Monday, March 30, 2009

The Collaborator's Song (Updated with a brief afterthought, March 31)

"Avenge me!" Tom Eckert, bloodied but unbowed, gazes through the wire of a "re-education" camp at his sons Jed and Tom following the totalitarian takeover of America in the 1984 film Red Dawn. While that movie depicted a Soviet occupation of the U.S., rather than a collapse into domestic totalitarianism, the much-derided film may be taking on a new relevance a quarter-century after its original release.

The scene is one familiar to many, if not most, American males of a certain age.

Colonel Ernesto Bella, the Cuban military ruler of Soviet-occupied Calumet, Colorado, is patiently interrogating Mayor Bates, who -- since he poses no threat -- is permitted the continued use of his official title (even though Bella has appropriated the Mayor's limousine).

The subject is the whereabouts of Bates' son, Daryl, and several other local teenagers suspected of staging guerrilla attacks on the occupation troops.
"Daryl, he wouldn't hurt a fly," Bates insists in a voice heavily flavored with the bogus bonhomie that comes naturally to politicians. "I know my son, Colonel. He's not the guerrilla type."

Col. Bella is not convinced.
"According to records, Mayor, your son is a prominent student leader," the Cuban points out. "Yes, well, he's a leader, but not in a violent or physical way," Bates stammers. "He's more of a politician, like his father. He's not a troublemaker --"

"Then who is?" interjects Col. Bella, who, weary of Bates's piscine floundering, skewers him with a barbed look.

After taking a moment to catch his breath and collect his scattered wits, Bates offers an answer he knows will please his masters, and probably lead to the death of some former friends.

"Well, let's just say -- it runs in some of the families," he replies as he contorts his face into a caricature of a politician's confident smile.

Bella, not even attempting to hide his disgust, responds with a derisive chuckle.

"This community is indeed fortunate to have a shepherd like him," Bella comments to his aide-de-camp, scorn oozing from every syllable.

Deflated yet determined to play out his chosen role, Bates tries to clothe his naked collaboration in the robes of respectable "moderation":
"Well, I just want to see this thing through, Colonel."

Shortly thereafter we see Bella presiding over the execution of a large group of "troublemakers," who are gunned down in a ditch at the outskirts of town. They remain defiant to their last mortal breath, which they use to hurl the strains of "America the Beautiful" into the face of their murderers.

Standing, appropriately enough, at Bella's side -- or, more exactly, at his heel -- is Mayor Bates, who had been dragged along to see his handiwork primarily as an object lesson regarding his fate should be somehow manage to overcome his canine servility.

The premise of the movie from which those scenes are drawn, the 1984 jingo-fest
Red Dawn, is the conquest of the Midwestern United States by a Soviet/Cuban/Nicaraguan invasion force. Wildly implausible at the time, that storyline has not gained credibility over the past quarter-century. However, the movie's depiction of young, athletic mountain boys harrying and wearing down a vastly superior military force through guerrilla tactics in some ways foretold the eventual defeat of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and Washington's impending defeat there as well.

In addition to presenting a creditable dramatization of fourth generation warfare, the movie also offers some valid insights regarding the tactics employed by totalitarian rulers and those who oppose them.

While it's profoundly doubtful that Americans will be ground beneath the heel of a Russian-led occupation force, there's a growing likelihood that the government ruling us -- a quasi-socialist kleptocracy supported by a militarized proto-police state -- will metastasize into undisguised totalitarianism.

Every totalitarian system, whether imposed through military conquest or internal subversion, requires the services of people like the gelatinous Mayor Bates -- those who have spent their lives seeking power and the favor of those who exercise it, and are willing to betray anybody and everybody in order to remain personally secure once power is in the hands of those who are utterly ruthless.

The common refrain of such people -- the Collaborator's Song, as it were -- is always some variation on the theme of "I just want to see this thing through."

A different take on that treacherous tune was performed by the character of Max Detweiler in
The Sound of Music, a melodramatic adaption of the true story of Austria's Trapp Family.

Captain von Trapp, as played by Christopher Plummer (left); in real life, with his wife Maria (below, right).

Since that film is tragically disfigured by song and dance numbers (guys prefer battlefield choreography set to the music of gunfire, punctuated by occasional explosions) its surprisingly strong message about resistance to totalitarian subversion is largely unknown to the male film audience.

The story is set in Austria just prior to the
Anschluss, an event anticipated with dread by Austrian patriots -- such as Capt. von Trapp -- and eagerness -- by the loathsome likes of Herr Zeller, an arrogant little functionary who would become gauleiter once the Nazis were in power. Caught in between were many people like the wealthy Herr Detweiler, the self-appointed promoter of the von Trapp Family Singers.

Max was frustrated by Capt. von Trapp's reluctance to permit his children to sing in public, but terrified by his refusal to accommodate the Nazis in any way once the betrayal of his country was consummated.

When the Nazis sent the Captain a conscription notice, Max took aside Maria, the family's once-time governess who became the Captain's wife, and urged her to use her influence to moderate the Captain's views.

"He's got to at least
pretend to work with these people," Max admonished Maria. "You must convince him."

"I can't ask him to be less than he is," replied Maria with quiet pride.

To his credit, Max did aid the Captain and their large family in their escape from their Nazi-dominated homeland. To his shame, Max -- like many thousands of his countrymen -- helped make the betrayal of their homeland possible by "pretending" to work with the enemy, rather than refusing to cooperate.

Unabashed collaborators like Mayor Bates -- or their real-life versions,
like the much-debated Malinche -- are relatively few in number. Those of the Max Detweiler type are quite common, and many of them -- despite their best efforts at maintaining the pretense of support for the ruling power -- find their names written down on the lists compiled, and dutifully turned in, by those whose collaboration is more overt, and whose desire is to "see this thing through" at whatever cost to other people.

What do such unpleasant matters have to do with life in contemporary America? The tragic answer to that question is: A great deal.

