In which I agree with Andy McCarthy


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Even a stopped clock like McCarthy can be right once a day.
    And I’m down with any change to security at airports, it couldn’t be worse than what we have. Alas institutional ass covering says that no politician will dare.Report

  2. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    You are such a coward you will not dare to post this on Balloon Juice. On board with profiling? Of course. Let’s profile those dirty Muslims so that white guys do not have to have their junks touched. That’s the most important thing in the world, right?
    And private securities, ho ho, what a brilliant idea! And you get mad when the commenters at BJ call you glibtarian. What could be a better idea than privatization? That solves everything.
    I dare you to post this on BJ. What a coward. You won’t engage the commenters at BJ, but would rather go around other sites posting disparaging comments about that site. How is your position as the ombudsman, ops sorry, “inhouse critic” of BJ going?
    If I don’t see this at BJ, then you have truly shown yourself as the coward that you are. Unbelievable.Report

    • Avatar mistermix in reply to sonmi451 says:

      I think ED has the right to post wherever he wants, and the name-calling is unnecessary.

      That said, I disagree with the privatizing part of this post and posted a rebuttal at Balloon-Juice, which ED may or may not want to respond to, and I’ll respect whatever he chooses to do, as I respect his work here and at B-J.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to mistermix says:

        So you have no problem with the “let’s profile Muslim part”?Report

        • Avatar mistermix in reply to sonmi451 says:

          I have to see the details of any profiling scheme. Some profiling is inevitable in any effective airport security system.

          In general, we all agree that what we have now is too expensive, time-consuming and intrusive. We need to have a debate about the compromises we’ll accept to make our security system better.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to mistermix says:

            And are you confident that the debate we have will not just end up with the majority agreeing on the profiling of a minority in order to avoid intrusion and inconvenience to the majority? Because I’m not. I can already see where this is going. The majority will readily accept compromises that result in the least inconvenience and intrusion to them, the effect to the minority be damned. I predict that in a couple of years, we will have massive profiling of Muslims and Middle Easterns, done openly, just on the basis of being Muslim or Middle Eastern.Report

            • Avatar mistermix in reply to sonmi451 says:

              Well, how about we have the debate first before we jump to the conclusion? Right now, we’re having no debate about change, just a bunch of complaints about the intrusive and stupid TSA.

              If your prediction comes to pass, then it’s trading one stupidity for another one, which is certainly possible in our broken political system.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:


      I’m trying to get into the headspace where this would be seen as a scathing comment. From my perspective, it’s the political equivalent of making puns on cat pictures. You know, a picture of a cat on the couch next to a remote with the caption “I have to use the litterbox… better press ‘paws’!”

      I mean, sure, it’s cute, I guess…

      But if you’re trying to grandstand, give a moral screed about how much more in tune with the good and the beautiful you are than the target of your venom, why in the hell would you change gears and switch into lolcatspeak?Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, yeah yeah, I’m an idiot who speak lolcat, not worthy of this intelligent, sophisticated space full of intelligent, sophisticated people where no one grandstands or posts moral screed. They just constantly congratulate themselves on how resonable, wise and brilliant they are. Thank you for that illumination, oh wise one.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

          Opss, “reasonable”. Wouldn’t want to be caught with wrong spelling, might be called an idiot next.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:

          No, I’m working on something to address your spittle-flecked rant. Don’t worry about that.

          I’m just wondering why, in the middle of a spittle-flecked rant, you’d reach for lolcat. I mean, *I* would go for Hitler but that’s how I roll. I’m not saying that you should necessarily go for Hitler yourself… but you could work “papers please” into your argument (just sayin’).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Is this the comment you want me to respond to?

      E.D. being a coward?

      Well, okay.

      No! You’re a coward!

      That was much less fulfilling than we both probably imagined it would be a few short comments ago.

      As for your other comments, the ones that contain (kinda) an argument, I’ll address them now:

      It seems that the TSA is a walrus-repellent rock. They hold themselves up and say “you see any walruses around?”

      To be sure, I do not. There are many reasons, however, that could be behind my lack of seeing walruses. The reason that makes the most sense to me is that walruses are exceptionally rare.

      I have some sympathy to the argument that the TSA is making such a ruckus that, of course, walruses are scared off… but what types of ruckus would also accomplish the same end?

      The biggest problem is that, so far, there is a very particular type of person who has been hijacking planes. I mean, there’s less diversity than in the types of folks who wanted to hijack planes to Cuba, I tell you what.

      The problem is that everybody is sure, absolutely sure, that the next attack will be more or less like the last one insofar as it will involve someone making a plane crash… but the argument is over whether it will be more or less like the last one insofar as it will involve guys who fit a similar profile to the last sixish attacks *AND* over issues of how very many folks there are that fit the similar profile who are as harmless as the little blue-haired ladies that only the racist homophobic teabaggers complain about being felt up by the TSA.

