NEWS

Paranoia, Transformers, & the Free State

May 31, 2008
Harish C

Recently at the Heathrow airport, there was this incident of an airline traveler who was asked to change his t-shirt because it featured a Transformer robot carrying a gun — a robot with a gun that apparently posed a threat to flight safety.

So the long list that includes safety razors and toothpicks (“Stop! Take this plane to Libya or…er…we’ll shave your brains off!!”) has been updated to include items as innocuous as T-Shirts and (heaven forbid!) chequered lungis.

Now seriously, how exactly do they rationalize adding printed tees into the list of items banned during air travel? What to they think? That mid-air, Megatron would metamorphose from the T-Shirt, hijacking them away in search of the Cube or would he demand destruction of all hard detergents? I am sure some bloke with a wild imagination and an overdose of Transformers can be blamed for it.

The actions of the free world (read the U.S.) since 9/11 have been predicable, disturbing and laced generously with paranoia. Patriot Acts and War for Democracies, Aggressive Diplomacy and extensive Bipolarization…Above all; the transformation of even mundane tasks that transverse across borders into something that makes even the seasoned partisan shudder. Let it be airline travel, visa interviews, IRC, Blogging or Freedom to wear a T-Shirt.

The fat cats fail to realize that what their actions based on an overzealous protectiveness is fulfilling the terrorists’ agenda more than their own. What they achieve with one tiny blast is realized tenfold or hundred fold (depending on the location, Indians shrug it off and Americans respond with fixing the third shotgun in their cars gun rack) by the seismic waves of restrictions, gagging, acts that inevitably follow. What they need is not blanket bombing of these into the unsuspecting populace. Indeed, it would well serve them to remember that even the actual blanket bombing was a ridiculous failure. They need to craft precision surgical strikes based on the strong core of intelligence gathering and extensive cooperation among the countries of the free world. Alas, the power-hungry politicos across the globe know that these do not work as well as their scare tactics in filling up their ballot boxes and hence try to disregard them.

Only Israel, secure in its Jewish nationalism and having (almost) selfless democratic machinery managed to do this successfully. Spiriting away Nazi war criminals from Argentina and demolishing the whole terror apparatus behind the Munich attacks using kidon teams. This resoluteness and ruthlessness, which Goda Meier possessed, needs to be imbibed in our leaders for them to react constructively.

Till then let us keep our Batman underwear and Shaktimaan Parle G biscuit packs at home while travelling.

Materialistic Hippie. God of sarcasm. Student of Life. Explorer of Conciousness. Teacher. Writer. Trekker. Poet. Wannabe. New Ager. Rebel. God. Also at An Unfinished Life
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#1
Guido
May 31, 2008
03:19 PM

The Heathrow incident is sad and perhaps symptomatic of paranoia. However, not too long ago taking off your shoes would have been considered ludicrous. I cannot see the connection between the shirt and threat, but the article only gives one side of the story...I'd like to hear the other.

As for your assertions concerning security policies and America's stereotypical psyche, I've taken the liberty to forward your strategic insights to Home Land Security, the CIA, and General Petraeus. No doubt they'll recognize and heed your keen intuitive skills garnered from years of first-hand experience in American and Israeli security matters.

Ciao, Guido

#2
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
04:17 PM

Perhaps the picture on the shirt could serve as an identifying factor.For what purpose I can only guess. How that purpose would be thwarted by removing the shirt can only be answered by the Heathrow customs.

A little old Parsi lady went to Canada to visit her daughter. The customs were going through her belongings and they found a dried pomegranate she had brought as a blessed item from a religious ceremony."What is this?" the customs man enquired.

By this time the old lady was so incensed by their handling her beloved belongings that she said,"Bomb chhe, muo!"(a bomb,you *&^!)

They put her behind bars and her son-in-law had to come and bail her out etc etc.

#3
Harish
URL
June 1, 2008
06:34 AM

@Guido
There was no other side. You can check the link in the article to read the complete story. The traveler was asked to change his T-Shirt if he wanted to go on board.

Also, Guido, responses laced with sarcasm usually are an attempt to hide the bitter pin pricks that someone has told the truth so I am ignoring your jabs at my qualifications to comment. :-)

Indeed, you are right in saying that I don't have "keen intuitive skills garnered from years of first-hand experience in American and Israeli security matters". My experience stops at the theoretical exposure I had on "International Policy Changes: From Kissinger to Baker" at NISDA, Pune.(www.nisda.ac.in/home.htm)

Also, I never blamed anything on a stereotypical psyche of Americans! I am saddened that you would think so. I was commenting on the collective myopia of the leadership of free world and their lack of spine in confronting the issues. Right at the forefront is India which has had 11 terrorist attacks in last 4 years and no active measures taken.

