Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama and the "Predator Left"

Dear Leader:
The 2009 version.

Many ancient societies were ruled by a figure regarded as a divine emperor-king, a transcendent figure whose goodness and power not only protected his subjects from harm, but also made the rains descend, the fields fertile, and the kingdom prosperous.

Modern Americans are too sophisticated for such primitive nonsense. Rather than a divine emperor-king, they have a "Commander-in-Chief" who holds the teeming terrorist masses at bay, labors to "heal the planet," and dispenses wealth in great compassionate abundance on desperate, otherwise hopeless people.

See? Those are two completely different concepts.

Dear Leader: The 2003 version.

Whatever the powers attributed to him by his minions and worshipers, Barack Obama is the first politician to be seriously recognized as the "President of Planet Earth." In any case, that's the title given to him by Howard Fineman in a Newsweek column that was less a work of opinion journalism than the printed equivalent of a prolonged fit of public rectal osculation.

"Obama isn't going to be sworn in as planetary president. But it doesn't matter; in his mind, he already is," grovels Fineman, who -- it must be clear -- offered that view approvingly. "In office for a mere nine months, Obama is now a full-blown `ism.'"

As defined by Fineman, "Obamaism" is " the idea that there must be shared global responsibility for virtually every problem we face." By his reckoning, the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Obama was less an individual commendation as it was a ratification of the "ism" Obama supposedly embodies.

Dear Leader: The 1940 version.

A more rational definition of "Obamaism" would describe it as a pathology, rather than an ideology. It is an alloy of impervious credulity and militant leader-worship that reveals itself in the tendency to invest one's hopes in a figure who supposedly embodies hope and change.

Obama isn't the first ruler coughed up by a dying imperial power to be embraced as this kind of transcendent global figure: That distinction goes to a previous Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mikhail Gorbachev.

As part of a "press gaggle" that interviewed Gorbachev prior to a speech at the Appleton, Wisconsin Performing Arts Center several years ago, I was struck by what an utterly unremarkable individual he is. That apparently wasn't a majority opinion. As he introduced Gorbachev prior to his long, tedious, and forgettable address, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle -- an Irish Catholic-- gushed that meeting Gorbachev was a greater honor than being presented to the Pope.

The lasting impression I took away was that Gorby had all the charisma and eloquence of a minor municipal bureaucrat -- or, perhaps, an otherwise insignificant foundation-funded "community organizer" deprived of his teleprompter and the trappings of "institutionalized awe."

It's worth remembering that when Gorbachev was first embraced as a species of savior by the international bien-pensant class, he -- like Obama -- was presiding over a brutal and senseless military occupation of Afghanistan.

Rather than pulling Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, the Soviet regime under Gorbachev actually escalated the conflict, to the point (some believe) of assassinating the leader of neighboring Pakistan, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who had collaborated with the CIA in arming and supporting the Afghan rebels. By delaying Soviet withdrawal until January 1989, Gorbachev's government managed to kill tens of thousands of people -- Afghan and Pakistani, as well as Russians and troops provided as part of Moscow's "coalition of the willing" -- in what amounts to nothing more than a futile attempt to save face.

The oligarchy fronted by Obama is pursuing a similar course in a much bloodier fashion. After Obama inherited the imperial purple last January, Washington radically expanded the use of unmanned Predator drones to attack suspected terrorists in Pakistan.

Jane Meyer of The New Yorker magazine, who recently published an account of Washington's "remote-control war" in Pakistan, cheerfully reports that those strikes, carried out on Obama's instructions, have "killed more than half of the twenty most wanted Al Qaeda terrorist suspects"; that's the "good news." The bad news is that this escalation has "also killed hundreds of civilians" -- a remarkably high level of "collateral damage" in exchange for perhaps a dozen successful strikes against suspected terrorists, who (let's not forget) were themselves the subject of execution by presidential decree.

Despite her talents as a reporter, Meyer is unmistakably a product of the imperial capital's journalistic culture. Thus while she expresses sympathy for the battle trauma suffered by button-pushing executioners who kill people in Pakistan from the comfort of an office in Langley, Virginia, she spares little sympathy for the victims. Her only candidly expressed worry is that the deaths of innocent Pakistanis might present a strategic complication for imperial war-planners.

"What is astonishing about [Meyer's remarks]," comments the indispensable Chris Floyd, is the absence of anything resembling "a roar of outrage from Mayer and her interviewer: `They've killed hundreds of civilians!' Hundreds of Pakistani civilians, men, women and children with no involvement whatsoever in war or terrorism; just ordinary people living their lives as best they can -- just like your neighbor, just like your mother, just like you...or just like the people killed on September 11, whose deaths are used as an eternal justification for war and bloodshed on a global scale by the American state."

"But these drone-murdered Pakistanis -- these human beings, these fathers and mothers, these grandparents, these toddlers, these brothers and sisters -- their lives are just statistics to be coldly weighed in the calibrations of imperial policy," summarizes Floyd. "The `bad news' about their deaths is not that they were murdered, not that these utterly defenseless men, women and children were blown to shreds without warning, without the slightest chance of escape, by flying robots controlled by unseen hands a world away; no, the `bad news' is that these that these killing might possibly hamper America's "counterinsurgency program...."

Nor is this the only way that Obama the Blessed is escalating the war.

The CIA is not the only agency being permitted to liquidate "terrorist suspects" with extreme prejudice; the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Agency's diseased sibling, has gotten into the act as well.

Some fifty "nexus figures" described as Afghan drug traffickers are among the 367 people on the regime's "kill or capture list," reports the New York Times. This probably explains why three DEA agents were among the casualties when a U.S. helicopter went down following a firefight in a village in Afghanistan's Qadis district.

So, as Obama and his handlers escalate the war(s) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where is the putatively anti-war Left?

Well, many of them can be found hurling jingoistic invective at those who dare criticize the "Commander-in-Chief" during a "time of war."

For its part, the nationalist Right is desperately clinging to the fiction that Obama is a "pacifist" of some variety, and that there's nothing wrong with the war(s) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere that a military putsch at home couldn't cure.
Accordingly, we can expect to see Obama's supporters defending everything he does -- no matter how bellicose or bloody -- as a tactical necessity to protect him from the militaristic "hardliners" who seek to depose him.

Such are the quasi-Soviet politics of the American Imperium as it approaches its terminal phase.

A useful reminder: The bold and principled Dr. Katherine Albrecht, a full-spectrum freedom activist, brings up a much-neglected fact during a peace protest just prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Russian-born Canadian citizen Nikolai Lanine, who served in Afghanista, can see tragic continuities between the Soviet Empire's futile occupation of that country and the one undertaken by Imperial Washington. Canadians are well-represented among the victims of Washington's war in Afghanistan, and Lanine can't help but be reminded of his own experiences in Moscow's "noble" war to "liberate" the Afghans.

"I went to Afghanistan believing in `fighting terrorism' and 'liberating Afghans,'" wrote Lanine in the Toronto Globe and Mail a couple of years ago. "In my mind, our presence was `helping Afghans,' particularly with educating women and children. My combat unit participated in `humanitarian aid' -- accompanying doctors and delivering food, fuel, clothing, and school and other supplies to Afghan villages. It was only later that I began to wonder: Did that aid justify our aggression?"

Lanine recalls how Moscow's servants, like those sent on Washington's killing errand, dehumanized the victims of military aggression:

"It is hard to kill people without demonizing them. In 1988, my unit accidentally hit an Afghan wedding party. My friend, whose mortar shell had killed innocent people, was shocked when he learned of it. Some soldiers, however, were indifferent. `That village supports the resistance, anyway,' they said. Like NATO now, we didn't count `their' casualties. As another friend, Alexander, would later write: `We thought that all of them -- old and young -- were insurgents.'"

By the time the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the implosion of Moscow's empire was underway. Freed from the distraction of a pointless war, the Soviet nomenklatura focused on a more important task: Setting itself up as the permanent economic ruling class. By the time the Hammer and Sickle was furled in December 1991, everything of value in Russia and its "near abroad" was firmly in the hands of the oligarchs.

Scenes from Obama's America: Riot police at the Pittsburgh G-20 summit deploy the Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a crowd-control weapon first used as part of the Iraq occupation.

Exactly the same process is underway here in the united State.

Appropriately enough, the consolidation of economic power in the hands of our ruling oligarchy began with a March 2008 meeting in Moscow between Commissar Hank Paulson and the Goldman Sachs board of directors. Shortly thereafter, the controlled demolition of the financial sector began, with secretive and powerful interests deliberately clearing the way for an unprecedented consolidation of political and economic power -- and profiting handsomely from the carnage.

Winsome and appealing as many find him, Obama is the willing and witting figurehead of this insatiable oligarchy -- a ruling elite at least as depraved and bloody-handed as its Soviet predecessors. He is indecently eager to do its bidding, whether that entails murdering hundreds of innocent Pakistanis through Predator strikes, or unleashing paramilitary violence against peaceful demonstrators (and pedestrians) in Pittsburgh during the recent G-20 summit.

Among the few principled commentators on the left who see Obama for what he is can be found former war correspondent Chris Hedges, who has consistently condemned the warfare state under both Republican and Democratic management.

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true," writes Hedges. "He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state." (Emphasis added.)

Yes, they can use them at home, too: Bush the Dumber inspects a Predator Drone -- the same robot aircraft used to kill suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- used by the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the U.S. border.

Another honorable voice of opposition comes from commentator/cartoonist Ted Rall, who points out that Obama has not repudiated the central tenet of the Bush-Cheney doctrine of executive power -- namely, the claim that a president can order the detention, torture, or summary execution of anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

"Obama has ramped up the assassination of political opponents of the U.S. and the U.S.-aligned authoritarian regime in Pakistan, deploying more Predator drone attacks than Bush," Rall points out to the Dear Leader's leftist worshipers. "But that's just for now. Obama could still personally order a government agency to murder you. Which is weird. But not nearly as weird as the fact that you probably don't care enough to do something about it."

Actually, Obama's constituency -- call it the "Predator Left" -- is delighted that its Dear Leader controls the machinery of arbitrary mass murder. After all, there are "reactionary" eggs to be cracked and progressive omelets to be made, and how can that be done unless the world's largest egg-beater is firmly held by politically correct hands?

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Friday, October 23, 2009

End the Occupation: A Mission for the Oath-Keepers

One Nation, under Occupation: Police departments nation-wide are acting as if this were a conquered country, and as if citizens were "enemy combatants."

A thin blanket of early evening darkness had draped itself across Alex Locklear's home in Maxton, North Carolina when the armed intruders arrived.

Brandishing firearms, the invaders forced several people -- including wheelchair-bound Nicholas Locklear and a pregnant woman -- to the ground and then barged in through the rear door, threatening to "blow the brains" out of anyone who put up a struggle. One woman was so terrified that she fled, tripped over an unseen obstruction, and broke her arm.

