First of all... I would very much like to agree with wil when he says:
But I am happy that, now more than ever, we can all conduct ourselves here with dignity and aplomb, and argue ideas, not personalities.
I was pleasantly surprised that the general tone of the conversation was civil and centered on the issue and didn't degenerate into a flame war. It was beautiful. It was dynamic. There were so many people focusing on different aspects of the same article and drawing so many different conclusions from it. [If you haven't read the above posts yet, I recommend you do. It's worth the time.]
Now back to the discussion topic...
Freedom of Speech and all the other (real and exaggerated) freedoms are guaranteed to US Citizens by the Government. The airlines are run by privately held companies. You have no Right of Transportation in the Bill of Rights. Yes, this is public transportation ... with oversight by the government, but the government doesn't run the airlines and the government doesn't run the security for the airlines. Do you want them to take this over so that your "rights" apply? [Isn't that a more chilling idea? Isn't that giving up more freedom (privately held industries) than your choice of reading materials on a plane?] While the airlines are still privately held - property rights apply. It's their planes. They can say who they do and don't want on them - no matter how arbitrary or restrictive they choose to apply their rules; it's still their rules. If they wanted to ban all people wearing green shirts or all people with black hair, they could do that. And you could choose to buy a ticket elsewhere - or take a train, or take a bus, or drive your car to your destination. That's where *your* property rights come in - it's your money. Hey, I hated it when they banned smoking on planes, but it's their right to do so. It's also my right to choose to purchase alternate transportation so I can enjoy my cigs. And their right to ban anyone they choose is no more ominous than wil's decision to ban "I'm first" comments. It's his blog. There is no impact on your right to free speech when he deletes your comment. He's not the government. And yes, it's the same thing. It's only the degree that differs. It's still about property rights.
The article mentioned the National Guard soldier who participated in this (supposed) incident. National Guard...the branch that spent the Gulf War at NTC? I don't think it's their "fault" either. I've seen the disparity of equipment and training between the Army's active duty and reserves. The reserves get leftovers like the second son of the Army. The National Guard gets leftovers from the Reserves like a red-headed stepchild. Sorry, but it's what I've seen from first-hand experience. So here's some poor schmuck trying to do the best he can in the situation he finds himself placed. Someone who probably thought the National Guard was a good idea - they almost never get called up. Someone who probably didn't have the best of training. Someone who would probably rather be back at their civilian job than playing security overseer in some airport. [I remember that I made much less as a Reservist than I did in my civilian job. If I would have been called up, it would have been a drastic drop in income for me. Imagine that being compounded by the ambiguity of the term of the callup.] This is no yahoo wanting to enforce a police state. It's not a rent-a-cop with delusions of grandeur. It's a soldier trying to carry out the probably vague instructions of "stopping suspicious passengers." I'm sure none of them want to be the one that allowed someone through that _in hindsight_ should have been detained.
In the Army, there's a common task for soldiers - guarding a perimeter. All soldiers are supposed to know this task and are tested on it yearly. It goes like this (paraphrased): Halt. Who is there? [person advancing states name] Place your identification on the ground and take three steps backwards. Examine ID. Allow/detain based on a given list. Anyone detained (or if there are any questions or concerns about the ID) requires you to contact/call for your supervisor. Easy, right?
Okay, so I'm testing soldiers (NCOs actually) on this task in a field environment. I'm not specifically testing them on this task in a CTT (Common Task Test) environment. They're in the field on an exercise and the cadre (myself included) are playing "opposing forces" during an overnight stay. There's cannisters flying with CS gas and people shooting blanks and all that other stuff. Fun, eh? So I casually walk up to the perimeter (guarded by the students). "Who's there?" The first few times I answer appropriately. Then I get the wild hair to see if these students could think on their feet. "Who's there?" "Nobody." What? Holy shit, that's not in the manual. What the hell do I do now? "Who's there?" "CQ" [Charge of Quarters - a duty held by those in a barracks...what the hell would a CQ be doing in a field situation?] They were a little confused. Okay...so now we've got the National Guard called up to help the security folks "stop terrorists" from boarding planes. Where's the script for that? Where's the list to allow/deny? And they've got how many days of experience doing it? Hmmm... I wouldn't exactly expect them to be experts at it. We should expect a few mistakes during the learning curve and can only hope that those mistakes are on the side of safety. There's a much bigger price to be paid for a mistake the other way.
