Common Sense

Why Won’t Obama Curb the TSA?

Published April 29th, 2011 by tcarpenter

The Transportation Security Administration’s outrages against air travelers reached new heights earlier this month with the (very) thorough pat-down of six-year-old Anna Drexel at the New Orleans airport.  Not only did that action violate common sense, it violated common decency.  The girl’s parents caught the horrific incident on their cell phone video camera, and it immediately went viral on the internet.   After being subjected to what one critic later described as the “freedom fondle,” Anna burst into tears.  That was hardly a surprise.  She had been told repeatedly by her parents and teachers that it was wrong, wrong, wrong for any stranger to touch her in her private places.  Anyone, that is, except arrogant, thuggish bureaucrats working for the TSA.  Talk about mixed messages!

Angry members of Congress have introduced legislation to bar such procedures on young children in the future.  But why should legislation be needed to end the practice–and the TSA’s other offenses against the basic civil liberties of the American people?  The TSA is an agency of the executive branch.  President Obama is the head of the executive branch.  He could order an end to all such abuses with the stroke of his pen on an executive order.  Why has he not done so?  His failure on this issue is just the latest piece of evidence that all of his  rhetoric about “hope and change” in the 2008 presidential campaign was just that–empty rhetoric.  

Decent Americans have had more than enough of the TSA’s airport security theater–useless and obnoxious intrusions on our civil liberties in the name of preventing terrorism.   If President Obama is too timid or uncaring to rein-in this rogue agency, Congress should do it without further delay.

School Hair Police At It Again

Published September 14th, 2010 by tcarpenter

There is yet another story about a school district giving an in-school suspension to a boy for daring to have long hair.  And once again it’s in Texas, this time in the town of Itasca.  (There really must be something in the water in the Lone Star State.)

In this case, the authorities have suspended the sixth-grade boy, Kenneth Fails, for 14 weeks, apparently directing him do little but look at a wall all day.  His furious mother, Marsha Wisnosky, confronted the school board last night.  Their reaction?  Dead silence.  They would not respond to her complaints, the arguments she presented, or her request for a policy change.  They were the perfect symbol of an arrogant public school  bureaucracy.  How dare a mere peon parent criticize how they run their school system!

This case and others like it confirm the need for school vouchers or a program of school tax credits to produce a robust system of private schools.  As it now stands, about the only people who can send their children to private schools are the affluent or those affiliated with churches willing to provide a big subsidy.  The government-run schools (aka public schools) operate the way you would expect any protected monopoly to operate–with inefficiency, lack of innovation, and pervasive arrogance.

A robust private school system in competition with the government-run schools would enable parents like Wisnosky to have choices.  She could find a school that didn’t regard hair length on boys as more important than academics.  And parents who want their sons to look like Marine recruits could send their kids to authoritarian schools with strict dress and grooming codes.

The current arrangement denies the element of choice to most people.  Instead, we have a “one size fits all” model.  If pro-skinhead families are in the majority in your school district, your preferences simply get trampled.  Doesn’t sound very American, does it?

Security Gestapo Strikes Again

Published June 25th, 2010 by tcarpenter

Just when you think that the guardians of airport security, the TSA (Terminally Stupid Agency), can’t get any more obnoxious in the way that it treats hapless airline passengers, along comes this little gem.  The arrogant TSA bureaucrats have now moved beyond frisking grandmothers and small children as possible terrorists and are now humiliating amputees as part of the airport screening process.  Ah, our tax dollars at work.  Our civil liberties RIP.

Death of Common Sense: More School Episodes

Published May 25th, 2010 by tcarpenter

Yes, our zealous educational bureaucrats are at it again.  This time, yet another school in Texas imposed a bizarre, one-week suspension on an elementary school student.  Her offense?  Possession of a Jolly Rancher’s candy that a friend had given her.  It seems the healthy food police insist that possession of such evil contraband was a blatant violation of the rules and could not go unpunished.  

Now, I love Texas.  My wife and I lived in the state for 14 years in the 1970s and 1980s, and we plan to have our primary retirement home there.  But after this latest incident, I was beginning to wonder if there was something in the water supply that was causing Texans to lose all semblance of good judgment.  (It could also explain why they inflicted both Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush on the nation.)

It soon became apparent, though, that the loss of common sense is not unique to Texas schools.  School administrators in Georgia suspended an autistic student for drawing a stick figure gun with a caption that implied he would like to shoot his teacher.  Not only did he receive a suspension, he now faces possible felony charges.  Although the child is 14 years old, his parents and others insist that he has the mental capacity of a third grader.  Nice way to show compassion and a sense of proportion, Georgia bureaucrats.

Do All School Bureaucrats Lack Common Sense?

