Come fly with us.

There was a photo on the front page of my New York Times Sunday, and for the life of me I can’t find it online, sorry. A police officer is directing his bomb-sniffing dog through a check of luggage at Detroit Metro airport, and not just any luggage, but the long, logo’d bags you see in every airport the day after Christmas. Skis. The bags are surrounded by the other thing you see in every airport the day after Christmas. Young people, getting ready to fly out to Colorado or Utah or somewhere else with mountains and snow; one is wearing a sweatshirt with the name of a local high school. The young people are watching the dog work, smiles on their faces. Even the cop looks nice and relaxed. Only the dog looks concerned.

Don’t you feel safer already?

I’m so, so glad I don’t have to fly very often, and when I do, only in the context of taking a vacation. I’m nice and relaxed and don’t mind hanging around the carousels for my bags, which I check, leaving the overheads to hysterical business travelers. I’m glad that if and/or when full-body scans become standard boarding procedure in the nation’s airports, I will be spared the worst of it.

And I’m sure they’re coming. Aren’t you? I mean, we managed to miss a guy who’d been dimed out by his own father using the human method; technology better save us. You hear El Al’s security techniques mentioned frequently when these things come up; Israel’s national airline is known for brutal and unapologetic profiling and more security hoops than you can count, right down to armed air marshals on every flight. You get the idea they would not have missed this guy. You also get the idea it’s good Israel is a very small country and El Al likely doesn’t send that many flights out of it.

Yes, it was quite an exciting weekend in the D. I’ve barely looked at other blogs, but for my Idiots file, and that was enough to scare me away from the internet for two weeks. It’s nice to see experts in armchair trigonometry calculating what the terrorist might have been trying to hit on the ground by detonating his device juuuust so. Jihad urban renewal! Detroit is so cutting edge sometimes, it just kills me.

Lots of things are cutting edge these days. The Dutch hero who bravely wrestled the Roasted Wienie Bomber down and then talked and talked and talked about it on CNN? He’s a very modern sort of hero, as Gawker explains.

Also, Joe Lieberman, WTF? A third front in an endless war we can’t win? Why not?

And that’s it for me, posting late before another killer Monday. Expect light-to-intermittent posting for a few days, while I enjoy a little of the break everyone else seems to be giving themselves. And get a little housekeeping done around here.

Posted at 1:15 am in Current events |

37 responses to “Come fly with us.”

  1. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 8:24 am

    I watched “the hero” boasting and preening on CNN; Fred (who is quite pretty) missed a few hints that the fellow wanted to finish the conversation; he seemed to have forgotten that Ms Whitfield (spelling?) was conducting a news interview, and not a bar (or ski lodge) pick-up.

    Other than that, I’ve nothing to add to the troubling news about this most recent terror-attack – nor even the darkly humorous colon-attack that affected the same flight into Nance’s city yesterday. As Nance noted, when we agree with Mark, what else is there to say?

    We should steal an idea from Laura Lippman, and share our own one-word new year’s resolutions for 2010.

    I thought over the challenge, and came up with “fatherhood”, since (with a 14 year old son) that will be Job #1, I think – and must not be shirked.

    edit: just read the gawker thing; it hadn’t occurred to me that the guy was being paid(!) – and indeed, the ethics of that don’t bug me, but he looks all the more rude for trying to stiff Fred, after taking her money. (it certainly transforms the ‘pick-up at the ski lodge’ dynamic of that conversation; more like the cougar at the ski lodge)

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  2. coozledad said on December 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Peter King and Lieberman remind me of the genius we had for a postmaster in Oxford, NC, who decided the initial attack on the WTC demanded prompt defensive action in the target rich downtown area. The Arabs were going to hit the Post Office first, because a)It was a federal building, and B)Some suspicious looking youngsters had already gone into the bathroom and unrolled a lot of toilet paper once – what if they’d set it alight?
    His solution to the threat was to have the janitor stop putting toilet paper in the public restroom.
    You’d think Lieberman would have had a bellyfull of deaths he’s caused indirectly by being a miserable excuse for a life form. Maybe his cockslapping is a substitute for the various forms of human intimacy he’s denied.
    That, and the bucket of golfballs up his ass.

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  3. paddyo' said on December 28, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I, too, was struck by that photo — everyone had his/her “aww-what-a-cute-doggie!” look on his/her face while the bag sniffing proceeded. Creepy. Like something out of one of those ’50s nuclear-family-goes-for-a-drive smiley-smile advertisements …

    You’re right about El Al — and I totally agree that it’s good not to have to fly much. That’s one good thing that came after I got a buyout from our failing newspaper industry two years ago last week. No more jump-on-a-plane-to-West-Bumfuck assignments anymore (though many of the places in my new work world are located in West, East, South AND North Bumfuck, but they really are quite scenic and I don’t have to rush off to them at a moment’s notice).
    I am still agape, though, at the silly knee-jerk after-the-fact measures they throw at us now that a new variation on a terror threat has arisen. Why not months, years ago?

    When will overworked flight attendants have time to “monitor” our comings and, uh, goings to the loo? And this one-hour-before-arrival thing with overhead compartments and stuff in our laps? Reminds me, oddly, of the old Roman Catholic stricture against eating X-number of hours before receiving (“taking” was sooo Protestant back then) Holy Communion. When I was a little kid, it was midnight the night before. Then it was 3 hours. Post-Vatican II, it was one hour. Really now, and with apologies to the Almighty, but WTF? Same epithet applies here with the new flight-restriction wrinkles.

    OK, a topic shift for a moment:
    One of Nancy’s faves (and many of ours, too), Hank “Xmas” Stuever, is profiled today in a good faith-related blog by an old acquaintance from my brief stint as a religion writer in the newspaper biz — Terry Mattingly’s “On Religion” column. Here’s a link:

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  4. Julie Robinson said on December 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Omigosh I am dreading the security line today.

    Re the Mattingly story–Christmas does foreshadow Easter, since Jesus didn’t need to be made incarnate unless he was headed to the cross. But that’s a discussion for mature Christians at Advent services, not Christmas Eve services. It sounds like a service I would have walked out on.

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  5. Crabby said on December 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Explore Prague without a body cavity search:

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  6. Dorothy said on December 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Not having seen the picture discussed (dog sniffing luggage, people around it seemingly unfazed), but keep in mind it’s possible the context is missing. What if the dog just farted? Or a person? Maybe the bemused expressions were just the lingering after-effect of some such occurrence. Maybe someone cracked a joke? Perhaps we could all do with a little less jumping to conclusions. That might be my New Year’s resolution. Is there a one-word saying for that brian?

    edit to add:

    Found it:

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  7. Dorothy said on December 28, 2009 at 10:07 am

    a little better:

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  8. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Per­haps we could all do with a lit­tle less jump­ing to con­clu­sions. That might be my New Year’s res­o­lu­tion. Is there a one-word say­ing for that brian?

    Hmmm…circumspection, maybe? equanimity? (could add ‘sangfroid’ – but that sounds like a polka-tune)

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  9. ROgirl said on December 28, 2009 at 10:33 am

    A one word saying for not jumping to conclusions?


    RE: TSA regulations

    The next logical step would be to have people fly naked.

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  10. MichaelG said on December 28, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Here is the new TSA Reg. It’s on lots of web sites.

    Read’um and weep. It’s comforting to know that out safety is in the hands of such idjits.

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  11. alex said on December 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

    The airlines are doing a fine job. Being a muslim might not set off any alarms, nor should it, but being a raging, imperious bitch will get you thrown off a plane, even if you’re Ivanna Trump.

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  12. MichaelG said on December 28, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Wow! President Kennedy entertains nude women on boat (or vice-versa). Check it out!

