Tag Archives: homeland security

If Fascists Are Efficient, Trump’s Bumbling Makes Us Safe

Worried about President Trump's incipient fascism? Don't fret - there's no way this bunch of dysfunctional morons could possibly run things as efficiently as real fascists like Hitler and Mussolini!

Worried about President Trump’s incipient fascism? Don’t fret – there’s no way this bunch of dysfunctional morons could possibly run things as efficiently as real fascists like Hitler and Mussolini!

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SYNDICATED COLUMN:
Donald Trump Isn’t Bluffing About Deporting 11,000,000 People

During the run-up to America’s war against Iraq, I told audiences that Bush would certainly win reelection. Some people broke down in tears.

That’s my job: telling people things they prefer not to hear, especially about the future. Being Cassandra isn’t much fun. Because we live in a nation in decline and yielding to incipient fascism, the more I’m right — i.e., most of the time — the more I annoy my readers.

So please believe me when I say this gives me no pleasure: Donald Trump isn’t bluffing when he threatens to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

Are you undocumented? Prepare to go underground.

Are your papers in good standing? Are you a good person? Prepare a hiding place in your home.

Dark days are ahead.

Do not take comfort in the fact that Trump flip-flops on all sorts of issues. Contrary to his initial, typically strident position on abortion, the master demagogue now says women needn’t fear imprisonment if they terminate their pregnancy (unless he changes his mind again). Even his much-ballyhooed Great Wall of Trump along the Mexican border may wind up as half a wall. He does this a lot.

But there’s no way he’ll back away from mass deportations.

Why are deportations different? Radical nativism, as defined by this promise to deport illegal immigrants, every single one of them, defined his campaign from the start. It’s why he’s here. It’s why he won.

Reneging on deportations would be like Bernie Sanders asking Goldman Sachs for donations or Hillary Clinton changing her gender — it would betray the raison d’être of his campaign. He can’t back down without losing most of his support.

The optics of the biggest forced population movement since those carried out by Hitler and Stalin would be awful. Police kicking down doors. Women and children dragged off in the middle of the night. Neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, spouses — disappeared.

Countries of origin would be reluctant to absorb millions of new arrivals, all unemployed, many of them who came to the U.S. as children and thus have no memory of their “home” countries. So the Trump Administration would have to build concentration camps to house them.

Because the idea is so outlandish, so fundamentally un-American, it’s too much to contemplate seriously, even for journalists. They’re in denial. If Trump wins, however — and it’s entirely possible he will — he will carry out his plan.

Legally, there’s nothing to it. Trump doesn’t need an act of Congress. He doesn’t even have to sign an executive order. All he’ll have to do to set this outrage in motion is pick up the phone and tell the head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to do his or her job: enforce the law.

Camps cost money. So do more agents. No problem. President Trump can shift his budget priorities in favor of ICE. He’s already said he would triple ICE’s enforcement division from 5,000 to 15,000 officers. The FBI would have to pitch in.

Backlogs in the nation’s 57 existing immigration courts run as long as two years. The system would have to be expanded.

I look to Trump’s authoritarian impulse to turn initially to the federal budget. I imagine him making a pitch that goes like this: “I won because the American people wanted my business acumen in charge of government. Congress has totally messed up the budget process with their budget stand-offs. Let me take care of the budget, and I promise you an end to this crap. Take your kids to a national park and I guarantee it won’t be closed due to some government shutdown, believe me.” Compliant media + perceived mandate + popular exhaustion = Trump gets his way.

Sad but true: subtracting 11 million people from the population, and thus two to four million from the workforce, will put money into the pockets of everybody else. Fewer workers means labor has more clout. Wages will go up.

Meanwhile, deportations will empty housing stock. Rents will decline.

In the short term, anyway, Trumpism could stimulate the economy. That would be popular.

Establishmentarians can’t imagine that Trump would actually go through with mass deportations, much less how he would carry them out. “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years when we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” says Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.

You don’t need imagination to game this out. You need history.

Right-wingers will call the cops to report their undocumented neighbors. As in Nazi-occupied Europe, anyone with a grudge against someone without a valid I-9 form — resentful ex-boyfriends, etc. — will drop a dime to Trump’s jackbooted thugs. Checkpoints will spring up on roads, at bus stops, in train stations. Not that they have to; mass surveillance by the NSA ensures that the feds already know where illegals live.

It won’t be hard to find judges to issue warrants based on those reports.

For Trump, deportations are a political necessity he can easily execute. For his critics, they won’t occur because they would run against our societal values. “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea,” Chertoff says, “it ain’t happening.”

