Another Shocking Fact or Two About the TSA (and Security Kabuki in General)

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Here’s my piece from last week’s New York Post about how we get so used to over-the-top security measures that we think we can’t reverse them. But maybe we can. Maybe we must.

Our Unfounded Obsession with Safety Is Costing Us our Freedom

by Lenore Skenazy

As you inch your way through security at the airport, you’ll be relieved of your penknife and terrifying tube of Pepsodent. Your unopened can of Coke will, of course, be thrown in the trash, along with any snow globes, and off go your shoes.

When at last you’re reshod and passing the duty-free shop, you can buy a well-deserved bottle of Scotch . . . which you can then bring on board, crack against the cabin wall and use as you would a machete.

So why all the security kabuki from the TSA?

That’s just one of the questions posed by Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon in their new book, “Playing by the Rules: How Our Obsession with Safety Is Putting Us All at Risk.”

Britain-based Brown, head of a group called Sense About Science, was in New York last week to promote her book, as well as a new mindset she’d like us to adopt when it comes to security. From now on, she says, when someone insists, “This is for your own safety,” ask for evidence.

Without demanding evidence of the need for a procedure and its efficacy, all sorts of crazy rules and regulations are allowed to take root. Brown recalled a vacation she took to the States a few years ago, when she and her family went for a swim in Lake Michigan. It wasn’t a stormy day, yet they were barely in up to their waists when one of several “safety sentinels” patrolling by canoe yelled, “Go back! Go back! You have passed the safe swimming depth!”

But we’re only in three feet of water, Tracey objected.

“It’s not safe!” the guard repeated.

“Why not?”

“One of our patrol canoes might run into you.”

Not all precautions are this patently absurd, but there are plenty that make life more frustrating without making us safer. A friend once sent me the rules for her daughter’s school science fair. These included, “No organisms (living or dead). No microbial cultures/fungi/molds/bacteria/parasites.” And, my favorite, “No plants in soil.”

Because of all those tragedies set in motion by plants, I guess. Especially plants in soil.

Those rules came from a school in Colorado, a state which also once boasted a library that banned unaccompanied children under age 12 because “Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture .  .  .”

How do rules like these take hold? Brown blames a deadly combination of political grandstanding, fear of lawsuits and 24/7 media that react to any unfortunate event, no matter how rare, by ratcheting up the anger and demanding that something — even something really stupid and pointless (they don’t put it this way) — be done.

The authorities oblige and the result is often a rule or law passed in haste with no regard to its cost, necessity or possible adverse consequences.

Naturally, air travel provides a great example of this cycle. The aftermath of 9/11 not only brought us the TSA — a bureaucracy that now costs over $7 billion a year — it also created a bonanza for the safety-industrial complex. So now, every once in a while at the security checkpoint, I am, like many other travelers, somehow picked to hold out my hands and have them swabbed, or to have my suitcase swabbed. A machine then analyzes the swab for explosive residue.

“These machines have been introduced across the world,” says Brown. “They cost millions.” How many of them have detected the chemical residue of an explosive?

According to Brown, “Not one.”

The problem is that once a piece of machinery or bit of rigmarole becomes part of the safety gauntlet, it doesn’t get reviewed. Says Brown, “There’s no set-point when someone says, ‘Is this really doing anything?’ ”

Brown would like us to subject safety procedures to the same kind of testing we do on drugs: Does it work? What are the side effects? Is it worth the cost?

Without us insisting on rational, provable reasons for the safety hoops we must (carefully!) jump through, fear junkies and snake oil salesmen will keep piling on the precautions. These include many we don’t need — like the swabbing device — and some that are downright dangerous, like not letting kids learn any real science, for fear they will somehow hurt themselves with a potted plant.

Hard though it is to believe, we’re living in the safest time in human history. Before we try to make it safer with new restrictions, let’s ask whether they make any sense. Otherwise we’re throwing away our freedom as pointlessly as a snow globe.

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Don't ask why we confiscate penknives, yet let travelers buy bottles of Scotch at the duty-free shop, that they can break on board the plane.

Don’t ask why we confiscate penknives, yet let travelers buy bottles of Scotch at the duty-free shop, that they can break on board the plane. Just take off your shoes and keep walking. 

