Thursday, April 19, 2018

From 1999: The Other House on Garibaldi Street


Some pieces age better than others. Unfortunately, the evil-doer featured in this one -- originally published in 1999 at the now-defunct SpinTech web zine -- died of natural causes before she could be brought to justice. And it was written before I went full-on anarchist, when I still had some misplaced faith in the possibility of "reforming the system." But, seeing as how it's the 25th anniversary of the Waco massacre (and, to the minute, the time the first flames became visible from outside), I'm still going to re-post it. Enjoy.

The Other House on Garibaldi Street

The Israeli government took sixteen years to track down Adolph Eichman at the little house in Buenos Aires where he had retired from a long and productive career of burning, gassing and machine-gunning Jews. How long will it take us to put U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno behind bars where she belongs?

Six years after the literal holocaust at Waco, Reno remains at large. When Hezbollah or Hammas claim responsibility for an act of terrorism, our officials piously vow to track them down and exact retribution, whatever the cost. When one of those same officials claims responsibility for the fiery deaths of 80 people, including twice as many children as Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold murdered at Columbine High School, she goes on to become the longest-serving Attorney General in the history of our nation.

But the times, they are-a-changin'.

In July, after documentary researcher Michael McNulty (a producer of the Oscar-nominated Waco: The Rules of Engagement) received permission to examine the evidence gathered by the Texas rangers in the wake of the conflagration, four incendiary devices -- commonly referred to as "flash-bangs" -- surfaced. They had originally been misidentified as homemade silencers, presumably in order to substantiate the ATF's oft-stated (and, as yet, wholly unproved) claims that the Branch Davidians were stockpiling "illegal" armaments. What's more, the evidence mapping reveals that these devices were recovered from the parts of the Mount Carmel building where the fatal fires started.

Naturally, Reno denied any knowledge of the incendiaries and continued attempting to shove the responsibility that she originally claimed off onto her victims, who, being dead, can't answer. But her case was horribly weak to begin with: it's hard to establish to the satisfaction of any neutral panel that cutting off the power to a building, waiting until the tenants resort to kerosene lamps for lighting, then assaulting the building with tanks and pumping flammable gas into the place doesn't constitute an attempt at murder. Especially when your own cameras show your own people herding the victims back into the fire with the aid of automatic weapons. Especially when many of the victims are women and children. And, most especially, when the whole mess is the result of an unprovoked attack by your own people.

"Flash-bangs" are designed to stun and immobilize their targets. Being trapped in a burning building does not combine well with having one detonated next to you. Furthermore, the primer charges in the devices are known to start fires in small, enclosed spaces. Spaces like the rooms at Mount Carmel, where kerosene lamps were tumbling over and spilling as the tanks rammed the walls. There, the atmosphere was full of CS, a "riot agent" that produces potassium cyanide when ignited, suspended in a flammable delivery solution.

As I write this, the FBI has finally admitted to using incendiaries on the morning of the fatal fire. Reno is back-pedaling for all she's worth, announcing a new investigation into the siege and how it ended. One wonders if the "lost" evidence from the first Congressional hearings into the matter -- things like the ATF's videotape of the initial raid, the door from Mount Carmel Center, and other conveniently missing items -- will resurface this time around. Do the calls for another round of hearings in Congress portend a satisfactory resolution of the case (i.e. are the murderers going to stand trial, be rightly convicted by a jury of their peers, and be led away in manacles)?

Somehow, I doubt it. The Clinton administration has invested far too much capital in protecting Reno from the consequences of its policies and her actions. Clinton will never admit that his troops fired the first unprovoked shots in a war that has so far claimed the lives of over 200 people, including the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, which supposedly took place as retribution for the events at Waco.

Reno would be an international fugitive if she was the Attorney General of Yugoslavia. She would be on death row if she had thrown a CS grenade into someone's kerosene-lit house and then rammed it with her pickup truck after beating them unconscious. But since she committed her crimes using the surrogate agents of the BATF and FBI, and since those crimes reflected the official policy of a government run amuck, she has her freedom. For now.

But what happens when and if those who value human life and human freedom assume the place in government that rightfully belongs only to them? What is Ms. Reno going to do when we elect an administration predicated on Bill of Rights Enforcement?

Will Janet Reno, former Attorney General of the United States and proud recipient of the (no joke) Torchbearer Award, flee the country and attempt to live out her natural life in the relative, if limited, freedom of an exile and a fugitive from justice? Will she descend into the underground, adopting a new name and pretending to be an old retired female impersonator, passing unrecognized on the streets except by fellow fugitives like Larry Potts and Lon Horiuchi?

