The Politeness Trap

A few weeks ago I was reading Ace of Spades, which most of the time does not raise my blood pressure, when I came across this dismissive, gloaty type of post about how we’re done as a free people, because look at how people go through airport security: they eagerly, quickly, get all their trays and lay out their everything, etc.

The implication is that people like or approve of the security Kabuki, and are doing it out of how much they approve and want to have their stuff pawed through, etc.

It felt wrong when I read it. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.

So, yesterday, while having my 4th amendment rights violated I realized how wrong this was, and why it’s wrong.

Going through the TSA’s tender ministrations ALWAYS makes me forget I’m an OWL (older, wiser, libertarian).  I want to put on my best innocent voice (the one I used to rile college authorities) and say “When was the fourth amendment repealed?” or “Excuse me, you have perhaps failed to realize I’m an American and we have certain rights?” or even “Can you direct me to the place where the constitution is still respected?”

However, I went through the line as “eagerly” as everyone else.  More possibly, as I take my shoes off before I even get in line.  A mother behind me was having near-silent kittens about her kid walking on the airport floor in socks, but heck, I used to eat sand on the beach and walk barefoot on village streets when horses and oxen were the main transportation.

I did not do it because I thought the authorities had the right, or because I approved of what they were doing.  Even if I thought the security kabuki (shoes, really?  I mean the shoe bomber should have been spotted just walking through) was doing anything (I traveled with a can of mace disguised as a lighter for ten years after 9/11.  Not on purpose.  I’d forgotten I had it in my purse.  The point is it was never found, even though what it was disguised as —  a lighter — is also forbidden) I couldn’t approve of what they were doing yesterday which was apparently training new personnel during one of the busiest hours I’ve seen DIA.  This meant every bag scan called supervisors over to discuss it for ten minutes.  I was happy we’d built in an extra hour, but we let people ahead of us who were already boarding.

So why was I “such a good sheep”?

Not for the authorities.  The mechanism made itself clear when obeying just as crazy an authority a few minutes later.

Unless you have flown more than one airline recently, you probably don’t know what I mean.  If you have, though, you know each airline has come up with a more “efficient” way to fill the plane.  They’ve done it all.  Zones based on your lateral position (Window, isle, middle); zones based on where you sit on the plane (front, back, middle), zones based on your first name, your last name and how well you dance the Macarena.

All of these have “studies” that show how efficient they are.  And none of them — save the one airline that lets you board at will because their experts have proven its faster — actually makes any sense when you throw real people in.  There is always someone battling a too-large-by-a-tenth-of-an-inch carry on.  There is always someone who boards wrong.  And even when it all goes “right”, even obeying all the rules, there is almost always a long wait in the boarding sleeve, something that never happened before all these systems.

Maybe there are people who believe these systems.  I don’t know.  Most people seem to be rolling their eyes so hard the concourse becomes littered with them.

But we do it.  “eagerly” and quietly.

We do it for the same reason, I realized, we facilitate the TSA madness. We do it not out of fear, not out of submission, but out of politeness to our fellow sufferers.

Imagine I had given in to my inner bastage and started asking them by what right they were bullying me.  Who would it have affected?  The TSA?  Oh, h*ll no.  They like cracking down.  They do their job in the hope they get to clobber one of us.  You can feel that.

But the people behind me would miss planes/have their day destroyed by my going into a kabuki theater of my own (It wouldn’t change anything, except I wouldn’t now be in Chattanooga, TN at the start of liberty con.)

Essentially we obey these irrational schemes, the government’s and the airlines’ both because we are being polite to those people with us both strangers and family/friends.  The being polite to/respecting strangers IS what makes a civil society work as a free society.  And it was the trap we’re caught in.

The search, in Portugal, is far less rigorous because there is much less feel that you owe anything to strangers.  If they tried to make them jump through the hoops we jump through, everyone would rebel.

Paradoxically that is what makes the country function less like a free society, because you also need tall, strong walls to prevent people stealing plants from your garden; you’d never put Christmas decorations outside; and you really can’t trust anyone you’re not tribally (blood or tradition) connected to.

So, while I agree that the TSA and the way we put up with it is a foot in the door for tyranny, it must be realized what they are exploiting is one of the very characteristics that makes the US work: consideration for strangers.

It’s sort of like the flu pandemic killed more strong, young people, because how violently your immune system reacted was the biggest risk factor.

It is possible for the TSA to go so far that the same “politeness” demands we stop obeying them.  I think they are aware of these limits, though possibly not consciously.  I’ll note the noodie scans are not being used as much/often are completely ignored while people go through the old metal detectors.  Also, the craziness a few years back, in which they were testing drinks sold and bought inside the security area, has been dropped.  That last one a) really p*ssed people off.  b) was not caught in the politeness trap.  If I’d been accosted, I’d have accidentally/on purpose poured my coffee on the tsa agent’s crotch, and what would it have affected, other than his wedding tackle?

BUT until they do or they step outside the trap, yeah, Americans will behave like sheep.  Not because they are, but because they respect their fellow citizens too much to want to hurt them.

Which is why these excesses must be fought outside the tsa line, legislatively and through incremental change in the people we elect.  It is also why government must be kept small, so it can never use our own best traits against us.

It can’t be trusted and it subverts everything.  As we keep trying to explain to the left side of the isle, it’s not that we don’t want to help the poor; it’s not that we don’t believe in equality under the law; it’s not that we don’t think some people who are in invidious conditions SHOULDN’T be given a way to access what others get by existing — it’s that we can’t trust government and work-a-day bureaucrats to do it.

It’s because when you give power to bureaucrats, we all end up, metaphorically, having to take our shoes off for strangers, while the underwear bomber and three guys with box cutters can walk right through.

It’s because ultimately government only has power over those willing to obey laws and considerate of their fellow men, hostages to the prepotent insanity of the people who are attracted to TSA like jobs.

Terrorist, criminal and those really determined to hurt others because of race, creed or sex, can do so anyway.  They’re not caught in the politeness trap.

Government when it tries to become everyone’s mother is like a gun aimed ONLY at the wrong people.

And it’s time we change it.  Long before we get on a TSA line.

271 responses to “The Politeness Trap

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    And sadly while most American “want to be polite”, there are assholes who don’t care about politeness as long as they are expressing the “Correct Views”. [Frown]

    Have fun at LibertyCon! [Smile]

  2. I scared the crap out of one of those friggin TSA gestapo pricks right after the naked scanners came in. They made me go through the f-ing naked scanner, then the guy was going to give me the frisk too. I just looked at him. Kind of like the way one male bear looks at another one. He gave it up and waved me past.

    Telepathy does work, some times.

    The thing I find about the TSA is the implied threat. They are hiring people of low intelligence. Such people look forward to any disturbance as something interesting to brighten their day, and an excuse to use the fancy cop shit the TSA issues them. The communication that they are -eager- to baton you to the floor and then toss you in some kind of questioning room for two days is loud and clear.

    My communication to the goof that was going to feel me up was strong enough that he passed.

    • They are hiring people for relatively low wage boring jobs that give them momentary power over others who are obviously well off or at least can afford a plane ticket. Good law enforcement agencies make a best effort to weed out candidates with a tendency to use their authority to abuse the citizens. From what I’ve seen and heard the TSA doesn’t go to that much trouble. Hell, in notable cases they can’t even do an adequate background check.

      • Perhaps we can now ask the Chinese. Since they hacked all of OPM’s security background information they could answer questions like how many Felons does TSA employ?

      • In New Orleans the security was a contract (by law, Minority owned! Nagin actually changed that, but I digress) and the testing results were horrible.
        So after 9/11, and they decide security really needs to be gov’t run, not contracted (because the Feds themselves are going to be oh so better the lowest bidder) they brought in the TSA and to change was slightly noticeable . . . everyone working the checkpoints had new uniforms.
        Except for a few folks who either went to other jobs, or a few who could not get past the background check, all the people doing the job were the same sots who let guns onto planes (Biz guy with a derringer in his briefcase, found it when he went to do some paperwork) and failed the random testing regularly, were first in line to get those jobs when the TSA was formed.
        If we ever get together at a Hun gathering, I can go into more but the TSA stuff is worse than Kabuki. Kabuki is a form of entertainment.

        • Indeed. Talented Japanese artists, their respect for tradition and ability are horrible slurred by comparing them to TSA. I think the Keystone Cops a more suitable analogy, but even then, the Keystone Cops did have some ability.

  3. I hope you are right. The non-compliance with gun registration laws in both Connecticut and New York is a hopeful sign, those are pretty much Progressive central states but the estimates are less than 5% of the people registered.

    Wedding tackle? Please tell me you “borrowed” that from somewhere so I can “borrow” it from you. Or else let us know how that particular phrase fell off your pen… gotta be a story there, lol.

    • I did borrow it, though I can’t remember from where.

      • Geoff Withnell

        First place I ever saw it was in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series.

        • That’s not it, though. I want to say it’s from Regency Romances. However, might be widespread in the South, too. I naturalized in NC and picked up a bunch of Southern expressions. I’m always fixing to do something, for instance.

          • I first heard it in used in the south.

            From DC DictionaryCentral.com:

            NOUN the male genitals. A humorous phrase which is an elaboration of the earlier ‘tackle’, heard in this context since the 18th century. Wedding tackle is a euphemism which is considered inoffensive enough to be broadcast and printed, as well as used in conversational contexts. It was popular during the 1980s but probably dates from much earlier. (Partridge dates the synonym ‘wedding kit’ to 1918.).

          • I want to declare “wedding tackle” a Britishism. It seems to me that I’ve acquired the phrase from some Britcom or another but I am demmed if I could say which or even when. Possibly in Monty Python, but I am disinclined to attempt a search of their scripts.

            It is possible for it to have been picked up in the South, as many British turns of phrase seem to have lingered longer in that portion of the USA than they have in other areas.

            The “tackle” portion seems clearly to be rooted (sorry) in the same meaning as the word’s usage in “fishing tackle.”

          • Born and raised in NC and find the term entirely familiar… although it now occurs to me that I have absolutely no clue from where, because now that I think about it, I can’t for the life of me remember if I’ve ever heard anybody say it out loud!

          • Somebody once gave us as a prank anniversary present what purported to be the erotic diary of an Edwardian gentleman (by one alleged Rupert Mountjoy). I believe that’s where I first saw the term. (Despite the generally British speech, the book included some Yiddishisms in dialogue and character names that made it pretty clear there was nothing Edwardian or British “toff” about whoever wrote the book. The erotic scenes, BTW, while somewhat humorous in places, are prime examples of how *not* to write in a work that isn’t outright smut.)

    • I thought that was a fairly common phrase, I never would have dreamed of trying to figure out where it originated, because I have found it used in so many different places.

  4. I respectfully disagree. It pure fear of imprisonment or death. All laws are administered with the assumption they are important enough to kill you if you don’t obey. Jay walking, littering, spitting – every one.
    I have not flown commercial since 9/11. Won’t be treated that way. They have not got a single dollar from me and they won’t. What the rest of the sheep do is their concern.
    If it gets to where I can’t leave the house and use the highway without the same outrage then I’ll die. But you can bet I’ll enter hell on the shoulders of an honor guard I took with me.

    • You haven’t flown since 9/11. TRUST me, it’s not fear. Yes all laws are administered on threat of force, but really, people don’t poop-scoop their dogs with a lot of fear in their eyes, but more rolled eyes with “this is expected and I’m being polite.” TSA is exactly the same.

      • The attitude that, as everyone else around you is being put through the same nonsensical bureaucratic inconvenience/indignity, we might as well make the best of it?

        (Besides making a fuss on the spot won’t change it. It will just makes things worse for yourself and others.)

      • Social Conformity is a basic ingrained human trait. For some of us the fear of retribution may influence the scales but a majority abide because it is “expected” of us.

        Non-cooperation with gun laws is a different matter because it is covert, not requiring that we publicly stand forth and denounce the rule.

        From a very early age we are taught to “not make a scene” and while it might be briefly emotionally gratifying to practice defiance it would not only constitute “making a scene” but would serve no purpose — the rules wouldn’t be changed, the procedures wouldn’t be dropped or even adjusted, the flight wouldn’t leave with us on it.

        Proglodytes, OTOH, find making a scene personally rewarding; it validates their sense of who they are, even when it achieves no useful end (where in their philosophy does achieving their ends have any value.)

      • I used to fly an awful lot — have cut back because frequent intercontinental travel can become incredibly wearying. I totally agree, this isn’t fear — although anybody who’s really afraid of the TSA may be self-selected out of the flying population. Some travelers I remember that were afraid had guilty consciences for other reasons (that the TSA might find their bong and stash 😉 etc.)
        And of course it’s a matter of habit. Frequent airline travelers perfect the ways to speed their own security checks up and in doing so minimize the waiting for those behind them; and those of us used to El Al security relate to the TSA like one might indulge a chihuahua who is pretending to ‘protect’ his master 😉

      • A bit of Politeness-to-others, and a bit of least-cost-under-the-circumstances, I think.
        And the politeness is a facet of the same jewel described in The Last Centurion as a “high-trust society”… a desire to live in a society of people who mostly work & play together well, without loss of individual freedoms.

        • A high-trust society IS a jewel — one that presupposes a critical mass of commonality between the members. It also presupposes organization by small enough units that all members thereof can know each other at least superficially. (Ringo does discuss this.)
          Small, high-trust collectives with carefully screened, relatively homogenous members are also the only contexts where “internal socialism” can sort-of work — be they monasteries or kibbutzim. (I say “internal” because some run enterprises that are totally capitalistic where their outside customer base is concerned.)
          Check out the work of a Stanford economist named Ran Abramitzky on the kibbutz movement.

          • That “critical mass of commonality enables high trust” idea is why I support the notion of regulating rates of immigration to roughly the rate of assimilation.
            Yes, co-located cultural subgroups (barrios, etc.) can have high-trust relationships within the group — but society best works somewhat fractally: with relatively high trust between the small units that make up a larger area, possible because the small units know each other and have common, or at least mutually easily understandable, cultural attributes.

            • I’d be happy if we simply returned to making assimilation a goal. I think at present the only assimilation the Proglodytes support is how to sign up for benefits and how to vote Democrat.

              Of course, given that America is a nation of great evil, with “racism in our DNA” like some original sin, I suppose it makes sense that the Proglodytes want only superficial assimilation. Looking at what they’ve encouraged in schools, they don’t even want native-born Americans assimilating.

              • Understood. Progs will change, in time (after all, they’re all about throwing out the wisdom of the past in favor of change, which is presumed to be toward something better), although the tendency of some folks toward statism/centralized power will abide in some form.
                The current crop of progs – by not having kids and by encouraging free immigration, are replacing themselves with unassimilated foreigners. It falls to us to motivate and educate the immigrants to assimilate, if we can – who else will do it?

    • To an extent you are correct. But not everyone who complies with the law does so in fear of their lives. Many do it because it makes some sense to them to have some agreed regulations, such as traffic laws which restrict vehicles traveling in the same direction to one side of a two way road.

      You are fortunate that you can avoid commercial flight, not everyone can. So far I have. Should my Father become suddenly ill — and he is of an age it might occur — I would be put in the position of having to choose between putting up with the nonsense or being inconsiderate of him.

    • Geoff Withnell

      You are complying every bit as much as the folks standing quietly in the TSA lines. Unless, of course you are working to change the rules. They offered you a choice, obey these rules or don’t fly. You took one of their offered alternatives.

      • They offered you a choice, obey these rules or don’t fly. You took one of their offered alternatives.

        Right. I think it’s a combination of politeness, and purely practical motives: If you don’t do these things you can’t fly. If you make a fuss, they can make it so you can’t ever fly. Flying is more important than not taking off your shoes. This is the calculation everyone is making.

        So, what would be the point of making a fuss in line if it’s not going to do anything and just be a hassle to everyone else?

      • Yes and no. How many tickets have the airlines not sold because of people like CACS and myself. If they cannot or will not protect their customers from this sort of harassment/sexual assault, they do not deserve my custom, and before 9/12 (when this shit started) I used to fly at least once a month.

        • I certainly fly less than I used to. But unless you can afford an extra day each way to take the train you are stuck flying. Plus, from what I hear of Amtrak and their relationship with the DEA, regularly taking long distance train trips pretty much guarantees you harassment and unlawful searches.

          • Some Amtrak passengers have been searched by the TSA also, as have some Greyhound folks. (Fortunately the “pilot programs” seem to have been too much of a PITA for even the TSA to continue them.)

          • You can always drive anywhere you can take a train (obviously not overseas) or fly private charter. Of course one costs more in time, and the other costs more in money than a plane ticket.

            Of course I haven’t flown since 9/11, but then I seldom travel over a thousand miles from home, and usually need the use of my vehicle when I get where I am going. Oh, and flying, much less renting a vehicle once you got there, with half a dozen dogs in practically the definition of PITA.

          • After flying to visit his grandmother in San Diego once with the Princess, we did the math… and bought a new van.

            It only takes about a day longer, the gas both ways doesn’t cost as much as a single ticket for an adult, and it’s much, much less stress. (The hotel one way is less than the price for a AirPorter ride to the airport, and we could buy three nights for the price of parking for a week!)
            Yes, LA to San Diego traffic is less stress than flying out of SeaTac.

            • I thought the train would be cool and looked into it. I think it came out to twice the cost of the airplane, and all the bad aspects of either route but (likewise) doubled.

              Ditto the theory of taking it so the kids could meet their paternal grandparents at their home….

            • Quick tip: The Waze app did wonders for getting through LA. Coming back it shaved a good hour off the time it took heading south.

          • Time does matter.

            At one point in his career my father was involved in international law. This required flying regularly, for, although ships are much faster than they once were, it just would not have been a practical way to commute.

            I find much of what our TSA does in the name of keeping us safe qualifies as magical thinking when it comes to its purported purpose. I also find it annoying in practice. It won’t stop me from flying if I need to, but it will make me think hard about if the trip is really necessary.

            • … think hard about if the trip is really necessary

              “Is this trip really necessary” was a question people were instructed to ask of themselves back during WWII — thus proving that Bush really did impose collective sacrifice on the nation in support of the war effort, as demanded by Liberals!

              • I m somewhat crestfallen by the fact I did fly once, since 9/11,, despite vows not to. To get to Bogota.. I did, however, look into alternatives.. That said, the TSA experience at Houston, was much less unpleasant than I had expected.

    • Before 9/11, I was petrified of flying. I was in a scary emergency landing on my first flight at age 14.
      But for some reason, I asked my bosses if I could change to a consulting position so I could fly after 9/11. I was so pissed off, I just wanted the chance to stop one of those freaking hijackers in person. Yes, I know, I was 48 years old then, and not exactly an athlete. But I figured that old age trumps stupid Islamists.
      A few months after 9/11, I started flying out of Kansas City every Sunday or Monday and flying home on Thursday or Friday – I did this for about 42 weeks out of each year for 6 years.
      I flew all over the USA and to the UK. A lot. And at every airport, I checked out my fellow passengers. Especially flying out of Detroit – Yoiks!

      Kansas City does not have TSA employees, by the way, they have private contractors, and they are much more polite than the TSA in other cities – especially Vegas and Baltimore.

  5. This is why I grind my teeth when I’ve got to travel by air. I KNOW it’s ‘Security Theater’, and the sets we have to move through can be pretty easily circumvented (by both the TSA’s own testing and by such things as this… http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/delta-employee-faces-federal-charges-firearms-plan/njYkm/ ) – but we’re supposed to pretend it’s all effective and will keep us ‘safe’.

    When the only thing that really keeps us safe is people being willing to stop hijackers or crazies on the plane.

    Heck, we could do away with the TSA tomorrow (except for luggage checks) with just this…

    Make it known that anyone who stops a hijacker will receive a reward of $1 mil and free lifetime First Class travel on that airline and its affiliates for him and his immediate family.

    And include in the pre-flight briefing…

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for flying with us today, and we appreciate your trust. We’re as committed to making it to the other end of the flight as you are, so please bear in mind the following.

    In case of hijacking, we really would prefer to avoid any blood in the carpets or on the seats. Please attempt to restrain the hijacker bloodlessly if at all possible. In the event you do find it necessary to shed their blood, please inform the cabin staff so a spill kit can be provided. And remember – a live hijacker is MUCH easier to interrogate than a dead one, but do what you have to, and we’ll back you all the way.

    In the event of such an incident, the airline will provide all legal representation and support for those involved, as well as free First Class travel for life.

    But do make sure it IS a real hijacking attempt, and not Aunt Gracie from Peoria making her way quickly to the forward bathroom because flying makes her need to go urgently. That would be… embarrasing.

    Now – anyone here not know how to make a garrotte?”

    • The issue with proposing that as an official solution is that the people evaluating the solution want one that is effective in all edge cases. If you’re trying for 0 successful hijackings, instead of as few as realistically possible, you can’t guarantee the hijackers won’t be on a plane where the rest of the passengers are all either grannies, babies, pregnant women, or blind folks. They see that the only way to make sure that there is someone capable of subduing a hijacker is to put somebody known capable of subduing the hijacker on all flights (an air marshal). The issue with this is, of course, is that you then have to make sure your air marshal is trustworthy… enter complexity addiction.

      Any of the proposed solutions that’s easy to implement is going to have some kind of flaw. Locked and reinforced cockpit doors are awesome at reducing the chance of a successful hijacking, for example, but greatly increase the risk posed by a suicidal pilot (as recently tragically demonstrated).

      • The flip side of that is that you won’t (as a hijacker) be assured that you WON’T be on a flight where there’s a good sprinkling of active duty and retired military. It’s an essentially random selection.

        A full plane of blind folks, grandmas, babies and pregnant women, plus hijackers? That’s not an ‘edge case’ – that’s something more like winning the Powerball or a movie plot.

        Plus, what a mom will do to protect her child – I can just see it.

        Hijacker stands, yells “I am taking over this plane in the name of the People’s Resistance Of Idiotstan! Sit and be quiet!”

        Immediately a third of the women reach up and hit the flight attendant buttons.

        “What are you doing! Put your hands back down!” He glares at woman near him who pressed the button. “Why did you do that?!”

        She glares back and a feral grin breaks out Behind her, he sees several women doing things that are half-hidden. “We’re gonna need spill kits.”

        • Well, yes, we know that our friend Mr. Terrorist knows that now his chances of hijacking the plane are nil, which is why he’s switched to trying to blow a hole in the plane.

          The point was security people want mechanisms that are entirely under their control, and they generally have no control over who is on the flight. If you’re coming up with an evil plan, in addition to asking the 5-year-old kid to look for flaws, ask a roleplayer how he’d do it. For example, you can almost certainly rule out the other passengers stopping you simply by having enough hijackers…

          • For example, you can almost certainly rule out the other passengers stopping you simply by having enough hijackers…

            They’d need at least three for each able man, two for each able woman, and one for each kid, very elderly or disabled person.

            We now know that a hijacking is an attempt to kill us all, rather that the prior BS of “they only want hostages.”

            • People need to think about improvised weapons, too. A length of strong thin line attached to a weight, such as a coin pouch or hackey-sack, or an old-fashioned stocking (or sleeve) garter fashioned into a slingshot may not be much but offer range effectiveness superior to a box-cutter. Heck, there are a lot of things you can do with a Bic lighter if you’re willing to close with the jackal.

        • THAT scene I want to see (in a movie)!

          However – in the area of unexpected consequences: Doesn’t this solution make it more likely that a suicidal terrorist will focus on explosives?

          • I don’t know how much you’ve been paying attention to the news, but attacks on airplanes in recent years have been pretty short on hijackings and rather long on explosives. Hadji’s figured it out.

