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Sherman's march to the sea, writes Victor Davis Hanson approvingly, was
a war of "terror" intended to destroy an aristocratic Southern culture
he hated because of its impudence in resisting the central government's
Although rarely acknowledged as such, Sherman could be considered
America's first "civil rights" crusader. This isn't an endorsement of
Sherman; it's an indictment of contemporary "civil rights" ideology.
While it's true that Sherman never descended to the depths of
mass-murdering depravity plumbed by Westermann and his army of
berserkers, he was prepared, by his own repeated admissions, to
annihilate civilians by the hundreds of thousands in order to vindicate
Washington's supposed authority.
Those who didn't render immediate and unqualified submission, he warned,
would be "crushed like flies on a wheel."
Sherman's genocidal skill-set proved useful to the corporatist federal
railroad combine, which required the removal of the Plains Indians from
land that it coveted but couldn't be troubled to purchase on honest
terms. In carrying out that task Sherman abandoned what little restraint
he had exercised in dealing with white southerners. In the meantime,
the war of federal consolidation and cultural liquidation against the
South continued by way of what was euphemistically called
In theory, "Reconstruction" was the process of re-integrating the
rebellious states into the One Holy Eternal Union. In practice, it was a
reign of terror and plunder swaddled in the rhetoric of righteousness
and carried out through the apparatus of military dictatorship.
"After the Civil War, radical Republicans sought to drastically alter
the social and political structures of the states of the former
Confederacy," notes historian Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins
University in his book The
Fatal Embrace. "The sought to establish a regime that would
break the political power of the planter class that had ruled the region
prior to the war."
The "radical Republicans" to whom Ginsberg refers
were Jacobins, not Jeffersonians. The most powerful figure in that
cohort was the detestable Thaddeus Stevens, a Pennsylvania Congressman
who, the words of historian Paul Leland Haworth, "possessed much of the
sternness of the old Puritans, without their morality."
power-mad, vindictive: Thaddeus Stevens
Rep. Stevens hated the pre-Lincoln Constitution with a passion eclipsed
only by that he nurtured toward the South; the document produced by the
1787 Philadelphia Convention, Stevens once told an associate, was
nothing but "a worthless bit of old parchment."
As co-chairman, with Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, of the Joint
Committee for Reconstruction, Stevens adapted Cromwell's schematic for
military dictatorship in England for use in administering the conquered
"Where Cromwell had divided England up into eleven military districts,
each governed by a major general with wide-ranging powers, [Stevens and
the radical Republicans] divided the South into five districts, each
ruled by a military governor under the overall direction of General
Grant," explains Daniel Lazare in his book The
"The military authorities banned veterans' organizations and other
groups deemed threatening to the new order, fired thousands of local
officials and half a dozen governors, and purged state legislatures of
pro-Confederate elements as well. A twenty-thousand-strong army of
occupation, aided by a black militia, enforced order.... Political
rights were withdrawn from thousands of Confederates who had been
granted executive clemency by the President, and all told some one
hundred thousand white voters were stricken from the rolls."
As Dr. Haworth observed in his 1912 study Reconstruction
and Union, military governors on the occupied South "proceeded
to create a new electorate and through it new civil governments." Those
"civil governments," predictably, used patronage and officially
sanctioned plunder to entrench themselves.
When federal subsidies and confiscation of private wealth proved
inadequate, the Reconstruction governments turned to deficit financing,
driving the states they misruled into even deeper economic misery.
The Reconstruction regime, writes Haworth, was built on a "sinister
alliance" between military governors, their political satraps, and
state-allied secret societies within the "Union League" (also known as
the "Loyalty League"). Those criminal cabals were used to enforce
political discipline and carry out covert acts of terrorism against
dissenters. For example, notes Haworth, League members "resorted to
whipping or otherwise maltreating Negroes who became Democrats."
Robber Oligarch: Reconstruction-era
Governor Franklin Moses
In South Carolina governor Franklin Moses, a "scalawag"
(that is, southern Quisling) sold tens of millions of dollars' worth of
junk state securities while he and his cronies pilfered everything of
Moses, who became known as the "Robber Governor," enforced his will
through a 14,000-man militia "composed mainly of black troops ... led by
white officers," recounts Dr. Ginsberg. That Praetorian Guard protected
Moses against enforcement of legal judgments and was deployed to
harass, intimidate, and threaten potential political rivals in the 1870
Similar conditions prevailed elsewhere in the prostrate South. In
Louisiana, for instance, "wholesale corruption, intimidation of new
voters by the thousands and tens of thousands, political assassinations,
riots, revolutions -- all of these were the order of the day," records
State-sponsored terrorism in the occupied South precipitated the
creation of the Ku Klux Klan -- a development that could be considered
the first recorded example of "blowback."
In both its ritualized, oath-bound organizational structure and the
terrorist tactics it employed, the KKK was morally indistinguishable
from the terrorists whose depredations inspired the Klan's creation.
Unlike the Union League-aligned terrorists, however, the Klan operated
without federal sanction. Thus in 1870 and 1871, Congress passed two
Enforcement Acts (the second commonly called the "Ku Klux Klan Act")
under which President Grant deployed troops to suppress "rebellion" in
the occupied South.
The use of active-duty federal troops as a post-war domestic
"peacekeeping" force "represented, from a military standpoint, the
darkest days in the history of the Army," writes Professor James J.
Schneider of the Army Command and General Staff College at Ft.
Leavenworth. "The Reconstruction activities of Army units were
unprecedented in their time, and they sound remarkably familiar today."
The occupied South was where Washington field-tested methods later used
to "liberate" and "pacify" the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, and
other countries through mass slaughter and military dictatorship.
By January 1877, embattled southerners had managed to gain sufficient
political traction to extract an end to the military occupation as the
price of supporting a compromise awarding Rutherford B. Hayes the
electoral votes he needed to prevail over Samuel Tilden (whose popular
vote tally exceeded that of Hayes by roughly 164,000 votes).
Two months after Hayes was inaugurated, federal troops were withdrawn,
and the Reconstruction plunderbund dissolved. A little more than a year
later, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act forbidding the use of the
Army as a domestic law enforcement body.
Jim Crow could be considered --at least to some extent -- another
example of "blowback" from Reconstruction, which did much more to
exacerbate than alleviate racial hostilities in the South. Like all
measures intended to restrain the Regime's powers, the Posse Comitatus
measure is ignored at the whim of our rulers. Thus on more than one
occasion since 1878, troops have been deployed to the South to enforce
federal decrees intended to break down systems of government-imposed
segregation at the state and local level.
Although the post-war military dictatorship in the South ended in 1877,
the 1964 "civil rights" act is a continuation -- and expansion -- of
Reconstruction. That act was designed and intended to make every private
institution, transaction, and relationship subject to federal scrutiny
in the name of abolishing "discrimination."
Those numinous creatures -- as wise as the overseers of Plato's
ideal Republic, as omniscient as the Guardians of Oa -- are
somehow exempt from the prejudices and unworthy passions to which we
lesser beings are heir. They are thus suited to the task of
micro-managing social affairs and compelling the rest of us to live
according to their decrees, lest we be crushed "like flies on a wheel,"
as their predecessor "Uncle Billy" Sherman put it.
The most candid and compelling summary of this
perspective doesn't come from a right-wing revisionist, but rather from
Columbia Law School Professor George P. Fletcher, an establishment
academic of an unabashedly Marxist bent.
