Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Liquid Bomb Issues

The FAA is relaxing the rediculously asinine standards on bringing liquids and gels onto airplanes...finally. For those of you who haven't paid attention, the rule was no liquids or gels could be taken through security, nor could those purchased after going through security be brought onto planes. This was stupid on so many levels that I can't possibly address them all. I'll try though...

First off, the after security thing (which is what is being relaxed). Is the FAA suggesting that you can purchase explosive liquids in airports after passing through security?!? Why the hell isn't that a security issue?!? I was very worried (one might say "terrified") on my last flight because there is a Ben & Jerrys' in Midway and I saw people purchase ice cream and I knew they were going to be getting on airplanes, and I didn't know if the airport employees realized that ice cream can be easily converted to a liquid by holding it for an extended period of time. The horror of melted ice cream that could easily conceal high levels of triglyserides that could, conceivably, cause an explosion of the waistline of the consummer, is not one that leaves after a night or two of restless slumber. (Of course the real problem is the ubiquitous airport Starbucks *shudder*.)

Second, and probably the bigger problem: the "advanced plot" that the purported terrorists were going to use would not have worked. There are lots of available explainations (like this one) but there are two key issues that, as a chemist, I feel compelled to share. One is that highly explosive compounds can be solids, or liquids, or gasses. Making you trash that water bottle, leave the shampoo, or drain your coffee cup is no more reasonable (from a safety standpoint) than making you hand over your pants, or trash your cell phone. At least pantsless, cellphoneless people on airplanes would cause amusing ackward conversation..."so, um, why do they call it a 'thong' anyway? I mean, nice ass. No, wait, um, I mean, oh, gosh it's breezy..." The other issue is that precursors to explosives are not explosives. Trying to create an explosive on an aircraft, is not just implausable, it is virtually impossible. Not that it wouldn't be dangerous, but it would be on par with someone setting fire to a sky mall catalogue (matches are allowed). The building I work in had a acetone-piranha explosion, which is basically what these wannabe suicide bombers would have (at best) created...it didn't even destroy the fume hood it was in, and it was likely quite a bit bigger than anything these terrorists could have caused.

A final point is that terrorists goal is not to kill us all and destroy our country; they cannot, not even close. Their goal is to scare us so much that we change our way of life. They are succeeding. Every time the FAA or some other government agency enacts some rediculous rule to counter an overblown or imaginary threat, the terrorists win. Every time some politician makes noise about terrorism, telling us how dangerous they are, terrifying us, the terrorists win. Every time they try and take away our rights to preserve our "security," the terrorists win. Every time we let them without speaking out or fighting back, the terrorists win.

I want my coffee back. It's cheaper and tastier. Damnit.

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