February, 2019

William P. Barr: The Same only Different

February 15th, 2019 No Comments


I have the greatest respect for The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel. Back in September of 2018 I wrote a review of her book, The Intimidation Game, (http://www.readjamesonparker.com/?s=Kimberley+Strassel) praising it and recommending it highly. I usually agree with everything she has to say.

But in today’s (Friday, February 15, 2019) edition of the WSJ, her regular column includes a cautiously optimistic piece about William P. Barr, the once (under George H. W. Bush) and current Attorney General of the United States and his ability to clean up the Department of Justice and bring credibility and trust back to that institution and its embattled subsidiary, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I have my doubts. Mr. Barr may well clean up the mess by replacing the current top brass with new top brass, thereby restoring faith in the DOJ’s and the FBI’s willingness to adhere to their oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. I hope he does. Unfortunately, Mr. Barr has in his past incarnation as Attorney General shown himself equally contemptuous of both the law and the Constitution.

Do you remember Randy Weaver and the incident at Ruby Ridge?

To recap briefly, Randy Weaver was a survivalist and possible white supremacist whose wife, son, and dog were all killed by FBI snipers. The son was shot in the back while retreating. I have read—I do not know personally—that Mr. Weaver was deliberately entrapped by an undercover FBI officer on a weapons violation because the FBI wanted to compel Mr. Weaver to become an undercover informant. I have read—I do not know personally—that the charge was bogus (it involved two sawed-off shotguns, and there is apparently some dispute about whether the guns were just at the legal length or shorter).

But beyond those two issues, there is no ambiguity. Do the research and read about the case. What you will find is a litany of abuses by the DOJ, FBI, ATF, and USMS, including deliberate violations of law, accidental violations of law that were allowed go uncorrected, bumbling ineptitude by a wide range of federal employees at various levels of the government, misinformation by the media which was then knowingly used by the government to justify use of force and the consequent deadly siege, false charges, incompetence, clerical errors that were allowed to go uncorrected, misinformation given to Mr. Weaver by his own attorney, violations of the FBI’s own rules of engagement… The list goes on. Even the FBI’s own Deputy Assistant Director wrote a memo while the siege was still under way, stating that the, “Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit [sic].”

I could go on but suffice it to say that the result of DOJ, FBI, ATF, and USMS incompetence, overreaching arrogance, bad judgement, violence, and just plain bad marksmanship, was that the surviving Weaver family members were awarded $3,100,000 in damages. The FBI snipers who did the actual killings of Weaver’s wife and son were charged with manslaughter, but the charges were dismissed by a Federal District judge who cited the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2). That dismissal was reversed by the Ninth Circuit, but charges were eventually dropped.

I could make a very good argument that the Supremacy Clause (“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”) does not cover FBI agents murdering unarmed or fleeing civilians, but the point is that it was William P. Barr who used his position as Attorney General to organize legal support for the snipers and to “assist in the framing of legal arguments advanced in the district court” in order to hush up the scandal of what had occurred. Mr. Barr also claimed not to have been directly involved in the Ruby Ridge operation, but a subsequent investigation by the Washington Post revealed that of some twenty-plus phone calls in the twenty-four hours after the siege began and immediately preceding Vicki Weaver’s murder, two of those calls were made to William P. Barr.

Kimberley Strassel is optimistic; I fear it will just be a change from one kind of mess to another kind of mess.

Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

February 8th, 2019 4 Comments


Because I love him, I’ve read a lot of Charles Dickens over the years (David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Domby and Son, Nicholas Nickleby, and A Child’s History of England, which is almost as entertaining as Gilbert A’Beckett’s Comic History of England and just about as factual), but I had never gotten around to reading, Pickwick Papers. I have now rectified that, and I found it delightful and unexpectedly eye-opening.

Pickwick Papers was Dickens’ first novel and if I have my facts right, it was never intended to be a novel, originally. Dickens had attracted a lot of attention with his short articles about places and ordinary people in London and he was hired to write descriptive pieces to go with a series of illustrations by Robert Seymour that were planned (some of them already drawn, I believe) as a comic sporting novel. Imagine an early 1800’s version of the graphic novel, about bumbling hunters and fishermen, and you get the general idea. Due to a concatenation of events, primarily Dickens’ extraordinary talent, the process got reversed and the illustrations had to dance attendance on the writing.

He was only twenty-four, and Pickwick Papers is nothing if not somewhat disorganized and chaotic, but it still foreshadows the greatness of Dickens’ later work. Two of its characters, Mr. Pickwick, that most amiable and generous of men, and Sam Weller, that most devoted and resourceful of servants, have achieved immortality for their unforgettable originality and colorfulness, their—in the case of Sam Weller—intriguing use of the English language, and their respective penchants for the one getting into scrapes and the other rescuing him.

Critics always accurately single out Dickens’ social satire in all his writing, and in Pickwick Papers they usually refer to the prison scenes and the misery of those entrapped in the Kafkaesque nightmare of Victorian England’s debtor’s prisons. (Think about it: you can’t pay your debt, so we’re going to throw you into prison where you can’t possibly get a job to pay off your debt. Yeah, that makes sense, alright, you betcha.)

But what caught my attention most of all, especially in context of the political hysteria since Donald Trump’s election, was Dickens’ description of a local election in a small town where Horatio Fiskin, Esquire (of the Buff Party) is running against the Honorable Samuel Slumkey (of the Blue Party), each of them devoting their energies to slandering and defaming the other; each hiring rowdies to disrupt the other’s speech; each hiring a band to drown out anything the other might attempt to say; each declaring the end of Western civilization as we know it if the other should be elected; each trying desperately to buy votes by supplying copious amounts of free alcohol to the townspeople; each denouncing the newspaper that dared to support the other; each, in short, using the same lies and dirty tricks that are still used today in a more high-tech way.

And the newspapers! Forget saying anything nice or even truthful about anyone; it is far more important to tear down and denigrate the opposition, especially a rival news outlet, than to say anything positive about your own candidate:

“The Independent” [snip] “is still dragging on a wretched and lingering career. Abhorred and despised by even the few who are cognizant of its miserable and disgraceful existence; stifled by the very filth it so profusely scatters; rendered deaf and blind by the exhalations of its own slime; the obscene journal, happily unconscious of its degraded state, is rapidly sinking beneath that treacherous mud which, while it seems to give it a firm standing with the low and debased classes of society, is nevertheless rising above its detested head, and will speedily engulf it forever.”

Is that Fox speaking of CNN or CNN speaking of Fox?

Nothing has changed in almost two-hundred years.

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