'Shop Talk': Man Booted From Plane Due To His Pants

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This is a June 9, 2011, photo provided by airline passenger Jill Tarlow showing an unnamed passenger scantily dressed and taken at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

This is a June 9, 2011, photo provided by airline passenger Jill Tarlow showing an unnamed passenger scantily dressed and taken at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Jill Tarlow/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jill Tarlow/AP

The Barbershop guys weigh-in on Obama's plan to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the case of the college student who was kicked off a plane for wearing sagging pants while, a week earlier, a man in female underwear was allowed to fly the same airline. Host Michel Martin hears from author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, sports editor David Zirin and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette.

MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week are author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and sports editor at the magazine The Nation, Dave Zirin. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas. What's good? Welcome to the shop.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Doing good, man.

DAVE ZIRIN: Hey.

IZRAEL: Hey, man, so check this out. It's like Obama is kind of - he's trying to double down all this good will he's getting because he's doing a U.S. troop withdrawal down in Afghanistan. President Obama took to the airwaves on Wednesday to say he's pulling 10,000 troops out by the end of the year and another 23,000 troops by the end of next summer. Wow. What do you guys think of that?

MARTIN: Arsalan, why don't you go first?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, for anybody who has been following the war in Afghanistan, especially, you know, recent developments, we all remember his December 2009 speech at West Point where he essentially doubled down on the troop levels that were currently there to increase it by 33,000. And essentially now what he's doing a year and a half later is saying, well, I'm taking that double down back now by next year.

What's important, I think for us as Americans is there are certain figures out that say that it costs about $1.2 million per soldier to keep a soldier in Afghanistan for one year. So a 10,000-troop drawdown would be $12 billion in savings that could obviously go - better spent here on items. And, you know, it's nothing to sneeze at. And so, you know, sadly, he can't catch a political break either on the left or the right.

I think that people are just going to, you know, take out their haterade bottles and, you know, try to undermine him in whatever he does.

IZRAEL: Well, yeah, count me there, man. I'm sorry. You know, I'm something of a cynic. This may be of - some shock to you, but I'm something of a cynic. You know, I'm certainly glad to see the men and women come home. I'm down with that, but I wonder if it's too early and I hope the job is done, you know, or really close to done. And another thing I'm wondering about is, I mean, so the people that are playing cleanup, will they be safe? You know, I'm concerned about that. I don't know.

And I'm hoping - the timing is kind of hinky. We've got the elections coming up - is that a coincidence? I don't know. Ruben, what do you think?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: I think it's a lot more complicated than my friend, Arsalan, would like us to believe in terms of haterade. I think it's really interesting and a very complicated issue because he's right that you have people on the left - Democrats in Congress - who are really upset with Obama. Most of the criticism he's gotten for this plan has come from the left, from Democrats who say 5,000 troops out this year isn't enough. They wanted 15. 35,000 overall isn't enough in the next two years. They wanted 65,000 out.

A lot of the criticism he's getting and has gotten over the last two and a half years have been from Democrats in Congress, Howard Dean, the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party that used to love, love going after Bush because they hated Bush and they hated war, so it all worked together nicely. Now they're with Obama, they love Obama, but they hate war and their heads are about to explode. So it got very, very interesting that way.

But I got to say, I got to say, the Republicans are likewise blowing it because they're in a really tough spot, right? We're in a place where our politics is. If I'm running against Jimi, anything he says I'll just say the opposite. So basically the Republicans have been pulled into this dovish position. The elephant has gone dovish. The elephant's a dove. All of a sudden all of the Republicans are talking about being isolationists and pulling back and getting out of Afghanistan.

And I got to say, if you believe, like a lot of Americans, that it's too expensive to be in Afghanistan and we ought to come home, but at the same time we still live in a dangerous world, do you really think I'm going to get - Mitt Romney is going to protect me? Is Tim Pawlenty going to protect me? Is Rick Santorum going to protect me? No, no, no. Get ready, because we're about to see a fascinating election where the guy who's a tough guy is Obama who stands up and says, listen, my name is Barack Obama and I did Osama, OK? I protected you all. I took care of this business.

And these guys over here on the far right, they want to pull out of the world. So it's going to get freaky. It's really, really interesting stuff.

ZIRIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Just to - you know, Ron Christie was on - Dave, we want to hear from you, obviously, but you're not a Republican. So - at least we don't think so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But on the program earlier...

ZIRIN: Safe bet, Michel.

NAVARRETTE: Hey, I want to say I'm not a Republican either. I just play one on the radio.

MARTIN: You just play one on the radio. Yeah, we know.

NAVARRETTE: OK.

MARTIN: Better you than me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But saying that, but Ron Christie earlier, though, giving the other position kind of the - who obviously worked for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, giving the other side of that argument. You know, his argument was that this is not the time to pull out. The situation isn't resolved yet. So I guess why, Ruben, I'm just reinforcing your point that...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

MARTIN: ...there are fractures on both sides of the aisle on this. Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: Oh, absolutely.

MARTIN: So Dave, go ahead.

ZIRIN: There are fractures on both sides, and I would argue it's overwhelmingly governed by political opportunism. I mean you can go back to the Kosovo war and find speeches by Tom DeLay where he sounds like a peacenik just because Bill Clinton was pushing it.

I think we have to push aside the political opportunism and ask ourselves the question: does a continued and prolonged U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires from Alexander the Great to the USSR, actually make you and me, Joe and Jane Six Pack, safer here in the United States, and does it actually make life better for people on the ground in Afghanistan?

I actually - I stand with NBC reporter Richard Engel who's been on the ground and has been making the talk-show circuit, saying we got to not only pull out of there now but end this war on terror nonsense, because what it is is propaganda taking the place of politics.

MARTIN: Can I just - one more point there. One of the things that I think contributes to the restiveness in this country is the sense that historical parallels are always dangerous, but the sense that Americans have that the Afghans aren't really pulling their weight in this and there are, in fact, somewhat hostile...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

MARTIN: ...to the United States. I just want to play...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

MARTIN: ...that the leadership I mean by that, a couple of weeks ago, asking Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned NATO that quote, "if it turns to the behavior of an occupation, of course, the Afghan people know how to deal with that." Sort of implying that, you know, we're taking the U.S. on. And then in response to that here's a clip from parting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry last week.

KARL EIKENBERRY: When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost in terms of lives and treasures, when they hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own narrow interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people, my people in turn, they're filled with confusion and they grow weary of our effort here.

MARTIN: Arsalan, final thought here?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, everybody who knows anything about Afghanistan knows that Hamid Karzai is sort of known as the mayor of Kabul. Basically his power extends to the city limits and that's about it. I mean Afghanistan is, you know, like Dave said, the graveyard of empires and essentially you have fiefdoms. You know, you have the south and Helmand province. You have north. You know, to go in there for over a decade and, you know, purport to, you know, create a Jeffersonian democracy is slightly Pollyanna-ish. And so I do agree that, you know, Hamid Karzai has not been an honest broker or an honest partner. But again, I don't think that a prolonged occupation in Afghanistan is going to get them any closer to a Jeffersonian democracy.

MARTIN: Just to clarify for folks who may have missed it, the troops that are expected to be pulled out by the end of next summer, that's 33,000.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: That's 33,000. Just want to clarify that. If you're just joining us, you're listening to our weekly Barbershop segment with author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and sports writer Davie Zirin.

Now here's a little something to set us up for our next topic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PANTS ON THE GROUND")

GENERAL LARRY PLATT: (Singing) Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground. Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground. Gold in your mouth. Hat turned sideways, pants hit the ground. Call yourself a cool cat. Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground. Looking like a fool...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Who could forget General Larry Platt, who sang, if you can call it that, this song for the "American Idol" audition in 2010. It became a cultural hit. Just thought I'd share that. Jimi, back to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Thank you. Just as I was able to get back to sleep from having heard that song one time too many.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Yet it comes back.

MARTIN: Oh, you love it.

IZRAEL: Thank you. Well, I guess it's kind of apropos, because last week, a young college student named Deshon Marman was kicked off a US Airways flight for refusing to pull up his sagging pants. Now the pants were reportedly hanging mid-thigh revealing his underwear. Now, this week photos surface of a man dressed in drag, wearing either...

NAVARRETTE: Not much.

IZRAEL: ...a bikini or a bikini or a bra and panties or some such at the airport. Now despite passenger complaints, he was able to fly, and but the kid wasn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: The college kid wasn't. What's up with that?

MARTIN: But, Jimi...

NAVARRETTE: That's underwear profiling, baby. I'm not into that.

MARTIN: Underwear profiling.

IZRAEL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But you're leaving out one relevant detail I think...

NAVARRETTE: That's not all right.

