Friday, November 21, 2008

Unwarranted Violence

Henry Blake: Pierce….

Hawkeye Pierce: What is it? What?

Blake: I wouldn't try to leave camp.

Hawkeye: Wha -- I'm under arrest?

Blake: I didn't say that. You're restricted.

Hawkeye: That means I’m under arrest.

Blake: Not at all, you're only restricted up to the point where, er – where, er -- you're under arrest.

Hawkeye: Henry, what's happened to you? Did you sneak off behind our backs and enlist? You're regular Army now!

Blake: Sit down Pierce, that's an order!

Hawkeye: You're forcing me to stand.

Blake: Please.

Hawkeye: That's an order I can take.

A key exchange between Lt. Col. Henry Blake and B.F. “Hawkeye” Pierce, from the M*A*S*H episode “For the Good of the Outfit.”

Government, as we must never forget, is force. And as Simone Weil so memorably observed, force is that mysterious influence “that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.”

Every government function, no matter how mundane or apparently harmless, carries with it the implied (and often overt) use of lethal force against those who do not submit. Stefan Molyneux perceptively describes this as the principle of the “Gun in the room”: Whenever anybody refers to the supposed virtue of a given government undertaking, Molyneux sagely observes, the central question is not whether the end is desirable, but rather “whether I am allowed to disagree with you without getting shot.”

Not every government functionary carries a gun and a license to kill other human beings. But every government functionary collaborates closely with those who are thus equipped to compel the rest of us to submit. The people in question are readily identifiable by the blue, brown, or black clothing they wear, which is usually accessorized with a conspicuous piece of chintzy costume jewelry called a “badge.”

At some point or another, it becomes obvious to everyone save those hopelessly in the thrall of official propaganda that the central purpose of law enforcement bodies is not to protect private property*, but rather to extract revenue for the State.

Granted, police agencies are advertised as a way of defending private property from the depredations of private criminals, and many individual police officers have carried out that function with courage and compassion. But that is not the central institutional purpose of such entities; it is an ancillary function that provides some limited benefits to society. Besides, as Albert Jay Nock observed, government isn’t interested in punishing or preventing crime, but rather in establishing and preserving a criminal monopoly.

The order of priorities that government law enforcement today can be appreciated in this contrast:

Under existing judicial precedents, a police officer cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for failing to come to the aid of an individual citizen whose person and property are under criminal attack. However, police agencies across the country routinely discipline police officers who fail to fill their quota of traffic citations.

This may at first glance seem to be a spurious comparison. But consider it in light of the principle of opportunity cost as applied to the time budget of the typical patrol officer: Should he organize his time in such a way that he can be available to help a victim of violent crime, or in the best way to take advantage of “hot spots” for traffic violators, thereby making his quota and enhancing his prospects for lucrative overtime?

A given officer can be in only one place at a given time, after all, and each hour spent trolling for inattentive drivers represents an hour taken away from the task of “serving and protecting” the local population.

Here in Payette, Idaho (population circa 7,000), the local police force has not one or two but no fewer than three undercover, unmarked cars (recognizable from some angles by the antenna cluster at the back) that apparently circulate through the town in search of traffic violations. One of them can be seen every morning making circuits through a local “hot spot”: It’s a section of a business route branching off I-95 where the speed limit suddenly dips from 35 MPH to 25 MPH for several blocks.

This kind of ticketing-by-quota – the existence of which is indisputable, the anguished denials from police officials to the contrary notwithstanding -- isn’t “law enforcement”; it’s revenue enhancement. And it’s increasingly common as the economic implosion accelerates and governments at the municipal and county levels are starved for tax revenue.

“When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” observes Michael Reaves, a police chief in Utica, Michigan. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.”

The Detroit News article containing Reaves’ lament was entitled “Traffic fines help fill city coffers: Officials increasingly target drivers to bolster budgets.” The piece, the first in a two-part expose, reported that “Court and police records from 2002-2007 [show that] many Metro Detroit police departments have drastically increased the number of moving violations issued in what some people say is an effort to offset budget shortfalls caused by the sluggish economy.”

One former Detroit-area police officer summarizes: “A portion of the tickets our officers write helps pay their salaries, but the rest is profit for the city. `Profit’ may not be the right word to use in government, but that’s pretty much what it is.”

