Jim Fallows has been inveighing recently against the idiocy of the Transportation Security Administration. I agree with all of his observations. Here's an item from a post by him today -- one that I found particularly compelling. The last paragraph, containing Jim's observations about the marmalade menace, is particularly good.
The TSA and the Marmalade "Gel" Menace. My friend Bruce Williams describes his latest security-theater encounter with TSA rules. Here's my point in passing along stories like this: if security measures are ridiculous, eventually they bring ridicule to the entire security effort. In the long run, marmalade seizures, Supreme Court stair-closures, and "security level is 'orange'" foolishness "help the terrorists win," because they erode the legitimacy of real security efforts. I could belabor the point (eg, no one who passes through an airport in Israel would dream of making fun of their security efforts, because they're 100% serious) but instead I'll just turn the microphone over to Williams:I flew back from London on Monday. The international segment was Heathrow to Denver on UAL. At Heathrow, I bought a jar of marmalade at the Harrods shop inside Terminal 1; it, like many other stores in the Terminal one shopping mall, is in the post-security area. I didn't think twice about stuffing it into my roller bag. It flew across the pond in the overhead bin above me. I passed through immigration and customs at Denver without difficulties--I even noted the jam on my customs form.As is standard procedure at most US airports, transferring passengers must go through TSA security after they clear customs and immigration--even though they've already passed inspection before flying into the US. So I didn't think twice about the jar of Harrod's orange marmalade in my bag. But the sharp-eyed guy manning the X-ray machine spotted it, and I was pulled aside for a personal inspection. The TSA officer was nice ("Happens all the time," he said), but he unwrapped the jar from its green Harrods bag and told me I couldn't carry the jar of "gel" on the airplane, receipt and shrink-wrap seal notwithstanding.You know what I "resent" about our freedoms? I resent the loss of them, through small-minded and smaller-hearted "security state" thinking, and the distortion of what it means to be an American. It should mean someone who takes things in stride, recognizes that life has ups and downs, and follows rules because the rules are reasonable and deserve respect. Thanks largely to security theater, Americans are coming to be people who scurry and worry, and follow rules no matter how obviously inane because they keep us "safe."
Not wanting to disappoint a friend who loves the authentic stuff, I dashed upstairs to check my bag and its contraband and then had to go back through security again.
Of course, if I'd been on a nonstop flight from London to Seattle--or outbound from Seattle--carrying a jar of jam (or any number of other liquids and gels sold inside airport duty-free shops) wouldn't have been a problem. Only TSA could come up with and enforce such a rule.