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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

I feel a bit like Goldilocks.

No, this is not a confession about cross-dressing or being transsexual. I’m the boring kind of libertarian.

Instead, I have a run-of-the-mill analogy. Think about when you were a kid and your parents told you the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You may remember that she entered the house and tasted bowls of porridge that were too hot and also too cold before she found the porridge that was just right.

And then she found a bed that was too hard, and then another that was too soft, before finding one that was just right.

Well, the reason I feel like Goldilocks is because I’ve shared some “Rahn Curve” research suggesting that growth is maximized when total government spending consumes no more than 20 percent of gross domestic product. I think this sounds reasonable, but Canadians apparently have a different perspective.

Back in 2010, a Canadian libertarian put together a video that explicitly argues that I want a government that is too big.

Now we have another video from Canada. It was put together by the Fraser Institute, and it suggests that the public sector should consume 30 percent of GDP, which means that I want a government that is too small.

My knee-jerk reaction is to be critical of the Fraser video. After all, there are examples – both current and historical – of nations that prosper with much lower burdens of government spending

Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance, have public sectors today that consume less than 20 percent of economic output. Would those fast-growing jurisdictions be more prosperous if the burden of government spending was increased by more than 50 percent?

Or look at Canadian history. As recently as 1920, government outlays were 16.7 percent of economic output. Would Canada have grown faster if lawmakers at the time had almost doubled the size of government?

And what about nations such as the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, all of which had government budgets in 1870 that consumed only about 10 percent of GDP. Would those nations have been better off if the burden of government spending was tripled?

I think the answer to all three questions is no. So why, then, did the Fraser Institute conclude that government should be bigger?

There are three very reasonable responses to that question. First, the 30 percent number is actually a measurement of where you theoretically maximize “social progress” or “societal outcomes.” If you peruse the excellent study that accompanies the video, you’ll find that economic growth is most rapid when government consumes 26 percent of GDP.

Second, the Fraser research – practically speaking – is arguing for smaller government, at least when looking at the current size of the public sector in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe. According to International Monetary Fund data, government spending consumes 41 percent of GDP in Canada, 39 percent of GDP in the United States, and 55 percent of GDP in France.

The Fraser Institute research even suggests that there should be significantly less government spending in both Switzerland and Australia, where outlays total “only” 34 percent of GDP.

Third, you’ll see if you read the underlying study that the author is simply following the data. But he also acknowledges “a limitation of the data,” which is that the numbers needed for his statistical analysis are only available for OECD nations, and only beginning in 1960.

This is a very reasonable point, and one that I also acknowledged when writing about some research on this topic from Finland’s Central Bank.

…those numbers…are the result of data constraints. Researchers looking at the post-World War II data generally find that Hong Kong and Singapore have the maximum growth rates, and the public sector in those jurisdictions consumes about 20 percent of economic output. Nations with medium-sized governments, such as Australia and the United States, tend to grow a bit slower. And the bloated welfare states of Europe suffer from stagnation. So it’s understandable that academics would conclude that growth is at its maximum point when government grabs 20 percent of GDP. But what would the research tell us if there were governments in the data set that consumed 15 percent of economic output? Or 10 percent, or even 5 percent? Such nations don’t exist today.

For what it’s worth, I assume the author of the Fraser study, given the specifications of his model, didn’t have the necessary post-1960 data to include small-state, high-growth, non-OECD jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Singapore. If that data had been available, I suspect he also would have concluded that government should be closer to 20 percent of economic output.

I explore all these issues in my video on this topic.

The moral of the story is that government is far too large in every developed nation.

I suspect even Hong Kong and Singapore have public sectors that are too large, causing too many resources to be diverted from the private sector.

But since I’m a practical and moderate guy, I’d be happy if the burden of government spending in the United States was merely reduced back down to 20 percent of economic output.

P.S. Though I would want the majority of that spending at the state and local level.

P.P.S. Since I’m sharing videos today, here’s an amusing video from American Commitment about the joy of being “liberated” from employment.

And if you like snarky videos about Obamacare, here are some based on sex and mockery, and there’s even a Hitler parody.

P.P.P.S. This has nothing to do with public policy, but I got a good chuckle from this news out of Iraq.

A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives, army and police officials said. …Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp.

One of the reasons I laughed is that I recalled a cartoon that was sent to me many years ago. And when I dug into my humor folder, it was still there.

I think you’ll see the obvious connection.

Terrorist School

And since we’re venturing into humor about self-detonating terrorists, here’s another joke from my treasure trove.

===================================

Guy goes into a sex shop and asks for an inflatable doll.

Guy behind the counter says, “Male or female?”

Customer says, “Female.”

Counter guy asks, “Black or white?

Customer says, “White.”

Counter guy asks, “Christian or Muslim?”

Customer says, “What the hell does religion have to do with it?”

Counter guy says, “The Muslim one blows itself up.”

===================================

And here’s another joke that’s worth sharing.

Garfield Terrorist

If this isn’t enough terrorism-related humor for you, we also have this collection of stereotypes I received from an English friend.

This image, meanwhile, doubtlessly has caused a few nightmares in certain quarters.

And this Jay Leno joke is one of the best examples of anti-political correctness I’ve ever seen.

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Last June, in response to a question about indiscriminate spying by the National Security Agency, I made two simple points about the importance of judicial oversight and cost-benefit analysis.

I want – at a minimum – there to be judicial oversight whenever the government spies on American citizens, but I also think some cost-benefit analysis is appropriate. Just because a court has the power to approve snooping, that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible use of law enforcement resources.

Nothing since then has changed my mind.

Indeed, I’m perhaps even more skeptical of untrammeled government power and ability to spy on citizens for the simple reason that I don’t trust politicians.

Just look at how the White House turned the supposedly professional IRS into a partisan political operation. The government had power, ostensibly for a legitimate reason, but politicians and bureaucrats then used the power is a grossly improper fashion.

On the other hand, I know there are people out there who hate America. And they don’t just hate us because we’re intervening in the Middle East. I suspect many of them would want to kill us even if we had a perfect libertarian foreign policy of non-intervention and peaceful global commerce.

Now we learn from a report in the Washington Post that government has become bigger and more powerful and that our privacy has been violated as part of the NSA’s spying, yet there have been no benefits. As is zero. Nada. Zilch.