More than most people, Chertoff ought to know better. After all, he served under a radical right-wing president who convinced us to go along with perpetual war, concentration camps, legalized torture, invading foreign countries for fun, killer drone planes and a new cabinet-level bureaucracy whose mission — and very name, Homeland Security — evokes Nazi Germany.

It doesn’t take much to convince Americans to accept the unacceptable.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography Trump, comes out July 19th.)

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Bye, Bye, Body Scans: Let’s Get Rid of the TSA

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Here’s a modest proposal: get rid of airport security.

I’m serious. Let’s get rid of the whole insane nightmare of TSA checkpoints. No more taking off your shoes and removing your belt, no more possibly carcinogenic and definitely humiliating body scans, no more long lines. Dump the x-ray machines (which also aren’t good for you). Really.

Yeah, yeah, I understand why we have all that crap: 9/11. Also, hijacking planes became so common during the 1970s that “I’m taking this plane to Cuba” became a sitcom joke.

getting rid of the TSABut I’m willing to bet – with my life, and yes, yours, but also those of everyone I love and care about – that eliminating airport security as we know it would be a boon in many ways.

First and foremost, the hassle of flying would be greatly reduced. Shorter travel times would increase the appeal of flying; there are many people like me who drive up to six or eight hours in order to avoid flying in large part because of airline security. Because the roads are more crowded, people are dying.

Reports Bloomberg: “Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day.”

More passengers means more profits for the airlines and more face-to-face business meetings, both of which would be awesome for the economy. The impact could be enormous: during the five years after the 9/11 attacks, passenger volume dropped by 5 percent.

A recent study found that Americans avoided 38 million trips by air in the year 2013 in order to avoid security checkpoint hassles at the airport, costing the U.S. economy at least $35 billion that year alone. Extrapolating over the 14 years since the September 11 attacks, we are looking at a loss of half a trillion dollars in economic activity.

Second, taxpayers would save $7 billion a year by eliminating the TSA. That money could go to any number of better priorities, or it could be used to build more terror drones, or whatever, but still: $7 billion a year. (Obviously, we would need to find jobs for the 55,000 screeners.) That’s a lot of money, and well worth saving.

What would happen terror-wise?

What would happen terrorism-wise? Probably nothing.

Every day, millions of Americans get on subways and buses in American cities without the slightest pretense of a security check. How many of them blow up? Zero. Every day, millions of Americans ride medium-distance commuter trains and buses with similar happy results, despite the fact that they don’t have to go through a scanner first. The same goes for long-distance trains, long-distance buses, ferries and so on. (The TSA has recently begun targeting Amtrak and other forms of ground transportation, but only sporadically and – by all accounts – with no apparent results other than annoying everyone.)

If taking off our shoes is preventing another 9/11, why don’t terrorists target these other forms of transportation? Because they don’t want to, or can’t.

You are at least 2000 times more likely to commit suicide than to get killed by a terrorist.

To clarify: I’m not talking about getting rid of security. I’m talking about getting rid of the airport security checkpoints currently run by the Transportation Security Administration. I would maintain and even beef up security behind the scenes. Every plane should have several armed sky marshals aboard. (That’s not currently the case.) Check-in suitcases and cargo must be carefully tracked and scanned.

And what if someone brings a gun onto your next flight?

What if someone brings a gun on board? I’ve seen it happen. Get this: it was not a problem.

It happened in Afghanistan. Flying out of Kabul airport on a domestic flight a few years ago, I was surprised and amused to see that all of the US supplied x-ray machines were turned off and/or out of order. Passengers filed by; no one was searched. When it was time to board the flight, I observed several people casually stowing weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, in the overheads. I’m writing this, so obviously nothing bad happened. And this was in an active war zone.

Afghans aren’t crazy or stupid. If a passenger on an Afghan plane tried to use a gun to hijack a plane, he have to contend with a planeload of similarly armed men determined to stop him. Chances of success: slim.

Which is exactly what would happen here. Since 9/11 there have been a number of incidents in which mentally disturbed people raised hell on American planes. Invariably they were overpowered, restrained and turned over to the authorities, usually by a coalition of passengers and crewmen.

That happened on a bus in Seattle recently.

let's get rid of the TSA Ted RallAnyway, it’s not like the current system screens everyone equally.

Pay $85 and submit to fingerprinting, and you can get out of having to take your laptop out of your bag, keep your shoes on, and your jacket thanks to your membership in the TSA’s PreCheck program. Determined terrorists, especially 9/11-style suicide bombers, aren’t going to be deterred by the application fee or the fingerprint requirement; after all, they know they aren’t going to be prosecuted after the bombing.

Oh, and I bet you probably guessed this one: most airport employees don’t go through any screening whatsoever. “One of the greatest vulnerabilities for this airport and probably any other major airport like MIA is the insider threat,” Lauren Stover, security director for Miami International Airport told CNN a month ago. It’s a story that many people missed at the time, but box cutters were found on several planes grounded after the 9/11 attacks; officials suspected that they were placed on board as part of an “inside job.”

In other words, they are making old ladies take off their shoes while ignoring the real threats.

Besides, whatever power there is in the argument that people who pass the TSA vetting process are less likely to commit terrorist acts is obviated by something that frequent travelers know: at many airports, security staff routinely direct ordinary, non-screened, non-PreCheck members into the PreCheck line. Which exposes the program as a fraud. And yet: there have been no attempts to hijack an American airliner since 2001.

Civil aviation demonstrates the pointlessness of airport security checkpoints. Every day, tens of thousands of airplanes leave and land at airports all over the United States, carrying passengers and cargo that haven’t undergone a screening. Defenders of the current system might argue that the risk from a smaller plane is, well, smaller. But I suspect the real reason has more to do with the fact that the wealthier, whiter pilots and passengers in the civil aviation system are simply more privileged.

Based on fear and paranoia, sucking countless man-hours and dollars out of the US economy every day, airport security in 2015 is like a religious ritual, something we all do even though nobody knows why, and those who do know that there is no reason whatsoever to do it.

Bye bye, TSA!

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Fact Terrorist

comic-2013-08-23.jpg

We gave up our privacy to corporations. But that was voluntary. And it wasn’t to the government – the organization that runs concentration camps.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Where’s the Legacy?

Political Malpractice and Missed Opportunities under Obama

I’m on book tour, promoting “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.”

In “The Book of Obama” I argue that Obama is America’s Mikhael Gorbachev. Like Gorby, The One (Oprah’s phrase) is the most progressive, decent and intelligent leader his system is willing and able to allow to rise to power; like the reformist of perestroika, Obama’s fundamental not-so-badness—coupled with his…ineffectiveness? cluelessness? conservatism? exposes the fact that the system is the problem. That voting for a better/less evil leader can’t bring about the changes we need, because what the 99% view as problems—unemployment, underemployment, the growing gap between rich and poor—are things that the system views as not merely desirable, but necessary. Its raison d’être.

Among progressives it’s a given that Obama has been a disappointment. At my signings people keep asking me: Why? Why hasn’t the president lived up to the hopes and dreams we invested in him? Sure, the Republicans have blocked him at every turn. But he doesn’t seem to try.

Why not? Is he a wimp? Or were liberals wrong about him—was Obama an establishment conservative from the start?

I don’t know what’s in Obama’s heart. Frankly, I don’t care. It’s all about policies: either you’re for good policies, or you’re not. If you are, you fight for them with everything you’ve got. If not…

Like most pundits, I tend to focus on the negative. So this week let’s look at Obama’s signature accomplishments, the things he actually did get done: healthcare reform, his statement support for gay marriage, and last week’s Dream Act Lite, his order that Department of Homeland Security stop pursuing the approximately 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally.

It took three years for this President to do something that brought a smile to my face. So I owe him this: Nicely done, Mr. President. (Sure, it’s just a political ploy, a play for the Hispanic vote. But other things Obama should do, but won’t—unlimited unemployment benefits, assistance for foreclosure victims, a new WPA—would be popular too. Pandering to the people is called democracy.)

Millions of people—the lucky 800,000, their families and friends—finally have their foot in the door. Early signals from GOP bosses indicate reluctance, even if they win this fall, to revert to the bad old days of rounding up kids and deporting them to “homes” they don’t know, whose languages they don’t speak.

Yet, like so many of his more positive acts, it came later than it should. And it should have been built to last.

The Dream Act failed in December 2010, just after the Republican sweep in the Congressional midterms. It would have passed if not for the craven, bigoted “nay” votes of five Democratic senators spooked by the election results.

I keep thinking back to 2009. Democrats had both houses of Congress. A filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Obama enjoyed a worshipful media. Sky-high public opinion polls. Why didn’t the president propose the Dream Act then, when it would probably have passed, sparing 800,000 kids terrible uncertainty—not to mention those who got swept up during the last three years? (While we’re at it: what’s the point of letting kids stay in the U.S. and deporting their parents?