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57 Responses to Another Shocking Fact or Two About the TSA (and Security Kabuki in General)

  1. Richard March 30, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    My favorite part of the current theatre is when the TSA will confiscate liquids, then hurl them down into a bin that they will continue to stand next to for the remainder of their shift.

    In a similar vein though, consider the CHMSL (center high mounted stop light). I actually appreciate these, but they studied it and it didn’t make any measurable difference in automotive safety despite costing automakers absurd amounts of money (it affects everything from R&D to aerodynamics, across millions upon millions of vehicles).

    No matter where you look, this pattern seems to reveal itself – and nobody feels comfortable repealing any “safety” regulation, lest they be seen as weak.

  2. BL March 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    “But we’re only in three feet of water …”

    OMG! It’s dihydrogen monoxide! Ban it! Ban it!

  3. Workshop March 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Plants in soil are an ever-present danger. All lost hikers have been near plants in soil, and the majority of car accidents occur within 100 yards of plants in soil.

    There’s too much evidence for it to be coincidence.

    And people think they’re safe when they’re inside their houses. But potted plants are there, too. Waiting for the opportunity to strike.

    Those plants are likely in cahoots with our cats and plotting nefarious schemes.

  4. Roger the Shrubber March 30, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    The PA state park on Lake Erie does not allow flotation rafts on the water.

    My local county owned wave pool does not allow you to use you own flotation devices ‘for safety reasons’, but they are kind enough to allow you to rent them.

  5. Roger the Shrubber March 30, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

    I recently attended a musical performance at my son’s elementary school. I had to show ID to get in. They didn’t write my name down or anything so I don’t know what they think they accomplished. I was tempted to tell the principal that her efforts were pointless because people don’t usually keep their drivers licences attached to their bombs and handguns.

  6. James Pollock March 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    It’s not that hard to see how we wind up with ever-increasing security rules.

    Somebody (usually, a LOT of somebodies) sits down and figures out what all the current threats are. Then they set out to write rules that will block the current threats, and still permit people to do the sorts of things they used to do. Which is fine, except that the bad guys (or good guys pretending to be bad guys) think of ways to exploit the rules. So new rules are added to patch the holes. The bad guys find a way to exploit the new rules, too, so newer rules are needed. Repeat endlessly.

    Thing is, the fact that new rules are required to deal with holes in the old one doesn’t mean that the old rules aren’t needed any more. So the rules just keep adding up.

  7. John March 30, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    The United States I think is much much much more anal than most, if not all other countries, when it comes to safety. Heck the speed limit on some U.S military bases overseas is 15 kilometers per hour during PT time which is walking speed! Granted many of our troops have died in vehicle accidents rather than combat so I understand their concern. But this is a stark over reaction in my opinion considering the speed limit in the states near elementary schools is 25 mph during rush hour!

    On another issue, a 10-year-old boy most recently swallowed some magnets which apparently tore up his insides. Fortunately he received medical help just in time so he is now OK. But the mysterious question is, why in the world would a 10-year-old swallow magnets?? Just about everybody on the blog below the article wondered the same thing. It would seem that a kid that age would be mature enough not to do that! Regardless, he’s probably the only 10-year-old kid who ever did that. But you just watch, as a result of that, magnets will now be outlawed in the U.S. for any kid under the age of 16! Typical American over reaction.

    So instead of using that incident for a one-time emphasis to kids under 16 that magnets will damage their insides, the helicopter crowd will point to that one kid involving that one incident to prove all kids that age are not mature enough to know better and thus, we can’t take any chances….sigh.

  8. Chantelle March 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Quote:
    “From now on, she says, when someone insists, “This is for your own safety,” ask for evidence.”

    This is a great thought, but the question is, who should we ask for this evidence? The TSA agent asking me to remove my shoes has neither the power to change the law, nor the authority to allow me to skip security procedures if she cannot prove their efficacy. Where would we start in this fight? I would imagine the current climate of fear would mean that no one but someone pretty high up could repeal these security procedures, but anyone important enough is not someone a typical citizen could call to chat about policy.

  9. Donna March 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    “Because of all those tragedies set in motion by plants, I guess. Especially plants in soil.”

