Saturday, November 24, 2001

I guess I missed the whole Buy Nothing Day furor. This ad made me see red. It states:

"...The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, ten times more than a Chinese person, and thirty times more than a person from India."

Because we can. The same goes for all the Chinese and Mexican immigrants in this country. The confluence of capitalism and rule of law that is the result of our Constitution has facilitated this happy circumstance. One can make a similar point about Japan (they did) , Taiwan, or any number of countries where citizens are somewhat free to pursue their own best interests. China and (until recently, I hope) Mexico have been under the thumb of oppressive and corrupt regimes that stifle individual achievement. China and India also labor against cultural mores that prevent people from advancing. FWIW, India is on its way up and the above stat is largely due to a huge underclass that is the legacy of previous circumstances and not its current regime.

"We are the most voracious consumers in the world..."

Because we make the most and trade the most (see above).

"...a world which could die because of the way we North Americans live..."

Typical luddite, zero-sum tripe. Most of the industrial, medical, and farming technology that forestalled the overpopulation die-off predicted by Malthus and his contemporary counterparts like Paul Ehrlich originated in the US and other liberal western democracies. In 200 years we have gone from mule drawn plows to farms that feed the world. According to Robert Guest, in the November 10 Economist (sorry article not online), "people in developing countries [like Angola] can now expect to live two-and-a-half times longer than in 1900." (!) I am sure we had nothing to do with that.

It reminds me of a quote (which I failed to find after much googling) from (I think) a North Vietnamese communist leader to the effect that the revolution had succeeded, everyone was equally poor.

These guys have the right idea. Via Rand Simberg.
Just got back from Thanksgiving with the in-laws in Annapolis area. Happily, there were no delays and the flights, which went through Hartsfield both ways, went smoothly. Nonetheless, some comments on the newly "heightened" security at airports:

Inconvenience does not equal security: It was a good thing we arrived early because, though we had but one carry-on between us, we still had to go through the check-in desk to get boarding passes before we could pass the security checkpoint into the terminal. How does that improve security? We answered the now familiar questions: No, nobody gave us anything to carry. Yes we packed ourselves and have had our bags in our possession since. I doubt that grilling has ever stooped a bomb from getting aboard an aircraft before, but even so, I'll abide the queries on the outside chance some well meaning dolt agreed to hold a ticking package for Rasheed. Why can't those questions be asked at the terminal for carry-on people (like they used to)? As far as matching up people with boarding passes before they get into the terminal goes, the best that does is keep pick pockets and thieves (who can't afford tickets) out of the terminal. All the 9/11 terrorists had tickets that matched their IDs.

No fingernail clippers: The thing is, for all the grief screeners have taken, the system worked well enough that the terrorists had to resort to creative and shocking use of box knives to execute their nefarious missions. Things have changed since about an hour after the balloon went up in September. Thanks to the example of the heroes on flight 93, Americans have realized that they are partly responsible for their own defense. I doubt that even if a terrorist had an Uzi he'd survive pulling it out on a plane today. Along the lines of what this pilot famously said, my plan is to grab my carry-on bag, put it in front of me and charge the motherfucker as fast as my 6'4", 300lb bulk will allow. I expect faster (or closer) guys will be ahead of me. Even if he or they somehow get a couple of us, they'll go down and won't be geting up. I always sit on the aisle now.

"Random" carry-on bag checks at the gate: Every time I witnessed this, it was someone's grandma or wife. Anecdotal I know, but before all this happened, I always got stopped. Being a big swarthy guy, in a hurry and with a backpack, while it was an inconvenience, it was one to which I cheerfully submitted. It showed the screeners were paying attention. Now, out of fear of offending people, we screen based on a name kicked out of a computer. If you are stopped because you fit the profile of a possible islamofascist insurgent, don't blame the victims and those trying to protect them. Blame those who executed these horrible acts.

