Of all the challenges we face today, there may be none more pressing than people losing their ability for critical thinking. We have an entire education system from kindergarten to graduate school designed to tell people what to think and how to memorize data. Teaching HOW to think has fallen by the wayside.
Yes you really do have to teach people how to think. Or at least you do when the rest of the education system is designed to stifle independent thought. As usual, the worst examples come from the government, and this week, from the TSA here in the U.S.
Of course by now you’ve heard about the attempt to blow up the Delta jet flying from Amsterdam to Detroit over the holiday. But the TSA reaction to the event is the perfect example of what happens when you give dim-witted government bureaucrats control over our lives.
The measures they have taken since the incident are ridiculous, and do absolutely nothing to make air travel safer. In fact, you can easily argue that they will make it more dangerous, because they create complacency; with people believing the agency has actually strengthened security. And the mainstream media will perpetuate this travesty with more vacuous coverage, interviewing people standing in security lines quoting another moron saying something to the effect of, “Well it’s an inconvenience, but as long as it keeps us safe is the main thing.”
Sorry, but no rational, thinking person could believe such a thing…
We are only marginally safer for air travel today than we were on the day of the 9/11 attacks. And the reason for that is pilots will no longer allow hijackers in the cockpits, the door have been fortified, and President Bush is out of office. As far as the TSA, you would be hard pressed to find a bigger waste of billions of dollars of tax money. (And that is a very tough category to win!)
Let’s dial down the hysteria and use some logical, rational thought on this; actually do some critical thinking…
The TSA here in the States (and similar agencies in many other countries) have spent tens of billions of dollars, created tens of billions of hours of delays and hassled and inconvenienced billions of people for what?
There really hasn’t been an increase in the safety of air travel. Yes there hasn’t been another attack like 9/11, but that’s simply because no terrorists have attempted one. The air travel system is still wide open for a catastrophic attack if someone wanted to stage one.
Remember Richard Reid, the infamous shoe bomber? You know why that plot didn’t work? Because he was an idiot and couldn't figure out how to operate his BIC lighter.
Now since then more than four billion (that is billion with a ‘B’) people have flown on planes here without another case of an attempted shoe bombing. But that doesn’t stop the TSA from requiring everyone to remove their shows each time they go through security.
Does this really prevent shoe bombs? No. And what’s the real issue?
We still don’t check most of the luggage and cargo that is checked on planes for explosives. So if anyone wants to take down a jetliner, the easiest way is to put your device in your checked bag. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. One minute you’re watching “The Taking of Pellham 123,” the next, you wind up in the waiting arms of Allah for killing the infidels.
Even better, if you don’t completely buy into that give up the ghost for bin Laden stuff, you can send the explosives as cargo and enjoy the carnage from the safety of your cave in Afghanistan.
The truth is lots more people are killed by terrorism on trains than planes, yet that area of transportation is woefully unguarded. Suppose someone hijacks a Greyhound bus with slingshot made out of a tree branch and drives it into city hall. Do we outlaw trees? What about if someone gets on a cruise ship and goes down to the engine room and sets it on fire? Suppose someone rents a boat and drives it onto a crowded beach and blows it up? Drives their car into a crowded shopping mall? If someone is willing to give up their life to hurt others, you simply can’t legislate and protect against everything. You have to use some critical thinking ability here.
Now take this latest incident in Detroit. Homeland security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday that flying is “very, very safe” and the terrorist in Friday’s attack “was stopped before any damage could be done. I think the important thing to recognize here is that once the incident occurred, everything happened that should have.”
You’re fucking kidding me right?
Pretty much every possible safeguard in place failed miserably here. The reason the plane landed safely was the smart thinking and heroic response of a passenger, and because al-Qaida sent another nitwit who was pretty much only able to give himself third degree burns. (Although in al-Qaida’s defense, finding people willing to blow themselves up does restrict the intellectual gene pool you are drawing from.)
The fact is, everything that could possibly break down in the current system broke down. Those airport “puffer” machines you’ve seen would detect the PETN that the terrorist was traveling with. But most airports don’t have them. Even a bomb sniffing dog would likely have discovered this. But most airports don’t have them either.
Abdulmutallab was on a watch list, but he wasn’t flagged for any extra search or questioning. Of course this is probably the case because this watch list is pretty unmanageable with more than 500,000 people on it. Pretty much if you have a Mohamed in your name, you’re on the list.
But there is a more manageable list of about 18,000 who are designated for additional security searches or denied to travel completely. Abdulmutallab was not on this – even though his own father called the US embassy in Nigeria about his extremist views. Hello?
So now, what has the TSA done to make travel safer in light of this latest threat? Well of course they’re stonewalling everyone and not telling travelers anything that would make it less inconvenient or allow them to prepare for travel better. But Joe Brancatelli was able to get a copy of the directive sent out to airlines by Gale Rossides, the acting administrator. They include:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
Now let’s use our critical thinking skills and evaluate how these new rules will keep the traveling public safe…
You can’t even go to the bathroom the last hour of the flight. The millions of dollars the airlines have invested to offer Wi-Fi so you can work on the flight are useless. You can’t work on your laptop the last hour of your flight. If you’re sleeping peacefully, the flight attendants will be waking you up an hour before to grab your blanket and pillow from you. If you read these regulations literally, you won’t even be allowed a book.
And how exactly does all this keep you safer?
Assuming everything breaks down another time, and once again someone smuggles explosives on a flight, all they have to do is use them one hour before landing.
Does this make any sense at all?
Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re saying, “Hey, if I get blown out of the sky, better to do it an hour offshore, making the clean up much easier!”
I guess what they are really thinking is that getting blown up over water minimizes the collateral damage on the ground. But realistically this isn’t the case, since many of the international hubs such as Detroit, Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago are inland.
So really these are yet more toothless measures that do nothing to increase security, but seriously racket up the hassles, inconvenience, and harassment for passengers.
And the government isn’t alone. The airlines are doing their part to make travel safer…
At least four of them have now instituted a policy of only allowing one carry on bag. Well I don’t know about you, but that certainly makes me feel safer. I’m sure any terrorist wanting to blow up my plane will give up the effort since he can’t bring along his PRADA toiletry kit. And I’m sure the fact that these airlines charge anywhere from $25 to $50 for another checked bag had nothing to do with this…
I travel a lot. I’m all for better security. But let’s be rational here. Let’s get back to critical thinking…
Hassling passengers, longer lines and billions of wasted tax dollars isn’t making things safer. In fact, a team at the Harvard School of Public Health has concluded that here is no evidence that x-raying carry-on luggage makes us safer, that requiring us to take off our shoes does anything, or making us forfeit liquids has improved airline security. You can see the study here:
If you want to really protect passengers, stop with all the melodramatic efforts to seize skin moisturizers and do the practical stuff:
• Install explosive detectors.
• X-ray the checked luggage and cargo.
• When someone’s parent reports them to the embassy, give them an extra pat down.
• Use common sense!
So for your government officials reading this, here’s my challenge to you:
Congress, it’s silly to hassle us all for what we carry on if you don’t create the budget to examine the checked luggage. So either do that or let’s stop this pandering that looks good to the media but is really just eyewash.
And TSA, real measures like puffer machines, air marshals, and working the watch list rationally would all be great. Stupid hassles like restricting the last hour of flight are simply insulting. Which leads us to the ultimate question…
Is there anyone left in government with any critical thinking ability?