Terrorist Fear Mongering Seems to be Working Less Well

BART, the San Francisco subway authority, has been debating allowing passengers to bring drinks on trains. There are all sorts of good reasons why or why not—convenience, problems with spills, and so on—but one reason that makes no sense is that terrorists may bring flammable liquids on board. Yet that is exactly what BART managers said.

No big news—we’ve seen stupid things like this regularly since 9/11—but this time people responded:

Added Director Tom Radulovich, “If somebody wants to break the law and bring flammable liquids on, they can. It’s not like al Qaeda is waiting in their caves for us to have a sippy-cup rule.”

Directing his comments to BART administrators, he said, “You know, it’s just fearmongering and you should be ashamed.”

Posted on October 15, 2008 at 7:07 AM32 Comments


Clive Robinson October 15, 2008 8:30 AM

@ Bruce,

The more people keep picking at the scab the more it will bleed.

But in the process the infection gets washed from beneth the scab and exposed to the steralising light of day.

Keep picking 8)

Sparky October 15, 2008 8:33 AM

But ofcourse that shouldn’t be an excuse to create stupid rules.

Besides, it sounds like an evil plan:
1) Have some rules, but don’t enforce them
2) create some crazy new rules, but nobody cares to attempt to stop you, since you don’t enforce rules anyway
3) start enforcing the rules

Somehow, I find it very sad that we’re even talking about this. This sort of thing (application of common sense against fear mongering) should be so common that nobody would bother to write about it.

bayguy October 15, 2008 8:53 AM

How about instead of worrying about coffee cups they address the real issues, such as protecting innocent by-standers from gunfire (as happened on Monday at a BART station).

sooth sayer October 15, 2008 9:13 AM

It’s bad idea — it’s not the spilled drinks alone but also the litter it will inevitably cause.

These people must learn to stop stuffing their face for 20-30 minutes in a day; after all it’s not a fundamental right 🙂

NYC subway doesn’t allow drinks and it’s much cleaner (now) — and no one bothers if you are packing conditioner.

Impossibly Stupid October 15, 2008 9:28 AM

I love that the accompanying photo puts the focus on the cup, the contents of which we’re supposed to be so worried about, while just out of frame and out of focus we see a much larger purse that could presumably contain anything.

Andre LePlume October 15, 2008 9:34 AM

My commuter line allows drinks — alcoholic ones, to boot. So far, the terrorists haven’t one.

vwm October 15, 2008 9:56 AM

Wait a second, is it actually banned to bring bottled liquids into the train, or is it just a prohibited to eat and drink?

I mean, if it’s the first, how do people from San Francisco get their daily shopping home? And if it’s the second, … well, terrorists drinking flammable liquids is not that much of an issue, is it?

Roxanne October 15, 2008 10:05 AM

It makes it sound like passengers haven’t been bringing home hairspray and WD-40 in their briefcases before now. Go figure…

They just don’t want to clean up the mess when folks drop their paper cups of soda on the floor.

Andrew Stern October 15, 2008 10:05 AM

Drinks are not allowed because BART trains have carpeted floors (so nice when they’re clean, and they also have the effect of dampening a lot of the rail sound). Carrying a sealed drink or bottle is perfectly acceptable.

A note: BART director Tom Radulovich is up for re-election as BART director this election cycle. After reading his comments RE: the sensationalist managers, I’m very happy to vote him back in to office.

Paul October 15, 2008 10:14 AM

Perhaps people are, at last, being rudely awakened to reality. Their well-being is more likely to be damaged by the economy than Al-Qaeda, while their life is threatened more directly by greedy health insurers than by terrorists.

At least I can hope that’s what is going on.

EastCoastResident October 15, 2008 11:57 AM

People who drive cars don’t really “GET” the bus/train commuting issues.

Food and Drink don’t really matter. Well, allowing them does save you a few extra minutes out of your day by letting you can eat breakfast/dinner while traveling. Which becomes important when a 30 minutes commute by car takes 90 minutes by bus/train, and the boss wants lots of unpaid overtime.

But overall, as far as mess is concerned, food & drinks don’t really matter.

It’s the person in the seat next to you who drank too much alcohol and who is now vomiting repeatedly into the air ventilation ductwork that you need to worry about. (I so WISH I was making this up.)


As for security. On buses/trains these days, there are cameras everywhere. There’s a driver. He has a radio. Most folks have cell phones. Not to mention that, in most areas of this country, you can usually count on at least one person being armed.

Buses & trains are safe.

Now the half a mile plus walk TO/FROM the bus/train stop, and the long waits involved, all on dark barely lit (or unlit) unpatrolled streets in economically depressed areas. That’s russian-roulette.

It’s not a question of whether you will be mugged, but when. How bad your injuries will be. Whether you will recover. Or even survive.


Worry about that. Anything else is a smokescreen.

EastCoastResident October 15, 2008 12:02 PM

One more point: If your floor can’t handle spilled food/drink, how will it handle rain/mud/snow/ice?

Well, ok, BART probably doesn’t have a lot of snow/ice issues. But over here on the east coast, we do. And everybody has rain/mud being tracked in.