In his valuable book The
Secret Constitution, Fletcher acknowledges that the war waged
by Abraham the Annihilator was not an effort to "preserve the Union,"
much less to restore the pre-war constitutional order. Instead, that war
was intended to consolidate the united States into a unitary state
governed by what Fletcher calls a "New Constitutional Order." In the New
Order, writes Fletcher, the founding premise is that "the federal
government, victorious in warfare, must continue its aggressive
intervention in the lives of its citizens."(Emphasis added.)
is nothing hypothetical about the federal aggression Fletcher correctly
identifies as the central feature of the post-Lincoln Soyuz
(the term "union" is inapposite here). Since, from the perspective
Fletcher represents, Lincoln's war supposedly settled the question of
the central government's "authority" to kill Americans in any quantity
necessary to reconfigure society, there are no limits to what it can do
in the interest of establishing "social justice."
rights," as the term is used today, has nothing to do with the rights
of individuals apart from the role played by some members of designated
classes as a pretext for federal violations of the property rights of
others not granted such protected status. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an
associate professor at Princeton and
self-appointed watchdog of the "radical right," makes that point with
the eager earnestness of someone who assumes that her political
opponents aren't listening.
Our Enemy, the
State in action.
According to Harris-Lacewell, the
1960s civil rights movement was valuable because it was a tool to expand
and consolidate federal power.
Because of southern resistance to Washington's
demands, the "legitimacy of the central state was challenged," she
writes in The Nation. "[This] is why the Civil Rights
Movement was so powerful. The overt abuse of state power evidenced by
the violence of Southern police called into question their foundational
legitimacy. The federal government had to act or risk losing its
authority as a state altogether."
This is to say that the chief accomplishment of the
civil rights movement was not the validation of the individual rights of
those victimized by government-imposed discrimination, but rather the
validation and enhancement of federal power.
For Harris-Lacewell and other acolytes of the unitary
totalitarian state, Reconstruction continues to this day. The genuine
outrage is not that the South was ruled for a decade by a military
kleptocracy, but rather that the military dictatorship was brought to an
end through what she calls "the unholy Hayes-Tilden compromise of
1877." And the chief task for the forces of "tolerance" today, she
insists, is to "guard against the end of our new Reconstruction" -- a
system Ronn Neff
perceptively describes as "polite totalitarianism," in which the
1964 Civil Rights Act is an indispensable pillar. That measure, it should be remembered, was enacted by
a government that was in the early stages of its war of aggression
against Vietnam -- a conflict in which, as Stokely
Carmichael aptly put it, "white people [drafted] black people to
make war on yellow people [supposedly] to defend land stolen from red
people." The government in charge of enforcing that Act today is
slaughtering "people of color" in places like Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and (lest we forget) Detroit, and
looking for an excuse to inflict its lethal humanitarianism on Iran and
And yet, as we see in the contrived controversy over
Rand Paul's views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it is a grave civic
blasphemy even to suggest that the Regime responsible for such murder
and mayhem shouldn't have the power to scrutinize and regulate every
aspect of private life.
Detroit, Riot City: In scenes better suited to a Third World country (above, and below right), tens of thousands of desperate people assemble outside Detroit's Cobo Center in the hope of receiving $3,500 emergency welfare aid disbursements. Unemployment in Detroit is nearly 29 percent.
An individual in the habit of passing bad checks can't complain that he's the victim of a criminal conspiracy if local merchants compare notes and decide not to take any more of his bank drafts. Such coordinated action isn't a "plot" or a "scheme" -- it's a form of cooperative self-defense by people who have been victimized by fraud.
"In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar."
As Fisk pointed out in a follow-up report, the "de-dollarization" of the oil market -- a process Iran has already begun, which helps explain Washington's bellicosity toward Tehran -- "reflects a growing resentment in the Middle East, Europe and China at America's decades-long political as well as economic world dominance."
After unpacking that observation a little bit we should understand that the resentment has as much to do with the method Washington has employed to maintain its dominance, as with the fact of that dominance itself: Since the dollar was entirely de-coupled from gold in August 1971, Washington has essentially been running an empire on money borrowed from the same people it seeks to push around.
During the most hubristic phase of the Bush-Cheney regime, Pentagon "futurist" Thomas P.M. Barnett explained that in the global division of labor, countries like China make things, earn money, and lend that money to the U.S. Government. Washington, for its part, provides "security" in the form of wars, occupations, and other acts of mass destruction.
Barnett wrote an entire book -- The Pentagon's New Map -- based on that the assumption that this arrangement would define world affairs for at least the next several decades.The news that America's creditors aren't going to permit Washington to continue with its oddly impecunious imperialism was no more surprising than the revelation that Barnett is a crack-pot rather than an oracle.
Officials in all of the relevant countries hastily disavowed Fisk's report. This didn't prevent a flight to gold. In fact, the frantic efforts to sustain the fiction that the dollar is in any sense a store of value probably amplified the rush to gold, in the same sense that subjects of the Soviet state didn't believe tales of official corruption and abuse until they had been officially denied.
Oh, those damned Arabs -- how dare they want something of actual value in exchange for the world's most coveted commodity! Those devious Chinese -- by what right would they stop underwriting Washington's debt?
Strangely enough, none of those assailing the Arabs and Chinese for backing away from the dollar have seen fit to condemn the individual who actually recommended this course of action roughly a year and a half ago: Alan "Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse" Greenspan. As I noted at the time (see "Our Money's No Good Here," February 25, 2008), during a conference of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, Greenspan -- the indispensable architect of the ongoing global depression -- urged the Arabs and their allies to abandon the dollar whose value Greenspan had done so much to destroy.
Since the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, the dollar has lost 96 percent of its purchasing power. The fact that the dollar can be used to purchase anything of value is an abiding testimony to the power of official myths to contort the thinking process of human beings en masse.
There is nothing behind the dollar apart from the "full faith and credit" of the world's most powerful criminal syndicate -- well, that, and the willingness of oil-producing states to accept the dollar in exchange for petroleum. Cut that last lifeline, and there is nothing to impede the dollar's immediate fall into utter uselessness.
I find myself reminded of the old joke about an astrophysicist who is accosted after a public lecture by a crusty old man of decidedly pre-Copernican views of the universe.
"You seem like a very bright young fellow," the old man begins, seasoning his words with condescension he wasn't entitled to express, "but you've got it all wrong. You see, the earth is actually carried on the back of a giant turtle. That's the simple truth."
"But what supports that turtle?" inquires the astrophysicist with a mixture of amusement and annoyance."
"Why, another turtle, of course!" ripostes the old man.
"And what --" begins the increasingly irritated scholar, before being cut off.
"You're a clever fellow, but it won't work!" exclaims the old man. "It's turtles all the way down!"
Commissar Bernanke and other guardians of official monetary superstition are committed to preserving the delusion that prosperity can be sustained on the back of a currency that is backed by nothing but itself. It's dollars all the way down -- an infinite regression into worthlessness. And, pace the plans of the anti-dollar coalition described by Fisk, the descent shouldn't take nine years.
The term "apocalypse" refers to an unveiling, a revelation, a dramatic disclosure. We're in the early stages of a dollar apocalypse -- a process that will expose the Greenback as a fraud. Already we're seeing portents of what America will look like as the unveiling continues.
Detroit, once the paradigm of America's industrial power, has become an economic moonscape. More than half the population lives below the poverty level; unemployment is nearing 29 percent, and grass is literally growing in the streets of some neighborhoods. Unburied bodies are accumulating in the county morgue because nobody has sufficient funds for interment or cremation.
