Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Point of Protest is to be Effective

It’s a rare day when Eugene Volokh totally misses the point of something (it’s not a rare day when I disagree with him, but that’s different). But in endorsing Kent Scheidegger on National Opt-Out Day, I think we’ve got one.

the idea of scheduling a gum-up-the-works protest for the day before Thanksgiving is beyond despicable. National Opt-Out Day is a call for large numbers of people to opt out of the scanners and elect the longer manual search, all on the same day. It is a cruel and heartless act of vandalism that will seriously hurt other passengers, not the people at whom it is supposedly directed….

This is wrong on almost every front. First, there is absolutely nothing “despicable” about urging people to exercise their legal right to opt-out of being x-rayed. This isn’t even a case where people are being asked to engage in Gandhi/King style non-violent protest and, say, peacefully block a road waiting to be arrested, although if the cause were just I’d be more likely to call it “courageous” rather than “despicable”. Repeat, there is nothing wrong with exercising your legal right to choose one intrusive form of suspicionless government search over a possibly dangerous form of suspicionless government irradiation. Do you trust the TSA people at your airport to properly calibrate the backscatter x-ray machines or the so-called millimeter wave machines? I don’t: Even hospitals get the x-ray dosages wrong with alarming frequency, and I’m betting hospital machines are more closely monitored for health risks than the TSA‘s high-volume machines are.

No, this is a basic Alinsky-style tactic in which people are urged to do that which they are allowed to do, en mass, in order to demonstrate their distaste regarding what they are forced to do (choose between being irradiated or being searched over-intrusively) or not allowed to do (travel freely). There is little point in such protest at six in the morning on a light travel day — the tree may fall in the forest, but no one will notice. The whole point of the exercise is to create pressure for change while acting entirely within the law. Pressure for change is increased if bystanders are co-opted into complaining about the resultant delays or even persuaded to join in the protest.

My general view is that when my fellow citizens are motivated to participate in the political process by any form of organizing around legal action — even stuff I disagree with — this is a good thing for the system. (The hardest case is when the motivation is lies. But then the real problem is the lies and the liars, not the well-intentioned protesters.) Most of the time I feel the same way about non-violent protest too, even if it consists of civil disobedience. Where I draw the line is violence and threats of violence. Of course, if I disagree with protesters, I reserve the right to attempt to point out the error of their ways, but that goes to substance, not tactics.

Reading complaints about the upcoming protest one is left with the strong suspicion that the “despicable” aspect of this protest from the point of view of those who prefer their fellow citizens just shut up and take it is that it is a protest, or rather that it is a protest that just might work. Meanwhile, as the protesters were considerate enough to warn of their plans, plan to be at the airport early.

PS. I’m traveling on Wednesday, so I and my family will be among those inconvenienced at MIA. I’ll be among those opting out if not run through a metal detector, although I would have done so regardless of the existence of the opt-out movement because I’ve had more than a couple of lifetime’s supply of x-rays this year. (See TSA Glow or Grope Policy.)

Posted in Law: Right to Travel | 13 Comments

In Which We Do Lunch

I got invited to a local bloggers' brunch and had a very good time. There's a write up at South Florida Daily Blog, Blogger Brunch Bonding.

What struck me the most besides what Rick mentions — and the moment where the woman from the next table joined in was almost a Woody Allen – Marshall MCluhan moment — is that we're all of an age. Where are the young local political bloggers? On Facebook?

Posted in Discourse.net | 6 Comments

Changes Coming to Discourse.net

Sometime Real Soon Now™ the blog will go dark for a day or so, and when it emerges, it will be running on WordPress, and have a brand new much more modern look. If all goes well, all the current pages will be ported to WordPress versions of the same posts, with the same URLs. And no content will be lost. (Look! A flying pig!)

I imagine there will also be a period of tweaking and bugswatting after that happens, so I'll ask for your patience.