Many people were shocked just a few weeks ago when we were given a reminder that the government ruling us compiles
a roster of official enemies, and that the enforcement arm of Leviathan's state-level affiliates is being trained to recognize "danger signs" of political "extremism."

This reminder came courtesy of the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), which issued
a "strategic report" last February entitled "The Modern Militia Movement. MIAC is one of more than fifty counter-terrorism "fusion centers" that pockmark the American landscape like syphilitic sores.

These entities are jointly operated by state, local, and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with involvement by some branches of the military and even a select few nominally private sector entities.

Fusion centers are more appropriately referred to as domestic intelligence soviets --
policy making "councils" designed to create and impose a ruling "consensus" regarding the nature of the internal "threat." They tend to be highly secretive, and operate on the assumption that their activities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or its state-level equivalents.

The "report" itself is a product of the same congeries of
left-wing "watchdog" groups who have been laboring for decades to criminalize everything but "progressive" opinion and activism. I would write that MIAC simply "regurgitated" what it was fed by those people, but the olfactory signature of the report in question suggests that it exited the bureaucratic apparatus by way of a bodily orifice other than the mouth.

As with all such efforts at broad-brush civic excommunication, "The Modern Militia Movement" was written by people of bad faith whose net gathers of every kind but their own.

Where else could we find militant white power agitators (a group whose ranks are routinely replenished with an endless supply of federal provocateurs) forced into unnatural association with the supporters of the late Ron Paul presidential campaign, a multi-ethnic movement whose motto was "Liberty, prosperity, and peace"?

It should be understood that this document was written for the guidance of law enforcement personnel, who are instructed that those displaying the traits and attitudes described in the report consider law enforcement to be "the Enemy.... They view the military, National Guard, and law enforcement as a force that will confiscate their firearms and place them in FEMA concentration camps."

The FEMA logo: I don't know if they're the ones who would run detention centers, but they're probably as bad as their worst detractors claim.

Leaving aside the question of which agency would run detention centers in the increasingly likely event of full-scale martial law, a reasonable question urges itself on us at this point: Why shouldn't we view the State's armed enforcers as "the Enemy"?

The typical conduct of police during confrontations with civilians bears eloquent testimony of the fact that they are indoctrinated to treat us as the enemy, and to be prepared to disarm us when given the opportunity -- for their own safety, of course. Why else would police ask motorists if they were armed, or confiscate video and audio recording equipment from witnesses whenever police are involved in potentially controversial episodes of official violence?

The import of the Missouri MIAC report was to prime state law enforcement agents to perceive as potential terrorists anybody who displayed any of the political sentiments listed therein. Thus bumper stickers announcing support for Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin would be regarded as warning signs, as would the advertisement of hostility toward the FBI, ATF, IRS, UN, or Federal Reserve. None of this is new.

The Missouri document reads almost exactly like a police checklist created in 1995 and presented in Oklahoma City when the federally-facilitated bombing of the Murrah Building by disgruntled former federal employee Timothy McVeigh (and "others [conveniently still] unknown") was still a raw and bloody memory.

During a presentation on "Criminal Justice and Right-Wing Extremism in America," John J. Nutter of the Ohio-based Conflict Analysis Group described that political persuasion as a "lightning rod for the mentally disturbed" and warned the 500 law enforcement personnel in attendance to be wary of those displaying the symptoms of such alleged derangement.

Those symptoms included, but were not limited to, opposition to the UN and the above-mentioned federal alphabet agencies; "excessive" anger over, or familiarity with, the federal atrocities at Waco and Ruby Ridge; opposition to the Federal Reserve; a strong commitment to the right of armed self-defense; unusual knowledge about the Constitution and its history; a tendency to buy gold and silver; and possession of various forms of "extremist" literature. I was particularly intrigued by that last category, since it included the magazine for which I was then employed, as well as the book I had just recently published.

The document assumed that law enforcement agencies would have pretty detailed intelligence on the political opinions, literature collections, and personal habits of the people described as potential terrorist threats.
Like the more recent MIAC document, furthermore, Nutter's little report was intended to fortify the assumption that such people, rather than being active citizens in the tradition of Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, were a direct threat to the physical well-being of law enforcement personnel.

Nutter's profile was just one of many versions of the same official libel that was reproduced in Missouri's MIAC report. The post-OKC bombing "Counter-terrorism and Effective DeathPenalty Act" appropriated several million dollars to the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
by way of the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR) for use in creating the State and Local Anti-Terrorist Training program (SLATT). SLATT was a conduit linking the Justice Department and state police agencies directly into the demimonde of hard-left "watchdog" groups.

The program's official literature (circa 1999) described its mission as providing "pre-incident awreness ... preparation, prevention, and interdiction training and information to state and local law enforcement personnel in the areas of domestic anti-terrorism and extremist criminal activity.... The SLATT law enforcement training program focuses on the detection, investigation and prosecution of extremist-based crimes, criminals, and criminal activity."

Although SLATT's
emphasis changed to reflect a pre-occupation with Middle Eastern terrorism following the 9-11 attacks, it still presents training about "The Psychopathology of Hate Groups" ("hate" groups are always right-wing, of course -- and note the call-back here to Nutter's Soviet-flavored idea that "right-wing" politics attract the "mentally disturbed") and "Recognizing Terrorist Indicators and Warning Signs."

SLATT could be considered the progenitor of today's "fusion centers." Indeed, despite repeated disavowals of the fact,
it can be demonstrated that SLATT played a key role in creating the FBI's tendentious 1999 Project Megiddo "strategic report" on domestic "extremism" and potential terrorist threats. That document, widely circulated among state and local police nation-wide identified "religious motivation and the NWO [new world order] conspiracy theory" as the "two driving forces behind the potential for millennial violence."

