Skip to main content

TSA Backlash Watch: William Saletan's Backlash

Slate's William Saletan grumbles about the "imbecils" protesting scanners and pat-downs: "Wednesday is the busiest air travel day of the year, and a horde of paranoid zealots—techno-libertarians, Tea Partiers, rabble-rousers, Internet activists, and congressional demagogues—has decided to make it even worse."

Saletan can get away with this string of insults because he's arguing against straw men. He disdains the health argument against the scanners, which is fine: I don't really buy that line of reasoning myself. But he invokes the menace of the underwear bomber -- all while failing to mention that it's questionable whether the scanners would've detected the underwear bomber in the first place.

And he grumbles about the idea that "National Opt-Out Day" will make air lines slower and air travel less secure. We'll see about that. Certainly, I'd agree that there needs to be a balance between keeping the system running smoothly and safely, and letting passengers retain a sense of liberty and dignity. Saletan treats the last consideration as though it's completely negligible in light of the first two factors. It's not, or at least it shouldn't be.


Notorious Ph.D. said…
A friend from grad school told me about how she managed to get hard currency into Russia when she was doing her dissertation research. Let's just say that if you're willing to exploit things that you know security types will be squeamish about inspecting, and you're not packing things dogs are trained to sniff out, those scanners will do little good.

I'm thinking that more sniffer dogs are the answer. Even the regular dogs aren't shy about smelling anywhere, on your person or off.

Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…