August 13, 2003  ·  admin

I was reading Gilmore’s reply to Lessig’s earlier post and the conversation it stirred, and it moved me to share some of my own experiences with our fellow bloggers.

I have to admit to a feeling of resentment at the extent of the security searches every time I travel by air. The armed guards, the x-ray machines, the metal detectors, the pat downs, the search of luggage and personal effects, the removal of shoes, and for some, I suppose, the explanation of prosthetics, pacemakers, and appurtenances, constitutes a massive invasion of privacy. We have just come to accept this as a natural state of things because, like Gilmore, we’re all suspected terrorists. I find myself having to explain to people why I, as a Presidential candidate, am repeatedly shuttled off to that special line of selectees identified by the SSSS stamped on my ticket. The transportation security agents inform me that a computer has made this decision. I want to know who programs the computer. Is it John Ashcroft?

Even though I don’t feel as though I’m getting special treatment or that I’m entitled to special treatment, it makes me wonder how much of a threat I must be since I really do intend to replace the entire government. So when people occasionally recognize me getting the magic metal detector wanding and dutifully submitting to searches of my person, extending my arms and my legs spread-eagle, I explain with a smile, “I’m running against George Bush.”

What I’ve been able to determine from an informed intelligence source (oxymoron) is that I tend to get selected because I buy one-way tickets. This poses a dilemma. Should I change my campaign and do round trips say in a continuous loop from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC in order to avoid greater suspicion or do I plan a practical itinerary from Seattle to San Francisco to Austin to Oklahoma City to Des Moines to Cleveland to Manchester and gain near public enemy status? The real reason that people who travel point to point instead of round trip are more likely to be subjected to a search is because, I’m told, that the hijackers bought one-way tickets. This is an interesting type of profiling that goes on. One which seldom invites an iota of self-reflection about America’s role in the world or about the basis for the murderous grievances which misguided individuals may have against us. It would be useful to have a national dialogue about our democracy and the manner in which it has been undermined since 9/11. The alternative is to proceed, robot like, and submit to metal detectors, x-ray machines, magic wands, pat downs, and the shuttling of point to point travelers to a point by point inspection.

It seems to me that the Bush Administration, with its moral obtuseness, its inconscience on matters of civil liberties, and its craven attempts to demolish the Bill of Rights has prepared for the American people a one-way ticket of sorts. When it comes to the quality of our democracy we are traveling on a road to nowhere.

Airline security is, as we have learned, a deadly serious business. The traveling public deserves assurances that they and their loved ones will be safe in the air. But when does security in a democracy morph into something profoundly anti-democratic. This is a discussion we need to have. And the answer, as Gilmore knows, cannot be simply “search me?”!

Dennis J. Kucinich
On the road to Des Moines

This entry and my personal blog are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

  • lightning

    If terrorists were willing to buy round trip tickets, we’d be in a world of hurt. Yeah, it’s a waste of money, but …

    As to the round-trip ticket business, a trick that one of my clients used (dunno if it’s valid after 9/11) is to buy round-trip tickets and then play games with them. They had lots of people flying all over, so they could buy a round-trip ticket between, say, Oklahoma City and Des Moines, and then change the return ticket to some later date. Next time somebody wanted to fly from Des Moines to Oklahoma City, they’d use the return. Like I said, I don’t know if you can still do this. It also gets really complicated really fast; my client had a full-time person handling it.

    The problem that I have with all the searches, restrictions, and just plain nonsense is how ineffectual they are. The 9/11 hijackers did nothing wrong — they had valid ID and didn’t carry anything that wasn’t allowed. They were saying “we’ll follow all your silly little rules and we’ll still win.” Anything that they do in the future will be just as well-calculated to bypass our safety checks.

    The “commercial airliner as cruise missile” card has been played; I don’t expect to see it again. We have to think about real security and ditch the pallatives that we currently have.

  • wah

    On the air travel stuff…I ‘commute’ by air travel every week, and have been for roughly the past year. My general feeling is that we are about as secure now as we were before the attacks, although there do seem to be more people standing around the same old x-ray machines.

    For most of last year things were pretty tight, and I was regularly searched. This is possibily because I got kicked off a flight and nearly arrested after a pocket knife had escaped my attention in packing. It was discovered by a random search after passing through three previous metal detectors. It was fully unintentional, as I had put it in there when visiting a friend’s ranch month’s before, and forgotten about it during the intervening time.

    I was treated fairly for a few moments by the textbook New Yorker FAA agent that came to the scene (only a couple of threats), the blade was eventually measured, found to be less that 4 inches, and I wasn’t arrested.

    However, this level of security has slacked a great deal over the intervening year. Now, I can generally breeze through security, carrying roughly 20-25 lbs of high tech electronic equipment. I make sure that my worn outfit is metal free, and if you don’t set off the alarms, your carry-on luggage gets a once over through an x-ray and it’s off to the plane.

    Which is to say, we reacted in a way that might make a small difference (and was a huge disruption) and have relaxed into a system that will probably not make that small difference (and is a smaller disruption). It is a difficult balance to find.

    This balance is further complicated by technologies that can see though clothing, Total Recall style (oops, does that trigger the ‘equal time’ clause for readers in California?). Their security benefit is obvious. As is their privacy deficit. Where should we draw the lines?

    And the costs for all of these efforts keep adding up. We had a huge expansion of the federal government in this security build up, and even created a whole new friggin’ department to secure the country.

    So now we come to the question. How do you deal with this problem? We have a huge, wide open, fat as all hell belly exposed, and are in a war that is very close to spilling onto our shores again. What are your recommendations for securing the fragile infrastructurein this country? Are we currently spending too much? Too little? In the wrong places? The right ones?

    I fully comprehend the idea of using peaceful policies and actions to help diffuse the kind of hatred that would lead to acts of violence on civilians, but I don’t see that strategy making an effect for years, and those kind of results are measured in generations. What would you do now to address these issues?

    Bitching about it is one thing, we can do that. You’ve got to solve the problems. So what’s the plan?

  • Dee Lichtenberger

    I should probably hush and let someone else respond to this, however, it’s a strikingly coincidental entry and I thought I’d share. It’s obvious I’m a supporter of the Kucinich campaign, and I take every opportunity to read and hear the Congressman’s views. After dinner tonight, I jumped online to see if today’s entry had been posted. It hadn’t yet, so I went through e-mails, and checked into volunteer activity, just to stay on top of things. One post was from a volunteer who had set up his own site supporting the Congressman’s campaign. On it he has some audio and video resources. One of them happened to be Rep. Kucinich’s remarks from Sept. 11th which I hadn’t heard yet. I opened the wave file because I wanted to see if once again he managed to speak my thoughts. On a day like that, it’s hard to believe anyone could have spoken my thoughts. I should have known.

    Afterwards I came here and lo and behold, the entry is about the wake of what I just listened to. As always Congressman Kucinich manages to give voice to one of my first concerns after that awful morning. I wondered how long it would be before the US was effectively living under Martial Law. It seems we have this slow but steady drive to forfeit our freedoms and rights in an effort to stop something that we can’t stop by such sacrifice.

    I hear these crazy arrest stories and I get angry, but what does one lone person do about those injustices? Well, here’s my answer. One person stands up to struggle against losses that are unnacceptable, even under the guise of security. When one man is persecuted, we’re ALL persecuted. I spoke to a woman a few days ago about all the things that have changed since Sept. 11th. I talked about the so called “Patriot Act”, and told her how the FBI had investigated one person I’d read about because they had been seen carrying some politically charged articles in a coffee shop. They had contacted this person’s family, friends, work-place and eventually come to interview them directly. All because of some slips of paper visible from under an arm while ordering morning coffee.

    This is not a place I want to be, and I hope there are more feeling this way than are willing to give up the right to read what you find interesting, board an airplane on a one-way ticket or befriend Middle-Easterners in this country without being suspected of some horrific plan to blow something up.

    Even our own Legislators? How far will it go?

  • wah

    yo, what up with the borken links? Is it just me?

    reminds me of this for some reason.

  • Evan

    Thanks for addressing this. It’s been pretty clear, I think, to anyone really thinking rationally about it, that many if not most of the security measures put in place since 9/11 have no real security function. No one’s going to gain access to a properly secured cockpit with a pair of tweezers. You don’t need to keep everyone out of the gate area to make sure nobody walks onto a plane without a ticket. It’s silly.

    When you focus too closely on one thing, that means you’re looking away from something else. (I laugh at people who think racial profiling is the solution–for heavens sake, do they think an organization that can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sending people to flight school for a suicide mission is incapable of sending someone to cosmetology school so they can learn how to make swarthy skin look white?) The overfocus on pocketknives on planes guarantees that we won’t see it coming when the next attack comes, because it’ll come from a totally different direction.

