I have been travelling throughout parts of Western Europe these last two weeks... a combination of pleasure and business. I find Western Europe too socialistic for my taste, but I admire their lack of "soundbite" politics, much the same way I like(d) Canada before they gutted their royalty system.
Wouldn't it be nice to see a society where policy is driven by facts, facts are valued, and folded around policies that enable the individual to pursue their dreams? Western Europe has the first part, but it is wrapped around policies that strengthen the state. Eastern Europe may be the closest thing we have in the World to the ideal, because they have seen first hand the Hell that is the Strong State. Sure, Europeans can talk the populist talk in their parliaments all they want, but, in the end, the know what the difference is between rhetoric and reality. My experience in Washington screams to me that in our system, rhetoric IS reality. This is problematic for a scientist, you see.
In any case, here are a few experience-based facts I have learned this last couple of weeks about the meaningless Kabuki Theatre of Airport Security that I offer my fellow man.
1. If you think 3 hours is enough time to check bags and clear passport and security controls at Charles De Gaulle airport on a Sunday, you are sadly mistaken.
2. Never book a ticket on a flight to the US from France that has had a terrorist incident on the same flight or destination. The French love to show Americans how seriously they take security, to the point of taking Americans out of queue to give them an extra dose of frisk for good measure.
3. Remember the good old days when their was a line for passengers of returning flights to the US that read "US Passports" and another for "Visitors"? Apparently that quaint custom is going away, which leads to Lesson 3. Avoid any queue with lots of beetle-browed pasty folks with bad leather jackets and bad teeth wielding red passports with Cyrillic lettering on the covers. The full monty of photography, fingerprinting and lack of understanding of English causes you to think you have been caught up in a Kafkaesque Soviet-era line at a state-run store to buy left shoes that don't fit.
4. Because of these new security policies, 2 hours is NOT enough time to pass through passport control, customs AND security all over again to catch your departing flight out of Terminal X, the farthest terminal from where you land.
5. Delta NEEDS to spend some money, now that they are the "Biggest Airline On Earth", on some people skills training, especially for their older, pissed off officious women manning the re-check station for the harried passengers trying to get to Gate 931 in Terminal X who have 10 minutes to make it three and half miles.
6. Detroit still sucks.
7. Air France does a good job in the air. On ground, not so much.
8. If you think Big Brotha Airport Security is a senseless joke, just wait until you see our new medical system. Maybe they will get it right. There is always a first time.