Thursday, December 29, 2011

Militarists, Drug Warriors, and Heresy-Hunters: The Anti-Ron Paul Axis of "Decency"

Toxic smugness: Google the term "Backpfeifengesicht."
Newt Gingrich, lapsed adulterer, impenitent warmonger, and self-appointed “teacher of civilization,” has excommunicated Ron Paul and his supporters from the ranks of human decency. A similar anathema has been pronounced by left-wing heresy hunter David Neiwert -- a former sidekick to the degenerate fraud named Morris Dees – and many other self-appointed political “watchdogs.” 

Those banishment decrees condemn Dr. Paul and his supporters for rejecting the fundamental tenet of statism – the belief that officially sanctioned lethal coercion is the key to social progress. 

"I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American," insisted Gingrich in a CNN interview. Although Gingrich alluded to the manufactured controversy over decades-old newsletters published by Dr. Paul that contained supposedly offensive material dealing with matters of political correctness, Gingrich’s chief complaint – which he has reiterated on many occasions – is that Dr. Paul seeks to end America’s interventionist foreign policy and the God-awful wars that policy entails. 

Gingrich has also dismissed Dr. Paul’s constituency as being limited to “people who want to legalize drugs.” Unlike Gingrich – who used government-proscribed canabinoids as a young adult – Ron Paul has never used such illicit substances nor condoned their non-medical use, while understanding that no government has the moral right to punish individuals who consume them as they see fit. In 1988 – at a time when, according to Gingrich and other detractors, Paul was peddling racist propaganda – Dr. Paul was denouncing the racist roots of the so-called War on Drugs. Gingrich, on the other hand, has endorsed the execution of first-time drug offenders who possess trivial amounts of narcotics. 

For Gingrich and the dominant militarist wing of the GOP, it is rank indecency to oppose the mass murder of foreigners through aggressive war overseas, and to leave individuals free to choose what mood-altering substances they consume, if any. For “Progressives” of Neiwert’s ilk, it is similarly uncivilized to treat Americans as adults capable of managing their own affairs, and choosing their own associations, free from the directives of bureaucrats and social engineers whose mandates are backed by the threat of deadly force.

Neiwert volubly disapproved of foreign war when George W. Bush was in power, but found other things to complain about once Obama ascended to the Imperial Purple. A deeper problem than such facile and predictable hypocrisy is the insistence – which Neiwert shares with many other figures on the academic Left -- that war and military occupation are morally superior to peaceful, market-centered action in dealing with institutionalized bigotry. 

“The hand-wringing about whether Paul is a racist or not really is beside the point,” declared Neiwert in a typically sanctimonious outpouring. “Labels really become inconsequential when the real issue is how their politics would play out on the ground if they achieved power.” He denounces a supposed “monstrous bind spot in libertarianism – namely, their apparent belief that the only element of American political life capable of depriving Americans of their rights is the government….”

Actually, the core libertarian tenet is the non-aggression axiom (an application of the Golden Rule), which recognizes that it is an unalloyed wrong for anybody to commit aggressive violence against the person or property of another human being. Libertarians do not exempt private actors from that principle. We refuse to exempt the government from it, as well – and this is what is deemed unacceptable by collectivists of Neiwert’s ilk, who believe that all good things in life begin with officially sanctioned coercion. 

Consider, for example, Neiwert’s claim that it was libertarian-leaning conservatives (or their philosophical ancestors) in the aftermath of the War Between the States, who “led the resistance to Reconstruction that overturned the verdict of the war….” 

Neiwert’s use of the term “verdict” in this fashion resonates with the view expressed by Thrasymachus, the notorious sophist depicted in Plato’s Republic – namely, that “in all states there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.”

In Neiwert’s moral universe, only incorrigibly hateful people question “verdicts” imposed through mass slaughter and property destruction.

The “Reconstruction,” it must be remembered, was an undisguised military occupation of the conquered South, in which “wholesale corruption, intimidation of new voters by the thousands and tens of thousands, political assassinations, riots, [and] revolutions … were the order of the day,” as Dr. Paul Leland Haworth wrote in his 1912 study Reconstruction and Union, 1865-1912

The objective that inspired Reconstruction was not a vision of civic equality, but rather a desire to destroy the troublesome Southern aristocracy, which was seen as an impediment to the designs of the Northern corporatist elite. 

“I was satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory,” wrote General Sherman to his wife (in a letter quoted in Victor Davis Hanson’s book The Soul of Battle). In what Hanson approvingly called Sherman’s war of “terror” against the South, the General warned that those who refused to display a properly submissive posture would be “crushed like flies on a wheel.” 