No, “profit” – an term describing material gain honorably earned through mutually beneficial commerce – is not the correct word. “Plunder” is.

Detroit and its environs are in the throes of a severe and deepening depression, and suffering a predictable increase in property crimes and violent assaults. And yet, as the perspicuous Karen DeCoster (herself a Detroit native) points out, “the cops do nothing to prevent the scores of home robberies, car thefts, and assorted property crimes because they are too busy sitting in 'hot spots' that are good for catching the more dangerous types, like speeders and drivers who don't come to a complete stop at a stop sign in an empty intersection.”

That’s opportunity cost at work. And this underscores, once again, the true priorities that define police “work”: Revenue collection for the government uber alles, protection for the governed … sometimes.

The embodiment of the Detroit-area police plunderbund is Officer David Kanapsky, the champion pen-slinger for the Warren Police Department. During 2007, the Warren PD issued 54,100 traffic tickets – an increase of 20 percent over the previous year’s total of 44,809.

Kanapsky, a physically unimpressive wad of aging cholesterol who couldn’t chase down a robber or wrestle an assailant to the ground without risking an immediate coronary infarct, wrote ten percent of Warren’s citations during 2007.

Most of them were issued at Kanapsky’s favorite fishing hole, an intersection with a stop sign at which some drivers would make a “rolling stop.”

But then again, it doesn’t really matter whether drivers come to a full stop, since Kanapsky – by virtue of the costume he wears to what he calls “work” -- enjoys the benefit of the doubt when tickets are contested in court.

And since Kanapsky is paid (note carefully: not “earns,” but “is paid”) overtime simply for appearing in court, he actually has a perverse incentive for issuing citations he knows will be challenged. Last year he was given $21,562 in overtime simply for dragging his tax-engorged corpus into court to wheeze out his allegations before a judge.

Each of those contested tickets was a case of Kanapsky’s word against that of his victim – the word of a self-interested tax-feeder against that of a productive citizen. Naturally, the judge invariably takes the side of his comrade in the tax-feeding class. So Kanapsky is let free to grow another subsidized chin and prey on other innocent people; meanwhile, those who dared object to Kanapsky’s predations are out the price of a ticket and the valuable time spent in the useless, infuriating, self-abasing attempt to contest it in court.

Any citizen is free to pursue that disagreement further, at his own time and expense, in the same system that depends on the support of armed predators like Kanapsky. However, if that citizen simply shrugs his shoulders and says, in effect, “You’ve proven nothing, and I have no intention of surrendering my legitimately earned money on the word of a self-interested thug,” he’ll eventually learn that he can’t persist in his disagreement without getting shot.

It’s important to recognize that many police officers are nauseated by the use to which they are put by the governments that hired them.

"The people we count on to support us and help us when we're on the road are the ones who end up paying the bills, and they're ticked off about it,” observes Trenton, Michigan Police Sgt. Richard Lyons. "We might was well just go door-to-door and tell people, 'Slide us $100 now, since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.' You can't blame people for getting upset. No politician wants to be the one to raise taxes, but if the community needs more money they should go ahead and raise taxes. At least that's more honorable than chasing down cars for doing five miles over the speed limit."

Of course, no politician wants to raise taxes overtly, and with property values and retail earnings sharply declining, property and sales taxes are being choked off. This is why police nation-wide are increasingly being deployed as armed revenue farmers – and why the already lengthy lines outside your local traffic court get longer every week.

Roadside police holdups aren’t the only creative means of illicit revenue extraction being employed by local governments; “code enforcement” citations are likewise proliferating, often in the name of maintaining property values amid the housing collapse. Given the dimensions of the housing bust, this is a bit like swimming against the tidal pull of Charybdis. But the intent here, once again, is not to aid homeowners, but rather to contrive new opportunities for revenue collection.

This brings us to the case of Ian Bernard (also known as “Ian Freeman”) of Keene, New Hampshire. Last summer, Freeman received a citation – delivered, as it turns out, by a retired police officer who is “working” part-time as an ordinance officer, while drawing a tax-provided pension – for allowing the occupants of a rental property he owns to store a couch in its front yard.

