Sunday, November 27, 2005

Making Air Travel Safer

By banning nipple rings!

Attention, travelers with nipple piercings: If you plan to fly out of Pittsburgh International Airport this holiday season, bring your pliers.

Otherwise, you might miss your flight.

At least one passenger who traveled through Pittsburgh learned this the hard way. She had to remove her piercings in a restroom after airport security told her she couldn't get on a plane with her hardware intact.

Now, firstly, this strikes one as a case of exluding a symbol in order to send a message to 'those people'. (In this respect it is much like the War on Some Drugs - it's a clash-of-cultures issue.) The hussy had her nipples pierced, and some upright TSA worker seized an excuse to 'straighten her out'.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but for real, raw, base venality, you need look no further than a pissant low-level civil servant...


Blogger Management said...

Increased security means more complaints
By Kim Lyons
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Attention, travelers with nipple piercings: If you plan to fly out of Pittsburgh International Airport this holiday season, bring your pliers.

Otherwise, you might miss your flight.

At least one passenger who traveled through Pittsburgh learned this the hard way. She had to remove her piercings in a restroom after airport security told her she couldn't get on a plane with her hardware intact.

The pierced passenger filed a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration, which logs all claims against its personnel at airports across the country. Along with passengers seeking to retrieve lost items or replace damaged luggage, the complaint forms contain some unusual insights from travelers:

= If you have an artificial leg, be prepared for it to be X-rayed separately.

= And don't even think about bringing a sewing machine in your luggage -- it could be mistaken for a bomb.

The TSA was formed in November 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A Trib review of agency complaint forms found most travelers accept the need for increased security at airports, but object to what they perceive as overly aggressive searches.

One Pittsburgh traveler likened the pat-down she endured in November 2004 to being molested. A female security officer used something less than a light touch.

"She basically rubbed me down and cupped my breasts like a $2 hooker," the woman wrote of the officer. Two male guards already had scanned her with wands while two others watched. "When I was finally cleared, I did ask all of your 'professional' security guards 'if it was good for them.' "

Jeff Martinelli, Allegheny County Airport Authority spokesman, said security pat-downs often present unique situations. Underwire bras can set off the metal detectors, which is tricky for the person holding the security wand, he said.

"Unless the screener is out of line, what can you do?" Martinelli said. "The overwhelming amount of the time, the TSA person is just doing their job."

Despite the extreme encounters some passengers have with Pittsburgh's metal detectors, the airport doesn't even crack the top 10 list for most customer claims filed, TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser said. Airports leading the list are Los Angeles and O'Hare in Chicago.

Martinelli said TSA screeners put a note into any bag they search, which he thinks heightens awareness and might lead to more complaints. He recalled one passenger who said her sunglasses were stolen from her bag. Since the TSA left a search notice in the woman's bag, Martinelli said, she was convinced a screener had stolen her sunglasses.

"But it turned out she had never packed them in the first place," he said. "I think that illustrates that, once you know someone's been in your bag, you're automatically suspicious."

For the record, no baggage screeners at the Pittsburgh airport have been fired for theft since TSA's formation, Kayser said.

He said the agency takes pride in its quick turnaround of complaints. It tries to address issues and, when possible, resolve them within 60 days.

Since Pittsburgh is one of 19 airports that will get new devices to detect explosives, Kayser said he expects fewer pat-downs in the future.

Martinelli said after 9/11, the focus on airport security resulted in a surge in traveler complaints about screeners' "aggressive" searches.

"But 99 percent of the time, security screeners are doing what they've always done to try to keep things secure," he said. "People are just paying closer attention."

1:31 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Some of the more unusual complaints against TSA security screeners at Pittsburgh International Airport in the past two years:

# October 2004: "On a flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago today, my checked-in bag was searched and a flask of liquor was confiscated. I went to your Web site and alcohol is not listed as a prohibited item. That cost me $35.00. Why was it taken from me?"

# September 2005: "I have an urgent issue that is of little value to anyone else but my son. His baby blanket ... is missing. I know this is a very low priority item in terms of expense. To my son it is the most valuable item in his life. He was looking for it tonight and had a very hard time going to sleep."

# May 2005: "I have taken many airplane flights with my sewing machine. ... There are sewing and quilting conferences all over the world. When I went to take my last flight departing Pittsburgh, I was ... suddenly surrounded by several TSA police poised with their hands ready to take out their guns. ... They said my machine was part of a bomb and I was going to put the bomb all together, once on the plane. I offered to demonstrate the machine, show them a dress I was making, etc. They still said that terrorists go to great lengths to get a bomb onto a plane." (The "sensitive, computerized machine" was confiscated, and not returned to the traveler.)

# December 2004: "On a recent visit to Pittsburgh, one of your agents deliberately held my wife and I longer for inspection, fully knowing that we would miss our flight. We were pulled off the line for a second inspection, probably because we were speaking in French."

