Monday, April 18, 2011

"The Secret Anniversaries of the Heart," Part 1. Eliot Ness, the Untouchables, the profanation of Patriot's Day & the origins of the militia movement

The holiest of all holidays
are those kept by ourselves
in silence and apart;
the secret anniversaries of the heart.
- - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of the last structures to fall at the compound was the flagpole holding the Davidian flag (with its Star of David). The government promptly mounted the blue "A.T.F." flag, along with the American and Texas flags, amidst the wreckage of the building, where lay the dead adults and children. -- Dave Kopel, Child Abuse at Waco

The real Eliot Ness, Patron Saint of the ATF.

“The ATF still worships Eliot Ness. They have Eliot Ness Golf Tournaments and annual Eliot Ness birthday bashes. They host these on the anniversary of Ness's birthday, 19 April 1903. Yep, that's right, the ATF's patron saint was born on Patriot's Day, the day of Lexington and Concord -- the day the Founders' Republic was born in blood and fire. And thanks to that unhappy fact, we mark the anniversary of Waco on the same day.”

Today is the 18th of April. On this date in 1775, a Tuesday, Paul Revere was getting his riding orders from Dr. Joseph Warren to rouse the countryside that the "lobsters" were coming out. On this date in 1943, a Sunday, Nazi police and SS auxiliaries were getting ready for the final solution to the Warsaw Ghetto problem, which had been resisting Nazi deportations to Auschwitz since 18 January. On this date in 1993, another quiet Sunday, the FBI was planning their final solution to the Davidian problem which had begun with the ATF raid on 28 February -- and which not coincidentally failed to include fire trucks. On this date in 1995, another Tuesday, Chase and Colton Smith, ages 3 and 2, were spending the last complete day of their lives at the day care in the Oklahoma City Federal Building. And on this date in 1903, a Saturday, a Norwegian immigrant housewife in Chicago named Emma Ness was in the beginning stages of labor caused by her soon-to-be youngest son, Eliot Ness, who was born the next day.

Three years ago, pre-Sipsey Street, I wrote an essay entitled "Untouchable," which was published on Chris Horton's now-unavailable blog, Mindful Musings. I reproduce it below as the centerpiece of this first part of a three part "The Secret Anniversaries of the Heart" essay.

by Mike Vanderboegh
15 April 2008

"Society must find ways to deal with violent crimes. Oftentimes controlling the things that lead to these crimes play an important role in reducing them. This is where the ATF agent comes in. The US law gives the agent the power to combat the things that lead to these violent crimes. In this article, I will discuss the many hats an ATF Agent can wear in his or her quest to stop or reduce violent crime." -- Kenneth Echie, "The Many Hats of an ATF Agent in the Criminal Justice Field,"


Kenneth Echie is a prolific writer of employment and motivational articles on the 'Net, including online enterprises such as "Criminal Justice Schools" and "" Typical of his work are pieces such as " The Product Creation Ideas, Secrets, Tips, And Tricks! Part 1 Of 2" answering the question : "Have you ever wondered how some people can turn out product after product with such easy?" And yes, it says "easy" not "ease" in the blurb. Obviously Echie, like this writer, could benefit from a good editor.

And then there's "The Two Important Things You Must Do Before Becoming a Narcotics Officer" and "The 4 Important Things You Must Do or Know Before Becoming a CIA Agent." Obviously, Echie has a bit of a formulaic approach to his articles, but then what author doesn't? The trick is not to get caught at it. For example, in addition to the multi-hatted ATF agent, says Echie in another article, "Whatever it is that drives someone to the park ranger profession, one thing is for sure, they must also enjoy wearing many hats." Echie has a thing for hats.

Were Echie merely informing the clueless about how to get a job being a federal gun cop, it would be one thing. Echie, however, likes to editorialize. One of the hats Echie's ATF agent wears is that of "regulator."

"Another example is the manufacture of firearms. Can you imagine the prospect of unregulated manufacture of firearms to the public? The current situation with all its regulations is violent enough. An unregulated firearms industry will be more violent than what we have today."

Actually, I CAN imagine the prospect of unregulated manufacture of firearms and their subsequent sale to the public. We actually had this common sense system for hundreds of years before the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. You know, not even King George III thought to regulate colonial gunsmiths. We had to wait for 20th century liberalism to think that one up. And as usual, it didn't start out to be anything more than another way to tax the common man.

But getting back to hats. In reality, in their secret, heart-of-hearts, there's only one hat that most ATF agents want to wear -- the snappy fedora on the head of Eliot Ness as played by Kevin Costner in Brian De Palma's 1987 film, "The Untouchables."

