“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
‘Tis the season to be jolly. But then there’s the TSA. No government agency inspires “Bah Humbug” like the Transportation Safety Administration. For those who travel, the agency is 65,000 employees dressed in blue to make airline travel as annoying as possible.
Last week the House Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss common sense improvements for the agency in charge of transportation security but TSA boss John Pistole thinks he has it all figured out and refused to testify. The committee has no jurisdiction over his kingdom, so why show up? Pistole didn’t even send one of his minions to be grilled. This is the third time he’s snubbed the committee.
Christopher Elliott reported on the hearing for The Huntington Post,
One by one, panelists took turns excoriating the agency charged with protecting America’s transportation systems. It was plainly clear why Pistole was a no-show, and it had nothing to do with jurisdiction; it would have been an openly hostile crowd.
Charles Edwards, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general, described the TSA as bureaucratic and dysfunctional. Stephen Lord of the Government Accountability Office, suggested the agency was ignoring the thousands of complaints from air travelers. And Kenneth Dunlap, who represented the International Air Transport Association, criticized the current TSA as expensive, inconsistent and reactive.
The TSA screening area is a logic-free zone as my wife and I were reminded over the Thanksgiving holiday. Grandmothers never like to arrive empty-handed when they visit grandbabies. A wooden flintlock toy cap pistol for a little boy in New Jersey was tucked away in our carry-on luggage. The gun was not detected by the x-ray, but two bottles of hair product spurred the TSA agent to action.
His pawing through the luggage quickly uncovered the wooden flintlock and he gingerly pulled the toy out of from under some clothes. He nervously said he didn’t know what to do and needed a supervisor’s opinion.
We waited for a supervisor while the clocked ticked closer to our departure time. A young woman finally appeared. She asked what the toy was. “What’s it look like?” asked the exasperated grandmother. “I don’t know what it is,” the supervisor shot back, “and I won’t touch it until you tell me.”
“It’s a piece of wood carved in the shape of gun.” The young supervisor picked up the toy carefully and said she needed to consult her bosses. In the distance, I watched her hand the toy over to a group of TSA higher ups hanging around the central command post located behind the inspection lines.
Eventually the offending item was passed up to what looked to be a metro cop, who looked it over and passed it back with no conversation. The gathering of supervisors then inspected the wooden pistol again. Finally, without thought, one of them threw it (our property) in the trash.
While this pow-wow was taking place, a discussion ensued about us solving this problem by returning to the airline counter and checking the bag. The TSA screener supported that idea until the supervisor returned, with another supervisor in tow. “The gun can’t be taken on an airplane.”
We again make the mistake of believing that logic and reason are of some use with the TSA and calmly pointed out that the toy was not a gun. The supervisor countered that it was a replica of a weapon and TSA rules don’t allow replicas to be carried on planes. “OK, return our replica and we’ll go back and check our bag.”
The supervisor thought quickly, knowing they had already thrown the toy away. “You can’t store a replica of a weapon in luggage unless it’s in a hard case that’s locked.”
At this point my fellow traveler, who makes her living arguing in court, threw up her hands. “You deal with these people,” she fumed. “I can’t do it anymore.”
The supervisors then tried to convince me that they were really giving us a break. They should be writing us up for this offense and that we could be fined. I told them I didn’t want to hear their nonsense, finally sticking my forefingers in my ears and chanting “lalalalala.”
“Can I please just have my bag,” I pleaded with an eye on the ticking clock. “No, this bag hasn’t been cleared,” the screener said. Back through the x-ray it went. Again another problem, this time it was plastic curlers.
Finally, after eyeballing the curlers the screener and supervisor together determined the beauty aids passed muster.
“Thanks, I feel so much safer,” the aggravated grandmother told the supervisor as we finally left for our flight. Being trained or medicated not to react, the supervisor calmly replied, “have a nice day.”
Sadly this story isn’t unusual and pales in comparison to stories of molestation and theft by TSA employees. It was just an average day with the TSA.
“As this mushrooming agency has spun out of control,” chairman, John Mica, concluded last week, “passengers have not been well served.” He went on to say that the agency should be closed down or at least closed down as we know it.
If the political class were forced to fly commercial one wonders whether the TSA would exist at all. As it is, while every flyer complains and congress is well aware of the problem, the TSA’s head man is not accountable to anyone. All the while, on the ground, unionized TSA employees make up rules as they go along to suit their own purposes.
“TSA has become the butt of countless jokes,” Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance told the subcommittee. “TSA is set up like the Maginot Line, the poster child for generals fighting the last war.”
It’s no joke when government employees callously throw passengers’ property away. This is how all of government works. While most people don’t deal with government day-to-day, we get to enjoy the TSA up close and personal. For those who believe government has a role to play, remember the TSA is as effective, efficient and careful as any other government agency.
They are indeed fighting the last war. Safety isn’t the issue. The war is on us.