Monthly Archives: November 2010

Quote Of The Day

Will Wilkinson writing for The Economist:

To get at the value of WikiLeaks, I think it’s important to distinguish between the government—the temporary, elected authors of national policy—and the state—the permanent bureaucratic and military apparatus superficially but not fully controlled by the reigning government. The careerists scattered about the world in America’s intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America’s unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.

Hope n’ Change: Pardon Edition

Thus far, President Obama has pardoned 4 turkeys and 0 people. Does anyone else have a problem with this?

George Lardner Jr. writing an article for The New York Times entitled “No Country for Second Chances” does:

If by tomorrow [November 23, 2010] he pardons no one but turkeys, President Obama will have the most sluggish record in this area of any American president except George W. Bush. He’ll have outdone George Washington, who granted a pardon after 669 days. And he will also have outlasted Bill Clinton, who took three days longer than Washington to grant his first pardons. If Mr. Obama waits until Christmas Eve, he will make even his immediate predecessor, who waited until Dec. 23, 2002, seem more generous.

Last month, President Obama turned down 605 requests for commutations — from prisoners who wanted their sentences shortened — and 71 for pardons.

Lardner reports that the Obama administration has requested some hope n’ change with regard to clemency recommendation standards but apparently doesn’t want to grant clemency to anyone (other than turkeys) until then.

The article continues:

It’s difficult to understand why the president has been so unwilling to grant any clemency. As someone who has taught constitutional law, he knows that the founders gave him, and him alone, the power “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” It is likely that he also knows that a disproportionate number of federal prisoners are black, that mandatory sentencing guidelines have left many of them with excessive sentences and that at least a few of them deserve clemency, whether they’ve asked for it or not.

The president has not only the power but also the responsibility to grant clemency when it is warranted. A pardon can help a worthy former prisoner qualify for a job or a license. But mainly it restores the person’s civil rights, including the right to vote.

This puzzles me as well for many of the same reasons. This is one area I thought Obama actually would be a positive force for change but sadly he seems content with the status quo. The status quo being that only politically well connected individuals* or those whose cause for clemency become political causes** in of themselves ever have a realistic chance of success (regardless of merit or lack thereof).

Surly, out of the 4000+ clemency requests, there are at least a few hundred that are worthy of a presidential pardon. Off the top of my head, I can think of one.

Hat tip: The Agitator

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TSA Update: More Strip and Grope, Opponents are “Domestic Extremists”

Strip and grope to come to boats, trains, and more?

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.”

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

Opponent’s of strip and grope are “domestic extremists”:

Following the publication of my article titled “Gate Rape of America,” I was contacted by a source within the DHS who is troubled by the terminology and content of an internal memo reportedly issued yesterday at the hand of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Indeed, both the terminology and content contained in the document are troubling. The dissemination of the document itself is restricted by virtue of its classification, which prohibits any manner of public release. While the document cannot be posted or published, the more salient points are revealed here.


The terminology contained within the reported memo is indeed troubling. It labels any person who “interferes” with TSA airport security screening procedure protocol and operations by actively objecting to the established screening process, “including but not limited to the anticipated national opt-out day” as a “domestic extremist.” The label is then broadened to include “any person, group or alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel disruptions at U.S. airports in response to the enhanced security procedures.

Fabulous, now I’m a domestic extremist. Well, as Barry Goldwater said: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” On second thought, when it comes to opposing an agency dedicated to controlling and intimidating American travelers, I will wear the extremist label with pride. Will you?

Open Thread: TSA & Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Edition

The reports I have read today so far are that the Opt-Out Day protests haven’t been very widespread with most travelers opting for the full body scan. Is this really what is happening at the airports or is this an attempt by the MSM and TSA to discourage protests?

What I’m interested in is hearing from those of you who are flying for this holdiay. What was your experience going through security? Were the TSA agents generally polite and professional (as I’m sure is the case most of the time) or did you witness or experience something you would consider inappropriate or criminal? (if so, did you by any chance record the event?) Did you see any protestors? (if so how many; did you protest?)

For those of you who didn’t fly, did you choose not to fly because of the TSA or for a different reason? Are you willing to fly in the future if these procedures do not change?

Finally, over the Thanksgiving holiday, did your family discuss the TSA procedures and if so, what was their attitudes about them?

