The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 24, 2010: Hump Day: Checked Baggage

On this day before Thanksgiving, tens of thousands of Americans take to the air to fly across the country to be with their families. Tens of thousands of Americans will have their “baggage” checked as a result of a new security screening directive under President Obama. They will be given a choice, to be sure; a choice between being irradiated and allowing a total stranger in a separate room to view them as if they were naked, or allow a total stranger to essentially feel them up in public.

So, how does this square with the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures? Is it not unreasonable to subject every single passenger, without so much as a hint that anything might be amiss, to such a degrading search of their genatilia? Or does the fact that one person in all of avaition history hid explosives in his underwear suddenly make it reasonable to inspect everyone’s underwear?

But, would not explosive-sniffing dogs be less invasive? Of course they would. But that’s not the point. The point is to get everyone to submit to more and more degrading searches, to get everyone to submit to the government’s power and authority over the most private parts of our bodies. It makes no difference that this edict came down from the Obama Administration, than if it had been ordered under Bush, except that if Bush had ordered this, there would have been a far greater outcry from the Left.

But these searches are constitutional because we don’t have a constitutional right to travel. Flying is a privilege, and to enjoy that privilege, the government can subject us to any kind of search it wants. For those of us who wondered at how German Jews could continually acquiesce to more and more degradations under Nazi Germany, we now share the same experience.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

64 thoughts on “The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 24, 2010: Hump Day: Checked Baggage

  1. Good morning, everyone. Excellent post, BnF.

    What is this country coming to? As someone said on Olbermann the other evening, a suicide bomber could stand in the middle of the crowd waiting to be screened and blow himself up and get the same results.

    I’m disappointed in Obama. He promised that he would work to change Washington and instead, he gives away too much to the Republicans who then spit in his face.

    During the 2008 primary, my support was for Governor Richardson. I don’t know if he would have been stronger in standing up to the Party of No.

  2. I haven’t flown on a commercial airline since 1996, a trip which I found to be cramped, crowded, and grossly uncomfortable — which was apparently nothing compared to what one must put up with today. Far as I’m concerned, I have no intention of ever flying again, unless it should be a one-way flight that will take me forever away from this country and what it’s become.

    I, too, have been extremely disappointed by President Obama. Two years ago, right about now, I was one of the most optimistic people anywhere on the planet. I sensed the arrival of another FDR, a leader who would bring us back from the abyss that nearly thirty decades of right wing ascendancy had stuffed us into; I presumed there would be criminal charges brought against Bush and Cheney on several levels, from war crimes to, in effect, the treason implicit in their assault on the Constitution which they had sworn to uphold and defend. Mostly, I was encouraged because, on paper at least, the ‘liberal-progressive’ side of the equation had huge electoral margins in both houses, plus they owned the presidency itself. Then I watched as health care and my hopes for AT LEAST a public option got flushed, and with great assistance from the Democrats we wound up with something that would have even appeased New Gingrich in 1995. The baby, in other words, got tossed out with the bathwater yet one more time.

    And it’s been downhill ever since.

    Maybe if the airport security feeler-uppers were Victoria’s Secret models dressed appropriately …. nah. It’s the principle of the thing, the silliness, the futility, the fear-induced presumption, the implicit response to me saying, “hey, you can’t do that” with the answer being, “YES WE CAN.”

    Brings to mind the echo of that old tune by The Animals:

  3. How invasive is the patdown? Flying back from England in 2007, I caught a nonstop Lufthansa flight out of Frankfurt. Everyone passing through security had a same-gender security person pat them down. It was thorough but I certainly didn’t feel violated. I’m reasonably sure that no one will get a sexual thrill out of touching my junk, trust me.

    I’m withholding judgment for the time being, at least as long as these measures are applied to all, not just the dark, foreign-looking passengers, and that it includes First Class white people as well.

  4. I think it was in late 1968 when airport security first came into play. Metal scanners and carry-on X-ray popped up mainly because a few commercial flights had been hijacked (each by a nut with a gun, a.i.r.) with demand that the plane fly to Cuba. It started out quite simple, but I had to wonder, what’s next? Now we’re to the point of using the “Magic Spectacles” (from an old soft core movie back in the early sixties — to the guy wearing the spectacles, all the women were naked — I wanted a pair) to look for something, anything, that anyone might have hidden somewhere. That or a patdown. What’s next? I’d recommend a full body cavity search (remember the tale of Papillon, who carried his survival kit where the sun don’t shine when he was sent to Devil’s Island), plus maybe a monitoring of everyone’s intestinal tract lest they swallowed a bag of C-5 with, say, a cell phone activated detonator, or something similar.

    All of that should keep us safe. Until the terrorist, frustrated by the long and ponderous security lines in the airport decided it would be every bit as effective to blow up the airport security line instead of the plane. Plus, then he wouldn’t have to wait in line so long.

    I’m sorry, I know I have a crappy attitude, but I do have to ask: how many devices has TSA security located in the last, say, five years, at US domestic airports? I know the old setup somehow missed 19 box cutters back in 01, but I dunno, sometimes fear of whatever, esp. when officially promoted, also promotes various levels of either silliness or, perhaps, things not exactly legally cricket such as ‘unreasonable search’. Or is the fourth amendment dead anyway, thanks to Bush?

    Me, I’ll drive, or take the train, or stay home.

  5. “Travelers dismayed by airport body scans are headed to airports Wednesday with the makings of any good protest: handmade fliers, eye-catching placards, slogan-bearing T-shirts — and Scottish kilts.