Both SLATT and the archipelago of "fusion centers" are subsidiaries of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which collects and disseminates information about "listed threats" to state and local police. The defamatory "intelligence product" distributed by Missouri's fusion center -- the "strategic report" that listed supporters of Ron Paul or the Constitution Party among potential terrorist threats -- is not only of a piece with previous efforts by the likes of Nutter and SLATT, it is all but certainly representative of the kind of material being distributed to police nation-wide.

None of this is the result of carelessness or ignorance. The effort to shoehorn right-leaning activists into the role of "domestic terrorist threat" has been going on for nearly a decade and a half, and the people responsible for it certainly dispose of adequate resources to know exactly what they are doing.

They taxonomize us as terrorists and enemies of the state not because they have misinterpreted our values and objectives, but because they honestly regard us to be such, irrespective of our efforts to pursue the vindication of our ideals through lawful and peaceful means.
They consider us to be the domestic enemy. We should be thankful for their candor, and earnestly reciprocate that designation.

This means, at the very least, that in our dealings with the State's agents, particularly those employed by what the Russians call the "Organs of State Security," we should follow Solzhenitsyn's advice: "Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them."
We certainly should not support them, respect them, or seek to cultivate a relationship with them. Doing so will inevitably lead to compromise and collaboration.

And this brings up a sad and unpleasant element of this subject I'm duty-bound to address.

A few days ago, just before the efforts of others led to the official retraction of the Missouri MIAC report, the upper management of a "constitutionalist" organization
for which I was once employed has instructed its members, and whatever elements of the general public with which it has influence, to cultivate a good "relationship" with their local Homeland Security "fusion center": "The John Birch Society is urging members and all constitutionalists to work on bettering relationships with local police as well as the DHS Fusion Centers."(Emphasis added.)

I reiterate that this was the voice of that organization's upper management. I would assume that many within the rank-and-file membership have a much sounder take on the issue.

Why should constitutionalists seek to have a "relationship" of any kind with a governmental entity that exists without constitutional warrant? Fusion centers are designed to amalgamate law enforcement under federal control, which would be entirely impermissible, from a constitutional perspective, even if they were generating reliable intelligence regarding legitimate terrorist threats.

Why should any organization that advertises its supposed expertise regarding Communist subversion embrace a course of action that could be summarized in the slogan: "
Support your local Homeland Security Soviet"?

Is the intention here to do what is necessary to "see this thing through," in the style of the invertebrate Mayor Bates, or merely to "pretend to work" with those who are building the New Order, as the duplicitous Max Detweiler would put it?

The only principled approach to dealing with the fusion centers, and the entire Soviet-style "Homeland Security" apparatus, is to agitate for its abolition, rather than helping to consolidate the power of that apparatus by treating it as legitimate in any sense.

As bad as things presently are, we're experiencing merely the overture to what may become a bloody and violent historic tragedy. Opposing the Organs of State Security now costs relatively little -- much less than it will eventually cost when they have been "strengthen[ed] ... in exercise," and their roles become "entangle[d] in precedents," to adapt Madison's timeless language.

Yet we see that even in these circumstances, some supposed defenders of "Freedom and Family" are choosing collaboration rather than timely confrontation. Rather than hacking at the roots of police state tyranny, or even pruning some of the more conspicuous branches, they are helping to water and fertilize the mostrosity in the name of maintaining a good "relationship" with the enemy.

And all the while the people who dictate that course of action can be expected to sing -- in counterpoint with whichever version of the Collaborator's Song they select -- the occasional hymn to their own sensible moderation.

As I said, things will get much uglier than they are at present. Those who choose to collaborate when the alternative is relatively painless will either have to make some painful course corrections right now, or they'll eventually find themselves standing metaphorically at the elbow of Colonel Bella as his troops gun down the people whose names were so thoughtfully provided to the Enemy -- in the cause of maintaining that valued "relationship" and "seeing this thing through," of course.

A brief afterthought....

I suppose this question is directed at people who are either thinking of joining the JBS or renewing their membership in the organization:

Is there cause for concern over having your name on the membership roster of an organization whose top management seeks a congenial "relationship" with the "fusion centers" maintained by the Department of Homeland Security?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Liberty and Law, not "Law and Order" (Brief Programming Update, 3/26)

With our days as a manufacturing power a wistful memory and the marketing of fraudulent Wall Street "financial products" an infinitely self-replenishing source of national outrage, incarceration may soon become -- by default -- our leading national industry.

The United States is notorious for having the world's largest prison population: As
the International Herald Tribune notes, the U.S., with five percent of the world's population, but nearly one quarter of the world's prisoners.

Although our rate of violent crime is high among "developed" nations, the size of the American prison population isn't a product of a uniquely depraved population. It is, in large measure, a product of an exceptionally punitive "justice" system, which reflects a strong streak of cultural vindictiveness -- or what the Herald Tribune calls "populist demands for tough justice."

Following his tour of American penitentiaries in 1831,
Tocqueville was prompted to write that "In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States," a practice that contrasted favorably with the legal practices of the British, who were "disposed ... to retain the bloody traces of the dark ages in their penal legislation."

The French sociologist was careful to contrast the light touch of American penology with the "barbarous" treatment meted out to slaves. His observations led him to believe that the disparities in treatment reflected the fact that convicted criminals were seen as errant social equals, and black slaves were not. Americans, Tocqueville concluded, looked upon slavery "not only as an institution which is profitable to them, but as an evil which does not affect them."

Were he to make a similar survey of 21st century American prisons, Tocqueville most likely would find little of the "compassion" and "mildness" he discerned in America during its robust republican youth. As the International Herald Tribune observes, "Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations."

Perhaps the single largest contributing factor, of course, is the prohibitionist impulse, or what the Herald-Tribune describes as a "special fervor in combating illegal drugs."

To an extent unrivaled in the Western World, and perhaps comparable only to the People's Republic of China, America's prison system is populated by non-violent offenders. This is due primarily to that inexhaustible well of policy foolishness known as the "war on drugs," of course.

Another significant element in this equation is the use of jails and penitentiaries as "debtor's prisons" for "deadbeat dads" -- divorced fathers driven into intractable financial misery by the federal child support racket.