MARTIN: ...which is that Deshon Marman, the University of New Mexico football player who was arrested, says that he couldn't - his hands were full and he couldn't pull up his pants because his hands were full and that he became - and then they arrested him rather than giving him an opportunity to comply. And he is African-American, and the gentleman who was flying with his thigh-high stockings and his underwear, and a little shrug, a little sweater, was white. So that's part of the...

IZRAEL: Thank you for filling in the blanks, Michel. I appreciate that. Ruben, lucky you.

NAVARRETTE: Yo, man.

IZRAEL: Your first in, dog.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: You're first in. Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you. What did I do to you?

IZRAEL: What do you think about this? The dress codes in the friendly skies, man.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Yeah. I think that when most people I think have understood this at least since 9/11 if not before - that as a law professor once put it to me, you know, if you read the back of the ticket that you buy when you buy to fly, you know, you'd realize you'd be shocked at all the rights you've given away to the airlines. And the airlines have lots of different rights to discharge you off airplanes for lots of different reasons. And a lot of times they've done this, particularly after 9/11, in very unfair and egregious ways that have been unfair, amounted to profiling and other things.

And so I think that you have to look at this in this context. I think it's very possibly, that - possible that these people overreacted on the ground. I don't know about, you know, my hands were full, I couldn't pull up my pants. I'm not sure that's all credible. How long, were your pants down to your ankles? Whatever.

MARTIN: But who cares that his pants were sagging?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, you're under arrest. You're under arrest.

MARTIN: What if he was wearing - I mean so what, if he was wearing a sarong or a skirt.

NAVARRETTE: I don't know. I don't know. I...

IZRAEL: Right. Yeah. Exactly.

MARTIN: So what?

NAVARRETTE: I don't, I don't know where that's coming from in terms of what they did on the ground. But I do know that airlines have a lot more power than most people realize in terms of policing the air, finding out who flies and who doesn't, and they sometimes abuse that power. This may be a case of that.

This other case is weird though, the guy who just showed up in women's underwear like as a protest, you know, and they let him on. I mean that's disruptive in another way. But it's not, I think the two are not really comparable. The other one about the woman, the guy in the women's underwear is just the way to weird and way too off the wall to compare to anything.

IFTIKHAR: Well, I think that, you know, this is Arsalan.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: I do think that there is double standard at play here. And I think that they can, you know, and that a parallel can be made. And the parallel that I would make is, you know, let's imagine that the guy in the women's panties was an African-American male. And let's say, you know, there was a white dude who had his pants down, you know, at thigh-high level, you know, would an African-American male in women's panties be allowed to fly? I don't know. You know, the jury's...

IZRAEL: No, man. No, that would be a scandal.

IFTIKHAR: What?

IZRAEL: I can't that would be a scandal. I can't see that happening.

NAVARRETTE: But wrapped up...

IZRAEL: Will shutdown the whole airport. Serious?

IFTIKHAR: And, you know, Ruben did make a good point in that, you know, after 9/11, you know, this is just a pattern of, you know, some egregious behavior by the airline. I mean we've had, you know, cases where people who had, you know, Arabic writing on their T-shirts were kicked off planes.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: Or people wearing Muslim garb, you know, as our friend Juan Williams likes to say, who were kicked summarily. You know, again, I think that there is, you know, certain double standards at play here and, you know, I think that it's important for it to be called out when it happens.

IZRAEL: Dave?

ZIRIN: Well, I feel like I have to recuse myself from this discussion, because currently I am not wearing pants.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Oh no. Oh no. What are you wearing, a tasteful sarong?

NAVARRETTE: I am so glad this is radio. I am so grateful this is radio.

MARTIN: A tasteful sarong or what?

IFTIKHAR: This is NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ZIRIN: A tasteful sarong. Yeah.

MARTIN: A tasteful sarong or something.

NAVARRETTE: Thank God it's not television.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: There's nothing wrong with sarongs, brothers. I rock a sarong when it gets hot. as I mentioned in my...

ZIRIN: I wear a muumuu.

MARTIN: Well, before, okay...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, Dave, all right. So Dave, why don't you tell us a little bit of last night's NBA draft.

ZIRIN: Good gracious, that NBA draft was something. Two of the stories that are - people are talking about today is in the top of the first round you had two Lithuanian guys, a Turkish guy, a Congolese guy, a Serbian guy, a Czech guy, a Latvian guy, a Croatian guy and a lot of broadcasters who are looking at each other like, yeah, I don't know anything about him. Let's go to the video that looks like it was taken in a hostage situation and see if this person can actually play or not. And it actually, I know on good authority that it got so uncomfortable with a lot of the announcers just not knowing any of the players, that one of the producers had to call into them and say hey, ease on the xenophobia a little bit, guys because it's getting a little too...

