I wasn’t planning on throwing my fruit into this blender, but as the grumbles have grown to a dull roar this week about the TSA’s new security procedures, I am getting my X-rayed panties in a wad. 

I’m annoyed at the TSA for being so stupid and shortsighted.And I’m also annoyed at the general flying public – those people who fly twice a year at most – for being equally stupid and shortsighted. 

Let’s start with the TSA. What were you thinking? Ms. Napolitano, you are so lost in your own political echo chamber, that you have ignored obvious human math:

People Having Genitals Touched + Possible Genetic Mutation Via X-Ray = Outrage

How could you not have had a longer period of study of the impact of this new type of X-rays, and allowed the public to comment on something that is potentially so invasive? Sending mostly naked images of one human to another human has, up to this point, been called porn, and I am not at all surprised that people have reacted so strongly to this issue. 

More alarmingly, we’re spending untold millions on these new back-scatter/millimeter wave machines, and they do not detect anything in bodily cavities. Huh? This is a huge oversight that basically renders them ineffective. Couldn’t someone just smuggle something explosive in a body cavity, like countless mules bringing cocaine across the border? Stupid.

For the Folks Being Groped

Now, for those folks who are not regular travelers, and are calling for a National Opt-Out Day on the day before Thanksgiving: y’all are silly. The only thing you will accomplish will be delays for millions of people trying to get home to their families; Millions of people that do not fly often enough to be sufficiently affected to contact their senators to complain about the new security measures. 

For those of us who fly more regularly, there are some more significant issues to consider, such as the radiation dose absorbed by the body with these new machines so close to our skin. 

A recent open letter by four UCSF professors to the White House points out some glaring flaws in the sensationalized media coverage of the issue:The X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray. However, this comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest X- rays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. 

In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high.

To be Groped or to Have Naked Pictures

The indignant mob is still out on what this all means. I, for one, am going to be avoiding the back-scatter/millimeter wave machines simply because, in my experience, I get patted down after going through those machines anyway. So I have decided not to risk the radiation, since I am already getting the grope. 

From my humble perspective, if you are older than 65 or younger than 15, have a family history of cancer, or are living with HIV/AIDS, I would skip the radiation and go for the grope.Nonetheless, protesting by purposefully slowing down lines across America – and punishing folks just trying to get home to Grandma - will accomplish nothing. Write your senators, call the TSA, or complain to people who matter. Yes, the theater of security is absurd and does little to deter terrorist attacks. 

Just remember that flying is not a God-given right - we are absurdly privileged to be able to fly around at 500 miles an hour at 30,000 feet in the sky!

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