So how do we really improve airport security? Well all the Guardsmen, rifles at the ready, that I saw wandering around the terminal and at the security checkpoints, are a good start as long as their rules of engagement don't keep them form acting. Double for armed pilots. We trust these people to fly us around in these supercomplex aircraft and don't think they can handle a gun? Hello. Finally, we need to concentrate on where we know we are vulnerable: checked baggage screening (only 50 out of some 550+ airports have the bomb detector), baggage handling, catering, and maintenance crews.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Rand Simburg on how terms like natural, normal and organic are loaded for political purposes. It seems like there are those of the "Earth first" mentality who would consign mankind to an ascetic existence of harmony with nature, living in caves or trees, eating only fruit that falls to the ground and animals that are already dead. As far as I'm concerned, being human and heir to millions of years of hard won knowledge and technology, it is every bit as natural for me to enjoy a piece of genetically altered bacon (so altered to lower phosphorus levels in the livestock's manure that can cause algal blooms downstream) as it is for a monkey to poke a terrmite mound with a stick to get his supper.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Great takedown of the peaceniks here by Carter Laren of Capitalism Magazine. It's about a month old but still right on:
In the weeks following the 11 September attack, organizations across the nation-- especially on college campuses--have gathered to rally in support of Adolf Hitler. They've posted signs, handed-out leaflets, and written editorials proclaiming their steadfast support. Of course they're not praising Hitler specifically; that would be narrow-minded. Besides, he's dead. Instead, they're pledging allegiance to his 21st century counterparts everywhere. They argue that the best world--their most blissful ideal--would be a world ruled by the most hideous, murderous, monstrously evil man imaginable.

Who are these frightful people?


While Laren deftly eviscerates the "inherently self-destructive concept," he doesn't explain it's allure. The fact is, pacifism has worked in a some instances. The movements of Ghandi and King come to mind. Some would say the domestic protests during the Viet Nam war are a third case. The peace movement during Viet Nam, was really less about concern for the noble Vietnamese peasants in their "struggle against the colonial oppressors" (gag-they are begging for tourist bucks now that the VC thugs have consolidated their power) and more about the middle class boomer fear of the draft. When Nixon ended that odious practice (scroll down to draft rant) in 1973, much of the fervor left the peace protests. Funny how now many of the same people are behind the recent adulation of the "Greatest Generation." Yuppie guilt?

Ghandi and MLK were successful with their "pacifist" movements because they took on powerful, western, and basically moral, states, whose citizens would not abide the sight of peaceful protesters being roughly handled by authorities. Similarly, anti Viet Nam protesters achieved success through similar although not altogether nonviolent, tactics, martyring four at Kent State. As I said, pacifist tactics are only effective in the presence of western liberal democracies. Tibet and the Falun Gong would be crushed mercilessly by the totalitarian Chinese were it not for (western) world opinion. Lacking the ability to directly confront their infinitely stronger oppressors, pacifism is the best hope for weak movements against the strong. Terrorism is another option for the weak and it works great aginst whatever pacifism it encounters. Were that the inverse were the case.

So why would an American guy choose pacifism today, in the face of a genuine threat to our existence? OBL and his minions would love for us to stand still and let him kill us without a fight. It is probably nostalgia for those heady, patchouli scented days in the 70's when he was able to delude himself that rolling around in the mud at Woodstock in a mescaline induced haze was a socially conscious act that partly motivates today's pacifist. The younger guys, most not too predisposed to sports more strenuous than hackeysack or frisbee golf, probably see an opportunity to pick up on socially conscious babes who like their men sensitive and docile. Besides, until very recently, we've all been told not to resist crimes and let the authorities take care of the bad guys. Unfortunately, most the time the authorities are only good for cleaning up the mess and writing the reports. Lucky for us those on flt 93 realized this and acted, lest 911 have been even worse than it was.