"The Untouchables" and their hats.

We are approaching the 15th anniversary of the Waco massacre in a few days. I guess that's why I started thinking about Kevin Costner's snappy hat. I actually advanced the theory to friends some years ago that the Davidians would likely still be alive if it wasn't for that blasted Costner movie. You see, when it was released on the 3rd of June, 1987, among the crowds who flocked to see it were ATF agents -- LOTS of ATF agents. It was considered required viewing. Why? Because Eliot Ness is the ATF's patron saint, as the New York Times reported in 1988:

"Mounted in a prominent spot in the offices of one of Washington's major law-enforcement agencies is a blown-up formal photo of a man in his 30's, neatly dressed, hair parted in the middle. It is a picture of Eliot Ness, and, given his exploits as the head of an anti-bootlegger strike force in the Prohibition era of Al Capone and other mob chieftains, he is a rather bland-looking fellow. Ness was made famous in a later era by the television show that bore the name 'The Untouchables.' What most people probably do not recall is just who the Untouchables actually were - or, as a trivia question might put it, which Federal agency did Eliot Ness actually work for? Trivia, yes, but not trivial to the 1,600 largely unsung agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is the agency where Ness's picture hangs, along with a photograph of his original credentials, identifying him as an agent of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Prohibition. The Bureau of Prohibition is the bureaucratic ancestor of the agency that is now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, usually referred to as the A.T.F. - or by pro-gun critics like the three-million-member National Rifle Association as ''the dreaded gun police,'' to use one of the more polite epithets. . .

"The agency has been known by various names over its history, usually dictated by its function. Ushered in by the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, it was known first as the Prohibition Unit, later expanding into the Bureau of Prohibition and then changing to the Alcohol Tax Unit with the end of Prohibition in 1933. It was renamed the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division with the added duties of enforcing tobacco taxes in 1951. Later, it became the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division and separated from the Internal Revenue Service, of which it had been a part. Finally, in 1972, it obtained full bureau status in the Treasury Department as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Even that weighty title is a bit misleading. Today, (1988) unlike the heyday of Eliot Ness, the bureau spends less than five percent of its agent hours on alcohol and tobacco matters. Long gone is the agent of old, smashing barrels of moonshine with an ax, or tossing dynamite into barrels of mash, rocking the Southern hills with the sound of thunder and lacing the breeze with the smell of fermenting corn. Today's agent is more likely to be involved with machine guns than souring mash, with truckloads of explosives rather than untaxed cigarettes. Although the bureau will collect more than $10 billion in taxes this year, mostly from whiskey and cigarettes, the cutting edge of its enforcement involves drugs, guns, explosives, and the people who sell and use them." -- Wayne King, "Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; A Bureau That Battled Bootleggers Is Tough Target for Budget-Cutters," New York Times, February 1, 1988.

The ATF still worships Eliot Ness. They have Eliot Ness Golf Tournaments and annual Eliot Ness birthday bashes. They host these on the anniversary of Ness's birthday, 19 April 1903. Yep, that's right, the ATF's patron saint was born on Patriot's Day, the day of Lexington and Concord -- the day the Founders' Republic was born in blood and fire. And thanks to that unhappy fact, we mark the anniversary of Waco on the same day -- but more about that in a minute.


De Palma's film, like most Hollywood "true stories" plays fast and loose with the truth of Ness' efforts to bring Al Capone and his mob to justice. No matter. It was Costner's Ness -- pure good -- versus Robert de Niro's Capone -- pure evil. With great supporting actors like Sean Connery and a slam-bang script, it was a hit -- especially with ATF agents. There was only one problem: the Untouchables in the movie were not law enforcement officers, they were avenging angels unrestrained by law.

Toward the end of the movie, after Costner's Ness has shot fleeing felons, thrown a suspect in custody off a roof to his death and blackmailed a judge, he confesses: "I have foresworn myself. I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right!"

The ATF agents who watched it ate that sentiment up. And after it came out in VHS they would watch it again and again, internalizing the lesson that the ends justify the means. Over and over they would watch it. When a new guy came into the field office, they would ask, "Have you seen The Untouchables? No? Well, I'll loan you my copy. It's great." Over and over they would cheer as Costner and Connery used the "Chicago Way" on Capone's cartoonish bad guys. And gradually, in the minds of the field agents of the ATF, life began to imitate art.

