TSA is on kabuki alert

America left its ticket and passport in the jacket in the bin in the X-ray machine, and is admonished. America is embarrassed to have put one one-ounce moisturizer too many in the see-through bag. America is irritated that the TSA agent removed its mascara, opened it, put it to her nose, and smelled it. Why don’t you put it up your nose and see if it explodes? America thinks, but does not say.

And, as always American thinks: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and embarrassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would even admit privately that all this harassment is only the government’s way of showing that it is “fair,” of demonstrating that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

That’s from Peggy Noonan‘s new book Patriotic Grace, as quoted here.

“No photos please, this is a press conference”

Occasionally, I witness an event so disturbing I have to post it on this blog immediately. Here is just such an event:

I was on my way home from work when I noticed a press conference outside the office (covering the Tokyo police force’s anti-drunk driving campaign with guest star Aya Ueto) . “Stop drunk driving once and for all!” read the signs. When I happened by, some boys in what appeared to be boy scout uniforms were speechifying about how they pledged to campaign against this serious public concern. Directly in front of the stage stood a tightly squeezed group of TV cameras and photographers.

So far so good until I noticed a security guard holding another sign: “No photography from cameras or mobile phones. We will remove anyone taking pictures.” No sooner did I appreciate the irony of ordering no photography at a press conference than an onlooker in a suit reached for his camera, only to be immediately approached by another man. The other man reached out and physically covered the lens of the camera with his hand. He was polite but firm: “No photos please.” I looked on in disgust and headed home soon after.

What a sad display. Here was a government-sponsored press conference and the public was not permitted to record the festivities, lest it cost a TV station some viewers or Dentsu (I am assuming) a bit of marketing power. In the US the police would have a prior restraint lawsuit on their hands. But even without making a free speech argument, it is simply pathetic to suppress citizen camerawork in favor of a media cartel.

Places I want to visit in Japan

Going through some of my (more than 100) unfinished blog posts, I found this list of sites I potentially wanted to see on my annual New Year visit to Japan. Oddly enough it is dated July 16, about a week before I move to Thailand. At the time I had no idea that 10 months later I would be living in Tokyo. Anyway, here is the list (places I have visited or at least passed by since then are crossed out).

Bank of Japan
Nintendo/Sega/SquareEnix/Sony Factory
Frog Bridge (I want to see waste in action, or is that waste inaction?)
Japan Post/Japan Post Corporation offices
National Diet Library
Soka Gakkai HQ
Tenri City
Aleph HQ
Agon-shu HQ
Tezuka Osamu Museum
Yasukuni Shrine
Christ’s burial ground
Political campaigns
Diet in session
State assembly/city councils
Anywhere hitchhiking

Places I already visited:
Diet Building
Roppongi Hills
A Kampo no yado