"Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent?"


Some sharp words from Christopher Hitchens on the pointless stupidity of the latest batch of airline "security" measures:

In my boyhood, there were signs on English buses that declared, in bold letters, "No Spitting." At a tender age, I was able to work out that most people don't need to be told this, while those who do feel a desire to expectorate on public transport will require more discouragement than a mere sign. But I'd be wasting my time pointing this out to our majestic and sleepless protectors, who now boldly propose to prevent airline passengers from getting out of their seats for the last hour of any flight. Abdulmutallab made his bid in the last hour of his flight, after all. Yes, that ought to do it. It's also incredibly, nay, almost diabolically clever of our guardians to let it be known what the precise time limit will be. Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law.

Read the rest here.

NEXT: And a Barry New Year

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  1. “Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent?”

    Because your system is entirely based on punishment which gives more power to the State and its prosecutors and jailers, instead of compensation or reparation, which does NOT give more power to the State.

    That’s why.

    1. You give them too much credit. They are not that malevolent. They are just incompetent and absolutely feckless. The ugly truth is they have no idea what to do to try and stop this sort of thing. If they did, they would implement the solution. And it would make sense to everyone. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But they have no solution. And they are too cowardly to admit as much. So what they do is invent play solutions so they can claim to have “done something” and not have to admit their incompetence.

      1. +1 for use of the word feckless

        1. First in the Survivor finale on 12/20 and now in a Hit-n-Run thread.

          Feckless is making a comback!

  2. Someone must be punished!

    Isn’t that somewhere in the Constitution – the one that Congress swears to uphold I mean… not the actual Constitution.

    1. The Constitutional solution to terrorists is the same one it has for pirates:

      Letters of Marque and Reprisal.

      1. Oooh, this is a fun surprise. Go to google, type in:

        letters of marque

        and click “I’m feeling lucky!”

        1. From the quick glimpse I got, yes, that was pretty lucky. Pretty lucky no one is standing behind me either.

  3. Because it is easier to beat on millions of innocents who will likely not fight back, or get lawyered up with some ACLU attorney fleet, than to go after the jerks who can fight back. If you put a sign on a bus saying “no spitting” it looks like you have done something about public spitting, even if what you did is not effective. The people in charge get to pat themselves on the back for a job well done on the public spitting front.

    Do it the other way, and you get some civil rights lawyer charged up with righteous anger over the mean, malevolent state brutalizing his poor client who only spit because he had too (fill in the sob story justification here.) The MSM reflexically falls in line with the poor oppressed victim of government overreaching (especially during a republican administration.) No pats on back for the government class, and everyone has to get their own lawyers.

    Not many Lutheran terrorists. But we have an abundance of muslim ones. Why not go after Muslims? Why go after Lutherans? Because it is easier to go after a big group. If I as a law abiding member of the big group object, I am just an unreasonable hothead to the MSM and government class. I can be marginalized, and even ridiculed successfully (Christopher Hitchens would even likely join in on the beat down in the press.) The political class then are seen as beacons of reason and tolerance.

    If they were to go after muslim terrorists, they would get called names. Even the worst of all, the R-bomb. The political class would be called racists. One can not be called that and hope to continue in public life. So they don’t follow the logical path out of pure self preservation and promotion.

  4. people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked

    How can a supposed civil libertarian like Hitchens advocate loosening safety regulations while at the same time advocating an increase of authority over people who have yet to commit a criminal act?

    1. He is not advocating arresting them. He is just saying don’t let them into the country or on US bound planes. I don’t see how having a rule that says “if you run around claiming to be part of the jihad against America, you can’t come to America”, violates anyone’s rights.

      1. What’s the evidentiary standard for such a visa revocation? In regards to civil liberties, that’s the crux of the problem, As soon as you say it’s whatever the TSA agent in the field says it is, then you’ve bought into the security coddling provided by the government and you have no basis for whining about all of the other arbitrary regulations (vis a vis their impact on civil liberties, not the rationality of such).

        1. If you need a Visa to get in the country, you are, by definition, not a citizen. You are also not in the jurisdiction of the US govt. So the evidentiary standard is probably the old “whatever Congress wants it to be.” I doubt the constitution covers foreigners outside of US territory.

      2. Besides, instead of forbidding someone on a list from getting on a plane, we could just make them go through tighter security.

        Ms. 80 year old grandmother, please just walk though the metal detector. Have a good flight.

