Bag Searches

It's bad enough to have to consent to a search of any bags you're carrying in order to take the subway. It's worse when this kind of thing starts growing out of control. Thursday, I heard the first announcements on the Long Island Rail Road train I ride to and from work every day that all bags would be subject to search by police. Had no idea this applied to the LIRR, too. I suspect that if I decided I wanted to avoid being searched, the chances of getting a refund for my monthly ticket would be pretty much nil.

Won't this be interesting to watch, as we forfeit yet more personal freedoms in the name of safety? These bag checks are going to do positively squat, and won't catch terrorists. They'll catch plenty of other folks, though:

The Associated Press said Suffolk County police arrested Gilbert Hernandez, 34, during Thursday evening's rush hour at the Brentwood Long Island Rail Road station after they searched his van and discovered a machete, imitation handguns, an electronic stun gun and chukka sticks in the vehicle. The police told The A.P. that Mr. Hernandez had been convicted of possessing a pipe bomb in 1996.

Initial radio reports I heard about this incident indicated Hernandez was caught with a shotgun and some ammunition. Interesting how the hysteria takes hold.

Last I checked, machetes were not illegal. I can only assume "imitation handguns" means some sort of prop, rubber training gun or toy. Again, not illegal unless one brandishes it like a real weapon. Unless I'm mistaken, stun guns are not illegal. "Chukka sticks," also known as nunchakus to people who actually understand what the hell they're talking about, are illegal in New York State, but last I checked only merit a misdemeanor. (This never made sense to me, considering nunchakus are simply two sticks with a short length of rope or chain strung between them. Nunchakus with foam padding on them are available in martial arts supply stores in Manhattan. The story didn't say whether or not the "chukka sticks" found were practice models or the real thing.)

So basically, the broadcast media reported that the searches were responsible for nabbing this guy. And it was seen as a good thing. Until people came to their senses and realized the police hadn't nabbed the guy with a shotgun and ammo as previously reported. So instead of capturing a terrorist, the police have used this new infringement on our rights to crack down on some local lowlife with a collection of not-very-dangerous junk.

When are we going to get on track with the "War on Terror" and take some action that catches some ACTUAL TERRORISTS? Because in this case, it looks like cops caught some guy on his way to martial arts class.