      The argument that E.D. seems to be agreeing with is a variant of “let’s stop pretending that the attackers didn’t have a lot of stuff in common” and your response to this is a melange of calling E.D. a coward for not posting this at Balloon Juice and complaining about the details of the profiling plan that he hasn’t exactly provided… and it certainly seems to me that your personal preference is the status quo when compared to the changes that E.D. is proposing.

      Sort of the idea that if we did this stuff to Muslims then it would be a violation of their rights but if we do it to absolutely everybody then no one’s rights are being violated. (Because that is *TOTALLY* how rights work.)

      I’m not a fan of this approach, myself. Well, in a “the worse the better” sense, I suppose I am (this shit is unsustainable and I’d be surprised to still have it going on in a year).

      From my vantage point, we’re violating the rights of everybody, it’s making everybody hate authority (wooo!), and folks everywhere are holding the government in contempt because honking fake boobs and saying “take that out” is not, in fact, making anybody one iota safer. (I doubt it would make us safer if we only did it to folks who fit a particular profile… but, at least, that has the benefit of you seeing that rights are, in fact, being violated.)

      Anyway, you didn’t really have much of an argument to respond to. It was mostly namecalling and assuming the worst of the people you were namecalling.

      Is there a particular point you were hoping we’d address?Report

  3. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    From the article you linked:

    Israeli intelligence agencies, working in lock-step with airport security, flag travelers deemed potentially dangerous — a designation applied most readily, and controversially, to Arabs who make up 20 percent of the Jewish state’s population.
    Jafar Farah, an Israeli Arab rights activist, poured scorn on these efforts and called for the airport “to be like it is in New York, where all passengers are screened equally”.
    “Why should I be happy about an identity card that still intrudes on my privacy, or separate baggage searches when, I’m certain, I’ll still be singled out?” he said. “The whole idea at Ben-Gurion is to create a deterrent atmosphere against Arabs.”

    So Mr Kain, is this what you are on board with? I guess if this means one less white guy will have his junk touched, it’s worth the price of alienating even more American Muslims.Report

  4. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    I can’t believe the power of a white man’s junk, it’s so powerful we are willing to resort to anything to spare it from ever being touched. Profiling! Privatize! Abolish TSA!Report

  5. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    It takes a special kind of douchbaggery to accept an invitation to blog at a particular site, refuse to engage with the commenters at that site and then proceed to shit-talk that site at other sites, plus annointing oneself as the ombudsman/in house critic. I guess Mr Kain thinks that people who read BJ are too stupid to read such an “intelligent” and “sophisticated” site as the League, thereby shielding his act of douchbaggery from sight.

    Honestly, I challenge you, please put your “on board with profiling, let’s privatize everything” post at BJ. And this time, be a man and defend your position AT THE SITE ITSELF, not at other sites.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Dude, you’re kindof gibbering. You may want to take a few deep breaths and compile your arguements into a single rational post rather than this. It’d be more persuasive.Report

  6. Avatar Francis says:

    Gee, I didn’t know that “political correctness” was the new catch phrase for constitutional rights; I thought the old standby “technicalities” still applied. Must have not got the memo.

    As for outsourcing, before I jump all over ED, I have a basic question. ED, do you have any experience whatsoever in government contracting?aviation law? The relationship between the FAA, the TSA and airports?Report

  7. Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

    Profiling just fobs the violation of civil liberties off on marginalized groups that the public doesn’t care about and that the advocates of profiling aren’t members of. As a recent article at the Washington Post has it, “So it’s not really accurate to say that the new conservative anthem is ‘don’t touch my junk.’ It’s more like, ‘touch his junk.’ That doesn’t seem very libertarian.”

    • It still amazes me how words can be so quickly demonized, so the very mention of the word causes irrational outrage. Profile doesn’t mean baseless discrimination against a certain nationality or race — in this case, it means judging people at airports by set of criteria which raise a red flag. Being from Saudia Arabia alone would not be enough infrmation to create suspicon — also, a blond woman from Topeka could fit the profile if she met enough of the criterions. Removing the emotion from the word, to profile is to make a judgement on risk by noticing enough warning signs to justify suspicion.Report

      • Avatar 62across in reply to MFarmer says:

        You are right that “profiling” doesn’t have to mean the worst, but your definition doesn’t jibe with what McCarthy is describing here:

        “Whether it’s the case of the Christmas bomber, the Fort Hood assassin, or the World Trade Center bombers from 17 years ago, our government, again and again, has consciously avoided the common denominators of Islamist ideology and anti-American animus that should have raised caution signs. We have knowingly granted entry into our country, and often into our institutions, to people who have meant us harm. The officials whose job it is to protect us have decided to protect Muslim sensibilities by treating every American as a suspected mass-murderer.”

        It’s hard to see how the blond from Topeka would raise any flags using this criteria. Sorry, but James is right in this case that McCarthy is arguing for a liberty for all but a select group and that it isn’t legitimate to call that liberty.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to 62across says:

          McCarthy doesn’t get to define profiling, and I doubt he would develope the criteria. Let’s move past personalities and partsianship demonizing, so we can get to the principles involved and devise better, less intrusive security..Report

          • Avatar 62across in reply to MFarmer says:

            I agree that the crux of it will be in the definition of the rules and what those rules could be is worthy of debate. If Mr. McCarthy had argued for that debate – “moved past” demonizing Muslims as he chose to do – then my response to his post and E.D.’s would have been different.

