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Monday, April 16, 2012

It's As Simple As Trust

 I get this monthly security newsletter - Crypto-gram [link].  It's written by this uber-geek named Bruce Schneier and is primarily focused on computer security.  Increasingly, though, it has ventured into government security measures against terrorism.  If I could do a quikee summary of his views on these measures, it would be that governments around the world are a bunch of bumbling boobs.

All sizzle, no steak.

He was recently having an online debate with a former TSA administrator on the British Economist website.  As Schneier has done many times in the past, he simply destroys the (il)logic of the TSA security measures -

He [the former TSA administrator] wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they're not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can't be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there's a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic lightsaber that's really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).
There are two things going on here.  First, government can only grow if there's a real or manufactured need.  Governments are true believers in the axiom of, "If a little is good, lots must be better."  If there's not a real need to be filled, they manufacture one.

The War On Terror.  The War On Drugs.  The War On Smoking.  The War On Unpasteurized Milk Products.  The War On Obesity.  The War On Bulimia.  The War on Transfats.  The War On Salt.  The War On Sugar.

The War On Terror would have been a non-event if we had simply enforced our border and immigration laws.  Even after 9/11, it could have been addressed by acknowledging the screw-up and fixing the problem.

But there's no money in that.  Defense contractors and big-government advocates couldn't let this opportunity pass.  It was a great opportunity for bought-and-paid-for representatives from both sides of the aisle to come together in unity.  We now have this behemoth called The Department Of Homeland Security.

At the time of its inception, every damned "conservative" I read or spoke with though the DHS was a great idea.  Every damned one of them.  Gonna keep us safe from them godless ragheads!  Constitution be damned.

Most liberals went along with the program because the conservatives had grabbed the national spotlight, and the libs cared more about re-election than principles.

The second thing going on here is trust - or the lack thereof.  Government doesn't trust "the people", and we don't trust the government.  Schneier made this observation in his Economist debate -
Trust is fundamental to society. There is an enormous amount written about this; high-trust societies are simply happier and more prosperous than low-trust societies. Trust is essential for both free markets and democracy. This is why open-government laws are so important; trust requires government transparency. The secret policies implemented by airport security harm society because of their very secrecy.
I've stated a gazillion times that I trust the judgement of the individual over the judgement of a government bureaucrat.  But again, there's no money in that.

If drugs were returned to their original legal status, huge portions of our government would be put out of business  As was true before Drug Prohibition - and as has been proven true in countries that have reduced or eliminated these prohibitions - society doesn't disintegrate when drugs are freely available.  People who formerly abstained from pot, crack, meth, heroin and the like don't suddenly become addicts.

Their judgement tells them they may end up face-down in the gutter, and that's not where they want to go.  They don't need some bureaucrat telling them it's stupid.  Why am I being treated like a child?

Many people are seeing the monster we've built.  They look at the Constitution and compare it with what's going on around them.  They try and reconcile how we can have random DUI checkpoints and the Fourth Amendment at the same time.  No law has been broken, no property damaged, no probable cause exists, no warrant has been served, yet they must submit to a search of their person and property.

Their trust in "the system" begins to wane.

They hear stories of how only about half of income earners actually pay income tax.  How can that be?  They themselves work more but take home less of the additional earnings.  The government keeps asking everyone to pay their, "fair share" but they begin to wonder, "How much is enough?"

Stories of waste and abuse filter into their consciousness.  Government loans to businesses -and big campaign contributors - that crash soon after the money has been spent.  Watchdog agencies - the GSA for goodness sake - living it up in Vegas, and flaunting the fact that they're pissing away OUR money.  Secret Service and military members buying hookers while on the job.  What the hell?

Their trust in the judgement of the government takes another hit.

Maybe, just maybe, the government isn't going to be able to live up to its promises.  They don't trust the math that's been belched their way.  Social Security and Medicare have been on shaky ground for as long as they can remember.  Bunches of states, counties and cities are either bankrupt or nearly so.  Best case would seem to be a reduction in promised payments.  Worst case would mean we end up like Greece.  Riots and burning.

