Archive for March, 2009



The TSA’s Latest Idiocy

Published March 21st, 2009 by tcarpenter

In his farewell speech to Congress in 1951, General Douglas MacArthur intoned that “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”  Likewise, bad policy ideas never die.  Unfortunately, they never fade away either.  They just get recycled.  The latest example is the decision by the Transportation Security Administration to resume random screenings of airport passengers at the gate.  After massive complaints from the public, the TSA abandoned that absurd practice several years ago.

Of all the post-9-11 airport “safety” measures, the random screenings were the most intrusive and useless.  All too many instances arose in which the randomly selected passenger turned out to be a toddler or a 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair.  As if there was even a snowball’s chance in Hell that such individuals were possible terrorists.  My colleague Doug Bandow has a good piece on that practice. 

Most of the TSA’s measures at airports are designed to show activity rather than have any real relevance to stopping terrorism, and the random searches were the most blatant examples of activity for the sake of activity.  Why America’s security bureaucrats have decided to bring back that useless policy is anyone’s guess.   Perhaps TSA really stands for Terminally Stupid Actions.

Clueless Conservatives at CPAC

Published March 2nd, 2009 by tcarpenter

The annual multi-day Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held last week underscored all that is defective with the current conservative movement.  Two of the key speeches were delivered by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  Both speeches were largely clueless–but in somewhat different ways. 

In his rambling, 90-minute closing address, Limbaugh assured the audience that conservatives didn’t need to change their policies, they merely needed “a leader.”  That diagnosis would have had to improve several notches to reach vacuous. 

Gingrich at least grasped that conservative policies needed some retooling, but his prescriptions were horrifyingly bad.  He would retain (indeed intensify) all of the worst conservative policies while jettisoning the best policies and replacing them with some some of the worst bromides liberals have to offer.  In short, he would combine the social authoritarianism, hawkish military policies, and indifference to civil liberties that conservatism has recently displayed together with big government domestic spending programs (of course, for conservative rather than liberal pet projects) and nation-building schemes abroad that make the hearts of “progressives” go pitter-patter.  His approach is precisely the opposite of the proper strategy.

One area where conservatives drastically need to change course is national security policy.   At CPAC, the mind-numbing cliche that conservatives “stand for a strong national defense” was again on display.  Unfortunately, for most conservatives today, “strong national defense” is merely a euphemism for three dubious measures: 1) Generously funding every item the Pentagon has ever had on its wish list; 2) continuing to subsidize the defense of prosperous so-called allies who free-ride on U.S. security protection–and in many cases have done so for decades; and 3) a military to implement a strategy of meddling in disputes half way around the world that have little or no connection to genuine American interests.  Not surprisingly, that approach is appealing less and less to Americans who are not fond of squandering tax dollars or needlessly sacrificing the lives of their loved ones.

It is not real conservativsim to treat the Pentagon like a political sacred cow instead of a typical bureaucracy with its own agenda, and to embrace a military budget that is nearly as large as the budgets of the rest of the world COMBINED.  It is not real conservativism to favor continuing to spend tens of billions of American tax dollars to subsidize the defenses of international military welfare queens who purport to be allies.  It is not real conservatism to risk American lives, and perhaps the very existence of this country, to intervene in parochial quarrels to back vulnerable and nonessential client states.  And it is not real conservatism to endorse utopian nation-building ventures that are simply international versions of the kind of arrogant social engineering schemes here in the United States that conservatives have so rightly condemned.

Until the current crop of conservatives get the issue of national security right, their movement is likely to remain in the political wilderness.  And it deserves to remain there.