Mr. Freeman, recall, owns the rental property. No respectable person complained about the couch; the source of the complaint was another city official. Quite properly perceiving this to be a matter of property rights, Freeman refused to pay the citation. In early November Bernard wound up in District Court before a judge antagonistic to Mr. Bernard’s beliefs, which are well-known in Keene.

In the mistaken belief that he would make a point of some kind, the judge arranged for a little demonstration during Freeman’s hearing: Knowing that Freeman and other local freedom activists reject the stilted formality of court hearings, the judge summoned several Bailiffs to the courtroom and instructed them to be ready to arrest Freeman or any of his associates who failed to display the expected deference by standing when the judge sashayed into the room, and sitting promptly when instructed to.

Like Hawkeye Pierce, Freeman and his friends live by the axiom that someone who “orders” them to sit down is forcing them to stand, and vice-versa. This is an entirely commendable thing.

So it was that the judge ordered that Freeman be arrested for contempt for standing a barely perceptible fraction of a second longer than the judge thought proper. A special closed trial was then held, at which Freeman received a sentence of 93 days in jail – three days refusing to pay the original fine, and a total of 90 days for contempt.

Once again: This individual, who did nothing to harm anybody, will spend more than three months in jail for asserting control over his own legally acquired property, and refusing to offer slavish obedience to some fellow with a Liberace complex.

It could have been worse.

Oh, my, yes: In a time when armed tax harvesters consider it their right and duty to subject people to electroshock torture at the first sign of resistance, it can always get much worse.

Just two days ago (Wednesday, November 19), Houston resident Marvin Driver, the father of Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, was reportedly beaten bloody and unconscious by a pair of Houston’s Finest who had arrested him because of outstanding traffic tickets.

Marvin Driver, 56, was “unresponsive” when taken to jail. Shuttled to a local hospital, he underwent treated for a cerebral hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma. Left speechless by the assault, Driver scribbled some details about the assault. He was arrested outside his mother’s home; his brother Winston, who witnessed the arrest, says that one of the officers threatened him, ordering him to get back in the house. As the police drove away, Winston called 911.

The next thing the family knew, Marvin was in the hospital. He claims to have been dragged behind a gas station and beaten by the police, who also tried to shove something down his throat. At one point, Marvin recalled, one of the assailants tauntingly told him he was “going to see Jesus.”

Mr. Driver’s injuries – which included abdominal bruises from being kneed to the stomach – were consistent with his story.

While it was clear that Driver came to serious harm while in police custody, the department’s initial reaction was that it couldn’t account for or comment about Driver’s condition until after a lengthy inquiry. However, the force quickly reassigned three officers -- Bacilio Guzman, Gilberto Cruz and M. Marin – believed to have been involved in the assault.

Officers Cruz and Guzman both became sworn police officers within the last 18 months. Mr. Driver has said that the beating he endured was less painful to him than the fact that he had known one of the assailants in the neighborhood before he grew up to be a police officer. They had been on friendly terms until one of them was given the assignment to collect revenue for the government, and the power to turn his erstwhile friends into corpses.

Gratuitous Green Bay Packers Video Extra

Since the essay above, which ended on an exceptionally grim note, made passing reference to Da Packers, I thought it might be appropriate to end the week with the following video clip.Be charitable; this was my first attempt at doing a video montage. (My ten-year-old son William Wallace had to walk me through the program.) Stay with it through the last frame and you'll see my daughter Sophia trying on her brother Isaiah's football gear. And be sure to catch the end credits, too.


*The concept of property, of course, begins with one's physical being.

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hamilton's Curse and the Death of the Dollar Standard

Dick Cheney wasn't the first Vice President to shoot somebody: Aaron Burr is depicted here shooting and mortally wounding Alexander Hamilton during their 1804 duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, an "affair of honor" that came a couple of decades too late to save America from a lot of economic misery.

Recalling the death of Alexander Hamilton at the hands of Aaron Burr, one is inevitably prompted to borrow the line from Shakespeare's
Scottish Play: "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it."