"Good Indians," by Sherman's definition, at Wounded Knee.
Sherman, and his fellow state terrorist Philip Sheridan, would follow the same approach in dealing with the Plains Indians, who also had the temerity to claim a measure of independence from the supposed authority of the Central Government. Neiwert, interestingly, addresses that horrifying historican episode in his recent book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

In a chapter dealing with "Eliminationism in America,” Neiwert describes some of the atrocities committed against the Plains Indians by U.S. military forces commanded by  Sheridan and Sherman. He then devotes the rest of the book to ritual execration of "neo-Confederates." That category must include anybody who understands that war to reclaim and “reconstruct” the South was a bloody prelude to the slaughter of the Plains Indians, the imperial war of conquest in the Philippines, and contemporary campaigns of humanitarian bloodshed that have blessed the lives of “people of color” in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Neiwert, who is consistently oblivious to the implications of his own research, also points out that the Ku Klux Klan’s early-20th Century revival began when it was embraced by local governments (including some in the Midwest) as "an auxiliary police outfit" to enforce laws against bootlegging. The Klan, of course, is the marquee hate group that has served as such a profitable foil for Neiwert’s mentor, Morris Dees – and it’s quite possible that group would have disappeared permanently had it not become a government sub-contractor in the first War on Drugs. 

This brings up a very important point: If Morris Dees and his comrades at the SPLC are genuinely agitated over institutionalized discrimination, why have they never publicly uttered a syllable of condemnation for the patently racist “War on Drugs”? 

One possibility is suggested by the fact that the contemporary SPLC, like the Ku Klux Klan of roughly a century ago, is a quasi-private adjunct to law enforcement agencies that profit extravagantly from Prohibition. Dees is too canny and cynical to disturb that lucrative arrangement by protesting about the costs inflicted by Prohibition in terms of the lives and liberties of black and Hispanic Americans. After all, complaints of that kind are the sort of thing one hears from indecent, irresponsible extremists like Ron Paul. 

David Neiwert and other self-anointed custodians of social justice insist that Ron Paul and his supporters have somehow inherited the sins of bigoted people who died long before they were born, and prospectively share the guilt of those who might do horrible things if federal power were curtailed. Meanwhile, the president supported by Neiwert and his ideological kin is massacring innocent “people of color” in at least three countries, and escalating a domestic Drug War that is rife with racial profiling and racial disparities in sentencing guidelines.  

 The mass slaughter of brown people abroad, and mass incarceration of brown people at home, are a price Neiwert and his ilk are willing to pay to preserve a system that can regiment societal arrangements to their liking. In that system, as Neiwert candidly admits, social “verdicts” are imposed and upheld through state-licensed murder, rather than achieved through peaceful cooperation. 

Professor George P. Fletcher of Columbia Law School provides an incisive description of the ideological foundation of that system in his valuable book The Secret Constitution

Fletcher, an unabashed Marxist, is difficult to dismiss as a “neo-Confederate,” yet he agrees with the revisionist view that the war waged by the North was not an effort to "preserve the Union," to emancipate the slaves, or (as Lincoln absurdly claimed) a crusade to restore the pre-war constitutional order. Instead, that war was intended to consolidate a confederation of states into a unitary regime governed by what Fletcher calls a "New Constitutional Order." The founding premise of that New Order is that "the federal government, victorious in warfare, must continue its aggressive intervention in the lives of its citizens." (Emphasis added.) That "aggressive intervention" inescapably involves the threat -- and, increasingly, the exercise -- of deadly force.

Newt Gingrich and David Neiwert -- and the ideological cliques they represent -- disagree about a great deal, but they agree that “decency” in political affairs is measured by one’s willingness to support State-sanctioned murder as the central organizing principle of society.

 Once again, thank you!

My family and I wish to express our continued gratitude for the generous support so many of you have offered to Pro Libertate. This means more to us that we can adequately express. God bless you all. 

On another matter: I have been curating the news blog for Republic magazine; please pay that site a visit, and -- if it meets with your approval -- spread the word. 

Be sure to check out Republic magazine

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Their Right to Kill, Our Duty To Die: The Murder of Otto Zehm

Otto Zehm, a mentally handicapped, 36-year-old unemployed janitor, was beaten to death in a Spokane convenience store in March 2006.

"All I wanted was a Snickers bar," pleaded the battered and bloody man before he was gagged by his assailant.

On November 4, Karl Thompson, the man convicted of killing Zehm, was taken to jail.  Several dozen members of Thompson’s gang were gathered outside the courtroom – most of them proudly wearing the colors – to “show their honor” by offering the murderer a public salute. Thompson – whose hands weren’t cuffed, in violation of long-established rules – smiled and returned the gesture.  Zehm’s still-grieving mother and several other relatives stood just a few feet away. 

The gang in question is the Spokane Police Department, which even now refuses to acknowledge that Thompson – who was a nominee to become Chief at the time he murdered Zehm – ever did anything wrong when he clubbed, tased, and suffocated a terrified, innocent man who did nothing to provoke the attack, and who put up no violent resistance to the assault. 

