Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘air travel’

Slate: missing airliner may have been hijacked to Uyghur heartland

Posted by Richard on March 15, 2014

In a Slate article this morning, Jeff Wise presented evidence suggesting that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 may have been hijacked and flown to somewhere near the border of Kyrgyzstan and the Chinese province of Xingiang. He noted that:

A violent separatist Uyghur separatist [sic] movement is active in that area. Two weeks ago, eight knife-wielding Uyghur separatists attacked passengers at a train station in Xinjiang, killing 29 people. According to its manifest, 153 of the 227 passengers aboard MH370 are Chinese.

He failed to provide any information about the Uyghurs (a.k.a. Uighurs) beyond their separatism, so I’ll fill in the blank for you. At least some of them are radical Islamists.

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Is TSA conducting traveler obedience training drills?

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2012

Anything associated with Alex Jones should be taken with a grain of salt, but this story on Prison Planet looks pretty solid:

The TSA has failed to respond to the now confirmed fact that the federal agency has introduced a bizarre new policy in which travelers are ordered to “freeze” on command by TSA screeners while passing through security, a policy described as “obedience training” by critics.

“This happened to me last year in Atlanta,” one traveler told us via email.

“It’s not new. They’ve been playing “freeze tag” with naive sheeple for at least a year. They call it a “Code Bravo.” People who have experienced it call it a “Code Bravo Sierra,” added another.

The story was also covered by Gather.com’s Jim Kane, who asked, “This anecdote has not been confirmed by the safety agency, so it should remain in the rumor zone at this point. But, considering all the crazy TSA rules, would anyone be surprised if it were true?”

However, the policy is no mere anecdote, it’s a confirmed fact. The TSA is ordering travelers to “freeze” on command as part of a security drill named ‘Code Bravo’. This is documented in a New York Times article written by Joe Sharkey in which Sharkey explains how he was caught up in the fiasco on two separate occasions in both Atlanta and Los Angeles.

When Sharkey failed to obey a TSA screener who shouted “freeze,” he was assailed by another traveler who “growled” at him, “You’re supposed to freeze!” as other passengers complied with the bizarre demand.

Sharkey later discovered that the TSA had no power to force travelers to comply with the command.

“Passengers are not required to ‘freeze’ in place like statues,” TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee admitted.

However, in every case where the “freeze” command has been witnessed, the behavior of TSA agents has made it clear to travelers that if they don’t do precisely that, they will face the consequences.

TSA agents can keep you from making your flight or even have you arrested for saying the wrong thing or not being cooperative enough. So not many people are willing to “face the consequences” of pissing off a TSA agent.

I may never fly anywhere again.

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TSA embraces age discrimination

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration is going to ease up on air travelers over the age of 75. They’ll be able to keep their shoes and jackets on and will no longer be groped (emphasis added):

The new guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration, which take effect Monday at four U.S. airports, are part of an effort to move away from its one-size-fits-all security procedures and speed lower-risk passengers through while focusing on those who may need more scrutiny. Similar changes were made last fall for travelers 12 and younger.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks that led to tighter security, air travelers have criticized what they say is a lack of common sense in screening all passengers the same way, including young children and the elderly. That criticism grew louder in 2010 when the government began using a more invasive pat-down that involves screeners feeling a traveler’s genital and breast areas through their clothing.

“By moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security and applying some intelligence-driven and risk-based security models, TSA is looking at how this works for passengers,” said agency spokesman Jim Fotenos.

Correct me if I’m wrong — isn’t this profiling? I thought profiling was both ineffective and un-American.

I guess it’s OK if it’s just based on ageism. I guess the Obama administration has determined that the single most reliable predictor of whether someone might be a security risk, the one thing that potential terrorists have in common, is being between the ages of 12 and 75.

I’m so glad they’ve figured that out. I feel safer already. Oh, look — a 76-year-old woman in a hijab accompanied by her two Yemeni grandsons.

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Boeing opens South Carolina Dreamliner assembly plant

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2011

On Friday, ignoring a lawsuit brought by the Obama thugs running the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing opened its new $750 million final assembly plant in North Charleston, SC:

Under a blistering sun and facing a heated court battle, Boeing snipped the ribbon Friday on its new 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston six months ahead of schedule.

