Where Do You Think You're Going, Bud?

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In something straight out of the most dystopian science fiction novel, the Washington Times carries the tale that the pointy-heads at NASA are planning to scan the thoughts of airline passengers while they are waiting in line to have their physical privacy invaded by uniformed jobsworths and socially-retarded Guardsmen at the nation’s airports, all, of course, in the name of the War on Terra (sorry, u2018Terror’!)

According to the article, NASA wants to use u2018noninvasive neuro-electric sensors, imbedded in gates, (no, not u2018Gates’) to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from hundreds to thousands of data sources’.

We like that u2018non-invasive’ bit.

It’s reassuring to know that this most invasive of procedures actually leaves our craniums intact (until the Goons come to crack our skulls when they read our mutinous minds, at least) — otherwise what chance would poor old United Airlines and its peers have of staving off bankruptcy, if every would-be passenger was to be subject, not just to a quick bout of amateur proctology, but also to a round of Trepanning-While-U-Wait.

Now, there is, of course, a serious issue at stake here of whether Thought — however vile we deem it — should be subject to the same violent state sanctions as Action, though, unfortunately, the institution of various politically-correct categories of u2018Hate Crime’ (a wonderfully Orwellian phrase in itself) took us across that particular Rubicon long before the Reichstag burned down last year.

However, this does have its ridiculous angle as well — as does so much po-faced totalitarianism emanating from our leaders these days.

We wonder if the next round of Al-Qaeda wannabes, down there at CIA flight school, will be subjected to endless reruns of Ghostbusters as they train to avoid the scan (u2018Allah preserve us! Not the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man again!’)

Or what happens when a couple of randy, far-from home business execs start eyeing up the comely shape of the ticketing clerk? Do our corporate warriors get hosed down in a cold shower on the way to the nearest correctional facility for having too graphic an imagination?

(OK, OK. I know there are no Miss Universe candidates among today’s budget airlines crew. A man can dream can’t he? Or, is that to be banned, too!)

Worse, when we arrive — minus our luggage — with three screaming kids and a carping spouse (u2018I told you to book American, My mother always flies with them and she NEVER has any trouble!’) — i.e. in not the sunniest of dispositions — will we be hauled off to Guantanemo sine die simply for considering telling the officious busybody who asks to see them for the thirteenth time, just exactly what he CAN do with our claim checks?

Looking on the bright side, who needs civil liberties when we can now instantly put the whole accountancy profession (u2018profession’ as in u2018they don’t do it for love’) out of business?

For, if NASA hadn’t been tardy and overbudget (and not messed up its inches and centimetres), as usual, all we would’ve had to do was to run the silico-neuronal transmogrification device over Bernie Ebbers’ head and we’d all have known he was wrongly capitalizing $7 billion-and-counting in expenses before you could say u2018Dick Cheney told me how to do it’.

Indeed, the potential for this device on CNBC would have a frustrated stock bear drooling, as the u2018analysts’ and CFOs kept scoring three cherries on the Charlatan-ometer. Or then again perhaps not. After all, even thinking bearish thoughts will be akin to short-selling soon — and that will be enough to have us carted off in a tumbrel for Crimes against the State.

Ah well. Who are we to impede the march (jackbooted, naturally) of progress? Just so long as we don’t take this marvel inside the beltway itself.

For if the gizmos can “detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat" to a piddly little airliner, how is it going to cope with Donald u2018Darth’ Rumsfeld, Richard u2018Prince of Darkness’ Perle, or his pet lycanthope, Paul Wolfowitz, who each pose a verifiable threat to the whole planet?!?

Worse, still. Imagine the embarrassment when the Commander-in-Chief goes by and the machine blows a fuse in its vain attempt to detect any signal at all? (I Know. Cheap shot!)

Just keep saying to yourself, u2018The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Land of the Free…’

You never know — the RoboFeds might just let you on the plane to go about your lawful business unharmed…

Sean Corrigan [send him mail] writes from London on the financial markets, and edits the daily Capital Letter and the Website Capital Insight.

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