        Mr. 20 year old Muslim man who wrote an article called “Infidels Must Die!”, could you step into line B? Thanks.

        This would save both lives and time. Of course, it will never happen.

        1. You seem to be under the impression that security theater of the absurd is actually intended to make us safer.

          However, if you refuse to feel safer, then you are a problem.

    2. He is not advocating arresting them. He is just saying don’t let them into the country or on US bound planes. I don’t see how having a rule that says “if you run around claiming to be part of the jihad against America, you can’t come to America”, violates anyone’s rights.

      1. and if your name happens to be spelled similarly (notice that Arabic names are transliterated, so it’s possible to have many english spellings of the same Arabic name) to someone who has said some not-nice things about America, what then? Too bad for you, you shouldn’t have had the misfortune to be born into a nation of heathens?

      2. We get it, John. What is this, Echo Mountain?

  5. why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent?

    Because it’s just so much easier. The government has no incentive to do shit right, just to pacify voters. If appearances and spreading the pain over everyone accomplishes that, then that is what it will do. Again, the government has absolutely no incentive to actually solve problems, just to appear to be trying to solve problems.

    1. I completely agree:
      This is an old article, but the author makes a good argument that airport screeners do not gather enough information and look for people that are easy to screen in their “random” searches.

  6. We collectively need to get more pissed off.

    1. No, We need to get pissed on! I say every flyer opn every airline piss thier seats the last 30 minutes of the flight, just to show how absurd they are getting, lets peacfully yet pissfully shgut down air traffic in a non terroist way while standing up for our rights as Americans

  7. if airline companies were responsible for safety you could probably pay to fly on a muslim-free flight.

  8. I’ll need to know which penalty is more severe: the one for getting out of my seat and going to the bathroom, or the one for peeing in my seat.

    Just want to be prepared.

    1. That information is classified. BTW who did you vote for?

  9. The Fox folks and their fans need to change their Depends. I caught part of Cavuto’s show today; one guest was a congresswoman from somewhere or other, wailing frantically that “this is an act of war” and that the guy ought to be in Gitmo being tortured-ahem, “aggressively interrogated”, right now. Or they’ll kill us all! Augghhh!

    Let’s face it. The “land of the free and the home of the brave” has been castrated.

    1. So courage now means sitting around waiting for these assholes to kill us? At any other time in this nation’s history we would have done a lot worse to these people than we have. Now instead of doing something about it, we have a nation of assholes like you who sit around saying, “what is the big deal about killing a few hundred people on an airliner, it is not like we are not terrorists to”. Fuck that and fuck you.

      1. What is the big deal? Seems like the costs of the massive security apparatus far exceed the benefits.

      2. Courage means keeping your head. Based on your frantic insults of someone you don’t know I wonder if you’re passing that test.

        Courage means accepting reality. The government cannot keep us safe. If you fly on an airplane you fly at your own risk, even if the authorities jail every swarthy man in the entire world and force all fliers to fly naked, shackled to their seats.

        There’s nothing wrong with doing something about this problem. But do you really think that what the congresswoman is caterwauling for is really going to help? I suppose it will make you feel better, but I don’t really care about your feelings.

      3. Why do you have such a hard time understanding that terrorists are simply criminals? The same argument you make above is the one made in principle by people who want to ban guns.

        Enjoying our freedom and remaining free is not “sitting around waiting for these assholes to kill us”. Only by focusing on these rare events do you allow these assholes to restrain our freedoms.

        Try to have some perspective:

    2. Well, really, it’s a chick. You want someone not to have a hissy fit why not interview a congressman?

      It’s all gone downhill since sufferage!

      1. Pfft, I’ve seen Sean Hannity throw a hissy fit no female could even be capable of throwing.

  10. “Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law.”

    What law was that again? Which members of the legislature voted on it?

    I thought Congress was on vacation right now, how did they pass a new law preventing people from standing up, using pillows or blankets, or watching the TV?

  11. “I thought Congress was on vacation right now, how did they pass a new law preventing people from standing up, using pillows or blankets, or watching the TV?”

    You’re still stuck in that 18th century mindset of “law” where you need a procedure with checks and balances for such things. The post-9/11 mindset means having a couple of political appointments make them up on the spot.