#4
George
June 1, 2008
07:45 AM

With the way things are here in the United States security at its highest since any of the wars we have been in security people at the airports are told "THE SECURITY OF AMERICA IS IN YOUR HANDS NOW" and remember that you are making big bucks so go out and earn it!!!I have seen out freedoms slowly being chipped away little by little that people are afraid to even sneeze in public. I want my freedoms back I have already fought for it during the Vietnam War what happened America where are you?

George "where the streets have no name"

#5
Harish
URL
June 1, 2008
07:50 AM

George,
It depresses me further. I was actually happy at Guido comment hat these incidents are one off and that I may be wrong.

What scares me more is the fact that the land of the free and home of the brave would enter into a cloistered state of security and no longer be the beacon of freedom it was.

But can I criticize the machinery for what it is doing to protect people? In all fairness, no.

I believe we all are in the helpless state of inertia. Damned if we do, damned if we don't

#6
Guido
June 1, 2008
02:04 PM

Harish,

"There was no other side. You can check the link in the article to read the complete story. The traveler was asked to change his T-Shirt if he wanted to go on board."

There are two principles involved; the shirt guy and Heathrow security. We've heard from one. A statement from Heathrow is the other side of the story. I did read the linked article and also searched the internet for some official statement from the airport authorities, but found none. As I mentioned, I don't see the connection between shirt and threat, so I'm curious why the event happened. The episode appears ludicrous, but I'll wait and form my opinions after listening to all sides.


"Also, Guido, responses laced with sarcasm usually are an attempt to hide the bitter pin pricks that someone has told the truth so I am ignoring your jabs at my qualifications to comment. :-)"

It's a bitter pill, not pin. And it's only hard to swallow when you know its BS. The truth is neither you nor I are qualified to offer antiterrorism advice to anyone, much less to professionals.


"Also, I never blamed anything on a stereotypical psyche of Americans! I am saddened that you would think so."

From your article:

"The actions of the free world (read the U.S.) since 9/11 have been predicable, disturbing and laced generously with paranoia."

And

"Indians shrug it off and Americans respond with fixing the third shotgun in their cars gun rack) by the seismic waves of restrictions, gagging, acts that inevitably follow."

And

"Only Israel, secure in its Jewish nationalism and having (almost) selfless democratic machinery managed to do this successfully."

Stereotype: A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group. American Heritage Dictionary


If I read your article correctly, the Americans overreact, the Indians under-react, and the Israelis do it just right.

And then there's this gem:

"They need to craft precision surgical strikes based on the strong core of intelligence gathering and extensive cooperation among the countries of the free world. Alas, the power-hungry politicos across the globe know that these do not work as well as their scare tactics in filling up their ballot boxes and hence try to disregard them."

The leaders of the free world abandon effective cooperative antiterrorist tactics in favor of the "scare" vote. Did I get that right?

I prefer to believe that those in positions of power love their children just as much as I do mine. And that they put the welfare of their nation before self interest. In reality the two are the same. Only the most cynical could think otherwise.

I'm sure you're a nice well meaning person, but perhaps you should offer advice on subjects you're more familiar with.

#7
Guido
June 1, 2008
02:11 PM

George,

First and foremost, thank you for your service to our nation.

Even though I live in Italy, I try to spend a few months each year in north Florida where I grew up. I haven't seen the phobia you describe. Everyone seems to go about their business as usual. No doubt security in large public transportation centers is tight, but that's expected and welcomed by most folks.

I can't disagree that there's been an erosion of individual freedoms in the past 40 years...and more indirectly from the reactions to terrorism. I think the majority of new restrictions result from the enormous growth in government. And if my guess is correct, its going to get bigger post November.

But also in that time period, America has broadened and leveled the playing field to ensure our freedoms and rights reached everyone, not just a particular race. We should be proud of the efforts by activist, citizens, and government of the strides made in equality of freedom. Not to mention those that paid the ultimate price.

Ciao, Guido

#8
Harish
URL
June 1, 2008
03:15 PM

It was never a bitter pill to swallow but pin "pricks" of conscience.

I am amazed that as an individual who has trouble swallowing BS you have came up with a gem like this:

"I prefer to believe that those in positions of power love their children just as much as I do mine. And that they put the welfare of their nation before self interest. In reality the two are the same. Only the most cynical could think otherwise."

I may have been opinionated and agree that it may have sounded as stereo types.

Except in this case:

"Indians shrug it off and Americans respond with fixing the third shotgun in their cars gun rack) "

It was clearly stereo typing and I accept that it does not seem to be in good taste.

But I will never accept that I was wrong in portraying the governments' paranoia, inaction and lethargic attitude. I am sure you would never agree with me here, the difference between a pro-establishment and a liberal.

Let us then agree to disagree? :-)

#9
Guido
June 1, 2008
06:33 PM

Harish,

"It was clearly stereo typing and I accept that it does not seem to be in good taste."

Three things come to mind when I see someone step-up to the plate and admit error in a public forum; integrity, honesty, and character.

"But I will never accept that I was wrong in portraying the governments' paranoia, inaction and lethargic attitude.

Governments are not entities...they cannot have attitudes or be paranoid, inactive, or lethargic. So who in the government is? The President? Vice President? His council? Joint Chiefs of Staff? Congress? Defense Appropriations Committee? Home Land Security? CIA? FBI? DoD? Border Patrol? Everyone? I spent 22 years defending the nation...do I have a "paranoia, inaction and lethargic attitude"?

This is another sweeping generalization; the only element keeping it from being a stereotype is specificity to a group. Just insert a name between "the" and "governments".

"I am sure you would never agree with me here, the difference between a pro-establishment and a liberal."

It seems you have me pegged...and I you. Or do we? ;)

Ciao, Guido

#10
Harish
URL
June 2, 2008
09:35 AM

Hmmm...
I think we both have pretty much got who we are. The exchange of comments seems to be stereotypical of a PG and a Liberal :-)

Also, regarding what I said about the governments, request you to step out of the world you are in and look at it objectively. Concrete steps seems to be missing and that's what my premise is.

#11
Guido
June 2, 2008
11:29 AM

Your "premise" is a sweeping generalization with zero supporting facts, other than your sarcastic criticism of the "governments" sans any reference to a particular agency, person, policy, strategy, or tactic.

You offer this delusional one-line panacea as if you were the expert: "They need to craft precision surgical strikes based on the strong core of intelligence gathering and extensive cooperation among the countries of the free world."

Damn! Why didn't the combined efforts of all the free world's Intel and security communities think of that?

It must be because they suspected, "the power-hungry politicos across the globe know that these do not work as well as their scare tactics in filling up their ballot boxes and hence try to disregard them."

"... request you to step out of the world you are in and look at it objectively."

Thank you, but if that's your idea of objectivity, I'll stay here in fantasyland.

Finally, save your labeling for sorting your sox...you don't know me.

Ciao, Guido

#12
Ruvy
June 2, 2008
01:10 PM

Harish,

"Only Israel, secure in its Jewish nationalism and having (almost) selfless democratic machinery managed to do this successfully."

This may be a bit stereotypical. It is hard to avoid killing innocents, especially when terrorists hide among them to launch rockets. But for once, it was a pleasure to read....

I wish we were so secure in our nationalism as you make us out to be, and I sure do wish we had the democracy you make us out to have.

I read your article, and found it funny, if a bit sweeping. I remember writing to my brother-in-law (a county cop) shortly after 9/11 descanting on his obligations to protect the innocent thousands who shop at the Mall of America on any given Saturday.

He never even wrote back - not even to ask how we were doing in Israel (we had arrived a week earlier)! And now, you can't wear a t-shirt showing a robot carrying a gun! What irony!!

#13
Harish
URL
June 2, 2008
01:21 PM

Guido
Finally,I have someone well qualified to advise me on how to sort my laundry. Its tough to get someone good nowadays.

You have your views and I have mine. I am leaving it at that as pointless drivel bores me

Ciao
Harish

#14
Harish
URL
June 2, 2008
01:25 PM

Ruvy,
Thanks.

I guess you touched a raw nerve when you sent that mail.

#15
ushnishas
June 2, 2008
05:58 PM

Dear Ruvy,
Descant means a part of a piece of music which is sung or played at the same time as the main tune, but higher.

We used to sing songs in school, where some students sang the alto(lower range of notes) and some sang the descant (the high notes).

#16
commonsense
June 2, 2008
09:14 PM

Ruvy:

""I remember writing to my brother-in-law (a county cop) shortly after 9/11....he never even wrote back - not even to ask how we were doing in Israel (we had arrived a week earlier)!""

So, our friend has been in Israel for less than seven years.[EDITED]! The over-the-top nationalism of the newly converted....

