1) Permanent emergency. Kip Hawley, right, who was TSA administrator during GW Bush's second term, has an important and eminently sensible-seeming big essay today in the WSJ on re-thinking airport security. I was out of the country during most of his time in office and have never met or interviewed him, so I don't know how what he says now matches what he did then. Also, I have not yet read his new book laying out his views at greater length. But at face value this essay makes convincing points about "security theater," which I hope will carry extra heft because of his background.
Most of Hawley's points accord with my pre-existing views, so naturally I think they're correct. But on one, he has changed my mind, or at least opened it. If you've been in countries where you can keep your shoes on when being screened -- as I've recently experienced, for instance, in both Australia and China -- you are amazed by how much this reduces the cumbersomeness and delay of the screening process. Hawley says he came to TSA determined to change that rule but became convinced that it still mattered. You can read his case for yourself.
Here is a point so obviously true that I wish Romney and Obama were competing to embrace it. An item on Hawley's must-do list is:
Eliminate baggage fees: Much of the pain at TSA checkpoints these days can be attributed to passengers overstuffing their carry-on luggage to avoid baggage fees. The airlines had their reasons for implementing these fees, but the result has been a checkpoint nightmare. Airlines might increase ticket prices slightly to compensate for the lost revenue, but the main impact would be that checkpoint screening for everybody will be faster and safer.
2) I opt in! As I've mentioned more than a few times, I take a dim view of the TSA's new "backscatter" full-body-scan machines. That is because they use X-rays, and my policy toward ionizing radiation is to avoid it when I can. Yes, I am aware that sitting at high altitude inside an airplane exposes you to extra cosmic radiation. But unless you travel in a lead-lined plane, which creates engineering challenges of its own, that's an inextricable part of the flying equation. About backscatter machines you have a choice, and I have chosen to opt-out.