Western Rifle Shooters Association

Do not give in to Evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Overview of the Battlespace


UPDATED 1354 est 1 Dec 2008: Link and site disappeared overnight after creation of this post; just found this cached version.

Read this essay slowly, click on the embedded links, especially this one, and make sure to read the comments as well.

Use your bravo-sierra detector to sort the wheat from the chaff, as you should do with any piece of content.

And think about the essay's closer:

Our only hope for the future is a coalition made up of Black Nationalists, old Southern Johnny Rebs, Sons of Liberty, Vermont farmers, anarcho-anthropologists, community organizers, hacker punks, and angry old Wobblies. Our only hope is to narrow our focus while expanding our networks, batten the hatches, open our hearts, and commit to fighting on our feet rather than living on our knees.

Damned straight.

**************************

The Revolutionary American Archipeligo

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but apparently there’s some kind of global economic meltdown underway that threatens (or promises) to forever alter world political-economic systems, power dynamics, and resource distribution. Or something like that. I could at this point parade out dozens of statistical analysises, stock charts, and articles comparing our current situation to 1929, 1865, or 1492, but I post enough gloom and doom here and that dead horse has been thoroughly pulverized by this point. What I’m interested in is where we’re going and what to do now. There are any number of sources for prognostication we could look at but there a few recent ones that feel particularly salient. None of them are perfect, but all of them have some truth.

The Coming Challenges

First, the Global Trends 2025 report put out by the National Intelligence Council has plenty of flaws, but correctly identifies some technologies that will greatly affect the next 20 years.

1. Biogerontechnology involves technologies that improve lifespan. If people
are living longer and healthier lives, it will challenge nations to develop new economic and social
policies for an older and healthier population.

2. Crop-based biofuels and chemicals production, which will reduce gasoline
dependence.

3. Robots have the potential to replace humans in a number of industries,
ranging from the military to health care.

4. Internet pervasiveness will be in everyday objects, such as food packages,
furniture and paper documents. It will also streamline supply chains, slash costs “and reduce
dependence on human labor.”

What the report fails to discuss is how these technologies will interact with each other to create new challenges for humanity. Biotechnology will help the wealthy lead ever longer, healthier lives, while overcrowding in the cities (and government labs) spread new diseases to the masses. Corn-based biofuel will put more pressure on the food supply, contributing to the many other forces that will be decreasing annual crop yields and raising prices. We’re likely to see food shortages begin as early as next year as the global agro-industrial complex shakes apart and reorganizes. Global shipping lines could be hindered by pirates, higher fuel costs, and tight credit, leading to decreased fruit availability. A recent article in the Boston Globe pointed out that with higher food prices, more people will downgrade their diets to fast food and Spam (Spam purchases have already spiked dramatically), which could mean increasing obesity coupled with malnutrition. Vitamins and food supplements could potentially fill in the nutritional gaps in people’s diets, but with Codex Alimentarius coming into effect, they’ll all be government regulated and could become very expensive. Again, there could be great disparity between the health of the elites and the health of the proles.

Next, within the next five to ten years the surveillance grid that blankets the US is going to become even thicker. The current highly-successful trend has been surveillance as conveniance, and I think that will continue. Cameras will enter our homes under the guise of video-chat technology (keep in touch with loved ones when you can’t afford to fly), video game accessories, Fahrenheit 451-you’re-on-TV -type-technology, and burglar alarm to combat the rising crime. Cell phones already track our movements and potentially record our conversations, and this will no doubt continue. We may or may not have microchip implants in 20 years, but it may be unnecessary because RFID chips will be in all credit cards, clothing, consumer electronics, packaging, etc. and a nationwide or near-nationwide wireless network will keep the chips singing all day. All this data will be fed into SEAS.

And there will be robots. What little manufacturing there is still here will largely be performed by robots, increasing unemployment. In the cities we’ll see airborne surveillance drones at a minimum, and potentially on the ground force-multiplying armed robot police. There’s a lot of speculation going on now about Obama’s plans for the military. He’s stated he wants to increase the size of the Army and Marines, and while massive unemployment always helps military enrolement, expanded foreign and domestic responsibilities coupled with decreased tax revenue will force the Pentagon to seek creative solutions for its needs. Robots are cheap and will only get cheaper, and DARPA has dozens of projects developing robots that can crawl, walk, swim, fly, carry combat supplies, fit under door jambs, mimic insects, shoot tasers, hunt in packs, and do God knows what else. If there is a budget squeeze at the Pentagon, we may see fewer next-next generation fighter jets and battleships, but crowd control, urban warfare, less than lethal, and robot technology will only become a more important part of military spending. Americans are going to get poor, hungry, and angry, and the military will be here to apply the lessons learned in Iraq (Afghanistan, Pakistan) to keep the peace.

Our Best Defense

OK, so that’s one take on the future: unemployment is rampant, food is expensive and unhealthy, the surveillance grid is all pervasive, and the rise of the robots is well underway. So what do we do? Interestingly, one of the most interesting potential solutions to all this is coming from a military consultant. John Robb, author of Brave New War and the Global Guerrillas blog, spends a lot of time these days talking about our need for resilient communities. He argues that the only way to defend ourselves against the current (4th Generation) terrorist threat is by decentralizing, helping communities become more autonomous, and encouraging the development of networked local militias. Resilient communities able to produce their own power, grow their own food, and defend themselves with force if necessary, are our best defense against the new crop of super-empowered global guerrillas, and the lumbering armored infantry is outmoded.

Now, I think Robb’s got some great ideas here, but I also think it’s totally nuts to think the government-industrial complex would ever support resilient community projects. I mean, there are definitely some independent terrorists out there fighting the Great Satan, but the overall landscape of international terrorism/drug trade/organized crime is so dominated by the Anglo-American Intelligence Community it’s hard to imagine the Pentagon really helping communities become more secure against attacks. As far as I can tell, the Fed Gov has been on a steady course for the last century or longer, gobbling up as much power as it can, centralizing command and control, and making local communities as dependent on/vulnerable to the global-control grid as possible. So, I think resilient communities are a brilliant idea, but if they’re ever going to come about it will be through local initiative, not DHS grants.

But what would it take to make our communities more resilient? What are the biggest challenges and most important steps. First, we need to recognize the current state of most communities. They’re broken. We certainly have some model communities scattered throughout the country where neighbors know each other, help each other, and discuss issues in local government (we have these in poor urban barrios and small rural towns) but most of our communities are fractured, dysfunctional sprawling cell blocks where people sit at home watching TV without even knowing their neighbors’ names. I’m as guilty here as anyone; I only know a handful of people in my apartment building, and no one in the building nearby. The biggest cause of our isolation, I think, is time. I work a lot, and when I’m not I like being alone–the overstimulation of urban living can be exhausting. I also have friends spread around the country, and I’m often content to talk to them on the phone rather than go door to door meeting new people. And I don’t want to idealize small town life over the global network/urban living. Anonymity has its benefits, I like using email to stay in touch with distant friends instead of relying on the Post Office or losing touch, and village life where everyone knows your business can be terribly suffocating.

Our goal then, as was discussed in a post by Robert Patterson is rebalancing. Many communities have become too fractured, but we don’t want to roll back the gains we’ve made by expanding our communication network.

I have no doubt that most people would be (will be) much better off if (once) we switch to local food production and energy production. Every roof in every city should be a green roof growing food organically. Every roof should be collecting rainwater to either purify and drink or use as gray water. The government of Detroit has already begun opening up the lawns of abandoned properties for gardening, and there’s no reason that practice couldn’t spread to towns and cities accross the country. After the USSR could no longer provide food aid to Cuba, the government opened up public land for farming and small community gardens began providing a significant portion of the population’s food needs, and generating money for some people.

While part of me is glad to hear the green energy-meme spreading through the public consciousness, I keep hearing these new technologies shackled to antiquated distribution methods. T Boon Pickens and his enormous wind farm will save us. The Three Gorges Dam will produce clean energy for millions of Chinese. People fail to realize that we can be oppressed by centralized green technology as easily as by centralized carbon fuels. I’ll be damned if a giant wind farm coupled to a privately-regulated smart grid (another key component in the surveillance grid) is going to liberate anyone. What we need are localized power sources. Every building or small group of buildings has its own wind, solar, and hydro power sources. Hand cranks–on everything. Stationary-bicycle power generation. Whatever. The army has “tactical biorefineries” that generate electricity from trash and there’s a company making micro-hydro for toilets! There are many many ways to generate power and power generation should always start as close to the point of use as possible. Microgrids can link local power sources.

Finally, it is unreasonable to expect a return to a pure barter economy, but the cashless economy (and no doubt there will be a push for that soon enough) is another key part of the control grid. We need alternate currencies, local currencies to support local economies. Robert Patterson’s solution for the economic depression is a “slow money” movement to keep capital swirling through the community as long as possible. Local, unofficial, unmonitored currencies offer so much potential to get money to the unemployed, keep poor communities functioning, and resist unjust taxes. In a local economy, employers could pay employees with local script, thus avoiding taxation and the inflation/deflation waves of the global economy. Local currency is independence, and the founders of the US knew it. We forget that the Revolutionary War was primarily fought over the right to bear arms, unjust taxation, and the right to use colonial script.

If we are to survive the coming decades of hardship, it is crucial that we rebalance our lives to rely more on the local, but we should not think that thousands of isolated communities will improve anything. Divide and conquer is one of the oldest strategies and we must be careful not to fragment our nation in the process of unifying communities. Also, purely local food and energy reliance may actually make a community more vulnerable to hardship. What we really want is a network, an American archipelago that is still tied to the wider world.

Source Point Manifesto

The source point and the point of use should always be as close together as possible. Imagine a need as a body in space. The smaller the needs, the lower its gravity, the less it affects the other bodies around it. Alternately, resources form concentric circles around needs, and as a need grows it draws from ever larger resource rings.

My yard should have a garden that produces most of the vegetables I eat, but my milk could come from local farms, my grains from state farms, and oranges still grow in Florida. My laptop should have a handcrank that I can use to power it most of the time. If for whatever reason, I need more power, or power for a longer time, then I plug in to my home’s power supply. Solar panels and a small windmill on the roof generate power and batteries in the basement create a reserve. When i plug into the outlet, I begin drawing from the house’s reserve. If the house is using more power than it’s generating it draws on the community’s power sources, then the city’s, county’s, state’s, etc. If I cut my finger I use a bandaid first, or visit my community health clinic if needed, and only go to the hospital is absolutely needed. I could barter my firewood for my neighbor’s honey, uses town script to buy butter down the road, state currency to purchase hemp-biodiesel, and some sort of open-source, Revolution Money Exchange for Internet purchases.

Effective communication is the core strength of the network, of course, and we’ll need open source DIY solutions for this. We must assume that all electronic communication will be monitored, and so we’ll need codes for anything sensitive, human face-to-face-standing-in-a-Faraday cage for anything top secret, and who-cares-go-ahead-and-read-this-mail-we’ve-nothing-to-hide communication for just about everything else. Our goal is to always be forming resistance within the law, opposition operating ahead of the legislature, and as transparent as possible so as to encourage participation. Also, I’m hoping that our tech team can develop an inexpensive version of the military’s new JTRS, the switch to digital TV will open up new opportunities for pirate TV, and ad hoc networks will give us options I have not even begun to imagine.

This future will not be easy to create, but I don’t see any easy option in the future. We are in a transition period, a great cycling of epochs, and like all times of change throughout history (and in the individual life) there will be discomfort and loss. Our challenge, then, is to make sure that the suffering
does not occur in vain, and the tunnel ends in light. I see the walls of the prison planet rising around us and the devils are lighting kindling in the crematoriums. Our future, at best, looks a lot more like Afrigadget than the Jetsons, but I’m OK with that. We’ll build a new world in the dying shell of the old and our autonomous spaces will be tiger traps for the Empire.

God bless the Three Percenters who talk of a New American Revolution and are stockpiling ammo. Some of them are misogynists, homophobes and followers(!) of Ayn Rand, but the good ones ain’t racists and their courage will be vital to our resistence. God bless the bomb chucking Black Block who coalition with the Grannies for Peace to raise ruckus. God bless the eco-designers, and artists like the Future Farmers, and crazy brilliant (illuminated!) hippie entrepreneurs like Justin Boland who write inspirational things like 10 Ways YOU Can Fight Fascism Around the World.

Our only hope for the future is a coalition made up of Black Nationalists, old Southern Johnny Rebs, Sons of Liberty, Vermont farmers, anarcho-anthropologists, community organizers, hacker punks, and angry old Wobblies. Our only hope is to narrow our focus while expanding our networks, batten the hatches, open our hearts, and commit to fighting on our feet rather than living on our knees.


Globama Declares Support of the World Socialist Eco-Agenda

EU Referendum today features a great post on how the Obamessiah recently announced his belief in the great "global warming" swindle.

Read both the post and the enclosed links.

Relevance?

Along with the nearly-inestimable economic damage that will result from international governmental action in support of this rubbish, the anti-warming crowds are so rabid in their need for control of human action that they propose to regulate production and emission of carbon -- the most abundant element in our solar system.

Given that level of neurotic control fixation amongst the global elites, is there any rational question that Globama's likely Secretary of State will also do all she can to bring about American adoption of the UN's agenda against private arms ownership?

There shouldn't be any question after reading Obama's response to an arms-control questionnaire submitted during the 2008 Presidential campaign:

ACT: There are several international initiatives under consideration or in place to reduce the threats posed by conventional weapons that take the lives of noncombatants, including a limit or ban on cluster munitions use, a global arms trade treaty to better regulate weapons transfers, and the Ottawa Convention against anti-personnel landmines. What steps, if any, should be taken to limit conventional arms dangers?

Obama: In general, I strongly support international initiatives to limit harm to civilians caused by conventional weapons. In the Senate, I worked with Senator Lugar to pass legislation securing conventional weapons like shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, anti-personnel landmines, and other small arms; co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) prohibiting future procurement of victim-activated landmines; and voted for an amendment offered by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Leahy prohibiting the use or transfer of cluster munitions absent rules of engagement ensuring they would not be employed near concentrations of civilians.

As president, I will help lead the way on these issues. Our military has legitimate concerns on these issues, and I look forward to consulting closely with leadership at the Department of Defense as we shape policies on these key issues. At the same time, I recognize that our forces have been moving away from using cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines ourselves, and these trends can be accelerated with targeted investments in innovative technologies. We also have a strong national security interest in preventing the illegal trade in small arms, including rocket launchers sought by terrorists and other extremists. I will regain our leadership on these issues by joining our allies in negotiations and honoring U.S. commitments to seek alternatives to landmines, while also ensuring that our service members have the tools that they need to do the dangerous missions that we ask them to perform.


After all, when the globalist minions come to investigate allegations made anonymously by your greenie neighbor that you have exceeded your carbon allowance for the month, they'd prefer not to come down with high-velocity catastrophic hemorrhages as they do their bit for the planet, wouldn't you say?

As the global socialists meet and scheme, American gun owners are hoping to defend against reimposition of the last AWB by buying hi-cap magazines and scary-looking rifles, never imagining that their recent purchases might simply be declared contraband and subject to uncompensated seizure, once a brief "buyback" period ends.

'Twas ever thus: most folks prepare for the last war, rather than what is actually coming at them.

Lesson for the decade: hope is neither a strategy nor a tactic.

Alea iacta est.

Vanderboegh: Praxis - Small Unit Logistics


Take the time to read Mike's article on stocking small groups with the essentials.

Thinking though these issues and then taking indicated steps will make the Hard Times more manageable.

Those interested in more detailed consideration of squad-level operations should go here.

Tempus fugit.

Vanderboegh: Rock 'Em

Folks considering what actions to take during the current political interregnum should consider the points raised by Mike in this essay, which was originally posted at David's place during the illegal alien amnesty fiasco.

Professor Reynolds of Instapundit refers to such activities as "out-of-doors political activity", noting that expressive behavior targeting property can help to "keep in awe those who are in power."

The important points are these:

1) Doing the same thing as has been done before will likely produce the same result.

2) The political class has at least a year where they do not have to worry about voter reactions.

3) If you won't pick up a rock today or tomorrow, you aren't likely to pick up a rifle or pistol as the skies darken further.

4) Breaking rules gets much easier with practice.

5) Wear gloves.

Invictus.

UPDATED 11/30/08 1355 EST: Mike weighs in with an update:

Folks,

My friend Pete over at Western Rifle Shooters Association has relinked one of my old pieces on Sons of Liberty tactics and their applicability to the period in which we find ourselves. You may find the link and his comments here:

http://westernrifleshooters.blogspot.com/2008/11/vanderboegh-rock-em.html

My thanks to Pete for reminder, and for his on-point discussion. If I may, I'd like to add one thing at this particular moment.