Most TSA claims

1) Los Angeles

2) O'Hare (Chicago)

3) Newark

4) Miami

5) JFK (New York)

6) Seattle

7) Phoenix

8) Orlando

9) Philadelphia

10) LaGuardia (New York)

Source: Transportation Security Administration

1:32 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Symbols of people you don't like

By Sean Crist
3 November 2004

Why is it so important for marijuana to be illegal? There are some semi-rational arguments to be made about health and safety, but I don't think these are the real reasons for the ban. We associate marijuana with hippies and other unsavory counter-culture types (notice that hippies and anti-hippies alike agree on this symbolism). If you can't ban hippies, you can at least ban the symbols of hippies. All the health and safety arguments about marijuana are fluff; they are nothing but weak rationalizations of a visceral dislike of counter-culture people. If hippies were associated with martinis, then we would have a ban on martinis. We would also have the type of college student who hangs a martini flag in his dorm room.

I think something similar explains why gun control has ended up as part of Democratic platform: it's an expression of dislike for the sort of person who owns guns. There might be some merit to some of the arguments for gun control, but the arguments are rationalizations nevertheless. I think that a failure to recognize this is a reason why Democrats will continue to fail in the voting booths.

This is not to say that a rational argument in favor of gun control is impossible. A rational argument for banning guns would need to find support for the following points:

1. If a ban on guns is enacted, violence will substantially decrease. This will happen because a ban on guns will reduce the supply of guns, and not merely drive up prices and lower quality control. The underlying social causes of violence, whatever they are, will not simply be diverted to other lethal outlets such as knives or baseball bats. Or, if these negative consequences do happen, they would still be better than our present situation.

2. A ban on guns would solve more social problems than it creates. A ban on guns would not create a gun-smuggling network which stands in a prepetual war with with police and border control. Or, if it does, this would still be better than our present situation.

3. We should place a higher value on our safety than on our freedom to do as we please, including owning whatever sort of objects we please. Even though most adults own many lethal objects such as automobiles and kitchen knives, and even though most gun owners don't shoot at people, we should treat guns as a special case where public safety is more important than freedom (the reasons for this need to be given).

1 and 2 might or might not be true, but they are not obvious and would need to be supported. 3 is a value judgment, and not an obviously right one. Still, I can imagine that someone might construct a convincing rational argument along these lines.

My experience, however, is that the pro-gun-control folks usually don't even attempt to address these points, but instead appeal to emotions, perhaps by giving gun fatality statistics or showing pictures of victims of gun violence. But this is merely a restatement of the problem. It is usually left as an exercise to the reader as to why a gun ban is the appropriate response.

Is this not curious? I would expect more liberals to explain gun violence as a symptom of unjust social and economic conditions, as a product of preventable poverty. Yet many Democrats propose to address the problem through gun control, not by addressing the underlying social injustices. Why?

The real reason, I think, is the same as the reason for the marijuana ban. Attacking a symbol is a way of attacking people who you don't like.

In our culture, guns are associated with redneck men (or, if you prefer, non-prestige, low-income, rural, working-class males). There are some townships which actually prohibit residents from keeping a pickup truck at their homes, which clearly serves no purpose other than to exclude the demographic group which is the major market for this type of vehicle. Guns are also symbolically associated with lower-income urban African-Americans (so preface your discussion with "I'm-not-racist-and-some-of-my-best-friends-are-black-but...").

The gun owners agree with this symbol of their group membership. It might be a point of pride for a redneck man to keep his gun rack installed and visible in his truck outside of hunting season. If you don't like rednecks, you might not be able to ban them, but you can at least try to get at them by banning their guns.

I think that Democrats should make a tactical decision to drop the gun control issue, or, better yet, to reverse our position. We should treat gun violence as an outcropping of a larger economic problem, and focus on causes not symptoms. We should treat gun ownership as a personal liberty issue rather than a supposed public safety issue. A pro-gun-ban position does not follow in any obvious way from liberal principles of economic justice; the current conjunction of liberal economics and gun control within the Democratic party is a cultural accident. We know that this is so, because there are historical cases of political movements which were strongly anti-left-wing but pro-gun-control, of which Naziism is a well-documented example.

Rational or not, a gun owner sees his gun as the final defense of his freedom. His gun is an expression of his identity, a symbol of group membership, an indicator of his strength and potency. He is adamant about keeping his gun, for much the same reasons that he is adamant about keeping his testicles. The matter is not open for negotiation.

You may hate this and find it disgusting. But please, ask yourself why you react this way. Is it because you think it probable that a man of this kind will actually ever shoot at another human? Or is it that you just really dislike him and are disgusted by him?

As long as the Democrats take a pro-gun-ban position, a voter of this kind will accept our symbolic rejection of his identity. He will continue to respond appropriately by hearing nothing of the core Democratic principles of social and economic justice.

1:33 AM  

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