‘Security Theater’ and the Hidden ‘Bush Tax’

Ed Felton posts an annecdote that perfectly captures the absurdity of the Security Theater we all endure at airports.

I read once that if everyone has to go to the airport an hour earlier than they used to, the nation annually loses productivity equal to the amount of destruction that the 9/11 bombing cost. A little googling suggests that the number may be as low as half a World Trade Center bombing per year. [One estimate suggests that the annual value of time lost by business and leisure travelers because of airport delays in 1999 was $11.8 billion, while a different (2001) estimate put the cost of the of the WTC clearnup and reconstruction at $23 billion.] Even half a WTC per year is handing terrorists a major, continuing victory. Spending the money on useless show is handing terrorists a giant, continuing victory.

I call it the Bush tax.

This entry was posted in National Security. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to ‘Security Theater’ and the Hidden ‘Bush Tax’

  1. MP says:

    Easy solution: stop the anti-racial-profiling madness.

  2. Michael says:

    Eh? Promoting racial discrimination helps us how? We are supposed to be fighting bigotry (including Islamic fundamentalist bigotry) not embracing it.

    I bet you are white, and not subject to profiling.

    Go read this. The go read this.

  3. Pingback: Descriptive Epistemology

  4. MP says:

    In the original article that you said “perfectly captures the absurdity of the Security Theater we all endure at airports,” the author says: “In front of me is an All-American family of five, Mom, Dad, and three young children, obviously headed somewhere hot and sunny.” Do you not get what he is implying?

    I bet his All-American family was white or black, but certainly not middle-eastern looking.

    “I bet you are white, and not subject to profiling.”

    You’re only half correct. There are a number of scholarships I would be ineligible for were I to apply as a student to the University of Miami. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the University of Michigan Law School can treat my application as less deserving than someone else’s of another race but otherwise identical in substance.

    Ahhh…so de minimis descrimination is OK in academic circles, but not at the airport, despite the fact terrorist attacks are most likely to be committed by arab looking, young, single men?

    Or what do you propose, no security at airports?

    Since only a fool would propose such a thing, I don’t see how you could possibly call the security cost a “Bush Tax”. Why not the “ACLU Tax”, or more appropriately, the “Bin Laden tax.”

    Compared to most of the world, our airports move a lot quicker and are less intrusive in terms of security checks, even after 9/11.

    Its OK. These mindless attacks you guys launch on Bush are just a sure sign to me that you’re starting to realize that Kerry will loose big time.

  5. Michael says:

    I hope you are only pretending to be a law student. This sort of argument argues poorly for your future otherwise.

    In the original article that you said “perfectly captures the absurdity of the Security Theater we all endure at airports,” the author says: “In front of me is an All-American family of five, Mom, Dad, and three young children, obviously headed somewhere hot and sunny.” Do you not get what he is implying?

    No.

    I bet his All-American family was white or black, but certainly not middle-eastern looking.

    I didn’t read that into it. But it’s likely given how few middle-eastern families there are in the US relative to whites and blacks. I don’t see what the ethnicity of the family has to do with the security value of warning them they’ll be searched and/or letting a member of the party choose which bags will be searched.

    “I bet you are white, and not subject to profiling.”

    You’re only half correct. There are a number of scholarships I would be ineligible for were I to apply as a student to the University of Miami. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the University of Michigan Law School can treat my application as less deserving than someone else’s of another race but otherwise identical in substance.

    Ahhh…so de minimis descrimination is OK in academic circles, but not at the airport, despite the fact terrorist attacks are most likely to be committed by arab looking, young, single men?

    I don’t recall making any statement about universities at all. The tactic of putting words into someone else’s mouth may work in student debating, but it won’t work real well in serious law practice. While all forms of racial discrimination are suspect, there is a difference between private discrimination in the provision of an ex gracia benefit and the state’s decision regarding against whom it applies the power of the police.

    I suspect that you would not trade whiteness for other ethnicity if you could make an ex ante choice. Would you trade a chance at a few scholarships for being stopped repeatedly for “driving while black”? I would not.

