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The natives are more restless than they may appear

The following was sent to me by a long-time reader with the subject header “I HATE Flying.” But it says more than that. Thus my headline.

What follows is all from reader JP:


Hey Claire,

Due to financial issues, I surrendered, and took a contract because I need the money. Part of the work requires me to travel to Austin, Texas; and Eugene, Oregon. Yesterday, I came back from Austin, and went through the TSA portal.

I have flown exactly six times since the TSA was created. The last time was 5-1/2 years ago. EVERY SINGLE TIME I have been awarded extra attention. I think I mentioned a previous time where they forced me to turn my trowser waist down to see if there were any balls down there [sic].

On the way to Austin, I was selected for the stupid scanner. I opted out, and got the full pat down – much worse than five years ago (and that was bad). Yesterday, on my way home, in a very busy airport, I was selected yet again.

The first problem, was that they made me stand in a small 3-sided box and wait about five minutes. I was already shoeless, beltless, jacketless, hatless, and humorless, so I finally asked a blue-shirt exactly how long I was going to have to wait before I was molested (yes, I used that word).

That seemed to spur them, and they opened a little gate (with no latch of any kind), and waved me, and a wheelchair-bound man into the pat-down area. I was told to step into a little area and spread my feet. Silly me, I put my feet on these little orange-yellow Ronald-McDonald SHOE marks on the floor. Blue-shirt said to spread my legs wider – much wider.

Next, I was ordered to raise my arms to the five-and-seven position, palms up – a gesture I saw in several religious paintings from the renaissance – identical to sinners raising their hands in supplication to an angry god. Even the gesture of surrender in a scanner could not be more sordid, in my view.

I told my polite, blue-shirt that I considered this a violation of my 4th amendment rights, a violation of my person, and I only complied under duress. He said, “That’s nice.” He proceeded to tell me what he was doing at each stage. And, there were a LOT of stages. Somehow, blue-shirt seemed to think that if they touched my privates with the backs of his hands, then it would be more-better.

As I stood there, I watched the poor bastard in the wheelchair. He was made to elevate himself out of his chair; lift each dead leg; push himself forward, almost falling out of the chair; take his gloves off, and so on. He was clearly paralyzed, with the telltale wasted lower body, and obviously not a threat.

They asked me to take a seat, which I refused, then demanded that I lift each heel so that he could swab my now-filthy socks for yet another scanner. Wheelchair submitted to similar treatment. He was affable and polite, and seemed perfectly at home. I don’t know why I was morbidly fascinated by the spectacle.

We waited together for the green-light allowing us to find our respective tubs-o-stuff and I asked him how often this happened to him. He looked up at me, anger showing in his face, displacing his former smiling, affable, “chattel smile” and told me “Every time. Every damned time.”

The change was a light-switch. Seen only by me. When blue-shirt returned, the switch flipped again, and Wheelchair’s grin returned.

An hour-or-so later, I met up with Wheelchair again. I asked him if he noticed how the 13 year-old girl in my line was given a choice of scanner or metal-detector. He said, yes, he’d noticed that. It angered him that they would give a 13 year-old a “choice.” But, not because she was allowed to opt-out. Rather, because they should have naturally directed her to the metal detector, as it was clearly no radiation threat.

Wheelchair made a deep impression on me. The underlying anger was something to behold, and the blue-shirts were completely clueless that they were held in such deep contempt by him. They think Wheelchair may have actually liked that whole process. With me, they knew what they were dealing with. I hid none of my disdain.

My hope is that there are lots of Wheelchairs out there that are being misinterpreted. That they are legion, and unknown to their counterparts around Amerika.

I have to hope that, otherwise, the alternative is too depressing.



  1. ff42
    ff42 January 26, 2012 10:09 pm

    A thought (probably stupid) crossed my head when I read this which I am going to do next time I have to fly. One of the Star Trek movies (or shows) the Klingons showed their disgust by folding their arms, ‘twirling’? on their heals and turning their backs to the object of their disgust.

    What would happen if EVERYONE who received an order from a TSA thug would turn their backs to them?

  2. CS
    CS January 27, 2012 12:35 am

    How do I love the TSA? Let me count the ways.

    I love them for stealing my laptop from my checked luggage.

    I love them for stealing ammunition from my properly packed, checked and declared luggage.

    I love them for forcing my wife to remove her bandages after surgery… twice.

    I love them for placing two brothers I know on the “No-Fly” list. (Ages 5 and 7.)

