Thursday, November 25, 2010

Well, that didn't work. Sigh.

The Big Monster Opt Out Protest that was supposed to bring airports from sea to shining sea to a screeching halt -- or at least cause noticeable disruption to the holiday travel season -- was apparently a Big Nothing.

Not even Theatrical.

Well, the guy, "Jimmy", in the video above does take his clothes off in Salt Lake City, and he does parade around, all skinny and semi-naked with a puzzling slogan: "Screw Big Sis" scrawled on his back, he refuses to get dressed when told to by the line TSA "smurf" (I like that term), and we think there might be a stand off until the TSA supervisor "smurf" arrives, says "go ahead" when the Opt Out Protester "Jimmy" says he wants to go through the metal detector in his swim suit (Metal detector! not Porno-Scanner!) and that, as they say, is that.

There's a little sequence near the end where it is explained that the supervisor "smurf" told his line person that it was OK for "Jimmy" to go through the metal detector in his swimsuit, "to each his own," and that when "Jimmy" explained that he was making a political statement, the supervisor "smurf" said, "Oh, as long as it's for a political statement then it's fine."

And this is how you defuse a political action/protest.

As far as I have been able to find out -- and I admit to no exhaustive search -- this was nearly all there was, Monster Opt Out Protest-wise. There were a couple of guys handing out "Know your rights" flyers at O'Hare, and I think I saw something about an incident at Miami, but apart from that, there was essentially nothing.

This may be due in part to the possibility that the Porno-Scanners were turned off for the day, something I predicted would happen, so there was nothing for Protesters to "opt out" of. I'm not sure of the source, however. I believe it was in a post that referred to something Lew Rockwell had posted, so take it for what it's worth.

It's too bad, really. I would much prefer this issue be resolved through massive public pressure than by awaiting the Pleasure of the Roberts Court to rule on the fundamental law and precedent that underlies the passenger processing procedures and control-herding at airport checkpoints.

Public pressure to date has worked surprisingly well to force changes in the New Procedures in rapid time for a government agency. Certain categories of travelers have already been exempted from the more extreme aspects of the New Procedures, and one can imagine that more exemptions are forthcoming. TSA public contact personnel is being rapidly retrained in how to perform personal pat-downs so as not to alarm or offend passengers, and the use of the Porno-Scanners is being limited. If they were actually turned off yesterday, then it was a brilliant move. Their usefulness is potential, not actual, and as passenger processing proceeded just fine (well...) without them for many years, it is clearly possible to cancel their use for a day if it will speed processing while not compromising security.

That's just obvious.

My sense is TSA will not revert to the previous application of the New Procedures; there will be no more routine Porno-Scan screenings, no more invasive/hostile pat-downs. No more treating passengers as criminal suspects.

This is really basic stuff, but it has to be learned. It isn't automatic.

Here's the thing: the TSA is still a brand-new agency in the Federal Government; there are no career paths within it, and turnover at the top has been frightful. The chaos in the leadership of the agency is reflected in the chaotic nature of what goes on on the processing line. It's not all due to bad intent by any means. It is due to a very new and still highly dysfunctional Federal agency trying to find its footing within the government while simultaneously processing tens of millions of passengers day in and day out with an ever-changing focus and a still somewhat vague or impossible mission.

Add to that the corruption endemic to the security machine industry, the constant thwarting of regularization and the attacks from parts of the political sector, and the constant carping from some Libertarian activists, and it's a wonder the agency has been able to function as well as it has for as long as it has.

Still, there are very fundamental issues of passenger control-herding and invasive (and often foolish) search and seizure routines that must be resolved. As I say, these things should not be the sole purview of the Courts. Our courts are so corrupt as it is, leaving it to them to sort this mess out will simply make it worse.

It needs to be done through massive public pressure that has the result of making traveling at the very least endurable, and more generally enjoyable. It is not solely a matter of fixing the outrages that may occur at the security gates. The airlines themselves need some serious work, too. Very few airlines seem to have the knack of handling passengers with dignity and respect in the first place, and airplanes themselves have become little more than cramped and alarming sausage tubes.

The whole industry needs a re-vamp, top to bottom. And how likely is that?

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