With the first of two travel crunches approaching, and many who never travel other than at Thanksgiving will for the first time encounter the be-irradiated-or-be-touched dilemma, the only choice at over sixty airports across our country, my thoughts have turned once again to how most appropriately to deal with these invasions of privacy.
First, if privacy concerns, being irradiated, the possibility that a recording of your body will make the rounds of salacious TSA employees, and the general indignity of accepting a virtual strip search all in the name of security theater bothers you not at all, by all means march through that low-powered X-ray machine (or at other installations, low-powered microwave oven).
TSA regs clearly permit you to opt out, however, and I for one will avail myself of that option next time I travel — if I ever travel again. (It won’t be Thanksgiving, however; the kids are all gathering here!) If you opt out, you will likely be selected for the full-body pat down. In other words, you will be forced to suffer indignities to your person. Now, these TSA employees surely cannot be compared to segregation era cops in the South enforcing Jim Crow laws; to Vietnam War draft boards who were obliged under law to send young men to fight and die in an unjust war; or to security goons who “lawfully” beat and killed blacks in Apartheid-era South Africa. In fact, being humane and sensitive people themselves, I think that we should engage these hapless public servants, offer a little sympathetic conversation, let them know that we know that they know that what they are doing is insensitive, invasive and ridiculous.
The public is becoming restive. Even our local conservative rag, the Star-Tribune, is writing about growing discontent. In a separate Op-Ed, Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette becomes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek apologist for the poor TSA screeners:
As for me, I don’t care if some unfortunate TSA worker wants to look at my body in the interest of national security. They do not pay that person enough. All I ask is that he or she keeps the giggling to a minimum and doesn’t put me in a calendar.
Privacy advocates have sued the Department of Homeland Security, seeking an “emergency stay” of the body-scanning program. They are behind next week’s “National Opt Out Day.” Not surprisingly, some pilots’ unions have told their members to skip the screenings, period.
(You think this enhanced security theater will stop terrorists? Give me a break! The possible scenarios for evading security are legion.)
November 24 has been designated “National Opt-Out Day.” Go for it! In fact, once taken aside for your pat-down, I suggest you lead off with any of the following:
- “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” (This could well become the “Who is John Galt?” of the post-9/11 air travel age. However, be aware that making this threat or refusing to be patted down might subject you to non-trivial fines.)
- “Before you touch me, are you a registered sex offender?”
- “Do you enjoy touching boys (girls)?”
- (After the employee tells you what he or she is going to do.) “You do not have permission to touch my genitals.” (If you say this, be prepared not to be permitted to pass security.) Or: “If you touch my genitals, you are an evil person.” Or: “If you touch my genitals, you are a pervert.”
- “I was molested as a child; if you touch me I will scream.”
- “When was the last time you changed those gloves?”
- “Pardon me, I need to fart.”
Actually, going back to the first suggestion, simply ask, “Who is John Galt?” Let’s see if these people are well read. And it makes the point in a very succinct fashion. If enough people ask, they’ll get the idea. I have a simple agenda here: if these people want a job touching us, fondling our privates, invading our personal space, our privacy and our dignity, let’s make it interesting for them. It won’t dissuade the Bull Connors among them, but short of winning in court it’s the best way to make our feelings known.
And seriously, guys, isn’t it about time to hunt for that old athletic cup? Or purchase some lead-lined underwear? (It works in both directions.)
As always, I’m hardly the first or only person taking a strong stand against these intrusions on privacy and personal health. NPR’s Talk of the Nation took up the issues yesterday; one of their guests, Noah Schachtman, has addressed the matter in a Wall Street Journal column (but without meaningful suggestions for resolution); and four days ago humorist Dave Barry had his own go at it, describing TSA’s problem with his “fuzzy groin.” The ACLU has taken up the issue and makes additional good points and recounts some pat-down horror stories — they also are collecting passengers’ stories of improper procedures and abuses. Read reactions and follow links on the Facebook page for those intending to boycott flying altogether.
Finally, here for a bunch of TV news clips:
No Second Chances Department
“You may be innocent, but, frankly my dear, we don’t give a damn.” We’re learning that’s what Bush Administration Department of Justice officials told defendants when obtaining plea agreements from them in exchange for reduced sentences. It was the Bush Justice Department’s reaction to the 2004 “Innocence Protection Act,” which allows convicted individuals access to DNA testing if it could produce evidence raising a reasonable probability that the individual did not commit the offense. “You want a reduced sentence?” said Bush’s lawyers, “You must waive the opportunity to rely on the IPA for later DNA testing.”
Now, relatively few federal crimes are likely to be based on DNA evidence, as opposed to murder, rape, etc., which typically are state prosecutions, so the problem is not as nasty at it might appear at first glance.
Nevertheless, current Attorney General Holder has done something ethically right: he has reversed the Bush-era policy and has encouraged collection and use of DNA evidence, regardless the possibility that an innocent person might be set free.
Printer Woes Department
A collector ordered a 16×24 print of one of my photos. Now, that’s always a nice kind of order to receive. I had to lay in a new supply of 24×30 Exhibition Fiber paper, however, which B&H offers at a quite reasonable price. Even with second day air shipping, the price is not quite $5 per sheet.
I cut down the first sheet to 17×26 size and made the print. Black ink spattered on flesh! I cut another sheet and printed it again. Again ink spatters. And a third time!
I gave up. Called the local Epson printer service outfit and made a date for a technician to visit on Monday. Costs an arm and a leg, but then this printer is 5-1/2 years old, and has been maintenance free in that time, so I suppose it was time.
One of a few successful hetero couples shoots I’ve done.