Friday, February 27, 2009

A "Reckoning" Amid the Wreckage

Space Keynesianism:
All hail the grand architects of our renewed prosperity, Ben Bernanke (nearest to the nosecone) and Tim Geithner (straddling a fin), who for some reason decided to bring along Henry Paulson (clinging to the underside of the rocket).

"At this very moment, the President of the United States is announcing a New Age of Space to relieve unemployment. Billions of dollars are going to be spent on unmanned space ships, just to make work. The opening episode in this New Age of Space will be the firing of the Whale next Tuesday. The Whale ... will be loaded with organ-grinder monkeys, and will be fired in the general direction of Mars."

From The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Well, why not?

If the secret to prosperity is simply to permit the government to spend money it doesn't have in any quantity our rulers can name on any project that pollutes their evil imaginations, why shouldn't they commission the construction of a huge fleet of spacecraft to be filled with organ-grinder monkeys and dispatched into the void?

Or why not emulate the ancient Egyptians under the tyrant Cheops by commissioning an immense mausoleum to stand in eternal testimony of our bold and visionary ruler, Pharaoh Obama the First?

According to Herodotus, Cheops achieved full employment by enlisting nearly the entire population to build his legendary pyramid -- but this was done by depleting the treasury so thoroughly that the ruler had to sell his own daughter into slavery to raise the funds for some forgettable and long-effaced bit of decorative filigree.

The same ancient historian observes that for centuries after Cheops died, the Egyptians refused so much as to utter his name (or that of his equally despicable brother, Chefren), so reviled had he become on account of his tyrannical profligacy.

Pointless expenditures on space exploration or construction of monuments to the vanity of the ruling class would actually make more sense than the Regime's present course, which is to ruin the currency in a doomed effort to save a failing and terminally insolvent banking system.

The $3.8 trillion budget disgorged by the regime of Obama the Magnanimous -- a document bearing the trans-Orwellian title "A New Era of Responsibility" -- includes a budget deficit of nearly $1.8 trillion. That's a figure, as the observant Anthony Gregory points out, roughly equivalent to the entire federal budget in the year 2000.

When budgets and annual deficits go hyperbolic, hyperinflation is sure to follow. But the cruelly amusing fact is that neither Obama nor the gallery of trained seals called Congress is in charge of the public purse.

Sure, Obama can propose a budget and Congress can ratify it on a party-line vote, but the real economic power now resides with the Commissar for Official Counterfeiting, Ben Bernanke, and the Commissar for Fiscal Fraud, Tim Geithner.

Obama is seeking to salve the electorate's economic wounds with oleaginous words about hope, change, and determination. Meanwhile, Geithner -- as pure a product of the bankster elite as ever drew an undeserved breath -- is "finishing touches on a plan that will dump $1 trillion of toxic assets on the US taxpayer," warns Mike Whitney of CounterPunch. "The plan, which goes by the opaque moniker [of] the `Public-Private Investment Fund' (PPIF), is designed to provide lavish incentives to hedge funds and private equity funds to purchase bad assets from failing banks. It is a sweetheart deal that that provides government financing and guarantees for illiquid mortgage-backed junk for which there is no active market."

There is other mischief afoot behind the obscuring barricade of official acronyms.

No, he doesn't know what he's doing, either: A visibly stressed Tim Geithner (right foreground) testifies before Congress.

First came TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program), which was supposedly intended to buy up bad mortgage-backed securities, but in practice was an open-ended conduit of funding to prop up any corrupt financial institution of the Treasury Secretary's choice.

Now we confront the Fed's Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), which will open for business in a few days. TALF will provide another $1 trillion to finance the purchase of securities backed by new classes of failing loans -- credit cards, auto loans, small-business loans. We can expect TALF, like TARP, to gain considerable girth as the depression deepens.

The same is true of the PPIF, which was created by the Fed and the Treasury Department on their own supposed authority without specific congressional authorization. (Remember, TARP removed Congress from this equation.) That new "public-private partnership" -- a euphemism for a corporatist, which is to say fascist, entity -- amounts to what financial analyst Kevin G. Hall calls "a blank check to ensure that the top banks -- those with assets over $100 billion -- remain solvent."

Beginning in late April, as Hall explains, squads of federal regulators will start administering "stress tests" to the 19 largest banks. Those found to be "under-capitalized" will be given six months either to raise capital in private markets, or to "ask for a capital buffer from the government."

The PPIF begins with a ridiculously low credit pool of $500 billion, with a provision to expand immediately to $1 trillion. But as Hall says, the program is, in principle, "a virtually unlimited solvency guarantee" to the nation's 19 largest banks. This means that it could keep pouring "liquidity" -- that is, inflation-debauched dollars -- into the banking system until the Fed runs out of zeroes.

This is where the really bloody business of butchering the middle class is taking place. Apart from occasional fits of televised grousing, Congress has no role in the process, having abdicated its constitutional control over public expenditures to the Treasury Department last September.

So when Obama the Munificient, framed -- appropriately enough -- by the fasces that decorate the wall in the well of the House of Representatives, invited Congress to gorge itself on a new menu of spending programs, this gesture was a bit like conferring a consolation prize on the second-place finisher in a two-man competition.

As he sketched, in vague outline, a campaign to enlarge what is already the largest and most expensive government in human history, His Holiness Obama the Blessed declared: "I do not believe in bigger government."

That odd and discordant sentence begs the question, bigger than what? A reasonable surmise would be that Obama meant something along the lines of the following: "I believe in a government somewhat bigger than Betelgeuse, but no bigger than Antares."