Amid the scuffles, tramplings, death threats, and other incidental violence, a telling example of the self-replicating fraud of our monetary system could be seen. The Detroit News reports:
"After the applications ran out, some scam artists were selling photocopies of the originals for $20 each. They were doing a brisk business, even though the white original forms state clearly on the bottom: `Do not duplicate -- Must Submit Original Application.' Volunteers from the city of Detroit Planning and Development Department eventually handed out yellow photocopies themselves."
Coercion and redistribution: Detroit residents fill out welfare voucher applications on the hood of a police car.
Here we can see the terminally corrupt financial system in tragic microcosm.
The Feds, through the miracle of deficit spending financed through inflation, issue vouchers to substitute for the regime's worthless legal tender.
Some local scam artists exploit the desperation of the destitute by producing worthless counterfeits of the vouchers and charging for them.
Rather than punishing the criminals who created and sold those worthless documents -- call them voucher "derivatives" -- government officials simply make that scam official policy on the assumption that other people somewhere will absorb the costs. This is the same mechanism used to bail out the corporatist welfare whores of Wall Street, just on a much more limited scale. The biggest difference, of course, is that while most of the welfare applicants in Detroit were left with worthless applications, the welfare whores on Wall Street were spared such disappointment.
It's fiat "money" and criminal fraud all the way down. How far does "down" go? We're going to find out.
Be sure to listen to Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network every weekday from 6:00-7:00 PM Mountain Time (7:00-8:00 PM Central).
The first to be snapped up was Becky Shay, a former Billings Gazette reporter whose beat included the Hardin jail. Within a day of AFP's arrival, she was hired away from the paper to serve as a $60,000-a-year spokesperson for the company (a pretty hefty salary increase for a local reporter in Montana). So quickly and slickly was this career change made that Shay's editor didn't even know she had talked with AFP about the position.
Yes, that logo just screams "America!" to me: There's nothing like the combination of a crown and a double-headed imperial eagle to summon the memory of the Revolutionary War patriots who fought to free themselves from an imperial monarch. Hey, wait a minute....
Also in "discussions" with AFP is Kerri Smith, a finalist in Hardin's mayoral race and wife of Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Two Rivers Authority (TRA). The TRA is Hardin's economic development agency, which issued $27 million in bonds to build the jail as a public works project.
In what must be the most ill-conceived piece of civic boosterism ever to assault my senses, the TRA's webpage presents the Hardin jail -- that's a structure intended to deprive people of their freedom, remember -- as the poetic expression of a cherished dream: A YouTube video proudly displays slides of the jail set to the unbearable strains of Russell Watson's wretched ballad "Faith of the Heart" (the musical accompaniment is heard on the TRA's "Detention Center" webpage):
Yes, there's nothing quite like an effeminate power ballad to capture the pure aesthetic grace of a detention camp ringed by barbed wire.
Apparently, the "long road" to building that jail didn't end in prosperity.Since the finished jail has
remained empty, the bonds have gone into default. At one point, Hardin's city government indicated it would accept relocated detainees from Gitmo; this prompted a legal battle between the city and the Montana state government.
Yeah, these guys look legit: What could possibly go wrong here?
Last March, AFP was incorporated in California. Shortly thereafter it began talks with Hardin city officials and the TRA.
City officials eventually announced an agreement with the mysterious firm that would bring in $2.6 million for use of the jail, in addition to an "investment" of $23 million to build a new training facility for military and police (which are assumed to be part of one integrated coercive apparatus, of course) on the same TRA-owned property.
The deal -- which was publicly announced although the specifics were never publicly disclosed -- is supposedly a cornucopia of civic benefits: New computers for the schools; a homeless shelter; a fleet of Mercedes patrol cars for the envisioned city police force; donations to the local food pantry; an animal shelter; gold-plated fixtures for the Mayor's executive washroom. OK, I made that last one up. I think.
Have you seen this man? Greg Smith, Executive Director of Hardin's Two Rivers Authority, negotiated a deal to turn over his town to what appears to be a Blackwater front group, then made himself scarce.
TRA Executive Director Greg Smith, whose wife is in discussions for a position with AFP, helped negotiate the deal. Immediately after it was finished, he was put on "administrative leave," and went to ground. (Calls from Pro Libertate to Mr. Smith's number at the TRA were not returned.)
What appears to be happening here -- and until relevant details are pried out of the prehensile grip of the people running things, we can't know for sure -- is nothing less than a corporatist-style military coup: the takeover of a small town in Montana by a politically connected, federally subsidized paramilitary organization.
They're talking, but saying nothing: APF spokeswoman Becky Shay (left) and corporate official "Captain" Michael Hilton.
Suspicions were immediately aroused that APF is a tentacle of the corporatist mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater, but now doing business under the odd name Xe (pronounced "Zee"). However, a press spokeswoman for Xe informed Pro Libertate that "We have no connection to that company, and had never heard of it" prior to recent developments in Montana.
Hardin may well be the first of many economically devastated communities to be given a lifeline by the burgeoning military-homeland security-prison-industrial complex. Lifelines of that kind can quickly become nooses.
Be sure to catch Pro Libertate Radio each weeknight from 6:00-7:00 Mountain Time (7:00-8:00 Central) on the Liberty News Radio Network.
The ever-metastasizing Homeland Security apparatus.
Whether or not a given calamity is the product of deliberate, organized human malice, the DHS is structured to pursue only one approach: It will expand the power of the political class while radically regimenting the lives of the productive. This means more arbitrary power in the hands of bureaucrats and their armed enforcers, and greater restrictions on freedom of movement.
In Mexico, where the impact of the current outbreak has been most pronounced, the government has employed its emergency powers to shut down most of the country's commercial activity. Assuming that Mexicans comply, this order is tantamount to placing the entire population under quarantine -- which is to say, under house arrest.Don't imagine for a pico-second that officials on this side of the Rio Grande aren't taking notes.
Social engineers despise genuinely autonomous individuals, people with the means to come and go as they will without permission from their superiors. Those who fancy themselves to be society's supervisors would love to pin the rest of us down like butterflies in a lepidopterist's display case, or cattle-pen us in urban reservations we can leave only with the state's generous permission -- and, even then, only if our movements can be tracked and recorded and used against us later.
Tased and abused: Pastor Steven Anderson displays some of the handiwork of the intrepid sentinels of our sacred southern frontier. Beaten and tased for refusing a warrantless search at a "border checkpoint" well inside the U.S., Anderson is seen above after receiving medical attention. Below, right: Anderson with his wife -- who was born in then-Communist Hungary -- and three of their five children.
Pastor Steven Anderson, the Baptist preacher from Tempe, Arizona who was recently beaten and tased by Border Patrol Brownshirts near Yuma, can attest to the fact that it is potentially fatal for Americans to demand they be treated like citizens rather than serfs at such checkpoints.
Anderson, who supports himself and his ministry through a full-time job selling and installing security systems, frequently travels throughout the Southwest. In a recent telephone interview he explained to me that until recently he endured the Border Patrol checkpoints as a nuisance. However, he continues, "I just got sick of being treated like a criminal or a terrorist in my own country, and decided that it was time to start asserting the rights that the Constitution guarantees to me."
After he refused to permit an unconstitutional search of his vehicle during his most recent checkpoint stop, Anderson found himself face-down in a pile of broken glass after Border Patrol and state police shattered the windows of his vehicle. Despite the fact that he put up no resistance, Anderson was beaten and tased repeatedly while pleading for mercy.
Predictably enough, after being subject to a criminal assault conducted under color of state "authority," Anderson was charged with "disobeying the orders of a law enforcement officer." That charge reflects the fundamental assumption of martial law: The demands of anybody in a government-issued costume are to be obeyed by civilians without hesitation, even when they have no legal or constitutional justification.
