Personal Liberty Issue Update: Don’t Touch My Junk

If you’re traveling by air this holiday season, you may find yourself uttering those words while going through airport security under the TSA’s new and controversial screening procedures. Then again, it’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing someone talk about liberty and freedom. It’s the rallying cry of the Tea Party. It’s the underpinnings of a failed attempt to legalize marijuana in California. It’s even coming into play in the debate on “Net Neutrality.” Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or just flying home to see Grandma, you probably have a skin in this game.

  • New screening procedures from the Transportation Security Administration are being called unconstitutional and unnecessarily invasive by some travelers. The choice between full body x-ray scanners (aka “porno scanners”) or a thorough pat down is no choice at all, opponents say. In protest, one group tried to organize a nationwide “Opt-Out Day” just before Thanksgiving to cause huge security delays for holiday travelers by insisting on the time-consuming search. According to most press reports though, Opt-Out Day was a complete bust. Still, the debate goes on. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana blasted the Obama administration over the policy, saying it defied common sense to search young girls and grandmothers on their way to see their families.
  • While most Americans seem to be OK with the new TSA scanners, it’s worth noting that there is little evidence that these procedures are effective at keeping us safe. In addition to the potentially embarrassing and invasive nature of the scanners and searches, there is alarming proof that TSA screeners are under-trained and that the x-rays could increase the risk of cancer. Some wonder if national security will be adequately improved, given these risks. MSNBC reports that, “While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it's about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist.”
  • California’s Proposition 19, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana lost with 46% of the vote. Still, legalization supporters are optimistic about future efforts. Even though it didn’t pass, Prop. 19 may have prompted Governor Schwarzenegger to sign a marijuana decriminalization bill into law just before the election, making possession of up to one ounce of pot a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. How this affected public opinion on the legalization matter is up for debate, but it certainly is a small win for an individual’s choices. From Snoop Dogg to Melissa Etheridge, many musicians came out in support of Prop 19Bill Kruetzman of the Grateful Dead not only endorsed the measure but went so far as to say, “Jerry would vote yes on 19.”
  • Net Neutrality, the push to keep big Internet service providers from deciding what websites you can view at what speeds, appears to be losing its political footing. One month before the midterm elections, 95 Democratic candidates for Congress had signed a pledge to support net neutrality. Well, all 95 of those candidates lost in the election. Calls for a “free and open Internet” are being met with calls to eliminate government regulations, meaning the large service providers can do anything they want.

Whew! It was hard to squeeze all that into this update and there’s lots of stuff that didn’t make it. For daily updates, follow us on Twitter.