Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bring in the Grandmothers

[An admission here: I don’t fly anymore. My last flight was to New York City a month after 9/11. Even the changes then were so unpleasant that I vowed not to bother again. I don’t mind flying itself, but I loathe airports enough that there’s nothing I want badly enough to see which might require getting on a plane in order to do it.

Airports themselves are like something out of Dante’s Inferno. Being in one evokes such a strong sense of melancholic loathing that I don’t even like to pick people up at those well-named ‘terminals’ anymore.

Being flown somewhere on a private airplane would be okay as long as it weren’t required that we all submit to the depredations of commercial aviation’s pre-flight sadism.

In other words, this isn’t about airplane flight, which always seemed much like being on a bus but with less view of the outside world. It’s about bureaucracy run amok, and the reasons why these new moves by Big Sis and her team will not fly…so to speak.]

What motivated this post (when I should be writing the remaining thank-you notes to our donors who must think I’m dead by now) was an email today from Andrea Shea King linking to a CNN report on the growing backlash against new search-and-destroy even more draconian “security” measures now in place at many airports. To give you a sense of this “backlash” CNN describes here’s one man's view:

Janet NapolitanoUnder the watchful eye of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, air travel through airports has turned into a harrowing experience for thousands of travelers and airline employees.

That would be the innocent souls who simply wish to get from Point A to Point B, and whom are shocked to learn that, in order to do so, one must be exposed to sexual assault and abuse at the hands of psychopaths working for TSA.

Charges of genital groping and fondling are being leveled by prudent travelers trying to get an early start on that Thanksgiving trip to grandma’s, most of whom said travelers are not particularly in the mood for sexual foreplay.

Tell me something: the Israelis don’t have these humiliating searches, nor do they have terrorist attacks on El Al, so what do they do to quell the natural killer instincts of their adversaries? You know for sure that jihads salivate as they contemplate the glories of bringing down an Israeli plane loaded with evil Joooos. In their dreams, kiddo.

Why can’t we simply figure out what Israel does and take a large helping of “me, too”?

Fat chance. Back here in Bureaucratic Overreach USA, the process of being ‘profiled’ and searched is reaching new depths of stupidity and depravity. You have to really need or want to be somewhere to put up with this degradation. And the old policies were already creating avoidance. From the CNN report:

A 2008 survey found that air travelers “avoided” 41 million trips because they believed the air travel system was either “broken” or in need of “moderate correction,” the U.S. Travel Association said. The decisions cost airlines $9.4 billion, the survey said.

It makes you wonder how much the airlines are going to lose as these new measures to make your trip safe from Islamic terrorists a tiny minority of extremists are installed in all airports. The real kicker is the fact that the costs will be added to your plane ticket.

There’s a new mood in the country and it has been growing since 2008, slowly gathering steam. Is it part of the reaction of disgust/horror at the gargantuan legislative slop jars of boodle the government sloshed around indiscriminately during the last two years? Is it the Tea Party Effect, drastically in play during the midterms? Sixty-five House seats fell to Republicans or Conservatives, as well as seven hundred state legislative contests. Not to mention the new majority of Republicans in state governors’ chairs.

People are angry. The natives are restless and it’s the government they don’t like. Especially the federal government. Big Sis is considered an Affirmative Action appointment; Lord knows she certainly acts like one. We were spared any hurricane disasters this season or we might have seen her ineptitude in full dreary display.

This anger is a top-down phenomenon, too. One of the airline pilots’ unions is recommending that their members avoid the AIT (Advanced Image Technology) scan for health reasons. As well they should, especially considering how often they would be subject to this risk from radiation. Not to mention the emotional reaction generated by full-body gropes known as the “Opt Out”. This is supposedly a choice if you don’t want to endure radiation on a regular basis:

John Wild scanThe head of the pilot union at US Airways is advising his members not to go through the body scanners, the same recommendation that the Allied Pilots Association president at American Airlines had given his members.

