“No-Knock Raid” is Just Another Term for “Violent Home Invasion”

On January 28, home invaders murdered 58-year-old Rhogena Nicholas and 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle of Houston, Texas. Nicholas and Tuttle wounded five of the (numerous) armed burglars before being slain.

That’s not how the news accounts put it, of course.  Typical headline (from the Houston Chronicle): “4 HPD officers shot in southeast Houston narcotics operation, a fifth injured.”

A number of claims relating to the fateful “no-knock raid” remain in dispute, not least whether or not Nicholas and Tuttle were, as the search warrant leading to the raid alleged, selling heroin from their home (their neighbors characterized them as quiet people who didn’t have lots of company, and scoffed at the notion that they might be drug dealers).

Setting aside those disputes, let’s give the benefit of doubt to Houston police chief Art Acevedo on two things.

Acevedo says that his officers “announced themselves as Houston police officers while simultaneously breaching the front door.”

And Acevedo admits that immediately upon breaching the front door, one of the officers shot and killed the residents’ dog.

Ask yourself this: If armed men break down your front door and shoot your dog, are you going to notice (if you can even hear) the invaders saying “police, police?” Are you going to just automatically believe the claim even if you do hear and notice it? Or are you going to act to defend yourself?

It was only after the officers’ violent entry and after one officer killed their dog that Tuttle shot and wounded the dog-killer and Nicholas attempted to disarm him. Both  paid with their lives for their forlorn resistance to a gang of armed invaders.

Naturally, Acevedo blames the victims — and the availability of guns with which mere civilians might conceivably defend their homes and their lives from violent intruders.

No, the cops didn’t find any heroin on the premises, although they did claim to have found marijuana and a white powder that Acevedo thought might be cocaine or fentanyl.

No, neither Nicholas nor Tuttle had  criminal pasts which might have justified a John Dillinger style takedown. Tuttle had no criminal record at all. Nicholas had a single (dismissed) bad check charge on hers.

The Houston PD brought guns, battering rams, and overwhelming force to what they didn’t even expect to be a knife fight. It was supposed to just be a quick episode of “law enforcement theater,” a show of force to show the mere mundanes who’s in charge.

That it went terribly wrong isn’t on the victims. It’s on Acevedo and company, and on Gordon G. Marcum II, the judge who signed a warrant specifying that police were “hereby authorized to dispense with the usual requirement that you knock and announce your purpose before entering” the residence.

Acevedo, Marcum, and the officers at the sharp end of the stick will never be charged with armed criminal action and conspiracy to commit same. But they should be. And we need a much higher bar for “no-knock” warrants, if they’re to be allowed at all.

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“Deep State” Isn’t What You Think

You’ve probably been hearing about the “deep state” recently, with some pundits saying it’s a danger and others saying it doesn’t even exist.

It’s real, but it’s not the conspiracy theory some would have you believe. Its reality shouldn’t be controversial; it’s there for everyone to see and experience.

The “deep state” is, in simple terms, the government bureaucracy. It is all those parts of government that don’t change from one presidential administration to the next.

When presidents change, the new president hires new people to run the various government agencies, but most employees in the massive agency keep their job. The new boss depends on the experience of those who have been in the job through multiple administrations to keep things running.

Since their jobs are safe, they get entrenched, and in some positions, feel invulnerable because of their experience and years in the job. When no one else even understands or knows for sure what they do, how can they be replaced?

Thus, you have a “deep state.”

Some people want to turn this recognition of reality into evidence of paranoia.

Sure, when you involve powerful agencies such as the CIA and FBI, opportunities for abuse are probably irresistible. It’s likely that some will come to see themselves as the real power behind the scenes and see the elected officials as figureheads to be tolerated as long as they don’t upset the status quo too much.

Some of them undoubtedly act on this power.

Scenarios of “deep state” presidential assassinations and other undemocratic schemes are thrilling, but the majority of the damage is done to your liberty by the everyday governing, which goes on openly, in front of microphones and cameras.

The state, both deep and broad, has been tightening the noose around the necks of Americans almost from the beginning.

The state has been preventing the people from choosing to uncouple from an out-of-control federal government since Mr. Lincoln’s war to repeal the Declaration of Independence. It has been violating the Second Amendment since at least 1934. The state keeps the tax records that are used to entrap and enslave the people. It steals, compiles, and stores your private data. All in the name of governing you.

