• Doug Casey on the TSA

    Email Print
    Share

    Recently:
    Doug Casey
    on Gold's New High, the Fed, and the GreaterDepression

     

     
     

    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
    .

    The
    Best of Doug Casey

    Email Print
    Share
  • Political Theatre

  • LRC Blog

    LRC Podcasts