After examining the legacy of the first U.S. Treasury Secretary in
Thomas DiLorenzo's timely and indispensable new book Hamilton's Curse, one might be forgiven for wishing the deadly round fired by Burr's pistol during the 1804 duel at Weehawken had found its target two decades earlier, or that Hamilton -- who displayed genuine valor as an artillery officer in the War for American Independence -- had died heroically on the battlefield before laying the foundations of the corporatist system under which we now live.

A worshipful biography of Hamilton published several decades ago bore the title To Covet Honor, a phrase used by the author without irony.

The line from which that title was taken -- "If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive" -- was uttered by Henry V on the eve of a battle in a war waged in the cruelest fashion on the thinnest of pretexts.

Understood in its context, rather than in the heroic light in which that author hoped to bathe his subject, that phrase actually reflects some elements of Hamilton's personality and ambitions that led him to betray the American Revolution.

Hamilton, as is widely known, favored a highly centralized government, a near-dictatorial executive, and a mercantilist/corporatist economic system. As DiLorenzo points out (and as we'll see anon), in the pursuit of his nationalist designs Hamilton had no compunctions about using what Exeter, King Henry's royal emissary who delivered an ultimatum to the French, called "bloody constraint" against his countrymen who preferred freedom to Hamilton's concept of "greatness."

Indeed, Hamilton's notion of "honor" obtained through bloodshed and coercion wasn't that different from that of Prince Hal, the "vain, giddy, shallow, humorous youth" who sought to vindicate his kingly stature by waging the first war his advisors could contrive.

As depicted by The Bard, Henry -- the "mirror of Christian kings," a line Shakespeare almost certainly imbued with bitter irony -- broke the siege of Harfleur, a town he called "guilty in defense" for resisting the English invaders -- by threatening to authorize his soldiers to rape young girls, massacre frail old men, and skewer squalling infants on pikes, "Whiles the made mothers with their howls confus'd, Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen...."

The same King Henry willing to unleash officially sanctioned infanticide later hanged a soldier -- a former carousing buddy -- for stealing a trinket without royal permission. The same king who was given to self-pitying soliloquies about the burdens of his office ("What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect that private men enjoy.... What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st more Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?") ordered the summary execution of helpless prisoners, a war crime that earned not the respect but rather the contempt of the over-matched French.

Since I'm an individualist of the Jeffersonian tradition, I've long held Hamilton in qualified contempt, a sentiment tempered by my respect for Hamilton's role in crafting Washington's Farewell Address, and some elements of his arguments offered behind the pseudonym Pacificus during the debate over U.S. neutrality in the conflict between England and France. (Both Hamilton and Washington were right about neutrality, and wrong about the power of the president to issue a neutrality decree that had the force of law; Washington, of course, was humble enough to admit his mistake.)

DiLorenzo's book documents that Hamilton, despite his legitimate heroism in the cause of Independence, may have had the most pernicious influence of any political figure in our nation's history.

Nearly all of the salient traits of the modern Leviathan State headquartered in Washington -- the imperial presidency, judicial activism, the Federal Reserve System's institutionalized counterfeiting and fraud, the ever-metastasizing government debt, the ever-expanding ranks of tax-subsidized corporate welfare parasites, the reduction of the states to docile administrative units of a unitary regime -- were inspired by, and are the fulfillment of, Hamilton's designs.

Hamilton once complained of "an excessive concern for liberty in public men," a swipe at Jefferson and other freedom zealots who placed individual rights and dignity above considerations of "national greatness." Hamilton's designs were unabashedly imperial. They required that the central government absorb the powers of all other political and social entities, and that the president enjoy unqualified discretion in using those powers to build and perpetuate a strong and expanding state.

To that end, notes DiLorenzo, Hamilton devised a scheme to wed the central government with the super-wealthy. A growing state is sustained by debt, and this meant expanding the ranks of government bondholders and tending to their needs. This meant ensuring a steady stream of revenue into the government's coffers and into the accounts of bondholders.

Hamilton thus sought to "tie the wealthy of the country (who would be primary purchasers of government bonds) to the government, thereby creating a formidable political pressure group in favor of bigger government and higher taxation."

Obviously, this was before the advent of the fiat money system under the Federal Reserve System, whose managers gratefully acknowledge Hamilton as their intellectual ancestor. In today's version of the Hamiltonian corporatist system, DiLorenzo notes, politically connected business interests consistently agitate on behalf of both a larger direct tax burden and expanded government spending financed through monetary inflation.