Dr. Stephen Baskerville of Patrick Henry College, author of the indispensable study Taken Into Custody, offers a tidy description of the child-napping and extortion racket in operation:

“A parent [generally a father] whose children are taken away by a family court is only at the beginning of his troubles. The next step comes as he is summoned to court and ordered to pay as much as two-thirds or even more of his income as `child support' to whomever has been given custody. His wages will immediately be garnished and his name will be entered on a federal register of `delinquents.' This is even before he has had a chance to become one, though it is also likely that the order will be backdated, so he will already be delinquent as he steps out of the courtroom. If the ordered amount is high enough, and the backdating far enough, he will be an instant felon and subject to immediate arrest.”

Jails and prisons across our land bulge at the seams with men who have been sucked into this vortex. Countless others are on probation, parole, or shackled at the ankle with electronic monitoring devices.

Baskerville's book describes the intricate system of federal subsidies and incentives that created this debtor's gulag. The federally funded army of prosecutors, bureaucrats, counselors, and assorted buttinskis devoted to the war on fatherhood is thirteen times larger than the force mustered to fight the "war on drugs."

In addition to those two federally instigated "wars," the county jail populations are plumped out by local campaigns against other forms of non-violent "crime" -- generally repeat or compound violations of traffic regulations or "quality of life" ordinances.

How is this a crime? Montanez and his colleagues defy an Orlando ordinance against feeding "large groups" of homeless people, left; below, right, Montanez is arrested following an "undercover" operation by the brave and bold Orlando Police Department.

For an exceptionally silly example of this kind of thing we can look to Orlando, Florida, where 22-year-old activist Eric Montanez was arrested -- following an undercover police operation -- for violating a municipal ordinance by feeding more than 25 homeless people in a public park. (That Montanez is distantly affiliated with ACORN and like-minded outfits doesn't make the ordinance and less asinine.)

For a long time, many observers have suspected that many municipal ordinances existed only to provide a steady stream of fine-generated revenue and a self-sustaining supply of inmate labor.

Douglas A. Blackmon's recent book Slavery by Another Name
seems to confirm that such cynical suspicions are amply justified.

Blackmon's research, which appears valid and compelling, leads him to conclude that municipal ordinances in post-Emancipation South were designed and enforced with the purpose of producing large pools of inmate labor to be leased to large corporate interests. Other versions of this analysis had been advanced earlier in criminologist Thorsten Sellin's study Slavery and the Penal System, and David Oshinsky's book Worse Than Slavery.

Blackmon's book begins with the account of 22-year-old Green Cottenham, a young man arrested for "vagrancy" by the sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama. "Vagrancy" the stickiest of catch-all charges used to round up anyone unable "to prove at a given moment that he or she [was] employed."

At the time and place of Cottenham's arrest, the charge was most frequently used to justify the arrest of young black men, many of whom were unemployed itenerant workers looking for employment.
Cottenham was quickly convicted following a burlesque of a trial and sentenced to thirty days of hard labor.

In a fashion immediately familiar to most people incarcerated today, Cottenham was unable to pay an array of "fees" that accompanied his spurious incarceration. So the thirty-day sentence was quickly expanded to a full year.
Immediately thereafter, Cottenham was "leased" -- or, as his parents, both of whom former slaves, would put it, sold -- to the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel.

One of thousands of black men vended by sheriffs across Alabama, Cottenham was dispatched to work in Slope No. 12, a coal shaft that formed part of the Pratt Mines near Birmingham.

"Imprisoned in what was then the most advanced city of the South, guarded by whipping bosses employed by the most iconic example of the modern corporation emerging in the gilded North, [Cottenham and his co-workers] were slaves in all but name," observes Blackmon.

Thousands perished from disease, overwork, and accidents, their mortal remains interred in shallow graves not far from where they expired.
This was a continuation of slavery by other means, of course. But the system described by Blackmon -- opportunistic law enforcement feeding non-violent offenders into a penal system hard-welded to government-favored corporations -- exists today.

As a recent report notes, "Private corporations are making a killing employing prisoners across the US. They are hiring the incarcerated to manufacture everything from designer jeans to computer circuit boards."
Mother Jones magazine compiled an impressive list of products -- from dressed beef to packaged software and videogames -- turned out by inmates paid less than a pittance.

A large portion of the inmate labor is provided through
Unicor, a public-private partnership created during the (last) Great Depression to create "factories with fences." It's difficult to see how this operation differs in principle from China's notorious and brutal Laogai (reform through labor) prison manufacturing system, which may actually be smaller than its U.S. analogue.

There are indications that
the prison-industrial complex is suffering some financial setbacks as a result of the ongoing economic collapse. Across the country, budget cuts made necessary by depleted sales and property tax revenues are forcing courts and sheriff's departments to relent in their pursuit of non-violent offenders, and to explore alternatives to incarceration.

This is a positive and encouraging development, an illustration of the corrective effect of an economic contraction. Ideally, states and municipalities would be compelled to abandon incarceration as a punishment for anything other than actual crimes against persons and property, and then to use that option sparingly in dealing with only the most serious offenses.

In colonial and early post-independence America, jails were uncommon and penitentiaries all but unknown. In many communities those convicted of property crimes were compelled to make restitution to their victims, a practice growing out of the recognition that such offenders owe a debt to particular victims, not to a collectivist abstraction called "society."

If the economic correction we're experiencing were to result in a much-overdue social correction, the existing "justice" system would be demolished and reconstructed on the basis of liberty protected by law, rather than "law and order."
The purpose of the law, wrote John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government, "is not to abolish or restrain but to preserve and enlarge freedom."

The preservation of individual liberty and property requires a government apparatus so minimal as to be practically invisible, and a law enforcement touch so slight as to be nearly imperceptible.

