Secret. Murder. Panels.

In a wonderful piece published by Reuters this evening, we come to learn that “a secretive panel of senior government officials” is responsible for placing people—U.S. citizens included—on a “kill or capture” list.

Let me spell that out for you: The government of the United States of America, steward of freedom, fairness, and democracy, now includes a secret murder panel. A small number of unidentified officials who do not have the authority to do so under any law whatsoever meet in secret, off the public record, to conspire to use the government’s resources to commit acts of violence against anyone, including U.S. citizens.

It doesn’t get a lot clearer than that, folks. I’m going to hesitate to say that “the government” is claiming this or that authority, though. This isn’t about the government. It’s not about division of power or constitutional limits.

This is a conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder, and to do so through abuse of the power of the government.

One of the basic pillars of a society bound by law is that it is unacceptable to murder human beings. No idea is more constant across all cultures, religions, and legal regimes then the prohibition on killing people. No crime is punished more severely than the taking of a life without valid, proven reason why it was necessary.

Over the years, many people have disagreed on what constitutes validity, proof, and other concepts, and out of this problem were created formalized court systems. These institutions bear the burden of deciding how to define the proper and judicious application of punishment for crime. They are the final authority on matters of criminality and civil conflict.

The courts are where Anwar al-Awlaki’s fate should have been decided. There are procedures for convicting people of crimes in absentia, and they certainly apply when the urgency of judgment overrides the fleeing defendant’s right to be present at trial. If he truly had committed crimes against the United States, he would likely be convicted and sentenced quickly. If his crimes were serious enough, the court could order his death or capture and empower someone to enforce it.

The word of a room full of secretive men is not a substitute for the court’s judgment. It is a crime on the same level as anything al-Awlaki could have been concocting. If a cabal of private citizens were to conspire to do the same thing in the same way, those people would be criminals under the law of any country. The conspirators’ involvement in the government does not make the secret murder panels any more acceptable. In fact, it makes their acts even more criminal. These individuals need to be brought to light and made accountable for their crimes.

This cannot stand. No secret murder panels. Not in my country.

I Won’t Shoot You / Don’t Be a Horse

I live in New Hampshire, and it is much easier to buy a firearm here than in most other states. There are no state laws limiting the purchase of any type of gun. The only real laws are these:

1. A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a long gun.
2. A person must be at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun.

The federal government does, however, allege authority to impose firearms restrictions in the state of New Hampshire, so there are other hoops to jump through. There are special licenses and requirements for automatic and selective-fire guns, explosive devices, and other miscellaneous items. Purchase of any firearm from a federal licensee requires undergoing an “instant” background check.

But by and large, providing you’re not mentally unstable or a criminal, it is easy to get a gun here. There are even laws that bypass the federal licensing system by allowing firearms transactions without paperwork between certain parties. It’s also easy to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun—again, if you’re clean. There are no fingerprints taken or other criminal-handling procedures inflicted on the applicant. The issuing authority (usually local police) must respond to your application within 14 days with either a brand-new license or a damn good reason why you can’t have it. The fee is $10 for residents. That’s ten dollars, not a typo.

There are also no laws telling gun owners how to store their property. If you want to lock up your guns, do it. If not, don’t. Despite this, it’s common practice to lock up guns anyway, and to keep ammo separate. People who own guns tend to be quite aware of the potential for misuse or devastating accidents, not to mention that they can be pretty expensive. But no one has to tell them to do it.

Keeping and bearing arms here is a right that you have to forfeit by your actions, not a privilege that is contingent on the actions of others. The carry license is a sort of convenience, a way to simplify innocent encounters between the police and lawful gun-toters. The laws keep guns out of the hands of unsupervised children because that’s common sense. If there were no federal laws, the state would still work to keep known criminals from acquiring guns because, again, it’s common sense.

But overall, adults are treated like adults when it comes to firearms. In fact, adults are treated like adults in general. It makes sense in a state with “LIVE FREE OR DIE” emblazoned on every license plate. We aren’t required by law to buy any kind of insurance, not even for driving. No one has to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. The state doesn’t tax our income so that it can justify making our decisions for us. The state only ever attempts to make safety decisions for children, because they’re children and they can’t be expected to responsibly make those decisions yet. Until they’re 18, they have to wear seat belts and refrain from playing the lottery. After that, it’s up to them.

Personally, my decisions lean toward those that are mandated in other states. I have driver’s insurance because it is the right decision for me. I wear a seat belt whenever I’m in a car because I want to. If I were to get a motorcycle, I would probably wear a helmet out of pants-shitting fear. On the other hand, I don’t have health insurance because, without an employer subsidy, it’s an extremely bad deal. It’s the better decision for me to not make that purchase, and I have the freedom to do so.

I also have a pistol/revolver license, and on any given day I might choose to carry a loaded gun on my person or in my vehicle. With the laws the way they are, I could have any number of guns that invoke any number of media buzzwords—semi-automatic handgun, assault rifle, hollow-point ammunition, pistol grip, high-caliber rounds, extended magazines! Any day of the week, I could be standing in line next to you with a pistol and 48 rounds on my hip.

