Critical Thinking Is Unpatriotic

Do you question whether America ought to be engaged in an open-ended and expensive War on Drugs? Do you question it even a little bit, by (for instance) doubting that the federal government ought to be spending billions to interdict marijuana and meddle with medical issues?

If so, then I hate to break it to you, but you aren't much of a patriot. Patriots support, uncritically, the Great War on Drugs.

I know this because our government tells me so.

Our government made this point in the course of justifying its termination of Border Patrol agent Bryan Gonzalez. Gonzalez was stationed in New Mexico. He made a comment critical of the War on Drugs, suggesting that legalizing marijuana might reduce cross-border violence, and mentioned LEAP, an organization of current and former law enforcement agents who question our nation's drug policy. This got him shit-canned.

Now, as an employer myself, I'm somewhat sympathetic to the notion that you can't let an employee run out and trumpet ideas completely in conflict with your organization's policies. I wouldn't tolerate an employee going on TV to say that criminal defense lawyers are all lying cheats trying to trick juries, for instance, because that would degrade my ability to represent clients.

So, did Bryan Gonzalez go on TV? Did he write a letter to the editor? Did he join a public movement contradicting the Border Patrol's policy?

No. He had a conversation with another agent.

Stationed in Deming, N.M., Mr. Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

That was impermissible. It was, in the view of our government, unpatriotic.

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

See, Bryan Gonzalez did what Good Americans aren't supposed to do: he subjected a core government policy to critical thinking. He questioned whether the War on Drugs makes social, economic, and moral sense. But patriotism, as defined by modern law enforcement — as defined by the sort of people who seek power in government — isn't about exercising faculties like critical thinking or independent moral judgment. It's about saluting, in the way we salute flags and fallen soldiers and parades, core ideas that have been transformed from policy arguments into quasi-religious dogma. The War on Drugs is merely one of many — along with "War on Terror" and "Government Regulators Know What They Are Doing" and "The Political Process In America Works." Few of us salute them all, but most of us salute at least a few.

The government — people who have guns and badges, and people who derive power from controlling those with guns and badges — depends on our uncritical acceptance of these propositions. That's why they had to fire Bryan Gonzalez and impugn not just his obedience but his devotion to America — because devotion to America, in the minds of politicians, means devotion to them. The government could have offered a point-by-point refutation of Bryan Gonzalez' spur-of-the-moment comments, but that would be missing the point. The War on Drugs is not a Socratic dialogue; the War on Drugs is a harried dialogue with your five-year-old: because I said so, that's why. The War on Drugs is an enterprise based largely on emotion, which is exactly why the government responded to Bryan Gonzalez with an emotional attack — you're no patriot if you talk that way. Sound familiar? It ought to — elements of the Right use it to quell discussions of the War on Terror, and elements of the Left use it to quell discussions of taxes and regulation.

The government must resort to emotion because of the probable consequences of a fact-based dialogue about many of the issues facing America. We live in a country where, for a decade, government agents have been unable to distinguish ideas about things from the things themselves: where security agents get ridiculed for confusing a picture of an imaginary killer robot on a t-shirt with a real weapon, shrug, and five years later still blithely detain people for pictures of guns as if pictures of things were the things themselves. At least the TSA is consistent, and hews to a constant theme: a picture of a thing might not be the thing itself — just as a tattoo saying "atom bomb" may not be a bomb — but words and pictures of things can generate emotions, and the government would like us to be motivated by our emotions. Just as we could question the War on Drugs, we could ask questions like "has the TSA really stopped any terrorism? At what cost? Would other measures be more effective? Why can't agents be taught to tell the difference between a thing and a picture of a thing?"

But that would be unpatriotic to ask.