The reason in both cases was health-related: The union leaders say pilots shouldn’t submit to the repeated doses of radiation.

President Mike Cleary of the US Airline Pilots Association said pilots should first search for a security checkpoint that doesn’t have the scanners.

If that’s not possible, the pilots should opt for the pat-down by a Transportation Security Administration officer, with a member of the pilot’s crew witnessing.

Unfortunately, this is not available to customers (having a witness) so some are recommending that you demand the search be done publicly, which may rein in some of the abuses from the new “pat-down” procedures:
The TSA recently changed its hand-search policies. Before, the officers would use the back of their hand to check a person; now they are to use their open hand and fingers to go over one’s body, including the genital area and breasts.

Cleary said after a pat-down, the pilot should determine if he or she is emotionally fit to fly. He also said the pilots’ association doesn’t like any of it…

Captain Cleary:
“Let’s be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace … the aircraft … without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors.

“This situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order. Left unchecked, there’s simply no way to predict how far the TSA will overreach in searching and frisking pilots who are, ironically, mere minutes from being in the flight deck.

“As we all know, it makes no difference what a pilot has on his or her person or in their luggage, because they have control of the aircraft throughout the entire flight. The eyewash being dribbled by the TSA in this instance is embarrassingly devoid of common sense, and we will not stand for it.” [my emphasis - D]

You can read his letter here. Scroll down to see the whole thing.

He hit the nail on the head with that one phrase: “embarrassingly devoid of common sense”. So much of the behavior of this administration could be described with those five words. I won’t go into examples or we’d be here for a very long time.

However, it’s encouraging to see the public taking up this cudgel and refusing to simply buckle under. The captain is not exaggerating about the emotional reaction possible with the Opt Out procedure. We received a communication warning us that The Grope is every bit as bad as people feared.

In his letter to fellow pilots, Captain Cleary said:
One US Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crewmember. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included “sexual molestation,” and in the aftermath of trying to recover, this pilot reported that he had literally vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work and facing the possibility of a similar encounter with the TSA.

Thus, if you choose this method because you want to avoid radiation, be sure to have The Grope done publicly. Your fellow passengers will cheer you on, and the Groper will be more restrained because of the witnesses.

So what is the man in the aisle doing about this? Lots! First there is a movement known as “National Opt-Out Day”. The first one is set for Wednesday, November 24th since that’s the day people fly home for Thanksgiving. The information on the website says:

The Plan is Simple

1. If you absolutely, positively must fly, opt out of the scanners. Do it to protect your health and privacy.

2. If you can avoid flying, don’t fly. Hit the airlines in the pocketbook until the scanners and gropers are gone. Make the airlines work for us.

3. Raise holy hell. Register your disapproval of the scanners and gropers to your airline, your hotel and all government officials who claim to work for you. Educate your community.

This website has good information on the x-rays used to expose you:
Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer.

Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm.

In their letter of concern, the UCSF faculty members noted that “the dose to the skin could be dangerously high”. The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.

For those flyers who bring their children, Opt Out seems the only “safe” choice, but obviously the intrusive groping is also dangerous to growing organisms. Again, if you must fly, demand that your children be searched in public, not behind closed doors. Putting children through the radiation process seems more damaging at this point, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time explaining to your kids why Mom and Dad can’t protect them from harm, even when they’re right there with them. If a serious grope can make an adult vomit at the thought of a repeat procedure, what might it do to a particularly sensitive child?

The more we learn about children, the more we realize how very different they are. Kids are not miniature adults. People who are able to recall childhood experiences vividly can attest to the differences. Your moral authority with your children is a fragile affair at best in today’s world of invasive bureaucracies designed to “help the children”. Traumas such as these gropes (and they are traumatically personal) can be potentially devastating to your child. Not that your power as a parent won’t help to mend an egregious boundary violation, but in some cases that violation will loom larger than others. A few fortunate children are simply more resilient than others; parents don’t get to choose their children’s temperaments.

