Beyond the Cusp

June 8, 2016

Dreading Being TSA’ed to Death

 

Well, agreed, the TSA is not likely to take our lives but they may very well squelch the spirit out of our upcoming trip. It is expected but still haunting how when you start approaching a planned trip you start noticing every TSA horror story and the nerves start to fray. Add to it that at this moment there is a brouhaha at the TSA over the intolerable lines and longer than believable wait times. The TSA has even just fired Kelly Hoggan, their security chief with the TSA Chief Administrator Neffenger told USA TODAY, “I felt it was important to have a different approach going forward than we’ve had in the past.” This may be a slight improvement over claiming that the lines at TSA checkpoints were really not all that much different than those at the Disney theme parks. Thinking back to the last time we went through TSA checkpoints, let’s face it, they are more like military checkpoints as far as their stringent rules and a lot like Keystone Cops when it comes to organization and efficiency but with much less and slower movement. Then when you read that they fail to catch planted dummy explosives and firearms when tested by random testing at virtually every airport; well, the last report on this I read did point out there were four or five airports which had passed over fifty percent of their tests, which makes the rest even worse. What was sad is the airports listed I had never and likely never will fly in or out of and one of them was in a city I had not realized actually had an airport. The one thing these airports all had in common was they had chosen to hire their own TSA employees rather than relying on the government screening and hiring systems. Fortunately, we will be flying with an airline which takes their own security very seriously and have a top notch screening system consisting of various levels and well trained interviewers and techniques used at every contact point including their own boarding security check in addition to the TSA.

 

That got us to thinking that perhaps security and safety would be better served by having each airline provide whatever level of checkpoints they felt was necessary with a set minimum level required and everything beyond something similar in coverage and efficiency of the best TSA working system. The advantages are obvious and legion. First every airline would have their business on the line and airline advertisements would boast of their efficient and layered security checks and their luggage screening systems. Who knows, some might even choose to use an automated computerized system where each individual is asked a set of questions taking under thirty seconds and using advanced software, facial recognition and monitoring facial movements is capable of determining who requires more close scrutiny and who passes from the start. Such systems would speed checks and remove the human fallibility factor and have been proven to be close to ninety percent accurate. The efficiency includes false positives as well as missed problem persons. We would trust such a system and understand that these systems will only improve and eventually be all but foolproof. Of course, anybody who has ever been a repair technician or engineer can tell you, nothing can be made completely foolproof because fools can be so ingenious. Still, with the automation of security screening there is no reason to continue with a bureaucratic behemoth which has become nothing much more than another government jobs program and union run system where incompetence runs amuck and lives are placed in danger with government job security placed as a higher priority than passenger safety.

 

TSA Lines Waiting to Miss Their Flight

TSA Lines Waiting to Miss Their Flight

 

With the current missteps being front and foremost in the public’s eyes at the moment, perhaps this would be a great opportunity for the airlines to take over their own security and demand an end to the TSA boondoggle. The first complaint is that having the airlines handle their own security is it will raise the price of tickets. Actually it would likely only slightly raise the price but the level of actual security would be improved by a large factor and worth the difference. Further, currently everybody whether they fly or not are paying for the TSA and it is providing employment, government union jobs and providing a veneer of an appearance of security while doing very little to make air travel any safer. Would it not be better for those who benefit most by the added security to pay for the security? Airlines could choose what level they desired to put in place and advertise any advantage their systems provide. With each airline responsible for their own security the government would possibly still be tasked with security of the airways themselves. The argument against having the airlines take care of their own security is that each airline will use their own system and there will be little government assurance of the level of security each provides and how will anyone be assured that the airlines will actually perform a competent level of security coverage. The assurance is that the airlines will take whatever precaution they feel will provide best for their customers and will all compete for the same travel dollars and thus the ones which provide the best security and have the best record and stellar recommendations will know they will gain the extra flying public who are safety conscious. No airline will take any chance of an incident as just one faltering could mean millions of dollars in lost revenue while whenever the TSA fails to take sufficient levels for security it does not cost the government a single penny in lost taxes. The only reason that the airlines rely on the government is because there is no competition. If one of the major airlines were to suddenly provide additional security checks, we would soon see every other airline follow suit as whoever provided the additional layer, even if it was just as cosmetic as the TSA checkpoints, they would receive additional passenger demand and get this additional demand even if their prices were a few dollars more than their main competitors. Once the airlines get into the security business we would see the requirement for the TSA disappear and a call would come from the general public for the elimination of the TSA as an unnecessary and time wasting inconvenience that it is, but that is easy for us to say as we are flying the most secure airlines in the world today.