The government seems to understand that the trust we have in them is slipping, and so they act.  They grant themselves powers to "disappear" American citizens on a whim - no pesky trial or review necessary.  They provide local police agencies with military-grade armored personnel carriers.  They purchase 450 million rounds of ammunition.  Not target practice ammunition, but hollow point ammo designed to put people down.  Stories of FEMA camps abound.  TSA Viper squads are already established. The arbiter of our laws - the Supreme Court - says we can be subjected to a body cavity search for ANY infraction.  Think about that the next time you're pulled over for a broken tail light.

All of these are "inward looking" acts.  The threat isn't outside of our borders, but within them.  It's almost like they don't trust us.  Like they view us as the enemy and a threat to their existence.

Apparently, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed has run its course.  They seem to be anticipating a challenge to the powers they hold, just or otherwise, and like any other organism, are prepared to fight to stay alive.

When a trust has been broken, or you've been looked in the eye and lie to - repeatedly - you begin to rethink your relationship with the liar.  When it's your government - the very people that you put in power to protect your rights - it can be difficult to accept.

Your mindset starts to change, ever so slowly.  Maybe it's time to stash a little something away or learn some new skills.  You know, nothing crazy like those nuts on Doomsday Preppers, but just a bit. 

The government comes out and says the economy is improving, but you know friends that are under-employed or have been out of work for years.  Maybe you'll pick up a bit of gold and silver.   

You're told we have no inflation, but food costs keep increasing.  You trust your wallet more than you trust the politicians.  Maybe you'll squirrel away some food. 

The government comes out with stats saying crime is going down, but it seems like whenever you open the paper, another shooting or murder has taken place in your city.  You don't trust the stats - you trust what you're seeing with your own two eyes.  Maybe you'll buy a gun and some ammo, and take a class on how to use them. 

Pretty soon, Doomsday Preppers doesn't seem quite so crazy.  Trust your gut.

Copyright 2012 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

The problem with all of this is you conflate the good with the bad. There actually is a terrorist organization(s) who want to destroy our country!! They did declare open warfare on us decades ago but we weren't paying atention. 9/11 was the second attempt to bring down the WTC we should have learned our lesson after the first attempt. If we ignore the terrorists/radical muslims they will destroy us. Has government done stupid things? Yes! Have they done some useful and important things? Yes! Do we need to do more and better? Yes! Should we do less? No! They intend to kill us all. We have never in history faced a greater threat. Today in about two dozen countries around the world the terrorists/radical muslims are killing Christians and anyone else who isn't a muslim in an attempt to take over every country. You cannot just stick you head in the ground and go "la la la la I can't hear you! We must do a better job on that I agree. But make no mistake they are coming for you, 9/11 was nothing compared to what they want to do. We aren't prepping for a hobby we are prepping because we fear TEOTWAWKI. What do you think that will be??? It won't be those stupid FEMA camps the nutwings keep harping on. My concern is many of us simply will not wake up until they see the mushroom cloud over their city.

Chief Instructor said...

Wow. You've taken a very quenching slurp from the government Koolaid pitcher.

We have never in history faced a greater threat

Really? A bunch of rag tag irregulars poses a greater threat than did the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan?

It is because of people like you that we're in this problem. These terrorists succeed with one very dramatic attack, and you are ready to throw our Constitutional rights down the drain. All in the name of "safety".


You don't destroy the Constitution because 3000 people were killed in an attack.

To your other points:

I don't give a shit that they're killing Christians in other countries. It's not our job to protect the world, just America.

They're coming for me? Really? You've got information that they're sitting outside of my house waiting for the right moment to strike? Or perhaps you're cowering in your home, wetting yourself in anticipation of some attack. Good Lord, you need to grow a pair. You're a frightened little child wanting daddy to make the boogie man go away.

You're saying the followers of bin Laden have a nuke? PUT DOWN THE CRACK PIPE, IT'S CLOUDING YOUR JUDGEMENT! N. Korea and Iran MAY have the ability to do such harm, not a bunch of uneducated sand dwellers. Their delivery systems have nothing whatsoever to do with the usurpations of our liberties that have been put upon us.

Seriously, you need help.

Oblio13 said...

Your best post yet, Chief.

Anon, terrorism is not the threat. 3,000 people died on 9/11 and we shouldn't minimize that, but we should keep it in statistical perspective: that's a holiday weekend of traffic accidents.

