Absolutely Disgusting and Disgraceful: TSA Targets Paul Family

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The details are here.

The reason for the blatant harassment?

TSA agents did not cite any specific threat, but insinuated the Paul family was a threat to Mitt Romney, claiming the nominee “might be nearby.”

If I ever needed concrete proof that what the TSA does is not only a violation of human dignity and absolutely intolerable in a country that claims to be free, but also completely unnecessary and politically-motivated (after all Paul publicly criticizes the TSA), this is it.

Love or hate his politics, the idea that Ron Paul, his wife, or anyone else in his family poses a threat to Mitt Romney or anyone else is an absolute joke. Incidents like these make me ashamed of my country, and I am more than disappointed that this is one problem that the GOP in neither able or willing to address.

There is no level of security that is worth this level of invasive and perverted government intrusion into our lives. If the price of “security” is seeing children traumatized, old and disabled people humiliated, women sexually violated, and citizens in general being treated as potential enemies and threats by a fraternity of uniformed government thugs, I will gladly do without it.

Live free or die, America.


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  1. Government over-reach has a more subtle cost. It creates the conditions for “throwing the baby out with the bath-water.”

    When an agency allows an ongoing irritation to fester into an open sore, the People propose, and often eventually get, radical reforms that greatly undermine the benefits of regulation. We have seen this play out time and again and, yet, large organizations continue to stumble into the same trap:

    1. come up with a policy that appears to serve a short term need,
    2. institutionalize that policy without considering alternatives,
    3. reinforce that policy by mandating its absolute adherence, thereby eliminating flexibility on the ground,
    4. add an increasingly complicated and ever expanding set of exceptions, thereby creating the impression that the policy is arbitrary and capricious – in essence, not a policy at all,
    5. make it clear to subordinates that deviation on their part will be harshly dealt with, and
    6. refer back to the intent in step 1 to justify every over-reach.

    When agencies strip the first line supervisors of the authority to deviate from policy and procedure, what you are left with is, in fact, “arbitrary and capricious” in the sense that it doesn’t allow for the myriad of circumstances that demand deviation.

    I challenge Paul’s assertion that TSA is some rogue agency. It is not and could not be. It is badly mismanaged by high level, washingtonian, policy wonks without enough contact with the ground to know what in the hell is going on. Their reaction to every mistake is that it must be a local deviation from policy and procedure because it is impossible for them to imagine that they have made things so damned complicated that no one can effectively comply.

    The idea that Paul was targeted by an agency-wide effort to “punish” him for his public assaults on their agency is laughable. However, the Paul family’s experience is illuminating because in it we see individual agents of the TSA using the over-complicated regulatory architecture to both harass specific citizens and hide behind the underlying purpose for those byzantine regulations.

    Paul’s approach to the TSA – to scrap it as though it were a mistake from the start – is daft, short-sighted, and downright foolish. It displays a mind more accustomed to self-congratulatory rhetoric than careful consideration and it is that kind of nonsense that makes him an unpalatable choice for any executive position. He would, indeed, “throw the baby out with the bath water” and then be justly pilloried ten years from now for having set the conditions for an even more horrific terrorist attack than was perpetrated on September 11th.

    What TSA – and every other agency of our federal, state, and local governments – needs is a regulatory “scrape” – a congressionally mandated review of each and every regulation to determine its purpose, scope, and effectiveness. It can be done and is desperately needed in an age when no one can navigate government policy without the aid of counsel.

    There isn’t anything particularly “revolutionary” in seeking to wipe out government agencies. It is stupid though when those agencies are, in fact, necessary for our national security. A better approach than Paul’s would be to do something novel and farther reaching to make all federal agencies serve America better. For example, we could require that all US codes be reduced by a certain percentage – say 33% – and that all activating instructions be included in those codes. That would go a long way to forcing agencies to simplify and figure out what is actually necessary without creating chaos and risking catastrophe.

    Paul is a quack, an alarmist, and a fool.

  2. claiming the nominee “might be nearby.”

    Ok, so… are not the Romneys and Pauls friends? There were many electrons spilled during that little episode suggesting that Romney may ask Rand Paul to be his running mate.

  3. “The idea that Paul was targeted by an agency-wide effort to “punish” him for his public assaults on their agency is laughable.”

    Right. Because governments throughout history have demonstrated that they usually almost always benevolent, standing high and loftily above ideological disputes, concerned solely with the public good, run not by petty human beings but by public-service automatons running permanently on a 10th-grade civics class programming script.

    I can’t help but think that a bunch of arrogant Brits once derided Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and the rest of the founding fathers the way people like you disparage Ron Paul.

  4. I can’t help but think that a comparison between Ron Paul and Washington, Jefferson, Adams, or Madison is a joke.

    As for the conspiracy theory, it relies upon the false idea that huge, multi-tiered organizations are good at secrecy. If this tale is to be believed, someone noticed that the Pauls were leaving from the airport, routed that information to TSA’s top echelons, a bunch of secret meetings were held to decide how best to “punish” the Pauls for Ron Paul’s attacks, and then specific instructions were sent back down to the officers on the ground to act upon. No whistleblowers… Nope, because the same officers you decry as incompetent, self-serving, and mean are also clever and discrete enough to keep their mouths shut.

    THAT is laughable.

    I don’t proclaim to know any details about this incident beyond what you posted but it seems more likely to me that officers on the ground didn’t like Paul and acted unilaterally and in a mean spirited fashion, under the guise of protecting Romney.

    The reporter sees a grand conspiracy where there is no evidence of one because it fits the narrative of Ron Paul supporters. This is precisely why Ron Paul supporters are considered “fringe.”

    It is a shame. Really, it is. Libertarianism needs a voice because it has a lot to offer to our understanding of the Framers’ intent and what makes America unique and special in the world.

    Frankly, your writing on this site has been an outstanding contribution to my thinking on economics and justice. I can’t for the life of me figure out how someone as bright and articulate as you are can be swept up in this conspiracy nonsense.

    This leads me to believe that you are leading us on, that your support for this whackaloon is a private joke. You just have to be having us on.

  5. ” it seems more likely to me that officers on the ground didn’t like Paul and acted unilaterally and in a mean spirited fashion, under the guise of protecting Romney.”

    That’s basically what I think happened as well, but it has happened more than once. Do I think there is some official memo sent out to all TSA agents, that it is agency policy? No. Do I think the feelings of people who work for the TSA are decidedly anti-Paul and will manifest themselves in unwarranted harassment? Absolutely.

    I’m sorry I went off on you. But I really despise the TSA and what it does to innocent people on a daily basis. It needs its Army-McCarthy moment. It needs to be publicly asked, “have you no decency?”

  6. The problem is that it isn’t the TSA, it is “government” in a very general way and I believe, as I stated above, that it is driven by the regulatory environment itself.

    The latitude to make decisions on what to pursue and when and how to manage the rules in different scenarios is shrinking at every level of government from local code enforcement, through state regulators, and into every facet of federal regulation. There are too damn many lawyers, and “thinking like a lawyer” means exploiting every non-specific word of every regulation. The result is increasingly complex regulations and draconian consequences to agents who want to be reasonable and effective.

    The vast majority of civil servants – including TSA by the way – want to do a good job, want to be flexible and smart in the application of their duties, and want to be thought of as honorable. You only have to be knocked down a few times for letting someone bring a slightly too large bottle of toothpaste through a line though before you start taking out your ruler every time you see a tube.

    The problem is the regulation, not the people and, until we clear the decks like Justinian did, this is just going to get worse. We have become too much like the Eastern Roman Empire. The complaine-of behavior by government actors is a result of that reality.

  7. I don’t proclaim to know any details about this incident beyond what you posted but it seems more likely to me that officers on the ground didn’t like Paul and acted unilaterally and in a mean spirited fashion, under the guise of protecting Romney.

    Or that they asked to search the plane per standing regulations and Lew Rockwell got literary in telling the tale.

  8. That may be true too. I have to agree with Bonchamps though about the broader complaint. The Pauls may be overly dramatic in this tale; doing so certainly fits Ron Paul’s political agenda. However, the fact remains that TSA is constantly running afoul of the kind of limits on government intrusion that American consider normal and acceptable.

    The questions are why and what should be done about it.

  9. Isn’t this SOP for how democratically elected leaders become dictators lately? You start with harassment of minor opposition political opponents. Nothing too overt, just “enforcing the law, sir.” Slowly, it escalates into harassment of bigger opponents, with the quick addition of things like ‘routine reviews’ of broadcast licenses. Cf. Venezuela, Ukraine, for example.

  10. However, the fact remains that TSA is constantly running afoul of the kind of limits on government intrusion that American consider normal and acceptable.

    Constantly? In my limited experience (in Syracuse, N.Y. and Austin, Tx), TSA agents are professional and cordial. It takes more time to get through security than was once the case, but the drill is in essence an extension and elaboration of procedures which have been in place in American airports since 1973. The effort may be misdrected and misinvested, but doing something else would require a discussion of what the optimum might be, which would require a discussion of granular details. Doing so is quite alien to the way the paulbot mind seems to work. You read The American Conservative for a while and you realize its contributors and commentors have no common ideology. They are people who love to bitch.

  11. AD: I love it. I have two titanium, replacement knees. Every time I fly, I get frisked. And, since the got the X-Ray machines, they really go over me. That’s because they got rid of the “wands.”

    That certainly is not optimum. I was taught in HS American History that the government interned the Japanese Americans in 1940 . . . That was wrong, too.

    PS: When was the last time a a 72 year-old Congressman or a 62-year-old white businessman crashed a jumbo jet into a tall building filled with Americans?

  12. My experiences have been generally good too. Of course I’m a “yes Officer,” follow instruction kind of guy.

    Unfortunately, it takes only repetition for an agency to forge a perception of unreasonableness. Pressing on a child’s crotch is probably over the line of propriety unless there is specific information showing that it is necessary. Certainly leaving notes in luggage about peoples’ sex toys looks bad.

    There have been too many cases in which TSA officers have behaved badly to ignore. That doesn’t mean that those cases are other than the rare exception but, when your agency is under close scrutiny , you can’t afford mistakes.

    I admit that I poorly chose the word “constantly.”

  13. Bonchamps,
    I quit reading this blog almost a year ago, after becoming disenchanted by the vicious personal attacks on Ron Paul by many of the writer and commenters, in the few posts that had anything to do with his candidacy or policy positions. I was heartened then, when I came across a link to one of your posts and that brought me back to TAC blog to read your writings, whatever the subject matter.

    You apparently have a significantly greater understanding about true individual freedom, liberty, and responsibility than many who frequent this blog.

    When I read this post, I was anxious to go to the comments and see how quickly Dr. Paul was referred to as a “whackaloon”, a “quack”, or even more silly and meaningless, “associated with Lew Rockwell” Gasp! (maybe Tom Woods, a knowledgeable and respected Catholic historian and writer, could give some readers insight into Mr. Rockwell and his views. I’d urge them to visit his site)

    I think the champion among the commenters for promotion of the “banality of evil” would have to go to G-Veg for his rebuttal containing this gem…”Pressing on a child’s crotch is probably over the line of propriety unless there is specific information showing that it is necessary”. Probably!!? Unless!?!

    Bonchamps, you are correct. The TSA is just one of many group of individuals who, acting as government, threaten the freedom we are so rapidly losing in this world. Please, keep up the good work. I will look forward to your posts.

  14. I quit reading this blog almost a year ago, after becoming disenchanted by the vicious personal attacks on Ron Paul by many of the writer and commenters, in the few posts that had anything to do with his candidacy or policy positions.

    Mr. Bunce, expressed disrespect for a politician who holds to a portfolio of ill-considered policy prescriptions does not constitute a ‘vicious personal attack’. Michelle Bachmann’s husband, minding his own business back in Minnesota, was subject to vicious personal attacks (though not by anyone on this board). Sometimes politicians are subject both to deserved rebukes and to vicious personal attacks (Charlie Crist comes to mind). Better manners, precision, a focus on the issue rather than the person, and a resistance and reserve to offering assessments of someone’s intelligence and character are all to be desired. Of course, palaeoworld discourse would look very different if these prescriptions were observed.

  15. Mr. Bunce, understating for effect is an effective way of making a point. It requires a little thought on the part of the receiver though.

    If you consider my comments in succession, I believe you will see that they naturally flow from one to the other. There is something wrong with government but it is far more serious than Ron Paul and his supporters seem to grasp. I pointed out what, from personal experience, I percieve to be the problem and offered a solution. I critiqued Paul’s approach to dealing with the TSA’s over-reach and addressed the underlying conspiracy allegation with what I believe is a more likely chain of events.

    Theses are policy matters. You addressed none of them and, in true Ron Paul supporter fashion, threw up a victim flag as a rebuttal.

    As for personal attacks, there are several possibilities here: 1. There really is a giant conspiracy and Ron Paul and his supporters are the only ones able to see the truth. Of course, I’ve worked in government for nearly 20 years and have universally found that it is nearly impossible to keep matters confidential that are required to be confidential, much less those that are unlawful. Far too many people would have to be involved and remain silent than is remotely possible. 2. Ron Paul believes really does believe this nonsense. If so, he is, indeed, a whackaloon, a quack, and a fool. Of course it is as likely that he doesn’t believe it, that the ridiculous positions and allegations that regularly flow from his inner circle and office are merely tools to stir up his base, a base that he knows is easily upset and quite vocal.

