Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Imperial Dread

Among precautions against ambition, it may not be amiss to take one against our own. I must fairly say I dread our own power and our own ambition. I dread our being too much dreaded.... Sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in our ruin.

Edmund Burke, Remarks on the Policy of the Allies, 1793

In the final decade of the 18th Century, an alliance coalesced among conventional European powers to contain the insurgent revolutionary forces of Jacobin-ruled France. Edmund Burke, easily the most perceptive and persuasive critic of the French Revolution's abominations and atrocities, yielded to no man in his concerns about the ambitions of revolutionary rulers and their allies.

But Burke was consistent in his concerns about consolidated and unaccountable power, and he understood that nothing worthwhile would be gained by permitting the imperial British Government to acquire the power it accused the French of seeking.

Burke admonished countrymen unnerved by the prospect of France exporting its revolution abroad and building a continent-spanning Jacobin empire to regain their composure and try to see England as outsiders would:

“We are already in possession of almost all the commerce of the world.... If we should ... be absolutely able, without the least control, to hold the commerce of all other nations totally dependent on our good pleasure, we may say that we shall not abuse this astonishing, and hitherto unheard-of, power. But every other nation will think we shall abuse it.”

Since other nations were not as serenely convinced of Britain's bottomless benevolence and endless generosity, they would eventually form a “combination” to prevent it from exercising unchecked political and economic hegemony, Burke pointed out.

The contrived furor over the Iranian “threat” -- which has recently been dialed down to a low drone, rather than the persistent shrieking we heard a few months ago – prompts me to adapt Burke's insights to our own condition, living as we do in the world's largest and most powerful empire.

We are constantly told that Iran is a world-menacing power led by the most recent edition of Hitler (re) Incarnate. Yet unless I missed something, Iran's military doesn't occupy a meter of foreign ground, even though Tehran does have allies and surrogates in Lebanon and Iraq, and warm relations with Venezuela's clown-tyrant Hugo Chavez. The Iranian regime has also been plausibly implicated in an act of anti-Jewish terrorism in Argentina some years ago.

Abhorrent as its ruling elite may be, Iran is not an aggressive power. Though some of its rulers may occasionally emit gusts of irrational nostalgia for the glories of Xerxes' empire, it requires an even greater investment in lunacy to believe that Iran poses a global threat.

Virtual imperialism: Understandably reluctant to visit "liberated" Baghdad, Emperor Bush holds a joint videoconference with Iraqi puppet Nouri al-Maliki to sign a "Cooperation and Friendship" accord.

Meanwhile, Washington – which maintains a globe-straddling empire of military garrisons -- is putting the finishing touches on an “agreement” with its puppet regime in Baghdad, a Soviet-style pact bearing the Soviet-esque title “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America.”

(Does anybody else suspect that every totalitarian bureaucracy – whether in Moscow, Beijing, or Washington – includes a group of scribes who are paid by the syllable to devise grandiose titles for imperial pronouncements?)

Owing to the fact that the Empire's Mesopotamian province is not yet secure enough for the Emperor to pay a personal visit for an official ceremony, the agreement was jointly signed by the Swaggering Fool and his Iraqi satrap, Nouri al-Maliki, via “secure video conference.”

The key quid-pro-quo in the arrangement is this: US forces will remain in Iraq in some configuration to prop up the Shi'ite-dominated regime (even as they build little Sunni fiefdoms ruled by al-Qaeda-connected warlords). For their part, Washington's Iraqi puppets will permit politically connected corporate interests rape and plunder Iraq. That's part of the long-anticipated payoff envisioned during the heady first months of Bush the Dumber's rule, when Viceroy Cheney's secretive energy task force pored over maps of Iraqi oil fields with predatory intent.

That energy task force, in turn, was the outgrowth of a report published in December 2000 by a Joint Task Force on Petroleum organized by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University. The final report of that task force (published with the “generous support” of Khalid al-Turki of Saudi Arabia, fretted that Iraq has “become a key `swing' producer [of petroleum], posing a difficult situation for the US government.... Saddam is a `destabilizing influence ... to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East.”

Therefore, concluded the CFR report, the US should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.

