Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Junk that's Worth Touching On

There is a troubling dichotomy running rampant in our nation. While this is a national problem, it touches each of us locally--and in some ways, very personally.
Just a couple of weeks ago, you and most of our neighbors in Houston voted to turn off one of the more public examples of government intrusion into our lives. Passage of the proposition to kill 70 red-light cameras is cause for limited rejoicing, because it now leaves open the question of how to properly--and effectively--enforce traffic laws at intersections where drivers insist on running the lights.
It also leaves the Houston Police Department with an instant budget deficit of $10-million in a year in which tax revenues for local, county and state agencies are already thinly stretched. You can be sure that “fees” in other areas of public service will be “enhanced” to make up the difference. 
The sum total of what it takes to run municipalities is what it is. And much like your own household budget, choices will be made on where to cut, what to drop, to balance reduced income with adjusted outgo.
At the same time, there is a hue and cry being raised louder and louder against those of you who insist upon operating your smart phone while you drive your car. I see it every day, coming and going, at 4:30am and 4:30pm, incredibly inattentive drivers on all sides of me, focused more on a touch screen telephone instead of the road ahead. 
It scares the crap out of me. 
I’ve been nearly creamed many, many times by drivers who are oblivious to me and others on the road, while they text, tap, or read their phones while they drive. (I still also see idiots reading the newspaper or books in traffic, driving at speed, with the pages propped on the wheel in front of them.) I was going to snap a picture of these morons with my own smart phone, until...
Frankly, I think that in this instance, with overwhelming statistics showing the incidence of distracted driving in fatal or horrifically damaging traffic accidents, it’s time for the government to step in and say “enough is enough.”
I support a ban for texting while driving.
Now--here’s where the real dichotomy is apparent: We the people are now being subjected to what I would charitably describe as government heavy-handedness towards our own citizenry at airports around the country...while our southern borders leak like a sieve. I just viewed a video recorded on Friday in an airport terminal in which a caucasian male was pulled aside for refusing to submit to a full-body scan, and commenting to the TSA worker that if the man “touched his junk” he’d have him arrested.
Earlier this week New Jersey lawmakers demanded that Congress review the TransportationSecurity Administration's new "enhanced" security screening of airline passengers involving either an X-ray scan, revealing a virtually nude image, or a full-body pat-down that touches private parts.
Even a former top TSA official has admitted to Fox News what many passengers already knew: The procedures are legally questionable.
Mo McGowan is the former fed head of TSA security operations, and is flummoxed to find a compromise between feretting out terrorists without unneccessarily pawing passengers. McGowan told FOX, "We're not dictating these events that are occurring. Events are happening across the world … driving us as a society to have to go to these measures."
So does this mean that the terrorists have won? Have people who wish to do us harm pushed our buttons to the point that they’ve effectively disrupted our way of life to that which is unrecognizable?
Meanwhile, illegals continue to pour across our southern borders. And there does not appear to be anything the Federal government is willing--or able--to do about it.
Part of the problem is the vastness of the border itself, stretching from Brownsville to San Diego. Which in someways mirrors the problem federal transportation safety wonks are facing--it’s vast: how to effectively find the needle in the haystack, or bomb in the luggage, or shank in the pocket, of people who’d like to go to glory at the expense of a downed airliner.
History has proven that you cannot do much to deter a determined enemy. You can prepare, you can plan, you can try to protect against. 
But at some point you have to ask the question of what civil liberties are worth giving up...and if you give up enough, have you already lost the war?

1 comment:

Angela Shah said...

Brent, I think you've hit the pertinent point. Security vs. civil liberties. I'm not sure there is a way to completely keep terrorists or, frankly, people desperate for a better life out of our country without creating the kind of police state that would boggle the mind of those who objected to red-light cameras. It's all about choices. Cut back on the cameras - and their revenue - and there might be fewer cops out to catch the idiots emailing on their iphones. It means the citizenry has to step up and become more engaged with their governments at a local level to make sure the choices being made reflect their priorities.