Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crazy and impossible: the new "normal"

During the 2008 Presidential election, a columnist in one of the major Michigan newspapers wrote a humorous piece claiming that while MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm was out of state helping Joe Biden prepare for the candidate debates (Granholm played the role of Sarah Palin in practice sessions) the real Sarah Palin came to Michigan, broke into the governor's office, and using the governor's computer changed Michigan laws and regulations.  It was an absurdist piece, and clearly a joke, but the paper was flooded with emails and calls demanding to know more.  The columnist (whose name escapes me, as does that of the paper) took one call from a an upset woman who asked if it was true.  The columnist responded, "look, doesn't it sound completely crazy and impossible?" to which she replied "yes, of course... but all the news sounds crazy and impossible these days."

No fooling.  That was 2008.  Things are even crazier now.

My previous post covers a news story showing the U.S. Army practicing aerial assaults in Houston coordinated with unidentified federal agencies (presumably DHS) within the continental U.S.  Back in September 2008 "we" pointed out that for the first time an Army combat units were beginning full time active duty assignments in the United States, assigned to the newly established NorthCom.  Here's something "we" didn't cover: TSA has established something called VIPR Teams that move around the country randomly setting up screening checkpoints for, well, apparently for whatever the hell they feel like.  (Yes, TSA is the beloved Transportation Safety Authority, and VIPR is Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.)  In Tennessee they invaded the interstate highway system and began screening trucks.  In Savannah Georgia, TSA took over a railway station and began searching everyone, including passengers disembarking from a train, provoking substantial outrage among passengers... but apparently no lawsuits, unfortunately.  TSA itself couldn't understand the outrage, and on its own TSA blog noted that it was  really the passengers fault, because "During VIPR operations, any person entering the impacted area has to be screened" and "disembarking passengers did not need to enter the station..."

TSA failed to mention how "any person entering the impacted area has to be screened" is in any way compatible with "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  Apparently this latter sentence does not appear in any TSA screening manuals or training materials.

Great.  We also have the NDAA of 2012 which apparently authorizes indefinite detention of anyone the President decides is an enemy.  We have the Attorney General assuring us that if he and the President and a few unnamed others in the executive branch decide to assassinate an American citizen, that's due process.  (Summary here.)

Welcome to the new normal.

All of this has those loony conspiracy theorists are now claiming we're on the verge of some nightmarish operation, a totalitarian clampdown that will begin with disarming us.  (It's not just right-wingers who worry about this, by the way.)  But this is obviously crazy and impossible, as any devotee of the New York Times well knows.  "Black helicopters and such, haha."  (You know, the New York Times, the "paper of record" the one that confessed it allows the Obama administration to censor its articles.)  And it is crazy and impossible, something entirely outside of anything normal for this country; it sounds like something from the USSR or some third world dictatorship.  But it isn't fantasy.  You'll note that my links above documenting this are official U.S. government websites, local media, and Army Times.  If all of your news came only from the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and major television networks, you'd not necessarily be oblivious to all this, but it is downplayed, treated as normal.  But it's not.

I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories.  For one thing, there are strong reasons to doubt the competence and even intelligence of those "in charge" and those behind them.  While no doubt an enormous amount of what humans do involves plotting and subterfuge, I don't believe that humans are capable of the kind of planning and coordination that conspiracy theories posit.   But you don't have to believe in the Bilderberger/CFR/Illuminati/NWO conspiracy to be alarmed by what is happening, and in fact it really doesn't matter so much whether all of this is planned or, as is more likely, we're witnessing a version of Mises' logic of intervention, in which one bad policy begets another in a self-reinforcing vicious cycle.  Either way, we are losing the constraints that separate a free country from a full blown police state.  You cannot remove these constraints and merely rely on the "good intentions" of those who have unchecked power.  Their incentives are to use their power to the fullest, and to expand it.

This removal of constraints is happening now, right before our eyes.  It is not normal to have the U.S. Army practicing attacks coordinated with federal law enforcement agencies.  It is not normal to have random roving internal federal security checkpoints searching civilians.  It is not normal for the President to claim the power to imprison or assassinate American citizens merely on his say-so.  And it is not normal for the media to pretend there's really nothing new here.

Sure, the Houston exercise and similar ones elsewhere can't be taken as proof of sinister intent.  Maybe this isn't preparation for war on, say, recalcitrant county sheriffs who oppose some future gun confiscation program.  Maybe the idea is to prepare for something like a Mexican drug gang occupying a high school, or an Al Qaeda cell seizing city hall.  That in itself would be disturbing enough.  But more disturbing is simply the idea the military is preparing for combat on American soil.  Even if it is not intentional, the barriers against authoritarian power are being reduced, the instruments of such power are developing, and certainly we're becoming desensitized to the trappings of a police state.  We did not see these things on this scale prior to the Bush 43 and Obama regimes.  From an institutional standpoint what is happening is extremely dangerous.

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