A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold,
resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to
the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him.
He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you
grossly insulted me."
"Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone
of voice, "I was not then born."
Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture."
"No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I
have not yet tasted grass."
Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well."
"No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet
drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me."
Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying,
"Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my
The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.
–The Wolf and the Lamb, Aesop's Fables
Growing up in Hawaii as a Caucasian, or
"haole" in the local parlance, there were any number of occasions
where I was targeted simply because of my race. The hassles could start while
surfing, where locals felt they had certain natural rights to the best waves,
or pretty much anywhere at any time that a group of young Hawaiians felt the
need to take some personal revenge for the hijacking of their islands. (And,
in all fairness, their islands were hijacked.)
If there was no other casus belli readily
available, for instance, daring to take off on "their wave," a
perennial favorite was to kick things off by saying something along the lines
of, "Hey, haole! Why'd you call me stupid?"
To which the set piece response would be, telling the
truth, "But I didn't call you anything."
Leading, unavoidably, straight into the jaws of the
rhetorical trap, revealed as the Hawaiian responded indignantly, "You
calling me a liar?"
I barely remember the first time I was targeted by a
Hawaiian using this particularly childish, but effective, form of
fight-starting. But thereafter, upon hearing the opening stanza in the script
and knowing that any response was futile, I cut right to the fight-or-flight
response – the decision as to whether to start swinging or begin
hot-footing it out of there, arrived at by a quick calculation involving the
size and number of the Hawaiians involved in the tableau.
The point, as Aesop so simply put it, is that when the
wolf has decided to eat you, pretty much any excuse will serve.
I mention this because in a recent essay, I discussed
my personal definition of liberty as being, primarily, the ability to go
freely about my business. The importance of that freedom to travel is that it
encapsulates the freedom to move. For example, to a different political
jurisdiction where you calculate you are more likely to be left alone to live
your life as you please.
But this begs the question, "How do you know when
it's time to move?"
After all, if you wait until the wolf is leering down
at you and asking why you drank from its well, it's too late.
On August 16, there was a classic of the genre here in
the Land of the Free when an ex-Marine, Brandon Raub, was dragged out of his
house and stuck into a psych ward for posting ideas on his Facebook page that
the government didn't much care for.
While some of his writing was certainly on the
inflammatory side, the interesting thing about the case was that even though
he was cooperative and had not broken any laws, his house was raided by
police and FBI agents, and he was carted away in handcuffs.
When asked by reporters what charges Raub was arrested
on, representatives for both the police and the FBI stated that he wasn't
arrested but rather something-other-than-arrested, even though the net result
was his being dragged from his property and locked up.
Fortunately, this week Circuit Court Judge Allan
Sharrett tossed out the government's case against Raub, overturning an
earlier decision, on August 20, that Raub should continue to be held against
his will for psychiatric evaluation.
According to a press release put out by the Rutherford
Institute, which helped free Raub, "Judge Sharrett dismissed the
petition for involuntary commitment on the grounds that the petition 'is so
devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to
give rise to a case or controversy.'"
So, has the Land of the Free finally reached the
tipping point where the government is actively screening the ether for signs
of recalcitrants, precedent to hauling them off in preemptive strikes
á la Minority Report? Wouldn't that be a signal that maybe it's
time to begin eyeing the exits?
While one would hope that Raub's case was a fluke,
little more than an innocent misunderstanding, as this rather
disturbing article on the always excellent Lew Rockwell website points
out, a number of other individuals who have likewise done nothing wrong,
other than tripping some sort of black-box algorithm for threat assessment,
have similarly been hauled off on no charges.
As you'll read in the Rockwell article, owning guns and
being an Army vet are surely components of the algorithm.
I want to believe that there is still a strong core in
the judiciary of judges such as Allan Sharrett who will remain ever vigilant
against the encroachment of the fascists, armed as they are with the latest
technologies in their steady efforts to monitor, manipulate and cause the
public to capitulate to their will.
I fear, however, that this is a false hope. Supporting
a more negative interpretation of what's going on behind the scenes is an
excellent eight-minute documentary that was recently posted on the New
York Times website. It features William Binney, a former top-level
programmer for the National Security Agency who turned whistleblower. What he
has to say about the degree of government monitoring of the US population at
this point is chilling.
But wait, isn't it illegal for the government to
monitor private emails, phone conversations, web searches, private Facebook
pages and so forth without a warrant? Ah, there's the rub. You see, as you'll
learn in the documentary, warrantless monitoring becomes illegal only if
someone physically actually listens to or looks at the stuff being logged.
Recording it all and storing it for future reference, however, is perfectly
Meanwhile, computers armed with powerful software are
scanning pretty much everything you do and using algorithms to stitch
together relationships that could suggest a threat against the state…
and linking anyone else in your social network into a tidy package ready to
be picked up on cue.
Click here to watch the video, and you'll get the
picture… and it's not a very pretty picture. Time to begin making plans
to move? Hmmm, maybe.
Of course, as you watch this sort of thing, you should
always ask yourself if the source has what is termed by social scientists
either a "knowledge bias" or a "reporting bias."