I might have all of that and more, but I won’t shoot you, ever. I promise. My promise goes back to the original idea of the social contract. I’m an adult and you’re an adult, and we solemnly agree not to do each other harm or to interfere in each other’s affairs. Unless your actions urgently force me to do it, I will not shoot or even point a gun at you. I also won’t force you to wear a seat belt or put away your cell phone while you’re driving (even if it makes me grit my teeth). In return, all I ask is that you respect my rights and my decisions the way I respect yours.

This is the ideal from which the United States grew. Freedom does come with risks, but it is exactly in our dealing with these risks that we grow to be mature, useful people. The best among us are allowed to flourish when their lives are left in their own hands, and the worst among us will fail anyway. But when we are deprived of freedom and the risks that go with it, all of us never really grow up. We assume we need permission for almost everything. Our confidence is stunted, and our minds develop around the idea of seeking approval rather than improving ourselves and achieving things. We become the opposite of free; we become dependent.

Free people say “yes” or “no” by their own choice, and they act of their own will. They don’t wait for orders and say “okay” to every request. They don’t defer their judgment and their decisions to well-dressed know-it-alls a thousand miles away. Dependent people need that bubble, that insulation from themselves. They agree to be put in social handcuffs for what they perceive to be their own good, and they consider a safety net a good deal at any cost (and anyway, they can’t say no).

The United States was partly designed as a sort of experiment, but not an experiment to see if democracy works. Citizens get to vote, but the system of government itself is a constitutional republic. It exists to safeguard our freedom and to govern within strict limitations so that we can become strong and independent. That, more than anything else, is the material purpose behind the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and every other revolutionary founding document of this country. The founders did not want their victory to go to waste on a nation of weak, dependent children who would only lose it all back.

When the government acts outside of its restrictions and betrays the purpose of freedom, that nation of weak, dependent people comes to life. We may feel safer, but in reality we are more vulnerable the less free we are. We grow into lives of perpetual servitude, constantly seeking out employers instead of ever doing anything for ourselves. We depend on others for everything we need to survive. Our skill sets become a list of traits that are desirable in slaves: works hard, speaks politely, has a positive attitude, doesn’t challenge authority, follows directions well, and so on. We never really demand anything, so we end up with whatever we are willing to accept to sell ourselves out. What we get is generation after generation of people that are indistinguishable at a distance from herds of livestock.

That is why freedom is worth defending—because it makes us strong, and its absence makes us weak. It gives us opportunities to learn and keeps us from developing into ignorant, helpless animals that would die without a master. Freedom is the difference between a man and the horse he rides. Every time we give up some of our liberty, we are getting on all fours and inviting anyone to mount us. We are proclaiming ourselves weak and in need of a master. And there is always someone ready to take up the offer.

Being a good citizen does not mean following the orders of men who want to make us their horses. Our country will never be better off because its people declared themselves beasts undeserving of liberty. Our best people earn honor by remaining steadfast while everyone else’s knees quiver. And they are remembered far longer and more fondly than their horses.

The Ten Years Hate

There is so much to say, and so much that has already been said.

Winston’s diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard—a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party—an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the revolution had been betrayed—and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein’s specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army—row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Goldstein’s bleating voice.

Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne: besides, the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were—in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. The Brotherhood, its name was supposed to be. There were also whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumours. Neither the Brotherhood nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.

Thus, at one moment Winston’s hatred was not turned against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies. And yet the very next instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed to him to be true. At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness, and the doubt that hung about his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization.

It was even possible, at moments, to switch one’s hatred this way or that by a voluntary act. Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark-haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:




—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Bill Cooper and the Nine-Eleven Coverage That Should Have Been

I’m about to ask you to do something.

It’s not a favor for me; it’s a favor for you. There are some radio broadcasts you really should hear. You should have heard them a long time ago, but that’s neither here nor there. I just learned of them in the past year, and now I’m presenting them to you.

The reason this is a favor (as opposed to a simple “Here, check this out”) is because the broadcasts comprise over 10 hours of audio, some of which is less than exciting. It’s a lot to listen to, but it’s also a lot more interesting than your usual iPod playlist.

On June 28, 2001, a man named Bill Cooper made a broadcast in which he predicted that a major incident would soon be blamed on Usama bin Laden. Cooper was the author of the cult favorite book Behold a Pale Horse and host of the radio show Hour of the Time, well-known for his research and commentary on UFOs and a secret government program called Majesty-12. The relevant part of his broadcast from June 28 is reproduced in the video below, 0:59–2:46. (The rest of the broadcast is mostly about the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, and is available here.)

About two a a half months later, on September 11, 2001, Cooper made his longest single broadcast, and one of his last. He was on the air from morning until night, and again for an hour each on the 12th and 13th. Recordings of those broadcasts are available in MP3 format via the links below:

Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 1)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 2)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 3)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 4)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 5)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 6)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 7)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 8)
Hour of the Time, 9/11/01 (part 9)

Hour of the Time, 9/12/01

Hour of the Time, 9/13/01

Cooper hosted a handful of other episodes of Hour of the Time in the following months. Then, on November 6, 2001, he was shot to death at his home in Eagar, Arizona, in an altercation with Apache County deputies enforcing a warrant. His death was predictably subject to a great deal of scrutiny from his fans, who were already aware that he had sent his family into hiding out of fear for their safety.