Company officials, politicians and workers hailed the aerospace giant's $750 million production facility as the start of a new era in the Lowcountry.

"Everybody is so geared up," said Raffie King, of Summerville, who works in Boeing's emergency operations. "This is our house. That's what we call it."

To the loud roar of applause from the hundreds of workers and guests seated and standing outside the cavernous facility the size of 11 football fields, Boeing Vice President and General Manager Jack Jones said, "This building is open for business."

The building is something else. It can hold two rows of four jumbo jets. 

One thing rarely mentioned in the media coverage of the NLRB-Boeing story: the new Charleston location, like the existing Everett, Washington, assembly plant, is just where final assembly of the planes takes place. The incredible array of components that make up the plane is manufactured at Boeing and subcontractor facilities throughout the country (North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota, …) and across the globe (Canada, Japan, UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, …). We live in a global economy, folks, and we're all better off because of it (per Ricardo's law of comparative advantage).  

In fact, the aft quarter of the 787's revolutionary fiber composite fuselage is built by Vought Aircraft Industries right next to the new Charleston plant:

The first pieces of the 787 wide-body jet, other than the aft and mid-body sections built next door, will arrive next month as 4,000 workers already hired begin to piece together the first completely assembled model of the airplane outside of Washington state.

"This is the first time we are actually going to send an aft and mid-body across the street instead of 3,000 miles away," Jones said. "Lots of good things are going to happen. This is history."

Boeing is still hiring in South Carolina. And in Washington, too, as this looks to be the most successful commercial jet ever, with over 800 already on order. South Carolina, Washington, the whole country — heck, the whole world — will gain from this.

Unless there's truth to the rumor that the President is going to appoint Wesley Mouch as his new Economic Opportunity Equalization Czar, and Mouch will then declare the Dreamliner "a national resource."  

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Holiday music

Posted by Richard on December 25, 2010

Some of you no doubt traveled somewhere in the last couple of days, and if it involved an airport, it probably wasn't a particularly pleasant experience. For your Christmas Eve entertainment, here are some ditties that hopefully will evoke a smile — if perhaps a somewhat rueful one. Enjoy, and have a very Merry Christmas!


[YouTube link]


[YouTube link]


[YouTube link]

 

 

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The power of the technician

Posted by Richard on November 21, 2010

Daniel H. Fernald thinks TSA administrator John Pistole's response to the growing "Don't touch my junk" movement is a symptom of a problem that won't be solved by defeating Obama in 2012. It's much more fundamental. Woodrow Wilson is implicated. And French philosopher and sociologist Jacques Ellul explained it almost fifty years ago:

Politicians are decision makers. They control the levers of power. The trouble, according to Ellul, is that in an increasingly complex environment, they often don’t know how to use them.

This is where the expert, the “technician,” comes in. At the outset, the expert’s role is merely to advise political leaders on how best to accomplish politicians’ stated policy goals. The expert’s role soon progresses to determining the “one best means” of accomplishing those goals. Finally, the expert technician decides on not merely the means of pursuing the “one best means” but also determines the policy goal toward which “the one best means” is directed.

As the power of the technician waxes, that of the politician wanes, until he is little more than a rubber stamp.

The monstrous Leviathan into which TSA has quickly, albeit all too predictably, morphed is a textbook illustration of Ellul’s thesis. Several elected representatives of the people politely suggested that a political technician, a bureaucrat, might possibly want to think about maybe giving, you know, just a bit of thought to not forcing American citizens to choose between being irradiated or groped, and he simply said:

“No.”

That’s a quote. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t equivocate, he didn’t evade the question. He simply said, “No.”

And the politicians did nothing, because they had no power to do anything. The technician had the power, and they all knew it.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

TSA idiocy vs. armed soldiers

Posted by Richard on November 21, 2010

They were returning from Afghanistan on a military charter flight — 330 soldiers coming home from war. All were armed with M4 carbines. Some also had sidearms. And some had M240B machine guns. The flight stopped in Indianapolis to drop off about 100 members of the Indiana National Guard. But for some reason, all 330 soldiers were made to disembark. With their weapons (unloaded, of course).