The Regime insists that constitutional guarantees against warrantless (and suspicion-less) searches don't apply at border checkpoints. Given that an estimated two-thirds of the population live and work within this exclusion zone -- what the ACLU aptly calls a "Constitution-Free Zone" -- it would be wise to see Pastor Anderson's experience as a foreshadowing of outrages soon to come as our rulers constrict our freedom of movement.
Another manifestation of this urge to pen up the population is the proliferation of narcotics enforcement exercises involving school lockdowns. Exercises of that kind take place somewhere in this country every week, and they tend to happen with greater frequency in the Spring.
Typically such raids produce little or no evidence of narcotics activity, and are justified as a way of demonstrating a community's "commitment" to suppressing the consumption of certain proscribed substances.
Following one such "routine" warrantless drug sweep at Maricopa High School in Arizona, school and police officials explained that its purpose, in addition to sending the familiar "message" about narotics use, was to provide "several police agencies and canine officers a chance to practice their skills in drug detection," and to offer the police dogs in particular "a chance to work in a real life atmosphere rather than the `sterile' conditions they train in."So teenagers were given the opportunity to be treated as prisoners while being used as guinea pigs in a police training exercise.
The assumption here appears to be that both sets of skills -- those of police in exerting control over civilian populations, and those of civilians in submitting to such impositions -- will become increasingly useful in the future.
Rin-Tin-Tin he ain't: This noble German Shepherd had the misfortune of being trained as a narcotics-sniffing dog, an unconscionable act of government animal abuse. This beautiful but unfortunate canine is seen at a recent drug "lock-down" at an Arizona high school.
Chances are, we'll see opportunities for the use of both skill sets as the Swine Flu "crisis" unfolds. Shortly after 9/11, the Department of Health and Human Services disseminated a Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA).
As health freedom activist Susan Blevins observed in a critique of the model act, that template was designed to give "state public health officials broad, new police powers ... in the name of controlling epidemics of infectious diseases during public health emergencies."
Both the powers and the circumstances defining a "health emergency" were quite broadly defined in the proposed act. Among the specific dictatorial functions authorized by the MSEHPA, Blevins listed the following:
*Governors and public health officials could order the compulsory medical examination of anyone suspected of carrying an "infectious disease";
*State officials would be permitted to order compulsory vaccinations, quarantines, and detentions;
*Doctor-patient confidentiality would be abolished, and all health care workers would be forced to report all cases in which an individual posed a "significant risk" to public health;
*Pharmacists would be required to report any "unusual" prescription rates suggestive of the spread of epidemic diseases;
*Governors and health officials would be authorized to set aside, at their discretion, laws dealing with privacy, medical licensure, and property rights in order to address the health "emergency";
*Seizure and state control of private property, including pharmaceutical plants, media and communication facilities, and residential health care centers, would be allowed;
*State governments would be authorized to mobilize the "organized militia [that is, the National Guard] into service to the state to help enforce the state's orders";
*Public officials would be permitted to impose rationing of food, fuel, and various other critical commodities, including explosives and -- most critically -- firearms.
Given the scope and invasiveness of the MSEHPA, resistance coalesced among freedom activists, particularly those particularly concerned about privacy and the right to armed self-defense. Some of the most onerous aspects of the model legislation were modified. To date, according to The Center for Law & the Public Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted a total of 66 measures incorporating provisions derived from, or inspired by, the MSEHPA.
Just days ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed a Disaster and Pandemic Preparation and Response Bill that incorporates some of the model legislation's draconian elements, including provisions for mandatory quarantine (once again, a form of house arrest), seizure of property, and rationing of various commodities at the discretion of the State's Medical Commissioner -- a position better suited to a title such as "czar" or "commissar."
Prior to the most recent Swine Flu outbreak, the Massachusetts Pandemic Response Bill had been dammed up in committee. This changed very quickly in response to the media-abetted public furor over a flu outbreak that -- so far -- while admittedly nasty and worrisome, shows few signs of growing into authentic pandemic.
Even though nearly eight years have passed since 9-11, we need little reminder of the shock value of mass terrorism. But even truly dramatic terrorist attacks are peripheral to the concerns of most people. While 9-11 left us shocked, horrified, and incandescent with rage, it was a survivable atrocity. It didn't threaten American society at an existential level, despite constant efforts by opportunists of the neo-Trotskyite variety to retro-fit the attack with an apocalyptic subtext.
That being said, it must be admitted that our rulers have extracted tremendous practical political value out of the 9-11 attacks. A literal revolution in political, legal, and geostrategic affairs was brought about because of that one terrible morning.
Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that, a decade hence, the media and political Establishment would treat as a given the notion that the President of the United States has the authority to lock away people at will and have them tortured at his discretion. Such is now the case, however, because of the practical politics of post-9/11 America.
Having used some variation on the expression "practical politics" several times, I really should specify what it means. That phrase comes from H.L. Mencken's familiar insightful definition: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamarous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
Outbreak: Above -- American victims of the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918; below, left -- police officers and many other public officials took to wearing surgical masks during the epidemic.
I would amend that assessment only to the extent of noting that not all of the threats exploited by political rulers are imaginary.A substantial number of them are quite real, but magnified unreasonably to such an extent that they become caricatures of themselves. The current "public health emergency" over the prospect of a flu "pandemic" appears to fall into that category.
Unlike the threats discussed above, the prospect of a plague is terrifying in a deeply personal sense.Relatively few people have experienced terrorism, and only a tiny handful of people have witnessed first-hand the horrors of a nuclear attack.
None of us has lived through the a global environmental collapse. But each of us has vivid and ineradicable memories, woven into the very tissues of our bodies, of what it feels like to be sick and helpless.Although the concept of human extinction through some vast nuclear or ecological disaster is an impersonal abstraction, the prospect of individual extinction is quite understandable. So, in terms of measuring relative potency as a weapon of practical politics, microbes -- despite being all but weightless -- have far greater throw-weight than nuclear megatons.
Practically everybody is familiar with the seasonal affliction commonly called "the Flu." Relatively few are aware the Flu, now regarded as a common and conquerable illness, was once a terrifying plague, or that it continues to kill thousands of people every year.
The "Spanish Flu" epidemic of 1918 claimed the lives of 583,000 Americans (many of them interred in mass graves), a figure that, in proportionate terms, would translate into more than 1.5 million today.
Overseas the death toll was even more terrifying: An estimated 20-50 million people succumbed to the sickness, a figure that rivaled the global body count compiled by the Black Death of the 14th Century.
As is so often the case when Pestilence is digging its spurs into its white steed, its saddle partner, War, is sitting astride its own red mount and running rampant.The global paroxysm of lethal stupidity called World War I -- more accurately called the murder-suicide of the Christian West -- produced a splendid breeding environment for disease. Millions of people were mired down in static trenches in conditions perfectly calibrated to compromise their immune systems.
The war itself was the epidemic's most significant transmission vector, with some infected soldiers returning with the disease, and other doughboys, infected on the homefront, taking it back across the Atlantic to transmit to another hapless population. This is why roughly half of the American victims of the 1918 flu epidemic were young and previously very healthy people.
The microbe behind the hideous 1918 outbreak was quite similar to the notorious H5N1 virus, better known as the Avian Influenza or "Bird Flu." Already designated the Next Big Plague by the medical branch of the Homeland Security Apparatus, the Bird Flu has been the focus of a multi-billion-dollar international system of monitoring and vaccine storage.