Here are some excerpts.

An analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.” In the majority of cases, traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case, according to the study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

But perhaps, you may be thinking, this is merely the predictable conclusion of a group that is predisposed to be skeptical. That’s a fair concern, but the article also has some very compelling corroborating evidence.

The study, to be released Monday, corroborates the findings of a White House-appointed review group, which said last month that the NSA counterterrorism program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that much of the evidence it did turn up “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

So not only do outsiders find little to no value in NSA spying, but even hand-picked insiders couldn’t come up with any evidence to show that the program was effective.

But you won’t be surprised to learn that defenders of the NSA have come up with a can’t-miss way of defining success.

Senior administration officials…say it has been valuable in knocking down rumors of a plot and in determining that potential threats against the United States are nonexistent. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. calls that the “peace of mind” metric.

Yes, your eyes did not deceive you.You actually read correctly. The government wants us to acquiesce to a loss of privacy because we will learn that there are no threats and we’ll have “peace of mind.”

That has to be the lamest justification for government power that I’ve ever read.

This is even more preposterous than asserting that we should squander $1 trillion per year on anti-poverty programs, not because that redistribution will help the poor, but rather because it makes leftists feel better about themselves.

That being said, supporters do have a somewhat powerful comeback.

Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director and a member of the panel, said the program “needs to be successful only once to be invaluable.”

Indeed, I suspect this is the main reason why ordinary people might support the NSA.

But I disagree with Mr. Morell because he asserts that a single example of success would be invaluable. The article, for instance, cites one “victory” for the NSA surveillance program.

…the program provided evidence to initiate only one case, involving a San Diego cabdriver, Basaaly ­Moalin, who was convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Three co-conspirators were also convicted. The cases involved no threat of attack against the United States.

I’m glad that a foreign terrorist attack was blocked, but is that really “invaluable”? Does that “victory” justify a very expensive and very intrusive NSA monitoring regime?

As I’ve acknowledged before, I don’t know enough about terrorism to offer an informed viewpoint. But I have studied a similar issue, money laundering laws, and that research leads me to be very suspicious about the NSA.

These laws were put in place with the excuse that government would collect and analyze large amounts of data to help deter crime.

All the evidence, however, shows that these laws are a costly failure. The invade our privacy, hurt the poor, impose high regulatory costs, and have little or no impact on underlying crimes.

Just something to keep in mind when people argue that government should have more power and authority.

P.S. At least the revelations about NSA spying have generated some first-rate political humor.

P.P.S. Keep in mind that the NSA is just one cog in the machinery of government. So if you’re worried about the NSA’s intrusion and power, then you should also worry about the power of the IRS. If you’re concerned about the IRS’s authority, then you also should fret about the Obamacare exchanges. And if you think the Obamacare exchanges give the government too much knowledge and power, then you should be agitated about “know-your-customer” laws that require banks to spy on their customers. And if you’re not happy about those money-laundering rules, then you surely should be dismayed about asset-forfeiture rules. And if you don’t approve of government stealing property, then maybe you don’t like government accumulation of power for the Drug War. And if the failed War on Drugs rubs you the wrong way, then perhaps you…I better stop now. I think you get the point.

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I’ve already shared some analysis of Mark Steyn’s libertarian-leaning views on foreign policy, so it’s very timely to see what he just wrote about Syria.

Here’s some of his new article in National Review. His humor is sharp, but he makes a very important point.

The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action “just muscular enough not to get mocked.” That would make a great caption for a Vanity Fair photo shoot of Obama gamboling in the surf at Martha’s Vineyard, but as a military strategy it’s not exactly Alexander the Great or the Duke of Wellington.  …From the New York Times: “A wide range of officials characterize the action under consideration as ‘limited,’ perhaps lasting no more than a day or two.” Yeah, I know, that’s what Edward III said about the Hundred Years’ War. But Obama seems to mean it

Steyn notes that British voters already have said no to “ineffectual warmongering.”

This week, David Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer recess to permit the people’s representatives to express their support for the impending attack. Instead, for the first time since the British defeat at Yorktown in 1782, the House of Commons voted to deny Her Majesty’s Government the use of force. Under the Obama “reset,” even the Coalition of the Willing is unwilling. …“This House will not fight for king and country”? Not exactly. What the British people are sick of, quite reasonably enough, is ineffectual warmongering.

For what it’s worth, Obama doesn’t think he should be bound by that silly little clause in the Constitution about only Congress having the power to declare war. Which at least makes him consistent, since he doesn’t feel bound by the fact that Article I, Section 8, doesn’t authorize the federal government to be involved in health care.

But I’m digressing. Let’s look at what Steyn identifies as the real problem. We account for a huge share of the globe’s military spending, yet we don’t get much bang for the buck.

The problem with the American way of war is that, technologically, it can’t lose, but, in every other sense, it can’t win. No one in his right mind wants to get into a tank battle or a naval bombardment with the guys responsible for over 40 percent of the planet’s military expenditures. Which is why these days there aren’t a lot of tank battles. The consummate interventionist Robert Kagan wrote in his recent book that the American military “remains unmatched.” It’s unmatched in the sense that the only guy in town with a tennis racket isn’t going to be playing a lot of tennis matches. …America’s inability to win ought to be a burning national question, but it’s not even being asked.

Particularly since there are no real friends competing to rule Syria.

For a quarter-century, from Kuwait to Kosovo to Kandahar, the civilized world has gone to war only in order to save or liberate Muslims. The Pentagon is little more than central dispatch for the U.S. military’s Muslim Fast Squad. And what do we have to show for it? Liberating Syria isn’t like liberating the Netherlands: In the Middle East, the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy.  …So we’ll get rid of Assad and install the local branch of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or whatever plucky neophyte democrat makes it to the presidential palace first — and then, instead of napalmed schoolyards, there will be, as in Egypt, burning Christian churches and women raped for going uncovered.

Steyn then summarizes what’s at stake.

…the hyperpower is going to war because Obama wandered off prompter and accidentally made a threat. So he has to make good on it, or America will lose its credibility. But he only wants to make good on it in a perfunctory and ineffectual way. So America will lose its credibility anyway.

