Friday, August 31, 2007

Fly the Unfriendly Skies -- courtesy of Big Brother.

I have said it in the past, and I will say it again. Avoid flying into the United States. If you are flying to any country that may require a stop over, or even refueling in the Unites States, don’t take it. You will be treated like a criminal. You may well be manhandled by ill-mannered, arrogant, thugs who work for the Department of Homeland Security. These are the security police. Their authority is boundless and they can make your life a living hell if they wish and periodically these cretins do so just for the entertainment value.

Now many people have no desire to actually travel to the United States but some airlines may stop over to refuel or they may have to catch a connecting flight. Don’t do it. First, you will need to clear passport control and customs. They you will be required to recheck your luggage and reboard. What you could comfortable do in freer times in one hour will now take you four hours or more.

It is is also possible that you may be denied entry to the United States. If that happens you will not be allowed to catch your connecting flight out of the US. You will be deported back to your point of origin and your record will be stamped that you were denied entry into the United States. Depending on where you are from you may need a visa just to change planes. And that is time consuming and costly.

On top of this the United States security police will take your photos and your fingerprints as if you are a common criminal. Your data will go into the Big Brother data base the United States is compiling on every person they can. The reality is that the US government now treats all people as if they are criminals and threats people anyway they wish. I can assure you that the travel industry, the airline employees from flight crew to baggage crew and airport employees mostly despite and hate the petty little thugs that DHS has put in charge of the airports.

I read travel forums to see what visitors to the United States are saying about their experiences. They aren’t selling a story, merely reporting their own experiences. An Australian tells of traveling with his family. At the US airport the “security” people were screaming at tourists. His youngest child was “selected” for additional security -- might be bin Laden in disguise you know. The child is afraid and the security thugs refused to allow the mother or the father to be near the child to comfort him. The terrified child started crying. I know how he feels. He tried to complain and was lectured that America is different now and get used to it. He said: “What the hell has happened to the country lately? I love the US, I love traveling there, I love the people, but where did they dig up these security people?”

Now I see that airline pilot Patrick Smith, at Salon is complaining. He says: “When it comes to airport security, we've been sheep from the very beginning, but this emerging pattern of willing submission to vague, unconfirmable threats from invisible "terrorists" is pushing things to a new level.”

He recounts a story where there was some sort of altercation on a plane with Clay Aiken the singer. Passengers were kept in their seats until DHS officials could interview individuals. One passenger wrote that a cabin crew member said: “This is 2007, and you need to watch what you say on a plane.” This sort of thing, when I was growing up, you only heard in films set behind the Iron Curtain or in Nazi Germany. Not anymore. Welcome to the Unfriendly Skies of Homeland Security.

This sort of authoritarianism is impacting travel to the United States as travelers now try to avoid transit through the country. And I don’t blame them. Unfortunately, when America was a free country, it prospered and airlines there blossomed. As a result many connecting flights still travel through the United States.

But capitalism sees a need and starts to fill it. I know a lot of Kiwis were shocked when they discovered that flights to London, via the United States, meant they would be subjected to interrogations, fingerprinting, hours of hassles, and rude actions by arrogant little people in uniforms. Now Air New Zealand has responded.

For years it flew to London, from Auckland, with Los Angeles as the stopover. They have now dropped LA airport and divert planes to Vancouver instead. Air New Zealand is letting people know that their flights will allow people to never set foot inside the United States. Gee, George isn’t that just great for the reputation of the country?

They aren’t alone. Air Canada used to fly to Sydney with a stopover in Hawaii. That meant stopovers required all the problems that Bush has inflicted on world travelers. Air Canada is dropping the Hawaii stopover and advertising to travelers this “will enable global travelers to avoid the United States.”

Wikitravel has a page of information on how travelers can reach various parts of the world, from other parts of the world, without ever setting foot behind the Iron Curtain. This is what has happened to America in the last few years. People are now going out of their way to avoid American soil. Airlines are now advertising flights with routes which are created to avoid US territory.

I suspect it is only a matter of time, if it doesn’t already exist, that some entrepreneurial travel agency will establish a web site to help travelers, anywhere in the world, book flights that will take them where they need to go without stopovers or refueling stops within US territory. The US government has made life at airports so unpleasant that people are willing to pay extra just to stay out of the country.

Not long ago I spoke with an old friend who lives in Canada with her American husband. They recently traveled to China. In conservative jargon that would be “Communist China” or “Red China” said with an appropriate sneer. She said that getting into China was easier than traveling the United States. When a communist dictatorship makes traveling easier than does the United States government you know that something has gone terribly wrong.

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