Friday, November 19, 2010


I never imagined I could find myself in full agreement with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) about anything. After all, many sources agree that Paul has the most conservative voting record of any member of Congress since 1937. This is the guy who once opined that “95 percent of black males in [Washington, D.C.] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Oy. But this week, Paul stepped up, I must admit. He introduced H.R. 6416: The American Traveler Dignity Act in Congress, which essentially would bar TSA agents from touching your junk when you go through airport security. Paul said, "My legislation is simple. It establishes that airport security screeners are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us."

Paul’s bill comes in response to the new equipment and “enhanced pat-down” methods that the TSA has instituted in airports coast to coast. (In high school we used to just call it “feeling somebody up.”) Your choice now is go through a body scanner that shows a clear outline of your entire body, including your genitalia, or opt out and receive a pat down that includes the closest thing to a prostate exam ever done in public. Reports indicate that lawsuits against the TSA are mounting, just as the pilots union has come out encouraging pilots to opt out, just so they can cause gridlock in the security lines that would then perhaps force the TSA to relent on these ridiculous techniques. Can somebody tell me why pilots need to be checked for explosives? I mean if a pilot wants to kills us on a plane, all he has to do is turn the thing into a missile and fly us into a mountain, right? What good does it do to body scan a pilot?

Then of course there are the anecdotal incidents like the one in San Diego that made national news. If you are one of the three people who hasn’t heard this story, it seems a California man refused the body scan and then told the agent, “If you touch my junk I’m gonna have you arrested.” Then there’s the cancer survivor flight attendant who was forced to remove her prosthetic breast during an enhanced pat-down.

The TSA’s published salary information for airport security screening personnel runs between $10.58 and $15.77/hour. So, we have people touching our junk who are almost on the poverty level by today’s standards. You can get this job if you have a high school diploma, pass a drug test and a background check. You may feel free to call me a snob if it makes you feel better, but just this qualification profile and educational standard alone causes me some concern. Who exactly is this person feeling my body in places usually reserved for sex partners or doctors? Are they enjoying it? I so don’t want them to be enjoying it.

The good news? This is a non-partisan issue. No politics necessary here. It doesn’t matter if you’re Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow, John Boehner or Barbara Boxer. This is an issue of privacy, ownership of our own bodies and governmental intrusion on the most extreme level. The groundswell of protest over these new procedures is simply the collective voice of the American people saying, “I will decide who touches me, and the TSA agent is not on my list.”

A New Orleans radio talk show host said yesterday morning that what this amounts to is simply that the terrorists have now won. They wanted to scare us into some sort of chaotic anarchy, and they have succeeded. Terrorists wanted to reduce us to sniveling fraidy cats, and that is just what they have done on the most humiliating level. A few ignorant extremists made it onto airplanes with explosives in their shoes and their underwear and now we are expected – by our own government, no less – to be publicly humiliated on our way to see grandma in Iowa. Even grandma in Iowa is subject to the assaultive screenings and pat downs if she travels our way. Really. In Corpus Christi it is reported that an 87-year-old woman in a wheel chair was body searched. A television reporter’s 3-year-old daughter was traumatized by an extensive pat-down.

Where does this lead us? Who’s next on the list of workers who can examine our bodies? How about the cop who stops us for speeding? Does he or she get a little stroke? And what about the people who take our tickets when we enter a football stadium? Do they get to take a little pinch and tickle? All I can say is that if you are planning to fly on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, you may want to have a little extra Scotch or pop a Valium before you go to the airport. It’s National Opt-Out Day, and that means the throngs of holiday travelers are being encouraged not to allow the security people to put them in a body screener. That means lots and lots of time-consuming pat downs, which probably means long lines and delayed flights.

And all because some idiot put a bomb in his underwear and another idiot with a modicum of power in Washington, D.C. over-reacted.

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