(By Mike Twohy in The New Yorker)
Observations by and for the vaguely disenchanted.
Risking the wrath of the whatever
from high atop the thing.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not supporting Ron Paul for President. His inflexible interpretation of the Constitution would make the nation ungovernable.
That said, there are provisions in our founding document that are inviolable. And on those points, there is no greater advocate than Dr. Paul.
His commentary below- taken from his website- is a prime example of what drives me nuts about him. The first portion eloquently deals with the continuing decay of our protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The last half veers off into the murky depths of Second Amendment selectivism, the folks who only read "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" but skip over the qualifying bit about "A well regulated militia." Here's his commentary:
If you thought the "Transportation Security Administration" would limit itself to conducting unconstitutional searches at airports, think again. The agency intends to assert jurisdiction over our nation's highways, waterways, and railroads as well. TSA launched a new campaign of random checkpoints on Tennessee highways last week, complete with a sinister military-style acronym–VIP(E)R—as a name for the program.
As with TSA's random searches at airports, these roadside searches are not based on any actual suspicion of criminal activity or any factual evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever by those detained. They are, in effect, completely random. So first we are told by the U.S. Supreme Court that American citizens have no Fourth Amendment protections at border crossings, even when standing on U.S. soil. Now TSA takes the next logical step and simply detains and searches U.S. citizens at wholly internal checkpoints.
The slippery slope is here. When does it end? How many more infringements on our liberties, our property, and our basic human rights to travel freely will it take before people become fed up enough to demand respect from their government? When will we demand that the government heed obvious constitutional limitations, and stop treating ordinary Americans as criminal suspects in the absence of probable cause?
The real tragedy occurs when Americans incrementally become accustomed to this treatment on the roads just as they have become accustomed to it in the airports. We already accept arriving at the airport two or more hours before a flight to get through security; will we soon have to build in an extra two or three hours into our road trips to allow for checkpoint traffic?
Worse, some people are lulled into a false sense of security and are actually grateful for this added police presence! Should we really hail the expansion of the police state as an enhancement to safety? I submit that an attitude of acquiescence to TSA authority is thoroughly dangerous, un-American, and insulting to earlier freedom-loving generations who built this country.
I am certain people will complain about this, once they have to sit in stopped traffic for a few extra hours to allow for random searches of cars. However, I am also certain it merely will take another "foiled" plot to silence many people into gladly accepting more government mismanagement of safety.
Vigilant, observant, law-abiding, gun-owning citizens defend themselves and stop crimes every day before police can respond. That is the source of real security in America: the Second Amendment right to defend oneself. The answer is for people to be empowered to protect themselves. Yet how many weapons might these checkpoints confiscate? Even when individual go through all the legal hoops of licensing and permits, the chances of harassment or outright confiscation of weapons and detention of citizens when those weapons are found at a TSA checkpoint is extremely high.
Disarming the highways and filling them full of jack-booted thugs demanding to see our papers is no way to make them safer. Instead, it is a great way to expand government surveillance powers and tighten the noose around our liberties.
The thing I admire about Paul is that he speaks in complete sentences and delivers well-formed thoughts. I may not agree with all of them, and some I would oppose with every fiber of my being. But there's no question in my mind that Paul loves this country, and he's honest and sincer in his efforts to represent the people.
President Paul? I can't support that. But Congressman Paul, or Senator Paul? I have to admit that he'd probably get my vote.
But there's no way I'd live in Texas. I like the guy, but even patriotism has its limits.
If you should to see this happening at an airport, don't stand mute and permit the seemingly never-ending assault on our rights to continue. Do what I plan to do. While in a location where it would take a few seconds for a TSA agent to reach you, drop your pants, whip off your shirt and undergarments, and scream "I'm an American guaranteed Fourth Amendment Rights by our Constitution, and I'm Opting Out." While this might not be an approach that's equally effective for everyone, believe me: I will be noticed.
I should note that to this point I've never challenged any demands made of me by airport security, regardless of their absurdity and intrinsic worthlessness as effective security measures. I've been questioned, asked to remove items from my baggage, wanded, and body scanned by the generally polite TSA folk without incident.
But what TSA is doing now is reprehensible. These scare tactics of overkill, and the blatant, willful disregard of our basic rights as citizens, are profoundly wrong and should not be tolerated by anyone who considers himself and American.
To quote actor and former National Rifle Association president, the late Charleton Heston:
"Well, the answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people."
"You simply disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely."
"But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey the social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom."
There is something fundamentally wrong in a society that allows people to carry concealed weapons into Starbucks but harasses attractive young women and grandmas in wheelchairs just because they make perfect participants in the theater of the absurd that TSA calls "security."
In the mid to late 90s, the Internal Revenue Service was the object of Congressional hearings when the agency engaged in egregious and reprehensible activities "for the greater good." Congress stopped the IRS' Gestapo-like tactics in short order after they were exposed. It's time for them to do it again. Stop this insult to our rights and our basic dignity. Now.
Write the President. Write your Senator and Congressman. If you or a friend are insulted or assaulted by TSA and/or local police at the airport, do what we Americans do best: bitch, at the top of your lungs, to everyone and anyone in authority. Make a scene. Get as many witnesses as possible. Get as much information as possible and contact the American Civil Liberties Union.
Don't interfere or disrupt normal screening processes. But if TSA decides to make you the star of their little security pageant, by God, make the performance a memorable one.
This is America, folks. Our service men and women are making supreme sacrifices overseas to guarantee our freedom. Let's do our part by defending the Constitution here at home as well.