Thursday, August 27, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation


I'm grateful beyond expression for the kindness and generosity shown by so many of you; this is among my largest blessings.

Unfortunately, it looks very much like I'm headed back to the hospital. I earnestly hope this isn't the case, but right now it looks like I'm headed for another bout with (not bout "of") C.Dif. Please pray for me, and especially for Korrin and our children. As some of you know, Korrin has been very sick for a long time herself and she simply can't manage without my help, so please pray (or for those who don't pray, keep a good thought) that I'll be restored to full health soon.

For denizens of the dino-media, August is traditionally a slow news month. For me, it became downright torpid when I suddenly found myself laid low by a microbial assault.

As a result, an informative, if unwelcome, opportunity presented itself: I spent several days examining, in detail, the bowels of our much-discussed health care system. The system spent that time returning the favor.

The assailant that stole the better part of a fortnight from my life is commonly called C.Dif (colostrium difficile). Typically, that bacterium is content to bide its time lounging among our intestinal flora, playing shuffleboard or whatever it is that amuses the tiny livestock each of us constantly carries in blissful ignorance of this potentially lethal symbiosis.

From time to time, however, C.Dif gets riled up in reaction to a person's exposure to an antibiotic, or is summoned from dormancy through contact with an infected host or a tainted environment. As one would expect of a pathogen whose name sounds a bit like the showbiz handle of a Gangsta Rapper, C.Dif is a truculent and destructive organism once something gets its attention.

About two weeks ago, the Diffster made its presence known shortly after a swimming excursion with my kids.

As my stomach bloated and unbearably malodorous gas began to emerge in irrepressible burps, I assumed that I was being paid a visit by my old friend, amoebic dysentery, whose acquaintance I made in Guatemala back in '83. Then I suspected I had picked up cryptosporidium from the swimming pool, something I experienced as a child. (You wanna talk about me and intestinal parasites? Don't get me started!) With weary resignation I bought the usual suite of over-the-counter palliatives, assuming that, ah, this too would pass, as it were.

Except it didn't.

Now, assuming that you're still reading an essay devoted to an affliction involving bodily functions most people politely ignore unless paid extravagantly well to deal with, I offer the following advisory: From here on, things are going to get really rough. Caveat lector.

The Tuesday morning following the onset of first symptoms (bloating, runs, insurmountable fatigue) dawned innocuously enough. I was tired, but not abnormally so. My stomach wasn't complaining, as it had over the previous two days. Our family planned to go house-hunting and then visit an amusement park in fulfillment of a promise I had made to our children before the closing of the blessed parenthesis we call Summer Break.

Given all of this, I was stunned and troubled to discover during my routine morning ablutions that I had, ah, deposited something the color of borscht (my apologies to anyone who has enjoyed that Slavic delicacy or any other porridge made from that noble and misunderstood tuber, the beet).

What I had left behind was blood -- a lot of it. I wasn't terrified; my reaction was one of weary annoyance coupled with a mixture of resignation and regret.

Regardless of what else was to come, this much was certain: Sometime, in the near future, an endoscopic camera was going to take a long, scenic tour of my intestines -- sort of like the voyage of the Starship Enterprise through V'Ger, I suppose, although I doubt that V'Ger felt degraded and violated by the experience.

My initial experience was repeated several times that day. Each time I got weaker and more light-headed. Yet, displaying the obtuse stubbornness that is my most salient trait I persisted with our schedule. We went and inspected our would-be new dwelling, and then I took the family to an amusement park in Meridian (a suburb of Boise).

I found myself increasingly weary: In the 90 degree-plus weather, my legs strained to carry me as if I were wading hip-deep in rapidly coalescing hot tar; breathing became an exhausting chore, a feeling I experienced a number of years ago while doing calisthenics from above the clouds during a visit to Colorado's Rocky Mountains. But we were at sea level, and the most rigorous thing required of me was to walk while carrying our seven-month-old child, Justus.

