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If You Can't Bring Makeup on an Airplane, the Terrorists Have Won:

New York magazine's August 28th issue has a short piece discussing how upset various fashion poobahs are that they won't be able to groom themselves properly on the plane on the way to European Fashion Week (whatever that is). Here is the choicest comment:

"Everybody is bummed because it's a really long flight and looking good is part of the industry," says Jane beauty director Erin Flaherty. "you're seeing all of your colleagues on the plane. I thnk everybody is going to have their most oversized sunglasss on. They should screen people in the airport better. It sems like such an ignorant solution. The terrorists got exactly what they wanted.

If fashion editors can't look their best on flights to Europe, the terrorists have won.

UPDATE: I'm flying today, and have to check my bag due to the new rules. Yuck. Worse yet, if I see some of my fellow law professors on the plane, I may not look my best!

Truth Seeker:
When they're all wearing burkhas they won't need the makeup. Life will be so much easier.
9.13.2006 1:23am
Ted Frank (www):
As cost-benefit analyses go, this is a huge inconvenience and expense and degradation in quality-of-life compared to the likelihood of a successful terrorist plot using an eyeliner-bomb or Evian-bottle-bomb instead of a personal-lubricant-bomb or baby-formula-bomb.

I don't mind reasonable impingements on convenience for the purposes of security, but Americans should be protesting loudly at the expenditure of tax dollars on such plainly ineffective measures to stop implausible plots.
9.13.2006 2:26am
Shane (mail) (www):
If the terrorists' aim is disruption, then they succeed even when they are caught. While these fashion clowns aren't exactly the people I'd have representing this view, I think that it is largely true that our reaction to terror threats often costs more than the terror threats themselves.

In short, whenever we respond to a terror plot intending to disrupt infrastructure and economy by preemptively disrupting infrastructure and economy, then the terrorists have indeed won.
9.13.2006 2:29am
Adam (mail):
Shane:

So the terrorists win, you say, when we prepare and they don't act.

And the terrorists win, you say, when we prepare and they act.

And the terrorists win when we don't prepare and they do act.

So we can only "win" when we don't prepare but they don't act?

Wow. I had no idea that the best strategy to win the GWOT was to win by forfeit.
9.13.2006 2:46am
Lev:
I think it is great that those skeletal "fashion models" are banned in some places until they bulk up to "unhealthily skinny."
9.13.2006 3:04am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I hardly define having a few models wear oversized sunglasses, and preventing them from applying eyeliner in transit, as some great victory by the terrorists, but maybe I am desensitized by the barbarity of the situation.
9.13.2006 3:10am
Ted Frank (www):
Adam, the terrorists win when we disrupt our economy through inconvenient ineffective prevention measures that impose greater costs than the expected cost of plots prevented through the measures. That's just a self-inflicted wound.
9.13.2006 3:16am
Lev:

applying eyeliner in transit


It takes a whole lot more than eyeliner for fashion editors to look good.
9.13.2006 3:19am
JB:
What Ted said.

The terrorists win when we're scared enough to change our behavior. It's not neccesary for large numbers, or even small numbers, to die for that to happen.
9.13.2006 3:32am
Speaking the Obvious:
So if the terrorists ingested combustible material and blew themselves up on flight, and we responded by prohibiting the taking of our bodies on planes ("I'm sorry sir, but the new rules prohibit you going with your luggage..."), would we flatter ourselves that this safety measure prevented the terrorists from winning?
9.13.2006 3:34am
jgshapiro (mail):
Ted:

How do you evaluate the expected cost of a terrorist plot in order to do your cost-benefit analysis? If you increase the potential harm enough, even if the chance of success is low, the cost-benefit analysis will always work in favor of the benefit. For example, if the potential plot is nuclear or biological, even if there is only a 2% chance of it being carried out, virtually any measure taken will seem justified.
9.13.2006 3:36am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
The terrorists could care less whether we are "disrupted" or not. Disrupting our daily activities is not the goal. Their goal is to make us change our foreign and domestic policies which they don't like. They win if we abandon Israel, if we stop fighting for human rights in the Middle East and around the globe, if we repress speech because it "offends Islam".

In a way, though, this particular complaint may be a win for the terrorists. They surely hold models and the fashion industry is even lower regard than the rest of us. They oppose women who flaunt their bodies, and Western materialistic obsessions with beauty. So turning a few fashion industry women ugly may in fact be something they are happy to accomplish...
9.13.2006 3:44am
Donald Kahn (mail):
But seriously, folks - I take it they are flying first class. I am sure the airline would lay in a supply of beauty aids for the girls to use. No danger and no complaint.

Of course the current situation is good for laughs.
9.13.2006 3:51am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Patt,

You had me convinced up until the part of "if we stop fighting for human rights in the Middle East." Is that a joke? I am not exactly sure where the U.S. has been fighting FOR the human rights of people in the Middle East. I have heard the President speak about bringing them "to the garden of liberty from the desert of despotism," but I can't recall the HR card being played. And, quite frankly, that is absurd. With Prison abuse, Secret Prisons, Torture, and a war that, though arguably the right thing to do, arguably is a violation of HR to begin with, I am not convinced that our fighting for HR in the Middle East is the primary concern of the terrorists.
9.13.2006 3:57am
Fub:
Speaking the Obvious wrote:
So if the terrorists ingested combustible material and blew themselves up on flight, and we responded by prohibiting the taking of our bodies on planes ("I'm sorry sir, but the new rules prohibit you going with your luggage..."), would we flatter ourselves that this safety measure prevented the terrorists from winning?
Shhhh! You're giving both the terrorists and the bureaucrats ideas.
9.13.2006 4:22am
Nick Good - South Africa (mail):
Perhaps we should cut to the chase - look at the 'root cause' and impose a heavy tax on flying-whilst-Muslim.

Of course this requires that we find a sure way to identify Muslims, but Im sure this is not beyond our ken.
9.13.2006 5:12am
Perseus (mail):
So the fard jihad of the terrorists has resulted in Western fashion editors being unable to fard on airplanes.
9.13.2006 6:16am
G.dc LeatherRoom:

She means:
when freedom lovers around the globe have to alter their own lives even one inch, the terrorists "achieve progress".

Of course, DB, this probably means little to someone used to visiting Israel who has accepted the need for bunker living. (Is it true they're looking into installing a protective dome around that country?")

Thankfully, Americans and Israelis are not necessarily of the same breed. We'll never choose to live like they do -- terrorist threats aside. It's not in our nature to cower and screen everywhere, no matter what the DB's would have us do in the name of "security". ("Drop that sippy cup/liquid eyeliner, ma'am. They're out to get us, haven't you heard?? We're taking no chances and everyone is suspect!") S

Someday soon, this all will seem silly to Americans. Who would want to live like that over an extended period of time? (You'll have to do something else for copy then, eh DB?)
9.13.2006 8:15am
G.dc LeatherRoom:
"I don't mind reasonable impingements on convenience for the purposes of security, but Americans should be protesting loudly at the expenditure of tax dollars on such plainly ineffective measures to stop implausible plots."

Ted Frank:
Why speak intelligently here when it's so much fun to pull the pigtails of those fashion editors??
9.13.2006 8:16am
Revonna LaSchatze:
But seriously, folks - I take it they are flying first class. I am sure the airline would lay in a supply of beauty aids for the girls to use. No danger and no complaint.

But it's an equal opportunity industry, fashion is...
Don't forget beauty aids for the fellas.
9.13.2006 8:20am
liberty (mail) (www):
"As cost-benefit analyses go, this is a huge inconvenience and expense and degradation in quality-of-life compared to the likelihood of a successful terrorist plot using an eyeliner-bomb or Evian-bottle-bomb instead of a personal-lubricant-bomb or baby-formula-bomb."

1. They check the baby formula before allowing it on (you have to taste it).

2. Do they really allow lubricant? I doubt it.

3. Makeup also includes foundation and much else that would be easy to use.

4. What is this horrible inconvenience? Waiting until you land to redo your makeup?
9.13.2006 8:56am
Revonna LaSchatze:


First they came for the Sippy Cups, and I didn't care because the wife always carried those things

Then they came for the duty-free rum carry-on's, and I didn't care because I rarely got to visit the islands anymore

Then they came for the KY liqi-lube and I ... huh? what's that?

Then I realized how sad my colleagues and readers think I am, and I just checked my bags and sat down.
9.13.2006 8:59am
Revonna LaSchatze:


Liberty asks "What is this horrible inconvenience?"


This is how the journey down that road begins... A few steps at a time.
9.13.2006 9:01am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Using certain liquid explosives is actually very clever. Our detection systems are based on compounds with nitrogen, so they are ineffective against liquid explosives. This demonstrates how daunting the anti-terror problem really is, especially when national policy is essentially reactive. The more they do the more fearful the people become.

In normal times, modern society is extremely safe and can't function smoothly if people don't feel safe. For example the banking system keenly depends on trust. Raise the level of fear and it breaks down as it did in the Great Depression. Day-to-day life wasn't always so safe. I remember the first time I went to Venice (the real Venice). I noticed that that at night everything gets locked up tight as drum—steel shutters come down over all the shop windows. The old residential buildings have heavy doors, and thick wood shutters (like Colonial America) protecting the windows. These are the remnants from a time when ordinary daily living carried an enormous burden of risk. Those really old cities like Dubrovnik had walls for a good reason. All this introduces friction into the economic system. The Islamofascists know what they are doing and their mission could include: Get the US out of the Middle East. Get the US to stop giving aid to secular governments. Get the US to abandon Israel. Make Spain Muslim again and so fourth. Reestablish the Caliphate. You do this my making the US and the EU retreat.

Why do people wage wars? According to Victor Davis Hanson, they make war when they feel they can get away with it. So far, despite our great power, we seem to be willing to let them get away with what they are doing by hiding behind civilian populations and using rogue states to provide them with support. Has anyone ever thought to threaten the destruction of Mecca if we suffer a serious attack again? Introduce a notion of strict liability into the Muslim world. We could tell our domestic Muslims that if we suffer a major attack from any Muslim entity we will close down all the Mosques in the United States. So you had better police your own ranks.
9.13.2006 9:06am
AppSocRes (mail):
El Al is a juicy terrorist target and doesn't submit its passengers to the indignities that US air travelers must endure, yet El Al hasn't suffered a terrorist incident in the last quarter century. Maybe the US government should consider adopting the methods Israel has used to effectively and unobtrusively prevent terrorist infiltration of passenger and cargo airliners.
9.13.2006 9:08am
liberty (mail) (www):
"This is how the journey down that road begins... A few steps at a time."

So, we're not free if we can't leave bags unattended, bring whatever we want as carry-on luggage on planes and leave razorblades in our shirtpockets while riding a rollercoaster?
9.13.2006 9:12am
Revonna LaSchatze:
"So, we're not free if we can't leave bags unattended, bring whatever we want as carry-on luggage on planes and leave razorblades in our shirtpockets while riding a rollercoaster?"


We're less free.
Some of us Americans appreciate every single ounce, and don't intend to needlessly give up even a pinch. We don't accept this road and we don't intend to be on it for long.

Next thing you know, they'll have everyone -- even the old people -- bending over walking around in stocking feet in public airports. Businessmen, students, parents, kids ... get a picture today if you can. Americans as undignified buffoons you could caption it. Then make another funny about how it's no big deal to shut up and submit to this "little" things, eh? Open your eyes, man.
9.13.2006 9:35am
lucia (mail) (www):
Americans as undignified buffoons you could caption it.

This caption would be new, how?
9.13.2006 9:38am
Revonna LaSchatze:
Get the US to abandon Israel."

I'm reminded of the Cuban exile population in Miami.
Private citizens stepped in to support their homeland when the US policies and priorities changed.

Someday baby birds have to leave the nest, and try to fly alone. Some succeed. Fear not.
9.13.2006 9:38am
Revonna LaSchatze:
"This caption would be new, how?"

See,
if you hate America already, why not push for further restrictions and regulations?
9.13.2006 9:40am
DK:
IMHO, yes, the terrorists do score a victory when we suffer the economic costs of new airline restrictions. This is the whole point of terrorism -- they score points for creating "terror", not just for killing or accomplishing military tasks.

And IMHO this is the primary argument for using offensive overseas wars as an anti-terror strategy. If increasing security costs wasn't also a win for the terrorists, we could just hunker down and wait for them to go away.
9.13.2006 10:09am
Ghlade:
When they're all wearing burkhas they won't need the makeup. Life will be so much easier.


Look, I'm someone who supports a robust, militarized response to jhiadism. That said, can we please stop with the crazy talk about American women being forced to wear burkahs or America becoming a "dhimmi state?" There is no plausible scenario in which that would or even could occur. Not if one nuclear weapon went off in an American city; not if five did!

The thing is, the stakes don't have to be that high to justify this war. We don't have to be faced with conquest or utter annihilation for our attacks against a sworn enemy to be justified. So why the hyperbole?
9.13.2006 10:21am
Revonna LaSchatze:
We don't have to be faced with conquest or utter annihilation for our attacks against a sworn enemy to be justified. So why the hyperbole?

Without the hyped talk,
no way Americans would have supported invading Iraq, then parking ourselves there.

Also, you need to define "sworn enemy" referred to here (Iraq, Saddam, OBL, Iran, all Muslims, bad Muslims only?)
With all the big talk, you risk mixing them up.
9.13.2006 10:31am
Jeek:
yes, the terrorists do score a victory when we suffer the economic costs of new airline restrictions.

I don't see how there is an "extra" economic cost associated with not being allowed to bring gels / liquids / pastes aboard. If they have to search everyone anyway for guns and knives, then the "extra" search for liquids adds little extra economic burden. I've been flying a lot since they uncovered the UK plot, and I haven't noticed that the lines are any longer or more aggravating than they were beforehand.
9.13.2006 11:17am
Adam:
"the terrorists win when we disrupt our economy through inconvenient ineffective prevention measures that impose greater costs than the expected cost of plots prevented through the measures."

Fair enough, although I suspect we'd disagree over the cost-benefit analysis. I'm a business traveler, and so far none of the regulations have struck me as unduly onerous. Reflexive complaints of inconvenience are not conclusive evidence of the magnitude of cost imposed by the convenience.

In any event, my point was in response to Shane's, and as you can see, he makes no reference to cost-benefit analysis. His is cost analysis -- if there was *any* cost ("whenever we respond to a terror plot intending to disrupt infrastructure and economy by preemptively disrupting infrastructure and economy"), he says, the terrorists win.
9.13.2006 11:20am
Lawgirl (mail):
Nice to make fun of the women who need make-up. What about women executives who are traveling to a meeting? It's not just beauty editors and fashion models who are judged on their looks. And it's already expensive enough to fly...who wants to go out and have to buy what you need all over again in every city you fly to?
9.13.2006 11:24am
goesh (mail):
Nobody feels terrorized or really victimized by radical muslims by not having their makeup and water bottles on a plane. We stand in line to eat at a nice place and think we are special. We stand in line and wait hours for a concert then brag about it. We guzzle water before boarding and once disembarking - balance the checkbook on this matter and it mostly boils down to thwarting the devils yet again.
9.13.2006 11:27am
CJColucci:
From what I've seen of law professors, makeup wouldn't help.
9.13.2006 11:48am
lucia (mail) (www):
Revonna,
Why do you think I hate Americans because I suggest a cartoon with a caption suggesting Americans are poorly dressed applies equally well before and after the imposition of security restrictions?

I don't hate Americans. I just don't think the majority of us dressed nattily while traveling before we adopted restrictions. I don't think the travel restrictions are causing us to look worse while traveling. And far from hating my fellow Americans for our tendency to dress less than fashionably while traveling, I share and admire our preference for comfort while traveling.
9.13.2006 11:54am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Lawgirl: No rule aginst having liquids in checked luggage. So, make-up can be put on at the hotel or the wash room in the airport. The women do not have to replace things unless the checked luggage is lost.
9.13.2006 11:55am
Houston Lawyer:
The hijackers to Cuba won this battle decades ago. I am not allowed to travel on the airlines with a loaded pistol and I must go through a metal detector to prove I am not carrying one. I've had clients busted for accidentally screwing up on this one.
9.13.2006 12:00pm
Richard Riley (mail):
David, if you are traveling domestically, why do you feel the new security rules require you to check a bag? Just buy shampoo, shaving cream, and whatever other gels, liquids and unguents you need at your destination airport or in the hotel gift shop - and the shampoo is free in most hotels now anyway. Leave 'em behind when you check out. For a few bucks you can keep your carry-on luggage - that's what I do. It's hardly an inconvenience at all.
9.13.2006 12:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Rather a humorous problem, at least for the rest of us. My problem is that I can no longer bring a two liter bottle of carbonated caffeine aboard. That is much worse than their makeup problem - at least for me.
9.13.2006 12:06pm
David Krinsky (mail):
Jeek, Richard Riley:

The inconvenience, expense, and wasted time involved with finding an open place to buy toiletries (and perhaps using the suboptimal substitutes for your favorite brands that are available) is small, but it still exceeds the inconvenience of checking luggage. The problem is that the inconvenience of checking luggage, compared to just carrying on your toothpaste, is still nonzero. Multiplied by all American air travelers, the cost is quite large to counteract a small risk.

How do we know the risk (times cost) of a plane-related terrorist attack is small? That's jgshapiro's question.

The risk of a terrorist attack, overall, is unknown, and the cost (if involving a WMD or an attack on critical infrastructure) potentially huge.

But I think it's safe to say that the potential costs and risks of an attack on domestic aviation are low. A 9/11-style attack using planes as weapons can't happen again--as flight 93 shows us, the success of the 9/11 hijackers depended on people thinking that they would land safely and shouldn't risk their lives.

Thus, the danger is to however many people are on a plane and no one else. If a terrorist wants to kill that many people, they can do so with much greater ease at a sporting event, on a subway, at a mall, or even (at peak lunch hour, compared to a commuter jet) the corner sandwich shop.