The arrival of an unmarked police car with its blue running lights flashing must have provided the victims of the home invasion with a moment's relief. But that relief would have quickly turned to a different flavor of alarm when the victims realized that their assailants were the police.

Under the pretext of a drug search, the five-man robbery crew ransacked the Locklear home in search of large amounts of cash that could be "forfeited" -- that is, stolen -- as alleged drug proceeds. The robbers had to be content with the $200 they found in Alex Locklear's bedroom, which is all they could put their hands on before piling into the police car and pulling away with such reckless haste that the vehicle shed one of its front hubcaps.

Locklear, who returned shortly after the robbery, reported the crime to the Robeson County Sheriff's Office, giving descriptions of the assailants and their vehicle. Not surprisingly, the Sheriff didn't follow up on that solid lead, because the robbery had been spearheaded by
Robeson County Deputy Sheriff Vincent Sinclair, a member of the department's drug enforcement unit.

The March 14, 2004 robbery most likely came about because the Sheriff's Department discovered that Locklear had cashed a large check to pay workers on his 400-acre farm before heading for a motorcycle rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And that assault differed only in detail from similar outrages taking place every single day in the purported Land of the Free.

The chances are pretty good that as you read these words, paramilitary attacks -- commonly described as "no-knock raids" -- are either being planned or executed somewhere in the U.S. Typically carried out by the military units called SWAT or tactical teams, those raids are generally triggered by a tip from a "confidential informant" -- a paid snitch -- and subsidized with federal funds, often through the "Justice" Department's Byrne Grant program.

Ironically, those on the receiving end of such "authorized" assaults are often treated even worse than the victims of the raid on the Locklear home.

No recourse:
Last August, a SWAT team in Anderson, Indiana destroyed Barbara Williams' home in a mistaken armed raid. According to the city attorney, since the assault was "legal," the city is not liable for the damages, and the now-homeless Mrs. Williams is just S.O.L.

When property is damaged or innocent people are injured or killed in the course of an "authorized" home invasion, police can generally expect to be held blameless, since any action they perceive as a potential threat supposedly justifies the use of deadly force.

Witness the case of 22-year-old Houston resident Pedro Oregon Navarro, who was murdered by police who invaded his family's home in a mistaken "no-knock" raid. Navarro, who had armed himself with a handgun to deal with belligerent intruders he didn't know were police, was shot twelve times.

According to Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes, Jr., the violent death of Navarro at the hands of the police was not a crime, because "the law does not allow anyone to resist arrest, even an illegal one" -- and that therefore Navarro's murderers "had a right to use deadly force ... if he threatened them."

A common scene in an occupied land: Just your friendly neighborhood JBT, chillin' outside a really tricked-out armored vehicle.

Holmes is a prosecutor, so it's not surprising that he lied about the right to resist an illegal arrest. But his assumption that police have the "right" to kill anyone who resists is almost universally shared within both law enforcement and the "Justice" system.

Apparently, Deputy Sinclair and his gang didn't realize the extent of their official impunity: Had they known that they had the "right" to kill anyone who resisted their illegal invasion, it's likely that someone would have died at the Locklear home.

Like many corrupt police in such circumstances, however, the raiders left a relatively light footprint, most likely out of concern that leaving a corpse or two behind would lead to compromising questions. If their paperwork had been in order, they wouldn't have had to display such restraint.

The attack on Alex Locklear's home was just one of scores or hundreds of violent crimes committed by police in Robeson County, North Carolina committed over nearly a decade beginning in 1995. A federal investigation calling itself "Operation Tarnished Badge" eventually produced the conviction of some 22 police officers and Sheriff's Department personnel, including former Sheriff Glenn Maynor.

Deputies assigned to narcotics duty committed a string of crimes, some of them acts of state-sponsored terrorism -- such as fire-bombing homes of suspected drug dealers, or hiring arsonists to burn down the homes of personal enemies. On one occasion, a deputy doused a recalcitrant suspect with lighter fluid and set him on fire. Drug dealers who cooperated were protected from prosecution; one was even given a gun and a police uniform and permitted to take part in a raid.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from people under the pretext of drug asset "forfeiture," with much of it skimmed away for personal use without being reported. District Attorney Johnson Britt noticed a bloc of deputies who were living beyond what he assumed to be their means: They bought boats or other expensive recreational vehicles, took cruise ship vacations together, even went in as a group for Lasik eye surgery.

What really rankled Britt, however, was having hundreds of drug cases dismissed because of the incompetence and corruption of drug enforcement officers in Robeson County. After all, how could a prosecutor make a name for himself if his drug cases -- the bread-and-butter of his profession -- kept being dismissed?

Britt contacted the Feds, and soon enough the Feds discovered that the Robeson drug cops were skimming from the profits of the local forfeiture racket. Presumably, if the cops had been faithfully reporting their haul and content with the kickback the Feds provided, or even if their corruption had been contained and relatively modest, the Feds wouldn't have intervened. As it happens, however, dozens of Robeson cops and deputies were put on trial for stealing "federal funds" -- meaning the cash that was seized at gunpoint from people suspected, but not convicted, of drug-related offenses.

What happened in Robeson County in the years between 1995 and 2002 (when "Operation Tarnished Badge" began) was hardly exceptional. There are many other jurisdictions in which, thanks to the federal "War on Drugs," local Police and Sheriff's Departments have mutated into robber gangs.

