Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Random Musings, TSA Version


by Noah

Like everybody else, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the TSA and their use of Michael Chertoff’s Porno Scanners. I’ve been jotting them down as they come. Being what most people would call a cynic but I call a realist, some of my thoughts are snarky ones that often emanate from an overall mood of gallows humor. That’s just the way I often deal with things when anger and outrage just aren’t enough. I’ll start with one of those, using such humor to make a point, I guess. That’s no crime in my book. But, this is a very serious subject, and what’s going on in our airports is by no means pretty. In fact, it’s downright bleak.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
-- Ben Franklin, February 1775 (as published in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 1818)
“Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.”
-- Ben Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1756)

1. Remember when the Patriot Act and illegal phone taps were a hot topic and all the righties were saying something along the lines of “What’s the big deal about them spying on us, if you have nothing to hide . . .” Hmmm. Am I to assume, now that the righties are screaming and belching fire about their rights, that they do have something to hide?

2. Seriously, though, this is the next stage in our world becoming the one that George Orwell depicted in 1984. The end result of that one was every citizen had a camera in their homes that watched them 24 hours a day. For now, it’s scanners at the airport. Next it will be at the stadium. As soon as there is a terror incident at a mall, you’ll need to be scanned if you want to get into Nordstrom’s. The fact that the scanners have little chance of stopping an attack means little when there’s a pile of money to be made scaring the public and selling Rube Goldberg devices. A cowed and compliant public is a nice additional bonus and just may be objective numero uno anyway.

3. Before we had scanners, there was a group in the U.K. that had nasty plans involving detonating liquids. Next thing we knew, any liquid we were carrying on board had to be four ounces or less. Yeah, like four ounces or even two of some of the designer explosives wouldn’t be enough to bring down a plane. Even with an amateur concoction, all you have to do is mix enough of something capable of blowing a hole in a wall. So, what was the four-ounce rule all about? Fear and compliance, as if we aren’t all sheep already.

4. How does a scanner not prevent an attack? Well, one way is the same way that drugs can be smuggled into the country. Put some C-4 in a condom or a balloon and swallow it or stick it where the sun don’t shine. Get on the plane. Go to the toilet, and drop the bomb as it were. You think the terrorists and the government don’t know this? Sure they know, but just like KBR made money in Iraq building showers that electrocuted some of our soldiers, the goal is not to protect but to make money selling machines.

In this day and age, it all seems to be about greed and making money first. Iraq wasn’t about terror, and neither is this. It’s about profiteering on fear. Halliburton made billions on Iraq. You might say that Cheney tore it down and now he’s rebuilding it with the contracts in hand. I can see it now: Let Halliburton put a scanner on your block. Be the first to have one. Wanna check that kid who’s on a play date with your child? Sure you do! You wouldn’t be a good parent without demanding our new X-1 scanner in the playground. Now available for back-yard use.

5. We are told that the scanners are for our own safety, and people buy it without thinking about the profiteering, the politics, or the persistent chipping away at “our freedoms” and “our liberties,” as some phony-ass bozo used to say. But how come no other countries are using them, and their terrorism situation isn’t any worse than ours?

Last time I went to Europe, I was coming home through the airport in Amsterdam and all I had to take off was my jacket and my hat. They X-rayed my jacket on the conveyor, and they just wanted to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything under my hat. I walked through the metal detector, and that was that. Here at home, I have to take off my shoes because of the “shoe bomber.” I can just see the ramifications of some future “bra bomber.” Women, take off your bras and place them in the tray. Somehow, Woody Allen’s crazed South American dictator demanding that his subjects wear their underwear “on the outside, so we can check” is not so far-fetched anymore. We have become surreal.

6. How does a person who has been raped or otherwise violated feel about our brave new world? I can only imagine the unease and the horrible memories that will be dredged up. The name of the company that makes the scanners that Michael Chertoff has a piece of is Rapiscan. I wonder how the people behind all of this pronounce the name in their private time.

They have us right where they want us. But is "they" our corrupt government, the terrorists, or both? People don’t think. The next terror attack is either going to be something simple like a bomb in a crowd, as was attempted in Times Square and in Portland, Oregon, or it’ll be something we haven’t even thought of yet, and no scanner is likely to have prevented it.

Rest assured, the scanners will stay, and not just for profiteering reasons, but political ones as well, such as maintaining the appearance of “doing all we can do.” Imagine the outcry from the Fox loons if President Obama removed them and then there was an attack on a plane.

However, sharp human eyes connected to a sharp human brain will always be the best protection. They know this in Israel. They’re real good at reading people over there. They call it "profiling," but it’s not quite the same as what we in America call racial profiling. Yes, they have fewer airports, but our TSA people aren’t being trained in all of the right skills. Do they have the right sensitivities to notice things? Drug dealers have been known to smuggle drugs in the corpses of “sleeping” babies held in mom’s arms. What’s to stop a terrorist from doing the same thing?

In Vietnam they used to hand a kid a grenade, pull the pin, and send the unknowing child into a crowd of soldiers in the street. We live in a world where most of us think no one would ever do such a thing. Most of us would never even think of it. We see a mother with a sleeping baby, and we’re lulled into some sort of primal fog. Are you confident that a TSA agent, with or without a scanner, would even think to check if a baby was breathing?

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At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If TSA were halfway serious about bomb detection they would do it with Sulimov dogs or German shepherds. See

and no one's junk would get groped or privacy invaded or dignity affronted.

Of course this would have the fatal drawback that it wouldn't make Michael Chertoff one thin dime. Poor baby.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

But Anon, if Michael Chertoff doesn't make one thin dime, doesn't that mean the terrorists win?


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see I didn't identify myself, Though Anonymous is less hassle for me than the alternatives I don't post anonymously. Cheers.

Francis sirfrATearthlinkETC

At 1:28 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Appreciated, F!


At 7:06 PM, Blogger Pats said...

I am truly amazed at how Americans have been turned into docile sheep. No one seems to be bothered by the cameras everywhere. The cameras bother me, but what bothers me more is that there is no outcry.

In my city, traffic cameras have been added to many street corners. I notice that we don't have the "don't walk" signs that count down before turning yellow at the corners where there are cameras. The better to fine you, my dear.


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