Still, idiot that I am, I insisted on taking a couple of rounds at the batting cage.

The most challenging machine at that particular facility is set to pitch at between 75 and 80 miles per hour, which means I usually compensate by standing about three feet in front of the batter's box.

On this particular day, I took 48 pitches -- two dozen right-handed, and two dozen as a lefty, a nicely bi-partisan allotment. Every pitch I beat right into the ground, a sure sign of exhaustion (my legs were too tired for me to make the appropriate adjustments in my swing). With each pitch, my breath grew shorter and my heart rate escalated -- which is not a normal state of affairs.

I had bought three batting tokens; I offered the third to our ten-year-old, Isaiah (who acquitted himself with distinction against the 65 MPH machine). I walked woozily over to where Korrin was sitting and sat down. I caught my breath, but it soon managed to break free of my grasp. The visible horizon started to wobble ever-so-slightly, and a cold sweat began to ooze from me.

"Dad, you look white," William said, his brows conjoining in concern.

"Honey, we've got to get to a hospital right now," I gasped to Korrin. She helped me round up our offspring and we made a beeline to the nearest hospital, which -- praise God from Whom all blessings flow -- was about fifteen minutes away.

As I was admitted to the ER, I looked at William and we carried out a ritual that became familiar during my years on the speaking circuit.

"William, while I'm away...." I began.

"I know -- I'm Daddy ex officio," replied my Firstborn with the same quiet confidence displayed by Mr. Spock as he assumed command in Captain Kirk's absence.

For the next several hours, Korrin and our children waited while I was poked, prodded, interrogated, scoped, and -- most unnervingly -- examined in the time-honored fashion of victims of alien abduction.

That last experience prompted me to make a wisecrack (pardon the expression) about the title of Led Zeppelin's last studio album.* That sortie didn't reduce the ER staff to puddles of mirthful admiration, nor did several others in the same vein ("Mr. Grigg, do you suffer from constipation?" "Actually, I rather enjoy it" -- drum kick). "Man, this is a tough room," I complained as the grim-faced staff tried to figure out why an overweight but otherwise healthy man was apparently bleeding to death from his retreating aperture.

It took just a few hours for the lab to report a positive result for C.Dif, which -- given some of the other possibilities -- actually left me relieved. I was admitted overnight for observation and treatment and put in a room subject to isolation protocols. I was also immediately put on an IV antibiotic following a second positive lab finding for C.Dif.

Within a day, the bleeding stopped, and I was permitted to eat actual food. A day and a half later I was discharged.

Two days after that, I was hospitalized again following a relapse that left me so weak and breathless I could barely stand -- even though I insisted on walking into the ambulance, rather than being carried on a stretcher.

Through a gathering hypoxia-induced fog, I tried once again to crack wise: "Please tell me we're not going to Bethesda Naval Hospital," I croaked to the competent and personable paramedics, who didn't understand the allusion and couldn't have cared less to have it explained to them.

During the next four days, I was given six units of blood. I was also given the privilege of consuming a gallon of something that tasted like a cocktail of liquid copper and film developing solution in preparation for the dreaded colonoscopy.

"If copper bullion were actually a broth made from metal cubes," I commented, "it would probably taste like this."

My nurse, who was polite enough to pretend that I was amusing, told me that I could have some ice if lukewarm electrolyte solution was difficult to choke down.

"No, thanks," I replied, "I prefer my electrolyte solution `neat.'"

The product in question, incidentally, is called "Go-lyte-ly," which struck me as both a really bad pun and a very inappropriate allusion to Breakfast at Tiffany's -- or to any meal at any location, for that matter, given the purpose of that purgative.

Following a night of torrential outpourings that brought to mind a passage from the Book of Jeremiah ("My bowels, my bowels!... I cannot hold my peace..." -- Jer. 4:19, KJV, sort of), I underwent the dreaded inspection, which -- as experiences of that kind go -- was relatively painless and brief.

The most difficult part of the experience, of course, was waiting for the results. After a couple of hours on tenterhooks, I was told that the examination had found nothing.