The best summary of Comrade Obama's Address to the Central Committee may be the one offered by an enraptured Ross Douthat of The Atlantic:

"[Obama] laid out the most ambitious and expensive domestic agenda of any Democratic President since LBJ, and did it so smoothly that you'd think he was just selling an incremental center-left pragmatism. I think that he has an acute sense - more acute than most people in Washington, probably - of just how much running room is open in front of him at the moment, and he intends to make the absolute most of it... It was the speech of a man seeking to turn a moment of crisis into a domestic-policy revolution.... Now all he has to do is find a way to pay for it."

Hey, no problem: Obama can always whip out his Presidential Express Card (neither Gold nor Platinum being sufficiently rare and precious to provide the required cachet, Obama's is a Moonrock Card, with an astronomical spending limit). As long as Geithner and his minions can sell Treasury Debt, the government can keep the party going.

"Brother, can you spare ... a million?" Zimbabwe's hyperinflation is on display in the incredible prices charged by this street vendor for his sweets and baubles. Yes, "M" stands for "million" in Zimbabwean dollars.

And when foreigners decide to dump their T-bills, and Bernanke sends his printing presses into hyperdrive, we'll have the opportunity to experience all the romance and enchantment of distant, exotic Zimbabwe -- without leaving the comfort of our own homes. This assumes that any of us still has a home by then.

Obama's speech to Congress, while heavy on facile uplift and melodrama, was almost entirely devoid of humor. I must admit that the speech managed to wrench one bitter chuckle from me when Obama announced that a "Day of Reckoning" had arrived.

That phrase would make sense if the government over which Obama presides were to permit the market to function. This would mean mass liquidation of bad assets and, yes, continued and deepening deflation. It would mean the immediate end to two foreign wars and rolling up the infrastructure of Washington's global empire. It would hurt like hell for a few years, and then recovery would begin.

What Obama apparently meant by "Day of Reckoning," however, was something along these lines: "My squanderlust predecessor somehow neglected to destroy every pocket of prosperity and productivity left in this economy -- so I reckon it's up to me to finish that job."

As the indispensable Peter Schiff points out, a genuine Day of Reckoning is inevitable, and it will come "when our money is worthless, and the rest of the world will no longer take our [government] paper."

When the actual Day of Reckoning arrives, one of three scenarios will play out:

*Sanity will seize our population and our chastened political class will restore the foundations of the pre-1913 (or, better yet, pre-1861) political system.

Yeah, I don't think so either, but it is a possibility.

*The productive elements of the population will divorce themselves from the parasitical ruling class and its client constituencies, eventually creating some kind of loose confederation. While the parasites won't surrender their host without a violent struggle, this is probably the best we can hope for.

*We'll see the Regime continue to inflate, spend, and regiment the population until we achieve the ne plus ultra of Keynesian economics: The government will achieve full employment by forcing all of us to build immense pyramids out of its useless, unwanted fiat currency.

(My sincere apologies for traducing the Three Stooges by comparing them to federal political appointees.)

Available now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Set the Spin Cycle to "Race Agitate"

Firefighter by day, arsonist by night: Attorney General Eric Holder,a man I liked a lot more three and a half decades ago when he played the heroic Dr. Bob Matthias on Space:1999 (below, right), appears determined to ignite racial conflicts the Regime can triumphantly extinguish -- along with what remains of our liberty.

Sometimes a paradox will yield its meaning to someone willing to invest just a little thought.

Take, for instance, the observation that a vacuum cleaner that sucks, doesn't.

Or consider the fact that it is impossible for someone to be the "most mediocre" in a given field, since that person would then excel at mediocrity.

The paradox propounded by Attorney General Eric Holder last week is hardly as benign as either of those examined above.

Speaking in commemoration of Black History Month, Mr. Holder -- the first black U.S. Attorney General, appointed to that position by the first black U.S. President -- insisted that the absence of rancorous racial debate is a symptom of deeply entrenched racial problems in American society.

No, he's not Eric Holder: Unlike the hack lawyer serving as A.G., the British actor Anton Phillips has always made an honest living.

At least, that's my take-away from the following statement:

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.... [I]f we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

For a generation, Americans have aspired to assess individuals on the basis of character and achievement rather than skin color. Now the most powerful lawyer in the world has described the effort to build a color-blind society as a reflection of some embedded national character flaw.

Taken by themselves, Holder's words were hardly the stuff of militancy. But the gratuitous insult (are we really a "nation of cowards" because we have better things to do than rummage around in search of racial resentments?) and the speaker's posture of incurable grievance leave me with a weary suspicion that the Obama administration, rather than putting Jesse Jackson-style race-hustling out of business, is prepared to escalate it by several orders of magnitude.

What Holder said may ultimately be less important than the audience to whom he said it: He was addressing a gathering of tax-supported legal predators, the kind of people whose professional prospects -- beginning with basic job security -- would brighten considerably were the United States to undergo a prolonged spasm of racial conflict.

Think of the careers that could be made in "hate crime" prosecution; the federal lawsuits that could be launched against public institutions deemed to be insufficiently (or improperly) race-conscious; the opportunities to expand the power and reach of Leviathan, if race riots were once again ignited in major cities.

And think as well of the abundant opportunities for racial arsonists to foment conflict as the economy continues its relentless descent, leaving local economies dessicated and local communities brittle with incurable frustrations.
Over the next several months, a cascading wave of retail bankruptcies will leave shopping malls darkened and deserted. The proliferation of what Gerald Celente calls "Ghost Malls" will add to the expanding blight of empty neighborhoods, creating a suitable backdrop for apocalyptic urban conflicts.

Symbol of our times: Time magazine's award-winning photo of a Sheriff, his gun drawn, inspecting a foreclosed home.