According to investigative reporter Greg Palast, who cites individuals with direct knowledge of the events, the report was handed directly to Cheney. He then convened an energy task force whose membership was largely identical to that of the CFR/Baker Institute task force. Then along came 9-11, and after making a feint in the direction of avenging the attack, the Bush Regime pivoted in the direction of Iraq.

And now, with 14 permanent US military installations sprouting up in Iraq, the “Declaration” signed by Bush and al-Maliki – essentially, an illegal military treaty completed without the constitutionally mandated Senate ratification -- offers yet another avenue to expand the war to Iran.

As Justin Raimondo points out, the “Declaration” contains a provision authorizing US military to conduct operations in support of “the Republic of Iraq in its efforts to combat all terrorist groups, at the forefront of which is al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation, and destroy their logistical networks and their sources of finance, and defeat and uproot them from Iraq.”

Raimondo observes:

“It's in this context that the Kyl-Lieberman resolution, enthusiastically supported by Hillary Clinton as well as the Bush administration, takes on special importance: having targeted the Iranian security force known as al-Quds, or the Revolutionary Guards, as an officially designated `terrorist' group, the American garrison is already authorized to take on Tehran. The road to war with Iran is paved, and we're ready to roll no matter who sits in the driver's seat.”

All that's missing is a suitable pretext, and if Iran doesn't provide one the Bush Regime has proven itself capable of conjuring one ex nihilo.

But, as Burke would expect, Washington's blatant grab for political control over energy sources in the Near East has inspired other powers to push back. Beijing's eagerness to stiff-arm US naval vessels seeking to dock in Hong Kong offers one illustration. Moscow's moves to upgrade its strategic nuclear forces presents another.

But the most acute threat to the American Imperium, as Hugo Chavez gleefully observed at the recent OPEC summit, is the ever-accelerating demise of the dollar. "Soon they won’t be talking any more about dollars because the dollar is on a free fall and the empire of the dollar is coming down,” gloated the Venezuelan ruler, a comment we should file under “Things That Are True Despite Being Said By Loathsome People.”

Burke wouldn't be surprised to learn that Washington's ambitions have engendered combinations devoted to bringing about its ruin. But he would likely be amazed at the audacity of our rulers in trying to build an Empire on money borrowed from those (such as Beijing's ruling caste) who stand to gain the most from its eventual demise.

And like our Founders – whose courage and wisdom he appreciated, and with whose grievances he sympathized – Burke would be astonished and disgusted by complacent Americans who cannot understand how empire-building always ends in misery and servitude.

Coming Soon To A Province Of Washington's Empire --

Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Let's ... Be Careful Out There (Very Important Update, 11/28)

Vancouver, B.C. October 14:
Canadian police swarm 40-year-old Polish expatriate Robert Dziekanski and electrocute him to death with Taser International's renowned "non-lethal" implement of torture.

(For the November 28 update, see the bottom of this essay.)

The kind folks at Taser International, makers of the eponymous portable torture device that is rapidly becoming notorious for its overuse by police, maintain a charitable foundation for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty.

On November 19, the makers of the reliably lethal “non-lethal” stun gun donated $500,000 to the Taser Foundation for Fallen Officers. This is sofa-cushion change for a company that saw its profits double during the third quarter of this year, surging to $28.5 million on the strength of a bull market, both domestically and internationally, for implements of State coercion.

Coercion through individualized torture is Taser's business, and that business is booming.

We lose an average of 145 officers per year and the Taser Foundation provides immediate financial support to these families during terrible times of crisis,” explains Gerry Hills, the Foundation's executive director.

(Continues after the jump)

From Sci-Fi to Street Reality: In the Nazi-like "Mirror Universe" of Star Trek, personnel carried a Taser-like device called an "Agonizer," which was used to administer instant punishment to inept or insubordinate personnel. Go here (at about 1:13) to see the sci-fi device used against a fictional character. Go here and here to see the real thing used needlessly against living human beings.

See the video below for an account of the death of an elderly, wheelchair-bound, schizophrenic woman through Taser torture at the hands of police:

Providing for bereaved families of fallen police is a worthy undertaking. But if Taser executives were acting out of genuine altruism, rather than cynical corporatist calculations, they would create a similar fund to aid victims of illicit police violence and their traumatized families.