    Did you not see Little Shop of Horrors, Lenore? Clearly plants are evil and just waiting to take over the world.

  10. Trey March 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    Reminds me of when I tried to start a fencing club in college. I got turned down cold because of safety. But I had to ask (and this resulted in the phone being hung up on me) “So fencing is unsafe, yet you continue to have football and basketball teams. Can I talk to who handles your insurance about how many claims those two sports have resulted in?”

  11. Neil M March 30, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    This is a great read, and I would add that when you ask government just how many terrorists these measures have thwarted, you are inevitably told that information is just too dangerous to reveal. That means we’re being asked to endure these intrusions and to blindly trust that they are necessary. I didn’t know that, in a democracy, citizens were required to blindly trust *any* government entity or official.

    Personally, I long for the days when we were all less “safe.”

  12. Donald March 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

    By law, places of employment must hire an Occupational Health and Safety Officer. 1 OHS for every 250 employees? (I don’t know the ratio) OHS must continually increase safety. This is their job. They can’t sit still and do nothing while normal life happens. (Normal life is not 100% free of accidents)

  13. Donald March 30, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    “These machines have been introduced across the world,” says Brown. “They cost millions.” How many of them have detected the chemical residue of an explosive?
    According to Brown, “Not one.”

    We want to increase safety. Has anyone considered the hazards of a floundering economy? Can the money spent on explosive chemical reading machines be used where it can save more lives? Perhaps it can subsidize life saving medication?

  14. Powers March 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    Richard – they can safely stand next to a bin of liquids because the liquids they’re concerned about need to be combined with something else before they become harmful.

  15. Beth March 30, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    @Richard, automakers have to pay for stoplights? Maybe I’m dense, but I was completely unaware of this. Do you know the background of that requirement?

  16. Kim March 30, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

    @Beth, I think that @Richard meant brake lights – the ones that are now often seen up in the middle on the back of cars.

  17. BPFH March 30, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

    “Brown recalled a vacation she took to the States a few years ago, when she and her family went for a swim in Lake Michigan. It wasn’t a stormy day, yet they were barely in up to their waists when one of several ‘safety sentinels’ patrolling by canoe yelled, ‘Go back! Go back! You have passed the safe swimming depth!'”

    *snort* Where the heck did *that* happen? I grew up in western lower Michigan, and I’ve been to Lake Michigan beaches from Holland to Traverse City to Mackinac City (which ironically is actually a village under state law). The beaches I’ve been to (Holland State Park, Tunnel Park, Kirk Park, Grand Haven State Park, Hoffmaster State Park, Ludington State Park, a couple inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and so on) *might* have had posts indicating a “safe” swimming area, or maybe a sign suggesting that you not swim that day if the conditions were particularly severe, but frankly, it’s not like anyone cared even if the sign was there. Three foot deep water and 2-3 foot waves FTW! 😀

  18. JR March 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    @ Roger the Shrubber: I don’t know in which state you live but they were likely viewing your DL for indications that you were a registered sex offender or registered sexual predator (yes there is a difference). Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Well, that’s a great idea! I don’t want any SOs or SPs in the school my kid attends.” And many (most?) people may agree. But this agreement is founded in misunderstanding at best or ignorance for the most part. Allow me to enlighten you.

    For many years now politicians have fed the public’s fear of stranger danger and predator panic (can I get a “Skenazy? ! “). Through this fear mongering they have pulled the wool over your eyes.

    Before you dismiss me…Do you know how many laws (approximately) in every state in the US can qualify YOU to be placed on the sex offender registry? Take a guess…20? Ha 75? Your not even close!

    An average of 200…That’s TWO HUNDERED laws in every state can place you on the registry.

    “Well,” you say, “I’m not breaking any if the laws so who cares? ” and I’ll be glad you are not but let me continue. Many (most) people believe, they strongly believe, that everyone on the registry must have abused a child. They must have physically abused someone and done serious harm to them. That, my friend, I am sorry to say is nowhere near the truth. Nearly 1/3 of the 800,000+ citizens on the registry are minors our were minors when they “offended.” What were the offenses? Most often they are consensual sex with another minor and/or sexting. Remember your teenage years? From the 70s, 80s, early 90s? Not one teenager I grew up with would escape today’s registry. They would face a lifetime of punitive restrictions on their civil liberties.

    The minors are an easy argument. Harder still were the nuances of so-called sex crimes. Police agencies conducting sting operations capture THOUSANDS of otherwise law abiding citizens in alleged illegal activity. The majority of these people have no criminal history whatsoever and statistics and research prove that were it not for the manipulative nature of the sting operation they never would commit a crime. I could go on all night but I’ll close with this:

    FACT: Sex Crime recidivism is the lowest percentage of recidivism of all crimes other than murder

    FACT: 90%+ of those on the registry are first time offenders

    FACT: Approximately ten years after a person’s sex offense the empirical data shows that the likelyhood of reoffending EQUALS that of any other citizen (this means you)

    FACT: The majority of all child related sex abuse is committed by a family member or someone known to the victim. (This means that your children have a higher likelyhood of being abused by someone they know than anyone you find on the Sex Offender Registry)

    So the next time you’re enjoying you child’s performance remember… The registered citizen who is banned from their child’s school (and home) is missing this wonderful event while at the same time being no more a threat to yours than YOU ARE TOO THEM.

  19. Tom March 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

    It’s like at a major sporting event. You can’t bring water into the stadium when it’s 90 degrees out. Claiming its for safety reasons, but hey we will sell you water for $5. Using safety as a reason to exploit to make more profit

  20. Mark March 30, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    Reminds of a glorious Sept day at Jones Beach, NY, Lifeguards were gone. And despite warnings to avoid especially high surf and risky undertows in wake of hurricane, a bunch of us trekked there. plunged in, precisely so we could enjoy high surf surg with no crowds. Much fun to be shared with had-been strangers. Plus I felt we had each others’ backs in our spontaneous little society from kids to seniors. . . . And We Had Fun, Fun, Fun . . . .

    As ar far-flung unsupervised beaches around the world generating little, transient communities to share thrills, trust, enhancing one anothers’ safety. Hardly ‘Lord of the Flies.’

  21. Jessica March 30, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

    I learned that TSA was security theater when they took my god sewing scissors and let me keep my foot-long metal knitting needles. In all the times I’ve flown with knitting needles, even my entire case, they’ve never been confiscated.

  22. Janet March 31, 2016 at 1:04 am #

    “No plants in soil” is a rule for the display portion of the science fair, not the experiment portion. It’s about the mess. You are welcome to plant plants in soil at home, and put a picture of the project on your display. Living organisms aren’t allowed because it would be stressful for the mouse to be in a gym full of screaming kid-scientists (animal cruelty). Displaying dead animals, microbes, fungi, etc. is about infection control. The display committee has to judge a gym full of projects quickly and can’t really be expected to figure out which dead animals have been properly disinfected, for example. And, again – assuming you have a safe, humane project (a science teacher or other reviewer is supposed to sign off on using living animals before the experiment), using a mouse (or a microbe) in your project and putting a picture of your experiment on your display board is OK. You just can’t bring the actual living thing to the fair.

  23. Roger the Shrubber March 31, 2016 at 8:40 am #

    JR – The principal looked at my driver’s licence, asked me who I was coming to see, then let me in. There was no checking of anything. So as pointless as checking someones status in regards to offender registries is, even that was not being done.

    It was all just another example of security theater.
    ‘We have to do something to insure safety!’
    ‘Well, checking driver’s licences is something.’

    Being in Pennsylvania where the Sandusky affair has escalated it, the whole background check thing has gotten out of hand:

    At the local school board meetings, whenever there is talk of contractors doing work at the schools there is one concerned citizen who always asks if the workers have cleared BJ checks. Her question is pointless because state law required that they do!

    There has been a lot of shale gas exploration in my community and there is a councilman, anti-fracking, who whenever any discussion concerning the industry is brought up points out how we have all these out-of-state workers in our community that have not undergone BJ checks!

    I saw a Facebook post over the holidays asking for recommendations on a Santa for hire – ‘Must have clearances!’

    In order to participate in any way with my kid’s athletic teams I am required to complete BG checks. It includes a search of state criminal databases and for those who have not lived in the state for the past 10 years, an FBI clearance is required that involves submittal of fingerprints.

  24. Workshop March 31, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    I’m no expert, but I expect a “BJ check” is not what you’re going for . . . .

