Free or Die:
How many more Carl Dregas lie waiting?
of the Omnipotent State
Go where the
land meets the water, anywhere in New England, and you will begin to understand
how firmly the region of my birth lies in bondage to the Cult of the Omnipotent
Town and state
governments throughout New England traditionally buy and dump tons of sea
sand - or whatever will pass for it - along the shorelines of their municipal
beaches and parks. It doesn't matter whether the shoreline of the lake,
river or ocean cove in question was originally a reeded marshland, offering
pristine habitat to waterfowl and a hundred other creatures - the kind
of place I (for one) would far rather spend my time communing with nature
during that nine months of the year when it's NOT "time to turn,
so you won't burn."
No matter: What
the majority of taxpayers want is a sandy beach for picnicking and sunbathing
(in fact, precious little "swimming" ever transpires), and that is what
they darned well get.
What? The autumn storms and winter ice
annually erode the sand away, as nature attempts to restore these areas
to their normal, fertile condition, with beds of reeds and cattails to
naturally strain away pollutants? Never mind; just bring back the sand
trucks every spring, raking out a new sandy beach by Memorial Day. The
state is never out of resources; taxes spring eternal.
Actually, the institutionalized
destruction goes much deeper than this. "Urban Renewal," in New England,
often includes development of new office complexes and highways on "unused"
or "blighted" land. For 40 years now, the larger New England cities have
bulldozed interstate highways through the "seedy, decrepit" areas of docks
and profitable but low-rent private businesses which used to line their
waterfronts, throwing small business owners on the dole and erecting their
new throughways atop impassable 20-foot concrete embankments, until two
whole generations have grown up within a mile or two of the ocean or the
navigable Connecticut River in Hartford, Springfield, New Haven or Boston
without so much as SEEING the water that gave their cities birth,
except as a distant glitter far below the highway bridge they take to work.
But let a PRIVATE
CITIZEN try to turn a slice of his own private, rocky shoreline into
a boat dock, a sliver of sandy beach, or even a well-intentioned but "unpermitted"
refuge for turtles and wood ducks (yes, I know of just such cases, in Connecticut
and New Jersey) - let him try to similarly adjust nature to his needs or
wishes - and suddenly the state authorities descend like locusts, seizing
and destroying the privately-held turtles, demanding to see all the required
permits, showering liens and injunctions like a freak April snow shower.
more, the very populace who blithely speed along on the shore-destroying
freeways, who consider it their civic right to lie in pure white sand where
geese and fox and a hundred other creatures used to raise their young,
cheer with glee as these "greedy" private "despoilers of nature" are brought
low, for daring to offend against the state-enforced religion of Environmentalism
... on their own property.
How dare such troglodytes
tamper with sacred resources belonging to all the people, doing whatever
they please with no more justification than the fact they happen to hold
some bogus "private deed"?
Of course, the
notion that one need only "apply for a permit" is nothing but misdirection,
equivalent to telling the Jews as they boarded the trains to the East that
they should be careful to "label your luggage carefully for when you return."
Big commercial developers
who make big campaign contributions may well get some kind of hypocritical
"certificate of environmental compliance" for THEIR plans to pave
and channelize the local waterfront ... requiring yet more government seizure
of private property for another big "flood control project," upstream ...
but the little guy faces years of hoop-jumping as his permit applications
are lost, or returned for re-filing on updated forms, before they're finally
At which point, the poor sad sack will
learn to his dismay that it's too late to declare, "Well then, your whole
permitting process is bogus, and I'm going ahead anyway."
that point, the long-suffering citizen will be advised by a stern-voiced
judge that he waived his right to appeal the validity of the permitting
process when he filed his application (way back in the days when he was
told "That's all there is to it,") thus tacitly acknowledging the right
of the state to either grant or withhold its permission for the project
Just ask 67-year-old carpenter
Carl Drega, of Columbia, N.H.
out of court
In 1981, 80 feet of the riverbank
along Drega's property collapsed during a rainstorm. Drega decided to dump
and pack enough dirt to repair the erosion damage, restoring his lot along
the Connecticut River to its original size.
