Sunday, December 5, 2010

Designed To Fail-- The Real Story Behind The TSA Grope-a-thon

A story of intentional dysfunction.

The TSA has been front and center during the Turkey Day break. On the most traveled days in the year, the Thanksgiving holiday, the men an women who run the TSA decided to make air travel even more onerous than before. Not only do people have to wait in epic lines caused by the security theater put on by TSA, they now get to be sexually assaulted by some government paid drone.

The Cooperate Media, frequent fliers all, are in high dudgeon. Lead by the yammering of the usual suspects at Fox, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments, the tearing of bears, is a sight and sound to behold. Someone please give these poor distressed souls a binky and blankie. Someone please sooth these troubled brows.

Not that TSA did not contribute to this mess, they did. They did in a typical bureaucratic, CYA way. The rules may be stupid, arbitrary, pointless, counterproductive, and maddening but they will be enforced-- common sense be damned.

But it is hard to blame the TSA for most of this idiocy. They are, after all, just being good Germans; just following orders. No gentle reader, this face plant by the agency derisively known as Thousands Standing Around was baked in at the very inception of TSA. As a matter of fact the whole apparatus of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, was set up to fail from the get-go.

The very idea of what eventually became DHS had been swirling around the fetid swamps of the Potomac for a long time. In theory it had some merit; take all diverse security office and agencies in the U.S. government scattered throughout the various executive Departments and bring them under one roof. It was a intergenerational dream of the security appartiks inside and outside government.

With 9/11 this long held dream was pulled off the shelf by its devotees and made reality over the strenuous objections of the Shrub. Bush the lesser was true believer in the Reagan notion that government was the problem, not the solution to issues faced by the general public. Because Bush had played the fear card so well and often, he was done in by his own capitulated propaganda. Congress foisted DHS on a reluctant president.

SInce Bush could not prevent the formation of DHS, he did the next best thing: he made in a dysfunctional mess. The first pass at this was the embarrassing nomination of the mobbed-up buddy of Rudi, Bernard Kerik. When that nomination collapsed of its own weight, Bush nominated Tom ridge. But it was the cadaver that was and is Michael Chertoff that set up the DHS we now all have learned to hate.

Chertoff totally bought into the Bushite idea that if a thing was not doing at all, it was not worth doing right. It was under Chertoff that organizational and institutional incompetence was baked into the DHS. It was under Chertoff and Bush/Cheney that crony corruption and insider dirty dealing became standard operating procedure. It under the administration of Chertoff that people like “heck of a job” “Brownie” were allowed to run mission-critical portions of the U.S. security apparatus. That a hopeless incompetent like Michael D. Brown was allowed run FEMA was no accident. It was the end result of an ideology that saw government and governance as illegitimate. It was the end result of the notion that the only legitimate way to run anything was via private enterprise. Parceling out critical government processes to private industry via contraction was a good thing. Handing out those contracts to Bush cronies was even better.

Bush used the mechanism of DHS, a barely manageable monstrosity in the hands of strong leader, to further hollow out critical government functions. The organizational incompetence at FEMA was and is only the tip of the iceberg. DHS is shot through with sweet-heart deals and rank corruption from top to bottom. Secretary Janet Napolitano is yet another example of administrative lightweights Peter-principled to the top of DHS. The former governor is totally out of her depth trying to run this entirely dysfunctional organization.

The present empty head of DHS is nothing more than a more stark example on how President Obama has failed to deliver on his nebulous promise of “change.” There has been no change at DHS.; it has continued to be all reaction and no forward thinking. They keep fighting the last battle, and what is worse; they fight that last battle stupidly. In the battle between common sense and CYA, the TSA default is to duck and cover.

In the present kerfuffle there are at least two layers of bureaucratic malfeasance and posterior protection going on. First there are the draconian pat-downs themselves. They are a horror show in and of themselves. But behind them is the very nasty reason they are occurring: to force people to undergo full body scans.

The X-ray body scans are horror show number two. They are unnecessarily invasive, and easily defeated. The images captured by the machines are totally unsecured and a pornographer’s or voyeur’s dream. Just one airport machine had over 35,000 images stored on the hard drive. That is 35,000 images of essentially naked bodies for the dubious viewing pleasure of uncounted peeping Toms.