Wherever a spark of racial conflict is struck, we can expect to find the Feds -- as well as their allies and deniable assets -- spreading

If the resulting conflagration is big enough, our rulers -- helpful people that they are -- will be more than willing to extinguish it, albeit by sucking the oxygen of individual liberty out of our society completely.

It would obviously be to the advantage of our rulers for Americans to think of ourselves as members of ethic collectives that
they define for their purposes. The most obvious of those purposes would be simply to keep us divided and inconsolably hostile toward each other. This process, as Holder probably understands, begins with supplying a racial subtext for discussion of practically every public issue of consequence.

As the economic decline accelerates, the temptation to racialize our grievances will become more seductive to an ever-greater number of people. The good news, ironically, is that the unfolding economic crisis is breaking up the media monolith that the Regime has relied on to indoctrinate the masses.

The "news" networks are playing to an ever-smaller and increasingly decrepit audience; the weekly news magazines are either disappearing or radically altering their format; newspaper chains are withering, link by link. The conventional media will probably become more localized, the "alternate" media more influential.

At some point, the Obama Regime may actually propose the nationalization of the news industry, which would actually make the samizdat media that much more effective and credible. (In the old Soviet Union, the common wisdom was that there was no "truth" in Pravda, and no reliable "news" in Izvestia.)

Hopefully, through the proliferation of independent media and because of the transparent cynicism of the Obama Regime in promoting ethnic antagonisms (at present, they're merely warming up), it will be possible to immunize a healthy segment of the population against the effort to foment a full-blown race war.

We're not there yet, but stick around: A citizen of Zimbabwe displays a 100 million dollar note.

One useful preventative treatment would be to encourage Americans of all backgrounds to ask themselves why they should continue to be plundered on behalf of a socialist plutocracy. Another would be to emphasize shared concerns over the ever-growing menace of the State's armed enforcers -- a problem that certainly transcends arbitrary and increasingly useless ethnic divisions.

Roughly a decade ago, Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the black advocacy group BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny), commented to me that the white American population was just beginning to experience many of the social pathologies cultivated by the welfare state that had long afflicted black Americans. Those afflictions include multi-generational illegitimacy, multi-generational dependency, and the effective disappearance of fathers in the home and stable households.

In a similar fashion, the increasing militarization of law enforcement and the ever-growing trend of unpunished abusive police behavior have introduced Americans of all backgrounds to conditions long familiar to some black inner-city Americans. This provides another tragic but useful source of shared concerns.

The unalloyed truth is that our rulers intend to make helots out of all of us, irrespective of race, creed, or color, and to that end they are eager to exploit the potential for conflict created by those divisions.

Perhaps the best we can hope for would be that the Regime will press too hard, too soon, causing the "union" to disintegrate with relatively little violence. Since there is, quite literally, not enough wealth in the entire world to service the Regime's financial obligations, the bleak reality is that the entity calling itself the United States of America simply cannot survive in its current form.

Liberty would fare much better if the American soyuz were to disintegrate into several smaller polities, instead of remaining monolithic up until its terminal implosion. If the Obamunists employ the same heavy-handedness in race agitation that they've displayed in wealth redistribution, the crack-up may come much sooner -- and be much uglier -- than any of us expect.

Available now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Turning "Mr. Hand" into "Mr. Fist"

The embodiment of bureaucracy: Arthur Dent, left, and his alien friend Ford Prefect, are menaced by a representative of the Vogons, a slimy, officious, dull-witted race of interstellar "public servants," in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams's masterpiece The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The $787 billion federal spending spree we are all but required by law to call a "stimulus package" is many things, all of which are thoroughly contemptible and economically ruinous.

It is a veritable pinata of plunder made plump with plentiful perks and payouts to various Democratic Party-aligned parasites.

For the devout Keynesian, the measure is the fiscal equivalent of hard-core pornography; perhaps this is the only sense in which it should be called a "stimulus" bill. One imagines the typical Keynesian, his face flushed, his pupils dilated, sweat beading on his upper lip, hair sprouting on his palms, grunting: "Oh, that's it baby -- spend harder! Harder!" Of course, the truly hardcore Keynsians, like Paul Krugman, are cursed with sensibilities so coarsened by collectivism that only the economic equivalent of a snuff film will stimulate their prurient interests.

The act is also a useful instrument for exposing the purulent hypocrisy of most Republican congressmen and governors, none of whom (with one valiant exception) displayed so much as a particle of concern over federal profligacy during the reign of Bush the Lesser. Several of the Republican congressmen who opposed the spending bill are poised to take political credit once the hijacked wealth is sluiced into their districts.

Likewise, many Republican governors -- save a few who are wrestling with their conscience, and will probably win -- have outgrown whatever principles they may have had and are eager to be in receipt of whatever stolen wealth Washington deigns to send their way.

As with all government spending, the fraudulent "stimulus" measure will devour wealth rather than creating it by abetting the growth of government employment at the expense of private productivity. The only people who will actually benefit from the "stimulus" package are those belonging to what the Brits call the "Quango Class."

"Quango," a term I learned only recently, refers to QUAsi-Non-Governmental Organizations," or what are more commonly called "public/private partnerships." Minette Marrin of the London Sunday Times, who introduced me to the term, describes "Quangocrats" as "the vast and growing army of state sector workers -- public servants, civil servants, whatever you call them ... the actual providers and arrangers of public services. You can find them in any town hall or local authority...."

In socialist Britain, as in the corporate socialist (that is, fascist) USA, private sector businesses that actually produce desired goods and offer useful services are shedding jobs by the million; private citizens are cinching in their belts and -- as their retirement plans evaporate -- contemplating the prospect of ending their days by expiring with their noses still firmly attached to whatever grindstone is still operating in this economically blighted land.