But I think it is mainly cowardice behind pacifism. Not fear, fear is normal. Succumbing to fear when faced with the right thing to do is cowardice. While a lot people, Laren included,correctly use the attack and or rape of one's loved ones when arguing against pacifism to make the point personal and then extend it universally, I'll come from the other way. What about when someone cuts in front of you in line? Do you say anything or demur, miffed that there was no one in authority around to prevent it? As if one expects the pimply faced check out girl to look up and protect your position. At the end of the day, we can only rely on ourselves for our own well being, not the state and not someone else's good intentions. That is not to say be rude, as manners are the lubricant of civilized society. Giving the miscreant a complete pass only encourages future worse behavior. Most of the time you will find the others in the line will side with you vocally, having lacked only a leader to say what they were all thinking but afraid and or conditioned not to voice, and the offender goes back to the end queue, chastised and unlikely to try again.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

There was a peace rally at Trafalgar Square. This site says 100K attended to listen Bianca Jagger and the rest of the usual suspects and then "celebrated their diversity." What the hell does that mean? Scotland Yard put the crowd at about 15K. I wonder if any of them could really put together a cogent argument as to why going after the Taliban is bad. It reminds me of an email that made rounds shortly after 911:
What to do if you happen upon a peace rally by stupid, naive, hemp-shirt-wearing college idiots, to teach them why force is sometimes needed:

1) Approach dumb rich ignorant student talking about "peace" and saying there should be, "no retaliation."

2) Engage in brief conversation, ask if military force is appropriate.

3) When he says "No," ask, "Why not?"

4) Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because that would just cause more innocent deaths, which would be awful and we should not cause more violence."

5) When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face as hard as you can.

6) When he gets back up to up to punch you, point out that it would be a mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would, "be awful and he should not cause more violence."

7) Wait until he agrees that he has pledged not to commit additional violence.

8) Punch him in the face again, harder this time.

Repeat steps 5 through 8 until they understand that sometimes it is necessary to punch back.

Couldn't have put it better myself.
The guy that supposedly shut down Hartsfield doesn't deserve all that much grief. Sure, it was a bonehead move, but not malicious. He was going with his son, nephew and bother in law to the UGA/Ole Miss game.
According to Brooks(of the airport police), Lasseter said he had already passed through security and gone to the gate for his flight when he suddenly realized he had left a camera bag somewhere in the airport. He said he returned to the main terminal to search for it.

As Lasseter prepared to return to his gate around 11:45 a.m. ET, Brooks said, "He saw the line at the checkpoint and his flight was leaving 10 minutes later, so he didn't have time to wait in line. So he went back down the escalators he came from."

"His story is that, because he had already been through security, he didn't see the harm going back down the escalator," Brooks said.

So he goes the wrong way on the escalator or whatever and the entire Atlanta airport is shut down and evacuated. People nationwide are inconvenienced. Meanwhile it takes the <cartmanvoice><> AUTHORITAYS </cartmanvoice> hours to find him and then only after reviewing the surveillance tape and checking everybody who was milling around waiting to go back in the airport.

What good did any of the actions of security do? If this Lasseter guy had mischief in mind, he could have done it and fled easily. Though I would likely have criticism if he were shot, his actions being due to poor judgement and circumstance and not evil intent, I would understand the logic of erring on the side of caution. Instead, once again, law abiding citizens are hassled in the name of increased security. And don't think that federalizing Airport security will help, it will just further protect the buffoons in charge of airport security with inane regulations and make them harder to fire. Asked why guards did not physically restrain Lasseter at the time of the incident, an executive with International Total Services (ITS), the security firm for Hartsfield said:
"They don't have the authority to touch any passengers. They can only sound an alert."

Now the US Attorney's Office is supposedly "pursuing every charge available" against Lasseter. This is a travesty. Forget him, he's been punished enough and is not the culprit here. The FAA should come down with both feet on the neck of whomever is responsible for letting some football fan's impatience paralyze the nation's busiest airport.
Full disclosure: My wife graduated from Georgia and is a rabid (er...real enthusiastic) Bulldog. She said Lasseter couldn't be all that bad if he was a UGA fan.