It is important -- no, it is VITAL -- that we only react to the actual moves of this administration and not jump at phantoms. Rumors and provocations of language or perceived intent should not be met with rocks or bullets. Recall the "No-Fort-Sumters" rule. When we break windows, as with anything else, it must be focused and in direct reaction to a specific outrage.

It is well within possibility that BHO will be playing this with Gramscian gradualism and conventional politics -- which means that he will not make a direct grab for power because he fears a conventional 1994 reaction.

If, however, you see an attempt to pack the Senate by bringing in DC and Puerto Rico as states, or to grant amnesty to illegals so that millions of new reliable voters will be available to sustain them at the next election in two years, then we will know that they have decided to seize power, rather than play the conventional political game.

The serious introduction of citizen disarmament legislation (or its defacto imposition by rulemaking or other bureaucratic legerdemain), or packing the Senate, or giving amnesty to illegals are all legitimate tripwires. In the meantime, let us stack up our rocks, do our homework, and await events. Oh, and don't forget all your other preparations just in case this thing accidentally skips a DEFCON or two overnight because some damn fool gun agency bureaucrat decides to polish his apple by getting a bunch of gang members and saunter down to Sipsey Street to take down a mouthy old dying man just to shut him up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rig for Storm


Four must-reads re the ongoing Collapse:

Buckler: The Great Deflation

Weiss: Citigroup Collapses Banking Shutdown Possible

Sinclair: What Must Be Done To Avoid Fiancial Destruction

Sinclair: 30 Reasons for the 2nd Great Depression

Relevance?

1) What do you need to do to maximize your chances, and how much more time do you think you have?

2) How will a central-planning Marxist/socialist government handle what happens when the rest of the world tells the US that they will not buy their Treasury notes, at least at the price and rates offered?

Tempus fugit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Words Fail...

From Bloomberg via Balko:

U.S. Pledges Top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit (Update2)

By Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.

“Whether it’s lending or spending, it’s tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don’t know anything about,” said Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones.”

Too Big to Fail

Bloomberg News tabulated data from the Fed, Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and interviewed regulatory officials, economists and academic researchers to gauge the full extent of the government’s rescue effort.

The bailout includes a Fed program to buy as much as $2.4 trillion in short-term notes, called commercial paper, that companies use to pay bills, begun Oct. 27, and $1.4 trillion from the FDIC to guarantee bank-to-bank loans, started Oct. 14.

William Poole, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said the two programs are unlikely to lose money. The bigger risk comes from rescuing companies perceived as “too big to fail,” he said.

‘Credit Risk’

The government committed $29 billion to help engineer the takeover in March of Bear Stearns Cos. by New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. and $122.8 billion in addition to TARP allocations to bail out New York-based American International Group Inc., once the world’s largest insurer.

Citigroup received $306 billion of government guarantees for troubled mortgages and toxic assets. The Treasury Department also will inject $20 billion into the bank after its stock fell 60 percent last week.

“No question there is some credit risk there,” Poole said.

Congressman Darrell Issa, a California Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said risk is lurking in the programs that Poole thinks are safe.

“The thing that people don’t understand is it’s not how likely that the exposure becomes a reality, but what if it does?” Issa said. “There’s no transparency to it so who’s to say they’re right?”

The worst financial crisis in two generations has erased $23 trillion, or 38 percent, of the value of the world’s companies and brought down three of the biggest Wall Street firms.

Markets Down

The Dow Jones Industrial Average through Friday is down 38 percent since the beginning of the year and 43 percent from its peak on Oct. 9, 2007. The S&P 500 fell 45 percent from the beginning of the year through Friday and 49 percent from its peak on Oct. 9, 2007. The Nikkei 225 Index has fallen 46 percent from the beginning of the year through Friday and 57 percent from its most recent peak of 18,261.98 on July 9, 2007. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is down 78 percent, to $53.31, on Friday from its peak of $247.92 on Oct. 31, 2007, and 75 percent this year.

Regulators hope the rescue will contain the damage and keep banks providing the credit that is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.

Most of the spending programs are run out of the New York Fed, whose president, Timothy Geithner, is said to be President- elect Barack Obama’s choice to be Treasury Secretary.

‘They Got Snookered’

The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office figures. It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Bob Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Vineland, New Jersey-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. and an economist for the Atlanta Fed for 10 years until January. “The backlash has begun already. Congress is taking a lot of hits from their constituents because they got snookered on the TARP big time. There’s a lot of supposedly smart people who look to be totally incompetent and it’s all going to fall on the taxpayer.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, when almost 10,000 banks failed and there was no mechanism to bolster them with cash, is the only rival to the government’s current response. The savings and loan bailout of the 1990s cost $209.5 billion in inflation-adjusted numbers, of which $173 billion came from taxpayers, according to a July 1996 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, now called the Government Accountability Office.

‘Worst Crisis’

The 1979 U.S. government bailout of Chrysler consisted of bond guarantees, adjusted for inflation, of $4.2 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation report.

The commitment of public money is appropriate to the peril, said Ethan Harris, co-head of U.S. economic research at Barclays Capital Inc. and a former economist at the New York Fed. U.S. financial firms have taken writedowns and losses of $666.1 billion since the beginning of 2007, according to Bloomberg data.

“This is the worst capital markets crisis in modern history,” Harris said. “So you have the biggest intervention in modern history.”

Bloomberg has requested details of Fed lending under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and filed a federal lawsuit against the central bank Nov. 7 seeking to force disclosure of borrower banks and their collateral.

Collateral is an asset pledged to a lender in the event a loan payment isn’t made.

‘That’s Counterproductive’

“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”

The Fed should account for the collateral it takes in exchange for loans to banks, said Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp. and a former research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“There is a lack of transparency here and, given that the Fed is taking on a huge amount of credit risk now, it would seem to me as a taxpayer there should be more transparency,” Kasriel said.

Bernanke’s Fed is responsible for $4.74 trillion of pledges, or 61 percent of the total commitment of $7.76 trillion, based on data compiled by Bloomberg concerning U.S. bailout steps started a year ago.

“Too often the public is focused on the wrong piece of that number, the $700 billion that Congress approved,” said J.D. Foster, a former staff member of the Council of Economic Advisers who is now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “The other areas are quite a bit larger.”

Fed Rescue Efforts

The Fed’s rescue attempts began last December with the creation of the Term Auction Facility to allow lending to dealers for collateral. After Bear Stearns’s collapse in March, the central bank started making direct loans to securities firms at the same discount rate it charges commercial banks, which take customer deposits.

In the three years before the crisis, such average weekly borrowing by banks was $48 million, according to the central bank. Last week it was $91.5 billion.

The failure of a second securities firm, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., in September, led to the creation of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility and the Money Market Investor Funding Facility, or MMIFF. The two programs, which have pledged $2.3 trillion, are designed to restore calm in the money markets, which deal in certificates of deposit, commercial paper and Treasury bills.

Lehman Failure

“Money markets seized up after Lehman failed,” said Neal Soss, chief economist at Credit Suisse Group in New York and a former aide to Fed chief Paul Volcker. “Lehman failing made a lot of subsequent actions necessary.”

The FDIC, chaired by Sheila Bair, is contributing 20 percent of total rescue commitments. The FDIC’s $1.4 trillion in guarantees will amount to a bank subsidy of as much as $54 billion over three years, or $18 billion a year, because borrowers will pay a lower interest rate than they would on the open market, according to Raghu Sundurum and Viral Acharya of New York University and the London Business School.

Congress and the Treasury have ponied up $892 billion in TARP and other funding, or 11.5 percent.

The Federal Housing Administration, overseen by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steven Preston, was given the authority to guarantee $300 billion of mortgages, or about 4 percent of the total commitment, with its Hope for Homeowners program, designed to keep distressed borrowers from foreclosure.

Federal Guarantees

Most of the federal guarantees reduce interest rates on loans to banks and securities firms, which would create a subsidy of at least $6.6 billion annually for the financial industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg comparing rates charged by the Fed against market interest currently paid by banks.

Not included in the calculation of pledged funds is an FDIC proposal to prevent foreclosures by guaranteeing modifications on $444 billion in mortgages at an expected cost of $24.4 billion to be paid from the TARP, according to FDIC spokesman David Barr. The Treasury Department hasn’t approved the program.

Bernanke and Paulson, former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, have also promised as much as $200 billion to shore up nationalized mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a pledge that hasn’t been allocated to any agency. The FDIC arranged for $139 billion in loan guarantees for General Electric Co.’s finance unit.

Automakers Struggle

The tally doesn’t include money to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Obama has said he favors financial assistance to keep them from collapse.

Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee Nov. 18 that the $250 billion already allocated to banks through the TARP is an investment, not an expenditure.

“I think it would be extraordinarily unusual if the government did not get that money back and more,” Paulson said.

In his Nov. 18 testimony, Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee that the central bank wouldn’t lose money.

“We take collateral, we haircut it, it is a short-term loan, it is very safe, we have never lost a penny in these various lending programs,” he said.

A haircut refers to the practice of lending less money than the collateral’s current market value.

Requiring the Fed to disclose loan recipients might set off panic, said David Tobin, principal of New York-based loan-sale consultants and investment bank Mission Capital Advisors LLC.

‘Mark to Market’

“If you mark to market today, the banking system is bankrupt,” Tobin said. “So what do you do? You try to keep it going as best you can.”

“Mark to market” means adjusting the value of an asset, such as a mortgage-backed security, to reflect current prices.

Some of the bailout assistance could come from tax breaks in the future. The Treasury Department changed the tax code on Sept. 30 to allow banks to expand the deductions on the losses banks they were buying, according to Robert Willens, a former Lehman Brothers tax and accounting analyst who teaches at Columbia University Business School in New York.

Wells Fargo & Co., which is buying Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wachovia Corp., will be able to deduct $22 billion, Willens said. Adding in other banks, the code change will cost $29 billion, he said.

“The rule is now popularly known among tax lawyers as the ‘Wells Fargo Notice,’” Willens said.

The regulation was changed to make it easier for healthy banks to buy troubled ones, said Treasury Department spokesman Andrew DeSouza.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said he was angry that banks used the money for acquisitions.

“The only purpose for this money is to lend,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. “It’s not for dividends, it’s not for purchases of new banks, it’s not for bonuses. There better be a showing of increased lending roughly in the amount of the capital infusions” or Congress may not approve the second half of the TARP money.

To contact the reporters on this story:

Mark Pittman in New York at mpittman@bloomberg.net; Bob Ivry in New York at bivry@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: November 24, 2008 13:26 EST

Quote of the Month


In comments to this post at Vin Suprynowicz's place:

Whether people want to admit it or not, we are currently engaged in a civil war in America waged between those of us who recognize that freedom defines the difference between living and merely existing, and those who proclaim that freedom is too dirty, too expensive, too selfish, too unfair and simply too dangerous to be enjoyed by this and future generations. When I observe potential tyrants whisper “danger,” and watch far too many of my fellow Americans nearly trample one another in their haste to surrender yet more freedom in exchange for more false promises of security, I greatly fear for the future of our Republic.

If America falls, she will fall from within. Perhaps a fitting epitaph for a Nation that achieved her greatness not from a mindset of “safety first,” but rather “live free or die,” but whose citizenry ultimately lost their backbone along the way will be simply this:

“Too ignorant, too lazy, and too craven to remain free.”

Suarez: Ambidextrous Gunfighting

A superb article from Gabe:

AMBIDEXTROUS GUNFIGHTING

Go to any Force on Force class and watch the students. Invariably, you'll find the majority of them get shot in the hands. This is due to several factors. Primarily, the shooter is placing the gun midway between him and the adversary, thus any incoming rounds will likely impact the gun and hands. Secondly, the adversary may visually focus on the gun thus orienting his physical index toward the gun as he fires. And finally, it could just be pure chance. Nevertheless, if anything is going to be hit, its very likely to be the hands.

This brings up some interesting needs in training. The majority of shooters spend time training material they already know. Its an ego thing. The majority of shooters are also highly deficient in one handed shooting skills, or in shooting with their less dexterous hand. Let's remember that although firing a pistol with two hands generally yields better result, the weapon was intended to be a one-handed weapon. This leads us to an analysis of Ambidextrous Shooting (some call it Bi-Lateral Shooting). Specifically we need to address why its needed, when it may employed, and how to train the skill.

Other than the wounded shooter factor, are there any other situations where on-handed shooting would be required?

1). Movement Off Line Sometimes requires Firing On-Handed.

In our Close Range Gunfighting Series and its close cousin, the Interactive Gunfighting/Force on Force Classes, we establish early on that you must move off the line of attack. In fact, if you do not move, regardless of how fast your combat master draw is, you will get shot or stabbed by the other man. Remember that gunfights do not happen at ten yards, but rather ten feet and closer, thus the difference between a 1.0 second draw and a 1.5 second draw are not very great. As Lynn Thompson of Cold Steel pointed out a few years ago, "proximity negates skill". At ten feet even a neophyte with a rusty Raven .25 Auto can get lucky, and ten feet is a long distance in true gunfighting. Movement off line is key and mandatory to avoid being shot.

When we move off line, we prefer to move laterally (3:00 or 9:00) , or at angles such as the 5:00, 7:00, or 2:00 and 10:00. We prefer to walk as God designed us to walk, forward. The popular sideways "crab walk" will not move you off the line fast enough. Similarly, almost never do we want to move backwards. Again, this is shown in force on force drills when every backpedaler gets literally run over by his adversary.

When moving at these angles its sometimes impossible to maintain a traditional two-handed grip on the pistol. Your goal is always to keep the muzzle pointed at the adversary. You maintain that objective and move your body around that orientation. Sometimes keeping a two-handed grip will be easy, at other times it will not. Rather than give up the objective of keeping muzzle on contact, you may need to go one-handed.

As an example take a right handed shooter moving to his left. At some point, he will be unable to maintain both hands on the gun, and the gun oriented on the threat as he moves. As the angle between him and his adversary grows, so will the tension in the torso, requiring he let go with the support hand to keep the muzzle on target. One handed shooting.

2). The Use Of Back-up Guns As An Immediate Action Response

Many students are carrying secondary weapons as a true non-diagnostic immediate action response for a malfunctioning gun. You can certainly discard the malfunctioned gun and shoot the BUG (back up gun) two-handed, but perhaps in a dynamic environment it may be a better choice to transition the "jammed up" gun to one hand, and draw the BUG one handed.

3). Tactical Necessity in Moving/Clearing Operations

While not everyone will need to "clear" a house, the possibility of having to move tactically through a hostile environment may easily occur. Moving (or its tactical relative, "clearing") are all based on the study of cornering. There are right side corners and left side corners. It may be a wise option in many cases to transition the pistol to the opposite hand to carefully move through an uncomfortable corner such as a right handed shooter clearing a left handed corner.

4). Gunfights Are Close -

This may require firing from a weapon retention position, or in some cases, shooting at the close range envelop when the other hand is occupied in striking/deflecting a blow, responding from seated positions as in a vehicle, and of course, in the event you are injured.

5). Injured Shooter

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, there are situations when you may be injured and unable to maintain a two-handed hold due to injury. The idea that you "will be shot in any gunfight" is silly. However, there is always a possibility that you may be shot. But understand that nearly 80% of those shot with handguns survive, so even if you've been hit, keep fighting. Cultivate a spirit of never giving in. While you still have blood in your veins and breath in your lungs, keep fighting.

Ambidextrous shooting skill is one of those things we were led to believe was impossible or untrainable. Not true my friends. It not only possible, but as we discussed, necessary for a complete education of the gunfighter. Like any other martial skill, all it takes is judicious practice. Practice not only shooting one-handed, but also with the support (weak) hand, and with the support side two-handed grip. And get good at transferring the gun from one hand to the next as needed. Thus you can shoot right one-handed or left one-handed, and right two-handed or left two-handed. There is some skill transfer to the other side, but go slow at first until the other side catches up. Pay particular attention to trigger finger placement (on trigger or on index point). The strong side is generally well-trained in terms of trigger finger placement. Not so with the left so be careful.

One Handed Drawing

Drawing one handed, strong side is no big deal, but it makes for a slightly different draw stroke. Train it, because at bad breath range, you may need it. If you are wounded, you might experience dropping the weapon as you draw, so practice picking it up and fighting.

Also, remember the dynamics of the gunfighting (for some of you look at Force On Force). Will you have the time, or the ability to stand still and reach around the back for the gun as Mongo is closing in with his Bowie knife? I'm not saying yes or no, but rather simply offering it up for discussion.

Support side drawing with an open ended time frame while stationary on the range is one thing. Support side draw from under real concealment, on the move, under fire? Different thing altogether.

One Handed Gun Manipulations

Other things to study are keeping the gun loaded and fixing any malfunctions that come up. The only time you would ever need to do this is if you are wounded. All situations where the gun fails to fire (for any reason) are initially responded to with a "Knee/Rack/Point", reminiscent of the tap/rack. That is you knee the magazine bottom, hook the rear sight on your belt (or holster, or cover, or...) rack the slide, and point in. As you are conducting this maneuver and moving, you are analyzing the gun. (Did the clearance fix it? Is it still out of battery? Can I see brass?). If the Knee/Rack/Point didn't fix it, you have either a Feedway Stoppage (Fail To Extract), or an Empty Gun.

To keep the gun loaded you will do the reactive (empty gun) reload and the proactive (tactical) reload the same way. Keep it simple grasshopper. You are already wounded so why complicate matters. Secure the pistol in holster, waistband or under the arm - remove empty (or partially empty) magazine - replace with full magazine - rack the slide if needed by using the rear sight to hook onto your belt, holster or other item - keep fighting.

Notice I didn't say to secure the pistol between the knees. I know all about cover, but its rarely available in a reactive gunfight. Even if it was, you will still need to get to it. Don't do anything that would compromise your mobility. Got a holster on? Stick the gun in the holster right way or reversed. No holster? Stick the gun in the waistband. Can't do that? Then put the gun in your armpit, muzzle rear. Adapt and overcome!

To clear the Feedway Stoppage/Failure To Extract, you will use the same procedure, but add a series of "Racks", before reloading to clear out the chamber.

Developing ambidextrous (or Bilateral) skill with your weapons is not an easy thing, but it is important. Historically, the best warriors were the ones who could fight with either side as the situation demanded. David's Mighty Men, for example, could "shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right or the left hand" (1Ch 12:2). The day of being lop-sided gunmen is past.

Get good with both hands, and you will have doubled your combat survivability.

Gabe Suarez

One Source Tactical
Suarez International USA
Christian Warrior Ministries

Matthew 10:34:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

Bradys On The Move


From Arms and the Law comes this Brady-born rationale/explanation piece supporting a new AWB.

I wonder how those who encourage "being polite" to Marxist and statist totalitarians expect to win against the better-organized, better-funded, far more powerful prohibition/confiscation crowd?

Especially once the new Administration welcomes millions of "undocumented immigrants" onto the Democratic voting rolls....

Tempus fugit.

Vanderboegh: A Common Language of Resistance

From Mike's blog at Sipsey Street Irregulars:

“A common language of resistance . . .”

Beyond the Internet and Talk Radio: A Call for Creating New Committees of Correspondence

“A common language of resistance . . .”

Colonial rebellions throughout the modern world have been acts of shared political imagination. Unless unhappy people develop the capacity to trust other unhappy people, protest remains a local affair easily silenced by traditional authority. Usually, however, a moment arrives when large numbers of men and women realize for the first time that they enjoy the support of strangers, ordinary people much like themselves who happen to live in distant places and whom under normal circumstances they would never meet. It is an intoxicating discovery. A common language of resistance suddenly opens to those who are most vulnerable to painful retribution the possibility of creating a new community. As the conviction of solidarity grows, parochial issues and aspirations merge imperceptibly with a compelling national agenda which only a short time before may have been the dream of only a few. For many Americans colonists this moment occurred late in the spring of 1774. -- T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, Oxford University Press, 2004, p.1.

Folks,

I ran across this as part of my reading in the economic basis of the Revolution, searching as always for clues to our own Restoration of that Revolution. (Another book that a cursory examination promises much from is Smugglers and Patriots: Boston Merchants and the Advent of the American Revolution by John W. Tyler. Thank the Lord for the Birmingham Public Library.)

The Breen observation enunciates a fundamental truth about movements such as ours. Before we can be successful, we must overcome the isolation we all initially feel. I have personally experienced how the Internet has broken through that isolation for many people. But the fact of the matter is that we must develop ways of continuing to communicate if the new regime denies us talk radio and the Internet.

We need new Committees of Correspondence in every town, county and city. We must develop NOW alternate communication paths so that the regime cannot win simply by pulling this plug, or flipping that switch. The first thing that occurs to me is ham radio networks. The second thing that occurs to me is how little I really know about radio communications in its entirety.

And we mustn't restrict ourselves to simply radio. We need a lot of "out-of-the-box" thinking here.

The Soviet Union was laid low by “samizdat” – leaflets that attacked the lies of the regime and which were produced by individuals in one town and laboriously distributed by hand to another. The Soviets had been safe when they controlled all the printing presses. However, when they needed to modernize their offices along Western lines, they began using Xerox machines. Machines that stood unguarded in offices overnight. A good argument can be made that it was the Xerox machine that destroyed the old Soviet order.

We must find the modern day equivalent of the Xerox machine/samizdat networks. And we must recreate the modern equivalent of the Committee of Correspondence - only it must be a system that will able to get and receive the word on multiple bandwidths by multiple means.

So let this be a call to all of those out there who have been doing a lot more thinking along these lines than I have.

What shall we do when AM radio and the Internet are denied us by an increasingly tyrannical regime?

What is to be done?

Whatever solution we craft, it must be one that allows us to speak “a common language of resistance.” It must be a system that enables us to organize, to fight for, and to win the restoration of the Founders’ republic.


Tempus fugit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vanderboegh: Losing the World War for Liberty, or "Will Book Tour for Food"


From Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars:

Losing the World War on Liberty, or,

"Will book tour for food."


A buddy of mine called me the day after the election and said, "Mike, we gotta get the band back together." He was referring, of course, to the constitutional militia movement of the Nineties. Well, he was right, but wrong too. We need to prepare, we need small units of the armed citizenry to be training all over the country. We need to be preparing for the day when our fight moves beyond the political theatre. What we don't need is to repeat the mistakes of the 90s -- the fumbling, the failed attempts at regional and national organizations, the toleration of fools, "militia generals," conspiracy theorists and the Turner Diaries crowd who showed up claiming to be our allies. We have no time for those same mistakes. We didn't know it at the time, but the Clintonistas were punks compared to this crowd. Bill was just in it for the babes. Barry's in it for the raw power.

So the stakes are higher now, and the potential for catastrophe is higher as well. Let me emphasize one thing: we won't get a second chance at this. If we lose individual liberty here, now, in this country to our would-be socialist overlords, we won't get it back in the next hundred years, if then. This is a World War on liberty, people, and right now we're losing it, and losing it badly. We have all of the dangers of 1940 without any of the future promise of success. America does not sit in the distance waiting to come to the rescue of Europe. Name one government ANYWHERE which is committed to free markets and individual liberty. Name one. Unlike 1940, the United States has BECOME Europe. The night beckons.

So what do we do? The short answer is we do what we can. I am close to being finished with Absolved, a book that is at once a novel and a combined field and technical manual for the armed citizenry and might be useful in rolling back that beckoning tyrannical night. It happens that my work is getting great response from those who have read chapters on the Net. For this I am grateful. But we must get this information in the hands of the million or so Three Percenters who are with us but don't know how to proceed.

Absolved, when printed, will be done by an on-line, on-demand publisher. Lacking established writer's credentials to attract a regular publisher, the resources to produce it myself, and most especially lacking the time to get it out before the sea change following Barry the Lightworker's inauguration, this is the only way to distribute it.

A volunteer editor is working on chapters now, getting them set in pdf format so we can send them on to the publisher when completed. I am struggling to turn out the last chapters with a Lexington & Concord finish as fast as possible. But what happens after the book is available for sale? The Internet, powerful tool that it is, is still limited in its reach. The fact of the matter is that most Three Percenters don't even know that they are Three Percenters. I'm talking about the working fellers, the redneck NASCAR boys, the modern Deacons struggling to protect their inner city neighborhoods from the gangstas and the drug epidemic. The people who know vaguely that somewhere there is an Internet, but have neither the time nor the resources to figure out how to use it.

Yet it is precisely these people we must reach. Events, as they always have been, are our greatest recruiter. But how shall we help folks who are self-mobilized but unsure how to proceed? We cannot expect them to come to us. We must go to them. How?

For one thing, use the tried-and-true methods of communication while we can. Chief among these is talk radio. Once the book is out, mouth-to-mouth-to-radio tower is the best advertisement of all. Second, we must go where our fellow gunnies go: the private and public ranges, the gun shows, the marksmanship events and sometimes right into their homes, if they'll have us.

And while we're talking up the book, we can make other points of principle and praxis. We can also link up like minded people in a given area. So how do we do this on our own limited means.

Have laptop and sleeping bag, will travel.

One of the ideas that has been suggested to me is a low-budget book and speaking tour, where I could go on the road, ALICE pack, laptop and sleeping bag in hand, and travel from prearranged palce to prearranged place. It would go like this: I would arrive at a place where some Three Percenter would put me up for the night or weekend, I would do the gun show or speaking engagement, whatever, and the host would commit to see that I got to the next place, where I could do it all over again.

Among other things, this would take a considerable amount of pre-planning. I would committ to do it for say a month or six-weeks. The Three Percenters who wished me to visit their area would have to contact me well before the tour with their suggestions, and I would have to knit together an itinerary consistent with geography and schedule desires. The tentative period would be from 1 February to 31 March.

I'm open to suggestions, folks. Whaddaya think?

Mike
III


Drop a line directly to Mike at georgemason1776@aol.com.

Tempus fugit.

Your New Attorney General


In 58 days, that is...

David Kopel writes the following at the lawblog Volokh Conspiracy:

Eric Holder on firearms policy: Earlier this year, Eric Holder--along with Janet Reno and several other former officials from the Clinton Department of Justice--co-signed an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller. The brief was filed in support of DC's ban on all handguns, and ban on the use of any firearm for self-defense in the home. The brief argued that the Second Amendment is a "collective" right, not an individual one, and asserted that belief in the collective right had been the consistent policy of the U.S. Department of Justice since the FDR administration. A brief filed by some other former DOJ officials (including several Attorneys General, and Stuart Gerson, who was Acting Attorney General until Janet Reno was confirmed)took issue with the Reno-Holder brief's characterization of DOJ's viewpoint.

But at the least, the Reno-Holder brief accurately expressed the position of the Department of Justice when Janet Reno was Attorney General and Eric Holder was Deputy Attorney General. At the oral argument before the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson, the Assistant U.S. Attorney told the panel that the Second Amendment was no barrier to gun confiscation, not even of the confiscation of guns from on-duty National Guardsmen.

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder was a strong supporter of restrictive gun control. He advocated federal licensing of handgun owners, a three day waiting period on handgun sales, rationing handgun sales to no more than one per month, banning possession of handguns and so-called "assault weapons" (cosmetically incorrect guns) by anyone under age of 21, a gun show restriction bill that would have given the federal government the power to shut down all gun shows, national gun registration, and mandatory prison sentences for trivial offenses (e.g., giving your son an heirloom handgun for Christmas, if he were two weeks shy of his 21st birthday). He also promoted the factoid that "Every day that goes by, about 12, 13 more children in this country die from gun violence"--a statistic is true only if one counts 18-year-old gangsters who shoot each other as "children."(Sources: Holder testimony before House Judiciary Committee, Subcommitee on Crime, May 27,1999; Holder Weekly Briefing, May 20, 2000. One of the bills that Holder endorsed is detailed in my 1999 Issue Paper "Unfair and Unconstitutional".)

After 9/11, he penned a Washington Post op-ed, "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists" arguing that a new law should give "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale." He also stated that prospective gun buyers should be checked against the secret "watch lists" compiled by various government entities. (In an Issue Paper on the watch list proposal, I quote a FBI spokesman stating that there is no cause to deny gun ownership to someone simply because she is on the FBI list.)

After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the D.C. handgun ban and self-defense ban were unconstitutional in 2007, Holder complained that the decision "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets."

Holder [also] played a key role in the gunpoint, night-time kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez. The pretext for the paramilitary invasion of the six-year-old's home was that someone in his family might have been licensed to carry a handgun under Florida law. Although a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo showed a federal agent dressed like a soldier and pointing a machine gun at the man who was holding the terrified child, Holder claimed that Gonzalez "was not taken at the point of a gun" and that the federal agents whom Holder had sent to capture Gonzalez had acted "very sensitively." If Mr. Holder believes that breaking down a door with a battering ram, pointing guns at children (not just Elian), and yelling "Get down, get down, we'll shoot" is example of acting "very sensitively," his judgment about the responsible use of firearms is not as acute as would be desirable for a cabinet officer who would be in charge of thousands and thousands of armed federal agents, many of them paramilitary agents with machine guns.


Now, just so you have just a little more insight on how things will be going during the Obama/Holder regime, take the time to scroll down and read all of the comments to Kopel's piece.

Alea iacta est.

Vanderboegh: Helmke, "Answer the Fookin' Question"

Go check out Mike's latest at the new Sipsey Street Irregulars blog.

Any bets on whether the Bradys will reply?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vanderboegh: Brady Bunch's Paul Helmke Unclutters the Battlefield


Brady Bunch's Paul Helmke Unclutters the Battlefield,

- or -

Through the Looking Glass of the Gun Grabbers' Liberal Language to the Bloody Red Queen on the Other Side


It has always astounded me that collectivists of all stripes (communists, Nazis, socialists, liberals, progressives and present day gun prohibitionists) have had such success in winning arguments by redefining the terms before they begin. Take the latest crowing by Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign (formerly too-truthfully named Handgun Control) over the results of the 2008 election, “We Win, They Lose, Now Let’s Get to Work”.

“The elections two weeks ago reflected significant advances for the cause of gun violence prevention.”

Hmmm.

“Gun violence prevention.”

The problem is not criminals who are using guns to facilitate their crimes, but those pesky violent guns themselves. It is not the context in which the tool is used, but the tool itself. However, if you read the details of what Helmke and his ilk have proposed over the years, “gun violence prevention" is in fact citizen disarmament.

I would like to take Helmke’s second sentence and deconstruct it as we go:

“Meanwhile, with stories of fear-driven gun sales. . .” (Read: law-abiding people voting with their wallets. . .)

“Emerging since the election, the shallowness. . .” (Read: Only we understand the received “truth.”)

“Of the gun lobby’s. . .” (Read: These law-abiding people are not human but an inanimate object.)

“Divisive . . .”
(Read: Because they don’t agree with their own disarmament.)

“Approach to America’s problems. . .”
(Read: If they would only consent to disarmament, ALL our nation’s problems would be solved.)

“Has never been more apparent.”


Now, put it all together.

“The elections two weeks ago reflected significant advances for the cause of gun violence prevention. Meanwhile, with stories of fear-driven gun sales emerging since the election, the shallowness of the gun lobby’s approach to America’s problems has never been more apparent.”

Well, if you haven’t been studying the gun control advocates' true position on this issue and lack, as do almost all the products of public education in this country, a firm grounding in the Founder’s intent of the Second Amendment, this sounds perfectly reasonable. Heck, if I didn’t understand the lie over which this veneer of redefined terms was glued, I might call Helmke’s “reasonable regulations,” well, reasonable.

Note that here again it is the language they couch their position in that serves them so well:

“Reasonable regulations.”

It is as if anyone who disagrees with them, who refuses to compromise with them, is, by definition, “unreasonable.” The funny thing is, they haven’t seen “unreasonable” yet. But more of that in a minute.

Another way they state “reasonable regulations” is “common sense gun laws.” Again, anyone who disagrees with Helmke and his minions is, by definition, lacking in “common sense.”

The term with which the nimble liars of the citizen disarmament crowd have achieved their greatest success, however, is “assault weapon.” Originally, an “assault rifle” was a fully-automatic military rifle of intermediate caliber, between that of a pistol and a battle rifle, such as the Sturmgehwer 1944 or the Kalashnikov AK-47. Automatic weapons of course have been tightly regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934.

They could not accurately describe the types of weapons they wished to ban as “semi-automatic rifles of military appearance” so they came up with “assault rifles,” and later “assault weapons,” to further enlarge the class of firearms they wished to ban. Today, they even refer to “assault pistols” and “assault shotguns.” Note that by the very term, they preclude the concept of these firearms being put to defensive use by law-abiding citizens against a violent criminal or a predatory government. In their Alice in Wonderland universe, the term becomes the reality. And the weak-minded fools who pass for American citizens these days, sagely nod their heads in sheep-like trance.

The worst of Helmke’s Through the Looking Glass concepts, however, is “closing the gunshow loophole.” Now, a cursory glance at this “reasonable regulation” by someone whose understanding of language has not yet been corrupted by Orwellian doublespeak shows that this, of all Helmke and Co.’s demands, is the most tyrannical, the most breathtaking.

Recall that all of their previous attempts at restricting our firearms freedoms have been based on the wobbly pivot point of the “interstate commerce” clause. That is, that the sale of firearms by dealers affects interstate commerce. The Founders would have found this outrageous. But with this latest proposal, the gun grabbers seek to control the sales of ALL private individuals, including those who sell even one gun within his own state of residence, even, in some writings of this “common sense proposal,” the transference of your granddaddy’s shotgun to your son.

NOT EVEN KING GEORGE THE THIRD WAS SO GRASPING.

