Doug Casey on the TSA

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L:
Doug, your favorite group of people, the Transportation Security
Agency, has been in the news a lot lately, with their chief being
summoned to Capitol Hill to answer for the excesses of his underlings.
Today is National Opt Out Day,
when Americans are encouraged to refuse the full-body “porno” scans
and the alternative pat-downs. And yet, the TSA is said to have
very high approval ratings — as high as 81% in one CBS
poll
. As straws in the wind go that does not bode well. What
do you make of this?

Doug:
They’re certainly the face of government that one encounters most
often these days. Some newer polls and news stories suggest that
support for what they do may be waning, but in general, it’s another
sign of the accelerating decline of the American Empire. As Tacitus
pointed out in the second century, the more numerous the laws, the
more corrupt the state.

All bureaucracies
inevitably become sodden, counterproductive, and centered mainly
on their own agendas. But the TSA is on an extraordinarily steep
downward trajectory. I suspect that is for several reasons. One
is that the TSA is on the “front line,” as they pathetically describe
it, of an unnecessary and illusory war
on terror
, so they’re very sensitive about somehow justifying
their existence. Another is that they’re dressed up in uniforms
and organized in a paramilitary manner; once you put people in uniforms
they become much more obedient chimpanzees. Another is that their
employees are actually the dregs of U.S. society. It amazes me that
when Congress created it, they somehow found 50,000 people who thought
that getting paid to go through fellow citizens’ dirty underwear
at airports was a good deal.

This is unskilled
labor of the most menial sort. But these are not, by and large,
teenagers with no skills; rather, they are middle-aged people who
should be able to find some more productive — or at least
higher-paying — use for their time. I suppose it was perceived as
a step up for those who were WalMart greeters, or packing bags at
Safeway — although that’s incorrect, because although those are
low-paid, unskilled, and unchallenging occupations, they are at
least honorable work.

And they’ve
now expanded the force to 65,000, and they are still hiring — they’ve
placed ads
on the backs of pizza boxes
. These people are truly the bottom
of the barrel.

L: I’ve
just looked it up, and the TSA screener gets paid $10.91–$15.59
per hour. Overtime is up to $23.23, and there are bonuses. I wonder
what those are for…

Doug:
I doubt the bonuses are based on “customer satisfaction.” And I
bet the government benefits are significant, and the fringe benefits
are commensurate with government employment. At this point, the
average government employee makes about 50% more than a civilian
worker. It’s appealing to those who have not bothered to learn a
useful trade.

But the real
problem is psychological. Certain types of people are drawn to certain
types of jobs. Only a certain type of person would, for example,
become a prison guard. It’s bad enough being sent to prison involuntarily,
so what does it say about a person who’ll spend his or her days
there, just to be the one with the baton? These are really bad apples,
and the power has, quite predictably, gone to their heads.

L: You
don’t think any of them think they are actually making people safe
— saving lives?

Doug:
There might be a few who actually believe that, but that doesn’t
mean they are not still, on average, the sort of person who enjoys
bullying other people. Actually, the people who are even more contemptible
are the members of the chattering classes — you can read their editorials
in the Washington Post
and here
— who cheerlead for the TSA, by saying “Yes, some mistakes are made,
some officers are over zealous, or lack common sense, but it’s good
and necessary in principle.” That’s totally pernicious nonsense
on all levels. It’s a matter of principle that’s in question, something
to which they’re completely oblivious.

There are many,
many recent examples of just how arrogant and abusive these thugs
have gotten recently. I just read today about a cancer victim that
had a bladder bag…

L: Can’t
take any liquids through security!

Doug:
Yes. So they pawed the thing and spilled urine all over the fellow,
and he had to travel that way. Another story I read recently was
of a woman who had pierced nipples and the TSA removed the rings
with some pliers they had lying around, even after the things were
identified and were obviously no threat.

And there was
a six-year-old child who couldn’t walk without a leg brace, but
they made him take it off to go through the metal detector. And
you better not back-sass your betters today, either…

Actually, the
TSA serves absolutely no useful purpose. On the one hand, it’s playing
into the bad guys’ hands by helping bankrupt the U.S., by death
through a thousand cuts. On the other hand, if a bad guy really
wanted to do some damage, he’ll just stand in a line with hundreds
of others waiting to go through screening, and detonate his carry-on
bag there. That will certainly happen.

L: I’ve
just looked up some sample news reports, including the screaming
three-year-old
and that guy’s “don’t
touch my junk” cell-phone recording
that’s going around, for
people who haven’t seen them.

Doug:
This is, in my view, criminal malfeasance. These people are completely
out of control. But, more importantly, it’s a sign of the times. 
An atmosphere of suspicion, antagonism, envy, and fear is becoming
more pervasive every day in the U.S. and Europe. With every real
or imagined “terrorist” event it gets ramped up more. The TSA now
has goons patrolling trains and bus stations. A clever bad guy will
attack one of those, so that all public travel in the U.S. would
be as bad as it is in the airports. Then, a couple incidents using
cars and trucks, which would “prove” the necessity for 100,000 more
TSA people. Eventually, you’d be unable to travel anywhere, in any
way, without the prospect of inspection and detention.

L: People
do seem to be realizing this danger. The outrage seems to be a matter
for comedians to take up. There are some Internet spoofs of the
TSA pat-downs going around, including one
from Saturday Night Live
I just dug up.

Speaking of
spoofs, do you remember the Airplane movies made back in
the 1970s to spoof the Airport dramas? In the second one,
there’s a scene in which two main characters are talking in the
foreground, and in the background, people are trooping through the
magnetometer with guns, bandoliers and bazookas, while a little
old lady is thrown against a wall and frisked. These movies are
totally slapstick, intended to be utterly ridiculous, and now life
is imitating fiction.

Doug:
I know; Americans are now the laughingstocks of the world. Life
is clearly imitating art at this point. There’s no question about
it. I just wish it would get to the point it did in V
for Vendetta
, towards the end of the movie — and sooner
rather than later. But I fear that whatever replaces the current
system — at least for a while — will be even worse, before it eventually
gets better.

L: It
certainly seems to be a sign of our times — evidence of the decay
of the empire, as you say; the roaches are coming out of the woodwork
and marching about in the light of day with arrogance and disdain
for their inferiors. On the other hand, the head TSA roach did get
called out on the mat. The Internet is buzzing with praise for Ron
Paul’s efforts to put them in their place
. Do you think there’s
any hope Americans will put their collective foot down and stop
the airport grope-fest?

Doug:
No. Some polls show citizens are outraged, but most others suggest
that they are cheering the TSA on. The fact is that when you deal
with almost anybody, as an individual, they are generally affable
and sensible. But we’re dealing here with mob psychology, and governments.
Therefore you’re dealing with the lowest common denominator, and
the basest motives and emotions. At this point the whole system
is in a self-reinforcing downward spiral. It needs to be flushed.

L: Hmmm.
There was a recent comedy about an improbable romance between a
“nobody” and a girl who’s totally “out
of his league
.” What job did they give the guy to epitomize
the insignificance of his life? He was a TSA goon. But it was a
Hollywood fantasy, so he was, of course, an under-appreciated nice
guy.

Doug:
That’s classic. But in real life, even people who would ordinarily
be nice tend to let the demons within out, once they’re sucked into
power within an abusive system. It’s like the Milgram
Experiment
. You can put an ordinary person into an authority
system, and he starts acting as he’s told to. And the public starts
acting like sheep. This is why it only takes one guard to intimidate
100 prisoners.

Take the example
of Germany. It was a civilized country in the 1920s, but when the
wrong people got in power, the 20 percent of the 20 percent who
are the worst among people came out of the woodwork and joined the
SS and the Gestapo. They were mostly pretty average nothing/nobody
people who let power go to their heads — just like the people who
work for the TSA today.

The Black Riders
have come out from Mordor and their minions are swarming over the
land.

L: Someone
replicated
the Milgram experiments
recently. I’m amazed they got it past
an ethics committee. As for the TSA, here’s a collection
of horror stories
to back you up.

What’s really
scary is all the preparation our tireless public servants have done,
setting up systems that seem benign — or at least mostly harmless
— now, but pave the way for serious abuse. The suspension of posse
comitatus for the drug war, the declaration of U.S. citizens
to be “enemy combatants” (a term not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution)
and therefore without the rights guaranteed by the Constitution,
the stories about the FEMA camps already built, wiretaps without
warrants, the erosion of the Second Amendment (the right to keep
and bear arms), “free speech zones” where free speech is allowed…
All of these things are police-state tools.

Right now,
the U.S. still feels relatively free. You and I can have this conversation
without being sent to the gulag. But make a joke in a TSA screening
checkpoint, and see how free you feel. Or make a politically incorrect
statement on a college campus. What happens when these insects,
with real or manufactured approval from the masses clamoring for
security, feel truly free to do whatever they please?

Doug:
The cat’s totally out of the bag now. It’s become Kafkaesque. It’s
gotten so bad, many people I know go out of their way not to fly
through the U.S. Even if you’re not leaving the airport, but are
just making a flight connection, you have to go through the indignities
of customs and immigration — and then you have to deal with these
lowlifes at the TSA. And it’s just going to get worse.

I’m interested
in — but not looking forward — to seeing what happens on my next
trip to the U.S. Flying in most parts of the world is still fairly
mellow, unless it’s a flight to the U.S. I plan on opting out next
time, and not using the back-scatter device. I just have to keep
my cool. These people can sense I have an attitude about these things
— and frankly I have only contempt for people who don’t have an
attitude. They either have no self-respect, or no intelligence.
But it’s pointless to lose you temper, since you’re dealing with
robots. Raging against the machine just depletes your own resources,
and can actually strengthen the machine.