There have been many documented ATF abuses and I am not going to waste time here remaking the whole sordid case against them, specific outrage by particular misdeed. Google "ATF abuse" and see how many stories come up. The JPFO's most recent DVD on the agency has it correct -- it is entitled, "The Gang" -- for though the ATF operates under color of law, they themselves are unrestrained by it. Witness, most recently, the Olofson case and the crude bully boy tactics of US Marshall David Meyer employed against Red's Trading Post and those of us who have protested that case on the Internet. The ATF IS a gang and no one, it seems, has ever been able to restrain them.

This is not because the ATF hasn't given the American public perfectly good reasons to be restrained, or even abolished. From the crude racism of the Good O' Boy Roundups (exposed, I might interject with local pride, by an Alabama constitutional militia formation, the Gadsden Minutemen), to the sexual harassment and racial discrimination suits filed by their own employees, to the "Oops!" raids on wrong addresses that seem to happen every year as some sort of "gun cop rite of spring", to the endemic corruption and obsessive bureaucratic power-grabbing (does anyone else besides me remember the Clintonista "ATF Air Force"?) and the truly spectacular screw-ups like the Waco raid -- the ATF has never been particularly competent at anything except avoiding the consequences of their actions. I have written at length in the past on the subject of "Waco Rules" -- a permutation of Catch 22, which states that the ATF (and their big brothers in the FBI) can do anything we, their intended victims, cannot or will not stop them from doing and THEY WILL NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

They have been investigated periodically, of course. No agency which has operated so cavalierly could expect otherwise, and congressional tongues have clucked in disapproval at their misdeeds. But apart from a near-death experience in the Reagan administration, the ATF has continued to grow, to get more money and more agents even while the number of gun dealers has dropped drastically (largely thanks to the ATF's harassment).


Last Friday, Dustin at Dustin's Gun Blog ( called the ATF a "Monster Without a Master." Truer words were never spoken, and this is a growing perception in the gun rights community. If the ATF can run amok during a nominally Republican administration with patent law-breaking like the Olofson case, what then will happen when a Democrat regime takes over with an absolute veto-proof majority in both legislative houses? Indeed, would it matter in that case if McCain, he of the "gun show loophole," were President rather than "Snob-ama" (as George Will dubbed him) or the Hil-dabeast? Probably not.

Which brings us back to the 19th of April 1993. Do you know why, when the FBI negotiators thought that Koresh was coming out, that their superiors laid on an armored vehicle and CS attack on Mt Carmel? When it looked like the Davidians were indeed going to come out under a negotiated settlement, someone in the command post (allegedly Jeff Jamar, the FBI site commander) is said to have blurted out, "So they're just going to get away with killing 4 ATF agents?" When the CEVs started to knock down the church walls, it was the FBI's way of showing that they too understood "The Chicago Way." It was a present to their little ATF brothers on the birthday of their patron saint.

And what was the first thing the feds did after incinerating seventy odd human beings, including babies? They sprinted in to the flag pole which miraculously still stood, lowered the Davidian flag and ran up the ATF flag embroidered with four stars, representing the dead ATF agents. That's "The Chicago Way" of The Untouchables. Jeff Jamar made sure they didn't "get away with it." Later on, by the way, a Texas jury found the few surviving Davidians innocent of murder, saying they had acted in self defense. (See my previous essay, Anniversary.)

So here we are today, fifteen years later, still facing the "Untouchables" -- the "monster without a master." What will prevent them from carrying out another Waco atrocity? Not the law. Not the Supreme Court. Not an anti-gun president of either party. Not a Democrat controlled federal legislature. The Untouchables are a law unto themselves. But here is where they will be brought up short.

One day, and that day may not be too far off, they are going to do something that it retrospect will be seen as both unbelievably stupid and perfectly predictable. One day, the Untouchables in their lawless arrogance are going to pick on the wrong guy -- a guy with nothing to lose, a guy who has been paying attention to things like the Olofson case and has decided upon that evidence that he can no longer count on a fair trial in this country. They are going to tangle with a guy who sees them coming and knows what to do. And on THAT day, the "Untouchables" are going to discover to their terminal surprise that they are indeed, "touchable." And to people who have been paying attention to the ATF's long and sordid career, it will come as no surprise whatsoever.

The Original Sin -- "A callous disregard for the value of human life and liberty."

"One day, and that day may not be too far off, they are going to do something that it retrospect will be seen as both unbelievably stupid and perfectly predictable."

Stupid and perfectly predictable -- sort of like the Gunwalker Scandal in retrospect, although I hardly envisioned such a breathtaking criminal enterprise under color of law -- a certain, deliberate conspiracy to subvert the Second Amendment by stacking up bodies on both sides of the Rio Grande. Compared to the original sin of Waco, this is much more premeditated, much bloodier and so much more monstrous.