And the Founders shot at his troops for much less than this.

“They’ve got us surrounded . . . the poor bastards.”

Which brings me to my final point.

The remainder of Helmke’s article is a recitation of the political successes of the gun grabbers in the past election and especially of the ineffectiveness of the National Rifle Association and the “Grand Old Party” in the political arena. (I refuse to call them “Republicans,” which is a profanation of the term.) It is also a call to arms to his collectivist buddies to finish the gun control agenda. In this Helmke is right, he and his kind have us politically surrounded. But we are not mesmerized by the illusionist language of professional liars. We know that on the other side of Helmke's "Alice in Wonderland" looking glass awaits the bloody Red Queen.

To quote the anonymous paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne in 1944, “They’ve got us surrounded . . . the poor bastards.”

For when democracy becomes tyranny, those of us with rifles still get to vote.

By Helmke’s definition, I am one of the “unreasonable” ones, lacking in “common sense.” There are many, many more like me. We call ourselves, proudly, the Three Percent, after the fraction of the population of the American colonies who took up arms against the British.

I have news for Helmke and his ilk. Celebrate, if you wish, the sweeping away of what you think is our “political protection.” Go ahead and crow at having isolated us beyond any power to construct a political defense to your designs on our property and liberty.

You think the GOP protected US?

My poor, deluded gun grabbers -- they protected you FROM us.

Fools like Helmke think that if they pass a law we will have to obey it, no matter that it strikes at our God-given inalienable rights, which are not protected by the Constitution, but merely delineated therein. The Helmkes of the country believe that winning an election, merely outnumbering us, can change our minds, can intimidate us, can force us to submit.

Helmke, you stupid schmuck, we will not submit.

We will NEVER submit.

We, the Three Percent, will not back up any more, no matter how many "laws" you contrive to pass. By defeating the GOP utterly, by demonstrating once and for all what political eunuchs the NRA actually are (something of which we already had no doubt), by uncluttering the political battlefield, indeed, by removing politics as a consideration whatsoever and making the question simply one of force not law, you have simplified our problem.

When the tyrant’s servants come to our door at your behest, we will now know not only just when, but who, to shoot in self defense.

Thank you in advance, Mr. Helmke, for doing us this service.

Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
GeorgeMason1776@aol.com

III

PS: If you agree with this, pass it on far and wide.

Daily David

David Codrea has more on gun buybacks in today's column.

Enjoy.

Suarez: How Long Do We Have?


From Gabe Suarez:

I was in this biz back when Americans turned stupid once before (1992). Remember those days? Ross Perot - the little handgrenade with a bad haircut gave us Bill Clinton by default when Bush I did in fact give us "new taxes" in spite of us trying to read his lips.

The backstory during Clinton's first half-term was that the Stockton school shooting and a few other similar events gave California (always a haven for left wing ideology and extremism) a perceived reason to pass their anti-freedom anti-gun law a few years earlier (1989?). Then in 1991 we had the infamous Rodney King deal and the subsequent Race Riots in Los Angeles.

All the usual suspects got involved (Shumer, Kennedy, Boxer, Fiendstein, and all the other let wing socialists in power) and set up the now expired AWB which was finally signed in 1994.

But initially Clinton had plenty of other issues to deal with before getting to that one. He did get to it - eventually - and before the 1994 mid term elections. But if you recall the fall out from that decission caused them to lose the majority in congress.

Do we have a similar set of events today?
How will this affect us?
And how long do we have?

Some points of consideration -

1). The 1990s saw an incredible amount of growth in private sector training and gun businesses, while we saw a shift to the left in politics. These companies were around before, but the prevalence of the Clintons made them grow to an incredible level. It was during this time that Gunsite flourished, and that both Thunder Ranch and Front Sight were created - as well, I think - Blackwater and other training companies. We also saw a distinct shift from sports guns to fighting guns. Winchester model 70s languished in stores while AR-15s flew off the racks.

I think we will see the same things now. Obama (excuse me while I spit) has single handedly armed more people in the past week than any other president in history. These people have bought fighting weapons and the ammo that goes with them. Later they will want to learn how to use them.

So "Thanks, Barack!"

2). Ammo will go up. That is inevitable. It always has. But just like gasoline...it will only sustain at that level while people are fearful and scarcity-driven enough to pay those prices. As everyone's armory gets filled, the purchases will drop off and sellers will be forced to lower prices to get new sales. How far they lower those prices remains to be seen. A look at gasoline will show a similar trend.

The fear that Obama (excuse me while I spit) will ban ammo is ridiculous and will not happen. Think of the myriad of American companies that will be out of business. People like Winchester, Remington, etc. have political pull, and will keep their doors open. And still....when has ammo ever been banned in the USA. If they can't keep drugs or machineguns out of the hands of illegal alien gangs, how do you think they will eliminate ammo? We need to move on. What may happen is a curtailing of importation of ammo. American ammo makers will need to produce more "training level" ammo to fit the gap. Those that do will reap huge rewards.

3). I do see another AWB in the distance. But not only that. That they will try to do this is a given. I see them trying to target training schools as well. This is what he and his minions want. Not particularly to "keep their little urban hoodlums" safe, or to keep anything out of the hands of criminals, but simply to control the american people more and modify this once great society further down the leftist path. There wasn't much civilian gun ownership nor civilian skill-at-arms schools in Stalin's Russia nor Hitler's Germany either.

Now - before we get all weepy eyed again.

The world is full of problems that Obama (excuse me while I spit) must deal with. And I thank God for every single one of them!

The Russians are flexing their muscles in Eastern Europe again.

The Israelis will need to make a quick decision about Iran before Obama (excuse me while I spit) is inaugurated. And he will have to deal with the fallout from that.

Iraq and Afghanistan still remain as issues to deal with, and he will realize that his promise to pull out will not only be a slap in the face to those who have died there (a good many of them friends of mine) but it will also create a devastating power vacuum in the region that will inevitably be filled with Iranians.

And let us not forget the economy and all the empty promises made with references to "spreading the wealth". Democrat economic policies always lead to ruin. The only thing that lifts an economy is a conservative-based policy and lowered taxes. So his results will invariably be poor, and he will not be able to confiscate Americans wealth without a serious political fight on his hands.

Assault Weapons are on his list, but not as number one. I don't think they are even on the first page. But they are on his list.

My best-guess prediction?

We won't see this until about 2010, more or less. By 2010 he will had two years to really screw up America, disenchant those who wanted "change", and things will likely be a big mess. Hopefully the imbeciles who voted for him will have come to their senses, and the imbecile Republican party will have come to its senses, and the Senate and House will change the balance of power as it did in 1994. And then there is 2012. We will see.

My suggestions...I have been inundated with emails about which AK to get and what magazines to get and so on.

Gents...the word of the day is this. IF YOU SNOOZE - YOU LOSE. You can't get AK kits anymore. Those who waited? Too bad dudes...there are no more. Those who didn't get an AK at reasonable prices? Again...too bad dudes...now you will pay almost twice as much. But waiting, at this point, is simply stupid.

If you want a rifle...GET ONE NOW! Any rifle will do. Yes, I like AKs, but if my choice was a Mini-14 or nothing, I'd say grab up the Mini! If your wife or your mom won't let you, grow some hair on your chest and get one anyway. Buy some flowers on the way home to make up for it. Same goes for ammo. If you don't do it now, and you can't get one due to what we have just discussed coming to pass, or simply due to supply-demand issues, don't call me and ask where you can get a good deal.

Ammo? Looking at four years of Obama (excuse me while I spit) in office, I would suggest the following as minimum. 5000 rounds of each fighting caliber as minimum. Get 1000 rounds of good quality fighting ammo and 4000 rounds of training ammo. Use up 500 - 1000 per year to train (or less), and replace it as used - if possible.

Training? I understand that people are buying more rifles and ammo now, thinking they can train later. Maybe so. But here are a few points.

If you like WT and the DVDs and all the free stuff we share here, send some money to SI/OST. Support those who support you. We will see about offering as much stuff as possible, at as reasonable as possible prices next year. But understand that this activity is on their hit list. Do it while you can. Don't put it off thinking you can do it later.

I have been in this business since the early 1990s and if the country does not bounce back by 2010, I can almost guarantee that training will be gone as well.
So there it is.

The time to check the life boat is not when you wake up on the bottom of the sea - it is when the rain begins to fall - and it has been coming down pretty good from where I stand.
__________________

Gabe Suarez
Suarez International USA, Inc.
One Source Tactical
info@suarezinternational.com
Office 928-776-4492

Spaniard by Heritage
Cuban by Birth
Christian by Grace
FREE American by Choice

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vanderboegh: Absolved -- The Squad -- Rubicon


The Squad -- "Rubicon"
A chapter of 'Absolved'
by Mike Vanderboegh


Disclaimer: This is a fictional work of precognitive history. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental, as far as you know.

Blow Fly: any of a large family of flies known for the habit of the larvae, or immature flies of, infesting animal carcasses. They are found worldwide, occurring nearly every place inhabited by people. Blow flies are slightly larger than true house flies, and the bodies of many are metallic blue or green in color. Worldwide, there are about 1200 species of blow flies, and in North America there are 80. . . they have robust bodies and wide heads. The name blow fly comes from the bloated condition of the rotting animal carcasses that their larvae, known as maggots, infest. The most frequent species found under these conditions is the common blow fly.

Unfinished Business: "Blowfly"

They may have been chased unceremoniously out of the state of Alabama, but ATF had not given up on finding their ten missing agents. Nor had they given up on finding Charlie Quintard. Barton Meigs' replacement as regional director of the ATF was everything AD Atherton could have wanted. This was probably because Atherton himself had hand-picked her.

Dody Saako was just perfect for the job. She evinced a certain predisposition to the slavish obedience of orders, combined it with a vicious disdain for the legal niceties in carrying them out and possessed on top of it all an insatiable appetite for advancement. For Atherton's purposes, Dody Saako was just what the tyrant ordered.

Her rise in the agency had been nothing short of meteoric. Other agents, perhaps jealous or perhaps simply having more scruples, said she had fellated her way to the top. She had acquired several nicknames in her short career. "Blowfly" was one, for obvious reasons. "Floater" was another, as in "shit floats to the top of any body of water." However she had managed it before this, it was assumed that she got this position without her feminine wiles. Atherton was well-known as the raving queen of the DC ATF hierarchy and his appetites did not extend to the females of the species, even predatory pseudo-masculine types such as Saako.

For its part, Brightfire felt it had some unfinished business too. After the Winston County Massacre, the Winston County Sheriff's Department had found and secured the tracker team's vehicle when they moved to investigate the still smoking Miller Mine. The vehicle surrendered no clues as to the whereabouts of the missing team. A week later, ABI had sent a state fire-rescue team into the bowels of that smoldering Hell and retrieved three, well, if not bodies in the strictest sense, then human remains.

Three, not four.

Thus was one more mystery laid at the door of Charlie Quintard.

John Claxton of Brightfire intended to solve that mystery first. Which was why Jaime Sepulveda had parked his battered pickup loaded with old lawnmowers at the entrance to Miller Mine. It was good cover. A lot of Mexican illegals had gone home after the recession (some said depression) in El Norte claimed their jobs. But there were still bunches of them scraping by in north Alabama. They did their very best to avoid being pulled into either side of the current Tenth Amendment argument, so neither side paid them much attention. Thus no one had blinked an eye at Jaime as he drove his pickup with valid Winston County tags past the eagle-eyed state troopers who were still roaming about in search of feds and mercenaries to disarm and escort beyond the state line.

Jaime was a trained crime scene investigator. The company had made use of him many times all over the world, usually to cast doubt on other CSI's work at the scenes of Brightfire "excesses," enabling company contractors to avoid prosecution or conviction in local courts. Now Miller Mine was his crime scene. He had no interest in going into the mine. He was searching the immediate area outside the mine entrance for clues to what might have happened to one Patrick Docker, late of South Armagh, Northern Ireland. It was, he thought, looking at the mucked up ground left by the state and county authorities, a fool's errand.

An hour later, he was convinced of it. There was nothing here. Nothing that told him anything at any rate. He looked up at the stone archway. "1918." Well, that was the last place to look, he thought. Might as well convince them back in Virginia that I'm thorough. He scrambled up the blackened hillside, making for the top of the arch. The vegetation had all burned away, and rains had deposited more silt and pebbles downhill, mixed with streaks of charcoal and soot. There was an eroded channel behind the top of the archway, big enough for a man to hide in, but nothing more. He turned to make his way down the hillside when the sun came out from behind a cloud and glinted off something yellow at the other end of the channel. He carefully made his way over and saw immediately that it was a piece of brass. .45 ACP. Hmmm. He pulled an evidence baggie out of his pocket and used a pen to flick the brass into the bag.

Jaime Selpuveda searched some more, but found nothing else. "Now what," he addressed the piece of bagged brass, "are you doing up here?" There were a thousand possible explanations. He wondered about the most likely of them all the way back to the ATF lab in Nashville.

"So," said "Blowfly" Saako, "what have you found?"

There were four people in the conference room. Saako, John Claxton, Jaime Sepulveda, and the ATF evidence technician Dennis Warren.

"Ma'am," began Warren, "Mr. Selpuveda found this .45 caliber shell casing at the Miller Mine site. It matches with several others found five years ago at a drug hit in Walker County, Alabama. A DEA informant was killed."

"Walker County? Not Winston?" Saako asked abruptly.

"Ma'am, Walker County is southeast of Winston and they share a common border."

"I see, go ahead."

"The bullets in that case were recovered as well, and matching the markings on both bullets and casings, the evidentiary conclusion at that time -- which I agree with having gone over it in detail -- "

Saako cut him off. "Get to the damn point."

"Yes, ma'am." The technician was nervous. He didn't like mercenaries and he didn't like Saako although he'd known her all of four and a half minutes. "As I was saying, they match to the same MAC-10 machine pistol fired with a sound suppressor. The suppressor is ever so slightly off center and the markings on the bullets recovered from Walker County indicate slight nicks where they hit the metal at the end of the tube on the way out. It can't be very accurate at distance. The estimated range in the Walker County hit was just 4 feet or so. I . . ."

"All right, do you have anything else?"

"Ma'am, I . . ."

Saako turned to Sepulveda. "Does he?" she demanded.

Jaime Sepulveda shook his head in the negative.

"Do you?"

John Claxton answered for his CSI. "Yes, we do."

Saako turned back to the ATF tech. "All right, you can go. Leave the evidence."

The tech sagged with relief, grabbed the table top and pushed himself up as if struggling with gravity. He left as quickly as possible. Selpuveda raised an eyebrow at Claxton and he nodded in return. The Brightfire CSI stood and left the room as well.

Saako turned to Claxton. "What do you have?" she said preemptorily.

"We have ah, sources, within the DEA. At the time of the killing of their snitch, they had a very good suspect for this murder. Unfortunately, he disappeared shortly afterward."

"Disappeared?"

"Yes, along with between five and seven of his confederates. The DEA says they just vanished."

"Vanished, huh?" said Saako. "There's a lot of that going around in that f-cking state." She paused. "And you conclude what?"

"It seems reasonable to me that whoever your agents ran into is probably the same man that these missing druggies encountered. And whoever that is, that person acquired the MAC-10 from the druggies. DEA says their suspect was running meth labs in several counties at the time, including Winston. Finally, there is one other thing. There was a report that some years ago Phil Gordon had trouble with somebody cooking meth in his empty cabin just before he rented it to Charlie Quintard. He was overheard saying that was the reason he rented it to Quintard, to keep the druggies from coming back."

"So you think that Quintard killed the druggies and then used the MAC-10 on my agents and your contractors?"

"It is not a tremendous leap of logic. My team was tasked to track down and find Charlie Quintard. When the blimp came down, they refused to leave what they were doing and chase the blimp bombers. I can only conclude that they had something more important going on at the time than that. The ONLY thing more important than that was Quintard. Remember, I lost three of my men to the explosion in that mine. Their remains were recovered. One is unaccounted for. The team would not have gone into the mine without leaving a security man outside. And Jaime recovered just one piece of brass from the mine entrance. One man, one shot, close range. It fits."

"And Quintard moved the body? Where?"

"I don’t know, and we probably will never know. Quintard may have moved it, maybe he had friends do it for him. It seems unlikely that one burnt out computer geek can turn into the Terminator. I'd say he probably had help, maybe even with the killings."

"So who are his friends?" asked Saako.

"From some random communications intercepts and other evidence, we believe this man holds the key to Quintard's whereabouts," Claxton said as he passed a photograph over to Saako.

"What 'other evidence'?" she asked.

"I'd rather not say at the moment," Claxton replied. "I think, if I were to tell you, you would rather not know either."

"Huh," said Saako. She flipped it over and read the man's name off the back of the 8x10.