It’s unfortunate that politicians misallocate military spending for parochial reasons, but it’s equally worrisome that they risk blood and treasure in ways that don’t make sense.

Syrian intervention, however, would take foolishness to an entire new level.

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I want government to successfully and rationally fight crime and stop terrorism. That’s a perfectly appropriate libertarian sentiment since protecting life, liberty, and property are among the few legitimate roles for government.

But I don’t want to give bureaucrats carte blanche to monitor our lives and I don’t want to waste money in those cases where it is proper for the government to snoop on bad guys.

And those are some of the sentiments I expressed in this panel for Forbes on Fox.

My wonkish concern for cost-benefit analysis and corporate welfare is not empty posturing. There’s real money involved.

Here’s some of what CBS News reported on the issue.

How much are your private conversations worth to the U.S. government? Turns out, it can be a lot, depending on the technology. …AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that… Industry says it doesn’t profit from the hundreds of thousands of government eavesdropping requests it receives each year… “What we don’t want is surveillance to become a profit center,” said Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal technologist. But “it’s always better to charge $1. It creates friction, and it creates transparency” because it generates a paper trail that can be tracked. …The FBI said it could not say how much it spends on industry reimbursements because payments are made through a variety of programs, field offices and case funds.

I confess that I’m not an expert – or even a novice – on the details of law enforcement, but I’m glad that my speculation on the low cost of setting up a wiretap seems to have been accurate. At least based on this excerpt from the article.

In 2009, then-New York criminal prosecutor John Prather sued several major telecommunications carriers in federal court in Northern California in 2009, including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, for overcharging federal and state police agencies. In his complaint, Prather said phone companies have the technical ability to turn on a switch, duplicate call information and pass it along to law enforcement with little effort. Instead, Prather says his staff, while he was working as a city prosecutor, would receive convoluted bills with extraneous fees. The case is pending.

This article, as well as the Forbes on Fox debate, deal with general law enforcement, not the controversy about NSA data collection and monitoring.

But I can’t resist sharing this excellent bit of NSA-related humor that arrived in my inbox.

NSA Obama Humor

Very similar in quality and theme to this great set of images.

And if you appreciate political cartoons on this topic, here are some of my favorites. I think the one featuring Nixon and Bush is the best of the bunch.

Last but not least, here are my thoughts on the NSA/Snowden controversy if you want some non-humorous analysis.

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To save readers some time, the honest answer to the question is that I don’t have many profound thoughts about the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden and snooping by the National Security Agency.

But since I’ve been asked by several people to pontificate on the matter, I won’t let trivial obstacles such as lack of knowledge or absence of expertise preclude me from giving a response. Heck, I’ve written about drone attacks, and terrorism policy, and my knowledge in those areas may be even less than the President’s understanding of the economy!

Normally, when I’m in the dark about some matter of public policy, I simply see what some of my Cato colleagues have said about an issue. But as you can see here, here, and here, those experts are split on the topic (brings to mind the joke about the politician who, when asked his position on some legislation, said “some of my friends are for the plan and some of my friends are opposed, and I always stick with my friends).

So I reckon I’ll just wing it with a couple of observations and a concluding thought about patriotism.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I want – at a minimum – there to be judicial oversight whenever the government spies on American citizens, but I also think some cost-benefit analysis is appropriate. Just because a court has the power to approve snooping, that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible use of law enforcement resources.

I confess I don’t know whether NSA snooping is a good use of time and energy, but I’m skeptical. Why? Because we don’t find much common sense in areas where I do know enough to run my mouth, such as money laundering laws and Transportation Security Administration rules. So why is NSA snooping any different?

It probably isn’t. As such, I side with other Americans in not wanting to give up my liberties simply because some politicians say our security is threatened.

That being said, I find myself irked by Mr. Snowden’s behavior. Some people believe he is a genuine patriot (in the proper sense of the word) motivated by libertarian principles, but the fact that he fled to Russia (perhaps en route to Cuba, Venezuela, or Ecuador) doesn’t reflect well on him.

For all its flaws, I rank the United States far above places such as Russia, China, and assorted Latin American thug regimes.

I understand that Snowden presumably wants to go someplace where he can’t be snatched by American officials, but he will cross the line and unambiguously become a traitor in my eyes if he gives sensitive material to unfriendly foreign governments.

And by sensitive, I don’t necessarily mean classified. I’m sure the federal government goes way overboard in labeling material as secret or classified. I’m talking about information that could compromise the security of the United States.

I’m guessing Edward Snowden has such information. If he shares it with hostile governments, he’s a bad person.

P.S. Here’s a humorous look at Obama-approved snooping.

P.P.S. If you think I’m being too hard on Snowden, you’ll probably beat my libertarian score on this comprehensive test.

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If you liked the cartoons I shared about the NSA spying scandal, I suspect you’ll like this story even more.

It begins with a newlywed heading home to his lovely wife…but has a surprise ending.

NSA 1 NSA 2 NSA 3 NSA 4 NSA 5NSA 6

Sort of reminds me of a scene in that cinematic class, American Pie II.

And you have to give the President credit for good timing when delivering a line. Maybe he does have a future career as a movie star?

He’d definitely do better on the silver screen than he did in his previous position.

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I shared some nauseating and jaw-dropping examples of hypocrisy the other day, but the Obama Administration’s continuation (and expansion!) of Bush-style surveillance-state tactics surely must set some sort of record for double-talk.

Even by Washington standards.

So regardless of your views on the merits or demerits of collecting metadata, let’s enjoy some cartoons mocking the White House’s forked-tongue policies.

We’ll start with one from Jim McKee that doesn’t make a strong philosophical point, but I’m hokey enough that I liked the use of Santa Claus.

NSA Spy Cartoon 2

This next cartoon from Steve Kelley should make honest liberals cringe with embarrassment.

NSA Spy Cartoon 3

This Scott Stantis cartoon may be even better because it links Obama with Bush and Nixon. I knew they all shared a statist orientation on economic policy, but who knew they had the same affinity for monitoring other people’s communications?

NSA Spy Cartoon 4

But this second Jim McKee cartoon may be my favorite because it goes after the hypocritical statists directly. You can see why I’m glad that McKee’s work has come to my attention.

Obama NSA Spy Cartoon 1

In closing, I suppose I should provide some initial thoughts on the more serious issue of whether the Obama Administration is improperly and needlessly invading our privacy.