For several years, Brian Gilbert, Sheriff of Iowa's Dallas County, ran a very lucrative theft ring. Dallas County sits astride a very well-traveled stretch of I-80, the country's major east-west interstate. Gilbert and his deputies preyed heavily on people driving late-model SUVs with out-of-state license plates -- particularly drivers who appeared to be of Latino extraction.

Stopped for alleged traffic infractions, the drivers would be threatened with prosecution for drug-related offenses -- such as "money laundering" -- if they were found to be in possession of significant amounts of cash. That trouble could be avoided if the drivers simply surrendered their vehicles and money to the county.

This little scam netted millions of dollars, and might still be in operation today had Gilbert not gotten a bit too greedy: He was caught taking home several paper sacks filled with money that had been stolen during a traffic stop. For this act of felonious grand larceny, Gilbert lost his job and was given a suspended ten-year prison sentence, along with five years' probation.

Police in Kingsville, Texas have been more disciplined than Gilbert and his gang in Iowa. Because that tiny town is located along Highway 77, a route often used by suspected drug couriers, police have been able to confiscate millions in putative drug proceeds, with eighty percent of what they steal going directly into the city budget. This is why the exceptionally well-paid police in that town of 25,000 have tricked-out high-performance cop cars and all the latest digital toys.

It's important to italicize the fact that the people from whom this money is stolen have not been convicted of crimes -- or even, in most cases, formally accused of crimes. All that is required is the presence of a large amount of cash coupled with an assertion by self-interested law enforcement officers that there is a suspected "nexus" to drug activity of some kind.

A recent federal court decision (entitled -- I'm not kidding -- United States of America v. $124,700, in U.S. Currency) held, in effect, that traveling with a large amount of currency offers sufficient probable cause to justify a narcotics-related forfeiture. Once the proper incantations are uttered and the requisite paperwork is filled out in the typical tax-feeder's sub-literate scrawl, the money itself is found "guilty" and taken into government custody.

Police and prosecutors in Tenaha, Texas -- a town in Shelby County bordering Louisiana -- have added some innovative wrinkles to the familiar forfeiture racket. A current federal lawsuit describes how Tenaha police have refined to a science the practice of targeting motorists -- generally "racial and ethnic minorities, and those in their company" -- for unjustified traffic stops, during which they are questioned as to "whether they have money or valuables" and then subjected to illegal searches.

Should money or items of value be found, the motorist and passengers are then placed under arrest for "money laundering" or drug-related charges, and then given an ultimatum: Sign away their property or face prosecution. This form of extortion-robbery is particularly effective when the victim is carrying an abnormal but relatively small amount of cash -- say, less than $5,000 -- that wouldn't be enough to compensate for the hassle and expense of mounting a legal defense.

In one of the cases described in the lawsuit, an individual named Danny Green who works as an investigator for the Shelby County Prosecutor's Office threatened to kidnap a couple's children if they didn't sign a document surrendering about $6,000 in cash.

Den of thieves:
The Tenaha, Texas City Hall.

George Bowers, the superannuated mayor of Tenaha, insists that the seizures are justified not because of a compelling law enforcement need, but because his municipal government needs the money.

Oh. Well, then -- why not?

Why bother trying to cultivate a local economy when there are innocent motorists to shake down?

To understand the depth of cynical corruption that exists in Shelby County, consider the reaction of District Attorney Lynda Russell to the lawsuit: She sought official permission to use forfeited funds to defend herself from charges that she had illegally confiscated those same funds.

Nope, that isn't David Allen Coe: This vision of feminine refinement is Shelby County District Attorney Lynda Russell (a Republican, natch), a Queenpin (as it were) of the county's forfeiture mob.

If this kind of thing were taking place only in isolated, one-stoplight, speed-trap towns like Tenaha -- places where the local government is the malodorous residue at the bottom of a very shallow gene pool -- it would be disgusting, but avoidable.

But this kind of outright larceny under color of "law" is underway wherever the Feds have fomented an official crime spree in the name of the "war on drugs."

We really shouldn't perceive the "war on drugs" in metaphorical terms. This is an actual war, albeit one that targets individual liberties, rather than illicit commerce.

Thanks to this war, innocent people are frequently terrorized by military assaults on their homes, and injured or even killed without legal consequence. It's because of this war that travelers have a fully justified fear of being illegally detained and robbed at gunpoint by people in government-issued costumes.

That homefront war inspired "exceptions" to the posse comitatus law to permit the hands-on involvement of the military in domestic law enforcement. Even more alarming is the fact that it led directly to the federalization and militarization of law enforcement -- which means that the police themselves are, in effect, an army of occupation right now.

This state of affairs suggests a vitally important mission for the movement called "Oath Keepers" -- an association of retired and active-duty law enforcement and military personnel who define their allegiance in terms of fidelity to the Constitution, rather than loyalty or obedience to political officials.

As men committed to the Constitution, Oath Keepers have made it clear that there are at least ten specific kinds of orders they will not obey -- orders to disarm American civilians, conduct warrantless searches, blockade or interdict American cities, invade and subjugate states that assert their reserved powers and constitutional sovereignty, subject citizens to military tribunals, enforce martial law decrees, or otherwise undermine or infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed individual rights of Americans.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes explains that Oath Keepers will stand down rather than carry out such illegal orders, and be prepared to defend law-abiding citizens against the aggression of a lawless government.
Predictably, Oath Keepers has been identified as a domestic enemy by Morris Dees' for-profit Stasi, the so-called Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

SPLC Commissar Mark Potok (whose name, appropriately, is very similar to a Klingon epithet describing a sleazy, cowardly wretch).

