Thursday, July 30, 2009

Child-Snatchers and Life-Stealers, Pt. II: Protecting the Guilty and Powerful

Under the rule of District Attorney Ed Jagels, Kern County, California became ground zero for the child abuse hysteria that raged across America for most of the 1980s. Utterly ruthless in pursuing convictions and entirely indifferent to the truth, Jagels recruited and developed a disciplined cadre of persecutors -- assistant DAs, police investigators, social workers, and "expert" witnesses -- who refined the art of railroading defendants into an exact science.

Kern County was the laboratory that developed the methods employed by opportunistic prosecutors who would eventually imprison thousands of innocent people on the basis of palpably fraudulent abuse accusations.

The process would begin with one or a handful of children believed to have been abused by someone. Those children would be designated "victims" and taken into "protective" isolation. Investigators and social workers would barrage the children with leading and suggestive questions, and then dispense with questions outright and demand that the children simply ratify accusations made by the adults themselves.

Some of the methods of manipulation favored by Jagels's agents were sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogation, positive reinforcement when the child would "admit" to being abused, coupled with contemptuous, hostile treatment of any child suffering from "denial" of abuse. Toys and other gifts were used as inducements, as were consciously dishonest promises that children who cooperated would be re-united with parents they accused of abusing them.

Once a handful of "victim"/accusers had been assembled, the investigation would take on the characteristics of a pyramid scheme: Each "victim" was urged to name other "victims," who in turn were pressured into naming "abusers." In this fashion, within a little more than a year Jagels -- with the help of a scandalously incurious local press -- was able to convince the public that Bakersfield and its suburbs were infested with at least eight child abuse "rings." And before long, other prosecutors began to copy the Jagels Formula.

As Edward Humes points out in his Pulitzer-winning expose
Mean Justice: A True Account of a Town's Terror, a Prosecutor's Power -- and a Betrayal of Innocence, Jagels's minions "helped ignite similar cases throughout the country, as Kern County investigators and social workers fanned out to spread the word of their winning techniques."

For the rest of the decade and into the early 1990s, the public would be barraged with tales of massive child abuse "rings" found in communities from coast to coast --from the
McMartin pre-school in Manhattan Beach, California to the Wee Care daycare center in Maplewood, New Jersey.

It was as if a chain-reaction were underway, causing public officials and local populations to suffer a complete melt-down where critical thinking and rational application of the law were concerned -- and Kern County had served as the breeder reactor.

Ironically, given his role in abetting this national disaster, Ed Jagels (to alter our metaphor) didn't ignite the firestorm in Kern County, even though he did cynically feed the flames.

During his 1982 campaign for the District Attorney post -- the last campaign he's ever had to run, now that he's effectively the Kern County DA-for-life -- Jagels capitalized on the issue during a May debate with his opponent, Judge Marvin Ferguson.

During a question-and-answer period, a woman named Jill Haddad strode to a microphone and, brandishing a large sheaf of photocopied papers, accused Ferguson of being lenient in his treatment of child abusers. The documents she held, according to Haddad, proved that in 1975 Ferguson had sent an abused four-year-old girl named Mary Ann Azevedo back to the stepfather who had beaten her, and then compounded this act by giving the abuser a ridiculously light sentence.

A few months later, after the stepfather was released, he took Mary Ann and her mother to Mississippi, where -- just a short while later -- he beat the poor child to death.
Ferguson, blindsided by the accusation, dissolved into a gibbering, stammering mess while Jagels sat next to him on the rostrum smirking.

This confrontation -- memorably captured in a photograph run on page A-4 of the Sunday, May 16
Bakersfield Californian -- proved to be the decisive moment in the campaign. It undoubtedly impressed on Jagels the political potency of the child abuse issue.

The procurement of the case file wielded by Jill Haddad, and the cover-up of the circumstances under which it was made available, may have been the first of the many instances of official corruption that would characterize Jagels's career as Kern County prosecutor.
The case file was obtained from the county clerk by a woman named Colleen Ryan, who -- like Jagels -- was an assistant county DA. At the time, Ryan was on maternity leave and had no official need for the confidential document; that fact was not explained to the clerk who handed it over.

Ryan gave the file to Jagels's campaign manager, who in turn provided it to Jill Haddad, a local child abuse activist and Jagels supporter.

As it happens, Jagels and his allies not only stole the file,
they lied about its contents in order to cover up their own role in the death of Mary Ann Azevedo.

It is true that Judge Ferguson sent Mary Ann back to a seriously troubled home. He didn't have a choice: The District Attorney didn't bother to send anybody to attend the critical hearing. In the absence of someone there to make the case for the prosecution, Judge Ferguson quite properly dismissed the charges.

Furthermore, the leniency granted to Mary Ann's stepfather (who was in jail for a different offense) was not Judge Ferguson's idea. He was the beneficiary of a plea-bargain arrangement that dramatically reduced his sentence. So if anyone in an official capacity was responsible for the death of Mary Ann Azevedo, that blame resided with the District Attorney's office.

This was not the first or last time the Kern County law enforcement community had covered up embarrassing details regarding the death of a child.

In 1979, four years following the death of Mary Ann Azevedo, a 14-year-old honors student named Dana Butler disappeared on her way home from church. Three days later, her mutilated mortal remains were found at the side of the highway just outside the Bakersfield city limits. Her body had been perforated by scores of stab wounds, and there was evidence that she had been tortured before being permitted to die.

Of particular interest was the fact that the murderer had carefully bathed and dressed the body before depositing it on the side of the road; it was still damp when the police discovered it. The obvious intent was to wash away critical physical evidence -- hairs, fibers, fluids -- that could be used by investigators seeking to identify the perpetrator.

Within a short time investigators learned that Dana had been a frequent house guest of 56-year-old
Glenn Fitts, who routinely invited teens to his home for parties in which he'd ply the underage youth with alcohol and drugs and often receive sex in return. According to her friends, Dana had visited Fitts the day before she disappeared, and planned to return on the following day. Although Fitts was an obvious suspect, the DA's office and the Sheriff's Office were reluctant to pursue the investigation.

Prior to his retirement just a few years earlier, Fitts had been a pillar of the local law enforcement community: In addition to being chairman of the law-enforcement program at Bakersfield Community College, Fitts had been director of the Kern County Police Academy and a high-ranking member of the Bakersfield Police Commission. He had personally instructed many of the local police officers and sheriff's deputies, and as commissioner he had served as their supervisor.

A powerless victim, an unpunished crime: Investigators retrieve the body of 14-year-old Dana Butler, who was almost certainly raped and murdered by former Kern County Police Academy director Glenn Fitts.

After a lengthy and unnecessary delay, a search was conducted of Fitts' home, which had been thoroughly -- but not adequately -- scoured of evidence.

Carpet fibers and human hairs found in the house matched some found on Dana's body. Among them were (please forgive the specificity of this description) pubic hairs from Fitts that matched a sample found clinging to the head of the deceased 14-year-old girl.

Despite the accumulating evidence, the Kern County DA's office refused to prosecute. This decision was made by District Attorney Al Leddy in collaboration with his three top assistants. The Sheriff's office retaliated against the cover-up by leaking news of the investigation to the press; this resulted in the creation of an ad hoc pressure group called Mothers of Bakersfield, which pressured the state Attorney General to investigate the Kern County DA.

With pressure mounting on him, Leddy eventually submitted a case against Fitts to a grand jury. The ridiculously inadequate charge against him was contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And even then, notes Humes in
Mean Justice, "senior prosecutors withheld key evidence from the panel and ultimately closed the investigation without asking for an indictment."

The only purpose served by that exercise was to provide political cover for Leddy and the local law enforcement hierachy. Their problems appeared to solve themselves shortly thereafter when Fitts died of what was officially described as a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. And even then, a neighbor reported hearing
two gunshots rather than one -- a fact that suggests either really poor aim by Fitts, or very careful work by an assassin.

The Dana Butler murder and cover-up ended Leddy's career, and helped propel his subordinate Ed Jagels into Leddy's old office. It also offered a telling glimpse into the workings of the local ruling oligarchy, the so-called "Lords of Bakersfield," whose corrupt and criminal behavior was carefully protected by Jagels for more than a decade.

an investigative report by Rolling Stone observes, many Bakersfield residents -- including people with access to the corridors of power -- concluded that Jagels' child abuse jihad was intended "to divert attention from the illicit sexual behavior of the city's ruling elite."

Kyle Beckman, who served as an investigator for the DA's office under Jagels, now says that "the 1980s molestation trials were overcompensation," that Jagels and his allies among the "Lords of Bakersfield" were "covering up their tracks by going after other people."

"Between 1981 and 1984," reports
Rolling Stone, "three prominent men in Bakresfield were murdered by their teenage lovers. At his trial, one boy testified that he had sex with 150 closeted gay men in Kery County, a group of judges, prosecutors and other pillars of the community who became known in local lore as the Lords of Bakersfield. For years, rumors about the dark cabal filtered through town: the wild parties at the house of Ted Fritts, publisher of the Bakersfield Californian, where teenage boys mingled with graying power brokers; the park at the edge of town where homeless kids would swap sex for money or drugs."

The Californian newspaper, interestingly enough, was little more than a megaphone for Ed Jagels' office during the child abuse frenzy, and displayed no interest at all in pursuing the truth about these tantalizing rumors -- until after Fritts, the paper's publisher, died of AIDS in 1997, and another of the local "Lords" was murdered five years later.

Remove Formatting from selection On September 13, 2002, the body of assistant Kern County DA Stephen Tauzer was found in his garage. Tauzer was the victim of a particularly vicious attack: His head was riddled with multiple stab wounds.

With Tauzer's death the curtain was pulled back far enough to reveal one unsavory aspect of his private life: For years he had been involved with a teenage boy named Lance Hills, a meth addict and hustler.
Many speculated that Tauzer, by that time in his late 50s, was supplying Hills with drugs in exchange for sex.

Public records documented that the assistant DA was using his influence to protect Hills when he was arrested on drug charges. Rather than being sent to jail or prison, Hills was sent to a rehab facility, where he stole a car that he wrecked in a head-on collision that also ended his life. One month after Lance Hills died, his father Chris murdered Tauzer.

During the child abuse frenzy of the 1980s, Tauzer had been Jagels' right-hand man, supervising the persecution of scores of innocent people. He was fully complicit in the crimes and abuses committed by the DA's office. That relationship, and revelations about Tauzer's relationship with Hills, support the accusation that Jagels' child abuse campaign was intended, at least in part, as a diversion undertaken to protect the depraved "Lords of Bakersfield."

Additional support for that assessment came a few months after Tauzer's death, when
the Bakersfield Californian ran a revealing series about the "Legend of the Lords of Bakersfield."

Abounding in detail and carefully reported, the series substantiated at least some of the speculation regarding the influence and activities of that powerful clique.

Jagels remains ensconced in the Kern County DA's office to this day. In terms of the security of his position, the longevity of his rule, and the cruel lawlessness of his reign, Jagels invites comparisons to Fidel Castro. Despite the fact that all of the child sex charges were dismissed, neither Jagels nor any of his subordinates or allies has ever admitted error, or been held accountable in any way.

Although large-scale child abuse scandals no longer dominate the headlines, families are ripped apart, children are abducted, and innocent people are terrorized by predatory state officials using techniques pioneered by Jagels and his comrades. This happens somewhere in this country every day.
But Jagels and his associates did more than just create a template for spurious child abuse investigations; they were the vanguard of a movement to create a corporatist police state.

Notes Edward Humes in
Mean Justice: "Even as schools and parks and clinics suffered, Kern County bolstered the budgets of the sheriff, police, and prosecutors. It built a new, bigger jail far out in the desert, doing everything it could to crack down on crime, hard and sure...."

And where criminals could not be found, Jagels and his allies were prepared to manufacture them, thereby guaranteeing a return on this civic "investment."
"You don' thave to do anything at all in this town to be convicted of a crime," explained a former employee of Jagels to Rolling Stone. "I tell my kids, `Get out of this county after high school or you'll end up in prison.'"

A similar admonition applies to visitors: According to a popular local folk saying, Bakersfield's Chamber of Commerce invites tourists to "Come on vacation, and leave on probation."

At the time Jagels came to power, Bakersfield's civic elite described their community as an "All-American City." What it became was a foreshadowing of America as our descent into abject police state tyranny accelerates.

Not-entirely-gratuitous video extra

Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens perform the country classic, "Streets of Bakersfield":


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Monday, July 27, 2009

Praetorian Presumptions

Behold the face of fear and insecurity: Riot police in Oakland, seen here protecting and serving their community.

Salt Lake City's
Deseret News, as part of its continuing campaign against rationality, recently published a house editorial condemning civilian ownership of firearms.

Bobbing in the puddle of pathos created by the editorial staff's lachrymosity can be found this lump of congealed hypocrisy:
"[T]ough guys don't pack firearms. Fearful guys do -- people who see everyone around them as a threat and think the worst of faces they don't recognize. Guns don't showcase strength, they showcase weakness."

There is the beginning of an important point here, but it's one the people responsible for that editorial, in their ideologically induced foolishness, are too thick to recognize: If they are serious in their assessment that carrying firearms (particularly handguns) is symptomatic of socially dangerous insecurity on the part of those who carry them, then disarmament should begin with those most frequently found in public possession of those weapons -- that is, the police.

Since police are trained "to see everyone around them as a threat and think the worst" of those they encounter, they are a uniquely suitable target for disarmament, at least by the standard suggested by the
Deseret News.

In what could be (depending on one's worldview) either a divinely ordained symmetry, an example of Karmic synchronicity, or a convenient coincidence, an active-duty police officer validated the point above in a brief blog item for National Review.

Writing about the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Jack Dunphy" -- the name is a pseudonym for an active-duty LAPD officer -- took umbrage with the suggestion that slapping a set of handcuffs on a small, middle-aged man and hauling him off to jail might not be the wisest way for a police officer to react when offended by something that man had said.

After all, insisted the cyber-Centurion, being a policeman is dangerous, and those mundanes who refuse to display proper docility might well end up dead.

By way of illustration, "Dunphy" writes, "here is what I would advise [anyone] ... who finds himself unexpectedly confronted with a police officer: You may be pure as the driven snow itself, but you have no idea what horrible crime that police officer might suspect you of committing. You may be tooling along on a Sunday drive in your 1932 Hupmobile when, quite unknown to you, someone else in a 1932 Hupmobile knocks off the nearby Piggly Wiggly. A passing police officer sees you and, asking himself how many 1932 Hupmobiles can there be around here, pulls you over.

"At that moment," Dunphy continues, "I can assure you the officer is not all that concerned with trying not to offend you. He is instead concerned with protecting his mortal hide from having holes placed in it where God did not intend. And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own."

Are you paying attention, oh wise and compassionate editorial board of the
Deseret News? Here is an active-duty police officer who treats as a virtue precisely the cluster of borderline-paranoid traits you ascribe to every civilian gun owner: A tendency to see everyone else as a threat, an inclination to suspect the worst of every stranger, and a willingness to resort to lethal force at the slightest provocation.

At some point, it will get to be that obvious: Peruvian riot police wearing their Imperial Stormtrooper-by-way-of-Strange Brew armor to celebrate that country's Independence Day.

From the point of view of that police officer -- a very common opinion in that profession -- killing an innocent civilian as the result of a mistaken threat assessment, however tragic, is justifiable.

In fact, summary execution just might be condign punishment for a mundane who "disses" a police officer by being a bit too persistent in asserting his rights, according to "Dunphy."
He and the others of his caste enjoy the privilege to kill, which means that the rest of us have a duty to submit, or die.

So when an innocent person finds himself on the receiving end of unjustified attention from a police officer, his only safe course of action -- from this point of view -- is that of the proverbial rape victim: Just lie down and endure it, and enjoy it, if possible.

"One of the common-sense rules of life can be summed up this way: Don't mess with cops,"
opined Washington Post writer Neely Tucker by way of reinforcing that point in the aftermath of the Gates arrest. "It doesn't matter if you are right, wrong, at home or on the street, or if you are black, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim or whatever," Neely asserts. "When an armed law enforcement officer tells you to cease and desist, the wise person (a) ceases and (b) desists.... The police, when they show up at a residence or a liquor store, don't know what's what or who's who. The good cops are there to have people (a) cease and (b) desist. The bad cops still have a badge, a gun and the legal authority to haul your butt downtown."

