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Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

If you've seen videos of people who took part in the U.S. Capitol riot weeping in shock after being barred from boarding their flights home, you may feel as Oscar Wilde did upon reading a tragic passage from a Charles Dickens novel: "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing." But schadenfreude is not a good basis for government policy.

In the aftermath of the horrifying Jan. 6 rampage, the Transportation Security Administration said it was "processing hundreds of names with law enforcement agencies for a thorough risk assessment," with an eye toward putting some of them on the federal no-fly list. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks anyone who was inside the Capitol building should be kept off of airliners. "We cannot allow these same insurrectionists to get on a plane and cause more violence and more damage," he said.

It's an understandable reaction to a poisonous attack on our elected representatives and our democratic system. But it would also be a gross and dangerous expansion of an ill-conceived program with a record of errors and abuses.

The list was created as a way of preventing terrorists from hijacking planes as a handful of fanatics did on 9/11. Its value was always doubtful, because tighter screening at airports, reinforced cockpit doors, air marshals, and a ban on knives have virtually eliminated the chance of such takeovers. These days, the worst thing a jihadist could do on a plane is remove his mask.

TSA says those banned are "a small subset of the U.S. government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist) that contains the identity information of known or suspected terrorists." Note that the no-fly list is not meant to cover ordinary criminals, nut cases, or congregants in the Cult of Trump. It's supposed to block only people on the terrorist watchlist — and not even all of them.

In practice, it has snared some people who posed no evident threat. In December, the Supreme Court allowed three Muslim men who were put on the list for refusing to become FBI informants to sue the responsible agents. The American Civil Liberties Union has represented clients who were blocked from flying for years, even though they had never been convicted of a crime — some of whom the government eventually approved to fly.

The no-fly list is secret, and as of 2016, it reportedly contained some 81,00 people, including about 1,000 who were U.S citizens or legal residents. From those figures, we can deduce that being a convicted criminal, even a violent one, does not prevent you from traveling by commercial airline any more than it prevents you from legally taking a train, driving a car, riding the subway, or hiking the Appalachian Trail. Felons can even get pilot's licenses.

There is no obvious reason that people who invaded the Capitol deserve to be singled out. Does someone who forced his way into a congressional office and stole items pose a greater risk than someone who broke into a house and made off with a laptop? Is someone who smashed a window to enter the Capitol building more likely to try to hijack a plane than someone who smashed a window to protest the killing of George Floyd?

There's a problem that Schumer and Co. might consider before proceeding: If the no-fly list becomes a way of punishing people for violating laws, a lot of Americans stand to lose. Should someone be kept off airliners for joining a Black Lives Matter march that ends with some protesters throwing rocks? If we're going to have a no-fly list, it ought to target potential terrorists, not every mope who lands in the joint.

How airlines deal with passengers they deem disruptive or threatening, of course, should be largely up to them. After the riot, Alaska Airlines permanently banned 14 customers because they were "non-mask-compliant, rowdy, argumentative, and harassed our crew members." Other airlines took similar actions against dozens of unruly passengers. Like any private company, airlines are entitled to banish patrons who make a nuisance of themselves.

People who committed serious crimes on Jan. 6 can be prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated, some of them for many years. But that's no reason to decree that anyone who invaded the Capitol should be literally grounded for life. The government has plenty of ways to punish those who broke the law. The no-fly list shouldn't be one of them.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Jet taking off at Palm Beach International Airport

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former President Donald Trump has long dreamed of having his name attached to one of the United States' most prominent international airports. His suggestion: Trump International.

However, Palm Beach County has confirmed that the former president's dream will not be coming to fruition at its airport.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the idea of renaming the airport in honor of Trump was recently touted by Christian Ziegler, who serves as a Sarasota County commissioner and the vice-chairman of the Florida Republican Party. However, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has made it clear that she does not support the idea.

During a brief discussion with the publication, McKinlay explained why she, along with five other county commissioners, are not in agreement with the prospect of the airport being renamed after the twice-impeached, one-term president.

"When people hear [Palm Beach], they envision our beaches, our equestrian sports, and in some cases our agricultural contributions," McKinlay said. "It is a lifestyle."

McKinlay also noted that she believes the name Trump International is a name "better-suited for his golf courses, not our airport" as she suggested that Ziegler "stick to renaming his own county facilities, not ours."

The publication notes that Palm Beach County's swift rejection of the idea could be a foreboding of the difficulties Trump could face attempting to have his name displayed on buildings, schools, street signs, and highways in the Southern region of Florida, which is predominantly Democratic-leaning.

While many past presidents have had the honor of their names being attached to buildings, airports, schools, and roads, Robert Watson, a presidential historian and Lynn University professor, explained why Trump will likely face difficulties in his pursuit to be remembered in the same light as his predecessors. According to Watson, Trump's heightened attachment to controversy may be a major obstacle for this type of aspiration.

"I imagine in a couple of years when there's talk about renaming [things] for him — Trump could be the outlier, the anomaly, "Watson said. "He was so controversial. He generates such controversy that it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to touch it."