There's little doubt that police work can be a dangerous occupation, and that it is often a thankless one for those attracted to it by an honorable desire to protect the innocent. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, individuals of that sort are not over-represented in today's “law enforcement” community.

And as I've pointed out before, the role of police officers today – whatever it had previously been – is not to protect the public, but to enforce the will of the State: Police officers are not legally or civilly liable to provide protection to individual citizens, but they are required to enforce the State's mandates, however asinine or corrupt they may be. This is why, in my view, episodes of genuine police heroism in defense of the innocent are worthy of celebration – well as careful examination with an eye for the counter-intuitive finding.

Consider the paradigmatic case of police heroism, that of the officers who raced into the stricken World Trade Center towers on 9-11. Like most people, I cannot imagine dashing into a building I know faces imminent collapse in order to rescue strangers. The heroism of the 23 NYPD officers who died at Ground Zero is genuine, and isn't diminished one whit by the fact that they were “just doing their jobs.” The same can be said of the firefighters and rescue workers who likewise perished while trying to save the lives of others.

Admirable and inspiring as it is, this example of authentic police heroism in the face of lethal violence is entirely unsuited as a symbol of routine police work. Most police officers – “most” in this case being a term that leaves the smallest quantum imaginable as a remainder – will serve out their careers without being exposed to anything resembling the mortal danger faced by the brave NYPD officers who died on 9-11.

That's because police work simply isn't that dangerous.

As Forbes magazine noted in late 2002, the atrocity at Ground Zero dramatically skewed data on workplace fatality rates collected each year by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics through its “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.” In “a normal year, like 2000,” explained Forbes, “the most dangerous jobs do not involve firefighting or police work; they involve cutting timber and fishing.”

In an essay drawing on the most recent BLS findings, David R. Butcher of Industrial Market Trends compiled the following roster of the ten most dangerous U.S. occupations:

*Fishers and Fishing Industry Workers, whose fatality rate was 142 deaths per 100,000 workers;

*Pilots and Flight Engineers, particularly crop dusters, test pilots, and chopper drivers (88/100,000);

*Loggers (82/100,000);

*Iron and Steel Workers (61/100,ooo);

*Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors (42/100,000);

*Farmers and Ranchers (38/100,000);

*Electrical Power Line Workers – Installers and Repairers (35/100,000)

*Roofers (34/100,000);

*Drivers – truckers or sales personnel (27/100,000);

*Agricultural Workers (22/100,000);

One arresting aspect of this list is the fact that not a single one of the most dangerous occupations is a “public” sector job. Some of them (such as garbage collectors and test pilots) might work for government, either directly or via a contractor, but there isn't a single job on that list that “must” be done by government. The fatality rate for all government occupations, incidentally, is 2.5 per 100,000.

Which means that in our society, as in every other, it is the private producers, rather than the parasitical tax-feeders, who face the greatest dangers on a daily basis.

If you work as a logger, farmer, field worker, truck driver, or in an occupation that requires a long daily commute, your job is statistically more dangerous than law enforcement.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were more than 1.1 million full-time police personnel on duty as of 2004. Rounding that figure down to 1 million, and accepting Taser International's officer fatality figure of an average of 145 per year, would produce an average workplace fatality rate of about 14.5 per 100,000 employees for the police – well below the lethal attrition rate the BLS found for Agricultural Workers. While this comparison isn't an exact match (the BLS figure encompasses all work-related deaths, not just those resulting from violent crime), it's close enough to validate my point.

A new book entitled Some Gave All: A History of Baltimore Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, estimates that between 1792 and 2007, 17,900 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were killed. That works out to an average of a little more than 83 a year over 215 years. And it stands to reason that the annual death toll – assuming the figure is accurate -- must have risen dramatically at some point in order to pull that average up (for one thing, there were no federal law enforcement officers prior to the early 20th Century).

This would suggest that, statistically, law enforcement has never been a particularly dangerous occupation, even during the frontier period. Make that “particularly” during the frontier period, when miners, railroad workers, homesteaders, and others probably faced sudden and often violent death much more often than law officers did.

(And don't even get me started on the subject of the mortality rate for dispossessed Indians taken into the care of the federal government.)