In a speech delivered on October 27, 2005, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt conveyed the cheerful news that "during at least ten periods in the past 300 years, viruses have mounted massive pandemic assaults that made masses ill and caused millions to die.... If the past is prologue, we are overdue for the next pandemic."
Given that most "public servants" are in occupations that thrive on alarmism, we really shouldn't expect sober risk assessments from them, and Leavitt's treatment of the possible "pandemic" was no exception to that rule.
"To put that in perspective," observes Bethell, "about 55 million people die around the world every year, 2.4 million of them in the United States. It is said 1968 was another `pandemic' year; 34,000 Americans died of flu. But about that many die of flu each year -- most [from] pneumonia."
Echoes of a previous plague:A soldier distributes surgical masks to civilians in Mexico.
The declaration of a health emergency was based upon an estimated 20 cases of human swine flu in the United States and no deaths, and about 1300 cases and 80 deaths in Mexico...."Sardi takes note of the fact that the current medical emergency "appears to be a fully orchestrated flu pandemic."
For instance: A local newspaper in Seguin, Texas reported that health officials in Guadalupe, Texas were preparing for a May 2 exercise in which "1000 volunteers would attempt to vaccinate the entire population of the county, 115,000 people, in 36 hours."
According to this account, "Guadalupe County emergency management and their counterparts around the country" were training to deal with a scenario involving a mass plague because "in the history of humankind it happens once every 100 years or so -- and the time is coming for the next one."
Or, as Mike Leavitt put it four years ago, "We are overdue for the next pandemic."
What if certain people became impatient and decided to speed things up just a touch?
Sardi points to the interesting fact that a Boston vaccine manufacturer called Replikins, Ltd. claims to have been given advance warning of the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak a year ago. That prior warning supposedly resulted from a "partnership" arrangement with the federal government that yielded a technology that supposedly can anticipate viral mutations 1 to 3 years in advance.
There are many people who cling to the comforting illusion that people employed by the government ruling us are capable of such detailed foresight. I'm confident that none of them regularly reads this blog. I know for certain that none of them writes for it.
This leaves us with the possibility that the virus behind the current scare -- which, according to several well-credentialed medical experts, appears to have been synthesized in a laboratory -- was deliberately unleashed on the public.
Is that planning to deal with a pandemic, or planning to precipitate one, Mike?
This would not necessarily have been the work of the US government; it could have been carried out by other parties, whose actions were known, in detail, to the government some time ago, as it made plans to deal with the outbreak in the most politically profitable fashion.
Frederic Bastiat famously said that government expands its power by creating the poison and the antidote in the same laboratory. This could be an instance in which the Bastiat formula was followed in something other than a metaphorical sense.
Even if we're merely dealing with a natural mutation of a particularly nasty kind, we can expect government policy to exacerbate the situation in perfectly avoidable ways.
During the Black Death, ruling elites with the means to minimize their exposure to disease raised taxes, fees, and fines on peasants, leaving them more destitute and thus in even greater danger. We've noted that war is an excellent breeder of lethal diseases, and perhaps the most efficient means of transmitting them world-wide. Increasing political control over medical assets is likewise a good prescription for prolonging a medical crisis and enhancing its lethality.
Whatever else may occur in the present emergency, we can expect the Obama administration to seek greater centralized control over the emergency response system. In the unlikely event that this emergency does metastasize into a legitimate pandemic, the Obamatrons will have a ready-made rationale to mobilize the entire machinery of the Homeland Security State.
Despite the dangers that emerge from the microbial world, of this we can be sure: There is no deadlier affliction than the disease referred to by R.J. Rummel as the "plague of power." This is why wisdom dictates that we examine the current "public health emergency" with a properly cynical view of the members of the political class, who stand to profit from it.
Rep. Ron Paul, M.D., offers his views of the influenza scares of '76 and '09.
Second Update: Quarantine Plans from the Pentagon and Federal Alphabet Gang
A memo issued by Bridger McGaw, the DHS assistant commissar for the "private sector," notes that "The Department of Justice has established legal federal authorities pertaining to the implementation of a quarantine and enforcement. Under approval from HHS, the Surgeon General has the authority to issue quarantines."
In addition to the Coast Guard and Customs, federal agencies authorized to enforce quarantines include the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, and the wise and thoughtful people in command of the criminal syndicate called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives [and Quarantined Citizens].
Immediately after laying claim to the status of innocently accused terrorist suspects, the same retinue of Republican hacks -- without breaking stride, mind you -- redirected their energy into the defense of torture as a means of interrogating terrorist suspects.
The time-frame in which this turnaround took place shouldn't have over-taxed the attention span of the typical talk radio addict, and the implicit logic of these positions should have been obvious even to people habituated to reflexive sloganeering, rather than ratiocination.
Yet there it is: In defending the atrocities committed by the Bush administration, the Republican-centered conservative movement effectively endorsed the proposition that it is entirely proper for the government to torture terrorist suspects -- including, presumably, "rightwing extremists" deemed a domestic terror threat by the incumbent government.
This irony is reinforced by the fact that the Bush/Cheney wing of the conservative movement champions the use of torture techniques that were devised by Soviet and Chinese Communists for use against American military personnel, as well as one particular method -- controlled drowning, also known as "waterboarding" -- that was favored by Cambodia's hyper-murderous Khmer Rouge.
It didn't work then, either: Waterboarding as carried out by U.S. and allied troops in Vietnam.
Twenty years ago, as the Soviet Empire began to implode, many people -- myself among them -- objected to the fact that the term "conservative" was routinely used in the media to describe the most doctrinaire elements of the Communist Party.
The remnants of the Republican-centered conservative movement appear determined to vindicate that useage as they rally in defense of the Leninist principle of unfettered state power vested in an executive oligarchy, and the practice of torture as the defining privilege of that ruling elite.
Ah, yes, of course: When crimes are committed by governments, they are magically transformed into "policy." So when a Republican administration institutionalizes the use of torture techniques that were prosecuted as war crimes following WWII, we're to believe that those crimes were sanitized through the redemptive power of the executive branch.
Some of the more sophisticated members of the GOP's PR apparat -- for instance, attorneys David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who served in the first Bush administration and defended every expansion of presidential power under Bush II -- took a Baghdad Bob approach (that is, brazen, defiant denial of the obvious) in dealing with recently disclosed memoranda and other documents relating to the Bush administration's torture program.
Following the document dump, Rivkin and Casey blandly insisted that "The Memos Prove We Didn't Torture" because, inter alia, the illegal "enhanced interrogation" methods used by the CIA weren't carried out to the uttermost extremes permitted by "policy." (This reminds me of Cicero's ironic observation in one of his Philippics that the tyrant Antony occasionally refrained from murdering people, then demanded honor as a humanitarian for sparing their lives.)
Besides, Rivkin and Casey continue, the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques (which is exactly the same phrase, translated from the German, that the Nazis used to describe exactly the same methods) saved us from a post-911 "second wave" of terrorist attacks.
How the Khmer Rouge did it: Waterboarding as practiced by the murderous Cambodian Communists. This is an entirely appropriate -- which is to say, Soviet-inspired -- use of torture. As a method of extracting reliable intelligence, torture is notoriously ineffective and counter-productive. But it is a splendidly effective way to extort false confessions from victims.
As employed under Stalin, the Soviet methods that inspired Bush's torture program were intended to ratify the policy decisions of the ruling elite, not to acquire objective intelligence that might contradict the designs of the Dear Leader and his comrades.
