O’Hare airport, you know, I’ve said kind things about it here in the past, but it’s developing an attitude problem.

I flew in from Ottawa earlier this week. The plane was scheduled to leave there at 5:40 PM and indeed there was a plane there at that time, waiting to go. We were informed that Chicago had put a three-hour delay on all incoming flights due to weather. People around me were calling friends there who reported it cold but clear. The pilot, equally pissed, was hanging with the passengers and said he thought they were repairing a runway, or maybe it was just the ATC union being ornery. This seems like bad behavior.

Then, leaving Chicago, Homeland Security seized my toothpaste. The tube that was carefully purchased in a size that’s legal to take on planes. Except for, it wasn’t in a plastic bag. You see, 90ml of naked toothpaste is dangerous and can be used in terrorist attacks, but putting it in a plastic bag prevents this.

Can we get some intelligent behavior out of our politicians please? This moronic security theater is damaging our quality-of-life and arguably playing into the actual terrorists’ hands.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Sean Callahan (Jan 25 2008, at 21:29)

The worst part about it is, if you said what you said on your blog AT the airport, you'd be in jail, under threat of being sent to Guantanamo. Travelling on a Canadian passport would have made it even worse.


From: Graham Fluet (Jan 25 2008, at 21:37)

Yeah, Our loonies are the currency, theirs are the government.


From: John Cowan (Jan 25 2008, at 22:34)

Alas, yes, Graham. Any chance we could talk you into annexing the more rational parts of the U.S.? I'd be happy to live under the Leaf and Stripes. (Could change 'em to blue -- you know, "from sea to shining sea"?)


From: Brian (Jan 25 2008, at 23:25)

Sadly, aviation weather and delays is a bit more complicated than "cold but clear"... airliners have to have a backup airport or two, and there are only so many lanes in the sky and space in traffic patterns. Taking that into account as well as weather elements that have little relevance to people on the ground, like wind shear at different altitudes, icing in clouds, strong crosswinds at airports, etc...

As for "security theater", there seems to have been rather a small number of blown-up and hijacked US flights as of late... the particular rule you managed to run afoul of might be a bit silly, but it is pretty well publicized and I'd much rather they apply the silly and non -silly rules with equal vigor rather than have a question as to whether any of them are being enforced.

Although espousing the angsty liberal "oh no, we're in a police state being run by morons" viewpoint is oh-so-fashionable these days...


From: Mark (Jan 26 2008, at 04:29)

You need to chill out a bit. The liquid rules are a silly thing to complain about. The rules are posted in every airport I've used, in the U.S. and at NRT.

Here's Bruce Schneier interviewing Kip Hawley of the TSA on the rules:


I have to give Schneier credit for putting this on his site, since he doesn't come off too well.


From: David Megginson (Jan 26 2008, at 05:13)

A single dedicated runway can handle, under ideal conditions, about 40 heavy arrivals per hour -- pack the planes any closer and they'll tear each-other apart with their wake turbulence (as happened with AA 587 departing JFK in 2001).

When the airlines try to schedule 50 or more departures or arrivals onto the same runway at peak times, there will always be delays, and they can take hours to clear up. While weather makes things worse by slowing everything down, it's often just an excuse -- the airlines also try to blame air traffic control, general aviation, and any other scapegoat they can find.


From: Pete Berry (Jan 26 2008, at 08:56)

Friend of mine who flies BA jumbos had a screwdriver that came with his fancy sunglasses confiscated at a US airport a couple of years ago. It wasn't just that the screwdriver was less than 2 inches long. It wasn't just that he was 1st Officer on the flight - what really made him decide that the whole world had gone crazy was that he knew that when he got to his co-pilot's seat there was a 2 foot fire-axe behind his head ...


From: David Smith (Jan 26 2008, at 09:22)

Security Theatre has a long history in the US - going at least as far back as the Woodrow Wilson police state during World War I, then dramatically renewed by the FDR administration. It really works well if you're inclined to increase central control - people seem to accept a lot more questionable behaviour during a crisis.

My take is that this hasn't been so prevalent in Canada because we have more of the British tendency to "form orderly queues" and behave ourselves anyway.


From: David Megginson (Jan 26 2008, at 10:15)

In his earlier comment, Brian's right about the weather delays (looking out the window doesn't cut it), but wrong about security.

It's true that I haven't heard of any U.S. airliners blown up recently, but I haven't heard of any U.S. trains, subways, ferries, buses, bridges, or tunnels blown up either, and I can walk onto most of those without so much as passing a metal detector.

The main change is that airline passengers know now to fight back against hijackers instead of cooperating. That has nothing to do with airport security.

BTW, Tim's arguments struck me as more small-government libertarian than bleeding-heart liberal. U.S. so-called liberal and conservative politicians both seem to be fans of big, intrusive government, and invasive airport security is just one manifestation of that.


From: Aristotle Pagaltzis (Jan 26 2008, at 10:48)

> there seems to have been rather a small number of blown-up and hijacked US flights as of late

“US flights”? Have there been lots of blown-up or hijacked flights reported from places that do *not* have the moral equivalent of TSA and their silly rules? Did I miss something?