If I understand correctly, the government did get judicial approval before collecting this data, so perhaps there’s nothing improper about this data-collection scheme.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a wise or good policy. Like most (if not all) libertarians, as well as other sensible people, I wonder whether the government will misuse the information being collected. If nothing else, the recent IRS scandals should make all of us very sensitive to that possibility.

But even if you assume that politicians and bureaucrats are angels, that still wouldn’t necessarily make this a good use of law enforcement resources. And that’s an empirical question.

I’m not qualified to give an answer, but I’m definitely in the need-to-be-convinced category. This policy reminds me of anti-money laundering laws, which also were put in place with the excuse that government would collect and analyze large amounts of data to help deter crime.

All the evidence, however, shows that these laws are a costly failure. The invade our privacy, hurt the poor, impose high regulatory costs, and have little or no impact on underlying crimes.

So put me in the skeptics camp. National defense is a legitimate function of government, and I fully realize that there are people out there who want to kill me and my family for no other reason that our freedoms, so I don’t automatically object to government actions in this area.

But I want their efforts to be concentrated and effective. And if our government is so big and bloated that we can’t monitor and stop known bad guys (like some of the 9-11 terrorists and at least one of the Tsarnaev brothers), then I don’t want to give the bureaucrats new powers without some sort of convincing argument that we’ll get positive results.

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A reader wants to know if I think the American people are becoming more statist over time.

I’m conflicted. More and more people get lured into some form of government dependency every year, and this suggests Americans eventually will adopt a  European-style moocher mentality.

This worries me.

On the other hand, I periodically see polls suggesting that the American people have very libertarian views on key issues.

These are encouraging numbers. And here’s another bit of good news. A recent poll by Fox News found that a plurality of Americans would not give up personal freedoms to reduce the threat of terrorism. What’s especially remarkable is that this poll took place immediately following the bombing of the Boston Marathon by the welfare-sponging Tsarnaev brothers.

Terrorism Freedom Tradeoff

Interestingly, I had a conversation with a left-leaning friend who said this poll showed that Americans were a bunch of “paranoid nuts” because this poll showed that they viewed their government with suspicion.

But perhaps people are simply rational. I had an intern look up data on the probability of getting killed by a terrorist. He found an article from Reason that reported.

…a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000.

In other words, the odds of being killed by a terrorist are very low. And with the risk so low, why give up liberty? Particularly when it’s highly unlikely that sacrificing more of your freedom will actually reduce the already-low threat of terrorism.

This reminds me of the money laundering issue. Just a few decades ago, there was no such thing as anti-money laundering laws. Then politicians decided we need these laws to reduce crime.

These laws, we were told, would give law enforcement more tools to catch bad guys and also reduce the incentive to commit crimes since it would be harder for criminals to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.

That sounds good, but the evidence shows that these laws have become very expensive and intrusive, yet they’ve had no measurable impact on crime rates.

So how did politicians respond? In a stereotypical display of Mitchell’s Law, they decided to make anti-money laundering laws more onerous, imposing ever-higher costs in hopes of having some sort of positive impact.

This is bad for banks, bad for the poor, and bad for the economy.

So when I see polls showing the American people are skeptical about surrendering freedom to the government, I don’t think they are being “paranoid.” I think they’re being very rational.

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The bad news is that there are despicable and evil people seeking to kill innocents.

The worse news is that some of these pathetic excuses for protoplasm are subsidized by taxpayers.

It’s happened in France, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

And we now know that the Tsarnaev family was on he dole as well.

Which makes this cartoon funny, but at the same time not funny at all.

Welfare Terrorism

I used to think it was outrageous that the welfare state funded bad behavior (as illustrated by this humorous poster), as well as general laziness and moral depravity.

But there should be a special wing of the Moocher Hall of Fame for taxpayer-subsidized terrorists.

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So we’ve now learned that the Boston Marathon terrorists were welfare bums. Why am I not surprised?

“Thanks for the handouts, suckers!”

Heck, it was only a couple of days ago that I announced the Moocher Hall of Fame and included terrorists from the United Kingdom and Australia (and I could have included a taxpayer-subsidized terrorist from France as well).

I’m tempted to joke about al Qaeda including welfare applications in their training manuals, but I’m worried that might give them new ideas.

Anyhow, here are some of the predictable details from a story in the Boston Herald.

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned. State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012… In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

All this raises a broader point about why the United States has a policy of letting people in the country who are not self supporting?

This is the point I made in my Fox Business News debate about immigration. Like most other libertarians, I’m very sympathetic to immigration, but I want people with initiative and ambition, not welfare tourists.

Speaking of welfare tourism, even Europeans realize it’s a problem when people come for handouts rather than opportunity. Here’s a blurb from a Daily Telegraph report.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has convinced her counterparts in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to campaign for tighter restrictions to migrants’ access to welfare handouts and other state-funded services. In a joint letter, the countries have warned that migrants from EU members states are putting “considerable strain” on schools, healthcare and the welfare state…David Cameron has said he wants to restrict migrants’ access to housing benefit, legal aid and the NHS. The letter sent by the four countries warns that the EU free movement directive must not be “unconditional” and that major towns and cities “are under a considerable strain by certain immigrants from other member states”.

Of course, it’s hard to have much sympathy for the politicians in the UK, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. After all, they certainly have the power to reduce their overly generous welfare systems.

But instead of taking that sensible step, they want to restrict immigration.

Which brings us back to Milton Friedman’s warning about the incompatibility of opens borders and the welfare state.

But the real reason to pare back the welfare state is that dependency is bad for poor people, regardless of whether they’re native born or immigrants. Even some honest liberals have acknowledged this problem.

If we want to help the less fortunate, economic growth is the best approach. That means free markets and small government.

And the combination of more growth and less welfare will ease concerns about immigration, so it’s a win-win-win situation. What’s not to love?

P.S. Better economic policy is desirable for many reasons, but I’m not under any illusion it will stop terrorism. As I wrote recently, there’s no way to create a risk-free society, particularly when there are people motivated by anti-modernity.

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I’ve received several variations of this question since starting my “Question of the Week” series. Having never studied the terrorism issue, I’ve been ignoring those queries.