 Zehm had done custodial work at Fairchild Air Force Base and was well-known, and equally well-liked, by many people in his neighborhood, some of whom were aware that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was in the daily habit of visiting a convenience store called Zip Trip to purchase junk food – usually Pepsi and a candy bar. 

On March 18, 2006, Zehm retrieved some money at an ATM near Zip Trip. Something in his behavior struck two girls as odd, so they called the police. Although there was no reason to believe that Zehm had committed a crime, Thompson entered the store as if he were pursuing a dangerous fugitive. Security video documents that Thompson approached Zehm from behind, while retrieving his custom-made, over-sized ironwood nightstick.

Thompson introduced himself to Zehm by shouting at him to drop the two-liter bottle of Pepsi. According to the officer, the startled and puzzled man responded by quite reasonably asking, “Why?” Thompson interpreted that Zehm’s fleeting non-compliance as an immediate and intolerable threat to officer safety. So he rushed at the terrified man and began to beat him with his nightstick – clubbing him first in the legs, then on the shoulders, neck, and head. Blows to the head are defined as lethal strikes under the Spokane PD’s use-of-force policy, justifiable only when a suspect threatens the life of a police officer or bystanders. 

As the security video demonstrates, Zehm never put up a fight. He retreated from Thompson, and then made a pitiable attempt to use his bottle of soda to deflect blows aimed at his face. Thompson escalated his assault by tasering him at least three times. Thompson was eventually joined by six other other police officers. Eventually, Thompson was actually sitting on Zehm, who was face-down on the floor.

The victim was hog-tied in a “four-point restraint,” meaning that his hands were shackled to his ankles. Department policy guidelines emphasize that suspects restrained in this fashion are never to be placed face-down, since this posture can result in “positional asphyxia.” Yet Zehm was left in that position for about seventeen minutes, and at one point an officer actually pulled his feet backwards – which increased the risk of suffocation by placing pressure on the victim’s diaphragm. 

After emergency personnel arrived, they were instructed to dig the Taser barbs out of Zehm’s flesh. They were also asked to provide a “non-rebreathing” oxygen mask; this was placed over the victim’s face, supposedly to prevent him from assaulting the officers by spitting on them. This mask was not designed or intended to be used without being attached to an oxygen supply. Once the mask was placed on Zehm’s face, the traumatized and panicking man – who was already at severe risk of hypoxia – was forced to breathe through an easily obstructed opening roughly the size of a quarter. 

Thomspon, immediately after assaulting Zehm.
 Did Thompson and his cohorts deliberately set out to suffocate Zehm? Every step they took led inexorably to that outcome, and incompetence can only explain so much. That was the outcome, whether it was the result of deliberate malice or depraved indifference. Zehm stopped breathing about seventeen minutes after Thompson’s initial assault, and died in a nearby hospital about two days later. But the police department’s assault on Zehm continued while he struggled for life in the hospital, and didn’t end with his death.

On the day of the beating, Police Chief Jim Nicks told the media that Zehm had “lunged” at Thompson, thereby threatening his life. Other officers claimed that Zhem had a prior arrest for assaulting an officer. Both claims were conscious, deliberate lies. 

About two weeks after Zehm’s death, Detective Terry Ferguson, who “investigated” the incident for the Spokane PD, filed a report claiming that none of the seven officers who assaulted Zehm committed a crime. Ferguson had little time to investigate what was done to Zehm, because she was too busy investigating the victim. The detective persuaded a judge to issue warrants to pry into every aspect of Zehm’s medical, employment, and personal history, on the pretext that the deceased was suspected of “assaulting a police officer.” This was actually an unsuccessful effort to exhume something – anything – that could be used to denigrate the victim.

After the pressure of a threatened lawsuit, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker released the video recordings of the assault, which he and the police had diligently suppressed. The recordings contradicted every critical element of Thompson’s version of the event, beginning with the claim that Zehm had “lunged” at the officer. 

With no criminal charges filed against Thompson, Zehm’s family announced its intention to sue the City of Spokane, and the Justice Department began a civil rights inquiry. In March 2009 – three years after the killing – Chief Anne Kirkpatrick (who had replaced Chief Nicks) issued a public statement offering her “unequivocal support” to Thompson. “Based on all the information and evidence I have reviewed, I have determined that Officer Karl Thompson acted consistent with the law,” Kirkpatrick insisted. 

A few months later, Chief Kirkpatrick assigned Thompson – who was, recall, the subject of a federal civil rights investigation – to help train other Spokane police officers how to deal with “high-risk liability incidents,” which have been plentiful. 