According to the SPLC and its allies in the government-aligned media, the principled refusal of Oath Keepers to carry out criminal violence against innocent citizens is a variety of terrorism, or at least something akin to terrorism.

During a recent installment of Chris Matthews' cable television program, Matthews and SPLC apparatchik Mark Potok did their level best to contort comments made by Oath Keepers founder Rhodes into an endorsement of insurrectionary violence.

Matthews, who appears to be bucking for a Daytime Emmy, theatrically feigned incredulity that any responsible person could believe it possible that concentration camps could be erected on American soil -- ignoring such trivial matters as the WWII-era detention of Japanese-Americans and the hideous treatment of American Indians during the 19th Century. For his part, Potok insisted that Oath Keepers were cultivating terrorism by spreading alarmist rhetoric about the possibility of martial law.

Bear in mind that the SPLC's core fund-raising activity consists of hitting up elderly donors with appeal letters that traffic in alarmist rhetoric that treats the tiny, inconsequential white supremacist movement as nothing less than the Fourth Reich on the March.

To judge from the SPLC's standard spiel, the most significant threat to individual rights comes from toothless cretins in Klan regalia and socially inept Nazi wanna-bes with man-boobs. Meanwhile, black Americans, Latinos, and other people for whom the SPLC displays such supposed solicitude are being terrorized by armed government officials who are carrying out a very literal war within our borders.

This presents Oath Keepers with a splendid PR opportunity that should become one of its most important ongoing campaigns: Why doesn't that organization reach out to another estimable group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in demanding an end to the "war on drugs"?

Most of the unconscionable acts and policies the Oath Keepers oppose -- wholesale violation of individual rights, detentions, confiscations, civilian disarmament, militarization of domestic law enforcement -- are not a vague future possibility, but rather a tangible reality right now because of the "war on drugs."

Most, but by no means all, of the victims of that war are non-white Americans.
It would be entertaining to watching the SPLC try to explain how Oath Keepers could qualify as a "hate group" even as they took up the cause of black and Hispanic Americans suffering official abuse by way of the "war on drugs."

Valuable as it is for Oath Keepers to inoculate police and military personnel against the prospect of wholesale martial law, the group should be urging such personnel to stand down right now when it comes to carrying out manifestly unconstitutional and anti-American drug war policies.

The Oath Keepers should urge police and Sheriff's Departments to reject counter-narcotics grants and federal subsidies of any kind, including equipment transfers and other material support from the Pentagon. They should find the honest and principled law enforcement personnel who are mortified by the transformation of so many police and Sheriff's departments into criminal syndicates through the practice of "asset forfeiture." And they should take the point in reining in the ever-expanding use of SWAT teams (as a prelude to abolishing them outright, of course).

We're constantly reminded that "most" law enforcement officers are decent, public-spirited men who are disgusted and alarmed by corruption and the abuse of power. By urging that law enforcement stand down from the "war on drugs," Oath Keepers could help us learn whether this is actually the case.

(My thanks to several contributors in the comments thread who corrected an error in an earlier version of this essay: I had mistakenly referred to I-85, rather than I-80, as a major east-west interstate highway.)

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interlude: A Merry Depression Sing-Along (Updated, 10/20)

The Last "Worst Hard Time":
Rural farms in the Great Plains come under assault by a dust storm. The economic clouds gathering over our heads are pregnant with even greater devastation -- so, hey, how about a nice little musical interlude to cheer us up while the collapse accelerates?

C'mon -- you know the melody:


Super-complex col-lat-er-al-ized debt obligations

Can be seen dis-int-eg-rating all across the nation!

And now the suf-fring middle class confronts annihilation --

Super-complex col-lat-er-al-ized debt obligations!

Hum-diddle-liddle-liddle, hum-diddle-LIE,

Hum-diddle-liddle-liddle, hum-diddle-FRAUD....

First Verse

Because the local sports mogul who owns the football team

Demanded a new stadium, or else he'd up and leave

We formed a sports authority to collect subsidies,

And now the bursting debt bubble has brought us to our knees (repeat chorus)

Second Verse

The town fathers of Hardin said, "Hey, let's go build a jail,

to boost our sick economy" -- but 'twas an epic fail.

In waltzed a Serbian con-man who said he'd run the place;

But "Captain Michael's" scheme exploded right in Hardin's face. (repeat chorus)

Third Verse

For ninety years the Fed has told us debt's as good as cash,

Thanks to the jerks in Washington, the U.S. dollar's trash.

The "public sector" grows apace, while capital depletes,

We'll watch our wealth evaporate while grass grows in our streets. (repeat chorus)

Third Verse

The Beast from Jekyll Island makes a profit from our woes;

Its assets and expenditures -- secrets it won't disclose.

The Banksters live in luxury while workers drown in Red;

Our kids will live as feudal serfs unless we End the Fed! (repeat chorus)

(My apologies to Robert and Richard Sherman, and anybody who -- like myself -- doesn't really care for show tunes. I had an idea for an original tune, but unfortunately "Dancing in the Ruins" was already taken.)

Be sure to tune in for Pro Libertate Radio each weeknight from 6:00-7:00 Mountain Time (7:00-8:00 Central)on the Liberty News Radio Network -- and no, you won't hear me sing. Promise.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How "Justice" Operates Under A Criminal Regime

Thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves. --

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act II, scene 2

It's time to play that time-honored children's game, "One of These Things is Not Like the Others." In this case we're going to examine three case histories of people accused of a supposed offense called "tax evasion."

