Posted tagged ‘tsa’

The Size of Government

May 4, 2012

If you have heard it once, I am sure you have heard it a thousand times already.  And, between now and the election, you will hear it many thousand of times more.  “Government has grown to large and must be reduced.”

Some who say this are referring to government agencies such as the EPA or the SEC, or departments like Education, Energy, or Interior.  These departments, of course, are minuscule when comes to cost or numbers of employees.  The big hitters are the Department of Defense and Health and Human Services (along with the big spenders, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security).

So when most political pundits speak of the government being too large, they are thinking Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security because these three account for more than half of the current deficit.

I would argue that the government expenditures for M/M and SS are not a sign of government being too large.  (It is true that there is some amount of fraud associated with M/M but that is due to regular citizens stealing from the government.)  Rather, the deficit problem with these agencies is about a revenue collection deficiency with some modification to benefits.

The places to look for government being to large is where the government spends money and delivers little or no service.

My candidate for the first cuts is the Department of Homeland Security and within it, the Transportation Safety Administration.  TSA is charged with protecting the American flying public from another 9/11 like hijacking.  Supporters boast that since 9/11 there has not been another.  So is that a license to spend?

I have an artificial knee.  It is a wonderful gift from medical science and I appreciate it dearly.  It also sets off alarms every time I go through airport security.

In all foreign countries I have visited, their airport security officials use a “wand” to perform a secondary check of the knee.  With a positive response, the security procedure is over.  These officials know why the first alarm sounded and I am allowed to pass quickly.

In the US, however, I get the opportunity for a full pat down.  This procedure wastes time and never verifies why the alarm went off in the first place.  The flying public is no safer due to these procedures.  And no serious terrorist would be thwarted either since they would simply not use anyone with a metal body implant.

So why does this continue?

The answer lies in the real truth about allowing government to grow to large.  The TSA is inefficient and ineffective, and is employing more and more people.  Look around when you go through the terminal.  There are far more TSA employees than there are airline agents and bag carriers combined.

No one wants a 9/11 repeat.  But if you think doing what the TSA says is necessary is the way you prevent a repeat, you are dreaming.

I am the same person who flies each time under the same name and with the same implant.  My iris and finger prints never change.  It would be straight forward to confirm my identify.  A hand held body want could confirm the location of the metallic mass and the procedure would be over.

In Florida this year it was a farce to see all the elderly people, many in wheel chairs, being screened to ensure they were not a terrorist.  There are far better and more productive ways to spend government money.

Get Ready For New Exams

July 7, 2011

This post is not about the “Race to the Top”.  It is about education but an entirely different kind.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has just announced a new threat to every flying man, woman, and child.  It is another set of threats posed by the elusive but persistent al Qaeda brand.

Reliable sources (never identified) have reported that al Qaeda is planning, or thinking about, or wishing they could, hide explosives inside the bodies of suicide volunteers.  Presumably these warriors would pass through security and somehow detonate these explosives once in the air.  Although not confirmed, these despicable fanatics would be immediately welcomed into Paradise and receive their just rewards.

If the TSA follows past practices, we might expect air travelers to receive rectal and vaginal exams at airport check points (during high alerts) and full hand body squeezes (breasts, thighs, and buttocks) during normal periods.  Your TSA will be hard at work.

While details of how TSA will combat this new threat have not been released, past TSA responses give these predictions some credibility.

The TSA was born during the Bush years when fear was a great political friend.  Since then, the TSA has gotten a life of its own.  All of the TSA behaviors have been based upon the false assumption that it is possible to “inspect out” anyone intent upon destroying an airplane.

The issue they face is that as inspections get more thorough, the inconvenience to the innocent public gets worse, and more insidiously, like viruses, the real terrorists mutate and use new methods.

Step back and think about this new treat.  If it were possible to hide explosives in ones body and then detonate them on command, why wouldn’t a terrorist select a less protected target… like a sporting event, a train or bus, or Grand Central Station?

This should be a wake up call (after we all have badly over slept).  We certainly want our government to protect us.  There simply should be commonsense used.  America loses more than 30,000 lives a year with automobile accidents and over 5 million from smoking related causes.  These are self inflicted and preventable.

Are we focused correctly?

