Monday, January 04, 2010


Republicans, the TSA, and Terrorists

I don't think I can go another day without commenting in print on the Christmas Day incident on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. I have commented numerous times in conversations among friends and coworkers.

Much has already been written and discussed on the various subjects surrounding this incident. The son of privilege becoming radicalized. His education in extremist mosques in London and Yemen. His father reporting his activities to authorities, and the information being mishandled. A security clampdown being instituted both domestically and in some foreign airports. I cannot add anything to this part of the story.

A couple of other parts of the story that are not being discussed much: Holes in the system of international airport security and passenger screening. Republican Obama-bashing on things he has no control over, and they know it, but they bash anyway.

I'll start with Representative Peter King (R, NY). In a matter of hours after the incident had been successfully resolved with no injuries (other than the burned crotch of the would-be attacker), Congressman King was on the air saying that this was the greatest terrorist incident in history (right- a failed incident was bigger than the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, the Beirut Marine Barracks, 9/11, and Pearl Harbor). When pinned down that nothing had happened he said 'it could have been the greatest terrorist incident in history!' Again, I mention the above list of actual incidents that were far worse than this one that was a failure. He also said that the incident was all the fault of President Obama, and that he does not take Al Queda, and terrorist threats in general, seriously. Right. President Obama is a babe in the woods who cannot comprehend the actions and motives of an organization that the U.S. has been fighting for a decade. Congressman King needs to have reality explained to him.

Dick Cheney went further, stating that President Obama was "pretending we were not at war." Right. That's why he's sending tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan. I am not in favor of this, but my disagreement with my president on this subject has not driven me to lie about him or his perceptions.

A surrogate of Cheney's was on MSNBC that week, on "Hardball with Chris Matthews," stating Mr. Cheney's talking point. I say point because all he seemed to be able to say, repeatedly, was that this was an attack by an Islamic fanatic on Christmas. He repeated "Islamic fanatic" and "on Christmas" in the same sentence about a dozen times. At that point the two became two separate two word sentences nearly barked. "Islamic Fanatic! Islamic Fanatic! On Christmas! Islamic Fanatic! On Christmas! On Christmas! Islamic Fanatic! Christmas! Fanatic! Islamic Christmas! On Fanatic! It was at this point he ran the two together into an incomprehensible jumble of syllables.

The Cheney surrogate then went on to state with the certainty of a carnival act mind reader that the terrorist's personal aim was to forever tie Christmas to Islamic terror. He did not once mention the fact that it was an act as impotent as a centenarian who's birthday is celebrated by Willard Scott on the "Today" show.

The Republican Party has become a hate-mongering cartoon, and has surrendered its right to lead. They will take anything and twist it into an anti-Obama and anti-Democrat diatribe. This is not a debate about how to make the United States a better country. It is entirely about race. President Obama has shown himself to be as centrist as President Clinton. The Republicans hate President Clinton because of identity theft. He co-opted the middle of the road planks of the Republican platform and made them his own, marginalizing most of the Republican party to the radical right. The Republicans then have been gleefully racing farther and farther right ever since. Now, there is a president in the White House that is willing to work with them, and continually tries to (for reasons I cannot fathom), and they continue to do whatever they can to knock him down. He's willing to do half of what they want, but it's not enough. Why? We all know why. He's half black and has an African-Islamic name.

The Republicans have people to point to in order to blunt this motive. Some of my co-workers have a familial name for these guys. Uncle Tom. As Bill Maher recently and eloquently stated: "Not all Republicans are racist, but, if you're a racist, you're probably a Republican." Too true.

Now to increased airport security. Nine years ago I was working on a show that employed the Romanian Gymnasts, and had me flying all over the U.S. We put the show up in Florida. In the Orlando airport, after going though security, we ended up in a large food court with some souvenir shops. The souvenir shops all sold pocket knives. We pointed this out to a policeman, who told us to mind our own business. Since it was Florida I suppose we should be glad the souvenir shops weren't selling guns.

I know that this loophole was closed after 9/11, but here's a few that haven't: Passengers connecting from other flights. Like this guy on Christmas. He started his journey in Africa at a low security airport. Once he was through, he was home free. Security at Amsterdam, and at all other airports, do not re-screen passengers who have already been through a screening process, even if that process began in an airport who's cat scan machine is a guy waving a cat over the luggage. Once that luggage has been determined to not contain mice or fish, the passenger is approved for flight. The TSA and the Republican loudmouths for the first several days of Obama-bashing failed to mention that fact. They also failed to mention that Mohammad Atta used this same method on 9/11, starting in at the time low-security Portland, ME and connecting in Boston, where he was not re-screened before boarding the flight to San Francisco.

Here's something else- the TSA has already announced that the increased security is temporary. Brilliant. Maybe you should tell the enemy the stop date while you're at it. They have also spoken about the chemical combination and how there is no known screening process to detect it. This stuff is not odorless, guys. Anything that has an odor, a dog can be trained to find it. You just don't want to go to the expense of training enough dogs and handlers to cover all international airports. The dogs you have are not trained to find that scent. Admit it. Our lives as citizens are worth more to you as martyrs than as voters. One or two planes get knocked out of the sky and you'll get all the funding you want.

One more thing. Even if they are able to secure the airports, the battle will just move to outside the airport. I know this from working in the New York City public schools. I have been in schools that have screening procedures as intense as any airport in the country, yet there is still school violence. It is in the parking lot, in the school yard, or down the block. The kids hide their weapons under corner garbage cans, newspaper vending boxes, parked cars that rarely move, even in flower pots of nearby houses. For years I have predicted that rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder mounted missiles will be employed against passenger planes one day. Ask an ATF agent if any of this stuff is in circulation. Of course it is. The TSA needs to be patrolling airport grounds and access roads as well. Maybe they are, but since our government is well established as a reactive organization rather than a proactive organization, I sadly doubt this.
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