Knives on Planes, Political Posturing and Higher Order Effects

I had this conversation with my friend Terry after we recorded the Far From Centered podcast last week, and I’m going to have to ask him back on to discuss this in further detail, because he’s a very intelligent Veteran who brings a lot of great insight and higher-order thought to discussions like these, but I’ll pose the introduction here.


As a Green Beret, I was taught and trained to look at “knock on effects” or “higher order effects” when thinking of the outcomes of a given situation.  This means instead of looking at what reaction #1 will be to a given situation, to look at reaction #5-10, to figure out the long-term effects of our actions, rather than the short-term “low hanging fruit.”

In my current position, we utilize “LEAN management,” which teaches us to use the “5 Why’s,” which teaches those in leadership positions to never accept the first reason something goes wrong.  For example: if an auto assembly line has oil spilled on the floor, as a manager you try to figure out why.  The first reason: a line carrying hydraulic oil is leaking.  If I stopped there, I’d never get to the root cause and actually fix the problem.

I get to Why #2: there’s a faulty seal in that line.  If I stop there and just replace the seal without inquiring further, it’s only a band aid.  Why #3: the company has been purchasing the cheapest seals we can find.  Why #4: the person in purchasing has been given an order from higher to look at economy over quality.  Why #5: management is only focusing on the bottom line, and not the final product.

I take all of these experiences in my life and use them to view the world; when I see things that don’t make sense to me, my mind starts going a million miles a second, trying to find both root cause and the higher order effects of what will happen from whatever is going on.

Adam Carolla has a great game he plays called “stupid or liar.”  It’s a comedy bit, but has a lot of truth to how we should view people in charge and what they’re doing.  His supposition is that people are either stupid or liars when they say things that don’t make any common sense from the outside perspective, and it’s right on.

Take President Obama; I have a lot of very conservative friends, and even though they are very intelligent, many like to immediately discount him and call him an idiot for the things he does and is doing.  But can you really think that?  He’s an extremely educated, intelligent and well-spoken individual, so I think we need to go to the other idea.

For all that Obama hasn’t done in his administration; he has been wildly efficient at one thing: setting the Republicans and Conservatives up like a chess master to do exactly what he wants, by making them look like incompetent fools, and their short-sightedness is allowing him to do it quite easily.

Take the last election; everyone knows that the demographics in this country have been changing rapidly over the last decade.  Obama has possibly the whitest man in America as his VP, to the first ever American black President.  Mitt Romney, possibly the second whitest man in America, didn’t even have Marco Rubio, a Republican shining star, anywhere on his short list.  Was anyone paying attention in the RNC?

We look at the current 2nd Amendment battle that is raging, the fiscal cliff, Obamacare, and last but not least the sequester.  The sequester was the most recent, and the only one where the Conservatives didn’t take the bait and fall for the trap, but I’ve seen something recently that scares me much more.

I saw a news report this morning with an interview with the head of the FAA, speaking about why he decided to allow small knives, bats, lacrosse sticks and golf clubs on planes.  It didn’t make much sense to me, and with a father who made his career as a pilot, it hits pretty close to home.

His given reasoning was that he wants the TSA, who is known to be wildly incompetent, to be able to focus entirely on what is potentially the biggest known and visible threat of bombs on planes.  He says that he wants his screeners to be able to focus completely on this issue, and not worry about anything else.

But was there ever an outcry of people wondering why they couldn’t take knives on planes in this post-9/11 world of travel?  I’ve heard shampoo, laptops and the shoes, but everyone pretty much understood why knives would be an issue.

As the head of the FAA, it’s a given that he also isn’t stupid…maybe not bright, but definitely too educated and accomplished to be called stupid.  So if we follow that thread, what is the motivation to allow these weapons back on planes, even though the flight attendants and pilots unions are very vocally against the idea?

As my friend Terry pointed out, and it makes quite a bit of sense to me now, it’s most likely political posturing, and Obama doing what he does best and setting the Conservatives up to take a fall.

The Conservatives finally banded together, didn’t take Obama’s bait and allowed the sequestration to happen, knowing full well that it wouldn’t touch much of their constituency, and in the end the roughly $2 billion it saves is only a small drop in the pan for our enormous government waste and budget.

But how can Obama turn that back around on them and make everything look as if it were their fault, jabbing another knife in the side of Conservatives while they’re on the ropes?  Catastrophe.

It was Obama’s close friend and ally Rahm Emanuel said “you can never let a good tragedy go to waste,” but is he sinister enough to manufacture, or at least set up the events for a tragedy?

Let’s look at the knock-on effects here; Congress allowed the sequestration to happen, because it was Obama’s idea in the first place, he refused to cut spending as he promised and instead grew the government waste even further, and wasn’t willing to put addressing government waste on the table whatsoever.

It is already very public knowledge that his administration has been consciously and purposely making cuts that were the most visible, so that even while most of the Conservative base are working individuals who aren’t affected much by the sequestration cuts to public assistance, they can see the false effects that he’s manufacturing.

Now the TSA is saying they don’t have the resources or bandwidth to properly check everyone and everything, and even though knives, bats, lacrosse sticks and the like are not hard to pick out, and are picked up by metal detectors that require no effort or thought by TSA workers to find, it’s the red herring that they’re using as an excuse.

What happens next?  We know that we have a world full of lunatics, and a lot of them who want nothing more than to see America fall.  We know that there are “lone wolves” out there, even in our own country, who don’t need orders from Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group to try and act on these wishes.

I sincerely hope that both Terry and I are drinking crazy sauce, but the next events that we see are one, or even worse a group of these crazies using these now TSA-approved weapons to bring down a plane in a terrorist act, made possible by political posturing and a government wishing to destroy another party rather than help the country.

As soon as that happens, what does Obama and his administration gain?  Being able to pin the blame on Conservatives and sequestration taking away the TSA budget.  Please tell me we’re not the only ones who see this.

When you see something that doesn’t make sense, or you hear someone in power say something that goes against common sense, play the “stupid or liar” game, and analyze the 5 why’s and knock-on effects for yourself.  When politicians are more concerned with politics and posturing than the fate of our nation, we’re all in trouble.

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