Yet people worry about what the mysterious parts of “deep state” might do to other parts of this enemy organization? This seems like displaced concern to me.

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Wilson, the Stubborn

I had a friend– I’ll call him “Wilson”– who was… interesting.

He was a bit of a conspiracy nut, more than a little paranoid, hated government, was good at outdoor survival skills, had questionable taste in women, and was very stubborn.

Yes, he had his flaws (as do we all) but all-in-all he was a decent guy. I always enjoyed hanging out with him.

Here’s one tale about him:

One winter his woodstove was not safe and he couldn’t use it. The stove pipe was messed up somewhere above the ceiling. His landlord refused to repair the stove pipe so a fire could be lit. This was the only heat in the house, and it was already winter near Gunnison, Colorado.

He told his landlord that he would fix the stove pipe himself and deduct the cost from his rent. The landlord said “no”. Wilson wasn’t the kind of person to just bite the bullet and fix it at his own expense. So after a bit more arguing over it, Wilson simply stopped paying rent. And the landlord never tried to kick him out.

He spent the winter in an unheated house– which obviously meant he had no running water, either.

He was lucky– I don’t think the temperature ever got much colder than 20° below 0 (°F) that winter. He lived diagonally across the river from me, and I went to visit him a few times over the winter. His house was about the same temperature inside as the outdoors. He wore his coat all the time.

He slept in one of those “100 below” mummy-type sleeping bags, inside a pup tent, in his bedroom. He said it was warm enough. His house would warm up a little if he cooked something, but that didn’t last long and I don’t think he cooked much.

I offered to let him hang out at my house some, but he didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to get used to heat. He would sit at my campfire out by the wikiup with me, though.

That was his last winter in the area.

After a few other incidents, Wilson suddenly vanished. Years later I ran into him far from home, while I was on a vacation. He was working in a resort town in New Mexico and I bumped into him on the street. We caught up a little; he told me of more recent incidents, and I got his (general delivery) address. I mailed him a few times, but eventually my letters came back as “undeliverable”.

I might relate some other Wilson stories another time. There are a lot of them to tell: his clash with the post office, his clash with the sheriff, the time he became convinced I was working with the cops against him, his clash with the forest circus (his term), why he wouldn’t use the internet (he would know this is about him, but I know he’ll never see it), his pop-up camper incident, his clash with the highway patrol… I notice a pattern here. But not all fit the pattern. If any of those pique your interest, let me know and I’ll write it up for another day.

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A Convenient Caravan: Cui Bono?

In an October 23 editorialInvestor’s Business Daily claims that “[t]he ‘caravan’ of illegal immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras now making its way to the U.S. border is no accident. The timing, planning and financing of this tragic parade has but one intent: to disrupt and influence our midterm elections.”

An interesting assertion, but the piece doesn’t offer answers to any of the questions implied other than to blame Democrats for all things evil.

Who planned the caravan? IBD names a group that supposedly planned a previous one.

Who timed the caravan? No answer from IBD.

Who’s financing the caravan? IBD: “If only our friends in the mainstream media would do their jobs and find out.”

A conspiracy theory isn’t much fun when the theorists can’t be bothered to put meat on its bones in the form of factual claims that might possibly be verified or proven false.

Since IBD couldn’t be bothered to do the heavy lifting, I guess I’ll have to. I’ll work with a standard wrench from the conspiracy theory toolbox: Cui bonoThat’s Latin for “who benefits?”

If the migrant caravan indeed “has but one intent: to disrupt and influence our midterm elections,” what individual, group, or political party benefits from that disruption/influence? IBD’s complaints about Democrats come apart at the seams as soon as cui bono is invoked.

If the caravan disrupts or influences the 2018 US midterm elections, it does so entirely and exclusively to the benefit of the Republican Party.

The caravan is a perfectly timed hobgoblin for demagogues like Donald Trump (and the editors of IBD) to shake in the air like a witch doctor’s fetish for maximum “Scare Our Base to the Polls” purposes.

As a conscript in the service of conspiracy theory, albeit one with better skills than whoever volunteered to embarrass  IBD, I’d have to attribute the caravan’s planning, timing, and financing, on cui bono grounds, to the Republican National Committee (or one of its subordinate committees) and/or to one or more of Donald Trump’s three 2020 campaign committees.