Hamilton's vision of a unitary state with unlimited powers was not the union of "free and independent states" for which the American Patriots had fought. Instead, the vision that caused Hamilton's pulse to race and loins to stir was that of "a United States woven together by a system of tax collectors," as James Madison sardonically observed.

Up the rebels! The Whiskey Rebels of western Pennsylvania, that is. At left: The Whiskey Rebel flag. Below right: Rebels introduce a tax collector to the latest fashions in tar-and-feather couture. Sic semper tyrannis!

It was in the service of that vision that Hamilton afflicted Americans with various excise taxes, and then abetted the invasion of western Pennsylvania in the first use of military power by the central government against Americans -- the campaign to suppress the
Whiskey Rebellion.

Farmers in western Pennsylvania, who used whiskey as an instrument of barter, heroically refused to pay Hamilton's excise tax, and quite commendably introduced the officials sent to collect it to the decorative uses of hot tar and goose feathers.
This uprising was squarely in the hallowed and admirable tradition of patriotic anti-government radicalism that had precipitated the War for Independence.

But where King George III failed to exterminate American radicalism, Hamilton -- through his influence with Washington, and his entente with the eastern seaboard mercantilist elite -- was successful.

Washington's decision to assemble and lead an army of 13,000 conscripts to overawe the Whiskey Rebels is the largest stain on his noble biography. It also laid bare the malignant ambition that resided in Hamilton's breast, and the corruption that festered even then at the heart of the corporatocracy he devised.

Notes DiLorenzo: "The rank-and-file soldiers [in the army assembled by Washington] may have been mostly conscripts, but many of the officers who accompanied Hamilton and Washington to Pennsylvania were `from the ranks of the creditor aristocracy in the seaboard cities.... These officers were eager to enforce collection of the whiskey tax so that the value of their government bond holdings could be enhanced and secured."

The punitive expedition against the Whiskey Rebels illustrated "why Hamilton was such a vociferous proponent of a standing army," writes DiLorenzo. "He wanted a standing army of tax collectors. This is how King George III collected stamp taxes and other levies from the American colonists prior to the Revolution, and it is how Hamilton intended to collect his whiskey tax" and any other impositions he could devise.

The new "sovereign" asserts itself: Washington, urged on by Hamilton, assembles an army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.

So it was that, thirteen years after Yorktown, Hamilton and Washington deployed an army larger than the one that defeated the British in that climactic battle in order to validate the central government's power to shake down the poor and the entrepreneurial class on behalf of wealthy, well-connected political clients.

And Hamilton's treatment of captured American tax rebels displayed an imperious cruelty eclipsing that displayed by the Brits toward American P.O.W.s.

As DiLorenzo recounts, Hamilton's army "treated their captives -- including `old men who had fought for American independence ... some pale and sick' -- most inhumanely. The tax protesters were `run through the snow in chains, toward various lockups in town jails, stables, and cattle pens, to await interrogation by Hamilton.' This went on all the way across the state of Pennsylvania, until they reached Philadelphia."

Washington, whose heart was never really in this expedition, made the mistake of leaving Hamilton (of whom he entertained
much too high an opinion) in charge, and unsupervised.

This permitted him, in DiLorenzo's words, to play "the role of Grand Inquisitor," in which he, as if in anticipation of Gitmo-era proceedings, "`prompted detainees to manufacture evidence' against his political opponents from Pennsylvania. One of his assistants, a General White, `ordered the beheading of anyone attempting to escape' and was not overruled by the treasury secretary, who was apparently willing to play judge, jury, and executioner. Indeed, Hamilton
ordered local judges to render guilty verdicts against the twenty men who were eventually imprisoned, and he wanted all guilty parties to be hanged."

Due in no small measure to Washington's influence, Hamilton's crusade never reached that bloody fruition. Twelve rebels were prosecuted; two were convicted, and pardoned by Washington. None of them ever paid the abhorrent whiskey tax. This was perhaps the last significant victory against Hamilton's system.

After his death in 1804, Hamilton's disciples would succeed -- briefly -- in creating a central Bank of the United States. A generation later, an otherwise undistinguished Illinois lawyer who made himself wealthy in the service of the Hamiltonian railroad combine would wage a war of consolidation against the South in order to preserve the tax revenues that were indispensable to the corporatist system.
That was indeed the causus belli for Lincoln's war to prevent southern independence, even though the Regime demands that we perceive it to be a sacred crusade to liberate enslaved black people, rather than a conflict intended to make tax slaves out of everybody.

Hamilton's system reached its full, malignant maturity in 1913 under the unspeakably vile Woodrow Wilson, the presidential sock-puppet of "Colonel" Edward Mandell House -- who was himself the instrument of the same creditor class Hamilton had served so faithfully. That year brought about the imposition of the income tax, the creation of the Federal Reserve System, and the effective abolition of the United States Senate (originally designed to protect the interests of the separate states) via the Seventeenth Amendment.

Since that time, Americans have lived under a unitary state fueled by taxation, debt, and inflation, in which the earnings of the middle class are plundered for the benefit of corporate welfare whores.
Those living today enjoy the unique, albeit unsettling, blessing of watching the death throes of Hamilton's system, or at least the post-1971 version of the same.

From Herr Henreich Paulson, the heir to Hamilton's throne, we hear the same kind of self-contradictory persiflage that littered the various "Reports" Hamilton wrote on behalf of his mercantilist designs. As trillions of dollars are created by the Fed to slop the troughs of Wall Street speculators and their creditors, we are seeing Hamiltonian governance in its purity: The unblushing transfer of wealth from productive private interests into the hands of the politically favored elite.

Monsters immortalized: Bank robber-turned-secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, father of the KGB, depicted in a statue outside Moscow's Lubyanka Square. Below, right: Alexander Hamilton, who devised schemes to rob people through the banks, as idealized in a statue outside the Treasury Department Building.

Just as the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet KGB, still stands outside the Lubyanka Square headquarters of the "post-Soviet" secret police, Hamilton's marble likeness resides in front of the Treasury Department Building, headquarters of the agency that oversees our own three-letter terrorist organ, the IRS.

And the abiding cult of the imperial presidency attests to Hamilton's success in refashioning what was intended to be a modest executive office into a fully realized elected dictatorship.

The unfolding economic collapse is nothing less than an extinction-level event for the dollar system devised by Hamilton. I have no idea what will replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency, but the greenback will lose that status very soon -- most likely sooner than most of us would suspect.

When that happens, the brutality encoded in the Hamiltonian State's genotype -- recall the forced marches of elderly tax rebels through the snows of Pennsylvania, the coerced confessions and accusations, the threats of beheadings and summary hangings -- will manifest itself quite forcefully as it seeks to extract the means of paying its bondholders.

Wisdom dictates that we preserve what we've earned by withdrawing from the dollar system (to the extent that we can), learn how to protect it and those close to us from predators both private and public, and find suitable refuge as we witness the death throes of the existing order.

And in preparation for the Second American Revolution, we should read and re-read Thomas DiLorenzo's enlightening and elegantly written indictment in order to understand how the first one was betrayed.

Want to know more about the Hamiltonian Homeland Security State?
Check it out.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free Mark Cuban! (Significant Update, November 18)

Obnoxious? Yes -- but gifted, too:
50-year-old billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, targeted by the Feds for daring to oppose the Great Plutocrat Swindle.

During an NBA contest between the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz several years ago, a shoving match at the low post quickly mutated into a bench-clearing brawl.
In time-honored pro sports fashion, the fans were treated to the spectacle of world-class athletes conducting an empty and largely harmless pantomime of actual violence.

Somehow, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ended up on the floor at the periphery of the melee.

Cuban, a legitimate self-made billionaire entrepreneur, can usually be found sitting court-side. With splendid indifference to the informal rules of team owner decorum, Cuban can be found mingling with the fans and hurling abuse at opposing players and officials alike. So when the scuffle erupted, Cuban figured he'd get a taste of the action -- or at least a suitable substitute that he could enjoy at a minimum safe distance.

The following day, Cuban made a comment to the effect that he wanted a piece of Jazz power forward Karl Malone. This gesture was a bit like an asthma hound chihuahua calling out a cape
buffalo. I found myself admiring Cuban's audacity even as I entertained doubts about his sanity.