Just a few hours later I was told that I would have to undergo a barium X-ray. That procedure would be much less invasive. The "prep," however, involved the consumption of 1200 ml of a heavy concoction, the progress of which through my innards would be followed in search of unauthorized detours -- the slightest of which would divert my life onto a new and unwelcome path.

"This is a remarkable concoction," I commented to the X-ray tech as I swilled the irradiated milkshake, a viscous brew the color of rotting bathroom caulk that tasted a bit like a mixture of government-grade powdered milk and chalk dust with just a soupcon of metal filings and a dash of strawberry flavoring added as a contemptuous concession to human tastebuds.

For thirty-five minutes I was photographed by the X-ray tech. For another twenty minutes I was examined by a specialist in radiological medicine. And then I spent another two hours in anxiety waiting to learn what, if anything, had been found.

Eventually a nurse was dispatched to offer the news:

"The tests were all negative," she said. "They didn't find anything."

"Well, it's certainly not for a lack of looking," I replied in an homage to the cinematic Patron Saint of investigative journalists, Chevy Chase's Fletch.

It has been said that there is no stronger force in nature than necessity. Human beings, designed as we are to adapt and learn, can re-adjust their perceptions of necessity very quickly, and with those adjustments comes a reconfiguration of one's subjective perceptions of value.

To put this in practical terms: Given the fact that people can and do die from C.Dif, I now find myself pathetically grateful -- literally, to the point of offering prayers of thanksgiving -- for a normal BM, one that doesn't involve passing blood.

As someone who only recently managed to overcome a lifelong aversion to hypodermic needles, I found myself willing, and even eager, to undergo the poke-and-burn necessary to restore my blood volume when sudden symptomatic anemia left me bug-eyed, pallid, tremulous, and dying.

The past month has been unusually freighted with unsought "learning experiences" for our family.

Just days before my illness, we were subjected to an anonymous, and malicious, "child endangerment" report that upended our affairs for several days.

The morning before my hospitalization I received a letter from the thuggish parasites at the IRS (who are easily as loathsome as, and even more potentially lethal than, C.Dif) informing me that they had decided I owe them more than a thousand dollars more than I had paid in 2007 for the privilege of living under a government that is destroying the economy and waging war against freedom and human decency.

Our home of the past four years is being foreclosed out from beneath us because our absentee landlord decided to walk away from the mortgage -- not only on that property, but on his own home as well. Since no legal action has been taken yet to seize the property, we could stay on it rent-free for up to six months or more. However....

There is a very good chance that some plumbing issues left un-fixed by that same former landlord created the environmental conditions that led to my recent sickness. I can't permit Korrin -- who, as I've mentioned before, is an invalid -- and our children to run the risk of similar exposure. So we're technically homeless at present, living as refugees in my parents' home in eastern Oregon while trying to find another dwelling in Payette County, Idaho.

A long-running freelance gig (arranged by a man of angelic generosity and supernal kindness) that has kept our family alive and solvent for nearly two years ended while I was in the hospital. This means that, for the first time since I was thrown to the wolves by former friends and professional associates in October 2006, I am now completely unemployed.

"Honey, the van is running funny and may be about to break down," Korrin told me during the phone call in which I reported that my tests were negative and I was coming home -- wherever "home" might be at the time.

"Oh, that's a relief," I replied. "For a moment I was afraid that we were running out of problems."

Indeed, this past month has had a flavor that reminded me of the five scariest words in the first chapter of the Book of Job: "While he was yet speaking...." That refrain refers to the multi-partner tag-team of messengers who reported the cascade of disasters that took place during a particularly crowded morning.

Job didn't wake up that day suspecting that he would be destitute and bereaved by noon. But after being pummeled in rapid-fire by losses that no human being should be able to bear, Job still knew that his Redeemer lived, and that He remained sovereign over the universe.