This is why our rulers have spared no effort to propagate and maintain a cult of "law and order," in which the supposed needs of "society" are paramount and justice for individual victims of actual crimes, where it occurs, is a fortuitous but inconsequential happenstance.

And this is why the next priority of the Obama administration's "stimulus" fraud -- after putting the most corrupt elements of Wall Street in charge of the public purse, and ensuring that the Democratic Party's esurient constituencies are well-fed -- will probably be a "surge" of funding for the "law and order" apparatus, which will probably open up a lucrative new affiliate devoted entirely to the apprehension and punishment of incorrigible political troublemakers.

Housekeeping/Personal Affairs UPDATE, March 26

I appreciate your patience during a lengthy hiatus between postings. My family and I are traveling right now in a combined mini-vacation and job search. I've got portions of two essays written and a third in a preliminary outline stage, so you can expect the op-tempo to pick up dramatically as soon as I can spend more time with my fingers on the keyboard, rather than wrapped around a steering wheel. Thanks!

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remembrance of Recessions Past

The greatest man I will ever know: My father, L. Richard Grigg, holding his grandson, Jefferson Leonidas Grigg (age 3 at the time), circa 2004.

At some point in each visit we pay to my parents' home I find myself pondering a curious object found in their washroom -- a small glass cologne dispenser in the shape of a mallard.

The artifact entered my childhood home as a Nixon-era Christmas present to my father, and has survived no fewer than a dozen migrations across three states. The aromatic toiletry dispensed from it has a pleasant if generic scent vaguely reminiscent of Hai Karate (a 1960s-era cheapie cologne that was marketed as an Axe-style olfactory aphrodisiac.). To this day the decanter appears to be a little less than half full.

The sight of that insipid little cologne bottle has an effect on me akin to that described by the protagonist from Remembrance of Things Past as he consumes his first morsel of tea-soaked Madeleine cake. I find myself irresistibly transported back to my childhood in a home presided over by loving, thrifty parents whose formative years were indelibly marked by the experiences of the (last) Great Depression.

Like tens of millions of Americans, my mother and father lived by the Depression-era credo, "Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without." They would never buy something new -- an appliance, an article of clothing, an automobile, or a piece of farm equipment -- when it was possible to extend the lifespan of a suitable item already in our possession.

My parents, like many others of their generation, preferred saving to spending, and self-reliant home production to the typical consumer lifestyle.

We always had a garden, albeit sometimes a very small one, in order to grow our own produce, which was always much better than what we could buy at a grocery store. Mother always canned whatever we harvested; she also baked bread (often from grain we grew ourselves), churned butter (from a cow I often milked by hand), and kept our old clothes in good repair. Dad would only throw something away if he couldn't devise some suitable use for it, and in doing so he constantly surprised me by the depth and variety of his imagination.

During the early 1970s, after Nixon definitively de-coupled the dollar from gold and our economy was plunged into a recession, Mom and Dad began to stock up on survival foods of various kinds.

In keeping with the prime directive of food storage -- "store what you eat, and eat what you store" -- our family soon became acquainted with the odd but hardly unpleasant flavor of storable surrogates for more familiar staples, such as carob powder as a replacement for cocoa, and textured vegetable protein (TVP) as a substitute for sausage on pizza.

In 1979, as Carter-era stagflation plagued the national economy, our family relocated from eastern Oregon to southwestern Idaho. Shortly before our move, my father -- a real estate broker -- consummated a sale in which the closing costs were paid, in part, by a large quantity of silver in the form of bars as large as 100 ounces.

After we re-settled in Madison County, Dad put the silver in safe storage and tried to establish himself in the local real estate market.

Unfortunately, we arrived just as a reconstruction "boom" went bust.

In June 1976, Idaho's Teton Dam failed, resulting in a flood of nearly Katrina-esque proportions.

The Teton Dam was little more than a very large berm, constructed with government-standard indifference according to familiar government-standard practices -- in other words, through the exercise of minimal competence at maximum expense.

(Ironically, one eyewitness to the disaster was a farmer named Daryl Wayne Grigg, who is -- as far as I can tell -- no relation.)

The Feds spent $100 million to build the Teton Dam; it spent at least $300 million in settling damage claims. For more than two years, federal money poured into communities throughout the devastated floodplain, including Madison County. But the reconstruction boom was over by the time our family arrived, and the real estate market collapsed like a traumatized souffle, or better yet, like a federally constructed dam.

Glory Days: Your author, as he appeared during the last major recession, roughly three decades and sixty pounds ago.

For the five years spanning most of my time in high school and college -- 1979-1984 -- my Dad's real estate business, in practical terms, produced no income.

Facing a moribund real estate market, my Dad opened another revenue stream: He and two of my brothers, along with a rotating cast of neighbors, opened a bicycle repair shop. This was a business suited to recessionary times, in which people, once again, seek to extract as much use out of what they have.

The bike repair business brought in a modest but indispensable stream of income. But what saved our family from utter destitution was Dad's silver hoard.

In January 1980, about a year after our family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, silver peaked at a little more than $50 an ounce. Dad sold his entire hoard, which had appreciated by several hundred percent over its original market value, just off the peak price. That transaction provided our family with sufficient funds to survive for more than a year.

Shortly thereafter, our family became involved in a short-lived but very worthwhile alternative local economy built on the barter system.

Consumer items of various kinds -- clothing, jewelry, household goods, storable foods -- were pooled and then assigned credit value according to market demand; those "credits" were then withdrawn and used to purchase whatever their owner desired. It was in this way that my three younger brothers and I were provided with school clothes in the fall of 1980, and presents the following Christmas. Alas, that worthy enterprise perished after the parasitical clique calling itself the government contrived a way to tax it.

During this period I was a teenager largely oblivious to the stressful challenges confronted by my parents as they tried to provide for a family of nine with no conventional means of earning a living.

My biggest preoccupations at the time involved such things as learning the guitar stylings of Michael Schenker and Frank Marino, keeping up with my self-imposed nightly football workouts (which at the time consisted of 1,200 situps and about half as many pushups), and wondering if I'd ever run into an Erin Gray lookalike.*

I had only the sketchiest idea of the genuinely heroic efforts being made by my parents not only to keep our family alive, but to make their large brood of omnivorous children happy.

Owing entirely to the thrift and industry of my parents, our family survived a severe national recession and a local depression without suffering noticeable privations of any kind. We were well-clothed, well-fed, blessed with a comfortable home and surrounded by a surprising number of amenities.

Several times since then my parents have suffered severe reversals of fortune. At one point they were forced to live without reported income in the late 1980s owing to the efforts of a corrupt tax collector (but then I repeat myself) to extort personal payoffs from them. (My father adamantly refused to reveal his identity to me at the time he was making life miserable for him and my mother. "Dad, tell me who it is," I demanded. "Why do you want to know?" he asked. "It's better that I not answer that question," I replied. "Well, then, I can't tell you," he said, ending the conversation.)

Our family was immensely blessed by the Depression-era lessons learned by my parents regarding self-discipline and deferral of gratification. It's hardly surprising that people who displayed such commendable austerity would keep a bottle of cheap but serviceable cologne for nearly four decades; after all, it hasn't been used up, so why throw it out?

Obviously, my parents fit the profile of "hoarders" -- people who shirk the patriotic duty to spend everything they make, leverage themselves as deeply as they can, and consume as much as possible in order to boost "aggregate demand."

In fact, people of that insular, provincial mind-set are responsible for the ongoing economic collapse, according to the bien-pensants.

The stolid refusal of hoarders to do their part is undermining the generosity of the Federal Reserve in pumping "liquidity" (that is, inflated dollars) into the economy, and the heroic efforts of Obama the Good and Wise to spend as much as possible to restore prosperity to our troubled land.

In a cover story lamenting the fact that the past year and a half has witnessed a cultural shift from profligacy to parsimony, Newsweek strikes a tone at once patronizing and accusatory in addressing those who choose to save rather than spend.

"The rush to hoard cash and pinch pennies is understandable, given that some $13 trillion in net worth evaporated between mid-2007 and the end of 2008," the story begins, and if it had been written by an honest and rational man the matter would have ended there. But the author perversely persisted, ignoring sound economic sense in favor of forcing a Keynesian homily on his long-suffering readers.

While it "makes complete microeconomic sense for families and individual businesses" to economize, that behavior "is macroeconomically troubling," Newsweek continues. "For our $14 trillion economy to recover and thrive, hoarders must open their wallets and become consumers.... [I]n our economy in which 70 percent of activity is derived from consumers, we do need our neighbors to spend. Otherwise we fall into what economist John Maynard Keynes called the `paradox of thrift.' If everyone saves during a slack period, economic activity will decrease, thus making everyone poorer."

The same rebuke is offered, in much sterner language, by the New York Times. In the midst of a paean to the Federal Reserve for conjuring into existence more than $1 trillion to buy bad debts -- hundreds of billions in worthless mortgages from Fannie and Freddie, and even more to purchase Treasury bonds -- the Times takes a swipe at "lenders [who are] unwilling to lend and borrowers [who are] unwilling or unable to borrow."

According to Jay Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs (aka the Shadow Treasury Department), our deepening economic collapse is entirely the fault of those narrow-minded "hoarders": "We're in a deep recession mainly because the private sector, for a variety of reasons, has decided to save a lot more."(Emphasis added.)

Now, Hatzius works for Goldman Sachs, which means that he's a bit like a mob bookkeeper, albeit much less reputable and trustworthy. Minds not terminally clotted by Keynesianism should be able to understand that Hatzius is deliberately confusing cause and effect, and maliciously blaming the victims in order to exculpate one the chief offenders in the recently ended orgy of Fed-abetted financial fraud.

The Times, a dying propaganda appendage of the Power Elite (and may its demise come quickly), would have us believe that the key to prosperity is the Fed's ability to create "vast new sums of money out of thin air" -- the exact phrase it used to describe the recent "injection" of $ 1 trillion by the central bank into the U.S. economy -- coupled with unbridled consumption by both government and the population at large.

Sounder minds understand that there is no discontinuity in the economic laws governing both "micro"- and "macro"-economies: Neither nations nor households can build prosperity through debt and consumption, but rather through thrift and productivity.

The emerging media campaign against "hoarding" has a nasty and unmistakable flavor of Stalin-variety collectivist scapegoating: The term "hoarders" was produced by the same propaganda mill that churned out official imprecations against "wreckers" and "kulaks."

Scapegoating as precursor to genocide: "We will keep out the Kulaks," declares this 1930 Soviet propaganda poster, referring to the peasant farmers who were demonized and then slaughtered by the regime in the engineered famine of the 1930s.

Whenever a collectivist regime expands its control over an economy, it has to find somebody to blame for the inevitable dislocations, shortages, and hardships.

Typically such ruling elites re-direct blame at those who behave in rational economic behavior. And scapegoating in such circumstances is inevitably a prelude to outright confiscation of wealth, and, eventually, the liquidation of those intransigently committed to individual freedom and dignity.

The Fed and its cohorts are already confiscating the earnings of "hoarders" through inflation. But as the effects of Obamanomics become tangible, and our country begins to follow the course charted by Zimbabwe, those responsible for the disaster won't be content with such an indirect assault.

Already we're being told that it's un-American to divest ourselves of fiat dollars in favor of gold and silver. Obama the Blessed Himself has ordered Americans to refrain from stashing their money under their mattresses. And there's even an intriguing effort underway to categorize the "hoarding" tendency as a variety of obsessive-compulsive behavior; this offers intriguing and terrifying possibilities for Soviet-style compelled psychiatric imprisonment for those who prefer to wear out what they have, and save their money rather than spending it.

Ours is hardly the first society to succumb to the plague of fiat money and inflation, and the totalitarian regime being fastened upon us will hardly be the first to anathematize and, perhaps, seek to annihilate, those who insist on protecting what they've earned and saved.

