Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scan Me

The growing debate over full-body scanners, or the alternative full-body, including private parts, pat-down, at airport security stations evokes the outcry often heard when corporations, such as car companies, resist making simple modifications to their products because they determine it is cheaper to pay off a few claims, even death claims, than fund retrofits that may be inexpensive on a per unit basis but total tens of millions in the aggregate. How could they be so callous?, we hear. How could they rely on actuarial tables when human lives are at stake?

In the brouhaha surrounding full-body scanners, we’re hearing similar strands, but from the other side—how could the government require them when the danger of an in-flight bombing is miniscule, probably not worth the risk of radiation exposure, much less the psychological trauma of physical exposure to prying eyes? (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/15/the-full-body-backlash/?scp=1&sq=body%20scanners&st=Search)

People, let’s get serious. No one wants a repeat of 9-11, or a successful shoe or underwear bomber. Imagine the outcry if we could have thwarted such an event and didn’t because we were too complacent, as a government, a society, an individual. As someone who flew 30-50 times a year for 30 years, and still flies about a dozen times a year, I’m in favor of secure air travel. Get over it, America. As a middle-aged, frumpy man told CBS Evening News with Katie Couric yesterday, “If someone is going to get turned on with this body, god bless them” (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7057978n&tag=mncol;lst;5).

For the frequent flyer, including pilots and flight attendants, there is, perhaps, a reason to be concerned about the 385 scanners now in place in 68 airports. Accumulated radiation may be hazardous. But so too is use of a cell/smart phone held close to the ear (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/business/14digi.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage). I’ll be more sympathetic to the cries of radiation risk from the scanners when I see people drop their mobile phones from their ears.

New York City airports are soon to be scanner-equipped. They might not make the security exam any faster, but I will feel safer when I fly.

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