Just in case you thought Cuban was serious....

Only recently did I learn that Cuban, in addition to being a wildly successful businessman and a genuinely brilliant if occasionally abrasive person, is an individualist whose favorite author is Ayn Rand.

Cuban's favorite book is
The Fountainhead, which in my view was Rand's best work; Cuban claims to have re-read it on several occasions, and was prepared to finance an updated version of the film. (The 1949 film, in my view, is among the finest movie adaptations from a novel, surpassed only by the pitch-perfect 1962 adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Much to his credit, Cuban's defiant individualism extends to more important matters than court-side deportment. He provoked the theatrical condemnation of coprocephalic talk
show goon Bill O'Reilly by offering to bankroll the cinematic distribution of the 9-11 revisionist documentary Loose Change, which presented evidence that the Black Tuesday atrocity was an "inside job."

O'Reilly, who suffers a severe
histaminic reaction whenever he's exposed to critical thinking, insisted that Loose Change was a "diversion" from the sacred war on terror that shouldn't be "given a platform" of the sort Cuban offered. Cuban riposted that since the film was already in circulation on the internet and through other samizdat channels, it made more sense to bring it out in the open and confront its claims honestly.

"I'm not going to back away from a topic because it's controversial," Cuban promised, doubtless causing O'Reilly's
wattles to become empurpled with outrage. [See update at the bottom of the essay.]

Cuban's most recent effort to expose official squalor to the disinfecting rays of public sunlight is the investigative website, which is devoted to chronicling and exposing the details of the largest economic crime in history: The theft of trillions of dollars from the middle class to cushion the financial collapse of politically favored Wall Street welfare whores.

Mr. Cuban's willingness to finance this indispenseable exercise in forensic journalism has earned him more than the self-congratulatory disapproval of Bill O'Reilly: It has made him an Official Enemy of the Ruling Oligarchy and exposed him to retaliation by the Regime.

Today (November 17), the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the Regime's more inept and corrupt enforcement appendanges, announced it was filing a civil complaint against Cuban alleging that he had been involved in "insider trading" four years ago.

The SEC complaint is really weak beer. It alleges that in 2004, the CEO of a Canadian internet company called notified Cuban -- at the time the company's largest shareholder -- that the company was going to raise capital through a PIPE (Public Investment in Private Equity) offering. Reportedly offered a chance to participate, Cuban allegedly became very upset, believing (correctly, as it happened) that a PIPE offering would dilute the value of his own holdings.

Cuban supposedly complained that he was "screwed" because he "couldn't sell" his stock on the basis of privileged information, and would simply have to take a beating. Yet, according to the complaint, Cuban did arrange to unload his entire share in before the PIPE offering was made public. This, according to the SEC, was "securities fraud [committed] by engaging in insider trading," and that by engaging in this purported fraud "Cuban avoided losses in excess of $750,000."

The "evidence" adduced in the complaint amounts to Cuban's word against that of an unspecified accuser, filtered in such a way that parts of it amount to second-hand hearsay. The merits of the evidence aside, I'm of the opinion that the activity called "insider trading" is an artifact of corrupt prosecutorial ambition, as opposed to a description of a legitimate crime of fraud.

It's worth remembering that last September the SEC, which would have us believe Mark Cuban is a menace to honest commerce, actually banned short-selling the stocks of financial institutions whose rotted foundations were visibly disintegrating. This ban was imposed, according to the SEC, in order to "restore falling stock prices that have shattered confidence in the financial markets...."

Well ... no.

That ban was imposed to keep the stock prices of fatally corrupt financial institutions artificially high. It was more than simply a vulgar political manipulation of the market; it was an act of Soviet-style intimidation in the service of a politically necessary fiction for the benefit of the favored, fraudulent few on Wall Street.

Herr Paulson, Comrade Bernanke, and their enablers and minions have redistributed an estimated five trillion dollars into the hands of impenitent fraud artists and thieves.

The architects of that crime insist that they owe no accounting to anybody for their actions. Thanks to the bailout legislation extorted from Congress under the literal threat of state terrorism, there is no mechanism of public accountability for this process.