Apart from the genuine agony I feel as I watch Korrin suffer, and the anxiety I experienced wondering if I was going to be taken and leave her to raise our six children alone, what I've experienced is -- at most -- a bit like a trite sitcom based loosely on the sufferings of Job.

Our family has been fortified by countless prayers offered by our friends and family. My parents are, as they have always been, gently and quietly heroic. Several friends have distinguished themselves through their caring and generosity; I would make public and particular mention of several of them, but in doing so I might thoughtlessly slight others, given that so many have taken an interest in our welfare and given of themselves with an eagerness that has left me astonished and, sometimes, ashamed of myself.

I won't minimize the magnitude of the challenges our family faces. This much I know: My sense of necessity has been permanently re-defined. The experience of being left breathless, even though my lungs are filled with air, has fortified my sense of determination and re-focused my attention on the essentials.

Sure, we're still in a lot of trouble. But at least now, after several days when doing so was a challenge, I can truly breathe -- and while I breathe, I fight.

*For those of you who don't know -- and, really, why should you? -- the name of the last original Led Zeppelin LP was, for some reason, "In Through the Out Door."

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Crime of Cowardice: The Unjust Imprisonment of Scott Molen

When he was a free man: Scott Molen (right) enjoys a snowboarding trip with a friend. Molen is presently serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit -- a fact acknowledged by one of the people responsible for putting him behind bars.

"When you boil the whole thing down and look at it," comments Ken McKay regarding the conviction of Boise resident Scott Molen on charges of sexual misconduct with his step-granddaughter, "there wasn't a single shred of evidence."

Certainly, the prosecution assembled a lurid and shocking story, anecdote-rich and heavily seasoned with outrage. But examined dispassionately, trying to make the evidence support the allegations is as futile as trying to sit on a cloud.

"[T]here were kind of fantastic charges about -- for instance, there was a pair of [girl's] undergarments that had a blood stain in them," McKay recalls, but this piece of critical physical evidence was "never produced."

This was probably not the product of an oversight, but rather a deliberately deceptive partial disclosure by an opportunistic prosecutor: The bloodstained underwear were discovered when the purported victim, a pre-pubescent girl, was living in Phoenix, Arizona, nearly 1,000 miles from the man accused of molesting her.

At the time, the alleged victim's mother was effectively living with a boyfriend of exceptionally dubious character (her most recent of several paramours of that variety) who left the young girl terrified, according to people who spoke with her.

Rather than incriminating Scott Molen, the underwear should have served as a critical piece of exculpatory evidence -- assuming that the garment even existed.

There was also a significant contradiction in the prosecution's description of the location at which the supposed defilement of the child took place. The original narrative described episodes of abuse taking place in a camper. But this was impossible, as McKay recalls, because the defense was able to demonstrate that "the camper was crushed by snow" before such abhorrent acts could have taken place therein.

Christmas past: Scott Molen flanked by his wife Connie (right) and her daughter Mandi.

McKay likewise criticizes the interviewing techniques employed by the nurse working for the Child At Risk Evaluation Services (CARES) of St. Luke's Hospital in Boise during the original examination in July, 2005.

"There was a point ... [when] the CARE interviewer made a pretty critical mistake when she was interviewing" the alleged victim, McKay insists. There was a point in the interview, easily discerned by a reasonably careful observer, at which the interviewer "actually put her words, used her own words to describe what the young woman was saying and from that point forward in the interview [the alleged victim] used the interviewer's words."

This is a critical point: From that point it was the
interviewer who was effectively telling the story, rather than the supposed victim. The CARES nurse was prompting the girl, guiding her, molding the language in such a way as to fit the standard template of a sex offense charge. "I remember watching [the recorded interview] and thinking, wow that's really, that's really incorrect," McKay relates.

All of this adds up to abundant reasonable doubt, McKay insists: "[B]ased on the evidence, boy, I couldn't say the state made their case."
Yet McKay, who served as foreman of the jury that convicted Molens, didn't act on that conclusion until a year after Molens was sent to prison.