The real cost of threatened attacks on aviation is psychological--air travel is scary because people are miles off the ground, and everyone has 9/11 on the brain. But this means the wounds are self-inflicted--occasional major disruption and long-term minor (but cumulative) inconvenience from our reactions to threatened terrorism are a bigger cost than (limited, scattered, and unlikely) loss of life.
9.13.2006 12:15pm
lucia (mail) (www):
And it's already expensive enough to fly...who wants to go out and have to buy what you need all over again in every city you fly to?


You don't need to buy new stuff. You can still put eyeliner in your checked baggage along with your shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste and sunscreen.

The inconvenience is you can't bring liquid formulations on the airplaine. This means if you use liquid formulations, you will not be able to freshen your makeup while on the flight. If freshening your makeup in flight is important to you, you can use pencil type eyeliner and stick to lipsticks rather than lip gels. (Although there is a risk security personel may over interpret regulations and make you toss your lipstick too.)

There are real burdens associated with security measures, but I don't think the need to switch to pencil type eyeliners or not being able to apply nail polish in flight are bigger burdens than having to wait in line for the bathroom while others re-apply their makeup. (That is, assuming people actually do re apply their makeup in flight?)
9.13.2006 12:15pm
Thales (mail) (www):
The whole thing is a bit of a joke. Since the new restrictions have publicly known loopholes (e.g. prescription bottles, baby formula) that any terrorist sufficiently inclined could exploit, they create maximum collective punishment of the innocent with minimal deterrence of the guilty (Chris Hitchens said this on Bill Maher's show recently, and for one of the first times in five years I agree completely with him). Inconvenience aside, and I agree it is pretty minor, doesn't it trouble anyone that DHS/TSA's policies are all reactive rather than proactive? The threat of liquid explosives has been know for a long time. Why not just take airline security truly seriously, like El Al?
9.13.2006 12:31pm
Chris Lansdown (mail) (www):
"There is no plausible scenario in which that would or even could occur."

Mark Steyn was recently talking about how a surprising number of british women that he knows where a headscarf when going out because it makes them feel safer. England isn't America, of course, and in general I'm inclined to agree with you that this won't happen here; either is very unlikely but we're more likely to start lynching muslims than for American women go about in hijabs to feel safe.

Still, a lot of big social changes are more possible than they look. To take a random and completely unrelated example, how many people 50 years ago would believe that homosexuality would not be a celebrated part of American culture (at least, of a large swath of it)?
9.13.2006 12:31pm
CLS (www):
As a regular reader (weekly not daily) of the blog I have a tendency to read the post first before checking the author. Alas I should read the author's name first but don't. But I find that within seconds of starting I can always tell when Mr. Bernstein is the author. It is often rabid, often sarcastic and almost always wrong -- unlike many of the others here who actually have something constructive to say. In this case he rubbishes a comment about how the terrorists have won without thinking broadly -- why? Because he is the most rabid war advocate here. The terrorists want to destroy freedom. Hell, even Bushie says that. But they can't. They can't because they don't control the US. But Bush and the war party does control the US and they can, and do, make war on freedom. Maybe taking makeup on a plane is a small freedom, one that we can make fun of, but this thing called liberty is made of thousands of small freedoms along with some grand liberties. The war party, of which Mr. Bernstein is a frothing-at-the-mouth member, has a grand vision of the world they will remake and they won't let these small freedoms or even the grand ones, for that matter, get in their waay.
9.13.2006 12:56pm
Mr. X (www):
The TSA needs to be disbanded. Taking away water and makeup isn't making us safer in the least. Security theater is not the same thing as security.

Binary explosives are essentially a Hollywood myth. The procedures necessary for mixing them are extremely tricky and dangerous and would likely kill the person attempting to do something like that on an airplane.

The TSA knows that it's not a real threat. For God's sake, they were dumping all of the confiscated shampoo, water, etc, into big trash cans. People who believe in a real threat don't dump binary explosives together. Government agencies looking to intimidate the populace, however...
9.13.2006 12:59pm
David Krinsky (mail):
lucia:

You don't need to buy new stuff. You can still put eyeliner in your checked baggage along with your shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste and sunscreen.

This statement contains an invalid assumption--that I have a checked bag. Before the new, pointless restrictions, I seldom did when traveling domestically.

For many fliers--and probably most business travelers--the need to check luggage is the cost, not the inability to get to one's liquids and gels during flight.
9.13.2006 1:01pm
Ted Frank (www):
What is this horrible inconvenience?

1) Checked bags are up 20%. That's a real expense. I presume lost luggage is up 20%, too, but one could make an argument that it's up more, given the inability of airlines to handle the checked bag traffic they did have. Checking luggage for short business trips when I could have otherwise jumped on and off the plane adds a half hour of inconvenience to my travel, as well as the risk of a ruined trip from lost luggage. Which is a huge deterrent to me to travel by plane somewhere for a weekend.

2) Airplane drinking water is not sanitary. Until a month ago, I regularly packed a liter or two of something to drink in my carry-on luggage, because experience has taught me that if I take a five-hour flight without adequate hydration, I become very sick. I'm now no longer allowed to do that. Which is a huge deterrent to me taking flights of longer than two hours.

Between #1 and #2, I've already cancelled plans to visit the West Coast for a weekend.

3) Yes, they do allow personal lubricant, and they don't make you test the lubricant. You're also allowed four ounces of saline solution for contact lens wear, and they don't make you test that, either. Plus five ounces of low-blood-sugar treatment. Look it up. They no longer require the testing of baby formula after complaints from the mommy lobby, and they don't test gel-filled bras. In other words, TSA isn't taking this threat seriously, so why inconvenience the rest of us?

4) The scenario supposedly being prevented, whereby multiple Middle Eastern terrorists make multiple trips to the restroom to cook a difficult-to-make explosive out of odoriferous chemical reactions that take a great deal of time without anyone noticing and interrupting them (much less successfully enough to blow up a plane rather than just the hands and face of the terrorist), is laughable. Especially since X-ray machines don't detect liquid, and a terrorist can only be stopped if they're caught in the process of the hand-search. People are still smuggling makeup through security.

5) Additional security personnel to conduct random hand searches is a real expense that comes out of my taxes.

6) Additional time waiting in line because x-ray personnel are looking for liquid instead of knives and guns is a real expense, as well as one that may cause security personnel to miss real problems in screened baggage. Air travel now requires more time waiting around in airports.
9.13.2006 1:05pm
Mongoose388:
I wish once and for all this "Fill-in-the-blank and the terrorists win" garbage would be reduced to the most obvious statements. If we don't kill them all, the terrorists win!
9.13.2006 1:09pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Does anyone have a link to the explaination for why certain fluids have exceptions? Yes, I'm talking about the "personal lubricant."
9.13.2006 1:20pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Ted Frank,

You make some interesting points, but given the new attention paid to liquids and gels do you think its more likely or less likely that another group of terrorists will try what those guys were going to try on the flight from the UK last month?

If we have made it that much harder, made it that much more likely that a band of terrorists would try making a bomb using these materials - and clearly they are still planning these sorts of attacks - is that not worth a little flight-related inconvenience?

I will not give up rights - speech, liberty, property rights - for security. I am one of those "hard-liners" on that subject. But to add additional safety to rollercoasters, airplanes, buses, highways, nuclear power plants, borders other commercial and dangerous institutions, I am willing to add a bit of inconvenience if it means preventing catastrophic threats.
9.13.2006 1:26pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"that much less likely" obviously I meant to say
9.13.2006 1:27pm
Not a lawyer, but ...:
El Al ... doesn't submit its passengers to the indignities that US air travelers must endure, yet El Al hasn't suffered a terrorist incident in the last quarter century. Maybe the US government should consider adopting the methods Israel has used to effectively and unobtrusively prevent terrorist infiltration of passenger and cargo airliners.

Of course, the U.S. has a history of ignoring what other countries do better (for example, universal health care at a lower cost - clearly impossible).

But for the economists out there: suppose that there was intensified screening of those most fitting the terrorist profile, much less screening (compared to the current system) of those that don't, and (here's the difference) TSA compensated those who went through the intensified screening, for the inconvenience and loss of their time? That could be cheaper (in terms of both TSA staffing and lost time by travelers), safer (what exactly is the point of secondary searches of AARP members?), and not unfair to anyone.
9.13.2006 1:30pm
lucia (mail) (www):
David,
This statement contains an invalid assumption--that I have a checked bag.


No David, saying checking bags permits one to avoid the cost of buying all new makeup as a result of restrictions on liquid eyeliner does not assume anyone exercises the option to check bags. It assumes the option exists. I also suggested the option of using stick eyeliner should one wish to refresh makeup in flight.

I didn't suggest there are no costs; I only suggest the the cost is not the one claimed. Because the cost in time and money associated with buying makeup after arriving at an unfamiliar travel destination is much, much greater than the cost of checking baggage, I think claiming the greater cost exaggerates the impact of the regulation.

When I closed my previous comment, I said there were real costs. I just don't think solving real problems is easier if we exaggerate the costs and overlook existing options for minimizing the cost.
9.13.2006 1:36pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Some here worry about the *wasted costs* of not being able to put on makeup during flight, and yet many of these same people refuse to even acknowledge the *wasted costs* of using 100% of our screening resources to screen on a purely random basis, when clearly it would be far more effective and useful to allocate the majority of screening resources on targeted, profiled, and behavioral screenings with just a minority of the total screening resources on purely random screening selections.

To paraphrase some of these people concerned about the inability to apply makeup: If we can't allocate limited resources in the manner best suited to protect our lives and liberty then those who terrorize this country in the name of the holy god of political correct thinking have already won.

Says the "Dog"
9.13.2006 1:51pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
The ban on liquids is idiotic. Focus on identifying terrorists like El AL does and not these stupid ineffective restrictions. Profiling is the answer. Anything else is negligent.
9.13.2006 1:52pm
Nonzenze (mail):
There is a perfectly good economic solution to this problem that appears to be ignored . . . pack you carry-ons with mostly empty containers of the 'fobidden' items and go on through security.

My experience with the TSA is that they are terrible at finding the stuff and have let me through 2/3 times (admittedly a small sample size) since the new rules were made (before that I would carry my cigarette lighter which they never managed to find either). The one time I did get caught, I played dumb and nodded my head a lot. I suffered no serious inconvenience and my name was not recorded.

So long as the penalty for non-compliance is slight, i.e. the loss of the items in question, there is absolutely no reason for us to follow the rule (economically speaking).
9.13.2006 2:01pm
Justin (mail):
liberty, if you were to take notice of the fact that there was never a serious UK threat in the first place, would you feel more or less safe...about winning the midterm elections?

As Ted says, the plan supposedly brought up by al queda was just about impossible to accomplish even against an unprepared TSA. To waste money trying to defend against the impossible would just prevent us from catching a more realistic plan.
9.13.2006 2:15pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"liberty, if you were to take notice of the fact that there was never a serious UK threat in the first place, would you feel more or less safe...about winning the midterm elections?"

I'm not running.
9.13.2006 2:18pm
Adam:
Ted, you actually canceled a trip to the west coast because of airplane water? I must say, that seems to be a clear example of failing to engage in rigorous cost-benefit analysis, which you've touted elsewhere in this thread.
9.13.2006 2:29pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
I find myself in (up to now rare) agreement with Ted Frank.

The current airline rules are pure idiocy. Since cockpit doors are now reinforced, the only danger is to passengers and the plane - it seems we have removed the "flying missile" scenarios.

While a few hundred people may not like the idea of possibly being in a confined space with a nut with a knife or a cobbled together bomb their situation really isn't any different than 3 or 400 people in a crowed movie theatre, 200 people in a crowded bar or nightclub, people at a high school graduation ceremony in a gymnasium, etc. A nut with a gun, knife or explosives can kill just as many people there probably.

And while the loss of 3,000 lives on 9/11 was tragic and (fill in whatever pieties one is expected to mumble here) it would be better if we had a 9/11 every year than to put up with the massive intrusions and pseudo safety exercises we now undergo.

Think about it this way if we have 150,000 people flying every day, and everyone is delayed an hour and then forced to sit on a plane without water or access to a computer to 4 hours, that is 750,000 hours of inconvenience every day. Over a year that is 273,750,000 hours of inconvenience every year. If the average life span is 70 years then a life has 613,200 hours in it so the 273,750,000 hours translates to about 446 lost lives per year. (I didn't check the math here)
9.13.2006 2:29pm
Jeek:
The hijackers to Cuba won this battle decades ago. I am not allowed to travel on the airlines with a loaded pistol and I must go through a metal detector to prove I am not carrying one.

I think we have all won now that it is nearly impossible to get a pistol on a plane.

The problem is that the inconvenience of checking luggage, compared to just carrying on your toothpaste, is still nonzero.

The answer to this is the airlines need more luggage monkeys, which is something they need to have anyway.

Frankly, I think it takes more time to unload the plane when everyone has a bunch of carry-on items than it does when everyone checks luggage and just brings a book on board. I have spent a lot of time in recent months waiting for people to oh so slowly and ponderously get their heavy case down from the overhead, deploy the handle, and trundle it away, not to mention the wasted time up front as they struggle to put their so-called carry-on compliant case in the overhead. If everyone got on and off the plane with no carry-ons, loading and unloading would be a snap.

Thus, the danger is to however many people are on a plane and no one else. If a terrorist wants to kill that many people, they can do so with much greater ease at a sporting event, on a subway, at a mall, or even (at peak lunch hour, compared to a commuter jet) the corner sandwich shop.

I don't agree with this. I think an airplane is the easiest place to find 300 people in one place and to have a really good chance of killing them all in one blow. The experience with car bombs in Iraq and Israel seems to be that one car bomb only gets a dozen people or so at most. A much smaller bomb is practically guaranteed to take down a plane and kill a lot of people.

Binary explosives are essentially a Hollywood myth. The procedures necessary for mixing them are extremely tricky and dangerous and would likely kill the person attempting to do something like that on an airplane.

Ramzi Yousef apparently believed those difficulties were not insurmountable.
9.13.2006 2:32pm
Bill R:
Mr. X,

Binary explosives [...] The procedures necessary for mixing them are extremely tricky and dangerous and would likely kill the person attempting to do something like that on an airplane.

Umm... If they were "successful", they presumably would have died within minutes anyway, so the risk of death certainly is not much of a deterrent. However, how would the person die? If they died due to a premature explosion, might that not achieve the goal anyway (loss of plane and all aboard)? Perhaps premature detonations are less forceful and therefore may not cause as much structural damage?
9.13.2006 2:33pm
Jeek:
their situation really isn't any different than 3 or 400 people in a crowed movie theatre, 200 people in a crowded bar or nightclub, people at a high school graduation ceremony in a gymnasium, etc. A nut with a gun, knife or explosives can kill just as many people there probably.

Except that there is no example of a nut killing more than a handful of people with a gun or a knife. And if you want to get "several hundred" people in a bar / nightclub / mall / whatever, you need a large bomb, and it is highly likely you will get caught putting it together or transporting it to the desired location.

How many times has even al Qaeda killed "hundreds" of people at once with a car bomb or truck bomb? Not often, I don't think. If it was as easy as many people seem to think, surely they'd do it more often. They are trying for the biggest bang for the buck, and it is quite clear that they think they can get that from taking down airplanes.

And while the loss of 3,000 lives on 9/11 was tragic and (fill in whatever pieties one is expected to mumble here) it would be better if we had a 9/11 every year than to put up with the massive intrusions and pseudo safety exercises we now undergo.

Yes, the US economy could take a hundred billion dollar plus shot in the nuts once a year, and keep right on rolling along. I am sure that having air travel shut down once a year - if the industry survived at all - would be "less inconvenient" than having to stand in line for a while whenever you want to fly right now.
9.13.2006 2:40pm
Ted Frank (www):
Ted, you actually canceled a trip to the west coast because of airplane water?

No, I cancelled a trip because the thought of a couple of extra hours in airports to navigate security lines and wait to pick up luggage I could have carried on, the risk of lost luggage, and the prospect of ten hours (assuming no delays in travel, which is hardly a given) on a round-trip flight suffering in discomfort, and the risk of illness from taking a flight where I'm limited to a six-ounce cup of warm soda provided at the convenience of the beverage service, overwhelmed the consumer surplus I would have realized by taking the trip (including the opportunity cost of doing something else, such as going on a road trip in my Prius, which is what we'll be doing instead). I don't see this irrational in the slightest.

It would be one thing if, as "liberty" and "Jeek" seem to assume, these security measures actually reduced the risk of an in-flight incident. I have yet to hear a plausible scenario by which it does given the number of exceptions to the rule.

If four ounces of personal lubricant isn't a threat to the safety of the plane, how is it that cosmetics and toothpaste are? And if there is a real risk from larger quantities of liquid being brought on a plane (which I have yet to have proved to my satisfaction--do any defenders of the policy have a scenario for undetectable mixing of materials on a plane that vigilant passengers and flight attendants couldn't interrupt?), how hard would it be to sell sealed TSA-approved water bottles at a kiosk inside the security zone?
9.13.2006 3:08pm
Adam:
I think the flaw in your analysis is that you overweight the risk of harm posed by the "unsanitary" water.
9.13.2006 3:12pm
David Krinsky (mail):
lucia:

You said, "You can still put eyeliner in your checked baggage."

This is not equivalent to "checking bags permits one to avoid the cost of buying all new makeup," your paraphrase in response. "Your checked baggage" is a phrase that, as to me, usually (before this rule) described an empty set.

Perhaps I was being overly pedantic, but my point is one that you only now seem to acknowledge: this rule has real, nonzero costs, arising from an increased need to check luggage. It may be inaccurate to cite as a cost the cost of new makeup, but it is equally inaccurate to ignore the cost of checking bags when one usually does not do so.
9.13.2006 3:14pm
Adam:
And, incidentally, unless you're flying so ridiculously passenger-unfriendly airline, I don't know why you'd be limited to a single six-ounce soda. On long flights where the beverage service comes by only once, I often get up and ask a flight attendant in the galley for another cup of coffee or whatever. I've never been turned down, never even received an unfriendly look.

To be blunt, I think you're being a little hypersensitive about the whole thing. ("The mommy lobby"?)
9.13.2006 3:18pm
Mr. X (www):
Binary explosives are essentially a Hollywood myth. The procedures necessary for mixing them are extremely tricky and dangerous and would likely kill the person attempting to do something like that on an airplane.

Ramzi Yousef apparently believed those difficulties were not insurmountable.


From your link:
"The explosive used was liquid nitroglycerin, which was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid."

Nitroglycerin is not a binary explosive, so this is unresponsive.
9.13.2006 3:31pm
Mr. X (www):
Umm... If they were "successful", they presumably would have died within minutes anyway, so the risk of death certainly is not much of a deterrent. However, how would the person die? If they died due to a premature explosion, might that not achieve the goal anyway (loss of plane and all aboard)? Perhaps premature detonations are less forceful and therefore may not cause as much structural damage?


From this article in The Register regarding the problems with the latest terror plot:

Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.
9.13.2006 3:35pm
Ted Frank (www):
EPA tests show E. coli in 13% of airplane water. Coffee isn't a solution because airliners don't boil the water.

Two six-ounce cups of warm soda (or even a sixteen-ounce can) isn't a substitute for the 40-60 ounces I used to drink on a five-hour flight. In-flight humidity is drier than the Sahara. Literally. I'd rather not risk deep-vein thrombosis if I don't have to, so I'm just not going to be flying as often as I did before if I'm not allowed to drink eight ounces of clean cold water every hour on an airplane.

Enough families complained about TSA regulations that the regulations were changed, damn the safety implications. If the safety implications weren't serious enough to inconvenience diabetics or parents of small children or women with padded bras (because Lord knows a terrorist can never use any of these excuses as a cover), they're not serious enough to inconvenience the rest of us, and we should be complaining loudly enough to get the same results.
9.13.2006 3:36pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

Except that there is no example of a nut killing more than a handful of people with a gun or a knife.

But that is just because choice of methods not because it is difficult.

Two nuts could d go down to the 7:30 showing of Talledega Nights at the local AMC theatre. One buys a ticket while other one waits at the back of the theatre at the fire exit. One buys a ticket and walks in. Then 5 minutes after the movies starts he goes down to the fire exit and lets his friend in with a couple of mp5s or AKs with surefire lights and a few dozen filled clips. They alternate shooting/reloading/covering. Since we are a state where concealed carry is illegal there probably won't be anyone to shoot back.

And, remember 9/11 had never happened before it happened either. That is why it was so easy.
9.13.2006 3:50pm
Jeek:
It would be one thing if, as "liberty" and "Jeek" seem to assume, these security measures actually reduced the risk of an in-flight incident.

I don't think it does increase security. It is mainly a "voluntary" rule anyway - they probably aren't going to catch you bringing a liquid/gel/paste on board. Indeed, I found out after the fact one time that I had brought my shampoo and toothpaste with me in my carry-on.

My argument is that it adds little extra hassle to search for liquids on top of the hassle of searching for other things they're already looking for anyway. So if you can live without bringing water with you, there shouldn't be a major problem. I do agree that airplane tap water is baaaad. Never drink that.

Nitroglycerin is not a binary explosive, so this is unresponsive.

All I know is what I read in the papers. The "Mother of Satan" might be difficult to use, but not impossible, and indeed it has been used.

Luke, a great many nuts have chosen the method of trying to kill lots of people with handguns and rifles, but they have never succeeded in killing more than a handful at a time. Therefore it is clearly more difficult than one might suspect. Moreover, they'd only get to do it one time before those concealed carry laws went by the wayside. =)
9.13.2006 4:07pm
lucia (mail) (www):
David Krinsky:

Perhaps I was being overly pedantic, but my point is one that you only now seem to acknowledge: this rule has real, nonzero costs, arising from an increased need to check luggage. It may be inaccurate to cite as a cost the cost of new makeup, but it is equally inaccurate to ignore the cost of checking bags when one usually does not do so.
(Italics mine.)

I only now acknowledge? If you really want to be pendantic, you should respond to what I actually wrote. So, scroll back to the first of my comments -- the one you initially criticized. (http://www.volokh.com/posts/1158120827.shtml)

You will see it contains this:

There are real burdens associated with security measures, ...


Is your quibble that, when I used the term "burden" instead of using the word "cost"? Or that I failed to list out each and every possible inconvenience, burden or cost and "only now" specifically identify checked baggage as a cost? Or that I didn't actually do a complete cost/ benefit analysis calculating the cost of each and every thing one might do?

Yes. Checking baggage to avoid the much, much greater inconvenience of spending time and money to buy new eyeliner is itself an inconvenient.

In any case, if you do want to be pedantic, here goes:

Unless you are a consumer of liquid eyeliner, I suspect the regulation about liquid eyeliner has not caused you to check your luggage. If you are now checking baggage, you are doing so for some other reason.
9.13.2006 4:10pm
MarkM (mail):
The biggest problem with these new regulations is that they are putting a strain on the baggage handling system which wasn't all that hot to begin with. It used to be possible to pack all of your belongings in a carry-on for a short trip but now almost everyone needs to check their belongings leading to even longer delays at the departing and arriving airports. If your baggage gets delayed -- not at all uncommon and becoming increasingly common with all the bags being checked now -- you are without basic hygenic products until you can run around and buy them. And if you happen to land in, say, Des Moines at 3 am good luck finding a store that's open.

This would all be acceptable if this bought us genuine safety without unnecessary inconvenience. The problem is how silly and arbitrary the rules are--baby formula is allowed but a simple bottle of water is not. Additionally, successful terrorist attacks have been carried out on trains and metros across the world. Nobody has suggested (yet) that backpacks and large bags be banned. Instead, we learn to live with the fact that there is a certain degree of risk in everyday life that we cannot get rid of without enormous disruption to our daily lives. Even if airplanes were made perfectly safe, terrorists would just start to target shopping malls and trains. The point is that old-fashioned detective and intelligence work is a stronger weapon than what passes for airport security in the U.S. After all, British police infiltrated the plot to blow up airliners before it even went through the trial phase and before several of the plotters had passports.
9.13.2006 4:14pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

Luke, a great many nuts have chosen the method of trying to kill lots of people with handguns and rifles, but they have never succeeded in killing more than a handful at a time.

But that's only because they were ill prepared. They usually operated alone, with ill-suited weapons, and with inadequate ammunition. That is easy to change.

And they usually wanted to live themselves.

I mean, c'mon, a couple of untrained kids with crappy weapons got to kill as many people as they wanted at Columbine.
9.13.2006 4:24pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Ted Frank,

I'm wondering what your reason(s) for purchasing a Prius were? You seem very rational and it appears you think through your decisions very thouroughly, so I expect you'll have a list of reasons at the ready.

One point I'd like you to address...

You're obviously concerned about your safety (e. coli avoidance), but you'd rather undertake the risky behavior of a road trip in a light car than fly in a plane. Please explain. I understand your general point is that, because of these regulations, the marginal benefit < marginal cost of the trip to the coast.

BTW, I'm on your side in the argument over the makeup ban, although I think some of your reasons are strained. But I guess everyone has their own tastes and indifference curves.
9.13.2006 4:25pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Harris and Klebold (sp?) didn't kill that many people (which I'm sure isn't much comfort to those mourning the deceased).
9.13.2006 4:27pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Just as a matter of practicality, two things:

(1) Fedex your toiletries to the hotel the day before.

(2) use solid antiperspirant, and find old-fashioned tooth powder, and most males at least can carry on once again.
9.13.2006 4:34pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

Harris and Klebold (sp?) didn't kill that many people (which I'm sure isn't much comfort to those mourning the deceased).

I think they killed 12 and wounded 2x that many.

But the only thing that stopped them was them killing themselves. If they had had better weapons, easier to reload weapons, they could have probably easily killed scores. And you have to remember they went from room to room shooting people who were dispersed. That's just a dumb strategy for killing alot of people.

If they had waited until an assembly or something, they could have killed scores if not hundreds.
9.13.2006 4:38pm
Adam:
Ted,

I didn't mean to suggest that I thought coffee was any cleaner than water.

And I've seen the e.coli studies, too. I just haven't seen any indication that a substantial number of people have gotten sick. Indeed, as far as anecdotal evidence goes, I don't know anyone who's ever gotten sick from airplane water.

But again, I think your posts indicate an interesting divergence between your respect cost-benefit analyses. When you discuss the c-b analysis relevant to TSA regulations, you look for actual quantification and evidence of positive results. But when it comes to water and to deep-vein thrombosis, you appear to focus less heavily on the numbers. When it comes to the water, you note the 13% figure, but you don't note what the actual cost to your health that 13% risk poses. Likewise, you say you'd "rather not risk deep-vein thrombosis," but there you seem to take a zero-tolerance approach to risk. Why isn't deep-vein thrombosis subject to a cost-benefit analysis?

(Wow, I never thought I spend this much time today thinking about e coli and DVT.)
9.13.2006 4:39pm
David Krinsky (mail):
lucia:

In the post I originally responded to, you cited as a burden the inability to use your liquid products on board, but did not mention that having to check, rather than carry on, liquids you might want at your destination is a nontrivial cost for people who did not usually check luggage.

In your second post, you made it clear that you recognized this cost. Your point (which is well taken) is that one should look to the cost of the cheapest workaround--usually, checking luggage. I agree. However, the cost of checking luggage (for many/most of us) is higher than the cost you originally cited--the cost of not having your eyeliner or whatever on board. I just chimed in to make this observation.

Now that I understand your position, I don't think we're disagreeing.
9.13.2006 4:40pm
Jeek:
a couple of untrained kids with crappy weapons got to kill as many people as they wanted at Columbine.

You're making my point for me! They wanted to kill hundreds of people. They only killed twelve. They had all the time in the world to plan it.

These massacres are harder than you people think. The bigger and more easily guaranteed bang for the buck is an aircraft.
9.13.2006 4:51pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

You're making my point for me! They wanted to kill hundreds of people. They only killed twelve. They had all the time in the world to plan it.

If you think the planning and operational capabilities of Al Qaeda doesn't surpass a couple of nutty teenagers in Missouri - I think we will just have to disagree on that.
9.13.2006 5:00pm
Philistine (mail):

Luke, a great many nuts have chosen the method of trying to kill lots of people with handguns and rifles, but they have never succeeded in killing more than a handful at a time.


What about Beslan? Also, the 2002 Moscow Theater attack could have resulted in far more casualties if those responsible had started killing indiscriminately.

A "handful" is probably a bit of an understatement. Untrained persons (generally a single person, but occassionally 2 or 3) have killed 15-20 people dozens of times in the last 25 years or so.

One former soldier killed 29 and wounded 125 in the Hebron massacre.

These are isolated cases of severely disturbed people. The Breslan and Moscow Theater show the scope of what could be done by those with training.
9.13.2006 5:02pm
MarkM (mail):
As the example of Israel shows, enough fanatics intent on killing a few people (and themselves) each can have a devastating impact on life. It is a simple fact about life in a free society that there really is nothing stopping someone with a death wish from walking into a shopping mall or subway car during rush hour and blasting away at strangers with a handgun or denotating a bomb. And keep in mind Israel spends huge amounts of money on airport security and as a result has had no terrorist attacks on El Al aircraft in recent years (one estimate is $70 per passenger as the cost of security). Terrorists simply change their mode of operation.

People are terrified of dying in a plane crash compared to other forms of death like car crashes or drowning. As a result, we as a society have a tendency to overinvest in airplane safety and security and underinvest in other things that can prevent greater loss of life. I'm all for sensible security measures like metal detectors and X-ray screening (even for shoes). When bomb detection technology is ready we should by all means deploy it in all airports and possibly major train stations or hubs like the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

I suppose following Charlie's advice would be a good short-term solution (Fed-Ex ain't cheap, though, especially if you are going abroad). That is, it will work until someone tries to smuggle a bomb made of solid explosives which, being no chemist, I assume is entirely possible. This is the idiocy of our current approach to airport security -- it is 100% reactive with no thought given to cost-benefit analysis and no serious attempt to cope with genuine threats before they materialize. Security is governed by public relations considerations and CYA syndrome.
9.13.2006 5:17pm
Gadfly:
A funny post followed by a fairly bizarre thread. A few responses to the thread:

First, why in the world would we gauge the wisdom of our responses to terrorist threats by whether terrorists would think "they've won" if we institute those responses?? Someone committing "suicide by police" "wins" if he succeeds in getting the police to shoot him. He might accomplish this feat by pointing a weapon at a crowd of police officers, and firing. Shall we determine that we shouldn't shoot him, because by doing so "he wins"? Of course not. It's a silly metric.

I couldn't care less if terrorists think "they've won" because we instituted more security measures, or have added costs to the economy. I only care about whether our responses are robustly rational. It's annoying that our actions can be affected by the irresponsible/immoral actions of others, but such is life.

Second, movie-theater massacres will never have the same effect, either on foreign policy or national psychology, as exploding airplanes. It's not just about the number of lives killed.

Third, those who think that these security measures are pointless will have to explain why security services in Britain and the United States thought that these measures were worthwhile. If the liquid explosives plot is truly so infeasible, why wouldn't those services simply explain that the plot is nearly impossible to complete, rather than instituting costly delays and inconveniences? Does anyone have any cites to respected authorities on explosives holding that liquid explosives plots pose little danger?
9.13.2006 5:19pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

Third, those who think that these security measures are pointless will have to explain why security services in Britain and the United States thought that these measures were worthwhile.

That's easy. 1) the "security services" don't give a damn about how much they inconvenience people so that doesn' enter into their plans 2) they are more concerned about covering their asses and political fallout than reality and 3) don't underestimate the political usefulness of fear mongering. The London Plot was not even beyond its earliest planning stages but the more craven of our leaders got to stand up and crow about how this demonstrated the need for more surveillance, shows how "tough" we are on terrorists, etc.
9.13.2006 5:27pm
Nicholas Provenzo (mail) (www):
I don't see any reason why an American is under an obligation to suffer any inconvenience whatsoever when the means of utterly defeating the jihad exists. If America is serious about defending its way of life and defeating Islamic totalitarianism, it must destroy the states that sponsor jihad.
9.13.2006 5:29pm
Bill R:
Jeek,
The bigger and more easily guaranteed bang for the buck is an aircraft.
It strikes me that the lines waiting for screening at a busy airport like ORD on a Christmas holiday "rush day" may offer a greater opportunity for four terrorists than those same four on planes (assuming the "plane as missle" option is prevented by secure cockpit doors so that the extent of death on the ground is unpredictable and, on the average, probably not that high).

These four bombers with well engineered bombs (which could easily weigh 100 pounds each) in their wheeled "carryon" luggage and simultaneous detonation may cause more deaths than four planeloads of people dying.

More importantly, such an act would probably be more effective as a terrorist act than yet another plane explosion because people would avoid crowded areas everywhere - not just avoid air travel. And this would be difficult to combat as any area where crowds are screened for security will likely cause a terrorist opportunity "upstream" of the screening process.

(Also, such an act doesn't require much training - just showing up at the specified place at the specified time with the provided wheeled baggage).

This obsession with airplane security at nearly any cost has gotten out of hand IMHO.
9.13.2006 5:32pm
Speaking The Obvious:
Liberty:

""As cost-benefit analyses go, this is a huge inconvenience and expense and degradation in quality-of-life compared to the likelihood of a successful terrorist plot using an eyeliner-bomb or Evian-bottle-bomb instead of a personal-lubricant-bomb or baby-formula-bomb."

1. They check the baby formula before allowing it on (you have to taste it).

2. Do they really allow lubricant? I doubt it. "

Do we have to test the lubricants in front of them too?
9.13.2006 6:13pm
lucia (mail) (www):
David:
However, the cost of checking luggage (for many/most of us) is higher than the cost you originally cited--the cost of not having your eyeliner or whatever on board.

Yes, I think we probably do agree about the costs.

I'm also beginning to suspect I know why your reactions seems to be "She left out the humongonormous cost of checking luggage in comparison to the eensy-beensy cost of not using makeup on the plane!!!!". In contrast, I thought I was describing how one can escape "the humongonourmous cost of replacing all of one's makeup" by the "fairly inexpensive" decision to check luggage.

I notice you have a male name, and, using gende profiling, I will assume you have not spent a lot of time buying makeup.

It's expensive. And time consuming. (And it bores me, but that doesn't seem to be the universal response for women in general.)

I know middle class women earning less than $40K a year who easily spend $200-$300 bucks on one tube of lipstick, one lip liner, one eye liner, one to three colors of eye shadow (because of course, they wear three at once), foundation, powder, rouge, concealer, mascara, not to mention various make up removal and face care products. (Admittedly, the each individual item lasts practically forever, but we are discussing replace the kit and kaboodle each time you travel.)

This stuff can be so expensive, I know women who hide the receipts from their husbands.

Anyway, if you make enough money that the $200 - $300 price tag seems small compared to the 15 minute wait for luggage, I've only discussed the dollar cost. Hunting down "just the right" shade of red lipstick, the foundation color that matches your skin tone etc. greatly exceeds the 15 minutes I spend waiting for my luggage which I am in the habit of checking. (I do put all important documents in my brief case and carry them on.)

So, in comparison to purchasing an "entire new face", checking baggage is relatively "cheap". If a make-up wearing person responds to the regulation by checking their makeup, they can save the price of buying all this stuff each time they travel.

They will still be unable to make themselves up on the airplane; this is an unavoidable burden. I consider this burden trivial, though evidently fashion editors do not.
9.13.2006 6:14pm
Gadfly:

That's easy. 1) the "security services" don't give a damn about how much they inconvenience people so that doesn' enter into their plans 2) they are more concerned about covering their asses and political fallout than reality


And this assessment is based upon... what? Do you really think that security doesn't enter into their calculations at all? It's all about political fallout?

Even assuming it IS all about political fallout, presumably there would be no small amount of political fallout from instituting security measures that result in massive inconveniences without any corresponding increase in security. And of course, a failure to institute security measures that experts agree are necessary would result in a political fallout itself. Finally, presumably airlines are eager to have measures in place that maximize security while minimizing inconvenience, and presumably airlines are a key interest-group player in the politics of airline security. All this, at the very least, calls into question the notion that "because politics determines everything, security will be more about CYA and cosmetics than real security."
9.13.2006 6:29pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
Gadfly, you ask "Do you really think that security doesn't enter into their calculations at all"? What I said was that the don't give a damn about inconvenience, they don't look at that part of the balance really. If there is a miniscule risk, they don't have a problem imposing rules that will cause a greatly disproportionate inconvenience.

There isn't a rational basis behind it and, unfortunately, Americans have thus far proven to be so sheeplike that there hasn't been much of an outrage about this.

Do you think it is rational that I can't bring a bottle of water on the plane but I can bring a pair of razor sharp all-metal scissors with 4 inch blades?
9.13.2006 6:43pm
Jeek:
If you think the planning and operational capabilities of Al Qaeda doesn't surpass a couple of nutty teenagers in Missouri - I think we will just have to disagree on that.

All we have to judge by are results and evident intentions. They have had plenty of time to think about the problem and how best to apply limited resources. Yet, they have never attempted to capture a large group of people and massacre them. They have repeatedly tried - and sometimes succeeded - in attacking aircraft, and they're still trying. Seems obvious they think aircraft are feasible and the most worthwhile targets.

As for Moscow Theater, part of the reason the people in there "sat tight" and didn't try to fight was they thought they were being held hostage and weren't going to be massacred. If the people thought they were doomed if they sat tight, then the bad guys would have had a much worse (and perhaps impossible) crowd control problem. So maybe al Qaeda gets "one free massacre" and that's it.

MarkM, the point is not that the bad guys can't get some people in a mall. The point is that they can get a lot more, at one time, by going after aircraft. The number of terrorists willing to die to kill others is limited, and thus the controllers have to send them after the most lucrative targets - i.e. aircraft.

Bill, I'm not sure I agree. I think the evidence from Iraq and Israel shows that the effects of such "man portable" bombs are relatively limited. The Hamas car bomb and suicide bomb attacks on Israel from 1994 onwards rarely killed more than 10 people at a time, and one has to assume they were going after the softest and most lucrative targets they could (malls, restaurants, night clubs). The blast will knock people down and injure them, but it won't kill them unless they are very close. In short, you can't guarantee you'll get hundreds of people in one shot unless you can bring a plane down.
9.13.2006 6:45pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
Jeek - but in all of this you leave out that the cockpit doors are now secure so the "plane as a missile" won't be that easy.

So how do they bring the plane down? I would think it would have to be a bomb, right?

Right now almost no cargo is screened so if they want to put a bomb in cargo they can go ahead and do that and they don't need to fret about mixing explosives on the plane.

That is a real risk - one that we are doing practically nothing about right now.

Instead, we are making people drink baby's milk and making sure that people don't take bottles of Evian on the plane.

To suggest that there is any rationality behind our airplane security measures is just a joke.

And, if the concern isn't bringing the plane down and it is just that there are 300 potentially defenseless people in an enclosed area, shouldn't we be more worried about the fact that you can take razor sharp metal scissors on the plane, but you can't bring toothpaste?

to do so and the run of the mill s
And, if he concern is that there are 300 people in an enclosed area with no
9.13.2006 6:55pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

Yet, they have never attempted to capture a large group of people and massacre them.

And on September 10, 2001 you could state with equal confidence that they have never tried to seize multiple airplanes to fly them into the WTC.
9.13.2006 7:10pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
And after this post I will stop being a thread hog

"They can search each laptop for possible terrorist-type writing and confiscate cell phones, white powder, shoelaces, car keys, pencils, anything sharp or cylindrical or made of glass, and interrogate people randomly, putting them naked into cold rooms with ugly music played at top volume. It's all fine with me. I'm a liberal and we love ridiculous government programs that intrude on personal freedom. But where are the conservatives who used to object to this sort of thing?" - Garrison Keillor, in the Chicago Tribune.
9.13.2006 7:14pm
Jeek:
in all of this you leave out that the cockpit doors are now secure so the "plane as a missile" won't be that easy. So how do they bring the plane down? I would think it would have to be a bomb, right?

I have assumed throughout this thread that hijacking the plane and crashing it is off the table because the other passengers won't allow it.

Right now almost no cargo is screened so if they want to put a bomb in cargo they can go ahead and do that and they don't need to fret about mixing explosives on the plane.

There is obviously not just one problem to solve, and I don't see why we shouldn't do anything about the risk of carry-on explosives just because risk still exists with checked luggage. Do you really argue that we shouldn't worry about carry-on items at all until we have completely closed all vulnerabilities in checked lugagge?

In my view, luggage and cargo are bigger risks and should get a lot more money and attention.

And, if the concern isn't bringing the plane down and it is just that there are 300 potentially defenseless people in an enclosed area, shouldn't we be more worried about the fact that you can take razor sharp metal scissors on the plane, but you can't bring toothpaste?

Why? They're not going to kill everyone with scissors, they can only do so with explosives.

And on September 10, 2001 you could state with equal confidence that they have never tried to seize multiple airplanes to fly them into the WTC.

There is no evidence that they have ever planned to grab a bunch of people to massacre them. On the other hand, they spent over a decade trying to destroy planes and actually doing so, and there is plenty of evidence that they still aspire to do so. Seems to me that should tell us where to put our security dollars.
9.13.2006 7:53pm
David Krinsky (mail):
lucia:

You're right about my gender and personal makeup consumption, though I've been married long enough to understand how much some of these things can cost. I just took it for granted that if we were talking about replacement we were talking about fairly cheap stuff--otherwise replacement just wouldn't be an option. (I also have a spouse who tends to share your minimalist approach to makeup.)

But anyway, miscommunication understood. Even if the replacements at one's destination are cheap, checking luggage is still cheaper. I just begrudge the TSA even the latter cost. :-)
9.13.2006 7:59pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

There is obviously not just one problem to solve, and I don't see why we shouldn't do anything about the risk of carry-on explosives just because risk still exists with checked luggage.

Tomorrow anyone can send a cheap simple bomb through air cargo and bring the plane down.

Even before the silly restrictions on liquids it would be much more difficult for anyone to get a bomb into the passenger cabin - esp one that has to be assembled from several ingredients.

So - to answer your question - if it is really easy to bring a plane down with bomb in cargo, and more difficult to bring one down with a bomb in the passenger compartment - isn't the rational thing to do to focus on cargo?
9.13.2006 8:12pm
M:
And if you want to get "several hundred" people in a bar/nightclub/mall/whatever, you need a large bomb, and it is highly likely you will get caught putting it together or transporting it to the desired location.

Well, at least one truck bomb got almost a couple hundred people 11 years ago in Oklahoma City. 168 dead and 800+ injured.
9.13.2006 8:23pm
Jeek:
Tomorrow anyone can send a cheap simple bomb through air cargo and bring the plane down.

If that is so easy, why hasn't it happened recently? As far as I know, this "cheap and easy" tactic hasn't been used since 1988. Why?

isn't the rational thing to do to focus on cargo?

The rational thing is to do both, and to do the easy one first. Banning liquids/pastes/gels is easier than screening every piece of checked luggage and cargo.

at least one truck bomb got almost a couple hundred people 11 years ago in Oklahoma City. 168 dead and 800+ injured.

The assertion was that "man portable" bombs could kill hundreds of people easily in a crowded place. That is not so. A truck bomb will indeed kill hundreds of people, but that is a lot harder to organize and carry out than a "man portable" bomb.
9.13.2006 8:31pm
M:
Banning liquids/pastes/gels is easier than screening every piece of checked luggage and cargo.

Only if you assume the people trying to bomb the planes are going to comply with the regulations. Since it would be idiotic to assume that, you should screen every piece of checked luggage and cargo.

The assertion was that "man portable" bombs could kill hundreds of people easily in a crowded place.

*shrug* I saw quite a few people saying that car/truck bombs were not workable solutions for terrorists since they typically only get handfuls of people. The Oklahoma City Bombing is an example of a truck bomb that did more damage. "Man portable" didn't really come into the scenario until later.
9.13.2006 8:49pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
The posts in topic make it clear that we are all talking about two different parts of the cost-benefit analysis, but we can't seem to agree on which part is more important.

The majority of the later comments are debating whether there is any real benefit because it may well be impossible to actually destroy an airplane in the fashion that the London conspirators planned. It's pretty clear from the posts that this is not a consensus view. But if we assume that it is, then why bother to complain about lost liberties? We should simply argue that because there is no benefit, any cost (no matter how insignificant) would be unjustified.

At the same time, there are those who are arguing that there is little to no cost incurred because the items TSA is now requiring to be turned over is insignificant compared to other onerous requirements. This is also hotly disputed. But if we assume this to be true, then why talk about the benefit? After all, most cases require some form of damages, and if a party can't show that TSA is actually harming them, then why complain about the new rules?

To sum up, I think each side of each issue is making pretty reasonable arguments. I also don't question the idea of using a cost-benefit analysis, at least in the abstract, but we need to place some weights on the analysis while we are doing this. Is is more important that TSA is imposing a cost, or is it more important that we actually see a return on the new rule? Until we decide which is the more important factor, I fear that we are simply arguing in circles with no end in sight.
9.13.2006 9:30pm
Jeek:
you should screen every piece of checked luggage and cargo.

According to this, they already screen the checked luggage. At least some percentage of cargo is screened, and the bad guys can't know for sure whether or not a given shipment would be screened.

So I'm not sure where this idea comes from that the government "isn't doing anything" about the vulnerability of checked lugagge and cargo. They clearly are doing something, and while it may not be perfect now, it is not a wide-open loophole for the bad guys to exploit. Nor is it a reason to do nothing at all about vulnerabilities of carry-on baggage.

The Oklahoma City Bombing is an example of a truck bomb that did more damage.

*shrug* The average truck bomb only gets a few dozen people at most.
9.13.2006 9:42pm
Luke 1152 (mail):

At least some percentage of cargo is screened,

That is less than 2% at SFO.


the bad guys can't know for sure whether or not a given shipment would be screened.

If the "bad guys" were really worried about the <2% chance of their bomb being intercepted, all they would have to do is send 8 or 10 bombs through cargo on the same day. Chances are that all would get through.

They clearly are doing something, and while it may not be perfect now

Please. "Not perfect"? It is 98% nonexistant.
9.13.2006 10:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
As for water, all security has to do is ask each passenger to take a drink from his or her water bottle. If you don't turn blue, gag, and die a slow death in front right then, then you should be allowed to take the water on the plane. Why is this so difficult?
I could even see the TIA requiring that all water bottles carried on board must be in clear containers, as they already are.
Or how about this: Confiscate all water bottles at the initial security checkpoint. Then offer water for sale at the terminal gate. Then you know that all water carried on board was purchased from a licensed vendor, and should be okay. Again, why is this so difficult?
And if you are going to say that the terrorists can find a way around this, then they can certainly find a way around the notion that all you need is a presciption that matches your name.

None of this makes sense. Therefore, the only conclusion is that is at best an overly broad response to a legitimate concern that is ineffective, or at worst, just a bureaucrat who decided he needed to cover his ass.
9.13.2006 11:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
I do have to wonder about the sanity of any person who just 'forgot' that he was carrying a loaded piston onto an airplane. Don't you?
9.13.2006 11:44pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
A friend of mine will no longer travel by air except when required by his job as a DOD QA guy. He has sleep apnea and must use a CPAP every night. He won't risk losing it in checked-in baggage. If he can't carry it on-board, he won't fly.

I flew to Illinois and Canada this year on vacation. I won't fly on vacation anymore, or even from Sacramento to LA, Orange County or San Diego for legal conventions. I'll drive to those conventions instead. My wife and I had a great time driving to an LA convention one year, and we'll go back to that.

The most recently implemented security hassles of air travel have driven me away from it just like they've deterred my friend.

TSA security is a politically correct game. To hell with it and them.
9.14.2006 12:48am
Shane (mail) (www):
Quick clarification of my first post, that Adam responded to - Yes, I was doing a casual cost-benefit analysis, even though I didn't explicitly state so. As I said before,

In short, whenever we respond to a terror plot intending to disrupt infrastructure and economy by preemptively disrupting infrastructure and economy, then the terrorists have indeed won.

I probably should've made clearer that it is an if-then statement, and the if includes the fairly narrow condition that the primary intention of the attack is to disrupt infrastructure and economy. Also, it should be implied that the benefit is some reduction in the probability of a successful terrorist attack, and that I totally don't think the costs are worth it. It's even worse in Britain, where even books and magazines were forbidden (I don't know if they still are) to be carried on. Like most others in this thread, I think that there is little to no benefit from these rules.

Sorry for the late reply; I don't work an office job and don't have access to the internet during the day.

And I think we can agree that TSA rules are ridiculous. Some law enforcement agents are allowed to carry loaded firearms, but TSA still makes sure they don't bring lighters on board. We can't have toothpaste but we are explicitly given the OK on 4 oz. of Astroglide. We can't have 2 inch pocketknives but we can have 4 inch metal scissors with sharper tips. Those with prosthetic limbs can even bring drills and drill bits on board. I think it's time we rethink our entire air security policy. Bruce Schneier's stuff is generally dead-on, and I would love to hear about TSA consulting him as a security expert.
9.14.2006 1:16am
Broken Quanta (mail) (www):
I don't really support the new rules myself, and God save us from the TSA people after some would-be terrorists hatch a plot involving explosives disguised as pants. But there's something y'all are overlooking. You guys who travel a lot and just can't bear the cost of checking a bag? Your complaints are pretty unpersuasive, chiefly because the rest of us have hated you for years.

Now, it's nothing personal. I'm sure you're usually very nice. But when it's time to get onto an airplane you turn into the most inconsiderate a**holes in the world. Your obsession with saving a few minutes in the baggage claim area inconveniences everyone around you. Because of you, it takes longer to load and unload the plane than it should. Because of you, the overhead bins are always full with suitcases and garment bags and laptop cases and we invariably have to keep our small, legitimate carryon-size bags in our meager footspace. I've got to spend four hours with my 6'3" frame wrapped around my backpack, and you want to talk about how inconvenienced you are by a few extra minutes in the security line? Please.

So. If we're to talk cost-benefit, let's make sure to tally all of the benefits. If some significant fraction of these inconsiderate business travellers now must check their bags (or choose some other mode of transport), it certainly places a cost on them. But it also provides a benefit to the rest of us in the form of shorter boarding/deboarding times and more space available in the cabin. So far as I'm concerned, this is a winning deal for me quite apart from any antiterrorist effect.
9.14.2006 1:36am
Lev:
Interesting that makeup generated almost as many posts as racial profiling, and far more than most other topics.
9.14.2006 2:32am
Ted Frank (www):
Jeek: There is no evidence that they have ever planned to grab a bunch of people to massacre them.

There's empirical evidence of Chechen rebels doing just this, with tolls in the hundreds. (The post-Moscow theater Beslan experience refutes the "one free massacre" concept; the adult male hostages were simply shot three at a time and dumped out the windows.) Not to mention videotapes of Al Qaeda fighters training for scenarios where they invade an office building, hold hostages for 24-48 hours to maximize media coverage, and then commit a massacre. (I don't find these scenarios particularly plausible in the US in 2006. But it's not true that it's not within the realm of AQ thinking.)

DRWN: I'm wondering what your reason(s) for purchasing a Prius were?

We're way off-topic here, but chicks dig the hybrids, and if you've ever seen a picture of me, you know I can use all the help I can get. I also liked the tax break and the ability to use the California car-pool lanes.

Adam: I don't have that data; I'm relying on learned intermediaries from my government that tell me that good health requires me to take steps that TSA has now forbidden.
9.14.2006 3:19am
Gretchen (mail):

But there's something y'all are overlooking. You guys who travel a lot and just can't bear the cost of checking a bag? Your complaints are pretty unpersuasive, chiefly because the rest of us have hated you for years.


I fully agree with that. However, for the first time in my life I have to be one of those people myself. I'm flying across the Atlantic for a four-day trip to attend a friend's wedding. I'm planning on taking a small, sensible duffle bag and that's it, containing one of those dresses that are already wrinkly so it doesn't matter how you pack them. I'd like to wear makeup at the wedding. I'll be traveling through four airports, and by necessity would have to re-check any checked luggage when I get into the states. Security is not short. Replacement makeup is not cheap.

Can you understand why it might be enormously easier to just stow my bag in the overhead bins?
9.14.2006 4:57am
Eli Rabett (www):
http://lamont.3cdn.net/f9c482a81564dc0c5a_oqm6bwgqf.mp3

Listen
9.14.2006 9:41pm
johncrane (mail):
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9.15.2006 9:19am
Uncle Fester (mail):
I hate cosmetic security (I recognize the pun).

I can think of about five ways to get a full quart of gel or liquid on a plane without checking any baggage or even having carryon luggage. Maybe even a half-gallon. So searching for mascara bombs is senseless.

This business about makeup is a massive waste of time for everyone involved. It must be making someone feel better somewhere.
9.15.2006 4:35pm
Moth (mail) (www):

I do have to wonder about the sanity of any person who just 'forgot' that he was carrying a loaded piston onto an airplane. Don't you?


Randy,
I have to say no to that. As someone who's not licensed to carry a pistol but do carry other concealed weapons, I've accidentally carried onto planes. I know half a dozen people who've admitted to me the same and I could guess on a dozen more. My dad's secretary was meeting him at the airport at his gate (pre 9/11 and in Texas, for what it's worth) and had her purse on the X-ray machine before remembering the revolver she always carried. She managed to grab it out of the machine before it went through and ran out to leave the firearm in her car.
For some people, a pistol or other weapon is as common as lipstick.
Moth
9.16.2006 6:23pm