Homeland Security – Fact or Fiction?

May 11, 2011

Have you flown recently in a commercial airliner?  If so, who did you see in the airport in numbers greater than any other group?

It was not the passengers on your flight.  It was not the ticket and baggage check airline personnel.  It was not the vendors and shop keepers who are all over airports these days.

It was members of Homeland Security, the smiling TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agent.  They are everywhere.  They check your ID.  They screen your hand bags, and for good measure, they pat you down.  Now they are even showing up at gates to offer complimentary baggage checks for a second time.

To the department’s credit, they are all polite and professional.  They appear to take their jobs seriously.  Their physical appearance is neat and orderly.  They are in a nut shell what a government worker should look like.

So what is the issue?

There are several.  All these people earn salaries and benefits.  This money comes from passengers and tax payers.  In performing their duties they unnecessarily slow down the process of getting from the ticket counter to your plane.  And quite frankly, their screening methods are annoying and make air travel inconvenient.

Oh, but we do not want another 9/11.  I can second that.  Consider this, however, from two incidents this week.

One passenger got up during the landing process and tried to open an emergency exit door.  He was subdued by other passengers and a flight attendant.  On another flight, a passenger got up on final approach, yelled Allāhu Akbar (Arabic for God is Great), and began pounding on the cockpit cabin door.  He too was subdued.

The point here is that the hijacking of the 9/11 flights was done at a time when there were no locks on cockpit doors.  Pilots often flew with the doors wide open.  This practice offered passengers a glimpse of what was happening upfront.

Homeland Security and the use of TSA agents grew out of a politically charged reaction to the amazing hijacking of four planes.  Had those planes had locked cockpit doors, there would not have been a 9/11.  Never the less, politicians soon realized fear would drive voters to back the party in power and showing force at the airports would convince the public there was something to fear.

And there you have it.  Inconvenience, higher costs, and questionable improvement in security.

Pay Back

April 15, 2011

There are two proposals on the table aimed at reigning in the deficit.  The deficit is a national disgrace.  Today it demonstrates to the world that America is unable to run its own affairs of State.  If Washington DC were a business, it would be declared bankrupt.

Aside from the image and competency issues, the deficit and debt rob Americans of the means to force their government (of either party) to be accountable for their actions.  Why worry about Government decisions, we can just charge it.

Consider the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  This government decision was purely one of choice.  With an all voluntary Army and no burden to pay special taxes, the American public had no skin in the game.  Remember Vietnam and think about the public’s displeasure.

Consider the Bush tax cuts.  These purely “free lunch” decisions sounded great at the time.  Now we are waking up to the fact that these tax cuts did not generate more tax revenue and there were no offsetting spending reductions (actually quite the opposite).  Now it is time to pay the piper.

Consider the “war on terror” and the creation of the TSA.  There are 60,000 more government workers and over $330 million in yearly costs.  This is work clearly within the means of the private sector.  Now we can see this as part of the government creep.

Where were the questions, like tell me again why we should invade Iraq?  How much will it cost me?  How many casualties will there be?  What will be the on-going costs for taking care of injured veterans?  How again was Iraq connected to 9/11?

Or where were these questions.  Why do we need this tax reduction?  Will the tax reductions benefit all segments fairly in a progressive way?  Why are we not simplifying the tax code at the same time.   What will be the long term effects of these tax reductions?  Will the debt increase?

How about, why should government agents be able to do a better job screening airline passengers than private industry ones?  Wouldn’t government pilots be trained more uniformly and provide better security than private sector ones?  What is the cost/risk ratio for trying to “inspect” problem passengers out of the flights?  “Granny, I am going to use the back of my hand….”

There is of course no guarantee that a balanced budget would have raised these questions.  Sometimes the heat of the moment prevails.  But what a side to have erred on.  We would have substantial lower debt, we probably would not have invaded Iraq ($1 trillion cost and still counting, over 4000 dead), we would not have adopted the Bush tax cuts in the first place, and maybe, just maybe, commonsense would have risen to the top in airport security.

TSA Is Broken

December 30, 2009

When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab bought his ticket (for cash) and boarded his flight for the US (with no bags), had I known this was happening, I could have said the TSA was unable to prevented his subsequent attempt to blow up the plane. Why do I know so much?

