Well, it’s officially over – National Opt-Out Day is done, and the major networks are reporting it as a major failure. The proponents believe in it’s success, whether through the awareness raised, or the numbers of travelers making their trip on the ground as opposed to by air,  which means air travel is down in some cases (13% drop since 2000), but up in others (up 3.5% from last year). Overall, it seems that travelers were more upset by the prospect of being inconvenienced by the potential delays than they were about the TSA infringing on their liberties; some reports say security simply turned off the scanners to placate potential disruptions to holiday travel.

This raises a lot of interesting questions. First of all, the scanners, controversial and detested by conservatives rediscovering their privacy rights and liberals courageous enough to stand up to the Democratic administration: Apparently they’re not really that useful – after being denounced by the ItaliansIsraelis, and even the United Nations as ineffective, TSA figures that it’s ok to switch them off for one of the busiest travel days of the entire year. So why do they need to be on, taking pictures of people’s bodies the other 364 days?  Beats me, but you can be sure that after Thanksgiving, it will be business as usual.

Second, the modified pat downs. TSA officers have gone from back-of-the-hand techniques to cupping and handling people with their palms and fingers, and reaching inside of their underwear. It’s easy to find lots of horror stories about people who feel embarrassed, humiliated,  and degraded when security breaks their urostomy seals and soaks a traveler in their own piss, or makes them remove their prosthetic breast. This are obviously denigrating and scarring for the people who go through this process; but I guarantee you these stories will not be part of the news cycle today! The American Public is moving on. Expert reporting from NPR correspondent David Swerdlick tells us:

It was painless and professional. The problem, three-and-a-half minutes later, wasn’t that I felt like my freedom had been trampled; it was that I left with the distinct impression that it was all for show. A truly committed evildoer could have probably worked around it.

See everybody?! The evil is still out there!

Next, the people who are against it. It’s been captivating to watch the crowd brought together by this issue. As Glenn Greenwald put it

In one corner we have the American Right, magically re-discovering their alleged belief in privacy and government restraint now that they see an opportunity to politically harm Obama by waving that flag once again.  These, of course, are the very same people who spent the last decade cheering on every radical expansion of unchecked government authority and privacy destruction when it was their Party doing it — ones far, far worse than these airport screening measures — and who will undoubtedly do exactly the same thing the next time a Republican occupies the White House…

In the other corner, we have the Democrats, who — in perfect unison — would be screaming bloody murder about these methods and waving the Flag of Civil Liberties if George W. Bush were still President, as they would smell partisan advantage from doing so.  But since it’s Barack Obama who is President, they are — with a few exceptions — meekly raising concerns, though more often acquiescent to the TSA when they aren’t outright supportive.

The real sadness of the matter is that these people making the fuss about revealing the shamefulness of their naked forms (and an embarrassing physical experience for security and passenger alike) are merely the ones who are fortunate enough to have the option of shelling out a few hundred bucks for airfare, baggage, travel expenses, and so forth. They sense the war on terror coming to close to home. You’re supposed to be home for the holidays! We’re not supposed to bring the war home! That’s why we fight them over there! So Americans are perturbed by this odd little injustice – they’re being treated like terrorists!


I’d like to remind you that detainees have been subject to much worse impositions on their human rights and dignity than any frequent flyer could imagine. I’d never pretend that  people who scream and fuss when their plane sits on their tarmarc an hour too long could even imagine what it feels like to be waterboarded – much less gang-beaten, having their bones broken, eyes gougedor being doused with chemicals. This is all real stuff and it’s not old news – it is still going on at Guantanamo and in other countries where torture is not illegal.

Let me repeat that for you. The US Government is still torturing people – at Guantanamo and through the process of rendition. These are not guilty people, they are not terrorists, they are human beings in legal limbo where they cannot hope to ever find justice. The people who perpetrate this violence on them won’t come to justice,  the officials who allowed it won’t come to justice,  and people are still being sent to those secret holes where they are suspended from shackles and sexually humiliated by US security forces.

While all this is going on, Americans who care little about the human rights of someone like Jojo Yazemi come rushing to the platitudes of Charles Krauthammer, who says “Don’t touch my junk!” Ah yes, the old white balls of the United States middle class; those are what we’re fighting the War on Terror to save. Somehow, the American public now recognize that we’re losing that war by restricting our liberties; after the suspicious deaths of prisoners held without charge in our prisons. After issuing a fatwā of it’s own on an American citizen. After countless civilian deaths. After the atrocities and war crimes of the Bush administration, and the Obama administration’s  continuation of many of those injustices. NO MORE! The ultimate offense we (Real Americans) can stomach is an invasive examination of our(Real Americans) private parts!

Obviously we’re look at two standards here; one for U.S. Citizens and another for “enemy combatants” or “detainees.” Neverminding the fact that some of those held in our secret prisons are citizens. And that guy we targetted for death is also a citizen. Ok, we need a new standard. Gee, it’s awful hard to find one that doesn’t stereotype, racially profile, or otherwise fall victim to horrible logical fallacies that justify obliterating the human rights of a lot of people who don’t deserve it.

What ever happened to Rawl’s veil of ignorance? That was a pretty handy idea that said

…no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. They are the principles that rational and free persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamentals of the terms of their association – A Theory of Justice, P. 11

Basically, before we start deciding that torturing people and stripping them of their rights is OK, pretend we don’t know WHO will be at the short end of the stick. Or a rubber hose and a jug of water. Or whatever form of abuse we think is fine by us. Are we still as likely to decide it’s ok to do that sort of stuff, if we’ll be on the receiving end? Americans have to keep saying so, if we’re going to win the war! Because people like John Pistole know stepping on the rights of others is how we make sure those rights are safe. Just like how Obama and the CIA and everyone else shuffling detainees back and forth to secret prisons is how we defend the freedoms that terrorists hate.

So remember, when the government decides that invasive security measures are necessary to protect your freedoms from underwear bombers and the like, THAT IS WHEN THEY HAVE GONE TO FAR.

Happy Thanksgiving America! oh yeah, thanksgivingisaterriblecaseofhistoricalrevisionismbecausewebutcheredalltheindians
andit’sanevilexampleofcolonialismandgenocide. Enjoy the turkey!