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Outrage and Opt-Outs will not Sway the TSA

While I have already noted today my general unhappiness with the direction of airport security procedures to add to the number of OTB posts on the subject (a few examples:  here, here and here), I suspect that opposition to the procedures will ultimately not matter much.  The bottom line is that Americans, in general, are scared of the possibility of another terrorist attack and therefore are going to be willing, in general, to do almost anything that they think will “keep us safe.”

As such, I am not surprised by polls such as those reported by Doug Mataconis earlier today that show overwhelming support for the full body scans, regardless of the privacy questions.  Some in the comment threads of various posts on this topic suggest that if frequent flyers were polled that the results would be different.  I would certainly welcome such polling (more data is always good), but I have my doubts about the findings being all that different.  Indeed, if fear is the primarily motivating factor here (which I believe it is), then one suspects that frequent flyers might have more anxiety about potential attacks on airplanes than non-flyers rather than less.

Further, if we consider the general blasé attitude toward (if not overwhelming support for) things like warrantless wiretaps when one side of the tap is in the United States, the use of torture on suspected terrorist (as well as their indefinite imprisonment without any kind of process), not to mention war,* then what makes any of us think that there will be widespread objection to full body scans, regardless of what they show, or even “enhanced” pat-downs that would be called groping in any other circumstance?

——-

*Specifically the Iraq War and the alleged WMD and terrorism threats (which, I will confess, I took seriously at the time as I mistakenly trusted the Bush administration’s presentation of information as well as their competence to execute the policy.  I was wrong on both counts.  I would further state that we remain in Afghanistan based less on likely security benefits, but rather fear of what might happen if we were to withdraw.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Nightrider says:

    Except for transvestites there don’t seem to be any surprises here. I’d let them print the picture and autograph it if they’d just let me keep my shoes on, not have to put my computer in a separate bin and carry on a 4oz liquid.

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  2. Steve Verdon says:

    The bottom line is that Americans, in general, are scared of the possibility of another terrorist attack and therefore are going to be willing, in general, to do almost anything that they think will “keep us safe.”

    What is that quote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    Basically I’m with Nightrider. Then again, I’m not Brad Pitt. Anyone wishing to experience the horror of seeing me semi-nude is welcome to the image. Maybe I could license the image with the cautionary caption, “This Is What Happens When You’re Lazy and Vice-ridden.” Just don’t make me take my f—ing shoes off — I don’t like loafers — or publicly display the various creams, ointments and gels that keep me semi-human.

    Just a note, Steven: please don’t keep using the term “Polling” in close proximity to the acronym TSA. God knows what they Google, and for lack of a single ‘L” the entire flying experience could be infinitely worse.

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  4. Tano says:

    ” I would further state that we remain in Afghanistan based less on likely security benefits, but rather fear of what might happen if we were to withdraw.”

    I realize this is not the main point of your post, but isn’t the prevention of what we sense (quite rationally) might happen if we withdraw, a legitimate security goal, whose achievement would constitute a security benefit?

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  5. Tano says:

    Ya know,,,its kinda a cheap shot to refer to “fear” as the great motivator. Since that carries with it the accusation that somehow one’s reaction is irrational, and generally not quite manly. If one is made aware of a legitimate threat regarding those who wish to kill you, is taking steps to prevent that properly considered a reaction out of fear? Or is it rational self-interest? Or both?

    If either of the latter two, the question suggested is – so what? So what if it is “fear” that is motivating these actions, if by fear you mean a rational response to a credible threat?

    Terrorists have tried, in the very recent past, to murder hundreds of us by detonating plastic explosives on airplanes. Those in the loop seem to feel that this was not a one-off or two-off, but the latest fad in terrorism. How do you propose we stop that? What would be the consequences if an attack succeeds, not just for the victims, but aviation in general, the economy tied to aviation, the morale and further motivation of the terrorists?

    What is wrong with throwing up a lot of barriers to them? No, maybe none of them is absolute, but they all serve as potential stopping points for attempts, and overall deterrents.

