After I called for a boycott of the airlines last month, I was inundated with hundreds of e-mails advising me that you readers were already doing exactly that.

Recent reports suggest the airlines are starting to feel the pinch financially despite the optimistic pronouncements of the same Wall Street types that gave Enron a glowing bill of health. Yet, amazingly, other reports indicate the abusive nature of airline and airport employees toward passengers is increasing.

Take, for example, the case of Richard Bizarro. (No, I am not making up his name.) This hapless guy needed to relieve himself last Saturday after his flight was within 30 minutes of landing. Because he had the audacity to break Uncle Sam’s bathroom curfew, he now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Yep, that’s right, folks – no joke – take a dump, go to jail.

Aren’t you inspired by how well the federal nanny state is protecting us from these toilet terrorists? I can only wonder what would happen if about 10 strategically seated protesters, er, passengers – who had consumed massive amounts of beans, beer and other helpful materials the day before – wanted to use the bathroom during the first 30 minutes of a flight and were denied access to the bathroom under threat of jail time. If they then decided to let nature take its course in their seats, I wonder how long the airlines would continue to support the FAA’s 30-minute rule.

It’s really only a matter of time before some flatulent soul finds he or she cannot retain yesterday’s meal. Maybe this has already happened. I’ll bet the leather seats in First Class clean up easier than the cloth seats in Coach. Either way, I’d rather not fly any more, thank you.

And I’m not alone. Other people are fighting back with their wallets. Why? Because it’s getting worse out there. The FAA seems determined to herd people like sheep, threaten them with prison time if they don’t kowtow, and continue their outrageous assault on our constitutional rights. Makes me wonder who the real terrorists really are.

If you decide to fly anyway, Paul Sperry has put together a handy guide to what the airport security personnel theoretically can and cannot do to you – not that such information has slowed the abuses by airport screeners. Want to know why? Look at what else Paul found out:

Interfering with or assaulting a screener is a federal crime. Assault is broadly defined as any harmful or offensive contact, or an apprehension by the other person that such contact is imminent. Under the new Aviation and Transportation Security Act, it carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both.

Doesn’t that endear you to your government masters? Look at a screener the wrong way and you may be spending 10 years in a cell with some bruiser named Bif who wants you to be his girlfriend. Upset because the screener is cleverly molesting your wife and daughters with his surrogate wand? 10 years! Protest her stealing the “dangerous” diamond pendant your husband gave you? 10 years!

The point is, these people have real power over our lives, and – even worse – they know there’s not a single thing we can do about it without it costing us big-time. So, at this juncture, you’ve just got to ask yourself: Is it really worth all of the hassle and risk to endure this sort of abuse just so you can fly?

Moving on, a couple of readers were appalled to learn I was advocating passengers be allowed to carry guns on airplanes. They failed to consider that up until the ’70s – when passengers still retained their Second Amendment rights – hijackings were unheard of.

I was also lectured about explosive decompression. I have it on the advice of an airline flight engineer that bullet holes will likely not cause explosive decompression. He was worried, however, that a bullet might rupture a hydraulic control line but, even there, it was pointed out that most commercial aircraft have redundant systems for backup in the event of an emergency.

So, I put the question to you: Would you rather risk the possible damage of a bullet, or just allow some terrorist an unhindered opportunity to blow up your airplane? This is not a difficult choice, people.

Finally, a few of you indicated you were concerned about the impact such a boycott would have on our economy. Not to worry. While the airlines continue to bleed red ink, Mr. and Mrs. America will be contributing to the automobile industry, the oil industry, the hotel industry, etc. In other words, your travel dollars will help other sectors of the economy while giving the airline industry something important to think about.

Go see America this summer, folks. Take the kids and have a grand time. But do it with your car, not an airplane.

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