Why Not Just Ban Luggage Altogether?

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How big a boob is Ted Stevens? So big that the Alaska Republican has me defending the Transportation Security Administration. Stevens and several other senators are in a tizzy about TSA's plan to let passengers carry small tools and scissors (up to four inches long) onto airplanes. Here is the New York Times account of Monday's hearing on the subject before the Senate Commerce Committee, which Stevens chairs:

Edmund Hawley, the assistant secretary of homeland security who is in charge of the security agency, testified before the Commerce Committee that the ban on scissors was sensible when flights resumed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But Mr. Hawley said other measures that had since been put in place, including fortified cockpits and an increased use of air marshals, reduced the chance of terrorists storming a cockpit, as they did on four planes that day.

Mr. Hawley said that checkpoint screeners were opening one bag in four to look for scissors and small tools spotted on X-rays, and that this was a distraction from identifying greater threats.

"It's not about scissors, it's about bombs," Mr. Hawley testified. "Sorting through thousands of bags a day at two or three minutes apiece to sort out small scissors and tools does not help security. It hurts it."

Weighing the risk of small scissors and tools against that of bombs, he said, "If you do the analysis, it is not even close."

But the committee chairman, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, said he found that logic "difficult to follow." Mr. Stevens proposed instead that the security agency reduce the number of bags that passengers may carry on board to one from two, giving the screeners fewer items to handle.

So because Ted Stevens is not smart enough to follow the TSA's reasoning about security priorities, millions of travelers should be inconvenienced by having to check bags they now carry on? Stevens' blithe proposal would dramatically change travel patterns, effectively eliminating the option of flying without checking bags for any traveler who has a small rolling suitcase with clothes and a purse, briefcase, backpack, or computer bag. I'm guessing that when Stevens flies someone else takes care of his bags.

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  1. Stevens seems to be motivated by funnelling as much pork to his home state as possible, so maybe if you offer to have all luggage shipped to Alaska to be hand-searched, he would be happy.

  2. So when is this ass up for reelection?

  3. The terrorists have won.

  4. I’m guessing that when Stevens flies someone else takes care of his bags.

    My thoughts exactly. Inconvenience for thee, but not for me!

  5. The Chairman of the Senate committee in charge of the transportation funding bill finds the logic of applying limited resources to the most important priorities hard to follow.

    Wow. That’s just…wow.

  6. Actually, joe, I think he and you disagree on what the priorities are:

    Ted Stevens wants to ensure that no person who is not a government official ever has an opportunity to defend themselves on an aircraft, and thinks it is worth any inconvenience.

    You on the other hand rate convenience a little higher.

    Of course, as it is a government controlled matter, rather than passengers getting to pick what combination of security/convenience/price best meets their needs, we will have to put up with whatever system the central planners impose.

    Obviously, this problem is the result of selectign the wrong central planner.

  7. Except for the part where the “central planners” in question (the TSA) don’t agree with Stevens, and his direct quote saying he didn’t follow the logic, your post that he did follow the logic and just wants the decision made by central planners makes perfect sense, tarran.

  8. “Sorting through thousands of bags a day at two or three minutes apiece to sort out small scissors and tools does not help security. It hurts it.”

    Finally. A security official with a brain.

  9. Yet he can’t state the obvious – that any terrorist who tries to highjack a plane will be pummeled to death by every fist on the plane, armed or not.

  10. I have a cunning plan. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight. The airlines would benefit by being able to (1) eliminate food service, (2) save a bunch of dollars by getting rid of the flight attendants, (3) stack the passengers like cordwood, (4) greatly reduce their security procedures. Passengers would like the convenience and the illusion of instantaneous transportation. It would be popular with people who are scared of flying, as well.

    Obviously, even a sleeping passenger could carry a bomb, so they could retain the bomb-detection procedures. However, an unconscious person with a pair of scissors–or even an AK-47–ain’t gonna be much of a threat.

  11. Seems to me we need to get rid of that security offical. If our security makes sense, then the terrorists win!

  12. Joe,

    If you read the article, you’ll note that every Congrssscritter they quoted were hostile to the idea… and they control the list of contraband…

    I stand by my statements. 😉

    BTW I loved the name of the law they are proposing “Leave All Blades Behind” Let no-one say that my Cognressman lacks a sense of humor.

    Todd, I am absolutely convinced that the more intelligent members of the U.S. security apparatus fully intend to maximize the tactical advantage held by any hijacker who boards an aircraft.