#17
commonsense
June 2, 2008
09:24 PM

Ruvy:

""This may be a bit stereotypical. It is hard to avoid killing innocents, especially when terrorists hide among them to launch rockets."'

Regardless of the topic on hand, a one-track mind at work!

#18
ushnishas
June 2, 2008
11:12 PM

Ruvy takes the high notes.

#19
Ruvy
June 3, 2008
12:55 AM

Harish,

[Deleted] But at least you got a music lesson out of the deal, and (if you didn't) you now know the meaning of descant. (Sigh....)

My kids were sent a shirt with a map of Minnesota on it which they like a lot. Based on the dumb regulations that you cite in your article, do you think they would be picked up at the airport for espionage if they wore it on a (unlikely to ever occur) trip to the States?

#20
ushnishas
June 3, 2008
01:25 AM

Arre baba, he now fancies himself as Ram!

We cannot build your bridge for you.

Please let your kids wear their Minnesota T-shirt happily WITHOUT mentioning airport customs.

Is there a local choir where you can show off your singing?

#21
Harish
URL
June 3, 2008
02:29 PM

Ushnishas
You started on a strange comment about notes and then proceeded to rip apart Ruvy. I am sorry, didn't get your point here! Maybe I am not as complex as you thought.Also, I dont think she got the Lord Ram analogy or your exclamation "Arre Baba"

Ruvi,
If I were you I would make sure there are no marks or stains on the TShirt...never know what they come up with next. :-)

Common Sense...
Over the top nationalism of newly converted?? That sounds cruel. And terribly bigoted!! I would have thought comments should rise above such personal attacks.


#22
Ruvy
June 3, 2008
02:47 PM

Harish,

I'm a he, not a she - Ruvy is short for Re'uvén (which in Hebrew means "Look! A son!") - and you are right, I didn't get the "Lord Ram" part of Ushnisha's comment. But truth be told, if it was uttered in contempt (or derision), I'm not sure I really want to know or really care.

If the time comes that we ever journey again to the States, I'll make sure the kids (who will be grown men by then) don't wear the Minnesota t-shirt.

#23
commonsense
June 3, 2008
03:33 PM

Harish,

""Common Sense...
Over the top nationalism of newly converted?? That sounds cruel. And terribly bigoted!! I would have thought comments should rise above such personal attacks."'

Yes, I must admit it does, but appearances are misleading....since I presume, are new to Ruvy! [EDITED - IRRELEVANT]

Since you did write "pointless drivel bores me", I will not elaborate any further! You can always search DC for "Ruvy" and get a flavour of what I mean.



Since you did write,


#24
commonsense
June 3, 2008
03:51 PM

[EDITED- IRRELEVANT]

#25
commonsense
June 3, 2008
04:44 PM

fair editing!

#26
ushnishas
June 3, 2008
06:11 PM

Harish,
Ruvy said "I remember writing to my brother-in-law (a county cop) shortly after 9/11 descanting on his obligations to protect the innocent thousands who shop at the Mall of America on any given Saturday."
I pointed out that descanting means singing the high notes as an accompaniment.
Ruvy called us monkeys following him (edited out). That is why I said he fancies himself as Ram (Hindu God).
I hope that's clear. Now who fancies himself as Ravana(sophisticated learned villain of Ramayana). No more casting? Good.

#27
Ruvy
June 4, 2008
12:35 AM

[Unwarranted]

#28
Ruvy
June 4, 2008
12:40 AM

[Baiting and trolling]

#29
ushnishas
June 4, 2008
09:27 AM

Ruvy,

You're most welcome to the doughnut recipe. I have many Jewish friends, now settled in USA, I stay with them when I visit them, and I have a great admiration for Jews.
I visited Israel in 1990, met friendly people, and saw beautiful places. Jews are intelligent, brave and capable, and really they can cope very well. You don't need to worry so much.

#30
Ruvy
June 4, 2008
11:53 AM

Thank you for the kind words, Ushnishas. Perhaps someday, if you have the inclination, you'll visit here again, and come out to the mountains of Benyamin and Samaria, see more beautiful places and meet more friendly people.

You don't need to worry so much.
I think one of the 613 commandments enjoins us to worry.... ;o))

#31
ushnishas
June 4, 2008
01:07 PM

Thanks, Ruvy, I'd love to, but now I hardly travel. What impressed me was people in Israel were so easy to talk to, even if they spoke different languages. And the variety of food was amazing! from European streusel kuchen and stolle to Middle Eastern falafel.
I even got a soldier to pose with me in Bethlehem and another to take a photograph of us. They were both highly amused.

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