S: (n) phylactery, tefillin ((Judaism) either of two small leather cases containing texts from the Hebrew Scriptures (known collectively as tefillin); traditionally worn (on the forehead and the left arm) by Jewish men during morning prayer)

Phylactery comes from the Greek verb φυλάσσειν which means to guard or to protect.

I’ll cop ignorance. I didn’t know anything about the word, its literal or religious meaning or its etymology, until after I read Greenfield’s post, “Better Safe Than Jewish”, but it only took me a minute or so of Googling to figure it out.

The Transportation Security Administration, whose motto is “Your Safety Is Our Priority”, is supposedly charged with guarding and protecting us. “Us” meaning good folks, those needing safety and security from bad folks. (See the TSA Blog motto: “Terrorists evolve. Threats evolve. Security must stay ahead. You play a part.”)

Instead of taking a few moments to figure out what was going on – read Scott’s post – the authorities freaked out and massively overreacted to a teenager’s prayer ritual on board an airplane. Scott ends with:

Just because you don’t know what something is doesn’t provide justification to deem it a threat. It just means you’re a dope in a position of authority beyond your grasp. The solution isn’t to subject Americans to ignorant will, but to keep ignorant people out of positions of authority.

True enough. But is Scott’s solution a mathematical impossibility? After all, this same agency just had to apologize for hiring and/or under training this genius.

When we live in a world where the paid airport guards think it’s funny to plant fake cocaine on a person as a practical joke, it’s not unreasonable of me to ask this question:

Are there now more positions of authority than there are non-ignorant people to fill them?