    I think the notion of the non-governmental citizenry (whom they contemptuously refer to as “civilians”) succesfully defending themselves
    without assistance by the security forces is the thing they fear the most. It’s a simple question of cui Bono

    Scenario 1)
    Hijackers attempt to hijack an aircraft and are succesful -> Clearly more resources must be devoted to the state security apparatus.

    Scenario 2)
    Hijackers attempt to hijack an aircraft and are foiled by the state security apparatus -> Clearly the system works and must be maintained in place and not weakened.

    Scenario 3)
    Hijackers attempt to hijack an aircraft and attempted interference by passengers either fails or results in loss of aircraft and the death of many. -> Obviously we owe ti to the memory of those who died to ensure that this never happens again by increasign the power of the state security apparatus

    Scenario 4)
    Hijackers attempt to hijack the plane but are prevented from doing so by passengers who subdue them. -> Clearly a failure of the state security apparatus. The security apparatus will argue that the episode proves that it needs more resources, but sceptics can nwo make a credible case that te apparatus is not a prerequisite for safety.

    The only scenario where the apparatus comes out behind is in the event that an alternative solution implemented by non-officials works. Thus, the need to prevent that scneario from occuring at all costs.

    If they really wanted we the citizenry to fly safely, they would put the airlines in charge of their own security, hold them strictly liable for failures of the security, and encourage people to bring their personal weapons aboard (only with the aircraft owners permission of course).

  13. Even better: the airline should give every passenger a promotional set of nail-clippers.

  14. I think that the best way to prevent planes from being hijacked would be to give every passenger a weapon as they board. Revolvers or at least big Crocodile Dundee knives, and baseball bats for the kids. Post 9/11 many passengers would attack would-be pen knife wielding hijackers. And with only a rolled up in-flight magazine, they probably could whip his ass. Or maybe los federales should ban pens on airplanes. Somebody could stab somebody else with one.

  15. I think the notion of the non-governmental citizenry (whom they contemptuously refer to as “civilians”) succesfully defending themselves
    without assistance by the security forces is the thing they fear the most.

    Although libertarians believe that the state is bad, and that most state actions are doomed due to Public Choice theory and the inherent failures of bureaucracy, why is the mantra of “state actors do things primarily to increase the power of the state” so prevalant? Progessives seek to do good, and thus their policies usually have effect of expanding the state. The fear argument here is hogwash. The reason that progressives don’t want civilians to be responsible for their defense is because they fear the collateral damage that could be caused by untrained people interposing themselves in a life or death situation.

  16. Sadly, Ted Stevens is not up for reelection until 2009. He has served in the Senate since 1968 and the idiots here (Alaska) think he is a god. Heck, he already has an airport named after him and he isn’t even dead. This is the same man pushing for two bridges to nowhere here. Well, one of them almost makes sense, but not for the cost and the other is just pure pork.

  17. Progressive? I think that’s how they described my dad’s cancer. Yeah, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that’s how they described it.

  18. let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    Yikes, that’s a great idea. I would MUCH rather fly that way. Too bad anesthesiologists cost more than stewardesses.

  19. “It’s not about scissors, it’s about bombs,” Mr. Hawley testified. “Sorting through thousands of bags a day at two or three minutes apiece to sort out small scissors and tools does not help security. It hurts it.”

    Somebody promote this man!

    And Todd Fletcher is absolutely right.

  20. He has served in the Senate since 1968 and the idiots here (Alaska) think he is a god.

    It stops being a “service” when it becomes a career. What a jerk.

  21. He has served in the Senate since 1968 and the idiots here (Alaska) think he is a god.

    Another example that make term limits seem like a good idea.

  22. Stevens sounds like an arse but I think I would prefer it if only one carry on were allowed .. egress would be less of a pain

  23. I would be loathe to fly if it was only one carry-on. I never pack a proper suitcase, and usually just carry-on two backpacks. And I do not have them stuffed to the brim, either. I absolutely hate checking in luggage.

    This Stevens guy just keeps getting more and more lame the more you here about him.

  24. I do understand that bombs are more important than scissors, but I don’t understand why looking for one has to allow the other. Didn’t the men involved in 9/11 use something as small as box cutters? To take down a man, it could easily be done with a four inch tool. I personally am very nervous about this idea…

    but I must say-cutting down on the number of bags is a STUPID idea. Traveling is already difficult with weight limitations on bags.

