American Elephants

Happy Thanksgiving to You All! by The Elephant's Child

We had snow on Monday,  a little early for the Seattle area.  Not much, probably not even an inch.  Not enough to be pretty, just enough to create chaos on the streets. Everybody (almost) in the Seattle area lives on a hill.  Snow here is treacherous.  It turns instantly to ice.  Seattleites buy SUVs because of the snow, then, because they have an SUV, they drive way too fast and cause all sorts of problems for everyone.

I grew up with lots of snow.  We always had plenty by Thanksgiving, and varied amounts up to 5 feet lasting until close to Easter.  Winter was largely devoted to coping with snow.  Our county road was sparsely populated, and therefore the last to be plowed, if then.  So we plowed it ourselves.  I can remember walking ahead of the car in a snowstorm to show where the edge of the road was, fairly regularly.  Been snowed in by a slide down the road a ways, but for the most part although the weather kept us busy, we had the equipment to cope with it.

Theoretically, it was supposed to rain yesterday and today, washing away all the snow and ice.  Didn’t happen.  Temperatures have stayed below freezing.  The city sanding truck came by sometime around 4:00 this morning. I can leave my house in five different directions, each involves a hill.

A few years back, I left work a little early when it was snowing hard.  I headed for the hill that seemed the least steep, got a good run at it and almost made it to the top, but could not.  Backed down to take another run, and here came a school bus over the top of the hill sliding sideways down the hill.  I backed to the curb as far away as I could get, but the bus came right for me, made a graceful curve and hit the car on the other side of the street.  The bus was nearly empty, but there was one small boy in a seat near the back, with eyes the size of saucers.

I hope none of you have to fly for Thanksgiving, or if you do that your encounter with airport screening is brief and courteous.  I hope that you are surrounded with friends and family, a table laden with all the traditional fare, and that whatever game you watch — your team wins.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Homeland Security and Public Relations. by The Elephant's Child

The  controversy over new airport security regulations continues apace.  And as is usual in America, the anger also brings out American good humor.  Saturday Night Live has a great skit, there have been bumper stickers (funny but raunchy) and plenty of offensive pictures of stupid searches of little children and of course, nuns.

John Podhoretz pointed out at Commentary that the anger about the intrusive screening is due as much to the recent election as about the procedures themselves. We have a government that has been enormously high-handed, presuming to rule rather than serve.  The Democrat majority in Congress has forgotten that they are to represent us, to listen to us, rather than to control us.

The folks at Homeland Security essentially said ‘We’re going to do this intrusive search and feel you up, and if you don’t like it we will fine you thousands of dollars, and we’re going to do it at the busiest time of the year at the nation’s airports.’

They didn’t say, but what is obvious to everyone is that you have to take off your shoes now because Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, with an extensive criminal record, managed to get on an America-bound plane in spite of screeners suspicious of his disheveled appearance, and would have succeeded had not his shoes been wet and had not passengers subdued  him.

They didn’t say, but is obvious, that you must have this intrusive groping because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab managed to get on a Detroit-bound plane with explosives in his underwear, in spite of the fact that his father had called the American embassy to warn that his youngest son was dangerous, the young man was not dressed for the winter weather in Detroit, did not have his own passport, bought a one-way ticket with cash, and had no luggage.  And he had been in Yemen studying with the Imam Anwar al Awlaki.

Homeland Security did not mention Major Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, who presented so many warning signs that they might as well have been flashing in neon lights.  He was investigated by the FBI which looked at his emails to the Imam Anwar al Awlaki, which said things like “I can’t wait to join you in the afterlife”  “When is jihad permissible” and asked how to transfer funds abroad without coming to the attention of authorities.

John Pistole who seems to be in charge of TSA didn’t feel that it was necessary to discuss the new screening procedures with the public in advance of putting them into effect.  Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, wrote an op-ed in USA Today, in which she said “scanners are safe, pat-downs discreet.” Passengers reporting in indicate that the pat-downs are not only not discreet, but offensive.

We appreciate that Homeland Security is trying to keep the American people safe.  It would seem that international screening for planes bound for the US leaves something to be desired.  Their record of incompetence at public relations is breathtaking.    The idea of fining someone who refuses to be groped by screeners $11,000 for leaving the screening area without permission is ludicrous.  The TSA people need more training in public relations, and in plain old common sense.

The American people are sick of political correctness. Treat us like grownups — inform and ask before you order and demand — use some judgment.  Stop trying to pretend that Islamic radicals trained in Yemen and Afghanistan are just ordinary people whose origins and religious extremism cannot be mentioned. It is a dangerous world, and we appreciate efforts to protect the American people.  But to cope with a dangerous world, we need straight talk and sensible precautions addressed in a straightforward manner.  This one, once again, was a public relations disaster.

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