Rage against the x-ray machine
The criticism of tomorrow’s mass protest against airport scanners highlights how much liberals have become detached from liberty
The casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that this Wednesday, the day before Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, is going to be a day to remember.
According to Opt Out Day, ‘it’s the day ordinary [American] citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty and…’ And what? Rights, liberty – that’s grand-sounding stuff. So what else are Americans being urged to stand up for? What else are Americans being called upon to protest? Something equally impressive, right? Yes, that’s right, 24 November is the day ordinary citizens rise up and protest against ‘the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an “enhanced pat down” that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner’.
In short, it’s the day Americans stick it to the airport security man.
Despite the po-faced, snigger-worthy phrasing, this isn’t such a ridiculous cause. As anyone who has travelled by aeroplane in the past 10 years can attest, the level of airport security is absurd. No liquids. Take off your shoes. Show us your laptop. The level of uniform scrutiny – where even OAPs have to pad, barefooted, through the x-ray arches – is a genuine triumph of rules over reason.
But what’s really got certain people riled in the US are the new x-ray machines. Clearly designed by a teenage boy, these contraptions produce three-dimensional images of passengers in such detail that genitalia are outlined and breasts highlighted. For those passengers unwilling to submit to such imaging – on the grounds that it’s a bit intrusive – they get the ‘pat down’ treatment, a thorough, uninhibited frisking which touches what the x-ray can only outline. It was clearly the prospect of having his penis caressed by airport security that made an ‘opt out day’ martyr of software engineer John Tyner a couple of weeks ago. ‘If you touch my junk’, he shouts on the obligatory YouTube video, ‘I’ll have you arrested’. He is a supporter of the new campaign group, at optoutday.com.
The increasingly vocal objections to the invasive rigmarole of airport security have not met with universal support, however. The UK Guardian’s Richard Adams, for instance, responded with disdain. For Adams, not wanting to be viewed as a potential terrorist, not wanting to be treated as 3D object of suspicion, is not a sign of self-respect – it’s a sign of self-regard. ‘This is the revenge of the How-Dare-You generation’, he rails. ‘How dare you tell me what to do! How dare you look at me! How dare you touch my junk! Sexual assault! I hate you mommy!’ The fact that resisting authority, standing up to the arbitrary exercise of power, necessarily involves a bit of don’t-tell-me-what-to-do spunk seems to have escaped Adams.
It’s not hard to fathom why this has slipped Adams’ attention. He doesn’t see the content of the protest. He doesn’t see its rationale. He sees only a caricature of its protagonists. They’re mad. They’re right wing. They’re Tea Partiers. Heck, they’re probably racist, too. After all why would anyone object to excessive airport security? It keeps us safe, for chrissakes. Adams’ outlook is at one with the state. ‘Personally, I’d like to take a flight knowing that the plane is less likely to be blown up or hijacked and rammed into a building full of people’, he says. ‘Alternatively, I’d like to be able to work in a tall building in New York City, Washington DC or even London without having a 747 flown into it.’
I’m with Adams on this. I, too, would like to take a flight confident that it won’t be blown up or hijacked or rammed into a building. The same goes for working in a tall building without worrying about jumbo jets being flown into the cafeteria. Call me human or something, but that sense of self-preservation, of not wanting to die, is something I definitely share with Adams. And I would bet that those whom Adams lampoons as right-wing loons – like the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who supports Opt Out Day – feel the same.
It’s just that the constantly expanding set of airport security measures does not actually make us safer. In fact, it doesn’t do much at all, except demean and annoy passengers. Little wonder that British Airways chairman Martin Broughton recently felt moved to suggest that laptop checks and shoe removal are completely pointless exercises. ‘We all know there’s quite a number of elements in the security programme which are completely redundant and they should be sorted out’, he said. Besides which, terrorist plots do not tend to be foiled by the vigilant x-ray machine operators or frisking officials with super-sensitive cuticles. They tend to be foiled before the would-be terrorists even get to the airport, through targeted intelligence operations.
To be fair, the ever-expanding number of security measures at airports is not entirely without effect. It does reassure us that there is something to be frightened of. Because if you weren’t worried about international terrorism before you entered an airport, there’s enough fear-stoking procedures within to ensure that you’re fully signed up to the ‘war on terror’ upon departing.
But for those who are less keen to live their lives according to the mindset of terrorists, there is something to be said in support of the Opt Out Day protests. While it may not be the most expansive of political protests, it does suggest that quite a few people are fed up with being treated as if they were about to kill a lot of people. In that respect at least, the cry of ‘don’t touch my junk’ isn’t quite as silly as it sounds.
No subsidy for NPR
by Jeff Jacoby
A BILL pulling the plug on federal funding for National Public Radio was thwarted last week when the lame-duck Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives voted down a Republican effort to bring the measure to the floor. Introduced last summer by Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn, the legislation would bar NPR and its local affiliates from spending federal dollars on NPR programming. Of course there was never any chance that a bill targeting one of the nation's most prominent left-of-center institutions would pass while Democrats still controlled the House. But a GOP majority is taking over in January, and ending NPR's taxpayer subsidies ought to be high on its to-do list.
NPR tarnished its reputation last month when it abruptly fired commentator Juan Williams, an engaging liberal who had conceded in an interview that he gets "worried" and "nervous" when he boards a plane and sees passengers "who are in Muslim garb and . . . identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims." Williams is nobody's idea of a bigot -- among other things, he is the author of Eyes on the Prize, a famous history of the Civil Rights Movement -- and NPR's reaction was widely regarded as highhanded, dogmatic, and hypocritical. It only made matters worse when NPR CEO Vivian Schiller told an audience in Atlanta that Williams should have kept his feelings between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist." (She later apologized for that remark.)
In the wake of such a public-relations fiasco, one might have expected NPR to react to the House vote protecting its government funding with a modest statement of appreciation and perhaps an acknowledgment that its critics have raised some legitimate points. Instead it issued a statement so pompous and illogical that it could have been drafted in the Ministry of Truth.
"Today, good judgment prevailed as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news," it declared. "Public radio's value in fostering an informed society has never been more critical. Our growing audience shows that we are meeting that need. It is imperative for federal funding to continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy remains available to all."
The arrogance of that statement is exceeded only speciousness. "A move to assert government control"? Lamborn's bill was just the opposite: a move to end the government's entangling financial alliance with NPR, leaving it responsible for its own budget and programming. If NPR's "value . . . has never been more critical," why isn't its "growing audience" supporting it directly? And if NPR is such an "essential tool of democracy," how did the republic survive for so long without it?
Notwithstanding NPR's haughty air of entitlement ("it is imperative for federal funding to continue"), there are at least four reasons why its taxpayer subsidies should end.
1. They aren't fair. Other radio stations and networks, from Air America to Clear Channel to Univision to Westwood One, must sink or swim in a competitive market. They survive only if listeners and advertisers value what they do. Uncle Sam doesn't keep them afloat with tens of millions of dollars annually in direct and indirect subsidies. If they can operate without corporate welfare, NPR can too.
2. They aren't appropriate. In a free society, especially one with a robust tradition of press freedom, the very idea of government-underwritten media should be anathema. When news organizations depend on largesse from the treasury, there is inevitably a price paid in objectivity, fairness, and journalistic independence.
3. They aren't necessary. NPR's partisans claim that public broadcasting provides valuable news and educational content that listeners can't get anywhere else. That may have been a plausible argument in 1970. It is utterly implausible today, when audio programming of every description can be found amid a vast and dizzying array of outlets: terrestrial and satellite radio, internet broadcasting, podcasts and audio downloads.
4. They aren't affordable. At a time of trillion-dollar federal deficits and a national debt of nearly $14 trillion, NPR's government subsidies cannot possibly be justified. All the more so when public broadcasting attracts a fortune in private funding, from the gifts of innumerable "listeners like you" to the $200 million bequeathed to NPR by the late Joan Kroc in 2003.
