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More TSA Stupidity

When people ask me if there's anything I don't like about the Bush administration, while there are many things, this is close to the top of the list:

"It's serrated." He is talking about the little row of teeth along the edge. Truth be told, the knife in question, which I've had for years, is actually smaller and less sharp than the knives currently handed out by my airline to its first- and business-class customers. You'd be hard-pressed to cut a slice of toast with it.

"Oh, come on. It is not."

"What do you call these?" He runs his finger along the minuscule serrations.

"Those ... but ... they ... it ..."

"No serrated knives. You can't take this."

"But sir, how can it not be allowed when it's the same knife they give you on the plane!"

"Those are the rules."

"That's impossible. Can I please speak to a supervisor?"

"I am the supervisor."

Admittedly, it's a job that's probably hard to find smart help for. What person with a brain would want to do that all day?

Anyway, as the author points out, and has been obvious for years, ever since 911, it's security theater. Unfortunately, too many people fall for it, and actually believe that it makes them safer. Just one more reason that flying sux, and why the industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.


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Louise wrote:

Airport security is really sombody's insecurities.

Robin Goodfellow wrote:

When you ponder about the difficulties of finding smart workers to fill the TSA's ranks you reveal a misunderstanding of the organization. They want mindless drones that follow the letter of the law and ignore common sense at any and every opportunity. TSA is a CYA organization, bureaucracy in its purest and most useless form, such organizations despise independent thought and intelligence in their workforce. If that TSA worker had said "oh, you're right, this is the same knife they have already on the plane, please take it on board" they would have been fired and persecuted by the bureaucracy mercilessly.

Michaelyi wrote:

By the way, which of the two incumbent parties' minions thought up this scheme of making thousands of airport baggage screeners into Federal civil-service employees? Blaming President Bush for creating the Transportation Security Administration monster is just plain wrong. (Yeah, Bush could have stood and fought the pols over that bad idea but, as the expression goes, is that the hill he wanted to die on?)

And it's the TSA system, like so many other organizations with similar sets of incentives, that is the monster. For discussion's sake, let's consider the case of the smartest person in the world holding one of those Transportation Security Agency inspector posts. Let's call that person Inspector Brown.

Patrick Smith of Salon magazine presents his just-like-the-sort-used-by-the-airline-itself knife to this inspector for examination. Being super-smart, the inspector realizes that the risk posed by Mr. Smith is miniscule, nano-scale even. The inspector also knows that should she be wrong or that anyone at all attempts to hijack or destroy Mr. Smith's flight, the fact that this knife was knowingly permitted on board the flight will come to light. (You betcha the videos will be reviewed afterward and almost certainly anything remotely suspicious leaked to a credulous and avenging press.) Does anyone really think that Inspector Brown would bend the rules for Mr. Smith and let him carry that knife on board the aircraft?

Now suppose Inspector Brown is only the second-smartest person in the world and the world's smartest person is that inspector's immediate supervisor. That supervisor has even recently publicly praised Inspector Brown's initiative and good sense; the supervisor is pleased to have such a capable employee. This supervisor notices that Inspector Brown is about to allow Mr. Smith to board a plane carrying a knife that is in violation of TSA regulations. Being the smartest person in the world, the supervisor does... what? Steps up and cautions Inspector Brown about staying out of trouble by following the regulations exactly, or smiles and says "You're doing a good job, Brown" knowing that if there's an incident on that flight, he'll be ruined by the baying hounds of the press, the airline, the pilots and their union, the people on board that flight and their families, the bureaucracy, bloggers everywhere, and so on?

Of course Mr. Smith ain't no way goin' on that flight with no kind of knife in violation of the regs. One doesn't need a big brain to suss that out; even a petty scribbler for Salon or an ego-tripping pilot should'a been able to figure that out in advance and known better than to even try.

Daveon wrote:

and why the industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Look elsewhere for that. Airport security is theatre and a nightmare but the airline troubles in the US were there before the increase in security and airlines elsewhere in the world seem to be better placed to survive them.

RyanAir, for example, while vile, is profitable.

One of the problems the US industry has is a reluctance to let airlines close down, too many airlines serving poor routes you can't make money and too few alternatives for the public.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 14, 2008 7:39 AM.

Energy Versus Space? was the previous entry in this blog.

Why Am I Not Surprised? is the next entry in this blog.

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