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  13. Sue said on December 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Watched a few dvds this weekend, courtesy of Christmas gifts and weekend visitors. Here are some reviews:
    “Bruno”: So bad even my nephew left the room.
    Will Ferrell’s George Bush HBO special, “You’re Welcome, America”: Crude, mean-spirited and unfunny. Obvious attempt (to me, anyway), to wring the last few bucks out of Will Ferrell’s GWB character, and obviously aimed at hard-core Bush haters.
    “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Seasons 1 & 2”: Now THIS is how you do tasteless.

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  14. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Great photo, Michael; I’m always up for naked women cavorting on a sailboat! (presuemably Lake St Clair is a little on the cold side for frolicking like that, so that the proprietress has nothing to worry about)

    That crumpled photo makes for an interesting bookend for the story about our profit-minded hero from Amsterdam referenced above.

    One suspects that if that picture was ‘shopped around’ to media sources back in the day, there would have been no takers. There were fewer outlets to choose from, and the biggies liked the guy; plus he was a war hero and (not for nothing) he has his trunks on and seems oblivious to the cavorting.

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  15. Julie Robinson said on December 28, 2009 at 11:57 am

    We didn’t have any problems with security here at West Palm Beach but we got here extra early. And now our flight has been delayed by 45 minutes. Since we only had a one hour layover at Cincy, it could be a very long day. At least they have free wifi.

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  16. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Julie – and it’s snowing in the Fort; nothing sexy, just that granular stuff (like Tide detergent) that quietly accumulates until people say “Egads! Look at all the snow!”

    De-icing planes on the ground might delay you a bit

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  17. MichaelG said on December 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Knowing his reputation, I’m guessing he wasn’t oblivious, Brian, just tired.

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  18. Jeff Borden said on December 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Flying today is probably the worst travel experience possible in the U.S., a designation once held by the lowly long-distance bus. My nephews regularly use the Megabus to travel and they love it. Big, comfortable seats on two levels and no hassles about carry on luggage. The lean back in their seats, plug in a DVD and arrive refreshed. An attendant opens the side of the bus, they grab their larger bags and they’re done.

    We recently flew regional Delta jets –to Norfolk this summer and Melrose, Fla. for Thanksgiving– and the experience was the usual mixture of tight quarters, surly flight attendants and rude fellow passengers, who apparently believe a steamer trunk actually can fit into an overhead bin. When my wife asked for a blanket or pillow to prevent pain in small of her back, the attendant snarked that she was not “entitled” to one on our flight. I guess those are solely for the folks in the first couple of rows, which are considered “first class” despite little or no difference from the rest of the seats.

    We ought to face the fact that these rules and regulations are fig leafs to make us feel better about our safety when flying. But we also ought to take some solace in the knowledge that we are still far, far more likely to be struck by lightning than to be aboard an airplane with a terrorist.

    BTW, Hoosiers. Big, fat, loud raspberries to the Department of Transportation and, especially, the Indiana Toll Road for their lack of action on Dec. 26. We drove through heavy snows on I-65 starting about 25 miles north of Indy, but saw all of two salt/plow trucks between there and Gary. Once we turned onto the toll road and headed west toward Chicago, it was even worse. There’s considerable construction in the NW Indiana area, with lots of lane switches. There were no lights, no barrels, no reflectors, no nothing to guide motorists in darkness and blinding snow through the maze of concrete barriers. We were driving blind, more or less, with the four-way flashers going and our fingers crossed that we would see a concrete abutment in time to avoid hitting it, which we did. It was some of the worst driving conditions I’ve encountered in a very long time.

    Chicago has beaucoup problems, but once we got off the toll road and onto Indianapolis Avenue on the SE side, the main streets were wet but clear.

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  19. alex said on December 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    An atten­dant opens the side of the bus, they grab their larger bags and they’re done.

    Or, as happened on one of my few Greyhound Bus adventures many years ago, the side of the bus opens itself, the larger bags go flying and the passengers all scream about it to a driver who refuses to turn around or do anything about it whatsoever.

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  20. Jeff Borden said on December 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm


    I rode a few Greyhounds in my day and thought they were awful. Some of the terminals seemed like movie sets from a 1950’s noir thriller, lol. I’m not shilling for Megabus, which I’ve never ridden, just passing along the assessments of my 20-year-old nephews.

    If you’re of a certain age, which I am, air travel years ago seemed sort of glamorous, sipping a cocktail while looking out the window, awaiting a decent enough dinner with wine on the side. But, of course, fares were higher and flights fewer in number to fewer destinations than today. Now, you envy the passengers smart enough to bring their own food on board while you snarf down stale pretzels and $5 per warm can of beer.

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  21. ellent said on December 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I went through the El Al experience in the mid-90s. It seemed to me that they were observing my reactions more than they were searching my baggage. They pick some pretty intimidating people, but that’s the point. My security attendant mocked American security procedures and said something like “We would never have let Lockerbie happen.” One weakness I’ve noticed at our airports is the extent to which functions are subcontracted. When you hire the lowest bidder, you get what you pay for.

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  22. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Now, you envy the passengers smart enough to bring their own food on board

    …and curse the ones who bring aboard the Burger King stuff that they bought near the gate, with all the understated (and inescapable) aromas one might expect from a garbage scow loaded with the wet dogs

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  23. alex said on December 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Not to ruin the fun for all those who enjoy moaning about flight 253, but I take great comfort in this analysis:

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  24. Dexter said on December 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I wasn’t sure , but I thought that just after 9-11 nothing could be carried on to an aircraft that was edible, I am sure no water was allowed on-board. I saw a photo of an interior of a jumbo jet after passengers disembarked from a Singapore to Chicago flight…the aircraft was littered with hundreds of Styrofoam to-go food containers and newspapers…of course all the food must be bought after you pass security, right? You can’t bring a pizza through sceurity, or even a home-made baloney sandwich, right?
    I asked my daughter’s bf about this, he dead-heads to his job several times a week aboard the major carriers as a passenger, and he said “everybody carries food on board all the time”.
    I stopped attending major sports events just after 9-11 , not only because Michigan football tickets doubled in price in one season’s time, but also because no longer could I bring in my bag of goodies , as I usually brought in a Zingerman’s sandwich and a small bag of apples which I would share with my seatmates at the stadium. No backpacks (my choice, btw), not even women’s purses were (are) allowed. For years , no water bottles, then Absopure decided to cease with the free water cups inside the concourse and began selling the high-priced plastic bottles.
    It wasn’t that long ago, but it was post-Tylenol poisonings time, when I would pass apples to my seatmates who were strangers, and they would gladly eat one. After 9-11, no one would ever accept one of my apples and I quit offering. Nobody was willing to take a chance that I might have dosed those beautiful juicy Michigan apples.

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  25. brian stouder said on December 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Alex – that indeed is a great article; I check in on ol’ Nate regularly, and took comfort from that article, too.

    But you know, whenever you say something like “only one person in 12,000,000 will (fill in the blank: get bitten by a shark/electrocute themselves in the bathtub/die from contaminated food – etc) – people will identify with the “one” and not with the 11,999,999

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  26. mark said on December 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    And there is no need to worry about nuclear weapons either. Of all the hundreds of millions of projectiles fired in anger since 1945, only two were nuclear.

    The 538 article ignores consequential losses from terrorist attacks. The economic loss from 9/11 has been estimated from 300 billion to over 1 trillion, which would be $5 to $12 for every mile flown by every plane for the last decade.

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  27. ROgirl said on December 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I did a fair amount of plane travel for my work before and after 9/11, enough that I could use some of my frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Paris. In the past 10 years I have been in 2 car accidents, both caused by the other drivers. A terrorist on a plane has the potential to kill more people than a driver in a car, but there are more assholes out on the road than terrorists ready to bring down a planeload of passengers.

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  28. Jeff Borden said on December 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm


    When you factor in all the money spent on the war in Iraq, you can probably add at least another $1 trillion or so to the figures you cite, though some economists estimate the final tally for our ill-advised invasion will be much higher. Bin Laden accomplished everything he sought to do –and so much more– with an investment of less than $300,000.

