[An admission here: I don’t fly anymore. My last flight was to New York City a month after 9/11. Even the changes then were so unpleasant that I vowed not to bother again. I don’t mind flying itself, but I loathe airports enough that there’s nothing I want badly enough to see which might require getting on a plane in order to do it.
Airports themselves are like something out of Dante’s Inferno. Being in one evokes such a strong sense of melancholic loathing that I don’t even like to pick people up at those well-named ‘terminals’ anymore.
Being flown somewhere on a private airplane would be okay as long as it weren’t required that we all submit to the depredations of commercial aviation’s pre-flight sadism.
In other words, this isn’t about airplane flight, which always seemed much like being on a bus but with less view of the outside world. It’s about bureaucracy run amok, and the reasons why these new moves by Big Sis and her team will not fly…so to speak.]
What motivated this post (when I should be writing the remaining thank-you notes to our donors who must think I’m dead by now) was an email today from Andrea Shea King linking to a CNN report on the growing backlash against new
search-and-destroy even more draconian “security” measures now in place at many airports. To give you a sense of this “backlash” CNN describes here’s one man’s view:
Under the watchful eye of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, air travel through airports has turned into a harrowing experience for thousands of travelers and airline employees.
That would be the innocent souls who simply wish to get from Point A to Point B, and whom are shocked to learn that, in order to do so, one must be exposed to sexual assault and abuse at the hands of psychopaths working for TSA.
Charges of genital groping and fondling are being leveled by prudent travelers trying to get an early start on that Thanksgiving trip to grandma’s, most of whom said travelers are not particularly in the mood for sexual foreplay.
Tell me something: the Israelis don’t have these humiliating searches, nor do they have terrorist attacks on El Al, so what do they do to quell the natural killer instincts of their adversaries? You know for sure that jihads salivate as they contemplate the glories of bringing down an Israeli plane loaded with evil Joooos. In their dreams, kiddo.
Why can’t we simply figure out what Israel does and take a large helping of “me, too”?
Fat chance. Back here in Bureaucratic Overreach USA, the process of being ‘profiled’ and searched is reaching new depths of stupidity and depravity. You have to really need or want to be somewhere to put up with this degradation. And the old policies were already creating avoidance. From the CNN report:
A 2008 survey found that air travelers “avoided” 41 million trips because they believed the air travel system was either “broken” or in need of “moderate correction,” the U.S. Travel Association said. The decisions cost airlines $9.4 billion, the survey said.
It makes you wonder how much the airlines are going to lose as these new measures to make your trip safe from
Islamic terrorists a tiny minority of extremists are installed in all airports. The real kicker is the fact that the costs will be added to your plane ticket.
There’s a new mood in the country and it has been growing since 2008, slowly gathering steam. Is it part of the reaction of disgust/horror at the gargantuan legislative slop jars of boodle the government sloshed around indiscriminately during the last two years? Is it the Tea Party Effect, drastically in play during the midterms? Sixty-five House seats fell to Republicans or Conservatives, as well as seven hundred state legislative contests. Not to mention the new majority of Republicans in state governors’ chairs.
People are angry. The natives are restless and it’s the government they don’t like. Especially the federal government. Big Sis is considered an Affirmative Action appointment; Lord knows she certainly acts like one. We were spared any hurricane disasters this season or we might have seen her ineptitude in full dreary display.
This anger is a top-down phenomenon, too. One of the airline pilots’ unions is recommending that their members avoid the AIT (Advanced Image Technology) scan for health reasons. As well they should, especially considering how often they would be subject to this risk from radiation. Not to mention the emotional reaction generated by full-body gropes known as the “Opt Out”. This is supposedly a choice if you don’t want to endure radiation on a regular basis:
The head of the pilot union at US Airways is advising his members not to go through the body scanners, the same recommendation that the Allied Pilots Association president at American Airlines had given his members.
The reason in both cases was health-related: The union leaders say pilots shouldn’t submit to the repeated doses of radiation.
President Mike Cleary of the US Airline Pilots Association said pilots should first search for a security checkpoint that doesn’t have the scanners.
If that’s not possible, the pilots should opt for the pat-down by a Transportation Security Administration officer, with a member of the pilot’s crew witnessing.
Unfortunately, this is not available to customers (having a witness) so some are recommending that you demand the search be done publicly, which may rein in some of the abuses from the new “pat-down” procedures:
The TSA recently changed its hand-search policies. Before, the officers would use the back of their hand to check a person; now they are to use their open hand and fingers to go over one’s body, including the genital area and breasts.
Cleary said after a pat-down, the pilot should determine if he or she is emotionally fit to fly. He also said the pilots’ association doesn’t like any of it…
“Let’s be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace … the aircraft … without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors.
“This situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order. Left unchecked, there’s simply no way to predict how far the TSA will overreach in searching and frisking pilots who are, ironically, mere minutes from being in the flight deck.
“As we all know, it makes no difference what a pilot has on his or her person or in their luggage, because they have control of the aircraft throughout the entire flight. The eyewash being dribbled by the TSA in this instance is embarrassingly devoid of common sense, and we will not stand for it.” [my emphasis – D]
You can read his letter here. Scroll down to see the whole thing.
He hit the nail on the head with that one phrase: “embarrassingly devoid of common sense”. So much of the behavior of this administration could be described with those five words. I won’t go into examples or we’d be here for a very long time.
However, it’s encouraging to see the public taking up this cudgel and refusing to simply buckle under. The captain is not exaggerating about the emotional reaction possible with the Opt Out procedure. We received a communication warning us that The Grope is every bit as bad as people feared.
In his letter to fellow pilots, Captain Cleary said:
One US Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crewmember. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included “sexual molestation,” and in the aftermath of trying to recover, this pilot reported that he had literally vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work and facing the possibility of a similar encounter with the TSA.
Thus, if you choose this method because you want to avoid radiation, be sure to have The Grope done publicly. Your fellow passengers will cheer you on, and the Groper will be more restrained because of the witnesses.
So what is the man in the aisle doing about this? Lots! First there is a movement known as “National Opt-Out Day”. The first one is set for Wednesday, November 24th since that’s the day people fly home for Thanksgiving. The information on the website says:
The Plan is Simple
1. If you absolutely, positively must fly, opt out of the scanners. Do it to protect your health and privacy.
2. If you can avoid flying, don’t fly. Hit the airlines in the pocketbook until the scanners and gropers are gone. Make the airlines work for us.
3. Raise holy hell. Register your disapproval of the scanners and gropers to your airline, your hotel and all government officials who claim to work for you. Educate your community.
This website has good information on the x-rays used to expose you:
Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer.
Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm.
In their letter of concern, the UCSF faculty members noted that “the dose to the skin could be dangerously high”. The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.
For those flyers who bring their children, Opt Out seems the only “safe” choice, but obviously the intrusive groping is also dangerous to growing organisms. Again, if you must fly, demand that your children be searched in public, not behind closed doors. Putting children through the radiation process seems more damaging at this point, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time explaining to your kids why Mom and Dad can’t protect them from harm, even when they’re right there with them. If a serious grope can make an adult vomit at the thought of a repeat procedure, what might it do to a particularly sensitive child?
The more we learn about children, the more we realize how very different they are. Kids are not miniature adults. People who are able to recall childhood experiences vividly can attest to the differences. Your moral authority with your children is a fragile affair at best in today’s world of invasive bureaucracies designed to “help the children”. Traumas such as these gropes (and they are traumatically personal) can be potentially devastating to your child. Not that your power as a parent won’t help to mend an egregious boundary violation, but in some cases that violation will loom larger than others. A few fortunate children are simply more resilient than others; parents don’t get to choose their children’s temperaments.
Another helpful website is “We Won’t Fly”. They have the Opt-Out Day suggestions, but much more, including on the right of their home page, a long list describing “How to Raise Hell”.
Here’s a video on the page, revealing the ways in which the TSA has lied about the scanners:
Hey, we’re talking about a part of the Department of Homeland Security. You expected veracity, maybe?
Remember my question about what Israel would do? Well, “We Won’t Fly” dug up a snip of an Israeli official’s opinion on this scam scanning, from The Vancouver Sun:
A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install “useless” imaging machines at airports across the country.
“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.
“That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.
Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.
But Americans believe in machines, right? The Israelis believe in human interaction, in eye contact or the lack of it. You have only to compare our track record with theirs to know we’re not on the right path. But we don’t ask for help from people who’ve developed a secure system. Instead we build expensive machines. The old American solution to a problem: “throw money at it”.
The Israeli system grew out of their desperation. When you’re the one so many want to kill, you become expert at weeding out the possible problems:
CNN spent an hour interviewing Isaac Yeffet, former head of El Al security, for example, and all it came away with is that the Israelis interview everyone on line while they’re waiting to go through security, that the security personnel speak at least two languages, and that the system costs a lot of money. (Hey, let’s order up a lot of Rosetta Stones!) According to the Wall Street Journal, “the secret to [the Israelis’] successful airport security is not labor-intensive checkpoints, but a screening system that is frowned upon in many other countries: ethnic profiling.”
Oopsie. That dog ain’t gonna hunt. He won’t fly, either. CAIR is already making sure of that. One way is to decide that scanners violate Islamic law. This appeal to Sharia is getting old, but why not use it? Unless and until our Congress initiates a robust round of tort reform, CAIR and Eternally Offended Islam can simply employ lawfare to get out of what everyone else must endure.
Israeli security wouldn’t tolerate that bushwa and neither should we. Their approach is the opposite of our silly TSA procedures:
The heart of the Israeli strategy is the idea that the most sophisticated scanner in the world is an intelligent, alert human being and that the most important terrorist behavior database is the shared assumptions, memories and life learning we call “common sense.” It revolves around a simple principle that no one in the Homeland Security Department…seem[s] capable of grasping: “Look at people, not things.”[emphasis in the original]
It’s simple, really:
Israeli strategy is built on multiple face-to-face contacts between passengers and airport personnel. A mile or so away, on the road leading to the terminals you encounter a structure that resembles a classic American highway toll plaza. It’s actually a checkpoint. A young soldier approaches your vehicle, bends close to the window, peers in, and asks a few questions…
What’s he looking for? Eye contact. Demeanor. Eye contact. Clothing. Eye contact. Then there’s the next check:
The second screening occurs while you wait on line to check your baggage. You are then approached by a uniformed young person (they are usually Israeli reservists) and “chatted with” again, the same sort of “where are you going?” stuff — even such friendly questions as, “Did you enjoy your trip to Israel? Where do you live in the United States? Do you go to a synagogue there?”
People are often taken aback by the synagogue question but it is not an effort to identify Jews; rather it is simply a conversational gambit to prolong the contact, a way to get in close and feel the vibes…Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes. And that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”
See, this is the way your grandmother would check things out. This is how, in the old days, your father would have assessed the safety of his dear daughter before he gave his permission for her to go with a strange fellow (strange to him at least) to see a movie. This is moral authority, that quality which the state has removed from the average parents’ reach. The quality that the airport ‘security’ system in this country has breached yet again.
No wonder people are mad and getting madder. DHS is a large and largely clueless organization. With each growth ring it becomes fatter and less agile and increasingly dim-witted. We are not safe and people know that. Bullying of private citizens, fondling of children, and humiliating women who are menstruating will not make us safer. It is a system with FAIL as an inherent part of its structure.
Let’s see how long it takes for this contraption to fall to the ground with a resounding thud. Then maybe they’ll call in the grandmothers…especially if these ladies are bilingual. Being expert sharpshooters wouldn’t hurt, either.