But I got several new emails on the topic after what happened in Boston, so I’m answering simply to make one point. There’s no way to create a perfectly safe, risk-free society.

That being said – and with the caveat that I have no expertise in this field, here are some random thoughts on the topic.

Libertarians want less interventionism around the world, and perhaps that will reduce hostility against the United States, but some of these nutjobs hate us because of our freedoms. So even a perfect foreign policy (whatever that even is) provides no guarantee we won’t get attacked. That being said, I think Ron Paul has screwed up big time in some of his criticisms of U.S. actions. Being against nation building does not mean you have to be against killing terrorists.

If you want to cause trouble, find a bunch of young men with no purpose in their lives and lots of time on their hands. Combine that with religious extremists who tell those men that they will get a bunch of virgins* in paradise if they die while killing Westerners, and you have a nontrivial supply of future terrorists. I suspect part of the answer will have to come from within the Islamic community, though I confess that I’m puzzled by the inaction on that front even though one imagines that 99 percent of Muslims don’t support terrorism.

Terrorists and would-be terrorists get information from the Internet that fuels their hate and provides knowledge on how to conduct attacks. I’m rather sympathetic to drone attacks on the scum in the Middle East who are directly seeking to instigate/plan terrorism, but I don’t see any feasible or desirable way to control and/or regulate the Internet (just like I don’t see a feasible or desirable way to regulate video games, even if it was shown that violent games somehow inspired Newtown-type killers).

Close monitoring of pro-terrorist websites and chat rooms is a very legitimate and proper function of law enforcement and the intelligence community. Being a Muslim shouldn’t be a cause for investigation and harassment by the government. Being a Muslim who uses the Internet to visit such sites is a cause for investigation and harassment (and the same is true for members of any other group with a history of violence).

Monitoring of Mosques also is a proper function of government, just as I also have no objection of law enforcement monitoring militia groups, environmental groups, etc, etc. Obviously, the monitoring of any group should be selectively focused on those strains that are believed to espouse violence. I don’t know where you draw the line between freedom of religion and incitement of violence, but I have zero sympathy for radical Imams preaching hate inside the United States and would like to see them shut down/imprisoned/deported if they cross that line.

Yes, I’m disgusted by the leftists in the press who obviously hope for a “right wing” link any time there’s an attack. These are the same journalists, by the way, who weren’t even slightly bothered by Barack Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, a real-life terrorist who bombed the NYC police department, the U.S. Capitol, and the Pentagon.

I favor immigration, but I want people who believe in tolerance and hard work. There should be some sort of test, however imperfect, designed to weed out those who do not believe in assimilation. I’m still flabbergasted that the U.S. government is so bloody incompetent that it gave a green card to the so-called Blind Sheik. Such people should never be let in the country and there should be mechanisms for quick deportation (perhaps halfway across the Atlantic) if they do slip through the net.

*I hope these are the virgins they meet.

P.S. Like anybody with common sense, I want’ our anti-terrorism policies to be based on cost-benefit analysis, which is why I’m generally critical of the Transportation Security Administration.

Addendum: I’m getting lots of comments and emails about this post. In retrospect, I can’t claim to be speaking for libertarians, so perhaps I should have used a title such as “What Are Your Thoughts about How to Deal with Terrorism?” Though I don’t think there’s anything in my views that is inconsistent with libertarianism. Assuming, of course, you’re not an anarcho-capitalist. But even if I was in that camp, I would want to voluntarily contract with a private firm that would hunt down terrorists and kill them. Sort of like the group in the new Tom Clancy novels. By the way, I also like the Vince Flynn novels, so I probably am more bloodthirsty than the average libertarian.

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I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of redistribution income. Simply stated, the welfare state has been a disaster for both taxpayers and recipients.

But our system, with whatever flaws it might have now or in the future, presumably will never be as crazy as the system in the United Kingdom.

A reader sent a story that blows my mind. Our cousins across the ocean give big welfare handouts to terrorist agitators. Here are some excerpts from The Sun.

British taxpayers subsidize this hate-filled moocher

…hate preacher Anjem Choudary has told fanatics to copy him by going on benefits — urging: “Claim your Jihad Seeker’s Allowance.” He cruelly ridiculed non-Muslims who held down 9-to-5 jobs all their lives and said sponging off them made plotting holy war easier. …Father-of-four Choudary, who has praised terrorist outrages, pockets more than £25,000 a year in benefits — £8,000 more than the take-home pay of some soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. He laughed as he told supporters:  “You find people are busy working the whole of their life. They wake up at 7 o’clock. They go to work at 9 o’clock. They work for eight, nine hours a day. They come home at 7 o’clock, watch EastEnders, sleep, and they do that for 40 years of their life. That is called slavery.

This dirtbag is right about one thing. It is a form of slavery to involuntarily confiscate money from the hard-working taxpayers of the United Kingdom and give the money to scroungers such as Choudary.

Choudary may be a despicable worm, but he’s clever enough to bilk the system.

Figures obtained by The Sun in 2010 showed the extremist cleric received £15,600 a year in housing benefit to keep him in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London. He also got £1,820 council tax allowance, £5,200 income support and £3,120 child benefits — equivalent to a taxed salary of £32,500.

A £320,000 house?!? That’s about $500,000! That’s probably more valuable than the average home of the people paying punitive taxes to support this deadbeat.

For all intents and purposes, Choudary is like Natailija, Tracey, and Gina and Danny – but far worse since he sponges off the taxpayers and also advocates for terrorism. All subsidized by tax dollars.

P.S. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the French government gives welfare handouts to terrorists. But I’m surprised the Australian government also allows mooching by pro-Jihad activists.

P.P.S. The good news is that at least some leftists are beginning to realize that the welfare state cripples people by creating government dependency.

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This is probably the most difficult question that I’ve received. I’m not an expert on the legal issues, I’m not an expert on defense issues, and I don’t even have any strong gut instincts.

On the pro side, I suspect the world is a better place every time a drone wipes out a nest of terrorists. And that’s true even when the casualties include traitorous Americans.

I’m glad terrorists are nervously looking up, but…

On the anti side, every good libertarian worries about the slippery slope of government expansion. So even though I’m somewhat happy about terrorists getting zapped today, I don’t like to think about who might be targeted by politicians 30 years from now.

