Sunday, November 28, 2010

The War on Individuals

"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad" -- James Madison

What are we to deduce when we find striking inconsistencies between the way that laws fall upon individuals and upon corporations? Take for instance "the small cost" that individuals pay--through invasive searches at airports (and perhaps soon that shall have to be endured to use any public transportation) --compared to the standards that the FAA holds for the companies that operate the aircraft. As Ralph Nader points out in his 1999 essay Unsafe At Any Altitude, the FAA criteria for measures to protect human safety is as follows:

"The FAA values a human life at $2.7 million, so if a safety improvement costs more than the projected value of lives lost, the agency often refuses to order the necessary improvements. For example, the FAA recommended against requiring technology that would mitigate against center fuel tank explosions because the ten- year cost to the industry of fixing this hazard, believed responsible for the 1996 TWA 800 disaster, would exceed the cost in human lives."

In 2008, the statistical value of a human life was raised to $5.8 Million. Nonetheless the budget for the Transportation Safety Administration would seem to assume (were the same criteria employed) that its actions saved 1344 lives this year and would save 1413 lives in 2011. Yet this would appear to be next to impossible, as the improvements in cockpit doors since the 2001 attacks would prevent that sort of outright takeover and use of a plane as a weapon from occurring again. The $7.8 billion TSA budget needed for the extravagant purchase of x-ray scanners and labor-intensive fondling of passengers fails to justify itself by FAA cost benefit criteria. Yet at the same time, regulations for the rest-periods for pilots (an issue that has cost more lives since 2001 than airline terrorism) only increased that rest-time by a single hour.

When it comes to the suggestion of invasive searches for rail passengers, the absurdity is magnified. From 1999 through 2009 there were 84 rail-passenger fatalities and 9241 injuries. When crashes occur because of the poorly maintained corporately owned track that passenger rail runs upon, Amtrak has to pick up the tab, meaning that corporate rail has little interest in keeping passengers safe. With a Federal Railroad Administration that employs only 400 rail inspectors and which has a "Safety and Operations" budget that is only $157 million annually, it is obvious that our representatives in congress have little interest as well. So, WHY the increased interest in safety from terrorists? Is it perhaps because stoking this exaggerated fear has proven to be so effective in negotiating the surrender of civil liberties?

Perhaps it is paranoid to draw the conclusion that "enhanced security" is intended for any purpose other than passenger safety, but the body of evidence suggests emphatically otherwise!


  1. Interesting post! I wonder what would happen if word leaked out that terrorists were planning on sabotaging train tracks across the U.S. Maybe we could get some funding then. Hmmm.

  2. Think of the damage that could be done if a greyhound bus was used for terroristic activities.
    I have seen the movie 'Speed' and that was just one man with a petty grudge.
    Just Saying.

  3. Fear is a diversionary tactic. Get the public all hyped about aliens invading, so they can't see what they really have to fear: corporate greed and the attrition of individual freedom.

  4. @Ian C; what about car bombs. What if we were stopped at random and enhance-patted down

    since we brought movies into the discussion...

  5. It seems to me that it's simply another way of roiling the waters and keeping everyone frightened and angry and stirred up over comparatively small stuff, so that we don't have enough energy left to notice the more important things. If we want to preserve our civil liberties, we're going to have to stop paying so much attention to this (as NP said) "diversionary tactic" and take a look at the man behind the curtain and what he's really doing!

  6. Great article, John. I don't believe terrorism to be the threat that's shoved down our throats. It's always seemed like a smokescreen for some other agenda, similar to the questions you've raised here.




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"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestible unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." -- Constitution of Massachusettes (1780)