Sunday, August 29, 2004

I think the government is doing a crappy job of protecting us all from terrorism. For instance, I'm not aware that it's doing much at all about the (high) risk of someone loading a shipping container full of explosives and/or a little nuke and blowing it up in a harbor. But to be fair, that's a hard problem.

BUT some things are easy problems, and the feds are failing at those too. I think Congress did well to bring all airport screeners into the federal government. But since they're all now under Tom Ridge, why is it still a disaster? I think an emblematic problem is the ongoing debate over whether one should take one's shoes off before going through the x-ray machine. Why is it that they can't come up with a rule? Either it is or it is not safe. Either shoes should or should not be passed through the x-ray machine separately. Why the ambiguity? If shoes should be x-rayed, they should be x-rayed every time. Period. Not at some airports, or only at big airports, or only if you tick off the guy who runs the machine (this seems to be the rule in San Francisco--if you're advised to take your shoes off and you don't, you're inevitably pulled aside, your shoes are removed, and they give you the Wand Treatment).

Granted that the shoes thing is a small issue, but it's also an ridiculously simple problem to solve. The feds have had three years since the attacks of September 11 to come up with a policy for an extremely simple situation. Why should I trust that they're making better progress in more complicated issues?

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