    There may be other explanations of course and we could spend all day theorizing but, in the end, Ron Paul and his supporters will continue to yell from the sidelines and, as I said before, that is a national tragedy.

    Libertarian thought is the ill-understood undercurrent that drives American politics on the Left and Right. It is the intellectual voice of that visceral response to statism, that gut sense that most Americans possess in some degree that “I just want to be left alone and would be better off if I were.” The tragedy is that Paul is the voice of Libertarianism and he is either a manipulator or an idiot but he is not up to the challenge of bringing Libertarian thought to center stage.

    There is, indeed, something wrong with American government at the local, state, and federal levels and Libertrianism is part of an authentically American response to those problems. If you agree then I urge you to outgrow Ron Paul’s conspiracy-laden fringe movement and carry your ideas into mainstream political discourse.

  16. Well, I think what people are sick of are the haughty dismissals of ideas that appear to be unapproved by the mainstream and considered uncouth by politosnobs.

    Ron Paul is a decent and honorable man. And he did bring Austrian economics center stage by repeatedly and accurately predicting the collapse of the housing bubble on national television. This was primarily responsible for my own personal turn away from statist interventionism towards free market economics. It became quite evident to me who understood how economies work and who was simply blowing moralistic smoke.

    As for conspiracy theories, well – as I said above – governments are generally evil in my opinion. I see nothing insane or deranged about this belief. And in fact the people who dismiss conspiracy theories about their own governments are often eager and willing to believe that foreign governments engage in elaborate conspiracies, especially those marked as enemies by our State Department. There is no evil too dark, dastardly, and Dr. Evil-like in its complexity for Putin, Chavez, or the Ayatollah. But our own leaders, well, they have halos, wings, and harps, perpetually fighting good fight with God’s unconditional blessing.

    It’s enough to make one puke.

  17. I agree on free markets and reining the Fed.

    However, get the facts out there. I recommend reading whatever you can find (on the net) by James Grant, publisher of “Grant’s Interest Rate Observer.”

    Today’s WSJ Op-ed page article, “The Federal Reserve: From Central Bank to Central Planner” by John H. Cochrane, which is a fair overview, despite his over-acceptance of most of the “other duties as assigned” that the Fed usurped since 1914.

    Simply put: The Fed was set up as the lender of last resort for banks (my definitio: an FDIC-insured bank that takes public deposits, a la Glass-Steagall – not Wall Street mega-millionaires, or “too big to fail”, etc.) as such it would lend to banks when they needed liquidity to make loans, meet unexpected deposit withdrawals, etc, with such lending collateralized by sound financial assets held in the Fed vault.

    The banks’ solvency was (should be) solely the responsibilities of owners and managements.

    The Fed’s founding legislation did not empower it to set interest rates, play with the money supply, or manage the economy. In short, it was to be the central bank, the bank for banks, not the central planner for the USA.

    In 1971, the US completed the abandonment of the gold standard and went on the PhD/central planner standard. We see the serial catastrophes that caused.


  18. Bonchamps, you are seriously misinformed if you think a specie based currency prevents asset bubbles. It does no such thing; you had a grand-daddy bubble in the late 1920s in equities. Neither is a specie-based currency or a currency board necessary to re-stabilize prices or to maintain optimal levels of price stability. Neither can the most recent bubble in real estate prices be fairly attributed to the Federal Reserve: you had bubbles as bad or worse in Britain, Ireland, Spain, and China and the decoupling of real estate prices and nominal incomes in the Case-Shiller 10 city set was manifest five years before the Federal Reserve undertook any unusual moves vis a vis the federal funds rate.

    Maintenance of the gold standard was disastrous in this country during the years running from 1929 to 1933 and the country which attempted to institute a currency board most recently was Argentina. That is not the example you want anyone to follow.

    As for Austrian economics, why not look at the bibliographies of Robert Higgs, Hans Herman-Hoppe, Peter Boettke, Steven Horwitz, and Robert Murphy. Higgs has not published any applied research in 30 years or more and never produced much. Murphy has published one piece of hypothesis testing (in cooperation with several others). The other three have between them published a few case studies over the last 25 years. That is an atypical form to make use of in economics literature and that is really it for them. Boettke is quite verbose, publishing reams of commentary and intellectual history and what not, but few observational studies of anything. These people have not been run out of academe (bar, perhaps, Murphy) and economics is not molecular biology or anthropology: research conducted therein is pretty low overhead. Purveyors of vulgar Austrianism are bloody sure we should be making radical policy changes which have uhappy histories and behind these prescriptions is…nothing.

