On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Potemkin Security

Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot who writes at the New York Times travel blog, Jet Lagged. While I would guess that he is driven more by the personal indignity of being subjected to the same stupid procedures as passengers, while the catering and cleaning people move freely about airports, that doesn’t affect the truth in his article: The Airport Security Follies.

Taking off your shoes and giving up sippy cups and pudding makes no one safer. The whole process is designed to cow people into submitting to “unreasonable searches and seizures” that do not, in fact, make them any safer. In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow there will be restrictions on the lithium ion batteries that you use for your cameras and MP3 players. No word yet as to why they magically become a threat on January 1st, and are not a threat until then.

People need to complain, but they know if they do, they will show up on the watch list. As PZ Myers pointed out about torture, the real purpose of these measures is to control the population through fear.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

That’s as true today as it was in 1759.


1 Alice { 12.31.07 at 4:57 pm }

If I’m reading the regulations correctly, spare lithium ion batteries are only a threat when inside checked luggage. As a carry-on, they’re still classified as a non-threat. Makes sense to me. Glad the TSA’s on it.

2 Bryan { 12.31.07 at 5:51 pm }

We have the headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command, so these guys travel with their equipment. They are in locked cases and and in checked baggage, but they regularly travel with a pistol, a rifle, a sawed-of shotgun, and a submachine gun. That’s OK, but the spare batteries for a digital camera might cause a problem?

Some day sanity will return. I hope I’m around to enjoy it, because I’ve stopped flying altogether.

3 Michael { 12.31.07 at 7:02 pm }

I can’t stop flying altogether. But travel by air has become a huge drag that one must face with resignation and fortitude (intestinal or otherwise), instead of something that should be relaxing and inspiring. Why must we now try to meet people at the baggage claim area, instead of at the gate like civilized beings? Am I the only person in the United States (since the rest of the civilized world has not gone along with our 2005 paranoia) who thinks the very idea of having to schlep through security in my stocking feet is just gross–and an open invitation to all manner of nasty bacteria/viruses/fungi? Whatever happened to the idea that if you’re going to hold someone hostage for four or five hours in a hermetically sealed aluminum tube with 300-400 complete strangers, you should at least feed them and offer them something approximating entertainment (and by “feed” I most emphatically do not mean crappy bags of peanuts or snack mix, or overpriced “snack boxes” that you must purchase over and above what you’ve already paid for your ticket)?

Julian Fellowes says, in the commentary on the Gosford Park DVD, that his great aunt (from whose recollections he drew many of the incidents he used in the screenplay for that movie) told him that his generation would never get to experience the pleasures of traveling–by which she didn’t mean the pleasure of arriving in another country, but rather the sense of effortless comfort in which people of her age and station traveled in bygone days when they could afford flocks of servants to make sure that the baggage was properly attended, reservations secured, and transportation engaged. I’m beginning to understand what she meant by that–and seriously wishing we could turn back the clock to her era, at least in that one respect.

4 Cookie Jill { 12.31.07 at 7:55 pm }

They’ll frisk little old ladies but don’t do screening of the cargo hold.

Yeah…right. I feel so much safer. I’m staying on the ground. When you hear of Air Traffic Controllers having to land planes by communicating via cell phone and with pilots and air traffic controllers being worked monster hours with no sleep…time to hug the ground when you travel.

5 Bryan { 12.31.07 at 8:51 pm }

When I was in Europe I made several trips back the US on Pan Am 747s. Real meals, using real silverware, in large seats [I still wear the same size clothes, so it isn’t my expanding waist-line that makes the seats smaller], and that was in coach flying military stand-by. First Class today barely meets the standards of 1970s coach.

We had security because the various terrorist groups were high-jacking aircraft on a regular basis, but it made sense.

Today people travel under the conditions that are similar to steerage on the immigrant vessels of the late 19th century. How soon before conditions degenerate to those of the slave ships?

You are no longer allowed to complain without being arrested. That’s unAmerican! Every American has the inalienable right to bitch, kvetch, scream, and yell about service, especially service that you paid entirely too much money for in the first place.

I’m with you, Jill. Until I have the money to charter a plane, I’m staying on the ground.

6 Michael { 12.31.07 at 10:38 pm }

I upgraded on my way home from Portland in October–and that got me a seat in first class from Portland to Denver, and in business class on a 747 from Denver to Chicago. I could get used to that kind of travel quite easily!

Unfortunately, federal rules require me to buy economy-class tickets. I have to rack up enough air miles to earn the upgrades.

7 Bryan { 12.31.07 at 11:10 pm }

That’s what it was once like, Michael, for everyone. First class had even more room, menu choices, free drinks, and a lot of extras. Flying stand-by, I occasionally ended up in first class, but it really wasn’t worth the extra money as coach was so nice.

8 Badtux { 01.01.08 at 1:04 am }

The last time I flew was my grandmother’s funeral. That was a “must fly”. Ever since then… well, penguins are supposed to be flightless anyhow. And BTW, the rest of my family isn’t flying either, neither my brother and family or my mother and family will set foot in an airport nowdays.

Yet the planes are packed. Well, of course the planes are packed. If they only fly four flights a day when they get enough reservations for six flights, and bump the other two flights worth of people, of *course* the planes will be packed despite the fact that people do cancel reservations… yet another reason why I won’t fly.

9 Bryan { 01.01.08 at 7:18 pm }

Have to cut costs to raise profits. Profits and management bonuses are the only important things, and everything else can be blamed in the government.

Let’s see if I can remember how that ran “de-regulation will introduce competition which will improve efficiency and increase options for passengers.” So we have ever fewer airlines and flights at higher costs with less service – yes, just like I assumed, the customers get screwed again.

Apparently the only thing they teach at business schools anymore is how to go into debt.

10 hipparchia { 01.03.08 at 2:03 am }
11 Bryan { 01.03.08 at 1:24 pm }