Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

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Tuesday Topic Trio: Catholic Church and Condoms, TSA Pat Downs, & Big Business and Health Care

11.23.10

Dominating the headlines over the past few days you’ll find stories about negative side-effects of the new TSA security procedures at the airports, the Pope’s shift on his stance on the use of condoms, and whether or not Big Business actually wants the new health care law to be repealed.

Just a few of my thoughts on all three in quick, bite-sized pieces:

TSA

Personally, I couldn’t care less about getting my groin felt up briefly by a TSA agent at the airport.  Would I rather I didn’t have to be violated just to get on an airplane, where the trip has become unpleasant enough as it is?  Absolutely.

But, I do question whether or not it’s all that necessary.  Is the invasion of privacy and inevitable embarrassment of many really keeping us safer?  And at what cost?  At what point do we have to accept some level of risk – since, let’s just be real here, there will always be some risk no matter how much security we have.  Total safety is an illusion, so when do we put our feet down and say: enough?  Do we have to wait until we force everyone into private cells to get full cavity searches?  I sure hope not.


BIG BUSINESS

While the Republicans swept the House of Representatives with the Pledge to America that included the declaration that they were going to repeal the health care law, it seems that business lobbies aren’t quite on the same page — most think that a repeal effort would fail.

The reality is this: the GOP holds a majority in one house of Congress.  Even if they pass repeal legislation there, they’d be hard-pressed to pass something similar in the Senate which still holds a Democratic majority.  And, of course, Obama would veto it, sending it back to Congress, which would doubtfully be able to muster up a two-thirds vote in favor of the repeal.

Instead, business would rather aim for tweaking some of the aspects they don’t like the most.  I’m not sure I agree with what they want to change, but they’re looking at the facts in front of them and urging a pragmatic response, which actually could make the law better, more efficient, and more successful.  It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, after all — always room for improvement.  But the current GOP isn’t exactly known for its pragmatism, so we will see.

Depends on what they find to be more important: sticking to their guns and fighting the good fight for the full repeal even if they lose; or, tweaking individual elements that they find to be the most in need of fixing and actually getting those done.  My bet is on the former.


POPE

While not remotely condoning condom use as a form of birth control, for the first time, Pope Benedict XVI admitted that there could be cases where using condoms, even during condemned sexual behavior, would be preferred to help prevent the spread of HIV.

Granted, the situation he said it would be preferred is only in the case of male prostitutes, but it’s a start.  And a big change from when he said a year ago that condoms make the spread of AIDS worse — clearly a completely false claim scientifically.

It’s relatively surprising to hear this coming from the very conservative head of the Catholic Church, who in the past has been unequivocally against condom use.  And it sparked quite a lot of discussion and damage control from fellow ultraconservatives.  I mean, the goal is to help save lives by stopping the spread of a fatal disease, one that is still running rampant in many parts of the world — let’s accept reality and deal with the fact that people are dying.

The way I see it: people are clearly already having unprotected sex with multiple partners of both the same and opposite sex around the world.  If they weren’t, AIDS wouldn’t be spreading like wildfire.  So the outright ban on condoms and focus simply on abstinence out of marriage and condemning homosexuality isn’t working.  Again: a dose of pragmatism is a good thing.


CONCLUSION

Idealism is nice.  Being pragmatic is better.


Photos courtesy of Flickr: Inha Leex Hale, Mr. T in DC, and Sergey Gabdurakhmanov


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This is Still a Holy War

01.07.10

Segregating people of certain countries to go through pat-downs or walk through full-body scanners, forcing everyone to remain in their seats during the last hour of certain flights, and disallowing passengers from accessing their carry-on baggage during certain times of the flight will do nothing to change the fact that so many people consider this a holy war.

The total religious disconnect with this war makes it unlike anything else we’ve encountered.  This isn’t just an ideological difference like the capitalism versus communism conflicts that America endured in the last century.  Communist ideals didn’t create suicide bombers willing to detonate themselves along with their American counterparts like those involved in this conflict.

America has some difficult decisions to make.  The knee-jerk reaction would be to make any and all Islamic countries banned from all air travel.  We’re already doing a less severe version of that with the restrictions and mandatory extra-security measures for those who travel from certain countries and anyone who is a citizen of said countries.  Sure, on the surface it makes sense: stop those people from countries who want to kill us from entering America’s borders.  But, the issue though isn’t just with those specific countries.  The obvious way around this form of security would be for terrorists to get official papers from countries not on that no-fly list.  They have the money and the connections so you know that will be possible.  What happens when the next terrorist travels on a British, Australian, or Canadian visa or passport?  Do we just start banning anyone with an Arabic sounding name?  What about Richard Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber?  Were these current rules in place then, he still could’ve made it through.