"So you want to make friends, join the glee club," concludes Neely. "You want to yell at people who are lousy at their jobs, go to a Redskins game. But, all things considered, don't mess with cops. It usually works out better that way."

Here's how it breaks down from the statist perspective:
When civilians carry firearms because they don't know who the bad guys are, we're being pathologically insecure; when police not only carry them but routinely use them to make others submit to their will without reasonable cause, they're merely exercising a professional prerogative.

As things presently stand, any reaction to police other than immediate, unconditional submission is treated as a threat to "officer safety" and grounds for arrest or the exercise of lethal force.
"The rule is, if a police officer stops you in a car or on the street, he's the captain of the ship, and whatever he says goes," insists Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. "If you've got something to address, do it later. Do what he says, or else only bad things can happen."

Do what he says, or else only bad things can happen

Isn't that the essence of any illicit demand made by a criminal or terrorist?

Pasco and others of his ilk display a mindset that is innately, and definitively, anti-American. Not only do they assume that were living in a state akin to martial law -- that is, a condition in which civilians are required, on pain of death, to render immediate obedience to people in state-issued costumes; they also assume that authority flows downward from government officials upon the heads of less exalted personages in the private realm.

Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle, Washington, is a retired peace officer whose influence is sorely needed today. He points out that contemporary law enforcement officers are not trained to deal respectfully and deferentially to "real Americans" -- that is, people who understand that in our constitutional system police are supposed to be their servants, not their masters.

"Any cop can deal with a robbery suspect, but show me the cop who can handle a real American," commented Stamper in a recent interview with the (Boston-based)
Christian Science Monitor, quoting policing expert George Thompson. A "real American" is "someone, when you say, `Roll down the window,' says `No,' or who meets you at the threshold at home and says `No, you can't come in. Show me your warrant.'"

For all of the horrors associated with the militarization of law enforcement, there is one ironic benefit: It's becoming easier all the time to recognize the "real Americans" among us. They're the ones writhing at the end of Taser wires, or being dragged away in handcuffs, or bleeding to death on the floor of their homes because they required -- either verbally or through so much as a moment's puzzled non-cooperation -- a modicum of respect for their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Talk about gratuitous: Henry Gates, seen here under arrest for the purported crime of hurting a police officer's feelings.

Most jurisdictions have what some call "cover laws" -- such as those dealing with "disturbing the peace," "disorderly conduct," or other dubious infractions -- that are applied with malicious creativity by police officers who don't care to be reminded of their servile status.

It's not unusual for police officers
possessed of a particularly strong bullying tendency to bait citizens into conduct that can be described as "disorderly" in order to create a pretext for arrest. That's pretty clearly what happened in the Gates arrest.

David Rudovsky, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, describes the phenomenon of "persons being arrested who challenge the authority of police" as a form of extra-judicial "street punishment." That is to say, it's exactly the kind of government-inflicted criminal violence that provokes official disapproval in State Department-issued human rights surveys of
other countries. By now it's become pretty clear that issuing reports of that kind is a motes-and-beams exercise.

Perhaps there's nothing new about the common "wisdom" urged on us by our rulers, who expect us to behave like cringing serfs in every encounter with our supposed protectors -- and then to hymn the praises of the "freedom" we enjoy as subjects of the world's largest, most powerful, and most malignant empire.

What is new, and ominous, as illustrated by
the Gates Incident, is this: Taken as a body (there are more than a few heroic and valuable exceptions), the federalized, militarized police "community" is a Praetorian Guard afflicted with a prickly pettiness about criticism, whether public or private.

Granted, America's professional police forces were not originally created as a special bodyguard to the chief executive. But over the past four decades, since Richard Nixon announced a "war on crime" as a cynical ploy to capture the loyalty of the uniform-worshiping "Silent Majority," all serious presidential contenders have courted the endorsement of police unions and associations. Each administration since Nixon's has cultivated a bond between the "front-line soldiers in the war on crime" and their "Commander-in-Chief."

Accordingly, police unions now have sufficient political influence -- due in no small measure to the tendency of conservatives to fetishize armed bureaucrats in uniform --
to stare down the President. Witness the success of Sgt. James Crowley, the officious dweeb who needlessly arrested Henry Gates, in extracting -- with the help of his comrades in the police union -- what amounts to an apology from Barack Obama.

Observed the
Christian Science Monitor: "[T]he union's hard line -- successfully staring down a president -- is a window into the so-called Thin Blue Line -- the `Band of Brothers' mentality that draws police departments closer in time of crisis." Or, in this case, fuses them together in bonds of adolescent petulance in confronting their critics when one of their number abuses a citizen.

We've reached the stage in our imperial decline in which the bearer of the Imperial Purple has to take care to keep the Praetorians on his side. Obama is particularly vulnerable in this respect, not only because police unions see him as a cultural outsider but especially because his agenda for forcible reconstruction of American society will depend heavily on the organs of official coercion.

As someone who lives inside an all but impregnable security bubble, Mr. Obama doesn't face the prospect of sudden, undeserved violence that increasingly haunts typical citizens in their encounters with police. Yet in his recent stand-off with Officer Crowley and his comrades in blue, Obama flinched because he obviously fears the political consequences of alienating the Praetorians.

A piece of American folk wisdom
unwisely attributed to Thomas Jefferson informs us that when government fears the people, there is liberty. As our present and deepening predicament indicates, this isn't entirely true.