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  6. TG Chicago says:

    Further, if we consider the general blasé attitude toward (if not overwhelming support for) things like warrantless wiretaps when one side of the tap is in the United States, the use of torture on suspected terrorist (as well as their indefinite imprisonment without any kind of process), not to mention war,* then what makes any of us think that there will be widespread objection to full body scans, regardless of what they show, or even “enhanced” pat-downs that would be called groping in any other circumstance?

    The answer to this is quite simple: everything you mentioned other than the TSA’s groping/porn shot campaign happens to “other people”. At least in the mind of the supporter of those things. It’s easy to support war if you don’t have to fight in it. It’s easy to support “terrorist surveillance” if you assume that your phone will never be tapped. It’s easy to get behind torture when only the “bad guys” are getting tortured. Sure, you can point out plenty of stories of the destruction and costs of war or the fact that innocents have been tortured, but with enough denial, one can still support those things.

    But if it’s your testicles being fondled, it suddenly becomes a lot more real.

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  7. TG Chicago says:

    @Tano: Wanting to avoid being killed is rational. But most of the security theater is irrational and does nothing to help prevent attacks.

    Two things post 9/11 have made us safer: (1) securing cockpit doors and (2) the fact that passengers now know to fight back (a lesson that was learned while the fourth plane was still in the air).

    That’s it. The rest of this is just window dressing and government power-grab.

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    A true story on fear and overreaction.

    Many years ago there was this guy who hated me. (I know: hard to imagine!) He attacked one night and happened to ram his arm though a reinforced glass door and severed an artery. (I had a 14 inch chef’s knife behind the door and didn’t need to use it.)

    We call an ambulance, they guy thinks he’s dying so on his death bed he confesses that he was jealous of me for reasons that are immaterial now.

    I concluded that as soon as he was well he’d regret his confession and try again. So I bought a Colt 45 auto.

    For those not familiar with weapons, the Colt 45 isn’t exactly a target pistol. It has precisely one use: killing a human being.

    I kept it in my house. But then I started to think, well, what if he came after me in my car? So I carried it in my car as well. Then I thought, what about work? So pretty soon I was carrying it everywhere.

    Then, one night, with my sister, my girlfriend and my best friend in the room, I accidentally fired it. It would have taken just a bit more elevation for me to have had a very different life, and at least one of them to have no life at all.

    I traded the 45 for a 35 mm SLR camera. Have not owned a gun since. My foe died a broken down drunk. I never regretted getting rid of the gun.

    My overreaction was infinitely more dangerous than a more rational alternative — better locks? — would have been. In the end, it turned out I had nothing to fear. Except of course for my own gun.

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  9. @ TG Chicago: I’d argue that universal X-raying and inspection of checked luggage has also been worthwhile, and am surprised it took until after 9/11 to be adopted, considering that’s exactly what would have prevented Pan Am 103 and was already imposed outside the U.S. in the 1990s.

    But the rest is pretty silly in the grand scheme of things and aimed more at preventing “amateurs” like the UndieBomber from getting in position to make mischief (which would most likely quickly be stopped by passengers or flight attendants, but would make TSA look bad for not capturing them at security) rather than any organized terrorist plot.

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  10. @Tano:

    Actually, I am very much asserting irrationality here (although I have no idea how manliness would be an issue). Take, for example, Afghanistan. I see no reason to assume that we are substantially decreasing our odds of further terrorist attack via our policies there. To assume so is to irrationally assume that Afghanistan is the only place in the world where al Qaeda and their ilk can plan/launch attacks. This is an especially problematic position to take when we recognize that the last several attempted attacks have come from Yemen (which is nowhere near Afghanistan save in the sense that it is “over there” someplace).

    I am not saying it is irrational to be concerned about possible terrorist attacks. I am, however, saying that much of our policies, attitudes, and assumptions about how to prevent such attacks are very much irrational.

    I think, further that Michael’s story is illustrative and very much on point and that TG Chicago and Chris make very valid points on this topic.