Back in 2009, was Team Obama guilty of political ineptitude? Obsessive focus on healthcare? We don’t know. The result of their neglect of young immigrants amounted to political malpractice at least, bigotry at worst. (There were, after all, more deportations of illegals under Obama than under Bush.)

Worse than too little and/or too late, Obama’s announcement in support of gay marriage came so late that it might as well not have happened at all; by the time he spoke out, gay marriage had become a historical inevitability. Talk about political malpractice! What is more ineffectual than irrelevance? Like the Homeland Security directive on illegals, it came as big, good news to millions of people. But it could have been handled earlier, proactively, and—not incidentally—paying bigger dividends to the president’s reelection effort.

Less clear but with broader implications was healthcare reform. “Have you had enough of Obamacare?” Tim Pawlenty asked a crowd at a pro-Mitt Romney rally. “Yes!” they shouted. But there is no Obamacare. Not yet. Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the Administration’s biggest achievement, it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. After, perhaps, President Romney takes office. What was Obama thinking? If nothing else, wasn’t he worried about his historical legacy?

My guess is that he cares less about his legacy, or changing things, than the political horse race. He likes winning as an individual more than he cares about changing the world.

Obama has a few chances left to prove me wrong. He could still close Gitmo by executive order. He could also propose a federal law legalizing abortion, forcing the GOP to counter the 77 percent of Americans who told the most recent Gallup poll that they’re pro-choice. It would be a bold move, one that would resolve the decades-long legal limbo that has left abortion rights in the hands of the Supreme Court. Is Obama incapable of bravery? Of vision? Or is he using the threat of a Romney SCOTUS to threaten women into voting for him?

No one knows.

All we can do is consider the president’s actions.

(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at MSNBC.com)

(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: We Learned Nothing From 9/11

Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and Vulnerable

They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn’t learn anything.

Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.

The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart—but we blew it.

First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. “We are all Americans,” ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.

The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11—supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes—should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.

It wasn’t time to act. It was time to think.

It was time to lick our wounds, pretend to act confused, and play the victim. It was time to hope the world forgot how we supplied lists of pro-democracy activists to a young Saddam Hussein so he could collect and kill them, and forget the “Made in USA” labels on missiles shot into the Gaza Strip from U.S.-made helicopter gunships sold to Israel.

It was time, for once, to take the high road. The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.

Instead of assuming a temperate, thoughtful posture, the Bush Administration exploited 9/11 as an excuse to start two wars, both against defenseless countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. Bush and company legalized torture and ramped up support for unpopular dictatorships in South and Central Asia and the Middle East, all announced with bombastic cowboy talk.

Smoke ’em out! Worst of the worst! Dead or alive!

By 2003 the world hated us more than ever. A BBC poll showed that people in Jordan and Indonesia—moderate Muslim countries where Al Qaeda had killed locals with bombs—considered the U.S. a bigger security threat than the terrorist group.

In fairness to Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Bush’s other leading war criminals, everyone else went along with them. The media refused to question them. Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, cast votes in favor of Bush’s wars. Democrats and leftist activists ought to have pushed for Bush’s impeachment; they were silent or supportive.

9/11 was “blowback”—proof that the U.S. can’t wage its wars overseas without suffering consequences at home. But we still haven’t learned that lesson. Ten years later, a “Democratic” president is fighting Bush’s wars as well as new ones against Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Now he’s saber-rattling against Syria.

American officials correctly inferred from 9/11 that security, particularly at airports but also in ports where container ships arrive daily from around the world, had been lax. Rather than act proactively to close gaps in transportation security, however, bureaucrats for the new Department of Homeland Security created a gauntlet of police-state harassment so onerous that it has threatened the financial health of the aviation industry.

“Aviation security is a joke, and it’s only a matter of time before terrorists destroy another airplane full of innocent passengers,” wrote Barbara Hollingsworth of The Washington Examiner after the 2009 “underwear bomber” scare. As Hollingsworth pointed out, the much-vaunted federal air marshals have been removed from flights because the TSA is too cheap to pay their hotel bills. (This is illegal.) What’s the point of taking off your shoes, she asked, when planes are still serviced overseas in unsecured facilities? No one has provided an answer.

Ten years after 9/11, there is still no real security check when you board a passenger train or bus. Perhaps the sheer quantity of goods arriving at American ports makes it impossible to screen them all, but we’re not even talking about the fact that we’ve basically given up on port security.