Do I believe that? It’s certainly tempting. But I’m more of an Occam’s Razor guy than a cui bono guy. Occam’s Razor says we should go with the theory that requires the least speculation.

Individual immigrants pay as much as $10,000 to “coyotes” to guide them across the US border — if they can make it through the narco-terrorist-infested wilds of Central America first. Most of the immigrants in question are poor. Getting together as a “caravan” is cheaper and traveling in a large group is presumably safer than risking it alone or in single family units.

You may have “caravaned” to a distant city for a concert or convention yourself. Four people to a car is cheaper than one.  Four cars means that if one breaks down, the trip doesn’t come to a sudden end. And you probably organized it just like these immigrants probably organized it: By word of mouth.

Sorry to wreck your fun conspiracy theory, IBD. Better luck next time.

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Crisis Management

Nobody asked but …

Recently, Forbes magazine published an article listing four rules of crisis management.  The rules were illustrated with examples from the current hullabaloo over the confirmation of the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.  My purpose here is not to discuss the Senatorial folderol (you can read the article for that), but to look at crisis management (consequently information management) on a broader plane, with a voluntaryist viewpoint.

The four rules are:
Recognize the crisis as a crisis;
Get out as much information as possible as soon as possible, particularly any negative information;
Avoid saying anything that has to be withdrawn;
Avoid doing anything that looks like a cover-up.

Recognize the crisis as a crisis — Most people will do anything to keep their head in the sand, but we have many lingering problems today (remember the 105 year old “temporary” income tax).  We were told that the tax scam was only for World War I (recognizing a crisis as a crisis, perhaps), but after having bought the excuse, most Americans promptly stuck their heads back in the sand.  Voila!  Over a century of tax slavery.  The lesson here is to never trust a politician to not take advantage of a crisis, or even the pretense of a crisis.  The thoughtful person, who sets an alarm to check the promise, is desperately needed — but she is rare indeed.

Get out as much information as possible as soon as possible, particularly any negative information — Ancient wisdom is that no man will fashion the club with which he is to be beaten.  We cannot depend on politicians to be objective about pertinent information.  They will only be forthright about negative information that is negative for the partisan opposition.  Therefore, we must tolerate the media, maybe even goad them into digging harder, maybe even shame them for being content with opinions, maybe chide them for trying to jump to conclusions.  Never forget that information must always be orderly (“in formation”).  We must be skeptical of dysformation being sold as information.

Avoid saying anything that has to be withdrawn — Pure 100 proof information does not have to be withdrawn in the light of later revelations, because purity is comprised of facts, not wishes.  The Cambridge English Dictionary defines having egg on your face as being “very embarrassed because of something you said or did: eg  he told everyone the deal was happening, and if it falls through now he’ll have egg on his face.”  It seems that politicians, bureaucrats, and yellow journalists have a pathological compulsion to get egg on their faces.  We must let them do it without deterring us from pursuit of objective fact

Avoid doing anything that looks like a cover-up — The only time the above trio of folk will disengage from speaking too soon, is when they are compelled to see the crisis as an opportunity for a coverup.  The pol and the minion cannot resist secrecy, and the media cannot resist labeling anything as a coverup.  We must work against the tendency to theorize conspiracy.  These are just rats lost in a maze.  They are the least likely to speak about facts.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Are We Sure It Can’t It Happen Here?

One runs a risk whenever one cites the 20th century’s great terror states while discussing current ominous developments in the western democracies. Apparent comparisons of the United States or western and central European countries to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia will inevitably be hooted down with accusations of alarmist conspiracy-mongering and worse, shameful ahistoricity. Nevertheless, that must not keep us from noticing and pointing to contemporary events that bear an eerie resemblance, however slight, to things that went on in those totalitarian terror states. Such regimes don’t spring up overnight. They emerge, and looking at history, we can see that their more or less gradual emergence have telltale signs that we would do well to keep an eye out for. We can’t rest comfortably with the cliche that “it can’t happen here.” Yes, we run the risk of overinterpreting events, but perhaps that is better than underinterpreting them.