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  11. Pamela S. says:

    Steven – Your assertions about frequent flyers being even MORE willing to blindly accept “security” measures couldn’t be more wrong. I am a frequent flyer, and my husband is a half-million miles a year frequent flyer. He, like any of the other FFs you might ask (check out the threads on flyertalk.com, for instance), could probably each give you at least 50 stories of how they have personally experienced or witnessed “security theater” in action, methods that do nothing to actually maintain security. These frequent flyers are probably more up in arms about this all than anyone else. 1) Because of the annoyances mentioned above, and 2) Because they know that it all does very little, if anything at all, to secure our airports & air travel.

    Everything TG Chicago said above is right on the money. In Doug’s post earlier today I claimed the same thing – as more people experience this for themselves (ie holiday travel coming up) the common man will become more enraged and will see the antics for what they are – theater, and not actual security.

    But you’re right. Outrage won’t change anything. However, I’m assuming (hoping?) the research coming out proving the health risks associated with the scanners, and the upcoming civil liberty lawsuits, will do the trick.

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  12. D.C. Russell says:

    Reports of these polls suggesting that most people are happy with the growing police state don’t tell us what specific questions were asked or what the results might be if the questions were worded differently.

    For example, what would be the results if the questions were like:

    Would you find it acceptable adults fondle your child’s genitals? Have you told your children that it is now ok for adults to touch them?

    Should the government be taking pornographic pictures?

    Do you believe that elected officials and government employeesshould be required to honor the oaths of office they swear to?

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  13. @Pamela:

    I have no doubt that you and many other FFs feel that way (and I have, actually, seen some of the discussion board you have mentioned).

    Conversely, I heard just just yesterday a conversation amongst several flyers who felt that the whole process was there to make the planes safe and that people should stop their whining about these rules.

    Granted, this is anecdote versus anecdote, and hence my statement was, as noted, a guess and a poll would be most helpful.

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    I think a single, practical consideration overrides everything else: if a Democratic administration relaxes a single rule, and another incident occurs, the Republicans and media will crucify them, even if it had nothing to do with the change in rule. Given that reality, and the fact that “making airline travel more convenient for people is probably number 282 on their priority list I can’t think of a single reason why they would risk such an outcome. There simply is no significant upside and a horrendous downside.

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  15. PD Shaw says:

    No more than one in three American adults flew last year (via Nate Silver). As a similarly infrequent flyer, I don’t care about full body scans. I have browsed some of these stories to figure our why I should care, and still I don’t care. Everything I’ve read presumes that I should care. This entry says I’m scared, but really I don’t care. This may purely be self-interest, since the scans pose no cost on me and have the potential benefits of preventing me, loved ones or fellow countrymen from being killed.

    What I wonder is what privacy advocates are scared of? Are they afraid that their pictures will end up on porn sides to be used as w*nk material? That a piece of their identity has been stolen? Slippery slopes to wherever? (See what I did there?)

    Privacy as a public interest concern is a theoretic construct, a little more than a hundred years old. It is a privilege of class. Most of us don’t have the self-esteem (or narcissism) to worry that blurred alien pictures of ourselves are going to be widely dissimenated when we have to compete with people widely distributed their own sexcapades in (relatively) high res.

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  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Tano,

    Terrorists have tried, in the very recent past, to murder hundreds of us by detonating plastic explosives on airplanes. Those in the loop seem to feel that this was not a one-off or two-off, but the latest fad in terrorism. How do you propose we stop that?

    The backscatter scanners can’t detect plastique. So, really, they’re kind of useless to prevent someone from using plastic explosives on an airplane.

    That said, the most reliable way to to detonate plastic explosives is an electronic detonator.

    Which by necessity contains… metal.

    Which can be detected by metal detectors.

    You will note that previous attempts to use plastic explosives on planes failed due to an inability to detonate. Because they wouldn’t be able to get detonators past the metal detectors.

    So the levels of security pre-full body scanners were perfectly adequate to address the threat you want to reduce.

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  17. Alex Knapp says:

    @PD Shaw –

    I have browsed some of these stories to figure our why I should care, and still I don’t care.

