Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Common Senselessness Part 2: Building Cadre

Before we get into abstractions, have a gander at this from writer and commentator James Bovard:

In the wake of last Friday’s shootings at Los Angeles International Airport, some politicians and media commentators are feigning shock at the widespread hostility toward the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There was no justification for the shooting suspect, Paul Ciancia, to gun down three TSA agents on the job, killing one. Ciancia’s brutal rampage, though, should not obscure the fact that the TSA has perennially pushed many Americans to the breaking point....

Exasperation with the TSA spurred many Americans to give up on relying on air travel, but the agency is now seeking to seize control over other forms of transit. The TSA spends $100 million a year on 37 teams that conduct almost 10,000 sweep searches a year at Amtrak stations, bus depots and even local transit. Anyone who refuses to submit to a warrantless search can be banned from traveling. The swaggering name of its roving squads — VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) — personifies the TSA’s attitude toward the American people. Newspapers often tout VIPR’s “show of force,” but it is a show seemingly intended to intimidate average Americans, not the terrorist suspects who do not exist in places such as Jackson, Miss.

People who are enraged at the TSA should recognize that some agents also oppose the needlessly oppressive practices that shred travelers’ privacy and dignity. We can condemn the shooting of TSA agents without exonerating agency policies that trample Americans’ constitutional rights. The Department of Homeland Security admitted in 2011 congressional testimony that “the large majority of travelers pose no security risks.” By treating most Americans like suicide-bombers-in-waiting, the TSA often makes traveling hellish without making it safer.

The usual defense of the TSA’s legalized sexual assaults is that it’s either morally wrong or impractical to “profile” according to ethnicity, or race, or religion, or what-have-you. Therefore, the “security practices” must be all-embracing. Atop that, since we now have “shoe bombers” and “underwear bombers,” the searches must be as intrusive as possible necessary.

The barrage of ironies in this has pinned my meter. Consider this first: Who took down the “shoe bomber” and “underwear bomber?” Was it a TSA agent? Was it an air marshal? Or was it a gaggle of private citizens who detected the inception of a terrorist act?

Now consider this: A TSA security checkpoint is a fine target for a terrorist act. It concentrates federal employees and travelers who have been rendered defenseless by law. Eventually some mayhem-minded sort -- perhaps a Muslim male between 18 and 40 years of age? -- will strap a couple of pounds of C4 to his chest specifically to target one. The panjandrums of the TSA will pretend shock as lower-paid employees collect the remains.

But it’s this observation by author James Bovard that really rings the bells:

... the agency is now seeking to seize control over other forms of transit.

So this program of institutionalized sexual assaults with no discernible impact on objective security has train and bus stations in its crosshairs next. Perhaps Park-and-Ride lots and lock-up stands for bicycles will be next to be made “secure.”

At some point, the public will realize that this kabuki grope-theater has nothing to do with “security.” Perhaps it already has. But it would be a mistake to conclude that it’s solely about expanding federal employment.

"What would Mao Tse-tung be without a billion Chinese to back him up? Just another cranky old man." -- Norman Spinrad

No oppressor can do the job all by himself. He needs subordinates willing to do violence on his behalf. The requirements for such a cadre of enforcers are quite definite:

  • They must be loyal to The Boss, whether out of conviction or self-interest.
  • They must be properly equipped: either they’re more heavily armed than the populace to be oppressed, or the to-be-oppressed are disarmed.
  • They must see themselves as separate, morally if possible but practically at least, from the to-be-oppressed.
  • All of the above must be continuously monitored and reinforced.

The building of such a cadre involves selecting first for men of the proper dispositions: unfazed by violence and indifferent to notions about rights. The strength and depth of those qualifications must be tested; those who fail must be dismissed to rejoin the hoi polloi. Once a suitable pool of recruits has been assembled, it must be equipped and charged with missions that will emphasize its “superiority” and reinforce its amorality. That normally includes legal privileges that outsiders do not possess.

A variation on this idea arises in the process of building a bureaucracy. Bureaucrats don’t normally inflict direct physical violence on private citizens. Nevertheless, they must regard themselves as “above” those upon whom they impose themselves. Persons who respect individuals’ rights too greatly must be filtered out, either by conscious detection and dismissal or by the operation of institutional incentives. Once a rule-making, rule-decreeing cadre of bureaucrats has been coupled to a violence-minded, violence-capable cadre of enforcers, the oppressor is ready to proceed. However much the populace at large might come to hate those cadres, it will not be able to oppose them.

When I first conceived of this topic, I had a sort of cadre in mind other than the ones noted in the above. Yet it might dovetail with those others more closely than I first thought.

Among the puzzlements of politics that many Americans grapple with is why the major parties contest so vigorously for offices at very low levels, such as Town Clerk or Supervisor of Highways. These aren’t policy-making positions. At most, they have some authority to allocate money, equipment, or hired personnel to particular uses. Yet you may rest assured that the Democrats and Republicans are as unwilling to allow “the other side” to have such posts as they are to concede the presidency.

Partisans in low-level posts are indispensable for the installation of one’s partisans in higher-level posts. They function best when, as with the bureaucrats and enforcers above, they’re firmly loyal to The Party, consider anyone outside officialdom to be a lower form of life, and will do whatever they’re told by the kingmakers, as long as it lies within their powers and their demesnes.

A cadre of officials, developed to as great a depth and breadth as possible, is as important to our political elite as the other sorts.

DON’T VOTE: It only encourages them! -- Originator Unknown

If voting could change anything, they’d outlaw it. -- Originator Unknown

Viewed abstractly, politics, being the pursuit of power over others, has always been an amoral pastime. However, at the inception of the Republic there were still men with well-formed, functioning consciences available for public office. It took nearly a century for the supply to dwindle to irrelevance. Nevertheless, that barrel is down to its dregs. Those who remain are usually inept at campaigning or unable to assemble adequate organizations behind them. Exceptions have become extremely rare.

A sense of this is growing among Americans generally. It’s “not quite there yet,” but it’s building. When critical mass is reached, I pity the political class and the glitterati who have deemed themselves our betters for so long and weary a time.

Hm. Do I really pity them? Perhaps not. What about you, Gentle Reader?


idahobob said...

Not just NO, but HELL NO!


Russell said...

"A TSA security checkpoint is a fine target for a terrorist act."

I've been saying that for years. I used to get odd looks from people when I did, but now I get tight lipped nods and hushed agreement.

Any security system is only as strong as the talent, wisdom and intelligence of the people that designed it, and the talent, wisdom and intelligence of the people that enforce it.

bob r said...

I don't pity them -- I despise them.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I will say it again: Democracy is not just an anti-christ, it is The Anti-Christ.

If you don't 'get it', then I guess you were just not meant to 'get it'.

At any rate, we will all meet at The Judgement. What a day that will be.

Anonymous said...

Echoing Idahobob, Hell no. Pity is not a plan and not the attitude I had in mind.

- Pandora

KG said...

I don't regard the shot TSA employee as innocent in any way, shape or form.
Just another government goon who once had a choice, and he chose to join what is now clearly the Enemy.