Spokane’s municipal government, which paid out $2.5 million to resolve police-related lawsuits between 1996 and 2007, has a policy of filing counter-suits accusing citizens of “conspiracy to misuse the judicial process.” This is made possible by a state statute intended to protect police against supposedly frivolous lawsuits. Given all of this it’s not surprising that Chief Kirkpatrick’s unqualified endorsement of Thompson’s actions was coupled with an unyielding official line blaming the victim for his own death. “Any injury or damage suffered by Mr. Zehm was caused solely by reason of his conduct and willful resistance,” proclaimed the City of Spokane’s official response to the family’s civil lawsuit. 

Mr. Zehm’s “conduct” – which, according to Chief Kirkpatrick and Spokane’s municipal government, justified the use of lethal force -- consisted of doing exactly nothing. Then again, he was armed with a bottle of Pepsi, which apparently left the heroic Officer Thompson no choice but to stage a preemptive strike with his club and Taser. Perhaps if it had been Mt. Dew, the use of tactical nukes would have been appropriate. 

“If all [the victim] wanted to do was surrender, he could have done so,” insisted Officer Terry Preuninger, the Spokane PD’s SWAT Team Leader and patrol tactics instructor, during the trial. “[Officer Thompson’s] assessment was accurate. He continued to use force. It did allow him to keep that man from hurting him or anyone else.”

Thompson began his attack within seconds of arriving at the store – before Zehm had a chance to “surrender.” Furthermore, the victim was backing away from the officer. According to Preuninger – who, as SWAT leader, approaches such situations with a militarized close-and-kill mindset – this didn’t matter: “Picture wrestlers or boxers. It’s definitely not an indication that they don’t want to hurt or assault you because they move back.”

“A police officer becomes an expert in evaluation of behavior or picking out little things that are different,” Preuninger asserted on the stand. Victor Boutros, chief prosecutor during the trial, treated that claim with laudable contempt, mocking this supposed  preternatural gift of discernment as a “Spidey sense” that “can’t be impeached by citizen eye witnesses or video. Only [Thompson] could have seen those things.”

Furthermore, according to Preuninger, police have plenary authority to use lethal force even when their perceptions are in error: “A police officer can make a mistake. An officer could believe their [sic] life was in danger or they [sic] were in danger of being assaulted when in fact we could go back in hindsight and show that’s not true. But the force would be authorized.” 

This is to say: From the perspective of the individual who trains the Spokane PD regarding the use of force, Karl Thompson was completely right – but he could have been entirely wrong, and he would still have had the authority to kill Otto Zehm. This is because police officers, who face an all-encompassing threat from the public they supposedly protect, must be entitled to employ aggressive violence at all times, Preuninger maintains: “If you approach law enforcement situations the same way you would a neighborhood meeting … it will directly lead to you getting murdered on the job or getting hurt or assaulted.” 


Between 1867 and 2009, a total of 23 law Spokane County law enforcement officers – police, Sheriff’s deputies, and one member of the County Game Commission – died in the line of duty. Eleven of them – fewer than half that total – were killed by suspected criminals. Six died in traffic accidents. Two were struck and killed by drunk drivers. Two were fatally shot by fellow law enforcement personnel during training exercises (one of them was killed by a police officer showing off a quick-draw technique), and another was a game warden shot by a hunter who was reaching for a permit. One officer died from a heart attack during SWAT training. 

None of those line-of-duty deaths occurred because an officer was insufficiently aggressive during one of the perilous “law enforcement situations” that haunt Preuninger’s imagination. 

Interestingly, Spokane County – which maintains a police Honor Guard that attends police funerals throughout the Northwest – describes itself as “third in the state for line of duty deaths.” This illustrates – redundantly – that law enforcement is not a particularly hazardous occupation. In Spokane, as elsewhere, the citizen in a “law enforcement situation” is at far greater risk than the police officer. 

Yohe was asleep when the deputies invaded his home. The last words he heard before lapsing into an irreversible coma were orders from his assailants to stop resisting. 
Shortly after the incident, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich admitted in an official memo that at the time Yohe – a known meth addict subject to Grand Mal seizures – “was never under arrest.” The County eventually paid $50,000 stolen from local tax victims to settle a lawsuit filed by Yohe’s family. 

The deputies who murdered Yohe followed almost exactly the same protocols used by the murderers of Otto Zehm a year earlier. Sheriff Knezovich defiantly insisted that he saw no reason to change those procedures. 

This isn’t to say, however, that the Sheriff was categorically opposed to reform: In a joint press conference with Chief Kirkpatrick, Knezovich indignantly protested the use of the term “hog-tied” to describe the method used by officers to truss their prone and helpless victims; the appropriate term, he insisted, is “hobbled.” 

In keeping with Sheriff Knezovich’s delicate sensibilities, Clark suggested that language like the following would be suitable: “Trent Yohe, a methamphetamine addict, was holiday gift-wrapped after a spirited difference of opinion with sheriff’s deputies.” What about the eyewitness report that deputies had kicked out the victim’s false teeth? Easy: Yohe wasn’t brutalized – he “participated in a police-assisted dental plan.” And henceforth, a Taser will be called a “joy buzzer.”