Mr. Cuban, who is among the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, recognizes a critical market gap when he sees it. He also has an honest man's impatience with self-serving bovine residue. Hence his decision to fund, which immediately began to exhume and publicize fetid details regarding carefully redacted crony contracts, the squalid
compensation arrangements for the mendicant Wall Street nomenklatura, and other invaluable details regarding this world-historic crime.

So now the same official financial enforcement apparatus that is laboring to put hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars into the hands of unreconstructed Wall Street criminals has targeted Mark Cuban for ruin over a purported offense involving $750,000.

This is like Stalin and Vyshinsky taking a breather from the work of slaugthering millions of human beings in order to prosecute someone for cruelty to animals.

Let there be no ambiguity about the matter: This is unalloyed retalitatory intimidation, the purpose of which is as transparent as the mechanics of the Plutocrat Bailout have been opaque. The rulers of this nation are aware that the financial system is in an irreversible implosion; like their counterparts in the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union circa 1990, they are prepared to strip this country bare before the collapse is consummated, and they're willing to ruin anybody with the means to pose any kind of plausible threat.

Cuban denies the allegations and promises to fight the SEC. Taking on the Leviathan is an even more formidable prospect than throwing down with Karl Malone. It would be worthwhile for decent people in numbers as large as can be arranged to let Cuban know that we have his back.

UPDATE, November 18: The SEC's "Patriotism Enforcement" Division vs. Mark Cuban

Today's New York Times offered this intriguing glimpse of the backstory of the SEC's dealings with Mark Cuban. The paper received copies of e-mails sent by Jeffrey B. Norris, an SEC lawyer in Fort Worth, chastising Cuban for "being unpatriotic" by helping to finance the 9-11 revisionist documentary Loose Change.

Referring to the film as a "vicious and absurd documentary," Norris treated Cuban to various limp-wristed assaults on his character and threatened to tattle on him to SEC commissar Christopher Cox:

"If this [criticism] upsets you, I wonder how George Bush feels. I assume that Mr. Cox would view your involvement with `Loose Change' much as I do. After all, he served his country as a Republican congressman from Orange County for nearly 20 years and was appointed by President Bush."

Only a high-octane sychophant could refer to whatever it is that congressmen (with one conspicuous exception) do as "serving their country." Leaving that aside, it's worth noting that the tone of this little missive is unambiguously threatening. It would make pretty compelling evidence of criminal intent in an extortion plot, which may explain why Norris has made himself scarce.

The e-mail excerpted above was apparently part of a longer exchange between Cuban and Norris. From comments made in that missive, it appears that Norris had heard Cuban's exchange with O'Reilly, in which Cuban defended disseminating Loose Change so that people could make their own judgments about its merits.

Norris took inconsolable offense over the entire affair, and -- in the fashion of a particularly dutiful Brownshirt -- leapt to the defense of his beloved Fuhrer. It appears that Norris fashioned some kind of derogatory depiction of Cuban and threatened to make it public; this, it seems, prompted Cuban to threaten action of some kind in defense of his reputation.

All of this led to the following from Norris:

Previously, I thought you were merely foolish and naïve. Now, however, I see that you are also a hypocrite. I guess your belief in free speech has severe limitations. If someone else is the victim of an absurd conspiracy theory, you defend your right to participate in smearing the good name of a patriot like President Bush. But, when you are the subject of a parody of the attack you have endorsed, you suddenly issue threats.

I think I will e-mail this to Chairman Cox myself. I think he will enjoy it. I’m sure he is also a Laker fan.

Since Chairman Cox may not know the background, I will explain. [The following would be sent to Cox by Norris.] Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and has participated in distributing the vicious and absurd documentary, “Loose Change,” which posits that President Bush planned the demolition of the World Trade Center as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. We have had some past exchanges about my opinion the Mr. Cuban’s support for this project is irresponsible and immoral. Below, I parodied his position that every opinion, no matter how absurd and vicious, deserves to be broadly disseminated.

How can this be interpreted as anything other than a blackmail threat, best summarized as follows: "Withdraw your support for Loose Change, and retract your unpatriotic smear of our Dear Leader, or I'll take up this matter with someone who can really mess your s**t up"?

Available now!

Dum spiro, pugno!