I don’t have the answers to this riddle and I don’t envy those in government this difficult task.  I recently read an article about how Israel handles their airport security that made me wonder why we can’t scrap our system and start over.  I realize the costs involved would be enormous, but what about the costs if we don’t?  How does it help us to spend money on our current system that doesn’t work: we spend all of our time in fear that the terrorists will sneak through the holes in our security (which they will eventually) and then putting bandaids over those gaps (rinse and repeat).  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t explain how Israel deals with incoming flights, which is our current crisis.

There will always be a way around our false sense of security.  When will we realize that we aren’t any safer by adding more and more reactive, rather than proactive, measures that come dangerously close to infringing upon the very values on which America was founded?  Alienating specific demographics – in this case, Arabs and Muslims – will do nothing to help us in this fight.  If we want to create more radicals, this has to be a pretty solid way to do it.

And that will only make us less, not more, safe.

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It’s National Security, Not Partisan Security

12.29.09

It didn’t take much time at all for the GOP to attack President Obama and accuse his entire security policy as being the reason that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab almost took down an airliner over Detroit with a bomb strapped to his groin on Christmas Day.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano didn’t help matters much, either.

I think that our current methods of security on airline travel are reactionary rather than proactive and that limits us to preventing what’s already been done – or nearly done – rather than what will or could happen in the future.  That said, I don’t agree with the GOP that Obama’s decision to close Gitmo nor his other security-related policies have anything to do with the attempted bombing of the Northwest flight.

The reality is that this is just what the Republican Party has been waiting for: something to happen that they could blame on Obama’s inept policies and use to turn public favor away from him and back to the GOP.  They set it up early on by arguing in favor of torturing terror suspects, by calling the health care reform bill an act of socialism, and by opposing the announcement of when America will begin removing troops from Afghanistan.  Now, they’ve pounced.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.):

“I think Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack.  And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen.”

And what forward-looking approach is that, exactly?  Torture?  I don’t know of any study or evidence that shows that the Bush-Cheney torture policies actually prevented any attacks, but if there is, I would be very curious to hear it.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) kept going:

“[S]oft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists. They’re going to keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security.”

Sen. DeMint is just drawing at straws here and doesn’t make a lick of sense in the process if you bother to even listen to what he’s saying rather than just get caught up in the rhetoric, which is what I’m sure he’s hoping people do.  First off, closing Gitmo was never intended to appease terrorists – it was meant to reestablish an American rule of law that abides by the U.S. Constitution, which had been blatantly broken during the Bush/Cheney era.  The decision to close Gitmo was done in order to bring America back to being America: a land that adheres to its laws and one that does not torture human beings.  Secondly, I don’t even know what he means with regard to the “soft talk of engagement.”  Obama just announced a gigantic military surge in Afghanistan, where this whole mess originated in the first place (well, in its current incarnation that started on 9/11/01), so I find it hard to believe that Pres. Obama has been anything but soft with regard to terrorism.  (Oh right, he doesn’t endorse torture.  I keep walking right into that one.)  And lastly, Sen. DeMint IS in Washington.  He is in politics.  For him to blame politics as usual, then he has to take the brunt of that claim as well, but of course, there’s no way he, or any other GOP politician, will take any blame for this.  Not that Sen. DeMint himself caused this but to point fingers at the institution of which he’s a part as if he’s not associated at all is a total split from reality.

Regardless, the fact remains that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a flight for the US with explosives strapped to his groin and attempted to detonate it in mid-air over Detroit.  This should never have happened.  The TSA has reacted to this incident with pointless new rules like, on certain flights no one can stand during the last hour.  As if that would’ve prevented this recent near-miss.  It’s a ridiculous and transparent attempt to convey stricter security measures while in reality doing nothing to stop terror attempts.

This is a matter of national security, not partisan security.  Blame can be thrown around all day long, but that won’t keep us any safer either.  Sec. Napolitano couldn’t have been much worse in saying that “the system worked.” If the system allowed Abdulmutallab on a plane headed for Detroit with explosives, then the system failed.  Plain and simple.  If the measures we use to catch these people before they try to commit these heinous acts don’t stop them, then the measures themselves are inept and ineffective, even if they “work.”

Instead of pointing to the lack of torture or the transfer of terror suspects to American soil, the GOP would be better served to focusing on the real issue here: the TSA needs major improvements.  Perhaps the TSA needs to start from square one and think this whole thing out logically and methodically instead of just adding band-aids to the already broken system.  All involved in the security efforts deserve to take blame for this, but it does us no good to point fingers without offering suggestions on how to make it better.  There have to be better ideas out there than simply not letting passengers access their carry-on luggage an hour prior to landing.