Tag: Lindsey Graham

Pity the Poor Bely Mishka Makers

Lindsey Graham is a consistent cheerleader for the police state, probably second only to the contemptible Diane Feinstein (you should check out The 45 Greatest Enemies of Freedom from the Best Magazine on the Planet). Yesterday, he called for a return to one of the dumbest policies of the Carter years (and that’s saying something):

President Obama should consider boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia if the Cold War-era foe gives asylum to Edward Snowden, Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Hill on Tuesday.

“I would. I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,” Graham (R-S.C.) said when asked about the possibility of a boycott.
“It might help, because what they’re doing is outrageous,” he said. “We certainly haven’t reset our relationship with Russia in a positive way. At the end of the day, if they grant this guy asylum it’s a breach of the rule of law as we know it and is a slap in the face to the United States.”

Several things to unpack here.

First of all, if the Russian government offers asylum to Snowden, we can be angry and annoyed but it’s hardly the invasion of Afghanistan. Countries offer asylum to each other’s dissenters all the time. Unless we’re planning on repatriating Yeonis Cespedes to Cuba, we should keep our diplomatic hissy fits to a minimum.

Second, what the hell, man? We’re in a diplomatic tiff with Russia and we should take it out on our athletes? I have mixed feelings about the Olympics — I hate the corruption, hype and NBC coverage; but I love the games, the athleticism, the competition and the patriotism. Boycotting the 1980 Olympics accomplished nothing except producing an answering boycott in 1984 and denying many of our athletes a chance to shine on a global stage. For many of our Olympians, 2014 will be their only chance. Let’s not take out our frustrations on them. Let’s not politicize everything. For once? Pretty please?

It took me a while to figure out why Graham’s statement annoyed me. And this morning, several thoughts that have been bobbing around my mind converged thanks to post from KenClark at Popehat. In talking about the burgeoning police state — of which Graham is an enthusiastic supporter — he says:

I am not a conspiracy theory type; I do not think that large numbers of people plot, plan, execute, and then keep the details silent with any great frequency (although the more I learn about government tools to spy on the citizenry like Stellar Wind, the multi-yottabyte Utah Data Center , PRISM , etc., the more I question whether I should be more of a conspiracy theorist…).

What I do believe, though, is that systems come into existence and have their own incentives. No one needs to be a black mustache twirling villain in order for evil to happen.

The United States does not have an Inner Party that is plotting FEMA camps for political dissidents because they lust after power for the sake of power.

No, the United States government is a vast ungainly beast composed of millions of “moving parts”, as Megan McArdle is fond of saying, and the vast majority of the people that make up the machine are fairly reasonable people.

They’re just trying to do their jobs.

You should read the whole thing. His point is that NSA is not filled with evil people; cops don’t get into policing because they want to kill folk; even bureaucrats often have good intentions. The problem is not that the millions of people who run our government, our regulatory agencies and our law enforcement agencies are evil. The problem is that they are human. And we have created a system — our leaders have a created a system — that incentivizes the abuse of power and fails to punish anyone who exceeds their authority.

Radley Balko makes the same point in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop, which I’m currently reading. The problems of no-knock SWAT raids on petty gambling operations, elaborate prostitution stings, shootings of unarmed civilians does not arise from cops being evil. It arises because our leadership has created a situation where these behaviors are overlooked or, in some case, even expected. When paramilitary tactics were first introduced to law enforcement, there was tremendous resistance from police officers. They felt it went against the idea of cops as public servants and part of the community. But our national and local leaders were absolutely determined to show how tough they were on crime. Nixon’s original crime bill included no-knock raids and indefinite detention so that he could show just how much he hated the Warren Court.

The machinery of the police state is set in motion not by abusive cops or vile bureaucrats but by politicians such as Lindsey Graham. They create a system that incentivizes a police state, defends that state and punishes those who dissent.

Boycotting the Olympic games is small potatoes on the scale of massive surveillance and indefinite detention. But it is revealing of a philosophy that wants all of us to be part of the governments efforts at surveillance and secrecy. Athletes do not exist for their own sake; they are tools of the government used to reward or punish wayward regimes. Sports fans can’t just watch TV; we should be made to resent those who spill our government’s secrets. No aspect of our lives can be immune from politics and from the need to enhance the power of the state.