TSA personnel decided that, before the 230 who were continuing on could reboard the plane, they'd have to submit to security screening. Hilarious idiocy ensued. Read the whole thing. You won't know whether to laugh, cry, or just be disgusted.

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A Thanksgiving traveler survey

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

I’ve come up with a survey I’d like to see Rasmussen or somebody do of potential Thanksgiving travelers:

  1. Are you planning to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  2. If you’re planning to fly, will you be traveling with your children?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  3. If you’re planning to fly with a daughter or daughters, how old is she (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  4. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener grab your daughter’s crotch?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  5. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  6. If your daughter has passed puberty, how do you feel about letting a TSA screener cup her breasts and squeeze her breasts?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  7. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  8. If you’re planning to fly with a son or sons, how old is he (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  9. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener feel your son’s penis and testicles?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than his feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  10. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  11. Would you be more comfortable putting your child(ren) through a back-scatter X-ray scanner that produces a nude image of your child detailed enough to show, for instance, whether your son is circumcised, and possibly increasing their risk of skin cancer?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  12. Are you sure you and your child(ren) want to fly for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure

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New Jersey legislators take on TSA

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

Here is the press conference held by a bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators challenging the constitutionality, efficacy, safety, and decency of TSA's back-scatter radiation scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs (a.k.a. gropings). They were joined by the New Jersey ACLU.


[YouTube link]

From their press release

Senator Michael J. Doherty (R- Hunterdon, Warren) and Senator James Beach (D- Camden) announced they will present resolutions to the Senate and Assembly calling on the U.S. Congress to end TSA screening procedures requiring full body scans and pat downs at U.S. airports Their action comes in response to widespread concerns over privacy and radiation, as well as reports of inappropriate conduct by TSA agents during the screening process. 

“The pursuit of security should not force Americans to surrender their civil liberties or basic human dignity at a TSA checkpoint,” said Doherty. “Subjecting law-abiding American citizens to naked body scans and full body pat downs is intolerable, humiliating, vulnerable to abuse, and is fast becoming a disincentive to travel. Particularly concerning to us is the fact that physical searches result in children being touched in private areas of the body. Terrorists hate America because of the freedoms upon which this great nation was built. By implementing these screening measures, the TSA has already handed a victory to those who seek to destroy our freedoms.”

Senator Doherty was joined at a State House press conference announcing the resolution by Senator Diane Allen (R- Burlington), American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, and Assembly members Erik Peterson, Alison McHose, John DiMaio, and Valerie Vanieri Huttle.

Read the whole thing. Bravo, New Jersey legislators!

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“Don’t touch my junk”

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2010

The backlash against TSA's new "enhanced" airport screening techniques is continuing to build. Apparently, quite a few Americans object to having to choose between a revealing full-body scan that may increase their risk of cancer and a "pat-down" that includes aggressive groping of their genitals.

Airline pilots are objecting. EPIC is suing. New Jersey lawmakers are calling on Congress to act.

John Tyner's blog post and videos of his experience at the San Diego airport have gone viral, as has the clip of a distraught 3-year-old girl being groped. National Opt-Out Day is getting increasing attention.

Bill Belew asked, "Are new TSA airport security measures sexual harassment?," and provided links, photos, and videos to help you decide.

WorldNetDaily quoted John Whitehead as pointing the finger at the President: 

"Legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it," John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, wrote in a new commentary.

"So we can thank President Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights. Mind you, this is the same man who insisted that 'we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,'" Whitehead said.

WND also recounted numerous disturbing TSA stories such as these: 

"We've gotten tons of e-mails, mainly from females about the invasions of the body scanners," Whitehead said. "In one case, a mother [told how] her 12-year-old daughter was pulled out of the security line, and [TSA] did touch her breast and vaginal areas.

"This is an unreasonable search and seizure," he said.

Rutherford said any court adhering to the Constitution would find that so.

