Returning from Chicago this past weekend, I noticed that they were using strip‐search machines in several security lanes at the TSA checkpoint (ORD Terminal 1). Naturally, after the ID check — yes, I did show ID this time—I chose a lane that lead to a magnetometer rather than a strip‐search machine.
Annnnnd, anyone wanting to smuggle a plastic weapon could do the same.
For all the money spent on strip‐search machines at ORD, and for all the exposure law‐abiding travelers are getting, the incremental security benefit has been just about exactly zero. Security theater. TSA has to direct people to lanes mandatorily or install strip‐search machines at all lanes to get whatever small security benefit they provide.
Going through the strip‐search machine is optional — you can get a pat‐down instead. Signage to that effect was poorly placed for informing the public, at the entrance to the strip‐search machine. Travelers might read it as they stepped into the machine, realizing from that standing spread‐eagle position that they didn’t have to be there.
Here are some interesting new items on the web:
- Cato Senior Fellow Nat Hentoff is interviewed by John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. Nat says “Obama has little, if any, principles except to aggrandize and make himself more and more important.” And “Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had.” Go here for the full interview.
- Cato adjunct scholar Harvey Silverglate is blogging this week over at the Volokh Conspiracy on his new book, Three Felonies a Day.
- Cato Adjunct Scholar Marie Gryphon, who is also a Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute, has just put out a new paper, It’s a Crime: Flaws in Federal Statutes That Punish Regular Businesspeople.
- Cato Media Fellow Radley Balko takes a look at the pathetic machinations in the Chicago Police Department. Reminds me of the proud boast from a patronage worker in the political machine: “Chicago ain’t ready for reform!”
Good stuff here. For more Cato scholarship, go here.
In today’s Politico Arena, the editors ask:
White House Strategy: Will Obama’s effort to undermine critics undermine Obama instead? Is it overdue or overdone?
Obama is losing it. His increasing moves to marginalize his critics, richly detailed this morning at Politico, mark him as an amateur. America is not Chicago. Nor are those who oppose his agenda synonymous with the Republican Party. They’re far more numerous than that, and their numbers are growing.
Politics is one thing: “It ain’t beanbag,” Mr. Dooley noted. But scorched‐earth politics is something else. It’s over the edge, like Nixon’s enemies list. It has no place in America, except in political backwaters like Chicago. (Personal note: In 1972 my wife and I served as Republican election judges in the first Mayor Daley’s Chicago. On election day, when we walked into the Hyde Park polling station at 5:30 a.m., the three Democratic judges looked at us in astonishment: “Are you real Republicans?” How else are you going to control the election?! Hamid Karzai has nothing on Chicago.)
As a practical matter, in our two‐party system the Republican Party is the organizational antidote to this kind of abuse. But as the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning, the party’s going to have to get its act together before that happens. It’s claim to be a party of principle has been seriously undermined in recent years by Republican officials at all levels of government. That leaves it to private individuals and organizations to call Congress and the administration on what they’re up to. And that’s why we too are in Obama’s cross‐hairs. It won’t work — unless we let it happen. Thank you, Politico, for drawing these sad facts together in one place.
When both the New York Times and Fox News poke fun at a school district it’s a good guess that district has done something pretty silly. That seems to be the case in Newark, Delaware, where the Christina School District just suspended a 6‑year‐old boy for 45 days because he brought a dreaded knife‐fork‐spoon combo tool to school. District officials, in their defense, say they had no choice — the state’s “zero tolerance” law demanded the punishment.
Now, the first thing I’ll say is that I was very fortunate there were no zero‐tolerance laws — at least that I knew of — when I was a kid. Like most boys, I took a pocket knife to school from time to time, and like most boys I never hurt a soul with it. (I’m pretty sure, though, that I was stabbed by a pencil at least once.) I also played a lot of games involving tackling, delivered and received countless “dead arm” punches in the shoulder, and brought in Star Wars figures armed with…brace yourself!…laser guns! I can only imagine how many suspension days I’d have received had current disciplinary regimes been in place back then.
Before completely trashing little ol’ Delaware and all the other places without tolerance, however, there is a flip side to this story: Some kids really are immediate threats to their teachers and fellow students. And as the recent stomach‐wrenching violence in Chicago has vividly illustrated, there are some schools where no one is safe. In other words, there are cases and situations where zero tolerance is warranted.
So how do you balance these things? How do you have zero‐tolerance for those who need it, while letting discretion and reason reign for everyone else? And how do you do that when there is no clear line dividing what is too dangerous to tolerate and what is not?
The answer is educational freedom, as it is with all of the things that diverse people are forced to fight over because they all have to support a single system of government schools! Let parents who are not especially concerned about danger, or who value freedom even if it engenders a little more risk, choose schools with discipline policies that give them what they want. Likewise, let parents who want their kids in a zero‐tolerance institution do the same.
Ultimately, let parents and schools make their own decisions, and no child will be subjected to disciplinary codes with which his parents disagree; strictness will be much better correlated with the needs of individual children; and perhaps most importantly, discipline policies will make a lot more sense for everyone involved.