For starters, the name “Department of Homeland Security” is unbelievably lame. Sounds like an obscure “dirty tricks” bureau headquartered deep inside the Reichstag in 1941. Only a numbskull like George Bush could come up with such a dumb name.
But what really irks me about the DHS is that they suck. Let’s not even talk about the Katrina fiasco. Don’t get me started on Michael Chertoff. Do you want to know who’s winning Bush’s “War on Terror”? Here’s a suggestion. Go to any departures terminal at LAX, JFK, or any major US airport at 8:00 on a Tuesday morning, and stand there & watch for a few minutes. Highly-trained TSA technicians pawing through the medications of semi-ambulatory octogenarians. Lawyers in $2500 Hugo Boss suits walking on filthy floors in their socks. Hundreds, if not thousands of people angry, bored, delayed & demeaned. Ocassionally desperate. The airline business in shambles.
We’re not winning. I don’t think the DHS even has the correct objective identified. I personally think the Bush Administration and DHS have done more to destroy our quality of life than any rag-tag group of terrorist diaperheads could ever do directly, and chaos is their objective, so they are winning. Look at our airports, look at our economy, look at our job market, look at our 401(k)s. The progress that has been made, has been made on a grass-roots level, American by American. I think the American people are sucking it up and “hardening the fuck up”, in the words of the Australian comic known as “Chopper“. For example, I predict it will be a long time before another successful hijacking of an American airliner, because anybody attempting such a thing is going to get his ass kicked by some truly pissed-off passengers, regardless of the techniques and weapons used by the hijacker. The passengers will tear the guy apart, limb from limb.
In a country where guys like Larry Page and Steven Jobs literally change the way we live almost overnight through their sheer brilliance (although I still don’t like Apple products, for the most part), we wait in line for an hour, we take our laptops out of their cases, we remove our shoes, put our toothpaste in a plastic baggie . . . . . . . and we are rejected by the 1975-era scanner because our belt buckle is made from steel.
Of course, Page has his own 767 and Jobs has a G5 which the Apple Board of Directors GAVE him, unsolicited (along with enough money to pay the taxes on the gift), so I don’t think those two guys are going to devoting much mental energy to airport security-related solutions. But this is America, we could solve this problem if our government really gave a shit.
One thing that makes me optimistic about Barack Obama is that only a year ago, he was flying commercial, in coach. He’s been there, waiting in line, looking at his wristwatch, walking around in his socks, wondering if he’d make it home that night to see Sasha and Malia. I’m sure he remembers. I’m sure he knows how fucked up our Department of Homeland Security is. In 40 days it’s his problem. Maybe he’ll fix it.
If you’re wondering what sparked this diatribe, it’s two things.
(1) I showed up at Calgary Airport on Tuesday at 5AM for a 7AM flight. US Customs wasn’t even open yet. I trudged over toward Customs and got in line. I stood there sweating in the overheated terminal bldg, muttering to myself. 5 AM and I was already having a shitty day. By 5:30, Customs still wasn’t open, and I overheard two American Airlines AAgents talking in hushed tones about some sort of technical breakdown. At about 5:40, the line started to move. Barely. A DHS agent came out and announced that DHS’s computers were down, and every Canadian Airport was on “manual Customs procedures for departures”. I guess that’s not good, because it took me almost 90 minutes to clear Customs, and I was one of the first hundred or so people in line.
It had nothing to do with Canada or with Canadians. It was 100% the fault of US DHS.
(2) After I got home, I got a note from my colleague Jim. The previous day, he’d been in the same line with a female member of the US Ski Team. She’d fractured her arm at the World Cup races in Lake Louise. She was in pain and couldn’t push her baggage cart very well. She left the cart on the other side of the ropes while she proceeded through the long maze, giving it a shove along every time she proceeded through two turns in the maze. It was never out of her sight, but was mostly out of her reach. When she got up to the Customs booth, the asshat Customs Officer made her open and empty all seven of her bags because she had “left them unattended”.
To their credit, TSA now has a blog.
I’m sure most of the entries left on there by the public fall somewhere between furious rants and blind rage. I myself, uncharacteristically :=) have dropped several furious rants on them, although I’m sure you have trouble believing an easy-going guy like me could be so undiplomatic. No doubt my ragings weren’t the worst of what was left that day.
Give it a try yourself. Venting is theraputic.