On TSA, Texas Lege Folds Like a Cheap Card Table

Kashmir Hill writes:

Republican Dan Patrick, who was the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, withdrew it when he realized he would not have the votes he needed to pass it. “There was a time in this state, there was a time in our history, where we stood up to the federal government and we did not cower to rules and policies that invaded the privacy of Texans,” he said with regret, reports the Texas Tribune. No last stand for Texas this week.

The bill in question? Texas’s HB1937, which would have made it a felony subject to sex-offender registration for a TSA goon to touch someone in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person (I called it A Damn Good Start). Here, blowhard Patrick blames the Lieutenant Governor for killing the bill; I guess Patrick wants us to think that he’s not cowering; that he would stand up to the federal government if only he had the votes. Which makes him a hypocritical coward, of course.
What made Senator Patrick go all roundheeled and spread his legs—along with all of Texas’s—to the not-so-gentle ministrations of the TSA? This letter, from John E. Murphy, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, (whose job does not, as far as I can tell, include either giving legal advice to the Texas legislature or enforcing TSA policy) demanding surrender at discretion:
TSA Letter to Texas Lawmakers over the ‘groping’ bill
So a federal government lawyer (whose job it isn’t) threatens vaguely that TSA (which he neither works for nor runs) “would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew” (note Murphy’s explicit false premises: that groping is a) “required under federal regulations”; b) “in order to ensure the safety of the American public”), and the Texas Legislature caves in. They don’t even hold out for a threat from someone with the actual power to make the decisions, much less a concrete threat.

What’s the right answer? If HB1397 is the right thing to do (and it is), you fight for it, Mr. Patrick. You don’t cave in and withdraw it because some US Attorney says that TSA might, in some extended chain of circumstances, cancel flights. If it doesn’t pass, Patrick has won by being on the right—albeit losing—side. If it does pass, Rick Perry can sign it or veto it; if he vetoes it, Patrick has again won. If he signs it, the DOJ can sue or not sue; it wins or does not win; TSA can stop flights or not stop them. Worst-case scenario for the sponsor of the bill: it winds up shutting down passenger air travel out of Texas.

Would that be so bad? Most Americans don’t fly. In 2008, according to a Gallup poll, 56% of Americans hadn’t flown in the last year. By caving in to the government’s nebulous threats, the Texas Legislature pandered to a subset of this minority of people—those who have the wherewithal and inclination to get on an airplane, and think that it’s worth whatever TSA wants to do to us—at the expense of the rest of us. Other than the giving-up-your-Fourth-Amendment-rights thing, flying is great: convenient, safe, inexpensive. So what? The feds have made it plain that we fly so only at their pleasure.

So I say let the federal government shut down air travel out of the second most populous state for as long as it can stand to.

It would be financially catastrophic for the airlines. Great. Let the airlines—the only parties to this mess that have the political clout to force some rationality on TSA—bleed until they are ready to stand up to a bullying and out-of-control federal bureaucracy.

There would be those quislings who, accepting Murphy’s false premises, whined that we should allow the TSA to do “whatever it takes to keep us safe.” So what? There will always be whiners, and you can’t let them stop you from doing what’s right.

If stopping TSA’s abuse and humiliation of us and our children isn’t worth Texans making a stand and risking the consequences, then nothing is anymore.

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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