If I didn’t, well then by that sort of reasoning, you better also ban dancing, prayers, hugs and two-legged skipping in airports and during flights. You betcha there will be very few blown-up or hijacked flights that way as well.

> I’d much rather they apply the silly and non-silly rules with equal vigor rather than have a question as to whether any of them are being enforced.

Oh really. I guess when a man forgets that he is carrying a loaded gun and walks straight through security with no one holding him up, then gets arrested when he *reports his mistake*, that’s all part of enforcing silly and non-silly rules with equal vigor? What exactly do these silly and non-silly rules achieve, pray tell?


From: Chris (Jan 26 2008, at 17:13)

Arguably? You've got to be kidding.


From: Hanan Cohen (Jan 26 2008, at 22:11)

Terrorism had won in the US.


From: MikeP (Jan 27 2008, at 06:32)

Mark, I don't get it. The rules are posted everywhere, so it's silly to complain about them? I'm also not sure, but it seems to me you're saying Schneier comes off looking badly in that interview. I'm not sure how.

Brian, you're absolutely right. I found that the number of hijacked and blown up US flights has gone way down since I started carrying a particular rock in my right hand jeans pocket. I'm really glad I caught on to that, because before I did that, there were dozens of hijackings a year.

Although espousing the smug "you're so stupid, you can't even read the signs in the airport and don't you know it's for your own good, so shut up and drink the medicine, it's good" viewpoint is oh-so-fashionable these days, so I try not to do that.


From: John Cowan (Jan 27 2008, at 09:59)

Tim: So it seems the point of the bag is that it limits you to 1 liter (actually less, when you consider the volume of the individual containers) of liquid, without requiring anyone to add the container sizes up on the spot, and apparently this is judged not to be a threat.

Pete Berry: When your friend is passing the checkpoint, he's not yet a copilot. He's just a guy *dressed* as a copilot, as far as the system is concerned, and it's perfectly rational to screen him. Only when he actually reaches the cockpit is he recognized as the true copilot, someone who can be trusted with fire axes. Doing otherwise opens the plane up to attacks by people dressed as crew.

David Megginson: I remain a skeptic about what really happened on United 93, but certainly there are more people on planes (air marshals, etc.) who will fight back now because it's their job. The pre-9/11 approach to stopping hijacks worked very well for decades, because the intent of hijackers in those days was different: they wanted publicity, not to use the planes as weapons.


From: C. Doley (Jan 31 2008, at 07:17)

I'm not sure the terrorists' objective is inconvenience us and make us irritated at airports. So I'm quite sure how it plays into their hands.

But I think you're missing the point here. Of course toothpaste is no more dangerous outside a plastic bag. But putting things inside the bag helps the processing of the checkpoint. If people having their liquids and pastes in a single location prevents security from wasting time trying to locate all of them floating around a bag, I'm all for it.

And come on, anyone who has flown in the past two years knows this rule. How hard is it to follow?

Now there's a larger argument about whether it's even worthwhile to try to screen everyone boarding a plane. I personally believe it's not. But if we are going to screen people, requiring them to presort their own items is a very reasonable way to make the whole process more efficient.


From: Andrew M. (Jan 31 2008, at 07:53)

I've found the ultimate solution to the no-liquid-on-planes: I put my toothpaste, shaving cream, etc. in my pockets. Also a small bottle of water. I suppose it's not legal, but at least it's a little simplier.


From: Anonymous (Feb 01 2008, at 06:06)

I went through O'Hare a few months ago and had a similar story. I brought some hair gel with me. The container was a 10.5 oz container. But, the bottle was less then half full. I was searched and the oh-so-dangerous hair gel was confiscated. I also received a lecture from the TSA agent about how I'm only allowed "4.3 oz of liquids" and how they must be in a zip lock baggie. (Little know fact: "TSA" stands for 'thousands standing around'). Apparently, on the way into the security area there was a TSA agent sitting at a table handing out zip lock baggies. Yep, that's all this guy does all day long... hands out zip lock baggies to people. Well, I didn't get one and the sledgehammer came down hard on me. They took away my hair gel and told me never to do it again. I was going to ask them to weigh the contents of the bottle and tell me *exactly* how much was in there. But, I figured I'd probably end up getting strip searched and detained... so I let them throw away my 1/3 full bottle of hair gel.

After I got all the way through the security checkpoint I opened my bag and found my completely full 40 oz bottle of contact lens solution still sitting there. There people are completely retarded and their sole function in life is to make our lives miserable as we fly on commercial airlines.


From: Nico Williams (Feb 01 2008, at 14:24)

John Cowan: And here I thought that crew members had special IDs (read: harder to fake, maybe only slightly). This reminds me of the pilot whose nail clipper was confiscated (in the early post-9/11 days), so he explained that being the pilot he didn't need a nail clipper to crash the plane, he could just do it; he was arrested for saying that.


From: Mark (Feb 07 2008, at 20:29)

More from Kip Hawley on liquids:



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