By way of contrast, there is reason to believe that the danger of violent encounters between common citizens and police has grown appreciably in recent years.

A study publicized by Wired about a year ago suggested that an American's odds of being killed by terrorists were slightly lower than his odds of being shot by a law enforcement officer. That comparison isn't entirely sound, since even now the overwhelming majority of those killed by police are people suspected of committing crimes against persons or property, rather than commonplace citizens innocently trapped in bad circumstances.

For me, this is a key question: Is the number of unambiguously innocent citizens killed by the police greater than the number of police killed in the line of duty?

A very incomplete map of paramilitary police raids involving deaths or injuries (click to enlarge).

According to Joseph D. McNamara, a former police chief in Kansas City, Missouri and San Jose, California, police work is actually less dangerous today that it was in the late 1960s and 1970s. Writing in the Wall Street Journal about a year ago, McNamara observed that 51 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2006 “out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops [meaning sworn personnel with arrest powers]. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts.”

If this is the case, why is police violence continuing to escalate?

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed,” McNamara explains. “An emphasis on `officer safety' and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to shoot or be stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

Arguably the single biggest source of unnecessary police violence is the “War on Drugs,” which has also nurtured police corruption and begotten countless abuses of the Bill of Rights. That “war” is actually a perverse symbiosis between the criminal underworld – which has a federally enforced monopoly on marketing substances once entirely legal in this country – and the law enforcement agencies that suck up huge federal subsidies in the name of “fighting” those same drug traffickers.

This cynical charade has abetted the militarization of law enforcement and the proliferation of no-knock raids, which result in needless death and life-threatening injury to both police and innocent civilians.

A typical monument memorializing police who died in the line of duty. Where are the monuments to innocent civilians who died needlessly from police violence?

These are some of the reasons why Chief McNamara, like many other current and former police officers of integrity and principle, joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which is agitating for an end to the War on Drugs, which is the single largest preventable cause of law enforcement violence against the innocent.

There are reasons – both constitutional and ethical – to believe that the law enforcement apparatus as it presently exists is fundamentally misbegotten.

Pending that welcome day when the public can force the political class to revise or abolish the institutional impediments to genuine individual liberty, the most useful reforms would be to end the Drug War, and to begin the comprehensive de-federalization of law enforcement at all levels.

This won't happen, of course, until the public at large liberates itself from many State-imposed delusions, among them the idea that police work is somehow a sacred and uniquely dangerous occupation.

Update, November 28

Thanks to a comment from an alert and well-informed reader, I am now aware of Chief McNamara's long and impassioned commitment to the cause of civilian disarmament. How one can be so clear-headed in opposing drug prohibition, yet so misguided on the even more fundamental question of the right of individuals to armed self-defense, is a question I'm not competent to answer.

This is particularly perplexing in light of the fact that McNamara clearly understands the growing danger posed by militarizing the police -- yet he doesn't understand how this process is related to the question of civilian disarmament. He clearly wants to de-militarize the police, but enforcing "gun control" laws leads to exactly the opposite result: If the State is going to compel this citizenry to surrender its firearms, it will ultimately have to resort to military or para-military means, by either militarizing the police or deploying the National Guard or other military assets domestically.

Vide what took place in post-Katrina New Orleans as a perfect example:

All hail our heroic local police at work!

Men of integrity and principle can be earnestly mistaken about some important matters; I think this best describes McNamara's present situation. It is to be hoped that he will change his views on this supremely important question. Pending that welcome development, his insights regarding the dangers of police militarization are all the more valuable, coming as they do from someone who cannot be accused of harboring "anti-government" sentiments.

A Brief Personal Note:

I have just learned that my former colleague Gary Benoit, editor of The New American magazine, is seriously ill. For many years before this happened, Gary was a good and generous friend. Those of you who pray, please take a moment to offer a petition to God on behalf of Gary and his very large and delightful family.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pistol-Packing Positivists: Our Enemy in Blue

How would you react if you were waylaid by an armed and bellicose stranger who has the means to kill you and your family and the power to get away with the crime?

Very few of us would react with the self-possession displayed by 28-year-old Jared Massey when his SUV was stopped by John Gardner of the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) last September 14.