In another case, a pilot reported having TSA inspectors put their fingers down inside his pants, and yet another person reported TSA officers, infuriated that she was upset over their pat-down procedures, "put her in a room and isolated her for two hours" so that she missed her flight.

This crap doesn't really enhance security; it just creates the illusion of security. As John Tyner pointed out (emphasis in original):

Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem. Aside from securing the cockpit doors and the realization by passengers that they must fend for themselves …, security is largely the same as it was before 9/11.

The only thing changing is the amount of money being spent on the problem and the constant erosion of liberty, and all I did was draw attention to this.

And as Michelle Malkin noted: 

the American approach to flight security misses the point, thanks to an “everyone must suffer equally” approach. The Israelis have not had an incident in decades, thanks to a much more comprehensive but subtle approach that looks for actual clues to danger, rather than using a random-sample method.

Translation: the Israelis intelligently profile. 

If, like a growing number of Americans, you're ready to say "enough is enough" and demand a stop to this outrageous nonsense, sign this petition. Then go to WeWon'tFly.com and follow some of the suggestions under "How To Raise Hell." And share this info with everyone you know. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Prime Minister Cameron flew commercial

Posted by Richard on July 23, 2010

A couple of months ago, I had some kind words for Britain's new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, the junior partner in the coalition government formed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Now it's time for some kind words for the senior partner, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. For his visit to Washington this week, the Prime Minister and his staff took a commercial British Airways flight, saving British taxpayers £200,000. Bravo!

Our president took Air Force One (and a backup 747) from Washington to New York for a "date night" with his wife. Countless Hollywood celebrities fly around the country constantly in their private jets and lecture us peasants about our carbon footprints. For last winter's "climate summit," so many world leaders and glitterati flew into Copenhagen in their private jets that there wasn't room for them all. They had to drop off their passengers and fly on to another airport to "park." 

Prime Minister Cameron, on the other hand, apparently told one of his staff something like, "Book ten seats on a flight to New York for Monday morning. And make them business class." Yes, that's right — Cameron didn't even fly first class

I'm really taking a shine to the leadership of this new British government — both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat. 

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Mohammed Al-Madadi: incredibly stupid or gathering intelligence

Posted by Richard on April 9, 2010

Qatari diplomat Mohammed Al-Madadi caused a bomb scare on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Denver Wednesday night. Reportedly, Al-Madadi sneaked a smoke in the john. When confronted, he joked (supposedly) that he'd been trying to light his shoe. 

Ha, ha. 

The flight ended up being accompanied to DIA by F-16s, and the passengers spent many hours being debriefed at a location quite distant from the terminal. 

Now, it turns out that Al-Madadi was on his way to see an imprisoned al Qaeda agent, Ali Al-Marri.

So here's the obvious question: was Al-Madadi simply behaving stupidly or was he obtaining intelligence about U.S. air security measures? 

I'm inclined to invoke Hanlon's Law (which may actually owe its genesis to Heinlein): Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

More than likely, Al-Madadi is just the typical arrogant Arab male, for whom saving face is paramount and who has no conception of how much concern and fear he's caused. 

But, but … it could be a scouting mission. Another probing of our defenses. There have been a number of incidents, harking back at least to the Minneapolis "flying imams" incident, that could be interpreted as attempts to test our air defenses and gather intelligence about our reactions to various potential threats. 

Who knows? That's one of the terrible problems with this new form of war in which we're involved (and please remember that it's a war that was declared by our enemies, so we have no choice in the matter). The enemy is waging that war in the most unconventional ways of which it can conceive. It's hard to determine who the enemy is, where the theater of war is, and what exactly is an act of war. And they like it that way.

Is Mohammed Al-Madadi an undercover enemy combatant, a secret al Qaeda agent, or just an obtuse, clueless, arrogant, privileged-class Arab? I don't know. I'm not sure anyone does.

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Profiling at Montreal airport

Posted by Richard on January 10, 2010

It sure looks like Montreal's airport security personnel are guilty of profiling passengers:

MONTREAL (AP) – Canadian police say it was wrong for one of their officers to whisk Halle Berry, her model boyfriend and baby through airport security.