Published February 5th, 2010 by tcarpenter

The good people of New York City have been saved from a pint-size criminal.  It seems that Patrick Timoney, a fourth grade student at PS 52, dared to bring a weapon to school.  That weapon was a 2-inch plastic gun from his Lego set.  The PS 52 principal lectured young Patrick about the evil nature of his offense and threatened him with suspension.

Now, one might simply write-off this incident as the over-reaction of one school bureaucrat, except that a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education subsequently defended the action.  She stressed that the district had a “zero tolerance” policy for weapons, real or toy, brought on school grounds.  Apparently the district also has a zero common sense policy.   Anyone with an IQ above room temperature should be able to tell that a two-inch Lego is not a weapon. 

And these people are paid to educate our children?

More Idiocy From the TSA

Published January 16th, 2010 by tcarpenter

Just when you think the “security” measures at the airports can’t get any more absurd, along comes this gem.  It seems that the latest terrorist suspect is an 8-year-old Cub Scout, Michael “Mikey” Hicks.   The practitioners of security theater (taking highly visible measures to make travelers feel safer without actually making them safer) are alert to the dire menace that he poses.  They might have failed to stop the underwear bomber from getting on the plane, despite numerous warning signals, but they’re not about to ignore this lethal threat.  Little Mikey is on their watch list, and they subject the poor kid to a pat down whenever he and his parents try to fly.  Apparently, he has the same name as a real terror suspect.  But wouldn’t you think that reasonably intelligent adults could figure out that an 8-year-old is not the person they’re looking for?  Oh, wait… we’re talking about the TSA, where no intelligent adults need apply.

More Hair Micromanagement in Texas

Published January 12th, 2010 by tcarpenter

An update to last month’s decision by a school board in Mesquite, Texas to impose an in-school suspension on a four-year-old boy for the heinous crime of having long hair.  You can always count on bureaucrats, especially public school bureaucrats, to stick to a dumb policy no matter how much the evidence mounts that it’s a dumb policy.  True to form, the educational bureaucrats in Texas have offered a “compromise” to the parents of young Taylor Pugh, the miscreant who insists on maintaining a long hair style.  They can braid his hair–as long as the braids don’t come past his ears.

How a boy with braids is less of a “distraction” in the classroom (the official justification for the suspension) than a boy with long hair, I will leave it up to the Texas hair police to explain.  If this is the best that so-called educators can do with their time, I know a way that the hard-pressed Texas state budget could save some money.  Eliminate those positions and divert back to the state treasury whatever funds are used to pay for them.

Repeat after me: We are not the Taliban.  We should not try to dictate hair styles.

Bureaucratic Control Freaks in Texas Schools

Published December 17th, 2009 by tcarpenter

If you saw this story, you might assume that you slipped back in time to 1959.   The educational bureaucrats of Texas have suspended a boy–a preschooler, no less–for having excessively long hair.  The tot actually looks quite dapper–at least in any civilized part of the country.   Furthermore, he was growing his hair so that he could later have it cut and donated to a charity that provides wigs to cancer victims who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments.  One would think that he would receive praise, not be bullied, for such a generous impulse.

Even if charity had not been his motive, such idiotic regimentation should have disappeared by the end of the 1960s.  But apparently it hasn’t in certain authoritarian precincts in the South.  I have a suggestions for the Texas hair police, who apparently believe that every young male ought to look like he’s planning to have a career in the Marines.  You have enough of a challenge educating the next generation, and most of the public schools aren’t doing a very good job at that task.  Stop trying to dictate such things as grooming preferences.  This is supposed to be a free country, and you might at least try to maintain that illusion a little longer with respect to your students.

Death of Common Sense–New Episodes

Published September 29th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Just when you think law enforcement bureaucrats can’t get any more irrational, comes this story (hat tip to my Cato Institute colleague Dan Mitchell) from Indiana.  A grandmother ran afoul of the drug war laws by making two purchases of cold medicine for her family.

When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won’t endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.

…Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

The good citizens of Indiana can now rest easier knowing this nefarious drug lord has been apprehended.  Whatever happened to the concept of discretion by police and prosecutors?  Whatever happened to common sense?

And then there is this story about how a young couple lost custody of their young children for a month after a Wal-mart employee forwarded “bath-time” photos they had taken of the children to the authorities.  How many parents over the decades would have run afoul of such absurd suspicions of child pornography, if that standard had been the norm?

I’m interested in suggestions about how Americans can rein-in this runaway zealotry before it turns our country into something resembling the fascist and communist systems we used to abhor.

Inmates Running the Asylum, Episode 308

Published September 8th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Parents who dare to be affectionate to their children had better think twice about visiting Brazil with them after this episode.  I guess it’s nice to know that U.S. law enforcement bureaucrats are not the only ones who can be irrational zealots.  That realization, however, is mighty small comfort.  Why has common sense apparently died all over the world?