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No XBRL For Once

I usually write about XBRL, and XBRL only. Not because XBRL is the only thing that is on my mind, as I am sure some think. I just assume that people that visit this blog do so because they have an interest in XBRL, and not in my personal ramblings.

Now, I also assume that some readers of this blog may share the hectic lifestyle that I have, at least in part. So, maybe you will find the thoughts that follow interesting as well. If not, an XBRL post will come soon, I promise :)

I fly a lot. I used to fly a lot before 9/11/2001, and like everybody else I was affected by the changes that followed those terrible days.  And like most I never dreamt about complaining.  Then somebody tried to blow up a plane with explosive hidden in his shoe, and we all started taking our shoes off when gong through security. A nuisance, but that made sense too.

Now, somebody tried to blow up a plane by concocting a chemical mixture in his lap and we won’t be allowed to have anything in our lap during the last hour before landing.  I think the guy also went to the restroom before starting up his thing, because of that we won’t be allowed to go to the restroom either.

This guy had a history.  His own father went to the US embassy in Nigeria to let them know that he had become “radicalized”, and was allegedly ignored.  Also, he did manage to get those chemicals through security in some way.

I really hope that, once the turmoil of what happened has subsided, reason will prevail and additional – and more than welcome – measures will focus on better prevention in the areas that have failed this time, and targeted on new threats as they are discovered, rather than on the immediate prevention of the actions that have occurred in this or any other episode.

If not, next time somebody tries something new and, say, is caught on tape sneezing before trying it, we might end up with a ban on blowing our noses for the last hour before landing.  Now that I think of it, somebody could write a great fiction story where the villain orchestrates terrorist attacks on planes that never succeed, but that through the actions of the terrorist take away one “liberty” from worldwide passengers each time… Wait a minute… fiction?

Do not get me wrong, I am in favour, and grateful, for any additional security measures that can save lives, including my loved one’s and mine.  I guess my point is that the lives claimed in terrorist attacks are the first and the most tragic result of those attacks, but that the changes that go into place as a consequence of those attacks, which affect everybody’s daily life for years and years to come, are probably regarded as an even greater success by the perpetrators of those crimes.

The line between much needed additional security measures to react to new threats, and just closing the stables after the horses have escaped is thin.

3 Comments

  1. The sad thing is, information technology could handle the problem much more effectively than manual physical passenger search processes — if only there were data transport and communications mechanisms capable of protecting individual privacy and liberty while identifying individuals who should be allowed to fly only upon being subject to a manual physical search process. Until a lot more of the friction in today’s passenger intelligence system is removed, I suppose we’ll need to tolerate old fashioned physical screening, but creating an environment in which something like CLEAR were a viable option for 95% or 99.99% of passengers would certainly provide for a much happier travel environment. You say you’re not writing about XBRL, but if XBRL can help investors use complex analog systems like GAAP and IFRS more effectively, why can’t it help airlines use complex analog systems like “passenger reputation” more effectively? Today, each individual passenger is treated as if he or she may be a terrorist threat. Wouldn’t it be better to create an IT system that treated every passenger as an individual and required custom-designed physical security screenings based on objective non-discriminatory factors, such as ties to one’s home community, connections with violent individuals, and other factors correlated to the propensity to be a suicide bomber or hijacker? I’d bet a passenger security taxonomy couldn’t be as tough to write as the taxonomy for 25,000 pages of U.S. GAAP. The more difficult part may be the tools to help airlines (and government officials, if necessary) use such a taxonomy effectively. Today, in the name of equality, we tolerate everyone being subjected to what are needless procedures with respect to all but a handful of passengers. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but sometime, and I hope soon, we’ll develop the technology necessary to liberate innocent passengers from big brother’s inefficient and intrusive one-size-fits-all scheme — and a user interface to make the system reliable and effective. Given the lack of reliability of today’s physical security screening user interface, demonstrated in the most recent incident, perhaps creating a more effective information-based user interface could be easier than we think?

  2. Amen!

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