26
Nov
10

Yep, still annoyed by the TSA political football

I had a rather pleasant travel day yesterday — I didn’t fucking travel.  It snowed rather heavily in Vancouver, and as Wet Coasters are honour-bound to do the city’s populace went fucko bazoo.  Also, we had our Thanksgiving holiday last month.

At any rate, the American punditocracy-commentariat complex is still in a tizzy about TSA pornoscanners and gropings, and as you’d expect the howls of outrage and shouts of support are splitting largely along party lines.  David Boaz sounds off on the split:

You gotta figure you’ve gone too far in the violation of civil liberties when you’ve lost Rick Santorum, George Will, Kathleen Parker, and Charles Krauthammer. (Gene Healy points out that conservatives are reaping what they sowed.)

[…]

Oh sure, civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald have criticized TSA excesses. But mainstream liberals have rallied around the Department of Homeland Security and its naked pictures: Dana Milbank channels John (“phantoms of lost liberty”) Ashcroft: “Republicans are providing the comfort [to our enemies]. They are objecting loudly to new airport security measures.” Ruth Marcus: “Don’t touch my junk? Grow up, America.” Eugene Robinson: “Be patient with the TSA.” Amitai Etzioni in the New Republic: “In defense of the ‘virtual strip-search.’” And finally, the editors of the New York Times: ”attacks are purely partisan and ideological.”

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

Does this mean that mainstream conservatives have suddenly found religion about the Fourth Amendment — perhaps in the garbages of mainstream progressives, who’ve finally yielded to Krauthammer-esque “you’re either with us or against us” arguments?  I rather doubt it: as soon as the Executive changes polarity again, conservatives will go right back to rallying around the flag and progressives will go right back to denouncing them.

It’s not just the usual political suspects who’re cavalierly dismissing the complaints of the molested traveler.  Over at PopeHat, Ken has put together a montage of depressing anecdotes together with major newspapers telling them to spread their legs and think of America:

The parallels between TSA apologists and rape apologists are uncanny and dispiriting.  (At any point now I’m expecting to read that women shouldn’t wear miniskirts to airports, ’cause that’s just begging for it.)  One of the common tropes of the TSA apologist is that it’s all about the traveler’s choices — you can choose to be leered at by scanner operators, or you can choose to be felt up by amateur urologists — whatever makes you happy.  But of course there’s more to it than that:

If they want to humiliate you in public, they’ll find an excuse.  Here’s another, from Sullivan’s blog:

The 4th Amendment allows for reasonable warrantless searches, but here we have a woman getting patted down because a nude image of her body revealed a piece of paper in her back pocket – that’s not reasonable. If this device is so wildly inaccurate (or if the security guards are so terribly trained) that it cannot tell the difference between something potentially dangerous and a Junior Deputy Sheriff sticker, then this is a goddamned sham.

God forbid you carry any paper in your pockets during the backscatter scan.  (Related note: last time I went through TSA screening at MKE — a much more pleasant experience than anything I’ve written about these last few days, I should add — I was admonished to keep my passport in my pocket at all times, lest I misplace it.)  It turns out that the “choice” you get at the security checkpoint is a fair bit less than it seems — unless the closest you get to making that choice is reading about it in a newspaper, of course.

Of course, like a rape victim who “chooses” to go to a bar, everyone searched by the TSA “chooses” to fly.  Here’s the LA Times on the matter:

If you can’t handle such a minor inconvenience, perhaps you should stay on the ground.

Great idea!  I far prefer driving to flying — this has been true since well before September 11th, 2001 — and, given the options, I don’t doubt that more travelers are going to come around to my point of view.  (Now if we could only get them into cars with manual transmissions… but I digress.)  One of the tradeoffs of driving rather than flying, however, is a vastly increased risk of death.  Drivers regularly crash their automobiles; pilots almost never crash their airplanes.  Granted that the risk of dying in a car crash is still pretty damn low — especially if you pay attention and know the rudiments of how tires work — but it’s far higher than the risk of dying in a plane crash, and multiplied over a few tens of millions of travelers even small risks add up to a lot of bodies.  Good job, TSA!

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