All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Happy 20th Anniversary. Guess What Your Gift Is?

Platter, JingdezheExhibit in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Photo by Daderot. Public Domain.
Platter, Jingdezhe. Exhibit in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Photo by Daderot. Public Domain.

Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks, the US government is finally — well, probably, kinda sorta — ending its lost war with Afghanistan, drawing down its presence in Iraq, and reducing the heat of its “global war on terror” from a rolling boil to  hot-tub temperature.

Good news, right?

After two decades of getting groped at airports, searched and surveilled without warrant or even probable cause, and paying through the nose to finance the murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians  in the Middle East and Central Asia BECAUSE OSAMA BIN LADEN, we can get back to an America that looks a little bit more like an America nobody under the age of 20 or so remembers, and a little bit less like East Germany, right?

And without the burden of $70 billion per year in Afghanistan war costs alone, not even counting other “war on terror” boondoggles, we can take a chainsaw to the “defense” budget and cut America’s military machine down to something resembling a reasonable size, right?

Well, not so fast.

So far there’s no sign of the Transportation Security Administration being disbanded or of the FBI ceasing to use paid informants to  manufacture “terror plots” to justify its existence, or of the NSA taking off its headphones, cruising off to the break room for a cup of coffee, and letting us make our phone calls with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

And the US House Armed Services Committee wants to increase the “defense” budget by even more than President Biden has requested, rather than give it even a moderate haircut.

What’s up with that?

The national security state that took root in the US after World War 2 has always required a designated enemy, a boogey-man sufficiently threatening to make its massive and continuous transfers of wealth from your wallet to the bank accounts of “defense” contractors seem reasonable.

Until 1990, the main designated boogey-man was the Soviet Union. When that paper tiger fell through the shredder and into the dustbin of history without warning, a decade-long scramble to manufacture a new enemy ensued, and found success when al Qaeda finally managed a successful stroke on US soil after years of warning of its intention to do exactly that if US troops didn’t get out of Saudi Arabia.

Now that the “war on terror” — an obvious scam from the beginning — is all played out after working its boogey-man magic for 20 times as long as even the most optimistic con artist would likely have predicted way back when, it requires a replacement. Hopefully a more expensive replacement, and certainly one that doesn’t reduce the revenues of the previous grift.

What kind of gift do you get for the country that has everything, including ubiquitous surveillance cameras, facial recognition systems, airport body scanners, and “Real ID” internal passports?

Well, the traditional 20th anniversary gift — and, it seems, the national security state’s romantic and thoughtful choice of new designated enemy for America — is China.

Happy anniversary, I guess. But frankly I’d prefer divorce papers and no alimony demands.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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COVID-19: Technocracy Flowered, and Failed

TechnocracySign

History is littered with social and political movements which, while failing to survive as movements, largely achieved their goals.

The Prohibition Party’s national conventions could take place in a phone booth these days, but its disastrous single policy proposal was adopted as a constitutional amendment, mutated into the equally disastrous war on drugs, and continues to torment the modern marketplace with draconian regulation.

Most “socialist” parties have either disappeared into the dustbin of history, or find themselves reduced to glorified supper clubs featuring loud arguments over whether the Soviet Union was a bureaucratic deformation or a degenerated workers’ state. But Socialist Party candidate Norman Thomas’s 885,000 votes in the 1932 presidential election arguably led to FDR’s “New Deal” and the modern welfare state.

Few people remember, or ever learned about, the technocracy movement of the 1930s. That movement failed in its formal goal of replacing democratic legislatures with boards of “experts” to run society (including the economy) in accordance with “science.”

But over time, the concept took root in America’s regulatory apparatus. Nearly every aspect of our lives has, for several decades, been subject to scrutiny and oversight by “experts.” The food we eat. The drugs we take. The cars we drive. The securities we invest in. You name it, there’s a government bureau somewhere full of whirring computers and nerds with slide rules, figuring out what we may or may not do, or  in what way we may do it.

While most of us gripe about particular technocratic edicts, few question the premise itself. It’s just taken as obvious that the man in the lab coat knows more about air bags and crop yields than the Honorable Representative from Minnesota.

Technocracy took root. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, it blossomed … into the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

Starting last year, “public health” technocrats (with, of course, the assistance of opportunistic politicians) seized control over huge parts of our lives — mass house arrests without charge or trial, mask mandates, vaccine mandate and “passport” schemes, etc. — then proceeded to vacillate and scrap among themselves over the divvying up of their new power, as more than 600,000 Americans died and the economy tanked.

To add insult to injury, the parts of the country where the “experts” enjoyed less deference seem to have fared no worse, and in some cases better, than areas where politicians slavishly and without question enforced every technocratic edict.

Technocracy finally got its big shot at proving itself, and failed miserably. Why? Because “public health”  technocracy isn’t about the health of the public. It’s about policy, which is about politics, which about power.

The technocrats exercised their power abusively — and ineffectually too boot. It’s time to take that power away.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Congress is a Deadly Extremist Organization

Seal of the United States Congress

“What Drove 9 Moderate House Democrats To Hold Up Their Party’s Agenda?” Nathaniel Rakich asks at FiveThirtyEight.  “[N]ine moderate Democrats threatened to vote no on moving forward with Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution, unless the House first voted to pass the Senate’s bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package.”

Though the word “moderate” appears 14 times in the story’s body (and three times in a graphic outlining “ideological measures and electoral statistics” for the nine Democrats in question), Rakich never explicitly defines the term other than implicitly as describing “centrist” politicians who sometimes cross party lines on contentious issues.

Webster’s offers a clue as to what might constitute a real moderate: “[O]bserving reasonable limits; not excessive, extreme, violent, or rigorous; limited; restrained.”

In other words, the exact opposite of Congress.

Congress is by definition — for example, the powers it claims under the US Constitution, even if it bothered to abide by that document’s limits, which it seldom does — an extremist organization.

Congress claims the power to seize the fruits of your labor — or, in the form of military conscription, that labor itself — for whatever projects it happens to fantasize into existence, and the power to cage or murder you should you resist.

For example, take the budget resolution and infrastructure bill that these “moderates” quibbled with the order of voting on.

In 2020, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States, according to the World Bank, came to about $21 trillion. That’s probably quite high given that government spending is treated as “production,” but it’s the best number I have.

If the World Bank is correct, the two bills in question alone —  excluding any and all other congressional spending, of which there will be plenty — presume to dispose of 21.4% of the wealth you created by busting your hump at work last year.

On the bright side, the Senate version of the bill did away with $80 billion in proposed funding for the IRS to bulk up the aforementioned caging/murdering of people who don’t fork over.

The nine supposed “moderates” Rakich analyzes have almost certainly voted during their terms in Congress to, by several orders of magnitude, steal more money than the Mafia and kill more people than al Qaeda.

The pretense that Congress is anything other than the most powerful combination of death cult and organized crime syndicate on the planet is even less convincing than that Bigfoot video your uncle brought back from his hunting trip in Idaho.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY