New Contest: Can You Out-Lame the TSA?

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Last week, in response to my article about the idiocy of airport security, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, essentially conceded the main argument of my article, which was that America's aviation security system is not designed to catch smart terrorists, but stupid terrorists. Here's what Hawley wrote last week:

"Clever terrorists can use innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities. But don't forget that most bombers are not, in fact, clever. Living bomb-makers are usually clever, but the person agreeing to carry it may not be super smart. Even if "all" we do is stop dumb terrorists, we are reducing risk."

Not quite believable. And yet he really said it.

And so, a contest: How would the Hawley Principle of Federally-Endorsed Mediocrity apply to other government endeavors?

To get you started, here's an example:

"FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison said yesterday in a press conference that his agency is well-equipped to cope with the consequences of strong winds and heavy precipitation. `FEMA has been criticized for its performance during Hurricane Katrina, but I would like to point out that Katrina was a very big hurricane,' he said. 'Most storms, in fact, don't become hurricanes, and it is these storms that we will focus our efforts on.' Paulison went on to say that FEMA is also prepared to handle the after-effects of such moderate storms as minor flooding, downed tree branches, and missing cats."

So, go to it. E-mail your entries to Goldberg.Atlantic@gmail.com.  The Goldblog reader who comes up with the funniest application of the Hawley Principle wins a subscription to the Atlantic. If the winner is already a subscriber, well, thank you very much for your support.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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