While we’re on the subject of post-9/11 security, what about air defenses? On 9/11 the airspace over the Lower 48 states was assigned to a dozen “weekend warrior” air national guard jets. Every last one of them was on the ground when the attacks began, allowing hijacked planes to tool around the skies for hours after they had been identified as dangerous.

Which could easily happen again. According to a 2009 report by the federal General Accounting Office on U.S. air defenses: “The Air Force has not implemented ASA [Air Sovereignty Alert] operations in accordance with DOD, NORAD, and Air Force directives and guidance, which instruct the Air Force to establish ASA as a steady-state (ongoing and indefinite) mission. The Air Force has not implemented the 140 actions it identified to establish ASA as a steady-state mission, which included integrating ASA operations into the Air Force’s planning, programming, and funding cycle. The Air Force has instead been focused on other priorities, such as overseas military operations.”

Maybe if it stopped spending so much time and money killing foreigners the American government could protect Americans.

On 9/11 hundreds of firefighters and policemen died because they couldn’t communicate on antiquated, segregated bandwidth. “Only one month away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” admits FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, “our first responders still don’t have an interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety. Our 911 call centers still can’t handle texts or pictures or video being sent by the phones that everyone has.”

Because the corporate masters of the Democratic and Republican parties love the low wage/weak labor environment created by illegal immigration, American land borders are intentionally left unguarded.

A lot changed on 9/11, but not everything.

We’re still governed by corrupt idiots. And we’re still putting up with them.

What does that say about us?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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Homeland Security Boat Ride
Posted by Susan Stark

The ferry that runs from Staten Island to Manhattan and back is undeniably one the greatest free boat rides in the world, if not THE greatest. It provides a stunning view of the New York Harbor, from the Verrazano Bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn and defining the border between the harbor and the ocean, to the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. Tourists from all over the world experience this ride, as well as locals looking for a cheap, fun activity. But the ferry is also an absolute necessity for the 70,000 Staten Islanders who commute to Manhattan to work each day.

And ever since that fateful day six years ago on the 11th of September, the ferry experience has suffered.

For Staten Islanders like myself, we have a painful reminder of the missing Twin Towers, because they used to be the first thing we saw of Manhattan when coming down to the ferry terminal. Now we only see the absence of them.

After the attacks, the ferry was suspended for ordinary traffic, and only “essential personnel” where allowed into Manhattan (rescue workers, policemen, firemen, etc.). It wasn’t until the following Monday, on the 17th, that the ferry was open to foot traffic again.

But, in a certain way, the Staten Island Ferry is still suspended. The carefree boat ride isn’t what it used to be.

It started with the unfortunate but necessary suspension of car-ferry service, in which Islanders and other New Yorkers could drive their vehicles onto the ferry and across the water. Fear of car bombs put a stop to that. Car-ferry service has not resumed.

Worse, as far as I’m concerned, is the banning of musicians on the ferry. We used to have performers come on the ferry, much in the same way the subway still does today. Now they’re not allowed, allegedly because passengers wouldn’t be able to hear announcements over the PA system. However, I don’t ever remember the music being so loud that we couldn’t hear the loudspeaker. That enjoyment is a casualty of September 11th.

Another troublesome difference was the installation of security cameras on the boat. Apologists would say that, like the car-ferry and musician ban, this protects us. But I feel like I’m in a department store rather than on a free ferry ride, with roving little cameras fixing their beady little black eyes on me. In any case, the cameras aren’t much use against a terrorist, except for maybe identifying what happened after the act of terror occured, assuming the cameras weren’t disabled either before or after.

And if the musician ban and department-store cameras weren’t bad enough, there is the Coast Guard. I shouldn’t ever regret the presence of the Coast Guard, because of their search-and-rescue training. But on the little Coast Guard boat that escorts the ferry occasionally, there’s a wicked-looking semi-automatic perched up right were it can swivel and shoot a ferry passenger at will. Ostensibly, any shot-down ferry passenger will be a terrorist, but mistakes can be made, and innocent bystanders can be hit instead.

And, to top it all off, just last week I was on the ferry listening to my radio, when an NYPD helicopter decided to trail the boat, loud enough to drown out what I was listening to. I was outside on the top deck, so I got a pretty good view of the helicopter circling around the boat. Finally it “faced” me and started moving sideways, like some weird, flying crab. Presumably there might have been a reason for it’s presence, but if anything was happening on the boat, I don’t see what good a helicopter could’ve done.

I always believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and sensible precautions such as banning cars and using dogs to inspect bags and packages are necessary. The rest of it, unfortunately, is just a lessening of enjoyment and a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

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