    What I don’t feel certain of is why we do this. Mostly I figure it’s to placate the dummies–if we do enough useless things at the airport in the name of security, people won’t complain. But in my dark and cynical times, I think: These intrusive measures keep us feeling frightened and helpless, reminding us to be dependent sheep… plus, every authoritarian government knows what a swell chilling effect on dissidents you can create with checkpoints and blacklists.

  • Drew

    I have noticed that new security measures are also now an excuse for airlines to deny boarding to passangers when they may have simply overbooked. Instead of having to give away free flights as is currently required when a passenger is denied boarding, airlines simply “close the doors” when the flight is full and claim that it now is the passangers fault for not showing up hours early per “security” regulations. It is sad that airlines now capitalize on September 11th in order to enhance their revenue management. The level of how early one must be is thus changed flight to flight. What happens if you are early? You are forced to sit in an uncomfortable chair, buy ultra-expensive yet sub-par airport food to subsist, and listen to messages that “Security is at a heightened level…” (When will it not be?)

    I know that I and many others often consider other modes of travel when previously a flight would have been an easy choice for a number of reasons. The x-ray machines, wands, pat downs, etc. have gotten way out of control. Once one considers the time taken to arrive at the airport early, the lines to have any checked luggage examined, and the lines to wait through the security checkpoints, flying is no longer the timesaver it once was unless you are truly going cross-country. In addition to the inconvience of the harrasment encountered at these checkpoints, other reasons that further discourage one to fly include, the lazy government TSA workers chit-chatting to one another as they give you a scowling look as you pass and the feeling constantly projected that you are doing something wrong. The only reason that most airlines are still alive is the taxfunder sponsored bail-out and the government provided security forces.

    At one time, taking a flight was a luxury and a true service experience. Now, it is an exercise in protocol and complete submission to government regulation.

  • Westley Sherman

    I want to know who programs the computer. Is it John Ashcroft?

    Government accountability requires a level of government transparency. There’s a quote floating around the internet about how people who chose security over freedom deserve neither but I would add that people who chose security over government accountability also deserve neither.

    One of the things I like about Linux is that if I want to know how it works I can read the source code. In the lead up to the Iraq war I was (and continue to be) bothered by the lack of specific details in the justification for the war and , in retrospect, many of the specific details were omitted because they didn’t exist (e.g. WMD stockpiles).

    When it comes to airport security procedures I also worry that the lack of detailed plausible explanations for the procedures means there aren’t any plausible explanations. A key question is how to make decisions about airport security procedures. Should there be a government research program or should each airline have it’s own style of security and allow market forces to decide? Or is there a need for something else entirely? In any case, decisions must be made with transparency and accountability.

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    Nice post. I stopped entering TSA controlled areas and wrote Secretary Mineta explaining why. This put an end to my “doing ICANN business”, but that isn’t as bad as consenting to being frisked for the money attending ICANN meetings does or may bring my business. I don’t know why people are willing to consent to being frisked. I don’t know why you [Dennis Kucinich] fly. Yes, it is still convienent, but if it really is bad, why don’t you decline to be processed?

    There will be an interim meeting of ICANN Registries and Registrars in Marina del Rey next month. I will tele-conference in. There will be a full meeting of ICANN in Carthage, Tunisia, in October. I plan to go by surface transport to Montreal and air transport from there to North Africa, and reverse. If I get turned back at some point, that’s life. This is where I don’t understand my friend John. They could have gone to Vancouver, B.C., by surface, and then traveled under Canadian law.

    Are you really “running against George Bush” when you fly?

    Representative Jeannette Rankin voted against two wars, and I’ve always treasured the social space she created for loyal criticism of the conduct of the second of those two wars, by preventing the Congress from being unanimous in their support for going to war. Congress is unanimous in their own humdrum commuting from home to work or on the meet-and-greet circuit for the conduct of the TSA.

    When Abalone Alliance and Clamshell Alliance and Rockyflats people “sat down”, we got beat. Eventually the mining/construction/utilities/weapons/political ediface failed. I suggest you look at your schedule, and some time after Labor Day announce that in a week’s time you and your staff won’t be cooperating with the TSA, beyond providing them with your itinerary — if the TSA can’t detect a presidential candidate and his or her staff, they aren’t worth having at all, and you’ll ask people to cease flying until the TSA begins to make reforms, starting with getting their gloves out of your … briefcase.

    My children’s toxic tort attorney, a man who played with them and drank my coffee, died on the Boston-LAX flight, murdered by Mohammad Atta and his co-conspirator murder-suicides. I think he’d do what I’m doing if he were alive today, or perhaps what John did. There is no way of knowing of course, we only know what we ourselves do, and sometimes not even then.

  • Margaret Hill

    No, wah, it’s not just you. The two links in the first sentence of this post aren’t working (as of now). It would be nice to have the background info that inspired Congressman Kucinich’s post.

    P.S. Liked that link you shared ;-) Thanks.

  • Seth Finkelstein

    I started to write a long reply, then I decided it wasn’t worth it. :-(

    Old joke:

    “Liquor – if you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life and inflames sinners, then I am against it.
    If you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter chill, the taxable portion that puts needed funds into the public coffers to comfort the under privileged, then I am for it.”

  • Kevin Makice

    On my first flight after the attacks out east, I was outwardly stoic and inwardly petrified about the experience. There were a number of things I feared. My nearly-2-year-old might flip out and threaten to be consoled only by the stuffed dog packed in the suitcase in the belly of the plane. Either of my connecting flights would leave me stranded when delays cause me to arrive late. I could talk too loud about international peace keeping initiatives or the more realistic gripes of the Palestinian people and be gang-tackled by gung-ho passengers. The on-flight snack could contain almonds. Just four months removed from the collapsing towers, encountering a terrorist redirecting the plan into the RCA dome wasn’t a very realistic concern.

    There were from the start a few things that concerned me about our response to 9/11 from our leadership. Tops among them: Outside of Barbara Lee I had no representation in those first several weeks. No one to say, “Hey, this horrible act was done, and here we have this system of justice and cooperation that we believe in. Let’s use it.” If we really valued our ideology, wouldn’t it behoove us to apply it to all we do, to lead the world to democracy by modeling it in international relations?

    There was also no real attempt to try and understand the circumstances that might cause 19 men to train themselves to carry out such an act. Understanding a thing is not tantamount to endorsing it. The language coming from on high equated the two, however, particularly with the small words and phrases … Good … Evil … With us … Against us. If ever there was a time for our nation to explore all sides, the moment never seized.

    So out of our confusion, fear and desperation, we asked the wrong questions. Instead of Why, we opted for What and Where. These measures in the airports, and these initiatives overseas, are like trying to stop the rain by catching the drops.

  • Dee

    Here are the addresses for the posts the Congressman referred to, you’ll have to paste them into the address bar because I’ve no idea how to link them, sorry.

  • Jane Shevtsov

    Last fall, I flew from LA to Denver and back. I am in a powerchair, so I took along a small wheelchair repair kit. (If my chair breaks down, I’m in trouble if I can’t fix it.) The kit included a roll of duct tape and scissors to cut the tape with. LAX to Denver was no problem, but on my return trip, the security people decided to confiscate my scissors. Now, what good is duct tape if it can’t be cut? (I am also concerned about the inconsistency involved.) At least they let me keep my two small screwdrivers.

  • Shawn Redden


    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your ideas all week. It would really be wonderful if you would share these same insights with greater frequency on your own blog.

    We all realize how cramped for time you’ll no doubt be in the coming months, but I really hope you do engage your constituency in this way. Your honesty gives you a real advantage you have over everyone else in the field, especially the court appointed President, who considers telling the truth a sign of weakness and passivity.

  • Jonathan M

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve written on this board, but with the degree to which Bush has damaged this country, many Democrats simply want an electable one. If Governor Dean, a centrist who got an A from the NRA and who is a balanced budget hound, has been painted by many as an unelectable liberal, and with you placing yourself to his left, how would you escape this tag and redefine yourself?

    Also, what accounts for your sudden changes in position on issues such as abortion recently?

  • Rob

    Dee’s linkage:

    You just manually create the tags. It’s easy, once you know how.

  • Rob

    The links in Mr. Kucinich’s post are working for me as of now. I was familiar with them anyway. It was a hotly-debated issue here, generating more traffic than I had seen on this blog in quite some time.

    I’m not sure if I fully understand Seth’s analogy. Maybe it’s “one man’s security measure is another man’s privacy invasion.” That’s what first came to mind, and seemed to be the consensus result of the prior discussion.

    It’s a tough question, no doubt about it. I’m glad to see that Mr. Kucinich doesn’t really have an answer either. But it’s one of those questions that demands a decision at some point; doing nothing at all is not an option. We demand that our government actively protect us, and we demand to see evidence of that protection.

    Mr. Kucinich “invites…self-reflection about America�s role in the world [and] about the basis for the murderous grievances which misguided individuals may have against us.” He’s not the first to raise that point, which is that truly establishing security depends on dealing with the root causes of the insecurity. The problem is that we don’t have a real good way of addressing those root causes except military force. Religious fervor, hopelessness, envy of the richness of the Western world…how do you peacefully talk your way through these minefields? You cannot deal rationally with irrational people.

    Evangelical religiosity, viewing of nonbelievers as “infidels” who must be converted or destroyed for the greater glory of god and the protection of the faithful, belief in a better life to come after death and rewards for dying in the cause of your religion…we’ve been fighting over this for thousands of years. I highly doubt that the religious fanatics (on either side) will wake up tomorrow with the epiphany that all men are brothers deserving of self-determination. The Muslim fanatics are going to continue to attack what they see as moral decay and the pernicious influence of the infidel West, and as the most powerful nation in the Western world we are their target. They are not going to negotiate with us; we are targets to be destroyed, instruments of the devil. We are the Evil Empire, the Axis of Evil in their eyes. That is the major basis for their “murderous grievances.”

    By all means, do everything you can to try to educate people. Not every Muslim is a fanatic bent on annihilation of The Infidel. But those that are irrational fanatics and are a danger to us must be hunted down and eliminated. Otherwise, we are not secure. And since they do not have “suicidal religious fanatic” stamped on their foreheads, we have to endure indignities if we want to even attempt to identify and stop them before they can accomplish their tasks. Mistakes will be made, which is inevitable in a human system. The outrage will be too much for some; very well, let them adapt their lives to avoid the searches. But don’t ask those of us who are demanding security to accept insecurity in the name of freedom; because that feeling of insecurity is itself a restriction on our freedom, perhaps as strongly felt as your outrage at being treated as a suspected terrorist.

    Ben Franklin’s quote is pithy but I disagree with it. It may have made sense back then, but the world has changed a lot in 200 years.

  • Margaret Hill

    Jonathan, just wanted to let you know that Congressman Kucinich has already offered an answer to the question you pose about his position on abortion. It’s on his website at:

    Kucinich on the Issues: Reproductive Rights

    Hope that helps.

  • Rob

    One more thing. I believe it is true that Mr. Kucinich is to the left of Mr. Dean; far, far to the left. I believe it unlikely that he will be elected, or even nominated. But I am glad he is out there campaigning and keeping the liberal vision alive. This country lost a great liberal voice with the passing of Paul Wellstone. We need someone in Congress to take up that mantle and keep the conservative message from totally overwhelming us. Kucinich might be the man for the job.

  • Shawn Redden

    I’d be interested in knowing just what it is that makes Howard Dean a liberal, but perhaps that’s a discussion better had elsewhere.

    e-mail me if you’ve got any answers. I’d sure like to hear them.

    Dennis represents a 180 degree turn from the wingers and fanatics in the White House, and I think, at this moment, that carries a lot more resonance than you know. And I think that resonance will become infectuous as people begin to realize that it’s a true, valid, and moral. It’s time to confront this this administration directly — to completely challenge their totally corrupt platform with it’s antithesis — rather than hit on the edges and be bullied by the right.

    Kucinich vs. Bush is Rove’s absolute nightmare, and he knows it.

    Dean doesn’t strike me as a lot different than Gephardt or Kerry; both are, in fact, more sensible than he is on both economic and foreign policy matters.

  • Richard Bennett

    Americans are more ignorant about the rest of the world than the rest of the world is about us, and that really comes through in the naive foreign policy notions that come from American politicians on both the left and the right. American airport security, compared to the rest of the world, was extremely lax before Sept. 11, 2001, and we’re only now beginning to catch up. Other nations have been dealing with more aggressive terrorist groups on their soil than America has: the Brits have been at war with IRA terrorists, largely funded by the American left, for 20 years; Spain and France have had an ongoing battle with Basque terrorists, Italy and Germany have their Marxist kidnappers and bombers, Israel has hostile Arabs all around it, India has been under attack from Muslims, Sikhs, and the Tamil Tigers for 30 years, and the Philippines have had their Muslim separatists. The first time I travelled to India, in 1975, I was shocked to see soldiers with automatic weapons at Heathrow and Rome, and further shocked to learn that India itself, the home of Gandhi’s non-violent rebellion, was under martial law following mass riots against birth control.

    This is the way the world lives, in other words, and we’re now getting a little taste of it. The cause of airport security isn’t John Ashcroft’s religious beliefs or America’s healthcare and minimum wage laws, it’s the terrorists who’ve decided they can advance their cause by murdering innocent Americans, so let’s be adult enough to place the blame where it belongs.

    After Sept. 11, there was a large contingent of Americans who insisted we have to understand “why they hate us” instead of just rushing headlong into Afghanistan, etc. OK, that’s a fine sentiment, but it’s been two years now and the time has come to answer the question instead of just posing as Mr. and Ms. Thoughtful by asserting a need for continuing meetings on the subject. Why do they hate us, and what, if anything, does their hatred have to do with our need for national security?

    Rob offered a reasonable answer: “Religious fervor, hopelessness, envy of the richness of the Western world�”

    Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Muslim countries with large populations of rootless young men who’ve come to the cities looking for work and don’t have the tempering influence of their families around them every day. These countries have typically tied their hopes for development to socialist models that have failed to deliver a robust economy. The 4 leaders of the Sept. 11 hijackings, the Egyptians, were all middle class boys who’d spent time in Europe, where all were radicalized through their contact with radical mosques. As far as we can tell, they were unable to deal with the contradiction between what their religion teaches – that the Muslims are God’s chosen people – and the standard of living they found in Christian Europe. The answer they reached was that Christians and Jews have conspired to keep the Muslim down, and only slaughtering us or converting us to Islam can set right a fundamental imbalance between good and evil in the world.

    It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand over the entire Islamic world and make these attitudes disappear. It would be nice if all the Islamic radicals (and all the other terrorists I mentioned above) could see the error of their ways and convert to Quaker pacifism. It would be nice if everyone in the world could have a detached single family home with a swimming pool and two SUVs in the garage, an exciting high-wage job and free medicine. It would be nice if everybody recycled their coke bottles, paid for their new age music, and watched Oprah every day on their TiVo.

    But I’m not willing to drop airport security as I wait for all of these things to happen, and no other sensible person is either, so let’s get serious and stop the narcissistic whining about lines at the airport. This is the way the world has been living for a long time, and now we’re part of it.

    So what?

  • adamsj

    “This is the way the world has been living for a long time, and now we�re part of it.”

    Gawd, Richard, just what I’ve always wanted–an America that follows rather than leads.

  • Seth Finkelstein

    I’m backsliding, but my sense of humor has overridden my better judgment:

    By referencing the old joke:

    “Liquor – if you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life and inflames sinners, then I am against it.
    If you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter chill, the taxable portion that puts needed funds into the public coffers to comfort the under privileged, then I am for it.”

    I was thinking, using phrases from the statements in the post:

    “Security – if you mean the moral obtuseness, its inconscience on matters of civil liberties, and its craven attempts to demolish the Bill of Rights, then I am against it.
    If you mean that where the traveling public deserves assurances that they and their loved ones will be safe in the air, then I am for it.”

    More is not worth the cost/benefit

  • Brian

    Not to be off the topic or anything but does this amendment only apply to criminal cases or can it apply to civil?

    Amendment VIII

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    I only ask this as I think about all the amazing lawsuits being brought for millions of dollars worth of supposed damages.

  • Nick

    ” If you mean that where the traveling public deserves assurances that they and their loved ones will be safe in the air, then I am for it.�

    Seth, I think that’s the problem. Some people may think that the airport security procedures are providing the public with assurances that they and their loved ones will be safe in the air, but they are wrong. The reason people are complaining about their rights being stripped away is because they can see that these procedures are for show and do nothing in a practical way toward increasing security. Tweezers?? Pulleaaze.

    If we thought these hoops actually did increase security, a lot of the complaining would cease. If you really could prevent death and suffering, you are willing to jump through some hoops. But what is happening now is a show and a farce, and the next time something happens it will likely be in an entirely different area…and then the government will make us jump through hoops in that different area…and the next attack will occur elsewhere, etc.

  • j

    the following post is not intended to address John Gilmore.

    Richard says…..”But I�m not willing to drop airport security as I wait for all of these things to happen”

    Nobody’s asking you to. No one. Not even Gilmore. In addition, no one is denying that the US has entered the terrible “Club” that makes it a country where terrorism a reality, and that we have to act accordingly. This is true….just like you said, we’re getting a “taste” of what the rest of the world has now.

    But that doesn’t mean that: 1) We have to be happy about it….2) We have to solve such problems just like everywhere else (Ireland, Middle East, etc) without looking to alternatives….or 3) We should blindly accept things such as airport security as yet another ‘silver bullet’ for terrorism.

    The problem that is pointed out here is that the US is QUITE unlike the rest of those countries you mentioned, to begin with. Realize that the US (obviously) is going to have a tough time adjusting to the changes put in place with regards to security and privacy, because that’s what we do. We have, since the country started, tried (successfully or not) to balance our liberties and freedoms with maintaining the security of those freedoms.

    Your post seems to suggest that we don’t have any right to complain about these changes (agressive screening for everyone, etc.)…is that your suggestion ?

    Your post suggests that complaining about changes in our society is called “whining” and “narcissistic”.. I assume you say that because when life and death is at stake, all should be acceptable in your eyes, no matter how ludicrous the processes are ?

    Your post seems to suggest that we should blindly accept the same solutions to terrorism as Ireland, Arab countries, India, etc., and not spend any amount of time taking a good look at what is the best solutions for the US. They don’t seem to work in those other countries so well.

    I’m not talking about people being tired of standing in line at the airport. I’m not either suggesting that higher security not be put in place. I’m not suggesting that citizens can expect their level privacy to be lowered in order to do so.

    I am saying that we’re too afraid of the boogeyman to review the processes that ARE in place and balance them with what is best for the US. To take the often quoted example….no woman should ever be forced to drink her own breast milk. There are ways of telling if a bottle of milk is harmful without having to injest it. Another example is the discrimination of passengers based not on the media materials they are carrying, but the content. A boxcutter, yes. A book with a disturbing cover, no.

  • Ed Lyons

    Thank you, Congressman. Your intelligent dialogue is definitely making me feel more and more guilty about not being a supporter of yours. I’m very appreciative that you’re addressing the issues that we Lessig blog “remoras” care about.


  • Rob

    Brian, since you didn’t leave an email address we’ll have to answer your off-topic post in the forum. And don’t bother using the disclaimer “Not to be off-topic” when you’re obviously going to do just that. Don’t be shy, just come out and be off-topic. The worst that can happen is you might be ignored.

    I Am Not A Lawyer, I just have my common sense to guide me, but since the amendment doesn’t state that it is restricted to one kind of case or another I would assume it applies to all situations. The kicker is, the definition of what constitutes an “excessive fine” or “cruel and unusual punishment” is left up to the courts and legislatures. Often it seems like it’s a situation of “I know it when I see it.” And there’s all kinds of opportunity for political wrangling over whether damages should be limited, as has been the issue recently with malpractice awards.

    Personally I think fines should be relative to the punishment intended and ability to pay. You don’t want to drive someone into the poorhouse unless that’s really what you want to do; at the same time you want to discourage the behavior by having a strong penalty, or maybe the damage is so severe that a large award is merited even knowing that the defendant won’t be able to pay. I have always wondered what happened in those cases when a defendant was unable to pay his multi-million-dollar judgement; obviously he goes to jail (or should), but what about the plaintiff? Is he just out of luck?

    Hope that helps a little.

  • David Grenier

    I’ve stopped flying.

    I was getting sick of air travel before Sept 11. I’m 6’4″, and flying is incredibly uncomfortable for me. So to show up hours early, put up with all the security hassles and THEN be stuck in an uncomfortable chair for several hours (and charged to watch the movie, and from what I hear now charged to eat) is just not worth it. I’d rather drive.

    Obviously, not everyone is in my situation (I’m self employed so if I want to take a week to get to Seattle from Providence, I can) and I’m not suggesting that everyone follow suit. I guess I’m just sharing my experience.

    I also, as of a week or two ago, am the Kucinich 04 volunteer coordinator for Rhode Island. If anyone from the Biggest Little reads this and wants to get involved in the campaign, drop me a line.

  • taterhead

    Thank you for the post, but please correct the typo:
    Patriot John Gilmore (supected terrorist)

  • Brian Carnell

    Yes, the database system their using to profile people is bordering on fascism. Thank goodness Kucinich voted against the creation of such a database when it was brought up in the House . . .

    . . . .ooops he voted in favor of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which explictly authorizes exactly what candidate Kucinich is bitching about now.

    Good to know Kucinich will take an impassioned state for his principles, even if he won’t vote for them.

  • Anon

    Kucinich: You’re preaching to the choir about the problem, but you fail to offer a concrete solution.

    What exactly do you propose to do?

  • Tom Cunningham

    Were the founding fathers “morally obtuse” when they proposed their system of checks and balances? We have a system of government that treats our elected officials as “suspected criminals”, because we’ve learned through hundreds of years of history that human nature compels them to be.

    It’s a sad fact that human nature also compels some to terrorism, but I’d much rather a stringent series of checks treating the innocent as “suspected terrorists” than a liberal hug-a-tree system that makes me scared to fly.

  • Evan

    But the stringest series of checks has no actual effect on security.

    If you aboslutely have to do something pointless to keep yourself from feeling too scared to fly, I sure wish you’d knock on wood or something instead, so the rest of us can get on with our trip.

  • Richard Bennett

    Your post seems to suggest that we don�t have any right to complain about these changes (agressive screening for everyone, etc.)�is that your suggestion ?

    I’m saying that I’m tired of hearing the same tired whining with no contstructive suggestions for improving the system. The obvious thing to do in the airports is to profile the people we know are out to get us, and they just happen to be young Arab males flying on foreign passports. But we can’t focus on them because that offends delicate notions of racial profiling, so we get full cavity searches on people chosen at random.

    So you asked for it, and you got it.

  • Jeremy Hart

    Here comes some more tired whining, but what the hey…

    I have no problem being searched when I fly. I’ve had to endure all kinds of crap, partly because my wife is half French-Algerian and her middle name is “Yamina,” but y’know, I’m willing to deal with it if it helps keep planes from blowing up.

    My problem with the increased security measures since 9/11 is that they won’t necessarily keep planes from blowing up. The hijackings occurred not because of some sort of lax security, but because of the societal mindset we’d all been taught through years and years of hijackings, whether on TV or in the real world: if you’re hijacked, the wisdom went, don’t resist. Hijackers back in the “old days” blew up planes relatively rarely, preferring instead to land them someplace else and hold the passengers hostage. In a hostage situation like that, typical procedure is to stay calm, don’t fight back, and keep yourself safe until the good guys come through the door. That’s how we all thought it worked.

    Mohammed Atta and his cohorts weren’t able to take over the planes because somebody said “look out, they’ve got boxcutters!” They were able to get control because nobody ever thought (including some of the hijackers themselves, possibly) that anybody could ever possibly do what they did, which was to use an immense aircraft as a guided missile, killing all their potential hostages.

    So what do we do now? Honestly, I don’t think we need to do anything. Does anybody think a hijacker who grabbed a plane out of LAX tomorrow would survive five minutes? I doubt it. I don’t think that this exact strategy will ever work for these people again, because the cat’s out of the bag. There was a weakness in the system, and they exploited it, but now the weakness has been fixed. Can we prevent anything similar from happening ever again? Of course not. As long as there’s human ingenuity, people will discover new and horrible ways to kill other people.

    That’s what pops into my head when I’m waiting patiently in line to get on the plane. I’m all for security, but I think we’re focusing too much on the process — searching people’s shoes, for instance, after that one doorknob tried it, for example. It was the passengers who were responsible for the shoe-bomber getting busted, you’ll recall, not airport security. Maybe we can tone things down slightly at the airports, give people a chance to breathe a bit more easily (and help the airlines, in the process), and just keep our eyes open instead of relying on some kind of massive security apparatus. Fear’s really what the terrorists of 9/11 were trying to hit us with, and they succeeded — a little less fear and frustration in our lives can hardly be a bad thing. There’s my two cents’ worth, anyway.

  • Jeremy Hart

    Duh. I just glanced back over the comments and realized I said the same thing lightning did, waaaay up in the first comment. Ah, well — I, er, second that, if you don’t mind.

  • Richard Bennett

    Gee, Jeremy, you suggest that the people can accomplish by individual initiative than the government can do for them; that’s a pretty radical notion. It’s true, of course, but it’s radical. That kind of thinking will get you in big trouble with progressives, feminists, etc, so be careful expressing it in public with your real name attached to it.

  • Rob

    But the stringest series of checks has no actual effect on security.

    I disagree. If there were no checks whatsoever, people could just walk on with hand grenades; certainly we are more secure than that, so there is an actual effect. Security checks are just one aspect of increasing airline security, just as a firewall is one aspect of network security. But if you set your firewall to only block the most high-profile ports used by crackers, you leave yourself open to all the more-sophisticated attacks out there. Even worse, you give yourself a false sense of security so you don’t even look for the other attacks. You are vulnerable, don’t even know it, and won’t know until your systems have been compromised. We had a false sense of security about our air travel system. We have taken steps to lock it down and make compromising it harder. I disagree with the Bush Administration on many things but not this. Any administration would have done the same, sooner or later.

    There’s been much made of the theory that the security checks are pointless because potential hijackers could use pencils and pens or even the sporks from airline meals as weapons. Well, for that matter the terrorists could send in a team of fully-trained ninjas who wouldn’t even need weapons. But I haven’t heard of terrorist suicide ninja teams or hijackings at sporkpoint, and pencils and pens are easily broken where boxcutters and large pocketknives are generally not. I am not conviced by the arguments against the increased security checks.

    I also am not convinced by the “if we curtail our freedoms the terrorists win” argument. The terrorists are not out to curtail our freedoms, they are out to overthrow our government by killing as many of us as possible so there will be anarchy in the streets. They want to render us so isolationist and insular that we will cease to support our friends in their regions, so they can take control of those regions and use them as bases to expand the reach of their operations. Their stated goal is to export their culture to the ends of the earth, because their belief system comes from god and any other is therefore obviously immoral and evil. They will stop at nothing to accomplish this. The terrorists don’t win when we institute heavy security checks at airports. They win when we’re afraid to fly altogether or even to go out of the house. You cannot be free in a world where you might get blown up at any moment (at least I can’t).

    If you don’t like the checks, don’t fly. There are plenty of other travel options. John Madden never flew even before 9/11 and he’s had a very good career. It can be done.

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    This is the second of two questions I asked the former Governor of Vermont. The first concerned the existance of a jurisdiction that is not defined in the current WTO-TRIPS regime. This second concerns which jurisdictions are controlling, and under what circumstances.

    As before, a couple of paras of context before the question.

    Jim Oyler sells fireworks on a 20 acre parcel in Johnson County, Kansas.

    In the 1600s, the Shawnee concentrated in the Ohio valley, in what is now Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They were the late Mississipians, matrilineal/matrilocal, post-Hopewellian, the end of the long chain of Moundbuilders; the cream of the crop. Disease, then the Beaver Wars, the expansion of the Five Nations (Iroquois) and their British allies, drove the Shawnee out of the Ohio river valley for a century.

    A series of treaties secured the Shawnee land in 1831, with the “guarantee that said lands shall never be within the bounds of any State or territory, nor subject to the laws thereof.” This treaty was modified in 1854 to reduce the total acreage, and terminate collective title to land, and in 1869, the Shawnee and Cherokee tribes were merged. The 10th Circuit Court determined “[t]here is no evidence” that the 1869 merger “altered any rights vested under previous Shawnee treaties.”

    The 20 acre parcel is part of Lot 206, the last land held by descendents of the 1854 individual allotment.

    Without determining if one or more Oklahoma Tribes, jointly or severally, has authority over Lot 206, or if the United Tribe of Shawnee are an Indian Tribe, or if the United Tribe of Shawnee possess a “governement”, or if Jim Oyler is the Principle Chief of the UTS, and knowing that in Johnson County the sale of fireworks is illegal, answer the following:

    Where does state jurisdiction end?

    How will you improve the relationship between Tribal Governments, the Federal Government, and the States Governments?

    How will you improve the situation faced by Eastern and Southern Tribes when attempting to determine the jurisdictions of each governement?

    N.B. I assumed that Dr. Dean had not forgotten the efforts by Chief Homer St. Francis, now deceased, and 29 other Swanton Band Abenakis who took part in the fish-in of 1987, to fish without interference by the State of Vermont. This is the csase in which the VT SC wrote: the loss of aboriginal rights “may be established by the increasing weight of history”, a ruling unique in American law.

  • Westley Sherman

    …they are out to overthrow our government by killing as many of us as possible…

    They’ve got a long way to go. Even at a rate of one 9/11 every year it would take 1000 years for them to take out 1% of the US population and in 1,000 year it’s not even clear that people will be human.

    Their stated goal is to export their culture to the ends of the earth…

    And US leaders go on about how they want to export American culture to the ends of the earth as well, so the choice is big macs or falafel. One thing to be careful about is who “they” are. If “they” means terrorists then you have to include people like McVeigh who didn’t seem too concerned about culture and if “they” means Arabs then “they” want the same things everyone else in the world wants: freedom, prosperity, etc. and it’s balatantly racist to associate “them” with terrorism.

  • j

    “The obvious thing to do in the airports is to profile the people we know are out to get us”

    No, that’s not obvious. It’s a gross oversimplification. It is, however, obvious, especially to security people, even if it can be done, that such profiling may not provide any measureable amount of security. Don’t make the mistake thinking that the reason why they haven’t been outright profiling is because of ‘constituional’ or ‘liberty’ issues that go along with racial profiling.

    It’s simply because it just doesn’t provide as much security as searching/seizing does.

    The lack of “constructive suggestions” to the problem does not make complains into “whining”. You suggest that it has to be one or the other….which, of course, is essentially the crux of most of your “insight offerings” here on Lessig’s blog, but I won’t digress…

    The majority of binary thinkers on this issue usually oversimplify it, try to boil it down to a small couple of paragraphs, then try their best to put a ‘zinger’ at the end of their opinion to bring home their usually ignorant point, which is, usually something along the lines of:

    ‘you want security ? suck it up and follow the rules. you want liberty ? then expect to get bombed.’

    which of course, is ludicrous, because the balance of liberty and security has always found equilibrium in the past, as it will in the future. There are usually ping-pongs along the spectrum, while it all works itself out, and Gilmore and the 9/11 attackers have pointed out some new endpoints of that spectrum.

    To proclaim oversimplifications and ignore that the ‘gray-areas’ don’t exist is obtuse and very tunnel-visioned, in my opinion. While you can either sigh with relief during a cavity search, relishing in how safe we are, or grunt with frustration while you surrender a copy of 2600 magazine to a flight attendant in order to board the plane….the fact of the matter is that in reality, it’s never “either/or”, because people coming with both perspectives will find a middle ground and a balance.

  • Evan

    “The obvious thing to do in the airports is to profile the people we know are out to get us”

    Because terrorists are so easy to detect, just by looking at them. They’re all swarthy and male and have Arab names and foreign passports, and they’d *never* wear makeup or get counterfeit identification or travel under assumed names, no sir. (And they certainly would never be named anything like “McVeigh”.)

    I know you’ve got an attitude problem about liberals, dude, but just because the other side opposes something doesn’t make it a good idea. Racial profiling is wrong because it violates civil liberties, yes, but it’s also *rock stupid* because it makes it simple to avoid notice, simply by arranging not to look like the race under suspicion when you go through the checkpoint. Any first-year theatre student knows enough about makeup to do *that*.

  • Richard Bennett

    There are a lot of law enforcement agencies who’d be fascinated to learn that criminal profiling — in which race, sex, and age are factors — doesn’t work, given that it’s a proven technique that’s been found useful for many years. The candidate says he’s opposed to one-way ticket profiling, and others have pointed out that it’s absurd to subject elderly white women to the same scrutiny as others and we have an aging hippie with a flair for stupid buttons who allegedly wants to be left alone to look at his own picture while flying.

    Let’s just face facts and admit that every airline hijacker in the US fits a certain profile and that people who match that profile warrant a greater degree of scrutiny than others. The alternative is to either treat everyone as a “suspected terrorist”, which is wrong, or to treat no one as a suspected terrorist, which is suicidal.

  • Dee Lichtenberger

    It occurs to me, with all this discussion of profiling and security, there is one thing that isn’t discussed. How is it possible to protect or even lead the people without knowing them?

    Nobody asked me what I think would make airline travel safer, and I’m guessing nobody else posting here was asked about it either. The current administration is feeding us a steady diet of paranoia and it’s become addictive for some. Terrorists are out there, no question about that. They aren’t going to go away any time soon. The idea that any of these “security” measures make us any safer today than we were on Sept. 11th is absurd. Some else said the same thing- so we tighten security in one place, they’re just going to find another vulnerability.

    My belief is that we have to draw a line somewhere. Freedom, real freedom, means some degree of vulnerability. I never went to Berlin before the wall fell, though I had several opportunities. Why? Because frankly the idea of being under that sort of scrutiny constantly terrified me beyond belief. I’m not interested in seeing America turn into a modern day Berlin. That IS where we’re heading with this insane idea that giving up our rights and our freedoms in the name of security is going to make things better.

    On other posts’ discussions there was talk of how we can’t cut ourselves off from the world in matters of trade, etc. but isn’t that exactly what is being pushed at us now with all this porposed “security”? Close the borders, make all sorts of international travel more difficult, profile everyone regardless of race, creed or color, National ID cards, damned micro-technology giving up all sorts of personl information including medical records proposed on our identification- Where do we draw a line, people?

    And please tell me how the Goverment which is supposed to be working FOR US can possibly draw that line without knowing where WE draw it?

  • Jeremy Hart

    That kind of thinking will get you in big trouble with progressives, feminists, etc, so be careful expressing it in public with your real name attached to it.

    Thanks for the concern, Richard, but I’m not worried. Contrary to what you seem to believe, the fact that I and other people think of ourselves as “progressive” doesn’t necessarily mean that we take no responsibility for ourselves and expect the government to do absolutely everything. Heck, I’d be happy if it could do just a select few things, like hire more teachers so kids don’t have to sit in classrooms with more than 30 other students.