As to the first, is Binney knowledgeable on the topic
he speaks about? The answer can only be a resounding yes. For over 30 years,
he worked for the NSA at the highest level, developing threat assessment
algorithms designed to monitor foreign threats, before coming to the
realization they were now being deployed domestically.
As for his reporting bias, does Binney have a reason to
lie? Given that going public with what he knows puts him squarely in the
sights of the wolf, it would seem he has every incentive to keep his mouth
shut. While he may have some ulterior motive for making this stuff up, it
doesn't leap quickly to mind.
Of course, monitoring your every interaction with
electronics isn't the totality of the state's incursions against individual
privacy. Just out is a story about the drones being deployed to monitor
protestors at next week's Republican National Convention in Florida. Here's a
telling quote from the drone company's director of corporate development, one
Knob Knott, as reported by Tampa Bay Online…
is a great chance to showcase what drones can do for both military and
civilian uses, Knott said.
have a known and practical application with law enforcement and the military,
but there are a number of other potential uses: search and rescue, tracking
algae blooms or oil spills, highway safety, wildlife migration,' Knott
Heck, maybe Mr.
Knob Knott's company should
adopt the upbeat slogan, "Better living through drones!"
So, what's the point?
There are several worth mentioning.
First off, deep in the bowels of government – in
the US and many of the other tottering sovereignties around the world –
some sort of odd zeitgeist has been allowed to fester that has the
bureaucrats seeing threats under every rock and in the heart of every
Given that these governments now have incredibly
powerful computers and software, it is only natural they'll be deployed in
the new "wars" against terrorists, drugs, money laundering, tax
evasion, insider trading, <insert your choice of threat>.
The only thing that ever keeps any government from
going "all the way" in any war is an institutional acceptance of
fundamental principles related to individual rights. For example, the right
to privacy or to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Sadly, those principles have now been thrown under the
For the time being, things will be just fine.
Especially if you are a go-along-to-get-along sort of person, as most of us
Everything changes, however, the day that something
approximating another 9/11 occurs. On that day, the knives come out and very
likely, with the approval of the majority, stay out.
Worth spending a little time evaluating alternative
residency options before that happens? Maybe.
Paradoxically, the US government is clearly targeting
the veterans of its recent wars, the very same "heroes" it
simultaneously salutes and honors at every public opportunity. That this
targeting is going on will not be lost on the veterans who, after a tour or
two of combat, will likely have developed some fairly highly attuned survival
instincts. I don't think they'll much like it.
Especially those who, having seen friends and comrades
killed in what will ultimately be exposed as a series of futile politicians'
wars, feel an extra keen sense of betrayal. The government is probably not
wrong, therefore, in believing that one of those veterans, their psychology
damaged by the stresses associated with war, will turn out to be the agent of
another attack such as that which went down in Oklahoma in 1995. Timothy
McVeigh was a veteran of the first Gulf War.
Viewing this topic from a completely different
perspective, absent the US government as anything other than a minor actor in
the affairs of this country, almost none of this stuff would be going on.
Imagine how different the world would be if governments
were limited to, say, keeping the roads in good repair, running courts whose
sole function was to rigorously provide a level legal playing field, and
maintaining a sufficient amount of police and military resources – but
no more – to ensure a reasonable degree of internal and external
Unfortunately, somewhere along the path to a better
future, the lambs, fearing wolves, invited the wolf to dinner.
Finally, it is worth paying attention to the point that
it is not just individuals in our society that are at risk of finding
themselves on the wrong side of a wolf looking for some lamb and not caring
particularly much how it goes about getting it.
Even a cursory glance at the business news reveals case
after case where some agency of the US government, or the EU or the UK, has
coerced some large commercial concern into paying fines that run into the
hundreds of millions. Whoops, there's one now – HSBC is being squeezed
for an amount expected to be on the order of $700 million for money
laundering, a government-created crime.
Did HSBC drink from the well? Does it matter anymore?
At the end of the day, more than anything – and
completely contrary to why people want more government in the first place –
a bloated, paranoid bureaucracy creates instability, insecurity and
And instability, insecurity and uncertainty, in turn,
create a clamor for yet more government.
On its own, this non-virtuous cycle can only lead to a
steady degradation in the rights of individuals and corporations. But should
the constant meddling lead to a blowback such as 9/11, then the speed at
which things degrade could be breathtaking.
Is it time to at least begin thinking about
becoming familiar with other countries where the citizenry hasn't yet been
trained to look to the government as the panacea for everything?
(Re-reading those musings, I feel
compelled to apologize to those of you who intend on staying put, no matter
what. This entire line of discussion must seem very boring and maybe even
inappropriate to you. I do make an attempt, though often fail, to not dwell
on this theme. But it's not easy, in that literally every single day, we hear
of some new encroachment by the government against individual Americans or
groups of Americans.
Americans, the notion that their own government could become a real risk to
society at large, or to themselves personally, simply doesn't compute. Let's
hope that the trend turns out to be far more benign than it can sometimes
appear. That truly is my fondest hope. Even so, in the meantime, I, for one,
will continue to diversify across borders… just in case.)