The government admits it really wants to see your genitals at the airport

And we thought things couldn’t get any stranger.

Earlier this week, I suggested it might be the end of the world for travelers, thanks to a preponderance of odd events. I was kidding, of course.

But I should have written that post yesterday when the TSA out-bizarred all of us by publishing a post delicately titled, A Friendly Suggestion on Products Designed to Conceal Sensitive Areas, on its blog.

I’m not kidding this time. Read it for yourself.
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“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment”

The transcript from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” isn’t available yet, but here’s what we know: There was a lot of hemming and hawing — here’s a sample — and one keeper quote that could define her tenure.

“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she told Candy Crowley this morning.

Excuse me?

Look, I don’t have a problem with letting Napolitano put a little spin on her accomplishments, but let’s be realistic about it. The last two years have been awful for air travelers, with new restrictions, security procedures and invasive, unconstitutional searches being performed in the name of homeland security.

The Secretary is blowing smoke.

And what’s worse is, we’re inhaling.
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably not home for Christmas

No, you’re stuck at the airport or in a motel, waiting for the winter storm to pass.

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for heavy snow in the mountain counties of North Carolina not bordering Tennessee, the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia, and the North Carolina foothills. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are under a winter storm watch. Airlines are proactively canceling flights and waiving cancellation penalties.

Western Europe, which has been battered by winter storms, has it even worse. About 200 people spent the night at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which cancelled 400 flights because of snow and ice.

I spent a good part of yesterday fielding calls from reporters who wanted to know what to do if winter weather disrupts your holiday travel plans. Unfortunately, by “travel” they meant “air travel” — and that’s not how must of us are getting home. More than 90 percent of us are driving or taking the train. Or trying.

Do I have any advice for stranded travelers?

No, not really, other than to sit tight, pull out a good book or click on your favorite travel blog, and wait for the weather to pass. Airlines consider blizzards to be an “Act of God” and they aren’t required to do anything under their onerous contracts of carriage. As for motorists, when’s the last time you negotiated a meal voucher from a car that’s stuck in a snow drift?

I do, however, have some interesting holiday reading.
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TSA denies it turned off body-scanners on “Opt-Out” Day — but where’s the proof?

Two weeks after declaring National Opt-Out Day a failure and renaming it TSA Appreciation Day, the agency charged with protecting our transportation systems has formally denied it turned off its full-body scanners in order to squelch the pre-Thanksgiving protests.

“As soon as the media started reporting that Opt-Out Day was a bust, reports started coming in from blogs stating that TSA had intentionally shut down the Advanced Imaging Technology machines,” the agency says in a blog post. “This claim is utterly and completely false as AIT operations were normal throughout the holiday travel period.”

There’s just one little problem. In denying that it cheated in order to disrupt Opt-Out Day, TSA has offered no credible evidence — other than its own word — that the scanners were working.
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Lawsuits against TSA are piling up quickly

The Transportation Security Administration’s little body-scanning/pat-down problem isn’t just keeping us media types busy. Lawyers are having a field day with it, too.

The latest lawsuit against the TSA was filed earlier this week by two Harvard Law School students who claim the airport security checks involving full-body scanners and pat-downs are unconstitutional. The suit claims the screenings violate their Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures.

Here’s a rundown of the most high-profile cases.
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With a little help from TSA, 2011 could be a flat year for travel

With the economy slowly rebounding, 2011 was shaping up to be the best year for travel since the recession began. Prices were expected to rise only slightly, and people were making plans to take a long-postponed vacation.

But now that the Transportation Security Administration has introduced full-body scanners at many American airports, and subjected those who opt out of the machines to an “enhanced” pat-down, the 2011 outlook has changed, say travelers.

“I’m torn about whether I’ll travel more next year or not,” says Jeff Cohen, a stock trader from Austin, Tex. “I tend to go on a couple of large trips a year and was planning a major trip for the first half of 2011, to somewhere exotic. But the recent TSA crackdown has me rethinking that.”
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From the frontlines on Opt-Out Day: “Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying”

Edmond Valencia had an 8 a.m. flight out of Albuquerque today, and since this is one of the busiest days for air travel, he arrived with time to spare.

It’s a good thing.

There were protesters at Albuquerque Sunport holding signs that said, “The Terrorists are Winning,” and “Go Ahead and Sexually Assault Another 2 Year Old.”

They were being interviewed by print and TV media. The man stated that he is a Marine veteran of three Iraq tours. He felt that the liberties he fought for were being eroded by the actions of the TSA.

Then it was Valencia’s turn to go through the security line. He flies about once a week, so he’s used to the screening procedures. Or so he thought.
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