Either fight it now, or get used to this kind of thing: Pennsylvania State Troopers -- one with a drawn assault rifle, his trigger-finger ready -- bracket a terrified driver during a roadblock set up near Pittsburgh following the death of a "comrade" in a domestic shooting. Don't assume for a pico-second that the friendly people in official costumes would resist any opportunity to treat the rest of us like this.
We will not recognize [American Fascism] as it rises. It will wear no black shirts here. It will probably have no marching songs. It will rise out of a congealing of a group of elements that exist here and that are the essential components of Fascism....
It will be at first decorous, humane, glowing with homely American sentiment. But a dictatorship cannot remain benevolent. To continue, it must become ruthless. When this stage is reached we shall see that appeal by radio, movies, and government-controlled newspapers to all the worst instincts and emotions of our people. The rough, the violent, the lawless men will come to the surface and into power. This is the terrifying prospect as we move along our present course. --
John T. Flynn, American Mercury, February 1941
The formula for an American variant of Fascism includes, but is not limited to, the following:
*A fusion of institutions the constitutional Framers intended to keep separate; abolition or nullification of any residual checks on the power of the central government.
Barack Obama's January 11 executive order creating a "Council of Governors" to help "synchronize" policy regarding foreign and domestic military operations doesn't merely add another redundant layer of bureaucracy to the overgrown Homeland Security apparatus. It represents a critical milestone in the devolution of the American republic into an undisguised Reich.
The Council of Governors will be a bipartisan panel of ten state governors who "meet at the call” of various executive functionaries, including the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, to assist the Supreme Leader in carrying out the “synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States.”
In 2006 Congress turned the National Guard into something akin to a Praetorian Guard to be used — whether at home or abroad — as the president desires. This helps explain an obvious and ominous change in the Guard’s definition of its mission and responsibilities, which include hands-on involvement in domestic law enforcement.
[See the clarification below.]
The Constitution's Framers defined what we now call "law enforcement" as a function to be reserved almost entirely by the states. They were deeply hostile to the concept of a standing army; it's not clear that most of them would support the existence of paramilitary government police bodies. It is clear, however, that they would be intransigently opposed to the consolidation of military and police power. They would also view the creation of an executive branch organ like the Council of Governors with considerable alarm.
As an advisory body, the Council of Governors will have no real policy-making authority. Its chief function, I suspect, will be to ratify a binding "consensus" on behalf of whatever mission the Commander-in-Chief ordains for his new personal army. This "consensus" will be invoked to justify the usurpation of state control over Guard units.
According to an official White House press release, the Council “will provide an invaluable Senior Administration forum for exchanging views with State and local officials on strengthening our National resilience and the homeland defense and civil support challenges facing our Nation today and in the future.”
In the interests of brevity, the Obamacrats could simply have said that the Council will help “relieve the distress of the people and Reich" -- a justification used by the German National Socialists during their own campaign of national "synchronization and integration."
The Nazis used the term Gleichschaltung to describe this process of “coordination” or “synchronization” of all government functions by centralizing power in the Chief Executive. This was accomplished through a series of executive decrees supposedly authorized by the 1933 Enabling Act, formally known as the “Law for Removing the Distress of People and Reich.”
Obama's January 11 executive order is a natural outgrowth of the post-911 American Enabling Act.
*Imposition of the "Leader Principle" under which the powers of the chief executive are self-defined, self-ratifying, and effectively limitless.
In terms of the role it played in institutionalizing a permanent state of emergency and wartime executive dictatorship, the German Enabling Act was the direct antecedent of the September 14, 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force” enacted by a Congress in a fit of institutional panic.
That measure was an open-ended grant of unspecified power to conduct war against all and sundry, whether at home or abroad. It has been invoked to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, low-grade warfare in Pakistan and Yemen, and the prospective war against Iran.
Celebrity war criminal John Yoo, the chief legal architect of the American torture regime, maintains that the September 14 Enabling Act justifies any imaginable exercise of power by the president. On this construction the president can summarily imprison anyone he chooses to, authorize the use of torture -- either against the detainee or even his children -- or even order summary executions.
