Home // 2010 // October

You prefer a pat-down to the electronic strip search? We’ll see about that

Enough people are objecting to the backscatter body scanners at airports that the TSA is finally reacting — by making pat-downs so much more intrusive that you’ll actually prefer to show TSA agents your private parts. From The Atlantic:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search.

I’ve already broken my campaign promise

Now you know to never vote for me. I’ve already broken the one campaign promise I made this year — and the election hasn’t formally occurred, yet. That’s right, I voted in the congressional election on my early ballot. Specifically, I voted for the Republican douchebag over the Democrat harpy. I’m not enamored of Paul Gosar, who has positioned himself as a social conservative in addition to his au courant, Tea Partyish support for free markets and smaller government, but incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick voted for the porculus bill and Obamacare, and that’s really all I need to know about her. Basically, I voted for divided government that will occupy its time entertaining us with angry gridlock rather than hurrying us over the brink and into the abyss.

Getting it in the front from Democrats and from behind by Republicans -- it's like being trapped between a Kennedy and Larry Craig!And no, I’m not one of those deluded fools who believes that “every vote counts.” I’m well aware that for any individual, voting is an essentially pointless activity that papers over irrelevance with a warm-and-fuzzy illusion of participation. But it’s a low-cost means of expressing an opinion and relieving a bit of my political angst.

Gosar, by the way, was the only Republican I marked on the ballot.

Arizona has a long list of ballot measures to choose from, this time around, and several are especially attention-worthy. In particular, I voted for Prop. 106 which would bar any rules or regulations that might force people into a health-care system. Basically, it would outlaw mandatory socialized medicine. Whether the measure could actually stand as a barrier to some federal decree is an open question, but I think it’s worth a try. It’s a giant “fuck you” to the folks who would herd us into for-your-own-good government systems, anyway.

And Prop. 203 would, once again, legalize marijuana for medical use. Arizonans have voted for medical marijuana before, only to be overruled by the state legislature, so this is a sort of “yes, we really mean it,” reminder to the state’s office-holding control freaks. The measure isn’t perfect, since it would turn marijuana users into a protected class that can’t be fired by pot-hating employers (a violation of free-association rights). But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

And yes, oh social authoritarians who stumble across this site (did your preacher let you out of the basement for the day?), I do support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, or any other use to which people may wish to put it. Heroin and cocaine, too. So there’s no “stealth” aspect to my support for the measure.

Boy, I feel so civically responsible, today! It’s giving me a tingly feeling.

Or maybe that’s the bronchitis.

So … Would Britain be willing to take us back?

From the Financial Times:

The UK’s Conservative-led coalition has announced the most drastic budget cuts in living memory, outstripping measures taken by other advanced economies which are also under pressure to sharply reduce public spending. …

The UK cuts of £81bn ($128bn) over four years are the equivalent of 4.5 per cent of projected 2014-15 gross domestic product. Similar cuts in the US would require a cut in public spending of about $650bn, equal to the projected cost of Medicare in 2015.

The UK deficit is about 10 per cent of 2010-11 GDP. The US deficit was $1,294bn, or 8.9 per cent of GDP, in the 2010 fiscal year.

Declaring that “today is the day where Britain steps back from the brink”, George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, revealed dramatic reductions to core departments over the next four years, a £7bn fall in welfare support and 490,000 public-sector job cuts by 2014-15.

Actually, I’m just kidding about rejoining the UK, what with some significant differences in free speech protections, self-defense laws and other civil liberties issues. But if the Brits want to handle our federal government’s spending policies for a few years…

How can you bridge deep divisions over the role of the state?

Recovering from both a wedding and the stomach flue while awaiting an overdue flight at San Francisco International Airport (and if you’re ever stuck in Terminal 1 at SFO, allow me to recommend Go Bistro’s Asian-fusion-whatever. It doesn’t suck.), I came across USA Today‘s front-page story on Gallup Poll results measuring Americans’ deep differences of opinions over the size and scope of government. Based on the polling data, the article divides our countrymen into five distinct groups that, while still broad, are rather more helpful than the usual red/blue bullshit that is spoken of all-too-often.