Police Inspector Jimmy Cacchione said it was the personal initiative of one officer and not something the department supported.

The officer will not be reprimanded and the police airport unit will institute stricter rules for the future, Cacchione added. 

Hey, if I were the cop on duty, I'd escort her through security, too. She has one fine profile.

But I'd make her airhead boy-toy and the rugrat stay at the back of the line. 

HT: Instapundit

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Surprised by al Qaeda’s determination

Posted by Richard on January 8, 2010

A couple of days after Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab almost managed to blow up Northwest Flight 253, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN that "one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked." Which, if true, means the system is utterly dependent on courageous passengers with impeccable timing to thwart such attacks. 

Yesterday afternoon at a press briefing, Napolitano revealed the depth of her knowledge and understanding of the enemy that declared war on us, seeks to destroy us, and is responsible for the terrorist acts that it's her job to protect us from. Gateway Pundit has the video and transcript excerpt (emphasis added): 

Q What was the most shocking, stunning thing that you found out of the review? And, Secretary, to you, as well.

MR. BRENNAN: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an extension of al Qaeda core coming out of Pakistan. … The fact that they had moved forward to try to execute this attack against the homeland I think demonstrated to us — and this is what the review sort of uncovered — that we had a strategic sense of sort of where they were going, but we didn't know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here. And we have taken that lesson, and so now we're full on top of it.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think, following up on that, not just the determination of al Qaeda and al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, but the tactic of using an individual to foment an attack, as opposed to a large conspiracy or a multi-person conspiracy such as we saw in 9/11, that is something that affects intelligence.

Yeah, who know that al Qaeda was really determined? Or that they might use an individual suicide bomber? Who could have possibly known these things?

Heckuva job, Nappy! 

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Airport security done right

Posted by Richard on January 3, 2010

In the comments to Sensible profiling, I pointed out that the Israelis use profiling and do it right. An excellent story in the Toronto Star details just how different Israel's airport security procedures are from those used in North America:

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s— from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" – a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport employs a multi-layer security strategy. At multiple points — a checkpoint on the approach to the airport, the parking facility and terminal entrances, airline check-in desks, and the security checkpoint — trained  personnel watch passengers and ask simple, innocuous questions (How are you? Where are you coming from? Who packed your luggage?) while looking people directly in the eyes, alert for nervousness, stress, and other tell-tale signs. It's called behavioral profiling.

There are no long lines at the security checkpoint. Passengers don't have to take off their shoes and belts or go through full-body scans. They don't confiscate liquids or GI Joes, and they don't make people put their toiletries in Ziploc bags. The process is quick and convenient. And it's worked well for decades at one of the prime terrorist targets in the world. 

Today, there was a "security breach" at Newark Airport — a man walked into the secure "sterile" side of the terminal without being screened. In reaction, flights were halted and thousands of people evacuated from the terminal for re-screening. As I write this, it's been six hours, and they're still not back to normal. This happens all too often at U.S. airports, and it's usually just a dumb mistake by someone. But it always leads to a terrible mess — costly, inconvenient, frustrating, and stupid. 

At Ben Gurion, they don't even evacuate the terminal if they find a suspected bomb: 

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

So why hasn't TSA learned from the Israeli example? Why do they foist upon the American traveling public a brain-dead, inefficient, ineffective, and horribly frustrating system? Because they can. We have become sheep. Unlike the Israelis, we'll put up with almost anything to avoid trouble and gain a sense of security.

With one exception. Remember the "flying Imams" and similar incidents? The lawsuits and accusations of racism and Islamophobia? If TSA adopted the Israeli methodology, training security personnel to look people in the eye, ask questions, and make judgments about their behavior, the perpetually aggrieved (and those attempting to test or undermine the system) would be in the courts and in front of the microphones screaming about profiling and discrimination every other day.

So the path of least resistance for TSA personnel is to treat people like cattle and go through the motions, giving us the illusion of security by confiscating shampoo and examining shoes, and selecting people at random for additional screening. It keeps CAIR and the PC crowd off their backs, and the rest of us just suffer in silence. 

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