      • Have a Concealed Carry enhancement that deputizes people as air marshals.

        I know that some of the most improbable looking folks can be air marshals– I was mistaken for one on my second trip home in the Navy!
        (This was a few months after I got pulled over by a cop because he mistook me for someone too young to drive, and I only found that out because he saw my military ID and realized my license was probably real.)

        • When my youngest was 15 and had just gotten his learner’s permit (7 years ago), I went to pick him up from a soccer practice on a Thursday afternoon. I let him drive home and as we came up to a 3 way stop at a “T” intersection, I noticed a Will County deputy siting on the shoulder. As we turned I saw him do a double take at Jimmy. I told him that we were going to get pulled over, so get ready to stop. Sure enough, the deputy pulled out after us with his lights going.

          Jimmy pulled over and got his license out to show. The deputy looked it over and said “hey brother, I’m sorry. You looked way too young to be driving. Last week I stopped a truck driven by a 12 year old who was driving because his dad was too drunk to be driving. I apologize, and be careful and do what your Grandpa there says to do.”

          I told him that he always does what his Dad says and I have never seen a man turn as deep a shade of red as he did. “I’m sorry sir. I really stuck my foot in it again.”

          • *laughs* Reminds me of the time my mom got out of a ticket because it was winter, the POS truck has no heat, and she was wearing a ton of clothes.

            Nothing like the “sir” you’re chewing out taking her hat off and going “that’s ma’am, actually, and I know I was going too fast, I got in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention” to make a guy feel guilty. (Especially since he probably recognized her after that– our parish priests let the highway patrol doing a week in our area stay at the rectory since it wasn’t ever used otherwise.)

    • The flaw in your thinking is not Aunt Gracie from Peoria but Flying Imams from Minneapolis. For your proposal to fly it would be necessary for the courts to refuse to entertain any legal action against a plane full of vigilantes declaring that “you bastards can just stfu with your loud praying and you ain’t near fat enough to need those effing seat-belt extenders.”

    • “And include in the pre-flight briefing…”

      That would be even more fun that the time it was announced that we should keep our seatbelts fastened in case we ran into unexpected buffeting (buh-FAY-ing; as opposed to buffetting).

  6. It’s the return of unintended consequences: systems designed with the assumption that people behave selflessly tend to reward people that behave selfishly, and as such encourage that behavior.

    It’s partially as a result of the (noble but flawed) idea that we can’t have anyone falling through the cracks. In order to minimize the number of false negatives (people in genuine need that fail to qualify under the rules) we loosen the rules enough so that there are a lot of false positives (people not in genuine need able to game the system so they qualify under the rules). It doesn’t help that some of the people most in need are the least able to understand the rules.

    The conservative approach, having multiple groups helping, each with their own rule system, and helping on a more local level where exceptions can be addressed individually, works by having one group pick up the cases missed by another group. It doesn’t guarantee everyone will get helped (which, in theory, the vast central bureaucratic approach does), but it helps the most people for the least cost.

    • My son had this complaint while applying to medschools. He’s one of the genuine crazies who wants to do this because he views disease as his personal enemy. Having worked with and around doctors (he’s an ER scribe) he says he understands why medschools are trying to screen out “wants to do it for money ONLY” because he says those docs tend to be very bad/burn out early. BUT the way they do it is “write us essays on how caring you are” which embarrass the people who want to do it for more than monetary reasons, and attract the sort of sociopath who would do anything for money. Eh.

      • The “write an essay stating how good at caring you are” test actually tests for ‘essay writing skills’ rather than actual ‘caring’.

        This sort of logic shows up almost everywhere you look. I went to a rather good public school system that had standardized tests long before the national push, and they just evaluated what you had learned in school; we were not pressured about these tests, nor taught to the test, because the teachers were genuinely good. Skip ahead a few decades, and the educational establishment has learned that you can fake being good by teaching to the test and cheating on the test. We don’t want anyone getting a poor education, so we test, and if the test is the only way we have to evaluate who is getting a good education, teachers teach to pass the test exclusively, rather than try to provide a good education with the hopes that this will lead to passing the test.

        Back to the original post, I also tend to have a pathological need to follow society’s rules about being polite to others (though this is breaking down a bit in internet-only discussions). Seeing people getting away with impolite behavior both makes me very angry and has me asking “who are these people that the rules I was taught don’t apply to them?”

        • Some folks see a “lane ends ahead” sign as a chance to cheat. They’ll race up an empty lane and try to cut in. It always warms the cockles of my heart to watch an entire lane of people spontaneously and unanimously refuse to let him in. Even if empathy won’t keep him from breaking the rules in the future, maybe self interest will.

          • Actually, driving down the “lane ends ahead” to the end, and then alternating back and forth to let people in, is not “cheating”, but rather, is the most efficient way to get people through the bottleneck. If everyone changes lanes far earlier than it’s already closed, then we waste all that road space that could be used by all those cars, and it forces the bottleneck to be at some arbitrary point far above the actual end-lane point.

            Having said that, I used to agree with this point of view, but when I learned about the efficiencies involved, I’ve made it a point to use the empty lane more, and to let one or two others who are stuck into the traffic flow…

            • I’m thinking of the situation where traffic slows because of construction, backs up and eventually stops once a lane is closed. I consider racing to the front in that circumstance a case of line jumping, but I could be wrong.

              • No, you’re not, and I personally refuse to let any jackass who tries that in.

              • That’s precisely the situation I’m thinking of, too. When there’s a lane blocked off, it’s most efficient when both lanes up to the closed one is filled with cars. Rather than thinking of it as “line jumping” (which is how I used to view it as well…), it should be thought of as “forming two lines, and then taking turns to enter”.

                • All too often, those in the closed lane are not really willing to take their turn, and that is probably why those who believe they are doing the right thing do not want to allow them in.

                  I do think that some parts of the country are worse than others when it comes to being a polite driver.

                  • This requires a high level of social trust and unwillingness to exploit the kindness of strangers. It is thus a measure of societal health.

                • I’d never even considered that it was anything other than rudeness on the part of people merging late. I guess I’ll have to change my behavior now. It would certainly make things smoother if the signs let everyone know that was the way to do it though.

                  • Yes, I think it would be very useful to put up signs to encourage such behavior!

                    Certain on-ramps in my area have lights to require people to stagger their entrances onto the freeway during rush hour. They are a mockery when traffic really gets stopped up (but then, so are speed limit signs), but other than that, they help with the traffic flow immensely.

              • You’re not wrong. You very clearly described the situation where people are getting over where it’s most effective in real life, which results in some idiots pulling out of the lane that will remain and zipping up to try to get in at the front.

                The “study” on what was most effective was not on that situation; the “lane ends, merge right” and people get to the right as soon as possible is the real life version of alternating at the end of the lane, and one that doesn’t require superhuman reflexes.

            • I suspect having a zipper merge at the warning sign is just as efficient as a zipper merge at the dead-end of the lane, if everyone sees it as such.

              Two zipper merges, one for the cooperative drivers and a later one for the pushy drivers, probably does not make it more efficient overall (due to speed disruption) and does irritate a lot of drivers in the merged-to lane, who are asked to be nice and let TWO other cars in ahead of themselves.

              • Two zipper merges is clearly sub-optimal. But doing a zipper merge at the warning sign “wastes” (really “fails to use”) the capacity of the blocked lane from the warning sign to the last reasonable merge point. It also then leaves folks like me who were taught specifically to USE that empty space driving up to the merge point and zipper merging, which puts us all into the two-merge case.

                I’d argue that the nearest-to-ideal case involves a single late zipper merge, complete with signs to remind folks to do it that way. See my example below.

                • Actually, it doesn’t really “waste” anything. Positing that there are no exits between the warning sign and the blockage, once everybody merges into one lane, there should be no slowdowns (excluding rubberneckers, who simply must slow down to see what the construction folks are doing, but that usually happens after the blockage) so everybody can travel at the same optimal speed. So it doesn’t matter if they merge at the warning sign or at the blockage, as long as they merge in one place, after that merge traffic should be able to get back up to speed. Unless some jackass runs up a half mile, then has to stop and wait until some polite fellow stops in the other lane, allowing him to merge. Then everybody else is ticked at the polite fellow, because he stopped all the traffic that was just getting back up to speed, just to allow some jerk in that just flew past all those cars that now have to stop for him.

                  The reason they have warning signs a half mile to a mile ahead of time, is so that people have room to merge with radical adjustments in speed. If I have a mile to let the guy on my left merge, I can back off it two or three miles an hour and create a gap between me and the car in front of me, for him to merge smoothly into. If on the other hand he flies up to within a hundred yards of the blockage and then wants to merge, unless there is a gap already perfectly positioned, he is going to have to slow dramatically or stop, so he doesn’t overrun the barricades before a gap appears, this causes the cars in the other lane to have to slow drastically in order to let him in, and he is merging at a low speed, therefore slowing everybody down in a chain reaction.

                  • Your scenario matches what I’ve seen, too often: Driver in the disappearing lane drives at high speed past everyone else, then forces a very slow-speed zipper merge, which puts a slow-down bump in the traffic that stretches for a distance and causes a lot of unsafe late responses to brake lights, etc.

                    Compare with the entrance-lane gore point zipper merge: everyone in the incoming lane wants to get merged as soon as possible, so typically there’s plenty of entrance lane left (“wasted” in some views) to allow someone having difficulty merging (e.g. speed mismatch or intimidation factor when merging with a semi) room to complete their merge over a longer distance.

                    I think the late disappearing-lane merge is probably more efficient ONLY from the standpoint of avoiding a dual zipper merge. But I’m probably abusing a deceased equine at this point.

          • In the state-mandated driver’s training courses I took in HS in California, they taught us that the most efficient approach to merges (due to an ending lane) is to “use all lanes to the merge point, and then zipper merge” (a.k.a. merge every other car). They also put up giant “MERGE HERE” signs a few hundred feet before the end of the lane. And other signs saying “USE ALL LANES TO MERGE POINT” way back where the “lane ends ahead” sign was.

            In the several decades since then, the mathematicians who study queueing theory have proven that the empirical recommendation above truly maximizes traffic flow past the obstruction. Using, of course, reasonable assumptions about car spacing and driver reaction times.

            So the rule you’re asserting that those folks “broke” is at most a regional consensus, and is provably sub-optimal to boot. I would argue that those folks who zoomed up the empty lane and then expect to merge in (every other car) up near the end of the lane are doing exactly the correct thing.

            As always, your mileage may vary.

            Xenophon

      • Aha! Yet another hidden benefit of Obamacare. From all reports it’s doing a fine job of disincentivising earning a good living from those considering entering the medical profession.
        While I can somewhat understand the premise that a doctor in it only for the bucks wouldn’t be the best and brightest, I have this hunch that the whole idea is really rooted in a severe case of liberal progressive feelz on the part of medical school administrators.

        • It is doing a great job of rewarding the Dems’ backers in Big (and getting bigger) Insurance and Big Pharma, though. Recent news articles indicate that the two largest fish in the health insurance field are gobbling up the smaller fish. See:

          Health Mergers Could Cut Consumer Options
          The nation’s biggest health insurers, which are pursuing a series of potential megamergers, have market overlaps that could damp competition in sectors such as private Medicare plans, an analysis of state and federal data by The Wall Street Journal has found.
          [SNIP]
          Some of the combinations could pose challenges to competition around the country, according to the Journal’s analysis. For instance, an Aetna-Humana tie-up would increase by about 180 the number of U.S. counties where at least 75% of customers for Medicare Advantage plans are in the hands of a single insurer.

          In addition, in eight states, an Aetna-Humana merger would remove a competitor from the exchanges where individuals can buy coverage under the Affordable Care Act. A UnitedHealth-Aetna tie-up, meanwhile, would remove a competitor in exchanges involving 11 states. Insurers may not offer plans in every region of a state, however.

