By Joe Brancatelli
November 18, 2010 -- Let me be as honest with you as I can:
Virtually everything you're reading in the mainstream media about the TSA and the full-body imagers and the aggressive pat downs is wrong, wildly exaggerated or needlessly inflammatory.
Loons on the right and the left who adopt knee-jerk reactions--security requires extreme measures, the government needs to be out of airport and aircraft security--are what they are. You can ignore them.
You also can ignore journalists who want to run passenger-advocate organizations; guys who work out of their basement and claim to operate business-travel advocacy groups; and self-righteous passengers-turned-media-hounds who last week were "experts" in airline delays but this week are experts in airport security.
Forget most of what you hear from TSA officials, Homeland Security Department apparatchiks and grandstanding politicians. They're spinning and posturing and twisting facts. Sometimes, they're literally making it up.

No, I'm not now going to tell you what to believe or what is the "truth." Give me until Wednesday's column in Portfolio.com to separate the wheat from the chaff, the bullshit from the bombast, and the lies from the facts. I promise to give you the best straight-ahead analysis I can pull together.

Meanwhile, here's the news you haven't been hearing because the mudslinging over security has drowned out everything else.

Guess who's now number 4? Southwest Airlines. In October, Southwest commanded 10.48 percent of the country's passenger traffic, trailing only Delta at 22.18 percent, American at 16.47 percent and United's 13.54 percent. Continental dropped to fifth, at 10.45 percent.

For all the babble about the "rebound" in international premium-class traffic, September's figures are still 4 percent lower than in September, 2008, at the beginning of the economic meltdown. And September's results were 11 percent behind traffic in September, 2007.

So much for Qantas' claim that its six Airbus A380s would be back in the air within 48 hours of its uncontained engine failure on November 4. They're all still on the ground. Qantas now says dozens of Rolls Royce-manufactured Trent 900 engines may have to be replaced. Singapore Airlines, which has 11 Trent-powered A380s, continues to juggle its schedule to deal with "precautionary inspections."

Boeing's Dreamliner is turning into a nightmare. Last week's fire on the 787 has grounded test flights of the six existing aircraft. No new tests have been announced and the plane is already three years behind schedule.

The first terrorist transferred from Guantanamo Bay was convicted in a civilian court on a count that will get him 20 years to life. That is longer than three of the four sentences meted out by military tribunals. (Bet you didn't hear that from all the folks who claim the terrorist's acquittal on most counts meant that the criminal trial was a failure.)

The Beatles and iTunes finally struck a deal so you can now download 17 albums here.

Susan Boyle now has the Number 1 album in both the United States and Great Britain. The only time that has ever happened before is when the Monkees topped both charts in 1967 and the Beatles were Number 1 on both sides of the pond in 1969.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, under fire for a series of dalliances with young girls, faces a confidence vote on December 14 and it's even money now that his government will fall. Berlusconi responded by ordering a penis restored on a statue of Mars and a hand restored on a statue of Venus. Both are on display in his residence in Rome.

Two officials of FIFA, the body that decides where soccer's World Cup is played, have been suspended in a vote-selling scandal. The first vote to decide the site of the 2018 World Cup takes place early next month.

According to the 2009 American Community Survey, four of the five richest counties in the nation are in the Metropolitan Washington area. They are Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia and Howard County, Maryland. The fifth, Morris County, New Jersey, is in New York's extended suburbs. The next five wealthiest counties are also in the New York or Washington area.

Finnair is trying to convince folks that its Helsinki hub is the best place to change planes en route to Asia. It also built a Web site to promote the cause. Meanwhile, it faces a December 30 strike date.

An operation called Hipmunk.com launched recently and it shows fares on a graph rather than on a grid. It also compiles what it calls a "misery" factor. Your call…

American Airlines is squabbling with Orbitz.com over things that only make sense to American and Orbitz. The upshot, though, is that American may pull its fares off Orbitz as early as December 1.

I've been looking at seat availability in January and early February and things look empty, even for the lowest of the low season in most places. That's especially true for business-class travel to Europe. Lots of good deals out there. And, surprisingly, a lot of restricted-level awards available, too. It looks like a good time to get maximum bang for your frequent flyer miles.

The first word on this year's Beaujolais Nouveau, released today, has been positive. About on par with last year, which was deemed excellent within the context of this rather ephemeral product.

The Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil Travel Guide, announced its four- and five-star hotel, restaurant and spa winners. Mostly, it's the usual suspects and many of them are insanely overrated and/or overpriced. The material is here.

ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.