Vladimir Bukovsky, the heroic former Soviet dissident who was sentenced to the psychiatric gulag in the mid-1960s, warned in 2005 that institutionalizing torture would corrupt and ultimately ruin whatever law enforcement or intelligence body carried it out. It would cultivate an entire population of professional torturers, individuals whose work requires them to emancipate the worst elements of human nature for use against the helpless.
Not mentioned by Bukovsky, but becoming apparent now, is the damage that a program of torture can do to principled people who refuse to carry it out.
The suicide of Army Spec. Alyssa Peterson, which I described nearly three years ago and is receiving renewed attention now, was her desperate, despairing reaction to orders that she participate in the torture of detainees in Iraq. The Pentagon reacted to her death by carrying out the now-expected cover-up, which included destroying all of the critical records of the "interrogations" she refused to participate in.
Like others in the employ of governments throughout history who rebelled at carrying out the order to torture other human beings, Spec. Peterson was able to recognize that even the enemy is made in the image of God. Torture is the repudiation of this idea of shared humanity; it treats the victim as something to be molded, through pain and terror, into a shape more compatible with the State's designs. But that process inevitably re-shapes those who carry out the torture as well.
The torture regime created under Bush and Cheney implicated the political leadership in both branches of the Ruling Party. Its infection has deeply penetrated the tissue of the Homeland Security system. It has created what could become a self-sustaining corps of professional torturers whose depraved talents will not be employed only against foreigners, but will very quickly become "policy" in dealing with certain troublesome elements among the citizenry as well.That corps, incidentally, includes a large number of medical professionals who -- in a collectivist perversion of their Hippocratic obligations, collaborated in the torture of detainees -- including, God forgive us, children who were seized in order to gain blackmail leverage over a parent. In a profoundly sobering essay published by Foreign Policy, former Bush administration National Security Council member Philip Zelikow points out that there simply is no legal firewall protecting U.S. citizens from the torture methods used against foreign terrorist suspects.
"In other words," he concludes, under the official assumptions embedded during the Bush administration, "Americans in any town could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling."
During the Cold War, there was never any realistic prospect that the Red Army would conquer the United States. In much the same fashion, it is entirely inconceivable that Sharia law will be imposed on Americans any time in the foreseeable future.
But owing to the triumph of totalitarian "conservatism" during the Bush era, it's all but inevitable that, in the near future, innocent Americans who fall into the hands of their own government will be subject to Soviet-style "enhanced interrogation" techniques. It turns out that the United States did indeed "overtake" the Soviets after all.
Decades earlier, Scipio the Younger had wept amid the ruins of Carthage, not so much because his conscience was wounded by the pitiless destruction of an enemy, but because he foresaw a day when Rome would be on the receiving end of what it had just dealt out. Sallust would later lament that Rome's precipitous moral decline began with the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War.
That conflict, interestingly enough, began because Rome's long-standing rival, having been disarmed at the end of the First Punic War, abrogated the treaty in order to defend itself against incursions by a Roman ally. So we see that needless and opportunistic wars are hardly a recent invention.
By the time Jesus used a denarius to illustrate the limits of Caesar's jurisdiction ("render to Ceasar that which is Caesar's" means that we are to give rulers no more than that which they are entitled to under God's law), the Empire had already begun the process of debasing the currency through coin-clipping. Tribute from the provinces being inadequate to sustain the empire, the imperial regime resorted to this primitive but surprisingly effective form of pre-Federal Reserve inflation -- and the result, then as now, was to abet the malignant growth of government power and the wholesale corruption of public and private morals.
Clipping and adulteration of the precious metal content of Roman coinage began shortly after Tiberius (whose face disfigured the silver coin used in Jesus's parable) ascended to the purple in 14 A.D. "By the time he was assassinated in AD 37," write Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin in their indispensable book Empire of Debt, "there were 700 million denarii in the treasury -- far more than there had been at the time of Augustus's death."
Caligula, who inherited the throne, quickly wiped out this budget surplus and spent Rome into a huge deficit. When Nero came along, widespread currency debasement was undertaken once again, and it would persist until Alaric and his Goth buddies crested the seventh hill.
By the time Honorius found himself hip-deep in Visigoths, note Bonner and Wiggin, Roman currency "still bore the ancient form with the images of dead emperors pressed on it. But the value had been taken out; the currency had lost 99.98 percent of its value."
This quite understandably seems quite shocking -- until we remember that since 1913, when the Regime created its official counterfeiting arm, the US dollar has lost 95 percent of its value. What took Rome half a millennium -- the complete devaluation of its currency -- Washington has nearly accomplished in a little less than a century. It will be a miracle of sorts if the dollar survives this decade.
At the time of Jesus's ministry, Rome was mired in what Bonner and Wiggin call "a new system of consuetudo fraudium -- habitual cheating." Romans still "remembered their Old Republic with its rules and customs," and they still "thought that was the way the system was supposed to work" long after the senate had become a vestigial body and the emperor's will supplanted the law. Willing parties to this universal, State-imposed deception, Roman citizens and subjects practiced and fell prey to private fraud of various kinds. If credit cards and sub-prime mortgages had been available at the time, Romans would have defaulted on both at rates rivaling our own.
It seems to me that this kind of behavior is to be expected when the government-issued medium of exchange is fraudulent. This is particularly true of the Roman denarius, which was designed to propagate the cult of the divine emperor: The coin used by Jesus in His parable bore the inscription, Ti Caesar Divi Aug F[ilius] Aust Imp -- Latin shorthand for "Tiberius Ceasar, divine son of the Emperor Augustus."
The fraudulent Roman denarius: The irregular shape of the coin seen here attests to "clipping," a method used to steal its value.
Which is to say that the Roman currency claimed that the emperor, depicted wearing a laurel as a token of his future exaltation, was the son of a god.
Once this is understood, Jesus's familiar saying takes on -- for me, at least -- a much deeper meaning than I had previously appreciated.
Writing five decades ago, theologian Roland H. Bainton points out that this debased and blasphemous currency was "Rome's best device for popularizing in the provinces the cult of the divine Emperor." Not surprisingly, Zealots and other Jewish rejectionists rebelled against the Roman currency, hammering them flat, melting them down, and stamping them with Hebrew characters. "But many of the Jews," writes Dr. Bainton, "while adamant as to the Roman standards [of morality and religion], were pliant in regard to the coins."
Among that number, perhaps, were some of the Pharisees who -- with unearned confidence in their supposed cleverness -- posed their trick question to Jesus: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
The import of Jesus's answer -- "Render unto Caesar that which is Ceasar's, and to God that which is God's" -- is paraphrased by Dr. Bainton thus: "If, then, you trifle with your scruples and carry the tainted coins, give back to Caesar what he has given to you, but remember your prime allegiance is to God."
While pointedly limiting Ceasar's jurisdiction, Jesus did not specify how much the emperor was entitled to. My belief is that He deliberately left that question to the individual conscience. He expects us to know when Caesar or any other ruler (or representative) has transgressed the limits of his authority, thereby attempting to lay claim on an allegiance we owe only to God.
What was the market value, circa 70 A.D., of a pinch of incense? A trifle, by any standard. And speaking the phrase "Caesar is Lord" as that minuscule amount of incense was burned in front of the Emperor's likeness incurred no tangible expense. Yet the cost of this gesture, to Christian believers, was prohibitive, and many of them regarded death by torture a comparative bargain when the alternative was to deny their Lord, their faith, and their freedom.
Such Christians understood that Caesar was their ruler, and that they could do little to change that reality. One thing they could do, however, was to refuse to recognize them as their master. That is the demand every State eventually makes of its subjects, and it was prefigured in the blasphemous coin used by Jesus in his parable.
Does this mean that it was a form of idolatry to use Caesar's coins -- that is, to participate in the imperial economic system at all? Jesus never said as much. But His parable, when understood in its historical context, clearly anticipated the time when the Roman State, which already demanded so much of the bodies of its subjects, would lay a proprietary claim on the souls of the Christians living under its jurisdiction as well. Every State, if permitted to, will eventually do the same.
Freedom, in its most elemental sense, is the power to withdraw one's consent when the State -- or anyone else -- lays an improper claim to one's life or property. For the Christians ruled by the Roman Empire, this meant defying terrestrial authorities by assembling in the catacombs to worship, by refusing to serve in the Empire's armies of conquest, and by refusing to worship emperors either living or dead. Thus for many of them, the only way to refuse consent was to choose the path of martyrdom.
Many early Christians who didn't suffer martyrdom understood that the State was the implacable enemy -- not only to them, but to God as well. As the brilliant libertarian philosopher George H. Smith (a professed atheist) observes in an essay published by the Acton Institute, many Fathers of the early Church, while not counseling revolution, treated the Roman State as entirely illegitimate because everything it did was backed by actual or threatened use of lethal violence.
Tertullian (born in Carthage, ironically, as the son of a Roman centurion) "argued that `all secular power and dignities are not merely alien from, but hostile to, God,'" recalls Dr. Smith. "Secular governments `owe their existences to the sword.' All institutions of the Roman government, even its charities, are based on brute force. This is contrary to the way of Christians, among whom `everything is voluntary.'" How it might have been: Tribune Caius Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton, left) purchases a refractory Corinthian slave named Demetrius (Victor Mature, right). Marcellus and his slave are sent to Judea, where Demetrius becomes a follower of the Troublemaker whose crucifixion Marcellus is ordered to supervise. Eventually the slave leads his "master" to Christ; they become friends and brothers in the faith. Did it happen? Probably not, but it made a terrific movie.
What is the limit of Christian submission to a State of that description? According to Origen, explains Dr. Smith, the Christian must “`never consent to obey the laws of sin.' His first allegiance is to `the law of nature, that is, the law of God.' The Christian will submit to secular punishment rather than transgress a divine law."
Those sentiments read like a distant ancestor of the Declaration of Independence, which properly recognized the law -- God's "perfect law of liberty" -- rather than any terrestrial ruler, as the power to which all must submit. In a republic, the law is king, and all political leaders exercise their authority by the grace of the governed, with the understanding that it can be revoked at any time.
Taking up the sword against an evil-doer: Tribune Gallio, defying imperial "authority," defends a Christian enclave at Cana from an unlawful assault by troops he once led. Like I said, it's a pretty cool movie.
It was under this vision of republican liberty (however imperfectly realized) that Americans had the opportunity to be the first people ever to carry out the divine mandate to live as free men under God's law. That right was secured through righteous rebellion against un-Godly tyranny -- each man, empowered by God's law, taking up the sword against evil-doers in positions of supposed authority.
We've squandered that opportunity. Will God condescend to give us another? I don't presume to know. It is clear, however, that we've traveled a great distance down the same Roman thoroughfare to ruin, and that the Regime ruling us is ripening into the kind of Reich (that's just a fancy word for "empire," after all) that would claim jurisdiction over our souls.
Many Americans will readily pay that price, so far gone in materialism that they don't realize that a "soul" can be found in their personal inventory. Others will profess allegiance to Christ while acting as enablers and inquisitors for Caligula.
Some of us, if our country pursues its present course to its logical destination, may find ourselves caught in a predicament akin to that of Tribune Marcellus Gallio, as depicted in my second-favorite film, The Robe.
Like many other "bathrobe epics" of the 1950s, The Robe could be seen as a form of Christian midrash -- in this case, a story that could have happened, but probably didn't, that draws from situations described in the Bible. In the story Marcellus is the wastrel son of a senator who is a political opponent of Caligula before Little Boots ascends to the throne. Marcellus and his slave Demetrius are exiled to Judea; there the latter becomes a follower of the Galilean Troublemaker whom the former is assigned to execute.
Eventually Demetrius leads his master to Christ, and Marcellus finds himself on trial for high treason before Caligula, newly installed as Ceasar. Knowing that his words will convict him, Marcellus doesn't cavil at telling the unvarnished truth:
"If the Empire desires peace and justice and goodwill among all men, my King will be on the side of the Empire and her Emperor. If the Empire and the Emperor desire to pursue the slavery and slaughter that have brought agony and terror and despair to the world ... if there is then nothing further for men to hope for but chains and hunger at the hands of our Empire -- my King will march forward to right this wrong! Not tomorrow, sire -- Your Majesty may not be so fortunate as to witness the establishment of His kingdom -- but it will come!"
The verdict is as predictable as the course of a waterfall.
Caligula, who wants to make Marcellus submit even more than he wants to kill him, offers to commute the death sentence for high treason if Marcellus will renew his oath of loyalty and recant his allegiance to "this dead Jew who dared call Himself a king."
"I cannot renounce him, Sire, nor can you. He is my king, and yours as well. He is the Son of God."
In the film Marcellus and his would-be wife Diana go to martyrdom, as have countless believers across the centuries. But they did this as an expression of freedom: They knew that they had been bought by a price, and chose not to be the slaves of a man claiming to be a god.
To those who don't believe, this may seem the most perfect foolishness. But those of us who believe must understand that our individual freedom may ultimately demand such a price. If we're not ultimately willing to pay it, what were we really celebrating today?
As Dr. Carlson has pointed out, in the welfare state children are considered economic liabilities, rather than the most important source of genuine wealth; they are burdens, rather than treasures. America’s Fed credit-driven consumer culture exacerbates this tendency by leaving households laden with debt, thereby driving mothers out of the home and leaving children in the hands of state-licensed strangers.
Freeing society at large from the tyranny of the welfare state is a necessary but formidable task that will require concerted effort by millions of principled people. But individual households can measurably reduce the welfare state’s impact by freeing themselves from the shackles of the modern consumer culture.
This means, first of all, that mothers must come home – preferably to teach their own children in a television-free environment.
I believe that if women cherished their freedoms and their treasures – their children and husbands – they could find a way to quit their jobs, despite the financial hardships that may ensue. The most reliable Source of wisdom teaches us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also; He also admonishes us to focus on imperishable treasures, rather than those that will rust, fade, or become obsolete.
This year’s must-have luxury good, which can be yours for adding a few more dollars to the credit card balance, will be cluttering a shelf at a thrift store within a decade. The memory of a child’s first words, first steps, hugs, kisses – even his messes – will last forever. Which is the better investment?
Shocking as it might seem to many decent people, it seems clear to me that women working outside the home is the root of many of the most urgent social problems in our country, and those problems will continue to multiply until women come home where they belong.
This is not to say that they should be "forced" back against their will. There are some women who honestly have to work out of simple economic necessity, thanks to our evil tax and inflation system. Others, however, drive to work – in expensive late-model cars – from large, extravagant homes bursting with opulent toys. People are certainly free to spend time and money as they see fit, but they should have a sober understanding of the costs incurred – both economic and social.
Women should realize that our society has been restructured by people who follow Simone de Beauvoir’s prescription: "No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women would make that one." The social and economic pressures of our modern consumer culture do at least as much as the tax burden created by the welfare/warfare state to force women out of the home.
My sister recently told me of a conversation with a friend who told her that she’d love to quit her job, come home, and home school her kids but that her husband wants her to keep working so they can get her student loans paid off. In the meantime, however, that couple is missing out on their kids’ irreplaceable childhood years – and those kids are being raised by the State.
