Thursday, December 31, 2009

All Aboard?

There seems to be some type of law that requires bloggers to comment on the recent bombing attempt on the Northwest/Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Who am I to buck the trend? Hey, I don’t want to end up in bloggy jail.

My first reactions to the bomb attempt were threefold. First, given the abysmal level of service since Northwest and Delta merged, I wondered if maybe it had been a simple misunderstanding. After all, this is an airline that has the audacity to consider a single cookie a “snack” and to charge $3 for a handful of Pringles. You can also forget about that drink cart making a second trip down the aisle. Perhaps, I thought, the passenger in question was just so hungry that he desperately tried to heat a HotPocket at his seat.

As it turned out, it was another lunatic who is willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent people. This time around, the would-be-terrorist apparently stitched the explosives into his underwear. I was relieved that the plot had been thwarted with nobody suffering unjustly. I was also glad to hear that the terrorist burned the shit out of his legs and genitals.

Then I wondered, “Why target poor Detroit? Haven’t those people suffered enough?”

Terrorists clearly aren’t very good at information gathering. If they did a better job, they would realize that the rest of the United States stopped caring about the people of Detroit in 1967. Indeed, it is the only major city in the nation with a 30 percent unemployment rate; the highest levels of poverty; absurd levels of political corruption; and failing schools. Oh, and did I mention the severe racial segregation and resource-sucking suburbs? Detroit already looks like a war zone due to most Americans’ indifference to its future.

My last thought was, “Oh, man, now we will never be able to get rid of those ridiculous liquid and shoe rules! Ugh.” We are set for the inevitable round of finger pointing, paranoia, and jingoism that such events always inspire. Thank the goddess that the Republicans are no longer in control of our government. We would have likely invaded the Netherlands or, at the least, declared Queen Beatrix part of the axis of evil.

Still, like many other people in the nation, I see the recent event as evidence that airport security is ineffective. Take that color coded “Homeland” security silliness. Did you know that we have been at “Code Orange” since 2006? Yes, that’s right – For the past three years, our government has apparently seen no variation in our security risk levels at all. Maybe they forgot that this system has four other dazzling colors to choose from? Geez, even Captain Kirk occasionally went to “Yellow Alert.” And he was dealing with Klingons and Romulans and all.

We don’t ever move in the other direction, either. Apparently not even the recent bomb attempt was enough to nudge us on up to “Code Red.” It begs the question, what does it take to make it to Red? A nuclear attack? Total Armageddon? A multi city Celine Dion tour?

Can we admit that the Sesame-Street approach to informing the pubic is a total failure? What is the purpose of an alert system permanently frozen in time? If we are going to be stuck at Orange, at least break out the 64-color box and give us some variety of Orange colors. How about a day of “Burnt Sienna?” Or maybe “Neon Carrot?”

Another revelation to come out of this incident is that airlines and airports are uncertain about how to respond to terrorist threats. They are sure, though, that they want to look like they are doing something. Lufthansa snatched away passengers’ blankets during the last hour of flight out of concern that a terrorist could be igniting something out of view. This action lead Delta passengers to ask the question, “Lufthansa still provides blankets?”

Toronto airports decided to do full patdowns of all travelers. Though that might have just been an excuse by the Mounties to keep their hands warm in these bitter winter months.

JetBlue (an airline I normally like) decided to cancel all of its on-board entertainment the weekend after the attack. It’s really open to debate whether eliminating screenings of Aliens in the Attic is a victory or a loss for the terrorists.

Now they are telling us that we must install the full-body scan equipment to be really safe. It will help reveal tailors gone bad.

Privacy advocates, though, are concerned that lecherous TSA officers are going to be drooling at the site of all those naked passengers. Eh – Have they ever seen Xtube? It turns out most people really aren’t that interesting without their clothes. We’ll be lucky if the TSA agents don’t all join a celibate religious order after a couple of years of grueling service.

Personally, I have no problem with the full-body scan per se. I am not particularly shy about my body. After all, I am naked in my gym locker room almost daily.

Still, the expense of these machines seems a wee bit suspicious. Before committing to buying all of that equipment, I would like to make sure that their advocates are not in some way tied to the corporations producing them.

The makers of the machine already admit that these scans don’t reveal everything. Full-body scans, for instance, can’t detect items that might be hidden under rolls of fat. Well, isn’t that horrible news? If obesity becomes the key to thwarting airport security, will the terrorists start to recruit in Houston, Texas?