  • j

    “There are a lot of law enforcement agencies who�d be fascinated to learn that criminal profiling � in which race, sex, and age are factors � doesn�t work, given that it�s a proven technique that�s been found useful for many years.”

    I notice that you’re now including sex and age there…you’re backing away from profiling based solely on race ? Good move. But not quite good enough. Which law enforcement agencies are you referring to ? FBI ? CIA ? they are well aware of the limitations of profiling. You suggest that the choice is either: either be searched/drink the breast milk/censor what books/buttons you bring on and shut up, or expect profiling.

    Th fact is, in most, if not all cases of hijacking, if more thorough searching through carry-ons had taken place and the cockpit door was locked, those hijacks would not have taken place, and that has nothing to do with profiling.

    Dictating what books you can carry-on or what buttons you can wear will not make the airplane any safer, and there are better ways of finding out if breast milk is safe than forcing its producer to drink it.

    The people who you say are “whining” wouldn’t be “whining” if situations like the ‘drinking breast milk’, ‘banned political buttons’, ‘prohibited book covers’ didn’t exist.

    In the case of 9/11, it would not have taken place if the cockpit door was locked, and the boxcutters were found, and both of those things are possible without profiling.

    You’re missing the point, most likely because of the ‘either/or’ binary thinking again. Gilmore was complaing about being treated as a ‘suspected terrorist’ and he’s right…he was. Is everyone a ‘suspected terrorist’ ? Yes, they are, and they have been, long before 9/11. People expect to be searched for potential weapons. GIlmore (and others) are not arguing that they not be searched…you seem to think that they are, which is one of your misconceptions.

    Congressman Kucinich apparently is aware that further discussion is warranted surrounding airline security. I’m happy to see that, because it shows awareness that security is a changing process, and not a static set of conditions. At this point, a promise to further the research and discussion with respects to balance is the best thing a candidate can suggest.

  • Rob

    Westley Sherman points out:

    They�ve got a long way to go.

    Do they really? Well, they’ve only been able to get at us for 50 years or so (probably even less, I just chose 1948 as the first time we appeared on their “radar screen”), and it took them until 1993 to hit us the first time on U.S. soil. I’m sure they take the long view. How many World Trade Centers and USS Coles will it take to kick off their Ragnarok of East vs. West? They’re working on it.

    And US leaders go on about how they want to export American culture to the ends of the earth as well

    Good point. But we are not blowing up mosques as part of our campaign of enlightenment. Still, I think it’s true that we have to reign in this impulse we’ve had of trying to sell the world that our way is the best and only way. Our way has plenty of flaws as well. They don’t generally lead to mass murder…but it’s a difference in degree only.

    McVeigh…didn�t seem too concerned about culture

    I disagree there. He felt he was striking a blow against a tyrannical government that did not respect his views, a government that forcibly repressed dissident groups at Waco and Ruby Ridge. In short, he was a terrorist just as much as Osama is, maybe with a different overall agenda but with a similar method of achieving it.

    [Arabs] want the same things everyone else in the world wants…[and] it�s blatantly racist to associate �them� with terrorism

    Oh come now. When did I ever point the finger at Arabs as “the problem,” and was I not careful to point out that not all Muslims are radical fundamentalists? Don’t tar me with that brush just yet. Muslims != Arabs, although you have to admit that it certainly seems as though a very large percentage of the radical fundamentalist Muslims who are out to destroy Western culture are Muslim Arabs. I can be 99% accurate when saying that our problems stem from radical fundamentalist Muslim Arabs. That is not the same as saying that our problems are the Arabs as a whole, and I don’t think that makes me a racist.

    Dee said:

    so we tighten security in one place, they�re just going to find another vulnerability

    Yes, but it will get harder and harder for them as we block off more and more vulnerabilities, and they will be less and less effective when they do manage to break through. Eventually, they’ll hopefully see that it won’t be worth their time and effort, and they’ll adopt different tactics. Negotiation, perhaps.

    Freedom, real freedom, means some degree of vulnerability.

    So, we should just write off Pan Am 103, the Bali bombing, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center as acceptable losses? I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean to say that.

    Finally, j said:

    GIlmore (and others) are not arguing that they not be searched

    I didn’t get that impression. All I keep hearing is how the searches are futile and needlessly intrusive.

    Look, I’m not thrilled about the government trying to track our every move either. I’m not arguing for that, it’s not necessary. What I’m saying is, when there is the possibility of something being used for large-scale, “asymmetric” violence, we need to accept the requirement of tighter security checks for access to it. If you are uncomfortable giving up that anonymity, no problem, don’t use the facility. But don’t endanger the rest of us by insisting that you and by extension everyone else have free and unfettered access to it.

  • j

    Rob — I agree with your last statement…but again, I don’t think anyone is insisting on having free and unfettered access to an airline, with complete anonymity….not even John Gilmore is insisting on that.

    “All I keep hearing is how the searches are futile and needlessly intrusive.”

    I don’t hear that they are futile….where are you hearing that ?

    I do hear that they are “needlessly intrusive” from people like the woman involved with the breast milk incident. If they can wipe a chemical/explosives tester over my backpack, then they can test liquid without forcing someone to drink it.

    Of course there will always be people who will want complete freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, period. But I guess I just don’t take them seriously enough to think they could endanger my safety on a plane.

  • Anonymous

    Freedom, real freedom, means some degree of vulnerability.

    So, we should just write off Pan Am 103, the Bali bombing, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center as acceptable losses? I�m pretty sure you didn�t mean to say that.

    I would. The cost of the last real war (1941-1945) are incomensurate with several airplanes and their passengers and crews, and several buildings and their occupants and their rescuers, spread over several years. Bush, and Dean both attempt to define political issues to a few planes and buildings and a few thousand fatalities, or another thousand casualties with a 25% mortality cost. This is pretty small potatoes to hang up the rest of public policy as irrelevant. Both gamble on a paniced electorate, the only difference is which way the panic breaks. I’ll go with someone that doesn’t loose their cool under fire, and keeps on thinking, even after provocative attacks that mean less then a heat wave in lost lives.

    I’m pretty sure my children’s toxic torts attorney would agree, if the last leg of his flight from Boston to Los Angeles hadn’t been piloted by Mohammad Atta.

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    The anony above was me. Blogware sucks, even MT is … retarded.

  • Dee Lichtenberger

    Dee-Freedom, real freedom, means some degree of vulnerability.

    Rob-So, we should just write off Pan Am 103, the Bali bombing, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center as acceptable losses? I�m pretty sure you didn�t mean to say that.

    Write them off, no. Obviously there is work to be done. As J said, this isn’t a set of conditions we can just slap on the situation like a bandaid. For one thing the airline security we have in place now will eventually become just as predictable as the security we had before Sept. 11th, and will be just as simple to circumvent. We have to be flexible, and we have to be mindful of just how much of our freedom we’re willing to relinquish for these measures.

    If we don’t stop and consider these things now, we’re just laying back and waiting for a Police State to be declared. Slowly but steadily, that’s what I believe these people want to do. (“these people” being W.&co., and the PNAC crowd) This steady increase in restrictions, the Patriot Acts, the persistant drive toward invasion of our privacies brings me back to that one quote “It’d be a lot easier if it were a Dictatorship, as long as I’m the Dictator.”. Seems to me Bush’s dream is getting closer and closer to reality, and I for one feel a distinct need to cut that one off at the pass. If that means a little more vulnerability for a time, so be it. If I can’t be free, if I can’t read my choice of books or magazines on a plane, if I can’t write an e-mail to a trusted friend about things in this country I don’t agree with, if I can’t protest peacefully against bad policy- if I can’t do any of these things without being a suspected terrorist and assumed criminal, I may as well be dead. Why go that far? Because as long as my ability to make my own conclusions from facts offered and to act to make changes in this country based on those conclusions is stifled, I’m useless. I know with Dennis Kucinich in the White House that won’t happen. I know with Dennis Kucinich in Congress we at least have one voice who will act to prevent that kind of control. Is he perfect? Doubtful, but then who among us is?

    I’ll tell you one thing Congressman Kucinich has that a whole lot of us have lost, IF we ever had it to begin with, and that’s faith in people. His posts here indicate to me that he believes we’re capable of doing the right thing without being FORCED into it. People keep talking about safety. Do you know what makes you safe? I mean think about just in ordinary daily life- you have an enemy, one that wants to mess up your whole life, how do you handle it? Do you return the same animosity toward them? Because I don’t. I found out the hard way, the best way to get rid of a problem like that is deal with it head on. Be bigger and better by not giving in to the same tactics. Be decent to people and after a while there’s nothing left to hate. You make peace by creating trust. Security is fine as a stop-gap, but it isn’t going to CHANGE anything. There will always be people who hate the US, I think, but the more we reduce their numbers the less danger we face from acts like this. People like to call that belief Pollyanna-ish, and maybe it is, but it’s also pretty logical. I keep going back to “Keep it simple, stupid!”- the first thing you do is try the simplest most mundane solution to a problem. The US has been doing the exact opposite for years. As a result we’re no better off and worse, in a great deal more danger.

