Viva la Contrebande!

At what point do you suppose hapless American passengers will cry, "Enough!"?

When screeners grope them? When those same perverts molest their children? When air marshals gun them down in cold blood?

Nope. But deprive folks of their lip balm and lotions, and revolt brews.

The Washington Post reports that a month after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) banned liquids and gels in carry-on bags, they’re still sliding past security checkpoints onto planes. Sometimes the smuggling isn’t deliberate (one passenger "said she rushed to catch an early plane and didn’t know until she landed that she had two lip glosses in her carry-on bag") but often it is. "There is no way I’m putting my Chanel [perfume] in a checked bag," one woman told the Post. And who can blame her? Passengers have long suspected the "T" in TSA stands for Thieves. What’s more, the TSA confirms it: the agency admits to receiving around "2,100 new claims [from passengers for u2018lost’ or stolen property] per month though calendar year 2005.” And "checked baggage accounts for approximately 85% of claims volume."

Ergo, the savvy traveler tucks his valuable or indispensable gels and liquids in a pocket or his carry-on. He counts on incompetent screeners and inadequate technology to succeed in his smuggling. Fortunately, the TSA abounds in both.

The bureaucracy also abounds in gall. It expects passengers to welcome its nonsense by voluntarily handing over their tubes of sunscreen and toothpaste. (Given the TSA’s imbecility, it probably expects terrorists to do so as well.) Apparently, the TSA chugs the same Kool-Aid as the IRS, also notorious for urging its victims to help it victimize them.

And so we have TSA spokesgal Ellen Howe threatening fines of "several hundred dollars" while admonishing “travelers" to "realize this isn’t a game.” Yo, Ellen, it isn’t travelers who think it’s a game: according to a recent survey, you’ve bamboozled most of them. No, it’s you bureaucrats, with your silly strictures and irrational "reasoning," who are playing games. Lipstick isn’t a weapon, OK? Not even if it’s Fire Engine Red — unless you’re 3 years old and you swiped it from your mother’s bureau so you could scribble on the walls Daddy just painted. Nor does lipstick somehow transmogrify into a WMD when a lady manages to retain hers despite the thugs at the checkpoints. Indeed, I may be going out on a limb here, but I daresay every passenger on a packed flight could carry a tube onboard — heck, they could even uncap and brandish ’em mid-flight — and the plane would likely still get where it’s going.

“The threat is real and it continues," Ellen, like the threat, continued, "and we appreciate the public’s cooperation." What’d I tell you? The IRS Syndrome. "Is it the perfect system? No. But does it make it right to sneak things through security? No, it doesn’t.”

What a hoot! "Please don’t show us for the fools we are, even though you easily can. Please be nice to us and play along." Ellen, if you’re going to appeal to our better nature, you have to believe we have one first. Treating us like terrorists doesn’t exactly boost your credibility here.

More troubling is Ellen’s implication that obeying a bureaucracy’s rules is "right." Within living memory, bureaucracies have shoved people into gas chambers in Europe, starved them on collective farms in Russia and China, and shot them as they ran from homes the bureaucracy torched in Waco, Texas. No decent man obeys them. Rather, he adopts Jefferson’s immortal epigram as his own: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."

Rebels against this particular tyranny fall into two categories so far. The first comprises those practical souls who spurn the ban as more TSA lunacy. They agree with Gary Boettcher, a pilot and the president of a trade association concerned with security, who says, “The whole screening process is a faade to make the public feel safe, to show that the government is doing something.” These folks are danged if they’ll suffer chapped lips or contagion merely to further that faade: "[Some passengers] say they’re simply not going to tolerate the new rules. They admit that they ignore the restrictions….One woman said she slipped her Blistex lip balm into a pocket because her lips dry out on flights…. A business executive said he always traveled with hand sanitizer in his pocket because he worries about germs on planes. He has made about 10 trips since the restrictions went into effect and hasn’t been caught."

The second group is even more heartening to lovers of liberty. These are Jefferson’s heirs, equating disobedience to tyrants with the highest morality: "[I’m] guilty, guilty, guilty [of smuggling stuff past the TSA]" said one, "and god [sic] bless the other american [sic] patriots who defy this crap rule w. me." Said a second, "Stupid, worthless, hysteria-driven rules. Deliberately instituted to instill fear." And a third: "I am not going to be a lamb and let them take my things, we are free, right?"

Not anymore.