Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security’

The best way to entrench the worst? Form a union. TSA approves AFGE union.

November 10, 2012 2 comments

When the TSA was first formed in the comparatively innocent times just after September 11, 2001 (yes, you read that right), it was expressly prohibited that the workforce be unionized. Since then, the number of employees has exploded from 16,500 to 62,500. The amount of abuse travelers put up with has risen exponentially, from pat-downs to porno scanners. And the number of terrorists caught by TSA has… Well, that’s still a big, fat zero.

Nonetheless, TSA Administrator John Pistole, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, has allowed the TSA to go forward with an American Federation of Government Employees union contract. And just when you thought the TSA couldn’t get any worse.

While my views on unions are well-known, I think it bears repeating that this can only end in a disaster for both American travel security and Americans’ wallets.

Consider the example of the teachers’ unions. Since 1970, the cost of educating one student from kindergarten through 12th grade has roughly tripled, from $55,000 to $155,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Since 1970, American students have seen no improvement in math and reading, and regression in science scores.

This is because, once unionized, the workforce becomes entirely caught up in labor concerns to the detriment of their actual jobs. Hence, students suffer once the teachers’ unions begin to treat the public school system as nothing more than a jobs bank.

Using the example of history, it is easy to see that unionization of a workforce entrenches the worst elements of that workforce. Efficiency is sacrificed, goals go unmet, poor performers cannot be fired, and consumers bear the brunt of this failure.

Of course, airport security seems important enough that we should want to avoid these things, but no matter. The screeners pressed ahead with their unionization anyway, the public be damned. After all, the attitude of the unions has always been that the public owes them jobs, not that they owe the public a job well done.


The STRIP Act – A Good Start

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Representative Marsha Blackburn has penned a popular piece over at Forbes about her proposed bill, called the STRIP Act, or “Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy” Act.

At a minimum, it would do away with the title Transportation Security “Officer,” and require that TSA agents not wear badges or masquerade as real police officers, which they emphatically are not.

I say this is a good start. TSA has been example one of bureaucratic entrenchment and mission creep over the last decade, and they have made our lives demonstrably worse for it.

While TSA agents’ accomplishments are well-known, like their ability to fail every single audit, and their perfect record of catching zero terrorists, we have to ask – at what cost?

Look, I am all for abolishing the TSA tomorrow, and forgetting about this sorry chapter in American history. (As an aside, can we get rid of the term “post-9/11”? Everything after 9/11 is post-9/11.) But I recognize that getting rid of this wart on society will take measured steps to assuage the fears of the naive and avoid the wrath of the security state and its lobbyists. Rep. Blackburn makes a good point:

Will the STRIP Act solve every problem facing the TSA? Absolutely not. The STRIP Act seeks to expand upon the work of my colleagues by chipping away at an unnoticed yet powerful overreach of our federal government. If Congress cannot swiftly overturn something as simple as this administrative decision there will be little hope that we can take steps to truly rein in the TSA on larger issues of concern.

This is a good start, and I encourage you to write to your Congresscritter to support it.

Don’t know how? Start here:

TSA’s nude body scanners are worse than useless

March 7, 2012 Leave a comment

…because they give us the idea that we are safe while providing a far less than adequate level of safety. I found this video, courtesy of, very informative:

How To Get Anything Through TSA Nude Body Scanners

Another factoid I found interesting is that no one has brought explosives on an American-originated flight in 40 years. However, if the TSA “officers” and the traveling public are convinced that these machines will help keep that streak alive, and yet they are demonstrably worse than the old-style metal detectors, then it can reasonably be concluded that the machines are actively making us less safe by lulling us into a false sense of security while failing to catch real threats.

Then again, I simply do not accept the idea that an outfit like the TSA has moved the needle higher in security at all. The reason why most planes don’t blow up is because, out of 7 billion people in this world, all but a handful won’t ever blow up a plane. And the ones who might are marginalized otherwise.

The point of diminishing returns has been reached and exceeded long before TSA existed. At this point, TSA’s annual budget of more than $8 billion is worth about as much in actual security as your own vigilance. Possibly less.

The inevitable question that I get from security-statists upon saying that is, “well won’t that make it easier for terrorists?” Sure. But terrorists have an incredibly difficult time of it anyway (and it bears repeating that TSA has never, ever caught a single terrorist). If we spend $8 billion of federal money and have a terrorist attack every decade or two, would that really be any better than spending $0 of federal money and having a terrorist attack every decade or two?

The idea that we can make the threat completely disappear is false. What is left is a balancing act of economic interests, freedom interests, and security interests.

Let’s stop shoveling money at the TSA on the basis of boogeyman stories and start talking tradeoffs like adults.

Petitio Principii, or “Begging the Question,” as illustrated by the high school dropouts of the TSA

September 8, 2010 1 comment

One of my larger pet peeves regarding proper use of the English language (and there are many) is the near-universal misuse of the term “begging the question.”  When used in casual conversation – indeed in almost any conversation these days – all it means is “brings up the question.”  For example: “John Kerry believes that the wealthy should pay very high taxes.  Since John Kerry is exorbitantly wealthy, it begs the question, why did he register his yacht out of state to avoid taxes?”  Well actually, it does not beg the question at all.  It merely raises the question, since the scenario indicates massive hypocrisy.

So what is begging the question?  Quite simply put, begging the question is a form of circular reasoning by which someone who makes a proposition requiring proof assumes the proposition to be proved is true as a premise of the argument (“petitio principii,” or assumption of the initial point).  For example: “John Kerry believes that it would be good policy to restrict people’s freedom because, on the whole, restrictions on freedom produce positive results.”  (“Good policy” is equivalent to “produce[s] positive results” and a proposition cannot logically be used in support of itself.)

So the next time you hear someone say that a proposition “begs the question that…” you’ll know what the true meaning of the term is.  If you’re truly a pedant, you may even correct them.  At this point, however, you may have recognized that petitio principii, along with all the other forms of circular reasoning, is incredibly widely used.  It seems that, when one couches a proposition in enough fancy language or seemingly-complicated steps, one is easily able obfuscate the logical weight of the original premise.

Then again, sometimes you get called out.  Take yesterday’s New York Times for example, which talks about the abhorrent, utterly inane use of whole-body scanners at the airport.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that we’re expected to bend over and be violated by functionally retarded high school dropouts with God complexes and TSA badges, now we’re expected to be strip searched via x-ray machine?  But the part where the article questions the radiation dosage is where it gets really good:

Another issue is that the devices haven’t been thoroughly tested. The T.S.A. claims that the machines have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. But when I called these organizations to ask about their evaluations, I learned that they basically tested only one thing — whether the amount of radiation emitted meets guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute, a membership organization of companies and government agencies.

But guess who was on the committee that developed the guidelines for the X-ray scanners? Representatives from the companies that make the machines and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. In other words, the machines passed a test developed, in part, by the companies that manufacture them and the government agency that wants to use them.

Let’s sum up:

TSA: “We think these machines are perfectly safe.”
Sane Citizen: “How are we supposed to know that?”
TSA: “They’ve been tested by reputable labs.”
Sane Citizen: “To what standards?”
TSA: “The standards that the TSA and the x-ray machine companies have given us.”
Sane Citizen: “And how are we supposed to know that these standards are valid?”
TSA: “Because they’ll show us that the machines are perfectly safe.”

You can’t assume the validity of your own tests and use the tests as “proof” of the machines’ safety. 

As usual, the TSA has failed us.

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