"Yeah," she replied, "this guy is in our files too. Militia leader down there, right?"

"Yes," said Claxton.

"I've been told to stay out of Alabama for right now. That comes from the White House, they tell me. They also tell me that you've received the same orders because the people around the President don't want any more Alabama law enforcement officers killed. For the time being, anyway."

"Yes," replied Claxton mildly, "I've heard that too."

"So what do you propose that we do?"

"Oh," said Claxton airily, “Why don’t you let me take care of that?”

Dody Saako wasn’t having any of it.

“No. I want to know what you propose that we do.”

"I don't propose that WE do anything. Orders are orders. But it seems to me that if someone could get a hold of the man here," he tapped the photo on the table top, "and dynamically interrogate him, that might lead someone to Charlie Quintard. We may not have enough evidence to indict either of them. However, if someone else takes them out of the picture in, shall we say, a private quarrel, then no blame can attach to us and we will still have made the point that no one messes with an ATF agent, or a Brightfire contractor, and lives. That is a worthy goal, don't you think?"

Saako looked at him narrowly and with considerable growing respect. This guy is as ruthless as I am, she thought, maybe more so.

Claxton took her silence as skepticism. “Look, were you at Waco?”

“No,” said “Blowfly,” wishing that she had been.

“Well, I was. I was a . . . military consultant at the time, working for the government. Do you know what happened after the compound was fully engulfed in flames?”

“Well, I . . “

Claxton cut her off. “The FBI went in and took down the Davidian flag from their flagpole and ran up one of their own, just like Iwo Jima -- while the place was still on fire with people burning up in there. Do you know what was on that flag?”

Saako didn’t have a clue.

“’ATF’ in big bold letters. And surrounding that, four stars, one for each of the ATF men killed in the initial raid. You know what the 19th of April is to the ATF, surely?”

Of course she did. “It’s Elliott Ness’ birthday.”

“Precisely. Elliott Ness, the patron saint of your agency. Four stars. On his birthday. Surely it’s obvious?”

Saako sat silently.

“The FBI gave your agency a gift on your sacred day. By doing so they wanted to send a message to everybody. ‘You don’t kill federal agents without consequence, and we’ll get twenty of you for every one of ours. We’ll burn down your church and kill every living soul in it, even your babies, to prove our sincerity.’”

Claxton pressed his point. "We are coming into a period of our country's history where there will be many bodies on the ground. In fact, there already are. Surely no one will pay much notice to two more?"

He paused. "Don't you agree?"

Saako felt the mercenary's eyes boring into her. If this was a test, she was going to pass it.

"Yes, I do."

Claxton smiled. “Good. Now, as I said, let me take care of this. We WILL make our point.”

Industrial Mechanix

Jack Durer's man in Nashville replayed the disc once more, just to make sure he had it right.

"Holy shit," he said again, at the end of it. "Holy shit."

The name on the outer office door said "Industrial Mechanix." It had been a real company until the owner of the head office in Mobile had run afoul of Alabama law. Now it was a front for Jack Durer's intelligence gathering efforts in Nashville. The office had the advantage of being right across the street from ATF regional headquarters.

Dan Brown called out to his assistant, who was making a new pot of coffee.

"Marty, forget that and get in here."

Marty Abraham heard the urgency in his boss' voice and was there in an instant. "Your man Warren did us proud. You've already made copies of this?"

"Yes, sir."

"No sleep tonight, Marty. You can get coffee on the road. We can't even trust encrypted email or fax transcript on this. It has to be heard to be appreciated. Take a copy of this to Durer and put it in his hands as soon as possible." His subordinate already looked beat. It had been a long day. "Are you sure you're good to go on this?"

"Yeah, boss, no problem."

"OK, is Thompson still sleeping in the back room?"

"Yes, sir."

"How long's he been there?"

"Just three hours. He really needs some more sack time."

"All right. Take this to Jack, put it into his hands only, answer any questions he has and then find a motel and get some sleep. After you're rested make your way back here as soon as you can. I'll try to get you a couple days off to see your wife and kids in two or three days. Right now, I need you back here as soon as possible. And tell 'Old Dog' Durer that we're gonna need some more boots on the ground up here. This shit is going to break wide open and right now I'm not sure which way the enemy is going to jump. Hell, he may already be jumping for all I know."

"Yes, sir."

"All right, son, git. And drive safely. Getting there is more important than speed, and speed is important."

"Yes, sir."

When he looked up, Marty was gone. Dan Brown looked at his copy of the disc one more time.

"Holy shit," he murmured.

Thompson wasn't going to get much sleep tonight. And neither was Dan Brown.

Morning, two days later, Franklin, Tennessee.

"Gonzo Greene and Rizzo the Rat"


Gonzo Greene was too ugly for his own good. For a man who was in the business of what some called "black ops" and others called "wet work" and who depended upon being one of the forgettable faces in the crowd, Gonzo was just too ugly to be ignored.

This fact had almost cost him his life a half dozen times already.

They called him Gonzo because he had big bug eyes and a long, hooked nose just like the Jim Henson Muppet. The first time somebody called him that, he had to go find a VHS tape of the Muppets and watch it. Afterward, he went back, found the guy who called him Gonzo and broke both his legs with a baseball bat. Gonzo Greene had anger management issues in addition to being butt ugly. This also should have disqualified him from black ops. He was able to overcome these two deficiencies by being very good at killing people. He really liked killing people, and so he was good at it. He even came in time to identify with his Muppet namesake.

In the Muppet universe, nobody knew what Gonzo was. In 'The Great Muppet Caper', Gonzo had been shipped in a crate marked "Whatever." In 'Muppets From Space', it was said that Gonzo was an alien from outer space. Some thought he was a buzzard.

But Gonzo Greene didn't believe any of that. He thought that "The Great Gonzo" was a chicken hawk. After all, he was always romantically pursuing Camilla the chicken, wasn't he? Didn't he know more than anybody about chickens? He had to be a chicken hawk. Who else would know more about his prey than a predator? When Gonzo proclaimed his undying friendship for chickens, Gonzo Greene saw right through it. He'd said the same thing many times just before he put a bullet in somebody.

Gonzo the Muppet also didn't care what anybody thought of him. Gonzo Greene loved that. Even when John Cleese had called him an "ugly, disgusting little blue creature who catches cannonballs", the Muppet Gonzo didn't care.

What strength of character.

Of course, when Gonzo Greene first saw that episode he wanted to kill John Cleese for insulting his idol. It was a damn good thing his travels had never taken him to Great Britain, or the world would be short one more Python..

Like Gonzo Greene, the Muppet was always doing death defying acts and, also like Greene, he never gave a damn if they worked or not. The death defying was the important thing. The rush. Skating across thin ice with a wolf pack at your back. Greene lived for the adrenaline as much as the kill. It was almost sexual for him. One of Greene's favorite episodes was when Kermit decided to cancel a jousting match and Gonzo, in armor for the sketch, forced Kermit at the point of his lance to reverse the decision. Another character asks Gonzo, "Do you really think this will work?" And Gonzo replies happily, "No! Isn't it great?!"

Sadly, unlike Gonzo the Muppet, Gonzo Greene didn't have many friends. In fact, he only had one. That was Richard Andrietti, a young twenty-something ex-mobster from Jersey City who had switched sides in a deal where Gonzo Greene had been asked to straighten out a disagreement between the Brightfire Corporation and the head of a dockworkers union local. At issue was how much Brightfire property it was permissable to steal in the process of being sent to Iraq. The local union president said more, Brightfire said less and the union leader lost the argument.

The bright side of the deal was that Gonzo Greene found a friend. Of course because he was tall, thin and had slightly buck teeth, Andrietti was dubbed "Rizzo the Rat."

Rizzo, unlike Gonzo Greene, didn't like to kill people. He was however a torturer of not inconsiderable skill, as he had proven on more than one occasion.

It wasn't that Rizzo minded people dying so much, except that when they were dead, they quit screaming.

And Rizzo really liked the screaming part.

At the moment, Gonzo Greene and Rizzo the Rat Andrietti sat across a hotel room from John Claxton. They had in their time as freelancers for Brightfire worked at Claxton's behest six times. They had been well paid on every occasion.

John Claxton looked at the two hired guns and sighed. Why do I feel like Kermit the Frog? Well, hell, he thought, they are just tools, and not very sharp ones either. He would use them this one last time and retire them. In the world of black ops, that meant you didn't get to draw your pension.

He did not bother to tell Gonzo and Rizzo that. He did brief them on their mission.

As usual, they were full of questions, most of them just this side of stupid. Finally, he tired of it.

"Look, the target will be uncovered as best I can manage it. Given the size of the diversion force and how much it is costing me you schmucks just better not screw up your end of the deal. You'll only have the one chance. Get the package to the rendezvous across the Tennessee line and take your time getting the information. You'll only have one chance at that too. However, he is not to be killed until my guys go in and act upon his information. We want both of them, and you won't get your bonus unless we do. You got that?"

"Yeah," said Gonzo crossly, "we got it."

*******************************************

Across the street, Dan Brown and Marty Abraham waited to hear from Thompson and Diehl. Abraham pressed his ear bud tighter to his head. "Did they get anything?" asked Brown.

"No, the laser won't pick up through the thick curtains."

"Do we have any idea who he's meeting?"

"No, sir."

"All right. If Claxton comes out alone, put Team Three on the alternating tail on him. You, me and Teams Two and Four will stick like glue to whoever's in there."

"We'd better move, sir, we've been sitting here too long."

"Right, go. Tell Two to maintain position."

Abraham began to mutter into his mic.

Ten minutes later, Claxton emerged, looked around the lot and, apparently satisfied, drove off back toward Nashville on I-65.

Thirty three minutes after that, Gonzo and Rizzo came out, threw their luggage in the trunk of their rental car and walked over to the Shoney's across the street to eat lunch. As the car was in full view of the restaurant, they could do nothing but wait.

Abraham said it first, "Those are two of the ugliest mothers I've ever seen in my life. They look like Abbott and Costello crossed with Freddy Krueger."

Abraham sat up straight. "Sir, Diehl went in to get a take out order and he's got eyes on them. They both just went into the john."

Yeah, but what if there was a third guy still in the room? "Hell, let's risk it. Tag it."

"Four, tag it, repeat, tag it now," ordered Abraham over the radio.

His boys were slick, Brown had to admit. One guy, looking like a generic maintenance man, slid out of nowhere that Dan could see and went under the front of the rental car. Just that fast he was up, and gone. He might have stopped to bend down and tie his bootlace.

"Diehl says they're coming out of the john."

"Did Thompson. ."

Abraham anticipated the question. "Yes, sir, he swung around back to make sure they didn't book out that way. As soon as Diehl gets his order, he's going to walk around and join him. We'll have eyes on the front, and they'll have the back."

"Good," said Brown.

He knew he shouldn't be a mother hen. These men knew their jobs. They were all Jack Durer's best. As was he.

Abraham listened to his ear bud again. "Sir, Teams Five and Six are getting off at the Cool Springs exit right now. They're going to refuel and join us shortly."

So, Jack had made good on his promise for more boots on the ground. "How many cars?" he asked.

"Team Five has three, Team Six has two. Once they top their tanks they'll be good for a couple of days of alternating."

"All right. As soon as they take up station here, we'll go back to Nashville and I'll cut you loose to go home for a few days."

"Don't worry about it, sir. My wife went to live with her mother for a while."

Shit. "Anything I can do?"

Marty Abraham was silent for a moment. "No sir, we'll patch it up later. I think, that is, I hope, Sarah's just trying to make a point."

"How about if I have Jack Durer get the Governor to give her a call?"

Marty perked up at that. "Could you do that, sir? I mean, really?"

Brown chuckled. "Hell, yes, son. Here we are spooking around in another state risking arrest without any real good reason just so the Governor can sleep at night. I'd say he owes us, wouldn't you?"

Abraham laughed. "Yes, sir, I would."

"All right. I'll send a coded fax on the secure line when we get back."

"Thank you, sir. Thanks a lot. It would be a real blessing."

"Don't thank me, thank Durer. Blessings come from God, Marty. Jack Durer just tells God where to send 'em."

Later that evening, the offices of Industrial Mechanix.

"He went where?" asked Dan Brown.

"Mexico City, sir. We watched him get on the plane. He didn't get off and the plane took off. The ticket was purchased by a Brightfire subsidiary in the name of Dirk Pitt."

"Oh, Lord, spare me," complained Brown. What a melodramatic ass.

"All right. It's late. Wake Jack up by phone. Tell him to get ready for another coded fax. Mexico City? What's the mercenary bastard up to now?"

Another question occurred to him. "Where's the ugly twins?"

"Sir, they're in Memphis in a fleabag motel in a rough part of downtown. They appear to be waiting for somebody."

Sixteen days later, The Squad

"Rubicon"

The 1st Battalion of the 101st Infantry continued to work its way around Hill 310 on 10 November. About 1610 Colonel Scott gave the order to assault the ridge behind the hill. This assault was the turning point in the fight for a foothold on the Koecking plateau. Company C, attacking with marching fire behind a curtain of shells, succeeded in pushing the Germans off the ridge northeast of Hill 310. – “The XII Corps Resumes the Offensive (8-17 November 1944)” in The Lorraine Campaign, H.T. Cole, 1950.

In his dreams the phone rang.

No, it wasn't in his dreams. His wife's elbow was in his side. Repeatedly. He swore that she sharpened it for just such occasions.

Bill Curtis rolled over and picked up the handset, the cord caught on the lip of the nightstand and it jerked out of his hand, bouncing and skittering across the floor. He looked at the alarm clock. Damn, he’d only been asleep for an hour

Groggily, he searched for the cord and reeled in the handset like a fish on a line.

"Yeah?"

"Curtis?" came the voice. It sounded like Stentinius.

"Yeah?"

"Rubicon. I say again. Rubicon. Authentication Sierra Victor. Rubicon, authentication Sierra Victor."

He sat upright in bed, instantly awake, the adrenaline already pumping.

"Roger that," he acknowledged. "Rubicon, authentication Sierra Victor."

His wife heard the cryptic words and said in alarm, "Bill?"

He was already out of bed. "Gotta go, baby. Now."

"But, what is it?" she demanded.

"I, uh, don't know, but they need me."

"Tell me!"

"Really, Cheryl, I don't know for sure. We don’t get briefings on unsecure phone lines. But I've gotta go NOW."

And then, leaping into his militia clothes and pulling on his boots, he grabbed a big duffel bag and his rifle case from the closet and he was gone.

Each fire team had a muster point in case of trouble. As squad leader, Bill and his RTO rallied to Fire Team Alpha, Mike Parker's, because it was closest. He was both gratified and embarrassed to see that he was the last one there. Bill looked at his watch. Fourteen and a half minutes had elapsed since he answered the phone.

“OK, two pickups, no caps in case we have to unass the vehicles quickly. Four men in each truck. Mike, you take the first, I’ll take the second. GO! Squad muster point at best speed.”

No more words were needed. The trucks were gone and down the road in seconds.

Twenty minutes later they were at the squad muster point. So were the other two fire teams and Acting Winston County Sheriff Arthur Curtis Looney and three deputies.

Uh, oh.

Bill Curtis got out of the pickup truck. So did his RTO and the Alpha team man riding with him. Mike Parker and his fire team stepped from their truck with their rifles ready, trigger fingers extended.

I’m with Mike, he thought, this doesn’t look good. His other two fire teams were standing there in the headlights, rifles slung but uneasily eyeing Art Looney and his men. Denny Powell and Fire Team Charlie’s leader Buster Urqhuart walked over to him.

“What’s up, Denny?” Curtis asked.

“I don’t know,” said his best friend, plainly flummoxed. “The sheriff said he’d tell us when you got here.”

“Where’s John Stentinius and his support section?”

“I haven’t seen him. I was wondering the same thing.” Denny nodded over Bill’s left shoulder, and Curtis turned to see the Sheriff approaching with his men. He and Acting Sheriff Looney were distant cousins, but that didn’t mean much. Most everybody in Winston County was cousin to somebody. Will Shipman had said that the new Sheriff “was on our side.” However, he hadn’t been specific about what that meant.

“Curtis?” Art Looney demanded in a raspy voice.

“Yes, Sheriff?”

“Line your men up.”

“What for?”

“Just do it, we haven’t got all day.”

“Look, Sheriff . . .”

“LINE. THEM. UP.” He wasn’t asking.

All right, Bubba, thought Bill Curtis, but if you try to disarm us you’ll lose that argument.

“Shake out a line for the man,” he ordered his squad. “By fire teams.”

The men obeyed, moving with more speed and certainty than Bill Curtis felt. He fell into line in front of them.

“All right,” rasped Looney, “raise your right hands.”

What the?

Art Looney was smiling. OK, I get it now. Bill Curtis raised his hand, followed by his squad.

“Repeat after me. ‘I’, state your name . . .”

Five minutes later, Bill Curtis and his fire team leaders were looking at their Winston County Special Deputy badges.

“They’ll have to do,” explained Art Looney, “I don’t have enough for all of you.”

At that moment, John Stentinius pulled up with his support team followed by a car with two suits in it.

The older of the two came over to Curtis and the Sheriff. Looney made the introductions. “Bill, this is Dan Brown, and his assistant Marty Abraham. They work for the Governor.”

Brown saw the question in Curtis’ face. “We’re with ABI on special assignment.”

“What assignment?” Curtis asked.

It took ten minutes and reference to two USGS quadrangle maps of Winston County spread out over a pickup truck hood for Bill Curtis and his fire team leaders to get the picture.

When it was done, Curtis said the first thing that came to his head. “Well, shit and shove me in it.”

“Can you accomplish the mission?” asked Brown, eyeing Bill closely.

Curtis paused, not wanting to say it. Somehow he'd always envisioned the squad going into action in a war of resistance,. Maneuver warfare, hit and run, always fighting on his own terms. This Sheriff's posse stuff was going to be more like attrition warfare. We're going to have to be the one's to cross the ground and take it to them.

Damn.

It was one thing to work for years and years to get to this point, but quite another to risk his men’s lives in the dark based on a stranger’s say-so. Still, Looney was deferential to the man. That meant he was what he said he was. And Looney did have the authority to call them out for duty. That much was in the law.

“Yeah, I think we can do it,” he replied to the state man. “Guys?”

He looked at his fire team leaders. Mike Rogers was typically first and forceful.

“Let’s do it.”

“Denny?”

Denny was smiling. Once a Marine, always a Marine. “Hell, yes. Fire Team Baker is ready.”

“Buster?”

Fire Team Charlie’s leader wasn’t going to be thought timid, even if he felt it. “Sure, let’s do it. After all, we’re just in support right? The DPS SWAT team has the heavy lifting.”

“Look,” Dan Brown corrected him, “let me recap the briefing and emphasize certain points you may have missed. The state SWAT team for this district has been reinforced with what we could scrape up, but its still only sixteen guys. They’re experienced and they’re a team, just like you, but they’re only sixteen. The evil bad guys may number as many as twenty or so. They have to be dealt with by dawn. We don’t know what their specific objectives are, but we can guess. They’re here to create enough terror in the general population to make it easy for the move on Shipman, so we can’t risk waiting. The Sheriff’s deputies -- reinforced with your support support squad and some of Will Shipman’s people -- can probably hold the perimeter against a breakout, but they’re not trained for dynamic entry or assault and they aren’t armed to the teeth like you guys. If the stealthy approach fails and we lose the element of surprise -- if the plan goes south, and they decide to fight it out -- this is going to turn into a real rat hunt. And you’re going to have get in close to get the rats. Understood?”

Buster nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“One more thing. Most of you don’t have helmets or body armor and we’ve got none within reach to give you. You also have no night vision.” Brown paused, looking at Buster Urquhart carefully. “Still in?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What about Will?” asked Bill Curtis.

“They won’t get him,” said Brown confidently. “Trust me.”

“I’m trusting you with a hell of a lot more than that, Bubba,” snapped Curtis.

Brown looked at the squad leader for a long moment.

Finally he said, “Yes, you are.”

The Grateful Dead

John Claxton looked at the peeling wallpaper of the isolated safehouse just across the state line in Tennessee. All he could do now was wait. The players were in motion, but the plays never exactly turned out the way you planned. There was a greater power behind the string of disasters that had hit the ATF and Brightfire these past few months since the Battle of Sipsey Street and he knew that a significant portion of the state government had to have taken position to shield Charlie Quintard and his confederates.

But are they expecting THIS?

If you can’t stand not knowing . . .

Claxton could hear Gonzo and Rizzo slam the doors of a beat-up Chevy Blazer with Alabama tags, and then drive off, headed south. They were towing a bass boat full of beer coolers and fishing tackle. Well, that’s it until tomorrow. Might as well go back to the motel and get some sleep.

Claxton stood, collected the briefing materials from the table, and walked out the door. Everything was in readiness for the dynamic interrogation of Will Shipman. When he got Quintard’s whereabouts he would dispatch the best Brightfire men available in a helicopter-borne snatch team to go get the prick, and ATF could put him on display in Nashville as a counter-argument in the propaganda war which the agency -- and Brightfire – were currently losing. If he resisted, he would be a dead man two seconds later and they could still put his body on display like Che’s in Bolivia.

The juju dies with the man. He’d learned that in Africa.

Well, he would be here when the two stupids got back with Shipman late tomorrow. At least they’d get HIM. The militia leader had been hanging around home for the past three days since he’d broken his leg in a work accident. He wasn’t likely to ride to the sound of the guns when he was in a cast and hobbling around on crutches, now was he? Plus, Gonzo Greene would have a four-man team of Los Zetas to support him. There was unlikely to be any trouble with Quintard’s sponsor, which is how Claxton had come to think of him.

After that, Claxton would personally squeeze Shipman with Rizzo as his muscle until they had what he wanted. Once Claxton had the location, Brightfire could go grab Quintard. Gonzo and Rizzo would get their “reward,” and all loose ends would be tied up. It would be worth the $5 million the complete Zeta package had cost the company, although the Brightfire president had taken some convincing.

Still, the boss saw the larger logic. The company’s reputation was on the line. Just like the ATF, Brightfire could not afford to look both brutish AND incompetent. Brutish was OK, they could live with brutish. But not incompetent. The company had a reputation of delivering for their customers, and customers wouldn’t like it if Brightfire couldn’t finish a job, especially if they were made to look stupid in the bargain.

Then there was the issue of employee morale. A lot of their contractors still believed in that “leave no man behind” crap. The corollary to that was “if you are forced to leave somebody behind, come back and avenge their death by killing as many of the other SOBs as possible.” Recruitment and retention were already down. American bodies to fill slots were getting scarce and much more expensive. Foreign contractors could fill slots but weren’t nearly as competent at operations within CONUS, where public relations and political niceties had to be observed and a little cultural understanding went a long way. We have to reassure our contractors that we’re still the meanest wolf in the pack.

Of course, no one would be able to tie Brightfire to it legally, but the point would be made just the same. Dick with us, and you die. Customers would be reassured, and employees would be too. The fact that if it didn’t work that HE might die was painfully evident to him.

So let it work. He would be here to make sure the Muppet twins didn’t get carried away. And then he would send them to join Jim Henson.

Claxton shut and locked the door, and walked down the creaking steps to his rental car.

Cold iron shackles, ball and chain,
Listen to the whistle of the evenin' train.
You know you bound to wind up dead,
If you don't head back to Tennessee, Jed.

Rich man step on my poor head,
When you get back you better butter my bread.
Well, do you know it's like I said,
You better head back to Tennessee, Jed.

Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain't no place I'd rather be,
Baby, won't you carry me back to Tennessee?


The Grateful Dead DVD played over and over on the way down to Winston County as Rizzo drove and Gonzo thought. He wasn’t as stupid as Claxton believed him to be. He turned the thought over and over in his head and finally blurted it out.

“Rizzo?”

“Yeah?”

“I know that Claxton prick is gonna do us if we come through on this job.”

Drink all day and rock all night,
The law come to get you if you don't walk right
Got a letter this morning, baby all it read,
You better head back to Tennessee, Jed.


Between the wind rushing through the open window of the Blazer and the Grateful Dead, Rizzo couldn’t hear right.

If we DON’T do it?”

“No, if we DO the job, he’s still going to kill us. He can’t afford to let us live.”

I dropped four flights and cracked my spine,
Honey, come quick with the iodine,
Catch a few winks, baby, under the bed
Then you head back to Tennessee, Jed.


“Why not? We’ve done work for him before and he’s never complained.”

“Rizz, he ain’t gonna COMPLAIN about this job. He’s just gonna kill us, that’s all. If this gets out, he’s a dead man.”

“OK, so?”

Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain't no place I'd rather be,
Baby, won't you carry me back to Tennessee?


“So, we’re the only ones who can tie him to it. And he’s playing for bigger stakes than he ever has before. This guy we’re snatching just ain’t some crooked wise guy. You heard Claxton -- the whole goddam state of Alabama is trying to protect this guy.”

“Well, what are we gonna do? Disappear? He already paid us half up front. We’ll lose the other half. And then there’s the bonus if they get the Indian guy.”

“Rizz, we ain’t gonna live that long. Don’t you get it?”

“Oh. Well, what’re we gonna do?” Rizzo asked plaintively in his New Jersey twang.

Gonzo Greene thought a moment, and then he said, “I dunno. I gotta think.”

So that’s what he did, as they crossed over the Tennessee River on I-65.

I run into Charlie Fog,
Blacked my eye and he kicked my dog,
My doggie turned to me and he said,
Let's head back to Tennessee, Jed.

I woke up a feelin' mean,
Went down to play the slot machine,
The wheels turned around, and the letters read,
You better head back to Tennessee, Jed.

Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain't no place I'd rather be,
Baby, won't you carry me back to Tennessee?


Purple Heart Hill

The fighting for Hill 310 was so violent that the men who took part in it named it "Purple Heart Hill". The History of the 26th “ Yankee” Division in World War II

“What I’m saying is that we can lay down suppressive fire from the BARs and the DMs and pound ‘em with rifle grenades while you’re movin’ up. We can demoralize the hell out of them and then you can call for their surrender. You’re not plannin’ on readin’ ‘em their rights first, are you?” Bill Curtis was frustrated and just this side of pissed.

The state SWAT team commander had outlined a more detailed plan than Brown and it involved a stealthy approach, kick in the doors, standard kind of police deal that they were used to using with sleeping drug dealers.

The more Bill, Mike and the rest of the militia command group looked at the detailed map of the objective, the less they liked it.

This much was known: the Zetas had been filtering into Winston County for three days and all of the ones who had been spotted and tailed ended up here. The old chicken farm stood on a rise above the surrounding fields. The farmstead included a two story house made of field stone with a rusted tin roof. Behind it was an older barn, from before it was a chicken farm. It also was two stories tall. The aerial recon photos which had been taken of the place just before dusk showed ten cars, trucks and panel vans parked behind the house. The chicken houses themselves were downhill (and downwind, Bill noticed) from the house so the stink would be carried away by the normally prevailing winds.

The entire complex was surrounded on all four sides by fields barren of cover and whose only concealment was tall grass and clumps of weeds. The place was a good half-mile from the main road. The tree line in the back was a at least three hundred meters from the hilltop. The ones to either side were probably two or two fifty. This was at the extreme range of the rifle grenades. There was a ditch paralleling the farm lane leading from the inner farm gate out to a creek, which cut through the trees between the house and the road. A steel I-beam bridge spanned the creek, and this is where the Zetas had chosen to place their exterior guard, consisting of two men on either side of the road. They also patrolled the road from the house to the bridge and back again every two hours like clockwork, which was strange. What's the point of that? wondered Curtis.

One possible route of approach was from the tree line on the right, using the old chicken houses to shield an attacking party. But they didn’t know for sure that they couldn’t be spotted from the second story of the house, or from the barn for that matter. There was a low fieldstone wall that surrounded the place, broken at intervals for the farm lanes, old cattle passages and drainage.

But how to get to it without getting spotted and shot?

Mike Parker had pointed out that ten vehicles probably meant more than twenty people. The SWAT scouts using thermal imagers had reported at least eight Zetas moving around or standing guard and it was three o’clock in the morning. How many others were sleeping behind rock walls couldn’t be guessed at.

The problem as Bill saw it was the SWAT guys trusted their thermal imagers and their night vision too much. They were used to taking down criminals who lacked their fancy hardware. The briefing on the Zetas that Brown’s man Abraham had given them said they could just about count on the Mexicans having them too. SWAT was used to owning the night all by themselves. But while it was true that all the Mexicans probably did not have NODs, Bill bet that there were enough of them to knock the SWAT commander’s stealthy approach into a cocked hat.

The other problem was that even with the deputies, John Stentinius’ squad and Will Shipman’s short platoon, they would be stretched to hold the entire perimeter against a breakout, especially if the Mexicans tried filtering out at night. And Zetas with night vision, once they had penetrated the cordon, could slaughter the deputies and the militiamen who lacked NODs. He could offset some of that advantage by using the rifle grenade parachute flares to illuminate the battlefield, but he doubted his ability to maintain it for long enough for the sun to rise.

The more he thought about it, the more he wanted to wait until daylight.

It was apparent that some of the SWAT guys felt the same way. They were mostly veterans of one war or another and they wanted to live through this day.

So did Art Looney, Bill could tell.

He turned to Stentinius. “Did you bring all the rifle grenades?”

“Yup. Got ‘em in the truck. Got launching cartridges for the 7.62 NATO rifles and the Garands and Springfields of course. I even brought the 1903 rifles, just in case. And, I brought these.”

He held out a couple of stubby little rimmed brass cartridges about the size of a .45 ACP case.

“The M7s!” Curtis exclaimed. “I’d forgotten about them. Damned good thinking, sergeant. We’ll need ‘em for sure.”

Stentinius smiled.

“What are they?” the SWAT commander asked. He had no clue. His daddy hadn’t even been born when these were made.

Curtis explained excitedly, “The M7 is an auxiliary cartridge that increases the range of the rifle grenade. It’s got twenty grains of black powder behind that paper wad. You put it in your launcher with the paper end toward the muzzle of the rifle and then seat the rifle grenade. It gives you maybe another 50 meters of range. Thing is though, you’d better not try shooting it from your shoulder or you’ll break it.”

“Where did you get them?” asked the SWAT commander.

“The same place we got the BARs and the rifle grenades. Santa Claus.”

His guys laughed.

“Don’t ever think that Santa Claus doesn’t come to Winston County,” Bill Curtis added, “because he sure as hell does.”

Bill looked into the SWAT commander’s face, which showed equal parts puzzlement and irritation. He had an idea.

“Look, Lieutenant, I’ve got a better notion about how to skin this cat. Give me a minute and let me lay it out for you.”

It took about five minutes, and then he added, “Half of our problem is we’re this improvised lash up of guys that have never faced this before, so we’ve got to give specific tasks to each and make sure our communication is tight so we don’t blow each other away.” The SWAT leader nodded. He’d been thinking the same thing but he didn’t know how to accomplish it.

“Shipman’s platoon led by Kurt Garth will hold the perimeter from here,” he pointed on the map, “to here. Their orders will be to only fire on targets attempting to escape that approach within fifty meters. The ground rises enough after fifty meters going up to the farmhouse so that we won’t have a Polish firing squad.” The commander nodded.

“We’ll stiffen them up with the other seven BARs we have, but their orders are the same. Do not engage outside fifty meters. Since Shipman’s people haven’t yet been trained on the BAR, the operators will be seven men from my support squad. All of them are familiar with the BAR, but we’ll need assistant gunners and Kurt,” he nodded toward Will Shipman’s platoon commander, “you’ll have to provide ‘em. The gunners will give them a quick rundown before we jump off.”

Kurt Garth nodded.

“The deputies will interdict the farm lane where it meets the road. Under no circumstances should they approach the bridge until they see my green flare. That will mean that the sentries been taken from behind by two of my Designated Marksmen here,” he pointed to a position on the map. "The moment my green flare goes up, John Stentinius, commanding the rest of his squad armed with Springfields and rifle grenades, will pound the compound as far as they can reach from the tree line at the back using the M7 pills to boost the shots. John, use the M19 willy petes first, concentrate initially on the vehicles, and then shift to the windows or doors you see shots coming from, and any groups of Zetas trying to break out. Leave ones and twos to the perimeter force. When the vehicles are well and truly aflame that will illuminate the inner farmyard and silhouette anyone trying to leave running. Begin with ripple firing and keep that up as long as you can. I want a continuous pounding on the area so that none of these little misunderstood undocumented workers wants to stick his nose out of the house. After you get the cars burning, set the barn on fire. Use what willy peter you have first and then shift to the M9 High Explosive-AntiTank, but for God’s sake keep your fire away from the chicken houses.”

He turned to the SWAT commander. “When he begins pounding the farm, you come out of the tree line, here,” he pointed to the map, ”and use the chicken houses to cover your approach. Come around through this last chicken house using the doors, here, and here, and now you’ve got concealment and some cover for a base of fire on the house, here. We will come out of the treeline on your left flank and we will make for the end of this chicken house, here. None of us will move beyond these positions until I fire my red flare. When I do John will lift all his fires and secure his end of the field from escapees.”

“The barn should be burning down around their heads by this time so kill anyone who comes out. You see, you’ll have a good field of fire at them from your end, also engage any shooters you spot using these windows and doors, here, and here.

“I will advance one fire team supported by my own BARs and grenadiers. We will hit the ditch, here, and the wall, here, and then extend our formation until we have this entire front covered. You’ll see that we now have a classic L on the bastards. No fratricide, gentlemen. At this point it should be a good time to demand their surrender. As you have the bullhorn and you will be under cover, I’ll leave that to you. When they refuse, and I’m sure some of them probably will, we will pound them for an additional five minutes from these two sides.

"At this point, my grenadiers will be using HE-AT rounds but toward the end of the five minutes we will switch to white phosphorus and fragmentation grenades through any holes we have created plus the doors and windows. This will burn the house down from the inside out. Our line will be long enough so that we can see and engage anyone fleeing this way,” he pointed to the map, “and you should be able by this time to extend along the wall here, to kill anyone else coming out the back. At the end of five minutes, or if we see signs of their surrender, we will both cease fire and await developments. We will not, repeat not, expose ourselves. A prisoner or two would be good for the news media afterward, but we will not risk anyone to take them. You will order them in Spanish to throw down their weapons, strip naked and advance with their hands on their heads. When they do, I will fire two red star clusters, advising everyone that the farmhouse is taken. Even so, none of the perimeter force will move up until you see two green star clusters. And when you do, come in a skirmish line, cautiously.”

He turned to the Lieutenant. “Does that meet with your approval, Sir?”

He tried very hard to say it earnestly and without irony.

“Yes, Master Sergeant, it does.”

“We have very little time to get into position. Stentinius’ grenadiers will have to use this road here and walk the farthest, so they should leave now. John, drop off about here, march as quietly as you can until about here, then stealth walk until you’re about a hundred yards from where the tree line faces the field and crawl the rest of the way. It is unlikely they have any LP/Ops out that far but be ready if you jump one.”

“Right,” said the old Marine.

“When you’re in position give me one click on the radio, wait ten seconds and then give me one more.”

“Right.”

“Good luck, John.”

“You too, Bill. Semper Fi.”

“Right.”

Stentinius started shouting orders about the distribution of the war materiel in the trucks, splitting his squad and other vital details.

Bill Curtis turned to Kurt Garth. “Y’all will have the next longest walk. Do it like I told John. Take five minutes right now to have his BAR men instruct your assistants then get going. Your drop off is, here,” he pointed. “And when you get in position, give me two clicks on the radio, followed ten seconds later by two more.”

“You bet, Bill. I’ll get going now.” They shook hands.

“Sheriff, your guys leave last, of course. You just motor down to the farm lane with your lights off. No slamming doors and no interior lights either, then take up position to prevent any vehicles that might get out in the first moments from making it to the road. Give me three clicks, followed ten seconds later by three clicks. OK, sir?”

“Bill, this is the first time I’ve ever taken orders from a special deputy, but I’m damned glad to be doing it now. We’ll be there. Call us up if you need us.”

“Yes, sir.” Bill looked around. “Lieutenant, you and me are going to have the toughest assignment. Let’s go over the map and wargame it again. I reckon we’ve got about twenty minutes until we have to take off.”

“Right,” said the Lieutenant. “What was your rank in the Army?” he asked.

“I am what I always was, Lieutenant, a sergeant.” Then he added, “a squad leader.”

“You could have fooled me.”

“Hell, Lieutenant, there’s no more important position in the Army, the Marines or the militia than squad leader, didn’t you know? It’s those last hundred yards that bumfuzzles the slickest officers’ plans every time. That’s when they’ve got to rely on us.”

He smiled indulgently at the Lieutenant.

“Now, let’s figure out if we’ve missed any wrinkles in killing these Zeros.”

"Zetas," corrected the Lieutenant.

"Whatever," said Bill Curtis.

Zeta

Raul Hernandez Lopez was angry and eager to be gone from this place. At dawn they would break up into attack cells and spread out over Winston County. It was time to get them up and moving. They had already been thoroughly briefed yesterday on their various missions. The Zeta cells would kill as many people as they could, making no distinction as to age or sex. This was actually their normal rules of engagement so no one had any qualms about it.

They were ordered to destroy the Sheriff's station and the Post Office. The latter was deemed to be important, for it was a federal offense and it was somehow vital to his employer's plans that it be hit.

He did not have confidence in most of his troops, of which there were fifty-five scattered everywhere in the house and barn, sleeping on floors and old hay. The word Zeta struck fear into the hearts of law enforcement on both sides of the border, but fewer than six of these were true Zetas, graduates of Mexcian Army's elite GAFE Special Forces Group. Of those, Lopez himself was the only surviving Zeta who had been trained at The School of the Americas at Fort Benning. The rest of the men were a mixed bag, some Mara Salvatruchas, some regular Mexican Army veterans, including deserters lured into the shadowy narco trade for the money, some Guatamalan Kaibils. All of them were sicarios, veterans of of the incessant cartel wars, and so all had killed time and again.

But murderers did not make good soldiers, Lopez knew, and he was likely to lose many of them to stupidity before this day was over. No matter. They were cannon fodder. They were well armed and equipped, but they were cannon fodder nonetheless.

Lopez was angry because he had just discovered that the roving patrol he had ordered last night had not been done as he had ordered it. Walking up and down the farm lane to the bridge was not his idea of a patrol, but that was how his order had been interpreted by men who hadn't mastered their fear of the Yanqui night. He could understand part of their fear. This land of hills and thick trees choked him. It played with your head and made you see threats that weren't there.

He'd first experienced it at Benning, and he was glad when he had finally graduated and got back to the clean high deserts of his native northern Mexico. Of course he'd fought down in the jungles of Yucatan and Chiapas, killing rebellious Indians for the latifundistas of the PRI in Mexico City, but he'd always hated it.

He hated this place as well, and for the same reasons. And one other: he hated the arrogant gabachos. He'd hated them since he'd been shamed by a drunken drill instructor at Benning. Now he would pay Sergeant McMasters back for pissing on him while he lay in the red Georgia mud. McMasters had even been from Alabama, but further south from here. Too bad. He would pay much to kill that one. Maybe after this is over I will look him up.

It would be dawn soon. Lopez walked up the stairs to the second floor to sweep the woods with his thermal imaging scope. He scanned first toward the bridge. He could see his two sentries standing on the road, talking, smoking cigarettes -- it had better be cigarettes, you stupid cabrones -- instead of down in their hides along the road. The cigarettes flared in the imager. I'll deal with them later. There were no side windows in the upper story, so he walked to the back to scan the far tree line.

It was full of men.

Chinga!

As he turned to raise the alarm he heard two shots and a pop toward the front and then a series of louder pops from the rear. Outside the window, a ghostly green flickered on the fields. Flare, he had time to realize.

Then the hell his sainted mother had always warned him about came to visit.

Shipman and his dogs

Jesus Rojas had seen a lot of ugly gabachos before but this man in front of him was the ugliest he had ever seen. He had been chosen for this assignment because he had excellent English, having been raised in LA. He remembered the Schwarzenegger line from 'Predator': "You are one ugly motherf-cker."

He had sense not to repeat it aloud, but he laughed anyway. The sound was magnified by the small size of the motel room.

"What's so funny?" challenged Gonzo Greene.

"Nothing," said Rojas. "Please continue with the briefing."

Greene looked at the Mexican sourly. He hated greasers with a purple passion. But there was the job and he needed them.

"OK," he continued, "the diversion starts just after dawn. We give it two hours and then Rizzo and me will drive you to the road just above Shipman's place, where you'll get out from under the tarps in the boat and go through the woods until you get to the side of the house. We'll stay on the road, fiddling around under the hood, giving you time to get into position. We'll wait a half hour, that ought to give you plenty of time to move in real quiet. If the dogs start barking, shoot them. You've got silenced pistols, use them. Then we'll drive up to the front and knock on the door like some lost tourists. You come in the back, kill his wife and anybody else who's there but we got to take Shipman alive. He's got a broken leg so it shouldn't be that tough."

Personally Rojas could see several holes in the plan, chief among them was the presence of several dogs. He preferred quietly poisoning dogs before a serious approach to a target. In his life he had killed many a dog that way. Shooting dogs, even with a suppressed weapon, was noisy. They yelped, they whimpered, they even barked and kept coming at you until they died with blood-foam flecking their muzzles. Dogs were loyal. The dogs would be a problem.

For now all he said was, "We shall see."

Gonzo Greene took it as agreement. "Right, well I've been driving all night and I'm going to get some rest. You guys don't mind if I rack out on this bed, do you?"

The Zetas had no objection. They left the room and went down the motel sidewalk for the free Continental breakfast in the lobby. They were dressed like carpenters, and no one took any notice of them.

"I don't like trusting Mexicans," observed Rizzo the Rat as he lay on the other bed.

"Me neither," replied Gonzo, "but we don't have to trust them much. We just got to use them to get Shipman, then they go their way and we go ours."

"I still don't like it."

"Get some sleep, Rizz, or shut up so I can."

"Right." Rizzo the Rat paused. "Have you figured out what we're gonna do after we get him?"

"No."

"But . . ."

"Shut up, Rizz."

"Right."

***********************************

"The Zetas are in the restaurant and the Ugly Twins are in the room," crackled the radio.

Dan Brown was glad to be working back on his home ground. The Blazer with the boat was in the trucker parking behind the motel.

"Tag and bug them both," he ordered.

He began to breathe freely again when the call came that the job was done. He had left the squad and the Sheriff to return to the main threat. He knew their names and records now, and their histories were far uglier than their faces. These were two very bad dudes. The plan, Brown now understood only too well, was to use the Zetas to create havoc, and for the uglies and their helpers to slip in during the chaos and kidnap Shipman, take him someplace to torture Quintard's location out of him, then snatch Charlie as well. Brown's immediate instinct had been to bust the twins and as many Zetas as they could catch and short-circuit the whole damn thing. He had been overruled by Jack Durer.

"Dan, the farther we let this play out, the more it works to our advantage," Durer had said.

Not for the first time, Dan Brown wondered how Jack Durer defined "our". When Jack used the royal "we" you just didn't know. He kept it that way, Brown knew, just to keep people wondering how far his influence really extended. It was part of the Durer mystique. But right now he didn't like it one damn bit. If this went south and Shipman got hurt, or worse, if some innocents got killed by some Zeta terrorists they'd missed, the blowback was going to land in his lap.

He'd asked in exasperation, "Are we supposed to let them get Shipman?"

Durer ignored the sarcasm. "Don't be a worrywart, Dan. You've got these guys under the microscope, right? Just let it play out to the point where they commit illegal acts on Alabama soil, and I don't care if it's spittin' on the sidewalk. Then take 'em down. 'Course if you get surveillance video and audio of them planning to snatch Shipman, that'll be better. Just get me that prisoner we talked about. And let Shipman handle his own security at the house. He's got the people to do it, he knows they're coming and we don't want to have to explain why you're there if we can help it. No fingerprints."

"Right, Jack," he'd said in resignation as much as anything else. "Will do."

Well, he'd still managed to get caught with his pants down. They didn't have exact intel on the Zetas, didn't know where their rendezvous was going to be, didn't know how many, or when the strike day was. Hell, if the twins hadn't led him to this Zeta team, he wouldn't have known about them either. It wasn't until he put the reports of hard-looking Mexicans drifting into Winston County together with the news of Claxton and the twins meeting across the state line that he undertood he was looking at D minus one and counting. He thought Durer was crazy when he urged him to rely on the militia. He understood how, for political reasons, the Governor wanted to keep this a joint state-local operation. But using the militia as a Sheriff's posse made him nervous. However, both Shipman and Curtis had surprised him with their competence. He'd hate to go up against either of them in a straight fight.

He knew that the battle with the main body of Zetas was probably over by now but he hadn't heard how the fight for the farm had went. Durer was right though, in the grand scheme of things, this was more important.

So he sat in his car with Marty Abraham and waited for the uglies to make their move.

***********************

How it went was pretty much according to Bill Curtis' plan.

Except it didn't, not entirely.

Curtis had looked at his watch and then up at the Mexican sentries smoking and laughing. He took out the flare pistol from the holster on his load bearing vest and extended his arm up. The DM's in prone position two meters away had signaled that they had their targets. "Take 'em," Curtis ordered. He waited until he saw both sentries crumple on the road, cigarettes still in their hands, then he fired the flare.

The ripple fire of ten white phosphorus grenades, boosted by the M7 pills, landed dead on the vehicle park in the back of the house. Half of the second volley of ten was directed at the barn, which caught fire immediately. Screaming Zetas with burning willy peter embedded in them ran like headless chickens in all directions.

As the squad and the SWAT team emerged from the tree line on a dead run making for the cover of the chicken houses, a Guatemalan Kaibil who had slept in the old feed room of the first one in order to escape the snores of his companeros saw them out the window in the reflected light of the willy peter and took them under fire with his AK-47. One of the SWAT guys, hit in both legs, went down. His team ran on and killed the Guat with the concentrated fire of at least six weapons.

When they made the inside of the chicken house and looked toward their next objective, one of the SWAT guys yelled, "Goddamn, there's hundreds of them!"

**************************************

From his position at his end of the second chicken house, Bill Curtis looked around the corner. The farmyard looked like an upturned anthill on fire. God, how many of them were there? Too many to immediately make his maneuver. The SWAT guys held up their part of the bargain and began killing Zetas by the bushel as they streamed out of the barn from their position in the chicken house.

Many of the Zetas made for the front of the farmhouse, fleeing into the gunfire because they feared Sergeant Willy Peter more. It was a target made for the squad. BARs, DMs, grenadiers, riflemen all joined in the killing spree. Return fire from the barn refugees was feeble and sporadic.

Not so, from the house. Accurate automatic weapons fire was coming from both upper and lower windows. Because of the angle, most of it was aimed at the squad. He had a man down in Alpha team, how bad he didn't know. Then each BAR man took a window and hosed it with measured, rolling bursts while the grenadiers ran out into the fire and put AT grenades into the rock structure below and beside the windows. Back to cover to reload. Then again. The fire from the upper windows fell off to nothing. Men still fought from the lower level, though. A grenadier went down. No, he was up, dragging his leg but carrying his weapon.

Curtis' heart wanted to burst.

Alpha team took off before the he fired his second flare. He started to order them back but realized that if Mike Parker was taking the initiative it was for a good reason.

Parker's men made the ditch and began firing at targets who had gathered on the far side of the house. Their rounds coincided with a great whoosh as an RPG rocket, it's operator's aim interfered with when a militia bullet hit him between the eyes, went sailing over Bill's head by about three feet and blew up in the field beyond. Another Zeta tried to pick up the RPG and was nailed by Parker's DM.

Late in the game, a Chevy pickup truck blew out from behind the house, knocked down a cattle gate and fled through the fields headed to the lane, the road and what they thought was safety. The windows had all been blown out and the bed was packed with panicked screaming men. Alpha Team's grenadier aimed at it but Mike stopped him. "The house! The house!" he shouted.

An HE-AT rifle grenade hit the roof of the house. Oh, shit. He fired his second flare, not even remembering loading it. The grenadiers in the treeline behind the house ceased fire. Shit, we've stopped forward movement. He shifted Baker to the left, maintaining suppressive fire to the left of the structure. Charlie Team continued dueling with the shooters in the bottom right window. There were twenty Charlie bullets going in for every Zeta round coming out. Bill Curtis smiled. Good, that's the way it's supposed to work.

Parker's boys managed to make it almost to the wall when they discovered that several barn refugees had taken refuge there. Parker's BAR man went down and Parker himself had the top of his ear shot off when he popped up to shoot at the house.

"Sonofabitch!" he screamed. "Grenades!" he ordered. He took one off his harness, pulled the pin and let the spoon fly. God, let these fuses still be good. He and three of his men threw them at the same time, then ducked back.

Four huge booms and then there was a single shriek and then nothing. "Again!" Parker ordered.

It was unnecessary, the Zetas were all very dead. They did not feel the second volley at all.

Parker's replacement BAR man and the grenadier, who knew better than to take their attention off the critical task of keeping their own fire up, had pretty much discouraged the fire from the windows.

Pretty much, but not completely.

Raul Hernandez Lopez was badly wounded by shrapnel from a rifle grenade and he could no longer hear. He was concussed and he fought to clear his mind. The Zeta had failed, so he was a dead man anyway, now or later in Mexico. He had dragged himself to the back window and seen his men heaped in windrows, burning. He now saw the same in the front. The barn blazed merrily and his antagonists were plainly visible from the second floor as they popped up and down at different places on the wall, never at the same place twice.

Who were these people? He recognized the signature of the BARs and saw for himself that his attackers were using old-fashioned rifle grenades. Who were these gabachos? Not police, surely. They fought like disciplined troops. But they weren't armed like the National Guard. He guessed he'd die not knowing.

The loud speaker was blaring "Suelta tu armas! Pon tus manos en tu cabezas!" Lopez couldn't hear it. He picked up a Kalashnikov and checked the magazine. The last Zeta fighting shuffled over to the window, every step a chorus of pain, and raised the AK to his shoulder, his aim wobbly. He was trying for the leader. He thought one last time about the high deserts of northern Mexico, pulled the trigger and the Kalashnikov began to chatter.