Those supposedly intrepid fellows who are kitted out in high-powered weaponry and body armor, and prowl our cities in over-powered cars, have a bladder-loosening fear of the common citizenry. The worst among them are bold as Achilles when it comes to slapping the cuffs on diminutive Harvard professors, or forcing grandmothers to do the "electron dance," but suddenly acquire a taste for caution when dealing with actual criminals who can put up an effective resistance.

At some point, common Americans -- both inside and outside the jury box -- are going to have to rediscover
the ancient and indispensable right to resist unlawful impositions by police. We need to bring about an end to the culture of impunity that has taken root and begun to flourish in law enforcement.

The best way to do this is
not by trusting police to police themselves, or expecting the political class to do likewise, but to recognize, in law and practice, a principle articulated centuries ago by John Locke: A criminal who acts under the color of government "authority" is simply a criminal, and should be dealt with, by the citizen, in appropriate fashion.

(The second part of the series on "Child-Snatchers and Life-Stealers" will be posted later.)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Child-Snatchers and Life-Stealers -- Pt. I

The haunted eyes of an innocent man: John Stoll, wrongfully convicted of molesting several children, including his only son, near the beginning of a 40-year prison term. The state managed to steal twenty years of his life before his conviction was overturned in 2004, on his 61st birthday.

"You're cultivating disrespect for government in your children!" protested a relative not long ago. "Every way I can think of doing so, with each opportunity that presents itself, every single day that God sends me!" I responded.

Children are never too young to be taught to despise the State, to distrust its agents, and to avoid cooperating in any way with the mechanism of official plunder, deception, and coercion. Parents should seek to instill such attitudes in their children as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to protect them from being abused at the hands of those employed by what Orwell might have called, with suitable irony, the Ministry of Compassion -- that is, those employed by the official child-snatching apparatus.

Witch Hunt, a potent new documentary produced and narrated by Sean Penn, depicts in unbearably stark terms what happens when the institutionalized affliction called the criminal "justice" system extends its compassionate care to children it has arbitrarily designated victims of sexual abuse.

That children are thus victimized is a tragic reality, but none of the children in this story was molested by any of those prosecuted and convicted of that hideous crime. However, those children were molested by agents of the State.

Prosecutors and social workers put those children through a now-familiar form of officially sanctioned ritual abuse. They were seized from their families at gunpoint, placed under wrap-around supervision by government employees, and subjected to lengthy interrogation and indoctrination sessions designed to suborn perjured testimony from them and, if possible, to convince them that they had, indeed, been molested by the defendants.

This was a kind of sinister ventriloquism in which malicious, depraved prosecutors spoke through the puzzled, terrorized children. Recordings of the interrogation sessions revealed that rather than asking the children what had allegedly happened to them, the investigators would weave a detailed narrative of abuse and then extort a child's assent to the fabrication. The results were then canonized as "evidence" in a grand jury indictment.
The children themselves were allowed to change their stories on the witness stand, as long as some serviceable accusation remained intact.

And the only "evidence" presented against the defendants consisted of the testimony of the child accusers. Such testimony, unless corroborated by some other source, is not evidence: It is mere accusation, however winsome or sympathetic the accuser.

The setting of
Witch Hunt is Bakersfield, California, in the mid-1980s, near the beginning of what would be a decade-long plague of government-propagated mass hysteria over child abuse. That epidemic had been brewing since 1974, when Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (also called the "Mondale Law"), a measure federalizing the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and laying the groundwork for a national system of child abuse "reporting."

Subsidies provided through CAPTA stimulated the growth of a population of social workers steeped in post-feminist dogmas about the repressive nature of the patriarchal home; from that perspective, every traditional family was abusive, it was just a question of defining

Federal money likewise realigned the priorities of local law enforcement bodies toward the investigation of child abuse. This led to police and Sheriff's deputies acting as hired muscle for social workers who were given the power to break up families and abduct children on a whim.
CAPTA also created mandatory child abuse reporting requirements for certain professions, and led to the creation of a nation-wide abuse "hotline" network. This is the mechanism that makes possible the seizure of children, and the incarceration of adults, on the basis of anonymous accusation.

Malignant ambition: Kern County, California District Attorney Ed Jagels in the early 1980s, when his comrades and minions tore Bakersfield apart in the name of combating "child abuse."

A localized child abuse "epidemic" can erupt anywhere the following elements are found:

A suitably ambitious District Attorney; a dutiful and incurious local law enforcement agency; a coven of ideologically zealous social workers; local media that bulimically repeat the State's official line as "news"; and a handful of domestic disputes -- such as recent divorces -- out of which a single malicious abuse accusation can materialize.

From a single uncorroborated anonymous accusation it is possible for child-snatchers to construct an entire colony of child abusers. Simply construct an investigative model in which every child connected in any way to the suspect is regarded as a victim, and start interrogating them on that basis. Let the local press know that there are serious "concerns" about a "ring" of molesters, and have some suitably photogenic reporter describe possible "signs" or "symptoms" that a given child has been abused. This is quite easy to do, since practically any child behavior can be classified as a symptom of abuse.

Once this is done, the child snatchers can expect immediate results as anxious parents call to report that their children are displaying "symptoms" of abuse. In this way, the process described above can replicate itself several times before public skepticism sets in. Even then, sometimes it's possible to implicate outspoken skeptics as potential abusers. In any case, this approach is all but guaranteed to create a child abuse scandal that can last for at least a year, drawing dozens of innocent people into the vortex and sending at least a few of them to prison.

This catastrophe was brought to Bakersfield, California with the election of 32-year-old Ed Jagels as Kern County's chief prosecutor-for-life in 1982.