Meanwhile, writes Marrin, the public is beginning to suspect that "very large numbers of state sector people are ... doing wasteful non-jobs, which we don't want to pay anyone for doing ... [And] the government keeps on creating these jobs despite constant, informed protest." Those who find themselves thus employed are often "deeply ... incompetent and yet very rarely face the consequences of their failure" and enjoy "secure pensions and security of employment" with the option of taking "very early retirement on full pensions" even as the rest of us will have to bear increasingly onerous taxes -- both directly and through inflation -- in order to provide the Quangocrats with the benefits to which they feel themselves entitled.

Is this the "kind of thing that drives a patient man or woman to fury?" Marrin continues. "I think so."

Although things are bad for our trans-Atlantic cousins, it's actually worse on this side of the Great Pond. Ours is the largest and most expensive government any population has ever inflicted on itself. And despite the pretense that it is some variety of federal republic --

I'll pause briefly for the hysterical sarcastic laughter to subside ... there, all done?

-- the Regime is as monolithic as the enigmatic extraterrestrial artifact from Kubrick's cinematic acid trip 2001: A Space Odyssey. This can be demonstrated in many ways, not least of which is the way purportedly local governments are eager to reconstitute themselves as "stimulus soviets" -- appendages of the central government in charge of receiving and disburse the plundered funds.

Just across the Snake River from where I live can be found Oregon's Malheur County. Pat Caldwell, the editor of the county's sole daily (actually six-times-a-week) newspaper, the Argus Observer, recently explained how "a select group of officials banded together and staged a number of meetings to work out a priority list regarding what project[s], if any, should gain federal taxpayer dollars."

Oh, sure, Caldwell continued, there are some who contend that the whole process is hopelessly corrupt and immoral. But "once one gets past philosophical issues tied to the stimulus ... the fact is that the money could be a god-send for a financially strapped county like Malheur." Unlike many others in the media, Caldwell had the minimal decency to mention that the taxpayers themselves had no effective voice in this process. But hey, he points out, the good news is that the "stimulus" bill "is a huge taxpayer-filled money trough, and just about everyone is going to get a chance to take a big swig."

Well -- no. Some will be permitted to swig at the local trough; the rest of us will be hewers of wood to build that trough, and carriers of the water to be swigged therefrom. And while we're hewing and carrying, whatever we've managed to save will be stealthily stolen from us -- via inflation-funded deficit spending -- to provide for the continued comfort of the privileged swigging class once the wells run dry.

We are constantly urged to admire the "sacrifice" of "public servants," and to revile the "greed" and "selfishness" of those who choose to make an honest living in the private sphere. Yet public "service" is frequently a much more lucrative racket than honest private work.

Witness the fact, reported in a Washington Post column by Chris Edwards in August 2006, that the average federal civilian employee is paid twice the amount that was earned by the average private sector worker -- a little more than $106,000 per year, as compared to an annual salary of $56,000. Note as well that while real estate prices are plummeting throughout most of the country, the suburbs and exurbs of the Imperial Capital continue to boom, thanks in no small measure to the metastatic growth of government and the lucrative compensation enjoyed by the federal nomenklatura.

No steak knives for
this guy -- he was a "closer": For Glen Goss -- seen here flashing the coprophagous grin of a guy who's found a really slick racket -- a referral to a "public service" position was better than a "Glengarry lead."
(Warning: The linked clip is replete with vulgar language.)

Indeed, government "service" offers a much faster route to wealth than entrepreneurial (that is, "risk-taking") capitalism. It also offers incomparable security, with respect to both employment and retirement.

Forbes magazine begins a study of the "Gilt-Edged Pensions" enjoyed by those in the "public" sector by highlighting the case of 46-year-old millionaire Glenn Goss, formerly of Delray Beach, Florida. He actually retired from his first job -- which paid an annual salary of $90,000 -- at age 42. He immediately began to draw a guaranteed $65,000 annual pension. He then took a second job, with comparable benefits, in nearby Highland Beach.

Goss's first job was working as a police commander. His second position is chief of police in Highland Beach. Notes Forbes: "He is already worth nearly $2 million, based on the present value of his vested retirement benefits. Looked at another way, he is a $2 million liability to Florida taxpayers."

Eugene Gordon, a former assistant city attorney in San Diego, recently retired. His highest base salary was $152,792 -- a bit steep for an assistant city attorney, one would think. His taxpayer-funded pension, however, will be at least $235,000 a year. Now, granted, any "public servant" is more valuable as an ex-employee, since he can't do as much damage to the public weal. But Gordon's retirement goldmine -- a product of an institutional double-dipping scheme called the Deferred Retirement Option Program -- is but one example (albeit an extreme one) of the extravagant pension plans enjoyed by government employees nation-wide.

It's not just police and city attorneys who are reveling in retirement dough. John A. Brennan, Jr., a former Massachusetts state legislator, retired a while ago from a volunteer position on the Malden Public Library Board of Trustees. He missed a full five-sixths of the board's meetings during the past four years.

Yet, owing to his superior knowledge of how to game the system, Brennan was able to use his board membership to enhance his pension package: Instead of $19,097 a year, he will now receive $41,088 a year. If he lives out the current 78-year life expectancy, Brennan will receive $740,000 in payouts.

Notes the Boston Globe: The cost of almost all of that pension, according to state law, must be split proportionately between the state and Malden, a city often strapped for cash, including a $1.5 million cut in state aid for the current year."

