Thursday, November 25, 2010

What's Really Up With the TSA?

Obviously, it seems patently silly that travellers should have to undergo a rigorous inspection of their undercarriage before they get on a plane. All of our attempts to secure air travel seem to involve efforts to counteract the very latest attack, no matter how epic its failure. A dumbass puts a bomb in his shoe, and now everyone has to take their shoes off. A dumbass tries to conduct military-grade chemistry in an airport bathroom, and now no one can bring lens solution on board. A dumbass actually puts a bomb in his underwear, and now no one can wear undergarments on a plane. Oh wait, only figuratively! We just need to see everyone naked before they get on a plane. Or have them felt up. And not everyone. It'll be random. For now.

It doesn't matter how far any of these dumbass "plots" were from succeeding, what matters is that they can ruin, or at least make even worse, the magic of air travel. Seriously, at this point, if I was Osama bin Laden, I would just send some dumbass to get on a plane with a bomb in his nostril, just to see what we do next. The amount of damage he can do by hatching a really crappy dumbass scheme is well worth it. All he needs is for some dumbass to get a match, shove it up his nose, and then try and get on a plane. He doesn't even need to get on the plane! Even if we catch him, we'll still destroy every match in the country, bomb the match fields of Denmark, force every country to sign on to the Match Ban.

But seriously, where does it end? To me, the next step is to try putting a bomb in a terrorist's anus. Then what? From what we know, Rapiscans can't see in someone's butt. What do we do, then? Require that everyone undergo a full-cavity search? A colonoscopy? Why is genital fondling a measured response, but not a full-cavity search? The inside/outside line?

I don't blame the TSA, it's not really their fault. Especially the TSA workers we see, the ones given the unpleasant task of inspecting our junk for explosive irregularities. They're the real victims in all of this. A lot of people are directing anger at them, as if the secret dream of every low-salaried government worker is seeing John Q. Public naked, in all his glory. Personally, if worked in the TSA, I would turn into a recluse from having to deal with the thousands of entitled passengers who would see me as an object of scorn, upon whom society has made acceptable the giving of rebuke. The last thing I would want to do is touch their nuts. There are already stories of TSA workers who now go home every day and cry because they are called perverts or pedophiles, as if the vast national security-state was the product of a decades-long scheme to perform random fumblies on our jumblies.

But, again, it's not even their bosses that are to blame, either. For some reason, the American people have condensed the risk of terrorism into two scenarios: nuclear bomb in New York City; and crashing/blowing up an airplane. While we've farmed out nuclear bomb detail to other government agencies, we've told the TSA to worry about the airplanes-out-of-the-sky problem, to the exclusion of all else. Even other airport related danger. The TSA doesn't stop anyone from, say, detonating themselves while waiting in the security line, which thanks to the extended wait times, will now be longer.

It's natural that we, as human beings focus on what hurt us last. That's how animals think. After 9/11, we demanded from the government that an airplane never fall out of the sky again, or heads will roll. Even though the odds of that happening essentially dropped to zero by the late-morning of 9/11, the government quickly went about expending billions of dollars to make those specific protections redundant, because throwing money at a problem is how government goes about ensuring things most important to government; getting votes.

Now, of course, the chattering masses have turned on the TSA for crossing some invisible line of decency which really pisses them off. It's ironic, because it's largely the media's fault. They're the ones who put a gun to the head of government and jump on any failed plot and look for ways to make it appear that the government is clueless and needs to step up its efforts. Now, of course, unbeknownst to it, the government stumbled upon a security measure the media hates. I don't fly that much, figure ten times a year. I can tolerate the chance of randomly being selected for a groping, and polls show 66% of Americans are in favor of random groping (though they prefer it be done to people browner than them). But someone in the media typically flies a gazillion times a year, which means they will get groped a lot. (Ditto politicians, which is why this is now a bipartisan issue in Congress.)

Essentially, the media is putting a gun to the head of the TSA, and then asking, "Hey, why so nervous? It's just a gun. And, yeah, if you let anything through, we'll shoot you. But you guys are awfully paranoid. It's unhealthy."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pet Peeve of the Day (Minor Rant)

To get out of my subway station, after coming home from school, I (and my fellow passengers, naturally) need to go up a flight of stairs then choose either the escalator or seven flights of stairs. If you choose the escalator, and actually walk up the escalator, you can make pretty good time. If, on the other hand, you elect to stand on the escalator, it will take longer than if you just walked straight up the stairs.

Now, I don't have a problem with people who don't want to walk up the entire escalator, or who want to rest on the escalator. That's what it's there for. If you're not in a rush, you're not in a rush.

What I don't get is why some of these people feel the need to situate themselves at the very last door of the train (the door closest to the stairs and escalator), block anyone else from getting out, rush to the escalator, and then just stand there. If you're in a rush, rush. If you're not, let the rest of us out! I can't tell you how many times I race a train full of people to the escalator, only to come second to some person who started at the front, and has been maintaining a brisk pace up until that point, and then suddenly forgets her legs can move. It's a one person escalator, width-wise, so passing is difficult. All this results in about fifty people lined up behind one person for two minutes.

Not a big deal, but it makes me roll my eyes every day.

Funny story, one time a guy refused to let a woman pass him. Nothing happened, except the look on the woman's face was priceless. She could not believe that someone could be such a jerk. She had this expression like she had found herself in some Kafkaesque dystopia. I sympathized.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kahane Was A Schmucktard

Who is the most important Jewish leader of the last little while to die this past week? I’ll give you some hints. He was very active in Israeli politics, had leadership positions in a Jewish military, earned fame for his dealings with Arabs, and was assassinated. If you guessed Yitzchak Rabin, you’d be wrong. Or, at least according to the Jewish Press, who apparently believes that Meir Kahane is more worthy of a memorial tribute than the former war hero, Ramatkal, Israeli Prime Minister (twice) and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Shelley Benveniste, the JP’s South Florida editor, wrote a touching memorial to the good “Rabbi”, while no one could scrape together two words for Yitzchak Rabin.

Long time readers of my blog (of which there are none) may be aware of my frustration with the Jewish Press, a once-mediocre community rag that has since fallen to the level of hackish drivel whose sole utility is serving as filler for the weekly “shidduch crisis” columns and Pesach (and now Succos!) hotel advertisements which are its true purpose.

But this seems to be a much more dangerous development. Meir Kahane is not a good guy. He is not “misunderstood”, he is a schmucktard. He was a bad man. In an ideal world, no one would be writing tributes to this colossal waste of space, but even in a world where good and evil were locked in eternal struggle, one would hope that “America’s Largest Independent Jewish Weekly” wouldn’t. The paramilitary society he founded, the JDL, is recognized by the FBI and our State Department as being a terrorist organization. His political party was outlawed by the Israeli Knesset (!) as being too racist. The fact that the Jewish Press chose to write an article of slavish adoration about this crazy bigot, while completely ignoring Yitzchak Rabin is very disturbing. It sends the message that Kahane is a more widely respected figure in the Zionist and Orthodox Jewish communities than the former Prime Minister. If that’s the case, we’ve really lost our way.

Among the ridiculous statements in his tribute:

“Kahane, a graduate of Mir Yeshiva (Brooklyn), was a real Talmud chacham. For the ten years that he stayed in my family’s home on his visits to Florida, the light in his room would go on no later than five o’clock in the morning. He was learning Torah.”

Perhaps if Kahane would have gotten up a bit earlier in the morning, perhaps a quarter to five, he might have come across Exodus 20:12 – thou shalt not commit adultery. Which he did. With (gasp) a shikse! Whom he then dumped. And then she jumped off the 59th Street Bridge. A moral giant, for sure.

“Rabbi Kahane had a tremendous ahavat Yisroel, a love of his fellow Jew.”

Some of the Jews Kahane loved included Sol Hurok, the Jew whom the JDL tried to kill. And his secretary, whom they did kill. (Hurok’s capital offense was organizing for performing artists to come from the Soviet Union to the United States on cultural exchanges. His secretary’s sin was being in the office at the wrong/right time.)

“Kahane understood the urgency of the plight of Soviet Jewry.”

Better, apparently, than Soviet Jewry themselves. Natan Sharansky and other prominent refuseniks condemned Kahane and the JDL for their terrorist tactics (which included, inter alia, bombing Soviet embassies, missions and consulates), which they felt, quite rationally, put the actual Jews of the Soviet Union in a rather precarious position as scapegoat.

“Through the years, I have heard many people, who had never listened to the rabbi speak, or read any of his books or articles exclaim, ‘Kahane said we should have killed the Arabs!’ Of course, that is patently untrue. ... According to the Torah, the [ger toshav] may have personal rights but may hold no political position.”

Patently untrue, yes. You see, all he wanted us to do was to ethnically cleanse the Jewish state of nearly all of its Arab, by force, if that was necessary. As to the non-Jews who remained, they would get to live in an Apartheid state. Sheesh, Liberals, they distort everything.

In sum, Kahane was a schmucktard.