Friday, October 27, 2006

Here, Swallow These 35 Condoms of Shampoo

When I started reading Patrick Smith’s column Ask the Pilot a few years back, it was primarily a place to send in questions about the more arcane and curious aspects of air travel. “What do all those controls do?” “What’s a flap?” “Are pilots really up to their elbows in poontang?” etc. But more recently -- the last year or two -- he has focused his ire and engaging writing style toward the TSA and their absurd notion of “security.” Today, he perfectly describes how ridiculous and inevitably damaging the security procedures are in the United States these days.

There you have it: Tiny containers of hand sanitizer in zip-lock bags are harmless and approved. Those not in zip-lock bags are dangerous contraband. Meanwhile, the TSA still cannot justify its methods of confiscation: If certain liquids and gels are taken from a passenger, the assumption has to be that those materials are potentially hazardous. If so, why are they tossed unceremoniously into the trash? At every checkpoint you'll see a bin or barrel brimming with illegal containers. They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are thrown away. In effect, the agency readily admits that it knows these things are harmless. But it's going to steal them anyway, and either you like it or you don't fly.

…the madness has become patently abject, and people need to realize they are subsidizing it. More than 2 million Americans experience the carnival of airport security every day. An apparatus that big takes a lot of dough to keep it running. First, our taxes pay for the salaries of thousands of airport screeners, and for all the many overpriced accouterments demanded of a bureaucracy. Then come the trickle-down costs of delays, missed flights and broken appointments, along with the intangibles of widespread tension and anxiety. Last but not least, every dollar fed to the TSA furnace in a bid to keep shampoo off airplanes is a dollar that could have been spent more effectively elsewhere in the security chain. The bill for that one comes later, possibly in the guise of catastrophe.
Or as I’ve said a million times (probably copying Mr. Smith) – it’s more important for them to do something (anything) as opposed to something good. It’s a symptom of Bush’s larger disease of feel-good policy as opposed to good policy. (You like how I keep doing that? No? Fine.)

The administration creates a prescription drug plan that enriches the pharmaceutical companies, confuses the old folks, and wastes our money by the billions, but hey – he did something to help Grandma get her pills. Bush is going to “leave no child behind” by forcing teachers to change their educational plans to teach to the test instead of helping our kids actually learn something, and once again, oops! forget to pay for it, leaving everyone behind. And don’t even get me started on the whole – hey we understand things are going bad in Iraq and now we’re not staying the course anymore, now we’re adapting and adjusting, and hell no Rumsfeld’s not going anywhere (and we’re not changing a thing) thing.

The problem with the airport security issue (as Patrick has hammered home numerous times) is that you all buy into it. Whenever I complain to any of my friends about the absolute uselessness of the airport security procedures, my friend will defend the policies – “Hey, they’re trying.” Or “She’s just doing her job.” Perhaps she is, or perhaps she’s on an adrenaline rush spiked by the tiny amount of power she’s been given and lords it over the executives and the doctors and all the people who did better in school than she did. But more to the point, when the American travelers just roll over like sheep and stand in that line and accept what’s happening in our airports -- warm fuzzies instead of security -- we empower our feckless leaders to choose feel-good politics over effective policy at every goddamned opportunity.

I don’t necessarily have an immediate solution. I’m not suggesting that you stand up and fight the guards at the airport and get yourself on a terrorist watchlist or anything. It’s just important for you to stay annoyed in the security line. Think to yourself that when you missed your flight because they had to x-ray your shoes four times that it wasn’t for the greater good; that it’s a waste of time and money that is simply draining our resources which could be put to use actually *gasp* catching terrorists… for once; that it’s all in place to give you the impression of safety where there is none. And remember it when it comes up as a political issue, whether you’re voting or calling your senator or discussing it at Thanksgiving.

Fight the power!

No comments: