Borrowing Trouble on Our Dime

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In their tireless quest to squander our money as foolishly as possible, Our Rulers run a series of "federal laboratories" to "[advance] federal research and technology." Perhaps they aren’t aware that American ingenuity is — or used to be — world-famous; that inventors like Thomas Edison, while working for their own and their investors’ profit, serendipitously benefit us all; and that even in today’s corporate State, private companies often allocate part of their budgets to R&D.

But governments verging on the totalitarian do as they please. And R&D pleases ours. Obviously, the nefarious Department of Defense and NASA require rafts of researchers, but only the naïve imagine that other bureaucrats as well as civilians coveting cushy government jobs and pensions are content with that. Ergo, federal labs abound in such numbers — 317 to be exact — that we’re cursed with a "consortium" of them. Even such unlikely Departments as those of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and the Interior have their teams of wizards; so do the EPA and — shades of Josef Mengele — the Department of Health and Human Services. Not to be outdone, the Department of Homeland Security — more Nazi overtones — boasts no less than five labs.

Just one of the five, the federal Transportation Security Lab (TSL) at the Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, consumes $45 million annually. What bang do we get for those big bucks? Hassles and humiliation at airports. The TSL’s "principal client" is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency whose screeners grope passengers and steal their stuff. The TSL provides its "client" with excuses for that abuse: the lab’s "chemists, physicists and engineers dream up ways a weapon might be slipped onto a plane, then figure out how to stop it. … u2018We let our imaginations go wild,’ [engineer Nelson] Carey said. “The types of improvised explosive devices are endless.’"

Which implies that our need for the TSL is endless. And yet the Feds insist they base their "security" on the fevered activities of terrorists, not the fevered imaginings of their own geeks.

Like the rest of Leviathan, the TSL is best buds with the corporate media. That friendship yields puff pieces rather than actual reporting. In July, CNN hyped the place under the headline, "Bomb testing lab strengthens aviation security," rather than the more accurate, "Bomb testing lab wastes our taxes," or "Bomb testing lab duplicates what corporations like Boeing and GE that already reap zillions in subsidies and federal contracts are supposed to be doing." And last Monday, the Los Angeles Times published another article in this gee-whiz genre, breathlessly pronouncing the TSL "part science, part James Bond" while neglecting to emphasize that its funding is totally taxes.

Of course, the closest the Constitution permits the Feds to approach to "Science" is "promot[ing]" its "Progress" and that of the "useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." No way, no how does it empower Leviathan "to develop strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace" or "to promote and strengthen technology transfer nationwide."

Meanwhile, how reliable are the ethics and expertise of any "scientist" who hires himself out to politicians with their greed for "facts" that further their agendas? So it’s no surprise that the TSL’s crew spins its scenarios of scheming bad guys even as counterterrorism experts worldwide agree that Al Qaeda’s influence and membership are both shrinking.

Directing the lab and its oblivious Frankensteins is Susan Hallowell. Alas, Susie could use a few less hours on the job and a few more in the gym to whittle the roll overlapping her large panties — no bikini briefs for her! How do I know such intimate trivia? Because Susie has already attained notoriety by posing naked. She’s too old and beefy for Playboy, so she opted for the TSA’s millimeter-wave scanners instead. It’s her unappetizing flesh splayed over the propaganda masquerading as news about these machines, in which the media pretends that technology photographing us naked doesn’t really photograph us naked — and that despite the shameless Susie’s blurting, "It does basically make you look fat and naked." Fortunately, her confession came way back in 2003, so the TSA was betting we silly serfs forgot about it. That emboldened it to lure folks into its smutty scanners last year by chirping, "Privacy and security go hand in hand… It’s important to keep the public safe, but it’s equally important to protect the public’s privacy."

Susie’s definition of liberty is bizarre enough to match her client’s conception of "privacy." Her "dream," according to the LA Times, is "to build a u2018tunnel of truth’ in each airport lined with hidden sensors, scanners and rays. Passengers would get zapped and sniffed as they passed, and wouldn’t need to take off their shoes, toss their liquids or anything else. u2018The ideal is to get us back the freedoms we had before,’ Hallowell said."

Why bother? Hard to tell it from tyranny.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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