Take this experience and multiply it by scores of millions and we have yet another generation of kids who know little or nothing about God, the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and moral truths. Like their parents, those children will eventually be sent off to college, where they will continue to be indoctrinated in the same collectivist worldview, acquire their own student loan and credit card debts, and begin the cycle again – mothers working outside the home, leaving children to be raised by the State…. This assumes, of course, that our society hasn’t already collapsed under the unsustainable weight of public and private debt, and the Leviathan State, by the time those kids are old enough for college. In either case, the inevitable outcome is a society from which freedom has been extinguished, populated by stupid, listless people.
Jesus said that the poor will be with us always, and the same is true – at least for most of us – of financial burdens and challenges. To the woman who was reluctant to quit her job, my sister gave some great advice: "You’ll always have bills to pay but you won’t always have your children."
Believers understand that our Creator hard-wired the sexes to carry out certain functions: Men are providers and protectors, and women are designed to be caretakers. At some point in her life, nearly every woman will realize that she was designed to be a keeper of the home. Sometimes – too often, in fact – that realization comes too late. And often it comes only after the would-be "have it all" working Mom has surrendered her most precious treasure into the hands of rented strangers, making alienated strangers of her own flesh and blood.
People really interested in saving our country should tirelessly struggle against decades of feminist indoctrination by teaching their daughters to stay home and raise children.
Wives who sensibly decide to quit their jobs and come home should make other critical changes right away. The most important deals with the evil appliance that usually occupies the most prominent place in the living room.
Exorcising the cathode-ray tube demon can make for a very rewarding family outing. My husband Will suggests that each family should take the TV out to the local shooting range; upon arrival, each family member should emulate Elvis’s most lucid act by pumping several rounds into the vile thing. Alas, we simply pitched our Idiot Box into the trash, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
The next step toward household liberation is to take your kids out of the State’s mind laundry, buy some books on homeschooling or find some at the library, and begin to educate them (rather than allowing them to be marinated in hatred for God, family, and freedom).
Through Isaiah, God warned of a time when "People will oppress each other – man against man, neighbor against neighbor…. Youths oppress my people, women rule over them." (Isaiah 3:5,12, NIV). The collectivist State is based on the principle of using government to enrich one’s self at the expense of others. And working mothers in such a society become, at best, economic competitors with their husbands and, at worst, controllers of the purse strings – a role they are simply not designed to play.
But worst of all, absentee mothers leave their children in the hands of the State – the same state that devours the household wealth in taxes; the same State that steals our wealth through inflation; the same State that provokes enmity toward our nation around the globe; the same State that will ultimately feed those children into the maw of the war machine.
Come home, America. Shoot your TV sets and bring the troops, the children, and the mothers home – and our country will be on the road to recovery.
There is a sense in which Washington’s aid to Israel is akin to such museum-quality examples of government stupidity as FEMA’s flood insurance program, which encourages people to build homes in food plains, or the role played by government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in underwriting and securitizing bad mortgage loans. All of those programs subsidize risky behavior, and socialize the costs when that behavior leads to disaster.
Israel’s punitive military excursion into Gaza is a splendid example of the same kind of subsidized foolishness, this time in international rather than domestic affairs.
Intermittent rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas cadres provided the pretext for the current Israeli war on Gaza. These attacks are not “resistance” to the Israeli government’s suffocating blockade of Gaza; they are cynical, damnable terrorist assaults on Israeli citizens – carried out, ironically, by elements of a movement created and sustained by the Israeli government itself.
The Israeli government and its defenders describe the Hamas missile attacks as a violation of a cease-fire agreement and, therefore, proof that the population of Gaza is incorrigibly committed to violence. But the current Israeli campaign was planned more than six months ago – before the cease-fire even went into effect. Had Hamas not been stupid enough to fire a handful of largely useless rockets into Israel, some other provocation would have been arranged to justify the invasion of Gaza.
Just War principles do not require a strictly proportionate response to an attack. However, there is a point where punitive action taken in self-defense becomes aggression, and aggression becomes a slaughter.
Waging war in this fashion is politically profitable for elements of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership. This reflects a durable, and carefully concealed, symbiosis described by Ben Cramer in his immensely important book How Israel Lost.
One illustration of that symbiosis mentioned by Cramer is the creation by the Mossad of Hamas, which nurtured the cult of suicide bombing and has killed hundreds of Israelis since 1988. While this was supposedly done to provide a “counter-weight” to Arafat, the Israeli establishment maintained intimate ties with him, as well – even as Israelis and Palestinians were dying by the hundreds in a supposedly irrepressible conflict.
Victims of a cynical, murderous charade: The bodies of a mother and her children, killed by U.S. weapons in Israeli hands.
"The PA's slimy business intersects with Israeli business at the highest levels of Israeli political life," wrote Cramer with palpable disgust. "Things are not as they seem."
Cramer illustrated this cynical “understanding” by highlighting the relationship between Israeli-owned Dor Energy and the PLO-operated Palestinian fuel monopoly. Dor's petroleum depot was a large, conspicuous target on the border with Gaza, re-supplied at regular, predictable intervals by large, slow-moving fuel tankers. In any of the numerous Israeli military strikes on Gaza, both the depot and the trucks would make irresistible targets. Yet, owing to the deal arranged between power-brokers on both sides of the conflict, neither the depot nor any of the tankers has ever been hit.
By far the most lucrative “arrangement,” Cramer explains, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, in which outbreaks of violence are timed to serve the political interests of leaders on both sides.
Prior to his death in November 2004, Arafat’s popularity "in opinion polls [would often] teeter near nowhere--invisibility--until his rescue by Israeli action against him," Cramer points out. The same was true of Ariel Sharon: "If his polls dropped, something terrible happened--dead Jews all over the TV," and his political fortunes would rise.
Exactly the same cynical game is afoot now in the latest bloodletting in Gaza. The present conflict, remember, was being planned six months ago, and is being played for political advantage by the incumbent Israeli government.
Once it’s understood that the Israeli-Palestinian blood feud is, in some ways, a scripted exercise akin to a professional wrestling “match” -- albeit one on a much bigger scale, with real injury and death – then it’s easy to understand why peace is so elusive. Those in charge of the Israeli State, and those who aspire to run the embryonic Palestinian State, simply find the conflict too politically and materially profitable to abandon, despite the horrors it inflicts on the victims of their misrule.
“Why is there no peace?” asks Cramer. “Who wants one?”
It is impossible to see how this murderous charade could continue without the financial and material intervention of Washington. Were the U.S. to do what our Constitution and founding principles require – withdraw all subsidies and support from both sides of the conflict – the perverse incentives that propel much of this conflict would be removed.
U.S. withdrawal wouldn’t palliate ancient ethno-religious grievances, or those of a more recent vintage rooted in the dispossession of the Palestinians. But it would force the antagonists to make a more realistic accounting of the actual costs of the conflict, which might prod them to make the kind of grudging, halting, agonizingly reluctant material overtures that eventually lead to peace.
Of course, American withdrawal is going to happen anyway when the destruction of the dollar is consummated, a fact that should not be lost on those interested in Israel's survival. That nation's ability to dominate its rivals militarily is a particularly pernicious variant of an investment bubble, one that has distorted Israel's priorities and discouraged it from creating a security framework on assumptions that don't involve leveraging U.S. power on its behalf.
The bubble of U.S.-Israeli dominance in the Middle East will burst as soon as the fiat dollar's global hegemony ends.