Remember, the income tax started as a relatively benign one-page form and it’s become a 72,000-page monstrosity with a thuggish IRS.

Part of the problem is that governments grab additional powers during wartime, and it’s very difficult to unwind those powers once hostilities cease.

And to make matters more challenging, we’re now fighting a war that presumably will never end.

Yes, we can probably ameliorate the problem by reducing American interventionism, but I strongly suspect that radical Islamists also hate us because of our tolerant values and secular system. So we’ll still face a serious threat of terrorist attacks even with a perfect libertarian foreign policy.

I guess the only answer I can provide is that I want plenty of independent judicial oversight. No, that’s not a panacea, but it’s at least some form of check and balance on the executive branch.

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I’m not a big fan of welfare programs, in part because I sympathize with taxpayers (check out these outrageous examples of waste) but mostly because redistribution programs subsidize poverty and trap people in lives of despair.

But as I wrote in 2010, the most perverse form of welfare is when governments give handouts to Islamo-fascist radicals. This has happened in the United Kingdom and Germany, and the video at the link about the taxpayer-financed radical cleric in Australia is absolutely horrifying.

It seems like this foolishness is happening in France as well. In a story about the recent horrific murders by Mohammed Merah, the New York Post included this blurb.

All the while, Merah, a petty criminal on welfare, was ostensibly under surveillance by French intelligence.

And a New Zealand TV station included this tidbit.

Etelin said he knew Merah since he was about 17, and described his life as typical for many teenagers and young men in poor French housing projects who get involved in criminal activity. “His mother couldn’t control him, his father was totally absent, his sister … also told me that she couldn’t exercise any influence over him,” the lawyer said.

Isn’t that so typical. Not only welfare, but also government housing, and a system of handouts that facilitates an absent father.

I’m not saying – or even implying – that welfare programs cause terrorism. Millions of people live off government and never go out and murder others. And it may turn out that Merah and his family were low-level moochers, making this aspect of the story worthy of nothing other than an asterisk.

But I am saying that welfare breeds idleness and despair, and in some cases it enables reprehensible behavior (as seen by this story about a couple of disgusting leeches who wanted to impregnate a 12-year old girl in hopes of getting a bigger handout).

For those interested, this video looks at the broader issue of welfare, and it includes this graph showing how the so-called War on Poverty has probably resulted in more destitution.

And here’s one final story, from the U.K., about the horrible human cost of the welfare state.

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Reading Mark Steyn’s superb column on the increasingly PC remembrances of 9-11, it occurred to me that the problem is even deeper.

Yes, we should remember 9-11, and be willing to clearly identify the evil that spawned those attacks.

But we also should proudly celebrate the death of the monster at the center of the Al Qaeda web.

We remember December 7 as the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, but we also celebrate V-E day and V-J day to acknowledge when the Germans and Japanese surrendered.

I was in Austria when bin Laden was killed, but I wish I had been at one of these events, to share the cathartic happiness.

At the White House and Ground Zero:

In the City of Brotherly Love:

At some concert of somebody that I’ve never heard of, but it looks like he and his crowd had the appropriate reaction (warning: a few F-bombs):

And because it is a good thing to celebrate the destruction of evil, let’s also remember these jokes mocking the dirtbag (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

And no matter how much I disagree about many of his other policies, I will always give Obama credit for giving the order to deep six that piece of crap.

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I’ve largely stopped beating up on the TSA because it seems like a dog-bites-man or sun-rises-in-the-east issue. Do we really learn anything by repetitively discussing the stupidity on one bureaucracy?

But sometimes the idiocy reaches such an extreme level that it can’t be ignored.

Here are the nauseating details of how TSA bureaucrats confiscated a toy hammer – made out of plastic – that a mentally retarded man had used as a sort of security blanket for 20 years.

The Mandy family says they were on their way to the happiest place on earth (Disney), but had to go through hell to get there. …The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He’s 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with. …The TSA agents saw Drew holding a six-inch plastic hammer. “My son carries his ball and his hammer for security. He goes everywhere with (them),” said Mandy. The TSA it seems saw the toy as a weapon. “He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,’” Mandy explained. …”It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this like for 20 years,” Mandy said.

That’s a disgusting example of bureaucratic stupidity, but I don’t know whether it’s better or worse than what happened in Florida, where the Keystone Cops of the TSA made a 95-year old cancer patient remove her adult diaper as part of the screening process.

The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t think its agents did anything wrong in asking an elderly woman with cancer to remove her adult diaper during an airport security screening. The agency came under fire after Florida woman Jean Weber claimed her 95-year-old mother was forced to take off her diaper for a pat down at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport last weekend. “It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber told the Northwest Florida Daily News. …Weber says watching her mother, who is battling leukemia, be subjected to the security screening drove her to tears.

Plastic hammers and soiled diapers are deadly weapons to be sure, especially in the hands of retarded people and senior citizens. We should be mighty proud that the TSA is on the job!!

Not surprisingly, Senator Rand Paul has the right assessment, believing in common sense and individual liberty. I’ve already shared a video of him mocking an Obama appointee for imposing inferior, toxic light bulbs. Now here’s a video of him grilling the head TSA bureaucrat.

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After sharing lots of jokes (here, here, here, here, and here) about the much-deserved death of Osama bin Laden, I figured I had beaten that horse enough and re-focused on policy-oriented blogging.

But I’m a sucker for good political humor. So even though this is a remake of a joke I shared last year, it brightened up my Memorial Day and I figure others will enjoy it as well.

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I thought I was done with Osama, but these are too funny not to share.

From Craig Ferguson:

  • The CIA is going through the stuff they found in Osama bin Laden’s compound, including a diary. I didn’t know he had a diary. That is so sweet.
  • Osama bin Laden’s death has been in the news all day. Leftish stations are going, ‘President Obama saves the world.’ Stations on the right are going, ‘Obama kills fellow Muslim.’

From Conan:

  • Al-Qaida has not yet picked a new leader to run their terrorist organization. Apparently, candidates keep losing interest after asking, “What happened to the last guy?”
  • Dick Cheney says he gives Obama high marks on getting bin Laden. He said, “Trust me, I know how hard it is to shoot someone in the face.”

