Links I liked, July 26-August 1 (Australia moving up, Gary Johnson libertarian?, Jerry Doyle passes away)

1. Australia moving up in the world… literally

Oh the problems you have (with modern satellite navigation systems) when your country drifts north by 7 cm per year.  Australia updating the coordinates of its maps to make them match modern reality – they haven’t been updated since 1994, which is quite a drift, actually.

2. Is Johnson-Weld a Libertarian Ticket?

The one presidential election season when a whole lot of people would love a good third-party candidate…

In other words, Johnson doesn’t just come off as anti-religion, but completely misses the distinction between public (meaning government) and private action that is at the heart of (classical) liberal or libertarian legal theory. That’s a shame: it makes him no different than progressives in that regard – or social conservatives, who miss the distinction in the other direction, restricting individual rights in addition to government powers.

3. Jerry Doyle passes away at age 60

I still haven’t seen anything beyond “natural causes”.  I enjoyed his character on Babylon 5 and listened to his radio program (conservative political talk!) from time to time back in the day.  From the Babylon 5 creator:

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

4. Tim Kaine “I’m Conservative” ad 2005 – “I’m against same sex marriage and for sanctity of life”

Oh how quickly what is considered acceptable in the Democratic Party has changed.  See also Hillary Clinton, 2004, talking about marriage as a “sacred bond between a man and a woman”.

5. Unprecendented $70M donation to cut Kalamazoo property taxes by a third

I have actually never heard of anything like this happening before – anonymous philanthropists donate money to the city of Kalamazoo to help them get their budget under control, cut taxes, and make investments for the future.

6. Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens

This from CNN Money – is the mainstream media paying much attention to the ridiculous, and very sad, collapse of Venezuela?  I pay so little attention to it these days it’s hard for me to know.  Really is sad.

7. ASMSU and COGS: MSU wasn’t transparent in decision to remove Women’s Lounge

A local story and yet also not a local story here – a University of Michigan – Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards Michigan State University because they had a study lounge designated for women only, but not one for men only.  He suggested such discrimination (it is discrimination, whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing is another matter) might violate Title IX and Michigan civil rights laws.  MSU is now closing the lounge.

8. Monuments to Idiocy

Like all government monopolies, the TSA blames its failures on lack of funding. But it’s already spending way too much, as demonstrated in a congressional study comparing TSA screeners in Los Angeles with non-TSA screeners in San Francisco, one of the few airports allowed to run its own system, contracting with a private company. If LAX switched to the San Francisco model, the study concluded, it could cut its screening costs by more than 40 percent.

The San Francisco private company’s screeners received the same salary and benefits as TSA screeners, but they were so much better trained and deployed that each one processed 65 percent more passengers than a TSA screener in Los Angeles. They apparently enjoyed better working conditions, too, because they were much less likely to quit their jobs. And in tests by federal investigators, they were three times better at detecting contraband.

9. I reviewed “Bad Religion” on Goodreads

This week brought to you by dinner tonight at Lansing’s favorite food truck:

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Our irrational airport security

Bruce Schneier has a review of Harvey Molotch’s book Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger in the latest issue of Reason magazine. I think I’ll pick up the book, though I haven’t yet – but I did want to share a couple thoughts prompted by the review about why that annoying security line at the airport just doesn’t make sense.

1. Our current security measures focus on specific places and specific types of threats – for example, we spent an awful lot of manpower trying to protect airplanes and airports, and also target specific types of threats (knives, say). But we also leave a tremendous number of other possible targets unprotected – after all, if we tried to offer every potential terrorist target in America the same kind of protection we offer airports, every person in America would be a security officer. So, then, what is the effect of our airport security? In essence, we’re spending a tremendous amount of money just to force terrorists to switch to other targets, or to use other tactics – and that just doesn’t make sense. (This is assuming airport security would actually stop a terrorist, itself a highly debatable point.)

So what should we do? Spend that money on investigation and intelligence instead. You get a lot more bang for your buck paying a mole to infiltrate a terrorist cell and find out what they’re really up to than you do paying for 100 TSA agents. And you don’t have to dehumanize every innocent airport traveler either.

2. Our fears of terrorism are wildly out of proportion to the actual threat – and sometimes we react in ways that makes us less safe. Many people have pointed out that the giant security lines that form on busy travel days have a higher density of people than any airplane would. Molotch points out that more people have died in car crashes since 9/11 because they didn’t want to fly (either because they were scared, or to avoid the TSA) than died in the terrorist attacks. So perhaps we should relax a bit. To quote the review,

In addition to urging people to be more reasonable about potential threats, Molotch makes a strong case for optimism and kindness. Treating every air traveler as a potential terrorist and every Hurricane Katrina refugee as a potential looter is dehumanizing. Molotch argues that we do better as a society when we trust and respect people more. Yes, the occasional bad thing will happen, but 1) it happens less often, and is less damaging, than you probably think, and 2) individuals naturally organize to defend each other. This is what happened during the evacuation of the Twin Towers and in the aftermath of Katrina before official security took over. Those in charge often do a worse job than the common people on the ground.