Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Government Program Run by Idiots in the Pocket of Big Tobacco

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has issued guidelines listing prohibited and allowed items which can be placed in your carry-on and checked baggage during air travel. During the early days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks many of us experienced the confiscation of toenail clippers, eyebrow pencils and other dangerous implements. With the Government's steady hand, we now have some guidelines which we can all understand. And, we can travel reassured. Or, can we?

Preparatory to a recent trip to Europe I went on the website for the TSA to make certain I was not going to inadvertently include some prohibited items in my carry-0n or checked bags. That was an issue because I was taking my bicycle to Europe and including small compressed air cartridges to inflate my tires. The compressed air cartridges slipped through okay. What amazed me, however was to discover that the TSA allowed lighters and matches in carry-on baggage. Specifically, the TSA states:

"Up to 2 lighters or 4 books of safety matches are allowed in your carry-on baggage. Disposable lighters and absorbed liquid lighters are allowed in your carry-on baggage. Strike anywhere matches are NOT permitted. If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please refrain from bringing it to the airport."

Thankfully, Richard Reid, the terrorist who unsuccessfully attempted to light his shoe bomb with matches on American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami, has not read the TSA bulletin. With a couple of Bic lighters in his pocket he might have been successful.

What could conceiveably motivate the TSA to permit lighters and matches to be brought into the passenger compartments of airplanes? Could it be that people are compelled to light birthday candles as soon as they exit the airplanes. Maybe, passengers want to start a small campfire in the terminal. Perhaps they are lighting matches to sterilze needles to remove pesky slivers shortly after exiting their flights.

Nope. None of the above. Lighters and matches are necessary carry-on items for people addicted to cigarettes who have to rush to the exits to light up as soon as possible after leaving their aircraft. They couldn't wait for their checked bags before lighting up. No, that would cause too much stress. A prolonged nicotine fit would result.

What could have motivated the TSA? Could it have been pressure from the tobacco companies and their cohorts in the Bush Administration and on Capitol Hill? It was either that, or a malevolent TSA employee who hopes that the next Richard Reid is successful.

Whatever you can do, or dream
you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and
magic in it.