Whether or not Massey was speeding through a construction zone, he was entirely within his rights to demand clarification of his supposed offense before affixing his signature to the traffic ticket. There was no need for Massey's signature.

Had Gardner been interested in enforcing the law rather than asserting his authoritah,* he would simply have scrawled “refuses to sign” on the citation in his no-doubt puerile and illegible hand (as a tax feeder of the thug caste, Gardner is marginally literate at best), handed it to the motorist, and gone about his merry way in pursuit of fresh victims.

But Gardner, most likely motivated by the resentments common to steers that wish they were bulls, just had to order Massey out of the car and place him under arrest – for doing nothing that constitutes a crime.

It is not a crime for a citizen to demand that a police officer justify a traffic stop. Massey, who admitted to driving 68 mph in what he apparently thought was a 65 mph zone, was reasonably cooperative and genuinely puzzled by Gardner's claim that the driver had missed a sign posting a 40 mph construction zone.

Gardner assumed a hostile posture when Massey made his further cooperation contingent on being shown that he had violated the speed limit. Which is to say that Gardner immediately sized up the motorist as an enemy combatant (no other term is adequate) because Massey refused to behave as a cringing, docile serf.

It is not a crime for a motorist to withhold his signature from a traffic ticket, since the signature is unnecessary (refusing to sign means that you won't be charged with a misdemeanor if you don't show up in court). A UHP spokesman has conceded that Gardner's best option was to put the citation in the vehicle "in a professional manner and leave it at that."

And once again, Massey was making an entirely reasonable request: He wanted to be shown the speed limit sign he had supposedly ignored.

At this point, Gardner needlessly escalated the encounter to one of unalloyed violence, ordering Massey from the car and attempting to place him under arrest. Although the regulations of his professional tribe permit this, Gardner had no right or reason to do this, since the ticket had been written and the matter should have been turned over to a court.

But Gardner, like nearly everybody else in his line of work, believes that his job is not to protect the public, but to make it submit to the supposed authority of the State. Which is why, when Massey quite reasonably decided he was no longer going to play the role in which Gardner had cast him, the UHP officer committed the crime of assault with a deadly weapon by shooting Massey with his Taser.

This was done while Massey was walking away from Gardner. His behavior was non-cooperative, but also non-threatening. The UHP's policy governing the use of a Taser does not permit an officer to use it against someone who is merely non-cooperative; the subject must pose some kind of threat to himself, the officer, or innocent bystanders in order for a Taser attack to be justified.

The problem here is that Gardner, a 14-year veteran of the UHP, was about to lose bladder control (an affliction common to geldings), so frightened had he become by Massey's non-threatening behavior.

As the hero explained to a colleague a few minutes later, Massey was “making me nervous as hell” by his insistence on being treated as a reasonable adult, rather than behaving like a timid child. “I was like, nah, we ain't playing this game,” Gardner boasted to the second officer by way of justifying the Taser strike.

Good,” gloated the second tax-fed parasite. “Good for you.”

Bear in mind here that it was Gardner who was playing a “game” by needlessly escalating an unpleasant situation. If he had been genuinely concerned about his personal safety, why did he order Massey from the car, rather than simply handing him the citation and walking away, when there was no reason for an arrest? Why commit an armed assault on a husband and father in front of his family, and then threatening the wife with arrest for objecting to her husband's treatment?

This was undisguised, needless aggression fueled by an adolescent need on Gardner's part to assert dominance over someone who wasn't part of his club. Which is why his behavior received the immediate and unqualified approval of another member of that gang.

We are incessantly hectored about the supposedly indispensable role played by police in protecting us from the anarchic violence that would prevail in their absence. Yet every single day – thanks, in no small measure, to the advent of on-line video – we see how police themselves have become the most dangerous predators we face.

Through his literary creation Screwtape, C.S. Lewis once warned (I paraphrase) that one of the Devil's most effective tricks is to rivet the public mind on the danger posed by a vice that is the exact opposite of the one currently in vogue. For example, where gluttony is ubiquitous, the Devil tempts people to condemn the vanity of those who strive to remain thin.