 

Airline security is just one additional example of the government demanding to repair something which was not really broken, would of or was already being done as part of business already, would have been provided at a higher level and less expensively than the government programs ended up costing and lastly would have never become as big a waste of time requiring the affected industry to provide their own layer in addition to the unacceptably poor level provided by government at ten times the cost taking many multiples of time and effort to accomplish next to nothing. The TSA and their flippant response to an inquiry to the wait times is another reminder as was the wait times costing veterans their lives because of protracted waits for treatment through the VA hospital systems. The government does perform some areas better than could be provided at a similar cost by private industry such as the military, but that is also an area where we would hope never to require the full use and further would probably not desire to trust a private provider to hold that kind of power at their disposal. Even the space program will soon be proven to be capable of being performed just as well and eventually with better and more advanced systems in quicker processions with numerous private providers in competition for the riches which will invariably be found beyond the horizons of mother earth. Where law enforcement has traditionally been the providence of government, we are seeing a transition to private security in more and more situations. Security, even armed security, in malls and public amusement parks and other venues has become something expected and accepted by the public and there are even places where the government has retreated from providing security and instead placed that requirement onto those who hold events. In area after area we find that private practice often outperforms government provided systems and does so for less cost than having government perform such functions. Think about testing products and ranking them as performing at a level of quality which is a measure of an acceptable level and within known safety standards. One would think that such a system would be a government agency and many people believe that the Underwriters Laboratories Underwriters Laboratories Logo is a government agency but is and always has been a private company which makes their profits by charging manufacturers for their testing and licensing programs which they run. Their testing is comprehensive and any manufacturer who sends their product for testing is not guaranteed to receive the Underwriters Laboratories Logo seal of approval and knows this going in and also understands that they need pay for the testing pass or fail. The advantage is if their product fails to attain approval they will receive documentation about their failures as well as where their product was sufficient and they can then reengineer and adjust the manufacturing and reapply, for a fee, of course. Even product quality is best tested, licensed and provided by a completely, for profit, private corporation whose name is as good as gold and their Underwriters Laboratories Logo label is sought by consumers and industries alike. Their service and so many other things are often, even surprisingly, are best provided by private companies and done so more efficiently with more competence and at a lower cost than anything the government could put together and if done privately and for profit, then all are guaranteed that all possible efficiencies and cost savings will be determined and implemented with an eye always seeking to maximize profit and quality knowing that they are closely related as people will not long pay for that which is ineffective unless forced to do so, which is why government can be so invariably inefficient and clumsily incompetent. Sad but true.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 28, 2012

A Morning With the TSA

Found myself in the position of having absolutely no other option than to fly to my destination. Normally I will go to almost any extreme to avoid airports with the new security regulations and the accompanying myriad of other inconveniences. Unfortunately, this trip’s itinerary was planned by somebody else leaving me little choice. My preparations for my encounter with some of the elite federal security personnel who stand to safeguard our skies from any miscreant or other causers of mayhem began with my selection of T-shirt. I optioned into a midrange blue T-shirt with well worn sports logo over wearing my T-shirts with Hebrew lettering or any of my ones with a logo and the words, “Guns & Moses” emblazoned across the front. I suspected such a logo would have immediately caused me hours upon hours trying to explain that the logo was a joke play on words of the band Guns & Roses and was not some political expression or other threat of any kind. I did make the error of wearing my tennis shoes and later realized that, no matter the appearance, I really should have simply left on my slippers. Well, next time I’ll know.