Another helpful website is “We Won’t Fly”. They have the Opt-Out Day suggestions, but much more, including on the right of their home page, a long list describing “How to Raise Hell”.

Here’s a video on the page, revealing the ways in which the TSA has lied about the scanners:

Hey, we’re talking about a part of the Department of Homeland Security. You expected veracity, maybe?

Remember my question about what Israel would do? Well, “We Won’t Fly” dug up a snip of an Israeli official’s opinion on this scam scanning, from The Vancouver Sun:
A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install “useless” imaging machines at airports across the country.

“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

“That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.

But Americans believe in machines, right? The Israelis believe in human interaction, in eye contact or the lack of it. You have only to compare our track record with theirs to know we’re not on the right path. But we don’t ask for help from people who’ve developed a secure system. Instead we build expensive machines. The old American solution to a problem: “throw money at it”.

The Israeli system grew out of their desperation. When you’re the one so many want to kill, you become expert at weeding out the possible problems:

CNN spent an hour interviewing Isaac Yeffet, former head of El Al security, for example, and all it came away with is that the Israelis interview everyone on line while they’re waiting to go through security, that the security personnel speak at least two languages, and that the system costs a lot of money. (Hey, let’s order up a lot of Rosetta Stones!) According to the Wall Street Journal, “the secret to [the Israelis’] successful airport security is not labor-intensive checkpoints, but a screening system that is frowned upon in many other countries: ethnic profiling.”

Oopsie. That dog ain’t gonna hunt. He won’t fly, either. CAIR is already making sure of that. One way is to decide that scanners violate Islamic law. This appeal to Sharia is getting old, but why not use it? Unless and until our Congress initiates a robust round of tort reform, CAIR and Eternally Offended Islam can simply employ lawfare to get out of what everyone else must endure.

Israeli security wouldn’t tolerate that bushwa and neither should we. Their approach is the opposite of our silly TSA procedures:
The heart of the Israeli strategy is the idea that the most sophisticated scanner in the world is an intelligent, alert human being and that the most important terrorist behavior database is the shared assumptions, memories and life learning we call “common sense.” It revolves around a simple principle that no one in the Homeland Security Department…seem[s] capable of grasping: “Look at people, not things.”[emphasis in the original]

It’s simple, really:
Israeli strategy is built on multiple face-to-face contacts between passengers and airport personnel. A mile or so away, on the road leading to the terminals you encounter a structure that resembles a classic American highway toll plaza. It’s actually a checkpoint. A young soldier approaches your vehicle, bends close to the window, peers in, and asks a few questions…

What’s he looking for? Eye contact. Demeanor. Eye contact. Clothing. Eye contact. Then there’s the next check:
The second screening occurs while you wait on line to check your baggage. You are then approached by a uniformed young person (they are usually Israeli reservists) and “chatted with” again, the same sort of “where are you going?” stuff -- even such friendly questions as, “Did you enjoy your trip to Israel? Where do you live in the United States? Do you go to a synagogue there?”

People are often taken aback by the synagogue question but it is not an effort to identify Jews; rather it is simply a conversational gambit to prolong the contact, a way to get in close and feel the vibes…Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes. And that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

See, this is the way your grandmother would check things out. This is how, in the old days, your father would have assessed the safety of his dear daughter before he gave his permission for her to go with a strange fellow (strange to him at least) to see a movie. This is moral authority, that quality which the state has removed from the average parents’ reach. The quality that the airport ‘security’ system in this country has breached yet again.

No wonder people are mad and getting madder. DHS is a large and largely clueless organization. With each growth ring it becomes fatter and less agile and increasingly dim-witted. We are not safe and people know that. Bullying of private citizens, fondling of children, and humiliating women who are menstruating will not make us safer. It is a system with FAIL as an inherent part of its structure.

Let’s see how long it takes for this contraption to fall to the ground with a resounding thud. Then maybe they’ll call in the grandmothers…especially if these ladies are bilingual. Being expert sharpshooters wouldn't hurt, either.


Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

How about this? Each passenger gets a free bacon roll and a cup of tea. Only it's compulsory. You must eat your bacon roll and drink your tea in full view of the other passengers.

Anyone refusing to do so, or even screwing up their nose a bit, doesn't get aboard the plane.

Seriously though: I was flying down to London last year and while we were sitting on the runway there was a problem. Apparently they had one suitcase too many.

You can imagine the consternation amongst the passengers. Everyone started looking around inside the plane. Note that this was a plane from Dyce in the frozen north, so there were quite a few 'North Sea tigers' aboard, i.e. big hardy lads that you wouldn't want to tangle with. Everyone aboard that plane was looking for the same thing ... we were looking for that which makes Juan Williams nervous when he boards a plane.

We all know that a bunch of Aberdonians with names like McAllister and McIntosh, who are whiter than a pint of milk, aren't worth wasting time on. Not if your goal is actually to prevent Islamic terrorist attacks.

Let's just stop the people we need to stop, and yes, get some real public searches going. And start handing out the bacon rolls.

Nilk said...

TSA Groping Guide tshirts.

Those body scanners have been brought in here in Oz, too, but I've not flown for a couple of years. Last time I went interstate I took the scenic route in my little bucket of bolts.

ole said...

Here's how we do airport security in Israel's international Airport , Ben Gurion : First a nice young girl , a former soldier ofcourse , ask you afew questions in Hebrew , to find out if you are Israeli and looking you in the Eyes while doing it. Iyou pass this , you're basicly done with it.
Other groups are showelled through easily as well , like an ALL scandinavian family with small kids.
Whatever doesn't go through are Checked MUCH more carefully ,and that includes ALL baggage .
The point is , if you dont waste time on people with zero chance of being bad guys , you can use that time better.
It's a screening process , the PC dhimmies hate it ofcourse.

bewick said...

Thank Goodness I'm no longer flying weekly from NE England to London and back.
I have visited the USA (before 9/11) but have already decided not to do so again much as I would have liked to see more.
In my forthcoming trip to see friends in NZ it will not this time be around the world but will use the same route there and back. That is avoiding the US.Sad.

spackle said...

Flying is essentially PAYING for a short term prison sentence. Only they dont even feed you anymore.

goethechosemercy said...

The bacon-roll and tea idea is a good one.
It's as good as the assumption on which it is based. Ethnic and national origin profiling is the only practice that will make the vetting process fair.
It takes account of whose interests air terrorist acts are waged for, and who is engaged in them most often.

bewick said...

Actually the bacon roll (or "bap" hereabouts) will also single out Jews.

I CAN understand why those in the hot near and middle east eschewed pork milleniums ago. It rots rather quickly and can then cause illness and death. Not so now. Can't for the life of me understand the concept of the "sacred cow" (Hindu Sikh)though.
Billions deprive themselves of valuable food sources. For religion.

Anonymous said...

Great post.....Right on the money!

Unfortunately, Americans don't have the will or the patience to create an Israeli security scenario. People have short memories and as long as a 9/11 event only happens every 10 or 15 years people will become complacent.

The Israelis have to live with the real fear 24/7 so it works for them.

A'Esquecida said...

"FINALLY — A great alternative to body scanners at airports.

The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates
the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners at the airports.

It’s a booth you can step into that will not X-ray you,
but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you.
They see this as a win-win for everyone,
with none of this crap about racial profiling.
It also would eliminate the costs of a long and expensive trial.
Justice would be swift. Case closed!

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion.
Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system . . .
"Attention standby passengers —
we now have a seat available on flight number _ _ _.
Shalom!" "

Anonymous said...

I recently flew from Toronto to Montreal. In Toronto I was selected for a "random" hand swab test to see if I had handled explosives recently. I'm a middle aged white guy and the test was conducted by a south Asian man, most likely from Pakistan. The irony.