• Keep it small: This cohesive group wants government to stay away from regulating the free market or morality. They trust private enterprise over public institutions and overwhelmingly oppose Obama and the Democratic Party. Many support the Tea Party movement.

They are the wealthiest, the most conservative and the most predominantly white and male of any of the groups.

• Morality first: This group also is decidedly Republican, and they don’t endorse a large federal role in addressing income disparities. But they are solidly in favor of the federal government acting to uphold moral standards and promote traditional values.

A Republican governing coalition that includes both the first and second groups could risk fracture when the issues turned from a more limited government on the economic front to questions such as whether to oppose same-sex marriage or restrict abortion.

• The mushy middle: This pragmatic group avoids the extremes. Those in this category split more evenly on attitudes toward the GOP, the Democratic Party and Obama than others.

Ninety-five percent of them end up somewhere in the middle when asked to place themselves on a five-point scale on the proper role of government — “1” meaning the government should provide only the most basic functions and “5” meaning the government should take active steps in every area it could.

• Obama liberals: This group wants the government to take a big role in addressing economic disparities but a small one in upholding moral standards. It is the most suspicious of business: Six in 10 say business will harm society unless regulated by the government.

They are the youngest group and the group with the highest percentage of liberals, Democrats and Obama supporters.

• The bigger the better: The members of this group are the most likely of any to trust government and to endorse its involvement in areas from upholding morality to addressing income inequality.

What’s interesting to me is that the first group, which “wants government to stay away from regulating the free market or morality” — what we could generally call libertarians — makes up 22% of the population. That grouping is directly opposed by the 20% that is “most likely of any to trust government and to endorse its involvement in areas from upholding morality to addressing income inequality.”

So two segments broken out in the poll, making up 42% of the population, hold completely incompatible views about the relationship of the individual to the state. You can’t satisfy one without offending the other.

But the other groups include traditional conservatives who “don’t endorse a large federal role in addressing income disparities. But they are solidly in favor of the federal government acting to uphold moral standards and promote traditional values” and traditional liberals who “wan[t] the government to take a big role in addressing economic disparities but a small one in upholding moral standards.” Their different visions of a more expansive state than that favored by the libertarians are also incompatible.

This leaves us stuck, right? I mean, completely stuck. Americans really want entirely irreconcilable political structures.

I wonder, though …

It’s one thing to want, in abstract terms, the government to do something, and it’s entirely different to deal with a real program with an entrenched bureaucracy — especially if it engages in activity you find excessive or offensive. That is, I wonder if a relatively inactive government doesn’t, over the long term, engender a stronger positive, or at least neutral, response than a relatively active government which might breed the likes of the Tea Party movement. Given the nearly even division in preferences demonstrated in the Gallup Poll, that may suggest a tendency towards somewhat limited government in the United States. Limited government — not minimal government — but limited nevertheless.

Of course, that runs up against the obvious example of the steady growth in the state over past decades, but that may be because we hadn’t hit the (admittedly generous and probably shifting) limit set by the country’s political divisions. And some serious incursions into economic freedom (think trucking and airline prices) as well as civil liberties (think gay rights and the rights of racial minorities) have, in fact, been rolled back.

Or maybe that damned stomach bug just has my mind wandering in strange directions.

UK greenies apparently suffering from massive brain tumors

At least, that’s the only way I can explain this completely insane propaganda piece intended to pressure people to reduce their carbon emissions:

Let me know if the embed goes dead, since there’s reportedly a huge CYA effort underway in response to the collective puking that met this film.

Note: In case the video is disabled, this is a seriously intended video, partially funded by the British taxpayers. It features Gillian Anderson (the most recognizable face to Americans) and starts with schoolchildren being urged to slash their carbon footprint by 10%, with those who decline being blown up on the spot, splattering their guts on their classmates. Yes, really.