    Otherwise the terrorists win…

  12. Arm the passengers and crew and be done with this nonsense.

    1. That doesn’t help with bombs.

      1. I dunno, shooting the bomber would have prevented the guy who jumped on him from burning his hand.

        Bottom line though, (selected quote from above)

        Enjoy Every Sandwich|12.28.09 @ 6:02PM|#

        The government cannot keep us safe. If you fly on an airplane you fly at your own risk, even if the authorities jail every swarthy man in the entire world and force all fliers to fly naked, shackled to their seats.

        Being alive and doing stuff has inherent risks. Get used to it. Government rules/regs/laws ain’t gonna protect everybody all the time, or even some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time. (I believe P.T. Barnum said something like that already.. or was it “There’s a sucker victim willing to give up everything for security born every minute.” – or both..?)

  13. TSA hasnt had an administrator in over a year. There are not a lot of qualified candidates, but one comes to mind. Congressman John Mica of Florida. He is the ranking member of the the transportation and infrastructure committee. He also helped write the legislation creating the TSA. His press release about the Detroit incident includes his ideas on how to improve TSA. We must get this man into TSA, he knows the organization better than anyone, and might be the only qualified candidate for the job. Check out his press release:

    Washington, DC ? U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Republican Leader of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released the following statement regarding the recent attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253. Mica was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation from 2001 to 2007, and was one of the authors of the law establishing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

    “The dramatic failure of our aviation security system to detect and deter the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 is a serious wakeup call.

    “First, Congress must change the process by which TSA administrators serve. There has been no TSA administrator for nearly a year and the next one will be the fifth in eight years. Running a security agency with a revolving door is a recipe for failure.

    “Since TSA was combined with 21 other federal agencies to form the 225,000-employee Department of Homeland Security, it has been lost in that bureaucracy. TSA has also morphed from a force of 16,500 private screeners to an army of over 60,000 federal employees. It has become an agency that is ineptly led from Washington, DC by a top heavy, well paid headquarters staff of 3,200 with an average annual salary of $103,000. TSA also has 8,700 administrative and managerial staff in the field.”

    “TSA has grown larger than some federal Cabinet level offices, including the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce.

    “Despite this massive federal workforce, TSA has failed to compile a reliable watch list after eight years, or put in place a biometric identification protocol after multiple directives in law. These failures are not only exasperating, they are mind-boggling.

    “We could reduce the managerial and administrative staff in Washington and in the field by 25 percent, transferring these positions overseas and to high-risk locations, more in line with the Israeli model of aviation security.

    “DHS officials have been made aware of classified reports of record levels of poor detection performance by Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) since early 2009 and have failed to institute necessary reforms.

    “Development and deployment of explosive detection equipment continues to lag. These Northwest flight passengers were fortunate that more sophisticated devices and currently undetectable explosive materials were not employed.

    “With a record number of air marshals at TSA, it is unbelievable that the agency could not deploy at least one to an at-risk international flight with a suspect reportedly on at least one watch list and whose father reportedly had previously warned U.S. embassy officials. It is incredible that TSA and other federal agencies could bungle this security situation, given the red flags raised by this suspected terrorist.

    “The only meaningful security provided in this case was by the passengers and crew aboard Flight 253. Their heroic actions averted tragedy on Christmas Day.

    “Congress has made security matters worse over the past years by diverting resources to excess bureaucracy, inflated salaries and pet projects. Congressional oversight of security has waned, and most of the emphasis in the policy debate has been on whether to expand collective bargaining rights to TSA screeners.

    “This attack is a loud wakeup call. Congress and the Administration need to act before it’s too late. I call on all the Congressional committees of jurisdiction and House and Senate leaders to meet as soon as possible to review this critical matter and act appropriately.”

    1. It seems like a terrible idea to allow Congressmen to run the same agencies they create.

    2. Congressbot shoo!!

      If you are not congressman whoever or a bot you need to step off this dude’s junk. Seriously, it’s kind of creepy.

      I guess that was cheaper than buying a radio spot in Tampa.

      Oh yeah, tsa needs disappeared.

  14. Why? Why was the drunk looking for his wallet under the street lamp?

  15. Self hater, Christopher Hitchens, should look in the mirror when it comes to his support of Islamic terrorism in Israel (the zionist entity to you R?hmites).

    One should fight Islamic terrorism everywhere. Especially supporting our front line ally, Israel.