  • Rob

    Does everyone understand what it means to be “at war”?

    Playing Devil’s Advocate is a tricky business. On the one hand it’s educational; by having to research aspects of the Bad Guy’s position, you come to understand how he came to hold that position. On the other hand, you risk being taken as a wholehearted proponent of the Bad Guy’s cause. So let me just say: I did not vote for George Bush (either one), I did not support the invasion of Iraq (the more recent one), and I do believe in civil liberties for all.

    you have an enemy, one that wants to mess up your whole life, how do you handle it? Do you return the same animosity toward them? Because I don�t. I found out the hard way, the best way to get rid of a problem like that is deal with it head on. Be bigger and better by not giving in to the same tactics. Be decent to people and after a while there�s nothing left to hate. You make peace by creating trust.

    The flip answer would be to say there would be nothing left to hate once we were all dead, but that wouldn’t contribute much to the discussion.

    So let’s try to puzzle this out. -Hello Radical Islam, why do you hate us so much? -Well Rob, there are lots of reasons. You are infidels, unbelievers, and therefore abominations before Allah. You pollute our people directly by selling them material goods, seducing them from the path of righteousness into iniquity and sin. Your people come to my countries and promote religious beliefs contrary to the true path. Your country’s richness makes my people wonder why, if our path is the true one, our lives are so difficult and dreary while you who live in sin are prosperous and have lives of luxury. -Gee, that’s a pretty long list. So what you’re telling me is, I need to (1)worship Allah, (2) renounce foreign trade to Islamic countries, (3) prohibit travel to Islamic countries, and (4) convert the United States into a nation of poverty, and then you’d leave us in peace? -Yep, pretty much. Anything else, and you’re a threat. The world ain’t big enough for the two of us.

    I present one radical Islamist’s essay in support of the above:

    Full text: bin Laden’s ‘letter to America’

    Do you see the problem here? It’s not any one thing we do; it’s our mere existence that radical Islam sees as a threat. You can’t negotiate with that, unless you want to negotiate yourself out of existence. That is not an acceptable outcome. I won’t negotiate that.

    We declared war on terrorism last year. What does it mean to be at war? We declared war on drugs a while back, and our daily lives didn’t change much. We declared war on poverty in the 60′s, passed a few bills, spent some money, and that was about it. Is that war?

    Webster’s Online gives two possible definitions of war: 1. a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations; 2. a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end (a class war) (a war against disease). The second definition sounds a bit wimpy. I mean, the competition here is for survival, mine or radical Islam’s. They’ve already armed themselves with bombs, guns, boxcutters, and airplanes. To me, war means action not negotiation. Negotiation is what you do before you go to war; once you get to war, the time for talking has passed. You tried it, it didn’t work, now it’s time to fight it out.

    I believe that the Bush administration believes, as I do, that war isn’t just a word you toss around to sound tough. When you say you are going to war, you are going to WAR. You are going to get serious, and you are going to bend your every thought and action to being the winner (or survivor, if you prefer). War is Total War, not a half-baked “police action.”

    Here’s another interesting page to look at:

    Maintenance of National Security and the First Amendment

    I quote:

    “Preservation of the security of the Nation from its enemies, foreign and domestic, is the obligation of government and one of the foremost reasons for government to exist. Pursuit of this goal may lead government officials at times to trespass in areas protected by the guarantees of speech and press and may require the balancing away of rights which might be preserved inviolate at other times.”

    Of course that’s just their opinion, and they’re speaking about the First Amendment, not airport security. I looked under the Fourth Amendment and didn’t see anything clarifying what an “unreasonable search” was in time of war. I guess it’s never come up before. But if we are at War, and there is a real threat of enemies foreign or domestic using the transportation system as a weapon, is there any possible search that would be considered unreasonable? Are we or are we not at War?

    I think our conception of War has changed. In the World Wars there was no question what it meant to be at War. Half a century of Cold War and nothing happening inside our borders has dulled our sense of War. War is something that happens somewhere else, to someone else. Our daily lives are not supposed to be affected by War. We still go to movies, have weekend cookouts, visit Mount Rushmore, watch Friends; War is a five-minute report from Wolf Blitzer. War is “embedded reporters.” War has no implications for ourselves, that’s what we pay the Army for, isn’t it?

    Is the “War on Terror” going to turn out to be a joke like the “War on Drugs?” Because I don’t think we’re just talking about an increased number of potheads if we make a half-hearted attempt and then move on. I think we’re talking thousands and thousands of “acceptable losses” for the rest of my life, and yours, and your childrens’. Yes, the increased security stinks. Yes, there are errors in its application. Yes, it’s not 100% foolproof. It’s part of fighting the war as a War. It’s part of our government trying to do its job of protecting us from enemies.

    I wanted to work the Smith Act of 1940 into this somewhere and talk about its possible applications to the Gilmore incident, but I’ve rambled on enough for now. I bet you’re all asleep now anyway. :)

  • Tim Castleman

    Concerned with the hassle to fly? $18 Billion dollars of subsidies since 9/11 bother you? Me too.

    Travel by Jet airliner is THE most inefficent way by far to transport people. Observe:

    Average BTU consumed Per Passenger mile by mode of travel:

    SUV: 4,591
    Air: 4,123
    Bus: 3,729
    Car: 3,672
    Train: 2,138

    Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

    What’s the hurry anyway? AMTRAK is begging for 1/18th of the Airline subsidy, and may shut down completely, despite the congressional mandate that formed it in the first place, if congress doesn’t provide funding.

    Lets see – air is becoming more hazardous to breathe every day, so let’s load up TONS of minimally refined petroleum and take it up to 30,000 feet to release it – but first we will release a great deal of it on top of our cities as the jets take off and land.

    The Bush regime is laughing all the way to the bank with the billions Americans spend on their products. True patriots just say NO to wasteful petroleum use and seek to lead by example, using as little as possible of the petroleum warlords addictive drugs.

    A BIODIESEL powered Campaign Bus would be an interesting angle, wouldn’t it?

    WHY is it cheaper to fly than ride AMTRAK? Even though the train uses half as much energy, and a handful of crew members on a train full of hundreds of passengers? Maybe something to do with $18 Billion dollars in airline subsidies since 9/11.

  • Pam Shorey

    I have a suggestion for the U.S. Government. How about the use of something like passports?

    I personally have not flown since 9/11, being unwilling to submit to the random mortifying and inconvenient searches. But I could easily get 10 solid citizens to vouch for me as a non-violent, longtime resident.

    Not everyone could do that, but for those who could, would it not reduce the amount of clearance necessary at airports?
    Instead of carrying a photo card, why not match the database entry with a thumbprint.

    If they’re going to gather all this data on us, why not at least let it work for us as well as against us, with a guaranteed pass?

  • Igor Lulic

    I’ll list a short explanation of my personal philosophy first, so that you know what my basic values are. That should reduce pointless arguments over morality. Listed in order of importance:

    • 1. Universe exists independently of me.
    • 2. Logic is the proper tool to explain the universe.
    • 3. Complex things are better then simple things.

    Now, since this is a very simple philosophy, I need a set of practical corollaries to this as moral guidelines. For these, I chose the tenets of humanism. In essence, I place human beings and their potential for great things as the ultimate good.

    Secondly, I’d like to offer a few tidbits from my background. I was born in what was then Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, and what is now Republic of Croatia. I was educated in Yugoslav public schools, U.S. private schools, both U.S. and Croatian colleges, and even spent some time studying on Cyprus. Also, I’ve traveled quite substantially across the world, visiting 4 of the 7 continents, and spent extended periods in all of them.

    As for relevant experiences for this debate, I’ve experienced civil war in Croatia during the breakup of Yugoslavia. I’ve also experienced a few very lean years, living in poverty in Croatia and almost starving for a while. On the other scale of things, I’ve also lived for a while in an upscale Midwest home, attended very pricey private school, and graduated from a prestigious West Coast university. Basically, I’ve seen both ends of the scale, and seen and lived extensively in both the U.S. and the Middle East.

    The first point of contention I have with some of your comments here is the definition of the word terrorist. The nature of the definition has shifted and changed a lot during the years, and mutually exclusive definitions were used at the same time in American political life in the past 50 years. Remember the thorny disputes over freedom-fighters vs. terrorists vs. guerillas in the Central America, and you will find that the common-usage definition of the word is by no means constant.

    Generally, I’d say that the defining points of being a terrorist are:

    • 1. Fundamentalism – believing in a single belief to the exlusion and rejection of all others.
    • 2. Facing a disproportionaly large opponent – compare the size of U.S. government and military vs. the resources commanded by most terrorist organizations.
    • 3. Willingness to use terror as a weapon – obviously, attacking civilian targets to frighten general population.