Clark’s essay was aimed at the Spokane PD’s institutional vanity, a target that’s impossible to miss. This prompted Officer Preuninger – who wept openly when Thompson was taken away to jail -- to rebuke the impudent 

Mundane via a letter to the editor in which the decorated SWAT team leader struck the familiar pose of policeman-as-maligned savior.

 “Sleep well, Mr. Clark, because no matter how much you insult me, no matter how low you go to belittle my profession, if you find yourself in harm’s way, you need only call and one of us will come and risk our life to save yours: an irony I am quite sure you can never fathom,” whined Preuninger in a tone worthy of a passive-aggressive teenage girl. 

As is almost always the case in such matters, it is Officer Preuninger who suffers from a severe irony deficiency: None of the officers he trained intervened to save Otto Zehm when that innocent man was being beaten to death by Karl Thompson, who was a “mentor” to the entire force and their preferred candidate to be chief. 

Following Thompson’s guilty verdict, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby asserted that “This is not an indictment of our entire police force.” Oh, yes it is. 

Thank you, once again!

On behalf of the entire Grigg family, I want to tell you how much we appreciate your very generous donations. This means more than I can adequately express. Have a wonderful Christmas! 

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Send In The Drones: The Predator State Goes Domestic

“Eventually, we’ll have to put an end to this, one way or another.”

Sheriff Kelly Janke of North Dakota’s Nelson County uttered that ominous sentence in mid-September, during what the local media giddily described as a stand-off with local farmer Rodney Brossart and his family. By that time, Sheriff Janke, with the help of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Air Force, had already run the table where “non-lethal” means of compelling the family to surrender were concerned. This included everything from the Taser used during Brossart’s June 23 arrest to the precedent-setting use of a Predator-B drone to conduct surveillance of the home several days later to facilitate the arrest of the farmer’s three sons.

The most recent conflict between Janke’s department and Brossart began when a half-dozen stray cattle wandered onto the family’s farm, which is located near the tiny village of Lakota (roughly 100 miles northwest of Fargo). Brossart, who reportedly believed that the cattle were unclaimed and thus belonged to him under a disputed interpretation of open-range law, refused to turn them over to the Sheriff. 

Sheriff Janke.

A team of deputies tasered the 55-year-old farmer and took him into custody. His daughter Abby, frantic for the safety of her father, tried to intervene; for “striking” the sanctified personage of a deputy, she was arrested and charged with assault. When Brossart’s wife Susan refused to help the deputies locate what they described as “illegal” firearms, she, too, was arrested and charged with lying to law enforcement officers (who are trained to lie and can do so without legal consequence). 

When deputies returned the following day, they were reportedly confronted by Brossart’s three sons – Jacob, Alex, and Thomas -- who were allegedly carrying the rifles the police had tried to confiscate the previous day. 

This led Sheriff Janke to escalate the confrontation to a full-spectrum military response – including, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, elements “from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances, and deputy sheriffs from three other counties. He also called in a Predator B drone.” That unmanned aerial vehicle, identical to those used in CIA-directed missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, was supplied by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), an affiliate of the Department of Homeland Security.

“As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed,” continued the Times.  “Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.

That was the “one way” Janke had already tried. What, pray tell, would have been the “other” – short of equipping the drone with Hellfire missiles and using it to annihilate the Brossart family as suspected terrorists? 

If this had happened, the Brossarts would not be the first Americans to be killed by way of a drone-fired missile. That unwanted distinction is owned by Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, Adbulrahman, who were killed in separate drone strikes in Yemen about three weeks apart. Abdulrahman, a 16-year-old boy who was born in Denver, was murdered while eating dinner with his 17-year-old cousin, who was also killed in the missile strike. 

The original story was that Abdulrahman was a “suspected militant,” and thus a “legitimate” target. He was actually a teenage boy frantically trying to find his father, whose name was on a roster of terrorist suspects who had been sentenced to summaryexecution by a secretive executive branch committee that answers to nobody.

As a result of a dispute involving a half-dozen cows, the Brossart family found itself treated as if they were terrorists. The CBP’s drone fleet is described by the agency as a counter-terrorism asset. For the act “brandishing” legally owned rifles in the presence of armed sheriff’s deputies, the three Brossart sons have been charged with “terrorizing” law enforcement personnel -- fragile, timid creatures that they are. Most significantly, however, the family had been enrolled on a roster of domestic terrorists – one compiled not by the Obama administration, but rather by the quasi-private Stasi calling itself the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

According to the SPLC, Brossart’s family received special attention because Sheriff Janke “knew the Brossarts were followers of another Lakota resident, Roger Elvick, one of the original gurus of the bizarre but remarkably resilient sovereign citizens movement.”
For the past several years, the SPLC has been indoctrinating local law enforcement agencies in the belief that the sovereign citizens movement – and, for that matter, the entire “radical Right,” a label the SPLC applies to anyone more conservative than Hugo Chavez – is an undifferentiated mass of menace and a particular threat to law enforcement. This campaign is perfectly calibrated to play on the fears of police, for whom there is no higher priority than “officer safety.” 

