Tummy shirts and the new Wen Ho Lee

Readers respond to Richard Bizzaro's in-flight escapade and the girls who went wild at Mardi Gras.

By Salon Staff
Published February 22, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Read "Too Bizzaro for words" by Amy Standen.

Whether the scenario depicting Bizzaro as defiant and alert is the correct one can only be determined after a proper trial. However, the fact that this scenario is completely plausible indicates a serious need to look at the program again. Badges? Come on now.

How about this for an idea: The air marshals carry a small electronic device similar to a pager. When they are about to spring into action, they enter a simple code (or use fingerprint scanning) to activate a light on the plane that says something like "Air Marshals in Action." The device starts flashing, and they attach it to their clothing to indicate that THEY are the air marshals. With training this could all be accomplished quickly.

Not foolproof, but close. And I'm pretty sure that's not the only idea that betters the status quo.

-- Blair Miller

Less than five months ago, frightened passengers cringed before casually dressed men armed with box cutters who had taken over the cabin of their flight across the United States. This month on Delta 1540, a plane full of frightened people did exactly the same, their hands on their heads in compliance with orders from casually dressed men with guns -- who got around to announcing their official status as the second, third or fourth part of their actions.

That this whole thing was complete nonsense is shown by the fact that Delta 1540 did not go into the steep descent that would have ensured the least possible danger from a bomb explosion on board. The plane seems to have continued on its scheduled altitude -- suicidally, had there been a serious risk of an explosion -- but some air marshals in sport clothes got their rocks off. Important to them, I guess.

Nothing in the FBI affidavit presented in Salt Lake City suggested that Bizzaro had acted in a threatening, intimidating or hostile way. Salon's account makes it clear he was guilty of looking over his shoulder, a potential felony punished by 20 years of imprisonment and a quarter million-dollar fine. The Wen Ho Lee of the new millennium.

-- Paul Lynch

This was an excellent article, because it tells the passenger's side of the story, which we don't get to hear in TV sound bites and news tickers. I completely understand Mr. Bizzaro's reaction to the men claiming to be sky marshals. I would certainly be doing the same thing, scanning around as much as I could and readying myself for any occurrence. Whether his claims of not hearing the announcement and not gesturing to another passenger are true or not, I cannot judge.

My question is, why didn't the flight attendant approach Mr. Bizzaro on his way to the bathroom? If it really is so important for all passengers to be seated within 30 minutes of landing, why didn't they notice that he left his seat until he was leaving the bathroom? Maybe he wouldn't have been so seemingly rude had they explained to him that he really should return to his seat, we already made the announcement, did you not hear it, etc. To accost him after the fact is just aggravating, insulting, and frankly shows a lack of awareness and vigilance on the part of the flight crew.

-- Kristine Funkhouser Nowak

Read "With Snoop Dogg and the wild tummy shirt girls at Mardi Gras" by Brett Forrest.

I greatly enjoyed Brett Forrest's take on Mardi Gras, but as a longtime French Quarter resident and member of several Carnival Krewes and Marching Clubs I'd like to throw in my two cents' worth (of beads, 'natch).

Mr. Forrest describes events along an eight-block stretch of Bourbon Street only, a boob and bead show that has become as tiresome as it is pathetic. Locals wouldn't be caught dead on Bourbon Street during Carnival for good reason; they know the real Mardi Gras is found anywhere away from the "titties for tourists" bullshit that becomes more corporate, exploited and ludicrous every year.

Mardi Gras is a year-round activity for many people of New Orleans. The work and money that goes into the costumes, Krewes, secret societies, Marching Clubs and countless (and nameless) silly traditions is immense. One of my favorite Fat Tuesday "can't miss" events is the annual "Jeering of the Jesus Freaks" in Jackson Square. It begins at about 2 p.m., or whenever the drunken ringmasters of Marching Clubs show up.

Have Mr. Forrest contact me before he follows the tourists to Bourbon Street next year -- he'll still see plenty of boobs, but seeing some of the real Mardi Gras would improve his perspective.

-- Rob McMahon

As a New Orleanian, I feel compelled to tell Brett Forrest that what he described in this piece is precisely why many inhabitants of the city are confounded by what Mardi Gras has come to represent to most outsiders. While Mardi Gras is certainly about having fun and letting the good times roll, there's a bit more to it than boobs and beads.

Incidentally, while Mr. Forrest did take the time to imply that Southern girls apparently have a corner on the "going wild" market, I've lived in Louisiana long enough and seen enough of Bourbon Street -- during Mardi Gras and throughout all the seasons of the year -- to know that he's dead wrong, at least when it comes to New Orleanian women.

The response of any local woman I know, when beckoned by a visiting reveler to "show her tits," is that you shouldn't approach a local if you want to see skin.

-- Julie Johnston

I am glad to see that even Salon can't leave Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Once again, we have the same hackneyed truths about the celebration, but this time there is the hook. Congratulations.

I myself, a lifelong resident of the city, was a few blocks away from the roiling mass of tourists. If the reporter had bothered to leave the smallest area of the city and actually tried to meet a local, he would have had a pleasant time down on Frenchman Street, where New Orleans music is being stretched into the new century and hedonism is still an avowed way of life and not a temporary distraction from studies.

-- Charles Brown

Salon Staff

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