A state conservation
officer, Sergeant Eric Stohl, claimed to have spotted the project from
the river while passing the Drega property on a fish-stocking operation.
(The river's natural ecology harbored huge runs of shad and Atlantic salmon,
as well as native pike, pickerel, and brook trout. So most New England
state governments - these devoted acolytes of environmental purity - now
routinely stock bass, and brown and rainbow trout, none of which is native
and few of which survive long enough to reproduce.)
hauled Drega into court, attempting to block his tiny "project." This was
piled on top of earlier actions by the Town of Columbia, some dating back
more than 20 years, and starting when the town hauled Drega into court
and threatened him with liens, judgments and (ultimately) property seizure
over a "zoning violation" which was comprised of his failure to finish
a house covered with tarpaper within a time frame which the town considered
reasonable, former selectman Kenneth Parkhurst told the Boston Globe.
Drega tried for
years to fight the authorities on their own terms, in court. Needless to
say, as a quasi-literate product of the government schools, and no lawyer,
his filings became a laughing stock both in the courts and in the newspapers
to which he sent copies, begging for help.
punctuated by years of hearings and court orders, became an obsession for
Drega," wrote reporters Matthew Brelis and Kathleen Burge in an Aug. 20
follow-up in the Boston Globe. Drega "filed personal lawsuits against the
state officials involved and contacted newspapers, including the Globe,
imploring them to write about the injustice being done to him."
in 1995, the Globe reports that Drega explained, "The reason I'm like this
on this case, when I started my project 10 years ago I was issued permits
and everything I needed. When I reapplied 10 years later, that's when Eric
Stohl came in and the Wetlands Board had absolutely no records. ... I am
liable for everything that's done there. In the New Hampshire Wetlands
Board, if it's not done according to the plan, they can take it out. And
if I don't have the money to take it out, they'll take it out. And if I
can't pay for it, they'll take my property."
I sort the incoming
letters-to-the-editor for a major metropolitan newspaper. The receipt of
such sheafs of heartfelt, illiterate pleadings from folks at their wit's
end (child custody leads the list, though property rights also feature
prominently), pleading for help from SOMEONE, has become an almost
Since such tirades
are too long, rambling, and "not of general public interest" to run as
letters, I diligently forward them to the city desk, in hopes an editor
there may occasionally assign a reporter to check them out.
They never do
... unless the author shoots somebody, at which point there ensues a mad
scramble through the wastebaskets.
around the country, the running joke when a large number of such missives
or phone calls come in on the same day is that "It must be a full moon."
cover the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is adept at putting out its version
of events in reasonable-sounding, easy-to-quote form. Those who can't get
with the program are generally ridiculed by reporters as "gadflies," "malcontents,"
and (more recently) "black helicopter conspiracy nuts." Their rambling,
disjointed stories don't tend to fit into the standard 12 inches.
By 1995, it was obvious that Carl Drega was running out of patience. Town
selectman Vickie Bunnell, 42 (since appointed a part-time state judge)
accompanied a town tax assessor to Drega's property in a dispute over an
assessment. Drega fired shots into the air to drive them away.
(In New England, special property tax
assessments are common, and especially cruel to senior citizens. The courts
have ruled that if the town decides to run a municipal water or sewer line
along a street fronting one's property, the property owner can be assessed
the amount by which the town figures the property's value has been enhanced
- usually in the thousands of dollars - even if the property owner has
a perfectly good well and septic system, and opts not to tie into the new
municipal lines. Failure to pay can eventually lead to eviction, and the
property being auctioned off.)
Carl Drega could
see what was coming. He couldn't have been ignorant of the government tactics
used to ambush and murder harmless civilians at Waco and Ruby Ridge. He
bought a $575 AR-15 - the legal, semi-auto version of the standard military
M-16 - in a gun store in Waltham, Massachusetts, a state with some of the
most restrictive gun laws in America. He also began equipping his property
with early-warning electronic noise and motion detectors against the inevitable
light a round
But they didn't
come for Carl Drega at home. On Tuesday Aug. 19, at about 2:30 on a warm
summer afternoon, New Hampshire State Troopers Leslie Lord, 45 (a former
police chief of nearby Pittsburg) and Scott Phillips, 32, arrested Drega
in the parking lot of LaPerle's IGA supermarket in neighboring Colebrook,
comes from the French word for "stop." Whenever agents of the state brace
a citizen, stop him and demand to see his papers, he has been "arrested,"
no matter whether he has been "read his rights," no matter what niceties
the court may apply to the various steps of the process.)
Why was Carl Drega arrested that day?
New Hampshire Attorney General Phillip McLaughlin pulls out his best weasel
words, reporting the troopers had stopped Drega's pickup because of a "perception
of defects." Earlier wire accounts reported they were preparing to ticket
him for having "rust holes in the bed of his pickup truck."
But Carl Drega had had enough. He walked back to Trooper Lord's cruiser
and shot the uniformed government agent seven times. Then he shot Trooper
Philips, as the brave officer attempted to run away. Both died.
Drega then commandeered Lord's cruiser and drove to the office of former
selectman - now lawyer and part-time Judge - Vickie Bunnell, 44. Bunnell
reportedly carried a handgun in her purse out of fear of Drega. But if
so, she evidently had no well-thought-out plan to use it. Bunnell ran out
the back. Drega calmly walked to the rear of the building and shot her
in the back from a range of about 30 feet. Bunnell died.
Dennis Joos, 50, editor of the local Colebrook News and Sentinel, worked
in the office next door. Unarmed, he ran out and tackled Drega. Drega walked
about 15 feet with Joos still clutching him around the legs, advising the
editor to "Mind your own (expletive) business," according to reporter Claire
Knapper of the local weekly.
did not let go. Drega shot Joos in the spine. He died. Drega then drove
across the state line to Bloomfield, Vt., where he fired at New Hampshire
Fish and Game Warden Wayne Saunders, sending his car off the road. Saunders
was struck on the badge and in the arm, but his injuries were not considered
Police from various agencies soon spotted the abandoned police cruiser
Drega had been driving ... still in Vermont. As they approached the vehicle,
they began taking fire from a nearby hilltop where Drega had positioned
himself, apparently still armed with the AR-15 and about 150 rounds of
ammunition. Although he managed to wound two more New Hampshire state troopers
and a U.S. Border Patrol agent before he himself was killed by police gunfire,
none of those injuries were life-threatening, either. (Those preparing
to defend themselves against assaults by armed government agents on their
own property should take note that these failures do not appear attributable
to Drega's marksmanship - after all, he scored plenty of hits - but rather
to his dependence on the now-military-standard .223 cartridge, which has
nowhere near the stopping power of the previous NATO standard .308, or
the even earlier U.S. standard 30.06. (Some states won't even allow deer
to be hunted with the .223, due to its low likelihood of producing a "clean
kill" with one hit.)
and tractor fuel
the demonization of Carl Drega began. A neighbor told the Globe about seeing
a police cruiser pull up to the Drega house at 2:50 p.m., and leave at
3:10 p.m., minutes before smoke began to pour from the house. Ignoring
the likelihood that a uniformed officer might have been sent to see if
Drega had gone home, "Authorities believe the fire was set by Drega," the
Globe reported on Aug. 20, thereafter reporting as a matter of established
fact that Drega burned down his own home.
Isn't it funny
how they always do that?
Searching the barn
and the remaining property later that week, "Authorities found 450 pounds
of ammonium nitrate, the substance used in the World Trade Center and Oklahoma
City bombings, as well as cans of diesel fuel," came the breathless Aug.
31 report by Boston Globe reporter Royal Ford. Trenches on the property
held PVC pipe carrying wires to remote noise and motion detectors. No remote
booby-traps were discovered, though the barn and a hillside bunker contained
ammunition, parts for AK-47s and the AR-15, "and a few boxes of silver
dollars," as well as "homemade blasting caps, guns, night scopes, a bullet-proof
helmet (sic) and books on bombs and booby traps," as well as "the makings
of 86 pipe bombs."
eh? I wonder how many wholesale hardware outlets in this country currently
stock "the makings" of 8,600 pipe bombs?
The FBI was johnny
on the spot, of course, helping New Hampshire State Police Sgt. John McMaster
search the three-story barn, with its "concrete bunkers" containing not
only ammunition, but also "canned food, soda, and a refrigerator."