A depression, as Lew Rockwell likes to point out, is more properly called a "correction." It should lay bare clusters of investment errors, patterns of malinvestment, and pockets of entrenched corruption, which are to be cleaned up and corrected ruthlessly and efficiently. But there will be no depression where the tax-fed Quangocrats are concerned. One purpose of the "stimulus" bill is to keep their ugly truths buried beneath a thick blanket of redistributed wealth.

Those of us in the productive sector will scrimp and save and strain and starve -- and the Quangocrats will continue to thrive behind an ever-thickening wall of official protection.

As the Sunday Times's Marrin put it: This state of affairs will eventually stimulate the fury of a patient man. Or, as the late philosopher-sage Sam Kinison once put it, this is the kind of thing that turns Mr. Hand into Mr. Fist.

Available now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rubicon in the Rear-View, Pt. IV: The Chicago "Surge"

Urban warfare, here and abroad: Marine CWO James Roussell (back row, third from left)supervises counter-insurgency warfare in Fallujah, Iraq; below, right, Roussell, a 30-year Chicago police officer, back on the streets of his hometown,where he heads a special gang unit designed to conduct counter-insurgency warfare at home.

[This is the fourth in an occasional series describing America's descent into military rule. Part I; Part II; Part III.]

In a fashion suitable to a city whose name transliterates an Algonquin phrase meaning "stink onion," Chicago's political system has always been redolent of criminal corruption. Among its most pungent institutions is the city's police, which was probably cleaner and less oppressive when Al Capone was running it.

Chicago has the nation's most notorious inner-city crime milieu. It has the country's second-largest municipal police force, with a well-earned and continually replenished reputation for brutality.

Those who live on the city's West Side can testify that the police are at least as dangerous to life, limb, and property as any of the private sector crime outfits; in fact, this might be one of those exceptionally rare cases in which government agencies consistently outperform their private sector competition.

Nice Fu Manchu, Tony:
SOS officer Anthony Abbate, who embodies criminal arrogance in gelatinous human form, following his arraignment on a dozen felony charges, including aggravated battery of Karolina Obrycka, a woman less than half his size (below, right).

For at least the past thirty years, Chicago's West Side has been afflicted by
an "elite" gang unit -- known as the Gang Crimes Unit until 2000, when it was re-christened the Special Operations Section (SOS) -- that was entrusted with broad discretionary power to enforce counter-narcotics and firearms laws.

This has consistently involved a very latitudinarian approach to due process, and the culture of impunity has often engendered outright criminal behavior, such as blackmail and armed robbery by police.
From time to time the unit is broken up, a handful of conspicuously crooked police officers are prosecuted, and others are "reassigned."



Anthony Abbate could be considered the face of Chicago's SOS unit. Abbate is the vile, 270-pound wad of cholesterol and malice who was caught on tape in a drunken rage, beating a tiny, female bartender who refused to serve him another drink that he obviously didn't need.

Thanks to pressure from the police union, and Chicago's natural congeniality to political corruption, the "reforms" always fall short of actual lustration. Accordingly, the larger pool of abusive and criminal officers is never drained, their identities are never disclosed, and the same mass of corruption re-assembles itself under the new name.

A decade ago, the anti-gang unit was "overhauled" as a result of the prosecution of Joseph Miedzianowski, who is often referred to as the "most corrupt cop in Chicago's history." In 1984, Miedzianowski earned a thirty-day suspension for acts of aggravated armed assault that should have put him in prison.

The officer was hardly chastened by the experience; once restored to active duty, Miedzianowski resumed his familiar tactics, which included planting guns and drugs on suspects, torturing them with red-hot coat hangers or beating them with lead-filled gloves, and stealing their cash, jewelry and other valuables. At the same time
he was building a business network with street criminals, currying favor with the more influential of them by fixing criminal cases, arranging sexual assignations, and in one instance helping a murderer to flee the state.

"I've thrown guys out third-floor windows," boasted Miedzianowski in one of his deranged "poems," "I f******g beat 'em with hammers, I've run over them with cars. None of these f****s got the balls to do that anymore. It's ridiculous.

In all of this, Miedzianowski was, as it were, untouchable, sheltered by the impenetrable Blue Wall. He eventually built a substantial criminal empire that included a gun and ammunition theft ring (he was caught on tape urging a henchman at the police firing range to "steal, steal, steal") and a Chicago-to-Miami cocaine and heroin smuggling operation.

When he learned that a husband-and-wife team of ATF agents was investigating his criminal activities, Miedzianowski
first destroyed their reputation, then plotted with a gang dealer to have them killed. Some measure of Miedzianowski's depravity can be found in the fact that his criminal conduct was too much for even the ATF to countenance.

Corrupt to his chromosomes: Former Chicago SOS Officer Jerome Finnigan.

In 2000, with Miedzianowski headed to an eventual sentence of life without parole, the Chicago Police Department re-shuffled and re-labeled the Gang Crimes Unit. Up to the top of that corrupt deck came an even nastier Joker named Jerome Finnigan,
whose exploits I have chronicled previously.

Like Miedzianowski, Finnigan built a crime empire within the gang unit (now called the Special Operations Section). He routinely planted evidence, and conveniently "lost" it when the deal was right; his reports were full of what he and other officers called "creative writing," and more honest people would call perjury; he routinely tortured suspects to suit his whims. (How bad were the SOS's methods of "enhanced interrogation"? One of its victims won a $4 million lawsuit against the city after two SOS officers sodomized him with a screwdriver.)

Finnigan played a starring role in a security video in which he led a team of 20 SOS officers raided a bar without probable cause of any kind. The "creatively written" official report claimed that the man who was arrested during the raid was detained outside with an "open bottle of Corona beer" and a bag of cocaine.
When the video contradicted that account, the case was dismissed.

