05
Jan
11

Unsung victories

I spent most of yesterday in — or between — airports.  I hate flying, partly because travel in general upsets my routine and makes me cranky, but mostly because it robs the traveler of the most basic forms of agency.  It’s not like you’re going to be able to pull an Airbus 319 onto the next offramp that advertises Arby’s, for example.  You spend your time waiting for someone else to give you permission to perform the most menial of tasks: sitting down, standing up, embarking, debarking, turning on your iPod.

On the other hand, it gave me plenty of time to read when I wasn’t rewriting The Fucking Dissertation‘s abstract for the nth time.  I took a two-chapter chunk out of Matt Ridley’s excellent The Rational Optimist, which I’m a bit ashamed not to have finished in one monomaniacal afternoon last July, but mostly I finished off Robert Coram’s outstanding biography of John Boyd.

Curiously for someone who became known as the ne plus ultra of fighter pilots, Boyd fought all of his recorded battles against entrenched bureaucracy.  As you’d expect, his (not inconsiderable) victories went unheralded and uncelebrated by The Powers That Be.  The theme of Boyd’s victories, and those of the people he influenced, is captured by this repeated quotation: “Guerrillas win wars, but they don’t march home to victory parades.”

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but as I went through the TSA checkpoint in Milwaukee I walked through an old-fashioned magnetometer, while a gleaming millimetre-wave pornoscanner — I swear it still had that new-car smell to it — sat cordoned off directly adjacent.  No junk was touched.  I noticed the same phenomenon as I walked past the vast array of TSA checkpoints at Chicago-O’Hare: pornoscanners gathering dust and Hands Of Blue manipulating radiograph knobs rather than passengers’ genitalia.  O’Hare’s pax actually seemed happier — well, this is ORD we’re talking about; let’s say less sociopathic instead — although that may have been my imagination.

I rather doubt that the DHS considers this to be anything other than a minor setback, and I’m well aware that two anecdotes are far from a representative data set (even though Jonathan Adler’s anecdote corroborates mine).  Still, it’s an encouraging sign.  And if the federal government does back down on this particular 4th Amendment violation, I suspect it’ll want to do so in as inconspicuous a manner as possible.

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1 Response to “Unsung victories”


  1. 1 Robert Coram
    January 5, 2011 at 13:18

    I like your taste in biographies.


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