From Jay Leno:

  • Apparently, Pakistan has given the United States permission to interview bin Laden’s wives, as long as we promise not to turn it into a reality show.
  • President Obama said that watching the raid on Osama bin Laden was the longest 40 minutes of his life. Mind you, that’s coming from a guy that has to listen to Joe Biden.

From Jimmy Fallon:

  • Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals yesterday. They did DNA testing to make sure it was Bin Laden. Or as I call it, best episode of Maury Povich EVER.

From David Letterman:

  • The Republicans are so happy about bin Laden they’ve granted President Obama full citizenship.

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As a long-time fan of Congressman Paul, I am very disappointed that he recently said he would not have approved the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Here’s an excerpt from The Hill.

Likely GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul said this week he would not have authorized the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, raising concerns about international law. …The likely candidate indicated that to capture bin Laden, he would have worked with Pakistan on a mission like the one that nabbed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was captured by Pakistani intelligence forces and transferred into U.S. custody. …Paul said that international law was an overriding concern.

I’m particularly mystified that he cited “international law” as a reason for his position. I’m not trying to take a cheap shot. Heck, I voted for Ron Paul way back in 1988 when he was the Libertarian candidate for President and I voted for him again in the GOP presidential primary in 2008. But Surely he doesn’t want to cede American sovereignty to the klepto-crats at the United Nations or some other international bureaucracy filled with statists and appeasers?

Herman Cain, on the other hand, has enjoyed a bit of a boost since the debate in South Carolina. I’ve known Cain since the 1990s when he was a member of the Kemp Tax Reform Commission and I was a staffer. On tax matters, Cain has embraced the national sales tax, which may come back to haunt him if he manages to become a first-tier candidate. But he also has proposed a five-part package of incremental reforms, and I was recently interviewed about that set of proposals. With one exception, I was very favorable. Here’s the opening part of the article in the International Business Times.

Herman Cain’s 5-step plan would boost the US economy and create jobs, according to Daniel Mitchell, an economist and senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Mitchell said in the 21st century, globalization has made it easy for businesses to shift their money (investments) and operations (jobs) internationally. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance for the US to have the right policies and economics in order to win those operations and monies. Mitchell said the Obama administration’s policies do the opposite. Cain’s proposed policies, however, would work to achieve those goals.

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Not quite as good as the Facebook/Osama joke from yesterday, and perhaps not as good as the Dick Cheney/Osama jokes from earlier in the week, but still very much worth sharing.

By the way, I better stay out of Germany. I noted the other day that German politicians were attacking Chancellor Merkel because she made a politically incorrect statement approving of bin Laden’s death. That’s apparently not just a faux pas in German society, but also a legal mistake. A German judge has filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Merkel for “endorsing a crime.”

That Judge must be a class-A DB. What a spectacularly pathetic example of moral preening.

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Or is it Usama bin Laden? Whatever, at least he doesn’t have 112 different ways of spelling his name, like the dirtbag from Libya.

Anyhow, lots of people really liked the previous post with bin Laden jokes, so I’m responding to market demand with more jokes about Osama.

From Jay Leno:

  • President Obama has done something that no one else has been able to do. He got Donald Trump to shut up.
  • Apparently, Osama bin Laden was killed with money and phone numbers sewn into his clothing. So we got him right before he left for summer camp.
  • Bin Laden was buried at sea. Or as Dick Cheney calls it, “the ultimate waterboarding.”
  • They say bin Laden lived in his compound with nine women and 23 children. I’m surprised the guy didn’t shoot himself in the head.

From Conan:

  • Trump said that he hoped bin Laden suffered a lot. It looks like he got his wish, because the CIA said bin Laden spent his last hour watching “Celebrity Apprentice.”
  • At the time of his death, bin Laden had sewn the equivalent of $740 into his clothing. Experts say his next plan was to launch a major attack, or to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago.
  • Marijuana plants were found near bin Laden’s compound, which explains why bin Laden’s last words were, “Dude . . . “

From David Letterman:

  • It was so nice in New York City today that Navy SEALs raided a Jamba Juice.
  • Osama bin Laden lived in a compound with all of his wives for the last few years. So I guess he did suffer.

From Jimmy Kimmel:

  • The CIA says bin Laden’s last words were, “Are you guys here about the dishwasher?”

From Jimmy Fallon:

  • Rush Limbaugh said yesterday that Obama never would have tracked down bin Laden if it weren’t for George W. Bush’s policies. Although in fairness, Obama never would have even been elected if it weren’t for George W. Bush’s policies.

Last but not least, whoever created this Facebook joke is very clever.

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The late-night comics didn’t even let Osama’s body get warm (oops, I mean cold) before having some fun. Good!

From Jay Leno:

  • The good news: Osama bin Laden is dead. The bad news: there is no bad news.
  • Osama bin Laden was apparently shot twice in the face. It looks like Dick Cheney may have been involved.

From David Letterman:

  • Did everyone enjoy the Osama bin Laden season finale?
  • There’s already been some trouble for Osama bin Laden in the afterlife. There was a mix up and he was greeted by 72 vegans.

From Craig Ferguson:

  • Politicians on both sides are equally happy. Dick Cheney said he hasn’t been this happy since he saw the YouTube video of the girl throwing puppies into the river.
  • Apparently, members of al-Qaida are online slamming the U.S. I don’t understand why they’re so upset. Everyone in al-Qaida just got a promotion.

From Jimmy Kimmel:

  • I would like us to kill bin Laden every Sunday night. It makes for a much brighter start to the week.
  • After all the talk about caves, bin Laden was hiding in a million-dollar mansion in Pakistan. The CIA became suspicious when they learned there was a million-dollar mansion in Pakistan.
  • I just want to point out that “buried at sea” means “dumped in the ocean.” This could be the best Shark Week ever.

From Jimmy Fallon:

  • Oddly enough, bin Laden’s last words were, “I hope you at least use this to interrupt ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”
  • Microsoft is bringing back “Clippy,” the cartoon paper clip that used to pop up in Word documents. Apparently he’s been hiding in an upscale suburb of Pakistan.

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Whoever came up with this picture deserves a lot of credit. It’s amusing and it gets across exactly the message Obama wants.

Obama will probably enjoy a big bump in his popularity. But that’s fine with me. He deserves it.

