Sunday, April 21, 2024

Boston officials were vague on whether the end of the Democratic National Convention meant the end of random searches on our mass transit system. It looks as though it does.

The police presence caused a lot of general fear for civil rights and specific anxiety over getting to work on time, but the real problem was much different: The system was laughably porous, and therefore frustratingly pointless. And it was those things far more than expected.

From what the officials said, there would be police at T stations conducting random searches. No one had to agree to a search, but those who didn’t submit would have to leave, denied boarding and travel. This was silly because terrorists could easily have played the odds and tried to get some dangerous material on the system, gambling that a random search would be as likely to miss them as find them. If police did approach them, all the terrorists had to do is refuse to be searched, leave and try again to board elsewhere or later.

For instance, a terrorist with a backpack full of Thermos bottles labeled “Sarin nerve gas” could have tried to get on at Porter Square, been approached by a cop, left without being searched and walked 10 minutes to the Davis Square station to try again. True, clever police would coordinate and send each other descriptions of everyone who refused to be search. (An obvious but objectionable tactic, since the suspects would have been far more likely to be members of the ACLU than Al Qaeda.) But cleverness was not an issue, as there was no one with which to coordinate.

Many T stops had no active security presence at all for the week, so there were any number of points at which terrorists could have entered without a challenge. Only major stations were covered, a half-assed measure that requires a kind of dilettante terrorist — willing to die for Jihad, but, say, too lazy to walk a few minutes to avoid surveillance and capture.


This kind of complaint drives some people nuts. Here I am, right, opposing a police presence on the T and suggesting that it wasn’t done very well!

I’m hip. When Christopher Hitchens wrote in a June edition of Slate about Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” he blasted the filmmaker for seeming to demand more of what he opposed, and therefore being a hypocrite, lashing out at anything for the sake of lashing out.

It’s among many things in the movie Hitchens squalls about, little of the squalling being fair or reasoned. Hitchens has worked hard at perfecting tantrums that make the object of the tantrums look like the cause, but it’s a wasted effort. He comes out of it red-faced and snot-nosed, breathing heavily from the floor upon which he’s thrown himself, while the object looks on with gentle pity and shocked amusement, because a tantrum is no one’s fault but the child’s, and everyone knows it.

Here’s Hitchens, at length, on what he perceives as Moore trying to have it all ways:

From being accused of overlooking too many warnings — not exactly an original point — the administration is now lavishly taunted for issuing too many. (Would there not have been “fear” if the harbingers of 9/11 had been taken seriously?) We are shown some American civilians who have had absurd encounters with idiotic “security” staff. (Have you ever met anyone who can’t tell such a story?) Then we are immediately shown underfunded police departments that don’t have the means or the manpower to do any stop-and-search: a power suddenly demanded by Moore on their behalf that we know by definition would at least lead to some ridiculous interrogations. Finally, Moore complains that there isn’t enough intrusion and confiscation at airports and says that it is appalling that every air traveler is not forcibly relieved of all matches and lighters. (Cue mood music for sinister influence of Big Tobacco.) So — he wants even more pocket-rummaging by airport officials? Uh, no, not exactly. But by this stage, who’s counting? Moore is having it three ways and asserting everything and nothing. Again — simply not serious.

This is disingenuous. At the most base level, if Moore didn’t pay attention to what was going on in the world, rather than what he wishes were going on, what would he make movies about? People such as Hitchens feel it’s unfair for people to point out flaws if they don’t support whatever’s flawed in the first place, but it’s hard to think of a metaphor in which that makes sense.

Say you’re a vegetarian who orders a hummus sandwich and gets pastrami. Is it then ridiculous to point out that instead of lettuce, the sandwich uses rat droppings? Or say you’re a vegetarian who feels he’s been unfairly arrested. When lunch comes, is it ridiculous to be unhappy that it’s a hunk of meat and therefore inedible?

There are plenty of things that are undesirable that, once in place, might as well be pursued sensibly. If they’re not, obviously, they’ll make no sense. In the context of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and the Democratic National Convention, if there are going to be infringements on our civil rights, those infringements should be for some purpose (and ideally the stated purpose). Sacrificing and spending is bad enough, but sacrificing and spending for no reason is ridiculous.

If no sense can be found in them, or if they can’t be made to work, well … what’s the point?

Let’s leave that a rhetorical question.