Monday, August 23, 2010

The Obama Administration From Nudge to Grope

To understand what is going on at Logan Airport in Boston and McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, you need to understand something about the Obama Administration. They are big on the "nudge" and now apparently the grope.

Cass Sunstein, a buddy of Obama's from University of Chicago days, is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. He wrote a book with Richard Thaler called, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. I discussed this bizarre best seller, here.

In short, Sunstein and Thaler promote the idea that government shouldn't force people to do things, just "nudge" them in that direction, by making it difficult to choose the opposite.

Matt Drudge posted a link to a new pat down method TSA is employing at Logan Airport and McCaron.

The first few paragraphs of the linked article read:
Logan airport security just got more up close and personal as federal screeners launched a more aggressive palms-first, slide-down body search technique that has renewed the debate over privacy vs. safety.

The new procedure - already being questioned by the ACLU - replaces the Transportation Security Administration’s former back-of-the-hand patdown.

Boston is one of only two cities in which the new touchy-feely frisking is being implemented as a test before a planned national rollout. The other is Las Vegas.

“We’re all for good effective security measures,” American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts spokesman Christopher Ott said. “But, in general, we’re concerned about this seemingly constant erosion of privacy, and we wonder whether or not it’s really going to be effective.

“Accepting these kinds of searches may keep people safer in some situations, but not in every situation, and we’re encouraging people to stop and think about what is the right balance between privacy and security,” Ott said.

A TSA spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the switch to what the agency calls an “enhanced patdown.”

“TSA is in the process of implementing an enhanced patdown at security checkpoints as one of our many layers of security,” said Ann Davis, TSA spokeswoman for the Northeast region. “Patdowns are designed to address potentially dangerous items, like improvised explosive devices and their components, concealed on the body.”

The body searches are conducted by same-gender TSA officers, and passengers can request private screenings at any time.

Previously, TSA screeners used patdown motions of their hands to search passengers over their clothes, switching to the backs of their hands over certain ’sensitive’ body areas, such as the torso.

But now the searches will be done using all front-of-the-hand sliding motions over greater areas of passengers’ bodies, including sensitive areas.
At this point, I thought to myself, Sunstein thinks this is a "nudge", he's trying to drive people to use the full body scanners. Sure enough, the article continues:
The TSA implemented the new body-search procedures at Logan and Las Vegas-McCarran because both airports are using the greatest number of the walk-through full-body scanners. Those scanners use low-dose X-rays to produce two-sided, head-to-toe images of passengers’ bodies - including discernible but not distinct images of their private parts - but blur their facial features.

Passengers who opt not to walk through the full-body scanners - which have also been assailed by privacy advocates - must instead walk through a metal detector and submit to a body search.
I'm sure there are plenty more nudges hidden in the ObamaCare health bill and the Dodd-Frank finance bill that we will find out about in due time.

For Sunstein he really seems to be more concerned about animals than humans. Groping by government employees at airports is in, but, at the same time, he believes that animals have the right to sue in court.

He is also big on taxes, Sunstein has argued, “We should celebrate tax day.” He argues that since government protects and preserves property and liberty, individuals should happily finance it with their tax dollars. He writes:

In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live? Without taxes, there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending. [It is] a dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public… There is no liberty without dependency.
Sunstein goes on to say:
If government could not intervene effectively, none of the individual rights to which Americans have become accustomed could be reliably protected. [...] This is why the overused distinction between "negative" and "positive" rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty and free exercise of religion—just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps—are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being.
In other words, Sunstein writes about the government nudge, has implemented the government grope, but is really all about the government grab.

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