Below, Mike Parker's replacement BAR man spotted movement in the window. He shoved Mike Parker down from behind, just like his grandfather told him, and had just raised his automatic rifle to fire when Lopez loosed off the burst. At the same instant, the grenadier put a white phosphorus round dead center on the Zeta's breastbone and sent him burning in pieces to his reward.

It was not a pleasant one.

Lopez missed Mike Parker but hit the man who saved his life with two 7.62 slugs in the lungs. Like the rest of the militiamen, Thomas Powell was not wearing body armor. Denny Powell's son was still alive when they put him in the LifeFlight helicopter, but he died before he could reach the medical center. His grandfather was with him when he died. Tommy was sixteen and big for his age. He would never get any bigger. But like his Cherokee warrior ancestors he had been true to his vision, and he had been willing to make the trade.

The butcher's bill was later determined to be one dead and five wounded out of Bill Curtis' squad, two of those seriously. Two state troopers had been killed and six wounded, one in critical condition. Their kevlar helmets and body armor had saved many. The truckload of Zetas never made it past the deputies, who captured two, both wounded, and killed the rest. There were no deputies hit in the exchange.

Total Zeta casualties, determined after the forensics teams had combed the shells of the house and barn, were 46 dead, 7 wounded, one of whom later died, and 3 unwounded prisoners. All of the survivors were eager to talk.

They cleared the house before it burned down, leaving the bodies, removing one wounded Zeta and taking all the weapons and documents they could find.

Among these was the briefcase and laptop of Raul Hernandez Lopez.

*********************

Will Shipman was grateful to be free of the cast. He understood the need for Durer's deception, but it had been a pain in the ass, literally. Brown had said over the radio that they could expect visitors within the next half hour. That had been twenty minutes ago. He held the silenced M-3 loosely, feeling the old sweat slick his palms.

When the Mexicans got to the treeline around the Shipman place, they halted. No dogs, thought Rojas. That was a bad sign. As much as he'd been worried about the dogs, he was more worried about their absence.

It was a set up.

He motioned his men to back up toward the road, when the clacking began. There was a lot of clacking. When the clacking stopped Rojas and his three Zetas were quite truly dead, riddled with .45 caliber slugs. He would never worry about dogs again, nor poison another one, come to that.

Gonzo Greene had decided time was just about up when a beat-up old Ford pickup, so rusted out that it was missing its bed, came down the road toward the Blazer, the boat, the upraised hood, Gonzo, and Rizzo.

"Let me handle this," hissed Gonzo to Rizzo the Rat.

The truck pulled to a stop beside them, and a youngish, dark-faced, bearded local leaned out the open window. "You fellers need any help?"

"No," said Gonzo, looking intently at the local, "she's just been running rough. She'll make it back to Birmingham."

"Birmingham? I thought y'all were from Tennessee."

Gonzo Greene froze. His pistol was tucked under his jacket in the small of his back. He was too far from the pickup's door to grab the man and had nowhere to run.

At once he was overcome with curiosity. How did he know? Was he a Brightfire agent?

So he asked, "Who are you? Are you Brightfire?"

The young man smiled, "Naw, my name's Charlie."

In the instant before he died, Gonzo Greene recognized the face, beneath the beard, from the dossier Claxton had shown him. He made to go for his pistol, but Charlie Quintard just raised his elbow and from beneath it, poked the muzzle of the MAC-10's sound suppressor that he'd been cradling in his lap, up and over the old door and fired twice.

Whether Gonzo got to meet Jim Henson in the afterlife is unknown.

But in informed circles it is doubted.

Stunned as he was at Gonzo's sudden demise, before Rizzo the Rat could react Charlie had his MAC up and pointed at him.

"Now I don't want to kill you and you don't want to be dead," Charlie said, still smiling.

Rizzo nodded dumbly, still looking at his only friend's body.

Charlie loved that line from Silverado. He'd watched it over and over again during his convalescence on Mrs. Walker's old VCR machine. He identified with Danny Glover's struggle with predatory law enforcement.

"Now," said Charlie reasonably, "you're gonna put your hands on top of your head and I'm gonna get out of this pickup truck. If you try to hurt me, I'll take you to Dead Man's Holler, and you don't want to go there. OK?"

Rizzo the Rat nodded his head. Dead Man's Holler? What was he going to do without Gonzo?

Charlie keyed the mike on his radio three times.

Forty minutes later, the state highway patrol was investigating the discovery of a fisherman shot to death on a lonely road in Winston County. They had taken the call because the Sheriff's department was knee-deep in the aftermath of the successful takedown by state and local law enforcement of a terrorist plot out of Mexico to kill the citizens of Winston County.

But as the state trooper looked at the dead man's look of terminal surprise there was just one thought in his mind.

This is the ugliest bastard I have ever seen. Hell, he looks like that Muppet, what's his name?

Bonzo?

No, Gonzo.

Yeah, Gonzo. What an ugly human being.

**************************************

Dan Brown was fuming when he finally got the cell phone call.

"Where the hell have you been?" he fairly shouted at Will Shipman. "We found Gonzo and the Zetas. Do you have Rizzo?"

"Sure, no problem, you can come get him now. We've got what we wanted out of him."

"What? What was that?"

"Don't worry. Just come get him. You'll find him tied to the tree out front of the old Miller place about a mile down on the right from my house. Jimmy Flynn will be here having fun watching the ants crawl all over him."

In the backgound, Rizzo the Rat cringed.

It had been easy to break Rizzo. Like many sadists who torture for fun, the deeper motivation is that by inflicting pain they control their own worst fears of having it inflicted on them. Witness pedophiles, who are often abused as children themselves and then spend the rest of their lives fighting their own panic and loss of control by inflicting it on others.

Rizzo was easy. They didn't even have to hurt him. They just tied him to the tree while Will had asked the questions and Charlie Quintard had gently touched the tip of his knife blade to Rizzo's face and various other parts of his body.

Did I mention that Rizzo was naked when he was bound?

Anyway, they had what they wanted from Rizzo, so Dan Brown could have him. Because he was a law enforcement officer, he couldn't have been involved in what Will and his boys had just done to Rizzo the Rat. But Shipman was no longer interested in violations of Alabama State Code. He'd heard the audio disc of Claxton and Saako. He knew that if their plan had been successful, a lot of Winston County folks would be dead right now, including his beloved wife.

No, he was operating according to a much older code. One that Aunt Jenny Brooks would have understood. He was going to Tennessee. And now, thanks to Rizzo the Rat, he knew exactly where. He could have asked Dan Brown but the state man, rightfully suspicious of why he would want the information, wouldn't have told him.

Claxton had tried to send a message. He had failed.

Now it was time for Winston County to send him one.

Postage due.

***********************

A few questions to Rizzo the Rat convinced Dan Brown of what was going to happen next. The question is, he thought, do I try to stop it? Do I kick this one upstairs to Jack? The voices of Saako and Claxton on the disc came back to him. The Brightfire mercenary was someone who wouldn't stop at anything to further his company's economic interests. This Brown knew. He also knew the outlines of the immediate plot against Shipman from the bugs they had planted in Gonzo's car and boat.

The Mexicans in particular had been very unhappy about the details as they bounced up and down under the tarp on their way to Shipman's. They had groused bitterly among themselves. Well, thought Brown, they are past caring now. But the evidence of the recordings, along with what he had been told was in Raul Hernandez Lopez' briefcase, was enough to tie Brightfire to the mass murder plot of the Zetas. And the disc was enough to tie that to the ATF. The Attorney General was going to have fun with this.

But did they need Claxton to make the case? Dan supposed Claxton could tie the plot to the Brightfire leadership, but he'd never be alive by the time his trial rolled around. Besides, Claxton was across the state line in Tennessee, out of his jurisdiction. He could hardly kidnap the man, just to put him in protective custody.

Dan Brown decided that neither he nor the state of Alabama much cared whether John Claxton lived or died. He issued orders for the surveillance of Claxton at the safe house in Tennessee to be lifted.

********************************

At the safe house, John Claxton's cell phone buzzed. He looked at the ID. It was Dody Saako. Shit. She was the last person in the world Claxton wanted to talk to right now. He flipped open the cell phone.

"Yes?" he demanded.

Saako was frantic. "Have you seen what's happened down there? The state is putting on a dog-and-pony show about some Zeta plot to kill innocent people in Winston County. It's on all the national networks. They've got bodies lined up outside this farmhouse and the whole place looks like they fought World War III there. What's happening?"

Claxton was unperturbed. The Zetas were always expendable. Rizzo had called him from Gonzo's cell phone. Gonzo was dead but Shipman was on his way to Tennessee to meet his destiny in the form of John Claxton. Brightfire would not be despised.

He said simply, "I am awaiting further developments."

"You're what?" Sako began. Then, "Uh, I, well, I guess that's all you can do."

"Yes," said Claxton.

Why, the broad was smart enough to figure it out. Three points for the "Blowfly."

"Uh, all right, I'll just await further developments too."

"You do that."

Claxton clicked the cell phone shut. At that precise moment, 'further developments' kicked in the front and back doors of the safe house simultaneously.

Claxton had lived all his life by Waco Rules. It had been the formative event of his career. Now he discovered Winston County Rules. He was still trying to work out the difference between the two when the vision in his dying eyes faded. The last thing he saw in this world was Will Shipman and Charlie Quintard looking down at him without pity, the smoke curling out of the suppressors of the submachine guns in their hands and the whorling, dancing patterns it made as it went floating up the peeling wallpaper.

*************************************

Dody Saako picked up the phone in her office. "Yes?"

"Ms. Saako, this is Robert Williams, Jr., the Attorney General of Alabama."

"Yes?" Dody Saako snapped off the question.

"Ma'am, I'd like you to come to Montgomery next week to testify before a grand jury looking into the events of yesterday in Winston County."

"What the hell has that got to do with me?"

"Ma'am, do you know an employee of the Brightfire corporation named John Claxton?"

"Yes, we've been introduced. I don't know where he is, if that's what you're asking."

"Well, ma'am, if you know him then perhaps you can confirm that this is his voice? I'd like to play a portion of an audio disc we received."

Without further ado, Robert Williams hit "play" on the machine.

"We are coming into a period of our country's history where there will be many bodies on the ground."

Oh, God, thought Saako. Oh, God.

God did not hear her, and the disc ran on.

"In fact, there already are. Surely no one will pay much notice to two more? Don't you agree?"

"Yes, I do."

“Good. Now, as I said, let me take care of this. We WILL make our point.”

Robert Williams' deep baritone voice came back on. "Ms. Saako, would you please confirm that this is John Claxton's voice?"

Dody Saako looked dully at the picture of the current President of the United States on the wall. She ignored Robert Williams, Jr.

It had all been for nothing. The scheming, the calculated self-debasement, the sexual favors, the ass-kissing, the deliberate framing of innocent men, the terrorization of their families, all to further her career in an agency that valued ruthlessness in its employees . . . It had all been for nothing.

"Ms. Saako?" she heard Robert Williams say in the distance.

She hung up the phone.

Eight and a half minutes later, still staring at the image of the President of the United States, "Blowfly" Saako ate her own gun.

******************************

Sarah Abraham sat on her mother's couch, watching television vacantly and thinking of Marty. The kids were finally, thankfully, asleep. Her husband and his damned career had stretched her a dozen different ways for as long as she could remember and she didn't see that he was getting anywhere for all his trouble.

She knew she wasn't. Even when he came home he was preoccupied and distant. He said he couldn't tell her what he'd been doing, only that it was important. Couldn't tell her?

Hmmph. 'Wouldn't' was more like it. What bothered her most of all was that her mother, who had never cared much for Marty, was starting to make sense in her criticism. This from a woman who hadn't made much sense on the big things of life since Sarah was old enough to sort things out for herself.

How did Sarah know he wasn't cheating on her, her mother had asked. Well, her mother always had been a foolish yenta and it didn't seem likely, but what was it that could be so important?

The doorbell rang, but Sarah paid no attention, even though the hour was late. Her mother would get it and she was still intently picking at the psychic scab that barely covered her wounded ego.

So it wasn't until a deep voice from behind her called, "Mrs. Abraham?" that she reacted. Turning her head, she saw who it was and leaped from the couch as if she had been shot from a cannon.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Abraham," said Ray Marsh kindly, "I didn't mean to startle you." Her mother stood behind the Governor, eyes wide, mouth agape.

"Oh, God," blurted Sarah Abraham, "is Marty . . .?" She couldn't finish it. Concern flooded Ray Marsh's face.

"Oh, no, your husband's fine," the Governor hastened to add. "I'm truly sorry to have scared you. No, he's fine. Just fine."

Sarah Abraham sank back down onto the couch in relief.

"He is a little tired. He's been working hard for me on a special project. But he's just fine. He's been gone for a while and he couldn't get away, but he asked me to drop by and let you know that he's fine and he'll be home soon to see you."

Ray Marsh walked around the end table and knelt down in front of Sarah Abraham, taking her hand in his.

"Marty asked . . . you? And you . . . came here? All the way down here from Montgomery?"

"He's one of the very best men we have in the service of this state, Mrs. Abraham. These are terrible times in Alabama. Perilous times. And if it weren't for dedicated, honorable agents like Marty we would be in a lot worse shape than we are. I wanted to tell you that too. The sad thing is that good men like Marty have to neglect their families at times like these. But I want you to know that he wouldn't be doing what he's doing if I hadn't asked him to, because the state needs his capable service right now."

"He's been gone for so long. . ." Sarah began.

"I know," said the Governor kindly, "you've barely seen him in almost three months. But please, forgive him. It's my fault really. Mine and the times. I can't tell you what he's been doing, but I can tell you that both Marty and I believe that we're working for the future of Andy and Amy and the future of all the other children of this state. When he's done with the job, I'll see that he gets some time off with you and your children and that he's compensated for his sacrifice. For his sacrifice and for yours. We need more men like Marty, and Mrs. Abraham . . . he needs you. I just wanted you to know that. I'm sorry for the lateness of the hour, but things are pretty hectic in Montgomery these days. I should have done this weeks ago, but I've been unable to get free. Finally, I just had to make time to do it."

Sarah Abraham looked into the Governor's eyes. "It's that important?"

"Yes, Sarah, it's that important. Please forgive him, and forgive me, if you can.

"All right."

The Governor released her hand and stood.

"One more thing, Sarah," Ray Marsh said as he looked sharply at Marty Abraham's mother-in-law. "It would be best if no one knew I was here tonight, or that Marty was working on important state business. It's a matter of keeping him safe while he does his his job. Do you understand, Mrs. Stieglitz?"

Clara Stieglitz nodded, unable to speak.

Sarah stood up, walked over to the Governor and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you," she said.

The Governor flushed red as a beet.

"I will pray for you, Governor. I will pray for you and for Marty and for all of us."

Ray Marsh recovered, said his goodbyes, and let himself out the front door.

"You kissed the Governor," Clara Stieglitz said accusingly, half in wonder and half in horror.

Sarah Abraham pled guilty. "Yes, Mother, I did. And if you tell anybody about it, or about the Governor being here or what Marty's doing, I'll slit your throat and bury you in the back yard under your petunias."

For the first time in her life, Clara Stieglitz was frightened by her youngest daughter. But she said, "You're not serious."

"Try me," said Sarah, and without another word went upstairs to check on the kids.

They would be going home tomorrow.

**********************************************

They buried Tommy Powell two days later. He had been assigned to Mike Parker's fire team because the squad had all agreed that no two members of the same family would serve in the same fire team. Mike, whose life he had saved, was, if possible, more broken up about the boy's death than his parents.

Why did he do what he did? Parker asked himself that question time and again. Why save me? They gave out Congressional Medals of Honor for that kind of thing in Iraq. Here the boy just got the thanks of a grateful state as expressed in a memorial service eulogy by Ray Marsh.

Just words. Sincere, but just words. It wasn't enough.

Mike Parker pinned his own Silver Star on the boy before they closed the casket and it still wasn't enough.

Why?

He couldn't figure it out, and it ate at him. When they'd put him on the medevac, the boy had actually been smiling, like he'd just aced a test in high school, or stolen a kiss from the prettiest girl on the block. Mike Parker could close his eyes and still see that smile. He drank himself to sleep that night after the funeral and it didn't help.

Just before dawn though, Tommy Powell walked up to him and told him why. An old man was with the boy, and together they explained it. When Mike Parker opened his eyes an hour later, he remembered and he understood. Somehow Tommy had known what was going to happen before it did, and he went anyway. He'd known, he'd seen it in a vision, and he'd gone out of duty.

Duty.

And he'd done it, he explained to Mike Parker, not for him in particular, so Mike didn't need to feel guilty.

He'd done it, Tommy Powell told him, for the squad.