McKay's comments, as quoted above, were extracted from a lengthy interview conducted by a private investigator hired by Scott Molens' wife Connie as part of an attempt to overturn the patently unjust conviction -- and, hopefully, to impose some measure of accountability on those responsible for it.

Like too many spouses and family members of unjustly convicted people, Connie has assembled and collated a huge amount of evidence regarding the official misconduct, abuse of discretion, and corruption that characterized the prosecution of her husband. Examining that material, I am struck by the fact that Molen would still be a free man (well, as free as any of us are in late imperial America) if one of his fellow citizens had thought like a citizen, rather than behaving like a dutiful collectivist drone.

Long before McKay and his colleagues were sequestered to deliberate the charges against Scott Molens, it was clear that the prosecution's case was less substantial than the reflected shadow of a boiled ghost.

Yet McKay, who could have -- and should have -- either built a coalition for acquittal or hung the jury, meekly submitted to the reflexive punitive instincts of the majority.

"I think some of the people that were [on the jury], I think they had decided that he was guilty pretty early on and there was really no reasoning with them about that," McKay recalls.

An appropriate word to describes that attitude is "prejudice"; a better one might be "bigotry," a term describing a prejudice that has made itself entirely impervious to evidence. That is a perfectly suitable term to describe an unreasoning determination to convict a defendant irrespective of the evidence. McKay is an engineer by training; his professional credo is "In God we trust; everybody else bring your data."

As jury foreman, McKay was ethically required to make every effort to overcome the bigotry of his fellow jurors using the tools of rational thought provided to him by his academic training and innate intelligence.

Rather than distinguishing himself by standing fast in defense of an indispensable principle -- namely, that the state has to prove its case against the accused -- McKay sought refuge in the consensus of the collective: "I remember ... we had gone I think several hours in deliberation and a few of us were dug in [on behalf of acquittal] and the guilty people were adamant that he was guilty ... I was thinking, well, man, eight other people say that he's guilty so where am I, what am I missing here?"

I cannot recall ever being exposed to a more perfect specimen of collectivist thought. Here was a man sufficiently intelligent and perceptive to recognize that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, yet his faculty for rational action was preempted by the irresistible need to conform -- even at the price of an innocent man's freedom.

Confronted with a prosecution that couldn't muster a substantive case, McKay focused not on the state's missing evidence, but rather on his own supposed delinquency for failing to see things the way the State required him to.

To someone capable of exercising a modicum of critical thought, the grounds for reasonable doubt were so abundant as to suggest that the prosecution of Scott Molen was an act of deliberate, conscious malice.

The abuse of Molen's step-granddaughter supposedly began in 2004, when the child was eight years old. During a sleep-over with friends in June 2005, the girl made comments that were construed as "disclosure" of sexual abuse.

In short order she was interviewed by Boise Police Officer Tammy Kennedy, who reported that the girl had described multiple sexual contacts, including up to a dozen instances of full intercourse.

The original audiotape of that interview, however, was conveniently lost.
Although Kennedy's report -- which contained adult sexual expressions not likely to have fallen from the mouth of an 8-year-old girl, however carnally precocious -- was dated June 2005, it strongly resembles the CARES interview in both tone and substance; this is significant since Kennedy's report wasn't filed until after the CARES interview.

Furthermore, during the trial the child repudiated much of what she had supposedly told Officer Kennedy, and at one point suggested that she needed Kennedy's help to "remember" certain things she had allegedly disclosed.

The initial physical examination of the child failed to turn up conclusive evidence of assault rape, which was the charge initially listed by Officer Kennedy. The CARES nurse reported that the child's genitals appeared to display injuries "suggestive of blunt force penetrating trauma often seen in sexual abuse."
However, the results of a a more detailed examination using a specialized instrument called a colposcope were withheld from the defense for two years; it wasn't until well into the trial that this critical physical evidence was obtained through subpoena.