Reciting Constitutional Rights To The TSA Is Disorderly Conduct

What would happen if, while submitting to a TSA search of some sort, you started reading from the owner's manual?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

If you think "bad things would happen — perhaps very bad," then it appears you may be right. Via Amy Alkon, I encountered this diary at DailyKos about what happened to one woman — who says she is retired from the Air Force — when she decided to recite the Fourth Amendment during her search as a form of protest:

I'm speaking loud and clear so those around me can hear. Before I get to "unreasonable search" a man in an ill-fitting suit and a tie marches up to me. He tells me I was disrupting his operation. I have no idea what his position is. He stands in front of the metal detector–the first place they usually screen me. He tells me I am holding up the line. I drop my voice and tell him to go ahead and screen me. I'll take the pat down. But that's not what he wants. He wants me to shut up. I continue reading the Fourth Amendment.

The story culminates in the writer being arrested (however the TSA would characterize it, it was clearly an arrest) for disorderly conduct, cuffed, and confined in a cell. Eventually she is patted down, and the TSA succeeds in intimidating her into being silent during the procedure, citing a truly offensively preposterous rationale:

I agree to be searched and tell them I will read the Constitution in a normal voice while they do it. This is not good enough for Guy with a Tie. He says if I read the statement, I can't pay attention to what the frisking officer tells me. You know, how she is going to put her hands here and there and use the back of her hand to check my "sensitive areas". They tell me I need to listen to this, I kid you not, for my own safety. I say I will only read while she is not speaking. That won't do either, because I won't be concentrating on her instructions. Seriously, this was their rational explanation to me for continuing to violate my First and Fourth Amendment rights. I have to get home so I finally acquiesce.

Having forced the writer's compliance in a show of subservience to petty authority, the TSA cuts her loose after some confusing jibber-jabber about "taking a misdemeanor" and being contacted by federal agents.

Now, I couldn't confirm the diarist's story from another source. But it's entirely in keeping with the TSA's view of questioning of their authority, dissent in general, and dissent premised on the Fourth Amendment in particular, so I find it entirely credible.

It's interesting that the story is posted at DailyKos — a rather left-leaning site — and picked up by Amy — someone not likely to be described as left-leaning. It demonstrates that resistance to the TSA's unreasonable searches — and resistance to the government's expectation that we tolerate them without question — ought to be an issue that transcends left and right. Unfortunately, stories like these generate dismissive rhetoric equally from left and right: "flying is a privilege, not a right" "the government has the right to border and airport searches" "you are just making a scene for attention" "just shut up and let us get through security."

The mainstream of both political parties are mostly useless on this topic. Vigorous support for the Fourth Amendment and the principles underlying it has been marginalized for forty years. As I said before in discussing Amy Alkon's own case, we ought to make violating our rights an unpleasant and humiliating experience for the people who take money to do it. I applaud people brave enough to do so, in hopes that it will bring more public attention to the subject.

Defense Attorneys' Children Thank You For Their Private School Education.

Millage. Millage. Dude.

I know it's been 17 years since I've been to Boston. But Boston is the biggest college town in the country. It's simply infested with college students. I can't think that its basic nature has changed much in 17 years.

You allegedly came up with a cunning plan to import marijuana into Boston. Now, I have no problem with that in principle. The War on Drugs is a ruinous and expensive failure. Half of America favors legalization. I have no moral or ethical or sociopolitical quarrel with your enterprise.

But . . . dude. Your plan was to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco to buy marijuana, drive back from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and then bribe a TSA agent to help you smuggle the marijuana — over multiple plane flights — via American Airlines to Boston?


Let me just mention a few things:

1. If you're in Los Angeles, you don't have to drive to San Francisco to buy marijuana.

2. Your plan involves trusting in the competence and reliability of a crooked TSA agent? Really?

3. Your business plan is to use post-9/11 commercial aviation to import marijuana in your luggage across the entire country into the nation's biggest college town? You know the nation's biggest college town already has some marijuana, right?

Honestly, sometimes the cops must feel like they're clubbing baby seals.

We Are The TSA, And We Approve This Message


It's an exciting time at YOUR Transportation Security Administration! At the start of America's second decade of Total War Against Terror, the TSA is once again at the tip of the spear of the fight to keep you safe. While other agencies plod along using old-fashioned methods and targets, the TSA recognizes that the key to security is innovation and flexibility. We have therefore been at the forefront of identifying new frontiers of threats arising from suspicious "medical devices" and the personal orifices of anti-state agitators. As a result of our vigilance and innovation, our Ministry of Communications reports that we are more popular and talked-about than ever.

But with that popularity comes a grave dilemma. As "the kids" would say, some people out there want to "take some of our mojo without asking." We understand — who wouldn't want to be associated with the brave men and women who, day after day, touch the bodies of unwilling strangers? But please be aware: the TSA's logos and other branding efforts are the sole property of the United States government. Even in these tough economic times, we've turned down numerous requests from businesses that would like to use the TSA logo to market to our employees and to an adoring public, from many hobbyist photography web sites to various collector's clubs.

Misusing the TSA's logo and branding is not just a civil violation, it's a betrayal of America and (like other trademark and copyright violations) subject of interest to the Department of Homeland Security.

That's why we are grateful to hear that Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL-HERO) has introduced a bill making it a federal crime to misappropriate the TSA's branding:

Whoever, except with the written permission of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Security (or the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service for issues involving the Federal Air Marshal Service), knowingly uses the words ‘Transportation Security Administration’, ‘United States Transportation Security Administration’, ‘Federal Air Marshal Service’, ‘United States Federal Air Marshal Service’, ‘Federal Air Marshals’, the initials ‘T.S.A.’, ‘F.A.M.S.’, ‘F.A.M.’, or any colorable imitation of such words or initials, or the likeness of a Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service badge, logo, or insignia on any item of apparel, in connection with any advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, software, or other publication, or with any play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, in a matter that is reasonably calculated to convey the impression that the wearer of the item of apparel is acting pursuant to the legal authority of the Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service, or to convey the impression that such advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, software, or other publication, or such play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service;’ [shall be guilty of a crime punishable with up to one year in federal prison]

Now, don't panic, citizens! I know that some of you are worried about your "TSA: TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME!" fan t-shirts. No worries! The TSA knows that friendly and supportive fan-club materials don't fall under the statute, because they don't try to usurp the TSA's authority.

The TSA is aware that certain "citizens" — who value their "First Amendment rights" over the safety and security of the people of this great nation, including grandmothers, nuns, and children — sometimes employ shirts, buttons, and other materials unfairly criticizing the TSA from an extremist perspective. The TSA is aware of the protections presently extended in some circumstances by some interpretations of the Constitution. Anyone wearing a shirt with a TSA logo that is critical of the TSA can rest assured that TSA agents are well-trained to distinguish between things and parodies or pictures of things, as are our partners in the transportation industry. Such critics will be inconvenienced and intruded upon only temporarily at worst. Moreover, dissents can rest assured that the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA remain as tolerant as they have ever been.

So, thanks to Rep. Rogers! See you at the security lines, citizens. And remember the TSA motto: CITIZEN, OBEY.

Today's TSA: Even Petty Power Corrupts. Perhaps ESPECIALLY Petty Power.

Fear not, America: in a world where so many wish you ill, the Transportation Security Administration is still vigilant against your greatest foe: Americans who have survived cancer.

Via Letters to my Country and Amy Alkon (who, you might recall, had her own recent run-in with the TSA), I encountered this rage-inducing story by Lori Dorn:

Yesterday I went through the imaging scanner at JFK Terminal 4 for my Virgin America flight to San Francisco. Evidently they found something, because after the scan, I was asked to step aside to have my breast area examined. I explained to the agent that I was a breast cancer patient and had a bilateral mastectomy in April and had tissue expanders put in to make way for reconstruction at a later date.

I told her that I was not comfortable with having my breasts touched and that I had a card in my wallet that explains the type of expanders, serial numbers and my doctor’s information (pictured) and asked to retrieve it. This request was denied. Instead, she called over a female supervisor who told me the exam had to take place. I was again told that I could not retrieve the card and needed to submit to a physical exam in order to be cleared. She then said, “And if we don’t clear you, you don’t fly” loud enough for other passengers to hear. And they did. And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by a TSA Supervisor.

I'm sure the TSA will explain why it was necessary to grope a cancer patient in public, just as soon as their official blogger finishes bragging about how the TSA's explosive detection technology helps them interdict smuggled fish.

This is, by far, not the first time we've heard that the TSA acts in an inhuman fashion to people with illnesses and disabilities. We've seen wanton treatment of people with urostomy and colostomy bags, the sick torment of the mentally disabled, and the demands that cancer survivors remove prosthetic breasts. Throughout, for the most part, the media remains the TSA's compliant fluffers. So, though what happened to Lori Dorn is sick and infuriating, it is not new.

One of the questions I've been asking here is why do we let this happen? But there's another apt question: these TSA agents are human beings, of a sort, so why do they act this way? Is there something about recruiting on pizza boxes that attracts a statistically unlikely cluster of sociopaths?

I think the answer is an old one and a simple one, congruent with one of the main themes seen on this blog: power corrupts. If you confer upon a man or woman the power to inflict tyrannies and indignities upon his or her fellow citizens, he or she will slowly grow to hate those fellow citizens, feel justified in mistreating them, and increasingly inflict the indignities with aggression and contempt.

Stanford University has offered two very apt studies, one old and one new. First, there's Philip Zimbardo's chilling and classic prison experiment, which illustrated how ordinary college students — people who on a more typical day would be thinking about weed and sex and avoiding work, people who were probably more countercultural than authoritarian — were transformed by being given even temporary power over others as mock prison guards. And now, more recently, a joint study by Stanford, USC, and Northwestern shows how petty power corrupts:

In a new study, researchers at USC, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Kellogg School of Management have found that individuals in roles that possess power but lack status have a tendency to engage in activities that demean others. According to the study, "The Destructive Nature of Power Without Status," the combination of some authority and little perceived status can be a toxic combination.

The research, forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, is "based on the notions that (a) low status is threatening and aversive, and (b) power frees people to act on their internal states and feelings."

(Thanks to Greg Lukianoff for the pointer to that study.)

This study could have been written explicitly about the TSA. TSA agents are poorly paid, work in nasty conditions, and have little status. Yet they have, within their petty fiefdoms, tremendous power to humiliate and demean. And God, do they ever use it.

The fact that this is a recognized psychological phenomenon explains, but does not excuse, any more than it excuses police abuse and bureaucratic indifference. Nor does it excuse the leaders of the TSA and the Department of Homeland security, who have decreed a feckless facade of security theater that is calculated to lead to this result, all in the name of promoting unquestioning compliance.

What are you going to do? Are you going to retell these stories on social media and forums and blogs? Are you going to make it clear, when asked, that you don't accept the security state's excuses at face value? Are you going to write your representatives?

Are you going to stand up? Or is it really no big deal that a petty authority groped and humiliated a cancer survivor in public, purportedly for your safety?

This Is What "If You See Something, Say Something" Mentality Leads To

This — a perfectly innocent woman being hauled off a flight, handcuffed, jailed, strip-searched, and grilled for hours — because some fucking ninny on the plane thought she and the two dark-skinned people sitting next to her were "suspicious", and because "better safe than sorry" has become a higher value to law enforcement than probable cause or reasonable suspicion or due process or common freaking sense, and because we're too cowed as a people to say anything about it.

Reporting on the issue is meek.

"Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously," Berchtold said. "The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not."

From what I can piece together, this woman got treated like that because she was seated in the same row as two Indian men who wen to the bathroom in succession and took longer than some passenger deemed necessary.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.


Why People Are Unmoved By TSA Abuses

Some theories:

1. They associate anti-TSA complaints with politicians who hold views they don't like. "Complaining about the TSA must be glibertarian, because Rand Paul does it," or "Rick Perry pulled that anti-TSA stunt, so this is more of the same."

