The TSA, Ron Guenther and Dennis Rodman

I’m not flying tomorrow, but if I were, I would be up for participating in National Opt-Out Day (if the choice were on the table), the protest against TSA overstepping its bounds with new backscatter machines and “enhanced” pat-down procedures.

I should stop here and note that I think the TSA is a total waste of resources and could (and should) be entirely replaced by other entities that can be chosen by individual airports, or even airlines. The benefit of developing and enforcing national standards for airport security escapes me – it’s akin to all the football teams in the Big Ten selecting one uniform playbook, and then posting it online. I wonder what teams from other conferences would do with that knowledge?

But back on point – I see two entirely legitimate reasons for not wanting to go through the backscatter machine: 1) there’s radiation involved, and speaking personally, I’d like to save up my radiation exposure for when I really need it (and really, aren’t the red flags raised by these researchers enough to at least give you pause?); and 2) you’re getting essentially a naked photo taken by a government agency. Here’s what the process looks like:

Hey, maybe you’re okay with that. I guess that’s your prerogative. But if not, your alternatives are a) be groped by a TSA employee or b) pay over $10K in fines. I’m pretty sure nobody is okay with the latter two options, so if you’re not down with the scanner, things are looking pretty bleak for you. Especially if you’ve got a urostomy bag or a prosthetic breast.

What really needs to be asked is how long we want to put up with the charade we go through at the airport. Mini-bottles for liquids and shoes going through the scanner – it’s all so reactive it’s comical. “Bomb in a shoe? We’ll take of that, no more shoe-wearing in the security line!” “Underwear bomber? Now we’re going to look through your clothes! Problem solved!” (Oh, wait.)

Oddly, it reminds me of two coaching searches conducted by my alma mater that were simply attempts to correct whatever flaw ended the previous tenure. When an ambitious, ladder-climbing guy (Bill Self) left us in the lurch, we went out looking for a guy that was loyal above all else (Bruce Weber). When we fired the disinterested recruiter (Ron Turner) we went after the guy that recruited like a maniac (Ron Zook). A few NIT and bowl-less seasons later, I think the pitfalls of guarding almost exclusively against yesterday’s problems are evident.

The thing is, this would maybe be palatable if the TSA were using these techniques to catch terrorists left and right, but they’re not really catching them at all. Attacks on planes are either thwarted before the perpetrators get to the airport or after they’re already on the plane and the other passengers realize what’s going on. That’s because the actual on-site airport security is just mindlessly looking for predetermined suspicious objects, like the man looking for his lost keys under the streetlight because it’s dark everywhere else – as Mona Charen pleads today, look for terrorists, not weapons. To her example of Israeli security tactics – which usually involve the cutting edge approach of asking questions – think about how many times in our current security process you’re checked to make sure you actually are who you say you are. Once. And usually with a level of rigor that would embarrass a campus bar bouncer.

This has also been a pretty visible example of partisan tribalism. Those on the left who were (rightfully) up in arms about the privacy violations involved in wiretapping are now more or less fine with the privacy violations involved in the government physically reaching into your pants, with the only real difference being that their team is now in charge (probably not surprising, since they’re also keeping mum on the government’s bid to assassinate American citizens). It’s just like how as Bulls fans, we loathed Dennis Rodman for his shenanigans with the Pistons and then were completely fine with them once he was helping roll up 72 wins; except, you know, with alarming consequences for freedom and stuff.

But I digress – here’s a good piece from Art Carden on the tradeoffs involved.

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