  19. To whom are you directing your comments? I want to know whether I should be offended or not.

    I’ll own my writing but no other here. Reading again what I wrote above, there are ideas I would express differently but none I take back. I’m not the slightest bit intimidated by the unknown and believe I’ve given fair hearing to Libertarianism. A “snob” I don’t believe myself to be.

    As for Ron Paul the man, it may well be that he is a great guy: honorable, smart, a good judge, and a patriot. I don’t dismiss the idea that he is a better man than I know. However, I think many of his ideas are extreme and I fundamentally disagree with his plans, such as they are, for the TSA; which, I feel compelled to remind you, is the only of Paul’s ideas that you specifically detailed in your post.

    Finally, your conspiracy theory comment is a straw man and, given your demonstrated debating skills, you know it. I have said only that the theory that the TSA is out to get Ron Paul because of his valliant stand against them is a conspiracy theory of the firat order and is laughable. If you want to give me a list of domestic and foreign conspiracy theories to check off, I’ll be happy to own any that I hold.

  20. G-Veg,

    I wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular. I was just rambling about tendencies I’ve noticed.


    I think it is simplistic to reduce Ron Paul’s/the Austrian school’s account of the housing bubble to “blame it on the Fed.” That’s all I’m going to say for now.

  21. AD: Central panning has proven catastrophic. Look at the record from 1914.

    This housing bubble-bust/CDO catastrophe/auto industry implosion/great recession could not have happened, or have been as all-devastating, without Fed and big government/do-gooder interference in the markets. They eternally cause asset and resource misallocations.

    Obama and collectivists/central planners, bless their hearts, have the gall to dishonestly blame free markets.

    Since late 2008, I’ve been, whenever I get ten minutes, trying to put together the pieces that caused this mess. Hey, no one else has!

    I misspent the past 35 years in the financial services industry. As old Navy vets would say, “I shit you not. I was there.”

    I worked through financial fiascoes since the US southwest energy and midwest agricultural crises of the early 1980’s; the lesser-developed country debt crisis of the mid-1980’s (about that time the first national bank chartered in the US failed); the S&L/RTC crisis of 1989 to 1992+; the commercial real estate bust of the early 1990’s. Throw in there a little incident concerning a certain Long-Term Capital Management, which is important to the present maelstrom as it was the Fed-arranged bail-out.

    Then, we had good ten years – no loan losses, high profits (the SEC was running amok forcing banks not to provide reserves for loan losses – “I shit you not.” I have the memos.) – and a perceived, new paradigm.

    The Fed kept rates far too low, far too long. Each time rates went down there was a wave of mortgage refinancings. And, people began to use their homes as ATM’s to buy beamers and vacation homes, with widespread tragic consequences.

    HUD capo Andrew Cuomo directed US GSE’s (FNMA/FHLMC) to rapidly expand mortgage purchases adding far too much liquidity (dollars available to lend) into the residential real estate markets. The appraisal profession refused to recognize that house prices cannot keep rising 10% – 15% a year when the numbers of households (median family incomes were stagnant from 1999). Numbers of families with incomes to support $3,000; $4,000; 5,000 a month loan payments were not increasing; and (Why don’t central planners and PhD’s look at charts? – Because it wasn’t in the central plan.) the GDP was not rising in step with house prices.

    Too many embraced the myth that real estate prices never drop (even though we had seen it ten years earlier, and several other periods).

    Everyone: I mean everyone was making money, which impeded corrective action.

    I could go on, but it gets too sad and it’s Saturday.

    Paul Ryan was one of the few to try to slow down FNMA/FHLMC. For his efforts the dirty pols/GSE employees (see 2004/5 SEC fine of $400 million for FNMA accounting lies) sent letters to his constituents charging he was out to raise home loan interest rates.

    I won’t go over the hundreds of millions of dollars (including $143,00 to neophyte senator Barry Sotoero) in political graft payments by FNMA and FHLMC. That is grist for another mill.

  22. A. There is no central planning. The various levels of government interfere in markets as a matter of routine, but not in any co-ordinated way. Sometimes the intervention is a function of patron-client politics (see the tax code), sometimes an exercise in public relations (the Robert C. Byrd Center for Blah Blah Blah), and sometimes it is in response to factors very circumscribed in space and time (e.g. local land-use planning).

    B. The Federal Reserve acts as a lender of last resort. It also regulates the dimensions of the monetary base and influences the dimensions of broader measures of money. That is what central banks do. It is not some sort of American equivalent to GOSPLAN and past efforts to defend a dollar-gold parity have had most unfortunate results. That is one aspect of why we have ended up with a fiat currency on an independent float, as preferred by that arch central planner, Milton Friedman.

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