Monday, May 9, 2011

And Never The Trains Shall Meet

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) seems to have decided that Americans are not sufficiently put upon by machines that effectively strip them naked when they board a plane, lists that prevent some Americans from boarding a plane at all, with absolutely no recourse for people added to that list in error (or deliberately, with political malevolence), etc. etc.

So Sen Schumer wants to remedy a disparity: he wants to impose similar restrictions on people who ride Amtrak trains. That's right: he wants a "no-ride" list, initially including the demonstrably faulty "no-fly" list.

Um, Sen. Schumer... [stage whisper...] it's not about the passengers. America will be the target of terrorism even if we check every passenger on every city bus against a printed list that would extend from here to the Moon. Terrorism will persist if we stop and check all drivers in all vehicles for driver licenses, voter IDs, passports, whatever. Terrorists will assault America if they have to walk to the next town to do it. Terrorists intent on attacking trains will attack tracks, tunnels and bridges, not the passenger compartments of railroad cars, because they can do so much more damage that way. Terrorist attacks are the inevitable fate of anyone who decides to play the biggest mofo on the block... and the US seems determined to be just that.

In Iraq, are those who use IEDs aboard the vehicles they blow up? No? Then why would they be aboard a train they intend to destroy? They know where it's going: it's not as if the train is going to change routes all of a sudden. Measures to discover IEDs brought aboard trains are a reasonable precaution, and monitoring tunnels, bridges etc. may be worth the effort. But no-ride lists are nothing but security theater. It's simply not about the passengers.

There's also the fact that a bomb on a train... literally on the train... has a relatively local destructive effect. Blow up a plane, and everyone aboard dies; gravity does part of the work. Crash a plane into a skyscraper... well, you know about that. But set off a bomb in a railroad passenger car? It would have to be quite a bomb to kill more than a few people.* No, terrorists will go after tracks, tunnels and bridges.

Senator... this is the stupidest proposal I've heard in a long time, excepting only Paul Ryan's "Path to Pathology" budget. Why don't you just give it up now, before we spend billions of dollars on totally ineffective "anti-terrorist" measures that probably make real terrorists laugh?

* In the 2004 Madrid commuter train bombings, thirteen IEDs were placed on trains and set off at peak traffic times. While many people were injured, fewer than 200 were killed. Bombs carried onto trains are, at best, devices to terrorize, not devices to kill large numbers of people.


  1. Chuck Schumer is an idiot. We need high speed rail to provide a solution to the energy and transportation. I suppose I'm a bit biased because my dad and grandpa were railroaders and rode the train frequently as a child. I hope they don't put the TSA in charge of security for passengers -- they are idiots, too.

  2. Chain, chain, chain, Train of tools. Bad on the DINO's---again!

  3. Kay, mandt -

    Kay, anything that discourages any sort of mass transit, and particularly rail, or discourages people from using that mass transit, is just plain bad for America. People say that buses have the "advantage" of being easily rerouted all over creation; I maintain, instead, that it is better to have cities develop in concentrated neighborhoods along fixed rail lines. And between cities, there's truly no reason not to prefer rail.

    mandt - good one! Schumer doesn't impress me much, but he's a powerful senator, and will probably get his way on this.

  4. Schumer's my Senator and I generally like him. But I agree -- this proposal is terrible!

    By the way, last night I tried to post a complimentary comment on a poetry post of yours near the top of the page. But blogger wasn't working, and now I can't seem to even find that poetry post. I hope Blogger didn't eat it! It was very clever.

  5. Mad, thank you. Blogger was "bloggered" last night and most of today, and is still not completely restored. I have moved... at least temporarily... to a WordPress blog listed in the post at the top of this page,

    and that's where new material is now posted... plus a reprint of the doggerel you saw. See you over there, I hope.



• Click here to view existing comments.
• Or enter your new rhyme or reason
in the new comment box here.
• Or click the first Reply link below an existing
comment or reply and type in the
new reply box provided.
• Scrolling manually up and down the page
is also OK.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes