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I just got a call purporting to be from the American Civil Liberties Union. Before they got going, they said, "This call may be monitored for quality assurance."

I said, "That's ironic." Then asked them not to call again. If one can't have privacy from other ACLU people talking to the ACLU, then there is no worthy defender of privacy left.

I know Rand doesn't like me to mistake loss of liberty ("freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control" according to for loss of privacy. But a great way to curb control is to curb monitoring. I also mourn freedom from waiting in long airport security lines and freedom to keep my hair gel in my carry-on bag.

There were 360 million US one-way airplane trips taken last year. That's 360 million half hour delays for "increased" security. Let's express that as lifetimes lost--wasted--due to boredom: 250. Let's express that as number of trips that took 15 minutes too long: 100%. After 6 years of increased security, we have now lost 1500 lives worth of time from waiting in airport security lines. That's a higher flux than terrorism for five of those years.

It's time for the FAA to start keeping statistics on wait time in airports and TSA revamping security procedures so that the cost no longer exceeds the benefit.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at June 16, 2007 01:35 PM
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"That's 360 million half hour delays for "increased" security. Let's express that as lifetimes lost--wasted--due to boredom: 250."

That is a ridiculous statement. NO ONE lost their life due to waiting in line, and possibly there have been lives saved due to waiting in line. We Americans wait in lines for all sorts of things every day, and for things less important than insuring our flights are safe. What would you suggest Sam, that we not have any security just to speed things along for you and if a few people die then that is just an acceptable risk?

Posted by Cecil Trotter at June 16, 2007 03:29 PM

There's hundreds of little destroyers of people's lives that have never been cataloged but should be.

The reduction in useful lifespan of the communting citizen associated with clogged freeways due to inadequate infrastructure investment,environmentalist interference and poor urban stucture.

The number of increased divorces/suicides per unit increase in the tax rate.

The number of good ideas unthought because of intrusive advertising. If a life can be measured by the number of self generated ideas, then advertising is killing billions of man hours each year.

The reduction of self awareness due to cell phones making it possible to never be alone with yourself.

The hypercomplexity of the law and the subsequent reduction in the standard of living to support the ubiquitous law profession.

The number of law abiding citizens turned into criminals by gun laws. Or drug laws, or tax laws . . . well you get the idea.

Posted by K at June 16, 2007 03:41 PM

You know, I can't recall it ever taking half an hour or more from getting into the airport to getting to my gate to wait for the airplane on any of my flights since 9/11, certainly never due to security. My longest waits in line are at check in, and security takes maybe five minutes. I may be lucky, and don't tend to travel at peak times of congestion, but that's scarcely something to blame on TSA if there's a long line then.

I'm also curious as to what these checks are that add so much more. All that I've noticed compared to pre-9/11 memories of flying is having to take off my shoes and get them scanned.

Posted by Paul Druce at June 16, 2007 03:44 PM

And the only reason they're making you take off your shoes is because someone did try to hide a bomb in his.

Though I understand your point about intrusion and inconvenience adding up, and needing to balance cost and benifit (after all, you can prevent all sorts of deaths, far more so than the war or the terrorists have inflicted, by banning private automotive travel), you aren't considering that there are literally tens of millions of nutcases trying to kill people, some portion of which were probably inspired by the 9/11 attacks and will try to use planes.

Trying to deal with an active agent - terrorists trying actively to kill people - warrants a bit more attention and inconvenience than trying to cut down on a purely statistical event such as auto accidents.

Posted by at June 16, 2007 04:26 PM

PS. I was a security monitor at some college football games trying to keep obnoxious drunks from getting glass bottles and other implements in to hurl down on the crowds below them. I had to put up with all sorts of abuse from people who, as far as they were concerned, considered my searching them the next thing to living in a fascist police state.

But then again, there was the old lady hauled away on a stretcher because someone decided, in a fit of passion, to get rid of his jack daniels bottle.

Posted by at June 16, 2007 04:31 PM

The ACLU is not concerned about Civil Liberties, that was the start of your confusion.

Posted by A Veteran at June 16, 2007 09:14 PM

"Let's express that as lifetimes lost--wasted--due to boredom: 250."

Being bored is not actually the same as being dead.

Posted by James Nightshade at June 16, 2007 11:50 PM

I will go with Sam on this one. Wasting my time is stealing portions of my life. When I am waiting in line for something, airplane, toll booth, or burger, that time is not available for me to use on other things. Life is to be lived, not endured.

If the security is really required, then the investment should be made in keeping it moving. I use air travel to get there faster, which excess security lines screw up. Yes, I have lost over an hour per flight at times due to security.