In the mean time, everyone please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

If You Don’t Fly, The Terrorists TSA Wins

If you want to get on an airplane in the US, you might be subjected to a radiation strip-search or a groping pat-down. Coming back on my recent flight from Vancouver I ended up in the scanner line, but haven’t experienced the pat-down yet. As a frequent traveler, I expect to be subject to this a lot more often, and I’m not happy about it.

There are several alternatives, and one that is constantly tossed about is “don’t fly at all”. The suggestion is that by boycotting air travel entirely, you’ll hurt the system in the one place they care about — the pocketbook. I think that’s wrong, on several levels.

Boycotts are notoriously ineffective unless they can be VERY widespread. Air travel is IMHO not as elastic as most of these boycott proponents suggest. The only people who will forego air travel altogether are the people for which it is a discretionary [i.e. vacation] activity, rather than a business requirement. That is frankly a small subset of the traveling public. Second, only a percentage of discretionary travelers are willing to forego air travel due to TSA procedures, cutting the effect of a boycott substantially. Third, air travel is often an economic necessity for longer trips, as the time and expense of traveling by other methods makes it impractical for anyone who isn’t retired. Fourth (and I’ll cover this later), you’re hurting the WRONG pocketbook.

I’m a perfect example of the type of traveler who’d have a very tough time boycotting air travel. I travel, on average at least once a month for business. These trips are typically from Southern California to areas too far away to drive in a reasonable time (Denver, various Midwestern cities, the Northeast, Canada, etc). My company wouldn’t support me wasting 2+ travel days each way when I can get to the places I need to go in a matter of hours. Sure, some people would say that this is a choice. After all, I don’t have to hold a travel-intensive job. I could easily find something else. And they’re right, it is a choice. I have chosen that the amazing benefits of having the job I have (including actually enjoying traveling to visit customers) are far more important to me than an ineffectual boycott.

Further, my immediate family all live in Texas or further east, so most pleasure or family-related trips would require me to fly or to take too much time off work to be reasonable. If my wife and I aren’t taking the kids with us, we want to get where we’re going without wasting time away from them, and if we ARE taking the kids with us, we don’t want to subject them to 14+ hours each way of driving.

For many trips that I’d want to take, my options are to fly, or to avoid taking the trip altogether. I refuse to let the TSA deter me from living my life, so that means I have to deal with the TSA. I fly a lot more than most people, but at the end of the day, my travel is like a lot of Americans’ — the most expedient way to accomplish what I want to accomplish. Allowing the TSA to stop me from flying hurts me a lot more than it hurts them.

But that doesn’t mean that I like it, or that I don’t have options. Today has been declared is national opt-out day by the We Won’t Fly group. While I obviously disagree with their call to boycott travel altogether, I’m a big fan of opting out of the scanner in favor of the enhanced pat-down. Is it demeaning? Yes, but so is the scanner. Unlike the scanner, though, opting-out has benefits:

  1. It hits the TSA pocketbook, not the airlines. A boycott is difficult to detect (particularly in the volatile and slowly-falling revenues of the airlines), but the cost of increased TSA screening is easily measurable. If a sizeable portion of those shunted to the scanners decide to opt-out, the TSA will naturally select a far smaller portion to go through the scanners to begin with.
  2. It gums up the system. Again, visibility is key. If the lines increase in length, if the wait times increase, it will make everyone angry. The result of the increase in lines will likely be TSA selecting a smaller portion of travelers to enter the scanners.
  3. TSA screeners HATE the enhanced pat-downs. While it might be demeaning to me as a traveler, it’s equally or more demeaning to the guy who has to feel balls all day. One of my long-standing beliefs is that the TSA doesn’t give a shit what we travelers think. Those who suggest a boycott of flying agree, as they think the only way to fix the system is for the airlines to demand the TSA relent. I think a more likely strategy for change is for the TSA to get internal pressure from their own employees. If TSO morale falls and there is internal dissension, it’s more likely to effect change than any howl they hear from outside.

Flying today? Opt-out. Flying next week (as I am)? Opt-out. If you want to make a change, and can mentally handle a physical search without an affront to your modesty, opt-out. It’s my plan from now on if I’m selected for the scanner.

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