Little of consequence would result if the SPLC were simply a private pressure group. However, the organization seamlessly interfaces with a number of government agencies, including the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) program, which is funded through the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. National and regional law enforcement seminars have been used to cultivate alarm among police officers regarding the supposedly all-encompassing terrorist threat posed by domestic “extremists.”

During the June confrontation, Sheriff Janke actually took time to respond to an interview request from the SPLC’s Intelligence Report.

“We’re trying to reach out to the family to get them to surrender,” Janke told the publication. “It’s not common for people to brandish weapons against law enforcement, and to have them all be family members is unique. [It tells me] they’re up to something, they’re planning something, they have some different beliefs…. We’re meeting with a team of experts to find out the best possible way to resolve this.”

 Janke’s belief that the Brossarts were “planning” something sinister proved to be entirely unfounded. In November, months after the family had refused to attend an August 26 preliminary hearing, Rodney Brossart and his son Jacob – both of whom were unarmed – were arrested while finishing the fall harvest. Alex and Thomas, along with their sister Abby, were arrested “without incident” at the family’s home.  

During what the local media – which dutifully regurgitated a porridge of alarmist sound-bites it had been fed by the SPLC – called the “stand-off,” Brossart gave one brief interview in which he insisted that his family were not “violent people.” Janke, on the other hand, did his best to depict the family as a menace to the public.

“We have been able to associate them with an individual that has served time in the State Pen that is giving them advice,” the Sheriff claimed in a September 13 interview, referring to Elvick. By that time, Elvick – who had briefly lived in an apartment in Lakota – had apparently departed for California. But his geographic proximity to the Brossarts was apparently enough for the latter to be “associated” with the ex-convict, and thus tainted as potential domestic terrorists. 

This concept of being “associated” with a suspected terrorist is impressively elastic and immensely dangerous. Section 1031 of the proposed National Defense Authorization Act (NADA), which provides for indefinite military detention of suspected terrorists, permits the military to target anyone the Federal government decides is “associated” with an identified terrorist threat. 

“Is a terrorist under this law necessarily a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban?” asks the estimable Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone in his analysis of the NADA. “Or is it merely someone who is `engaged in hostilities against the United States’? Here’s where I think we’re in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then linked those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party?”

Where Sheriff Janke was concerned, a potential terrorist was anyone he could “associate” with an ex-convict described by the SPLC as a guru of the “sovereign citizens” movement. He also alluded to the “history we’ve had with the family over time” as a cause for concern.

In 1996, Rodney Brossart was charged with violating a state land use ordinance by plowing and seeding a section line on his own property. Although he was found guilty on that charge, the verdict was overturned by the state Supreme Court. This episode was one of several instances in which the Brossarts have come into conflict with the County Sheriff’s Office.

Five years ago, Brossart was charged with disorderly conduct and “Preventing Arrest” after shouting at sheriff’s deputies and “tensing his arm” when one of them laid hands on him to take him into custody. He was acquitted on the first charge, and found guilty of the second. That case was likewise appealed to the state Supreme Court. 

Citing facts that were uncontested at trial, a brief filed on Brossart’s behalf notes that he “did not at any time threaten the officers, or become physically aggressive toward them. At worst, he simply did not comply with their unlawful orders when they attempted to arrest him.”

“Brossart did not take any aggressive stance, did not swing, or attempt to strike the officers in any way,” continues the brief. “He was simply verbally combative, and uncooperative.” 

The deputies, on the other hand, employed what can reasonably be described as excessive force by throwing him to the ground and employing “the mandibular angle pressure point technique upon him” – a pain compliance technique  in which the thumb is placed at the hinge of the jaw below the right ear. 

North Dakota law (Section 12.1-05-07 of the Century Code) recognizes the right of an individual to resist unlawful arrest and excessive force, observes the brief:

“When faced with a man who was not physically aggressive, and was simply verbally loud and angry, and uncooperative, it was unnecessary for both officers to slam him to into the ground, and use the mandibular angle pressure point upon him to effectuate an illegal arrest. Brossart was then within his rights to resist the unlawful and excessive force used in the arrest by the officers.”

Thus the troubled “history” to which Janke refers is one in which a family living on a small farm in rural North Dakota has been repeatedly abused under color of official “authority,” and have chosen to pursue their grievances through the courts, rather than through armed violence. They have endured years of what they regard as harassment and surveillance by law enforcement personnel: During the “standoff” this fall, one Lakota resident told a local television station that “when Rodney Brossart used to attend school board meetings there was always a police officer present.” As a result, the family decided to home-school the younger children. 

