Pigs Fly. Also, I Agree with Charles Krauthammer

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1) The TSA excesses are creating strange bedfellows. Charles Krauthammer writes today about the "idiocy" of the TSA's approach to airline security, including the nuttiness of body-searching the same pilots who will soon have the flight controls in their hands. David Weigel, via Andrew Sullivan has his own analysis of why, as in the case of Krauthammer, the TSA is proving the one issue that can bring about previously elusive bipartisan unity.

1A) Bonus idiocy point about strip-searching the pilots, as a United pilot pointed out to me yesterday. I don't know this first hand, but I'm told that most airline cockpits come equipped with a safety device known as the "crash axe." This is to allow the flight crew to break through cockpit windows or doors, if needed for escape from a crashed plane. Even my little Cirrus propeller airplane comes with a crash-hammer, whose "safety" purpose is to let you get out through the cockpit windows but which, like the "crash axe," would work perfectly well to brain someone.
 
So, pilots must be patted down, to make sure they have nothing hidden in their underwear; and we insist on this safety-first step before trusting them not only to fly the plane but to do so with an axe in arm's reach? Where in God's name is the logic of taking pen knives or over-3-ounce tubes of toothpaste away from them in these circumstances? I think this is the kind of "security" "strategy" for which the term WTF was invented.

2) Back to flying pigs: Mark Steyn, serving today as guest host for Rush Limbaugh, spent much of the show railing against the stupid ineffectiveness of relying on pat-downs-for-everyone, rather than emphasizing the intelligence-based approach that has actually thwarted recent  attacks. He also wrote today in the same vein:

>>We caught the millennium bomber at the British Columbia Washington State boarding [sic - he means 'border'], not because we were examining his hair gel or because we were feeling around in his underwear, but because the agent used simple human judgment about how nervous and shifty he was. If we had had this system in place, he would have whizzed through and he would have wound up blowing up LA Airport.

This is the insanity.<<

2A) Back to the Weigel/ Sullivan analysis: Yes, it's probably true that the "Red State" side of this Red State/Blue State anti-TSA alliance reflects a standard anti-government attitude -- which, with the passing of the Bush-Cheney era, finally dares express itself against the national security state too. That's OK with me. I will disagree with these people on other issues, like medical care. I'm with them on this one.

3) Back to idiocy. An executive-branch official in Washington writes to remind me of a reality familiar to people who have attended official events here:

>>I know you're trying to cut back on the security theater posts, but the metal detector comment in the last one reminded me of something. You have probably gone to public events with the President. Screening is always by metal detectors - no backscatter machines or shoe removal or whatever.<<

Exactly so.

4) Gee, for whatever surprising reason, neither TSA's director, John Pistole, nor its main new-media voice, "Blogger Bob," has yet taken up the invitation to explain their side of the story to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and/or me.  I'm sure we'll hear from them soon.

(And, yes, I'm resisting the standard jokes about what kind of inspection the pigs would need to go through before they could fly.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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