stump with a wedge and a hammer. Eager to display his strength, Milo told the farmer who he was and asked if he could try to split the stump with bare hands. The farmer, delighted by the sudden appearance of the celebrity, invited Milo to grapple with the stump, and then ran off to fetch food.

Unfortunately, Milo's confidence overmatched his strength. As he thrust his fingers into the stump, the wedge fell out, inextricably trapping his fingers. While the farmer tarried, a pack of wolves overwhelmed the aged wrestler, sadistically toying with him over the last, exquisitely painful hours of his life.

The imperial military is already trapped in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our rulers are doing their considerable best to entangle it in Iran. And now, rather than trying to get free of those snares, Washington is doing what it can to bring on the wolves.

A quick note --

Please forgive the tardiness of this installment. I spent the past several days sorting out some computer problems.

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