Nylarthotep October 15, 2008 12:25 PM


Funny how that prohibition of guns in Frisco seems to be stopping all that illegal use of guns at the BART.

Seems like that prohibition is as effective as the proposed prohibition of liquids would be at stopping a terrorist.

Nick Lancaster October 15, 2008 2:15 PM


BART extends throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including stations in Hayward.

The fuss about food/drinks on BART covers the entire system, and is made even sillier by the fact that Peet’s Coffee has been awarded a contract for kiosks inside BART stations. So you can buy coffee at the station, but you can’t drink it on the train.

Call me crazy October 15, 2008 6:07 PM

Call me crazy, but shouldn’t they just ban explosives. I mean is there a specific ban against C4? What could possibly stop some one from setting off a slab of c4, unless there is a municipal code explicitly banning them from all forms of public transportation? Further more there needs to be an public awareness campaign letting people know that c4 is no longer permitted to be carried aboard any form of publication. We need giant billboards with universal symbols depicting the non permittance of C4. We need songs the children can sing relaying the imoportant message to all in their distance.

Nick Lancaster October 15, 2008 6:28 PM

@Call Me Crazy:

“I love you, you love me
Keep our transit terror free
It’s a PSA we hope won’t get ignored
No explosives go onboard …”

Cecil_T October 15, 2008 6:58 PM

Nice –

“[That’s] just fearmongering and you should be ashamed.”

I’m going to steal that one.

Andrew October 15, 2008 7:50 PM

EastCoastResident says: >> Not to mention that, in most areas of this country, you can usually count on at least one person being armed.

Not so much in California. There are less than 200 CCW permits in the county where that kid was shot and died in front of the ticket agent (protected by bullet-resistant glass I might add). Most of them are held by politicians, lawyers and developers who think BART is a good thing for someone else.

BART PD isn’t much either. They don’t seem to have grasped the concept that crime takes place on the trains and in the stations as well as in the parking lots and on the roads in between BART stations.

I’m not amused at the time wasted on counter-terrorist sippy cups.

BART Schmart October 15, 2008 11:03 PM

While we’re on the subject of BART fear-mongering, how about the fact that they have closed a number of the restrooms in the system because of “security concerns” and kept them closed since 9/11? Total hogwash – they’ve been using that excuse to simply save custodial costs for seven years now. I just love the repeating audio announcements about how those restrooms are closed “until further notice”. They’ve been saying that since 9/12/01…

Daylight October 16, 2008 11:54 AM

The words “terrorist” and “terrorism” have been causing me acid reflux for quite some time now.
It’s well behind schedule that the public in general stop crediting the blatant fear-mongering and dilution of those terrible concepts.

My Shout! October 16, 2008 4:19 PM

I’ve got to start reading these more slowly….

I thought they (BART) were reacting to a rash of patrons consuming Flaming Sambucas.

John Waters October 18, 2008 2:31 AM

Nevermind the fact that last month a sleeping man was beaten to death on a Philadelphia Subway by a guy with a claw hammer, while several people, including a toddler accompanying the attacker, watched and did nothing.

I wonder when they’ll try to take our CCW permits away. OH WAIT! The new sheriff of Orange County, Ca, is doing just that!


David Harmon October 20, 2008 10:52 AM

one reason that makes no sense is that terrorists may bring flammable liquids on board.

You mean, like, um… most hard liquors? 😉 (I still remember a college acquaintance demonstrating “fire-breathing” with Orzo….)

alethiophile October 20, 2008 9:09 PM

a sleeping man was beaten to death … with a claw hammer

How the hell do you sleep through being beaten to death with a claw hammer?

Clive Robinson October 20, 2008 10:26 PM

@ alethiophile,

“How the hell do you sleep through being beaten to death with a claw hammer?”

Quite easily if the first blow renders you insensible, incapacitated or dead (ie to an weak points of the skull such as the sides and back).

Also do you know what the seating arrangment was?

For instance with across the carriage seating (as is quite common on metro systems) you could have easy access to somebody from above and behind.

Therefor if the attacker just grabed hold of your coat at the back of the neck etc and pulled it over the back of a seat you would be very much helpless as you would have little or no ability to move away from the attack or make any kind of meaningful response.

Also remember most people are slow to wake and you could get a lot of blows in with a typical “handyman” claw hammer in 30 seconds.

However even if you where fully awake but just say reading a paper the advantage of surprise would probably be more than sufficient for an attacker to do the job with a couple of blows which would be to fast even for fully alert bystanders to stop the attack.

Few people have either the training or natural alertness/ability to withstand a suprise attack even when it’s expected as a possability, it’s why ambushes work so often as you cannot remain hyper vigilant and alert for even quite short periods of time. And contry to what you see in the movies you don’t just leap into action unless your “hind brain” has had it drummed in via training and experiance. It’s why soldiers go through so many ambushes etc during basic and later training it gets you to react instinctivly which is probably the only way you will survive a suprise attack. The downside with such training is that you will respond instinctivly, which is why in the British army it was accepted that you where not responsable for your actions in the first 30 seconds of being awoken from sleep.

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