If that is not enough to make one’s blood boil, the kicker is how these contraptions got purchased in the first place. They are the result of sweetheart deals foisted on the public by highly paid lobbyists and a passel of corrupt Congresscritters. This is how pay to play really works; the government spends millions of dollars on suspect equipment that offends a broad swath of general public, all in the name of lining the pockets of D.C. insiders. Change you can believe in gentle reader.

Not to worry gentle reader, as bad as it is Fox Noise and the wrong wing have a brilliant idea to make it much worse : privatization and profiling. That is right they want to let for profit businesses to take over air port security. This is because these corporations were doing such a great job before TSA came on line. Don’t you remember how wonderful they were, hiring ex cons and other dodgy characters?
Still this has been the entire point of DHS. It was set up from the beginning to “prove” government cannot work. It was set up to “prove” a right-wing talking point. DHS and especially TSA were designed to fail. They were designed to be an exploding cigar. They were designed to be a loose-loose proposition for Democrats. If the Democrats tried to truly reform them, the Republicans would then fear monger the electorate. “See,” they would opine, “those granola eating, elitist, America-hating, traitors in the Democrat Party are surrendering to the evil terrorists. Look at them all concerned for civil rights, civil liberties, and other girly-girly type stuff. Don’t they know the evil mooslim terrorists are trying to kill us all!” So the Democrats concede to every wish of the police state authoritarians, they agree to security theater and then get flame sprayed by Fox Noise when it inevitably face plants. DHS and especially the TSA are a poison chalice handed to the Democrats by the Republicans. Still it took the transactional idiot-savant, Barak Obama to set the machine into overdrive. It took Hope-on-a-Rope to moronically continue every bad idea the Bush Administration ever had on matters of security. It took Bogus Barry to achieve the pay out.

Thus we find Faux Noise banging the drum about TSA airport theater. Feigning outrage about policy and procedures that had Dead Eye Dick Cheney’s seal of approval only two short years ago, Fox happily spouts hypocritical nonsense. If this was President McCain pushing us into dodgy x-ray machines, Fox would be telling us to suck it up. They would be questioning the loyalty of civil libertarians who oppose the pat-downs. They would be accusing Liberals of treason. You know that their talking points are utter B.S. because they keep yammering about the need to profile. The objection then is not that the basic humanity of U.S. Citizens is being shredded by agents of the federal government; just that the “wrong” people are being abused. It is perfectly O.K. for brown or be-turbaned people to have their 4th amendments rights massively violated; just don’t tread on me, the good, godly, white, “true American.”

Is there a way out of this epic mess? Unfortunately, not likely. It would require the denizens of D.C. to grow up and actually pursue the public well being. As on party of our two party system no longer believes in the public well being, does not believe in the commons, that presents a problem. If your ideology is boiled down to the quote by Margaret Thatcher that their is no community, what then? The only thing you will agree to is a police state run be private contractors. If you are definitely uninterested in making a government agency work when you are uninterested in government work. Republicans want DHS to be a soup sandwich.

As for the Democrats, the word feckless does not even begin to cover the epic incompetence of that Party’s so called leadership. The timorousness and second guessing begins right at the top. The failure of purpose, the lack of guiding principle, the elevation of compromise beyond a fine art to the sin qua non of political philosophy, has turned the Democrats into a heard of jelly fish. Well-healed pressure groups run over the donkeys like an 18 wheeler runs over a small armadillo on a Texas highway.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but with both parties unable to offer any real solutions; air port security theater is only going to get worse. Without true leadership the bureaucrats will continue to default to what works in there narrow interests. That default as we all know is covering their number.

The system is broken dear reader. It is broken because powerful interest want to stay broken. It is broken because there is money to be made in not providing rational security. It is broken because partisan hay can be made by it continuing to be broken. It is broken because far too many people who care afraid to fix it lest they offend the political and economic defenders of the status quo. Welcome to the brave new world of air travel, pack lightly and wear a lead-lined suite.
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