More than anything else, the incoming 112th Congress has a mandate to stem the flood of red ink that is drowning Washington in debt. The tax dollars consumed by NPR are admittedly a drop in the enormous fiscal bucket. But if Congress can't even do away with a frill like subsidies for public radio, how will it stand a prayer of shoving far more formidable gluttons away from the federal trough?
Milwaukee voter fraud conviction makes ACORN's 2010 total at least 15
Yet another former ACORN employee was convicted of voter fraud last week. This brings the total number of convictions for former workers from the embattled group to at least 15 so far this year.
Kevin L. Clancy of Milwaukee pleaded guilty last week to participating “in a scheme to submit fraudulent voter registration applications,” according to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Clancy admitted to filing multiple voter registration applications for the same individuals and registering himself and other voter registration canvassers to vote multiple times while working on an ACORN voter drive.
Clancy received a 10-month prison term for his crime. Clancy’s sentence will begin when he completes another sentence he is currently serving for armed robbery.
“The integrity of elections is dependent upon citizens and officials insisting they be conducted lawfully,” Van Hollen said. “Wisconsin’s citizens should not have to wonder whether their vote has been negated or diminished by illegally cast ballots.”
So far 2010 has been a banner year for ACORN voter fraud prosecutions....
Zogby poll: Obama decline continues: "President Barack Obama's job approval rating has dropped to the lowest point of his Presidency at 39%, and in potential match-ups with Republicans in 2012, he trails Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich and is just one point ahead of Sarah Palin. The percentage of likely voters saying the U.S. is on the wrong track is now the highest since Obama took office at 69%. The President continues to lose the job approval of Democrats, going from 78% on Nov. 15 to 72% in this Nov. 19-22, 2010 interactive poll. His approval among independents stayed at 39%, and is 6% among Republicans."
Zogby poll: 61% Oppose Full Body Scans and TSA Pat Downs; 48% Will Seek Alternative to Flying: "The implementation of full body scans and pat downs by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as part of security enhancements at our nation's airports will cause 48% of Americans and 42% of more frequent fliers to choose a different mode of transportation when possible, a recent Zogby International Poll finds. Overall, 61% of the 2,032 likely voters polled from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22, oppose the use of full body scans and TSA pat downs. Republicans (69%) and Independents (65%) oppose in greater numbers than Democrats (50%). Of those polled, 52% believe the enhanced security measures will not prevent terrorist activity, almost half (48%) say it is a violation of privacy rights"
With new health law, hospital mergers a concern : "When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care, and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs. Now, eight months into the new law, there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics, and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings and cash in on the incentives. … Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs, and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses.”
Could Dems give Obama trouble? Afghanistan war is key: "As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg was leaving a Monitor breakfast last week, he was asked about the possibility that President Obama might face a Democratic primary challenge in 2012. Mr. Greenberg’s two-word answer: ‘Watch Afghanistan!’ Indeed, of all the issues on Mr. Obama’s plate, the war in Afghanistan is his biggest area of political vulnerability among his own Democratic base. … Among Obama’s own party, only 33 percent say the US is doing the right thing in Afghanistan; 62 percent say it’s not.”
General Motors: Never again?: "My charming wife hit me with this zinger: ‘Doesn’t GM’s stock sale show that you were wrong to complain about the bailout?’ Yikes. People just don’t get it. As one big investor (who prefers to remain anonymous because he fears government retaliation) wrote me: ‘Government bought 914 million shares at 43.71. Sold half at 33, own 500 million or so at 35. Taxpayers down about 9 billion. Why is there such celebration today about this ‘great government success?’ Not to mention the fact we don’t know what else might have been done with the bailout money. Had it been left in private hands, maybe someone would have invented a much better car, or airport security device, or Alzheimer’s cure.”
Empty promises on health care will haunt Obama: "Barack Obama is only halfway through his term, but it's not too early to ask: What is the biggest whopper he has told as president? So far, the hands-down winner is: "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what." Obama made that particular pledge in a speech to the American Medical Association in June 2009, but he said the same thing, with slight variations, dozens of times during the health care debate. And now, exactly eight months after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, we're seeing just how empty the president's promise was..."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)