photo: Jim Linwood on Flickr

An article in Wednesday’s New York Times noted how residents of Seoul are taking Tuesday’s artillery shelling of a South Korean island by North Korea in stride, viewing that event as “largely contained and unthreatening.” How different that is from the panic-driven banning of toner shipments to the US after the failed attempt to bring down airplanes with toner-bombs. Using the toner-bombs as buildup, TSA now is forced to “justify” its eight month delay in its over-response to the failed Mighty Underpants Eagle bomb. Oh, and returning to the Korean situation, the Times notes that the Korean attitude is “We don’t want war.” That’s not quite the position of prominent right-wing nutjob Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, whose response to the shelling was “I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs.”  The calm resolve of our Founding Fathers has given way to panic driven by hate and fear, producing a nation of xenophobic cowards.  Enemies of the US need not even be successful in killing a single person to be able to drive us into hate-filled screeds and billions of dollars in useless “security” measures.

Here is how the Times described the South Korean response to the shelling incident:

The forests on distant Yeonpyeong Island were ablaze on Wednesday, one day after a ferocious artillery exchange between North and South Korean military units. But to many residents of Seoul, the violent attack on the tiny island seemed largely contained and unthreatening.


The incident rattled diplomatic nerves in capitals not only in the region but also around the world. Residents of Seoul, however, seemed to display only a mild anxiety on Wednesday, caught somewhere between calm and dread, and maybe breathing a collective sigh of relief that things had not escalated.


“This is extremely serious,” he [John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul]  said. “In all my conversations today, the first thing people are saying is, ‘We don’t want war.’ On any level — human, economic, political — there’s just no appetite for it.”

Those who would be most affected by an escalated conflict in the Koreas have no appetite for war, but from the comfort of his keyboard command post, Glenn Reynolds would love to see nuclear conflagration:

JUST WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . .

Lest we think it is only right-wing nutjobs whose responses to threat are miscalibrated, our government is showing how ready it is to overreact to provocation as well. Here is a press release from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano:

“Following the thwarted terrorist plot last week to conceal and ship explosive devices on board aircraft bound for the U.S., the Administration took a number of immediate steps to increase security by tightening existing measures related to cargo bound for the United States.

Some of the steps that have been taken by the Department of Homeland Security included adapting inbound cargo targeting rules to reflect the latest intelligence and ordering a ground halt on all cargo coming from Yemen. In addition, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole and a team of TSA inspectors visited Yemen to meet with government security officials and to assist in enhancing Yemen’s security procedures, which are necessary to eventually lift the ground halt on cargo.


Toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces will be prohibited on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States. This ban will also apply to certain inbound international air cargo shipments as well.

Yep, that’ll show ‘em. The War on Toner has begun. But John Pistole finds himself in the hotseat now, simultaneously defending his massive deployment of Rape-Scanners and gate rape for those who refuse the scanners while at the same time “explaining” why it took a full eight months to implement this over-response to the failed underwear bomber:

If the threat of underwear bombs became known last Christmas, why did airport screeners only recently begin aggressively checking for them?

The answer is two-fold, Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole told reporters Tuesday. First, the lack of a permanent leader at the TSA hindered change, he said. Secondly, the agency needed time to train screeners on the new pat-down protocols.

The underlying assumption here is that the US panic response should be instantaneous rather than taking months to implement. God, how I miss Douglas Adams, who maintained that as long as we know where our towel is and we heed the “Don’t Panic” advice on the cover of our guidebook, we can handle any of the evils the galaxy throws our way.

Update: Before I even hit “publish” on this diary, it seems the New York Times realized it wasn’t doing its part in the War on Calm. The original title of the article in the first link above referred to how calm the people of Seoul have remained in response to the attack, but the title has now changed to “Nerves Are Rattled in Seoul by Attack on Island”. I regret that I did not capture the original title. All fear, all the time…