    Since you brought in the irrelevancy, here is a thumbnail of my view on university admissions (a bigger issue than scholarships here, since we have so few of them):

    I fully support class-based discrimination in education. In short, if your parents are poor and (not or) uneducated, I think equal or even somewhat lower paper credentials creates a presumption of greater merit compared to someone whose parents are rich and/or well-educated.

    In the unlikely event that adoption of this policy were to produce a student body with a demographic substantially out of line with that of the nation (e.g. lacking participation from any minority group significantly represented in the potential applicant age cohort) then I’m prepared to discuss what steps should be taken next, since I consider diversity of all sorts, including ethnicity, to be a positive value to the education of all students.

    The last time I checked, minority students at UM Law had pretty much the same credentials as white anglos over the long term. The numbers are sufficiently small that there is some fluctuation (yes, including higher) from year to year.

    Or what do you propose, no security at airports?

    I would propose we start by only spending money on things that are cost-effective. Security theater has only two purposes: making voters feel good, and buying insulation for the administration if there’s a second attack (see! we did all we could!). Bruce Schneier has written extensively on this, as have many others.

    Since only a fool would propose such a thing, I don’t see how you could possibly call the security cost a “Bush Tax”. Why not the “ACLU Tax”, or more appropriately, the “Bin Laden tax.”

    As I recall the ACLU had no say in it. Neither did Bin Laden. Again, the Bush tax is the deadweight loss caused by the imposition of so-called security measures whose contribution to security is very small compared to their costs.

    Compared to most of the world, our airports move a lot quicker and are less intrusive in terms of security checks, even after 9/11.

    I just completed a trip abroad: Amsterdam via London. We are much, much slower than the very efficient Dutch (although the wait at the KLM ticket counter more than ate the savings!). My MIA experience on the way out was slower than Heathrow on the way out, but much faster than Heathrow on the way back.

  6. MP says:

    “I hope you are only pretending to be a law student. This sort of argument argues poorly for your future otherwise.”

    Wrong again.

  7. michael says:

    Well, it’s always nice to hear that UM students and grads are doing well.

  8. Jean Winters says:

    The comment on UM lost me, but this thread is important.
    Profiling invites abuse. The fallout from 9-11 has proved this over and over, in the publicized hate crimes — and the many injustices that are only beginning to surface.

    At UM, I took a workshop which gave me the opportunity to meet a young pre-Med student named Vishnu Persad. Vishnu is from Trinidad.
    He looks mid-Eastern.
    Months after a shooting in Palm Beach County, Vishnu was ‘fingered’ through an anonymous tip. This shooting turned into Palm Beach’s first ‘road rage’ case, in a trial shortly after 9-11-01. With NO physical evidence and only one “questionable” eye witness (in the words of a 4th DCA judge), Vishnu was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 43 years in prison.

    Not long ago my husband and I drove Vishnu’s mother and father to jail to see their son.
    The sadness in Vishnu’s eyes belied his cheerful optomism. I felt him imploring me – someone– to help.
    In Vishnu, I had seen the ideals that have for so long attracted immigrants to our shores – the proverbial American dream. Vishnu’s dream is to study medicine. For his parents, it is to see their son free.

    Vishnu was the wrong nationality at a time and place unlike any other in our recent history. Indeed, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ironically, that wasn’t the crime scene, but simply South Florida in 2001.

    Vishnu’s father has suffered from heart problems since their son’s conviction. His mother lost her job.
    They still believe – or want to believe – that justice will prevail.
    As a recent law grad, I want to believe it will.
    As a mother and grandmother, I want to cry at the outrage of it all.

  9. MP says:

    I just mentioned UM because I thought michael worked there. I didn’t graduate from there.

    How does your post tie in with airport security?

    Is the following statement true regarding Persad?:
    “Vishnu Persad, the man convicted of shooting her, had three felony
    charges against him; two had been adjudicated, and one dropped.”

  10. Jean says:

    Vishnu had prior charges – I believe 2 of the 3 were juvenile. None were violence related.
    I have read his trial transcript, and the quotes I used were those from the 4th DCA.
    Have you followed his case?

    It addresses an issue of profiling. I believe I commented on that in my post.

  11. Jean says:

    I mentioned UM because I did graduate from law school there. It’s a good law school.

    —–

  12. Pingback: Descriptive Epistemology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *