Thursday, August 10, 2006

Flying sans shampoo (more)

Here's my question: If British, American and Pakistani intelligence forces were working on this blow-up-planes-with-liquids plot for an entire year...and if they arrested the 24 alleged terrorists earlier this week, thus foiling the plot...why do they NOW ban liquids, food, iPods, laptops,cameras and other stuff from carry-on baggage? Doesn't it make more sense to have banned it WHILE THE PLOT WAS IN THE WORKS? And don't you think terrorists are just as happy to pack explosives from now on in their checked luggage?

Having once been stuck on a tarmac in a hot, busted plane for more than 9 hours at DFW airport, I can't imagine not boarding a plane from now on without water, some food, eyedrops and contact solution and other necessary items. And since when is toothpaste considered a liquid?

Call me a bitter skeptic, but it all smells to me like a too-convenient Bush/Rove/Rumsfeld/Cheney-style scare-em-good reaction to the Lieberman defeat and another way, just before the Labor Day/Back-to-College airline crush, and in plenty of time to influence November elections, to control the populace and make us behave like docile little sheep as we're herded through the airports. Don't think so? Read this from Ms. Huffington.

Every single time I hear the word "freedom" come out of Mr. Bush's lips, I feel less free. We're now safer than before 9/11, he says. Sorry, now we're not even safe enough to take a fucking water bottle, a lipstick or a tube of Crest on a commercial jet. (And other than 007 movies I've never seen any proof of terrorists using those items to blow anything up.)

All over talk radio today I heard poor sods uttering sorry sentiments like "I don't mind giving up civil liberties if it keeps us safe." Line up, folks, and march right into the re-education camps.

People weren't smart enough to take to the streets over $3 gas, the atrocities in Iraq or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So we're getting what we asked for. And it makes me sick that mass stupidity has reached epidemic levels.

I'm all fumed out tonight.

Meanwhile, I await word of sweet, lovely Professor Dinner-Guy, who is due to return from Central Africa this weekend. He's supposed to fly through London. Put him on the prayer chain, please.


Blogger John Lanius said...

You seem like a rational and smart person, even if you are a lefty. I can't believe you would give any credence to the nutty idea that this is a conspiracy to distract the sheeple from the Lamont upset in Connecticut.

Here's why they don't ban liquids during the investigation. Such a ban would tip off the participants in the real (hint: no Bush involved) conspiracy that someone was on to them, and perhaps prevent their arrest. By waiting as long as they did, the Brits were able to roll up most of the organization behind the plot. One hopes that some aggressive interrogation will soon lead to other leads and arrests.

Looks like some good intelligence and police work by all involved. Exactly the kind of police work everyone wished had happened in advance of 9-11.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Two notes:

1) "And don't you think terrorists are just as happy to pack explosives from now on in their checked luggage?"

Possibly, as always, but there's one thing to keep in mind. Every piece of checked luggage goes through an intense screening process. Only bags that appear suspicious--or belong to passengers who do--get the intense screening in the carry-on security checkpoints.

2)This approach of closing the barn door too late (I know, I know--my old English teacher is probably rollin in her grave...she was the one who always told me to avoid cliche's like the plague!) is nothing new here in the US. Just look at the whole lighter farce. After the attempted shoe bombing, they decide to ban lighters. And, to further the clear stupidity of those involved in this decision, the attempted/alleged/whatever bomber didn't use a lighter, he was trying to use a match!

And now, in an attempt to appease smokers, you still can't carry a filled lighter, but matches, go for it! Of course, this doesn't acknowlege that, Zippo-style lighters excepted, when you drop a lighter, it goes out before it hits the ground. When you accidentally drop a match, plane goes up in flames.

Seriously, what the hell are these people thinking?!


5:42 PM  
Blogger Sherri Nichols said...

Over ten years ago, a plot to use liquid explosives disguised as contact lens solution was foiled. We've known for over 10 years that such a scheme was not only possible but had been actively pursued. But suddenly, we're at such risk that we can't take bottled water on a flight from St. Louis to Pittsburgh?

7:20 PM  
Blogger War Bride said...

All I know is that every time I open my suitcase and find a little note from TSA, I know I'm loved.

End snark.

If I were flying, I'd be completely following their requests, etc. etc. But I feel bad for the people who found out about this AFTER they checked their luggage, thus having to throw out expensive makeup or contact solutions or snacks or what not.

Another thought: I feel bad for every woman flying to and from Britain who had no choice but to carry their maxi pads and tampons in a clear plastic bag.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I'm with you, Prof. And PD-G is on my prayer chain.

Here's another point that baffles me ... this was a plot to bring down planes flying from London to the U.S. only. So why does every airport in this country suddenly have to make people dump their $80 perfume, $200 wine and $600 liquor bottles?

And what is the TSA doing with all this sudden booty?

7:40 AM  
Blogger Yvette said...

They throw it out. Or are supposed to, at least.

And while I agree that something like getting rid of all liquids is going to turn very stupid very fast if they keep it up, I'm also willing to ask what YOU would have done yesterday yourself if you were in charge of aviation security. Let someone onto a plane with all their normal carry ons from Heathrow? I think we can all agree that's a "no way in hell" sort of response. Now what if you were in the TSA: you heard about the UK plot a scant few hours ago, and while it WAS for planes going to the US you don't know the extent: that is to say, if there are cells working in tandem in the US for the plot, if the terrorists were going to snag a domestic flight afterwards, whatever. All you know is it would really, really suck if you didn't make the call and something DID happen.