The only congressional recourse, according to Yoo and those who share his perspective, is to de-fund such presidential activities should they ever come to public notice. Given that Congress in September 2008 essentially surrendered its constitutional authority to control the public purse, it's not at all clear that it even retains the ability to withhold funding as a way of addressing presidential atrocities after the fact.
*Repudiation of explicit and indispensable due process guarantees and protections in the interest of "efficiency," expediency, and public "safety."
The most remarkable legal "victory" won by the Obama regime effectively re-instates the odious assumption at the heart of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision -- namely, that the government can treat some human beings as "non-persons."
On December 14, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s ruling that suspected terrorists classified as “unlawful enemy combatants” enjoy no legal protection against torture or other mistreatment because they are not considered “persons” under the law.
Attorneys representing terrorist suspects had invoked the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), which explicitly applies to all “persons.” A federal appeals court rejected that argument, thereby effectively categorizing such detainees as “non-persons.”
Just as remarkable is the lower court's blithe observation that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants." Accordingly, torture victims thus categorized have no standing to pursue civil relief, let alone criminal prosecution despite the fact that torture is explicitly forbidden by both federal statute and the U.S. Constitution (as well as international accords, for whatever they're worth).
There is a sinister syllogism here: Only "persons" enjoy legal standing; "suspected enemy combatants" subjected to torture aren't "persons"; ergo, they have no legal standing and thus no recourse.
"Your papers, please": This billboard was on display in rural Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Ernest Hancock.)
It's not just accused or suspected terrorists who qualify for indefinite detention.
In 2006 -- a very busy year for those beavering away constructing the Homeland Security State -- Congress enacted the "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act," a measure that permits perpetual "civil confinement" of "sexually dangerous persons."
As previously noted in this space, the Adam Walsh Act is firmly in the totalitarian tradition of designating entire groups of people to be "socially dangerous" and thus suitable only for confinement, even in the absence of a criminal conviction or after a prison term has been served.
The Obama administration, which recently defended that law before the Supreme Court, subscribes to the view of its predecessor that the end of a prison term doesn't necessarily mean the end of imprisonment. During oral arguments, this view appeared find favor with a majority on the Court, including liberal (and therefore supposedly "soft-on-crime") Justices Breyer and Ginsburg. Breyer, according to the Los Angeles Times, drew an analogy between open-ended "civil confinement" and quarantine.
The chief distinction here, of course, would be that "sexually dangerous" people (a category that includes many people entirely innocent of actual criminal offenses) would be subject to perpetual quarantine. As one former civil detainee pointed out to CNN, this may mean being "committed to a mental institution for the rest of your life."
No rational person should suppose that the practice of perpetual civil confinement will be restricted to "sexually dangerous people." The definition of "socially dangerous people" will be made as elastic as our rulers desire, eventually becoming a net that will gather indiscriminately of every kind of dissident. This is exactly how the Soviet ruling elite filled the gulag.
*Subsumation of state and local police into a centralized, militarized internal security apparatus.
With apologies to the immortal Marty Robbins: Down in the west Texas town of El Paso, each cop will now have an AR-15....
Last fall, the city government of El Paso received a federal "stimulus" grant of nearly one million dollars to use at their discretion.
Despite being the second-safest city in the U.S. in terms of violent crime, the city decided to spent the money on 1,145 military-grade assault weapons for the local police.
Well -- would you believe that the police are threatened by narcotics syndicates across the border in Juarez?
Actually, they aren't. While spectacular criminal violence does plague Juarez, El Paso, once again, is the second-safest city in the United States.
All right -- would you believe that the police are concerned that "errant soldiers" stationed at local Ft. Bliss might run amok and slaughter local citizens?
While this argument effectively demolishes an assumption cherished by advocates of civilian disarmament (namely, that police and soldiers are uniquely trustworthy when it comes to firearms), firearms-related crimes involving soldiers have been quite rare and the weapon of choice has invariably been a handgun.
Well, whatever you do believe, those responsible for this policy simply won't countenance the idea that the police intend to over-awe the gun-owning public.
"We are not trying to outgun the people with guns in our community," insists El Paso city council member Beto O'Rourke, "but to protect the public."