          Insurers will be able to point to operational efficiencies they can glean from consolidating, as well as better deals with health-care providers, which could result in lower costs for customers. Hospitals themselves have been merging at a rapid pace. Many experts have said that the provider consolidation can drive higher rates—and that more-powerful insurers might have a better chance of countering them and striking pacts for new forms of payment that incentivize efficiency.
          [SNIP]
          The insurers’ overtures amount to a high-stakes endgame for the industry, after years of consolidation that has already wiped out many of the regional players that were once prominent. Any of the deals would get tough scrutiny from the Justice Department as well as a gauntlet of state regulators, experts said. Federal antitrust authorities would examine local-area market share in segments such as Medicare Advantage as well as the effects on doctors and hospitals, said Tim Greaney, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law.

          You know what really increases “operational efficiencies”? Single payer. Establishing healthcare as a public utility will ensure the common patient has little choice and little authority but will get the very best veterinary care our sovereign is willing to pay for.

          But don’t worry — the DoJ will be looking out for you.

          It has also poured a tremendous amount of money into incompetent web design.

          • “…the very best veterinary care our sovereign is willing to pay for.”

            Here’s 500mg Motrin. Unless you’ve crushed something, in that case here’s a sandwich bag you can get filled with ice.

            • Medical practice will evolve. They’ll likely make the same changes the legal profession is seeing: all the simple stuff is moving from the professionals to the on-line and technician-level resources (note how many services pharmacies are providing now that they didn’t historically – expect to see more of this.) Not consistent with O’care’s assumptions, but — “unexpected consequences” are a major part of reality.

              • Not if Progs get their way. We’re seeing innovation in the legal field because lawyers are largely unregulated. Yes, there’s a high barrier to entry, but once that’s crossed there aren’t many limits on what a lawyer can do when running his business. If there was a single-payer legal system, things like Legalzoom would never be created since the bureaucracy would never think of it, or they would kill it in development since it threatens too many rice bowls.

                • Actually you can already see what will happen in the med field. A lot of non-specialized care will move to the black or grey, “cash only” markets. I already know of a couple of veterinarians that are providing simple, “stitch up a wound” type care for cash.

                  • I wonder if we can use that to open up medical care the way the progs used back alley abortions in the abortion debate. I guess we’d have to have some people die or lose limbs first.

                  • Our primary care doctor has gone all concierge; his strategy is to declare that he’s not open to the public, he’s a “physician on retainer”, similar to a lawyer. I think that will be shot down quickly; if nothing else, DEA will simply revoke prescription authority of any provider who doesn’t take SCOTUSCare.

                    • That’s what a lot of them are doing.

                    • Concierge service may be a too well established service model for them to block it. My parents’ gerontologist has been providing service this way for at least half a decade. One major advantage is that it doesn’t require the care provider to waste administrative time with insurance filings (and refilings.)

                      Such a system (rather than the current pay per procedure) would, I suspect, greatly improve the effectiveness of Medicare — a system which greatly needs overhauling and updating to the realities extant a half century after its design was set.

                • The regulation does make it harder – but I expect some providers to get inside the regulators’ OODA loop and establish ways of doing some things that O’care (aka “SCOTUScare” now!) didn’t foresee and didn’t prevent. I suspect Legalzoom happened partly because of legal establishment hubris, creating a blind spot.
                  Once a new method is established widely enough, it becomes another political force to be accommodated.

                  • Like I said above, the regulators have a ready made club by withdrawing DEA prescription authority.

                    • It’s a big club, might be like whacking mosquitoes with a sledgehammer.

                      E.g. groups of doctors could use lawfare to ensure each withdrawal of prescription authority went through lengthy due process, while using referrals from efficient diagnosticians to efficient prescription-writers to get the prescriptions done. Not perfect, but a possible solution. Smart people in the industry can probably come up with more and better work-arounds than I can.

                      Like I said, get inside the regulators’ OODA loop – find work-arounds faster than they can close them, until the system both fails and (critically) is SEEN to fail by a huge majority.

                    • “Lawfare” assumes that you have rule of law. That was officially declared dead yesterday.

                    • You probably know this and were just venting about yesterday, but : “Lawfare” is the cynical use of the _forms_ of legal contention to waste time and the opponents’ resources.
                      Because of the forms and procedures bureaucrats have to go through, it’s possible to use it in a “death of a thousand cuts” way to make the opposition give up (and/or to delay any final judgement until the desired result is accomplished by political means.)
                      It does take substantial resources and determination/endurance to make it work… but it’s used against good folks by activist groups all the time, so it would be nice to see it reversed.

                  • I believe they are already deploying diagnostic aps and are developing the ability for smart phones to check your blood sugar along with pulse & BP. The only reason Apple’s new iWatch offers nothing of the sort is the regulatory regime for new medical devices (plus the Obamacare tax) discourages such innovation. Thanks, FDA — a wearable device which will monitor and record BP, pulse and blood sugar is the kind of thing I can do without.

                    • Might be nice to be able to go down to your local pharmacy and rent such a wearable device for a day, before calling up your telepresence remote doctor (Univ. of Wash. Medicine was talking about do that, the other day) and transmitting your info to support a diagnosis.
                      Per HIPAA (or if necessary, jailbreaking-like hacks), the device would be wiped clean of your personal info before you turned it back in – although I’d want to read it out to my personal records first.

            • Ah, Vitamin M (a.k.a. “Ranger candy”), the lifeblood of the military medical system.

              Sprained ankle? Motrin.
              Broken femur? Motrin.
              “Pancreatic cancer of an aggressive nature*”? 800mg Motrin. Need the Big Gun here…

              *An AuricTech Bonus Point (ATBP) for the first person to recognize this movie quote without resorting to an Internet search. ATBP can be redeemed for AuricTech bONUS pOINTS (ATbp), and vice versa. No cash value. Your mileage may vary. The center cannot hold. Burma-Shave.

              • I took 600mg Motrin 4xday. Ate a hole in me. Made me whiter than normal (and I don’t claim to be normal).

              • There’s a funny Action Figure Therapy video with their medic listing a list of cures. (“Motrin and water, maybe a band-aid if your a *****”) I’d post it, but it’s a bit…rough…for genteel conversation.

              • One day aboard the Mighty John C (no period) Stennis, I dropped a deckplate on my hand. After swearing up and down the Feed Pump Room for 10 minutes the pain hadn’t really subsided, so I decided to have a medical “professional” take a look. After disturbing the corpsman at his studies (Halo) he took a look at it. By “took a look at it” I mean he had me wiggle my fingers while he surfed WebMD. Following this exhaustive analysis he hands me a cheap zip-top sandwich bag and tells me I can get it filled with ice on the mess decks. As I’m walking back to my rack (dealing with mess cranks is barely worth losing sleep when there’s food involved. No way am I going to skip rack time for some bloody ice) I realize that crush injuries usually exhibit pain and inflammation. Pain and inflammation are EXACTLY what ibuprofen is designed to treat. I had the Platonic ideal ailment for Motrin and I DIDN’T GET ANY $#*^%$* MOTRIN!!! That was when I completely gave up on socialized medicine.

                • I gave up in 97 when a lady I knew who was a Staff Sgt called me at about 10pm because breathing hurt so much she couldn’t stop crying. The response of the base clinic was that someone could see her in the morning. To make a long story short, I took her to a 24 hour clinic where they diagnosed pleurisy, and put her on antibiotics and serious painkillers.

                  I wanted her to take that and use it as evidence to have the clinic staff court martialed for negligence, but she’s nicer than I am…. and convinced, probably correctly, that it would only hurt her.

                  • About ’04, a young couple went into medical with a positive pregnancy test and extreme pain or cramping. They told her she was miscarrying, stop being hysterical, come back and we’ll write your husband up for wasting our time and sent her home. Thankfully, the young wife was Japanese, so they went straight to the doctors off base…where she was correctly diagnosed as early stage Fallopian rupture, and they managed to save her life and the rest of her reproductive system.

                    Medical then tried to write her husband up for disrespect.

                    The high ranking guy that happened to ride on the husband’s ship ended up sitting on him long enough to
                    1) prevent their bloody murder [regretfully] and
                    2) make it clear their games were Not Going To Fly.

        • My daughter finished her Masters with the intent of applying to med school, but EVERY SINGLE doctor she had worked with advised her she’d be a fool to do so. She is now teaching skydiving while waiting to see the results in 2016

      • There are times when I wonder if the only way to fix US academia isn’t to start over again from scratch. Or if one needs to reform the current system, fire 90% of administrators and let all but the most senior of the remaining 10% be turned into faculty duties. And get rid of all the “country club” fluff while we’re at it.

      • Of course, you could always weed out those who want to go in just for the money, by (1) allowing anyone who could claim medical knowledge to be a doctor (libertarian talk-show host Larry Elder likes to use the example of a nurse he knows, who would be just as effective a pharmacist as anyone with a formal pharmacist degree, and medics trained to set bones in the battle field unable to set up shop at home to do the same), thereby lowering prices, and (2) opening new medical schools, and even streamlining them, with competition pushing tuition down, so that doctors can become doctors without gobs of debt, so it would be easier to leave the profession and do other things, once one *is* burned out.

        But there are all sorts of reasons this won’t work out! We need the State to make sure that things will work perfectly…and then we need to use essays to filter out those who just want to do it for the money…

        (Also: Never mind that someone who gets in because they truly care, can get jaded and burned out after a few years precisely because they care, or sometimes just despite it, and are forced to continue on because of the money…)

        • On the first Robert agrees. Part of the issue is that we don’t certify enough doctors, because it’s so important they be blah blah blah, but then we bring doctors in from the middle east who don’t have nearly the same training. This is why I’d be perfectly fine with just having an exam or whatever.

          • Comprehensive “body of knowledge” exams will take you a long way, but it’s hard to test for skill and judgement. Not that current methods are great at that, either…

            • Shorten medical school and extend apprenticeships. I somewhat doubt medical school’s ability to transmit skill and judgement, anyway. One easy way to open a conversation is to comment about the distance between what a body learns in school and what they discover they actually need to know once on the job.

              • True of any profession; the time in STEM after the first ~3 years is mostly body-of-knowledge training for an area of specialization.

                However: in theory and as I understand it, med internships are tightly bound to the formal training sequence, and are where (working in hospital under an experienced practitioner) the skill and judgement are formed.

                So internships (generic apprenticeships, if you like) that are a formal part of getting a license to practice are valuable to society; interns not being paid well, there’s less obvious immediate advantage to the student to extending them.

                • If the internship time can replace college time, that’s income rather than debt.

                  Not a lot of income, but black rather than red.

        • I believe that the government caps the number of admissions to medical schools, although I’ve forgotten how that works (one of the features of HillaryDon’tCare involved adjusting the Med School caps downward.)

          Obviously, simply eliminating any such cap would help increase the number of doctors, lowering fees and (in time*) driving down the costs of Med School.

          *One reason Liberals don’t like markets is that Liberals as a group are very impatient and prone to think that if you turn the oven up twice as high the cake will bake in half the time.

    • Keep in mind that for some participants, false negatives are a feature, not a bug. For bureaucrats there is no down-side to classifying excessive people as requiring your assistance; the worst that could happen is a) you have a case for higher funding levels (and more pay for yourself) for your department and/or b) the people whom you are “serving” get less attention, care and benefits.

      If you are the DMV and paid by the hour (rather than, say, number of licenses issued) long slow-moving lines are no disincentive — to you. The fact that it is prone to make your “customers” surly merely justifies your surly treatment of them; it isn’t as if they can go elsewhere for what you’re vending.

      • I renew my license at AAA.

        • How many states is that legal in? I ask because I have never heard of it before.

          • Washington allows you to renew your license online.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I’ve done it on-line in Illinois.

              Even changed my address on-line.

              I will have to go in things with my current address when I next renew my driver’s license.

              • NC allows renewal of license plates online, but for your Dricers’ License you must show up in person, an obvious and discriminatory ploy intended to disenfranchise minority and poor citizens people hangin’ around in the state.

          • On the other hand, Idaho offers 8 year licenses (Arizona offers 20, I believe) which vastly lowers the number of people competing for a spot in line at the DMV.

            Washington was a nightmare when I lived there (long before any online option, which one wonders if they implemented after they caught a lot of heat for giving drivers licenses to illegals) while Idaho I have never had to wait more than five minutes. Vehicle licensing, however, is done in a different office here, and that always has a line.

      • The Other Sean

        Honestly, the New Jersey DMV was one of the worst aspects of living in New Jersey. It could take hours.

        OTOH, in Ohio, even when I renew my license or registration in person, the Ohio BMV is fairly efficient. Last month, I walked in at 8:15 AM to renew two vehicle registrations and my license, and was out again 20 minutes later. That included waiting in line at the counter, stepping out of line to use an ATM (because they don’t have credit card capability yet), having my photo taken, and waiting for the license to print – which was extra slow because mine was the first of the day and the printer had to warm up first. I’ve never spent more than 45 minutes in one even when it was super-crowded. And if I hadn’t needed to get the new physical license, I could have done all that via the mail and saved myself the time.

        Compare that to “customer service” from privately-owned utilities, and it is better than most I’ve dealt with. It is certainly better than NJ DMV.

        • Louisiana used to be a possible whole day affair to go to the DMV, once for me it was 6 hours to renew a DL and that was a noted “fast” office. I had gotten there 20 minutes after opening
          The last time I went to a big office though it was far better. Not 20 minutes (find a small out of the way office and go during late morn, post lunch it might be) but likely not more than an hour unless you have some odd thing or doing testing. Far better system.
          Texas is different. Registration is with the Courthouse, DL is with Dept of Public Safety. Most of the time, going into my local courthouse, I rarely have had to wait, and usually if there is a wait it is minutes.
          There is also an online option for renewals, but I have had one go missing, so I had to go into the Courthouse.

          • Texas also has the curious feature that if you are getting a State ID card, they’ll print it on the spot; driver’s licenses, OTOH, have to be made and mailed from Austin.

            • Conjecture: like my state, perhaps Texas has some legal judgements that can get your license pulled. Wouldn’t want such a person to get their license back by just going in to print-on-demand licensing office, so it goes to Austin for a records check.

      • If you are the DMV and paid by the hour (rather than, say, number of licenses issued) long slow-moving lines are no disincentive — to you. The fact that it is prone to make your “customers” surly merely justifies your surly treatment of them; it isn’t as if they can go elsewhere for what you’re vending.

        At least at my local (Sierra Vista, AZ) AZDOT Motor Vehicle Division office, they have a seating area. Each customer is issued an alphanumeric code, and the MVD clerks on duty take each customer in turn by code. There’s a lighted sign above each active desk to display what code that desk is currently serving, and a PA system announces the next code to be served. It’s amazing how much less surly customers who can sit while waiting are, when compared to customers forced to stand in lines….

        For some matters (such as a replacement for a lost driver’s license), the local MVD office has a Web-based kiosk that can expedite things further. License plate/registration renewals are also conducted online from home, to include purchasing vanity plates. For vanity plates, a driver can submit the desired “text” of the plate for a given vanity plate template, and immediately find out if it’s available*.

        Who could ever imagine: a bureaucracy that uses technology to ease processes for both the bureaucrats and the customers?

        Oh, and Arizona driver’s licenses are valid until one’s 65th birthday,

        *After the ruling today that SCOTUS views itself as authorized to change the actual text of laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, I’m again considering getting a “Freedom” vanity plate with the text “HTTP404.” If I’m feeling especially cranky, I might go with “HTTP403.”

        • Ooooh, looking at the Wikipedia entry on HTTP Status Codes, I can see several other appropriate texts for “Freedom” vanity plates. The one that first jumped out at me was ‘HTTP424″ (“Failed Dependency”). After all, when one fails to be dependent, one has freedom.

          I leave determining which additional HTTP status codes currently apply to freedom as an exercise for the student.

        • Who could ever imagine: a bureaucracy that uses technology to ease processes for both the bureaucrats and the customers?

          Most of them use technology to ease the process for themselves and make it much more painful for the customers…….

  7. Luggage inspections? Maybe. But only if done by the airlines, who are actually slightly qualified, rather than by taxpayer funded morons, who have now been clearly documented to be utterly worthless.
    Meanwhile, Scott Bieser clearly stated the right solution to the danger of hijacking: reinstate the Constitution and respect the human right of self defense.
    http://www.scottbieser.com/sept11.html
    As for myself, I no longer fly. I’ll consider it if the law is respected once again. Until then, I’m with Neil Smith on this issue.

    • However, this is a matter of trading risks. Given that the risks for the passengers have changed such that even unarmed they know they face better odds against the hijacker than they do if they do nothing, the hijackers have switched to ‘put a hole in the plane’ as a modus operandi.

      Putting firearms on aircraft has risks. In any case, there’s a risk of someone deliberately shooting a hole in the plane. Too few guns, you’ve set up a potential scenario where the hijackers are more armed than the rest of the plane. Too many guns, and you’ve increased the odds that someone accidentally and negligently puts a hole in the plane. The potential damage of an accidental (or malicious) discharge of a firearm in midair is a lot greater than the risk on the ground. Is it less risky than the risk of another 9/11? Almost certainly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other risks or other means to avert the risks of another 9/11 that have less risks.

      • OTOH, the hijackers want to hijack the plane. The bystanders want to put holes in them. If they have more guns, it may not matter.

      • scott2harrison

        I forget the name of the show, but it was the one where they do actual experiments to check out urban legends. On one of their shows they bought an old airliner that was no longer safe to fly because the cabin was too weak to reliably be pressurized. They then pressurized it to the same relative pressure that it would have at 30,000 feet and shot a hole in it. There was a slight hiss and the pressurization equipment had to work slightly harder, that was all. I am not worried about bullet holes in an airliner.

        • Yep, the chances of actually putting a hole in something critical are fairly negligible, and there are oxygen masks at the passenger seats for the express reason of losing pressurization at high altitudes.

        • IIRC, the only known instances of explosive decompression of an airplane following a bullet puncturing of the fuselage occur in Hollywood airplanes, a type of craft which adhere to a different realm of physical reality.
          http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/

          In the types of airplanes most likely to experience such punctures the heads of would-be highjackers should suffice as emergency patches to reduce air loss in excess of the craft’s compressors to offset.

          BTW: apparently the progam viewed was Mythbusters, Episode 10.
          mythbustersresults[DOT]com/episode10

        • You’re an airline owner. How much does it cost if your quarter-billion dollar jet is out of service? What happens if the shot hits the fuel line or the engine? Think like a bad guy. What happens to my trans-oceanic flight if one of the passengers shoots the engine or engines on one side over the middle of the Atlantic? What happens if they try it during landing? I don’t know. I doubt the terrorists know. But if people are willing to work plastique into the soles of their shoes and then run a security gauntlet to try to bring down an airliner, think of what else they’d try.

          • One of the certification requirements for aircraft designs is to take the engine up to full speed and blow (literally – they attach explosives) the fan blades off. If any part of the blade breaches the engine cowling, the design fails. A handgun bullet has nowhere near that energy. You can shoot out an engine, but it needs to be done from the front (maybe the rear), not from inside the plane.

            The danger of a gun in a plane is that essentially all bullet trajectories end in someone, and medical help is quite a ways away.

          • Single hole? very low probability of a critical location – most systems are double or triple redundant, so that other kinds of mechanical or electrical failures won’t bring the airplane down.

        • Mythbusters. One of the shows where they didn’t get too stupid, that.

  8. I flew home from London a few days ago and I meekly went through the line because I needed to make my flight. The time to protest or change the system is not when you’re in the throes of a long day of travel- it’s about as counterproductive as you can get.

    • Again – I disagree. Calm peaceful protest will simply be ignored. Constituents told their ‘representatives’ 200 to 1 they didn’t want TARP. See how much that changed the system? If enough people protested at the airport it would snarl things up enough to make the system break. I’m not willing to go to prison to do that. I will however withhold my money.

      • You advocate that others take such actions that may lead to prison when you are unwilling to do so?

  9. Curt Thomson

    Who would it have affected? The TSA? Oh, h*ll no. They like cracking down. They do their job in the hope they get to clobber one of us. You can feel that.

    This. I really think a good idea would be to put a poster up somewhere before screening, saying “BE AWARE: All of the individuals you are about to interact with are FREE AGENTS. They have CHOSEN the work they are doing, and are FREE TO LEAVE IT any time they choose.” (obviously would be torn down as soon as found)

    It’s important to let them know we know this at all interactions. The nice lady directing you to the proper lane, who likes chatting up your kids? Provide a 2 second blank stare, and then grab your kid and let them know, as loudly as possible without drawing undue attention, that this is an individual they should NOT interact with. The guy asking in a friendly way about what’s printed on your t-shirt while you wait for the print of your genitals to process? Thousand yard stare, preferably with slightly relaxed eye lids. A muttered “no hablo” if absolutely necessary.Every effort on their part to engage should be met with a response that lets them know instinctively that WE KNOW YOU LIKE THIS. And we judge you appropriately.

    • I’ve known people who’s job description involves security where the risk day to day is minimal but if something happens the results are likely to be very catastrophic. Treating them poorly just makes the situation worse, for both them and you.

      The TSA situation is a situation where there is a vicious cycle for both those secured and those providing security. It’s a dehumanizing process for the secured, so they feel and often act poorly, which makes the security feel and act poorly, which makes it worse on the secured… Eventually, the security you have left are those that don’t even try to care about those they are supposed to be securing.

      If you think it’s bad now, it could be worse; I’ve been through third world airport security, and it’s even less fun.

      • Curt Thomson

        It’s a dehumanizing process for the secured, so they feel and often act poorly

        If the process produced “secured” individuals you’d have a point. But it doesn’t do that. And a wordless stare is not acting poorly. It is a perfectly civilized method of communicating “I know what you’re doing, and now you know I know it. Don’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise.”

        • All your doing is selecting for TSA agents that have the least empathy for the people they’re dealing with; not necessarily a winning idea. In fact, I wonder how much of this sort of process is already responsible for how horrible airport security feels.

          • Curt Thomson

            I’m not selecting for anything, I’m making it harder for these individuals to convince themselves they are accomplishing anything of value. In other words, making it harder for them to lie to themselves. If that makes it harder for TSA to hire or retain people with “empathy”, so be it.

            I imagine getting through a screening station staffed by empaths would be more time consuming and of even less value than what exists today (if that’s possible).

            Airport security doesn’t just “feel” horrible, it is horrible. It is kabuki theater on steroids. And to the extent I can make it difficult for the players to conclude otherwise, I consider the effort worthwhile.

            • I’m not selecting for anything, I’m making it harder for these individuals to convince themselves they are accomplishing anything of value.

              Which means you’re selecting against those who respond to your manipulation.

  10. I have found the perfect accessory when flying – a cane. I flew out to California 8 weeks ago for spinal surgery (which was successful), and I was using my dad’s cane to walk with. Check-in at the airport was expedited, didn’t have to take my shoes off for TSA, and I was boarded early. The return trip later that week – TSA told me to not even bother emptying my pockets, just hurry up and get through the metal detector (they didn’t even wand me when it went off). And they weren’t that busy.

  11. A comment. I have been dealing with tight airline security (El Al) since well before 9/11. Because terrorism has sadly been a living reality in the location of NCT Base East (Tel Aviv, Israel) for pretty much its whole existence, security checkpoints at the entrance of shopping malls and even perfunctory security checks entering restaurants are part of our daily routine. We cope with them as a matter of course.

    What I see with the TSA is security theater, and what Instapundit calls a make-work scheme that may have some incidental security benefits. The level of professionalism I have seen from the TSA spans the range from adequate-plus to “makes a grown man weep”, but the main conceptual error is trying to stop the weapon/device instead of trying to stop the perp. Israeli security openly and unapologetically profiles (which would be a political impossibility in the USA) — but mainly, they focus on microexpression, which is “group”-neutral.