In like manner, we are always and ever admonished about the evils of anarchy at a time when the State and its agents are, with ever-increasing brazenness, imposing unalloyed tyranny on our society. We are treated to pious homilies about the need for citizens to respect the law when those exercising government power are becoming entirely emancipated from any restraints on their discretionary use of lethal violence. We are instructed to ruminate on the manifold hypothetical outrages that could be committed in the name of anarchy, even as the very tangible atrocities committed by State agents accumulate.

In his valuable new book A Nation of Sheep, retired federal Judge Andrew Napolitano describes how our society – both the Regime ruling us and far too many of the ruled – has succumbed to positivism, a legal perspective in which “the law is whatever those in power say it is.... Under positivism, whoever or whatever controls the government, whether a majority or a minority, always rules and always gets its way.”

As Napolitano explains, positivism “is perhaps the most primitive legal theory, having evolved only slightly from the sort of justification that could be offered for following the demands of a tribal chieftain or general-turned-dictator. The theory promotes fear rather than respect.... The problem today in America, the greatest and gravest threat to personal freedom in this country, is that the positivists are carrying the day.”

During the 14 years he has been a State Trooper – meaning that he has been cared for at the expense of better people who make an honest living – John Gardner has been deeply marinated in positivism. While he's clearly too dim to expatiate the theoretical concepts, Gardner's behavior indicates that he has an instinctive understanding of positivism in practice. As someone clad in a State-issued costume, given a gun and a Taser and expansive discretion in using those implements of violence, Gardner clearly behaves he doesn't have to play any “games” with those who aren't part of his tribe.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" exclaimed Massey as Gardner, his face contorted with primal rage, threatened him with a Taser.

That's a useful question. A better one is this: What the hell is wrong with the rest of us, that we are willing to live under a system of the sort that rules us?


*authoritah (n.) -- The conceit that people clad in ridiculous State-issued costumes are owed some kind of reflexive deference by the decent, law-abiding citizenry upon whom such tax-feeders inflict themselves.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Judicial War On Fatherhood

Portrait of a policy failure: Somehow, this young father was left unmolested to raise his two beautiful children. How on earth did such a thing happen?

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers

Dick the Butcher, adding his contribution to Jack Cade's Utopian promises, from Shakespeare's Henry VI, pt. II (Act 4, scene 2)

Most people mistakenly assume metal detectors were installed in courthouses because of criminals and terrorists,” observes Dr. Stephen Baskerville, an assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College.

In fact, retrofitting courtrooms with metal detectors and other security enhancements was prompted by concerns over violence perpetrated by fathers whose families have been sundered and children have been stolen by what Dr. Baskerville calls “the divorce regime.”

The advent of no-fault – or, as Dr. Baskerville calls it, unilateral – divorce decades ago brought into existence a huge and ever-metastasizing apparatus of coercion, intervention, and social engineering that subsists on the destruction of flawed but salvageable marriages.

Although divorce can be initiated at whim by either party, the system described in Baskerville's infuriating but indispensable new book, Taken Into Custody, is designed to encourage women to file first. Not that it matters all that much: Whenever a divorce ensues, under the logic of the “no-fault” system, either parent can end the marriage and both are considered equally at fault, so the children immediately become the property of the State. Which is what this is all about.

"Now, that's more like it!" exclaim defenders of the Total State: Another helpless man is arrested for the supposed crime of being a divorced father.

After all, writes Baskerville, when a family is broken up each child becomes “a walking bundle of cash” -- not just for the custodial parent or relatives, but for the large and expanding population of tax-gorged bureaucrats who “adopt as their mission in life the practice of interfering with other people's children.”

This system is rigged to treat fathers as dangerous and disposable. “In fact,” as Baskerville correctly observes, “it is no exaggeration to say that the existence of family courts, and virtually every issue they adjudicate – divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime – depend on one overriding principle: remove the father.”

Regardless of the specific facts of a given divorce, the father is generally treated as useful only for making the initial biological contribution to conception and then to provide regular child support payments once his children are seized by the State. Oh, and we shouldn't forget the father's value as the object of a State-created cult of ritual execration.

Since the early 1990s, the public has been relentlessly barraged with propaganda about “Deadbeat Dads” who, with the calculated malice of Dickensian villains, heartlessly refuse to provide their struggling ex-wives and estranged children the means to avoid starvation.

