It's wondrous how quickly the Transportation Security Administration leaps to the task of preventing an attempted act of terror that's already happened. The Shoe Bomber incident ensured that the flying public would forever tiptoe through security in its stockinged feet. Next, a couple of half-assed, bathtub chemists made certain we're not allowed to take a bottle of water on a plane. Now, we have what the press has dubbed the "Underpants Bomber," though I much prefer the more accurately descriptive, "Taint Bomber."
Following the TSA's logic, the next step is for everyone to fly naked.
The Taint Bomber hid malfunctioning explosives in his briefs, giving new meaning to the term "Great Balls of Fire." Now, the cry is for all airports to install full-body X-ray devices, which fulfills every young boy's fantasy of being Superman and having X-ray vision. I could give a damn if some "professional screener" sees me in my underwear, but if I were a woman, I might be concerned that the man behind the curtain may be enjoying his job a little too much, especially if he is entrusted with the saved images that will be used to provide evidence to the authorities.
The American public sheepishly goes along, tolerating anything for the illusion of safety. The new rule about not being able to go to the bathroom during the last hour of a flight will certainly need to be revisited after passengers start peeing on the floor. And, no books? What the hell are you supposed to do on one of these flying disease incubators — meditate? (And if you do meditate, someone might mistake you for a religious extremist, and the next thing you know, you'd be getting a full-cavity search.)
As terrible as the potential disaster on Christmas Day may have been, the shameless exploitation of the terrorist action by the GOP, not to merely politicize the event but to attempt to fund-raise because of it, is repugnant. Say the word "hijacker" to a Republican, and he begins to salivate over the possibility of bashing the president on national security — especially the disgraced, future convicted felon, Dick Cheney. The now worst former vice president in American history issues missives that seem intended more to harm the president than to prevent future attacks. In fact, Cheney and a handful of hawks almost seem to be wishing for a domestic cataclysm on Obama's watch so they can say, "See? We're not the only ones who allowed an egregious lapse of security to cost American lives."
I have come to the conclusion that Congress, on both sides of the aisle, is a bunch of whores (my representative excepted). The difference is that the Republicans are particularly nasty and syphilitic whores and thus a danger to the common good. The torture party's credibility on national security is shot and can't be restored by a "Democratic" airline disaster.
Who wants to endure the humiliation involved with airline travel anymore? This is why things like high-speed rail are so important, not just to offer an alternative to the airline monopoly but to ease chaos at airports and decrease highway traffic. Want to know why we are light years behind the Europeans and Asians in the development of high-speed rail? Fifty years worth of cash from the airlines to Congress, muscle from a corrupted Teamsters Union, and cheap gas, which stopped the railroads in their tracks, so to speak.
I would much prefer riding in a 300-mph bullet train than spending two hours of useless screening before being herded onto another austere and tension-filled flight. Yes, the Madrid bombings proved that trains can be as vulnerable to terrorist attack as planes, but if a bomb detonates on my mode of transport, I'd rather already be on the ground.
The system in place should have prevented the latest violent Islamic extremist from boarding a flight in Amsterdam, but the system failed. The Obama administration, clearly flustered, attempted to explain that he was not on the "no fly list" but rather the "watch list," which contains half a million names. Bulletin: We have computers now, so rather than harassing millions of passengers at their point of origin, wouldn't it be wiser to invest in more computerized file-sharing between the airlines and governmental security agencies? The TSA's current hands-on approach is only succeeding in infuriating passengers and disrupting air travel — exactly al-Qaeda's intentions. The Taint Bomber made it through security undetected and someone must accept responsibility, but the real question is why this known suspected jihadist, whose own father warned of his radical intentions, was allowed to purchase a ticket on a domestic airliner in the first place?