    • The sheer number of airports and the minimal risk involved means the TSA is almost certainly doomed to incompetence from the start. It’s really easy to get a small number of incredibly qualified teachers or a small number of very professional TSA agents. It’s really hard to get an incredible teacher for every classroom or a very professional TSA agent for every one needed to make the TSA work. Plans which require every teacher to be above average or every TSA agent to be above average are doomed to failure, so your plan needs to be built with that in mind. The teachers have an advantage in that they all will be teaching; if you’re doing the TSA even half right, most of them are going to be doing absolutely nothing but the routine day in and day out.

      The Israelis, who have a lot fewer airports to secure and a real risk to motivate security, have a much easier job filling the security positions.

      • It seems like the air travel industry already solved that problem of excess safety personnel: flight attendants. They are there for medical emergencies and crashes, but since that doesn’t come into play 99% of the time they serve drinks and fetch pillows.

        • You have a point, but flight attendants seem to be service first, safety second, given the relative safety of modern air travel. I don’t know how you’d make that move with the ground security personnel.

        • I can say that medically they are barely trained. I responded to a request for aid and they were unaware the medical kit was in multiple parts. Thankfully did not result in loss of pt. But still, that is exactly what they should know

      • It is true that Israeli security has only one major airport to worry about (and a minor one in Eilat) — plus the El Al counters and flights abroad. It is also true that most people who work in airline security do this for a few years as an entry-level job for a career in the security field/establishment. Finally, Dr. Johnson’s law applies: the knowledge that you may be hanged in a fortnight has a habit of concentrating the mind wonderfully.

        Israelis are as capable as anyone of doing shoddy make-believe work (or as we call it with a Russian loanword, “partatch”) — but in these things they are generally very earnest precisely because almost everybody has a 1st-or 2nd-degree connection to somebody who got killed or severely wounded in a terror attack.

  12. I have come to hate flying so much, that I’m starting to think I’m not going to do it anymore.
    The government is no longer ours, and when the Supreme Court just starts making stuff up (they ‘interpreted’ obamacare based on what they ‘believed was intended’ not on what was actually written) we are done as a constitutional republic.
    The law now is whatever those in power want it to be, and they’ll change the interpretation as they see fit.

    • Rule of law is dead.

      • It has been on life support since FDR’s court-stacking in the ’30s. In an interesting post at NRO gangblog The Corner, Michael Potemra suggests the date of termination of brain function as 10/23/87: the day Bork’s nomination was defeated and Justice Kennedy’s ascent assured.

        One thing the Left excels at and the Right just doesn’t get is the importance of killing in the nest. Two or more decades of Borkian oratory in SCOTUS decisions and dissents would have established a much different center for the Court than the nearly three decades of Justice Kennedy’s activism.

        Or consider the effects of Al D’Amato (detestable as he was) holding his senate seat against Chuck Schumer’s challenge in 1998. For that matter, look at the election which sent “Landslide” Lyndon Johnson to Washington. It is always important to elect the lesser evil when the alternative is a greater one. Back in 1776 our Founders opted for the lesser evil of slavery in order to reject the greater evil of submission to a tyrannical executive. (Looks at recent SCOTUS jurisprudence and Obama Administration activity and sighs.)

        Who knows, if we continually vote for lesser evils we might eventually get to vote for somebody good.

        • Yes – the rise of good men who are also excellent leaders is unpredictable and random (as seen from the electorate) – have to vote to hold the line as best one can until they come along.
          And then support them, dammit!

    • starfleet dude

      Just because the card says “Moops” doesn’t mean it’s correct. The decision today was based on a full reading of the legislation, not just a snippet.

      • Bullshit.

        We have recorded testimony from multiple sources that section of the law was specifically written to ONLY pay subsidies through the individual State exchanges, and NOT through the Federal exchanges. The Justices ignored that AND the plain meaning of the language.

        As far as I am concerned, this government is not deserving of my loyalty or support.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Actually, the decision could have been much worse.

          There’s word that some of the Justices wanted a decision that would have expanded the power of the President to “correct problems with Laws”.

          The Chief Justice managed to just say “Congress would have done this way so we’ll fix it”.

          He also seemed to strongly approve of the Minority position.

          So it’s not good, could have been much worse and the Minority position set a strong argument against using this decision as a guide for future Court decisions.

          Mind you, this decision is a strong reason IMO to vote for a Republican so that a Democrat can’t appoint the next Supreme Court Justices.

          • Right now them what are talking about the decision don’t know what it means and them what know what it means aren’t talking about it.

            On the minus side of that decision:

            We are stuck with Obamacare.*

            The literal words of our Constitution are now meaningless (again.)

            Rule of Law is suspended, at least until a Republican sits in the White house (we’ve plenty of experience with that game, most recently with Democrats bewailing Bush’s abuse of presidential power.)

            On the plus side of that decision:

            The Dems are stuck with Obamacare. All problems, flaws and consequences of the law are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party. Does anyone here imagine that muddle of a law will grow more popular?

            The onus to fix the flaws exposed by a favorable Burwell decision does not sit on GOP shoulders. Republican governors from states without state-run health care exchanges will not have to spend the next couple years trying to unscrew that pooch. Republican presidential candidates will not be constantly challenged to explain (in phrases too concise for MSM and Dem ((but I repeat myself)) challengers questioners to misrepresent.)

            It is extremely unlikely the Dems can continue to kick sand over the failures of this law, especially if Obama continues to stretch the credibility gap by proclaiming it is “working.” This will increase the mandate for a Republican who can fix the failure to be elected. It also gives an additional year and a half for the GOP to concoct a free market solution that will restore the health insurance marketplace.**

            GOP presidential candidates can develop a replacement with knowledge of what they are replacing, rather than having to adjust to whatever dog’s breakfast of a cadge would have resulted from a Burwell decision against the ACA.

            The imperative of appointing justices who will adhere to Constitutional principles increases.***

            *See plus side arguments
            **Or not. We are talking “the stupid party” here.
            ***Good luck with that. Sigh.

            • In case anybody missed Randy Barnett at Instapundit [emphasis added] :

              One consolation is that, were President Obama to have vetoed whatever the Republicans would have proposed, nothing good would happen until after the next election, which is where things now stand. Now Congressional Republicans cannot be bull-rushed into simply extending the subsidies to federal exchanges, while implicitly accepting the rest of the ACA, which is how things were shaping up. Now the voters will truly get at least one more crack at saving American health care from Obamacare. (And, with the health care cases in mind, candidates can debate the sort of justices they will nominate to the Court.)

              Supporters of the law have already telegraphed that their next move is to end the political debate by urging a Pax Obamacare to which all Americans must acquiesce. Last week the president said, after “five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law. It’s no longer just a theory. This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare . . . This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another.”

              While the ACA is certainly the “law of the land,” as it has been since its enactment, nothing in the Court’s decision today imparts any additional legitimacy on this law as a public policy meriting political acquiescence. To borrow from the president’s words, it is still “just a law.” So nothing in this decision should deter Republican presidential and congressional candidates in the 2016 election from continuing to press their campaign to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

          • Do you seriously think with “Vichy Mitchy” and the rest of the GOPe in charge they’ll nominate a conservative? I need some of your tranqs.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I think it’s more possible than a Democrat doing so.

            • Partly depends on the number of strong conservatives that get elected to Congress along with an R president… Mitch like all professional politicians has an eye out to survival.

          • “…vote for a Republican so that a Democrat can’t appoint the next Supreme Court Justices.” Correction: vote for a conservative or libertarian – the middle-of-the-road-to-liberal-leaning Republicans are too easily swayed to compromise with progressives.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              My vote will be to *prevent* the Democrat from gaining office. Hopefully, the Republican will be one that won’t make that mistake.

              • Well, actually I agree. Most of the time you have to vote for the least bad alternative, and hope.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Nod. I felt that I had to say that because there are too many people who would vote for somebody who can’t win thus allowing the Democrat to win. [Sad Smile]

                  • The other side of that is that you HAVE to vote – not be part of letting the worst alternative win by default. I’ve seen too many who, if they can’t have the candidate they want, would take their ball (vote) and go home; it doesn’t absolve them from responsibility.

        • starfleet dude

          We also have months and months and months of Congressional debate about subsidies being available for both state and federal exchanges. That’s what the justices also took into account. As far as I’m concerned, this silly case should never have made it out of any court of law.

          • Nonsense – much that is debated in Congress fails to make it into law.

            Given how this bill made it into law, calling the Congressional debate debate over it “months and months and months” requires a level of credulity sufficient to believe that if you liked your insurance/doctor, you could keep your insurance/doctor; the only fools who believed that were the ones who were sure this pile of horse manure meant there was a pony awaiting them.

            • starfleet dude

              True about the debate, but much of it did make it into the law also. Finding one small contradiction of four words and claiming it represents the actual intent of the legislation is what stretches credulity.

              • As Jonny Gruber said, it was there (in about half a dozen places) as an incentive intended to pressure states into establishing state health care exchanges, thus creating internal constituencies for the exchanges and roping in the state governments for a share of the blame when this Rube Goldberg legislation collapsed health insurance markets, Note reports on recent trend of mergers and consolidations in the industry, reducing the number of insurance underwriters and increasing monosoponization of the industry — essentially reaching single-payer by fiat in a publicly regulated market with government bureaucrats calling the tune, rewarding supportive participants (free birth control for young women) and penalizing uncooperative ones (Little Sisters for the Poor.)

                Constantly shifting your arguments, pushing and then abandoning discredited claims is not a way to enhance your credibility.

    • Politeness is a two-way street. We bear no duty to be polite to those who are rude to us. That is not to justify rudeness in return, merely to adjure that we owe them no duty of respectful treatment.

      When the SCOTUS asserts, as Ed Mechmann describes:

      Little needs to be said about this latest decision by the Court. This Court has a propensity to make things up as they go along, to satisfy their policy preferences or to follow public opinion. Reasoned legal argumentation really has no great sway over the Court on these issues, so there’s no reason to treat their decision as if it had anything to do with law at all.

      There is no question that over the past few years, public opinion has shifted strongly in favor of redefining marriage. But the resolution of such a weighty policy argument should not be left to the least democratic branch of the government. It should be hashed out in the rough and tumble of politics. That is what was happening, prior to the Supreme Court’s first usurpation, in the Windsor case. But democracy is apparently no longer an option, when the post-modern Zeitgeist of sexual liberationism demands its way.

      And so, we should really stop pretending. When it comes to certain important issues about the nature of the human person and our society, we really no longer have a rule of law or of reason, but a rule of lawyers — a majority of five, to be precise, all of whom attended a few elite Eastern law schools. Jefferson’s fear of the despotism of an oligarchy has fully come true.

      We are no longer under any obligation to pretend that the tail is a leg nor the Supreme Court a body of lawful authority.

      We can — and likely should — assent to their power to rule, but that does not require us to pretend their power is rooted in lawful authority, merely practical authority. Nor ought we pay lip service to any assumption of Good Faith in Proglodyte’s challenges to any judicial nominations offered up by a conservative president. In fact, we owe them only the same respect for their views as they accord to ours.

  13. Sarah – I think you nailed it.

    I don’t raise a huge fuss, even if I don’t enthusiastically go along with the game, because it would throw travel plans for myself, my family, and others in disarray, just to raise a “kabuki” scene with the Thousands Standing Around.

  14. I tend to fly about half a dozen round trips a year, and it is at the realm of the absurd. Go thru, put two or three computers I have in bins, go thru pornoscan, get patted down, then pull out potential garotte (headphones), get scalding hot liquid (coffee), all the while having aluminum flashlight in pocket. Security theatre. Esp when you realize how lax the rest of the airport controls are

  15. Blond-Engineer

    I’m going to go ahead and admit that shortly after graduating college I worked for the TSA for a year. It was honestly the only job I could get, up to and including fast food. 90% of the people I worked with were there for the steady paycheck and the decent bennies, not the possible opportunity club someone to the ground. If you have had a different experience, you have my condolences.

