We Lost

I don’t think there’s any other conclusion to come to at this juncture in time. I don’t mean to say that we lost to Al Qaeda; that organization is clearly defunct. But we have most certainly lost the war, and our way. Consider the following:

  • Patriot Act: In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, we passed a piece of legislation known as the Patriot Act. It passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. The legislation was designed to do things like allow law enforcement to snoop in on business records without notifying the user that they were so doing. These so called “sneek and peek” powers have been used 1755 times since 2006, less than 1% of these were related to terrorism. And that’s just one example. By and large, Patriot Act powers have been used for drug related crimes, not to stop terrorism. Sen. Ron Wyden has said that the American people would be appalled if they understood how the Patriot Act was being used. I’m appalled without knowing everything he does.

    What is perhaps most appalling is that in the ensuing decade since its passage, congress never paused to sort through what they’d passed and decide to throw some things out and keep other things. There has never been any attempt to determine which of these powers yielded results and which haven’t. Instead, debate regarding the Patriot Act has mostly consisted of demagoguery, the result of which is that the government is now assuming war time police powers as a permanent feature of American life. In other words, we’re becoming a police state.

  • TSA/DHS: In response to the fact that some planes were hijacked in the United States, the federal government decided to nationalize airport security, creating what has become known as the Transportation Security Agency, or TSA, better known as blueshirts. Today, the TSA is party of a gargantuan agency called the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, which is building a Taj Mahal like structure to house itself in Washington DC. Apparently, 9-11 happened because we had too little bureaucracy at work. Today, the TSA is, to put it mildly, completely out of control, and the among the foremost violators of individual rights in the United States. They have, without authorization from congress, purchased x-ray machines that can take nude photographs of people, and stationed them at airports around the country. Refusal to have a nude photograph taken of you results in you being personally groped by TSA agents who, at some airports, make every effort to create a loud disturbance and embarrass you (this recently happened to me at Chicago O’Hare). To add injury to insult, these machines have not been tested for safety, and are not regularly checked for safety as are medical x-ray machines in hospitals.

    There is no legitimate purpose for a free society to have its police using nude photograph machines. If you have probable cause to believe somebody intends to commit an act of terrorism, then you should arrest him and directly relieve him of his belongings. The only purpose of nude photograph machines is to conduct mass dragnet searches on the populace at large. Free societies do not conduct mass dragnet searches on their citizenry.

    Moreover, the TSA is taking the mission implied by its name literally. They are not settling for harassing travelers at airports. Rather, they are experimenting with putting the nude x-ray machines on vans, and scanning passers by without their knowledge or consent. They have randomly shown up at some train stations. And they are discussing setting up road checkpoints. The TSA, more than any other agency in the Federal Government, is turning the United States into an out in out police state.

    And the DHS is making every effort to direct the activities of that state towards the American citizenry at large. When Janet Napolitano took over at DHS, one of her first acts was to warn the American people that right wing groups were set to engage in terrorism around the country. It was made up bullshit, but no matter. The purpose of a police state is to keep its citizens in line. And Napolitano’s warning wasn’t to the citizens to be on the lookout for right wingers; it was to right wingers not to get out of line. Again, not hallmark of a free society.

  • Violence and Political Correctness: Of course, since 9-11 there have been two attempts at Islamist inspired violence in the United States worth noting: the Times Square bomber and the Ft Hood shooter. When the Times Square bomber’s car was first discovered, Mayor Bloomberg speculated that it was planted by somebody upset over Obamacare. And the Ft. Hood shooter was apparently screaming to all within earshot about how much he hated America, but the Army had become so politically correct, nobody acted to remove him from his station until it was too late.

    Meanwhile, there have been no fictional attempts to depict the war against islamist extremists in a positive light. There was only one movie about 9-11 itself, Flight 93. And another one set to be released about the assassination of Osama Bin laden, set to be released in October of 2012 so as to aid Obama’s chances of re-election. I believe that this is as much due to fear of being seen as politically incorrect as it is due to Hollywood’s desire to not aid Republican presidents and to aid Democratic ones instead. Neither of these motives speaks well of the United States or its ability to emerge victorious in a sustained conflict with a people or culture unlike our own.

  • Financial War: While the financial crisis had its roots in the housing market, it was most certainly exacerbated by the existence of naked short selling. Naked short selling is when someone sells shares short without first borrowing them. It’s illegal, but the SEC has more or less refused to enforce the law for many years. The result is that some hedge funds have been killing small companies by naked short selling their stock out of existence. It’s a recipe whereby hedge funds counterfeit stock shares and sell them on the open market until the company they’re targeting ceases to exist. The SEC refuses to do anything about it because the average SEC regulator hopes to get jobs with these very hedge funds when they leave the agency. This phenomenon is known as deep capture, and the blog by that name, DeepCapture.com, has done an excellent job at documenting the phenomenon.

    So what does this have to do with 9-11? Well, Osama Bin Laden said in one of his tapes that his plan to take down the United States was by means of bankrupting it, by directly attacking the American financial system. He would do this by means of a physical attack on New York, and further drain American resources by dragging us out into a long war. But that’s not the only way he attacked the American financial system. If Deep Capture is to be believed, Al Qaeda set up a brokerage firm whose explicit purpose would be to attack American financial institutions by naked short selling them.