During a crime wave that lasted until September 2007, Finnigan and his cohorts stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of it from people innocent of any wrong-doing. What eventually prompted police officials reluctantly to remove him from the street was a federal indictment accusing him of planning to murder four former SOS officers who were cooperating in a criminal investigation of Finnigan's unit.

Remarkably, this period in which the Chicago gang unit was ripening in criminal corruption was marked by a great deal of overt cooperation between municipal authorities and street-level criminals.

In 1993,
Chicago played host to a "National Gang Peace Summit," the advertised purpose of which was to enlist street-level crime syndicates in the effort "to rid the nation's inner cities of drugs and guns, and ... create jobs."

"This ain't no gang meeting," opined Jesse Jackson in his opening address at the event. "We're having an urban policy meeting." Jackson, whose rise to prominence was aided by both tax-exempt foundations and connections to street-level crime figures, described the integration of urban criminal syndicates into official policy-making forums as "the new frontier of the civil rights struggle." Then-President Bill Clinton sent his greetings to the assembled gang leaders via videotape, although the contents of his address were not made public.

That event in Chicago was the fourth, and most important, such "Gang Summit" to take place in the aftermath of the 1992 "Rodney King Riots" in Los Angeles. For a brief period -- perhaps a year or two -- the idea of creating some kind of a public/private partnership between law enforcement and what was euphemistically called the "new urban leadership" was in favor.

Those of a cynical cast of mind understand that public/private partnerships -- usually of an informal nature -- between the state and various non-state crime organizations are fairly common, and often related to official prohibition of some variety. Ample opportunity for collaboration of this sort has been provided by the century-old fraud called "War on Drugs" -- which is a huge price support program for drug syndicates, a public works project for police and prosecutors, and an immense kickback scheme for overtly corrupt public officials.

However, most partnerships of that kind are oblique, rather than overt. Rarely is the collaboration made as obvious as it was during the brief vogue for "gang summits" during the early 1990s. Predictably, this approach did nothing to reduce the problem of crimes against persons and property; it simply led to greater entrenchment of urban crime networks and their colleagues in law enforcement.

But this did achieve the objective of "creating jobs": There was an increased demand for government law enforcement personnel, and enhanced security for those already on the payroll.
Call it a creative form of urban "stimulus."

Last year, with the city's murder rate on the rise, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis announced plans to militarize the entire police department. Within three years, all 1,700 CPD cruisers would be equipped with M-4 carbines, the weapon of choice for paramilitary SWAT teams. The department also organized Targeted Response Units of SWAT operators in full battle dress who were deployed in "hot spots" throughout the city.

"I don't want people to think we're going into war, but I think it does send a strong message," insisted Weiss. "If they're in SWAT-type uniform and you're driving through the neighborhood visible, interacting with neighbors and community members, it sends a strong message and serves as a deterrent to violence."

War footing: Chicago police officers in full battle dress will become a more familiar sight over the next few years.

Those remarks reflect the logic of military occupation, rather than the mindset of a civilian peace officer. And this wasn't the first time that Chicago municipal authorities had announced a summertime paramilitary police "surge" to combat violent crime. And, beginning last fall, Chicago became the first U.S. city to institutionalize a police surge employing tactics field-tested in Iraq.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that
"The Chicago Police Department has unleashed a new anti-violence strategy in four West Side districts.... The Mobile Strike Force [MSF], created late last year, includes two companies of 48 officers each." The MSF is commanded by Lt. James Roussell, a 30-year CPD veteran and a Marine reservist who commanded counter-insurgency efforts in Fallujah, Iraq.

The MSF's personnel are drawn from exactly the same personnel pool that supplied the Gang Crimes Unit and the Special Operations Section; Roussell himself is a 30-year veteran of the anti-gang Tactical Unit. According to Roussell, the unit works to pre-empt crime by "interdicting" known or suspected gang members through traffic stops and by displaying a large armed "presence" at "places where violence is likely to break out -- parks, shopping malls, schools and certain intersections.... We've been to a number of [high school] basketball games," he said. "We show up early and prevent two sides from flaring up at each other. It's all about stopping violence from happening."

Since the MSF was unveiled late last fall, press accounts have typically boasted that it employs counter-insurgency methods that were successful in Iraq.
As far as Roussell is concerned, there is no significant substantive difference between the gang problem in Chicago's West Side, and the challenge of putting down an insurgency in Fallujah:

“I would say that there is about a 70 percent similarity between street gangs and terrorists. Insurgents try to hide amongst the population; so do gang members. The real difference is that street gangs are motivated by profit. In the insurgency, there is no profit but a whole lot more violence. So we are almost dealing with the same thing, just more violence [here].”

As we've seen, a substantial amount of the violence referred to by Roussell was abetted by the same municipal government supposedly fighting it. The backstory of Chicago's anti-gang "surge" presents yet another variation on a familiar theme -- the cultivation, by a ruling elite, of problems to be "solved" through larger doses of government intervention.

James Roussell (who, interestingly enough, joined the Marines as a musician before becoming a counter-insurgency specialist) doesn't appear to be a vicious specimen in the mold of Miedzianowski or Finnigan. In terms of the compass of his influence, however, Roussell is a much larger threat.

A successful test of an Iraq-style paramilitary "surge" in Chicago would inevitably mean replication of this approach in cities across the nation. With tens of billions of "stimulus" dollars about to flow into the coffers of corruption-cankered municipal governments, this process could unfold very quickly.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The de facto Dear Leader of the Republican-centered conservative movement:
Rush Limbaugh, seen here in front of a large portrait of the object of his greatest affection.

"Kto kogo?"

"Who/whom," or "Who does what to whom?" -- the central question of politics, according to Vladimir Lenin.

A nineteenth century pundit wearily observed that British political parties behaved like competing carriage drivers, energetically splattering each other with mud while frantically pursuing the same course to the same destination.

An unknown Russian long ago devised the now-familiar joke in which a bright college student, drowning in inpenetrable ideological cant, asks the smug Party hack posing as a professor to explain, in easily understood terms, the material difference between capitalism and socialism.

"Oh, that's easy to explain," replied the professor, his face twisted into a triumphant smirk. "Capitalism is based on the exploitation of man by man; socialism works exactly in the reverse!"

Granted, the latter gibe ignores or misrepresents the ideal of free market capitalism. But it is part of a large and ancient literature of wisdom -- much of it encoded in humor -- regarding the myriad ways that embittered enemies who supposedly represent diametrically opposed principles can wind up mimicking each other even as they seek to annihilate each other.

A suitable, if simplistic, depiction of this tendency is found in the classic Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," a Civil Rights allegory from the series' notoriously uneven third and final season.

The story, which is told with an unusually clumsy narrative touch, has the crew of the Starship Enterprise, en route to aid the victims of a planetary ecological disaster, intercepting a fugitive named Lokai, who had commandeered a Federation shuttlecraft. Lokai is given medical care and taken into custody as a suspected hijacker. Although nobody comments about the matter, Lokai's skin is black on one side and white on the other.

Subtlety wasn't this story's strong suit:
Frank Gorshin (left) steps out of his Riddler costume to play an even campier role in an even more embarrassing outfit in one of Star Trek's more heavy-handed theme episodes.

Shortly thereafter, the Enterprise encounters a second ship, which -- owing to a depleted production budget -- is said to be "invisible."

That remarkable craft carries personage nearly identical to Lokai, who identifies himself as "Commissioner Bele" from Charon (a mythical planet found in "the southernmost part of the galaxy," nudge-nudge wink-wink, not the
then-undiscovered moon of Pluto). Bele demands that Captain Kirk surrender Lokai into his custody, claiming that the fellow Charon native is a terrorist, seditionist, and mass murderer whom he had pursued for centuries.

At one point Bele surprises Kirk and Spock by referring to Lokai as the obvious product of a "lesser breed." Nonplussed, Kirk points out that Bele and Lokai are obviously members of the same race. This prompts an offended and incredulous Bele to elaborate: He and his people are black on the right side; Lokai and his followers are all black on the left side, and thus inferior. This supposedly critical difference provoked a conflict that was literally millennia old.

Bele demands that Lokai be turned over to him for trial and execution. Lokai demands that the Enterprise crew rally to his defense and kill Bele. Kirk and his colleagues, who have better things to worry about, can't wait to be rid of both of them. But the particulars of the plot don't matter much here. Suffice it to say that Bele, whose request for custody is turned down (there's the matter of the stolen shuttlecraft to deal with), eventually hijacks the Enterprise and sends it to Charon, where he believes he will at long last be able to bring Lokai to justice.

Upon the ship's arrival it is learned that the inhabitants of the planet had long since exterminated each other. Rarth than extinguishing Bele and Lokai's murderous mutual hatred, this revelation prompts them to flee the ship and return to their dark and lifeless homeworld to finish their struggle.

Unbearably campy today, this episode must have had some resonance when it was first broadcast in 1968: The description of the burned, ruined cities littering the surface of Charon would carry some emotional weight during a year that saw flames erupting in riot-torn American cities.

But when the unwieldy racial metaphor is dropped, the story actually works as an allegory for any supposedly irreconcilable conflict in which hate-motivated factions seek to exterminate each other over differences only they can discern.

Recently in this space I described how the "progressive" and "conservative" factions in our political system are working, in dialectical symbiosis, to build a totalitarian Homeland Security State, each of them foolishly assuming that the apparatus of regimentation and coercion would be used to punish the other. There is a desperate need, I wrote, for people of all political persuasions "to decide that they love liberty more than they despise their political enemies...."

At the very least, people have to be willing to repudiate the operational principle of mass politics since Lenin, the idea that the fundamental question of politics is "Who does what to whom."

Well, as a friend of mine might put it, that's a whole lot of "Ain't-gonna-happen."

In the same week that one of the Establishment's dying newsweeklies giddily proclaimed that "We Are All Socialists Now," Rush Limbaugh, speaking on behalf of the conservative movement he now leads, effectively admitted that "We're all Leninists now."

Lenin wedded the exterminationist principle
kto kogo ("who/whom") to the totalitarian formula for a "scientific dictatorship," which he defined as "Power without limit, resting directly on force."

During the Bush era, conservatism was reduced to nothing more than a set of rationales for the centralization of unlimited power in the executive branch.
I had long wondered how conservatives would react when that power was transferred to someone who is not of their tribe: Would they cynically re-discover the dangers of executive tyranny, or would they simply entrench themselves and wait until they were restored to power, confident that they could use it to avenge themselves on their enemies?

In a protracted rant delivered to his audience yesterday (February 11), Limbaugh made it clear that he was choosing the latter option.

"We lost the election," eructated the self-worshiping* radio blatherskite who now serves as the
de facto head of the Republican Party. "But they're going to lose down the road. They will not control government forever, and when our turn comes, we are going to turn the power of government against the left.... We're going to build and use the big government that they have built and turn it right against them. We are gonna turn the power of government agains the left, and against Democrats in ways they cannot imagine.... We are going to use the power that the left is centralizing in the federal government to punish them, to break 'em up, and to make them pay for this.... It's time they got a taste of their own medicine, and it's going to happen folks, because they're not going to hold power forever."