Is there a Garibaldi Street in Miami?

And if there is, would she be welcome there?

Reno's claim to fame, before her elevation to national power under the aegis of the newly elected Bill Clinton, was her penchant subjecting children to everything short of the rack to get them to fabricate stories of molestation. A number of her victims are back on the streets, having served years in prison for crimes they didn't commit before their convictions were overturned. No, I don't think she'll find hospitality forthcoming on her old stomping grounds. After next year, she'll be out there somewhere, nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it will.

You can run, but you can't hide, Ms. Reno. The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, especially when happenstance puts someone like yourself temporarily in the driver's seat. But turn they must. Even a corrupt machine like the current one-party state can't afford to have its legitimacy undermined to the extent that the actions of ATF and FBI have undermined it on your watch.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will -- sooner or later -- be used against you in a court of law.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Second Application of an Important Truth


L. Neil Smith:

"[T]he one and only reason politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen want to take your weapons away from you is so that they can do things to you that they couldn't do if you still had your weapons."

Me:

"The one and only reason politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen want to hobble encryption and cryptocurrency is so that they can find out things about, and steal wealth from, you that they couldn't find out and steal if you still had strong encryption."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Um, No


Nobody who pays attention to trivia like relationships within the anarchist and libertarian movements will mistake me for a fan of William Gillis or vice versa. In my opinion he's either one of the dumbest guys on the planet or an infiltrator/agent provocateur, as evidenced by his advocacy of piss-poor decision-making and/or downright evil posturing at the Center for a Stateless Society, where he is now director.

Of course, as a former media director and fellow at the Center, I do try to keep up with their content and do what I can to promote the good stuff (occasionally some good stuff slips past Gillis and gets published). So I had a look at his "Director's Report: Spring 2018," which opens with this:

At its inception C4SS focused on getting timely editorials with an anarchist focus published in newspapers around the world. However, with the slow decline of print media, many of the community newspapers that served as our bread and butter have dried up.

It's true that the number of traditional newspapers in the US continues to shrink. Some are going out of business and some are moving to a web-only format.

But that's not why the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published.

One reason the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published is that the op-eds are overtly anarchist. That's a feature, not a bug, and certainly nothing to blame anyone over. The further from the "mainstream" an op-ed is, the fewer editors are likely to run it. Editors like their radicalism a little less radical. That is, just radical enough to get readers thinking, but not so radical that bricks might get thrown through newsroom windows.

Nonetheless, when I worked as the Center's media coordinator, its op-eds were published hundreds of (my recollection is more than a thousand) times in newspapers around the US and around the world.

When I left, two things observably happened.

One was that the Center couldn't seem to find someone who would a) do the media coordinator job, and b) stick with the job. Again, not especially the Center's fault. Frankly, it was a hard job that I created from scratch in 2010 and that I understand could burn someone out quickly unless that someone is, well, me.

Another was that the quality of the op-eds dropped:

Length constraints (I always insisted on a maximum of 800 words, but urged writers to aim for 400-500) got relaxed. Some papers will run longer op-eds, but 400-500 words seems to be the "sweet spot" for getting the most newspaper op-ed action. I just took a quick sampling of the most recently cataloged pickups (from 2016 -- I don't know if they stopped cataloging pickups or stopped getting pickups). Minimum length was more than 700 words and one went to almost 2400 words. That's not op-ed length, that's feature length.

Another thing that went out the window was the notion that op-eds had should be written with news hooks appropriate to general circulation publications in mind rather than addressing "inside baseball" issues -- that is, hacking on divisions within the libertarian and anarchist movements. The general public doesn't (and newspaper editors catering to the general public don't) give a rat's ass about that stuff. For that matter, most non-libertarian political publications don't either.

Last year, the Garrison Center had 1,139 op-ed pickups by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications.

As the main writer for Garrison, I enjoy one natural advantage over C4SS, and that is that every op-ed does not have to be specifically anarchist in character.

The other advantages I enjoy versus C4SS are entirely of my doing and of C4SS's not-doing:

- I submit op-eds (to the same list that I originally developed for C4SS) often and regularly (three a week).

- Those op-eds are written to current affairs news hooks of interest to the general public rather than to "inside baseball" topics of interest only to people involved in the libertarian/anarchist movements.

- Those op-eds are written to a minimum length of 400 words and a maximum length of 500 words.

C4SS didn't go into failure as an op-ed mill because papers are disappearing. C4SS went into failure as an op-ed mill because C4SS didn't find someone who would and could require C4SS op-ed authors to adhere to some fairly simple rules regarding what op-eds are.

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