Regardless of how you feel about Cooper’s brusque style of conducting his broadcast, his unusual history in UFO and other “conspiracy” studies, or the cause of his death, you have to recognize after listening to these broadcasts that he was onto something. Nearly all of the assertions that he made regarding September 11, 2001 turned out to have a basis in fact, notably:

  • The Twin Towers could not possibly have been destroyed by the means explained in official reports, but appear to have been taken down using explosives, as Cooper noted right away. The same goes for World Trade Center 7.
  • Usama bin Laden was immediately blamed, despite lack of proof of his guilt.
  • The attacks were used without hesitation to demonize Islam and initiate unnecessary foreign wars.
  • In the aftermath of the attacks, a permanent “war on freedom” was initiated, and measures were taken to curtail constitutional rights and alter public policy in extreme ways.

Those who count themselves among the “nine-eleven truth” crowd may feel especially shocked by many of Cooper’s statements—not because they’re surprising, but because they are in line with the results of many years of research on the topic. A mere few hours after the first plane crashed, Cooper was already hot on the trail and talking about it in ways that few dared. His frankness and candidness put to shame all the mainstream news outlets that turned into official mouthpieces as soon as it became taboo to do otherwise. His broadcast is what the world should have heard in place of the commercial-free flurry of propaganda that dominated mass communication.

While most of us were being traumatized by televised mass murder on a loop, Cooper was on shortwave telling people to remain calm and to try to observe the situation for what it was. Listening to his words now is eerie, especially knowing what happened to him, but his account of that day is an important piece of the puzzle that everyone should hear.

[Thanks to “shure” at for the links to the MP3s.]

You Should Have a Gun

You should have a gun. You really should.

Politicians and news personalities and other talking heads will often tell you that you shouldn’t have a gun. They’ll tell you that guns don’t need to be useful beyond the narrow scope of hunting and personal defense. They’ll tell you that the Second Amendment must have limits so that criminals and maniacs and terrorists can’t have high-capacity magazines and machine guns.

But hunting and self-defense are two secondary reasons why the government isn’t permitted to infringe on your right, as an American citizen, to bear arms. In fact, let’s review the exact text of the Second Amendment right now:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It doesn’t say anything about hunting. It doesn’t say anything about personal defense either. It contains two major parts: a justification of the right, and an unqualified declaration of the right.

The justification explains that the importance of this right is that it allows for local, organized defense (though nowhere does it restrict the right to this purpose). It is not referring to the National Guard of each state. It is referring to civilians maintaining the ability to organize themselves into effective military units if the need should arise.

The declaration does not specify what kind of arms, nor does it provide any room for exception to the rule. The word infringe does not include any connotation of flexibility. It means, “to encroach upon,” with its origins in a Latin word meaning “to damage, break off.” Any baby-step in the direction of restricting possession and carrying of arms of any kind is an infringement of the right.

It is not an oversight that the amendment was written this way. The founders of the United States were rebels and revolutionaries. Access to weapons is what allowed them to defend their country from the theft and oppression of George III.

It’s important to note here that monarchy was a very long-standing form of government as of the late 18th century. The founders were educated people who were facing massive disillusionment with a system that had been in place from time immemorial. The Second Amendment is a recognition that even the most trusted, powerful institutions around us can turn out be destructive elements that need to be stood down. They knew it could happen even in this well-considered arrangement they had created themselves.

That is why the people of the United States have a right—second only to free speech, free religion, free assembly, and redress of grievances—to own and to carry weapons of their choosing, with no limits. Everything from slingshots to missiles to laser rifles is forbidden to the government to restrict. And that right exists primarily so that we may defend ourselves against the government if it becomes necessary, with the same level of force that the government can employ.

Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the past few decades, there’s no way you could not have noticed the government’s complete impunity in its actions. There’s no way you could not have noticed that, year after year, it looks a lot more like a permanent ruling class than any kind of democracy. There’s no way you could not have noticed that something has gone awry with the founders’ great experiment.

Governments cannot be trusted to correct themselves once they’ve gone bad. Human history does not contain many examples of that. Governing bodies exist to last indefinitely, so that’s what they do—preserve the structure of rule. Sometimes, when they’re acting badly enough, that preservation can take some really ugly forms. It can kill and destroy with an unimaginable ferocity. Human history is filled with examples of this.

Unarmed citizens command no authority and present potential government thugs no deterrent to abuse. Armed citizens represent a power to be reckoned with; any large-scale assault upon them risks running into effective resistance.

No one is saying you should keep an automatic rifle loaded under your bed, ready and waiting to be brought into battle. There’s no call to attack the government. There’s no need to join a militia if you don’t want to.

But you should have a gun, and you should learn to use, store, and maintain it properly. You should assert and protect your and your fellow citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. And you should never forget why.

[Many thanks to Merriam-Webster Online and the Online Etymology Dictionary for help with the “infringe” paragraph.]