I am on the famous TSA “no fly” list which prevents me from getting a boarding pass until the agent has made a call and gotten the ok. My name is reasonably common with over two pages (several hundred) of other people with the same name in the Philadelphia phone book. Each time I fly I present the same information, my Pennsylvania drivers license, and after 10-15 minutes the ok is given and the boarding pass is issued. There is no other verification that I am who I said I was, no new information from the last trip, and no effort to correct the “no fly” list. If the TSA system repeatedly sounds a false positive for me, and does not trigger corrective action within the TSA, how can anyone expect it to detect real threats?

All quality methodologies stress the importance of acting on deviations, both false or positive. If you have a system that says, “individuals on this list must be screened thoroughly or even better should not be allowed to fly”, then only those who fit that description should be on the list.

The corollary to this situation is that if the watch list is defective, then why should one expect the screeners to take the list seriously or for the rest of the security process to not also possess gapping holes?

They Will Follow Us Home

December 30, 2009

When former President George W Bush was considering whether to take on the “surge” strategy in the Iraq mess that existed at that time, Senator John McCain was telling anyone who would listen, “if we withdraw now, the terrorists will follow us home!”

This was an absurd statement then, and in the after glow of the Detroit suicide bomber event, McCain’s words appear even more out of touch with reality. Sadaam Hussein was not the type of person you would want your daughter dating but under his rule, Iraq was contained and fully limited in its international influence. Al Qaeda were persona non gratis in this country. While one can debate whether Iraq will become stable and self sufficient any time soon, one can not debate the point that Iraq continues to play no role in the international terrorist world.

The Detroit bomber, Umar Fariuk Abdulmutallab, who is from Nigeria and has ties to Yemen, has no connection with Iraq (or Afghanistan). The US has been spending boat loads of money and loosing brave Americans to the hazards of war, and nome of it has been helpful in deterring or preventing a religious extremist from purchasing a airplane ticket (for cash) and getting on the plane (with no baggage), and then trying to blow up the plane on its landing approach.

Senior officials in private companies or in Government Agencies or Policy making groups are suppose to get the big decisions correct. The Bush Administration majored in getting things wrong. The Obama Administration is now up to bat and we are all watching. These religious extremists are delusional and act like “nut cases”. They need to be dealt with by “special operatives” and not the regular Army.  That approach will cost far less and could act far more surgically than 150,000 armed forces. It is time to recognize we must think differently because “they will not follow us home” unless we let them through airport security.

Understanding the Un-understandable

December 28, 2009

On Christmas Day, a religiously consumed 23 year old tried to blow up an intercontinental flight headed for Detroit. The alleged terrorist came from a privileged background and had received a reasonably decent education through a British International School. So why would someone with his life in front of him choose to end it (and over 250 others)? What point was this poor soul trying to make? Who were the even sicker religious people who filled this young mind with senseless thoughts?

Anyone who has traveled in the last couple of years knows that you can not just walk up to the gate and get on an airplane. All passengers are screened when they get their boarding passes (is their name on a “no-fly” list?). All passengers then pass through a personal identification step (matching boarding pass name to some form of picture ID). And finally, all passengers pass through metal detectors (and some are selected for further closer inspection). How did this 23 year old get through?

The authorities (I assume the Transportation Security Agency) issued immediate precautions that increased dramatically the time for international passengers to clear check in and metal detection. Thinking this was not enough, they ask that passengers not be allowed to get up (leave their seats) or have anything (even a computer) in their laps for the last one hour of flight.

Just as in the case of 9/11, the increased security measures have nothing to do with the event that just took place. In 9/11, the terrorists carried box cutters which are metal through security and onto the planes. In the Detroit case, the 23 year old carried no baggage and paid cash for his ticket!!! Well, hello, is there anyone home?

I cannot explain the motives that drive anyone to do anything in the name of any religion. These people are pure suckers since they take the heat and their instigators live to enjoy another day. Just as difficult to explain is why security services suddenly impose new measures (which add unneeded burden to the public, thereby assuring that the terrorists have achieved some margin of victory), and not to be overlooked is that these measures could not have prevented the incident that triggered their implementation?