    The problem lies that this definition of terrorism is very inconvenient. Assume for a moment that there is a small group of fanatical people fighting to overthrow a lethal, repressive government. Assume further that any “civilized” means of fighting are not available to them. Basically, they can’t rally the masses with protests, because police forces will arrest them en masse. They can’t educate the masses, because the media are state-controlled. They can’t fight a guerilla war, because they are too few. What other options do they have?

    There is in fact one defining characteristic of terrorism that I’ve failed to list. It is desperation. Terrorists are, by and large, desperate people. People who have failed to achieve their, fundamentalist goals, by any other means. What evidence can I offer for this supposition?

    Personal experience, mostly. Having been on the receiving end of two years of continuous artillery shelling and aerial bombardment, I know exactly how fear and hopelessness can drive a person to illogical, desperate acts. I knew damn well that every time I took a defiant stroll through city streets during shelling that I was literally playing Russian roulette with my head.

    On a more mundane scale, in mid-nineties I almost starved during a particularly cold winter in my war-torn country. Six months of eating a small bowl of corn gruel per day made me pretty desperate. At that point I was willing to take up just about any cause for a loaf of bread. I am not sure I’d have stuck with it once I got the bread, but I sure was willing.

    Now, while travelling and living in the Middle East, I’ve personally seen the squalor and poverty that is so prevalent here. However, there is a difference between poverty and starvation. There is a difference between living in an oppressive regime and putting your head in a bag every day. Basically, what I’ve seen is sad and downtrodden people, but few desperate ones.

    So where do all these terrorists come from, if they need to be desperate to consider terrorism? Palestine. Afghanistan. Iraq. Places where majority of the population is literally starving. Where they are being killed daily, in significant numbers. Where the majority is not just sad, downtrodden and oppressed, but pushed up against a wall.

    I am not saying there aren’t exceptions, especially concerning that some ringleaders of the 9/11 attacks came from middle-class families, but the majority of terrorists, the “cannon fodder” as it would be, are desperate men and women.

    I’ve also spoken with a number of my Arab friends, and others across the world. The sad fact is, many, if not the outright majority, of peoples in South America, Africa, and Asia, honestly believe U.S. is evil and after them. They have many reasons for this belief, but they largely stem from two sources:

    1. Economic woes – they see U.S. as a robber that comes to their countries, ruins their economies, and leaves them poor and destitute.

    2. National causes – they, or their national cause, have been on the receiving end of U.S. style diplomacy; ie. they’ve been bombed, sanctioned, invaded, or couped by U.S.

    Now, combine the widespread hostility against the U.S., with personal desperation, and you have thousands, even millions of potential terrorist recruits. I can tell you with complete honesty, that had things gone just a little differently, I could have become one, had an outspoken and eloquent fundamentalist approached me while I was desperate.

    Allright, I guess I’ve defined the word terrorism sufficiently. Next, the security measures currently undertaken by U.S. government and airlines are in my opinion a joke. It is possible to achieve almost perfect security record, even if you are a constant target of very determined terrorists. Just look at Israel and their airlines. However, their methods don’t base themselves on racial, national, and other kinds of profiling. Neither are they based on the fear factor of intrusive searches. Both those methods can occasionally be useful, but more as a way to confirm a clue given by another method then as primary means of assessing threats.

    What Israeli do to achieve great security is basically very simple. They have cockpits closed off by steel barriers from the rest of the cabin. These barriers cannot be opened during flight. Hence, there is no way to force the pilots directly to move the airplane where the kidnappers want it to go. The second thing that is done are random searches. Totally and completely random. It may seem as if those kind of searches might be completely pointless, but they are in fact the most effective kind. Consider this: if there is a pattern to searches, what will a smart terrorist do? Why, he/she will start travelling, totally innocently, carefully noting when he/she was searched and when not. After a while, with some careful analysis, our terrorist can then determine what criteria are used to determine if someone is going to be searched or not. After that, it is terribly easy to avoid a security search by avoiding criteria that would trigger it. I remind you that terrorists, by definition, are intent on breaking a law, many laws, and therefore forged passports, personal disguises, distraction tactics, and other unsavory behaviors common to spy novels are definitely within their bag of tricks.

    So, how do we design our profiling system so that terrorists can’t figure it out? We can’t. If the system is so complex that a smart group of people, determined to figure it out, can’t, it is most likely far too complex to be actually useful. To forestall futher argument on this point, I invite you to look up some security sources and see what they have to say on profiling systems.

    On the other hand, we might have totally random searches. Why are they effective then? Because the terrorist cannot figure them out. He always risks being found, because he can’t avoid this, serious obstacle. This is definitely a bad thing for a terrorist, because the nature of their work demands that they get it right the first time. There are no second chances for terrorists. So, they most likely won’t be willing to risk everything on anything short of almost sure odds. To a terrorist, nothing is worse then failure to achieve their terrorist act. They live for their beliefs. Failure to successfully commit a terrorist act usually implies death or at the very least, lengthy imprisonment for the terrorist. One can’t very well advance the cause if one is dead or rotting for life in prison.

    The third component of Israeli success in stopping terrorists from hijacking airplanes is simply good training and experienced personnel. What this translates into is cost. Good, reliable, experienced security people cost money. High-quality X-ray machines, metal detectors, and other gadgets are expensive. Carefully designing the layout of an airport to deter terrorists is also expensive. In short, it all costs money.

    And of course, here we come to the crucial problem. I don’t think that good airplane security is impossible or even hard. It is costly. Which is why airlines won’t pay for it. Just like the automobile industry, they’d rather sell a flawed product, knowing it will cause a certain number of deaths, but confident that profits from the sale will be more then enough to pay off lawyers and damages.

    On the government side, it is the same problem. While I think the current administration definitely likes the positive effect enhanced airport “security” has on cowing the sheep, they also are unwilling to foot the bill for a truly secure system. I might add, cynically, that they need an occasional successful terrorist strike so they can keep the public panicking and disoriented enough to ignore everything else.

    As for Gilmore’s act, I must say that I personally abhor the reaction he got. I am familiar with the special treatment given to those that computers deem suspicious, as I am one of them. Now, you might say that it would be perfectly reasonable, given my history. You’d be wrong. I don’t have a criminal record, I have never violated my visas, I’ve never been politically active, and I’ve never caused problems with suspicious items found in my bagage. In fact, I’ve never used a one-way ticket in my life. I have pretty bland Caucasian features, I always dress conservatively, and my English sounds just like any American’s. And still, since 9/11, I’ve had “SS” or “SSS” marked tickets every time I’ve flown an airplane in or out of U.S. In fact, I was carefully searched every time. Each time, the search included me being stripped down to my underwear, once in front of a large group of passengers at SFO. All my belongings are invariably opened every time. My checked-in bags are regularly slashed open, even though they are never locked and don’t even have locks on them. If you have the misfortune of travelling with me, you will be given the same treatment, being guilty of association.

    Basically, it sucks. Ass. In fact, I’d go ahead and say that these measures have only made me more pissed at U.S. government. I’d say here that I’ve personally invested almost US$ 100,000 for my education in the U.S., paid by me and my family. We’ve put in every penny so that I’d get a good education. Apparently my money is good enough for the U.S. government but I am not. And I can’t say that all the oppresive registration requirements for foreign students in the U.S. improve my opinion either. Especially since the system is so buggy that I risk being arrested and thrown into a hole with no key because some half-baked fat-cat corporation couldn’t be bothered to fix their database engine.

    Anyway, this concludes my rant on airport security. Now, since many people here have asked for some constructive proposals, here they are:

    1. Implement airline security based on the Israeli model. The cost should be borne by airlines. If they can’t pay it and stay in business, they should go under. As some people have commented here, flying is hardly the most efficient means of transport. Over in Europe, you can travel from one end of the continent to the other in one or two days, using a network of cheap, fast trains. Sure beats flying for comfort alone.

    2. Cease making large groups of people around the world desperate and hateful of U.S. While easier said then done, it is certainly possible. Practical suggestions would include pulling military out of Iraq and Afghanistan, sending the aid that U.S. promised those countries but never delivered, forcing Israel to stop ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, ceasing support for various oppresive regimes around the world, and ceasing to use IMF and World Bank as tools to destroy living conditions to create cheap pools of labor. All that, of course, would cost money. Lots of it. I suggest we take it from corporations and rich citizens. After all, the Constitution does not guarantee riches, merely a pursuit of happiness. And if the fact that you are rich means you use your money to keep me poor, then you intefere with my pursuit of happiness. On the corporate side, corporations are not citizens. They shouldn’t have any rights whatsoever.

    I will now accept any and all personal attacks directed at me caused by my political beliefs. If you suspect me of being red, you are in fact correct. If you suspect me of being liberal, you are mostly right. If you think I might be radical, why, I will thank you for that compliment.

  • Whelan Sidney

    Perceptions do not limit reality.

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