2. The associate anti-TSA complaints with political movements they don't like. "Oh, that whole 'don't touch my junk' thing is just Koch-funded astroturf aimed at deregulation and lower taxes and union-busting."

3. They accept the government's claims about safety, necessity, and effectiveness. "The government says this is to protect us, so why are you complaining?" "Don't you remember 9/11? Do you want to fly with people who haven't been searched?"

4. They accept the government's claims about proportionality, propriety, and bodily autonomy. "What's the big deal about being patted down? What's wrong with that? Your doctor touches you."

5. They accept the government's venerable message that it's the citizen who needs a justification to resist intrusion, not the government that needs a justification to intrude. "Look, if you don't have anything to hide, why do you care?"

6. They accept stereotypes about people who resist government intrusion. "People who make a big deal about this sort of thing are just looking for attention."

7. They believe that government actors should be viewed sympathetically in their private capacity rather than as state actors in their public capacity. "Look, this is just someone trying to get through the day and do his or her job, not someone trying to violate your rights."

8. They view discussions of individual rights — particularly rights relating to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure — as "liberal," pro-criminal, anti-law-and-order, or otherwise ideologically suspect.

9. They have accepted the Starving Child Fallacy — the proposition that there is a limited amount of ones and zeroes on the internet to be devoted to talking about things we don't like. "Look, you're talking about a momentary search. You could be talking about the economy, or war, or children starving right now in Africa."

10. Congnitive Dissonance. "You want me to believe that our government — which is supposed to be protecting us — is engaged in mostly useless security theater, and that people have to speak up and make trouble and do uncomfortable things if they want to change it? I can't believe that."

Complain About Being Sexually Assaulted By A TSA Thug? THEY'LL SUE!

On March 31st of this year, Amy Alkon — a writer who blogs at the Advice Goddess Blog — was sexually assaulted in front of dozens of witnesses.

The person who sexually assaulted her was not punished and will not be punished. Why? Because our government sees fit, as part of its policy of security theater and perpetual wartime mentality, to confer a privilege to sexually assault strangers in public upon certain people: employees of the TSA.

Amy — who refused to be scanned — was instead forcibly groped by a TSA employee. Unlike most Americans, she didn't take it quietly. She expressed her feelings of violation and humiliation, in person at the time and in writing later:

Basically, I felt it important to make a spectacle of what they are doing to us, to make it uncomfortable for them to violate us and our rights, so I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out. Loudly. Very loudly. The entire time the woman was searching me.

Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault.

Amy's public assault is not unusual. Stories of gratuitous and inappropriate touching by TSA employees are legion. The stories range from inhuman indifference to deliberate humiliation. Many of those stories emphasize that showing any resistance — whether by opting out of scanners, or voicing objections to groping — will result in immediate retaliation, and possible official investigation, by TSA employees. The TSA has reached the point that its sense of entitlement is nearly impervious to satire. Yet our government assures us that our concerns are meritless.

Despite the wide audience she enjoys, Amy's story could easily have been lost in the din of routine TSA excess. But because Amy didn't take it quietly — because she called the TSA employee out for her assault, and because she wrote about it — now she's facing a legal threat.

The TSA agent — one Thedala Magee — has demanded that Amy pay her $500,000 for Magdee's distress at being called out.

In your blog of April 26, 2011, you admit to having yelled at my client, "You raped me" on March 31, 2011 for all within earshot and you have continued to compound your torts against my client by repeating this along with a detailed description of what you claim my client did to you, including the statement that my client inserted her fingers into your vagina.

These outbursts in public and writings on the internet have subject my client to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, and have injured her in her reputation and her occupation. Furthermore, as a result of your actions, my client has suffered and continues to suffer damages including but not limited to severe emotional distress, fear, difficulties performing her duties, and other problems as a proximate result of your tortuous actions.

Your statements were outrageous and malicious and made with the intention to cause or made with the reckless disregard of the probability of causing severe emotional distress and suffering, and they were the actual and proximate causation thereof.

See, in our national scheme of security theater, it's Thedala Magee's role to touch the genitals of strangers, and it's Amy Alkon's role — and yours, and mine — to stand there and take it, or the terrorists win. Amy upset that natural order — so it must be a payday for Magee.

You might think that it's ludicrous, freakish, unbelievable that anyone would think it appropriate to threaten suit when someone objects to being touched by a stranger in public. But in America, there is no banner so loathsome that some bottom-feeding thug from my profession won't take it up. Today's bottom-feeder is Vicki Roberts. What kind of lawyer is Vicki Roberts? Well, before you even consider the legal threat she issued in this case, I invite you to consider the following factors:

1. Her web site is called
2. It includes a memorial to her dog. [My position is that dogs are nice and it is sad when they die.]
3. She is very proud of her repeated appearances on the television show "Celebrity Justice."
4. She is very proud of her IMDB entry. Proud enough to tout that she got "Additional Thanks" for a movie, and that she played herself in Weiner Strudel. [My position is that strudel is good.]
5. She is extremely proud of having been a judge pro tem for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. To give you a hint of how rigorously selective that process is, they once tried to make me a judge pro tem of the mental health division.

That's the sort of lawyer who sends a bullying demand letter to a writer who talked about her experience with a rough TSA patdown. Go figure.

Perhaps Ms. Magee — and Ms. Roberts — thought that Amy Alkon could be bullied. If so, they haven't read much of what she's written. Lawyers like Roberts — and litigants like Magee — depend on terrifying people with their frivolous claims. Amy's not terrified. Amy already has a lawyer in her corner who, legally speaking, is going to kick the living shit out of Roberts and Magdee if they are foolish enough to pull the trigger on this vexatious lawsuit. Yes — as narrative and dramatic convention requires — it's First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. He's written back to Roberts already. It's everything you'd expert, legally and rhetorically:

First of all, Ms. Magee did rape my client. Your client aggressively pushed her fingers into my client’s vulva. I am certain that she did not expect to find a bomb there. She did this to humiliate my client, to punish her for exercising her rights, and to send a message to others who might do the same. It was absolutely a sexual assault, perpetrated in order to exercise power over the victim. We agree with Ms. Alkon’s characterization of this crime as “rape,” and so would any reasonable juror.

Roberts, as the sort of lawyer who is proud of appearing on "Celebrity Justice," may be stupid enough to sue anyway. If so, she's going to learn a swift and vivid lesson about California's anti-SLAPP statute. Her client may well wind up paying Amy Alkon's attorney fees. She's also going to learn about the Streisand Effect — her client, once obscure, will become intensely internet-famous as a government employee who tried to shake a writer down for half a million bucks for complaining about having her vagina touched. I wonder — did Vicki Roberts warn her client about the Streisand Effect before sending this threat letter? In short: this will not be pretty for Ms. Roberts or Ms. Magdee. As a result of Roberts' reckless and bumptious threat, many experienced litigators and First Amendment practitioners will offer Amy their aid. I'm one of them. Amy and Marc: if I can do anything, pro bono, to help you with this, including pursuing Magdee after you win your SLAPP motion to enforce an attorney fee judgment against her, or a malicious prosecution suit against Roberts and Magdee, let me know — I'm in. Other lawbloggers, I challenge you to step up.

Nor should this be pretty for Roberts or Magee. This is a loathsome, thuggish demand, uttered in service of a contemptible privilege to assault strangers, all as a result of our lamentable tolerance of degradation of our rights as Americans. Many people criticized Amy's story about this incident on the grounds that Thedala Magdee was "just doing her job" — that she's a low-paid TSA employee doing as she has been instructed, and that it's somehow objectionable to call her out. I submit that this mentality is part of what lets the Thedala Magees of the world grope us with impunity.