America today (though this is not new) is a place where the embers of fear of the outsider are being vigorously fanned from the very top of the political system. This is too clear to need substantiation. Just reread Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president three years ago, then observe his subsequent speeches, tweets, and actions. How revealing is his opportunism in seizing on any act of violence by an immigrant — “legal” or “illegal” — as though it were the rule rather than an anomaly! His not-so-subtle message is that all outsiders, and not just actual proven perpetrators, are by nature capable of atrocities against Americans and that those who have abstained until now can’t be trusted to continue their nonviolent ways. It’s not that they have the burden of proving their peaceful intentions; rather, it’s that they can never prove themselves trustworthy and thus eligible to live among us.

To what purpose does Trump communicate this message? It would be a mistake to to reply that it is only to advance his agenda of cutting — for cultural as well as economic reasons — even “legal” immigration and the admittance of refugees. It goes deeper than that. It is plainly to reinforce his “America First” nationalist religion with which he seeks permanently to transform — Trumpize, we may say — America. (His economic nationalist drive against global trade, the wealth-enhancing division of labor, is part of this program. In his eyes, it is ipso facto patriotic to “hire American and buy American” and therefore disloyal to think or do otherwise.) For Trump, the purity of America has been compromised long enough by the venal leaders of the past. Time to undo the damage. Step one: reduce, on the way the eliminating, the inflow of even more outsiders. And we can see the signs of step two: ridding America of “outsiders” who are already here, indeed, who have been living here peacefully for decades, including adults who were brought here “illegally” as children (so-called Dreamers) and who know no other society, and adults who are suspected, without hard evidence or due process, of having been granted U.S. citizenship only because of allegedly fraudulent documents.

Such measures, supported by ranting tweets and ominously familiar rally harangues, communicate one thing: the targeted groups consist of lesser persons if they are persons at all. Thus their children may be seized and held in camps, and parents deported without knowing the fate of their children. Unaccompanied children seeking refuge from violence are shut away in overstretched detention facilities and “tent cities,” left in the charge of quintessential bureaucrats. (See “Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever.”) Trump partisans, who scream whenever local Child Protective Services takes Americans’ children away, are unmoved when the parents Trump targets are outsiders, or “aliens.” “It’s the law” is an entirely satisfactory explanation for those partisans in the latter case, but not in the former. Victimless technical violations committed by an American parent are rejected as grounds for such a drastic measure as family separation, but an equally victimless technical violation (“illegal entry,” failure to have government papers) is regarded as something approaching a capital offense. What does that tell us?

It tells us that outsiders are not only unwanted; they are intrinsically unworthy of being wanted because, as outsiders, they are less than human. So why care that many of the “illegals” seek asylum from inhuman conditions in their home countries? Send them back where they belong! They don’t belong here! So they are stateless, countryless, superfluous, rightless, which how Hannah Arendt described refugees, having been one herself.

It would be terrifying enough if what we are seeing in the Trump administration were novel. But it is not. We see it in other places, and we’ve seen it before in the not-too-distant past. In America, the novelty is that Trump’s recent predecessors, however ruthless their deportation programs, did not engage in Trump-style dehumanizing rhetoric. But, then, Trump wants to do more than just enforce bad “law”: through actions and words, he aims to brand the outsider as threatening to national security. (A similar tone can be heard in defenses of earlier American anti-immigrant statutes.)

Stripping human beings of their personhood as well as their natural rights should make us all recoil. It is not only immoral in its own right; it is corrosive to our society because it encourages people to emote (I hesitate to say think) and act in immoral and self-destructive ways. Consider the fact that the Trump administration has no trouble finding men and women who are willing to seize children from their mothers and fathers and place them in strange facilities; to capture people who are trying only to escape violence and tyranny; and cage people who are simply looking for work and a better life in a freer land. Those government agents are not conscripts. They can quit their jobs. Why don’t they? Is this Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”: unexceptional people just “doing their jobs” in order feed their own children, advance in their careers, and someday retire in modest comfort? (See her Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.) Do they sleep well at night? Can they look at themselves in the mirror? Why wouldn’t they be able to do those things? They are being good citizens, serving their country, following lawful orders. Indeed, they are involved in something greater than themselves, which happens also to relieve them of personal responsibility, or at least they might think so. (In this connection, I recommend Leonard E. Read’s important essays “On That Day Began Lies” and “Conscience on the Battlefield.”)