    Having been on the other side of the counter as it were, I have to say I would much, much rather have worked down in the luggage pits than up with the passengers. While passenegers don’t give you hernias, the luggage doesn’t swear at you for just doing your freaking job.

    Just remember that the folks in the dopey uniforms aren’t the ones making the rules, and making their lives difficult isn’t going to make yours any better.

    Sarah’s got the right idea. In line is not the place to make changes. Do that by writing a letter to your Congressman or Representative. Write letters to the leadership of the TSA and DHS. Let people know that you’ve seen through the song and dance, that it doesn’t make you any safer, in perception or reality. But please, don’t take it out on the poor souls stuck in a deeply thankless job, just trying to keep their families fed.

    • Exactly. I once had an “issue” with a credit card company representative that called. I called the company back and told the nice young lady that I wanted to speak to her boss because she wasn’t paid enough to listen to what I was going to say. She chuckled, said thank you, and asked me to hold while she got her supervisor to take the call. 🙂

      • Too many systems depend on insulating the policy-makers from those affected by policy. The TSA workers, the call center employees cannot change policy and are expected to serve as cannon-fodder for their superiors, soaking up arrows so their supervisors don’t have to.

        Those TSA screeners who are embarrassed by what their jobs require of them don’t stay in those jobs any longer than they have to, which means the system filters for those who do enjoy the petty authority (aka “the Barney Fifes”) and, by forcing them to endure surly, argumentative, swearing passengers legitimizes their abusiveness.

        For those intent on tearing down society in order to build anew it is a win-win. Go read your Screwtape Letters and refocus on how to change the dynamic.

        There are ways of combating the system, of legitimizing their theatre, but they require more than ad hoc opposition. Imagine organizing a suitably large group of people to enter the TSA screening process fully prepared, wearing “tear away” outfits (the kind used in theatre that can be removed instantly all in one piece) and filming it for internet distribution. Collect a group of athletic, fit young adults and rehearse them to do ballet or body-builder poses or other similar mockery.

        The antidote to such abuses is not on direct resistance but in mocking opposition.

        • reddragonhawk

          It probably actually needs to be a bunch of out-of-shape people who are not easily shamed. The TSA workers probably would enjoy a show by the athletic people. If I had lots of time and money, and was less self conscious I’d love to be part of something like that, subjecting them all to my flab and stretch marks. It’d serve ’em right.

          • Especially when how every month or so a story comes out about an agent groping someone they thought hot vs because of contraband

    • They know. They don’t represent us anymore.

    • Patrick Chester

      They’re just doing their job?
      http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2011-01-20

      *eyeroll*

  16. reddragonhawk

    Spot on, Sarah. I like Ace, he’s a smart guy and I generally agree with him, but on this one he’s wrong. The only real way to protest this stuff is to not fly, or fly as little as you can. But once you’ve bought the ticket and are at the airport most of us don’t have the ability to mount a reasonable protest. If you have LOTS of money for lawyers and lots of free time then you can do it. But as you say, you’re likely just going to make life very unpleasant for someone who hasn’t done you any wrong, but who, for one reason or another, simply has to be at the airport at that time.

    • Admittedly the column was more poking fun at how we are so trained. The trip in question was put of Mexico and just the pre911 metal detector was done. People did not think

    • I fail to see how “not flying” qualifies as protesting. To be clear, this isn’t aimed your way, because you aren’t the only one to assert that not flying is protesting.

      No, protesting is protesting. Writing letters, singing songs (filkwar at the TSA?), marches, flash mocks as suggested above, those are protesting. Unless one makes a point of letting the GOV’T know that you aren’t flying because of X, one’s “not flying” protest amounts to nothing more than onanistic “standing up to the man” puppet theater in your own closet. Telling US but not telling those behind the policy? Well, that exhibitionist onanism.

      If you’re serious about protesting the TSA cut-rate volunteer kabuki production, then gather 10,000 of your closest friends and storm the frickin’ runway next time Air Force One is in your town, forcing the damn thing to either not land or not allowing it to take off. Or, if you want to do it politely, find out when YOUR Congresscritter is going to be flying, and you and a bunch of friends buy tickets on his flight and disrupt the hell out of things so that HE is affected. But save your dignity by skipping the announcement (and delusion) that you’re “protesting” when in fact you literally aren’t doing a damn thing I don’t know which is more pathetic, a “not flying protest” or #hashtagWAAAAAHHHH protesting.

      • reddragonhawk

        It’s more like a boycott, if you prefer. Hitting the airlines in the pocketbook, and then they hopefully will use their influence to do something about the TSA. They do have influence, probably more than ordinary citizens. You can of course also write letters to lawmakers, and the idea of planning a physical protest by buying tickets when you know a lawmaker is going to be on a flight would be a good one too, assuming you could find that information out ahead of time. People could also just show up without tickets to anyplace and carry signs and make a lot of noise outside of the security areas, though in this case the protesters are probably also making life extremely unpleasant for people who have no choice but to be at the airport. It’s a bit like those people who shut down freeways recently to protest police shootings. You’re not actually causing grief to the people who did wrong, just to bystanders who can’t do much about the situation. But it’s doable.

  17. reddragonhawk

    Yeah, I read the post. I understand his frustration and growing sense of despair, the feeling that this can’t be fixed because people seem apathetic. I really think it’s not the people in line at the airport who are the issue though. It’s people who never or rarely fly who, when you tell them what happens in the security line, even when you describe something disgusting happening to a little kid or someone’s grandma, say “Well, I just *feel* safer. If it stops *one* terrorist…” Those people vote, and they don’t give a tinker’s damn about essential liberties, and they won’t believe you when you say none of this *has* ever stopped a terrorist.. Sometimes I just wanna hit my head against a concrete wall until I see the little birdies. Or in my case, little dragons.

    • I just drink copious booze to kill brain cells, decide that procreation a bad idea and hope to die by 50.

    • This is but one part of the tinder being piled for the bonfire to come. There will be a political figure on the Right (Ted Cruz seems to be angling for that position — see: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/special-report-bret-baier/videos#p/86927/v/4320018197001 — approx. 25″) who will provide a focus for the broad general public’s opinion that our system is breaking down.

      I am not endorsing Cruz; Rand Paul seems also to be exploring how to light this fire, while Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal may also find a way to tap into this energy. Given the extensive corruption of the administrative state and those charged with controlling it (politicians and media) it may prove a tide beyond King Canute’s command and the experiment of self-governance may yet prove self-defeating. Perhaps the major convenience of a Monarchical System is easier identification of those who need hanging.

      • reddragonhawk

        I like the fact that Cruz can talk without saying “er, uh, der” every fourth word. And that’s speaking as someone who herself cannot accomplish that. Dude sure manages to sound sharp.

        Not sure who I’ll vote for, though.

        • Constantly interrupting your speech is a sign of psychopathic plotting. Very few are smart enough to lie smoothly without thinking about how to lie.

          • Technically, it’s associated with thinking about what you’re saying.

            That would apply for lying, sure; it also applies for “is there any way this can be misconstrued, taken out of context or re-cut to destroy me and everyone I love.”

            • I suspect Cruz is smart enough (Dershowitz proclaimed him the smartest law student he ever had) that he could lie like Billy Jeff if he was so inclined, with nary a hesitation nor blink of an eye.

              Don’t mean I think he lies, just that he would probably be good at it if he did.

              • Probably smart enough to think about what to say if asked that question in advance, which makes the largest difference.

  18. One way to take a stance for holding government agencies more accountable presents itself in the possibility of impeaching IRS Commissioner Koskinen: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420277/irs-scandal-house-republicans-impeaching-commissioner-koskinen?target=author&tid=1211296

    If you’ve a representative on that committee it might be worth a call or postage stamp to try to stiffen his/her/its imagined spine.

  19. Cloudbuster

    Nah, politeness to fellow travelers isn’t why I do it. I travel a lot on business, but not as much as I was in the years right after 9/11 when I was flying at least one round trip a week most weeks.

    I made myself unpleasant the first few times, was rude to the TSA reps, argued with them when they found a tiny keychain folding wrench/screwdriver combo and insisted it was a weapon. Insisted on pat downs rather than subject myself to backscatter radiation (for my health, because I hoped if I could make it a trend it would so bog down the system that they couldn’t possibly continue, and because if you’re going to violate my privacy you should at least do it to my face.), but gradually I gave up. Not enough fellow travelers were also making life hard for the TSA, so my tiny acts of rebellion and unpleasantness simply weren’t having the effect they would if it had been tens of thousands of people acting like me. The only one I was materially inconveniencing was myself.

  20. I’m just gonna leave this here…. The genius of the TSA

  21. Completely off-topic: what’s supposed to be a reasonable turn-around time for a paid developmental edit on a short novel (less than 40k words)?

  22. wanderingmuses

    We used to fly a lot but now we have an RV so we just drive where we want to go. We did it because we’re sick of all the ridiculousness at airports these days and the drive lets us see things we wouldn’t otherwise.

  23. Prior to 9/11 U.S. air fights were very rarely hijacked. Few people were killed in the hijackings, and the powers that be told people just cooperate with the hijackers. And on 9/11, that’s what the passengers on 3 of 4 hijacked planes did. On the 4th, the passengers became aware that if they did nothing- they would die, and possibly a lot of others would also. They took action. They died, but kept the plane from hitting the intended target. Cooperating with hijackers was always bad advice.

    If you want to really stop hijackings, use the militia. Issue every CITIZEN who wants one a taser as they board the plane. Issue any military personnel a pistol. Collect them as they leave the plane. Allow the passengers to vote people off the plane. If someone stinks, is inebriated, is acting crazy, or for any other reason the passengers complain, take a vote. If the passenger is voted off- oh well, tough luck.

    And instead of checkpoints testing everyone, which all quality control experts know is not a good way to check quality, have a handful of people roving the airports looking for suspicious people. Including profiling. If one of them spots a suspicious someone, have another 2 or 3 come to evaluate. Pick a number. Let’s say 4 of them say, “Yep, suspicious.”, call uniformed security for a stop and frisk and search. Multiple trained observers saying suspicious behavior makes the search reasonable, especially in the context of airport and traveler safety.

    One of the main problems with the current system is that it does create chokepoints. If a cabal of homicide bombers truly wanted to cause mass death, forget hijacking. 4 or 6 get in different lines at the chokepoint on the day before Thanksgiving, and when they’re scattered through the lines- detonate. I’m far from the first person to imagine this scenario.

  24. The TSA is totally useless. And pointless. Look at it this way, any hijacked aircraft is now a guided bomb with a lot of explosive and damage potential. Any aircraft that goes off transponder is going to be intercepted and if it doesn’t respond and obey instructions, shot down.

  25. Most people forget that security theater existed before 9/11. There were terrorist flaps in the 1980s and 1960s resulting in “improved airline security.”

    In 1985 I went to the airport to pick someone up. To get into the concourse required going through a security checkpoint. The yahoos running the checkpoint decided I needed to be pulled out of line for “additional screening” and wanted me to go into a small room with two of them who would conduct a body search.

    I very loudly announced I wasn’t going into a room so a couple of [redacted] could take my clothes; we could do it right here in public with witnesses. I had my pants off and my thumbs in my shorts before they decided they had seen enough.

    Why, yes, I was blazing mad…

    Nowadays they’d probably call in their friends and do a Rodney King number on me. So I not only don’t fly, I don’t go to airports any more either.

    Back in the mid-90s an employer wanted to send me to a tech school in Colorado Springs. 1,050 miles; leave Saturday morning, drive straight through for 18 hours or so depending on stops, rest Sunday, school Monday. It was getting on time to leave when I asked what kind of documentation they needed to reimburse me for mileage.

    Whoa! No mileage. Not even reimbursement for gas. They’d bought airline tickets, which nobody had bothered to mention to me. I told them I didn’t fly. It got very ugly then; even though it would have been much cheaper for them if I drove, they were insistent that I take the airplane. Eventually it got arbitrated by the Labor Department, who decided that since flying wasn’t listed as a condition of employment, they couldn’t force me onto the plane.

    Bozoids. They became former employers a few months later anyway.

    • Remember TWA 800 and the commission established to improve airliine security?

      Read & weep, and weep ye shall at the proliferation of bureaucrapweasel calls to “set goals” “develop plans” “implement comprehensive plans” “provide stronger strategic leadership” and “choke the monkey with both hands”:

      http://fas.org/irp/threat/212fin~1.html

      February 12, 1997

      President William J. Clinton
      The White House
      Washington, DC

      Dear Mr. President,

      We are pleased to present you with the report of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. You established this Commission by issuing Executive Order 13015 on August 22, 1996 with a charter to study matters involving aviation safety and security, including air traffic control and to develop a strategy to improve aviation safety and security, both domestically and internationally.

      During the past six months, we have conducted an intensive inquiry into civil aviation safety, security and air traffic control modernization. Commission and staff have gathered information from a broad range of aviation specialists, Federal Agencies, consumer groups, and industry leaders.

      After many months of deliberations we have agreed on a set of recommendations which we believe will serve to enhance and ensure the continued safety and security of our air transportation system.

      We are privileged to submit these recommendations herewith.

      Sincerely,
      Vice President Al Gore, Chairman

      • When they bragged about reducing personnel rules to only 41 pages I couldn’t help but remember the personnel rules mandated by the executive team at one place I worked: employment is at will. be competent at your job and don’t be an a**hole.

  26. regularjoeski

    Penn & Teller sell a metal copy of the bill of rights for you to carry through TSA. It is designed to set off the metal detector. They ask that you hold it up and say ” Here take the bill of rights” when it is confiscated. If we all did that TSA might change. BTW they also sell carbon fiber knives which will not set off the detector. Maybe we should all start libertarian guerrilla theater to gum up the security theater. BTW Israeli security is at least understandable, people are tranched by risk, searches vary by risk, and you are warned to give yourself 3 hours to clear security if needed. Airline security jobs are only open to combat arm veterans.

  27. Rather than the vast TSA horde, it would have been cheaper just to stay with the old metal detectors and baggage checks, and put two or three armed federal marshals on every commercial flight. Or even fobbed the cost off on the airlines directly by making them provide armed security.

    But there’s no political power to be had in efficiency; C. Northcote Parkinson described that in detail in “Parkinson’s Law,” which ought to be required reading for anyone with a libertarian bent.

  28. I’ve only flown twice since 9/11, and only once did I transport a firearm. I recommend that you transport a firearm, because it gets you through some stupid lines to see real people who know stuff. Just has to be in a lockable case, with ammo stowed in a separate container.
    In 1972, there was a rash of hijackings, and bag searches were implemented. I waked away from my carry on because it had a bag of dope hidden in my dirty underwear. They didn’t find it though, and I picked it up later.
    And I don’t smoke dope anymore, by the way.

    • I remember advice from years ago to get a starter pistol to put in your luggage to keep your valuables safe, the more things change… 😀

    • What? If some dope attacks, you wouldn’t smoke him/her/it/whatever in a heartbeat?

  29. I take my flights out of Denver. The TSA drones there don’t want unruly passengers. What they like to do is to grope male passengers. If you don’t go through their radiation machine, they’ll refer you to the mincingest queen they have on staff. And they’ve been proven to have a lot of those on staff.

    Tip them extra and they won’t beat off while they do it.

    • You do realize that you pick up WAY more ionizing radiation during the flight than you do in a backscatter machine, right?

      I have a radiation dosimeter as part of my job. We’re supposed to turn it in before we travel, but if we forget we’re told to hand carry it rather than send it through the carry-on or checked bag X-ray machines.

  30. Have fun, Sarah, and remember we’re hoping for some blunkdrogging. Find someone with a laptop.

  31. Ooooh-ooh! I have a suggestion for net time Sarah short-posts: Questions For The Candidates!

    Example: “[Candidate], what do you mean when you say “I am responsible?”

    Example: “[Candidate], where the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law abridging…” how many ways may Congress find to abridge the acknowledged Right?”

    Example: “[Candidate], does government grant Rights to citizens or does it recognize some Rights as already held by citizens inherently?”

  32. So? Don’t submit. Stop flying. Most travel is unnecessary, expensive and pointless. Business meetings can be held by TeamViewer, Webex or Skype. For personal travel, either go by car or don’t go.

    Somebody has to be dead or dying to get me on an airplane, and it has to be a pretty CLOSE somebody.

    • Ah. This is a failure of the imagination. We have friends and family all over and some old enough not to use computers. And we really don’t have the time to drive.

      • I, for one, am glad you subjected yourself to air flight on one occasion, even if the weather meant your arrival had not gone all that smoothly. 😉

      • Sarah, it’s not a “failure of imagination”. I know exactly what I’m giving up. If you want to meet relatives face-to-face, let them come half-way and meet you someplace in the middle.

        And about the elderly and computers; I’m 65, and my father is very active with computers. He’ll never be a programmer, but he’s well into the range of “power user”. My wife uses TeamViewer to provide support and tutoring for HER parents, who are in their late 80’s. In her case, they’re only 7 hours away (well, 5 as my wife drives…) if she needs to be there in person.

        • Halfway from Portugal is the Atlantic ocean.

          • Lisbon to Boston is 3000 miles. Denver to Boston is 1,992 via I80 and I90, according to Google Maps, so Boston would be close to half-way.

            When my European ancestors came to America, they never expected to go back again. Travel is a luxury, and it’s a luxury that I’m willing to sacrifice for my principles.

            • Travel is a luxury? My a@@!

              A luxury is something I am loathe to forego. Travel is a pain in the a@@ under the best of circumstances.

              Face-to-face encounters are another pain in the rear. On the internet I can enjoy the leisure to consider, craft and edit a response (not that I do, but I could.) F2F encounters, OTOH, require not only that I think up my bon mots and quips on-the-fly but have to remember to run the multiple facial sub-routines people expect to see. Demmit! Verbal dexxterity is challenging enough without having to add in performance art!!!! Sure, “on the internet no one can see your eyes twinkle” but neither can they see you snarl.

            • Since when is 3/5 and 2/5 is equivalent to 1/2 and 1/2?

              • Under the new Obamatravel regulations, as interpretively danced by the Supreme Court, 3/5 and 2/5 is indeed equivalent to 1/2 and 1/2, or at least it is near enough for government. Committees are being established to convene, debate, review and conference in order to establish just what degree of rounding is permissable required, and whether 3/4 and 1/4 will be equivalent to 1/2 and 1/2 or whether it will be necessary to establish 15/16 and 1/16 as the equivalence.

                Certain factions are reportedly holding out for 63/64 and 1/64, but those have been dismissed as extremists.

              • Geography and navigation. I was a professional aircraft navigator for the US Navy, and taught at the nav school here in Sacramento, CA. Anywhere in the middle third of the journey is generally close enough to “halfway” when it comes to refueling stops.

                • aka “good enough for gov’t work?” 🙂

                  • 🙂 Our P-3 Orion patrol aircraft were built on the airframes of the Lockheed Electra airliners; A P-3 probably COULD have landed on an aircraft carrier – heck, they did it three times with a C-130! – but never did. But there isn’t any land between Lisbon, Portugal and Boston, so “Boston is a midway point between Lisbon and Denver” is about as accurate as you could come. The only option closer to halfway would be Argentia, Newfoundland, and nobody goes to Arg if you don’t HAVE to.

                    • Your sophisticated P-3 never heard of the Azores? I was just a Marine grunt. The only nav I knew was land nav,. But even I know that there is, in fact, solid land between Portugal and Boston.

                    • We routinely deployed to both the Azores and to Bermuda, both of which are far south of the great circle route from Lisbon to Boston – even moreso from Lisbon to Denver, which was sort of the original point.

                      Those Mercator maps will get you lost every time!

                    • Saying the Azores are south of an optimal Great Circle route is an entirely different thing than saying “there is no land between Boston and Portugal.”

                      If the trip started from, say Miami, .would this still be true? I don’t have a globe handy.

                    • Miami to Lisbon, Google Earth tells me, is 4100 miles. Bermuda is 1000 miles along that track, and not far off the line; the Azores are another 2K miles, and again, pretty close to the Great Circle track. So Bermuda is 1/4 of the way, Lajes is 3/4 of the way. Nothing in the middle third…..

                    • Where are those carriers when you need them? :-)I just thought of a better use for our TARP dollars. An artificial island atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

                    • An artificial island? Maybe we could build a city there and encourage the SJWs to move to it. Surely there would be room there for Good Men and Women (and Trans-sexuals, Bi-sexuals, Tri-sexuals, Quad-sexuals and Quintessentials.)

                    • Better yet, a place where the Constitution rules., and the cultural maxim is “Equality of Opportunity,” as opposed to Equality of Outcomes.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Well, I would not want to anchor an artificial island on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

                      IIRC it is geologically unstable as the Atlantic Ocean is widening and the Ridge is where new ocean bottom is be made from materials from deep in the Earth. [Smile]

                      On the other hand, if we don’t care what happens to the people living on that island, that’s a feature not a bug. [Evil Grin]

                    • IIRC, it’s only about 2.5 cm/year, nothing that can’t be engineered around, especially if one mandated a floating city, as posited by many existing seastead projects . And you could use the vents for geothermal power.

                    • Isn’t there a big, relatively still area called the Doldrums or something? Why not have it float there?

                    • IIRC, the doldrums are right smack dab in the middle of a typical hurricane highway, I’d go maybe a bit further north.

                    • Yes, the spread rate averages 2.5 cm/year. Not too impressive even by geologic standards. (Now there’s a couple edges of the pacific plate that are moving MUCH faster along the lines of oh. 5cm per year.) The problem of anchoring your island there is best seen in Iceland. Do you REALLY want to give purchase to massive volcanos and flood basalts that wreck your stuff on a regular basis? Artificial islands are hard enough to build without all that magma that just won’t go away! (Bit of tongue in cheek there)

                      Adding ‘Why not to anchor your island to a mid ocean ridge’ to my ‘list of geology for writers’ topics.

                    • We’re not in Boston

                    • Besides which, Lisbon to Lajes AFB is only 950 miles or so, nowhere even CLOSE to “midway”.

                  • Since (AFAIK) most of the work is near takeoff and landing, from a cockpit crew standpoint I imagine anywhere in the middle third is indeed close enough to halfway.

            • My parents are in their eighties. Also, they’re not from Lisbon.

  33. MadRocketSci

    Keep in mind that the politeness trap *is* a trap. Not starting trouble (a purist libertarian would point out that the TSA officers are starting the trouble by blindly following the orders of an oppressive agency…) : Not starting trouble may keep things civil in an airport, but that exact same impulse also kept things ‘civil’ in every totalitarian society in history.

    If we behave always so that we keep things in some local maximum of comfort within an oppressive system, then that allows the people running the system or acting as the aggressor to walk us around configuration space (the game board, the social situation, etc).

    If we have rights at all, then at *some* point trouble needs to be started. Maybe the time to do that isn’t in the TSA line, but then when is it? When people you don’t know are being randomly rounded up and sent to camps? When both parties decide to admit they aren’t going to listen to the voters anymore and begin openly ignoring the constitution and jailing people without due process? How many people? The first guy to resist is going to be “starting trouble”, and “causing” a whole world of hurt (and inconvenience to others) more than is being inflicted on him, but does he have cause, or doesn’t he?

    • MadRocketSci

      Keep in mind the outcome of the Milgram experiments! 3/4 of the participants did not want to be unreasonable. They didn’t want to start trouble. So they obeyed authority and they just kept pushing buttons and electrocuting their prisoner/patient to death.