Friday, December 10, 2004


Bureaucratic nonsense at airports: "I recently flew back to the United States, my birthplace and home for most of my life. I didn't like it. It was wonderful seeing good friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for almost 20 years. But travelling in the US is now so unpleasant that I prefer to give the US a miss. There are too many places in the world I haven't seen to worry about being hassled by little people with big authority who now dominate American airports. ... The first inkling of what a hassle it would was the announcement on the air plane regarding what forms one had to fill out just to get bureaucratic permission to leave the airport. Previously announcements regarding this took a few seconds. This time it dragged out."

Transportation shakeup urgently needed: "One of the highest priorities for whoever succeeds Tom Ridge at Homeland Security should be to take political correctness and a fear of litigation out of national security decisions. From immigration enforcement to intelligence gathering, government officials continue to compromise safety in order to avoid accusations of "racial profiling" -- and in order to avoid publicly acknowledging what the 9/11 Commission finally said: that the enemy is "Islamist terrorism." This blind antidiscrimination reflex is all the more worrying since radical Islam continues to seek adherents and plan attacks in the U.S. The government antidiscrimination hammer has hit the airline industry most severely. Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11, and they have undermined one of the most crucial elements of air safety: a pilot's responsibility for his flight. Since the charges against the airlines were specious but successful, every pilot must worry that his good-faith effort to protect his passengers will trigger federal retaliation".

More TSA arrogance: "The Transportation Security Administration, that federal bureaucracy that keeps the peripatetic public safe from attack by fingernail file-flailing fanatics, threw itself a half-million dollar awards ceremony at the Grand Hyatt in DC. Expenses included $81,000 for plaques, $500 for cheese displays and $200,000 for travel and lodging. Senior executives awarded themselves bonuses averaging $16,000 apiece while one employee was presented a 'lifetime achievement award' (the TSA is two years old).

The roving hands of airport insecurity: "Under normal circumstances, if a strange man tried to stick his hands down my pants, one of us would end up lying on the ground bleeding. But we have entered into a world of the surreal -- a world where millions of otherwise intelligent Americans are willing to stand in line and wait their turn to be groped by a complete stranger. I'm not exactly sure how it happened. But, I certainly seem to have done something to get myself on the airlines 'bad boy' list. Every time I set foot in an airport these days, I get dragged off for one of their 'random' special searches -- three times in a row during a recent trip."

Breast exams at the airport "Beginning in mid-September, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) put into place a policy that provides for the physical frisking of selected airline passengers prior to boarding. The purpose of the new policy is to detect nonmetallic explosives of the sort that apparently were used by two Chechen women in terrorist attacks that destroyed two planes and killed ninety airline passengers in Russia earlier this year. ... Women passengers have been especially unhappy about the new policy and have made numerous complaints. In addition, there is reason to believe that the numbers of complaints understate the true scope of the problem, because -- as with sexual assaults generally -- women's distress at being fondled by airline security personnel may be underreported."


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