(I wonder if
my basement would suddenly become a "concrete bunker" if I had a run-in
with the law? How about yours?)
was the 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate (the estimate kept dropping during
the week) and the 61 gallons of diesel fuel in five-gallon containers that
gave authorities the willies.
"Realizing the he had
walked into the most dangerous private arsenal he had ever seen, McMaster
began climbing the stairs to the second floor," reported Brian MacQuarrie
and Judy Rakowsky of the Boston Globe on Aug. 22. "Halfway up, (State Trooper
Jack) Meaney shouted for him to stop: He had just picked up a bomb-making
manual opened to a chapter on how to booby-trap stairs. ...
stores of dangerous materials, combined with the discovery of three instruction
manuals on explosives and booby traps, helped persuade N.H. authorities
that they should destroy the barn with a controlled burn and explosion,"
which they promptly did.
federal agents initially questioned the plan to destroy the huge cache
of evidence that may have shown whether Drega had links to militia groups
or criminals," the Globe also breathlessly reports, though the paper at
least had the decency to note no such affiliations were ever established.
wonders whether the newspaper would have given equal play to someone lamenting
that they thus lost the chance to search for hypothetical links between
Drega and the Irish Republic Army, Drega and the Ted Kennedy campaign staff,
or Drega and the Buddhist nuns who laundered campaign contributions for
is, of course, a common fertilizer, sold in 50-pound bags to anyone who
wants it - no questions asked - in garden stores in all 50 states.
all over the nation store more than 60 gallons of diesel fuel at a time,
and even know how to combine the diesel fuel with the ammonium nitrate
to make a relatively weak explosive, useful in blowing up tree stumps.
Purchase of blasting caps for this purpose is also perfectly legal. If
this and a few hundred rounds of military surplus ammo constituted "the
most dangerous private arsenal" the head of the New Hampshire state police
bomb squad had ever seen, he must not get out much.
the buildings are all burned to the ground now - just like at Waco - and
the newspaper reporters - trained to just report the facts and never express
opinions - had ruled within days that Carl Drega was "diabolical and paranoid."
remaining question is, did government agents Vickie Bunnell, Leslie Lord,
and Scott Phillips deserve to die? Did Carl Drega pick the right time and
place to say "That's as many of my rights as you're going to take; it stops
that the right question? The problem with the question is that the
oppressor state and its ant-like agents are both devious and clever: Except
when faced with overt resistance and a chance to make an example of some
social outcasts on TV, they rarely send black-clad agents to pour out of
cattle trailers in our front yards, guns ablaze.
No, they generally
see to it that our chemical castration is so gradual that there can NEVER
be a majority consensus that this is finally the right time to respond
in force. In this death of a thousand cuts we're ALWAYS confronted
with some harmless old functionary who obviously loves his grandkids, some
pleasant young bureaucrat who doubtless loves her cat and bakes cookies
for her co-workers and smilingly assures us she's "just doing her job"
as she requests our Social Security number here ... our thumbprint there
... the signed permission slip from your kid's elementary school principal
for possessing a gun within a quarter-mile of the school ... and a urine
sample, please, if you'll just follow the matron into the little room ...
are the rules," after all, "everybody has to do it; I just do what they
tell me; if you don't like it you can write your congressman." When ...
when is it finally the right moment to respond, "I'll tell you what; why
don't you take this steel-cored round of .223 to my congressman? In fact,
take him a whole handful, and tell him to have a nice day ... when you
see him in hell!"?
Carl Drega decided
the day to finally say that, was the day they came to arrest him on the
private property of a supermarket parking lot, supposedly for having rust
holes in the bed of his pickup. Does anyone believe that's really why they
stopped Carl Drega?
Lots more coming I
am not - repeat, not - advising anyone to go forth and start shooting cops
and bureaucrats. To start with, one's own life expectancy at that point
grows quite short, limiting one's options to continue fighting for freedom
on other fronts.
Most of us -
unlike Carl Drega - also have families to think of. Third, there may be
other solutions. Just as much of the farmland near Rome sat vacant by the
fall of the Roman Empire - it simply proved cheaper to move on than to
endure the confiscatory Roman taxes - so do James Dale Davidson and William
Rees-Mogg predict in their new book, "The Sovereign Individual," that Internet
encryption may allow many to spirit their hard-earned assets beyond the
reach of this newer, oppressive slave state, making "the tax man in search
of someone to audit" the laughing stock of the 21st century.
finally, such a course invites obvious risks of mistaken identity, collateral
damage to relatively innocent bystanders (witness newspaperman Coos), and
an end to due process ... a concept for which I still harbor some respect,
even if our government oppressors do not.
What I do know is,
in little more than 30 years, we have gone from a nation where the "quiet
enjoyment" of one's private property was a sacred right, to a day when
the so-called property "owner" faces a hovering hoard of taxmen and regulators
threatening to lien, foreclose, and "go to auction" at the first sign of
private defiance of their collective will ... a relationship between government
and private property rights which my dictionary defines as "fascism."
Carl Drega tried to fight them, for years,
on their own terms and in their own courts. We know how far that got him.
do know is that this is why the tyrants are moving so quickly to take away
our guns. Because they know in their hearts that if they continue the way
they've been going, boxing Americans into smaller and smaller corners,
leaving us no freedom to decide how to raise and school and discipline
our kids, no freedom to purchase (or do without) the medical care we want
on the open market, no freedom to withdraw $2,500 from our own bank accounts
(let alone move it out of the country) without federal permission, no freedom
even to arrange the dirt and trees on our own property to please ourselves
... if they keep going down this road, there are going to be a lot more
Carl Dregas, hundreds of them, thousands of them, fed up and not taking
it any more, a lot more pools of blood drawing flies in the municipal parking
lots, a lot more self-righteous government weasels who were "only doing
their jobs" twitching their death-dances in the warm afternoon sun ...
the right time to say, "Enough, no more. On this spot I stand, and fight,
and die"? When they're stacking our luggage and loading us on the box cars?
A fat lot of good it will do us, then.
declared for us that "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive
of these Ends, it is the Right of the People, to alter or abolish it."
Was Mr. Jefferson only
saying we have a right to vote in a new crop of politicians every couple
of years, as the pro-government extremists insist?
Declaration fearlessly declared that the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord
had been right to shoot down Redcoats who were "only doing their jobs"
in Massachusetts the year before. And it put the nations of the world on
notice that Gen. Washington was planning to shoot himself a whole lot more.
"You must be
kidding!" come the outraged cries. "This guy shot a fleeing woman in the
Oh, pardon me. Did Judge Bunnell propose
to fight a straightforward duel with Mr. Drega, one on one, mano a mano,
to determine who should have a right to decide whether he could build a
tarpaper shack on his own property?
Of course not.
The top bureaucrats generally manage to be sipping lemonade on the porch
when the process they put in motion "reaches its final conclusion," with
padlocks and police tape and furniture on the sidewalk ... or the incinerated
resister buried in the ashes.
Go watch "Escape
from Sobibor." When the Jewish concentration camp inmates finally start
to kill their German oppressors, tell me how long you spend worrying that
they "didn't give the poor, jackbooted fellows a fair, sporting chance."
Each and every
one of us must decide for him or herself when the day has come to stand
fast, raise our weapons to our shoulders, and (quoting PRESIDENT
Jefferson, this time) water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots,
and of tyrants. Give up the right to make that decision, and we become
nothing better than the beasts in the field, waiting to be milked until
we can give no more, and then shuffling off without objection, heads bowed,
to the soap factory.
Carl Drega was
a resident of New Hampshire. On the day Carl Drega decided was a good day
to die - on the day they towed it away - the license plates on his rusty
pickup still bore the New Hampshire state motto: "Live Free or Die."
Carl Drega was
different from most of us, all right. He believed it still meant something.
-Vin Suprynowicz, email@example.com
More Erudite thought-provoking
Libertarian commentaries by Vin Suprynowicz!
well-regulated population being necessary to the security of a police state,
the right of the Government to keep and destroy arms shall not be infringed."
to Citizens for Better Government
Last Update September 23, 1997