I’ll go back to criticizing his economic policy soon enough, but at this moment I’m proud of America’s Commander-in-Chief.

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My New Year’s Resolution was to stop making fun of the Transportation Security Administration. Not because I changed my mind about the bureaucracy and its level of (in)competence, but rather because I felt as if I was taking candy from a baby. Kicking the TSA is just too easy.

But I can’t resist low-hanging fruit. I recently mocked the TSA for repeatedly failing to catch an undercover agent who carried a gun through the porno-scan machines.

Now it’s time to abuse the bureaucrats for another world-class blunder. A man recently got on a flight with three of the weapons that were used to hijack planes on 9-11. According to the New York Post.

A passenger managed to waltz past JFK’s ramped-up security gantlet with three boxcutters in his carry-on luggage — easily boarding an international flight while carrying the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told The Post yesterday. The stunning breach grounded the flight for three hours Saturday night and drew fury from Port Authority cops, who accused the Transportation Security Administration of being asleep on the job. “In case anyone has forgotten, the TSA was created because of a couple boxcutter incidents,” said one PAPD source, referring to the weapons used by al Qaeda operatives to commandeer the jets they later slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

In an unusual display of honesty, a TSA bureaucrat basically admitted that passengers were not in danger because of other factors. Which raises an obvious question of why we maintain an expensive bureaucracy that has no impact other than to inconvenience the traveling public?

The TSA spokeswoman Davis insisted that the traveling public was not at risk. “There have been a number of additional security layers that have been implemented on aircraft that would prevent someone from causing harm with boxcutters,” she insisted. “They include the possible presence of armed federal air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, flight crews trained in self-defense and a more vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene.”

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This is really remarkable. We’re supposed to go through porno strip machines at the airport so the bureaucrats can detect firearms. Yet the Keystone Cops at the TSA in Dallas failed when an undercover agent tested their awareness by hiding a gun in her undergarments. They didn’t just fail. They. Failed. Every. Single. Time.

Check out this local news report, including a video at the link.

An undercover TSA agent was able to get through security at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with a handgun during testing of the enhanced-imaging body scanners, according to a high-ranking, inside source at the Transportation Security Administration. The source said the undercover agent carried a pistol in her undergarments when she put the body scanners to the test. The officer successfully made it through the airport’s body scanners every time she tried, the source said. “In this case, where they had a test, and it was just a dismal failure as I’m told,” said Larry Wansley, former head of security at American Airlines. “As I’ve heard (it), you got a problem, especially with a fire arm.”

This story worries me. But not because a terrorist might smuggle a gun on board. Passengers are now the most effective line of defense against hijacking, along with hardened cockpit doors and armed pilots.

But I am worried that the TSA might over-react, demand more intensive scrutiny, and cause airport security lines to become even slower.

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I got this joke from an English friend. I’m a bit leery about posting politically incorrect humor, but it is funny and I don’t think I can get in too much trouble for jokes about Europeans.

===========================

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is canceled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

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We all grumble that going to the airport now means long lines and invasions of privacy, but we hope that at least we’re getting safety in exchange for all the hassle. But based on results of random tests, the only thing we can really conclude is that terrorists must be very stupid. When undercover agents try to sneak bombs, guns, and other contraband through TSA security, they inevitably seem to succeed more than 50 percent of the time. Here are some key passages from an ABC News story about TSA’s incompetence, and I also encourage you to watch the video at the link.

Last fall, as he had done hundreds of times, Iranian-American businessman Farid Seif passed through security at a Houston airport and boarded an international flight. He didn’t realize he had forgotten to remove the loaded snub nose “baby” Glock pistol from his computer bag. But TSA officers never noticed as his bag glided along the belt and was x-rayed. When he got to his hotel after the three-hour flight, he was shocked to discover the gun traveled unnoticed from Houston. …the TSA did miss it, and despite what most people believe about the painstaking effort to screen airline passengers and their luggage before they enter the terminal, it was not that unusual. Experts tell ABC News that every year since the September 11 terror attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert “red team tests,” where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports. And while the Department of Homeland Security closely guards the results as classified, those that have leaked in media reports have been shocking. According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles’s LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago’s O’Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.

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While I don’t like political correctness and I personally boycott stores that advertise “holiday” sales rather than “Christmas” sales, I certainly don’t see the “War against Christmas” as a meaningful public policy issue.

But I do appreciate clever humor, so this Jay Leno joke is worth sharing.

Al-Qaida is planning Christmas attacks in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. government sprang into action and told al-Qaeda, “Hey, you cannot call them Christmas attacks, you have to call them holiday attacks.”

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I hate writing about the TSA and airport security, especially since I fly frequently and despise the pointless “security theater” of the whole process. I keep doing posts about the issue, though, because it seems a day doesn’t go by without some new revelation about foolish government action.

Here’s a video (courtesy of Pejman Yousefzadeh and Megan McArdle) indicating that TSA bureaucrats violated federal law and deliberately hassled a woman for not surrendering to their petty demands.

A couple of quick thoughts…

1. If the statements in this video about the treatment of breast milk are true, the manager and screeners involved should be fired. And if they’re not fired, that tells us things will get even worse.

2. The passenger being harassed may be an activist who deliberately wanted to provoke this reaction, but even if she was the world’s biggest b*tch, that does not justify the TSA’s behavior.

3. What did the TSA accomplish by making the woman pour the breast milk into smaller containers? Let’s assume the liquid actually was some sort of compound that becomes dangerous in amounts greater than 3 ounces. Couldn’t the woman just pour the little bottles back into the big bottle once she got on the plane?

4. Having said all this, we do have real security concerns. I have no doubt that there are people in the world (and even in America, as shown by the recent Portland bombing plot) who gladly would like to blow up a plane using fake breast milk. Heck, some of these nut-jobs would probably be willing to smuggle explosives onto a plane in the diaper of one of their own children (though I’m not sure what an infant will do with 72 virgins if such a bomb plot succeeded).

5. When all is said and done, I’m amazed that these fanatic morons haven’t blown up a plane since 9-11. In part, this may be because they actually are morons. But I suspect a lot of the credit goes to our intelligence services, so kudos to the FBI, CIA, et al, but continued jeers for the TSA’s empty security theater.

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