Be that as it may, our only plausible hope for survival -- as individuals and families, and as voluntary communities of shared interests and values -- is to do exactly the opposite of what the government instructs us. And this begins with the careful study, and appropriate emulation, of the wise people who are increasingly maligned as "hoarders."

*Miss Gray, for the uninitiated, played the redoubtable Col. Wilma Deering on the late-70s fromage-fest Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She is a lovely and, by all accounts, very decent lady, but in terms of radiant beauty, comparing her to my Korrin is a bit like comparing a penlight to a supernova.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dismantling The Killer Elite

Maintaining the pretense of authority: "Nothing to see here! Please disperse!" commands Frank Drebin, Lt. Detective, Police Squad -- a special division of the police force.

Sometimes the truth is best told through fictional allegory, especially when a dash of comedy is used to make the parables more palatable. Witness, for example, the variation on the familiar "I'll need your badge and gun" scene from the action farce The Naked Gun.

Countless police films present exactly the same scene, in which the forlorn hero, after being led by his zeal to commit some grave breach of protocol or some (apparent) lapse of judgment, is put on administrative leave and forced to surrender his insignia of office and his government-issued firearm.

The conventions of movie melodrama dictate that as he turns over his shield the disgraced police officer take generous pause to look pensively at the token of official authority, wordlessly conveying a deep sense of inconsolable loss. And the balance of the story consists of the cashiered officer working through back-channels and other unsanctioned avenues to vindicate himself and take down whatever criminal mastermind was responsible for his humiliation.

As I said, we've witnessed that scene in scores, perhaps hundreds, of cinematic and television variations. However, to my knowledge, only Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) of The Naked Gun has actually allocuted the otherwise unspoken thoughts of the police officer forced to turn in his gun and badge.

"Just think," a dejected Drebin comments to his anguished partner, "the next time I shoot someone, I could go to jail."

A more pointed version of the same sentiment, delivered without a particle of comic irony, was expressed by both Tom "Turk" Cowan (Robert DeNiro) and his long-time partner David "Rooster" Fisk (Al Pacino) in
Righteous Kill, a formulaic cop thriller released last year.

"You don't become a cop because you want to `Serve and protect'; you do it because you want respect," explains Cowan. "Most people respect the badge. Everybody respects the gun."

Fisk, who by all appearances plays Damon to Cowan's Pythias, is even more direct: "The badge is nice, as long as it comes with a gun."



Embedded in such scenes is the assumption that the state-issued badge is, quite literally, a shield: Not only does it symbolize a specific professional function, it also confers official permission to kill other human beings.

Those who receive this officially consecrated jewelry are thus elevated above the common mass of undifferentiated humanity, and few things are more poignantly painful than being relieved of that token of exalted status, and deprived of the sense of impunity it offers.

A recent essay describing some of the challenges experienced by female police officers briefly noted one social challenge faced by distaff members of the Killer Elite: "It can be very intimidating for the person who is dating a female cop who carries a badge and has a constitutional authority to take a life." (Emphasis added.)

That "constitutional authority" thus makes the female police officer intrinsically different from members of her potential dating pool (which the author, in dutiful PC fashion, implicitly expands to include both sexes). The officer has it, and unless her would-be suitor is part of the same privileged caste, he or she does not.

But all of this begs the following question: Where, exactly, does the "constitutional authority to take a life" come from, if it doesn't inhere in each individual, and the people at large? What mystical property of the state permits it to summon that "right" into existence, and by what principle of justice does the state confer it exclusively on its own armed enforcers?

If the people, both individually and in the aggregate, do not have the moral authority to take a life when necessary, how could they confer that authority on their servants in government? Or are we to understand that the powers of government are innate and unqualified, rather than derivative and contingent, as the Declaration of Independence asserts?

The answer to that question is made obvious in the behavior of our supposed protectors on those occasions when an otherwise inoffensive civilian asserts his right to be treated with the dignity and the deference due to a human being. With rare and priceless exceptions, theirs is hardly the conduct of servants.

Furthermore, the "constitutional authority to take a life" that is supposedly the unique possession of the state's armed enforcers is not restricted to self-defense or the use of lethal violence to carry out the apprehension and punishment of criminals. It also encompasses the supposed right to kill innocent bystanders, victims of mistaken identity, or even those who merely prove to be inconvenient.

Portrait of a murderer as young West Point graduate: Future FBI-employed serial killer Lon Horiuchi (left, and below, right), who murdered Vicky Weaver at Ruby Ridge and played a still-unknown role in the massacre of the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel, outside Waco.

About ten years ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals brushed up against this notion when it ruled that FBI assassin Lon Horiuchi couldn't be prosecuted for manslaughter in killing of Vicky Weaver during the 1992 federal siege of her family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

From the spurious concept of "supremacy clause immunity," the court fashioned an even more fanciful principle called the "discretionary function exemption." Under that standard, the only significant questions were these: Was Horiuchi acting under orders from his superiors, and was the kill-shot justified by "his subjective belief that his actions were necessary and proper"?

The former question essentially permits Horiuchi (and others in his position) the luxury of the notorious "Nuremberg Defense"; the latter question reverses centuries worth of common law wisdom by arguing that armed enforcers for the state are exceptions to the principle that "no man can be a judge in his own cause."

On the basis of such assumptions, the court ruled that it would be impermissible for a federal law enforcement officer to face civil or criminal prosecution for official acts that would otherwise be criminal in nature -- including, in this case, gunning down an unarmed mother while she was holding as small infant. (In sworn testimony Horiuchi admitted that he knew it was Vicky Weaver in his sights when he pulled the trigger.)

In a dissent seasoned liberally with incredulous outrage, Judge Alex Kozinski condemned the majority for creating what he called a "007 standard" -- that is, a license to kill. By exempting Horiuchi from prosecution, wrote Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit Court was granting that lethal license "to all law enforcement agencies in our circuit -- federal, state, and local."

Victim of the "007 Standard": Vicky Weaver, before she was murdered by Horiuchi.

Just months later, the Ninth Court partially reversed that decision in order to permit Idaho (the plaintiff in the original case) to prosecute Horiuchi under state laws. Denise Woodbury, an assistant prosecutor from Boundary County, was prepared to prosecute the FBI sniper, but incoming county attorney Brett Benson had no appetite for taking on the case. So Horiuchi remained at large without prosecution, and the "007 standard" remains in force by default.

It is by no means incidental to this discussion that Horiuchi's lethal services came in the course of federal sieges of socially isolated people (the "white separatist" Weaver family and the Branch Davidian community, a breakaway sect of the Adventist faith) arising from technical violations of federal firearms laws.

Randy Weaver was initially approached by an undercover agent for the criminal syndicate called the ATF. The federal snitch offered to pay Weaver a substantial sum to buy shotguns that had undergone "illegal" modifications specified by the snitch himself.

Once entrapped, Weaver was told the only way he could avoid prosecution was to act as a federal snitch within the neo-Nazi Aryan Nation, a sect with which he had a trivial and distant connection. To his immense credit, Weaver deflected this blackmail attempt -- and the Feds punished his principled defiance by carrying out the murderous assault on his family.

The initial "Showtime" raid in Waco by the ATF was carried out on the pretext that Branch Davidian religious leader David Koresh, a federally licensed firearms dealer, was illegally converting semi-automatic rifles to full-autos. Told of the agency's concerns by a Waco-area gun dealer, Koresh invited the ATF to inspect his inventory weeks prior to the raid. That offer was turned down in order to preserve the pretext for a PR-friendly raid on an eccentric but harmless religious community.

Several Davidians were shot during the ATF's unnecessary (and, therefore, illegal) raid on February 28, 1993. Four ATF agents were killed by the Davidians in an act of entirely legal self-defense. Scores of people were later immolated by the FBI (and special forces operators) duruing the final siege on April 19.

Nobody in a position of authority has ever been punished in any way for the needless ATF raid or the avoidable deaths (including those of the four federal agents) that resulted. Four of the Davidian survivors, on the other hand, were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and the use of a firearm in committing a violent crime. The "crime" in question was defending their home and place of worship when it was besieged by an armed mob.

The Waco episode fleshes out the "constitutional authority to take a life" even further by adding this critical codicil: Those on the receiving end of criminal violence by the state's armed agents have no right to defend themselves in kind. In other words, if someone invested with the "right" to take a life wrongly targets you, either as a result of error or of malice, you have a duty to die.

Another very important legal principle must be taken into account as well: Not only can the state's enforcement agents more or less kill at their discretion, they also enjoy the privilege of deciding whether or not to come to the aid of a given individual citizen. A long string of legal precedents dictates that individual citizens have no legal or civic recourse against police who fail to protect or defend them when they are threatened by violent criminals. The duty of the police is to "society," not to an individual finding himself in need of specific assistance.

What this means, of course, is that the state's armed agents can kill you at their discretion, but have no responsibility to save you from the criminal violence of others.

All of this could be considered the inevitable outcome of alienating to the state the individual responsibility for self-defense against violent crime. Given the tendency of the state to aggrandize itself in any role assigned to it, and to pervert delegated authority into unaccountable power, why should we be surprised that the police are acquiring the customs and demeanor of a militarized killer elite?

In 1993, more than a decade and a half before Eric Holder would denigrate Americans as "A Nation of Cowards" because of our lack of enthusiasm for ethnic collectivism, constitutional attorney Jeffrey Snyder made much more appropriate use of that phrase as the title of
an essay published in the late (and otherwise unlamented) neo-con quarterly, The Public Interest.

With the unflinching determination of a surgeon attacking a gangrenous limb, Snyder applies the scalpel of logic to the putrescent assumptions of "gun control" (or, as honest people prefer to call it, civilian disarmament).

Layer after layer of rotten pretense surrenders to his blade before Snyder uncovers the core of the issue:

"To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not gifts from the state. It is to reserve final judgment about whether the state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend that freedom with more than mere words, and to stand outside the state's totalitarian reach.... Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people."

Yeah, that should work....

In a phrase: The Second Amendment certifies that the state does not possess a monopoly on the use of force.
Yet we have abdicated the role of self-defense to the same state that is now overtly taking on the characteristics of a brazen kleptocracy.

How on earth could rational people believe that the same state responsible for plundering us through taxation, stealing the value of our earnings and savings through inflation, and subsidizing Wall Street's multi-trillion-dollar crime spree, will actually protect us from the violence of common criminals when our ongoing economic collapse begets widespread social turmoil?

One of the ironic blessings of a cataclysmic economic "correction" may be the widespread dismantling of state and local police departments -- assuming, of course, that the vacuum can be filled with informal "citizen's posses" and "home guards" composed of armed, responsible property owners.

As a homework assignment for those skeptical that such arrangements can work, at least in modest-sized communities, I recommend the wonderful book Tough Towns: True Tales from the Gritty Streets of the Old West, by Oklahoma attorney Robert Barr Smith.

The title is slightly misleading, since some of the best accounts of spontaneous law enforcement by the citizenry (such as the battles against bank robbers in Miller Creek, Oklahoma, Menomonie, Wisconsin, and especially the small black enclave of Boley, Oklahoma) occurred in during the (last) Great Depression.

With wit and insight Smith describes eighteen small battles between vicious gangs of armed professional criminals and armed citizens determined to protect their property and their neighbors.

In each episode, the criminals come out a poor second, often leaving this world in agony as their bodies are perforated by gunfire coming from every direction. And in nearly all of these accounts, government law enforcement -- usually represented by the local sheriff, or a territorial marshal -- plays a role best described as peripheral.

That's how it once was when our country was relatively free. That's how it could be, and should be, once again.

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