Now about IDs. This case begs to consider the pros and cons of a National ID. Not so much a National ID that mean ol' Big Brother can track you with... What about something that *everyone* understands? Would that be a bad thing? Take a look at drivers licenses across the US. Does each state express the dates in a similar manner? No. If there was some type of standardization, there wouldn't be any question about what each date expressed and there would be no misunderstandings. But each state has their own way of doing things. How hard would it be to simply standardize an ID such as a drivers license? What freedom would that restrict? The freedom to confuse (so the underage can buy beer and cigs)? Take a look at your credit cards. They have your name, your number, and an expiration date - all clearly labelled. No confusion there. We don't want confusion when it comes to money, do we? [And there's a lot more "tracking" by credit card than there would ever be by drivers license.] Make a license standard, make it simple, make it available - and then we'll all be reading the same dates in the same way. And provide a similar standard for "non-drivers" licenses (for those that want them). No one is forcing you to get a drivers license. You get one so that you can have the privilege of driving legally. You get one because there are benefits to having one. And you try not to lose it (like with a DWI suspension/revocation) because it's a real pain in the butt to not have one.
I think it's wonderful that such articles are printed - whether true or not - since they do generate quite a bit of discussion. It's good to think about issues and ideas and to stimulate others to think about things. But I'm not really sure about the veracity of that article. I did quite a bit of searching and didn't see anything about it in any established paper. Sorry, but it's the City Paper of Philadelphia. The article is about what supposedly happened to the webmaster's brother. [Good point brought up in wil's comments.] The City Paper is a free weekly newspaper. Papers like that aren't expected to have the same degree of fact checking that you would expect from The Washington Post. If this happened the way it's portrayed, I'm sure that newspapers would swarm to cover something like that. I don't see it anywhere - not even in his local paper online. Maybe it did happen. But are there any pertinent facts they left out of the article? Was he being a jerk and smartass to the security people? They don't get paid to take attitudes. Get pulled over by a police officer for swerving and try to be a smart ass - see what happens. Exercise your "right of free speech" to ask the officer "Why don't you go get a coffee and donut somewhere?" and let me know what happens. *grin* It's your right of free speech, isn't it?
So let's think about a case where this reader was let on the plane... He gets on the plane and somewhere during the flight, he pulls out this book and starts reading. He's fine and happy reading his book. The person next to him doesn't mind since the light is pointed away. But the guy across the aisle is scared to fly, but has to because his company's sending him to a convention. He's a bit unstable (try making a detector for that and see how many people get through security). He's having a bit of a panic attack. He looks over and sees the book cover. It pushes him over the edge. He causes a scene... this has happened already _without_ a controversial cover being involved. Do you want to be on that plane? Sure, we can't predict or prevent the mental instability of the flying populace, but we don't have to play with fire either. If he wants to read that book he can do it at home, read it in a coffee shop, or even read it out loud on his nearby street corner. But have some sense and don't take a book like that on a flight. Carpenters have a saying, "measure twice, cut once." Think about what you're doing before you do it. It's not an imposition on your freedoms, it's a way to make your trip (and everyone else's) a little smoother. What's so imposing and restrictive about that? Is it imposing to ask people to think and be considerate? [How sad would it be if that is what they're really saying?]
And in the comments I find what I think is the real reason it scares wil:
When I was 18, I thought I wasn't a kid anynmore.
When I was 22, I realized what a kid I was at 18.
When I was 25, I realized what a kid I was at 22 and 23.
Now that I'm 29, I realize what I kid I still am.
Posted by wil @ 10/19/2001 06:02 PM PST
Ah....foreverwesley... Upset because this young person was treated like a kid. He was ignored when he spoke, he was detained for being unconventional (the goal of young adulthood), and he wasn't taken seriously. It's the raw emotion (and the emotional maturity) expressed in his writing that keeps me reading his blog. Even when I don't agree with his ideas. I still like him - he's a good writer. He's an honest writer. It shows.
[Note to wil if he ever runs across this:
Yes, it sucks being young (and being viewed as young). But enjoy your youth while you have it - it will all too soon be gone. Enjoy the parts of it that _are_ fun while you can. And soon it will all change. You will age - personally and in the minds of the public and producers. People will eventually accept that you have matured...in time. Scott Bakula was almost an inevitable choice for Enterprise. Who else could go back in time (and be believed)? Who else is leading the pack for recognition and could be the head of the Enterprise? No one but Sam Beckett. And I believe that one day the same thing will happen to you. By the time Enterprise runs its course and it's "time" for the next series...who else will there be? Who else was known as "the kid" to have been expected to grow up eventually? It'll be too close to the Voyager era for anyone there to command the main ship. It's too far a leap in time for anyone from Enterprise. There's only you. The kid. ]
Posted by BlueWolf on October 20, 2001 02:12 PM