The Archie Bunker Solution

In response to my comments on David Brin’s piece, a reader suggests that:

I don’t relish a fire fight in the cabin, but I suspect that the only damage to the aircraft from small arms fire would be the flying flesh and blood. That would be very rare if everyone could be armed. The crime rate in concealed carry states appears to be dropping. There have been few or no reported instances of licensed individuals starting trouble and many just the opposite. So there’s the answer pass out Browning 9’s at the gate to any one who wants one (collect a deposit of course).

I call that the Archie Bunker solution, because Archie once proposed it during the heyday of hijackings to Cuba. Norman Lear obviously thought that it was a ridiculous idea (as was his opinion of almost all ideas attributed to Archie), but after 911, it has more appeal to me, at least relative to our current approach. However, to say it is better than the current philosophy is to damn it with faint praise, and I am more than a little nervous about untrained people with heavy weaponry on board.

My preferred solution is to allow anyone who is licensed to carry on the ground to be able to carry on board. That would include active and retired military and law enforcement, and citizens with CCW permits (though the state-specific issues with CCW complicates life quite a bit–how would one handle a flight from DFW to Logan?). In addition, flight crew should be allowed to be armed, with stun guns and pepper spray for flight attendants, and there should be a little pepper sprayer in the back of every seat. Make sure there are harsh penalties if air ragers use it for non-self-defense purpose. Anyone who attempts to put on a pepper-spray-proof mask gets tasered and subdued immediately

I do believe that the current approach does little to improve safety, and is destroying not only the airline industry, but is extremely damaging to the economy. In fact, this weekend, I may take a WAG at just what the hidden costs of the current airline security fiasco are–I’ve seen no one else do it.

A reader notes that:

There’s an old joke about carrying your own bomb on a plane as the probability of two bombs on the same plane is nill…….ultimately the terrorist who seems adapt at forging passports will do the same thing with CCW permits.

True, but beside the point. The purpose of the permit is not to exclude terrorists and criminals who may indeed forge one–it’s just to keep the clueless from carrying, as it is in the rest of society. Under my scenario, I fully expect a determined terrorist to be able to carry a weapon on board. What I don’t expect is for him to bother–the notion that there will be others on board with weapons who know how to use them, and he won’t know who they are, or how many, will deter.

There is no substitute for stopping the terrorist before he gets anywhere near the airplane…like stop him while he is still in the cave in Afganistan.

True, if possible. But I’m not sure that it always will be–we must be vigilant in addition.

Happy Thanksgiving

While I’m too busy building dressing, basting a turkey, rising bread, etc., to say much, I do want to wish all Transterrestrial readers (as well as everyone else) a very happy Thanksgiving. Despite what’s been happening this fall, we still have a great deal to be grateful for, and perhaps recent events will make us cherish it all the more.

Camelot Finally Over?

I haven’t been watching the news today. Has anyone mentioned that today is the 38th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination? Certainly pre-911, it would have been a lead. Perhaps we finally have a day that eclipses November 22. If so, it’s another beneficial side effect of a devastating event…

Empowerment vs Passivity

This column by David Brin is a must read. It echoes and expands on many of the themes on which I’ve been ranting since 911. What happened on September 11 was not a failure of airline security, though it was a failure of many of the institutions in which we have now (inexplicably, at least to me) placed our trust. What it was truly a failure of is the notion that we aren’t responsible for ourselves, and must let the “professionals” take care of us. Flight 93 dramatically proved that notion wrong.

We’re all in the army now. This is the message that we have to promulgate, through the fog of the media, many of whom, unfortunately, still live in the old paradigm.

Can’t We Just Move On?

According to this AP story from The Plain Dealer, the Taliban thinks that it’s time for us to forget about the September 11 attacks, and focus on the fact that there is now a war in Afghanistan. Well, they’ve got it half right…

They’re also back to disavowing knowledge of Osama’s whereabouts. The story is an interesting read for, if nothing else, a case study in denial.

Can’t We Just Move On?

According to this AP story from The Plain Dealer, the Taliban thinks that it’s time for us to forget about the September 11 attacks, and focus on the fact that there is now a war in Afghanistan. Well, they’ve got it half right…

They’re also back to disavowing knowledge of Osama’s whereabouts. The story is an interesting read for, if nothing else, a case study in denial.

Can’t We Just Move On?

According to this AP story from The Plain Dealer, the Taliban thinks that it’s time for us to forget about the September 11 attacks, and focus on the fact that there is now a war in Afghanistan. Well, they’ve got it half right…

They’re also back to disavowing knowledge of Osama’s whereabouts. The story is an interesting read for, if nothing else, a case study in denial.

A Ray Of Hope For Small(er) Government?

I’ve been somewhat depressed over the airline security bill that just passed, and have been gearing up to post another rant about it today, but the inimitable Professor Reynolds has discovered not just a silver, but perhaps a platinum lining in that particular cloud. I seldom just repost things that he says, since I assume that most of my readers (at least currently) come from there, but this one bears repeating.

His thesis, and it’s a brilliant (and hopefully correct) one, is that this will prove to be a pyhrric victory for the Democrats and other proponents of big government.

From Instapundit:

…airline security will continue to suck. It will be annoying, and it will be ineffective. The result of the airline security bill is that members of the chattering classes (who travel more than most) will soon deal face-to-face with rude and inept federal employees on every trip. (How do I know they’ll be rude and inept — airline screening pretty much sorts for that: high irritation, no repeat interactions to speak of, heavy boredom combined with high stress, and dealing with a public that’s at its worst.) It used to be that when you lost a bag, or got stuck in line and missed your flight, you blamed the airlines. Now when that happens, people will blame the federal government!

Clever Republicans will position themselves to take advantage of this. They should be thrilled. If these extra federal employees went into some back office in the Department of Agriculture, it would be a pure win for Democrats and the public-employee unions. But here, they’re all in places where their almost-inevitable rudeness and ineptitude will irritate lots of influential people, and their visible positions will make them emblematic of the entire federal workforce! This bill has just created a federal equivalent of the DMV.

I sincerely hope that he’s right. I want to wipe out the terrorist scum as much as the next guy (and in fact, perhaps even more than many), but I’m dismayed by this sudden outpouring of trust in the federal government in the wake of 911, particularly since it’s totally without justification, other than on a limbic level.

What frustrates me most about the press is not that they are sceptical–they’re supposed to be that way, and it’s one of the reasons that the founders wrote the First Amendment–it’s that they’re skeptical about the stupidest things (like the ability of the Pentagon to put the fear of Allah into a bunch of fanatical fools), while ignoring the real issues.

Why aren’t they asking why George Tenet still has his job? Why aren’t they asking why we should trust the FBI to either capture the bad guys, or not abuse the innocent, let alone both, in light of their record of the past (at least) ten years? Why aren’t they questioning the assumption that the federal government is the best repository for our trust in general, and specifically, why the people who were in charge antebellum, should remain in charge now that we have to clean up their mess? Why aren’t they asking why, given that our “disarm the passengers and crew” approach to airline security was clearly an utter failure, they think that stepping up the volume of the same failed policy will somehow succeed, and not drive the final stake through the heart of the airline industry and national productivity?

Why ask why?

I just hope that Glenn is right–it will take a few months to get definitive results from the experiment.

The Natural

I just read Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit site (a multiple daily occurrence), in which, in the midst of his ongoing family tragedy he notes that:

I’d have to say that the medical profession has made a lot less progress with “end of life” issues than I had thought. Unlike Leon Kass, though, I’d rather see them make progress at keeping people alive. They’re doing better, but, also unlike Kass, I wish that medical care had advanced as much since 1986 as laptops have. There’s nothing noble or natural about seeing someone die of cancer. Cancer isn’t natural. It happens because something has gone horribly wrong. Unavoidable, perhaps, but that’s not the same as “natural.” The same is true of everything else people die of.

First of all, having lost close family members myself, a situation that remains, to date, sadly (though I know Professor Kass wouldn’t agree) and fundamentally part of the human condition, I’d like to say that I wish for the best for his family in this trying time.

But if it’s not deemed too opportunistic in the face of such personal trauma, I’d also like to disquisite on the above quote. Being a mathematician and thus, by nature (i.e., it’s natural for him) logical, I would hope that Glenn’s father-in-law would see it as a good cause.

“Natural” is vastly overrated. As is “normal.” As is “organic.” That such scientific terms, which ought to be morally neutral, have somehow acquired intrinsic value, is a testament to the sad state of the news media and our educational system.

Let’s take them (not) in order. “Normal” is a statistical term. It just means a characteristic that most of a given sample have. If you’re human, it’s normal to have two legs and two arms. It’s normal to have skin pigmentation. It’s normal to have an IQ within a couple dozen points of a hundred. And it’s normal, if you’re a man, to be attracted to women. That doesn’t mean that any of these things are “good.” It only means that a vast majority of human beings have these traits.

Being homosexual is not normal, but then, neither is being Albert Einstein or Mark Maguire or…me. Or you. It is not normal to be either an axe murderer or a genius. The fact that these states are not a normal condition provides absolutely zero information as to whether or not we should or should not approve of them. Thus, the mindless condemnation that any particular trait is “not normal” is meaningless.

OK, next up–“Organic.” Although, via arm-twisting by addled ex-hippies and their willing accomplices in the press, the government has come up with bizarre criteria that determine whether or not a food product can be labeled “organic,” the scientific fact remains that organic means nothing more than that a substance is…well…carbon based. Scrawny blueberries grown under FDA-authorized conditions of minimum-to-zero fertilizer and pesticides are organic.

So are the disallowed fertilizer and pesticides.

So is botulism. And anthrax–even that produced in Saddam Hussein’s labs.

And finally, to get back to the original point spurred by Glenn’s family travails, “natural.”

This is a rare case in which I disagree with Glenn. Cancer is many things, and one of them is natural.

Nature is not our friend. Regardless of what Leon Kass and Jeremy Rifkin wish to believe, natural is not a moral value–it is just a state of being uninfluenced by humans (at least in the common parlance–some, including me, consider humans and their works to be natural as well).

It is natural to be born. It is natural to love. For humans, it is natural to create works of art and beauty, often transcendently so. Unfortunately, it is also natural, for many, to rape and murder. And it is natural to get cancer, and ultimately, for all so far, it is natural to die. I find it bizarre that those who would condemn rape, welcome death, on the basis that the latter is “natural,” when in truth one is no more or less natural than the other.

Since the dawn of recorded time, it was natural for someone injured to become infected, and lose a limb or die, until we came up with the unnatural advent of antibiotics. It was natural for a woman and her child, in the event of a breach birth, to die, or for the child to live, but the woman to die in agony by having the child literally ripped from her womb, until we came up with those unnatural anesthetics. It was natural for people to lose most of their teeth, often painfully, until we came up with those unnatural dental maintenance techniques.

And now that we’ve unnaturally conquered so many other ills, and, in defiance of human nature, dramatically reduced the incidence of violent death among our youth, and, by unnaturally producing food on farms, reduced our need to hunt dangerous natural wild animals–we live unnaturally long lives, and thus it is now natural for many of us to get cancer. And when we defeat that (as we will inevitably do, though, sadly, probably not in time for Glenn’s father-in-law), we will do it with means just as unnatural as those employed to improve the human condition in the past.

We must live our lives by a set of values, but whether or not something is natural should not–indeed cannot–be among them. If it were, and we guided our lives by it, we would still be living nasty, brutish and short lives on a savannah in Africa, subsisting on roots, berries, and whatever the hyenas left behind. Of course, none of you would be reading this in that event, because we wouldn’t have such unnatural things as computers, computer networks, or even written language.

We have to find other moral guideposts than whether or not it’s what nature intended–nature intends nothing. Or to the degree that one believes in such a teleology, nature intends only that we are born, we breed and we get out of the way for the next generation. If that is our highest aspiration, then we truly are no different from any other animal, and I don’t think that even (or especially) Leon Kass believes that.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

Switch to our mobile site