The Brossarts may well be eccentric or even misguided. They might be regarded by some as poor neighbors. But only those with a unique gift for dishonesty – and a large measure of cravenness – could depict them as a Predator-worthy menace. The SPLC is amply endowed with the former, and Sheriff Janke’s department apparently boasts a large measure of the latter.  

As a result, we’ve seen the first test run of the vertically integrated Homeland Security State, in which your friendly local sheriff or police chief, using hit lists compiled by the SPLC, can call in the drones to help round up anybody he considers to be potentially troublesome. 

 Thank you so much!

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has responded so generously to the appeal at the end of my last installment. Over the next few days I will extend personal thanks to each of you. This means more to me and my family than I can adequately express. God bless you. 

Be sure to check out Republic magazine

 Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Right to Resist: Will Michigan Repeal the "Rapist Doctrine"?

“Don’t resist – you’ll just make it worse.”

Until recently, the only people expected to make that demand of their innocent victims were rapists and police officers. Fortunately, women are no longer expected to submit to sexual assault, but rather to fight back by whatever means are available – unless the assailant is one of the State’s costumed enforcers, in which case resisting sexual assault would be a felony.

This admission was pried from Gregory J. Babbitt, assistant prosecuting attorney for Michigan’s Ottawa County, during the October 4 oral argument before the state supreme court in the case of People v. Moreno. At issue in that case is the question of whether a citizen has a legally protected right to resist an unlawful search or unjustified arrest by a police officer.

In a colloquy with Babbitt, associate justice Michael Cavanaugh described a scenario in which a woman in police custody was sexually assaulted during a body search. In that situation, Cavanaugh inquired, could the victim be charged under the State’s “resisting and obstructing” statute?

 “Technically, you could do that,” Babbitt grudgingly replied, while insisting that “as a prosecutor, I wouldn’t do that.” Rather than putting up physical resistance and thereby risking criminal prosecution, the victim should simply endure the assault and then file a civil complaint after the fact. That approach, of course, would most likely result in a settlement that protects the offender at the expense of the local tax victim population. 

If citizens have no right to resist illegal violations of their property and persons by the police, “What is left of the Fourth Amendment?” one of the judges asked Babbitt. 
“Well, life isn’t perfect,” Babbitt replied with a shrug – which to people of his ilk means that in any conflict between individual liberty and institutionalized power, it is the former that must yield. Otherwise, mere Mundanes “will be able to make the determination as to whether the police officers [are] acting properly or not,” he said, his voice freighted with horror over the prospect. “We can’t have individuals ... making that decision in the heat of the moment.”

Of course, that is precisely what Babbitt insisted must be done – as long as the “individuals” in question are emissaries of the State. That claim is complicated by the fact that Michigan’s self-defense act explicitly recognizes the right to use appropriate defensive force to prevent the “imminent unlawful use of force by another individual” – without limiting the application of that right to aggression committed by private citizens. 

Furthermore, as the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized in a 1999 ruling (People v. Wess), the statute -- as it read at the time -- expressly recognized the individual right "to use such reasonable force as is necessary to prevent an illegal attachment and to resist an illegal arrest."

In the dicta of that ruling the court pleaded with the legislature to change the law:
"We share the concerns of other jurisdictions that the right to resist an illegal arrest is an outmoded and dangerous doctrine, and we urge our Supreme Court to reconsider this doctrine at the first available opportunity.... [W]e see no benefit to continuing the right to resist an otherwise peaceful arrest made by a law enforcement officer, merely because the arrestee believes the arrest is illegal. Given modern procedural safeguards for criminal defendants, the `right' only preserves the possibility that harm will come to the arresting officer or the defendant." 

Of course, there is no such thing as a “peaceable arrest.” Forcible detention is a violent act, as is an armed invasion of one’s property. Like similar measures protecting the common law right to resist arrest, Michigan’s SDA recognized there is no moral reason why a police officer’s judgment that a search or arrest is “legal” is any sounder or more authoritative than that of any other citizen. 

However, the Michigan state legislature – prompted by the Court of Appeals -- modified the relevant section of the state code (MCL 705.81d) by removing the clause recognizing the common law right to prevent an unlawful arrest (that is, an armed kidnapping) by a police officer. 

This created a potential conflict between the SDA and the state’s resisting and obstructing statute – and that conflict came to a head three years ago when two Holland, Michigan police officers attempted to search the home of Angel Moreno without a warrant.

On December 30, 2008, Officers Matthew Hamberg and Troy DeWeis knocked on Moreno’s door while searching for an individual suspected of violating probation. Moreno made the mistake of speaking with Hamberg through an open door, thereby giving the policeman an opportunity to say that he detected the odor of marijuana (even though DeWeis did not).
When Moreno refused to consent to a search, Hamberg said that he would get a warrant – and then lied by saying that it was necessary for him to enter the house in order to “secure” it. 

To his credit, Moreno told Hamberg to get off his porch, and began to close the door. Hamberg bulled his way into the house, instigating a brief scuffle that ended when Hamberg told his companion to attack the victim with his Taser. (Had DeWeis acted as the law requires, rather than out of tribal loyalty to his State-licensed gang, he would have intervened to prevent the invasion of Moreno's home.) Although a trivial amount of marijuana was found, no drug-related charges were filed. For trying to resist a patently illegal home invasion, Moreno charged with felonious assault on a police officer. 

The State admits that Hamberg’s search was “unlawful,” which means that he was acting as an armed, violent intruder, rather than as a peace officer. This means that Moreno had a legally recognized right to employ deadly force, if necessary, to defend himself and his home. As the Michigan State Supreme Court acknowledged in People v. Riddle (2002), “regardless of the circumstances one who is attacked in his dwelling is never required to retreat where it is otherwise necessary to exercise deadly force in self-defense. When a person is in his `castle,’ there is no safer place to retreat….”

Michigan courts have been predictably reluctant to apply that principle to the most violent segment of society – the State’s armed enforcement caste. 

In a 2004 ruling (People v. Ventura) dealing with the right to resist an unlawful arrest, the same Michigan Court of Appeals, which had badgered the state legislature to modify the SDA, cited that modification as a positive statement of legislative intent. In a transcendently cynical passage, the court wrote that "it is not within our province to disturb our Legislature's obvious affirmative choice to modify the traditional common-law rule that a person may resist an unlawful arrest." 

The same court had previously neglected to show such pious respect for the "Legislature's obvious affirmative choice" in explicitly protecting the right to resist arrest. However, under state precedents more than a century old, the Michigan legislature cannot tacitly repudiate a common law right. As Justice Brian K. Zahra noted during the oral arguments, the legislature is required to make an "express abrogation" of protection for a common law right.

During his presentation before the court, Babbitt -- in the mistaken belief that he had precedent on his side -- repeatedly insisted that deletion of the passage recognizing the right to resist arrest was materially equivalent to formal abrogation of that common law right. This was dictated by the  “modern view" of the matter, which is that “we don’t want violence between the citizens and the police.”

Indeed: The modern – which is to say, Leninist – view is that all violent encounters between citizens and agents of the State should be one-sided affairs, with the latter entitled to exercise “power without limit, resting directly on force” and the latter required to endure whatever is inflicted on them. 

 Remarkably, Babbitt’s argument was met with withering skepticism by several members of the court. Among them was Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., who asked Babbitt what “textual” support existed for the proposition that the legislature had abrogated the common law right to resist arrest.

“I can’t answer that question, because it doesn’t say `We are abrogating the common law right to use self-defense,'” Babbitt replied, perspiration condensing on his brow as he realized where the conversation was headed. 

“I think you answered it, then,” Young replied, thereby -- one imagines -- causing that trickle of flop sweat to become a torrent. “Don’t you lose if you can’t answer that question?”   
Babbitt was allowed a brief interval in which to dither and dissimulate before Young summarized the matter with brutal concision:

“I’m posing a very simple question to you, the answer to which, I think, is dispositive: If the arrest is unlawful, if the intrusion is unlawful, and a physical melee ensues because of the resistance of the resident, under the common law rule, he can do that…. You don’t win [the case] unless you can persuade us that the [statute under which] he was charged abrogates the common law rule. Tell me why, when the text is silent on the common law rule, you still win.”

At that point, Babbitt must have understood – but could hardly be expected to admit – that as a matter of both common and statutory law, the “rapist doctrine” is indefensible. 

It’s quite possible, perhaps even likely, that the state supreme court will contrive some way to preserve that doctrine. If the court’s ruling in State v. Moreno vindicates the right of citizens to resist unlawful police violence, the state legislature will be tag-teamed by prosecutors and police unions demanding an explicit repudiation of that common law right.

But what if the Michigan State Supreme Court definitively rejects the "rapist doctrine" -- and the state legislature does likewise? 

A special request
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has donated generously to keep this site up and running. If there is anyone who has yet to receive a promised copy of Global Gun Grab, please let me know (WNGrigg [at] msn [dot]com). 

When friends ask me if I'm working, I -- like may others, I'll wager -- answer: "Sure, I've got the `working' thing nailed cold, it's the `getting paid' part of the deal that has proven elusive."
Over the past couple of months I've been working with Republic magazine (please check out the website), a very worthwhile publication that, to be candid, doesn't pay well -- enough to pay the rent, but not enough to support a family of eight.

Christmas is terrifyingly close, but the end of our available financial resources is even closer. If even a portion of those of you kind enough to read my blog could pitch in a couple of dollars, I would be eternally grateful. Thank you, once again, for your kindness.


        Dum spiro, pugno!