On DronesSubmitted by Molusk on Sat, 03/02/2013 - 22:34
There has been a lot of talk here about the dangers of drone technology to civil liberties, not to mention human life. Those are of course legitimate concerns and relate to the more basic erosion of civil liberties that has occurred since 9/11.
The focus on abuses of large scale deployment of drones domestically is both timely and valid. It is a highly visible symbol of these worrying trends.
What is perhaps more noteworthy and more basic to the situation, if less often discussed, are the economic factors motivating the proliferation of drone technology.
If we could do a financial breakdown of the costs of all the drone technology deployed overseas, itemized by the actual number of targeted kills carried out (not collateral civilian kills -- those don't count, Mr.'s Rove, McCain, et al.), I wager we'd find that the actual cost per dead pseudo-terrorist is beyond anything that could be deemed economically rational.
Furthermore, because drone manufacturers are in the privileged position of dealing exclusively with our so generous federal government, who of us really knows what grotesque profit margin their connected lobbyists have been able to work into their contracts, and what kind of kickbacks are going to the crowded stable of drone boosters in congress and elsewhere.
There is no "market price" for a drone or any piece of military hardware, where the only customer is the government -- and when that government is staffed by individuals with no incentive or ability to determine a reasonable price for the purchased items. The astronomical prices of drones. like other military tech, could be set more or less arbitrarily by the connected and interested parties that work out the deal.
The sale of drones for overseas use has been a gigantic boon to those few connected firms that manufacture them. How much greater a boon will it then be when drones invade the skies of America to hunt down every lost cat or senior citizen who wanders off, when they show up for media photo ops before gushing local news reporters, and for every manhunt or missing child hysteria, in some tragicomic rendering of James Cameron's nightmare image of SKYNET?
DRONE HUNTERS, ARISE.
This more basic character of the push for drones, rooted in economic corruption, is the same for that other attention grabbing security-industrial complex roll-out, the full body scanner and their connected patron, former DHS heffe Michael Chertoff, the visage of evil if ever there was one.
The essential uselessness and inefficiency of the drone/body scan technologies are one more factor of commonality pointing in the direction of a more economic motive.
Needless to say, this subject requires a great deal more research to hammer out the specifics, the players involved, the numbers, the networks and connections; lobbyists, politicians, board members and executives, and general security-industrial complex Grandees involved.
Perhaps it has already been done. I certainly have no intention of doing it. The ball is in your court, DP dataminers!
Just some thoughts.
Of course, in time of war and political upheaval, civil liberties and constitutional protections have always been null and void in American history. What makes today's circumstances unique is the formal, legal codification of what previously had just been flagrant abuses of federal power, unchallenged by a too timid congress and supreme court.
That is just in the nature of a flawed system. To say flawed men would be redundant, and to imagine a system made infallible by eloquent appeals to our better angels, written in goose quill or otherwise, is merely to engage in wishful thinking. The actual, if not formal, distribution of power in the American political system has undergone numerous fundamental transformations over our 240+ year history, and will continue to do so in the coming decades.
This distribution of power can be referred to as the 'real' or 'living' constitution, as opposed to the written, formal Constitution that we learn about in our high school civics books, and is always fluid.
While the formal, written Constitution changes only slowly if at all, the de facto or real distribution of power follow its own course as society and technology change.
Real power, itself sovereign and above written laws, exercises itself through the official channels and apparatus of the state in different ways at different times, subject to the natural ebb and flow of power throughout society, which nothing written or imagined could could cage or subjugate.
Information and ideas are at all times spread and disseminated in different ways. Property, the distribution of wealth and its in influence, is concentrated or dispersed in different ways at different times. Differing non-government institutions exercise varying levels of influence over public attitudes in different ways at different times.
These phenomena combine to form the real, active structure of power that works its will through the more slowly changing official apparatus and structure of power centered in DC. and even more slowly through the actual written Constitution. There are layers on layers of power, ranging from the most live and active to the most dead and rigid.
The worrying trend in today's formal adoption of constitutional abuses in law, and in court decisions, is a mirror of public attitudes in general toward the state, and public apathy in its sense of its own liberty. In a deeper sense this reflects the individual's basic sense of lacking his own power or independence from larger impersonal institutions, both state and non-state.
It also reflects the decline of other institutions that in the past provided a balance or counter-weight to state power -- strong, ideologically driven political parties, virile religious institutions, regional identities and regional political power blocs; a more diffused and independent media, a wider distribution and dispersal of wealth through landed estates and individually owned enterprises, as well as local affiliations, clubs, social organizations, unions, and a greater heterodoxy in academia and its institutions.
Even something as basic to civilization as strong, independent and cohesive families are today a thing of the past, outside of the highest echelons of wealth and power networks.
The individual today is, more than ever before, truly an individual, an isolated unit cut off from the multiplicity of social power units, organizations and institutions that once provided a balance of power and counter-weight to a total state.
An individual, yes, but not free. He is therefore more dependent than ever before upon those behemoth organizations of the mass state, its bureaucracies, and its mega-corporate clients, who together provide the sustenance and/or employment for a substantial majority of those atomistic social units we shamefully celebrate as "individuals."
The latter; powerless, fleeting, temporary, with no longevity or endurance, bend easily in the stronger winds of sustaining, durable concentrations of power, be they mediocre or not.