L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 921, May 7, 2017
Disney Ride from Hell
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Once upon a time, space activist Gary Oleson asked space activist Howard Stringer to ask a question at the next meeting of the Houston Space Society. In May 1990, he asked, “What would be the one thing the Houston Space Society could do, in the next ten years, to change the way people think about space?”
I thought about this question for about one second and said, “We could put one of our members in orbit.”
By October of that year, Howard, David Mayer, and I had formed a company, written rules for a sweepstakes contest, sent Art Dula to negotiate a contract with the Soviet space agency Glavkosmos, looked into alternatives that might be available in the private sector in the United States, identified a really good public relations firm, and were on our way to making quite a stir. In December 1990, we made our announcement, got a lot of news stories written about us, were interviewed for a lot of television and radio shows, and found out that the Harris County, Texas district attorney didn’t like what we were doing, but was not telling us to stop. We showed him a legal opinion letter from one of the top law firms in communications law in the country. He went outside and told the assembled press that he was not telling us to stop.
In February, he told a judge that he had told us, in December, to stop. The judge ordered our arrest. So, it was while we were sitting in the back of a patrol car, waiting 45 minutes for the news cameras to get to our location so we could be perp walked on camera that David told me, “You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.” I feel confident that others have said it before him, but that is the first time I heard it.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t resist tyranny. Nor am I saying that you don’t feel righteous indignation when you are being arrested. But I have been arrested on more than one occasion, and I can assure you that if you resist, it isn’t going to help you.
Nor am I saying that not resisting is a guaranteed method. I was not resisting in January 2004, but complying with each directive, when I was arrested for what the ticket I was given called “Houston Superbowl Dragnet.” And I was kicked repeatedly in the head and chest, and had eleven broken bones from that encounter. I have ongoing pain in my chest and back due to those injuries.
You Want to Live
Now, you may not be like me, and want to live forever, but you probably want to get through your encounter with the police and be breathing afterward. If that is so, there is no reason to make things worse for yourself by making it hard for the people who are detaining, arresting, and incarcerating you. Believe me, I understand how you feel, and if you need someone calm to talk to, you should definitely call someone, if the arresting officers let you, so you can get calm enough to get through the process alive. If you call me, I’ll do my best to help you remain calm.
You want to pick your battles. You want to assemble your resources. You want to make use of those few protections left in our legal system. So, don’t try to fight the cops, in a situation where you are vastly outnumbered, and when there is no possibility of you winning. Being a martyr for the cause of freedom is not going to get your corpse a parade—those are reserved for the parasites who occasionally get sent into a burning building by incompetent management and happen to die in a fire.
Recently a friend of mine, Jeremy Henggeler, who is a really good guy, freedom advocate, abolitionist, dog walker, and Long Island resident, mentioned on Facebook that he was stuck in traffic because of such a parade. Sixty hours later, there were over 11,000 posts in reply to his post, calling him all kinds of names. (One of my other friends posted that since 2001, only 21 fire fighters have died in the line of duty, six of them due to following stupid orders from management.) He and his ex-girlfriend and their children had death threats, were doxxed, and all kinds of terrible things were said about them. A news reporter came to his property and refused to leave because she was determined to upset him, and rather than, say, spraying her and her camera goof with water from a garden hose, he showed them that he had a knife. Didn’t point it at her, though she lied about this point, to make trouble, because she’s an evil statist pig.
Happily, Jeremy is alive and got through the process of being arrested, charged, and jailed without further incident. He was pleasant to the people involved in the arrest and processing and jailing process. Which is not easy for everyone to do, but it is worth doing, if you think about David Mayer’s advice. Beating the rap can happen, if you live, but the ride is there.
Ride from Hell
Obviously, it is not a ride you wanted to go on. Nobody wants to be arrested. Nobody wants to be charged with a crime. Nobody wants to be convicted, either. But there are things that can be done to you that make it much worse.
For example, the week I was arrested in January 2004, another young man was arrested in a different part of town. He was sitting in the back of the patrol car, in handcuffs, and “smarting off” saying various things to the officer, and to the wind. The Houston police officer at the wheel drove to a freeway overpass, parked, and got his partner in another patrol car to show up. The two of them took the young man (I heard he was 19 at the time), still cuffed, and threw him over a chain link fence onto the shoulder of the freeway below. The victim of this brutality broke both legs and ruptured his spleen, and was still hospitalised when I was released from Harris county jail.
While in jail in February 1991, an earlier version of the same Harris county jail, all of the prisoners were subjected to sewage on the floor of every holding cell. We were crammed in, up to 90 of us standing in a room meant to hold maybe 30 people. There were notices on every wall alerting us that federal courts had declared just being in that jail “cruel and unusual punishment.” For all the good that did us. Several of the other prisoners spoke during one of the interminable waits in line for paperwork processing. One of the screws asked who was talking, identified them, got their names, found their paperwork, put it on the bottom of the pile. Looked at everyone and said, “Who else wants to talk in line?
While in jail in January 2004 I witnessed one prisoner being beaten with a truncheon, and heard about two other prisoners in separate incidents also being beaten up by guards. Their infractions were all involving speaking while in line. My point is not to say that they were doing anything wrong, nor to indicate any sympathy at all with the jailers. Even other cops do not like jailers. Nobody likes jail duty unless they are psychotics. My point, rather, is that you want to live through the experience of being in jail. So, do what I do. Be pleasant. Talk with the guards. Be quiet when it is time to be quiet. Be like a dove to everyone who meets you, even though you are plotting future actions in your mind.
No, them “just doing their jobs” and “only following orders” is not a defence of their actions. That is the Nuremberg defence, and properly led to the hanging of many Nazis. It is, however, not possible for you to see the jailers handling your situation get hanged. The most you can hope to do, if you survive whatever they do to you, is report what happened and maybe get one of them reprimanded. After which things won’t go any better for you. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you are found dead in your cell and your family is told some lie about how you killed yourself, or you are found dead at the bottom of a metal staircase in the jail, and your friends are told how you slipped and fell.
It Is Not Easy
It is not easy to walk out of your home and find laser target dots on your chest. That happened to me in early April 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. It is not easy to get arrested. It is not fun to get processed, fingerprinted, photographed, cheek swabbed, etc. It is not easy to be in jail. It is not fun to wake up at 4 a.m. (or thereabouts—they don’t let you have a watch or clock in your cell, so you have to guess at the time) and hear the jailers hauling some poor bastard down the stairs in his blanket, while he is evidently choking to death on his tongue, or some bit of food, and rush him to the medical ward. I don’t know if that guy survived, the guards wouldn’t talk about it.
Nor was it easy to be in jail in Houston for three days with ten broken ribs, a broken nose, a gashed eyebrow, and no pain medications. Somehow, the county hospital doctor who saw me and x-rayed my chest did not see the broken ribs that showed up three days later on an MRI scan my personal doctor ordered. Yeah.
If you do things to prepare your family and friends for the prospect of being arrested, and there is no reason to think you, or they, are immune from being arrested, things might go better. Figure out who to call, and memorise their number. You do get one phone call, use it to call someone who can help organise help for you. If you find yourself in jail, and you don’t know the number of anyone, ask for the bail bondsmen list, and call one of them. Every jail has a list of local bondsmen, it is part of the profitable prison industry. The bondsman will be happy to contact your family, friends, and even search on the Internet to get phone numbers, because they want your business.
Once a judge has seen you, whether by video link or in person, and you find out what your bail amount is, you can generally get a bondsman to pay the full amount in cash, and you pay the bondsman 10% to 12% (depending on local rules) which he gets to keep, even if you make all your court dates. If you can afford to post the full bond amount, you get it back if you make all your court dates, even if you are found guilty. Bonding out of jail is a good idea, because the food is lousy, the accommodations cramped, and the reading material if any is generally mystery and romance novels, and various holy books. Plus, being bonded out helps you organise your defence, meet with lawyers, and get your side of the story to people who care (such as your attorney).
No Happy Ending
The story does not end with everyone living happily ever after. You live in a police state. Obey every law as best you can, and you still face the prospect of arrest. False accusations happen. People get in trouble for political reasons. My activism against taxpayer funded stadiums in the 1995 to 2004 period probably was responsible for my 2004 arrest, so I would be “off the streets” during the Superbowl. Life is not fair, and the people who run the system are very unfair.
But the story is not over, and as long as you are alive, you can fight for your freedom. You can fight to improve the world, and for the freedom of others. Eventually, there will come days and weeks and months and years of reckoning, when the system that is gets confronted by enraged people. If you look at what is happening in Venezuela today, you can see that it isn’t a fun process to confront a system of oppression.
Much as it might be nice to suppose that there is a happy ending, the probability is that once you are arrested you will have to mount a legal defence. Bail and lawyers will cost you plenty. You will never get any of that money back. Any exculpatory evidence that indicates you were brutalised or falsely arrested that remains in the control of the police is likely to disappear, or be erased if it is digital.
However, you can probably defeat the case, especially if you have competent legal counsel. You can probably get the charges reduced, or dropped, and you might end up with a suspended sentence, probation, and so forth. There are a lot of things worse than being arrested, even if it later leads to your conviction. Many of those things that are worse can be done to you by the arresting officers.
If you face arrest, and you are ready to die, and you choose to go down fighting, that is your choice, that is up to you. I am not in your situation, I am not there at that moment, and I will not second- guess what you choose. But if you expect to be recognised for heroism and bravery and honoured after your passing, your ideas about how the hoax stream media reports on stories like that would seem to represent a narrative thread from a parallel dimension, and is inconsistent with my experiences of the same.
Whatever you do, however you choose, keep your wits about you. Your choices will affect how things go for you, during arrest, during processing, in jail, and in court. May it all go your way.
Jim Davidson is an author of four books, an entrepreneur, a world traveller, a story-teller, and a highly educated man. He founded Individual Sovereign University in 2009. He has started and run over 20 businesses since he was 8 years old. Currently he, Ben Stone, Dan Sullivan, Derrick Slopey, and others are working on Room4Freedom.com to build the next generation private app for travellers and hosts. You can find one of his books on Amazon.com, another on Lulu.com, and one at BadQuaker.com.
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