Posted by john hare at June 17, 2007 03:17 AM

Paul, I think it depends on the airport. Some airports have their act in gear. I never had problems with either San Jose or Sacramento airports when I flew through them. And the high security can result in other sorts of inefficiencies (which economically are indistinguishable from death). For example, it's routine policy to clear gates of people when it's discovered that unscreened people could have entered that area, for example, I've heard of three times, two in Seattle and one in Atlanta where they evacuated every either because someone unauthorized got past the security checkpoint, or could have (eg, when the security person fell asleep on the job). I imagine that wastes a lot of peoples' time.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at June 17, 2007 05:03 AM

In the last 6 years, I have only had two problems in airports. The 1st was when I flew out of Albuquerque after attending some explosives training at New Mexico Tech, (I'm a police bomb technician), and I set off some alarms due to the nitrates on my shoes. The 2nd time was this past May when I went to Scotland on a Golfing vacation. They said we were allowed a carry on and a purse, (or lap top), when I left the states, so I took my carry on and lap top on board with me. No problems at all leaving the States, but when I tried to fly home from Edinburgh, I was told only one carry on by the security folks. Needless to say, I ended up dumping most everything from my carry on to fit my laptop inside it. Once I was on the plane I was able to take my laptop back out of my carry on with no fuss. It made absolutely no sense, and even the flight crew was baffled. Due to my training, I have flown extensively over the last 6 years, and those are the only two problems I have ever had.

Posted by Brad at June 17, 2007 05:34 AM

"Let's express that as lifetimes lost--wasted--due to boredom: 250."

Lifetimes lost--wasted-- because we didn't want to be "bored" by security checks, one September day in 2001: over 3000.

Posted by DaveP. at June 17, 2007 05:51 AM

Try bringing a book or your cell phone with you. Call a loved one and tell them how much you miss them.

This is not wasted time... just activities rearranged to take advantage of the time.


Posted by PaulW at June 17, 2007 09:20 AM

DaveP, Cecil Trotter,

You might have an argument if airport security was actually effective. What airline security lines provide is an kabuki ritual to make the uninformed think the security hassles are actually doing something.

Your argument crumples when you look at the actual failure rate of the airport security system. When tested it still has a stunning rate of failure to detect minor items like handguns and grenades.

Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 09:35 AM

TJIT: "You might have an argument if airport security was actually effective."

What, was there a recent hijacking I missed???

Posted by Cecil Trotter at June 17, 2007 09:46 AM

What, was there a recent hijacking I missed???

The lack of hijackings doesn't logically say anything about effectiveness of security. It also could be a result of terrorists lacking resources to pull such a thing off with the disruption of their networks after 911, or (a rational) fear that the passengers will revolt as they did on Flight 93, and generally more awareness on the part of the passengers. Personally, I'd feel much safer if people who were permitted to carry in general were permitted to do so on aircraft as well. Disarming everyone is a very fragile means of providing "security" when someone gets past it, as we saw at Virginia Tech.

Standing in line to go through security, and putting my toothpaste in a plastic bag doesn't make me feel any safer. Too many people automatically equate "annoying" with "security."

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 17, 2007 09:52 AM


You weren't called by the ACLU.

You were contacted by a telemarketing firm contracted by the ACLU.

Posted by Mike Puckett at June 17, 2007 10:07 AM

Name one life saved by post-9/11 arrangements. Or from the ID requirements.

We do, on the other hand, have the data in that your privacy - a human right that *I* find valuable - is gone in yet another spot, and and that pilferage in luggage is decidedly up.

Posted by jon at June 17, 2007 12:38 PM

Rand: "The lack of hijackings doesn't logically say anything about effectiveness of security."

Jon: "Name one life saved by post-9/11 arrangements. Or from the ID requirements."

Proving a negative is always difficult. The only evidence we have that such measures at least seem to work is the lack of any incidents. But given the events of 09/11/01 I find it astonishing that anyone would question the need for security measures, much less equate total accumulative minutes "wasted" by security measures as being "lifetimes lost".

Posted by Cecil Trotter at June 17, 2007 04:13 PM

Cecil Trotter , you said
What, was there a recent hijacking I missed???

Thanks to ignorant, gullible, snarky, slogan chucking tools like you the only reason we have missed another hijacking is because of blind stupid luck.

Checkpoints were alerted to federal decoys, lawsuit says

The private firm in charge of security at San Francisco International Airport cheated to pass tests aimed at ensuring it could stop terrorists from smuggling weapons onto flights, a former employee contends.

Airline screeners fail government bomb tests
Imagine an explosion strong enough to blow a car's trunk apart, caused by a bomb inside a passenger plane. Government sources tell NBC News that federal investigators recently were able to carry materials needed to make a similar homemade bomb through security screening at 21 airports.
Cecil I hope you enjoy your false sense of security as you shovel your shoes into the X Ray machine at the airport.

Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 04:37 PM

Here is another one for you.