Avraham said...

the question is really if you have a young Arabic man of lets say about 20 years old smelling of perfumed holy water and an old German grandmother of age let's say about age 99. Which one do you pick out of line? In America the grandmother would be picked out because no one wants to guilty of profiling a poor innocent Arab that has never done anything wrong in his life (--until the last second).
In Israel they would pick out the Arab--but then it would get into all the international press that they are racist.—even if he was in fact carrying explosives.

D@rLin|{ said...

A few years ago I took a flight from Tel-Aviv using ElAl - There was a family in front of me: clearly Muslims-dad,mom in hijab, few kids - they went through unmolested, hardly questioned.Of course you can say the chances that even an Arab would blow his whole family up are near zero.Maybe..After answering long list of "simple" questions I got restless and pointed out the Arab family and did it quite loudly - Security guys then promptly took my bags apart and I mean took everything out in front of all other passengers and then I had to repack them again.It took me 40 minutes to do that.I am wondering - did I look suspicious to them ,despite being white female,western-looking and Israel's citizen or maybe they wanted to punish me for being too outspoken and as a deterrent to others? Do not get me wrong - I will take Israel's security check any day comparing to what you have to go through.But still...

Richard said...

This administration continues to show its contempt for the public, it is pushing people around and can't understand why the people are getting upset. After all our feudal masters (in their opinion) have decided what is in our best interests and we have the gall to object. This has got to stop, and soon.

Nick said...

When is a bap a roll? For the Americans out there, a bap is a bap most of the time, but if you put bacon in it then it's linguistically correct to call the end result a bacon roll. Sometimes. Depending on whereabouts in the UK you're at at the time. On the other hand, a roll is an entirely different thing altogether. Depending on whereabouts in the UK you're at at the time. As in: walk into a bakers in Aberdeen and ask for half a dozen rolls and you'll get one thing. Ask for the same thing in a bakers farther south and you'll get something else entirely. Just thought I'd clarify that, lol ...

S said...

Have you forgotten the incident of the young, blond girl from I think it was London, who was found with explosives in her luggage? She was pregnant and on her way to meet her muslim boyfriends parents supposedly. He was going to follow her shortly supposedly and introduce her to his family in the middle east. Unfortunately for her, she is infidel and a whore to him. He is using her completely, packs her bag with explosives. He was trying to down the plane and get rid of his shame at the same time.

You can't think that someone who is scandanavian or any other blond is safe these days. Look at all the blond London lasses dating muslims and converting. And even those who don't convert can be unknowing mules. Totally secure in thinking they are safe.

Even granny in a wheelchair can have something slipped underneath the chair when their traveling companions uses the restroom.

Hate to be the devils advocate here, but that is the way it is. In Israel the population knows the threat. In the west many are oblivious.

EscapeVelocity said...

Just conspicuously carry a koran when you fly. They will be tripping over themselves to avoid the appearance of profiling and bias. You will be ushered right through.

The 5 Imans US Airways lawsuit taught everyone that harassing Muslims is very costly, and no one wants to be fired from their jobs for harassing muslims and bringing a lawsuit.

Eventually PC will come tumbling down, the whole kit and kaboodle. Islam and Muslims and their aggressive supremacist violence will be the pivot point, but it will bring the rest down with it.

Can't happen soon enough.

bewick said...

Ha ha Nick. We really ARE into regional variations and linguistics here.
Wherever I have lived, including sometimes London the bread roll is always the elongated version of bread. Finger rolls for example. Or the French baguette
The round types of bread? Well from Manchester to the Midlands they are generally known as balm cakes; in Yorkshire as Baps; in the North East as stotties. In Scotland? Who knows.
They MAY be generically called "rolls" but they aren't in architecture. they are ROUND.
What the hell. Giving out compulsory bacon "rolls" would perhaps single out the muslims and jews (unfortunate consequence re the latter). Except the abiding requirement of the koran to deceive. Not so with the Jews. THEY will always refuse (well at least those who stick to the rules and I know Jews who love a bacon sandwich)

S said...

The same goes for the bacon eating. For the same reasons.

The ONLY way to stop all this is either total separation OR to completely and utterly DISCREDIT islam idealogy publicly and repeatedly all around the world.

bewick said...

Carry a Koran?
Actually it is far easier than that. At least on entry rather than exit.
On an around the world trip I always "declared" (red channel) usually to be told that they weren't interested. I avoided SO may queues. At Changi Singapore I was out so quickly that I missed the currency exchanges.
LAX. Well I was somewhat cheesed off with the discrimination between US citizens and others (not so, then, at Heathrow. UK citizens took their place in the queue) but still used the trick at customs. I think I was the only one to "declare". the poor chap looked seriously bored and was disappointed that I actually had nothing of interest.

Gregory said...

Well, I posted this one to my facebook page. Good article. Dang good article. Keep up the outstanding work, "Gates-Of-Vienna". G_D bless you real good.

Professor L said...

OK, I do actually have some expertise in this area. First up, those machines would not be deployed unless they conformed to rigorous safety standards in terms of dose limits. The standards are designed to be very far on the safe side of things (so doses are measured in mSv/year, mSv being milliSeiverts, the SI unit of radiation dose). They do all the calculations on this, and it's very exacting. If they fail, then they don't get approval, and can't sell the scanner.

Second, regarding cancer. It's a stochastic process, which means that you've got a chance of it happening. Just like going out into the sun gives you a chance of developing skin cancer, so too with this. It doesn't establish causality, but nor does it mean that they're unrelated.

Third - point conceded on the exposure of children to radiation.

Getting to the actual matter of security though, I think the Isrealis are on to something. However, everyone does need to be scanned (and I did my thesis on improving luggage scanners in transmission radiography, so we can pick up on situations like S brought up), but you can generally pick the behaviour if you know what to look for (and I'd say the Isrealis do).

Full body scans manage to piss everyone off, but I've never been subject to one myself (flying domestically, I've only had to go through a metal detector. But I haven't been overseas since 2006, so yeah).

Richard said...

LAW Wells the scanners are bringing things to a head but the real problem is the way the government keeps taking more and more rights away. If another hijacking occurs then things may swing the other way but right now the government is forcing you to choose between and X-ray or sexual assault. And they are doing it in a very over bearing way that is making people mad, and properly so.

History Snark said...

I recall an article shortly after 9/11, regarding testimony from a senior Israeli official. He stated that US air security measures are excellent for what they're intended to do- convince people that they're safe flying. In terms of actual security, not so much.

I remember hearing a woman talk about her holiday trip, back in about 2003. She, her husband and two small children (one an infant) traveled with her mother and adult brother who was mentally challenged. They were thoroughly both ways. She thought it was because the tickets were bought online by her sister. I was tempted to explain to her that they were likely given the third degree simply because, as a multi-generational white family, they were obviously not terrorists, and therefore were safe to "inspect".

BTW, did anyone else see that video of how the Japanese regard US airport security? Basically, as a way to grope attractive young women.

Anonymous said...


Regarding middle eastern religious bans on pork one can compare that with the role of pork in tropical countries where a roasted pig will feature in celebrations. Pork would go off quickly in both so why the different attitude? The difference relates to the amount of water - very scarce in the ME but abundant in tropical Asia and the Pacific - and the fact that despite the saying "sweat like a pig" pigs cannot sweat. To keep them cool in hot weather they have to be supplied with water or mud in which to wallow. In the ME water is too precious to waste on keeping pigs cool so one can enjoy the meat when there are sheep and goats available which do not require water. In tropical areas this constraint does not apply. So it is a question of morals and ethics, thus within the scope of religious thought. Metaphorically water is sometimes used to denote clarity of thought, to wit, as per its opposite, 'muddy the waters', as pigs do. So not eating pig hints at keeping 'the waters' crystal clear.

The sacred cow is a different matter. In Hindu India the 'scared cow' appeared in Sanskrit writings which over time became a dead language much like Latin. The word for cow is 'go' but there was an archaic alternative meaning of 'go', viz. 'ray' as in 'ray of light'. The original 'sacred cows' were 'sacred rays of light' and appeared at dawn, would disappear and then reappear etc, much like the first hint at the return of the sun after the mid winter solstice. In other words it was the spiritual enlightenment which was sacred. And one can't disagree with that. Overtime people forgot about what 'go' signified and substituted the 'cow' meaning. The same has happened in Christian countries where Christmas has by and large come to mean an excuse for retail therapy rather than what it first signified.

Tuan Jim said...

I remember the day I traveled from Basic Training (Columbia, SC) to Advanced Individual Training (Sierra Vista, AZ) in uniform in 2004. I was searched at every airport I passed through - 3 times total. Not even worth it to show your military ID most of the time.

Dymphna said...

@ Tuan Jim-

You were searched because of jealousy: you had a real uniform, which you'd attained through your own efforts. Call it "costume envy"...

A frequent reader, who writes us often but leaves her tracks through the comment threads about as often as she flies said:

I don't fly either. Haven't flown since 1993. If I can't reach my destination by car, train, bus, or boat, it won't be reached.

I agree with bringing in the Israelis to clear this botched mess up.

It's time we the citizens stop paying the criminal price of the jihadists

She told me there's a video of a three year-old little girl going thru the Grope or Scope procedure, but I don't think I could bear to watch it.

The poor kids.

@ gun-totin-wacko --

I'm surprised you didn't want to tell that woman your theory. It helps us when others attempt to make the world more comprehensible, even if they can't make it any better.

Thanks for the made me realize once again how very deeply one's environment can affect every aspect of life and our inner world. The many spiritual metaphors concerning water in the Jewish and Christian scriptures would naturally arise from its relative scarcity. Psalm 23 captures that reality in its few brief lines. Someday I'm going to write a literary treatise on 23...don't worry, y'all - it won't be on Gates of Vienna. I promise.
Gregory: Thank you! Some of our readers have urged us to start a Facebook page but if readers are willing to post, why that's even better.

The Baron sure doesn't have the time and my energy is not consistent (just ask those donors still waiting patiently for their responses from me)
LAW Wells: I agree with Richard. The scanners are bringing things to a head. They are representative of the disdain in which average people are held by their putative public 'servants'. Also, I haven't read the research Captain Cleary referred to in his letter to other pilots, but having those scans done on a daily basis can't be healthy for anyone. Have you read the research on these ATIs?

Professor L said...

I concede the point on the scanners bringing things to a head regarding rights. I think, in part, it's because no one wishes to take responsibility anyway.

And as for the actual X-ray dose, I can tell you this much - if you travel through them every day, you would probably need to be classified as a radiation worker (as I believe airline staff already are), which means the dose limits are somewhat laxer due to the work you do (cabin crew and pilots don't get the same protection from the atmosphere when they're at 20,000 feet, especially when flying over the poles).

From the data available from Rapiscan, the dose from a single exposure is 0.05 micro-Sv (I can't do the mu here). In order to reach the dose limit of 1 mSv, you would need twenty thousand exposures. Seriously, you're more at risk of radiation by spending time in your basement (radon builds up there, gets inhaled, and hits you from inside with much worse radiation, so open up your houses when you can!).

Dose to the eye would require a weighting factor (as I recall, it is either 0.2 or 0.12). It varies from organ to organ due to size and sensitivity, and the eye is indeed more sensitive. But you really have to try in order to exceed the dose limit.

Baron Bodissey said...

LAWWells --

You are right, but the worries about radiation are not totally irrational.

The reasons why a maximum permissible dose of something harmful is not set to zero are twofold:

(1) The thing is actually helpful in small doses. This is thought to be true of radiation — the human organism evolved under conditions that include a steady low background radiation, and a tiny amount of it is part of the optimum environment for healthy functioning.

(2) Cost-benefit calculations. We have to devise a cutoff at some point, otherwise no one would ever be able to obtain the benefits of the thing. In this case, no one would ever get their teeth or their lungs x-rayed.

Radiation is still dangerous at the margin, and N people out of 100,000 will become ill or die even within a permitted dosage level. The problem for the policymaker is determining what the number N should be allowed to be.

If you are a devotee of the “Precautionary Principle” — which I am not — absolutely no amount of the dangerous thing is to be allowed, no matter what. To a person who holds this belief, during an outbreak of a dangerous disease it is preferable that 500,000 people die than anyone be vaccinated, because vaccinations have a non-zero risk factor, and occasionally kill people. Cost-benefit analysis is simply not permitted under this mindset.

Most of the rest of us consider this kind of reasoning faulty, and accept low risk factors when the activity provides a great benefit. The job of our officials is to set the number N — how many people out of 100,000 may be put at risk, while still allowing the given beneficial activity?

But the margin is always there, and a few people are at risk because of it.

In this case, the activity — naked-scanning people at airports — is of questionable benefit. I doubt that a single malefactor will be caught that way, or deterred by it. It will probably save zero lives over the course of, say, five years.

During those five years a few people at the margin — those with weakened immune systems, a genetic predisposition to leukemia, etc. — may well be made ill or killed by the radiation in the scanners. We’ll never know for sure, because there will be no evident causative link to the scanners, nor can there be — too many other environmental or somatic factors will be involved.

But, statistically speaking, N out of 100,000 people who pass through those scanners will be harmed or killed by the radiation. The risk is non-zero.

Anonymous said...

I'm betting the potential for personal injury due to C4 is still greater than that of backscatter radiation.

Baron Bodissey said...

Rob --

I'm betting the potential for personal injury due to C4 is still greater than that of backscatter radiation.

Ah, but there's the rub. Anyone who wants to get C4 on the plane will not go through the scanner unless the stuff is concealed in a body cavity -- a method that is proven effective, and cannot be detected by the scanners or the patdowns.

As soon as the scans were implemented, the terrorists immediately evaluated the system's weak points and redesigned their plans accordingly.

The scanner will stop no attacks. It will simply inconvenience, humiliate, and traumatize millions of people, and possibly even hurt some of them.

And the mujahideen will be laughing themselves silly at the absurd and hideously expensive rituals we are putting ourselves through to no useful effect.

Professor L said...

True enough Baron, and I'm not saying that cancer won't be formed, but that the risk of this being the determining factor is miniscule (like I said, your basement poses a bigger risk). I've done heaps of study of this, and I know the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle, and the dose risks.

In large part thought, this is still a reactive system. The terrorists have the initiative, and we are left to react to what is fundamentally yesterday's threat.

The Isrealis, by contrast, have a more proactive system, which means that they take the initiative at least partially away from the terrorists.

Rosey said...

The real issue here is that the TSA is utterly incompetent. No one in their right mind feels safe because of their screening. If the inconvenience and humiliation were actually effective, people might be receptive to it. Due to PC principles, the people that really need to be screened aren't, and the ones that are needn't be. They feel up grandma because she won't make a stink and it looks like they are doing something. Mohamed will file a lawsuit funded by oil money. It is coming to a head. People who don't need to fly won't. They already aren't. The airlines will probably start to do something when they realize their existence depends on it. In the mean time, people are angry and more suspicious of their government than ever before. Change is coming, but probably not what Bam had in mind...

laine said...

The terrorists are winning. Every time one of their disposable losers makes it on to a plane and bends over to BBQ his shoes or light up his underpants,or smuggles on explosives in his infant's bottle, then the air travel industry takes another hit and innocent passengers are harassed. The people LEAST examined are Muslim appearing ones due to suicidal political correctness. Comedy shows were doing skits about passengers required to fly naked after escalating demands starting with removing their shoes and now the total body scanners are the real life version of flying naked.

PC will be the death of Western society as it entangles the innocent and the early scenters of danger while letting the dangerous operate freely.