bunkum or buncombe (ˈbʌŋkəm)
— n
1. empty talk; nonsense
2. chiefly ( US ) empty or insincere speechmaking by a politician to please voters or gain publicity

[C19: after Buncombe , a county in North Carolina, alluded to in an inane speech by its Congressional representative Felix Walker (about 1820)]

Sometimes reality is so on point that you could swear you’re living in a novel.

Boncombe means “empty talk; nonsense.” The term comes from Buncombe County, North Carolina, where three days ago one of the most viciously Orwellian uses of language was issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The term buncombe, going back to 1820, was simplified over the years as bunkum or bunk — in stronger language crap or horseshit. Possibly conflated with banca — the Italian word for bank — bunco means a swindle.

But this is more than a mere private swindle such as Bernard Madoff pulled off, reckoned in the millions of dollars.

This is about a Big Lie totalitarian reversal of facts and meaning, so that an unfathomably vast criminal enterprise measured in trillions of stolen dollars is deemed the legal standard to indict, try, and convict a private individual for doing something that the author of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the Constitution of the United States could never have conceived would be a crime in the country they’d recently fought a war of independence to free from a tyrant.

On May 1, 1976, I finished the first draft of a novel manuscript centering on Elliot Vreeland, a 17-year-old New York high-school student who finds himself alone and in danger of arrest when his father Martin, a Nobel-prizewinning economist critical of the government, disappears, and Elliot’s mother and sister show up on a list of prisoners at a secret Gitmo-like prison.

My novel, Alongside Night, was published in October 1979.

In Chapter 8 of that novel I wrote the following passage:

There were no commercials. There were, however, a number of public-service announcements, leading into the six o’clock news.

A man and a woman — two well-known TV-series actors — were sitting in a shooting set on canvas chairs. “Remember,” said the male actor, talking sincerely to the cameras, “That just one little ounce of gold bullion can put you away in a federal penitentiary for up to twenty years.”

This made Elliot’s day.

“And the FBI,” said the actress, “now has a twenty-four-hour free hotline to report anyone engaging in black-market speculation. Black-marketeers steal from all of us, and prolong this economic crisis. Don’t help a brownie. If you know of any, remember your patriotic duty and call now.”

Alongside Night Movie Poster
Alongside Night Movie Poster

Two years ago I adapted that passage from my novel into a film script I soon intend to direct:


as PICTURE and SOUND COME UP. A TV SERIES ACTOR AND ACTRESS sitting on a SHOOTING SET in canvas chairs, talking sincerely to the camera.

–by remembering that just one ounce
of gold bullion can put you in a
federal penitentiary for twenty years.
Even if you believe in returning the
dollar to the gold standard, if you
trade in gold before it’s made legal
you’re undermining the stability of
our entire economic system.

By owning gold you become a Legal
Tender Denier who supports Drug Lords,
Gang-Members, and Terrorists. Be a
Patriot. Don’t own gold … and
turn in whoever tries to sell it to

Compare the fictitious language I made up with an actual press release issued by the FBI this week:

For Immediate Release
March 18, 2011
United States Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

STATESVILLE, NC—Bernard von NotHaus, 67, was convicted today by a federal jury of making, possessing, and selling his own coins, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Following an eight-day trial and less than two hours of deliberation, von NotHaus, the founder and monetary architect of a currency known as the Liberty Dollar, was found guilty by a jury in Statesville, North Carolina, of making coins resembling and similar to United States coins; of issuing, passing, selling, and possessing Liberty Dollar coins; of issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money; and of conspiracy against the United States.

The guilty verdict concluded an investigation which began in 2005 and involved the minting of Liberty Dollar coins with a current value of approximately $7 million. Joining the U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins in making today’s announcement are Edward J. Montooth, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Charlotte Division; Russell F. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Charlotte Division; and Sheriff Van Duncan of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the evidence introduced during the trial, von NotHaus was the founder of an organization called the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Code, commonly known as NORFED and also known as Liberty Services. Von NotHaus was the president of NORFED and the executive director of Liberty Dollar Services, Inc. until on or about September 30, 2008.

Von NotHaus designed the Liberty Dollar currency in 1998 and the Liberty coins were marked with the dollar sign ($); the words dollar, USA, Liberty, Trust in God (instead of In God We Trust); and other features associated with legitimate U.S. coinage. Since 1998, NORFED has been issuing, disseminating, and placing into circulation the Liberty Dollar in all its forms throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. NORFED’s purpose was to mix Liberty Dollars into the current money of the United States. NORFED intended for the Liberty Dollar to be used as current money in order to limit reliance on, and to compete with, United States currency.

In coordination with the Department of Justice, on September 14, 2006, the United States Mint issued a press release and warning to American citizens that the Liberty Dollar was “not legal tender.” The U.S. Mint press release and public service announcement stated that the Department of Justice had determined that the use of Liberty Dollars as circulating money was a federal crime.

Article I, section 8, clause 5 of the United States Constitution delegates to Congress the power to coin money and to regulate the value thereof. This power was delegated to Congress in order to establish and preserve a uniform standard of value and to insure a singular monetary system for all purchases and debts in the United States, public and private. Along with the power to coin money, Congress has the concurrent power to restrain the circulation of money which is not issued under its own authority in order to protect and preserve the constitutional currency for the benefit of all citizens of the nation. It is a violation of federal law for individuals, such as von NotHaus, or organizations, such as NORFED, to create private coin or currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the United States.

Von NotHaus, who remains free on bond, faces a sentence of up to 15 years’ imprisonment on count two of the indictment and a fine of not more than $250,000. Von NotHaus faces a prison sentence of five years and fines of $250,000 on both counts one and three. In addition, the United States is seeking the forfeiture of approximately 16,000 pounds of Liberty Dollar coins and precious metals, currently valued at nearly $7 million. The forfeiture trial, which began today before United States District Court Judge Richard Voorhees, will resume on April 4, 2011 in the federal courthouse in Statesville. Judge Voorhees has not yet set a date for the sentencing of von NotHaus.

“Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism,” U.S. Attorney Tompkins said in announcing the verdict. “While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country,” she added. “We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Secret Service, in cooperation with and invaluable assistance of the United States Mint. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Westmoreland Rose and Craig D. Randall, and the forfeiture trial is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tom Ascik and Ben Bain Creed.

Liberty Dollar Bernard von NotHaus
The Liberty Dollar & Bernard von NotHaus

Article I, section 8, clauses 5 and 6 of the United States Constitution — which state the powers of Congress — reads:

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

And Article I, section 9 reads:

No State shall … coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts …

If — as the FBI press release states — “Congress has the concurrent power to restrain the circulation of money which is not issued under its own authority in order to protect and preserve the constitutional currency for the benefit of all citizens of the nation” then Congress has not exercised that power, in a half-century, to prevent the private Federal Reserve Bank from issuing billions of dollars in bogus notes with the appearance of United States Silver Certificates, complete with the signatures of the United States Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States.

Bernard von NotHaus did not counterfeit any currency or coins issued or in current use by the Treasury of the United States, as alleged by the indictment, nor did he represent that the coins he minted were issued by the Treasury. He never represented the coins or commodity warehouse deposit receipts he issued as anything other than a product of private enterprise.

Bernard von NotHaus issued his private coins for the precise reason that the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank issues private bank notes imprinted with the signatures of the United States Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States — and far closer to being counterfeit money by the language of Article I, section 8, of the United States Constitution, quoted in the FBI press release.

Further, since these privately issued Federal Reserve Notes have no intrinsic value and are unredeemable by any actual commodity such as silver, the Federal Reserve Bank notes — with the constitutionally forbidden signatures of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States — have systematically been looting wealth measured in dollars from those who hold dollars to the Federal Reserve Bank for a century — in terms of value of actual goods and services stolen the single greatest swindle in human history.

This swindle has been with us a long time.

But the brand-new evil is for the government which allows the Federal Reserve Bank to commit mass counterfeiting to then call a private citizen who wishes to expose and stop that robbery a terrorist.

If there is such a thing as economic terrorism, it has been conducted without punishment by the financial elites who own and operate the Federal Reserve Bank.

For the Department of Justice of the United States to overlook this mega-crime and prosecute a man whose goal was to enforce the law as written in the Constitution they have taken an oath to obey is an obscene reversal of fact and language.

If there is such a thing as economic terrorism, the Federal Reserve is the economic equivalent of al-Qaeda, and its ravaging of the economy is the 9/11 of U.S. economic history.

For a United States attorney to ignore this massive crime and brand as a terrorist one private citizen standing in the way of tyrants, like the man facing off the tank at Tien An Men Square, is Buncombe worthy of the Devil.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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