Sunday, August 13, 2006

Homeless People Go Boom

Yep, the ban on bringing liquids and gels onto airplanes looks to become a permanent fixture of life here in the Land of the Free (if the government says so) and the Home of the Brave (unless we’re facing something truly cowardice-inspiring, like a toothpaste-wielding Arab). So CBSNews used the ban to give a modern twist to an old-news story: the government’s been making some good money taking those items confiscated from you at the airport and re-selling them for a profit.

Federal law gives states the right to get banned or discarded items from the TSA contractor responsible for removing them. Pennsylvania has agreed to accept items from airports in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Johnstown and Allentown; Kennedy, LaGuardia and two other airports in New York; Newark and Trenton in New Jersey; Nantucket in Massachusetts, and Cleveland.

Pennsylvania has modified its program to maximize profitability. Smaller lots bring in more cash, so it no longer offers bulk sales like the 500 small Swiss Army knives that went for a record $595. It also tries to package items together as a marketing hook. Hockey sticks, pucks and a goalie's mask were bundled for sale around the time of the Stanley Cup playoffs; gardening tools are sold in the spring; exercise weights are auctioned in early January to capitalize on New Year's resolutions; and baseball bats are put up for bid just before the World Series.

An entrepreneur with a postage meter and some padded envelopes could make a tidy profit — and perform a useful service — by letting travelers mail such items home rather than turn them over to the TSA. But don’t bother trying to start such a business; the government won’t let you cut into their profits like that.

What about all the gels and liquids and personal-hygiene items confiscated this weekend? You know, the things that had to be taken away because they might actually be dangerous explosive chemicals? Surely the government won’t try to sell potential explosives.
And what about the abundance of liquids and gels discarded since the alleged British terror plot caused U.S. airports to prohibit them? Edward Myslewicz, a spokesman for the General Services Department told the Seattle Times that state officials are considering selling some of those items too. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has perhaps the most charitable approach. Airport spokeswoman Lexie Van Haren told the Seattle Times it plans to give 11 boxes of surrendered items to the city's human-services department, which will distribute items to homeless shelters.
So there’s two possible thoughts slithering across the stinking wasteland that passes for Van Haren’s mind:

1. I know damn well this stuff I’m confiscating from innocent citizens is 100 percent harmless, which is why I have no qualms about handing it out to homeless people, many of whom suffer from mental disabilities; or,
2. This stuff we’re confiscating might be dangerous and deadly. Hmm. Y’know, I think I’ve figured out a way to solve our city’s homeless problem.


Here’s a fun discussion topic for citizens of a nation in decline: which of those two thoughts is the more despicably evil?

EDIT: Here are the considerations: on the one hand, making homeless people in Phoenix blow themselves up would be actual acts of murder, which at first glance looks far worse than merely inconveniencing every air traveler in the country now and for the indefinite future. But such explosions would be considered a crime, investigated and stopped. This for-our-own good ban, on the other hand, is completely legal and has long-term repercussions for our country's very existence as a free and open society. Therefore, while I in no way mean to diminish the gravity of the detonation of the homeless, I'd say confiscating those things when you know they're harmless is worse.

2 Comments:

Anonymous The Zero Boss said...

"An entrepreneur with a postage meter and some padded envelopes could make a tidy profit — and perform a useful service — by letting travelers mail such items home rather than turn them over to the TSA. But don’t bother trying to start such a business; the government won’t let you cut into their profits like that."

They've had exactly such a service at Seattle/Tacoma International since about 2002.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Good for Seattle. I wish such businesses were in place at the airports I had to fly through last year.

I'm so glad my current job requires no travel.

7:04 AM  

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