Richard Reid tried to light a bomb in his shoe with a match, and was quickly subdued by other passengers. There was no real indication that the bomb would've even worked had he succeeded, which he didn't. Ever since, we've all taken our shoes off to go through airport security, even if we're wearing flip flops.
Eight British men planned to fill sports drink bottles with concentrated hydrogen peroxide and detonate them in airplanes, hoping to kill some 1500 people. They were caught before they even got to the airport. Ever since, we've all had to limit the liquids we carry onto airplanes to about the size of an airplane liquor bottle, and to present them all in a quart-sized plastic bag.
Now some joker from Nigeria sets his crotch on fire in an almost hilarious attempt to take down a Nothwest Airlines flight over Michigan, a man so inept that he failed to harm anyone at all besides himself, and rumor has it that the TSA's response will include such measures as no getting up or having anything on your lap in the last hour of an international flight into the US, even if you are incontinent or your four-year-old has to go to the bathroom; being limited to one carry-on bag for some reason; and, get this, no electronics of any sort allowed to be used or even powered up during the flight, no matter how long it is or how much work you have to do (hat tip to John Cole at Balloon Juice for the link).
Ladies and gentlemen, we've officially gone off the deep end at this point. The first two measures were ridiculous enough (and they are, truly, ridiculous), but at least they bore some connection to the supposed 'threat.' Shoe bomb? Check everybody's shoes. Liquid explosives? Limit the liquids allowed. Despite the fact that both plots were highly unlikely to succeed, and indeed were not successful, nor even came close, there is always, in times like these, of fear and fearmongering, the need to appear to be doing/have done something. But I defy anyone to explain how some jackass with a condom full of gasoline strapped to his inner thigh setting his junk on fire means that I shouldn't be able to listen to my iPod on a ten-hour flight. Seriously.
I've always had a big problem with the whole 'Terrorists hate our freedom' meme. Sure, there are some radical conservative Muslims that do genuinely hate the freedoms our civilization affords us, much as there are some radical conservative Christians who genuinely hate those freedoms, too. But the September 11 attacks were not motivated by ideology, they were motivated by geopolitics, by the fact that we as a nation feel it is not only our God-given right, but our sacred duty, to project our military might throughout the world and to meddle in the affairs and bomb the shit out of people in faraway lands who would mostly like, just like most of us, to be left alone to live their lives as best they can.
Terrorists do not hate our freedoms, terrorists hate our actions.
But the real problem with the whole 'Terrorists hate our freedom' meme is that we keep thinking that if only we curtail those freedoms, the terrorists will stop hating us. Not only are we wrong about that, but with every incremental step away from those freedoms, we lose the thing that makes our civilization worth fighting for.
It's easy to go to extremes when you're afraid, and there are certainly those who want you to be afraid, who derive advantage from the climate of fear we've been mired in these last eight years. Al Qaeda for one. The Republican party for another (had this attack happened under Bush's watch, we'd have Senior Administration officials on every cable channel telling us to tape up our windows and go shopping). People who, at the end of the day, lack sufficient faith in the strength of America, both as a nation and as an idea. People who forget that the fourth plane that fateful morning was brought down by ordinary Americans who figured out what was happening and decided 'Not if I have anything to do with it.'
So to the folks at Al Qaeda, I say: Fuck you, you fucking jokers. Your attempts to scare us are more pitiful with each try. Go back to your caves and cower, cuz we're gonna find you, and if you're very lucky, we'll just kill you when we do.
And to the folks in-country trying to scare up some panic so they can try and talk us into giving up our freedom for a little bit of illusory security: Unbunch your panties and man the fuck up. Seriously, you're starting to embarass the rest of us.