  25. What’s the average IQ in the room when the TSA is the one with the brains?

  26. >I have a cunning plan. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    If this plan could involve access ti Ambien and a comfortable cot, I’d be for it. As it is, I’m stuck with nearly expired Xanax and a middle coach seat on just about every flight I take.

  27. Ted Stevens, when his precious highway bill largess was threatened,reportedly said…

    “If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state…I will resign from this body,”

    Please somebody…call his bluff!

  28. What’s the average IQ in the room when the TSA is the one with the brains?

    Did you forget this was Congress?

  29. Since we’re living in a country that has abandoned the Constitution anyway…

    I’d like to propose that yes, we do away with a carry-on item,a nd in exchange, we’re also allowed to do away with one congressman (limit, one per passenger, but that should still get the job done).

  30. Of course, what he probably wants is to replace all flights with bridges.

  31. B’s,

    That’s the funniest line on the whole thread!

  32. Emily:

    Didn’t the men involved in 9/11 use something as small as box cutters? To take down a man, it could easily be done with a four inch tool. I personally am very nervous about this idea…

    Yes, and they were able to do that because, 1) the cockpit was not secured against intrusion, and 2) passengers assumed that this was a “normal” hijacking, and thus that they should comply with the men rather than risk even a small weapon.

    Neither of these are the case anymore. Cockpits are secure now, and anyone that trie dto hijack a plane with anything less than a bomb or a machine gun is going to have a planeload of people coming after them. 9/11may have very well ended the era of the plane hijack, because now everyone assumes it’s a suicide mission, and thus they might as well fight back.

  33. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    Would suck if you ever had to evacuate the plane, mind.

  34. 9/11 could have been prevented with four cans of mace. Or even with a stick with a longer reach than a boxcutter.

  35. Keith has it exactly right. It’s been time for a while for someone to ask how anyone could hijack a plane with a sharp knife. Even slitting a couple of throats, just to get the pilot’s attention (which is probably what the 9/11 hijackers did) wouldn’t work, and, as Keith pointed out, no hijacker would live long enough to accomplish anything.

  36. The reason that progressives don’t want civilians to be responsible for their defense is because they fear the collateral damage that could be caused by untrained people interposing themselves in a life or death situation.

    As opposed to the collateral damage that could be caused by trained people interposing themselves in a life or death situation?

    Every airline hijacking that has been attempted since 9/11 has been thwarted by spontaneous civilian self-defense.

    I do understand that bombs are more important than scissors, but I don’t understand why looking for one has to allow the other.

    If you’re looking for something in a cluttered drawer it helps to visualize the item. If the most common (by far) thing screeners find and have to react to is a small blade they’re more likely to miss the bomb or gun. In addition, firearms and explosives can be detected with different types of scanners, unless the screeners are tied to their X-ray screens trying to find every blade.

  37. Jeff:

    9/11 could have been stopped with a few facefuls of hot coffee (cf: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)

    That’s the fate that awaits anybody who tries hijacking a flight with his Swiss Army knife these days.

  38. >> Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    >Would suck if you ever had to evacuate the plane, mind.

    Ejection seats.

  39. To take down a man, it could easily be done with a four inch tool.

    I’ve taken down a woman using only a five-inch tool.

  40. Fire-proof pods? I’m sure we can figure out something. Besides, no consciousness, no panic.

  41. Fire-proof pods? I’m sure we can figure out something. Besides, no consciousness, no panic.

    I think this idea will pretty well be shot down given the catheter requirement.

  42. Sadly, Ted Stevens is not up for reelection until 2009.

    Since Alaska relies heavily on commercial air for tourism and citizenry travel, maybe the good the citizens of Alaska will recognize the error in their voting and move to recall this buffoon.

    …or, maybe they prefer the isolation!

  43. Sadly, Ted Stevens is not up for reelection until 2009.

    Since Alaska relies heavily on commercial air for tourism and citizenry travel, maybe the good the citizens of Alaska will recognize the error in their voting and move to recall this buffoon.

    …or, maybe they prefer the isolation!

  44. Is it morally wrong to fantasize about hearing accusations of mental retardation while watching C-SPAN?

  45. I think the movie “Red Eye” clearly shows the need for a ban on pens.

  46. Larry A, I, and America, defy your pessimism.

    Pods on wheels? Maybe we just skip the unconsciousness part and seal everyone into a pod for the flight. Not as elegant a solution, but it would stop any violence with box cutters. And the pods could be ejectable, so that the pilot could eliminate any threat quickly and safely.