"It's all in the wrist": Treasury Secretary and Goldman-Sachs bagman Timothy Geithner demonstrates his technique for picking the taxpayer's pocket.

Our first example involves Mr. Timothy Geithner,
who refused to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes for several years -- despite the fact that his employer would have reimbursed him for the tax expenditures. A 2006 audit revealed other irregularities in Mr. Geithner's tax history, including dubious dependent-child deductions.

Despite these, ah, irregularities, Geithner was confirmed by the Senate as the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, which collects tax revenues for -- among other things -- redistribution to Geithner's colleagues and former co-workers on Wall Street.

Sure, tax revenues are spent on other purposes, such as interest payments on the federal debt and killing harmless foreigners. But since the Congress made the Treasury Secretary the de facto economic dictator a year ago, servicing politically connected Wall Street criminals has become that department's primary mission, one that has devoured
trillions of dollars in wealth.

*Burp* Taxes are for other people: Tax-feeder Charles Rangel briefly lifts his snout from the congressional trough to pose for a photo.

Next, we turn to the case of Mr. Charles Rangel, a resident of New York, who refused to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from properties he owns in the Caribbean.

Rangel's first impulse was to share -- no, to give outright -- most of the blame for his tax evasion to his wife, Alma, who manages the family finances.

With equal generosity he tried to cut in the Spanish-speaking tenants of the property for a slice of the blame as well: "Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they'd start speaking Spanish," he insisted.

Rangel's problems continued to accumulate when it was pointed out that
his tax evasion was undertaken in order to facilitate other forms of fraud: He couldn't accurately report his Caribbean income and qualify for "hardship"-case rent controls on properties he maintained in New York City, or the special "homestead" tax exemption he claimed on his property in Washington, D.C.

Despite those infractions, and others involving congressional financial disclosure rules, Rangel has retained his job as
a New York Congressman and, more importantly, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is where tax laws that govern other people are written.

The third case we'll examine is that of New Hampshire residents Ed and Elaine Brown. Convicted of "tax evasion" and "resisting arrest,"
Mrs. Brown, 68, has been sentenced to thirtyfive years in federal prison -- an effective life sentence.

Her husband's sentencing has been deferred until he has undergone a "psychiatric evaluation": As was the case with political prisoners in the former Soviet Union, Mr. Brown is suspected by state authorities of being clinically deranged because of his eccentric political views. Chances are pretty good that if he avoids prison, Ed Brown may be institutionalized for the rest of his life.

Obviously, the case of Ed and Elaine Brown is different from those of Geithner and Rangel, since they're not part of that sanctified stratum of society entitled to live at the expense of the rest of us. They, like most of us, belong to that class of people whom the law fails to protect, rather than the class that the law fails to restrain.

Unlike Timothy Geithner, the Browns aren't involved in stealing huge sums of money. Unlike Charlie Rangel, they're not involving in imposing "laws" that justify the pilferage of privately earned wealth.

The Browns stole from nobody, inflicted no harm on anybody, and spent most of their lives (with the exception of one matter discussed below) providing honest services to other people in mutually beneficial transactions. None of this is true of the likes of Geithner and Rangel, for whom plunder has proven to be a lucrative and respectable career.

Like Geithner and Rangel, Ed Brown --
as a very young man -- once tried to enrich himself through theft, only to be caught, tried, and imprisoned for that crime. In 1976, Brown was given an unqualified pardon for that crime, which he committed as an 18-year-old. He then built a business as an exterminator.

For her part, Elaine built a large and successful practice as a dentist. Neither one of them lived at the expense of other people; they were producers, not parasites.
In 1996, the Browns decided that they wouldn't permit the likes of Geithner and Rangel to continue stealing from them in order to enrich political favored cronies and constituents. So, like Geithner and Rangel, the Browns stopped paying their taxes.

Armed robbery: "Law enforcement" agents steal Elaine Brown's dental practice, June 7, 2007.

In January 2007, the Browns were "convicted" of the supposed crime of tax evasion and invited to turn themselves in for imprisonment. They impudently scorned that generous invitation, choosing instead to barricade themselves inside the home the Feds planned to steal from them and letting it be known that they would use lethal force to defend themselves against any federal aggression.

The Browns' Plainfield, New Hampshire home -- invariably referred to as a "compound," the preferred description of any dwelling in which live people the government intends to kill -- was surrounded by paramilitary troops from the U.S. Marshals Service.

In short order the home also became a focal point for armed private citizens who intended to support the Browns in the event of an armed assault and, more importantly, to be on-scene witnesses to help deter any potentially murderous aggression by the Feds.

While the Browns were occupied at their home, a
small army of heavily armed federal agents seized Elaine Brown's dental office -- an act of felonious armed robbery. Unfortunately -- albeit predictably -- the throng of Brown supporters was seeded with paid federal informants, two of whom, posing as supporters, gained access to the home and arrested the middle-aged couple without incident.

Put on trial for
eleven felony weapons and "conspiracy" charges, the Browns were found "guilty." That is to say, the court demonstrated that the Browns threatened to use the same means to defend their lives and property that were to be employed by those seeking to deprive them of the same.

