A creeping sense of disquiet disturbs me. Over the past several months, in which I have banished myself from these pages, I have been fighting a growing sense of amorphous unease — nothing I could quite put my finger on, until now.
And it’s this: have we finally reached the point where things are so out of hand that some kind of major disruption is inevitable? It seems more and more likely to me. And it’s the little things that really bother me.
In Nevada, armed federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management descend on a rancher and confiscate his cattle for non-payment of use fees. Seems simple enough — until we are advised that the issue is not fees or taxes at all. It appears that Senator Harry Reid and his son need the land — now federally-owned — for the private development of a huge solar farm. And, according to Reuters, Reid’s partners have deep pockets and long arms:
“[Reid] and his oldest son, Rory, are both involved in an effort by a Chinese energy giant, ENN Energy Group, to build a $5 billion solar farm and panel manufacturing plant in the southern Nevada desert.”
Then there are big things: A perennially-upbeat Kathleen Sibelius assures us repeatedly that “the exchanges are working,” when it is plain to all, including the administration’s most ardent supporters, they aren’t, in any meaningful sense of the word “working.” More recently, she announces that the administration has hit its target of 7 million newly-insured Americans by its third or fourth “extended” deadline. But, in fact, this did not come close to happening — and again, everyone knows it. Seven million people “enrolled.” How many actually will get insurance is unknowable. How many are simply replacing plans cancelled by the ACA is simply not known, because no one in DC wants us to know. Suddenly, with no prior hint or warning in the media, Sibelius gets unceremoniously booted out on her ass, after a highly-publicized kabuki dinner with Valerie Jarrett — but not before one hilarious final fuckup. At her last presser, she is compelled to reveal that she is missing the last page of her speech. She leaves her office with a perfect record.
Little things. In Florida, an agent of the Census Bureau rings the doorbell at a private home and announces that the home has been “randomly selected” for a detailed questionnaire, and requests admission. The homeowner declines to participate — which is his right. When he leaves his home, the same agent again rings the doorbell. When a housekeeper answers, the agent again requests admission. The agent is again refused. What next? Battering rams?
More little things: Here in New York City, a story breaks that the police have been routinely shackling shooting victims in hospitals with leg restraints and handcuffs if they have an outstanding warrant. Most of these warrants are for petty offenses — unpaid parking tickets, and so on. One victim had been arrested for public consumption of an alcoholic beverage when he carried a cup of wine from a backyard barbeque to talk to someone on the street. The police department explained patiently that this was just “procedure.” This is the same kind of thinking that police use to justify sending swat teams to deal with domestic disturbances, or approach traffic stops with weapons drawn. Now we are told that the military is offering surplus Bradley armored personnel carriers to small town police departments. Did it occur to anyone that if hundreds — thousands, perhaps — of these cute toys in the hands of various would-be heroes, some of them will find an excuse to use them? This approaches insanity.
We’ve already accepted the idea that we should expect to be searched like a felon every time we fly. The battle for private communications is lost — the NSA et. al. have clearly proven that they can intercept our emails, store our telephone records and pretty much do as they please, even to the point of eliminating supervision by the judicial system. The IRS as an instrument of political power is now assumed. Again, what next?
Don’t worry. All this is nothing new. Power has always been abused, and will be. We have had incompetent politicians, and corrupt ones. We have been reading stories like this for a long time now, and the republic continues. Why then should I be uneasy?
There’s a story about a sparkling clear pond that has one square foot of scum growing on its surface. But the scum doubles its size every day. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the scum grows until the pond is one-eighth covered. The next day, it’s one quarter. And then….