            I contend that less intrusive security will only come with broad acceptance of greater risk. And acceptance of greater risk isn’t very feasible in the atmosphere of fear-mongering toward a religion of billions perpetuated by Andy and his ilk.Report

  8. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    “Unlike huge government bureaucracies, private companies would be held more accountable to the public.”

    What is your basis for this statement, Mr. Kain? I see nothing that supports this statement (and plenty of examples that support the opposite of this statement).

    This article is based on lazy arguments, E.D. You fail to make the (obvious) point that government and big business are two sides of the same coin. Consider the amount of snooping that corporations like AT&T allowed the government to have.

    Sorry, but this just seems like so much “the free market will solve everything!” conservo-glibertarian claptrap, especially with no justification made for your sweeping statements.Report

  9. Avatar JGabriel says:

    E.D. Kain:

    Yes, we should abolish the TSA and replace it with private airport security companies.

    Eric, the TSA performs a policing function. For many of the same reasons that the police should not be outsourced to private enterprise, the TSA should not be either.

    These companies should be strictly bound by the rule of law. There should be a transparent and streamlined complaint and abuse process available to airline passengers.

    There is no reason to believe that private companies performing the functions of the TSA will be any more responsive or less abusive than the TSA itself. As noted above, the employees would necessarily be even lower paid than their government counterparts, which certainly wouldn’t make them any friendlier.

    Finally, the profit motive nearly guarantees that private company will fail to properly screen passengers.

    Why? Simple: the vast majority of passengers are not terrorists. In order to increase profits, private screening companies would increasingly cut corners, with no apparent loss in effectiveness — because most passengers aren’t terrorists — until the inevitable happens and a terrorist does slip through due to profit-motivated lackadaisical screening.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to JGabriel says:

      Jgabriel, we have not caught any terrorists using our current stringent screening process. So what the heck is the point of it? A great deal of the nonsense the TSA does is public security theater. It doesn’t make people safer, it just makes it appear like something is being done to make them feel safer. As many have observed any terrorist seeking to cause casualties would be able to easily do it simply by targeting the security lines. Besides, what with reinforced cockpit doors and a passenger population no longer willing to sit quietly when a hijacking occurs there’s not much likelyhood that terrorists could be able to replicate 9/11 again regardless of what hoops they do or do not have to jump through at the airport.Report

      • Avatar 62across in reply to North says:

        North, I see no reason to believe that private screeners wouldn’t perform their own genre of security theater. Actually, I imagine we’d see a much more dramatic version following the lawsuit that would inevitably follow the first threat that got through the private company’s process.

        What is needed to make the intrusive screening go away is a call to courage, so that people understand they must accept some risk. People who travel by airplane already accept the risk inherent in flying, so it seems to me travelers aren’t the ones who will need to get a grip. The question is how do you quiet all the arm-chair security guards who will scream negligence in that next rare, rare instance when vigilant passengers can’t pull off a Flight 93.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to 62across says:

          I’m 100% down with your second premise 62across. In theory on the first premise I object not because I think airport security companies would be particularily altruistic but because they’d be competing and trying to get airport contracts on the grounds of speed, user satisfaction and actual terrorist catching. If most of this is theater then any cold blooded screening company would dispense with it in the interest of speed and user satisfaction. The TSA on the other hand doesn’t have to care what the users think, and they really really don’t.Report

          • Avatar 62across in reply to North says:

            I don’t doubt that Phase 1 in private screening would be improvements in speed and user satisfaction. However, I wouldn’t expect greater speed and happier users would improve actual terrorist catching (though to be honest, I wouldn’t expect it to hurt terrorist catching much either). In the end though, if we are still working within a zero tolerance for risk environment, one adverse event would mean a Phase 2 in private screening that is every bit as much as draconian as what the TSA is doing now.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to JGabriel says:

      I don’t see how market forces would really work in the privatization of airport security. The ultimate customers–the passengers–too rarely have readily available airport alternatives for there to be the kind of disciplining effect of the market. I’m not going to say, “I’ll drive 3 1/2 hours to Columbus or 4 hours to Chicago because their security personnel are better (however I define that) than those in Detroit.”

      On the other hand, contra what JGabriel argues about policing functions, airport security was a privatized business pre-9/11. One of the great (snark) policy moves of the Bush administration was to nationalize all those operations into the TSA. That there was no theoretical basis for believing that it would improve security didn’t matter; it was one of the first great moments of post-9/11 symbolic action (or security theater, as we’re now calling it). And there’s little evidence that having a government agency run airport security has resulted in any significant security improvements.

      On this issue, I think it’s a wash between having private security and a government agency. Perhaps private security would have an edge because it’d be easier for the bosses to fire a real bastard, and so marginally easier for passengers to get a real bastard fired.Report