During his rebuttal testimony on behalf of the defense, Dr. Edward Friedlander, chairman of the Department of Pathology at Kansas City University College of Osteopathic Medicine, evaluated the colposcopic images. His conclusion was that they depicted the anatomy of a child who was a "perfectly intact virgin," rather than one who had been forcibly violated ten or twelve times, as the prosecution had alleged.

Scott was never put under arrest prior to his conviction, which is a curious oversight if he were the kind of bipedal predator who molests little girls. A search warrant for his home was returned to the court without being executed, an oddity that suggests, once again, that investigators didn't really consider Scott a credible suspect. Yet the prosecution -- an apparatus designed to secure convictions, not to pursue a true and just verdict -- continued its plodding, relentless assault.

As almost always happens in cases of this kind, Scott was approached by the prosecutor with a "deal": If he had been willing to admit to unspecified criminal "misconduct" with the child, he would be given a "lenient" sentence -- six months to a year behind bars -- with assurances that his life would not be ruined by having his name placed on the sex offender registry.
As he was guilty of exactly nothing, Scott turned down the "deal," most likely prompting the prosecution to exert itself to make an example of him.

Convicted on a single count of "lewd and lascivious conduct with a child," Scott will not come up for parole for several more years -- and he won't be granted parole unless he not only is willing to admit to a crime he clearly didn't commit, but passes a lie detector test to demonstrate that he
believes that he committed the crime.

"Scott spends his time in prison in the company of people who really did vile, disgusting things like the ones he was falsely accused of," his wife Connie told
Pro Libertate. "Among themselves, they're completely open in admitting what they did. Some of them even brag about how all they have to do is to admit their offenses and they can be paroled and go out and commit the same crimes all over again. And Scott will stay in prison just as long as the system can hold him, because he never did those awful things and will never tell the lies the system demands of him."

Ken McKay, the jury foreman who now admits Molen's evidence, was entirely willing to endorse and sustain the lies of the system that stole Molen's freedom. Despite knowing that the case assembled by Prosecutor Justin Whatcott was entirely spurious, McKay was willing to stand in the jury box and read a guilty verdict he knew to be unjust while looking his victim in the eye.

There are crimes of passion, of calculation, of opportunity. The imprisonment of Scott Molen reflects the professional depravity of Whatcott and his comrades, to be sure, but it was made possible by a crime of cowardice committed in the jury room.


Please forgive the delay in posting your valued comments. I'm in the hospital, and will probably be here until at least tomorrow (Thursday) with a really nasty GI infection. I'm learning it's difficult to type while plugged into an IV stand....

Be sure to tune in to Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network.

Available now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The center of our universe (from upper left): Isaiah Athanasius, William Wallace, Katrina Antigone, Sophia Faith, and Jefferson Leonidas.

"Grab some clothes and get into the van, now."

For an instant, that directive, and the tone in which it was issued, had the opposite of its intended effect: Korrin and our five older children, momentarily paralyzed by shock, looked at me in alarm. There was something in both the tone of my voice, and the expression on my face, that was new and a little frightening. None of them had seen my "game face" before. They were seeing it now.

Just seconds earlier, Korrin and I had been confronted on our doorstep by two very nice, well-dressed women who informed us that an anonymous "child endangerment" complaint had been filed with the Child Protective Services.

One of the visitors was a social worker we've known for several years, and consider a friend. The other was a stranger who introduced herself as a CPS investigator. She intended to inspect our home and speak with our children.

After being summoned to the doorstep, I had ushered our children into our house and closed the door behind me. Short of being removed by force, there was no way I was going to permit a CPS investigator to have access to our home as long as our children were vulnerable to government abduction.

"You seem like a conscientious and well-intentioned person," I quietly told the investigator, "but this is an adversarial situation, and I can't allow you to have access to my home in the absence of a warrant, and until I've consulted with legal counsel."

Although this clearly wasn't the response she had expected or desired, the investigator retained her professional composure.

"Well, that is your right," she replied. "I must advise you that I will consult with law enforcement and return later today."