It seems to me that in the 1990s, there were all sorts of swabs that the airport used to do on bags and people for bomb residue. Now I never see them take those swabs anymore. Did that equipment not work? Did they lend it all to that CSI show?

The awful truth is that most security measures are really just dog and pony shows to make the public feel safer. That’s why I drink heavily when I fly.


LenapeGirl said...

Haven't laughed so much in ages - thank you!

pacalaga said...

what was the reason for all the heavy drinking BEFORE the terrorists got involved?
oh yeah, and happy new year, GayProf. May your new year be filled with green chile, and may your martini glass never run dry.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm more concerned about not going to the bathroom for the last hour on international flight because of another Nigerian on that flight, who was NOT a terrorist had the runs.

Some righteous points about poor Detroit (1967, indeed) and the color-coded silliness (burnt sienna - ha!)

Susan said...

I wish someone would say aloud what everyone knows: there is no way to stop every kook who wants to harm others. So no system will be perfect. And -- as so many have pointed out -- this is a classic case of always fighting the last war.

As to the body scan machines, I also don't think they will show explosives hidden in body cavities, which is likely to be the next approach. So not only will we have to fly naked, we'll have very intrusive searches.

I particularly like the point about who makes the machines, and all the profits off homeland security. Turns out we don't need to train people, we just need more machines. Maybe they could manufacture them in Detroit? I gather there is still a skilled manufacturing force there!

My sister flew from Victoria to San Francisco yesterday, and was given a very thorough search including a pat down; flying from San Francisco, it was easy. We only worry about what comes from the outside.

Mel said...

Face it: the terrorists have won. After all, what else could they want besides creation of a paranoid police state? Though maybe they're really in the employ of the companies making the body scanners. At least it's an explanation that makes sense.

Hope the new year brings good things for you. And maybe a backyard bomb shelter and victory garden, too.

susurro said...

Umm, is there anything worse than this: A multi city Celine Dion tour? me thinks that is the winner for threat red.

having been felt up more than once at airport security (mostly by other women; oh where for art feminism) I'm not sure being oggled on screen is that big of a difference. But I still don't like it. And I'm not sure it would have spotted something in someone's undies anyway, since it is not supposed to reveal anything there ...

besides cost, I also find myself wondering why the undies bomber is "The Nigerian" but the "shoe bomber" is not The Brit?

GayProf said...

LenapeGirl: Thanks for stopping by.

Pacalaga: Well, heavy drinking solves so many problems.

ROG: That bathroom rule made me nervous. What if you really need to go?

Susan: It's true -- If somebody wants to trade their life to take down a plane, they will find a way. After all, the 9/11 terrorists did it with fairly simple equipment.

This isn't to say that the government shouldn't always be looking to increase their ability to prevent such attacks. I do wish, though, that we would be a little more thoughtful rather than reactionary in our approaches.

Mel: A victory garden in this state? What could I grow other than icicles?

Susurro: I've notice how nationality has played a major role in identifying the undie bomber. But I think that we all can guess what that is about. . .

Historiann said...

GayProf: I'm so glad I wasn't the only Mean Girl to be happy about our dumb$hit would-be jihadi suffering second degree burns. Jackass apparently doesn't know how very close Dearborn is to Romulus, Michigan!

(Hope you got home safely and without too much hassle.)

Blake said...

I have been wondering for some time if we had ever NOT been on orange, despite hearing occasionally that the risk has been "raised to orange." But this confirms it. And confirms the idiocy of it as well. Thanks!

tornwordo said...

I don't think we can rest in peace unless it's cavity searches for all. Sadly, I must participate in security theater this morning.

Orange alert? The guy was on a terrorist watch list, paid cash for a one-way ticket and had zero luggage. But everyone's shoes were checked, right? The lamity makes the mind boggle.

Mel said...

GayProf: Do you really want me to expound on vegetable garden options for MFT? At the very least, a nice rhubarb patch is a no-brainer.

Roger Owen Green said...

Apropos of Gay Prof pictures of Wonder Woman.

Charles CĂ©leste Hutchins said...

GayProf, of course you're not worried about body scans. You're the sexiest blogger on the internet! However, as a (sexy) trans person, I'm planning on taking up boat travel to and from europe. This body scan thing is not cool.

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Ochre said...

This was hilarious. As a single Pakistani male who goes through immense amounts of shit at any immigration counter in the world, I have to admit that of great concern to me is the idea of not being able to go to the loo in the last hour of a flight. I suspect airlines will find their cleaning supplies and/or free diaper expenses rapidly skyrocketing.

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