Mind, come a few months if I fly and I'm told my sealed bottled water is illegal or I have to take my Maxis through the terminal in a clear plastic bag, I will be pissed off and embarassed, respectively. But I do think that if something gigantic like that surfaces a scant few hours prior, it is reasonable to take a few percautions until you understand what the real situation is.

PS- The problem with checked luggage and this type of explosive is setting the darn stuff off: timers etc would show up during screening, and it needs to be short range. Few people (until now) bothered to care about your sports drink and MP3 player, so it was a (horribly) good idea to try carry-ons.
And anything that oozes like a plasma, like ketchup or toothpaste, is a liquid. This can be noted by how quickly it becomes disgusting when spilled and left on a countertop.
I'll stop being a science geek now...

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Lanius’s comments from above said it best. only a fool wouldn't appreciate the extra precautions. the interviews I'm seeing on the news from the passengers are cooperative and understanding. protect my child and throw away the toothpaste.
by the way I'm no bush fan but this was handled right this time.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Karthik said...

And what is the TSA doing with all this sudden booty?

You mean the "junk in their trunk"?


7:03 PM  
Anonymous B said...

Agree: You being fumed about ridiculous airport security and the overbearing response of the worthless TSA.

Disagree: It being connected to some sort of Bush/ Rove/ Cheney plot to divert political attention.

Geeze some of the smartest people fall for some of the stupidest ideas...

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it was a conspiracy, but I want to know how far along this plan was. Had they prepared their explosives, bought tickets, etc., or were they a bunch of guys saying, "Yeah, we should blow up some planes! That'd show the imperialist pigs!" Remember the Florida dreamers? The ones who couldn't even line up pairs of boots without help from an undercover officer?

The problem now is that there have been so many overhyped arrests of nobodies and wannabes that even genuine arrests will have to face close scrutiny. Here in the UK, our track record is just as bad (2 terrorist suspects shot, 0 actual terrorists shot).

What I want is to stop this swingset security, which is always too strict or too lax. After 11 September, the US fired the subcontractors and brought in federal employees. Then, slowly, the subcontractors came back. I flew through the US at least a dozen times, and never had a lighter confiscated. Now, airport security is back to the overzealousness of the early days of the GWoT. Find a middle ground. Not even El Al bans all carry ons, and they know a bit about security.

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poster 1 states: "You seem like a rational and smart person, even if you are a lefty. I can't believe you would give any credence to the nutty idea that this is a conspiracy to distract the sheeple from the Lamont upset in Connecticut."

Well, as it turns out, the Brits wanted to extend the investigation and the US essentially forced them to end it prematurely. The terrorists had not bought tickets and some did not even have passports. Sooooo--why would the US want to end it so quickly??? Perhaps to let the Bushies use it for political purposes?

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, like I'm going to spend $20 on fabulous Bobbi Brown mascara and then use it to blow up an airliner. Are the women involved in the Islamic terrorist plots even allowed to use cosmetics according to their fundementlist creed? I've flown enough international flights to know that you ALWAYS pack extra clothing and toiletries in your carry-on. I don't trust the airlines to get my luggage on the correct flight, so it's not as if any extra security measures are going to convince of competancy in any other area. Besides, if you die in an airliine accident your family is entitled to a shitload of insurance money. If you're hit by a drunk driver (far more likely, btw) your heirs are SOL unless you decide to sue them.


8:32 PM  
Anonymous Courtney said...

"And it makes me sick that mass stupidity has reached epidemic levels."

I can't agree more. However, I prefer to think of this remark in reference to your own stupidity. Please get over yourself, and come join reality.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Mike M. said...

Personally, I think that the Bush administration is perfectly capable of timing an event like this for it's own selfish political purposes. In fact, anyone who would believe anything else seems excedingly nieve to me. They've done little else but serve their own politcal interests since taking office. Do I think they invented the thing out of whole cloth? No. Pushing the Brits to break the case prematurely after Leiberman gets his ass kicked? You bet.

But back to the more fundamental question of how best to balance safety and civil liberties, I am always tempted to be drawn to Benjamin Franklin's quotation that "Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." But in some sense that is inappropriate, becasue I don't really believe that much of what is being done in the name of security really makes us more secure. The bottom line is that there is no way to make airplanes secure.

If we can't keep weapons out of prisions, how do you think we can keep them out of airplanes? We know who the bad guys are going into prisons, and they are stripped searched before they go in. Yet there are drugs and weapons in every prison in America. The real solution to airport security is better law enforcement. Not a sigle terrorist plot has been foiled by airport security. All that have been foiled have been foiled by intelligence gathering and good old fashioned law enforcement. I'm not suggesting no security, but we need to get to a reasonable level and keep it there.

And incidentally, Andy, not all checked baggage is scanned. Only a percentage. Likewise with aircargo. And the biggest threat to commercial aviation is still out there and there is no protection against it -- shoulder fired missles.

7:47 PM  

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