    Because law enforcement officers should not have the right to strip search people without probable cause, that’s why. I don’t want to live in a police state. I want to live in a Constitutional Republic.

    This may purely be self-interest, since the scans pose no cost on me and have the potential benefits of preventing me, loved ones or fellow countrymen from being killed.

    Actually, the opposite is true. The full body scanners aren’t capable of detecting threats that can’t be detected through metal detectors. Plus, the quantity of radiation has not been disclosed despite FOIA requests, so it’s possible that repeated expsoure could lead to health hazards.

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  18. PD Shaw says:

    “. . . to strip search people . . .”

    Well, that would be the answer then. I would bet 81% of Americans don’t consider a full body scan to be a strip search. It’s not that they are scared, but they equate the scan in degrees of intrusiveness with an x-ray.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    PD Shaw. Just to be clear, there are two separate things that go on here. One is going through the machine and being irradiated. The second is a) having an anomaly on the scan or b) being randomly picked or c) not wanting to get irradiated, in which case someone runs his hands all over your body and feels up your crotch with the edge of his hand. If you are a woman, the screener rubs her hand under and between your breasts. You can elect to have this done in front of the several hundred people waiting in line, or getting led off to a secure holding area where someone, sometime will come by and perform the same actions.

    I am dreading going through this with my wife, who has an artificial knee and therefore will get felt up every single time. The idea of having someone grope my wife in front of everyone is getting me angry even as I sit her typing this, but she is stubborn and I know if we are running late for a flight probably won’t want to risk missing it by going into the private screening area. And the h*ll if someone is going to grope my 13 year old daughter in public. Missed flight or not. Government “troublemaker” list or not. And in private is still a bad choice, as I don’t want her to be alone in there but of course she would be mortified to have me there (as would I). If her mother isn’t with us, we’ll be driving.

    This just sucks. And I cannot fathom why you think it is OK.

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  20. Steve Verdon says:

    Ya know,,,its kinda a cheap shot to refer to “fear” as the great motivator.

    It appears to be what motivates you, so why is it a cheap shot? You like the scanners because they enhance your feeling (real or not) of security. That is fear related.

    Since that carries with it the accusation that somehow one’s reaction is irrational, and generally not quite manly.

    Fear is a natural normal response. If you didn’t feel it I’d conclude you were some sort of psychopath. So there is no slight towards your character or masculinity. Simply for feeling fear.

    If one is made aware of a legitimate threat regarding those who wish to kill you, is taking steps to prevent that properly considered a reaction out of fear? Or is it rational self-interest? Or both?

    Based on just the above, yes, yes, and both.

    If either of the latter two, the question suggested is – so what? So what if it is “fear” that is motivating these actions, if by fear you mean a rational response to a credible threat?

    I would suggest it depends on how you deal with it. As has been pointed out so far all nearly successful attempts to blow up planes or terrorist incidents on planes have been thwarted with the help of passengers. The watch lists, the screenings, etc. have all failed in these incidents. Government has failed. The security you go through is kabuki, for show. It makes you feel safe, but the increase in safety is likely minimal.

    Your reaction has been to grant increasing power to those who have failed vs. trying to improve the existing processes. Why did the watch list system fail for the Christmas bomber? Well the CIA asked that he not be put on the list cause it would jeopardize an investigation? Seems to me that should be reconsidered. Letting a strongly suspected terrorist fly around on airplanes when the his own father is telling us he’s worried his son has fallen in with Islamic extremists is probably a recipe for disaster. Letting the CIA prevent someone from being put on the watch list suggests that the government is doing a calculus in terms of human lives being lost vs. saved. This all seems at odds/problematic with your protestations that you want to prevent the un-necessary loss of life. It also suggest a level of credulity regarding the infallibility of our government that is…well shocking…but were you thinking this way say 4 years ago too?

    Terrorists have tried, in the very recent past, to murder hundreds of us by detonating plastic explosives on airplanes. Those in the loop seem to feel that this was not a one-off or two-off, but the latest fad in terrorism. How do you propose we stop that?

    How about putting those suspected of being terrorists or having strong links to extremist groups on watch lists. If you want to run those people through a naked scanner or pat them down fine. You know, doing something kind of like what was supposed to have been done in the first place? Yeah, I know crazy.

    What would be the consequences if an attack succeeds, not just for the victims, but aviation in general, the economy tied to aviation, the morale and further motivation of the terrorists?

    Apparently the government via the CIA did that calculus and they were cool with those consequences. This is why your attitude of “Well gee the government says it enhances our safety so I’m all for it!” makes me scratch my head and say, “Huh?” One part of the government is quite willing to take the risk of having that bad state occur. Another branch says, “NO!” and wants more power to fondle travelers an take nude scans of their bodies.

    Further, this issue is really one of an arms race. We develop security measure X that reduces our rights, perhaps in a small way perhaps not. Then the terrorists find a way around that, so we come up with a new method of stopping them. This new way might again reduce our rights again possibly in a small way or not. Is it a slippery slope? Yes, but I think I’ve explained the underlying dynamic as to why we should be concerned and not take the Michael Reynolds of approach of, “Meh, whatever.”

    What is the solution? How about looking for solutions that don’t necessitate reducing our rights, or failing that opting for the methods that cost us the least? That would be my overall approach. In a way it is conservative (note the small ‘c’).

    And to echo Alex Knapp’s point, in previous comments I’ve linked to GAO reports on the questionable efficacy these new scanners would have at detecting plastic explosive devices. I’ve also read that terrorists are talking now about surgically implanting such devices. What about secreting some of the components in body cavities?

    I’ve suggested using dog’s before. These new scanners are going to cost billions. In the U.S. there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands dogs put down in shelter systems each year. Many of them would likely have what it takes to work as explosive detection dogs. And as an added bonus they are mobile. They can check passengers, luggage, airplanes, and other parts of the airport. With children we’d have kids wanting to be “searched”. I’ve even suggested the American Pit Bull terrier as an ideal breed given that there are a vast number in the shelter system, they are an awesome working dog when trained well, and when well breed simply love people. They’d love walking up and sniffing everyone in a line. Select those with the desired traits for explosive detection and you have a mobile scanner.

    As I quipped earlier, down with the nanny state, up with the nanny dog (the APBT)!

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  21. mantis says:

    The idea of having someone grope my wife in front of everyone is getting me angry even as I sit her typing this

    As it did me, when my mother was groped this past weekend, after going through the metal detector and the back scatter machine, both with no apparent suspicious results. She’s in her 60s and was returning from a birthday visit to her grandson.

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  22. matt says:

    BUT STEVE APBTs ARE MAN EATING MURDERING MACHINES!!!! As someone that has a mixed puppy and relatives with pure bred APBTs I can say that not only do they greatly love humans but they do work their nose quite well thanks to their high prey drive and high desire to please.. ON the flip side your suggestion would help rehabilitate the breed as people are forced to interact with well trained examples and hopefully lose a little of their irrational fear.

    Micheal : If you’re accidentally discharging a firearm then I fully agree with your decision that guns are not for you. I’m glad no one was hurt in the process of you discovering this and I’m glad you wouldn’t of needed the gun anyway.

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  23. michael reynolds says:

    Steve:

    Yes, but I think I’ve explained the underlying dynamic as to why we should be concerned and not take the Michael Reynolds of approach of, “Meh, whatever.”

    That was more of a throw-away line on my part than a considered position. My second comment is closer to my real feelings, that paranoia often ends up doing the greater harm.

    Interestingly my 13 year-old has been pushing me on this issue. He’s very troubled by the TSA’s new policies — many in his geek community are — and he’s convincing me.

    I’ve just come home from Australia where we kept our shoes on. And Australia has suffered enough serious terrorism (Bali) that they have a right to be paranoid. Nevertheless they seem to be comfortable with slightly less intrusive approaches. There’s a certain eye-rolling reaction to the TSA there — announcements at airports specify that certain things are due to American requirements.