Security Lapses Found At Airport

Confidential inspection reports of the Transportation Security Administration reveal that baggage screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport missed one of every four fake bombs or weapons that inspectors tried to sneak past checkpoints
Hope you enjoy the false sense of security you get from putting your toothpaste in one quart ziplock contatiner.

So are you a liberal who is not used to looking at data and critically evaluating the performance of government programs?

Or are you a Bushbot who thinks everything the government does while Bush is president has to be ok without bothering to looking at data and critically evaluating the performance of government programs?

Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 04:51 PM

"Or are you a Bushbot who thinks everything the government does while Bush is president has to be ok without bothering to looking at data and critically evaluating the performance of government programs?"

Seems we have another BDS sufferer.

Posted by Mike Puckett at June 17, 2007 06:16 PM

TJIT: "Thanks to ignorant, gullible, snarky, slogan chucking tools like you"

Kiss my ass moron.

Posted by Cecil Trotter at June 17, 2007 06:39 PM

TJIT: "Thanks to ignorant, gullible, snarky, slogan chucking tools like you"

Kiss my A$$ moron.

Posted by Cecil Trotter at June 17, 2007 06:41 PM

Mike Puckett, You said Seems we have another BDS sufferer.

I think my paragraph above that

So are you a liberal who is not used to looking at data and critically evaluating the performance of government programs?
Pretty much ruins that diagnosis.

There is a certain species of Republican who will enthusiastically support unbelievably ignorant, big government, anti-conservative policy as long as it meets one crucial criteria. The bad policy just has to be proposed by a politician with an (R)epublican behind their name. It is often found associated with the statement But the democrats would be worse

Prime examples of this are the prescription drug plan, the Harriet Miers nomination to the supreme court, the farm bill, and the bloat in discretionary, non-defense related spending since Bush has been in office.

My first exposure to the term Bushbot was on that noted liberal website Free Republic. I suspect it may show up on this thread

George Bush's Big Government Adventure

With Conservative Like This, Who Needs Liberals?

Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 09:12 PM

Cecil Trotter,

I enjoyed your substantive response to my posts. Well argued sir, well argued.



Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 09:14 PM


Stated another way, that article you cite about Newark Airport suggests that those minimum wage folks with the wands and x-rays caught 3/4 of the fake bombs sent their way. I'm not sure I'd assume Newark is typical of all big city airports, but a .750 batting average is pretty good - especially as a deterrent. Potential hijackers read the papers too. If I was one such, I wouldn't much care for odds 3:1 against even getting aboard. The reasons there are no hijackings are:

(1) Jihadis are eminently rational assessors of statstical probabilities of success, even if they are not especially rational in their motivations.

(2) The greater glory of Allah is not advanced if, having lucked out and gotten onboard one then finds onself playing the role of the old man in an improptu remake of the 'Singing in the Rain' scene from 'A Clockwork Orange' with one's non-jihadi fellow passengers filling the roles of Alex and his Droogs.

Posted by Dick Eagleson at June 17, 2007 09:17 PM

Dick Eagleson,

Not sure I buy the 75% batting average as being good enough for bomb detection in airports. I don't think people would ever say nurse dropping only 25% of the babies they handled would be an indication of good performance.

I like your point about Clockwork Orange and the tender treatment troublemakers will receive and have received in the post 9-11 past from their fellow passengers.

I think the term is technically known as "fearsome beatdown"



Posted by TJIT at June 17, 2007 11:01 PM

1) I check-in electronically, and I can't remember a trip in the last 2 years in which I didn't go from the curb to the gate in less than a half hour. The longest wait was at MCO and involved a hurricane, which might have been a half hour wait.

2) We have lost more "privacy" (for those who equate privacy and security) due to government control of medical care than we have lost due to post 9-11 security measures.

Posted by Leland at June 18, 2007 07:01 AM

The ACLU, Sam, only purports to protect your privacy from State invasions, honestly.

And more importantly, if they tell you the conversation isn't private, that's not an invasion.

Even apart from it being a marketing or polling firm contracted by the ACLU, that monitoring isn't because they're spying on you.

It's to make sure the guy calling you doesn't get out of line, and so they can confirm/deny - with evidence - any claims that he acted inappropriately to a customer (you).

They're recording the call to make sure he's doing his job correctly.

I don't see the irony; now, if they were surreptitiously recording your conversation, that'd be another matter.

Posted by Sigivald at June 18, 2007 10:59 AM

Sigivald: It's not an invasion for them to record my call after notifying me, but there is no privacy nonetheless. If it's not worth their having privacy for a private party, they clearly don't value it highly enough for me to think they'll be a good champion for it. I wouldn't think it's OK if the government had a blanket disclosure saying "This call may be monitored for national security purposes before every call I made."

Posted by Sam Dinkin at June 19, 2007 08:34 AM

Hi, there!..

Posted by John at November 18, 2007 03:29 PM

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