Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is that a bomb in your pants or are you glad to see me?

Ever since 9-11 flying has been no fun. I remember the good old days, when you did not have to arrive an hour or two early, when your loved ones could walk you to the departure gate and be there at the gate to greet you when you returned, when there were no baggage searches or removing of your shoes or pat downs and you could carry your toothpaste, shampoo, aftershave, a pint of bourbon and a Swiss army knife.

Now, The Transportation Security Agency has rolled out new rules that require full-body scans, which can see through your clothes and leave nothing to the imagination. They can detect nipples and pubic hair and tell if a man is circumcised or not. If one does not want to be seen virtually nude by strangers one can instead opt for the body search. The new body search will not be a gentle pat down using the back of the hand but a real search with groping of the breast and the groin. There will be a good ole squeeze to see if what is there is all that should be there.

Now, I am not that modest of a guy. I am not going to mortified if someone sees me naked. And, if it was an attractive women doing the search I might even opt for the search instead of the scan, but I think it will be men groping men and women groping women. I will put up with the indignity of the nude scan because I really am not bothered by my own nudity and if some guy gropes my groin I am not going to freak out.

Many people are however going to be uncomfortable with this. I would bet that nude pics of celebrities will find their way to the Internet. With people being human and technology the way it is, I just do not believe all those nude pictures will be kept secure.

Will this make us more secure? Probably. Is it worth it? That is a judgment call. One should not just assume that because it will make us more secure, that it is worth it. There is a trade off between security and safety, and convenience. As individuals and as a society we have to decide the proper balance. Sometimes the trade off is not worth it.

I remember when the interstate speed limit, in an effort to save gas, was reduced to 55 miles per hour. I didn't like it. I could not drive 55. People objected and the government argued that the lower speed saved X number of lives. The number of lives saved by driving the slower speed limit was simply not worth it as far as I was concerned. Some people find that statement abhorrent but in reality we all accept a certain number of deaths for our own convenience.

You often hear people say about expenditures for safety or inconveniences for safety, "if it saves just one live it is worth it." I don't think anyone really believe that. It sounds nice, but people don't really believe it. Driving 55 saved lives. Driving 35 would have saved even more. Drive 5 MPH and we could end all highway deaths. What is the magic number at which the additional saved life is not worth it. For me it was 74MPH.

The new security measures will probably make us safer. It we all had full body cavity checks and all flew naked, and could take no baggage with us we would be safer still. Like I said, I am not going to be that bothered by these new regulations but there are still some modest people in this country who are going to be very offended. This is much like the speed limit. The higher level of security may not be worth the cost.

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