    As it happens I flew an Airbus 380 going over and was probably in greater danger from Rolls Royce engines or perhaps from Qantas’ cost-cutting on maintenance than from Al Qaeda.

    The problem is that if we eliminate the scanners and the fondling and we have another major incident — whether or not those measures would have been relevant — the American people will likely roll over for even more extreme measures. In the long term we have a philosophical problem. I know you cringe a bit when I say things like that, but we have a population raised to believe that all risk can and should be avoided. That’s a problem of core philosophy and will determine our reactions going forward. (Hence my little parable about the gun.)

    Life is risk. Eliminating risk is a pipe dream, and wouldn’t be a good idea even if it were possible. Balance is necessary in all things.

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  24. michael reynolds says:

    Matt:

    Micheal : If you’re accidentally discharging a firearm then I fully agree with your decision that guns are not for you.

    By definition accidents can happen to anyone. Guns are a particularly bad bet in that the risk of accident is relatively high, and very destructive when it does happen, while the benefits of owning a gun are essentially non-existent outside of macho fantasies and political paranoia.

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  25. Steve Verdon says:

    The problem is that if we eliminate the scanners and the fondling and we have another major incident — whether or not those measures would have been relevant — the American people will likely roll over for even more extreme measures.

    So Cripin Sartwell’s comments

    “The terrorist hate our freedom. But we should comfortable with that. We hate our freedom too.”

    Isn’t too far off the mark.

    In the long term we have a philosophical problem. I know you cringe a bit when I say things like that, but we have a population raised to believe that all risk can and should be avoided. That’s a problem of core philosophy and will determine our reactions going forward. (Hence my little parable about the gun.)

    Understood. However, if we really do have this issue with risk and avoidance, then shouldn’t we at least be honest about it and state up front: we are trading freedom, perhaps in small degrees, for less risk?

    Seriously, this is the kind of despotism that de Tocqueville warned about about 150 years ago or so. It isn’t the boot-in-the-face kind from 1984 but the, “here, we are going to help you, nurture you and take care of you” kind. No, don’t smoke that, don’t drink that, drink this, don’t eat that, that’s too much. Go for a walk. Get up, go to bed. Don’t live there. Marry her. We live in the land of the free supposedly but incarcerate a huge percentage of our population, a large number for doing nothing more than putting something in their bodies other people object too. I know you think, “Oh that Steve he’s our cuddly minarchist (okay maybe not that cuddly)”, but there is de Tocqueville as well who saw this potential.

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  26. Steve Verdon says:

    As someone that has a mixed puppy and relatives with pure bred APBTs I can say that not only do they greatly love humans but they do work their nose quite well thanks to their high prey drive and high desire to please.. ON the flip side your suggestion would help rehabilitate the breed as people are forced to interact with well trained examples and hopefully lose a little of their irrational fear.

    Exactly Matt. Exactly. A great resource that is being wasted, IMO. And not only that, it is America’s dog too. Back in the early 1900’s that was the dog that represented America and the American spirit.

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  27. michael reynolds says:

    Steve:

    You’re preaching to the choir on that, man. In fact to such an extent in my case that I almost don’t like thinking about it because then the “Everyone just f**k off and leave me the f**k alone,” rage starts to build in me.

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  28. matt says:

    Michael : I grew up in a gun owning family with a healthy respect for handling firearms. Most of my family hunts with everything from bows to black powder rifles. Part of my family have used firearms to defend their homes/livestock from cougars coyotes feral dogs etc. I used to target shoot a crapton as a kid (cannot afford to these days but I still enjoy the challenge of clay pigeons etc). NONE of us have ever had an accident and there’s no stories of our great grandpas etc having one either. So yes accidents can happen to anyone but I would argue that it’s possible to reduce the chance of an accident to a very low chance.

    TLDR : My family has many uses for their guns and we haven’t had any accidents for many decades.

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  29. Steve Verdon says:

    You’re preaching to the choir on that, man. In fact to such an extent in my case that I almost don’t like thinking about it because then the “Everyone just f**k off and leave me the f**k alone,” rage starts to build in me.

    Time for a scotch!

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  30. michael reynolds says:

    Steve:

    Excellent suggestion. Just let me finish off this fillet wrapped in extra-cruelty bacon, mix my recyclables in with my regular trash, turn my AC down too low and my music too high and fire up one of the Cubans I snuck through customs and I’ll join you.

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  31. Tano says:

    “You like the scanners because they enhance your feeling (real or not) of security.”

    The way you phrase this is meant to sound plausible, but it is quite inaccurate. It has nothing to do with my “feelings”. I don’t “feel” threatened in any way by flying. Intellectually, I am aware that there are terrorists who try to blow up planes, and intellectually I am aware that security measures are put in place to stop that. The measures seem reasonable to me given the known modes of attack, so I accept them.

    “As has been pointed out so far all nearly successful attempts to blow up planes or terrorist incidents on planes have been thwarted with the help of passengers. The watch lists, the screenings, etc. have all failed in these incidents”

    Sure, they have failed in THESE incidents. No measures are fool-proof. That is why you have layers of security. That is why it is foolish to focus on one layer, argue persuasively that it is not fool-proof, and then conclude that we should not do it.
    The watch lists, for example, may well have succeeded in stopping any number of attacks before they had a chance to happen. Maybe even before the terrorists had a chance to do a dry run. Same with the deeper intelligence work. I don’t see the point of looking at the few instances where the terrorists got through to the final line of defense, and thus conclude that it is only the final line of defense which has any value.

    “The security you go through is kabuki, for show. It makes you feel safe, but the increase in safety is likely minimal.”

    I simply disagree with this. It strikes me as an altogether cheap and lazy point. Millions of people go through security, and millions minus one or two of those encounters could be called “theater” – because, of course, they entail an examination of an innocent person. But they do succeed in stopping some weapons from getting through, and we dont know what would the owners of them had in mind, and of course, the very presence of the security system, and the known parameters of its execution may very well deter countless numbers of attacks.

    It is not easy to get a bomb or a weapon on a US flight. I imagine a clever, resourceful terrorist might find a way, but they would have to be both smart and lucky. If it were dead simple to do so, do you really think that there would be no attacks that took advantage of that?

    ”Your reaction has been to grant increasing power to those who have failed vs. trying to improve the existing processes.”

    As I said, I think the rate of failure is impressively low. Aviation security in America is at an extremely high level. How many flights and how many fliers do we have per year? How many successful penetrations of security? How on earth can you characterize this system as a failure?
    The scanners and pat-downs ARE an attempt to improve the existing processes.

    “It also suggest a level of credulity regarding the infallibility of our government…”

    Huh? Where did I ever say that anyone, much less the government, is infallible? Don’t be silly. I have no problem with resolving some of the problems you pointed out. That is the way you get better. Find the problems and solve them. The scanners and pat-downs are simply that – another attempt to protect against known threats.

    “How about putting those suspected of being terrorists or having strong links to extremist groups on watch lists.”

    gee, now there is a brilliant idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?

    ” If you want to run those people through a naked scanner or pat them down fine.”

    Actually. lets not let them fly at all!!! We could call it a “no-fly” list. Clever, eh?

    “How about looking for solutions that don’t necessitate reducing our rights, or failing that opting for the methods that cost us the least? ”

    Hey, I can agree with that. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that I do not feel that having a TSA agent catch a momentary glimpse at a grainy black and white outline of my penis is some great intrusion on my rights.

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  32. Franklin says:

    Okay Tano, let’s follow the science (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/11/16/5477568-are-airport-x-ray-scanners-harmful):

    “While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it’s about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist”

    It’s a wash, meaning the only possible benefit of these systems is gone. So considering the many drawbacks, they should be removed immediately.

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  33. […] me@OTB: Click. addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19467'; addthis_title = […]

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  34. Alabama Moderate says:

    I’m not a fan of extra radiation, so I’ll happily submit to a pat-down. But I’m going to require that I be allowed to make smarmy pick-up remarks at the security personnel including but not limited to humming porn music.

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