Are there parallels in the past? We need only consult Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. Note carefully the full title. Horrors can begin small, putting good people off-guard perhaps until it’s too late.

Discussing the prelude to the horror that was Nazi Germany, Arendt wrote:

In comparison with the insane end-result — concentration-camp society — the process by which men are prepared for this end, and the methods by which individuals are adapted to these conditions, are transparent and logical. The insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses. The impetus and what is more important, the silent consent to such unprecedented conditions are the products of those events which in a period of political disintegration suddenly and unexpectedly made hundreds of thousands of human beings homeless, stateless, outlawed and unwanted, while millions of human beings were made economically superfluous and socially burdensome by unemployment. This in turn could only happen because the Rights of Man, which had never been philosophically established but merely formulated, which had never been politically secured but merely proclaimed, have, in their traditional form, lost all validity.

The first essential step on the road to total domination is to kill the juridical person in man. This was done … by putting certain categories of people outside the protection of the law….

The road to domination requires the extinguishing of individuality, Arendt wrote, which represents “spontaneity,” subversive thought, and perhaps resistance. In Trump’s rants do we find any clue that the people he targets are individuals, each with his or her own story and aspirations? If we were to think about the victims that way, we — I include in the “we the border agents and detention officers — would be less likely to acquiesce, much less participate, in their mistreatment.

If “illegals” can be dehumanized, can we be so sure that groups of “legals” and even certain citizens won’t be subjected to the same sort of process?  Arendt warned that “the politically most important yardstick for judging events in our time [is] whether they serve totalitarian domination or not.”

I am not saying that immigrant-detention facilities resemble the concentration camps that Arendt spent so much time examining. We are fortunate that traditional hard-fought minimum legal protections and the constellation of civil-liberties organizations that stand ready to pounce on as-yet illegal mistreatment certainly pose obstacles to any significant advance toward the terror state. But who can rest comfortably with just that?

We need something more. We need a broad-based and vigorous moral campaign to trumpet the humanity of detainees and those seeking entry, whether as immigrants or refugees. The public must be reminded that these are persons with names and loved one, and not merely numbers in a cold bureaucracy’s database.

Further, those who know better must work overtime to cultivate not only a love of the “Rights of Man” but a love of individuality, that is, diversity and pluralism. Ultimately, as Arendt suggested, it’s the only insurance policy against dehumanization, oppression, and its ultimate consequence: genocide.

This humanitarian campaign ought to include lessons in basic economics. Recession, depression, and unemployment breed superfluousness, despair, intolerance, bigotry, resentment — and, finally, the scapegoating of the outsider. We’ve seen this happen when the “outsiders” were Americans with darker skin. In contrast, people who have a sense of economic security and optimism have one less pretext for eying the outsider with suspicion. So we must preach that widespread and chronic economic distress has only one source: the state, with its manipulation, monetary and otherwise, of our economic relations. A freed economy — freed of trade and other restrictions — is thus another insurance policy against dehumanization and genocide. (For this reason, Albert Jay Nock, for example, worried in 1941 that economic upheaval spawned by the U.S. government’s profligacy endangered Jewish Americans. Similarly, in 1922 H. L. Mencken expressed this fear regarding the Jews of Germany.)

Waging this campaign would not be mere altruism. It would also be self-regarding in the noble sense of the Socrates, Aristotle, Benedict Spinoza, Frédéric Bastiat, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, etc. By being good to others we are also being good to ourselves. Pluralism enables us to extend ourselves by giving us access to more knowledge, goods, and experiences than we as limited beings could ever acquire alone. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle said that a “friend is another self.” Thus a freed and open society is like a super-self. Spencer and Menger analogized society to an organism, not to diminish the individual but to emphasize how a pluralist society augments each individual. Indeed, it maximizes each person’s power in Spinoza’s sense of the capacity to move toward excellence as rational social beings in the vast and infinite world.

To repeat, I am not saying Trump’s rants and policies constitute an inevitable prelude to a totalitarian nightmare. I am saying the nightmare could not befall us if dehumanization never took place.

“Totalitarian solutions,” Arendt wrote, “may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.” Decency, then, depends on widespread understanding that a worthy remedy is indeed available: freedom, pluralism, and social cooperation.

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