  47. Larry A, I, and America, defy your pessimism.

    Pods on wheels? Maybe we just skip the unconsciousness part and seal everyone into a pod for the flight. Not as elegant a solution, but it would stop any violence with box cutters. And the pods could be ejectable, so that the pilot could eliminate any threat quickly and safely.

  48. And the pods could be ejectable, so that the pilot could eliminate any threat quickly and safely.

    I wonder what the lawsuit will look like when the pilot ejects the wrong one?

  49. Lawsuits, grizzly? This is all about national security. No lawsuits will be allowed to interfere with protecting Americans from death, even if some Americans must die.

  50. I say hire the Hell’s Angels as security. That usually works out well.

  51. I’m still wondering how anyone from a state that keeps sending Ted Stevens back to Washington can keep a straight face when boasting of Alaskans’ “rugged individualism”…

  52. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    “Would suck if you ever had to evacuate the plane, mind.”

    Five words: “Tort reform” and “no estate tax” Put them into one bill and the airlines and passengers’ heirs are both happy.

  53. I think that searching luggage for bombs is more appropriate.

    My guess is if another terrorist tried to take over a plane with any kind of small tool (probably even a gun), almost every passenger would stand up and starting kicking the terrorists ass. The passengers would probably beat the terrorists to death right on the spot. Does anybody share this prediction, or am I being a complete idiot again?

  54. I’m still wondering how anyone from a state that keeps sending Ted Stevens back to Washington can keep a straight face when boasting of Alaskans’ “rugged individualism”…

    As a lifelong Alaskan, it’s easy to be rugged and individualistic when you all are footing the bill. Make sure you get those W-2’s in on time.

    As for Stevens, more checked luggage means more luggage checkers at Ted Stevens International. He’s creating jobs. Thank you Uncle Ted. (Yes, he’s actually called that. If he were to really go off the deep end [shut it, this is my joke] he’d demand to be known as St. Ted. It could happen. I’ve seen stranger.)

  55. Mr. Stevens proposed instead that the security agency reduce the number of bags that passengers may carry on board to one from two, giving the screeners fewer items to handle.

    This was done shortly after 9/11. The current rule is one carry-on and a personal item (briefcase, purse, etc).

    But Stevens doesn’t know that because, as you guess, “when Stevens flies someone else takes care of his bags.”

    Dumbass.

  56. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    shit, maybe Congress can assign a pair of air marshals to the front doors of every major airport to shoot any motherfucker who deigns to walk through it with any luggage at all.

  57. …” I think that the best way to prevent planes from being hijacked would be to give every passenger a weapon as they board. Revolvers or at least big Crocodile Dundee knives, and baseball bats for the kids. “

    When I was a little kid, flying meant that you dressed-up and were served real food on china with logo’d silverwear that you could keep as a souvenir. I kept a TWA knife and fork set for years that I always used for breakfast during my elementary school-years in the 1960’s. Why not complimentary promotional folding steak-knives? I sincerly doubt that in this post-9/11 era that any hijacked civilian passenger plane would reach it’s target. And being cut-to-pieces by your prospective-victims does not make one a martyr.

    Searching for remote or time-detonated bombs makes sense for passenger luggage and air-frieght; but all the airport and passenger “security” is merely a drag on the economy….and a bloody inconvenience with no benefit as a trade-off.

  58. What if every flight came with 72 beautiful virgins already onboard? That way, at least if any Muslim terrorists boarded, they would think they were dead and in Paradise already.

  59. I once flew from NY to Zurich on Swissair 1st class (it’s a long story) and they actually handed out Swiss Army knives to each passenger.
    Of course, that was in the mid-90’s…

  60. The real solution is to render every member of Congress unconscious. Paging Dr. Kervorkian!

  61. zeiner,

    I’m sure you’re right. As a 20-something male, ever since 9/11 I’ve made sure to get an aisle seat when I fly. That way I’m in a good position to jump anyone who needs a pummeling.

  62. Instead of worrying about security at all, let’s just render every passenger unconscious for the entire flight.

    As long as I can use my multipass.

  63. When I fly, the only thing I carry on is a couple of good books. It just makes things so much easier for me and everyone else not to hassle with carry-on bags. Check all your damn luggage; it’s liberating.

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