Fellow council member Susie Byrd, to her credit, isn't inclined to buy what O'Rourke and his allies are selling. "You always want police to approach any situation with an abundance of caution," she points out. "Having big assault rifles might embolden less cautious behavior."
This isn't just a particularly troublesome example of the familiar bureaucratic routine of finding a "problem" to justify a profligate "solution." It's a splendid example of the federally subsidized militarization of "local" law enforcement in the absence of any legitimate threat.
This began in earnest decades ago with the creation, by future LAPD Chief Daryl Gates, of the first SWAT team, which was supposed to be used in extraordinary circumstances, such as hostage situations.
Richard Nixon's politically motivated invention of the "War on Drugs" caused a nation-wide proliferation of SWAT teams. In recent years, SWAT missions have expanded to include commonplace tasks, such as serving warrants or even policing city parades. It seems as if many police departments are becoming civilian support systems for the local SWAT teams.
SWAT and other tactical units are armed, trained, and equipped by the Pentagon; their members are marinated in military doctrines incompatible with civilian peace officer duty. It's reasonable to suspect that, whether by design or default, SWAT teams serve as a way to circumvent the Posse Comitatus prohibition on the use of the military for domestic law enforcement.
Lt. Andrew Esposito, Operational Commander of the Rescue Entry and Counter Terrorism (REACT) team for Rockland County, New York, regards the Posse Comitatus act as an impediment to effective counter-terrorism arrangements, which would involve extensive coordination between law enforcement and the military.
Lt. Esposito (a 21-year Marine veteran) would also require that "local" police departments "send [their] operators and SWAT commanders to Military schools that instruct infantry tactics and command.
A recent RAND Corporation report commissioned by the Pentagon's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute explores another possible detour around the Posse Comitatus Act -- namely, the creation of a "hybrid" military/law enforcement body called the "Stability Police Force."
The SFOR would created within the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) for use “in a range of tasks such as crowd and riot control, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), and investigations of organized criminal groups” — both in UN-supervised military missions abroad, and domestic emergencies here at home. Initially as small as 2–6,000 personnel, the SFOR’s size “could be increased by augmenting it with additional federal, state, or local police from the United States” as necessary.
Using the Marshals Service rather than the US Army’s Military Police as host for the SFOR would provide the Regime with all the advantages of militarizing law enforcement without creating a direct conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act. Using the USMS as a platform for the unit “would place it where its members can develop the needed skills under the hybrid staffing option,” summarizes the RAND report. “Furthermore, the USMS has the broadest law enforcement mandate of any U.S. law enforcement agency…. [This model] provides significant domestic policing and homeland security benefits by providing thousands of additional police officers across the United States.” (Emphasis added.)
Once retro-fitted into the Marshals Service, the SFOR would be used to deepen and accelerate the process of assimilating domestic law enforcement into the military by "augmenting state and local agencies, many of which currently suffer from severe personnel shortages."
*The demand for instant, unqualified submission by "civilians" to any directive issued by someone in a government-issued costume.
A recent California court ruling held that police officers cannot use Tasers as instruments of "pain compliance" in situations involving simple defiance of supposed police authority. Not surprisingly, that decision -- which probably won't lead to a noticeable reduction in gratuitous use of Officer Jackboot's favorite torture toy -- provoked the indignation of police unions and was widely criticized by people who assume that citizens are required to render immediate, unquestioning submission to any demand made of them by anyone bearing the State's insignia.
News archives and file-sharing sites abound in episodes of entirely unnecessary criminal violence inflicted on harmless people in retaliation for "contempt of cop." (Here is an exceptionally comprehensive source.) To that collection we can add the recent experience of retired Marine and former police officer Ron Doyle of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Last Sunday (January 10), Doyle noticed a pickup truck parked in the fire lane outside a local grocery store. Annoyed by the sight, Doyle confronted the driver. The man, who was dressed in casual clothes, responded by reaching into the pocket of his jeans and produced the piece of costume jewelry identifying himself as a Pennsylvania State Trooper named Craig Finkle.
After Doyle made a disparaging comment pointing out that Finkle wasn't on duty and turned to leave. The Trooper pulled out his cell phone and demanded that Doyle come back; as Doyle approached Finkle again he overheard the Trooper call for "units that can roll now." Doyle quite understandably decided to leave. He walked a short distance to his car and drove home, with Finkle trailing him.
Shortly thereafter three state police cars converged on Doyle's home. Displaying a confidence that would be touching if not so tragically misplaced, Doyle called 911 and pleaded for intervention by the local borough police department.
The phone line was left open as Doyle unlocked the door, only to be dragged to the floor by three of Finkle's homies, who said he was being arrested for "disorderly conduct" -- a "cover charge" commonly used to punish anyone perceived to be insufficiently servile in the presence of the state's punitive priesthood.
Finkle -- who, as a police officer, is quite literally trained to lie -- claimed that a visibly intoxicated Doyle shouted obscenities at him. The arresting officers claimed that he had assumed an "aggressive stance" -- a phrase used to describe any posture other than that of cringing, chastened submission -- and that he had shouted obscenities at them as well.
Doyle points out that the entire incident was recorded by the 911 dispatcher. The "local" police, in whom Doyle had invested his trust, are refusing to release the recording. According to the county "open records" officer, "the public interest in disclosure does not outweigh the interest in nondisclosure." This almost certainly means that publicizing the recording would contradict the official story, which of course simply wouldn't do.
*The emergence of the military as the core public institution.
In the Winter 1992-1993 issue of Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, military historian Charles J. Dunlap published a premonitory essay entitled "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012."
Written from the perspective of an officer awaiting execution as a traitor to the new junta, Dunlap's essay presents a terrifyingly plausible scenario for America's descent into undisguised military rule.
On the Empire's errand: In a Photoshop composite widely circulated by supporters of the Iraq War, a U.S. soldier in Iraq uses shoulder patches to express disdain for the refusal of Washington's tributaries to bear their "share" of an unnecessary imperial burden.
"It wasn't any single cause that led us to this point," writes the condemned patriot in a long letter to a friend. "It was instead a combination of several different developments, the beginnings of which were evident in 1992.
Unlike previous eras in which the military would be de-mobilized after a war, the end of the Cold War saw an increase in the op-tempo of deployments abroad, both for "peacekeeping" missions and various "operations other than war."
Rather than cashing in a peace dividend, the federal government actually expanded the military budget. It also found new domestic missions to keep the military occupied.
Military personnel became "an adjunct to all police forces in the country," the officer recalls; social and economic problems were redefined as "national security" issues and brought within the military's area of responsibility.
Uniformed military personnel became a common sight, recalls Dunlap's fictional narrator. People became inured to the sight of "uniformed military personnel partrolling their neighborhood.... Even the youngest citizens were co-opted.... [We have] an entire generation of young people who have grown up comfortable with the sight of military personnel patrolling their streets and teaching in their classrooms."
As political and economic turbulence hit the United States, the military was exempt from public disaffection with government institutions. While most people properly viewed elected officials and bureaucrats with contempt, for some reason they saw the military as a bottomless well of competence.
That perception somehow survived the disasters Dunlap predicted would occur in 2010, when the "Second Gulf War" in Iraq metastasized into a large-scale conflict with Iran, and event that triggered a terminal crisis of confidence in the existing political order.
As the federal government became a failed state, the proverbial Man on a White Horse arrived: General E.T. Brutus, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2012, indefinitely "postponed" elections, and engineered a referendum in which his new status as military ruler of the United States was ratified by a traumatized and desperate plurality of the voting public.
Tanks for nothing: Is this what Washington will look like some day in the near future, when putsch comes to shove?
For Dunlap and others who cherish individual liberty protected by law, this projection is a nightmare scenario. For many conservatives it embodies an entirely realistic political "solution" for our current distress -- or perhaps even their fondest and most earnest wishes.
"When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup," mused conservative columnist Thomas Sowell a few years ago.
Sowell later defended, and elaborated on, that comment during an interview on Sean Hannity's Fox "News" program: "I’m very serious about whether or not the country can be saved at all in the long run, especially with Iran moving toward nuclear weapons, with so many signs of degeneracy – the schools, whatnot. Heaven knows, I don’t want to see a military coup but I don’t want to see the society disintegrate, either."
