NPR Bravely Defends Government Stupidity

First let me say that I usually love and respect NPR. It’s a pretty amazing news network. Then, on Saturday, I started listening and heard this:

For those who haven’t heard, last week in Chicago, TSA lines were long and lengthy. The TSA administrator even went out there to promise that he’d do something about it. Scott Simon described his experience with it last week:

I flew back and forth to Chicago this week, and here were lots of passengers, myself included, who groused about the long, slow security lines: where schoolgirls have to kick off their pink running shoes, that can seem to take forever to unlace and re-lace; and convalescent senior citizens are made to limp out of their wheelchairs to walk through metal detectors and body scanners; and traveling salespeople who have to heft their bulky black cases onto conveyors, and shake their small, tired see-through bags of toiletries to show they’re not carrying incendiary materials.

Yep. Sounds like a typical TSA line to me. Jesus Christ, how stupid are we to do this stuff? But, Simon says:

When I flew back yesterday morning, the day after EgyptAir flight 804 apparently fell from the sky, the lines were even slower. But there was a lot more silent resignation among us sullen lines of passengers. The loss of that aircraft, whether or not it turns out to be a terrorist act, reminded us why those security lines are there.

So… whether or not this had anything to do with terrorism, we should be reminded that those lines are there for our safety. Got’cha. But… isn’t that point undermined by just the paragraph before it?

And then last year, an internal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security documented how their covert teams snuck banned items through the screeners 67 out of 70 times.

And later:

I am among those Americans who grew up ducking to the floor a few times a year to take shelter from a nuclear bomb. We look back at those times now and usually laugh to think that government officials ever advised citizens that a school desk could keep anyone safe from a nuclear fireball.

Yeah… because that was stupid advice! But we’re smarter now, right? Maybe taking a once-bitten-twice-shy approach to government safety advice?

Hah! No! Of course not!

But here’s where it truly becomes non-sensical:

Some [security experts] suggest that locks on cockpit doors, and the increased vigilance of passengers have done much more.

But terrorists can adjust their tactics more quickly than bureaucracies can change their policies. The TSA can do the right things thousands of times, and never get credit. But if they’re wrong just once, they’re disgraced; and it can cost lives.

So… locks on cockpit doors: check. Vigilant passengers: check. All more effective and nimble than a government bureaucracy. Okay. And if the TSA fails once, they’re disgraced. Uh… Great! So let’s get rid of them.

Those guards who can seem so grim, slow, and unreasonable when you’re in a hurry may cause you to miss your flight. But as we’ve been reminded again this week, that’s not the worst thing that can happen.

Pardon my French, but WHAT THE FUCK? First of all, he’s not even saying they’ll really keep us safe. Just that there’s worse than missing my flight.

Yeah? I mean, sure, there’s worse than the Giants not making the post-season this year. I mean, the world could end. But what are the odds of one versus the other? And how much should I plan for one versus the other?

Then he had just mentioned that they failed their own internal tests, that the government has made Americans do other completely ineffective things to “protect themselves”, and that vigilant passengers and locks on cockpit doors are probably the most effective things. Even with the loss of the EgyptAir flight (a flight already headed into basically a conflict zone and which, so far, hasn’t been claimed by a terrorist organization), why would we want these jokers supposedly “keeping us safe?”

Isn’t this like saying, “Yeah, Jim? He’s totally an asshole, not particularly funny, or anyone you want dating any of your friends but, honey, you have to have him at your party!”

Could the TSA theoretically catch a terrorist in action. Theoretically, anything is possible, I suppose. But they’re costing the US billions in tax dollars a year to, essentially, not keep us safe.

If it were a one-to-one equation, “take off your shoes or there’s a remarkable chance that not doing so will cost you your life” I’d probably take off my shoes. I mean, even if the odds were as low as 1% because, what’s the cost for taking off my shoes to ensure that I 100% won’t die from some shoe thing?

But there’s not even that kind of thing. Instead, it’s “everyone take off your shoes to ensure that something that is entirely unlikely to happen to anyone doesn’t happen even though we didn’t catch ourselves trying to do it sixty-seven out of seventy times.”

So we’re basically all stuck doing something totally useless for an event that will likely never happen to any of us. That is literally the definition of something with completely no upside.

And yet, Scott Simon, a man I generally respect quite a bit, thinks we should continue doing these useless things because otherwise it could “cost lives.”

What about the people who spend five hours at an airport in supposedly life saving TSA lines for what could otherwise be a six or seven hour drive and choose to drive next time? Their chances of dying on the road are much, much higher than flying and encountering a terrorist incident. What about the cost of their lives?

In other words, the TSA could actually be increasing the number of lives lost.

But because “terrorism” and the unknown, we should totally trust the government on this one.

Way to take a stand Simon. Definitely the brave opinion.

(Read the whole thing here.)

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