    The story itself is incredible. You should read the whole 21 part serial starting here. But even if Deep Capture is wrong, even if Al Qaeda isn’t behind the naked short selling of Lehman and Bear Stearns, someone was. And our financial police are incapable of doing anything about it. Instead of attacking the problem directly, by investigating and uncovering who had been naked short selling and prosecuting them, we got Dodd-Frank, a pile of financial regulation that has nothing to do with the proximate cause of out financial problems. Our government cannot handle the real problems before it, even when it’s plainly obvious what they are. It’s difficult to feel support for such a government, to want it to not collapse as seems possible as of late.

  • The War Itself: I’m not sure this war could have been fought more idiotically. I’ve probably said this before, but it bears repeating. We started off fighting in Afghanistan, refusing to show our flags, under rules of combat that valued civilian Afghani lives more than those of our soldiers, even going so far as to drop sandwiches on some villages while we bombed others. The result has been that the Afghanis, a primitive people (to the extent that they can even be called a people), don’t see the US as the strong man, and thus don’t feel a need to side with or emulate us. And so they side with the Taliban, or whatever warlord does appear to be the strong man wherever they happen to be. And so the war drags on, ad infinitum.

    Then we decide that it would be a good idea to invade Iraq. Not that Saddam was a good guy or that his government didn’t deserve to be toppled, it most certainly did. But Saddam’s Iraq was not a focal point for islamic terror in the world. Islamic terror revolves elliptically around two focus points, Iran and Saudi Arabia. But those two powers are opposites. Iran has a government that supports Islamic terror and is hostile to the United States, but its people are not supportive of Islamic terror and are supportive of the United States. Saudi Arabia is the complete opposite. The fact that Saudi terror was financed by Saudi citizens matters little. And the fact that Iran is Shia and Saudi is Sunni matters little. Both support Islamic terror and work to place other Islamic countries into their orbit. By going after Iraq we essentially went after a Saudi satellite. But the satellite isn’t the issue. And in fact, the all the arab satellites are satellites for a reason: they don’t have the mass to exert gravitational pull over other countries. So they will be satellites no matter what. The question is whether or not they will become satellites of the United States.

    To continue with our physics analogy, the United States exerts a weaker pull that local powers because of our distance, both geographic and cultural. So what’s needed is to knock out one or both of the foci around which Islamic terror orbits. Turn one or both to our side, and the the local satellites have someone to emulate.

    That’s not what we did.

    So now we have an Iraq which is rapidly becoming a satellite of Iran, mostly because they’re both Shia and the Iraqis rightly assume that we’ll abandon them at some point anyhow, so best to start paying fealty to the regional power sooner rather than later. Egypt has fallen, and now Libya, and the early results do not show that they are becoming satellites to either us or the country where we expended so much blood and treasure, Iraq. In Egypt, local mobs are attacking the Israeli embassy. And in Libya, the rebels who we supported are apparently slaughtering the black inhabitants of that country. Wow, what westernization.

    I’m going to go ahead and predict that iran will roll up influence across the Arab world after each of these Arab countries disposes of their dictator. While the Iranians have the good sense not to attack the US directly, they don’t have the good sense not to try and start WW3 by nuking israel. The result of this will not be good. Particularly since we’re broke. We don’t have the money to rectify this mistake, even if we had the will, which we most certainly do not have. The best we can hope for here is that the Iranian roll-up of the Middle East doesn’t start WW3, and that we have enough new energy sources to bring online within the US and Canada that we will be able to safely ignore the middle east for some time.

    Let’s hope.

So what to do? Frankly, I have no idea. But I don’t expect good things from our government any more. The only guy I can envision enthusiastically supporting is Gary Johnson, because he’s the only guy who seems to want to restore our civil liberties and fix the economy. But he doesn’t seem to have a chance. The other Republicans may have some hope at fixing the economy, but none seem to have a fire in the belly to fix the domestic threat, namely to dismantle the TSA, the DHS, and walk back the domestic war against our own citizenry. Certainly only Johnson wants to end the drug war (and Paul who is half-nuts and way too old to be President). The Democrats talk a good game about civil liberties, but at root they are the worst statists. Obama revealed a lot about himself when he felt the need to deny being a Bolshevik. Democrats view civil liberties issues as campaign points, but they have zero interest in reducing government power in any form. They are true totalitarians.

I would say that as totalitarians, they are to be opposed at all costs, Except that left in their hands, the US government will go bankrupt. There is no two ways about it. So I’m honestly torn. Do I vote to in such a way as to hasten the demise of the federal government? Or do I vote Republican, so as to prolong the agony. I don’t know that I can bring myself to vote so cynically as to vote for the totalitarians. But I don’t feel so great voting for the Republicans either. They’ll manage the finances a lot better, but they aren’t going to dismantle the Federal police powers either.

So here we are. Islamism marches on, while we destroy our freedoms from within. Al Qaeda may not be ascendant, but freedom is certainly on the wane. I don’t say “they won”, but I do say “we lost”. We lost our freedoms, our economy, and our ability to even debate these things rationally, without descending into politically correct nonsense. And I don’t see much hope for things to turn around.

Your thoughts are certainly welcome. I’m looking for disagreements, as I would love to be proved wrong.

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