  25. Stacey March 31, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. ”

    -Helen Keller

    http://southgeek.blogspot.com/2015/03/shouldawouldacoulda.html

  26. CrazyCatLady March 31, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    So….with all those sodas, coffees, breast milk and formula that end up in the trash can at the TSA….do they test those for explosives? Do we know if anyone has actually been deterred and still got on a plane? Or, as I suspect, does this just add to screaming babies and grumpy caffeine deprived adults on the planes for absolutely no reason at all?

    And if they are testing it….how much has this cost us, and again….has it actually stopped anything from happening?

  27. Roger the Shrubber March 31, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Workshop – Your lack of expertise is noted.

  28. Papilio March 31, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    JR: “For many years now politicians have fed the public’s fear of stranger danger and predator panic (can I get a “Skenazy? ! “).”

    That sounds like you’re asking for a drink! ‘One Skenazy on the rocks please…’ 😛 (What would be in it?)

    @John: “Heck the speed limit on some U.S military bases overseas is 15 kilometers per hour during PT time which is walking speed!”

    Eh – maybe for the folks in the service, but certainly not for the average person!

    @Jessica: “they took my god sewing scissors” Your what??

  29. andy March 31, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    @Papilio Sewing scissors are different then normal ones. You can not just buy random scissors meant to be used on paper and hope the and product turns out fine. I mean, it can, but it is going to be harder, take more time and you might not be able to properly (or at all) cut some fabrics.

  30. MichaelF March 31, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    Quote:
    “From now on, she says, when someone insists, “This is for your own safety,” ask for evidence.”

    This is a great thought, but the question is, who should we ask for this evidence?

    —–

    While you are right, the TSA Agent at the airport gate is just going to roll their eyes, but we should start making noise about this to the press, our representatives, social media, friends, whomever. Until people start asking the questions, there will be no change.

  31. Suze March 31, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    I remember getting on a plane to fly to New York from Toronto and heaven forbid, I had nail clippers of which they confiscated. Yes, the had a bucket with a handle and security picked it up and made me throw them in. There must have been at least 50. How on earth are you going to hurt anyone with nail clippers?

    Also, from what I understand, they do not confiscate baby bottles with formula or breast milk. You are allowed one if you are travelling a certain distance with your infant.

  32. Dean Whinery March 31, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    While they were running the contents of my pockets, including passport and wallet, through a scanner, my handful of arterial stents tripped their machine. With my medical info in the wallet showing that I had stents implanted, the security person demanded I open my chest to show that the implants were not weapons. A supervisor determined that, since I didn’t have a zipper installed, it would “probably be safe” for me to pass.

  33. Puzzled March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    Also, from what I understand, they do not confiscate baby bottles with formula or breast milk. You are allowed one if you are travelling a certain distance with your infant.

    A coworker’s wife tried to fly with pre-pumped breast milk. They only let her bring it on if she drank it. The story made the news and we had to give everyone who answered the phone instructions on what to do if the media called.

  34. SnowCat March 31, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    Ummm. John? You said, ‘Heck the speed limit on some U.S military bases overseas is 15 kilometers per hour during PT time which is walking speed!?’. Umm. Ok. I’m in pretty good shape, I run marathons, but…I don’t tend to walk at 9.3 mph, which is what 15K is. I don’t even run that fast. It takes me an hour and 15 minutes to run 9.3 miles. 😮 If you walk that fast, I’m really impressed! 🙂

  35. Vaughan Evans March 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    I was a participant at a story telling-(There were some young children.
    A girl of 5 asked the storyteller, what is the=his man doing?
    -She said, ‘He is listening.
    (Perhaps she is either conditioned by the silly television-or, by VIDEO GAMES-that only COMPOUND the evils of television.
    Another time I was in a community centre lobby. A 6-year girl asked her mother, “Why is this man so cross?”
    -I LOOKED cross-because I was “pondering” something. Sometimes when you are angry, upset, or vehement, it is best to sit quietly and think you own thoughts-so that you are in a better position to handle the situation sensibly, safely and even-temperedly.
    I learned this from a Self-Help Book(that I purchased in 1979) called”
    Learning How to Live With Nervous Tension.”

  36. EricS March 31, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    It’s all in our heads. Literally. Many of the things we find ridiculous these days, is because someone’s mentality was conditioned, along with other underlying issues already. And if one were to believe in conspiracies, it kind of makes sense. We are all being conditioned to be lambs for the slaughter, or sheeple. Follow without question. And one of the best ways to alter peoples views, is to prey on their fears. Everyone who fears excessively are easily manipulated.

    People should check out the show “Brain Games”. It’s human psychology explained with science, facts and experiments. It explains, outlines and shows exactly what is going on today in people’s heads. Why people do what they do, or why we’ve always done what we’ve always done without question.

  37. Jessica March 31, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    Should have read “my good sewing scissors”.

    Also, from experience, they didn’t confiscate my pumped breast milk, but they did test it for explosives and reassure me (jokingly, cuz they knew it was bunk too) that it was safe to feed to my child.

  38. John March 31, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    Quote:

    “Umm. Ok. I’m in pretty good shape, I run marathons, but…I don’t tend to walk at 9.3 mph, which is what 15K is.”

    @SnowCat:

    Well, let’s put it this way SnowCat, 15 kph is pretty darn slow for ANY vehicle! 😉

  39. andy March 31, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    @John That speed seem to be slightly lower then maximum speed in “living street” which is the kind of street where pedestrians have right of way, can be expected to walk on road however they wish, kids can play on the street and maximum speed is usually 20km/h. It seems like they were after “living street” kind of environment.

  40. James Pollock March 31, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    “Well, let’s put it this way SnowCat, 15 kph is pretty darn slow for ANY vehicle! ”

    Hot air balloon
    Bathyscape
    Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine under Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct
    (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/About/FollowBertha )

  41. Joanna March 31, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    In 2003 to board a flight for England via KC and Chicago, of course I had to leave my dangerous nail clippers at home, but unbelievably was allowed to bring along a full-size, non-collapsible umbrella with its umpteen wire splines that could easily be removed to use to garrot fellow passengers on the 7 1/2 hour transatlantic flight. I even called the airlines several days in advance of departure to verify that I could indeed carry on a potentially lethal weapon. After double-checking with higher-ups, the customer rep was as amazed as I that, yes, an umbrella was “okay”. In Somerset at the farm that had been the home of a 17th century ancestor, I was gifted with a shard of a thick wine jug bearing his name, which I absently slipped into a pocket of my carry-on for the return flight. At Heathrow, while a Brit TSA employee carefully examined my well-worn running shoes for explosives, that 1685 glass potential throat-slitter was sailing through the X-ray machine undetected. Same for the next (and last!) security check at Chicago before the last leg to KC. That trip ended any belief I’d had that airport security rules can keep the flying public safe!

  42. hineata March 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    A couple of years ago I was stupid enough to pack 2 kilos of laksa paste (laksa is a kind of Malay curry) into my carry-on luggage in Singapore, heading home to NZ. It ended up in the bin….the security agents not even being able to take it home for themselves, in spite of it being sealed in the manufacturer’s pouch.

    No laksa parties for us that year, sob, sob….though at least they didn’t detain me on suspicion of drug-running. THAT would be scary.

  43. Roberta March 31, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    A few years ago I was flying with my two year old son. As we reached the end of the line to the security gate my son in his stroller happened to be eating a hard-boiled egg. The person at the gate explained that we could not go through the gate with open food, so we would have to throw it out. But when I pressed them about it, they said it would be ok if it were put away securely. So I wrapped the half an egg in a napkin and put it into my pocket, and we were allowed to walk through the gate as such – and then I gave it right back to him to finish eating. I sure felt thankful for the astute precautions.

  44. SnowCat March 31, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    Yeah, I agree – it is slow for a vehicle, even a bicycle. But, wow, I’d love to be able to walk that fast! 🙂

  45. Papilio March 31, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Actually, 15kph is the average speed at which the Dutch cycle. (Keep in mind the BIG part of the population that cycles includes people over 80 and kids under 7, so…)
    It’s also the posted speed limit in the living streets.

    @Andy: It wasn’t the ‘sewing scissors’ part that got me confused, it was the ‘god sewing’ bit!