Addressing those on the Left, Limbaugh warned that they are "creating a monster that you will not be able to control forever.... We are taking names. We are taking names now. We are monitoring who on the Left is going to deserve payback, and it's going to be hell. This much I promise you."

"If [those on the Left] are going to bastardize the American system, if they are going to make this government large and powerful and intrusive, someday they're going to lose it," continued the founder and president of the Flatulence in Broadcasting Network. "But they are going to lose it after having amassed all this power. We will control it.... We're going to use the power of government just like the Left is using the power of government.... It's going to be a bigger, more powerful, stronger government -- and we're going to turn it against the Left in ways they could never have imagined."

Unlike his lemur-browed, synapse-deprived imitator Sean Hannity, Limbaugh is intelligent enough to know that the Democrats inherited a central government that had been gorged on power during the eight years of Bush the Dimmer's reign. The fact that the final consequential act of the Bush Regime was to create an economic dictatorship headed by the Treasury Secretary has not evaded Limbaugh's notice. The creation of a huge apparatus of regimentation, surveillance, and detention under Bush took place with the active support of Limbaugh and his ilk. So he is lying when he imputes sole responsibility for all of this to the Democrats.

But rather than urging that this edifice of tyranny be demolished, Limbaugh counsels his followers to be patient in the expectation that they will soon occupy its commanding heights, from which they can proceed with the extermination of their political enemies.

How it was:
In Utah County, the country's most Republican voting district, a Red State Fascist expresses his political loyalties with all the gentility we've come to expect from his faction.

During the eight years of Bush the Destroyer's rule, the
bully-boy Right consistently condemned the Left not for embracing the State, but for impeding the growth of the State when it was under Republican control.

Every expression of skepticism about the Regime's foreign wars or the expansion of its power at home was treated as a form of sedition. (The mush-mouthed cretin Michael Reagan, a third-tier pseudo-Limbaugh,
actually called for critics of the Iraq War to be taken out and shot.) Perhaps the one good thing about Limbaugh's revanchist rant was the fact that he's now dropped the pretense of believing in limited government.

As luck or something else would have it, Limbaugh chose to unbosom himself of his exterminationist sentiments on the same day that James Adkisson was
sentenced to life in prison for his murderous shooting rampage at a Knoxville, Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church last July 27. Adkisson, a 58-year-old unemployed veteran, wrote a four-page manifesto prior to the assault describing the shooting as an act of politically motivated suicide terrorism: He wanted to conduct a "symbolic killing" of people he held responsible for support in the "damn left-wing liberals" in the media, government, and the Democratic Party leadership.

James Adkisson, would-be suicide terrorist, following his attack on a Unitarian Church in July 2008.

"I'm absolutely fed up," wrote Adkisson. "So I thought I'd do something good for this country [--] kill Democrats til the cops kill me..... Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them. Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals."

"Someone had to get the ball rolling," Adkisson insisted. "I volunteered. I hope others do the same, it's the only way we can rid America of this cancer, this pestilence."

The two most urgent complaints against liberals listed by Adkisson were that they were "tying our hands in the war on terror" and opposing the war in Iraq -- that is to say, that they were impeding the exercise of government power, not that they were abetting its growth. His
home library included screeds written by (or at least on behalf of) Sean Hannity, Michael Weiner (aka Savage, and Bill O'Reilly, all of whom spent the years 2001-2009 promoting the Regime's foreign wars and domestic crimes, and execrating those who opposed the onslaught.

Adkisson appears to be the incarnation of what Lew Rockwell calls "Red State Fascism" -- an aggressive strain of embittered, totalitarian nationalism that has infected the Republican-aligned conservative movement.

His ideological derangement propelled him to carry a shotgun into the sanctuary of a church, where he unloaded on congregants as they watched a children's play. He managed to murder two people and injure six others before he was disarmed and subdued by three unarmed men who acted with courage and composure that command the respect of those of us who do not share their political and theological views.

Left-leaning blogger Sara Robinson makes a compelling point when she describes Adkisson's crime as "exactly the kind of rancid fruit that would inevitably take root in an American countryside thickly composted with two decades of hate radio bulls**t, freshly turned and watered with growing middle-class frustration over the failing economy." She, and others of her persuasion, are likewise on firm footing in predicting that other acts of theatrical political violence by people of Adkisson's ilk are likely to follow.

But then, as it always does, the polarity of this conflict shifts
, with self-described liberals dropping pregnant hints about government action to reclaim the "public airwaves" from the Right Wing and issuing dark warnings about prosecuting their political rivals for expressing opinions that incite others to violence.

Neither side seeks to de-fang the "monster" described by Limbaugh; each seeks to be its master and use it to destroy the other. Bele and Lokai swap roles, with the prey becoming the predator, and the conflict continues -- a self-sustaining cycle of mutually reinforcing hatred that will eventually be consummated in mass bloodshed.

Bele was black on his right, Lokai on his left. The Democrats are the party of the welfare/warfare state; the Republicans, on the other hand, are the party of the warfare/welfare state. And both of them are tools of an entrenched Power Elite that is delighted to cultivate the collectivist hatreds from which totalitarianism is sprouting even now.

*Limbaugh is currently unmarried and, by choice, has no children. (On several occasions he's made it clear that he never had any desire for children.) The very first thing one sees in his living room, according to this account, is a "life-size oil portrait of El Rushbo, as he often calls himself...." What kind of person chooses such a work of art as the centerpiece of a home he shares with nobody else?

My thanks to Mike Tennant at the blog for bringing Limbaugh's putrid peroration to my attention.

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!