    I love the snarky comments, the imperious attitude… but most of all, I love them for the change in uniform color from maroon and cream to dazzling NKVD Blue.

    BTW, “Wheelchair” was right. Never confront these people at their point of strength. They are trained on how to react to that and their culture supports them . Far better to play the grinning fool, quietly making some of them question what few human values they may yet hold.

    And yes… there are plenty of “Wheelchairs” out here.

  3. Doug
    Doug January 27, 2012 1:22 am

    Might even have been on an earlier site of Claire’s, years back–I don’t remember where I saw the reference, but.. a nonfiction author, in a book he wrote about conditions back home after he had escaped, made the point that the authorities really didn’t care what one thought so long as they had obedience, so long as each conformed his actions to authorities’ commands.

  4. ILTim
    ILTim January 27, 2012 6:37 am

    I wish there was at least one non-secure gate at each airport, and airlines were free to schedule flights departing from that gate. Then charge a TSA fee, a clearly separate charge, on all secure-gate flights.

    Let the rest work itself out.

    I think its clear enough to, well, everybody, that the voice of the people regarding commercial airline security has been suppressed.

  5. Ole Wolf
    Ole Wolf January 27, 2012 7:59 am

    Ahhh TSA… folks I’ve been a police officer for 30 years last October 31st. Everytime I go through a TSA checkpoint I fail their tests. I’m a firearms instructor and shoot regularly off-duty as well… they ALWAYS find residue SOMEplace on me or my things. I was pulled off a flight because they tested my checked bags and found, OMG! gun powder!!! The travel orders in my hand showing I was coming BACK from mandatory recertification as a firearms instructor for my agency nor the badge and credentials meant a thing to the JBT wanna be’s at the checkpoint. inquestion was my range bag and gear… the stuff I HAD to have for the class. I also learned getting annoyed is just a badf the plane and finally got around to telling me what they wanted my respponse was, “Are you F-ing kidding me!” I wasn’t loud, I wasn’t arguing, I was just surprised. The next thing I heard was the little TSA troll yelling for a police officer and I was hustled into a room by two Little Rock Police Officers. After a search more fitting for admission to Alcatraz… the TSA left me to redress and I talked to with the two officers. They were apologetic but said there was not a darn thing they could say or do but back the TSA up. The senior told me he had an officer try and point out how idiotic a search was on a mother and weeks old baby and the TSA forwarded a formal complaint to the department and it went straight into the officer’s personnel jacket… doesn’t help promotion. So, hope this makes you laugh- ‘cuz even us JBTs get the same treatment from TSA as y’all do. Oh, I drive from VT to AR for training nowadays..

  6. Jeff
    Jeff January 27, 2012 10:28 am

    Check out Freedom To Travel USA. . We are working on getting oversight of the TSA done. They basically do strip searches, no matter how convenient, or they do sexual assault pat downs – at minimum, simple battery when they perform unwanted touching of genitals, buttocks, female breasts, or your pubic area.

    Hard to believe this is America.

    BY THE F’ING WAY: I would like a policeman to explain why unwanted touching of our genitals doesn’t lead to an arrest? If they did physically invasive probes of our cavities, or it they declared shooting someone in the back if they try an leave is standard procedure, does this mean the “real” law enforcement won’t stand up for their citizens?

  7. Jim B.
    Jim B. January 27, 2012 10:35 am

    I’ll be taking a rifle training class soon in Texas near San Antonio. I plan on driving there since I’ll be taking my own rifle and ammo. Didn’t want the hassle of the TSA.

  8. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty January 27, 2012 10:38 am

    I was the model of a sweet, timid little old deaf lady. Even after they found the terrorist “BOTTLE OF WATER” in my carry on! I kept quiet and just did what I was told. They really, REALLY don’t care what we think.

    My tongue is about healed now….

    Never again…

  9. Oliver
    Oliver January 27, 2012 12:28 pm

    I was never a frequent flyer, but I’ve been a non-flyer since government began treating all people like criminals.

    The ONLY way this abuse will stop is if people stop flying. When every flight of every airline is near empty, then they might change things. As long as people continue to submit, there is no incentive to do so.

    The recent Internet strike demonstrated that if enough folks band together to send a message, it will be heard.

    Maybe the time has come to send the airlines a message.

  10. Ellendra
    Ellendra January 27, 2012 12:31 pm

    People in wheelchairs are “not allowed” to have emotions or opinions of their own. Just like they’re not allowed to order their own food at a restaurant, or tell the person pushing them to stop treating it like a drag race.

    I HATED HATED HATED being in a wheelchair!!!!

    Still, people are indeed getting angrier about being treated like chattle. This country is a powder keg, and politicians keep throwing lit matches at it.

  11. EN
    EN January 27, 2012 12:52 pm

    A little OT, but I’ll never forget when this all started shortly after 9-11. I was speaking with a friend about this, a retired army officer, and denizen of DC who was working on some of these related issues. I mentioned that this was a foolish way to do security and anti-Freedom. His reply was instructive. Apparently jets crashing into the WTC wasn’t a big deal. Having them crash into the Pentagon and an attempt to have one crash into the White House was. It was never about protecting us, it was always about protecting them.

  12. CS
    CS January 27, 2012 1:59 pm

    The ONLY way this abuse will stop is if people stop flying. When every flight of every airline is near empty, then they might change things. As long as people continue to submit, there is no incentive to do so.

    Unfortunately, that’s where they have us at a disadvantage. The right to travel freely (like the right to privacy) was considered so elementary and essential that no one mentioned it specifically.

    Like Claire’s correspondent, there are some of us who simply must travel by air, for whatever reason. The airlines know this and the TSA capitalizes on that.

    Right now, it’s still possible to avoid the hassles of the TSA by not flying. But wait a bit until the VIPR program gets up a full head of steam. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to run out for a gallon of milk without being detained and questioned.

    This is just the first step.

  13. CS
    CS January 27, 2012 2:36 pm


    BY THE F’ING WAY: I would like a policeman to explain why unwanted touching of our genitals doesn’t lead to an arrest?

    I’m not a police officer, but my profession requires me to know a good deal about informed and implied consent.

    When you enter the “secure area” of an airport, you give your tacit consent to be manhandled, breast-groped, humiliated, nad-squeezed, irradiated, insulted and amateur-colonoscoped by any goon in a blue uniform. (There are signs that explain this, sort of.) As a guardian or parent, you also give consent to having your charges similarly searched to the satisfaction of the TSA.

    The TSA takes the position that your 4th Amendment rights are essentially null at that point. (Pure nonsense, I know, since rights aren’t granted by the Constitution, nor can they be revoked.) Within reason they assume no liability for anything connected with your “voluntary” search.

    Here’s where it gets interesting: Suppose I’m traveling with someone who is mentally incompetent. I am not this person’s guardian and I am unable to explain the nature of a search to them or grant permission for a search. Suppose the person becomes agitated and uncooperative during a TSA search, to the point that he or she is escorted out of the secure area. Suppose further that this person needed to be on a flight to obtain necessary, distant medical care and the delay in transport results in his or her death.

    Seems to me that someone might have one hell of a liability mess on their hands.

  14. Christine S.
    Christine S. January 27, 2012 3:15 pm

    What I hate about all of this is the anger I feel rising in me. And the few times I have flown in the past few years it is always the same.

    We are stripped of our humanity, treated like cattle or worse.

    And it’s that, that feeling that I’m not human that sticks with me. That for the hours that it takes to travel from the Midwest to the West coast or back again – I’m…not…a…human…being.

    And I feel so helpless to change it.

    I spent nearly a $1,000 in gas, meals and lodging to drive to Arizona and back with a 5 year old child in order attend a wedding this past September. It was worth every penny…except for running into a speed-trap in Arizona (the irony? I had driven under the speed limit on the main highway the entire way there and he tagged me coming off the highway) I felt human the entire way there and back!

  15. charles scamman
    charles scamman January 27, 2012 4:31 pm

    I fully support the right of a PRIVATE corporation to place restriction upon use of service. If a company ‘A’ says we must jump so high, (pat down, iris scan, cavity search) and company ‘B’ says we must jump so high (baggage scan, interview, metal detector check), we as clients would have the option of voting with our wallets as to which company to patronize.

    The federal government however is, I believe, in violation of the US Constitution by even creating a list, let alone an agency to limit and harass passengers of non-governmental transportation. This takes us back to the days before the Magna Carta, before very basic rights for citizens. This nation use to understand what being a citizen meant, but we’ve allowed the federal government to take over our education system and plant the idea that we are only subjects.

    My generation, the ‘activists’ of the 60s and 70s was going to be the one to make a difference and liberate the human spirit. We have failed, and I am sorry. Perhaps the spirit of freedom and personal liberty can still be planted in some remote third world country, to flourish and grow, but in the Americas it is as doomed as if it had been sprayed by Monsanto’s Agent Orange.

  16. CS
    CS January 27, 2012 6:15 pm

    We have failed, and I am sorry.

    Don’t be, friend. The world was deaf to cries for freedom long before your cohort took the stage. You weren’t successful in restoring what was lost, but you left us and future generations some fine starting points, if and when people are ready to listen again.

    As fast as the lights are dimming right now, this is still America. Not a place, but a set of principles that attracted the best and brightest from everywhere and made this society’s progress unique in history.

    We still have traces of what lead them here and what made us the archetype for freedom — warts and all. If freedom and liberty are to be found again, it will be here… where it all began.

    Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. — Martin Luther King

  17. Hanza
    Hanza January 27, 2012 8:21 pm

    What I’m wondering about is if the TSA starts having lots of VIPR units out stopping everyone travelling a road that they have set up on, and some of the people stopped are legally carrying. Same thing if they set up at the entrance(s) to a mall or other venue.

    I’m really interested in this issue.

  18. clark
    clark January 28, 2012 12:29 am

    Oliver wrote, “The ONLY way this abuse will stop is if people stop flying. When every flight of every airline is near empty, then they might change things.”…

    I used to think so too, however; Subsidized flying will fix that approach,… done the same way all the positive “growth” in u.s. GDP is created… goberment spending.

    It was a bit uplifting to read what Christine S. wrote… the last sentence.

    But then CS wrote,… “As fast as the lights are dimming right now, this is still America. Not a place, but a set of principles…”

    Principles!?! … That is so past last year, as if it ever was,… it’s all dreamtime jokes-on-us perspective.
    Along with the rule of law went principles. Situational ethics is the name of the game nowadays…. Or so it seems.

    CS wrote, “If freedom and liberty are to be found again, it will be…”

    …It will be where the tentacles of the vampire squid don’t reach as easily long before it returns to the heart of an empire,… or at least that’s what I recall happened to most empires throughout history.


    Justice is a blind drunken whore available to the highest bidder. And That’s the way it is… and the People like it like that.

  19. Kevin Benko
    Kevin Benko January 28, 2012 8:54 am

    The last time I flew was in 2000, approximately 9 months before “everything changed”, and it is my intention to not fly until the TSA, and all of their ilk, have been properly fired and are working in the McDonalds again, from whence they came.

  20. CS
    CS January 28, 2012 11:15 am


    You seem to have missed the part about how the “arc of the moral universe is long.”

    The present state of philosophy, ethics and politics is entirely predictable from the abandonment of reality late in the Enlightenment. (Ayn Rand blamed Kant for this, but that is not entirely fair.) The adoption of a deeply flawed Constitution further accelerated the growth of “postmodern” anti-thought on these shores.

    To clarify: The first principle of America was individual freedom. Americans were the first to fully grasp this and apply the inferred concepts — and that is unique in human history. So great an acheivement does not die quickly. Traces of it remain and that is where the work lies. The task is not trivial, given more than two centuries of philosophical rot that must be eradicated. How this might be done is a discussion for another time. It will not be the labor of a single lifetime.

    You can sneer at any aspect of the pragmatist (“situational ethics” if you prefer, there not a dime’s worth of difference) wasteland around us to your heart’s content. You can disparage principles, justice or the possibility of recovery from this state. No one will care.

    But speaking for myself, if I didn’t think there was a way out, I’d drop a round in the pipe this instant and end it.

  21. LibertyNews
    LibertyNews January 28, 2012 11:41 am

    I have to fly about once a year for work (if I can help it). I always opt for the scanners — I’d much rather be subjected to a peeping-tom than someone touching me.

    It is much easier to tolerate these violations when you understand that we do not live in a free country, haven’t for a long time, and probably never will again. I do what I need to do and try to stay under the radar as much as possible these day.

  22. Gregabob
    Gregabob January 29, 2012 12:28 pm

    I’m happy that I studied and worked hard to obtain my private pilot’s certificate (that it’s just another ‘gov’t permission slip’ I understand). If I have to travel long distances in a relatively short period of time I can do that. I also understand that it’s not a viable option for the vast majority of people. But if weather constraints preclude me from piloting my own plane I will drive my car. I WILL NOT travel by commercial airliner ever again. There have always been and will always be other travel options. They may not be as ‘convenient’ or fast as airline travel, but they are there. I’ll use them if need be.

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