A native of Pasadena and the product of a borderline aristocratic family, Jagels radiated ambition and suppurated arrogance. Jagels only had to win election once; since then, with the aid of local law enforcement, he has been, according to his critics, the de facto dictator of Kern County.

To get some sense of Jagels' proprietary brand of malice, consider the following.

Shortly before divorcing his first wife, Bryanna, Jagels called the police to report that she had a prescription drug addiction. He then called a press conference to announce that he was going to "stand by" his wife, only to serve her with divorce papers a week later.

The filing was dated November 25 -- the day before the press conference at which Jagels professed his determination to honor his vow to stay with his wife "in sickness or in health."

Jagels then threatened to use his office to provide the divorce court with additional information about Bryanna's alleged illegal activities unless she agreed to give him full custody over their 5-year-old son.

Whatever Bryanna's offenses might have been, Jagels' threat was a compound crime -- a misuse of his office coupled with blackmail.
This conduct was entirely typical of Kern County's anti-crime crusader.

"Ed Jagels will stop at nothing to do someone in if they cross him," testified a former prosecutor who worked under him. "He is really poison. They call him J. Edgar Jagels. Hoover had so much dirt on people and so much power, you couldn't take him out. That's the way Ed is."

During Jagels' 1982 campaign, an associate illegally obtained a confidential court document from a 1975 child molestation case heard by Judge Marvin Ferguson, Jagels' opponent. During a debate, an ally of the Jagels campaign, citing the document, accused Judge Ferguson of imposing an excessively lenient sentence in that case, thereby contributing to the subsequent death of the abused girl. This claim was difficult to support on the basis of the available facts, but it provided Jagels with an issue to use against Ferguson -- and the basis of a crusade once elected to the D.A. post.

Immediately upon becoming D.A. in 1983 , Jagels began a jihad against child abuse, eventually directing the larges prosecution of accused molesters in American history. A chromosome-level Republican with state-wide and national ambitions, Jagels understood the unique potential of child abuse as a trans-partisan political issue: It couples the politics of victimhood with a visceral appeal for severely punitive justice, thereby offering something for liberals and conservatives alike.

Under Jagels, recalls
Rolling Stone, "police and social workers didn't just follow up on accusations of molestation -- they sought them out like desperate salespeople working on commission." Given the financial rewards offered by the Feds on account of CAPTA and other measures, that isn't so much a simile as a direct parallel.

Teams of investigators and social workers would drive through neighborhoods with captive children, instructing them to point out where the "bad people" live. The children themselves were often seized from parents in the middle of the night and then subjected to what is now commonly called "enhanced interrogation": They were deprived of sleep and pestered with hostile questions as if they were captured enemy combatants.
Those who played along were rewarded not only with the warm, smiling approval of their adult captors, but also taken on shopping sprees to buy toys, clothes, and other inducements to continue "cooperating."

Those who didn't collaborate were often told that the only way they could ever see their parents and families again would be to tell the investigators what they wanted to hear. One young boy was told that his mother, a Mexican immigrant, would be deported if he didn't "admit" to being abused. One young girl, Carla Modahl, was promised that if she "admitted" to being molested by her father, Jeff, she would be free to rejoin him.

Such promises were lies, of course, even though the threats were probably sincere. Nor should anyone have expected any better. These were government employees, of course -- people for whom lying is a profession.

As the pressure on the children mounted, the tales became progressively implausible -- a fact that actually helped turn public opinion against the defendants. Children supposedly described being forced to participate in orgies; being hung from hooks and sodomized; witnessing ritual child sacrifice and cannibalism.

Not a molecule of evidence was discovered to corroborate any of this, yet Jagels and his wrecking crew claimed to have identified eight child molestation "rings" operating in Kern County.
The only evidence offered by the prosecution consisted of the child accusers themselves, some of whom attempted to recant their testimony.

Carla Modahl, who had been promised that she would be restored to her father if she "admitted" to being abused by him, attempted to retract her testimony after he was sentenced to eighty years in prison. In a note sent to her father, Carla admitted: "I lied in court. I'm so sorry for lying about this, Dad. I sure miss you and love you so much. I wish you could come home soon."

Carla's older sister Teresa denied on the witness stand that she had ever been abused; the only "evidence" against Jeff Modahl came in the form of Carla's suborned testimony. When Jeff's motion for a new trial was dismissed, Carla attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on the medication she had been prescribed for depression. She was twelve years old at the time, and would attempt to kill herself on sixteen subsequent occasions.

According to social workers and the DA's office, Carla's suicidal tendencies were a confirmation of the abuse she had purportedly suffered at the hands of her father.

That she was abused there is no question: She was seized from her father at gunpoint, blackmailed into perjuring herself by government "authority figures," and -- in a genuinely Sovietesque touch -- drugged into a stupor during the trial in order to keep her compliant.
In their pursuit of Jeff Modahl, Jagels and his comrades weren't content to terrorize Carla and keep her in a Thorazine-induced fog.

During the trial, Jagels' office deliberately withheld two critical pieces of exculpatory evidence: A medical exam that found no physical evidence of sexual molestation, and a tape recording of a social worker pressuring Carla into affirming invented stories of sex abuse.

Similar methods were used to convict 41-year-old John Stoll, a recently divorced carpenter who was given a 40-year sentence on 17 counts of "lewd and lascivious conduct" with several boys, including his only son, Jed.

Eventually all of Stoll's accusers would recant their stories, except for Jed.

To this day, although he cannot provide specifics, Jed insists that he was abused somehow at some time by his Dad.

It's important to note, however, that Jed was not the initial accuser; the charge originated with a suggestion made by a social worker to Stoll's ex-wife when the latter complained about Stoll's unorthodox, non-authoritarian parenting style. This little bit of malicous whimsy was enough to set in motion a campaign of prosecutorial misconduct that stole twenty years of Stoll's life.

Reclaiming his life: Ed Sempley, who was coerced into falsely accusing John Stoll of molestation, later disclosed how he was manipulated into perjury. Today he counts Stoll among his friends.

In all, some 29 defendants were sent to prison for an aggregate of 400 years. Eventually, every single one of those convictions would be overturned (except for a handful of cases in which the victims died in prison) as the child accusers grew up and asserted themselves against their abusers -- meaning Jagels and his minions -- by telling the truth.

Neither Jagels nor any of his associates has been held accountable for their crimes. Sure, Kern County paid a $4.5 million settlement to the victims, but this is simply another instance in which local taxpayers are forced to pay for the crimes of their elected "representatives."

Jagels remains in office. While the decades have muted his ambition, his malice has lost none of its potency.
Jagels has never admitted wrongdoing, and deflects all criticism of his conduct with smirking defiance. At 59 years of age he's by no means too old to receive the thorough and pitiless ass-thrashing he has richly earned and, in a just world, would receive.

In the next installment: The alleged sex crimes Jagels covered up while he was sending dozens of innocent people to prison.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Too Many (Other) People

Czar of the Bizarre: John Holdren, long-time militant eco-collectivist, is Barack Obama's "Science Czar." He is also on the record advocating totalitarian population control methods, including compelled abortion and mass sterilization through chemical warfare.

As a left-leaning Rutgers law professor in the early 1970s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought that the Roe v. Wade abortion decision was the product of “concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations we don’t want too many of,” she recalled in a recent New York Times Magazine interview.

Her expectation was that the purported right to abortion created in Roe “was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them.”

Ginsburg doesn’t specify which parts of the human population “we” should cull, or how the creation of an abortion “right” would necessarily be a prelude to creation of a system in which abortion would be required in some circumstances. She told the Times that the question was effectively rendered moot by the Supreme Court's Harris v. McRae decision, which upheld a ban on Medicaid funding of abortion. That decision, handed down in 1980, indicated that her “perception” of the issue “had been altogether wrong," Ginsburg concludes.

But this means that there was an interval of roughly seven years during which Ginsburg, a well-informed and influential academic, believed that America was creating a eugenicist system in which abortion would help reduce “undesirable” populations -- however those populations would be defined. This was what Roe had wrought, Ginsburg believed for several years, and if she ever experienced misgivings about it, she managed to keep them private.

Another question worth examining is this: Where did Ginsburg -- a rising star in academe long before being tapped to fill the Rosa Klebb seat on the Supreme Court -- get the impression that American policy-making elites were discussing the use of welfare subsidies to bring about the attrition of “undesirable” populations?

If I may be permitted a modest venture in speculation, I’d suggest that Ginsburg, sometime in the 1960s or 1970s, became at least superficially acquainted with the writings of John Holdren or of like-minded people in the most militant branch of the population control movement.

In 1977, Mr. Holdren was a young academic who helped anti-natalist guru Paul Ehrlich and his wife Anne write an arrestingly horrible book entitled Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment. Today, Holdren is Barack Obama’s “Science Czar,” in which capacity he counsels the president regarding the role of science in public policy. This relationship has a certain Strangelovian undercurrent, given Holdren’s enthusiasm for eugenicist and totalitarian methods of population “management.”

In a passage that reads eerily like the direct counterpoint to Ginsburg’s musings about the reduction of undesirable populations, Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote:

“If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility – just as they can be required to exercise responsibility in their resource-consumption patterns….”

The book offers similarly casual endorsements of “Involuntary” and “coercive” fertility control,” including the mandatory implantation of a Norplant-style capsule that “might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.”

The authors endorse the creation of “a Planetary regime” in charge of regulating all human economic activity and interactions with the environment and the “power to enforce the agreed limits” on human population growth through whatever means might be necessary – including compelled abortion, involuntary individual sterilization, or even mass involuntary sterilization through the infiltration of sterilizing agents into public water supplies.

That last deranged suggestion appears in several of Paul Ehrlich’s other books, including his (if you will excuse the expression) seminal 1967 alarmist tract The Population Bomb.

As someone who shared a full authorial credit on the book, Holdren bears full responsibility for the content of Ecoscience. His militantly anti-natalist views are easily as repulsive as anything promoted by white supremacist groups, albeit all the more dangerous for being more inclusive in their misanthropy. His writings would have been uncovered in the routine vetting process following his nomination, but his they never came up during his confirmation hearing.

What is genuinely unsettling, however, is this: The totalitarian prescriptions offered in Ecoscience were squarely in the mainstream of the Stygian sewer called the population control movement.

In 1967, sociologist, demographer, and population control heavyweight Kingsley Davis published an essay in Science magazine observing that “the social structure and economy must be changed before a deliberate reduction in the birthrate can be achieved” in the West. He urged governments to subsidize voluntary abortion and sterilization and restructure their tax systems to discourage both marriage and childbirth.

Davis’s recommendations apparently inspired Frederick Jaffe, Vice President of Planned Parenthood, when he composed a 1969 memorandum intended for use as a template for anti-natalist efforts.

Jaffe’s memorandum, a version of which was published in the October 1970 issue of Family Planning Perspectives, organized recommended social policies under four headings: “Social Constraints,” “Economic Deterrents/Incentives,” “Social Controls,” and “Housing Policies.”

Like Paul Ehrlich, Jaffe suggested the placement of “fertility control agents in [the] water supply”; this recommendation was filed, oddly enough, under “Social Constraints.” “Social Controls,” on the other hand, included such measures as “compulsory abortion of all out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” “compulsory sterilization of all who have two children except for a few who would be allowed three,” and the issuance of “stock certificate-type permits for children.” (Nearly every radical population control system is built around the idea of a government-issued "permit" or "license" to have children.)

These totalitarian measures were widely and unabashedly promoted in the literature of the population control movement at precisely the time that the Roe decision was (if, once again, you’ll excuse the expression) gestating in the court system.

Coercive population control advocate Garrett Hardin (left), seen here conferring with environmentalist, population control advocate, and immigration restricitonist John Tanton.

“How can we reduce reproduction?” wrote Garrett Hardin in a 1970 Science magazine article entitled “Parenthood: Right or Privilege?” “Persuasion must be tried first…. Mild coercion may soon be accepted – for example, tax rewards for reproductive non-proliferation. But in the long run, a purely voluntary system selects for its own failure: noncooperators out-breed cooperators. So what restraints shall we employ? A policeman under every bed? Jail sentences? Compulsory abortion? Infanticide?... Memories of Nazi Germany rise and obscure our vision.”

Oh, those dreadful Nazis: If only they hadn’t given totalitarian eugenics such a bad name….

Hardin was one of many anti-natalist luminaries – the list included Kingsley Davis, Margaret Mead, Paul Ehrlich, and sundry Planned Parenthood leaders – who endorsed the 1971 manifesto The Case for Compulsory Birth Control by Edgar R. Chasteen. That book offered one-stop shopping for policy-makers seeking draconian population management methods.

Chasteen was emphatic on two points : First, ruling elites had to indoctrinate the public into accepting the idea that “parenthood [is] a privilege extended by society, rather than a right”; and second, that in the interests of public relations, supporters of that totalitarian perspective needed to settle on “a name other than compulsory birth control.”

Essentially the same program was endorsed by Dr. Norman Myers, an adviser to the World Bank and various UN agencies, in his peculiar 1990 volume The Gaia Atlas of Future Worlds.

"Government population-contrrol policies using strong economic and social incentives have been effective in China and Singapore," wrote Myers, who commended China in particular for using "strong social pressure" to control its population. Myers didn't to dwell on the fact that the Chinese government employs severe punishments -- prison time, destruction of homes, retaliation against family members and co-workers -- for women who have "unauthorized" children.

Myers suggested a variation on the same concept behind the "cap-and-trade" carbon credit system employing government-issued birth permits. Under his plan, couples would "be issued with a warrant entitling them to have a single child.... This warrant might even carry commercial value, allowing individuals to decide not to have children at all and to sell their entitlements to others wanting larger families."

This will only hurt a little bit: Sir Roy Calne, British physician and advocate of universal female sterilization through an injectable virus.

Arguably the most astonishing variant on this approach was proposed in 1994, just prior to the UN's International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt.

In a book entitled Too Many People, Sir Roy Calne, a noted British physician, proposed a universal minimum childbearing age of 25, and a strict two-child quota. Those seeking the government-dispensed "privilege" of having children would have to pass a state-mandated parenting class and receive the appropriate "reproduction license." Those who violate those restrictions would lose their children and face Chinese-style economic sanctions and criminal punishments.

Calne also suggested the development of an engineered sterility pathogen -- he called it the "O virus" -- that could be administered to women world-wide as a vaccine.

These malignant proposals are not just flatulent thought-bubbles blown in languid speculation by fringe eccentrics in the academic realm: With the exception -- as far as we know -- of mass involuntary sterilization through covert chemical or biological warfare, every method of coercive population control described above has been implemented somewhere with the material aid of the United Nations and its affiliates, and the practical support of organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.

Every argument on behalf of state-imposed population control rejects the concept of individual self-ownership and assumes that human lives – individually and in the aggregate – are a resource to be managed by society’s supervisors on behalf of the “common good.” And, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly intuited in 1973, the Roe vs. Wade decision was a triumph, albeit an incomplete one, for the cause of eugenicist population control.

Although it was swaddled in the language of individual empowerment, the Roe decision was a dramatic victory for collectivism: It enshrined, in what our rulers are pleased to call the “law,” the assumption that a human individual is a “person” only when that status is conferred by the government.

While Harry Blackmun’s opinion in Roe pointedly avoided the question of when “personhood” begins, it emphatically made it clear that, for purposes of “law,” that the term doesn’t apply to any human individual in his or her pre-natal stage of development. This, not the liberty to procure an abortion, is the real gravamen, or central legal finding, in the Roe decision: It put the government in charge of defining who is, and isn’t a person.

As judges like to say, the matter of reducing "undesirable" populations is reaching "ripeness" now. Barack Obama's administration is eagerly expanding the government-dependent population and preparing to impose centralized "universal" health care on our society. And while all of this is going on, John Holdren, unabashed advocate of totalitarian population control, is in a position to whisper unthinkable thoughts into Obama's ear.

A quick note on sources:

This essay was unusually light on links because much of the material used herein isn't available on-line. Specific references are available, however, in a chapter of a book I wrote in 1994 entitled Freedom on the Altar. Those who are interested in receiving a copy of that chapter, complete with endnotes, should contact me at

Don't forget to tune in for Pro Libertate Radio at 6:00-7:00 Central on the Liberty News Radio Network.

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