The Browns had assembled an enviable arsenal of firearms, ammunition, bullet-resistant clothing, and homemade explosives (or, as the federal prosecution insisted on describing the pipe bombs, "improvised explosive devices" -- a term intended to evoke the image of "terrorists" detonating hidden weapons while fighting U.S. troops in Iraq).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen, who presided over the prosecution, initially sought a prison sentence of up to 44 years for the Browns. Holding aloft one of Elaine's handguns, Huftalen simpered that "This was not a small, dainty, self-defense handgun," describing it instead as a heavy weapon "designed to kill 17 people without reloading."

Given the indignation with which Huftalen invested every lisping syllable of his presentation, one might think that the weapons possessed by the armed federal agents surrounding the Brown home were designed to tickle people. But Huftalen, as a servant of a criminal regime, assumes that only the state has the right to use or threaten lethal force, and that
its victims commit some variety of terrorism when they arm themselves with implements of self-defense more effective than Q-tips or Nerf balls.

"Mr. and Mrs. Brown did not engage in a principled dissent against laws they felt to be unjust," pronounced federal Judge George Singal as he imposed the sentence. "Let us not be fooled. The conduct engaged in by Mrs. Brown was purely criminal."

To be "criminal," conduct has to inflict demonstrable harm against an identifiable victim.
Neither Huftalen nor Singal can describe a single instance of palpable harm that resulted from the refusal of the Browns to pay income taxes, or from their acquisition of the means to defend themselves and their home from the criminal syndicate bent on stealing their property
and, if necessary, murdering them.

Even if we were to accept the premise that tax "evaders" injure the "public good" by withholding their wealth from the public fisc, how can it possibly be a greater crime for the Browns to deprive the Feds of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, while the unpunished tax "evader" Timothy Geithner shovels out hundreds of billions of dollars to con artists on Wall Street?

Yes, the Browns threatened to shoot or otherwise kill anybody who tried to harm them. This, coupled with the presence of a large number of witnesses, is probably the only thing that saved their lives.

Thus it is of some interest that Huftalen (as
reported by the Nashua Telegraph) chose to seek a life sentence for Elaine Brown -- despite the fact that she had never harmed a living soul, and despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking her to the explosives in the Brown household -- "in order to deter Brown supporters [and, presumably, other Americans] from engaging in similar conduct."

It's worth remembering that tax evasion, far from being a crime of any sort, is among our nation's oldest and most sacred political traditions. The War for American independence from Great Britain was carried out by people who engaged in exactly the same kind of "criminal" conduct for which Elaine Brown will spend the rest of her life in prison, and for which her husband may end his days in the American equivalent of the Soviet psihuska.

Sure, the government ruling us -- the same one that not only countenances, but promotes, the monumental criminality of Geithner, Rangel, and their ilk -- calls tax evasion a "crime" when it is carried out by people outside of the privileged caste.

Real crimes involve some variety of force and fraud to deprive someone of something to which he is entitled. Nobody is entitled to take the property of another through taxation, even if such pilferage is "authorized" by a majority of 300,000,000 to 1. The course pursued by Ed and Elaine Brown may have been unwise, but it neither picked my pocket nor broke my leg.

Pocket-picking and leg-breaking are the veritable job descriptions of those who seized the Browns' property, kidnapped them, and are preparing to detain them for the rest of their lives. This is how "justice" operates under the Robber State that afflicts us.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Support Your Global Police?

Oh, joy:
The UN wants to build a global police force. It's really difficult to think of a worse idea.

When last we checked in with Ronald K. Noble, he was enjoying a lucrative career as a reward for helping cover up a crime against humanity in which he was deeply implicated.

Interpol's genocidal secretary-general, former U.S. Treasury official Ronald K. Noble.

In 1994, Noble was appointed undersecretary of the Treasury Department, a position that appears to have been created especially for him by then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

A year earlier, both Reno and Noble had been involved in the decision-making process leading to the April 19 holocaust at Mt. Carmel, in which scores of people were immolated as a result of what at very best could be called the depraved indifference of presiding federal officials.

During the hours leading up to that atrocity, FBI-operated tanks filled the Branch Davidian sanctuary (a combination worship space and living area invariably referred to as a "compound" once it came under federal assault on February 28) with a highly combustible variant of CS gas that was banned for battlefield use by an international treaty.

Around noon, something -- an upended Coleman lantern, a badly thrown Molotov cocktail, one of hundreds of "ferret" rounds fired by FBI commandos -- ignited a small fire that was quickly propagated into a blaze by the arid Texas prairie wind. Much of the world watched in horror on live television as the sanctuary burned to the ground, bringing to an agonizing end the lives of scores of people trapped within.

The victims had already endured fifty days of torment and ridicule by a government that had attacked their home without legal cause, killing several of their friends in the process.
Firemen and other emergency personnel were prevented from reaching the site before the flames had consummated their awful work. This was supposedly done to protect the emergency workers from attack by the people who were being consumed by the fire.

A more plausible explanation is that the people who had arranged that holocaust were trying to keep independent witnesses away from the scene of their crime.
Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) footage of the event provides damning evidence that FBI commandos (and, reportedly, at least a few Delta Force operators) directed automatic weapons fire into the burning sanctuary, cutting off escape routes and cutting down anyone who attempted to flee.

This can't be good.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Davidian survivors and the estates of the victims listed Noble among the "U.S. Treasury officials" who "planned, organized, and or led" the original February 28 assault against Mt. Carmel, despite knowledge that the warrants were obtained "without probable cause and with defects that rendered them illegal."