MARTIN: That's interesting.

ZIRIN: Who are these guys? Their names are funny to me and I can't pronounce them. But despite all that, there's some really great stories there. There are the Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Markieff identical twins, born seven minutes before his brother then drafted seven minutes before his brother.

Then the story of Jimmy Butler.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

ZIRIN: Homeless at 13, drafted by the Chicago Bulls, which is an amazing spot for him. That's the last pick in the first round, which is also great because that means there is guaranteed money. And Butler's insistence of saying I do not want your pity because pity is the one thing - he says that every time he does an interview - yeah, I was homeless, yeah, it's been tough, but pity is the one thing I do not want. He's an amazing kid.

MARTIN: Arsalan, who do you like? Anything exciting?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, no, I mean the Jimmy Butler story obviously, you know, for someone from Chicago and, you know, going to Marquette, the kid's story is amazing. You know, obviously the Morris twins at 13 and 14 was great. What we, you know, there are a lot of whispers and pre-draft buzz, you know, about major, you know, blockbuster trades that could potentially happen. You know, Tony Parker might be leaving the San Antonio Spurs. Steve Nash, is he going to, you know, be dealt. I think with the impending lockout and, you know, the labor talks that are going on, I think that it's going to affect a lot of free agency and blockbuster trades are going to happen.

MARTIN: Well, I didn't understand. I'm sorry. Forgive me for interrupting, but can I hear a little bit more about this potential lockout. So the NFL is locked out. Are you telling us, Dave, that the NBA may lockout too?

ZIRIN: As of July 1st, yes. And there are huge gaps between the Players Association and David Stern, the NBA commissioner. They've been doing long meetings - like nine, 10-hour day meetings in New York this whole past week. There's a last meeting today, and if a deal isn't pounded out today then you will most likely see a lockout July 1st, and that would mean no summer league, which will be terrible for the players. And these are some big name players too who didn't even get drafted last night big name players - Ben Hansbrough, Scotty Hopson who aren't going to have the summer leagues to be able to prove themselves going forward.

MARTIN: And Ruben, I have a curveball for you. We only have about a minute-and-a-half left.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: You know that our dear friend, Jimi Izrael, has some big news this weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: Tell me.

MARTIN: He's about to tie the knot.

NAVARRETTE: Oh.

IFTIKHAR: Oh, mazel tov.

MARTIN: And I thought in a minute that we have left...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...we wanted to wish him our very best. But I thought you, as our senior married man here...

NAVARRETTE: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: ...as part of the crew, the Barbershop crew, that I thought...

NAVARRETTE: Sure. It's 10 years now. Yeah.

MARTIN: ...you would want to speak on behalf of your brethren...

NAVARRETTE: Yes.

MARTIN: ...to offer him what? Best wishes? What?

IFTIKHAR: Godspeed.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: God bless you. No. I think it's great and I think that you are, you know, marrying a wonderful woman, as we all know. And I think that this is great and this is a start of another important chapter. But just always keep your priorities. You learn from other mistakes, mistakes I've made, others have made, in terms of work takes over sometimes, but it's about family first. And stay focused on that because that's the enduring thing, man. Jobs come and go and opportunities come and go, money comes and goes and all. But at the end of it it's about family and about, you know, keeping it together and spending that quality time with folks. So make it happen, baby.

ZIRIN: And enjoy yourself because...

MARTIN: Dave, go ahead.

ZIRIN: Enjoy yourself. Just enjoy yourself because the first marriage is always the best.

MARTIN: Oh, man.

IFTIKHAR: Ouch. Ouch.

MARTIN: Yeah, man. Arsalan, very quickly.

IFTIKHAR: The last...

NAVARRETTE: Is it the third or my fourth?

IFTIKHAR: Listen, the last word in marriage, you can be right or you can be happy, but you can't be both. So mazel tov and Godspeed, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

MARTIN: And Jimi, you know, my advice is yes dear. Remember these words: Yes dear.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: That's right. You're right. I'm wrong.

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle." He joined us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group, Latino Magazine and Pajamas Media. He was with us from San Diego. Dave Zirin is the sports editor for The Nation. He is also host of Sirius-XM Radio's Edge of Sports Radio. He was with us from their studios in Washington, D.C. And Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney, founder of themuslimguy.com and managing editor of the Crescent Post. He was here in Washington, D.C.

Thank you so much.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

NAVARRETTE: Take care.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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