    Of course, supporters of Arab terrorism such as you R?hmites, why deal with Islamic terrorism at all when one can wait for Achmadinijad to nuke that zionist entity you despise so much.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here.”

    In the Mood

    1. Notice that even El Al doesn’t engage in ridiculous security theater like this.

    2. I have typed so it is written.

  16. “Remember it is more important to look good than to be good- and you look maaaarvelous.”

  17. UZ,

    Please translate. What the heck did you just write?

    1. More troll drivel wayne. Underzog = troll = drivel.

  18. shut the fuck up, lonewacko Underzog.

    thumb’s up – shooting a bomber who had the foresight to use a deadman’s switch for the trigger would be quite inadvisable

    1. you guys did such a good job of marginalizing lonewacko, he moved to Meagan McArdle’s blog.

  19. Several years back, and a few months after 9/11, I recall a park path through a local forest I would jog every morning around the same time, and around this steep hill area, a commercial liner would fly low, directly over head. I was wondering then that even if we had the most perfect internal security possible inside of those planes how difficult it would be for a terrorist to find a similar location away from everyone to pull an explosive stunt. The flight path and timing (when I was just over the half way mark and I saw the plane just over the other side of the lake, I always met the plane as I hit the peak) was so regular it may well have been possible to knock it down with a hobbyist rocket capable of going three hundred yards straight up using the sort of materials the Detroit bomber had in his possession.

    The onliest thing that should make anyone feel reasonably safe is the law of averages. Everything else is just window dressing.

    1. The CIA would like a word with you, terrorist aide…

  20. You know what the show bomber and the “crotch bomber” (as I shall now refer to the latest Nigerian) have in common? They both used a very difficult and unstable chemical mixture to try and create an explosion that merely succeeded in burning themselves. They did not bring blocks of C4 on nor any convential bomb. They were specifically limited to a complex scheme that has so far continued to fail to do anything other than burn the living shit out of themselves. I for one call that a security win, but every time this happens the flying public gets punished. Dear god I hate our protectors.

    1. My understanding is that PETN was the explosive the crotch bomber was trying to use. As PETN is the primary ingredient in Detonating Cord, I think it qualifies as a “conventional bomb.”

      Where I think crotch bomber’s fire came from was that he was trying to synthesize his detonator on the plane. My guess is that he tried a acetone peroxide synthesis, ran into thermal runaway, and ended up catching his dumbass on fire. Witnesses saw him with a “syringe” trying to squirt a liquid into a powder. If he was able to get a metal syringe full of chemical gunk on board, why couldn’t he use the same method to get a blasting cap on board? Or, how about an M-80? I don’t know that it’ll detonate PETN, but I don’t think it’d be that challenging to find out. Thank God these guys don’t seem to believe in the value of practicing…

      Further, why didn’t he try doing this chemistry experiment in the bathroom and not at his seat? And finally, why do it just before landing, and not while the plane is mid-Atlantic and several hours from an emergency runway?

      I think he either: overslept, dithered setting off the bomb, or he never intended to go through with it. I recall reading that many suicide bombers are escorted tightly until just before being deployed to their targets. I have not read, but would not be surprised to learn, that many of them are drunk/high/tranked to keep them in the necessary state of mind. Both of these factors would be more difficult to achieve on a long flight than with other methods of utilizing suicide bombers.

      I’ve read he had the stuff taped to his balls, although he could have drug muled his way to carrying the stuff on board too. I don’t see how you can stop this sort of thing, short of walking everybody through an X-Ray.

      Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t had more terrorist bombings since 9/11. The additional TSA restrictions are, in my opinion, next to worthless. For those who’ve had to fly since this, are they really re-screening everyone at the gate?

      1. I can see wanting to do it over the US for a number of reasons. First, you might improve your fatality count if people on the ground are killed. Second, if pieces are recovered the FBI will know there was a bomb, as opposed to over the ocean where the US government can claim it was an engine malfunction.

      2. Anecdotally speaking however, these bombers continue to have problems with “detonation” for whatever reason. Methinks that PETN then isn’t as easy to light off as the MSM seems to believe.

  21. I have been outraged at the idiocy that passes as “security” at airports but this pushed me over the edge, how farther can the lunacy go? I dont know, but what really sucks is what can we really do about it? Shoot off a couple of emails to my local congressmen and senator??

    I mean when a uniformed pilot has a butter knife confiscated the system is not exactly working… http://www.salon.com/tech/col/…..epilot332/

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