The guy on the plane to Detroit, the guy with the flaming underwear, has sparked anew a debate about profiling. The right wing is aghast that we don't. The left wing hasn't said much which is a leading indicator of ambivalence.
Here's a summary of what one radio talker said: We miss opportunities for safety when we fail to profile. He asks if you've ever seen a TV cop show about a serial killer. And he points out that while there are "eight million stories in the naked city," police don't haul in all eight million of them and question each one in succession. He says they gather the similarities in the crimes, the scenes, the circumstances and the backgrounds of the killer or victim and then pull in people they think fits -- um -- the profile.
Racial profiling in this country started when cops began stopping large numbers of Hispanic men, presuming they were illegals and/or had drugs under the back seat of the car. At about the same time, any black male driving a car worth more than, say, $40,000 was more likely to be stopped than a white guy with the same car. The cops were wrong an awful lot. And a lot of them got reprimanded or even demoted and rightly so. Thus grew the charge "driving while black."
So far, the profile of people who blow up buildings in the US, or fly airplanes into office towers killing thousands or wear shoe bombs or exploding underpants have been Muslim radicals. Does a Nigerian Muslim, like the underwear guy, look different from one who's native to Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the middle east. Yes. So skin color ain't the way to go. Do we ask people questions like "excuse me, Mr. Muhammad, are you a Muslim?" Unseemly.
The airline that is probably in the dreams of every terrorist on the planet is El Al, and they've never had an incident. Why? One of the reasons is profiling. And they've been doing it for decades. Should America's carriers follow? There are reasons to do so. There also are reasons to not. El Al is a fairly small operation, with flights to and from 48 cities worldwide. It takes forever to get through the checking. Here, that would be chaos. Nothing would ever get off the ground.
As for the political correctness angle: open to debate.
--It will be interesting to see what happens to Janet Napolitano. It looks like she could become the Obama administration's Michael Brown, though "Brownie's" Katrina sins were tangible and Janet's were those of omission. Good Job, both of you, now go home.
--The Museum of Incompetence probably has more exhibits than we know of. There are the two above. But how many people who deserve spots there do we NOT know about?
--There are a lot of predictions of a down stock market in 2010, including this space. Let's hope we're wrong. But don't be shocked if the presently booming Dow drops a few thousand points by mid year.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®