Exactly when we'll pull the trigger, I'm not sure, but some time between this Monday and next Monday seems most likely. I hope you will like the results; I'm quite sure folks will let me know if they do not.

Posted in Discourse.net | Leave a comment

A Brief for Time Travel in History

Grant McCracken:

[E]ven if time travel is not possible, we should prepare for it anyhow. Why? It is, I believe, the single best way to teach history at high school and college.

Sounds fun, but very expensive.

Posted in Etc | Leave a comment

TSA Glow or Grope Policy

Bruce Schneier has lilnks to everything you could want on the TSA Backscatter X-ray Backlash (now with extra groping!).

I'm scheduled to fly on Nov. 24, which has now been declared to be a day of protest against all this. I had already planned to decline any scanning as I've had all the x-rays I need already this year, and then some. I suppose they'll think I'm part of the protest as indeed, to be fair, I might have been anyway. I'm flying late in the day, lines will be long — it's the busiest air traffic day of the year — and TSA professionalism will be stretched, I imagine, to the breaking point. What fun that will be.

Bonus link: Keeping the skies safe from nail clippers (armed returnees from Afghanistan encounter TSA in Indiana).

Posted in Law: Right to Travel | 3 Comments

Give This Guy a TV Show

Alan Grayson is a master at making a point. See for example today's effort, What Republicans Can Do With Their Tax Cuts For The Rich:

The man is not subtle, but he is effective. Given that the voters of his Florida district have replaced him with a dangerously crazy person, Grayson needs a new gig. [Update: as commentator “Mike” points out, I've mixed up my Republicans. Grayson was defeated by the somewhat less crazy Daniel Webster — he's one of the no-abortion-even-cases-of-rape-or-incest 'family values' candidates.]

Someone get him a TV show! (Or maybe talk radio?)

Posted in Politics: US | 3 Comments

A Behanding in Spokane

Dennis Creaghan gives a real performance in Martin McDonagh's confection of a noire play, A Behanding in Spokane. (Yes, “Behanding”.) When Creaghan is on stage, he dominates it. And why shouldn't he — his Carmichael has the gun, he has the lines, he has the presence, even if he doesn't have a hand.

Normally I'd tell you a bit about the story and how this disparate crew happened to end up in a seedy hotel room, but I think that would spoil the experience.

And you might want to have the experience: The GablesStage does this slightly underweight script proud. Set designer Lyle Baskin's hotel room is straight out of the pulps, and perfect for the story. The three other characters mostly exist to play off Creaghan's Irish-American Ahab, and they do it well. Mervyn the bellhop (Erik Fabregat) gets a soliloquy and some nice to-and-fro with the other characters, until the script lets him down a bit at the end. The poor actors who have to play the young couple who ensnare themselves in Carmichael's one-handed madness pretty much do the best they can with what they're given, but Marckenson Charles, who plays Toby, seemed to fade in and out of his misfortunate character while Jackie Rivera's Marilyn was a little one-noteish. It doesn't matter.

Is this the greatest play of the year? No. It's not in the same class as some of GableStage's recent plays, such as Speed-the-Plow, the play that convinced us to become subscribers. But A Behanding in Spokane is a fun 90-minute-without-intermission romp, and even if the ending is a little too pat for my taste, it's worth seeing if you like the theater.

Adult tickets run from $35-$42 depending on what night and whether you qualify for a senior citizen discount. The Friday I attended there were plenty of empty seats in the small theater, and it looked as if most attendees had gotten that discount. That's a shame. The GablesStage is a local treasure, and director Joseph Adler has good, if sometimes slightly strange, taste and guts.

Student tickets are only $15, people, and the theater, located in the Biltmore, is just up the street. Go for it. (Note: the show ends this weekend; I wrote this review just after seeing the play a couple of weeks ago, then emailed the theater asking for a still to illustrate the review. They never replied. Oh well.)

Posted in Kultcha | Leave a comment