More Effective And Less Obtrusive Airport Security Is Possible

November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The front line defense should be on the sidewalk outside the terminal
American Thinker Blog

WTF … 3 Year Old Treated Like Terrorist as She is Assaulted By TSA Airport Screener … “STOP TOUCHING ME” … This is Airport Security?

November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This is our War on Terror … a War on 3 Year Olds.

WTF is going on in the airports in the United States in the name of so-called TSA airport screening to protect us against terrorism. This is what it has come to, searching grandma in a wheelchair and accosting a child? This is absolute “POLITCAL CORRECTNESS MADNESS!!

Since when is a TSA airport screener allowed to accost and assault a 3 year old child in the name of airport screening? The VIDEO below is beyond unreal and crosses the line of TSA ignorance and what should be allowed. Do these fools have any common sense in how to deal with a child? The incident took place at the Chattanooga, TN Airport where the 3 year old little girl kept screaming. “DON’T TOUCH ME”!!!


Hat Tip: The Gateway Pundit

Did the Teddy Bear have a bomb in it … was this 3 year old little girl the next “underwear” bomber? Maybe Mandy’s name was on the “no-fly” list? IDIOTS, PURE AND SIMPLE IGNORANT IDIOTS.

Since when is a trip to the airport and through TSA screening for a child supposed to be followed up by years of therapy? The TSA search was so insensitive and over the line that is damn near bordered on molestation. Who in their right mind would continue in such a manner to search the child in the manner they were when it was obvious how upsetting and disturbing the behavior was? What was next TSA, a strip search?

How in the hell is this crap allowed in this country? We have liberal do-gooder groups protecting the rights of sex offenders in allowing them to live near schools, yet when it comes to children, they are fair game to be treatedlike terrorists. I am trying to figure out why the mother or father did not crack the TSA official in the mouth for manhandling their child like this.

EXIT QUESTION: What are the odds that the TSA does not have the balls to treat a Muslim adult o child in the same manner that they treated this three year old? Hmm?

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Scared Monkeys

Backlash at TSA Security Finally Happening?

November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

It appears that full body scanners, operated by leering yahoos under the cover of government authority, may finally be rousing the sheep who have meekly submitted to the absurd delays and indignities that have been piled on since 9/11 and sundry botched attempts.  CNN reports a “Growing backlash against TSA body scanners, pat-downs.”

A growing pilot and passenger revolt over full-body scans and what many consider intrusive pat-downs couldn’t have come at a worse time for the nation’s air travel system.

Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year, is less than two weeks away.  Grassroots groups are urging travelers to either not fly or to protest by opting out of the full-body scanners and undergo time-consuming pat-downs instead.

Such concerns prompted a meeting Friday of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with leaders of travel industry groups.  Napolitano met with the U.S.Travel Association and 20 travel companies “to underscore the Department’s continued commitment to partnering with the nation’s travel and tourism industry to facilitate the flow of trade and travel while maintaining high security standards to protect the American people,” the department said in a statement.

[…]“While the meeting with Secretary Napolitano was informative, it was not entirely reassuring,” the U.S. Travel Association said in a statement.  “We certainly understand the challenges that DHS confronts, but the question remains, ‘where do we draw the line’? Our country desperately needs a long-term vision for aviation security screening, rather than an endless reaction to yesterday’s threat,” the statement said. “At the same time, fundamental American values must be protected.”

The travel industry is concerned that consumers may decide not to take a plane to Aunt Gertrude’s for the holiday.  “We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying,” Geoff Freeman, an executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, told Reuters.  A 2008 survey found that air travelers “avoided” 41 million trips because they believed the air travel system was either “broken” or in need of “moderate correction,” the U.S. Travel Association said. The decisions cost airlines $ 9.4 billion, the survey said.

One online group, “National Opt Out Day” calls for a day of protest against the scanners on Wednesday, November 24, the busiest travel day of the year.  Another group argues the TSA should remove the scanners from all airports. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a non-profit privacy advocacy group, is taking legal action, saying the TSA should be required to conduct a public rule-making to evaluate the privacy, security and health risks caused by the body scanners.