The wisest
course is to minimize your flying, and soon other travel, in the
U.S. That means spending a minimum of time in the U.S., but since
there is relatively much less wealth and opportunity in the U.S.
with each passing day, that’s less and less of an inconvenience.
I fear it’s going to get much worse, at an accelerating rate.

L: And
to add insult to injury, none of this makes anyone one bit safer,
while there are systems that apparently do. They don’t pat people
down in Israeli airports, for example, and yet have not had a breach
of security for years. Here’s a video
I found that makes that point.

Doug:
I suppose. The Israelis have gone out of their way to hire street-smart
operators, which won’t ever happen in the U.S. And they can be very
politically incorrect, looking for a certain type — basically a
young Muslim male; that will never happen in the U.S. either. And
they’ve been lucky; only a complete idiot will hit such a hard target.
But Israel is a theocratic, ethnically exclusive police state —
hardly a model to follow. And I don’t like being interrogated by
some fool in a uniform, either.

On the bright
side, this gross violation of people’s rights by the TSA is so personal,
it could be the thing that actually pushes the U.S. over a psychological
tipping point, and gets Americans to act like Americans, and say,
“I’m not going to take anymore!” At some point even a cowering dog
will stop cowering and bite. At least in theory.

The would be
good for the country, but could make things turn pretty ugly in
the interim, which is one reason I’m glad I don’t have to — and
don’t — spend much time in the U.S. any more.

L: But
you’ve said before that the Land of the Free and the Home of the
Brave has been turned into Land of the Lapdogs and the Home of the
Whipped Dogs. Do you actually think there’s a line beyond which
U.S. citizens can’t be pushed and will develop the spine to act
like Americans?

Doug:
Well, one can hope. With millions and millions of people losing
their houses, and almost 40
million people receiving food stamps
, while corporate execs
loot their publicly-traded and government-subsidized employers for
billions in bonuses, and inflation set to take off in the not-too-distant
future, these sorts of indignities could push people over the edge.

Sometimes,
it amazes me to see the stock market going up in the face of all
this volatility, but I believe it’s doing so because of the creation
of all these trillions and trillions of currency units. Not because
of any fundamental soundness in the economy. This has me thinking
of the ideal speculations for the next little while… which I’ll
write about in the next issue of The
Casey Report
.

L: Okay,
but generally, investment implications would be as with other straws
in the wind spelling out trouble and volatility: liquidate,
consolidate, create, and speculate
.

Doug:
And diversify
your political risk
. As you know, I always like to look at the
bright side of things. In this case, it will be interesting to see
if the looming complete bankruptcy of the U.S. government will force
a deconstruction of the “national security” state, including disbanding
of the TSA, which may well grow to 150,000 employees in the near
future. Or whether it will turbocharge its growth for a while thereafter.

L: Okay
then, no need to repeat that — but readers who have not read what
you have to say on those subjects should follow the links.

Doug:
Right.

L: Say,
Doug, we spoke about music last week, but neglected to mention our
music project.

Doug:
You mean your student from Belarus, whose debut CD we funded?

L: Yes.
Her band is called PRANA. We’re still working on English translations,
but there’s one song in English folks can listen to now, if they’re
interested. Go to www.musicbyprana.com,
click on “eng” for English, then click on the angel holding a musical
symbol. That takes you to a page with an audio file called Tempt
Me Not — click on the “play” triangle. There are other, rather
different songs in Russian on the Russian side of the site.

If you’ll
indulge me, I’d like to ask our readers for a favor: PRANA has entered
a contest in which anyone can vote for their favorite Belarusian
bands. The big prize is funding for a professional music video.
There’s an important vote taking place today (until 5 a.m. EST 11/25),
and another one next week. I’d like to ask our readers who are interested
to listen to PRANA’s music, and if they like it, to vote for her
in this contest. To do that is easy, though the site is in Russian;
go to http://www.trkbrest.by/projects
and click on Prana’s picture (it’s the one on the right, the only
one of a girl), and when the popup box appears, click on the blue
“Голосовать”
button on the left. That’s it. Prana and our students in Belarus
would really appreciate the support.

Doug:
Okay, but when will we hear more songs in English?

L: I’ve
helped her translate her lyrical poetry, and she’s working on her
pronunciation. The words are important in her songs, and she wants
to be understood clearly. I hope we’ll have an English CD soon.

Doug:
Good luck to her!

L: Thanks,
and thanks for your input on the TSA today. I hope lots of people
opt out!

Doug:
You’re welcome. Until next time…

Doug and his
fellow editors of The Casey Report tell it like it is — so
you always know what’s coming. The increased government meddling
in security and in all sectors of the economy, the looming bankruptcy
of the U.S. government, and the investment implications can make
or break your future wealth. Learn how to take advantage of the
current situation and profit while other stand on the sidelines;
click
here for more
.

December
1, 2010

Doug
Casey (send him mail)
is
a best-selling author and chairman of Casey
Research
, LLC., publishers of Casey's
International Speculator
.

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Best of Doug Casey

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