"You only get one free Waco. It was your original sin." "No More Free Wacos: An Explication of the Obvious Addressed to Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States," Wednesday, May 6, 2009.

Yet Waco, the profanation of Patriot's Day, was where I began my own road to Gunwalker. As Professor Robert Churchill wrote in To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face:

Many members of the militia movement observed that Ruby Ridge and Waco changed the way they looked at the world. As Russell Smith of Dallas County TCM (MBV: Texas Constitutional Militia) put it, "Waco was the second shot heard round the world. It woke us up to a very corrupted beast." The catalyst of the movement was not so much the events themselves as the broader examination of state violence that they triggered. Militia members perceived in Ruby Ridge and Waco a callous disregard for the value of human life and liberty. As they gazed more broadly upon activities of law enforcement at all levels, they saw a corrupt preoccupation with victimless crime, a growing authoritarianism within police paramilitary culture, a tolerance for individual brutality, and a wholesale assault on individual privacy. They concluded that Ruby Ridge and Waco were nor isolated incidents, but rather evidence of a systemic threat to their liberty, property, and lives. What emerged from militia deliberations on the topic of state violence was thus a broad indictment of the repressive apparatus of the state. . . (pp. 231-232)


Mike Vanderboegh's encounter with the "Whig science of politics" also suggested to him that it was time to look for patterns and trends in threatening events such as Waco. As he and other militia members contemplated their situation, the patterns that they saw alarmed them. As Vanderboegh later put it, "it didn't take much of a leap of logic to see that an administration which could carry out a Waco while simultaneously pushing the envelope of gun control put us all on notice that anybody could be next year's Davidians." (p. 238)

Waco -- and more importantly the obvious imposition on all of us of "Waco Rules" by the failure of the political system to call anyone to account for it -- convinced us that, like the Founders at Lexington and Concord, if we intended to remain alive and free we had better see to making arrangements for the protection of our own liberties. And if those should fail, we determined to sell our liberty and our lives, like the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, as dearly as possible in the attempt.

I have lived with that determination -- and its consequences -- for almost two decades now. Nothing I have seen since then has changed my analysis. The federal government, as demonstrated by the Gunwalker Scandal, is even more of a bloody-minded, scheming conspiracy against the lives, liberty and property of the people as it was in 1993, thanks to the corrupt political system of both parties.

Today is the 18th of April, tomorrow the 19th. These are, for so many reasons, some of the secret anniversaries of my heart.

Mike Vanderboegh.

Tomorrow: "The Secret Anniversaries of the Heart," Part 2 -- Lexington Green.


Anonymous said...

You called Prof Robert Churchill; "Chamberlain" at the end of that.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for part two. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Dutchman6 said...

You called Prof Robert Churchill; 'Chamberlain' at the end of that."

Thanks. Weird. Fixed. Don't know where that came from.

Dennis308 said...

Powders Dry, Mags are loaded, I am at peace with my God. If they dare to come,I am be ready.


Scott J said...

You know, I used to like that movie. Even get a lump in my throat when Connery's character dies.

But I began to like it less when I became a guncrank and found a political identity.

I think you may have driven the final nail in the coffin of any enjoyment I might get out of the flick.

And you're not the only one who remembers the OV-10s. I asked you about them just the other day.

Mike in KY said...

I just finished watching the film "Waco: Rules of Engagement". I knew a lot of what had gone on at Waco from reading various sources. This video left me speechless... and with a whole new level of contempt for Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden.

"I need to go feed my hogs."
~Irwin Mann

Anonymous said...

We need to follow the "Chicago Rules" mentioned in the movie "Untouchables". "If they send one of yours to the hospital, we send one of theirs to the morgue."
The only thing these power hungry communist understand is force. We as free men, who refuse to live our lives in chains, no matter how light the weight, need to train and be ready to react to attempts to reduce our rights and freedoms by whatever means needed.

Anonymous said...

Quoting from John Ross' book Unintended Consequences (pg 429?):

"In the disastrous initial raid, the ATF had suffered twenty casualties, and the Branch Davidians even more. All Davidian casualties and two-thirds of ATF's were caused by ATF bullets. These numbers were not precisely known at the time of the raid, but there were so many witnesses, it was obvious that 'friendly fire'
had accounted for the lion's share of dead and wounded feds."


Anonymous said...

Mike, I agree with you about the movie, but the ATF were known as sorry no good low life thugs and dirtbags over thirty years ago when I got my FFL. Once in a while you can come across an oath honoring decent one, but it's seldom.

J. Croft said...

It is up to the willing to drag everybody else into the fight-even if they hate you for it.