"I understand," I said, shooting a quick glance at the slender silver digital recorder the investigator wasn't successfully concealing in her left hand. "I also want the record to reflect the fact that I didn't consent for our conversation to be recorded."

The investigator nodded in assent, her brows pulling together ever-so-slightly as if in puzzlement. She and her associate returned to their car and drove away. As they turned the corner I turned to Korrin and our children and ordered -- yes, it was an order, not a request -- them to get in the van.

"Don't bother packing," I told them in syllables drawn taut with urgency. "Just grab a couple of things and get in the van." The kids, suddenly understanding that we were at Def-Con One, quietly and quickly did as they were told.

Minutes later we were headed out of Payette County, beyond the jurisdiction of the local police and Sheriff, en route to a pre-designated safe house.

There's at least a little Justus in the world, after all: Newborn Justus Samuel Grigg rests under the watchful eyes of his sister, Sophia Faith.

Yes, we had -- as Foghorn Leghorn might put it -- made plans to deal with just such an emergency.

Earlier this year, I met with a handful of close and trusted friends to discuss various crisis scenarios -- from the systemic breakdown of the commercial food distribution network to the possibility that one of us might find his family targeted by the CPS. Those meetings were the idea of a good friend who is a very well-informed and astute survivalist. Relatively little was accomplished at those meetings, but as recent events testify, what little was done proved to be indispensable.

One of the participants at those gatherings (we chose a local club whose owner is defying an asinine local smoking ban; we refractory individualists need to support each other) very generously offered his home as a temporary refuge for my children in the event that the CPS came after my family. From there, working through communications cut-outs, we could make arrangements for Korrin and our children to stay in the homes of other reliable people who share our convictions.

When the balloon went up, we knew what to do. I spirited our family to my friend's house, casting frequent glances in the rear-view mirror.

"This reminds me of that movie `Not Without My Daughter,'" commented my genius son William Wallace, our family's resident cineaste. There was no undertone of eagerness or excitement in his voice; William was scared. So was Isaiah, who quietly explained that in cases of this kind children are often taken from their parents.

That was a hard thing to say, but it needed to be said. Not surprisingly, this terrified our girls, six-year-old Katrina and four-year-old Sophia. Although he has the reflexive aversion to girls of any kind that typifies an eight-year-old boy, Jefferson wrapped his arms around Katrina and comforted her as she cried.

Once we crossed the county border, I relaxed a little bit and gave some instructions to Korrin and the kids. I told Korrin that it was important not to call our home, since caller ID would reveal the location of the safe house. I would contact them through an intermediary, and if she needed anything she was to call that person. I told the kids that they would be safe with our friends until I came to get them, but that if people from the government arrived they were to be courteously uncooperative.

The plan was for me to return to our house, tidy it up, and deal with the CPS and the police. This might mean I could face obstruction charges if they insisted on seeing Korrin and the children, I explained, so there was a possibility I would be in jail by day's end. They had to be prepared for that possibility, because I would not give the CPS an opportunity to seize our children.

Once at the safe house I called a friend who agreed to be my cut-out. Then we gathered for prayer and I went back home by a different route.

Please, Dear Lord
, I prayed silently as I neared our house, don't let it be a crime scene already. To my relief, nobody was there.

About forty minutes later, following a minimal investment of effort, the house was tidied up. We're messy, but not unclean; no parent would be surprised to see the clutter we deal with, given that we have six small children, and no honest person would consider our unremarkable untidiness to be a threat to our children's health or well-being. But I'm well aware of CPS enforcement actions that have resulted in charges being filed against parents whose homes aren't as antiseptic as a NASA white room.

Roughly a half-hour later, while speaking on the phone to my mother, I saw a city police car drive slowly by our house, turn around, and park in front of our walkway. From it emerged a young man, clean-cut and squared away, who strode up to our front door.

Well, here we go, I thought. I was wrong -- and the day took an even stranger turn.

"Who owns the vacant lot?" the young police officer politely inquired.

