The myth of the state will hypnotize even civilized people into sanctioning the crimes of obvious psychopaths. Witness the media coverage of a state “execution” carried out last week in North Korea.
The insane dictator of that nation recently murdered one of his henchmen by blowing him to smithereens with a mortar round.
A North Korean army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-il’s death.
On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and “obliterated.”
—The Telegraph, UK
“Obliterating” a man with enough explosive power to destroy an entire city block is the kind of madness more typical of a costumed comic-book supervillain. The lurid extravagance of the crime could gratify only a truly depraved appetite for cruelty, one so sated with violence that it’s grown bored with simple gunshots to the temple.
In any other context, such a crime would provoke outrage or horror or perhaps only the fascinated revulsion we sometimes feel for the sickest criminal perversions reported in the news.
But because this particular twisted wretch claims to be a political leader, the press won’t call his action “murder.” They call it an “execution.”
Accepting the legitimacy of the state doesn’t just mean tolerating the snakey, two-faced smarminess of American politicians. It commits us to approving even the evilest kind of sadism, provided it’s perpetrated on behalf of the ghoul called “the state,” any state. The ghoulishness of our own government’s actions in war, still only dimly and narrowly apprehended, have shocked many who imagined their country to be better than torture and assassination and the bombing of children. But the shock fades and acceptance grows.
The state is by nature totalitarian; it demands total acceptance. There is no way to denounce the use of heavy ordnance to “execute criminals” without calling into question the more civilized violence perpetrated by our own smiling maniacs. And this, no one likes to do.
Should police have the power to plant a GPS device on your car and track your movements without your knowledge, without probable cause, and without a warrant? Incredibly, this question is actually being debated by the Supreme Court. I call it incredible because police power of this sort is or should be absolutely shocking to the American conscience. Only a cop could countenance it.
Fortunately, if current reporting is to be believed, the Court seems so far to have pretty solid American instincts on this matter. They’re challenging the defense pretty strongly, equating their arguments to a justification of surveillance tactics so scary that not even the Justice Department would dare propose them (yet), and accusing the government lawyers of steering our country towards something that, in the words of Justice Breyer, “sounds like 1984.” Pretty strong words.
Let’s hope their strong words and American instincts can hold out against the specious arguments of the government lawyers. They have pointed out that police are already free to observe and record a citizen’s movements in public by traditional surveillance methods, such as staking out locations he is known to frequent or even following him in person from place to place, so what, they ask, is to stop the police from using more sophisticated tools. In other words, the cops can already use binoculars and a notebook, so why shouldn’t they be permitted to use satellites, computers, and a transmitting device affixed to our personal property to track our every movement down to the second and the yard?
Two responses to this argument are appropriate. First of all, the right to observe, monitor and record the motions of others is not exclusively a right of the police. Any person at all is free to observe and even photograph other persons in public places where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Does anyone seriously suppose that my right to watch you walk down the sidewalk and get in your car, even my right to get in another car and follow you, could possibly give me the right to trespass on your property to affix a tracking device to your vehicle?
But secondly and more fundamentally, the government argument here is just sophistry, what McLuhan would call a basic illiteracy about media and technology. The lawyers are claiming that the addition of a GPS device to the surveillance arsenal is only a difference in quantity. They may be right, but past a certain point, a difference in quantity becomes a difference in kind.
Justice Roberts seems to understand this when he points out that the new GPS tools would let the police “push a button whenever they want to find out where the car is. They look at data from a month and find out everywhere it’s been in the past month. That seems to me dramatically different.”
It is dramatically different, and this is just the sort of thing that technology does. It makes things dramatically different. To use McLuhan’s terminology again, new technology doesn’t just enhance old technology, it creates a new world. And the new world can be so different that the old rules for the old world don’t apply any more or even make any sense.
And the feeling I get, at least, reading the arguments of the government lawyers is certainly not that they don’t see the new world created by the new technology. They see it very clearly. And misapplying the old rules, in this case, suits them just fine.
A onetime suburban police officer convicted in June of murder was sentenced this morning in St. Louis Circuit Court to 30 years in prison.
Alan Greenspan assures us that the credit downgrade is nothing to worry about:
The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.
What an insulting evasion of the real question. It wasn’t a concern about the efficiency of Federal Reserve printing presses that led to the S&P downgrade. Nobody doubts that the US can and will print more money. The question is how long people will be willing to accept that printed money. They’ve accepted it in the past. They will tomorrow and next week too. But for how much longer will people agree to accept those pieces of paper as money? That’s the real question. That’s what needs to be discussed and debated.
However long it is—and we can debate whether it’s going to be a short time or a long time—there’s one thing we can know with certainty. It’s not going to be forever. That’s what the S&P downgrade means. It means we’re just one little step closer to the day when Greenspan’s printing plan isn’t going to work anymore.
And then what? That’s the question Greenspan won’t answer.
Everywhere I go I’m being asked to pray for the Americans recently killed in Afghanistan. It’s the deadliest ever attack on American forces. Total killed: 30.
Oh, yes, there were also seven or eight Afghans killed, but I haven’t seen much of them in recent news stories.
There are so many things I could say, but what strikes me most strongly is just the number. Thirty. That’s the deadliest day in ten years for the US? Thirty?
By comparison, the battle at LZ Albany during the Vietnam war killed 155 US soldiers. And at the battle of Gettysburg, more than 50,000 union and confederate soldiers lost their lives. Also significant is the civilian casualty count at Gettysburg: One.
I haven’t the stomach today to look up casualty figures for Afghan and Iraq forces and I doubt little that many days have seen the unprovoked slaughter of more than 30 civilians. Yet the biggest risk taken by the occupying army is no worse than the potential of an occasional freak accident. As the humans in hiding observed in The War of the Worlds:
This isn’t a war. It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.
It makes you wonder what the Martians back home thought about the whole thing.
Could there be anything more frightening than arguing with this kind of mindlessness?
When Smith answered his door that night, a deputy placed him under arrest, alleging he had not paid a $300 conviction fine for driving on a suspended license.
“I told him I have paperwork telling him he is wrong,” Smith says. “I am not the right guy.”
A deputy allowed one of Smith’s sons to retrieve the document.
“He looks at it and says, ‘This doesn’t say anything,’” recalls Smith. “I said, ‘Read it. It says not to arrest me because I am not the right guy. Somebody stole my identity.’”
I always think the sorriest ring of hell must be the one with all the Catholics who ate meat on Friday back in the ’50s. What a bunch of losers.
Those suffering souls now have brain-brothers here on earth. It happens recently that law-abiders in Los Angeles are being humiliated to learn that they never had to pay those red-light-camera tickets:
“Now that makes me nuts,” said [ticket-payer] Brickman, who is unemployed. “That makes me want to go get a refund, but I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not going to happen. It’s very frustrating to know that I was victimized by something that they think is not useful or a good idea…. I could truly use that $476.”
Apparently, the cameras are still clicking away like mad, but the courts don’t think highly of the program. Unlike legislators and cops, judges tend to be familiar with concepts like “reasonable doubt” and “right to confront witnesses” and things like that. The judges of LA have decided that these tickets are mostly bogus and don’t do anything to enforce them.
Unless, that is, some yahoo Angelino actually shows his face in court and provides the evidence needed to prove that he’s the dumbass who ran the light. Then they nail him. And if he doesn’t pay, they rake him over the usual coals.
So the winning strategy with the red-light cameras, at least in Los Angeles, is the one strategy every fearful statist will warn you can never, ever work. You just ignore the bastards.
Ignoring the bastards doesn’t work for most charges, which is all the more reason for being well-informed of those few charges where it does.