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Questioning Qantas

Becky Akers | Feb 1 2006

Undependable though Leviathan may be when delivering the mail or defending skyscrapers from terrorist attacks, it never fails to yield a good laugh. The latest in a ludicrously long line comes from those bumbling buffoons at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Margaret Jackson is the blond, bespectacled, fiftyish chairman of Qantas Airlines. She seems as Australian as kangaroos and koalas: cheerful, plucky, and no-nonsense. Only someone completely bonkers could suspect her of being an Islamic terrorist à la the 9/11 hijackers.

Which means, of course, that the TSA did. A screener named Bill rifled Maggie's briefcase last year at Los Angeles International Airport. In it he found the sorts of papers you might expect an airline's CEO to carry, specifically, cross-sections and diagrams of an aircraft.

Well. The nitwits who strive to protect us from deadly nail clippers and grandmothers in sandals came out swinging. According to Maggie, our man Bill asked her, "'Why have you got all of this?'"

She told him, "'I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas.' And this black guy, who was, like, eight foot tall, said, 'But you're a woman'."

Boy, nothing gets past the TSA these days.

Maggie was then subjected to one of the agency's infamous, warrantless, and unconstitutional pat-downs. After that, the goons interrogated her for an hour. Airline executives have apparently joined four-year-old children and men named David Nelson as the latest menace to American aviation. Fortunately for the TSA, Maggie proved a cooperative victim, willing to help it over the daunting intellectual hurdle of establishing her identity. First, she produced a sheet of Qantas letterhead with her name on it. Next, she sized up the mental midget with whom she was dealing and wrote a note on the letterhead:

"'Dear Bill, this is from the chairman of Qantas, who is a woman'."

A friend once used a similar ploy in his office building. The rent-a-cop in the lobby refused to let him take home a box of files from his office one evening about 8 PM without a signed note so authorizing him. My friend headed back upstairs, found his secretary's stash of letterhead, typed a note, and signed it. This worked the same magic on the rent-a-cop as Maggie's did on Bill. The difference is that the IRS robs us to pay for Buffaloon Bill's idiocy.

As absurd as Buffaloon's reaction to aircraft diagrams has been the reaction to Maggie's story, which she told a few weeks ago at a news conference in Beijing. Maggie was trying to publicize Qantas' introduction of direct flights between there and Sydney; when a Chinese reporter complained about Australia's airport security, Maggie described her experience with the even more insane American version. In other words, she was speaking off the cuff, without malice aforethought. And yet our poor Aussie made the mistake of mentioning Buffaloon's race. Predictably, Tinker-toy thinkers from across the political spectrum have booed and hissed her as a racist.

But Maggie's own reaction to the incident is as absurd as her critics'. What seems to have resonated with her was Buffaloon's incredulity at a woman's running an airline. And, again predictably, that's impressing everyone else, too, from reporters to bloggers. They thrill with righteous horror while denouncing Buffaloon and Maggie respectively as chauvinist and racist troglodytes. No account or commentary I've seen expresses even the slightest outrage at a woman's being detained, groped, and interrogated merely because she bought an airline ticket. Nor is anyone alarmed by the absence of a search warrant. Constitutional questions scarcely make waves in Oprah's America on a good day; when competing with juicy bits of political incorrectness, they sink without a ripple.

Neither Buffaloon's nor Maggie's comments threaten us any more than did the schematics in her briefcase. That doesn't stop the pinchbeck pundits out there from howling, however.

Meanwhile, Leviathan licks its chops and chortles at the serfs' stupidity...

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