Sick jokes tickle the American funny bone, though they probably shouldn't.
Such as, "What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in a swimming pool?" Bob, of course. Can't count the number of times I've heard that one.
A very unfunny, sick joke being played on the American people is the government's assurance that Americans are safer after 9/11 than we were on 9/10.
A while back, a friend sent me an e-mail that's a punch line to this humorless homeland security joke.
Tom had to be in Louisville one day, and his wife decided that after his business was transacted, they ought to patronize one of the casino boats.
These folks have only one car, so Tom took the bus, and his wife met him at the bus depot later in the day. His Louisville errand was done sooner than expected, so Tom had a lot of time to watch what goes on at a Greyhound station.
You know how many Greyhound buses travel the roads in this country every day? Me neither. But there are a lot of them, and several go very near the Romano Mazzoli Federal Building in Louisville on a daily basis. The bus terminal is only a couple of blocks away.
Here's what else I know courtesy of my friend's Greyhound ride from Lexington to Louisville:
Want to ship 30 or 40 pounds of plastique explosive -- or even old-fashioned gunpowder -- close to the federal building? Maybe detonate it real near the front door?
Put it in a cardboard box and wrap a few yards of duct tape around it, and a Greyhound employee will happily stow it in the belly of one of those big old vehicles for you.
Worried about bumping into a sniffer dog or sophisticated chemical-sensing device inside the terminal? No problem. Carry your ratty-looking box to the parking lot, and a Greyhound employee will load your bomb on the bus without you having to take it through the terminal.
Most of the passengers Tom watched get on a bus bound for Dallas appeared to be Hispanic. Your average Saudi -- those guys predominated among the World Trade Center bombers -- could put on a straw hat, jeans, boots and a Western-style shirt and blend right in. Few of us would notice whether they spoke Arabic instead of Spanish.
But how do you get your plastique into America if you don't want to risk buying or stealing some after you get here? That's another unfunny punch line. America's borders with Canada and Mexico might as well be a long stretch of bright yellow "Don't Cross -- Police Line" tape for all the security they offer.
Tom works around the horse racing industry, where nobody says much about illegals toiling away so the rest of us can enjoy the sport of kings. Every now and then, as a few of the workers are led away by immigration cops, they plead with their supervisors to keep their minimum-wage jobs open. Tom says they're always back in a week or 10 days.
I read all the time about slowdowns in airports in the name of security. In a letter to the editor of another newspaper a while back, a woman told of watching as her dying father, an invalid with Parkinson's disease, was made to take off his shoes -- not easy for a man shaking like an aspen -- to see whether he had stashed any razor blades there. Other security stupidities are reported on a daily basis.
The terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center aren't stupid. For less than what a tenured college professor makes in a year, they destroyed two of the tallest buildings in the world, killed almost 3,000 of us and rocked the U.S. economy. People clever enough to pull that off aren't dumb enough to try the same thing twice.
If I were in charge of homeland security, I'd be taking a hard look at all those Greyhound buses going everywhere, no security, big comfortable vehicles in which small brown people speaking a foreign language aren't much noticed.
It's a sorry joke, this claim that the Bush administration has made us safer.
Next time our grimacing president or one of the people protecting us talks about homeland security, think Greyhound.