A staple of radical feminism, the Deadbeat Dad is also dutifully denounced by mainstream conservatives like Alan Keyes and Oliver North. The child support enforcement mechanism is a bi-partisan creation: The enabling legislation was signed into law by Republican Gerald Ford in 1975; funding has been boosted by Congress under both Democratic and Republican control; and in 2002 the Bush administration eagerly carried out a nationwide “Deadbeat Dads” enforcement sweep under a program called “Project Save Our Children” created by Bill Clinton.

The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and its state franchises constitute an army of 60,000 enforcement agents (all of whom are permitted to carry firearms under the “Deadbeat Parents Enforcement Act”). This means that in its successful war on parenthood, the OCSE deploys a force thirteen times larger than that mustered by the DEA, which has 4,600 agents employed in the fraudulent “war on drugs.”

At the center of this system is the family court, a legal venue that operates secretly and with plenary powers. Baskerville describes the “regime of involuntary divorce,” particularly the family courts, as “the most authoritarian institution in our society today.”

The divorce regime has infected our legal system with concepts entirely foreign to Anglo-Saxon law, “such as the principle that one could be decreed guilty of violating an agreement that one had, in fact, not violated,” writes Baskerville. A father who is an unwilling party to a unilateral divorce “could be summoned to court without having committed any legal infraction; the verdict was pre-determined before any evidence was examined; and one could be found `guilty' of things that were not illegal.”

Through the family court system, “Citizens who are completely innocent of any legal wrongdoing and minding their own business – not seeking any litigation and neither convicted nor accused of any legal infraction, criminal or civil – are ordered into court and told to write checks to officials of the court or they will be summarily arrested and jailed. Judges also order citizens to sell their houses and other property and turn the proceeds over to lawyers and other cronies they never hired.”

In similar fashion, family court judges “regularly order involuntary litigants to pay the fees of attorneys, psychotherapists, and other court officials they have not hired and jail them for failing to comply.” The system is a racket by any rational definition, and it's often operated with undisguised, vulgar corruption.

In 1999, an Insight magazine investigation learned of a “slush fund” controlled by family court judges in Los Angeles; donors included court-appointed “monitors” who received lucrative government pay-outs for keeping parents (generally fathers) accused of domestic violence under surveillance during child visitations. In Marin County, family court judges were caught funneling child support and alimony payments to preferred attorneys and other cronies.

However, as Baskerville notes, “the real scandal is not what is illegal but what is legal.” Even if scrupulously operated, the family courts are not tribunals of justice, but rather “revenue-generating engines for state governments”; in fact, as Baskerville observes, states frequently depend on child-support moneys to balance their budgets. Which is why the State does everything it can to abet and capitalize on divorce – and why hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of fathers find themselves in the equivalent of debtor's prison.

As he points out, “the astonishing but incontrovertible fact is that with the exception of convicted criminals, no group in our society today has fewer rights than fathers.... A father can be deprived of his children, his home, his savings, his future earnings, his privacy, and his freedom without any ... constitutional protections.”

Baskerville has collected and documented a small but representative sample of cases in which fathers dragged into divorce court have been slapped with impossible child support judgments, deprived of the means to earn enough to pay those judgments, and then jailed for contempt. Some who have been driven to publicize their plight have been jailed or otherwise punished for seeking redress, since “in many jurisdictions it is a crime to criticize family court judges or otherwise discuss family law cases publicly.”

The system also makes use of extra-legal means to punish dissidents. Baskerville recounts how a State-allied virago named Liz Richards operates an identity theft and blackmail scheme through her group Family Court Reform of Annandale, Virginia. Richards circulates e-mail messages “threatening to publicize information that she obtains through government files on the private lives of politically active parents” who criticize the system. The material used to blackmail critics includes financial information pried from parents by family court judges and somehow supplied to Richards.

Meanwhile, “Deadbeat Dads” routinely find themselves publicly vilified, summarily imprisoned, and financially ruined. They are “routinely ordered into employment, the wages from which are then confiscated.” In an Illinois case, a custodial father stayed at home to care for his three children, only to be arrested under an obscure and asinine state law that makes it a felony for a man to be deliberately unemployed.

Rendered permanently insolvent by ... incarceration, [such fathers] are farmed out to trash companies and similar concerns, where they work fourteen- to sixteen-hour days,” writes Baskerville. “Most of their earnings are confiscated for child support, the costs of their incarceration, and mandatory drug testing.” In addition, “the courts are also not above summarily jailing children who fail to cooperate with the criminalization of their parents.”

How can an imprisoned man pay child support? And how can a man whose wages are automatically garnished be accused of failure to make payments? Don't bother posing logical questions of this sort to those in charge of the child support enforcement system.

One spectacularly smug judge who richly deserves a beating gloated that he enjoyed incarcerating fathers who failed to make payments. He calls the jail his “magic fountain”: “Of course, there is no magic. The money is paid by his mother, or by the second wife, or by some other innocent who perhaps had to liquidate her life's savings.” Some judges have seized the bank accounts of grandparents when a father has been accused of an arrearage in child support payments.

Baskerville makes a compelling, if not irrefutable, case that the “Deadbeat Dad” epidemic is a deliberately engineered hoax. He points out that “the government machinery [for child support enforcement] ... was created not in response to claims of widespread nonpayment but before them, and that it was less a response to `deadbeat dads' than a mechanism to create them.”

Here's how the process works, in brief:

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

Fathers in such circumstances are often imprisoned for having any unauthorized contact with their children, and the terms of that contact are defined entirely by their kidnappers. The children are often indoctrinated to see their fathers as their enemies – if not by embittered ex-wives, then by officials of the system itself. One inconceivably repellent example was offered by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who in 2004 actually “tried to enlist the state's children in an art competition to depict their own fathers as criminals. Cox offered free Domino's pizza to children who participated in the campaign to create billboards vilifying their fathers.”

Once it learned of the nature of the competition – call it the “Pavlik Morozov Memorial Art Contest” -- Domino's withdrew its support. Mike Cox, who really deserves to get his back dirty, continues to afflict Michigan.

By Baskerville's reckoning, “nearly a quarter-million parents could now be incarcerated” on child support-related charges. To relieve the pressure on jails and prisons overburdened by America's inmate population – easily the world's largest – some officials have suggested alternate means of imprisoning “Deadbeat Dads.”

In Georgia, a sheriff and superior court judge recommended the creation of a literal gulag -- “detention camps specifically for fathers.” A city planning commission in Pittsburgh considered a proposal to “convert a former chemical processing plant ... into a detention center” for fathers.

It's hardly surprising that fathers trapped in this Kafkaesque system are often – not occasionally, mind you, but frequently – driven to despairing acts of despairing violence. In 1996, four days before he was to receive a medal of valor for his role in rescuing victims from the Murrah building following the Oklahoma City Bombing, Terrance Yeakey committed suicide. Yeakey could surmount what he witnessed on the morning of April 19, but he was over-matched by the horrors that descended on him when he fell behind in child support payments arising from a bitter divorce.

Other fathers direct their rage at those immediately responsible for their predicament.

The most volatile court in the nation, where judges are killed on the bench, is family courts,” notes Bruce Howell, administrator for the Montgomery, Alabama Juvenile Court. “When you're dealing with people's children, they get really upset. Family court is where it all happens, and judges get killed right on the bench. People whip out guns and start shooting them in front of the courtroom.”

Ugly as it is to say so, it must nonetheless be said: At least some of the judges on the receiving end of the violence Howell describes deserve something akin to what they got – not being summarily gunned down, of course, but some combination of professional ruin and personal humiliation.

The instinct to protect one's children is the single strongest impulse implanted in our nature by our Creator. It easily eclipses the need for food or fame; it is even stronger than the primal drive to create children in the first place. When a flawed but conscientious father whose marriage ends without his consent has his children taken from him, “we call him a `monster' and a criminal for doing what any normal parent is expected to do” -- fight back against those who have attacked his family and threaten his children, using whatever means he can muster.

Those who employ deceit, coercion, and blackmail to separate an honest father from his children really shouldn't expect to be immune to very ugly consequences – beginning, but hardly limited to, unemployment and irreversible ostracism from decent society. And the worst of them really ought to end up like Mussolini.

(To hear a radio interview of Dr. Baskerville in Quicktime audio, click here.)

Dum spiro, pugno!