Those same officials, continued the complaint, permitted the assault to proceed "even though they knew that the Davidians were expecting an assault by law enforcement and, thus, were in a state of mortal terror," and "were so reckless in their preparation for and planning of this assault, that they did not even have a written plan in place prior to conducting the attack."

Noble was thus deeply involved in the decisions that led to the avoidable deaths of six members of the Branch Davidian sect, and four ATF stormtroopers, on February 28. His involvement in the planning and execution of the siege and the final April 19 assault isn't as significant. But he played the definitive role in covering up those crimes by serving as the "lead investigator" in the Clinton administration's internal "inquiry" into the federal atrocities at Waco.

So patently fraudulent was Noble's "investigation" that a second bogus inquiry was necessary: In 2000, Attorney General Reno chose former Missouri Senator John Danforth to preside over an "independent" investigation that was mounted in what proved to be a successful effort to derail the wrongful death lawsuit cited above.

By that time, however, Noble -- who had been given the Alexander Hamilton Award by the Treasury Department, as if anything named after that individual could be construed as an honor -- had been given another coveted post with Reno's help: He was nominated to serve as secretary-general of Interpol, a position he occupies to the present day.

Hey, wait a minute: Where have I seen that same sword-through-the-globe motif before?....

On October 12, Noble's agency announced that it would be collaborating with the United Nations by providing technical support -- including access to voluminous, detailed databases -- to UN "peacekeeping" personnel, including those that belong to the world body's police force, UNPOL.

Noble himself said that his organization is pursuing a "visionary model," an "alliance of all nations" under a "global police doctrine." This would, in effect, create the first genuinely planetary police force in human history.

In an address before justice and law enforcement officials from more than 60 nations who had assembled in Singapore,
Noble elaborated on that "visionary model": "In the framework of our partnership with the UN, INTERPOL will provide deployed police peacekeepers with access to the world's only secure global police communications system; global police databases including names of criminals, fingerprints, DNA profiles, stolen passports, and stolen vehicles; and specialized investigative support in key crime areas, including fugitives, drugs, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, and corruption."

....oh, yeah: That's essentially the same symbol used by the totalitarian "Terran Empire" in Star Trek's "Mirror Universe."

Apart from some very serious issues of jurisdiction and sovereignty, the most troubling aspect of INTERPOL's "visionary model" is its potential to help create a UN-directed global panopticon -- a "Your Papers, Please" system of world-wide scope.

It would certainly be of great use to the UN's International Criminal Court, a pseudo-judicial body that claims global jurisdiction.

Significantly, one of the "core" offenses recognized in the ICC Statute is genocide, as that offense is defined in the UN's Genocide Convention. Article II of that instrument describes the offense of genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical [sic], racial or religious group":

"(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part...."

Some very serious and sober people contend that this definition is over-broad. No serious person of a constitutionalist bent considers the UN or its treaties a legitimate source of law.

However, it would be expected that Noble, as someone working to provide that body with a rudimentary global constabulary, would be among those who accept the legitimacy of its treaties.
But to do so would put Noble in a completely untenable position: He is directly implicated in an assault that resulted in the near-destruction of an entire religious community, which -- by the UN's definition -- qualifies as a form of attempted genocide.

At the very least, he is an accessory after the fact to genocide (once again, as defined by the UN).
Given the UN's history, however, that line on Nobel's resume might actually be counted on the asset side of the ledger.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who headed the organization's "peacekeeping" division before being appointed to the top post, was censured in
the so-called Carlsson Report on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which claimed as many as a million lives.

Annan had received detailed advance intelligence about the impending massacres of the Tutsis from both the on-scene UN commander, Canadian Colonel Romeo Dallaire,* and various informants within the Hutu-led government. He nonetheless continued with the program to disarm the Rwandan civilians and ordered Dallaire to burn his own sources by sharing his intelligence with the same regime that was planning the slaughter.

After the report came out in 1999, a group of Rwandan survivors, working with Australian attorney (and former UN investigator) Michael Hourigan, attempted to file a lawsuit against Annan and others implicated in the Rwandan genocide. But, drat the luck, wouldn't you just
know that UN officials are clothed in official immunity for such trivial offenses as aiding and abetting genocide, as long as this is done in an "official capacity."

So rather than being sued or prosecuted, Annan had to settle for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. That was the most offensive selection ever made by the Nobel Committee. Well, at least until this year.

Thanks to the near-ubiquity of inconspicuous digital cameras and the technological blessing of internet file-sharing sites, Americans are just now coming to realize how commonplace criminal abuse by the police has become -- and how difficult it is to hold an abusive police officer accountable for crimes against innocent people. But this is the square root of the problem we would confront in the event that the UN actually created the global police force the foundation of which is being laid by Noble and his comrades.

It's entirely typical of the UN that its secretary general was implicated in what has been called "the first indisputable genocide since the UN Charter was signed," and that a key architect of its "crime-fighting" agenda was involved in planning and covering up a quasi-genocidal massacre here in the United States. This is a useful illustration of the fact that even though abolishing the UN wouldn't solve all or even most of our problems, it's a badly overdue step in the direction of restoring moral sanity.

*Despite the fact that Col. Dallaire tried to prevent the genocide, he blamed himself for the tragedy, which included the death of many men under his command. He returned to Canada where he descended into alcoholism and suicidal depression, even as Annan was elevated to the post of secretary general. I interviewed Dallaire by telephone several years ago and discovered, to my amazement, that he still believes in the principle of "collective security," even if he is understandably jaded about the UN as the vessel of that vision.

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Dum spiro, pugno!