Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Grinding Axes

There's a weird little editorial in today's Los Angeles Times today, one that momentarily had me scratching my head. It has to do with the Transportation Safety Administration and some Republican attacks on the federal agency which came into being after 9/11.

Now, I'm not much of a cheerleader for the TSA. I think the screening being done on passengers is unnecessarily intrusive and violates the privacy rights of the traveling public. Like most measures taken in the aftermath of 9/11, the creation of the TSA was an over-reaction which keeps doubling down. That said, if we still have much to fear from Al Qaeda and other terrorists and if said terrorists intend to keep using jumbo jets to ram into buildings, then I suppose we probably should have a way to keep swarthy young men with box cutters off passenger airliners.

So, what's the deal? Why is the GOP being mean to the Transportation Safety Administration? Simple, the Republicans want to privatize the system of checking passengers for pointy objects and explosive-laced underwear. They want to return to the pre-9/11 system.

Before 9/11, airport security was handled by private contractors, whose performance was considered suspect by aviation experts long before they allowed 19 hijackers with knives and box cutters to board planes that fateful day. The TSA was created two months later to give the government more oversight, but some GOP lawmakers have been grumbling ever since — and the grumbling has turned to action in the wake of two decisions by new TSA chief John S. Pistole.

In January, Pistole decided to limit a program that allows airports to opt out of federal protection and instead contract with private security companies; the 16 airports already in the program could continue, but no others could join without demonstrating "clear and substantial advantages." In response, Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, vowed an investigation of the program. A week later, Pistole annoyed GOP lawmakers even more by announcing that TSA screeners would be granted collective bargaining rights.
[Emphasis added]

Ah...there we go! TSA screeners would be allowed to unionize. We can't be having that. Better we should have private drones with no rights viewing our private parts. It's cheaper and the government needs to cut spending.

...House Republicans took out their ire on the TSA by cutting $270 million from its 2012 budget in a homeland security bill approved last week; if that's approved by the Senate, the agency would have to lay off 10% of its screeners. The bill also would take away collective bargaining rights for TSA workers. Cutting screeners would mean longer lines. And GOP fears over the extremely limited rights being granted to the TSA workforce — they can't bargain on such matters as compensation or security procedures, only such picayune issues as shifts and transfers — are overblown.

Lewis Carroll would really love this tea party, clean cups and all.



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