We're sheep, and the government is our shepherd. It gets its power over us by keeping us afraid of the wolves. But who fleeces and kills most sheep, wolves or shepherds?

Anonymous said...

In reply to your comment at my place concerning visits from .gov/.mil sites. I've been too busy these days, but used to regularly visit your blog from work and would definitely have left an interesting domain name behind (can't leave a comment from there, that function is blocked). My guess is most are guys like me, no surprise in the military. Not sure about the Army Cyber Intelligence thing, though.

Anonymous said...

"A bunch of rag tag irregulars poses a greater threat than did the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan"

That is indeed what most Americans believed on Dec 6th 1941.

"You don't destroy the Constitution because 3000 people were killed in an attack."

I am certainly not in favor of destroying the constitution your strawman arguement seems to be all you have.

"I don't give a shit that they're killing Christians in other countries."

Good one!! You should be proud of that statement. But you miss the point. Each country they take over becomes another safe haven for them to produce warriors in the war on the West.

"Good Lord, you need to grow a pair. You're a frightened little child wanting daddy to make the boogie man go away."

Thank you lord that you aren't in charge. Your macho hubris is astounding. We need a little more then braggadocious idiots. There is a real war and even if you refuse to accept it that does not change the facts.

"You're saying the followers of bin Laden have a nuke?"

I am saying they WILL get a nuke. It is an absolutel certainty unless we destroy them. I am not confident that we can destroy them but they will for a certainty get a nuke(s). The good news is they hate Israel more and even hate Europe enough to nuke them. So while they may not nuke your town they will in the future nuke someone's town. Maybe NY City, maybe DC, maybe Dallas or Chicago... who knows. But it will happen and to ignore it is stupid.

Adam said...

Right after 9/11, my old roommate said "I'd rather take my chances with the terrorists than go through all this crazy security." I didn't agree with him then. I do now.

Anon: Yes, 3000 people died on 9/11 in an attack. Do I think the terrorists are actively trying to get a nuke? Yes I do. Do I think we should give up our freedom in the meantime? No I do not. I am aware of the world and am aware of the danger terrorists present.

I am also aware of the danger of giving our government unbridled power and authority over every single thing in our lives. Got a quick question for you... What time is it? After you look at your watch, my next question is this: How do you know that is what time it is? It's because the government told you that's the time because they changed it for daylights savings time.

And for Pearl Harbor, that was a strategic military attack. Fewer people died then than during 9/11. And the aftermath of that makes me ashamed of country. We put Japanese Americans in prisons (only on the west coast though).

I am more concerned that our government will do that than I am about the terrorists setting off a real nuke in an American city. I think an RDD is a higher liklihood than a true nuke.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we should give up our freedoms either. I originally siad you conflate the good with the bad. There are some things that must be done. As for the TSA I say put them all on the Southern border and have them feeling up the illegal aliens. There is a lot we can do to keep us safe and we should do it. As for our constitutional rights I think we need a Supreme Court with balls who actively do their job. Return to a constitutional republic and reduce the size of the federal government by about 90% and bring the military back up to a 2 million man active duty force. Cut the federal budget to about $1 trillion and make the SS admin a semi private organization out of the hands of congress. Return states rights.

GunRights4US said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GunRights4US said...

I fear Obama far more than Osama. The Imperial Federal Gubmint has done more to destroy the American way of life than all the muslims on the planet EVER did! Sure the Allah-worshippers hate us. So what? They aren't stopping me and searching me, and treating me like a criminal at bus stations and airports. People drawing gubmint paychecks are stealing my Liberty more effectively that anybody from the middle-east! The US Government is the most evil gathering of human beings the world has ever known. Hitler, Mao and Stalin WISH that they had the technology and the sheeplike citizens our evil government has! We're heading towards the most horrific police state imaginable - mostly due to conservative jackasses who have "law & order" tatooed on their ass (meanwhile forgeting entirely the lessons taught about Liberty by our forefathers)

Chief Instructor said...

Thanks to all for your comments to Anon. It's clear that he/she doesn't get it and is willing to trade liberty for safety.

Plain and simple, I'm not.