Saturday, November 20, 2010

Airport Security? Fly Air Apparent.

One of the phenomena of our times in Airport Security, which now must be beginning to be the major employer at airports around the world. When some prognisticator of the future portended an exponential increase in Air Travel and massive growth in the aviation industry back in the late 70's, they weren't thinking of the 'security' aspect which, aside from an airport traffic detail, hardly existed at all.

The terrorist attacks on passengers at Lod and other airports were seen as dangerous anomalies rather than virtual certainties, but the notions of entering a strange new world at the airport were beginning to rise.

So the latest developments in the art of finding the needle in the traveling haystack have ordinary travelers lining up to have their most personal possessions scrutinized in an on-going effort to make all aboard 'feel' safer. I say that because common sense tells me that all 'security' also tells me is that  'you never know'. And that, dear friends, is at the root of all, because, if you'll never know, neither, obviously, will the experts.

When it comes to 'terror' we all must be on thorazine, or the security equivalent of it, for the only thing that has,apparently stopped terrorist-engendered air tragedy is the inability of those explosive experts to make an efficient explosive device. We have to remember that all our recent security 'successes' - the toning cartridge bombs, the sparking underwear bomb, the mix-a-liquid bomb and the ever-famous light-a-sneaker episode, had all made it past security and onto a jet full of people, or, in the first case, cargo. Getting past security wasn't the problem, getting the bomb to go off was. The case is also amply demonstrated by the fact that there have been no aircraft losses ascribed to terrorist action since 9/11. If those bozos could get on board, though, so could those who know what they were doing. So, as a conceptual construct, 'security' seems to be a lot of overkilll for very little actuality. Some would say that's good. It's actually reactive, rather than proactive and fundamentally stupid and  it's growing to become a feature of government expenditure as costs to do it continue to balloon.

But it's important. The traveling public want to be assured that it won't be the jet that they're on that develops an airborne problem. Or they'd quit traveling, see? Remarkable that in the 'bad old days' of air travel when downed aircraft were a regular feature of the news, that the numbers of traveling public actually continued to grow. In the 60's, the odds of you dying in a traffic accident were said to be greater than those of a similar fate while flying. And that was before the trillion passenger miles, crowded skies and 'jumboed' travel of to-day. Statistically, dying in an airliner has to be up there with getting trampled by a herd of emus. Dying in a terrorist-stricken aircraft would have those emus with painted toenails and breast implants. Flying authorities want to assure you that, although they can't stop a psychotic killer, an anti-bather, a medicated sleeper, a drunk or somebody carrying unbangi digititis from sitting beside you, if you have to subdue somebody shouting 'allahu akhbar' and trying to 'pull his wire', it's a hit of kismet. Whatever he did to get on that plane will not be done again - in spades.

The internet funny about a terror-proof airline where nobody wears any clothing isn't too far beyond belief. If that last guy hadn't had anything on, somebody theoretically would have noticed his explosive 'junk'and the detcord hanging off it. "Take yer stuff off while we take 'a looky'" is a lot cheaper than hitech scanners that somebody, who might at other times had a career in a box store, will 'interpret'. And, probably, a lot more effective, or not. For it's always the one that doesn't get noticed that gets ya.

Would the traveling public go for that? Checking in another hour early and wearing stuff that can tear off and velcro back on? In order to be sure they're not the first one killed when the guy beside them blows up, fer sure! Look what they're putting up with now.

But all this aside,  it's the mentality involved that's the real problem. If the dickhead who runs the US airport security apparatus - a snake oil salesman of the first water who uses all the jargon and catchphrases of the security industry, and such genuine 'nice folk' as Joe Biden and his wife, who showed up on Larry King to talk about the family,and Thanksgiving traditions and the current "real" threats Joe gets briefed about "every single day", are peddling this 'helping keep you safe' poison, well, it couldn't be all that bad.

Veep Biden, then, probably got briefed on the 'intel', probably derived from the questioning of somebody detained recently in the middle east, that Germany was on the hit-list hot-seat. The Germans went international with the news themselves last week. And then: 'kerwhammo'! They pull a bomb-laden suitcase off the loading ramp on a Gernany-bound jet at Windhoek, Namibia.

"Namibia" must have caused a flurry of atlas consultation and Googling at Fox News, but the true believers probably figured the name was close enough to 'arabia' to make that research moot. It's likely this story would have had longer panic stricken 'legs', but one of the investigators let slip that the the 'bomb' had a sticker on it claiming it was made by a company in California. It turned out the 'bomb' was, in actuality, a "security-testing device". But that won't stop some American bozo mentioning that the 'latest' terrorist bombs seem to be more sophisticated and professionally-made, probably in Iran.

PS: Nobody knows who dunnit. Or even how the test device made its way to Namibia. But 'Gipetto the bomb-maker', who runs small machine shop doing military contracting (ammunition) among other things, is offering his story  to the world press for $200 000. And access to 80year-old 'Granny', who assembled it, for few dollars more. That's free enterprise, which is, really, what the struggle against  terrorism is all about.

Friday, November 05, 2010

I Hear Them Presses Hummin', They's Rollin' off the Dough

Next week the G20 nations have another security exercise-cum-fancy luncheon in Seoul. The topic this time, as it was last time in Toronto, is what to do about getting the economic ball rolling again. And this time the focus will be on trying to get everybody 'onside' to do the same thing when  everybody is starting to make gestures that their situation is different/more serious/more deserving than anybody else's.

Harper the Debtless is calling for some concentric approach to monetary policy and exchange rates. This because big money seems to be prowling the earth in search of profit derived from currency fluctuations. Naturally such 'investments' are ephemeral in their effect - here one minute and sunk in another currency elsewhere, the next. Since the investment industry can't stop this from happening, governments have to take steps to minimize the effects..The first  minimization should be a flat 20 percent surcharge on all money going out of the country. That would slow the high rollers down a little and certainly slow down the foreign trade imbalance. But that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the 'free market' that caused most of these problems in the first place.

Hanging over all is the Damoclean sword of debt. Not everybody, thank goodness, has it,  but everybody is affected when the biggest economy on earth is raddled with it. It is that debt that is hamstringing the American recovery, and, perhaps, the cost of a war or three and  good old global domination, that adds to it daily. Like a fat, drunk uncle on a picnic hike, America's demanding a lot of support from the 'rest of the family'. Particularly in parts of the EU and elsewhere, where the good times were rolling along with those dud mortgages, the sword dangles equally menacingly. Some countries in Europe have America's problems in spades.

Naturally America sees China as it's biggest monetary problem. The Chinese have been buying US bonds and T bills for more than a decade, actually they been taking them in trade, and buying them with those greenbacks they get from the dollar stores. So now America wants to raise interest in, and hence the price of, those bonds. How they going to do that? Well, buster, just you hobble yer horse; they're going to print 500 billion in not-yet-existing greenbacks and buy their own bonds. So the banks that market the bonds will get another 'cash infusion', or in this case a "quantitative easing" -  to not loan money to people who can't borrow it because they have no job, or the rich who are going to risk it on the money markets, or just to pay out a few more dud mortgages. Obviously the undiscredited Chicago School of  'go big or go home' economics is still at the helm. They must really believe that Keynes got it all wrong about the inflationary effect of printing money that isn't directed to creating jobs.Apparently they aim to prove it.

What about China? China is letting its Yuan do a 'test float' with the market and  it has lost some value. I may have gotten a C- in econ 101, but it strikes me that a devaluing currency has the wrong effect on a trade deficit than the one  the mavens of Wall Street want. Shouldn't the Yuan be increasing its value against the buck? That would slow imports a bit and make buying back some of those T bills and bonds a little easier. But not if the Chinese think they're getting monopoly money. The inscrutable orientals aren't as stupid as they were once cracked-up to be and if the US thinks they'd like to take some inflato-bucks  for that reduced trade, Bernancke needs to get his earhair trimmed.