"Do you mean the lot next to our house?" I asked.

"No, the one behind it," he persisted.

"That's not a `lot,' it's our back yard," I pointed out, gesturing for him to come with me to look through a nearby gate.

"Who owns this property?" asked the officer. I explained that we were renters, not owners.

"Well, there are some weeds in the backyard that apparently need to be taken care of," the officer began, his tone suggesting that he had expected to see a much bigger problem than the one confronting him. Sure, there is a row of weeds along the rear fence line of our yard (which occupies a significant fraction of an acre), but it wasn't the Amazonian jungle he had anticipated.

"I suppose the weeds along the fence line need to be cut down," the officer observed, "but that's really the responsibility of the property owner." I assured him that I intended to attend to the weeds, whether or not that was my legal "responsibility," simply in the interest of living in a presentable home. The officer took down my publicly available contact information, gave me a polite nod, and departed, leaving me to contemplate an unsettling question:

Why would a police officer visit me with a complaint about overgrown weeds that are not visible from any of the streets that run by our house? He couldn't have seen them from the street. Clearly, he was responding to a complaint from someone who had recently been in our backyard.

That fact may prove to be the critical clue in identifying the person who also hot-lined our family to CPS to report that our children were "endangered" by the untidiness of our living space.

Less than a half hour after the first police visit ended, an unmarked police car arrived and decanted the CPS investigator and the largest officer on the roster of the Payette City Police force -- a genial man-mountain with a tonsured head, Van Dyke beard, and a ready smile. Seeing him, I simply had to chuckle: Yes, of course they'd send him.

The plainclothes officer identified himself. I replied that I had met him a couple of years earlier when he, along with practically the entire population of Payette, helped us find then-five-year-old Jefferson when he went missing. (Jefferson was found sleeping peacefully in his fortress of solitude, a secret space he created behind the headboard of a hide-a-bed.)

"I told her" -- the officer began, gesturing to the CPS investigator -- "that I've been in your home, and it seemed perfectly OK to me. But we have to clear up this complaint."

Since Korrin and the kids were safe, I had no objection. I invited them in an busied myself paying bills.

"Are Korrin and the children not here?" asked the CPS investigator. I told her, quite truthfully, that they had been invited to spend the afternoon at a friend's house.

About two minutes later the CPS worker and policeman were done. They explained as they left that the matter was closed but that I should contact Health and Welfare in the event that we "need any services."

"When we spoke this morning, you were very respectful," the CPS worker commented. "You did hold out for your rights, which is appropriate, but you treated me well, and I appreciated that." I smiled and said something to the effect that I try to treat people well.

This episode turned out much better than it could have.

What if I hadn't been working at home, and Korrin -- who suffers from a chronic condition that leaves her exhausted and bed-ridden most of the time -- hadn't been able to stave off the CPS before the house had been tidied up?

What if the CPS investigator had seen something -- anything -- "aberrant" in the behavior or appearance of our children, and decided that prudence required a more detailed examination?

What if we had been dealing with the kind of CPS investigator hard-wired to find evidence of abuse or neglect? Granted, we were blessed on this occasion to deal with someone who was sincere, polite, reasonable, and professional. That generally isn't the case in situations of this kind.

What if some combination of circumstances had resulted in a judicial order to appear at a "show cause" hearing, a procedure that almost always leads to some kind of catastrophic government intervention?

Once again, none of those things -- or dozens of others, many of them worse -- happened. This time. To us. But all of those terrible things have happened to families just like ours, because someone, for reasons only that person will know, filed an anonymous complaint with the child "protection" bureaucracy.

It's been said that one can't be a credible sportswriter unless he's actually played the games he covers, or a music critic without knowing how to play an instrument or carry a tune.

After more than two decades of writing about the disruption, or outright destruction, of families by the child welfare bureaucracy, I can finally consider myself qualified, albeit in a limited sense, to pronounce upon that subject. That's a credential I could have done without.

Please tune in to Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network.

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