    I have a kilt, an’ I’m not afraid ta wear it!!!

  6. What’s more galling is the Europeans now have technology installed that shows a mannequin with areas of the body where an offending anything is displayed.
    These use radio waves and are harmless.
    I can’t go through an irradiation, what with my cancer in remission, and we should scrap the full body scanners and get with the technology…

  7. I’m with you, Cats. It isn’t the flying I dislike so much, it’s the @#%^#%$&$ airports. And it is a hundred times worse now than it was in my traveling days. For me its train, drive or stay home.

  8. I’m going to the coffee shop at the foot of the hill for an hour, that’s as far as it gets. I hope the steep bit at the end is clear of the frozen stuff.

    I am not anticipating a pat down at the coffee shop, although if it was the girl who was on yesterday, I plan on offering myself for one.

  9. Off topic but equally disturbing:

    I never realy considered Chrisopher Walken as the Gourmet type but, surprises are around every corner in life.

  10. I went over to the Point Brewery this AM to help them start up a piece of new equipment. Such a cool little home town brewery. And it seems they have lots of ideas for modernization and were looking for someone local to help them implement them.

    Its a tough job but I think I can handle working in a place that has the aroma of roasting malt and brewing beer.

  11. On a totally unrelated sidebar, I think my business cell phone has developed narcolepsy. Ever see those clips of narcoleptic dogs where they get all excited and then just collapse into sleep? My phone now rings once and gets so excited it turns itself off. Weird.

  12. I do, frugal but the boss is less than amused. Seems I’m to get one of them newfangled things that do everything but fart the Star Spangled Banner. Yippee!

  13. Fox News Analyst Invokes Nuremberg To Criticize TSA (with video)

    Very interesting coming from Judge Andrew Napolitano at FOX.. Where was this argument when this all started under Bush and Cheney (erosion of privacy and civil liberties, all in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ and BE AFRAID)?

    “Tell the TSA what you think of them,” he said to viewers. “Reject the argument that they are just doing their job. The trials at Nuremberg put an end to that argument.”
    He continued by invoking the “first they came for the…” refrain, attributed to a German Pastor writing about the rise of Nazism, and often co-opted by Glenn Beck and others on the right.

    “America,” Napolitano continued, “liberty is rarely lost overnight. Rather, it goes slowly with the deluded sheep, happy in their illusion of safety, and the freedom fighters resisting all the way.”

    This was over at TPM.

  14. When my hubby was coming back from Europe last year he was going through the gate somewhere overseas and started to take off his shoes. The person at the checkthrough said “What are you doing” You don’t need to take off your shoes. This isn’t America (said sarcastically)..”

  15. Hooda, congratulations for connecting with Point. You’re helping to maintain one of the last great regional (small region) breweries, and a tradition I’m glad has survived. Not at all easy these days. I’m so glad they still exist (and thrive?).

  16. Gummitch, they are doing pretty well. And the fact they want to upgrade their pumping and mixing controls (as in they have the $ to do so) is great news.

  17. And even better, the reason they want to upgrade is to make the operation more energy efficient! They have motors and pumps in there that are easily 50 years old, kludgy stuff that is mechanically hard to maintain and doesn’t really do the job but it was the best technology back when I was a younker.

    I’m looking forward to the opportunity.

  18. Tomorrow is traditional Thanksgiving. My kids and grandkids are going off to their mother/grandmother’s for the day. I get the day pretty much to meself.

    The local grocery store has Dungeness crab.

  19. I sometimes wish I didn’t live right in town where they tell me I can’t have animals other than dogs and cats. I wouldn’t mind having a few goats or pigs (mini kind). Edible creatures in the yard make sense.

  20. “The local grocery store has Dungeness crab.”

    oooo, Hooda -enjoy! Now just find some excellent (real) sourdough bread in WI and grab some asparagus – you’ve a perfect Bay Area meal!

  21. ebb, I gave up on turkey 10 years ago with the divorce. The ex still does the traditional stuff for the kids and they get all the dead bird they want. Saturday they come here for standing rib roast with cornbread sausage pecan stuffing.

  22. The thing is I have been running the equivalent of a flop house for about 10 years now. I have had 2 sisters, 2 kids, innumerable friends of said kids, several friends, lots of dogs and cats all pass through here. I don’t remember the last person who paid any rent since I don’t know that anyone ever has. Rough guess is that in the past ten years some twenty or more people have hung their hats here for various times.

    I don’t keep track as long as the place doesn’t burn down.

  23. Pfft. I offered 5th a haven, still wish he had taken the offer, yet you were in a similar circumstance and I didn’t make the offer to you. I still feel bad about that.

  24. Yes, if 5th had taken up that offer we’d at least know he was safe.

    Please do not feel bad – 5th was in more dire straits than I. That’s one thing about coming from a large family – there’s usually a sofa to flop on for a bit!

  25. Thanks for the kind words but it doesn’t change the fact that I was something of a sexist coward. Something I have to learn to deal with. I do wish 5th had accepted my offer, I worry about him. And I am glad you have landed on your feet.

    This stuff about being in your mid 50’s and still having to learn about yourself is a royal pain.

    As a total aside, I think spending this holiday with you would be a nice time. But since it isn’t going to happen, I hope that spending time here at the Zoo with you and others is a pretty good second choice.

  26. The camaraderie of the Zoo is conducive to a virtual feast~

    better company would be difficult to find!

    Unfortunately the yams and sweet potatoes aren’t virtual and won’t cook themselves for the dressing I’m making – so best go set the flame and get them started.
    Be back soon.

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