 

Then came the drive across town to the airport at some inhumanly early hour and still there was traffic. I thought I lived in a sleepy little town and apparently it has had some growing pains, one being the roads have not kept up with the traffic. I know, tell you about it as this is the case almost everywhere. I often am amused at how nearly every city never seems able to build with future requirements in mind. It would cost less to do it big at the get go and would prevent that urban horror of closed lanes during rush hours. Enough about that as it could make an entire article on its own. Arriving at the airport we used the airport parking facility, there are only two from which to choose and one is open air and not patrolled or equipped with security of any sort, and the other where the service is advertised to be so fast that they claim to be loading your luggage before you finish closing your doors. After we lugged our luggage to the waiting area, we stood around for a little while until the shuttle arrived. Then check-in and on to “the line”, and I do mean the line, a line that appeared deceptively short giving off the impression of being six lines when in reality there were but two lines made up of three sections and a long interconnect linking them together.

 

I have had experience with these sort of lines before when I took my daughter to Disney World out in California. I have to give them credit for utilizing the Disney method of snaking the line back and forth and around and back around and some more snaking making an excessively long line appear to be rather short. Each time you approach what you believe is the front of the line to enter the inspection area you instead find the line circles around back to another snaking line similar to the one just navigated. With about five minutes till take-off we finally hit the inspection area where there were approximately six stations with each having two stages, one for the little trays that hold your shoes, wallet, keys, carry-on baggage, lap-top computer, and other sundry items and, most importantly, your belt. Then you shuffle along grabbing your jeans holding them up as your belt is being X-rayed for who knows what and they place you in the round chamber of death, or something like that. They have you stand with your feet exactly covering the yellow feet painted on the floor, which must be more difficult for people who are very short, and then you are ordered to raise your hands over your head. This immediately leaves one wondering whether their pants are about to slip down past their knees or can one hold their stomach distended for the duration. Then, if you appeared suspicious or if you are an attractive female you are pulled aside and at a minimum, given a closer look with the wand and more if determined necessary. As an older and not that attractive male, I got to go claim my belt and other items and get dressed all over again, well, at least my belt and shoes and at my age the shoes are a challenge. Then my only interaction with a member of the TSA arrived, other than meekly complying as being close to missing my flight, resistance was ill-advised.

 

This last individual did posses a disarming smile which hid his antagonistic attitude which I was soon to appreciate. Apparently one is supposed to virtually unpack all carry-on luggage and place any number of classes and variety of items loose in an additional tray. As it was explained to me it was this way as by taking everything out of your luggage and placing it in trays it saves the poor, overworked, wonderful, caring, intelligent and flustered people from needing to actually open your carry-on luggage and inspect anything that was even slightly questionable on the X-ray. Then, while this gentleman, and I use that word very generously, painstakingly slowly opened my carry-on pieces, all two of them, and began to rummage through them removing a few select items scowling with each extraction, he proceeded to give me my class on which items must be separated so as to facilitate his not having to do one stitch of actual work. Apparently, other than my laptop computer and a few toiletries, items which it is understandable that they might require individual attention, I also learned that anything made of plastic such as brushes and combs, anything made of metal such as jewelry and such, and anything that would cause an X-ray unit to either be blocked or cause the image to appear distorted or fuzzy, I am sure that these are highly technical terms with precise definitions and our vigilant TSA screeners are fully trained to detect these anomalies. This concluded my experience with some of those who our government has placed on the front lines to protect our skies from anybody with evil intent. I still have one question about the staffing, why are there twelve or so TSA employees at each screening location when only five are actually manning equipment or rotating the trays from the end of the line back to the front. Perhaps the rest of these TSA employees are supervisory and elite personnel who are capable of discerning evil intent simply by being in the relative presence of such miscreants. All I know is that seeing such overwhelming numbers that is such a relief, sort-of.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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