Pilots’ unions for US Airways and American Airlines are urging their members to avoid full-body scanning at airport security checkpoints, citing health risks and concerns about intrusiveness and security officer behavior.  “Pilots should NOT submit to AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) screening,” wrote Capt. Mike Cleary, president of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, in a letter to members this week. USAPA represents more than 5,000 US Airways pilots.  “Based on currently available medical information, USAPA has determined that frequent exposure to TSA-operated scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks,” Cleary wrote.

Napolitano told industry leaders that biometric identification, such as retinal scanning and thorough background checks will expedite the screening of 80,000 passengers who participate in “trusted traveler” programs, the department said.

In a blog posting this week, the TSA said pat-downs “have long been one of the many security measures TSA and virtually every other nation has used in its risk-based approach to help detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives like the one we saw in the failed terrorist attack last Christmas Day.”


The TSA has deployed nearly 350 advanced imaging technology (body scanner) units in nearly 70 U.S. airports, administrator John Pistole said recently. “By the end of calendar year 2011, we plan to have deployed approximately 1,000 units.”  The agency is exploring enhancements to the technology.  “This capability would make screening more efficient and would eliminate most privacy concerns about the technology,” Pistole said.

Privacy concerns aren’t the only reason for protests.  Some scientists and two major airline pilots unions contend not enough is known about the effects of the small doses of X-ray radiation emitted by one of the two types of airport scanning machines.  The Transportation Security Administration’s advanced imaging technology machines use two separate means of creating images of passengers — backscatter X-ray technology and millimeter-wave technology.  While the TSA says the machines are safe, backscatter technology raises concerns among some because it uses small doses of ionizing radiation. The use of millimeter-wave technology hasn’t received the same attention, and radiation experts say it poses no known health risks.

The Atlantic‘s James Fallows links several articles pointing to more evidence of a backlash.  Among them is a Salon piece by Patrick Smith (“News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11“) which reminds us that there were all manner of terrorist attacks involving air travel in the 1980s and we didn’t flip out.

Fallows’ colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has been chronicling his personal resistance for a few weeks. In “For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance,” he reports on a trip last month through Baltimore:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.”

“What am I not going to like?” I asked.

“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.

“Resistance?” I asked.

“Your testicles,” he explained.

‘That’s funny,” I said, “because ‘The Resistance’ is the actual name I’ve given to my testicles.”


I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. “Nobody’s going to do it,” he said, “once they find out that we’re going to do.”

In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.” He called over a colleague. “Tell him what you call the back-scatter,” he said. “The Dick-Measuring Device,” I said. “That’s the truth,” the other officer responded.

The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, “Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.”


I draw three lessons from this week’s experience: The pat-down, while more effective than previous pat-downs, will not stop dedicated and clever terrorists from smuggling on board small weapons or explosives. When I served as a military policeman in an Israeli army prison, many of the prisoners “bangled” contraband up their asses. I know this not because I checked, but because eventually they told me this when I asked.

The second lesson is that the effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation over the low-tech ball check.

The third lesson remains constant: By the time terrorist plotters make it to the airport, it is, generally speaking, too late to stop them. Plots must be broken up long before the plotters reach the target. If they are smart enough to make it to the airport without arrest, it is almost axiomatically true that they will be smart enough to figure out a way to bring weapons aboard a plane.

In a follow-up (“‘Are Any Parts of Your Body Sore?’ Asks the Man From TSA“)

Reagan National, 6:40 a.m. today. I opt-out of the humiliating back-scatter machine and ask for a pat-down. Once again, the TSA officers eye me suspiciously. “Wait here,” one says. I wait, and wait some more. One obvious technique the TSA is using to funnel passengers through the back-scatter imager is to waste their time — many people can’t afford to wait five minutes for a pat-down, and will exchange the humiliation of the Federal Dick-Measurer for a speedier trip through security.

So, Americans are going to either have to give up the right to fly — something we’ve taken for granted for nearly a century — or endure further indignities and invasions of our privacy from immature, low IQ yahoos to whom we’ve foolishly given badges and empowered as Federal agents.  All, incidentally, as a bit of security theater to give the illusion of safety that virtually no one is buying anymore.

Alas, the agents have all the power here.  Their ability to embarrass, harass, and delay citizens while conducting unreasonable searches and seizures will ensure that only a token number resist the scans.  And full-body gropings aren’t exactly less intrusive.

The more likely way to change this is for the airline industry to use their muscle to force a change. They haven’t managed to do it so far, despite the annoyances and delays of the previous layers of security theater.   And, surely, they’re losing money as more of us opt to drive for mid-length trips.

Outside the Beltway

Charles Krauthammer Schools Carlson and Krugman on Raising Social Security Retirement Age

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Charles Krauthammer on Friday gave a much-needed education to Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson about why the age at which one can receive Social Security benefits must be raised.

His words on PBS's "Inside Washington" also refuted Paul Krugman's foolish claims on this matter published in Friday's New York Times (video follows with transcript and commentary):

read more – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Democrats to push for $250 Social Security payment

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

NEW YORK ( – When House Democrats return to Washington on Monday, a top priority will be putting a $ 250 dollar check in the mail to 58 million Social Security recipients.

Democrats plan to vote early in the lame-duck session on a bill that would provide Social Security recipients with a one-time payment, according to the office of Earl Pomeroy, a Democrat from North Dakota who authored the legislation.


CNN Political Ticker

Rethinking The Federal Budget Mess: Part 1, Social Security

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In the wake of the deficit commission post-election bombshell about the nation’s budget woes, partisans from all fronts are coming out of the woodwork with their talking points. But everyone is doing the nation a disservice by talking about “the budget” as though it were a single unit. It’s not. It’s just like a business or personal budget, composed of both fixed costs (e.g., rent or mortgage payments) and discretionary or variable purchases (e.g., electricity, printer paper, coffee, movie tickets). However, when talking about the federal budget, those words may not be used the way you use them in your home or business.

What does the short- and long-term budget look like if we break it into its components? For the purposes of this series, I’m dividing “the budget” into these components:

  • Shortfall (borrowed money) : $ 1.47 trillion (2010)
  • Defense : $ 1.059 trillion (Pentagon, War on Terror, VA, military benefits and pensions, 2009)
  • Social Security : $ 714 billion (OAS/DI, 2010) – self-funded (solvent)
  • Medicare : $ 531 billion (2010) – partially self-funded (insolvent)
  • Interest on Debt : $ 414 billion (2010)
  • Health and Human Services (Medicaid, SCHIP, Food Stamps, etc) : $ 618 billion (2009, xls)
  • Commerce and Housing (includes USPS) : $ 291.5 billion (2009, xls)
  • Natural and Physical Resources (USDA, Interior, Transportation, etc) : $ 142 billion (2009, xls)
  • Unemployment Compensation : $ 122.5 billion (2009, xls)
  • Federal employee retirement and disability : $ 118 billion (2009, xls)
  • Education : $ 79.7 billion (2009, xls)
  • Criminal Justice System : $ 52 billion (2009, xls)
  • International Affairs : $ 37.5 billion (2009, xls)
  • Science, Space, Technology, Energy : $ 34 billion (2009, xls)
  • Community and Regional Development : $ 27.7 billion (2009, xls)
  • General Government : $ 22 billion (2009, xls)

Social Security

Initial press reports characterized the deficit commission plan thusly: “mixing painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare with big tax increases.” What most of us think of as “Social Security” is actually the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund.

First, I argue that Social Security should be treated as its own, stand-alone budget. It is characterized rhetorically as an “entitlement” program but it is an insurance program. That is, people who work for a living contribute a fixed amount of their income to the program with the expectation of getting money back at some point in the future. Yes, the employer contributes, too, but an argument could be made that this is indirect employee renumeration.

Second, how’s Social Security doing? From the 2010 Trustee’s Report (emphasis added):

The financial outlook for Social Security is little changed from last year. The short term outlook is worsened by a deeper recession than was projected last year, but the overall 75-year outlook is nevertheless somewhat improved primarily because a provision of the ACA is expected to cause a higher share of labor compensation to be paid in the form of wages that are subject to the Social Security payroll tax than would occur in the absence of the legislation.


Social Security expenditures are expected to exceed tax receipts this year for the first time since 1983. The projected deficit of $ 41 billion this year (excluding interest income) is attributable to the recession and to an expected $ 25 billion downward adjustment to 2010 income that corrects for excess payroll tax revenue credited to the trust funds in earlier years. This deficit is expected to shrink substantially for 2011 and to return to small surpluses for years 2012-2014 due to the improving economy. After 2014 deficits are expected to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation’s retirement causes the number of beneficiaries to grow substantially more rapidly than the number of covered workers. The annual deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets in amounts less than interest earnings through 2024, and then by redeeming trust fund assets until reserves are exhausted in 2037, at which point tax income would be sufficient to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits through 2084.

What are the relevant points?

  • Trust fund reserves will be exhausted in 2037.
  • Without a change in funding source or eligibility, from 2037-2084, the Social Security Trust Fund could pay benefits at a 75% rate.

What does this mean?

It means that Social Security is not in imminent threat of collapse, although there are structural problems.

It also means that changes such as raising the eligibility age to 70 should improve the life of the trust fund in terms of additional years of contribution. Such a change reflects increases in life expectancy since 1935, when Congress passed the Social Security Act. For example, in 1940, a man who was 65 years old could expect to live 12.7 more years (~78); a woman, 14.7 more years (~80). A man who is 65 years old can expect to live, on average, until age 83; a woman who is 65 years old can expect to live until 85, according to US News and World Report. According to the CDC (pdf), in 2007, someone aged 85 could expect to live 6.5 more years (~92).

Life Expectancy for Men and Women Aged 65
Year Men Women
1940 ~78 ~80
2010 ~83 ~85

Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund

The Disability Insurance Trust Fund pays monthly benefits to disabled-worker beneficiaries and their spouses and children. It was created by the Social Security Act Amendments of 1956. According to the 2010 Trustees report, the DI Trust Fund is “projected to become exhausted in 2018.”

In 2010, OASI took in $ 686 billion and spent $ 586. The DI Trust Fund, on the other hand, took in $ 105 billion and spent $ 128 billion. The Trustees do not explain the discrepancy or the steady increase in DI expenditures forecast for the next 10 years. Before we try to engineer a solution to the problem, we need to understand why DI is already upside down.

Clearly, the DI Trust fund needs immediate attention, far more immediate attention that OASI. Find that in any news story or political sound-bite.

Possible Solutions

The actual tax rate for OASI/DI has been unchanged for 20 years. Since 1990, it has been 6.20% of the taxable income level. In 1980, it was 5.08%. Increasing the rate slightly may be a reasonable response to the pressing problem facing DI — or it may not be. It’s difficult to engineer an effective solution to a poorly defined problem.

What about indexing the income threshold for OASI? It is already indexed. In fact, in the past 30 years the income threshold has grown faster than inflation. In 1980, the income threshold was $ 25,900. In 2010 dollars, that’s $ 68,659.83. However, the income threshold in 2010 is $ 106,800, more than a 50% increase.

The most logical short-term modification is to increase the full retirement age.The nature of work (more cerebral, less physical) and lifespan have both changed since the SSA was passed in 1935. In 1935, the the “full” retirement age was 65. In 1943, Congress increased it to 66. Since 1960, it has been 67. Thus, we are long overdue for an increase in the full retirement age. Without question, such a change would have an impact on total revenue, assuming that people continued working until retirement age. However, it is unclear as to the effect such a change might have on outlays, as the program is currently constructed:

As a general rule, early or late retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime. If you retire early, the monthly benefit amounts will be smaller to take into account the longer period you will receive them. If you retire late, you will get benefits for a shorter period of time but the monthly amounts will be larger to make up for the months when you did not receive anything.

A Note About The Trustees

There are six trustees — four by virtue of their appointed government position and two representing the public. The two Public Trustee positions — appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as required by the “Social Security Amendments of 1983 — are currently vacant. Why?

The Moderate Voice

Obama Comes to Japan Bearing Gifts: Support for Japan Taking Permanent Seat on UN Security Council and Invitation to Washington for Prime Minister Kan

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: Trade was at the top of the agenda when President Obama sat down with Japanese Prime Minister Kan this morning in Yokahama. The two leaders made brief remarks after their meeting, but took no questions….

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Political Punch

Hensarling Ludicrously Claims Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap Will Not Cut Social Security Or Medicare By ‘One Penny’

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

On Wednesday night, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) successfully claimed the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference after his challenger, tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), dropped out of the running. But just hours after his big win, Hensarling, ran into this familiar buzz saw for Republican deficit frauds when on CNN’s Parker/Spitzer he was completely unable to name any significant spending cuts he wants to enact.

