Sunday, January 03, 2010

Air Safety: If It Walks Like a Duck...

The attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day shocked Americans back into the reality that there are still people in other places of the world who do not like us very much, and will stop at nothing to do us harm. This was particularly poignant to me, as I prepare for a trans-Pacific flight within the next several weeks.

I used to love to fly.
I still love the exhilaration as the aircraft shrugs free of earth’s embrace, and the turbulence vibration smoothes to a slick-skinned whine as the landing gear retracts into their wells. I like looking up the aisle at the cabin, tilted sharply as the silver bird climbs and banks towards an unseen coordinate on the globe, over the horizon—or on my next journey, to a corner of the world I’ve never visited before.
That’s sexy.

Getting on that aircraft next month is going to be brutal.
Weathering an 8-hour flight will be grueling for my Bride and I, both recovering from major surgeries—her’s more recent—that make being confined in a small space for a long period of time more than just uncomfortable.

I chortle when I hear politicians spouting off about making air travel safe(er) for Americans. Most of them haven’t a clue. Just this past weekend, one of the more visible members of Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee from Houston’s 18th District, provided The Houston Chronicle with a rambling, self-congratulatory chest-thumper editorial that made me want to grab for a barf-bag.

The Congresswoman correctly stated, two-paragraphs in, that the federal government’s responsibility is to protect Americans, and urged President Obama to make a recess appointment for a leader at the Transportation Safety Administration.
Good for her.

She could have stopped there, but went on for several more column-inches, promising to study and assess the situation, draft new legislation, and basically introduce a bunch of new laws and rules to better address terrorism.

We’ve already got laws on the books; we’ve already got procedures—some of which, frankly, are just a little moronic, and some of which, it has now been disclosed, would NOT have detected nor deterred Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his diabolical plan on Christmas Day.
Wake up, Ms. Jackson-Lee.

Only when the politicians stop politicizing the problems can we start really fighting our common enemies. I love it that the Transportation Security Administration (the guys Jackson-Lee is concerned has no leader) drafted new rules that take affect Sunday at midnight.

Here’s what we’re going to do:
Every passenger from countries on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and “countries of interest,” including Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, will be patted down and have their belongings searched. All travelers entering the U.S. from a foreign country will be subject to tightened random screening.
These are rules that were already in place, just not being enforced.

The TSA says a much higher percentage of travelers will be screening, including advanced explosives detection and, where it’s available, advanced imaging technology will also be used. Smile and spread ‘em.

In other words, if it walks like a duck, acts like a duck, and comes from Duckville, there is a high probability it is a duck. About freaking time we started looking harder at the people who want to do us harm, including where they come from, what commonalities they share in language, appearance, and demeanor.

There is no excuse for not enforcing rules already in place to protect the American people; and, why write new one's if the old one's aren't going to be observed?

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