Just As I Thought

Convenient Fear

Here’s what living under the Bush administration has done to me: the instant I heard about the arrests in the UK and the alleged plot to blow up planes, I began wondering how Karl Rove managed to pull this one off. After all, there are only 2 months until the midterm elections.
If nothing else, it’s certainly helped us collectively forget about things such as… oh, the Valerie Plame leak and subsequent indictments (and those yet to come); the corruption rampant in the Republican party, especially involving Jack Abramoff; and it diverts attention neatly from yesterday’s defeat of the war-mongering Joe Lieberman.
When all is said and done, the most overlooked damage the Bush administration will have done is to our collective trust and sanity. Can we believe anything, ever again?

So, now liquids are banned on planes, along with toothpaste and makeup. It seems to me that the actual agenda behind these “plots” is to make flying so unbearably annoying that the airlines finally go belly up and we all travel by car, thus ensuring continued dependence on Saudi oil. Not that planes don’t use it, of course. I predict that the next “plot” to be disrupted will result in security that confiscates all wigs, jewelry, underwear, eyeglasses, cell phones, and pants. The point of terrorism is to create a culture of fear, and thanks to the Bush administration, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Officials say that the operation could have potentially killed “hundreds of people.” Hundreds of people are worth protecting, of course, but let’s take a look at other, real death tolls, not potentials, and ask yourself why so much attention is given to terrorism: in the last 20 years, about 450,000 people in this country have died due to AIDS. An average of 34,000 people die each year from gun violence — where is the ban on guns? People aren’t dying from toothpaste, folks. A 1993 study showed that 400,000 people died as a result of smoking tobacco. Why isn’t the Bush administration making us scared of cigarettes?

Despite the attention given to terrorism (and potential terrorism), your odds of dying from it are 1 in 88,000. Your odds of death from a terrorist-caused plane disaster, assuming that there is a terrorist attack every month and you fly every month, is 1 in 55,000,000.
Now, a little contrast from the National Safety Council: Your odds of dying…
In a motor vehicle accident: 1 in 84. Ban all cars!
From falling: 1 in 218. The entire country must be flattened out to one level, immediately, and covered with rubber.
Exposure to excessive natural cold: 1 in 6,045. Gee, when will the Bush administration spend all that Homeland Security money to make sure that people have heating oil for the winter?
Assault by firearm: 1 in 314. And as you recall, they allowed the assault weapons ban to lapse.

Do I need to go on? These people are not concerned for your safety. They’re only concerned with inflating your fear in order to maintain their power. It’s worth remembering that the Republicans are all about keeping you safe from something that is unlikely ever to happen to you while the Democrats over the decades have been trying to keep you safe from things that really do threaten you. Gun violence, poverty, dangerous cars.

[Update: I note that The Washington Post actually has an article headlined “Bush Briefed on Airline Plot, Spokesman Says.” What does it mean that this event was newsworthy? Is it because we have a clueless president and such a briefing is unusual? The president was briefed, that must mean it’s important!]

[Update 2: The UK has gone bonkers:]

The UK government has responded to this exemplary bit of policing — using investigative techniques to discover plots while they are hatching — by prohibiting all hand-luggage on planes, except for a transparent shopping bag carrying a few permitted items: a couple tampons, baby food (if another passenger is forced to taste it first), glasses without cases (deadly, deadly cases!), contact holders (but no cleaning fluid!), keys (but no electric fobs), and your wallet. You’re not allowed to bring on magazines (deadly, deadly magazines!) or books, no laptops, no iPods, no oversized watches (!), and so forth.
The point of terrorism is to make us afraid. The UK response to a foiled plot is to create an unspecified period during which fliers are arbitrarily deprived of iPods, novels and dignity.

If this is a good idea now, then why won’t it still be a good idea in a year? A decade? After all, terrorist plots will always exist in potentia (can you prove that no terrorist plots are hatching at this moment?) Until they handcuff us all nude to our seats and dart us with tranquilizers, there will always be the possibility that a passenger will do something naughty on a plane (even then, who knows how much semtex and roofing nails a bad guy could hide in his colon?).

[Update 3: Here’s the other news that your attention has been diverted from today: BP was told by employees and contractors that their pipeline was corroded… in 2004. ]

The company “has been cutting corners” since about 1999, said Charles Hamel, a former oil broker who lobbies government regulators on behalf of Alaskan oil workers. BP “shareholders were not well served by” the company’s cost-cutting, he said. [Washington Post]

[Update 4: To make it all just more obvious how silly this so-called security can be, here’s a very good point.]

So CNN is reporting: “Because the plot involved taking liquid explosives aboard planes in carry-ons, passengers at all U.S. and British airports, and those boarding U.S.-bound flights at other international airports, are banned from taking any liquids onto planes.”
And then they have the photo of the TSA guy dumping a tub of confiscated possibly explosive liquids into a garbage can in a crowd of people…

And check out this article from Asheville, NC. “Maya Leoni, who is held by Angela Perez, cries as her mother, A.J. Leoni, pours the last of her drink into the receptacle while in line for the security checkpoint at the Asheville Regional Airport.”
POUR IT INTO A RECEPTACLE? Don’t you think that some of these potentially explosive liquids might be more dangerous when, I don’t know, mixed in a big vat in the middle of an airport?

Christ, why don’t they just have people put their liquids into a big bonfire?

1 comment

  • Be careful what you suggest… some nitwit somewhere might think it’s brilliant. E.g., when local officials in China learned that three people had been infected with rabies from one rabid dog, they decided to kill all the dogs in the region. About 50,000 of them. There were some pictures of a policeman yanking a dog away from some person who was walking it, so he could club the dog to death right in front of the owner. Of course, my suggestion was: don’t kill the dogs, kill the people… starting with the local government official whose grey matter produced that particular solution.

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