Though it may appear odd to hear such sentiments emanating from a pundit regarded by many as a species of libertarian, it's reasonable to believe that the same views are shared by a significant portion of the punitive populist right, and liberals who covet the power to wage domestic war against their own political enemies. For people of that persuasion, Guy Odom's 1999 manifesto America's Man on Horseback is pure political poetry. For militarists of the Victor David Hanson variety, Odom's book would be like Viagra in print.
Odom, a Texas resident who is a Navy veteran, self-made billionaire, and self-taught political philosopher, is a writer of considerable gifts and no small amount of wit. He describes his book as an updating of Machiavelli's notorious work The Prince, in this case addressed to the military veteran Odom predicts will arise in 2013 to become the first ruler of an undisguised American Empire.
While I may be blind to some Swiftian subtlety in Odom's writing, it seems clear to me that the author eagerly anticipates a military dictatorship and intended for his book to serve as a program of action, a blueprint for "America's transition from a dying Republic to a dynamic Empire."
The titular Man on Horseback, Odom predicts, will be a military veteran in robust middle age who will be elected "to deliver the honest, hardworking, law abiding minority from their persecution by the ungodly and the unconscionable ... the first president empowered to rid the country of crime and punish all criminals, whether violent or nonviolent, who rob Americans of their lives, their safety, and their livelihoods."
While the Ruler, the "sole arbiter of good and evil," will have power to do whatever he pleases to whomever he chooses, Odom predicts that he will exercise such power with surgical delicacy in order to "benefit the population on the whole with your necessary cruelties."
As was the case with Dunlap's dystopian projections, Odom's eager prescription for dictatorship anticipates developments that have already come to pass, either in whole or part.
"When you suspend the Constitution and the writ of Habeas Corpus, enemies and their public statements of indignation will surface," Odom writes. While the former hasn't formally happened -- why "suspend" a charter of government that has been rendered useless through decades of institutional contempt? -- the latter happened in 2006.
Odom observes that the Ruler's minions "will record the names" of those who condemned the abolition of the Great Writ and otherwise opposed the Dear Leader, "tape their television quotes, and fill electronic file cabinets with their newspaper articles -- all of which can be of immense value to you in times ahead, as the names of your impulsive adversaries will be documented for future recall and consideration."
A literal domestic "war on crime" would be undertaken, led by the Marines. All civilian law enforcement agencies would be "inducted temporarily into America's armed forces" in order to participate in "open warfare" against criminals. Rioters and armed domestic dissidents would be quickly liquidated, of course.
Under the new "justice" system, convicted criminals would be subject to "extraordinary rendition" to prisons in Siberia and Africa. Blackwater-style mercenaries in the employ of the president would be dispatched overseas to apprehend tax evaders and others who had fled the dictator's jurisdiction.
Odom anticipates a vastly expanded role for the Internal Revenue Service. It would be assigned to "oversee the United States domestic law enforcement agencies"; it would be put in charge of the national census, and be given the resources to hire huge numbers of civilian informants; it would be in charge of a database containing DNA samples from each American, and supervise the quarantine of anybody carrying AIDS or afflicted with other dangerous diseases.
The IRS would also be given the assignment of enforcing a sweeping bill of attainder against those deemed to be hereditary enemies of the state. Although those summarily executed would be "relatively few in number," Odom writes, at least some of them would be punished not for anything they had done, but because of the purported crimes of their ancestors.
"Attainder and corruption of blood recognize no innocence," he observes. "For the first time in American history, citizens will perish without a trial and, even, without a pronouncement of guilt." The IRS would seize and bank the assets of those "cleansed" in that fashion, an entirely suitable task for that repellent agency.
In economic affairs, the Ruler's regime would implement a hyper-Hamiltonian regime of state corporatism, with the federal government as the "employer of last resort." Vast New Deal-style public works projects would be undertaken. The educational system would be fused with early childhood programs and placed under the Ruler's personal direction as "child development centers."
"For your future glory, name the child-development schools after yourself," oozes Odom in an appropriately obsequious tone. Those centers would provide the Ruler with the means of cultivating a huge corps of Janissaries -- most of whom would be recruited from economically blighted inner cities -- ready to give their lives on behalf of their Dear Leader.
To offer his Janissaries a chance to prove their devotion in combat, the Ruler would embark on an ambitious campaign of foreign aggression that would include the conquest of Mexico and the destruction of "terrorist" nations by any necessary means, including pre-emptive nuclear strikes.
"Mobilizing the country's armed forces and making war to acquire territory is the only way a country can climb out of its decadence and into a stable period of growth and prosperity," writes Odom in a remarkably pure expression of military Keynesianism.
In addition to serving as the ultimate government "economic stimulus program," war is necessary in order to ensure the Ruler's continued primacy: "Without the catharsis of war, authoritative leaders are dislodged. Conquest can help maintain your leadership, Mr. President.... Conquest at some point becomes a must for you, Mr. President, not an option."
The Generalissimo envisioned by Odom would rule for at least thirty years, leaving behind him an American Empire spanning the entire Western Hemisphere, with the possible exception of Quebec.
Much of what Dunlap warned against, and Odom cheerfully anticipated, can be seen materializing around us. The ambivalent good news is that the Regime may collapse before those predictions are consummated. This wouldn't mean the end of the domestic garrison state, but it would offer opportunities for rebellion against the imperial center, both abroad and at home. The growing movement toward interposition is a very encouraging trend, but that political movement will avail little unless Americans by the tens of millions start practicing interposition and nullification on an individual level.
"Everything within the state; nothing outside the state; nothing against the state," pronounced Mussolini in defining the fundamental fascist formula. Restoring freedom will me inverting that formula: We must exploit every opportunity to reject the state's authority over our lives, refuse both its plundered largesse and the chains that accompany it, and develop systems of mutual support outside of the state's ambit.
This will involve some social hardship and even an element of physical danger. Conspicuously refusing to celebrate the supposed valor and virtue of the imperial military and law enforcement apparatus is not a prescription for popularity. De-monetizing one's assets by converting them from fiat Federal Reserve Notes into real money (gold and silver) requires uncomfortable adjustments in one's time preference and consumer habits. Devising contingency plans to protect one's family in the event of a sudden threat from the State is difficult and time-consuming. Refusing to submit to unwarranted demands issued by an armed state functionary can be exceptionally risky.
These are minor inconveniences or trivial trials when examined in light of the future that awaits us. Breaking up Leviathan's political mass through political and personal secession may be the only way to prevent it from becoming a super-dense, liberty-annihilating political singularity.
The Leahy "National Guard Empowerment" Measure
A reader points out that the Senate passed a measure sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) overturning the 2006 amendment to the Insurrection Act. That amendment was designed to make the National Guard, in effect, the president's personal militia.
Sen. Leahy was an outspoken critic of the Insurrection Act revision, and the "National Guard Empowerment" amendment he sponsored in 2007 did mitigate its danger. In my view, however, Leahy's amendment isn't a step back from the brink, but more accurately seen as a sideways step along the brink.
For what it's worth, here's my assessment ("Martial Law on the Installment Plan," PL, May 29, 2008) of that measure shortly after it was passed:
"The Guard `empowerment' bill sponsored by Leahy ... actually continues the process of folding the Guard -- which was once ... the independent people's militias -- into the national military establishment.... Its commanding officer is made a full general, for instance, and given a more prominent role in the Pentagon's councils.
More significantly, the measure creates `a stronger relationship between the Guard and the Northern Command' and instructs the Pentagon to work with the Guard in planning homeland defense."
In the event of a future terrorist attack or a White House-decreed national emergency, I noted, Northern Command "would provide the assets and manpower to lock down the country under Homeland Security supervision."
This arrangement plays a very significant role in the developments I describe in the multi-part "Rubicon in the Rear-View" series published in this space in 2008. One very telling example was the role played by the National Guard in suppressing demonstrations during the 2008 Republican and Democratic political conventions.
(Please note that the modified image of the Iraq soldier above was not identified as such in the original version of this essay. My thanks to the commenter below for catching this oversight.)
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Dum spiro, pugno!