Host Elliott Spitzer astutely laid out the hollowness of Hensarling’s proposal to cut $ 900 billion dollars of annual government spending through a Constitutional amendment by noting that Hensarling’s plans leaves massive portions of the federal budget untouched, making it almost impossible to find nearly a trillion dollars in savings. Hensarling tried to fight back, but offered only feeble talking points and assertions that he didn’t understand Spitzer’s math, prompting Spitzer to remind Hensarling, “Sir, you have a degree in economics.”

Hensarling only ran into more trouble when he spoke of a different plan he has endorsed — Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Roadmap for America’s Future. While proudly saying he has endorsed the Roadmap, Hensarling claims the plan would not “cut one penny” from Social Security or Medicare:

SPITZER: I want to go through category by category so the public can understand where we are. $ 2.3 trillion of this $ 3.8 trillion is in couple of areas, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt and defense spending, right? We can agree on that, I presume, right? That’s straight out of the federal budget. Now, are you willing to cut Social Security 25 percent this year?

HENSARLING: Oh, absolutely not. And again, Eliot, you know that you don’t have to cut one penny out of these programs. What you do have to do is ensure they don’t grow faster than the economy’s ability to pay for them. We can’t have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid grow at 5, 6 and 7 percent and the economy grow at 1.5 percent. … You have to bend the growth curve so they don’t grow as fast. I have co-sponsored Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” Not one penny of these programs is cut.

Watch it:

Hensarling — who does indeed have an economics degree from Texas A & M University — is either gravely misinformed about the plan he is endorsing, or willingly misleading the American people. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo noted, “the Roadmap is an explicit attempt to balance the federal budget via severe cuts to Medicare and Social Security.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, the “Ryan plan proposes large cuts in Social Security benefits — roughly 16 percent for the average new retiree in 2050 and 28 percent in 2080 from price indexing alone.” Meanwhile, “By 2080, Medicare would be cut 76 percent below its projected size under current policies.”

And after all that, Ryan’s Roadmap still won’t balance the budget. As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman noted, “the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $ 4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $ 1.3 trillion.”


Krugman Shows Why Media Will Never Support Social Security Reform

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

There's little debate in America that with baby boomers retiring, Social Security and Medicare are on a collision course with bankruptcy.

Regardless of this inconvenient truth, powerful media figures like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman stand in the way of any meaningful reform to these programs that might lead to their long-term viability.

Krugman proved that once again in his article Friday:

read more blogs

Social Security, ctd

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Megan McArdle offers a reply to my concerns about our paternalistic treatment of future obligations that I like a lot. There are at least two important points. The first is essentially that paternalism is unavoidable. Even when provided with all the relevant information, poll respondents still don’t give logically consistent answers.

People in polls are lunatics on the budget; they consistently oppose tax increases, oppose spending cuts, and strongly support balancing the budget. Depressingly, pollster Doug Rivers says that this is true even when you inform them of the sums involved-i.e., make sure that they know you can’t close the budget gap just by slashing foreign aid. Despite being informed about the relevant tradeoffs, when they are again asked the question, they continue to insist that they very much want to close the budget deficit-without raising taxes or cutting any major programs.

This is a more balanced perspective than Simpson-Boyles. McArdle suggests that we are getting mixed signals from the public and trying to do the best we can with what we got — much healthier than the Commission to Save America, Grandchildren and Puppies.

She also notes:

The question, then, is not simply, “Should we raise taxes or the retirement age to fix Social Security?” The question is, “What are the best spending cuts and tax increases to bring our budget into balance?” There are a number of reasons that raising Social Security taxes, and the retirement age, are among those-fiscal reasons (there’s a lot of money there), economic reasons (social security encourages people to leave the labor force earlier, which raises spending and shrinks the tax base), political reasons. You can argue that these aren’t good reasons-that there are better reasons to leave it the way it is.

There are important differences between pure transfers like Social Security and public goods like education and national defense. With education or defense there are society-wide benefits to estimate and important policy choices to be made regarding how much of the public good to produce and by what means. With a transfer you get out the same thing you put in: cash.

McArdle is right that since choices about Social Security restrict our taxing options that we can’t look at these programs in pure isolation. Still there is a fundamentally different sort of analysis going on. Social Security payments do not crowd out the private sector in favor of public goods. That basic trade-off does not have to be considered. If Social Security recipients want to buy iPads or shoes, American-made apparel or Chinese imports, it is up to them. Resources flow into the private sector under the direction of private individuals.

Karl Smith is an assistant professor of economics and government at the University of North Carolina and a blogger at

Ezra Klein

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