    BTW, it’s good to know that the TSA remains leaderless because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, does not like the labor viewpoint of Obama’s nominee. It’s inspiring to see such devotion to free market principles. Terrorists are one thing, by cracky, but the real problem would be unionized airport workers!

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  29. beb said on December 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    TMZ is now saying that the picture of JFK on a yacht with naked women is a fake. Or rather, from a 1967 Playboy feature that definitely did not have Kennedy in it.

    BTW, Lake St. Clair warms up nicely during the summer because it’s really shallow. Skinny dipping is always possible through maybe not recommended.

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  30. crinoidgirl said on December 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    From Gizmodo – it’s time to fire the TSA:

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  31. paddyo' said on December 28, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Over at Slate, Christopher Hitchens is frothing, too . . . “The truth about airplane security measures”:

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  32. coozledad said on December 28, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    The authoritarian cultists are always shitting their pants. That’s what they do. It’s how they prefer to live. Curiously, under circumstances involving scores of actual dead, they were calmed by the image of a cheerleader perched atop the smoking rubble of the WTC with an appropriately phallic megaphone. One day they’ll discover the root cause of their organic brain dysfunction, and couples carrying the gene will be counseled to adopt instead.
    Until then, another day, another diaperload.

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  33. jeff borden said on December 28, 2009 at 6:22 pm


    Are you too much of a liberal wimp not to see the pattern here? My Lord, the would-be bomber, famously nicknamed “Fruit of the Loon” by the N.Y. Daily News headline writers, is not only black but Muslim and African! I’ll bet Orly Taitz is linking the guy to Obama during the next 24-hour news cycle.

    This is the rare triple play for the fearmongers. Mark Steyn and all the other members of the He-Man Muslim-Haters Club are pleasuring themselves at this very moment over more bad news involving followers of Islam. Garden variety crackers can savor the race of the perp and his country of origin. It’s a real holiday treat for them. Now, if he turns out to be gay, even William Donohue and Maggie Gallagher will be able to chime in.

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  34. coozledad said on December 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    jeffborden: I have to admit to a terror of flight. But that’s regardless of whether the plane is in level, uninterrupted flight or pulling 40g because the crew accidentally threw on the airbrakes. All the same to me. The burning terrorist in first class would just be one in a series of reasons that the only way they’ll ever get me on a plane is via thorazine or rigor mortis.

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  35. jeff borden said on December 28, 2009 at 6:55 pm


    I hate flying but it doesn’t scare me. As noted in an earlier post, it’s the equivalent of a bus trip or a ride on the L at rush hour. . .something to be endured. I know lots of folks who share your fear of flying. I’m terrified of heights, but for some reason, they don’t bother me while seated inside a fuselage. Most of us have phobias of one kind or another.

    But I’ll be damned if some idiot fanatic religious follower will keep me from flying. Or living and/or working in a tall building. Or drive me away from city life.

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  36. Denice B. said on December 29, 2009 at 12:16 am

    The Indiana Toll Road. That genius Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of the Hoosier State decided to grab a bunch of cash by leasing the toll road to Australian business interests for 99 years. So he took the money (A Billion$) and spends it on deficits and the lower portion of Indiana. That money is almost gone! Meanwhile, the Toll Road company promptly fired staff and put in automated booths, and jerked up fees.

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  37. brian stouder said on December 29, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Leaving aside the Indiana toll road lease (reasonable people may reasonably disagree), we caught Julie and Julia this past weekend.

    I liked it enough to watch it to the end, but the movie was oddly disappointing. I think the essential disconnect between the two title characters was never bridged, and upon reflection – this may have been the point.

    It is almost as if the movie is actually an allegory about modern “virtual” new-media connectivity, as opposed to the enduring attractiveness of old fashioned celebrity, wherein there is actually no connection at all, despite the fervent hopes of deluded wannabes.

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