The TSA's approach to security theater is unjust. It's ineffective. Groping people without reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause, ought not be tolerated. We only tolerate it because we have collectively allowed the government to frighten us out of our wits — for the most part, we have yielded to the TSA's demand for unquestioning compliance. We have created a safe space — not for rights, not for travel, but for people to get paid an hourly wage to poke strangers in the genitals, and to poke harder if they object. We shouldn't. We should make a scene, like Amy did. We should call out people who choose to make money following unjust orders to grope strangers. The Thedala Magees of the nation should be subject to "hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy," should have their reputations damaged, and deserve to experience emotional distress. They are doing vile things to their fellow citizens for money. No convention of decency or courtesy requires us to pretend that is acceptable, even if the government tells them that it is.

It's ten years out from 9/11 next week, and our government's grasping quest for more power over our daily lives is not slowing. We're not going to get satisfaction through elections; most politicians either support the security state or are too spineless to challenge it. The only way we're going to get change is through action — through calling out wrong when we see it. Amy was wronged. She called it out. We should support her.

And if Thedala Magee and other TSA employees don't like it, I suggest they go pursue a job that doesn't involve sexual assault.

Other posts on the threat:

Crime and Federalism
Defending People
Advice Goddess
Amy Derby

TSA To Improve Quality of Customer Service To Infant-Americans

Washington D.C.: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, held a press conference today to announce the Transportation Security Administration's latest initiative designed to promote the safety and satisfaction of American travelers.

"For too long, infant-Americans have been left out of the TSA's novel and enthusiastic security-enhancing airport greeter process," said Napolitano. "Though we've taken bold steps to include their older siblings — like our popular new "Strangers With Candy" program — the littlest ones have been denied the opportunity to experience both Rapiscan machines and full body examination." Making a sad, frowny face, and using an exaggerated babyish voice, Napolitano added "Ma-ma and Da-da, aren't we Americans too?" Several staffers and the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division pretended to wail like infants to underscore her point.

Napolitano announced that henceforth, infants would experience the same enhanced patdowns and absolutely non-carcinogenic body scans as their parents and siblings. "It's just about fairness," Napolitano explained. "You know how kids are. Have you ever been to an amusement park where only one of your kids was too short to ride the log flume? It's heartbreaking."

But equitable distribution of fun is not the only issue. "Especially in the wake of our successful removal and aquatic disposition of terrorist Osama bin Laden, Americans face a pronounced ongoing terrorist threat. It's entirely possible — even probable — that threat will come in baby form. Some of our most thoughtful analysts have already sounded the alarm about madrassa-taught infants carefully trained as adorable but deadly terrorists. Moreover, our analysts believe that Al-Qaida may prefer infant operatives because they are innocent-seeming, and because they are very small and therefore harder to hit with predator drones."

Napolitano warned that Americans who have objections to strangers groping their babies may be wittingly or unwittingly assisting terrorists in destroying America. "We've frequently said that terrorists will ignore social norms to take advantage of us. Are we, as Americans, going to insist on bitterly clinging to norms like 'don't grope strange babies' while terrorists move past those norms? My friends, America cannot afford a social norm gap with the terrorists. For every social norm they are willing to break, we must be ready to break it first, break it better, and break it more conclusively."

Some critics have suggested that Napolitano's announcement of the "And Your Little Child, Too!" program was calculated to head off criticism of a recently highly-publicized photo of agents apparently fondling a baby. Napolitano bristled when a reporter raised those concerns. "There's nothing to react to. Those were local contractors, not TSA agents, so whatever happened was not our fault, and plus they did exactly the right thing, because that baby was suspicious."

Napolitano's enthusiasm returned as she described TSA's preparations to roll out the new infant-focused program. "Many of our employees are very enthusiastic, and have asked to sign up for special infant-probing training," she said. "And we're asking television executives to add some TSA employees to popular infant entertainment. The 'Baby Einstein' people are on board for a video called 'Baby Screener,' where babies are touched by TSA employees to the soothing sound of Debussy. Also, we're in talks to have a character from either Yo Gabba Gabba or Teletubbies killed by an IED to help explain to babies why this is so important."

A planned demonstration protesting the "And Your Little Child, Too" initiative was canceled, apparently because organizers discovered a timing conflict with a crucial episode of American Idol.