  46. AmyO March 31, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    What I’d like to know is why we have these reactions to some things, and not others. I mean, there are way more bank robberies than plane hijackings each year, yet we don’t scan people as they go into the bank. Why this issue alone? Is it because bank robbers have been around longer? In 100 years when 9/11 is a chapter in middle school history, will we have sensible airport security?

  47. jimc5499 March 31, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

    A few years ago the company that I worked for was having their picnic at a farm that rented itself out for things like this. One of their problems was that the farm had a large swimming pool. There was no problem in using the pool, but, our safety guy said that we had to have a lifeguard. I volunteered to be the lifeguard but I was turned down because I didn’t have a Red Cross certification. We ended up not using the pool because they couldn’t find a “certified” lifeguard. In the early 1980’s I was a Navy Search and Rescue swimmer. By the way the pool was only four feet deep.

  48. James Pollock March 31, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    “I mean, there are way more bank robberies than plane hijackings each year, yet we don’t scan people as they go into the bank. Why this issue alone?”

    Because you can’t hijack a bank and use it to kill people.
    Pre-9/11, the advice to bank employees was the same as the advice to airline employees… give the armed person what they want, and we’ll catch them later. But then it turned out that captured airliners are extremely effective weapons, so the rules changed.

    FAR more people are killed by intoxicated drivers than by terrorists. But we don’t build in those breathalyzer doohickeys. And it turns out that putting breathalyzer doohickeys in the bars is a bad idea, because intoxicated people view it as a contest… who can blow the highest number and still remain standing upright unassisted?

  49. SnowCat March 31, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    I wasn’t thinking a few months back and tried to bring 2 large bottles of brandy from Germany into the US in my carry on. That didn’t work out well! Well, actually, it was ok because I had time to check it, but I almost missed my flight.

  50. elizabeth March 31, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    “Sometimes things that look safe turn out nasty, and things that look nasty turn out safe.” Cheshire cat, Alice in Wonderland

  51. Rivkacatholicaspie March 31, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

    I’m the owner of an American Pitbull Terrier. Beautiful well behaved boy. And the wide-spread mass hatred of all members of his breed-calls to ban them, calls for automatic euthanasia (already in place in some cities) is yet one more example of this mass hysterical fear.

  52. Jana April 1, 2016 at 2:48 am #

    No comment. (Sigh.)

  53. andy April 1, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    @Papilio Heh, I completely missed the “god”. I read it as “good”.

  54. Papilio April 1, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    @Andy: Pretty sure that’s what she intended… 😀

  55. jennifer April 1, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    So I found out this crazy fact about the TSA… my teen daughter was flying alone and apparently she does not have to show any ID until she is 18. So anyone who looked anywhere reasonably close to being a teenager could just buy a ticket under any name, stating that they were under 18 and then get on the plane without proving who they were. Just me, or does that seem like a rather giant hole in the security apparatus of “no fly lists”?

  56. CrazyCatLady April 1, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    And then there is the pre-screening that my local newspaper reported about this morning. http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article69278752.html Apparently, you can sign up to be a “trusted traveler”. Which, yeah, we know terrorist never plan far ahead and would never take advantage of a program like this. To me, it sounds like a way for the TSA to make extra money.

  57. NY Single Mom April 2, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    @ JR–“Sting Operations” and 200 laws in every state…

    Innocent people are set up by sting operations. And Illegally obtained confessions result in charges and jail time and then ten years to life on the SORNA registry. And in some states, apparently, a “Scarlet Letter” on the person’s driver’s License.

    All as a result of the misguided “Megan’s Laws” which are based on a single research fallacy perpetuated by the US Department of Justice to serve the narrow interests of the Tough on Crime Era Supreme Court of the United States.

    But the Supreme Court now has an opportunity to get it right. A case heard last month regarding the need of a Kansas registrant to register under obviously confusing circumstances gives the High Court a chance to revisit the issue and reverse the erroneous decision made more than a decade ago – and get it right this time.

    A new US Department of Justice Manual which came out in July, 2016, contains up to date research regarding the
    exceedingly low recidivism rate for most sex offenders. This research will make it possible to correct the thirty years of wrongs, take down the public registry for those innocent of violent crimes, and let families begin to rebuild their lives.

    But those laws hwa hav